Chapter 198455248

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Chapter Number1. VI
Chapter Title
Chapter Url
Full Date1895-08-10
Page Number2
Word Count5147
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleEvening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912)
Trove TitleWhatsoever a Man Soweth
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STEPHEN" STOKNTULL S TIIOMP CAED. A fortuigno passed, aud the uewa of Reece Meadowsere's engagement aoou became known throughout the lasnionable world of alelbourne. The first person to congratulate him was Robert AlcTinoy, and bis congratulations were honest and sincere. He had admired Miss Kemersque; nay! he had loved her honestly; but niB li e had been spent more amongst horses than amongst women, and he realized that he wuuld not have made a fitting partner for suoh a woman, even had sheshown herself willing to become his wife. Oi this, however, there had been no possibility, and Mc Tinny abandoned himself to the inevitable. But hie love had had so<ne influence upon hiB life. When first we made his acquaintance at Mrs. Siivermede's ball there was an element, of coarseness in hisnature. This wasclearly shown by the half revengeful attitude he adopted towards Miss fiemereque after her unfair treatment of him with regard to the dance which undoubtedly ought to have been hia. But his e bitterness had worn oil, and in pressing his suit he broke somewhat with the low companions he had hitnerto shown a preference for, and was brought more into oontact with persons of education and refinement. Naturally he saw a good deal ol Reece lleadowsere, aud soon he began to admire and respect bim. Here wan a man who tried to live a pure lite, and lioTinny wag struck, with the contrast between the two men, Stonehill and Meadowsere. As his liking for fteece increased his feelings for Stornbill underwent a change, and he was glad that M.iss Remersque's choice had fallen upon the one who was most likely to prove worthy of her. As for Captain Jcnes, the Bhock to hi vanity was greater than the shock to his heart. He quickly got over his disappointment, and was even heard to remark—" Well, 'pon my soul now, Aloadowsere's not half a bad fellow ; take's life a bit too seriously though. However, he'll mend. I must wish him luok ; 'pon my soul I must." And he did, for the Captain bore no malice. But beyond these two Reece received very few congratulations of any sinoerity or warmth. Mrs. Silvermede, who had not yet left thecitv for the summer, considered that he had made a mistake, and toid him so frankly ; a liberty he naturally resented, and a slight coolness sprang up between them. Ethel Silvermede tried hard to wish him a future of unalloyed happiness, but the words almost choked her, and she turned from him abruptly, so that, not gueseing her secret misery, he took offence, and they also beoame estranged. Then Mrs. Hilston, admiring Reece &B 6he did, could not but feel sorry for him, because she, too, looked upon his attachment as unfortunate. With her knowledge of the human heart, bought in tbe dear market of experience, she felt that the union of two persons so utterly dissimilar m all things could but be productive of future unhappineas, and unintentionally her tone oonveyed to Reeoe's sensitive mind some idea of the thoughts which possessed her. He felt irritated. It appeared as if hie engagement were alienating him from the few friends he possessed and valued, and he could understand no reaeon for it. Then, again, Reece was beginning to realize that in some way or other the woman he loved waB different from what he had expected to find her. That she was passionately attached to him he oould not doubt; but it was with a fieroa, almost savage, love, that was cbaugeful, and which now attracted and then repelled him. He saw that her old fondness for the admiration of men, and the desire for their homage, was in no wise lessened by her engagement. Neither did she put an end to the friendship existing between herself and Stephen Stornhill, who still hovered about her, and was ever sura of a ready welcome. Reeoe did not quarrel with her ; he was not angry, although deeply pained. At times he argued and pleaded wish her; and then she would either laugh or perhaps, overcome with a paroxysm of passion, throw herself into his arms, and, dinging to him, silenoe him with s hot, passionate kisses. Then would follow a day or two of euch intense happiness that Reece trembled at the greatness of his own joy. But her passion having spent itself, Hilda would once more plunge into the giddy whirl of fashion, determined upon making fresh