Chapter 27276667

See chapter in newspaper

Chapter NumberNone
Chapter Title
Chapter Url
Full Date1873-07-05
Page Number7
Word Count4944
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)
Trove TitleHunting a Shadow
article text

The Storyteller.


BY M. E. K.

CHAPTER XXVL "So, then, I am mad ! What is it to be mad? Is not my pules as calm as other men's, my judgment as steady ? Everything around me is

unchanged. No link is broken in the chain of •torn*] harmony. No, it oanaot be—l am not mad." Arthur was pacing up and down hit ifody in exoeuire agitation. The interview with Yicto rine had almost unmanned him. Por the first time the sense of his malady had laid hold upon him with irresistible horror. As a man, unarmed, might meet his deadly enemy with a weapon in his hand, and a quick ptneptien of danger might seiie him and make him tremble, so Art bar met this desperate evi!_ faoe to faoe, and his spirit was dismayed. To be mad! It oomprised the shipwreck of his life, and life had been promising a* yet Kid! He sat down and thought upon it till hi* brain was dissy. Mad! What was he to do to meet the exigenoy ? In the prime of strength and manhood—what would they arail P Other diseases might retire before them, but they lent power to this. He had been haunted by a spectre. Did sane men hold intercourse with the dead P " And Con atanoe is dead!" he cried aloud, as he had done before; and, as before, the Toice of reason answered, "Dead!" What is there left for him to do P Escape P Alas Ihe looks forward to a dreary banishment, a wild, uncertain future. It baa no hope for him. He cannot fly—there ? nothing to be gained by that} bnt he may loose his liberty. His pursuers may be already on his track. And yet he has committed no orime. True—but he is mad! Oan he lire with this ourse npon him, cleaving to him, haunting him for years, and years—a whole eternity of torture P And for what end should he lire P He can fulfil no purpose. His malady would mar all noble eonoeptions of the mind | for the mind is where it holds its seat. Physical infirmity, even the greatest, might leave Ibis part untouched. The mightiest of men have been the feeblest. Bat to be mad!—and he must be mad j the world has pronounced it^ so. He would rather die than live. Life's ties att sundered. An eternal solitude is settling round him. His kindred merely allow that he should exist. He is dead to society, dead to fame, dead to friendship, dead to lovet a grave has closed over him. Still he must live. He dare not sunder the link that buds the dis tempered soul to its earthly prison—he must lire and fly t Constance has been bis enemy and brought bis rain. And yet how he loves her I How passionately he clings to her memory. How he would court the speotre to rise again if he could —would give his very reason to look onos more upon that glorious face and golden hair. Surely he must be mad! And as if he had not suffered enough, and as if his disorder were not dangerous enough, ha must go back to Wales. Yes, with his pur auers on his track, he must seek out the village churchyard, and look upon the tomb, and linger •boat the spot where this great calamity befell him. It is a marvellous infatuation. He feels that lie is mad. He had not the heart to tell Grace; and yet he oould not forbear a glance at her i and he stole to the door of the room where as usual she sat and worked. Poor Graoe! she was sitting with her work on her lap i h«r face pale and haggard, there Were tears trickling down it Arthur had only intended to give her a parting look, but he could not restrain himself. He stepped up to her and wiped them tenderly away. "Do not cry, Grace," said he. " What is the matter P" Grace controlled herself with a great effort. It was praiseworthy, o.<n»idering her disposition. But Sir Harry had enjoined upon her on no ao* count to let the patient see her distress. " What is the matter, Graoe F" he repeated. " Nothing; only I wish you would come and sit with me," she replied evasively. " For a few moments I will. Grace, you would not deceive me, would you P" said Arthur, earnestly, and he took her band. Grace's work lay at her feet, and her eyes were fixed intently on her brother. ** Grace, dear, said he, "do you notice any* thing remarkable in me? Have you ever— amee—sinee——" He paused. "Only that you look pale and ill, Arthnr, and hare wotked too hard,** rep Led Graoe, quickly. " I wish you would let us go some where for a time, and let me nurse you and get yon well again." M Grace, do you think I am madP" cried Arthur, abruptly. Grace's eyes were fixed npon him with a look of affright. Bhe did not answer. Since his return a misgiving that she dare not name had woke within her. That Arthur was mad she had more than once suspected. His razing* about Constance i bis firm persuasion that he had seen her—what could it be but madness P It was a thought that shook poor Grace's bappi. ness to its very foundations. It was a crushing, overwhelming catastrophe—ruin, desolation and despair following in its track. Poor Grace! her petty skirmishes and her household difficulties snnk to atoms before the great mountain about to fall npon her head. 14 Grace, do you think I am mad?" repeated Arthur. There was still no answer. TLen Grace nestled close to him and laid her head npon his shoulder, and said in a tone of unusual gentle ness, " Let us go away from this place. Ton wul get well anywhere but here." Arthnr groaned in anguish of spirit. "So you too think lam mad!" he exclaimed bitterly. "I did.not say so," replied Grace, weeping. " I did not say'so. I would go with you any. where, and everywhere, and so I will." Ko, Grace, I must go alone. What i would you trust .'yourself to a madman P" and he laughed wildly. "I will trust myself to you, and feel safer than with any one else in the world," cried Grace eagerly. » No, Arthur, I will not let you go!" and she held him in her arms. Arthur disengaged himself gently, bnt reso lutely. 11 Do not hinder me, or lam lost! Did you nerer hear what they do with lunatics V* he cried excitedly. Gram cowered down utterly terrified. "Because," he continued, "I will tell you. They shut them up, and they are coming to •hut me up. But I will give them the slip. liberty or life! Do not touch me. lam mad! mad! mad!" and he rushed from the house.

