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  My Lady Ludlow Elizabeth Gaskell

Chapter VIII.

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"Pierre went on pretending to read, but in reality listening with acute tension of ear to every little sound. His perceptions became so sensitive in this respect that he was incapable of measuring time, every moment had seemed so full of noises, from the beating of his heart up to the roll of the heavy carts in the distance. He wondered whether Virginie would have reached the place of rendezvous, and yet he was unable to compute the passage of minutes. His mother slept soundly: that was well. By this time Virginie must have met the 'faithful cousin:' if, indeed, Morin had not made his appearance.

"At length, he felt as if he could no longer sit still, awaiting the issue, but must run out and see what course events had taken. In vain his mother, half-rousing herself, called after him to ask whither he was going: he was already out of hearing before she had ended her sentence, and he ran on until, stopped by the sight of Mademoiselle Cannes walking along at so swift a pace that it was almost a run; while at her side, resolutely keeping by her, Morin was striding abreast. Pierre had just turned the corner of the street, when he came upon them. Virginie would have passed him without recognizing him, she was in such passionate agitation, but for Morin's gesture, by which he would fain have kept Pierre from interrupting them. Then, when Virginie saw the lad, she caught at his arm, and thanked God, as if in that boy of twelve or fourteen she held a protector. Pierre felt her tremble from head to foot, and was afraid lest she would fall, there where she stood, in the hard rough street.

"'Begone, Pierre!' said Morin.

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"'I cannot,' replied Pierre, who indeed was held firmly by Virginie. 'Besides, I won't,' he added. 'Who has been frightening mademoiselle in this way?' asked he, very much inclined to brave his cousin at all hazards.

"'Mademoiselle is not accustomed to walk in the streets alone,' said Morin, sulkily. 'She came upon a crowd attracted by the arrest of an aristocrat, and their cries alarmed her. I offered to take charge of her home. Mademoiselle should not walk in these streets alone. We are not like the cold-blooded people of the Faubourg Saint Germain.'

"Virginie did not speak. Pierre doubted if she heard a word of what they were saying. She leant upon him more and more heavily.

"'Will mademoiselle condescend to take my arm?' said Morin, with sulky, and yet humble, uncouthness. I dare say he would have given worlds if he might have had that little hand within his arm; but, though she still kept silence, she shuddered up away from him, as you shrink from touching a toad. He had said something to her during that walk, you may be sure, which had made her loathe him. He marked and understood the gesture. He held himself aloof while Pierre gave her all the assistance he could in their slow progress homewards. But Morin accompanied her all the same. He had played too desperate a game to be baulked now. He had given information against the cidevant Marquis de Crequy, as a returned emigre, to be met with at such a time, in such a place. Morin had hoped that all sign of the arrest would have been cleared away before Virginie reached the spot- -so swiftly were terrible deeds done in those days. But Clement defended himself desperately: Virginie was punctual to a second; and, though the wounded man was borne off to the Abbaye, amid a crowd of the unsympathising jeerers who mingled with the armed officials of the Directory, Morin feared lest Virginie had recognized him; and he would have preferred that she should have thought that the 'faithful cousin' was faithless, than that she should have seen him in bloody danger on her account. I suppose he fancied that, if Virginie never saw or heard more of him, her imagination would not dwell on his simple disappearance, as it would do if she knew what he was suffering for her sake.

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My Lady Ludlow
Elizabeth Gaskell

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