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cab she put her hand in her pocket to take out her purse and pay the cabman.
It was gone!
She turned sick with apprehension, for the loss of this purse, which contained all the money which she had brought with her, was, under the circumstances, a serious calamity.
She hurried again into the cab and searched it thoroughly; but no purse was to be found.
Then the truth burst upon her; she had been robbed of it by someone in the crowd of visitors in Holyrood Palace; her pocket had probably been picked while she stood in the picture gallery dreaming before the portrait of King James. How she reproached herself for her carelessness in taking so considerable an amount of money with her.
She was excessively agitated; but she managed to control herself sufficiently to speak calmly to the waiter, and say:
"Be good enough to pay this man and put the item in my bill"
The waiter obeyed and discharged the cab; for, of course, the name of Lady Vincent was as yet a passport to credit. Then she hurried to her room in a state of great agitation that nearly deprived her of all power to think or act. She rang the bell, which brought a waiter to her presence.
"I would like to see the landlord of this hotel," she said.
"I beg your pardon, my lady, but the proprietor lives out of town," returned the man.
"Then send the clerk of the house, or the head waiter, or whoever is in charge here."
"I will send the clerk, my lady," said the waiter, retiring.
The clerk soon made his appearance.
"Sir," said Claudia, "I sent for you to say, that while I was seeing Holyrood Palace, this forenoon, my pocket was picked of my purse, which contained a considerable amount of money; and I wish to ask you what steps I should take for its recovery?"
"Have you any idea of the sort of person that robbed you, my lady?"
"Not the slightest; all I know is that I had the purse with me when I paid the guide on entering the palace, and then I missed it when I reached home; and all I suspect is that it was purloined from me while I was in the picture gallery, standing before the portrait of James IV."
"In what form was the money, my lady?"
"Five and ten pound Bank of England notes."
"Were the numbers taken?"
"Oh, no; I never thought of taking the numbers."
"Then, my lady, I very much fear that it will be difficult or impossible to recover the money. However, I will send for a detective, and we will make an effort."
"Do, sir, if you please."
The clerk retired.
In a few moments Detective Ogilvie waited on Lady Vincent, and received her statement in regard to the robbery, promised to take prompt measures for the discovery of the thief, and retired.
Then suddenly Claudia remembered her letter to her father It was now near the close of the short winter day. Her interview with the detective had occupied her so long that she had barely time to scribble and send off the few urgent lines with which the reader is already acquainted. Then she dined and resigned herself to repose for the remainder of the evening.
While she sat in her easy-chair luxuriating in indolence and solitude before the glowing fire, the thought suddenly occurred to her that she was not really so badly off as the loss of her purse had first led her to suppose. She recollected that she had several costly rings upon her fingers; diamonds, rubies, and emeralds--the least valuable of which was worth more than the purse of money which had been stolen from her; and if she should be driven to extremity she could part with one of these rings; but then, on calm consideration of the subject, she had really no fears of being driven to extremity. She was Lady Vincent, and her credit was as yet intact before the world. This was a first-class hotel, and would supply her with all that she might require for the month that must intervene before her father's arrival.
She would spend this interval in seeing Edinboro' and its environs, and when her father should come she would persuade him to take her to the Continent, and afterwards carry her back to her native country, and to her childhood's home, to pass the remainder of her life in peace and quietness.
Dreaming over this humble prospect for the future, Claudia retired to bed, and slept well.
The next morning, as soon as she had breakfasted, she ordered a carriage from the stables connected with the hotel and drove to Edinboro' Castle, where she spent two or three hours among its royal halls and bowers, dreaming over the monuments of the past.
She lingered in the little cell-like stone chamber where Queen Mary had given birth to her son, afterwards James VI. She read the pathetic prayer carved on the stone tablet above the bedstead, and said to have been composed by the unhappy queen in behalf of her newborn infant.
In the great hall of the castle she paused long before a beautiful portrait of Mary Stuart, that was brought from Paris, where it had been painted, and which represented the young queen in her earliest womanhood, when she was the Dauphiness of France. And Claudia thought that this portrait was the only one, among all that she had ever seen of Mary Stuart, which came up to her ideal of that royal beauty, who was even more a queen of hearts than of kingdoms.
At length, weary of sight-seeing, she re-entered her carriage and returned home. While she was in her bedchamber taking off her bonnet, a card was brought to her.
"This must be a mistake--this cannot be for me; I have no acquaintances in the town," she said, without taking the trouble to glance at the card.
"I beg your ladyship's pardon, but the countess inquired particularly for Lady Vincent," replied the waiter who had brought the card.
"The countess?" repeated Claudia, and she took it up and read the lightly penciled name:
"Berenice, Countess of Hurstmonceux."
"Say to Lady Hurstmonceux that I will be with her in a few minutes," said Claudia.
"'Berenice, Countess of Hurstmonceux,'" she repeated when the man had retired; "that is the widow of the late earl, and the forsaken wife of Herman Brudenell. What on earth brings her here? And how did she know of my presence in the city, and even in this house? However, I shall know soon, I suppose."
And so saying, Claudia made a few changes in her toilet, and went into the parlor.
Standing, looking from the window, was a lady dressed in a black velvet bonnet and plumes, a black silk gown, and a large sable cloak and muff.
As Claudia entered, this lady turned around and lifted her veil, revealing a beautiful, pale face, with large, deep-fringed, mournful dark eyes, and soft, rippling, jet-black hair. At the first glance Claudia was touched by the pensive beauty of that lovely face.
Yes! at the age of forty-five the Countess of Hurstmonceux was still beautiful. She had passed a serene life, free alike from carking cares and fashionable excesses, and so her beauty had been well preserved. It would have taken a keen observer to have detected the few wrinkles that had gathered in the corners of her fine eyes and plump lips, or to have found out the still fewer silver threads that lay hidden here and there among her dark tresses.
Claudia advanced to greet her, holding out her hand, and saying:
"The Countess of Hurstmonceux, I presume?"
"Yes," replied the visitor, with a sweet smile.
"I am Lady Vincent; and very happy to see you. Pray be seated," said Claudia, drawing forward a chair for her visitor.
"My dear Lady Vincent, I only learned this morning of your arrival in town, and presuming upon my slight connection with the family of the present Earl of Hurstmonceux, I have ventured to call on you and claim a sort of relationship," said Berenice kindly.
"Your ladyship is very good, and I am very glad to see you," said Claudia cordially. Then suddenly recollecting her own cruel position, and feeling too proud as well as too honest to appear under false colors, she blushed, and said:
"I cannot think how your ladyship could know that I was here; but I am sure that when you did me this honor of calling, you did not know the circumstances under which I left Castle Cragg."
A tide of crimson swept over the pale face of Berenice; it arose for Claudia, not for herself, and she replied:
"My dear, wronged lady, I know it all."
"You know all--all that they allege against me, and you call me wronged?" exclaimed Claudia, in pleased surprise.
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