|Chapter Title||THE WAGER|
|Newspaper Title||Advocate (Melbourne, Vic. : 1868 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||The Story of a Jewelled Belt|
THE £TO&Y OF A JEWELLED BELT.
(The Right of Re-publication CHAPTER I. Reserved.)
BY P. E. QXTINN.
LOBD EDWAED DART WAS enjoying his breakfast. AT,-his time of life fresh egg«» hottoast, grilled , .chops, and fragrant .-feoffee,! with suggestions of creamy foam about it, are still an enjoyment His lordship was not more than thirty-two or .thuee years of.age, with the fair hair, sanguine -; completion, and pugnacious blue 'eyes I AND big • frame characteristic^ >the Saxon Englishman. "Dick" Chester, .who . sat opposite him at the table, was of A darker type, leaner, and more restless. • <He was not enjoying his breakfast so much, apparently, for he withdrew his attention every now and then from the eatables to glance at the columns of the morning paper, which was spread out on the table beside him. '. ' ' "By the way," Lord Dart exclaimed, «I SAw that girl who came out on the JEmpress with Up, yesterday." " Which one P" queried Chester. «WHY, Miss Leigh; you know, the girl with the oxide of iron hair." Chester looked up with AU air of in-
terest. " Where did you see her ?" he asked. " I believe you're a bit smitten there, Dick," he said, with a laugh. " Perhaps your I'd better wings not singed." tell you. You might get " What rubbish!" returned his friend, with a little pique. " Well," his lordship continued,"it was in Collins-street. I was justcoming.from a visit to H——, at Government House, keeping a general survey of the streets from the front of the cab, you know"— and his lordship, horrible as it may seem to the worthy people who worship aris-
tocracy, winked slyly—" when I noticed an uncommonly fine figure in an uncommonly becoming dress on the right-hand side of the road. As I leaned out to see if the face corresponded with the figure, she turned. It was Marian Leigh, and, by Jove, she looked spanking. You know, Chester, I like nature to do her work completely.- A good figure and a plain face strike me as being outrageous —and vice versa. "Yes," Chester observed, " Miss Leigh is an unusually fine-looking girl, and, I believe, as good as she is good-looking." And he pointed this last sentence by a significant look straight into his friend's
Oh, I've no doubt, old fellow—none in the world. If there's anything to test a woman's steadiness it's a long trip on the water, particularly when, like Miss Leigh, she's travelling alone. You see, it conduces to flirtation, being boxed up in a confined space like a ship, no matter how big it is, and then there's something in the sea air which inclines you to make love more, just as it N-akes you eat more." And Lord Dart looked down with complacency on the already far from indifferent paunch which a long line of heavy-feeding ancestors had bequeathed him, with his fair hair and ruddy face. ^ "What a lot of vitality you have," observed Chester, surveying his friend critically.
The two certainly presented a contrast. The type of English Lord Dart represented is getting rarer. The sanguine face and fighting blue eyfes and the fair hair ATE vanishing. The race is fast becoming shadowed by thought. Lord Dart was bluff and outspoken, with a touch of GaUic movement and spontaneity. • . ' -: . 'I Chester wttBspare; though of large frame.' HE wirt' conservative of movement, though I»t -languid, and had that ielf-repressed air which characterises the fiiore common typeof English gentleman. He had I^OTFIDEAL more intellect than his friend,-aAd A pair of calm grey eyes full of : power and^diScenftnenti' * YoU could IMAGINE Lord Dart as oiie who livttid largely forthe pleasure of the moment—'that RT, FOR' the joy of the senses. : 0TA' the othfer hand, Chester Would Strike yira^-presuming you were B perfton of 1 obsirvAtiOn—as one to whose BANQUETS intelleot and spirit were habituiUy invited. • - - Butthet were iMt friendB.^ f f«I'd likb 'to ise» that girl' • again, " interested me amtzingly. Her talk when shfe let hefcael£ there
was a delightful atmosphere of that mystery about her which is such a source to a woman's attractiveness. She was melancholy, too, at times," he went on, reflectively. " I think she was in ' trouble of some kind—trouble she. was forced to bear alone—and that has a' spiritualising effect upon a fair woman's fairness; at least, I think so. Your perfectly happy woman is an animal simply. No human being has any right to be perfectly happy, you know, Dart." " What a beggar you are for philosophising about the commonest things, Dick," broke in his lordship. " Now, if a woman is pretty that's all I ask."
