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   Chapter 16 VANISHED.

The Lost Lady of Lone By Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Sout Characters: 8523

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:02


After the withdrawal of the bride and her attendant from the breakfast-table, the bridegroom and his friends remained a few moments longer, and then joined Lady Belgrade and the bridesmaids in the drawing-room.

They passed some fifteen or twenty minutes in pleasant social chat upon the event of the morning, the state of the weather, and the political, financial, or fashionable topics of the day.

In half an hour they felt disposed to yawn, and some surreptitiously consulted their watches.

Then one of the bridesmaids, at the request of Lady Belgrade, sat down to the piano and condescended to favor the company with a very fine wedding march.

Three quarters of an hour passed, and then the Baron Von Levison-(Paul Levison, the head of the great Berlin branch of the banking-house of "Levison," had been ennobled in Germany, as his brother had been knighted in England)-Baron Von Levison then inquired of the bridegroom what train he intended to take.

"The tidal train, which leaves London Bridge Station at three-thirty," answered the duke.

"Then your grace should leave here in fifteen minutes, if you wish to catch that train," said the baron.

The bridegroom spoke aside to Lady Belgrade.

"Had we not better send and see if Salome is ready? We have but little time to lose."

"Yes," said her ladyship, who immediately rang the bell, and dispatched a message to the young duchess's dressing-maid.

A few minutes elapsed, and an answer was returned to the effect that her grace would be ready in time to catch the train.

The travelling carriage was at the door, and all the lighter luggage, such as dressing-bags, extra shawls and umbrellas, were put in it.

And they waited full fifteen minutes, without seeing or hearing from the loitering bride.

"I will go up to Salome myself," said Lady Belgrade, impatiently.

"No, pray do not hurry her; if we miss this train we can take the next, and though we cannot catch the night-boat from Dover to Calais, we can stop at the 'Lord Warden' and cross the Channel to-morrow morning," urged the duke.

"At least I will send another message to her, and let her know that the time is more than up," said her ladyship.

And again she rang the bell and sent a servant with a message to the lady's maid.

Full ten minutes passed, and then Margaret, the maid, came herself to the drawing-room door, begged pardon for her intrusion, and asked to speak with Lady Belgrade.

Lady Belgrade went out to her.

"What is it? The time is up! This delay is perfectly disgraceful. They will never be able to catch the tidal train now-never!" said her ladyship in a displeased tone.

"If you please, my lady, I am afraid something has happened," said the girl, in a frightened tone.

"What do you mean?" inquired the dowager, sharply.

"If you please, my lady, I went up and found all the doors leading from the corridor into her grace's suite of apartments locked fast. I knocked and called, at first softly, then loudly, but received no answer. I listened, my lady, but I heard no sound nor motion in the rooms."

"I will go up myself," said Lady Belgrade, uneasily.

And she hurried, as fast as her age and her size would permit, to the part of the house comprising the apartments of the duchess. Three doors opened from the corridor, relatively, into the boudoir, bed-room, and dressing-room, which were also connected by communicating doors within.

Lady Belgrade rapped and called at each in succession, but in vain. There was no response.

"She has fainted in her room! That is what has happened! This day of fatigue and excitement has been too much for her, in the delicate state of her health. Every one noticed how ill she looked when she came up stairs. Margaret, there is a back door, you are aware, leading from your lady's bath-room down to the flower garden. Go around and go up the back stairs and see if that door is open-if so, enter the rooms by it and open this," said her ladyship, never ceasing, while she talked, to rap at and shake the door at which she stood.

Margaret flew to obey, and made such good haste, that in about two minutes she was heard within the rooms hurrying to open the closed door. In two seconds bolts were withdrawn, keys tu

rned, and the door was opened.

"How is she?" quickly demanded the dowager, as she stepped into the dressing-room.

"My lady, I haven't seen her grace. If you please, perhaps she is in her chamber," replied the maid.

Lady Belgrade bustled into the bed-room, looking all around for the bride, then into the boudoir, calling on her name.

"Salome! Salome, my dear! Where are you?" No answer; all in the luxurious rooms still and silent as the grave.

"This is very strange! She may be in the garden," said her ladyship, passing quickly into the bath-room, and descending the stairs that led directly into a small flower-garden enclosed by high walls.

The garden was now dead and sear in the late October frost. No sign of the missing girl was there.

"This is very strange! Can she have gone down into the drawing-room, after all? I will see. There is no possibility of catching the tidal train now. It is already three o'clock; the train leaves London Bridge Station at three thirty, and it is a good hour's ride from Kensington!" said Lady Belgrade, speaking more to herself than to her attendant, as she came out of the rooms.

"Shall I go through the house and inquire if any one has seen her grace, my lady?" respectfully suggested Margaret.

"Yes; but first shut and lock that garden door of your lady's bath-room. It is not safe to leave it open," replied Lady Belgrade, as she again descended the stairs.

As she entered the drawing-room, the young Duke of Hereward came to meet her.

"I hope nothing is the matter. Salome was not looking strong this morning. And this delay? I trust that she is well?" he said, in an anxious, inquiring tone.

"Salome is not in her apartments. I have sent a servant to seek her through the house. Her delay has made you miss the train, your grace," said Lady Belgrade, in visible annoyance.

"That does not much matter, so that the delay has not been caused by her indisposition," said the young duke, earnestly.

"No indisposition could possibly excuse such eccentricity of conduct at such a time. Salome is moving somewhere about the house, according to her crazy custom," said Lady Belgrade.

"I really cannot hear that sweet girl so cruelly maligned, even by her aunt," said the duke, with a deprecating smile.

As they spoke, the Baron Von Levison appeared and said:

"I should have been very glad to have seen you off, duke, and to have thrown a metaphorical old shoe after you; but your bride seems to have taken so long to tie her bonnet strings, that she has made you miss your train. And now you can't go until the night express, and I really can't wait to see you off by that. I have an appointment at the Bank of England at four. God bless you, my dear duke. Make my adieux to my niece, and tell her that if the men of her family had been as unpunctual as the women seem to be, they never would have established banks all over Europe."

And with a hearty shake of the bridegroom's hand, and a deep bow to Lady Belgrade, the Baron Von Levison took leave.

His example was followed by the bishop and the rector, who now came up and expressed regret at the inconvenience the bridegroom would experience by having missed his train, but agreed that it was much better to know that fact before starting for it, and having the long drive to London Bridge Station and back again for nothing. And they extolled the comfort of the night express, and the elegance of accommodations to be found at the Lord Warden Hotel. And upon the whole, they concluded that his grace had not missed much, after all, in missing the "tidal."

Then again they wished much happiness to attend the married life of the young couple, and so bade adieux and departed.

There now remained of the wedding guests only the two bridesmaids and the groomsmen.

These were grouped near one of the bay-windows, and engaged in a subdued conversation.

The Duke of Hereward and Lady Belgrade still stood near the door, waiting for news of the lingering bride.

To them, at length, came the maid, Margaret, with pallid face and frightened air.

"If you please, my lady, we have searched all over the house and inquired of everybody in it. But no one has seen her grace, nor can she be found."

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