|Newspaper Title||Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931)|
|Trove Title||The Crime of a Christmas Toy|
THE Grime of a Christmas Toy.
(BY HENRY HERMAN.)
Lord Senfrey glanced over the letter Tvliicb his valet had handed to Mm, and his Cace darkened. He pursed ilxis lips and gently* patted Sprat, the little Yorkshire terrier that lay snugly curled up on his lap. Tneii, having mechanically read the epistle twice, or perhaps thrice, he looked tra from it and around the room after the
manner of a man so annoyed that he. does not know wliitlier ids train' of ? thoughts is leading him. Tne valet wa9 standing on the other side of the table, -whereon Ms lordship's untouch ed breakfast lay. Like the good and po lished servant be was, he appeared to be deeply interested, in the progress of two or three flies that were perambulating upon the ceiling. He knew that his lordship was un usually vexed from the impatient tapping of iris lordship's forefinger upon the tablecloth. Lord Senfrey leant back in his arm-chair and, crossing his hands in front of aim, so that .the thumbs stood upwards, stared at the missive lying on the table, while the lit tle old doggie, in seeming- wonderment at the sudden motion which disturbed his com fort, sat upon his haunches and looked into bis master's face in plaintive remonstrance. 'What a nuisance that man is!' nis lord eliip said a-t last. 'You told him that I was not at home?' 'Yes, my lord,' replied the valet; 'but he answered that he knew your lordship was at home, and that h© would wait, if he had to do it, all day to see you.' Another pause — during which the continu ed tapping of the forefinger was the only sound audible in the room. 'I had better see him, I suppose,' said Lord Senfrey, whilst his eyes wandered bilker and thither, as if to escape that hor rid letter on the table. 'I vow I'll never do a service to eucli creatures again. It isn't my fault tlhat she has disappeared. AH I did was to help her to an engagement.' He waited for a moment, as if expecting a word of approval from his' servant 'You know it, Morton,' !he went on bitter ly, 'you know all about the business. You, of all people, know very well that I.nad no thing to do with the girl's disappearance. I wish to heaven, that I had never had any thing to do with her at all.' The astute Morton, still keeping hie eyes upon the ceiling, as if endeavoring to find there a solution of the enigma which bother ed his lordship, said, in the quietest possible tone of voice:— 'If you were to ask my opinion, my lord— which, of course, I wouldn't venture to offer for the world without being asked— I would — ' The valet paused, as if afraid of having overstepped the barriers of duty and service. 'What would you say, Morton'?— out with It' questioned Lord Senfrey. 'I would say,' the valet rejoined, 'that it ?vras a case of blackmail.' Lord. Senfrey eat upright. Sprat, for a srcond time in a short space shaken from Ms place, jumped on the table by the side of his lordahip's plate, and looked with envious eyes upon the silver cover, from beneatti which the odor of grilled chop reached his Eostrils. His lordship noticed the old dog gie's reproof, and, with a tender hand, re placed him upon his lap. 'You're a clever fellow; Morton,' he ex claimed. 'You know the world a. lot bet ter than I do, and. I often think that I know it a great deal too well. You've hit it It's a case of blackmail. Now you've suggested the idea, I'm cure it's a case of blackmaiL The girl has disappeared, nobody seems to know whither, nobody seems to know why, or with whom. For all I know, that black guard. Italian may have conspired -with his sister, and he comes to me as if I were bid ing her.' 'It's a confounded nuisance,' he went on, 'but I shall have to eettle it one way or the other. I won't be bothered like that for no thing, just now of all tiie times in the yea*. I won't drag such a millstone from my bachelor state into my married life. I've got quite enough to answer for of my own doing without being worried by people who laave ,no claims whatever upon me. Let tiie man come up.' Morton bowed and left. Lord Senfrey, who was thus disturbed on | the very morning before the day appointed for his marriage with Lady Georgina Rhow don. only daughter and iieiress of the Earl of Bent, was a decidedly popular man. Most people in 'this world thought him one of thfc luckiest men in it He was not born to the title. Wlien he was a lad some five or six lives stood be I tvreen him and the barony, its myriads of I acres, and its mighty rent-rolL His father I Ibad been but a country clergyman, with a I stipend of five hundred a year, and a' family I of six children to keep. Young Alfred Ney
