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   Chapter 44 HOW THINGS ENDED.

Jack Haydon's Quest By John Finnemore Characters: 10761

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


All eyes were fixed in breathless excitement on Me Dain. His swift, practised fingers rapidly explored the intricacies of the long, soft band which had been wound twice or thrice round the waist of the Ruby King.

"Lump here," grunted Me Dain, drawing his knife. He made a couple of rapid snicks, pulled the silk open, glanced in, then looked up at his old master.

"Hold your hand, sahib," he said.

Mr. Haydon held out his hand, and the Burman shook the girdle sharply. A cry of admiration and wonder burst from every watcher as an immense ruby fell into Mr. Haydon's palm and lay there glittering with richest, deepest fire.

The great expert did not need to take a second glance. "That's my stone," he said. "Me Dain, I am indebted to you for ever. Its value to me is beyond all money, for it represents my honour and the good faith which I owe to those who employ me. Me Dain, my good friend, I shall give you ten thousand rupees."

"Oh, sahib," cried the Burman, overcome with the vision of so much wealth, "it is too much for your servant."

"Not a penny," said Mr. Haydon earnestly, "not a penny too much. You have rendered me a service which no money can repay."

Amid a buzz of wonder and surprise and delighted congratulation, the huge stone was examined and passed from hand to hand. Then Mr. Haydon took it again, wrapped it up in a piece of silk cut from the girdle, and carefully bestowed it in an inner pocket.

"I'll have another try to get to London with it," he said. "We ought to manage it this time among us."

Jack stood looking at his father with shining eyes, and Mr. Haydon now turned to his son. As he did so, Buck slapped the tall lad on the shoulder.

"Say, Jack," he cried, "is this good enough for you? You've got your father and the big pebble. Seems to me you've worked your way through this business pretty successful. I reckon you've been the king pin of this outfit."

"Right, Buck, right," said Mr. Haydon in a tone of deep feeling. "I was just thinking of what I owed to my boy."

The next morning they struck south across the hills for Mogok, the great mining town, and their journey thither, under the skilful guidance of Me Dain, was made in safety. The native woman accompanied them for the first half day of their journey, and then her path branched off to the west. She took leave of them with a thousand thanks and good wishes, and, from the store of ready money, carried on one of the pack-ponies, she was furnished with a bag of silver pieces which would make her a rich woman when she reached her native village.

Her parting words were mysterious. She said, "Tell the young sahib that he will find that I have not forgotten him."

Me Dain asked her what she meant, but, with a smile, she refused to explain, and presently was lost to sight along a forest path, and they saw her no more.

From Mogok the travellers pushed on straight to Mandalay, where, through a merchant of his acquaintance, Mr. Haydon obtained sufficient money to pay Me Dain the reward he had promised. So that this time the Burman retired to his native village with wealth beyond anything he had ever dreamed of.

This business detained them in Mandalay for some days, but one evening Mr. Haydon said, "We'll take the first train to-morrow morning," and the others nodded agreement.

Jack went to his room to pack the big bag which he had bought to contain his share of the baggage. The latter had been carried to the room he occupied in the hotel, and he now began to look over it and lay things in order. Presently he came to a torn flannel shirt, and he looked at it with interest. It was the shirt which the half-caste had rent from his breast, and he had replaced it with a spare one which had been among their store. He raised it, and it felt oddly heavy. He unrolled it, and found that it was wrapped round a small parcel.

"What's this?" murmured Jack. "I never wrapped anything up in this shirt."

He took up the parcel and examined it. The outer covering was of native cloth of a dull blue shade. Jack wondered where he had seen such cloth before, then remembered that the head-dress of the native woman, their companion in so adventurous an escape, had been made of it.

"Looks like a bit of that great bundle of stuff she twisted round and round her head," reflected Jack. "Let's see what she's wrapped up for a keepsake."

But the chuckle with which these thoughts passed through his mind was suddenly cut short. A lamp burned brightly on the table beside him. He untied the scrap of cloth which was fastened about the parcel, and unwrapped the folds. He gave a jump of astonishment and a cry of amazement. For there before him, gleaming softly and richly in the strong light of the lamp, lay a heap of magnificent jewels, glorious rubies every one.

He was still staring entranced at this extraordinary find among his traps when the door was opened and a head thrust in.

"Say, Jack," began the newcomer.

"Buck!" cried the lad, "run and fetch my father and Jim, and come back with them."

Buck hurried away, and in less than a minute the four of them were gathered about the heap of precious stones.

"Oh, thunder!" breathed Jim Dent, in a soft tone of amazed wonder.

"Say, Jack, who've you been stickin' up on the trail?" murmured Buck. "Well, if they ain't got a shine on 'em!" and he coul

d say no more.

