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My Lady Ludlow Elizabeth Gaskell

Chapter XIV.

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After a reasonable time had elapsed, occupied as I well knew by the meal in the great hall,--the measured, yet agreeable conversation afterwards,--and a certain promenade around the hall, and through the drawing-rooms, with pauses before different pictures, the history or subject of each of which was invariably told by my lady to every new visitor,--a sort of giving them the freedom of the old family-seat, by describing the kind and nature of the great progenitors who had lived there before the narrator,--I heard the steps approaching my lady's room, where I lay. I think I was in such a state of nervous expectation, that if I could have moved easily, I should have got up and run away. And yet I need not have been, for Miss Galindo was not in the least altered (her nose a little redder, to be sure, but then that might only have had a temporary cause in the private crying I know she would have had before coming to see her dear Lady Ludlow once again). But I could almost have pushed Miss Galindo away, as she intercepted me in my view of the mysterious Miss Bessy.

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Miss Bessy was, as I knew, only about eighteen, but she looked older. Dark hair, dark eyes, a tall, firm figure, a good, sensible face, with a serene expression, not in the least disturbed by what I had been thinking must be such awful circumstances as a first introduction to my lady, who had so disapproved of her very existence: those are the clearest impressions I remember of my first interview with Miss Bessy. She seemed to observe us all, in her quiet manner, quite as much as I did her; but she spoke very little; occupied herself, indeed, as my lady had planned, with looking over the great books of engravings. I think I must have (foolishly) intended to make her feel at her ease, by my patronage; but she was seated far away from my sofa, in order to command the light, and really seemed so unconcerned at her unwonted circumstances, that she did not need my countenance or kindness. One thing I did like--her watchful look at Miss Galindo from time to time: it showed that her thoughts and sympathy were ever at Miss Galindo's service, as indeed they well might be. When Miss Bessy spoke, her voice was full and clear, and what she said, to the purpose, though there was a slight provincial accent in her way of speaking. After a while, my lady set us two to play at chess, a game which I had lately learnt at Mr. Gray's suggestion. Still we did not talk much together, though we were becoming attracted towards each other, I fancy.

"You will play well," said she. "You have only learnt about six months, have you? And yet you can nearly beat me, who have been at it as many years."

"I began to learn last November. I remember Mr. Gray's bringing me 'Philidor on Chess,' one very foggy, dismal day."

What made her look up so suddenly, with bright inquiry in her eyes? What made her silent for a moment as if in thought, and then go on with something, I know not what, in quite an altered tone?

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My Lady Ludlow
Elizabeth Gaskell

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