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HOME > Short Stories > Colonel Thorndyke's Secret > CHAPTER XXI.
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 “You managed that very well, Mark,” Dick said. “You kept well within the limits of truth without bringing the real facts of the attack upon us into the case.” “Well, you see, Dick, after working as a detective, one gets into the way of telling stories with the smallest amount of deviation possible from the truth. What will these fellows get done to them, Lieutenant?”
“I should say that they will get two or three years imprisonment; the only charge now is rioting and assault. It is lucky for them that they had clubs instead of knives, for that would have brought the matter under the head of attempted murder. The matter of the gems was not important in the case, but there is sure to be a great fuss and search for the missing Indians. I suppose you will soon be off home now?”
“Yes, I shall find out tonight what vessel leaves for England tomorrow, and take a berth in the first that sails for London. It is too late to think of starting this evening, and indeed I feel that I want a long night's rest, for I did not sleep much last night, and have not quite recovered from that crack on my head.”
On his return to the hotel Mark sent out a man to inquire at the shipping offices, and finding that a bark would sail at nine o'clock the next morning, they went down and took berths, and sailed in her next day. The voyage home was a rapid one, for the wind blew steadily from the east, and the vessel made the passage to the mouth of the river in two days, and the next took them up to London.
“I will call round tomorrow or next day, Gibbons, with the checks for you both,” Mark said as he prepared to go ashore.
“No, sir. We are both of one mind that we could not take them. We went over to prevent you being robbed of those sparklers, and to see that you came to no harm. Well, the things are lost, and you got knocked down and carried away. It is no thanks to us that you are alive now. It is a mortifying job, that with two detectives to watch over things and with us to fight we should have been fairly beat by a few black niggers.”
“If there had been any bungling on your part, Gibbons, there might be something in what you say, but no one could have foreseen that before we had been on shore two minutes we should have been attacked in that way. You both did all that men could do, as was shown by the condition of the fellows who were taken. I was just as much separated from you as you were from me, and the fact that we were surprised as we were is really due to my not determining to stay on board until the morning, which I could no doubt have done with the captain's permission. It never struck me for a moment that we should be attacked in force. I thought it probable that an attempt at assassination would be made, but it certainly did not seem probable that it would be attempted while you were all with me. You are not in the slightest degree to blame, for your part of the agreement was carried out to my satisfaction. I shall certainly carry out mine, as I have arrived home safe and sound.”
“Well, governor, it is very good of you; but I tell you it will go against the grain for us to take your money.”
On landing, Mark parted with Dick Chetwynd, who had arranged to drop Mark's bag at his lodgings on his way home, and at once took a hackney coach to Islington. Millicent gave a cry of delight as he entered the room.
“You are back earlier than I expected, Mark. You told me before you started that the wind was in the east, and that you might be a long time getting to Amsterdam unless it changed. I have been watching the vane on the church, and it has been pointing east ever since.
“Well, you have sold the diamonds, I hope?” she said, after the first greeting was over.
“No; I have bad news for you, Millicent; the jewels have been stolen.”
“Well it does not make much difference, Mark. We have much more than enough without them, so don't bother yourself in the least. How did it happen?”
“Well, it is rather a long story. I will tell it you when Mrs. Cunningham is here, so as not to have to go over it twice. How are the dresses getting on?”
“I suppose they are getting on all right,” she said. “I have done nothing for the last two days but try them on. You see, we put them out to three milliners, and they all three seem to reach the same point together, and I start after breakfast, and it takes about two hours at each place. You don't know what trouble you have given me by hurrying things on so unreasonably.”
“Well, it is better to have it all done and over,” he said, “than to have the thing hanging over you for a couple of months.”
“That is what Mrs. Cunningham says. Now I want to hear about your adventures, and I will call her down.”
“Only think, Mrs. Cunningham,” Millicent said presently, with a laugh, after she had returned with her, “this silly boy has actually let the diamonds be stolen from him.”
