|Newspaper Title||The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893)|
|Trove Title||Wedded to Death|
WEDDED TO DEATH.
The little Jew shrugged his shoulders and muttered something about dates being alwayB difficult to prove. Then he once more begged Mr, Home to go and see his own handwriting on the
bill which Mr. Blattherwaite now held.
Ezra Nathaniel had got his fifteen hundred for not much more than the sum paid down, and he did not wish his day's work to be any further in- terfered with by this tempestuous young man's mad sallies, BB he thoroughly believed them to be.
Finally) he called his clerk to show him out, muttering to himself, as having got rid of him, he returned to his writing-table :
"Poor young man, poor young man, he will commit some rash act if his friends do not take care oi him, for ho seems to be very much
Yet there was not living a clearer-headed man, nor one more precise in business matters than Derek Home. It was, indeed, rough handling that he should be so wrongly judged.
Derek Home was in good time to keep his appoint- ment with Mr. Blattherwaite, so he walked leisurely alongthe crowded streets, meeting many a man with whom ho was more or lesB acquainted j but after last night's experience at the club he took notice
of no one.
Some of these people recognised' him, some did not; those who did, for the most part turned to look after him, deciding that his death-warrant was written, and wondering what had happened to change a strong man so completely ; " but of course that fishy money affair had something to do- with
Mr. Blattherwaite was in his room awaiting the appointed interview, BO Derek Home was ushered
in at once.
He did not even say "Good morning" to the pompous millionaire-with him he wished to have no intercourse except that which business require- ments exacted-but went straight to the point.
" Nathaniel tells me you have that bill which you say bears my signature. Have the goodness
to show it to nie."
! Blattherwaite took a blue paper from a pocket
book which was in an open drawer before him, from which a bunch of keys was hanging, and held it out for Derek Home to see, keeping firm hold of it the while, as though he feared it might be snatched from him and destroyed.
There was a look of cold irony on Derek Home's face as he noticed the manouvre. How this man was taking the measure of him by himself, he thought.
The signature was there, large enough-"Derek
Still, he had never written it-that he would swear, if the next moment were to be his last.
His memory, which bad never deserted him, had assured him of this from the first, and his reason had endorsed it, since he had a goodly Bum in the bank and was in easy circumstances. Why should he have courted trouble and disgrace for nothing ?
Now, as he glanced at the writing, he knew the signature was a forgery, and that the manly strokes before him, though very similar to his own, were
The colour came into his face as the truth sud-
denly rose in naked gauntness before his mind, but he did not speak.
Lewis Bellingham ! He knew, withput being told, that it was Lewis Bellingham's hand that had signed, " Derek Home." Seeing his partner's writ- ing, as he had had so many opportunities of doing, he could trace his feebler lines ia the vigorous effort to make Derek Home's name bold and
" Well," said Blatthorwaite, tired of holding out the paper, and irritated by the silence, " are you
convinced now ?"
" Yes," said Derek Home, in a low voice, paling once more to his very Ups. " Yes, I accept the re- sponsibility of that paper. Illness, worry, I know not what have injured my mental capabilities, I fear. Yes, it is my writing. I will write you a cheque for the amount at once, or perhaps after what has occurred you would rather accompany me to the London and Westminster, and have the sum paid in coin."
" Fifteen hundred lying at your banker's, and all this bother about a bill !" said Blattherwaite, roughly.
" It is a mistake, I have told you-owing to my head being weakened by illness ; but I am better now, and I hope on a fair road to recovery."
While he was speaking he took his cheque-book from his breast-pocket and sat down at the table, j Mr. Blatterwaite handed him a pen. So overjoyed was the millionaire at the unexpected turn of affairs, that he determined for once to appear generous and trustful, which he did by declaring ?that he would not think of accompanying Mr. Home to the bank-a cheque was quite good enough for him, especially the cheque of so honorable and straightforward a gentleman as Mr. Home had proved him to be.
The truth being that Blatherwaite at once arrived at the conclusion that if the money was in the bank he should get it by cheque; if it was not, he would be no nearer by seeming to doubt thiB
There was something too, in Derek Home's man- ner, and till now untarnished reputation for honesty, that made him believe ia him even to the extent of handing him the bill that had been the cause of so much disagreeable discussion.
Having so far settled the business, Derek Home went downstairs, a heavier weight of care on his brow, if it could be possible, than when he entered.
Before his retreating footsteps had died out, Blattherwaite was studying the cheque, t» cash which he had intended to send forthwith.
" Crossed, by Jove !" he mutterd, as he looked at it. " He is a better man of business than I gave him credit for. It will have to pass through in the ordinary business manner."
Then he took it a little nearer to the window.
" Signature is not altogether the same as that on the bill. Wish I had the two to compare. There's a hitch somewhere ; but it nothing to me so long as I get roy money."
At the door of Blattherwaite's outer office Derek Home met his friend Fred Lovatt.
" I have been following you about from pillar to post, my dear Derek. I meant to have seen you though this disreputable interview."
" You are very good, Fred-too good. I have paid the money."
" Paid the money ! Holy Moses ! Then it was your bill?"
" It waa my bill. Yes."
" And I who had believed so profoundly that it
was all a swindle."
"Never believe anything, Fred. The world is made up of shams."
" But, Derek, old man, tell me all about it. How did it happen ?"
And Fred Lovatt linked his arm in Derek's as they walked along Threadneedle Street.
" There is nothing to tell save that my head has been wool-gathering of late, and I forgot. I am going to the bank now to see for certain that there is money enough to meet my cheque, or to speak to tho manager, BO that he will meet it, holding
securities as he does of mine."
" But, Derek, I am absolutely dumbfounded. Are you sure you aie not labouring under a delu-
sion now ?"
Derek Home shook his head.
" I wish to God I were, for it is a bad business. I would not have lived to go throngh it had I been the controller of my own destiny."
No more was said. Fred Lovatt was by no means convinced, and was trying to pnzzte out what it could possibly mean ; while, as for Derek Home, he was so absorbed that he absolutely forgot the oxistence of the man whose arm rested on his.
He had saved Lewis Bellingham, saved him be caused he waa Dorothy's husband-Dorothy, whom he loved better than any living being, himself in
But would the sacrifice he had made to-day be of any avail? Was there any use in saving a man who could be guilty of such baseness ?"
God only knew what the future had in store for Dorothy ; but if he had any power to influence iti happiness should flow for her as a broad river.
His whole life had been marred by what he now doubted not was hV husband's treachery; but per- haps, after all, she loved Lewis Bellingham better
than she had ever loved him.
God, in His mercy, grant that it might be so !