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   Chapter 32 THE DUKE'S DOUBLE.

The Lost Lady of Lone By Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Sout Characters: 18456

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:02


First it is necessary to revert to the history of the Scotts of Lone, Dukes of Hereward.

He who married Salome Levison was the eighth of his princely line. Any one turning to Burke's Peerage of the preceding year, might have read this record of the late duke:

"Hereward, Duke of, (Archibald-Alexander-John Scott) Marquis of Arondelle and Avondale in the Peerage of England, Earl of Lone and Baron Scott in the Peerage of Scotland; born, 1st of Jan., 1800; succeeded his father as seventh duke, 1st Feb., 1840; married, first, March 15th, 1843, Valerie, only daughter of Constantine, Baron de la Motte; divorced, Nov, 1st, 1844; married, secondly, July 15th, 1845, Lady Katherine-Augusta, eldest daughter of the Earl of Banff, and has a son-Archibald-Alexander-John, Marquis of Arondelle, born 1st of May, 1846."

A whole domestic tragedy is comprised in one line of this record:

"Married, first, March 15th, 1843, Valerie, only daughter of Constantine, Baron de la Motte; divorced, Nov. 1st, 1844."

Now as to this poor, unhappy first wife:

Some few years before this first fatal marriage, the Baron de la Motte, one of the most illustrious French statesmen, was dispatched by his sovereign as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary from the Court of France to the Court of Russia.

The baron, with his suite, proceeding to St. Petersburg, accompanied by the baroness, a handsome Italian woman, and by their only child, Valerie, a beautiful brunette of only seventeen summers.

Valerie de la Motte was first introduced to the world of fashion at a great court ball, given by the Czar, in honor of the French Ambassador, in the Imperial Palace of Annitchkoff.

On this occasion the dark, brilliant beauty of Mademoiselle de la Motte, inherited from her Italian mother, was the more admired from its rarity and its perfect contrast to the radiant fairness of the Russian blondes. Here Valerie de la Motte met, for the first time, Waldemar de Volaski, the second son of the Polish Count de Volaski, and a captain of the Royal Guards, stationed at the palace. He was but twenty years of age, yet a model of fair, manly beauty. He was even then called "the handsomest man in all the Russias."

There was a Romeo and Juliet case of love at first sight between the young Russian officer and the youthful French heiress.

During the first season, the beauty's hand was sought by some among the most princely of the nobles that surrounded the throne of the Czar; but, to the disappointment of her ambitious parents, she refused them every one.

Certainly the French father might have followed the custom of his class and country, and coerced his young daughter into the acceptance of any husband he might have chosen for her; but he did not feel disposed to use harsh measures with his only and idolized child; he rather preferred to exercise patience and forbearance toward her, until she should have outlived what he called her childish caprices.

It was, however, no childish caprice that governed the conduct of Valerie de la Motte, but the unfortunate and fatal passion, inspired by the handsome young captain of the Royal Guards, whom she had waltzed with about a half a dozen times at the court balls.

Waldemar de Volaski was indeed as beautiful as the youthful god, Apollo Belvidere, and in his radiant blonde complexion a perfect contrast to the dark, splendid style of the lovely brunette, Valerie de la Motte; but he was only a younger son, with no hope or prospect of succession to his father's title or estates.

He did not dare openly to seek the hand of Mademoiselle de la Motte, for he knew that to do so would only be to have himself banished forever from her presence, by her ambitious father; but, loving her with all the passion of his heart, he sought secretly to win her love, and he succeeded.

It would seem strange that the carefully shielded daughter of the French minister should have been exposed to courtship by the young captain of the Royal Guards; but love is fertile in devices, and full of expedients, and "laughs," not only "at locksmiths," but at all other obstacles to its success.

The willful young pair loved each other ardently from the first evening of their meeting, and they could not endure to think of such a possibility as their separation. They found many opportunities, even in public, of carrying on their secret courtship. In the swimming turn of the waltz, hands clasped hands with more impassioned earnestness than the formula of the round dance required: in the casual meetings in the fashionable promenades of the beautiful summer gardens in Aptekarskoi Island-

"Eyes looked love to eyes that spake again.

And all went merry as a marriage bell,"

so long as they could see each other every day.

As the summer passed, the young captain, grown more confident, wrote ardent love letters to his lady, which were surreptitiously slipped into her hands at casual meetings, or conveyed to her by means of bribed domestics; and these the willful beauty answered in the same spirit, as opportunity was offered her by the same means. But-

"A change came o'er the spirit of their dream."

The French minister was recalled home by his sovereign, and only awaited the arrival of his successor to take an official leave of the Czar.

About this time a letter from Volaski to Valerie was sent by the captain's faithful valet, and put in the hands of the lady's confidential maid, who secretly conveyed it to her mistress. This letter, which was fiery enough to have set any ordinary post-bag in a blaze, declared, among other matters, that the lady's answer would decide the writer's fate, for life or for death.

Mademoiselle de la Motte sat down and wrote a reply which she sent by her confidential maid, who placed it in the hands of the captain's faithful valet, to be secretly carried to his master.

