|Newspaper Title||The Maitland Weekly Mercury (NSW : 1892-1931)|
|Trove Title||The Gold Seekers|
THE GOLD SEEKERS.
Three days passed, and Ivor had made up liis mind to go up to Kimberley on the follow in^ clay. Beausire -was as yet undecided. He had fallen in with a party of wandering Englishmen — young men of fortune — who ?were'' doing' the world, and seemed to be attractive by their society. At any rate, if Tin rlirl nnt actual lv accomnanv Ivor, he would
follow him in threo or four days at the utmost. Ivor was uneasy ; he did not like to break off all connection with Beausire in a brusque and rough manner, yet he had made up his mind that ho would have to bo firm on the point. He strolled down to to the pier. A Castle boat was in, homeward bound ; she was just about to start. 'Any more for the shore?' was ringing out along the decks. Ivor glanced casually over the crowd of passengers assembled on the upper deck, and saw to his amazement, somewhat apart from the general crowd, the two Jewish ladies who had accom panied him from England in the Asiatic. There was no doubt about it. Glancing in his directioD, they caught sight of him, and simultaneously turned away and walked forward. The ship cast off, tho last good-byes were waved from the pier, and the great screw began to revolve slowly as she passed out from tho pier on the way to Eng land. Ivor was astonished. Within a few days these ladies had been up and down from Kimberley, and were on their way home again. He walked slowly back to the hotel musing on this curious coincidence. At the entrance to the hotel Beausire was standing talking to one of the young. Eng lishmen whom he had fallen in with. As Ivor approached he heard the young Englishman say : 'You may as well come. It won't take us more than a fortnight or three weeks, and that won't make much difference to you, especially if you are going to spend your Kfo here.' Beausire laughed, and at that moment Ivor came into the hotel. ' What do you say about it, Ivor ?' ' About what?' ' These fellows — Montgomery and Han dasyde — want me to go on a shooting ex peditition with them — antelopes — before I start for Kimberley.' 'You may please yourself: but in that case I think it would be as well if we worked on our own hook. I am going to Kimberley to-morrow, whatever happens.' All right, old chap, I daresay I'll come too. I shan't settle just yet, Montgomery.' Montgomery shrugged his shoulders and walked away, and Ivor said to Beausire : ' I was down at the peer justnow, and saw those two Jew girls who came out with, us starting on a Castle boat for England. What on earth can have induced them to come out to the Cape for a fortnight, and include a four-days' journey to Kimberley and back in , their programme ?' 'Some devilment or other, you may be sure. In league with your double, Lowe, I suppose. I wish you hadn't so much to do with him. You tako my word for it, he won't do you any credit whenever you come across him. Have you -finally settled to go to Kim berley to-morrow ?' 'Yes. And you?' ' I think so. I'll just have another talk with these fellows first.' As Ivor expected on the following morning Beausire came to him and said : ' I have decided to go with theso men on their shooting expedition. They assure me that it won't take them more than three weeks at theinost.' 'Very well. I will give you tho three weeks. If you are not in Kimberley, say, in twenty-five days from now, I may conclude that all question as to partnership between us is off.' ' Yes, but I am sure to be there. I think that fate has thrown us together for a pur pose, and I don't mean to desert your lucky star.' ' We have yet to prove that it is a lucky one,' answered Ivor, laughing. . -Thoy parted, and Ivor started on his way to the diamond fields.
CHAPTER IV. when Ivor's troubles begin. Nothing o£ interest occurred until thev reached Do Aar, the junction where the Port Elizabeth' train joins that from Capo Town, when many passengers came into the train. Into Ivor s carriage came two smartly dressed, youngish men, who immediately began to discuss Cape politics— a truly fertile field of argument. In a country torn by factions, where Englishmen and Boers are constantly at loggerheads— in a country where no definite and continuous policy is main tained by England— it is a little wonder that trouble is constantly being brewed. There was also an old Scotchman in the carriage, who listened to the remarks of hiB companions with a dry smile, and occasionally interjected a remark, pertinent and pithy, to Which tho younger men listened with attention . Ivor was silent. Ho preferred to listen, more especially as ho was gaining information --of sorts— without having to take the trouble to ask for it. The train rattled along until they reached ?H-opetown, where the railway crosses the grange River. Ivor had noticed on the way P 2- many of tho streams Tvero streams in name only, as there vras no water in their th«eby proved by personal obser 0n^ ,°4 tllr00 sayings about South ncn!i ^ Hopetown there seemed to be un , Xt was a small, unim poitant spot, so far as Ivor could see, and yet ion had an appcarauce of importance.
