Chapter 160105242

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Chapter NumberVII
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article160105242
Full Date1884-12-27
Page Number6
Corrections25
Word Count1732
IllustratedN
Last Corrected2018-03-11
Newspaper TitleAdelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)
Trove TitleSowing the Wind
article text

CHAPTER VII.

They were led into a spacious old hall,

decorated with many a tattered flag and, rusty sword, telling of deeds long past of chivalry, glory, and bloodshed.

Here they intended staying for some weeks,

and here Helen revelled in delight, having carte-blanche to penetrate wherever her curiosity led her; up each winding, well- worn turret stair, rhapsodizing at the land- scape from each turret loophole, dragging good-natured Madame with her to admire also; begging for the exploration of old

passages for centuries unused, to be shown dungeons that thrilled her with horror.

There was also in the castle a long gallery of pictures, collected carefully from time to time by different owners who had been good connoisseurs of art. Here Helen loved to resort and to linger; the family portraits, too, interested her much as she traced the likeness in each, comparing one with another, and in almost every one noting the same fierce expression of fire in the eye and of hauteur in the curves of the lip which marked Monsieur's dark face.

The portrait of the present Marquis was amongst the rest, but Helen could scarcely believe that the handsome face and kingly bearing belonged to the poor decrepit old man to whom she had been presented, who lived a most secluded life in one wing of the castle, broken down by sorrow and old age, soon to sink into the grave. Such was the present possessor of this ancient pile, with all its glory of antiquity, with all its interests in legend and in history. Here Madame would accompany Helen, relating to her absorbed and eager listener tales of heroes passed away, of bravely sustained sieges, and many deeds of valour, while her pale face would glow with unwonted colour animated by pardonable pride in her husband's heri- tage. Here Monsieur would delight to point out to Helen the chief points of beauty in the old paintings.

"Yes," said he, finding her here alone one day, "with what pride and pleasure will I bring life and gaiety among these scenes. With what light and warmth will I fill these dark and gloomy halls. With how much pleasure will I open the doors to guests, to whom they have been so long closed. It is for this that I am content to wander about the world making market of what it indulgently calls my talent. I would amass all possible wealth that I may restore its glory to the castle of Dubois, and," he added, "you will be the brightest star when I claim my title and reign here. You will be the acknowledged queen of all."

"I, I, Monsieur, you are too flattering. I can never forget the kindness and con- sideration you have always shown me, but I have ties at home that I cannot forego— faces that I must see again or my heart would

break."

"Helen, my child! my love! do not speak of parting—of ties—of a home in which I have no part. I could live under no roof that did not shelter you; my life would be one blank without the sweet young face that has gladdened my heart so long," and he seized her hand in a strong grasp as though he feared to lose her then and there; then as suddenly dropping it, he paced up and down while Helen stood bewildered, not knowing what to say.

"Ah well, well." he said, after a while, "I need not forestall the evil day; you must not—will not—cannot leave us yet for a very long time; you cannot in honour, Miss

Montaine.

"I have no wish to—no thought of doing so, Monsieur—but I am most grateful for the kind feeling you show me. I have the deepest sense of all your kindness."

"Gratitude! kindness! on, do not drive me mad; such words fall like ice upon my heart."

"Indeed, indeed, Monsieur, I do not know how else to express my sense of gratitude toward yourself and Madame for the happy home I have with you."

"Do not! do not use those words," he ex- claimed vehemently, "such words should have no meaning between us! Oh, that some stronger tie bound you than mere chance and circumstances!"

Helen looked yet more bewildered, and almost frightened, upon which he calmed himself, approaching and taking her hand between both his own, this time gently and soothingly, he said

"My child, forgive my folly; mine is a dis- appointed and embittered life—childless, daughterless, comparatively companionless. You have awakened in my heart a knowledge of what happiness might be in such com-

panionship as I feel myself capable of enjoy- ing. But promise me that although no tie of relationship binds you, you will yet regard

me as your greatest friend—one who has the

deepest and sincerest interest in your happi-

ness."

