|Chapter Number||3. XI|
|Newspaper Title||Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912)|
|Trove Title||Whatsoever a Man Soweth|
WHATSOEVER A MAN SOWETH.
BOOK III.—THE REAPING OF THE HARVEST. CHAPTER XI. EBTKAHGEB.
Are women more forgiving than men? Or is it that when once a woman accepts a man for her husband, and finds him faithful to her. she cares little what his previous life has been? Keece often pondered these questions. He had told Grace that he forgave her, and believed that he hod doneso. He treated her with the greatest rospsct—saw that she was surrounded by every comfort— was thoughtful oven in little things. Yet his manner towards her was marked by a studied eoldnesa, a coldness he could not avoid showing, eveu though he tried at times to do so. And Grace was patient, never complaining, never thinking otherv/ise than that her punishment was well-deserved and Reece had acted very leniently with her. She was unhappy—he saw that; her health was failing. He realized that also with a feeling of growing uneasiness. He knew that he had but to make the first advance; that or.e tender word from him would cause those pale cheeks to flush with joy; those dark eyes to flash •with a love that was more to Grace than life itself. But no tender word was spoken, no advance was ever made. Meadowsere could not rid himself of thoughts of Stephen Stornhill and of what Grace had been to him. As the weeks went by they showed no change in the relative positions of master and mistress, and Recce began to wonder. How was it that Grace gave no thought to his sin. while her offence Haunted him day and night? How was it that every word which fell from his lips sounded harsh and cold though he did his best to speak gsntly and kindly? Grace had wronged him, but he alEO had wronged her; and yet she never seemed to realize that it was so. It was as though on her the whole blame rested. She accepted her punishment meekly; she clung to her love, and was fading like a flower in the darkness becauss his love had been withdrawn from her. "Why could she not feel as he did?" he wondered. " Why did die not return his coldness with coldness? It would make it easier for him; he would not feel then that he was treating her so cruelly." But his thinking did not alter things. He tried to understand and could not. And so the summer wore on. ^ That promised visit to Warrydong was never paid. Reece did not speak of it, and Grace was glad. She knew that the sharp eyes of Mabel would soon see that all was not as it should be between husband and wife. Her sorrow
was hard enough to bear as it was; it would be harder still if the dear friends at Marrydong became aware of her unhappiness. Already her many acquaintances had come to the conclusion that Reece Meadowsere and his handsome wife were not on the be3t of tei-ms; and curious indeed were some of the reasons adduced in explanation thereof. A secret was sosuted that promised to excite curiosity to an unusual extent amongst polite circles, and poor Grace soon became aware of the interest with which her family affairs were being regarded. Lady friends were kindly sympathetic and innocently inquisitive at the same time. Failing to have their curiosity gratified, they indulged in cutting remarks, though their faces were wreathed in pleasant smiles, and they were outwardly all unconscious of the pain they were inflicting. But their shafts hit the mark; they knew it, and were delighted. Reece knew it also, and cursed them in his heart. He tried his best to protect his wife from their biting sarcasm, and at times a little of his old tenderness would return. But it did not last, nor did the tongues of scandalmongers oease to wag. The inevitable " I told you so!" was often heard. " Love marriages always end in failure," said one. "These verr moral persons have their little secrets," said another, with a sly smile; while a third discovered, with the valuable aid of her own imagination, that "Mrs. Meadowsere had once been a barmaid in a low - class city hoteL" Of course this " fact" was told as a secret to a bosom friend who also bad a bosom friend, who had another bosom l'riend. The world is full of such friends ; they are generally missing when we need them most. Those happy morning half-hours spent in Reece's sfcudv existed now only aa a memory. Every day (Srace went there with her husband s lunch; a few brief words were exchanged between them, and every day she went away again with an aching heart. But this could not last for ever. Grace was growing daily weaker and more despairing; she felt that she could no longer endure the heavy weight of Borrow placed upon her; and at length her wild longing for a little tenderness found relief in words. She had entered the study as usual with wine and fruit for her husband. Reece was writing, and thanked her coldly without even raising his eyes from the paper. Grace stood a moment watching him; then the pent-up agony of her soul burst its bonds, and falling on her knoes she pleaded with him—the tears running down her pale and sunken cheeks. A perfect torrent of fervent words fell from her burning lips as she spoke of her childhood, the death of her parents, her life at Hallowton. She told, too, how Stephen Stornhill had deceived her, how she had fled from him, hoping never to see him more. She pictured the dsys of misery which followed, and the meeting with Reece by the riverside. That had proved her salvation; from that moment she had borne his image in her heart till love for him possessed her whole being. His words—" You can thank me by raising yourself again to the position you have lost, ' had never been forgotten. They had been to her words of hope, and she had done the best to profit by thezn. She spoke also of that meeting with Stephen Stornhill at Shelley Bay; how he had wished her to marry him, aud she had refused because she despised him and loved another, that other being Reece himself. Then she prayed that Reece would be kinder to her; that he would not speak so coldly, and withhold his love from her. "It was so many years ago," she moaned, "and I
