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The Lost Lady of Lone By Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Sout Characters: 17039

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:02

Waldemar de Volaski, left as dead upon the duelling ground by his antagonist, the Baron de la Motte, was tenderly lifted by his second and the surgeon in attendance, laid upon a stretcher, and conveyed to the infirmary of a neighboring monastery, where he was charitably received by the brethren.

When he was laid upon a bed, undressed, and examined, it was discovered that he was not dead, but only swooning from the loss of blood.

When his wound was probed, it was found that the bullet had passed the right lobe of the lungs, and lodged in the flesh below the right shoulder blade. To extract it, under the circumstances, or to leave it there, seemed equally dangerous, threatening, on the one hand, inflammation and mortification, and, on the other, fatal hemorrhage. Therefore, the surgeon in charge of the case sent off to the nearest town to summon other medical aid, and meanwhile kept up the strength of the patient by stimulants. In the consultation that ensued on the arrival of the other surgeons, it was decided that the extraction of the bullet would be difficult and dangerous; but that in it lay the only chance of the patient's life.

On the next morning, therefore, Waldemar de Volaski was put under the influence of chloroform, and the operation was performed. His youth and vigorous constitution bore him safely through the trying ordeal, but could not save him from the terrible irritative fever that set in and held him in its fiery grasp for many days there after.

He was well tended by the holy brotherhood, who sent to the vine-dresser's cottage for information concerning him, that they might find out who and where were his friends, and write and apprise them of his condition.

But the vine-dresser could tell the monks no more than this-that the young man and young woman had come as strangers to the village, were married by the good Father Pietro in the church of San Vito, and had come to lodge in his cottage. The young pair had lived as merrily as two birds in a bush until the sudden arrival of an illustrious and furious signore, who tore the bride from the arms of her husband, and carried her off to the convent of Santa Madelena. That was all the vine-dresser knew.

The surgeon supplemented the vine-dresser's story with an account of the duel between the enraged baron and the young captain.

The good Father Pietro was next interviewed, and gave the names of the imprudent young pair whom he had tied together, as Waldemar Peter de Volaski and Valerie Aimee de la Motte; but besides this, who they were, or whence they came, he could not tell.

Inquiries were made in the village of San Vito, which only resulted in the information that the "illustrious" strangers had departed with their daughter no one knew whither.

Meanwhile the unfortunate victim of the duel tossed and tumbled, fumed and raved in fever and delirium, that raged like fire for nine days, and then left him utterly prostrated in mind and body. Many more days passed before he was able to answer questions, and weeks crept by before he could give any coherent account of himself.

His first sensible inquiry related to his bride.

"Where is she? What have they done with her?" he demanded to know.

"The illustrious signore has taken the signorita away with him, no one knows whither," answered the monk who was minding him.

"I know-so he has taken her away?-I know where he has taken her,-to Paris," faltered the victim, and immediately fainted dead away, exhausted by the effort of speaking these words.

His next question, asked after the interval of a week, related to the length of time he had been ill.

"How long have I lain stretched upon this bed?" he asked.

"The Signore Captain has been here four weeks," answered his nurse.

"Great Heaven! then I have exceeded my month's leave by two weeks! I shall be court-martialed and degraded!" cried the patient, starting up in great excitement, and instantly swooning away from the reaction.

In this manner the recovery of the wounded man became a matter of difficulty and delay; for as often as he rallied sufficiently to look into his affairs, their threatening aspect threw him back prostrated.

He recovered, however, by slow degrees.

As soon as he was able to sustain the continued exertion of talking, he requested one of the brothers on duty in the infirmary to write two letters at his dictation. The first was addressed to the colonel of his regiment, informing that officer of the long and severe illness of Captain de Volaski, and petitioning for the invalid an extended leave of absence. The other was to the Count de Volaski, apprising that nobleman of the condition of his son, and imploring him to hasten at once to the bedside of the patient.

The next morning Waldemar de Volaski sat up in bed and asked for stationery, and wrote with his own weak and trembling hand a short letter to his youthful bride-telling her that he had been very ill, but was now convalescent, and that as soon as he should be able to travel he would hasten to Paris and claim his wife in the face of all the fathers, priests and judges in Paris, or in the world. He addressed her as his well beloved wife, signed himself her ever-devoted husband, and had the temerity to direct his letter to Madame Waldemar de Volaski, Hotel de la Motte, Rue Faubourg St. Honore, Paris.

The mail left St. Vito only twice a week, so that the three letters left the post office on the same day to their respective destinations; one went to St. Petersburg, to the Colonel of the Royal Guards; one to Warsaw, to the Count de Volaski; and one to Paris, to Madame de Volaski.

