Chapter 63672658

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Chapter NumberVIII
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63672658
Full Date1893-12-23
Page Number17
Corrections0
Word Count3040
IllustratedY
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleIllustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)
Trove TitleThe Story of a Jewelled Belt
article text

CHAPTER VIII.

Mr. .1 olin son Fscnpes.

The next evening Johnson was sitting in

" When the policeman found Chester stretched out upon thejidèwalk he bent over him and flashed his bull's-eye lantern into his face"

an armchair in his {bedroom smoking. There were deep wrinkles about his piercing eyes, crow's feet at the corners, and singular crescent wrinkles following the arch of the eyebrows, giving a sug- gestion of Mephistophelian cunning and worry to the sharp, troubled face. For, undoubtedly, Johnson was in a state of anxiety, it! not of fear. He knew now that Chester was recovering, and that the mur- derous tour ch force by which he had endea-

vored to break the chain that Chester was weaving about him had failed. Had he acted with his ordinary decision he would have long before this been in comparative* safety, with the sea between him and his pur- suer ; but he had lingered on indecisively, as a moth circles around a light which will shrivel it in return for its servility and homage. There are people who seek to ex- plain the fatuousness of the murderer in this way, but a rational and comprehensive ex- planation to ht all cases has never been evolved. The robber flies with his spoil. The criminal of lesser grade than the murderer seeks safety at the first note of danger. Only the arch-offender who has dipped sacrilegious hands in the fountain of life, who has violated the temple of humanity, lingers about his old haunts, armored in a carlessness which is like

paralysis. Johnson, whose fear and rage had been violent enough a few days back to

have led him to attempt Chester's life, was now awaiting developments--anxious and perturbed enough, but, in view of the gravity of the danger which threatened him, strangely indifferent!

He was an intelligent man, and might have done good service to his generation under, other circumstances if he had not become what he was, and if what had happened had ne ver happened, and, in fine, if the Fates had chosen to spin the thrëads of his life into an altogether different tex- ture, which they didn't and couldn't have done, and so there's an end of it.

Johnson just at present was waiting for Dilke. He was far from trusting that polished scoundrel, but he relied upon the colonel's ignorance of his crime. His own intelligence would have led him to have suspected Dilke of crime had their positions being reversed, but he did not give the colonel credit for the penetra- tion which the blackleg had displayed, and already turned to account by betraying him. This was not because he thought Dilke stupid, He knew him as' a consummate sharper, and a man without acute intelli- gence caii never succeed in this profession, His fault in Dilke's inability to see througl his guilt was only another instance of thal

fatal security in which he was reposing.

As he waited steps sounded upon the stairs leading to his flat. There were more than one person ascending-two or three.

Even now he did not take alarm.

" Dilke's brought friends," was his men-

tal comment.

Somebody knocked at the door,

" Come in," said Johnson, without rising

from his chair.

At this invitation the door opened. Chester entered irrst, then Lord Dart, and at the heels of the latter was a quiet-looking man with that official air accompanying his quiet- ness which the ordinary man never notices, but which the criminal sees almost with the instinct by which the startled deer scents the lurking beast of prey whose odor

comes to it down the wind.

Still he made no move. But over his face

flitted an expreseion of despair. He kiiew

that the end had come.

It was Chester that spoke.

" You're name is Johnson ?" Johnson nodded.

" There's your man, officer," said Chester.

The detective advanced with a pair of

handcuffs. Johnson waved him back.

i' There's no occasion for those things," he sa^d.

. "i've got a cab round the corner," said the detective, in his quiet way, " and we can drive there without any fuss."

It was a delicate way of putting it, but for all that Johnson shuddered slightly.

After a short pause he inquired, "What

am I accused of ?"

" You're charged with the murder abd robbery of Richard Leigh, in Melbourne," responded the officer.

" Who charges me with murder?" John-

son asked.

" Well," said the detective, " Mr. Chester here does, but we've taken, the case over now, and we charge you."

" Well," said Johnson, calmly, " I intend to save you a good deal of trouble. I did murder the old man. You know," he went on, with a brutal coolness that aroused a feeling of disgust in Chester and made Dart's sanguine cheeks pale, " I'd been working for 30ye¿rs, boy and man, and at the end was no nearer wealth or even independence than when I started. And then I had expensive tastes. You can't imagine, gentlemen," he said, turning his sharp eyes on Chester and his friend, " what it meant to be dabbling up to my elbows every day in gems and gold, and yet to have to let it all go to gay young s wells and scented ladies, and db the best I could for the gratification of my tastes on

the few pounds I drew every Saturday. I , could have taken away in one hand enough wealth to have set me up for life any day, and more than once I was inclined to do so, only that I knew that

detection and arrest would overtake me before I had even tasted the flavor of

champagne. So I waited. Then this old fool came along, and I saw at once that he was mad. When I rivetted the belt on him and he left, I tracked him to the Orient Companv's office, and saw him take a berth

for Melbourne. I threw up my billet at Fink's, and went out in the same boat in thc steer-

age, and watched him till I got an opportu- nity to put him'out of the way and get his belt. < What good,' he asked, cynically, ' was

wealth to him ?' He had tasted all the

pleasures of life, and his palate for what wealth can give had perished. Mine was tingling with desire. Wine, gambling, caids, horses, dice, glorious things I had never known, beckoned me on, and I followed their invitations. Well, I got the belt, and I've had a good time since -" here he yawned.

