Chapter 160104980

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Chapter NumberXIII
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article160104980
Full Date1884-12-27
Page Number8
Corrections44
Word Count3931
IllustratedN
Last Corrected2018-03-17
Newspaper TitleAdelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)
Trove TitleSowing the Wind
article text

CHAPTER XIII.

Glad was Helen, to find herself travelling again, every mile carrying her further away from the scenes of such vexatious and dis- tressing incidents, and her spirits recovered from the depression that had weighed upon her so long. Rejoiced indeed was she to meet again the pleasant face of her old friend and hear her cordial welcome, and to find her listening most sympathetically to the distressing tales of the last few months.

In the relation of Monsieur's persistent suit, Helen acknowledged to Mrs. Newbury the story of her life's love. She hoped that this confession would effectually prevent any thoughts of match-making which that lady's conversation with Helen when in Paris had evinced, about which she believed the Major himself cared nothing at all. Instead, how- ever, of it having the desired effect upon Mrs. Newbury, Helen's tale did just the reverse; for while admitting that her act in leaving her uncle's home had been rash and foolish in the extreme, she saw plainly enough that only great strength of character and purity

of motive could have carried her unscathed through the difficulties of her path; while, therefore, the former good opinion which she had entertained of Helen, was the more con- firmed in her mind, it only gave her fresh incentives for furthering her brother's hopes, especially as she felt convinced of the falla- ciousness of Helen's.

"It remains to be proved whether your lover is as faithful as yourself," said Mrs. Newbury. When do you think of return- ing home?"

Whenever I think of returning home I am the more convinced of my error in leav- ing it. However conscious I may be that I have committed no graver one, it may yet, be not so easy to make my aunt believe it, and if she should prove implacable I should find myself in a worse position than I am now, for my aunt and uncle are my only relations, and if I were to find that Mr. Disney is married, or had ceased to care for me, my mortification would be complete.

Having, as Helen supposed, convinced Mrs. Newbury that her affections once fixed could never alter, her manner was quite frank and unconstrained towards the Major; and he— his hopes perpetually fanned by his sister, who was constantly and adroitly throwing them together—became the more in love, paying her, though unobtrusively, every attention in his power, so that everything conspired to bring about before very long the (to Helen) unexpected and most un-

desired result—an earnest avowal of his affection.

She could but answer him in the same manner and almost in the same words as she had done Monsieur—that it was quite im- possible—that her affections had been long irrevocably fixed elsewhere.

The poor Major looked dejected and miserable, silently and slowly pacing the piazza where Helen was sitting, switching and scattering with his cane the petals of unoffending roses.

Mrs. Newbury happening at this minute to join them, the Major turned on his heel and walked slowly away. She saw at a glance what had happened, and wisely for- bore any remark, waiting for a more fitting opportunity, and when that occurred she used it to the best of her ability, arguing not so much, at least in words, in favour of the new love as against the cherishing of the old.

"I believe it is a forlorn hope," replied Helen, "and I said before that I have no right to think of him, yet if I never see Mr. Disney again I cannot forget him."

"If there were any means of proving it," said the Major to his sister when speaking of Helen one day; "if she could only find out

that this fellow—what is his name?—has given her up in despair, as is most reasonable to suppose, then I believe she might have thoughts for some one else; but how, unless she return home, is she to know?"

"Shall we propose to her to go home with us—with me?" said Mrs. Newbury. "Her

people, you know, live at Scoss, on the very borders of our county. She could mix freely in society as my friend, and so would be sure

to hear something of her relations and could choose her own time to attempt a reconcilia- tion or act according to circumstances."

"A capital plan, Mary. Our people would take to her, I know. She is just the girl

Lord Onslow would like."

"Yes, I think she would like the plan, and as by that time your term of leave would have expired, I advise you to keep out of her way until her mind is settled about this Mr. Disney."

"Disney! Disney! well now, that is the first time I have caught the name. That is the same—the very same name. I tell you he is married. Good luck to me. There was a Mr. and Mrs. Disney evidently on their

wedding tour doing the Continent, who joined our party up Mount Vesuvius."

"Edgar, how strangely things do happen; but it will be no pleasant task for me to tell her. Poor girl, it will be the death-blow to her hope."

"Yes, but fresh life to mine." "Ah, but it will be long before she will recover from it, and after all this may not be the same man; we must compare notes as to description. However, it need not alter our plans—to return home would be the only means of proving this beyond a doubt."

