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   Chapter 26 OFF THE TRACK.

The Lost Lady of Lone By Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Sout Characters: 16501

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:02


It was eight o'clock in the morning of a dark and cloudy day, when the duke was finally aroused by the noise and confusion attending the arrival of the Great Northern Express train at King's Cross Station, London.

He shook himself wide awake, adjusted his wrap, and sprang out of his coupe, while yet his servant was but just bestirring himself.

The first man he met in the station was Detective Setter.

"How is she?" eagerly inquired the traveller, hastening to meet the officer.

"She is perfectly well, and expresses herself as not only willing, but anxious to see your grace," replied the detective.

"Not only willing! that is a strange phrase, too! But I presume I shall understand it all when I see her. Where is she?" demanded the duke.

"At the house on Westminster Road. The address was Westminster, and not Blackfriars Road."

"At the house on Westminster Road! Did you find her there?"

"I did your grace."

"But why, in the name of propriety, and good sense, does she not return home?"

"Your grace, she is at home," said the perplexed detective.

"Just now you told me that she was at the house on Westminster Road!" said the bewildered duke.

"Beg pardon, your grace, but the house on Westminster Road is her home. She has no other that I know of."

The duke stared at the detective a moment, and then hastily demanded:

"Who are you talking of?"

"Beg pardon again, your grace, but I am afraid there is some misunderstanding."

"Who are you talking about?"

"I am talking of the woman who came to the duchess just before she disappeared," answered the detective.

"Good Heaven!" exclaimed the duke, with such a look of deep disappointment that the detective hastened to deprecate his displeasure by saying:

"I am very sorry, your grace, that there should have been any misapprehension."

"You idiot!" were the words that arose spontaneously to the duke's lips; but they were not uttered. The "princely Hereward" habitually governed himself.

"Why did you not tell me in your telegram who was found?" he demanded.

"I certainly thought that your grace would have understood. In the telegram dispatched at nine o'clock yesterday morning, I told your grace that I had a clew to the woman who had called at Elmthorpe House on Tuesday. In the telegram sent at three in the afternoon, I said-'She is found.' I certainly thought your grace would understand that the woman to whom I had gained the clew was found. I grieve to know how much mistaken I was," sighed Mr. Setter.

"Ah! that accounts for everything. I never received that first telegram."

"Your grace never received it?"

"Certainly not."

"Then my messenger was false to his trust. I was so indiscreet as to send it to the office by a ticket porter, believing the fellow would do his duty faithfully, after having been paid in advance. The more fool I. I am certainly old enough to have known better!" said the detective, with a mortified air.

"Well Mr. Setter, it is useless to regret that mistake now. Be so good as to call a cab. We will go at once to Westminster Road and see this Mrs. Brown. What information has she given you?"

"None whatever, except this, which we knew before-that she visited the bride on the afternoon of the wedding day. She declines to tell me the nature of her business with the duchess; but says that she will explain it to you; she further denies all knowledge of the present abode of the duchess."

"Then we must lose no time in going to the woman," said the duke.

As he spoke, the cab which had been signalled by the detective drove up, and the cabman jumped down and opened the door.

The duke entered it and sat down on the back cushions.

His grace's servant, Kerr, came up to the window for orders.

"Take my luggage home to Elmthorpe House. Give my respects to Lady Belgrade, and say that I will join her ladyship this afternoon," said the duke.

The servant touched his hat and withdrew.

"To Number --, Westminster Road," ordered Mr. Setter, as he mounted to the box-seat beside the cabman.

The latter started his horses at a good rate of speed, so that a drive of about forty minutes brought them to their destination.

The detective jumped down and opened the door, saying,

"Excuse me, your grace; but, I think, perhaps I ought to go in first to ensure you an interview with the woman?"

"By all means go in first, officer. I will remain here in the cab until you return to summon me," answered the duke.

Detective Setter went up to the door and knocked, and then waited a few seconds until the door was opened, and he was admitted by an unseen hand.

A few minutes elapsed, and then detective Setter reappeared, and came up to the cab and said:

"She will see you at once, early as it is, your grace, I do not know what in the world possesses the old woman; but she is chuckling in the most insane manner in the anticipation of meeting you 'face to face,' as she calls it."

"Well, we shall soon see," said the duke, as, with a resigned air, he followed Mr. Setter into the house.

The detective led him up stairs to the gaudy parlor which had once been Rose Cameron's sitting-room.

There was no one present; but the detective handed a chair to the duke, and begged him to sit down and wait for Mrs. Brown's appearance.

The duke threw himself into the chair, and gazed around him upon the garish scene, until a chamber door opened, and Mrs. Brown, in her Sunday's best suit, sailed in. The duke arose.

