Chapter 198381293

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Chapter NumberXXIX
Chapter TitleConcluded. MELF-JUSTIFICATION.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article198381293
Full Date1883-08-29
Page Number4
Corrections0
Word Count1635
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleEvening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912)
Trove TitleThe House of White Shadows
article text

THE HOUSE OF WHITE 1 SHADOWS.

BY Ji L FARJKON, Author of "Blades"-Grass/* "Joshua Marvel,' "Bread and Cheese and Kisses," "Orlf," "London's Heart," &e.

CHAPTER XXIX.—{Concludtd). ULT- JU8TIFICATION.

Arthur Baloombe appeared to gather strength from the singular direction the conversation bad taken. It was as though port of a burden was lifted from him. He was not the only one who was Buffering—he was not the only one who was standing on a dangerous brink—he was not the only one who hod drifted into dangerous waters. Even this strong-brained man, this Advocate who hod seemingly held aloof from pleasure, whose days and nights had been given up to study, whose powerful intellect could pierce dark mysteries and bring them into clear light, woo was the la«t man in the world who could be suspected of yielding to a prompting of which his judgment and conscience could not appro/e—even he bad a secret which he was guarding with jealous care. Was it likely, then, that he, the younger and the more impressionable of the two* could escape scares into which the Advocate had fallen? The fatalist's creed recurred to him. All these matters of life were preordained. What folly in a man—what worse than folly—what presumption for one weak man to attempt to stem the universal current! It was delivering himself np to destruction. Better to yield and float upon the smooth tide, and accept what good or ill fate provided for him. What use to poison the sunlight and the balmy air, and all the sweets of life, by selftorture? The confession he liad extracted from the Advocate was in a certain sense a justification of himself. He would pursue the subject still further. As he had !>een questioned so he would question. It was but just. "To judf^e from your mannci, Edward, your secict is no light one." "It is heavy, Arthur, and bard to Iraar." "1 almost fear to ask a question which occurs to me." "Ask freely. I have been candid with you in my desire to ascertain how I could help 1 ou in your trouble, lie equally candid witn me." " But it may be misconstrued. I am almost ashamed that it should have suggested itself —for which, of couree, the baser part of mc is responsible. No—it shall remain unspoken." •'l should prefer that you asked it, Arthur — nav, 1 desire you to do so. There is no fear of misconstruction. Do you think I wish to

