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   Chapter 9 AFTER THE DISCOVERY.

The Lost Lady of Lone By Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Sout Characters: 19089

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:02


"Sir, if you please, I request that this witness be immediately placed under examination," said Lord Arondelle, who sat, with pale, stern visage, among the spectators, now addressing the coroner.

"Yes, certainly, my lord. Let the man be called," answered the latter.

A short, stout, red-haired and freckle-faced boy, clothed in a well-worn suit of gray tweed, came forward and was duly sworn.

"What is your name, my lad?" inquired the coroner's clerk.

"Cuddie McGill, an' it please your worship," replied the shock-headed youth.

"Your age?"

"Anan?"

"How old are you?"

"Ou, ay, just nineteen come St. Andrew's Eve, at night."

"Where do you live?"

"Wi' my maister, Gillie Ferguson, the saddler, at Lone."

"Well now, then, what do you know about this case?" inquired the clerk, who, pen in hand, had been busily taking down the unimportant, preliminary answers of the witness under examination.

"Aweel, thin your worship, I ken just naething of ony account; but I just happen speak what I saw yestreen under the castle wa', and doctor here, he wad hae me come my ways and tell your honor; its naething just," replied Cuddie McGill, scratching his shock head.

"But tell us what you saw."

"Aweel, then, your worship, I had been hard at wark a' the day, and could na get awa to see the wedding deecorations. But after my wark was dune and I had my bit aitmeal cake and parritch, I e'en cam' my way over the brig to hae a luke at them."

"Well, and what did you see besides the decorations?"

"An it please your worship, as I cam through the thick shrubbery I spied a lassie, standing under the balcony on the east side o' the castle wa'."

"At what hour was this?"

"I dinna ken preceesely. It may hae been ten o'clock; for I ken the moon was about twa hours high."

"Ay, well; go on."

"I hid mysel' in the firs and watchit the lassie; for I said to mysel' it wair a tryste wi' her lad, and I behoove to find out wha they were. Sae I watchit the lassie. And presently a tall gallant cam' up till her, and they spake thegither. I could na hear what they said. But anon the tall mon went his ways, and the lassie bided her lane under the balcony. I wondered at that. And I waited to see the end. I waited, it seemed to me, full twa hour. The moon was weel nigh overhead, when at lang last the gallant cam' on wi' anither tall mon. And they passed sae nigh that I heard their talk. Spake the gallant: 'I would na hae had it happened for a' we hae gained.' Said the ither ane: 'It could na be helpit. The auld mon skreekit. He would hae brocht the house upon us, and we hadna stappit his mouth.' And the twa passit out o' hearing, and sune cam' to the lassie under the balcony. And the three talkit thegither, but I just couldna hear a word they spake. And sae I went my ways home, wondering what it a' meant. But I thocht nae muckle harm until the morn when I heerd o' the murder."

"Would you know the tall man again if you were to see him?" inquired the coroner.

"Na, for ye ken I could na see a feature o' his face."

"Would you know the girl again?"

"Na. I could na see the lass ony mair than the gallant."

"Nor the third man?"

"Na, nor the ither ane."

"Did you hear any name or any place spoken of between the parties?"

"Na, na name, na pleece. I hae tuld your honor all I heerd. I heerd no mair than I hae said," replied the witness.

And the severest cross-examination could not draw anything more from him.

The officials put their heads together and talked in whispers.

This last witness gave, after all, the nearest to a clue of any they had yet received.

The notes of the testimony were put in the hands of the London detective then present.

"Allow me to remind you, sir," said Lord Arondelle, "that this interview testified to by the last witness, was said to have taken place between ten and twelve at night, and that there is a train for London which stops at Lone at a quarter past twelve. Would it not be well to make inquiries at the station as to what passengers, if any, got on at Lone?"

"A good idea. Thanks, my lord. We will summon the agent who happened to be on duty at that hour," said the coroner.

And a messenger was immediately dispatched to Lone to bring the railway official in question.

In the interim, several of the household servants were examined, but without bringing any new facts to light.

