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    The Mystery of Sasassa Valley

    by Arthur Conan Doyle
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    Do I know why Tom Donahue is called "Lucky Tom"? Yes, I do; and that is
    more than one in ten of those who call him so can say. I have knocked
    about a deal in my time, and seen some strange sights, but none stranger
    than the way in which Tom gained that sobriquet, and his fortune with
    it. For I was with him at the time. Tell it? Oh, certainly; but it is a
    longish story and a very strange one; so fill up your glass again, and
    light another cigar, while I try to reel it off. Yes, a very strange
    one; beats some fairy stories I have heard; but it's true, sir, every
    word of it. There are men alive at Cape Colony now who'll remember it
    and confirm what I say. Many a time has the tale been told round the
    fire in Boers' cabins from Orange state to Griqualand; yes, and out in
    the bush and at the diamond-fields too.

    I'm roughish now, sir; but I was entered at the Middle Temple once, and
    studied for the bar. Tom--worse luck!--was one of my fellow-students;
    and a wildish time we had of it, until at last our finances ran short,
    and we were compelled to give up our so-called studies, and look about
    for some part of the world where two young fellows with strong arms and
    sound constitutions might make their mark. In those days the tide of
    emigration had scarcely begun to set in toward Africa, and so we thought
    our best chance would be down at Cape Colony. Well,--to make a long
    story short,--we set sail, and were deposited in Cape Town with less
    than five pounds in our pockets; and there we parted. We each tried our
    hands at many things, and had ups and downs; but when, at the end of
    three years, chance led each of us up-country and we met again, we were,
    I regret to say, in almost as bad a plight as when we started.

    Well, this was not much of a commencement; and very disheartened we
    were, so disheartened that Tom spoke of going back to England and
    getting a clerkship. For you see we didn't know that we had played out
    all our small cards, and that the trumps were going to turn up. No; we
    thought our "hands" were bad all through. It was a very lonely part of
    the country that we were in, inhabited by a few scattered farms, whose
    houses were stockaded and fenced in to defend them against the Kaffirs.
    Tom Donahue and I had a little hut right out in the bush; but we were
    known to possess nothing, and to be handy with our revolvers, so we
    had little to fear. There we waited, doing odd jobs, and hoping that
    something would turn up. Well, after we had been there about a month
    something did turn up upon a certain night, something which was the
    making of both of us; and it's about that night, sir, that I'm going to
    tell you. I remember it well. The wind was howling past our cabin, and
    the rain threatened to burst in our rude window. We had a great wood
    fire crackling and sputtering on the hearth, by which I was sitting
    mending a whip, while Tom was lying in his bunk groaning disconsolately
    at the chance which had led him to such a place.

    "Cheer up, Tom--cheer up," said I. "No man ever knows what may be
    awaiting him."

    "Ill luck, ill luck, Jack," he answered. "I always was an unlucky dog.
    Here have I been three years in this abominable country; and I see lads
    fresh from England jingling the money in their pockets, while I am as
    poor as when I landed. Ah, Jack, if you want to keep your head above
    water, old friend, you must try your fortune away from me."

    "Nonsense, Tom; you're down in your luck to-night. But hark! Here's some
    one coming outside. Dick Wharton, by the tread; he'll rouse you, if any
    man can."

    Even as I spoke the door was flung open, and honest Dick Wharton, with
    the water pouring from him, stepped in, his hearty red face looming
    through the haze like a harvest-moon. He shook himself, and after
    greeting us sat down by the fire to warm himself.

    "Where away, Dick, on such a night as this?" said I. "You'll find the
    rheumatism a worse foe than the Kaffirs, unless you keep more regular

    Dick was looking unusually serious, almost frightened, one would say,
    if one did not know the man. "Had to go," he replied--"had to go. One
    of Madison's cattle was seen straying down Sasassa Valley, and of course
    none of our blacks would go down _that_ valley at night; and if we had
    waited till morning, the brute would have been in Kaffirland."

    "Why wouldn't they go down Sasassa Valley at night?" asked Tom.

    "Kaffirs, I suppose," said I.

    "Ghosts," said Dick.

    We both laughed.

    "I suppose they didn't give such a matter-of-fact fellow as you a sight
    of their charms?" said Tom, from the bunk.

    "Yes," said Dick, seriously, "yes; I saw what the niggers talk about;
    and I promise you, lads, I don't want ever to see it again."

    Tom sat up in his bed. "Nonsense, Dick; you're joking, man! Come, tell
    us all about it; the legend first, and your own experience afterward.
    Pass him over the bottle, Jack."

