|Chapter Number||2. V|
|Chapter Title||A STRANGE SCENE.|
|Newspaper Title||Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912)|
|Trove Title||Whatsoever a Man Soweth|
WHATSOEVER A MAX SOWETH.
BOOK II. — THE RIPENING OE THE CROP. CHAPTER V. A STRAXGE SCENE.
Stephen Stornhill rose very Uj3 that day, and in a bid temper. Since matrimonial troubles had beset his path his hablta had become rasher dissipated aud wholly irregular. He drank to excess, but was rarely intoxicated, so that his excesses were for the most part unnoticed. Vet a love of strong drink was inherent in him, and he was beginning to succumb to its fasoications. His extraordinary power of eslf-ccinmand was forsaking him, and in many other ways he was deteriorating. As he ate his breakfast, or rather lunoheon, he began to wonder what .had besome of his wife. He had seen nothing of her since the previous day. " Is Mrs. Stornhill in her room still?'' he enquired of the servant who w&ited upou him. '' No, sir; she oame home early this morning and went out again shortly afterwards. She has not oome back yet, sir." Stornhill looked astonished. " What do ycu mean by coming home early this morning? What time was it ? " Noarly S o'oloek, sir." "Then whero the devil did she speed the night?" "She dismissed the coachman at her mother's house, sir, so must have remained there." " And you say she came heme about S o'clock and left again almost immediately ?" Yes. sir ; she just changed and had a little breakfast.'' " What icossage did she leave?" " I don't think she left any, sir."
" Very well; tha: will dc." "A gentleman called to see you this morning, sir, and left this card," continued the servant. " When he beard that you had not left yont room, sir, he said he would call again about 3 o'clook." Stornhill took the card, and, glancing at it, threw it into the lire. " Reece Meadoweere," he muttered. "What the devil does he want with nie? Clear out ! : ' he nxolaimed angrily to the servant, who silently withdrew. Stornhill went to the window and stared gloomily out. " What dees Hilda mean by this prank," he said to himself. " Why can't she come home like other women, and not go gallivanting off to her mother's? I wonder what has become of her this morning. Got some damn silly notion into her head, I suppose. And Meadowsere ! What docs that fool want poking round h&re. Wants to see me, does he? What about? I don't like the look of things. Surely he can't have discovered that trick I played about his marriage. I ought to have kept my eye upon Rate; I must go down and eeo her and equare up thtugH a bit. And so Meadowsere is to call a^ain at 3 o'clock ; and I suppose he imagines that I am fool enough to wait in all the afternoon for him. It's like his infernal impudence." And yet Stornhill did wait. He was restless, uneasy, and curious. It struck him as a strange coinoidenoe that his wife should have absented herself from the house on th9 very day that Meadowsere chose for his visit. Both events were unexpected, and when at length Meadowsere was announced Stornhill felt far from comfortable, although outwardly he appeared much as usual. "Ah, Meadowsere." ha said in a friendly tone. "Glad to see you. Take a chair, will you ?" "Thank yon—no. My visit wiil be a short one, and I may as well come to the point at
once. Yon doubtless remember an event which occurred come two years ago, when a woman sought you out at a dance, and I was a witness of the interview whioh passed between you." Stornhill's face darkened. " What theaevil do you mean by intruding upon me with this nonsense':" "You will see, "said Reece coldly. "Bat first it will be neoe-esary for me so explain what happened after the woman lett the garden in which ths scene took place." Very briefly he narrated the whole of the circumstances with which we are familiar, not mentioning, however, that Sheram had been taken into his oonticience, except in BO far as it was necessary for the forwarding of the monthly remittance. Stornhill listened with a stare of wull-assumed incredulity, and when Reece had finished laughed outright. " Sxou«e me, Meadowsere," he said, "but really all this is very amusing. I was under the impression that you figured as one of the refreeUi'na to lear.S'SffijL^tUe wo^-ltis^uuis rest of us where a petticoat is concerned." "What do you mean? Do you dare insinuate" "Come! come! Don't be a fool my dear fellow. A man doesn't keep a woman for nothing, and although you might have ohoaen somtsching better than another fellow's leavings" Silence! silence ! I tell you." Meadowsere's eyes blazed with passion, &nd he made a sudden movement torivard, his hands clenched as though about to deal summary vengeance upon his slanderer, who retreated before him. But, controlling himself by a mighty effort,
