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   Chapter 40 AFTER THE STORM.

The Lost Lady of Lone By Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Sout Characters: 11714

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:02


The Duke of Hereward only remained in town until the arrival of his servants with his effects from Paris.

He avoided looking at the newspapers, which, he knew, must contain exaggerated statements of the duel and its causes, if, indeed, any statement of such horrors could be exaggerated.

On the third day after his arrival in London, he went down to Greencombe, a small family estate in a secluded part of Sussex, near the sea.

Here he hid himself and his humiliations from the world.

The primitive population around Greencombe had never seen the duke, or any of his family, who preferred to reside at Hereward Hold, in Devonshire, or their town-house in Piccadilly, leaving their small Sussex place in charge of a land-steward and a few old servants.

They had never even heard of the marriage of the duke in Paris, much less the flight of the duchess, or the duel with Volaski.

This neglect of his poor people at Greencombe had hitherto been a matter of compunction to the conscientious soul of the duke, but he now was satisfied with the course of conduct which had left them in total ignorance of himself and his unhappy domestic history.

The duke and his fine servants were received with mingled deference, gladness and embarrassment by the aged and rustic couple who acted as land-steward and housekeeper at Greencombe, and who now bestirred themselves to make their unexpected master and his attendants comfortable.

The duke gave orders that he should be denied to all visitors, though there was little likelihood of any calling upon him, except perhaps the vicar of Greencombe church.

Here the duke vegetated until the meeting of Parliament, when he went up to London to institute proceedings for a divorce.

At that time there was no divorce court, and little necessity for one. Divorces were to be obtained by act of Parliament only.

The duke commenced proceedings immediately on his arrival in London. His case was a clear and simple one; there was no opposition; consequently he was soon, matrimonially considered a free man.

The Duke of Hereward was now nearly fifty years of age. Life was uncertain, and the laws of succession very certain.

If the present bearer of the coronet of Hereward should die childless, the title would not descend to the son of his only and beloved sister, but would go to a distant relative whom the duke hated.

A speedy marriage seemed necessary.

The duke looked around the upper circle of London society, and fixed upon the Lady Augusta Victoria McDugald, the eldest daughter of the Earl of Banff, and a woman as little like his unhappy first wife as it was Possible for her to be.

"The daughter of an hundred earls" was tall and stately, cold and proud, embodying the child's or the peasant's very ideal of "a duchess."

"Dukes," like monarchs, "seldom woo in vain."

After a short courtship the duke proposed for the lady, and after a shorter engagement, married her.

The newly-wedded pair went on a very unusually extended tour over Europe, into Asia and Africa, and then across the ocean and over North and South America.

After twelve months spent in travel, they returned to England only that the anticipated heir of the dukedom might be born on the patrimonial estate of Hereward Hold.

There was the utmost fulfillment of hope. The expected child proved to be a fine boy, who was christened for his father, Archibald-Alexander-John, by courtesy styled Marquis of Arondelle.

Had the duke's mind been as free from remorse for his homicide as his heart was free from regret for his first love, he would have been as happy a man as he was a proud father; but ah! the sense of blood-guiltiness, although incurred in the duel, under the so-called "code of honor," weighed heavily upon his conscience, and over-shadowed all his joys.

His duchess was a prolific mother, and brought him other sons and daughters as the years went by; but, as if some spell of fatality hung over the family, these children all passed away in childhood, leaving only the young Marquis of Arondelle as the sole hope of the great ducal house of Hereward.

So the time passed in varied joys and sorrows, without bringing any tidings, good or bad, of the poor, lost girl who had once shared the duke's title and possessed his heart.

He believed her to be as dead to the world as she was to him. And so he gradually forgot even that she had ever lived! She had long been "out of mind" as "out of sight."

Fifteen years of married life had passed over the heads of the Duke and Duchess of Hereward.

The duchess at thirty-five was still a very beautiful woman, a reigning belle, a leader of fashion, a queen of society.

The duke at sixty-five was still a very handsome, stately and commanding old gentleman, with hair and beard as white as snow. He was a great political power in the House of Lords. Their son, the young Marquis of Arondelle, was a fine boy of fourteen.

It was very early summer in London. Parliament was in session, and the season was at its height.

The Duke and Duchess of Hereward were established in their magnificent town-house in Piccadilly.

The Marquis of Arondelle was pursuing his studies at Eton.

A memorable day was at hand for the duke.

It was the morning of the first of June-a rarely brilliant and beautiful day for London.

The duchess had gone down to a garden party at Buckingham Palace.

The duke sat alone in his sumptuous library, whose windows overlooked the luxuriant garden, then in its fullest bloom and fragrance.

The windows were open, admitting the fine, fresh air of summer, perfumed with the aroma of numberless flowers, and musical with the songs of many birds.

