|Newspaper Title||Clarence and Richmond Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1889 - 1915)|
|Trove Title||Who Was the Thief? A Story Founded on Fact|
PETER BELL'S reef at the Towers had proved; in mining parlance to be a jeweller's shop,
the gold was plentiful, and the reef was wide., A syndicate made an offer to purchase the, owner's interest : it was accepted, and Peter Bell was the possessor of three thousand
pounds. He was rich beyond his most san- guine hopes, and resolved to give up mining. The climate was horrible, the associations terrible, and he longed for the green woods and the rippling streams of Barrenjoey. But that five pound note. Oh! if only he could clear himself of that horrible suspicion, he, would soon be under the shade of his own eucalyptus trees. He was musing over the subject thus, when a friend looked in at his door and hailed him. " Holloa Peter, in the mopes again. Come down to the pub and have a game of billiards. The mail's in."
"All right then," said Peter, "I'll go with you, and we can call at the Post Office on our, way."
On arrival at the post office Peter found a letter for him. It bore the Barrenjoey post- mark" among a crowd of others, and just contained these words. " Come back at once, all is right—Lizzie."
Peter played a great many games at bllliards
that night, but he never won one. His mind
was too much occupied with thoughts of home and the missing blueback to give any attention to billiards or anything else. All
he could think of was the awful distance he would have to traverse before he could learn the full particulars of the vindication of his character, which Lizzie had so briefly advised. The next day, having arranged for the trans-
fer of his money to a Sydney bank, he shook, the dust of the northern goldfield from his feet and began his journey southward.
" Oh ! Peter. How you frightened me," said Lizzie a few weeks later, when the gentleman addressed stepped into the room where she was standing, and without any previous warning placed his arm round her waist and kissed her.
" Did I ?" said Peter. " Well, well, frighten again," and he kissed her burning cheeks on both sides again and again.
" And how, Lizzie, what about your letter. Has that fiver turned up ?"
" Yes, it has. I have it in my possession." "You ! How —where did you get it— when ?"
"As you have been so rude; I will make you wait for an answer. I have the note, and no one knows anything about it."
"Does not Hawkins know? Does ho still suspect me ?" said Peter.
" Put on your hat and come to Hawkins' now," said Lizzie, "and all will be cleared up in a minute."
In half an hour later Peter, Lizzie and Hawkins, with Cælia,, were seated in, the din- ing room of Hawkins' house. After some conversation of a formal character, Lizzie, addressing Mr. Hawkins, said : " You remem- ber losing a five-pound note some time ago, Mr. Hawkins?"
" Yes, certainly," replied Hawkins, looking hard at Peter, and reddening much.
"Would you know the note again if you saw it ?" continued Lizzie.
" I think so," he replied : " but anyhow I have the number. It was given in the letter in which the money came." He rose, went into the adjoining room, and returned with the letter. " Here it is," he continued, read- ing the number.
" Is that the note ?" said Lizzie, laying the missing 'blue back' on the table with a flourish, and a look of triumph in her spark- ling eyes.
Mr. Hawkins compared the number on the note with that given in the letter, "It is the same number, and must be the same note," he said. " But how did you come to have it,
" I found it in this room and under that hob, where the thief who look it placed it."
Hawkin looked at her in wonder, so did Peter. Cælia was gazing into vacancy, and wondering if the 'heavenly legs'were lost, to her for ever, for she was beginning to wish that she had not suspected Peter.
" If you will bring in your fencing speed and prize back that hob, you will see a rat's nest, and in that nest I found that five pound note." Here Lizzie gave the full particulars of her adventure with the rat and the discovery of the money.
Hawkins was incredulous, but on procuring the spud and removing the hob, the pre- sence of the rat's nest in the place indicated by Lizzie, and the escape of the full-grown rat who occupied it, fully convinced him of the truth of Lizzie's story and of the inno- cence of Peter. He was much affected, and his voice faltered as he extended his hand to
Peter and asked him to forgive him.
Peter took the extended hand and shook it heartily. "Say no more," he said, "I must confess that circumstances and appearances were damnably against me. I will try and forget the matter, and we shall be good neighbours as of old. I think I will go back now, Lizzie," he said, turning to that young lady, who at once rose and accompanied him to the door. With another hearty hand shake with Mr. Hawkins, and a very low and formal bow to Cælia, who had not spoken one word during the interview. Peter took his departure from the house. It was with a heavy heart and a deep bitter feeling of sorrow and humiliation that he last took his way down the road which led from Hawkins' selection to his own, and now he was going home in triumph and a man rich not only in " world's gear," as the grand old song terms it, but possessing wealth beyond all measure in the priceless love of a woman whose faith in him nor time nor circumstance could ever change, and who loved him with all the de-, votion of which a pure and steadfast heart is capable.
Cælia watched them from the door as they went down the road ; she saw Peter take Lizzie's hand and draw her arm under his own ; she saw his head lean towards Lizzie's as he uttered words of which she well knew the purport though she could not hear them, and there was envy and hatred in her heart as she realised that Peter's " heavenly legs "
were lost to her for ever.
Not long afterwards, when Peter's new house was finished and furnished, there was a wedding at Barrenjoey. Peter returned from Sydney a few days before the event and brought Lizzie a beautiful gold watch and chain. Among the usual bundle of charms attached to the latter was a beautifully designed rat with little diamond eyes and ruby,
nostrils and toes. I'll never kill a rat as long as I live," said Peter. "If that little rascal had not stolen that fiver I should never
have won you, dear." He passed the chain round her neck and kissed her, and the kiss she gave him in return was worth a cart load of "blue backs."