|Chapter Title||A PLOT.|
|Newspaper Title||Advocate (Melbourne, Vic. : 1868 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||The Story of a Jewelled Belt|
THE STORT OF A JEWELLED BELT. Bt P. E. QUINN. CHAPTER. VI.
As Chester turned the corner of the street in which Mrs. Thompson lived a nan OBme out of the corner public-house and scowled at his retreating figure. Presently this man was joined by another. , . , „ „ , " What d'ye think, Jaok P Is he a D.P" «' 1 don't know rightly," said the first jnan, " but we'll see presently.", " Let's go inside," he hontinued, " and fix up a way 6f finding oiit what he wanted of the widows" Accordingly they retreated to the little back parlour of the hotel, and, ordering a couple of glasses of grog, proceeded to discuss matters. Chester would have given a good deal to have known one of these men, though, perhaps, he would not have been milch, the wiser had he merely seen him. His name was Johnstone, and he had been an employ6 in the jewellery estab lighment of Finks and Co., in London. His friend was Colonel Dilke, one of the most accomplished blackguards and blaoklegs in the outer "fast" circles of London life. Too proud to be a bookmaker, he was yet not too proud to live on the "ring." That he had originally come of a good, clear-minded stock of honourable ancestry was well known, but any claims this may have given him to respect had been long since negatived by his own life. Johnstone and he had come together in a gambling den, where mutual weaknesses and tastes had brought them.
The jeweller had told him as much of his history as seemed safe, and, for the rest, the money which Johnstone lavishly Bpent satisfied the " colonel" that he WAB a sufficiently desirable acquaintance. Johnstone was altered a good deal from the portrait CheBter had obtained., from Mrs. Thompson. His hair had beeiu dyed, his beard shaved, and several other little devices had been resorted ft in order to metamorphose his appearance. Chester would certainly not h&ve recognised him, and it would have puzzled even his fellow-workmen at Finks and Co.'s to have identified this fashionably attired individual with the best jewel-setter in their establishment. Chester had been right in his surmise that Johnstone would, sooner or later, find his way to the vicinity of the widow Thompson. The ex-jeweller
really loved this woman with the deep, fierce passion which belongs to such quiet, pantherous natures. Now that he had come into that fortune of which he had spoken to Mrs. Thompson, he could not help feeling that his chances would be greater of winning her hand. Bat he was a cool and cautious experimentalist, and, secure in his disguise, he had laid watch upon the widow's quarters to see who visited her. In his dreams by day, as well as night, he had a vision of certain quiet-looking, keen men tracking him down. For what P Well, nevermind, he had reason for his fears. The ocean was wide and his measure had been taken with deadly ingenuity, hut chance was a fickle, unreckonable element, ready to stalk in and upset his ordered aohemes. When he saw Chester enter the widow'* residence his heart misgave him. But he was uncertain whether Chester waa what he feared or merely a gentleman lookinc for lodgingi, or upon some other harmless errand. Certainly hit appearance gave the lie to the ausicion that he was a police officer, Johnstone saw at a glanoe diet he waa a gentleman bora and bred. But, then, gentlemen are found in such peculiar employment* to-day. He had known one to drive a hansom cab as a common lioensed driver—a peer of the realm. Another peer had kept a market garden and Mid earrota ana cabbages. And yet another had figuredaa a poultry farmer in a small way. Might not this eleganUlodking genueman, then, be miuon of the law—a bloodhound of a speoial ability—destined and intended, because of hu appearance, to prosecute inquiries for Scotland Yard which could not be auooessfnllv prosecuted by the ordinary detective ? At JnhaatoM revolved these doubts in
lus mind a spirit of unrest and somethinjj like fear seized him—the first beginnings of that fierce flame of torture Which devours the criminal who knows that he is being hunted dswn. Perhaps there is no more pitiable spectacle than this of a man with a crime on his hands Which he knows the authorities are pursuing him for. As for Johnstone, he could not rest till he knew whether his crime, by some almost unexampled feat of accident, had been discovered and connected with him. To go himself to the widow was out of the question. She would recognise him at once, and if what he feared had really come to pass, he would only be thrusting his head into the lion's mouth by making inquiries, in themselves suspioious, if not incriminating. Obviously his only course was to delegate the task to another person, and who so fit as Colonel Dilke P , He had not, of course, entrusted his Whole history to this gentleman; but a part of it Dilke knew, and had his own suspicion about the rest. Dilke suspected Johnstone of having been successful robber. That he was a ihurderer he did not dream, or, hardened sharper ss he waB, he would probably Have fought shy of so undesirable an Acquaintance. He did not mind soiling his exceptionally white hands with other people's gold, bnt he stopped short at the deeper of dying them in blood. The two companions held a conversation.
