|Newspaper Title||Albury Banner and Wodonga Express (NSW : 1896 - 1938)|
|Trove Title||The Clang of the Bell|
THE CLANG OF THE BELL.
(By Fred W. Young, . in 'Chums.')
'Down with you, down with you, you fool; else the skunk will see you!' Such were the words uttered by an unshaved and unkempt individual attired in a rusty suit of corduroy to a companion who was certainly not more prepossessing in ap pearance. The light from the moon re vealed their bloated visages, clearly showing that they, were both -men of in temperate habits, whilst by the aid of its beams it might also have been noticed that each man carried a thick' and ugly looking stick.
uucuiuiiu uis uiit? 11101/ n£jccbn.d e- vv ui u&, and following his example, the second man crouched down behind a clump of bushes that fringed the narrow path, which, si tuated not far from Strood, led down to the canal which eventually emptied its waters into the Medway. 'Not a sound,' growled the original speaker. 'Wait till the cuss passes that open stretch of road, and then — — ' He nodded in a meaning way. In the meantime the person who had been variously designated as 'skunk' and 'cuss' was, with a swinging stride, ra pidly approaching the crouching men, for Harry Field, the son of the manager of the Oleate Syndicate Soap Works, with cap thrust at the back of his head, and with his hands thrust deep in his jacket pockets, was little dreaming of the recep tion awaiting for him. He had been working late at the office of the works, which were situated at the side of a canalj cut for the purpose of allowing the brown-sailed barges to 'load and unload their cargoes, and he was re turning to his father's house with visions of a hot supper and a good night's rest. On he came, till suddenly with a start he pulled up short and glanced around, for a hulking fellow in corduroys had sud denly sprung from a clump of bushes and
taken his stand direct tin. his path. In an instant the lad recognised him as a man named Viney Cross, a man re cently discharged frpm the works ? for drunkenness, and 'he at once realised that the meeting would be 'anything but a friendly one. The spot was particularly lonely, but Harry, putting on a bold front, advanced as if to pass the unex pected arrival. 'Not so fast, my young bantam,' jerked out the burly fellow who barred his way, following up' his remarks with an oath. 'Reckon I've got a word or two to say to you. You ain't the manager's son out here, 'cause' I ain't got no mana ger now, darn you, 'for it was you ? wot got me the shove.' ' ' ' ' 'Well! What of that?' demanded the lad. 'Goodness knows, Cross, I did all I could to keep you on; I warned ''you times enough, and' it1, was yoiir own faults if you and Bartiam 'wouldn't keep off the drink.' ? ?_ ?' ' 'Drink, you pup, what' do you ,know about it? Anyhow, you goes and blabs to the old man and gets us both chucked out; but I'm going to have a bit of my own back now, and if you gets away with a whole bone in your body you'll be darned lucky, that's all.' That Cross, who even then was partially intoxicated, meant what he said there was no doubt, and Harry, without being a coward, nevertheless glanced round with the intention of taking to his heels, as a powerfully built man armed with a heavy stick was not a desirable opponent for, a lad of sixteen. What, however, was his dismay when on glancing backwards, to find that ano ther form loomed up against the moon light, effectually cutting off any attempt*' at retreat by the rear. 'Got yor,' laughed the fellow when he saw the lad had noticed him. 'Go it, Viney. We'll smash 'im,' following up his words' with a rush at the lad. Quick, however, as ho was, Harry was even quicker, for rushing at Cross, who stood irect in his path, he, dodging a blow from tho latter's stick and clucking his head, butted the' man full tilt below the belt with a force that sent him swing ing to the ground, though in doing so Harry's foot unfortunately tripped over the fallen man's legs, and he, too, mea sured his length upon the ground, just as Jeph Barham, springing upon his back, pinned him to the earth. To most lads in such, a situation .the conflict would have been soon over, but Hary's blood was fairly, roused, and in addition to that he possessed that which his assailants were unaware of, namely, a very fair knowledge of ju-iitsu. With a rapid twist of his body and a peculiar lock of his leg he had in a mo ment flung off. the superior weighted op-, ponent who was holding him down, when, as they rolled over, the lad's hand for tunately came in contact with a large stone, which he instantly seized. .? ''? Springing to his feet .with the agility of a hare, before his antagonist could reco ver himself, Harry again dodged a blow aimed at him by Viney Cross, and then dashing the stone full in the skulking fel low's face, darted off at full speed. He was not, however, allowed' many yards' start, for, cursing and swearing, the two men were soon upon his track ; whilst, having a clear road before him, Harry sprinted on, feelinfr certain he could soon outstrip them. This note of 'satis. faction on our hero's part was, however, of short duration, for glancing up at an overhanging tree that covered a bend in the road he was pursuing, ho gave a,n, }n
