Chapter 111037255

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Chapter NumberIX
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article111037255
Full Date1896-08-04
Page Number7
Corrections0
Word Count3644
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleEvening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931)
Trove TitleThe Crime of a Christmas Toy
article text

THE Crime of a Christmas Toy.

. ? v -- (BY HENRY HERMAN.)

CHAPTER IX.— /Continued.)

With this he disappeared behind the little door, which led* most' prdb&bly, to Ms kit chen. I looked round the place, and quickly espied another door at the other end of the room, aad, without further ado, walked up to it and opened it It led into a long and near ly dark passage, I had barely advanced half

a uozeu steps wnen 1 Became aware of a pe culiar acrid .and medicinal' odor, which lay lieavy upon the air and gripped my lungs pungently. But before I had time to further Investigate it, the door behind me was open ed again, and the shrill voice of the little red haired minx was heard there. 'Eh, you there! I like your cheek. Come alit o' that!' ... . - i pretended not to hear, and fumbled on, when the little minx ran af fer'trie and caught hold of me by the shirt-sleeves. 'Where are you goin'?' she said. 'You ayn't got no bisniss 'ere.' The parchment-faced man appeared at the opposite end at that moment, and I deemed a prolonged investigation unwise. ''Ere— you! What are you walking about there for? Out you cornel' I re-entered the room slowly. 'What a fuss you're making,' I said quiet ly. 'One would think you'd got something to hide there. I was doing no harm.' 'Harm or no harm,' snarled the shop keeper, 'you ain't got no business in there. Perhaps you'd like to buy the shop and 'ouse and all for your fourpehee ita^penny?' 'I don't want your house aiHl shop,' I an swered. 'I want my tea, and I want to know if .1 can have a -bed here.' 'No,', was the gruff reply. 'We don't let no beds 'ere.' The burly man in the opposite box sped a knowing wink towards me, which elicited no reply. While I was eating the food placed before me I tried to think from what chemi cal proceeded the odor which had reached me. * 'I've hit it,' I said to myself. 'It's opium opium; but not opium alone! They're poison ing him out there somewhere.' The premises behind and afcove the coffee shop being barred to me, further stay for the moment was useless. I left the shop, and looked right and left for possible lodgings. Most people in that road let rooms; and as luck would have it, the very next house had a. little bill over the door— 'A bedroom to let' I knocked, and found a slatternly middle-aged Irishwoman, who informed me that the bed room was at the back of the house on the first floor. I was shown into it, and found it a pokey little place, with only a email iron bedstead, a washstand, a rickety chest of drawers and a chair in it I paid the rent demanded for it, four and sixpence, a week, in advance, and was immediately installed. 'I haven't gained much,' I said, as I looked out into the courtyard. Opposite me loomed a dead, whitewashed vrall some eighteen feet high. As far as I could see, it formed the ,tock of an outbuild ing which led from the coffee-shop towards a shed at the back of the yard. I could see very little of the last erection except the roof, which was flat and of lead, and seemed to havi a ramshackle skylight in it What little I could discover of the construction of the shed seemed to be tumble-down brick; and it had the- appearance of being, or having been, used as a workshop. It might bave been a wash-house. 'That's the place,' I said to myself, 'from srtiich that medical smell came.' I looked further. A great stack of timber loomed just beyond the' shed, thus securing absolute privacy on 'thai side. At the back there was more timber. The courtyard of tie house in which I Jived was connected vrith the hare -wall- opposite-oie fcy one a little lower, some fourteen feet nigh, perhaps. I surveyed the field of my possible operations. There was no way of getting into the next yard or into the shed except by climbing out j of my window on to the low wall at the back, a. proceeding fraught with difficulty. Then, by going along the top of the wall, I might easily swing myself on to the Toof of the 6hed. But, of course, all that was Impos sible in daylight I had to bifie my time un til darkness came to my aid. I arranged my things, and then went out, walking round the block 3n which my newly found lodgings stood, for the purpose of gain ing a general idea of its position and the avenues of escape, in case egress through the front were barred. A huge factory blocked the way on the south, and on the east other houses, fully tenanted, lined the sides, of the street On the west only exit seemed pos sible. The big timber yard afforded a ready place of refuge. It had been murky all along, arid now a fine drizzle set in. I returned -to -my room. As it grew darker, the drizzle changed to a steady rain, which, after half an hour or so, became a regular downpour. The water splashed on the roof of the shed opposite to me with quite a pretty roar. ;The sky was black, and the darkness became dense. 'Now'smy time,' I said to myself. I took off. my coat and waistcoat, and put on an old pair of trousers. Then I threw oft fflj' boots, so as to be able to move noiselessly. i 1 next opened my window and looked out I Nothing but the., pitchy pall of the. night Ko lijrht gleamed in any ol the windows close by. Whether the people In the coffee shop Trere awake' or not, nobody might have told. ft-me distance farther on two or three pale yellow blotches stood out tet the murky space; but beyond that nothing. I pushed my head out of the window, and, 'firmly gripping the Wooden frame, I allowed myself to slide down outside, kicking the air for a foothold on the low wall at the end of the yard. After an «Eort, during wbieh my grip' nearly gave way and my fingers became numbed, I -managed to put 'my foot on the place. Then I caught hold of the waterpipe at the end of the house,. and. thus steadying myself, knelt down on the I A storm broke loose at that^ moment. The I lightning flashed and: the ? thunders rattled. I There were moments when the lightning I throbbed with a white beat on' the fcgavens,. I Jigbimg up the .scene all round; and I was I afraid of being noticed. I crawled along on I ffij- stomachy and, after a-!|ttie-spaee, reached I the top of the shed opposite. There I lay I flown and listened between the crashes, but I heard nothing. Then I dragged myself along I again, pausing 1and lying flat at ttoes. The I rain splashed and hissed and (sputtered, and I &e roar of the thunder altogether drowned. I we noise of my guarded movements, I I reached the skylight and looked down.* I All Was black as pitch below-=«Gthmg bpt a I Peat inky void. 1 had my ear, close to the I siass, but. not a sound reacted me for a iong I ^iile. At last, even M tiie midst of the beV ? wwmg thunder, a low TH&fln £afnSyt*ose fti I ~? c-ar, and a voice called a name which I I -'d not understand. I l bad been lying them in the furious jaln ? I*'1 balf an hour, pferhaps, and my limbs had I b.eeonie stiff and numb, when, on & sudden, a I '!'' shot into the-TOem below, and Bs I peer ? wi down with burning eyes, I could see that ? '* tame from a candle held by the parchmettt 1 Weed man. ' '' I Wot d'ye want now?' he Shouted gruffly ? «? some one below. / » I l searched the 'space below' by the fitful I f,Jam- The coffee-shop Jbeeper fcaji «,pprpaeh ? «u a low couch— a truckle toed most Ukely— ? «a which lay a jnan. $»e JSgfc^ fell O« JhM ? features at that moment and lit them up wltii ? * cnrions RembranatasQae glow, and I eouja ? *e them ghastly ashen, vlt was Jasper ? ojrae; buj Jasper ByrneV&n and wasted. ? «a fV-e like a aestfh'*ft«fc, - fcofal'&se the ? ^^ haud, which he tided to talse, aad the

