Chapter 126325867

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Chapter NumberVIII
Chapter TitleAN EXPLANATION.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article126325867
Full Date1896-12-05
Page Number9
Corrections0
Word Count5556
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Maitland Weekly Mercury (NSW : 1892-1931)
Trove TitleThe Gold Seekers
article text

THE GOLD SEEKERS.

CHAPTER VIII. AX EXPLANATION. .

Two hours previously the Judge had been awakened from sleep by the servant, and had been told that a young gentleman was wait ing below who insisted on' seeing him instantly — on a matter of life and death. The Judge relishing this disturbance of his night's rest

but ill, dressed and came clown, in no pleasant frame of mind, to meet a man who was pac ing up and down the room like a caged animal. His hair was matted with dust and sweat, and his face was grimed with the same, as though he had not washed for months. When the door opened, Beansire, for it was he, turned quickly, and going up to the Judge

saici, m a tone ot eager excitement : 'My name is Beausire, and I have ridden a hundred miles on end to prevent this dis graceful injustice taking place.' ''You refer to—' ' My friend, Ivor Gwvnne, of course,' Jjurst in Beausire. ' He has been condemned to be hanged to morrow morning, or rather, this morning, and nothing short of a reprieve direct from the Governor can save him.' ' Don't talk infernal nonsense to me, sir ! By Heaven, if he is hanged, I'll get my gov ernor to have you and the whole court hanged, drawn and quartered into the bargain.' The Judge went to the bell and put his hand on it. ' Don't ring that bell,' said Beausire, in a changed tone of voice. ' I am afraid. I have forgotten myself, but this awful injustice has put me out, and my long ride — I found that I could not catch yesterday's express, and that I might be in time if I rode.' ' Will you be good enough to sit down ?' said the Judge, impressed by Beausire's air of sincerity. ' I am afraid that I am incapable of doing anything to prevent the prisoner being hanged, but I will listen to what yon may have to say.' 'The whole thing is a ghastly mistake,' ( burst in Beausire, his excitement again getting the better of him. The Judge half rose from Lis chair, and Beausire, putting out his hand deprecatingly, went on : ' This man, Ivor Gwynne, is an old friend of mine. We were at Cambridge together, and he was in my company continuously until the day he left Cape Town to come here, and the murder was committed before that time.'

' Yes, that is the defence that the prisoner aetup and entirely failed to prove, his. sole witness giving the most damaging evidence against him.' ' I know — I know. I read the report of the trial in an old paper at Prieska. The manager of the International Hotel made a very natural mistake. It is very hard to distinguish Gwynne and this fellow Lowe apart. ;Lowe came out on the ship by which we travelled, and probably matured his plans when on board.' . , ' ' The only thing which will help' you in any way is to ])rovo that the prisoner and Lo.we are not the same man. I can't be expected to move'in any way in tho matter on your mere statement. He has been con victed beyond the shadow of a doubt by a jury and he must pay the penalty unloss something directly subverting all the evidence can be shown.' '

' I can t get any corroborative evidence unless I can remember exactly where we were at the time of the murder, and then I am not sure -whether we were in a hotel or not.' Tljc Judge shrugged his shoulders and maid : ' This may be all very true, Mr. Beausire, l-ut you must see .yourself that it cannot help you in any way. It will be regarded as a mere cock-and-bull story, got up by an accomplice o£ Lowe's to pervert justice. Can you produce no evidence -which will go as proof ?' ' It was only yesterday that this telegram was forwarded on to me. I hadn't an address before. He wroto to me to say — ' ' Yes, yes, I know. That all come out. It was regarded as a blind,' interposed, the Judge. ? ' And he asked me to bring,' if possible — to bring with mo anything to establish his identity.' 'WeH?' ? . ? ? ?.