    "Well, as to the legend," began Dick. "It seems that the niggers have
    had it handed down to them that Sasassa Valley is haunted by a frightful
    fiend. Hunters and wanderers passing down the defile have seen its
    glowing eyes under the shadows of the cliff; and the story goes
    that whoever has chanced to encounter that baleful glare has had his
    after-life blighted by the malignant power of this creature. Whether
    that be true or not," continued Dick, ruefully, "I may have an
    opportunity of judging for myself."

    "Go on, Dick--go on," cried Tom. "Let's hear about what you saw."

    "Well, I was groping down the valley, looking for that cow of Madison's,
    and I had, I suppose, got half-way down, where a black craggy cliff juts
    into the ravine on the right, when I halted to have a pull at my
    flask. I had my eye fixed at the time upon the projecting cliff I have
    mentioned, and noticed nothing unusual about it. I then put up my flask
    and took a step or two forward, when in a moment there burst, apparently
    from the base of the rock, about eight feet from the ground and
    a hundred yards from me, a strange, lurid glare, flickering and
    oscillating, gradually dying away and then reappearing again. No, no;
    I've seen many a glow-worm and firefly--nothing of that sort. There it
    was, burning away, and I suppose I gazed at it, trembling in every limb,
    for fully ten minutes. Then I took a step forward, when instantly it
    vanished, vanished like a candle blown out. I stepped back again; but it
    was some time before I could find the exact spot and position from
    which it was visible. At last, there it was, the weird reddish light,
    flickering away as before. Then I screwed up my courage, and made for
    the rock; but the ground was so uneven that it was impossible to steer
    straight; and though I walked along the whole base of the cliff, I could
    see nothing. Then I made tracks for home; and I can tell you, boys,
    that, until you remarked it, I never knew it was raining, the whole way
    along. But hollo! what's the matter with Tom?"

    What indeed? Tom was now sitting with his legs over the side of the
    bunk, and his whole face betraying excitement so intense as to be almost
    painful. "The fiend would have two eyes. How many lights did you see,
    Dick? Speak out!"

    "Only one."

    "Hurrah!" cried Tom, "that's better." Whereupon he kicked the blankets
    into the middle of the room, and began pacing up and down with long
    feverish strides. Suddenly he stopped opposite Dick, and laid his hand
    upon his shoulder. "I say, Dick, could we get to Sasassa Valley before

    "Scarcely," said Dick.

    "Well, look here; we are old friends, Dick Wharton, you and I. Now don't
    you tell any other man what you have told us, for a week. You'll promise
    that, won't you?"

    I could see by the look on Dick's face as he acquiesced that he
    considered poor Tom to be mad; and indeed I was myself completely
    mystified by his conduct. I had, however, seen so many proofs of my
    friend's good sense and quickness of apprehension that I thought it
    quite possible that Wharton's story had had a meaning in his eyes which
    I was too obtuse to take in.

    All night Tom Donahue was greatly excited, and when Wharton left
    he begged him to remember his promise, and also elicited from him a
    description of the exact spot at which he had seen the apparition, as
    well as the hour at which it appeared. After his departure, which must
    have been about four in the morning, I turned into my bunk and watched
    Tom sitting by the fire splicing two sticks together, until I fell
    asleep. I suppose I must have slept about two hours; but when I awoke
    Tom was still sitting working away in almost the same position. He had
    fixed the one stick across the top of the other so as to form a rough T,
    and was now busy in fitting a smaller stick into the angle between
    them, by manipulating which, the cross one could be either cocked up or
    depressed to any extent. He had cut notches, too, in the perpendicular
    stick, so that, by the aid of the small prop, the cross one could be
    kept in any position for an indefinite time.

    "Look here, Jack!" he cried, when he saw that I was awake. "Come and
    give me your opinion. Suppose I put this cross-stick pointing straight
    at a thing, and arranged this small one so as to keep it so, and left
    it, I could find that thing again if I wanted it--don't you think I
    could, Jack--don't you think so?" he continued, nervously, clutching me
    by the arm.

    "Well," I answered, "it would depend on how far off the thing was, and
    how accurately it was pointed. If it were any distance, I'd cut sights
    on your cross-stick; then a string tied to the end of it, and held in
    a plumb-line forward, would lend you pretty near what you wanted. But
    surely, Tom, you don't intend to localise the ghost in that way?"

    "You'll see to-night, old friend--you'll see to-night. I'll carry this
    to the Sasassa Valley. You get the loan of Madison's crowbar, and come
    with me; but mind you tell no man where you are going, or what you want
    it for."

