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The Champdoce Mystery

An Unlucky Blow
The falling of a thunderbolt at his feet would have startled Norbert less than these
words did. The Duke took, or affected to take, no notice of his son's extreme
agitation, and in a careless manner he continued,--
"I suppose, my son, that it is hardly necessary for me to tell you the young lady's
name. Mademoiselle Marie de Puymandour cannot fail to please you. She is
excessively pretty, tall, dark, and with a fine figure. You saw her at Mass one
day. What do you think of her?"
"Think!" stammered Norbert. "Really I----"
"Pshaw," replied the old gentleman; "I thought that you had begun to use your
eyes. And look here, Marquis, you must adopt a different style of dress. You can
go over with me to Poitiers to-morrow, and one of the tailors there will make you
some clothes suitable to your rank, for I don't suppose that you wish to alarm
your future wife by the uncouthness of your appearance."
"But, father--"
"Wait a moment, if you please. I shall have a suite of apartments reserved for you
and your bride, and you can pass your honeymoon here. Take care you do not
prolong it for too lengthened a period; and when it is all over, we can break the
young woman into all our ways."
"But," interrupted Norbert hastily, "suppose I do not fancy this young lady?"
"Well, what then?"
"Suppose I should beg you to save me from a marriage which will render me
most unhappy?"
The Duke shrugged his shoulders. "Why this is mere childishness," said he. "The
marriage is a most suitable one, and it is my desire that it should take place."
"But, father," again commenced Norbert.
"What! Are you opposing my will?" asked his father angrily. "Pray, do you
"No," answered his son coldly, "I do not hesitate."
"Very good, then. A man of no position can consult the dictates of his heart when
he takes a wife, but with a nobleman of rank and station it is certainly a different
matter, for with the latter, marriage should be looked upon as a mere business
transaction. I have made excellent arrangements. Let me repeat to you the