' I happened to have with me some college groups taken during the last three years. A fellow somohow clings: to those sort of things and they aro about the 'only absolutely un necessary things I brought with mo. Gwynne happens to be.in nearly all of them.' Beausire produced a roll of unmounted photographs from ; an inner pocket, and be gan to spread them out one bv one on the tablo. ? ,

' Here you are. Trinity Hall secolid boat — that was in his first year — Gwynne stroked. Is this like your prisoner ?' ' This man looks a good deal younger than 4ho condemned man.' ? ' Of course ho does. That was three years ago, and he was just nineteen. Do you re cognise the likeness ?' V It. is certainly a very strong resemblance.' Strong resemblance ! It would need to be, seeing it is tho same man. Here you are again. Tho following year, Trinity Hall first boat — Gwynne stroke. Is that like vour man.?' The Judge took up the photographs and scanned. them eagerly, a smile, which might almost have been called sad, dwelling on his face. He turned them over, and apparently forgetting Beausire's presence, he-sighed and Baid to himself.

' ' The Hall boat. It must be thirty years ago.' 'I think your are mistaken, 'sir,' said Beau sire, ' that is last year's boat.' The Judge started and pickcd| up another photograph. ' Last autumn's Trial Eight — Gwynne six. Is that like your man ? This year's Hall boat — Gwynne stroke ; tho Hawks' Club, Gwynne president — in the middle ; tho Pitt Club, Gwynne secretary — sitting next Lord George Boisragon. Is this liko your man ?' ' Beausire, as though his argument wore en tirely conclusive, looked with an air of tri umph at the Judge, who was gazing abstract edly at tho photograph of tho Trinity Hall ' eight.'

' I see Hills and Saunders still take col lege photographs.' ' Why, do you know Cambridge at all P' Tho Judge smiled at Beausire, and said : ' I stroked the Hall boat just thirty years ago. There was only one in those days.' ' Then we are all Hall men together,' said Beausire, delightedly. ' Allow mo to shake hands with you, sir. That settles the matter off hand. You would never dream of seeing

a man of your own college strung up tor somebody else's offence ?' ' I am afraid I can't look at the matter in that light. Y ou see I am only a machine to pass sentence on the verdict of the jury.' ' But the thing is utterly monstrous !' al most shouted Beausire. ' Can't you see that this is the man ? He was at Cambridge with me until the second week in June, and ho came out here with me a few weeks ago, and — ' ' Steady, young man ; steady. . Wlion was the last of these photographs taken ?'

Tne elate is on tnem. Here you are. This year's Hall oight — summer term 18 — . That was taken in the last week of1' term, somewhere between the 10th and the 15th of June.' The Judge thought for a moment or two, and then said, more to himself than to. Ivor: ' Yes, I remember Lowe was here in the

firgt week of June, for I saw him myself.' ' There you are, then !' cried Beausire. ' How could he be in Cambridge at the same time ? I tell you again, that the likeness between the two men was a joke all over the ship !' 'But how am I to know that this is not all an arranged affair? I don't know any of these other men, and it is very simple for a certain number of men to get photographs and call themselves the Trinity Hall eight, or the Hawks Club, or anything else they please, and have any date they please printed under it. Lowe is quite capable of evolving some thing much more clever than that. I have had considerable experience of him, and lie is,

without exception, the most cunning, plausible, slippery devil (excuse my language, sir,), I have ever come across. I tell you candidly that, until you came here to-night, I was ab solutely convinced that the man in prison was Lowe, and even now that conviction is bv no means materially shaken.' Beausire gave a groan of despair. He was at his wits' end. He had absolutely no proof, save his bare word and the photographs — and they apparently availed nothing. He sat in his chair, with his head between his hands, trying to produce some argument which might conviuce the Judge, when steps

were audible advancing along the passage toward the room. The servant, bidden, entered and said : ' A person to see you on urgent business, sir.' 'A person — what sort of a person?' | ' Looks like a police-officer, sir.' ' A police-officer ! Show him in. This grows interesting.' The police-officer came in, saluted, -and see ing Beausire — who had started up from his chair andt was looking eagerly at the new comer — hesitated. ' What is your message ? Never mind this gentleman.' ' A telegram has just come in, sir, to say that Lowe has been seen or captured — I can't rightly make out which from the cipher — at Klerksdorp, in tho Transvaal.

