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   Chapter 2 AN IDEAL LOVE.

The Lost Lady of Lone By Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Sout Characters: 23524

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:02


A few weeks after their settlement at Lone, Sir Lemuel Levison returned to London on affairs connected with his final retirement from active business.

Salome was left at the castle, with the numerous servants of the establishment, but otherwise quite alone. She had neither governess, companion, nor confidential maid. She suffered from this enforced solitude. She had seen all the splendors of the interior of Lone, and there was nothing new to discover-except-yes, there was Malcom's Tower, which tradition said was the most ancient portion of the castle, whose foundations had been dug from the solid rock, hundreds of feet below the surface of the lake.

The tower had been restored with the rest of the castle, but had never been fitted up for occupation.

Salome determined to spend one morning in exploring the old tower from foundation to top.

She summoned the housekeeper to her presence, and made known her purpose.

"Macolm's Watch Tower, Miss! Weel, then, it's naething to see within, forbye a few auld family portraits and sic like, left there by the auld duke; but there'll be an unco' foine view frae the top on a braw day like this," said Dame Ross, as she detached a bunch of keys from her belt, and signified her readiness to attend her young mistress.

I need not detail the explorations of the young lady from the horrible dungeon of the foundation-up the narrow, winding steps, cut in the thickness of the outer wall, which was perforated on the inner side by doorways on each landing, leading into the strong, round stone rooms or cells on each floor, lighted only by long narrow slits in the solid masonry. All the lower cells were empty.

But when they reached the top of the winding steps and opened the door of the upper cell, the housekeeper said:

"Here are deposited some o' the relics left by the auld duke until such time as he shall be ready to tak' them awa'."

Salome followed her into the room and suddenly drew back in surprise.

She saw standing out from the gloom, the form of a young man of majestic beauty and grace.

A second look showed her that this was only a full-length life-sized portrait-but of whom?

Her gaze became riveted on the glorious presence.

The portrait represented a young man of about twenty-five years of age, tall, finely formed, broad-shouldered, deep-chested, with a well-turned, stately head, a Grecian profile, a fair, open brow, dark, deep blue eyes, and very rich auburn hair and beard. He wore the picturesque highland dress-the tartan of the Clan Scott.

But it was not the dress, the form, the face that fascinated the gaze of the girl. It was the air, the look, the soul that shone through it all!

A sun ray, glancing through the narrow slit in the solid wall, fell directly upon the fine face, lighting it up as with a halo of glory!

"It is the face of the young St. John! Nay, it is more divine! It is the face of Gabriel who standeth in the presence of the Lord! But it expresses more of power! It is the face of Michael rather, when he put the hosts of hell to flight! Oh! a wondrously glorious face!" said the rapt young enthusiast to herself, as she gazed in awe-struck silence on the portrait.

"Ye are looking at that picture, young leddy? Ay it weel deserves your regards! It is a grand one!" said Dame Ross, proudly.

"Who is it? One of the young princes?" inquired Salome, in a low tone, full of reverential admiration.

"Ane o' the young princes? Gude guide us! Nae, young leddy; I hae seen the young princes ance, on an unco' ill day for Lone! And I dinna care if I never see ane mair. But they dinna look like that," said the housekeeper, with a deep sigh.

"Who is it, then?" whispered Salome, still gazing on the portrait with somewhat of the rapt devotion with which she had been wont to gaze on pictured saint, or angel, on her convent walls. "Who is it, Mrs. Ross?"

"Wha is it? Wha suld it be, but our ain young laird? Our ain bonny laddie? Our young Markis o' Arondelle? Oh, waes the day he ever left Lone!" exclaimed Dame Girzie, lifting her apron to her eyes.

"The Marquis of Arondelle!" echoed Salome, catching her breath, and gazing with even more interest upon the glorious picture.

Even while she gazed, the ray that had lighted it for a moment was withdrawn by the setting sun, and the picture was swallowed up in sudden darkness.

"The Marquis of Arondelle," repeated Salome in a low reverent tone, as if speaking to herself.

