Chapter 198380224

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Chapter NumberXVI
Chapter Url
Full Date1883-08-08
Page Number4
Word Count1825
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'•Grass," " Josboa Marred "Bread and Cbaese and Kisses," "OrU," "Lon* don's Heart," 4c.


" Well, a new lifeootr commenced for us— a Dew and dreadful life. Mr, Balcombe denied himself to visitors, and until you came, my lady, no friend of the family ever entered the gates. Mr. B&lcombe lived most of bis time in his study, writing and reading and pacing to and fro as he used to do in times gone bv. He never made any enquiries about my laay, nor did she about nim. She lived in these rooms, and in my remembrance did not stir out of them during the day. Master Arthur slept in the inner room there, and he was free to run about as he pleased. Hfo was not a happy childhood, for when he began to speak ana think, the estrangement L i^een hjs parents of coarse had an. effect replies to his questions. When he was mamma; she wants you to come and speak to her/ which was oil imagination on his part. What news they bad of each other's health and doings came through himj they could not put a padlock on the child's tongue. * Papa, mamma has bod headache.' 4 Papa, mamma was ill in the night./ ' Mamma, papa has been writing, and writing all day long. I peeped through the door, and he looked so tired. 'Mamma, see what papa gave me.' ' Papa, I have run awav with this picture mamma has painted, is it not beautiful?' And so it went on, but the child's eager anxious love brought them no nearer to each other. In the dark nights, when the weather allowed, my lady would walk in the grounds —elwayB alone ; and it got to be said, as the moonlight shone on her white dress. ' She looks like a white ghost,' or, 'she is like a white shadow moving in the moon's light.' Her husband was careful to keep out of her eight when she indulged in her lonely walks ; they never made the slightest advance to c«vch other. "1 must not forget to tell you what occurred a few months after this estrangement. The night was very dark, and I hod seen my lady in bed, and, as I thought, asleep. Master Arthur, also, was asleep, as I myself was a few minutes after I had wished my lady good night There was a light in Mr. BalcomWe stud; as I pulled my blinds down ; ho often sat up till late in the morning. I woke up with the sound of the clock striking in my ears. I counted the strokes, from ooe till twelve. It was midnight. I was such a sound sleeper, that after counting twelve o'clock, I was surprised at finding myself awake, and I caught myself wondering whether it was the striking of the hour that had aroused me. Gusts of wind were sweeping around the walls of the villa. It must have been the wind that disturbed me, I thought, and I was on the point of Calling asleep again, when another sound—an unusual one—made me jump up in bed, wide awake. Ife was like a heavy object billing from a height within the grounds. ' Can it be robbers,' I thought, ' climbing the gates and missing their footing ?' I was not afraid, but I thought it as well to wake my husband, who was in the soundest of sleeps. I told him what I had hoard, and he looked out of the window and said there was nothing to l>e seen but a light in our master's study. ' Ho is ui) and awake,' said my husband : * what you heard is the wind. Robbers I There has not been a robbery in the neighlraurhood for thirty years. I pity the robber that tried to pass our dogs. There ! let me go to sleep, and don't disturb me again with your fancies. And get to sleep yourself as quick as you can; now your heaa is stirriug you'll be fancying all sorts of things.' In another moment he was snoring. But I found it was uot an easy matter getting to sleep again myself. 1 lay thinking, halfawake and half-asleep. I was glad my husband had mentioned the do£&. He was quite right. Any stranger trying to them would have been torn to pieces, —but there was somcl>ody walking on the gravelled footpath*; I heard the soft footsteps crunching the stones—not hurriedly, but softly and with caution, as though fearful of disturbing the {>eople in the house. These sojnds camc between the gusts of wind, which -were growing stronger and stronger. Then it occurred to mo that it must be my master^ who, unable to sleep, and disturbed in his mind, was walking about the grounds. Contented with this explanation, I was soon asleep. For how long I did not know, for suddenlyfound to the wind, and with a coufused impression that a gun had been tired. I was trembling all ovtv ; but my husband was sleeping peacefully. I listeued and listened, aa< hearing nothing more, reasoned myself out of my fears ; the rest of the night passed without further disturbance. liut it was not entirely fancy, for in the morning u strange discovery was made. Our two dogs were dead —poisoned. None of the servants could furnish any information ; not ouc had bocn disturl>ed but tnyself. Mr. 6a!