Grace shrieked in terror, and followed ac fast as her trembling limbs would permit. She called aloud, she beckoned, aba entreated. Arthur fled like a man on whose track the avenger of blood it hud pursuing. Grace could no more distance him than the eoold the wind of Heaven; and at length, overcome with fatigue, ahe tank on the ground, unable to follow another step. Bat something matt be done. Arthur mart be followed, and care taken of bii personal safety. Lanatio* always fancied they were par toed by imaginary enemies. Every moment she delayed might be of eonseqaenoe. She must do something, and she routed herself, and hurried homeward, considering as she went. Grace was not long in deciding, as was evident from her snatching up her hat the moment she reached home, and walking quickly down the garden, and across the road, to the comfortable well-appointed house occupied by oar friend John Lodge, who was just sitting down to dinner, when Grace, in a state of great excite ment, entered the room. '• Ob, Mr. Lodge, do go after him 1" ahe ex olaimed. Please, pray do 1 or he will go and destroy himself." Now Grace had never been into Mr. Lodge's boose, or be into hers, since the unlucky visit to London. John had been sulking most pro foundly, and all the more because be bad caught sundry glimpses of Sir Harry Lorimer at Arthur's dour, and had mistaken him for the London gentleman with whom Grace had tanta lised him. The London gentleman had been a fact so rooted in his mind, that he had thought of nothing else, and he thought of nothing else now. That was a pretty joke! He run after him, indeed! "Oh, Mr. Lodge, pray go!" cried Grace, 11 he has gone off quite distracted, and has got ever so far by this time. Do pray go!" Mr. Lodge finished catting a slice of beef with great precision, hedging it round with eondi meats, then politely offering it to Grace. *• Will you take some dinner, Mies Grace?" " Me!" she cried. " How can you ask me ' I tell you he burst from the house like a lunatic. I do believe he U mad!" " Glad of it," replied John, coolly, and begin ning to eat the beef himself with infinite relish. "Glad!" she exclaimed. M Good heavens, Mr. Lodge!'* "Yes, as glad as can be," said John. "Fever do you mind, Miss Grace. There are plenty left ac good as he is, and near at band, too. So he is mad, is he? Serve him right" And he chuckled with glee. " And he may destroy himself," cried Grace, in a tone of passionate surprise | M actually destroy himself, and you sit there like a stock or a stone." "Let him! I*ll not prevent it. He may hang himself twenty times over for me. What did he come poaching on my ground for?" growled John, savagely. " Mr. Lodge, are you beside yonrself P" cried Grace. "Is Arthur's life of so little " " Arthur!" shouted Mr. Lodge,springing op, and kioking away his chair. " Why didn't you tell me so before? I beg your pardon, Miss Grace j but how could I suppose—where did he goP—which way?— Tell me .quick?—l'll be after him like lightning." "That way—there!" cried Grace, eagerly " I thought I told you \ I said Arthur, did I not?" "No you didn't," said John; "but I might have guessed. I was thinking of that con founded Well, no matter. Good-bye! God bless you 1 and never fear. John Lodge v as true as steel j and as for Arthur being mad— Pshaw! I don't believe a word of it." Having ordered out his nag, John galloped off as if Arthur's very life depended on his ex pedition.

