« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
once how the land lay.
surely the spoil was worth some risk. Jack-in-office had all the failings which Besides, how could he suppose that I are apt to beset men who are placed had discovered them. A less careful too early above the heads of their fel. person would never have opened the lows. I determined that I would as- cases at all. He would have closed the sert myself.
bag at once on finding that it was not "I have brought the case to you,” I his own." said at the end of the story. “May I ask “Quite so," said the officer again, what you intend to do? Perhaps it may looking at me with an expression which be just as well to mention that the time I could not, at the time, understand. for consideration is limited."
"Some men would have done that! And He was evidently surprised, but took this brings me to another question, Mr. no notice of the sarcasm. The look he Crossley: Are you at all familiar with gave me was one of sharp attention. diamonds ?" Then he replied:
“I hope," I said, “that I can, at least, "It is a very remarkable affair, Mr. distinguish between the genuine stone Crossley, and I admire the way in and the false." which you have thought it out. But "Very few people can," said the Chief the case presents one or two weak Constable, tapping his desk with his points."
pencil-case. “Of course!” I said, quite politely. This was too much. It was quite Again he gave me a sharp glance. plain that this man would see no rea
“Mind," he went on, “I am not dis- son in any views but his own. I had puting your conclusions, but it may be often heard of the contempt of an arjust as well to look at things closely." rogant police for the efforts of private
I had already looked at them closely; detectives, and here was case in but I did not take advantage of his point. I stood up and looked at my pause to say so. I began to fee! curious watch. as to how far the man's oficialism "Sir," I said, firmly, “I have seen the would take him.
Lenstoi Diamonds, and I have told you “In the first place,” he continued, what I require in order to secure them. “this report in the Echo.
Are you prepared to assist me or are not have noticed that it is built upon a
you not?" hasty Press Intelligence telegram, and This was effective. The man looked that the whole story is founded upon into my face and saw that I was rean alarm raised by a servant-girl in her solved to have no more. He rose from mistress's absence."
his chair smiling curiously. "I have noticed all that," I answered, "I am certainly prepared to assist quietly. "But it seems to me that you you," he answered, with quite a change forget one point of some importance; of front. “But I thought it might be as the facts of the telegram have been well to look at the matter from every confirmed by my own adventure. I point first. As it is, I will come with have seen the jewels, my dear sir." you myself. Please excuse me while I
“Quite so, Mr. Crossley, quite so. But get my coat. There is really plenty of that is another point to which I was time." just coming. If those diamonds were He opened another door and left the really stolen jewels, do you think that room. In a very short time he returned the man would have dared to return coated and capped plainly and unoffifor the bag?"
cially. I had told my cab-driver to "But he did return," I cried; "and wait, so the vehicle was still at the
door. As we entered it I directed him to drive at once
to the railway station.
For a few moments we did not utter a word. For myself, I was too greatly perturbed by the passage-at-arms which had just taken place to desire any further conversation. After a while, however, my companion spoke:
"There are one or two other points, Mr. Crossley, which we might have discussed. Perhaps, however, you would prefer to leave them over until afterwards ?"
“Decidedly," I said. “We have no time to discuss them now. As it is, we are late enough, and if we lose the train you will know where to fix the responsibility."
That answer silenced him. When it had been uttered I turned my thoughts to the case, looking it over point by point. The probable outcome of the adventure also presented itself to me in no unpleasant colors. There would be, no doubt, a great deal of publicity; and though I do not yearn for notice of this kind, I am yet old enough to know that it has its benefits. There would also, in all likelihood, be a substantial recompense in other ways for the time and trouble I was now expend. ing.
We drew up at the station gates. “Now," I said, "we must see the booking-clerk. He may be able to give us some information."
“Very good, sir," said the officer; and in a moment or two we were within the booking-office. The clerk was a young fellow, now apparently rather sleepy, and also somewhat alarmed at our visit.
"This gentleman," said the Chief Constable, “wishes to obtain a little information from you.-Now, Mr. Cross. ley."
The man was evidently piqued, and intended to help me as little as he dared. This, however, suited me very
well, and I immediately turned to the clerk.
"Did you issue the tickets for the eight-forty-five local?" I asked. "I mean the train which runs no farther than Hinton Junction ?".
“The eight-forty-five local? Yes, sir."
"Then did you notice one of the pas. sengers in particular? He was a man carrying a brown-leather travelling-bag of medium size."
The clerk gave a look of intelligence. “A rather stout man?” he asked, slowly.
“Yes, rather stout."
“A red-faced man with a fair beard? He had a large brown hat on?"
“Yes, yes! You have his description exactly."
"He was a commercial traveller," said the clerk.
