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   Chapter 47 THE END OF A LOST LIFE.

The Lost Lady of Lone By Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Sout Characters: 22509

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:02


The Duke of Hereward knew nothing of his wife's presence in the Convent of St. Rosalie.

On his arrival, soon after five o'clock, he was met by the portress, who ushered him into the receiving parlor and sent to warn the abbess of his presence.

The abbess dispatched a message to the surgeon in attendance upon John Scott, and then sought out the young duchess to inform her of her husband's arrival.

Meantime Dr. Dubourg hurried down to the receiving-parlor to see the Duke of Hereward. They were strangers to each other, so the portress introduced them.

"I hope your patient is better, Monsieur le Docteur," said the duke, when the first salutations were over.

"No, I regret to say. There is, indeed, no hope. The poor man has been sinking since morning. He is most anxious to see your grace, before he dies, and that very anxiety, I think, has kept him up," gravely replied the physician.

"I am sorry to hear that. Is he in condition to see me now? Will not the interview tend to excite him and shorten his life?" anxiously inquired the duke.

"It may do so; but, on the other hand, his failure to see you might prove fatal to him sooner than his wound would. The fact is, sir, the man is doomed; his hours are numbered, and he knows it. He is eager to see you; he seems to have something weighing upon his mind, which he wishes to confide to you. He has been saving his little strength for an interview with you. He has refused to speak to any one, lest he should waste his forces and be too weak to talk to you."

"I will go to him, then, at once," said the duke.

"Do so, your grace, and I will attend you," said the doctor with a bow.

The duke arose and followed the doctor through the long corridors and narrow passages leading from the Nunnery to the Old Men's Home.

On their way thither, the duke inquired how the patient had received that fatal wound, of which his grace had only heard a vague report from scraps of conversation among the officials at the L'Ange Railway Depot.

The doctor gave him a brief account of the arrest and the suicide.

The duke made no comment, but fell into deep, sorrowful thought, until they reached the door of the room in which John Scott lay mortally wounded.

The doctor opened the door and passed in with the duke.

It was a good-sized, square room, in which had once been placed four cots to accommodate four old men. Now, however, all the cots had been removed except the one on which the wounded man lay, and that had been drawn into the middle of the chamber, so as to give the patient a free circulation of fresh air, and to allow the approach of surgeon and attendants on every side. The walls were white-washed, the floor sanded, the windows shaded with blue paper hangings, and the cot-bed covered with a clean, blue-checked spread. Four cane chairs and a small deal table completed the furniture.

Everything was plain, clean and comfortable.

The doctor, with a deprecating gesture, signed to the duke to wait a moment, and went up to the side of the bed, and finding his patient awake, whispered:

"Monsieur, the friend you expected has arrived."

"You mean-the Duke of Hereward?" faintly inquired Scott.

"Yes, monsieur."

"Give me then-some cordial-to keep up my strength-for fifteen minutes longer," sighed the dying man at intervals.

The doctor signed to Sister Francoise, who sat by the bedside, to go and bring what was required.

The old nun went to the deal table and brought a small bottle of cognac brandy and a slender wine glass.

The doctor filled the glass, lifted the head of the patient, and placed the stimulant to his lips.

Scott swallowed the brandy, drew a deep breath as he sank back upon the pillow and said:

"Now, bring the duke to my bed side, and let everyone go and leave us together."

The doctor signed for the duke to approach, and silently presented him to the patient.

Then he beckoned Sister Francoise to follow him, and they left the room, closing the door behind them.

"I am sorry to see you suffering, my brother," said the duke, kindly, as he bent over the dying man.

"Ah! you call me your brother! You acknowledge me then?" said Scott, half in earnest, half in mockery.

"Most certainly I do acknowledge you, and most sincerely do I deplore your misfortunes," answered the duke.

"Yet I have been a great sinner. I feel that now, as I lie upon my death-bed," muttered Scott, in a low tone.

"I look upon you as one 'more sinned against than sinning,'" said the duke seriously.

"Yes, that is true also," murmured the dying man.

"But let us not dwell upon that. The past is dead. Let it be buried."

"Aye, with all my heart."

"You wished to see me."

"Yes, I did."

"To make some communication to me. Is it a very important one?"

"It is so important that I have risked my soul to make it to you."

"But how can that be?"

"Why, in this way. I have but little strength, I might have used that strength in making my confession to Father Garbennetti, and received absolution at his hands; but I was afraid of exhausting myself so that I should not be able to tell you what I have to communicate."

"I trust and believe that you have more strength than you suppose. Your eyes look bright and strong."

