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   Chapter 23 A STARTLING CHARGE.

The Lost Lady of Lone By Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Sout Characters: 16391

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:02


The Duke of Hereward was quite unable to account for the look of vindictive and deadly hatred and malice cast on him by Rose Cameron. He could only suppose that she mistook him for some one else, or that she unreasonably resented his active share in the prosecution of the search for the murderers of Sir Lemuel Levison.

He sat back in his seat and watched her while she stepped upon the witness-stand and turned to face the jury.

Every pair of eyes in the court-room were also fixed upon her. For it was believed that she had been an accomplice in the murder, as well as in the robbery, at Castle Lone, and that she had turned Queen's evidence in order to escape the extreme penalty of the law. And all there who looked upon her were as much dazzled by her wondrous beauty, as appalled by her awful guilt.

The Clerk of the Court administered the oath. The assistant Queen's Counsel proceeded to examine her.

"Your name is Rose Cameron?"

"Na! I'm nae Rose Cameron. I'm Rose Scott, and an honest, married woman," said the witness, turning a baleful look upon the Duke of Hereward, and letting her large, bold, blue eyes rove defiantly, triumphantly over the sea of human faces turned toward her. She never blenched a bit under the fire of glances fixed upon her. These glances would have pierced like spears any finer and more sensitive spirit. They never seemed to touch hers.

"What a handsome quean it is!" said some.

"What a diabolical malignity there is in her looks. Eh, sirs! The vera cut of her 'ee wad convict her, handsome as she is!" whispered another.

"Ay, she looks as if she could ha ta'en a hand in the murther as well as in the robbery," muttered a third. And so on.

These comments were made in so low a tone that they did not in the least disturb the decorum of the court.

"Your name is Rose Scott, then?" proceeded Counsellor Keir.

"Ay, it is."

"What is your age?"

"Twenty-six come next Michael-mas."

"Your residence?"

"Are ye meaning my hame?"

"Yes, your home."

"I dinna just ken. It used to be Ben Lone on the Duk' o Harewood's estate, when I waur a lass. Sin I hae been a guid wife I hae bided in Westminster Road, Lunnun."

At the mention of Westminster Road, the Duke of Hereward started slightly, and bent forward to give closer attention to the words of the witness.

"With whom did you live in Westminster Road?" proceeded the examiner.

"Wi' my ain guid man, ye daft fule!" exclaimed Rose Cameron, in a rage. "Wha else suld I bide wi'? And noo, ye'll speer nae mair questions anent my ain preevit life, for I'll nae answer any sic. A woman maunna gie testimony in open coort against her ain husband, I'm thinking."

"Certainly not."

"Sae I thocht!" said Rose Cameron, cunningly. "And sae ye'll speer nae mair questions anent my ain preevit affair; but just keep ye to the point, and it please ye! I am here to tell all I ken anent the murther and robbery at Castle Lone! Ay! and I will tell a' hang wha' it may!" she added, with a most vindictive glare at the Duke of Hereward.

"The witness is right so far. We have nothing whatever to do with her domestic status. Proceed with the examination, and keep to the point," interposed the judge.

"We will, my lord. We only wished to prove the fact that the witness was living on the most intimate terms with one of the parties suspected of the murder."

"I waur living wi' my ain husband, as I telt ye before, ye born idiwat! An' I'm no ca'd upon to witness for or against him. Sae I'll tell ye a' I ked anent the murther and the robbery at Castle Lone; but de'il hae me gin I tell ye onything else!" exclaimed Rose Cameron.

"The witness is quite right in her premises, though censurable in her manner of expressing them. Proceed with the examination," said the judge.

The assistant Q.C. bowed to the Bench and turned to the witness.

"Tell us, then, where you were on the night of the murder."

"I waur in the grounds o' Castle Lone."

"At what time were you there?"

"Frae ten till twal o' the clock."

"Were you alone?"

"For a guid part of the time I waur my lane i' the castle court."

"What took you out on the castle grounds alone at so late an hour?"

"I went there to keep my tryste with the Markis of Arondelle," answered the witness, with a sly, malignant glance at the young nobleman whose name she thus publicly profaned!

The Duke of Hereward started, and fixed his eyes sternly and inquiringly upon the bold, handsome face of the witness.

Her eyes did not for an instant quail before his gaze. On the contrary, they opened wide in a bold, derisive stare, until she was recalled by the questions of the examiner.

"Witness! Do you mean to say, upon your oath, that you went to Castle Lone at midnight to meet the Marquis of Arondelle?"

"Aye, that I do. I went to the castle to keep tryste wi' his lairdship, the Marquis of Arondelle. He wha was troth-plighted to the heiress o' Lone. Ae wha is noo ca'd his grace the Duk' o' Harewood!" said the witness, emphatically, triumphantly.

The statement fell like a thunderbolt on the whole assembly.