" You're a clever fellow," he said,addres- sing Chester, " but you had a narrow escape. How would it have

been if I had killed you the other night ?"

"In that . case," xe plied Chester, " I think your chances of es- cape would have been

exceedingly good."

" Oh, never fear," put in the detective, " we'd have got you at last for something or

another. The criminal doesn't stop at one

crime."

" Bah !" said Johnson, contemptuously, " you ordinary police would never have been a match for me. Scores of crimes are com- mitted every day in London under your very noses that you never hear of."

The detective looked nettled at this speech, and rattled his handcuffs im- patiently.

" What did you do it with ?" inquired Chester, curiously.

" It's an old trick," he replied. " I hit bini with a sandbag, and the same thing would have finished you if your skull hadn't

been so thick."

"Ah," said Chester, almost pleasantly, " you will hud the rope less likely to err,"

'f Perhaps." said Johnson, coolly, rising as he spoke, and moving towards a chest of

drawers.

Thé detective was by his side imme- diately, .

" No tricks, Johnson," he said, sternly.

"Oh! you needn't fear," the prisoner said, with a laugh. " About half the stones from the belt are here." As he spoke he dipped his hand into one of the drawers and drew out a leather pouch. " There they are," he said, as he handed it to the detective.

The officer took the bulky purse, and put it in his pocket.

" You'll, admit," Johnson went on, " that I've saved you some trouble - by my

confession."

The detective nodded.

" Well," proceeded Johnson, " I'll save you and the hangman some more," and with a swift action he put something that looked like a pill into his mouth. The detective seized his wrist, but a sound as though he had cracked a nut between his teeth was heard, and with a ghastly attempt at a smile, Johnson swayed and fell. Immedia- tely his face became rigid with the lines of death. The detective bent over him, and looked at his lips.

" Prussic acid," he said. " He's escaped us after all. I'll attend to the rest, gentle- men, you needn't stay." The officer was evidently chagrined. .

Next morning Lord Dart and Chester were seated cosily in the club in which it was their custom to spend a good deal of their time while in London. On the little marble-topped table standing before them

" A sound as though he had cracked a mit between his teeth was heard, ond, with a ghastly

attempt at a smile, Johnson swayed and .fell!: ' . *

was a box of prime Ilavahnahs (Dart was on tbe selection committee . of tho club), whose brown, ripe colors suggested endless journeyings in the lotos-land of smokers. Besides this, a slender bottle of golden Gascon wine - Dart's favorite tipple - oscillated through its last disturbance. Chester, whose face was at times hidden in the white wreathing mists, was talking, while Dart took his cigar from his mouth to laugh long and loudly at his friends remarks.

" Yes ! one of the best jokes I have heard for a very long time," said Chester.

" It is so ; but have you the message with you ?" asked Lord Dart.

" I have it here. Listen," and he read as

follows :

Criminal Investigation Department,

,- ^...... Melbou rne. To Bicliam Chester,

London.

We have this day arrested Peter Newton

for murder of man whose body you in- spected in morgue. Will wire fuller later

on.

"There," said Chester, as he threw the paper on the table, what do you think of

that ?"

" It's decidedly aich, and worthy of the re- putation which the colonial police have made for themselves. I suppose that by this time they are complimenting themselves in the press on their marvellous sagacity."

" Yes," said Chester, with a laugh ; " and, by Jove, how must the sulky Bacchus of Lonsdale-street--the painfully obliging Peter Newton-feel? I'll wager that he holds me responsible for his arrest, and is furious at his own simplicity. . How he must curse

me !"

And Chester roared again till the Gascon wine danced in the slender glasses. He was in a good humor that morning.

" It's all very well for you to laugh," in- terrupted Dart, himself smiling, " but how about poor old sulky Peter?"

" Oh, he's all.right, Ned. I'm just going to send a statement of the case down to

. Scotland Yard, and a word from such a quarter as that will soon set the publican at liberty." "' /

"Well, Dicki" remarked his friend, " don't you think you'd better start right ahead, for you see, as the suffering frog once observed j- that what's merely, fun to you is ; death to the other party. Ilére, waiter, pens,

ink and paper at once." ; i

The necessary materials having been brought, .Chester scratched away for a few minutes, then, enclosing what he had written in an envelope, he handed it over to the waiter with an impressive instruction to lose no time in delivering it at Scotland

Yard.

