Chapter 18985521

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Chapter NumberV
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18985521
Full Date1890-04-19
Page Number2
Corrections0
Word Count3300
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 V.

Aston Rojal was to be the country home of the Bellinghams, since Sir John and Lady Mead did not wish to be entirely cut off f rcm the society of their only daughter ; but Dorothy had insisted that Bhe and her husband should have a home of their own in London, so a furnished house in Lowndes . Street had been taken for a year, to give them the

opportunity of looking out for a permanent abode in whichever quarter of the great metropolis they preferred.

At the Lowndes Street house they arrived from Paris at the expiration of their six week's honey- moon. No one was to be there to receive them except the servants who hod been engaged. Dorothy did not want any fuss, she said " there had been quite enough made about the wedding," so she had written to no one to give the date of her coming ; and, of course not to Ruth.

Since she had not told her about her marriage it was scarcely likely she should announce her coming home, though the day was not so very long ago when not even the smallest thing that happened to Dorothy Meade was kept back from her dear friend and childhood's ploymate, Ruth Churchill.

Why an estrangement had sprang up between them Ruth was absolutely ignorant ; it was only Miss Ferguson who thought she could have thrown a light on the subject had she chosen.

Being a wise woman, she did not break silence nor seek to restrain the natural drawing towards her old and dear friend Dorothy that in Ruth was so strongly developed. Ruth had been to tBe Lowndes Street house, which she had been told at Aston Royal had been taken for the coming home, and had there ascertained from the servants the exact day and hour when the couple were expected also that no gentlefolk were coming to meet them.

This being the case, Ruth determined that they should not be without a greeting, especially since a greetingless coming home she had always been taught to consider most ill-omened.

Inside the hall, then, she stood, neatly and quietly dressed-avery large and exquisite bouquet in her hand-when the brougham that bad brought Mr. and Mrs. Bellingham from the station drove up to the door.

The two hectic apcts on Dorothy's cheeks, the ghastly pallor of her husband's face-Ruth saw it all while they were yet on the pavement, before Bhe herself had been perceived.

But she speedily forgot the momentary recollec- tion that all had not been well between them in the joy that, notwithstanding the coldness of late, Dorothy was glad to see her.

It was an absolute cry of delight when Dorothy beheld Ruth ; she flew into her arms and hugged her warmly, to the serious damage of the glorious

bouquet. j

But what matter ; it bad done its work if it had brought two loving hearts together again : at least, so Euth thought, while she responded most cor- dially to the overpowering embrace.

" My darling ! I am so glad to see you again, bo glad I came, though I have left poor dear Fergie

' to finish with the last class."

" Come upstairs ; come upstairs." m

And Euth, bouquet and all, was almost dragged upstairs by the impetuous Dorothy.

It was so unlike what the little schoolmistress had expected, when, shyly and with a half-inclina- tion even then to turn back, she walked along Lowndes-Btreet, that her breath was almost taken

away.

" Why, if Dorothy was so pleased to see her now, had she not oven told her of her intended marriage, and for weeks had never sent a single answer to any of her numerous upbraiding letters ?"

This Euth might well have asked had she had time: but the reception was too enthusiastic to allow her an opportunity for thinking.

Unlike Dorothy's former habits, too, it unques- tionably was, for Euth had always found that her friend took her pleasure somewhat Boherly, and said, " that making a fuss about nothing only tired you and wore you out before your time."

Thiis effusiveness, then, was mere fever, and was a disease, whether curable or incurable Euth would have to investigate later on when she herself was cool enough to consider canse and effect.

Mr. Bellingham probably did not wish to intrude on the sacred privacy of this re-meeting of se- parated friends, or elße he had a man's just horror of female friendships, for he remained downstairs.

Going into a sanctum at the back of the dining room which he had appropriated as his own private den when he took the house, he desired that the fire should be lighted at once.

1 Then he ensconced himself in a large arm-chair -the evening paper which he hod brought from the station on his knee-but which he apparently Lad not the slightest intention of reading.

That the gHshing interview he felt was going on upstairs irritated him was certain j but for some

reason best known to himself he had no intention

of stopping it.

The explanation between his wife and this girl,

¡ who, though inferior to her in social position, hod

ever been her most intimate friend, must come sooner or later ; as well then let it take place, and have done with it.

So, in a frame of mind that his worst OHemy would have been cruel to rejoice over, he sat, in out- ward appearance, placidly beside the fire he had caused to be lighted, and the gush and flow of feminine confidences went on upstairs.

" But answer me, dear, why did you never -write, why did you not tell mo you were going to marry Mr. Bellingham ? I .was so surprised. I thought for certain when I heard of your engagement that

it was to-to Derek Home."

And such a startled look carne into the faces

of both the girls as this name was pronounced by Euth, one would almost have thought, to look at them, that she was calling up some spirit from the

unseen world, instead of alluding to a real flesh-and- ' blood man, with strong passions and idiosyncracies

as were there own.

Nor did MrB. Bellingham give a direct explana- tion in answer to ber old friend's questioning.