I mer was sent to an army tutor, and with. I tiie help of the former Lord Senfrey and of I other relatives, a commission was purchased I for him. I But ihis career in the army was short, I though his bravery was conspicuous, and ac I kmnrledged by !his superiors on more than I one glorious occasion. He was a bad sol I -lier, as far as obedience and discipline were I concerned. On one 'occasion, he saved on I important line of communication by flagrant I disobedience of orders, coupled with a des I perate valor, which reduced his command to I Olif Tmif 1+fS -mirnlvfira
I The Horse Guards grumblingly acknow I i«3;red the achievement, but in less than four I months — on the occasion of a less brilliant I breach of discipline— Captain. Neymer was I compelled to resign. After that he led a I loujrh life of adventure in tibe Australian I bush and in the wilds of America— an existr I ecce extremely chequered, and not always I inclining towards prosperity. I In the meantime one life after the other I 1 that stood between him and the peerage was I swept away, until one morning Alfred Ney I mer, then at his -wits' ends how to live, re I ceiveu a letter styling Mm 'My Lord.' I It was but natural that a noMeman -'who I burst upon London Society with such . a I thrilling record, and w!ho. witih great wealth, I combined an attractive exterior, should be I come one of the lions of the day. Lord Sen I trey was a handsome man, tall, _ straight I limbed, and broad-chested, looking, every I inch a soldier. I He was rich. The Senfrey estates were
I vast and , totally ^unencumbered. - He was I popular in the clubs and popular in the I drawing-rooms. All Uie men called Mm I 'good fellow,' And the ladies bought him I delightful The -whiffs of scandal -which I cow and then floated, across Mayfair salons I concerning irim never went far enough to I Beriously .tarnish his reputation. A I Belgrayian mothers-in-law admitted that it I was better that iny Lord Senfeey should sow I this wild oats before marriage than bring I a stock of the undesirable commodity to a
Bewly-weddea wife. The young ladies, 'when they faeard',the subject mentioned, vowed it too awfully wicked, i?ut admired lie fortunate nobleman, all the more. There ?was not one of them who would not have gladly undertaken the task of guiding the straying sheep to the folds of holy -wedlock. With all that Xiord Senfrey 'wae neitiher | better nor worse than tiie average man who, ! after a long life of exposure and trial, eud I denly finds himself iSie possessor of great I wealth. He Siad not been a'month in town before various rumors Were afloat concern ing an intimacy between ^im and Dorothy Anderson, a handsome young actress, -whose I portrait at that period graced most of the
photographers' shop- widows. Other reports were abroad, one especially about his inte rest' in an Italian girl, Maria Orahb, the sis ter of a young sculptor of rising reputation. Somehow or other these,, rumors died away. His lordship had -evidently learned discretion with experience, and though he was a haliitue- of the stage side of certain theatres, no really serious allegation could thenceforward be brought against him. Thus it came on the very next day after this commencement of our history he was to be married to the only daughter of the great Earl of Bent. And yet, as we have seen, Lord Senfrey had reason to be annoyed. He took the silver cover from the plate, and cutting a small piece for himself and another for Sprat, left his own morsel un touched, while the dog quickly finiaUed his portion. A sip or two of coffee and a tiny piece of toast were all that passed Ms lips before the valet returned, followed by a tall, sliiu, dark-Tiaaeea rnan— the very type of the
