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   Chapter 7 THE MORNING'S DISCOVERY.

The Lost Lady of Lone By Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Sout Characters: 24584

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:02


When Miss Levison recovered her consciousness it was broad daylight. The rising sun glancing over the top of the Eastern mountain sent arrows of golden light in through the window at which she sat.

Music filled the morning air!

Salome passed her hands over her eyes, and gazed around. So long and deep had been her swoon that, for the time, she had utterly lost her memory, and now found difficulty in trying to recover it. Bewildered, she looked about, and listened to the strange, wild music sounding under her window-a sort of morning serenade or reveille, it seemed.

Next her eyes fell upon her magnificent bridal array, displayed on stands near the elegant dressing-table.

Then she remembered that this was her wedding-day, and a flush of joy lighted up her face.

But it passed in a moment.

What was this that lay so heavy at her heart! Was it the remnant of an evil dream?

What had happened? Something must have happened! Else why should she find herself seated in that easy-chair at the open window, and see that her bed had not been occupied?

Then, slowly, she recollected the events of the previous night-her retirement to her chamber; her talk there with the housekeeper about Rose Cameron, the "handsome hizzie," who had been haunting the premises and giving trouble all that day; the message from her father; her affecting interview with him in his bedroom; her return to her own apartment through the dimly-lighted, deserted hall, where she met the pale and spectral form of Lord Arondelle, who vanished as she called to him! her terrified flight into her own chamber!

All these incidents she clearly remembered.

Then her excited vigil in the easy-chair, by the open window, and the two voices that broke upon it-that of her betrothed husband and that of a woman-of this same Rose Cameron, whose name had been so disreputably connected with Lord Arondelle's; who then and there claimed to be his wife and was not contradicted!

There! that was the weight that lay so heavy at her heart!

"And yet it must have been a dream!" she said to herself. Of course she had fallen asleep there in the easy-chair, and with her thoughts running on the apparition she had met in the hall, and on the country people's gossip about Lord Arondelle and Rose Cameron, she had had that evil dream. Unquestionably it was only a dream! Lord Arondelle could never play so base a part as he had seemed to do in her dream! She reproached herself for having even involuntarily been the subject of it.

And yet! and yet! the weight lay heavy at her heart, and although this was a warm June morning, she shivered as though it had been January.

She arose to close the window.

Then-

What a magnificent and beautiful scene burst upon her vision! The eastern horizon was ablaze with glory. Lovely morning clouds, soft, transparent white, tinted with rose, violet and gold, tempered the dazzling splendor of the rising sun, and half vailed the opal-hued mountain tops, and even hung upon the emerald mountain side. Morning sky, rosy clouds, and opal mountains, were all reflected as by a mirror in the clear water of the lake below.

The hamlet at the foot of the mountain was gay with flags and banners and festoons of flowers. The bridge spanning the lake and connecting the hamlet with the island, was grand with triumphal arches. The lake was alive with gayly-trimmed pleasure-boats of every description. The island, with its groves, shrubberies, parterres, arbors, terraces, statues, was decorated with flags and banners, innumerable colored lamps and floral mottoes and devices.

The streets of the hamlet, the bridge and the island was each alive with a merry crowd of tenantry and peasantry in their picturesque holiday suits, coming to see the wedding pageant.

Gayer than all was the gathering of the Clan Scott, in their brilliant tartans, and with their national music to do honor to the nuptials of the heir of their chief.

As Miss Levison looked and listened, the shadows of the night vanished from her mind as clouds before the sun!

How strange the thought that the evil dream should have troubled her at all! But the dream had seemed as real as any waking experience. But then, again, dreams often do seem so! She would think no more of it, except to repent having been so unjust to Lord Arondelle, even though it was but in an involuntary dream.

It was as yet very early in the morning-not seven o'clock. Her serenaders had waked her betimes, and the country people had clearly determined to lose not one hour of that festive day. But Miss Levison was still shivering in the mild June morning. She thought she would ask for a cup of coffee to warm her.

She rang her bell.

Her maid entered the room, courtesied, and stood waiting

"Janet, tell the housekeeper to send me a strong, hot cup of coffee," she said.

"Yes, Miss. If you please, Miss, my lord's gentleman is below with a note and a parcel for you, Miss."

