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OUR SHORT STORY. j - I

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OUR SHORT STORY. j COUSIN TOM'S STRATAGEM. A QUEER STORY. Ci-icers, do your duty." But, Mr. Trent, hear me I found the door open-" "Alas Harry, why do you add falsehood to your crime? The very fact of your being here convicts you-" "But "The less you say now, the better for yourself. It is impossible to enter this room without alarm- ing the watchmen in the outer office, and here you are found, caught in the very act of robbing me—your master—your friend." Mr. Trent's voice broke with emotion, and he sank back in a chair. "Take the thief away, constable," said Mr. Bulmer, the cashier, coldly. "I am no thief, Mr. Bulmer, and you know it." "Indeed You may not call it stealing to re- move two hundred pounds from a private room, but I fancy the judge will take a slightly different view. "Come on, young un," said one of the police- men. "You will get plenty of time to think over it later." Roughly, Harry was led from the apartment, the cashier following to the outside. "Well, good-bye, Benson," he called out. "Have you any message for Miss Trent? I see her to-night, you know." Harry turned with flashing eyes, but the words he would have said died on his lips as he en- countered the gaze of the jeering onlookers. "Hullo Benson, off for a free holiday? cried one young man, whose bronzed face and general appearance plainly marked him as a Colonial. "What have you been doing? "He was caught in the strong room, and some money is missing," said someone. "Bosh I don't believe it. Great snakes man, Harry there couldn't do wrong if he tried for a week. He'll not where he is going to for six months," laughed a policeman. The crowd roared at this statement, and a moistness came to Harry's eyes as he realised his friendless position and the gravity of the crime of which he was accused. "Hang it, Benson! You are not going to a funeral," exclaimed the Australian as he wit- nessed Harry's emotion. "Come, sir. Get out of the way," interrupted Mr. Bulmer. "Who in thunder are you? "My name is Bulmer, sir." "Well, Bulmer, what game are you playing on Benscn? "Sir!" "Tom's my name. They generally added: 'Fighting' to that out in the Never Never country, but I hate ceremony. Hullo Benson, sorry you are going, but I'll see that this gentle- man doesn't jump your claim." The crowd slowly dispersed. Mr. Bulmer re- entered the office, and the Colonial was left stand- ing alone. "And this is the way they do in the dear home country," he soliloquised. "I'm hanged if a black fellow would do the like. Of course, Bulmer and Benson are sweet on cousin Nita, and-Great Centipedes !—so am I." But surely, Miss Trent, you will reconsider the matter. Benson is—well—he is in prison for stealing from your father's office." "I do not believe that, Mr. Bulmer. He is the victim of some conspiracy, and in any case, however much I may respect you as my father's confidant, I could never marry you." I am sorry for your sake, Miss Trent, that Benson should be in such a position, but then we are forced to recognise facts in this world, and I am sure your father would never allow you to-" "That does not concern you, sir." "I meant no offence, Miss Trent. Ah! if you only knew, my regard for you is much too sin- cere for that. Miss Trent—Nita—can you not let me have one ray of hope-think how I have striven to make myself worthy of you—think "I do not doubt your general excellence, Mr. Bulmer, but I am not a prize, to be given like a medal at an exhibition, to the man who is most successful in his own undertakings." "Then you still care for Benson ?" "I do, sir." "Then, by Heavens I'll see that he is put where you will require to wait ten years for him." "Go, sir! You are a cur! Were I a man I would-" "Give him a thrashing, wouldn't ye? Well, I reckon I'll do that for ye "Mr. Hamley!" Great Darling River! I beg your pardon, Nita. Your maid or whatever you call her shut me into a room, till she 'nounced me, she said; but I overheard some fancy talking an' I-well- I is only an Australian back-blocker, you know, an' I couldn't help chiming in. But come on now, Bulmer. Why, the skunk'? gone "No! never mind following him, Mr. Hamley -I mean Tom. Sit down, and tell me what you have been doing to-day?" "Oh, fossicking around!" "What?" "Sinking duffers." "What on earth do you mean, Tom?" "Well, you see, I hardly know how to put it; out on the Darling where I made my rise, we hadn't much use for words that weren't strong enough to stand, an' I couldn't use them here, you know." "Oh "But I meant to say that I wasn't doing much of any good." "I think I understand you, Tom," "Does ye? Well, cousin, I can ride any animal that has feet." "Can you really?" "An' I kin swipe the—I beg yours—I mean I can take my weight out of any man." "What?" "Oh, hang it all! I is a mil—I mean I am a millionaire." "You told me that already, Tom." "Well? "Well, what?" "Will you marry me?" "Oh, Tom! Reallv you are incorrigible. Don't you know that I am already engaged?" "Him that's in the big hotel?" "Tom! How can you talk that way of poor Harry. He is innocent." "That's a fact." "And he is suffering unjustly." "Pity." "And I do care so much for him." "Ye does? Then may I be spinafexed! PKS been jumpin' his claim myself "You have been what?" "Cousin Nita, I a monly a man from the bush —an' I likes ye—an' I-I-but I is a white man, an' I'll bring you your woman-faced Harry to- morrow night, though I peg out for it." "Alas, Tom What can you do against every- one? Even my father is convinced of his guilt." "You leave that to me, cous', I knows, an'— great goodness !