|Chapter Number||2. III|
|Chapter Title||MEADOWSERE'S RESOLVE.|
|Newspaper Title||Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912)|
|Trove Title||Whatsoever a Man Soweth|
EPTEMBER 27, 1895. WHATSOEVER A MAN SO WE Til.
BOOK II. - THE RIPENING OE THE CROP. CHAPTER III. JIEADOWSBRE'S HESOLVE.
Let us look baok for one brief moment upon the life whioh Meadowsere had led since tbat memorable Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day he awoke to the full oonsoiousness of the disasters which had befallen him. As he rose from the rug upon which he bad slept the dog which had been lying beside him gave a low whine of delight,"and Kecce stooping down patted his head gently and then turned to the bed. A Bingle ray of sunlight streamed through the window and fell upon the sweet face which lay BO silently before him. This represented all that remained save memories of her who had been his mother. She had gone whither he could not follow, nor would she ever return to him. Yet tli6re remained the hope of a meeting hereafter. But what of that other woman? She had passed away out of his life in a manner more bitter than death. For thom there could be no reunion. They might meet, and yet it must be as strangers. He could not oherish her image in hiB heart; he must not think of her at all; she was to be as though she had not beeu. Reece was very calm, but it was with the calmness of despair. He bent and kissed the lifeless face, and a hoi tear fell upon bis mother'e cheek. Then he turned away and left the room. The arrangements for the funeral were soon made, and it took place on the following day. Mrs. Meadowsere had gone but rarely into society, and had had but few intimate friends. Most of these, too, had left town for the Bummer, and her funeral was a small one. Yet
in her life she had been blameless, and in her death she was not forgotten. There were some in whose memories she would live for ever; for no one having known her hvi failed to love and admire her. And in her last earthly resting-place was she laid, and the grave was closed above her. And Keece Zvlaadowaere returned to his lonely home like a man bereft of ail hope in this life. For days he sat brooding, plunged into a state of settled despair, and oaty Margaret and the dog Carlo would be have near hiin. The Bun rose and ran its course and sank again to its rest, yet he took no heed. Whether it was eight or whether it wes day, he oared nothing. The world was to him a blank ; he had lost all that he had ever eared to live for, and gladly would he have welcomed .death, but it came not. He wandered from room to room restlessly and continually, heedless of the world without, eonecious only of his own misery. At his heels followed the faithful Carlo, striving in vain to win some kindly word or sign of recognition; Keece was indifferent to his presence, and the dog seemed scarcely less miserable than his master. And as time passed on Margaret grew alarmed, fearing that lieece would lose his reason it this unnatural condition continued longer. In her attempt to oomfort him she almost succeeded in forgetting her own grief, and it was well. The dead are dead, and need us not; and we who live should not bury our hopes with them. Vain regrets will not help us; they will not help the dead; they cannot help the living. Sorrow is with us always, yet we need not indulge it; and in life there is work for all, and memories of past troubles should not prove a bar to its accomplishment. Thus ilargaret spoke in her distress. The words 6he used were simple, and her arguments homely; yet through all her earnestness was apparent, and her reward, though slow, was sure, for at length there oame a change. Reece shock off the dull, desparing lethargy which had seized hold upon him, and fased his future boldly. It looked dark and cheerless ; he seemed to see himself an old man, wifeless and childless, yet he did not shrink from it. Tbe memory of his mother wonld sustain him through all things. What she had wished him to be, this would he strive to be uctii he oould strive no longer. And with such thoughts in his mind he took up his interrupted work once more, and with redoubled vigour. Yet there was one thing whioh troubled him He had been basely wronged, yet surely Hilda could hardly be aware of the character of the man for whom she had cast him aside. Was it not his daty to warn her ? be asked himself. But another voice whispered to him, " She will treat your warning with S3orn and contempt; she will conclude that your charges are prompted by envy and jealousy. Leave her alone ; and the day will oome whan her pride will be humbled to the dast; she will see her mistake, but there will be no turning back. As she has sown eo must she reap." And Reeoe struggled with his pride, and mastered it. He wrote to Hilda: a long, tender letter it was, breathing only anxioty for her happiness and of hi3 endying love. He pleaded for some explanation