" And now take these things away," he said, pointing with his cigar to the writing

materials.

"Wait one moment, Dick, there's one thing more in connection with this affair that must be finished straight off," and as

lie spoke Lord Dart seized a pen and'busied himself in writing for a few seconds.

" There !" he exclaimed, throwmgthe pen down, and handing a slip of paper to Dick.

It was a cheque on the Bank of England calling upon it to pay one Richard Chester the sum of £20,000. Dick read it, and, folding it neatly, put it away. Then he grasped Lord Dart's hand.

" I wish I'd won it frnm anyone else hut you, Ned," he said.

" I'm very glad nobody else won it but you, Dick j and, needless to say, I learnt one very valuable lesson by my trip to the Antipodes. It is this : Whenever Lord Dart feels inclined to underrate anyone's assertions, I'll just say to him, ' Look here, Ned, doubt away if you please, but don't be such a double-barrelled fool as to wager that even the last and most unlikely thing in the world may not happen.' And again, there's another valuable acquisition I have made in connection with this case, and that is that I have a new yarn, yes, a brand new unprecedented yarn, to tell in the drawing rooms. I suppose that by virtue of it I will be a regular lion for the next few weeks. So you see, old boy, the

investment of that £20,000 was not air, . altogether unprofitable, concern-it "wasn't

thrown àwày." ' -

"Well, it wasn't so utterly barren, after all," assented Dick ; " but there's no ques- tion about its profitableness to me." ,

"In more ways than one," added Lord Dart significantly.;

" That just reminds me," he said, rising from the table. "I have an appointment with Miss Leigh." And, with an airy farewell, he departed.

As Chester left Dart remarked to himself, " I often wanted to do Dick a good turn, but he was so deuced proud he would never let me help himv Now that I have done it I feel considerably better."

Decidedly few men could have lost a for- tune of £20,000 with better grace than the cheery peer. ':

A half an hour afterwards Marian Leigh and Chester were engaged in earnest conversa- tion. On a table before them rippled and sparkled a heap of gems. The bright light streamed through the open window with the fair freshness of spring, and lit up the room, the gems, and the.lady's eyes, which had found light in their own as they rested

on Chester's face.

" So it is true, Mr. Chester," said Marian, sadly. " And I Was rightly informed."

" Yes, I am certain he is dead."

"Oh, my poor father-my poor father! Dying in that far away land, with, perhaps,

no one beside him."

" Dear Miss Leigh," said Chester, sym- pathetically, " let me remind you that even the worst news, providing it is certainty, is hotter than the suspense which your lin- gering doubt as to your father's fate would have kept you in."

" But, Mr. Chester, of what did my father die ? ' " :??:..[

And Marian looked at him inquiringly through a midst of tears.

" That I cannot tell you," said Dick, choking down- his scruples. " He was lodging at a little publichouse in Melbourne. ,Tlie police-did not know what the cauee of death was, and the doctor who was called in to examine the body was at a" similar loss. But enough of this for the present, Miss Leigh," he concluded kindly.

" My poor, harmless father," she cried ; " he was my best and only friend."

Chester took her hand in his, " WiH yoii let one who loves you no less than he did fill his place," he whispered, tenderly.

Marian blushed, and turned her face

away.

"Miss Leigh-Marian !" he went on, " listen to mc. I love you more than ' I can say, and I think I can make yoii happy. I am willing to try if you will give me the right. I would willingly die for three words from you. Oh, do not refuse to say

them."

Was this, indeed, the cool, self-repressed Chester ? Marian turned her bright eyes upon him. The tears had all gone.

" What are they ?" she said with candour, though the rosy tint was still in her cheeks.

" I love you !"

" I love you !" she repeated.

Lord Uart would have been delighted at the manner in which the lovers looked at each, other.

After a time Chester said, " W'hat will you do with these gems, Marian ?"

" Shall I have them set and wear them at my wedding ?" "'*

" No, dear," answered Chester, for to him

-wno knew the scenes through which they had passed-the idea was repulsive.

" Would it not he better, seeing what a trouble they have been associated with, to sell them or put them away for ever ?"

" Just as you please, Dick," said

Marian.

And so Chester evaded the necessity of telling Marian the true story of her father's death, and rid her and himself ot the glittering things which had been bap-

tised in blood.

* * * * ; I One more scene. As Chester and Marian, now Marian Chester, stepped into the car- riage which was to take them to the Dover Mail, Lord Dart came and shook hands with

them.

" Good-bye, Dick, old man," said he, " and a long and happy life to you both."

"Good-bye, my lord," said Marian, sweetly, " and I hope that before long you will have some one to take Dick's place."

Lord Dart smiled ; but when then" happy faces had disappeared it seemed to him as though the skies had suddenly clouded and the sunlight grown cold.

" Take Dick's place," he repeated. " Y if Dick hadn't wanted her himself."