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My Lady Ludlow Elizabeth Gaskell

Chapter VI.

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"At length the intendant of the De Crequy estates--the old man, you will remember, whose information respecting Virginie de Crequy first gave Clement the desire to return to Paris,--came to St. James's Square, and begged to speak to me. I made haste to go down to him in the housekeeper's room, sooner than that he should be ushered into mine, for fear of madame hearing any sound.

"The old man stood--I see him now--with his hat held before him in both his hands; he slowly bowed till his face touched it when I came in. Such long excess of courtesy augured ill. He waited for me to speak.

"'Have you any intelligence?' I inquired. He had been often to the house before, to ask if we had received any news; and once or twice I had seen him, but this was the first time he had begged to see me.

"'Yes, madame,' he replied, still standing with his head bent down, like a child in disgrace.

"'And it is bad!' I exclaimed.

"'It is bad.' For a moment I was angry at the cold tone in which my words were echoed; but directly afterwards I saw the large, slow, heavy tears of age falling down the old man's cheeks, and on to the sleeves of his poor, threadbare coat.

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"I asked him how he had heard it: it seemed as though I could not all at once bear to hear what it was. He told me that the night before, in crossing Long Acre, he had stumbled upon an old acquaintance of his; one who, like himself had been a dependent upon the De Crequy family, but had managed their Paris affairs, while Flechier had taken charge of their estates in the country. Both were now emigrants, and living on the proceeds of such small available talents as they possessed. Flechier, as I knew, earned a very fair livelihood by going about to dress salads for dinner parties. His compatriot, Le Febvre, had begun to give a few lessons as a dancing-master. One of them took the other home to his lodgings; and there, when their most immediate personal adventures had been hastily talked over, came the inquiry from Flechier as to Monsieur de Crequy

"'Clement was dead--guillotined. Virginie was dead--guillotined.'

"When Flechier had told me thus much, he could not speak for sobbing; and I, myself, could hardly tell how to restrain my tears sufficiently, until I could go to my own room and be at liberty to give way. He asked my leave to bring in his friend Le Febvre, who was walking in the square, awaiting a possible summons to tell his story. I heard afterwards a good many details, which filled up the account, and made me feel--which brings me back to the point I started from--how unfit the lower orders are for being trusted indiscriminately with the dangerous powers of education. I have made a long preamble, but now I am coming to the moral of my story."

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My Lady Ludlow
Elizabeth Gaskell

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