|Chapter Number||3. V|
|Newspaper Title||Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912)|
|Trove Title||Whatsoever a Man Soweth|
WHATSOEVER A MAN SOWETH.
BOOK III. — THE REAPING OF THE HAKViiSr. CHAPTER V. RETRIBUTION.
Let us now look back, and see what the years had brought to Stephen Storahill. The crime of which he had been guilty had not been brought to light, nor was it likely that it ever would be. Before the inquest had taken place there had been some who wondered that a man oould leave bis wife in the agony of death as Stephen Storahill had done. Storuhill himself did not know how happened, but a moment of horror and fear had crept upon him, and when again hiB thinking faculties were restored to him he found himself at some distanoe from the heuse. Then it was that he saw the foolishness of his flight, and the unfavourable construction that might possibly be plaoed upon it. But he was a man prompt to think and act when necessity arose, and, rushing to the stables, he procured a horse, and, as we have seen, rode madly in search of Dr. Arthur. The picture of the distracted husband, driven to the verge of insanity by his wile's oonfession of at tempted suicide, and in his grief rushing from her side, conscious only of the immediate necessity for obtaining means whereby to save the iiie of her he loved, was, in the eyes of the Jury, deeply affecting. Their sympathies were aroused, and the inquest rendered aa short as possible. No suspicion attached to Stornhill; and, as time rolled on, the tragedy oeased to be discussed. The good people of Hallowton had found some other topio wherewith to occupy their thoughts and tongues. b'tse from the fear of detection, and rid of a wife who was making his life a hell, Stephen Stornhill went back into the world with a light heart, though an appropriately woful face. He was tormented by no feelings of remorse, such as had rendered Reece Meadowsere'a life almost unbearable; and the very crime of which he was guilty seemed to him an aoc of justioe. If it had not been for a mere accident, he himself might now have been lying dead and buried, whilst Hilda was married to the man who had wronged him. Providence had interfered to prevent so glaring an infringement of its laws, and he had bus to feel grateful for its intervention. The resulting circumstances were undoubtedly painful, but it was
simply a onoioe between murdering bis wife or being himself murdered by her; and it had occurred to bitn that of the two his wife was the one best fitted to seek a place in that better and purer world of whioh he had heard something when a obild. This, then, was the light in whioh Stephen Stornhill regarded his crime, and the recollection of it appeared to afford him a certain amount of s&rdonio pleasure, as did also his own peculiar method of reasoning upon it. His coQsoieaoe—if, indeed, he ever possessed eueh a thing—oaused him no uneasiness, and for a time no shadow of his future retribution was cast aoross his path. Upon Mrs. Remersque the terribly tragio death of her daughter fell with a heavy blow. In her own worldly way she had been 'ond and proud of the brilliant, handsome creature who hadcalied bar "mother,"andsheblamed herself for having promoted a marriage whioh had ended so fatally. Yet, mingled with her grief and horror, there was still the thought. "What will people say? What stories "will my friends invent to account for Hilda's action ?'' Whether it was that she feared the tongue of soandal would soon be busy with her name, as she had often busied herself with the names of others, we cannot say; but before many weeks had passed she left the city, and, seeking a quiet country town where her name was unknown, she remained there until her body had gone the way of all flesh. How her time was spant it is not for us to enquire. She may have bscome a different woman or she may cot. It is possible that morning and night bheprayed, "In the time of our trial and tribulation, oh, God, preserve us from our iriendsor it is also possible that she never prayed at all. So far as we are oonoerned it matters little; for us her life is ended. Stephen Stornhill parted from his motherin-law shortly after the funeral of his wife, and never saw hor again. Airs. Rameraque was not a woman for whom he had any great regard, and having made over to her a portion of theinoome that had previously been settled upon Hilda, he considered that his duty with regard to her was finished. Besides, she reminded him unpleasantly of his wife, and the farther their paths lay asunder the better be was pleased. Mrs. Kemeivque, too, w&e quite satisfied with the arrangements which had been made for her comfort, and oared very little about continuing on intimate terms with her son-in-law. She had no other daughters for whom to find suitable husbands, and beyond the mere faot of his wealth Stornhill had never possessed any attractions lor her, so not being able to marry him herself she felt no interest in his future movements. This was doubtless very agreeable (or both parties, sod tbav parted from eauh other on the best of terms, but wichou - the slightest regret. His freedom now an accomplished fact, Stornhill's first determination was co find the woman who, according co hit> own confession, had wou his heart. When, he told his wife that hs loved Grace Arkoyd he t-poke the truth; although perhaps his idea of love differed materially from hers. Bat it was nevertheless certain that some strong, strange passion, the meaning of whioh he perhaps hardly understood himself, bad taken full possession of his very being; and Grace Arkoyd waB the one who had inspired this passion. Robert MuTinny had been correct in surmising chat S&orntnU'e frequent visits to the slums of the oity had been made in the hope of disoovering some trace of the originalof the photo be carried about with hitn. But Stornhill's search had hitherto been conducted in an altogether desultory manner, and after his marriage it almost entirely ceased. Kow, however, he set to work with renewed vigour to find Grace Arkoyd, and to make her his wife was the one burning wish of his existence ; and no trouble was too great nor e^pente too heavy that promised to lead to the desired end. He explained to the head of the
