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   Chapter 5 ARONDELLE'S CONSOLATION.

The Lost Lady of Lone By Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Sout Characters: 19305

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:02


On the next day, at the appointed hour, Salome came down to the drawing-room dressed for her ride.

She wore a rich habit of dark blue summer-cloth, fastened with small gold buttons, fine, tiny white linen cuffs and collar, dark blue gloves, dark blue velvet hat with a short, white ostrich plume secured by a small gold butterfly, and she carried in her hand a slender ivory-handled riding-whip, set with a sapphire. Her dress was neat, elegant, and appropriate; and her face was for the moment radiant and beautiful from inward joy.

In due time, the young marquis presented himself, and the lovers went forth for their ride.

It is not necessary to linger over this courtship, in which "the course of true love" ran so smooth as to seem monotonous to all but the lovers themselves.

The ride was followed by the small dinner party. And after that the young marquis became a daily visitor at Elmthorpe House, where he was ever received with fatherly affection by Sir Lemuel, and with subdued delight by Salome.

The lovers had come to a mutual understanding for days before the marquis made a formal proposal for Miss Levison's hand.

But it happened one evening that they found themselves alone in the drawing-room. They were seated at a table, loaded with books of engravings, photographs, and so forth.

Salome was turning over the pages of Dore's Milton.

"Close the volume, now, Miss Levison," Lord Arondelle said at length, uttering the formal words with a tone and look of such reverential tenderness as to seem a caress.

Salome shut the book, and looked up to read the open volume of his eloquent face; but her eyes instantly sank beneath the gaze of ardent passion that met them.

"Listen to me, Salome, my beloved; for I love you, and have loved you ever since the first moment when I met the beautiful spirit beaming through your sweet eyes-'Sweetest eyes were ever seen!' Dear eyes! look on me!"

Salome, for all her profound and ardent affections, was still a very shy maiden. She wished to raise her eyes to his; she wished to pour her heart out to him; to let him have the comfort of knowing how perfectly she loved him, how utterly she was his own. But she could not look at him, she could not speak to him as yet. Her dark eyelashes drooped to her crimson cheeks.

"My beloved, do you hear me? I am telling you how I have loved you since I first met your heavenly eyes. This is no lover's rhapsody, my own, for your eyes are heavenly in their spiritual beauty. And they have haunted me, Salome, like the eyes of a guardian angel ever since they first looked upon me. Daily they would have drawn me to your side but for my wrecked and ruined state," he said, with a half suppressed sigh.

His look, his tone, and, more than all, his allusion to the calamity of his house, reached her soul, and broke the spell of reserve by which she was bound.

"Oh, do not say that you are ruined!" she cried, in a voice thrilled and thrilling with profound emotion. "Do not think that you are ruined. You could never be ruined. Nothing could ruin you. It is not in the power of fate to ruin a man like you. And if you loved me when you first met my eyes it was because you read in them the soul that was created yours! And if these eyes have haunted you ever since it was because this soul has been always longing, yearning, aspiring towards yours!" And she dropped her face in her hands and wept for pure joy.

"Salome, Salome, can this be indeed true? Can I have been so blessed? Am I indeed so happy? Then is this abundant compensation for all that I have lost in this world! Heavenly consolation for all I have suffered on earth! Speak again, oh, my dearest! Tell me once more, for I can scarcely realize my happiness! Speak again, beloved, for your words are life to me!" he exclaimed, with profound emotion.

"Yes, I will tell you all!" she said, wiping away her joyful tears and looking up. "I will tell you everything for it is your right! You have made me so happy to-day! I loved you from the beginning. First, I loved the magnanimous, self-sacrificing man who, at the age of twenty-one years, with a brilliant future before him, could renounce all his prospects to give peace to his father's latter years. I loved you then, Lord Arondelle, before I knew what manner of man you looked!"

"How blessed, how surely blessed I am in hearing you," he breathed, in a low and reverent tone.

"Afterward I saw your portrait in Malcolm's Tower at Lone," she continued, in a soft voice. "And I saw a beauty and a grandeur in the face and form that seemed the fitting manifestation of a soul like yours. And I loved you more than ever. My mornings were passed in the tower near the glory of that picture. But I gazed on it so hopelessly! You were missing, you were lost to your world! And then I was so plain, so pale, and dark and gray-eyed. If I should ever be so fortunate as to meet you, I thought you would never be likely to love me!"

