|Chapter Number||2. VII|
|Chapter Title||FOR THE CHILD'S SA?E.|
|Newspaper Title||Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912)|
|Trove Title||Whatsoever a Man Soweth|
WHATSOEVER A MAN SOWETH.
BOOK II. - THE RIPENING OE THE CHOP. CHAPTER VII. "FOB THE CHILD'S SAEE.' 1
The hours immediately following upon the scene which took place in Stornhill's bouse were to Hilda as a blank. How they passed ehe could not rightly tell, but early in the evening she found herself with ber mother. Mrs. Rsmereque was deeply shocked at the story unfolded tn her, but comforted herself with the assurance that "things might have been worse." Stornhill had behaved very badly—most disgracefully, in fact. Yet, eiill, he had been a good husband, and bis wife had nothing to complain of so far as her married life was concerned. She was allowed her own way, and Ssornhill bad been particularly generous with regard to money matters; so that altogether Mrs. Remersque felt that Hilda should be willing to forget and forgive. This, however, Hilda was not prepared to do, and she announced her intention of obtaining a separation from her husband. Her ideas upon the subject were very vague, but ohe was fully determined never again to enter Stornhill's bouse, and no argument employed by her mother could shake thia resolve. Now, Mrs. liemersque, above all things, feared the soorpion tongue of scandal. She had often seized with avidity upon little bits of soandal which oonoerned her neighbours, and had derived gre*t relish from the discussion of them with her intimate friends, who also diecu.sbed them, with variations, with other intimate friends, until at length these little harmless stories had grown into big ones, and were known to all the intimate friends of everybody in the fashionable world. But to pick holes in the reputations of other people is a very different thing from having other people picking holes in yours, and Mrs. Remer«quti was fully alive to the difference. It horrified her to think of her name beius bnndiad about from mouth to mouth, as undoubtedly it would be if Hilda left her husband's house, and ehe was naturally angry when Hilda refused to louk at the matter in tbe light that she did. But remonstrauoes, protestations, condemnations, r.nd even abject pieadings were in vain. That night Hilda remained with her mother. The next day the battle was renewed. Mrs. Remersqun, enraged at what she considered Hilda's obstinacy, lost eijht altogether of Htornhill's crime, and grew more and more determined to gain her point. On the_ other hand, Hilda was crowing despairing, reckless, heartbroken. Where she had natnrally expected to find sympathy she reopived reproaches ; where she looked for a mother's love and tenderness she saw inly an angry impatience and a fear of what the world might say. What was tee world to her? Could it restore the lover she had lost? Could it cut the knot that bound her to a man she despised ? The world 2ared nothing for her,- and she cared nothing for the world. Why then should her mother place so great a store upon the world's opinion ? Shortly after luncheon Stephen Stornhill called and asked for Mrs. Remerbque. The two were closeted together for but a few minutes. Stornhill had no net-d to plead his causa in that quarter ; he found a redhot supporter in his mother-in-law. Then Hilda was informed thnt hor husband wished to speak with her. She it first refused to have anything to say to him ; but Mrs. Retnersque insisted, and Hilda was forced to yield. The interview took place in the room where Stornhill bad first pleaded bis euit, and now, as then, they were alone, for Mra. Remersaue had withdrawn. "Well," said Stornhill quietly, as Hilda stood very near the door. " Won't you oome to the fire?" " Thank you; I prefer remaining here,"she answered. " Your tastes are peculiar,"he said in the same quiet tone. " You have a right to say that, considering that I married you," was the unexpected re-
joinder. Stornhill laughed. " Are you ready to come back with me? The carriage is at the gate." " I have no intention of returning to your honse at all." "What! never?" he asked, raising his eyebrows. " Never'." she answered, and agaiu Stornhill lftugbed. "This reminds me of the opera ' Piaafore,' be said. " You remember the song I am thinking of 5" Hilda looked at him with oontempt, but remained silent, and Stornhill at once changed his tone. " Come and eis down by the fire, HiHa," he pemanded, " ana don't be foolish. I oan't speak while you are hanging about that door as if vou were anxious to H hofo thmnsrh it. Hilda crossed the room very quietly and eat down. " Now," he said, " let ua talk sensibly. In the first place, we are husband and wife—very unfortunate perhaos, but nevertheless a faot. Now, as your husband I have every right to demand that you return to your home, and, it necessary, to enforce ths demand. Moreover, the law would certainly uphold me if it ware neoes-sary to adopt tbis oourse. I sincerely hope that the necessity will not arise." " Does this mean that if I refuse to" aocads to your wish you will use force to oompel me?" " As I said before. I hope this will not be necessary," observed Stornhill evasively. '"But if it should ?" persisted Hilda. " It would