In the meantime, the Duke of Hereward, conducted by Doctor Dubourg, traversed the long passages leading from the Old Men’s Home to the convent.
As they went on, the duke gave the doctor instructions to supply the patient with everything that he should require during the last few hours of his life; and after death to take direction of the funeral, and charge all expenses to himself (the duke), adding:
“I shall, of course, remain at L’Ange until all is over.”
“It will not be long, monseigneur. The poor man has been kept up by mental excitement and by strong stimulants all day long; there comes a fatal reaction soon, from which nothing can raise him. He will not outlive the day.”
“I am very sorry for him,” murmured the duke.
“He was, perhaps, a distant relative of your grace. There is a slight family likeness,” suggested the doctor.
“There is a very remarkable family likeness, and he is a very near relative,” answered the duke, adding; “I hope you will kindly follow the instructions I have given you in regard to him.”
“I will faithfully follow them out, monseigneur,” said the doctor, with a bow.
At the entrance to the convent proper they were met by an elderly nun, who brought the lady superior’s compliments and begged leave to announce that refreshments were laid in the receiving-parlor, if the Duke of Hereward and Doctor Dubourg would do the house the honor to partake of them.
The young duke was tired and hungry from his long journey and longer fast, and gratefully accepted the sister’s courteous invitation in his own and the doctor’s name.
The nun led the way to the parlor, where a table was set out, not merely with slight refreshments, but with the first course of a dainty dinner, which the forethought of the abbess had caused to be prepared for her noble guest.
The duke and the doctor sat down to the table, and were attentively waited on by two of the elder sisterhood.
Notwithstanding the good appetite of the guests and the delicacy of the viands set before them, the meal passed in gravity and in almost total silence, for the thoughts of the two companions were with the dying man whom they had left in the Old Men’s Home.
When they had finished dining, and had arisen from the table, a message was delivered by one of the old nuns who had waited upon them, to the effect that the lady superior desired to see the duke in the portress’ room for a few minutes, before his departure.
The duke immediately signified his readiness to wait on the lady, and followed his conductress to the little room behind the wicket appropriated to the portress.
HUSBAND AND WIFE.
Two hours before this, the lady superior had conducted the young duchess to the private apartment of the abbess, to await the issue of events.