|Newspaper Title||Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 - 1954)|
! CHAPTER III.-(Continued.)
' Come with . me,' Vere whispered, conscious-of; the danger of. being over- heard, at the same timo leading him into a small room half-concealed behind a bank of gardening and tuberoses, and where ono dim light was burning. 'You have chosen a strange time for your visit, i Chriu. - You might have selected a more
' appropriate hour.' Her oyo'wandered
over him from head to foot, over the signs of pitiless poverty he bore, then bur heart melted and the pure sisterly love
came to the surface.
'Chiis, Chris, what have I done that you should treat ino like this ? Why .do ' you keep away from me as you have done,
when all mine is yours, and I would have . sacrificed it to help you V !
Ashton turned away his face ns if the words had been the lashes of a whip ; even . the thickening folds of «elf pity which thc . years of trouble and misfortune had wrapped around him were penetrable to one touch of Nature.
' Do not grudgo me tho last embers of my manhood,' said ho with an imploring gesture. ' Don't make it any harder, Vere.'
41 hate to hear you talk like this,' Vere answered, her voice trembling.» 'You, a : young man, with all the years before you ; ' time: enough to wipe out tho stain and
. regain your honorable name.'
* An honourable name for me, with the recollection of tho cowardly part I am playing at this moment. But cost what it may, I play the hypocrite no longer. Bo you guess what brings me hore to- night ?
. Yesj Chris ; I know just what brings V- yoii here to-night. '
So utterly surprised was Ashton by the unexpected reply that he could only cling to the back of the chair against which he was standing, and regard tho speaker with staring eyes. That Vere had been taken into Winchester's contidenco he had not had the smallest conception.
' Is it possiblo you can really know ? And if you haye discovered everything, .why do you not ring the bell and order your servants to thrust mo out into the street ? What can you gain by keeping
me hero ? '
'Much that I -nnh-much that you .. need also. Chris, it is folly for you and
. me to > stand hore wasting bitter words. You came here because there was no help for it ; you imagine yourself - to be deserted. Even now, we are all
doine bur best tc save you.'
Ashton laughed mirthlessly. 'To save mo.Mie cried. ' And how Í '?
, ' How, another hour will prove. For the( prcsont, I' um merely an instrument in cleverer banda than my own. Only wait and see.' ' ?,.
'Your patienco will bo tried no longer. -Vere; aro you ready ? ' : ? ? .
The suddenness of tho interruption caused brother and sister to turn uneasily. \ In tho dim light, Winchester's tall fiauro
wai faintly visible, though the lamp shin- ning on his face showed it illuminnted by s ; smile of hopo and pleaaureublo expecta-
tion. His very presence seemed to give them a afresh ; meed of comfort. Vere would have spoken, only that he laid a finger on her lip and pointed silently tc ' the door. For a moment Vere hesitated
as if half afraid; but gathering up hoi ' courage, somewhat shaken by tho unex
'pected interview, without another word took, up the jewel cases and left thc " room. '. ¡ )-':?? -
~ Albright light was burning in tho break ; fast room ns she entered. Thero was stil
the consciousness of unseen danger, til ' beyond, in the darkness of an inner apart '.' : ment, she discerned the outline of Win
; chester's figure as he came in noiselessly
by'another door. Thero was only on« other .person present, a tall, slim indivi dual with a small black moustache, am . .gleaming eyes, but littlo dimmer1 by thi
pince nes he wore. Ho bowed ant brightened visibly as Vero laid the leath ern cases upon tho tablo.
' You come from Starr, and Forster's I presume T sho asked.
. * I have the honor to be their confi dential clerk, madam,' replied the agon i ; smoothly., ' If you will be good enougl
to read this letter, you will Bee that I an 'what ^represent. In such matters wi ;;f usually take every precaution.'
. Vere glanced through the letter care lessly; after which, after the clerk'; direction, she initialled it. With almos suspicious alacrity he took up the cases : and with another profound bow, walket
towards, the door. As he did so, Win chester came out of the inner apartmen and stopped him with a gesture.
'I hardly think this is quite formal, he said. * Perhaps Miss Dene has ni objection to my asking a few questions -And you, sir, pray, be seated. If Mis Dene will do me the favor to retiro for ; . moment-'
Vere.. wanted no second bidding Already her courage, high as it wa* ' bogan to fail.! : It bad been a trying night
and tho sense of danger overpowering Moreover, the evil had not been seen, bu rather implied.1 Without waiting to hen more, she left the apartment, and steppe across to the little room opposite .fearful less Ashton might in a moment c
rashness betray himself.
Directly the last sound of her footstep had died away, the patent policeman c Winchester's manner underwent a change ''Now, you scoundrel,', ho said grimly * give me those jewels.' ' ."
*' My good sir, I am quite at a loss t know who you aro ;, but, representing a I do one of tho first houses in town
. ' You are at no' loss to know who I am
WiucheBtor returned,' approaching th agent; and 'with a dexterous move ment, removing wig, . moustache and ' glasses from the ,' other's face , . My : name is Winchester and yours i
Wingate. There is not the least occasio; to deny tho fact.'
* Wingate, for he it was, dropped th . cases and stnggorod into a seat. 'For
moment he measured bis antagonist wit) his eye, and despairingly gave up th wild idea of a struggle as at one hopeless and perilous. An instant of will baffled rage was followed by à cold trera bling of the limbs. There remained ord; a last effort for freedom to be made, am as the detected thief .remembered th forged Acceptance in his pocket, hi spirit rose to the encounter. 4 Perhap you will be good enough to' prove wha my name is,' ho answered doggedly.