Ohapxbb JLX.VU. Jomr Lodcw wm m capita] a fellow M you ooold find anywhere. In that awkward •bambliog pereon of hi* there beat aa kind and brave a heart m need be. Nor wa* he deficient in aense and discretion, and, take him altogether, Oraoe coald mat have found a better meteaoger for ao delicate an errand. " Arthur it not mad though he think* ha is," he argued, at he pricked hu way in the direction <Jrace had told him; " and to lam not going to frighten him to death by riding oyer againtt him. I shall joat trot leUorely by, and give him good morning, and keep my eye upon him, and ooax him home again. Eead woman, indeed' How doea he know ahe ia dead t Fd have made out the rights of that matter, if it had been ma." Meanwhile Arthur had taken the path aoroaa the field*, and wu battening toward* the nearest point where he night avail bimaelf of the uaual mode of travelling. Though on an errand of aa wild romance a* wa* ever wrought into fairy song, he had neither wing* nor necro mancy to carry him to the land of hi* enchant* ment. He took the path aeros* the field*, by woodland* that in summer time were cool and abady, but now stripped and leafless, for it wa* December, and the flowers were gone, and the summer bird* departed. Presently he reached a deep ravine with water at the bottom. It wa* spanned by a bridge with massive arches that looked a* if made for all time j and here, every hour or ao, the quiet of the spot was di*> torbed by a ahriek and whirl, and a train with it* living freight, tore across, and disappeared behind the wood*. Arthur sat down to rest, for he had walked hastily, and had become almost exhausted. He felt overpowered with the misery of his son* dition. The whole current of his life had keen changed since that fatal journey. The poorest beggar seemed a prince in comparison with him. And yet his calamity was real. He bad seen her as surely as he saw that aky or that land* •cape. Not a vision—not in his excited imagi nation—but in reality. She had stood before him a palpable object. There was no denying the inference. Ho must have been mad. He looked round on the sweep of country so familiar to him. It was a parting glance. He must leave everything behind, break every tie, auffer every low. Society demanded it { or el»e ?he would take the matter into her own hands- Arthur would lose his liberty. These thought* urged him to pursue hia journey, and he was about to rise and hasten on ward when a cheerful voioe sounded in hia ear*. "Good morning, friend. What! sketobinc as usualP" It was John Lodge, who, having spud Arthur in the distance, had tied his horse to a gate and cautiously proceeded. Arthur started, and looked round hurriedly and alarmed. John came up to him. " Never mind the nag, 1* said he; M he's steady enough* I thoughtTd have a look at this bit of ground. They're going to have it surveyed. They say this bridge is unsafe," he rontinned going to the edge of the ravine.