“No, really, Millicent!”
“Yes, indeed. Fancy his not being fit to be trusted to look after them! However, I tell him it is of no consequence. I don't know how they went. He would not tell me the story until you came down.”
“I am sorry to say it is true, Mrs. Cunningham, although I can assure you that I really cannot blame myself for either carelessness or stupidity. I knew when I started that there was a very great risk, and took what seemed to me every possible precaution, for in addition to Dick Chetwynd going with me, I took two detectives from Bow Street and two prize fighters.”
Exclamations of surprise broke from both ladies.
“And yet, in spite of all that, these things were stolen,” Millicent said. “How on earth did they do it? I should have sewn them up in my pockets inside my dress.”
“I sewed them up in the waistband of my trousers, Millicent, and yet they managed, in spite of us, to steal them. And now I must begin by telling you the whole history of those diamonds, and you will understand why I thought it necessary to take a strong party with me.”
He then told them, repeating the history the Colonel had given his father of the diamonds, and the conviction that he had, that he had been followed by Hindoos, and the instructions he had given for the disposal of the bracelet.
“As you know,” he said, “nothing happened to confirm my uncle's belief that there were men over here in search of the diamonds during my father's life, but since then I have come to the same conclusion that he had, and felt positive that I was being constantly followed wherever I went. As soon as I heard where the treasure was I began to take every precaution in my power. I avoided going to the bank after my first visit there, and, as you know, would not bring the things for you to look at. I got Dick Chetwynd to go there, open the case, and take out these diamonds. He did not bring them away with him, but fetched them from there the morning we started. He went down and took the passage for us both at the shipping office, and the pugilists and the detectives each took passages for themselves, so that I hoped, however closely I was followed, they would not learn that I was taking them to Amsterdam.”
“It was very wrong, Mark; very wrong indeed,” Millicent broke in. “You had no right to run such a terrible risk; it would have been better for you to have taken the diamonds and thrown them into the Thames.”
“That would not have improved matters,” he said; “the Indians would not have known that I had got rid of them, and would have continued their efforts to find them, and I should always have been in danger instead of getting it over once for all. However, I did not think that there was any danger, going over as I did, with two of the best prize fighters in England, to say nothing of the detectives, who were the men who were with me when I caught Bastow. The only danger was that I might be stabbed; but, as they would know, it was no use their stabbing me unless they could search me quietly, and that they could not do unless I was alone and in some lonely neighborhood, and I had made up my mind not to stir out unless the whole party were with me. I found out, when we got on board that in spite of all the precautions I had taken, they had discovered that I was going to sail for Amsterdam, which they could only have done by following Dick as well as myself. There was a dark faced foreign sailor, who, I had no doubt, was a Hindoo, already on board, and I saw another in a boat watching us start; this was unpleasant, but as I felt sure that they could not have known that I had with me detectives and pugilists, I still felt that they would be able to do nothing when I got to Amsterdam.”
Then he told them the whole story of the attack, of his being carried away, and of his unexpected release; of the search that had been made for him and the arrest of eighteen of his assailants. Millicent grew pale as he continued, and burst into tears when she heard of his being a prisoner in the hands of the Hindoos.
“I shall never let you go out of my sight again, Mark!” she exclaimed when he had finished. “It was bad enough before when you were searching for that man here, and I used to be terribly anxious; but that was nothing to this.”
“Well, there is an end of it now, Millicent; the men have got the diamonds, and will soon be on their way to India, if they have not started already.”
“Nasty things!” she said; “I shall never like diamonds again: they will always remind me of the terrible danger that you have run. Isn't it extraordinary that for twenty years four or five men should be spending their lives waiting for a chance of getting them back!”
“I do not expect there were so many as that; probably there was only one. He would have no difficulty in learning that my father had not received any extraordinary gems from my uncle, and probably supposed that they would not be taken out from wherever they might be until you came of age. After the death of my father he might suppose that I should take them out, or that, at any rate, I should go to whoever had them, and see that they were all right, and he then, perhaps, engaged half a dozen Lascars—there are plenty of them at the docks—and had me watched wherever I went; and, do you know, that I believe I once owed my life to them.”
