|Chapter Number||1. VII|
|Chapter Title||A CHANCE MEETING.|
|Newspaper Title||Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912)|
|Trove Title||Whatsoever a Man Soweth|
WHATSOEVER A MAN SOWETH.
BOOK I.-WHEAT AND TARES. CHAPTER VII. A CHANCE MEETING.
It may perhaps be said that the plot which Stephen Stornhill had conceived for the breaking off of Meadowsere's engagement was an improbable one, and more likely to recoil upon his own head than to accomplish the end for which it was intended. But Stornhill possessed a keen insight and no ordinary amount of shrewdness. He had studied the persons with whom he had to deal, and had arrived at a very just estimate of their various peculiarities. Meadowsere and Miss Remersque were characters of more than common interest. In both there was the same nervous activity of mind, and their natures were akin in more than one respect. Both were proud, and naturally their passions were strong, though Reece, except in timeB of great excitement, was fully master of himself. Stornhill knew that Hilda Remersque loved "pleasure, desired wealth, hated restraint, and had little self-control. He trusted to his own ekill and Mrs. Remersque's help to make her dissatisfied with her prospeots as the wife of Reeoe Meadowsere; and by playing upon her wayward and emotional temperament expected to make her petulant and unreasonable, and thus arouse the jealousy of Reece's proud and sensitive nature. In this he was remarkably success fuL It was upon the intensely sensitive pride of Meadowsere that Stornhill chiefly relied fot the success of his plot. He was well aware of Miss Rbinersque's fiercely passionate nature, and calculated upon the exposure of Meadowsere's supposed villany to rouse such a feeling of hatred and desire far revenge that Hilda would at once refuse Reece admittance to the house, and give no explanation of her aotion. Neither did he think that Meadowsere would demand an explanation. It was here that Stornhill trusted to Reece's inherent pride as his strongest weapon. Insulted, deceived, and deeply wronged, Meadowsere was not the man to parade his grief and humiliation before the world. Far more likely was it that he would endure in silence and give no sign of the blow that had been dealt him. He would feel that he had been betrayed by a worthless woman, and the con' tempt that would naturally arise from this thought—oontempt for the woman who had deceived him, and oontempt for himself at having been so blind — would effectually prevent a meeting between these two passionate souls. But despite this feeling of contempt, Stornhill knew that Meadowsere's suffering would be acute-. No matter how deeply a man despises a bad woman, he will, if he has once loved her, experience suoh an agony of pain and despair when his eyes are suddenly opened to the worthleBeness of her charaoter, that often his whole after-life becomes changed, and he derives but little pleasure or satisfaction from the amusements and distractions which the world oan offer him. Rather does his life beoome saddened, embittered, and lonely. And this was the result that Stornhill looked forward to as likely to follow the euccess of his nefarious scheme. With regard to MrB. Bampton, or rather Kate Hird, Stornhill had not calculated upon any great difficulty in psrsuading her to fall in with his plans. Nor, as we have seen, were hie calculations mistaken. He had had no small experience in dealing with the gentler sex, and prided himself upon his knowledge of the workings of the female mind, this mysterious mind which no man since the oreation of the world has ever been able to fully understand. How can it be expected when there are so few women who understand their own minds ? It was a belief of Stornhill's that no woman could possibly love more than once in a lifetime. This belief we heard him express to Mrs. Hilton, who, however, had warned him that he would same day realize his mistake. Now, Ka'je Hird had been but a simple, trusting country girl when Stornhill made her acquaintance. She had given herself into his hands unreservedly, believing him to be a gentleman. With his private affairs, his position in the world, and his dissipated habitB she was totally unacquainted, ahe regarded him as a kind of superior being, but speedily discovered that this world of ours is not altogether adapted for the growth of thespeoies. Superior beings as a rule die iu cheir infancy. SLcrahill deserted her. Her parents, discovering her shame, turned her adrift. She wandered to Melbourne, and being easily led the usual fate of suoh women befell her. She soupht for Stornhill with the result we have learned. Her love was not yet dead, and in Stornhill's hands sho was as wax. He moulded her hjf] ffji) Nearly a week had gone by since Stornhill's visit to Kate, aud as yet he had done nothing more towards the completion of his project. Walking idly down Collins-street one afternoon he came to the conclu-ion that no benefit was to be derived from waiting longer. He would strike the blow at once. Suddenly, in the midst of ais mental calculations, he heard hiicsell addressed— " You are very proud, Mr. Stornhill." "Really, Miss Hemersqu6 ! I didn'tobserve you until I heard your voice. I beg your pardon mo9t humbly. Am I forgiven?" he said earnestly. "Yes; but only for this once. I thought at fires that it was a deliberate 'cut,'"she answered smiiiugly. " No ; you could never have thoucht that," said Stornhill, in a tone of reproach. "Are you sure?" was the laughing rejoinder. "Q.iite! But may I ask what has forced you out on a broiling af ti-rnoon like thiB ?" ar:d he turned aud accompanied her along the street. " My own forgetfnlness—as usual. Do you know that this i9 Monday, and next Friday will be Christmas Day ?" " Well ! I believe I am aware of the fact," said Stornhill with a emile.
