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The Lamp of Fate   By: (-1948)

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By Margaret Pedler

Then to the rolling Heav'n itself I cried, Asking, "What Lamp of Destiny to guide Her little Children stumbling in the Dark?" And "A blind Understanding!" Heaven replied. The "Rubaiyat" of Omar Khayyam.


DEAR AUDREY: I always feel that you have played the part of Fairy Godmother in a very special and delightful way to all my stories, and in particular to this one, the plot of which I outlined to you one afternoon in an old summer house. So will you let me dedicate it to you? Yours always,






The house was very silent. An odour of disinfectants pervaded the atmosphere. Upstairs hushed, swift steps moved to and fro.

Hugh Vallincourt stood at the window of his study, staring out with unseeing eyes at the smooth, shaven lawns and well kept paths with their background of leafless trees. It seemed to him that he had been standing thus for hours, waiting waiting for someone to come and tell him that a son and heir was born to him.

He never doubted that it would be a son. By some freak of chance the first born of the Vallincourts of Coverdale had been, for eight successive generations, a boy. Indeed, by this time, the thing had become so much a habit that no doubts or apprehensions concerning the sex of the eldest child were ever entertained. It was accepted as a foregone conclusion, and in the eyes of the family there was a certain gratifying propriety about such regularity. It was like a hall mark of heavenly approval.

Hugh Vallincourt, therefore, was conscious at this critical moment of no questionings on that particular score. He was merely a prey to the normal tremors and agitations of a husband and prospective father.

For an ageless period, it seemed to him, his thoughts had clung about that upstairs room where his wife lay battling for her own life and another's. Suddenly they swung back to the time, a year ago, when he had first met her an elusive feminine thing still reckoning her age in teens beneath the glorious blue and gold canopy of the skies of Italy.

Their meeting and brief courtship had been pure romance romance such as is bred in that land of mellow warmth and colour, where the flower of passion sometimes buds and blooms within the span of a single day.

In like manner had sprung to life the love between Hugh Vallincourt and Diane Wielitzska, and rarely has the web of love enmeshed two more dissimilar and ill matched people Hugh, a man of seven and thirty, the strict and somewhat self conscious head of a conspicuously devout old English family, and Diane, a beautiful dancer of mixed origin, the illegitimate offspring of a Russian grand duke and of a French artist's model of the Latin Quarter.

The three dread Sisters who determine the fate of men must have laughed amongst themselves at such an obvious mismating, knowing well how inevitably it would tangle the threads of many other lives than the two immediately concerned.

Vallincourt had been brought up on severely conventional lines, reared in the narrow tenets of a family whose salient characteristics were an overweening pride of race and a religious zeal amounting almost to fanaticism, while Diane had had no up bringing worth speaking of. As for religious views, she hadn't any.

Yet neither the one nor the other had counted in the scale when the crucial moment came.

Perhaps it was by way of an ironical set off against his environment that Fate had dowered Hugh with his crop of ruddy hair and with the ardent temperament which usually accompanies the type. Be that as it may, he was swept completely off his feet by the dancer's magic beauty. The habits and training of a lifetime went by the board, and nothing was allowed to impede the swift (not to say violent) course of his love making. Within a month from the day of their first meeting, he and Diane were man and wife.

The consequences were almost inevitable, and Hugh found that his married life speedily resolved itself into an endless struggle between the dictates of inclination and conscience... Continue reading book >>

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