Prester John HTML version
My Uncle's Gift Is Many Times Multiplied
We got at the treasure by blowing open the turnstile. It was easy enough to trace
the spot in the rock where it stood, but the most patient search did not reveal its
secret. Accordingly we had recourse to dynamite, and soon laid bare the stone
steps, and ascended to the gallery. The chasm was bridged with planks, and
Arcoll and I crossed alone. The cave was as I had left it. The bloodstains on the
floor had grown dark with time, but the ashes of the sacramental fire were still
there to remind me of the drama I had borne a part in. When I looked at the way I
had escaped my brain grew dizzy at the thought of it. I do not think that all the
gold on earth would have driven me a second time to that awful escalade. As for
Arcoll, he could not see its possibility at all.
'Only a madman could have done it,' he said, blinking his eyes at the green linn.
'Indeed, Davie, I think for about four days you were as mad as they make. It was
a fortunate thing, for your madness saved the country.'
With some labour we got the treasure down to the path, and took it under a
strong guard to Pietersdorp. The Government were busy with the settling up after
the war, and it took many weeks to have our business disposed of. At first things
looked badly for me. The Attorney-General set up a claim to the whole as spoils
of war, since, he argued, it was the war-chest of the enemy we had conquered. I
do not know how the matter would have gone on legal grounds, though I was
advised by my lawyers that the claim was a bad one. But the part I had played in
the whole business, more especially in the visit to Inanda's Kraal, had made me a
kind of popular hero, and the Government thought better of their first attitude.
Besides, Arcoll had great influence, and the whole story of my doings, which was
told privately by him to some of the members of the Government, disposed them
to be generous. Accordingly they agreed to treat the contents of the cave as
ordinary treasure trove, of which, by the law, one half went to the discoverer and
one half to the Crown.
This was well enough so far as the gold was concerned, but another difficulty
arose about the diamonds; for a large part of these had obviously been stolen by
labourers from the mines, and the mining people laid claim to them as stolen
goods. I was advised not to dispute this claim, and consequently we had a great
sorting-out of the stones in the presence of the experts of the different mines. In
the end it turned out that identification was not an easy matter, for the experts
quarrelled furiously among themselves. A compromise was at last come to, and a
division made; and then the diamond companies behaved very handsomely,
voting me a substantial sum in recognition of my services in recovering their
property. What with this and with my half share of the gold and my share of the
unclaimed stones, I found that I had a very considerable fortune. The whole of
my stones I sold to De Beers, for if I had placed them on the open market I
should have upset the delicate equipoise of diamond values. When I came finally
to cast up my accounts, I found that I had secured a fortune of a trifle over a
quarter of a million pounds.