|Chapter Title||A RECORD OF THE PAST.|
|Newspaper Title||Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912)|
|Trove Title||The House of White Shadows|
THE HOUSE OP WHITE SHADOWS,
ihr a U FAEJBOH, Author of "Blide-o'-GtMa,* " Jofho* Harold "Bmd ao4 rtiewe and tOmmS "Ori£," "ten* don't Bevtk" to.
CHAPTER TTKvm. A BJOOBD 07 TBS fAflT.
All VU aUeot in (be HOOM of White 8tadowa* Strange u wm the dnma that was ID progroaa within its walls, It found no open erprassioo r and to the Advocate, seated alone in his itudy, was about to be unfolded a record of events long baited fa the pest, the disolosare of which had not up to this noment been revealed to man. Daring the afternoon the Advocate had said to Arthur Baloombe— 4 4 Now that I have leisure I intend, with your permission, to devote some time to roar father's works. In his day. oertainly tor a xitimber of years, be was celebrated and well known In many countries, and I have heard surprise expressed that a career which promised to shed lasting lastre a pan the name you bear seemed soddonly to oome to an end. Of this abrupt break tn the labours of an emlnmit man there is no explanation as to what led to it and in what w&y it was broken off. I may chanoe upon the reason of a angular ana oomplete diversion from a pursuit whioh he loved. It will interest me if you will give me permission to search among his papers." A permission," rejoined Arthur Balcombe, " freely aocorded, Everything in the study Is at your disposal. For my own part, the impressions of my childhood are 01 such a nature as to render distasteful tho records of my father's labours; but you are a student and a man of deeper observation and research than myself. Yon may unearth something of value. I place all my father's manuscripts at yoar unreserved disposal. Pray read them if you care to do so, and use them in night the Advocate, after looking through a number of manuscripts, most of them in an incomplete shape, came upon some written pages, the opening lines of whioh excroisc upon him a powerful fascination. The only heading to these pages was " A Record, and it was made in the following strain " it devolves upon me, Ernest Arthur Bal comboj as a duty to sot down here in a brief form, before I die. the reoord of certain events in my life wbich led me to tho commission of a crime. Whether justifiable or not—whether this which I oall a crime may be otherwise designated as an accident or as the exeoutlon of a just punishment for trust and friendship betrayed—is for others to determine. It is probable that no human eyes •rill read what I am about to write untd I am dead ; but if it should be brought to light in my lifetime I am ready to bear the conseao nothing to assist directly in the discovery uenoes of my act. The reason why I myself except in so far as making the record ana placing it without conoealment among my manuscripts) is that I may in that way be assisting in bringing into the life of my dear eon, Arthur Balcombe, a stigma and a reproaoh which will be a cause of suffering to him. If it should happen that many years akail elapse before these lines fall into the bands of a human bairn;, it may perhaps be for the best What u done is done, and cannot be recalled. Evan had I the power to bring the dead to life I doubt whether I should avail myself of it" " My nam* is not unknown to the small world in which I live and move, and I once cherished a hope that I should suooeed in making it famous. It proves the vanity of ambition, upon which we pride ourselves and imbue with false nobility. "As a lad I was almost morbidly tender in zny nature; I shrank from giving pain to living crcatore; the ordinary pursuits of d, in w&ioh cruelty to insects forms BO prominent a feature, woe to me revolt* 1 1 My earliest aspiration was to make for myself a name in literature. Every book I road and admired assisted in making this youthful aspiration a fired purpose wnen I became a man. Often, as I read the last words of a book which had fixed my imagination. would 1 think, and sometimes say aloud, 'Gladly would I die were I cap ' * priting a book so good, so fine as this. 1 " My paronts were rich, and allowed me to follow my bent. When they died I was left sole hdr to their wealth. I had not to Btrugglo as poorer men in the profession I resolved to devote myself to have had to do. So much the worse for me, perhaps: but that no .v matters little. Whether the books I hoped to write would be eagerly sought after or not was of no moment to me. What 1 desired was to produce; for the rest, as to being successful or unsuccessful, I was equal to either fortune. I made many friends and acquaintances, who grew to learn that they could use ana eujoy my house as their own. In setting this down I lay no claim to lavish generosity; i<was on my part simply the outcome of a nature that refused to become a slave to rigid forms of hospitality. The trouble entailed would havo been too great, and I declined to undertake it. I choose to employ my hours after my own fashion—which has been said was the fashion of solitude, I found great pleasure in it, and to see my friends around me, without feeling myself called upon to sacrifice my time for their enjoyment, knowing (as they well knew) that they wero welcome to the best that my wealth and means could supply them witn —this added to my pleasure a peculiar cliarm. They were satisfied, and so was I; and only in one instance was my hospitality abused and my friendship betrayed. But had I been wise, this one ins tan oe would never have occurred to destroy the hopes of my life. " Although it is running somewhat ahead of the sequence of events, I may mention here the name of the man who proved false to friendship. It was M. Gabriel He was almost young enough to be my son, and when I first Jtnew him ho was a boy and I was a