Presently a man camo running along the tram, crying, ' Telegram for Mr. Stein,' followed by anothor who called, ' Telegram for Mr. Lowe.' Up and down the train they wont, and Ivor watched them with interest. Directly tho old Scotchman heard the cry ho became as brisk and eager as Ivor. Ho put his head out of the window and exchanged a few words with a man who had looked into their carriage with a curious searching gaze. He looked with particular attention at Ivor. As the train moved on, Ivor asked the old man what it all meant. ' I.D.B.,' answered the old man laconically. Then ho added : ' That telegram trick is played out ; it only answers for greenhorns.' ' What do you mean ?' ' They were bogus tolegrams, of course.' ' Bogus telegrams !' ' Aye, bogus telegrams. There's been a big steal on up at Kimberley or Du Toit's Pan. Mon, I ken fine the last time when it was a matter o' two or three thousand pounds. They war na sae keen as thoy are the day.' Ivor looked at his companion in astonish. ment, and the two other young men in tho carriage leaned forward with an air of ex pectancy, as tho old man rolled his tongue in his cheek preparatory to tolling his tale. ' Ye'll no rsmember it, sirs, if ye were not in the country at the time, becauso I find, that they kind o' things are not of sufficient import ance to be reported at length in tho papers in tho old country. It was a matter of three thousand pounds, and tliey thought Lowie, the Jew, was in it.' Ivor started 'Well, sir?' ' | 'Did you say Lowe ?' asked Ivor. ' Ay ; and ye're the very spittin' image of him yeisol', and that's not a compliment, young sir, for you're like one of the biggest blackguards that ever stepped in shoe leather. Did you happen to know him, then ?' ' He come out in the Asiatic with mo, and I saw a good deal of him,' answered Ivor. ' Then you saw a good deal of a man who — if he isn't hanged in the interval — will spend fourteen years on the breakwater before he is many months older, or I'm a Dutchman. Don't you ever have .anything to do with that man, if you will take an old man's advice. Bob M'Nab is an angel to him, and his chance of heaven isn't what you would call first-class. Well, to get on with the story. As I tell you, they thought Lowie was in it, and they would do any thing to convict him. He'd been up two or three times already, and never could get any certain evidence against him, or Judge Harris would liavo nicked him in- no time. It was
then that they started the bogus telegram trick, and they plastered this lino with tele grams from De Aar to Kimberley, and from the Cape to De Aar ; they addressed them to every Jew name they could think on, with a sprinkling of Lowies at every few stations, but they never drew him. They had detectives on at every station, and they do'say that ho travelled tho whole way on a nigger train dressed as an old Kaffir woman. How he must have laughed at it all ! Oh, he's a cun ning devil, is Lowie, and if you'll take my advice, my young friend, you'll give him a wide berth. His . friendship won't do any man any good, don't you make any mistake.' The old gentleman mopped his face with a red bandana handkerchief. And Ivor said : ' But have they ever proved anything against him ?' ' No, they haven't. You don't want to prove anything against a. man -with a face like that. That's proof enough that he ought to be hanged ; and if I was you I would grow my beard, for you two are as like as them two fellows in Shakespeare, and it's half the way to convicting yon of a crime to be like Lowie. Mark my words, that man will be hanged before he dies. I don't suppose that the hanging will kill him ; it takes more, than hanging to kill vermin of that sort.' ' You seem very bitter against him, sir,' said Ivor, timidly. ' Bitter ! Of course I'm bitter ; it's men like him that prevent Kimberley from being a great centre of civilization, as it ought to be.' At this point the two young men who had got in at De Aar looked at each, other and smiled. The old gentleman intercepted tho look, noted the smile, and continued* : ' The centre of civilization ! There's no reason against it except Lowie and people like him, and becauso Englishmen, out of England, think thoy can make beasts . of themselves with impunity.' Both the young men laughed audibly, and the old gentleman, with a sniff of, contempt at them, turned to Ivor, and said : ' And what may you be going to do with yourself at Kimberley ?' ' I am thinking of taking to share-broking. Mr Lowe, however, suggested it to me, and it may not, in consequence, meet with your approval. He is a diamond merchant himself, I believe.' , ' Diamond merchant !'