detective office some of the facte whioh had resulted in uer disappearance. He offered a large reward for her disoovery or for news of her possible fata, and left no stone unturned in his efforts to accomplish tbe object he had in view. He even advertised in the papers in a manner which he knew Grace would fully understand should the advertisement chance to catch her eye, and copies of the photo he possessed were distributed for the convenience of the police. Yet in all that was done the utmost secrecy was commanded, so that beyond those interested in the search the very fact of Grace Arkoyd's strange disappearance was unknown. But dt-epheu Stornhill was too late. He learned what he had known before, that Grace had left Hallowtoa at night by the Melbourne express. No one had taken notice of her departure, as tbe Michaelmas holidays had commenced ; but the only ticket issued irom the station that night had been one to Ballarat. Whether she had left the train on arriving there is WJS iinp-j3;ibla to discover after so lone a period had elapsed, and at this point ended tbe results of EjtornbiU's search. Not a step further did he get. Tue weeks, the months, and the yoars went by, yes she fate of Grace Arkoyd remained shrouded in a cloud of imnenitrable mystery. It seemed to otornhill as though the earth had sv/^ilowed her up, so completely had alltraceof her vanished. Occasionally w : at promised to prove a clue was diecov red ; but invariably the result was failure. Wouieu had been found who in appearance bore either a real or in the eyes of the police a fancied resembl&ucd to Grace; but the where&bouua of Che real Grace remained a9 grei.t a problem as before. By-and-by, as Time passed on, the police delisted from their efforts. It was useless to expect sucoees when they had nothing but a woman's plioto to go upon. She might have left she colony ; indeed it wa^ very probable that she bad dune so. Or, if not, her home might be in some out-of-the-way place, where discovery was impossible. Besides, as women preiv older they changed in appearance ; and the photo given to them had been taken years before. What then was the use of continuing a search which, even if it proved suocessful, would gain tihevn but little credit. Grace was not a notorious oriminal; f-ho was a mere nobody so far as tbe police could make out; and if it had not been for the toward offered they would have felt but little interest in the task assigned them. But Stephan Stornhill hoped on. With feverish ha-te he travelled from one colony to another, visiting township after township in additicn to the cities, in the expectation of meetin? with th9 girl hqlcved. Knowing that Grace had been accustomed to teaching he devoted several months to vicising the public and private schools of the various colonies, ostensibly with a view of acquainting himself with the methods of education adopted therein ; but in reality to discovur whether Grace Arkoyd had resumed her old profe*sion. Then, no mutter in what neighbourhood he chanced to be, he made it an invariable rule to learn as much as possible about the envernMses employed by the various familii s round ; and :u every way that occurred to him hft endeavoured to so've the mystery of Grac-- a ili.-appearai'ce. But only bitser disappointment awaited him: and a« she years 'au their accustomed course, sad were numb.ired with the past a (Treat, tlu-igh gradual, change came o^er Stephen Stornhiil. It seemed to fcim as if some unseen power ws>re aoerating against him. and mocking at the efforts he put forth for the acoomplishment of his purpose. His repeated failures not only disheartened, but eventually rendered him superstitious and extremely nervous. The presence of mitd under unusual circumstances, and the cooL calculating spirit, which before had beeu marked traits in his character, entirely forsook him, and he became a prey to morbidtbonghts