Raece turned away, saving contemptuously— 'I struck you once; I shall not lower myself by doing soai?ain." Indeed," observed Stornhill in a taunting tone, " you are considerate, it not complimentary. You will not mind, I suppose, if I riag the b9ll to have you turned out;" and he was was about to put his half-expressed threat into execution when Meadowsere interposed. " Wait one moment, llr. Stornhill," he said, laying his hand on the bell. " I came here for a apeoial purpose, and must ask ycu to listen to me a moment. It is on behalf of Ks.ce Hird that I am here, Stephen Stornhill. Since the night you so cruelly treated her I have not set eyes UDon her, and she imagines that yau have been supplying the money whioh has saved her from starvation. She is now dying, and wishes toeee you. Here is the letter she sent to Mr. Sheram. Read it aud, if there is aay feeling in you at all you will respond to this appeal. It is nut necessary that she should know of my share in relieving her distress. She imagines you to be her preserver, aud your presence will oomfort her last hours. Therefore I am here in the hope of gaining your promise to go and see her." Scomhill, prompted by curiosity, took the letter which Reece held out to him and read it. Then he handed it baok, saying sceeringly— _ "Avery pathetic production indeed; hut the TOUia is nothing to me, aud it is evident that she is a good deal to you. I shsuld advise you to go, Meadowsere." He did not doubt for a moment that the letter was genuine, nor that Meadowsere'a actions with regard to Kate were as he stated them tu be. And Stornhill, perhaps for the first time in his life, felt a little pity for the poor eoul who loved him even to the end. Besides, there was the Eeeret she hinted at, and which he guessed to be connected with that unlucky plot of bis. It would never do for others to become acquainted with the way in wh.ch he had won bis wife. His beat plan would be to do as Kate wished, and k<j secretly determined to accede to her request. He was equally determined that Meadowsere should not know of his dcoision, for he would not give his eaetny the satisfaction, as he con-
sidered it, of triumphing over him ; although in raality such an idea would have<»eaa vary far from Meadawsere's mind. Meanwhile Raeee was trying hard to control himself. Stornhill's taunting words bad struck deep, and his passions were roused. But he wns righting another'scauso, and anger inirfht ru;n it; therefore ho must ap;:ear caina. " You advise ma," ha said veryquietly, "to go to Air*. Bimpton, as she prafers .to be called, myself. I intend to do so if you refuse." , " And I do refuse." interrupted Stornhill angriiy. " Why the devil should I visit your mistress on her deathbed?" The colour fled from Meaaowsere's cheeks, and hs clenched his hands tightly. Yet he mastered hia fierce passion by an almost superhuman effort, and eaid ia a low, hoarse voice—"You have uttered a he, Stephen Stornhill, and ycu know it. Once mare I ask whether you intend doing what if right by the wonaan ycu have betrayed. Remember, she writes of a secret which will be disclosed before her death. Think whether it ia not to your interest to hsar what she may have to snv rather than that it tibould reach the ears of "strangers. A short visit to her can do you no bsrm. It may be to your advantage, wbiisc co Kate Hird—it means everything." "Curse Kate Hird, and you too. I have had enough of this." " Very weil,'' said Meadowsere with foreod calmness. " ADd now I must ask you to apoiogizn for the insultB to which you have subjected me." Stornhiil lauzhed mockingly. "'Pon my word, you're as good as the hero in a melodrama. Why aun t you turn aotor, Meadotveere? Ab, there's my wifa's voice in the hall. No doubt you arc anxious to bp-6 h«r, Meadow- 6ere. I'll call b^r in, and we can settle our little difference-' at soiue future occasion." But Stornhill had no necosBity te call bis wife. She entered alino-t immediately, and, closing tho door behind her, came to the et>utre of the room and faced her hueband. Her eyes flashed ominously, and a nervous t-.vitchiug about the mouth 09traj ed strong mental excitement. Oca glance at her face was enough to convince Stornhill that something unusual had occurred, and that he was concerned in it. Ee knew nnt whr, but his tiiouRhtB at once Saw off to Kate Hird afraid for the moment to meet his v/nVc gaze
