Chapter 63672618

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Chapter NumberII
Chapter TitleMarian Leigh.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63672618
Full Date1893-12-23
Page Number10
Corrections0
Word Count3048
IllustratedY
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleIllustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)
Trove TitleThe Story of a Jewelled Belt
article text

CHAPTER II.

Marian Leigh.

A week after the in-

quest upon the body

found in the Yarra Mr. Chester was lying in bed thinking. Happy is the man whose antebreakfast thoughts are welcome things. Ile is in a moral condition analgous to the physical state of the individual who can. sit down to an early breakfast with a brisk and vigorous appetite independent of sauces or pick-me-ups, condimental or otherwise. That

"Tm delighted to meet you again, Miss Leigh,' he remarked, as they shook hands'1

was a worldly-wise woman who cautioned her daughter " never to marry a bad break- fast man." In this pithy Frenchy admoni- tion lies a whole world of sad experience.

Chester's thoughts, though not absolutely disagreeable, were evidently highly perplex- ing. Lord Dart had passed over the Straits to Tasmania the previous day. He had pressed Chester, unavailingly to accompany him, but this the latter had obstinately refused to do. He was determined to persist

in his detective enterprise, though as yet he had not the faintest conception of the manner in which he was to perform tile task he had so recklessly set himself. Though he held to his conviction that a murder had

been perpetrated, that, so far, was unsup- ported by proof. Truth to tell, in the mornings Chester had always admitted to himself that his chances of making any dis- coveries were exceedingly remote, unless by

the aid of accident.

He had tried all the methods so uniformly

successful in detective stories. He had looked for clues, and had found none. He had visited the spot where the body was found, had seen the high bank, and gazed long and steadfastly at the muddy water of the stream beneath, as if like some magic mirror it would give back the solution of the secret which perplexed him.

Ile had analysed and synthetised from the data in his possession, like Dupin and Sherlock Holmes and Lecocq, but all in vain. The result so infallibly achieved by these gentlemen of the police failed to reward his ratiocination. At the end of his first 24 hours of serious investi- gation he had arrived at the conclusion that the only clue in his possession was the certainty that in life the deceased had worn a belt of some stiff material about his body. The doctor who had conducted the post mortem had explained to him that the belt could not have been worn for any reasons of

ill-health.

" In fact," he said to Chester, " it must have been decidedly uncomfortable, for it was of hard, stiff material, and left a depressed mark quite round the bodjr. Why he wore such a thing I can't for the life of

me make out."

To this stage Chester's investigations had advanced. Not many men are' in the habit of wearing a cincture of this kind, and our amateur detective deter- mined to use this knowledge in en- deavoring to ascertain the identity of the dead man. This discovered, he would win one of Lord Dart's wagers, and prevent his friend from having the laugh at

him.

The previous eveninghehadhad published an advertisement requesting anybody who knew of anybody else who was in the habit of wearing a stiff band of metal or other material around the body to communicate with D.C., General Post Office,, and promising a reward for reliable information.

Till he received an answer to this adver-

tisement he was obliged to remain quies-

cent in the matter.

Naturally being of: au active temperament, Iiis thoughts reverted to some other means of employing his time, and, curiously enough, he began to think in this connection of Marian Leigh. Ho had been correct in telling his friend that their fellow-passen ger had interested him. ; And he felt himself wishing that the voyage

could have been indefinitely extended, and that the Empress . could have gone on for long ploughing through the green' sea. How long he did not stop to consider, as .long as Marian Leigh might have been by his side,

and he could have lost himself in the beau-

tiful earnest eyes shining under the foam white brow. Just when things were getting dangerous for him the voyage had ended, and the passengers had scattered as a bundle of leaves flies before a gust of wind.

" It did me good, though, to meet that girl," he reflected. " She is one in whom

the woman God made has never been un-

made by the world. Very different from the majority of women I have known. The creatures who set their caps at Dart, for instance, because he is a peer, and has £20,000 every six months, what a herd of artificial, cunning, mercenary, ambitious women they were-gills too, some of them scarcely done, one would think, with their schoolbooks. Being a poor devil, they let me alone, and the looker-on sees most of the game. 13ut, by Jove, Miss Leigh cared no more for poor Dart's title and rent roll, than she did for plain Dick Chester. On the whole, I think

she cared a little m*ore for the commoner

than the peer. Now, when I met her I was nearly becoming a cynic, and that is a dis- agreeable thing. For, after all, what is a cynic unless a philosopher turned bad ? I'd very much like to see her again, perhaps-. Gently, gently, Dick. What right has a poor man like you even to think of a

wife ?"

And Dick yawned and stretched his long limbs before springing out of bed.

As he glanced at the morning papers to see that his advertisement liad appeared

correctly, he was struck hy an advertise- ment which read as f OIIOAVS :

" Will Richard Leigh, from Salisbury, England, send his address to or call on Marian, -? Hotel, Melbourne? Very

anxious."

