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Title: The Flaming Jewel
Author: Robert W. Chambers
Release Date: September 18, 2008 [EBook #26651]
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ROBERT W. CHAMBERS
ROBERT W. CHAMBERS
The Flaming Jewel
TRIANGLE · BOOKS NEW YORKCOPYRIGHT, 1922, BY GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY
Triangle Books Edition Published September 1942
Triangle Books, 14 West Forty-ninth Street,
New York, N. Y.
PRINTED AND BOUND IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA BY THE AMERICAN BOOK—STRATFORD PRESS, INC., N. Y. C.
R. T. HAINES-HALSEY
EVERYTHING I WRITE
Wedgewood, Revere, and Duncan Phyfe!
And out of Wedgewood, using care,
With Paul Revere you eat your fare.
To wage a gastronomic strife
In porringers; and platters rare
Of blue Historic Willow-ware.
Or rose-wreathed feasts with riot rife
To your chaste suppers can't compare.
Paul, Duncan, Wedgewood! That's the life!
All else is bunk and empty air.
With Goulash, Haggis, Bouillabaisse,
Curry, Chop-suey, Kous-Kous Stew—
I can not offer these to you,—
Being a plain, old-fashioned cook,—
So pray accept this scrambled book.
R. W. C.CONTENTS PAGE EPISODE ONE Eve 9 EPISODE TWO The Ruling Passion 33 EPISODE THREE On Star Peak 56 EPISODE FOUR A Private War 75 EPISODE FIVE Drowned Valley 93 EPISODE SIX The Jewel Aflame 110 EPISODE SEVEN Clinch's Dump 134 EPISODE EIGHT Cup and Lip 157 EPISODE NINE The Forest and Mr Sard 180 EPISODE TEN The Twilight of Mike 209 EPISODE ELEVEN The Place of Pines 233 EPISODE TWELVE Her Highness Intervenes 255 THE FLAMING JEWEL Episode One EVE I
DURING the last two years Fate, Chance, and Destiny had been too busy to attend to Mike Clinch.
But now his turn was coming in the Eternal Sequence of things. The stars in their courses indicated the beginning of the undoing of Mike Clinch.
From Esthonia a refugee Countess wrote to James Darragh in New York:
"—After two years we have discovered that it was José Quintana's band of international thieves that robbed Ricca. Quintana has disappeared.
"A Levantine diamond broker in New York, named Emanuel Sard, may be in communication with him.
"Ricca and I are going to America as soon as possible.
The day Darragh received the letter he started to look up Sard.
But that very morning Sard had received a curious letter from Rotterdam. This was the letter:
"Sardius—Tourmaline—Aragonite—Rhodonite * Porphyry—Obsidian—Nugget Gold—Diaspore * Novaculite * Yu * Nugget Silver—Amber—Matrix Turquoise—Elaeolite * Ivory—Sardonyx * Moonstone—Iceland Spar—Kalpa Zircon—Eye Agate * Celonite— Lapis—Iolite—Nephrite—Chalcedony—Hydrolite * Hegolite—Amethyst—Selenite * Fire Opal—Labradorite—Aquamarine—Malachite—Iris Stone—Natrolite—Garnet * Jade—Emerald—Wood Opal—Essonite—Lazuli * Epidote—Ruby—Onyx—Sapphire—Indicolite—Topaz—Euclase * Indian Diamond * Star Sapphire—African Diamond—Iceland Spar—Lapis Crucifer * Abalone—Turkish Turquoise * Old Mine Stone—Natrolite—Cats Eye—Electrum * * * 1⁄5 ā ā."
That afternoon young Darragh located Sard's office and presented himself as a customer. The weasel-faced clerk behind the wicket laid a pistol handy and informed Darragh that Sard was away on a business trip.
Darragh looked cautiously around the small office:
"Can anybody hear us?"
"I have important news concerning José Quintana," whispered Darragh; "Where is Sard?"
"Why, he had a letter from Quintana this very morning," replied the clerk in a low, uneasy voice. "Mr. Sard left for Albany on the one o'clock train. Is there any trouble?"
"Plenty," replied Darragh coolly; "do you know Quintana?"
"No. But Mr. Sard expects him here any day now."
Darragh leaned closer against the grille: "Listen very carefully; if a man comes here who calls himself José Quintana, turn him over to the police until Mr. Sard returns. No matter what he tells you, turn him over to the police. Do you understand?"
"Who are you?" demanded the worried clerk. "Are you one of Quintana's people?"
"Young man," said Darragh, "I'm close enough to Quintana to give you orders. And give Sard orders.... And Quintana, too!"
A great light dawned on the scared clerk:
"You are José Quintana!" he said hoarsely.
Darragh bored him through with his dark stare:
"Mind your business," he said.
That night in Albany Darragh picked up Sard's trail. It led to a dealer in automobiles. Sard had bought a Comet Six, paying cash, and had started north.
Through Schenectady, Fonda, and Mayfield, the following day, Darragh traced a brand new Comet Six containing one short, dark Levantine with a parrot nose. In Northville Darragh hired a Ford.
At Lake Pleasant Sard's car went wrong. Darragh missed him by ten minutes; but he learned that Sard had inquired the way to Ghost Lake Inn.
That was sufficient. Darragh bought an axe, drove as far as Harrod's Corners, dismissed the Ford, and walked into a forest entirely familiar to him.
