The Black Moth (Prologue, page 1 of 1)

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Clad in his customary black and silver, with raven hair unpowdered and elaborately dressed, diamonds on his fingers and in his cravat, Hugh Tracy Clare Belmanoir, Duke of Andover, sat at the escritoire in the library of his town house, writing.

He wore no rouge on his face, the almost unnatural pallor of which seemed designedly enhanced by a patch set beneath his right eye.

Brows and lashes were black, the former slanting slightly up at the corners, but his narrow, heavy-lidded eyes were green and strangely piercing. The thin lips curled a little, sneering, as one dead-white hand travelled to and fro across the paper.

". . . but it seems that the Fair Lady has a Brother, who, finding Me Enamoured, threw down the Gauntlet. I soundly whipt the presumptuous Child, and so the Affair ends. Now, as you, My dear Frank, also took some Interestt in the Lady, I write for the Express Purpose of informing You that at my Hands she has received no Hurt, nor is not like to. This I in part tell You that You shall not imagine Yr self in Honor bound again to call Me out, which Purpose, an I mistake not, I yesterday read in Yr Eyes. I should be Exceeding loth to meet You a Second Time, when I should consider it my Duty to teach You an even severer Lesson than Before. This I am not Wishful of doing for the Liking I bear You.

"So in all Friendship believe me, Frank, "Your most Obedient, Humble "DEVIL."

His Grace of Andover paused, pen held in mid-air. A mocking smile dawned in his eyes, and he wrote again.

"In the event of any Desire on Yr Part to hazard Yr Luck with my late Paramour, Permit Me to warn You 'gainst the Bantam Brother, who is in Very Truth a Fire-Eater, and would wish to make of You, as of Me, one Mouthfull. I shall hope to see You at the Queensberry Rout on Thursday when You may Once More strive to direct mine Erring Footsteps on to the Thorny Path of Virtue."

His Grace read the postscript through with another satisfied, sardonic smile. Then he folded the letter, and affixing a wafer, peremptorily struck the hand-bell at his side.

And the Honourable Frank Fortescue, reading the postscript half-an-hour later, smiled too, but differently. Also he sighed and put the letter into the fire.

"And so ends another affaire. . . . I wonder if you'll go insolently to the very end?" he said softly, watching the paper shrivel and flare up. "I would to God you might fall honestly in love-and that the lady might save you from yourself-my poor Devil!"

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