    All day Tom was walking up and down the room, or working hard at the
    apparatus. His eyes were glistening, his cheeks hectic, and he had all
    the symptoms of high fever. "Heaven grant that Dick's diagnosis be not
    correct!" I thought, as I returned with the crowbar; and yet, as evening
    drew near, I found myself imperceptibly sharing the excitement.

    About six o'clock Tom sprang to his feet and seized his sticks. "I can
    stand it no longer, Jack," he cried; "up with your crowbar, and hey for
    Sasassa Valley! To-night's work, my lad, will either make us or mar us!
    Take your six-shooter, in case we meet the Kaffirs. I daren't take mine,
    Jack," he continued, putting his hands upon my shoulders--"I daren't
    take mine; for if my ill luck sticks to me to-night, I don't know what I
    might not do with it."

    Well, having filled our pockets with provisions, we set out, and, as we
    took our wearisome way toward the Sasassa Valley, I frequently attempted
    to elicit from my companion some clue as to his intentions. But his only
    answer was: "Let us hurry on, Jack. Who knows how many have heard of
    Wharton's adventure by this time! Let us hurry on, or we may not be
    first in the field!"

    Well, sir, we struggled on through the hills for a matter of ten miles;
    till at last, after descending a crag, we saw opening out in front of
    us a ravine so sombre and dark that it might have been the gate of
    Hades itself; cliffs many hundred feet shut in on every side the gloomy
    boulder-studded passage which led through the haunted defile into
    Kaffirland. The moon, rising above the crags, threw into strong relief
    the rough, irregular pinnacles of rock by which they were topped, while
    all below was dark as Erebus.

    "The Sasassa Valley?" said I.

    "Yes," said Tom.

    I looked at him. He was calm now; the flush and feverishness had passed
    away; his actions were deliberate and slow. Yet there was a certain
    rigidity in his face and glitter in his eye which showed that a crisis
    had come.

    We entered the pass, stumbling along amid the great boulders. Suddenly I
    heard a short, quick exclamation from Tom. "That's the crag!" he cried,
    pointing to a great mass looming before us in the darkness. "Now, Jack,
    for any favour use your eyes! We're about a hundred yards from that
    cliff, I take it; so you move slowly toward one side and I'll do the
    same toward the other. When you see anything, stop and call out. Don't
    take more than twelve inches in a step, and keep your eye fixed on the
    cliff about eight feet from the ground. Are you ready?"

    "Yes." I was even more excited than Tom by this time. What his intention
    or object was I could not conjecture, beyond that he wanted to examine
    by daylight the part of the cliff from which the light came. Yet the
    influence of the romantic situation and my companion's suppressed
    excitement was so great that I could feel the blood coursing through my
    veins and count the pulses throbbing at my temples.

    "Start!" cried Tom; and we moved off, he to the right, I to the left,
    each with our eyes fixed intently on the base of the crag. I had moved
    perhaps twenty feet, when in a moment it burst upon me. Through the
    growing darkness there shone a small, ruddy, glowing point, the light
    from which waned and increased, flickered and oscillated, each change
    producing a more weird effect than the last. The old Kaffir superstition
    came into my mind, and I felt a cold shudder pass over me. In my
    excitement I stepped a pace backward, when instantly the light went out,
    leaving utter darkness in its place; but when I advanced again, there
    was the ruddy glare glowing from the base of the cliff. "Tom, Tom!" I

    "Ay, ay!" I heard him exclaim, as he hurried over toward me.

    "There it is--there, up against the cliff!"

    Tom was at my elbow. "I see nothing," said he.

    "Why, there, there, man, in front of you!" I stepped to the right as I
    spoke, when the light instantly vanished from my eyes.

    But from Tom's ejaculations of delight it was clear that from my former
    position it was visible to him also. "Jack," he cried, as he turned and
    wrung my hand--"Jack, you and I can never complain of our luck again.
    Now heap up a few stones where we are standing. That's right. Now we
    must fix my sign-post firmly in at the top. There! It would take a
    strong wind to blow that down; and we only need it to hold out till
    morning. O Jack, my boy, to think that only yesterday we were talking of
    becoming clerks, and you saying that no man knew what was awaiting him,
    too! By Jove, Jack, it would make a good story!"

    By this time we had firmly fixed the perpendicular stick in between the
    two large stones; and Tom bent down and peered along the horizontal one.
    For fully a quarter of an hour he was alternately raising and depressing
    it, until at last, with a sigh of satisfaction, he fixed the prop into
    the angle, and stood up. "Look along, Jack," he said. "You have as
    straight an eye to take a sight as any man I know of."