He emerged in half an hour on a wood road two miles farther on. Here he felled a tree across the road and sat down in the bushes to await events.
Toward sunset, hearing a car coming, he tied his handkerchief over his face below the eyes, and took an automatic from his pocket.
Sard's car stopped and Sard got out to inspect the obstruction. Darragh sauntered out of the bushes, poked his pistol against Mr. Sard's fat abdomen, and leisurely and thoroughly robbed him.
In an agreeable spot near a brook Darragh lighted his pipe and sat him down to examine the booty in detail. Two pistols, a stiletto, and a blackjack composed the arsenal of Mr. Sard. A large wallet disclosed more than four thousand dollars in Treasury notes—something to reimburse Ricca when she arrived, he thought.
Among Sard's papers he discovered a cipher letter from Rotterdam—probably from Quintana. Cipher was rather in Darragh's line. All ciphers are solved by similar methods, unless the key is contained in a code book known only to sender and receiver.
But Quintana's cipher proved to be only an easy acrostic—the very simplest of secret messages. Within an hour Darragh had it pencilled out:
"Star Pond, N. Y.... Name is Mike Clinch.... Has Flaming Jewel.... Erosite.... I sail at once.
Having served in Russia as an officer in the Military Intelligence Department attached to the American Expeditionary Forces, Darragh had little trouble with Quintana's letter. Even the signature was not difficult, the fraction 1⁄5 was easily translated Quint ; and the familiar prescription symbol ā ā spelled ana ; which gave Quintana's name in full.
He had heard of Erosite as the rarest and most magnificent of all gems. Only three were known. The young Duchess Theodorica of Esthonia had possessed one.
Darragh was immensely amused to find that the chase after Emanuel Sard should have led him to the very borders of the great Harrod estate in the Adirondacks.
He gathered up his loot and walked on through the splendid forest which once had belonged to Henry Harrod of Boston, and which now was the property of Harrod's nephew, James Darragh.
When he came to the first trespass notice he stood a moment to read it. Then, slowly, he turned and looked toward Clinch's. An autumn sunset flared like a conflagration through the pines. There was a glimmer of water, too, where Star Pond lay.
Fate, Chance, and Destiny were becoming very busy with Mike Clinch. They had started Quintana, Sard, and Darragh on his trail. Now they stirred up the sovereign State of New York.
That lank wolf, Justice, was afoot and sniffing uncomfortably close to the heels of Mike Clinch.II
Two State Troopers drew bridles in the yellowing October forest. Their smart drab uniforms touched with purple blended harmoniously with the autumn woods. They were as inconspicuous as two deer in the dappled shadow. There was a sunny clearing just ahead. The wood road they had been travelling entered it. Beyond lay Star Pond.
Trooper Lannis said to Trooper Stormont: "That's Mike Clinch's clearing. Our man may be there. Now we'll see if anybody tips him off this time."
Forest and clearing were very still in the sunshine. Nothing stirred save gold leaves drifting down, and a hawk high in the deep blue sky turning in narrow circles.
Lannis was instructing Stormont, who had been transferred from the Long Island Troop, and who was unacquainted with local matters.
Lannis said: "Clinch's dump stands on the other edge of the clearing. Clinch owns five hundred acres in here. He's a rat."
"Well, he's mean. I don't know how bad he is. But he runs a rotten dump. The forest has its slums as well as the city. This is the Hell's Kitchen of the North Woods."
"All the scum of the wilderness gathers here," went on Lannis. "Here's where half the trouble in the North Woods hatches. We'll eat dinner at Clinch's. His stepdaughter is a peach."
The sturdy, sun-browned trooper glanced at his wrist watch, stretched his legs in his stirrups.
"Jack," he said, "I want you to get Clinch right, and I'm going to tell you about his outfit while we watch this road. It's like a movie. Clinch plays the lead. I'll dope out the scenario for you——"
He turned sideways in his saddle, freeing both spurred heels and lolled so, constructing a cigarette while he talked:
"Way back around 1900 Mike Clinch was a guide—a decent young fellow they say. He guided fishing parties in summer, hunters in fall and winter. He made money and built the house. The people he guided were wealthy. He made a lot of money and bought land. I understand he was square and that everybody liked him.
"About that time there came to Clinch's 'hotel' a Mr. and Mrs. Strayer. They were 'lungers.' Strayer seemed to be a gentleman; his wife was good looking and rather common. Both were very young. He had the consump bad—the galloping variety. He didn't last long. A month after he died his young wife had a baby. Clinch married her. She also died the same year. The baby's name was Eve. Clinch became quite crazy about her and started to make a lady of her. That was his mania."
Lannis leaned from his saddle and carefully dropped his cigarette end into a puddle of rain water. Then he swung one leg over and sat side saddle.
"Clinch had plenty of money in those days," he went on. "He could afford to educate the child. The kid had a governess. Then he sent her to a fancy boarding school. She had everything a young girl could want.
"She developed into a pretty young thing at fifteen.... She's eighteen now—and I don't know what to call her. She pulled a gun on me in July."
"Sure. There was a row at Clinch's dump. A rum-runner called Jake Kloon got shot up. I came up to get Clinch. He was sick-drunk in his bunk. When I broke in the door Eve Strayer pulled a gun on me."
"What happened?" inquired Stormont.
"Nothing. I took Clinch.... But he got