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   Chapter 44 RETRIBUTION.

The Lost Lady of Lone By Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Sout Characters: 19116

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:02


But a crisis was at hand.

The debts of John Scott increased every year, while the ready means of the Duke of Hereward diminished-everything being engulfed by the Lone restoration maelstrom.

The guardian determined to expostulate with his ward.

He went down to Oxford just before the close of the term. He found his ward established in elegant and luxurious apartments, quite fit for a royal prince, and very much more ostentatious than the unpretending chambers occupied by the young Marquis of Arondelle at Cambridge, and ridiculously extravagant for a young man of limited income and no expectations like John Scott.

The duke was excessively provoked; the forbearance of years gave way; the bottled-up indignation burst forth, and the guardian gave his ward what in boyish parlance is called, "an awful rowing."

"You live, sir, at twenty times the rate, your debts are twenty times as large, you cost me twenty times as much as does Lord Arondelle, my own son and heir!" concluded the duke, in a final burst of anger.

John Scott had listened grimly enough to the opening exordium, but when the last sentence broke from the duke's lips, the young man grew pale as death, while his compressed lips, contracted brow, and gleaming blue eyes alone expressed the fury that raged in his bosom.

He answered very quietly:

"Your grace means that I cost you twenty times as much as does your younger son, Lord Archibald Scott, as it is natural that I should being the elder son and the heir of the dukedom."

To portray the duke's thoughts, feelings or looks during his deliberate speech would be simply impossible. He sat staring at the speaker, with gradually paling cheeks and widening eyes, until the quiet voice ceased, when he faltered forth:

"What in Heaven's name do you mean?"

"I should think your grace should know right well what I have known for years, and can never for a moment forget, though your grace may effect to do so-that I am your eldest son, the son of your first marriage, with the daughter of the Baron de la Motte, and therefore that I, and not my younger half brother, by your second marriage, am the right Marquis of Arondelle, and the heir of the Dukedom of Hereward," calmly replied the young man, with all the confidence an assured conviction gave.

The duke sank back in his seat and covered his face with his hands. However John Scott had made the discovery, it was absolutely certain that he knew the whole secret of his parentage.

"What authority have you for making so strange an assertion?" at length inquired the duke.

"The authority of recorded truth," replied the young man, emphatically. "But does your grace really suppose that such a secret could be kept from me? My dear, lost mother never revealed it to me by her words, but she unconsciously revealed enough to me by her actions to excite my suspicions, and set me on the right track. The records did the rest, and put me in possession of the whole truth."

"What records have you examined?" inquired the duke, in a low voice.

"First and last, in Italy and France, I have examined the registers of your marriage with my mother, and of my own birth and baptism; and in England, Burke's Peerage. All these as well as other well-known facts, As easily proved as if they were recorded, establish my rights as your son-your eldest son and heir."

"As my son, but not as my heir, for your most unhappy mother-"

"Stop!!" suddenly exclaimed the young man, while his blue eyes blazed with a dangerous fire. "I warn you, Duke of Hereward, that you must not breathe one word reflecting in the least degree on my dear, injured mother's name. You have wronged her enough, Heaven knows! and I, her son, tell you so. Yes! from the beginning to end, you have wronged her grievously, unpardonably. First of all, in marrying her at all, when you must have seen-you could not have failed to see-that she, gentle and helpless creature that she was, was forced by her parents to give you her hand, when her broken heart was not hers to give! And, secondly, when she discovered that the lover (to whom she had been sacredly married by the church, though it seems not lawfully married by the state,) and whom she had supposed to be dead, was really living; and when she took the only course a pure and sensitive woman could take, and withdrew herself from you both, writing to you her reasons for doing so, and expressing her wish to live apart a quiet, single, blameless life, you did not wait, you did not investigate, but, with indecent haste, you so hurried through with your divorce, and hurried into your second marriage, as to brand my mother with undeserved infamy, and delegalized her son and yours before his birth."

"Heaven help me," moaned the Duke of Hereward, covering his face with his hands.

"You have done us both this infinite wrong, and you cannot undo it now. I know that you cannot, for I have taken the pains to seek legal advice, and I have been assured that you cannot rectify this wrong. But-use my injured mother's sacred name with reverence, Duke of Hereward, I warn you!-"

"Heaven knows I would use it in no other way! I loved your mother. She and you were not the only sufferers in my domestic tragedy. Her loss nearly killed me with grief even when I thought her unworthy. The discovery of the great wrong I did her has nearly crazed me with remorse since that."

"Then do not grudge her son the small share you allow him of that vast inheritance which should have been his, had you not unjustly deprived him of it."

"I will not. Your debts shall be paid."

"And do not upbraid me by drawing any more invidious comparisons between me and one who holds my rightful place."

"I will not-I will not. John we understand each other now. Your manner has not been the most filial toward me, but I will not reproach you for that. You say that I have wronged you; and you know that wrong can never be righted in this world. 'If I were to give my body to be burned,' it could not benefit you in the least toward recovering your position; but I will do all I can. I will sell Greencombe, which is my own entailed property, and I will place the money with my banker, Levison, to your account. I have a pleasant little shooting-box at the foot of Ben Lone. We never go to it. You must have the run of it during the vacations. When you are ready for your commission I will find you one in a good regiment. In return I have one request to make you. For Heaven's sake avoid meeting the duchess or her family. Do this for the sake of peace. I hope now that we do understand each other?" said the duke with emotion.

