|Chapter Title||SELF-JUSTIFICATIO K.|
|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 "BledeHj'-Grwe/' "Joehoa Marred "Bread *nd Cbeeee And frl—rie.' " Grif,* "London's Heart," 1 &c.
CHAPTER XXIX. SELT-JDBTINOATLO K.
The slight action and the significant question presented a coincidence so startling that Balcombe waa fascinated by it. That there vu premeditation or design in this ooincidenoe, or that tbe Advocate had onnnir * led the oonvernation to this point for purpose of confounding him and bringing him face to face with his treachery, did not suggest itaeli to his mind. He was, indeed. Incapable of reasoning coherently. All that he was momentarily conscious of was that discovery was imminent, that the sword hong over him, suspended by a hair. Would it fall, and in its fall com^l into a definite couiae the conflicting passions by which he was tortured ? It would, perhaps, be better so. Already did he experience a feeling of relief at this suggestion, and it appeared to him as if he were bending his head for the welcome blow. But all was still and quiet, and through the dim mist before his eyes he own voluntary act—to say to the Advocate, 4 41 have betrayed you. Bead that note bene&th your hand; take this key, and open yonder door; find there your wife. What do >ou propose to do?" The words did actually shape themselves in his mind, and he half believed that ho had uttered them. They did not, however, escape his lips. He was instinctively restrained by the consideration that m his punishment Adelaide would be involved. What- right had he deliberately to ruin and expose her? A cowardly act thus to sacrifice a woman who in this crisis relied upon him for protection. Id a humiliating, shameful sense it is true, but none the lees was she under his direct protection at this moment. Self-tutored as ne was, he could still show that ho had some spark of manliness left in him. Had he been alone, he would have braved the consequenccs of detection, but to recklessly dispose of tbe fate of the womp i whose only crime woe that she loved him—this he dared not do. His mood changed. Arrived at this conclusion, his fear now was that he had betrayed himself—that in some indefinite way he bad given the Advocate the key to his thoughts, or that hu had, by look or expression, conveyed to his friend a iense ot the terrible importance of the perfumed note which lay upon tho desk. " You do not answer me, Arthur," said the Advocate. But IJalcombe could not speak. His eyes were fixed upon Adelaide's note, and he lingers. His unreasoning impulse to histcn discovery was gone, and he was afiiioted now by a feeling of apprehension. It was hid Imperative duty to protect Adelaide ; while the Advocate's hand lay upon tho envelope which contained her secret she was not sate. At all risks, even at the hazard of his life, must she be held blameless. Hod the Advocate lifted the envuloj>e from the desk, Balcombe would have torn it from him. "Why do you not speak?" asked the Advocate. 41 Surety there is nothing offensive in such a question between friends Like ourselves." " I can offer you no explanation of what I am about to say." replied Balcombe, " it may sound childish, trivial, pitiful, but my thoughts arc not under my own control while your hand is upon that letter." With the slightest expression of surprise the Advocate handed Balcombe the envelope, scarcely looking at it as it passed from his possession, lhat Balcombe was suffering mentally did not escape bis observation, ana if what was written within the euvelope relates to it, his mcLtal disturbance wis not unnatural. "Why did you not speak of it before?" said tho Advocate. " But when a mind is unbalanced, trifling matters arc magnified into importance." "lean only ask you to forgive me," said Balcombe, plucing tlic envelope in his pocketbook. " I have no doubt in the courso of jour career you have met with miny small inciilculs quite as inexplicable." Then an excuse which would surely be acjepto 1 occurred to him. "H may be Hutlioiuut fur mo to say tint this ia the first ni^lit of my return to the house in which I was born, a'ia jja«sorl a not too happy huyhooil, ami that in this room my mother (iied." Ti e Advocate pressed Ualcombvi's baud. "There is no need fur another word. You have been looking over some old family papet^, and thov have aroused melancholy icmiiuHccuccs. I should h.ive been more thoughtful; 1 was wrong in coming to you. It will U' best to say good-night." 