|Chapter Title||FATHER CAPAL DISCOVERS GAUTRAN IN ? PERIX.|
|Newspaper Title||Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912)|
|Trove Title||The House of White Shadows|
THE HOUSE OF WHITE SHADOWS.
BY B. L. FAEJBON, Author ol " BlaJn-o'-OraM'• " Jofthaa UuTCl. " Bread and CbMH and Kitees," " Gel/," " Iondon's Heart," Slc.
CHAPTBR XXXV L FATHER OAPMLDISCOVERSQAOTBANIN U PE&IL.
Father Opel was wending his way slowly ovrr t lie hilU from the bedside of the aicfc mcuiiii, to whom he had been suddenly summoned. At the woman's wish his Walt had been briefer than he had desired i but she had insisted, and he was compelled to yield. She was very ill, and the peasants, beneath whose roof she—a waodereij and unknown to them—bad found shelter, feared she had not long to lire: bnt the arrival of the good priest bad imparted to her a wonderful strength, and she had made to him oerUln disclosures which, veiled as they were, had grievously disturbed his usually serene mood. She had also given him a mission to perform which did not tend to compose his mind. He had promised faithfully to obey her, and they were to meet again on the following night. To hie earnest request that she would pray with him, she haa impatiently answered, " There will be time enough after I have seen the man you hare promised to bring with you. 1 shall live till then." So he bad knelt by her bedside, and bad prayed for her, and for himself, and for all the erring. His compassionate heart had room for them all. For twenty miles around there was no man better loved than he. Bis life had been reproachless, ud his tender natire never turned from the performance of a mod dee£> though it entailed suffering ana privation upon himself. These were matters not to be considered when duty beckoned to him. A poor man. and one who very often deprived himself of a meal in the cause of charity. A priest, In the truest sense of the word. Seldom in the course of a long, merci' ful, and charitable career, bad he met with eo much cause to grieve ae on the present occasion. In the first place, because it was an added proof to the many he had received that a false stop in life, in the taking of which one human being caused another to sutfer, was certain to bring at some time or other its own bitter punishment ; in the second plaoe, because in this particular Instance the punishment and the remorse that must surely follow were as terrible as the mind of man oould conceive. His road lay towards the hiU upon which tbe desperate confliot between John Vanbrugh and Oautian was taking place. There was no occasion for him to cross this hill; by skirting its base be could reach his moaest borne. But as be approached the spot the wind bore to him in moments when tne furv of tbe storm was lulled cries whish sounded in his ears like cries of pain and despair. They were faint, and difficult to ascribe to any precfBO definite cause; they might be the cries of an animal, but even in that case it was more than likely that Father Capel would have proceedod in their direction. Presently, however, ho beard a human cry for help; the word was distinct, and it decided bia movements. Without hesitation be oommenced to climb tbe hill. As he approached nearer and nearer to the spot on which the struggle wis proceeding there was no longer room to doubt its nature. "Holy Mother!" murmured the priest, quickening bis etepe, 11 will the evil pa3siona of men never be stilled ? It seoma as if murder were being done here. Grunt that I inay not be too late to avert the crime!" Then came the terrific Ughtning flash, followed immediately try Uautraivg piercing scream as be was struck down bv tbe tree. " \\ ho calls for helpT" cried Father Capel, in a loud voice, but nis words were lost in the peals of thunder that shook the earth end made it tremble beneath his feet. When comparative silence reigned, he shouted again. "Who calls for help? lam a priest, and tender it." Gautran's voice aniwered him, " Here, here ! I am crushed and dying I" This appeal was not coherently made, but the groaua which accompanied it guided Father Capel to the spot upon which Gautran lay. He felt amid the darkness, and Bbuddered at the touch of blood, and then be clasped Gautran's right hand. The tree bad fallen across the murderer's legs, and had so crushed them into the earth that he could not move the lower port of his body; hi chest and arms were free. A heavy brand had inflicted a terrible gosh on his forehead, and it was from this wound he was bleeding to death. " Who are you ?" said Father Capel, kneeling by the dying man, " that lies here in this sad condition ! I cannot see you. Is this t«od s deed or man'B ?" "Itis God's," gasped Gautran, "and I am justly punished." "1 heard the sounds of a straggle between two men. Are you one of those who were fighting in the midst of this awful darkness'!" " Vee. I am one." " Ana the design," continued FatherCapel, " was murder, you do not answer me ; your silence is a sufficient confirmation. Are you much hurt " I am hurt to death. Id a few minutes I shall be in eternal tire unless you ((rant me absolution and forgiveness for my crime3." " Speak first the truth. W ere you set upon, or were you the attacker in this evil combat? " i attacked him first." " Then he may be dead !" exclaimed Father Capel, and rising hastily to his feet, he toered into the darkness and felt about with Ilis hands, and called