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   Chapter 14 THE SECOND BRIDAL MORN.

The Lost Lady of Lone By Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Sout Characters: 15099

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:02


We must return to Elmhurst House and take up the thread of Salome's destiny, where we left it on the morning on which the young Duke of Hereward had called on Lady Belgrade and informed her ladyship of the arrest of the mysterious, vailed passenger, and implored her to keep all the papers announcing that arrest, or in any manner referring to the tragedy at Castle Lone, from the sight of the bereaved daughter and betrothed bride.

"And so the mysterious vailed woman had been discovered, and she turns out to be Rose Cameron!" repeated Lady Belgrade, reflectively. Then, after a pause, she said: "I wonder who was her confederate in that atrocious crime-or, rather, who was her master in it? for she is too weak and simple to have been anything but a blind tool, poor creature!"

"You knew her, then?" said the duke.

"Only by report while I was staying at Castle Lone. But the report came from the tenantry, who had known her from childhood-a handsome, ignorant, vain and credulous fool of a peasant girl, more likely to become the victim of some godless man, than the confederate of murderers. Did you know her, duke?" meaningly inquired the lady, as she remembered the reports in circulation at Castle Lone, that connected the name of the handsome shepherdess with that of the young nobleman.

"No, I never saw the girl in my life. I have heard her beauty highly praised by some of the late companions of my hunting expeditions at Ben Lone; but I had no opportunity of judging for myself; and, moreover, I always discouraged such conversation among my comrades. But there, that is quite enough of the unhappy girl. I mentioned her arrest not as a most important fact only, but in order to warn you not to let our dear Salome get a sight of the daily papers, until you have looked over them, and assured yourself that they contain no reference to this arrest."

"I see the wisdom of your warning, and I will endeavor to be guided by it; but it may be difficult to do so. My very sequestration of the papers may excite Salome's suspicions."

"Then lose them; tear them; but do not let her see any part of them which may contain any reference to this girl. I thank Heaven that to-morrow I shall be able to take her out of the country and guard her peace and safety with my own head and hand. I shall take care also to keep her away until the trial and conviction of the criminals shall be over and done with, so that she may not be in any way harassed or distressed by the proceedings."

"Yes, that will be very wise. If she were in England or Scotland during the time of the trial, she might be subpoenaed as a witness for the prosecution. She was the first, poor child, to discover the dead body of her father, you know," said Lady Belgrade.

"I do not forget that circumstance, or what distress it may yet cause her," replied the young duke.

And very soon after he took leave and went away.

Lady Belgrade's task in keeping the day's papers from the sight of Salome Levison was easier than she had anticipated.

Salome, deeply interested and absorbed in the final preparations for her marriage, did not even think of the newspapers, much less ask for them.

The bridal day dawned, once more, for the heiress of Lone.

Salome, with her attendant, was up early. The young girl, since her departure from Lone Castle, the scene of her father's murder, and her arrival at Elmhurst House, and occupations with her wedding preparations, had wonderfully recovered her health and spirits.

Yet on this, her bridal day, she arose with a heavy heart. A vague dread of impending evil weighed upon her spirits.

This occasion might well have brought back vividly cruelly to her memory, that fatal bridal morn when, going to invoke her father's presence and blessing on her marriage, she found him lying stiff and stark in the crimson pool of his own curdled blood. She had no father here on earth, now, to give her to the man she loved, and to bless her union with him.

That, in itself might have been enough to account for the gloom that darkened her wedding day. But that was not all. For, though her father was not visibly present here on earth, she knew that he watched and blessed her from his eternal home. No! but her prophetic soul was darkened by the shadow of some approaching misfortune.

Margaret, her new maid, brought her a cup of coffee in her chamber. After she had drank it, she went sadly in her dressing-room, to make her toilet for the altar.

Margaret was her only attendant and dresser.

Salome was still in the deepest mourning for her murdered father. In leaving it off, for the marriage altar only, she had resolved to replace it only by such a simple dress as might have been worn by any portionless bride in the middle class of society.

She wore a plain white tulle dress, over a lustreless white silk, an Illusion vail, a wreath of orange buds, and white kid gloves and gaiters. She wore no jewels of any sort.