of her action towards him ; and in delicate language tried to make plain to her why she should shnn the company of Stephen StornhilL He did not ask for a renewal of the old ties: he wished only that she should tell him wherein he had displeased her; and that 4he should understand the danger which now surrounded her. And, having done this, Beece waited impatiently for his answer. It oame—in the shape of his own letter returned to him unopened. This was the end. He felt that heoould do no mare, and plunging into his work he endeavoured to forget her. But in Meadowsere's iore for Hilda Remersque there was, as indeed there must be in all such love, an element of the 6ensuons. At times, as he Eat in his s tudy writing or perhaps reading, and even;idling, some thought would flash through his mind ; his eye would light upon some ohance word, or the sweet scent of a wi?ll-known flower would floefc into tbe room through the open window, and in an instant his thoughts reverted to the woman he had lost. Fair, beautiful, and nobly formed she stood clearly before him. He wonld close his eves, but scill he saw her, for loveliness saoh as hers was not easily forgotten or shut out. Then he would pace swiftly about the room." or taking his hat would leave tho house, and y vigorous exercise strive to banish the image which hiunted him.
And eo time pissed on, until the day came when Reece heard of Hilda's marriage to Stephen Storp.hill. The blow was terrible, and he reeled under it. Yet still this event proved to be the death knell of his love Hilda was i®w a wife, and further thoughts of her by him would be sinful. He determined that that portion of bis life which related to Hilda Ramersque should, so far as it lay in his power, be blotted out of existence; and his det ermiiiation proved to be no idle one. A woman's purity was to Meadowsere the most sacred thing she possessed, and he would not willingly have wronged even the wife of his greatest enemy. Hilda could no longer be the object of his love; his pr:de forbade it; his eenee of right forbade it; and he oast thoughts of her away from him, until by-and-by his task became more aud more easy, and she ceased to exercise any influence upon hie daily hie whatevfr. His love was not altogether dead ; yet Hilda by her seeming deceit had sunk in his eateam ; and though he took no steps to avoid her he was glad that they never met, except that once in the street, when his pride prevented him from responding to her advance. ° But now oame the evening of Mrs. Silvermede s ball He went because of his approaching visit to England, and because of his friendship for the Silvermedes. It was true that he had written a novel; and moreover since he seemed to have done with love a great ambition had crept into hiB heart, and he longed for the applause of the world. Hilda Remersque might consider him worthless He cared not if she did, since she appeared unworthy of respect ; but he might yet ehowher that others held a different opinion of him There was an empty void in his life, and worldly ambition had stepped in to fill it Air Silvermede. Ivermede, to whom Reece finorn had gone with his j-> bad -trongly advised its publication and with this end in view, but also to see his relatives, ha had decided upon making this t-io to England. * T . h V B Ide that hs '":, might perhaps meet Hilda at Mrs. Silverinede's had occurred to him • but he had oistnissed the thought with indifference Yet when he heard her voice almost at bis elbow, he experienced a sudden and unpleasant shock. The blood rushed to bis cheeks, and a strong wave of emotion—a ••ogling of love, jealousy, and contempt— surgeo into his heart, and he trembled and held his breach. But in an instant the crisis had passed. He became cold and proud, lhe gontie, pleading tone which, although foreign to Hilna's nature vet seemed to become her so well, bad no effect save, perhaps, to n; m - Ho recorded it as false, and Hildas professed desire for his friendship seewea to him a mockery. What a consuinmate actress she was, he thought; and thus thinking he repelled her advances with onlv hali-concealed scorn. On the mcrmng following the ball however ece 8at f or a long time thinking of the events of the previous evening. He waa beginning to regret his hasty words, and almost wished that he had responded to Hi das entreaty. Had he been odd and unforgiving : But such conduct as she had IT pleaaing voice came back to X , , E " - ™ ? seemed when she lr fnend£h " refv fhL , ' i be renewed. ^ ' " oarnrstness could not have been si.imlated. Reccw could not tell. He felt confused and ,rntable, for the more he argued «ith h.mselt the more puzzled he became. At length he sprang up with an exclamation of disgust and, taking his hat, left the house. He had promised to meot Mr. Sberam at 11 OCIOM, and already it was nearing the hour. In fact, when he arrived at that gentiemea s office in the city he was a good halfhour late.
