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   Chapter 21 THE BRIDEGROOM.

The Lost Lady of Lone By Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Sout Characters: 21092

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:02


According to his promise given to Lady Belgrade, the Duke of Hereward returned to Elmthorpe House to make his report.

He found the dowager waiting for him where he had left her, in the back drawing-room.

He greeted her only by a silent bow, and she questioned him only by a mute look.

"I have placed the case in the hands of Setter, confidentially, of course. He will commence secret investigations to-night," he said.

"This morning, you mean, Duke. It is now two o'clock," remarked the dowager.

"Is it, indeed, so late?"

"So early you should say. Yes, it is. But what thinks the detective of this affair?"

"He is inclined to think as we do, that our dear Salome has been decoyed away by some tale of extreme distress, and for purposes of robbery," answered the young duke, pressing his white lips firmly together in his effort to control all expression of the anguish that was secretly wringing his heart.

"And what does he think of the chances of finding her soon and finding her safe?" inquired the dowager.

The duke slowly shook his head.

"Well, and what does that mean?" asked the lady.

"It means that Detective Setter cannot form an opinion, or will not commit himself to the expression of one at present. And now, dear Lady Belgrade, as it is after two o'clock, I must bid you good-night-"

"Good-morning, rather," interrupted the dowager.

"And return to my lodgings," continued the duke, passing his hand across his forehead, like one "dazed" with trouble.

"I beg you will do nothing of the sort, Duke," said Lady Belgrade, hastily interposing. "You have left your lodgings for a wedding tour. You are not expected back there. Your people think that you are far from London with your bride. In the name of propriety, let them think so still. Do not go back there to-night, and wake them all up, and start a nine days' wonder of scandal. Stay where you are, Duke, quietly, until we recover our Salome. When we do, you can both leave for Paris. All the world will know nothing of this distressing affair, which, if it were to come to their knowledge, would be exaggerated, perverted, turned and twisted out of all its original shape, into some horrid story of scandal. Remember now, how few people know anything about it-only you, I, the detective necessarily taken into your confidence, and the servants, for whose discretion I can answer. Remain quietly here, therefore, that all gossip may be stopped."

The duke resumed his seat, but did not immediately answer.

"Do you not think my counsel good?" inquired the lady.

"Very good. Thanks, Lady Belgrade. I will follow your advice. There is another reason why I should do so, but with which you are not acquainted. In the absorption of my thoughts with the subject of our Salome, I totally forgot to tell you that I have just been subpoenaed as a witness for the crown, in the approaching trial of John Potts and Rose Cameron for the murder of Sir Lemuel Levison. The case will come on at the Assizes at Banff on Thursday next. I must leave for Scotland to-morrow," said the young duke.

"Why-you surprise me very much! When was the subpoena served upon you?" inquired the dowager.

"In a chance recounter at the police-office, where I went to find the detective, and where I also found a sheriff's officer holding a subpoena for me, which he was about to send across the channel by a special messenger-supposing me to be in Paris. So you see, my dear Lady Belgrade, my wedding tour would have been stopped at Paris, if not nearer."

"That is well; for now, if the wedding tour is delayed, it will be known to be a legal necessity, which in no way reflects upon the wedding party. And now, my dear Duke, since you consent to stay all night, let me advise you to retire to rest. You will find your valet waiting your orders in the cedar suite of rooms, to which I had your dressing case and boxes taken."

"Thanks, Lady Belgrade. Your ladyship anticipates everything."

"I certainly anticipated the necessity of your remaining here all night, as soon as I found that you could not leave London. And now, Duke, I must really send you to bed. I am exhausted. I must lie down, even if I do not sleep," said the dowager, as she arose and touched the bell.

The Duke of Hereward raised her hand to his lips, bowed, and left the room.

Lady Belgrade followed his example.

And the weary groom of the chambers entered, in answer to the bell, to turn off the gas and fasten up the rooms.

The young duke knew where to find the cedar suite-a sumptuous set of apartments finished and fitted up in the costly and fragrant wood which gave them their name.

He found his servant waiting in the dressing-room.

His grace's valet was no fine gentleman from Paris, as full of accomplishments as of vices; but a simple and honest young man from the estate. The extra gravity which young James Kerr put into his manner of waiting, alone testified of the reverential sympathy he felt for his beloved master.

