A Successful Conspiracy
A SUCCESSFUL CON SPIRACY.
There were races at Kempton Park, and it seemed that all the South Western trains had backed the winner. At any rate, they were coming leisurely up to Waterloo as though they had made enough money to enable them in the future to do without hard work. The man in a brown hat that was dented, muttered something strenuous about the delay, and I cordially agreed with him.
"I'm not seeprised, though," he said, bitterly. He found half a cigar in one of his pockets and dusted it carefully and lighted! it. "I'm not seeprised. This ain't my day, this ain't. Mr. Erry Bushey can't do right to-day, somehow."
When I asked who Mr. Harry Bushey was, he said that he was, worse luck. He further remarked that sometimes he couldn't do right and sometimes he couldn't do wrong. In illustration whereof he told this tale.
Mr. Henry Bushey finished some few matters of business in the early morn, in Anchor street—business not wholly unconcerned with the receipt of commissions, during the breakfast hour, for backing horses—and seeing and hearing two policemen making in his direction he walked briskly off into High Street, Shoreditch. There to reach Fleet Street, he took a seat outside a Hammersmith 'bus. Someone tapped him on the shoulder.
"It's never my old friend Bushey?"
"That's my name," said Mr. Bushey, distantly. "What might be yours?"
"It might be most anything," said the well-dressed man, who had hit Mr. Bushey on the shoulder. "It is West. You haven't forgot Bill West?"
It was a most fortunate meeting. There were no other passengers on the outside of the 'bus, and the two friends were able to talk with only a slight restraint.
"I'm on the biggest business I've ever had to do with," said Mr. West, confidentially. "I can't give you particulars now, but later on——"
"Hang it, man! let's be fair and square with one another. If I had a good thing on you'd be the first man I should come and tell. I should say, 'West, old chap, you and me was pals long ago when we was young, and I ain't the one,' I should say, 'I ain't the one to turn me back on a chum.' That," remarked Mr. Bushey, frankly, "that's how I should put it, and I don't deceive you."
Mr. William West was silent. Presently he looked up at the Mansion House, and whistled softly and thoughtfully.
"I get down here," he said.
"So do I."
"I'm going to have a walk over London Bridge."
"That's a funny thing," exclaimed Bushey, with excellent humour, "I'm going over London Bridge myself. We'll walk along together."
"Harry," said Mr. West, with a sudden burst of confidence, "I'll go so far as this. I don't mind telling you between ourselves it's a job worth thousands."
"Good job, too. Is it joolery!"
"I can't deceive an old chum," said Mr. West. "It is not jewellery. I'll go farther, I won't deny that it's a parcel of bonds."
"I always said you'd do something big some day, Bill. You've got a gentlemanly manner about you and a winning way with the fair sect and——"
William West seized Henry Bushev's hand.
"Bushey, we'll work this together. Come down this lane, and I'll tell you all about it."
It was a short story. The night before a flurried, young foreign lady had been brought post-haste by a shady private inquiry agent to William West. A valuable parcel of Parrambo Preference bonds had been despatched from Paris by the Chemin de fer de l' Quest, addressed to Cerveau and Cie, of Fenchurch Street; it would arrive at the Brighton Company's terminus the following morning. If William West could only get hold of this parcel (said the foreign young lady) he could take them, if he liked, to Herr Barnoff, at a certain hotel in Bishopsgate Street, and very likely Barnoff would pay big money for them, and get rid of them abroad. Moreover, she herself was prepared to pay a handsome sum down if he would undertake to try.
"She had rather a nice manner with her," said Mr. West, "and I took to her from the first. She showed me how it could be done; said that the parcel was insured with the Insurance Company, in Paris, for thirty thousand pounds, and the loss wouldn't fall on the railway, and gave me a certain hint how to do it all, which I needn't explain to you. Stand by, Bushey, and give me a hand if I want it, and you shall have a sum that you may well call ample."
"West," said Mr. Bushey, as they turned up the steps to London Bridge, "you was always a gentleman so far as manner is concerned, and I believe a more honester and a more straight forwarder man don't live. Tell me what to do, and I'll do it."
Mr. Bushey does not know to this day how the parcel of bonds was obtained. He only knows that William West walked into the station with a new brown portmanteau, and over his arm a rug, at the hour when the valuables arrived; that he (Bushey) hard by, was taken, at that very moment, with a violent fit, that commanded the attention of everyone, officials and passengers, within a radius of yards. Brandy was brought, and Bushey slowly revived. As he was being assisted out of the station he heard that a large parcel of bonds was missing. There was much excitement everywhere; much hurrying to and fro of officials.
"Oh dear, oh dear!" said Mr. Bushey, feebly, "what is the matter now; I do 'ope nothing's gone wrong?"
"Something has gone a bit wrong," said the man who was helping him out to the cab; "but don't you worry about it, Mister. It's got nothing to do with you."
"I know that, but what is it that's up?"
"If they can onlv catch the chaps that did it," said the friendly porter, "I reckon they'll be had up, and run into Stone's End police station, before they know where they are. They've collared a parcel of bonds."
