J. M. (James Morgan) Walsh.

The lost valley online

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swore at the chauffeur every time the car jolted and sent a quiver of
pain through the wound.

In course of time Bryce's car came to a little hamlet on the Geelong to
Colac road - a hamlet that must be nameless in this story. There he found
the Albert Cumshaw of this tale, delivered his father into his care and
told him all that had happened, suppressing only the episode of the
finding of the wood. He found Albert Cumshaw easier to deal with than he
had expected - as a matter of fact the younger man already knew much of
his father's story - and the result of the conversation was that the
search was held over, pending the elder Cumshaw's recovery.

Bryce remained the night with the Cumshaws, saw that a doctor was
secured who would give skilled attention to the elder man, and then
early in the morning set out for home. The day was very warm, and the
cool breeze that presently sprang up from the ocean moved Bryce to motor
down to the coast. At the worst it was only a few miles out of his road.
At first he had no intention of making a stop at the heads, but the sea
as he came within sight of it looked so cool and inviting that he was
tempted to have a dip. He parked his car in the reserve, purchased a
bathing suit at the local store and ambled down to the beach. It was
only when he commenced to undress that he recollected that the wood was
still in his pocket, so with rare caution he thrust it under the sand,
quite satisfied that no one would dream of looking there. He had no idea
that his pursuers were so close behind him; he was merely taking
precautions against any casual tramp who might be tempted to run through
his pockets.

Ten minutes later James Carstairs, explorer, gentleman and rolling
stone, limped into the picture, and the story of The Lost Valley entered
upon its penultimate phase.





"You may smoke if you like, Mr. Cumshaw," Moira said graciously to our

I said nothing; instead I silently handed the man my cigar-case. He
selected a weed with a discriminating care that I felt cast an
unwarranted reflection on the quality of the cigars I smoked. I watched
him in silence while he cut off the end with a neat, precise stroke of
his penknife, lit the cigar and blew a cloud of blue smoke out of his
mouth. All the time I was staring at him I could feel Moira's eyes on
me, and I knew that she was wondering what made me so boorish and
morose. Or, perhaps, with a woman's keen instinct for ferreting out the
things she shouldn't know anything about, she guessed just what was the
matter. To tell the truth I was just beginning to feel a little jealous.
Frankly I considered that she was paying too much attention to Mr.
Albert Cumshaw, and I hadn't two sharp eyes without seeing that he
openly admired her. Of course I had turned down her overtures of
reconciliation, and I think I told her plainly enough that there was no
possibility of my falling in love with her again; but, if all that were
perfectly true, I shouldn't have been jealous because the two of them
took to making eyes at each other. The fact remained that I was a little
hurt by what I saw, and I had to recognise, even though I ran counter to
the promptings of my common-sense, that I wasn't as indifferent to her
as I would have myself believe.

I brought myself back with a jerk to the matter in hand.

"What do you propose doing about the matter?" I asked of Cumshaw.

He did not reply immediately. His right little finger flipped the ash
from off the end of his cigar, and then the dark curly head lifted and
the glowing eyes looked straight into mine.

"What do I propose doing!" he repeated. "Well, if it was left to me," he
said, after a contemplative pause, "I'd say the treasure's there, and
the sooner we go after it the better. We know already that there's other
people on the job - they killed Mr. Bryce and they made a mess of the
Dad - and it's all right thinking, as Mr. Bryce did, that they've come to
the end of their tether and are waiting for us to set the pace for them.
There's been so many miracles in this play already that it doesn't do to
risk the chance of any more. We've got no absolute guarantee that they
won't stumble on the key to everything while we're wasting time here.
You say you've got a cypher Mr. Bryce left you. Well, that cypher
contains the position of the treasure; there's no doubt about that in my
mind. Bradby carved it on the wood - neither he nor the Dad had any paper
with them at the time - and from what I've heard of the man I'm confident
that it's the kind of thing he would do. Then when Mr. Bryce got hold of
it he burnt the wood and threw what was on it into a sort of cryptogram.
One way and another he was pretty cautious when the fit took him, though
I must say that when it was a question of his own life he wasn't so
particular. It boils down to this. The Dad's out of the game for good
and we've got to use our own wits. Within limits we've got a fair idea
of the position of the valley, and, once we've solved the cypher, we'll
probably have something more definite to go on."

