Chapter 63672656

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Chapter NumberV
Chapter TitleFinks and Company-Strand.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63672656
Full Date1893-12-23
Page Number13
Corrections0
Word Count3717
IllustratedY
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleIllustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)
Trove TitleThe Story of a Jewelled Belt
article text

CHAPTER V.

Finks and Company-Strand.

The great London jewellers were known to Chester. He had occasionally been there with wealthy friends like Hart in quest of jewellery for presents for birthday and marriage ceremonies. Finks and Company were obliging enough, too, to take the paper of the 3*öung sports who wished it converted into* cash, which was done at a surprisingly low rate of interest. They were because of this, and the general splendor and work- manship pf their ware, the fashionable jewellers.

Chester was, in his turn, well known to

the partners, and when he stated his errand he was shown into the managing partner's

office, who said :

" I remember this man very well on ac- count of the peculiar belt you mention. He came to us with some splendid stones cut, and uncut to the value of many thousands of pounds, and requested us to make a gold belt for their reception, and to rivet this belt about his bod}\ I thought it a strange fancy, but the man seemed sane-his ex- planations were feasible."

" Indeed," said Chester." What were his explanations of such a strange freak ?"

" Oh !" replied Mr. Finks," " simply that he was going out of the reach of his banking account, and wanted to have some realisable property on him. It appears that he was nearly starved once somewhere in America because he had no ready money, and no way of getting it, and yet he had a fortune in an

English bank-but you seem startled, Mr.

Chester."

" I-well, yes; I am a little. To tell you the truth, Mr. Finks, this detective business is rapidly revealing to me what a block- head I really am. Of course, your client

gave you his name."

" Oh. yes ! Certainly. It's in this book, hem ! Let me see," and he ran his fingers rapidly down several pages. " Yes, here we are. * Golden belt account, Richard Leigh,

£78 paid.' "

Chester drew a hard breath.

." How strange," he thought, " that Marian should be the daughter of this man, the mystery of whose death lam searching out. Well, truth is strange."

. " I might tell you, Mr. Chester, as it oc curs.to me, that Mr. Leigh was suspicious that some attempts might be made on his life, and we had one of our best workmen to do the rivetting quietly in this office. In fact nobody but myself and this man knew when Mv. Leigh left the shop that he had this belt

of gems iipon him."

" And that man," said Chester, carelessly, " is he still with you ?"

" No," said Mr. Finks. " I am sorry to say that he left some time ago. Ile was a capital workman, and we have not heen able to replace him."

" What was the date of his departure from your establishment ? Can you tell me that without any trouble ?" asked

Chester.

" Certainly," answered Mr. Finks, briskly. " We keep a record of the movements of all our men. Johnson left on October 15."

" That was ñve days after he had riveted the belt on Mr. Leigh ?" .

" Yes, precisely," answered Mr. Finks.

" Thank you," said Chester, risiug. " You

have told me all I wish to know,"

" By the way," he added, " could you give ine Johnson's address-that is, his address when he was empkryed by you."

" With pleasure," said the jeweller. "It is always wise to keep a record of these things in a business like ours, where there is so much temptation placed before the

workmen."

Chester placed the address carefully in

his nocket-book.

" I think," said he-" I think that Dart's £20,000 is in remarkable danger."

As Chester left the establishment of Finks and Company his course seemed clear to him. All he had to do was to hunt up the man named Johnson, the artificer who had welded the jewelled belt about Mr. Leigh.

It was apparent to him that this man must have had some hand in the murder and rob- bery of Marian's father.

The suspicion was justifiable from the fact that this man of all in London, excepting Mr. Finks (who, of course, was out of the question), knew of the valuablebooty borne by the murdered man.

But presently some doubts began to assail the amateur detective's mind. Was it not possible that in one of those fits of mental aberration to which he was subject the un- fortunate gentleman had shown, or in some way revealed, his treasure to others both in London and Melbourne ? Chester could not help feeling that this was quite possible, in which case the cocksure policy of inves- tigation which had led him up to the con- clusion that Johnson was the guilty man would be sadly shattered.

And, moreover, how was he to find John- son, .even if he were the murderer? The skilful manner in which the murder had been committed, and the care with which any clue which might lead to the detection of the murderer had been concealed or fore- seen and prevented, proved that Johnson was a man of more than ordinary cun

ning.

