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0100_005E My Lady Ludlow Elizabeth Gaskell

Chapter VI.

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"I knew what was coming, and I trembled all the time they were doing my hair, and otherwise arranging me. I was not encouraged by my lord's speeches. He had heard the message, and kept declaring that he would rather be shot than have to tell her that there was no news of her son; and yet he said, every now and then, when I was at the lowest pitch of uneasiness, that he never expected to hear again: that some day soon we should see him walking in and introducing Mademoiselle de Crequy to us.

"However at last I was ready, and go I must.

"Her eyes were fixed on the door by which I entered. I went up to the bedside. She was not rouged,--she had left it off now for several days,--she no longer attempted to keep up the vain show of not feeling, and loving, and fearing.

"For a moment or two she did not speak, and I was glad of the respite.

"'Clement?' she said at length, covering her mouth with a handkerchief the minute she had spoken, that I might not see it quiver.

"'There has been no news since the first letter, saying how well the voyage was performed, and how safely he had landed--near Dieppe, you know,' I replied as cheerfully as possible. 'My lord does not expect that we shall have another letter; he thinks that we shall see him soon.'

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"There was no answer. As I looked, uncertain whether to do or say more, she slowly turned herself in bed, and lay with her face to the wall; and, as if that did not shut out the light of day and the busy, happy world enough, she put out her trembling hands, and covered her face with her handkerchief. There was no violence: hardly any sound.

I told her what my lord had said about Clement's coming in some day, and taking us all by surprise. I did not believe it myself, but it was just possible,--and I had nothing else to say. Pity, to one who was striving so hard to conceal her feelings, would have been impertinent. She let me talk; but she did not reply. She knew that my words were vain and idle, and had no root in my belief; as well as I did myself.

"I was very thankful when Medlicott came in with Madame's breakfast, and gave me an excuse for leaving.

"But I think that conversation made me feel more anxious and impatient than ever. I felt almost pledged to Madame de Crequy for the fulfilment of the vision I had held out. She had taken entirely to her bed by this time: not from illness, but because she had no hope within her to stir her up to the effort of dressing. In the same way she hardly cared for food. She had no appetite,--why eat to prolong a life of despair? But she let Medlicott feed her, sooner than take the trouble of resisting.

"And so it went on,--for weeks, months--I could hardly count the time, it seemed so long. Medlicott told me she noticed a preternatural sensitiveness of ear in Madame de Crequy, induced by the habit of listening silently for the slightest unusual sound in the house. Medlicott was always a minute watcher of any one whom she cared about; and, one day, she made me notice by a sign madame's acuteness of hearing, although the quick expectation was but evinced for a moment in the turn of the eye, the hushed breath--and then, when the unusual footstep turned into my lord's apartments, the soft quivering sigh, and the closed eyelids.

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My Lady Ludlow
Elizabeth Gaskell

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