—here's the old man comin' The clerks in the employment of Mr. Trent were greatly surprised next morning to hear of Harry Benson's arrest. He was a general favour- ite in the outer office, and although Mr. Trent and M-r. Bulmer, the head cashier, had shown him many special favours, no one had been jealous of his good fortune. Harry was always the last of the men to leave, it being his duty to deliver the keys to the night watchmen, hut when his comrades were told that he had entered the strong room five minutes after they had gone the previous evening, the com- ments were not flattering to him." "He must have been mad," the export clerk said to the under-timekeeper, towards the even- ing. "The room is a perfect electrical trap." "Well, well," the timekeeper answered philo- sophically, "one never knows, but I would as soon have suspected old Bulmer himself as Benson-but who is the new fellow? He writes a fearful fist, I notice." "Johnson says he is a Colonial, here for experience." "What! Imagine anyone grinding here for that! "Oh, those Australians are always doing some- thing strange. He has gots lots of tin, I believe —but see! it's just on six—I'm off." As the office clock struck six a general stampede was made for the door, and in a few seconds all but the* new clerk had disappeared. That gentleman was very tardy in his move- ments, and apparently had no desire to hurry himself. Shortly afterwards, a loud clanging of the various electric alarums startled the night watch- men, and rushing into the strong room passage they were amazed to find all the doors open. "I reckon there's bushrangers inside, boys," remarked the new clerk, suddenly appearing be- hind them, "but close the door; we've got them all right. Hullo! here's Mr. Trent." "What is the meaning of this now, men?" exclaimed Mr. Trent, who evidently had not gone home at his usual time. "They are inside, sir," replied one of the watchmen, "and here's the policeman coming already!—looks like they expected this, sir." "Better stand back, sir," said a policeman, running in. "Thieves are often dangerous when trapped like this." "No, no cried Mr. Trent. "Open the door. It was Benson last night—who is it this time? Ah! Gracious Heavens Bulmer Harry My poor dear boy," cried Nita that evening, "you must have suffered terribly? Tell me all about it." "I am well repaid now, sweetheart," replied Harry, folding her in his arms, "but I do not yet understand to what I owe my sudden freedom. You tell me that Mr. Bulmer is arretted, and that some new clerk had some- thing to do with that? "Oh, Harry! I hardly know anything but that you are now free-but here comes cousin Tom. He must know everything, for it was he who persuaded father of your innocence." "Evening," cried the Australian, entering the drawing-room. "Glad to see ye, Benson—hope you will soon bottom on gold, but by thunder I wouldn't push a pen longer for any man." Why! What are you talking about, Hamley? "Nothing in particular," answered that gentle- man, dropping into a chair and throwing his feet over the edge. But I say, young fellow, you will have to kep your eyes a bit open if yewantto keep outen trouble in this world, for sure this Britain o' yours is swarmin' with speelers an' sneaks, an'—oh, well!-it doesn't matter-I am the new clerk." What? "Fact—the old man knew I was playing the detective. We arranged it last night." "And you caught Bulmer stealing-" "Nary, go slow. Bulmer is as innocent this time as you were last time, but he had to go, poor beggar." "Tom, dear Tom, please explain. Do you meau- "Listen, both o' ye, an' I'll tell ye if there will be no questions asked after. Last night I called at the office to see my uncle, Mr. Trent, an' when I was standing in the passage I saw that chap Bulmer climbing up to the shelf an' doing something to the 'lectric batteries there. Now I was once a linesman in New South Wales, you know, an' I twigged his little game in a shake. He was disconnecting the whole 'lectric show by lifting up the end zinc rod "I hid in between the doors, and in about three minutes he came runnin' back again an' dropped the zinc back in its place, and then all the bells began their racket. You know the rest, he opened the doors, an' likely took the money, when the affair was off, an' you, like a simpleton, walked in to see what was wrong when you saw the doors open. Of course, when he got you inside, he turned the infernal thing on again, an' you were collared like a young kangaroo in its mother's pocket. "I don't blame him a bit; he was sweet on cousin Nita, an' you were first favourite-that's all." "But Eulmer? "Oh! I did exactly the same thing'with him to-night; it's a bad sort of world, an' the time he'll get to reflect will do him whips o' good."

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