be difficult to say what I might not do. Where a man sees his private affairs in danger of becoming a matter for public speculation be is justified in resorting to desperate remedies to prevent such a deplorable state of affairs. My good nime " "Yourgood name!"echoed Hilda, and she laughed scornfully. "Fine words from a forger and seducer," " B<» careful," exclaimed Stornhill, his eyes gleaming with passion. "It will not be safe to try me too far." " I am not afraid," and H lda looked up at him unflinchingly. In a moment Stornhill grew calmer. " What you said is true, Hilda; I shall not attempt to deny it. But liston a moment. Bad as I am I do not wish my name to beoome a byword, and this it will become if you refuse to aot sensibly. Not only will I suffer, but you also, and your mother, who thinks aE I do. Again, if you refuse to live with me, what will you do? It is in my power to stop your present income ; and I do not fancy thit life with your mother will be pleasant, when it is her expressed wish that you should return with me." Hilda's income was secured to her for life, but this did not ocsur to her. Indeed, so long as Ehe had found no difficulty in obtaining money she troubled herself very little abcut necuninry matters, and ehe was almost ignorant of tbe terms of the marriage settlement : so that Siorcbill'6 random bit was not altogether ineffectual. Hilda saw cleariy enough that life with her mother would be unbearable, and she visibly wavered. Yet ehe said doggedly—"loould work, I suppose." " What could you do?" Hilda did not know, eo remained silent. "Iam afraid you would find it a difficult matter to gain au income, even of the HmisllHHt." " Vou consider me useless ?"' " As a breadwinner—yes ; because you have been trained to luxury. In your own particular sphere you are far from useless, and you know it. It is to your natural position in sosiety that I wish you to return. This ought not to be difficult. My fault was a grave one I admit, but it is a well-known saying that * All fair in love and war. : " Hilda laujhuii bitterly. " Where does the love oome ill';" she asked. •'I was in love at that time," he answered, and truthfully, but it was not with Hilda. "Your love soon grew cold." " Was that through auy f&ultiof mine?" It was unt, and Hilda knew it. What alieotion hai 6he ever given him ? None at ail. Was is any wonder, therefore, that he had changed ? "Wo need see very little of each osher," continued Stornhiii. "You will have your own apartments and I shall have mine ; in shirt, ia reality vra shall live almost 3p*rS. : " Hilda said nothing, and S oruhiil, aster wat-.'hing her a mouieut, v/eut on— "Suraly you 01a that this is the wisest coursG to pursue. It will prevent all scandal, and therefore save us much unpleasantness. Your incoir.B will be secured to you, and I s'uall not obtrude myself in auy way upon you. 1 ' For a long time th<?ro was silence. When at length Hilda looked up she slid, in a pathetically broken voice— " I will £0 with you, Stephen ; hut you promise that we shall meet as seldom as possible?" "I promiso," he answered, and Hilda parsed out of the room to prepare for her return. Stornhill bad conquered, and yet he was not elated. Only a f«w days ago h* felt that be hated his wife, and would fcavH welcomed a chance of getting rid of her. Now that the chance had presented :t<alf he shrank from taking advantage of it. Nay. ho even w=nt rr> somo trouble to keep Ui,j wife with him. Why was it'! He oould not toll. Perhaps he feared the world's censure, ao Mrs. Ramnrsqua did. At any rate, the die ca-st, r.nd be was prepared to abide by the consequences. IJ'U while Ssornhill was attempting to secure his wife's return to her home au interview of a very different kind was taking place elsewhere. When Reece. according to his promise, went to visit Mrs. Bamptou h« found that, nbo had died during tbe night. He arranged with Mr. Wilson than the funeral should talce place on the following day, aui determined to
attend in person. All expenses connected with the arrangements he provided for himself, and there being no relations to oonsider Mrs. Wilson at his desire took possession of the little furniture which was in the cottage. The child also was left with her for the present. When Reece glanced at the bundle of papers which Mrs. Bamptou had left in his charge he saw that most of them were letters in the handwriting of Stephen Stornhill. These he at onoe destroyed without even reading them. The others he kept, thinking that they might prove of future use to the ohild. When he got back to the city he partook of a hasty luncheon, and then called on Mrs. Hillton, who, with an old lady for companion, lived same little distance out of town. " I must congratulate you upon your engagement, Mrs. Hillton," were his words of greeting. Mri. Hillton coloured as she replied— " Mr. MoTmny told me that you were not at all surprised when you heard of it." " Did you expect that I should be? ' "Well—I hardly know. But you know that—that " " Yes ?" " That I didn't get on very well with him at one time, Mr. Meadowsere," and Mrs. Hillton looked down at the aarpet. "But that was long a40. Mr. MoTinny has changed since then," said Reece with a smile. "Oh, yes; of