Mrs. Newbury broke the intelligence as gently as she could; and while she spoke Helen raised her eyes and fixed them on Mrs. Newbury's face, as if watching for every word, her hands fallen listlessly upon her lap.

"Yes," she said slowly, "grey eyes, brown hair, rather above the usual height."

They were sitting alone in Mrs. Newbury's

comfortable morning room. At the com- mencement of the conversation Helen's face flushed a deep crimson, now she turned deathly white, and rising, almost staggered to the door.

"It has yet to be proved you know, dear, and the more reason that we should go home," said the other, laying her hand caressingly upon her shoulder.

"Yes, thank you, dear Mrs. Newbury."

And she slowly made her exit from the room, shutting the door gently behind her.

Major Onslow considerately kept out of Helen's way for the few days remaining ere they were ready for travelling. Their intended

departure was only hastened a few weeks, which Mrs. Newbury declared was quite

according to her wishes; and they soon found themselves again in the very heart of France, waiting in a small village for a few days until the diligence passed. This village was but about ten miles from Castle Dubois, which fact alone filled Helen with an inde- finable dread; the air itself seemed oppres- sive while she counted the hours before she would leave the place.

"I have written to Father André," said Marguerite one day during their stay here; "you know, Ma'amselle, he desired me par- ticularly to do so constantly. Can you spare me to post it?"

"Certainly, Marguerite, but it will be dusk before you return."

Marguerite blushed and said that Monsieur Govin would see her home safely.

Helen smiled, for the girl open as the day had confessed to her mistress an attachment to the Major's valet.

Mrs. Newbury and Helen with their maids were staying at a farmhouse, the Major and Govin at a neighbouring inn.

Govin was a man of most pleasing exterior, who had ingratiated himself much with the Major and Mrs. Newbury; he had enlisted the letter's sympathies on behalf of his sick sister, whom she had gone to visit at some distance, so it happened that Helen was left alone for a few hours this afternoon.

It was a cold afternoon in October. Helen was sitting with her book waiting for her

friend's return when the farmer's wife entered asking if she would like to see some beautiful needlework. She rose and went into the large kitchen, and saw there a sister from the convent close by, who eyed Helen keenly but pleasantly, and showed her some beautiful embroidery. Helen admired the work very much, when the other said,

"If you would like to come with me to the convent I can show you a great variety. It

is but a short walk."

Helen was glad of an object for a good walk, and cheerfully assented. She set out immediately with her new companion, and

soon arrived at the convent. She was shown into a room small and neat, out of which opened another where were two small beds.

Here she was soon interested, in examining the specimens of beautiful needlework shown to her. In a few minutes the Mother Prioress entered the room, greeting Helen politely, but at the same time turning the key in the lock. Helen thought little of this circumstance, although she observed it, supposing it to be one of the rules of the

convent.

The Prioress joined freely in the conversa- tion, and Helen stayed for about half an hour, when she began to take her leave.

"Pardon me," said the lady, "I have a painful duty to perform. Your friends have been long in search of you, and fortunately obtaining a trace, have begged me to assist them in claiming you."

Helen stood transfixed with amazement, dreading every moment to see her imperious aunt appear before her, but spoke not a

word.

"You shall have every consideration," continued the Prioress; "everything—any thing that can beguile the necessarily un- pleasant hours—perhaps days—shall be pro- vided, to render them, if not pleasant, at

least endurable to you."

"How long am I to be kept here, and who is it that has given you authority to imprison

me?"

"Nay, do not call it by such a harsh name.

It is merely a detention for a short time, no doubt."

"Will you tell me who has given you such instructions, and why such a treacherous

method has been adopted?"

"I am not at liberty to answer any ques- tions, my dear young lady, but only beg of you to calm yourself, and endeavour mean- while to be amused by the means we can

provide."

The Mother and the Sister then left her

alone for a few minutes, the latter returning with some refreshments. Helen was much too sensible to give way to a moody sullen- ness, and as her walk that cold afternoon had given her an appetite she was glad of what

was offered.

Evening had set in. A light had been brought, and she was told that whenever she chose one of the beds in the inner room was at her service, and gladly she availed herself of it that she might think over and silently endeavour to solve this mystery undisturbed. She thought of Mrs. Newbury, and grieved at the trouble of mind and fright her disappearance would cause. She pictured to herself all the possible scenes that might mark the morrow in her aunt's presence, and determined to comport herself humbly, and hoped that a conciliatory de-

meanour would disarm her anger.

