Chapter 18982199

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Chapter NumberX
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18982199
Full Date1890-05-17
Page Number2
Corrections0
Word Count2611
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893)
Trove TitleWedded to Death
article text

CHAPTER X.

Mr. Blattherwaite, like many vulgar, self-made men, had a luxurious, even a beautiful, home.

To look at Blattherwaite, as he climbed on to the top of an omnibus on his daily journeys to and from the city, the most elastic fancy would scarcely associate the " thing of beauty," which we are,told is a " joy for ever," with him in any way. ,

Yet Blattherwaite had married a pretty little highly-cultured woman from the Bohemian classes. What will not money accomplish ? And to her he was indebted for artistic surroundings, both in the form of human beings and the manipulations of their agile fingers.

" Creek Lodge," St. John's Wood, was a retreat worthy of Mrs. Blattherwaite's taste and Joe Blattherwaite's money.

Lewis Bellingham had promised to take his wife there. It was on the occasion when Blattherwaite backed the bill for Derek Home that the promise was made, and there might be just the shadow of a suspicion lying athwart the transaction that, in order to have this promise transformed into a reality, Joe Blattherwaite lulled to rest any dis- quieting thoughts that might arise as to whether the arrangement was, as he would have expressed it, " altogether on the square."

Since Derek Home had paid the money he had become firmly convinced that it was not a straight- forward affair; but he only shrugged his shoulders, thought Derek Home a fool for notexposing matters, and decided that interference was in no way his

business. '

The newly-married couple having returned to town, Blattherwaite was entertaining the idea of giving what he called " a splash," and inviting all his friends to meet them. J,f he had had his way he would have,put to meet the Honourable Mr. and Mrs. Bellingham on the cards just as if'they were royal ty,, but Mrs. Blattherwaite would have no Buoh vulgarity, and, moreover, asked him to wait just a little while, as some American cousins of hers would then be in town and could be in- cluded in the invitations.

To this Joe Blattherwaite agreed, since it pleased his vanity to think he could show these Yankees that he was a big enough man to have titled people

in his house.

The American cousins alluded to by Mr. Blatther- waite being the Lawsons, it was tolerably certain that a good deal of the City magnate's self-suffi- ciency would be put down as mere swagger, and he would feel rather crestfallen when he discovered bow intimate Vers Lawson and Mrs. Bellingham in all appearance were.

I ^But he had not yet succeeded, in getting Dorothy

to come to his house. He was, of course, un- acquainted with what had taken place on the subject of the forged bill and other delinquencies of the unscrupulous Lewis, and had therefore formed no conjecture of how little "influence her husband^now hadtoyor her ¡ in fact, of his total incapacity1 to make helado any single Ching that

she did not absolutely choose. When the Lawsons

arrivera», Lond^n^they spufc^top at^pè Keysersj Hotel,' which was à little ont ' of fashionably

latitude; but since they always kept a carriage at their disposal, it mattered little to them "if they were far away. It was their first visit to London,1

and its distances were unknown to them, i

They accepted Mrs. Blattherwaite's invitation, which greeted them on their arrival, thoagh Vera

expressed a wonder, since she had married a man with so awful a nama as Blattherwaite, what sort of people they were likely to meet at their house.

More curious than select they decided, and then banished the subject from their minds in the tal- more impprtant matter of sight-seeing London.

Naturally it would have been supposed that Vera would have gone to renew her acquaintance with Mrs. Bellingham ; but, strange to say, she was in no hurry to do so. She had by no means shaken off the dread feeling of uncanniness that she felt whenever she thought of what she was pleased to call the " mystic union of these two married people."

She waa not sure whether she feared to have her illusions dispelled or whether she dreaded to have them strengthened, but certain it is she put off from day to day the visit which she had almost promised Dorothy should be paid within twenty-four hours after her arrival.

Not that she had forgotten the Bellinghams or strove to chase the recollection of them from her mind ; on the contrary, she asked every new person, to whom Bhe was introduced for news oí them, and was vastly surprised and disappointed that they all stared at her blankly and said they did not know them. That there was any chance of meeting them at the Blattherwaites Vera did not think in the very least possible; she knew enough about the differences of social position in England to be aware of the barriers that are set up between classes. Her cousin, bright little Minnie Gavin, had married a blustering Englishman of very low caste, so she had been told ; and for a fine gentleman, sH.h as Lewis Bellingham was, to associate with a man of Mr. Blattherwaite's calibre, or to allow his wife to do so, was not to be thought of for a moment. Great, then, was Vera Lawson's surprise when she found herself in the midst of the motley crew Mr. Blattherwaite dignified with the name of a " splash," to see Lewis Bellingham's haggard and remarkable-looking face appear at one of the doors.

