Chapter 18992167

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Chapter NumberXVII
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18992167
Full Date1890-06-21
Page Number2
Corrections0
Word Count2745
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. I

CHAPTER XVII.

" This might be Paradise if it were not so strongly tainted with the other piare-eh, Derek ?"

" It is very beautiful. Aa you say, if it were peopled with saints we might think ourselves in

another world."

"But dull. Great Scot! think how dull it would be."

And Frank Lovatt heaved a deep sigh. To be bored was to him the thing he could not stand in

life.

Derek Home laughed.

" Yes," he said ; " what a deserted place this would be save for the painted sirens and the dis- reputable roués who make gambling their trade."

" Of course, of course. What is the good of life unless we can get some fun out of it, and we do get some fun out of these people."

"While, for the moment, we are not much better than they."

" Derek, drop the serious. You are detestable when you are in a moralising mood. We have come here to be amused and to drive the London

fog out of our Drains, not to get sermons out of paint and roulette." And as if to chase away all furthur intentions of sermonising, gay, musical, if perchance somewhatmeaningless, langh ter carolling round the flowering glades on which the two men gazed while they sat smoking on one of the terraces at beautiful Monte Carlo. '

Then the laugh suddenly ceased, and a voice, clear and fresh^ and true, burst into a perfect törrent'of song, silencing even the feathery ripplerb who had been warbling their tuneful lullabieB to

the departing day. ( Silencing,' too,J the two men, who, though experiencing very different emotions attributable to their dissimilar characteristics, yet both for the time fell under the sway of that

marvellous voice.

As suddenly as it had poured itself forth in melody it ceased, and as was perpetually recurring on that particular spot of earth, the antithesis was so marked as to become an agony.

Moro laughter for mere laughter's sake.

Gruff, manly, champagne-ladea tones, answered by shrill treble ones from which the element of wine was not wholly absent ; Burely it could not be the voice of her who had thrilled every heart fibre with the divine melody.

Derek Home rose, shook himself with a shudder, and tosBed his cigar into some bushes close by.

Frank Lovatt, more philosophical, or perchance having fewer causes for worry and consequent nervous strain, went on smoking calmly and began to talk once more between deliberate puffs.

" Steady, old fellow, steady. Let not your heart be troubledVby the vagaries of this mad place. That is Berthe Da Costa, whose voice has enslaved not a few of us during the last two years. She is coming to take London by storm next season. She is as bad as she is beautiful, and as beautiful as Well, her face matches her voice. Wait till yon

see her."

" Bad, with such a voice as that P Impossible, Lovatt ; you must be mistaken."

" My dear fellow, she has not the rag of a simple virtue, not even a good heart. If ever there was a living embodiment of thiB same Monte Carlo, with its exquisite external loveliness and utter rottenness at core, that typical being is Berthe Da Costa, Hark, she is singing again." . A few snatches and she stopped.

Frank Lovatt went on

"She has a 'pal' here, a money-disgorging Russian, who is inducing her to swamp herself altogether soon, for she can't last long at the pace she is going."

" Wretched girl ! Has she no belongings of any

sort?"

" A bibulous mother, whom she apparently keeps well supplied with liquor. It ia the old story raised from the gutter by a voice like that, the wallowing in the mire never loses its fascination."

" Yet that Divine gift must have been sent to induce a higher life."

" Pray don't expound break-head conundrums in this hour of witching sensnousness. No one has ever yet happened on to why the old Adam is such a stiff-necked, intractable monster. You and I had better take the anomalies of life as we find them, and thank the gods we are not called on to explain them. Now then, come on, let us go to the tables. I dare say we shall find the Da CoBta there, and you will see for yourself I have not exaggerated

her charms."

Derek Home followed his friend Lovatt as he sauntered away towards the temple of play, but it was with sadness at his heart. He was a philan- thropist by nature, ready to help in everything to benefit his fellows, either by the formation of technical schools, subscriptions to free libraries for the people, getting up concerts for their deleotation, &o. To free the lower classes from the trammels of poverty by educating them, andfthus enabling them to keep themselves, was snch a hobby with Derek Home that his friends said it amounted to a mania. It can, therefore, be conceived what a trouble it was to him when a being such as Frank Lovatt described the Da Costa to be crossed his

path-a being gifted far beyond the average, and yet in whose nature vice was so redundant that it utterly eclipsed purity and goodness.

That such things should be puzzled and troubled Derek Home, every now and again upsetting that grand self-helpful doctrine of free will on which he plumed himself in believing so faithfully.

