|Chapter Number||3. VI|
|Chapter Title||STEPHEN STORNHILL'S DOOM.|
|Newspaper Title||Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912)|
|Trove Title||Whatsoever a Man Soweth|
WHATSOEVER A MAN SOWETHi
BOOK III.-THE REAPING OF HARVEST. THE CHAPTER VI. STEPHEN STOEXHILL'S DOOM.
There oan be no doubt that, for a time at least, Stephen Stornhill knew not what he did, nor whither he went. Weakened by long and continued dissipations, his mind a prey to superstitious fanoies, and haunted by the grim phantoms of a sinful post, this interview with the woman whose love he had looked to as the one means of saving him from himself had proved too muoh for him. The terribly bitter nature of his disappointment, with the consequent mental anguish he endured, had completly overthrown bis reason ; and when he rushed from, the cliffs it was as a raving maniac. His subsequent movements contrasted strongly with the unnatural, despairing silence whioh had characterized his attitude upon the cliff. He raced to and fro along the b&ach, gesticulating wildly, and shouting at the top of his voice. But the roar of the sea drowned his cries, for the wind had risen, and the white-orested waves, gleaming in the moonlight, swept along the shore with savage fury, casting their spray upon him, till he was wet, almost to the skin. Still he pursued his reckless oourse, waving his arms, wringing hi3 hands, laughing and sobbing by turns, till from very weariness he was forced to rest. He stood a moment, gazing at the long line of foam whioh marked tbe breaking - point of the waves. Then a great stupor fell upon him, and he dropped like a log in the Band. There he lay while the sea crept ever nearer, and the moon shone down on his upturned faoe, and the roar of the ocean rung mechanically in his ears. His eyes, wide open, were tixed upon the great dome of the heavens above, yet he saw nothing. All was dark, with a blaok darkness past all understanding, and his mind was ohoos. Stealthily and greedily the sea advanced and retreated, and advanced yet again and again, drawing ever aloser to the prostrate figure, unconscious of its approach. And presently the water had reached his feet; and higher and higher ib rose around him, till a wave greater than the rest rolled swiftly onward, and broke with a sullen roar across his body. Stornhill, as though galvanized into life, struggled to his feet in terror; but ere he could stand upright another wave had struck him, and he feii heavily. Yet another and another swept over him, beating him to the ground and almost suffocating him. But his time had not, yet oome, and breathless, but with his senses fully restored, be staggered along the sands—safe from the watery grave whioh threatened to be his portion. As soon as he had regained his breath he began calmly to review his position. His olothee, of course, were soaked, but the evening was warm, aud in the fresh breeze blowing he knew that to dry them would be but the work of en hour, or even less. Quickly undressing he wrung the dripping garmauta thoroughly, and as quickly put them on again. Then he started tramping rapidly up and down the beach, and as he did so his brain waa busy with the events of the afternoon.