The duke threw off the travelling coat that he had assumed for his journey and had worn up to this moment; and he took the wadded silk dressing gown, handed him by his valet, and having put it on, he dropped into an easy resting-chair, and ordered Kerr to lower the gas and then leave the room for the night.

The young Duke of Hereward did not retire to bed that night. As soon as he found himself alone in the half-darkened rooms, he arose from his chair and began to walk restlessly up and down the floor, relieving the pent-up anguish of his bosom by such deep groans as had required all his self-control to suppress while he was in the presence of others.

Thus walking and groaning in great agony of mind, he passed the few remaining dark hours of the morning.

At daylight he sank exhausted into his easy-chair. But even then he neither "slumbered nor slept," but passed the time in waiting and longing for the rising sun, that he might go out and renew his search for his lost bride.

The sun had scarcely risen when he rang for his valet.

The young man appeared promptly.

The duke made a hasty toilet, and then called his servant to attend him down stairs.

None of the household were yet astir.

But, by the direction of the duke, Kerr unlocked, unbolted and unbarred the street door to let his master out.

"Close and secure the house after me, James, for it will be hours yet before the household will be up," said the duke, as he passed out.

It was a clear October day for London. The sun was not more than twenty minutes high, and it shone redly and dully through a morning fog. The streets were still deserted, except by milkmen, bakers, costermongers, and other "early birds."

He walked rapidly to the Church Court police station.

Detective Setter was not there. But the Duke left word for him to call at Elmthorpe as soon as he should return.

He left the police station and went on toward Elmthrope. But he did not enter the house. He could not rest. He walked up and down the sidewalk in front of the iron railings until he thought Lady Belgrade might have risen.

Then he went up the steps and rang the bell.

The hall porter opened the door and admitted him.

"Has Lady Belgrade come down yet?" was his first question.

"My lady has, your grace. My lady is waiting breakfast for your grace," respectfully answered the footman.

He longed to ask if any news had been heard of the missing one, but he forbore to do so, and hurried away up-stairs to the breakfast parlor.

There he found Lady Belgrade, dressed in a purple cashmere robe, and wrapped in a rich India shawl, reclining in a rocking-chair beside a breakfast-table laid for two.

"Good morning, madam. I fear I have kept your ladyship waiting," said the duke, as he entered the room.

"Not a second, my dear duke. I have but just this instant come down," answered the dowager, politely, and unhesitatingly telling the conventional lie, as she put out her hand and touched the bell.

"I fear that it is useless to ask you if there is any news of our missing girl," said the duke, in a low tone.

"I have heard nothing. And you? Of course, you have not, or you would not have asked me the question. But, good Heaven, Duke, you are as pale as a ghost! You look as if you had just risen from a sick bed! You look full twenty years older than you did yesterday. What have you been doing with yourself? Where have you been?" inquired the dowager.

The duke answered her last question only.

"I have been to Church Court to look up Detective Setter. I left orders for him to report here this morning. I expect him here very soon. I must do all that I can do in London to-day, as it is absolutely necessary for me to leave town by the night express of the Great Northern Railroad, in order to attend the trial for which I am subpoenaed as a witness, to-morrow."

"I see! Of course, you must go. There is no resisting a subpoena. But who is to co-operate with Setter in the search for Salome?"

"You must do so, if you please, Lady Belgrade, until my return. Of course, I will hurry back with all dispatch."

"No fear of that. The only fear is that you will hurry into your grave. But here is breakfast," said her ladyship, as a footman entered with a tray.

Mocha coffee, orange pekoe tea, Westphalia ham, poached eggs, dry toast, muffins, rolls, and so forth, were arranged upon the table to tempt the appetite of the two who sat at meat.

Lady Belgrade made a good meal. She was at the age of which physicians say, "the constitution takes on a conservative tone," and which poets call "the time of peace." In a word, she was middle-aged, fat, and comfort-loving; and so she was not disposed to lose her rest, or food, or peace of mind for any trouble not personally her own.

She was vexed at the unconventionality of Salome's disappearance, fearful of what the world would say, and anxious to keep the matter as close as possible. That was all, and it did not take away her appetite.

But the anxious young husband could not eat. A feverish and burning thirst, such as frequently attends excessive grief or anxiety, consumed him. He drank cup after cup of tea almost unconsciously, until at length Lady Belgrade said:

"This makes four! I am your hostess, duke; but I am also your aunt by marriage, and upon my word I cannot let you go on ruining your health in this way! You shall not have another cup of tea, unless you consent to eat something with it."