he glanced down at the carpet, saying with an air of some annoyance— " You are intruding, my dear; don't you see that I have a visitor V" Hiida turned suddenly. "Mr. Meadowsere.'' she Reclaimed in astonishment. "Yea, Mrs. Sturnhill, it ia I; butt I was just about, to tai;e my leave." "No, no; nothing oould be more fortunate than to see you here, and I beg of you to remain. I have something to say which concerns both of us." She spoke eagerly, and in a tone of suppressed excitement. Meadowsere bowed and aooepted the chair she agitatedly pushed towards him, whilst Stornhill eank lazily upon a couch and took out his cigar oase. He was inwardly ill at ease, but certainly his nervousness was well disguised. "You have struck a remarkably tragic and effective attitude, my dear," he observed to his wife, who still stood iu the centre of the room with heaving bosom and hands tightly olenched. "I was advising Meadowsere a moment ago to adopt the stage as a profession, and really I think you would prove very successful in the same line. You have no objection to my smiking, I presume?" Hilda made no answer, and Stornhill struck a match leisurely and lighted his cigar. "Oh ! I be* pardon, Meadowsere," he added as an afterthought. "Will you try a cigar? They are very good, I assure you." Reece declined coldly, and Stornhill returned tho case to his pocket with the remark —" lD6 performance is now about to begin. Proceed, my dear;"and, lyins baok, he idly watched ths rings of smoke curling upwards towards the ceiling. Hilda eyed his reclining flgure with rage and disgust. So strong was her passion that when she began to speak the words almost choked ber in the utteranoe, end she abandoned the idea of replying to Stornhill's insults, addressing her remarks solely to Meadowsere. '' You remember, Mr. Meadowsere,"' she said in a trembling voice, which had a world of pathos in it. "how I re;used to give you any explanation when I broke off the engage-
ment which once existed between us." " I do," replied Meadowsere, ooldly. "I am now aboul to tell you why it was," continued Hiida, bringine out the words sharply, as though they gave her pain. "'L'he time for that has gone by," said Reece rising. "I have now no wish to learn what motive prompted you to pursue the course you did." " But you must listen ; you shall listen. It is necessary for you to know all," and in her agitation Hilda seized his arm and pushed him agaiu into his Beat. Sturuhili laughed mockingly, and the enraged ireaaa turned upon him with sudden fierceness. "Silence!" she hissed, bending down till her lovely face, convulsed by paesiun, was but a few inches above his own. " You have made me curse the day that I was born, Stephen Stornhill; but as sure as there is a God above you will live to repent the evil deed you have done." Stornhill thrust her back and sprang co his feet with a curse. " Are you mad, woman?" he cried. "No, "she answered hoarsely. "I am not mad—not now. I have been, and I wish to heaven that I bad remainAi so rather than' discover what I have done this day. Sit down, Stephen Stornhill, and listen to me. No! No! You need not be afraid; I shall speak oalmly enough, never fear, and you will understand me too. ' Stornhiil shrugged his shoulders and resumed his recuuiDaat position. "Solongas you don't carry ou like an infernal lunatic," he said with assumed coolness, " you are welcome to Keep your tongue moving till midnight." "A ft>w minutes will suffice, and you pethaps wiil find vhem more than enough. But I ask your pardon, Mr. Meadowsere, for creating a scene in your presence. When you have beard me out you will, I know, agree that I was not without justification."