"Oh, do they?" said Arthur, in a tone of in difference. I " Yes," said John, «nd a ftaeu man there would be if a train was to topple over into that dyke. There's twelve feet of water at the bottom." "Indeed," taid Arthur,in the same listless ' ton*. 1 " W Mid John i bat added immediately, " Whj, you an looking sadly thit morning. I wish you would try a cantor now and then on Imy nag. It would do you a world of good. Arthur shook his head deepondingly. " Yes, it wouH," continued John. " There's nothing like hone exeroue. Why, bleti you! I ride miles and mile* in the ooune of the day, and see how hearty I am." Arthur looked up languidly. Then, hemming all in a moment animated, said, M Mr. Lodge!" " Your humble servant," returned John. " Mr. Lodge," said Arthur, earnestly, "you have known me all my life. We went to school together. Do you remember P" "I should think I do," said John, "and a pale puny little fellow you were, but full of mettle. You oould fight the big boys better than I oould, great lumbering chap that I am," he added, good humoredly. " Mr. Lodge, do yon know that I am mad P" cried Arthur, ezeitedly, and starting to his feet John pnt his hand upon his arm gently, and as it were, unconsciously, but he would hare been at sore odds if he had tried to get away. " Mad P Who Mys so P Not a bit of it,* and John laughed derisively. " Get on the nag, I toll yon, and have a cantor. Do you think I don't know a madman when I see him P" " But do yon know that I have looked npoo the deadP" cried Arthur, in the same excited manner. " So have we all, some time or other," replied John, quietly. " But not in the sense I mean," Mid Arthur. "She moved, she walked, she passed before me —a palable existing being. She had the same hair, the same features, the same indescribable fascination. Let me go, I toll you," he con tinued, trying to shake him off in a paroxym of impatience. "Do you not perceive that I am madP" John kept his hold upon him firmly, but as it were without an effort. " Stay a moment said he; " you cannot pa* just yet. See, there are two trains in sight." Two trains were in sight, advancing towards each other, one in each direction, now disappear* ing behind the trees, and now emerging and bearing onwards with a force that nothing could resist. They came nearer and nearer. They tear onwards with a noise like thunder, and I reach the bridge together. The two men turn deadly pale, and their eyes are riveted upon them as upon an object of terror. The arches totter like drunken men—the shriek of the engine seems to change into a waiL There comes a crash so terrible it reads the very sky, and there are shrill cries of despair, and there is a hideous rain, and a sickening scene of men and women wrestling in their death agony below. And John has loosed hold on Arthur, and is peering with white face over the abyss, and Arthur has staggered back and fallen half in sensible. But amidst the confusion of the scene and the mingled shrieks and groans that rise from that dread abyss, a voice, as if there were no other, strikes on Arthur's ear. It is Yietorine, calling for help. He heara her—the woman whom he has loved. Her voice sounds terrible in its fear and agony. Bhe dings to a part of the wreck—the fragment she grasps cannot sue* tain her long. It is sinking—and she is sink ing with it. Arthur descends quickly, and yet cautiously— dropping on his steps, as men do sometimes, by a strange instinct, when a single etep may ruin them. He is by her side—he holds her up—he speaks tenderly—he will mvc her, and she lets go her frail support, and olings to him as to her only refuge. Then, more quickly than pen can describe, there rises before him a face whose every feature is bat too familiar—and there are the glorious eyes—and there is the golden heir, and the magnificent arm feeling about as if for safety. A thrill runs through Arthur's whole being. It is hersslf! It is Constance Clsirrille ! He bunt into a frensy. He is tortured past endurance. Yietorine clings to him, and how can he save that other P She that has no exis tence but in the land of death and of oblivion P If he gra'ped her she would prove a shadow. Away, mocking phantom, luring him to destruc tion ! It is life against death! He will have life. He will save the woman, and let the spectre go t He has reached the bank. One foot is planted on it. The phantom is behind him. He feels it is. If he looked round he should see it. He shudders, and the cold drops stand upon bit' fonhead. " Let her die!" he cried passionately. " She has died once. I know that she is dead. I will save the living, and not thee. Victorine, tell me she is dead!" Yiotorine opens her eyes, and looks hurriedly round. Her eyes are fixed as if isscinated. She points with her hand—she struggles to free herself. Arthur looks too j their eyes are fixed upon the same object. What! does she, too, see Constance P" " She is dead!" he cried; "is sho not dead let her die! There is no Constance I" Yietorine trembled as she dung to him—then shrieked the words, as if wrung from her by a torturing conscience, "She is not dead! She has never died! I have deceived you! She lives! Bhe lives!" Almost while the spoke, Arthur shook her off as if she had been a serpent. She fell heavily back. Her garments were saturatedj her long hair streamed upon the water ; conscience seemad to paralyse her. Bhe uttered no cry, nor struggled to escape. She hi him grasp her rival, and then went down as part of the com- j mon wreck. j Did she think he would save her, and let the other go P ,

