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   Chapter 25 WHO WAS FOUND!

The Lost Lady of Lone By Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Sout Characters: 19259

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:02


"She is found."

"Who is found? The lost bride, or that mysterious messenger who was with the fugitive an hour before her flight, who was suspected to have lured her away, and who might be able to give a clew to her whereabouts? Good Heaven! why could not the detective have sent a definite message?" thought the duke, as he studied the telegram.

Suddenly his face lighted up as he said to himself. "It is Salome who is found! Of course it must be Salome, since no one else was really lost. It is Salome, and that is the very reason why Setter spoke so indefinitely; for I remember now that I instructed him to avoid using the name of the duchess in any telegram. Salome is found! Ah! I thank Heaven! She is found! But-" he reflected with a sudden re-action of feeling-"how, where, when, by whom, under what circumstances was my bride found? Is she well or ill? Can she give any satisfactory explanation of her absence?" were the next anxious, soul-racking questions that chased each other through his mind.

"Oh, for the strong pinions of the eagle, that I might fly to her at once and satisfy all these anxious doubts," he breathed.

It was now but six o'clock in the afternoon. The first train for London would not stop at Lone until midnight, and would not reach London until eight o'clock the next morning-fourteen hours of suspense!

He could not bear that.

The telegraph operator was about to close the office.

The duke stopped him by saying:

"I wish to send a telegram to London."

"It is after hours, your grace," answered the operator, very deferentially.

"I will pay you whatever you may demand for your extra services, over and above your usual fee," said the duke.

The operator hesitated.

"That is to say, if there is no rule in your office to forbid it," added the duke.

"There is no rule to prevent it, your grace. My time is up, and I was about to go home to supper, that was all. I will send your grace's message, if you please," the operator explained, as he took his seat again.

The duke hastily dashed off the following message:

Lone, N.B., October 31st, 6 P.M.

To J.A. Setter, Police Station, Old Church Court, Kensington, London: Shall leave for London by this midnight express-train. Is she quite well? Answer immediately. Hereward.

The operator took the message with a bow. The click of the instrument was soon heard, as the message, with the speed of light, flew on its errand.

"Will you remain here until I can receive an answer?" inquired the duke, as soon as the sound ceased.

"I should be happy to accommodate your grace; but if there should be no answer, say up to twelve o'clock?" suggested the young man.

"In that case I should not ask you to remain; as you must know by my telegram that I am to take the train for London at that hour."

"Certainly, your grace; but I thought it possible that you might wish the message taken to some other person in the event of your absence."

"Not at all. I want it for myself alone. If it does not come before twelve I shall have no use for it."

"Then I will remain here until midnight, if necessary; but it may not be necessary."

"And you shall set your own price upon your time," said the duke.

"Thanks, your grace; I am happy to be able to accommodate you; and would prefer to leave all other considerations to yourself," said the young man, very politely and-politicly.

Even while they spoke, a warning vibration of the wires was perceived, followed by the click, click, click, of the instrument.

"There is a message coming-most probably an answer to yours, though it is very soon to get one," said the operator, as he turned to give his whole attention to his work.

The duke looked on with breathless eagerness.

As soon as the sound ceased, the operator drew off the message and handed it to the duke, who seized it and hastily read;

"London, October, 31st, 7 P.M.

"To The Duke of Hereward, Lone, N.B.: She is perfectly well. J.A. Setter."

"Thank Heaven! I breathe freely now!" said the young duke to himself, as he arose from his seat.

He liberally rewarded the telegraph operator, and then left the office and walked back to the inn.

The Arondelle Arms was all alive with excitement. More travellers had come down from Banff, and the inn was crowded, principally by men of the Clan Scott. Every room was filled, every window lighted up. The bar and the tap room reeked.

The duke was making his way through the crowd as best he might, when he was met by the landlord, who bowed, and apologized, and finally offered to conduct his grace by a private entrance to the parlor connected with the duke's own reserved suit of apartments.

"An' noo, what will your grace hae to your supper?" hospitably inquired the host, as soon as his guest was comfortably seated in his arm-chair before the fire.

