Chapter 18986218

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Chapter NumberXXVIII
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18986218
Full Date1890-08-16
Page Number2
Corrections0
Word Count3095
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893)
Trove TitleWedded to Death
article text

CHAPTER XXVIII.

After the night passed with Ruth at the school- house, Mrs. Bellingham expressed her determina- tion to return at once to Lowndes-street.

Her mood has changed completely from that in which she had arrived, bag in hand, on the previous evening. An uncontrollable restlessness had come over her, and she musfrgo without delay, she said, disappointing Ruth by scarcely touching the temp- ting breakfast that had been prepared for her.

" But I will come back, dear Ruth, and sleep here again some night. Sleep seems to have left that

dreadful house for ever."

" Why do you stay in Xowndess-treet, since you are so unhappy there ?" asked Ruth. " You would be ever so much better for a change into a new place."

" No, no. I must stay there. I am far worse when I go away from that honse. I wander about it, and feel at times that the past must come back again as it was before that awful night, when

She stopped speaking, and looked about with a wild, strange look, as if she expected someone to appear, but there was never a tear in her bright wandering eyes.

Sympathetic drops came readily enough to Ruth as she gazed at her.

"Ruth, do you think the dead ever return?" asked Dorothy so dreeily that a glacial sense of horror crept over uncomprehending Ruth.

" No, dear ; no, dear. As I have told you before, you are unhinged, or you would never think of such dreadful things."

Yet, who knows? If it be possible by the, force of will to keep life in a human frame, why can you not recall it if the will is only strong enough.

Ruth was far from understanding in the very least what her friend could possibly mean ; but, following her own theory that Dorothy's nerves had been iverwrougbt by a sudden shock, she thought it wisest to humour her.

" Are you so very anxious, my poor dear, that the dead should be recalled ?"

1 " Ruth, I would give twenty years of life-my j whole life-if I could see Lewis alive at this |

moment."

"And yet you hated him, and love Derek, and you are free ?"

" Free, yes ; but at what a price !"

" My dearest girl, you must not contemplate the past so darkly. Death is no doubt very awful to think of, but hundreds of women have been freed as you have been from a marriage which was not congenial, and have lived very happily all their

lives afterwards."

" And I shall never be happy again."

" But why ? Is it on account of this tattle about Derek Home that yon are jealous, and therefore wish poor Mr. Bellingham was alive again? Really, really, Dorothy, I do not believe a word of

it."

I "Derek's infidelity troubles me but little-it would not interfere with my love for him. To kill seems such a little thing-two short words ; and yet-aûd yet- Let me go, Ruth, lot me go. I shall go mad if I do not get out in the fresh air."

What could Ruth do? She had no power to retain her, and yet she judged her anything but fit to go about alone ; but she insisted on a hansom cab being called, and in-this conveyance Ruth saw her depart for Lowndes-street, with the promise that she would come back very soon.

Arrived there she tossed off her bonnet and cloak, .and then began to wander from "room to room, like the wretched, unquiet being that she was, a heavy load of remorse following her wherever she went-a terrible secret that she dare not tell even to her dearest and truest friend.

Tired at last of roving about, and oppressed by . the solitude of the silent house, for all the servants were downstairs, she returned to the drawing-room, where a bright fire was burning, but afforded no sense of cheerfulness to Dorothy. She threw her- self on the hearthrug, her head on the chair in which Lewis Bellingham had sat when he died.

The fascination of great horror was upon her Sha felt that her rigntful place for life was to lie chaimed to that chair, and never to leave it till death claimed her too.

It was seated in this chair by the fire, for the ofcill of April WOB still lingering in the air, that Derek Home found her on that Sunday afternoon when he went to Lowndes Street.

"Derek 1" she Bhrieked, in such wild accent«» that she positively startled him, holding towards him both her open palms as though to keep him

away.

What right had Derek Home there, in that room where the perturbed spirit of the murdered Lewis still lingered ?

Of her excited condition Mr. Home had learnt from the few lines sent to him by Buth Churchill . but for the state in which she actually was he was by no means prepared.

My poor Dorothy-my poor suffering Dorothy," he murmnred, as soon as he felt that Tomkins WOB safely out of earshot.

" Don't call me your Dorothy. I am his. I be- long to the dead 1 The chain that bound us on the day you let me marry'him in Aston Boyal Churoh is riveted for aye. Nothing can snap it-no earthly power-not even you. You had better havt stayed where you were down in the gambling hell« at Monte Carlo." ,

The bitterness of her tone sorrowed him till ha was nearly unmanned. i

" And I fondly dreamed that yon loved me," was

all hor murmured.

i '' Love you, Derek Home ! Yes, I love you with a wild mad passion that neither death nor horror cal extinguish ; but you let me marry Lewis Belling- ham, and fate has so willed it that I am linked to him for eternity."