did not realize what I was doing, Reece. And when you came to me, I tried—oh, my God! how I tried to send you away again, and I could not. I loved you. My love was all I had in the world; it is all that is left to me. If you cannot be different send me away from you. I cannot go myself. I cannot tear myself from where you are. Send me away, Reeee; it will be better, far better for me, for your coldness is worse than death." Reece, strongly moved, turned towards the window. * " I—I do not wish you to leave me,"' he said almost sharply. "It—it is better that wo should remain together; and—and I do not think 1 have treated you harshly. 1—I have done my best to be just and respcetful" "Yea—yes! you have been all this, Rujce, but it is not that I want. It is your kindness —your love. Is that dead, Reece? Do you care for mo no longer?" " Yes—r—I care for you. Of course I do. "Do you love me?" asked Grace in a whisper. " I do not know; I am not able to understand myself," Reece answered evasively. Grace was silent. A blank look of unutterable anguish stole into her f;ice. Suddenly she drew near to Reece, and clutched his arm nervously. "You have never kissed me since that night., Reece. Kiss me now!" she demanded imploringly. . Meadowsere bent down; then swiftly drew back again, aud broke from her grasp. " I cannot," he said hoarsely. There was a sound as though of a stifled sob, tuid then silence. Without a word Gracc went slowly from tht? room. The next day she did not comc to the study at all. liftece missed her; vet he did not question Margaret who brought his luncheon to him, nor did Margaret offer any explanation. But Rcece understood why it was that Grace kept away, and know well that she would never enter the room again til! he a.sked her. Perhaps it was better so, he thought. It would save them both unnecessary pain. And uoiv Meadowsen; began to view his position in the light of a punishment for the ivrong ho had done Stephen Srornhill. It seemed so strange tha lie should have learuod to love witli his whole he&,vt the woman who m the years gone by had been Stornhill's dupe; : who had been brought to shame at his hands. The dread influenoe oi fate wasoverall his life, i and had followed Stephen Stornhill to his grave. Meadowsere found a mysterious fascination , iu dwelling upon the " thought. If •Stornhill had only acted right'.y towards Graoe i Arkoyd, what mi^?ry would have been spared : i ; how different all thio;rs would have beeu. Hut he had elected to follow the wrong paj.li; he had wronged Grace, !i<? had wronged Hildas lie had wronged Roeco, and uow the penalty of all his sins was pa id. He was dead, and Hilda, too, was dead. But Reeca: lived on. and Grace. Both had suffered through Stornhill's basoncsss, and the inevitable hand of fate had brought them together. They were man and wife; only denth could part them. Wa~, there not something strange and inexplicable in thi-? Yet was it not just thar, Meadowsere who, in regard to Stephen Stornhill, had returned evil for evil, should h-ive jjiv.si his heart to the woman «*ho once had yielded herself to Stornhill's br.se designs? Was it not his duty, now that Grace was his wife, aud worthy of him, to liu-y the past? To hide it from his Fight aud forget it? He had suggested as much to Grate; yet had he ever attempted to do so? Yes, he had, bnt it seemed impossible. i |
The long, hot summer wore on. Grace did i not again plead for a full and complete recon ciliation ; she went about her household duties with an ever-growing weariness of heart, but no word of reproach or complaint crossed her lips. Reece had told her that circumstances had changed, and they must adapt themselves to this change. To him it appeared q&sy; to her it was verv hard and bitter. Yet it must be done, though all the brightness was driven out of her little world, and she saw no hope ahead, save the hope that comes with death alone. It was not to be expected that Margaret, who had the interests of both master and mistress so dearly at heart, should fail to notice the change that had come over their relationship. It troubled her, but she fondly hoped that all would be right in a little while." When, however, she saw Grace pining for the love which her husband could or would not give her, and gradually losing her health and interest in life, she deemed it time to take advantage of the position which her long service to Reeoe entitled her, and try to heal the breach between husband and wife. Going to Meadowsere's study, she knocked though a little nervously; and after entering stood silent near