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Arriving with his troops at the fort at Zinderneuf, Major de Beaujolais is puzzled to find that the soldiers are all dead, eerily frozen at their stations as they guard the deserted fort. A letter of confession found on one of the bodies mentions the Brandon estate in England, where fifteen years earlier the Geste brothers, Beau, John and Digby, and Isobel Rivers grew up under the benevolent care of their guardian, Lady Patricia Brandon. Aunt Pat rears her wards using the income of the estate, thus throwing her into conflict with Sir Hector Brandon, the boys' uncle, who is intent upon wasting away their inheritance on expensive luxuries. Years pass, and finally only the sapphire known as the Blue Water is left, until one night, as the lights go off, that too, disappears. The next day, Beau is missing, leaving behind a note claiming credit for the theft. Digby and John, assuming that their brother is fulfilling their lifelong dream of joining the French Foreign Legion, follow suit, but not before John pledges his love to Isobel. Digby and John arrive at the fort in Saida, where the sadistic Sergeant Markoff zealously turns his men into soldiers. Rasinoff, one of the other recruits, overhears the brothers discussing the jewel and after he attempts to steal it, Markoff beats a confession from him and determines to gain possession of the treasure himself. To accomplish this, Markoff divides the brothers, accompanying Beau and John to the fort at Zinderneuf. When the commanding officer dies of fever, Markoff assumes command and the soldiers plan to mutiny. Markoff discovers their plot, but before he can punish the traitors, the Arabs attack. The troops repel the first attack, but Beau is shot in the second round of firing. Markoff greedily steals the jewel from Beau's body, but Beau shoots him and with his last dying breath, instructs John to leave a letter in the Sergeant's hand while taking a private letter and the jewel home. John obeys Beau's wishes, and as he strikes out for Egypt, Digby and the reinforcements arrive, too late. After honoring Beau with the flames of a Viking funeral, Digby joins John in the desert, where he perishes at the guns of the Arabs, leaving John alone to return to England and Isobel. John reaches Brandon manor and delivers Beau's letter to Aunt Pat. As she reads the confession, John and Isobel learn of Beau's beautiful gesture: When he was a child, Beau was hiding in a suit of armour during a game with John and Digby when he saw Aunt Pat secretly sell the original sapphire. Knowing that she was forced by dire circumstances to part with the gem, Beau stole the fake to protect her from the recriminations of Sir Hector.