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My Lady Ludlow Elizabeth Gaskell

Chapter VI.

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My lady was trying to shake off the emotion which she evidently felt in recurring to this sad history of Monsieur de Crequy's death. She came behind me, and arranged my pillows, and then, seeing I had been crying--for, indeed, I was weak-spirited at the time, and a little served to unloose my tears--she stooped down, and kissed my forehead, and said "Poor child!" almost as if she thanked me for feeling that old grief of hers.

"Being once in France, it was no difficult thing for Clement to get into Paris. The difficulty in those days was to leave, not to enter. He came in dressed as a Norman peasant, in charge of a load of fruit and vegetables, with which one of the Seine barges was freighted. He worked hard with his companions in landing and arranging their produce on the quays; and then, when they dispersed to get their breakfasts at some of the estaminets near the old Marche aux Fleurs, he sauntered up a street which conducted him, by many an odd turn, through the Quartier Latin to a horrid back alley, leading out of the Rue l'Ecole de Medecine; some atrocious place, as I have heard, not far from the shadow of that terrible Abbaye, where so many of the best blood of France awaited their deaths. But here some old man lived, on whose fidelity Clement thought that he might rely. I am not sure if he had not been gardener in those very gardens behind the Hotel Crequy where Clement and Urian used to play together years before. But whatever the old man's dwelling might be, Clement was only too glad to reach it, you may be sure, he had been kept in Normandy, in all sorts of disguises, for many days after landing in Dieppe, through the difficulty of entering Paris unsuspected by the many ruffians who were always on the look-out for aristocrats.

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"The old gardener was, I believe, both faithful and tried, and sheltered Clement in his garret as well as might be. Before he could stir out, it was necessary to procure a fresh disguise, and one more in character with an inhabitant of Paris than that of a Norman carter was procured; and after waiting in-doors for one or two days, to see if any suspicion was excited, Clement set off to discover Virginie.

"He found her at the old concierge's dwelling. Madame Babette was the name of this woman, who must have been a less faithful--or rather, perhaps, I should say, a more interested--friend to her guest than the old gardener Jaques was to Clement.

"I have seen a miniature of Virginie, which a French lady of quality happened to have in her possession at the time of her flight from Paris, and which she brought with her to England unwittingly; for it belonged to the Count de Crequy, with whom she was slightly acquainted. I should fancy from it, that Virginie was taller and of a more powerful figure for a woman than her cousin Clement was for a man. Her dark-brown hair was arranged in short curls--the way of dressing the hair announced the politics of the individual, in those days, just as patches did in my grandmother's time; and Virginie's hair was not to my taste, or according to my principles: it was too classical. Her large, black eyes looked out at you steadily. One cannot judge of the shape of a nose from a full-face miniature, but the nostrils were clearly cut and largely opened. I do not fancy her nose could have been pretty; but her mouth had a character all its own, and which would, I think, have redeemed a plainer face. It was wide, and deep set into the cheeks at the corners; the upper lip was very much arched, and hardly closed over the teeth; so that the whole face looked (from the serious, intent look in the eyes, and the sweet intelligence of the mouth) as if she were listening eagerly to something to which her answer was quite ready, and would come out of those red, opening lips as soon as ever you had done speaking, and you longed to know what she would say.

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My Lady Ludlow
Elizabeth Gaskell

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