|Chapter Title||A VENERABLE REVELATION.|
|Newspaper Title||Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912)|
|Trove Title||The House of White Shadows|
THE HOUSE OP WHITE SHADOWS,
BT BTXT^ABGEOK. Author of " Blide-o'-GrMa," " Joahua MarTd," " Bread and CheeM and KISMB," m QHf," " Loa- . don^fe H£Ut,° Ac.
QHAFTEB^YLTTT. A VIBBIBLE EBVELATIOir.
Without raquertiog permission, John Vanbnigh filled his glaas with win«t whioh he drank leisurely, with his eyes fixed on the Advocate's pale face the while. Whoa he spoke it did sot escape the Advocate that he seemed to flingaside the flippancy of manner which had hitherto characterized him, tad that his volse was unusaally earnest. 1 1 1 do not ask you to excnse me/' he said, " for recalUaff the memory of a time when yon did not aecpfee my companionship. We were, indeed, more than companions, we were friends. What it was that induced yoc to OODSOI 1 * with ME is just now a mystery to me, for socially we stand at two extremes. The ooncnst between onr character* may have tempted yon—I a careless, lifht-heartea fellow, who loved to enjoy the noon; yon a serious eold-he&rtod student, dreaming perhaps of the position you have attained, it may be that you deliberately made a study of me, to see what use yon could make of my weakness* However it was, I lived in the present, 70s in the future. The case la now revened. It ia yoa who live in the present. I ia the future. I have said you were cold-hearted, and I do not suppose you will trouble yourself to deny it. Such men as yoa are bound to rise, while we, impulsive reokkee devils, are pretty sure to tumble in the mud. But I never had suoh a
fall as yoa ave threatened witli, and. soapeerace vagabond as I am, I am thankful not to have on my conscience what yon have on yonis. " Now for certain facts. "I contemplated—-co, I mistake, I never contemplated—I settled to go on a tour for a few week*, and scramble through bits of France, Italy, and Switzerland. You will remember my mentioning it to yon. Yes; I see in your face that you are followii wing me. and I enall feel obliged by your com me if in my statement of facts £ should happen to trip. The story I am telling needs no effort of the imagination to embellish it, It is in its bare aspect sufficiently ghastly and cruel. W hen I was about to start on my tour, you of lyour own accord offered to accompany me. You bad been studying too hard, and a wise doctor recommended you to rest awhile, if you did not care to have brain fever, and also recommended you to seek new scenes in the company of a cheerful friend, whose light spirits would be a qood medicine for an overworked brain. You took the doctor's advice, and yon did me the hononr to ohoose me for a companion. I was glad to have you—I had gaiety enough for two—and so we started on our little tour of pleasure. To shorten what I have to say, I will not dwell upon the details of our jaunt, but I fix myself, with you, at Zermatt, where we stayed for three weeks. The attraction—* what was it? The green valleys — the grandeur of the scenery 7 No. A woman ! More correctly speaking, two v women. Young, lovely, inexperienced, innocent. Daughters of a peasant, whose cottage door was always ojjen to us, and who was by no means unwilling to accept small presents of money from liberal gentlemen like ourselves. Again I skip details—the story becomes trite. We captivated the hearts of the simple peasant maidens, and amused ourselves with them. In me that was natural; it was my way with women, who have played me more scurvy tricks, three to one, than ever I played them. But in yout who never cared for women, this diversion was something to be astonished at. You played the game well—much better than I—and for just as long as yon remained at Zermatt you were a transformed being. I don't think, until that time. I had ever heard you laugh heartily. Well, suddenly yon disappeared 5 one morning I found my friend had deserted me. It was shabby behaviour at the boat. Certainly yon had said to me on the night before that yon thought that we bad been at Zermatt already too lone, and I had replied that the place wae so pleasant to me that I intended to remain for another week or two. You did not leave a line behind yon telling me your reasons for running away inBUCG haste, or asking me to meet you further on in somo other part of the country. However, it did not seriously trouble me ; every man is his own master, and i think we were Iregiuning to tire of each other. It was awkward, though, to be asked by one of our pretty >essant girls—yours, not mine — whore my 1i&ndsome friend nad gone to, and when he would return, and not l>e able to^ give a sensible answer. This girl, who in your presence had been always Dright and joyous and happy, became in your abBencc sad and anxious, and appeared to have on her mind a secret that was making her wretched. I stayed on at Zermatt for another month, and theu I bade uood-bye to my sweetheart,
promising to come again in leFs than a year. I kept niy promise, but when I asked for her iu Zermatt I learnt that ehe was dead, and that her eiBter and father had left the village, and had gone no one knew whither. I remind you that during our stay in Zermatt we gave no home address, and that no person in that pillage knew where we came from or where we lived. So prudent were we that we acted as if wo were ashamed o r our names. Three years afto *ards, in another part of Switzerland, I met the woman to whom you hid devoted yourself; she bad lost her father, but was not without a companion. She bad a little daughter, your child, as surely as you hear the words lam speaking." " A lie r said the Advocate, with difficulty controlling himself— 14 a monstrous fabrication • 4< A solemn truth," replied t Vanbrugh, "verified by dates, the mother's oath, sad the certificate of birth. To dispute it will bs a waste of breath and tipie. In your own heart you know whether you betrayed the simple girl and then deserted her. Hear me to tne end. The mother had but one anxiety —•to forget yon and your treachery, and to be able to liveBO tliat her shame shoo Id be concealed. To accomplish this it was necessary she should live among strangers, and it was for this reason she had left her native village. She asked me about yoa. and I—well, I played your game. I told ner you had gone to a distant part of the worla, and that I knew