"That," I remarked, "is supposing we do solve it. As far as I can see
it's too weird for anything."

"Uncle," said Moira severely, "wouldn't have written it if he didn't
think you could solve it. That's why he made it easy."

"If you think it's easy," I retorted, "take it yourself and see what you
can make of it."

"That's a good idea," Cumshaw cut in, turning my own shaft against
myself. "Suppose we all have a shot at it and see what we can make of
it. We might get it all out and again we mightn't. When we get as far as
we can we'll all pool our efforts, and maybe we'll make something out of
it that way."

"An excellent suggestion, Mr. Cumshaw," Moira said, and darted a glance
of triumph at me. It said as plainly as so many words that here was a
champion for her, a man who would defend her against the whole world. Of
course I ignored it. What man would do anything else under the
circumstances? But there are some things, of which this was one, that
the more one ignores them the more insistent as to their presence do
they become. So, though I affected not to see Moira's little glance of
triumph, it photographed itself upon my mind's eye and completely
spoiled the evening for me.

"We'll get Jim here to type out a copy for you before you go, Mr.
Cumshaw," she promised, "and you can see what you can make of it."

"Thanks," said the young man briefly. I had expected him to make a
bigger mouthful of it than that, and I thought it odd that he did not.
It struck me too as queer that he did not ask for a look at the cypher;
an ordinary man would have known no peace until he had examined it in
all its baffling details. As I was to learn, Mr. Cumshaw was no ordinary
man, and, for a young chap of his age, had his emotions and inclinations
under rather remarkable control.

I stood up. "If you want that cypher," I said, "I'll type it out now,
and you can study it on the way home if you wish."

"It's very kind of you," Cumshaw murmured with a well-bred lack of

"I think," said Moira, "that we'd all better adjourn to the study. I
don't like to think of anyone being in there alone, especially at night.
You see," she explained to Cumshaw, "the room hasn't been used since
Uncle's death. He was killed in that very room ... in front of my eyes."

"I understand," said Cumshaw softly, and he rose to his feet and held
the door open for Moira to pass out. She led the way to the study and
unlocked the door. It had been a fad of hers ever since the tragedy to
keep the room sealed, and, as I saw no reason for gainsaying her, I had
never interfered. She switched on the light and we stood for a moment on
the threshold, dazzled by the unaccustomed radiance. Nothing in the
place had been touched - we had not disturbed anything during our search
for Bryce's papers - and, save for the absence of some of the actors in
the scene, it might have been the very night of the tragedy itself.

I broke the spell by walking into the room and proceeding to take the
cover off the typewriter. The machine had not been used since its owner
had died. Despite the manner in which I had lied to Bryce, I knew a
thing or two about typewriters. As a matter of fact I transcribed the
greater part of my father's three volumes of Solomon Island Ethnology on
just such another machine. I sat down at the table and drew from my
pocket the letter and the cypher, both of which I had thrust out of
sight when Albert Cumshaw had been announced that afternoon.

"There's the cypher," I said, and I spread the sheet out on the table.

Cumshaw bent over it and read out aloud from beginning to end.

"[email protected]; [email protected] &9; 3 5433-3/4 [email protected] 3 @75 £994 1/4;£ [email protected] 48½8;? ½7; ¼43 8; & 8;3
- 3¼½743 ½3:3; "335 3¼½[email protected]; "¼/3 £843/5 ;[email protected]¾£4¼2 ¼;[email protected] &8;3 ¼5
[email protected] ¼;?&3½ 59 [email protected] 043:897½ 9;3¾3)53;£8;? " 94 523&:3 "335.£8? [email protected];,"
he said, stumbling every now and then at the unfamiliar expressions.

"What do you make of it?" I asked.

He looked up at me with just the flicker of a smile about the corners of
his mouth. "I can't say just yet," he replied. "All these things take
time. You can't solve them in an instant."

"I thought we might," I said, with just the least hint of offensiveness
in my tone. I don't know whether or not he noticed it, but if he did he
was gentleman enough to ignore it.

"All right," I ran on, "I'll type this out if one of you'll read it to
me. Go slowly, as I don't want to have any mistakes. It's bad enough to
have to do it once without having to do it again."