"We do," said the young man, his better spirit getting the ascendency for a few moments. "We do; and I beg your pardon, my father, for the hasty, unfilial words I have spoken."

"I can make every allowance, for you, John. I can comprehend how you must often feel that you are only your mother's son," answered the duke, grasping the hand that his son had offered.

So the interview that had threatened to end in a rupture between guardian and ward terminated amicably.

John Scott's debts were once more paid, his pockets were once more filled, and he left for Scotland to spend his vacation at the hunting-box under Ben Lone, in the neighborhood made attractive to him, not by black cock or red deer, but by the presence of his handsome shepherdess.

The duke sold Greencombe, and placed the purchase-money in the hands of Sir Lemuel Levison and Co., Bankers, Lombard Street, London, to be invested for the benefit of his ward, John Scott.

The unhappy duke did this at the very time when he was so pressed for money to carry on the great work at Lone, as to be compelled to borrow from the Jews at an enormous interest, mortgaging his estate, Hereward Hold, in security.

And John Scott, with an ample income, and without any restraint, took leave of his good angel and started on the road to ruin.

Meanwhile, the great works at Lone were completed and the ducal family took possession, and commenced their short and glorious reign there by a series of splendid entertainments given in honor of the coming of age of the heir.

John Scott was not an invited guest, either to the castle or the grounds; but he presented himself there, nevertheless, and caused some confusion by his close resemblance to his brother, and much scandal by his improper conduct among the village girls. And many an honest peasant went home from the feast lamenting the behavior of the young heir, and trying to excuse or palliate his viciousness by the vulgar proverb:

"Boys will be boys."

And so the reputation of the young Marquis of Arondelle suffered and continued to suffer from the evil doings of his double.

John Scott kept one part of his compact with the duke; he avoided the family; even when he could not keep away from Lone, he contrived to keep out of sight of the duke, the duchess, and the marquis.

The young Marquis of Arondelle, indeed, was very little seen at Lone. He was at Cambridge, or on his grand tour, nearly all the time of the family's residence in the Highlands.

John Scott left the university without honors. This was a disappointment to the duke, who did not, however, reproach his wayward son, but only wrote and asked him if he would now take a commission in the army. But the young man, who had lost all his youthful military ardor, and contracted a roving habit that made him averse to all fixed rules and all restraints, replied by saying that his i

ncome was sufficient for his wants, and that he preferred the free life of a scholar.

The duke wrote again, and implored him to choose one of the learned professions, saying that it was not yet too late for him to enter upon the study of one.

The hopeful son replied that he was not good enough for divinity, bad enough for law, or wise enough for medicine; that, therefore, he was unsuited to honor either of the learned professions; and begged his guardian to disturb himself no longer on the subject of his ward's future.

Then the duke let him alone, having, in fact, troubles enough of his own to occupy him-a life of superficial splendor, backed by a condition of hopeless indebtedness.

We have already, in the earlier portions of this story, described the short, glorious, delusive reign of the Herewards at Lone, and the culminating glory and ruin of the royal visit, so immediately to be followed by the great crash, when the magnificent estate, with all its splendid appointments, was sold under the hammer, and purchased by the wealthy banker and city knight, Sir Lemuel Levison. We have told how the noble son-the young Marquis of Arondelle-sacrificed all his life-interest in the entailed estate, to save his father, and how vain that sacrifice proved. We have told how the duchess died of humiliation and grief, and how the duke and his son went into social exile, until recalled by the romantic love of Salome Levison, who wished to bestow her hand and her magnificent inheritance upon the disinherited heir of Lone.

We have now brought the story of John Scott up to the night of the banker's murder, and his own unintentional share in the tragedy.

At the time of the projected marriage between the Marquis of Arondelle and the heiress of Lone, John Scott was deeply sunk in debt, and badly in want of money.

The capital given him by his father had been so tied up by the donor that nothing but the interest could be touched by the improvident recipient. It had, in fact, been given to Sir Lemuel Levison in trust for John Scott, with directions to invest it to the best advantage for his benefit.

This duty the banker had most conscientiously performed by investing the money in a mining enterprise, supposed to be perfectly secure and to pay a high interest. This investment continued good for years, affording John Scott a very liberal income; but as John Scott would probably have exceeded any income, however large, that he might have possessed, so of course he exceeded this one and got into debt, which accumulated year after year, until at length he felt himself forced to ask his trustee to sell out a part of his stock in the mining company to liquidate his liabilities.

This the banker politely but firmly refused to do, representing to the young spendthrift that his duties as a trustee forbade him to squander the capital of his client, and that he had been made trustee for the very purpose of preserving it.

The obstinacy of the banker enraged the young man, who protested that it was unbearable to a man of twenty-five years of age to be in leading-strings to a trustee, as if he were an infant of five years old.

