|Chapter Title||A LIE THAT IS HALF A TRUTH.|
|Newspaper Title||The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)|
|Trove Title||Under Capricorn|
The Storyteller. Under Capricora.
[WRITTEN FOR THE QUEENSLANDER.] CHAPTER VI. " A LIE THAT IS HALF A TRUTH."
BY ALICE HA[?].
A weary time passed in Brisbane for Marie after this. Paul, to whom his sister had told all, tried to cheer her and to brighten their home as much as possible; for his sake Marie tried
to banish regret, and took up her life at the bank again with all her old sweetness and a new earnestness. Nothing of note ooourred till one day a paragraph in the " Personal" column of a sooiety paper smote Marie a cruel blow—the more cruel that it was a stab in the dark. All her secret love and sorrow were dragged into the pitiless glare of publicity. There was the story blasoned forth as told by a passenger in a 8.1.8. N. boat; only misstated and wiokedly exaggerated. There was also added the state ment that this iniquitous ex-oommissioner had laid siege to and basely seoored the affections of a young lady; so indicated that her most oasual acquaintances could have no dlffloulty in reootrni-ing Marie Lasssl. Then the police magistrate of B was held up to the general execration of the publio. Explanation and forced apology, thanks to Paul's action, soon followed; but Marie in her darkened room, stricken down and ashamed, never knew this. Mrs. Thomas, ths housekeeper, who knew now the oause of her young lady's pallor and sad ness, was very wrathful. " Tnmmas," she said to the partner of her joys and oarea, " that man oughter be berried; with his head downward an' m atone atop, so's i he couldn't get up agen, for he tin' worthy of noremrreotion!" " Why, mother! What he ye sayin' P" asked Thomas. " Trath an' jostle, Tnmmaa, which yon, pore crestur, knows no more of than • cow of * new sblUio!" " I knows as much of 'em as yon, mother by readin' Soripter." " The parts ye read this mornin* then," re torted his wife, " wuz neither here nor there. What between theshoutin' of then, eaptins, and Joehy an' the like, an' smith.' hip and thigh, an' Babylonish garments of the tribes, of which I don't know whioh from t'other, I'm olean dazed." "AU Soriptnr was writ for edifioashun," replied Thomas doggedly, "an' if ye ain't edified I ain't to blame; bnt how's Miss MearyP" " Siok enough, Lawd knows! Why didn't she stay at home instead ot goin' out to meet trouble, when if she'd waited for it 't wouldn't a' been worth havin' when it come P" " Well, well, it's a sad bo-inses, mother, hot it hain't our plaoe to talk abont it." " Speak for yerself, man ; ye wm never one' of the fast-goin* ones, but a good soul: bnt I've a sperrlt as rises agen evil, an 1 evil it is! Hew dare that Major—that eretur—speak to Miss Marry P An' he with a grinnin' blaok wife in Indy—a nasty heathin who offers up usher. fioes, and say* nowt, I dan say, bat ' Penny! Penny!' like King Sandy up in Qoeen-street!" •' Well! let an go back to her—he won't come' here agen." " Here!" cried the fiery dame; "ef he enters this bank, leastways its apartments, it will be over my body—mark that! Howsumdever, I be old, and homely too (so to spsak—'twasn't far my looks ye msrrK me nigh forty year gone, whioh wna to yer credit, pore soul), I be plucky, an' I'll die in harness an' on my watoh«tower." " In oouree, mother, naw doubt!" " Now ye oan eat yer -tittles an' go to bed, an' pray the Good Lord fir yer uilstiea-i I'm goin' to sit up by her, pore lamb!"