Her bridesmaids, only two in number, were dressed like herself, except that they wore no vails, and that their wreaths were of white rose buds.

At eleven o'clock in the morning, a handsome but very plain coach drew up before the gate of Elmhurst Terrace.

The bride, attended by her two bridesmaids and Lady Belgrade, entered it, and was driven off quietly to St. George's, Hanover square.

No invitations had been issued for the wedding, except to the nearest family connections of the bride and bridegroom.

But unfortunately the news of the approaching marriage had crept out, and got into the morning papers, and consequently the street before the church, the churchyard, and the church itself, were crowded with spectators.

Way was made for the small bridal procession, which was met at the entrance by the bridegroom's party, consisting of himself, his "best man," and his second groomsman.

There, with reverential tenderness, the young Duke of Hereward greeted his bride. And the small procession passed up the central aisle, and formed before the altar.

Around them stood the nearest friends of the two families.

Behind them, extending back to the farthest extremity of the church, crowded a miscellaneous mass of spectators.

This must have happened through the oversight of those parties whose duty it was to have had the church doors closed and guarded, so that the marriage of the so recently and cruelly orphaned daughter might be as private and decorous as it was intended to be.

Baron Von Levison, the head of the Berlin branch of the great European banking firm of Levison, had come over to act the part of father to his orphan niece, and stood near the chancel to give her away.

The Bishop of London, assisted by two clergymen, all in their sacred robes of office, stood within the chancel to perform the marriage ceremony.

After the short preliminary exhortation, the ceremony was commenced. The bride was very pale, paler than she had ever been, even in those dread days when she stood always face to face with death. In making the responses her voice faltered, fainted, and died away with every new effort. No one would have thought from her look, tone or manner, that she was giving her hand, where her heart had so long and so entirely been bestowed. She seemed rather like a victim forced unwillingly to the altar by despotism or by necessity, than a happy bride about to be united to the man of her choice.

At length the trial was over. The benediction was pronounced, and the young husband sealed the sacred rite

s by a kiss on the cold lips of his youthful wife.

Friends crowded around with congratulations; but all who took the hand of Salome, Duchess of Hereward, felt its icy chill even through her glove and theirs.

"No wonder poor child," they said to themselves; "she is thinking of her father, murdered on her first appointed wedding-day."

But it was not that. Salome had too clear a spiritual insight not to know that her father was more alive than he had been while on earth, and that he was bending down and blessing her, even there.

No; but the dark shadow of the approaching ill drew nearer and nearer. She could not know what it was. She could only feel it coming and chilling and darkening her soul.

After a few minutes passed in the vestry, during which the marriage of Archibald-Alexander-John Scott, Duke of Hereward, and Salome Levison was duly registered and signed and witnessed, the newly-married pair were at liberty to return home.

The young duke handed his youthful duchess into his own handsomely appointed carriage.

Baron Von Levison took her vacated place in the carriage with Lady Belgrade and the bridesmaids.

The few invited guests, being only the nearest family connections of the bride and bridegroom, got into their carriages and followed to the bride's residence on Westbourne Terrace, where the wedding breakfast awaited.

There were now no decorated halls and drawing-rooms, no bands of music, no display of splendid bridal presents, no parade whatever.

To be sure, an elegant breakfast-table was laid for the guests. It was decorated only with fragrant white flowers from the home conservatory, furnished with white Sevres china and silver, and provided with a luxurious and dainty repast. That was all. All magnificence and splendor of display was carefully avoided in the feast as in the ceremony.

Only ten in all sat down to the table, viz., the bride and bridegroom, two bridesmaids, two groomsmen, Lady Belgrade, Baron Von Levison, the Bishop of London, and the Rector of St. George's.

A graver wedding party never was brought together. Even the youthful bridesmaids and groomsmen, expected to be "the life of the company," were awed into silence by the preponderance of age and clerical dignity in the little assembly, for the bishop was not ready with his usual harmless little jest, and the rector did not care to take precedence over his superior.

The conversation was serious rather than merry, and the speeches earnest rather than witty.