"Very well, Janet. Do you bring it up and ask the man to wait. There may be answer," replied Miss Levison, as the rose clouds rolled over her clear, pale cheeks.

The girl courtesied and withdrew.

"To think of my being so wicked as to have such a dream about him-him!" she said to herself, as again she shivered with cold.

Presently the housekeeper entered with a tiny cup of coffee on a small silver tray in her hand, and with many cordial congratulations on her lips.

Fortunately the lace curtains of the bed were down, so that she could not see that it had not been slept in, and annoy her young mistress with exclamations and questions.

"Eh, me young leddy! a blithe bridal morn ye hae got; and a braw sight on the ramparts of a' the Scotts, wi' their tartans and bag-pipes, come to do ye honor!" said the housekeeper, as she held the tray to her mistress.

Miss Levison drank the coffee, returned the cup, and then inquired:

"Where is Janet? I sent her with a message; she should have returned by this time."

"Ou, aye, sae she should. She's clacking her clavvers wi' yon lad frae the 'Hereward Arm.' But here she is now, me young leddy," answered the housekeeper, as the maid entered the room and placed in her mistress' hand a note and a small parcel, tied up in white paper with narrow white ribbon, and sealed with the Hereward crest.

Miss Levison opened the note and read:

Hereward Arms Inn, Tuesday Morning.

I greet you, my only beloved, on this our bridal morning-the commencement of a long and happy union for both of us! Yes, a long union, for it will stretch into eternity, and a happy one, for come what will, we shall be happy in each other. I send you the richest jewel that has ever been in our possession, the only one which has survived the wreck of our fortunes. It has been preserved more on account of its traditionary interest than for its intrinsic value. Tradition tells us that at the taking of Jerusalem, in the first crusade, this jewel was snatched from the turban of Saladin, the Sultan, in single combat, by our wild crusading ancestor, Ranulph d' Arondelle. It adorned his own hemlet at the siege of St. Jean d' Acre, some years later. In short, it has been handed down from father to son through six centuries and sixteen generations. It has "in the thickest carnage blazed" on battle-fields, and in the maddest merriment flashed in festive scenes. Yet it is an offering all too poor for my great love to make, or your great worth to receive. But take it as the best I have to give.

Arondelle.

She read this note with tearful eyes, roseate cheeks' and smiling lips. And then she untied the white ribbon and opened the white paper. It first disclosed a golden casket about four inches square, richly chased and bearing the Hereward arms set in small precious stones. The tiny key was in the lock. She opened it and found, lying on a bed of rich white satin, a large, burning, blazing ruby heart-the famous ruby of the Hereward, said to be the largest in the world. Miss Levison had read of this jewel as one of the most valuable among precious stones. She had heard also, what evidently the young marquis did not think worth while to tell her in connection with its history, namely, that it had been held as an amulet of such power that it was believed the ducal house of Hereward would never be without a male heir as long as it possessed that priceless ruby heart. Miss Levison supposed this to be the reason why it had been preserved by the old duke from the total wreck of his fortune. And the marquis had given it to her! Well, that was not giving it out of the family, since she was to be his wife. While offering it he had undervalued the royal gift. But how highly she appreciated it, rating it far above all the other jewels that blazed upon her table.

"And to think I should have had such an evil dream about him, and even suffered myself to be troubled by it!" she said, pressing his note to her lips.

Then she shivered so hardly that her old housekeeper exclaimed:

"Me dear young leddy, ye hae surely taken cauld. Let me order a fire kindled here."

"Nonsense, Mrs. Ross-a fire on this warm summer morning? I could not bear it. Besides if I shiver with cold one moment, I glow with heat the next," said Miss Levison, smiling.

"Ay; I am sair afeard ye's gaun to be ill, wi' all thae shivers and glows," replied the dame, shaking her head.

"Nonsense again, Mrs. Ross, dear woman. I am well enough. Now, Janet, did you tell his lordship's messenger to wait?"

"Yes, Miss."

Miss Levison drew a little writing-stand to her side, opened the desk, took out materials and penned the following note:

Lone Castle, Tuesday.

