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   Chapter 46 RETRIBUTION. 46

The Lost Lady of Lone By Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Sout Characters: 20879

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:02


She entered the long dining-hall, where a terrible sight met her eyes.

Stretched upon the table lay a man in the midst of a pool of his own blood!

In the room were gathered a crowd, consisting of three Englishmen, three gend'armes, several countrymen, several out-door servants of the convent, and half a hundred nuns and novices.

The crowd had parted a little on the side nearest the door by which the abbess entered, so as to permit the approach of an old man who seemed to be a physician, and who proceeded to unbutton the wounded man's coat and vest, and to examine his wound.

"How horrible! Is he quite dead?" inquired the abbess, making her way to the side of the village surgeon, for such the old man was.

"No, madam; he has fainted from loss of blood. The wound has stopped bleeding now, however, and I hope by the use of proper stimulants to recover him sufficiently to permit me to examine and dress his wounds," replied the surgeon, who now drew from his pocket a bottle of spirits of hartshorn, poured some out in his hands, and began to bathe the forehead, mouth and nostrils of the unconscious man.

The abbess drew nearer, stooped over the body, and gazed attentively into the pallid and ghastly face, and then started with a half-suppressed cry as she recognized the features of the man who had visited the Infants' Asylum on the day previous, and whom the abbess now believed to be John Scott, the half brother and the "double" of the Duke of Hereward.

"Will you kindly order some brandy, madam?" courteously requested the surgeon.

"Certainly, monsieur," replied the lady superior, who immediately dispatched a nun to fetch the required restorative.

As soon as it was brought, a few drops were forced down the throat of the fainting man, who soon began to show signs of recovery.

"I should like to put my patient to bed, madam; but the nearest farm-house is still too far off for him to be conveyed thither in safety. The motion would start his wound to bleeding again, and the hemorrhage might prove fatal," said the surgeon suggestively.

The abbess took the hint.

"Of course," she said, "the poor wounded man must remain here. I will have a room prepared for him in our Old Men's Home. It will not take ten minutes to get the room ready, and carry him to it. Can you wait so long, good Doctor?"

"Assuredly, madam," answered the surgeon.

The abbess gave the necessary orders to a couple of young nuns, who hurried off to obey them.

In less time than the abbess required, they came back and reported that the room was ready for the patient.

"Now, then, Monsieur le Docteur, you may remove your patient," said the abbess, courteously.

The surgeon, assisted by two of the countrymen, tenderly lifted the wounded man, and laid him on the leaf of the gate, and, preceded by an aged nun to show the way, bore him off toward the Old Men's Home.

One of the Englishmen and one of the gend'armes followed him.

The remaining two Englishmen and two gend'armes showed no disposition to depart.

The abbess was not two well pleased at this masculine invasion of her sanctuary, and so after waiting for some explanation of their presence from these strange men, she went up to them and inquired, with suggestive politeness:

"May we know, messieurs, how we can further serve you?"

"Your pardon, holy madam, but we are not willing intruders. I am Inspector Setter, of Scotland Yard, London, at your service. The wounded man is one John Scott, charged with complicity in the murder and robbery of the late Sir Lemuel Levison of Lone Castle. I bear a warrant for his arrest, countersigned by your chief of police. But for the prisoner's dying condition, we should convey him back to England immediately. As it is, we must hold him in custody here until the end," said the elder and more respectable-looking of the two Englishmen.

"I am very sorry to hear what you have to tell me; but since it seems your duty to remain here on guard for the security of your prisoner, I think it would be better that you should be nearer to him. The Old Men's Home will afford the most proper lodging for you as well as for him. One of my nuns will show you the way there, when a room near that of your wounded prisoner shall be assigned you," said the abbess, with grave courtesy, as she beckoned a withered old nun to her presence, and silently directed her to lead the way for the strangers to the lodging provided for them.

"John Scott, the half brother of the Duke of Hereward, charged with complicity in the murder and robbery at Castle Lone! Well, I am more grieved than surprised," murmured the abbess to herself.

Then she sent the younger nuns and novices about their several duties, and directed one of the elders to see that the refectory was restored to order.

The abbess was about to return to her own room when she was stayed by the re-entrance of Inspector Setter, the three gend'armes, and the countrymen.

The abbess looked up in a grave inquiry at this second intrusion.

"I beg your pardon, reverend madam; I have come to report to you the condition of your wounded guest, and to relieve you of the presence of these trespassers," said Inspector Setter, indicating his companions.