Mr. Sheram received him with an air of tome restraint, which Reeoe, in his preoooupa t>on, failed to notice ;and the solicitor quickly grew more at his ease. He was brimming over with the desire to tell the visitor of the interview he bad had with Mrs. Stornbill, and only his promise to this lady kept him silent. All night he had lain awake wondering what oould be the secret Bhe had referred to, and trying to guess at the probable outcome of "future events. He felt with considerable disquietude that there was thunder in the air, and blamed himself for being in a measure responsible for it. Well did he know that Mrs. Stornhill would never rest until she had solved the mystery connected with Mrs. Bampton, and where matters would eventually end he was not prepared to aay. Certainly it looked as though treachery had been practised by so ma one, and evidently Stornhill's wife had been the victim. Events had reached an interesting stage, and it said a good deal for Sheram's strength of mmd that be did not take Meadowsere into his confidence. The temptation to explain to Reece how his engagement oame to be broken off was very strong. But Sheram, after offering Reeoe ft eeat, went to his desk and took out a letter, thinking that by at onoe entering upon the'subject of^their meeting he would avoid temptation. Here is the letter Mrs. Bampton sent me," he said, handing it to Reeoe. "Read it over, Reece, and see what you think of it." Reeoe took the letter and read aloud:— Dear Mr. Sheram—I know I am taking a liberty m writing to you, but 1 hope you will pardon me as I am on my deathbed, and there is no one else to whom I can write about a matter which troubles me more than I oan bear. It was very good of Mr. Stornhill to provide for me as he has done, and I know he cannot mean to keep away from me when I am so ill. If only he knew how I long to see him he would come at onoe, I am sure of it. I have written to him several times, but he has never answered me, and I question if he has received the letters. Have pity on me, sir. and see if you cannot persuade Mr. Stornhill to come to me. Tell him that I have only a little while
to live, and have something I must tell him befure I die. If bn will not come I must tell some one else, for I cannot keep my secret any longer—not when I am dying. And then there is my child ! How oan I leave it all alone in the world t Tell him he must oome, sir. I cannot write any more, I am too weak. God bless you, Sir. (iood-by !—KATE HIED." Me4dowsere sat Btaring at the letter in his hand. The writing was wretched, and towards the end almost unreadable. Moreover, it was blotted and blurred with tbe writer's tears; and in his imagination he began to pioture the poor woman lying ill upon her bed, troubled by thoughts of her child's future, and longing with an intense longing for a few last words with the man who had brought her to ruin, and yet whom she Btill loved and would love to the end. " Well?" said Sheram, enquiringly. "It is rather a rambling letter," answered Reece, without looking up. " You couldn't expect anything else from a woman in her state of mind." "Certainly not. I see ehe signs herself 'Kate Hird."' "Yes. I suppose that's her real name, and she forgot she had adopted the name Bamp ton." " Very likely. When one is face to face with death a name is not of great consequence. " Sheram looked at his companion "curiously. He had never known Rsece to speak eo unfeelingly before. Usually be was full of sympathy for thOBe who were suffering or in trouble. Bat Reece was only desirous of gaining time. He shrank from a meeting with Stephen Stornhill, and yet this Beemed the only oourse open to him. A dying woman's wish must be respected at all costs. " I will see Stornhill this afternoon," he said abruptly, after a pause of some length. "The task muRt be distasteful to you, Reece," said Sheram kindly. "Suppose I try what I can do." " Thank you, Mr. Sheram ; but Stornhill imagines that I am the only one acquainted with his villainy towards this woman, and it might not improve his temper to learn that you also are aware of it." " I daresay he thinks that you have told ft good many of your aoquaiatanoes." "Possibly; but it is better to be on the safe side. I wiil take the letter with me, and do my best." "But this will show him at once that I know something of the woman." "Yes—but not everything. It will be necessary for me to explain what has taken place since he