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   Chapter 4 BUCK SEES LIGHT.

Jack Haydon's Quest By John Finnemore Characters: 8369

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


Jack walked rapidly through the city, and, free from the presence of Baumann and his vile insinuations, began to cool rapidly and survey the situation with a steadier eye.

"This needs talking over," he said to himself. "Here's a big new development." He hailed a cab and was driven to Lincoln's Inn. He found Mr. Buxton's sitting-room littered with the baggage they had brought home, and Mr. Buxton himself in close confab with Buck Risley.

"Hullo, Jack," said the elder man, rising to shake hands with him; "how have you been getting on with Lane and Baumann? You look excited."

"Rather, Mr. Buxton," said Jack. "I have been learning a great deal." He struck into his story at once, and the two men listened with great interest.

"He had an immense ruby of incalculable value in his possession," said Mr. Buxton slowly, when Jack had finished. "I say, this changes the whole situation. I'm afraid, Jack, something very serious has happened to your father."

"Then that's what was on the Professor's mind," cried Buck. "I knew very well there was something. It was big enough to make even him feel uneasy."

"It's an odd thing he didn't mention it to you, Risley," said Mr. Buxton. "I've always understood that you were privy to all his business movements."

"That's all right, Mr. Buxton," said Risley cheerfully. "You've got that quite straight. In a general way the Professor hid nothing from me. But this time he did hide it about the big stone, and I'm goin' to show you how right, just as usual, the Professor was. You must remember," went on Buck, "that when he picked me up at Mogok on the way home, he found only a dim and distant shadder o' the party now talkin' to you. I'd been on my back for weeks with fever, and was as weak and nervous as a kitten. I've picked up wonderful on the voyage home. Well, if he'd told me o' such a thing as he'd certainly got at that moment in his belt, it would ha' rattled me to pieces. I should have been certain to give the show away in my anxiety for fear anybody should get to know about it, and do him a mischief. So he said nothing at all. But it puts everything in a new light, everything."

"Buck!" cried Jack. "What about that fellow who stopped me on Rushmere Heath and then turned up in Brindisi? Can he have something to do with it?"

"Now you're talking, Jack," said Risley, nodding at the young man. "'Twas all runnin' through my mind. It all hangs together, as straight as a gun."

Buck knitted his brows in deep thought, and stared into the fire. Mr. Buxton was about to speak, but Buck held up his hand for silence, and the quiet remained unbroken till the American slapped his knee with a crack like a pistol-shot, looked round on them, and nodded briskly.

"I've worked it out," said Buck. "The Professor's been kidnapped, and I'll lay all I'm worth I can spot the parties who have boned him."

"Kidnapped!" The cry burst in irrepressible surprise and excitement from the other two.

"Sure thing," said Risley. "Just listen to me. That half-caste Saya Chone comes from up-country somewhere in the direction the Professor headed for after leaving Mogok. That's the starting-point for the whole business. He's mixed up in it from first to last, that's plain enough, by his showing up at Rushmere and then followin' Jack to Brindisi as he must have done. What brought him trackin' us all this way if he didn't know about the big ruby and was in with the gang that's carried off the Professor?"

"But why are you so sure that they have carried Tom Haydon off, Risley?" asked Mr. Buxton. "Perhaps they-" Mr. Buxton paused, unable to put into words the terrible thought which filled his mind.

"Say it right out, sir," said Buck encouragingly. "You can say it out, for I don't believe it's the least bit true. You meant, suppose they've murdered the Professor for the ruby?"

Mr. Buxton nodded, and Jack went white about the lips.

"Well, that's all right," said Buck cheerfully, "they ain't done that, anyway. First thing, if so we'd ha' found the Professor, for all they wanted was the stone; they'd no use in the world for his body. But there's a lot more in it than that. They want the

Professor himself. It's a dead sure thing that where that big stone came from there's a lot more, and they intend to make him show them the place."

"Ah," said Mr. Buxton, "there's a good deal in that, Risley. I hadn't thought of that."

"Then, Buck," cried Jack, "you think that my father has been seized and is being carried back to Burmah?"

"I'm as sure of it as I am that we are in this room," said Buck solemnly.

Jack drew a long breath of immense relief. To feel that his father might be alive, and possibly could be rescued, was to bring a bright gleam of hope into the darkness of this strange affair.

"How have they carried him away?" cried Jack.

"By sea," replied Buck. "Couldn't be done by land, nohow. But you can get a quiet road by sea easy enough. I wonder how much that boat that disappeared from the harbour had to do with it. They might have nailed him, pulled him out in it to a vessel waiting off the harbour, and then sent it adrift when they'd done with it."

Mr. Buxton had filled his pipe and was smoking thoughtfully. Now he took the pipe out of his mouth, and spoke.

"I can see another thing which, in the light now thrown upon the affair, seems very possible," said he. "How many letters did you receive from your father, Jack, when he was on his way home?"

"Only one, Mr. Buxton," replied Jack. "The one he sent me from Cairo was the first I had had from him for a long time."

"Isn't it possible," went on Mr. Buxton, "that those who were following him up knew of that letter being sent, and were anxious to read it, hoping that he would describe where he had been and what he had been doing? Then, even if they failed to secure him and the big stone, they would know the spot where he had discovered the ruby-mine."

"Say, Mr. Buxton, you've hit the bull's eye," remarked Buck. "That's about the square-toed truth."

"And that's why they threw the letter away when they had read it," cried Jack. "There was no hint of any such thing in it."

There was silence for a few moments, while all three pondered over the strange events which had taken place. It was broken by Jack.

"Oh, Buck," he said, "I suppose there is no chance of such a precious thing being in the baggage after all."

"Not it," replied Risley. "I packed every consarned thing with my own hands. I had just enough strength for a job like that."

"And you feel convinced, Risley, that Tom Haydon has been spirited off back to Burmah by a gang who have learned of his wonderful find, and mean to seize it for themselves?" said Mr. Buxton.

"Dead sure of it, sir," replied Buck.

Jack sprang to his feet and paced the room excitedly.

"Then we'll go ourselves, Buck," he cried, "and run them to earth."

"Sure thing," said Buck calmly. "I'm on at once for a look into what's happened to the Professor."

"It will be a dangerous quest," said Mr. Buxton slowly; "a very dangerous quest, among wild lands and savage peoples. I know that much. Do you think the Government authority extends over the district where the discovery was made, Risley?"

"No, it don't," replied Buck. "They're all savage Kachins and Shans up there, as ready for a scrap as any you ever met. It's all the authorities can do to hold 'em off the settlements."

"A dangerous quest indeed!" repeated Mr. Buxton.

"But one that must be undertaken," cried Jack earnestly. "Would you have me leave my father's fate a matter of uncertainty, Mr. Buxton? I know very well it's a long journey on the chance of Buck being right in his suspicions. But so many things point that way, and if Buck is willing to guide me to the country where the search ought to be made, I will gladly go."

"Oh, I'm with you, of course, Jack," sang out Buck Risley. "We'll have a look into things, anyhow, an' I know more than a bit of that country. I've been three times up the river, an' made all sorts o' little side-trips."

"Thank you, Buck," cried the lad. "I knew you'd be willing to help me. We'll start as soon as possible. You'll find us plenty of funds, won't you, Mr. Buxton?"

"Oh, yes, Jack," said Mr. Buxton, "I'll find you all the money you want for such a purpose."

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