A Dark Night's Work by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell

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The Project Gutenberg eBook, A Dark Night's Work, by Elizabeth Gaskell

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net

Title: A Dark Night's Work

Author: Elizabeth Gaskell

Release Date: May 17, 2005 [eBook #2522]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)


Transcribed from the 1896 Smith, Elder and Co. "Lizzie Leigh and Other
Tales" edition by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk.

by Elizabeth Gaskell


In the county town of a certain shire there lived (about forty years ago)
one Mr. Wilkins, a conveyancing attorney of considerable standing.

The certain shire was but a small county, and the principal town in it
contained only about four thousand inhabitants; so in saying that Mr.
Wilkins was the principal lawyer in Hamley, I say very little, unless I
add that he transacted all the legal business of the gentry for twenty
miles round. His grandfather had established the connection; his father
had consolidated and strengthened it, and, indeed, by his wise and
upright conduct, as well as by his professional skill, had obtained for
himself the position of confidential friend to many of the surrounding
families of distinction. He visited among them in a way which no mere
lawyer had ever done before; dined at their tables--he alone, not
accompanied by his wife, be it observed; rode to the meet occasionally as
if by accident, although he was as well mounted as any squire among them,
and was often persuaded (after a little coquetting about "professional
engagements," and "being wanted at the office") to have a run with his
clients; nay, once or twice he forgot his usual caution, was first in at
the death, and rode home with the brush. But in general he knew his
place; as his place was held to be in that aristocratic county, and in
those days. Nor let be supposed that he was in any way a toadeater. He
respected himself too much for that. He would give the most unpalatable
advice, if need were; would counsel an unsparing reduction of expenditure
to an extravagant man; would recommend such an abatement of family pride
as paved the way for one or two happy marriages in some instances; nay,
what was the most likely piece of conduct of all to give offence forty
years ago, he would speak up for an unjustly-used tenant; and that with
so much temperate and well-timed wisdom and good feeling, that he more
than once gained his point. He had one son, Edward. This boy was the
secret joy and pride of his father's heart. For himself he was not in
the least ambitious, but it did cost him a hard struggle to acknowledge
that his own business was too lucrative, and brought in too large an
income, to pass away into the hands of a stranger, as it would do if he
indulged his ambition for his son by giving him a college education and
making him into a barrister. This determination on the more prudent side
of the argument took place while Edward was at Eton. The lad had,
perhaps, the largest allowance of pocket-money of any boy at school; and
he had always looked forward to going to Christ Church along with his
fellows, the sons of the squires, his father's employers. It was a
severe mortification to him to find that his destiny was changed, and
that he had to return to Hamley to be articled to his father, and to
assume the hereditary subservient position to lads whom he had licked in
the play-ground, and beaten at learning.

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