My Most Beloved and honored: Your right royal gift is beyond all price for richness, beauty, traditional interest, and symbolism, and as such I shall hold it above all other gifts, and cherish it to the end of my life. But it is not only to speak of your invaluable gift I write; it is also to ask you to do a strange thing to please me this morning. It is now eight o'clock. We are appointed to meet at the church at eleven. Will you meet me here first at half-past nine? I wish to tell you something before we go to the altar. It is nothing important that I have to tell you-you will probably only laugh at it; but I must get it off my mind; for it weighs there like a sin. Come and receive my little confession, and give absolution to Your Own Salome.

She enveloped and directed this note, and gave it to Janet, with orders to hand it to Lord Arondelle's man.

When the girl had left the room, Miss Levison turned to the housekeeper and inquired:

"Has my father's bell rung yet, do you know?"

"Na, me young leddy, it has na rung yet. Sir Lemuel's man, Mr. Peter, is down-stairs, waiting for the summons."

"Perhaps he had better call his master," suggested Miss Levison.

"Na, Miss, sae I tauld him; but he said his orders were no to call his master the morn', but to wait till he heard his bell ring. He's waiting for that e'en noo."

"Very well, Mrs. Ross. Papa was up late last night, I know, and is probably tired this morning. So we must let him sleep as long as possible. But as soon as his bell rings, be sure to take him up a cup of coffee."

"Verra weel, Miss."

"And, Mrs. Ross, I hope that all our guests are cared for, and served in their own rooms with tea and toast, or coffee and muffins, as they choose?"

"Ou, ay, me dear young leddy, I hae ta'en care of a' that. And what will I bring yersel', Miss, before ye begin to dress?"

"Nothing; I have had a cup of coffee. That is sufficient for the present."

"Neathing but ae wee bit cup o' coffee, my dear young leddy?"

"No; I have no appetite. I suppose no girl ever did have on her wedding morning," said Miss Levison, shivering and then flushing.

The housekeeper contemplated her young mistress with growing anxiety.

"I am sure ye are no weel," she ventured again to suggest.

"I am quite well, my dear Mrs. Ross. Do not disturb yourself. But go now and send Janet and Kitty to me. I must begin to dress."

The housekeeper left the room, and was soon replaced by the lady's maid and the upper house-maid.

"Is my bath ready, Kitty?"

"Yes, Miss; and I have poured six bo

ttles of ody collone intil it," said the girl, with a very self-approving air.

"You needn't have done that," said Miss Levison, with an amused smile, "but you meant well, and I thank you."

She took her customary morning bath, and slipping on a soft, white, cashmere wrapper, placed herself in the hands of her maidens to be dressed for the altar.

Janet combed, and brushed and arranged the shining dark brown hair. Kitty laced the dainty white velvet boots. Janet arrayed her in her bridal robes, and Kitty clasped the costly jewels around her neck and arms. One placed the bridal vail and wreath upon her head, while the other drew the pretty pearl-embroidered gloves upon her hands.

At length her toilet was complete, and she stood up, beautiful in her youth, love, and joy, and imperial in her array.

She wore a long trained dress of the richest white satin, trimmed with deep point lace flounces, headed with trails of orange flower buds; an over-dress of fine cardinal point lace, looped up with festoons of orange buds; a point lace berthe and short sleeve ruffles; a necklace, pendant, and bracelets of pearls set in diamonds, white kid gloves, embroidered with fine white silk; white satin boots worked with pearls. On her head the rich, full orange flower wreath. And over all, like mist over frost and snow, fell the long bridal vail of finest point lace, softening the whole effect.

"The young ladies, your bridesmaids, bid me tell you, Miss, that they are quite ready to come to you, when you are so to receive them," said Kitty, as she placed the bouquet of orange flowers in its jewelled holder, and handed it to her mistress.

"Very well. I will send for them in good time," answered Miss Levison, glancing at the little golden clock upon the mantel-piece, and noticing that it was nearly half-past nine, the hour at which she expected Lord Arondelle. "But now, Kitty, my good girl, go and inquire if my father is up, and return and let me know. I would like to see him in his room."

The house-maid courtesied and went out, and after a few minutes' absence returned running.

"If you please, Miss, Sir Lemuel hasn't rung his bell yet, and Mr. Peters says, with his duty to you, Miss, as it is so late, hadn't he better call his master?"