" Do you know that I was quite as much sur- prised to Bee you on my marriage day as you could posBBibly be at my marriage at all ! And why did you run away so fast without waiting to speak to

me."

" I could not think that you wanted to see me when you never even sent me a message."

" Do you know what I had been told, Euth ?"

"No; though the Aston Eoyal people were al- ways jealous enough of our love for each other to tell you anything vile."

" 1 had been told that you had gone off with Derek Home, and were living abroad with him."

" Dorothy !"

And the tone of indignation would have chased away the most vivid suspicions had any such still existed in Mis. Bellingham's mind."

Euth walked away to the door.

" If you could believe such a thing to be possible the less communication we have in the future the

better."

" Nay, nay, Ruth, do not beso hard on mo. I havo been punished more seriously than I hope you

will ever be." '

"How so,?"

"Do you imagine for a moment that I should ever have married Lewis Bellingham, if I had not believed that Derek Home was no longer free ?"

" Dorothy ! my poor, poor Dorothy !"

And Ruth's indignation melted into tenderness as she thought what her friend must have suffered before she had been induced to marry the wrong man ; and to Ruth, Lewis Bellingham was very unsympathetic ; she would have pitied any woman who wob married to him, more especially dreadful then must it be if she did not care for bim.

Disliking Mr. Bellingham as she did, Ruth seemed to feel instinctively that he had set this vile report about in order to secure the hand of the Aston Royal heiress, but since he was now Dorothy's husband she would not have suggested this idea to

her for the world.

" I should like to understand the entire story," she said ; " it seems so odd I cannot comprehend it. Why did you not write to me and enquire whether there was any truth in so shameful a report ?"

" I did write, more than once, but I received no

answer."

" I have not had a single communication from you for nearly three months, though I myself have written to you frequently." t

"Not a line-not a sound-bas reached me !"

"Then something more'than mero venomous reports, set in circulation by gossip, have parted us. Wo have been the victims of a plot."

" But whose plot ? The Aston Royal people are too Btupid to understand plots."

1 Ruth Churchill shrugged her shoulders. With

every word her suspicions were being strengthened, but Bhe meant to keep silence.

" You are married now," she said ; " it can be of no use to investigate. The person unknown who wished to keep you from Derek Home has succeeded, but that person was not I. I wonld, as you know, lay down my life-nay, more, pass it in misery-to

bring about ono hour of happiness for you."

"I know, I know; or, rather, I should have known. You are too noble to have taken my lover from me. But oh ! Euth, how apt we are to judge of others by ourselves. I do not think I should have much scruple in removing any obstacle that came between me and my love."

" Dorothy, Dorothy, do not give yourself such a character ; you do not deserve it. But tell me, are you happy with Mr. Bellingham ?"

"I suppose so. He lavishes luxuries on me, bought with my own money."

"And you have resolved to make him a true, I honest, faithful wife ?"

" I have come to no conclusion whatever about the future. Henceforth, kismet or chance will direct my Bteps."

" But, my dearest, so much is in our own power to make life happy both for ourselves and for

others."

" I dare say. But ' dririk your goblet of cham- pagne with the foam on' will henceforth be my motto. I don't care much now, Euth j only plea- sure brings excitement, and without excitement I should cut my throat. So ho for pleasure !"

I The tears came into Ruth's eyes. She felt that however ill-joined the pieces of her own life might be she would never try to cement them together I with base material, and she regretted with her whole heart that Dorothy had no keener apprecia- tion of honest workmanlike dealing. She put her arm round Dorothy and kissed hor.

" Let us help each other, deareBt, to bear troubles bravely."

"I don't want troubles; I will not have teoubles. I will only exist in an atmosphere of jollity and dash. What is the use of youth and beauty and money if you are always to have the word trouble stating you in the face."

Euth stood for a second or two gazing at her in absolute astonishment. She had seen her in many moods, but never before in this irritable care-for nothing frame of mind .. assuredly the marriage with Lewis Bellingham had beena grievous-very griev- ous-mistake; and what' could be done to tnako matters better, she wondered, unless it was possible to induce Dorothy to be patent, which did not al-

together seem very likely from what she could see I at the present moment. . '

Mrs. Bellingham could not help noticing the per- plexed expression on Ruth's face and she burst out laughing. " You have not seen much of the world, Ruth, o» you would not look so aghast. I have been initiated in many things during the last sir weeks that you and I never dreamt of in the old days. When you know as much as I do you will be surprised at nothing."

" Then I hope I shall never know bo much,"

answered Ruth, sorrowfully, "for the knowledge - seems scarcely to have made you happy."

" Happy !" and Dorothy laughed. " For good-

ness sake lot us cancel that word form our

vocabulary. It is an idiotic one. Only children and fools expect to bo happy."

"Oh, Dorothy! Dorothy ! How very dreadful !"" But Dorothy wished for no further conversation on the subject of happiness,

"What doyou'think ?" she said abruptly. "I saw Derek Home in Paris !"

I " Ah, and did you speak to him ?"

Dorothy shook her head.

