“Malaria?” said Mr. Rogers, quietly. “There’s better scent than malaria in this valley, and we’re hot on it. Here’s the river, and— What does the chart say, boy? Five trees, a mile and a half from the creek-head? We must have come a mile already. Keep your eyes skinned, and give me a nudge if you see such a clump.”
But there was no need to keep my eyes skinned. At the next bend of the glade he and I caught sight of it simultaneously—a clump of noble pines that would have challenged notice even had we not been searching for them. My heart stood still as I counted them. Yes; there were five!
“I haven’t often wanted to put a knife into a man’s back,” grunted Mr. Rogers, with a gloomy glance ahead at Dr. Beauregard.
For an instant I made sure the Doctor had overheard him. He halted suddenly, and turned to us with a proprietary wave of the hand towards the trees.
“A fine group, sirs, is it not? I have often regretted that the cliff yonder just cuts off the view of it from my windows. Indeed, I had almost altered the site of the house to include it. But health before everything—hey, ladies? There is always a certain amount of fever in these valleys, and you will own, presently, that the site I prepared has its compensations.”
He resumed his way past the trees, and—a quarter of a mile beyond them—past an angle of the cliff where the ridge bent sharply back from the river and revealed a narrow gorge, its entrance choked with pines, running up towards the mountain. Here he paused again, and with another wave of the hand.
High on the right of the gorge, on a plateau above the dark pine-tops, a white-painted house looked down on us—a long, low house with a generous spread of shadow under its verandah and a dazzle of light where the upper windows took the sun.
WE FIND THE TREASURE.
“I’ve a strong sense of the right of property,” said Miss Belcher, sipping her tea.
We had gathered in Dr. Beauregard’s deep verandah, at the corner where it took the late afternoon sunshine. The level rays sparkled on the silver and delicate Worcester china of the Doctor’s tea equipage, and fell through the open French window into the Doctor’s drawing-room. A wonderful room it was, as everything in the house was wonderful, a spacious, airy room, furnished in white and gold, with Dresden figures on the mantelshelf; Venetian mirrors, dainty water-colours sunk into the panels, cases of rare books (among them, as I remember, a set of the Cabinet des Fees, bound in rose-coloured morocco and stamped with the Royal arms of France), stands of music, and a priceless harpsichord inlaid with ivory. Next to the airiness of the house, which stood high above reach of the valley mists with their malaria, what most sharply impressed me, and the ladies in particular, was its exquisite cleanliness. Yet Dr. Beauregard assured us that he kept but one servant—the negress Rosa.