15ut lialcombe. any ion a to avoid the slightest cause lor suspicion, said, " N.iy, keep willi mc a few minutes longer, or I Khali reproach myself for having behaved unreasonably. You were askiug" " A delicate < | uestion. Whet lief you love without In-trig loved in return." " No, Ldward, that is not the case with ir.e." You have no intention of marrying ?" No." " Thou your h*_srt is still free. You reassure me. Yon air not Huil'eriDg from what has been described the most exquisite of all human sullcriiiEe—unrequited love. Neither have you exporicnccu a disappointment in friendship " No. I have scarcely a friend with the exception of yourself." " And my wife. You must not forget her. She takes a cordial interest in you." Yes, and your wife." " It was Jacob Hartrich who suggested that you might have met with a disappointment in love or friendship. I disputed it, in the belief that had it been unhappily so you would have cootided in me. I am glad that I was right. Shall I continue ?" " Yes." "The Banker, who entertains the most kindly sentiments towards you, based all bis conjectures upon a certain remark, which made a strong impression upon him. You told him yoi* were weary of the gaiety and the lipht and bustle of cities, and that it was your intention to seek some solitude, where. L)v happy chance, you might rid yourself oi a terror which possessed you. I can understand your weariness of the faUe glare of a fashionable city Ii/o; it can never for any long period satiety the intellect; but neither cau it instil a terror into a man's soul. That would spring from another aud a deeper cause " "The words were hastily spoken. Look upon them as an exaggeration.' " I will regard thom in that light, b'it they were not an invention* and Uicre must liny'a been a serious motive for thom. It is uot iu vain that I have studied their charaoter, although I feel that I did not master tbe study. I am subjecting yon, Arthur, to a kind of mental analysis, in an endeavour to arrive at some conclusion wnich will enable nie to be of assistance to you. And I do not disguise from you that, wore it in my power, 1 would assist you even against your will. Our friendship, and mv ago and more varied experience, woi'ld justify me. 1 do not seek to force your confidence, but I ask you in the spirit of true friendship to consider—not at present, but in a few days, whou your mind is in a calmer state—whether such counsel and guidance as it may be in my power to offer will not be a real nolp to you. Do not lightly rcject my assistance iu probing a painful wound. I will use my knife gently. There was a time when 1 believed there WAS nothing that could happen to either of us which we should be unwilling to contide cach to the other, froely and without restraint. I find I am not too old to learn tho lesson that tho strongest beliefs, the firmest convictions, may be seriously weakened by the occurrence of circumstances for which the wisest foresight could not have provided. Keen, then, your secret, if you are so resolved, and war in mind that ou the day you come to me and say, 4 Edward, holp me, guide mc/ you will find me readv. I shall not fail you, Arthur, in any crisis.' Balcombe rose and slowly paced the room, while the Advocate sat uack in his chair, and watched his friend with affectionate solicitude. "Doe.sthislesaon," prcBentlysaid Balcombe, " which you are not too old to loaro, spring < utircly from the newer impressions you are receiving of my character, or has somuthiuz iu your mind which you have not disclosed help to lead you to it?" It w&s a chance shot, but it strangely hit the mark. The question brought forcibly to the Advocate'* mind the position in wliiuli ho himself was placed by 'iautran's confession, and bv his subsequent resolve to couceal tho knowledge of G( utran'i crime. web is the world !" he thought. Wnat a M " How the lines which here are widely apart, but a short space l>eyond cross and a. e linked iu elcHont companionship !" Both Arthur and himself bad something to conceal, and it would be acting iu bad faith to hia friend were he to return an ova$ive answer. " It is not i-nlirclv from the newer imprests ns V'-U speak of that 1 hsirn the lesson It spring*- i aitly from a matter whijh disturbs •KiU : to r "Nc, to J11j.iv 1 f. You a.re not con cornet I in In bis turu Bui- -mbc now became Dr.- UHliolMT. " A in w experience o' vour own, 1<Mward
" Which must have occurred to yon sinoe we were last together V' It occurred during your absence." " Which came upon you unaware—for which your foresight ctiuld not have pro- " At all events, It did not. It certainly came upon me unaware." " You speak s&iously, Edward, and your face la clouded," It Is a very serious matter." " Can I help you ? Is it likely that my advice would be of assistance!" " I can speak of it to DO one. I must keep it to myself." You, also, have a secret, then." " Yes, I also have a secret" (To be. continued.)