souijiern xrauan. ? . The man was dressed after' the fashion of the better class of artists, in a black velvet coat and waistcoat, with the ends of his black silk neckerchief dangling- loosely in front, of. him. . His rather good-looking face was blanched— of that creamy palkw; which only extreme emotion can produce on a dark skin. He stood still on the threshold and looked at Lord Senfrey as if he could have jumped' at Mm and torn him to pieces. His ihaiwis were behind his back, and he bit his lips silently. LGrd Senfrey turned round to 'the man and said gruffly, 'Now, sir, your business? Wthat
do you want with ine?' The man's reply was savage. His enun ciation was slow, and 'his Italian accent em phasized it. 'Reparation— reparation,' he said slowly. Lord Senfrey felt that his wrath was get ting the better of him, and gripped his right hand with his left to compose himself. 'Reparation!' he exclaimed fiercely. 'For what?' 'For my sister.' Lord Senfrey rose - and looked the man straight in the face. 'I'm tired of this,' he said, quietly, 'I'm tired of you and your sister both. You know as well as I do that all I ever did were two or three acts of ' kindness to her. You know as well as I .do that I was no more to hex than my servant there. I know nothing
about her disappearance and don't want to know, and if you come Ihere bothering me again I will call the police and give you in custody.' , The man stood unmoved. 'Call in police,' he said. 'I am ready.' He stepped to the chair -next to him and sat himself down. The valet, thinking it was time to test the effect of his advice upon his lordship, asked: 'Shall I go for a constable1?' Lord Senfrey shrugged his shoulders with a sickly smile. 'Wihat for, Morton?' he asked. 'To take this man away.' A smile creamed again upon Lord Sen frey's features. 'When I want to throw that man Into the street, Morton,' he said, 'I shall require no aid, and he won't fall softly when I handle thim.' The man's sullen determination had rous ed the stalwart soldier to Ma former selfre liance. He pulled out has watch and laid it upon the table. 'I am going to give you one minute,' he said, 'to tell me exactly what you want from me. At the end of that minute, I'm going to take you by the scruff of the neck and throw you into the street; and if you dare to ring my bell again, I shall instruct my servants to give you into -custody. Now, what clo you want?' 'Reparation,' was the slow and long drawn reply again; 'reparation for my sis ter's death.'' It was now Lord Senfrey's- turn to feel the color fiading from his cheeks. 'Your sister's death?' he asked hoarsely. 'Your sister. is dead?' . 'Yes,' replied the man, 'my sister dead.' 'But how?— and where?' asked Lord Sen frey. 'She- was found this morning in little room where she live a week past She poisoa iherself.'
'I am very sorry,' said Lord Senfrey, 'very sorry Indeed to hear this. But whet have I -to do with it? I know .nothing what ever about iher. I give you my word of honor, I am as innocent of any connection with her death as you are yourself.' The man rose. 'Your word of honor!' ne sneered. 'My name Luigi Orano. Te Orano were princes tousa&d year ago. You aa English noble man! My sister happy tUl ©he know you. You say you not know her. My sister dead. You lie!' Lord Senfrey, without further ado, cross ed to the man and gripped Mm by *he throat. The door was standing open, and though the Italian kicked and fought and bit, the Iron fingers inserted ^.themselves be tween his neck and. 'Ms neefceloth and, twist ing the latter, ihaJf strangled him. Thus he was dragged and, bumped, step by step, down the stairs, along the ihali— where the astonished footman, guessing -his master's intention, opened the door— and flung like a bundle of rags Snto the street. 'See to it, Bradley,' said his lordship to the footman. 'If that man. rings my bell again, give lim into custody.'.' ...._? Signor Orano, however, seemed to have no desire, for that moment at iaatiy jate, to re visit Lord Semfrey'e inhospitable, roof. He rose scowiSogly and gnashed his teeth and snook ihis fist 'Birbante!' lie exclaimed, brushing the dust from M® clothing and' re-arranglng M9 disordered neekeloth. 'Beware! beware! I