treated the woman so brutally two years ago, and I shall of oourse mention that the money has been paid through you. Fair and open dealing will be the wiser course to pursue, but there is no necessity to tell him that you know as much as you do." " Very well. I wish you success with all my heart, and I admire you for the task you are undertaking. "I have very little hope of suooess," said Reeoe bitterly. "Stornhill has a heart of stone, and my only hope is connected with the seoret which Mrs. Bampton appears ao anxious to disclose. What thiB is I have no idea, but it has struck ine that it may oonoern Stornbill, and if so he may consider it worth his while to become acquainted with it." "I think it is more than likely that he will understand the allusion to a secret perfectly," eaid the lawyer with quiet emphasis. "My idea is that he already knows all that Mrs. Bampton can tell bim." "Then perhaps it may be to his advantage to prevent others from knowing it too." "That is very likely," said Sheram with a dry emile. He had formed conclusions of his own sinoe his unexpected meeting with Mrs. Stornhill, and was debating with himself how he might put his suspicions into words. "Don't you think it would be advisable to pay a short visit to Mrs. Bampton before seeing Stornhill," he suggested quietly. " What! And paint Stornhill in his true colours, eh ?* " Not necossarily. Perhaps the lady might be induced to take you into her confidence." Reece looked pained. "You are joking, Mr. Sheram," he said coldly. "No, I am not, Reece. But answer me candidly. Do you think it right that this poor girl—for indeed she is little else—should be
allowed to die trusting in a blackguard like Stephen Stornhill? She believes tbat he has been keeping her for tho last two years, and would you try and persuade Stornhill to go to her with a lie upon his lips, to" " I have heard enough," interrupted Reeoe. "You spoke very differently a moment ago Mr. Sheram, and I prefer to believe that you were then speaking from your heart. What ypu say now is not what you honestly think. If it will oomfort this poor creature to keep her belief in Stornhill's goodness-I will never seek to destroy it; and if it will add to her happiness to have him at her bedside I shall do my best to send him there." "You are right, Reece; you are right. I beg your pardon," paid Sheram, holding out his hand, which Reece grasped heartily. " And now be off ; I have work to do. Good luck go with you." Reece went his way, and Mr. Sheram rang the bell for his clerk. " I don't kuow how things will turn out," he muttered to himself. "Something is going to happen; I have a presentiment, tmt what it is I don't know. Mrs. Stornhill is a—a—well, a regular devil when roused, aud she will be roused before very long, or my powers of perception are at fault. Damn conservatories '." and he began to vent his ill-humour upon his olerk. CHAPTER IV. THE AWAKENING. Mrs. Remersque and her daughter reaohed home shortly before midnight, and Hilda at once announced her intention of retiring to the room which was quickly prepared for her. But Mrs. Rsinersque'a maternal boeom was troubled with a vague feeling of unrest, and she attempted to cross-examine the uu<iutiful wife who refused to sleep beneath herhusband's roof. Hilda, however, was not in the humour to submit to this treatment, and refused in most decided ton«s to give any account of what had transpired during the evening, and to describe the exact state of her feelingB would have been an impossibility. There was no reasonable excuse for the oourse ehe had taken, save that, thinking her husband to be concerned in some disreputable mystery she naturally felt disinclined to meet him until the cloud in whioh his name appeared to be enveloped was olearea away. As we have seen, she had already connected Mrs. Bampton, in her imagination, with the woman who had posed as Meadowsere's wife ; but it had not oocurred to her that Stornhill had had any share m this deception. Yet it w»e clear from the conversation sbe had overheard that the two wore old acquaintances. When Hilda entered ths room she throw off her things, aud, turning ous tbo gas, eat at the open window for several hours. The night was chilly, but she wrapped a thick woollen shawl about her «hou!dar.