Chapter 18984909

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Chapter NumberXI
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18984909
Full Date1890-05-24
Page Number2
Corrections0
Word Count3624
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893)
Trove TitleWedded to Death
article text

WEDDED TO DEATH.

CHAPTER XI.

Dorothy's love for Derek Home, which from its very strength had made her hate him when she be- lieved that he had been unfaithful to her and de- serted hec for Ruth Churchill, of whom she had been more or lesB jealous, increased in intensity till it was akin to madness when she discovered that her idol had no flaw, b_t that instead of Derek it was the wretched man, now her husband, who had

deceived her.

In Dorothy's sovereign contempt lay Lewis Bel lingham's severest punishment. He pleaded as man never pleaded before for forgiveness; told her that it was his wild love for her that had brought him down to the very lowest depth ; that he would lose heaven to gain her; she was his heaven, the only houri he wanted in his paradise ; for sheer pity, if for no other cause, would she not forgive ?

But the more abjectly Lewis Bellingham begged» the farther away did he fall'from Dorothy's grace*

She spurned him as she would have spurned a worm wriggling and writhing in her path.

' Was not to incriminate a good man's fair fame with a base lie enough?" she asked in Bcorn " Must he also take that name in Tain by commit- ting an act of forgery ?"

And in such horror did Dorothy hold the wretched being to whom she waa tied for life-for there was no divorce court to fres her from such crimes as his-that if she had not had ever before her eyes the example of long suffering set her by Derek Home, she would herself have denounced Lewis Bellingham for the felon he was.

Perchance the punishment of absolute silence, would have been a lesser one than he had now to endure, for " death and life are in the power of the tongue ;" yet, if there were a shadow of truth in Vera Lawson's theory that Lewis Bellingham was kept alive by the vitality infused into him in some subtle manner by his wife, she would, wheie she be- hind the domestic scenes, be forced to allow that by means of word warfare was the fret and tear of existence kept in a perpetual state of agonising

friction.

Like the dropping of continual water were Dorothy's upbraidings, so constant that it might be imagined their effect Would have ceased ; that it do not did so was owing to the intensity of Lewis's love for her. Hence his grief at having lost all he had done so much to gain had so crashed him that he had no spirit left resent injuries, 01 wherewith to make the attempt of vindicating bia own acts. Since impudent knaves are those who, as a rule, are most successful in weathering the storm, so if Lewis Bellingham had had more effrontery he would perchance have main- tained a higher position in Dorothy's opinion t as it was, she regarded and tneated him as a mere- rep- tile too ignoble for consideration. She bad distinctly declined to accompany him to the Blattherwaite's gathering; net because she objected to the class of people she was likely meet there Dorothy had no caste prejudices : to be amused was her object-she simply refused because Bhe saw by not going she would annoy her husband, and every petty annoyance she could inflict on bim seemed to be some compensation for the heavy sin he had been guilt;- of towards her.

Lady Maraland was an old friend of the Meados. When in the country she bad lived about four miles from Aston. Royal, and she and Dorothy had for for some two years been on terms of great intimacy. Of course, then, Dorothy was very mnch pleased, to accept this invitation, especially as she had a glimmering hope that Derek Home might chance

to be there.

She dresBed herself with the very greatest care in a pale pink fabrication, concocted by fingers like unto fairies. The colour and the toilet were al- together most becoming to the beautiful wearer, and there was a buzz of admiration as she ascended the already tolerably crowded staircase.

By the door stood Derek Home. Why had he come there, knowing Dorothy's intimacy with the hostess ? Was it a step in accordance with his usual prudence ?

The fact was, Derek Home was desperate wellnigh as desperate as waa Dorothy her-

self. He felt he must see her at once again, see tor himself how she had taken the fearful revelations that had so lately been made to her. He would not go to Lowndes Street, because he did not choose to enter Lewis Bellingham's house; but he did not attempt to conceal it aB a Beeret from himself that the sole reason for his accepting Lady Marsland's invitation was that he might perchance have a brief inter- view with Dorothy--the first tôte-â-tôte since she had become a married woman ; and un- less the fates that sometimes rush people on to their own ruin were very adverse, he was deter- mined it should be the last.