Meadowsere did not reply. He was feeling very uncomfortable, and did not understand why he should be asked to remain and witness what he regarded purely as a domestic quarrel. Evidently Stornhill and his wife were not a happy couple, and hie sympathies naturally inclined towards the weaker Bide, but that was no reason why he should allow hitnaelf to be mixed up iu their misunderstandings. Ssili, he saw no opportunity of leaving the house without being guilty of rudeness, therefore he mUBt remain and make the best of it. As tor Stornhill, much as he desired to get rid of Meadowsere before HUda'e threatened disclosure took place, he saw no immediate prospect of aohievmg his purpose without ordering him to quit the house, waich oourse, under the circumstances, would be regarded by Hilda as a pitiful exhibition of weaknesE. And so he assumed a nocchalant air he was very far from feeling. And Hilda, iu a dull, despairing voice, relieved at timen by a sudden buret of passion, proceeded to disclose what ehe had that day conservatory the night bslore, ot her interview with Mr. Saeram, and of her determination. Then ehe spoke of the journey that morning, and related the tale of shame and guilt as she had heard it from Mrs. Bampton. The story occupiec but a few minutes in the telling, and when Hilda ceased a silence deep and long ensued. Meadowsere sat as though paralysed. The blood had left his oheeks, and he breathed with difficulty; but Stornhill still lay upon the hofa, and gave no sign that he was at all interested in the oherge whioh had been brought against him. He had not interrupted his wife nor denied the truth of her state-
ments ; he had simply smoked on with apparent unooncern, and not a word either of a-Jger, protest, or surprise had escaped him. He kuew that if he pleaded innocence his wife wouid not believe him. "Perhaps," he thought, "sh# even has the letters I wrote to Kate, aud if so I am doue." His misdeeds had baen brought to light, end is was no good fighting against fate. He had played his game, and would abide by the consequences. Presently Reece looked up and spoke. "Have you th6—the—certificate you mentioned?" he said with difficulty, and Hilda handed il to hiin without a word. He glanced over it carefully. This, then, was the dooument which had been the means of darkening bis life. It looked harmless enough, bus what mischief it had worked— misohief which could now never be undone. As Reece read the contents again and again his brain seemed to whirl, and a stranze, mocking lau^h to ring in hia ears. But pulling himself together by a great effort he turned to Stornhill. "Is this your work, Stephen Stornhill?" he asked sternly. "So my wife eaye," was the eool lejoinder. " And what do you say? Can you deny it?" "What would be the use, when you both believe ma guilty ? I mighl as well argue with a stone wall." Meadowssre'a face became psrfeotiy livid, aud he raised his hand to strike. "Thrash hiin like a cur, Reece," hissed Hilda between her teeth. Stornhill lay motionless, watching Meadowsere's actions "with indifference. He knew his man, he thought; but even at that moment he remembered who it was that spoke these words, and that from hia wife he would receive no mercy. R'»ec*'a hand dropped by his side. Hilda's voice had restored fc;e s»lf-posse»sion. "He's in God's hands or tho devil'i?," he muttered hoarsely, " aud I will leave him there." "Are you atraia, Reece?" asked Hilda passionately. Again she oalled him Resco, and R^ece did not notice it. But Stornhill did, aud he uttered a low curse. "No " was tho answer, " I am not afraid. But hn is your hu-:band, and as such is safe." Crushing the certificate in his hand
Meadowsere threw it into the grate, and it burned rapidly away to ashes. Then he looked at Hilda, and she at him. His eyes were dark with pr.iu; hers Rhone with the light of a love she could uot hide. His lips were olosed fast in a va-n endeavour to control his auguish; hers were parted by a suppressed eagerness as she waited for him to break the silence. And so thev stood gazini at eaoh other, their faces pale and drawn, their hearts full of misery aud despair. And on tha sofa lay Stornhill, quietly expelling the smoke of his cigar throucrh his nostrils, and watching it as it curled iibovs his head towards the ceiling. But now osm« a change. Hilda, with a low cry of " Ra»ce ! Reece !" tottered across tho room and, throwing her arms round Meadowsere's neck, laid har head on his shoulder and burst into a passion of tears. And Reece was powerless to comfort her. What oould he say ? Nothing ; and gently freeing himself he kissed her once and went away. With de- Boairing eyes Hilda followed him to the door. There he turned and looked back, and