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The Champdoce Mystery

Marriage Bells; Funeral Knells
Three days of hard work had completed all the arrangements necessary for the
marriage of Norbert and Mademoiselle de Puymandour. He had been presented
to the lady, and neither had received a favorable impression of the other. At the
very first glance each one felt that inevitable repugnance which the lapse of
years can never efface. While dreading the anger of her obdurate father, Marie
had at one time thought of confiding the secret of her attachment to George de
Croisenois to Norbert, for she had the idea that if she told him that her heart was
another's, he might withdraw his pretensions to her hand; but several times,
when the opportunity occurred, fear restrained her tongue, and she let the
propitious moment pass away. Had she done so, Norbert would at once have
eagerly grasped at a pretext for absolving himself from a promise which he had
made mentally of obeying in all things a father who now, alas! had no means of
enforcing his commands.
Each day he paid his visit to Puymandour as an accepted suitor, bearing a large
bouquet with him, which he regularly presented to his betrothed upon his
entrance into the drawing-room, which she accepted with a painful flush rising to
her cheek. The pair conversed upon indifferent topics, while an aged female
connection sat in the room to play propriety. For many hours they would remain
thus, the girl bending over her fancy work, and he vainly striving to find topics of
conversation, and, consequently, saying hardly anything, in spite of Marie's
feeble efforts to assist in the conversation. It was a slight relief when M. de
Puymandour proposed a walk; but this was a rare occurrence, for that gentleman
usually declared that he never had a moment's leisure. Never had he seemed so
gay and busy since the approaching marriage of his daughter had been the
theme of every tongue. He took all the preparations for the ceremony into his
own hands, for he had determined that everything should be conducted on a
scale of unparalleled magnificence. The Chateau was refurnished, and all the
carriages repainted and varnished, while the Champdoce and the Puymandour
arms were quartered together on their panels. This coat of arms was to be seen
everywhere--over the doors, on the walls, and engraved on the silver, and it was
believed that M. de Puymandour would have made no objection to their being
branded on his breast.
In the midst of all this turmoil and bustle Norbert and Marie grew sadder and
sadder as each day passed on. One day M. de Puymandour heard so
astounding a piece of intelligence that he hurried into the drawing-room, where
he knew that he should find the lovers (as he styled them) together.
"Well, my children," exclaimed he, "you have set such an excellent example, that
everybody seems disposed to copy you, and the mayor and the priest will be
kept to their work rather tightly this year."
His daughter tried to put on an appearance of interest at this speech.