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The Black Robe

Before The Story
FIRST SCENE.
BOULOGNE-SUR-MER.--THE DUEL.
I.
THE doctors could do no more for the Dowager Lady Berrick.
When the medical advisers of a lady who has reached seventy years of age
recommend the mild climate of the South of France, they mean in plain
language that they have arrived at the end of their resources. Her ladyship
gave the mild climate a fair trial, and then decided (as she herself expressed
it) to "die at home." Traveling slowly, she had reached Paris at the date when
I last heard of her. It was then the beginning of November. A week later, I
met with her nephew, Lewis Romayne, at the club.
"What brings you to London at this time of year?" I asked.
"The fatality that pursues me," he answered grimly. "I am one of the
unluckiest men living."
He was thirty years old; he was not married; he was the enviable possessor
of the fine old country seat, called Vange Abbey; he had no poor relations;
and he was one of the handsomest men in England. When I add that I am,
myself, a retired army officer, with a wretched income, a disagreeable wife,
four ugly children, and a burden of fifty years on my back, no one will be
surprised to hear that I answered Romayne, with bitter sincerity, in these
words:
"I wish to heaven I could change places with you!"
"I wish to heaven you could!" he burst out, with equal sincerity on his side.
"Read that."
He handed me a letter addressed to him by the traveling medical attendant of
Lady Berrick. After resting in Paris, the patient had continued her homeward
journey as far as Boulogne. In her suffering condition, she was liable to
sudden fits of caprice. An insurmountable horror of the Channel passage had
got possession of her; she positively refused to be taken on board the
steamboat. In this difficulty, the lady who held the post of her "companion"
had ventured on a suggestion. Would Lady Berrick consent to make the
Channel passage if her nephew came to Boulogne expressly to accompany
her on the voyage? The reply had been so immediately favorable, that the
 
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