|Newspaper Title||The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893)|
|Trove Title||Wedded to Death|
WEDDED TO DEATH.
I CHAPTER XVIII-(continued.) j
" No difficulty at all," cried Lovatt; "we only have to pack up. Let us go on to Florence, and the wonderful Gordian knot will be out without even talking about it. Put Malle. Berthe Da Costa down on the side of philanthropic failures, and there's
an end of it."
Derek Home laughed, and a few minutes later theystrolled off to get a continental " Bradshaw," and find out the best and quickest route to Florence, Frank Lovatt feeling triumphant that he hid got his way, and rejoicing that he hhd como abroad with Derek Home, and been permitted to keep him out of mischief and trouble.
Derek Home undertook to master the mysteries of "Bradshaw," being rather an adept in the art; and so Frank Lovatt, who, with all his straight ford wardness, was not above human weakness, left him to have one more throw on those fascinating tables from which he was about to tear himself prematurely away for friendship's sake.
" One napoleon, and if he lost it not another sou would he risk." He put on rouge and won j then he tossed both on to noir and won again.
Rouge and noir alternately were chosen for the next ventures, again to win ; for half an hour he went on thus, not meeting with a single check, till there was quite a pile of gold pieces before him.
The gambling spirit when once aroused was not easily quited, and Frank Lovatt for the time forgot everything but the allurements of the green table, and was as thoroughly possessed by the demon of play as the most ardent gamester in the room.
Was Derek Home still spelling over " Bradshaw" in search of the train in which they were to start that very night for Florence ?
He did not know; he hadas thoroughly forgotten' Derek Home and the mesh of trouble from' which only an hour ago he had been so desirous of extrica- ting him as though he and) his Quixotic schemes
had never existed.
The loud report occasioned by the firing of a pistol sent a thrill thorough the crowd of gamblers, and every head was turned in the direction from
whence the sound came.
Suicide is not, alas ' a very íare occurrence in this wild, exciting place ; still, it never fails to produce a startling effect on the impressionable natures who congregate there.
Frank Tiovatt was cooler-headed than most of
the men around him; he calmly took up his winnings, thrust them into the safest pocket he possessed, and then, whistling from the sheer ' hght-heattedness of finding himself a richer man . by many pounds than he baa- been an hour ago, he
strolled off to see what all the commotion was
about, and around whom the knot of people had congregated in the garden.
, By common' consent they made way for him, and
before he had time to ask any questions he found i himself leaning over the prostrate form of Derek Home, from whose breast the blood was flowing profusely, while his colourless face and dull eye showed that he was absolutely unconscious.
A surgeon had arrived on the scene before Lovatt had sauntered there, and was endeavouring to staunch the blood ere he directed the carrying of the unfortunate man into his room in the hotel. For a time Frank Lovatt was too mueh engrossed; by his friend's desperate condition to ask any questions; but floating about in his brain there was a strong conviction of how all this had come about, though, of course, he waB ignorant of the exact manner. At last Derek's wound was dressed and he. himself in bed, consciousness having par- tially returned, although he was far too weak to converse, or even to answer questions ; nor could the English surgeon, who happened to be in the garden, give any idea of how the case would end.
"Fever might set in ; various contingencies might arise ; moreover, he was so weakened by loss of blood that his life depended greatly on what rallying powers his constitution possessed. A nurse had better be obtained for him forthwith."
A nurse, yes ; Frank Lovatt would send at once to Mentone for a nursing sister, and except this sister no woman should enter Derek Home's .-oom, if he had any power to prevent it.
By the time this telegram was Bent, and various other necessaries for the wounded man had been seen to, nearly three hours elapBed, and not a mo- ment had Frank Lovatt to look after the villian who fired the shot, and whom ho, of conrse, in- tuitively knew to be the furious, jealous Bussian.
How such a deed would be dealt with by i;he offi- cials of Monte Carlo puzzled Frank Lovatt net a little, as he at last went out of the hotel to set a few enquiries afoot and stir up the powers of the place.
