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   Chapter 1 THE BRIDE OF LONE.

The Lost Lady of Lone By Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Sout Characters: 23157

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:02


"Eh, Meester McRath? Sae grand doings I hae na seen sin the day o' the queen's visit to Lone. That wad be in the auld duke's time. And a waefu' day it wa'."

"Dinna ye gae back to that day, Girzie Ross. It gars my blood boil only to think o' it!"

"Na, Sandy, mon, sure the ill that was dune that day is weel compensate on this. Sooth, if only marriages be made in heaven, as they say, sure this is one. The laird will get his ain again, and the bonnyest leddy in a' the land to boot."

"She is a bonny lass, but na too gude for him, although her fair hand does gie him back his lands."

"It's only a' just as it sud be."

"Na, it's no all as it sud be. Look at they fules trying to pit up yon triumphal arch! The loons hae actually gotten the motto 'happiness' set upside down, sae that a' the blooming red roses are falling out o' it. An ill omen that if onything be an ill omen. I maun rin and set it right."

The speakers in this short colloquy were Mrs. Girzie Ross, housekeeper, and Mr. Alexander McRath, house-steward of Castle Lone.

The locality was in the Highlands of Scotland. The season was early summer. The hour was near sunset. The scene was one of great beauty and sublimity. The occasion one of high festivity and rejoicing.

The preparations were being completed for a grand event. For on the morning of the next day a deep wrong was to be made right by the marriage of the young and beautiful Lady of Lone to the chosen lord of her heart.

Lone Castle was a home of almost ideal grandeur and loveliness, situated in one of the wildest and most picturesque regions of the Highlands, yet brought to the utmost perfection of fertility by skillful cultivation.

The castle was originally the stronghold of a race of powerful and warlike Scottish chieftains, ancestors of the illustrious ducal line of Scott-Hereward. It was strongly built, on a rocky island, that arose from The midst of a deep clear lake, surrounded by lofty mountains.

For generations past, the castle had been but a picturesque ruin, and the island a barren desert, tenanted only by some old retainer of the ancient family, who found shelter within its huge walls, and picked up a scanty living by showing the famous ruins to artists and tourists.

But some years previous to the commencement of our story, when Archibald-Alexander-John Scott succeeded his father, as seventh Duke of Hereward, he conceived the magnificent, but most extravagant idea of transforming that grim, old Highland fortress, perched upon its rocky island, surrounded by water and walled in by mountains-into a mansion of Paradise and a garden of Eden.

When he first spoke of his plan, he was called visionary and extravagant; and when he persisted in carrying it into execution, he was called mad.

The most skillful engineers and architects in Europe were consulted and their plans examined, and a selection of designs and contractors made from the best among them. And then the restoration, or rather the transfiguration, of the place was the labor of many years, at the cost of much money.

Fabulous sums were lavished upon Lone. But the Duke's enthusiasm grew as the work grew and the cost increased. All his unentailed estates in England were first heavily mortgaged and afterwards sold, and the proceeds swallowed up in the creation of Lone.

The duchess, inspired by her husband, was as enthusiastic as the duke. When his resources were at an end and Lone unfinished she gave up her marriage settlements, including her dower house, which was sold that the proceeds might go to the completion of Lone.

But all this did not suffice to pay the stupendous cost.

Then the duke did the maddest act of his life. He raised the needed money from usurers by giving them a mortgage on his own life estate in Lone itself.

The work drew near to its completion.

In the meantime the duke's agents were ransacking the chief cities in Europe in search of rare paintings, statues, vases, and other works of art or articles of virtu to decorate the halls and chambers of Lone; for which also the most famous manufacturers in France and Germany were elaborating suitable designs in upholstery.

Every man directing every department of the works at Lone, whether as engineer, architect, decorator, or furnisher, every man was an artist in his own speciality. The work within and without was to be a perfect work at whatever cost of time, money, and labor.

At length, at the end of ten years from its commencement, the work was completed.

And for the sublimity of its scenery, the beauty of its grounds, the almost tropical luxuriance of its gardens, the magnificence of its buildings, the splendor of its decorations, and the luxury of its appointments, Lone was unequalled.

What if the mad duke had nearly ruined himself in raising it?

Lone was henceforth the pride of engineers, the model of architects, the subject of artists, the theme of poets, the Mecca of pilgrims, the eighth wonder of the world.

Lone was opened for the first time a few weeks after its completion, on the occasion of the coming of age of the duke's eldest son and heir, the young Marquis of Arondelle, which fell upon the first of June.

A grand festival was held at Lone, and a great crowd assembled to do honor to the anniversary. A noble and gentle company filled the halls and chambers of the castle, and nearly all the Clan Scott assembled on the grounds.

The festival was a grand triumph.