"My consolation! You are most lovely from your spirit, and now you know that I loved you from my first meeting with you," he breathed, in a low, earnest tone, pouring his whole soul's devotion through the gaze that he fixed on her face.

Again her eyes drooped as she murmured:

"If I am lovely in the very least, it must be that my love for you has made me so; for, even then, when I had only heard your story and seen your portrait, I loved you so, that I could not think of marriage with any other man."

"And that was the reason why you refused so many excellent offers?" he inquired, with a smile.

"Perhaps that was the reason," she replied, lowly bending her head.

"Tell me more, my consolation! I thirst for your words; they are as the words of life to me," he murmured, eagerly.

She continued, still speaking in a low, thrilling voice:

"At last-at last-at last-after three long years of waiting, longing, aspiring, I met you face to face. Oh!" she exclaimed, and as she spoke her hand for the first time went out to meet his, which closed upon it with a close clasp, and her eyes lifted themselves to his in a full blaze of love that seemed to blend their spirits into one.

"Oh! if in that moment you loved me, it must have been because you read my soul, for in that moment I consecrated my life to you for acceptance or rejection. I recorded a vow in heaven to be no man's wife unless I could be yours; but to live unmarried so that when, in the course of nature, my dear father should pass to the higher life and leave me Castle Lone, I might be free to transfer it to its rightful owner."

"Ah! my beloved! you would have been capable of such an act of renunciation as that! But I could not have accepted the sacrifice, Salome."

"In that case I should have made a will and bequeathed it to you, and then prayed to the Lord to take me from the earth, that you might have it all the sooner. But let that pass. Thanks be to Heaven, there is no need of that. It would have been sweet to die for you, but it is so much sweeter to live for you, dearest!" she said, lifting up a face in which rosy blushes, radiant smiles, and beaming eyes were blended in dazzling beauty.

"Oh! angel of my destiny, what can I render you for all the blessings you have brought me?" exclaimed her lover, clasping her to his bosom in a close embrace.

"Your love-your love! which will crown me a queen among women!" she whispered, softly.

The morning succeeding this scene, Lord Arondelle called and asked for a private interview with Sir Lemuel Levison.

He was invited up into the library, where he found the banker alone among his books.

"Good morning, Arondelle. Glad to see you. Take this chair," said the old gentleman, rising, shaking hands with his visitor, and placing a seat for him.

The young marquis returned the hearty shake of the banker's hand, and took the offered chair.

"Now, I suppose that you have come to tell me that you have taken up the girl I flung at your head about a month ago?" said the banker, rubbing his hands.

"No, nothing of the sort," replied the young marquis, effectually declining to understand the jest of his host. "I do not remember that you ever flung any girl at my head. I came, Sir Lemuel, to tell you that I am so happy as to have won Miss Levison's consent to be my wife, if we have your approbation," he added, with a bow.

"Humph! It amounts to about the same thing. Well, my dear boy, you have my consent and blessing on two conditions."

"Name them, Sir Lemuel."

"The first is, that you can assure me on your honor that you really do love my daughter. I would not give her to an emperor who did not love her as she deserves to be loved," said the banker, emphatically.

"Love her!" repeated the young man, in a deep and earnest tone. "Love is scarcely the word, nor adoration, nor worship! She is the soul of my soul! She lives in my life, and my life is the larger, higher, holier for her!"

"Humph! I don't understand one word of what you are talking about, but I suppose it means that you really do love Salome. So the first condition will be fulfilled," said the banker, with a smile.

"And the second, sir. What is the second?"

"The second is, that the marriage shall take place within a month from this time."

"Agreed, sir. The sooner the better. The sooner I may call your lovely daughter mine, the sooner I shall be the most blessed among men," exclaimed the young marquis, earnestly clapping his palm into the open hand of the banker, and shaking it heartily.