aloud to know if the other man was conscious. '' This is horrible," said the priest in deep perplexity, scarcely knowing what it was best to do ; " one man dying, another in all likelihood dead." He turned as if about to go. and Gautran, divining his intention, cried in a tone oi agony " Do Dot leave me, father, do not leave " Truly." murmured the priest, " it seems to me that my present duty is more with the liviDg than the dead." He knelt again by the side of Uautr&n, "Miserable wretch, if the man you attacked be dead, you have murdered liim, and God haa smitten you for our crime. It may not be the only sin that S.es upon your soul. 1 " It is not, it is not." groaned Gau tran. " My strength is deserting me ; 1 can hardly speak. Fathci, is there hope for a murderer? Do not let me djg yet. Give me something to revive me~-T&m fainting." " I have nothing with me to restore your etteogth. To go for wine, and for assistance to remove this heavy timber which imprisons yea—my weak arms cannot stir it—will take fully half an hour. It will be best, perhaps, for me to take this coarse; in the meantime, pray, miserable man, with all tbe earnestness of voor heart and soul, for divine forgiveness. Vv hat is your name ?" "I am Gautran," faintly viswerod the murderer. Father Capel's frame shook under the influence of a strong agitation. "From the bedside of the woman I have left within the hour," he murmured, "to this poor sinner, who has but a few minutes to live! The hand of God is visible in it." He addressed himself to the dying man. "There is but one Gautran. You are he who was tried for tho murder of Madeline, the flower girl?" " I am he," moaned Gautran. " Harkcn to me/'said Father Capel, "for that crime you were triod and aoquitted by an earthly tribunal, which pronounced you innocent. Bnt you are now about to appear before tho divine throne for judgment, and from God nothing can be hidden. He sees Into the hearts ol men. Who is ready—as you but oow admitted to me—to commit one murder, and who perhaps has committed it— for from the silence I Infer that the body of youi victim Ilea at no great distance—will not shrink from committing two, Answer me truly, as you hope for mercy, Were yon guilty or innocent of tbe murder of Madeline "I was guilty," groaned Gautran. "Wretch that I am, I killed her so that no other man should have her but me. I loved her, Father, I loved her." Gautran. from whose lips these words had come amid gasps of agony, could say no more; his erases were fast leaving "Ah* me! ah, mef said Father Capel, how shall such a crime be erpiated !" 1 1 Father," moaned Gautran, rallyiotr a little, " had I lived till to morrow I intended to buy masses for the repoee of her souL I will buy them now, and for my own soul, too. I hare money; feel in my pooket, there is gold—take it all. all, every pieoe, and tell mo I am forgiven.' Father Capel did not attempt to take the money. "Stolon gold will not buy absolution or the soul's roj>ofe," he sald^ sadly. " Crime upon crime, sin upon sin, Gautran, evil spirits have been luring you to destruction." "1 did not steal tbe gold," gasped Gautran. " It was rivtn to me, freely given." " Forgfvenesa you oannot hope for," said 1 FatherCapel, 4 if in these awful momenta you swerve from the truth by a hair's breadth. Confess you stole tbe gold, and tell me from whom, so that it may be restored." " May eternal torments be mine if I stole it Believe me, Father, believe mc. I spoak the truth" M " Who &avc it to you, then ? " 1 be Advocate." "The Advocate! He who defended you, and eo blinded the judgment of iron ae to cause them to uet a moraerer loose !" " Yes—he, and uo other man." "From what motive, Gautran—compas-
" I have his secret, u be had mine, u£ he wished to get rid of me, so that he 4od"I should never meet tgain. It was forth»t he gave m* the gold." " Whftt is the nature of thU secret which made him fear your presence t" u Ho knew me to be guilty." "Merciful God I When he. defended fou, he knew you to be guilty P " Aye—he knew it well." '' Incredible—horrible I" exolaimed Father S the murderer. How will he atone tor ithow can he atone for it! And if what I otherwise fear be true, what pangs of remorse await him I" A frightful scream from Gautran arrested his further speech. " Save me. Father, save me ! H shrieked the wretch. " Send her away —tell her I repent. See, there—there I—she is creeping upon me. along the tree l n " What is It you behold amidst the darkness of this appalling night V asked Father Capel, crossing himself. "It is Madeline—her spirit that will never, never leave me I Will you not be ntisfied, you, with my punishment? Is not my death enough for you ? You flood—you fiend t I will strangle you if you come oloser 1 Have mercy—mercy! You are a priest—have you no power over her ? Then what is the use of piayer ? It is a mockery—a mockery I My eyes are filled with blood. Ah I" Then all was silent. " Gautran," whispered Father Capel, " take this cross in your hand; pot it to your lips; and repeat the words I say. Gautran, do you hear me ? Mo sound; no sound. He is gone to his account, unre pen tent and on* forgiven." Father Capel rose to his feet, " I will seek assistance at once," he said; " theie is another to be searched for. Ah, terrible, terrible night 1 Christ have mercy upon us!" And with a heart overburdened with grief, the good priest left the spot to bring assistance.