The guests refused to go back to their
city homes until they had seen the contents of the
chest that had brought such woe to Kastle Krags; and
there was nothing to do but to make an immediate search.
When daylight came again Edith announced that she
had fully recovered from the adventure of two days
before, and was ready to help me recover the chest.
“I can’t wait to see if
it’s really there,” she confessed.
We went in flow-tide, and we guided
a boat over the place. But we weren’t trusting
entirely to our theory that the sink-hole was only
dangerous when the tide was running out. A stout
rope was attached to the prow of the boat, and I lashed
it about my waist before I stepped off into the water.
We had guessed right about the underground
channel. At flood tide a swimmer could pass directly
over it in safety. I located a great limestone
boulder that I thought was undoubtedly the “white
rock” of the script, but as the surface was
rough and choppy from the tidal waves breaking against
the rock wall, it was impossible to find the chest
by power of vision alone. I found I had to dive
again and again, groping with my hands.
But in scarcely a moment my foot encountered
an iron chain at the base of the rock. In a moment
more the search was ended. A small, iron-bound
chest, hardly of twelve inch dimensions, was fastened
to the chain, which in turn was hooked securely in
a crevice of the boulder.
It was a rather wide-eyed, sober group
that rowed back to the shore. In the first place
it was almost impossible to believe that such a seeming
legendary thing was actually in our hands, a thing
of weight and substance and unquestioned reality.
The chest had been made of some sort
of very hard wood, chemically treated, and showed
not the slightest sign of decay in the eighty years
it had lain in the water. How many little crafts
had passed over it! What a scarlet trail it had
left since the Arganil had borne it from Rio
de Janeiro, so long ago. “But naked treasures
breed murder!” Nealman had said speaking
truer than he knew.... “They get home to
human imagination and human wickedness as nothing
The boat touched the shore. Nopp
lifted the chest easily on the ground. “Don’t
be too hopeful,” he advised Edith quietly.
“If it’s gold that’s in it, you
couldn’t have much over a thousand. It only
weighs nine or ten pounds, box and all.”
It was true. And the box itself,
bound with iron, could easily weigh that much.
Had we been hoaxed by an empty chest?
Somehow or other, nervous and fumbling,
we got the thing open. Some of the rods we broke,
others we bent back. And at first we only stared
in blank surprise.
It did not look like gold the
contents of the chest. Nor was it a string of
precious jewels. It seemed merely a bent, shapeless
object of some dark-colored metal, and a few dull
stones, some of which were as large as hickory nuts,
loose in the bottom. Certain words were said as
we looked down, certain questions asked but
all of them were dim and lost in a great, wondering
preoccupation that dropped over me.
Nopp reached a big hand, took one
of the stones, and rubbed it on his trouser leg.
Looking at it, he rubbed it again with added vigor.
Then he stared at it in sudden, fascinated wonder.
“Good Heavens!” he suddenly
exclaimed in tremendous excitement. “Do
you know what this is?”
We turned to him, staring blankly.
“What is it?” Edith asked. Her voice
was quiet; only the bright sparkle in her eyes revealed
how excited she really was.
“It’s an emerald.
That’s what it is. One of the finest in
this country. It’s worth a whole chest
of gold. Killdare, the story was that it was a
Portuguese ship bound out from Rio?”
“And the chest was the property
of some noble family, Portuguese princes at the time
the court of Portugal was located in Rio de Janeiro?”
“Something like that
“The property of a noble family!
Edith, it was unquestionably the property of the ruling
house itself. Wait just a minute.”
He took the shapeless thing of metal,
rubbed it until a little of the tarnish was gone,
revealing yellow gold beneath, and slowly bent it in
his hands. It took a circular shape. Then
he showed us little sockets, set at various points,
that had been the settings for the jewels. We
saw the truth at once.
“A crown!” Edith said.
“Unquestionably the famous crown
that the Portuguese king wore at his Brazilian court one
of the richest courts in history. The jewels came
from Brazil, from Peruvian temples Heaven
knows where. And for Heaven’s sake, Edith,
send it away and get it changed into securities.
It’s death that’s all it is.
It’s the kind of thing that drives men insane.”
We took the yellow thing, and in a
wonderful, elated mood, we set it on her own golden
curls. But she removed it quickly. We were
all instantly sobered as she put it into my hands.
“It’s bad luck to wear
it,” she said. “It makes me creep
to think what wickedness it has caused clear
through the centuries. I’m an American and
being a queen has never appealed to me.”
Nopp smiled quietly, into the depths
of the lagoon. “But you intend to be somebody’s
queen, don’t you, Edith?” he asked.
And thus the matter of Kastle Krags
came to a new beginning. Edith changed the jewels
into securities, just as Nopp advised, and a tenth
of them paid the obligations that were left after
Nealman’s estate was settled up. The rest
provided an annual income that, while it would have
been considered moderate by such great financiers as
Marten and his fellows, seemed of kingly proportions
to me. At least it provided for the maintenance
of the old southern manor-house according to its best
And when Edith and I go sailing away
to strange lands beyond the sea, bent on scientific
research and adventure, we often wonder what haughty
princes and bearded pirates, lurking in the shadows
of the deck are saying among themselves. Things
have taken a great turn, they whisper together, when
the jewels for which they lived and fought, did murder
and died, have gone to sustain a rich man’s secretary
and a penniless schoolmaster! Perhaps lovely
Portuguese princesses watch with contempt; and ear-ringed
villains, scornful of such science as mine, swear evil
oaths and wonder how the times have tamed!
But perhaps they are glad that their
watch of the lagoon is over! There is nothing
to hold these restless spirits now, and you can hear
them rustling no more in the forest, or feel their
tragic presence in the gardens. Some way, the
house is more cheerful, and the sea no longer conveys
the image of desolation and mystery. When our
young friends visit us, to play golf on our links
and shoot and fish in the lakes and rivers, they invariably
speak of its homely charm and cheer. We have,
however, made certain improvements in the grounds.
We have huge, black-lettered signs
posted here and there along the lagoon, giving certain
advice concerning swimming at ebb-tide.