"Well, monsieur, what of the wounded man?" inquired the lady.

"The surgeon has dressed his wound, but pronounces it mortal. The man, he says, cannot live over a few days, perhaps not over a few hours. The surgeon will not leave him to-day."

"I am very sorry to hear that. Will you be so good as to tell me, monsieur, how the unfortunate man received his fatal injury? I heard-I heard-but I hope it is not true," said the abbess, shrinking from repeating the awful rumor that had reached her ears.

"You heard, holy madam, that he had committed suicide?" suggested the harder-nerved inspector.

The abbess bowed gravely.

"It is unfortunately quite true," said Inspector Setter. "You see, reverend madam, we traced him and his young-woman-I beg your reverend ladyship's pardon, holy madam-to Paris. Afterwards, we tracked them to L'Ange. We reached L'Ange this morning, and learned that our man had walked out toward the convent here. We followed, and came upon him near the south gate. I accosted him, and arrested him. He was as cool as a cucumber, and quick as lightning! Before we could suspect or prevent the action, he whipped a pistol out of his breast-pocket, and presented it at his own head. I seized his arm while his finger was on the trigger; but was too late to save him. He fired! I only changed the direction of the ball, which, instead of blowing off his head, buried itself somewhere in his body. He fell, a crowd gathered, we picked him up, took a leaf of the gate off its hinges, laid him on it, and brought him in here. That is all, your reverend ladyship. The doctor says the wound is mortal; I must remain in charge until all is over; but I don't want a body-guard, and if your ladyship's politeness will permit me. I will dismiss all these men and see them out."

"Do so, if you please, Monsieur l'Inspecteur. Oh, this is too horrible!" said the abbess.

While she was yet speaking, the surgeon also re-entered the refectory.

"How goes it with your patient, Monsieur le Docteur?" inquired the lady.

"He will die, good madam. Velpeau himself could not save him; he knows that he will die as well as we do, for he has recovered consciousness, and desired that a telegram be sent off immediately to summon the Duke of Hereward, whom he seems extremely anxious to see. I have written the message; here it is. I cannot leave my patient, or I would take it myself; but Monsieur l'Inspecteur, perhaps you can provide me with a messenger to carry this to L'Ange," said the surgeon.

"Certainly," agreed Mr. Setter, taking the written message and reading it. "But you have directed this to Hereward House, Piccadilly, London?"

"I wrote it at the dictation of my patient."

"He is mistaken. The Duke of Hereward is living in Paris, at Meurice's. I will make the correction," said Mr. Setter, drawing from his pocket a lead pencil and a blank-book, upon a leaf of which he re-wrote the message. He tore out the leaf, and read what he had written:

To His Grace The Duke of Hereward, Meurice's, Paris: I am dying. Come immediately.

John Scott, Convent of St. Rosalie, L'Ange.

"That will do," said Mr. Setter, inspecting his work. "Now, Smith," he added, handing the paper to one of his officers, "hurry with this message to the telegraph office at the railway station at L'Ange. See that it is sent off promptly, for it is a matter of life and death, as you know. Wait for an answer, and when you get it hasten back with it."

"All right, sir," answered the man, taking the paper, and hurrying away.

The other men, whose services were no longer required, followed him out to go about their business.

The inspector and the surgeon, seeing the lady abbess about to address them, lingered.

"I hope, messieurs, that you will freely call upon us for anything that may be needed for the relief of your patient, or for the convenience of yourselves," she said, with grave courtesy.

"Thanks, madame, we will do so," replied the surgeon, with a deep bow.

"And, above all, the interests of his immortal soul should be taken care of. If he should need spiritual comfort, here is Father Garbennetti, who will wait on him," added the abbess, solemnly.

"Your ladyship's holiness is very good. I happen to know the man is a Romanist, and if he should ask for a priest, I will let your reverend ladyship know," said Mr. Setter.

"Do so. Monsieur l'Inspecteur. And tell him the name of the priest I proposed for him-Father Garbennetti, of San Vito, Italy; for I have reason to believe that this holy father once knew your patient very intimately," added the abbess.

"Stay, now-what was the priest's name again? I never can get the name of these foreigners," muttered Mr. Setter, with a puzzled air.

"Father Garbennetti, of San Vito, Italy. But I will write it for you. Lend me your pencil and tablets, monsieur, if you please."

Mr. Setter placed his pocket writing material in the hands of the lady, with his best bow.