the door, not knowing how to begin. " What is it, my faithful old nurse?" asked Rece with an enq'uiring smile. "I—I wished to speak to you, Mr. Reece." " Then come and sit down, Margaret. YP.U know I am always glad to have a chat with you." But Margaret declined the invitation, preferring to remain standing. " It is about your wife I wished to speak, sir," 6he 6aid in a "firm voice. "Did she send you here?" asked Reece coldly. " \ ou know that is impossible; she would sooner die than tell her trouble to any one. And she is in trouble; I have seen this for a long time. Oh! Mr. Reece, 6urely vou can see how deeply ehe is suffering; and you are making her suffer. Why are you so cruel, my boy? Why have you changed to her?" There were tears in the honest creature's eyes, and she placed her hands on his shoulders aa his mother might have done and looked down at him beseechingly. Reece did not resent what to others might have appeared an impertinence. He only replied in a troubled voice, "You do not understand, Margaret' You do not understand!" "It is true," she answered, " I do not understand. But this I know, your wife is one of the purest-, sweetest, and noblest women that ever drew the breath of life, and I thank God that I have lived with two such as your dead mother and my present mistress I have known you since you were a baby, Mr. Reece, and ym harve always been just and kind to all. Why should you be different now? And why should your wife, of all others, be the one to suffer such injustice?" "By what right do you speak to me in this way?" " The right of one who loves you; the right your mother gave me on her deathbed; and the right to try and save your wife from an early grave. All! believe me, this eannot last much longer. My mistress is dying before my ey3S; every day she grows weaker, and it is your coldness that is killing her. She is incapable of deceit and wrongdoing; her life is wrapt up in youre. Can you blame me then for speaking when I see what must come to pass • " things continue as they are? I love you j both; I long to see you "both happy as you
used to be. Will you not try to be so? Whatever may have caused this unhappiness between _ you the fact is the same: that your wife is faithful to you; that she almost worships you, and has no earthly hope apart fromyour love." " You — you exaggerate, Margaret," said Reeoe vainly attempting to appear confident. " Grace is not ill; she never complains." "No, she never complains," said Margaret sadly; -'and she never will. But those who Bay the least have all the more time in which to suffer." Reece had not been blind to the change for the worse which was taking place in his wife's health. But he had persuaided himself that it was nothing serious; the heat was very trying, that was ail; she would scon recover when the cool weather set in; there was really nothing to worry about. ^Margaret's words, however, caused him great uneasiness; perhaps he had been taking too light a view of the ease. He must speak to Grace, he decided, and insist upon her going away for a change. Ho had proposed this onee before, but Grace had professed so great an unwillingness to leaving home that the project was abandoned. Margaret watched her master anxiously. Finding him silent, she said:—"Will it always be like this now? Can nothing soften your feelings towards your wife?" " I don't know," answered Reece brokenly. " I—I have tried to be different—and— perhaps—some day I shall forget, and all will comc right again." "Someday! Does that mean when your wife is in her grave? It will be too late— some day." Reece did not speak, but the look of pain | and reproach in his eyes cut Margaret to the j heart. " My poor boy—forgive me," she said, • and kissing him with all a mother's tenderness, stole softly away. Hore was a sorrow too deep, too strong for her to understand. She could only trust to time and circumstances to bring about a reconciliation. Meanwhile, by her ever-ready sympathy and tenderness, she must seek to brighten the dark hours through which those she loved wore passing, and cheer her suffering mistress with hopes of a happier future^ That evening at dinner Reece observed his wife closely. He saw, with an inward pang, that she looked ill, and hardly even pretended J to eat anything. Her manner was listless, her face pale and thin; she would sit, staring I vacantly before her, many minutes at a time, as though her thoughts ware far away. Then ' suddenly she would be recalled to her sur- ! roundings with a start, and endeavour to con- ! duct a conversation with her husband, only, | however, to fail most dismally. It was after one of these lapses of consciousness that Reece said abruptly—" You are looking far from well, Grace. I am afraid you find the heat rather oppressive." " I do—rather," Grace admitted wearily. " I have been thinking that a change of air might do you good. Melbourne is by no means a pleasant place in summer." " But we are not in Melbourne, Reece." " The suburbs are equally as bad. Come, now, suppose you go across to Hobart for a month or two. Mir. and Mrs. Silvermede are there, and will be only too glad to have you with them." " I would rather not go away at all, thank you, Reece." " But you must think of your health, and of Telsie. The poor little mite deserves a holiday, if no one else doeB." Grace was sensitive. She could not help thinking that perhaps Reece wished her to go