The time came, however, when the trustee was compelled by circumstances to sell out.

The rare foresight which had made him the millionaire that he was, warned Sir Lemuel Levison that the mining company in which he had invested his ward's fortune was on the eve of an explosion. As no one else perceived the impending catastrophe, Sir Lemuel Levison was enabled to sell out his ward's stock at a good premium some days before the crash came-not an honest measure by any means, we think, but-a perfectly business-like one.

He informed John Scott of the transaction, telling him at the same time that he had the capital of thirty thousand pounds in his possession, ready to be re-invested, and the premium of three hundred pounds, which last was at the orders of Mr. Scott.

Mr. Scott was not contented with the three hundred pounds premium. He wanted a few thousands out of the capital, and he wrote and told his trustee as much.

Sir Lemuel Levison was firm in refusing to diminish the capital that had been placed in his hands for the benefit of the spendthrift.

Then John Scott in a rage, went up to London and called at the banking house of Levison Brothers.

Being admitted to the private office of Sir Lemuel Levison, the young man used some very intemperate language, accusing the great banker of appropriating his own contemptible little fortune for private and unhallowed purposes.

"You are the most unmitigated scamp alive, and I wish I had never had anything to do with you; however, I will convince you that you have wronged me, and then I will wash my hands of you!" exclaimed the banker.

And so saying, he unlocked a great patent safe that stood in his private office, took from it a small iron box, and set it on his desk before him, in full sight of his visitor.

"See here," he continued; "here is this box, read the inscription on it."

The visitor stooped over and read-in brass letters-the following sentence: "John Scott-£30,000."

"Now, sir," continued the banker, opening the box and displaying the treasure, all in crisp, new, Bank of England notes of a thousand pounds each-"here is your money. I cannot betray my trust by giving it into your hands. But I intend, nevertheless, to resign my trust into the hands that gave it me. I am going down to Lone to celebrate the marriage of my daughter with the Marquis of Arondelle, and I shall take this box and its contents down with me. I shall, of course, meet the Duke of Hereward there. As soon as the marriage is over, and the pair gone on their tour, I shall deliver this box with its contents over to the duke, who can then hand over any part or the whole of this money to you, if he pleases to do so."

If any circumstance could have increased the uneasiness of the spendthrift, it would have been this resolution of the banker and trustee.

John Scott begged Sir Lemuel Levison to reconsider his resolution, and not return his capital to the donor, who, in his impoverished condition, might, for all he knew, choose to resume his gift entirely, and appropriate it to his own uses.

But the banker was inflexible, and the next day set out for Lone, carrying John Scott's fortune locked up in the iron box, besides other treasures in money and jewels, secured in other receptacles.

John Scott was in despair.

At length, a daring plan occurred to his mind. His evil life had brought him into communication with some outlaws of society of both sexes, with whom, however, he would not willingly have been seen in daylight, or in public. One of these-a brutal ruffian and thief, with whose haunts and habits he was well acquainted-he sought out. He gave him an outline of his scheme, telling him of the great treasures in jewels and other bridal presents that would be laid out in the drawing-room at Lone on the night of the sixth of June, in readiness for the wedding display on the morning of the seventh.

The man Murdockson listened with greedy ears.

The tempter then told him of the iron box, inscribed with his own name, and containing important papers which it was necessary he should recover, and proposed that if Murdockson would promise to purloin the iron box from the chamber of Sir Lemuel Levison, and bring it safely to him, John Scott, he would engage to leave the secret passage to the castle open for the free entrance of the adventurers.

Murdockson hesitated a long time before consenting to engage in an enterprise which, if it promised great profit, also threatened great dangers.

At length, however, fired by the prospect of the fabulous wealth said to lie exposed in the form of bridal presents displayed in Castle Lone, Mr. Murdockson promised to form a party and go down to Lone to reconnoitre, and if he should see his way clear, to undertake the job.

The plan was carried out to its full and fatal completion.

Disguised as Highland peasants, Murdockson and two of his pals went down to Lone to inspect the lay.

They mingled with the great crowd of peasantry and tenantry that had collected from far and near to view the grand pageantry prepared for the celebration of the wedding, and their presence in so large an assemblage was scarcely noticed.

They met their principal in the course of the day, and with him arranged the details of the robbery.

One thing John Scott insisted upon-that there was to be no violence, no bloodshed; that if the robbery could not be effected quietly and peaceably, without bodily harm to any inmate, it was not to be done at all, it was to be given up at once.

The men promised all that their principal asked, on condition that he would act his part, and let them into the castle.

That night John Scott did his work, and attained the climax of his evil life.

He tampered with the valet, treated him with drugged whiskey, and while the wretched man was in a stupid sleep, stole from him the pass-key to Sir Lemuel Levison's private apartment.

We know how that terrible night ended. John Scott could not control the devils he had raised.

Only robbery had been intended; but murder was perpetrated.

John Scott, with the curse of Cain upon his soul, and without the spoil for which he had incurred it, fled to London and afterwards to the Continent, where he became a homeless wanderer for years, and where he was subsequently joined by his female companion, Rose.

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