Chapter 18986652

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Chapter NumberIV
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18986652
Full Date1890-04-12
Page Number2
Corrections0
Word Count3083
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 IV.

No St. Luke's summer, no bright sunshine to gladden the shortening days, but a chi'l, wintry

October.

The Honourable Mr. and Mrs. Bellingham had been married nearly six weeks; the so-called honeymoon was over. It had been passed on the Rhine and in Switzerland, where the bride had never been before, and now they were in Paris on their way home.

They were stopping at the Grand Hotel, crammed at that season with tourists from almost every civilised country, and Dorothy, to whom this life was quite new, was intensely amused, and appeared to be enjoying herself thoroughly.

To all outward appearance her marriage so far was a happy one. Mr. Bellingham went about with her everywhere, as a six-weeks-old husband was in duty bound to do, and they always seemed to be chatting merrily and discussing the various objects of interest they came acrosB.

Dorothy especially appeared to be pleased with herself and everybody else, and to have entirely cast from her the listlessness and depression that on her wedding day was apparent to more than one

of the onlookers.

The serious drawback to this pairing, as people supposed, was that Lewis Bellingham looked dettbly ill, and when most attentive to his beauti- ful bride gave somewhat the idea of a galvanised

corpse.

In fact, an American in the hotel had been heard to say that he believed he would have been buried weeks ago if Dorothy's exuberance of vitality had not kept him in an animate condition. Others wondered whether it wfs the knowledge that he could not live long tbat made her so gay; for since Mrs. Bellingham did not appear to be in the least an unobservant person, it was useless to fancy she could not see that he had one foot in the grave. But they were mistaken. Someone suggested to her that Mr. Bellingham looked ill-was Bhe going to have any advice ? But she only laughed and said there was nothing the matter with him-he had looked like that all bis life.

Then if he was not ill he must have something on his mind, that was the next turn public opinion took, interested, of course, as everybody was in the English couple who were " so eccentric and so un- like other people."

Not that the Bellinghams thought themselves in the least unlike other people; but then foreigners are apt to set down English habits as peculiar. One thing every one was forced to admit was that Mrs. Bellingham was invariably well-dressed-so well dressed that she might have passed for an American, that is, if her insolent bearing had not^ proclaimed her to be English ; while as for the gal-* vanised corpse's utter indifference to what other people felt or thought, it was perfectly intolerable.

Of course, they had a splendid suite of rooms.

What was the use of Dorothy's money and the i handle she had attaehed to her name if it did not

give her the prestige of a swell and make her ' talked about-not always very agreeably, she i might have thought, if she could have overheard

some of the remarks. i

But ever since her wedding day Dorothy Belling- i ham had been in one of those moods when a woman, j defied the world and ita strictures. Moreover, 'she ] was too young and had been too much cared for in

hier father's house to have a very definite idea of J i

what the forked tongue of scandal really was. . 1

A hectic colour on each cheek enhanced her

Bomewhat ethereal beauty, while her eyes shone , so brightly that she had the credit of having re- course to artificial measures ; the real cause being that Dorothy lived in a state of preternatural ex- citement, never allowing herself any rest from the ceaseless conjugation of the verb " to enjoy."

And since Mis Bellingham was a very fascinating, bewitching little beauty, with a very sympathetic voice-singing better than most amateurs-she did not fail to have, wherever she went, a perfect court

of both male and female adorers.

Her husband, instead of being jealouB, was ex- ceedingly proud of the homage she received, though frequently he expostulated with her for bo perpetu- ally pleasuring and never taking any rest by night or by day ; but she only laughed, and told bim when she was ill or tired was surely time enough to bore herself by a few hours' solitude.

Not very complimentary to this man, who, one would have thought, should, in these early days of married life, have been her one and sole thought. But he did not appear to note the slight, only re- joiced that he had been lucky enough to marry the one womin before whom all others paled into absolute insignificance, and he went on worship- ping in his quiet, unobtrusive, albeit somewhat sepulchral, fashion.

Why on earth she had married him people won- dered hourly, she being a charming little beauty with money, he amere ghost of a man and im-

pecunious to boot. Ij^*"

It could scarcely be the prefix of " honourable" that had dazzled her, for, with her looks and fortune, strawberry leaves were well within her

reach.

Yera Lawson, an American girl she had met in Switzerland and again at the Grand He tel, and with whom she had struck up a desperate intimacy, tried in vain to get out of her the story of her courtship and marriage : but on this subject, if on no other, Dorothy was most reticent.

People might think what they liked, but they would never know from her lips any secret she did

not choose to reveal.

The undercurrent of determination that is occa-

sionally to be found in otherwise flighty, unreliable people not infrequently upsets all the calculations of the character analyser. Mrs. Bellingham was one of those individuals that even an expert would not have found it easy to fathom, even though observations were very carefully and systematically

taken.

