And the poor man brushed some tears from his eyes with the back of his withered, furrowed hand. Ellinor caught the infection, and cried outright, sobbed like a child, even while she held out her little white thin hand to his grasp. For as soon as he saw her emotion, he was penitent for what he had said.
“Don’t now—don’t,” was all he could think of to say.
“Dixon!” said she at length, “you must not mind it. You must try not to mind it. I see he does not like to be reminded of that, even by seeing me. He tries never to be alone with me. My poor old Dixon, it has spoilt my life for me; for I don’t think he loves me any more.”
She sobbed as if her heart would break; and now it was Dixon’s turn to be comforter.
“Ah, dear, my blessing, he loves you above everything. It’s only he can’t a-bear the sight of us, as is but natural. And if he doesn’t fancy being alone with you, there’s always one as does, and that’s a comfort at the worst of times. And don’t ye fret about what I said a minute ago. I were put out because measter all but pushed me out of his way this morning, without never a word. But I were an old fool for telling ye. And I’ve really forgotten why I told Fletcher I’d drag ye a bit about to-day. Th’ gardener is beginning for to wonder as you don’t want to see th’ annuals and bedding-out things as you were so particular about in May. And I thought I’d just have a word wi’ ye, and then if you’d let me, we’d go together just once round the flower-garden, just to say you’ve been, you know, and to give them chaps a bit of praise. You’ll only have to look on the beds, my pretty, and it must be done some time. So come along!”
He began to pull resolutely in the direction of the flower-garden. Ellinor bit her lips to keep in the cry of repugnance that rose to them. As Dixon stopped to unlock the door, he said:
“It’s not hardness, nothing like it; I’ve waited till I heerd you were better; but it’s in for a penny in for a pound wi’ us all; and folk may talk; and bless your little brave heart, you’ll stand a deal for your father’s sake, and so will I, though I do feel it above a bit, when he puts out his hand as if to keep me off, and I only going to speak to him about Clipper’s knees; though I’ll own I had wondered many a day when I was to have the good-morrow master never missed sin’ he were a boy till—Well! and now you’ve seen the beds, and can say they looked mighty pretty, and is done all as you wished; and we’re got out again, and breathing fresher air than yon sunbaked hole, with its smelling flowers, not half so wholesome to snuff at as good stable-dung.”
So the good man chatted on; not without the purpose of giving Ellinor time to recover herself; and partly also to drown his own cares, which lay heavier on his heart than he could say. But he thought himself rewarded by Ellinor’s thanks, and warm pressure of his hard hand as she got out at the front door, and bade him good-by.