Chapter 63672659

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Chapter NumberVII
Chapter TitleColonel Dilke Raises the Wind.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63672659
Full Date1893-12-23
Page Number16
Corrections0
Word Count2893
IllustratedY
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleIllustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)
Trove TitleThe Story of a Jewelled Belt
article text

CHAPTER VII.

Colonel Dilke Raises1 the Wind.

When the returning- policeman found Chester stretched out upon the side walk he bent over him and flashed his bull's-eye lantern into his face.

"Another drunk, I, suppose," he mut- tered, but as he saw the white, set face, he .'exclaimed

"No, it's not. I believe he's dead. Anyhow," he ruminated, "I'd better take him to the 'orspital."

And going to the hotel he summoned a man and dispatched him for a cab.

In due time Chester was deposited at the hospital and subjected to medical exami-

nation.

The doctor felt his pulse, and lifted his eyelids.

" Humph ! concussion of the brain," he . said. " This man has been struck on the back of the head by a vehicle, or has re- ceived an unusually heavy fall. Hasn't . been drinking either."

An examination of Chester's pockets led to the discovery of his card case, and several . letters addressed to him, among others that . purporting to have come from Mrs. Thomp

son. In this way his identity was dis . covered, and his friends were communicated

with.

Por some time he lay unconscious, defying all the science of the hospital. He wavered long between life and death, but his constitution was strong, and he had youth on his side, and these together proved the masters of the sandbag.

In- a few days he was fit to be removed to his residence, a quiet suburban cottage in a street which rarely echoed to the bustle of traffic. There he lay for a week before the power of speech returned to him. The cruel stroke of the sandbag had temporarily para- lysed his brain ; but with the first clear thoughts that came to him with the song of the birds in the garden without came the assurance that the assault upon him had .some connection with his pursuit of John-

son.

It was evident that robbery could not have been the motive, for his gold watch, a. valu- able diamond ring, which Lord Dart had . once presented him, together with his dia . mond studs, had been left untouched. And,

so far as he knew, there was no living man

who had any interest in slaying him but the. murderer of Mr. Leigh, whom he was track- ing down.

But how had Johnson . learned of his connection with the case ? There was only one avenue through which this in- formation could have come to him, and this was the widow Thompson. Re- luctant as Chester was to admit such a con tin gen cy, yet everything pointed to the fact that the widow had deliberately betrayed him. In that case she must have deceived him as to her feelings for the man he was in pursuit of, and must really be in

league with Johnson.

There was, however, a chance that this might not be so. He could ascertain the woman's trustworthiness or otherwise by a personal interview with Mrs. Thompson. He determined to send for her. Of course, if she was in league with Johnson, she might refuse to come to him, and on the other hand, when she did come, she might still further deceive him as to her relations with the man. But he had undergone a bitter experience, and had armored himself in suspiciousness. He determined to put the woman through such a cross examination as would effectually elicit her

11 As he passed the rîght-of-way a figure stepped, out as swiftly as a leopard leaps. Chester

thought the sky had fallen on hiîn."

.snare of the responsibility in the murderous attack upon him.

The messenger he dispatched for Mrs. . Thompson returned within a couple of hours, accompanied by the widow,

As she entered the room and saw Chester reclining on his couch so weak and pale, the tears came into her eyes, and her sympathy was so evident as to completely dispel the harsh suspicion which he had begun to feel

towards her.

" Indeed, sir," she began, " I am sorry, to see you so bad. Oh ! what man could have been cruel enough to hurt another

so?" . ...

" Ah !" said Chester, " ray. good woman, there are in London, I suppose, thousands of men cruel enough to .do.it. As far as I know there is only one interested in doing it to me. You can guess who that man is, I suppose, Mrs. Thompson ?" and he looked searchingly at her.

She covered her face with her hands.

" What a villain that man must be," she murmured ; " and to think that he wanted to marry me, the brute !" . , ,

" Are you aware how I came to be struck down near your street ? " he asked.

" No, sir," she replied, looking inquiringly, into his eyes.

" Well, then, I was going to see you," he

said.

Mrs. Thompson made no remarle, hut waited expectantly.

" And," he continued, " I was going to see you because of this note ; " and he handed her the missive which had lured him into the clutches of his intended assassin.

Mrs. Thompson took it and scanned it blankly.

. " I never wrote this, sir," she said eagerly,

for I didn't hear a word since you were there the other day."

" That is strange, very strange," said Chester, musingly.

" Oh, wait, though," cried Mrs. Thompson, clasping her hands, as a sudden thought struck her and turned her pale.