? said tho old man, contemptously, answering tho latter part of Ivor's romarks first. ' A pretty diamond merchant he is. Diamond thiof, you mean ! I will lay a wager that most of the diamonds ho buys comes over tho compound wall. H'm you might do worse than share-broking, if you can keep your head. Only take my advice — you mayn't see me again, because I'm going on to J ohannesburg, and then for a holiday to auld Scotland, and, being an old man, may I never como back again. As soon as you have made a decent pile — don't go for a big fortune — clear out, or you'll lose it all again, and make it and lose it again and again, till you rot hero of over-excitement, over- work, too much whisky, or one of those things which kill mon off here. Don't you forgot it ; set yoursolf a sum — not too big — and when you havo made it run for it, or tho fascination of piling up money will be too strong for you, and you will never leave.' ' I am sure it is very kind of you to take this trouble in explaining things to me,' said Ivor. ' Advice is cheap, and, in consequence, never followed ; but I mako a point of giving it to any likely young man I como across, on the off-chance that ho may follow it ; and al though you havo got tho features of that scamp Lowio, I see that you are really green, or you wouldn't have got old Jack Noilson to talk to you in a hurry.' I Shortly aftor this Ivor went to sleep in the ' corner of tho carriage, and being worn out with his long, dusty journey, an expression came over his face which made him look older. Old Neilson glanced at him from time to time, while the two young men who had gotin at De Aar earned on their conversation in an undertone. _ The old Scotchman was obviously uneasy m his mind ; he could ? not keep his
' eyes off Ivor, and he sliifted about in his seat. Ivor slept on unconsoious, and in his sleep ho murmured of Gwen and Glanwythian. Noil son at last muttered to himself under his breath. ' It's most extraordinar'. I would na swear that he wasn't Lowio now.' Ho closed his eyes after a time, and made an effort to sleep, but as ho woko with a start directly ho began to dose, he gave it up, and contented himself with glancing constantly at Ivor, and muttering to himself. As they wore nearing Kimberley Ivorawoko, and, rubbing his eyes, said to Neilson, with a smile : ' I am afraid I havo been asleep.' When Neilson noted Ivor's smile ho seemed reassured, and answered, pleasantly : ' The best thing you could do. . Wo are quite close to Kimberley now !' ' Are you going to stay at all in Kimber ley ?' ' No ! I am going on at once. Where arc you going to put up ?' 'At Mrs. Jardine's, I believe.' ' You couldn't do better ; but I believe that blackguard Lowie hangs about there a good deal.' Ivor smiled, and Neilson looked at him again suspiciously, as ho answered : ' It was ho who advised me to go there.' ' H'mpli,' grunted Neilson. ' I am sure I am very much obliged to you, Mr. Neilson, for the hints and information you have been kind enough to give me.' ' No thanks necessary, young man. Here we are at Kimberley.' ' Good-bye,' said Ivor, holding out his hand. | ' Good-bye, sir, good-bye. , Keep your eyes open, and steer clear of whisky, and I dare say you'll do. No, you get out first. I have a lot of small traps to get together here.' Ivor jumped out, looked about him for a
second or two, and was then about to seek after his luggage, when ho noted a pair of keen eyes scanning his face very closely. In another instant he was aware of a handcuff being clasped on bis wrist, and as he turned to remonstrate, a voice said in his ear : ' Well, I didn't think you'd be such a flat as to turn up here again.' Ivor, flushed and angry, insulted to the quick, demanded loudly what was tho cause of his arrest. The detective laughed and shrugged his shoulders. .Ivor repeated his question, and tho detec tive replied in a vicious tone : ' Come, now, Lowe, don't make an ass of yourself. Como on as quickly as you can.' At this moment old Neilson camo up, and seeing Ivor handcuffed to the detective, he said, aloud : 'Heavens ! it was Lowie, after all !' He gazed at Ivor and shook his head sadly and said : ' I am afraid my excellent advice won't be of much service to you, sir.' . Ivor, now pale as death, said to the detec tive, in a hoarse tone of voice : 'This is a horrible mistake. I am not Lowe. Ho came up hero a fortnight ago.' ' I know all about that. Now, then, come along ; it is no use stopping here making a scene.' Ivor saw that remonstrance was hopeless, and moved away with his head on his chest. As he and the detective started, Neilson came up to the detective and said : ' What is the charge ?' 