Chapter XXI: An Unexpected Blow

“I am sorry to hear that,” said Farintosh sympathetically. “Maybe the market will take a turn.”

“Let us hope so,” the merchant answered. “It doesn’t look like it.”

“But you are satisfied with us, guv’nor,” Burt struck in, pushing his bulky form in front of Farintosh. “We have done our work all right, haven’t we?”

“I have nothing to complain of,” Ezra said coldly.

“Well then, guv’nor, you surely ain’t going away without leaving us nothing to remembrance you with, seeing that we’ve stood by you and never gone back on you.”

“You have been paid every week for what you have done,” the young man said. “You won’t get another penny out of me, so you set your mind at rest about that.”

“You won’t give us nothing?” cried the navvy angrily.

“No, I won’t; and I’ll tell you what it is, Burt, big as you are, if you dare to raise your voice in my presence I’ll give you the soundest hiding that ever you had in your life.”

Ezra had stood up and showed every indication of being as good as his word.

“Don’t let us quarrel the last time we may meet,” Farintosh cried, intervening between the two. “It is not money we expect from you. All we want is a drain of rum to drink success to you with.”

“Oh, if that’s all,” said the young merchant—and turned round to pick up the bottle which stood on a table behind him. Quick as a flash Burt sprang upon him and struck him down with a life-preserver. With a gasping cry and a heavy thud Ezra fell face downwards upon the floor, the bottle still clutched in his senseless hand, and the escaping rum forming a horrible mixture with the blood which streamed from a great gash in his head.

“Very neat—very pretty indeed!” cried the ex-parson, in a quiet tone of critical satisfaction, as a connoisseur might speak of a specimen which interested him. He was already busy at the door of the safe.

“Well done, Mr. Burt, well done!” cried Williams, in a quivering voice; and going up to the body he kicked it in the side. “You see I am not afraid, Mr. Burt, am I?”

“Stow your gab!” snarled the navvy. “Here’s the rum all gettin’ loose.”
Picking up the bottle he took a pull of what was left in it.
“Here’s the bag, parson,” he whispered, pulling a black linen bag from
his pocket. “We haven’t made much noise over the job.”

“Here are the stones,” said Farintosh, in the same quiet voice. “Hold the mouth open.” He emptied an avalanche of diamonds into the receptacle. “Here are some notes and gold. We may as well have them too. Now, tie it up carefully. That’s the way! If we meet any one on the stairs, take it coolly. Turn that lamp out, Williams, so that if any one looks in he’ll see nothing. Come along!”

The guilty trio stole out of the room, bearing their plunder with them, and walked down the passage of the hotel unmolested and unharmed.

The moon, as it rose over the veldt that night, shone on three horsemen spurring it along the Capetown road as though their very lives depended upon their speed. Its calm, clear rays streamed over the silent roofs of Kimberley and in through a particular window of the Central Hotel, throwing silvery patches upon the carpet, and casting strange shadows from the figure which lay as it had fallen, huddled in an ungainly heap upon the floor.

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