|Chapter Number||2. XI|
|Chapter Title||HOW THE NEWS CAME TO MEADOWSERE.|
|Newspaper Title||Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912)|
|Trove Title||Whatsoever a Man Soweth|
WHATS0EEVR A MAN S0WETH.
BOOK II. — THE RIPENING OE CROP. THE CHAPTER xr. HOW THE NEWS CA1IE TO 31EADOWSEEE,
Late one afternoon Reeca Maadowsere, looking wretchedly ill and worn, was ushered into Mrs. Silvermede'e drawing-room. Sinoe that night when Hilda had visited him in his study he had rested little and suffered much. Naturally proud, sensitive, and honourable, the knowledge of his own pitiful weakness occasioned him the keenest remorse. He despised himself; and experienced a sense of inward loathing when he thought of his conduct. Yet his determination to carry out the ssheme which Hilda had proposed was as strong as ever. He felt that having gone so far he could not draw baok. Hilda depended upon him ; her whole life was bound up in his, and he could not forsake her. He had at first clung to the hope that Stornhill would be willing to divorce his wife; but when a note oame from Hilda conveying the information of her enforced departure for Dingo Hall his heart sank within him. He could only wait for what was to follow, and this he did with a growing sense of his own helplessness. He feared that Hilda might not be able to join him at Largs Bay, yet he could do nothing to aid her in her project He could not even reply to her letter leat Stornhill should beoome acquainted with her intentions. Still, he felt assured that she would understand the meaning of his silenca. Her faith in bim was too deeply rooted to be easily destroyed, and that she would go with him to England if by any means she could effect her escape from her husband he did not douot for m a moment. But was it likely that Stornhill oould be outwitted? Time would show; and o in any case Reece was resolved that he would c not leave the colonies unless H'lda acoompanied him, even though he did not for a moment lose sight of the faot that the step he n contemplated taking would, if brought to a successful issue, be the means of thrusting him for ever without the pale of society. He had given his word of honour that he would devote his life to Hilda's happiness, and so long as this oould only be assured by the means ehe proposed he was content that it ehould be eo. It was chiefly in the hops of dispelling for a time his gloomy thoughts that Fleece now paid this visit to Mrs. Silvermede. She was, however, out when he arrived, but as Miss Silvermede was at borne he deoided to remain and see her. " We have not seen you for some time, Reece," Ethel said as she shook hands. " It is not long sinoe the ball; only a few days," he answered. "I thought it was longer;" and Miss Silvermade turned her attention to a vase of flowers whioh stood on the table. "You are not looking well,"she said suddenlv. " There is nothing wrong, I hope ?" "Oh.no!" " I thought you appeared worried." Reece was silent. " I expect mamma will be in very shortly now. She left here soon after luncheon to make a number of calls." " How is it that you remained at home? A drive on an afternoon like this would have done you good." "I lon't care much for driving," answered Ethel absently. Reece glanoed at her sharply. He remembered that Mrs. Silvermede had expressed her anxiety only a few days ago concerning her daughter's health. She bad told him that Ethel took no interest in anything; that her spirits seemed to have forsaken her, and that her strength was visibly failing. Reece had not taken mcoh notice of her remarks at the time ; he had been preoccupied, and had indeed hardly heard what she eaid. Now, however, he reoalled the conversation, and also a laughing observation be bad overheard in the ballroom, to tbe effect that Miss SUverciede was breaking her heart over a man who was indifferentfco her. Could this be true? he wondered. Certainly she was looking pale and listless ; not at all like the merry girl he knew so well. "Is anything troubling you, Ethel?" he asked. " Why do you ask that ?" she said, trying to speak lightly. But Reeoe noticed that her voice trembled a little, and crossing the room he placed his hand on the back of her ohair and looked down upon her. " Your mother spoke to me about you the other day, Ethel." Miss Silvermede started, and her pale cheek flashed crimson. " What—what did she say?" She appeared anxious about you, and talked of taking you away for a while. She is afraid that you are ill." " What nonsense!" "I don't think eo How is it that you have changed so muoh lately, Ethel?" " I have not changed. It is only your imagination." " No—it is not. You and I were children together. You used to oall me your big brother, and in my eyes you were my little sister. Wofii I grew to manhood you were still a liirl, and ia a sense you regarded me as your prjuctor. I was proud of the position, but now you are drifting away from me. It is only natural, perhaps, now that you are a woman; and yet, Eshel, why should we not be brother and sister still ? If I oan help yon 1 should be glad. It pains me to see you changing; but until to-day I never realized bow much you have changed. Are you ill, Ethel ?" "ISo! no'. Reece; do not ask me. It is nothing." s " That is not true. I do not wish you to conSde in me; that would be too much to expect. But there is something on your mind, Ethel, and I do