Chapter 18989472

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Chapter NumberXII
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18989472
Full Date1890-05-31
Page Number2
Corrections0
Word Count2345
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 X11.

"Then Mrs. Bellingham had got a lover"- that Vera Lawson decided before there was even time to effect an introduction-" else why did these two men look at each other in so reserved an uncomfortable a manner without even attempting to shake hands. Of course Englishmen were very cold and odd to each other, but not like this," and certainly calculated that she had made a discovery -a discovery, too, that she was not perhaps alto- gether intended to have made.

So she determined to look utterly innocent, and in this way learn more.

Her thoughts as to the supposed flirtation were too considerably distracted by her own introduc- tion to Dorothy's friend, whom Miss "Vera Lawson thought she would have by no means objected to

annex herself.

There was that about Derek that most women fell into bondage when he merely looked at them, and very certainly he did not gaze at Vera Lawson with any intention of making her his slave. He WBB at that moment far too much engrossed thinking of his lost Dorothy. Still there was no gainsaying that Vera Lawson's presence was a boon to each one of the trio who had met so unfortunately.

Dorothy assumed the manner that in Paris she had so seldom cast aside-that is, she talked and laughed incessantly, dashing from one subject to another with a disregard for coherence that astonished Derek Home, and would probably have had the same effect on Miss Lawson had she not been used to it. Of course Dorothy was delighted to see her. Why had she not called ? Because she had been to the Blattherwaites-low people, not fit for anyone to -visit. How could she ? She had been asked Yes; but she had sent Lewis. Mrs. Blatther wai te'was a cousin. What did her dear Vera mean by acknowledging such cousins P When people married out of their sphere they should be dropped. Drop Mrs. Blattherwarte and come and

lunch to-morrow.

Though what dropping Mrs. Blattherwaite had to do with lunching Vera did not see, unless it meant that Dorothy would receive no one who visited the wife of the great City millionaire. Yet Dorothy had al wa j s said she did not care who or what people were-nor did she. She was talking at random for the sake of Baying something, whatever was most distasteful to her husband being chosen by pre- ference, that is, if in her present excitable condition she was capable of picking and choosing what she should say or not say. Only a vague notion that she wished to be disagreeable to Lewis pervaded everything.

" Let us go and have some supper," she exolamed at last, " I am starving. Mr. Home has been most remiss in not offering me any. Come along, Vera, we will go down stairs together and leave the gen-

tlemen to follow."

And without further ado eff she went, the effect her reckless manner produced on Derek Home being to make him even sadder and more low spiritiditjum he was before.

He followed Dorothy down the staircase, on which the guests had considerably lessened, but without speaking to his partner. What had these two- men in common now but a deadly hatred of each other P

Arrived in the1 hall, Derek debated with himself for a moment or two whether he should not take his hat and coat and depart, if possible unobserved r but an irresistible impulse urged him to follow the others into the supper-room. He spoke to no one, bat walked in like a man in a dream, and was at Dorothy's elbow when, still playing her reckless part, she turned to ask him for aspic.

So absorbed was Derekin hiß own sinister and dark thoughts that he did not notice, ae he otherwise could not have failed to do, that acquaintances still

somewhat avoided him.

The unpleasant story of the unpaid bill which hed been so widely circulated, with emendations and additions, had never been satisfactorily con- tradicted, notwithstanding Fred Lovatt's loyal efforts in his friend's behalf-efforts which did not avail nearly as much as that good fellow wished,

owing to Derek Home's apathy and seeming indif-, ference about the matter. I

But he did not even think of» his own social position now while he was moving about the room getting Dorothy the aspic and champagne she had asked for. Strange to say, it was on Lewis Bel- lingham that his thoughts were dwelling.

At every turn he took in the still crowded room he saw the ghastly pallid countenance of his paitner watching him with those fiery eyes in which-only of late he was averse to thinking harm of anyone-Derek had begun to detest this evil gleam of wickedness. At this moment they were most certainly lighted up with a savage glance of deadly hatred.

He watcned Derek about the room as though he were mentally wishing that his eyes were basilisk's

to strike him dead.

Yet, bitterly though Derek had been wronged, it was rather in pity than in anger that he contem- plated this man.

"How deformed," he concluded, "must bo a mind that could condescend to such baseness, and allow itself to be used in the vile complications on which Lewis Bellingham has been spending his

time of late."

To Derek Home, who never till now had studied deceit closely, the whole situation was an enigma.

In the abstract, of course, he was aware that '

treachery and deceit existed ; but since nothing ' would have induced him to injure even his bitterest j foe, he could not comprehend how a highly educated, refined, honourab'e man, as Lewis Bel- lingham had ever seemed to be, could act as he had done, and from his soul he pitied him. For Derek Home generously set these unjust acts down to the score of disease, feeling assured that if his wretched partner had been absolutely sane, he would have been impelled to see both the inex- pediency and the iniquity of such malpractices.

It was an honest man's analysis and an honest man's verdict. If Derek Home had not himself been so thoroughly straightforward and good at core he would not have had so much faith, and con- sequently not have been so thoroughly deceived and hoodwinked-at least, so anyone versed in the world's ways would have said, Fred Lovatt being most assuredly among the number.

Nor was Derek the only person who was haunted by Lewis Bellingham's shining eyes and cadaverous

mien.

Vera Lawson was absolutely fascinated by him.

He gave her the " creeps," as she would herself have expressed it, and yet she was quite powerless to summon her brother and beg him to take her sway from a thraldom that was becoming oppressive.