"By no means! Let Mr. Peters obey his master's orders not to disturb him until his bell rings," answered the young lady.

"Yes, Miss; and if you please, Miss, here is a card, and his lordship, Lord Arondelle, is down stairs asking for you, Miss," said the girl, laying the pasteboard in question before her young mistress.

"Lord Arondelle! Yes, I expected his lordship. Where is he?"

"Mr. McRath showed him into the library, Miss."

"Quite right. None of our guests have left their rooms yet?"

"No, Miss, they be all busy a dressing of themselves, as I think."

"Ah! then go before me and open the door, and tell his lordship that I shall be with him in a moment," said Miss Levison.

The girl dropped another courtesy and preceded her mistress down stairs. In going down the great upper hall, Miss Levison passed the door of the dark, narrow passage at right angles with the hall, and leading to the tower stairs, where she had seen the apparition of the night before. She shivered and hurried on. She paused a moment before the door leading to the ante-room of her father's bed-chamber, and listened to hear if he were stirring; but all within seemed as still as death. She went on and descended the stairs and reached the library-door, just as Kitty opened it and said:

"Miss Levison, my lord," and retired to give place to the young lady.

Miss Levison entered the library.

Lord Arondelle, in his wedding dress, stood by the central book-table. As his costume was the regulation uniform of a gentleman's full dress, it needs no description here. Gentlemen array themselves much in the same style for a dinner or a ball, a wedding or a funeral-the only difference to mark the occasion being in the color of the gloves.

Lord Arondelle advanced to meet his bride.

"My love and queen! this meeting is a grace granted me indeed! How beautiful you are!" he exclaimed, taking both her hands and carrying them to his lips. "But you are shivering, sweet girl! You are cold!" he added anxiously, as he looked at her more attentively.

"I have been shivering all the morning. I sat at my open window late last night and got a little chilled; but it is nothing," she answered, smiling.

"You shall not do such suicidal things, when I have the charge of you, my little lady," he said, half jestingly, half seriously, as he led her to a sofa and seated her on it, taking his own seat by her side.

"Come, now," he gayly continued, "was that indiscreet star-gazing which has resulted in a cold the little sin for which you wish me to give you absolution?"

"No, my lord. My sin was an evil dream."

"A dream!"

"Ay, a dream."

"But a dream cannot be a sin!"

"Hear it, and then judge. But first-tell me-were you in the castle late last night?" she gravely inquired.

He paused and gazed at her before he replied:

"I in the castle late last night? Why, most certainly not! Why ever should you ask me such a question, my love?"

"Because if you were not in the castle last night-"

"Well?"

"I met your 'fetch,' as the country people would call it."

"My-I beg your pardon."

"Your 'fetch,' your double, your spectre, your spirit, whatever you may call it."

"Whatever do you mean, Salome?"

"Shall I tell you all about it?"

"Of course-yes, do."

Miss Levison began and related all the circumstances in detail of her night visit to her father's room, and her meeting with an appearance which she took to be that of her betrothed husband, but which, on being called by her, instantly vanished.

Lord Arondelle mused for awhile. Miss Levison gazed on him in anxious suspense for a few minutes, and then inquired:

"What do you think of it?"

"My love, if I were a transcendental visionary, I might say, that at the hour you saw my image before you, my thoughts, my mind, my spirit, whatever you choose to call my inner self, was actually with you, and so became visible to you; but-" he paused.

"But-what?" she inquired.

"Not being a transcendentalist or a visionary, I am forced to the conclusion that what you thought you saw, was, really nothing but an optical illusion!"

"You think that?"

"Indeed I do!"

"I assure you, that the image seemed as real, as substantial, and as solid to me then as you do now."

"No doubt of it! Optical illusions always seem very real-perfectly real."

"It was an optical illusion then! That is settled! And now!" exclaimed Salome. Then she paused.

"Yes, and now! About the sinful dream! What did you dream of? Throwing me over at the last moment and marrying a handsomer man?" gayly inquired the young marquis.

"I will tell you presently what I dreamed; but first tell me, were you in our grounds last night?" she gravely inquired.

"Yes, my little lady; but how did you know of it?" inquired the young marquis in surprise.

