|Chapter Title||THE COUNTESS CONFESSES.|
|Newspaper Title||Clarence and Richmond Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1889 - 1915)|
|Trove Title||From Convict to Countess|
AT.T. RIGHTS RESERVED.
A NOVEL BX DR. GREY.
Continued from Saturday's issue.
THE COUNTKSS CONFESSES.
" Tlie -wicked flourish like a green bay tree, and is strong, and hath no bands in his death." Yet, though the words have come down from ancient times, their application is restricted and partial. Certainly they did «ot apply to the wicked old Dowager Countess of Budleigh, who lay griev- ously sick, and drawing daily nearer to tho gates of the grave, as her feet crept inch by inch down .the valley of the shadow, with her piercing glance, measuring, calculating her exit frc m this world and her entry into auotr er one, of which her calculations and 1 er plans had taken no account.
Day by day the sands of lifo i an down, and physicians came and we nt. A trusty messenger had gone post- haste to Eome for the Earl of Budleigh, but there was much un- certainty when he would return-no letter hnd beon receivod from Eric for some timo, and tho Countess grew
weaker and weaker. . .
_ At last the Eev. Brook was commis-
sioned to tell the Countess that her end'waB drawing near. The clergyman, sat by the sick woman's side and read to lier the sacred word. " Thus saith the Lord, set-thine house in order, for thou shalt die and not live."
"Ah, Brook, has it then come to that? " said the Dowager with a long brenth. " Toll ino," sho enid, clutching tho arm bf lier spiritual adviser, " how ure tlie schomes of a lifetime and the
nins too-how can they be set in order in a few hourB ? How cnn it bo set in oi'dor? " she. said audibly, but-ruther to herself than to lier pastor. " How can freshness be restorod to tho mown grass, or perfume to thc trampled ?flower, or corn blasted with the east
.wind bo made to boar wholesome grain ? The consequences of ill deeds
live nftor them."
"But what does Scripture say," enquired .Brook ? "'if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgivo us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.' Do you beliovo this, Countoss ? ".
" Yes, I, suppose BO ; I have been taught it is true, but tell mo, Brook," nnd she raised herself upon One elbow', " if I had a sin-a cruel sin-on my soul, and I dib without confessing it, How. do I stand.-affected? Tell me, shall I be damned ? " '%
" Certainly you will rush on eternal ruin, and go wilfully to your doom. Confess! ¡Uopent! Put your whole trust in God's mercy through Christ, and you will bo saved.
" Confess, repent," said the Countess, ' sinking buck on" her pillow." .' It"' is
easy to talk. I could .confess ; can I repent? I don't know. Confess, repent; yes, that is right,'my con-
science tells me that is truo."
"Begin," urged the clergyman. "If you cannot run, then walk ; if 3'ou cannot walk, then creep. You can confess and'repair wrong. Con- fess, I charge you, by your immortal soul, by your son's happiness, by a broken heart and blighted life ;
confess !" :
" Ah," saidsho, with a long inspira- tion. " Is it true, then, after all,.that 'the birds of tho. air shall carry the matter?' Well, come to-morrow, I ehall decide by theil." ' .
" I beg you not to delay, mylady, ííow is tho accepted time ; now is the day of salvation.
" I said to-morrow, Brook. You will got ln'y answer thon. Wow go."
Brook felt the burden of a great responsibility, and tho need of tact and wisdom greater than his own. But when he returned ? next day he found his patient. propped up on pillows. . .
"I will omi fess, Brook," she said, when ho hail greeted lief. "I cannot meet my 'maker with that which fies heavy en my soiil. I have sinned against G oil und man. I am too weak in mind ¡md body to carry tho burdon longer, much lus» through eternity. Send for a magistrate and a witness j you will do for the other."
"Within tho hour, Brook and two old friends of tho Budleigh family gathered within the chamber of tlie Couutess..
"Writing materials were brought. The Countess asked for a cordial, and bade them raise lier upon tho pillows,-and, having boon sworn, dictated her con- fession. It was signed and witnessed. "When it was sigued, the Countess
turned to Brook.
" Aro you satisfied? " .
" You have done all you can to ropair the wrong; but I fear for the tho consequencos to the unhappy giri. However, you have done your duty this morning ; I must now do mine as a magistrate and a personal friend to Miss G-rey. I give notice to all' whom it may concern that I shall take instant stops to lay this document before the authorities, i Stampford, will you como with me into the library. 1 want to seo you privately." .
