Chapter 198380111

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Chapter NumberXVI
Chapter Url
Full Date1883-08-06
Page Number4
Word Count1455
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleEvening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912)
Trove TitleThe House of White Shadows
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BY- a L. FARJEON". Author of "Blade-o'-GraaSj" "Joshua Marvel,


u A more cruel thought never entered the mind of man ; and as filse as it was cruel. Mrs. Balcombe was a pure woman, who believed herself to have been basely wronged ; but deep as was her unhappiness sho was a virtuous wife. As I hope tor salvation this is my firm belief. But how can I blame my master? Smarting with a grief which had sucked all the light out of his days, which bad itfisoned his life and his hopes, trusting qa he liad trusted, deceived as he had been deceived, with every offer of love refused and despised—a man may well be pardoned for the doubt which now took possession of him. He planned out his course and steadily followed it without betraying his feelings: he watched bis wife and fnend ; he gave tliem every opportunity of beine together; he noticed every look that passed between them ; and he could not fail to see that the feelings they entertained for each other were stronger than the ordinary feeling of friendship between a man ona a woman. I know, also, hat he discovered that Mrs. Balcoml>e, jefore she married him, had acoepted M. Gabriel as her lover. This in itself was sufficient for him. Under such circumstaoces, it was, in his opinion, a sin for my lady to plight her faith to him ; the words used at the altar were, to such a man, something more than words; the meaniog they conveyed was most sacred, and solemn, and binding. To utter them with the image of another man in her heart was a fearful and unpardonable crime. These perjuries are common enough, I have heard, in the great world which moves outside quiet little spots like this ; but that tbey are common does not excuse them. Mr. Bdcombe had strict and stern views of the duties of life, and roused as he was roused, he carried them out witb cruel sternness. He got rid of all his guests but M. Gabriel: and then, one fatal morning, he surprised them as they sat together in the summerhouse. There was no guilt between, them ; they were conversing innocently enough, but my lady was crying, and M. Gabriel was consoling her. None of us knew what passed, or what words were spoken; something terrible must have been uttered, for my lady, with a face like the face of death, tottered from the summer-house to this very room, where Bhe lav in a fainting condition for hours. In tne meantime Mr. Balcombe orders that every sketch aod riainting made by M. Gabriel should be taken aown from the walls of the villa and conveyed to ths suramer-houae; and I myself hoard him say to the man who had been his wife's lover— "'M.Gabriel, to-morrow, at noon( this summer-house and all it contains will be destroyed. Only to-night remains to you to remove what property of yours is now within its walU.' M He then gave orders trut carriages should bo ready to carry out M. Gabriel's wishes with respect to bi& paintings, but the artist took uot one away with him. On that night ho disappeared, and no person in the village lias ever heard what became of him. " True to his word, Mr. Balcombe, at noon on the following day, with his own hands set tire to the summer-house, and did not quit the surrounding grounds till it was burnt to ashes. He would allow no ono to interfere with him, and he accomplished his purpose. While the pretty place was burning iny lady sat at the window of this room gazing at the flames, ft ever, never shall 1 forget the anguish on her face ; it was as though her own heart and her own good name were there being constyned by fire. Her eyes were dry, and she did not speak a word, nor did she look upon her husband who was making the sacrifice. There are actions, my lady, which can never be atoned for ; this was oue. When night came my mistress sent for me. " 'Go to your master,' she said, 'and tell him I desue to soe him. 1 " I gave him the message, and he accompanied me to his wife's room, where she was standing to receive him, as though he was a guest she had invited to visit her. "' You can go, Denise,' he said to me. " 4 You will stay, Denise,' said my lady. "Their voices were stern, but there was more decision in hers than in his. 1 hesitated, not knowing which to obey.^ tress "1 retreated to a corner of the room, as far from them as I could get. I was afraid of what was coming. I saw that the storm woe about to burst. " 1 1 have sent for you,' said my lady, in a firm tone, " to know whether you have any thing to say to me.' "'But one thing.' he replied, * which I prefer should be said to you alone, without witneBBes.' "' Demise will remain, as I bade her, and what you have to say must be sooken in ber presence. After to-night I will never open my lips to you, nor, willingly, will I over aguin listen to your voice. You can choose, then, cither to speak or be silent. 1 swear to you that I am iu earnest, as solemnly in earnest as if I were on my death bed.' "I shuddered; her voice, her manser, were entirely altered. She assumed a superiority over him with a spirit which I did not think her capable of summoning to her aid. He turned to me, saying— Denise, what you hear must never pass your lips while your mistress and I are alive.' '"It never shall,' I said, shaking like a leaf,' I promise it solemnly.' " 1 Wncn we are dead/ he said, 'you can please yourself. A time may come when it will be necessary for you to speak.' He stood again face to face with his wife. ' Madame, when I &i>oke to your dead mother ou the subject of my love for you, I was frank aad open with her. There was nothing in my liie which 1 concealed from her. I had grave doubts as to the suitability of a marriage with you—doubts in which'I occupied the disadvantageous position. I had not the grace of youth to recommend me; there was a serious difference in our ages ; I was not a ]>oliahed lady's man; my habits of life were staid and seriouB. You were tit to be tho wife of a prince; your youth, your beauty, your accomplishments, your birth, entitled yoa to more than I could offer—which was simply a life of ease and tlie homage of a faithful heart. Had I not been encouraged by vour mother, 1 think X should not have had the temerity to give expression to my hopes. But I spoke j and there was no retreating. 1 begged your lady mother not to

deceive me, but to be as frank with me as I was with her. My desire was to spare you ]toi]>, and to do whatever lay in my power to contribute to your happiuess. Of all the doubts which disturbed me one was para tnount. You had moved in the world —you maBt have been idolized in society, and it scarcely seemed possible that your heart could be disengaged. In that case I informed your mother that no earthly consideration could induce me to step between you and your affections; nay, Math all the force which earnest words could convey I offered to do all in my power—if it were possible that my services could avail—to aid in bringing your life to its happiest pass. At such a moment as this, a solemn one, madame, which shall never l>e forgotten by yoa or by me, i may throw aside all false delicacy aod may explain the meaning of these last words to your lady mother. Having had in mv hands tlie settlement of your father's atlairs 1 knew that you were poor, and what I meant was that if any money of mine could assist in bringing about a union between you and the olject of your affections, it was reid.v, cheerfully offered aod cheerfully given for such a purpose. Pardon me, maaamo, for mentioning tlie matter to you, but iu this interview, which you say shall be our last, it seems tome unavoidable.' [2o be continued,)