"Ay, the young Markis o' Arondelle; wae worth the day he went awa'!" said the housekeeper, wiping her eyes.

Salome turned suddenly to the weeping woman.

"I have heard-I have heard-" she began in a low, hesitating voice, and then she suddenly stopped and looked at the dame.

"Ay, young leddy, nae doubt ye hae heard unco mony a fule tale anent our young laird; but if ye would care to hear the verra truth, ye suld do so frae mysel. But come noo, leddy. It is too dark to see onything mair in this room. We'll gae out on the battlements gin ye like, and tak' a luke at the landscape while the twilight lasts," said Dame Girzie.

Salome assented with a nod, and they climbed the last steep flight of stairs, cut in the solid wall, and leading from this upper room to the top of the watch-tower.

They came out upon a magnificent view.

The bright, long twilight of these Northern latitudes still hung luminously over island, lake and mountain.

While Salome gazed upon it Dame Girzie said:

"All this frae the tower to the horizon, far as our eyes can reach, and far'er, was for eight centuries the land of the Lairds of Lone. And noo! a' hae gane frae them, and they hae gane frae us, and na mon kens where they bide or how they fare. Wae's me!"

"It was indeed a household wreck," said Salome, with sigh of sincere sympathy.

"Ye may say that, leddy, and mak' na mistake."

"What is that lofty mountain-top that I see on the edge of the horizon away to the north, just fading in the twilight?" inquired Salome, partly to divert the dame from her gloomy thoughts.

"Yon? Ay. Yon will be, Ben Lone. It will be twenty miles awa', gin it be a furlong. Our young laird had a braw hunting lodge there, where in the season he was wont to spend weeks thegither wi' his kinsman, Johnnie Scott, for the young laird was unco' fond of deer stalking, and sic like sport. I dinna ken wha owns the lodge now, or whether it went wi' the lave of the estate," said Dame Girzie, with a deep sigh.

"It is growing quite chilly up here," said Salome, shivering, and drawing her little red shawl more closely around her slight frame. "I think we will go down now, Mrs. Ross. And if you will be so good as to come to me after tea, this evening, I shall like to hear the story of this sorrowful family wreck," she added, as she turned to leave the place.

That evening, as the heiress sat in the small drawing room appropriated to her own use, the housekeeper rapped and was admitted.

And after seating herself at the bidding of her young mistress, Girzie Ross opened her mouth and told the true story of the fall of Lone, as I have already told to my readers.

"And this devoted son actually sacrificed all the prospects of his whole future life, in order to give peace and prosperity to his father's declining days," murmured Salome, with her eyes full of tears and her usually pale cheeks, flushed with emotion.

"He did, young leddy, like the noble soul, he was," said Dame Girzie.

"I never heard of such an act of renunciation in my life," murmured Salome.

"And the pity of it was, young leddy, that it was a' in vain," said the housekeeper.

"Yes, I know. Where is he now?" inquired the young girl, in a subdued voice.

"I dinna ken, leddy. Naebody kens," answered Girzie Ross, with a deep sigh, which was unconsciously echoed by the listener.

Then Dame Ross not to trespass on her young mistress's indulgence, arose and respectfully took her leave.

Salome fell into a deep reverie. From that hour she had something else to think about, beside the convent and the vail.

The portrait haunted her imagination, the story filled her heart and employed her thoughts. That night she dreamed of the self-exiled heir, a beautiful, vague, delightful dream, that she tried in vain to recall on the next morning.

In the course of the day she made several attempts to ask Mrs. Girzie Ross a simple question. And she wondered at her own hesitation to do it. At length she asked it:

"Mrs. Ross, is that portrait in the tower very much like Lord Arondelle?"

"Like him, young leddy? Why, it is his verra sel'! And only not sae bonny because it canna move, or smile, or speak. Ye should see him alive to ken him weel," said the housekeeper, heartily.

That afternoon Salome went up alone to the top of the tower, and spent a dreamy, delicious hour in sitting at the feet of the portrait and gazing upon the face.

