|Chapter Title||ARTHUR BALCOMBE ARRIVES AT THE HOUSE OF WHITE SHADOWS.|
|Newspaper Title||Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912)|
|Trove Title||The House of White Shadows|
THE HOUSE OF WHITE SHADOWS.
By B. L. FARJEON, Author of "Blade-o'-Gnas," "Joshua Marrel, "Bread and Cheese and Kisses," "Grif," "Lon. don's Heart," Ac.
CHAPTER XVXL ABTUUE EALCOMDE ARBIVBS AT THE QOIJSE OF WHITE SHADOWS.
" And you have really told it very well, Mother DeoUe," Baid tne Advocate's wife. "Why iu acme parts you actually gave me the creeps. And here Is Dionetta, as white aa a lily. What a comfort it mast nave been to the poor lady to have had a good soul like you about her ! If such a nuafortuue happened to me I should like to have just such a servant as you were to her." " Heaven forbid, my lady," said Mother Denise, raising her hands, " that such an unhappy lot should be yours." "Well, to tell you the truth," said the Advocate's wife, with a bright smile, " I do not think it very likely. I should not submit to it so tamely—nor in my opinion did the lady whose story you have so well related." "Everything happened/' said Mother Denise, stiffly, " exactly as I have described it." " With here and there a chapter left out," said the Advocate's wife, archly. " Come, you must admit that." " No, my lady, I have omitted nothing. I am inclined to be angry with mvseU for having told so much. I doubt whether I have not done wrong." 1 1 Mr. Arthur Balcombe, whom I expect every minute"—and the Advocate's wife looked at her tiny watch—" would have been angry with you li you had not satisfied my curiosity. Where is the harm? To be living here with such an interesting tale untold would have been inexcusable. But I am certain that you have purposely omitted more than one chapter, and it reflects credit upon you." Mother Denise was silent; she was vexed at the levity of the lady's speech. "Indeed, and indeed, it is highly to your credit not to have told all, although no oue could bo hurt at this distance of time. Why, when Mrs. Balcombe died—what a strange, quiet death 2—1 could scarcely have been tarn. How wonderful it all is when one thinks of things 1" " What do you suppose I have concealod, my lady ?" asked Mother Denise. "There was a certain M. Gabriel." said the Advocate's wife, " who really played a most important part in the story. If it had not been for him there would -have been no uarrcl l>etween husband and wife, and the ?oolish young lady; for really, though of course I pity her very much, sne did act in the most simple manner; you must agree with mo there, you good ola creature. The foolish young lady would not have died, and I should not be here listening to her story, and ready to cry my eyes out in pity for hor. Why, who knows, even whether Mr. Arthur Balcombe and I would have been friends? Now, all at once, this interesting M. Gabriel, who painted so beautifully, and who must have been & very handsome young follow, or there would not have been such a fuss made over him ——. There now, I declare you have never even given me a description of him. Of course he was handsome?" She was full of vivacity, flying off at tangents, never completing the tnroad of her remarks, and yet never losing sight of it: and as she leant forward towards the olu housekeeper, it appeared as if, in her estimation, nothing in what she had hoard was of so much importance as this question, which she constantly repeated, "Was ho handsome ?" " He was exceedingly good-looking," Mother Denise was coustrained to reply; *' but not so distinguished in his bearing as my unhappy master. ' "Tall? " Yes. tall, my lady." "Daik or fair ? But I think you gave me the impression that he was dark. " Yes, iny^ lady, he was dark," replied Mother Denise, coldly: she was surprised at the frivolousucss of tnese questions. " And vounp, of course, much younger than Mr. Balcombe ?"• M Yes, my lady, much younger." " There would be no sense in the matter otherwise; any one might have known that he was young, and handsome, and fascinating. Well, as I was saying, I hope you will forgive me for tlying oil'as I do, all at once ; this M. Gabriel drops clean out of the story, and we hear nothing more of him. If thcru Is one thing more inexplicable than another in the ariair, it is that nothing more uliould be heard of M. Gabriel." " We live oflt of the gay world, my lady ; wc are far removed from it, I am happy to think. It is not at all strange that in this quiet little village wc should uot know what becamc of M. Gabriel." " But, you dear old soul," said the Advocate's wife.; her mood becoming more animated as Mother Donise'a bucainc more frigid, " you dear old soul, they always uomc back !' " i hope you will not be offended, uiy lady, at my saying that 1 do not understand you.' " liow can I be offended at anythiu^ you say? Of coursc you don't understand me. liow should you ? But wheu lovers are dismissed, as M. Gabriel was, they always come back. They think they never will—they vow they never will—but they cannot help themselves. It is the moth and the candlc over again." " You mean, my lady," said Mother Denise, very gravely, " that M. Gabriel returned to the villa." " That is my meaning exactly. As she did not go to him he came to her. What else could he do ?" "1 do not know whether I ought to say I am sony or glad to disappoint you. my lauy, but M. Gabriel, after the summer-nousc was barnt down, never made his appearance again in the village." " But he wrote and sent his letter by a confidential messenger — he did that, at least" 4 1 1 have told you, my lady, that while my poor mistress lived in these rooms she never received or wrote a letter." The Advocate's wife gazed admiringly at Mother Denise. " Wonderful!" she exclaimed. " You are discretion- itself. Dionetta, never be tempted to betray your mistress's secrets; take pattern by your grandmother." " She might do worse, my lady," 6aid Mother Denise, still unbending. "Indeed she might. Now 1 am thinking of something. Shall I tell you what it is " If it