Having secured the booty, and with Eeve

ral montas of immunity in which to move, he had probably betaken himself to some country where he would be unknown. It was the easiest thing in the world, as Chester knew, for a man of ordinary appearance to bury himself in some centre of population where he would be unrecog- nisable in the midst of the mass of similar

humanity about him.

It is curious that the outlaw of society

now secretes himself in the recesses of the

.very organisation he wars against.

Of old when a man did a felonious thing which was discovered he accepted as its first consequence the penalty of banishment from the society he had sinned against. He out- lawed himself, and from fastnesses of wood and wild hill he flung himself upon passing train or insecure hamlet, and slew and rob- bed, and flew back again, like an eagle to his eyrie, to enjoy his booty and plan new predaciousness. This was the way with all outlaws, from Bobin Hood to Ned Kelly.

But the outlaw of to-day prefers the dense companies of men in big cities. For one thing, the older way has been rendered un- usually hazardous, if not altogether impos- sible, by the spread of settlement and the

enhancement of methods of communication.

The wilderness no longer wars against the town. The wolf and the bear have gone their way, and the robber who consorted with the wild things of the forest has passed away with them.

The enemy of society is now in its own bosom, nestling side by side with the police- man who exists to arrest him, the judge whose work is to convict, and the gloomy functionary whose hand is to give him the fatal shove into eternity.

In the multiplicity of men he Ands his safety. He carries no brand upon his brow to marle him as robber or assassin. Suchas he is, there are hundreds of thousands, even millions, like him in great cities. If he is clever and has not previously come under the cognisance of the police, there is nothing to point him out as an enemy to society to the keenest detectives, and 'he may enjoy immunity for years, until some imprudence of his own, or a visitation of that fatal mad- ness in which the criminal, in nine cases out of ten, drops his mask, overtakes him, and justice at length obtains her own ; or a combination of apparent accidents

weaves a chain of formidable evidence about

him against which it is vain for him to at- tempt to provide or contest.

But, as Chester held, there are many crimes done in great cities whose perpetra- tors are never discovered by human instru-

ments.

Who keeps count and recognition of every face, say in London, with its 4,000,000 and odd of faces ? .

The family, it is true, is the germ of society and its cities. Each member of a family in London is bound by infallible ties to every other family. He is part of society. If he disappear there are those who know it, to set the police in motion, and to identify

him should his remains be recovered. The knowledge of his habits-his associates^ his connections-forms a substantial ground- work upon which the officers of justice can

build.

But the waif, the single life, whom no . family acknowledges, and who is alone

in London-there are thousands such

there, man and woman-may disappear without anybody knowing that to-day there is one less than yesterda}*. There are none to miss him, none to search for him. He goes down, and the waters close over him,

and that is all.

Whither he goes, or how he fares, Nobody knows, and nobody cares.

God knows, in these derelict existences, drifting in the unsunned depths of modern

life, there is pathos deeper than ever poet ' has told or thought, and it lies in the one fact that they may go out like a farthing rushlight, and no man know. What a store of solitude and separateness that one grim fact tells-of divorce from love and home, of severed channels of kinship, of a loneli- ness amid teeming millions more complete than it would be in the wastes of Sahara or

the ice deserts of the poles to the man who has.living kindred.

The loneliness of the body is nothing. It is the isolation of the soul which is so ter- rible. And we find that, not in the "wilder- ness, but in the cit}-.

And that crowd in which the identity of the victim is lost serves as the best veil for the concealment of the criminal.

Chester felt, after reflections of this kind, tfeat- his task was not yet over. Johnson might have gone to America or some other place, In that case, Chester determined to

give up the whole of his data to Scot- land Yard, and surrender all personal investigation. But he might be in

London. Chester felt that the man

would not stop in Melbourne or any of

the Australian colonies. Ile had come out

to commit the crime and gain his booty, and that done, would probably resort to his favorite haunts to enjoy his evilly-acquired affluence. This would more probably be the case if he were a man advanced in life, when old associations would be more

despotic and new ones harder to form. This, at any rate, was Chester's theory.

His iirst step was to ascertain Johnson's appearance and mode of life. This he de- termined to do at his late lodging, and by personal inquiries. Now that he had, as he thought, the actual criminal in view, the hunting appetite in him became stronger, and he felt capable of unravelling the rest of the matter with his Sown hands. When he failed it would be time enough, he argued, to call in the assistance of the police.

