|Chapter Title||THE BIDDEN CRIME.|
|Newspaper Title||Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912)|
|Trove Title||The House of White Shadows|
THE HOUSE OF WHITE SHADOWS.
BY B, L. FABJEON. Author of " BlAd»-o'-GraMJ" " Joshua Mftrvd, "Bread and OMN and Kiuoe," " Grlf," ,r too> doQ'i Heart," Se,
CHAPTER XL. HIDDEN CRIMK.
1 1 He dnok the wine, not wisely or temperately as a oool-headed man whose life was At stake would have done, but haotily, fereriihly, and with an air o£ desperation, " 4 Yon an a good fencer,' I Bald, 4 the best among all the fnends who visited me daring the days of your treachery* \ on were proaa of showing yoar skill, as you were of exhibiting eve IT admirable quality with which ^q^mb^jrtod. Something of the mounteu < At least,'he said, rallying hia courage, •do not insult me.' " 1 Why not? Have yon not outraged what is most honourable and sacred 7 Here are rapiers ready to cmr hands.' "' A. duel f he cried. ' Here and now T Yes,'I replied. 'a duel, here and now. There is DO fear of Interruption. The sound of clashing steel will not fall upon other Mrs than ours. "' It will not be a fair combat.' he said. K Yon are no match for me with the rapier. Let me depart. Do not compel me to become your murderer.' ' Yon will never more set foot outside these walls,' 1 said; ' here you will find your gave.' 1 1 It ivas my firm belief. I saw him already lying dead at mv feet. "' If I should kill you,' he said, 1 how shall I escape f "' As best you may,' I replied. ' You are an adept at ottmbing walls. If you kill me what happens to me thereafter is scarcely
likely to interest me. But do not allow that thought to trouble you. What will take place to-night is ordatned.' " I commenoed to move the furniture from the centre of the room, so as to afford a clear space for the duel. The tone in which be next spoke convinced mo that I had impressed him. Indeed, my words were uttered with the certainty of conviction, and a fear stole upon him that he had come to his death. 41 4 1 will not fight with you,' he aaid. 1 The duel you propose is barbarous, and I decline to meet you unless witnesses arc present.' 1 4 'So that we may openly involve the fair lame of a lady in oar quarrel,' I retorted, quietly. 'No. that will not bo. Before witnesses it is / would decline to meet you. Are you a coward F I*' it matters little what you call me,' he said.'as no other person is near. You cannot force me to fight you.' " 4 1 tbiok I can,' I said; and I struck him in the face and proceeded with my work. My bock was towards him. A loaded gun was hanging on the wall. Unporceived By mo he unslung it and fired at me. "I did rot know whether I was bit or not. Maddened by the cowardly act, I turned, and, lifting him in the air. dashed him to the ground. His head struck against one of the iegB of my writiag table ; he groaned but once, and then lay perfectly still. It was the work of a moment, and the end had come sooner and in a different way than I expected. He lay dead before me. ''I had no feeling of pity for him. and I was neither startled nor deeply movoa. llis mnishment was a just punishment, and ray Itonour was safe from the babble ot idle ana malicious tongues. All that devolved upon me now was to keep the eveuts of this night from the knowledge of men. " There was, however, one danger. A gun had been tired. The sound might have aroused my wife or some of the servants, in which case an explanation would have to be given. At any moment they might appear. What lay on the floor must not be seen by other eyes than mine. 4 1 1 dragged a cloth from a table, and threw it over the body, and, with as little noise as possible, swiftly replaced the furniture in its original position. Then 1 eat on my chair
and waited. In a few minutes 1 was in a state of great agitation ; but after 1 had sat for an hour in silence without being disturbed 1 knew that my secret was safe. " I removed the cloth from the face of the dead man, and gazed at it. Strange to say, the features wore an expression of i>eacefulness ; death must have been instantaneous. Gradually, as I gazed upon the form of the man I hod killed, the sellish contemplation in which 1 had been engaged during the last hour of suspense—a contemplation devoted solely to a consideration of the consequences of dificovery so far as I was eoncerned, and in which the late of the dead man formed no part—became merged in the contemplation of tho act itself, apart from its earthly consequences. " I had taken a human life. I, whose nature had been proverbially humane, was, in a direct sense of the word, a murderer. That the deed was doou in a moment of passion was no excuse ; a man is responsible lor his acts. The blood I had shed shone in my eves. " \\ hat hopes, what yearning, what ambitions, were here destroyed by me ! In setting aside the unhappy sentiment which had conducted events to this end, M. llabriel was a man of genius, of whose career high expectations hod been formed. 1 had not only destroyed a human beiug—I had destroyed art Would it have been better haa I allowed myself to be killed? Were death preferable to a life weighed down by a crime such as mine? " In a short time these reflections had sway over me, butpre ently Isteadily argued them down. I would not allow them to unman me. This coward and traitor had met a just doom, and no guilt lay on my soul which I could not justify to God and man. A claptrap phrase; as though the Supreme needed, for a just estimate of human deeds, the arguments supplied by human sophistry ! " What remained for me now to do was to complete the concealment. The body must be hidden. After to-night—unless chance or