Chester looked keenly at her.

" There was a man called the same night as you did, sir," Mrs. Thompson said, " and inquired if I knew where Johnson was to be found. I thought, to be sure, that he was a detective, and I told him much what I told you. And I told him, too, the more fool I, that you had been inquiring for him, and he

took up your address on the table and looked

at it..

" That explains things," said Chester, energetically. " That man must have been an accomplice of Johnson, and by what you told him they discovered that I was on his track and who I was. That fellow Johnson is a clever scoundrel and a desperate one. The blow he gave me was meant to kill. Curious that it didn't leave any mai'k. I wonder what he struck me with ?"

" I'm sure I couldn't tell you, sir," said Mrs. Thompson, evidently under the impres- sion that she was expected to explain the nature of the instrument in question.

" No, I suppose you cannot," said Chester, with a slight smile ; " but, by Jove," he added, " he hit me with the very same thing that he killed poor Leigh with. The blow was in exactly the saine place, and was just as much a mystery to the doctor here as in Melbourne. I'm afraid, now, after all, that I'll have to call in the police."

" That's just what I think you ought to do, sir.. A knock on the head to them, more or less," said Mrs. Thompson, " doesn't matter ; but it's a shame that a real gentle- man should go about and get neany killed

for doing their work. I'm sure I'd give it up if I was you, sir."

" And she looked so earnest that once again Chester could not avoid a smile.

"Well, I'll doit, Mrs. Thompson," he re- plied. " I'm not fit for this sort of work. I'm afraid. As you say knocks on J

head such as I have received don't suit :>;;... One thing the assault makes clear, howe vi

and that is that Johnson is in London. B .v.I he struck harder he might have got off s ooo free from a double murder.. The Scotia ! Yard men should be able to run him dov:' now from the information I can give the :.

unless he has already cleared off, which is not unlikely, for so cautious a scoundrel knows already that his attempt on my life has failed. In such a case he will have probably taken other measures to assure his

escape."

After a few more words Mrs. Thompson departed, and for the next week Chester was left free to recover his normal health and strength. Meanwhile he had taken no steps to put the affair of Mr. Leigh's murder in the hands of the police. One evening, just as he had sat down to write to the police authorities, his servant entered and informed him that " a trampish-looking fellow wanted to see him." This visitor had refused to state his business unless to

Chester himself.

. " Very well," said the latter, " show him

up."

When the servant left on his errand, Chester, rendered apprehensive by his recent experience that another attempt upon his life might be contemplated, opened a drawer on his table, and inserting his hand grasped the butt of a revolver lying within. Then

he waited.

Presently a slouching figure entered. A man apparently of 60 years of age, with bowed shoulders, clad in a tattered overcoat, and with his face covered in beard, Avhis leers, moustache, and shaggy, dull grey eye- brows. He had a lurchini>, slouching, uneasy gait, such as is seen only in the nocturnal ruffian of. the slums. Chester felt at once that the man was of bad character.

" I s'pose you're Mr. Chester,", he said, in a gruff voice, which seemed to come from the region of his boots.

" That is my name," said Chester, quietly, but with a keen eye upon the stranger's

every movement.

" Well," said this unprepossessing visitor, " I've got something to tell you, boss, as'H be worth some'at to you if so be as your'rc willing to part for thehinformation."

"Yes?" said Chester. " What is that, my

man ?"

" It's about that Johnson "cove," replied the man. " I know where you can lay your

'ands on him."

" Indeed !" observed Dick ; " and how did you know that I wanted to find John-

son ?" 1 .

The fellow shuffled uneasily.

" It's this way-" he began to explain, when Chester interrupted him.

" It's no use, my friend," he said, calmly, " trying to deceive me. You're disguised, and I'll trouble : you to take that disguise off, and let me see your real

face." .

The man started to his feet with the evident intention of making a bolt of it. But he stopped . suddenly, for he was looking down the polished barrel of Dick's

revolver.

" You see," explained Dick, "you'd better do as I tell you, for otherwise I shall be com- pelled to keep you here until my servant brings a policeman. I have some suspicion that a constable will know what to do with

you."

The fellow looked from the revolver to thf| gong on which Chester's finger rested, andi then at Dick's calm, determined face. I

" What does it matter to you," he saidf roughly, " who I am as long as you get thé . information you require ?"

As he asked this question he threw off . one of his diguiseb, that of his voice.

"Never mind that," replied Dick ; "you do as I desire. For one thing, you may he Mr. Johnson himself, and that is what I wish to see. So kindly take off those things."

A baffled look came into the man's face, but after a moment's reflection he obeyed

Chester's command.