"You'll have to go, colonel, to the Widow and find out who that man was, and what be was after. Mind, I must know. There may be trouble brewing for me in that auarter, and I must be prepared. You re skilful enough to manage to ascertain whether our swellish friend has any interest in me," said Johnstone. " I daresay," said the colonel, carelessly, " but," he inquired with a yawn, " may I inquire what the trouble is—just to know the lines to go on, you know.' Johnstone looked at him darkly.
"Bone of that sort of thing," he said, ith an oath, "you have your secrets and have mine. Let them rest. I didn't nquire why you were in hiding the ^ther day at old Lazarus'." The colonel flushed. " Oh! it doesn't matter," he said, with an attempt at a laugh. " We're in a swim together, and, as you say, our past history does not concern each other, however much it may interest Scotland Yard." "No," said Johnstone, drily. "But the sooner you find out what I want the better I'll be pleased." " Very well," replied the colonel, "I'll go at once and pump the widow." As he said this he drained his glass, arose and went out. Johnstone remained buried in deep thought for a time. Presently he drew out of the breastpocket of his coat a stout leather purse and opened. The gleam of precious stones, rubies, emeralds, and diamonds filled his eyes. There was a collection of stones there worth at least £5000. I've a good mind," he thought, " to pitch those baubles into the Thames.
They may prove my ruin yet. But, Lord, how lovely they are 1 I've risked too much for their possession to part with them that way. But I must realise at once. Old LazaruB can have them at his price. He can place them where I cant; but the old ruffian is bound to swindle me in th* price. All he offered for them was £2500-half their value. I know the worth of every one of them better than he docB. To-morrow, if I go to him. he'll ofEer me £2000. Next week he'll knock off another £500. The old villain knows well enough that they have been got in a queer way, though how I aot them neither he nor any other man knows. That old lunatio has gone to toe bottom of the river,and long before this is vast recognition if there were anyone to recogniie him. Well. I've not knocked muoh enjoyment out of them so tar. In this way he meditated, looked at the glittering baubles which had been obtained at anch a price, when a atep sounded in the passage. Hastily he hid die pouch, and at the aame moment Dilke entered with a grave look on his face. " Well P" said Johnstone, with an attempt at calmness. , Dilke shook hia head. " They're after yon, old man," he aaid. Johnstone started and "How turned do pallid. you knowP he enquired, hoaraely. . • ••The widow told me eo—not m «o na» words, but I gathered it from what she let drop."
"Did you find out what forP" asked John&tone, anxiously. " Well, no, I didn't," said the colonel, coblly, "but I reckon it's something bad. The widow spoke of you with horror." Johnstone ground his teeth. " Did you find out that fellow's name and address P" he enquired, fiercely. "I did," said the colonel. "By a fortunate accident a slip from a notebook was lying on the table, and I copied the name and address down. Here it is." Johnstone reached for it eagerly, and glanced at it. " By the way," the colonel went on, " I found out, too, that he is riot a proper detective; only a gentleman amateur just returned from Australia, and looking you up on his own account." The perspiration stood out on Johnstone's forehead. For a few moments he reflected, and then a look of relief passed over his face. , . " I hope, you didn't let on that you knew me," he said to the colonel.