Whether the answer decided the fate of the lover for life or for death, it certainly controlled his action in an important matter. Immediately on its receipt he hastened to the Hotel de l'Etat Major, the headquarters of the army department, and solicited a month's leave of absence to visit his father's family.

As it was the very first occasion upon which the young officer had asked such a favor, it was promptly granted him.

Of course no one suspected that the cause of the young captain's action had been the announcement that the French minister had been recalled by his government, and was about to return to Paris.

The next day Waldemar de Volaski left St. Petersburg, ostensibly to visit his father's estates in Poland.

And the next week the French minister, having presented his successor to the Czar, and received his own conge, left the court and the city, and set out for France.

The ministerial party travelled by the new railway from St. Petersburg to Warsaw, a distance of nearly seven hundred miles.

At the capital of Poland they designed to stop a few days to rest the baroness, whose health was suffering.

One day while in that city the baroness, her daughter, and the lady's maid, went out together, shopping for curiosities in the Marieville Bazaar, a square in the midst of the city, surrounded by many gay arcades.

The square was full of visitors, and every arcade was crowded with customers.

The baroness became somewhat interested in her purchases, and from moment to moment turned to consult her daughter, who seemed ever ready so assist her choice.

At length, however, in speaking to Mademoiselle de la Motte, her mother failed to receive an answer.

Turning to rebuke the inattention of her daughter, the baroness discovered that Valerie was missing.

Thinking only that she had got mixed up with the crowd, yet feeling very much annoyed thereat, Madam de la Motte called her maid and instituted a search, only to find, with dismay, that Mademoiselle was nowhere in the square.

Believing then that the young girl must have taken the extraordinary and very reprehensible proceeding of returning to the hotel alone and resolving to give her daughter a severe reprimand for her imprudence, the baroness returned to their temporary home, only to learn that Mademoiselle de la Motte had not been seen there by any one since she had left the house in company with her mother, attended by her maid.

Fearing then that her daughter, in rashly attempting to return home alone, had lost herself in the streets of Warsaw, the baroness sent messengers in every direction to seek for her and guide her back.

Meanwhile the Baron de la Motte, who had been to inspect the fine gallery of paintings preserved in the old villa of Stanislaus Augustus, returned to his hotel, and was informed by the now half distracted baroness of the disappearance of their daughter.

The Baron, struck with dismay, inquired into the circumstances of the case, and was told of the shopping expedition to the Marieville Bazaar, where Valerie was first missed.

"It was at her own earnest solicitation that I took her there, to pick up some of the curiously carved jewelry and trinkets. First, she wished, in consideration of my health, to go there attended only by her maid; but I wo

uld not allow any such indiscretion. I took her there myself, and even while I was talking with her before one of the arcades, she vanished like a spirit! One moment she was there, the next moment she was gone! We looked for her immediately, but found no trace of her."

The baron replied not one word to this explanation, but took his hat and walked out to join the search for the missing girl, while the baroness remained in her rooms, a prey to the most poignant anxiety.

It was near midnight when the baron returned, looking full ten years older than he did when he went forth.

No trace of the missing girl had been found, and whether her disappearance was a flight or an abduction no one could even conjecture.

The condition of the agonized mother became critical; she could not be persuaded to lie down, or to cease from her restless walking to and fro in her chamber.

At length, a physician was summoned, who administered a potent sedative, which conquered her nervous excitement, and laid her in a blessed sleep upon her bed.

The next morning the search, which had not been quite abandoned even during the night, was renewed with great vigor, stimulated by the large rewards offered by the afflicted father for the recovery of his lost child; but still no trace of Valerie de la Motte could be found, no news of her be heard.

And so, without any change a week passed away, and then, while the baroness lay in extreme nervous prostration, hovering between life and death, and the baron crept about her bed like a man bowed down by the infirmities of age, and all hope seemed gone, a letter arrived from Mademoiselle de la Motte to her parents.

It was written from San Vito, a small mountain hamlet in the northern part of Italy. By this letter she informed them that she was safe and happy as the wife of Captain Waldemar de Volaski, who had long possessed her heart, and to whom she had just given her hand. She begged her father and mother to pardon her for having sought her happiness in her own way, and assured them, notwithstanding her seemingly unfilial conduct, she still cherished the strongest sentiments of love and honor toward them both, and ever remained their dutiful and affectionate daughter-Valerie de la Motte de Volaski.

The mother, who under any other circumstances, would have been overwhelmed with mortification and sorrow at this mesalliance of her daughter, was now so glad to know that Valerie was alive in health, even though as the bride of a poor young captain of the Guards, that she thanked Heaven earnestly, and rejoiced exceedingly.

But the baron who would as willingly have never heard of his lost daughter, as that she had so degraded herself, left his wife's bed-chamber abruptly, and went off to his smoking-room, where he could vent his feelings by cursing and swearing to his heart's content.

The next day the Baron de la Motte, breathing maledictions, set out for Italy, accompanied by the baroness, who had wonderfully rallied in health and strength since she had received news of her missing daughter.