xseausire gave a loud shout oi joy, and ran at tho astonished officer and wrung his hand. ' Did the message say nothing further?' asked the Judge. ' Nothing but that.' 'Thank you.' Tho police-officer saluted and retired, and the Judge, turning to Beausire, said : ' This puts an entirely different complexion on the mattor. Your storv. now that it haa

some corroboration, ? is to a certain extent proved.' ' And you will let Gwynne free ?' ' I can't do that, but I. have enough to go upon to enable mo to assume responibility of postponing the execution until the special order arrived granting him a reprieve and freedom, but it all depends on tho authenticity of this telegram. I have had dealings with Lowe beforo, and I am not prepared to believe off-hand that even this telegram is not part of a deeply-laid plot on his part.' ' Let us go at once to Gwynne and tell him,' said Beausire. ' It won't take long to show that the fellow that have caught is Lowe.' 'Yes, I think that is tho best -thing to be done. I will go myself. The one thing that' makes me inclined to think that there has been a mistake is that I feel certain that Lowe could never have had a gentleman 'for

a triend, and you certainly seem to be very eager about the prisoner's safety. Come, let us go together. *. * * * * 1 * Ivor was released in two days, although Lowe had not been captured, after all. He had made good his escape, notwithstanding the odds had seemed against him. However, certain proof was forthcomings that it was Lowe who' ha,d escaped capture in the Transvaal, and, moreover, he had es caped with the loss of tho diamonds he had stolen. These being returned to Kimborley, afforded ample evidence that Ivor was not the culprit, more especially as tho man who had iust failed in Lowe's nantnrn waa n

Kimberley detective who knew Lowo well by sight. The inhabitants of Kimberley wore none too well 'pleased when they knew ^lio turn affairs had taken. Hero, at any rate, was a man under sentence of death for a crime, and he had been released on the very evo of the fulfilment of his sentence, and there was none to act as substitute. The public thirst f°r_ blood had been excited, and as yet re mained unslaked. . J From the Judge, Ivor received a note of warning that -it would perhaps be as well for him to leave Kimberley as soon as possible, i and to remain absent until Lowe should have 1 been captured and brought to justice.

Ivor himself w3s only too glad to sha,kb tho dust from off his feet of a town -which had treated him in such an inhospitable manner. Tho first visitor he received after his release was tho little Irishman who had made a pre tence of defending him. He had come to claim the extra fifty pounds due on Ivor's acquittal. Ivor was not a littlo taken aback at tho audacity of the man, and said that it was through no efforts of his that he had been ac quitted, and that he did not intend to pay. A very pretty little quarrel ensued, which ended by the Irishman accepting five pounds, after the consumption of as much whisky as he could hold at one sitting. On the evening

following that on which Ivor nad uoen reieasea, he and Beausire dined with the Judge, and it was then that tho Judge advised him to leave Eamberloy — at least for a time. ' You soe, Gwynne, so long as Lowo is at large, you carry a hanging face about with you. At least half of the people believe now that you are tho culprit, and will continue to believe it until that blackguard Lowe is caught.' lit ? ' J ? il.-i. '! ? ? ? T„„„ . (!

X quire see lllitb, miroiumvui , crnti, LV tell the truth, I shall be only too glad to get away. I supposo wo must try some other diamond district.' ' If I wore you I would quit South Africa entirely — for a time, at any rate. If you don't you will suffer endless annoyance. You may be even arrested — in fact, you are sure to be, over and over again, until Lowe is caught. His description is out every where now, and he is a pretty ^fell-known man by sight, and if i you and he were put together now, and neither

spoke, I couldn t tell the diiteience between you at onco.' t ' It seems rather hard lnck to be compelled fo leave a country because one has been wrongly accused of a crime,' said Ivor, with a laugh. 'Nobody says you aro compelled,' said the Judge. ' I am merely -giving yon a piece of friendly advice for your own good.'' ' Where else can we gq,?' asked Beausire. » f™. mn t/-, rrn ' onirl

Ivor. ' All right, old cock ; I am coming along with you. You need someone to look after you, I think. You would have been in a nice mess if it hadn't been for me here.' ? Ivor stretched out his hand to Beausire and shook it, and turning to the Judge said : 'You see, we are both adventurers, and we came here with the hope — perhaps I ought to say the intention, for that was what it amounted to in my case, at any rate — of mak ing ouv fortunes, and now you advise us to cut ourselves adrift again.' ' The days of fortunes are over here, unless you have a* big capital to work on. It is only a question of time, of course, before golden opportunities will turn up again somewhere in this vast continent, which is literally full of wealth hidden away underground ; but at present, at Kimberley and Johannesburg, for tune's are over so far as the newcomer is con cerned.'