"That is the effect of the brandy. I never tasted better. Ah! they know what good liquor is-these holy sisters-no offence to them, bless them; their care has helped me; but I am going fast, for all that."

"You are at ease-you feel no pain?"

"No; but that is because mortification has set in. I feel no pain: I am at ease, only sinking, sinking, sinking fast. Will you pour out a little glass of brandy and give it to me? You will find the bottle and the wine-glass on the table," said the patient, who was visibly growing feebler.

The duke went and brought the stimulant, and administered it to the dying man.

"Ah! that revives me! How long have you known that I was your brother?" Scott inquired, as soon as the duke had replaced the glass and returned to the bedside.

"Only since our honored father's death. I should at once have claimed you and carried out certain instructions he had left me for your benefit, in the letter in which he revealed our relationship-if-if-if-"

The duke, with more delicacy than moral courage, hesitated, and finally left his sentence incomplete.

"If I had not dishonored my family by committing a crime, and flying the country!" said John Scott, finishing the sentence for the first speaker.

"I did not say so," exclaimed the duke, flushing.

"But it was the truth nevertheless. And now before I begin my confession, will you please to tell me the nature of the revelation and of the instructions that my father left to you concerning me?"

"Certainly. He told me the story of his first fatal marriage; of the divorce sought and granted under lying circumstantial evidence; of your birth some few months later-out of wedlock-although you were the son of his lawful marriage. He told me how impossible it was ever to restore you to your lawful rights, and he charged me to regard you as a dear brother, and share with you all the benefits of the estate, the whole of which would eventually have been yours had not your father's own rash act deprived you of the succession, and forever put it out of our power to restore you to it. I accepted the trust, and should have discharged it had you not left the country."

"Well, I suppose the old man did as well as he could under the circumstances. He too was to be pitied. But now tell me, did you help to hark the bloodhounds of the law on my track?"

"No. From the time I received a hint from that wretched man, Potts, the valet, implicating yourself, I refrained from all action in your pursuit."

"I thought so-I thought so. You wouldn't like to help hang your own brother, even if he had deserved it; but he did not quite deserve it; and it was to explain that, as well as some other things, that I brought you here. You know so much already, however, so much more than I suspected you knew, that I shall not have a great deal to tell you; but-my strength is going fast again. I shall have to be quick. Give me another glass of brandy."

The duke complied with the man's request, and then replaced the glass again and returned to the bedside.

"I suppose I should not require that stimulant so often to keep up my dying frame, if I had not been so hard a drinker in late years. However, it is absolutely necessary to me now, if I am to go on. Come close; I cannot raise my voice any longer," whispered the fast-failing man.

The duke drew his chair as closely as possible to the side of the cot, took the wasted hand of his poor brother, and bowed his head to hear the sorrowful story.

In a weak, low voice, with many pauses, John Scott told the story of his life, from his own point of view, dwelling much on his mother's undeserved sorrows and early death.

He told of his own secluded life and education, and of his ignorance of his father's name until after his mother's decease.

He confessed the rage and hatred that filled his bosom on first learning that poor mother's wrongs, greater even than his own.

He spoke of the natural mistake made by the country people at Lone, who misled by his perfect likeness to his brother, had received him and honored him as Marquis of Arondelle.

He admitted that their error flattered his self-love, and believing that he had the best right to the title, he allowed them to deceive themselves, and to address him and speak of him as Lord Arondelle, the heir.

He related the incident of his first accidental meeting with Rose Cameron, who, like all the other tenantry, mistook him for the young marquis, and so had her head turned by his attentions, and followed him to London, where he secretly married her.

This brought him to the time when the extravagance of his companion, added to his own expensive vices, brought him deeply into debt. He knew that his father had placed a large amount of money in the hands of Sir Lemuel Levison to be invested for his (John Scott's) benefit. He applied for a part of this money to pay his debts, but was refused by the trustee. Whereupon a quarrel ensued, which resulted in Sir Lemuel Levison's resolution to take the money down to Lone Castle and restore it to the original donor, that the latter might dispose of it at his own discretion.

This move maddened the penniless spendthrift. It drove him to desperation. He resolved to get possession of his money by foul means since he could not do so by fair ones; by violence, if not by peace. Circumstances had brought him to acquaintance with a pair of desperate thieves and burglars.

He sought them out, tempted them by the prospect of great booty for themselves, and arranged with them the whole plan of the robbery of Lone, stipulating that there should be no bloodshed at all; but that if the burglars were discovered before completing the robbery, they should seek rather to make their escape than to secure their booty.