The proud baroness was, in one respect, like the poor Hebrew mother of the Bible story. She preferred to give up her child to another claimant rather than lose that beloved child by death.

The baron's party traveled day and night, without pause or rest, until they crossed the northern frontier of Italy, and halted at the little hamlet of San Vito, at the foot of the Apennines.

Here they found the fugitive pair living a sort of Arcadian life: and here they learned the facts which they had not hitherto even suspected.

Captain Waldemar de Volaski and Mademoiselle Valerie de la Motte had loved each other from the first moment of their meeting at the ball given in honor of the French minister, at the Imperial Palace of Annitchkoff, and had betrothed themselves to each other during the first month of their acquaintance. They had kept their betrothal a secret, only because they felt assured it would meet with the most violent opposition from the young lady's haughty parents; but they had carried on a constant epistolary correspondence through the instrumentality of the lover's valet and the lady's maid; but they had not intended to take any decisive step, until, at length, they were both startled by the recall home of the French minister.

When the announcement of this event reached the ears of Waldemar de Volaski, he was filled with despair at the prospect of parting from his betrothed.

He instantly dashed off a hasty letter to Valerie de la Motte, earnestly entreating her to save his life, and his reason, and secure their happiness, by consenting to an immediate marriage.

Mademoiselle de la Motte, closing her ears to the voice of conscience and discretion, and listening only to the pleadings of a reckless and fatal passion, wrote a favorable answer.

They knew that their plan would be exceedingly difficult of execution; but this did not deter them.

They made their arrangements with more tact than could have been expected of so youthful a pair of lovers.

He obtained leave of absence and left St. Petersburg, as has been stated, upon the pretext of visiting his father's estate in Poland; but really with the intention of preceding the minister's party to Warsaw, where, he had learned, they would break their journey and remain for a few days to recruit the strength of the baroness.

There, disguised as a peasant, and concealed in the suburban cottage of a faithful retainer of his family, Waldemar de Volaski waited for the arrival of the baron's party.

Then, through the instrumentality of the lover's valet and the lady's maid, a meeting was arranged between the imprudent young pair, at the Marieville Bazaar.

There Mademoiselle de la Motte found her lover watching for her.

Taking advantage of a few minutes during which her mother was engaged in the examination of some curious malachite ornaments, Valerie de la Motte slipped into the thickest of the crowd, joined her lover, and escaped with him to the suburban hut of the old retainer, where she changed her clothes, and from whence, in the disguise of a page, and carrying her female apparel in a small valise, she finally fled with him to Italy.

They stopped at the little mountain hamlet of San Vito, where she resumed her proper dress, and where, by a lavish expenditure of money, and a liberal disbursement of fair words, Waldemar de Volaski prevailed on a priest to perform the marriage ceremony between himself and Valerie de la Motte.

When this was done, the reckless pair took lodgings at a vine-dresser's cottage in the neighborhood of the hamlet, to spend their honeymoon, and wait for "coming events."

The coming events came. The parents arrived, and found the lovers living carelessly and happily in their Arcadian home. Here the outraged and infuriated father thundered into the ears of the newly-married pair the terrible truth that their marriage was no marriage at all without his consent, but was utterly null and void in the law.

At this astounding revelation, Valerie, overwhelmed with humiliation, fainted and fell, and was tenderly cared for by her mother; but the gallant captain very coolly replied that he knew the fact perfectly well, and had always known it, although Mademoiselle de la Motte had not even suspected it; and he ventured to represent to the haughty baron, that their illegal marriage only required the sanction of his silent recognition to render it perfectly legal, and that for his daughter's own sake he was bound to give it such recognition.

This aroused the baron to a perfect frenzy of rage. He charged Volaski with having traded in Mademoiselle de la Motte's affections and honor, from selfish and mercenary motives alone, and swore that such deep, calculating villainy should avail the villain nothing. He would not ratify his daughter's marriage with such a caitiff, but would use his parental power to tear her from her unlawful husband's arms, and immure her in the living tomb of an Italian convent.

He finished by dashing his open hand with all his strength full into the mouth of the bridegroom, inflicting a severe blow, and covering the handsome face with blood.

Valerie de la Motte, in a fainting condition, was placed in the cart of a vine-dresser, the only conveyance to be found, and carried to a neighboring nunnery, where she lay ill for several weeks, tenderly nursed by her sorrowful mother and by the compassionate nuns.

The Baron de la Motte remained in the village, awaiting a challenge from Waldemar de Volaski; but when a week had passed away without such an event, the furious old Frenchman, bent upon his enemy's destruction, dispatched a defiance to Captain Volaski, couched in such insulting and exasperating language as compelled the young officer, much against his will, to accept it.

They met to fight their duel in a secluded glade of the forest, lying between the hamlet and the foot of the mountains.

At the first fire, Volaski, who was resolved not to wound the father of his beloved Valerie, discharged his pistol in the air, but instantly fell, shot through the lungs by the Baron de la Motte!

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