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The Champdoce Mystery

False Friend, Old Lover
It was on a Wednesday morning that the Duke de Champdoce, instead of, as
usual, going to his own or one of his friends' clubs to breakfast, took his seat at
the table where his wife was partaking of her morning meal. He was in excellent
spirits, gay, and full of pleasant talk, a mood in which his wife had never seen
him since their ill-fated marriage. The Duchess could not understand this sudden
change in her husband; it terrified and alarmed her, for she felt that it was the
forerunner of some serious event, which would change the current of her life
entirely.
Norbert waited until the domestics had completed their duty and retired, and as
soon as he was alone with his wife he took her hand and kissed it with an air of
gallantry.
"It has been a long time, my dear Marie, since I had resolved to open my heart to
you entirely, and now a full and open explanation has become absolutely
necessary."
"An explanation!" faltered Marie.
"Yes, certainly; but do not let the word alarm you. I fear that I must have
appeared in your eyes the most morose and disagreeable of husbands. Permit
me to explain. Since we came here, I have gone about my own affairs, I have
gone out early and returned extremely late, and sometimes three days have
elapsed without our even setting eyes on each other."
The young Duchess listened to him like a woman who could not believe her ears.
Could this be her husband who was heaping reproaches upon himself in this
manner?
"I have made no complaint," stammered she.
"I know that, Marie; you have a noble and forgiving nature; but, however, it is
impossible, as a woman, that you should not have condemned me."
"Indeed, but I have not done so."
"So much the better for me. On this I shall not have to find either defence or
excuse for my conduct; you must know, however, that you are ever foremost in
my thoughts, even when I am away from you."
He was evidently doing his best to put on an air of tenderness and affection, but
he failed; for though his words were kind, the tone of his voice was neither tender
nor sympathetic.
"I hope I know my duty," said the Duchess.
 
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