The morning dawned finding her unre- freshed by any sleep. She heard the bells ringing, and footsteps moving briskly about; but excepting to bring her books and her breakfast, no one came near her.

Many times during that weary day she would suddenly stop in her restless pacing of the room to listen intently to any sound of step or voice that might be approaching her door. She was quite unable to divert her thoughts by reading; though many amusing books lay before her, not a sentence could she understand. The windows of her room were so high that nothing could be seen from them. No one came near her; she saw no one but the Sister who had brought her there, and who had shared her room at night. Her meals were brought, temptingly and neatly served, but though she wished to eat that she might be strengthened for any emergency, not knowing what might yet be in store for her, food seemed to choke her. Her nerves were strained to a most painful tension, while her temples throbbed vio- lently. Towards the end of the day the

Mother Prioress entered.

"I come," she said, "to prepare you for a visit from a friend who will arrive in about half an hour." Her manner of speaking, though laconic, was not rude; but she firmly withstood all questioning with the one answer—"I am not at liberty to say more,

even as to whether the friend were lady or gentleman; then she left her alone again.

No half-hour had ever seemed so long to Helen as she stood waiting, listening, her heart beating fast with fear, and dread, and expectation. At length a step, the key turned, the door opened, and the Marqais Dubois stood before her. Helen recoiled— anger, indignation, contempt expressed in her face.

He spread his hands deprecatingly, im- ploringly.

"Ah, forgive this ruse, my passion must

plead for me. Listen but a few minutes and judge if you do well to spurn a position in the world, of which—I speak not from vanity —many noble families in France would gladly avail themselves. The great obstacle which you raised to my last appeal is re- moved. The lover to whom you have been so true has desisted from his search and married; the relations from whose unkind- ness you fled have discarded you, and wish to dismiss you from their memory; your uncle, the Honourable Margrave, which is your real name, is dead. Ah! you weep to hear all this. Consider then if it be not better that you should take what I offer. In you I recognise the ideal of my wife, who would add lustre to my name by her beauty, her wit, her talents, and in return I will pour at your feet my devotion, my wealth, my name." He paused—no answer came. Helen

sank into a chair, her head inclined upon her hand, the picture of helpless despair.

"I will not exact an answer now," he re- sumed. "I am grieved to have pained you thus by the tidings I bring. I leave you now until to-morrow at this time, when I feel sure that your good judgment will prompt a happy response to my passion. Adieu. Au revoir, my love!" and he was gone.

Helen sat for some minutes quite still, as if stunned, then with her wonted courage she endeavoured to collect her thoughts and consider how best to act, or if any path were yet left open to her; but in spite of her en- deavours she could not calm her mind suffi- ciently to plan, but all through another sleepless night questions would chase each other through her brain. How had the Marquis obtained all this information? Was then her history widely known? What would be the consequence of her determined re- fusal? Could she appeal to the Mother Prioress?

Next day she tried to rally all her energies, almost forcing herself to take food that she might be in some measure strengthened for the second visit the Marquis had threatened.

She determined to ask to see the Prioress. When she came Helen told her all of her history that was necessary, that she had been engaged professionally by the Marquis before he had come to his tide, that she had stayed with him and his wife until the death of the latter, and that at the time she was decoyed and brought to the convent she had been returning with her friends to England; that the Marquis was now persecuting her with his suit, and she besought the Mother's protection.

That lady listened quietly and gravely to the end, and then answered—

"Can you deny, my dear young lady, that you left your home clandestinely without the knowledge of your guardians—that you have been wandering alone in the world ever since? Do you expect me then to believe implicity the tale you are pleased to tell me now? Your detention is necessarily very painful to you, but you must consider that trouble is the natural consequence of your wrong doing; therefore you must remain here until your friends can decide how and where to place you. I must not stay with you longer, but recommend you to consider your past, and so to comport yourself as to conciliate your justly offended guardians."

The Mother then rose and left Helen again

alone.

This hope then had failed! She was now looking every minute for the second visit of the Marquis, and awaited him in the sitting room with what calmness she could com- mand, since she could not prevent his

coming.

He entered, his dark face glowing with

animation.

"My own! I cannot doubt your answer to me this day. You must, you will accept my devotion if you cannot return my love. I will be content with yourself."

"Before I answer you one word, Monsieur, will you tell me this? By what means have you obtained the information regarding me that you seem possessed of?"