oourse;" and ehe appeared embarrassed. Reece nmiled cgain. "You are surely not regretting the step you have taken. I oan hardly think that." " No, no !" was the eager response. " Not for my sake. But you and I have been friends since we were children, Mr. Meadowsere; and—and you know more of my life than any one else, and of my secrets too. Tell me ! do you think I have done wisely?" and Mrs. Hillton raised her eyes to his face with a timid wistfulness. "I ain sure you bave," answered Reece, sinoeroly. ''\Yh n n I return from England it will be to find you a much hapoier woman than you have been iu the past, Mrs. Hillton; and McTinny will be a better man. I envy you tjotb." " It is strange of me to speak in this way to you, perhaps, Mr. Meadowsere; but—but I have been so much alous, and you are almost the only friend I have, and—and, I am very ctlad you think as you do. I am only a woman, and we women are weak creatures Rti tbe best, and liable to make mistakes. Yes, I am glad you think as you do." "If there were more women in the world like you, Mrs. Hillton," said Reece oarnestly, "there would be leas sin and misery. It is such as you we want to raise the tone of our sooiety. I am not given to flattery, as you know; I say this because I feel it from my heart." Mrs. Hillton looked up flushed and crrateful; then her eyes dropped again. "Thank you," she said simply, but the words meant much. " Did Mr. MoTinny ask your advice upon a eubjt-ct which interests me. Mrs. Hillton?" said Reece, desirous of turning the conversation, for he had said more than he intended, though not more than he felt. " Are you referring to the child for which you wish to find a home ?" asked Mrs. Hillton, hesitatingly. ' 1 Yes. I was hoping that the mother would have formed some plan for its future, but, unfortunately, she was dead when I went to see ber this morning ; and as I leave for England in about a fortnight I am rather puzzled what to do." "She died suddenly, then?" " Well, no ; her death was not unexpected," replied Reece, who was secretly wondering how much of the story McTinny had thought fit to impart to Mrs. Hillton. " I suppose you have not made any arrangement* yourself, with regard to the child, 1 meau? But of courEe you haven : t, or you would hardly be puzzled, would you ?" And with a nervous laugb Mrs. Hillton walked to the window. Raeca looked at her surprised. "I did think of leaving it with Sirs. Wilson, but I hardly like the idea." " Is the child a boy or a girl ?" "A girl," an? wared Reece; and then there was silenoe. Mrs. Hillton still remained at
the window with her back turned to Meadowsere, and she appeared restless. Reece bagan to feel slightly unuomfortable. " What is 6he thinking of ? - ' he wonaered. "Do you O'jnsider," began Mrs. Hillton, and then stopped suddenly. "Yes," said Reeoe, "you were going to say " "Do you consider it likely that—that Mr. Stornhill will claim the ohild ?" _ To say that Reece wa3 startled by this simple question would not adequately express his feeling of astonishment. He was fairly thundnrstruolc, but managed to gasp—" Mr. Stornhill I Why should he do anything of the sort ? ; ' " Because—well—you know he has the riirht." v i/iu uif, luuxmuj- fun unis r" assea Reecp, eraveiv. " Partly," was the answer. " But he is not to blame. Mr. Meadowsere; I knew a good deal of the story before. I was in the window recess of Mr. Pell's house wht-n—when that meeting took place a loue time ago. Tha window was open, and I could not but overhear tome of the conversation that passed, aud—and I learnt more afterwards. But I can say nothing now. Mr. MoTiany had to go out of town this afternoon, or be would be here ; but be will explain afterwards, if you wish to hear the story. And—and I only wausod to say thtt—that—if Mr. Stornhill doet not take the chiid—I will adopt it, aud— and that i* all." Mrs. Hillton had been speaking very quickly, and also ierkily, and Reece did no: altogether realize the sense of her words. " I don't understand you, Mrs. Hillton," he observed, a trifle coldiy. " You—you make it hard for nqe to explain," was the hurried rejoinder. "I only wish to say that—that I am willing to adopt the little girl, if—it no one objects. You see I have no children of my own, and—and children about the house, you know, make things choprful." At last Rqece understood. Mrs. Hill'-on's love for Stornhill was not yet dead, and she wished to adopt his child. He could not make up his mind whether to blame or admire her ; bu*i csrta'nly her desire was a strange one. " Mr. McTinny knows of this, I presume," he observed. "Oh, yes; and ho has been very good to me. He is qoite wilhnsr that it should be so, and— and I chink highly of him for the action he has taken. Very few men would have done as he has if they were similarly placed.'' Mrs. HiHton had recovered her self-possession, and, though pale, was quiet and dignified. " If this is the case," said Reece, " the child is extremely fortunate. You need have no fear of Mr. Stornhill's interference. He is not likely to sr<ve the tnatcera thought. When would you like to take charge of the little one ?" Mrs. Hillton looked pained. "You speak so coldly," she answered, "that I am afraid you think I have done wrong in proposing