'Murder !' answered the detective lacon ically. Ivor spent that night in Kimberley goal. CHAPTER V. IN PRISON. Ivor's feelings during that first 'terrible night in prison were of a very mixed nature. Never for one moment during the long, mono tonous night did he think of sleep. At first he was almost inclined to laugh at the ludic rous position in which he found himself; again he was almost ready to weep at the degradation which had befallen him, and then it flashed across liim that he was arrested on the most dreadful of all criminal charges. ' Murder !' He knew nothing more. He would be examined tentatively in the morn ing. As to whom he was supposed to have murdered, how or when the deed was done, he was entirely ignorant. Then, again, it was Lowe who was obviously the suspected criminal, and here he was arrested in his stead, with no one near to prove his identity. Toward dawn he began fully to realize the gravity xof the situation, and when breakfast was brought to him his face had assumed an expression of mingled hope and fear which boded ill for his chance of proving an alibi and his total disconnection with Lowe. The consciousness of innocence may bo very delightful, but it was scarcely encour aging to a man who some six thousand miles away from home, whose sole hope of proving his identity lay in Beausire, of whoso where abouts he was entirely ignorant. Ho was well aware that Beausiro's three weeks might easily develop into three months, and it was matter for scant satisfaction that that scatter brained individual was the one staff on which he could hope to lean. True, if he could pro cure witnesses from England the matter would be easily settled, but possibly the turn of events would decide him as to what he ought to do. _ First of all, he must find out tho details of his supposed crime. It would be as well to know why ho was in prison. It was murder, and the summary justice of tho country would require very certain proof of his innocence before allowing its victim to go free. Here it would not bo a case of guilt being proved beyond a shadow of doubt, it would bo a case of innocence being as assuredly proved. He had not long to wait before discovering the details of his crime, and when he returned to his cell, committed for trial in a fortnight's time, his feelings was anything but pleasant. Six days previously, a most daring robbery and murder had been committed, under the following circumstances ; It was just after sundown, and tho short African twilight was already beginning to fade into darkness, when tho official whose duty it was to bring back the diamonds which had been collected during the day at tho Floors, was riding along the road to tho offices to the Kimberley mines. Tho road was apparently deserted, for tho Kaffirs were all inside the compound, and according to their wont were howling like fiends. The man in charge of the diamonds urged his horse into a trot, and had gono some three hundred yards along tho road, when some one sprang up suddenly from tho side of tho track, which was raised above the level, caught tho horse's rein, and shot the official through the head. Ho then hastily seized tho bag containing the diamonds, whose value was between nine and ten thou sand pounds, mounted the horse, and was away over the veldt, northward, heading ap parently, for the Transvaal.
From the time 'wlion. tlie murderer had first 1 seized tho horso's reins until ho was mounted and flying over tho veldt scarcely more than a minute had elapsed, and there had been one witness of the scene. It was this witness who had settled the matter as far as Ivor's committal was concerned. His evidence was taken with tho utmost care, for it was nearly an hour aftor tho event that he had given in formation of the murder. The magistrate's first question, after the man had given the general outline of the story, was : 'I was coming back from tho spoil-heap.' ' Have you a licenso from tho mine to wash the spoil-hoap ?' j 'Yes,' answered tho man, and produced a duly attested license. ' Well, you sco it was- like this. If you will allow me to tell exactly what I did see and done, it will be easier. I'm getting oldish now and I got my license to wash the spoil-heap two months back, and a dirt-poor job it is, if you will allow mo to say so. Wei!, as I was saying, I was coming back from thy spoil heap, and had come round the Floor on to the road, and it was getting .about sundown, and I thought I'd just sit down on the side of the road and watch the sun set ; so I sits down on the side of tho road, gets to thinking of when I used to watch her sot in Lincolnshire in the old country, and that takes mo back when I was a bit of a boy way out on tho fens there, and that takes mo on to tho old farm house and tho smell of hay and the mist rising up out of the fens — ' ' Yes, yes,' said the magistrate hastily, ' I understand all that. I want to know the oxact particulars. You havo already given us a general outline.' ' Well, what wi' thinking of that, and the sun getting lower and lower in the sky, and being tired with washing all day at that blessed spoil-heap, I closed my eyes and went to sleep, I suppose. Anyhow, I didn't seem to have been asleep more than a minuto