nothing of von. We were still friends —you and 1—although our friendship had cooled. When I next saw you I had it in my mind ^o relate the-circumstance to yon ; but you will remember that just at that time you took it intoyour head to put• an end to our intimacy. We had a few angry words, I think, and you were pleased to tell me that yoa disapproved of my habits of life, and that you had resolved we shonld henceforth be etrangers. X was not in an amiable mood when I left you, and I determined on the first opportunity to seek the woman you had brought to shame and advise her to take sunh steps against you as would bring disgrace to your door. It would lie paying you in your own eoin, I thought However, good fortune stood yonr friend at that time. My own difficulties or pleasures or both combined claimod my attention and occupied me for many months, and when next I went to the village in which I had last seen your peasant sweetheart and your child they were not to be found. I made enquiries, but could learn nothing of them: so 1 gave it up as a bad job, ana forgot all about the matter. Many years have passed since then, and I sank aud bank anu yoa rose and rose. We did not meet again ; but I confess, when I used to read accounts of your triumphs and your rising fame, that I would not have
neglected an opportunity to do yon an ill turn had it been in my power. I was at the lowest ebb—everything was against me, and I was wondering how I should manage to extricate my affairs from their desperate position, when I met in the streets of Geneva two women. They were hawking nosegays, and the moment 1 set eyes upon ths elder of these women I recognised m her your old f weetheart from Zermatt. Yoa appear to be aint. 1 Shall I pause awhile?" 1 Nb," said the Advocate, and he drank with feverish eagerness two glasses of wine. "Go on tothe end." " It was your sweetheart from Zermatt, and no other; and the younger of the women, one of the loveliest creatures I ever beheld, was known as Madeline the flower-girL" The Advooate, with a sudden movement, turned his chair, so tliat his face was hidden from Vanbrugh. 4 1 They were t>oor—and I was poor. If what I suspected when I gazed at Madelino was correct, I saw not only an opportunity for revenge upon you, but a certainty of being able to obtain money from you. The Becrct, to such & man as you, was worth a fair sum, which I was satisfied to divide with Pauline—that was the name adopted by the mother of your child. You cannot accuse me of a want of frankness. I discovered where they lived—I had secret speech with Pauline. My suspicion was confirmed. Madeline the flower-gixlwas your daughter." He paused, out the Advocate made no movement, and did not speak. " How,*' continued Vanbrugh, u to turn that discovery to the beat advantage ? How, and in what way to make it worth a sum sufficiently large to enable tnc to enjoy my life ? That was what occupied my thoughts. Madeline and her mother wero even poorer than I supposed, and from Paulino's lips did I hear how anxious she was to remove her daughter from tne temptations by which she was surrounded. In dealing with you, I recognised the necessity of being well prepared. You are a powerfnl antagonist to coi>e with, and one must hold sure cards to have even a chance of winning any game he is playing with such a man as yourself, Pauline and I spoke frequently
together, and gradually £ nofolded to her the plan I nad resolved upon. Without disclosing yonr name I convinced her that with from the man who had wronged her wl would enable her to place herself and her daughter In * safe position—hi a position in whioh a girl as beautiful as Madeline would almost to a certainty meet with a, lover whom she would marry, and with whom she Would lead a happy hie. Thus would she escape the snare into which Pauline fell when she met yon. This was the mother's dream. Satisfied that I oould guide her to this end, Pauline signed as agreement whioh is in my possession, by which she bound herself to pay me half the money she obtained from you In compensation for >our wrong. Only one thing was to remaio untouched by her and me—a sum whioh I resolved to obtain from yoa as a marriage portion for your daughter. Probably, under other circumstances, you would not have given me credit for so much consideration, but viewed in the position in which you stand, you may Und it in your heart to believe me. If you doubt it I can show you the clause in black and white. Thus much being settled between Pauline and me, I told her who you were— how rich you were—how famous—and how that you had lately married a young and beautiful woman. The affairs of a man aa eminent as yourself axe public property, and the newspapers delight in recording every particular, be it ever so trivial, connected with the lives of men of your rank. It was then necessary to ascertain what proofs we held that you were the father of Madeline. Our visit to Zermatt could be proved— Pauline's oath and mine, in association with dates, would suffice. Then there would surely be living in Zermatt men and women
whose testimony would be valuable. The important points were the birth of the child and the date —and to mv discomfiture I learnt that Pauline had lost the certificate of her daughter's birth. But the record existed elsewhere, and it waa to obtain a copy of it, and to .collect other evidence, that Pauline left her daughter. Her mission was a secret one necessarily, and even Madeline had no knowledge of its purport. What, now, remains to be told t It was arranged that uj>on Pauline's return she and I Bhould meet m Geneva on a certain date. She would be absent a few weeks, and, having business elsewhere, 1 was a couple of hundred miles away when tiie monster Gautran murdered your hapless chilli. I arrived in Geneva on the last day of Gautran'a trial, and on that evening, as you came out of tne Oourt, I placed iu yonr hand the letter asking you to give me an interview. I will say nothing of my feelings when I heard that you had successfully defended and had set free your daughter's murderer. You, who at the commencement of this interview rejected a renewal of our friendship, may probably inwardly confess that had yon accepted the hand I ottered you it is not Iwho would have been the gainer." Again he paused, and again, neither by word or movement did the Advooate break the silence. f To he coitbiwd i