Chapter 198382562

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Chapter NumberXLIV
Chapter TitlePAULINE.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article198382562
Full Date1883-09-24
Page Number4
Corrections0
Word Count1814
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleEvening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912)
Trove TitleThe House of White Shadows
article text

THE HOUSE OF WHITE SHADOWS.

CHAPTER XLIV". pAULnnL

BY H, L FABJEON, Author of " Bl*de-o'.Grass," "Joshua MflweV' "Bread and Cheese and Kisses," "Orif," "London's Heart," Ac.

" I have DO choice but to obey 7ml, 1 said Father Capel, " for time presses, tad a,life Is hanging in the balance. I should tav* been here before had it not teen that mv datjr callcd me most awfully and suddenly to a man who had been tmltteai to death or the hand of God. The yoa defended— Gaatnn, ioharnd with the murder of an innobent gtri-3* dead. Of him I may not speak at present Death-bed confessions are eaored. and I cannot speak one farther word concerning the shiner whose soul is now before its Creator. I oame to yoa from a dying woman who is known by the name of Paafine." Both Vanbrngh and the Advooate started at the mention of the name. " Fate is merciful," said the Advocate; "its blows ace sharp and swift" " Before I left her," continued the priest, "I promised to bring yoa to her to-morrow, bat Providence, which directed me to Gaa* ran In his dying agonies. Invites me to break th&t promise, bije may oie before to-morrow, J nd the has that to say whioh vitally concerndyon, and which yoa mast hear, if she baa strength enough to speak. I ask yoa to come to oer with me withoat a moment's delay, even through this storm whioh has been sent by an angry God as a visitation upon human crime." "I am ready to aooompany you," said the Advocate. " And I," ^id Vanbragh. 6 1 No," said the priest, "only he and L Who you are I do not seek to know, bat you cannot accompany us." 1 1 Remain here, said the Advooate to Vanbragh; "when I return I will hide nothing from yoa. Now, Father Capet" It was not possible for them to ongsge in conversation. The warring of the wind prevented a word from being heard. For mataal safety they clasped hands, and proceeded on their way. They encountered many dangers, but escaped tbem. Torrents of water poarea down from tbe ranges—great branches snapped from the trees and fell across their path—the valleys were knee-deep in water— and occasionally they fanoied they heard cries of human distress in the distanoe. If the priest had not been perfectly familiar with the locality they would not have arrived at their destination, bat he gaided his commnion through the storm, and they stood at {ength before the cottage in whiou Pauline lay. Father Capel lifted the Utah, and pulled the Advocate after bim into the room. There were but two apartments in the cottage. Pauline lay in the room at the back. In a oorner of the room in whioh they found themselves, a man lay asleep; his wife was sitting in a chair, watching and waiting. She rose wearily as the priest and the Advocate entered. "I am glad you have come. Father." she said. " She has been very restless, and oaoe she gave a shriek like a death-shriek, which curdled my blood. She frightened my child." She pointed to a baby-girl, scarcely eighteen months' old, who was lying by her father, with her eyes wide open. The child, startled by the entrance of strangers, ran to her mother, who said petulantly, "There, there—the gentlemen won't hurt you." "Is Pauline awake now?" asked Father Capel. The woman went to the inner room, and returned. " She is sleeping," she said, " and seems quieter." Father Capel beckoned to the Advooate, who followed him to the bedside of the dying woman. She lay so still that the priest lowered his head to hers to ascertain whether she was breathing. " Life appears to be ebbing away," he whispered to tne Advocate. " She may die in her sleep." Quiet as she was, there was no peace in her facc ; an expression of exquisite suffering rested on it. This sign of suffering, denoting bow sorely her heart had been wrung, caused the Advocate's lips to quiver. "It is I who have brought her to this," he thought. He was tortured not only by remorse, but by a terror of himself. Notwithstanding that so many years had passed since he last gazed upon her, she wan not so much changed that ho did not recognise in her the pretty peasant girl with whom he bad dollied in Zermatt. •Since then he bad won honour and renown, and the admiration and esteem of men; tbe best that life could offer was his, or had been until tbe fatal day on which he resolved to undertake the defence of Uautran. And now —how stood the account ? He was the accomplice of the murderer of his own child— the motber of his child was dying before him —his wife was false to him—his friend had betrayed him. The monument, of greatness he had raised had crumbled away, and in a little while the world would know him for what he was. His bitterest enemy coald not have held him in deeper despisal than he held himself. " You recognise her ?" said the priest. " Yes." " And her child, Madeline, was yours ? 