Infomotions, Inc.The Adventures of Captain Horn / Stockton, Frank Richard, 1834-1902



Author: Stockton, Frank Richard, 1834-1902
Title: The Adventures of Captain Horn
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): edna; captain; ralph; captain horn; cliff; horn; miss markham
Contributor(s): Bell, Clara, 1834-1927 [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 128,287 words (average) Grade range: 9-11 (high school) Readability score: 69 (easy)
Identifier: etext12190
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Title: The Adventures of Captain Horn

Author: Frank Richard Stockton

Release Date: April 29, 2004 [EBook #12190]

Language: English

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                     THE ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN HORN

                          BY FRANK R. STOCKTON

                                  1910




CONTENTS

CHAPTER

       I An Introductory Disaster

      II A New Face in Camp

     III A Change of Lodgings

      IV Another New Face

       V The Rackbirds

      VI Three Weld Beasts

     VII Gone!

    VIII The Alarm

      IX An Amazing Narration

       X The Captain Explores

      XI A New Hemisphere

     XII A Tradition and a Waistcoat

    XIII "Mine!"

     XIV A Pile of Fuel

      XV The Cliff-Maka Scheme

     XVI On a Business Basis

    XVII "A Fine Thing, No Matter What Happens"

   XVIII Mrs. Cliff is Amazed

     XIX Left Behind

      XX At the Rackbirds' Cove

     XXI In the Caves

    XXII A Pack-Mule

   XXIII His Present Share

    XXVI His Fortune under his Feet




THE ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN HORN




CHAPTER I

AN INTRODUCTORY DISASTER


Early in the spring of the year 1884 the three-masted schooner _Castor_,
from San Francisco to Valparaiso, was struck by a tornado off the coast
of Peru. The storm, which rose with frightful suddenness, was of short
duration, but it left the _Castor_ a helpless wreck. Her masts had
snapped off and gone overboard, her rudder-post had been shattered by
falling wreckage, and she was rolling in the trough of the sea, with her
floating masts and spars thumping and bumping her sides.

The _Castor_ was an American merchant-vessel, commanded by Captain Philip
Horn, an experienced navigator of about thirty-five years of age. Besides
a valuable cargo, she carried three passengers--two ladies and a boy. One
of these, Mrs. William Cliff, a lady past middle age, was going to
Valparaiso to settle some business affairs of her late husband, a New
England merchant. The other lady was Miss Edna Markham, a school-teacher
who had just passed her twenty-fifth year, although she looked older.
She was on her way to Valparaiso to take an important position in an
American seminary. Ralph, a boy of fifteen, was her brother, and she was
taking him with her simply because she did not want to leave him alone in
San Francisco. These two had no near relations, and the education of the
brother depended upon the exertions of the sister. Valparaiso was not the
place she would have selected for a boy's education, but there they could
be together, and, under the circumstances, that was a point of prime
importance.

But when the storm had passed, and the sky was clear, and the mad waves
had subsided into a rolling swell, there seemed no reason to believe that
any one on board the _Castor_ would ever reach Valparaiso. The vessel had
been badly strained by the wrenching of the masts, her sides had been
battered by the floating wreckage, and she was taking in water rapidly.
Fortunately, no one had been injured by the storm, and although the
captain found it would be a useless waste of time and labor to attempt to
work the pumps, he was convinced, after a careful examination, that the
ship would float some hours, and that there would, therefore, be time for
those on board to make an effort to save not only their lives, but some
of their property.

All the boats had been blown from their davits, but one of them was
floating, apparently uninjured, a short distance to leeward, one of the
heavy blocks by which it had been suspended having caught in the cordage
of the topmast, so that it was securely moored. Another boat, a small
one, was seen, bottom upward, about an eighth of a mile to leeward. Two
seamen, each pushing an oar before him, swam out to the nearest boat,
and having got on board of her, and freed her from her entanglements,
they rowed out to the capsized boat, and towed it to the schooner. When
this boat had been righted and bailed out, it was found to be in good
condition.

The sea had become almost quiet, and there was time enough to do
everything orderly and properly, and in less than three hours after the
vessel had been struck, the two boats, containing all the crew and the
passengers, besides a goodly quantity of provisions and water, and such
valuables, clothing, rugs, and wraps as room could be found for, were
pulling away from the wreck.

The captain, who, with his passengers, was in the larger boat, was aware
that he was off the coast of Peru, but that was all he certainly knew of
his position. The storm had struck the ship in the morning, before he had
taken his daily observation, and his room, which was on deck, had been
carried away, as well as every nautical instrument on board. He did not
believe that the storm had taken him far out of his course, but of this
he could not be sure. All that he knew with certainty was that to the
eastward lay the land, and eastward, therefore, they pulled, a little
compass attached to the captain's watch-guard being their only guide.

For the rest of that day and that night, and the next day and the next
night, the two boats moved eastward, the people on board suffering but
little inconvenience, except from the labor of continuous rowing, at
which everybody, excepting the two ladies, took part, even Ralph
Markham being willing to show how much of a man he could be with an
oar in his hand.

The weather was fine, and the sea was almost smooth, and as the captain
had rigged up in his boat a tent-like covering of canvas for the ladies,
they were, as they repeatedly declared, far more comfortable than they
had any right to expect. They were both women of resource and courage.
Mrs. Cliff, tall, thin in face, with her gray hair brushed plainly over
her temples, was a woman of strong frame, who would have been perfectly
willing to take an oar, had it been necessary. To Miss Markham this boat
trip would have been a positive pleasure, had it not been for the
unfortunate circumstances which made it necessary.

On the morning of the third day land was sighted, but it was afternoon
before they reached it. Here they found themselves on a portion of the
coast where the foot-hills of the great mountains stretch themselves
almost down to the edge of the ocean. To all appearances, the shore was
barren and uninhabited.

The two boats rowed along the coast a mile or two to the southward, but
could find no good landing-place, but reaching a spot less encumbered
with rocks than any other portion of the coast they had seen, Captain
Horn determined to try to beach his boat there. The landing was
accomplished in safety, although with some difficulty, and that night was
passed in a little encampment in the shelter of some rocks scarcely a
hundred yards from the sea.

The next morning Captain Horn took counsel with his mates, and considered
the situation. They were on an uninhabited portion of the coast, and it
was not believed that there was any town or settlement near enough to be
reached by waiting over such wild country, especially with ladies in the
party. It was, therefore, determined to seek succor by means of the sea.
They might be near one of the towns or villages along the coast of Peru,
and, in any case, a boat manned by the best oarsmen of the party, and
loaded as lightly as possible, might hope, in the course of a day or two,
to reach some port from which a vessel might be sent out to take off the
remainder of the party.

But first Captain Horn ordered a thorough investigation to be made of the
surrounding country, and in an hour or two a place was found which he
believed would answer very well for a camping-ground until assistance
should arrive. This was on a little plateau about a quarter of a mile
back from the ocean, and surrounded on three sides by precipices, and on
the side toward the sea the ground sloped gradually downward. To this
camping-ground all of the provisions and goods were carried, excepting
what would be needed by the boating party.

When this work had been accomplished, Captain Horn appointed his first
mate to command the expedition, deciding to remain himself in the camp.
When volunteers were called for, it astonished the captain to see how
many of the sailors desired to go.

The larger boat pulled six oars, and seven men, besides the mate Rynders,
were selected to go in her. As soon as she could be made ready she was
launched and started southward on her voyage of discovery, the mate
having first taken such good observation of the landmarks that he felt
sure he would have no difficulty in finding the spot where he left his
companions. The people in the little camp on the bluff now consisted of
Captain Horn, the two ladies, the boy Ralph, three sailors,--one an
Englishman, and the other two Americans from Cape Cod,--and a jet-black
native African, known as Maka.

Captain Horn had not cared to keep many men with him in the camp, because
there they would have little to do, and all the strong arms that could be
spared would be needed in the boat. The three sailors he had retained
were men of intelligence, on whom he believed he could rely in case of
emergency, and Maka was kept because he was a cook. He had been one of
the cargo of a slave-ship which had been captured by a British cruiser
several years before, when on its way to Cuba, and the unfortunate
negroes had been landed in British Guiana. It was impossible to return
them to Africa, because none of them could speak English, or in any way
give an idea as to what tribes they belonged, and if they should be
landed anywhere in Africa except among their friends, they would be
immediately reenslaved. For some years they lived in Guiana, in a little
colony by themselves, and then, a few of them having learned some
English, they made their way to Panama, where they obtained employment as
laborers on the great canal. Maka, who was possessed of better
intelligence than most of his fellows, improved a good deal in his
English, and learned to cook very well, and having wandered to San
Francisco, had been employed for two or three voyages by Captain Horn.
Maka was a faithful and willing servant, and if he had been able to
express himself more intelligibly, his merits might have been better
appreciated.




CHAPTER II

A NEW FACE IN CAMP


The morning after the departure of the boat, Captain Horn, in company
with the Englishman Davis, each armed with a gun, set out on a tour of
investigation, hoping to be able to ascend the rocky hills at the back of
the camp, and find some elevated point commanding a view over the ocean.
After a good deal of hard climbing they reached such a point, but the
captain found that the main object was really out of his reach. He could
now plainly see that a high rocky point to the southward, which stretched
some distance out to sea, would cut off all view of the approach of
rescuers coming from that direction, until they were within a mile or two
of his landing-place. Back from the sea the hills grew higher, until they
blended into the lofty stretches of the Andes, this being one of the few
points where the hilly country extends to the ocean.

The coast to the north curved a little oceanward, so that a much more
extended view could be had in that direction, but as far as he could see
by means of a little pocket-glass which the boy Ralph had lent him, the
captain could discover no signs of habitation, and in this direction the
land seemed to be a flat desert. When he returned to camp, about noon,
he had made up his mind that the proper thing to do was to make himself
and his companions as comfortable as possible and patiently await the
return of his mate with succor.

Captain Horn was very well satisfied with his present place of
encampment. Although rain is unknown in this western portion of Peru,
which is, therefore, in general desolate and barren, there are parts of
the country that are irrigated by streams which flow from the snow-capped
peaks of the Andes, and one of these fertile spots the captain seemed to
have happened upon. On the plateau there grew a few bushes, while the
face of the rock in places was entirely covered by hanging vines. This
fertility greatly puzzled Captain Horn, for nowhere was to be seen any
stream of water, or signs of there ever having been any. But they had
with them water enough to last for several days, and provisions for a
much longer time, and the captain felt little concern on this account.

As for lodgings, there were none excepting the small tent which he had
put up for the ladies, but a few nights in the open air in that dry
climate would not hurt the male portion of the party.

In the course of the afternoon, the two American sailors came to Captain
Horn and asked permission to go to look for game. The captain had small
hopes of their finding anything suitable for food, but feeling sure that
if they should be successful, every one would be glad of a little fresh
meat, he gave his permission, at the same time requesting the men to do
their best in the way of observation, if they should get up high enough
to survey the country, and discover some signs of habitation, if such
existed in that barren region. It would be a great relief to the captain
to feel that there was some spot of refuge to which, by land or water,
his party might make its way in case the water and provisions gave out
before the return of the mate.

As to the men who went off in the boat, the captain expected to see but a
few of them again. One or two might return with the mate, in such vessel
as he should obtain in which to come for them, but the most of them, if
they reached a seaport, would scatter, after the manner of seamen.

The two sailors departed, promising, if they could not bring back fish or
fowl, to return before dark, with a report of the lay of the land.

It was very well that Maka did not have to depend on these hunters for
the evening meal, for night came without them, and the next morning they
had not returned. The captain was very much troubled. The men must be
lost, or they had met with some accident. There could be no other reason
for their continued absence. They had each a gun, and plenty of powder
and shot, but they had taken only provisions enough for a single meal.

Davis offered to go up the hills to look for the missing men. He had
lived for some years in the bush in Australia, and he thought that
there was a good chance of his discovering their tracks. But the
captain shook his head.

"You are just as likely to get lost, or to fall over a rock, as anybody
else," he said, "and it is better to have two men lost than three. But
there is one thing that you can do. You can go down to the beach, and
make your way southward as far as possible. There you can find your way
back, and if you take a gun, and fire it every now and then, you may
attract the attention of Shirley and Burke, if they are on the hills
above, and perhaps they may even be able to see you as you walk along. If
they are alive, they will probably see or hear you, and fire in answer.
It is a very strange thing that we have not heard a shot from them."

Ralph begged to accompany the Englishman, for he was getting very
restless, and longed for a ramble and scramble. But neither the captain
nor his sister would consent to this, and Davis started off alone.

"If you can round the point down there," said the captain to him, "do it,
for you may see a town or houses not far away on the other side. But
don't take any risks. At all events, make your calculations so that you
will be back here before dark."

The captain and Ralph assisted the two ladies to a ledge of rock near the
camp from which they could watch the Englishman on his way. They saw him
reach the beach, and after going on a short distance he fired his gun,
after which he pressed forward, now and then stopping to fire again. Even
from their inconsiderable elevation they could see him until he must have
been more than a mile away, and he soon after vanished from their view.

As on the previous day darkness came without the two American sailors, so
now it came without the Englishman, and in the morning he had not
returned. Of course, every mind was filled with anxiety in regard to the
three sailors, but Captain Horn's soul was racked with apprehensions of
which he did not speak. The conviction forced itself upon him that the
men had been killed by wild beasts. He could imagine no other reason why
Davis should not have returned. He had been ordered not to leave the
beach, and, therefore, could not lose his way. He was a wary, careful
man, used to exploring rough country, and he was not likely to take any
chances of disabling himself by a fall while on such an expedition.

Although he knew that the great jaguar was found in Peru, as well as
the puma and black bear, the captain had not supposed it likely that
any of these creatures frequented the barren western slopes of the
mountains, but he now reflected that there were lions in the deserts of
Africa, and that the beasts of prey in South America might also be
found in its deserts.

A great responsibility now rested upon Captain Horn. He was the only man
left in camp who could be depended upon as a defender,--for Maka was
known to be a coward, and Ralph was only a boy,--and it was with a
shrinking of the heart that he asked himself what would be the
consequences if a couple of jaguars or other ferocious beasts were to
appear upon that unprotected plateau in the night, or even in the
daytime. He had two guns, but he was only one man. These thoughts were
not cheerful, but the captain's face showed no signs of alarm, or even
unusual anxiety, and, with a smile on his handsome brown countenance, he
bade the ladies good morning as if he were saluting them upon a
quarter-deck.

"I have been thinking all night about those three men," said Miss
Markham, "and I have imagined something which may have happened. Isn't
it possible that they may have discovered at a distance some inland
settlement which could not be seen by the party in the boat, and that
they thought it their duty to push their way to it, and so get
assistance for us? In that case, you know, they would probably be a long
time coming back."

