|Newspaper Title||The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893)|
|Trove Title||Wedded to Death|
WEDDED TO DEATH.
CHAPTER IX.-(Continued.) j
" And you venture to talk to me in this tone about her money. Your honour, forsooth, con- temptible worm that you are ! If it were not for her sake I would tread you under my foot so thoroughly that never in this world should you rise again. If yon are a free man now it is Bolely be- cause you have managed to win this young girl's hand. Not her love-no. My God ! Dorothy could never have brought herself to love a thing like you."
" Derek, I have wronged you. I own it. Having owned it, it is scarcely like your nature to be so severe."
" A hearty confession, verily," sneered Derek Home. "Since you are in a confessing vein, acknowledge how you managed to win from me the one woman for whose love I craved.
Reptile though Lewis Bellingham was, the sarcasm of Derek Home's manner fretted him, and like the proverbial worm he turned.
",Wby should you imagine my marriage to have been brought about by surreptitious means ? Am I not as capable of attracting a woman's love as you are ? Intense belief in yonrself waB over the bane of your character, Derek Home."
" In this<instance it is my belief in another that has been overset," answered Mr. Home,still speak- ing in the same cold, sneering tone. " Oh, not in you ; do not mistake me. I should have a poor appre- ciation of character if I had expected any noble .r Belf-sacrificing action from you. But Dorothy loved me-she told me so with her lips, she told me so with her eyeB-expressed it in her whole quiver- ing, passionate manner. Again, then, I ask you, what diabolical wiles have you practiced to lure
this woman for me ?"
" I suppose she changed her mind j women are fickle. She thought I should be a better match. There is always a chance that, as my wife, she may one day become a countess. At all events, I can give her position ; while you"
" The position of a felon's wife ! How dare you insult Dorothy by insinuating that she prefers paltry rank like yours, especially when it entails belonging to a wretched cur such as you are, to the honest, strong love that alone can make life bright und happy. Again, I demand to know what lies you have told, what deceit you have been guilty of, in order to work this evil thing ?"
In answer to this question the door waa thrown open, and Dorothy, all aflame with excitement,
burst into the room.
" He told me that you were living abroad with Ruth Churchill, and that I was tarnishing my maidenly dignity by bestowing another thought on either of you," cried Dorothy, not caring who heard, or attempting to close the door behind her.
Derek Home, whose presence of mind rarely for- sook him, and who was generally coolest in the face of a serious situation, rose and shqt the door ; then he pushed the chair on which he had been sitting forward to Mrs. Bellingham.
"lam sorry, very sorry," he said in a constrained voice, which only with much difficulty did he manage to keep calm, " that you should have over- heard any part of my conversation with your
" I have heard it all-all from the very begin- ning. I came back almost immediately after your arrival to get some patterns I had forgotten, and which were in a drawer in the dining-room through those curtains, for there are no folding-doors, as you perhaps imagine. I have heard every word."
She spoke very rapidly-so rapidly as to be barely intelligible.*
Lewis Bellingham did not utter a sound, bat sat quite paBsiye, and it was miraculously étrange that undue emotion did not produce one of his fainting
" Or, perchance, the miracle may be explained by the fact that, a man capable of concocting such vile combinations as he was could scarcely be credited with very deep feeling on any matter.
It was Derek Home who addressed Dorothy," always in the same measured terms, as if he were afraid of what words his outraged senses would, unless kept under Btrong control, give utterance to:
" You have heard all-all-did you Bay ?"
" Yes, every word. I know now that Lewis is a false friend and a felon. Fool-dolt-idiot that I was to allow myself to be hoodwinked by snoh a man, Oh, Derek, Derek, why did you leave me ?"
The appeal was a piteous one, yet what could JJe&eksay? ,,
His honor, on which he set so high a price, bade him to be calm and self-poBseßsed. He spoke almost coldly.
" I would have spared you this knowledge, Mrs. Bellingham, and I am sorry I did not decline any explanation with Bellingham except on neutral grounds. Now I fear the only remedy I have to suggest is scarcely an easy one. I can only ask you to forget what you have heard to-day, as I my- self shall, for your sake, strike to do."
" Never !" she cried. " You little know me, Derek, if you believe me to be one of those people who can ever forget. I strovo to cast you out ef | my mind because I was told you were unworthy of me; and in my jealousy I credited the tale that you loved another. I know now that this is false, ti at you and Ruth are my best and truest friends. I know that this man to whom I am tied is a hypo- critical, canting felon, and I call on you to de-
But Derok Home shook his head slowly and sadly. "It cannot, and it must not be¡" he said very decidedly.
She stamped her foot with rage, the emotional paroxysm was so strong on her ; she scarce knew
what the did.
" I will tell you," she said, " I will have no false colours. I will have the world know me for what I am. If my husband is a felon, and has deceived me, why should I pretend he is a saint ?"
" Because you are a good and true woman," an- swered Derek Home very softly ; " and to forgive and forget is woman's sweetest and noblest
" You, who have been so wronged, can aBk me to
do this ?"
" I can-I do. Lewis Bellingham's shortcomings will never be proclaimed to the world by me, and I scarcely think it would be becoming in his wife to bo less lenient than his quondam friend.*'
" But what can I do-what can I do?" criedpoor Dorothy. " My life has become a bnrden and a misery."
" You must learn to bear the burden with meek- ness, as your misery will be mitigated."
Dorothy's rebellious spirit, however, refused to see trial from Derek Home's standpoint, and she felt considerably irritated that he would not take up arms with her against her husband.
" You are as bad as he is," she cried, as the ex- ceedingly illogical side of her nature asserted it- self. " I do not believe that , either of you care what becomes of me, or whether I am happy or miserable. Stick to your business, and forge your bills as much as you like."
And this wild speech finishing in wilder sobs, ehe rushed out of the room. Nor did either of the men attempt to stop her. Derek Home heaved a deep sigh as he mechanically took up his hat, which he had set on the table ; while as for Lewis Bellingham he had been for the greater part of the time Dorothy was in the room sitting with his face buried in the cushion of his chair. Nor did he move now that he was once more alone with Derek, after Her departure. There was a brief silence-the lull after the storm. It was Derek who broke it,
" Good bye, Bellingham," he said ; " it would be well if we need never meet again, but since business relations must necessitate some communication all I can say is let it be as little as possible. In return for any service I may have rendered you in keeping your secret, be kind to Dorothy. Do not let her feel too bitterly, poor child, the unhappy lot into
which she has been snared." -
Lewis Bellingham did not attempt to answer or raise his head, but he held out his hand in a feeble sort of way. as if he ha'f expected that Derek Home would grasp it, and so a promise would be ratified.
But as through he saw not, Derek Home set his hat firmly on his head and want forth into the street, slamming the front door after him. Miser able as had been his condition when he entered that house, if possible, his wretchedness bad in-