The Champdoce Mystery
The Heir Of Champdoce
As long as she was in Norbert's presence, anger and indignation gave the
Duchess de Champdoce strength; but as soon as she was left alone her energy
gave way, and with an outburst of tears she sank, half fainting, upon a couch.
Her despair was augmented from the fact that she felt that had it not been for
her, George de Croisenois would never have met with his death.
"Had I not made that fatal appointment," she sobbed, "he would be alive and well
now; my love has slain him as surely as if my hand had held the steel that has
pierced his heart!"
She at first thought of seeking refuge with her father, but abandoned the idea
almost immediately, for she felt that he would refuse to enter into her grievance,
or would say, "You are a duchess; you have an enormous fortune. You must be
happy; and if you are not, it must be your own fault."
In terrible anguish the night passed away; and when her maids entered the room,
they found her lying on the floor, dressed as she had been the night before. No
one knew what to do, and messengers were dispatched in all directions to
summon medical advice.
Norbert's return was eagerly welcomed by the terrified domestics, and a general
feeling of relief pervaded the establishment.
The Duke had grown very uneasy as to what might have happened during his
absence. He questioned the servants as diplomatically as he could; and while he
was thus engaged, the doctors who had been summoned arrived.
After seeing their patient, they did not for a moment conceal their opinion that the
case was a very serious one, and that it was possible that she might not survive
this mysterious seizure. They impressed upon Norbert the necessity of the
Duchess being kept perfectly quiet and never left alone, and then departed,
promising to call again in the afternoon.
Their injunctions were unnecessary, for Norbert had established himself by his
wife's bedside, resolved not to quit her until her health was re-established or
death had intervened to release her from suffering. Fever had claimed her for its
own, and in her delusion she uttered many incoherent ravings, the key to which
Norbert alone held, and which filled his soul with dread and terror.
This was the second time that Norbert had been compelled to watch over a sick-
bed, guarding within his heart a terrible secret. At Champdoce he had sat by his
father's side, who could have revealed the terrible attempt against his life; and
now it was his wife that he was keeping a watch on, lest her lips should utter the
horrible secret of the death of George de Croisenois.