1 ' "I am fain to believe it," said the Advocate, " although the proof IB not too clear." "The proof is there," said the priest, rotating to Pauline. "She has sworn it. Knowing that death's door is open for her to enter—knowing tliat the child, the only being eiic loved on earth is waiving for her in the eternal land—she would not dare to imperil salvation by swearing falsely. Unhappy man! unhappy man!" and he sank upon hiB knees. "1 will pray for yon and for the woman whoso life you have blighted." The Advocate did not join the priest in irayer. Hl« stem sense of justice restrained {lim. The punishment he had brought upon himself he would bear as best he might, and be would not inflict upon himself the ehameful humiliation of tricking himself into a belief that, by prayers and tears, he could euddenlyatone for a sin as terrible as that of which he was guilty. " Father Capel," he said, when the priest rose from his knees, "from what yon have said I gather that the man Uautian made confession to you before he died. I do not seek to know what that confession was ; but with absolute certainty I can divine its nature. The min you Baw in. ray study has in his possession Uautran's dying declaration, signed Dy Uautran himself, which chargos me with a crime so horrible that, laden as I am with the burden of a sin which I do not repudiate, were 1 guilty of it 1 should deserve the worst punishment which man and God could inflict. Are yoa aware of the existence of this document?" "I hear of its existence now for the first time," replied the priest. " \\ hen I left the bedside of this unhappy woman, and while I was wending my way home through the storm, I heard cries and screams for help, as though two men were engaged in a deadly struggle. I proceeded in tne direction of tbe conflict, and discovered only Gaotran, who had been crushed to the earth by the falling of a tree, which had been split by the storm. He admitted that he and another man had been fighting, and that the design was murder, but of his antagonist I could find no trace. I left Uautran to obtain assistance, and when I returned he was dead, and some gold which be had asked me to take from his Itockot was gone—an indication that, during my absence, human bands bad been busy about him. If Uautran's dying declaration bo authentic, it must ha?e been obtained while I was seokicg assistance." " I can prove tbe circumstances," said the Advocate. "The man yon saw in my study was engaged in the struggle with Gautran. It was he who obtained the declaration, and he who took the gold. In that declaration I am charged with undertaking the defence of Gautran, knowing him to be guilty. It is not true. When I defended him I believed him to be innocent, and he has gone to bis account with a foul lie upon his souL I do not mention this to you for the purpose of cxciting pity, but bccausc it is simply just that yon should hear my denial of the charge. It is also iust that you should hear more. Up to the Hour of Gautran's acquittal I believed him, vile and degraded aB he was, to be Innocent of the murder; but that night he met me and confessed that ho was guilty. My error—call it by what stronger term you will—dated from that moment. I jagiled with myself—I had uot the boneaty to take the right oourso. But even if I." he added, with a gloomy recollection of his wife ana friend, had not by my own act rendered valueless the fruits of a life of earnest endeavour, it would have been done for ma by those in whom I placed a sacred trust. 7 * for Severn) hours Father Capel and the Advocate remained by the oalside of Paulino, who lay unconsctoun, as if indeed, as the priest had said, life was ebbing away in her sleep. The storm in creased in intensity, and had it uot been that the little hut which sheltered them was protected by the position in wbich it stood, ihe tempest would have swept it away. From time to thne the peasant gave them particulars of the devastation created by the floods, whi^h were rushing furiously from every hill, but their duty chaincd them to the bedside of Pauline. An hour before noon she opened her eyes; they rested on the faoe of the Advocate. " You have come," she sighed. He knelt by the bed and addressed her, but it was with difficulty he heard the words sli spoke. Death was very near. " Was Madeline my daughter?" he asked. "Yes," she answered, "as I am about to appear before my God!"

The effort exhanited-faerrand~Bhe lay ptill for several minnide., Tben her hand feebly soaght the p£llo#: land the Advocate, peroemng that she wished to obtain eomefchini from under it, Marched sod found a imafl picket. Ho knew lnatantly when she motioned thai Ihe dealred hlm to retain it—that it contained tbe certificate of hU daughter', birth. The priest prayed audibly for the departing som.' Pauline's lips moved; the Advooate placed hie ear close. She breathed tbe words— „ , , " We aball meet again soon. Pray for forgiven wa, " Then death claimed her, and her earthly sorrows were ended.