"Ana I had quite forgotten it,"continued Miss Remersque, impulsively. " Is that any thing serious ?" " Yes ; don't you eee there are only three dtvs left?" "Wei!! what of that ?" "But I haven't done my Christmas shopping !" "Oh! that's it? Dear me—how unfortunate !" " There ; I know you are laughing at me, Mr. Stornhill. But never mind 1 I can afford to laugh at you, tuo ; for the approach of Christinas explains your absent-mindedness." " Indeed! how so ?" asked Stornhill, enquiringly, "You were so lost in admiration of the tempting displays in the shop windows that everything else was forgotten; and as for duuh a cuminocplaco-iookiQg individual as I!"— and Miss ijemercque broke off suddenly, with a swift, upward glance at Stornhill, and a little sigh of mook resignation. She is evidently in one of her gayest and lightest moods to-day, thought Stornhill. To look at her one would fancy that she was but a beautiful, heartless flirt, with no depth of obaructer and no power of hiding from curious eyes the innermost seorots of her life. But Stornhill knew better. He was aware tbat these utterly frivolous fits were of rare occurrence aud short duration; the coquettish smiie she shot from beneath those dark iashes was liable at any moment to be transformed into the fla«h of onger; and the lips which now uttered such trifiing pleisantric-n could curl with soorn, and pour forth a torrent of words sharp as arrows, bitter as gall. He paused for a moment before replying; then eaid gravely, '* the window that could attract one in the preseuca of Mies Remersque would indeed be well worth setting." "Then suppose you tell me whose window it was that olaimed your attention? I should like to inspect it bfter your very flattering remark." Siorahill was amused at her evident desire to discover the cause of his former preoccupation. " I was simply working out a problem," he said, candidlv. " A problem ! In mathematics ?" "No, human nature." " How very interesting !" Something in her tone caused him to glance down quiokly, and their eyes met. In hers he detected a mischievous gleam, whioh led him to believe that Miss Remersque had already formed opinions of her own as to the problem he had been attempting to solve. This did not dUpleane him. It was just as well, perhaps, that she should imagine him bsmoaning his ill - fortune, and rebelling against an .engagement which effectually destroyed whatever hopes he had previously entertained of his own success. His face, however, told no tales as he said aourteouely— "Yes ; very interesting !" " And amusing ?" " Far from it." "Then why trouble aboct it, Mr. Stornhill "There are m.-.ny things in life, Miss Remersque, we have to trouble about." "That is foolish. I never worry myself and don't think that others shoulc 1 ." " We are net all so fortunate as you appear to bp," said Scornhiil, with the faintest approach to a sneer. But Miss Remersque folt that valuable time was being wasted. "I have to go in here," she eaid. as they reached a large drapery establishment, "so will say good-by, Mr. Stornhill. When shall I see you agaiu ?' You appear to have deserted me of late." " I was afraid that my room would be more valued than my company." " Nonsense. I shall be at home on Wednesday afternoon ebould you call." ''Thank you; but Mr. Meadowsere may think me .in intruder." "Mr. Meadow-sere won't be there. He
leaves town CiMeorroW on business, and doesn't retnrn until Thursday. Good afternoon. " With a pleasant smile, she entered the shop, and Stornhill walked off highly elated. This was the very chanoe ho had hoped for, but little expected. Meadowsere away ; the coast clear; nothing oould suit him better. " How fortunate that I engaged rooms to be kept in readiness," he eaid to hiirself, as he made his way to the post-offioe. " I had better telegraph to Kate at once. She miut come up to-morrow, and a letter will hardly reach her in time. I hope to God she will play her cards well, and then Reece Meadowsere will receive payment fcr the blow he struck me. or my name is not Stephen Stornhill." The telegram was dispatched; the second act of the tragedy entered upon; and Stornhill returned to his hotel well pleased. CHAPTER VIII. THE SHADOW OF DEATH. " You are quite certain that we have forgotten nothing, Margaret?" "Yes, ma'am; quite certain." Mrs. Meadowsere was looking worried, which was altogether unusual. Her face also