" Phew !" whistled Chester. " That's Miss Marian's business here, is it ? In search of a lost or runaway parent. Here now is a chance for me. Perhaps I can assist her in her search ; I'll call on lier at once."

On reflection, however, it occurred to Chester that he could not do this without appearing intrusive. A way out of the difficulty suggested itself after a short re- flection. There was no reason why he should not transfer himself to her hotel.

This he accordingly riki, satisfied that residence at the same hotel would give him many opportunities of meeting with Marian. And he was right.

That very afternoon, aa he was enjoying a cigar in tho smoking room, he caught a glimpse of a tall, slight figure hurrying along the passage which passed the door.

It was Marian Leigh. She was dressed for a walk, and almost before she descended the steps Chester was by her side.

The color on her cheeks deepened as she recognised him.

" I'm delighted to meet yon again, Miss Leigh," he remarked, as they shook hands.

Miss Leigh made no reply other than by a look which certainly did not show any dis- pleasure at his presence.

Dick told her that he was lodged at the

same hotel as herself.

" Indeed !" she remarked. " It is strauge that I did not see you before to-day."

"Not at all," said Dick, with a smile, " considering that I came only to-day."

"Oh!" said Marian, simply.

For a few minutes they walked on in silence. Dick wished to offer her all the assistance he could in her endeavors to find her friend, but was at a loss how to do'so without presumption. Marian had not summoned him to her aid, nor had she made him a confidant of her secret. How, then, could he launch into the subject without the appearance of impertinent intrusive-

ness ?

As they walked on Chester noted how eagerly Marian scanned the faces of the men they passed in the streets. There was an anxious look in her eyes, which told as plainly as words that she was expecting or hoping to find some face which she knew. Ile at once concluded that she was search- ing for the person she had advertised for. '

, It struck him as curious, however, that she imssed hy the well-dressed and prosp.er looking men in the street without a glance ; but the unemployed working man and the loafer she subjected to keen scrutiny.

It pained him to note the evident distress in her face, and the shadow which anxiety and grief had thrown over her ordinarily bright face.

A womanly-sweet face it was, with capa- cities of loving wifehood and tender mother- hood suggested by it, as should be the case with every woman's face. She had largo gazelle-eyes of blue, a short, straight nose, a curving, red lipped mouth-rather large, perhaps, for perfection, but set inside with rows of pearls -and a chin firm and level, with the fore- head in the Greek way. Of her hair, all that Chester knew was that it was like coils of sublimated rust from which the sun drew lights like gleams of burnished copper. Her height made her proportions appear slender, but the curves of her lissom figure and the roundness of her arm showed that she was not thin. The serious sweetness of her face, with its waiting, anxious look, struck Chester when he saw her first, and now looking, at her keenly he saw that her face was begin- ning to wear a wasted look, quite inconsis- tent with the girl's obvious youth.

Dick determined to tender her his assist-

ance.

" Miss Leigh," he began, " is there any way in which I can be of service to you while you are in Melbourne ; if so, I shall be only too pleased to offer you any assist- ance you require ?"

Marian looked at him inquiringly. Dick thought the bold policy the best.

" I may tell you that I saw an advertise- ment in this morning's papers which I con- nected with you. If I am right in thinking that you are looking for anybody in Mel- bourne, perhaps I can help you."

As he said this it suddenly struck him that it might be a lover or husband that Marian was in search of. What did he know of her past history ? The suspicion rendered him very uncomfortable, despite the suggestions of his philosophy that it was

no business of his. The next words of Marian's were ominous.

" You are right, Mr. Chester, in thinking that the advertisement was mine. I am in search of someone very dear to me. I have neither brother nor sister." Here Marian's

voice faltered.

" Confound it !" thought Dick. " A nice thing I've brought on myself promising to look up the other fellow, I'm such a bright detective, too." And he smiled a little bit- terly as he thought of his helplessness in the face of the other mystery he had pledged himself to solve. Positively his face looked for a moment as if the philosopher in him was about to become a cynic again.

Marian resumed-"I thank you very much for your assistance, Mi\ Chester, and will gladly avail myself of it. You know, some 10 years ago my darling-:(<Coo], that,' thought Dick)-was in some dreadful fight in Africa with the natives, and received a wound in his head which affected his brain. (' A lunatic, by Jupiter,' thought Dick.) And sometimes he forgets who he is altogether, and goes away from home and

"Mr. Peter Newton, the landlord of the Golden Crown, . . . had a round, head,

clothed, in stubbly hair of a curious hue, made up of a desperate struggle between the original red and the grey of advancing years."

gets into all sorts of trouble.' ('.Ha! a blackguard as well as a lunatic,' commented Dick to himself. ) He is quite helpless without me," went on Marian. " Once he went right

off to America to San Francisco. There he

spent what money he had, and for a whole month was walking about homeless and al- most foodless till accidentally the British Consul discovered who he was, and had him sent back to England. This time he cashed a cheque for £500, and took a lot of valuable gems with him. (< Worse and worse ; a lunatic, blackguard, and thief all in one. 'Pon my word, Marian, I didn't think it of you,' was Dick's inward note.) So that this lime," Marian went on, " he will have plenty to support him.