"There! well, the second condition will be fulfilled. And now I will tell you what I never to

ld you in so many words before, namely, that on the day Salome Levison becomes Marchioness of Arondelle, I will give her Lone as a marriage portion. There, now, not a word more upon that subject. I will send a message to my attorney to meet us here to-morrow morning," said the banker, rising and ringing the bell.

"You will let me thank-" began the marquis.

"No, I won't!" exclaimed the banker, cutting short the young gentleman's acknowledgements. "Excuse me now half a minute, I want to write a line," he added, as he hastily scribbled off a note.

A footman entered in answer to the bell.

"Take this to the office of the Messrs. Prye, Lincoln's Inn Fields, and wait an answer," said Sir Lemuel, handing the folded note to the man, who bowed and retired.

"Prye must meet us here to-morrow morning to see to the marriage settlements. And I must see to Prye! Even lawyers may be hurried if they be well paid for making haste!" concluded the banker, rubbing his hands. "But now go and find Salome, and tell her it is all right! She has not got a stern father to ruffle the course of her true love, but a spooney old fellow who spreads out his hands over your heads and says: 'Bul-less you, my chee-ild-der-en!'"

Lord Arondelle smiled at the dry banker's imitation of the heavy stage-father, but made no comment.

"Yes, go see Salome; and then go to the duke, your father, and acquaint him with the result of your proposal. I take it for granted that you had his grace's authority for making it."

"I had, sir. He told me to be guided by my own judgment."

"Well tell him all about the settlements as I have told them to you. Agree to any amendment he may propose, for I will make it all right."

"That is allowing a very large margin, indeed. I thank you, Sir Lemuel; but I must reflect before taking advantage of it."

"Well, well; perhaps the duke will meet my solicitor here to-morrow morning in regard to the settlements. I consider the fact that he has steadily declined every invitation I have sent him to come to us on any occasion. Still, I hope he may be induced to honor us with his presence to-morrow in the interest of these marriage settlements, and to remain and dine with us in honor of this betrothal," said the banker.

"I hope you will kindly continue to excuse my father, sir. His age, his infirmities, his failing mind and body, will, I trust, be his sufficient apologies," said the young marquis gravely.

"You think that he will not come, then!"

"I fear that he cannot."

"I'm sorry for that. However, tell him all that I have told you, and agree to any alterations in the settlements that he may see fit to suggest. There! Go to Salome! Go to Salome! I must be off to the House," said the conscientious M.P. rising, and putting an end to the interview.

It was subsequently arranged that the marriage should be celebrated at Castle Lone on that day three weeks.

Two weeks out of the three, Sir Lemuel Levison remained in town to give his daughter and her chaperon an opportunity of getting up as good a trousseau as could be prepared in so short a time. But jewellers, milliners, and dressmakers may be hurried as well as lawyers, when they are well paid to make haste. And so, in two weeks, the banker's heiress, the future Marchioness of Arondelle and Duchess of Hereward, had a trousseau as magnificent and splendid as if it had been in preparation for two years. When it was all carefully packed and sent down to Lone, Sir Lemuel Levison and his household prepared to follow.

On the day before their departure a very curious thing happened.

Sir Lemuel was waiting in his library, when a footman entered and laid a card before him. It was not a visiting card, but a business card. And it bore the name of a firm:

Dazzle and Sparkle, jewellers, Number Blank, Bond street.

"What is the meaning of this?" inquired the banker.

"If you please, sir, the person who brought it directed me to say, that he craves to speak with you on the most important business," answered the man.

"Important to himself most likely, and not in the least so to me. Well, show him up," said Sir Lemuel.

The servant withdrew and, after a few moments, reappeared and announced:

"Mr. Dazzle, of Dazzle and Sparkle, Bond street."

A little, round-bodied, bald-headed man entered the library.

Sir Lemuel Levison received him with some surprise, but with much politeness.

"I have come, sir, on a little business," began the visitor, who forthwith proceeded and explained his business at length.

It seemed that the imbecile Duke of Hereward, being well pleased with his son's marriage, and imagining himself still to be the master of Lone and of a princely revenue, went to Messrs. Dazzle and Sparkle, and ordered a splendid set of diamonds for his prospective daughter-in-law.