.'Prove it!' Winchester echoed cor temptuously ; ' yea, before a jury if yo like. " Dr» Starr and Fortitcr's agent generally do . their business in disguise ; with a c»b waiting for them outside wit
a pontomine policeman alongside driver The scheme was a no*t one; bul unfortunately for you, I happen to kuo everything.
/ ' En ayres,' said Wingate, with all th
cool: insolence at his command. 4 Upo my ¿word, you carry mattera with a big hand.? Perhaps you forgot that I hold a "open sesame ' that will allow me to di part whether you lilce it or not. '
."Pon my word, I am greatly oblige to you for mentioning it,' Winebe'at« returned. .4 You are naturally alludin to the acceptance you stole from m
.'Bearing tho forged name of Loi
4 Bearing the forged name of Lor Beárhaven. Exactly. For that remindt , also allow mo to tender you my. sincei
thanks. You are an audacious rasca . Mr. r Wingate, a truism we both BJ
precíate. Ii that bill was in my pocko you would not feel so easy as you do.'
'Certainly. That, aByou aro perfectl / aware, ia my sheet-anchor. Como win
may, you dare not prosecute me ; and t far aa I am concerned, I shall walk out < this room as freoly as I carno in.'
:: /That,is very likely,' Winchester n
turned dryly. ' But if I muy venture to 'prophesy, not without pitying Nomelhing for your freedom. Yon may rest assured
.of ono thing, that unless that bill is in |
my possession, your exit will bu accom- panied by nn official not altogether un-
connected with Scotland Yard.'
4 You would force it from me,' Wingate cried, tho first real feeling of alarm getting tho better of bis matchless audacity. 4 You would never dar«-'
41 would daro anything. Can't you nee that you aro completely in my ponror ? However, I do not desire to use forco ; it would bo bad for mc, and a great deal woree for you. You aro counting upon Lord Bearhaven's charactor for severity, and.also how you cnn be rovenged upoM Ashton for betraying you. Upon my word, whon I think of everything, the cool villainy of this plot, now I have you at arm's length, I can scarcely refrain from thrashing you within an inch of your life ; and I should dp so with the
4 You will treat me as a gentleman,' Wingate faltered, shrinking back with blanched lips and chattering teeth. Ho waB completely cowud ; but the malifftiant cunnii)!' of his nature
did not fail him quite yet. * I could do a lot of harm. If 1 sent to Lord Bearhavcn and said to him-'
. Should you liko to see him Y Win- chester asked abruptly.
Wingato's dark eyes bla/..d with the intensity of impotent malice.. 'Like to see him '.' he cried. 41 would give any- thing, live years of my lifo if I could, for the opportunity of ton minutes* conversa-
tion at this moment.'
, Winchester touched thc little silver boll
1 on the table. 41 am delighted to be in a position to accommodate youl' he replied cheerfully as Semmes entered. 4 l'.eaae be kind enough to ask Lord Bearhaven to step this way.'
j A moment later Baarhaven entered in I his immaculate evening dress, calm aud
slightly contemptuous, and looking down from his superior hoight upon tho tho- roughly bewildered Wingate ; while Win aheater, content to leave the matter in such competent hands, discreetly van-
4 You wished to sneak tome,' said thc newcomer alter a long pause. 41 would advise you tobe brief m your confidences, Mr. Wingate.'
4 Captain Wingate, if you have no objection,' responded th« discomfited rascal, with a fair assumption of ease. 4 Let us preserve the ordinary courtesies. '
. Pooh, my good fellow, a jury would not rccogniso so fine a distinction. I am sorry to disappoint you of your promised treat, but overytbing is known to me. Your confedérate Chi /era - Bonjumiti Chivcrs.to be correct-has disclosed every- thing. Wo know how you ingratiated your- self into the good graces of Starr and Fortiter'a ageut, how you stole hi» creden- tials from 'tim, aud where bu lies drudged at this momo t. What you are most desirous of mentioning is that forged bill bearing my signaturo. Will you be sur- prised to heir that I knew all about that three years ago ? '
4 But if I liked to disclose tho facts, my lordj'^broke in Wingate, now thoroughly alarmed, 4 if I am pressed to do so '
4 You duro not,' Lord Bearhavcn sternly replied. * I am not going ti argue with you ono way or another, Let mo bring myself down to you; level. Try it. and I will bc prep ire.l U acknowledge tho signature, and Mr .Winchester will be prepared to swear yoi stole tho "bill from his studio. And 1 think,' concluded tho speaker, with sting ing contempt, 41 think that you will bc ; long while in persuading a jury to give credence to your story. Lord Bearhavon'i testimony, I presume, will go furthni than that of a well-known sharper am blackleg.'
Wingato's head fell lower and lower till his face resto i on his h inds. Thi struggle, long and severe, had beal too much for oven his temerity. 4 am quito in your power,' he said. 4
think, I hops you will not bo hard upm mc. Tell me what I must do, and it sha]
'The acceptance you have at tiri moment in your possession-nay, do no prevaricate ; it ia your last chance ; so yoi may expect little mercy from mo. Plac it in my hands and trust to my discretion.
. 'And supposing I agree-what then I
will make terms.-'
(To bo continued.)