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23. CHAPTER XXIII: Esther's Narrative
We came home from Mr. Boythorn's after six pleasant weeks. We were often in the park and in the woods and seldom passed the lodge where we had taken shelter without looking in to speak to the keeper's wife; but we saw no more of Lady Dedlock, except at church on Sundays. There was company at Chesney Wold; and although several beautiful faces surrounded her, her face retained the same influence on me as at first. I do not quite know even now whether it was painful or pleasurable, whether it drew me towards her or made me shrink from her. I think I admired her with a kind of fear, and I know that in her presence my thoughts always wandered back, as they had done at first, to that old time of my life.
I had a fancy, on more than one of these Sundays, that what this lady so curiously was to me, I was to her--I mean that I disturbed her thoughts as she influenced mine, though in some different way. But when I stole a glance at her and saw her so composed and distant and unapproachable, I felt this to be a foolish weakness. Indeed, I felt the whole state of my mind in reference to her to be weak and unreasonable, and I remonstrated with myself about it as much as I could.
One incident that occurred before we quitted Mr. Boythorn's house, I had better mention in this place.
I was walking in the garden with Ada and when I was told that some one wished to see me. Going into the breakfast-room where this person was waiting, I found it to be the French maid who had cast off her shoes and walked through the wet grass on the day when it thundered and lightened.
"Mademoiselle," she began, looking fixedly at me with her too-eager eyes, though otherwise presenting an agreeable appearance and speaking neither with boldness nor servility, "I have taken a great liberty in coming here, but you know how to excuse it, being so amiable, mademoiselle."
"No excuse is necessary," I returned, "if you wish to speak to me."
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