After an absence of two hours, the messenger returned accompanied by Donald McNeil, the ticket-agent who had been in the office for the midnight train of the preceding day.

He was a man of middle age and medium size, with a fair complexion, sandy hair and open, honest countenance. He was clothed in a suit of black and white-checked cloth.

He was duly sworn and examined. He gave his name as Donald McNeil, his age forty years, and his home in the hamlet of Lone.

"You are a ticket-agent at the Railway Station at Lone?" inquired the coroner's clerk.

"I am, sir."

"You were on duty at that station last night, between twelve midnight and one, morning?"

"I was, sir."

"Does the train for London stop at Lone at that hour?"

"The up-train stops at Lone, at a quarter past twal, sir, and seldom varies for as muckle as twa minutes."

"It stopped last night as usual, at a quarter past twelve?"

"It did, sir, av coorse."

"Did any passengers get on that train from Lone?"

"One passenger did, sir; whilk I remarked it more particularly, because the passenger was a young lass, travelling her lane, and it is unco seldom a woman tak's that train at that hour, and never her lane."

"Ah! there was but one passenger, then, that took the midnight train from Lone for London?"

"But one, sir."

"And she was a woman?"

"A young lass, sir."

"Did she take a through ticket?"

"Ah, sir, to London."

"What class?"

"Second-class."

"Had she luggage?"

"An unco heavy black leather bag, sir, that was a'."

"How do you know the bag was heavy?"

"By the way she lugged it, sir. The porter offered to relieve her o' it, but she wad na trust it out o' her hand ae minute."

"Ah! Was it a large bag?"

"Na, sir, no that large, but unco heavy, as it might be filled fu' o' minerals, the like of whilk the college lads whiles collect in the mountains. Na, it was no' large, but unco heavy, and she wad na let it out o' her hand ae minute."

"Just so. Would you know that young woman again if you were to see her?"

"Na, I could na see her face. She wore a thick, dark vail, doublit over and over her face, the whilk was the moir to be noticed because the nicht was sae warm."

"You say her face was concealed. How, then, did you know her to be a young woman?"

"Ou, by her form and her gait just, and by her speech."

"She talked with you, then?"

"Na, she spak just three words when she handed in the money for her ticket: 'One-second-class-through.'"

"Would you recognize her voice again if you should hear it?"

"Ay, that I should."

"How was this young woman dressed?"

"She wore a lang, black tweed cloak wi' a hood till it, and a dark vail."

A few more questions were asked, but as nothing new was elicited the witness was permitted to retire.

Other witnesses were examined, and old witnesses were recalled hour after hour and day after day, without effect. No new light was thrown upon the mystery.

No one, except Cuddie McGill, the saddler's apprentice, could be found who had seen the suspicious man and woman lurking under the balcony.

Certainly Lord Arondelle remembered the "dream" Miss Levison had told him of the two persons whom she mistook to be himself and Rose Cameron talking together under her window. But Miss Levison was so far incapable of giving evidence as to be lying at the point of death with brain fever. So it would have been worse than useless to have spoken of her dream, or supposed dream.

The coroner's inquest sat several days without arriving at any definite conclusion.

The most plausible theory of the murder seemed to be that a robbery had been planned between the valet and certain unknown confederates, who had all been tempted by the great treasures known to be in the castle that night in the form of costly bridal presents; that no murder was at first intended; that the confederates had been secretly admitted to the castle through the connivance of the valet; that the strong guard placed over the treasures in the lighted drawing-room had saved them from robbery; that the robbers, disappointed of their first expectations, next went, with the farther connivance of the valet, to the bedchamber of Sir Lemuel Levison, for the purpose of emptying his strong box; that being detected in their criminal designs by the wakeful banker, they had silenced him by one fatal blow on the head; that they had then accomplished the robbery of the strong box, and of the person of the deceased banker; and had been secretly let out of the castle by the valet.

Finally, it was thought that the man and the woman discovered under the balcony by Cuddie McGill on the night of the murder, were confederates in the crime, and the woman was the midnight passenger to whom Donald McNeil sold the second-class railway ticket to London, and that the heavy black bag she carried contained the booty taken from the castle.