It may have been that the sudden shock of finding himself on the verge of a frightful death had roused into new life certain traits whioh at one time had been marked attributes of bis character. At any rate, he displayed a clearness of insight and power of analysis which of late he had been altogether incapable of. By bis actions that afternoon he considered that he had made a fool of himself. It waB only natural to suppose that after a parting extending over a number of years Grace should be startled at this unexpected meeting; and, considering bis past conduct towards her, whioh be acknowledged to him- Belf was not what it should have been, it was not likely that she should display any pleasure at the sight of him. That she should have fallen in love with Reece MeadowBere seemed to him almost incredible; but even so, bad he net her assurance that she had refused his hand ? Moreover, should she contemplate a marriage with M^adawsere, he had but to speak and all would be over. He felt that the p&et relationship between them gave him a power which it would be impossible for her to resist, and he was determined to make use of this power to the utmost. A woman may be strong morally, but unless she conquers without a Bhadow of a doubt at the Very outset, when force or persuasion is brought against her her ultimate yfeldiog is merely a matter of time. Let her but display even the very faintest element of weakness, and, before patienoe and cunning, her resistance will grow .jlpily TvpftVer. chfl nfitarlv -L*—-. way, " and "her" " good resolutions tail away into nothingness. She may go so far that to turn back is impossible, ana, as in the case of Grace Arkoyd, remorse is of no avail. A woman whose good name is in the keeping of any other man than her husband oan hope for no real peace in life. Even should her faith ia his inviolable secrecy remain unshaken, yet, if she be & true woman, there will exist an inner sense of nhame and a knowisdge of something hidden, something suppressed, which will cast a shadow across her path, and from which there is no escape. But what of the woman whose honour is in the hands of a man unworthy of all trust? She has given him a pow-r aaainst which she may struggle in vain—a weapon which at any moment is liable to be turned against herself, and she knows not tho day cor the hour when the story of hnr sin and folly may reach the ears of those around her, and her name be for ever braadod with the mark of shame. Stornhill did not eiatgcsrate when he concluded that Grace would Scd it difficult to resist the pressure whioh it was in his power to bring acainst her. He regarded his chances of success as beinc altogether favourable, end his future p-ospocta began to assume a brighter hue. Gr^ce was found, and he would take every care that eho did uot escape him a second time. As for her refusal of his hand, he would make her realize that ohe must choose between marriage and disgrace, and as it was evident from her appearance that she occopied a respeotabla position in society, which she would naturally shrink from forfeiting, h« had no nneasiness ts to the course she would adopt. Nor did he despair of once more kindling the love which had ones been hia, but whioh he had esteemed sc lightly. When at Ieugth Stornhill turned in the direction of Shelly Bay it was after 10 o'clock, and RB h« reached his hotel tho clock struok 11. Round the bar door he found a group of raen, who appeared engaged in an earnest conversation. Bnt as ha approached they grew silent, and regarded him with some curiosity. "What is it, my men?" enquired Stornhill, in a forced, gaod-tuiaonred tone. "Anything wrons ?" "Nothing, sir; not as wo knows on," answered one hesitatingly • and with some signs of awkwardness the little group began to disperse. No onc> cared to inform Stornhill that he had formed the subject of their gossip; and that his Ion_' abeonoe, at first puc down to bis having visited some friends in the bay, had at last given rise tu alarm, and even now a patty to eeareti the coast waa being organized. StornhiU remained outside a moment, gazing at the various buildings of tbe township, and the neat cottages along the shore, which were clearly visible on account of the brightness of the ni^ht. In which of these aid Grace live, he wondered, acd what was she doing at Shelly Bay? Mies Melville was the name wriLten in the novel he had picked up on the cliff. Was this a name Bbe had adopted, or waa Miis Melviile a frieed of hera? Then StornhiU recollected that Grace's full name
was "Graco Melville Arkoyd." Was it net moat probable that she had dropped the "Arkoyd" upon leaving Hallowton, and now called herself " Grace Melville':" Whilst Stornhill was busy with those thoughts the landlord came to the door, intending to close up tbe b^r. "A fine night, Sir," he observed, by way of beginning a conversation. " Yes,"answered Stornhill, absently. " We were beginning to wonder what had become of you," and the hotelket-por eyod StornhiU's shrunken, water-stained garments as he came iuto the light of the doorway, with an air of polite surprise. " I have been for a long walk," said Stornhill, noting the curious gaze bent upon him, "and managed to alip Lroin one of thecliife and get a ducking. Do you know any one in tho township named Melville' The question was asked so abruptly that the landlord did not immediately reply. He was annoyed at Stornhill's reluctance to ent&r into the subject of his long absence, aud felt that the explanation offered was a mere pretext to avoid further diseussion. "There is a lady here of that name," he answerod after a slight pause. " She is a sort of governess, and is here in charge of anumber of ohildren. They occupy a cottage at the other end of tbe bay." "Has she no ona with her but tho children ?" "Only a servant; but I hear that some other members of the family are expeoted in a few d&y»." Having learned as much as he desired to know at present, and not wishing to appear too inquisitive, Stornhill enquired as to whether thurn was any possibility of arranging a game of cards before going to bed. " I don't care who joins in," he said, " but its cursed slow doing nothing, so if you can hunt up some fellows we might have a game of n«p." " There are a couple of men playing euchre in the small parlour oS the bar, and doubtless they will be only too pleased to fall in with your wishes. I don't mind taking a hand myself, if >ou have no objection. Or if you would rather play with some of the boarders, there Kay be one or two of them abouc."