" Probably," returned Chester, coolly; " but your personal arbitrament does not settle the question. Matter is capable of many beauties, but is perfect only when we see it united to that something higher which we call Bpirit." "Pooh ! you can't see spirit," said Lord Dart, contemptuously. ' "Certainly not; but you can see its handiwork in the' face, and yota can hear its inflections in 'the voice. ' Suffering is the indispensable thing to retake a beautiful face or character, just as sorrow sweetens song. Sympathy and insight are among its offsprings, and sympathy, youknow, is love. . And, undoubtedly, a plain face even may be .so chastened by sorrow as to appear beautiful. The humblest labourer out there on the road who has learnt the lessons of sorrow, though he has learned nothing else,
is many steps superior—measure by bur conception of the' ideal man—than the Aristocratic Oxford graduate who has got half through life and still retains the capacity to smack his lips over buttered totfst." And with a sly glance at his friend, Who winced visibly at the last thrust, Chester began again the perusal of the paper. After a few minutes he looked up. "What a number of suicides and tragedies of various kinds there are iu Melbourne, Dart. Have you noticed ?" " No," replied his friend ; " I dislike reading about such things." . " That filthy gutter they call the Yarra seems in a fair way to rival the reputation' of the Thames and the Seine for the tragic. TJgh! the poor wretches must, indeed, find life unhappy who elect to extinguish it in such stuff."
The peer evidently shared his friend*s disgust, for he spat with considerable emphasis, and proceeded to light a cigar, probably to take the taste of the Yarra out of his mouth. " Here's a case," Chester went on, " in this morning's paper which is rather out of the ordinary:—' On the morning of the day before yesterday,' he read, ' a number of boys playing near the brink of the river-bank found the dead body of a man lying in a few inches of water. The bank at this place is steep, rising about fifteen feet abruptly from the water. The body when found was completely naked. It bore no marks of violence. In the afternoon an inquest was held. Dr. Miggles, who conducted a postmortem upon the body, deposed that the organs of the deceased were perfectly sound. The cavities of the lungs were
nflated, so that death had not ensued rom drowning. There were slight signs which indicated concussion of the brain, and, judging from the place in which deceased was found, he was inclined to believe that death had resulted from this cause. A fall from a height upon a substance too soft to injure the head exteriorly might yet be sufficient to induce concussion of the brain. His attention had been called to a blue mark encircling the body of the deceased about the waist. That had' no connection with the death of the subject of the inquest. It arose from the pressure of a, band which the deceased wore when alive,, probably, a stiff leather band. The police were, ®f the opinion that the deceased had
stripped with the intention of having a swim, and had dived from the bask, miscalculating the height of the bank and the depth o£ this water beneath, and 1 alighting on- his head had ^received the! shock which resulted in his death. His clothes had probably been stolen by gome wandering thief, and these, if recovered, might lead to identification. Tfie police had the matter in hand. The jury returned a verdict of accidental death.' ' • , . ., "Now," went on Chester as he laid; the paper aside, " it strikes me that this is not'a case to be dismissed in this way. It is quite possible that; instead of being a death from accident, this may be a nurder. Jiany lsuch crimes are com-
mitted through .the year in every grea(;< city which never See the light of day." ",But,", interposed Lord Edward "th^reWere n'o inkrks' of violence-upon the body in tfuestion." . "Ah I precisely;" said Chester. "Your ordinary policeman or detective is helpless in the face of extraordinary crime. Given a death which has not apparently been produced by violence or poison, and "they immediately assume that it is not the result of murder. To slay a man it is not necessary to crush him with a sledgehammer or to use an ounce of strychnine to poison him. Even in the centuries gone by there were murderers who knew of methods by which to compass their foul and deadly aims without recourse to ,such ostensible means. And recollect that we live in the last decade of the nineteenth century, an age of' Science, which, together with the advantages and benefits it confers upon the race, also furnishes the'criminal of the day With
new and deadlier instruments of crime. We have yet seen only the bright side of the change which science has brought to life. Something more remains to be learned. For instance, where the revolutionary of Saint Antonie fought with an old musket behind a barricade of carts and stones torn from the pavement, his counterpart of today manufactures in the laboratory of the ctiemist a bomb, the size of a walnut, which before to-day has blown a; Czar to pieces and reduced a soldier's barrack to splinters. Some day when the proletariat takes into its many heads the idea of having revenge upon the caste of which you, my lord, are so distinguished a member and proceeds to put into execution its schenleB for the re-organisation of society, the troops opposed to them will have to fight a secret fire, every main of whom will carry between his finger and thumb material for the death of fifty men."
