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Edgar Jepson and Maurice Leblanc
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Sonia, in a sudden revulsion of feeling, in a reaction from her fears, slipped back and sat down
at the tea-table, panting quickly, struggling to keep back the tears of relief. She did not see the
Duke gallop up the slope, dismount, and hand over his horse to the groom who came running
to him. There was still a mist in her eyes to blur his figure as he came through the window.
"If it's for me, plenty of tea, very little cream, and three lumps of sugar," he cried in a gay,
ringing voice, and pulled out his watch. "Five to the minute--that's all right." And he bent
down, took Germaine's hand, and kissed it with an air of gallant devotion.
If he had indeed just fought a duel, there were no signs of it in his bearing. His air, his voice,
were entirely careless. He was a man whose whole thought at the moment was fixed on his tea
and his punctuality.
He drew a chair near the tea-table for Germaine; sat down himself; and Sonia handed him a
cup of tea with so shaky a hand that the spoon clinked in the saucer.
"You've been fighting a duel?" said Germaine.
"What! You've heard already?" said the Duke in some surprise.
"I've heard," said Germaine. "Why did you fight it?"
"You're not wounded, your Grace?" said Sonia anxiously.
"Not a scratch," said the Duke, smiling at her.
"Will you be so good as to get on with those wedding-cards, Sonia," said Germaine sharply;
and Sonia went back to the writing-table.
Turning to the Duke, Germaine said, "Did you fight on my account?"
"Would you be pleased to know that I had fought on your account?" said the Duke; and there
was a faint mocking light in his eyes, far too faint for the self-satisfied Germaine to perceive.
"Yes. But it isn't true. You've been fighting about some woman," said Germaine petulantly.
"If I had been fighting about a woman, it could only be you," said the Duke.
"Yes, that is so. Of course. It could hardly be about Sonia, or my maid," said Germaine. "But
what was the reason of the duel?"
"Oh, the reason of it was entirely childish," said the Duke. "I was in a bad temper; and De
Relzieres said something that annoyed me."
"Then it wasn't about me; and if it wasn't about me, it wasn't really worth while fighting," said
Germaine in a tone of acute disappointment.
The mocking light deepened a little in the Duke's eyes.
"Yes. But if I had been killed, everybody would have said, 'The Duke of Charmerace has been
killed in a duel about Mademoiselle Gournay- Martin.' That would have sounded very fine
indeed," said the Duke; and a touch of mockery had crept into his voice.
"Now, don't begin trying to annoy me again," said Germaine pettishly.
"The last thing I should dream of, my dear girl," said the Duke, smiling.
"And De Relzieres? Is he wounded?" said Germaine.
"Poor dear De Relzieres: he won't be out of bed for the next six months," said the Duke; and he
laughed lightly and gaily.
"Good gracious!" cried Germaine.
"It will do poor dear De Relzieres a world of good. He has a touch of enteritis; and for enteritis
there is nothing like rest," said the Duke.