|Chapter Title||JACOD HEARTRICH, THE BANKER, GIVES HIS REASONS FOR BELIEVING GAUTRAN, THE WOODMAN, GUILTY OF THE MUR|
|Newspaper Title||Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912)|
|Trove Title||The House of White Shadows|
THE HOUSE OF WHITE SHADOWS.
Br B. L. FARJEON, Author of "Blade-o'-Grass," "Joshua MarvAl,' "Bread and Cheese and KLases," "Grif," 'Lon doo's Hoart," Ac.
CHAPTER IL JACOD UAETErCH, THE BANKER, GIVES HIS REASONS FOR BELIEVING flAUTRAN, THE WOODMAN, GUILTY OF THE MURDER.
"1 propose," said the Advocate to his wifo, when they were shown into a private room, " unless you wish to stay in Geneva for a day or two, to start for Petit Sarcoonez this afternoon." "There is nothing new to be seen here," said the bcautilul woman who atood before him, his junior by more than twenty years, " and I am dying to take possession of Mr. Balcombe'B villa. 1 have been thinking of nothing else for the last week." " Captivated by the strange name it bears." 'Perhaps. The House ofWhite Shadows ! Conld anything be more enticing? Do you know, Edward, why that name was given to it?" forget that he cautioned you not to take advantage of an offer made rashly and without consideration." 4 4 It waa a prohibition. What more was needed to set me longing for it ?" '* You are a true daughter of Eve. Yes, it was unwise of him." "The moment he warned me against the villa I fell in love with it. I shall discover a romance there." " If it is gloomy"— " I will brighten it. Can I not ?" she asked in a tone so winning that it brought a light into his grave face. '' You can, for me. Adelaide," he replied, " but I was not thinking of myself. 1 would not willingly sadden a heart as joyous as yours. You must promise me, if you are not happy there, to let mo know immediately." " Dismiss your fears, Edward. I shall be happjr thei e. All last night I was dreaming of white shadows, and I woke up this morning in delightful spirits. That is an answer to your forebodings." " 1 am satisfied. When did you not contrive to have your own way? I have some banking business to attend to in Geneva, and I must leave you for an hour." She noaded, and smiled at him. Before he reached the door he turned and said, "Are you still resolved to send your maid back ? She knows your wave so well, and you are so acoustomed to her, tnat her absence might put you to inconvenience. Had you not better keep her with you for awhile until you seo whether you will be suited at Petit Sarconnex?" "Edward," she said, gaily, "have I not told you a hundred times, ana have you not found out for yourself a hundred and a hundred times again, that your wife is a very wilful woniao?a I shall love to be inoonvenicnced; it will set my wits at work. ' But indeed I happen to know that there is a very pretty girl in the villa, the old housekeeper s jmuiddauphter, who was bora to do everything I wish done in just the way I wish it done." " Child of impulse o:- fancy," he said, kissing her hand, and UKJ her lips( in response to a pouting invitation, "it is well that you have a husband as serious as myself to keep apiard and watch over you." "To keep guard over me. if you like, Edward," she said in her lightest manner, "but not to watch. The first is a proof of love, the second of suspicion." " A logician, too," he said, laughing. " The air agreee with you." So saying, he left her. and the moment he was beyond the reach ot Iter personal influence his graver nature asserted itself, and his features assumed their usual calm and serious expressibn, He drove to the Hue de la Corraterie, to the house of the banker, Jacob Hartrich, and was at once admitted to the Banker's private room.