conquests, whilst Reece, proud and hurt, would stand aloof, oold and impenetrable. Stephen Stornhill looked on at the drama beiug enacted before his eyes with inward satisfaction. He had by no means lost hope of accomplishing the end" tie had in view, and as the days parsed by hi? prospects teemed to grow brighter and brighter. Certainly, the announcement ot Maadowsere's engagement was &t first a severe shock to him; but by aud ^iy he began to regard it as a streak of good -fortune, as it would make his revenge all the more eomu'ete. To eaateh Miss R auiersque from !Meadowsere's gra^p just as she was about to baoome hia wife would indeed repay him for the supposed insults he had endured at Meadoweere s hands. His ideas went no further. He did not oare for Miss Remtreque; indeed, he hardly thought of her at all except as a means by whicii he might accomplish a certain end—the discomfiture and misery of Reece Meadowsere. A blind hatred filled his mind, obscuring all else, even the thought of his own future to be spent with a passionate womau liko Hilda Ruinereque. and so Storuhill played his gam- quietly and cunningly, never losing an opportunity of ingratiating himself with Nlre. KM.aersque and of paying little atteu:ioai to Hilda, whioh, although trivial in themselves, flattered her vanity, as Stornhill intended they should do. Aleadowsere's peculiar temperament also made Stornhill's task easiar, as Reece, feeling that he was being unjustly treated, became cold and reserved, although cut to the heart at Hilda's indifference to his wishes. Once he offered to set her free, but she threw herself into his arms, protesting, amidst violont sobs, that she could not live without him, and that he was cruel and heartless to make such a suggestion. He baid no mure, and for a little while they appeared to uudorstand each other better, and the old relations batween them were renewed. But aijain the shadow darkened, aninow Siornhill determined to play what ho called his " trump card." It wi!l be remembered that Meadowsere had rescued from poverty and death a woman whom Stornhill had brought to ruin, aud than the woman, together with her child, was now living in the oo.mcry on a small income with which Reece had indirectly provided her. Stornhill was not ignorant of this. A tew days after that memorable interview, of which Re ece had baen a witness, Stornhill thought it might be batter for hie own sake to make some enquiries as to the movements of the person whose iife had been so intimately oonnectad with his own. Great was his curprise to find that she was about to leave the city with a small amount of money. Where had this oome from? Ho had no difEuulty in tracing the gift to Keeeo Muadowsere. His first feeliug was one of intense amusement at so Quixotic an action, but soon ho began fco realize that hiB enemy had played into his hands, and he determined to wait patiently for events to develop themselves, tie fouud that, under the name of Mrs. Hampton, his former victim was livine in a retired little township at no great distance from tbe city, so that there was no danger of losing trace of her. He evsu wrote, trusting that she found her uew home comfortable and that the child was well. He also enclosed a bankcote for £10. By return of post there came a letter fuil of thanks for his generosity to her, and every line breathing of the love she still bore hitc. As he read a smile of triumph stole over Stornhill's face, for the writer clearly displayed her ignorance of the source from whence her income was derived, and credited him with being tho saviour of herself and child. It was this womau whom Stornhill now decided to make use of. On a hot. sultry morning Stornhill alighted from the tr^in at the small railway station near to whioh Mrs. Bamptoa lived and axked to be directed to her house. The sot age—for it contained but two rooms—was pointed out to him. It stood on the side of a hill about a inile from the station, and Stornhill, with a muttered aurse at the hsat, set off at a good pao», being anxious to get his visit over and return to town. It was evident that he did uot altojethbr relish the approaching interview. There wa3 a frown upon his face, and he had all the appearance of a man somewhat ill at ease. Hia plans had been well matured, and he had carefully tvaiVhed his chances of success; yet his diabolical scheme had to be carefully proceeded with, as the slightest deviation from his prearranged method of carrying out his plot might ro ult in ignominious failure. He reached tho cottage, and raised his hand to knock ; then altered his mind, and uauaed a moment. I'rum within came the sound of