she held out her arms to him imploringly. But, sick at heart, he bowed and was gone. Hilda, with a moa'.i of aueuish, sank on her knees beside a ohair, and hiding her face gave way to her grief. Swphen Stornhill rose deliberately and looked down for a ruoment at the quivering form of his w'fe. Theu, taking the cigar from between bis lips, he said in oold, measured tone*— " In future you will please remember that you are civ wife, and behave as such. When a married woman condescends to hang about the ueck of any man who cakes her fanoy it shows that her moral sensibilities have become blunted. I look upon your exhibition just now as immoral. I trust that it will not be ne-vssary for me to cpoak in this way again." Ke waited : but Hiida sobbed on. She ha3 no*' heard anything save a dim. confused minding of sounds, which conveyed no meaning to her; and Stornhill, with a short contemptuous laugh. Btroiled from the room, leaving his wife clone with her misery. ! CHAPTER VI. GOOD FOE EVIL. Upon leavicf: Stornhill's house Reece Meadowsere walked citywards, aimlessly and in a state of half-stupefaction. His love, which had been lying dormant, crushed, as it i were, by the •jcntemut he had fcit icr Hilda':
imagined inconstancy, spiaag into new life now that he saw how harsh and onjuBt his judgment of her actions had beeu. Bat the knowledge be had gained was useless to him ; it could uot alter hi3 relationship to Hilda.' She was Stornhill's wife, and only death or dishonour could dissolve the bend. Meadowsere realized fully the hopelessness of his position, butt suddenly a thought flashed through his mind. The interview excluded had shown him how completely Hilda was in his power. He had but to say Come and she would go to him, leaving her ^and to act in whatever way he chose. Wbat a revenge that would be! And would it not be right to mete out to Stornhiil much the aamb treatment he had meted out to others. For an instant Meadowsere wavered. Then he was overcome by an overwhelming sense of shame. " Have I desoended so low as this?" he muttered, and quiokeumg nis pace he was soon in the streets of the oity. And now he remembered Mrs. Bampton. It was only natural that he should first recall the part this poor woman had played in the frustration of his dearest hopes. By her own confession, she was proved to be the instrument by means of which his engagement had been broken off ; and through her he had been represented as contemplating bigamy and the social ruin of a pure woman. Was it to be expaoted then that he should interest himself any further on her behalf? Meadowsere oonoluded that it was. Having previously decided upon visiting Mrs. Bampton, and doing what he could for her, in the event of his efforts with Stornhill proving unsuccessful, he now s»w no reason to alter his determination. To abandon the woman in her hour of need would be cruel and unjust. She had sinned, it was true, but there were extenuating oircumstances connected with her error, and Reeos was fully alive to these. Indeed, he felt the most profound pity for the poor mother, who, imposed upon, and influenced by a misplaced love, had gone to such lengths under the mistaken idea of saving from ruin and dishonour the man who had literally wrecked her life. Therefore it was not out of ouriosity, nor with any idea of
gleaning further information relative to Stephen Stornhill, that Meadowsere set out on his visit to Mrs. Bampton. Already he was beginning to think of Hilda as Mrs. Stornhiil. Their paths in life lay far apwt, and he had determined that there should be no more meetings between them. Both for her sake and his own, it would be better so; and as he walked from the little railway station to Mrs. Bampton s cottage the stillness of the afternoon brought him peao9. Yet on the morrow, and perhaps for days to come, he would reoall the wrone whi^h had bsen done, and remember, with a sad heart, the woman he had lost through the treaohery of Stephen Stornhill. No one stood on the doorstep as Meadowsere approached. The train had oome acd gone unnoticed. The man, so long expected, was expected no more; his work—inasmuch as it related to Kate Hird—was unished ; and Kate herself was fast approaching the end of her wasted life. Reeoe was admitted bv Mrs. Wilson, wTio, however, eyed him with suspicion. The evil effects which had resulted from Hilda's interview with the invalid that mornintr had not prepossessed her in favour of other visitors, and Meadowsere's expressed desire to see Mrs. Bampton did not meet with a favourable reception. " Mrs. Bampton is very weak," was the reply. " an 1 doss not caro to see any one." " Then I am afraid I must return to town without having my wish gratified," said Reece. "You are nuraine her, I presume?" "Yes, Sir, 1 am doing my best for the poor soul; but she won't need my help much lonjrer." " Indeed ! Is she so ill as that?" "She won't last through ths night, Sir, I'm thinking; and no thanks to the lady what came this morning, either." " Did har visit result in harm ?" " It did. Sir. Mrs. Bampton was bad