this course." "1 hardly know what to think," admitted Reece oanoidly. " And I caunot explain." said Mrs. Hillton, with some sadnsss. "But I do not wish to lose your good opinion, Mr. Meadowsere." "Believe me, you will never do that, Mrs. Hillton." "You are aware," she continued, "that I was once engaged to Mr. Stornhill; and you have also Bueised that, though I despise him, I have never bean r.ljle to altogether forcrei him. This is a pitiful acknowledgment of weakness, perhaps, but so it is ; and when I heard of this child, without a home, I wished at once to adopt it because it was his. I-e will not knep my love for Mr. Stornhill alive ; if I thoueht (his it would be wronging Mr. MoTinny to contemplate aotiug as I do. I cannot express ruvself in words, but when I spoke to Mr. McTinny he seemed to rea'ize my feoliaz in the matter, and at once fell in with 1137 wishes. Tnea I believe in the law of heredity, and dreart the child inheriting some of the f.ither's wickedness, ff this be so, what will its future be? It is my intention to rear the child as one of my own ; to watch over and rrain it to be a good woman. If I am successful my life will Tint hava b«*n lived in vaia, aud m™ aotion will bo justified." "I sineernly trust that you will raceive the reward you des«rvp, Mrs. Hillton," eaid Reec-p, witb heirffelc sympathy. " You do not hlanni trie ?" "No. How eon'.rj x? When will you undertake this responsibility ?" " After my marriage, which takes place shortly. RoViort desires it to be soon ; and— txnd I think I wish it, too," she said with a faint Wush. "When does McTinny returnaskad Roe^e, stniliner. "Not until tD-morrow." "I ahill s«s him then, Mrs. Hilton, and we cm arrange everything. .\nd now I must Yon havn relieved ma of a gr«at responsibility, and have done a deed which is worthy of you." And thus they parted. CHAPTER VIII. EEECE MEADOWSEHE'S FALL. It was the evnning of the same day. The wind blmv in fitful gusts, and the mpht was dark, aud very cold ; but in Reeoe Meariow- K^re'e study a fire burnt brieht and cheerily. There was no other light, and the warm, fliekeriu? rnys of the fire wsro reflected upon theoM-faBhiop.ed furniture,and dancedmerrilv round the walls, which otherwise were dark in shadow. Riecs, himsslf, sat dozing in his favourite ehvr, and at Uin feet lay the mastiff Carlo, who was fallowing the example o f bis master. The scene was peaceful, and only the oeaseless ticking of the clock told of the march of relentless time. From without cam* t'nn sound of the trees, as they swayed ;u the viaa. wliinh at tiires fctraik theja as if in eudaen auger, then
whispered mournfully through the rustling leaves. But of this Reece heard nothing; he was in the land of dreams, and other sounds were in bis ears. But suddenly there came a gust of wind which whistled s'irilly about the roof, and then died away in a low moan. Carlo raised j his head and growled suddenly. " What is it, Carlo?" asked Reece, waking with a start. And Carlo answered by another growl, more determined than the first. Reece gripped the dog by the cellar and listened intently. At first he heard nothing ; but then followed a gentle tapping at tho low French windows, and Carlo, creaking loose, sprang across the room with a fierce bark. " Down, Carlo ! down !" cried Re6oe, following quickly; and the dog crouched at his feet as Meadowsere opened the windows and peered into the darkness. All was still save for the restless motion of the trees, and Raeoe saw nothing but the blackness of night. " W&o is there ?" he asked; but there was no answer. " I must have been mistaken," he muttered. "Come, Carlo ; we will finish our nan,"and he was about to close the windows when a low voioe from without startled him. "Are you alone, Reece ?"' it asked. Reeoe stood as though paralysed. Again he heard his came whispered, and he recovered himself a little. " Hilda !'* he echoed in astonishment. " Hush ! Is there any one with you ?" "Only Carlo," was the perplexed reply. But Carlo w&s already making friends with the strange visitor, whom it had at once reoognised. "Carlo is more friendly than you are, Reeoe. Do you mean to keep me standing out here in the cold ?" The question was asked with a nervous laugh, and Reece in the utmost bewilderment stepped aside eo that Hilda could enter the room. But she still stood motionless. " Don't you intend to come in ?" he asked. Without a word she brushed past him, and Reece mechanically closed the window, and turned to offer her a chair. " I must apologize for being withonb a lamp," be said, "but I told Margaret that I preferred sitting by the light of the fire. I will ring for her at once." "No! no !" He. turned to her, surprised; but ehe answered with a blush he could not see, "I prefer the firelight too, Reece." It did not sesm strange to him that she used his Christian name. He did not notice li; he was trying to understand why she had oome, but no thought of the impropriety of ber visit had as yet orossed his mind. He was puzzled by it, that was all, and his bewilderment betrayed itself in his manner. But a remark of Hilda's reoallod his scattered senses, and at once he became aware of the peculiarity of the position. "You are sorry I came," she said sadly. " You