Mr. Haydon was whistling softly, his eyebrows raised. At last he opened his mouth. "I fancy we've seen these before, Jack," he said.

"Rather," said his son. "These are the rubies that lay among the bones of the priests in the secret chamber. I dropped to that at once."

"We never thought of them again," went on Mr. Haydon, "but the woman gathered them and carried them off. Now she has passed them on to you in this fashion. She must have tucked them into the baggage at some moment when our backs were turned."

"And this is what she meant by saying that he'd find she hadn't forgotten him," broke in Buck. "Say, Jack, you've struck it rich this time."

The fingers of the expert were busy at the next moment among the rich stones. Mr. Haydon handled each carefully, sorted them, then took a pencil and began to appraise them roughly on a scrap of paper. While he did this, Jack related in a low voice to the other two the story of the secret chamber in the pagoda.

"Well," said Mr. Haydon at length, "there are thirty-seven altogether. They vary very much in size, but all are of excellent colour. Speaking in round figures, they are worth about ninety thousand pounds."

"Bully for you, Jack!" exclaimed Buck.

"Bully for all of us, Buck," replied Jack quietly. "If you fancy I'm going to pocket these, you've missed your kick by a long chalk. We'll all share and share alike. Where would my father and myself have been if you hadn't come to the rescue?"

"Right, Jack, quite right," said Mr. Haydon. "But you will count me out, if you please. We'll realise this parcel of stones in London, and then divide the money squarely among you three;" and so it was settled.

"Then I'll come home with you!" cried Jim Dent. "I've had enough of Rangoon, and this trip'll set me up as a rich man for life."

"I hope the woman kept a few stones for herself," said Jack. His father laughed.

"If she's a wise woman she most certainly did not, my boy," he answered. "The possession of rubies would lead to her getting her throat cut as sure as she had a throat. No, no. She's much better off with her bag of rupees."

Five weeks later, about eleven o'clock on a Thursday morning, Jack and his father walked into the city, and sought the offices of Messrs Lane and Baumann. They had come through from Rangoon without a hitch, and had run into Charing Cross by the boat-train the day before.

As they walked along the crowded streets, Mr. Haydon smiled, and said quietly to his son, "You've seen a thing or two, Jack, since last you paid a visit to Lane & Baumann."

"I have, father," said Jack. "It seems years ago since I was here instead of a few months."

Mr. Haydon had insisted on Jack accompanying him on this visit. "It was in their offices that you vowed to begin your quest, Jack," he said; "and in their offices you shall end it, as far as the great stone is concerned."

They were expected, and were at once shown up to Mr. Lane. The latter sprang forward and greeted Mr. Haydon and Jack most warmly.

"Welcome home," he said, "welcome home. I am delighted to see you safe and sound in England once more, Mr. Haydon."

"And I am very pleased to see you, Mr. Lane," said the famous expert, "and glad to say that I have brought home in safety, after all, that big stone, an account of which I cabled to you."

He drew from his pocket the great ruby still wrapped in the fragment cut from U Saw's girdle, and laid it before Mr. Lane. The latter gazed spell-bound at its size and beauty.

"A marvellous stone, Mr. Haydon!" he murmured at last. "A marvellous stone! Ah," he went on, "I wonder what Baumann would say to-day if he were confronted with this wonderful proof of his folly in leaving us."

"Mr. Baumann is no longer your partner?" cried Thomas Haydon.

"No," said Mr. Lane. "We disagreed, and he withdrew from the partnership." Mr. Lane had too much delicacy to say that the quarrel had arisen over their respective opinions as to Thomas Haydon's honesty. Finding that he could not induce the senior partner to make public what he believed to be the theft of the great jewel, Baumann had broken off his connection with the firm.

"I have a long story to tell you, but this is not the time to tell it," said Jack's father. "You are too busy."

"Will you both dine with me to-night?" cried the great merchant. "Then we can have a good talk over things," and the invitation was accepted.

As Jack and his father walked away from the offices, the former remarked, "In one way I was much disappointed that Baumann was not there. It would have been a cheerful arrangement to make him eat his words. But on the whole it just caps the affair nicely to find that he won't benefit by it. Now we'll turn our parcel of rubies into cash and set up Jim and Buck with a good banking account apiece."

His father nodded absently. Between his fingers he held the piece of shining, delicate silk in which the great ruby had been wrapped.

"I see you've brought the scrap of U Saw's girdle with you," said Jack.

"Yes, my boy," returned his father. "I shall never part with this patch of silk. It stands in my eyes for a good deal. I am here safe and sound, and the big stone is at last in the right hands."

"Yes," said Jack quietly, "with the aid of staunch friends, I have come to the end of my quest."

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