The young duke smiled

wanly, and submitted so far as to take a piece of dry toast on his plate and crumble it into bits.

Meanwhile, the dowager, having finished her breakfast, took up the Times to look over.

Presently she startled the duke by exclaiming:

"Thank Heaven!"

"What is it?" hastily inquired the duke, setting down his cup and gazing at the silent reader. "Any news of Salome?" he added, and then nearly lost his breath while waiting for the answer.

"Oh, yes, news of Salome! But scarcely authentic news. Listen! Here is a full account of the wedding-with a description of the bride and bridesmaids, and their dresses and attendants, and of the ceremony and the officiating clergy, and the attending crowd, and the wedding-breakfast, speeches, presents, and so on, all tolerably correct for a newspaper report. But now listen to this-"

Her ladyship here read aloud:

"Immediately after the wedding-breakfast, the happy pair left town, by the London and South Coast Railway, en route for Dover, Paris and the Continent."

"There! what do you think of that?" inquired Lady Belgrade, looking up.

"I think it is not the first occasion upon which a paper has anticipated and described an expected event that some unforeseen accident prevented from coming off," answered the duke, with a sigh.

"I thank fortune for this! Now you have really started on your wedding tour in the belief of all London, and all outside of London who take the Times; and all our world do take it. And now, if any rumor of this most inopportune disappearance of our bride should get out, why, it will never be believed! That is all! For has not the departure of the 'happy pair' been published in the Times? Yes, I am very glad of the news reporter's indiscreet precipitancy on this occasion, at least," concluded Lady Belgrade, as she turned to other "fashionable intelligence."

At that moment a footman entered the breakfast parlor and handed a business-looking card to the duke, saying, with a bow:

"If you please, your grace, the person is waiting in the hall."

"By your leave, Lady Belgrade?-Sims! show the man into the library, and tell him I will be with him in a few moments.-It is Detective Setter," said the duke, as he arose and left the breakfast parlor.

He found that officer awaiting him in the library.

"Any news?" inquired the duke, as he sank into a chair and signed to the visitor to follow his example.

"None, your grace. I have made diligent and careful investigations, in the neighborhoods mentioned by the lady's maid, but have found no trace of any Mrs. White or Brown that answered the rather vague description given. I shall, however, resume my search there," answered the man.

"There must be no cessation of the search until that woman is found. I need not caution you to use great discretion," said the duke, earnestly, but wearily, like a man breaking down under an intolerable burden of mental anxiety.

"Discretion is the very spirit of my business, your grace."

"What is to be your next step?"

"If your grace will permit me, I should like to examine the rooms of the lost lady, and I should like to question, singly and privately, the servants of the house."

"A thorough search has been made of the premises, including the apartments of the duchess. And every domestic on the premises has been examined and cross-examined."

"I do not doubt, your grace, that all this has been done as effectually as it could be done by any one, except a skillful and experienced detective; but if you will pardon me, I should like to make an examination and investigation in person."

"Certainly, Mr. Setter. Every facility shall be afforded you," said the duke, touching the bell.

A footman entered.

The duke drew a card from his pocket and wrote upon it:

"Detective Setter wishes to search the premises and cross-examine the servants. What does your ladyship say?"

The duke then placed the card in the hand of the footman, saying:

"Be so good as to take this to Lady Belgrade, and wait an answer."

The servant bowed and left the room.

"You are aware, Mr. Setter, that I am under the necessity of leaving London to-night, to attend the trial of Potts and Cameron to-morrow."

"As a witness for the Crown. I am, your grace."

"I shall get back to London as soon as possible. In the meantime, I wish you to pursue your investigations with the utmost diligence, sparing no expense. Report in person every morning and evening to Lady Belgrade in this house, and by telegraph to me at Lone, in Scotland. Use great discretion in wording your telegrams. Avoid the use of names, or titles, or, in fact, any terms, in referring to the duchess, that may identify her. I hope you understand me?"

"Perfectly, your grace. I also understand how to speak and write in enigmas. It is a part of my profession to do so," answered Mr. Setter.

The duke then drew out his portmonaie, opened it, selected two notes of fifty pounds each and put them in the hands of Setter, saying:

"Here are one hundred pounds. Spare no expense in prosecuting this search. Draw on me if you have occasion."

The detective bowed.

