|Chapter Number||XXII (Continued.)|
|Newspaper Title||The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893)|
|Trove Title||Wedded to Death|
WEDDED JO DEATH.
CHAPTER XXII (Continued.)
She feltas if she had no room left in her heart for tenderness, and argued that it was well that it should be so-a mercy were the well-Bpring dried up for ever, since the barrier that divided her from this man could never, never be removed.
So she wrote him a few cold lines, as was befit- ting from a young schoolnust.-e-s to a man far above her in station, telling him simp'y that Lewis Bellingham had died suddenly and that Mrs. Bel lingham's nervous system had received a severe shock. At the end she added a few words of regret at hearing ho was iU, and that waa all.
It wasachilling letter that would surprise Derek when he received it, if his mijd was not too full of Dorothy's image to pay much attention to what this far worthier woman thought or felt.
It had gone to the post, and Ruth went at ' Fergie's request to lie down for awhile ; but where
was sleep? The capricious and erratic god who presides over slumber had not been summoned lo the conclare when rest was suggested, and he was
nowhere to be found.
For a whole weary hour Ruth tossed on her bed, her nerves ticking like clocks, her head throbbing with a strange, to her unaccustomed, neuralgic pain. What was the use of this striving for repose which wsuld only come to a mud at ease, so she got up, refreshed herself with a bath, and, dressing her- self, went down once more to Fergie.
Then came another friendly resistance. Fergie would not allew her t» go all the long way to Lowndes-street till after she had her early dinner.
" To eat. Oh, how diflioult. What should she
Poor Ruth, she felt as if she would never eat again ; but she strove hard to do as she was bidden and swallowed a few morsels that nearly choked her, Fergie looking regretfully the while, but ap- pearing not to tahe much notice.
" If Ruth loved Derek to this extent," she thought " what would happen when he married Mrs. Belling- ham," as Fergie had quite made np my mind that
he would do.
Gladly would she have prevented Ruth from paying this second visit to Lowndes-street, feeling vety certain f re ai what she had heard of yesterday's interview that all future raeetiags with Dorothy would only ha produc'.ive of annoyance; but she had long sincecome to the conclusion that to thwart young people is unwise ; so hoping for the best, but fearing the wo"-st, s'ie saw Ruth depart without giving utteraice to any of tbo3e objectional warn- ings or insinuations to which so many-middle-aged mentors are prone.
Kind, sympathising Fergie, -jouldahe have farmed any idea of the extent of the worry that was at this time overshadowing her beloved Ruth, she would scarcely have sat down so placidly by the fire, knitting in hand, r.nd looking forward to the day when Ruth would have set her love for this unat- tainable Derek Home on one side, and haro con- sented to settle down with some honest, straight- forward young fellow whom she had not yet seen.
And Fergio was not very certain that she had not got a nephew of her own in her mind when she allowed her thoughts thus to wander, for her dead brother's only boy had gone to South America some ten years before, and, having made a con- siderable sum of money out there, Fergie was hop- ing that he might Boon return and prove a fitting husband for her darling Ruth.
But fate was big with many issues that were far beyond the control of Fergie's powers, gladly though she would have used stupendous efforts to pave her sweet little partner a moment's pain.
So for Fergie, dwelling in a rose-tinted dream, the winter afternoon passed quickly and even more happ'ly; it waa only the gathe-ing shadows of the n'ght that warned he . at last how time had flown. She got up and lighted the lamps, made up a good fire for toast, hop'ng that if Ruth came back in time for tea she would by now be hungry, and then she called to the little maid to come and set the tea things so that it might look comfortable when Miss Ruth e.une in. Befo 'e Fergie's thoughtfu'ness could be carried out, Ruth made ber appearance, looking, if possible, even more jaded and worn than she had done when ehe
"Come and sit down, dear, come and sit down. Heie, Jane, take off Miss Ruth's boots and go and fetch her slppers. A nice cup of tea will set you right, and a bit of Fergie's own toast. Sitting up all night is not good for you, lovey. We will have
no more of it."