But who can unchain a devil and say to him, "Thus far, no farther shalt thou go?" The instigator of the crime had no power over his instruments; on t

he contrary, they had power over him from the moment he called in their aid and became their confederate.

John Scott continued his confession by relating that he took the men down to Lone, disguised as countrymen, and led them to the castle grounds, where, lost in the great crowd that came to see the preparations for the wedding festivities, their presence as strangers was unnoticed; that at night he drugged the drink of the valet, stole the pass-key from his pocket, and through the secret passage under Malcolm's Tower he admitted the thieves into the castle, and by means of the valet's key passed them into Sir Lemuel Levison's bedroom.

He shuddered, failed, and seemed about to faint, as he recalled the horrible tragedy enacted in the room that night.

The duke gave him another small glass of brandy before he could revive and continue.

"Heaven knows, though under strong temptation, not to say under imperative necessity, I employed thieves and burglars, I was neither a robber nor a murderer in intention. I wanted to get my own money, withheld from me against my expressed desire-that was all. I do not say this to extenuate my crime, but to let you know the exact truth. I cannot dwell upon this part of the dreadful tale. You know already that the thieves murdered Sir Lemuel Levison in his chamber. It seems that he had not gone to bed, but had fallen asleep in his chair. He woke and discovered them. He was instantly about to give the alarm, when he was knocked senseless by Smith and killed by Murdockson. From the moment that I heard the old man was dead, although I had not intended the awful crime, I knew that I had actually occasioned it, and that the curse of Cain was upon my head! I have not had a happy moment since. I fled the country, and stayed abroad until I heard that my wretched companion, Rose, was in trouble. Then I returned in disguise to see what was to become of her, resolved to give myself up to justice, if it should be necessary to vindicate her. But I found, by cautious inquiry, that she had been admitted as crown's evidence on the trial of the valet Potts, who was discharged from custody, on a verdict of 'Not Proven,' but that she was in prison again, on the charge of perjury, for having sworn-what she truly believed, by the way, poor wench-that the confederate of the thieves who murdered Sir Lemuel Levison was no other than the young Marquis of Arondelle. You were there, sir, and immediately proved an alibi?"

"Yes," said the duke.

"Rose was thereupon committed for perjury. I found her in prison on that charge when I returned to Scotland. I did not see her then. I was afraid to show myself, especially as I knew the girl felt very bitterly toward me, believing that I had willfully betrayed her into danger, when in point of fact it was her own dishonesty that led to her arrest. Her vanity tempted her to purloin and secrete a portion of the most valuable jewels from the booty that had accidentally in the confusion of the thieves' flight fallen into my hands along with the money that was my own. I had intended, secretly to return the jewels upon the first opportunity, but the unfortunate woman secreted them, and denied all knowledge of them. After my flight she was so mad as to wear the watch in public, and to take it to a West End jeweller for repairs. Of course that jeweller, like others, had a full description of the watch, recognized the stolen property, and caused the arrest of the holder."

"We heard all that on the trial. Do not exhaust yourself by repeating anything that has already come to our knowledge," said the duke.

"I refer to this only to explain the bitterness of the girl's feelings toward me as the reason why I was obliged to keep concealed."

"But if the girl had been favorable toward you, would not it have been equally dangerous for you to have shown yourself?"

"Oh! no; my disguise was too complete. Besides, if I had not been disguised-you see in that neighborhood I had never been known as myself, but had always been mistaken for you-and the people were not undeceived up to that time. Give me a little more brandy. Ah! this spurring up a jaded horse! You see it does not get into my head. It only keeps up my sinking strength," added the man, after the duke had complied with his request.

"I remained in the neighborhood to see the result of Rose Cameron's trial for perjury. It was near the end of the term when she was arraigned at Banff. She would certainly have been convicted, for it was in evidence that she had sworn that the Marquis of Arondelle had been the confederate of the thieves and murderers, and had himself received and delivered to her the stolen booty; and her testimony was rebutted on the spot, not only by the high character and standing of the marquis, but by witnesses who proved an alibi for him. She would certainly have been convicted, I say, had not an unexpected witness appeared in her behalf. John Potts, the valet, who had been discharged from custody, came upon the stand, took the oath, and testified to the existence of a perfect counterpart of the Marquis of Arondelle, in the person of one John Scott, the companion of the accused woman, who had always foolishly believed him to be the young marquis himself. This testimony not only vindicated the accused woman from the charge of perjury, but opened her eyes to the facts of the case-namely, that I had never abandoned her to suffer in my stead while I went off to marry another woman, as she had supposed-that my only sin against her was in having allowed her to deceive herself in believing me to be Lord Arondelle."