ask you to take your trouble to your mother. She is the best comforter you can have, aud you are not treating her fairly." "Leaveme, Reepe ! L^ave me !" cried Ethel in distress. " What right have you to epeak like this ?" "The rightof an old friend ; the right of one who wishes to se9 you as you used to be. Won't you promise what I ask, Ethel?" He bent down and iooked into her face, but Ethel, after one timid upward glance, burst into tears and turned from him. And in that moment Reeoe Meadowsere learnt her eecret. He realized that she loved him, and that he did not return her love in the same way. She watj suffering, an 3 he was powerless to comfort her. He stood silent; but a great wave of pity surged into bis heart. If he bad only known a week ago he might perhaps have asked her to ba his wife, and it would have been well for both of them. But now ; now that he had done what be bad done, this could not be. Was he to blame that she loved him? he wondered. But no; he knew that this was njt so. He had never acted towards her as a lover; she could not have misunderstood him, be was sure of it. But this was sorry oomfort, and as be saw the fair head bowed with shame, a great longing came over him to spsak some words of comfort; but he could not. it was only left to him to try and make her realize the folly of her passion and to impress upon her mind the neoessity of overcoming an infatuation for a man who was not worthy of her. S h o e s b a m B a h p t b i "Ethel,"he said tenderly, "I am grieved that this should have happened; but it is better perhaps that I should know of your weakness, for it is a weakness to care for me. and as such you muat overcome it, I am not what you think me to be. If you bad known me as I am this would never have happened. Forget me altogether if you can ; but if not then think of me as your brother, for my regard for you is as a brother's should be for his sister. There are many men iu the world better than I and better fitted to make you happy. But I can say DO more, Ethel, save that a brother's love aud devotion are yours. More I cannot give you, and it is but right that I should tell you this, though it wrings my heart to do so." '•'How you mast despise me, Reece," said Ethel, in a low voice. " Despise you! I honour and respect you, and I know that all will yet be well with you. You are not the woman to Oe crushed by indulging in a passion for a worthless object such as I." "You must not say that, Reece," and Ethel looked up at him in distress. Reece smiled a little bitterly. " Verv well," be said; "but you must promise me to conquer this unhappy weakness oi yours." "I have tried," she answered, simply. " Taen keep on trying," exclaimed Reeoe with great earnestness. "It will all come easy in time, Ethel. Promise me to do this, not only for your sake, but for mine." "For yours, Roece?" and she raised her eyes wond- ringlv. "Yes; don't you understand how it will pain me OJ see you »» ting your -.ffiction on an unworthy object and losing your health and spirits at the same time? G'> into society, ivhel ; forget what has happened, aud becuinu the merry Kthel cf the days when we were buy and girl togeuher." " I cannot be as I was then," said Ethel, with a sad smiie; "but I promise to do my best." "You are a brave girl, ana need have no fear of the future." "But you, Reece—you will still be my frieud ?" She glanced at him shyly, and Reece answered— " 1 am your brother until you want me no longer." " That will never be, Reece." Without speaking he bent down and kissed her forehead reverently; and Ethel, pressing his hand, stole away and left the room. A smile, wistful, sad, and yet bitter, crossed Meadowsere's face. " What will ehe think of me in a few weeks' time?" he said to himself. " What would she think of me now if ehe knew all?" a h i m g r c R S S s s h t c R h c b p t h o b unoqatlwiSahhwww o f h o ecl e
No answer came to his thoughts, and picking up bis hat, which had fallen to the floor, he turned to quit the bouse. He did not think it strange that Ethel had left him so suddenly without a word of explanation. It was but natural that she should wish to be alone, and Reece was used to being treated almost as one of the family, so he found his way to the hall door unaccompanied. Here, however, he met Mrs. Silvermede, who was inst entering, and they exchanged greetings. " I never expected to see you, Beece. Are yon just leaving?" _ " Yes, I have been hare some time. But what has nappened, Mrs. Silvermede ?" He might well have asked that. As a rule it took a good deal to upset Mrs. Silvermede s equanimity, but to-day she looked pale and agitated. She spoke hurriedly, and as it seemed to Reece with some restraint. " You have not seen this evening s paper, 1 suppose ?" she asked. "No," answered Reeoe, with some surprise. " Is there anything Btartling in it ?" Mrs. Silvermede paused a moment betore replying. Then she said abruptly— "Come into the drawing-room, Reeoe. He followed her with some curiosity. " I do not know whether Mrs. Stornhill is anything to you now ; but, whether you have got over your old affection for her or not, you must learn what has nappened before long, and it is just as well that you should do eo at onoe. Read this, Reeoe." She handed him the Kerala. and pointed to a column headed in large type—"Terrible Tragedy in South Australia. Suicide of a well-known Society