A lawyer had already taken the preliminary steps for cancelling his partnership with Lewis Belling- ham-after this business was fully settled he would go abroad,and seek in years of absence either death or forgetfulness. Not "once during his trouble did Derek Home's thoughts recur to poor troubled little Ruth, who even while she was doing her daily work with the bravery of a true heroine was at times wellnigh succumbing from one of thoBe same at- tacks of headache which a kind word or a smile from Derek would alone alleviate.

Alas she knew full well that her case was incur- able, since he loved another. A bright ray of light had gladdened her life for a brief space when Dorothy married Mr. Bellingham. Since her inter- view with Dorothy, however, though she struggled more bravely than ever, each day had found her with lesB hope, and her white face and frequent fits of absent-mindedness made her good friend Fergie very sad. * *

Most assuredly not one thought on Rath did Derek Home bestow aB he leant against the portal watching Dorothy aa she came up the stairs. When she perceived him her eyes sparkled and the hectic flush on her cheeks deepened, while an electrical current seemed to pass simultaneously through both their frames. What mattered the whole

. world to either so they two caine together ? Wha* was Lewis Bellingham, who had played them so false a turn, that he should be considered in the

matter ?

Madness was abroad, and, like a subtle epidemic, it had stricken them both, and absolutely banished all power of reason.

As far as frail, illogical, loving Dorothy was con- cerned, this was scarcely strange. She inew but little of the world, or the verdict an unguarded act would receive atits hands j even had sho done so she would scarcely have stopped at this montent to count the cost ; but that honest, honourable, up- right Derek Home should be tempted into turning a woman away from virtue's path to sin and sorrow for him waa an inexplicable anomaly that wosdd make men stare and women wonder who the man was that they dare trust if Derek Home's rectitude was found wanting when the hour of trial arrived.

He did not move frcsn the door-post till Dorothy was quite close to lunn The strong; passions that raged within him held him there spellbound, aB it were, till the storm should have somewhat passed , and he bad more mastery over his eyes and voice

He had just enough sanity left not to wish the world to note aught of the raging löve-tempest. But Dorothy cared nothing for opinionB'or remarks. She came straight up to him and laid her hand in his the light of her eyes telling all to plainly the tale that all the people of the earth were for her concentrated in one being, and that being was

Derek Home.

A great and sudden fear filled the strong man's heart when he looked into Dorothy's face. If a crowd of fashionable idlers had not hemmed them in he would have turned and fled from the terrible temptation to which he felt they were both in danger of succumbing.

There was no present hope of escape, and he must stay where he was and shield her as much as possible from the observations whieh, with the temerity of utter recklessness, she seemed almost

to court.

" My love, my love," she said, " what a joy to seo you once again."

He dared not reply to these half-whispered words, like sweet music though they were to his ears. He gave her his arm and conducted her through the throng across the drawing-room to the conservatory which lay beyond, where there were luxurious seats and but few idlers. They could converse there without interruption, and perchance without remark. Still, he almost doubted if there would not be more misery than happiness in the interview ; but, like Dorothy, he, too, was reckless, would set aside all thought of the future, and live only for the present enjoyment of gazing on her sweet face and hearing her loving voice tell him how she' loved him, would have loved him for ever, had not another man's passion come between them and divided them by duty, of which passion is but rarely the progenitor.

Since they had both been made to suffer so severely by Lewis Bellingham's deceit, surely there could be no sin in a brief explanation, just to prove that no one was to blame but him ; and then, each being exonerated in the opinion of the other, they must part, to meet again no more, even for the

briefest converse.

So quieting his conscience with false reasoning, Derek Home walked across the room with Dorothy's little hand lying on his arm. She, too, did not attempt to speak again till she was seated beside him on the crimson satin divan, among the

azaleas and camellias.

Then arose a heart cry that stabbed him to the quick as'a sharp knife when it penetrates suddenly.

"Oh, Derek, why have you let all this happen? What have I done to be made bo miserable ?"

Was he not as wretched as she was ? And yet at that moment it was more for her than for him- self that he sorrowed.

" Poor darling, poor darling ! I would father you had died than that you should have married Bellingham."