What do you suggest, then r said Beau sire. 'You are both adventurers, you say. Why not try Australia ? There are plenty of opportunities there for men like you. Try the gold-fields. I should not go to Victoria or New South Wales. Try Western Aus tralia. There have been rumours of gold there for long enough. You have twenty times tho chance of a fortune there that you have here. The climate, too, is good all tho year round. Compared to this place it is Heaven,

I am told. Why not go there ?' . Ivor and Beausire looked at each other for . a few moments, during which they apppar enWy settled the matter. They rose simultaneously from the table, as though they would start at once, and the glow of expectancy shone in their eyes as they turned from the table. ' One moment, gentlemen— a toast: ' Cam bridge and Trinity Hall,' ' said the Judge. 'It-is not often that three men of the same college meet casually and go through, tho experience wo have met with. : Cambridge,

and may 1 go there when 1 dio ! ] ' To our next morry meeting,' said Beau- 1 sire. ? The Judge shook his head doubtfully ; and ho was right. Ivor and Beausire never saw him again. . . CHAPTER IX. .THE criminal's escape; For a few moments let us leave Ivor and Beausire to make their preparations for their second migration, and. let us follow Lowe in his flight from tho floors.' At first he put spurs to the horse he had stolen, and galloped at full speed, until he had put five miles or more between himself and his possible pursuers. So long as the short twilight held lie glanced back from time to time to assure himself that ho had no followers! When the darkness shut down over the land he dismounted at intervals and laid his ear to the ground to catch the beat of advancing hoofs. Convinced after a time that no one was on his track, ho veered west ward, and slackened his pace.

Jtle tnew the ground well, and had made his plans beforehand. As he rode along he could not banish from his mind the thought that tho unwelcome witness of the crime might possibly have seen his face. He thought that he had screened it with his arm when he attempted to cover tho old man with his pistol. Pity he didn't kill him, too. No, perhaps it was as well, after all. Ho had not intended to kill the mine official if ho made no resistance, but the circumstances of the case had com pelled him to resort to desperate measures. It was worth it. As he told himself this, he hugged the bag of diamonds, which was

BLuweu u,w-iy m tne oreast or ills coat. JtLo had done with South Africa for ever. When ho felt that he was safe under cover of the night, he veered, still more to the west ward. His plan was to cross tho Yaal as soon as possible, work up through Griqua land West into Bechuanaland, and then, after his beard had grown, aud the matter had blown over to a certain extent, to cross back again into the Transvaal and work down to the coast and ship to England on a French or German vessel. The plan was simplicity it self , and nothing was easier than to hide himself in ^ that vast country, especially as he was going where communication was. slow and where a wandering stranger was moro com mon than not. j He had taken care -to provide himself, with sufficient ready money for all omergoncies. Ho rode on with a light heart ; a mere murder was not calculated to damp his spirits. He had gained his end, and that ttos every

thing. - The means'* by which - that end had been gained, having sorved, might well be forgotten. He rode on and on, until the night began to grow gray, and soon the dawn flushed up from out of the violet east, and he was within half a mile of the river. Ho Swam his horse across it, and then, having put a river between himself and pur suit, he felt 'absolutely secure. He rode on some few miles and then dismouuted. He hobbled the horse as best he might with the bridle, and lay down beneath a mimosa shrub and was soon asleep. It was midday when ho awoke, and, having caught his horse, ho mounted and rode on at a brisk canter. From his wide experience of events of this sort, he knew that his pursuers would go east, expecting that ho would

mako for the sea, and with any luck this fellow Gwynne would havo been arrested and condemned and probably hanged by the timo that he would bo on his way to tho coast. '? What a godsend that fellow has been!' he thought. Without his appearance on tho ship, it might have taken him weeks, or even months, to ovolvo a scheme which would not fail, and yet which would not leave the burden /

of suspicion resting on his own shoulders. He little knew, however, that the Judge, willing, in the interests of justice, to give Ivor the benefit of the doubt as to his identity — rthougli firmly believing him to be Lowe in his own mind — had given orders that the search for another Lowe should not cease until sentence had been actually carried out on the condemned man. For a fortnight he wandered about, having passed up through Griqualand West into Bechuanaland. After he had been a week

out he exchanged his norse at a tarm, not without haggling, in which he got the better of his 'opponent. His beard had . already assumed quite a respectable scrubbiness, and he was at peace with all the world. He slept at farmhouses or in the open, as circumstances demanded, and a sense of com plete security, gradually took possession of him. He had taken the precaution of changing his' clothes for a' coarse woollen shirt and a pair of rough riding breeches. i His original intention was to allow six full weeks to pass before he should show himself in more civilized parts. By that time Gwynne would have been hanged and the whole matter would have blown over. But, curiously enough, a-:sense of loneliness