the hand of Providence led to its discovery— the lifeless clay at my feet must never more be seen. " There was a part of my grounds, seldom If ever intruded upon by the servants—that portion in which, for the gratification of my wife, I had at the time of our marriage commenoed improvements which had never been completed. There it wa« that my wife's mother had met with the accident which resulted in her death. I thought of a pit deep enough for the oonofe&lraent of tho bodies of .fifty men. Into this pit I would throw tho body of M. Gabriel, and would cover it srith earth and stones. The task accomplished there would be little fear of discovery. "First satisfying myself that all was quiet and still in the villa, and that I was not feeing watched, I raised the body of M. Gabnel in my arms. As I did so, a horror and loathing of myself took possession of me. I shuddered in disgust \ the work I was performing seemed to be the work of a butcher. The meaner elements of the conditions of life have the most powerful influence over ns. The deeper sorrows are borne with comparative equanimity. H 1 1 However, what 1 resolved to do was done. In the dead of night, with darkness surrounding me, with tne rain beating upon me, and the accusing wind shrieking in my ears, I consigned to its last resting-place the body of the man f had killed. It lies there now, and no man but myself is the wiser. 4 4 Years have passed since that night My name has not been dragged into the light for scandal-mongers to make sport of. Open shame and derision have been avoided ; out at what a price! From the day following that upon which I forbade M. Gabriel my bouse, not a single word was exchanged between my wife and myself. She sent for me before she died, but she knew she would be dead before I arrived. A fearful gloom sottled upon our lives, and will cover me to my last hour. This domestic estrangement, this mystery of silence between those whom be grew to lore and honour, weighed heavily upon my eon Aithur. His child's soul must have suffered much, and at times I
have faficied I se? in mm the germs of ft combination of sweetness and weakness which may lead to suffering. But suffer as tie mar, if honour be his guide, I am contont I shall not live to see him as a man; my days are numbered. "In the time to come—in the light of a purer existence—I may learn whether the deed 1 have done is or is not a crime. " But one thing is clear to me. Had it not been for my folly shame would not have threatened me, misery would not have attended me, and I should not have taken a human life. The misery and the shame did not affect me alone: they waited upon a young soring life ana blighted its promise. It is 1 who am culpable, I who am responsible for what has occurred. To chain to me a -fori less than half my see—to delude myself into the belief that spring and autumn can be fitly mated, without reflecting that spring into summer, when summer Bun is needed for life's perfeetion, and that autumn merges into winter, when man's grave lies open for him—for all tho consequences at* tending this error I am answerable. It is Impossible, without courting unhappiness, to divert the enrrents of being from their natural channels; youth needs youth, is attracted to youth, seeks youth, as flowers Boek the sum. Roses do not grow in ice. 4 1 Mine, then, the sin—a sin too late to expiate. . . "I would have my eon marry when he is young, as in the course of nature he will love when he-'w young. It Is the happier fate, because it is in accordance with natural 4 1 If he into whose hands these pages may fall can disoern ft lesson applicable to himself
in the events I have reoorded, let him profit by them. If the ciroumstanoas of his life in any war resemble mine, I wan htm to bear with wisdom and pitieooe the penalty he has brought upon god not to ado, in the person of another being to whom he is brand and who is bound to bun, to an uahappiness —most probably a secret unhappiness—of his own creating. "And I ask him to consider well whether any good purpose will be served by dragging into the open day the partioalan of a crime, the publishing of which cannot injure the deao or benefit the living. It oannot afford him any consolation to wink, if my son be alive, that needless suffering will be brought to the door of the innocent. Let him, then, be merciful and pitiful."