As was to be expected Burne wss in a flutter of excitement, and one day one of the unmis takably nouveauz riches, and the gossip of the distriot, called on Mrs. Alwyn in a white-heat of suppressed indignation against " that dread ful man. I always thought something waa wrong," she went on, " and what a pity for poor poor Miss Lassel!" Mrs. Alwyn gently laid aside with quiet indifference the paper her visitor had just brought her. '' I knew long ago, Mrs. Smorltork, long ago," she said. " Major Spenoe behaved most honour ably ; he told Miss Lassel everything." "Indeed! Dear me! Bat how scandalous his story is!" she replied. "Excuse me?" said Mrs. Alwyn, "the Major has in everything proved himself worthy of all respect and sympathy, and has in no way fallen in my estimation, or in that of my friends." The Smorltork winced. "That libel is scandalous—the true story is quite other wise." "Indeed!" " I will refute one with the other, and tell you what I know to be the absolute truth." So in a few sentences Mrs. Alwyn told it, knowing well that it would be oommon property in Burne before night, and that to ourry favour with her Mrs. Smorltork would repeat it ver batim, avoiding any temptation to exaggerate or to insinuate. As to Major Spenoe he hid his pain, and attended to has official affairs in his usual way. Criticism ho could bear unmoved, but Marie's suffering filled him with indignant grief and -hame, and the only comfort he found wss from Mrs. Alwyn's sympathy, and in tidings of the invalid. One day at this heavy time a letter oame to him from Dupr6s. He had been re joicing in freedom and had found some employ ment when anew grief overshadowed him. His mother had only lived long enough to reooive his letter arranging for her departure from France. Tho letter was touohing and grateful. After sending bis homage to the English lady, the writer concluded rather mysteriously by saying: " I leave Sydney, I g-o to tare yon
-—as I said. Ton shall hear in ten weeks—trust me." What did the man mean? " Gone to serve tou," and a date mentioned! Had his woes turned the poor fellow's brain P What wild Qulxotio venture was this? Well, he would trust him and see what the ten weeks brought forth. Meanwhile he forwarded the letter to Paul, who, when his sister wss really conva lescent, read it to her. She sat thinking for some time, then turned with some of her old animation: " Ob, Paul! don't yon guess where he has goneP Splendid fellow! He vowed if he oould serve ns he would. It is a wild idea, but some thing may oome of it." " Marie, what do you mean ? Where haa he gone?" '' To India; ten weeks, time to go and return, and a little over." "What should he go to India for? Hang India! I wish yoa had never heard of it!" "He has seen that paper; he may be able to read English now, or someone may have read it to him. The names of the plaoes are plainly indicated. He would gases that muoh of the article was false; I believe he has gone to find out whether R_,ns is still alive, and all he can —it would be like that kind of man to do so." "My dear imaginative child! Don't think about it any more, or you will be ill again. Now Jut on yoar hat; we will take a warm rag, and will drive yon to Sandgate. I want your rosea baok, little girl."
Ghaftkb VII. " IN TAOS OF DEATH, HIS TRUTH INVIOLATE.'' The ten weeks dragged wearily along for two people at least. At last, one Saturday after noon, there oame a quiok ring at the private door of the bank, and Paul, who was just going out, met the Major face to face. The two men had a more than ordinary regard for one another, whioh even the late events had in no wise weakened. Major Spence's face shone as it never had done before, with an inward light. He seemed to be in a state of strongly repressed feelintr. " Why, Spenoe, what haa happened ?" asked Paul. "Something extraordinary!" replied the other; " bnt you were going out—how is Miss LaaselP'?
" Quite well again now.—Oh, no, I'll stay now you have oome, old boy! Oome into the library. Tell the news before we go upstairs." Paul's amazement grew as ne listened; Marie's intuition had been right, after all. Dupre. had indeed gone to India aa an en- S user's assistant on an Orient boat, taking c Madras mail steamer at Colombo. He fell inwith a silk vendor who spoke French, made himself useful to him, and went with him to Ghusneep&l, in BokuldAr; hung abont the Court and the basaars, found the aged pundit who spoke English, and learned the route to the hill-town in whioh was the palace of the Thakoor. Riding day and night he reached it in good time. Of course the pundit told him—the silk -vendor interpreting his rapid English—the true story np to the disappear ance of his beloved former pupil, who, he said, had been disgracefully ungrateful to the noble Bahib. In the hill-city Daptei lodged near the mission-house, and made the acquaintance of a missionary who understood Frenoh. This gentleman fold him what he had oome so far to ascertain. His pilgrimage was not in vain. -Raua-Mel was dead. Bhe had lived miserably enough of late years with the young Thakoor, who had other wives, though the was always the princess. Her last illness had been severe, and at bar siok bed the mission ladles had ministered