" Oh ! never mind the boarders. Shut "up shop, and let us make a beginning." " There was a gentleman oame this aftercoon, Sir, aud so I put him into your room," explained the landlord, as he locked the bar door. "He went off to bed early, and must be asleep by now, so I thought it would be just as well to mention it." " That's all right. He can sleep till doomsday for all I care. Is this the parlour?" and Stornhill, going in behind the bar counter, crossed the room towards a doorway on the right. " That's it. Sir. I'll just put out the lights, and be with you in a jiffey. It's always beBt to be on the safe side, although tbe trooper here is a decent sort, taking him all round." "Wait a minute," exclaimed Stornhill from the parlour; and addressing the two men he found there he asked—" Are you fellows good enough fora game of nap? Penny, twopenny, sixpenny, or any thing you like." Stornhill waa quickly getting into one of his reckless moods, and felt an anxiety to dispel the gloomy thoughts whioh were taking possession of him. Both men consented readily to his preposition, although they had never seen him before, and Stornhill at once requested them to "name their drinks" before starting. They proved to be beer drinkers, and Stornhill returned to the bar. "What are you going to drink ?" he asked, addressing his host. "Thanks—I don't mind a whisky. Sir." "Well, bring in a gallon of beer and a bottle eaoh of whisky and brandy. We can help ourselves a9 it suits us then, and it will save interrupting the game. Now hurry up, for God's sake." The liquer was quickly taken into the parlour, and Stornhill at once helped himself to a tumbler of brandy, whilst the landlord put out the bar lights. Then the play was commenced. From the beginning it became evident that Stornhill, at whose request nap had been started, took a good deal less interest in the game than any of the others. Beyond an occasional diBsatiefied curse he displayed the utmoBt indifference to the hands dealt him ; and even when he held good oards often threw awsy his chances of success by not attending to the play. As the hour grew later his losses rapidly increased, for the others were simply running away from him, and at the end of almost every deal he applied himself diligently to tbe brandy bottle, with the result that he was soon hopelessly intoxicated. About 1 o'olock the landlord proposed that they should oease play and go to bed; but Stornhill received his suggestion with a volley of foul oaths, and the game continued. An hour later Stornhill had emptied the brandy bottle and was applying himself to the whisky. His eyes W6rebloodchoc, and the cords were strewn about the fleer, having dropped from hiB trembling fingers. It waB olearly impossible to go on in this way, and the two men who had earlier in the evening considered themselves "in for a good thing,"now began to wish that they were well out of the place, for Stornhill was beginning to mutter to himself, and presented all the appearanoe of a man on the verge of delirium tremens. " I think we'll make a shift," they said to the landlord. ".Let's see bow the game stands," he answered, and they all three bent over the table, and ran their eyes over tbe rows of figures he had jotted down on a large sheet of paper. The play had not been high, but Stornhill had lost about £15. None of the others had lost anything, Stornhill owing so
much to each thee they were all to the good at the elose of the game. " We can't settle up now, at any rate," said one, "so I'm oS. I don't like the look of the cove at all. He's gein' to have 'em bad before morning," and he glanced uneasily at Stornhill, who was lying back in his ohair with his mouth wide open. "All right; you know the way out," answered the landlord. "Good night. I'll get the gsstleiaan oS to bed now, and he'll be all right to-morrow." Very quietly the two men stole through the house, asd out by a back way well known to them; for had they not often made use cf it before? The entrance, or rather exit, had been specially constructed for the convenience of customers of their stamp, who made it a rule never to leave the hotel until all respectable people were eafeiy in bad. "Now, Sir," said the hocelkeeper, giving Stornhill a gentle shake; " it's time to make a move." A violent oath waa the only answer he received. "Oome!come! this won't do, sir. Rouse up!" But Stornhill showed no