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The Indiscretion of the Duchess   By: (1863-1933)

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[Illustration: " I plucked him off the duke and flung him on his back on the sands ,"]

THE INDISCRETION OF THE DUCHESS

Being a Story Concerning Two Ladies, a Nobleman, and a Necklace

BY ANTHONY HOPE

AUTHOR OF "THE PRISONER OF ZENDA," ETC.

NEW YORK

1894

CONTENTS.

I. A MULTITUDE OF GOOD REASONS

II. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF A SUPPER TABLE

III. THE UNEXPECTED THAT ALWAYS HAPPENED

IV. THE DUCHESS DEFINES HER POSITION

V. A STRATEGIC RETREAT

VI. A HINT OF SOMETHING SERIOUS

VII. HEARD THROUGH THE DOOR

VIII. I FIND THAT I CARE

IX. AN UNPARALLELED INSULT

X. LEFT ON MY HANDS

XI. A VERY CLEVER SCHEME

XII. AS A MAN POSSESSED

XIII. A TIMELY TRUCE

XIV. FOR AN EMPTY BOX

XV. I CHOOSE MY WAY

XVI. THE INN NEAR PONTORSON

XVII. A RELUCTANT INTRUSION

XVIII. A STRANGE GOOD HUMOR

XIX. UNSUMMONED WITNESSES

XX. THE DUKE'S EPITAPH

XXI. A PASSING CARRIAGE

XXII. FROM SHADOW TO SUNSHINE

THE INDISCRETION OF THE DUCHESS.

CHAPTER I.

A Multitude of Good Reasons.

In accordance with many most excellent precedents, I might begin by claiming the sympathy due to an orphan alone in the world. I might even summon my unguided childhood and the absence of parental training to excuse my faults and extenuate my indiscretions. But the sympathy which I should thus gain would be achieved, I fear, by something very like false pretenses. For my solitary state sat very lightly upon me the sad events which caused it being softened by the influence of time and habit and had the recommendation of leaving me, not only free to manage my own life as I pleased, but also possessed of a competence which added power to my freedom. And as to the indiscretions well, to speak it in all modesty and with a becoming consciousness of human frailty, I think that the undoubted indiscretions that I may use no harder term which were committed in the course of a certain fortnight were not for the most part of my doing or contriving. For throughout the transactions which followed on my arrival in France, I was rather the sport of circumstances than the originator of any scheme; and the prominent part which I played was forced upon me, at first by whimsical chance, and later on by the imperious calls made upon me by the position into which I was thrust.

The same reason that absolves me from the need of excuse deprives me of the claim to praise; and, looking back, I am content to find nothing of which I need seriously be ashamed, and glad to acknowledge that, although Fate chose to put me through some queer paces, she was not in the end malevolent, and that, now the whole thing is finished, I have no cause to complain of the ultimate outcome of it. In saying that, I speak purely and solely for myself. There is one other for whom I might perhaps venture to say the same without undue presumption, but I will not; while for the rest, it must suffice for me to record their fortunes, without entering on the deep and grave questions which are apt to suggest themselves to anyone who considers with a thoughtful mind the characters and the lives of those with whom he is brought in contact on his way through the world. The good in wicked folk, the depths in shallow folk, the designs of haphazard minds, the impulsive follies of the cunning all these exist, to be dimly discerned by any one of us, to be ignored by none save those who are content to label a man with the name of one quality and ignore all else in him, but to be traced, fully understood, and intelligently shown forth only by the few who are gifted to read and expound the secrets of human hearts. That is a gift beyond my endowment, and fitted for a task too difficult for my hand. Frankly, I did not, always and throughout, discern as clearly as I could desire the springs on which the conduct of my fellow actors turned; and the account I have given of their feelings and their motives must be accepted merely as my reading of them, and for what, as such, it is worth... Continue reading book >>




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