Among the thousands present were certain artists and reporters of the press, and so it followed that the next issue of the London News contained full-page pictures of Castle Lone and Inch Lone, with their terraces, parterres, arches, arbors and groves; Loch Lone, with its elegant piers, bridges and boats; and the surrounding mountains, with their caves, grottoes, falls and fountains.

Yes, the birthday festival was a perfect triumph, and the fame of Lone went forth to the uttermost ends of the earth. The English Colonists at Australia, Cape of Good Hope, and New Zealand, read all about it in copies of the London News, sent out to them by thoughtful London friends. We remember the day, some years since, when we, sitting by our cottage fire, read all about it in an illustrated paper, and pondered over the happy fate of those who could live in paradise while still on earth. Five years later, we would not have changed places with the Duke of Hereward.

But this is a digression.

The duke was in his earthly heaven; but was the duke happy, or even content?

Ah! no. He was overwhelmed with debt. Even Lone was mortgaged as deeply as it could be-that is, as to the extent of the duke's own life interests in the estate. Beyond that he could not burden the estate, which was entailed upon his heirs male. Besides his financial embarrassments, the duke was afflicted with another evil-he was consumed with a fever too common with prince and with peasant, as well as with peer-the fever of a land hunger.

The prince desires to add province to province; the peer to add manor to manor; the peasant to own a little home of his own, and then to add acre to acre.

The Lord of Lone glorying in his earthly paradise, wished to see it enlarged, wished to add one estate to another until he should become the largest land-owner in Scotland, or have his land-hunger appeased. He bought up all the land adjoining Lone, that could be purchased at any price, paying a little cash down, and giving notes for the balance on each purchase. Thus, in the course of three years, Lone was nearly doubled in territorial extent.

But the older creditors became clamorous. Bond, and mortgage holders threatened foreclosure, and the financial affairs of the "mad duke," outwardly and apparently so prosperous, were really very desperate. The family were seriously in danger of expulsion from Lone.

It was at this crisis that the devoted son came to the help of his father-not wisely, as many people thought then-not fortunately, as it turned out. To prevent his father from being compelled to leave Lone, and to protect him from the persecution of creditors, the young Marquis of Arondelle performed an act of self-sacrifice and filial devotion seldom equalled in the world's history. He renounced all his own entailed rights, and sold all his prospective life interest in Lone. His was a young, strong life, good for fifty or sixty years longer. His interest brought a sum large enough to pay off the mortgage on Lone and to settle all others of his father's outstanding debts.

Thus peaceable possession of Lone might have been secured to the family during the natural life of the duke. At the demise of the duke, instead of descending to his son and heir, it would pass into the possession of other parties, with whom it would remain as long the heir should live.

Thus, I say, by the sacrifice of the son the peace of the father might have been secured-for a time. And all might have gone well at Lone but for one unlucky event which finally set the seal on the ruin of the ducal family.

And yet that event was intended as an honor, and considered as an honor.

In a word the Queen, the Prince Consort, and the royal family, were coming to the Highlands. And the Duke of Hereward received an intimation that her majesty would stop on her royal progress and honor Lone with a visit of two days. This was a distinction in no wise to be slighted by any subject under any circumstances, and certainly not by the duke of Hereward.

The Queen's visit would form the crowning glory of Lone. The chambers occupied by majesty would henceforth be holy ground, and would be pointed out with reverence to the stranger in all succeeding generations.

In anticipation of this honor the "mad" Duke of Hereward launched out into his maddest extravagances.

He had but ten days in which to prepare for the royal visit, but he made the best use of his time.

The guest chambers at Lone, already fitted up in princely magnificence, had new splendors added to them. The castle and the grounds were adorned and decorated with lavish expenditure. The lake was alive with gayly-rigged boats. Triumphal arches were erected at stated intervals of the drive leading from the public road, across the bridge connecting the shore with the island, and-maddest extravagance of all-the ground was laid out and fitted up for a grand tournament after the style of the time of Richard Coeur de Lion, to be held there during the queen's visit-that fatal visit spoken of in the early part of this chapter.

Yes, fatal!-for a hundred thousand pounds sterling, won by the son's self-sacrifice, which should have gone to satisfy the clamorous creditors of the duke, was squandered in extravagant preparations to royally entertain England's expensive royal family.

A second time Lone was the scene of unparalleled display, festivity, and rejoicing. Once more all the country round about was assembled there; again the artists and reporters of the London press were among the crowd; and again full-page pictures of the ceremonies attending the queen's reception and entertainment were published in the illustrated papers, and the fame of that royal visit went out to the uttermost parts of the earth.

But mark this: Every footman that waited at the grand state-dinner table was a bailiff in disguise, in charge of the plate and china, which, together with all the fabulous riches of art, literature, science and virtu collected at Lone had been taken in execution, by the officers secretly in possess

ion.