That evening, while the housekeeper attended her at tea, she took courage to make another inquiry, in a very low voice:

"Is Lord Arondelle engaged, Mrs. Ross?"

She blushed crimson and turned away her head the moment she had asked the question.

"Engaged? What-troth-plighted do you mean, young leddy?"

"Yes," in a very low tone.

"Bless the lass! nay, nor no thought of it," answered the housekeeper.

"I was thinking that perhaps it would be well if he were not, that is all," explained Salome, a little confusedly.

That night, as she undressed to retire to bed, she looked at herself in the glass critically for the first time in her life.

It was not a pretty face that was reflected there. It was a pale, thin, dark face, that might have been redeemed by the broad, smooth forehead, shaped round by bands of dark brown hair, and lighted by the large, tender, thoughtful gray eyes, had not that forehead worn a look of anxious care, and those eyes an expression of eager inquiry.

"But then I am so plain-so very, very plain," she said to herself, as if uttering the negation of some preceding train of thought.

And with a deep sigh she retired to rest.

The next day Girzie Ross herself was the first to speak of the young marquis.

"I hae been thinking, young leddy, what garred ye ask me gin the young laird, were troth plighted. And I mistrust ye must hae heard these fule stories anent his hardship, having a sweetheart at Ben Lone. There's nae truth in sic tales, me leddy. No that I'm denying she's a handsome hizzy, this Rose Cameron; but she's nae one to mak' the young laird forget his rank. Ye'll no credit sic tales, me young leddy."

"I have heard no tales of the sort," said Salome, looking up in surprise.

"Ay, hae ye no? Aweel, then, its nae matter," said the dame.

"But what tales are there, Mrs. Ross?" uneasily inquired the heiress. And then she instantly perceived the indiscretion of her question, and regretted that she had asked it.

"Ou aye, it's just the fule talk o' thae gossips up by Ben Lone. They behoove to say that's its na the game that draws the young laird sae often to Ben Lone; but just Rab Cameron's handsome lass, Rose, and she is a handsome quean as I said before; but nae 'are to mak' the young master lose his head for a' that! Sae ye maun na beleiv' a word of it, me young leddy," said Dame Girzie.

And she hastened to change the subject.

"Ah! what a power beauty is! It can make a prince forget his royal state, and sue to a peasant girl," sighed Salome to herself. "I wonder-I wonder, if there is any truth in that report? Oh, I hope there is not, for his own sake. I wonder where he is-what he is doing? But that is no affair of mine. I have nothing at all to do with it! I wonder if I shall ever meet him. I wonder if he would think

me very ugly? Nonsense, what if he should? He is nothing to me. I-I do wonder if a young man so noble in character, so handsome in person as he is, ever could like a girl without any beauty at all, even if she-even if she-Oh, dear! what a fool I am! I had better never have come out of the convent. I will think no more about him," said Salome, resolutely taking up a volume of the "Lives of the Saints," and turning to the page that related how-

"St. Rosalie,

Darling of each heart and eye,

From all the youth of Italy

Retired to God."

"That is the noblest love and service, after all," she said-"the noblest, surely, because it is Divine!"

And she resolved to emulate the example of the young and beautiful Italian virgin. She, too, would retire to God. That is, she would enter her convent as soon as her three probationary years should be passed.

But though she so resolved to devote herself to Heaven in this abnormal way, the natural human love that now glowed in her heart, would not be put down by an unnatural resolve.

Days and nights passed, and she still thought of the banished heir all day, and dreamed of him all night-the more intensely as well as purely perhaps, because she had never looked upon his living face.

To her he was an abstract ideal.

Later in the month her father returned to Lone-on business of more importance than that which had hurried him away.

He had only retired from one phase of public life to enter upon another.

There was to be a new Parliament. And at the solicitations of many interested parties, and perhaps also at the promptings of his own late ambition, Sir Lemuel Levison consented to stand for the borough of Lone. In the absence of the young Marquis of Arondelle there was no one to oppose him, and he was returned by an almost unanimous vote.