Near the end of the breakfast, the bride's health was proposed by the first groomsman in a complimentary speech, which was acknowledged in a few appropriate remarks by her nearest relative, the Baron Von Levison. The bridegroom's health was then proposed by the baron, and acknowledged by a deep and silent bow from the duke.

Then the health of the bridesmaids, the clergy, Lady Belgrade, and the Baron Von Levison were duly honored.

And then the young bride arose, courtesied to her guests, and attended by her bridesmaids, retired to change her wedding dress for a traveling suit.

"How deadly pale she looks! Is my niece really happy in this marriage?" inquired the Baron Von Levison, in a low tone, of Lady Belgrade, as the guests left the table.

"She is very happy in this marriage, which she has set her heart on for years. In a word, this young wife is madly in love with her husband. But you must consider what an awful shock she had on her first appointed wedding-day, and how it must recur to her mind in this," answered the dowager.

"Ah, to be sure! to be sure! poor child! poor child!" muttered the German head of the family.

Meanwhile the young Duchess of Hereward reached her apartments.

Her dresser, Margaret, was in attendance. Her travelling suit of black bombazine, trimmed with black crape, was laid out. With the assistance of her maid she slowly divested herself of her white vail and robes, and put on the black travelling dress. A black sack and a black felt hat, both deeply trimmed with crape, and black gloves, completed her toilet.

When she was quite ready she kissed her two bridesmaids and said:

"Leave me alone now for a few minutes, dear girls, and wait for me in the drawing-room. I will join you very soon."

The young ladies returned her kisses and retired.

Then Salome dismissed her maid, that Margaret should prepare to accompany her mistress.

Finally, as soon as she found herself alone, she sank on her knees to pray, that, if possible, this dark shadow might be permitted to pass away from her soul; that light and strength and grace might be given her to do all her duties and bear all her burdens as Christian wife and neighbor; that she and her husband might be blessed with true and eternal love for each other, for their neighbor, and above all for their Lord.

As she finished her prayer, and arose from her knees, her maid re-entered the room, dressed to attend her mistress on her journey.

The girl did not forget to honor the bride with her new title.

"I beg pardon, your grace," she said, "but there is a strange-looking old woman down stairs who says she is a widow from Westminster Road, and that she must see your grace on a matter of life and death, before you start on your wedding tour."

"I do not know any such person," said the young duchess, slowly, while that vague shadow of impending calamity gathered over her spirit more darkly and heavily than before.

"Thomas, the hall footman, brought me the message from the woman, your grace, and I went down to see her myself before troubling you. I thought she might be only a bolder begger than usual. But she is no begger, your grace. She looks respectable," answered the girl.

"Go to the woman and explain to her that I have no time to see her now, and ask her if she cannot intrust her business to you to be brought to me," said the duchess.

The maid courtesied and left the room.

"What is it? What is it? Why does every unusual event strike such deadly terror to my heart?" inquired the bride, as she sank, pale and trembling, into her resting-chair.

In a few minutes the door opened and Margaret re-appeared.

"I beg your grace's pardon, but the old woman is very obstinate and persistent. She will not tell me her business. She says it is with your grace alone; that it concerns your grace most of all; that it is a matter of more importance than life or death; and that-indeed I beg your pardon, your grace-but I do not like to deliver the rest of her message, it seems so impertinent," said the girl, blushing and casting down her eyes.

"Nevertheless, deliver it. I will excuse you. The impertinence will not be yours," said the bride, as a cold chill struck her heart.

"Then, your grace, she seized me by the two shoulders and looked me straight in the face, and said-'Tell your mistress, if she would save herself from utter ruin, she will see me and hear what I have to tell her, before she sees the Duke of Hereward again!'" answered the girl, in a low tone.

"'Before I see the Duke of Hereward again.' Ah, what is it? What is it?" murmured the bewildered bride to herself. Then she spoke to Margaret. "Bring the woman up here. I will see her at once."

Once more the girl obediently left the room.

The young bride covered her pale face with her hands, and trembled with dread of-she knew not what!

A few minutes passed. The door opened again, and Margaret re-appeared, ushering in Rose Cameron's housekeeper.

Salome looked up.

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