come agam! ' ' ' Witih that 4ie pulled himself together and. breathing heavily, limped slowly a-way. The day had evidently dawned fflotnia ously for the house of Neymer, for whilst its noble chief was worried and vexed by what he consdered an attempt at blackmail, his younger brother received a visitor, even less Welcome than Signor Orano was at Eaton Square. . ; Martin Neymer was Lwd Senfrey's youngr er bother, aid next an. Ine of succession to the title. and estates. He resembld Ms bro ichr in nothing but his iheight. He was tail, but had none of Lord Senfrey's athletic build, none of Ms frankness of countenance, none of ihis handsome, soldierrlike appear ance. Although two years younger Oiaa ihis lord ship, he looked fully twenty years his senior. His face -was always smootMy shaven and very pole. The forehead was already wrin kled, and beneath Jjhe deep-sunken, restless eyes, crows' feet crossed on. to the cheeks. His hair was' sparse and nearly white. He looked, 'essentially «he mam, lie was— weak, undecided, aad «asHy swagned. for .good or
iot: evsu. Martin Ueymer's visitor was no less a per son than Mr. Mnir Macrae, the well-known Duke-street money-lender and bill dis counter, ,aa oily gentleman, upon whose tfalck lips And - square _ jaw pearled the most benign of smiles. ' Mr. Macrae's broad face -was fringed by & sandy beard of touge proportions, whilst i&e long upper Up was mndefiledfey any hirsute ap -peudage. He wos-a portly genfleman, black frock-coated, and black silk watetcoaitsd, and wore an old-fashioned stock, whilst from Ma fob dangled some half a dozen nDassSve eeals. Mr. Macrae, was «ban3ing with Ms hands behind his back, looking jover hie gold spec tacles fit Mr. Martin, itfeyaner, wfco sat in Ibis armchair by £he table, i&ven paler than. -usuaL Mr. Martin *Jeyme/o 13pa were ashen, and he looked about 2Am like -one dazed. 'GonfesM «st,' Mr. Macrae wa» saying,
.'confess, et, air, that eegnatore of Lorrd Sen frey is a forrgery.' 'How dare you!'' Martin Neymer replied 'haggardly. 'How dare you suggest such a thing, sir!' 'Ah dare do what Is reet The bank don't lie, and the. bank says that's nae Lorrd Sen frey's segnature.' 'It's a mistake,' explained Neymer. 'It's quite a. mistake, Mr. Macrae, I assure you. You ; shall be paid your two thousand pounds.. If you'll let me have the bill, I'll get you the money for it.' 'Quite so,' retorted Mr. Macrae. 'Ah've nae doubt ye'll niak et reet. But ye maun delay. Ah want my money— nae inair, nae less.' - ? 'You shall have your money,' said Ney mer, nervously. 'This whole miserable business is a mistake which I cannot explain. I'll, go and see my brother to-day, and you shall have the two thousand pounds in less than a week.' 'Nae,' was the dry rejoinder, 'not a week. Ah'll gie ye tell to-morrow— to-mor- row at noon.- At one o'clock ah wash my ihands, and ah'll put the business into my lawyer's keeping. Now ye know what ah want, Mr. Neymer, and let me tell ye that ye ought to be thankful that aih'm dealing eae friendly wi ye. Guid morning.' The portly .. Scot took his hat from the chair on which he had placed it, and, turning upon his 'heel, walked out without another word. Martin Neymer sat at ihis table for some moments as if the world were dead to him, and his surroundings existed m-t He did not even hear the movement of a door at the further end of the room, nor did he see his wife who stood there. Mrs. Neymer was nearly as taE as her hus band, with a face.ihat toad been handsome, with a kind of cruel, classic beauty, and eyes that still flasUied lite black gems. She was dressed in a loose morning wrapper of the finest and softest Liberty silk, bordered by
a loam of precious lace. She stood on the threshold and looked at her Jiusband, shaking her head as if in mute reproach. She approached the table with out being heard, and paused at her hus band's side for a score of seconds, without a word. At last she tapped him on the shoulder, and he looked up. His eyes met hers, and he shrank back shuddering. 'Well!' she exclaimed, stoically. 'It is all over, Agatha,' he mourned. 'I'm found out. That man, Macrae, has discO' vered that Alfred's signature was forged.' 'Well!' the lady repeated, without a trace of emotion. 'Surelv von -*jrrvertfAd that he