eyes which glared uncannily as the light was reflected on them. The thunders had ceased Just then, and the spjashing .rain w%; the Only, noise audible above, except now and thetf the low whish and wail of the wind. I lay still as a corpse, and listened with my heart in my ears. 'I want to go away,' Byrne gasped hoarse ly. 'You're killing me: I know you are. You're not giving me anything to make me well again. I am dying.' ' ? - 'Rubbidge!' retorted the man. 'You hold your row, or if 11 be the wuss for you. The Count'e 'ere' Another figure entered the place at that mo ment. I recognised it immediately, as Brodie in spite of the big ulster with upturned col lar and the slouch hat which he wore. The Maltese immediately stepped to the little bed. 'You have deceived me!' he cried in French. 'My case was not in that wallet Tell me where you have put it, or I will strangle you.' ??? : : , T-e poor man shrank back on- his couch. 'Oh, no!' he cried. 'I told you right 1 told you the truth. It was in my pocket book.' 'It was not,' retorted Brodie. 'You stole it, and you have hidden it, you villain. . You want to keep it still, but I will drag it from you. So you thought you could play you* game with me!' He rushed at the reclining figure, and shook it roughly. 'I will shake the Jife out of you if you do not tell me the truth.' Byrne raised a nervously fumbling hand to guard against his cowardly aggressor, and I could hear the creaking of the little couch un» der Brodie's violence. ? -Then the moans ceas ed, and all was silent for a moment 'He's, told .a lie, ? then?' asked the coffee house keeper. 'Yes,' replied Brodie. 'My case was not in that wallet The wretch stole it to keep a hold over me, and we'll have to get It back somehow.' A moment afterwards all was darkness again below. I had heard enough, and crawling carefully back, reached my room. I looked and felt much more like a drowned rat than a man, but I thought myself . well repaid.