It was well for Derek Home that he had come abroad with a man of Frank Lovatt's proclivities, else, tried as he had been of late by Dorothy's marriage and Lewis Bellingham's false friendship, his character would have been in danger of losing all its elasticity and becoming morbid and morose, as his mind became weakened by revelling in the theories and dogmas. But on none of this would practical broad-thinking Frank Lovatt permit him to dwell, but insisted on his conjugating the verb " te enjoy" in every possible mood and tense, even as this rollicking good-hearted follow did himself.

And Derek Home obeyed him without much op- position. That there was greater and better work awaiting him than to idle among the fascinations and abominations of Monte Carlo he felt fully con- vinced, but he was wise enough to be aware that he had had a severe mental shock, and that, even as the body requires cossetting after a long and pain- ful illness, so do the mental forces after a strain so severe as that to which his had been subjected of

late.

Thus he submitted to Frank Lovatt's guidance, and let him toss him hither aud thither from one so-called pleasurable emotion into another. Not that he ever made a confidant of Lovatt, who was far too neble-minded to ask questions, although he could not help seeing that things had gone wrong

with his friend Derek Home of late.

He never for a moment believed that Derek Home was in any way dishonourably connected with that bill for fifteen hundred ¡ nothing would have induced him to believe it, whatever he him- self might asseverate, and naturally he had his own suspicions as to what was the truth about the matter. Nor was he very far wrong in the gués8 he had made; only since he had not the vaguest idea that Derek Home had ever oared for Dorothy, his silence on the subject-of Lewis Bellingham's treacherous shortcomings puzzled him.

Of such magnanimity for mere old friendship's sake, Frank Lovatt could not believe that even a "high-souled hero" like Derek Home would be idiot enough to be guilty.

What, then, the lien wob that bound him so closely to Bellingham he had yet to learn, and be

lieving in the old time saying that everything comes j

to those who know how to wait, hu waited patiently for the knowledge that he felt certain would one day be his.

Meanwhile, he was very faithful to Derek, and cheered and humoured him without letting him see that he thought many of his fancies were the mere freaks of a man whose mind was sick and sorry.

He had never yet induced Derek to stake a single five-franc piece on the green table, though he himself had been most fortunate, and quite a little pile of golden coins had found their way into his thickly-lined pooket j but it amused, or rather interested, the graver man to watch the scenes in the tempestuous gathering of uncurbed passions, and to deduce strong lessons for future practice and reflection from the storm that raged around. Derek Home was no neophyte in the workings of life's seamy side ; he had visited many of the most depraved haunts of wretchedness and crime both in London and Paris, but vice in its fiercest form was somewhat new to bim. Educated people, 'trained in refinement and luxury, allowing the veneer of civilisation to be absolutely effaced, and savagery to'leap fotth unrestrained, was what he in no wise could comprehend.

What, then, was the use of culture and training if, when this gambling spirit broke loose, it also brought hatred and fusy, even suioide and mad-

ness in its train P

It was incomprehensible to Derek, as incompre- hensible as the existence of beings like the Da Costa, and once again he followed Frank Lovatt to the tables to watch, and, if it were possible, find a key to the mystery.

On this occasion, however, all his interest was .concentrated on one object-certainly the moBt conspicuous one among that heterogeneous collec lection of human beings-the Da Costa herself. Frank Lovatt had spoken truly. She was, indeed, beautiful ; of that refined and rare beauty that ia spiritual in ita type.

You looked into her face, especially when it was in repose, and wondered how aught of evil could

have touched one so fair.

For Derek Home she had a strange fascination, he scarcely knew why, till Frank Lovatt whispered:

" Is she like anyone you ever saw before ?" One more long gaze, and then Derek Home answered»

with bated breath :

" Dorothy-Mrs. Bellingham." Frank Lovatt laughed.

"Strong resemblance, isn't thereP-beautiful

devils both."

" Lovatt !"

"Oh! I know Mrs. Bellingham is a friend of yours, and is in society, and all that 5 still the type

is the same."

An angry defence of Dorothy Bellingham rose to Derek Home's lips. How dare even Frank Lovatt venture to speak slightingly of the woman he deemed the sweetest, loveliest being who had ever trod the earth? But, thanks to the lucky star that was watching over the friendship of these two men, Lovatt was at that moment called away, and Derek Home's wrath died a natural death.