" Latterly, before his last attack came on, he had been reading a good deal about Aus- tralia, particularly about Melbourne, and on

one occasion he asked me whether I would

like the voyage out. These things lead me to believe that he has come to Australia. Per-,

haps he is in Melbourne j but as I have been

advertising every day since I arrived, and have received no answer, it is probable that he has not seen the advertisement. If he has even, and is not in his right mind, he would not recognise its reference to himself. It nearly breaks my heart to think of him in a strange country and so helpless. I am really quite at a loss how to search for him, and all I can think of is to walk the streets all day and look in the face of every unfortunate man that I see. But the faces are all strange and cold, and now I am beginning to despair of ever seeing the face I love best on

earth."

"Humph!" thought Dick, whose natural reserve was shocked by this naked admission of affection, " decidedly indelicate. I'm afraid I was mistaken in you, Marian."

But as he looked at Marian's face and saw

how piteous it was, and how the tears stood in the eyes through which her troubled soul looked out like a wounded hare, he

relented.

" Well. Miss Leigh," he said, "the search is, I am afraid, rather a' wild one. Have

you thought of calling in the aid of the police ?"

" Yes," said Marian, " I was about to lay

the case before them this afternoon."

" That is. the best thing you can do," said Dick. " Meanwhile, you may count on me at any time."

This means nothing, or, if anything, was practically a withdrawal of the assistance which Dick had so profusely proffered before

he had been made aware of the circum- stances of the case.

Marian saw the change with a woman's quickness.

" Thank you, Mr. Chester," she said coldly ; " but perhaps I will have no occa- sion to trouble. The police, I have no doubt, can do more in these matters than private people. Good afternoon."

And with a grand bow she swept away.

Dick looked after her for a while.

" There goes a woman I was nearly mak- ing myself a fool over. But how was I to know she had a husband ? It must he a

husband, for his name is Leigh. Of course ! what rubbish-she called him her darling, and loves him best on earth. And here I was fancying she was partial to me. Dick Chester, what has come to you ? Your London friends looked on you as a sensible, worldly-wise sort of person, and you looked on yourself as a philosopher, whereas, after all, as it turns out, you're only a fool. Dart was right. I have no penetration. A pity I didn't go to Tasmania with him. The best thing I can do is to join him, give him the fizz, and own myself an ass. But Marian is a sweet woman, and it's a pity she did not have better fortune than to marry such a fellow as this runaway lunatic husband of hers. Heigho ! I was nearly having a rather disastrous romance. If," concluded he, " I don't get an answer to my asinine advertisement to-morrow morning, I'll cut away to Tasmania by the first boat."

The next morning, however, brought no response to his personal.

In glanciug over the paper he read the following advertisement :

" If Richard Jenkins does not return to the Golden Crown and settle his account imme- diately his box will be sold to defray ex-

penses.

PETER NEWTON, Licensee."

" Now," said Dick to himself, " here is a missing man. He may be only one of the ordinary scamps who run up a score at an hotel and then skip. On the other hand, he may be, perhaps, the man who was mur- dered, for murdered he was, I'm convinced. I'll probably have my trouble for nothing, but in any case I'll go' and interview Mr.

Peter Newton."

Accordingly, after breakfast, he proceeded

on his errand. In the vestibule of the hotel

he encountered Marian Leigh. She passed him with a smileless face and a scarcely perceptible bow. Her face still wore its anxious look, and Dick felt a longing desire to go and comfort her in some vague way. His reception was, however, so uncertain that he hesitated, and then the opportunity massed away, as Marion betook herself to the l idies' sitting-room.

" She thinks me a cad, I suppose," he thought. " Well, perhaps I am," and with this consoling admission he went his way."

The Golden Crown was a fairly large hotel, situated in Lonsdale-street, but by no means in a respectable portion of the city.

As Dick entered the har he noticed a few

rough-looking characters seated before huge tumblers of colonial beer, while a blowsy looking man, short and fat, minus a coat,

and with his shirt sleeves folded to the

elbows, was dexterously wiping a number of similar glasses with a dirty towel, a pro- ceeding which a mongrel dashed with a bull-dog watched with winking eyes from his position in a ring of expectoration on

the floor.

" Well, sir, what's for you ?" said the blowsy man, briefly.

" I wish to speak to the landlord," said

Chester.

"Well, you're a doin' of it," was the

answer.