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Chapter 11 The Great Agra Treasure

  • Our captive sat in the cabin opposite to the iron box which he had done s_uch and waited so long to gain. He was a sunburned reckless-eyed fellow, wit_ network of lines and wrinkles all over his mahogany features, which told o_ hard, open-air life. There was a singular prominence about his bearded chi_hich marked a man who was not to be easily turned from his purpose. His ag_ay have been fifty or thereabouts, for his black, curly hair was thickly sho_ith gray. His face in repose was not an unpleasing one, though his heav_rows and aggressive chin gave him, as I had lately seen, a terribl_xpression when moved to anger. He sat now with his handcuffed hands upon hi_ap, and his head sunk upon his breast, while he looked with his keen, twinkling eyes at the box which had been the cause of his ill-doings. I_eemed to me that there was more sorrow than anger in his rigid and containe_ountenance. Once he looked up at me with a gleam of something like humour i_is eyes.
  • "Well, Jonathan Small," said Holmes, lighting a cigar, "I am sorry that it ha_ome to this."
  • "And so am I, sir," he answered frankly. "I don't believe that I can swin_ver the job. I give you my word on the book that I never raised hand agains_r. Sholto. It was that little hell-hound; Tonga, who shot one of his curse_arts into him. I had no part in it, sir. I was as grieved as if it had bee_y blood-relation. I welted the little devil with the slack end of the rop_or it, but it was done, and I could not undo it again."
  • "Have a cigar," said Holmes; "and you had best take a pull out of my flask, for you are very wet. How could you expect so small and weak a man as thi_lack fellow to overpower Mr. Sholto and hold him while you were climbing th_ope?"
  • "You seem to know as much about it as if you were there, sir. The truth i_hat I hoped to find the room clear. I knew the habits of the house prett_ell, and it was the time when Mr. Sholto usually went down to his supper. _hall make no secret of the business. The best defence that I can make is jus_he simple truth. Now, if it had been the old major I would have swung for hi_ith a light heart. I would have thought no more of knifing him than o_moking this cigar. But it's cursed hard that I should be lagged over thi_oung Sholto, with whom I had no quarrel whatever."
  • "You are under the charge of Mr. Athelney Jones, of Scotland Yard. He is goin_o bring you up to my rooms, and I shall ask you for a true account of th_atter. You must make a clean breast of it, for if you do I hope that I may b_f use to you. I think I can prove that the poison acts so quickly that th_an was dead before ever you reached the room."
  • "That he was, sir. I never got such a turn in my life as when I saw hi_rinning at me with his head on his shoulder as I climbed through the window.
  • It fairly shook me, sir. I'd have half killed Tonga for it if he had no_crambled off. That was how he came to leave his club, and some of his dart_oo, as he tells me, which I dare say helped to put you on our track; thoug_ow you kept on it is more than I can tell. I don't feel no malice against yo_or it. But it does seem a queer thing," he added with a bitter smile, "tha_, who have a fair claim to half a million of money, should spend the firs_alf of my life building a breakwater in the Andamans, and am like to spen_he other half digging drains at Dartmoor. It was an evil day for me whe_irst I clapped eyes upon the merchant Achmet and had to do with the Agr_reasure, which never brought anything but a curse yet upon the man who owne_t. To him it brought murder, to Major Sholto it brought fear and guilt, to m_t has meant slavery for life."
  • At this moment Athelney Jones thrust his broad face and heavy shoulders int_he tiny cabin.
  • "Quite a family party," he remarked. "I think I shall have a pull at tha_lask, Holmes. Well, I think we may all congratulate each other. Pity w_idn't take the other alive, but there was no choice. I say, Holmes, you mus_onfess that you cut it rather fine. It was all we could do to overhaul her."
  • "All is well that ends well," said Holmes. "But I certainly did not know tha_he Aurora was such a clipper."
  • "Smith says she is one of the fastest launches on the river, and that if h_ad had another man to help him with the engines we should never have caugh_er. He swears he knew nothing of this Norwood business."
  • "Neither he did," cried our prisoner — "not a word. I chose his launch becaus_ heard that she was a flier. We told him nothing; but we paid him well, an_e was to get something handsome if we reached our vessel, the Esmeralda, a_ravesend, outward bound for the Brazils."
  • "Well, if he has done no wrong we shall see that no wrong comes to him. If w_re pretty quick in catching our men, we are not so quick in condemning them."
  • It was amusing to notice how the consequential Jones was already beginning t_ive himself airs on the strength of the capture. From the slight smile whic_layed over Sherlock Holmes's face, I could see that the speech had not bee_ost upon him.
  • "'We will be at Vauxhall Bridge presently," said Jones, "and shall land you, Dr. Watson, with the treasure-box. I need hardly tell you that I am taking _ery grave responsibility upon myself in doing this. It is most irregular, bu_f course an agreement is an agreement. I must, however, as a matter of duty, send an inspector with you, since you have so valuable a charge. You wil_rive, no doubt?"
  • "Yes, I shall drive."
  • "It is a pity there is no key, that we may make an inventory first. You wil_ave to break it open. Where is the key, my man?"
  • "At the bottom of the river," said Small shortly.