"That is possible," said the captain, glad to hear a hopeful supposition,
but in his heart he had no faith in it whatever. If Davis had seen a
village, or even a house, he would have come back to report it, and if
the others had found human habitation, they would have had ample time to
return, either by land or by sea.

The restless Ralph, who had chafed a good deal because he had not been
allowed to leave the plateau in search of adventure, now found a vent for
his surplus energy, for the captain appointed him fire-maker. The camp
fuel was not abundant, consisting of nothing but some dead branches and
twigs from the few bushes in the neighborhood. These Ralph collected with
great energy, and Maka had nothing to complain of in regard to fuel for
his cooking.

Toward the end of that afternoon, Ralph prepared to make a fire for the
supper, and he determined to change the position of the fireplace and
bring it nearer the rocks, where he thought it would burn better. It did
burn better--so well, indeed, that some of the dry leaves of the vines
that there covered the face of the rocks took fire. Ralph watched with
interest the dry leaves blaze and the green ones splutter, and then he
thought it would be a pity to scorch those vines, which were among the
few green things about them, and he tried to put out the fire. But this
he could not do, and, when he called Maka, the negro was not able to
help him. The fire had worked its way back of the green vines, and seemed
to have found good fuel, for it was soon crackling away at a great rate,
attracting the rest of the party.

"Can't we put it out?" cried Miss Markham. "It is a pity to ruin those
beautiful vines."

The captain smiled and shook his head. "We cannot waste our valuable
water on that conflagration," said he. "There is probably a great mass
of dead vines behind the green outside. How it crackles and roars! That
dead stuff must be several feet thick. All we can do is to let it burn.
It cannot hurt us. It cannot reach your tent, for there are no vines
over there."

The fire continued to roar and blaze, and to leap up the face of the
rock.

"It is wonderful," said Mrs. Cliff, "to think how those vines must have
been growing and dying, and new ones growing and dying, year after year,
nobody knows how many ages."

"What is most wonderful to me," said the captain, "is that the vines ever
grew there at all, or that these bushes should be here. Nothing can grow
in this region, unless it is watered by a stream from the mountains, and
there is no stream here."

Miss Markham was about to offer a supposition to the effect that perhaps
the precipitous wall of rock which surrounded the little plateau, and
shielded it from the eastern sun, might have had a good effect upon the
vegetation, when suddenly Ralph, who had a ship's biscuit on the end of a
sharp stick, and was toasting it in the embers of a portion of the burnt
vines, sprang back with a shout.

"Look out!" he cried. "The whole thing's coming down!" And, sure enough,
in a moment a large portion of the vines, which had been clinging to the
rock, fell upon the ground in a burning mass. A cloud of smoke and dust
arose, and when it had cleared away the captain and his party saw upon
the perpendicular side of the rock, which was now revealed to them as if
a veil had been torn away from in front of it, an enormous face cut out
of the solid stone.




CHAPTER III

A CHANGE OF LODGINGS


The great face stared down upon the little party gathered beneath it. Its
chin was about eight feet above the ground, and its stony countenance
extended at least that distance up the cliff. Its features were in low
relief, but clear and distinct, and a smoke-blackened patch beneath one
of its eyes gave it a sinister appearance. From its wide-stretching mouth
a bit of half-burnt vine hung, trembling in the heated air, and this
element of motion produced the impression on several of the party that
the creature was about to open its lips.

Mrs. Cliff gave a little scream,--she could not help it,--and Maka sank
down on his knees, his back to the rock, and covered his face with his
hands. Ralph was the first to speak.

"There have been heathen around here," he said. "That's a regular idol."

"You are right," said the captain. "That is a bit of old-time work. That
face was cut by the original natives."

The two ladies were so interested, and even excited, that they seized
each other by the hands. Here before their faces was a piece of sculpture
doubtless done by the people of ancient Peru, that people who were
discovered by Pizarro; and this great idol, or whatever it was, had
perhaps never before been seen by civilized eyes. It was wonderful, and
in the conjecture and exclamation of the next half-hour everything else
was forgotten, even the three sailors.

Because the captain was the captain, it was natural that every one
should look to him for some suggestion as to why this great stone face
should have been carved here on this lonely and desolate rock. But he
shook his head.

"I have no ideas about it," he said, "except that it must have been
some sort of a landmark. It looks out toward the sea, and perhaps the
ancient inhabitants put it there so that people in ships, coming near
enough to the coast, should know where they were. Perhaps it was
intended to act as a lighthouse to warn seamen off a dangerous coast.
But I must say that I do not see how it could do that, for they would
have had to come pretty close to the shore to see it, unless they had
better glasses than we have."

The sun was now near the horizon, and Maka was lifted to his feet by the
captain, and ordered to stop groaning in African, and go to work to get
supper on the glowing embers of the vines. He obeyed, of course, but
never did he turn his face upward to that gaunt countenance, which
grinned and winked and frowned whenever a bit of twig blazed up, or the
coals were stirred by the trembling negro.

After supper and until the light had nearly faded from the western sky,
the two ladies sat and watched that vast face upon the rocks, its
features growing more and more solemn as the light decreased.

"I wish I had a long-handled broom," said Mrs. Cliff, "for if the dust
and smoke and ashes of burnt leaves were brushed from off its nose and
eyebrows, I believe it would have a rather gracious expression."

As for the captain, he went walking about on the outlying portion of the
plateau, listening and watching. But it was not stone faces he was
thinking of. That night he did not sleep at all, but sat until day-break,
with a loaded gun across his knees, and another one lying on the ground
beside him.

When Miss Markham emerged from the rude tent the next morning, and came
out into the bright light of day, the first thing she saw was her
brother Ralph, who looked as if he had been sweeping a chimney or
cleaning out an ash-hole.

"What on earth has happened to you!" she cried. "How did you get yourself
so covered with dirt and ashes?"

"I got up ever so long ago," he replied, "and as the captain is asleep
over there, and there was nobody to talk to, I thought I would go and try
to find the back of his head"--pointing to the stone face above them.
"But he hasn't any. He is a sham."

"What do you mean?" asked his sister.

"You see, Edna," said the boy, "I thought I would try if I could find any
more faces, and so I got a bit of stone, and scratched away some of the
burnt vines that had not fallen, and there I found an open place in the
rock on this side of the face. Step this way, and you can see it. It's
like a narrow doorway. I went and looked into it, and saw that it led
back of the big face, and I went in to see what was there."

"You should never have done that, Ralph," cried his sister. "There might
have been snakes in that place, or precipices, or nobody knows what.
What could you expect to see in the dark?"

"It wasn't so dark as you might think," said he. "After my eyes got used
to the place I could see very well. But there was nothing to see--just
walls on each side. There was more of the passageway ahead of me, but I
began to think of snakes myself, and as I did not have a club or anything
to kill them with, I concluded I wouldn't go any farther. It isn't so
very dirty in there. Most of this I got on myself scraping down the burnt
vines. Here comes the captain. He doesn't generally oversleep himself
like this. If he will go with me, we will explore that crack."

When Captain Horn heard of the passage into the rock, he was much more
interested than Ralph had expected him to be, and, without loss of time,
he lighted a lantern and, with the boy behind him, set out to investigate
it. But before entering the cleft, the captain stationed Maka at a place
where he could view all the approaches to the plateau, and told him if he
saw any snakes or other dangerous things approaching, to run to the
opening and call him. Now, snakes were among the few things that Maka was
not afraid of, and so long as he thought these were the enemies to be
watched, he would make a most efficient sentinel.

When Captain Horn had cautiously advanced a couple of yards into the
interior of the rock, he stopped, raised his lantern, and looked about
him. The passage was about two feet wide, the floor somewhat lower than
the ground outside, and the roof but a few feet above his head. It was
plainly the work of man, and not a natural crevice in the rocks. Then
the captain put the lantern behind him, and stared into the gloom ahead
of them. As Ralph had said, it was not so dark as might have been
expected. In fact, about twenty feet forward there was a dim light on the
right-hand wall.

The captain, still followed by Ralph, now moved on until they came to
this lighted place, and found it was an open doorway. Both heads
together, they peeped in, and saw it was an opening like a doorway into a
chamber about fifteen feet square and with very high walls. They scarcely
needed the lantern to examine it, for a jagged opening in the roof let in
a good deal of light.

Passing into this chamber, keeping a good watch out for pitfalls as he
moved on, and forgetting, in his excitement, that he might go so far that
he could not hear Maka, should he call, the captain saw to the right
another open doorway, on the other side of which was another chamber,
about the size of the one they had first entered. One side of this was a
good deal broken away, and through a fracture three or four feet wide the
light entered freely, as if from the open air. But when the two explorers
peered through the ragged aperture, they did not look into the open air,
but into another chamber, very much larger than the others, with high,
irregular walls, but with scarcely any roof, almost the whole of the
upper part being open to the sky.

A mass of broken rocks on the floor of this apartment showed that the
roof had fallen in. The captain entered it and carefully examined it. A
portion of the floor was level and unobstructed by rocks, and in the
walls there was not the slightest sign of a doorway, except the one by
which he had entered from the adjoining chamber.

"Hurrah!" cried Ralph. "Here is a suite of rooms. Isn't this grand? You
and I can have that first one, Maka can sleep in the hall to keep out
burglars, and Edna and Mrs. Cliff can have the middle room, and this open
place here can be their garden, where they can take tea and sew. These
rocks will make splendid tables and chairs."

The captain stood, breathing hard, a sense of relief coming over him like
the warmth of fire. He had thought of what Ralph had said before the boy
had spoken. Here was safety from wild beasts--here was immunity from the
only danger he could imagine to those under his charge. It might be days
yet before the mate returned,--he knew the probable difficulties of
obtaining a vessel, even when a port should be reached,--but they would
be safe here from the attacks of ferocious animals, principally to be
feared in the night. They might well be thankful for such a good place as
this in which to await the arrival of succor, if succor came before their
water gave out. There were biscuits, salt meat, tea, and other things
enough to supply their wants for perhaps a week longer, provided the
three sailors did not return, but the supply of water, although they were
very economical of it, must give out in a day or two. "But," thought the
captain, "Rynders may be back before that, and, on the other hand, a
family of jaguars might scent us out to-night."

"You are right, my boy," said he, speaking to Ralph. "Here is a suite of
rooms, and we will occupy them just as you have said. They are dry and
airy, and it will be far better for us to sleep here than out of doors."

As they returned, Ralph was full of talk about the grand find. But the
captain made no answers to his remarks--his mind was busy contriving some
means of barricading the narrow entrance at night.

When breakfast was over, and the entrance to the rocks had been made
cleaner and easier by the efforts of Maka and Ralph, the ladies were
conducted to the suite of rooms which Ralph had described in such glowing
terms. Both were filled with curiosity to see these apartments,
especially Miss Markham, who was fairly well read in the history of South
America, and who had already imagined that the vast mass of rock by which
they had camped might be in reality a temple of the ancient Peruvians, to
which the stone face was a sacred sentinel. But when the three apartments
had been thoroughly explored she was disappointed.

"There is not a sign or architectural adornment, or anything that seems
to have the least religious significance, or significance of any sort,"
she said. "These are nothing but three stone rooms, with their roofs more
or less broken in. They do not even suggest dungeons."

As for Mrs. Cliff, she did not hesitate to say that she should prefer to
sleep in the open air.

"It would be dreadful," she said, "to awaken in the night and think of
those great stone walls about me."

Even Ralph remarked that, on second thought, he believed he would rather
sleep out of doors, for he liked to look up and see the stars before he
went to sleep.

At first the captain was a little annoyed to find that this place of
safety, the discovery of which had given him such satisfaction and
relief, was looked upon with such disfavor by those who needed it so very
much, but then the thought came to him, "Why should they care about a
place of safety, when they have no idea of danger?" He did not now
hesitate to settle the matter in the most straightforward and honest way.
Having a place of refuge to offer, the time had come to speak of the
danger. And so, standing in the larger apartment, and addressing his
party, he told them of the fate he feared had overtaken the three
sailors, and how anxious he had been lest the same fate should come upon
some one or all of them.

Now vanished every spark of opposition to the captain's proffered
lodgings.

"If we should be here but one night longer," cried Mrs. Cliff, echoing
the captain's thought, "let us be safe."

In the course of the day the two rooms were made as comfortable as
circumstances would allow with the blankets, shawls, and canvas which had
been brought on shore, and that night they all slept in the rock
chambers, the captain having made a barricade for the opening of the
narrow passage with the four oars, which he brought up from the boat.
Even should these be broken down by some wild beast, Captain Horn felt
that, with his two guns at the end of the narrow passage, he might defend
his party from the attacks of any of the savage animals of the country.

The captain slept soundly that night, for he had had but a nap of an
hour or two on the previous morning, and, with Maka stretched in the
passage outside the door of his room, he knew that he would have timely
warning of danger, should any come. But Mrs. Cliff did not sleep well,
spending a large part of the night imagining the descent of active
carnivora down the lofty and perpendicular walls of the large adjoining
apartment.

The next day was passed rather wearily by most of the party in looking
out for signs of a vessel with the returning mate. Ralph had made a flag
which he could wave from a high point near by, in case he should see a
sail, for it would be a great misfortune should Mr. Rynders pass them
without knowing it.

To the captain, however, came a new and terrible anxiety. He had looked
into the water-keg, and saw that it held but a few quarts. It had not
lasted as long as he had expected, for this was a thirsty climate.

The next night Mrs. Cliff slept, having been convinced that not even a
cat could come down those walls. The captain woke very early, and when he
went out he found, to his amazement, that the barricade had been removed,
and he could not see Maka. He thought at first that perhaps the negro had
gone down to the sea-shore to get some water for washing purposes, but an
hour passed, and Maka did not return. The whole party went down to the
beach, for the captain insisted upon all keeping together. They shouted,
they called, they did whatever they could to discover the lost African,
but all without success.

They returned to camp, disheartened and depressed. This new loss had
something terrible in it. What it meant no one could conjecture. There
was no reason why Maka should run away, for there was no place to run to,
and it was impossible that any wild beast should have removed the oars
and carried off the negro.




CHAPTER IV

ANOTHER NEW FACE


As the cook had gone, Mrs. Cliff and Miss Markham prepared breakfast, and
then they discovered how little water there was.

