Chapter 198380689

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Chapter NumberXXI
Chapter TitleConcluded. A BATTLE WITH CONSCIENCE.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article198380689
Full Date1883-08-17
Page Number3
Corrections0
Word Count1719
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleEvening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912)
Trove TitleThe House of White Shadows
article text

THE HOUSE OF WHITE SHADOWS. f

BY B. L. FABJEON, Author of "Bl&de-o'-Grass," "Joshua Marvel/, "Bread and Cheese and Kisses," " Orif," •'London's Heart," Ac.

CHAPTER XXL —{Concluded). A BATTLE WITH 00KSCIE5CE, f

Bat he must be justified also in the eyes of the world. Aj)d here intruded the torturing doubt whether this were possible. If he mode it known to the world that Cautran was guilty, tbe answer would be — " W& know it, and knew it, as we believe you yourself did. while you were working to set oim free, why did you prevent justice being done upon a murderer?" But I believed him innoocnt, he would say ; only now do I know him to be guilty. Upon what grounds? woald be asked. Upon Oautran's own confcraion^ given to me, alone, on 4 lonely road, within an hour after the delivery of the vcrdict. He saw the incredulous looks with which this would Lbe received. lie nut himself in the pLaco ol the public, and he asked, " Why at such a time, in such a srwt, did Gautrcn confess to you ? What motive bad he? You are not a priest, and the high road is not a confessional." He could supply to this question no aoswer which common souse would accept, and say that O&utran were <|ucsttoned, as be would assuredly be. Lie would deny the statement point blank. Liberty is sweet to all men. Then it would be one man's statement againet another; he woald be on an equality with Gautran, reduced to his level; and in the jadpnent of numbers of people Gautran would liave the advantage over him. Sides would be taken; he himself, in a ' I

ccrtain sense, would be placed apon his trial, and public resentment, which now was smothered and would soon be quite hushed, would break out against nhn. Was ne strong enough to withstand this ? Could he arrest the furious torrent which would set towards him. oonld he overcome it, could he drive it bock and stand unwounded on the shore, pure and scathclcss in the eyes of men? lie aoubted. He was too irofouud ft 6tudent of human nature not to I now tbat his fair fame would be blotted, and that there would be a stain upon his reputation which would cling to him to the last day of his life. Still he questioned himself, should he dare it and brave it, and bow his head ? Who humbles himself lays himself a open to the blow—and men are not meroiful when the chance is offered to them. But he woald stand clear in his own eyes; his coascicnco would approve. To none buthimself would this be known. Inward approval his sole reward, his sole compensation. A hero's work, however. For a moment or two he glowed at the contemplation. He soon cooled down, and with a smile—partly of self-pity, paitly of eelf-despisol—proceeded to the calmer consideration of the matter. The meaner qualities came into play. Tho world did not know. \Mjat reason was there that it should be enlighteued—that he should enlighten it to his own injury? The secret belouged to two men—to himself and Gautran. It was not likely Gautran would blutt> it out to other8| he valued bis liberty toO dearly; so that it was as sr.fe aa though' itwere buried in a deep gr&vc. As for the wrong done, it was a silent wrong. To ruin- oneself for a sentiment would be madness ; no one really sullerod. The unfor*^ i I I

tunate girl was at redt. She was a stranger ; DO person knew her, or? was interested in her except for her beauty ; she left no family, no father, mother, or sisters to mourn her crael death. There was certainly the woman spoken of as Pauline, but «no had disappeared, and was probably in no way related to Madeline. What more likely tlian that the elder woman's association with the yonxigcr arose out of a desire to trade upon the girl's beauty and appropriate the profits to her own use ? A l>ase view of the matter, natural, human. And having reaped a ccrtain profit out of their trade in flowers, larger than was expected, tho crafty woman of the world hod deliberately deserted Madeline ana left her to her fate. Why, then, should he step forward as hor avenger, to the destruction of the great name he nad spent the best fruits of his mind aud tbe best years of his life to build ,up ? To think oi such a thing was Quixotism run mad. One of the shreads of these reflections— that which forced itself u)>on him as the toughest and the most prominent—was contempt of himself for i>ermitting bis thoughts to wander into a current so base. But that was his concern; it aflectcd no other person, GO lon^ as he chose to hold his owu counsel. The dilliculty into which he was plunged was not of his seeking. Kate had dealt him a hard stroke ; he received it on his shield instead of on his naked body. Who would say that that was not wise? What other man, haviug tie option, would not have done as he was about to do? He had uot alone himself to consider. Tho happiness, the pcaooot mind, of the woman lie loved were in his keeping. If ho fell she fell with him. lie had uo rinht to inflict humiliation upon her. "Cunning sophist, cunniug sophist," his conscience whispered to him, "tniuk not that, waudcring in these crooked paths of reasoning, you can Hod tho talisman which will transform wrong into right, or remove tho stain which will rest upon your soul." lie answered his couscicuec. 41 To none but niysrlf is my soul visible. Who, then, can eoe the stain His conscience replied, "God !" 1 "I will confcsB to Hiui," he said, 4 but not to man." 4 There is but one light oourse," his conscience said, "juggle as you may. Vou

