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THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 114, 17 June 1880
THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
A CLOSE SHAYE. CHAPTER IV. “ An Inglis desire to speak to gentlemen,” said the waiter, as he put a bottle of wine on our table after dinner. “ Who the deuce can it be 1 Show him in ” said John ; and there came in an Englishman in a suit of grey tweed, remarkably like one of the men in the passport-office on the quay. “ Beg pardon, gentlemen, for interrupting you, but I must ask you one or two questions. I am J*ohn ITudson, of the detective police, London, said the stranger, introducing himself. “ What do you want with us; I suppose you know who w r e are?” asked John, the least bit nervously ; for his caution, outraged in the morning was taking its revenge. “ I know you both very well, gentlemen, and that is the reason why I have come to see you ” said the man quite civilly. “I thought that knowing -who you were, it was rather strange to see you in such strange company this morning.” “ What do you mean, man ? ” I asked “Just this, sir. The woman with whom you passed through ihe Customs this morning is an associate of some of the knowingest thieves in London, and I’ve every reason to think she’s to do with the party who’s causing me to watch the port of Boulogne.” “ indeed,” said John, “ she seemed ■well-behaved and respectable enough. My friend here and I have never set eyes on her till we saw her on the c’earner,” “I’ve seen her lots of times. I dare say she asked you to carry ker bag for her. ” “She did,” said John, surprised and also rather annoyed. “ Of course she did. Bless you, she saw me on the quay, and didn’t want no questions asked. If it hadn’t been for making a row, which we all know, gentlemen, is not pleasant, I should have insisted on that hag being looked at. I reckon there was plunder enough in it. I knew her little game.” “ Are you looking for any one here ? ” said John. “lam so. A man as has escaped from servitude, by name William Fother.” “ William Fother ! ” we exclaimed both, John Lloyd adding heartily “ confound William Fother.” And then ensued an explanatory conversation, in the course of which the detective gave us some excellent advice about “ taking up with unprotected females,” and drew from us a willing promise that we -would communicate with him in event of our seeing again the remarkable woman, whom John Lloyd had befriended. “ She used to pass for the wife of this very Fother,” said the detective, rising to go. “ I thought it my duty to warn you against her. Good night, gentlemen.” ‘ ‘ Good-night,” we answered, and we puffed through two pipes each before either of us said more. chapter v. “Humbug! You’re as nervous as a hare,” I said to John Lloyd, in answer to his oft-repeated assertion during the time of our brief sojourn in Paris, that he had seen the strange woman dogging us at various public places. “ It’s no humbug. I could swear I saw her only this afternoon, watching us as we walked back to the hotel down the Rue Montmartre. ” “Much good may it do her. What is it to us whether she watches her head off? We’ve just time for a cigar, and then off to the opera.” The opera was the “Pardon de Ploermel.” We stayed to the end, and as we descended the outer staircase on our way from the house, John nudged me, and looking in the direction where his eyes were fixed, I saw, sure enough, our fellow passenger from Folkestone. She was alone, and was just coming out of the lobby leading to the gallery, when we saw her. She placed herself on one side of the crush-room, and seemed to be waiting for some one. We passed a few feet in front of her ; and as we did so, the woman quitted her station and followed us out. At the corner of a street she came up with ns, and touching John Lloyd on the shoulder, said—- “ I wish particularly to speak to you. I am the person,” she added, “ to whom you showed kindness on board the Folkstone boat, and whose bag you so obligingly passed through the Custom House. It was a great service you did me—l should like to repay it; besides, I have taken a fancy to you. ” John, to whom all this was addressed, bowed his acknowledgments of the compliments contained in the last sentence, and requested to be informed what it was the woman had to say to him. “ I will tell you,” she said. “ You had better leave Paris directly. There is a man in it who has sworn to take your life. He knows you are here, and, I think, knows your address. Leave Paris at once, both of you. 1 have had great difficulty in getting to speak with you. ” “Pleasant”, by Jove! Who’s my friend ? ” said John. “The escaped convict, William Fother. ” “ Fother again ! Confound the fellow. How do you know anything about him 1 ” “ I am his wife,” said the woman. “ 1 helped him to escape; 1 secured the plunder for which he was sentenced. I brought it over from England in my black bag—y ol j know the black bag,” she said archly, “ so you see that I know something of William ; and I know for certain that h© will kill you if ho can, for getting him condemned. Do not neglect this warning. I would not have him commit that sin, nor would I have you the victim of it. Good-bye.” Mrs. Fother was gone, while we stood wondering at what she had told us. We then walked back to our hotel, and smoked several pipes in John's locked and barricaded bedroom, and discussed the .singular, not to say unpleasant predicament, in which we found ourselves. John objected strongly to my suggestion that he should have himself described anew in his passport as “ Convicts’ flight porter : ” he also rejected as absurd the notion that Mrs. Fother had fallen in love with him, and had, therefore, been at the risk and trouble of coming to warn hiirP of his danger. At first he poqhppofied the matter ; but the information •“givefbto us by the detective at Boulogne confirmed the woman’s tale as a likely'ofie ; then it was proposed to go to the'French police, to communicate with our friend the detective at Boulogne, to write to the