Jacob Hartrich, a Jew, holding, by virtue of wealth and intellect, a foremost position in social circles, had passed his sixtieth year, and was still hale and strong. His face was bland and full-fleshed, his eyes bright and, at times, joyous, his voico mellow, his hands fat and finely shaped, and given to a caressing petting of eacn other, denoting satisfaction with themselves aud the world. The Banker's manner was easy and self-possessed, a characteristic of his race. He was a gentleman and a man of education. He gazed at the Advocate with admiration and curiosity ; he bad a high respect for men who had achieved fame by force of intellect. " Your friend, Mr. Balcombe," he said, after the first few words of introduction, "left a letter for you which he wished me to deliver i>ersonaUy." While the Advocate read the letter, the Banker looked over the documents handed to hitn by his visitor. The letter was short, undated, and without address, and in it the writer spoke of Jacob Hartrich as a man of sterling worth, in whom implicit faith might be placed in any private or business matter ; it was signed "your faithful friend, Arthur Balcombe." Mr. Balcombe," said the Banker, " is very anxious that I should forward your views in every ]K>ssibIe way. I shall be happy to do so, aun if it is in my ^owcr, to contribute to the pleasure of yourvrnt." " I thank you," said the Advocate. " and I trust we shall see something of eacn other j but 1 come for repose, not for pleasure. Wlien did you last see Mr. Balcombe ?" " He called upon me this very day three weeks—for a few minutes only, and only with respect to your business." ' He is always thoughtful and considerate," observed the Advocate. "His letter has DO address. I eup]>osc he wa* on his way to Paris when he called on you." "No; 1 believo he had been some time in tbe neighbourhood of Geneva before he favouredme with a visit. He is still here." " IJere j" echoed tho Advocatc iu a tone of mingled pleasure and surprise. J M At least in Switzerland." " In what |>art ?" " I cannot inform you ; but from the remark lie let fall^. I should Bay in the mountains, where tourists are not likely to penetrate." Perceiving that tho Advocatc was interested in the subject, Jacob Hartrich continued, During the short time he was with me in this room, sitting in the chair you occupy, I was impressed by an unusual strangeness iu his manner. He was restless and ill at ease, as though ho were dissatisfied with himself or was dominated by an evil influence." The Advocate looked up quickly, and jinked, " of a supernatural nature ?" "1 cannot say that. 1 expressed my surprise to him that he had been for weeks, as I understood, in the neighbourhood of Geneva without calling upon me: but he did not oiler any explanation of his behaviour. He told me, however, that he was tired of the gaiety, the light, and the bustle of cities, and he declared his intention of seeking some solitude where he might. b\ a liappy chance, rid himself of a terror which had taken possession of him. I have frequently thought of this remark, and of Mr. Balcombe in connec tion with it." The Advocato smiled and shook his head gently. " Mr. Baloombe is given to fantastic expressions. Lt you knew him as well aa I do you would be aware that he is prone to magnify trifles—fond of raising ghosts of the conscience, for the mere pleasure of laying them. He suffers keenly, but 1 am not disposed to pitv him on that account. There are men who would be most unhappy uuless they sufered." "My dear Sir," said Jacob Hartrich, folowing with attention and admiration the dvocate's words, ''I have known Mr. Balombe since ho was a child, and I have loved im almost as one of my own. I knew his ather, a gentleman of great attainments, nd his mothct, a sweet aud exquisitely t autiful woman. It is our long friendship that makes me anxious respecting him. We who both hold him in high regard may speak v> ithout reserve. A great change has taken place in him since his last visit to mej four care ago. There appears to be something on is mind." " There is something on most men's minds. ( have remarked nothing in Mr. Balcombe to
cause me uneasiness: he is the same lighthearted. high-minded gentleman I have ever known bim to be. His nature is exquisitely sensitive, responsive to the lightest touch. That may account for the ohange yon observed is him." "The thought occurred to me that he might have sustained a monetary low* but I dismissed it." " Yon were right in doing so, for a monetary loss would exalt rather than depress bim. He Is rich—Itwould add to his happiness if he were poor. What are termed misfortunes are sometimes great blessings; many fine natures are dwarfed by prosperity. Had Arthur Balcombe been born In the lower classes he would have found a worthy occupation—ho would have made a name for himself, and in all probability would have won a wife who wonla have idolized htm. He is a man that a woman might worship." " You have given me a olne to the ohange in him," said Jacob Hartrich; "he has met with a disappointment in love or friendship." " I think not; he is open and frank, and hides nothing from me. Had he met with such a disappointment I should have heard of it" Jacob Hartrich, with a courteous motion, dismissed the subject, and enquired whether the Advocate's stay was likely to be a long one. 1 4 1 have pledged myself," said the Advocate somewhat wearily, " to remain in this part of Switzerland for three .months," " Rest is a necessary medicine." The Advocate nodded absently. 