wish to get rid of me ?" Why should he be sorry to see her, he wondered ; and quickly oime the answer to his thoughts—"Becaube she was Stornhill's wife, and had done wronir in coming to his house." " Why—why have you come?" he asked hesitatingly. " Beoause I love you, Reece," was the answer. Reece trembled. "You—you must return home at once," he said with forced calmness. "No ! no I I cannot, Reece, I cannot, "was the breathless response. " You have ho right to be here ; it is wrong. What would your husband say if he were aware of it ?" "He will never know of it," eaid Hilda, eagerly. " He has gone out, aud I 6hall return before he does." " You must return now—at once;" and Reeoe adopted a decided tone he was very far from feeling. " Why did you come at all?" " I told you once," she answered with a sob. " beoause I love you. Reece! Reece! Why are you so cruel ?" Her words cut him to the heart, and he spoke with difficulty. " I am not cruel. It is for your good I tell you to go back ; and— and you must obey me." "No ! no ! not yet, Reece, not yet. Listen to me a moment."
Her voice was piteouely entreating, and Reece stood still and waited for what was to follow. " When you left me yesterday I was almost mad, and for a time I knew nothing. In the evening I went -to my mother's, and when she heard how—bow I had been deceived by my—my husband, she eaid sbe was very—very sorry, or something like that, Reece, and then she advised me to go back to him. Bnt I couldn't—I couldn't; and all nieht I stayed at my mother's house. This morning she began again, Reeoe, and reproached me—my own mother, reproached me, Reece—do you underetand? She said I was undutiful. and wished to make her life miserable. All the morning she s&id hard j miserable, Reece, that I wished to liedown and die. But aftf-r lunch—he cine, and—he talked to mn, and I returned to his house. After that he allowed me to eo to my own rooms and be alone. He eaid he would not trouble me. and we should never meet unless I liked. I am glad to rest aud be quiet, but a terrible longing came over me, Reece; a longing to see you ; to hear from your lips that you had not changed—that you still loved me. And, as the nieht came on, this .longing erew stronger than I could bear. Stephen and I had promised to attend a ball to-night, and I dressed to go with him, as though nothing had happened. But I remembered that you did not visit the people who were giving the ball; they are not my friends either, but—, but my husband's. Looking from tho window of my room I could see the lights in your house, Reece, and a desperate resolve occurred tome. I told Stephen thati—that I was ill, snd could not go with him, so he went alone ; and—and I have come to you R.ieo«, and you repulse me. Oh ! it is morn than I oan bear. Reece ! Reeoe! surely your love is not dead so early?" She had spoken hurriedly, and with suppressed emotion ; but these last words seemed forced from a breaking heart, and ended with a cry of great anguish. As she stretched out hsr arms entreatiugly the dark heavy cloak whioh had completely enveloped her figure fell to tbe floor, and, with the firelight falling upon her, she stood in all her loveliness. And why should he repulse her. Stephen Stornhill had robbed him of the woman he loved by a base, inhuman lie. Why should he not be made to suffer for it? He had never thought of others, why should others think of him? What was Stephen Stornhill but a common robber? He hac stolen a woman for his wife, but Reece was in possession of that woman's love, and she cried nut to him for tenderness and affection. Why should he withhold it? She was his, and bis alone. Meadowsereolenohed his teeth and breathed deeply. The temptation was terrible, but he fought desperately against it whilst the moments passed, and the ruddy glow of the firelight kissed the shapely neok and shoulders of the silens figure who stood with bated breath before him. And at length he spoke. "This is no place for you," he said harshly. "I will set my hat aud follow you until you have safely reached your husband's house. Go at once '." Hilda's hoad sank on her breast. " You need not come with me,"' she answered with a dreary hopeleBsnexs. "I would rather go alone. Ha '. ha'. What fools we women aro to trust a man. Good-bv. 1 will never trouble youagraiu." With uncertain footsteps she staggered towards tbe lowFreach windows, and there she paused a moment. " Good-by, Reeoe," ehe saii tenderly. "I gave you all the love I had, hut it is useless to you. You do not want it, though my love is all ray life to ice. It is hard—too hard ; but I will not blame you—no, I will not. Oh, my God ! how can I live without you ?" She turned from him with a low cob, and fumbled aimlessly at the windows, but th;y did nut open. "Hilda," oried Reeoe, and his voice was hoarse with pam and passion. Sho turned swiftly, And in a moment was sobbing upon his breast. Hsr soft, beautifully moulded arras were clinging about his neok ; h<sr wet cheek was prussod closely againsb his own. "You were cruel, Reece she murmured softly. "I could not help it, my darling," he whispsred. " I was afraid to le; you nee how much I loved you. And even now yo\i must not stay. Remember ycur husband." " H.