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My Lady Ludlow Elizabeth Gaskell

Chapter VIII.

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"'Ask him,' said she, turning to Jacques, suddenly, 'if he can save Monsieur de Crequy as well,--if he can?--O Clement, we might escape to England; we are but young.' And she hid her face on his shoulder.

"Jacques returned to the stranger, and asked him Virginie's question. His eyes were fixed on the cousins; he was very pale, and the twitchings or contortions, which must have been involuntary whenever he was agitated, convulsed his whole body.

"He made a long pause. 'I will save mademoiselle and monsieur, if she will go straight from prison to the mairie, and be my wife.'

"'Your wife!' Jacques could not help exclaiming, 'That she will never be--never!'

"'Ask her!' said Morin, hoarsely.

"But almost before Jacques thought he could have fairly uttered the words, Clement caught their meaning.

"'Begone!' said he; 'not one word more.' Virginie touched the old man as he was moving away. 'Tell him he does not know how he makes me welcome death.' And smiling, as if triumphant, she turned again to Clement.

"The stranger did not speak as Jacques gave him the meaning, not the words, of their replies. He was going away, but stopped. A minute or two afterwards, he beckoned to Jacques. The old gardener seems to have thought it undesirable to throw away even the chance of assistance from such a man as this, for he went forward to speak to him.

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"'Listen! I have influence with the gaoler. He shall let thee pass out with the victims to-morrow. No one will notice it, or miss thee- -. They will be led to trial,--even at the last moment, I will save her, if she sends me word she relents. Speak to her, as the time draws on. Life is very sweet,--tell her how sweet. Speak to him; he will do more with her than thou canst. Let him urge her to live. Even at the last, I will be at the Palais de Justice,--at the Greve. I have followers,--I have interest. Come among the crowd that follow the victims,--I shall see thee. It will be no worse for him, if she escapes' -

"'Save my master, and I will do all,' said Jacques.

"'Only on my one condition,' said Morin, doggedly; and Jacques was hopeless of that condition ever being fulfilled. But he did not see why his own life might not be saved. By remaining in prison until the next day, he should have rendered every service in his power to his master and the young lady. He, poor fellow, shrank from death; and he agreed with Morin to escape, if he could, by the means Morin had suggested, and to bring him word if Mademoiselle de Crequy relented. (Jacques had no expectation that she would; but I fancy he did not think it necessary to tell Morn of this conviction of his.) This bargaining with so base a man for so slight a thing as life, was the only flaw that I heard of in the old gardener's behaviour. Of course, the mere reopening of the subject was enough to stir Virginie to displeasure. Clement urged her, it is true; but the light he had gained upon Morin's motions, made him rather try to set the case before her in as fair a manner as possible than use any persuasive arguments. And, even as it was, what he said on the subject made Virginie shed tears--the first that had fallen from her since she entered the prison. So, they were summoned and went together, at the fatal call of the muster-roll of victims the next morning. He, feeble from his wounds and his injured health; she, calm and serene, only petitioning to be allowed to walk next to him, in order that she might hold him up when he turned faint and giddy from his extreme suffering.

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My Lady Ludlow
Elizabeth Gaskell

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