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The Man

28. De Lannoy
Two years!
Not much to look back upon, but a world to look forward to. To Stephen, dowered
though she was with rare personal gifts and with wealth and position accorded to but few,
the hours of waiting were longer than the years that were past. Yet the time had new and
startling incidents for her. Towards Christmas in the second year the Boer war had
reached its climax of evil. As the news of disaster after disaster was flashed through the
cable she like others felt appalled at the sacrifices that were being exacted by the God of
War.
One day she casually read in The Times that the Earl de Lannoy had died in his London
mansion, and further learned that he had never recovered from the shock of hearing that
his two sons and his nephew had been killed. The paragraph concluded: "By his death the
title passes to a distant relative. The new Lord de Lannoy is at present in India with his
regiment, the 35th or 'Grey' Hussars, of which he is Colonel." She gave the matter a more
than passing thought, for it was sad to find a whole family thus wiped out at a blow.
Early in February she received a telegram from her London solicitor saying that he
wished to see her on an important matter. Her answer was: "Come at once"; and at tea-
time Mr. Copleston arrived. He was an old friend and she greeted him warmly. She was a
little chilled when he answered with what seemed unusual deference:
'I thank your Ladyship for your kindness!' She raised her eyebrows but made no
comment: she was learning to be silent under surprise. When she had handed the old
gentleman his tea she said:
'My aunt has chosen to remain away, thinking that you might wish to see me privately.
But I take it that there is nothing which she may not share. I have no secrets from her.'
He rubbed his hands genially as he replied:
'Not at all; not at all! I should like her to be present. It will, I am sure, be a delight to us
all.'
Again raised eyebrows; again silence on the subject. When a servant answered her bell
she told him to ask Miss Rowly if she would kindly join them.
Aunt Laetitia and the solicitor were old cronies, and their greeting was most friendly.
When the old gentlewoman had seated herself and taken her cup of tea, Mr. Copleston
said to Stephen, with a sort of pomposity:
'I have to announce your succession to the Earldom de Lannoy!'
 
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