" I'm not Johnson," he said, with a short laugh, " as you'll see." And in an instant the hair was pulled off his face and head, and the dissipated but still handsome fa^e of Colonel Dilke was revealed to Chester's watchful eyes.

" No, you're not Johnson," assented Ches

ter after a moment's scrutiny of his face ; « but, in any case, who are you ?"

" Well, I'm not anybody you know," re- plied the profligate. " But I've been a com- panion of Johnson's, and I've come to know

that be's wanted for something queer."

" And you want to sell your associate now," said Dick, sarcastically.

« Yes, I db," replied Dilke, boldly. " If there's any money in it the man's yours within 24 hours. I don't want to be mixed up with a desperado who," for all I know, may be wanted for murder."

" Don't make a matter of virtue of it," said Chester ; " that's disgusting. You want to make some money out of your friend's capture. Well, in the interest of justice, I'm willing to pay you something ; but, mark you, only after the capture of John-

son is effected."

Dilke observed, sulkily-" I thought you'd be willing to pay something down, or I wouldn't have come."

" Probably not," .replied Chester, " but you did come, and, as far as I am concerned, your money will be as safe then as now if your information proves correct. You sec, I was led into . one trap by

this clever ruffian, and I don't want

to fall' into another. By the way, I wouldn't wonder now if you were the identical individual who made certain inquiries about me at Mrs. Thompson's. Am I right ?" And Chester looked keenly at the

colonel. .,

The latter flushed and moved uneasily. "Well, I was," he replied ; " hut I didn't know that he was going to try to kill you. He's a desperate scoundrel," he said, with an expression of fear, "and would kill me like a hare if he knew that I had informed on him. That's why I came disguised-to deceive hint and not you, for he's got eyes

all over him."

" Well," said Chester, " when can your friend bc found?" *

"He's going to the Croydon races to

m o r r o AV,'? a. n s AV O r e cl Dilke., "and he'll be in his rooms from 7 till 10 to-morroAV .night. After that he goes to tho Casino but you'd better catch him at his rooms before 10 o'clock. Otherwise he may get away, for lie thinks of going to tlie Continent soon, and you -never know one day Avhat he's going to do the next. Ho's a close fellow, and trusts nobody."

" Not even you," said Chester saïcastically. " NOAV, Avhat do you . value these services of

of yours at-eh?" ,

" Wha t do you say to a hundred ?" inquired

Dilke.

" A hundred it shall be," returned Chester. " Provided Ave appre- hend him to morroAV night, you can have the money the next morning. Will that do

you?"

"Oh, nicely!" replied Dilke with alacrity, " but I don't wish my name to appear in

connection with the matter.

" I don't suppose anybody but the police would have any interest in that," responded Dick, " and ¿is ¿ar as I am concerned you are stile. Now you can put on your disguise and go, but recollect that this time I am not

going out alone. The police will accomyany

mc."

And he looked significantly at Dilke.

Tho latter donned his disguises, and re- tired without another word, assuming the same shambling gait ¿is he had worn when

he entered.

"That, a precious scoundrel," thought Chester, " but I think he may be depended upon this time,-only in hope ol: a re- ward. What a pretty fellowship the

brotherhood of scoundrclism is."

At this moment a cpiiolc, firm stop sounded in the hall, and, with a cheery laugh, Lord

Dart burst into tho room.

" Well, Dick, niy lad," he cried, " What's been the matter with you ? You look as if

you'd been sick."

Then a whole hour of explanation ensued, for Lord Dart had but just landed in Eng- land from tho antipodes, and had heard nothing further of Dick's detective enter- prise since he had left him in Melbourne.

As Dick explained the progress of his re

searches Dart could only sit and stare, with an occasional gasp or " By George !" punc- tuating his silent amazement.

When he had concluded his story Chester drew his pocket-book out, and observed with with a quizzical smile-'"I've won £10,000 already from your Lordship, and I have just a week in which to make it £20,000. To-morrow night we will arrest Johnson. Of course, I'll give you your own time to pay in. That bit of chaff of yours in Melbourne about my detective skill is likely to prove rather dear to you."

"By George, you're right!" said Dart, ruefully ; "but never mind. I'd rather lose the money to you than to anybody else. How strange that it should have been Marian Leigh's father that was murdered. By Jove ! how is Miss Leigh ? "

At this abrupt question Chester colored.

" She's very well," said Chester. " I'm

due to' call on her to-morrow."

Dart looked at him keenty, and, as ii satisfied, smiled softly, at which Dick colored once more. For aman of the world he was' quite bashful.