Having given bim a nod, which he returned auto- . maton fashion, being deep in conversation with his host, Vera began to look about for Dorothy, but Dorothy was nowhere to be seen.

Of course not. It would have taken a cleverer

man than unscrupulous Lewis Bellingham was to have induced Dorothy to appear at Mr. Blatther waite's patty after the conversation she had over-

heard between her husband and Derek Home.

Under all the circumstances Lewis Bellingham had judged it expedient to come alone, but he

wished now he had sent or written an excuse for

them both, so wrathful and coarsely demonstative was Joe Blaltherwaite on the subject cf the lady's non-appearance."

In vain did Mr. Bellingham repeat over and over again that his wife was not well, Mr. Battherwaite declined to believe the statement.

" She was well enough to gad about where fancy took her," he said; "and it wonld have been better if she had chosen to come there, considering what he, Joe Blattherwaite, had done for her husband."

The conscience that makes cowards of us al| assnmed the proportions of a giant as Blattherwaite Bpoke. " Did he know-could he possibly know the true history of that wretched bill. Surely Derek Home had not been so base as to- Bnjj no"-hating Derek Home as he did for being his supeiior in all things, he was bound to give him credit for loyalty.

If Blattherwaite had discovered aught, it must be attributed to his own lively instincts, not to Derek Home's perfidy.

" On my word of honour, I would have brought Mrs. Bellingham if I could; it is not my fault. On another occasion I shall be proud to do so ; or, better «till, you and Mrs. Blattherwaite must come and dine in L^wndes-street and make her acquain-

tance."

This extremely problematical solution of the difficulty, considering Dorothy's obstinaoy, was merely received by the disappointed financer with

the one word :

"Pooh'"

" He was not going to be humbugged a second time," he thought ; " had been a fool to trust to Bellinghatn's word at all ; but he would be even with him before he had done, that he would."

A-nd so perchance he would have told him, only Mrs. Blattherwaite, who was always on the lookout for her husband's social shortcomings and rude- ness, advanced to the rescue and carried off her fierce lord and master to do the civil amenities in Borne other quaiter, leaving the "galvanised corpse" to lean againBt the doorpost and recoveras well as he could the equilibrium which Blatther- waite's insinuation had so desperately shaken.

The blood, what little he had of it, was be- ginning to course more rapidly through his veins and thus precluded all danger of one of his terrible attacks of semi-asphyxiation, when Vera Lawson spoke to bim from the stair-stage on which she was standing, and he turned round to answer her, almost glad at the moment to hear the sound o£ any friendly voice, though the question was the same difficult one he bad had put to him by Joe

Blattherwaite.

" Why is not Mrs. Bellingham here to-night ?" " She is not well," he murmured.

" Not well ! She must be ill to stay at home. I never saw anyone who detested her own society so much as Dorothy does. Is she alone to-night ?"

" Not exactly-that is-"

The fact being that Dorothy ^ad gone to a party at Lady Marslaud's, whom she had known before she married, and where Mr. Bellingham was going to join her later on. Not that she had asked him to do so, but for his own sake he wished to keep up appearances between them, and he strove hard to ignore the fact that Lshe went where she pleased, and' scarcely condescended even to speak to him unlcBB in angry .tones, to which atígry tones Vera Lawson would, of course, hare ascribed the fact o£ his being alive at all. .,

Lewis Bellingham was essentially a weak man $ most of his slippery transactions were the result of weakness ; he never could withstand a temptation. Having, thon, only a certain amount of cunning, and not being over-gifted with brain power, his plans were usually very loosely put together and rarely carried out with the requisite amount of

skill.

He had told Mr. Blattherwaite that his wife was ill, but he rashly told Vera Lawson that she had gone to'Lady Marsland's. It did not fora moment occur to him that Vera, Lawson could be anything more to such people as the Blattberwaites than a mere acquaintance made in the course of business

relations.

But even had this been BO, still it was a false

move.