“How was that, Mark?”
“Well, I was captured by some fellows who suspected me to be a Bow Street runner, and I think that it would have gone very hard with me if a party of five or six prize fighters had not broken into the house, pretty nearly killed the men in whose hands I was, and rescued me. They said that they had heard of my danger from a foreign sailor who called at Gibbons', with whom I was in the habit of boxing, and told him about it. You see, until they learned where the jewels were, my life was valuable to them, for possibly I was the only person who knew where they were hidden; so really I don't think I have any reason for bearing a grudge against them. They saved my life in the first place, and spared it at what was a distinct risk to themselves. On the other hand, they were content with regaining the bracelet, not even, as I told you, taking my watch or purse. You see, with them it was a matter of religion. They had no animosity against me personally, but I have no doubt they would have stabbed me without the slightest compunction had there been no other way of getting the things. Still, I think that I owe a debt of gratitude to them rather than the reverse, and, after all, the loss of the bracelet is not a serious one to us.”
“I am glad it is gone,” Millicent said. “You say it had already caused the death of two men, and if you had succeeded in selling it I can't help thinking that the money would have brought ill fortune to us. I am heartily glad that the diamonds are gone, Mark. I suppose they were very handsome?”
“They were magnificent,” he said. “Dick and Cotter both agreed that they had never seen their equal, and I fancy that they must have been worth a great deal more than your father valued them at.”
“Well, it does not matter at all. There is no history attached to the others, I hope, Mark?”
“Not in any way, dear. They were bought, as the Colonel told my father, in the ordinary course of things, and some, no doubt, were obtained at the capture of some of the native princes' treasuries; but it was solely on account of this bracelet that he had any anxiety. You can wear all the others, if you have a fancy for keeping them, without a shadow of risk.”
“No, Mark, we will sell them every one. I don't think that I shall ever care to wear any jewels again; and if I am ever presented at court and have to do so, I would rather that you should buy some new ones fresh from a jeweler's shop than wear anything that has come from India.”
“To-morrow you shall both go to the bank with me to see them, and then I will take them to some first-class jeweler's and get him to value them.”
The visit was paid next day. Both Millicent and Mrs. Cunningham were somewhat disappointed at the jewels.
“It is hardly fair to see them like this,” Philip Cotter said. “They would look very different if reset. No Indian jewels I have ever seen show to advantage in their native settings; but many of the stones are very large, and without knowing anything about them I should say that they are worth the 50,000 pounds at which you say Colonel Thorndyke valued them. He was not likely to be mistaken. He was evidently a judge of these matters, and would hardly be likely to be far wrong.”
“We will go with you to the jeweler's, Mark,” Millicent said. “In the first place, I shall not feel quite comfortable until I know that they are out of your hands, and in the next place I should like to hear what he thinks of them.”
“I have a number of Indian jewels that I wish you to value for me,” Mark said, as, carrying the case, he entered the jeweler's shop. “They were collected by Colonel Thorndyke, an uncle of mine, during service in India.”
The jeweler took them with him into a room behind the shop. The case was opened, and the man took out sixty-eight small parcels it contained, and opened them one after the other.
“I shall need a very careful examination of these before I can form any estimate of their value,” he said, after inspecting some of the more important pieces of jewelry carefully. “They are a most magnificent collection, and had they been properly cut in the first place they would have been worth a very large sum. Unfortunately, the Indian princes think more of size than of lustre, and have their stones cut very much too flat to show off their full brilliancy. Some of these large ones I should certainly advise to be recut, for what they will lose in weight they will gain in beauty and value. However, sir, I will go through them and give you an estimate of the selling value of each piece. I need not say that they ought all to be reset in the prevailing fashion; but the gold, which is ............
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