a voico that reminded him of days gone by. The mother was crooning over her babe, and hushing it to sleep. Her child—and his. Ho could hear the soft gentle words, spoken half mournfully, and whioh, to any but a mother's ear, ar* utterly meaningless, and sometimes oven silly. The lutla oonocionce that Stornhill possessed was for an instant stirred within hi m, and his feco eoftened. Butt alas ! onlv for an instant. An ugly light oame iuto his yes, aud his lips ourved into a sneer. Raising his hand again, he knocked loudly. The child was awakened, and set up a feeble crv. tornhill could hear the mother trying to soothe it, as she laid it for an instant in the cradle. Than the door was thrown open, and a woman, her face flushed with anger, faced him on tee threshold. For a moment neither spoke, but Stornhill saw the look o£ anger fade suddenly, and a gleam of gladness flash into the melanoholy ayes. Then followed a chokiug sob—a cry of " Stephen! Stephen 1" and the woman, falling upon his breast, twined her arms about hiB neck, and laughed

and wept by turns. Stornhill hurriedly entered the oottage, and closed the door. " Hush ! hush, Kate !" he remonstrated uneasily. "Oh ! is it really you, Stephen? is it really you 5" cried the poor woman, aa if afraid her byes were playing her falee, and that the figure of Stornhill were but a phantom. " Yes, it is I," answered Soorahill, tenderly. " Come! let me look at you." _ He held her at arm's length, studying her face intently. The scrutiny must have satisfied him, for drawing her olose, he kissed her many times, murmuring softly—" My lovo! my love ! how long it seems smte I saw you last. " You could easily have seen me if you had desired to do so, "'she answered with some reproach. "I know it. my darling; I only am to blame; but I intend to make up for it in the future. I am in trouble, Kate, and in my trouble have oome to vou." "In trouble, Stephen? Tell me what it is." He turned and bent over the cradle, partly in the hope of pleasing Kate, but also to hide the sneer which had risen to his lips. The child, whioh had baen quietly staring at Stornhill with wide-open eyes, now began to soream luBtily, and Stornhill turned away with disgust, while Kate, snatching up her babe, walked hastily to and fro with it in her arms, and soon hushed it to sleep. Then again she laid it gently in the cradle. " And so that is our little one, Kate," 6aid Stornbill in a broken voice. " He is a pretty little fellow, and takes after you, dear—don't you think he does " It ie a girl, Stephen," said Kate, reproachfully. " Cnrse the kid !" muttered Stornhill,below his breath. "Really, Kate, I thoueht it was a boy," he said aloud, with an uneasy laueh. Kate also laughed, but it was A little bitterly, and Stornhill inwardly cursed himself for a fool. " You mentioned that you were in trouble, Stephen,"said Kate abruptly. s "Yes," answered Stornhill, with some hesitation. " Tell me what your trouble is." Stornhill paced restlessly up and down the little room, whilst Kate watched bim in tbe greatest anxiety. Suddenly be ntopped, and taking a deep breath plunged into tho subject which had brought bim there that day. " You remember the night you came to me seeking help for yourself and ohild ?" "I am not likely to forget it, Stephen," ana<ver6d Kate gravely. " I suppose not; I aoted like a brute, but I was beside myself. DJ you re3ollect the man who sought me out, and was present at eur meeting ?" "Yes, but I hardly think I should know him again, even if we met." " His name was Reece Meadowsere. Years ago be was my friend, and I trusted him as I would have trusted my own brother. He went with me everywhere; knew my secrets, my worldly position, the value of my estates, and all that belonged to me, better even than I did myself. He made himself indispensable to me, and I relied upon bis judgment implicitly. I was foolish and indolent. He took advantage of this; robbed me, and induced me to go in for mining epsoulation, and heaven knows what besides. In all my actions I was guided by him, and he deoeived mn utterly. When I first met you, I broke with him for a time, but his hold upon me was too strong, and I returned to my old life, leaving you like the coward and blackguard I was. I must have been mad; worse than mad, for Meadowsere turned me about hiB little finger, and I bad no will of my own left. I was perfeotly reokless, and allowed him to ds what he pleased with me and mine. He managed so well that he ie now a rich man; whilst I—I am ruined." Here Stornhill broke down, utterly overootce by the violenoe of his emotion. Kate put her arms around his neck, and oareased