The royal party, with their retinue, left Lone on the afternoon of the third day.

And then the crash came? The blow was sudden, overwhelming and utterly destructive.

The shock of the fall of Lone was felt from one end of the kingdom to the other.

For the last time a crowd gathered around Castle Lone. But they came not as festive guests but as a flock of vultures around a carcass, bent on prey. For the last time artists and reporters came not to illustrate the triumphs, but to record the downfall of the great ducal house of Scott-Hereward; to make sketches, take photographs and write descriptions of the magnificent and splendid halls and chambers, picture-galleries and museums, before they should be dismantled by the rapacious purchasers who flocked to the vendue of Lone, to profit by the ruin of the proprietor.

And for the last time illustrations of Lone and its glories went forth over every part of the world where the English language is spoken, or the English mails penetrate.

Another heavy blow fell upon the doomed duke. Even while the grand vendue was still in progress the duchess died of grief.

When all was over, and the good duchess was laid in the family vault, the duke and the young marquis disappeared from Lone and none knew whither they went. Some said that they had gone to Australia; some that they were in America; some that they were on the Continent. Others declared that they had hidden themselves in the wilderness of London, where they were living in great poverty and obscurity, and even under assumed names.

Opinions and rumors differed also concerning the character and conduct of the young marquis. Many called him a devoted son, filled with the spirit of heroic self-sacrifice. Many others affirmed that he was a hypocrite and a villain, addicted to drinking, gambling, and other vices and even cited times, places, and occasions of his sinning.

There never lived a man of whom so much good and so much evil was said as of the young Marquis of Arondelle. A stranger coming into the neighborhood of Lone, would hear these opposite reports and never be able to decide whether the absent and self-exiled young nobleman was a model of virtue or a monster of vice.

But there was one whose faith in him was firm as her faith in Heaven.

Rose Cameron was the daughter of a Highland shepherd, living about ten miles north of Ben Lone. No court lady in the land was fairer than this rustic Highland beauty. Her form was tall, fine, and commanding. Her step was stately and graceful as the step of an antelope. Her features were large, regular, and clear cut, as if chiseled in marble, yet full of blooming and sparkling life as ruddy health and mountain air could fill them. Her hair was golden brown, and clustered in innumerable shining ringlets closely around her fair open forehead and rounded throat. Her eyes were large, and clear bright blue. Her expression full of innocent freedom and joyousness.

Rumor said that the fast young Marquis of Arondelle, while deer-stalking from his hunting lodge in the neighborhood of Ben Lone, had chanced to draw rein at the gate of Rob. Cameron's sheiling, and had received from the shapely hand of the beautiful shepherdess a cup of water, and had been so suddenly and forcibly smitten by her Juno-like beauty, that thenceforth his visits to his hunting lodge became very frequent, both in season and out of season, and that he was a very dry soul, whose thirst could be satisfied by nothing but the spring water that spouted close by the shepherd's sheiling, dipped up and offered by the hands of the beautiful shepherdess.

Much blame was cast by the rustic neighbors upon all parties concerned-first of all, upon the young marquis, who they declared "meant nae guid to the lass," and then to the old shepherd, who they said, "suld tak mair care o' his puir mitherless bairn," and lastly, to the girl, who, as they affirmed, "suld guide hersel' wi' mair discretion."

None of these criticisms ever came to the ears of the parties concerned: they never do, you know.

Besides the lovers seemed to be infatuated with each other, and the shepherd seemed to be blind to what was going on in his sheiling. To be sure, he was out all day with his sheep, while his lass was alone in the sheiling. Or, if by sickness he was forced to stay home, then she was out all day with the sheep alone.

Gossip said that the young marquis visited the handsome shepherdess in her sheiling, and met her by appointment, when she was out with her flock.

And as the occasion grew, so grew the scandal, and so grew indignation against the marquis and scorn of the shepherdess.

"He'll nae mean to marry the quean! If she were my lass, I'd kick him out, an' he were twenty times a markis!" said the shepherd's next neighbor, and many approved his sentiment. These were among the detractors of the young nobleman.

But he had warm defenders-who affirmed that the Marquis of Arondelle would never seek a peasant girl to win her affections, unless he intended to make her his marchioness-which was an idea too preposterous to be entertained for an instant-therefore there could be no truth in these rumors.

And at length, when the great thunderbolt fell that destroyed Lone and banished the ducal family, there were not wanting "guid neebors" who taunted Rose Cameron with such words as these:

"The braw young markis hae made a fule o' ye, lass. Thoul't ne'er see him mair. And a guid job, too. Best ye'd ne'er see him at a'!"

