Chapter 160104981

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Chapter NumberXII
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article160104981
Full Date1884-12-27
Page Number7
Corrections17
Word Count1833
IllustratedN
Last Corrected2018-03-17
Newspaper TitleAdelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)
Trove TitleSowing the Wind
article text

CHAPTER XII

Madame Deslandes, a homely and motherly lady, surrounded by her children, gave Helen and her maid a warm welcome, and they were soon made to feel at home in the old

rambling house and among its inmates. Marguerite soon made herself quite useful in amusing and managing the children.

It was now that Helen began to feel more

than ever the barrier she had raised between herself and home. She had discovered her mistake very soon after the first excitement of her flight had subsided, when the diffi- culties of her position and the fear of poverty presented themselves.

Now since she had acquired, through mixing with the world, a clearer knowledge of its ways, and saw how merciless was its judgment, she became the more convinced how fatal had been that mistake.

She saw that even her accession of fortune

through Madame's legacy would gain for her no favour in the eyes of the society she had quitted—quitting it without protection as she had done and returning to it alone as she would have to do—the credence to her story given by that world might be doubtful. She saw, also, that she had raised an almost insuperable barrier between herself and Arnold Disney—that if his love for her were not dead she had at least done her best to kill it. What right had she to suppose him still unmarried and true to her?

Oh! the rashness of the step she had taken in the impetuous folly of a far-away child- hood (so great seemed to be the lapse of time between then and now)—a step involving in its consequences irremediable disaster and a life-long repentance. Yet she determined to go bravely on, and began to consider what next she should do.

She must remove from Berne as soon as possible, being much too easily within Mon- sieur's reach, for his parting words caused her uneasiness.

Fortunately she had corresponded with Mrs. Newbury at intervals ever since they had separated; the last letter from her had spoken of wintering in Rome. Thither, then, Helen determined to proceed if her friend would have her.

She wrote at once and awaited the reply.

In the interval Monsieur too surely reap- peared. He came before her suddenly when farthest from her thoughts. She had sought the most secluded spot, where, sitting in a niche of rock that sheltered her from the

sun, and would hide her, she hoped, for an hour or two from the children, she finished reading a borrowed book.

He spoke, and his voice startled her.

"I have found you, my love, my darling! Days and weeks have been as ages while separated from you, and now I come to claim you for my own—my wife. The poor old Marquis had died before I could see him, and

though for myself I would not have wished

his life curtailed by one hour, or desired those great possessions before due-time, yet when through them I may win so great a prize I cannot mourn his loss when his span of life is run. And this great wealth I come to lay at thy feet, my queen, my star. The splendour of the world is before you now. How you will shine! How envied, how

proud I shall be!"

Helen had risen to her feet, and stood speechless while Monsieur poured out this

torrent of words.

"Monsieur," she said, controlling herself with great effort and trying to speak firmly. "Monsieur, this is most painful to me because I feel that it has been owing to your great kindness that I have lived so happily and quietly for so long. I am also quite sensible of the compliment that you pay me, and, it may appear unaccountable to you that a friendless girl like myself should not gladly accept such an offer as you make me, but Monsieur I assure you that it is utterly im- possible."

Monsieur became quite livid as Helen spoke. "Impossible!" he said. "Why? why? What do you mean by impossible?" "This," she said, "is the reason I have

long ago given my love away," and she drew out the cherished locket and opened it.

In a moment, as in a frenzy, he seized the locket, and wrenching it from the silver chain which attached it to the watch, dashed it to the earth, then ground it under his heel.

Helen stood with clasped hands and firmly compressed lips, quite powerless to rescue her treasure.

"So perish," he hissed, "the man who comes between thee and me."

There was a moment's pause, then Helen turned and took the path to the house. He made one step, or rather stride, to follow her, and seized her arm tightly, almost painfully. Again his voice sounded like a hiss in her ear.

"Yes—fly—but not beyond my reach. I will stake my soul—but I will not give you up—I will not be thwarted." Then he let her go; she, trembling, hurried on, and reached the house and the sanctum of her own room.

"Oh, my dear mistress! my dear young lady! Are you ill? What is the matter? you look so white?"

"l am not ill, dear Marguerite, I shall soon be better. I have hurried home too quickly. I was frightened, as it was beginning to grow dusk. I took the children for a long walk this afternoon, Mademoiselle, and I met Father Andre: he asked how you were, and

enquired also if I had seen Monsieur since we had been here. Do you know that Monsieur

is Le Marquis now, Ma'amselle?"