"What a shime," exclaimed Henry Bushey. "I ofen wonder how people can bring their minds to do such 'orrid things. Why don't the police keep a better look out, I wonder? 'Ere are we paying rites and taxes to keep up the police force, and——"
"Don't you go and upset yourself again," said the friendly porter, apprehensively.
"I've got a 'eart that feels for most everybody," said Mr. Bushey, plaintively. "The leastest thing worries me. Tell the kebby to drive to Bishopsgate Street Station, please. And 'ere's a glass of something for your trouble."
William West, silk-hatted, umbrella and brown portmanteau in hand, was at the corner of Fenchurch Street, talking to a dark young lady.
"I am ver' pleased to meet Mr. Booshey," she said. "Come please, quickly, to this office."
She conducted them to the second floor, and nodded to one or two busy clerks as she unlocked the door of an inner room.
"This is my own private bureau," she said genially. She unpinned her hat and sat down at a desk.
"Ah, you've got a 'ead on you, miss, you 'ave," said Mr. Bushey admiringly.
"I always endeavour not to lose it. You have the packet there allright?" She lifted her hands as William West opened the brown portmanteau. "It is the correct one?"
"It is the correct one, mam'selle," said West. "I saw the label as it came out of the——"
"Good," she interrupted. "Now, see what you have to do. It is so easy. This packet has been lost; the insurance company pays the sender the value for which the insurance has been—how do you call it?—effected. So the poor sender is recompensed, is it not? And you, my friends, who have—what is that lovely word?"
"Pinched it?" suggested Mr. Bushey.
"Pinched it, yes." She laughed very much, and patted her eyes with a small handkerchief. "Yes, you who have—pinched it—have a right to it. Allons, take it, my friends, to Herr Barnoff, and make with him the best bargain, and if he will not buy, drop them into the Thames. I shall not see you again, for I leave London at. once. Good-bye, and accept please this."
Herr Barnoff was a dark-haired, dark-eyebrowed, dark-finger-nailed, dark-bearded gentleman, who, when William West, had explained the business, locked the door and spoke low and confidentially.
"It is risky pusiness," said Herr Barnoff, with much gravity. "You say dere was dirty dousand bounds worth?"
"That's the figure," said William West.
Herr Barnoff shrugged his shoulders.
"Dose are not much use, I fear, but I am going to Amsterdam, and berhaps I give you few hundred bounds if they is alright"
"Few hundred be blowed," said Mr. Bushey hotly.
"Ver well. You can dake them elsewhere, if you like."
"You must excuse me, my friend," interrupted William West. "He's naturally rather hasty of temper, Don't take any notice of him."
"I do not brobose to do so," said Herr Barnoff suavely. "Dell me what kind of bonds those are?"
"Perhaps I'd better open the parcel?"
"That," said Herr Barnoff, "is a gapital idea. You English people think of every-ding."
William West cut the black tape which encorded the large canvas parcel, and broke the big red wax seals. Meanwhile, Herr Barnoff, with affectation of entire unconcern rolled a cigarette and took up a financial paper.
"Bill," whispered Bushey 'to William West, "we shall 'ave to ply a game of bluff with this lager beer toff."
"Leave it to, me," said William West, "I never met the foreigner yet that I couldn't get the best of."
"They're a cloth-'eaded lot," agreed Mr. Bushey, lifting the flat folded bonds out. "They don't seem to 'ave no common-sense like us Englishmen."
"Now you can just cast your eye over the little lot," said Mr. West to Herr Barnoff mysteriously. "I rather think you'll say it's as good a little haul as ever you saw. They all appear to be Parrambo Preference bonds, payable to bear—— What's the matter, guvnor? "
The swarthy gentleman looked at the bonds. In a moment he kicked the portmanteau to the other side of the room. He went over to it and kicked it back again with much ferocity.
"Offside, offside," said Mr. Bushey softly.
"Don't act the goat," said Mr. West, with an injured air. "There's thirty thousand pounds' worth——"
"Dirty dousand bounds," repeated the dark gentleman with great annoyance. "If you vas gome here yesterday I gif you goot money for them. To-day I give you nossing whatever. Look here!"
Mr. West and Mr. Bushey together spelled out the paragraph in the Financial Chatter, which the dark gentleman thrust into their faces.
"The country of Parrambo has suddenly, to the amazement of everybody, declared itself bankrupt. The new Government has decided to decline recognition of the bonds in circulation, and the holders can console themselves with the thought that the bonds are at least worth the price of old paper.
"The news was received in Paris late yesterday afternoon."
The two looked at each other and gasped.
"This, William, is what I call love's libour lost," said Bushey. "I suppose all we can do now is to drop them over the Tahr Bridge. We promised the lady we would."
"And who is the lady?" asked the annoyed Herr Barnoff.
William West explained.
"She is agent for Cerveau," exclaimed Barnoff, with admiration, " and a tam clever woman, too. Tam clever. Good-bye, my friends; do not forget your barcel."
The train slackened as it neared Vauxhall.
"Which all goes to show," said Mr. Bushey, oracularly, "that if it ain't your day you may do what you like, but you'll never—— Is this Vauxhall? Collect tickets 'ere, don't they? They won't 'ave mine, that's a very sure thing."
He opened the door on the wrong side.
"They won't 'ave mine," he repeated, "because I ain't got one. I'm going to do a bunk."