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For a minute or two she did not say a word, not even in answer to the caresses of her grandchildren, but appeared lost in thought. At last, turning to me, she said,
“Go down to the saloon, the earl is waiting to speak to you there.”
I instantly obeyed, though trembling from head to foot at the bare idea of encountering him, after the communication which I was sure that his mother had made to his lordship.
As I entered he was leaning his head on his arm, which rested on the chimney-piece, and he was so absorbed as not to hear me approach. I therefore ventured to say,
“My lord, the dowager informed me that your lordship desired to speak with me."
He turned round at the sound of my voice, and fixed on me a face in which I never saw anguish more clearly painted.
“Shut that door, Theresa, and sit down by me,” he said at length, in a low and hollow tone ; " and tell me truly, as you hope to be saved, every particular that passed yesterday between you and my lost Emmeline."
I was astonished at his tone and manner, so different from what I had expected. There was a softness in it that gave me hope, and I hastened to narrate the miserable condition in which I had found my once happy and noble mistress. I did not omit one word she had uttered, and ended by imploring him, (with an earnestness the recollection of which afterwards surprised me,) as he hoped for happiness here and hereafter-to see and pardon his wretched and repentant wife.
“It is impossible, it is impossible, Theresa,” he said, weeping.
The violence of his emotion gave me hope and courage, and I persevered in my prayers and entreaties. I assured him that it was impossible the poor lady could live many days, and that her agonies and despair would be dreadful if denied the only consolation now left her.
He appeared softening, and at length murmured,
“I also have been to blame, cruelly to blame. I neglected the poor young creature, I
who ought to have been by her side, her protector, adviser and friend.”
I seized the moment to conjure him to have pity on one whom he had once so dearly loved.
“Have mercy, my lord, on her, as you hope for mercy yourself.
“If you could but see her remorse and her despair, I am sure you would no longer hesitate.”
“You have conquered, Theresa— I will see, I will forgive her. But my children, they must not see, they must not know their guilty mother.”
“If, my lord," I replied, “ you will condescend to trust them with me, they shall not be detained more than one half hour, and I solemnly promise they shall not be informed whom it is they see. Complete your generous kindness, my lord, by this act of mercy. Let the dying and repentant mother once more rest her eyes on those sweet objects, from which she will soon be for ever banished in this world.”
After exhausting every persuasive I could think of, I, at length, with the deepest gratitude, received the earl's consent to this last prayer also, though it was evident that he rather dreaded the displeasure of his mother.
I mentioned my promise of renewing my visit to the poor lady, and my desire to call in a physician, though I confessed that I thought there was not a shadow of hope left.
His lordship gave me an order for whatever money might be required on this melancholy occasion, with permission to go to the wretched lady immediately.
I lost not a moment in setting off in a fiacre, taking with me whatever I thought might be of use, and stopping by the way to leave a note at the apartments of an eminent physician, with a request that he would call immediately at the lodgings of the invalid.
I found the poor lady much worse, though she said she had slept better in her more comfortable bed. She appeared restless and impatient to hear the success of my mission, and I soon dismissed Lisette and informed her of all that had passed.
The prospect of seeing her injured husband and children again, though so ardently desired by her, completely overcame her, and I had some difficulty in restoring her to composure. Just as I had succeeded, the physician was announced, who, after prescribing, and taking his fee, beckoned me into the small outer room. “This poor woman is at the very point of death,” said he; “ why was I not sent for before ?”
I merely said that I was not aware of her condition till informed of it the previous day, by the persons with whom she lodged.
“Eh bien ! it is no use my coming here again.” Saying this, with a shrug of his shoulders, he took his leave.
I remained four or five hours, administering all the assistance and consolation in my power; and, before I left her, had the satisfaction to introduce the excellent Mr. Jones, chaplain to the embassy, to whom, without mentioning her name and former rank, I gave sufficient information to enable him to understand the