The firm, who, as well as all the world of London, had heard of the forthcoming marriage between the son of the pauper duke and the daughter of the wealthy banker, gravely accepted the order, pondered over it, and finally determined to lay the whole matter before the banker himself.

"You have acted with much discretion, Mr. Dazzle. Fill the duke's order, and hold me responsible for the amount. And say nothing of the affair," was the banker's answer to the tradesman, who bowed and left the room.

The next morning Sir Lemuel Levison, his daughter, her chaperon, and their household, went down to Castle Lone.

Active preparations were at once commenced for the wedding, which was to take place at Lone on the Tuesday of the following week.

The first thing that Salome did on reaching the castle was to have the portrait of the Marquis of Arondelle brought down from the tower and mounted in state between the two lofty front windows of her favorite sitting-room.

Among the servants at Lone, none received the bride elect with more effusive love than the old housekeeper, Girzie Ross.

"Eh, me leddy! Heaven, sent ye to redeem Lone. My benison on ye, me leddy! and my ban on yon hizzie, wha hae been makin' sic' an ado, ever sin the report o' your betrothal has been noised about!" said the dame.

"But who are you talking about, my dear Mrs. Ross?" inquired Salome.

"Ou just that handsom hizzie, Rosy Cameron, wha will hae it that she, her vera sel', is troth-plighted to our young laird-the jaud!" replied the housekeeper.

"But, Mrs. Ross, surely that must be a mistake of yours. No girl could have the impertinence to say such a false thing of Lord Arondelle," exclaimed Salome, in disgust and abhorrence of the very idea presented.

"Indeed, then, my young lady, she ha' the impertinence to say just that thing-not in a whisper and in a corner, but loudly in the vera castle court, to whilk she cam yestreen, sae noisily that I was fain to threaten her wi' the constable before I could get shet o' her," said the housekeeper nodding her head.

"What can the girl mean by it? What excuse can she possibly have to justify such a mad charge?" inquired Salome, in a painful anxiety that she could neither conquer nor yet explain to herself. She did not doubt the honor of her promised husband. She would have died rather than doubt him. Why, then, should this sudden anguish wring her heart. "What excuse can she have, Mrs. Ross?" repeated Salome.

"Eh, me leddy, wha kens? Boys will be boys. And whiles the best o' them will be wild where a bonny lassie is concerned. No that's I'm saying sic a thing anent our young laird. But ye ken he used to be unco fond o' the sport o' deer stalking up by Ben Lone, where this handsome hizzie, Rose Cameron, bides wi' her owld feyther. And I e'en think the young laird, may whiles, hae putten a speak on the lass. Nae mair nor less than just that," said the housekeeper as she left the room to look after some important household work.

A few minutes after her exit, Sir Lemuel Levison entered.

Finding his daughter almost in tears, he naturally inquired:

"What on earth is the matter with you, my child?"

"Nothing, papa! At least nothing that should trouble me!"

"But what is it?"

"Well then, papa, dear, here has been a foolish girl-very foolish, I think she must be, going about, intruding even into the Castle, and telling all that will listen to her, that she is betrothed to the Marquis of Arondelle."

"Oh! Just as I feared!" muttered the banker, in a tone that instantly riveted the attention of his daughter.

"What did you fear, my father?" she inquired, fixing her eyes upon his face.

The banker hesitated.

His daughter repeated her question:

"What did you fear, my dear father?"

"Why, just what has happened, my love!" impatiently answered the banker. "That this silly report would reach your ears and give you uneasiness. It has reached you; but do not, I beseech you, let it trouble you!"

"There is no truth in it of course, papa?" said Salome, in a tone of entreaty.

"No, no, at least none that need concern you. Lord bless my soul, girl, young men will be young men! Arondelle is now about twenty-five years of age. And he was not brought up in a convent, as you were. He has lived for a quarter of a century in the world! Surely, you do not expect that a young man should live as long as that without ever admiring a pretty face, and even telling its owner so, do you?"

"I never once thought about that, at all, papa," said Salome, in a mournful tone.

"No, I'll warrant you didn't! Well, don't think anything more of it now. And don't expect too much of human nature. In this year of grace there are no saints left alive! Believe that, and accept it, my girl!"

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