enough before, but after the lady oalled—" and Mrs. Wilson, unable to express her feelings in words, shook her head and raised her arms with a.gesture of melancholy resignation." Reece felt no inclination to prolong the subject. " Would you kindly oarry a message to Mrs. Banrpton." he asked. "Certainly, Sir." "Tell her that Mr. Meadowsere is waiting to know whether he oan be of any assistance to her or her ehild." Mrs. Wilson at once withdrew, and it was some time before she returned. Meanwhile Reece waited patiently. He had made mention of the child in the hope of convincing the invalid that his offer of assistance was a genuine one: and also because he thought that Mrs. Bampton might refuse aid for herself from one whom she had so deeply wronged. He fell into a fit of musing, from whioh he was awakened by the voioe of Mrs. Wilson. " Mrs. Bampton wishes to see yon, Sir," she rii— - anHJi« frtUr* 1^'"? "* -yno eves shone with a strange eagerness. As Mnadowsere held ont his hand the took it, and suddenly lifted it to her lips, and Reeoe drew back startled. Mrs. Wilson had left the room, so that the two were alone together. " I am very sorry to find you so ill, Mrs. Bampton, said Reeoe, somewhat oonfuBed." " It is no more than I deserve, Sir," answered Kate in a whisper. Reece did not think this, but it seemed to him at the moment a difficult remark to deal with ; therefore he left it alone, and afterwards blamed himself for exhibiting heartleBsneso. "You understand why I have come, Mrs. Bampton?" he said, after a slight pause. "I
wish to be of use to you, if possible; and if you will allow me." " It was not for that I asked to see you, Sir. I have a confession to make, one which concerns you deeply. After that you will not wish to help me." •' Why need you make any confession ? Tell me what I oan do for you; that is all I wish and all that is necessary also." "No, no; I mutt speak. It was only to-day Sir, that I heard ot your goodness to me, and I must tell you" " Hush ! hush ! There is no need to tell me any thine," urged Reece, alarmed at her vehemence. "I have seen Mrs. Stornhill and learnt the whole story from her lips ; but I am not here to speak of it. The past is dead to both of us, and it is bast forgotten. Let us ooncarn ourselves with the future." " You know all, and—and yet you are here?" gasped Kate. . "Yes. For what you have done I forgive you freely; and now let us say no more about it." " But I—I do not understand, Sir," and the tears stood in her ejea, and a dazed expression oame over ber face. "Then do not try to understand," said Reece, gently. " You must not agitate yourself, or I shall have to leave you, and I do not wish to go vet; not until I learn how you are situated. Tell me, is there anything you require ?•' "Nothing," answered Kate, in a choking voioo. " Of course you are visited by a doctor?" " Yes. Sir; "he will be here to-night. He comes twice a day." "That is well; but now, for t-hei next few minutes, I am eoing to be your doctor, and you must reply to my questions in as few words as practicable, or no words at all. You understand mn ?" aud he assumed an air of sternness, whioh, however, was belied by the sad smile whioh hovered about his lios. Mrs. Bampton nodded, and Reece con tinued :— "Are your.porents living ?" " No, Sir." "Never mind the Sir. Have you any brothers or sisters ?" "Yes."
"Do they know of yonr illness?" "No." " Shall I inform them ?" "Il would be useless. Sir—they have disowned me," acd the worn faco was hidden deep in the pillowB. For a moment Reece cculd not go on ; then he said :— "Tbis woman who waits upon you—is she kind ?" " She is very good to me, Sir. " " You are not obeying my command—say yes or no," and he spoke sharply to hide his emotion. " Is there uothiue you want ?" " Yes, my child. But Mrs. Wilson has promised to bring it to mo in a little while." Reece turned away. He knew that Kate ought to keep silent; bar voice hardly rose above a whisper, and he saw how Daiuful it was for her to speak a single word." Coming back to the bedside, he said abruptly :— " I must go now, but I will do what I oan for you, and you must make haste and get well. But whatever happens, do not worry about the ohild. Would yoa like me to see Mr. Stornhill about it?" " No, no," gasped Kate, and she shuddered as if with fear. " Very well. I shall see that no harm comes to it, and now try to rest. You oan