away because her presence in the house annoyed him. This suspicion was unjust, but it influenced her decision. " I will go somewhere if you desire it," she said; " but not to Tasmania. It is too far from home." "The sea trip would do you good; but, however, let us think of some other resort. One of the watering places would be the healthiest." " No! no! I should prefer going into the country. I do not care for the sea," exclaimed Grace, with a shudder. Meadowsere remembered Shelly Bay, I an id ; all that had taken place there. It was natural that Grace should shrink from spending another holidav within sound of the ever restless waves, which could not but remind her of Stephen ThornhiU. " What about Warrydong?" he. asked, with some restraint. But Grace shook her head. She did not wish to go there either. She preferred going amongst strangers. " Very well," Reece said, " I will make enquiries, and no doubt we shall hit upon some pleasant spot before long." "You will go too, won't you, Reece? It is so long since you hod a holiday." No; I have a good deal of work in hand at present." Grace had expected some such answer; yet it pained her. "Could you not take your work with you?" she suggested timidly. " Not very well. Besides, it comes natural to me working in the study: aud I could not get along at all away from it. My thoughts would be likely to wander, and mv work be faulty. No more was said for several days. At length, however, Reece intimated that he had heard of a small township situated some sixty or seventy miles from Melbourne which promised to prove all that could be desired. It was quiet and pretty, while the climate was reported 'to be cool and healthy. To make nuite sure, however, he intended going there first himself, whan he could also make arrangements for Grace's stay, provided he found the place as it was represented to be. Reece was absent several days. On his return he informed Grace that he had taken lodgings for her !»t a fannhouse about a mile ! from 3m the th' township. The owners, he said, were : simple-minded, homely folk, and he thought j she would b? comfortable with them. Telsie. of course, would ."company her, and' also Margaret. When Margaret heard of the arrangement which had been made she hardly knew how to act. Her inclination to remain with Reece was very strong. "Who would attend to his wants?" she asked. "The servants," answered Roece, with a smile. Then he said earnestly—"You are the only person to whose care I can trust my wire, . Margaret. Watca over her, and write to me ; regularly so tiiat. i may know exactly how the ! change affects her health. She must return at i once if the place does not agree with her." And Margaret consented. There was famt. j limnier of light in the distance she imagined. I Perhaps it would grow brighter Ah! if only would ! Ileece saw them to their new temporary home. He did not, however, remain at the farmhouse, but spent the night at a hotel in the township. The ne:."t day he came -to aav " Good-by.' s A good deal of time was spent in comforting . Telsie,_ who refused to resign herself to the ! parting till Reece threatened never to return '
unless she behaved as a good little girl. To this Telsie replied that " She 'ood lie a dood "ikle dirl, but papa must turn back kickly." His last words to Margaret were in reference to his wife, whom he confided to her care. "See that she wants for nothing, Margaret. Persuade her to go out as much as possible into the open air, and be sure to write as I told yon." And now cvne the final parting. Grace a-waited her husband in the small parlour set apart- for her with a nervous trembling. This was the first parting between them which promised to be of any length since their marriage. What would Reece say? Would he speak kindly and regretfully, or would he be cold and indifferent? Her heart beat very quickly as she heard his approaching footsteps, and it was with difficulty sne repressed a sob. " Are you here, Grace?" The room was darkened, and coming in from the bright glare of the sunshine he could see nothing. " I am here, R*ece, : ' she answered, in a low voice. Reece took her hand, and drawing her to the window pulled back the curtains. "You are very pale, Grace," he said, tenderly. "You must get the roses back into your cheeks, and return to me more like your old self. Is there anything you have forgotten that I can send you? Anything I can do to make your stay here more comfortable?"' "There is nothing—thank you." His kind, thoughtful manner brought the tears to her eyes. A wild longing came over her to clasp her arms about his neck. Perhaps, had she done so, Reece would have been oonquered. But the moment passed, and her chance was gone. "I must make a start now; it is a good many miles to the station, Grace." "When will you be here again, Reece?" Grace spoke barely above a whisper, but the sweet, clear tones of her voice reminded Reeoe of other days, and how much his love had been to him. Does it matter a great deal when I return?" he said, bitterly and cruelly. Grace did not answer, and he looked at her. The tears were coursing silently down hor cheeks. Surely he could "hold out no longer. But the image of Stephen Stornhill came between them. " Good-by'" he said coldly; and it was over.