— which is inseparable from life outside the town in the African continent — came over him. He had not dared do more than come late in the evening to any farmhouse, nor stay late in the morning, nor did he go in anything like a straight line. He had dodged about from place to place, and .had invariably started in the morning in exactly the opposite dirction to that which he intended to pursue

during the day. Alter lie had ridden out of sight of the farmhouse, he had by a wide detour reached the line which he meant to follow , There was nothing easier in the world than to baffle pursuers on this vast continent. After he had been out little more than a fortnight, he was lying one night in the open, unablo to sleep. . Above him -was the deep blue.tropical sky, spangled with the myriad, eyes of God. Perhaps the influence of the great sky it was that brought tender thoughts to his heart, for an intense yearning came over- him for England — not for his native land — that had no soft memories for him. ' He had been born in the Judengasse in Cologne, and had no recollection of Tii'r' pnrlv Wintb cm-n mnnlnn

.. . ? ? ? j J ? ? and misery. . In the Jewish quarter in London he had soon managed to lift his head above the waters of struggling poverty which sur rounded him, and by those arts of cunning innate in the Hebrew race had won for him self an independence at an early stage in his career. It was the soft brown eyes of Rachael Hirsclibaum which occupied, his thoughts, and he rolled about on the ground in a frenzy at the thought that perhaps in his absence some other suitor was paying her his court. Visions of long happiness rose before him, and hours before the crimson birth of the sun lie had caught his horse and was gallop l'nn.: nmOTT rlna oocf A t- +1 X' ? 1_- ___

about a hundred miles north of Vryburg, and after he had ridden some miles he altered his course to south-east, with the intention of striking the Vaal'abont Klerksdorp. * ? As before, he dodged about from farm house to farmhouse, and it was sometime be fore he crossed into the Transvaal. Then he doubled his measures of caution. The night after he came into the Transvaal he had a vague, uneasy feeling that he was being tracked. Two or three times during the day he had seen the same horseman before and behind him. On tho following day he had no doubt about it. He was obviously being tracked. , ° During the night he mounted again and rode northward, and in the morning he found that ho had eluded his pursuer — if such he were. ' About nine o'clock he turned southward again, and hoped to be in Klerksdorp by dusk.

xio L-uue quietly an ttirougn the day, and just as the sun was getting low down on to the horizon he found himself only about five miles from Klerksdorp. His spirits rose, and he shook his horse into a gallop, when, happening to turn round slightly, he saw tho same horseman who. had dogged him for the two previous days not moro than half a mile away, and scarcely a quarter of a mile farther from Klerksdorp, in a direct lino, than he was. His mind was made up in an instant. The night was falling. He would ride for it and trust to luck to evade his pursuer in the darkness which would soon shut down. His horso had been going easily all day, and was a fast, strong animal.

_ Ho put his hand involuntarily to his right side to mako suro . that tho bag of diamonds which he had sewn into his coarse shirt was safe, folt for his revolver, clapped spurs to his horse and sat down to ride. r The horse responded ' to its master's call, for an effort, and' Lowe saw that his pursuer was not gaining on him. In ten minutes it would be dark enough to evade him in somo way or other, and in the night , he would make his way into Klerksdorp on foot. The horse's hoofs thundered over the ground, and Lowe laughed to himself as he felt that his horse was going well, and that he was not losing ground. Ho rode hard for ovor two miles, and had just turned round to get a .glimpse^ of his pursuer, when his horse put his foot in an ant-heap and came down, pitching his rider on to his head ten yards away. - Tho horso rose and limped away, but Lowe lay like a log. , . ,

