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The Lost Lady of Lone By Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Sout Characters: 14678

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:02

In order not to attract the attention of the crowds of people who swarmed in the village, on the bridge, and on the island, Lord Arondelle had driven over to the castle in a closed cab that now waited at the gates to take him back again.

He left the library and went out into the great hall.

The hall porter, an elderly, stout, and important-looking functionary, slowly arose from his chair to honor the young marquis by opening the doors with his own official hands instead of leaving that duty to the footman.

And Lord Arondelle was just in the act of passing out when his steps were suddenly arrested.

A wild and piercing shriek rang through the house, startling all its echoes!

It was followed by a dead silence, and then by the sound of many hurrying feet and terrified exclamations.

"Salome! my bride! Oh, what has happened!" thought the startled young marquis, rushing back into the hall and up the stairs.

In the upper hall he found a crowd of terrified people, all hurrying in one direction-toward the bedroom of the banker.

"The dear old gentleman has got a fit, I fear, and his daughter has discovered him in it," was the next thought that flashed upon the mind of the marquis as, without waiting to ask questions, he rushed through and distanced the crowd, and reached the door of the banker's bedroom, which was blocked up by men and women, wedding guests, and servants, some questioning and exclaiming, some weeping and wailing, some standing in panic-stricken silence.

"What has happened?" cried the young marquis pushing his way with more violence than ceremony through all that impeded his entrance into the chamber.

No one answered him. No one dared to do so.

"It is Lord Arondelle-let his lordship pass," said one of the wedding guests, recognizing the expectant bridegroom as he entered the room.

An awe-struck group of persons was gathered around some object on the floor; they made way in silence for the approach of the marquis.

He passed in and looked down.

Horror upon horrors! There lay the dead body of the banker, full-dressed as on the evening before, but with his head crushed in and surrounded by a pool of coagulated blood! The face was marble white; the eyes were open and stony, the jaws had dropped and stiffened into death. Across the body lay the swooning form of his daughter, with her bridal vail and robes all dabbled in her father's blood.

"Heaven of heavens! Who has done this?" cried the marquis, a cold sweat of horror bursting from his pallid brow as he stared upon this ghastly sight!

A dozen voices answered him at once, to the effect that no one yet knew.

"Run! run! and fetch a doctor instantly! Some of you! any of you who can go the quickest!" he cried, as he stooped and lifted the insensible form of his bride and laid her on the bed-the bed that had not been occupied during the night. Evidently from these appearances, the banker had been murdered before his usual hour of retiring.

"Who has gone for a doctor?" inquired Lord Arondelle, in an agony of anxiety, as he bent over the unconscious form of his beloved one.

"I have despatched Gilbert, yer lairdship. He will mak' unco guid haste," answered the steward, who stood overcome with grief as he gazed upon the ghastly corpse of his unfortunate master.

"My lord," said Lady Belgrade, who stood by too deeply awed for tears, and up to this moment for action either-"my lord, you had better go out of the room for the present, and take all these men with you, and leave Miss Levison to the care of myself and the women. This is all unspeakably horrible! But our first care should be for her. We must loosen her dress, and take other measures for her recovery."

"Yes, yes! Great Heaven! yes! Do all you can for her! This is maddening!" groaned the marquis, smiting his forehead as he left the bedside, yielding his place to the dowager.

"Do try to command yourself, Lord Arondelle. This is, indeed, a most awful shock. It would have been awful at any time, but on your wedding day it comes with double violence. But do summon all your strength of mind, for her sake. Think of her. She came to this room in her bridal dress to call her father, that he might get ready to take her to the altar, to give her to you, and she found him here murdered-weltering in his blood. It was enough to have killed her, or unseated her reason forever," said the lady, as she busied herself with unfastening the rich, white, satin bodice of the wedding robe.

"Oh, Salome! Salome! that I could bear this sorrow for you! Oh, my darling, that all my love should be powerless to save you from a sorrow like this!" cried the young man, dropping his head upon his clenched hands.