him as she would have done a ohild. *' It cannot be so bad as that Stephen, dear. All will come right in time. The law will not permit suoh a man to go unpunished, and yon will get your own baok again," ahe exalaimed, eagerly. "The law can do nothing, Kate. You do not understand. Meadowsere is too cunning to put himself in danger—I can prove nothing against him. My money is gone in mad speculations, he will Bay ; and so it has. But he has benefited by them; the money has gone from me to him. It is not a case for the law, Kate; it ia the case of a fool well punished for his folly." "Stephen! Yon oannot mean this. Why do you say such things';" "It is true, Kate—every word of it; but there is worse to oome; far worse." " Worse!" whispered Kate in so awe-struck a voice that Stornhill almost laughed aloud. "Yes, I knew long ago that I had been losing money; but strangely enough it was only cn the night you came to seek me that I beoame aware of my real position. Shortly before the ball INIeadowsere and I had had a scene. I accused him of treachery and robbery. Ge laughfed at me—taunted nie with being an if&orant fool, and then turned on his And left me. I oould do nothing, and went to the ball, hoping that the exoitement would drive away my despair at least for a time. I saw nothing of Meadowsere until he oauie to me suggesting that we should go out int« the grounds and talk over matters quietly. I consented, and he led sne to you, Kate. Then I saw bis idea; he wished to humiliate me still further, and hoped to gain a still stronger hold over me. You can understand how this thought stung me almost to madness, Kate. I swear to you that even now I da not know what I said or did that nigat; although I'm afraid I treated yon most cruelly. When I left you it was to go home; and the memory of the fearful hours I spent that night will haunt me to the end of my lifa Twice I was almost on the point of shooting myself; but when morning oame better feelings prevailed. I thought of you, Kate, all alone, and the thought put ne wstrength into me. I had a little money by me, and this I put aside for you, aa you oan guess, dear." Kate broke into a passion of Bobs. " I shall never forgive myself, Stephen," she oried, "for the hard thoughts I cherished of you after that meeting. But I was sorry afterwards — really I was! When I found what you intended doing for me; how you wished me to go away from the city, and promised to provide for me, I almost went mad from joy, aud I blessed you from my heart, Stephen, I did! Oh! it m-ant so much to me; I was ill. I hated my wioked life, and would have died if I had remained in the city. Then, when I came here, Stephen, the solitude, the free happy life, the absence of care, and the healtainesa of the country almostmade me well again. I was dying, and you saved my life, Stephen. How oan I ever thank you ? How can I ever thank you, my love?" "Do not thank me at all dear," said Stornhill tenderly. "I atu not deserving of thanks." He was delighted with the success of hia plot EO far, but was growing woary of it, and anxious to get his story concluded. " After I had done my best for you, Kate," he resumed, "I looked my position squarely in the face. It was as bad aB it could very well be. My ready money was all gone ; my eatatea were - heavily mortgaged. Almost immediately I left Melbourne and returned to Dingo Sration, determined to do all in the power of mortal man to retrieve my brokon fortune. But fate was against me. There followed euch a season as would have orippled me, even had my position been a fair one; but burdened as I was with debt, it ruined me hopelessly. The station was forced into the market, and did not even realize enough to olear my liabilities. I came back to Melbourne, willing to try my hand at anything. But work was scarce ; my old friends cut me, and in spite of my struggles I sank iower and lower. There i« but little more to tell; but in that little lies my disgrace. I was alwaya a fair hand at writiner, and had often amused myself by imitating other persons' signatures. A few weeks back, in a moment of reckneaa madness, and when my hatred against Meadowsere was at its height, I forged his signature to a promissory-note fot £500, and took it to my old Bank. The Manager was a friend of mine, and was also well acquainted with Meadoweere'e affairs. He discounted the note readily enough, and I left the Bank so much the richer. A good deal of the money is gone already ; some of it you had ; and in a couple of montha the bill oomea due. Then—thnn " Again Stornhill broke down, and groaned deeply. "Yea! yes! what then?" exclaimed Kate