The Dishonest Duke by Bess McBride

The Dishonest Duke by Bess McBride

Author:Bess McBride [McBride, Bess]
Language: eng
Format: epub, mobi
Published: 2017-06-04T23:00:00+00:00


Margaret opened her eyes to the sight of her aunt’s face as she bent over her holding a cup of tea to Margaret’s lips. A candle flickered, suggesting that some time had passed since she had arrived at her aunt’s house earlier that day. The tea was tepid but stout and sweet.

“Hello, Aunt Constance,” Margaret said. “How long did I sleep?”

Her aunt’s pinched countenance relaxed.

“You fainted, my dear. You did not sleep. However, you have been ‘sleeping,’ as you call it, since yesterday noon. It is now almost ten at night.”

Margaret blinked and accepted another sip of tea. She attempted to push herself to a sitting position, but her aunt restrained her.

“No, dear, you must rest. Doctor Cantwell came by twice today. We have managed to infuse you with some liquid, but only a few sips. You were not fully awake, and we did not want you to choke. Will you take some nourishing soup now?”

Margaret nodded.

“Yes, please. I am so very sorry to have arrived in such a condition, Aunt Constance. I truly am. Had I known I would become such a burden, I would not have come.”

“Nonsense, dear. You are as my child, and I have a great fondness for you. You are no burden.”

Margaret smiled while her aunt propped another pillow behind her. She then fetched a porcelain bowl, which had been set on a nearby table.

“The soup is probably now as tepid as the tea, as it was brought up from the kitchen some time ago in the hopes that you might awaken. I hope it is to your liking though.”

Margaret took a sip and then another. Her head spun dizzily, and she leaned back against the pillow.

“What did the doctor say?”

“That he thinks you have not been eating or drinking. Is that true, Margaret?”

Margaret accepted another sip of soup.

“I do not remember the last time I finished a meal, Aunt Constance. I have been struggling—” Margaret stopped and fell silent.

“Struggling with what, my dear? I understand felicitations are in order. You are to marry that nice boy, Jeffrey, the one I met several years ago when I visited Moncks Hall?”

“Thank you,” Margaret whispered. “Yes, felicitations.”

“Margaret, your face paled even more so than it has been. What can be the matter?”

Margaret could not imagine that she had tears left to shed, but it seemed as if she did. She wept soundlessly while her aunt set down the bowl and consoled her.

Upon cessation of her tears, Margaret told her aunt everything—the duke, her own unnatural desires, the possible scandal, Jeffrey’s proposal.

Spent and empty, Margaret leaned back against the pillow and eyed her aunt with trepidation.

“Forgive me for my flawed character, Aunt Constance. I would not blame you if you sent me packing. I would not.”

Aunt Constance surprised her by taking her hand and patting it.

“Oh, my poor dear. You have my utmost sympathy. I hear the agony in your voice, see it in your tears, know it to be true, as you have almost starved yourself. You are not flawed, Margaret.


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