On the evening of the third day of the unsatisfactory inquest a verdict was returned to this effect.

That the deceased Sir Lemuel Levison, Knight, had come to his death by a blow from a

heavy bronze statuette held in the hands of some person unknown to the jury. And that Peters, the valet of the deceased banker, was accessory to the murder.

A coroner's warrant was immediately issued, and the valet was arrested, and confined in jail to await the action of the grand jury.

An experienced detective officer was sent upon the track of the mysterious, vailed woman, with the heavy black bag, who on the night of the murder had taken the midnight train from Lone to London.

Then at length the coroner's jury adjourned, and Castle Lone was cleared of the law officers and all others who had remained there in attendance upon the inquest.

And the preparations for the funeral of the deceased banker were allowed to go on.

In addition to the long train of servants there remained now in the castle but seven persons:

The young lady of the house, who lay prostrate and unconscious upon the bed of extreme illness or death; Lady Belgrade, who in all this trouble had nearly lost her wits; the Marquis of Arondelle, who had been requested to take the direction of affairs; the old Duke of Hereward, who had been brought to the castle in a helpless condition; the family physician, who had turned over all his other patients to his assistant, and was now devoting himself to the care of the unhappy daughter of the house; and lastly the family solicitor, and his clerk, who were down for the obsequies.

Beside these, the undertaker and his men came and went while completing their preparations for the funeral.

There had been some talk of embalming the body, and delaying the burial, until the daughter of the deceased banker should view her father's face once more; but the impossibility of restoring the crushed skull to shape rendered it advisable that she should not be shocked by a sight of it. So the day of the funeral was set.

But before that day came, another important event occurred at Lone Castle. It was not entirely unexpected. The old Duke of Hereward, since his arrival at the castle, had sunk very fast. He had been carefully guarded from the knowledge of the tragedy which had been enacted within its walls. He knew nothing of the murder of Sir Lemuel Levison, or even of the banker's presence in the castle. His failing mind had gone back to the past, and he fondly imagined himself, as of yore, the Lord of Lone and of all its vast revenues. The presence and attendance of all his old train of servants, who, as I said before, had been kindly retained in the service of the banker's family, helped the happy illusion in which the last days of the old duke were passed, until one afternoon, just as the sun was sinking out of sight behind Ben Lone, the old man went quietly to sleep in his arm-chair, and never woke again in this world.

A few days after this, in the midst of a large concourse of friends, neighbors and mourners, the mortal remains of Archibald-Alexander-John Scott, Duke of Hereward and Marquis of Arondelle, in the peerage of England, and Lord of Lone and Baron Scott, in the peerage of Scotland, were laid side by side with those of Sir Lemuel Levison, Kt., in the family vault of Lone.

The reading of the late banker's will was deferred until his daughter and sole heiress should be in a condition to attend it.

And the family solicitor took it away with him to London to keep until it should be called for.

The crisis of Salome's illness passed safely. She was out of the imminent danger of death, though she was still extremely weak.

The family physician returned to his home and his practice in the village of Lone, and only visited his patient at the castle morning and evening.

Now, therefore, besides the train of household servants, there remained at the castle but three inmates-Salome Levison, reduced by sorrow and illness to a state of infantile feebleness of mind and body; Lady Belgrade, nearly worn out with long watching, fatigue, and anxiety; and the young Marquis of Arondelle, whom we must henceforth designate as the Duke of Hereward, and whom even the stately dowager, who was "of the most straitest sect, a Pharisee" of conventional etiquette, nevertheless implored to remain a guest at the castle until after the recovery of the heiress, and the reading of the father's will.

The young duke who wished nothing more than to be near his bride, readily consented to stay.

But Salome's recovery was so slow, and her frame so feeble, that she seemed to have re-entered life through a new infancy of body and mind.

Strangely, however, through all her illness she seemed not to have lost the memory of its cause-her father's shocking death. Thus she had no new grief or horror to experience.

