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The Devil and the Debutant

Chapter 3: A Brown Wrapped Surprises

By E. J. StrangePublished 3 years ago 5 min read

The Duke of Portland’s affairs were not as far in the dregs as he had originally been led to believe. It took only a little investigating to learn that the estate, all though disorganized and inefficient, was still prosperous and therefore lucrative. It took only a few weeks of browbeating, bribing, and throwing his title about for the people to realize he was no ordinary Duke and that he would not neglect what was his.

Yes, he was the usual pompous aristocrat or at least that is what he came off as. He did not want to be addressed by any crude laborer. Even the slightest tip of a hat in friendly greeting could get a worker fired. He did not want to be accessible to the common man. In fact, such a recluse was he that he did not want anyone outside his carefully chosen circle addressing him verbal. He instead crafted detailed messages of what he wished to be done with his affairs. So detailed where these messages that the readers often wondered if the duke had been there personally.

What was unusual about the Duke was his level of involvement and his propensity for fair wages. If he hired an outside contractor and found that the laborers were not paid adequately, as he had spelled out before any work was done, he would have a wordy letter telling the foreman to pay his workers or face losing a contract. He incidentally would sneak out and do digging of his own when he felt he was being misled in letters. He had an eye for such things, having been an intelligence gatherer for the British Royal Army. So, when a parcel wrapped in crude brown paper, held together by twine, and adorned with a wax sealed letter attached to it was left on his desk with the rest of his correspondence, he was hesitant to open it.

He used his letter opener to push it to the furthest corner, away from his other letters. It rolled away easily and did not feel heavy enough to contain anything too menacing. He left it in the corner, eyeing it speculatively as he sliced through his normal mail. He read through it all distractedly peaking over the papers to hazard a look at the package. When he got through the last letter he hardly remembered what had read and decided he would have to mull it all over after his curiosity had been slated.

He brushed the mail to the side and slid the package in front of him. He inspected it surface. It was crude cheap, wrinkled paper. The kind you would see a street vendor wrap a fish in or a common tradesman wrap bric-a-brac with. The seal of the letter was just as crude and untraceable. Any number of unmentionables could have sent this to him, and he would not be able to differentiate one from the other. He tired to think of what worker he could have fired or offended who would go to such great lengths against him, for he reasoned this parcel had to contain something bad. The workers knew not to engage him directly.

This may have seemed a pretentious gesture, but he found keeping everything at this emotionally sterile level allowed him to make better judgment calls. This to him was important in keeping the over all sanctity of his workers. After all he hardly expected nor wanted to make everyone happy. He just wanted everything to be well and fair and what was good and right didn’t always sit well with everyone.

He scanned his study for something to cover his face with incase the package was laced with something and found nothing useful. Resigned he sucked in a deep breath and quickly tore open the letter. No residues popped off the letter and upon further inspection he found it to be just an ordinary letter. Well, an ordinary letter with an unusual message.

“To My Dearest Husband Thomas,

Imagine the fright I had after seeing you after all these years. How long have I mourned your absence? It feels like decades on my heart. I have remained faithful in all these years and have suffered for it. If you could with the kindness of your heart come back to me or at the very least financially fix what you brought to ruins. We have been destitute in your absence, so imagine our shock at finding you were not dead and very well off. To think that you would deny your son his rightful place displeases me, but I have always loved you and will forgive you if you would please reply by leave a letter on your grave at Highgate cemetery in north London.

With a humbled heart

Your WIFE Anna Druce

P.S. If you do not respond I will be forced to take this matter to the papers and possibly the authorities. Please do not test me my love, we both know how that will end.”

The Duke paused after reading such an odd letter. He took a deep breath and read again. He then smiled. He was not a Thomas Druce and none of these details correlated to himself. He was not dead, and he certainly would not be buried in a commoners plot such as Highgate cemetery. He was to be buried at Welbeck Abbey’s church yard for pities sake. He also was not tacky enough to leave bastards about the continent. Not to mention he had never loved a woman named Anna.

However, something stirred in the Duke’s gut. That something told him he should open the package. Reluctantly he reached for the brown lump he was sure was not meant for him. This time he held his breath in anticipation instead of safety. He did not know what he would find, and his mind ran ramped with possibility. On one hand he was always intrigued with a mystery. On the other hand, he was in no mood to be caught up in a scandal especially when no heir put his estate's future at jeopardy. For pities sake what caliber of chit would he be tided to if he were to indeed get embroiled in this scandal. He perished the thought.

Suspense got the better of him and he frantically ripped apart the paper and revealed its contents. In disbelief he eyed a bundle of papers tied together with a blue ribbon. He took the first paper from its stack. Icy pangs of shock rippled through him as he recognition hit him like a bold. They were love letters written in his hand.


About the Creator

E. J. Strange

I am new to the writing community but hope to publish a novel one day. I am simple minded and sucker for romance.

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