- CHAPTER X. When I had thrown off my soaked 'clothing, aad restored my sluggard circulation by rubbing myself with a dry towel,' I deliberat ed with myself about the best course of ac tion. Jasper Byrne was being poisoned by these wretches, there was no doubt about that. If he remained in their clutches for another night and another day, -there would probably be an end of him. Of course it was quite within my power to give information to the police, and then have him dragged out of this murderer's den, but as I came to turn it over in my mind, I decided to undertake the task myself. Jasper Byrne would prove a most useful person; if I gamed his confidence my path might be cleared of many difficulties. It was not an easy task, however. As far as I could judge, he was extremely weak, and would have to be lifted Ibodily 'to the roof of the shed, and then carried along that narrow wall and raised through x the window of ? my room. An unguarded or untoward movement might result in my breaking my neck. In addition to that, the task would have to be undertaken when all was abso lutely quiet, and it was only possible if Jas per Byrne were left unguarded in hie shed. The thunders had ceased to growl, but the rain swished on as furiously as before. It was a regular deluge. The night was still dark as pitch. Before twilight had set in, I had noticed that my landlady 'had left her clothes-lines stretched f rom wall to wall in the courtyard, and I made up my mind to use these in my work. I waited until Big Ben struck two. AH was still as death. Not a sound anywhere. ,The rain had abated its fury, and was. a steady, penetrating drizzle. . The first thing I had to do was to reach the yard. That was not difficult I got out of my window as be fore, climbed, down the water-pipe in the cor ner, and immediately secured something like' forty. yards of stoat clothes-line. These I coiled together and slung them across my shoulder. Then I climbed back to the parti tion wall in the manner I had come, and soon was on top of the shed opposite. I looked about me. No. light anywhere- 1 crawled on hands and knees along the roof of the outhouse, which reached from the shed to the coffee-shop building itself. There I lay down and listened. No sound, no breath. I peered into the darkness in every direction, but ho light, no sound of life anywhere. I returned, still on my hands and knees, to the roof of the shed, and found the skylight. I tried to lift it, but failed. I felt with grop ing fingers for the edges of the frame. The putty, though soaked on top by the rain, was dry as dust underneath, and crumbled away under my touch. I took out my clasp knife, and, as qiuckly as I could, Temoved the put ty from one frame. Then I inserted my knife to lift the sheet of glass; but, as bad luck would have It, the glass was, probably cracked, for a piece escaped me and fell with a littie crash- to the floor, below. I lay quite etDl and listened: 1 could see nothing in the shed, but I could hear a move ment and a little cry of surprise. . After that a silence: as of death. Jasper pyrne was. evi- dently alone, and nobody had heard me. Undaunted, I went on and ripped the putty from another sheet of glass. There I was more sueeessfol, and the aperture yvaB larger. I had barely succeeded when I heard a movie ment below and a faint cry. Again I listen ed. The movements continued, but no. other living presence made Jtself known. I Jay down oh the roof, arid ..called: 'Mr, Byrne!?1 and a (scarcely audible AWho is it? For God's sake, who is it— who calls me?'i was the reply. 'I'm a friend,' I said- 'Keep guiet and listen, Fm here to rescue youu' Ttfere was a slight pause, fluting which, I thought I tjould hear.my. heari beat against my ribs. Then came the answer: 'Thank God! thank-God!' , 'Don't be frightened jat anything I may do,' I said. 'Lie quiet, and give tip eign.' I felt with my hand along the edge of the aperture Which I ha4 inade, and managed to reach the latch, which, m the ineidg, ftgJd the skylight fastened, down, It w^ rusted into the jpaMi, aad it was only by a desperate ef fort that I succeeded fti loosening it. After that it was easy ,to raige the skylight and give an_ jopenjng large enongb to admit three men. The next question wag now to descend. I could eee- nothing in the pitchy darkness, but the distance from the roof to the floor conld not be more than about tw^ly^ feet, J. un coiled a portion of my clothes-line apj| fasten -ed about twenty -yaftjg of it ,io the solid iron staple, which fanned the catch of the ^kyligjjt latch, and elid^long ft4n # heart-beat^ apace, liuckily for myself, J. had brought my fosee bos, and when I had reached {he bottom: J struck a match, A swift glance around &e place showed me -a corner where, my *%y w would tie ewdea On eaeh^ide of thejskylight great beams T&n right and left from the wan to the root SJren |f the staple gave way, I w&ld vesch the Twf. , j I struck another match $q& peered Iota Jas per gyrae'* ikce; £ liad iierer *een «nch a gtowGy^grey tw» 1»!ft-re. 3?he *h-s w-«*» bine; his wi}-% JJrajae $hook ££ 3H4tp agae. He would have to Pe -$#&} like achjld, £fe loojtt# «t ms curiously tor a^eeona. MWbJ, you're jfre man in ihe^ert room ta me at 3fcs, Booaey'e?' ij0 gasped, hoapsely. «?! any \ jNSpliea, , MX fltecoyeueil that you Ktere in danger ^jf being ^marderedi' %n& WU take yon tack *o Mce;j llooneys So-nlght, but He raised hlmaelf^ainfally^ and. then I «aw.