Three hours since the shot was fired. So much in this rapidly-moving age moy be accomplished in three hours. The report of his own revolver and the Bight of Derek Home, prone and bleeding on the ground, had sobered the Russian's jealous furry or awakened in his breast a strong feeling of cowardice.
, By the time Frank/ Lovatt went in searoh of him he was gone, his chattels thrown by his valet rapidly into his portmanteau. They had both de- parted by the very train in whioh the two friends wero'tb have started for Florence, though to what spot on earth the Bussian intended to betake him- self he did not vonohsafe to tell anyone.
On his return from the disappointing investi- gations, Frank Lovatt met the Da Costa.
She had either notheard of the fray, or had por" posely kept out of it till now.
If she expected civility from Frank Lovatt she was mistaken ; he had never been her friend, and was after what had happened to Derek, prepared to have no mercy on her.
But the wretched girl was somewhat to be pitied. She had lost her Russian "attentif" forever, and, loving Derek Home as she did, she was in despair
at the evil fate that had overtaken him. There were no tears in her eyes when she met Frank Lovatt. To weep was not one of Berthe Da Costa's weaknesses. But the crimson heotic patches burned on her two cheeks, and her eyes were startlingly aglow with fire.
" Tell me Monsieur Lovatt, will he live ?"
" Improbable. And if he die, you will have the knowledge that you have killed him," was the brutal answer, as Frank Lovatt made a step away
She stopped him, her hand on his arm, pleading
in her tone
" Let me see him-let me nurse him. I will be devoted as never woman was before."
" You !"
And the tone of the monosyllable was big with scorn and contempt.
"Yes. Do you believe I am utterly wanton? Do you not know that he has been striving to awaken good in my heart?"
" A woman possessed of a heart woald not have allowed events to come to so terrible an issue."
" How could I help it Í"
" It seems to me that the man who fired the shot is scarcely as much to blame as you, and, as I said before, if my poor friend dies, his death is at your
" Oh, Monsieur Lovatt, you are too hard. Let me go to him."
"Never while I exist to prevent it, shall you
enter his room."
" SnppoBe I defy you !"
And the brilliant eyes flashed angrily, and the
demoii in her nature asserted itself.
" I will have you arrested as an accomplice for
"Murder!" she repeated, weirdly, the fire sud- denly extinguished at the sound of that awful word. " But he will not die ; he will live and forgive me. He is not so hard aa you are. Tell me, what shall I do, Monsieur Lovatt ?"
Frank shrugged his shoulders. He cared nothing what she did as long as she did not cross Derek Home's path.
" Go on your careless, haphazard way," he said bitterly j " sing your sweetest carols, gamble till you have lost every sou, and then fascinate- idiots into giving your more coin. You will' never do anything better than that. Why, when the course is open before you, do yon ask me what) you' shall
He did not wait for any further discussion with her. Not hard by nature, especially to women, he was unusually severe to this one, partly because he blamed himself for having brought her into Derek, notice. And he was fully resolved to break any link there was between them if Derek lived ; and if he died-well, the atmosphere of his death chamber should not be contaminated by the Da Costa's presence. It did not matter to Frank Lovatt that he was hardening her still more by hi8 , treatment of her, whereas the sight of Derek's 'sufferings might have softened her. It was his 'way of handling the present emergency, and he believed, himself to be right, particularly as two days-later, when the hush of desperate anxiety was only startled into sound by occasional delirious ravings in the sick man'B room, it came to Frank Lovatt's' knowledge that Berthe Da Costa had returned1 to her old habits ; that at a supper on the previous night where the champagne had flowed freely, she bad sung till she had rendered her hearers breathless from enchantment, and that she had afterwards laughed and flirted and quaffed' champagne by turns till the grey dawn had heralded the day.
Could it be possible to believe any good of such
a woman ?
And yet one who had read her aright would have known that there was a cold feeling of despair underlying the feverish 'exoitement, and that, amidst it all, never for one instant did she forget that Derek Home was lying nigh unto death in that darkened, carefully-guarded room.