Early in February, Sir Lemuel Levison took his dreaming daughter and went up to London to take his seat in the House of Commons at the meeting of Parliament.

He engaged a sumptuously furnished house on Westbourne Terrace, and invited a distant relative, Lady Belgrave, the childless widow of a baronet, to come and pass the season with him and chaperone his daughter on her entrance into society.

Lady Belgrade was sixty years old, tall, stout, fair-complexioned, gray-haired, healthy, good-humored, and well-dressed-altogether as commonplace and harmless a fine lady as could be found in the fashionable world.

Salome had never seen her, scarcely ever heard of her before the day of her arrival at Westbourne Terrace.

Salome met Lady Belgrade with courtesy and kindness, but with much indifference.

Lady Belgrade, on her part, met her young kinswoman with critical curiosity.

"She is not pretty, not at all pretty, and one does not like to have a plain girl to bring out. She is not pretty, and what is worse than all, she seems to know it. And she can only grow pretty by believing that she is so. A girl with such a pair of eyes as hers can always get the reputation of beauty if she can only be made to believe in herself," was Lady Belgrade's secret comment; but-

"What beautiful eyes you have, my dear!" she said with effusion, as she kissed Salome on both cheeks.

The girl smiled and blushed with pleasure, for this was the first time in all her life that she had been credited with any beauty at all.

Lady Belgrade was partly right and partly wrong.

A girl with such a physique as Salome could never be pretty, never be handsome, but, with such a soul as hers, might grow beautiful.

At her Majesty's first drawing-room, Salome Levison was presented at court, where she attracted the attention, only as the daughter of Sir Lemuel Levison, the new Radical member for Lone, and as the sole heiress of the great banker's almost fabulous wealth.

Then under the experienced guidance of Lady Belgrade, she was launched into fashionable society. And society received the young expectant of enormous wealth, as society always does, with excessive adulation.

Salome was admired, followed, flattered, feted, as though she had been a beauty as well as an heiress. She was petted at home and worshiped abroad. Her father gave unlimited pocket-money in form of bank-cheques, to be filled up at her own discretion. For she was his only daughter, and he wished to get her in love with the world and out of conceit of a convent. And surely the run of his bank, and of all the fine shops of London, would do that, he thought, if anything could.

But Salome remained a "sealed book" to the wealthy banker, and a great trial to the fashionable chaperon who had her in training. Salome would not grow pretty, in spite of all that could be done for her. Salome would not make a sensation, for all her father's wealth and her own expectations. She remained quiet, shy, silent, dreamy, even in the gayest society, as in the Highland solitudes, with one worship in her soul-the worship of that self-devoted son-that self-banished prince, whose "counterfeit presentment" she had seen in the tower at Lone, and who had become the idol of her religion.

But all this did not hinder the heiress from receiving some very matter of fact and highly eligible offers of marriage; for though Salome, in the holiness of her dreams, was almost unapproachable, the banker was not inaccessible. And it was through her father that Salome, in the course of the season, had successively the coronet of a widowed earl, the title of a duke's younger son, and the fortune of a baronet who was just of age, laid at her feet.

She rejected them all-to her father's great disappointment and disturbance.

"I fear-I do much fear that her mind still runs on that convent. She does nothing but dream, dream, dream, and absolutely ignore homage that would turn another girl's head. I wish she were well married, or-I had almost said ill married! anything is better than the convent for my only surviving child! If she will not accept an earl or a baronet, why cannot her perversity take the form of any other girl's perversity? Why can she not fall in love with some penniless younger son, or some dissipated captain in a marching regiment? I am sure even under such circumstances I should not perform the part of the 'cruel parent' in the comedies! I should say, 'Bless you my children,' with all my heart! And I should enrich the impecunious young son, or reform the tipsy soldier. Anything but the convent for my only child!" concluded the banker, with a sigh.

But Salome had ceased to think of the convent. She thought now only of the missing marquis.