that he was dressed, in hie trousers and a Checked cotton shirt. , ' ' 'Have ypuiyour boots here?' I asked. He shook his head. ?.????? 'No coat?' Again he shook his head. 'Well, we'll, have to So without them,' I said. 'Now, do esacfly What I tell you. You must let me arrange you in such a way that 1 can carry you, as -I would a baby, on my back.' So saying, I lifted him up, and seated him on the Jt»ed with his back to the walL Then I knelt down in front of him with* my back towards him: - VNow,' I said, 'fling your arms around my neck, and try to clutch me with your legs.' He made a feeble effort,- and at last sne eeeded. In the 'meantime I held some ten or twelve yards of clothes-line between .my teeth. I threw a double coil of the rope be hind, my back, catching him underneath the arms., This I fastened across my chest; then, by dint of much fumbling, I pushed the ends between my legs and caught his legs. These I tied as best I could. Movement was of course impeded this way, but if the poor fellow's strength failed, it might save me and him from breaking our necks. 'Now,' I said, 'hold on to my neck with ail your strength. Your life and mine may depend upon it' I could feel his bony fingers closing with the grip of. despair across my breast, and his nails digging into my flesh. As I raised my self, I found that, after all,, he eeemed to be no great drag. I pushed the bed against the wall where I could clutch the beam, and, swung myself up with it Then I caught the rope which was hanging loosely from the.sta ple^and. although the iron creaked and the rope strained in imminent danger .of bursting,. I managed to swing myself up to the sky light and drag myself through it, with Byrne clinging desperately to my back. Once out, I unfastened the rope and coiled it around Byrne's body and mine,; to give added secu rity. I crawled back on my hands and knees along the narrow coping of the partition wall; but the severest trial came when I attempted to reach my own window. Here linearly missed my footing, and only by av hair's breadth escaped tumbling headlong down in to the paved yard. I never thought that I should be able to lift the dead weight on my back into the window. But at last I manag ed it, and Byrne and myself were in security in mv room.

Fortunately for both of us, the irain had ceased. I was as soaked as before, but Jas per Byrne's clothing was dry, except where it haa come into x-ontact with mine. There was no time to be lost. Therefore I dressed Byrne in my coat and fitted him with a pair of oid shoes I had brought with me. An old soft felt hat of mine completed his attire. That being done, I decided not to lose a eecond, but. taking Mm in my arms, I canried him downstairs. The hall door was locked and bolted, and the noise which I had to make in unbolting it brought somebody to the top landing, and a woman's voice called out shrilly — ' 'Who's that down there? What are you doing?' 'It's only I,' I replied.. 'I've got to go to my work.' 'Do you work at three o'clock in the morn ing?' shouted the voice.* 'Yes, at three o'clock in the morning,' I re plied; but by that time, having drawn all the bolts, I went out and slammed the door be hind me. It was a matter of indifference to me what my good landlady might care to do afterwards. A.i was quiet in the street. Not a sound. I walked along Belvedere-road, carrying Jas per Byrne. He was not very heavy, but he felt more like an inanimate object in my arms than a live man. At the corner of the Westminster-road the steady tramp of a po liceman came towards me, and after proceeds ing a score of paces I saw the constable. He flashed his bull's eye at me, and eaid— ' ' 'Where are you going to with that man?* ' 'If s a poor pal of mine,' I replied, 'that is dying, I think; and I'm going to see if I can get him in a hospital.' (To be continued.)