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My Lady Ludlow Elizabeth Gaskell

Chapter V.

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"'What is it, Clement?' I asked.

"He clasped his hands, and looked as though he tried to speak, but could not bring out the words.

"'They have guillotined my uncle!' said he at last. Now, I knew that there was a Count de Crequy; but I had always understood that the elder branch held very little communication with him; in fact, that he was a vaurien of some kind, and rather a disgrace than otherwise to the family. So, perhaps, I was hard-hearted but I was a little surprised at this excess of emotion, till I saw that peculiar look in his eyes that many people have when there is more terror in their hearts than they dare put into words. He wanted me to understand something without his saying it; but how could I? I had never heard of a Mademoiselle de Crequy.

"'Virginie!' at last he uttered. In an instant I understood it all, and remembered that, if Urian had lived, he too might have been in love.

"'Your uncle's daughter?' I inquired.

"'My cousin,' he replied.

"I did not say, 'your betrothed,' but I had no doubt of it. I was mistaken, however.

"'O madame!' he continued, 'her mother died long ago--her father now- -and she is in daily fear,--alone, deserted--'

"'Is she in the Abbaye?' asked I.

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"'No! she is in hiding with the widow of her father's old concierge. Any day they may search the house for aristocrats. They are seeking them everywhere. Then, not her life alone, but that of the old woman, her hostess, is sacrificed. The old woman knows this, and trembles with fear. Even if she is brave enough to be faithful, her fears would betray her, should the house be searched. Yet, there is no one to help Virginie to escape. She is alone in Paris.'

"I saw what was in his mind. He was fretting and chafing to go to his cousin's assistance; but the thought of his mother restrained him. I would not have kept back Urian from such on errand at such a time. How should I restrain him? And yet, perhaps, I did wrong in not urging the chances of danger more. Still, if it was danger to him, was it not the same or even greater danger to her?--for the French spared neither age nor sex in those wicked days of terror. So I rather fell in with his wish, and encouraged him to think how best and most prudently it might be fulfilled; never doubting, as I have said, that he and his cousin were troth-plighted.

"But when I went to Madame de Crequy--after he had imparted his, or rather our plan to her--I found out my mistake. She, who was in general too feeble to walk across the room save slowly, and with a stick, was going from end to end with quick, tottering steps; and, if now and then she sank upon a chair, it seemed as if she could not rest, for she was up again in a moment, pacing along, wringing her hands, and speaking rapidly to herself. When she saw me, she stopped: 'Madame,' she said, 'you have lost your own boy. You might have left me mine.'

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My Lady Ludlow
Elizabeth Gaskell

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