There was something mysterious about the successive losses of his men
which pressed heavily upon the soul of Captain Horn, but the want of
water pressed still more heavily. Ralph had just asked his permission to
go down to the beach and bathe in the sea, saying that as he could not
have all the water he wanted to drink, it might make him feel better to
take a swim in plenty of water. The boy was not allowed to go so far from
camp by himself, but the captain could not help thinking how this poor
fellow would probably feel the next day if help had not arrived, and of
the sufferings of the others, which, by that time, would have begun.
Still, as before, he spoke hopefully, and the two women, as brave as he,
kept up good spirits, and although they each thought of the waterless
morrow, they said nothing about it.

As for Ralph, he confidently expected the return of the men in the
course of the day, as he had done in the course of each preceding day,
and two or three times an hour he was at his post of observation, ready
to wave his flag.

Even had he supposed that it would be of any use to go to look for Maka,
a certain superstitious feeling would have prevented the captain from
doing so. If he should go out, and not return, there would be little hope
for those two women and the boy. But he could not help feeling that
beyond the rocky plateau which stretched out into the sea to the
southward, and which must be at least two miles away, there might be seen
some signs of habitation, and, consequently, of a stream. If anything of
the sort could be seen, it might become absolutely necessary for the
party to make their way toward it, either by land or sea, no matter how
great the fatigue or the danger, and without regard to the fate of those
who had left camp before them.

About half an hour afterwards, when the captain had mounted some rocks
near by, from which he thought he might get a view of the flat region to
the north on which he might discover the missing negro, Ralph, who was
looking seaward, gave a start, and then hurriedly called to his sister
and Mrs. Cliff, and pointed to the beach. There was the figure of a man
which might well be Maka, but, to their amazement and consternation, he
was running, followed, not far behind, by another man. The figures
rapidly approached, and it was soon seen that the first man was Maka, but
that the second figure was not one of the sailors who had left them.
Could he be pursuing Maka? What on earth did it mean?

For some moments Ralph stood dumfounded, and then ran in the direction
in which the captain had gone, and called to him.

At the sound of his voice the second figure stopped and turned as if he
were about to run, but Maka--they were sure it was Maka--seized him by
the arm and held him. Therefore this newcomer could not be pursuing their
man. As the two now came forward, Maka hurrying the other on, Ralph and
his two companions were amazed to see that this second man was also an
African, a negro very much like Maka, and as they drew nearer, the two
looked as if they might have been brothers.

The captain had wandered farther than he had intended, but after several
shouts from Ralph he came running back, and reached the camp-ground just
as the two negroes arrived.

At the sight of this tall man bounding toward him the strange negro
appeared to be seized with a wild terror. He broke away from Maka, and
ran first in this direction and then in that, and perceiving the cleft in
the face of the rock, he blindly rushed into it, as a rat would rush into
a hole. Instantly Maka was after him, and the two were lost to view.

When the captain had been told of the strange thing which had happened,
he stood without a word. Another African! This was a puzzle too great for
his brain.

"Are you sure it was not a native of these parts?" said he, directly.
"You know, they are very dark."

"No!" exclaimed Mrs. Cliff and her companions almost in the same breath,
"it was an African, exactly like Maka."

At this moment a wild yell was heard from the interior of the rocks,
then another and another. Without waiting to consider anything, or hear
any more, the captain dashed into the narrow passage, Ralph close behind
him. They ran into the room in which they had slept. They looked on all
sides, but saw nothing. Again, far away, they heard another yell, and
they ran out again into the passage.

This narrow entry, as the investigating Ralph had already discovered,
continued for a dozen yards past the doorway which led to the chambers,
but there it ended in a rocky wall about five feet high. Above this was
an aperture extending to the roof of the passage, but Ralph, having a
wholesome fear of snakes, had not cared to climb over the wall to see
what was beyond.

When the captain and Ralph had reached the end of the passage, they heard
another cry, and there could be no doubt that it came through the
aperture by which they stood. Instantly Ralph scrambled to the top of the
wall, pushed himself head foremost through the opening, and came down on
the other side, partly on his hands and partly on his feet. Had the
captain been first, he would not have made such a rash leap, but now he
did not hesitate a second. He instantly followed the boy, taking care,
however, to let himself down on his feet.

The passage on the other side of the dividing wall seemed to be the same
as that they had just left, although perhaps a little lighter. After
pushing on for a short distance, they found that the passage made a turn
to the right, and then in a few moments the captain and Ralph emerged
into open space. What sort of space it was they could not comprehend.

"It seemed to me," said Ralph, afterwards, "as if I had fallen into the
sky at night. I was afraid to move, for fear I should tumble into
astronomical distances."

The captain stared about him, apparently as much confounded by the
situation as was the boy. But his mind was quickly brought to the
consideration of things which he could understand. Almost at his feet was
Maka, lying on his face, his arms and head over the edge of what might be
a bank or a bottomless precipice, and yelling piteously. Making a step
toward him, the captain saw that he had hold of another man, several feet
below him, and that he could not pull him up.

"Hold on tight, Maka," he cried, and then, taking hold of the African's
shoulders, he gave one mighty heave, lifted both men, and set them on
their feet beside him.

Ralph would have willingly sacrificed the rest of his school-days to be
able to perform such a feat as that. But the Africans were small, and the
captain was wildly excited.

Well might he be excited. He was wet! The strange man whom he had pulled
up had stumbled against him, and he was dripping with water. Ralph was by
the captain, tightly gripping his arm, and, without speaking, they both
stood gazing before them and around them.

At their feet, stretching away in one direction, farther than they could
see, and what at first sight they had taken to be air, was a body of
water--a lake! Above them were rocks, and, as far as they could see to
the right, the water seemed to be overhung by a cavernous roof. But in
front of them, on the other side of the lake, which here did not seem to
be more than a hundred feet wide, there was a great upright opening in
the side of the cave, through which they could see the distant mountains
and a portion of the sky.

"Water!" said Ralph, in a low tone, as if he had been speaking in church,
and then, letting go of the captain's arm, he began to examine the ledge,
but five or six feet wide, on which they stood. At his feet the water was
at least a yard below them, but a little distance on he saw that the
ledge shelved down to the surface of the lake, and in a moment he had
reached this spot, and, throwing himself down on his breast, he plunged
his face into the water and began drinking like a thirsty horse.
Presently he rose to his knees with a great sigh of satisfaction.

"Oh, captain," he cried, "it is cold and delicious. I believe that in one
hour more I should have died of thirst."

But the captain did not answer, nor did he move from the spot where he
stood. His thoughts whirled around in his mind like chaff in a
winnowing-machine. Water! A lake in the bosom of the rocks! Half an hour
ago he must have been standing over it as he scrambled up the hillside.
Visions that he had had of the morrow, when all their eyes should be
standing out of their faces, like the eyes of shipwrecked sailors he had
seen in boats, came back to him, and other visions of his mate and his
men toiling southward for perhaps a hundred miles without reaching a port
or a landing, and then the long, long delay before a vessel could be
procured. And here was water!

Ralph stood beside him for an instant. "Captain," he cried, "I am
going to get a pail, and take some to Edna and Mrs. Cliff." And then
he was gone.

Recalled thus to the present, the captain stepped back. He must do
something--he must speak to some one. He must take some advantage of this
wonderful, this overpowering discovery. But before he could bring his
mind down to its practical workings, Maka had clutched him by the coat.

"Cap'n," he said, "I must tell you. I must speak it. I must tell you now,
quick. Wait! Don't go!"




CHAPTER V

THE RACKBIRDS


The new African was sitting on the ground, as far back from the edge of
the ledge as he could get, shivering and shaking, for the water was cold.
He had apparently reached the culmination and termination of his fright.
After his tumble into the water, which had happened because he had been
unable to stop in his mad flight, he had not nerve enough left to do
anything more, no matter what should appear to scare him, and there was
really no reason why he should be afraid of this big white man, who did
not even look at him or give him a thought.

Maka's tale, which he told so rapidly and incoherently that he was
frequently obliged to repeat portions of it, was to the following effect:
He had thought a great deal about the scarcity of water, and it had
troubled him so that he could not sleep. What a dreadful thing it would
be for those poor ladies and the captain and the boy to die because they
had no water! His recollections of experiences in his native land made
him well understand that streams of water are to be looked for between
high ridges, and the idea forced itself upon him very strongly that on
the other side of the ridge to the south there might be a stream. He
knew the captain would not allow him to leave the camp if he asked
permission, and so he rose very early, even before it was light, and
going down to the shore, made his way along the beach--on the same route,
in fact, that the Englishman Davis had taken. He was a good deal
frightened sometimes, he said, by the waves, which dashed up as if they
would pull him into the water. When he reached the point of the rocky
ridge, he had no difficulty whatever in getting round it, as he could
easily keep away from the water by climbing over the rocks.

He found that the land on the other side began to recede from the ocean,
and that there was a small sandy beach below him. This widened until it
reached another and smaller point of rock, and beyond this Maka believed
he would find the stream for which he was searching. And while he was
considering whether he should climb over it or wade around it, suddenly a
man jumped down from the rock, almost on top of him. This man fell down
on his back, and was at first so frightened that he did not try to move.
Maka's wits entirely deserted him, he said, and he did not know anything,
except that most likely he was going to die.

But on looking at the man on the ground, he saw that he was an African
like himself, and in a moment he recognized him as one of his
fellow-slaves, with whom he had worked in Guiana, and also for a short
time on the Panama Canal. This made him think that perhaps he was not
going to die, and he went up to the other man and spoke to him. Then
the other man thought perhaps he was not going to die, and he sat up
and spoke.

When the other man told his tale, Maka agreed with him that it would be
far better to die of thirst than to go on any farther to look for water,
and, turning, he ran back, followed by the other, and they never stopped
to speak to each other until they had rounded the great bluff, and were
making their way along the beach toward the camp. Then his fellow-African
told Maka a great deal more, and Maka told everything to the captain.

The substance of the tale was this: A mile farther up the bay than Maka
had gone, there was a little stream that ran down the ravine. About a
quarter of a mile up this stream there was a spot where, it appeared from
the account, there must be a little level ground suitable for
habitations. Here were five or six huts, almost entirely surrounded by
rocks, and in these lived a dozen of the most dreadful men in the whole
world. This Maka assured the captain, his eyes wet with tears as he
spoke. It must truly be so, because the other African had told him things
which proved it.

A little farther up the stream, on the other side of the ravine, there
was a cave, a very small one, and so high up in the face of the rock
that it could only be reached by a ladder. In this lived five black men,
members of the company of slaves who had gone from Guiana to the
isthmus, and who had been brought down there about a year before by two
wicked men, who had promised them well-paid work in a lovely country.
They had, however, been made actual slaves in this barren and doleful
place, and had since worked for the cruel men who had beguiled them
into a captivity worse than the slavery to which they had been
originally destined.

Eight of them had come down from the isthmus, but, at various times
since, three of them had been killed by accident, or shot while trying to
run away. The hardships of these poor fellows were very great, and Maka's
voice shook as he spoke of them. They were kept in the cave all the time,
except when they were wanted for some sort of work, when a ladder was put
up by the side of the rock, and such as were required were called to come
down. Without a ladder no one could get in or out of the cave. One man
who had tried to slip down at night fell and broke his neck.

The Africans were employed in cooking and other rough domestic or menial
services, and sometimes all of them were taken down to the shore of the
bay, where they saw small vessels, and they were employed in carrying
goods from one of these to another, and were also obliged to carry
provisions and heavy kegs up the ravine to the houses of the wicked men.
The one whom he had brought with him, Maka said, had that day escaped
from his captors. One of the Rackbirds, whom in some way the negro had
offended, had sworn to kill him before night, and feeling sure that this
threat would be carried out, the poor fellow had determined to run away,
no matter what the consequences. He had chosen the way by the ocean, in
order that he might jump in and drown himself if he found that he was
likely to be overtaken, but apparently his escape had not yet been
discovered.

Maka was going on to tell something more about the wicked men, when
the captain interrupted him. "Can this friend of yours speak
English?" he asked.

"Only one, two words," replied Maka.

"Ask him if he knows the name of that band of men."

"Yes," said Maka, presently, "he know, but he no can speak it."

"Are they called the Rackbirds?" asked Captain Horn.

The shivering negro had been listening attentively, and now half rose and
nodded his head violently, and then began to speak rapidly in African.

"Yes," said Maka, "he says that is name they are called."

At this moment Ralph appeared upon the scene, and the second African,
whose name was something like Mok, sprang to his feet as if he were about
to flee for his life. But as there was no place to flee to, except into
the water or into the arms of Ralph, he stood still, trembling. A few
feet to the left the shelf ended in a precipitous rock, and on the right,
as has been said, it gradually descended into the water, the space on
which the party stood not being more than twenty feet long and five or
six feet wide. When he saw Ralph, the captain suddenly stopped the
question he was about to ask, and said in an undertone to Maka:

"Not a word to the boy. I will tell."

"Oh," cried Ralph, "you do not know what a lively couple there is out
there. I found that my sister and Mrs. Cliff had made up their minds that
they would perish in about two days, and Mrs. Cliff had been making her
will with a lead-pencil, and now they are just as high up as they were
low down before. They would not let me come to get them some water,
though I kept telling them they never tasted anything like it in their
whole lives, because they wanted to hear everything about everything. My
sister will be wild to come to this lake before long, even if Mrs. Cliff
does not care to try it. And when you are ready to come to them, and
bring Maka, they want to know who that other colored man is, and how Maka
happened to find him. I truly believe their curiosity goes ahead of their
thirst." And so saying he went down to the lake to fill a pail he had
brought with him.

The captain told Ralph to hurry back to the ladies, and that he would be
there in a few minutes. Captain Horn knew a great deal about the
Rackbirds. They were a band of desperadoes, many of them outlaws and
criminals. They had all come down from the isthmus, to which they had
been attracted by the great canal works, and after committing various
outrages and crimes, they had managed to get away without being shot or
hung. Captain Horn had frequently heard of them in the past year or two,
and it was generally supposed that they had some sort of rendezvous or
refuge on this coast, but there had been no effort made to seek them out.
He had frequently heard of crimes committed by them at points along the
coast, which showed that they had in their possession some sort of
vessel. At one time, when he had stopped at Lima, he had heard that there
was talk of the government's sending out a police or military expedition
against these outlaws, but he had never known of anything of the sort
being done.

Everything that, from time to time, had been told Captain Horn about
the Rackbirds showed that they surpassed in cruelty and utter vileness
any other bandits, or even savages, of whom he had ever heard. Among
other news, he had been told that the former leader of the band, which
was supposed to be composed of men of many nationalities, was a French
Canadian, who had been murdered by his companions because, while robbing
a plantation in the interior,--they had frequently been known to cross
the desert and the mountains,--he had forborne to kill an old man
because as the trembling graybeard looked up at him he had reminded him
of his father. Some of the leading demons of the band determined that
they could not have such a fool as this for their leader, and he was
killed while asleep.

