|Chapter Title||CAN 8TH FORGIVE|
|Newspaper Title||The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893)|
|Trove Title||Wedded to Death|
I : . CAN 8HH FOBGIVE?
j * ", Dorothy, can you not forgive ?"
I ' The appeal was almost pathetic, so earnestly did Lewis Bellingham plead for restoration to favour .with the woman who, till lately, he had began to
think almost loved him, '
But Dorothy folie-i to mark the pathos. To her Lewis Bellinghaa's appeal was drivelling and con- temptible. He bud fallen so Jow in her esteem that sho could never aseribe to him any honesty of feeling, and she told him now, as she had told him before, that ¿he presumed his sole object is wishing to be frands with her was that he hoped to have a freer access to her purae, and that it he wanted money te take sane and leave her in peace.
With a sigh he turned away ; for once he had sp»ken truth. It was not for her money, but for herself that he pined. Money had had much less to do with the falsehood of whieh Lewis Bellingham had been guilty in order to win Dorothy than any one who knew the details of the sad business vrovsld ever be induced to give him'credit for ¡ while' t&e knowledge that she would never forgive waafrender ing him the most miserable of men.
They were together in the drawing-room after a téte-il-tóte dinner, an event which occurred but ' rarely-never if Dorothy could help it, sinse ten minutes alone with her husband was sure to- pro- duce a piteous appeal, to be followed by a scene, ending in considerable irritation, if not actual ill temper and hard words, on both sides.
Their life was' utter discord' and a perfect farce, for while soeiety treated them as married lovers, no cat and dog growling amd hissing were ever more ready for a mortal combat. Especially unfortunate, too, that on this particular evening
the subject of "Would she forgive?" should be- ; renewed. Dorothy had only that day beard that f Derek Home was gone-gone, too, without having
seen her at the last.
Vexatien and despair had rendered her almost mad, and she was even contemplatiag flight in order to join him abroad as soon ao-she had dis- covered to what spot on the earth he had betaken his wandering footsteps.
Forgive Lewis in this hour ? No, indeed ; if it were possible, she hated him more intensely than she had ever hated him before. A wiser man than Lewis would have gone away for a time ob some fictitious plea and left her evil passions and the situation generally to cool down.
Solitude might have brought rejection, the better frame of mind that would have saved" Dorothy from herself. But as many another fool-
hardy idio* has done before him, Lewis Bellingham J seemed determined to rush blindly on to his de- '
Mixed up with the craft and subtlety of his crooked nature there was much of the pettiness and desire for word warfare which is usually
A tCte-à-Ute with Dorothy, during which un- go verncd tongues waxed wroth, apparently afforded him greatpr satisfaction than a calm, card-playing, pipe-smoking evening with a few male companions
at his club or elsewhere.
Vera Lawson would have explained it from the fact that irritation, when administered by Donothy, gave him life. For a brief space.it assuredly did, though in a different sense to Vera's ; for most certainly Lewis Bellingham woke up during those martrimonial quarrels into a state of excitement and vigour of which at other times- he never seemed to be in the very least capable. There was even occasionally some fleeting colour on his pale cheeks.
To-night it burned there almost fiercely, and seemed to vie with his eyes in brilliancy, astho battle between the ill-assorted couple waged hotter and hotter, Lewis Bellingham at last appearing to forget his own share in the trouble that had come between them, and threatening to kill Derek Home for being the destroyer of his happiness and the unity
of his home.
"Your happiness !" cried Dorothy, all aflame in a moment. " It is you, on the contrary, who have ruined my life and Derek's, and if you raise one finger against him, if I have sufficient forbearance to let you lives I will at least proclaim your shame
to the world."
"To thieaten is feeblo and womanish. No one will believe you ; you have no proofs.'"
" Trust a woman for finding proofs if she wants j
" Do you mean that Derek has been such a sneak as to give you that paper ? I thought my- self safe in his hands, but in yeurs--"
" No, Lewis you are right ; you are not safe, for , I will never forgive you. Still, Derek's honour
shall not be impugned-he has not given, me that paper. If you were only one quarter as noble and true and honourable aB is my kingly, my splendid Derek, there would be no question of hatred or ill will between us. As it is, the first pleasure I shall bave in life will be in the hoar when I am told that you are dead."
They were cruel, hard words, even to one who had sinned against her as grieveusly as Lewis had done, and they had the effect of cutting him to the very quick.
The transttary colour died out of his face, it suddenly became overshowed by the gray, ashen hue that was, in its ghastliness, terrible to behold ¡ his very Ups wore a bluish white, and, just manag- ing to utter the one word " Brandy," he sank back unconscious in his chair.
Dorothy sprang impulsively to the bell, but paused befoie she rang it. " Brandy, brandy, would save him as it had saved him before. No ; let him die-unless Vera was right and she could give him life. If it were true that she had this occult power over him-then Î Far a moment, just to tiy her strength, he might live."
Like a flash did these evil thoughts course through her brain. She uttered no cry for help, as she was wont to do when Lewis was seized with faintness, but went up to him and laid one hand on his head, holding his icy-cold fingers with the other.
She was hot and glowing and exuberant in vitality. Passions were surging, her life was at the zenith of its force j yet, as she stood there holding him, a great calm seemed suddenly to come over her, and her own heart beat so feebiy that she could only gasp, spasmodically, " If he were dead I should be free," fighting feebly as it were with the good angel that would have stood beside her in that dread hour, till she allowed the horrible longing for freedom to be paramount.
How long she stood thus she never knew. Great agonies, like great joys, leave no count of time¡ but the echoes of the house were at last awakened by a loud and thrilling scream, and when tbe servants rushed into the room to see what had
happened to their mistress, they found her lying in a heap on the hearthrug at her husband's feet.
When they touched Lewis Bellingham he was cold as marble. Life, the butler in some wonder announced, must have been extinct for some little
They raised Dorothy and carried her upstairs to ber room j though she opened her eyes and looked about her, and was evidently perfectly conscious, she did not speak or attempt to move, bnt simply let them do as they listed.
"Poor thing, how mu?h she must have loved him," murmured the kindly housekeeper, while she bathed her brow and fussed about in order to show he-- sympathy with the poor bereaved young wife.
"i es, Dorothy was free !
Free ! It was the only word that her shrouded senses seemed to be capable of remembering.
Free ! But at what cost ?
Better to be chained for life, to be a galley-slave working out a hard-labour sentence, than to be free, beautiful, rich, with the ball of pleasure lyipg ready to be rolled at will, but with the tearible knowledge of how that dead man came by his fate eating like a canker and polluting the very well spring of peace and joy.
The doctor, who was sent for, of course, had no difficulty in giving a certificate as to the cause of death ; still, he asked, when the servants told him that Mrs. Bellingham was in the room, how it was
that no remedies were tried.
They had availed before; the chances were they would not have failed now. No one eould answer this, and for the moment Dorothy was too numbed for it to be possible to make her speak. What she would say when the partial paralysis of reason passed away and she began to realise what' death actually was-death brought into the midst of her life by such means-who shall say ?
For days she lay there passively as one stunned. The certificate had been given, the funeral was over, and she had not been examined.
"Pooryoung thing; she was his wife and loved him ; why should she be tormented by vain ques- tions ? If she could have saved him, was there a doubt but that sho would have done so ? So every- one agreed. * * -.
When at last she girded on some strength, and, rising from her bed, came down, a fragile little beauty, in her deep widow's mourning, it was not of her freedom but of her loneliness that people talked.
Yet the one word, " Free," never ceased to ring in her ears. ,
Yes ; she had got her freedom. What would she
do with it?
1 (To U continuad.) ,