They were the first words he had spoken to her, and they scarcely seemed to contain much hope. To Dorothy, however, they had brought a ray, for the love-light came back to her eyes, which during her cry it had temporarily quitted. She said :

" Take me away from him, Derek take me away. I cannot bear it, indeed I cannot."

" My dearest !" and hidden there by the flower- ing shrubs from the observation of the curious, he imprinted on her lipB as she raised her face to his in pleading earnestness the first passionate, linger- ing kiss of love. Dorothy did not attempt to re- sist, but nestled closer to him, as though only when shielded by his strong protecting arms couid she feel safe and at rest.

No sooner was this outburst of his madness over than a cold, hard, steely look settled on his conn tenance, and, grasping her delicate arm so tightly that his finger marks were left on the flesh, he thrust

her from him.

" Wretched girl !" he exclaimed, " why have you tempted me thus ? I must guard your honor and my own."

" Oh, Derek, you hurt me. Why do you look at mo and speak to me thua ? If you loved me you

could not."

" Not love you ! Oh, my God !"

And he got up and walked away to some little

distance.

" Derek, come back here 5 come back and tell me what you and I have done that we should be so punished."

How could he solve an enigma that since the be- ginning of ages has been unsolvable !

He could only preach the old threadbare doc- trine that patience and heroic endurance would bring peace at last, but since, at that moment, whatever he might do under brighter auspices, he did not himBelf believe in the theory, but felt utterly rebellions and at odds with fate, he an- swered her question fey sitting down once more be- side her, and putting his arm around him, drew her for the second time that evening to his side.

" So I feel happy and good," murmured Dorothy. " You do not know, Derek, what wicked thoughts are always coming to me whan you are not by. I do not believe I could think any very dreadful awful thing if you were near me. You always seem so great and noble, so like a god in your strength."

.' My poor dear Dorothy, do not, I beg of you, ascribe attributes in which I assure you I am most essentially wanting. Besides, it is only by our keeping resolutely apart that there is any chance of our doing what is right. I cannot help you to carry this burden, you must .carry it alone, or it will crush us both." '

" But, Derek, I cannot. I hate Lewis Belling, ham-hate him with a deep and bitter hatred. If I had not experienced the horrible feeling I would not have believed I could have bated anyone so much. I shudder when I think of myself. I was so bright and joyous once, and now that hatred

that I feel for him seems to have transformed me into a low vile wretch, lower even and viler than he is himself, and yet I cannot help it. Oh ! I do not know what to do unless I can get back good wholesome thoughts, through being with you. Happy thoughts, dear Derek, as I used to have in

the charmed days at Aston Royal before I ha_ fallen into the toils of that miserable culprit who who is my husband. Oh, Derek, when I think that he is bo I wonder I do not strangle either mys»lf

or him." ~)

" Hush, lore, hush. Such unholy thoughts must not be permitted to stray into your sweet

mind.

" Bofc, Derek, I tell you they will come and I can- not help it."

Could he teach patience, he who felt he had non« himself ? Knowing as he did that they were times of temptation to take Lewis Bellingham's life was strong-upon him, and that it was well that in those evil moments Dorothy's husband did then cross his path, could he under these circumstances be guilty of the gross deceit of attempting to beach her patience P He must, since if he encouraged her in the feelings she* described, and which were bo closely allied to his own, what depths of misery was he not preparing for them both.

However feeble the- effort, as a salva to his con- science, he must muk» it, though it should prove unsuccessful so he "screwed his courage to the sticking point," and talked her as a good, wise, passionless man might have talked of patience, duty heavenly love, eternal peace, and the rest, to re- warded only b7 a mocking laugh, that expressed

more than words how utterly in Dorothy's estima* <

tion all those happy, holy things were disregarded -^ in the face of the betrayal she was suffering from the overpowering love that was inflaming her senses and destroying every other influence in her

life.

Derek, in his present excited state was scarcely behind her in disbelief, and since it waB merely for form's Bake he had made his protest, and since it had been received with derision, hewas not inclined to press it.

" I asked you for love and you gave me reason," Dorothy had cried out, her laugh ended. "Yon are very much like the father who was askod for bread and gave his son a stene."

" And suppose I have only a stone to offer yon, my poor child ?"