Now the band was headed by a Spaniard, whose fiendishness was of a
sufficiently high order to satisfy the most exacting of his fellows.
These and other bits of news about the Rackbirds had been told by one of
the band who had escaped to Panama after the murder of the captain,
fearing that his own talents for baseness did not reach the average
necessary for a Rackbird.

When he had made his landing from the wreck, Captain Horn never gave a
thought to the existence of this band of scoundrels. In fact, he had
supposed, when he had thought of the matter, that their rendezvous must
be far south of this point.

But now, standing on that shelf of rock, with his eyes fixed on the water
without seeing it, he knew that the abode of this gang of wretches was
within a comparatively short distance of this spot in which he and his
companions had taken refuge, and he knew, too, that there was every
reason to suppose that some of them would soon be in pursuit of the negro
who had run away.

Suddenly another dreadful thought struck him. Wild beasts, indeed!

He turned quickly to Maka. "Does that man know anything about Davis and
the two sailors? Were they killed?" he asked.

Maka shook his head and said that he had already asked his companion that
question, but Mok had said that he did not know. All he knew was that
those wicked men killed everybody they could kill.

The captain shut his teeth tightly together. "That was it," he said. "I
could not see how it could be jaguars, although I could think of nothing
else. But these bloodthirsty human beasts! I see it now." He moved toward
the passage. "If that dirty wretch had not run away," he thought, "we
might have stayed undiscovered here until a vessel came. But they will
track his footsteps upon the sand--they are bound to do that."




CHAPTER VI

THREE WILD BEASTS


When the captain joined the two ladies and the boy, who were impatiently
waiting for him on the plateau, he had made up his mind to tell them the
bad news. Terrible as was the necessity, it could not be helped. It was
very hard for him to meet those three radiant faces, and to hear them
talk about the water that had been discovered.

"Now," said Mrs. Cliff, "I see no reason why we should not live here in
peace and comfort until Mr. Rynders chooses to come back for us. And I
have been thinking, captain, that if somebody--and I am sure Ralph would
be very good at it--could catch some fish, it would help out very much.
We are getting a little short of meat, but as for the other things, we
have enough to last for days and days. But we won't talk of that now. We
want to hear where that other colored man came from. Just look at him as
he sits there with Maka by those embers. One might think he would shiver
himself to pieces. Was he cast ashore from a wreck?"

The captain stood silent for a moment, and then, briefly but plainly, and
glossing over the horrors of the situation as much as he could, he told
them about the Rackbirds. Not one of the little party interrupted the
captain's story, but their faces grew paler and paler as he proceeded.

When he had finished, Mrs. Cliff burst into tears. "Captain," she cried,
"let us take the boat and row away from this dreadful place. We should
not lose a minute. Let us go now!"

But the captain shook his head. "That would not do," he said. "On this
open sea they could easily see us. They have boats, and could row much
faster than we could."

"Then," exclaimed the excited woman, "we could turn over the boat, and
all sink to the bottom together."

To this the captain made no answer. "You must all get inside as quickly
as you can," he said. "Maka, you and that other fellow carry in
everything that has been left out here. Be quick. Go up, Ralph, and take
the flag down, and then run in."

When the others had entered the narrow passage, the captain followed.
Fortunately, he had two guns, each double-barrelled, and if but a few of
the Rackbirds came in pursuit of the escaped negro, he might be a match
for them in that narrow passage.

Shortly after the party had retired within the rocks, Miss Markham came
to the captain, who was standing at the door of the first apartment.
"Captain Horn," said she, "Mrs. Cliff is in a state of nervous fear, and
I have been trying to quiet her. Can you say anything that might give her
a little courage? Do you really think there is any chance of our escape
from this new danger?"

"Yes," said the captain, "there is a chance. Rynders may come back
before the Rackbirds discover us, and even if two or three of them
find out our retreat, I may be able to dispose of them, and thus give
us a little more time. That is our only ground of hope. Those men are
bound to come here sooner or later, and everything depends upon the
return of Rynders."

"But," urged Miss Markham, "perhaps they may not come so far as this
to look for the runaway. The waves may have washed out his footsteps
upon the sand. There may be no reason why they should come up to
this plateau."

The captain smiled a very sombre smile. "If any of them should come this
way," he said, "it is possible that they might not think it worth while
to cease their search along the beach and come up to this particular
spot, were it not that our boat is down there. That is the same thing as
if we had put out a sign to tell them where we are. The boat is hauled up
on shore, but they could not fail to see it."

"Captain," said Miss Markham, "do you think those Rackbirds killed the
three sailors?"

"I am very much afraid of it," he answered. "If they did, they must have
known that these poor fellows were survivors of a shipwreck, and I
suppose they stole up behind them and shot them down or stabbed them. If
that were so, I wonder why they have not sooner been this way, looking
for the wreck, or, at least, for other unfortunates who may have reached
shore. I suppose, if they are making this sort of a search, they went
southward. But all that, of course, depends upon whether they really saw
Davis and the two other men. If they did not, they could have no reason
for supposing there were any shipwrecked people on the coast."

"But that thought is of no use to us," said Miss Markham, her eyes upon
the ground, "for, of course, they will be coming after the black man.
Captain," she continued quickly, "is there anything I can do? I can
fire a gun."

He looked at her for a moment. "That will not be necessary," he said.
"But there is something you can do. Have you a pistol?"

"Yes," said she, "I have. I put it in my pocket as soon as I came into
the cave. Here it is."

The captain took the pistol from her hands and examined it. "Five
chambers," he said, "all charged. Be very careful of it,"--handing it
back to her. "I will put your brother and Mrs. Cliff in your charge. At
the slightest hint of danger, you must keep together in the middle room.
I will stand between you and the rascals as long as I can, but if I am
killed, you must do what you think best."

"I will," said she, and she put the pistol back in her pocket.

The captain was very much encouraged by the brave talk of this young
woman, and it really seemed as if he now had some one to stand by him,
some one with whom he could even consult.

"I have carefully examined this cavern," said the captain, after a
moment's pause, "and there are only two ways by which those men could
possibly get in. You need not be afraid that any one can scramble down
the walls of that farthest apartment. That could not be done, though they
might be able to fire upon any one in it. But in the middle room you
will be perfectly secure from gunshots. I shall keep Maka on guard a
little back from the entrance to the passage. He will lie on the ground,
and can hear footsteps long before they reach us. It is barely possible
that some of them might enter by the great cleft in the cave on the other
side of the lake, but in that case they would have to swim across, and I
shall station that new African on the ledge of which you have heard, and
if he sees any of them coming in that direction, I know he will give very
quick warning. I hardly think, though, that they would trust themselves
to be picked off while swimming."

"And you?" said she.

"Oh, I shall keep my eyes on all points," said he, "as far as I can. I
begin to feel a spirit of fight rising up within me. If I thought I could
keep them off until Rynders gets here, I almost wish they would then
come. I would like to kill a lot of them."

"Suppose," said Edna Markham, after a moment's reflection, "that they
should see Mr. Rynders coming back, and should attack him."

"I hardly think they would do that," replied the captain. "He will
probably come in a good-sized vessel, and I don't think they are the kind
of men for open battle. They are midnight sneaks and assassins. Now, I
advise all of you to go and get something to eat. It would be better for
us not to try to do any cooking, and so make a smoke."

The captain did not wish to talk any more. Miss Markham's last remark had
put a new fear into his mind. Suppose the Rackbirds had lured Rynders and
his men on shore? Those sailors had but few arms among them. They had
not thought, when they left, that there would be any necessity for
defence against their fellow-beings.

When Edna Markham told Mrs. Cliff what the captain had said about their
chances, and what he intended to do for their protection, the older woman
brightened up a good deal.

"I have great faith in the captain," she declared, "and if he thinks it
is worth while to make a fight, I believe he will make a good one. If
they should be firing, and Mr. Rynders is approaching the coast, even if
it should be night, he would lose no time in getting to us."

Toward the close of that afternoon three wild beasts came around the
point of the bluff and made their way northward along the beach. They
were ferocious creatures with shaggy hair and beards. Two of them carried
guns, and each of them had a knife in his belt. When they came to a broad
bit of beach above the reach of the waves, they were very much surprised
at some footsteps they saw. They were the tracks of two men, instead of
those of the one they were looking for. This discovery made them very
cautious. They were eager to kill the escaped African before he got far
enough away to give information of their retreat, for they knew not at
what time an armed force in search of them might approach the coast. But
they were very wary about running into danger. There was somebody with
that black fellow--somebody who wore boots.

After a time they came to the boat. The minute they saw this, each
miscreant crouched suddenly upon the sand, and, with cocked guns, they
listened. Then, hearing nothing, they carefully examined the boat. It
was empty--there were not even oars in it.

Looking about them, they saw a hollow behind some rocks. To this they
ran, crouching close to the ground, and there they sat and consulted.

It was between two and three o'clock the next morning that Maka's eyes,
which had not closed for more than twenty hours, refused to keep open any
longer, and with his head on the hard, rocky ground of the passage in
which he lay, the poor African slept soundly. On the shelf at the edge of
the lake, the other African, Mok, sat crouched on his heels, his eyes
wide open. Whether he was asleep or not it would have been difficult to
determine, but if any one had appeared in the great cleft on the other
side of the lake, he would have sprung to his feet with a yell--his fear
of the Rackbirds was always awake.

Inside the first apartment was Captain Horn, fast asleep, his two guns by
his side. He had kept watch until an hour before, but Ralph had insisted
upon taking his turn, and, as the captain knew he could not keep awake
always, he allowed the boy to take a short watch. But now Ralph was
leaning back against one of the walls, snoring evenly and steadily. In
the next room sat Edna Markham, wide awake. She knew of the arrangement
made with Ralph, and she knew the boy's healthy, sleepy nature, so that
when he went on watch she went on watch.

Outside of the cave were three wild beasts. One of them was crouching on
the farther end of the plateau. Another, on the lower ground a little
below, stood, gun in hand, and barely visible in the starlight. A third,
barefooted, and in garments dingy as the night, and armed only with a
knife, crept softly toward the entrance of the cave. There he stopped
and listened. He could plainly hear the breathing of the sleepers. He
tried to separate these sounds one from another, so that he should be
able to determine how many persons were sleeping inside, but this he
could not do. Then his cat-like eyes, becoming more and more accustomed
to the darkness within the entrance, saw the round head of Maka close
upon the ground.

The soul of the listening fiend laughed within him. "Pretty watchers they
are," he said to himself. "Not three hours after midnight, and they are
all snoring!" Then, as stealthily and as slowly as he had come, he
slipped away, and joining the others, they all glided through the
darkness down to the beach, and then set off at their best speed back to
their rendezvous.

After they had discovered that there were people in the cave, they had
not thought of entering. They were not fully armed, and they did not
know how many persons were inside. But they knew one thing, and that was
that these shipwrecked people--for that was what they must be--kept a
very poor watch, and if the whole band came on the following night, the
affair would probably be settled with but very little trouble, no matter
how large the party in the cave might be. It was not necessary to look
any further for the escaped negro. Of course, he had been picked up by
these people.

The three beasts reached their camp about daybreak, and everybody was
soon awakened and the tale was told.

"It is a comfort," said the leader, lighting the stump of a black pipe
which he thrust under his great mustache, and speaking in his native
tongue, which some of them understood, and others did not, "to know that
to-night's work is all cut out for us. Now we can take it easy to-day,
and rest our bones. The order of the day is to keep close. No straggling,
nor wandering. Keep those four niggers up in the pigeonhole. We will do
our own cooking to-day, for we can't afford to run after any more of
them. Lucky the fellow who got away can't speak English, for he can't
tell anything about us, any more than if he was an ape. So snooze to-day,
if you want to. I will give you work to do for to-night."




CHAPTER VII

GONE!


That morning, when the party in the cavern had had their breakfast, with
some hot tea made on a spiritlamp which Mrs. Cliff had brought, and had
looked cautiously out at the sunlit landscape, and the sea beyond,
without seeing any signs or hearing any sound of wicked men, there came
a feeling of relief. There was, indeed, no great ground for such a
feeling, but as the Rackbirds had not come the day before nor during the
night, perhaps they would not come at all. It might be they did not care
whether the black man ran away or not. But Captain Horn did not relax
his precautions. He would take no chances, and would keep up a watch day
and night.

When, on the night before, the time had come for Ralph's watch to end,
his sister had awakened him, and when the captain, in his turn, was
aroused, he had not known that it was not the boy who had kept watch
during his sleep.

In the course of the morning Mrs. Cliff and Edna, having been filled
with an intense desire to see the wonderful subterranean lake, had been
helped over the rocky barrier, and had stood at the edge of the water,
looking over to where it was lighted by the great chasm in the side of
the rocks, and endeavoring to peer into the solemn, cavernous distance
into which it extended on the right. Edna said nothing, but stood
gazing at the wonderful scene--the dark, mysterious waters before her,
the arched cavern above her, and the picture of the bright sky and the
tops of the distant mountains, framed by the sides of the great opening
which stretched itself upward like a cathedral window on the other side
of the lake.

"It frightens me," said Mrs. Cliff. "To be sure, this water was our
salvation, for we should have been dead by this time, pirates or no
pirates, if we had not found it. But it is terrifying, for all that. We
do not know how far it stretches out into the blackness, and we do not
know how far down it goes. It may be thousands of feet deep, for all we
know. Don't go so near the edge, Ralph. It makes me shudder."

When the little party had returned to the cavern, the captain and the two
ladies had a long talk about the lake. They all agreed that the existence
of this great reservoir of water was sufficient to account for the
greenness and fertility of the little plateau outside. Even if no
considerable amount of water trickled through the cracks in the rocks,
the moisture which arose from the surface of the water found its way out
into the surrounding atmosphere, and had nourished the bushes and vines.

For some time they discussed their new-found water-supply, and they were
all glad to have something to think about and talk about besides the
great danger which overhung them.

"If it could only have been the lake without the Rackbirds," said
Mrs. Cliff.

"Let us consider that that is the state of the case," remarked Edna. "We
have the lake, and so far we have not had any Rackbirds."

It was now nearly noon, and the captain looked around for Ralph, but did
not see him. He went to search for him, and finding that the boy had not
passed Maka, who was on watch, he concluded he must have gone to the
lake. There was no reason why the restless youth should not seek to
enliven his captivity by change of scene, but Captain Horn felt unwilling
to have any one in his charge out of sight for any length of time, so he
went to look for Ralph.