Beauty." Meadowsere felt his blood run cold, but mechanically be read on. "The township of Hallowton has been plunged into intense excitement by tbe terribly tragic death of Mrs. Stephen Stornhill. the wife of Stephen Stornhill, Esq., of Dingo Hall. It appear* that Mr. Stornhill returned home from a ride yesterday evening, to be et by the news of his wife's sudden illness. He at onoe went to her, finding her in an unonsoious state, from which, however, he suceeded in rousing her. Shortly afterwards a loud cry for help was heard, and the servants, rushing into the room, found their mistress dead upon the floor. Mr. Stornhill was owhere to be seen. It transpired later that he had gone off in great haste for the doctor. The whole affair is shrouded in mystery, but an inquest will be held this morning, when it is expected that some light will be thrown upon the sad tragedy. Mrs. tornhill only arrived at Dingo Hall with er husband a few days ago. She was a lady f exceptional beauty, and was highly steemed in Melbourne on aocount of her ocial qualities." The pa par dropped from Meadowsere's and ; the room semed to be whirling ronnd nd round, and he staggered like a drunken an. Mrs. Silvermede hastily brought him ome brandy, whioh he swallowed eagerly, a nd it steadied his nerves. "It oan't be true," e muttered in a hoarse tone. " These papers rint anything—they are full of lies: it is their rade to gull the public. To-morrow it will A eoontradioted—but—but how horrible it all s." A He sank down in a chair with a deep groan, nd hi« face twitched oonvulsively. Ethel ad returned to the room, and rushed to bim I n an agony of fear, but Mrs. Silvermede F otioned her away. " Reece,"she said gently; " You must not A ive way like this. It is very terrible ; but emember she was nothing to you, and never A ould be. Come; bear up like a man, eeoe." Y "I—I am better. I will go home, Mrs. ilvermede." A "Not until you have rested." and Mrs. ilvermede pushed him firmly back into his U eat. A " I do not want to rest; I am not tired," he aid, almost angrily. "Perhaps not; bnt you are not fit to go I ome yet. Wait a little while, Reece." He pioked up the paper and stared at the R elegram in a dazed, puzzled manner, whioh ut Mrs. Silvermede to the heart. W "You had better not read it again, O eeoe," she said; "leave it until you reach ome." "There is something else here," he exlaimed I ; "a later telegram." A " Yes. there is an account of the inqueBt; nt never mind that now." A " Read it 1" demanded Reese, thrusting the aper into her hands. " Read it out aloud; T he letters all seem to dance before my eyes." Mrs. Silvermede thought it best to humour F im, and in a olear voioe ehe read the report f the inquest. W " An inquest was held this morning on the ody of Mrs. Stephen Stornhill, whose death, W nder tragio oiroumstanceB, occurred last ight. John Lepton, a servant in the employ A f Mr. Stornhill, said that on the evening in uestion he was in the kitchen when he heard Y strange sound, whioh seemed to oome from he dining-room. It resembled a screaming T augh, and, with several other servants, he ent to the room, where be found bis mistress T n ensible. At once went in search of Mr. H tornhill, whom he met in the hall, and then ccompanied to the diuing-room. Mr. Stornill plaoed his wife on the 3ofa, and directed Y im (Lapton) to pour out a glass of wine, hioh he did, and this Mr. Stornhill got his I ife to drink. She seemed to recover somehat, and, with the other servants, he was I rdered to leave the room. Shortly afterwards a cry for help was heard, and he retufned, B to find his mistress dead upon the loor. He saw nothing of Mr. Stornhill until ' e returned with Dr. Arthur. Several of the ther servants gave evidenoe to the tame ffect. Stephen Stornhill, husband of tbe deeased, said that he left hiB wife shortly after 1 M uncheon; she then appeared in her usual F health. Witness then went on to give videnoe which ooinoided with that of Lepton's. He explained that he dismissed the ervants from the room thinking that their presence might injuriously affect his wife, who was recovering consciousness. After that his wife sat up, and appeared to be regaining her strength. She took hie arm and they strolled about the room. He questioned her concerning her illness, but she returned evasive answers. Suddenly, without warning, ehe was seized with a fit of shuddering, and sank to the floor. He lifted her up, D intending to place her on the couch, but she R was in great pain and begged to remain where she was. She went into convulsions, and oonfessed to him thatshe taken poison. Horrified, and not knowing what he did, he cried for help, saddled a horse, and rode for the dootor. In answer to a question as to whether he had not previously sent a servant on the same errand he said "Yes," but at the moment he had forgotten this, and thought only of saving the life of his wife. Dr. Arthur, duly qualified medical practitioner, stated that on the evening of the tragedy he was about to visit a patient, when a servant from Dingo Hall arrived with a message requesting bim to go at once to the H«M, as Mrs. Stornhill was seriously ill. Started without delay, being met almost immediately by Mr. Stornhill, who appeared terribly agitated. Mr. Stornhill gave his horse to the servaut, and drove back with him. Explained that his wife had taken poison. On arrival at the Hall