No one spoke to her of the terrible tragedy. She herself was the first to allude to it.

The occasion was this:

On the first day on which she was permitted to leave her bedchamber and sit for awhile in an easy resting chair, beside the open window of her boudoir, to enjoy the fresh air from the mountain and the lake, she sent for the young duke to come to her.

He eagerly obeyed the summons, and hastened to her side.

He had not been permitted to see her since her illness, and now he was almost overwhelmed with sorrow to see into what a mere shadow of her former self she had faded.

As she reclined there in her soft white robes, with her long, dark hair flowing over her shoulders, so fair, so wan, so spiritual she looked, that it seemed as if the very breeze from the lake might have wafted her away.

He dropped on one knee beside her, and embraced and kissed her hands, and then sat down next her.

After the first gentle greetings were over, she amazed him by turning and asking:

"Has the murderer been discovered yet?"

"No, my beloved, but the detectives have a clue, that they feel sure will lead to the discovery and conviction of the wretch," answered the young duke, in a low voice.

"Where have they laid the body of my dear father?" she next inquired in a low hushed tone.

"In the family vault beside those of my own parents," gravely replied the young man.

"Your own-parents, my lord? I knew that your dear mother had gone before, but-your father-"

"My father has passed to his eternal home. It is well with him as with yours. They are happy. And we-have a common sorrow, love!"

"I did not know-I did not know. No one told me," murmured Salome, as she dropped her face on her open hands, and cried like a child.

"Every one wished to spare you, my sweet girl, as long as possible. Yet I did think, they had told you of my father's departure, else I had not alluded to it so suddenly. There! weep no more, love! Viewed in the true light, those who have passed higher are rather to be envied than mourned."

Then to change the current of her thoughts he said:

"Can you give your mind now to a little business, Salome?"

"Yes, if it concerns you," she sighed, wiping her eyes, and looking up.

"It concerns me only inasmuch as it affects your interests, my love. You are of age, my Salome?"

"Yes, I was twenty-one on my last birthday."

"Then you enter at once upon your great inheritance-an onerous and responsible position."

"But you will sustain it for me. I shall not feel its weight," she murmured.

"There are thousands in this realm, my love, good men and true, who would gladly relieve me of the dear trust," said the duke, with a smile. "We must, however, be guided by your father's will, which I am happy to know is in entire harmony with your own wishes. And that brings me to what I wished to say. Kage, your late father's solicitor, is in possession of his last will. He could not follow the custom, and read it immediately after the funeral, because your illness precluded the possibility of your presence at its perusal. But he only waits for your recovery and a summons from me to bring it. Whenever, therefore, you feel equal to the exertion of hearing it, I will send a telegram to Kage to come down," concluded the duke.

"My father's last will!" softly murmured Salome. "Send the telegram to-day, please. To hear his last will read will be almost like hearing from him."

"There is beside the will a letter from your father, addressed to you, and left in the charge of Kage, to be delivered with the reading of the will, in the case of his, the writer's, sudden death," gravely added the duke.

"A letter from my dear father to me? A letter from the grave! No, rather a letter from Heaven! Telegraph Mr. Kage to bring down the papers at once, dear John," said Salome, eagerly, as a warm flush arose on her pale, transparent cheek.

"I will do so at once, love; for to my mind, that letter is of equal importance with the will-though no lawyer would think so," said the duke.

"You know its purport then?"

"No, dearest, not certainly, but I surmise it, from some conversations that I held with the late Sir Lemuel Levison."

As he spoke the door opened and Lady Belgrade entered the room, saying softly, as she would have spoken beside the cradle of a sick baby:

"I am sorry to disturb your grace; but the fifteen minutes permitted by the doctor have passed, and Salome must not sit up longer."

"I am going now, dear madam," said the duke, rising.

He took Salome's hand, held it for a moment in his, while he gazed into her eyes, then pressed it to his lips, and so took his morning's leave of her.

The same forenoon he rode over to the Lone Station, and dispatched a telegram to the family solicitor, Kage.

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