"Indeed!" I asked, smiling. "How do you know that?"
He did not exactly know how he knew it.
"Oh," he answered, lamely, “I see so many of them that I get to know their cut. He was exactly like one, at any rate."
The disguise had evidently effected its purpose in this case; but all this was beside the point. “He certainly looked like a commercial,” I said, coldly; "but that is not the main question. What station did this person take a ticket for?”
The answer was surprising. “He did not take a ticket at all," said the clerk. "In fact, he did not, as far as I know, take the train at all. I only know the man because I happened to see him pass out of the station just before eight. He came up with the seven-fifty from Hinton Junction, and I haven't seen him since."
For a moment I was quite taken aback. Then I saw an explanation of the mystery.
“Would it not be quite possible," I inquired, "for this person to take a
ticket, and the train, without your no- “Business, Mr. Wade?” he asked. ticing him ?"
"You're travelling late." "Certainly, sir. He could have ob- “Yes," answered the officer. tained his ticket through some one else; "Something up in Hinton, I suppose ? and, even if he had come himself, I Anything special?”' might not have recognized him through There was a brief pause. Then the the window."
officer answered, quietly: This clerk was plainly a stupid fel- "Nothing much. It's a kind of picnic, low, who could only think of just one I fancy." thing at a time.
He spoke in such a level tone that I "That, of course, is the very point," could not tell whether the remark was I said, impatiently. “Now, can you an intentional impertinence to me or tell me what tickets were taken by the only an evasion of the question which eight-forty-five?"
had been asked. I had no chance to He was able to furnish this informa consider, because just then the train tion at once. Three tickets had been came rushing in, some five minutes taken for Lepping, an intermediate after her time. A group of waiting station, and five for Hinton Junction. passengers emerged from various There were no others. And I knew rooms and began to take their seats. that Ashdon's must have been one of We chose our own in an empty comthe five.
partment of a second-class carriage. I "Thank you," I said; "that will do did not anticipate a pleasant journey very well;” and with that we passed with such a companion as I had; but out of the office.
there was no help for it. The train was just being signalled, so At the last moment when the train there was still time. “The next thing," was on the point of starting, a man I said, hurriedly, "is to make things came rushing on to the platform and ready at Hinton Junction. It would be made straight for the nearest comiwell to bave a couple of men on the partment. In fact, there was no time platform."
for him to choose a place, even if he The Chief gave an almost impercep- had wished to do so; but the nearest tible shrug of the shoulders; but his compartment happened to be the one answer was satisfactory enough. "Very which we had selected for ourselves. well," he said. “How many shall we At the instant of his appearance that require?”
door of the booking-office marked "Pri. "Two ought to be sufficient; and they vate,” facing the platform, was hurought to be in plain clothes, so that riedly opened, and the clerk appeared they may not alarm our quarry too on the threshold. He looked over tosoon."
wards the train with visible excitement We hastened down towards the tele- in his face; but that was all we saw graph office. I remained outside while of him. After that glimpse we required my companion despatched the neces- all our attention for the new-comer. sary message. It happened that one of He was a stout, blonde-bearded man, the station officials was standing in and he threw open the door of the comthe office at the time, and I could not partment with a rush and commotion help catching the words of a brief con- that were entirely unpleasant. A porversation between him and the Chief ter helped him in, and slammed the Constable just after the message had door upon his heels. In his right hand been sent. The official was evidently he bore a brown-leather travelling-bag, curious,
and his first act was to pitch this into
the rack. Then he sat down, breathing One glance at that face was enough bard, took off his hat, and began to for me. This was Messrs. Fillottsons's rub his glowing face with a large representative! handkerchief.
W. E. Cule.
(To be concluded.)