    I looked along. There beyond the farther sight was the ruddy,
    scintillating speck, apparently at the end of the stick itself, so
    accurately had it been adjusted.

    "And now, my boy," said Tom, "let's have some supper and a sleep.
    There's nothing more to be done to-night; but we'll need all our wits
    and strength to-morrow. Get some sticks and kindle a fire here, and then
    we'll be able to keep an eye on our signal-post, and see that nothing
    happens to it during the night."

    Well, sir, we kindled a fire, and had supper with the Sasassa demon's
    eye rolling and glowing in front of us the whole night through. Not
    always in the same place, though; for after supper, when I glanced along
    the sights to have another look at it, it was nowhere to be seen. The
    information did not, however, seem to disturb Tom in any way. He merely
    remarked, "It's the moon, not the thing, that has shifted;" and coiling
    himself up, went to sleep.

    By early dawn we were both up, and gazing along our pointer at the
    cliff; but we could make out nothing save the one dead, monotonous,
    slaty surface, rougher perhaps at the part we were examining than
    elsewhere, but otherwise presenting nothing remarkable.

    "Now for your idea, Jack!" said Tom Donahue, unwinding a long thin cord
    from round his waist. "You fasten it, and guide me while I take the
    other end." So saying, he walked off to the base of the cliff, holding
    one end of the cord, while I drew the other taut, and wound it round the
    middle of the horizontal stick, passing it through the sight at the end.
    By this means I could direct Tom to the right or left, until we had our
    string stretching from the point of attachment, through the sight, and
    on to the rock, which it struck about eight feet from the ground. Tom
    drew a chalk circle of about three feet diameter round the spot, and
    then called to me to come and join him. "We've managed this business
    together, Jack," he said, "and we'll find what we are to find,
    together." The circle he had drawn embraced a part of the rock smoother
    than the rest, save that about the centre there were a few rough
    protuberances or knobs. One of these Tom pointed to with a cry of
    delight. It was a roughish, brownish mass about the size of a man's
    closed fist, and looking like a bit of dirty glass let into the wall of
    the cliff. "That's it!" he cried--"that's it!"

    "That's what?"

    "Why, man, _a diamond_, and such a one as there isn't a monarch in
    Europe but would envy Tom Donahue the possession of. Up with your
    crowbar, and we'll soon exorcise the demon of Sasassa Valley!"

    I was so astounded that for a moment I stood speechless with surprise,
    gazing at the treasure which had so unexpectedly fallen into our hands.

    "Here, hand me the crowbar," said Tom. "Now, by using this little round
    knob which projects from the cliff here as a fulcrum, we may be able to
    lever it off. Yes; there it goes. I never thought it could have come so
    easily. Now, Jack, the sooner we get back to our hut and then down to
    Cape Town, the better."

    We wrapped up our treasure, and made our way across the hills toward
    home. On the way, Tom told me how, while a law student in the Middle
    Temple, he had come upon a dusty pamphlet in the library, by one Jans
    van Hounym, which told of an experience very similar to ours, which
    had befallen that worthy Dutchman in the latter part of the seventeenth
    century, and which resulted in the discovery of a luminous diamond. This
    tale it was which had come into Tom's head as he listened to honest Dick
    Wharton's ghost-story, while the means which he had adopted to verify
    his supposition sprang from his own fertile Irish brain.

    "We'll take it down to Cape Town," continued Tom, "and if we can't
    dispose of it with advantage there, it will be worth our while to ship
    for London with it. Let us go along to Madison's first, though; he knows
    something of these things, and can perhaps give us some idea of what we
    may consider a fair price for our treasure."

    We turned off from the track accordingly, before reaching our hut, and
    kept along the narrow path leading to Madison's farm. He was at lunch
    when we entered; and in a minute we were seated at each side of him,
    enjoying South African hospitality.

    "Well," he said, after the servants were gone, "what's in the wind now?
    I see you have something to say to me. What is it?"

    Tom produced his packet, and solemnly untied the handkerchiefs which
    enveloped it. "There!" he said, putting his crystal on the table; "what
    would you say was a fair price for that?"

    Madison took it up and examined it critically. "Well," he said, laying
    it down again, "in its crude state about twelve shillings per ton."

    "Twelve shillings!" cried Tom, starting to his feet. "Don't you see what
    it is?"


    "Rock-salt be d--d! a diamond."

    "Taste it!" said Madison.

    Tom put it to his lips, dashed it down with a dreadful exclamation, and
    rushed out of the room.