"Anything at all, so that it is cleanly served, for which I can, of course, trust the Arondelle Arms," said the duke, smiling.

The landlord bowed and went out.

The duke leaned back in his chair, and stretched his feet to the genial warmth of the fire.

He was feeling very happy. An immense load of anxiety was lifted from his heart. She was found! She was perfectly well! In twelve hours he would see her, and hear her own explanation of her very strange conduct. Her explanation would be perfectly satisfactory. So great was his confidence in her that he felt sure of this.

She was found. She was perfectly well. There was nothing to prevent them from starting on their wedding tour as soon as they might wish to do so. They would, therefore, leave London by the tidal train for Dover on the next afternoon. The world would take it for granted that the wedding tour had been interrupted and delayed only by the trial. The world would never suspect Salome's strange escapade.

While these thoughts were passing through the mind of the duke, the waiter came in and laid the cloth for supper.

And soon the landlord himself entered, bearing a tray on which was arranged a choice bill of fare, the principal item of which was a roasted pheasant.

The duke who had scarcely tasted food during the twenty-four hours of his terrible anxiety, now that his anxiety was relieved, felt his appetite return, demanding refreshment at the rate of compound interest.

He sat down to the table. The landlord waited on him.

The honest host of the Arondelle Arms was "dying," so to speak, for a confidential conversation with his noble guest. For some little time his respect for the Duke of Hereward held his curiosity in check; but at length curiosity conquered respect, and he burst forth with:

"That wad be an unco impudent claim, the hizzie Rose Cameron tried to set up agin your grace, as I hear all the folk say out by-the jaud maunn be clear daft."

"It would be charitable to suppose that she is 'daft,' as you call it, landlord. It would be well if a jury could be persuaded to think so, as, in that case, it would save her from the penalty of perjury. But we will speak no more of the poor girl. Take away the service, if you please," said the duke, quietly.

The landlord, balked of his desire to gossip, bowed, and cleared the table.

It was not yet nine o'clock. There were more than three hours to be passed before the express-train for London would reach Lone.

The duke, refreshed by his supper, felt no sense of weariness, no disposition to lie down and sleep away the three remaining hours of his stay. His mind was in too excited a condition to think of sleep. Neither could he read.

So, soon after he was left alone by the landlord, he arose and sauntered out through the private entrance into the night air.

The streets of the village were very quiet, for the reason that on this night the men were all collected at the Arondelle Arms, discussing the events of the day; and at this hour the women were all sure to be in their houses, putting their children to bed, setting bread to rise, or "garring th' auld claithes luke amaist as guid as the new."

The hamlet was very still under the starlit sky.

The Arondelle Arms, lighted up and musical, was the only noisy spot about it.

The mountains stood, grand and silent, like gigantic sentinels around it.

The lake, the island, and the castle of Lone lay beneath it.

A sudden impulse seized the duke to cross the bridge, and re-visit once more the home of his youth, the scene of his family's disaster, the stage of that frightful tragedy which had shocked the civilized world.

He went down to the beach, and stepped upon the bridge. Now, no floral wedding decorations wreathed the arches. All was bare and bleak beneath the last October sky.

He crossed the bridge and entered on the grounds of the castle. All here was sear under the late autumnal frosts. He did not approach the castle walls. He would not disturb the servants at this hour. He walked about the grounds until he heard the clock in Malcolm's Old Tower strike ten. Then he turned his steps toward the hamlet.

Just before he reached the bridge, he overtook the tall, dark figure of a man, clothed in a long, close overcoat, in shape not unlike a priest's walking habit. The man tottered and stumbled as he walked, so that the duke was soon abreast to him. And then he discovered the wanderer to be John Potts, valet to the late Sir Lemuel Levison.

The young Duke of Hereward shrunk from this man. He could not bring himself to speak with one whom he could not, in his own mind, clear from suspicion.

He passed the valet, walking quickly, and gaining the bridge.