"I'll read it," Cumshaw volunteered. I nodded to show my agreement. I
then threaded the paper through and said, "I'm ready."

He began to read it very slowly and carefully, and I typed away as he
spoke. I had just got the first four or five combinations down when
Moira interrupted me.

"I knew you'd make a mess of it," she said coldly. "I told you so at the
beginning." As a matter of fact she had said no such thing, but I let it

"What's wrong?" I queried, looking up at her.

"I've been watching you," said she, "and you haven't depressed your
figure lever once. You must have it all wrong. It'll just be simple
letters instead of the signs."

I had been typing all the time with my eyes on the keyboard, and I
hadn't once glanced at the finished work. Now I looked at it I saw that
she was right. I had been typing letters all along when I should have
been printing figures. And then something queer about the letters struck
me. My heart gave a jump.

"Go on," I said huskily to Cumshaw. "Give me a few more."

He read out two or three more combinations and then I leaned back in the
chair. "Look," I said triumphantly, "look what I've done!"

Two heads bobbed down over my work, stared at it for a moment, and then
two pairs of eyes smiled at me.

"You've solved it by accident," said Cumshaw.

"I'm sorry for what I said," Moira said simply.

"It's just the simplest cypher in existence," I said. "You've got a
keyboard with letters and figures on it. When you want letters you type
straight out, and when you want figures you just depress the lever. Now
look at this. That 5 is on the same key as T, @ is on H's key, 3 means
E, and so on. When Bryce worked it out he simply pressed down the figure
lever and left it down, and now to reverse the process all we've got to
do is to hit the keys these signs are on and leave the lever alone.
Simple, isn't it?"

"Very," said Cumshaw.

"Get it all out, Jim, quick!" said Moira with feminine impatience.

I did. I pressed 2 and I got W, and so on all along the keyboard, and
when I had finished I pulled the sheet out and handed it to them. "Read
it out, Moira," I said. "It's your turn."

"'When the Lone Tree, the hut door and the rising sun are in line
measure seven feet east. Then face direct north, draw another line at
right angles to previous one, extending for twelve feet. Dig then.'"

"If it hadn't been for you," said Cumshaw, "we wouldn't have found it. I
congratulate you," and he held out his hand to me.

"Rubbish!" I said. "It was all a lucky accident." But all the same I
took the proffered hand.

"We can go right on with it now," Moira cried joyously. "There's nothing
to stop us."

"Only that we've got to find the valley yet," said Cumshaw gloomily. "My
father made several attempts but couldn't locate it."

"You've got to bear in mind," I told them, "that we've got some
information your father hadn't, strange though it seems."

"And that?" Cumshaw queried quickly.

"We're looking for a valley that's got a lone tree overlooking it. Your
father didn't seem to be aware of that."

Cumshaw seized the paper and read it through quickly. "By the Lord
Harry, you're right, Carstairs! That's one piece of information he
didn't have. If he had known that when he went after the gold himself
he'd have got it."

"Maybe he would," I said doubtfully.

"You don't seem too sure of it, Carstairs," Cumshaw remarked, with a
sidelong glance at Moira.

"No more I am," I told him. "I don't like our chances either."

"But," he protested with a puzzled indrawing of his eyebrows, "as far as
we're concerned it's as easy as falling off a log."

"Just as easy," I agreed, "providing our friends the enemy don't
interfere. They don't seem to be the kind of men who rest on their oars,
that is if we can judge anything from their past exploits."

"You're right there, Carstairs," Cumshaw said. "I never gave them a
thought, but I see now that they're likely to prove a pretty active
menace to our safety."

"That," I said, turning to Moira, "cuts out all possibility of your
coming with us. You can't be running into danger."

"Can't I just," she said with an assertive toss of her head, "and,
whether I can or not, I'm going," she finished.

I looked at Cumshaw. I could not tell from his expression whether he was
pleased or sorry. His face was as devoid of emotion as that of a china

"What do you think about it?" I asked him straight out.

He glanced at me in his turn with a curious baffling light in his dark
eyes, and I felt as if he had stripped my soul bare of all pretences and
was reading my thoughts in all their nakedness.

"I should think," he said at length with an air of absolute
impartiality, "that Miss Drummond is the mistress of her own actions and
neither you nor I have any right to dictate what she is to do."