In the course of the next week the writer received answers from all three letters. The first came from the colonel of his regiment, enclosing an extension of his leave of absence to three months; the second was answered in person by the Count de Volaski; the third was only an envelope, enclosing his letter to Valerie, crossed with this line:

"No such person to be found."

The meeting between the Count de Volaski and his reckless son was not in all respects a pleasant one. There was an explanation to be demanded by the father a confession to be made by the son. The count was divided between his anxiety for his son and indignation at that son's conduct.

"You exposed more than your own life by the escapade, sir!" said the elder Volaski, "You abducted a minor, sir; for doing which you might have been prosecuted for felony, and sent to the gaol!-a fate so much worse than your death in the duel would have been for the honor of your family, that, had you been consigned to it, I should have cursed the hour you were born and blown my own brains out, in expiation of my share in your existence!"

The yet nervous invalid shuddered, and covered his face with his hands.

"But even that was not the greatest calamity your rashness provoked! You presumed to carry off the French minister's daughter while they were yet in the dominions of the Czar! by doing which you might have caused a war between two great nations, and the sacrifice of a million of lives!"

"Sir, forbear! I have not yet recovered from the severe illness consequent upon my wound. Surely, I have suffered enough at the hands of the ruthless Baron de la Motte!" said Waldemar de Volaski.

"The Baron de la Motte, being your enemy, is mine also; yet I cannot but admit that he has dealt very leniently with the abductor of his daughter by merely shooting him through the lungs, and laying him on a bed of repentance, when he might have prosecuted him as a felon, and sent him to penal servitude!" said the count, severely. "But there," he exclaimed, "I will say no more on that subject. As you say, you have suffered enough already to expiate your fault. You have nearly lost your life, and you have quite lost your love; for, of course, you know that your fooling marriage with a minor was no marriage at all, unless her father had chosen to make it so by his recognition. And if you ever had a chance of winning the girl, you have lost it by your imprudence. You must try to get up your strength now, so as to go with me back to Warsaw."

So saying, the count left the bedside of his son, and went into the refectory of the monastery, where a substantial repast had been prepared to regale the traveler.

The young man wrote yet another letter to his love, enclosing it on this occasion in an envelope directed to the lady's maid, who had once assisted the lo

vers in carrying on their correspondence; but as the maid had been long discharged from the service of her mistress, it was impossible that the letter should have reached her. The lover wrote again and again without receiving an answer to letters which it is certain his lost bride never received.

Captain de Volaski's three months' extended leave of absence had nearly expired before he was in a condition to travel; and even then he had to go by slow stages, riding only during the day and resting at night, until they reached Warsaw.

He spent a week at his father's castle, watched and wept over by his mother, who had not a reproach for her son, nor anything to offer him but her sympathy and her services. Six months had now passed away since his parting with his stolen bride; and it was the day before his expected return to his regiment that a packet of newspapers arrived for him, forwarded from St. Petersburg.

He tore the envelopes off them. They were English, French and German papers. He threw all away except the French papers. He eagerly examined them, in the hope of seeing the name of the Baron de la Motte, and forming thereby some idea of the movements of the family, and the whereabouts of Valerie.

The first paper he took up was Le Courier de Paris, and the first item that caught his eye was this-

MARRIED.-At the Church of Notre Dame, on Tuesday, March 1st, by the Most Venerable, the Archbishop of Paris, the Duke of Hereward, to Valerie, only daughter of the Baron de la Motte.

With the cry and spring of a panther robbed of its young, Volaski bounded to his feet. His rage and anguish were equal, and beyond all power of articulate or rational utterance. He strode up and down the floor like a maniac; he raved; he beat his breast, and tore his hair and beard; and finally, he rushed into the parlor where his father and mother were seated together over a quiet game of chess, and he dashed the paper down on the table before them, smote his hand upon the fatal marriage notice, and exclaimed in a voice of indescribable anguish:

"See! see! see! see!"

"It is just as I thought it would be," said the count, as he calmly read over the item, and passed it to his amazed wife. "The baron has wisely taken the first opportunity of marrying off his wilful girl-the best thing he could have done for her. I am sure I am glad she is no daughter-in-law of mine! She who could so lightly elope from her father might as lightly elope from her husband also."

Waldemar made no reply, but stood looking the image of desolation, until his mother having read through the notice, and grasped the situation, arose and threw her arms around his neck, exclaiming in a burst of sympathy:

"Oh, my son! my son! my son! my son! forget her! forget the heartless jilt! she was unworthy of you!"

A burst of wild and bitter laughter answered this appeal and frightened the good lady half out of her wits.