When they had adjourned, Stamp ford said, "This is a dreadful business, Brook. I feel the shock of > the revelation, still I cannot yet beliovo it. My old friend tho perpetrator of a frightful crime ! ' The Earl's marriage broken off by treachery, and that
traitor his own mother. An innocent I
lady sent to spend her life with abandoned wretches, at tho mercy of
dissolute sailors and brutal warders.
ATo friend, no one to protect her no ¡ matter how great hor need ; gone, as wo aro told by those who claim to know, gono to a hell upon earth. I shall not sleep to-night for thinking
"Don't say any more, Stampford. I daro not look on the dark side of
The mont wonderful astronomical photo- graph in the world is that whioh has reoently been prepared by London, Berlin, and Parisian astronomers. It ia claimed to .-show at least 68,000,000 stars.
this fearful business. My profession aud my faith alike forbid mo to assent to your view that the victim has no friend. She has one, and' she knows it, who reigns above. I hado her hope and trust, and I must and will learn my own lesson."
." That is well for you, Brook ; but I look at things as I find them in the world. If I stand under a falling house, I shall be crushed, or if I faß
into the . fire I shall be burned. If I
get into water beyond my depth and cannot swim, I shall be drowned ; and what better chance has a beautiful convict girl ;of escaping ruin than in those cases I have assumed. I am afraid, Brook, she has no more chance than a live- lamb among a. pack of
wolves." ? . ' '
" What did you say in your suppo- sitions cases ? Wos it not about death from water and fire. Very well then, listen., 'Thus Baith'the Lord, when thou pasBeth through the waters I will be with thee, and through the floods they shall not overflow thee ; when thou passeth through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame, kindle upon thee.' Trust, my friend, trust."
"I can't, Brook. The martyrs trusted in God, and black pages of history record the worst of fates re- served for Christian virgins doomed to lives of infamy by the State, and disgraced publicly in the theatre before death. The promises must have hold as good then as they do now." .
'. What' do you infer, Stampford ? " " Why, I believe you parsons take a number of promises made to tho Jews, many of which are poetical figures of speech, and jrou appropriate them literally or spiritualty, just as it suits your case. Now, you need not get red, Brook, I am not going to argue ony'more."
".Well, then, Stampford, lam going to have the last word. Itianot.Bafo reasoning to take examples or reasons from exceptional states of Church lifo, as, for instance, from those times of persecution which you have just men-' tioned-you might as well reason from ono of the miracles. Tho blood of the martyrs was tho Beed of thq Church, and we aro blest to-day through their- sufferings. It* was for our sakos that they endured to the end, like their Master despising the shame-but we are dealing with ' normal times and the ordinary chancos of life, and'we are justified in claiming God's promise and its fulfilment ; una according to our faith so will it be to us. -And that comes from the New Testament, and not from the old, so don't talk any more about the history, ot the Jews, but let me read you Alma's last lotter. r ..j4. .
.'; The Scarbrough.''
.Mr, DE AB PASTO»,-The weather has been'perfect,-and tho moon and stars marvellous in their splendour above these tropical. regions. Every prospect pleases, and only man is vile. A dreadful tragedy occurred on board yesterday. You doubtless remember the rulhan from whom the Captain delivered me. He finally selected a girl named Wells. She has been ailing and complaining of...a. pain at her heart, and after threo weeks' illness, sho died. A week-af tor, the officer chose another companion, that Daisy
Baltor of "whom I wrote in last letter
-the girl who gave mo information of tho mutiny. She. was entered as a dairymaid, transported for-breaking a witiciow and attomrited shop lifting. When she was told that she was pro- moted to tho freedom of the deck, and to go and 'put her new master's quarters in order, she made a terrible scene. "I will not go," she said. ' Two sailors wero sent down to carry
her on deck. " I will not go I " sho screamed, ovor and over again. As they carried her up' the companion way sho shrieked, "I will die first ¡.I am a married woman, you ,villains ! " They got her up afc last and gave her
into tho officer's cure, nml ho.ordered