The offers of marriage that had been made to Salome, rejected though they were, had this good effect upon her mind. They encouraged her to think more hopefully of herself. Salome was too unworldly, too pure, and holy, to suspect that these offers had been made her from any other motive than personal preference. It was possible, then, that she might be loved. If other men preferred her, so also might he on whom she had fixed. And now it had come to this with the dreaming girl-she resolved to think no more of retiring to a convent, but to live in the world that contained her hero; to keep herself free from all engagements for his sake, to give herself to him, if possible, if not to give his land back to him some day, at least. So in her secret soul she consecrated herself in a pure devotion to a man she had never seen, and who did not even know of her existence.

When Parliament rose at the end of the London season, Sir Lemuel Levison took his daughter on an extended Continental tour, showing her all the wonders of nature, and all the glories of art in countries and cities. And Salome was interested and instructed, of course. Yet the greatest value her travels had for her was in the possibility of their bringing her to a meeting with the missing heir. It had been said that the mad duke and his son were somewhere on the Continent. A wide field! Yet, on the arrival of Sir Lemuel and Miss Levison at any city, Salome's first thought was this:

"Perhaps they are living here, and I shall see him."

But she was always disappointed. And at the end of a seven months' sojourn on the Continent, Sir Lemuel Levison brought his daughter back to London, only in time for the meeting of Parliament.

Only two years of Salome's probation was left-only two more seasons in London. Her father's anxiety increased.

He sent for her chaperone again, and opened his house in Westbourne Terrace to all the world of fashion. Again the young heiress was followed, flattered, feted as much as if she had been a beauty as well. Again she received and rejected several eligible offers of marriage. And so the second season passed.

Sir Lemuel Levison took his daughter to Scotland, and invited a large company to stay with them at Lone, thinking that, after all, more matches were made in the close daily intercourse of a country house, than in the crowded ball-rooms of a London season.

But though the banker's daughter received two or three more eligible offers of marriage, she politely declined them all, and stole away as often as she could to worship the pictured image in the old tower.

Her chaperone was in despair.

"How many good men and brave has she refused, do you know, Lemuel?" inquired Lady Belgrade.

"Seven, to my certain knowledge," angrily replied the banker.

"Perhaps she likes some one you know nothing about," suggested the dowager.

"She does not; I would let her marry almost any man rather than have her enter a convent, as she is sure to do when she is of age. I would let her marry any one; aye, even Johnnie Scott, who is the most worthless scamp I know in the world."

"And pray who is Johnnie Scott!"

"Oh, a handsome rascal; is sort of kinsman and hanger-on of the young Marquis of Arondelle; he used to be. I don't know anything more about him."

"Perhaps he is the man."

"Oh, no, he is not. There is no man in the convent. Well, we go up to London again in February. It will be her last season. If she does not fall in love or marry before May, when she will be twenty-one years of age, she will immure herself in a convent, as I am pledged not to prevent her."

The conversation ended unsatisfactorily just here.

In the beginning of February Sir Lemuel Levison, with his daughter and her chaperone, went up to London for her third season. They established themselves again in the sumptuous house on Westbourne Terrace, and again entered into the whirl of fashionable gayeties.

It was quite in the beginning of the season that Sir Lemuel and Miss Levison received invitations to a dinner party at the Premier's.

It was to be a semi-political dinner, at which were to be entertained certain ministers, members of Parliament, with their wives, and leading journalists.

Sir Lemuel accepted for himself and Miss Levison. On the appointed day they rendered themselves at the Premier's house, where they were courteously welcomed by the great minister and his accomplished wife.

After the usual greetings had been exchanged with the guests that were present, and while Sir Lemuel and Miss Levison were conversing with their hostess, the Premier came up with a stranger on his right arm.

Salome looked up, her heart gave a great bound and then stood still.

The original of the portrait in the tower, the self-devoted son, the self-exiled heir, the idol of her pure worship, the young Marquis of Arondelle stood before her.

And while the scene swam before her eyes, the Premier bowed, and presenting him, said:

"Sir Lemuel, let me introduce to you, Mr. John Scott of the National Liberator. Mr. Scott, Sir Lemuel Levison, our new member for Lone."

Mr. John Scott!

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