"Let him go back to his regiment and be a man among men, and not lose his time whimpering after a silly girl, who has not sense enough even to take care of herself. The man to be most pitied is that husband of hers! Upon my word and honor, I am sorry for that English duke! Yes, that I am!" said the count, heartily.

The next day Waldemar de Volaski returned to his regiment at St. Petersburg.

As his brother officers happily knew nothing of his elopement with the minister's daughter, and the duel that followed it; but supposed that his long absence had been occasioned by a long illness, he escaped all that exasperating chaff that might, under the circumstances, have half maddened him.

He threw himself, for distraction, into all the wildest gayeties of the Russian capital, and led the life of a reckless young sinner, until he was suddenly brought to his senses by a domestic calamity. He received a telegram announcing the sudden death of his father and his elder brother, both of whom were instantly killed by an accident on the St. Petersburg and Warsaw Railroad, while on their way to the Russian capital.

Stricken with grief, and with the remorse which grief is sure to awaken in the heart of a wrong-doer not altogether hardened, Waldemar de Volaski hastened down to Warsaw to support his almost inconsolable mother through the horrors of that sudden bereavement and that double funeral.

By the death of his father and elder brother, he became the Count Volaski, and the heir of all the family estates; and there were left dependent on him his widowed mother and several younger brothers and sisters.

At the earnest request of his mother he resigned his commission in the Royal Guards, and went down to reside with the family on the estate, during their retirement for the year of mourning.

Before that year was half over, however, the young Count de Volaski received a summons to the court of his sovereign.

He obeyed it immediately by hurrying up to St. Petersburg.

On his arrival, he presented himself at the Annitchkoff Palace to receive the commands of the Czar, and he was appointed Secretary of Legation to the new Russian Embassy about to proceed to Paris.

To Paris! to the home of Valerie de la Motte! The order agitated him to the profoundest depths of his being. He would have declined the honor about to be thrust upon him, could he have done so with propriety; but he could not, so there was no alternative but to kiss his sovereign's hand, express his sense of gratitude, and obey.

The embassy left St. Petersburg for the French capital almost immediately.

On the arrival at Paris they were established in the splendid Maison Francoise in the Champs Elysees.

As soon as he was at leisure, the Count de Volaski drove to the Rue Faubourg St. Honore, and to the Hotel de la Motte. He found the house shut up, and upon inquiry of a gend'arme, learned, with more surprise than regret, that the Baron and Baroness de la Motte had both been dead for some months; the baron, who was a free liver, had been suddenly stricken down by apoplexy, and the baroness, whose health had long been feeble, could not rally from the shock, but soon followed her husband.

"And,-where is their daughter, Madame la Duchesse d'Hereward?" hesitatingly inquired the Count de Volaski.

The gend'arme could not tell; he did not know; but supposed that she was living with her husband, Monsieur le Duc, on his estates in England.

No, clearly the gend'arme did not know; for, in fact, the Duke and the Duchess of Hereward were at that time living very quietly in the closed-up house at which the count and the gend'arme stood gazing while they talked.

Count de Volaski re-entered his carriage and returned to the Maison Francoise in time to attend the official reception of the embassy by the citizen-king at the Tuileries.

After the act of national and official etiquette, the embassy were free to enter into the social festivities of the gayest capital in the world.

Among other entertainments, a great diplomatic dinner was given at the English Legation, then the magnificent Hotel Borghese, once the residence of the beautiful Princess Pauline Bonaparte, but now the seat of the British Embassy. Among the invited guests were the Russian minister and his Secretary of Legation, Count de Volaski.

The count came late and found the splendid drawing-room honored with a small, but brilliant, company of ladies and gentlemen, the former among the most celebrated beauties, the latter the most distinguished statesmen of Europe.

Nearly every one in the room were strangers to the Russian count; but his English host, with sincere kindness and courtesy, took care to present him to all the most agreeable persons present.

"And now," whispered Lord C-n, in conclusion, "I have reserved the best for the last. Come and let me introduce you to the most interesting woman in Paris."

Count de Volaski suffered himself to be conducted to the upper end of the room, where a tall and elegant-looking woman, dressed in rich mourning, stood, leaning on the arm of a stately, middle-aged man.

Her face was averted as they approached; but she turned her head and he recognized the beautiful, pale face and lovely dark eyes of his lost bride.

And while the floor of the drawing-room seemed rocking with him, like the deck of a tempest-tossed ship, he heard the words of his host whirling through his brain:

"Madame, permit me to present to you Count de Volaski of St. Petersburg; Count, the Duchess of Hereward."

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