The Champdoce Mystery
A Bad Start
Diana de Laurebourg was a strange compound; under an appearance of the
most artless simplicity she concealed an iron will, and had hidden from every one
of her family, and even from her most intimate friends, her firm resolve to
become the Duchess of Champdoce. All her rambles in the neighborhood had
turned out of no avail; and as the weather was now very uncertain, it seemed as
if her long strolls in the country roads and fields would soon come to an end.
"The day must eventually come," murmured she, "when this invisible prince must
make his appearance." And at last the long-expected day arrived.
It was in the middle of the month of November, and the weather was exceedingly
soft and balmy for the time of year. The sky was blue, the few remaining leaves
rustled on the trees, and an occasional bird whistled in the hedgerows. Diana de
Laurebourg was walking slowly along the path leading to Mussidan, when all at
once she heard a rustling of branches. She turned round sharply, and all the
blood in her body seemed to rush suddenly to her heart, for through an opening
in the hedge she caught sight of the man who for the past two months had
occupied all her waking thoughts. Norbert was waiting for something with all the
eagerness of a sportsman, his finger on the trigger of his gun.
Here was the opportunity for which she had waited so long, and with such ill-
concealed impatience; and yet she could derive no advantage from it, for what
would happen? Simply this: Norbert would bow to her, and she would reply with a
slight inclination of her head, and perhaps two months might pass away before
she met him again. Just as she was about to take some bold and decisive step
she saw Norbert raise his gun and point it in her direction. She endeavored to
call out to him, but her voice failed her, and in another moment the report rang
out, and she felt a sharp pang, like the touch of a red-hot iron upon her ankle.
With a wild shriek she threw up her arms and fell upon the pathway. She did not
lose her senses, for she heard a cry in response to her own, and the crashing of
something forcing its way through the hedge. Then she felt a hot breath upon her
face, and then something cold and wet touched her cheek. She opened her eyes
languidly, and saw Bruno licking her face and hands.
At the same moment Norbert dashed through the hedge and stood before her. At
once she realized the advantage of her position and closed her eyes once more.
Norbert, as he hung over the seemingly unconscious form of this fair young
creature, felt that his senses were deserting him, for he greatly feared that he
had killed Mademoiselle de Laurebourg. His first impulse was to fly precipitately,
and his second to give what aid he could to his victim. He knelt down by her, and,
to his infinite relief, found that life was not extinct. He raised her beautiful head.
"Speak to me, mademoiselle, I entreat you," cried he.
All this time Diana was returning thanks to kind Providence for the fulfillment of
her wishes. After a time she made a slight move, and Norbert uttered an