and gloomy forebodings. Moreover, the murder of Hilda, which he deemed to be a thing of the past—an act buried in oblivion— now oame to be realized as a orime. from all thought of which he shrank with horror and aversion. But it was in vain. HIB sleep became invaded by frightful visions; and at 'times the scene which bad been enacted years before in the dining-room at Dingo Hall rase up before his eyes with ever-increasing distinctness, till his verv reason threatened to be overthrown, or his future life doomed to ce one long period of misery and despair. And yet, even now, Stornhill e*penenoed no feeling of remorse. He did not regret the crime of whioh he had been Builty. but instead, the memory of his murdered wife moved him to displays of frenzied madnese, in which he uttered fearful imprecations against her name, and his hatred of Reece Meadowaere grew ever fiercer and more implacable. The frightfal thoughts whioh crowded thick and fast upon him ; the images which haunted his sleep and gave him little peace either by day or by night, gradually reduced him from a keen, olear-headid man of the world to a weak, vacillating, superstitious coward. One fired hallucination took possession ot his braia. He i-nagined that to his lll-euccsss in his quest for Grace were to be attributed the afflictions which had befallen him, and that only when she became his wife would he be able to shake off tbe horrible chains of memory which bound him. Then he fondly thought all would be well. But the time was long in coming, and year after year Stornhill grew more reckless and despairing. His love of Btimu'lants, hitherto kept in check by his strength of will, was no longer under his control. Brandy, morning, noon, aad night, became a necessity, and the subtle poison stealthily invaded his system, undermining his constitution, weakening his intelleot—ruiiing him body and soul. He was now but the miserable wreck of bis former self; bloated, haggard, cou-89, slovenly in bis dress and habits; a mere wasted, wretched drunkard, unable to escape from the memory of a phastly crime, haunted continually by the white faoes of women he had ruined, and oonsumei by a fiery, undying, yet impotent rage against the man who, in his blindness, he regarded as the cause of all his misery. Who oan say that Stephen Stornhill was not reaping as he had sown? But the end had not yet oome. The harvest had still to be garnered in. >even months had elapsed since Reeoe Meadowsere's visit to Warrydong. The summer was unusually warm, and a fair sprinkling of visitors were holiday-making at
Shelly Bay, the nearest seaside town to Mr. Austin's station. It ohanoed one morning that a stranger appeared on the seene in the person of Stephen Stornhill. He had no fixed object in visiting the bay, but his aimless, or rather blind, wanderings (ferhestiil persisted in his searoh after Grace Arkroyd) having led him into this neighbourhood he conoeived the impression that a few days at the seaside would prove beneficial to his health. Therefore, time being a matter of no oonsequence, he at once proceeded to subjeot his opinions to a praotical test. There were two hotels at Shelly Bay, one being in the centre of the township, the other almost on the outskirts. Stornhill chose the latter as being likely to prove the quioterof the two. In this he was mistaken, and his request for a single bedroom and private parlour was met with a deoided refusal. The house was already full, and StornhiU's personal appearance was not altogether prepossessing. .Eventually, However—for be had suddenly conceived a violent and most unreasonable dislike to the other hotel, and absolutely refused to seek for accommodation there — he succeeded ia securing a bedroom with two beds, on the understanding that if any other gentleman should arrive during the day he was to be allowed to share Stornhill's room. This matter being satisfactorily settled, Stornhill, who had been drinking the greater part of the night before, went to bed, and siept till dinner time. Late in the afternoon be went out and took a stroll along the jetty; but the plaoe was too crowded to suit his fancy, and, leaving the township in the rear, he made for a low line of oliffa about a mile and a half along the coast. Stornhill had of late developed a strong antipathy to the society of his fellow-mortals, and the few stray holiday-makers he met on tbe way oaused him to hurry forward with bent head as they cast haif-enquiriag glances towards him in passing. How different this was to the bold, sneering, self-possessed manner of old ! He reached the foot of the cliffs, and, pausing a moment, looked back at the bay iu the distance. There was little to be seen save a number of straggling houses, and here and there a small but rather pretty oottage. The scenery was not imposing, and, to Ssornhill'a mind, looked dismal and uninteresting. Shrugging his shoulders impatiently, he turned, and following a half-defined track began to ascend the oliff. He had made good progress, when, on turning a sharp angle, he stopped abruptly. A low exclamation of joy and astonishment burst from his lips, and he reeled as though struck by a heavy blow. A savage gleam of triumph lit up his' bloodshot eyes, and the oolour in hie cheeks oame and went with the violence of his emotion. There, but a few paoes from him, sat a woman, plainly clad in a dark serge skirt and light blouse. Her head was bare, but on the rock at her feet lay a broad-brimmed straw, by tbe side of whioh were her gloves and a book. The woman's face was turned away. She was gazing out to sea, and heard nothing save the wash of the waves on the rocks beneath and the sound of a voice that was ever ringing 6weetly in her ears. The first shock overcome, Stornhill stood silent and motionless. He could hardly realize the good fortune which had befallen him, for he had no doubt whatever that the woman he gazed upon was the one who had occupied his thoughts for years. Yes, be could ewear to that form, to the poise of the bead, amongst ten thousand. There were not two alike ia the world. Grace Arkoyd it was in the flesh and alone. Graoe Arkoyd—the woman he loved, and who loved him. His searoh was ended. At last! at last! his reward had come.
