The Champdoce Mystery
The Honor Of The Name
The account that the Duke of Champdoce had given of M. de Puymandour's mad
longing for rank and title was true, and afforded a melancholy instance of that
peculiar kind of foolish vanity. He was a much happier man in his younger days,
when he was known simply as Palouzet, which was his father's name, whose
only wish for distinction was to be looked upon as an honest man. In those days
he was much looked up to and respected, as a man who had possessed brains
enough to amass a very large fortune by strictly honest means. All this vanished,
however, when the unhappy idea occurred to him to affix the title of Count to the
name of an estate that he had recently purchased.
From that moment, all his tribulations in life may have been said to have
commenced. The nobility laughed at his assumption of hereditary rank, while the
middle classes frowned at his pretensions to be superior to them, so that he
passed the existence of a shuttlecock, continually suspended in the air, and
struck at and dismissed from either side.
It may, therefore, be easily imagined how excessively anxious he was to bring
about the marriage between his daughter Marie and the son of that mighty
nobleman, the Duke of Champdoce. He had offered to sacrifice one-third of his
fortune for the honor of forming this connection, and would have given up the
whole of it, could he but have seen a child in whose veins ran the united blood of
Palouzet and the Champdoce seated upon his knee. A marriage of this kind
would have given him a real position; for to have a Champdoce for a son-in-law
would compel all scoffers to bridle their tongues.
The day after he had received a favorable reply from the Duke, M. de
Puymandour thought that it was time to inform his daughter of his intentions. He
never thought that she would make any opposition, and, of course, supposed
that she would be as delighted as he was at the honor that awaited her. He was
seated in a magnificently furnished room which he called his library when he
arrived at this conclusion, and ringing the bell, ordered the servant to inquire of
mademoiselle's maid if her mistress could grant him an interview. He gave this
curious message, which did not appear to surprise the servant in the least, with
an air of the utmost importance. The communication between the father and
daughter was always carried on upon this basis; and scoffers wickedly asserted
that M. de Puymandour had modelled it upon a book of etiquette, for the
guidance of her household, written by a venerable arch-duchess.
Shortly after the man had departed on his errand, a little tap came to the door.
"Come in," exclaimed M. de Puymandour.
And Mademoiselle Marie ran in and gave her father a kiss upon each cheek. He
frowned slightly, and extricated himself from her embrace.