Then he h

eard footsteps rapidly following him, and the voice of the ex-valet excitedly calling after him:

"My Lord Arondelle! oh! I beg pardon! Your grace! Your grace! For the love of Heaven, let me speak to you!"

Thus adjured, the Duke of Hereward paused, and permitted the ex-valet to come up beside him.

The wretched man was out of breath, pale, panting, trembling, ready to faint. He tottered toward the bulwarks of the bridge, grasped them, and leaned on them for support.

"What do you want of me, Potts?" inquired the duke.

"Oh, your grace! only to speak to you!" gasped the man.

"What can you have to say to me?" sternly demanded the duke.

"This, your grace!" said the man, suddenly springing forward and falling on his knees at the feet of the duke. "This I have to say, your grace! Although the Court has not cleared me, I am innocent of my master's blood! I am! I am! I am! as the Heaven above us hears and knows! Oh! say you believe me, my lord duke!" cried the poor wretch, wringing his hands.

"Your words and manner are very impressive; nevertheless, I cannot place confidence in them," said the duke, coldly.

"Oh, my lord! my lord! Oh, my lord! my lord!" groaned the valet, lifting both his hands to heaven, as if in appeal from a great injustice.

The duke was moved.

"If you are guiltless, why should you care whether I, or any other fallible mortal, should consider you guilty?" he inquired.

"Oh," cried the man, clasping his hands with the energy of despair-"because every body thinks me guilty! No one believes me innocent, though I am guiltless of my master's blood, so help me Heaven!"

"The circumstances, though not enough to convict you in a court of law, where every doubt must go in favor of the accused, were still strong enough to lay you under suspicion, and open to a second arrest and trial for your life, should new evidence turn up," quietly replied the duke.

"I know it! I know it, your grace. But no new evidence against me can turn up! Lord grant that evidence in my favor might do so! But that cannot happen either. The circumstances that accused, but could not convict, nor acquit me, leave me still under the ban! Yes! under the ban I must remain! But do not you, my lord duke, believe me guilty of my master's death! Guilty of much I am! Guilty of neglect of duty, but not of my master's death! The Heavens that hear me know it! Oh, pray, pray try to believe it, my lord duke!" pleaded the wretch, still kneeling, still lifting his clasped hands in an agony of appeal.

"Get upon your feet, Potts. Never kneel to any man. To do so is to degrade yourself and the man to whom you kneel. Get up, before I speak another word to you," said the duke.

The miserable creature struggled to his feet and stood leaning against the bulwarks of the bridge, for support.

"Now, then, if you are not guilty, if your conscience acquits you in the sight of Heaven of all complicity in your late master's death, why should you feel and show such extreme distress-distress that has worn your frame to a skeleton, and stricken your life with old age?" gravely demanded the duke.

"Why?-oh, your grace! I loved my master as a son his father! He was more like a father than a master to me. And he was cut off suddenly by a bloody death! In the midst of my grief for his loss I was arrested and accused of murdering him-my beloved master. I have seen the gallows looming before me for the last three months. I have been shut in prison, with no companions but my own awful thoughts. I have been put on trial for my life. And though the jury could not convict me, it would not acquit me! though I am set at large for the present, I am subject to re-arrest and trial for death, if new evidence, however false, should arise against me. Meanwhile, no one believes me innocent. All believe me guilty. No one will ever speak to me. They made the inn too hot to hold me. My life is ruined-my heart is broken! Is not all that enough, lord duke, to have worn my body to a skeleton and turned my hair gray, without remorse of conscience?" impetuously demanded the man.

"No, Potts, it is not. Nothing but remorse, it seems to me, could so reduce a man," gravely replied the duke.

"Oh, your grace! you still believe me guilty of my good master's murder!" passionately exclaimed the man. "Ah, Heaven! what will become of me? I shall die unless I can have the stay of some one's faith in me!"

"Potts," said the duke, in a softened tone, "I do not now think that you had any active or conscious share in the foul murder of Sir Lemuel Levison. But not the less do I see that you are suffering from remorse. You are still keeping something back from me!" he added, very solemnly.

The valet groaned, but made no answer.

"That is the reason why I have no confidence in you," said his grace.