"No," .said, the latter. " I rather incline to the belief that she thinks me a detective, too," he went on, With a laugh. "JEtather a good joke that. And I might as weill tell you that you have no bhow there. I know you're a bit spooney on Mrs. Thompson, but she's an honest, good, little woman, and I think would hand you over to the police if you put your nose inside the door Oh, and another thing. She told me that onr
gentleman friend has taken a photograph of you away in his pocket. Onoe more the express of Johnstone's face deepened into a scow " That fellow had better look out for himself," he said, and his face looked murderouB. The colonel looked at him curiously. "I wouldn't get any deeper into hot water if I were you, Johnstone," he said, quietly. "Look after yourself," returned the other, briefly and Bavagely. " I have done that for a good while now," said the colonel, with a smile.
" By the way, could you let me have a couple of tenners P I've got a billiard match on to-night up at the Adelphi with Taverner." " Here you are," said Johnstone, handing him the amount. " Thank you," said the colonel, as he arose; " see you to-morrow." And in the street he guttered, "What a savage that fellow is! He looks fit for murder, and I wouldn't be a bit surprised if that's what he'B wanted for. Ugh!" he thought, with a shudder," I wonder why fellows do such beastly things. Only that Johnstone is in funds, I'd drop him. He's really not fit company for a gentle- Johnstone, on his part, made his way to his lodgings, and sat down to write a note. It ran thus :— " If Mr. Chester would call at Mrs Thompson's to-night he will hear something about he knows who. About eleven o'clock will be the best time, as the street is quiet and nobody is likely to be about I have heard something important." Johnstone walked out into the street, and, hailing a cabman, handed him the note directed to the address given by Chester to Mrs. Thompson, and gave him half a sovereign to carry it there for him. ,. , Then he went back to his room, and made some arrangements. First he took a piece of stout canvas, and sewed this into a bag about the length and diameter of a rolling pin. Then he went out to a building yard near by, and procured some sand. Going back to his room he filled the canvas tightly with the Band Kid sewed up the loose end. Having completed his arrangements,*he took up thta weapon and looked grimly at it. It waa a weapon once much in favour with the secret Msaarina of Hindoitwi, and waa cunningly deviled to kill without even abraaing the skin. The place on which the murderer struck waa the base of the alrall. Death from this cante had often baffled medical skOL Indeed, the Melbourne doctor who had conducted the pott mortem upon the man found in the Yarra had never drwt <rf the nature of the weapon which had failed him—indeed, had never known that there was aueh a weapon in the strange and deadly almshouse of the criminal. At ten o'clock Johnstone put on a blaek orerooat, and placed the aand-bag in his pocket He then lit a cifar and went out into the night, which WM dark and drilling. At rightanglaa tethe atreet in which Mrs. ThompW bred, and intersecting it, was a right**-way. In this place, at a quarter ^^TW, Johnstone took his post The atreet *as
uiet and completely deserted by wayarers. Every how and then a oab spun quickly by, and from the hotel at the corner came the sound of hilarity of a distinctly bibulous character. The rain came, softly down with a soft rustle like the speech of darkness. The night was chilly, but the dark figure waiting at the corner did not feel cold. There were inward fireB in hiB bosom which defied the night and rain to quench. Going close to him one would have seen a pale face like a flake of snow and a pair of gleaming eyes, waiting with the patience of hate. By and by a heavy footstep sounded in the street Johnstone knew the official walk of a policeman, and cowered closer against the side of the right-of-way. But the officer passed without a thought of the deadly figure crouching in the gloom. Five minutes passed, and his slow footsteps had died out when another step, light, quick, and active, sounded in the street. JohnBtone knew that they
ere coming his way, and gathered himself for his spring. Chester came lightly along, with a cigar in his mouth, and swinging his cane, thinking of anything but what was about 1 to . happen. As he passed the right-of-way a figure stepped out as swiftly as a leopard leaps. Chester thought the sky had fallen on him. He dropped without a groan. For a moment Johnstone looked down on him with an evil, white face, on which gleamed the ghost of a smile. Then he passed swiftly up the street, slitting the Band-bag with his knife and letting the sand pour out. Then he tossed the empty bag over a convenient fence, and all traces of the means by which he had removed his enemy were gone. (To be continued.)