He found no one on the rocky shelf. As there had been little reason to
expect a water attack at this hour, Mok had been relieved from guard for
a meal and a nap. But as Ralph was not here, where could he be? A second
glance, however, showed the captain the boy's clothes lying close by,
against the upright side of the rock, and at that moment he heard a cry.
His eyes flashed out toward the sound. There on the other side of the
water, sitting on a bit of projecting rock not far from the great opening
in the cave, he saw Ralph. At first the captain stood dumb with
amazement, and he was just about to call out, when Ralph shouted again.

"I swam over," he said, "but I can't get back. I've got the cramps.
Can't you make some sort of a raft, and come over to me! The water's
awfully cold."

Raft, indeed! There was no material or time for anything of the kind. If
the boy dropped off that bit of rock, he would be drowned, and the
captain did not hesitate a moment. Throwing aside his jacket and slipping
off his shoes, he let himself down into the water and struck out in
Ralph's direction. The water was, indeed, very cold, but the captain was
a strong swimmer, and it would not take him very long to cross the lake
at this point, where its width was not much more than a hundred feet. As
he neared the other side he did not make immediately for Ralph. He
thought it would be wise to rest a little before attempting to take the
boy back, and so he made for another point of rock, a little nearer the
opening, urging the boy, as he neared him, to sit firmly and keep up a
good heart.

"All right," said Ralph. "I see what you are after. That is a
better place than this, and if you land there I think I can
scramble over to you."

"Don't move," said the captain. "Sit where you are until I tell you
what to do."

The captain had not made more than two or three strokes after speaking
when his right hand struck against something hard, just below the surface
of the water. He involuntarily grasped it. It was immovable, and it felt
like a tree, a few inches in diameter, standing perpendicularly in the
lake. Wondering what this could be, he took hold of it with his other
hand, and finding that it supported him, he let his feet drop, when, to
his surprise, he found that they rested on something with a rounded
surface, and the idea instantly came into his mind that it was a
submerged tree, the trunk lying horizontally, from which this upright
branch projected. This might be as good a resting-place as the rock to
which he had been going, and standing on it, with his head well out of
the water, he turned to speak to Ralph. At that moment his feet slipped
from the slimy object on which he stood, and he fell backward into the
water, still grasping, however, his upright support. But this did not
remain upright more than an instant, but yielded to his weight, and the
end of it which he held went down with him. As he sank, the captain, in
his first bewilderment, did not loosen his grasp upon what had been his
support, and which still prevented him from sinking rapidly. But in a
moment his senses came to him, he let go, and a few downward strokes
brought him to the surface of the water. Then he struck out for the point
of rock for which he had been aiming, and he was soon mounted upon it.

"Hi!" shouted Ralph, who had been so frightened by the captain's sudden
sinking that he nearly fell off his narrow seat, "I thought something had
pulled you down."

The captain did not explain. He was spluttering a little after his
involuntary dive, and he wanted to get back as soon as possible, and so
wasted no breath in words. In a few minutes he felt himself ready for the
return trip, and getting into the water, he swam to Ralph. Following the
directions given him, the boy let himself down into the water behind the
captain, and placed his hands upon the latter's hips, firmly grasping the
waistband of his trousers. Then urging the boy not to change his
position, nor attempt to take hold of him in any other way, the captain
struck out across the lake, Ralph easily floating behind him.

When they stood upon the shelf on the other side, and Ralph, having
rubbed himself down with the captain's jacket, put on his clothes,
Captain Horn rather sternly inquired of him how he came to do such a
foolish and wicked thing as to run the risk of drowning himself in the
lake at a time when his sister and his friends had already trouble enough
on their minds.

Ralph was sorry, of course, that the captain had to come after him, and
get himself wet, but he explained that he wanted to do something for the
good of the party, and it had struck him that it would be a very sensible
thing to investigate the opening on the other side of the lake. If he
could get out of that great gap, he might find some way of climbing out
over the top of the rocks and get to the place where his flag was, and
then, if he saw Mr. Rynders coming, he could wave it. It would be a great
thing if the people in the vessel which they all expected should see that
flag the moment they came in sight of the coast. They might get to shore
an hour or two sooner than if they had not seen it.

"If the cramp in this leg had kept off five minutes longer," he said, "I
would have reached that big hole, and then, if I could have climbed over
the top of the rocks, I could have come down on the other side to the
front door, and asked Maka to get me my clothes, so I would not have had
to swim back at all."

"That will do," said the captain. "And now that you are dressed, you can
go inside and get me that woollen shirt and trousers that I use for a
pillow, for I must take off these wet things."

When the boy came back with the clothes, the captain told him that he
need not say anything to his sister or Mrs. Cliff about the great danger
he had been in, but before he had finished his injunction Ralph
interrupted him.

"Oh, I have told them that already," said he. "They wanted to know where
I had been, and it did not take a minute to tell them what a splendid
swimmer you are, and how you came over after me without taking as much as
two seconds to think about it. And I let them know, too, that it was a
mighty dangerous thing for you to do. If I had been one of those fellows
who were not used to the water, and who would grab hold of any one who
came to save them, we might both have gone to the bottom together."

The captain smiled grimly. "It is hard to get ahead of a boy," he said
to himself.

It was late that afternoon when Captain Horn, with Ralph and the two
ladies, were standing on the rocks in the inner apartment, trying to
persuade themselves that they were having a cosey cup of tea together,
when suddenly a scrambling sound of footsteps was heard, and Maka dashed
through the two adjoining apartments and appeared before them. Instantly
the captain was on his feet, his gun, which had been lying beside him, in
his hand. Up sprang the others, mute, with surprise and fear on their
faces. Maka, who was in a state of great excitement, and seemed unable to
speak, gasped out the one word, "Gone!"

"What do you mean?" cried the captain.

Maka ran back toward the passage, and pointed inward. Instantly the
captain conjectured what he meant. Mok, the second African, had been
stationed to watch the lake approach, and he had deserted! Now the hot
thought flashed upon the captain that the rascal had been a spy. The
Rackbirds had known that there were shipwrecked people in these caves.
How could they help knowing it, if they had killed Davis and the others?
But, cowardly hounds as they were, they had been afraid to attack the
place until they knew how many people were in it, what arms they had, and
in what way the place could best be assailed. This Mok had found out
everything. If the boy could swim across the lake, that black man could
do it, and he had gone out through the cleft, and was probably now making
his report to the gang.

All this flashed through the captain's brain in a few seconds. He set his
teeth together. He was ashamed that he had allowed himself to be so
tricked. That African, probably one of the gang, and able to speak
English, should have been kept a prisoner. What a fool he had been to
treat the black-hearted and black-bodied wretch as one of themselves, and
actually to put him on guard!

Of course, it was of no use to go to look for him, and the captain had
put down his gun, and was just about to turn to speak to the others, when
Maka seized him by the coat. The negro seemed wildly excited and still
unable to speak. But it was plain that he wanted the captain to follow
him along the passage. There was no use in asking questions, and the
captain followed, and behind him came Ralph, Edna, and Mrs. Cliff.

Maka was about to climb over the rocky partition which divided the
passage, but the captain stopped him. "Stay here," said he, "and watch
the passage. I will see what is the matter over there." And then he and
Ralph jumped over and hurried to the lake. As they came out on the little
platform of rock, on which the evening light, coming through the great;
cleft, still rendered objects visible, they saw Mok crouching on his
heels, his eyes wide open as usual.

The captain was stupefied. That African not gone! If it were not he,
who had gone?

Then the captain felt a tight clutch upon his arm, and Ralph pulled
him around. Casting eyes outward, the captain saw that it was the lake
that had gone!

As he and Ralph stood there, stupefied and staring, they saw, by the dim
light which came through the opening on the other side of the cavern, a
great empty rocky basin. The bottom of this, some fifteen or twenty feet
below them, wet and shining, with pools of water here and there, was
plainly visible in the space between them and the open cleft, but farther
on all was dark. There was every reason to suppose, however, that all the
water had gone from the lake. Why or how this had happened, they did not
even ask themselves. They simply stood and stared.

In a few minutes they were joined by Edna, who had become so anxious at
their absence and silence that she had clambered over the wall, and came
running to them. By the time she reached them it was much darker than
when they had arrived, but she could see that the lake had gone. That
was enough.

"What do you suppose it means?" she said presently. "Are we over
some awful subterranean cavern in which things sink out of sight in
an instant?"

"It is absolutely unaccountable," said the captain. "But we must go back
to Mrs. Cliff. I hear her calling. And if Maka has come to his senses,
perhaps he can tell us something."

But Maka had very little to tell. To the captain's questions he could
only say that a little while before, Mok had come running to him, and
told him that, being thirsty, he had gone down to the edge of the lake to
get a drink, and found that there was no water, only a great hole, and
then he had run to tell Maka, and when Maka had gone back with him, so
greatly surprised that he had deserted his post without thinking about
it, he found that what Mok had said was true, and that there was nothing
there but a great black hole. Mok must have been asleep when the water
went away, but it was gone, and that was all he knew about it.

There was something so weird and mysterious about this absolute and
sudden disappearance of this great body of water that Mrs. Cliff became
very nervous and frightened.

"This is a temple of the devil," she said, "and that is his face outside.
You do not know what may happen next. This rocky floor on which we stand
may give way, and we may all go down into unknown depths. I can't think
of staying here another minute. It is dark now. Let us slip away down to
the beach, and take the boat, and row away from this horrible region
where human devils and every other kind seem to own the country."

"Oh, no," said the captain, "we can't consider such wild schemes as that.
I have been thinking that perhaps there may be some sort of a tide in
this lake, and in the morning we may find the water just as it was. And,
at any rate, it has not entirely deserted us, for in these pools at the
bottom we can find water enough for us to drink."

"I suppose I would not mind such things so much," said Mrs. Cliff, "if
they happened out of doors. But being shut up in this cave with magical
lakes, and expecting every minute to see a lot of bloodthirsty pirates
bursting in upon us, is enough to shake the nerves of anybody."

"Captain," said Ralph, "I suppose you will not now object to letting me
go in the morning to explore that opening. I can walk across the bottom
of the lake without any danger, you know."

"Don't you try to do anything of the kind," said the captain, "without my
permission."

"No, indeed!" exclaimed Mrs. Cliff. "Supposing the water were to suddenly
rise just as you were half-way across. Now that I think of it, there are
springs and bodies of water which rise and fall this way, some of them in
our own Western country, but none of them are as large as this. What if
it should rise in the night and flood the cave while we are asleep?"

"Why, dear Mrs. Cliff," said Edna, "I am not afraid of the water's rising
or of the earth's sinking. Don't let us frighten ourselves with
imaginations like that. Perhaps there may not even be any real thing to
be afraid of, but if there should be, let us keep courage for that."

The disappearance of the lake gave the captain an uneasiness of which the
others had not thought. He saw it would be comparatively easy for the
Rackbirds to gain access to the place through the cleft in the eastern
wall of the lake cavern. If they should discover that aperture, the
cavern might be attacked from the rear and the front at the same time,
and then the captain feared his guns would not much avail.

Of course, during the darkness which would soon prevail there was no
reason to expect a rear attack, and the captain satisfied himself with
leaving Mok at his former post, with instructions to give the alarm if
he heard the slightest sound, and put Maka, as before, in the outer
passage. As for himself, he took an early nap in the evening, because
at the very first break of dawn it would be necessary for him to be on
the alert.

He did not know how much he had depended upon the lake as a barrier of
defence, but now that it had gone, he felt that the dangers which
threatened them from the Rackbirds were doubled.




CHAPTER VIII

THE ALARM


It was still dark when the captain woke, and he struck a match to look at
his watch. It was three o'clock.

"Is that you, captain?" said a voice from the next room. "Is it time for
you to begin watch again?"

"Yes," said the captain, "it is about time. How do you happen to be
awake, Miss Markham? Ralph! I believe the boy is snoring."

"Of course he is," said Edna, speaking in a low voice. "We cannot expect
such a boy to keep awake, and so I have been on watch. It was easy enough
for me to keep my eyes open."

"It is too bad," said the captain, and then, listening for a moment, he
said: "I truly believe that Maka is snoring, too, and as for that black
fellow over there, I suspect that he sleeps all the time. Miss Markham,
you have been the only person awake."

"Why shouldn't I be?" said she. "I am sure that a woman is just as good
as a man for keeping watch."

"If they should come," thought the captain, as he again sat in the dark,
"I must not try to fight them in the passage. That would have been my
best chance, but now some of them might pick me off from behind. No, I
must fight them in this chamber. I can put everybody else in the middle
apartment. Perhaps before to-morrow night it might be well to bring some
of those loose rocks here and build a barricade. I wish I had thought of
that before."

The captain sat and listened and thought. His listening brought him no
return, and his thinking brought him too much. The most mournful ideas of
what might happen if more than two or three of the desperadoes attacked
the place crowded into his mind. If they came, they came to rob, and they
were men who left behind them no living witnesses of their whereabouts or
their crimes. And if two or three should come, and be repulsed, it would
not be long before the rest would arrive. In fact, the only real hope
they had was founded on the early return of Rynders--that is, if Rynders
and his men were living.

The captain waited and listened, but nothing came but daylight. As
soon as he was able to discern objects outside the opening on the
plateau, he awoke Maka, and, leaving him on guard, he made his way to
the lake cavern.

Here the light was beginning to come freely through the chasm which faced
nearly east. Mok was sitting with his eyes open, and showed that he was
alive by a little grunt when the captain approached. If there were such a
thing here as a subterranean tide, it had not risen. There was no water
where the lake had been.

Gazing across the empty basin, the captain felt a strong desire to go
over, climb up to the opening, and discover whether or not the cavern
was accessible on that side. It would be very important for him to know
this, and it would not take long for him to make an investigation. One
side of the rocky shelf which has been before mentioned sloped down to
the lake, and the captain was just about to descend this when he heard a
cry from the passage, and, at the same moment, a shout from Mok which
seemed to be in answer to it. Instantly the captain turned and dashed
into the passage, and, leaping over the barrier, found Maka standing near
the entrance.

As soon as the negro saw him, he began to beckon wildly for him to come
on. But there was no need now of keeping quiet and beckoning. The first
shout had aroused everybody inside, and the two ladies and Ralph were
already in the passage. The captain, however, made them keep back, while
he and Maka, on their hands and knees, crawled toward the outer opening.
From this point one could see over the plateau, and the uneven ground
beyond, down to the beach and the sea; but there was still so little
light upon this western slope that at first the captain could not see
anything noticeable in the direction in which Maka was pointing. But in a
few moments his mariner eyes asserted themselves, and he saw some black
spots on the strip of beach, which seemed to move. Then he knew they were
moving, and moving toward him--coming up to the cave! They were men!

