the hon. matilda shirley to diana, marchioness of d--------, sept 10, 181-.:
my dear friend, in my last letter, if you recall, i mentioned the romance that dear percival has so winningly persuaded me to spend a few lazy hours penning. without further comment, therefore, i give you the first page or so of:
the last woman
it was a dark and gloomy morning - a true harbinger of things to come.
the duc de montardon paced in front of the window of the main salon of the castle on the grounds of his estate in the southern mountains. the duc, who in his long career in politics was famous for his imperturbability, was on this morning quite openly agitated, making no effort to hide his distress and impatience from the servants who attended him, or from the two personages of his own rank who watched him from their chairs in front of the fireplace.
the first of these persons was the baron de romette, the duc's long time ally in the council rooms of the kingdom, who had, like himself, been deposed in the latest round of upheavals. the duc, who had held the true power, had had the humble title of minister at large. the baron had held the twin portfolios of finance and foreign affairs.
the baron's ample frame filled his chair beyond its capacity, but he lounged in it comfortably enough. he gazed out the window at the gray sky and took a pinch of snuff.
"come, old fellow, surely we will get through this day as we have so many others. how many of these fanatics have we seen come and go? and these new fellows are the most ridiculous of all. are they not?" the baron turned and smiled at the occupant of the chair opposite his - a woman a good forty years the junior of the two men , and the duc's betrothed. or so she had become, only the day before.