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My Lady Ludlow Elizabeth Gaskell

Chapter V.

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"I was so astonished--I hardly knew what to say. I had spoken to Clement as if his mother's consent were secure (as I had felt my own would have been if Urian had been alive to ask it). Of coarse, both he and I knew that his mother's consent must be asked and obtained, before he could leave her to go on such an undertaking; but, somehow, my blood always rose at the sight or sound of danger; perhaps, because my life had been so peaceful. Poor Madame de Crequy! it was otherwise with her; she despaired while I hoped, and Clement trusted.

"'Dear Madame de Crequy,' said I, 'he will return safely to us; every precaution shall be taken, that either he or you, or my lord, or Monkshaven can think of; but he cannot leave a girl--his nearest relation save you--his betrothed, is she not?'

"'His betrothed!' cried she, now at the utmost pitch of her excitement. 'Virginie betrothed to Clement?--no! thank heaven, not so bad as that! Yet it might have been. But mademoiselle scorned my son! She would have nothing to do with him. Now is the time for him to have nothing to do with her!"

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"Clement had entered at the door behind his mother as she thus spoke. His face was set and pale, till it looked as gray and immovable as if it had been carved in stone. He came forward and stood before his mother. She stopped her walk, threw back her haughty head, and the two looked each other steadily in the face. After a minute or two in this attitude, her proud and resolute gaze never flinching or wavering, he went down upon one knee, and, taking her hand--her hard, stony hand, which never closed on his, but remained straight and stiff:

"'Mother,' he pleaded, 'withdraw your prohibition. Let me go!'

"'What were her words?' Madame de Crequy replied, slowly, as if forcing her memory to the extreme of accuracy. 'My cousin,' she said, 'when I marry, I marry a man, not a petit-maitre. I marry a man who, whatever his rank may be will add dignity to the human race by his virtues, and not be content to live in an effeminate court on the traditions of past grandeur.' She borrowed her words from the infamous Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the friend of her scarce less infamous father--nay! I will say it,--if not her words, she borrowed her principles. And my son to request her to marry him!'

"'It was my father's written wish,' said Clement.

"'But did you not love her? You plead your father's words,--words written twelve years before,--and as if that were your reason for being indifferent to my dislike to the alliance. But you requested her to marry you,--and she refused you with insolent contempt; and now you are ready to leave me,--leave me desolate in a foreign land-- '

"'Desolate! my mother! and the Countess Ludlow stands there!'

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My Lady Ludlow
Elizabeth Gaskell

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