"Sit here," said the captain to Maka, and then, with his gun in his hand,
he rushed back to the rest of the party.

"They seem to be coming," said he, speaking as calmly as he could, "but
we have discovered them in good time, and I shall have some shots at
them before they reach here. Let us hope that they will never get here at
all. You two," said he to Mrs. Cliff and Ralph, "are to be under command
of Miss Markham. You must do exactly what she tells you to." Then,
turning to Edna, he said, "You have your pistol ready?"

"Yes," said she, "I am ready."

Without another word, the captain took his other gun and all his
ammunition, and went back into the passage. Here he found Mok, who had
come to see what was the matter. Motioning the negro to go back to his
post, the captain, with his loaded guns, went again to the entrance.
Looking out, he could now plainly see the men. There were four of them.
It was lighter down toward the sea, for the rocks still threw a heavy
shadow over the plateau. The sight sent a thrill of brave excitement
through the captain.

"If they come in squads of four," thought he, "I may be a match for them.
They can't see me, and I can see them. If I could trust Maka to load a
gun, I would have a better chance, but if I could pick off two, or even
one, that might stop the others and give me time to reload. Come on, you
black-hearted scoundrels," he muttered through his teeth, as he knelt
outside the cave, one gun partly raised, and the other on the ground
beside him. "If I could only know that none of your band could come in at
that hole in the back of the cave, I'd call the odds even."

The dawn grew brighter, and the four men drew nearer. They came slowly,
one considerably ahead of the others. Two or three times they stopped and
appeared to be consulting, and then again moved slowly forward straight
toward the plateau.

When the leading man was nearly within gunshot, the captain's face began
to burn, and his pulses to throb hard and fast.

"The sooner I pick off the head one," he thought, "the better chance I
have at the others."

He brought his gun to his shoulder, and was slowly lowering the barrel to
the line of aim, when suddenly something like a great black beast rushed
past him, pushing up his arm and nearly toppling him over. It came from
the cave, and in a second it was out on the plateau. Then it gave a leap
upward, and rushed down toward the sea. Utterly astounded, the captain
steadied himself and turned to Maka.

"What was that?" he exclaimed.

The African was on his feet, his body bent forward, his eyes peering out
into the distance.

"Mok!" said he. "Look! Look!"

It was Mok who had rushed out of the cave. He was running toward the four
men. He reached them, he threw up his arms, he sprang upon the first man.
Then he left him, and jumped upon the others. Then Maka gave a little cry
and sprang forward, but in the same instant the captain seized him.

"Stop!" he cried. "What is it?"

The African shouted: "Mok's people! Mok knowed them. Look!
Look--see! Mok!"

The party was now near enough and the day was bright enough for the
captain to see that on the lower ground beyond the plateau there were
five black men in a state of mad excitement. He could hear them jabbering
away at a great rate. So far as he could discover, they were all
unarmed, and as they stood there gesticulating, the captain might have
shot them down in a bunch, if he had chosen.

"Go," said he to Maka, "go down there and see what it all means."

The captain now stepped back into the passage. He could see Miss Markham
and Ralph peering out of the doorway of the first compartment.

"There does not seem to be any danger so far," said he. "Some more
Africans have turned up. Maka has gone to meet them. We shall find out
about them in a few minutes," and he turned back to the entrance.

He saw that the six black fellows were coming toward him, and, as he had
thought, they carried no guns.




CHAPTER IX

AN AMAZING NARRATION


When the captain had gone out again into the open air, he was followed by
the rest of the party, for, if there were no danger, they all wanted to
see what was to be seen. What they saw was a party of six black men on
the plateau, Maka in the lead. There could be no doubt that the newcomers
were the remainder of the party of Africans who had been enslaved by the
Rackbirds, and the desire of the captain and his companions to know how
they had got away, and what news they brought, was most intense.

Maka now hurried forward, leading one of the strangers. "Great things
they tell," said he. "This Cheditafa. He speak English good as me. He
tell you."

"The first thing I want," cried the captain, "is some news of those
Rackbirds. Have they found we are here? Will they be coming after these
men, or have they gone off somewhere else? Tell me this, and be quick."

"Oh, yes," cried Maka, "they found out we here. But Cheditafa tell
you--he tell you everything. Great things!"

"Very well, then," said the captain. "Let him begin and be quick
about it."

The appearance of Cheditafa was quite as miserable as that of poor Mok,
but his countenance was much more intelligent, and his English, although
very much broken, was better even than Maka's, and he was able to make
himself perfectly understood. He spoke briefly, and this is the substance
of his story:

About the middle of the afternoon of the day before, a wonderful thing
happened. The Rackbirds had had their dinner, which they had cooked
themselves, and they were all lying down in their huts or in the shadows
of the rocks, either asleep, or smoking and telling stories. Cheditafa
knew why they were resting. The Rackbirds had no idea that he understood
English, for he had been careful to keep this fact from them after he
found out what sort of men they were,--and this knowledge had come very
soon to him,--and they spoke freely before him. He had heard some of the
men who had been out looking for Mok, and who had come back early that
morning, tell about some shipwrecked people in a cave up the coast, and
had heard all the plans which had been made for the attack upon them
during the night. He also knew why he and his fellows had been cooped up
in the cave in the rock in which they lived, all that day, and had not
been allowed to come down and do any work.

They were lying huddled in their little cave, feeling very hungry and
miserable, and whispering together,--for if they spoke out or made any
noise, one of the men below would be likely to fire a load of shot at
them,--when suddenly a strange thing happened.

They heard a great roar like a thousand bulls, which came from the
higher part of the ravine, and peeping out, they saw what seemed like a
wall of rock stretching across the little valley. But in a second they
saw it was not rock--it was water, and before they could take two breaths
it had reached them. Then it passed on, and they saw only the surface of
a furious and raging stream, the waves curling and dashing over each
other, and reaching almost up to the floor of their cave.

They were so frightened that they pressed back as far as they could get,
and even tried to climb up the sides of the rocky cavity, so fearful were
they that the water would dash in upon them. But the raging flood roared
and surged outside, and none of it came into their cave. Then the sound
of it became not quite so loud, and grew less and less. But still
Cheditafa and his companions were so frightened and so startled by this
awful thing, happening so suddenly, as if it had been magic, that it was
some time--he did not know how long--before they lifted their faces from
the rocks against which they were pressing them.

Then Cheditafa crept forward and looked out. The great waves and the
roaring water were gone. There was no water to be seen, except the brook
which always ran at the bottom of the ravine, and which now seemed not
very much bigger than it had been that morning.

But the little brook was all there was in the ravine, except the bare
rocks, wet and glistening. There were no huts, no Rackbirds, nothing.
Even the vines and bushes which had been growing up the sides of the
stream were all gone. Not a weed, not a stick, not a clod of earth, was
left--nothing but a great, rocky ravine, washed bare and clean.

Edna Markham stepped suddenly forward and seized the captain by the arm.
"It was the lake," she cried. "The lake swept down that ravine!"

"Yes," said the captain, "it must have been. But listen--let us hear
more. Go on," he said to Cheditafa, who proceeded to tell how he and his
companions looked out for a long time, but they saw nor heard nothing of
any living creature. It would be easy enough for anybody to come back up
the ravine, but nobody came.

They had now grown so hungry that they could have almost eaten each
other. They felt they must get out of the cave and go to look for food.
It would be better to be shot than to sit there and starve.

Then they devised a plan by which they could get down. The smallest man
got out of the cave and let himself hang, holding to the outer edge of
the floor with his hands. Then another man put his feet over the edge of
the rock, and let the hanging man take hold of them. The other two each
seized an arm of the second man, and lowered the two down as far as they
could reach. When they had done this, the bottom man dropped, and did not
hurt himself. Then they had to pull up the second man, for the fall would
have been too great for him.

After that they had to wait a long time, while the man who had got out
went to look for something by which the others could help themselves
down--the ladder they had used having been carried away with everything
else. After going a good way down the ravine to a place where it grew
much wider, with the walls lower, he found things that had been thrown up
on the sides, and among these was the trunk of a young tree, which,
after a great deal of hard work, he brought back to the cave, and by the
help of this they all scrambled down.

They hurried down the ravine, and as they approached the lower part,
where it became wider before opening into the little bay into which the
stream ran, they found that the flood, as it had grown shallower and
spread itself out, had left here and there various things which it had
brought down from the camp--bits of the huts, articles of clothing, and
after a while they came to a Rackbird, quite dead, and hanging upon a
point of projecting rock. Farther on they found two or three more bodies
stranded, and later in the day some Rackbirds who had been washed out to
sea came back with the tide, and were found upon the beach. It was
impossible, Cheditafa said, for any of them to have escaped from that
raging torrent, which hurled them against the rocks as it carried them
down to the sea.

But the little party of hungry Africans did not stop to examine anything
which had been left. What they wanted was something to eat, and they
knew where to get it. About a quarter of a mile back from the beach was
the storehouse of the Rackbirds, a sort of cellar which they had made in
a sand-hill. As the Africans had carried the stores over from the vessel
which had brought them, and had afterwards taken to the camp such
supplies as were needed from time to time, of course they knew where to
find them, and they lost no time in making a hearty meal.

According to Cheditafa's earnest assertions, they had never eaten as
they had eaten then. He believed that the reason they had been left
without food was that the Rackbirds were too proud to wait on black
men, and had concluded to let them suffer until they had returned from
their expedition, and the negroes could be let down to attend to their
own wants.

After they had eaten, the Africans went to a spot which commanded a view
up the ravine, as well as the whole of the bay, and there they hid
themselves, and watched as long as it was daylight, so that if any of
the Rackbirds had escaped they could see them. But they saw nothing, and
being very anxious to find good white people who would take care of
them, they started out before dawn that morning to look for the
shipwrecked party about whom Cheditafa had heard the Rackbirds talking,
and with whom they hoped to find their companion Mok, and thus it was
that they were here.

"And those men were coming to attack us last night?" asked the captain.
"You are sure of that?"

"Yes," said Cheditafa, "it was last night. They not know how many you
are, and all were coming."

"And some of them had already been here?"

"Yes," replied the African. "One day before, three went out to look for
Mok, and they found his track and more track, and they waited in the
black darkness, and then came here, and they heard you all sleep and
snore that night. They were to come again, and if they--"

"And yesterday afternoon the lake came down and swept them out of
existence!" exclaimed Mrs. Cliff.




CHAPTER X

THE CAPTAIN EXPLORES


Captain Horn had heard the story of Cheditafa, he walked away from the
rest of the party, and stood, his eyes upon the ground, still
mechanically holding his gun. He now knew that the great danger he had
feared had been a real one, and far greater than he had imagined. A
systematic attack by all the Rackbirds would have swept away his single
resistance as the waters had swept them and their camp away. As to parley
or compromise with those wretches, he knew that it would have been
useless to think of it. They allowed no one to go forth from their hands
to reveal the place of their rendezvous.

But although he was able to appreciate at its full force the danger with
which they had been threatened, his soul could not immediately adjust
itself to the new conditions. It had been pressed down so far that it
could not easily rise again. He felt that he must make himself believe in
the relief which had come to them, and, turning sharply, he called out to
Cheditafa:

"Man, since you have been in this part of the country, have you ever
seen or heard of any wild beasts here? Are there any jaguars or pumas?"

The African shook his head. "No, no," said he, "no wild beasts. Everybody
sleep out of doors. No think of beasts--no snakes."

The captain dropped his gun upon the ground. "Miss Markham!" he
exclaimed. "Mrs. Cliff! I truly believe we are out of all
danger--that we--"

But the two ladies had gone inside, and heard him not. They appreciated
to the full the danger from which they had been delivered. Ralph, too,
had gone. The captain saw him on his post of observation, jamming the end
of his flagpole down between two rocks.

"Hello!" cried the boy, seeing the captain looking up at him, "we might
as well have this flying here all the time. There is nobody to hurt us
now, and we want people to know where we are."

The captain walked by the little group of Africans, who were sitting on
the ground, talking in their native tongue, and entered the passage. He
climbed over the barrier, and went to the lake. He did not wish to talk
to anybody, but he felt that he must do something, and now was a good
time to carry out his previous intention to cross over the empty bed of
the lake and to look out of the opening on the other side. There was no
need now to do this for purposes of vigilance, but he thought that if he
could get out on the other side of the cave he might discover some clew
to the disappearance of the lake.

He had nearly crossed the lake bottom, when suddenly he stopped, gazing
at something which stood before him, and which was doubtless the object
he had struck when swimming. The sun was now high and the cave well
lighted, and with a most eager interest the captain examined the slimy
and curious object on which his feet had rested when it was submerged,
and from which he had fallen. It was not the horizontal trunk of a tree
with a branch projecting from it at right angles. It was nothing that was
natural or had grown. It was plainly the work of man. It was a machine.

At first the captain thought it was made of wood, but afterwards he
believed it to be of metal of some sort. The horizontal portion of it
was a great cylinder, so near the bottom of the lake that he could
almost touch it with his hands, and it was supported by a massive
framework. Prom this projected a long limb or bar, which was now almost
horizontal, but which the captain believed to be the thick rod which had
stood upright when he clutched it, and which had yielded to his weight
and had gone down with him. He knew now what it was: it was a handle
that had turned.

He hurried to the other end of the huge machine, where it rested against
the rocky wall of the cavern. There he saw in the shadow, but plain
enough now that he was near it, a circular aperture, a yard or more in
diameter. Inside of this was something which looked like a solid wheel,
very thick, and standing upright in the opening. It was a valve. The
captain stepped back and gazed for some minutes at this great machine
which the disappearance of the water had revealed. It was easy for him to
comprehend it now.

"When I slipped and sank," he said to himself, "I pulled down that lever,
and I opened the water-gate and let out the lake."

The captain was a man whose mind was perfectly capable of appreciating
novel and strange impressions, but with him such impressions always
connected themselves, in one way or another, with action: he could not
stand and wonder at the wonderful which had happened--it always suggested
something he must do. What he now wanted to do was to climb up to the
great aperture which lighted the cavern, and see what was outside. He
could not understand how the lake could have gone from its basin without
the sound of the rushing waters being heard by any one of the party.

With some difficulty, he climbed up to the cleft and got outside. Here he
had a much better view of the topography of the place than he had yet
been able to obtain. So far as he had explored, his view toward the
interior of the country had been impeded by rocks and hills. Here he had
a clear view from the mountains to the sea, and the ridge which he had
before seen to the southward he could now examine to greater advantage.
It was this long chain of rocks which had concealed them from their
enemies, and on the other side of which must be the ravine in which the
Rackbirds had made their camp.

