Author: Baroness Emmuska Orczy
Release Date: February, 2004 [EBook #5090] [This file was last updated on April 9, 2004]
Character set encoding: ASCII
*** Start of this project gutenberg EBOOK I will repay ***
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I will repay.
By Baroness Orczy.
“Coward! Coward! Coward!”
The words rang out, clear, strident, passionate, in a crescendo of agonised humiliation.
The boy, quivering with rage, had sprung to his feet, and, losing his balance, he fell forward clutching at the table, whilst with a convulsive movement of the lids, he tried in vain to suppress the tears of shame which were blinding him.
“Coward!” He tried to shout the insult so that all might hear, but his parched throat refused him service, his trembling hand sought the scattered cards upon the table, he collected them together, quickly, nervously, fingering them with feverish energy, then he hurled them at the man opposite, whilst with a final effort he still contrived to mutter: “Coward!”
The older men tried to interpose, but the young ones only laughed, quite prepared for the adventure which must inevitably ensue, the only possible ending to a quarrel such as this.
Conciliation or arbitration was out of the question. Deroulede should have known better than to speak disrespectfully of Adele de Montcheri, when the little Vicomte de Marny’s infatuation for the notorious beauty had been the talk of Paris and Versailles these many months past.
Adele was very lovely and a veritable tower of greed and egotism. The Marnys were rich and the little Vicomte very young, and just now the brightly-plumaged hawk was busy plucking the latest pigeon, newly arrived from its ancestral cote.
The boy was still in the initial stage of his infatuation. To him Adele was a paragon of all the virtues, and he would have done battle on her behalf against the entire aristocracy of France, in a vain endeavour to justify his own exalted opinion of one of the most dissolute women of the epoch. He was a first-rate swordsman too, and his friends had already learned that it was best to avoid all allusions to Adele’s beauty and weaknesses.
But Deroulede was a noted blunderer. He was little versed in the manners and tones of that high society in which, somehow, he still seemed and intruder. But for his great wealth, no doubt, he never would have been admitted within the intimate circle of aristocratic France. His ancestry was somewhat doubtful and his coat-of-arms unadorned with quarterings.