"My lord," continued Lady Belgrade, who was now applying a vial of sal ammonia to her patient's nostrils: "my dear Lord Arondelle, rouse yourself for her sake! She has no father, brother, or male relative to take direction of affairs in this awful crisis of her life. You, her betrothed husband, should do it-must do it! Rouse yourself at once. Look at this stupefied and gaping crowd of people! Do not be like one of them. Something must be done at once. Do what ought to be done!" she cried with sudden vehemence.

"I know what should be done, and I will do it," said the young man, in a tone of mournful resolution. Then turning to the crowd that filled the chamber of horror, he said:

"My friends we must leave this room for the present to the care of Lady Belgrade and her female attendants."

Then to the dowager he said:

"My lady, let one of your maids cover that body with a sheet and let no one move it by so much as an inch, until the arrival of the coroner. As soon as it is possible to do so, you will of course have Miss Levison conveyed to her own chamber. But when you leave this room pray lock it up, and place a servant before the door as sentry, that nothing may be disturbed before the inquest."

Lastly addressing the stupefied house-steward, he said:

"McRath, come with me. The castle doors must all be closed, and no one permitted to learn the arrival of a police force, which must be immediately summoned."

So saying, after a last agonized gaze upon the insensible form of his bride, he left the room of horrors, followed by the house-steward and all the male intruders.

The news of the murder spread through the castle and all over the island, carrying consternation with it. Yet the wedding guests outside, who were quite at liberty to go, showed no disposition to do so. They had come to take part in a joyous wedding festival-they remained, held by the strange fascination of ghastly interest that hangs over the scene of a murder-and such a murder!

So, the crowd, instead of diminishing, greatly increased. Peasants from the hills around, who, having had no wedding garments, had forborne to appear at the feast, now came in their tattered plaids, impelled by an eager curiosity to gaze upon the walls of the castle, and see and hear all they could concerning the mysterious murder that had been perpetrated within it.

The country side rang with the terrible story. And soon the telegraph wires flashed it all over the kingdom.

The coroner hastened to the castle, inspected the corpse, and ordered that everything should remain untouched. He then

empanelled a jury for the inquest, whose first session was held in the chamber of death, from which the suffering daughter of the deceased banker had been tenderly removed.

Such among the guests who were not detained as witnesses, found themselves at liberty to depart. But very few availed themselves of the privilege. They preferred to stop and see the end of the inquest.

Skillful and experienced detectives were summoned by telegraph from Scotland Yard, London, and arrived at the castle about midnight.

The house was placed in charge of the police while the investigation was pending.

But the materials for the formation of a decided verdict seemed very meagre.

A careful examination of the body showed that the banker had been killed by one mortal blow inflicted by a blunt and heavy instrument that had crushed in the skull. The instrument was searched for, and soon found in a small but very heavy bronze statuette of Somnes that used to stand on the bedroom mantel-piece; but was now picked up from the carpet, crusted with blood and gray hair. But the miscreant who had held that deadly weapon, and dealt that mortal blow, could not be detected.

Investigation further brought to light that an extensive robbery had been committed. From the banker's person his diamond-studded gold watch, chain, and seals, his gold snuff-box, set with emeralds, a heavy cornelian seal ring set in gold, and his diamond studs and sleeve buttons were taken. A patent safe, which stood in his room, and contained valuable documents as well as a large amount of money, had been broken open, the documents scattered, and the money carried off.

Yet no trace of the robber could be found.

The broken safe was the only piece of "professional" burglary to be seen anywhere about the house. The fastenings on every door and every window were intact.

The most plausible theory of the murder was, that some burglar, or burglars, attracted and tempted by the rumor of almost fabulous treasure then in the castle in the form of wedding offerings to the bride, had gained access to the building, and penetrated to the upper chambers, where, finding the banker still up and awake, they had killed him by one fell blow, to prevent discovery.