As the full force of his disoovery burst upon him, Stornhill could not control his joy, and called aloud, "Grace ! my Graoe !" At that sounc the dark figure before him sprang to her feet, and a shudder ran through her from head to foot, leaving her trembling as though in terror. "Grace! Grace 1" cried Stornhill, advancing with outstretched arms. But the woman shrank away from him, aud bis arms dropped heavily to his sides. "Graoe," h&s&id, in a piteous voice, "don't you know me ? I'm Stephen, Graoe." She turned her foce towards him. It was the faae of the woman who called herself Miss Melville. Her eyes were wild with horror, the olearly out and delicate features were drawn and rigid, and in the tightly compressed lips Stephen Stornhill read his condemuatiou. Aa he gazed, and saw the look of horror fade only to be replaced by one of loathing and disgust, his blood ran cold m his veins, and his heart almost oeased its beating. "Grace," he whispered hoarsely, "what does it mean? Why do you look at me like that? 4re you not glad to see me after beiug parted frona each other for so long ?" "Glad!" sha laughed in h^-r bitterness. " Oh. my God, what a question !" "You are glad, theuV he cried eagerly. All, yes ; you must b*. Grace " The wards died away, as Grace aznin shrank back to avoid his touch, and Stornhill stood haJpless, bewildered, p.od despairiug. "It is strange," he muttered, "very strange. I cannot understand it." "What is stransye ?" exclaimed Graoe recklessly. "Surely you do not think it strange that I should shrink from you with aversion? That I should hate with my whole soul the man who ruined my life?" "No, no. You do not mean what you are saying, Grace. You love me; you must love me. How can it be else when for years I have searched for you? When I would descend into hell to seek you if you were there ? Grace, I love you as no man on earth ever loved before. You are mine—sworn to be tnv wife, and you ska'J, be." "Never! Rather death a hundred times than stoop eo low as that. You say that I love you, Stephen Stornhill. It i8 a lie ! I de-pise you utterly." Stornhill turned white as death. "You— you loved me once, Graoe," he said feebly. "Yes," she answered, more gently " "T loved you onoe, Stephen, before I knew what you were. , "You can't have obanged, Grace; it is impossible. You imagined then that I did aot care for you, but you were wrong. I did not think that you would go away from me, my darung; but when I found that you had done so, and had left no trace behind—it drove me almost frantic. I did all I oould to and you. I have been searching everiince, and you can. never realize tho misery your loss has cost me. But that is over now, Grace. There wili be no more unhappiness for us here. Let us be married at once, ricar, and go home to Dingo Hall and v; it together the tree we both know so well—the tree with our names on it, Graoe. You remember ii— surely you remember it ?" He .-<poke at first wi';h half-fuppressed ea<remes6, but his rou.e nad nunk to a low, >>W-liiig toue. which e'eariy showed tb»t his thoughts were wunHorinp, a:>d that fie altogether failed to understand tho real position he occupied in Gr.tae ArkovdV estimation. Grace locked ac him with some pity, mingled with oontempt. "I would rather not speak of that time," she said. "Our paths in life lie for apart, Mr. Stornhill. I trust that we shall never meet again, and so good-by."' She stooped and picked up her hat, but Stornhill, with sudden fierceness, grasped her wrist. " Do not play with me, Grsce; I um in no mood for trifling."