to mind and body, and ahe had died confessing the Christian faith. She had left one son, who was the Thakoor's heir—a child ef two. She had expressed a hope before her death that the Sahib Commissioner had forgiven the desertion which she at the time had thought was her duty. So her gentle spirit had passed— to a better heaven than Nirvdna. Her romantic story had already been told, but a little while before, in the English and Indian papers. She had been no ordinary native Prinoees—her first husband no ordinary offioial. Dupr-s also learned that she had sent a paoket aad letter through the British Raj to the ex»Coa_a_-_S-oaer, although it would be some time yet before he oould receive it. Duprus returned to Ohusnee pdl, and, rejoining the merohant, they reaohed Madras fust in time for the outgoing steamer, arriving in Sydney at the time he had specified. Then he had written full particulars in Frenoh to Borne, and the Major, when the first agita tion was over, had followed bis heart, whioh was always in Brisbane. His hands shook as he passed the papers to Paul, but his eyes shone. "Well, Spenoe, I suppose, for obvious reasons, I must congratulate you? But yet it seems a little unfeeling, somehow." "My dear friend, not if you knew all it means for me; all the misery it baa put an end to—the service that splendid fellow has done us—God bless him! Is your sister at home ?" " Marie is upstairs with her painting—yes! Jou see tho way," said accommodating Paul, is eyes auspiciously dim behind the spectacles. " Excuse me; I'll go out, after all—baok in an hour." And off he went. "Marie!" She looked up, and the phial of oobalt fell from her fingers. Was she dreaming ? Had her thoughts taken bodily shape.—and so radiant a one ? " James Spenoe! Oh—l knew! Has he— the Zouave f's "Yes! lam free—my love, come to me !" And he took her in his arms, palette, paint, and all. She looked in the face from which the sadness had gone at last, smiling. " Dear, what is it your poem says? ' Ye've dreed your weird, and the lift's blue!' " Paul stayed Sway a long hour. They all had a happy evening together now that "Love took up the glass of Time." Mrs. Thomas modified her opinions, and kept her own counsel regarding them. "If the tide's turned," she humbly remarked, "it's not for me to drive it baok with a birch broom," an aphorism whioh met with her husband's entire approval. Some time afterwards tbe expected paoket and letter came. The Major brought them to Marie, who ehed womanly tears as he translated
to her reverently poor Rttna's words of farewell, and her humble plea for forgiveness. Then she opened the dainty ease, and gazed in wonder at the blue fire of great sapphires, set in a dead gold bracelet. On a oara was written faintly, "For an English Sahiba—from Ulna-Mel." " Dear," said the Major, his eyes dim, " she meant a happy omen; its Oriental reading is— 4 The blue of truth, and the gold of gentle deeds.'"
They were married in the sweat September weather, amid m wilderness of flowen in the ehoroh at Borne, and from Mrs. Alwyn's hones. They both wished it so; it waa a plaoe ooniecrated both by their joy and their sorrow. Paul would have clothed his sister like the sun, as Guinevere did Enid, and made a raid on every jeweller in town for diamonds for his little girl. But the Major begged that she would wear only jewels of his bestowing. Very lovely Marie looked aa Mrs. Dene and Louie draped her in cloudy laos and trailing silk. Then sweet old Mrs. Alwyn brought a strangely-chased gold casket, and took out a shower of pure pearls, lambent, luminous. " Dear !*' she said, " James sent them; they are fit for you, and he thought you would not value them the less that they were onoe the putter of a baby prinoe, and the willing gift of m mother's gratitude."
It was S-snnny day in Sydney, with a fresh breeze blowing in from the sea. The bine-green sea, of that rioh intense transparency of oolour that one sees in Lsighton's pictures, ourdled and broke white against the great grim South Bead. At the odge of the cliff, near the forti fications above Watson's Bay, sat a man, tall, Sowerful —an Aleides; with a face like the ying gladiator almost in its repressed sorrow. There was a paper on his knee, and a strange sweet smile replaoed the sadness as he conned slowly, as a foreigner does, a notioe among the marriage announcements. Taking off his forage oan —for he wore a semi-military dress— he bowed hia head as though in thanksgiving; then, watching m steamer that passed in below him, " They may be there," he said; " shall I see her again P—both P—they who delivered me! Ah! she oould never know how I worship her!—how I would die for her, as I promised, if need be. Ah, well! I have served them; it was a long voyage, m weary journey, bat, thank God, it made all well—and lam glad!— glad!" Reader, do-you know Hugo's " Toilers of the Sea" P I think Gullet must have been such a man aa this oountryman of his—this Zouave.
Ths Major had written to him sinoe that journey as a man writes to one who is a friend indeed. So also had Marie. More, too, the Major had done; he had obtained by his influ ence with the officials m good and permanent situation in connection with the defences In the Harbour.