-i, and, thus protectod, was heedless alike of time and cold. f*be moon wa« alrno»t at the full, and its ghostly rays fell upon the silent, motionless figure, and upon the unturned face, which appeared though ohisolltd out of a block of pure marble, so white was it, and so clearly outlined were tli9 features;. And the night wore on, yet Rtill she Bat, staring at the heavens above. Hor mind was in R state of chaos. She could not control her thoughts ; they wandered here and there, and all were shrouded in uncertainty and gloom. She still heard, in imagination, the conversa'- fcion whioh had passed between Sheram and Reece Meadowsere, but it conveyed no meaning to her puzzled brain. In her ears also there sounded tbe solicitor's determined " I would Btake my life upon it." and these worcs haunted her. "Reeoe Meadowsere is not married, ' they seemed to say. "You have been duped; you have married a man whom
you have learned to bate. What will yoa do J Where will it ftll end ?" When at length sbe rose, stiff and chilled, the dawn was breaking, and the problem which troubled her was no nearer solved than before. Sbe undressed and went to bed, and being thoroughly worn out was aoon asleep. But her sleep was visited by strange dreams, which caused her to toss restlessly from Bide to side; and whilst it was Btill early she woke, heavy eyed, aching in every limb, and wholly un refreshed. Hilda's determination was to visit MM. Bampton without delay, but two faots now bsoame clear to her. She had no dreas with her save the one in which ehe had gone to the ball, and it would therefore be neoessary to go home and change. Moreover, the certificate which Meadowaere'e professed wife had left behind was also at home, locked np with some of Hilda's jewellery, and she desired to take this with her. Stornhill since his marriage had made several attempts to gain possession of this incriminating dooument, but without sucoess.and now he troubled very littleabou tit. Hilda on the previous evening had sent her carriage home, eo tbat ehe was now in a slight predicament, as being in evening dress it waa hardly possible for her to walk, especially as the two houses were separated by a distance of several miles. Mrs. Remersque, however since'her daughter's marriage had felt justified in setting up a small brougham, and withuut waking her mother Hilda ordered this to be got ready and she drove to her own house. Upon making enquiries Bhe learned that Stornhill had not returned until the early hours of the morning, and there was little probability, as she well knew, of his rising until midday. She quickly got rid of her ball oostume, and after taking a eoid bath felt considerably refreshed. Then dressing rapidly ehe eeoured the certificate and ordered a light breakfast, which was soon partaken of, and set out on her journey, having previously obtained from one of the servants a guide to the trains. Kate Hird was right in surmising that her end was near. When she had gone baok to her country home, after carrying out Storn-
hill's wishea, her health, whioh had shown Bigns of being re-established, now broke down again. The deoeption she had praotised preyed heavily upon her, aa she grew daily weaker and weaker, and her faith in Stephen Stornhill began slowly but eurely to ebbaway. It was now many weeks since ehe had beard from him, for Stornhill found it oonvenient to ignore her existence. He had written several times after his marriage, and, when in good humour, bad even sent considerable sums of money. But as he became more and more estranged from his wife; as he noted her growing dislike for him, and reciprocated this feeling to the full; as the gulf between them grew wider day by day, and he began to bitterly regret the falae step which hatred had caused him to take, he looked about for some soapegoat upon whioh to visit his resentment, and he fonnd it in Kate. If it had not been for her this marriage might never have taken place. He might have been a free man, whereas now he was bound for life to a woman whom be hated. Thus he argued to himself; and beoause he suffered for hia folly Kate must suffer too. Therefore he refrained from writing to her, and the letters she sent to him were destroyed. There was to be nothing morn between them for ever. Their paths in life lay apart, and Stephen Stornhill oared not whether Kate lived or died. " Let that fool Meadowsere beep her until he grows tired of it," he said, *' and I shali receive the thanks for it. After that she must live as best she can." And Kate did live on at Meadowsere's expense, and gave her thanks to Stornhill, as