hor to accompany him. When she refused, he tried to drag her across the deck^to Iiis cabin; but excitement gave lier strength, and she cried for help,- " Save me, George ; .he will ruin me ! George ! George ! !. The watch were in the rigging, looking on, laughing, calling out,-" Pull devil, pull Baker," when a convict bounded from the main deck past the . sentry, who fired and missed, leaping towards the woman who cried . !l Quick, quick, George ! "'. as- she saw him coming. Hushing on the officer with a belaying pin, he struck him a crushing blow on the head, and felled him tb the deck. Tho woman throw herself into the convict's arms, as tho sailors began to descend the rigging. " Good-bye, Dais}'," said the man. "That blasted officer will trouble you no more ; good-bye, my pet," and he jumped oa the bulwarks aud held on by a shroud. " Hold on, George ! I am coming too," cried Daisy, and climbed up beside him. The sailors stopped odvancing when they 'saw the pair staud side by side on the edge. "Don't, Daisy! ' said the man. " YOB, George, I will," she replied, with cue arm round his neck. " Death with you boforo life with one of those wretches. There is no other way for you to escape the rope or for me to escape ruin. Come, George, now together, leap with me ; we shall be separated no more." Then they sprang into the waters. The ship waB going free, and we soon lost sight of them. The Captain wore the ship, but no trace could be discovered. I- felt glad, Mr. Brook; they were two brave souls. I believe they were husband and wife. I asked the Captain about the convict; he informs me that the man had assaulted ii game keeper. I feel suro that tho wife had broken the window in order to be transported with hor husband. Neither the law nor violence nor death could part them. Love was stronger than nil, nnd donth is better than sin or slininu. 1 don't pity them ; I admire
them. I do pity tho miserable man who was struck dead while overpower- ing his shrieking victim-he died in his sin. I nm crying too much to write any moró.-Y ours affectionately,
" What do you. think of that, Stampford ?"??.'??'
"Well, it's sad: enough, Brook; but, to business, I admit that what Providence intends . to do for MÍSB Grey you know much better than I do, but I know better than you appear to do what Providence intends us to do to-day, or you would not be
so long winded. '
" What does it intend us to do ? " enquired the clergyman.
''Why, it intends that you and I shall post up to London to-uiglit to do our part, though it be a small one, to deliver Alma G-rey from the temp- tations and dangers which surround her. Now, let me seo that you can practise what you preach, Brook."
" I will, Stampford."
In due courso thc two frionds laid the confession of the Countess'before the Homo Secretary, and they received on assurance that the miscarriage of justice should bo rectified at once, and a free pardon sent out to New South Wales by the next ship.
" We have done all we can, Brook," said Jonah £tampford. " Now let us go home ; but God only knows . what may happen to the Earl's affianced wife between this and. the arrival oi-
lier pardon at Botany Bay... We little, know what may be happening on the
other side of tho world. '
" Trust," said Brook.. .
The clergyman returned to Budleigh
in time to see tho end of the Countess. She grew weaker fast.
"I have nothing to live for," she
" Your son? " .
.'How can I moot him? Is it a.
pleasure to look forward-to consider the shadow on my name ? I do not .wish' to live ; let mc dio."
As her end drow near", she sank into a lethargy.'
? " She may pass away like that," said the doctor, "though probably she will recover consciousness just before
Brook and the nurse sat watching the next evening; the breath came more Blowly. A slight noise made the clergyman lift his eyes. Tho Countess was sitting upright in her bed without support^-a thing she had not done'for weeks-her eyes, widely distended,
hired into vacancy.
" Look there," she said j " I see
"See who? " said Brook.
"Her; you know, the Governess. See ¡ they, bind her hands and feet ; the clothing has been, dragged down from the body.. Do you not beor her screams as they ply the whip on her blooding flesh. I did it," she cried, loud and shrill, "that is.my work. O God forgive my wicked soul."
She fell back, and the death rattle came into her throat, and so sae passed
Mr. Brook did not know until years af tor that in Sydney, on the other Bide of the world, at the precise time the Countess died, Alma, bound to the triangles, stood in agony and shame, shrieking for mercy, with her naked body bedewed with tears and blood, a spectacle for God and men.
The Countess was' gathered to her fathers. She left a request with Mr.
Brook to communicate with Miss Greyj and inform her that the Countess was sorry for the injury she had done her, and that sho . hoped Aim» would forgive her if she could.
There was another grand funeral, and another marble tablet in Budleigh Church, with a stained window to complete the whole. The piety and. virtues of tho deceased were set forth
in the usual way; so the'public was satisfied that things wore as they
ought to ho. But where was the one I fitting memorial-the remembrance ' of good deods in living hearts, It did not exist. How vain tho lying marble. Could that make good tainted honour ? Well has Alma's poet namesake
written the truth.
Dan storied urn br animated buBt
Back to its marinion cull the fleeting breath ; Can honour's volco restore tho silent dust,
Or flatter; sooth the dull cold ear of death.