I His pursuer galloped up, and seeing Lowe I lying on the ground motionless, he gave a hoarse laugh of triumph, pulled up his horse, and taking tho bridle over his left armj~knelt down beside the prostrate man. V Ho wns one of those vermin who make their livelihood by robbing of their earnings the wretchcd Kaffirs who have finished their time at the diamond fields, and who aro on the way homeward with the little fortune which should buy them wives and cattle and the good things of life. He had 'heard of Lowe's escapade ; know him by sight; and knew, moreover, that he would not bo such a fool as to return to Kim berley. Tho papers had told him that Lowo had headed for the Transvaal, aud he bad roamed about on the chance — which he allowed to

himself was very slight — of coming across him. Fortune had favored him in an astonish ing manner, and ho laughed with delight as he saw his prey harmless and within his grasp. So far as ho was concerned, this was a por fcctly safe robbery, for the person robbed was in no way likely to give information of the fact. He felt Lowe's shirt for tlic diamonds, and muttered an oath when he found them . sewn

in.- He laid Lowe flat on his back, and took out his knife to rip open the shirt. He put his blade between his teeth to open it, when he suddenly stopped, uttered a curse and turned round as though ho were listening. At this moment Lowe opened his eyes in a dazed way, and looking at his antagonist, whose head was turned away, seemed to grasp the situation at once. The robber still seemed to be listening, with a doubtful expression on his face. Soon he turned round again and opened; the knife. As soon as he turned round Lowo closed his eyes again. His enemy gave one rip at the shirt, aud then, with another muttered imprecation, turned away again. He dropped

his knife arid -put his head to the ground, and Lowe had time to grasp his pistol. The robber raised his head from the ground, and having now made himself certain that he had heard the sound of approaching horses' hoofs, turned quickly, and putting his hand into the rent he had made, he gripped the bag of diamonds, and ripped the whole thing away bodily, and asjie did so, Lowe, as quick as lightning, raised his pistol and shot him through the heart. The horse, accustomed to firearms, gave on start backwards and then stood. Lowe raised himself from the ground, feel ing very sore after his fall, and took the horse's bridle from off his master's arm and put his own through it. He then knelt down to get the diamonds, but the dead man held them with a grip of iron, and, try as he would, 1

Lowe could not disengage the fingers. He, in his turn cursed liko the foul fiend himself, when suddenly he espied the knife. He at onco began to hack at the dead man's fingers, when his attention was arrested by the same sound which had cost his adversary his life. Looking up, ho saw, scarcely fifty yards from him, a mounted man. - I Lowe rose instantly and grasped his pistol. There was no time to mount; He must trust to' his nerve and liis eye. He had the advan tage, for he was steady on his feet, and could take a surer aim. One murder more or less did not matter to him now. His hands were dyed with blood, in any case. As the horse man drew nearer, Lowe saw the well-known features of a Kimberley detective. When he was about seven yards away they both raised their pistols simultaneously, and two - shots rang out. i

Lowe felt a sharp twinge in his right oar, _ the lobe of which had been shot away, and at the same moment his adversary's horse pitched heavily forward and fell right on to the top of the man who was lying dead ion the ground. The detective's horse had thrown up its head suddenly on being checked, and Lowe's bullet ' had found its billet in the poor beast's brain, while the detective was thrown far over its head, and lay motionless some dozen yards away. A shout from, his right made, Lowe turn, and he saw two more horsemen pressing on toward him. « He looked at the detective, who had not yet moved, and then at the horse lying so as to entirely cover his first victim. There was no timo for anything if he was to save his own skin. The diamonds were lost to him, and there was nothing for it but to mount and make the most of his escane.

He mounted quickly and rode away at full gallop intq the gray' night. It was months before he had the courage | to show himself again in tho neighbourhood of civilizasion. He finally reached Durban and took ship on a French vessel. With two murders scored up against him, he dared not return to England. Ho saw in tho Natal Press that a reward of one hundred pounds was offered for his apprehension, and he also discovered that his exact dsscription had been forwarded to the English authorities at Scotland Yard. When he found himself at last on board ship, a reaction from tho terrible nerve strain which ho had undergono set in, and he was landed at Aden in a stato of collapse. Ho recovered, and took a passage on board a North German Lloyd steamer for Bombay. (To bo continued.')