be had said. Even when he oeased to answer her letters. Kate, though losing trust in him, yet thought that she owed him much, and waa grateful. How could she live if it were not for the money he sent so regularly month by month? What more could ehe expeot? She was grateful—yes ; but, oh ! if he wonld only come and eee her ; if he would but be a little kinder, how much happier she would be! But time passed on, and Stornhill gave no Bigu. And as Kate grew worse and worse, she wrote to him, imploringly—despairingly. Stornhill threw the letters into the fire. He was growing hard, oallous, and also reokless. The very sight of the woman's handwriting irritated him almost beyond endurance. "Dying! dying:" he muttered to himaeif savagely. "I am siok of this eternal cry. Why the devil doesn't she die and have done with it?" And Kate waa fulfilling his wishes. Sbe took to her bed, and was unable to riBe again. A kindly neighbour took upon herself the position of nurse, and spent the greater part of her time in the cottage. She Dlaoed Kate's child amongst her own family, and the little one seemed contented and happy. It was then that Kate wrote to Mr. Sheram, and she was now waiting, sick at heart, add hopelees, for some answer to her letter. "There is a train," ehe eaid feebly, as a faint whistle was beard in the distanoe. " Look out and eee if there is any one coming, Mrs. Wilson." And the woman went to the door, as aha had done for many days, and shading her eyes with her hand looked across the paddocks to the station. " The train is not in yet," she called to the invalid, and ehe stood waiting on the doorstep. Presently a small vol ame of smoke oould be discerned rising above the tops of the trees, and a whistle long and shrill broke the stillness. The train stopped for a few seoond s at the little station, then oontinned on its way; and Mrs. Wilson followed it with her eyes until a sudden ourve in the line hid it from view. Then she looked again in the direction of the station. " Well," came in an eager but feeble voice from the sickroom. "Can you see any one ?" " I fanoy there is someone making this way, but I ain't certain. Just wait ft spell, my dear, and don't be worrying." " It must be Stephen," muttered Kate, a smile breaking across her thin white face. " He is coming at last, thank God !" and she lay back contentedly. A dark figure was walking across the paddooks in the direction of the little cottage, and Mrs. Wilson watched it intently. This mysterious visitor whom Kate was daily oxpeoting was a source of much conjeoture on the part of Kirs. Wilson. It was a man, she knew, and be was most probably Mrs. Bampton's husband. Therefore she naturally felt curious to see him; and nuw perhaps her ca iosity was to be satisfied.
But it quiokly became evident to Mrs. Wilson that the approaohing stranger was a member of the gentler sex, and being devoid of tact, although good at heart, she burst into the sick-room with the exclamation— " It's a lady—it's a lady, Mre. Bampton." Kate looked up startled, and the light of love and hope in her eyes died out with ft Btrange suddenness. Mrs. Wilson saw her mistake, and hastened in a rough, kindly way to undo the mischief ehe had wrought, for the severe revulsion of feeling in Kate's heart had brought on a terrible attack of ooughing. " Hush, Mrs. Bampton I" ahe urged in distress. "You mus'n't take on like this. It isn't likely that your letter has reached the gentleman yet, and be doesn't know of your illness. Come, dearie 1 cheer up! Perhaps to-morrow he will be here. Deardearthis is terrible. You must be still, my pet. You are making yourself iil, Mrs. Bampton. Dear dear! What oan I do for the poor soul?" And ehe bustled about the room, one moment addressing Kate as Mrs. Bampton, and the next soothing her aB if she were a child. So eager was she to atone for her indiscretion that she did not stick at trifles, but allowed her imagination to run riot in the effort to devise excuses for Stornhill's delay, and even took upon herself the responsibility of vouching for hia speedy arrival, in the hope of restoring the sufferer to ft happier frame of mind. Her efforts were not unavailing, for Kate was only too willing to seize hold upon the least ray of comfort that presented itself, and derived consolation from the thought that Stephen would yet respond to her appeal. Suddenly a loud knock startled both tvomen, and Mrs. Wilson said in a low tone—"It'a the lady I seen coming from the station. Rest quiet now, Mrs. Bampton, while I go to the door." In a moment she returned, ushering in Mrs. Stornhill. Kat9 looked up with evident curiosity, but as her eyes fell upon the visitor fibe uttered a low eulamation of fear, and hid her face in the pi Ho v.