"Yes, I will tell you. I should serve no purpose by concealing it from you. You

posted a letter before we left London. You left that letter for a few minutes in the hall

while you ran upstairs for something you had forgotten. In those few minutes I had passed through the hall, knew your writing, and copied the address in my pocket-book, thus providing myself for any possible contingency that might render it useful. I kept that address carefully until I took your locket into my possession. Ah! you searched for it in vain the next morning, did not you? I had it safely. It was not so much crushed that the face could not be seen. I become possessed of the knowledge of your whole history. I employed a person upon whose caution and intelligence I could rely to visit the country town from which you came. Carefully enquiring he learned the whole story of the young lady who had fled from unkind relatives, and with overstrained ideas of honour—even from her lover. With the likeness to guide him and the name he recognised the lover, bringing to me the wel- come tidings that he had married. Besides this, I have kept myself informed of all your doings since you left Berne through this agent of mine—Major Onslow's valet. All this I have done prompted by my great pas- sion. Surely it will prove to you the depth

of my devotion."

"You have distinguished me so much, Monsieur, by your good opinion, could you not have extended it still further by giving me credit at least for sufficient truthfulness and honour to obtain from myself all that you should know regarding my antecedents?

Do you not think that this kind of clan-

destinely gained information through a paid servant—this espionage of my life and con- duct—would be likely to demean me—the woman whom you had elected for your wife— in the eyes of these people? You have entrapped and imprisoned me here, you have gained the Prioress for your ally by misrepresentations by building a great deal of falsehood upon a little truth. All this is surely unworthy a man of honour, bearing the old name of Dubois. But apart from all this, Monsieur, you mistake in sup- posing the obstacle removed by the marriage of the man to whom I was once engaged. Married or dead it makes no difference to me, I can never marry any one else. Besides this, there appears to be a greater barrier than ever I could raise, though I do not understand, nor am I interested to know what that can be; however, I do know that

Father André, who had evidently been by busy tongues wrongly informed that I had promised to be your wife, paid me a visit

chiefly to impress upon me, that should such

be the case, it would be his duty to oppose it by all means. Also, dear Madame, just be- fore she died, seemed to wish to impress upon me very much to the same effect, although I could not understand her mean- ing at the time."

"Did Madame! did the priest! dare pre- sume to interfere with what I will and choose to do!"

He stamped with rage, he almost foamed; then he paused a moment with long-drawn breath and compressed lips; at last spoke with the calm deliberation of concentrated passion and determined purpose goaded by opposition.

"I have said that I will not be thwarted— heaven nor earth shall not prevent me! Be prepared, Miss Montaine. Early to-morrow a priest will accompany me here, and whether you consent or not—you shall be made my wife. When once you are mine, beyond your power to alter it, I shall rest satisfied that your own good taste will counsel you to comport yourself with becoming propriety." He left the room abruptly, the key turned sharply in the door—he was gone.

She wrung her hands, and paced the room in a frenzy. Now, indeed, a crisis was approaching. Every day had aggravated her case. What should she do? Ah! could she not accomplish self-destruction? But she was so constantly watched—never alone. The Sister had returned immediately upon the Marquis's departure, and Helen knew that, though quietly and unobtrusively— always busy with needlework—yet that none the less vigilantly was every movement noted. She, however, secluded herself as far as possible in the inner room, and even cast her eyes around for some means by which she might escape this life and the Marquis together.

Then she fell upon her knees by the side of

her couch, crying silently, but in agony, for

"help! help!" Was there none on earth? none in Heaven?

As she knelt with her hands clasped con- vulsively, her upraised eyes met the figure of the crucifix above her bed, and in her mind she saw again that cross upon the mountain top, and the flood of feeling which had then swept through her soul—the mute appeal

to her faith and trust which at that time had won from her a deep response, now returned with vivid reality, and the sinful impatience of her heart's suggestion the moment before smote her in its contrast with

this symbol of all that was patient and long suffering.

Again her heart's cry went up in silent agony for help. Oh, help! but this time that cry was strengthened by a deep sense of trust and hope, as before her mental vision there arose, not only the crucified, but the risen

God, powerful and willing to help the tempted and tried.

Another long night of sleepless torture— her brain on fire and her mind a whirl, every object in the room taking a fantastic shape in the dim light of the night-lamp—sometimes looming upon her in prodigious size, some- times receding to an immeasurable distance.

If she closed her eyes hideous spectres grinned upon her. When the morning

dawned Helen was in the delirium of a brain fever.