btand iu your eyes as a perfect man? That would be arrogant, indeed. Or that I do not know that jou and all men arc filled with contradictions? The purest of us—men and women alike- have undignified thought*, unworthy imaginings, to which wc would be loth to give utterance. But sometimes, as in this instance, it becomes a duty. I have had occasion quite lately to question myBclt closely, ana 1 have fallen in my estimation. There is more baseness in me than I imagined, and I am not always equal to noble action. You see I do not place myself above you. Hesitate no longer. Ask ^our question and as many more as may arise from it. These things are often hydra-headed. I shall kuow how far to answer without disclosing what I desire to keep buried," Balcotnbe put his question boldly. " Is the fate of a woman involved in your secret?" An almost imperceptible start revealed to Halcombc's eyes that another chance anon had hit tho mark. Truly, a woman's fate formed the kernel of his secret—a virtuous, innocent woman, who had been most foully murdered. He answered in set words out any attempt at evasion. " Yes, a woman's fate is involved in 1 "Your wife?" Had bis life depended upon it, he could not have kept back the words. " No, Arthur, not my wife's." "In that case," aaia Arthur, slowly, "a man's honour is concerned." "You nuess aright—it aCfects my honour." For a few moments neither of them spoke, and then the Advocate said—" To men suspicious of each other—as most men naturally are, and generally with reason—such a turn iu our conversation, and indeed the entire conversation in which we hive indulged, might be twiated to fatal disadvantage. In the woy of conjecture I moan—as to what is tl.e essencc of the secret which I do not reveal to 11.y deirest friend, and the essence of that which my dearest friend does uot reveal to me. It is fortunate, Arthur, that you and I btand higher than most. We have rarelv lu sitatcd to speak heart to heart and soul to soul ; andif by some strange course of events there has arisen in each of our inner lives a mystery which we have decided not to reveal,* it will not weaken the feeling of a flection wc entertain for each other. Is that so. AnhprV' " Yc R, it is so, Kdward." " Men of action, of deep thought, of strong passion?, of sensitive natures are less their own masters than peasants who take no 1 .art in the turmoil of the world. An uneventful life presents fewer tomptatinns, and there is therefore more freedom in it. We Jive in an atmosphere of wine, and often miss our way. Well, we must be indulgent of I'ach other, and he Hometimes ready to say, 'The positioa of diificulty into which you have l»ecu thrust, the error you have committed. the sin—yes, even the sin—of which yen have l>eeu guilty, may have fallen to my lot had I been placed in similar circumstances. It is not I who will be the firet to condemn you.'" " Even," said Balcombe, " if that error or that sin may be a grievous wrong inflicted against yourself. Even then you would be ready to excuse and forgive ?" " Yes, oven in that r-ase. I should^ be taking a narrow view of an argument if I applied it to nil the world, and had not the common fairness to apply it to myself." " So that the committal of a great wrong may be justified by clrcumstaDoe ?' Yes, I will go as far as that. The fault of the child and the fault of the man—it is but a question of degree. Some err deliberately, some are hum' whicn master them"' " By natural jiassions." "All passion is natural, although it is the fashion to call ccrtaiu aspects of it unnatural. The working of the moral and sympathetic affections ore frequently beyond our own control." " Of those who have erred with deliberate intention and those who have been hurried blindly into error, which should you be most ready to foigivc ?" "The latter," replied the Advocate, conscious that in his answer he was condemning himself: "they are comj>arativcly innocent, having less power over and being less able to retrace their steps." " You pause," said Balcombe, a sudden thrill agitating his veins. " Why?"' "1 thought I heard a sound—like a suppressed laugli Did vou not hear it ?" " No 5 I heard nothing." But he lied. The sound of the laugh was low but distinct, and it proceeded from tho room in which the Advocate's wife was concealed. TheAdvocato stepped to the door by which he liad entered, and looked up and down tho passage, to which two lamps gave light. It was quiet and deserted. " My fancy," he said, standing within the half-open door. " Mv phyBiciaus know more of the state of my nerves than I do myself. I was wrong in mixing myself up with that trial." Still that trial, always that trial It seemed to him as if he could never forget it, as if it would for over abide with him. It coloured his thoughts, it gave form to his arguments. Would it end by changing his very nature ? " You areover-wrought, Edward," said Balcombe. "If you were to seek what I have Rcught, solitude, it might bo more beneficial to you than it has been to me." "There is solitude enough forme in this retired village," said the Advocate; " and had I not undertaken the defence of Gautrau my health by this time might have boen completely established. We are here sufficiently removed from the fierce passions of the world ; thev cannot touch us in this primitive birthplace of yours. Do you recognise how truly I spoke when 1 said that meu like ourscl ves are the slaves and peasants the ireo men? Besides, Arthur, there is a medicine in a friendship such as yours which I •h fy the doctors to rival. Even though there lifls been a veil over our conlidenccs to-night, 1 feel that this last hour has Wn of benefit to me. As you well know, I am much given to thinking to myself. As a rule, at those times one walks in a narrow grooyo. If he argues, the contradiction he receives is of tlm.t mild character that it can be oasily proved wrong. No wonder, when the thinker creatcs it for the purpose of proving himself r^ht It is not always healthy, this solitary uffmpanionship—it leads mrely to just conclusions. But in conversation new by-roads reveal themselves in which wc wander pleasantly—new vistas appear—new suggestion su-ise'to pivc variety to the argument and to HIH.W that it has more than one selfish side. iVrhnps it is tho sound of our voices which pndi:«-rs these agreeable changes. If one livid « 1.1 irely a life of thought it would be a d.ad life -H life without movement, without vnriolv. Goodnight, Arthur; I have kept ynu from your ropt. You have travelled far tn day. (»ood nuht. Sleep well. 1 ' ,• line C .l.miftl male J.»' n>jt he equalled uitlm