trust the child with me, if the worst happens ?" " I can. Sir : God bless you, and make your life happv. I can say no more, Sir—my heart is full. God bless you.'' "Good by,"said Reece, briefly, and pressing her hand, he left the room. j " Mrs. Bampton is too ill to converse," he observed to Mrs. Wilson, who was waiting for him ia the outer room. " She is worse than I expected to find her, and I must ask you fcr tha information I require." " I know verv little about her affairs, Sir." "That is ucfortuti.it", as I should like to find her relatives. But still you can help me in other way.i. Whatever is necessary for Mrs. Bampton's comfort must be procured, and I will leave money with you for this purpose. She won't require nothing ^riore in this life. Sir, but what we all wants. " You know what that is V' '•While there is life there is hope," said Reeee quietly. "Yes, Sir. But I've took the liberty of making - a ir cup . of 1 c- tea for J-.* you. I.r 1 hope . - won c be orenoed, oir, ana Mrs. V.tson, who
had taken a strong fancy to Meadsowere's handsome face, paid no attention to his remonstrances, but soon had the tea things out and the table laid. " It is very kind of you, indeed, said Reeoe gratefully, for it was long since he had tasted food, and the oake and scones which Mrs. Wilson had provided looked very tempting. "Now just sit down and help yourself. Sir, while I see to the patient a moment. Then we can talk over things a bit." Mrs. Wilson hurried off to the siok-room, but in a few minutes returned again. "Mrs. Bampton wished me to Bay that yoa was to take charge of all her papers and letters and things," she said to Meadowsere, as she entered. " Very well, Mrs. Wilson, for that is your name, is it n o t 1 heard Mrs. Bampton mention you." "That's it, Sir. But goodness me—you ain't eating nothing." Reece protested that he was doing very well, indeed, and half an hour passed only too quickly for Mrs. Wilson, who dearly loved a gossip. Suddenly Reece remembered that the invalid had expressed a deairo to have her child with her. " Where is Mrs. Bampton's little one ?" hs asked. " At my house, Sir, was the answer. " She getB along very nice with my youngsters, and is in the way here.' "I think Mrs. Bampton would like to have her with her to-night; indeed, Bhe said that you intended bringing her. I should like to see the ohild, and will wail here until you return, if you will go for her at onoe." Mrs. Wilson did as he asked, and in ft very short space of time returned holding up the child for him to admire while she was still some distance from the bouse, for Reeoe waited in the doorway for her return. Reeca was not greatly interested in the little ohild. He asked a few questions, praised its pretty face, and asked Mre. Wilson to take it to its mother. " And tell ber from me," he said, " to make herself perfectly easy about the future. I shall call again in the morning. Good-night, Mrs. Wilson."
He strode away through the gathering darkness acd quickly reached the station. There he bad to wait a long time, and when eventually he reached his home the hour was very late, yet he found a visitor awaiting him in the person of Robert McTinnv, Although widely dissimilar in tastes and habits, McTinny and Meadowsere had during the past few months beoome great friends. McTinny, after breaking with bis associates of the turf, had felt a desire to lead a better life. He now acquired a fondness for reading and cultivated the acquaintanceship of Reece Meadowsere, for whose oharacter he had a secret admiration. Reece, on hiB part, readily responded to MoTinny's advances, for he regarded him as a gcod-bearted fellow who only wanted ballaat, and being himself lonely and low-spirited he found in MoTinny's company a very pleasant antidote. The two often spent whole evenings together, sometimes reading, at others chatting and disoussing matters of interest to both, and McTinny especially derived no email amoant of benefit from these meetings. On the present occasion Reeoe saw at onoe that McTinny had something of unusual importance upon his mind, and he quiokly guessed to what it referred. " You look excited, old fellow," be said. " Yes; I should think so. Congratulate me, Mladowsere—I am the Iuokiest man alivA." "That means that you are engaged, eh?' 1 "It does. Can ycu guess to whom ?" "Mrs. Hill ton," answered Reece with a smile. Barney stared in astonishment. "What mace you thinkof her?'' he asked. "I thought no one knew my secret." " Ah, Baraey ! When a man is in love he alwayG betrays himself. I have expected tbis tor some time, and I congratulate you with all my heart. She is a good woman, Barney, and you are indeed a lucky man. One of the few lucky men," he added a little bitterly.