ward gasp, for during the recent struggle the moon which had been previously shin ing brightly had suddenly become over clouded ; and, owing to his excitement and the uncertain light, he had taken the wrong turning ! Too well he knew that, within a few yards the path would lead downwards be tween high chalk cuttings, the termina tion of which was the deep waters of the canal. He dare not pause, though each stride carried him farther into the cutting up the steep sides of which there was no hope of escape, for Cross and Barham, raving like lunatics, were close upon his heels. No, he must go on. Perhaps there might be a barge moored alongside on which he could seek refuge and, if not — well, he would have to swim for it. Even as he came to this ?resolution a large stone struck him heavily on the shoulder, causing him to lurch worward, an action that was greeted with yells of delight from those behind. 'The water'll stop 'im,' shouted Jeph Barham as he panted on. 'We got 'im. We got 'im.' . ? .. ? ? 'I'n not so sure about thstt,' muttered the lad to himself, as he'^caught the words, and at that moment jjie darted' on to the little landing-stage and paused, for half a second. ? Look which way he would *iot a craft was in sight. Nothing was visible on. the broad canal except a small dark object in midstream that was being slowly carried onward by the sluggish tide. _ Brief, how ever, as the pause had been, it was almost disastrous to our hero, for thev foremost of ?his uursuers was within a yard,. A grimy hand, was thrust out; the? fingers just touching his neck as with a wild leap he sprang forward, whilst a lo'tid -splash an nounced the fact that the .dark waters had closed over him. Down he went, but a 'few swift strokes brought. ''?him to the surface, _and forfcvmately,. close tb the dark j object he had first' noticed, which proved to be a- baulk : of 'timber, that had evidently come adrift from some ware house. It was indeed providential, forj weighed down as he was by his sodden clothing, and in addition hampered- by his boots, ' whilst with strength greatly re duced by his recent exertions, he could not havo kept himself afloat many seconds longer. ' ' ? One stroke more and he seized, the float ing log and scrambled astride it, and then, as he drifted slowll onwards, he caught a glimpse of' Viner Cross wiping the blood from his face where the stone had struck 'him; whilst both men with brandished sticks were howling impreca tions that vented themselves harmlessly upon tho night air.
CHAPTER II. LIKE RATS IN A TRAP. Nearly a couple of weeks had passed since the incident related in the last chap ter, when Harry Field, after drifting upon the log for some distance, had been gradually carried inshore and enabled to land; when, dripping with wet, bruised and aching, he had made his way home. The local police had naturally been put upon the track of the two ruffians, but ?without any result, for both Viney Cross and Jeph Barham had disappeared as though the earth ,had swallowed them up. Yet during that period more than one curious incident had happened at \ the great soap works, of the Oleate Syndi cate. For only a week 'previous, during the dinner hour, when practically, all the ? - hands were absent, one of the employes, upon descending to the basement, had been driven back and almost suffocated by dense volumes of foul smoke. / ' An alarm was at once given, and the fire brigade, composed of workmen en gaged in the factory, who were a splen didly drilled body of men, were- almost inrcantly upon the spot, 'with the result 'that the conflagration was soon subdued; Then it was discovered that a pile of grease-sodden barrel staves and a mass of v rags soaked in paraffin had been- fiercely burning beneath the building. That the fire was the result of incen ?diarism there could.be little doubt. And it was broadly hinted in more than one uarter that it- was the work of the two lfltttlv rlifinlmrtrprl linnrlo wliilcf. mnnv urni-n
the threats uttered from the foreman down to the donkey boy, if they were but discovered ; for Mr. Field and his work men had a bond of sympathy between them. He being a firm but just, master, though man and boy knew that: once in those gigantic works they were berthed for life, with the prospect of a pension when old age came on. Nor was young Harry less respected. ;Boy as he was, he had keen business acu men, and yet with it a kindly word and, a bright smile for one and all, a trait in. his character that won for him golden opinions; so that it is no wonder that the ;\vork-people were more than incensed at ?the recent outrages. (To be continued ) «.