found Mrs. Stornhill dead. She had been dead about forty minutes. She held a glass phial tightly clenched in her hand. ThiB had contained poison, and must have been in her possession before death. Could not have been plaaed in her hand after, at least he thought not. Ueoeased evidently died in great agony, and it seemed as though her grip of the phial had tightened as the end drew near. Had examined the body. It was that of a healthy woman. Found traoes of poison in the stomach; the poison used was tbe Bame as had been contained in the phial, and death was due to its influence. Amelia Seltrim, a maid in the employ of the deceased, eaid that on the afternoon of tbe previous day Bhe had gone to Mrs. Stornhill's bedroom with some linen. Thinking her mistress to be downstairs she entered without knocking. Mrs. Stornhill stood near the dressing table, on which was a case surrounded by a number of bottles. Had particularly noticed one of peculiar shape, which she recogni»ed as <he one produced at the inquest. Mrs. Stornhill had grown very angry, and threatened to dismiss her for entering the room without knocking. That was the last ehe saw of her mistress alive. Dr. Arthur wished to mention that he had examined the oase referred to. It contained drugs of many kinds, amongst them being several poisons of a deadly nature. There was nothing to show whence they had been procured. Stephen Stornhill, recalled, and questioned aB to whether his wife had assigned any reason for committing the act, or whether he him«elf oould throw any light on the affair, said—' No. He remembered his wife saying in her agony that " death is better than dishonour." Did not understand what she meant; though* that pain had turned her brain. His wife was naturally passionate ; but was certain that insanity did not exist in her family.' This closed the evidence. A verdict of nuioide was returned but there was no evidence to show whv the act had been committed. Great svmpathy is felt for Mr. Stornhill. who had onlv been married about eia-hf; months. He is Buffering great mental distress, and fears are entertained for nis reason. The funeral takes place this afternoon." The words, "deith is better thnn dishonour." whioh Stornhill falsely represented his wife as having spoken before her death, were not invented by him without a reason. He had formed a very fair estimate of Meadowsere's character, and considered it likely that Reece, in reading the report of the inquest, would conclude thst Hilda had raoopniaed the disgrace whioh mitrht probably fall upon her, and had in oonsequenoe of this put an end to her life. Therefore Reece, being the man he was, would consider himself indirectly guilty of Hilda's death. Nor was Stornhill mistaken; for as Mrs. Silvermede read out what were supposed to be Mrs. Stornhill's last words on earth Meadowsera turned ashen pale, and his eyes seemed almost to protrude from their sockets. He clasped and unclasped his hands in a strange, uncertain way, and his colourless lipB moved Bilentlv and unconsciously. " Death is better
than dishonour,"he repeated over and over again in his mind, ana the words seemed written everywhere about the room ; he could not escape them. They burnt like fire into his brain, and an agony of remorse seized him. The perspiration rolled down his face, and he panted for breath as though he had been running a raoe. His indiscretion and its terrible consequences appeared clear to him, so wonderfully olear that he saw the stain of murder upon his soul. /The blood of the woman he loved was upon bis head. It was vain to try and argue the matter; he could think of nothing save this one thing, "Hilda's sad end and its cause." "Reeoe,"exclaimed Mrs. Silvermede, bub he did not speak. With wild eyes he staggered to his feet and a cry of anguish rose to his lips. "Reece! What is it? Why don't yoa speak ?" exclaimed Airs. Silvermede, terrified. His wandering senses oame back for a moment. " I am going home,"he muttered. "Good-by, Mrs. Silvermede; I am going home." '' You cannot, Reeoe; it is impossible, Yoa must remain here for a time." "I tell you I am going home,"ha said, obstinately. But Mrs. Silvermede'e wise oouawlg prevailed, and Reece was induced to remain a little longer. Gradually he grew calm, and seeing Ethel at the end of tbe room trying va<nly to control her emotion he smiled at her reassuringly, though sadly. "I am afraid I frightened you, he eaid, " but I am better now. If you will excuse me, Mrs. Silvermede, I think it will be betUr for me to take my leave." "One moment, Reeoe. I will order the carriage for you." It was in vain that he protested; Mrs. Silvermede was determined to have her way, and Reece was secretly glad that aha took tho c iuree that she did. Before leaving he thanked her for her kindness, and asked to be allowed to take the paper with him. " It would save him baying one," be said, witb a wan smile. As he was driven rapidly homewards he grew more and more oonfused, but when at length he stood again in the study whioh bad been a silent witness of hia downfall the realization of all that had taken plaoe returned with added foroe. He lived over again these moments be bad passed in Mrs. Silvermede'e drawing-room, and, weakened aa he was by remorse and horror, he soon lay uneoasoious of all things, and ere the niRht closed in be tossed to and fro in a state of delirium. END OF BOOS II.