Morocco is the never-never land of printed news-sheets just delivered by Africa. Captious readers of the war the fleet-footed rekass—a shrivelled news may, in their comfortable zeal, stripling of Sus, who walked the two think the term applicable to other re- hundred miles from the coast for a gions of that continent, but Morocco is couple of dollars—he is even now readthe true land of rest, the country of to ing, with a feeling of contempt and morrow, whence are banished by She- wonder for the littleness of it all, the reefian decree and national inclination disasters on steamer track and rail. all the discomforts attending ambition, road, the bickerings of rival diplomaprogress and punctuality. Here, dis- tists, the reprisals of rival armies, the gusted with the haste of a hurrying winning of a race, the coming of age world, sick of the obligations and ex- of a princeling, the centenary of a actions of a pretentious civilization poet, the divorce of an actress. What more tyrannous than the slavery of the on earth do all these episodes of the East, the pilgrim on life's toilsome civilized life signify to one breathing journey may rest as a storm-tossed the atmosphere of Bible days, battling vessel in a mangrove swamp-rest and with mosquitoes and sun-rays, lost in a rust and be thankful for the chance white crowd of worshippers of a creed rest and rust and contemplate his dig- that scorns innovation as it scorns nified, white-robed, yellow-slippered women? Having, with a wet towel in fellows resting and rusting, untroubled lieu of white flag, patched up a truce with the fretting of a world wherein with the sand-flies and mosquitoes, he Christians cut one another's throat that muses peacefully on the beauties of they may liquidate wholly imaginary the Moorish life, and the music of wachances of a pavilion in Paradise. ter plashing from a marble basin on
In his Moorish garden, hammocked the cool mosaic pavement below is between two overladen orange-trees, soothing to him in this mood. inhaling the fragrance of lime and The rhythmic droning of laborers at lilac, shaded from the fiery enemy work on a neighboring building is overhead by the cool verdure of nul powerless to disturb his reverie, but an berry, fig and pomegranate, the wan- undeniable interruption comes at last derer may here realize the true art of in the form of a knocking at the outer living, with no regret for the past, no gate. Up jumps the squatting blueunrest about the future. Or, rather, breeched soldier from his form beneath he might do so, were it not for that ac- the pomegranate-tree, testifying in his cursed leavening of Saxon restlessness drowsy awakening to the perfection of in his blue veins, that element of the the one God, and flings open the gates; machine that spoils the man. In the then hurls maledictions-and would fain shut the portals too-in the wide-there enters one of those prive bearded face of a miserable old Jew, ileged creatures of Eastern commuwho would seek the protection of the nities, half-nude, half-witted, holy and powerful caballero inglés. That unbe- proportionately impudent, who have as liever, welcoming any distraction from good a time of it on earth as ever they his somewhat protracted spell of dolce can hope for hereafter. He will presfar niente, into a proper Eastern love ently, when the soldiers and servants of which he cannot deceive himself, have duly touched with their fingers bids the janitor admit the gabardined the one faded rag that girds his sacred mendicant, and, with the aid of his in- loins, sit in a corner and drink tea terpreter, makes out a tale of sordid with the company, unrebuked, even repenury and rank oppression. And he warded when his time comes to go. A presently sends the son of Shem away picturesque feature of the Eastern life smiling with a morsel of his abun- is this beggar sherif,' who condescends dance, carrying his black slippers be- to take tea and alms with the air of a neath the arm, as prescribed for the prince-bishop. Well is it for him that dogs of his race in that city of the fol- in such communities charity is still a lowers of the Prophet, and with the virtue for its own sake, not an adverfirm assurance that the next of his ac- tisement, and alms pass furtively from cursed tribe to visit the garden will hand to hand, with no published lists get no flu88," but a generous dose of the in order of amount tendered. bastinado to warm his uncleanly feet. And now the green tea goes round, This injunction to secrecy is a wholly brewed in a metal pot, with stalks of gratuitous postscript on the part of the mint and cubes of beetroot sugar-a interpreter, who, being a high-bred Sy. sickly concoction in truth, yet preferrian, likes not such scum in the able to the spiced coffee that is the garden. Away shuffles the successful only alternative in a land where the applicant, with an unnoticed salaama sons of men appreciate neither alcohol to the stolid foot-soldier at the gate; nor cold drinks of any sort, and the and doubtless, once outside, spits in daughters of men lend not the grace of his beard with scorn of the ease with their presence to the festive board. which the dog of a Nazarene is duped, Quantity, however, makes up for qual. and with much wistful speculation of ity, and the tiny cups are replenished the wealth he quickly would accumu- a dozen times ere the wealthier visitor late for black-eyed Rachel and her has paid his last compliment and curly-headed litter, if only he could so- glanced longingly at his drowsy mule journ awhile in the great Northern that has just abandoned its third atcities, in that fruitful (and, he thinks, tempt to bite the near leg of the soldier unexploited) Bernsara,” where nest slumbering just out of reach. And many pigeons well worth the pluck- with him the saintly visitor, gathering ing.
up his rag and clasping his alms, glides of another stamp, as evidenced at a away, assuring his host that he may, distance by the obsequious mien of the at his special intercession, perhaps doorkeeper, is the next comer, a hand- have the top attic of a pavilion in Parsome and haughty Moslem, his mule adise, and that his reward will thus be stepping quickly with head reined great, though the price paid was misback, his gelabia® of rich silky material. erable (in other words, he must not With him—the gates being thrown
3 A white outer garment reaching below the 1 Flues are small copper coins.
waist. 3 'Land of the Nazarene,' L e. Europe.
* A descendant of the Propbet.