appeared careworn, and she sighed heavily more than once as she collected a few artioles which she thought Reece might require during the time he was to be absent from hie home. He so rarely left his mother for more than a day that this journey, short as it was to be, seemed to her a thing to be dreaded. She shrank from the idea of parting with her son, and her uneasiness was plainly manifested in her aotions, which were listless and uncertain. She refused Margaret's assistanoe, and insisted upon packing Reece's bag herself, although it was very evident tbat this labour of love was also one of pain and of regret that it should be necessary. During the past few weeks she had aged oonsiderably, and day by day saw hermoreandmorefeeble. Atanymomenttheend might oome. and though she weloomed the approach of death almost as a friend yet a secret fearoppre9sed her, a fear lest at thelast moment ber boy might be absent from her bedside, and so miss the dying words and kieses of his mother. This thought it was that now weighed so heavily unon her. The hour for Reece's departure was very near. Margaret stood watohing with growing uneasiness the movements of her mistress, as she wearily yet lovingly strapped up the Gladstone bag which had taken her so long to pack. Rsece himself was busy in the study, with no thought at all for his luggage. He relied npon Margaret to see to the packing that was necessary, and little guessed how muoh of it was being done by his mother. Margaret inwardly reproached herself. She knew that Mrs. Meadowsere was in no condi' tion to be attending to such matters ; rather ought she to be having all the rest that was possible. Moreover, a good deal of unnecessary trouble had been taken. Reece was going but for a day or two, and would therefore require little in the way of olothing, yet his mother had paoked enough to last for weeks. Whit had taken her mistress more than an hour to acoomplish would have been to Margaret but the work of a few minutes, yet she offered no advice and made no sign. Knowing that it was a labour of love, the oatcome of a mother's tender forethought for the comfort of ber child, she feared lest some ehance word of hers might wound a heart so sensitive and foil «f love. And now there was no more to do. Mrs. Meadowsere, pale and trembling, sank wearily into a chair and olosed her eyes. "I am very tired. Margaret," she said in a low voice. * You have done too much, ma'am," said Margaret, reproachfully. " Mr. Reece would be very angry with me if he knew how I had negleoted my duty." Mrs. Meadowsere smiled. " Have yon negleoted your duty by obeying me, Margaret ?" she asked, as she held out her hand and drew Margaret nearer to her. " He might think so, and I know you ought not to have exerted yourself. You look quite exhausted, ma'am." "I shall be all right presently, never fear. But are you sure that Reeoe will need nothing more? I should not like him to discover after he has gone that we had forgotten anyhing." " He will not discover it, for you hav packed all he is likely to require," said Margaret, soothingly. "That is well!" was the quiet rejoinder. Then silenoe fell upon them both. Presently Mrs. Meadowsere spoke again. "You have been with me a long time now, Margaret ?" ''Yes ; a good many yeare, ma'am." " And you have proved a faithful friend." " I have tried to do my duty, and an easy one it haB been. You have been so good to me, and I have been very happy here." "lam glad of that, Margaret—very glad. But when I am gone what will you do?" Margaret looked at her, startled. The pale, sad face was very peaceful, but large tears Btood in the eyes, th&n rolled silently down the worn cheeks and ft>Il hot upon Margaret's hard, brown hand. The two women looked at eaoh other fixedly for a moment; then I'f"" 1 strange ... l knelt down by the chair of her mistress, but spoke no word. Only a look of despair came into her eyes, and she stared blankly at the carpet. " Margaret!" b A faint tremor ran through the kneeling figure, but there was no answer. " Margaret!" A face, wan and despairing, looked upwards, but still no answer. Then Mrs. Meadowsere put her arms round the griefstrioken woman, who was her servant and yet her friend, and Margaret's tears fell fast as she bowed her head and rested it in the lap of her mistress. " Hush, Margaret, hush! There is a time when death must claim us alL We oannot rebel; we must go when we are called away." "I knew it would have to bs to some day," sobbed Margaret; "but not so soon ! not so sson ! You are not old yet, lira. Meadowsere. I cannot spare you, and your son aannot spare you. Stay with us a little longer—only a little longer." " You ar6 speaking wildly, Margaret," eaid Mrs. Meadowdure with gentle reproach. " How can I stay beyond my allotted time?" "There iB uo allotted time," exclaimed W Margaret. " Let us all go away to some I seaside town, and the change wilt make yuu