breathlessly. " The bill will be presented a.t Meadowsere's Bank, for I am not in a position to take it up, and the forgery will be discovered,"said Stornhill, with great solemnity. Kate uttered a scream, and clung to him in an asrony of fear. "What wili they do to you, Stephen? What will they do to you?" she cried wildly. "Give me six or eeven years, I suppose," muttered Stornhi'l with great bitterness. " Meadowsere hates me, and his cup of joy will be full to overflowing when the truth comes out. Curse him for the devil he is ! But what ia it, Kate? Jome ! come! you musn't take on like this, dear?"' He bent over her with genuine anxiety, for Kate had fallen to the floor, and lay ai if stunned. Very gently Stornhill lifted her no in his arniB and laid her upon a sofa. In a few moments she opened her eyea and looked up at him. "Are you better, my darling':' p.sked Stornhill, as he kisfed tho poor trembling lips. " Yes; I—I am batter, Stephen. But it is not true what you have toid me? Oh, say that it is not true, Stephen !" "I shall say no more about it, Kate. Let us forget it all,"/ind be heppy while we may." But Kate oould not forget. She asked question after question eagerly, and Stornhill with assumed unwillingnees anewar?d them in such a manner that things began to look more and more hopeless. At length Kate cried out in despair—" You must leave the colony, Stephen, and escape while you have time." "Where am I to go?" asked Stamhill moodily. And, besides, where ia the money to oeme from V'

Kate wrung her hands in a frenzy. " Can nothing be done, Stephen J Surely there is a way ot escape somewhere I" " There is one way, Kate. ' " What is that ? Quick 1 tell m«. " Marriage 1" said dtornbill quietly. " Marriage!" echoed Kate, wonderingly. " Yes ; it I could marry a rioh woman IB would save me. Nothing else can.' Kate was silent a moment. Then she^aaia in a low voice, "Could this be managed ?' " With your help, yes," answered dtornhlll. Kate looked up with startled eyes. "How do you mean with my help?" she askea, breathlessly. "Listen, Kate, and I will tell yon. Meadowsere is engaged to a very wealthy woman, who, however, dislikes him, but is forced into the marriage by her mother. If this engagement could be broken o& my chanoe would be a good one." " Why do you think this?" " Beoause the lady has shown onoe or twice that she has a leaning towards me." " Do you care for her ?" The qnestion was asked in a sharp short tone, and betrayed the jealousy that Kate was vainly trying to hide. Stornhill laughed aloud. " Care for her!" he exolaimed. "Not a bit, Kate. You are worth more than half a dozen Mies Remersques." "Is that her name, asked Kate. " Yes ; not a very pretty one, is it ?" " I think it ia ; but that is not the question. How can I help you?" "Surely you would not wiah me to marry this woman, dear,"said Stornhill, tenderly. " I do, if it will Eave you. How oan I help you?" J . . The question was repeated with a stony hardnesa of voice that oauaed Stornhill to glance at KaSe with some uneasiness. Was all his scheming to end in failure? However, thera was no drawing back JOW. " You will understand how desperate my position is when I tell you of the plan whioh occurred to me for the relief of all my difficulties. " ( " Yes! yea! go on," exolaimed Kate impatiently. "I thought," continued Stornhill, " that it yon oame to town and obtained an interview with Miss Remersque, passing yourself off as Meadowsere'a wife, the engagement would be dissolved at once." " Folly! tho man would simply deny it and laugh at me." " No!" cried Stornhill, growing excited, "I would give you a certificate of your marriage with Meadowsere. This yon oould exhibit to Miss Remersque, and it would not be neoesaary to see Meadowsere at all." " Another forgery ?" Baid Kate hoarsely. "Yes;"buo no harm could oome of it, so long as you retained possession of the paper. After the interview was over we oould burn the oertifioate, and you would return here at ones, and trouble no more about the affair." " And if I disappeared, and this man denied the story, as ef course he will do. what is to happen then ? He will search high and low for me ; and Miss Remersque will hardly believe a story «hich it will be so easy for him to disprove." " You do not understand," said Stornhill in a calm voice. He had no desire to explain his ideas to Kate; it would take too long, and she would never be able to understand them; so he sought for the most convenient lie wherewith to answer her doubts. " Meadowsere goes away very shortly," he aaid, " and ia to remain away for a very considerable time. When he leaves we oan put our plot into