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|Subject: The Three Travellers by Edward D. Hoch Page 5 of 6 Wed Jun 10, 2009 10:31 am
Now when they reached the stable Nevar was already there, toiling with the others. He paused in his labours when he saw the three, and shot an accusing finger at Gaspar. "You have stolen away my daughter. I will revenge myself!"
"Your daughter is safe, in the care of Dibon and his family."
His words quieted Nevar, but Melchior asked, "If he was so concerned, why did he not come after us in the night?"
Balthazar agreed. "Or did he come, and steal our gold away?"
Then presently old Dibon appeared, with the girl Thantia at his side. She cast not a glance in her father's direction, and he went about his work ignoring her. Gaspar laboured diligently through the morning, instructing Dibon and the others in Persian building techniques. He too ignored Nevar, not wanting more trouble.
Once, while Balthazar was off to the well for water, Melchior whispered, "Is it possible that our companion betrays us, Gaspar? Might he have stolen the gold himself to cover his losses at the stone game?"
But Gaspar would hear none of it. "We must never doubt each other, Melchior. In my heart I know Balthazar is innocent, as I know you are innocent. And I remember the scene at the stone game. There were gold coins in front of him. He was winning, not losing."
"How will we recover the gold, Gaspar?"
"Through the power of our minds, Melchior. We are wise men, and we must use our minds to determine the thief's identity."
"But there is no clue to his identity!"
"Sometimes the lack of a clue can be one."
Balthazar returned with the water and they drank eagerly. Later as they ate of their supplies, Thantia came to them. "I thank you for helping me," she said. "The elders have spoken to my father and he has promised never again to beat me. I will return to him now."
"We need no thanks," Gaspar assured her.
Then old Dibon came to join them. "How may we repay you for your work on the stable?"
"You may recover our stolen gold," Balthazar blurted out.
"Gold? Stolen gold?"
"It was stolen from our tent," Balthazar hurried on, before Gaspar could silence him.
"There are no thieves in Ziza!"
"There is one."
"I will summon the elders. We will search for your gold."
"No, no," said Gaspar. "We will recover it."
"By finding the thief. It is best to say nothing and catch him off guard."
Old Dibon bowed his head. "I will do as you suggest."
"One favour. Could you ask that our horses be brought to us? We must appear to be leaving."
Then, as they waited, Balthazar gathered their supplies. And Melchior said, "I have put my mind to the problem, Gaspar. But there are too many possibilities. The girl Thantia could be the thief, or her father Nevar. Or any of the game players."
"Or old Dibon himself, " Balthazar added. "There are too many to suspect."
Gaspar nodded. "What is needed is an oracle."
"You mean to kill a beast as the Romans do?"
Gaspar shook his head. "My oracle will be a living animal." He saw the herdsman Ramoth leading their horses. "My steed will tell me who has our gold."
"Your horse?" fat Balthazar laughed. "Who learns anything from a dumb animal?"
Continue Christmas mystery short story
Gaspar held out some grain for the horse. "You see how he eats? He is hungry."
"What does that tell us?" Melchior asked.
"That our gold was stolen by Ramoth!"