" Upon my word, Chester, you draw a pretty picture of the future. However, the world will last my time." "Perhaps; but you aristocrats my pursue that laissez faire policy too far/ " Oh, nonsense, Dick ! Are you trying to frighten me? You cannot do that, you know, for, setting aside everything else, I have never found that penetrative intelligence upon which you pride yourself borne out by the fact." "Indeed," said Chester, a little nettled, •£and when did you ever know me to pride myself upon my ' penetration P'" "Scores of times," replied his lordt ship—"scores of times, Dick. Why, just now you assumed that you could penetrate the Yarra mystery." " Perhaps I couldrtoo," said Chester,
shortly. "Now, look, here, Dick," went on his lordship, delighted at having found a weak spot in the ordinarily invulnerable amour of coolness and imperturbability in which his friend enveloped himself, " I'll tell you what I'll do; I'll bet you £5000 to a bottle of champagne that you don't find out that this man was murdered." " Thank you," said Chester, curtly " Yes," Lord Edward went on, with an irritating air, " and I'll go further than that. I'll make you the same wager that you can't even discover this dead man's name." „ , "Well," said Chester, as coolly as he could, "although I'm a poor man, £10,000 is not sufficient to induce me to turn' detective, but - your. wager would be in danger if you doubled it." > "Very well," promptly replied his
friend," it's doubled." " In what time must I unravel this mystery?" inquired Chester, as he took out his pocket-book to enter the bet. " I'll give you six months from to-day This' is the 16th of March. This day six months I will do myself the pleasure of drinking a coUple of bottles of champagne with you— "Or of giving me a cheque for 1 £20,000," interrupted Chester. •' Lord Edward; leant back in his chair, and laughed with evident gusto. • 1 : . „ , " What a capital joke for our friends, h e «' S Why - should it-be * jokeP" asked Chester, who had now-recovered his coolness. " Don't you" think that I have brains enough to make a detective." - • " The fact of it is," said his lordship, patronisingly, " you've been reading too much of Sherlock Holmes recently, and become bitten with the detective mania. You're not the first I've met taken so. Quite a number of fellows fancy that they could do better detective work than any man Scotland Yard can send out, knd do it in an easy amateur way, like that Dupin, of Edgar Allen Poe, the French fellow, who „ discovered . those pufious
crimes inthe.Bue Morgue, you know. It's a harmless delusion, though, and does not cost any of them as much as it will cost you." How much is that P" asked Chester. The price of the champagne," said his lordship, laughing, " together with a few days of useless inquiry, which will probably lead to your being looked upon as a lunatic." " Is that all you wish to say P" inquired Chester, rising from his chair. "That's all,.Dick," said his friend, with an amused look. Very well, my friend, I'm going out," said Chester. May I ask where P" I'll tell you when I return," replied Chester, as he left the room. Lord Edward read the paper, yawned, smoked several cigars, then, taking his gloves and hat, strolled down Collinsstreet.
"Perhaps," he thought to himself— " perhaps I may meet Miss Leigh." It was evident that he viewed the possibility of such a meeting with pleasure. Lord Edward had been attracted, with other gentlemen on board the Empress, by Marian Leigh's beauty and intellect, and, though not in love with her, it Was quite possible that his feeling towards 1 her might grow into that with a Very little more of the provocation which the contemplation of these things afforded. It was, therefore, with more than ordinary attention that the blue eyes of the peer swept the streets as he strolled leisurely along. " I'd like to meet her," he thought. If I go to Tasmania tomorrow I may lose sight of her altogether. I really think Chester's a bit sweet on her. Well, a girl like Miss Leigh would make him a capital wife. The same; by the Way, applies to me."
When he had arrived at this stage in his cogitations he reflected with surprise that this was the first time such a thought had occurred to him. "That's just like me," he muttered. " I'm always too late. There's a splendid girl just handed over to my company for five weeks who would have made me just the handsome, sensible wife a fellow like me wants. And I've only just discovered this when the voyage is ended, when she has gone, goodness only knows where. Why couldn't I have fallen in love with herP" A rueful look clouded Lord Edward's ruddy visage for a moment, but his was not a nature to be long distressed, and when he returned to lunch after a fruitless perambulation of the city, it was with an appetite which bore indisputable testimony to his peace of mind.
His friend Chester arrived a few minutes afterwards. "Well, Dick, where have you been P" Lord Edward inquired. His friend looked at him gravely. " To the morgue," he answered, quietly. "Why, what made you go thereP" Lord Edward asked in a startled manner. " I went to see that poor fellow who was drowned." " Oh!" exclaimed Lord Edward. No more was said until the two friends sat down to lunch. After an interval the peer broke the silence. " I say, Dick," he said, " you know I was only joking this morning when I chaffed you about that business. You don't mean to say that you're going through with itP"- ; •"Aye, but I am, though," returned Chester, coolly. "That's nonsense, Dick. Why, what about our tpur P",
" That must go to the wall at present as far as I am .concerned," said Dick. " I am now convinced that a cruel murder has been committed on. a defenceless old man, and I'll try what I can do to solve the circumstances surrounding his fate." His lordship looked perplexed, and made' a gesture of disBent.'' , "It's no use advancing objections, Dart. I am not the man to turn back when once I have put my hand to the plough, as you :know," said Dick, firmly... .'; - • ••; . -- " I know you'v^got enough obstinacy for a dozen, if that's what you mean," growled his friend. "I'd like to know what I am to do while you're on this wild-goose hunt." And his. lordship pushed his chair back from the table in unmistakable irritation. " Geo on, one yourself," ;replied Dick, with a smile. " You've got a couple of excellent guns, and I believe up in Gippsland there are plenty of wild geese or ducks. .Goand have a shot 'ttt them, and look rotmd yod- to see What the colony islike,
out somehow," said his lordship, with an air of resignation; " but it's a_ shabby trick to serve a fellow, to desert him after bringing him all the way from England, just when things were getting lively, too." " It was your challenge that made me take the case up first, you know," Dick reminded him, "and now I'm interested in it for its own sake. What are we going to do this afternoon P" "Nothing," replied Lord Edward " What do you say to a ride P" " That's as good as anything else, ] suppose." "Come along, then," said Dick. (To be continued.)