She carefully wrote the name of the Italian priest on a blank leaf and returned the pencil and the book to the inspector, who received them with another bow.

Doctor Dubourg and Inspector

Setter then "bowed" themselves out of the lady's presence and returned to the bedside of the wounded man.

The abbess gave a few more directions to the lay sisters who were engaged in restoring the room to order, and then she withdrew from the refectory and returned to her own apartment, where she had left Salome and the little Sister Felecitie.

She found them still waiting there; and both engaged in the little bit of knitting or embroidery that they always carried in their pockets to take up at odd moments that would otherwise be wasted in idleness, which was held to be a grave fault, if not a deadly sin, by the sisterhood, and, besides, from the sale of this work they realized a very considerable income.

"I waited here, good mother, to learn more of the poor wounded man. Sister Felecitie tells me that he is a suicide. I hope that is a mistake," said Salome.

"It is too true, helas! But, my daughter," said the abbess, turning to the young nun, "leave us alone for a few minutes."

The little sister retired obediently, but very unwillingly, for she was tormented with unsatisfied curiosity concerning the unfortunate stranger, who had committed suicide at their convent gate.

"Salome! do you know, can you conjecture, who the unhappy man is?" solemnly inquired the abbess, as soon as she was left alone with her young friend.

"I do not know. I-fear to conjecture," whispered the young wife; growing pale.

"Yet your very fear proves that you have conjectured, and conjectured correctly. Yes! the wretched suicide is no other than John Scott, the 'double' of the Duke of Hereward."

"Heaven of heavens! What drove him to the fatal deed? But why should I ask? Of course, it was remorse! remorse that was slowly killing him! too slowly for his suffering and his impatience!" exclaimed the young lady, with a shudder.

"Yes, it was remorse, and-desperation."

"Desperation!"

"Yes! The English detectives had traced him down to this neighborhood; they followed him down here with a warrant for his arrest, countersigned by our chief of police. They surprised him near the south gate of the convent; but he was too quick for them; and before they could prevent him, driven to desperation, he caught a pistol from his pocket and shot himself through the body, inflicting a mortal wound. They brought him into the convent. I have had him placed in a comfortable room in the Old Men's Home, where he is attended by Doctor Dubourg, of L'Ange, who Providentially happened to be passing the convent at the time of the occurrence."

Salome covered her face with her hands, and sank back in her chair, with a groan.

A few moments elapsed, and then Salome, still vailing her face, murmured a question:

"How long may the dying man last? Surely-surely-" Her voice faltered, and broke down with a sob.

"He can not last more than a very few days. He may not last more than a few hours," said the abbess, in a low tone.

"Surely-surely, then," resumed Salome, in a broken voice, "he will make a confession before he dies. He will vindicate his brother, and so save his own soul."

"I think that he will do so, Sister Salome. Calm yourself. He has caused a telegram to be sent to the Duke of Hereward, calling him here."

Salome started and trembled violently. She could scarcely gasp forth the words of her broken exclamation:

"The Duke of Hereward! Called! Here!"

"Yes, my daughter. So you perceive that your proposed journey to England is forestalled."

"My husband coming here! Oh! how soon will he come? He cannot be here in less than twenty-four hours, can he?" eagerly demanded Salome.

"He may be here in less than six hours. The Duke of Hereward does not have to come from London; he is not there, but in Paris; so you perceive, also, that if you had gone to England, as you proposed to do, you would have missed seeing him there," added the lady, smiling.

"My husband in Paris-so near. My husband to be here this evening-so soon. Oh, this is too much, too much happiness!" exclaimed the young wife, bursting into tears of joy.

"Then you have no dread of meeting him?" suggested the elder lady.

"'Dread of meeting him?' Dread of meeting my own dear husband? Ah, no, no, no! No dread, but an infinite longing to meet him. Oh! I know and feel how I have wronged him. How deeply and bitterly I have wronged him. But I know, also, how utterly he will pardon me. Yes, I know that, as surely as I know that my Heavenly Lord pardons us all of our repented sins!" fervently exclaimed Salome.

"Heaven grant that you may be happy, my child'" said the lady, earnestly.

At that moment the door opened, and an aged nun, one of the attendants in the Old Men's Home, entered the room.

"Well, Mere Pauline, what is it?" calmly inquired the abbess.

"Holy mother, I have come from Monsieur le Docteur to say that the messenger has come back from L'Ange, and brought an answer to the telegram. Monsieur le Duc d' Hereward will be here by the midday express from Paris, which reaches L'Ange at five o'clock this afternoon," answered Mere Pauline.