True, the priceless wedding presents had not been disturbed. They still blazed in their open caskets upon the drawing-room table-a splendid spectacle. But then they had been guarded all through the night by two faithful men-servants armed with revolvers and seated at the table under a lighted chandelier. It was supposed that the robbers, seeing this lighted and guarded room, had crept past it and mounted to the banker's chamber to pursue their nefarious purpose there; that simple robbery was their first intention, but being seen by the watchful banker, they had instantly killed him to prevent his giving the alarm.

For no alarm had been given!

Every inmate of the house who was examined testified to having passed a quiet night, undisturbed by any noise.

The hall porter and footmen whose duty it was to see to the closing of the castle at night, and the opening of it in the morning, testified to having fastened every door at eleven o'clock on the previous night, and to having found them still fastened at six in the morning.

How, then, did the murderers and robbers gain access to the house, since there was no sign of a broken lock or bolt to be seen anywhere, except in the safe in the banker's room.

Suspicion seemed to point to some inmate of the castle, who must have let the miscreants in.

Yes, but what inmate?

No member of the small family, of course; no visitor, certainly; no servant, probably! Yet, for want of another subject, suspicion fell upon Peters, the valet. He was always the last to see his master at night, and the first to see him in the morning. He had a pass-key to the ante-room of his master's chamber. It was believed to be a very suspicious circumstance, also that he had so persistently declined to call his master that morning, asserting as he did to the very last that Sir Lemuel had given orders that he should not be disturbed until he rang his bell.

This story of the valet was doubted. It was suspected that he might have been in league with the robbers and murderers, might have admitted them to the house that night after the family had retired, and concealed them until the hour came for the commission of their crime; and that he made excuses in the morning not to call his master so as to prevent as long as possible the discovery of the murder, and give the murderers time to get off from the scene of their awful crime.

The valet was not openly accused by any one. The officers of the law were too discreet to permit that to be done.

But he was detained as a witness, and subjected to a very severe examination.

Peters was a very tall, very spare, middle-aged man, with a slight stoop in his shoulders, with a thin, flushed face, sharp features, weak, blue eyes, and scanty red hair and whiskers, dressed with foppish precision. He looked something like a fool; but as little like the confederate of robbers and murderers as it was possible to imagine.

Witness testified that his name was Abraham Peters, that he was born in Drury Lane, London, and was now forty years of age; that he had been in the service of Sir Lemuel Levison for the last five years; that he loved and honored the deceased banker, and had every reason to believe that his master valued him also. He said that it was his service every night to assist his master in undressing and getting to bed, and every morning in getting up and dressing.

A juror asked the witness whether he was in the habit of waiting every morning for his master's bell to ring before going to his room.

The witness answered that he was not; that he had standing orders to call his master every morning at seven o'clock, except otherwise instructed by Sir Lemuel.

Another juror inquired of the witness whether he had received these exceptional instructions on the previous night.

The witness answered that he had received such; that his master had sent him with a message to his daughter, Miss Levison, requesting her to come to his room, as he wished to have a talk with her. He delivered his message through Miss Levison's maid, and returned to his master's room. But when Miss Levison was announced Sir Lemuel dismissed him with permission to retire to bed at once, and not to call his master in the morning, but to wait until Sir Lemuel should ring his bell.

"I left Miss Levison with her father, your honor, and that was the last time as ever I saw my master alive," concluded the valet, trembling like a leaf.

"I presume that Miss Levison will be able to corroborate this part of your testimony. Where is Miss Levison? Let her be called," said the coroner.

The family physician, who was present at the inquest, arose in his place and said:

"Miss Levison, sir, is not now available as a witness. She is lying in her chamber, nearly at the point of death, with brain fever."

"Lord bless my soul, I am sorry to hear that! But it is no wonder, poor young lady, after such a shock," said the kind-hearted coroner.

"But here, sir," continued the doctor, "is a witness who, I think, will be able to give us some light."

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