" How dare you insult me ? Stand back !" She wrenched her wrist free and faoed him with flashing eyes. Stornhill's fierceness had gone as quickly as it oame. He gazed uneaeily upon the rook at his feet and said humbly, "I—I did not mean it that way, Grace." " Very well; bat now allow me to pass." "Grace! For God's sake tell me what yoa mean." " What is there to tell yoa ?" she said sadly. " \ou say you wish me to be your wife, bat it is too late." " You are not married ?" he cried in audden fear. " Can you ask that after what has passed ?" was her bitter rejoinder. " Bnt we must part' now. I have told you that I never wish to soe your face again, and it is true. What could be plainer than that?" "You—you do not wish to see my face again," eohoed Stornhill mechanically. " "No." " And—and your love for me is dead ?" "Lang ago. It died when first I understood your oharacter." He was silent a moment. Then, " Therethere was a child, Graoe. What has become of it ?" " It is dead," she answered, and her Toiae trembled. " How did it happen ?" "Through starvation." " And yet you—yoa woald not send to me for money?" "No; I would have starved to death myself rather than do that." Again be pansed, and when next he spoke hie thoughts seemed to bave taken another channel. " You do not love me, you My. Do you love any one else ?" For a moment she did not answer. Then she said proudly, " Why should I deny it? I do love some one else." The words stunned him ; but soon bis brain regained its activity. What had he been told long ago? "Some day, Stephen Stornhill, you will discover to your cost that it is possible for a woman to love more than onoe." Who had said that? He did not know; oonld not remember. And, besides, what did it matter now ? It was true, and he conld not alter it. " Does—does he love you ?" he asked presently. " He does." " Has he told yoa so ?" " Yes." Stornhill looked at her wondertngly. " Why is it that you bare not married him ?" "Because—because,"and she turned away her face, " I am not fit to become his wife,
being what I am." " Who is he?" Stornhill demanded fiercely. "That is a question you have no right to ask, Stephen Stornhill. I have already told you more than I have ever confessed to any other human being, and I shall say no more. Stand aside and let me pass." But Stornhill did not move. He barred the way almost unoonsoiously, and there followed a long and ta Graoe painful silence. Stornhill's senses seemed to be wandering, and he stared fixedly at a sail rising above the horizon. He was trying to oollect his thoughts; to realize what all this meant. But nothing was clear to him. Events whioh had happened years before, and whioh had no bearing upon the present, were recalled ; and the fswes of persons he had known in the distant past floated before bis mental vision. It was natural that Hilda should be amongst them ; and now there camo another—the face ot the man - he hated. Involuntarily he clenched his hands, and muttered the name— '' Reece Meadowsere." Graoe started. "Why did you speak that name ?" she asked breathlessly. Stornhill turned and looked at her, hardly understanding. '' What name ?" he said, confused. But something in Grace's appearance caused a strange light to leap into bis eyes. "Is Meado wsere known to you?" he demanded. Grace did not answer. She glanoed swiftly round for a means of escape, but still Stornhill barred the way. Her emotion upon hearing Meadowsere's name, and her evident reluctance to answer hit question, had awakened a wild suspioionin Stornhill's mind. "Do you know Meado wsere?" he asked, in a hoarse voioa. " Yes," answered Grace, meeting his gaze fearlessly. Stornhill seized her in a grasp from which she tried in vain to free herself. " Is Reece Meado wsere the man you love? Confess the truth, or, my God I I'll murder you." " What is Raeae to you?" ehe moaned. "I hate the man—curse him. And pou love him. I see it in your faoe—read it in your words. You oalled him ' Reeoe;' bat it was for the last time, for you shall die—and at onoe. Here are the rooks—below is the sea. There you shall go, and I with yon. We shall drown together, locked in each other's arms; for you were mine in life, and you shall lu mine in death." He gave a shout of mad exultation, and dragged her towards the edge of the cliffs ; but there he paused. HiB mad fury seemed to bave sped itself; chiefly, perhaps, because Grace had made no sound, and had offered no resistance. He glanoed at her ourionsly, and was met by a calm, fearless gaze, which caused him to drop his eyes with shame and turn aw&y from her. For a few seoonds neither spoke; then Graoe Arkoyd broke tbe silenoe. "Kill me if you like, Stephen," and her voioe waB firm, though sad. " It matters little, sinoe years ago you destroyed what oan never be restored to me. Without that a true woman's life is made up of remorse and shame. For the sin of my girlhood I have suffered bitterly, and there is nothing for me to live for. I am not fit to become a good man's wife; nor, indeed, to become a wife at all. Yet I have learned to love; and my love, beoause of its helplessness, is killing me. Finish the work you began, Stephen Stornhill, and put aa end to the life whioh is nothing but a burden to me. Only one thing I ask Let me die alone. Do not force me to die in the embrace of a man I despise and abhor? That is all; I am prepared." Stephen Stornhill shivered ; but beyond the sound of his laboured breathing and the ceaselees moaning of the waves all was Btili as the tomb. "I am prepared," said Graoe again. " What is there to wait for ?"