Others, too, were attracted by Lewis Belling ham's strange appearance* and the general whisper was that he looked even more ill since his marriage than he had done before it ; but then how could anyone guess that hatred, jealousy, disappoint- ment, and remorse were even at that moment fight- ing a desperate battle in the heart of one of the

most miserablo of men ?

Constitutionally, Mr. Bellingham was totally un- fit for emotions, and they had crowded tolerably thick on him of late, more especially on that parti- cular evening.

No wonder, then, that his weak heart suffered, and that even while people were whispering about his scared expression and pallid hue he fell, looking like death itself, on the floor at their feet.

Derek Home was by his side in a moment, the one word " Brandy," being all he uttered, while he loosened the cravat of his quondam friend.

Derek had seen several of these attacks before, and he knew exactly what to do, and for the time appeared-so kindly and solicitous were his services -to have entirely forgotten the enmity and miser- able history that had of late sprung up between them. If he could only get all those people to go away he thought, for nothing annoyed Lewis Bellingham more than to find himself, on his re- turn to consciousness, among a multitude of

gazers.

A few had the tact to depart, and the room be- came comparatively clear, owing in a great measure perchance, to the night being a cold one, and the window having afconce been thrown open.

At the moment when her husband fell, Dorothy was laughing and talking so merrily with Fred Lovatt that he certainly would never have sus- pected that she had a care in life, but, on the con- trary, set her down as the happiest little mortal who had ever conjugated the verb " to enjoy" ; but the curious look that came into her face when the third on the floor startled her, and looking round she saw with a shudder what had happened, Fred

Lovatt never forgot.

It was like a book of revelation, in which was written, as plainly as society mysteries would per- mit, that Dorothy did not love her huBband.

Her next glance after the one directed to the floor where Lewis lay was to the people assembled in the room. " She must act har part ; she supposed it was right and fitting to be womanly."

She set her champagne-glass on the table, gave her fan and one glove, which she had previously taken off, to Vera, and went forward to Derek's side, who was striving to force brandy between the livid lips.

" He will be better directly- How tiresome he should have an attack here! Suppose you and Mr. Lovatt raise him on the sofa ?"

" He is very ill," muttered Derek, in reply. " I wonder if there is a doctor in the house. Morphia must be injected in his arra without delay if the brandy does not answer. I could inject the morphia if I had it."

But once again the magic power of cognac asserted itself, and eves while he spoke Mr. Bellingham moved, and gave a gasp, as if for

breath.

"That's right," ssid Derek, "lîow, Lovatt, help me to raise him} he will get more air. Now, Mrs. Bellingham, your fan used very gently will

be of some service."

Vera handed Dorothy the fan, and then stood as one spellbound, watohing what would follow.

She had no belief whatever in the mere practical benefit Lewis Bellingham, bad derived from brandy or fanning, but still indulged in the fanciful theory she had set up. ' , ,

Lewis Bellingham had Iain as near as ever maa lay to the shadowy portal of death. It was only through his wife's vitality he had been recalled. The moment she had gone to his side and touched his hand, as she had done very lightly, the blazing i eyes, so nearly dimmed, had opened, and through the torpid veins the lif«'blood had be^un once , more to flow freely. Yes, it was true r the current

of fluid, electricity, life-whatever it might bo that Lewis received at second-hand from Dorothy-was once more renovating, the feeble pulse was strengthening, he could breathe with less difficulty» raise himself without assistance, and at last, leaning on,Dort>thy's arm, walk out into the street to his carriage, which had been called to the door.

Did this good-looking Mr. Home, this friend o£ Dorothy, of whom she had never heaid before, know aught of the strango influences that were at work, else why did he at once retire when he saw con- sciousness slowly returning to Mr. Bellingham, and called to Dorothy to complete the cure ? '

Was it by mesmerism, electro-biology.orwhat un» canny " ism" or " ology" that Dorothy effected this, Vera wondered, and wondering stood there after the Bellinghams' departure, so lost in thought that she heard nothing of a conversation that was going on between her brother and Fred Lovatt, and scarcely felt a smart rap that the former gave her on the arm as he told her to get her cloak and come, for it was very late.

Ay, dreaming Vera, go home to bed and sleep a way chimeras, nor with an imagination as fanciful as yours seek to penetrate an unknown world of "ologies" that should be reserved for the hard headed searcher for truth. Above all, be careful how you let fall one word to Dorothy on the un- canny subject that is oppressing you like some horrible nightmare !

Whether Vera Lawson, who was becoming more and more the slave of this madness, would keep silence to Dorothy, the circumstances of how much they were thrown together would influence ., but very certainly she did not dare mention it to her brother who would have laughed her to scorn.

She pulled herself together with a mighty effort

before she got into the carriage that waa to tak» - them to Blackfriars, and listened patiently to his much more praotical view of Bellingham's case.

" Got a queer heart. That chappie is not long for this world, I calculate," he said, as they drove from the door. " By the way, Vera, who is the

low» ?"

"What lover?"

"Why, Mrs. Bellingham's lover, of course. That good-looking fellow, who looks as if he had had a tussle with fate, and come off second best in the fray."

" Oh, that is a Mr. Derek Home. I never heard

of him before."

" You'll hear of him a good deal in the future, I guess."

" Do you really think he is Dorothy's lover?" "Why, certainly."

"Nonsense. How good he was to Mr. Bellingham when he got ill."

"Dust in the eyes of the bystanders. Surely, little sister, you are not such a novice in artfulness as to believe in that P"

" I can never seo as far as you do, Jack."

And yet how far better would it have been for everyone concerned in this disastrous business if Vera Lawson had net seen quite so far.