"Have it your own way then," I said, with difficulty suppressing my
rising anger. "But if anything goes wrong remember that I warned you

"I'll remember that," Moira said, and she favored Cumshaw with a little
smile of gratitude. She never smiled at me like that, not even in those
far-away days when we were all the world to each other or thought we
were. Which in the end amounts to much the same thing.

"Well, if you don't mind," said Cumshaw, breaking an awkward silence,
"I'll go home now and think matters over. And then to-morrow we'll
decide what to do."

"Home?" I echoed. "I thought - - " And then I stopped.

"I'm staying in town," he said with a smile. "That's what I meant when I
said home."

"In that case," I said, "you'll be handy whenever we want you. You'd
better leave your address in case we want you in a hurry."

He scribbled his address - a leading city hotel - on a blank card and
handed it to me. I glanced at it and then thrust it into my pocket. When
I looked up again he was holding Moira's hand in his, just a trifle
longer than convention demanded I thought, and saying something to her
that I did not catch. She smiled in return, a dazzling smile, and said
quite distinctly, "Please call whenever you feel inclined. There is no
need for us to stand on ceremony with each other now we're partners."

I saw him to the door. At the threshold he turned and spoke with one
foot on the step and the other on the ground, taking up that attitude of
unaffected ease that gives an air of friendliness to even the most
formal conversation.

"I'm rather pleased I met you, Carstairs," he said. "In one way and
another I've heard a lot about you, and I think you've got the kind of
level head we'll need before we've seen this business through."

"Thank you," I replied. I was nearly going to say 'Soft words butter no
parsnips,' but my common-sense came to my aid just in time to prevent me
making a fool of myself. He held out his hand, and I took it in the
spirit in which he had offered it to me. Nevertheless I was absurdly
jealous of the man, though Heaven knows I hadn't the least reason to be.
I could see with half an eye that he had made a good impression on
Moira, and the way she had spoken to him, especially that last remark of
hers, showed me that she was egging him on. It didn't matter one single
solitary damn to me. I had told her clearly and definitely that we were
business partners and that love was altogether out of the question. Yet
here was I, the moment a potential rival appeared on the scene, behaving
for all the world like a spoilt child. And, like a spoilt child, for my
own good I needed someone to bring me sharply and suddenly to my

Cumshaw bade me a cheerful good-night. I saw his lithe figure swing
along through the sub-tropical darkness of a moonless summer night. Then
the latch on the gate clicked with the ringing sound of metal striking
against metal. I closed the door and went inside.

Moira was standing in the study just as I had left her, standing as
motionless and devoid of life as a statue of carven stone. I don't think
she heard me at first.

"Well," I said conversationally, "how is it now?"

She turned at the sound of my voice and faced me squarely. I could see
that her eyes were bright with unshed tears, and something inside of me
moved me with a sudden impulse to go up to her. I placed my hands on her
shoulders and was amazed to find how unsteady they were. They trembled,
my hands trembled! And yet they used to tell me in the old Island days
that I hadn't a nerve in my body.

I was quite prepared for anything except what really happened. I could
feel a sort of tension in the atmosphere, and I expected her to do
something theatrical. But she didn't. She backed away from me, but she
didn't go far. The table was behind her.

I don't know how long we stood looking at each other. It seemed a
lifetime to me, and the silence was the sort that a man feels it
sacrilege to break.

"You make it very hard for me, Jim," Moira said calmly. The tears were
still in her eyes, but her voice was under excellent control. It didn't
vibrate a note. She looked at me as she spoke, looked me straight in the
eyes, and I think it was then that I began to realise what an ass I had
been making of myself.

"How do I make it hard?" I asked. My voice was curiously low, almost
husky in fact. I rather think she noticed it and took heart therefrom. A
man is very easy to handle when he is not quite sure of himself.

"I've got to pretend," she said in answer to my question. "Pretend that
you are nothing to me when - - "

She stopped short. It seemed almost as if she regretted that she had
said so much.

"Go on," I urged.

"There's not much to say," she continued. "I just want to tell you, to
tell you in such a way that you'll believe me, that if I've treated you
shamefully I've suffered for it. I can't make any reparation for it; you
were quite right in saying that it is too late now to alter things. I
just want you to know that I'm sorry. I can't say much more than that,
though I don't want to take any credit for it now, seeing that it's been
practically forced out of me."