know that there is but one right course." 4 1 know it,' lie said, boluly, " hut 1 am cast in human mould, and am not strong enough, heroic enough, fur tiie sacriiice you would impose upon iuo." 4 Listen," said his conscious, "a voice from the grave is calling to you." He heard the voice. " Blood for blood." Hu stood transfixed. The images raised by that silent voice were appalling. They oulmiuatcd in the impalpable shape of a beautiful ^irl, with pallid face, gazing sadly at him, over whose form eccniud to be tracod , in the air the lurid words, 4 Bl^od for blood!' (.'od's dccrce. Tho vision lasted for but a brief space. In the light of his strong will nucli airy terrors could not long exist. Blood for blood ! It onco held undisputed sway, but there are yreat and good mou who look upon the fulfilment of the st?rn decree as a crime. Mercy, humanity, and all the higher laws of civilization were on their side. But he could not quite stillo the voice. He took another view. Supposing that he yielded to the whisperings of his conscience— say that, braving all the cousoqucnces of his action, be denounced Gautran. The man had already boon tried for murder, and eojld not be tried again. Set this aside. Say that a way were aiscovered to bring Gautran again tc tbe bar of earthly justice, of what value was the new evidenee that could lie brought against liim? Hit own l>are word—his recital of an interview of which he held no proof, and which Gautran's simple denial woula be sufficient x> destroy. Place this new evidence against the evidence he himself had established in proof of (iautran's innocence, and it became a featherweight. A iawyor of mcdiocre attainments would blow away such evidence with a breath. It would injure only him who brought it forward. Ho derided. The matter muut rust where it was. In silence lay safety. It was not probnblo that he &ud (iautrao would ever meet again. There was still auother argument ia flavour of this conclusion. I he time for making public the horrible knowledge of which he had bccome possessed Mas ]iost. After ho

had received Gautron's confession he should not have lost a moment in communicating witli tbe authorities. Not only bod he allowed the hours to slip by without taking action, but in the conversation initiated that evening by Pierre Lamont, in which he had joined, he had tacitly comniittod himself to the continuance of a belief in Gautran's in nocencc. He saw no way ou t of the fatal construction which all who knew him, as well as all who knew him not, would plaoc upon this line of (ooduct. He had bccu caught in a trap of his own setting, but he could hide his wounds. Yes—tho question was answered. He must preserve silence. This long self-communing had exhausted him. He could not sleep ;ne could neither read nor study. His mind required relief and eolncc in companionship. His wife was doubtless asleep ; ne would not disturb her. He would go to his friend's chamber; haply Balcombe would be awake, and they would iiass an hour in sympathising converse. Baloombe bad Ofked him, when they bade each other good-night, whether be intended immediately to retire to rest, and bconswercd that he hid much to do in his study, and should probably be up till late in the night. " I will not disturb you," Balcombe had said, "but I, too, am in no mood for sleep. I have letters to write, and if you happen to need society come to my room, and we will have one of our old chats." As he iiuittcd the study to seek his friend the soft silvery chimes of a clock on the mantel proclaimed the hour. He couuted the strokes. It waa mic'night. tST Mr. J. M. Wendt, 70, Bundle-street, tun tin* larpest ami most fashionable stock uf Marble Clocks en-r r-lmwn in thiti colony, which for quality an I rheHjineus ore unsurpassed. Inlaid oq<1 |>l tin in Blm'R, Wliite, and Urey MnrMe, which Mrike on Ronp or WW. Prices f«»ni <C'2 16*. upwards. Also 203mwfc