Chard XXVIII. un> Law. Th» wild chaotic scene has pitied by. While it lasted it ww fearful in its intensity of •offering. Bat it has patted away. The tamnlt i» hashed. The shrieks are stilled. The broken bridge remain* to testify to iU reality. They are repairing it a* quiokly m they may. Crowds have visited the spot, to look at it, with morbid curiosity. Bat even cariosity is satis fled, and the silence of nature has settled orerit. There is a little rural inn hard by, pioturesqae in samtner, with its climbing roses and its bee« hives. Such a plaoe is not often met with now a-days—clean, quiet, and hospitable. In a ohamber in this rostio dwelling, with the white curtains closed around him, and the Uttioad I window-case folly blinded to exelocU th» fight, lies Arthar Leslie.

Onth»m<>rnii)gof the aeoUent, Arthur bad well nigh lost his Kfc. H* sank with Constance in his ami, and they would both have perished if John** ?tardy mtbdiot come to their NHM, Arthur had been the greater tafitar of the two. The agitation of mind into which he had been thrown threatened to deprive him of nmsb. For nieny days he was raving in deliriam; bow he lay motionless end exhausted. Tou ought almost have thought him dead. John Lodge eeldom left him, day or night. He and Grace proteased to watehby tarae; bat John would tteal into the room long before bia torn wm come, and insist on taking hit poet. Grace never appeared to more advantage than at the preetnt crisis. Her aoiey, demonetratiTe nature was hushed into awe and solemnity. She moved aoiecleasly, epoke little, and wept maea. Her very life teemed to hang on her brother*e reoorery. One night Arthur's disorder had readied ite height, and drape, in an agony of grief, repeated to the room below, and indulged her tears. Some one oame behind her and aaid softly, " Don't Mies Oraee—praj doa'tr It was John Lodge. Grace started, and then buret out with characteristic vshsmsnew. " I mv* cry, Mr. Lodge—l cannot help it. I oannot help it. I have no one in the world bat Arthur." "Tee, you hare, Km Graoa. Ton have come oae elee," said John, drawing nearer, and speaking quickly, as if afraid the impediment should rise in hie throat. "Who have I,prayr asked Grace, with a shade of coquetry. 11 You have me, Grace," said John, earnestly. Oraoe made no reply, but buried her mcc in her handkerchief, and continued to weep bitterly. " Grace,* •*»* John, fathering eoarage as he epoke, * this is no time tor me to say what I I mean to cay—when your brother gets well, as I believe he will, for we men eaa pull through anything—but, under any wrwimstanoss, I mean to say it, and I'd out with it aow,oaly lor what is going oa apstain. Toa may depend on me, Otaee. Ym trae to the last drop of my blood, and 111 ntvsr leave you white my name is John Lodge." Having thus delivered himself of his senti ment*, John Lodge went back to the aiok room, and took his place by Arthur's bedsida. Arthur lay, as I told yon, motioaUsa. Uha sleep* it ie like the sleep of death—not a muscle moves i the coverlet soareely rises with the rising breath. Toa may hear the famtaat sound in this still chamber. Tou must hear a footstep on the stairs, light as it is. The door opens and there enters - - How can I describe her?—why need IF It is bat repetition. Wo know that majestic woman with her golden hair. She has haunted as too long. Arthur's destiny was wreaked beoause of her. Yet wo must needs be fssninsM. the is simply dressed. Her golden hair braided, her eyes profound in their compassion, her move* ments regal in their statstmeos. She seems to fill the piece with her prssouos. She goes to the bed—we watch her eagerly. She bonds over Arthur—the lays her hand upon his fore head—she whispers to him to live. See, she weepsl She is a woman, then -we ooakj ahnost have taken her to be a goddeos!" Arthur is roused by her touch. He looke up —"Constance!" It k the fret word be has spoken far come days. " Goastanoo!" He repeats it. The sight of her has brought him back from the very jaws of the