“You forget,” said he in a voice hoarse with passion, “that you are mine, and that, as your husband, I can make your existence one long scene of agony and misery. Keep this fact in your memory. To-morrow, at six o’clock, I shall be here.”
The clock was striking two as he left the house and hastened to the spot where he had left his horse.
The soldier was still pacing backwards and forwards, leading the Duke’s horse.
“My faith!” said the man, as soon as he perceived Norbert, “you pay precious long visits. I had only leave to go to the theatre, and I shall get into trouble over this.”
“Pshaw! I promised you twenty francs. Here are two louis.”
The soldier pocketed the money with an air of delighted surprise, and Norbert sprang into the saddle.
An hour later he gave the appointed signal upon the window pane, behind which the trusty Jean was waiting.
“Take care that no one sees you as you take the horse to the stable,” said the Duke hastily, “and then come to me, for I want your assistance and advice.”
The heir of Champdoce.
As long as she was in Norbert’s presence, anger and indignation gave the Duchess de Champdoce strength; but as soon as she was left alone her energy gave way, and with an outburst of tears she sank, half fainting, upon a couch. Her despair was augmented from the fact that she felt that had it not been for her, George de Croisenois would never have met with his death.
“Had I not made that fatal appointment,” she sobbed, “he would be alive and well now; my love has slain him as surely as if my hand had held the steel that has pierced his heart!”
She at first thought of seeking refuge with her father, but abandoned the idea almost immediately, for she felt that he would refuse to enter into her grievance, or would say, “You are a duchess; you have an enormous fortune. You must be happy; and if you are not, it must be your own fault.”
In terrible anguish the night passed away; and when her maids entered the room, they found her lying on the floor, dressed as she had been the night before. No one knew what to do, and messengers were dispatched in all directions to summon medical advice.
Norbert’s return was eagerly welcomed by the terrified domestics, and a general feeling of relief pervaded the establishment.
The Duke had grown very uneasy as to what might have happened during his absence. He questioned the servants as diplomatically as he could; and while he was thus engaged, the doctors who had been summoned arrived.
After seeing their patient, they did not for a moment conceal their opinion that the case was a very serious one, and that it was possible that she might not survive this mysterious seizure. They impressed upon Norbert the necessity of the Duchess being kept perfectly quiet and never left alone, and then departed, promising to call again in the afternoon.