For, in the next moment, calmer reason told him that to defend a woman was always injurious to her good name, and that if Frank Lovatt did not care for Mrs. Bellingham-well, what matter? His judgment was not infallible.

Besides, what was Dorothy Bellingham to him now that he should assert himself as her champion.

But Frank Lovatt's insinuations about Dorothy gave him the idea that he was, nerchance, hard on the sex ; and-for Dorothy was assuredly far above the reach of any evil tongue-it might be that the depravity imputed to this fair frail resemblance of her had been grossly exaggerated, and that a good heart lay beneath all her frivolity and world worship.

A shred from Don Quixote's mantle had been in- herited by Derek Home, and-for Dorothy's cake, he told himself-he determined to try and awaken some aentiments of shame and regret for evil in the breast of the beautiful Da Costa, who at that moment, flushed with wine and half mad with excitement, was skrieking "Impail Gagne" in a voice that waa heard above all othera in that Babel of many tongues.

A few minutes later Derek Home had elbowed his way up to the Da Costa's side, and though he did not attempt to speak to her, he stood watching with a keenness of interest that ahe did not fail to observe, especially when taken into consideration that he who watched was a striking-looking, honest-faced Englishman, of those athletic propor-

tions so dear to women.

She waa winning her money, and was in high good humour. She turned to him and smiled, then

addressed him in French :

"You do not play, monsieur ?"

Here was a stumbling-blook in Derek Home's progress with the singer. His French was of the feeblest, consisting solely of a few meagre ungram

matical sentences.

He answered her in a brief ill-pronounced state- ment that he did not care for play, feeling, mean- while, a regret that since they had no language in common, the conversation he had intended to have with the Da Costa would be impossible.

Another second set this difficulty at rest for f Berthe Da Costa, in English as pure as bia own, remarked, with a shrug

" If you do not play you lose much of the pleasure

of life."

He did not attempt to argue the point with her now-the oceasion was scarcely a~ fitting one-but made some light remark.

An acquaintance had been aet up. That was all Derek Home wanted for the moment-not such a very difficult matter, one would have thought, but he looked almost as pleased as if Dorothy were standing near him, and he remained patiently there, watching the Da Costa play till ahe herself had had a surfeit, and walked from the table, leav- ing her Russian companion to persevere in the endeavour to catch hack his luck, which had bsen desperately inclined to gambol out of bounds during the entire evening.

" This place is too hot for me ; my head is swim- ming, I must go and get some fresh air," explained Berthe Da Costa, thinking in reality that the new admirer ßhe had annexed would would follow her into the gardens. And so he did ; though perchance had Mademoiselle Da Costa known he was on re- formation bent she would have sentenced him as a bore without giving him a trial. By the time she discovered-to use her own phraseology-that the man was too good to live, she decided that it was better to retain this beautiful animal for A squire errant, even though this object were to turn her into a sister of mercy, or qld Goody Two Shoes, or some other impossible being, than to tell him with emphatic brusquerie " that to model her into pnjthing different -to what she now was was a Herculean labour which in a lifetime he could not

accomplish.'' ' '< ¡

It flattered her and amused her, nevertheless, that he shonld make an attempt so different to to anything that any other man hod dreamed of

before.

Some pious women on whom she had happened to stumble here and there had sermonised, but a man-gracious; the case was so unusual that it was comically unique, '

Thus, to Frank Lovatt's absolute dismay he Raw a positive intimacy springing np between this ill assorted pair, and he groaned in spirit as he com templated it.

If ever there was a man who was likely to become a mere tool in the bands of a wary, designing wo- man, that man was Derek Home, and he ¡should always blame himself for having brought the Da

Costa into his notice.

.Frank Lovatt did not believe the vety least in reformation, not he ; it was only another name for flirtation, of that be felt very certain.

And in this opinion Mademoiselle Bertha Da Costa most unquestionably agreed with him ; and so, every one ¡was beginning to think, was the1 Russian financier, for the scowl on his dark swarthy brow deeperied daily, and there was every now and; again an ominous grunt, or rather roar, when the big-bear heard» Berthe pattering in 'a %o him un- known tongue with this Englishman, and he cursed, the first ten years of her life, which had been spent in New York, where she was really born, though her father was a Spanish Jew and her mother a Belgian. . t r ¡

Altogether the atmosphere was heavy and lower-' ing, and a storm was apparently brewing which would bring beautiful, riotous, pleasure-loving Monte Carlo into a scene of bloodthirsty jealous

hate.