Ruth lay back in her chair utterly exhausted. Annoyance mora than fatigue had accomplished
" I did not see Dorothy. She had gone away to B-ighton with Miss Vera Lawson," was all she
How much it meant to Ruth, Fergie little knew, while she felt almost glad that they had not met, since she conjectured the meeting, from what Ruth had described of Dorothy's state could scarcely have proved a pleasureable one.
Of course, Ruth's dejection was set down to fatigue. She would be all right after a night's rest, she toldhor anxious friend.
Ah ! if it were not for the hope of whatto-merrow may bring, how many of us would find it difilcult to live through to-day ?
To Ruth to-morrow could bring nothing reas saring, unless some almost supernatural agency was a'ready at work. What should Bhe do f what should she do? how get that money? was her constant heart-cry, even while she was assuring Fergie that with to-murrow's sun she would be as bright and b"the as a lark.
So Fergie coaxed her and made her go to bed, and tucked her up; but scarcely had she closed the door of her own room when Ruth was walking up and down in a perfect agony of suspense and worry.
To rest was absolutely impossible, and to judge from her flushed cheekB and bright, wide-open eyes her condition was very little better than had been that of Rosie Black on the previous night.
Ia fact, if something did not happen, she was in danger of becoming moat serioußly ill.
The mischief lay in having no one in whom she could confide her trouble.
"Tie grief that does not speak,
Whispers the o*er-f:augUt heart, and bids it break."
Twenty times the temptation came, fierce and impelling, "Go to your o'd friend, Fergie. She will take you to her heart and help you."
But she thrust it from her with a determination thit well-nigh took away all her strength.
Honour forbade that she should take dear old Fergie's little all, even to save her father, especially sinee, though she was MB daughter, she had not, in very truth, muoh belief in his principles.
If Derek Home had been in England, she would have gone to him, feeling certain he would have helped her to borrow this money, which she was ready to work night and day to restore. But Derek Home was far away, ill, perhaps dead, and poor Ruth felt that she had not a single friend ia
the «hole world.
Three o'clock struck by the neighbouring clock. The fire Miss Ferguson had insisted on having lighted had long since gone out, and the unhappy girl was becoming almost petrified with cold, so phe crawled once more into bed, and getting warm after awhile, nature teok the case in hand, and ere long she fell asleep.
It was redemption. A little more walking about, half-clad, in the December night, her head mean- while racked with mental torture, and Ruth's chance of escape from a severe illness would have
j been hopeless. As it was, she did not wake till
Fergie stood beside her bed, holding a little tray on which the breakfast was tidily set. On the tray lay a letter in old Dick's writing.
" Well done, bonnie Ruth," said Fergie, cheerily ; " it is nearly eleven o'clock. Why, you have slept
the clock more than round.
If she had only known how the earlier hours of the night had been passed !
But Ruth made no answer, only snatched up the letter and read it feverishly.
" Thank God !" Bbe exclaimed, when she got to
the last word.
" Good gracious what has happened ?"
" My father has been in a little difficulty, that is al'. He is out of it, though. Matt Leader has helped him."
" Indeed. Pity he could not have found another
" Perhaps he is not so bad as we think him. It is not everyone who would lend father sixteen pounds. If only he would not make love to me !"
Miss Ferguson did not reply for a second or two ;
thei she asked
" What on earth has your father being doing to want so large a sum ?"
Now that the money was found, there could be no harm : n Ruth unburdening herself to her friend which she did forthwith in f nil detail.
To receive only a grunt in reply. Miss Ferguson could not'view the case in the happy aspect from which Ruth now saw it ; but then, of course, Fergie bad not undergone the same amount of mental
lC What are you thinking of, Fergie ?" she asked at last, as she munched her nice crisp toast.
"Don't mind me, love, don't mind me. Treat me as a nasty, ugly, evil augur. Only I'm afraid we shall not have much plain sailing in the future if that Mr. Leader is to be mixed up in the family money matters."
" I must work all the harder and pay him off," s&'d Ruth, kissing her trusty frend in the very exuberance of feeling that for the moment, at all eveats, the cloud had lifted.
" Pay him off. Not so easy. He has not lent Mr. Churchill that money without a motive, or I don't know anything of human nature."