The Champdoce Mystery
A Bold Adventure
Daumon had in no way exaggerated when he said that Norbert was spoken of as
the "Young Savage of Champdoce," though no one used this appellation in an
insulting form. Public opinion had changed considerably regarding the Duke of
Champdoce. The first time that he had made his appearance, wearing wooden
shoes and a leathern jacket, every one had laughed, but this did not affect him at
all, and in the end people began to term his dogged obstinacy indomitable
perseverance. The gleam that shone from his hoarded millions imparted a
brilliant lustre to his shabby garments. Why should they waste their pity upon a
man who would eventually come into a gigantic fortune, and have the means of
gratifying all his desires?
Mothers, with daughters especially, took a great interest in the young man, for to
get a girl married to the "Young Savage of Champdoce" would be a feat to be
proud of; but unluckily his father watched him with all the vigilance of a Spanish
duenna. But there was a young girl who had long since secretly formed a design
of her own, and this bold- hearted beauty was Diana de Laurebourg. It was with
perfect justice that she had received the name of the "Belle of Poitiers." She was
tall and very fair, with a dazzling complexion and masses of lustrous hair; but her
eyes gleamed with a suppressed fire, which plainly showed the constitution of
her nature. She had been brought up in a convent, and her parents, who had
wished her to take the veil, had only been induced to remove her owing to her
obstinate refusal to pronounce the vows, coupled with the earnest entreaties of
the lady superior, who was kept in a constant state of ferment owing to the
mutinous conduct of her pupil. Her father was wealthy, but all the property went
over to her brother, ten years older than herself; and so Diana was portionless,
with the exception of a paltry sum of forty thousand francs.
"My child!" said her father to her the first day of her return, "you have come back
to us once more, and now all you have to do is to fascinate some gentleman who
is your equal in position and who has plenty of money. If you fail in that, back you
go to the convent."
"Time enough to talk about that some years hence," answered the girl with a
smile; "at present I am quite contented with being at home with you."
M. de Laurebourg had commented with some severity upon the conduct of the
Duke de Champdoce towards his son, but he was perfectly willing to sacrifice his
daughter's heart for a suitable marriage.
"I shall gain my end," murmured the girl, "I am sure of it."
She had heard a friend of her father's speaking of Norbert and his colossal