;',Gone to Lady Marsland's," cried ont Vera; "How strange! Why, we are asked to go.thpre» and mean to look in on onr way back ; but why would she not come here with yeo first? She usedito like tearing about from pillar to-post."

. '-Dorothy only goes where ehp chooses, as perhaps you know," i8aidnMr. Bellingham .with, a faint attempt at'a smile.

" And she does not think our good friends here quit« the sort of people sha ivishes to associate

with P"

" Exactly."

MisB Vera Lawson looked very wise. #

" You muet give Madame Dorothy a few lessons in expediency, my dear sir."

He smiled that ghastly smile which always made Vera feel creepy. He was thinking how useless .were any lessons he might bestow on Dorothy 5 but he answered pluckily enough, too pluckily, as it

happened

"I can scarcely coerce my wife in a matter like this. After all, why should she associate with

low-bred people ?"

Why, indeed ? Mr. Blattherwaite may one day furnish the reason, since, standing close behind Lewis Bellingham, he has heard every word of-this

ill-advised speech.

Joe Blattherwaite, however, was quite capable of keeping his feelings at command, his tongue under control. He neither moved nor flinched j but he took a mental oath, in pretty strong language, too, that if he could do an ill turn to these upstart BellinghamB he would not fail to do

so.

Having arrived at this eonelusion, he walked away to the other end of the room without allowing either Lewis Bellingham or Vera Lawson to receive the slightest inkling that he had discovered the real truth about Dorothy's non-appearance. Not even when some half-hour later, he saw the Law gang and Lewis Bellingham take their departure together, and guessed whither they were bound, did he do otherwise than wish them a very polite

good-night.

So polite, indeed, was it, that Lewis Bellingham was a little surprised. Various though the busi- ness relations were he had had with Joe Blatther- waite, he had not yet discovered that silence and civility from him conoealed an under-cutrent of mischief which would probably have flowed away io a flood of angry expletives.

Vera Lawson had one of those fascinating horrors of Dorothy's husband which always seemed a'ttra«t her to him ; when she did not see him she always hoped she would never do so again ; but when he was present she could not keep her eyes off him, or her thoughts on any subject not in

connection with him.

Not that the bright little American was in the least in love with this somewhat unusual specimen of the genus homo ; it was her own fancies about the mysteries she believed to exist between him and Dorothy that interested while they awed her.

Mr. Bellingham was going to take a hansom to join his wife, who had declined to let him have the brougham ; BO the Larsons offered him a seat in their carriage, which was at once accepted, for Lewis Bellingham was pleased with the society of Vera and her cheery brother.

Arrived at Lady Marsland 's, they discovered that what they expected to be a mere reunion of inti- mates waa a large unusually crowded party for the time of year.

Crowded, too, with "stars" of a far higher standing than the lesser luminaries they had left behind them at MrB. Blattherwaite's.

They were almost horne up the staircase by ad- vancing guests, and, reaching the top, found the throng at the doors, though the house was in Har ley-street, almost impassable.

To find Dorothy appeared an almost hopeless task, so they resolved to wait patiently till some retreating guests should have lessened the crowd.

Then at last they passed into the large drawing room, at the far end of which there was a conserva- tory, but not a trace of Dorothy could they perceive, and Mr. Bellingham was beginning to think that she had gone home simply -to baulk him in his intention to join her.

"Just one circuit of the rooms would he make," he told Vera Lawson, "and then he, too, would go home, since late hours were scarcely beneficial to hip health."

" She would accompany bim, of course," she said. "she was most anxious to see her friend again."

And she slipped her hand on to his arm.

A tea-room and supper-room were visited, then a grand tour of the reception-rooms. Only the con- servatory remained to be investigated, and there they had no expectation of finding her whom they sought, since Dorothy hated seclusion, and invari- ably put herself exceedingly en evidence.

There, however, Dorothy Bellingham was, sitting on a crimson divan arning flowering azaleas. As usual, she was exquisitely dressed, and her cheeks showed, as ever of late, the two hectic spots that made her friends shake their heads when they thought how few the poor bright little butterfly's hours of pleasure would be.

Beside her on the crimson divan there was seated a man in the full tide of his manhood, and most rich in beauty's attributes.

Vera Lawson, using one of the pet expressions of her country, decided that he was " lovely."

But Lewis Bellingham scowled when he beheld him.

Dorothy's companion waa Derek Home.

{To be conitnued.)