Vera Lawson thought herself an expert. She was a shrewd little person of about thirty, who had knocked about the world a good deal, and taken stock of most people who had come under her notice ; but she was compelled to acknowledge that she had absolutely failed in reading Mrs.. Bellingham. The conclusion she arrived at one day was certain, from some divergence of character *n an opposite direction, to be completely annulled in the next. The only one thing about which Vera Lawson was positive was that there was a pecu- liarity about the marriage, and that Dorothy had not been forced into it-she had forced herself into it for some distorted reason.

Dorothy was not in love with the galvanized corpse-of that Miss Lawson felt very sure, though she pretended that she positively adored him.

It would be the object of Vera Lawson's life to find out the secret. She loved to find out secrets they were part of her stock-in-trade."

In the meantime, the two young women wore perpetually together, and so much intimacy and chatting went on that her family mocked at Vera Lawson whenever she happened to remark that she was still far from knowing about the Bellinghams, but she invariably silenced them by saying :

" Well, when we go to England wo shall learn a thing or two, I calculate."

Meantime, till the hour for departure from the gay capital should arrive, the ball rolled freely. Both the Bellinghams and the Lawsons had plenty of money at command, and no pleasure was denied from the stint of paying for it.

It was a mad, merry time they would all remem- ber in the far future-one of those turbulent sea- sons of pleasure that comes but seldom in a lifetime) suddenly, however, to be arrested in the very zenith of its joyous, ceaseless course-only a face at a concert-only a face, nothing more !

On a fine October afternoon the Trocadéro was crammed with all the beauty and fashion of Paris ; yet amongst all that vast throng there was only one face that could have made Dorothy's heart stand still and the hectic spots disappear suddenly from her usually animated countenance.

" My love, my dearest Dodo," whispered the at- tentive spouse, who was sitting next his wife, and saw her colour fade suddenly away till she looked as if she were about to faint, " had you bettor not come out, love. Is it the heat ? Will you take my arm or shall I carry you ?"

But Dorothy did not answer even by a sign. She neithor fainted nor spoke, only sat there looking ghastly white. More affectionate appeals were

made to her in an undertone by Mr. Bellingham, but they were vain, as had been the first. Vera Lawson, who was on the other side of her, also made a suggestion that they should depart.

" It was evident," she said, " that dear Dorothy had been doing too much lately, and was over tired."

Not that this was by any means her mental ex- planation of the state of affairs, for even while she was speaking she was staring about the building in order to find out who or what it was that had agi-

tated her.

She was unsuccessful, however ¡ the crowd waB too great, and she could not follow the direction of Dorothy's eyes, for Bince she had seen that face they had remained looking down into her lap at her own clasped hands.

The man's obtuser sense did not in any way con- nect Dorothy's sudden pallor with anything that had taken place within the building. She was ill his darling wife was ill, he could not be too anxious or too attentive, but she would have none of his care, for she Beamed determined not to speak, only when at last he grew most urgent, she made an I irritable sign that she wished he would leave her

alone.

So the music and singing went on. Every now and again the applause was enthusiastic, but Dorothy sat there very still and heeded naught.

Mr. Bellingham and Vera both watched her in a different way, but there was nothing to arouso I suspicion ; she had simply lost all her animation and interest ; she eat there like an inert thing, letting the waves of life engulph her if they would.

At last the performance was at an end, and the audience poured forth through the many exits in to the wide exterior galleries that surround the building, and wheie there was still enough daylight for every object to be distinguished.

Dorothy, with a gesture, refused all assistance, even an arm, and apparently she needed none, for she walked steadily beside her friends, without giving them a monosyllabic answer to any of their

remarks.

A carriage which the Lawsons had engaged for the time they were in Paris was waiting to convey the party back to the hotel.

The two ladies got into it ; but Mr. Bellingham and Vera's brother said they preferred to walk.

The moment Vera was alone with Dorothy she overwhelmed her with solicitude, hoping by this means to discover what had so suddenly upset her,.

But Dorothy was as silent on the subjeet as she was about her old love affairs.

" She would be all right presently ; Rhe would rest till dinner-time. At dinner Vera would see

how merry she would be ; it was in her nature that her mood should be changeful."

And Dorothy had augured rightly, or, rather, had determined that what she foretold should come about.

She carno down looking radiant, the hectic spots burning so brightly that Vera could not help think- ing that they had been touched up. Her toilette was in the perfection of good taste ; and as for talk, her prattte was ceaseless ; no need now to fear monosyllables.

But the strange part of the affair was that she and Lewis Bellingham seemed to have changed places; he, naturally a quiet, reserved man, did not usually converse freely, but to-night he did ? not speak one single word, and looked more like a death's-head at a feast than ever, especially when he occasionally bestowed a glance of dismayed terror on his excited chattering wife, who did not take any moro notice of him than if he had no eyes

or ears.