.' No. I do not oven know that he saw me. He did not appear to do so. But, oh ! Euth, it was so odd. I seemed to feel he was there before I actu- ally beheld him. A numb sensation came all over me, and it was as if my life suddenly stood still j

then I looked up, and ho was there, in a box just . ' opposite. It was at a concert at the Trocadero."

" You love him, then, very dearly ?"

And Euth's voice died away almost to a whisper as she asked the question.

" More madly than ever, now that ho is beyond my reach."

" Still I do not understand ; it is all so strange. ' What did he go away for ?"

" I know nothing except that I waa told he had gone with you. Last time I saw him I was perverse and he left me angered. I let him go because I was capricious and inclined to torture both myself and him. Lewis Bellingham was as much in love as he was, and had a better position in the social world. He would do for a husband if the other failed. What matter ? I know the difference now. My God, I know it now !"

" But you have brought it about yourself, my poor Dorothy. You will not falter-you will stick to your duty ?"

" Bah ! Just like one of your cold words. Duty,, indeed ! I suppose I shall do.as other fashionable married women do-reap all the advantage I can from Lewis's Bocial standing, and amuse myself enjoy myself, as it is called."

.'But you will not go about without your

husband. You will not-"

" My dear Euth, pray do not talk about what you do not understand. You live in quite a different world. Of course, in your world such things could not be done. In mine it is quite

different."

" Then oil I can say is, thank goodness I am not a lady."

" Yet," remarked Mrs. Bellingham a little point- edly, " there have been times when I imagined you

wished to become one."

Ruth reddened, and did not answer.

The aecusation-if accusation it were-was not, she felt, without foundation. The moment she had tpoken, Dorothy, who, in spite of her don't care manner, had some Bhreds of conscience and scruples, was sorry she had wounded her friend.

Her arms were round Ruth's neck.

" My love, I only wish half the real ladies one meets in society had your nobleness of disposition and general good breeding. You aro fitter to play the lady than I am ; and after all we had very

nearly the same beginning, only my father was* » prosperous, while yours-"

" Well, never mind, Dorothy, dear, we'll try and help each other in our several states, won't we ? You will not drift so far from me that I shall never find my Dorothy any more."

" No, Ruth, no ; not at least if I can help it,. You will always, 1 hope, be my friend, only yo« must not preach too much."

" I will never preach a sermon, but I will love you steadily on, whatever happens, my poor dear.'*

It was the old story of the lover and the loved« Ruth's love for Mrs. Bellingham far surpassed ia intensity and magnitude any that Mrs. Bellingham felt for ber. In fact, it would not have grieved her

if Euth had passed out of her life for ever, except in so far as she would have missed and craved for the unselfish love that gave all and asked for nothing in return.

She had had enough talk on serious subjects! about which she neither wished nor had any inten- tion of thinking, so she said.

" Come upstairs and see my dresses. I dare say, Tiolette-I have a grand French maid, you know -is hard at work unpacking them."

They opened the drawing-room door to go up when they heard a bell rang very violently.

" Lewis must be in a temper," said Mrs. Belling- ham jauntily. " He does get into furies sometimes. 0, not with mo ; but I pity his man." '

" Something, I am afraid, is the matter," sug- , gested Euth, " they are calling for assistance," anrj she ran downstairs, followed more slowly by Dorothy, who did not believe that there was aught

amiss.

Lying back on his chair by the fire was Lewis: Bellingham, looking like a corpse indeed.

The man-servant, who, on going to look after the fire, had found him thus, had thrown the window wide open, and was now trying to force his master's mouth wide open and pour some brandy down his.

throat.

Dorothy was aghast ; not a servant in the house -and they were collecting in the hall-but must say, when they talked the matter over later on, how desperately she loved bim.

"? Run for a doctor, quick," she cried, " and lay him flat on the floor, Tompkins, and unfasten his cravat. I had tieen told of these seizures, but did' not know they were so bad as this. Brandy ; yes,» brandy is the only thing that will bring him to."

Just as Lewis Bellingham opened his eyes and the heart slowly began to resume its working func- tions, the doctor entered, and remained for about; half-an-hour, giving orders to Tompkins and tho thoroughly scared Dorothy, who had never seen anything so like unto death before.

By this time the stricken man had fully recovered and all the thanks those around obtained for their solicitude were strict orders thot on no account waa a doctor ever to be sent for again if he had a similar attack. He had had them all his life, he said j SÛ3UB bi»uùy and io be left quiet was all he wanted«

" And suppose there is no brandy at hand ?" asked Dorothy, just as the medico, a little indignant at Mr. Bellingham's behaviour, was leaving the room.

"If he does not have brandy or the mixture for which I have have written a prescription, he will did," he said, somewhat brutally, seeming to think it justas well that even the patient should know

the truth.*"

_(To be contmucd.)_

Bead the Opinion of a Well-known City Clekqtman.-" I have no objection to your using my name, as one who has derived considerable benefit from the use of Eow's Dandelion Bitters.

I have used them now for nine months, and have * ' come to the conclusion that they are an invaluable

ten«.-Thomas Kemmis, St. Mark's, Dalling Po-'rt, J " April 29,1889." ''