But the handsome shepherdess betrayed no sign of mortification or doubt. When such prognostics were uttered, she crested her queenly head with a smile of conscious power, and looked as though-"she could, an if she would,"-tell more about the Marquis of Arondelle, than any of these people guessed.

Meanwhile, princely Lone passed into the possession of Sir Lemuel Levison, a London banker of enormous wealth. He had not always been Sir Lemuel Levison. But he had once been Lord Mayor of London, and for some part that he had taken in a public demonstration or a royal pageant, (I forget which,) he had been knighted by her Majesty.

He was, at this time, a tall, spare, fair-faced, gray-haired and gray bearded man of sixty-five. He was a widower, with "one only daughter," the youngest and sole survivor of a large family of children.

This daughter, Salome, had never known a mother's love nor a father's care. She was under three years old when her mother passed away.

Then her father, hating his desolate home, broke up his establishment on Westbourne Terrace, London, and placed his infant daughter under the care of the nuns in the Convent of the Holy Nativity in France.

Here Salome Levison passed the days of her dreamy childhood and early youth. Her father seldom found time to visit her at her convent school, and she never went home to spend her holidays. She had no home to go to.

When Salome was eighteen years of age, the Superior of the convent wrote to Sir Lemuel Levison, enclosing a letter from his daughter that considerably startled the absorbed banker and forgetful father. He had not seen his daughter for two years, and now these letters informed him that she wished to become a Nun of the Holy Nativity, and to enter upon her novitiate immediately! But that being a minor, she could not do so without his consent.

His sole surviving child! The sole heiress of his enormous wealth! On whom he depended, to make a home for him in his declining years, when he should have made a few more millions of millions upon which to retire!

And now this long neglected daughter had found consolation in devotion, and wished to take the vail which was to hide her forever from the world!

Sir Lemuel Levison hastened to France, and brought his daughter back to England. He took apartments at a quiet London hotel, and looked about for a suitable country-seat to purchase.

At this time Lone was advertised. He went thither with the crowd.

He saw Lone, liked it, wanted it, and determined to "pay for it and take it."

He stopped the vandalish dismantling of the premises by outbidding everybody else and purchasing all the furniture, decorations, plate, pictures, statues, vases, mosaics, and everything else, and ordering them to be left in their old positions.

He then engaged the house-steward, the housekeeper, and as many more of the servants of the late proprietor as he could induce to remain at Lone.

And when the princely castle was cleared of its crowds, and once more restored to order, beauty and peace, Sir Lemuel Levison went back to London to bring his daughter home.

Salome, submissive to her father's will, yet disappointed in her wish to take the vail, met every event in life with apathy.

Even when the splendors of Lone broke upon her vision she regarded them with an air of indifference that amused, while it mortified, her father.

"I see how it is, my girl," he said. "You have renounced the world, and are pining for the convent. But you know nothing of the world. Give it a fair trial of three years. Then you will be twenty-one years old, of legal age to act for yourself, with some knowledge of that which you would ignorantly renounce; and then if you persist in your desire to take the vail-well! I shall then have neither the power nor the wish to prevent you," added the wise old banker, who felt perfectly confident that at the end of the specified time his daughter would no longer pine to immure herself in a convent.

Salome, grateful for this concession, and feeling perfectly self-assured that she would never be won by the world, kissed her father, and roused herself to be as much of a comfort and solace to him as she might be in the three years of probation. And she took her place at the head of her father's magnificent establishment at Lone with much of gentle quiet and dignity.

And now it is time to give you some more accurate knowledge of the outward appearance and the inner life of this motherless, convent-reared girl, who, though a young and wealthy heiress, was bent on forsaking the world and taking the vail. In the first place, she was not beautiful at all in repose. There can be no physical beauty without physical health. And Salome Levison partook of the delicate organization of her mother, who had passed away in early womanhood, and of her brothers and sisters, who had gone in infancy or childhood.

Salome, when still and silent, was, at first sight plain. She was rather below the medium height, slight and thin in form, pale and dark in complexion, with irregular features, and quiet, downcast, dark-gray eyes, whose long lashes cast shadows upon pallid cheeks, and which were arched with dark eyebrows on a massive forehead, shaded with an abundance of dark brown hair, simply parted in the middle, drawn back and wound into a rich roll. Her dress was as simple as her station permitted it to be.

Altogether she seemed a girl unattractive in person and reserved in speech.

The very opposite of the handsome shepherdess of Ben Lone.

And yet when she looked up or smiled, her face was transfigured into a wondrous beauty; such intellectual and spiritual beauty as that perfect piece of flesh and blood never could have expressed. And she was a "sealed book." Yet the hour was at hand when the "sealed book" was to be opened-when her dreaming soul, like the sleeping princess in the wood, was to be awakened by the touch of holy love to make the beauty of her person and the glory of her life.

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