pleases jou, my lady." " Ou the night you were aroosed from your sleep—and such a deep sleeper as you are— and heard the sound of a man falling to the ground." " We only supposed it waB a man, my adv. * W Wc e never learnt the truth." Of course it was .im a man, uid,u, cuiu 111- ho climbed the wall, and he chos^ a dark and stormy night for his adventure, lie must have been a brave fellow aftei all. I am beginning quite to admire him." "Admire a thief, my lady," oxclaimed Mother Denise in horror. " You simple soul, it was not a thief. Was anything missing? The house was not robbed, was it?" " No, my lady, nothing was taken." "If robbery was meant," said the Advocate's wife, following out her idea, " there would liave been more than one—they would have come in a gang. Now, you only heard one man fall." " Only one, my lady. But it is so long ago. What is the use of speaking of it ?" " When once I get an idea into my head." said the Advocate's wife, enjoying the old housekee^er'e disinclination to continue the conversation. "I cannot lose sight of it, do what L will. It carries me ou, and I must follow it. Then you heard the sound of some oce walking in the patliB outside, and that ivasouly one man. He was fearful of disturbing any one in the house, and he trod very, very softly. Now, can't yoa guess who that man was ?' "No, my lady; it waa never discovered. It was a villain, whoever ho was, to poison our dogs." " That wa& a small matter, and was necessary. What the life of a dog—of a thousand dogs—when a man is mad with love ?" "My lady !" cried Mother Donuc, growing more and more horrified. " Nothing will frighten him, nothing, if he is brave ana earn eat. If you had read books, you would know that. Authors ore clever .people. I am sure the way they put things together is surprising; but they cannot write what is not true. You dear old soul, the man you heard in the grounds that nipht was M. Uabricl, and be came to carry on your misto^fis. This window is not very high ; I could nnioft jump from it myself." Mother Denise clapped her hand to her side, as if to relieve a sudden |>ain ; hor face was white with fear. " And do you believe, my lady?" she ankod, in tremlmog tones, that I was deceived in thinking 1 heard a gun fired " Who can tell at this distance of time?" Baid the Advocate's wife, in whose mind a new train of thought was opened by the housekeeper's question. " Were any traces of blood aiscovercd in the grounds ?" " None; but if blood was spilt, the rain would have washed it away, My lady, this is very painful to me. Will you allow me to go V "Certainly: I would not detain you for the world. 1 cannot express to you tho obligation you have laid me under by relating tho history of this house. It is as entertaming as the finest novel 1 have ever read. There is nothing more to do m these rooms, I Mk ve. How pretty they look ! Wc must ilo everything in our power to make the villa plcasaut to the young master who is
coming—but I think I can promise he will be happy here." Not even Adelaide's smiles and goodhamour, nor the expected arrival of her master, could smooth Mother Denise's temper for the rest of the day. " Mark my words. Martin," she said to her husband, "something wrong will happen before the Advocate and his nae lady leaves the villa. It was an evil hour whea she set foot In it. We ehall rue the day—we shall rue the day 1" "Hal ha I" chuckled the old man, slyly. " You're jealous, Denise, your jealous 1 Sne s the pleasantest lady, and the sweetestspoken, and the most gracious, and the prettiest, for twenty mile around. The whole village is in love with her." "And you among the rest, I suppose," snapped Mother Denise. "I don't say—I don't say,"pip>cdMartin, with a childish laugh. " Never kiss and tell, Denise, never kiss and tell! If I were young and straight"— "But vou're old and crooked." retorted Mother Denise. " and your mind s eoing, if it hasn't gone already) You grow sillier and sillier every day." A reproach the old man received with gleeful laughs and tiresome ocughs. His worship of the beautiful lady was not to be lightly disturbed. " Tne sweetest and prettiest!" he chuckled, as he hobbled away at the rate of half a mile an hour. " I'd walk twenty mile to serve her—twenty mile—twenty mile I" " And this is actually the room," said the Advocate's wife, walking about it, " in which that poor lady spent so many unhappy years ! Her prison! Her grave! Dionetta, my pretty one, do not throw away the chance of happiness when it is offered to you. Life is short, Enjoy it. Take the advioe of a woman who knows the world. 0, if you had seen what I have seen !—but you ore a child. What should you know ? It is good for you that I came here to open your eves. Some people moralize and preach—but if you were to see what tbey dot and put it by the side of what they sap you would understand what fools they think thoso who believe in their moralizing and preaching. This persecuted lady, whoae story wc have just heard—what happiness did sne enjoy in her life ? None. \\ hy, Dionetta? Because it was a life without love. It was offered to her, and she threw it away, from a mistaken sense of duty. What did she coin by the foolish act? Seven years of solituae, seven years of misery, and then an untimely death, when she was in her rime, Love is life's sunshine, Dionetta. Eettcr to be dead than to live without it. The woman who tries deserves her fate. Hark ! Did you hear a carriage draw up at the gates ?" She ran swiftly from the room down the stairs, and into the grounds. The gates were thrown open. A young man, just alighted, came towards hor. She ran forward to meet him with outstretched bands, with face beaming with joy. He took her hands in Ills. " Welcome, Mr. Balcombe." she said, aloud, so that those about could hear. "Yoa have nad a pleasant journey, I hope," And then in a wnisper, "Arthur !" " Adelaide I he said, in a whisper as soft as bers. "Now I am the happiest woman I" she murmured. " It is an age since I saw you. You shall not escape from me again so