"I did not know it. Were you under my window?" she asked, in a low, tremulous tone.

"Yes, love. How came you to suspect me?" he inquired, more than ever astonished.

"I did not suspect you. Had you a companion with you?" she murmured.

"No, Salome. Certainly not. Why, sweet, do you ask me?"

"I thought I heard your voice speaking to some one who answered you under my window."

"But, love, there was no one with me. I was quite alone. And I did not speak at all-not even to myself. I am not in the habit of soliloquizing."

"Please tell me, if you can, at what hour you were under my window."

"It was between ten and eleven o'clock. I was walking in the grounds, and I went under your wall and looked up. I saw three shadows pass the lighted windows, which I took to be those of yourself and your attendants, and then suddenly the lights were turned off and all was dark. I knew then that you had retired to rest, and of course I turned away and walked back to the hamlet. But, love, instead of telling the little story you promised, it seems that you have put me through a very sharp examination," said his lordship, laughing. "Now, what do you mean by it? There is something behind all this," he added, gravely.

"Of course there is something behind. Did I not tell you that I had a confession to make concerning a wicked dream? Listen, Lord Arondelle. At the time you stood under my window and saw the light turned off, and supposing that I had gone to rest, you turned away and left the grounds, at that time I had not gone to rest, but had gone to my father's room, in returning from which I experienced that strange optical illusion. My nerves must have been strangely disordered, for when I reached my own chamber again, and finding it quite dark, opened the window and sat down to look out upon the moonlit lake, I immediately fell asleep, and had a terrible, and a terribly real and distinct dream-a dream, dear, that nearly overturned my reason, I do believe."

"What was it, love?" he inquired.

She told him without the least reserve.

He listened to her with interest, and then laughed aloud.

"The idea of your having such a dream about me as that! I do not wonder it weighed upon your mind. Yes, it was very wicked of you, my sinful child-very. But since you sincerely repent, I freely absolve you. Benedicite!"

Salome looked and listened to him with surprise; for as she spoke of dreaming that he called Rose Cameron his wife, he not only laughed at that idea, but really appeared as if the very existence of the girl was unknown to him.

Then Salome ventured another question:

"Do you know any one of the name of Rose Cameron?"

"No, not personally. I believe one of our shepherds, up at Ben Lone, has a very handsome daughter of that name, but I have never seen her," said the young marquis, with an open sincerity that carried conviction with it.

Salome was amazed, but convinced. What could have started the false reports concerning the young marquis and the handsome shepherdess? Clearly Rose's own hallucination. She had seen the marquis somewhere, without having been seen by him; she had fallen in love with him, and had partly lost her reason and imagined all the rest, she thought.

"And so you have never even looked upon the beauty of that dream?" she said, with a smile.

"Never even looked upon her," assented the marquis.

"Then I do, in downright earnest, beg your pardon for my dream," said Salome, gravely.

"But I have already given you absolution, my erring daughter? Benedicite! Benedicite!" replied the marquis still laughing.

At that moment there was a light rap at the library door, followed by the entrance of a footman who placed a small, twisted note in the hands of Miss Levison. She opened it and read:

My Dear Child: It is after ten o'clock. We go to church at eleven. Sir Lemuel has not yet rung his bell. His valet having received his orders last night not to call him this morning, has declined to do so. What is to be done under these circumstances? Send me a verbal message by the bearer. Your loving Aunt,

Sophie Belgrade.

"My father not yet risen!" exclaimed Salome in surprise. "He must have overslept himself with fatigue. Tell Lady Belgrade, with my thanks, that I will go to my father's room and waken him," she added, turning to the footman, who bowed and went to deliver his message.

"I hope Sir Lemuel is quite well?" said the young marquis, earnestly.

"He is quite well. My father regulates his habits so well as to live in perfect harmony with the laws of life and health. If he fatigues himself over night, he always takes a compensating rest in the morning. That is what he is doing now. But I think he is sleeping even longer than he intended to do, so I really must arouse him now, if we are to keep our appointment with the minister. Good-by, until we meet at the church, Lord Arondelle," she said, as she floated from the room in her bridal robe, and vail.

"Who says that she is not beautiful, belies her? She is lovely in person and in spirit," murmured the young marquis, as he took up his hat to leave the house.

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