At the same moment the footman re-entered the room, bringing a card on a silver waiter, which he handed to the duke.

The duke took it and read:

"Your grace surely forgets that, as the husband of the heiress, you are the absolute master of the house, and your will is law here. Do as you think proper."

"You may go," said the duke to the messenger, who immediately retired.

"Now, Mr. Setter, do you wish to search the premises, or examine the servants first?" inquired the duke.

"Examine the servants first, your grace; as I may thereby gain some clew to follow in my search."

"Very well," said the duke, again touching the bell.

The prompt footman re-appeared.

"Whom do you wish called first?" inquired the duke.

"The lady's maid," answered the detective.

"Go and tell the duchess's maid that she is wanted here immediately," said the duke.

The footman bowed and went away on his errand.

A few minutes passed, and the lady's maid entered.

"This is-I really forget your name, my good girl," said the duke, apologetically.

"Margaret, sir; Margaret Watson," said the lady's maid, with a courtesy.

"Ay. This is Margaret Watson, the confidential maid of her grace, Mr. Setter. Margaret, my good girl, Mr. Setter wishes to put some questions to you, relating to the disappearance of your mistress. I hope you will answer his inquiries as frankly and fearlessly as you have answered ours," said the duke, as he took up a paper for a pretext and walked to the other end of the library, leaving the detective officer at liberty to pursue his investigations alone.

It is needless for us to go over the ground again. It is sufficient to say that Detective Setter questioned and cross-questioned the girl with all the skill of an old and experienced hand, and at the end of half an hour's sharp and close examination, he had obtained no new information.

The girl was dismissed, with a warning not to talk of the affair. And she was followed by the housekeeper, with no better result.

Thus all the domestics of the establishment were called and examined singly; but without success.

When the last servant was done with, and sent out of the room, the detective walked up to the duke.

"Well, Mr. Setter?" inquired the latter.

"Your grace, I have learned nothing from the servants but what you have already told me."

"Do you still wish to search the premises?"

"If your grace pleases. And I wish to begin with the apartments of the duchess."

"Then follow me. I myself will be your guide," said the duke, leading the way from the library.

It would be useless to accompany the detective in this third search. Let it be sufficient to say that this search was thorough, complete, exhaustive, and-unsuccessful.

It was late in the day when it was finished, and the duke and the detective returned to the library.

"You now perceive Mr. Setter, that a day has been lost in these repeated searchings and questionings, and no new information, no sign of a clew to the fate of the duchess has been gained. In an hour I must leave the house to catch the Great Northern Night Express. I leave-I am forced for the present, to leave the fate of my beloved wife in your hands. In saying that, I say that I leave more than my own life in your keeping. Use every means, employ every agency, spend money freely, the day you bring her safely to me, I will deposit ten thousand pounds in the Bank of England to your account."

"Your grace is munificent. If the duchess is on earth, I will find her;-not for the reward only, though it is certainly a very great inducement to a poor man with a large family; but for the love and honor I bear your grace and the late Sir Lemuel Levison," said the detective, earnestly, as he bowed and took leave.

The first dinner-bell rang.

The duke hastened to his own room, not to dress for dinner, but to prepare for his night journey to Scotland.

He ordered his valet to pack a valise with all that would be necessary for a few days' absence, and then sent him to call a close cab.

By this time the second dinner-bell rang, and the duke went down, not to dine, but to take leave of Lady Belgrade.

He found her ladyship in the drawing-room.

"Give me your arm to dinner, if you please, Duke," she said, rising.

"I hope you will excuse me; but I have only come to say good-by. I have but time to catch the train. Kerr has already put my luggage in the cab, which is waiting for me at the door. Good-by, dear Lady Belgrade. You will co-operate with Setter in all things necessary to a successful search, I know. Setter has my orders to report to you-"

"You take my breath away!" gasped the dowager.

"Write to me by every mail. Keep me informed of events-"

"You will kill yourself, Duke! flying off without your dinner, and looking fitter for going to bed than on a journey!" panted the dowager.

"Now then, good-by in earnest, dear Lady Belgrade, and God bless you," concluded the duke, raising her hand to his lips and bowing.

And before the dowager could say another word he was gone.

"Well, if he lives to be as old as I am, he will take things easier. Though, if he goes on at this rate, he won't live to be old," mused the old lady, as she slowly waddled into the dining-room, and took her seat at the table to enjoy her solitary green turtle soup.

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