"Thanks for your news. Sit down and breathe after climbing all these stairs. And now tell me, how is the wounded man?" inquired the abbess, as the old nun sank wearily into the nearest chair.

"Helas! holy mother, he is sinking fast. The doctor thinks he will not outlive the night; and meanwhile he is anxious, so anxious, for the arrival of Monsieur le Duc! He asks from time to time if the duke has come, or is coming; if we have heard from him, and so on," sighed the old nun.

"But have you not soothed him by communicating the message received from the duke, that his grace will be here at five o'clock?"

"No, holy mother! for he was sleeping under the influence of opium, which the good surgeon had felt obliged to administer in order to quiet him just before the message came. If he wakes and inquires about the duke again, we will give him the message."

"Quite right. Has the wretched man seen a priest, or asked to see one?"

"No, mother! but I was not unmindful of his immortal weal. I asked him if he would see Pere Garbennetti. He brightened up at the name, and inquired if le pere was here. I told him yes, and at his service, waiting to attend him, indeed. But then he gloomed again, and said no; he would see no one until he had seen the Duke of Hereward. He would rest and save his strength for his interview with the Duke of Hereward. I will return to my charge now, if my good mother will permit me," said the old nun, rising from her chair.

"Go, then, Mere Pauline, if you are sufficiently rested. Keep me advised of the state of your patient, but do not tax your aged limbs to climb these stairs again. Send one of the younger nuns, and give yourself some rest," said the abbess, kindly.

"Helas! holy mother, I shall have time enough to rest in the grave, whither I am fast tending," sighed the old nun, as she withdrew from the room.

"Oh, mother!" joyfully exclaimed Salome, as soon as they were left alone, "he comes by the midday express! It is midday now! The train has already left Paris! He is speeding toward us, even now, as fast as steam can bring him. I can almost see and hear and feel him coming!"

"Calm your transports, dear daughter; think of the dying sinner so near us, even now," gravely replied the elder lady.

"I can think of nothing but my living husband," exclaimed the young wife.

"Oh, these young hearts! these young hearts! 'From all inordinate and sinful affections, good Lord, deliver us!'" prayed the abbess.

She had scarcely spoken, when the door opened and Sister Francoise entered the room.

"I came with a message from the portress, good mother. She says that a young woman has come from L'Ange, who claims to be the wife of the wounded man, and insists upon being admitted to see him. The portress does not know what to do, and has sent me to you for instructions," said Sister Francoise.

"The wounded man is sleeping and must not be awakened. Tell the portress to keep the young woman in the parlor until she can be permitted to see the patient, then do you go to the Old Men's Home, inquire for Monsieur le Doctor Dubourg, and announce to him the arrival of this woman, and let him use his medical discretion about admitting her. Go."

"Yes, holy mother," said Sister Francoise, retreating.

"You have not had a moment's peace since this unhappy man has been in the house," said Salome, compassionately.

"No," smiled the lady. "Of course not, but it cannot be helped. We must bear one another's burdens."

The loud ringing of the dinner-bell arrested the conversation.

"Come, we will go down," said the abbess, rising.

They descended to the refectory.

The long hall, that had been the scene of so much horror and confusion in the morning, was now restored to its normal condition.

The plain, frugal, midday meal of the abbess and the elder nuns was arranged with pure cleanliness upon the table, where, but a few hours before, the body of the wounded man had lain. But the awful event of the morning had taken a deep effect upon the quiet and sensitive sisterhood. They sat down at the table, but scarcely touched the food.

When the form of dining-for it was little more than a form that day-was over, the abbess and her nuns arose, and separated about their several vocations.

Later on, the abbess sent a message to the Old Men's Home, inquiring after the wounded man.

She received an answer to the effect that the patient had waked up, and had been told of the telegram from the Duke of Hereward, and the expected arrival of his grace at five o'clock.

The news had satisfied the suffering man, who had been calmer ever since its reception. He had also been told of the arrival of his wife, but he had declined to see her, or any one, until he should have seen the Duke of Hereward. He was saving up all his little strength for his interview with the duke.

As the hours of the afternoon crept slowly away, the impatience of the young wife, Salome, arose to fever heat. She could not rest in any one room, but roamed about the convent, and through all its departments and offices, until, at length, she was met in the main corridor by the abbess, who gravely took her hand, drew it within her arm, and led her along, saying:

"Come into my parlor, child. The Duke of Hereward has arrived."

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