When Rose Cameron first said that she went to the castle to keep tryste with the Marquis of Arondelle, those who heard her distrusted the evidence of their own ears, and turned to each other, inquiring in whispers:

"What did she say?"

Or answering in like whispers:

"I don't know."

But now that she had reiterated her statement with emphasis and with triumph, they asked no more questions, but gazed in each other's faces in awe-struck silence.

And as for the Duke of Hereward! What on earth could a gentleman have to say to a charge as absurd as it was infamous, thus made upon him by a disreputable person in open court?

Why, to notice it even by denial would seem to be an infringement of his dignity and self-respect.

The Duke of Hereward, after his first involuntary start and stare of amazement, controlled himself absolutely, and sat back in his chair, perfectly silent and self-possessed under this ordeal.

Not so the senior counsel for the defence.

Rising in his place, he addressed the bench:

"My lord, we object to the question put to the witness, which, while it tends to compromise a lofty personage of this realm, can, in no manner, concern the case in hand. My lord, we are not trying his grace the Duke of Hereward."

"The bench has already instructed the counsel for the Crown to keep to the point at issue while examining the witness," said the presiding judge.

"Ou, ay! Ye are nae trying the Duk' o' Harewood, are ye nae? Aweel, then, I'm thinking ye'll be trying him before a's ower!" put in Rose Cameron, spitefully.

"Witness, tell the jury what occurred, within your own knowledge, while you were in the grounds of Castle Lone," said Mr. Keir.

"And how will I tell onything right gin I am forbid to name the name o' him wha wur maistly concernit?" demanded Rose Cameron.

"You are to give your own testimony in your own way, unless otherwise instructed by the bench," said Mr. Keir.

"Aweel, then, first of a', I went to the castle by appointment to meet Laird Arondelle, as he was then ca'd. I walked about and waited fu' an hour before his lairdship cam' till me."

"At what hour was that?"

"I heard the castle clock aboon Auld Malcom's Tower strike eleven when I cam' under the balcony o' the bride's chamber, whilk is nigh it. I waited fu' half an hour there before his lairdship cam' stealing through the shrubbery-De'il hae him, wha ha brocht a' this trouble on me!" exclaimed the witness, vehemently, as her eyes, fairly blazing with blue fire, fixed themselves on the face of the young duke.

The Duke of Hereward bore the searching glare quite calmly. He simply leaned back in his chair, with folded arms and attentive face, on which curiosity was the only expression.

"Mr. Keir," said the venerable Counsellor Guthrie, of the defence, "is all this supposed to concern the case before the jury?"

"Ay, does it!" cried Rose Cameron, before the lawyer addressed could reply. "Ay, does it, as ye will sune see, gin ye will gie me leave to speak."

Meanwhile the Duke of Here

ward took out his note-book and wrote these lines:

"Pray let the witness proceed without regard to her use of my name. I think the ends of justice require that she be suffered to give her testimony in her own way. Hereward."

He tore this leaf out and passed it on to Mr. Guthrie, who read it with some surprise, and then waved his hand to Mr. Keir, and sat down with the air of a man who had complied with an indiscreet request, and washed his hands of the consequences.

"The time of the court is being unnecessarily wasted. Let the examination of the witness go on," said the presiding judge.

"It shall, my lord," answered the Queen's Counsel, with an inclination of his white-wigged head. Then turning to the bold blonde on the stand, he proceeded:

"Witness, tell the jury what occurred that night under the balcony of Miss Levison's apartments at Castle Lone."

Rose Cameron threw another vindictive glance at the Duke of Hereward, and commenced her narrative.

Now, as her story was substantially the same that has been already given to the reader, it is not necessary to recapitulate it here. Only in one respect it differed from the stories she had hitherto told to her landlady or housekeeper, Mrs. Brown, of Westminster Road; as on this occasion she reserved all allusion to any real or fancied marriage between herself and the nobleman she claimed as her lover, and then accused as the accomplice of thieves and assassins, in the murder and robbery at Castle Lone, on the night preceding the day appointed for his own marriage with its heiress!

It would be impossible to describe the effect of this terrible testimony on the minds of all who heard it.

The Bench, the Bar, and the Jury, whom, it would seem, nothing in this world had power to startle, astonish, or discompose, sat like statues.

Scarcely less immovable was the young Duke of Hereward, the subject of this awful charge, who sat back in his seat with an air of grave curiosity, and with the composure of a man who was master of the situation.

But the crowd which filled the court-room seemed utterly confounded by what they heard. Upon the whole, they either disbelieved this witness, or distrusted their own ears. Their young laird, as she called the present duke, was their model of all wisdom, goodness, magnanimity. Truly, they had heard a rumor of some little love-making between the young laird and a handsome shepherdess at Ben Lone, probably this same Rose Cameron; even these rumors they did not fully credit; but that the noble young Duke of Hereward should be the accomplice of thieves and murderers in the robbery at Castle Lone, and the assassination of Sir Lemuel Levison, on the very night preceding the morning appointed for his marriage with Sir Lemuel's daughter!