" What, no love, no sympathy ! Ah, then, I am in, deed bereft."

Derek Home gaze at her with a fond, sad exprès sion on his face. " Sweet Dorothy," he said, speak- ing with a powerful effort at self control, "you know I love you-love you better, perchance, than man ever loved woman before. It is my love that bids me quit yon now, since to stay by your side and attempt to come between you and your husband is only to risk for you the loss of yonr reputation and fair unstained name ; and believe me, dearest, your well-being and happiness are far, far dearer to me than roy own."

"For meicy's sake !" cried Dorothy interrupting, " do not talk of happiness in that cold, phlegmatic way. Happiness means to be constantly with the being you love ; there is no happiness expect

that."

" And yet you have set up an impassable-barrier

between us?"

" Nonsense, Derek, there is not such a thing as an impassable barrier where love is concerned Because I have made a mistake and there ist con- sequently a fence to get over, if you cared for me you would help me to jump it, but you don't.

" Oh, Dorothy, Dorothy ! why will you tempt ne thus, as if I would not give my very soul to be with you-but for your sweet sake ?"

" To think if Lewis Bellingham were not a knave at this moment I might be your wife. Oh, Derek,

how I hate him !"

He could only murmur :

" My love, my love !" as he tightly grasped'» the little band that lap in her lap.

Did not Derek hate Lewis Bellingham with a hatred as intense as her own ? Yet, since he . waa her husband, and her name would therefote bo sullied by dragging his into the mire, silence and smothered hatred was the only resource of this unhappy lover.

Much more difficult, too, was his self-imposed task made for him by Dorothy's impatient fretting against the misery in which she had so rashly allowed herself to be engulphed.

Derek Home loved Dorothy as he knew full'wel he could never love another woman ; but when he questioned himself closely on tho subject, wa» he not compelled to acknowledge that he loved his honour better, and that Dorothy with disgrace and the finger of scandal pointing to them both would so overwhelm him with constant annoyanee.that he would cease to care for her?

Sensibly aware of this, he must use his resolute endeavour to keep her in the straight path, and if she walked on steadily to the end, who knowa-the issues of life are strange-perhaps they might yet dwell together in happinesBand peace.

It was philosophical cold reasoning for-a lover and so Dorothy would have thought could she have fathomed it to its utmost depths. As it was, she was acute enough to discover that Derek's love must always have a basis of respect.

The discovery was most aggravating to impetuous Dorothy, who cared nothing for respeot, and honour, and untarnished name, and such like, which she waa pleased to call "saintly words." But then poor, pretty, spoilt little Dorothy must be excused somewhat-Bhe has not seen as much of the world's

dark side as Derek had, and therefore knew naught " of what rough handling meant. She loved Derek Home and hated Lewis Bellingham ¡ that was her constant refrain, and, ah ! woe to her, was she al- ways to be punished because Lewis was a knave.

" Promise mo, darling," said Derek, after they had sat for a few seconds without speaking, " pro- mise me that you will try to be brave and true-"

" No, I will be bound by no promises," she cried1 >'I hate promises. I shall always be influenced by the mood of the moment. If I were not impulsivo I should never have married Lewis. An impulse is jnst as likely to prompt me to get rid of him."

"Dorothy!"

" Yes, I am very bad and wicked, I know, and you are much too good for me. That's why we are destined to pass our lives apart, I suppose. Ko matter! I suppose by means of champagne and chloral, I shall manage to get along."

" My own dearest love, if you enly knew--"

" I know nothing, except that Lewis and Vera Lawson are coming in at the door, and that it will be all over London to-morrow that you and I have been caught spooning."

Before he could reply or take exception at a word that jarred terribly on his sensitive organisation, the couple who had been searching everywhere for Dorothy were close to them, and Derek had to endure the irritation of social amenities and go though the form of an introduction to the keen

sighted American girl. \

(To be continued.) jfl Read thb Opinion op a Wml-known Citt CiiBeotman.-" I have no objection to your using my name, as one who has derived considerable

benefit from the use of Row's Dahdhlion Bittem. I havo used them now for nine months, and have come to the conclusion that they are an invaluable

tonw.-Thomas Kbmmis, St. Jlark's, Darling Po^V*. , April 39,1880."