Mrs. Brown came on toward him, courtesying stiffly, and saying:

"Good morning to you, Mr. Scott! It is a many months since I have had the pleasure of seeing you in this house."

The duke was not so much amazed at this greeting as he might have been, had he not heard the astounding testimony of Rose Cameron. So he answered quietly:

"I do not think, madam, that you ever 'had the pleasure' of seeing me 'in this house' or, in fact, anywhere else. I have never seen you in my life before."

"Oh! oh! oh! here to the man! He would brazen it out to my very face!" exclaimed Mrs. Brown.

The duke started and flushed crimson as he stared at the woman.

"Oh, I am not afeard of you! Deuce a bit am I afeard of you! You may glare till your eyes drop out, but you'll not scare me! And you may be the Markiss of Arondelle and the Duke of Hereward, too, for aught I know, or care either! But you were just plain Mr. John Scott to me, and also to that poor, wronged lass whom you have betrayed into prison, if not unto death! And now, Mr. John Scott, as you wished to see me (and I can guess why you wished to see me,) and as I have no objection to see you, besides having something of importance to tell you, perhaps you will send that man off," said Mrs. Brown pointing to the detective.

"No. I prefer that Mr. Setter should stay here, and be a witness to all that passes between us," answered the duke.

"All right. It is no business of mine, and no shame of mine. Only I thought as you mightn't like a stranger to hear all your secrets, and I wish to spare your feelings," said the woman.

"I beg you will not consider my feelings in the least, madam," answered the duke, with a slight smile of amusement; "and I hope you will allow Mr. Setter to remain," he added.

"Oh, in course! I have no objection, if you have none."

"Pray go on and say what you have to say," urged the duke.

"Then, first of all, I have to tell you that I know why you have come here. You have come to inquire about Miss Salome Levison, the great banker's heiress."

"You are speaking of the Duchess of Hereward, madam," interrupted the duke, in a stern voice.

"No, I'm not. I am speaking of Miss Salome Levison. She is not the Duchess of Hereward. I don't know but one Duchess of Hereward, and her you are ashamed to own," spitefully added Mrs. Brown.

"You are a woman, aged and insane, and therefore entitled to our utmost indulgence," said the duke, putting the strongest control upon himself. "But tell me now, what was your business with the Lady of Lone, upon whom you called at Elmthorpe House on Tuesday afternoon?"

"I went from your true wife, whom you had betrayed into prison, to your false wife, to let her

know what you were, and to tell her that there was but one step between herself and ruin!"

"Good Heaven! you did that!" exclaimed the duke, utterly thrown off his guard.

"Yes, I did! And I showed the young lady your real wife's marriage lines, all regularly signed and witnessed by the rector of St. Margaret's and the sexton, and the pew-opener! I did! And there were letters in your own handwriting, and photographs, the very print of you, which I took along with the marriage lines, to prove my words when I told her that you had been married for over a year, and had lived in my house with your wife all that time!"

"Heaven may forgive you for that great wrong, woman; but I never can! And-the lady believed you?"

"Of course she did! How could she help it, when she saw all the proofs? It almost killed her. Indeed, and I think it did quite craze her! But she saw her duty, and she had the courage to do it! She knew as she ought to leave you, before the false marriage could go any further. So she left you. I do really respect her for it!"

"In the name of Heaven, where did she go? Tell me that! Tell me where to find her, and I may be able to pardon the great wrong you have done us under some insane error," said the husband of the lost wife, striving to control his indignation.

"Indeed, then," exclaimed Mrs. Brown, defiantly, "I am not asking any pardon at all from you, Mr. Scott. It ain't likely as I'll want pardon from Heaven for doing my duty, much less from you, Mr. John Scott. Oh, yes! I know you are called the Duke of Hereward; and no doubt you are the Duke of Hereward; but I knew you as Mr. John Scott, and nobody else; and I knew a deal too much of you as him. But as to wanting your pardon-that's a good one!"

"Will you be good enough to tell me where my wife, the Duchess of Hereward, has gone?" demanded the duke, putting a strong curb upon his anger.

"You know where she is well enough. She is in the trap you set for her!" spitefully answered the woman.

In truth, the duke needed all his powers of self-control to enable him to reply calmly:

"I ask you to tell me where is the Lady of Lone, to whom you went on Tuesday afternoon, with a story which has driven her from her home, and driven her, perhaps, to madness, or to death. I charge you to tell me, where is she?"

"Ah! where is Miss Salome Levison, the heiress of Lone, you ask! Exactly! That is what you would give a great deal to know, wouldn't you! You want to follow and join her, and live with her abroad, because you have got a wife living in England. You're a noble duke, so you are! Well, if this is what the nobility are a coming to, the sooner them Republicans have it all their own way the better, I say!" exclaimed Mrs. Brown, throwing herself back in her chair and folding her arms.