The duke sat in a comfortable reading-chair, with an open book on its rotary ledge. He was not reading. The charm of external natur

e, appealing equally to sense and sentiment, won him from his mental task, and soothed him into a delicious reverie, during which he sat simply resting, breathing, gazing, luxuriating in the lovely life around him.

In the midst of this clear sky a thunderbolt fell.

A discreet footman rapped softly, and being told to enter, glided into the room, bearing a card upon a tiny silver tray, which he brought to his master.

The duke took it, languidly glanced at it, knit his brows, and took up his reading-glass and examined it closely. No! his eyes had not deceived him. The card bore the name: Archbald A. J. Scott.

"Who brought this?" inquired the duke.

"A young gentleman, sir," respectfully answered the footman.

"Where is he?"

"I showed him into the blue reception room, your grace."

The duke paused a moment, gazing at the card, and then abruptly demanded:

"What is the young man like?"

"Most genteel, your grace; most like our young lord, and about his age, and dressed in the deepest mourning, your grace; and most particular anxious to see your grace."

"I do not know the boy at all; do not know where he came from, nor what he wants; but he bears the family name, and looks like Arondelle," mused the duke, gazing at the card and knitting his brow.

"I will see the young man. Show him up here," at length he said, abruptly.

The footman bowed and withdrew.

A few moments passed and the footman re-entered and announced:

"Mr. Scott," and withdrew.

The duke wheeled his chair around and looked at the visitor, who stood just within the door, bowing profoundly.

The newcomer was a youth of about fifteen years of age, tall, slight and elegant in form; fair, blue-eyed and light-haired in complexion; refined, graceful and self possessed in manner; and faultlessly dressed in deep mourning; but! how amazingly like the duke's own son, the young Marquis of Arondelle.

The duke's short survey of his visitor seemed so satisfactory that he arose and advanced to meet him, saying kindly:

"You wished particularly to see me, I understand, young gentleman. In what manner can I serve you?"

The youth bowed again with the deepest deference, and said:

"Thanks, your grace. I bring you a letter of introduction."

"Sit down, young sir, sit down, and give me your letter," said the duke, pointing to a chair, and resuming his own seat. "Good Heaven, how like this boy's voice was to the voice of the young Marquis of Arondelle! Who could he be?" mused the duke, as he sat and waited the issue.

The youth seated himself as directed, and seemed to hesitate, as if respectfully referring to his host's convenience.

"Your letter of introduction, now, if you please, young sir," said the duke, at length.

"Thanks; your grace. It's from my mother. She-" Here the boy's voice faltered and broke down; but he soon, recovered it and resumed: "She wrote it on her death-bed-on the very day she died. Here it is, your grace."

The duke took the letter and held it gravely in his fingers while he gazed upon the orphaned boy with sympathy and compassion in every lineament of his fine face, saying, slowly and seriously:

"Ah! that is very, very sad. You have lost your mother, my boy; and if I judge correctly from the circumstance of your coming to me, you have lost your father also. I hope, however, I am wrong."

"Your grace is right. I have lost my father also. I lost him first, so long ago that I have no memory of him. I have no relatives at all. That is the reason why my dear mother, on her death-bed, gave me that letter of introduction to your grace, who used to know her, so that I might not be without friends as well as without relatives," modestly replied the youth.

"Ah! I see! I see! And she wrote this letter on her death-bed, which gives it a grave importance. I must therefore pay the more respect to it. The wishes of the dying should be considered sacred," said the duke, as he adjusted his glass and looked at the letter, wondering who the writer could be and what claims she could possibly have on him; but feeling too kindly toward the orphan-boy to let such thought betray itself.

He scrutinized the handwriting of the letter. He could not recognize the faint, scratchy, uncertain characters as anything he had ever seen before. After all, the whole thing might be an imposture, and he himself an exceedingly great dupe, to suffer his feelings to be enlisted by a perfect stranger, merely because that stranger happened to be a counterpart of his own idolized boy Arondelle.

Still dallying with the note, he looked again at the youth, and as he looked, his confidence in him revived. No boy of such a noble countenance could possibly be an impostor. He might have satisfied himself at once, by opening the note and reading the signature; but from some occult reason that even he could not have given, he held it in his hands for a few moments longer, as if it contained some oracle he dreaded to discover. At length he broke the seal and looked at the signature. It was a faint maze of scratches, so difficult to decipher that he gave it up in despair, and turning to the boy, said:

"Your name is Scott, young sir?"

"Yes, your grace-a very common name," modestly replied the youth.

"It is ours also" added the duke with a smile.

"I beg your grace's pardon," said the boy, with some embarrassment.

"No offence, young sir. Your mother's name was also Scott, I presume?"

"Yes, your grace; my mother never re-married."

"Ah," said the duke, and he turned the letter for the first page, and commenced its perusal.

And then-

Reader! If the Duke of Hereward's hair had not already been white with age, it must have turned as white as snow with amazement and horror as he read the astounding disclosures of that dying woman's letter!

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