“His ... death!”
As a wild, hysterical shriek the words smote upon my ears. I turned, to see the girl rise, tottering, from her seat. She began groping in front of her, blindly, as though a darkness had descended.
“You did not say he was dead?” she whispered, “not dead!—not ...”
The words were lost in a wild peal of laughter. Clutching at her throat she swayed and would have fallen had I not caught her in my arms. As I laid her insensible upon the settee I met Smith’s glance.
“I think I know that, too, Petrie,” he said gravely.
THE GOLDEN POMEGRANATES
“What was it that he cried out?” demanded Nayland Smith abruptly. “I was in the sitting-room and it sounded to me like ’pomegranates’!”
We were bending over Lewison; for now, the wig removed, Lewison it proved unmistakably to be, despite the puffy and pallid face.
“He said ‘the golden pomegranates,’” I replied, and laughed harshly. “They were words of delirium and cannot possibly have any bearing upon the manner of his death.”
He strode out into the sitting-room.
Weymouth was below, supervising the removal of the unhappy prisoner, and together Smith and I stood looking down at the brass box. Suddenly—
“I propose to attempt to open it,” said my friend.
His words came as a complete surprise.
“For what reason?—and why have you so suddenly changed your mind?”
“For a reason which I hope will presently become evident,” he said; “and as to my change of mind, unless I am greatly mistaken, the wily old Chinaman from whom I wrested this treasure was infinitely more clever than I gave him credit for being!”
Through the open window came faintly to my ears the chiming of Big Ben. The hour was a quarter to two. London’s pulse was dimmed now, and around about us that great city slept as soundly as it ever sleeps. Other sounds came vaguely through the fog, and beside Nayland Smith I sat and watched him at work upon the Tulun-Nur box.
Every knob of the intricate design he pushed, pulled and twisted; but without result. The night wore on, and just before three o’clock Inspector Weymouth knocked upon the door. I admitted him, and side by side the two of us stood watching Smith patiently pursuing his task.
All conversation had ceased, when, just as the muted booming of London’s clocks reached my ears again and Weymouth pulled out his watch, there came a faint click ... and I saw that Smith had raised the lid of the coffer!
Weymouth and I sprang forward with one accord, and over Smith’s shoulders peered into the interior. There was a second lid of some dull, black wood, apparently of great age, and fastened to it so as to form knobs or handles was an exquisitely carved pair of golden pomegranates!