disposition to do anything of the kind; aed Jimmy, the name by which his host was familiarly known by his friends, proceeded to put forth all his powers of peisuauion in order to induce him to go to bed. The conversation that ensued was net marked by any display of intellectuality "" - Stornhill showed ht> c&rtainly possessed a very gi m wimamaerar: the English language, although perhaps a good many of his expressions were entirely original, and some of the words comprising them were cot to be found in any published dictionary. The landlord also exhibited a good .deal of tact, and his remarks, though not altogether refined, were Strictly to the point, and eventually served his purpose. Stornhill staggered to his feet, and, with the assistance rendered him, managed to reach the door of his bedroom. "Now, I hope you'll keep quiet, sir, and not disturb the gentleman in the other bed," Baid Jimmy, as he opened the door. "ShallI help you to undress. Sir ?" "Shan't undress at all—curse you—clear out—hie—go to the—hio—devil." Stornhill fell heavily upon the bed, and the landlord quietly withdrew after looking carefully round the room to see that the stranger had not been disturbed. He then put out tbe lights in the bar-parlour, and retired to his own bedroom; hut returned, when undressed, to StornhilFd door, and lisSen«d intently. Reassured apparently by the sound of stertorus breathing from within, he sought his virtuous couch, and was soon fast asleep. A stillness now settled down over the whole house, but in the room occupied by Stornhill a strange scene was soon to be enacted. Evidently the visitor, who had only arrived that afternoon, was a believer iu the beneficial effect to be derived from keeping a bed chamber well aired, for ihe window was wide open and the blind drawn up. Through the peaceful night came the sound of tbe everrestleFB sea as the tide ebbed and flowed, and the moouba&TCs, piercing through the gloom, fell softly upon the white counterpane of Storuhill's bed, bringing m:o bold relief the dark ugure tbat lay motionless above it. As hour passod, or maybe it was more, yet the positions of the two sleepers remained unchanged. The stranger's bad was in the shadow, away from the wiudew, and he lay with his fauc turned to the wall, breathing regularly and derplj*, for his sle^p was sound, Storuhill's attitude, however, was that of a man in whom there is no life. He appeared but a dead, heavy weight, incapable of foeiing or of movement, and only his forced, heavy bre&thin£ proclaimed that ho still lived. The night wore oa, and some time before dawn a faint moaning Eouni stole over the surface of the ooean, and seemed to penetrate even to the innermost receives of Stephen Storchill's almost paralysed brain. Is roused him from his sleep of stupefaction, and he stirred uneasily. Again the sound came, at first far off like a iow weird moan, then nearer and nearer, and louder aud louder; then a?a:n it died away into a low murmur ; aud oace more rose and fell—now low and soft—now loud and deep—till at length there cane & faint wailine cry, and then—silence. Stephen Siornhi!! sat up, and the sweat a toed in beads on his forehead. * He scrambled from the bed, aad, eSstrsaring to the window stared out towards the eaa. All *vag etill, save for the monotonous flp'ash of the waves upon the sliore. What had he heard? He could nut teiJ, and he stood straining his cars,
so that be might perchance catch even a faiat whisper of thai f.ir-off sound which had disturbed hia slumber. But it came not again ; tho silence remaiu&d unbroken. It had been but the wind, though he knc.v it not, and had perhaps, in bis cunfuaad state, imagined it to be a voice from another world. Aa he turned his head from the wiadow the moonbeams streamed past him and fell on the floor near the centre of the roon. He watched the broad beam of light as if fascinated, and, pointing to it with outstretched arm. chuckled to himself with childish glee. As the moon gradually shifted position, sinking lower and lower, its rays were ehoc more direotly into the room, and .'Stornhill saw them creeping slowly upwards till a bright stream of light fell upon the tied opposite and revealed the unknown sleepsr. Then a change came ever Stephen Stcrnkill. A cunning look crept iuto his faoo, and ha peered eagerly through the semi-dc.rkne?s, whilst unconsciously the sleeper turnc-J iu his hed eo that