newspapers. Eventually it was resolved that we would leave Paris on the following day, visit Normandy for a fortnight, and then return to Paris with the idea of seeing something more or something less of the convict’s wife. If we should return, we resolved it should be in company with Mr. John Hudson of London, detective officer, now stationed at Boulogne. CHAPTER VI. “ I am just going to the barber’s round the corner, to have this hair shaved oft,” said John (who had grown a moustache since his emancipation from wig and gown) as he presented himself at my bedside the morning after we had decided to “ All right. I’ll follow you presently, I want my heard trimmed too. But you’re plaguy early. Suppose you couldn’t sleep because of the convict and his bride. Glad to see you with a complete throat this morning, old man. Keep a whole skin till we quit this city of doom,” I said jokingly, for it must be allowed that I was a disbeliever in the danger that was scaring us away, ;
and I was anxious to make a convert of John Lloyd as well. The hair-dresser to whom John went lived in the Rue do la Guerre, which was close to our hotel. The shop was a very small one, having just enough accomodation for the barber and the harbored, and for two persons besides. A glass door opened into a narrow passage which led to the interior of the house. There was a large mirror in front of the chair used by customers, a wash-stand, some pegs for hats, and a small bench for people who might be waiting. The glass door towards the street was hung with a curtain to prevent people prying in. Alphonse Gras, well-known all over Paris as a skilful, civil, and amusing fellow, was the proprietor of the shop, and so great was his fame as an instructor in the art of hair-dressing, that pupils came from afar to learn their business in his little den. When John Lloyd went in (it was only half-past six in the morning), M. Gros—or Alphonse, as he was more generally called, was busy dusting out the place. “ Would the gentleman look at Galignani for a minute, while the water was made to boil ? Would Monsieur excuse Alphonse from serving him himself, since Alphonse had at that moment to go to the house of His Excellency the General de Blanc, upon whom Alphonse waited daily 1 Monsieur would perhaps permit the absence of Alphonse, since monsieur could be equally well served by Alphonse’s deputy.” The first thing John saw on looking at Galignani was a full description of William Fother, the escaped convict, and the offer of one hundred pounds reward for his capture. “ Hang the fellow, he sticks to me like a burr,” John said, and flung the paper down in disgust. Presently Alphonse bustled in with his deputy, and having seen John comfortably seated before the glass, went on his way to the general’s, leaving his shop to John and the assistant. The assistant chattered away in broken English on several topics, and seeing that John had been looking at Galignani, asked him had he seen the “ announce of the English police courts about the escape of a man with an odd name,” in whose history, as given in the paper, the assistant said he took a lively interest. Poor John ! he could no more get away from the convict with “an odd name” than Hercules could from the poisoned coat of Dejanira. I will not repeat the expression John made use of by way of answer to the assistant, who, having lathered his face and throat, was about to commence shaving. Shaving ! Bless us and save us ! John happened to look up in the glass, and saw there the reflection of a man with a develish expression of face, malignant hatred in his eyes, standing over him with a razor grasped firmly in his hand, and apparently in the very act of trying the blade on his throat, John had not noticed the assistant when Alphonse brought him in, but now, in spite of his wig, close-shaven cheeks, and false moustache, John recognised the assistant under whose hands he now sat for the same William Fother whose conviction he procured at Preston. There was no time for deliberation, and sepech would have been fatal. Instantly, 1 as if by instinct, John bounded off the chair, and doublihg back on the assistant, caught his right arm with his own left and flung it upwards, while with his clenched fist "he struck the man a blow on the shoulder which made the arm drop power less to his side,and hurled him against the wall, making the room shake again. In another moment John had got the man down and half throttled him. There was no mistake as to indentity. The wig fell off, revealing the yet short hair which had not yet recovered from the prison clip, the false moustache got askew on the man’s lip ; and in the few words the poor wretch could get out, broken English was dropped in favour of the British vernacular*. John’s first impulse was to complete his half-done work on William Pother’s throat, his second to hand the man over to ihe police, his third to follow neither his first nor his second. He loosened his hold on the throat, but stiil kept mastery over the man. The razor, one of Alphonse’s best had been thrown to the end of the room in the scuffle. “ Why did you want to murder me you fool ?” said John. “ What good could my body have been to you, lying here ?” “It would have made us quits for what you did for me at Barnborough. ” “ No, it wouldn’t. You would have been hanged for iny murder, and then you would have been where you are|now as regards settlement for that,” said John, shocked at the absurdity of the equation Fother had imagined for himself. “A minute ago I had a good mind to kill you, and now I am uncertain whether to have you hung or not; but lam under obligation to you, though you don’t know it ” (John would not betray the informant who had put him on his guard), “ which makes me hesitate. You don’t deserve any mercy, but I will show* it you on two conditions, which you must accept or not as like, but you must do it at once.” [to be continued.!
THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 114, 17 June 1880
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