*) is not my husband," was her reply, and her voice was low and sweet. "I belong to you now, Reece, and you—you are my husband, and I love you." And for answer he bent down his head, and their lips met in the kits which sealed their fate. CHAPTRR IX. IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT. For several hours cbey remained together, happily discussing the past, ths presonl, and the future, and heedless of the fiigtit of time. Once Margaret knocked at the dcor to know whether Rnece would com© to his supper ; but he oalled to her that he would not require her to wait upon him, and shortly after she had gone to her room. Then Reece had brought refreshments to his study, and he and Hilda took their supper together. No thought of the wickedness of thus remaining together obtruded itself upon them. Muadowsere, after his first fierce struggle with his baser nature, had given himself up to the enjoyment of the present. Hilda's preaocce iutaxio.ited him. and left no room for feelings of doubt as to the propriety of their thus staying together in the dead of night. It wss the future which would bring: these ; the time when he would be a'one—his thoughts calm and collected; when ha could look back upon the way in which tbey had oommitted themselves, with eyes which were cot blinded by "love and page>on. And what of Hilda? Did it never occur to her that she was compromising hers-It »ad the
man who oalled her wife ? No ; she saw none of these things. She was a woman whose love was her all. Meadowsere was more to her than all the world beside. More to ber than life; mote to her than honour. So long; aj he was faithful to ber; eo long as he wished to have her with him, and returned her passion, she would be his, though disgrace and sooial ruin were her portion. Aud during the time that they spent together these two had planned out their future. Reece was leaving for England in about a fortnight, and Hilda was at onoe to plead illness and go awev for a change. Stornhill would offer no objection to this, she thought. It might prove of advantage to both of them to be parted for a littlo while at this particular juncture. It would give them time to become used to tho new order of things whioh must exiEt between them. This much accomplished, it was Hilda's inteption to proceed at tbe last moment to Adelaide, and there join Reece on board the mail boat bound for England. Their subsequent movements would, of coure. partly depend upon what action Stephen Stornhill should see tit to take in the matter. But aB Hilda eaid, "There is plenty of time to think of that ^when our flight is an accomplished fact. This, then, was the plan which Hilda herself had conceived and lieeco had consented to. But it was a plan which was fated never to be put into execution. Presently Meadowsere, with some anxiety, again drew attention to ths latenesB of the hour. "There is no tin: e to be loBt, Hilda; you mu<t go at once." " I wish I could stay here always, Reece," said Hilda, with a deep sigh. "So do I,"answered Reece,cordially. "But you cannot. Come, my love ! Let me put on your cloak for you, and then we must be going." He picked up the cloak from the floor and wrapped it closely about her, but again they lingered ur.til at length Hilda remarked— "And now I really must go, Reeoe. I hate the thought of going back to his house ; but—hut I suppose it can't be helped." " It is only for a little while, my darling— remember that. And cow—no more risky meetings, mind. We eh all see one another several times before ycu go away, and' without any danger whatever : so we must be content, although we shall hardly i&eeb alone. Now, are you ready ?" " How far are you coming, Reece?" "To the side gate," be answered. "How fortunate the house ia so near. I can watch you until you get eafely home. You are not frightened, dear?" " Not a bit," she eaid bravely. " I was careful before I came out to leave everything favourable for my return." Reece led her 6afely to the window, which she quickly opened, and with noiseless steps they passed out on to the verandah. "There ire only three steps. Now—onetwo—three. That's all right," said Reece as he assisted her from the verandah to the garden path. "&U8h !" exolaimed Hilda in a whisper. "Did you hear anything?" "No," answered Reeoe in the same low tone, " You are nervous. Come !" But Hilda Btood motionless. "Oan't you smell the smoke of a cigar, Reeoe?" and she trembled a little. Reece did notice it, and remained silent. "Your sense of smell is aoute; I congratulate you," came in a mocking tone from the dark shadow of a tall shrub. "It iB Stephen—my husband '"and with a ory Hilda olung to Reece as though for protection. " Yes, it is Stephen—your husband though you appear to have ignored the existence of suoh an appendage," said Stornhill, coming forward. At that moment Reece Meadowsere realized the greatness of the wrong- he had t«sn g'-ilty of, and no words oame from his l:ps. He was crushed, humiliated, and degraded. He did not blame Hilda, bnt only himself ; and he did cot seek excuses to aot as a salve to his conscience. He forgot even that Stornhill had blasted his life's hopes; he saw himself only as a common libertine who had not even considered what was due to another man's wife.
