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The Champdoce Mystery

A Scheme Of Vengeance
The marriage between Norbert and Mademoiselle de Puymandour was entirely
deficient in that brief, ephemeral light that shines over the honeymoon. The icy
wall that stood between them became each day stronger and taller. There was
no one to smooth away inequalities, no one to exercise a kindly influence over
two characters, both haughty and determined. After his father's death, when
Norbert announced his intention of residing in Paris, M. de Puymandour highly
approved of this resolution, for he fancied that if he were to remain alone in the
country, he could to a certain extent take the place and position of the late Duke,
and, with the permission of his son-in-law, at once take up his residence at
Champdoce.
Almost as soon as the young Duchess arrived in Paris she realized the fact that
she was the most unfortunate woman in the world. As Champdoce was almost
like her own home, her eyes lighted on familiar scenes; and if she went out, she
was sure of being greeted by kindly words and friendly features; but in Paris she
only found solitude, for everything there was strange and hostile. The late Duke,
pinching and parsimonious as he had been towards himself and his son,
launched out into the wildest extravagances when he imagined he was working
for his coming race, and the home which he had prepared for his great-
grandchildren was the incarnation of splendor and luxury.
Upon the arrival of Norbert and his wife, they could almost fancy that they had
only quitted their town house a few days before, so perfect were all the
arrangements. Had Norbert been left to act for himself, he might have felt a little
embarrassed, but his trusty servant Jean aided him with his advice, and the
establishment was kept on a footing to do honor to the traditions of the house of
Champdoce. Everything can be procured in Paris for money, and Jean had filled
the ante-rooms with lackeys, the kitchens and offices with cooks and scullions,
and the stables with grooms, coachmen, and horses, while every description of
carriage stood in the place appointed for their reception.
But all this bustle and excitement did not seem in the eyes of the young Duchess
to impart life to the house. It appeared to her dead and empty as a sepulchre. It
seemed as if she were living beneath the weight of some vague and indefinable
terror, some hideous and hidden spectre which might at any moment start from
its hiding place and drive her mad with the alarm it excited. She had not a soul in
whom she could confide. She had been forbidden by Norbert to renew her
acquaintance with her old Parisian friends, for Norbert did not consider them of
sufficiently good family, and in addition he had used the pretext of the deep
mourning they were in to put off receiving visitors for a twelvemonth at least. She
felt herself alone and solitary, and, in this frame of mind, how was it possible for
her not to let her thoughts wander once again to George de Croisenois. Had her
father been willing, she might have been his wife now, and have been wandering
hand in hand in some sequestered spot beneath the clear blue sky of Italy. He
had loved her, while Norbert----.
 
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