" Have they had a row ?" Vera wondered. " It looks exceedingly like it."

Then she came to tbe conclusion that it was im« possible ; for Mr. Bellingham had come in exceed» ingly late, and had then gone into the smoking room with her brother Jack. In fact, when she came to think over the matter, she did not think they had even met till they did so in the salon just before dinner was announced.

Altogether they were a most inexplicable couple, so strange that Vera was becoming downright exp- orted about the relations that existed between them.

She had been reading various " dreadfuls" lately in which theosophy, psychic forces, the miracles o£ science, et cotera, et cetera, had been freely handled, giving her material for the thought that there might he something in the supernatural after all ; and she really was beginning to imagine that the idea that Dorothy was imparting life to the semi-dead man by some strange power she had was not so wholly without foundation as those people thought who had started the notion as a mere jest.

" Probably," Vera decided, before she had got half-way through dinner. " the temporary absence of excessive vitality in Dorothy, who, as a-rule, had such a superabundance of life, had withdrawn so much power from the mere automaton, who simply existed at all thanks to her, that even her present tremendous flow of animal spirits failed to restore the usual amount of second-hand animation."

So thoroughly impressed was Vera with this be- lief, the mere result of her own prolific fancy, that she had great difficulty in preventing herself from becoming hysterical.

To think that the man who poured out wine for her, gave her bread, ate, drank, and tried to look like other living beings, might at any moment crumble away j that his existence at all depended on the will of the volatile, light-hearted little mad- cap who sat flashing her diamond ring, and chatter- ing merry follies opposite to them. Oh ! it was too ghastly and horror-striking to think of-enough to turn one's hair grey or drive one mad !

Most assuredly, all Vera Lawson's friends would; have thought she was mad if she had seriously' propounded to them one-half of the extraordinary ideas that coursed through her brain during that

that d'hôte dinner.

Nor were they set at rest for ever by an announcement her brother made to her in a half whiBper ns they were leaving the dinning room.

"Bellingham went off almost as queerly as hie wife had done ; he was taken bad all on a sudden in the street, just after you drove away. He looks" more like a ghost than ever to-night."

She dared not answer this, for Dorothy was close behind ; but she went to her own room wondering what strange affinity existed between these two peoplp.

And so much was she under the dominion of her own suspicions that she felt positively thankful for the knowledge that on the morrow the Bellinghams were to leave for England.

Desirous as Vera La.vson was to unravel the mystery that apparently surrounded their lives,, she felt she must have some little healthy space without seeing them daily, or she would become totally unfit for the practical and necessary require- ments that everyday existence exacts.

(To be continued.)

The New Graving Dook.-Biloela graving dock, thenew dockat Cockatoo,hasagainbeensuccessfnlly tried, this time by the Oceanic Company's steamer Zealandia. It has so happened that the American company has in each instance owned the first two steamers to enter the great dock. The pioneer was the Mariposa, now followed by the Zealandia. The caisson and the pumping machinery are reported to work admirably, and in all respects the new dock is said to be a splendid piece of work. In point of size, the Zealandia, the length of which is 377ft. and beam 37ft. does not look much in a dock 635ft» long and 84ft. wide, the vessel being thus less than half the width and little more than half the length of the new dook. Compared with the Calliope Dock at Auckland-the dock lately used by the flagship H.M.S. Orlando-the new dock at Cockatoo is 110ft.. longer. It is by far the largest graving dock in Australasia, and is one of the largest graving docks

in the world.

Protection and Wages in Russia.-Th« Rusaian manufacturers are probably the most highly protected people of their class in Europe, because the import duties are well-nigh prohibitory. As high tariffs are supposed to ensure high wages, the workmen ought to be exceedingly well off ; bun Dr. G. Brandes, a Danish visitor, tells us in his recently published Impressions of Russia, that the best operatives only earn Is 9d., the second best Is 4d, and the ordinary hands 8Jd a day. To be ' sure they ore provided with " dog kennels " to

sleep in at night, and with workhouse diet during the day. " Everywhere," adds Dr. Brandes, " are found contractors who keep hundreds of workmen in the vicinity of the large manufactories, to lee them out as soon as there is need of them."

Horse and Cattle Brands.-A supplement to the Qaseettt dated March 28 contains the second notification of the fourth quarterly list of horse

and cattle brands for 1889.

The Weathbb.-Mr. H. C. Russell, the Govern- ment Astronomer, informs the Sydney papers that he has received a communication from Mr. Gi Todd, Government Astronomer of South Australia ? stating that heavy rains, accompanied by thunder- storms and general unsettled weather, are coming on m nearly all parts of the colony and are likoly to continue. Mr. Russell says that, according to the latest information received at the Observatory, the bad weather is gradually extending to New

South Wales, and therefore he forecasts that . general rains may be'expected in the western portions of the colony within the next day or two.