The Black Moth (Chapter 5, page 1 of 6)


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Chapter 5

Lady Lavinia dressed herself with even more than her usual care next afternoon, and well-nigh drove her maid distracted by her flashes of temper and impatient, contradictory orders. So lengthy was the toilet that she was only just in her boudoir when his Grace of Andover was announced. She had no time to tell the footman that she would receive his Grace, for almost before the words were out of James'

mouth, he stood bowing in the doorway, sure of his welcome.

He was curiously like his sister, this man, and at the same time curiously unlike. Hers were the high cheek-bones and pinched, aristocratic nostrils, but the mouth with its thin lips, and the heavy-lidded green eyes, were totally different. His Grace's brows slanted up at the corners, and his eyes, though piercing and bright, were constantly veiled by the black-lashed lids. He wore his own black hair, unpowdered, and that, together with the black and silver garments that he always affected, greatly enhanced the natural pallor of his countenance. Altogether it was a very striking figure that stood just before the closed white door and bowed to my lady.

Lavinia took an eager step towards him, swinging her pearl-grey brocades.

"Oh, Tracy!" she cooed, holding out both hands.

His Grace advanced into the room and bent low over them.

"I rejoice to find you within, Lavinia," he said, a faint tinge of sarcasm running through his smooth tones. "As you perceive, I rode over." He made a gesture towards his high boots with their wicked looking spurs. "No doubt Andrew forgot to give you my letter?"

"No," she said, slipping her hand in his arm. "He remembered in time, and-oh, Tracy, I was so vastly delighted to have it!"

"I am indeed honoured," he replied. "I am come on a sufficiently important matter."

"Oh!" She pulled her hand away disappointedly. "Money!"

"You are really wonderful, my dear. As you so crudely remark-money! Will you not be seated?"

She sank down on the couch dejectedly and watched him take a chair opposite her.

"Your most noble lord and master lent me a trifling sum the other day, but very trifling. I am, as usual, hard-pressed. And that young fool Andrew must needs fall into debt."

My lady opened wide her eyes in surprise.

"Do you tell me you need money from Richard to pay Andrew's debts?" she asked, frankly incredulous.

"I do not. Is it likely? The remark was purely by the way."

"Well, in any case, Andrew borrowed three thousand from poor Dick only yesterday. I know, because I heard him speak of it."

His Grace raised his black brows in patient exasperation.

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