  • "Hum! There was no use your giving this unnecessary trouble. We have had wor_nough already through you. However, Doctor, I need not warn you to b_areful. Bring the box back with you to the Baker Street rooms. You will fin_s there, on our way to the station."
  • They landed me at Vauxhall, with my heavy iron box, and with a bluff, genia_nspector as my companion. A quarter of an hour's drive brought us to Mrs.
  • Cecil Forrester's. The servant seemed surprised at so late a visitor. Mrs.
  • Cecil Forrester was out for the evening, she explained, and likely to be ver_ate. Miss Morstan, however, was in the drawing-room, so to the drawing-room _ent, box in hand, leaving the obliging inspector in the cab.
  • She was seated by the open window, dressed in some sort of white diaphanou_aterial, with a little touch of scarlet at the neck and waist. The soft ligh_f a shaded lamp fell upon her as she leaned back in the basket chair, playin_ver her sweet grave face, and tinting with a dull, metallic sparkle the ric_oils of her luxuriant hair. One white arm and hand drooped over the side o_he chair, and her whole pose and figure spoke of an absorbing melancholy. A_he sound of my footfall she sprang to her feet, however, and a bright flus_f surprise and of pleasure coloured her pale cheeks.
  • "I heard a cab drive up," she said. "I thought that Mrs. Forrester had com_ack very early, but I never dreamed that it might be you. What news have yo_rought me?"
  • "I have brought something better than news," said I, putting down the box upo_he table and speaking jovially and boisterously, though my heart was heav_ithin me. "I have brought you something which is worth all the news in th_orld. I have brought you a fortune."
  • She glanced at the iron box.
  • "Is that the treasure then?" she asked, coolly enough.
  • "Yes, this is the great Agra treasure. Half of it is yours and half i_haddeus Sholto's. You will have a couple of hundred thousand each. Think o_hat! An annuity of ten thousand pounds. There will be few richer young ladie_n England. Is it not glorious?"
  • I think I must have been rather over-acting my delight, and that she defecte_ hollow ring in my congratulations, for I saw her eyebrows rise a little, an_he glanced at me curiously.
  • "If I have it," said she, "I owe it to you."
  • "No, no," I answered, "not to me but to my friend Sherlock Holmes. With al_he will in the world, I could never have followed up-a clue which has taxe_ven his analytical genius. As it was, we very nearly lost it at the las_oment."
  • "Pray sit down and tell me all about it, Dr. Watson," said she.
  • I narrated briefly what had occurred since I had seen her last. Holmes's ne_ethod of search, the discovery of the Aurora, the appearance of Athelne_ones, our expedition in the evening, and the wild chase down the Thames. Sh_istened with parted lips and shining eyes to my recital of our adventures.
  • When I spoke of the dart which had so narrowly missed us, she turned so whit_hat I feared that she was about to faint.
  • "It is nothing," she said as I hastened to pour her out some water. "I am al_ight again. It was a shock to me to hear that I had placed my friends in suc_orrible peril."
  • "That is all over," I answered. "It was nothing. I will tell you no mor_loomy details. Let us turn to something brighter. There is the treasure. Wha_ould be brighter than that? I got leave to bring it with me, thinking that i_ould interest you to be the first to see it."
  • "It would be of the greatest interest to me," she said. There was no eagernes_n her voice, however. It had struck her, doubtless, that it might see_ngracious upon her part to be indifferent to a prize which had cost so muc_o win.
  • "What a pretty box!" she said, stooping over it. "This is Indian work, _uppose?"
  • "Yes; it is Benares metal-work."
  • "And so heavy!" she exclaimed, trying to raise it. "The box alone must be o_ome value. Where is the key?"
  • "Small threw it into the Thames," I answered. "I must borrow Mrs. Forrester'_oker."
  • There was in the front a thick and broad hasp, wrought in the image of _itting Buddha. Under this I thrust the end of the poker and twisted i_utward as a lever. The hasp sprang open with a loud snap. With tremblin_ingers I flung back the lid. We both stood gazing in astonishment. The bo_as empty!
  • No wonder that it was heavy. The ironwork was two-thirds of an inch thick al_ound. It was massive, well made, and solid, like a chest constructed to carr_hings of great price, but not one shred or crumb of metal or jewellery la_ithin it. It was absolutely and completely empty.
  • "The treasure is lost," said Miss Morstan calmly.
  • As I listened to the words and realized what they meant, a great shadow seeme_o pass from my soul. I did not know how this Agra treasure had weighed m_own until now that it was finally removed. It was selfish, no doubt, disloyal, wrong, but I could realize nothing save that the golden barrier wa_one from between us.
  • "Thank God!" I ejaculated from my very heart.
  • She looked at me with a quick, questioning smile.
  • "Why do you say that?" she asked.
  • "Because you are within my reach again," I said, taking her hand. She did no_ithdraw it. "Because I love you, Mary, as truly as ever a man loved a woman.
  • Because this treasure, these riches, sealed my lips. Now that they are gone _an tell you how I love you. That is why I said, 'Thank God.' "
  • "Then I say 'Thank God,' too," she whispered as I drew her to my side.
  • Whoever had lost a treasure, I knew that night that I had gained one.