" My dearest, but he is dead. Surely you do not believe but that a second marriage may be a happy

one."

" Dead ! Of what use to talk of death ? Memory does not die. The longing to be free does not die« since freedom never comes. Besides, if I could throw off the shackles of the past, and say, ' Take me, Derek Home ; I am yours, soul and body ; make me a happy wife ;" are you free to accept the gift?"

" As there is a God in heaven I swear I am."

" So-so men's oaths are light as women's vows, But, mind you, this hand of mine is a little one, but it can strike, and it can withhold the healing

balm."

This latter part of the sentence was spoken in a very low tone, and aftei a second's pause.

As for Derek, bewilderment were a mild word te> explain the sensations he felt on beholding Dorothy's strange mood. He had expected to find

her saddened and sobered by Lewis's sudden death,.. and that in all probability she would not for month/» allow the word love to be whispered between them» But for this condition of i sneering, cynical excite- ment he was by no means prepared.

' As is very frequently the case, it was the ideal Dorothy of his own imagination that Derek loved, believing her to be embodied in this bright-eyed beautiful woman.

1 OÍ the real heart and soul that gave Dorothy Bellingham life he knew but little. How should he, since she was only beginning to feel their true pulses herself?

1 Dorothy, a girl at Aston Boyal, taking over her

lovers as she strolled with Buth Churchill about the green lanes, was a very different being from the woman whose actual experience of life had been such an utter fiasco, and along whose path« side by side with her wherever she went, would ever stalk the unburied ghost she herself had

raised,

i " My darling love, my Dorothy," said Derek Home, when after abrief pause emotion allowed him to speak, " do not let any sharp-edged weapons, sweet, come between you and me. Lay your head on my breast, birdie, and feel you have come back to the nest at last. Whatever there is of bitterness in the past let me drink it-the draught will

scarcely be a nauseous one if I see you quailing alj. the happiness. Before I came here I have settled all the business matters with old Grayling. Na one can say anything about him ; no allusion to his fault can mar our summer time in the future. Be comforted and happy, love. It is so easy to for» give when the fanlt is not ours and expiration héS' been made through death. Come," and he held

his arras open to take her at once into the downy * nest which his great love bad prepared, and where he would keep her ever safe from the storms and

ills of life.

, She did not respond as she would once have done thinking there was no gieater happiness in life than to feel Derek's arms enaircling her. She Icoked at him for a moment with a fixed stony stare, then she burst into a hard laughs which so jarred on his every nerve that he turned a way in pain, and when she[spoke it was not to reassure.

i "My God! yeu muBfc be mad," she almost screamed ; " mad to think that I can settle down into a meek domestic character, ' to suckle fools and chronicle small beer.' Storm and'tempest are marked in my horoscope, in storms and tempests shall I ever live. Let you bear the ills and bur- dens that existence entails on me ! You little know what you are asking, Derek. Jf you have any re- gard for your own peace, your own salvation, do no I seek to unite yourself to me in a dual life.

1 *' Do you mean that you will never marry me, now that you are free ?" he asked amazed.

I " That is reserved for the future to decide j. expediency, conventionality, fifty things might make such a course discreet ; but, remember, be- tween you and me there is as formidable a barrier now as there was when-when-he lived."

'"Oh, Dorothy!"

"He is as much here is this room as he waa then *? Oh ! my God if he would only quite die !"

iWhat could Derek think, but as Buth did, that her mind had been unhinged by the Budden

shock.

Ilf they had only known how keenly, sensitively alive it was, from their very hearts how they would have pitied her.

As it was Derek felt so inexpressibly distressed, and taking up the little white hand that clutched the side of the mantelshelf above her, he raised it to his lips ond kissed it very tenderly.

"She must be Won by" gentleness bock to peace,"' he thought. If he had looked into her face at that moment he would have seen the faintest symptom of »tear dim the brightness of her eye, but she suppressed it instantly. She had never wepfc since Lewis died. Then sae snatched her hand away and started up ; if she hodiollowed the promp- tings of feeling she would have thrown herself into thoB61loving arms and with a wild cry of " Love me, love'Uie, Derek ! Keep me for ever from myself 1" have sought to obtain some semblance of hnppi

nesa.

WiuT^nfádlnTpíoture was before her mental

111 It was not she who was sitting in that chair, hut Rewis-Lewis dying and ghastly ; she was lying, a ü¡»ile cruel, mortal Binnor, at his feet.

?f In such a picture as that where was there a place §§|or love ? She must be invulnerable and hard to

sslhe bitter end.

ÏÏË She began to walk about the room speaking very ^^¡nvpidly. _, ....

