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A Solemn Duty (1) : Monsieur St Aubert falls seriously ill on a walking tour with his daughter Emily, and before the end asks an unexpected favour.
A Solemn Duty
Part one

From ‘The Mysteries of Udolpho’ (1794), by Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823).

Monsieur St Aubert’s wife has recently been carried off by a sudden illness. Now he too has fallen sick, a long way from home, and lies on his deathbed. At his side is his affectionate young daughter Emily, and in the little time remaining he extracts a solemn promise.

“HEAR, then, what I am going to tell you. The closet, which adjoins my chamber at La Vallee, has a sliding board in the floor. You will know it by a remarkable knot in the wood, and by its being the next board, except one, to the wainscot, which fronts the door. At the distance of about a yard from that end, nearer the window, you will perceive a line across it, as if the plank had been joined; — the way to open it is this: — Press your foot upon the line; the end of the board will then sink, and you may slide it with ease beneath the other. Below, you will see a hollow place.”

St Aubert paused for breath, and Emily sat fixed in deep attention. “Do you understand these directions, my dear?” said he. Emily, though scarcely able to speak, assured him that she did. “When you return home, then,” he added with a deep sigh —

From ‘The Mysteries of Udolpho’ (1794), by Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823).

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Picture: © San Kukai, Wikimedia Commons. Licence: CC BY-SA 2.0. View original
Sunset over the the River Garonne at Esconac, a few miles south of Bordeaux. The St Auberts’ château is described as lying on the banks of the Garonne, which flows northwest from its source in the Pyrenees down into the Bay of Biscay just the other side of Bordeaux.
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By H. G. Wells
(1866-1946)
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Part Two
By Ann Radcliffe
(1764-1823)

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