Immediately below the captain was a little gorge, not very deep nor wide,
and from its general trend toward the east and south the captain was sure
that it formed the upper part of the ravine of the Rackbirds. At the
bottom of it there trickled a little stream. To the northeast ran another
line of low rock, which lost itself in the distance before it blended
into the mountains, and at the foot of this must run the stream which had
fed the lake.

In their search for water, game, or fellow-beings, no one had climbed
these desolate rocks, apparently dry and barren. But still the captain
was puzzled as to the way the water had gone out of the lake. He did not
believe that it had flowed through the ravine below. There were no signs
that there had been a flood down there. Little vines and plants were
growing in chinks of the rocks close to the water. And, moreover, had a
vast deluge rushed out almost beneath the opening which lighted the cave,
it must have been heard by some of the party. He concluded, therefore,
that the water had escaped through a subterranean channel below the rocks
from which he looked down.

He climbed down the sides of the gorge, and walked along its bottom for
two or three hundred yards, until around a jutting point of rock he saw
that the sides of the defile separated for a considerable distance, and
then, coming together again below, formed a sort of amphitheatre. The
bottom of this was a considerable distance below him, and he did not
descend into it, but he saw plainly that it had recently contained water,
for pools and puddles were to be seen everywhere.

At the other end of it, where the rocks again approached each other, was
probably a precipice. After a few minutes' cogitation, Captain Horn felt
sure that he understood the whole matter: a subway from the lake led to
this amphitheatre, and thus there had been no audible rush of the waters
until they reached this point, where they poured in and filled this great
basin, the lower end of which was probably stopped up by accumulations of
sand and deposits, which even in that country of scant vegetation had
accumulated in the course of years. When the waters of the lake had
rushed into the amphitheatre, this natural dam had held them for a while,
but then, giving way before the great pressure, the whole body of water
had suddenly rushed down the ravine to the sea.

"Yes," said the captain, "now I understand how it happened that although
I opened the valve at noon, the water did not reach the Rackbirds until
some hours later, and then it came suddenly and all at once, which would
not have been the case had it flowed steadily from the beginning through
the outlet made for it."

When the captain had returned and reported his discoveries, and he and
his party had finished their noonday meal, which they ate outside on the
plateau, with the fire burning and six servants to wait on them, Mrs.
Cliff said:

"And now, captain, what are we going to do? Now that our danger is past,
I suppose the best thing for us is to stay here in quiet and
thankfulness, and wait for Mr. Rynders. But, with the provisions we have,
we can't wait very long. When there were but five of us, we might have
made the food hold out for a day or two longer, but now that we are ten,
we shall soon be without anything to eat."

"I have been talking to Maka about that," said the captain, "and he says
that Cheditafa reports all sorts of necessary things in the Rackbirds'
storehouse, and he proposes that he and the rest of the black fellows go
down there and bring us some supplies. They are used to carrying these
stores, and six of them can bring us enough to last a good while. Now
that everything is safe over there, I can see that Maka is very anxious
to go, and, in fact, I would like to go myself. But although there
doesn't seem to be any danger at present, I do not want to leave you."

"As for me," said Miss Markham, "I want to go there. There is nothing I
like better than exploring."

"That's to my taste, too," said the captain, "but it will be better for
us to wait here and see what Maka has to say when he gets back. Perhaps,
if Mr. Rynders doesn't turn up pretty soon, we will all make a trip down
there. Where is Ralph? I don't want him to go with the men."

"He is up there on his lookout, as he calls it," said his sister, "with
his spy-glass."

"Very good," said the captain. "I will send the men off immediately. Maka
wants to go now, and they can come back by the light of the young moon.
When they have loads to carry, they like to travel at night. We shall
have to get our own supper, and that will give Ralph something to do."

The party of Africans had not gone half-way from the plateau to the beach
before they were discovered by the boy on the outlook rock, and he came
rushing down to report that the darkies were running away. When he was
told the business on which they had gone, he was very much disappointed
that he was not allowed to go with them, and, considerably out of temper,
retired to his post of observation, where, as it appeared, he was
dividing his time between the discovery of distant specks on the horizon
line of the ocean and imaginary jaguars and pumas on the foot-hills.




CHAPTER XI

A NEW HEMISPHERE


With a tin pail in his hand, the captain now went to the cavern of the
lake. He wished very much to procure some better water than the last that
had been brought, and which Mok must have dipped up from a very shallow
puddle. It was possible, the captain thought, that by going farther into
the cavern he might find a deeper pool in which water still stood, and if
he could not do this, he could get water from the little stream in the
ravine. More than this, the captain wished very much to take another look
at the machine by which he had let out the water. His mind had been so
thoroughly charged with the sense of danger that, until this had faded
away, he had not been able to take the interest in the artificial
character of the lake which it deserved.

As the captain advanced into the dimmer recesses of the cavern, he soon
found a pool of water a foot or more in depth, and having filled his pail
at this, he set it down and walked on to see what was beyond. His eyes
having now conformed themselves to the duskiness of the place, he saw
that the cavern soon made a turn to the left, and gazing beyond him, he
judged that the cave was very much wider here, and he also thought that
the roof was higher. But he did not pay much attention to the dimensions
of the cavern, for he began to discern, at first dimly and then quite
plainly, a large object which rose from the bottom of the basin. He
advanced eagerly, peering at what seemed to be a sort of dome--like
formation of a lighter color than the rocks about him, and apparently
about ten feet high.

Carefully feeling his way for fear of pitfalls, the captain drew close to
the object, and placed his hand upon it. He believed it to be of stone,
and moving his hand over it, he thought he could feel joints of masonry.
It was clearly a structure built by men. Captain Horn searched his
pockets for a match, but found none, and he hastened back to the cave to
get the lantern, passing, without noticing it, the pail which he had
filled with water. He would have brought the lantern with him when he
first came, but they had no oil except what it contained, and this they
had husbanded for emergencies. But now the captain wanted light--he cared
not what might happen afterwards. In a very short time, with the lantern
in his hand, which lighted up the cave for a considerable distance about
him, the captain again stood at the foot of the subterranean dome.

He walked around it. He raised and lowered his lantern, and examined it
from top to bottom. It was one half a sphere of masonry, built in a
most careful manner, and, to all appearances, as solid as a great stone
ball, half sunken in the ground. Its surface was smooth, excepting for
two lines of protuberances, each a few inches in height, and about a
foot from each other. These rows of little humps were on opposite
sides of the dome, and from the bottom nearly to the top. It was plain
they were intended to serve as rude ladders by which the top of the
mound could be gained.

The captain stepped back, held up his lantern, and gazed in every
direction. He could now see the roof of the cavern, and immediately above
him he perceived what he was sure were regular joints of masonry, but on
the sides of the cave he saw nothing of the sort. For some minutes he
stood and reflected, his brain in a whirl. Presently he exclaimed:

"Yes, this cave is man's work! I am sure of it. It is not natural. I
wondered how there could be such a cave on the top of a hill. It was
originally a gorge, and they have roofed it over, and the bottom of the
basin has been cut out to make it deeper. It was made so that it could be
filled up with water, and roofed over so that nobody should know there
was any water here, unless they came on it by means of the passage from
our caves. That passage must have been blocked up. As for the great
opening in the side of the cave, the rocks have fallen in there--that is
easy enough to see. Yes, men made this cave and filled it with water, and
if the water were high enough to cover the handle of that machine, as it
was when I struck it, it must also have been high enough to cover up this
stone mound. The lake was intended to cover and hide that mound. And
then, to make the hiding of it doubly sure, the men who built all this
totally covered up the lake so that nobody would know it was here. And
then they built that valve apparatus, which was also submerged, so that
they could let out the water when they wanted to get at this stone
thing, whatever it is. What a scheme to hide anything! Even if anybody
discovered the lake, which would not be likely until some part of the
cave fell in, they would not know it was anything but a lake when they
did see it. And as for letting off the water, nobody but the people who
knew about it could possibly do that, unless somebody was fool enough to
take the cold bath I was obliged to take, and even then it would have
been one chance in a hundred that he found the lever, and would know how
to turn it when he did find it. This whole thing is the work of the
ancient South Americans, and I imagine that this stone mound is the tomb
of one of their kings."

At this moment the captain heard something, and turned to listen. It
was a voice--the voice of a boy. It was Ralph calling to him. Instantly
the captain turned and hurried away, and as he went he extinguished his
lantern. When he reached his pail of water he picked it up, and was
very soon joined by Ralph, who was coming to meet him over the bottom
of the lake.

"I have been looking for you everywhere, captain," said he. "What have
you been after? More water? And you took a lantern to find it, eh? And
you have been ever so far into the cave. Why didn't you call me? Let me
have the lantern. I want to go to explore."

But the captain did not give him the lantern, nor did he allow him to go
to explore.

"No, sir," said he. "What we've got to do is to hurry outside and help
get supper. We must wait on ourselves to-night."

When supper was over, that evening, and the little party was sitting out
on the plateau, gazing over the ocean at the sunlit sky, Mrs. Cliff
declared that she wished they could bring their bedding and spread it on
the ground out there, and sleep.

"It is dry enough," she said, "and warm enough, and if there is really
nothing to fear from animals or men, I don't want ever to go inside of
those caves again. I had such horrible fears and ideas when I was
sitting trembling in those dismal vaults, expecting a horde of human
devils to burst in upon us at any moment, that the whole place is
horrible to me. Anyway, if I knew that I had to be killed, I would
rather be killed out here."

The captain smiled. "I don't think we will give up the caves just yet. I,
for one, most certainly want to go in there again." And then he told the
story of the stone mound which he had discovered.

"And you believe," cried Mrs. Cliff, leaning forward, "that it is really
the tomb of an ancient king?"

"If it isn't that, I don't know what it can be," said the captain.

"The grave of a king!" cried Ralph. "A mummy! With inscriptions and
paintings! Oh, captain, let's go open it this minute, before those
blackies get back."

The captain shook his head. "Don't be in such a hurry," he said. "It will
not be an easy job to open that mound, and we shall need the help of the
blackies, as you call them, if we do it at all."

"Do it at all!" cried Ralph. "I'll never leave this place until I do it
myself, if there is nobody else to help."

Miss Markham sat silent. She was the only one of the company who had
studied the history of South America, and she did not believe that the
ancient inhabitants of that country buried their kings in stone tombs, or
felt it necessary to preserve their remains in phenomenal secrecy and
security. She had read things, however, about the ancient peoples of this
country which now made her eyes sparkle and her heart beat quickly. But
she did not say anything. This was a case in which it would be better to
wait to see what would happen.

"Captain!" cried Ralph, "let's go to see the thing. What is the use of
waiting? Edna and Mrs. Cliff won't mind staying here while you take me to
see it. We can go in ten minutes."

"No," said Mrs. Cliff, "there may be no danger, but I am not going
to be left here with the sun almost down, and you two out of sight
and hearing."

"Let us all go," said Edna.

The captain considered for a moment. "Yes," said he, "let us all
go. As we shall have to take a lantern anyway, this is as good a
time as another."

It was not an easy thing for the two ladies to get over the wall at the
end of the passage, and to make their way over the rough and slippery
bottom of the lake basin, now lighted only by the lantern which the
captain carried. But in the course of time, with a good deal of help from
their companions, they reached the turning of the cave and stood before
the stone mound.

"Hurrah!" cried Ralph. "Why, captain, you are like Columbus! You have
discovered a new hemisphere."

"It is like one of the great ant-hills of Africa," said Mrs. Cliff,
"but, of course, this was not built by ants I wonder if it is possible
that it can be the abode of water-snakes."

Edna stood silent for a few moments, and then she said, "Captain, do
you suppose that this dome was entirely covered by water when the lake
was full?"

"I think so," said he. "Judging from what I know of the depth of the
lake, I am almost sure of it."

"Ralph!" suddenly cried Mrs. Cliff, "don't try to do that. The thing may
break under you, and nobody knows what you would fall into. Come down."

But Ralph paid no attention to her words. He was half-way up the side of
the mound when she began to speak, and on its top when she had finished.

"Captain," he cried, "hand me up the lantern. I want to see if there is
a trap-door into this affair. Don't be afraid, Mrs. Cliff. It's as solid
as a rock."

The captain did not hand up the lantern, but holding it carefully in one
hand, he ascended the dome by means of the row of protuberances on the
other side, and crouched down beside Ralph on the top of it.

"Oh, ho!" said he, as he moved the lantern this way and that, "here is a
square slab fitted into the very top."

"Yes," said Ralph, "and it's got different mortar around the edges."

"That is not mortar," said the captain. "I believe it is some sort of
resin. Here, hold the lantern, and be careful of it." The captain took
his jack--knife out of his pocket, and with the large blade began to dig
into the substance which filled the joint around the slab, which was
about eighteen inches square. "It is resin," said he, "or something like
it, and it comes out very easily. This slab is intended to be moved."

"Indeed it is!" exclaimed Ralph, "and we're intended to move it. Here,
captain, I'll help you. I've got a knife. Let's dig out that stuff and
lift up the lid before the darkies come back. If we find any dead bodies
inside this tomb, they will frighten those fellows to death, if they
catch sight of them."

"Very good," said the captain. "I shall be only too glad to get this slab
up, if I can, but I am afraid we shall want a crowbar and more help. It's
a heavy piece of stone, and I see no way of getting at it."

"This isn't stone in the middle of the slab," said Ralph. "It's a lot
more resinous stuff. I had the lantern over it and did not see it. Let's
take it out."

There was a circular space in the centre of the stone, about eight inches
in diameter, which seemed to be covered with resin. After a few minutes'
work with the jack-knives this substance was loosened and came out in two
parts, showing a bowl-like depression in the slab, which had been so cut
as to leave a little bar running from side to side of it.

"A handle!" cried Ralph.

"That is what it is," said Captain Horn. "If it is intended to be lifted,
I ought to be able to do it. Move down a little with the lantern, and
give me room."

The captain now stood on the top of the mound, with the slab between his
feet, and stooping down, he took hold of the handle with both hands. He
was a powerful man, but he could not lift the stone. His first effort,
however, loosened it, and then he began to move it from side to side,
still pulling upward, until at last he could feel it rising. Then, with
a great heave, he lifted it entirely out of the square aperture in which
it had been fitted, and set it on one side.

In an instant, Ralph, lantern in hand, was gazing down into the
opening. "Hello!" he cried, "there is something on fire in there. Oh,
no," he added quickly, correcting himself, "it's only the reflection
from our light."