when I wakes with a start and I looks up, and there about a hundred — maybe a hundred and fifty — yards away, I saw a man with his hand on the rein of a horse, and another man falling, head foremost, on the near side of tho horse, and I saw a puff of white smoke sailing just above the horse's head. The horse was plung ing, but the man soon quieted it, and then he stooped down and took something from the dead man, and was up and off full gallop before you could say Jack Robinson.' ' Ajid what were you doing at the time ?' ' Well, you see, for the first second or two I was that amazed that I didn't know what to do. Then I gives a shout, and ran as hard as I could towards the two, but I was a good ton yards off when the other fellow swung into the saddle and was away.' ' Did he not take any notice of you ?' 'Why, yes. When I gave the shout- he turned to mo for a second, and when he was on his horse — that is, the other fellow's horse — he turned fall round on me and points the pistol, and I up with my arm to shelter my face, and he laughs and away and — ' ' Did you see his face clearly ?' , ' Yes, as clear as I see yours now.' ' But wasn't it growing dark P' ' Not so dark but as what you could see to read small print without putting it up to your eyes.' And could you swear to this man if you saw him again ?' , 'Yes, certain. I sha'n't forget that face ufiita l.die '... ? A dotf^ri men were here .brought in, and the ? magistrateTlsaid to the witness : ' Was it any of those men ? Now bo very careful of what you say.'. 'I don't need to be careful,' answered the man, surily. ' You ain't likely to forget a face under thos© sort of circumstances. That's the man,' he added, pointing to Ivor. ' I should know him in ten million.' j ' Have you ever seen the man before ?' j
'No, never set eyes on him beforo ?' ' Don't you know his name ?' ' No. I've heard some people talking about one Lowie, but' I don't know that this is him.' ' Don't you know that Lowe is a very well known man in Kimberley ?' ' No I don't.' ' How long have you been in Kimberley ?' ' Just on two months. I trekked in from Jacobsdaal, in the Transvaal.' ' Why did you not immediately report the matter to tho police ?' 'Well, you see, at first I was that mazed that I didn't rightly know what I was doing. I ran after the man on the horse, like a fool until he disappered over the veldt, and then I came back to where the man lay, aud I looked at him and saw he was shot clean through the brain ; and then I got all of a muck sweat when I thinks, maybe, they'll charge me with doing this, and I had thought at first of bolt ing, but when I knew I couldn't get far ; so I sat down ^to think a bit, and then I makes up ? my mind to come into town and report, and all that took the best part of the hour, and then .the getting the body and identifying it, and tben by that time the man on the horse might be in Jerusalem.' ' And you are absolutely sure that this is the man ?' ' Absolutely sure.' This was when Ivor's case seemed so com pletely hopeless. No single person in the court would have hesitated for a moment to swear that the man accused was Lowe. The magistrate knew him by sight, and was cer tain of him. The only possible question was whether the solo witness could be mistaken, and yet he scorned to be the most certain of them all. Lowe was, or had been, a very well known man by sight to almost every ope in Kimber ley— at least to all who had anything to do with tho buying or selling of diamonds ; but there was not a man among them who could say that he had ever spoken more than a sen tence or two with him. When ho came to Kimberley he used to stay at the Queen's Hotel, and potter about, never, to all appearances, doing much business, and yet never staying more than two or threo weeks at a timo. He had onco or twice b-)on tried; on suspicion of I. D. R., but nothing definite had ever been pi'oved against him. ° On the occasion of this visit he had been even more than usually reserved. He had apparently dono no business of any kind, spoko to no one, and rarely left vtho hotel except to stroll round about tho compounds, or possibly take a look at the diamond mai'ket. He had never attempted to make any ac quaintance, and everybody was only too readv to fight shy of him. On the night on which the murder had been committed Lowe had been seen to leave tho hotel about an hour beforo sundown, and turn up to tho right past tho market-place, and since that time no one had sot eyes on him. He had left his room in the hotel as though