grave. Gonstaooa lays her inger on her lip | then pots back his tangled heir, smoothes his pillow, and dosing the curtain, she sits behind it Arthur smiles. He looks towards bar, his eyes bright and intelligent, but the eyelids drop, as if from weakness, and he sleeps again. It is a quiet, healthy sleep j there is a tinge of color on his cheek } we see the coverlet rise and fall; death is giving way, and youth is getting the mattery. Bey after day, if we Hnger in the room, we •hall see Constance watching over him. He never rouses himself from sleep without her name apon his lips. He cannot bear her absence. In his dreams be murmurs " Constance." Bat he cannot satisfy himself as to his old delusion | it hangs round him. He wonders etiU. He keeps asking himesif again and again, «living or dead** His ideas of Constanta are oonaocted with ?aother world. He has always thought of her as a spiritual being, yet she moves about. She ie instmet with life: Hfe thrills through every vein. But the mystery is not anravelled. He has seen her dead. One .day aba was sitting by him as usual, when by a sudden impulse he roee from the pillow and drew aside the curtain. She was •sleep, or seemed to be. Her head thrown baekj her golden hair cluttering abort her necki her long lashes resting, ac he had seen them before, upon her cheek. Just so she looked when—-. Arthur shuddered. His breath oame abort and quick. He will know of it—if her poises beat, if the tide of life flows or has ebbed for aver. And he touches her hand. It is warm and lifelike, and hie hand creeps stealthily onward. It feels her white arm, white as marble, but without its chill { and it touches her neck, and his anger, daring as it has never been before, k laid upon her cheek. Thenoomes op the rich blood, dyeing the temples, and «uf fusing the alabaster neck. "It is life! — lifel" Arthur shouts in triumph. He kaowe that she lives. Bat will she love himP We think she will. Women are very pitiful, and she has wept over hie sorrows. We think she will when a few weeks are over, and Arthur is recovering and sits by the lat ticed window, and Constance's hand is in his, and her glorious eyes are bent apon him, and her clear mutual voice is stirring all the artist's soul within him. She is telling him of her traneet they can talk of little else, except what Arthur has suffered. And they wonder, as they may well, and their voices drop, and they whisper of kindred spirits. There are such, even in this prosaic world, attracting each other over esa and mountain) here, through the darkness and mjetery of the seeming grave. Sometimes they speak of Yietorine, and their fives gather awe, for Yietorine and her subtle sohemes have periehed together. But Arthur never looked into Yiotoriae's eyes as he does into those of Oonetanoe. He never played with her hair, or watched every movement, or hung upon every word. It is love, uaaristakoable, unquenchable love, burn ing, pure, aad ardent! He almost claim* her. He feels he has a right to her above all others. But will she love him* We thiak she will, whoa, by-aodby, spring violets bloom, aad the pale anemone spreads her oarpct over the wood*. We see her watohiag for come one ia the gardes

of he* home, paring «p and down,eag*aad W* think she win, wh«n Arthur kn#el* before her, kueisg her white food, and emming him eelf ia her prime* When ehe \mmi» him to th« boodoir, «ad thotrs him th« piotara, and tl» oouek oo which ah« by. And afain the win* dow i* op«o» and tha blackbird and the thnuh were heard •iagiog outaide. And when Jan* raaea bloom we think ao more ooorincingly, for •he etaadi arrayed in white drapery, no blood* late apeetre, bat with a woman'a warm, liTiof heart, palpitating with lore and joy. And Arthur eondaote her to the little eharob, paieing by the tomb where he haa wept her lorn. This time he read* the ineoription right, and flowere are strewn in her path, and aha stand* in all her Bring beauty by the altar, and the question ia set aft reet for erer—Living or Dead t • THB XND.