strong aeain ; I know it will." Look at me, Margaret, and see whether you speak truly." But Margaret could not look. She turned away her faoe. She had already seen too much, and knew that her words had been false. "Our parting will be but for a short time. Margaret, and some day we shall meet again where partings are unknown." "Oh, that I could go with you now," moaned Margaret, as she kissed the hand which clasped her own. "ThatgCannot be; nor do I wish it so," said Mrs. Meadowsere, gently. " When my son was but a baby you watohed over him and nureed him. You were his companion in his childhood, bis more than friend in his manhood. I give him into your care, Margaret. I ask you to aot a mother's part when his mother is no loneer with him. You will not fail me, Margaret? You will remain with him always?" Margaret had grown calm. Another thought occupied her mind. She was not above taking the violent likes and dislikes common to her sex, and Miss Remersque was a woman whom she both disliked and mistrusted. Mauy times had ehe regretted Reece's infatuation, and feared that his marriage would prove an unhappy one. Perhaps in the future he micht have need of her, and so she answered firmly—" I will remain with him until he wiehe6 to see no more of me, if such a time should ever come ; if not, then we shall be together until death parts us." I trust you, Margaret," said Mrs, Meadowsere Bimply. " But hark! Is not that Reece's cab ? Let him know; I will say 'good-by' to him here." "No! no!" exclaimed Margaret, eagerly. You cannot allow him to leave you in your present state. It would be wrong ma'am, it wonld, indeed. Speak to him, tell him how ill you are, for he doeB not know it. He will never forgive himself if you should—should oh I cannot say it. But you will speak to him ?" " I understand you, Margaret. You think tbat psrhaps I may die before be returns. I have thought the same—and—and—ib is very hard; but God is good, I am in his hands. Reece has important work to do, and it must be done at once. I will not keep him from his duty. At first I intended to speak to him but not now - not now. Go atonoe, Margaretthere is no time to lose, and remember—to say nothing." Margaret bowed her head, and left the room. "The sab is waiting at the gate, Mr. Reeoe, she said, as Bhe entered the study. "So soon !" exclaimed Reece, standing 1 up. "Why, I deolace! I had no idea it was so late. Where is my mother, Margaret ?" "She is in your room, Sir." "You must take good oare of her whilst I am away, Margaret," he said gravely. "I would not go at all only I cannot very well help doing so. Good-by." He kissed her, as he had done from childhood upwards, end hurried to his mother, who greeted him very quietly, although her heart was full almost to bursting. " You must hurry if you wish to S6e Hilda before you leave," file said in a tremulous voice, which Reece in his excitement did not notioe. " Cm you forgive me, mother," he exolaimed impetuously, " for being BO forgetful ? I had intended having such a long chat with you before leaving, and yet I grew sa interested in my work that the time passed unheeded."' "The fault is mine as much as yours: if indeed there is a fault on either side. But you ought to go at once, Reeoe; Hilda will be expecting you." "I have very little time to spare, mother ; but what little there is will'be divided equally between you and Hilda." Then taking his mother's face in hie hands, and gazing fondly