- combc was as calm a* usual, and the only explanation we could think of waa that a robbery had been planned, and tliat the robbers had poisoned-the dogs; but being hurt by a fall irom the wall, had gone away without carrying out their u?sigo. There was nothing missing from the houBC. When I spoke to Mr. Balcombo about my waking up in the night and the Bounds I had heard, he said, * K must have been chiefly imagination on your part, Penise. I was up ana awake till 4 o'clock, and should know more about tbe matter than you. Keep your fears to yourself, and the next time you are disturbed by such fancies, and see a light in my window, rcBt satisfied that all Is well. I would not epeak much of it if I were in your place.' I took his advice, and after a little while the affair was lorgotten. " So the years went by in the lonely villa without any change. My lady grew into tho habit of taking her walks late in the night, and never a word was exchanged between her husband and herself. So oppressive was the state of things that the servants left one by one, aod I dare say 1 myself should have asked to be relieved from the service had it not been for my affection for my mistress. To live with her as I did for years without growing to love her was not possible. Her gentleness, her resignation, tier resolution, were almost beyond belief with those who were not a daily vritnesB of her lonely, blameless, suffering life. She never wrote or received a lettor; she cut herself away from the world, and these rooms were her living grave. She loved her child, but she held her love in control, and did not give way to any violent demonstration of feeling. I could sec thaLas the lad grew ui> he was bewildered by tho relations which existed between bis parents. Hud one or the other been unkind to him he might have hocn able to put some construction upon the cst r angement, but they were equally affectiDLatc and equally kind to him. It came at last to entreaties— 1 Mamma, <lo como out witl me and speak to pa]>a ?—see, he is wall:ing in the garden.' 4 M&tuma, may I bring papa into your room? Why does he not come to see you?' ' l'apa, mamma is really very ill; I do no wish you would let n.e bring you to her ! —do, napi, do!' It was heartaching to hear the lad, who loved both, who received love from both. Then he began to study other children and their parents; and when ho saw one walking between mother and father, who smiled upon cach other and upon their little one, his eyes would overflow with tears. He would Deep through cottagc windows—nay, he would go iuto the tottuges, where he was always welcome—and would see for himself nroofs of domestic happiness which never gladdened his eyes in his own home. 'I wish my mamma and papa had been poor,' he said to me. 'then they would have lived together ana have loved cach other. Denise, you tell me what it all means.' " 'Hush, Master Arthur,' I answered ; ' I am only a servant, and I know nothing. When you Are a man you will understand.' * I want to understand now—I want to understand now !' he cried. ' There is something very wicked about this place; L hate it —I hate it!' and lie would stamp his little foot and break into a fitof crying so full of real sorrow tbat I could not helu crying with bim. Something of this nave reached their cars, for I nave no doubt he made his appeals to them, but it ma<lo no alteration in their lives, liow they suffered ouly themselves could have kuown. My master grew thin aud wan ; dnrk circles were round his cyoe, whicli sometimes had a mild look in thorn, which^made me fear he was losing his senses. And my lady drooped aud drooped, like a flower ; paler and quieter every day ; tsweetcr and more resigned, if that were walks in the grounds. Sitting by this window, looking up at the beautiful sky, she said to c»e one peaceful evening— " ' I shell soon be there, Denise. When my mother sees me coming she will be frightened to meet me. Does she know now that she poisoned my life " ' O, inaaame,' I said, and BO saintlike was ai'in-arauce that I could have knelt to i.t-r, ' lei tnc go to my master and be^ him to 1. me to jou. M 1 He M ould not come,' she said. " iielieving that this was a sign of relenting on heirj>art, 1 said, 'He will, inadame, lie will, if Isav you sent for him.' "'And I would nut have him come.' she said. ' When 1 t»eud for hi in he will not refuse me.'

H * You tciG send me for him one day f I asked. "'Yes, Denise, unless I die in my sleep, which I have often prayed to do. But this blessing may be denied to me*' (I© be continued.)