' he were coming back for tho night, and it was only when the crimo was reported, and a description of the murderer was given by tho solitary witness, that tho police went to his room, to find him absent.. Every one had instantly come to the con clusion that Lowe was tho culprit, and every one was amazed at his barefaced assurance in turning up again at Kimberley within a week of the crime. As soon as thoy wore morally certain that tho man who had witnessed tho crime was telling the truth, tho police dispatched mounted detectives to all points of the com pass ; but tho murderor had then had quite three hours' start, and under cover of the night could easily make good his escape. At first people 'thought that his brain must have softened under the strain of guilt and the fear born of the fact that he was carryiug on his person a small fortune in diamonds ; and yet he had come back. The fact that his clothes and linen were marked with some ono else's name was as nothing iu the eyes of magistrate and people alike. He was Lowe ; tbat was quite enough ; and there was what appeared to be conclusive proof that Lowe had committed the murder. In a new country justico is more summary than in the old world, especially in mining districts. It is, perhaps, as well that, ' awful examples' should be made, for there is noth ing which lowers men to the level of the beast more than the all-consuming hunger for wealth. Betting men wore laying twenty to one that he would be hanged, and found no taker. The thing was absurd. It did not como within the betting range at all. There never was a more clearly-proved caso. Ivor sat in his cell in a dazed oondition. He found it at first difficult to understand that ho was to bo tried for his life, just as ho had found it difficult to realize that he had been arrested on a chage of murder. Was it for this that he had come six thousand miles over the sea to mako a fortune* ? To bo arrested and taken prisoner before he had been a full ininute in that Land of Promise which had loomed so fair on his horizon ! Of one thing he was well aware — that steps must be taken instantly to find Beausire, who was his only hope of proving an alibi. The manager of the hotel at Cape Town would be able to swear that he was staying at the Inter national at the time of tho murder, and then it suddenly flashed across his brain that ho was away at Wynberg and Somerset and Stellenbosch during those important days. At any rate, he must act, and instantly.. He applied to have counsel to defend him. There was a delay of two days beforo any ono appeared. Then a lawyer was ushered in to him, who gave him to understand that Ivor ought to feel uncommonly grateful to him for enter taining the idea of undertaking his case. Ivor would like to know why. ' Because, sir, there is such a strong feeling against you that it takes a man with a good deal of pluck to undertake the job. I expect to lose all my practice over it.' ' But you start with the theory that I am the criminal, and that I am also Lowo.' 'I don't start with the theory that you are Lowe, for I have known you, by sight, any time these last eight years. Now look here, what is the good of keeping up thisfarco any longer ? I know you are Lowe — everybody knows you are Lowe,; and everybody/is abso lutely convinced that you were the man who committed the crime. If you can prove an alibi, there is a chance for you; if not tho caso is absolutely hopeless — at any rate, here in Kimberley. You mustn't forget, Lowe, that you are not in England. Your best plan is to tell me all about it, and wo can sec if we can't fake up an alibi somehow or another.' ? ' Well iu the first place, I am not Lowe.' The lawyer interrupted him hurriedly, and said : ' Now if you are going on any longer with this foolishness, I shall leave you. What is the good of it f A hundred people will swear to you. Leave that lie alone at any rate.' ' I don t see how we are to get on at all, if you first ask; me to tell you all about it, and then absolutely refuse to bolieve the first thing I say, and put my most important fact out of court at once.' The lawyer sighed and muttered something about Jews, and then added : ' Very well. For the sake of argument wo will grant that you are not Lowe. How are you going to prove an 'alibi. ? For you have been sworn to by the only witness. You must remember that.' 'Very simply. I was six hundred miles away at the timo of tho occurrence.' Tho lawyer laughed and said : ' Couldn t you make it six thousand or so.' Ivor, although he knew that in this man possibly lay his solo chance of safety, said in ? an angry tone : ' It is quite obvious that you can be of no service to mo whatever. . Perhaps you had better go.' ^ The lawyer laughed again, goodhumor edly this timo, and said : ' Now, it won't help you to get huffed. I only said that because you look so serious over it when you said it. Where was you at that time p' I was on tho coast between 'Wynberg and Caledon with my friend tho Honourablo Regi nald Beausire.' 'Ah! That's a very good move. And whore is the Honourable Reginald Boausiro now ? asked tho larwyor3 in a tono of ea°'or- ness. ; ° (To be continued.')