" Marie," he aaid one day to hia wife as they walked together in the Domain, "shall we drive round to South Head to-day, and find Dupr6s ? I wrote, but he seems any; we will seek him out, dear old fellow!" "Yes, do let us go," replied Marie. "Of all drives there is none like that! And thfU grand Dupre.! I long to see him again to thank him. Suoh gratitude is glorious, and it was all through your kindness." " Yours, dear, ' said her husband; "and it was the bread oast on very discouraging waters, and found after many days." The drive was delightful aa tha pair of Siirited horses dashed through the clear air; 1 the Harbour was a mirror of bine and silver below them. The ancient poplars turned their white trembling leaves in ths wind. Darling Point, islands, bays, clustering villas, great 000 l gardens, glided by, and far away over the cliffs flashed the white caps of the Paoiflo. There waa promise of a storm that night, and this south-eait sky was barred with purple clouds, but beyond the oity tha sky was ruddy and gold behind the towers. "James, oh, look!" exclaimed Marie; "see that great cluster of flannel daisies and red heath—there in that cleft—how lovely!" "Yon shall have them, dear," he said. " Bob!" ha called to the groom, " take the reins and keep a firm hold. Hem!— You had better stand at their heads, Mrs. Spenoe will hold the rains," giving them to Marie as he spoke. Marie was watching her husband gather the flowers. Suddenly, because of the early dark ness that threatened, tha eleotrio light in the great lighthouse flashed out close to them—the horses started and reared—the groom loosed his hold in alarm, and the frightened animals dashed wildly up the hard road, Marie pulling frantically at the reins—in vain; it was beyond her strength to check their headlong speed. On, on, they thundered, the people who rushed out frightening them still more. . " Oh!" thought the poor bride, whiter than her dress, " they are heading for the cliff. Oh, God, sare me!*' A tall powerful man in a blue uniform bounded forward from the embankment, and dashed after the horses. Marie shrieked to him, dizzy and half blind. "Oh! Stop them! stop them! Save me!" She did not Know him in that anguish, but he knew the sweet face, the great brown eyes, and dashed on; noarer in their blind fear they went to the etige of the cliff that shot down sheer to the sea. The man sprang past her and towards the off bor_e; there was a cry, a struggle, a gray rook olean-out against a bine sky—the homes stopped suddenly—the reins fell—Marie knew no more. Allnight the storm raffed ; all night the strong tides rushed into the Gap, and beat the cliff. AU night the great light shone clear through the murk. The morning was fair and sweet, 000 l and silver-bright; but no earthly morning would dawn again for him who had so lately faced that sea. He had gone into the light in effable. There was gloom in the old pilot-village that no sunshine oould oharm away. Men gathered in littlo knots, and women palo and tearful led their children from the spot where the aooidont had happonod—whence tho unconscious lady had been carried by her husband to the hotel near by; and where her rescuer had died, his life beaten oat by those frantic hoofs,
"Who was he?" they aaked one another. " A Frenchman, a quiet man, who worked at the Defences. Oh yes! he was well known, and everyone about respected him. He was so gentle and steady, but no one knew who ha was or where he oame from ; he called himself Jacques Lavalle." "The gentleman who was with the lady seemed to know him." 44 Oh yes, he oame hack with a doctor, but it waa of no use; the gentleman cried like a woman when he saw the Frenchman was dead *, he celled him a dear friend." The sun was setting in gold again when Marie spoke sof tly, looking pallid still: " James," she said, << I should like to see the brave man who saved me, who gave his life for mine. May I, dear ? You said you knew him, too." " Yes, and yon also. Come with me, dear." Very sadly, yet with a deep sense of thankful deliverance, which they were almost ashamed to feel, together they passed to a shaded holy room below; sweet with mignonette and violets, that kindly hands had brought, and tender ones - the Major's own—had placed about the bed where lay a grand form and a noble face—no longer sad, for the glad loving spirit (going as it had prayed and vowed to go) hadaweptdt free of past pain in the passing. It was happy unspeakably, and seemed to make a light in the little room. By the bed knelt a priest, sad a long shaft of golden light streaming through a high window shone over his bowed white head, and rested on the folded bands of the dead. The brave brown wrist was bare, sad shining among the flowers were the Bltjc o*o3B and Ths Naxb. «:. He was the Zouave! [txx ns.j