-, trembling from head to foot. "Tbe lady wants to 6ee you, Mr9. Bampton. "said Mrs. Wilson, with a emile of satia- BEctioc. " No doubt you would like to have a talk in private like, so I'll just take a run home aud eee that the children ain't getting into no mischief. Dreadful mischievous them youngsters arc, to be sure." K»se shot an imploring glance at the kindly meaninfr nurse, and opened her lips to speak, bat her tongue was motionless. Not a word could she utter, and the look of entreaty pxstrQ unnoticed. Mrs. Wilson hurried away and the deceived and the deceiver were alone together. At the foot cf the bed 6tood Hilda, pale and Btern. " Well," she said, in cold measured tones, "do you knew who I am ? Have you ever seen me before Kate made no answer and the voice continued—"It is easy to see that you have not forgotten me; and doubtless you can guess why I am here." Still Kate was silent, and Hilda in sudden fury approached the head of the bed, exclaim ing—"1 have come to learn from your lina why you lied to me so basely ; why you ruined my life ; and what is the secret between von and my husband. Stephen Stornbill. Do von hear me, you—vou—liar /"' * ICate colored up her face with the bedclothes, with a moan of pain and fear Sti'i the passionate woman bending over W was merciless. Ihere was no pity in h„ ^,«.„" no signs of relenting in her face. " S^e ' .l J cried "Here is the piece of paper' you edft 5 Ton? marriage r , me how you came by it-. And then kate found her voice. " Let me e U ® £ a , 8 P.e<3, throwing back the bedclothes. and holding out her hand. ttUda gave it to hor. and Kate, thinking
that the truth was known, and faithful to Stornhiil to the last, was about to tear the paper to pieces, that no trace of the forgery might be leit. But Hilda snatched it from her oervelest grasp, and laughed bitterly. "Not yet," abe said; "it may be useful. And now answer my questions. What was Beece Meadowsere to you that you should plot to part us V But Kate was obstinately silent. Not a word would a ho utter, chough Hildaentreated, commanded, and threatened. She would'not acknowledge thatubu was not bleadowsere's wile. She would aoknowledge. nothing; confess to nothing; and Hilda began to despair. It was impossible to gain information from a woman who lay with closed eyes and sealed lips, and it seamed to Hilda chat her visit had baen all in vain. She grew oalmer at this thought, but it was with a dogged, unnatural j^i'S" 888 ' whloh k°ded ill for Kate's peace of "Itis clear,"she said deliberately, "that you have no intention of atoning for the wrong you have done. You oame to me with a lying tale; you ruined my happiness, and the bappiness of the man who loved me. and who was, although you knew it not, the best and perhaps the only friend in the world you possessed. And yet you are silent as to why you did this thing. "Are you a woman or a bend ? Have you any spark of feeling in you at all! Is it nothing to you that two lives have been rained by your deception ?" Kate was looking upwards, startled, and at length she epokd. " What do you mean by saying I have ruined the happiness of my best friend 2" she exclaimed almost angrily. "I mean this, that Reese Meadowsere, the man who loved me, acd wboee wife you said you were, is the man who for the past two years has bean the means of keeping you from starvation." " It is false; I have received nothing from him; I never even knew him, "oried Kate, in great exoitement. "At last-," said Hilda, with a look of triumph, "you have confessed something. You have acknowledged that you never knew Mr. Meadowsere. Why, then, did you say you were his wife ?" Kate saw that she was caught, and relapsed into her only safeguard—silenoe. Hilda, seeing this, grew angry. " You will not speak even now," she exclaimed, and in a few hurried words she revealed what she had learned in Mr. Silvermede's conservatory. " And now," she concluded, " I have told you what I know are you going to make no reparation for your sin? Reeoe Meadowsere has been your benefaotor all these months, and Still you refuse to explain why you passed yourself off as his wife, and spoiled bis