"Go!" oried Stornhill, harshly. "Go!" and his voice rose almost to a scream. Without a word she turned away and went slowly down the cliffs. Stephen Stornhill, left alone, sank down on the rocks with a deep groan, and resting his elbows on his knees buried his face in his hands. Retribution, slow but eure, had overtaken him ; and how terrible—yet how just this retribution was! Years beforehe bad been the means of driving Grace into the world, a ruined woman, only to find, when too late, that he loved her. Then had tollowed his treachery towards Reece Meadowsere. By a base, ignoble plot he had stolen from him his promised wife. But he had never possessed the heart, for Meadowsere's image was enshrined there. His wife had dishonoured him and he had murdered her. Now came the search for Grace, oonduoted year after year until SUOCSBS had crowned his efforts, and he saw before him the consummation of all his hopes. How cruelly had his dreams been shattered ! Received with horror, oontempt, and aversion; bis proposal rejected with scorn and riisgnst—his rage, jealousy, and despair crushed him beneath their weight. But, as if even this were not 6nougb, he found that the woman he loved had given her love to another — and that this other was Reeoe Meadowsere, tho man he hated above other men ; the man who also had possessed the love of the woman who had been his wife Bitter, yea! bitter to gall to Stephen Stornhill was this ohought. "Stephen fetornhilL retribution ! Stephen Stornhill, retribution !" rang in his ears aB it had done onoe before on "a day long gone by; and now the time of reckoning bad come. The afternoon crept on, yet still he sat, with bent head, and his face—upon which was a look of dull, despairing misery—hidden in his hands. I he sun, red and angry looking, set below the sea like a ball of living fire, and a roy of lighfr, red as blood, struok full upon him ; yet he stirred not. The sea birds, as the twilight deepened over land and sea, circled above him with mournful cries; but he did not hear them. He was deaf to all sounds, blind to all sights, consoious only of his despairing anguish. Once he moved — when his foot struck against something soft, and stooping down he picked up a glove which had belonged to Grace. This he kissed passionately, aud kept tightly clenched in his hand. Then he had sesn a book lying at his feet. This also he took up and looked at. On the fly-'oaf was written, " Miss Melville Irom the author." He turned over the leaf and saw—" R-jtribution, R Novel, by Reece Meadowsere." With a loud curse he threw the book far from him, and it fell over the cliff into the sea beneath. Then he hid his face again and was silent. The t.wilight faded; tbe first stars of evening shone bright and clear, and darker end darker grew the night. A low, moaning Bound came floating across the sea from far awav, and the waves gave forth a sullen roar as they dashed against the rocks whioh defied their fury. Still Stephen Stornhill sat on motionless, save for the rise and fall of his shoulders, as at times h« drew a deep breach and again expelled it with a groan. By-and-by the sky in the east lightened Ahovfl the hills the mooa rose slowly Bnj ;t" soft light fell with a w.nrd effect upon %hl solitary figure of StPp!,ea Stornhill £,d the cl:ff« wround. Stornhill lifted his head and1 look uf fear came iuto his eyes. HB about him wildly at the rocks-the seiche skv above, and the strange light in tanes. ThM1 he lambed* A loud, bitter" mocking laujh it was; and rushing from thl place he sped away through the night