W "You forget yourself, Mr. Home. What right ff have you to come here and make love to me P I if have not yet been a widow four monthB, and it is W early days to expect that I should once more shackle | myself with the bonds of wedlock, especially with i one who is so light a lover as yourself. Ah, do not I seek to explain ; there is nothing you can have to

tell. You were desperately wounded at Monte Carlo by a RuBBian whose lady love you had stolen, ' as you would Bteal me from the dead Lewis. This

woman is utterly worthless ; but perhaps she cares

for you ! Go to her, and ask her for the happiness J you assuredly will never find with me."

Derek, who had been standing hythe mantelshelf, sank down into the chair Dorothy had just quitted so overcome WOB he by this unexpected avalanche of words. Ho had dreaded lest the episode at Monte Carlo, which could not fail to come to Mrs. Bel lingham's knowledge, might make a coolness be- tween them. Still, he felt absolutely sure of being able to explain it away ; and now she had rendered him speechless, stunned, as it were, by the sudden I and rapid descent of her furious wrath.

\ Besides, was it all anger against him-was there

> not an under-current, some revulsion of feeling, on

her own part ? Could ib be possible that Dorothy, whom he had set «n a pedestal far higher than that on which most women are placed, was capricious, after all, or worse-was one of those female roues, not uncommon, alas ! in the world of to-day, who can love a lover with devotion, but cease to have any passion for him when he becomes a husband.

While he sat there, pondeiing on these things down deep in his heart, Dorothy still walked quickly np and down. She, too, was lost in thought-thoughts as painful, if scarcely of the

eame order, as Dorek's.

He was the first to break the silence.

" Dorothy, dearest," he said, casting from him,

as unworthy, those disparaging thoughts of her J that had come to him unbidden, " Dorothy dearest, I why should there be a word of warfare between us ? I

I love you, you only, with my whole heart. Let me go away for a time, if you wish it, till the first year of your widowhood is ended ; but bid me then come back with hope. You have often told me that you loved me."

" Yes, and I have said, as it may seem in joke, that I would kill anyone who came between you

and me."

She was standing still now, looking out of the window, with her back to him.

" There is no one between you and me, love, no one, not even a dream ; >I swear it."

She turned suddenly.

" My God !" she shrieked, " do not sit in that chair. You! It was his chair. He died in it. Are you bent on robbing me of my last shred of

reason ?"

He got up at once and went to her. " My child, my sweet Dorothy, be calm, I entreat. You must go away for a change, dear. This house is no longer a fit place for you to stay in."

" I will not leave this house. I will not do what you bid me. I will remain here always-always. It is my-" penance, she was going to say ; but she stopped herself, and turned on him more roughly

" Now go, Mr. Home ; go to the woman in whose cause you were wounded, and leave me to my

regret."

" Dorothy, you cannot mean what you say ; you must not be left here alone. Where is Ruth Churchill ? Let her come and bo with you. My old friend Fergie will look after the school."

" I do not want Ruth here, no one but myself in this house with the dead. I can go to the school house and sleep when no sleep will come to me

here.

" What can I do or say ?" he asked, with touch- ing piteousness. It distresses me beyond meaaure to leave you thus, while as for my having a spark of love for any other human being besideB yourself, you know my own beloved, that it cannot be. The

wound I received abroad was-"

" Please do not tell me, Mr. Home. There are episodes in men's lives on which virtuous women do not care to dwell. Never let that singing woman cross my path, or she may receive a wound which will scarcely heal as quickly as yours did ; and as 'for yourself, as we have been sepataled in the past,

ao shall we be separated in the future. Now, I have borne this interview almost as long as my strength will endure. Once more, I beg of you to leave

me.

" Am I to believe that you no longer love me that all those promises, all those assutances in the past, were false P You nee I do not do your bidding readily. I sue and plead humbly for my old place

j in your heart."

She looked at him with a strange, wild, hungry expression. Ah ! how she longed to throw herself in his arms and forget everything in the world bnt him ; but her eye fell on the chair by the fire in which LewiB Bellingham ever sat as he had sat that night when she had let him die. She uttered a sharp cry as of intense pain.

" It cannot be, I tell you-cannot be. Why will you persist in torturing me thus ?"

He did not speak another word ; but, agony in his heart, sorrow in his dark eyes, he held out his hand to her. She lightly touched the tips of his fingers and walked away from the window to the fire, on which Bhe stood gazing for a second or two, a weary,

weary look of anguish in her face.

A slight sound made her turn round-it was the closihg door. Ho was gone ! One of the dreariest chapters of her life was ended. Another moment and, her head on the seat of the fatal chair, she was

sobbing convulsively.

"Oh! Derek, Derek! my love, my love !"

(To be continued.)