man. He was an artist, with rare talents, and at the outset of his career I assisted him, foij like the majority of artists, he was poor. This simple mention of him will be sufficient for the present. "As whea I was a lad I took no pleasure In the pleasures of lads of my own age, so when 1 was a man I did not go the way of men in that great absorbing passion to which is given the name of Love. Those around me were drawn into the net which natural impulse and desire spread for mankind. There WHS DO credit in thin; it was simply that it did not happen. I was by no means b woman-hater. Female beauty was pleasant to mo, but it would seem as if the pursuits to whioh I was devoted were too engrossing to admit a rival. So I may say what few can cay—that I had passed my fortieth year and had never loved. " My turn came, howe ret. "Among my guests were the lady whs afterwards became my wife, and her parents. sweet and beautiful lady, twenty-five ronty-five ars ITS mv n junior. My nnhapnmess and ruin sprang from the chance whioh brought us togotfier—aa did her wretchedness' and misery. In this I was more to blame than she—much more to blame. In the ordinary course of a life which had reached beyond its middle age I should have acquired sufficient experience to leain that youth should mate with youth—that Nature has its laws which it is dangerous to trifle with. But such experience did not come to me. At forty-five years of age I was as unlearned as a child in matters of (he heart; I had no thought of love ormomage, and " not the fault of the young lady that she knew nothing of this simplicity. No claim whatever had I to demand to be Judged by special and exceptional rules. She had a perfect right to judge me as any other man of my age would have been judged. AU that can be raid of it was that It was moat unfortunate for her and for me. II it should happen (which is not unlikely, for the unforeseen is always occurring) that these pages should he read by a man who ia contemplating marriage with one young enough to DC his daughter, I would advise htm to pause and submit his ease to the test of natural reason ; for if both live there must come a time when Nature will take its revenge for the transgrusion. The glamour of the present is very alluring, but it is the duty of the wiser ana the riper of the twain to consider the future, which will press more hardly upon the woman than upon the man. With the fashion of things as regards the coupling of the sexes I have nothing to do ,- fashions arc artificial and often most mischievous. Frequently, when the deeper laws of Nature are involved, they are destructive and fatal. 1 1 It was my misfortune that during tho visit of tho young lady and her parents, the father, an old and Earailess gentleman, met his death through on accident while he, I, and other gentlemen were riding. In my hoaso he " It occasioned me distress and profound sorrow, and I felt myself in some way accountable, though the malt was none of mine. Hcforo his death h. and I had private contcronccs, in which hs asked me to look after iiis aflairs, and if, as ho feared, they were in .HI embarrassed state, to act as tho protector to bis daughter. I gave him the promise readily, and when he died I took a journey for the puirioae of asoertainmg how the widow and tne orphan were ciroumstancod. gcntly as 1 oould I broke the news to them, be mother understood if; the daughter
"Speaking a*ltolo * measure to tag own soil, I will descend to ao doplicity. That I was entirely onwlfiah is my desire that her life sbon d w bright and free from anxieties with which die ooald sat oope is true; bat none tho leas true b it that for tho fiat time I felt myself under the dominion oE a passion deeper and more significant than I had ever felt for woman. It was love, I believe, bat love in wbich there was reason. For I took myself to task: I set my age and here before me. I did this on paper, and as I gazed at the figures I said, 'Absurd; it is not in Nature, and I must fight it down.' 1 did wrestle with it. and although 1 did not snoeeed in vanqnishing it, I was sufficiently master of myself to keep the straggle hidden in my own hreast. . . . . X had firmly resolved to bold my feelings in check. It was the mother who accomplished that upon which she set her heart I may apeak freely. This worldly mother has been long dead, and my oonfession oannot harm her. It was she who ruined at least the happiness of one life, and made me what I am. "Needless hen to raonnt the arts by whioh she worked to the end she desired : needless to speak of the deoeits she practised to make me believe her daughter loved me. It may be that the fault was mine, and that I was too ready to believe. Sufficient to say that we fell into the snare she prepared for us; that intoxicated by the prospect of an earthly heaven, I aooepted the meaning ahe pat on her daughter's reserve and apparent coldness, and that, onoe engaged in tne enterprise, I was animated by the ardour of married, andwith no doubt of the future, 1 set out with my wifo on oar bridal tour. Bhe was both child and wife to me, and I solemnly resolved and most earnestly desired to do my duty by her. " Before we were many days away news arrived that my wife's mother hod met with an accident in a part of the grounds which was being beautilied by my workmen, according to plans I bad prepared for the pleasure of my young bride - an aocident so Berious that death oould not be averted. In sadness we retnrned to the villa. My wife'i coldnesB I ascribed to grief—to no other cause. And, indeed, apart from the sorrow I felt at the dreadful news, I was myself overwhelmed for a time by the fatality which had deprived my wife of her parents within so Bhort a time on my estate, and while the; were my guests. ' But it will pass away,' thought, 'and I will be parents, lover, lius bandt to the sweet flower who had piven her happiness into mv keeping.' When we arrived at the villa her mother was dead. " I allowed my wife's grief to take its natural coarse; seeing that she wished for solitude I did not intrude upon her sorrow. I had to study this young girl's feelings and impulses. It was my duty to be tender and considerate to her. I was wise and thoughtful and loving, as I believed; and I spared no effort to comfort without disturbing her. ' Time will console her,' I thought, ' and then we will commence a new life. Sue will learn to look upon me not only as a husband, but as a protector who will fully snpply the place of those she has loet,' I was patientvery patient, and 1 waited for the change. It never came. " She grew more and more reserved towards me, and still I waited and still was patient. Not for a moment did I lose Bight of my dntv. " But after a long time had passed I b to question myself. 1 bqmn to aonbt whe I had not allowed myself to be deceived. Is it possible, X asked of myself, that she married me without loving me ? When this torturing doubt arose I thrust it indignantly from me; it was as though 1 was casting a stain upon her truth and parity."