Detective Setter here joined the Duke of Hereward, and deferentially drew him away to the other end of the room, and whispered:

"I beg your grace not to remain here, subjected to the insolence of this mad woman, whose every second word is treason or blasphemy, or worse, if anything can be worse. Leave me to deal with her. A very little more, and I shall arrest her on the grave charge of conspiracy."

"No, Setter, do nothing of the sort. Use no violence; utter no threats. Now, if ever-here, if anywhere-is a crisis, at which we must be not only 'wise as serpents, but harmless as doves,' if we would gain any information from this woman," answered Salome's husband, as he walked back and rejoined Mrs. Brown.

"Will you tell me, on any terms, where the Lady of Lone is to be found?" he inquired.

"Humph! I like that! Aren't you a sharp? You can't call her the duchess, and you won't call her Miss Levison, so you call her the Lady of Lone, anyway!" exclaimed Mrs. Brown, with a chuckling laugh.

"But, will you, for any price, tell me where she has gone?" repeated the duke.

"As to where Miss Salome Levison has gone, I would not tell you to save your life, even if I could. I could not tell you, even if I would. I left her sitting in her bed-chamber at Elmthorpe House, on that Tuesday afternoon after her false marriage. She was sitting clothed in her deep mourning travelling suit, as she had put on again for her father directly the wedding breakfast was over. She looked the very image of sorrow and despair. She did not tell me where she was going. I don't believe she even knew herself. There, that's all that I have got to tell you, even if you had the power to put me on the rack, as you used to have in the bad old times!" exclaimed Mrs. Brown, once more folding her arms and settling herself in her chair.

The Duke of Hereward walked toward the detective officer.

"There is nothing more to be learned from the woman, at present, Setter. We have already gained much, however, in the knowledge of the base calumny that drove the duchess from her home. It is a relief to be assured that she has not fallen among London thieves. She has probably gone abroad. You must inquire, discreetly, at the London Bridge Railway Stations, for a young lady, in deep mourning, travelling alone, who bought a first-class ticket, on Tuesday evening. There, Setter! There is a mere outline of instructions. You will fill it up as your discretion and experience may suggest," concluded the duke, as he drew on his gloves.

"I would suggest, your grace, that we go to St. Margaret's Old Church, where this strange marriage, in which they try to compromise you, is said to have taken place, and which is close by," said the detective.

"By all means, let us go there and look at the register," assented the duke.

They took leave of Mrs. Brown, and left the house.

Five minutes drive took them to Old St. Margaret's.

They were fortunate as to the time. The daily morning service was just over, and the curate who had officiated was still in the chancel.

The Duke of Hereward went in, and requested the young clergyman to favor him with a sight of the parish register.

The curate complied by inviting the two visitors to walk into the vestry.

He then placed two chairs at the green table, requested them to be seated, and laid before them the brass-bound volume recording the births, marriages and deaths of this populous, old parish.

The Duke of Hereward turned over the ponderous leaves until he came to the page he sought.

And there he found, duly registered, signed and witnessed, the marriage, by special license, of Archibald-Alexander-John Scott and Rose Cameron, both of Lone, Scotland.

"The mystery deepens," said the duke as he pointed to the register.

"It is incomprehensible," answered the detective.

"That is my name," added the duke.

"Some imposter must have assumed it," suggested the officer.

"Then the imposter, in taking my name, must have also taken my face and form, voice and manner, for though, upon my soul, I never married Rose Cameron, there are two honest women who are ready to swear that I did!" whispered the duke, with a humorous twinkle in his eyes; for there were moments when the absurdity of the situation overcame its gravity.

The duke then thanked the curate for his courtesy and left the church, attended by the detective.

"Where shall I tell the cabman to drive?" inquired Setter, as he held the door open after his employer had entered the cab.

"To Elmthorpe House, Kensington. And then, get in here, with me, if you please, Mr. Setter. I have something to say to you," answered his grace.

The detective gave the order and entered the cab.

The duke then made many suggestions, drawn from his own intimate knowledge of the tastes and habits of the duchess, to assist the detective in his search.

"You may safely leave the whole affair in my hands, sir. I will act with so much discretion that no one in London shall suspect that the Duchess of Hereward is missing. For the rest, I have no doubt that we shall soon find out the retreat of her grace. A young lady, dressed in elegant deep mourning, and travelling unattended, would be sure to have attracted attention and aroused curiosity, even in the confusion of a crowded railway station. We are safe to trace her, your grace," said Detective Setter, confidently.

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