" And you are the man who sets up eo high a standard of morality," Stornhill said tauntingly ; and Reece oould not reply. "I suppose this is a regular praotioa of yours," oontinued St irnbill. But still Reece did not answer, and Hilda whispered softly— "Speak, Reece '. why don't yon speak ?" "Yes; why don't you speak?" echoed Stornhill jeeringly, as he tossed the stump of his cigar on to the lawn. But even now Reece was silent: and save the of-aseless murmuring of the trees no other sound was heard. Stephen Stornhill, despite the sneering tone be had adopted, was suffering acutely. He disliked his wife; he had never been faithful to her, and yet the fear that she also was juiJtv almost maddened him- _Xt__ip.jj.se whereas he regards unfaitbfulnes in his wife asa deadly sin heis olten notatail particular about his own code of mora's. Therefore Stornhill, although regardless of bis own moral obligations, considered that his name had been dishonoured, and that be bad been wronged in a manner past all forgivenness. A murderous feeling surged into his heart, and he knew that if for one moment he lost hit self-control the woman who was his wife would be lying senseless at his feet, and he would be engaged in a deadly straggle with her cimpanion. It says much for Stornhill's strength of mind that, even though torn by demons of rage, bs.to, and jealousy, he wai able to eontrol himself. "I suppose." he said, breaking the silptce, "you are surprised to see mo: and not agreeably surprised either I should imagine. It must have been Providence that brought me here to-night," and he laughed mockingly. "I oame home earlier than you expected, eh?" "You did,"answered Hilda, faoing him. She was quickly rfcovering herself, and, not being overcome by any sense of shame, she felt no fear so long as Meadowsere was with ber. " And you are not ashamed to admit i« ? I see : vou are past that." " No ; I am not ashamed to admit it, nor of being where you find me. There is only one thing of being ashamed of, Stephen Stornhill, and that is of being'yonr wife." "You do well to say that,"he exclaimed passionately, "considering that you have disgraoad me." Hilda laughed. "Disgraced you! That would be impossible. And even if I had done so wonld ill not be your own fault? You know I never loved you. You knew it when you married me, and you committed a crime to win me, though knowing that my heart was in another's keeping. What right have you, then, to talk of disgrace?" "Hush, Hilda, hush!" said Reece, gently, and she nut her hand in his and grew silent. Stornhill also, as he heard Meadowhsre's voioe, reoovered his Belf-command. He was not going to expose the depth of his wound to the sight of his greatest enemy. At all costs he must appear indifferent till the time came when ho could avenge his wrong. "It is clear to m<\" eaid Reece with quiet dignity, "that Hilca does not wish to excuse ttprcnlf for the position in which you have found her. Nor have I anything to ssv save that the fault in mine, and that it is without extenuation. To apologize would be but to insult yon. Fortunately the law has provided a remedy for such case-, and there is one cor.rse open to von. You may rest assured that neither Hilda "nor 1 will offer any defence, so that you will experience no difficulty in securing a divoroe. After that 1 promise you we shall not oross your path again." " And do you think this will satisfy me?'' asked Stornhill with contempt. "It must," answered Meadowsere, ooldly. "The law can give you no other satisfaction ; and a9 for any scheme of revenge ycu may choose to plan, well—I am a man, and it is my own fault if I am not able to take oare of myself." Meadowsere would not have spoken thus if he had not bean acquainted with Stornhill's iharaeter, and felt that it would be well to show him that he was quite prepared to defend himself if Slornhlll should Ettempt to seek any other reparation than that which the law provided. "Supnone I secure a divoroe, what will follow then?" askfld Stornhill. "Rilda and I v.-ill be married, and will leave t-.hr» coionv," was M>adowsereV- answer; t-nd Hilda, creeping closer to him, said, as she turned hor face Cowards her husband— " I have not treated you well, Stephen, I know, but I no'ild not help myself. My love was too strong for me. Why you married mn T cannot t»H, but it was not because you cared form" 1 : nor did I ever care for you, so chat we are bi>st apart. Our marriage was a great mifi f «ke ; wr- have never been happy together, anrl I think we both vvi»h to he free. Do what if neosearr. Stephen, and do it quickly. Then let u« all begin life afresh and forget the As Riece says, we will not oross youi path Again." ^tornlull did not speak. He felt that hi* wife's words were true. H« wi«hed to get rid of her; she had sinned againnt him, and he oould never retard her is his wife again. Yea surely this would be the best way ; and then, again, there was that other woman — the vroman he loved. Perhaps he would find h«r yet, aud if he were but lr»e better dayn might bn in store for him. Yes, he would take a-Jvsnt.iee of the conrse open to him. Well would it have been for St phen Stornhill if he had acted thu»- But another thought obtruded itBolf apon hun. If Hilda were set free she would become Meadowsere's wife, and the happiness of these two would be a«qnred. They'.o^ed each other, and Stornhill would simply h« playing into the hand? >f his or.emr. When far away thuv oonid nff.