life as you have spoiled mine. But this is not all. You have imagined that Mr. Stornhiil was the man who provided for you. Why did you think this? WhatiB there between you that he should act in this way? You have been deceiving yourself, and though Stephen Stornhiil is my husband I say be must have known that you were doing so. You have written to him many times, and be has reoeived your letters; he must have received them. And yet, has he corrected your error ? For my sake olear up the mystery that surrounds me. You are the only person who can do so, and you are about to die. Can you leave this world with a guilty secret upon your soul?" Hilda had almost oonquered. Kate believed every word she uttered, for the light of truth shone in her eyes. It wag plain that Stornhiil had deceived the woman who had trusted in him. The doubt which had been gradually growing in Kate's mind was now confirmed. Stornhiil was not what he pretended to be. He had allowed her to imagine that his was the secret hand which had been held outto her aisistance, whereas Meadowsere, tho man she had wronged, bad been her preserver. And, moreover, Stornhiil had forsaken her; he had received her letters, but she had appealed to him in vain. He would never oomo to her more. She had been bis dupe, and her heart was heavy within her. A look of stony despair spread over the worn features, and Kate turned her face to the wall with a groan of deep anguish. "Well, "said Hilda, looking anxiously down at her. " Have you nothing to say ?" •'This—this Mr. Meadowsere," she stammered ; " he is a very rich miD, is be not ?" "No,"answered Hilda, impatiently; "heis not rich, nor am I; but that would have made no difference to our happiness." "Did you say that you were not rioh either ?" asked Kate in dismay. '' Yes, I did. But what is this to you ?" " He—he told me that you were wealthy." " He! who is he?" demanded Hilda. "Stephen told me, "sobbed Kate, hiding her face in the pillows, whilst Hilda stood transfixed with amazement. "Stephen told you that I was rich,"she echoed blankly. "Yes," stammered Kate, "and be said— said that he was ruined; and that Mr. Meadowsere had had " The poor woman broke down utterly, and the tears rained fast and thick down her hollow oheeks. She dould understand very little, save that Stornhiil had deoeived iBer, and that she had been the oanse of mnoh misery. But Hilda was beginning to see light ahead; the mystery was being made clear to her. Little by little she learned the whole miserable story, from the time of Kate's first meeting with Stephen Stornhiil up to the day iciien the plot which had been hatched was put into «xeoution. And whan ail was told Kate sank baok almost unconscious; and Hilda, pale and horror-striokon, grasped at the bed for support. The shook was terrible, and her brain reeled. Meadowsere was unmarried, but he was hers no longer. Perhaps be would soon bfi the husband of another—wbo oould tell? Hilda sickened at the thought. By her own act she had destroyed whatever hope of happiness she had ever possessed ; and outraged pride, and a love of revenge, had led her into a marriage with a forger and seduoer. Many wild thoughts coursed madly through her mind. But what had been done oould not be undone. It was too late—too late. As Hilda realized thiB her features beoame convulsed, and a demon of ungovernable rage seized possession of her. She turned npon Kate with despairing fierceness, but in a moment the murderous look in her eyes died out, and was suoceeded by one of fear. The excitement had proved too much for the dying woman : a violent fit of coughing had followed, and a stream of blood was flowing from Kate's mouth and soaking into the sheet. Hilda shrank back against the door as Mrs. Wilson entered, and watobed with a strange fasciaation che movement of that worthy woman, who at once flew to her patient. In a little while the coughing ceased. Kate was lying baok with closed eyes and oolourless cheeks, while Mrs. Wilson tried her best to hide the ghastly staicB upon the bedolothes, Hilda was left unnoticed, afraid almost to stir. Presently Kate opened her eves, and they fell upon the figure' at the door. Her lips parted in a faint, sad smile, and she said feebly, "My end is very near, and £ shall FOOD reoeive the reward of my wrongdoing. Good-by, Mrs. Stornhiil; may your life be happier than mine has ever been." And without a word Hilda bowed her head, and left theoottage.