?would discover that? Surely you were pre pared for that discovery?' 'What do you mean, Agatha?' asked the husband, in a hoarse tremor. 'I mean,' the wife answered, in a voice .of perfect commonplace, 'that, as a matter of course, you've been to your brother and got from Mm the two^ thousand pounds to pay the MIL' Neymer looked Snto his wife's eyes with a face so pitful that it might have moved a stone, but the lady merely laughed. 'What a wry face you're making, Martin,' she said. 'I've no patience with you. I can see hy your looks that you've done absor lutely mottling — that you have allowed this to come upon- you, as you knew it would, and that you've hot the means to square it.' 'I haven't a fifty-pound note, and that man -wants two thousand pounds,' groaned the man. 'Well,' remonstrated Mrs. Neymer, quiet ly) 'go to Alfred and get the money.' 'I can't,' replied the husband. 'He gave' -me a thousand, pounds only three weeks ago, and. you've 2iad at nearly all, Agatha— nearly every penny of it.' 'I was bound to pay my bills;' *he lady replied^ 'If I didn't pay my bills I should
'have nothing to wear. Mrs. Simmonds wanted seven hundred pounds, and I gave her four hundred. I owed three hundred amd sixty pounds to Hughes, the bookmaker, and that had to be paid, of course. And then I bought a pony to match Niero. I paAd nearly a hundred pounds for Mm. So you see I hadn't much left.' ; ' The worried, tousbaml looked at bis wife for a few heart beats' space meekly. 'I aon't reproach you, Agatha,' he eaid. 'You know that if I had it, I'd give you ail you could wish for, and more. But you. are extravagant, Agatha. Your style of Mving lias brougtrt us to this. We must retrench, Agatha; we must. I can't continually go to Alfred amd ask him for money. It's not right, and he'll get tired of it, especially now wihen he 5s going to get married and will lhave a wife to keep ? ' 'A wife,' sneered the lady. MA wife who has ten thousand a year in her own right I wish 1 had iim. thousand a year.' 'If you, had ten thousand a year, my dear,' rejoined Neymer, 'you would spend ten thousand more. But that would make do difference. You should have it if I could give it you; but I can't. I've come to the end of my tetiier, and I suppose it's only right that this should fall upon me. The man who does a criminal act ought to suffer for it, and I've committed a criminal act.' 'Don't talk nonsense,' exclaimed the lady. 'It isn't your fault that, by the stupid laws of this country, your brother is worth mil lions and you are penniless. If that brother of yours were out of the way, I would be Lady . Senfrey, and I would be aide to live as I ought to live.' The eyes flashed more bitterly than befosna, and the bosom heaved as if in resentment, whilst for a second, and a second only, A hot flush, cam© to the lady's cheeks, and her face became clouded as if a dark thought were crossing her mind. 'I-on't lose any time,*' she burst out at las- 'Go to your brother. He'll have to give yon that two thousand pounds, and he w5ll give it to you. Now I must run away and dress, else I shall be late for the private view.' She shrugged Iher shoulders contemptuous ly, and walked to 4he other end of Ohe room. ' 'If I were only Lady Senfrey,' she said ?to herself. Then she paused, and her eyes flashed back to her husband. 'Who knows?' she hissed under her breath, and went to her own room. Lord Senfrey was still .sitting over his un: finished breakfast wtoen ihis brother was an-^ mounced. He was well accustomed to these 'majtutiaal visits; ami when lie saw Martin pale as a sheet, and with eyes even more shifty than usual, he immediately recognised that his brother was In trouble for money.
It Siad been a source of grim, humorous satisfaction to him to help his brother in sear eon and out of season. He was a bachelor, and iiis wants were lew. . He did not spend on© #the of his income, and would not have knows Siow to do it mtfJsfactorily *t- jhimself if ihe had tried. He had lent lids brother thousands where !h&« SmmL spent hundreds np». on himself , but gradually she Siad come to ap preciaite that-Sie more 3ie lent the more his brother^ wife' wanted; and though he was perfectly prepared to enable Martin Neyoxier to ilve'in a style befitting the brothr of & peer, he rebelled at being called tipon to satisfy Mrs. Martin Neymeris wanton and foolish extravagance. (To be continued.)