->rj to luUKh at aim, and he would bo belplesu. He
only pnmih &un ID one way»talcing UUdftbadkM^it wife and frustrating their n o P®«- So graft waa his hatred of Meadow - •en that he decided to adopt this course. 'I* would be very pleasant, no doubt," he * , » «neer, " to make a home for youraelvu in another country, but I am afraid that youmust do that alone, Meadowaere. I have no intention of taking any action in thiB matter at present. Same day perhaps we shall be quits." " What does he mean ? What does he mean. Reece?" whispered Hilda hoarsely, as she olung to bis arui. "It means," answered Stornhill, before Reecs oould reply, "that your devoted husband has forgiven you, Hilda," and he bowed low in mockery. " You thought me so base that you never expected so great a sacrifice from me, did you?" "Ton want me to go back and live with yon?" she gasped. "That ie it—exactly." " Then I shall notDo vou hear me? I •hall not!" Her eyes flashed fire, and she turned upon him fiercely. " Gently ! Gently, my dear ! It is for me •» •ay whether yon shall or shall not. You° ought to go down on your knees and thack me for being so indulgent." Stornhill was becoming master of the situation, and knew it. There was a demoniacal smile upon his face, which, fortunately for the others, was not visible in the darkness. They felt that their looked-for happiness was slipping away from them, and hud they but seen this sneering emile they would have known how useless it was to struggle against a man devoid alike of heart and conscience. Meadowsere grew pale and felt his lips quiver. " Ton know, Stornhill, that yen are wrecking your wife's life by this so-called sacrifice of your*. Surely you cannot intend to do this? " I am lenient above most men," Stornhill said, "and I am accused of attempting to wreck my wife's life. What a reward, indeed !" Hilda had given way and was sobbing on Meadowsere'a shoulder; but at these words she raised her head. "Ton are not lenient; you know that I would sooner die than live 'with you. I do not want your forgiveness; I wish to be free." Stornhill shrugged his shoulders. "So that jon can marry some one else. Very nice indeed ! But we had better go home, my dear. When you havequite finished your cry, say so; and I shall be happy to escort you." "Stephen Stornhill! do yon mean to keep this woman who loves me more than honour tied to you for life?" demanded Meadowaere. "I do most certainly," he answered. "Then you do so at your risk, remember that." Stornhill laughed. " You threaten me? It comes well from you." Meadowsere did not reply to him, but whispered softly to Hilda:— " You must go with him, my darling. lean do nothing yet." "Noi no!"she exolaimed aloud. "I will not go with him." "I am afraid you mnst," observed Stornhill. blandly. "No. no! you will not let him touch me, Reeoe 1'" she cried in distress. "Reece cannot help it," Scorthill aaid, mockingly. / "He is your husband, Hilda, and I am powerleu," said Reece, gently. "Do not lose hope. We must wait a little longer," he managed to whisper hurriedly eo that Stornhill did not bear. "Go with him as though all were made right, and we shall sucoeed yet." "I will," she answered, and turned to her husband. " I am ready, Stephen." "You are, are yon?" he answered, surprised, and be looked at her oritioally; but the night was dark and he saw nothing but the outline of berforin. "You had better take my arm," be suggested. She did so without a word, and they went home. "Now," said Stornhill as they entered their own house, "Go to your room, and I will follow immediately." "*My apartments are my own," she answered, coldly. "We shall see. Do as I tell you, and in the morning pack up whatever things you want, for in the afternoon we start for Dingo Station." "You will never persnade me to leave Melbourne in your company," and she met his gaze unflinchingly. " You will go, even if I have to drag you by the hair," was his brutal answer. "Go to your rood, I tell you." Without looking as her husband she quietly and deliberately ascended the etairoase and passed from his view.