    I felt sad and disappointed enough myself; but presently, remembering
    what Tom had said about the pistol, I, too left the house, and made for
    the hut, leaving Madison open-mouthed with astonishment. When I got in,
    I found Tom lying in his bunk with his face to the wall, too dispirited
    apparently to answer my consolations. Anathematising Dick and Madison,
    the Sasassa demon, and everything else, I strolled out of the hut, and
    refreshed myself with a pipe after our wearisome adventure. I was about
    fifty yards from the hut, when I heard issuing from it the sound which
    of all others I least expected to hear. Had it been a groan or an oath,
    I should have taken it as a matter of course; but the sound which
    caused me to stop and take the pipe out of my mouth was a hearty roar of
    laughter! Next moment Tom himself emerged from the door, his whole face
    radiant with delight. "Game for another ten-mile walk, old fellow?"

    "What! for another lump of rock-salt, at twelve shillings a ton?"

    "'No more of that, Hal, an you love me,' " grinned Tom. "Now look here,
    Jack. What blessed fools we are to be so floored by a trifle! Just sit
    on this stump for five minutes, and I'll make it as clear as daylight.
    You've seen many a lump of rock-salt stuck in a crag, and so have I,
    though we did make such a mull of this one. Now, Jack, did any of
    the pieces you have ever seen shine in the darkness brighter than any

    "Well, I can't say they ever did."

    "I'd venture to prophesy that if we waited until night, which we won't
    do, we would see that light still glimmering among the rocks. Therefore,
    Jack, when we took away this worthless salt, we took the wrong crystal.
    It is no very strange thing in these hills that a piece of rock-salt
    should be lying within a foot of a diamond. It caught our eyes, and
    we were excited, and so we made fools of ourselves, and _left the real
    stone behind_. Depend upon it, Jack, the Sasassa gem is lying within
    that magic circle of chalk upon the face of yonder cliff. Come, old
    fellow, light your pipe and stow your revolver, and we'll be off before
    that fellow Madison has time to put two and two together."

    I don't know that I was very sanguine this time. I had begun, in fact,
    to look upon the diamond as a most unmitigated nuisance. However, rather
    than throw a damper on Tom's expectations, I announced myself eager to
    start. What a walk it was! Tom was always a good mountaineer, but his
    excitement seemed to lend him wings that day, while I scrambled along
    after him as best I could.

    When we got within half a mile he broke into the "double," and never
    pulled up until he reached the round white circle upon the cliff. Poor
    old Tom! when I came up, his mood had changed, and he was standing
    with his hands in his pockets, gazing vacantly before him with a rueful

    "Look!" he said, "look!" and he pointed at the cliff. Not a sign of
    anything in the least resembling a diamond there. The circle included
    nothing but a flat slate-coloured stone, with one large hole, where we
    had extracted the rock-salt, and one or two smaller depressions. No sign
    of the gem.

    "I've been over every inch of it," said poor Tom. "It's not there. Some
    one has been here and noticed the chalk, and taken it. Come home, Jack;
    I feel sick and tired. Oh, had any man ever luck like mine!"

    I turned to go, but took one last look at the cliff first. Tom was
    already ten paces off.

    "Hollo!" I cried, "don't you see any change in that circle since

    "What d' ye mean?" said Tom.

    "Don't you miss a thing that was there before?"

    "The rock-salt?" said Tom.

    "No; but the little round knob that we used for a fulcrum. I suppose we
    must have wrenched it off in using the lever. Let's have a look at what
    it's made of."

    Accordingly, at the foot of the cliff we searched about among the loose

    "Here you are, Jack! We've done it at last! We're made men!"

    I turned round, and there was Tom radiant with delight, and with the
    little corner of black rock in his hand. At first sight it seemed to
    be merely a chip from the cliff; but near the base there was projecting
    from it an object which Tom was now exultingly pointing out. It
    looked at first something like a glass eye; but there was a depth and
    brilliancy about it such as glass never exhibited. There was no mistake
    this time; we had certainly got possession of a jewel of great value;
    and with light hearts we turned from the valley, bearing away with us
    the "fiend" which had so long reigned there.

    There, sir; I've spun my story out too long, and tired you perhaps.
    You see, when I get talking of those rough old days, I kind of see the
    little cabin again, and the brook beside it, and the bush around, and
    seem to hear Tom's honest voice once more. There's little for me to say
    now. We prospered on the gem. Tom Donahue, as you know, has set up
    here, and is well known about town. I have done well, farming and
    ostrich-raising in Africa. We set old Dick Wharton up in business, and
    he is one of our nearest neighbours. If you should ever be coming up our
    way, sir, you'll not forget to ask for Jack Turnbull--Jack Turnbull of
    Sasassa Farm.
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