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My Lady Ludlow Elizabeth Gaskell

Chapter VIII.

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"'Mademoiselle,' he said. Not the quivering of an eyelash showed that she heard him. 'Mademoiselle!' he said again, with an intensity of beseeching that made Jacques--not knowing who he was--almost pity him, when he saw his young lady's obdurate face.

"There was perfect silence for a space of time which Jacques could not measure. Then again the voice, hesitatingly, saying, 'Monsieur!' Clement could not hold the same icy countenance as Virginie; he turned his head with an impatient gesture of disgust; but even that emboldened the man.

"'Monsieur, do ask mademoiselle to listen to me,--just two words.'

"'Mademoiselle de Crequy only listens to whom she chooses.' Very haughtily my Clement would say that, I am sure.

"'But, mademoiselle,'--lowering his voice, and coming a step or two nearer. Virginie must have felt his approach, though she did not see it; for she drew herself a little on one side, so as to put as much space as possible between him and her.--'Mademoiselle, it is not too late. I can save you: but to-morrow your name is down on the list. I can save you, if you will listen.'

"Still no word or sign. Jacques did not understand the affair. Why was she so obdurate to one who might be ready to include Clement in the proposal, as far as Jacques knew?

"The man withdrew a little, but did not offer to leave the prison. He never took his eyes off Virginie; he seemed to be suffering from some acute and terrible pain as he watched her.

"Jacques cleared away the breakfast-things as well as he could. Purposely, as I suspect, he passed near the man.

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"'Hist!' said the stranger. 'You are Jacques, the gardener, arrested for assisting an aristocrat. I know the gaoler. You shall escape, if you will. Only take this message from me to mademoiselle. You heard. She will not listen to me: I did not want her to come here. I never knew she was here, and she will die to-morrow. They will put her beautiful round throat under the guillotine. Tell her, good old man, tell her how sweet life is; and how I can save her; and how I will not ask for more than just to see her from time to time. She is so young; and death is annihilation, you know. Why does she hate me so? I want to save her; I have done her no harm. Good old man, tell her how terrible death is; and that she will die to-morrow, unless she listens to me.'

"Jacques saw no harm in repeating this message. Clement listened in silence, watching Virginie with an air of infinite tenderness.

"'Will you not try him, my cherished one?' he said. 'Towards you he may mean well' (which makes me think that Virginie had never repeated to Clement the conversation which she had overheard that last night at Madame Babette's); 'you would be in no worse a situation than you were before!'

"'No worse, Clement! and I should have known what you were, and have lost you. My Clement!' said she, reproachfully.

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My Lady Ludlow
Elizabeth Gaskell

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