"I consider myself fortunate indeed and happy in the friends I have found in you and in Madame, and I must repeat that I shall never forget; but you will, you must forgive me, Monsieur, if I confess to an irrepressible longing to see again those from whom I have been so long separated."

"Yes, yes; it is natural—certainly it is right; it must be so, but—but you will be content to remain now. You shall see them—will see them. I will take you myself by-and-by; but promise—promise again—that you will always regard me—and—and Madame as your nearest friends—as if you belonged to as by the tie of relationship—that you will make no arrangements with any one about any matter without first consulting me."

"I can readily promise that, Monsieur. Of course I would not think of doing so while

I am bound by an engagement to you; but nothing is likely to occur to make such a pro- mise necessary."

"We cannot tell; but having your promise

I can rest satisfied." And seeing that she wished to leave him he quietly let her go.

For some days afterwards a feeling that was neither pleasure nor gratification re- mained in Helen's mind as she recalled all Monsieur's words and excited manner. She

supposed that his vehement expressions might have been the outcome of a hitherto smothered yearning for the love of a daughter; but she had a vague sense (and this filled her

with almost a feverish anxiety) that if he could he would come between her and home, especially if he knew that "home" meant to her one treasured idol. She avoided meeting Monsieur after this. When she did meet

him there was a gloom upon his face, an almost surliness in his manner, especially to Madame. This roused in Helen's mind the old feeling of indignation against him. She had become really attached to Madame, loving her for her quiet and self-abnegating spirit; so she sought her society more than ever, persuading and prevailing upon her often to stroll with her into the bright sun- shine outside the walls of the old gloomy castle, or taking a book Helen would read aloud to Madame sitting in a favourite spot beside a clear stream.

Years after Helen often looked back to that quiet time and those pleasant hours spent beside that gentle woman, and won- dered if many such martyr lives were lived that the world neither saw nor heeded, though bravely suffered, and lived from day to day before its very eyes.

"That is a very entertaining book. I have been much interested. Thank you, my dear," said Madame, after a few such pleasant hours. "Yes; I think it is time to go back. Shall we return by the other path—by the old oak?"

"How pleasant this country life is," said Helen, "and what a quiet and happy life yours will be when you come into the pos- session of this place. It will always be a rest for you after the gaieties of Paris."

"I must be content to live where and how

my husband wishes, and I do not think that a life without society would please him for any length of time. He is certainly made to shine," and with a despondent sigh she added, "l am a poor foolish woman, quite unsuited to such a man."

"I do not know what Monsieur would do without you, dear Madame. But we are taking the wrong path; look, there is the entrance to the underground passage. We

must go round by it."

"My husband is having it cleared out; he had a great curiosity to explore it."

"Shall we go down into it a little way?" said Helen. "You will not be afraid? The workmen cannot long have left—here are their pickaxes; it seems to be cleared for some distance in."

Helen spoke from the bottom of some rugged steps, and was standing inside the

cave.

"Give me your hand then, my dear; I will descend. Shut your eyes for a few moments; that enables one to see better in the darkness afterwards."

They went on carefully for some time.

"Look," said Helen, "there is a gleam of light—surely another way out;" but they found that it was only a ray from the sinking sun penetrating through a hole in the side of the hill, evidently cut for air and light. This dim light enabled them to proceed yet further until they came where another pas- sage diverged from the first.

"It is feeling cold and damp; let us hasten home," said Madame.

"Ah, but Mademoiselle." said Helen's maid to her that evening, "I would not ven- ture there for worlds. Do you know there

is a dreadful story about that underground passage, where a poor young mother fled with her infant from a band of ruffians, and never was seen again, but the shrieks they say can often be heard at night now from that hill- side."

"A very foolish ending to a sad story, Annette," said Helen; "for myself, I should have no fear as far as ghosts are concerned, although it would certainly be a very un- pleasant place to pass a night in, and I should fear to lose myself among the passages, or to

fall into a well that I am told is there.

"Ah, blessed Virgin, save me! I would

not venture there for worlds."