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My Lady Ludlow Elizabeth Gaskell

Chapter V.

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"'For, by George!' said he, 'she shall hear my opinion, and not let that lad of hers kill himself by fretting. He's too good for that, if he had been an English lad, he would have been off to his sweetheart long before this, without saying with your leave or by your leave; but being a Frenchman, he is all for AEneas and filial piety,--filial fiddle-sticks!' (My lord had run away to sea, when a boy, against his father's consent, I am sorry to say; and, as all had ended well, and he had come back to find both his parents alive, I do not think he was ever as much aware of his fault as he might have been under other circumstances.) 'No, my lady,' he went on, 'don't come with me. A woman can manage a man best when he has a fit of obstinacy, and a man can persuade a woman out of her tantrums, when all her own sex, the whole army of them, would fail. Allow me to go alone to my tete-a-tete with madame."

"What he said, what passed, he never could repeat; but he came back graver than he went. However, the point was gained; Madame de Crequy withdrew her prohibition, and had given him leave to tell Clement as much.

"'But she is an old Cassandra,' said he. 'Don't let the lad be much with her; her talk would destroy the courage of the bravest man; she is so given over to superstition.' Something that she had said had touched a chord in my lord's nature which he inherited from his Scotch ancestors. Long afterwards, I heard what this was. Medlicott told me.

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"However, my lord shook off all fancies that told against the fulfilment of Clement's wishes. All that afternoon we three sat together, planning; and Monkshaven passed in and out, executing our commissions, and preparing everything. Towards nightfall all was ready for Clement's start on his journey towards the coast.

"Madame had declined seeing any of us since my lord's stormy interview with her. She sent word that she was fatigued, and desired repose. But, of course, before Clement set off, he was bound to wish her farewell, and to ask for her blessing. In order to avoid an agitating conversation between mother and son, my lord and I resolved to be present at the interview. Clement was already in his travelling-dress, that of a Norman fisherman, which Monkshaven had, with infinite trouble, discovered in the possession of one of the emigres who thronged London, and who had made his escape from the shores of France in this disguise. Clement's plan was, to go down to the coast of Sussex, and get some of the fishing or smuggling boats to take him across to the French coast near Dieppe. There again he would have to change his dress. Oh, it was so well planned! His mother was startled by his disguise (of which we had not thought to forewarn her) as he entered her apartment. And either that, or the being suddenly roused from the heavy slumber into which she was apt to fall when she was left alone, gave her manner an air of wildness that was almost like insanity.

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My Lady Ludlow
Elizabeth Gaskell

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