the moon shone full upon his face. In his distorted state of mind ic saeinod to Stornhill to be familiar. Very stealthily, with cat-like tread, he stale across the room and bent down over the bed. V/liy did he start and mutter te himself? Why was it that his features became distorted by a horrible grin, while a malignant gleam shot into the bleary eyes, and bis long lean fir.gers were curved like an eagle's claws ? Thn man he looked upon was the man he hated. Yes, there stretched before him v/as Reece Meadowsere, who had loved and been loved by his wife, and who was now the possessor of tho love of the woman he wished to call his own. He laughed to himself. H:s eut>my had been delivered into his hands, and he Bhould not esoape. Here he would strangle him, and remove for ever from his path the man who had been his evil destiny. With a nervous action, strongly suggestive of hie secret intention, he olasped and unolasped his hands mechanically, chuckling in a low tone as he quickly stepped between tbe bed and the window to cut eff the bright rays of the moon, which he feared might awaken the sleeper. Thee on tiptoe he advanced, eager and exultant. In a moment his hands hovered 0V6r the throat of the unconscious Meadow-
sere. as a hawk poises itself in thfe air before sweeping down upon its prey ; and hta distended mouth and gleaming teeth told of the intense hatred and excitement under which he laboured. But suddenly he recoiled, and a cry of suppressed horror burst from his lips. Hfs eyes were fixed and stanng-his cheeks iTvid-hfs arms upheld a* if b.vard off.ome pprc^ingd^er ^ e ! see _heg^ped back-Tt i« nothing—I was joking-I meant n °^ow^yhe'shrankback across the room his sDirifc of the muiSered Hilda had risen up to pro^t the man she had loved so P ^ ^ on earth; and StornhiU. horror-stricken by ?he dread "ion his distorted imagination had conjured up, sank to his knees by ^ side of his bed, and, preesing ^ the bedclothes, sobbed aloud. Yet still Reece M But 0 rw^Pthe 0n «tai night . i r w a t a again that distant, moaning sound. Stornhill lifted hiB head, and the look of fear vanished. A glad smile played abont bis mouth, and another name was upon bis lips— another vision had appeared to him.. Graoe !' he said softly, "I am coming—i am ooming. I shall meet you by the old tree lp the scrub, Graoe. You remember it? «« tree with our names out in the trunk. xeB, yes ; I am coming—I am ooming. . . . . He rose swiftly and staggered to the window. There he paused, and put 1lis hand to his head as though dazed. "Where am I?" he muttered. " What is wrong? What am I doing here?" For an answer there came that lew, wailing ery from aoross the ooean, and at once he brightened. "Grace ! he exclaimed eagerly. "Yes, yes; the old tree in the sorub. I hear you, Grace. It is well—it "clambering through the window, he dropped lightly to the ground, and ran swiftly along the road leading to the coast. Once he stopped, as if undecided; but then on again, sometimes stretching out his arms imploringly, and calling, "Wait for me. Grace, I am ooming. Why don't yon wait for me Then bowing his head and hurrying forward he would mutter—" By the old tree in the scrub, the tree with our names out in tho trunk; that is where she will meet me. Graoe! Graoe! My Grace,"and he would laugh happily. . . . ,.„ On and on he went, till he reached the oliffs where only that afternoon bis long searoh had endod. Tip the narrow path he dashed with renewed speed, his head bent, his oheekB flushed, the name of "Grace" upon hie lips. Nor did he pause even on the spot where he had met for the last time the woman who had unknowingly exerted so great an influence upon his life. But to the edge of the cliff he rushed, and then it seemed as though the hallucination which had brought him hither faded away, leaving him oonseious of his danger. He stopped and tried to recover his balance, but all too late. Hie time had come; and with a loud scream, whioh mingled with the mooting meaning of the wind, he went to meet his doom. < . Greedily the waves received him into their embrace. They carried him out to efta, and and then, with a roar of mirth, carried him back agaia and dashed him meroilessly agamst tbe jagged rocks. Till the first glimmer of dawn appeared in the east they sported with his lifeless body, and then, having worked their will, they oast it np upon the shore and left it there. *