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My Lady Ludlow Elizabeth Gaskell

Chapter VII.

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"'Chut!' said Pierre, at last. 'She goes out walking.'

"'Well?' said Monsieur Morin, half curious, half annoyed at being disturbed in the delicious reverie of the future into which he longed to fall.

"'Well! It is not well. It is bad.'

"'Why? I do not ask who she is, but I have my ideas. She is an aristocrat. Do the people about here begin to suspect her?'

"'No, no!' said Pierre. 'But she goes out walking. She has gone these two mornings. I have watched her. She meets a man--she is friends with him, for she talks to him as eagerly as he does to her-- mamma cannot tell who he is.'

"'Has my aunt seen him?'

"'No, not so much as a fly's wing of him. I myself have only seen his back. It strikes me like a familiar back, and yet I cannot think who it is. But they separate with sudden darts, like two birds who have been together to feed their young ones. One moment they are in close talk, their heads together chuckotting; the next he has turned up some bye-street, and Mademoiselle Cannes is close upon me--has almost caught me.'

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"'But she did not see you?' inquired Monsieur Morin, in so altered a voice that Pierre gave him one of his quick penetrating looks. He was struck by the way in which his cousin's features--always coarse and common-place--had become contracted and pinched; struck, too, by the livid look on his sallow complexion. But as if Morin was conscious of the manner in which his face belied his feelings, he made an effort, and smiled, and patted Pierre's head, and thanked him for his intelligence, and gave him a five-franc piece, and bade him go on with his observations of Mademoiselle Cannes' movements, and report all to him.

"Pierre returned home with a light heart, tossing up his five-franc piece as he ran. Just as he was at the conciergerie door, a great tall man bustled past him, and snatched his money away from him, looking back with a laugh, which added insult to injury. Pierre had no redress; no one had witnessed the impudent theft, and if they had, no one to be seen in the street was strong enough to give him redress. Besides, Pierre had seen enough of the state of the streets of Paris at that time to know that friends, not enemies, were required, and the man had a bad air about him. But all these considerations did not keep Pierre from bursting out into a fit of crying when he was once more under his mother's roof; and Virginie, who was alone there (Madame Babette having gone out to make her daily purchases), might have imagined him pommeled to death by the loudness of his sobs.

"'What is the matter?' asked she. 'Speak, my child. What hast thou done?'

"'He has robbed me! he has robbed me!' was all Pierre could gulp out.

"'Robbed thee! and of what, my poor boy?' said Virginie, stroking his hair gently.

"'Of my five-franc piece--of a five-franc piece,' said Pierre, correcting himself, and leaving out the word my, half fearful lest Virginie should inquire how he became possessed of such a sum, and for what services it had been given him. But, of course, no such idea came into her head, for it would have been impertinent, and she was gentle-born.

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My Lady Ludlow
Elizabeth Gaskell

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