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My Lady Ludlow Elizabeth Gaskell

Chapter VI.

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"It must have required some patience and much diplomacy, before Clement de Crequy found out the exact place where his cousin was hidden. The old gardener took the cause very much to heart; as, judging from my recollections, I imagine he would have forwarded any fancy, however wild, of Monsieur Clement's. (I will tell you afterwards how I came to know all these particulars so well.)

"After Clement's return, on two succeeding days, from his dangerous search, without meeting with any good result, Jacques entreated Monsieur de Crequy to let him take it in hand. He represented that he, as gardener for the space of twenty years and more at the Hotel de Crequy, had a right to be acquainted with all the successive concierges at the Count's house; that he should not go among them as a stranger, but as an old friend, anxious to renew pleasant intercourse; and that if the Intendant's story, which he had told Monsieur de Crequy in England, was true, that mademoiselle was in hiding at the house of a former concierge, why, something relating to her would surely drop out in the course of conversation. So he persuaded Clement to remain indoors, while he set off on his round, with no apparent object but to gossip.

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"At night he came home,--having seen mademoiselle. He told Clement much of the story relating to Madame Babette that I have told to you. Of course, he had heard nothing of the ambitious hopes of Morin Fils,--hardly of his existence, I should think. Madame Babette had received him kindly; although, for some time, she had kept him standing in the carriage gateway outside her door. But, on his complaining of the draught and his rheumatism, she had asked him in: first looking round with some anxiety, to see who was in the room behind her. No one was there when he entered and sat down. But, in a minute or two, a tall, thin young lady, with great, sad eyes, and pale cheeks, came from the inner room, and, seeing him, retired. 'It is Mademoiselle Cannes,' said Madame Babette, rather unnecessarily; for, if he had not been on the watch for some sign of Mademoiselle de Crequy, he would hardly have noticed the entrance and withdrawal.

"Clement and the good old gardener were always rather perplexed by Madame Babette's evident avoidance of all mention of the De Crequy family. If she were so much interested in one member as to be willing to undergo the pains and penalties of a domiciliary visit, it was strange that she never inquired after the existence of her charge's friends and relations from one who might very probably have heard something of them. They settled that Madame Babette must believe that the Marquise and Clement were dead; and admired her for her reticence in never speaking of Virginie. The truth was, I suspect, that she was so desirous of her nephews success by this time, that she did not like letting any one into the secret of Virginie's whereabouts who might interfere with their plan. However, it was arranged between Clement and his humble friend, that the former, dressed in the peasant's clothes in which he had entered Paris, but smartened up in one or two particulars, as if, although a countryman, he had money to spare, should go and engage a sleeping-room in the old Breton Inn; where, as I told you, accommodation for the night was to be had. This was accordingly done, without exciting Madame Babette's suspicions, for she was unacquainted with the Normandy accent, and consequently did not perceive the exaggeration of it which Monsieur de Crequy adopted in order to disguise his pure Parisian. But after he had for two nights slept in a queer dark closet, at the end of one of the numerous short galleries in the Hotel Duguesclin, and paid his money for such accommodation each morning at the little bureau under the window of the conciergerie, he found himself no nearer to his object. He stood outside in the gateway: Madame Babette opened a pane in her window, counted out the change, gave polite thanks, and shut to the pane with a clack, before he could ever find out what to say that might be the means of opening a conversation. Once in the streets, he was in danger from the bloodthirsty mob, who were ready in those days to hunt to death every one who looked like a gentleman, as an aristocrat: and Clement, depend upon it, looked a gentleman, whatever dress he wore. Yet it was unwise to traverse Paris to his old friend the gardener's grenier, so he had to loiter about, where I hardly know. Only he did leave the Hotel Duguesclin, and he did not go to old Jacques, and there was not another house in Paris open to him. At the end of two days, he had made out Pierre's existence; and he began to try to make friends with the lad. Pierre was too sharp and shrewd not to suspect something from the confused attempts at friendliness. It was not for nothing that the Norman farmer lounged in the court and doorway, and brought home presents of galette. Pierre accepted the galette, reciprocated the civil speeches, but kept his eyes open. Once, returning home pretty late at night, he surprised the Norman studying the shadows on the blind, which was drawn down when Madame Babette's lamp was lighted. On going in, he found Mademoiselle Cannes with his mother, sitting by the table, and helping in the family mending.

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My Lady Ludlow
Elizabeth Gaskell

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