exeoution, and before he returns Mies Remersque will be my wife. Do your part, Kate, and I have no fear for the rest." Kate was not a olever woman, and there was but one wish in her heart; the wiah to save the man she loved from the fate that threatened him. Tbe thought of Stornhill's marriage with another woman was torture to her; but what else oould he do ? There was no escape save thie ; and even had there been, Kate realized that by her own aotions she had forfeited all right she onoe poseeBBed to the position whioh Stornhill had in the days gone by promised to elevate her. Few men, no matter how low and degraded they have become, would willingly marry a woman who had earned her bread by the sacrifice of ber honour. Heaven help the woman who has tasted the bitterness of Bh&me; for in this world she is doomed. Sorrow aHd remoree will be her portion to tho end of her life. And so Kate promised to do aa Stornhill desired. When he sent for her she would be ready to do her best. But no sooner had Stornhill gained his point than he began, in a half-hearted way, to argue against what he had himself proposed, and even asserted that be would rather serve hiB term in prison than that Kate should undertake a task so difficult and BO uncongenial to her. Still Kate was firm, as Stornhill now knew she would be. She loved him, and wished to serve him—at whatever oost to herself. And then Stornhill praised and kissed her. He swore that she should want for nothing, and that their ohild should beoome his heir. Kate believed him, poor fool I and was glad. Then Stornhill, with great tenderness, took hiB iRtve, nnd Tva-te stood on tfcie doorstep, and shading her eyea with her bands, gazed after him aB he walked away to the railway station. A little later Stornhill, alone in a first-olass oarriage, had almost forgotten that suoh a person aa Kate existed. He held a photo in his hand—the photo of a girl yonng and beautilul. He stared at it moodily. " Searching all these week8,"he muttered, "and not a trace of her. Not a single trace ot her. Where in God's name can she have got to ? Fei haps she is dead ! dead !" He repeated the word to himself in a half-dazed fashion: but suddenly a new mood seemed to seize hold of him, and he kissed the photo passionately. "Grace! Grace 1" he oried aloud, " I shall find you if I searoh to the end of the earth. Oh ! what a fool I was to let you leave me. If you were but my wife I should be a better man and a happier. And you shall be my wife. I defy God or devil to keep you from me. Grace! Gruce ! I love you—you are mine even if I have to go to hell to claim you." He burst into a leud peal of demoniac laughter, and threw bis arms about wildly. For the moment his brain seemed on fire, and his hatred of Reeoe Meadowiere, together with his desire to marry Hilda Remersque, seemed to have given place to a mad uncontrollable love for this young girl, whose face smiled at him from the photo he held in his hand. His wild outburst was succeeded by a groan. Replacing the photo in his breast pocket he closed his eyes, and leaned baok against the cushions wearily. Some moments passed and he appeared as if asleep. "Stephen Stornbill, retribution! Stephen Stornhill, retribution ! Stephen Stornhill, retribution ! Stephen Stornhill, retribution!" He started up with a faoe white aa %Bbes. What was that sound ringing in his ears ? He laughed at his fear, but the laugh frtze on his lipa. "Stephen Stornhill, retribution !" Still -it went on and maddened him. He knew that it was but the sound of the train as it sped alon the rails, and he covered his ears with his hands. Still in muffled tones he heard — "Stephen Stornhill, retribution 1 Stephen Stornhill, retribution ! Stephen Stornhill, retribution!" There waa no oeasing; no escaping from _ the _ words which foroed their way into his brain, filling him with horror and despair. Recklessly he dashed down the window, and leaned far out. The wind blew his hair hither and thither; it made his eyes smart and his ears tinele, yet he took no heed. To escape from the seemingly prophetio warning which the noise of the train had suggested to him was the one dominant idea that possessed him. The perspiration etood ia drops on his brow, and hia limbs trembled. For the moment he thought that his senses were leaving him, though it was but a phantom of the future whioh his guilty conscience had conjured up in hie excitcd imagination. Soon it faded ; the fresh air revived him, and when he stepped from the carriage at the end of the journey, it was with the earns cool, ovnical Belf-possnssion that characterized the Stephen Stornhill of everyday life.