In a comparatively quiet East End street there was a terrace of houses, old and weatherworn, hut presenting no appearance of dilapidation. It was called, according to some cement lettering upon the centre house, " Wellesley Crescent," and, according to the same authority, had been built in 1830.

Why it was called a crescent did not ap- pear, because, though the street itself par- took of the general deviousness of Lon- don thoroughfares, the terrace was undeniably straight. But nomenclature

of this kind is a thing apart. Builder i and architects-people who are hound by rules and levels - require some imagina- tive freedom and irregularity as a counterpoise to the stvict accuracy of their work, and perhaps the designing of the names they confer upon the structures they build

is one of the few

gratifications the indul- gence in which saves

them from some wild end.

The ninth house in this terrace was kept by Mrs. Thompson, a pleasant but careworn faced widow, who paid her rent out of

the interest on the in-

surance policy talc en out by the late Mr Thompson in her favor,

and for the rest main- tained herself and her

two children by taking in boarders ' br letting rooms to lodgers. At the door of this house Chester knocked the

morning after his visit to Finks and Company.

It was opened by Mrs. Thompson in per- son. The good woman had been officiating in the kitchen, and when she saw a gentle- man standing before her, made a gallant but utterly unsuccessful attempt to wipe the smudges from her face with a hurried sweep of her apron.

This favorably impressed Chester, for when a woman becomes careless of her per- sonal appearance he held that she becomes careless of many other things besides. With- out being itself a fault it is an unpleasant symptom. Of course, this is providing that shebas the little time required for tidying operations, for-and " Oh, the pity o' it "

it is true that some women in the world have not even so little leisure left them.

"Are you Mrs. Thompson?" inquired Chester, raising his hat.

" Yes, sir," said the woman, dropping a responsive courtsey.

14 I don't wish to trespass on your time, Mrs. Thompson," said Chester, " but if you could spare me a few minutes you might give me some infomation which would be valuable to me, and -"

Here he paused abruptly. He had been about to mention a monetary'consideration to the woman, but felt diffident. There was a self-respecting air about her which made him feel that there would be something

offensive in such an otter.

And he was right. There is something brutal in the manner in which affluence seeks to purchase poverty even when onlj what. ia light is proposed) and poverty,

though it accepts, does so when honest only with suffering.

" Oh ! don't mind that, sir," said Mrs. Thompson, cheerfully. " I'm quite willing to tell you whatever I can. Will you come

inside ?"

" Thank you," answered Chester.

He followed into a dusky little sitting room, clean but thick with the odors, or, rather, the memories of odors, of a long shut apartment. Mrs. Thompson gave him a chair, and seated herself on another.

" My excuse for calling upon you is this, madam," Chester began. " Some months ago you had stopping here a lodger named

Johnson."

At the name Mrs. Thompson gave a slight

start.

" Yes," she said, quietly.

" I suppose you have no idea where he can now be found ?" continued Ches-

ter.

" No, sir," answered the woman.

" He left no address with you when he

left ?" Chester went on.

" He did not," said Mrs. Thompson. « The fact is," she added, " he didn't feel very kindly to me before he went away."

" Ah !" said Chester, with an air of sar prise. " May I ask why ?"

Mrs. Thompson colored slightly, and very pleasant that tinge of youth looked on the pale, careworn cheeks.

" Well, it ain't a secret, sir, and I may as well tell you that he Avanted me to marry him. He got good wages where he worked, and hadn7t many faults that one could see, being always respectóul ; but, bless you, my

" Mrs. Thompson, a pleasant but care-,

worn faced woman."

poor James was a good man to me, and I told him when he was dying that I'd put no other in his place till I met him again, which I hope to do.

And her voice trem- bled and the tears stood in the patient-looking brown eyes.

Chester was touched at this revelation of

fidelity. He said no- thing, however, wait- ing until Mrs. Thomp- son's momentary agita-

tion had subsided.

" Not," she resumed, " that I'd have had

. him, in any case, for

he were a dark sort of man, and looked as if he had secrets. When

he was leaving he told

me that a few months

would perhaps, make him a rich juan, for .some of his speculations were turning out well,

a nd asked if he was rich

would- it make any' difference, and I said no, not if he was as rich as the Qu eon. 'Mrs. Thompson I am going

to die,' he sez, and he went away without a word of good-bye, and a look in his face that minded me of the water in the dull weather-quiet, but deep and clark. It

made me shiver somehow."