I remembered the way she had been standing when I came in, the tears in
her eyes, and the way she had backed out of my reach the moment I put my
hands on her shoulders. It would have been so easy for her to have done
the other thing, but she hadn't, and I admired her all the more for it.
She might easily have captured me in the first flush of emotion, but she
had instead given me time to think and a chance to get away if I wanted
to. There was something in her attitude that appealed to my sense of
fair play and at the same time prevented me from in any way
misinterpreting her last remark.

"Moira," I said, "were you crying when I came in just now?"

Her lip trembled a little as she asked, "Why do you want to know?"

"Because," I said slowly, "I've solved one riddle already to-night, and
I've a mind to solve another before I go to bed."

"I was crying," she admitted, "only I didn't mean you to see."

"And why was that?"

"I thought you might imagine I was just doing it."

I knew what she meant; there was no need for her to explain further. She
didn't want to influence me in any way; whatever I did must be done of
my own free will.

"I'm beginning to understand," I said slowly.

"Then you'll forgive?" she said quickly, and one hand went up to her
throat as if she were choking.

I nodded and impulsively she held out her hand to me. I did not take it,
and she half-turned so that I would not see what was in her eyes.

"Can't we even be friends?" she said, with a queer little catch in her

Something snapped in my head at that, and the words I had been holding
back all the evening came to my lips in a rush of speech.

"I didn't mean you to take it that way," I said desperately. "I wouldn't
shake hands because ... that's not what I want. It's too stand-offish.
I'm going to do more than forgive, and we're going to me more than
friends, if you still want me."

"You know I want you," she said softly with her head bowed shyly and the
blushes rising in her cheeks.

I took her in my arms and kissed her.



Once we had definitely fixed the date of our departure we lost no time
in making ready. As the days went by I began to see more and more
clearly that it was just as well I had thrown in my lot with Moira and
young Cumshaw. Neither of them had the least idea of organisation, and
they seemed to think that things just happened of their own accord.
Moira couldn't see anything else but the glamor and romance of the
adventure, and I found that, for all his cleverness, Albert Cumshaw did
not know what was essential to the expedition and what wasn't.

"We can't start off like a picnic party," I said to them on one
occasion, "and just wander on until we come to a likely spot. We've got
to have everything planned out right down to the last box of matches and
the last cartridge."

Cumshaw drew a deep breath. "Cartridges!" he said, "Are you talking

"No," I answered. "I'm speaking literally. It might yet be the case of
the last cartridge. You must remember that, even if we get the gold and
come back here in safety, we're still not out of the wood. We're not
safe until our friends the enemy are removed from our paths for ever."

"You mean that they must be killed?" Moira demanded.

"I don't mean anything of the kind," I answered. "As a matter of fact
I've got a perfect horror of killing people. It makes such a mess, and
I'm naturally a rather tidy person."

Cumshaw laughed softly, but Moira bit her lip, though she made no reply
to what I had said.

"Now, while we're talking about it," I ran on, "I just want to impress
on you the fact that we aren't going off into the bush - not the kind of
bush that you read about in books, where it's all scrub and myall blacks
and things like that. Most of the time we'll be within coo-ee of
civilisation. Most of Western Victoria's pretty well settled, and it's
just the luck of the game and the formation of the country that this
valley's remained so long hidden away. We'll be near enough to people
all the time to be noticeable if we do anything remarkable. We've got to
go to work so that we'll attract as little attention as possible. We'll
want food, enough for several weeks, I suppose, and we've got to get it
and take it with us, and do it all in such a way that nobody's going to
wonder what we're after. Another thing that that reminds me of. Miss
Drummond here had better keep out of sight as long as she can. We two
can manage to escape observation, but people always want to know what a
woman's doing in it when there's anything suspicious happening."

"If you mean by that that you think I can be turned back at the last
moment, you're making a mistake," Moira informed me.

"I don't mean that," I said calmly, "but I want to take every precaution
that I can. I'm in charge of this expedition, elected by three votes to

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Online LibraryJ. M. (James Morgan) WalshThe lost valley → online text (page 12 of 16)