The man gasped as he concluded the last sentence, and the duke said:

"You had better rest now. A little rest will do more good than any stimulant."

"You think so? Nay, rest would be death for me now. I must go on while my nerves are strung up; once they relax, I die."

"Very well; I am listening attentively."

"As soon as Rose was discharged from custody I sought her out, and there was a mutual explanation and reconciliation. But the testimony of John Potts, given on the trial of Rose Cameron, had placed my life in great jeopardy: so we secretly left the country. We went away separately for our greater security. I went first. Rose came on a week later. We met by appointment at L'Ange. In the obscurity of that village we hoped for safety; but I was tormented by remorse; for the murder of Sir Lemuel Levison lay heavily on my soul. There, my wife, Rose, gave birth to a little girl, whom we secretly placed in the rotary basket at the door of the Infants' Asylum attached to this convent. The good nuns received it, and cared for it. They called it Marie Perdue, 'Lost Mary.' After Rose's recovery, we went away, because it was not safe for us to remain so near home with such sharpers as English detectives and French police on our track. We took refuge in Italy, in the Sanctuary of the Holy See. We stayed there several months, when, thinking that all pursuit had been abandoned, and longing to see our child, we came on a flying visit to L'Ange. But the police were on the watch for us. I was arrested, as you have heard, on the day after my arrival. Quick work; but you see the chief of police here telegraphed the police in London, and brought the detectives hither within twenty-four hours. You know the rest. I am dying here by my own hand. It was a mad, rash, impulsive act, for which I am deeply sorry; but-I am dying in expiation of my share in the tragedy at Lone Castle."

The young duke took the emaciated hand of the failing man and pressed it in silence; he was too deeply moved to trust himself to speak.

"I have but this to say now. I leave a wife and helpless child. They are penniless and friendless. You will not let them starve," murmured the man.

"Oh, no, no, I will care for them, believe me, as long as we all shall live," said the duke, earnestly.

"That is all. Bid me good-by now. And when you go out ask good Sister Francoise to send the priest," said John Scott, holding out his white, cold hand.

"I will. Good-bye. May our merciful Father in heaven bless and save you, my poor brother," murmured the duke, pressing that pale hand, laying it tenderly on the coverlet, and gliding from the room of death.

Ten minutes later, the good Father Garbennetti was closeted with his penitent, administering religious consolation.

When the last sacred offices were all performed, the priest retired, and the wife and child of the dying man were admitted to his presence, with permission to remain with him to the end.

In the meantime, the Duke of Hereward, conducted by Doctor Dubourg, traversed the long passages leading from the Old Men's Home to the convent.

As they went on, the duke gave the doctor instructions to supply the patient with everything that he should require during the last few hours of his life; and after death to take direction of the funeral, and charge all expenses to himself (the duke), adding:

"I shall, of course, remain at L'Ange until all is over."

"It will not be long, monseigneur. The poor man has been kept up by mental excitement and by strong stimulants all day long; there comes a fatal reaction soon, from which nothing can raise him. He will not outlive the day."

"I am very sorry for him," murmured the duke.

"He was, perhaps, a distant relative of your grace. There is a slight family likeness," suggested the doctor.

"There is a very remarkable family likeness, and he is a very near relative," answered the duke, adding; "I hope you will kindly follow the instructions I have given you in regard to him."

"I will faithfully follow them out, monseigneur," said the doctor, with a bow.

At the entrance to the convent proper they were met by an elderly nun, who brought the lady superior's compliments and begged leave to announce that refreshments were laid in the receiving-parlor, if the Duke of Hereward and Doctor Dubourg would do the house the honor to partake of them.

The young duke was tired and hungry from his long journey and longer fast, and gratefully accepted the sister's courteous invitation in his own and the doctor's name.

The nun led the way to the parlor, where a table was set out, not merely with slight refreshments, but with the first course of a dainty dinner, which the forethought of the abbess had caused to be prepared for her noble guest.

The duke and the doctor sat down to the table, and were attentively waited on by two of the elder sisterhood.

Notwithstanding the good appetite of the guests and the delicacy of the viands set before them, the meal passed in gravity and in almost total silence, for the thoughts of the two companions were with the dying man whom they had left in the Old Men's Home.

When they had finished dining, and had arisen from the table, a message was delivered by one of the old nuns who had waited upon them, to the effect that the lady superior desired to see the duke in the portress' room for a few minutes, before his departure.

The duke immediately signified his readiness to wait on the lady, and followed his conductress to the little room behind the wicket appropriated to the portress.

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