Oh! the charge was too preposterous, as well as too horrible, to be entertained for an instant.

Finally the prevailing opinion settled into this: that the young laird had probably admired the handsome shepherdess a little, and had left her for the heiress; and that, from jealousy and for revenge, the girl was now perjuring herself to ruin her late lover.

Would her testimony be believed? Would it have weight enough to cause the arrest of the young duke?

"Eh, sirs! what an awfu' event the like o' that wad be!" whispered one gray-haired clansman to another.

And all bent eager ears to hear the remainder of the testimony which was still going on.

After relating the history of her journey to London, with the stolen treasure in charge, she proceeded to tell of the abrupt flight of "the duke," with the bulk of the treasure in his possession, and of her own subsequent arrest with the stolen jewels found in her apartments.

She was cross-examined by the defence, but without effect.

Her testimony, if it could be established, would ruin the Duke of Hereward, but could in no way affect the prisoner at the bar.

When the prosecution perceived this, they realized that they had been, in common parlance, "sold."

They were to be sold again.

"You may stand down," said Mr. Keir, sharply.

"Na, I hanna dune yet. I hae mair to say," persisted the witness.

"Say it, then."

"I ken it is nae lawfu' for a wife to gie testimony against her ain husband," said Rose Cameron, with a cunning leer that marred the beauty of her fine blue eyes.

"Certainly not. What has that to do with this case?"

"It hae a' things to do with it."

"Explain yourself, witness; and remember that you are on your oath."

"Ay, I weel ken the solemnity of an aith. And I hae telt the truth under aith; nathless, maybe my teestimony suld na be received."

"Why not?"

"Why no'? Why, gin a wife maunna teestify agin her ain husband, I suld na hae teestified agin the Duk' o' Harewood, who is my ain lawfu' husband!" said Rose Cameron, purposely raising her voice to a clear, ringing tone that was distinctly heard all over the court-room.

Had a shell fallen and exploded in their midst, it could scarcely have caused greater consternation.

"What said the lass?" questioned many.

"I dinna just ken," answered many others.

They certainly did not believe the report of their own ears on this occasion.

As for the Duke of Hereward, who was then engaged in writing a few lines on the fly-leaf of his note-book, he just looked up for a moment and was surprised into the first smile that had lighted his grave face since the opening of the trial.

The cool counsel who was conducting the examination of the witness, and whom nothing on earth could throw off his track, now proceeded to inquire:

"Witness! Do we understand you to say that you are the wife of his grace the Duke of Hereward?"

"Ay, just!" replied Rose Cameron, pertly. "Gin ye hae ony understanding at a', and gin ye are na the auld daft idiwat ye luke, ye'll understand me to say I am the lawfu' wedded wife o' the Duk' o' Harewood. Him as was marrit o' Tuesday last to the heiress o' Lone! Gin ye dinna believe me, I hae my marriage lines, gie me by the minister o' St. Margaret's Kirk, Weestminster, where he marrit me! Ou, ay! and I wad hae tell ye a' this in the beginning, only I kenned weel, if I did, ye wad na hae let me gae on gie' ony teestimony agin me ain husband. De'il hae him! But noo, as ye hae heerd the truth anent the grand villainy up in Castle Lone, I dinna mind telling ye wha I am. Ay, and ye may set aside my witness, gin ye like! But the whole coort hae noo heard it. Ay, and the whole warld s'all hear it, or a' be dune! And noo I am thinking ye'll een let the puir mon in the dock just gae free; and pit my laird, his greece, the nubble duk', intil the prisoner's place. Ye'll no hae to seek him far," added the woman, suddenly whisking around and facing the young Duke of Hereward, with a perfectly fiendish look of malice distorting her handsome face. "There he sits noo! he wha marrit me and afterwards marrit the heiress o' Lone! he wha betrayed me intil a prison, and wad hae betrayed me to the gallows, gin I had na been to canny for him! There he is noo, and he can na face me and deny it!"

The Duke of Hereward did not deign to deny anything. He passed the fly leaf, upon which he had written some lines, on to the old lawyer, Guthrie, who looked over it, nodded, and then rising in his place, addressed the Bench:

"My lord, we desire that the witness, who is now transcending the duties and privileges of the stand, be ordered to sit down."

"Oh! I'll sit down!" pertly interrupted Rose Cameron. "I hae had my ain way, and I hae said my ain say, and now I'll e'en gae-gin this auld fule be done wi' me."

"We have done with you; you can stand down," replied Mr. Keir, in mortification and disgust.

Rose Cameron stepped down from the stand with the air of a queen descending from her throne. In look and motion she was graceful and majestic as the antelope. You had to hear her speak to learn how really low and vulgar she was.

She darted one baleful blast of hatred from her blue eyes, as she passed the Duke of Hereward, and was then conducted back to the sheriff's room, where she was to be detained in custody until the conclusion of the trial.

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