into her eyes, he said—"When a man haa Bueh a mother as I have he ought not to need S Mrs. Moadowsere felt the teari rising, and knew that the parting must come at onoe, or her strength would fail her. She threw her arms round Reece's neck, and pressed ner cheek to his. . "Go, my boy," she whispered gently, " When you return bring Hilda with you, and we shall spend Christmas Eve together. The day after to-morrow you will be back-" that will be Christmas Eve, iieeoe. Goodby ! I shall not go to the gate with yon—it is very hot in the garden, Reeoe. A merry Christmas to you, my boy ! Good-by ! God blehs you, my son i (Jood-by!" aho bad drawn him gently but firmly to the door, and as she murmured her last good-bye ehe prestod him to her heart with all her feeble strength, then kissed him passionately and turned away. But Reece caught her in his arms and held her fast. The brave woman with asmifc 06 8 ° bs attd met ' " Good-by, mother ! Let me wish you also ft no^' although it is early yet. ia "It is never too early to wish happiness to any one; and to be merry you must also be happy. Good-by! A last kiss was exchanged and Mrs Meadowsere was alone. She heard the hall door close, the sound of wheels driving away from the house, and yet did not move. Motionless as a statue she stood where Reece had left her, until Margaret oame and led her away. In the meantime Reeca was driven rapidly to Mrs. Remersque's house. He found Hilda dressed to go out, and was received rather coldly. " I thought you were never coming," were the words which greeted his ears; and they were spoken in so irritable a tone that Reeca was at once offended. " I was not aware that you were going out," he answered proudly, "orlBhould have driven direct to the station.' "I am going for a drive with Mrs. Duval. I thought you were aware of it." " No ! She has not oalled vet ?" "She is late," answered Miss Remeaque untruthfully. "If ehe had arrived at the hour appointed it would have been neoeBsary for me to keep her waiting, or else go without seeing you at all." " Then I am glad that she is late." " When do you return, Recce? On Thursday I think you said?" "Yes, I hope so—Thursday afternoon. And if you have no other engagement my mother wiebeB you to spend Christmas Eve with her. I oan call as I drive from the station." " Very well! what time shall I be ready ?" " About 4 o'olock will do. But do not go if you would prefer making ether arrangements." Then suddenly Miss Remersque melted. " We are bath very oross this afternoon, I am afraid, Reeoe; and it is my fault too, dear—it always is, isn't it?" " I don't know whose fault it is," answered Reece; "but there certainly appears to be a want of harmony between us more often than I think desirable. We must try to be more lenient to ono another's weaknesses, Hilda, and then perhaps we shall manage better." "But we never quarrel, dear," said Hilda with a smile. "No, not exactly," Reeoe replied, ai he took ber in his arms. " But you most acknowledge, my darling, that we are not always what the world would term ideal lovers." " Well, in future we shall be, Reeoe; and that settles it," exolaimed Hilda, kissing him first on one oheek and then on the other. " I hope it does, Hilda! But now I must go. Good-by, my love. Take oare of yourself, and don't forget to be ready when I oell for you on my return." " I shall not forget; good-by!" The words were cold, and Reeoe turned sadly away. As he bad said, there aeemed to be a want of harmony between them, and he himself was not altogether blameless. He knew that, could he but restrain his pride, a better understanding would be arrived at; but Hilda's moods seemed to influence his own. When she was cold he treated her in like manner; her indifference to hia caresses made him affect indifference too, and sometimes he went proudly away because her manner made him fancy that his presence was not pleasant to her. He oonld not understand her; he looked for a higher degree of perfeotion in ber nature than perhaps oonld be expected from a woman of the world. Reeoe had reached the hall door, unaccompanied, when he felt soft arms steal about his neck. It was Hilda, who had followed him noiselessly, and now clung to him as if loth to let him go. With tears in her eyes she pleaded for forgiveness, although Reeoe exclaimed again and again that there was nothing to forgive. When at length he gently freed himself from her embrace Bhe followed him to the gate and waved her handkerahief until the cab was lost in the distance. Then she returned to the house, oried a liftfcle. read a ittlo,—AND—irmnnlly TUMNQ GOC-UBG ILSB. Duval was so long in ooming. Bat when the carriage drove up and stood at the gate her tears had venished. the beautiful face was wreathed in smiles, and for a time Reeoe was anished to the realms of forgetfulness.