Chapter 160105239

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Chapter NumberVIII
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article160105239
Full Date1884-12-27
Page Number6
Corrections20
Word Count1307
IllustratedN
Last Corrected2018-03-11
Newspaper TitleAdelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)
Trove TitleSowing the Wind
article text

CHAPTER VIII.

They were to take their departure from the castle and proceed on their journey within another week—so Monsieur decreed— or the autumn would be advancing before they crossed the Alps. They were to winter in Italy.

"That will be a very pretty picture my dear, when finished. You have chosen a lovely view to sketch."

Helen was sitting by a casement painting while Madame spoke, looking over her shoulder. "And now I am glad you have such interesting employment, for I must pay my last visit to that poor old woman on the other side of the wood and leave you alone. No, my dear, you must not come, for there is

still danger. You know I am proof against

such fevers. I will be back before dark.

Adieu."

Madame had not returned before Helen retired that night, but as it was no unusual

thing for her to stay with the sick and lonely

until quite late she was not anxious about her; but the next morning Helen did not see her in her usual place and enquired of the maid—

"Did not Madame return last evening,

Annette?"

"No Mademoiselle. Monsieur assures me that she intended to stay with the poor old woman if she found her alone. Me? ah, no! I would not go for her indeed! I should be sure to take that dreadful fever and die."

Helen waited and watched for Madame's return with an anxiety she could scarcely account for or endure. She remembered her

promise to be at home before the evening;

how was it then that she had told Monsieur

so differently? Monsieur had gone away very early in the morning to join a hunting party, and would stay this night at a chateau some miles off. It would be quite in accord- ance with Madame's kindness of heart to

stay with the poor old woman, if necessary, but to make herself assured that she really

was safe Helen determined to set out at once across the forest, taking with her a little peasant-boy as guide.

There were two paths in leaving the castle—the nearer and better one leading by the subterranean passage. Helen was about to take it, but noticing the reluctance of the boy, and pitying his superstitious fears, she

followed the other.

"Yes, ma'am," he said in his own patois in answer to a question of Helen's, "indeed, screams are sometimes heard from there. There is a curse, too, on the ground. All the trees are stunted around it, and since the passage has been cleared out a piece of rock has given way, quite blocking up the entrance."

The forest was of vast extent, and in parts densely wooded. Helen saw how easy it would be for one not thoroughly acquainted with the leading of its beaten path to get lost and wander for miles out of the way.

They reached at last the hut of the poor old woman. Knocking, the door was opened by her granddaughter, from whom Helen learnt to her dismay that Madame had left just before dusk the previous evening. To hasten home and raise the neighbourhood was Helen's next anxiety. She sped along so fast that the boy could scarcely keep pace

with her.

Madame had endeared herself to the peasants around by her goodness and kindness

to them; besides being the wife of their future lord, was sufficient to move them to every exertion and to render every assistance possible. They rose en masse and separated into parties to scour the forest, drag the stream, and examine the pitfall.

Poor Helen did not cease to blame herself that she had not begun her search earlier in the day. Now her forced inaction was almost

unendurable. Hour after hour she watched

from the castle parapets for any sign from the searchers that might give her hope, and as she saw the sun sinking, and day gradually declining, the thought of a second night spent by poor Madame, weary, alone, without food or shelter, was most distracting. Monsieur was still absent. She knew not what to do. She could watch no longer from her height; When the moon arose she hurried out by herself, running as far as she dared into the wood, calling, listening, calling again; but no answer came, only an owl flew out from a tree above her head, startling her with its screams; then all was silent again.

It was a warm summer night, a full moon was shining. She wandered on till she came to the subterranean passage, where she found that the entrance was blocked by large pieces of earth and rock, as the peasant boy had said, which, no doubt accidentally loosened by unskilful labourers, had fallen since they left. The spot looked desolate and forsaken indeed—a place well calculated to inspire the ignorant mind with dread, laden as it was with stories of horror.

She paced up and down, listening for the voices of returning searchers. No sound met her ear, only the sough of the wind through the distant tall elms. Presently a low moan as from the ground startled her. She stopped, and listened intently—again it came. Then she remembered the ray of light she had seen in the cavern when ex- ploring it with Madame, and could account now for the sounds like screams and moans so often affirmed to be heard coming from the side of the hill, caused no doubt by the wind through that small aperture so carefully con- cealed on the outside.

She sat down, weary with watching and anxiety. Another wail and moan, almost, she could fancy, shaping itself into words— thrilled her through.

Trembling with fright in spite of the cause she had assigned for the sounds she started to her feet again.

"Oh, Madame! Madame, where are you? Oh, that we could find you!" she cried in an agony of mind, "are you dying alone where we cannot reach you? What would I not give to find you?"

Again a wail, as if strengthened by a last hope, seemed to answer Helen, and this time the words were distinct, or at least Helen fancied so, that she could even hear her own name called in the voice of poor Madame. She feared that the distress of the last few hours was rendering her delirious; still, as if for relief to her mind, she continued call- ing Madame, then sat down again upon the ground, endeavouring to calm herself. Once more she heard that dreadful wail. It was, it must be, Madame's own voice that she re- cognised now; with a great effort she calmed herself, then called again as distinctly as she could, placing her ear near the spot whence the sounds came and listened—ah, how anxiously! The answer came, "Oh, save me! save me!" "Yes, yes, dear Madame

Dubois, I am here, and will soon get help to release you. Be patient for only a short time longer."

And then Helen flew with all the speed she could until she arrived breathless at the castle gate.

It was the postern-gate to which she came, where she pulled the heavy bell, and while the ponderous bolts were being withdrawn she had time to regain her breath to speak.

"Come! come!" she cried, "call more men and come; bring pickaxes and lanterns. I have found Madame Dubois."

The porter stood a moment to take in her words, then hastened to obey.

"Quick! quick!" she cried, "two or three men will be sufficient, but come quickly."

With great presence of mind she provided herself with a bottle of water, some bread, and a warm rug, then set out again to guide, the servants.