1 Pray excuse me 4 while I attend to your afl&irs. Here are local and other papers. 0 He left toe room, and returning in a few minutes found the Advocate engaged in the perusal of a newspaper, in which he appeared to be deeply interested. " Your business," said Jacob Hartrich, " will occupy about a quarter of an hour; there are some formalities to be gone through with respect to signatures and stamps. If you are pressed tor time I will send to you at your hotel." " With your permission I will wait," said the Advocate, laying aside the newspaper with an intent ana serious expression on nis face. "You honour me," said Jacob Hartrich, and glancing at the paper he saw the beading of the column, the murder of Madeline the flower girL. " You have been reading this account." " Yes." "Ah ! a foul and wicked murder. Where will not the passions of men lead them ?" " A wide contemplation. The girl was young." " Barely seventeen." " Pretty ?" " Very pretty. I have occasionally bought a posy of ner, jpoor child." " virtuous? " Who can say she was modest demeanour." " I perceive that man, Gautran, is in prison, charged with murder." " A man 1" exclaimed Jacob Hartrich, with indignant warmth. " A monster rather. Some refined torture should be devised to punish him for his crime." " His crime. I have been reading an old paper, then." The Advocate referred to the date. " No, it is this morning's." " I see your point, but the proofs of the monster's guilt arc irrefragible. "You loose sight of tne fact," said the Advocate, whose calm tones were in singular contrast to the animated tones of the Banker, " that he has to be tried. His guilt or innocence has yet to be established." " The law cannot destroy facts/ 1 remonstrated Jacob Hartrich. "The law establishes facts, which are often in dancer of being perverted by man's sympathies or prejudices. Are you acquainted with this Gautran ?" " I have no knowledge of him except from report." And having no knowledge of him, except from report, you form an opinion upon hearsay, and condemn him off-hand. That is not in accordance with the principles of justice. II is stated in the newspaper that the man is repulsive in appearance. He is hideous." " Then you have seen him ?" "No." "Calmly consider, and place your own value on your Judgment. You say the girl was 'pretty. Her engaging manners have tempted you to buy posies on her, not always when you needed them. Strong evidence in your mind against a mfti? with a hideous face. Thus, beauty on one side, and a forbiddiug countenance on the other, may be made the means of contributing to a direct injustice, The opinion you express of this mau s guilt may be entertained by others to whom Gautran is also a stranger." " My opinion is universal." " Gautran, then, is universally condemned before he is called upon to answer the charge brought against him." " He is a vagabond," said Jacob Hartrich feebly, feeling as if the ground were giving ay under his feet, "of the lowest class." poor, therefore." " Necessarily." " And cannot afford to pay for independent legal aid." It is fortunate. Justice will be dealt out to him more surely and swiftly." '' You can doubtless call to mind instances where innocent persons have been made to suffer." There is no fear in the case of Gautran," said the Banker, with dogged obstinacy. "Let us hope not," said the Advocate, whose voice during the conversation haa been perfectly passionless, "and in the meantime do not lose sight ox the fact that were Gautran the meanest creature that breathes, were he the most repulsive being on earth, he is an innocent man until he is declared ;y by the law. Equally so were he a man giitea with great teauty oi person, and bearing an honoured name. At this moment a clerk brought some papers into the room, which, with a roll of notes. Jac«.b Hartrich delivered to the Adocate, who rose to go. " Have you deoided upon a permanent address?" asked the Banker. " We take up our quarters in the House of White Shadows, in Petit Sarconnex." Mr. Balcombe's villa," said Jacob Hartrich, in a tone of consternation, "uninhabited for years except by servants who been kept there to prevent it from felling into decay. There are strange stories connected with it." 1 have heard as much, but have not enquired into them. They probably arise from credulity or ipiorance—the foundation of all superstition. With that remark the Advocatc took his leave.