"Then you aie not at all surprised,"said McTinny with evident disappointment. '* Not in the slightest degree." " Well, I am; and even now I hardly know how I mustered np oourage to make the plunge, for I hadn't the slightest hope of being accepted. You see, Meadowsere," ha continued earnestly, " I never Was a favourite with the ladies. I didn't care about them, and they didn't care for me. Horses were more in my line than women until I met—well, you know all about that. Thank goodness I got over that matter, and—" " You would have done the tame with this if you hadn't been accepted, eh ?" "I woulJn't have goneaooutas some fellows do, at any rate; but I should have been hard hit for all that." " I believe yon, Barney; and now I'll ring for Margaret, and she shall bring ub in a bottle of rare old wine with whieh to celebrate the joyful occasion." The wine was brought, and Reeoe, with evident sincerity, drank to his friend's future happiness. MoTinny had grown silent, and Don't you earn for the wine ? " Yea, it's first-rate; but this engagement of ours, it's—it's rather a peculiar one, yoa know." Reeoe looked surprised. '' Peculiar ! In what way ?" "Well, you rejiember there was something between Stornhill and Mrs. Hillton aomo years ago," said McTinny, with coma hesitation. "What of that?" "Weil; only that—that she hasn't quite forgotten him yet. You see—she—sbe was candid with me, and told me all about it; but I didn't mind that so long as she married me.
But when she is my wife I tfafink she will get rid of her old feeling—don't yon?" and he locked at Reeoe rather timidly. Reeoe rise, and placed his hand on his friend's shoulder. " You don't doubt that she will be true to you, Barney ?" "Doubt it!" echoed Barney. "She is the best woman I have ever met." " Very well, you need fear nothing. Mrs. Hillton is a woman with a heart suoh as few women have. I see you imagine she n.ny not be happy with you ; but she will, old fellow. She married Mr. Hillton because she respected him, and needed a proteotor. She will marry you for the same reason, and for something more; and believe me—Stephen Stornhill will soon be forgotten." MoTinny brightened up considerably. " I am glad you understand my meaning, Reeoe. I wo) afraid she might regret ber marriage; but it won't bo my fault if she does. I intend to do my best to make her happy.'* There are times when even the most taoituru of men feel the desire to possess a confidant upon whose honour they oan rely, and cuch a time now oame to Reeoe Meadoweere. He was naturally reserved ; but when Barney, in a blundering, good-hearted manner, went on to express hia regret that Reeoe's own engagement had ended so disastrously, this reserve was broken down, and before he was well aware ot it Meadowsere found himself confiding to sympathetio ears the story he had only that day learned. As he oonoluded, MoTinny drew a deep breath. " I always thought Stornhill was at the bottom of that business," he »aid. Meadowsere did not answer, and Barney racked hie brain for something appropriate to say. But he felt that in a matter of this sort words were vain to express the sympathy he felt, fo ho merely ask<xj— " What are you going to do?" "Nothing," was the auswer. "IfciB all I can do." " And what is to become of Mrs. Stornhill?" This question was asked in suoh a manner that Reeoe looked up involuntarily, and found MoTinny's eyes fixed upon him with a peculiar gaze. He looked down at the carpet, and said quietly—"She will do the same as I do—
nothing." " Is she the woman to aot as though nothing had happened ?" "She must." " When she belongs to you, body and soul ?" eaid MoTinny, harshly. " You have no right to speak in this way, '' answered Reeco, with great coldness. "Let us dismiss the subject." "I beg your pardon, Meadowseis ; I forgot myself. But have you decided what to do with the ohild you mentioned ?" "No. I 'thought of leaving it with the woman who is attending Mrs. Bamptoc, but I hardly know yet. Siie iB a kind, motherly person, but ill-educated ; and the pla-je might not be the best I could find for the child. Altogether, it is a difficult matter to deal with." , . , _ "I'll tell vou what," exclaimed Barney, as though struck with a brilliant idea. "I will speak to Mrs. Hillton about it. There ia nothing like a woman to help you out of a difficulty." " Will you mention that the child in Stornhill's ?" said Reece, quietly. McTiany ooloured. "I never thought of that, Meadowsere, though perhaps it looks as if I had a reason for proposing this plan." "No ! no! I didn't mean to insinuate that, old fellow—I know you too well." "There would be no necessity to mention more than a bare outline of the facts, would there ?" "Not at all; and I would be glad if you asked her advice, Barney. I am all at «ea myself, though perhaps the mother may have something to propose in the morning. But you speak to Mrs. Hillton, Barney, and I shall call-round to see h»r to-morrow afternoon after I have visited Mrs. Bampton. And now help rue to finish this bottle, and then wb had better say good-nieht-." But long after McTinny had left the house Recce sat on in his study, gloomy and preoccupied, and when at length he sought his bed the night was far advanced, and the grate was cold and empty.