The valet wrung his gaunt hands, but continued silent.

"Now I do not ask you to confide in me; but I will give you this warning-so long as you hold in your bosom a secret which, if revealed, would bring the real criminal to justice, so long you will yourself remain the object of suspicion from others and the victim of remorse in yourself. Now, Potts, I must leave you; for I must get to Lone in time to catch the London express. Good-night," said the duke, as he moved away.

"One moment more, oh, my lord duke! for the love of Heaven! One moment to do a piece of justice," pleaded the ex-valet, tottering after the young nobleman.

"Well, well, what is it now?" inquired the latter, pausing and turning back.

"That poor, misguided girl, Rose Cameron," said the valet.

"Well, what of her, man?" impatiently demanded the young nobleman.

"Listen, my lord duke! You saw her committed to prison on the charge of perjury."

"A charge that she was self-convicted of."

"My lord duke, she was not guilty of perjury!" sighed the valet.

"What! What is that you say?" quickly demanded the duke.

"I say, Rose Cameron, poor misguided girl that she was, did not, however, perjure herself-intentionally I mean," repeated John Potts.

"Is she mad, then? The victim of a monomania?" gravely inquired the duke, fixing his eyes upon the troubled face of the valet.

"No, your grace, she was never more in her right senses."

"What do you mean? Do you dare-"

"My lord duke, I dare nothing. I never was a daring man; if I had been, the daring would have been taken out of me by the troubles of this last quarter of a year! But, my lord duke, I am right. Rose Cameron did not intentionally perjure herself, neither is she mad. Rose Cameron believes in her heart every word of the statement she made under oath in the open court this morning."

While the man thus spoke, the duke looked fixedly at him in perfect silence, in the forlorn hope of hearing some solution to the enigma.

"Rose Cameron was deceived, my lord duke-grossly, cruelly, basely deceived-not in one respect only, but in many. She was, first of all, deceived into the idea of being the wife of a gentleman of high rank, when, in fact she is nobody's wife at all. Next she was deceived into becoming an accomplice in a robbery and murder, of which she was as ignorant and as innocent as-as myself. She could not have been more so!"

"Who was her deceiver?" sternly demanded the duke.

"I beg pardon. I know no more than your grace! I only presumed to speak about it, so as to explain the strange conduct of that poor girl, and clear her of intentional penury in your sight," said the valet, meekly.

"Potts, you know much more than you are willing to divulge. You have, however, unwittingly given me a clew that I shall take care to follow up. Once more let me warn you to get rid of sinful secrets, and amend your life, if you wish to be at peace. Good-night."

So saying, the duke walked rapidly away to make up for the time lost in talking with the ex-valet.

It was after eleven o'clock when he reached the Arondelle Arms, yet the little hostel gave no signs of closing. The windows were all still ablaze with light, and the bar and the tap-room were uproarious with fun. Evidently the Clan Scott had been drinking the health of the duke and duchess until they had become-

"Glorious!

O'er all the ills of life victorious!"

The duke slipped in at the private entrance and gained his own apartment, where he found his valet engaged in packing his valise.

He sent the man out to pay the tavern bill.

In a few minutes Kerr returned, accompanied by the landlord, who brought the receipt, and inquired if his grace would have a carriage.

"No," the duke said; as the distance was short, he preferred to walk to the station.

In a few moments he left the inn, followed by his valet carrying his valise.

They caught the train in good time, having just secured their tickets when the warning shriek of the engine was heard, and it thundered up to the station and stopped.

The duke, followed by his servant, entered the coupe he had secured for the journey.

Three nights of sleeplessness, anxiety and fatigue had prostrated the vital forces of the young nobleman, and so, no sooner had the train started, than he sat himself comfortably back among his cushions, and, being now in a great measure relieved from suspense, he fell into a deep and dreamless sleep. This sleep continued almost unbroken through the night, and was only slightly disturbed by the bustle of arrival when the train reached a large city on its route. He awoke when it arrived at Peterborough; but fell asleep again, and slept through the long twilight of that first day of November.

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