An American Duchess


By Edgar Fawcett

WITH hair like silken bronze and tea-rose face,
Beside her spouse, the Duke, all willowy grace,

Behold her bloom, by many a gazer scanned,
Perched on the box-seat of his four-in-hand.

Two years a Duchess; yet you might declare
Her birth was regal, from that pose and air.

Men's hats are lifted; ladies' heads are bowed;
An affluent homage greets her from the crowd

Whose crest-engraven coaches, glittering, pass
Between the Park's grand elms and fragrant grass.

But always, following like the May wind's flow.
Murmurs the voice of gossip, swift or slow:

"A beauty, of course. You've heard the doleful tale;
Her marriage was the most revolting sale.

"From somewhere off in Yankeeland she came;
Nevada, Kansas—one forgets the name.

"Her father, out of penury's low lairs,
Had risen among the multi-millionaires.

"This Duke of Hull, besmirched, if not disclassed,
With ravaged income and notorious past,

"Roaming the States, in cold ennui, had seen
Her girlhood as it flowered at sweet eighteen.

"Daughter of slum-born upstarts, if you will,
Culture had trained her with triumphant skill.

"Fresh from a Paris pension did she gleam
On the Duke's jaded eyes like some rare dream.

"Then spoke the ambitious parents, deaf to shame:
'Three million dollars for your ducal name.'

"Hull mused an hour or two, then tossed them 'yes.'
They dragged her to the altar, passionless.

"And now? She loathes her lord, the cliques maintain;
Their boy, the little Earl of Dunsinane,

"Died four months old. They've had no children since.
I learn she's beamed on by some royal prince.

"But frost is tropic, if report speaks plain,
Compared with her indifference and disdain.

"Well, so it bides. You've heard what gossip tells
Touching the morals of these English swells.

" 'Wait,' laugh the cynics; 'all her ice and snow
Will melt consentient in the over-glow

" 'Of sumptuous Mayfair and those revels high
At castle and park and manor, by-and-by.'

"Look! that consummate horseman, Sir Guy Vane,
Close at her carriage wheel draws courteous rein.

"She nods and smiles; there's not a man in town
Wickeder than Sir Guy. Observe that frown

"Just flickering in the Duke's gaze, and no more;
He knows this London smart set to its core.

"He knows that here is not the sole Lord Guy
His glacial Duchess may be melted by.

"'Dollars for dignities,' the bargain read;
'Twas clinched. What wonder now that he should dread

"Some shattering blow from circumstance?—espy
The insidious feet of Nemesis draw nigh? . . .

"Come, it grows damper as the sun droops low—
These treacherous Maytide evenings chill one so.

"Let us go out by Hyde Park Corner here.
The rhododendrons are superb this year."

London, 1901.

This work was published before January 1, 1925, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.