"This is your book, Miss Montaine," said Madame Deslandes, some hours after, and as she spoke she regarded Helen with an ex- pressive smile; "something that interested you more than it caused you to forget, and

perhaps you can guess who has returned it?"

"Indeed, Madame, I am obliged to any one who has brought it to me; it is a borrowed book and I have been careless."

"But there is great excuse for the forget- fulness in this instance—is it not so? Will you not let me congratulate you? You know that I am a very old friend of Monsieur, and you must pardon him if in the exuberance of his happiness he has confided to me that which you might have preferred to have been kept secret for a little time."

"This is quite a mistake. Madame," said Helen, looking astonished, "what can Mon- sieur have said?"

"I, perhaps, then have exaggerated Mon- sieur's meaning—you have not given him your final answer—I am premature—forgive me— but I did rejoice at what I believed he wished

me to understand. The alliance would be so convenant — is so desirable. Ah!

you would shine—la belle Marquise—so bril-

liant, so beautiful—and Monsieur le Marquis

—brilliant, distinguished—so handsome and princely in his bearing; with the wealth of Dubois what splendours lie before you!"

"Yet your kind wishes for me can never be realized, Madame. I was just about to show you Mrs. Newbury's answer to my letter. She wishes me to join her as soon as pos- sible."

"Ah, but I shall much regret losing you, and—do not be angry at my persistence—but I do not believe that Monsieur will let you escape so easily."

Helen began to prepare for her journey immediately upon the receipt of Mrs. New- bury's letter. The day before her departure she was told that Father André waited to see her. She went to him wondering what he could have to say to her.

"I hear that you are leaving," he said, "and have called to wish you a pleasant journey, and also to discharge a duty that is on my mind in regard to Margnerite, your maid. Madame Dubois expressed a wish that I would place no obstacle in the way of her remaining with you. While acceding to this wish I must request a solemn promise

from you that you will not tamper with her

faith in the true Catholic Church in which she has been brought up."

"I can easily do so," said Helen, "Madame Dubois, with whom I lived so happily, allowed me entire freedom in my own opinions. I can but extend the same to Mar- guerite."

"That is well, thank you. I have your promise; I am content. Do you return soon to this neighbourhood?"

"That depends entirely upon the plans of the friend to whom I am going."

"The Marquis very quickly consoles him- self for his loss." As he said this he regarded her fixedly.

"Indeed!" Helen, stammered, her face flushing at the thought that the priest's re- mark was probably prompted by Madame Deslandes' report.

"It will be exceedingly painful to me to oppose the wishes of the Marquis, or to bring disappointment by what I have to say. But yet I must go straight on with my duty, and tell you that the Marquis cannot possibly form any alliance with one of an apostate Church without the consent of his own. Should he prove refractory, I can bring higher authority to bear upon the case which will without difficulty convince him that he must submit."

"Father André," replied Helen, with dignity in her tone and look, "you are speaking of a subject which does not in the least concern me.

"Eh? Then have I been misinformed? Is it not true that the Marquis has proposed to you, and that you have consented to become his wife?"

"Nothing can be further from my inten- tions."

"But will you confide in me—you may trust me. Has not the Marquis expressed his wishes to that end? I am not led by idle curiosity; it is important that I should know."

Thus entreated Helen related all that the Marquis had said on both occasions, when he had pressed his suit so vehemently, and she did not omit the words which almost seemed to threaten coercion, adding that it was for this reason she so particularly wished to hasten her departure.

"Are you quite decided upon the point? I do not deny that an alliance with the house of Dubois, especially in the person of the present Marquis, offers a brilliant prospect

of wealth and distinction; and although it might be my duty to oppose it strenuously, the task would be so much more painful to me if I knew that I was bringing disappoint- ment and blight to your prospects and happi- ness; on the other hand, if you are resolved to refuse the Marquis"—

"Nothing can alter my decision," replied Helen, and there was unmistakeable firmness in her voice.

"Thanks," he said, "for your confidence— you will not have reason to regret it."

The priest soon after left, but not before he had seen Marguerite, expressing his confi- dence in her mistress, but at the same time requiring that she should continually keep him informed by letter of all that concerned herself.