And Mrs. Thompson wipud her forehead, this time without any furtiveness, for agita- tion had exalted her above trivialities. i

" Could you tell me what kind of man he

was to look at ?" said Chester.

" I can do better than that," said Mrs. Thompson. " There's a likeness of his here which I can give you if it's any use to you.

I don't want it."

"The very thing," said Chester, eagerly.

Mrs. Thompson arose and turned over the leaves of an album on the table, and pre- sently took out a photograph, which she

handed to Chester.

Ho looked at it curiously. It was a strong, intelligent face, taken three-quarter wise. The forehead was full, the eyes small, the nose large and thin. The neck was thick and tho ears prominent. The mouth and chin were concealed hy a beard and moustache, but Chester guessed that the concealed mouth would be large and thin-lipped, and the chin bony and protu-

berant.

" His hair and eyes were brown," Mrs. Thompson remarked.

" Yes," answered Chester," " I supposed so. He seems a man ol! middle age from this portrait."

"Aye," said Mrs? Thompson, "about 40 years old, or a year or two more, I think."

" Were there any other peculiarities that

one would notice about bim ?" asked

Chester.

" Not as I know of," auswered Mrs. Thompson. His 'ands (though a Londoner she seldom dropped her aspirates) was long and strong. It made me queer to look at

them." , ,

" What build was he ?" asked Chester. f. " Oh, he were a sightly-looking mari enough, about middle height, and strongly built, not fleshy, but broad, and with a slighjt stoop in Iiis neck from bending over his

work."

" Did you know anything of his habits, Mrs. Thompson ? Did he drink or gamble, or anything like that ?" Chester inquired.

" He didn't drink as I know of, but he used to stop out very late at night, and it puzzled me what he did with his money. Sometimes ho used not to have a bit of jewellery about him, and the next week he'd be wearing a watch and chain and two or three diamond rings and a. rub}- scarf pin. I often thought he must gamble."

"Very likely," said Chester. "That's a pursuit that brings a good many ups and downs to a man's pocket."

As he spoke he arose to leave, delighted with Mrs. Thompson's ready communica- tiveness and intelligence.

" Has he killed anybody, sir ?"

The question so quietly put startled Chester. He looked at Mrs. Thompson with a question in his face.

" Oh, I know, sir, that no stranger would take such an interest in another, and ask such questions, unless there was something important concerned," she said, with the shade of a smile. " From the first I thought you was a detective."

" Ah, well," said Chester, " I can't be much of a detective to show my hand so easily. But with you I don't think it mat- ters, as you would, I am sure, rather assist justice than defeat it."

" That I would, sir," said Mrs. Thompson, promptly.

" Well, you have asked me a question which I myself am trying to answer. A cruel murder has been committed which I suspect

this Mr. Johnson has had a hand in. I would ask you to say nothing to other per- sons about my inquiries, and if you hear of Johnson I would be obliged if you would call or send to this address at once." And Chester wrote his address upon a leaf of Iiis notebook, which he tore out and handed to Mrs. Thompson.

" I'll do what you require, sir," the woman replied.

" I may tell you that I'm not a detective by profession," said Chester, as he observed her eyes opening at the name of the swell club he had written down. " I am acting as one in this case for several reasons,-which it is not necessary that I should mention."

As Chester was about to move towards

the door the clatter of light feet was heard on the pavement without, stopping at the door, and at least two $mall boots were ap- plied vigorously as knockers.

" The children," cried Mrs. Thompson, at once opening the door.

A little boy and girl entered, and Mrs. Thompson, with a mother's pride, presented

them to Chester.

"These are mine," she said-"Johnny and Susie."

Chester shook hands with them, with a few kind words, and then presented his hand to the mother, saying-.

" I cannot tell you how much I thank you for your information."

" Oh, don't mention it, sir," said the good woman, who felt this genuine' thanks quite sufficient reward. Nevertheless, Chester had

left a £5 note in each of the children's right j

hand. 1

" It's worth that," he said to himself as he walked homeward ; " but what a fool I am ¿is a detective. That woman dropped'to f me like a shot. Supposing she'd a friendly feeling or affection for Johnson, why, tho whole business would have been exploded, and all through my own blundering. How- ever, all's well that ends well. I have an idea that Mr. Johnson will turn up one of these days at the widow's. We'll see."