CHAPTER XII

A TRADITION AND A WAISTCOAT


Captain Horn, his face red with exertion and excitement, stood gazing
down into the square aperture at his feet. On the other edge of the
opening knelt Ralph, holding the lantern so that it would throw its light
into the hole. In a moment, before the boy had time to form a question,
he was pushed gently to one side, and his sister Edna, who had clambered
up the side of the mound, knelt beside him. She peered down into the
depths beneath, and then she drew back and looked up at the captain. His
whole soul was in his downward gaze, and he did not even see her.

Then there came a voice from below. "What is it?" cried Mrs. Cliff. "What
are you all looking at! Do tell me."

With half-shut eyes, Edna let herself down the side of the mound, and
when her feet touched the ground, she made a few tottering steps toward
Mrs. Cliff, and placing her two hands on her companion's shoulders, she
whispered, "I thought it was. It is gold! It is the gold of the Incas."
And then she sank senseless at the feet of the older woman.

Mrs. Cliff did not know that Miss Markham had fainted. She simply stood
still and exclaimed, "Gold! What does it mean?"

"What is it all about?" exclaimed Ralph. "It looks like petrified honey.
This never could have been a beehive."

Without answering, Captain Horn knelt at the edge of the aperture, and
taking the lantern from the boy, he let it down as far as it would go,
which was only a foot or two.

"Ralph," he said hoarsely, as he drew himself back, "hold this lantern
and get down out of my way. I must cover this up, quick." And seizing the
stone slab by the handle, he lifted it as if it had been a pot-lid, and
let it down into its place. "Now," said he, "get down, and let us all go
away from this place. Those negroes may be back at any moment."

When Ralph found that his sister had fainted, and that Mrs. Cliff did not
know it, there was a little commotion at the foot of the mound. But some
water in a pool near by soon revived Edna, and in ten minutes the party
was on the plateau outside the caverns. The new moon was just beginning
to peep over the rocks behind them, and the two ladies had seated
themselves on the ground. Ralph was pouring out question after question,
to which nobody paid any attention, and Captain Horn, his hands thrust
into his pockets, walked backward and forward, his face flushed and his
breath coming heavily, and, with his eyes upon the ground, he seemed to
think himself entirely alone among those desolate crags.

"Can any of you tell me what it means?" cried Mrs. Cliff. "Edna, do you
understand it? Tell me quickly, some of you!"

"I believe I know what it means," said Edna, her voice trembling as she
spoke. "I thought I knew as soon as I heard of the mound covered up by
the lake, but I did not dare to say anything, because if my opinion
should be correct it would be so wonderful, so astounding, my mind could
hardly take hold of it."

"But what is it?" cried Mrs. Cliff and Ralph, almost in one breath.

"I scarcely know what to say," said Edna, "my mind is in such a whirl
about it, but I will tell you something of what I have read of the
ancient history of Peru, and then you will understand my fancies about
this stone mound. When the Spaniards, under Pizarro, came to this
country, their main object, as we all know, was booty. They especially
wished to get hold of the wonderful treasures of the Incas, the ancient
rulers of Peru. This was the reason of almost all the cruelties and
wickedness of the invaders. The Incas tried various ways of preserving
their treasures from the clutch of the Spaniards, and I have read of a
tradition that they drained a lake, probably near Cuzco, the ancient
capital, and made a strong cellar, or mound, at the bottom of it in which
to hide their gold. They then let the water in again, and the tradition
also says that this mound has never been discovered."

"Do you believe," cried the captain, "that the mound back there in the
cavern is the place where the Incas stored their gold?"

"I do not believe it is the place I read about," said Miss Markham, "for
that, as I said, must have been near Cuzco. But there is no reason why
there should not have been other places of concealment. This was far
away from the capital, but that would make the treasure so much the
safer. The Spaniards would never have thought of going to such a lonely,
deserted place as this, and the Incas would not have spared any time or
trouble necessary to securely hide their treasures."

"If you are right," cried the captain, "this is, indeed, astounding!
Treasure in a mound of stone--a mound covered by water, which could be
let off! The whole shut up in a cave which must have originally been as
dark as pitch! When we come to think of it," he continued excitedly, "it
is an amazing hiding-place, no matter what was put into the mound."

"And do you mean," almost screamed Mrs. Cliff, "that that stone thing
down there is filled with the wealth of the Incas!--the fabulous gold we
read about?"

"I do not know what else it can be," replied Edna. "What I saw when I
looked down into the hole was surely gold."

"Yes," said the captain, "it was gold--gold in small bars."

"Why didn't you get a piece, captain?" asked Ralph. "Then we could be
sure about it. If that thing is nearly filled, there must be tons of it."

"I did not think," said the captain. "I could not think. I was afraid
somebody would come."

"And now tell me this," cried Mrs. Cliff. "Whom does this gold belong to?
That is what I want to know. Whose is if?"

"Come, come!" said the captain, "let us stop talking about this thing,
and thinking about it. We shall all be maniacs if we don't quiet
ourselves a little, and, besides, it cannot be long before those black
fellows come back, and we do not want to be speaking about it then.
To-morrow we will examine the mound and see what it is we have
discovered. In the meantime, let us quiet our minds and get a good
night's sleep, if we can. This whole affair is astounding, but we must
not let it make us crazy before we understand it."

Miss Markham was a young woman very capable of controlling herself. It
was true she had been more affected in consequence of the opening of the
mound than any of the others, but that was because she understood, or
thought she understood, what the discovery meant, and to the others it
was something which at first they could not appreciate. Now she saw the
good common sense of the captain's remarks, and said no more that evening
on the subject of the stone mound.

But Mrs. Cliff and Ralph could not be quiet. They must talk, and as the
captain walked away that they might not speak to him, they talked to
each other.

It was nearly an hour after this that Captain Horn, standing on the outer
end of the plateau, saw some black dots moving on the moonlit beach. They
moved very slowly, and it was a long time--at least, it seemed so to the
captain--before Maka and his companions reached the plateau.

The negroes were heavily loaded with bags and packages, and they were
glad to deposit their burdens on the ground.

"Hi!" cried the captain, who spoke as if he had been drinking champagne,
"you brought a good cargo, Maka, and now don't let us hear any tales of
what you have seen until we have had supper--supper for everybody. You
know what you have got, Maka. Let us have the best things, and let every
one of you take a hand in making a fire and cooking. What we want is a
first-class feast."

"I got 'em," said Maka, who understood English a good deal better
than he could speak it,--"ham, cheese, lots things. All want
supper--good supper."

While the meal was being prepared, Captain Horn walked over to Mrs. Cliff
and Ralph. "Now, I beg of you," he said, "don't let these men know we
have found anything. This is a very important matter. Don't talk about
it, and if you can't keep down your excitement, let them think it is the
prospect of good victuals, and plenty of them, that has excited you."

After supper Maka and Cheditafa were called upon to tell their story, but
they said very little. They had gone to the place where the Rackbirds had
kept their stores, and had selected what Maka considered would be most
desirable, including some oil for the lantern, and had brought away as
much as they could carry. This was all.

When the rest of his party had gone inside, hoping to get their minds
quiet enough to sleep, and the captain was preparing to follow them, Maka
arose from the spot on the open plateau where the tired negroes had
stretched themselves for the night, and said:

"Got something tell you alone. Come out here."

When the two had gone to a spot a little distance from the cavern
entrance, where the light of the moon, now nearly set, enabled objects to
be seen with some distinctness, Maka took from inside his shirt a small
piece of clothing. "Look here," said he. "This belong to Davis."

The captain took the garment in his hand. It was a waistcoat made of
plaid cloth, yellow, green, and red, and most striking in pattern, and
Captain Horn instantly recognized it as the waistcoat of Davis, the
Englishman.

"He dead," said Maka, simply.

The captain nodded. He had no doubt of it.

"Where did you find it?" he asked.

"Sticking on rock," said the African. "Lots things down there. Some one
place, some another place. Didn't know other things, but know this.
Davis' waistcoat. No mistake that. Him wear it all time."

"You are a good fellow, Maka," said the captain, "not to speak of this
before the ladies. Now go and sleep. There is no need of a guard
to-night."

The captain went inside, procured his gun, and seated himself outside,
with his back against a rock. There he sat all night, without once
closing his eyes. He was not afraid that anything would come to molest
them, but it was just as well to have the gun. As for sleeping, that was
impossible. He had heard and seen too much that day.




CHAPTER XIII

"MINE!"


Captain Horn and his party sat down together the next morning on the
plateau to drink their hot coffee and eat their biscuit and bacon, and it
was plain that the two ladies, as well as the captain, had had little
sleep the night before. Ralph declared that he had been awake ever so
long, endeavoring to calculate how many cubic feet of gold there would be
in that mound if it were filled with the precious metal. "But as I did
not know how much a cubic foot of gold is worth," said he, "and as we
might find, after all, that there is only a layer of gold on top, and
that all the rest is Incas' bones, I gave it up."

The captain was very grave--graver, Miss Markham thought, than the
discovery of gold ought to make a man.

"We won't worry ourselves with calculations," said he. "As soon as I can
get rid of those black fellows, we will go to see what is really in that
tomb, or storehouse, or whatever it is. We will make a thorough
investigation this time."

When the men had finished eating, the captain sent them all down to look
for driftwood. The stock of wood on the plateau was almost exhausted,
and he was glad to think of some reasonable work which would take them
away from the cavern.

As soon as they had gone, the captain rose to get the lantern, and called
Ralph to accompany him to the mound.

When they were left alone, Edna said to Mrs. Cliff, "Let us go over there
to that shady rock, where we can look out for a ship with Mr. Rynders in
it, and let us talk about our neighbors in America. Let us try to forget,
for a time, all about what the captain is going to investigate. If we
keep on thinking and talking of it, our minds will not be in a fit
condition to hear what he will have to tell us. It may all come to
nothing, you know, and no matter what it comes to, let us keep quiet, and
give our nerves a little rest."

"That is excellent advice," said Mrs. Cliff. But when they were
comfortably seated in the shade, she said: "I have been thinking, Edna,
that the possession of vast treasures did not weaken the minds of those
Incas, I supposed, until yesterday, that the caverns here were intended
for some sort of temple for religious ceremonies, and that the great face
on the rock out here was an idol. But now I do not believe that. All
openings into the cave must once have been closed up, but it would not do
to hide the place so that no one could ever find it again, so they carved
that great head on the rocks. Nobody, except those who had hid the
treasure, would know what the face meant."

Edna gave a little smile and sighed. "I see it is of no use to try to get
that mound out of our minds," she said.

"Out of our minds!" exclaimed Mrs. Cliff. "If one of the Rothschilds
were to hand you a check for the whole of his fortune, would you expect
to get that out of your mind?"

"Such a check," said Edna, "would be a certain fortune. We have not heard
yet what this is."

"I think we are the two meekest and humblest people in the whole world!"
exclaimed Mrs. Cliff, walking up and down the sand. "I don't believe any
other two persons would be content to wait here until somebody should
come and tell them whether they were millionaires or not. But, of course,
somebody must stay outside to keep those colored people from swarming
into the cave when they come back."

It was not long after this that Mrs. Cliff and Edna heard the sound of
quickly advancing feet, and in a few moments they were joined by Ralph
and the captain.

"Your faces shine like gold," cried Edna. "What have you found?"

"Found!" cried Ralph. "Why, Edna, we've got--"

"Be quiet, Ralph," exclaimed Edna. "I want to hear what the captain has
to say. Captain, what is in the mound?"

"We went to the mound," said he, speaking very rapidly, "and when we got
to the top and lifted off that stone lid--upon my soul, ladies, I believe
there is gold enough in that thing to ballast a ship. It isn't filled
quite up to the top, and, of course, I could not find out how deep the
gold goes down; but I worked a hole in it as far down as my arm would
reach, and found nothing but gold bars like this." Then, glancing around
to see that none of the Africans were returning, he took from his pocket
a yellow object about three inches in length and an inch in diameter,
shaped like a rough prism, cast in a rudely constructed mortar or mould.
"I brought away just one of them," he said, "and then I shut down the
lid, and we came away."

"And is this gold?" exclaimed Edna, eagerly seizing the bar. "Are you
sure of it, captain?"

"I am as sure of it as I am that I have a head on my shoulders," said he,
"although when I was diving down into that pile I was not quite sure of
that. No one would ever put anything but gold in such a hiding-place. And
then, anybody can see it is gold. Look here: I scraped that spot with my
knife. I wanted to test it before I showed it to you. See how it shines!
I could easily cut into it. I believe it is virgin gold, not hardened
with any alloy."

"And that mound full of it!" cried Mrs. Cliff.

"I can't say about that," said the captain. "But if the gold is no
deeper than my arm went down into it, and all pure metal at that,
why--bless my soul!--it would make anybody crazy to try to calculate how
much it is worth."

"Now, then," exclaimed Mrs. Cliff, "whom does all this gold belong to? We
have found it, but whose is it?"

"That is a point to be considered," said the captain. "What is
your opinion?"

"I have been thinking and thinking and thinking about it," said Mrs.
Cliff. "Of course, that would have been all wasted, though, if it had
turned out to be nothing but brass, but then, I could not help it, and
this is the conclusion I have come to: In the first place, it does not
belong to the people who govern Peru now. They are descendants of the
very Spaniards that the Incas hid their treasure from, and it would be a
shame and a wickedness to let them have it. It would better stay there
shut up for more centuries. Then, again, it would not be right to give it
to the Indians, or whatever they call themselves, though they are
descendants of the ancient inhabitants, for the people of Spanish blood
would not let them keep it one minute, and they would get it, after all.
And, besides, how could such treasures be properly divided among a race
of wretched savages? It would be preposterous, even if they should be
allowed to keep it. They would drink themselves to death, and it would
bring nothing but misery upon them. The Incas, in their way, were good,
civilized people, and it stands to reason that the treasure they hid away
should go to other good, civilized people when the Incas had departed
from the face of the earth. Think of the good that could be done with
such wealth, should it fall into the proper hands! Think of the good to
the poor people of Peru, with the right kind of mission work done among
them! I tell you all that the responsibility of this discovery is as
great as its value in dollars. What do you think about it, Edna?"

"I think this," said Miss Markham: "so far as any of us have anything to
do with it, it belongs to Captain Horn. He discovered it, and it is his."

"The whole of it?" cried Ralph.

"Yes," said his sister, firmly, "the whole of it, so far as we are
concerned. What he chooses to do with it is his affair, and whether he
gets every bar of gold, or only a reward from the Peruvian government,
it is his, to do what he pleases with it."

"Now, Edna, I am amazed to hear you speak of the Peruvian government,"
cried Mrs. Cliff. "It would be nothing less than a crime to let them have
it, or even know of it."

"What do you think, captain?" asked Edna.

"I am exactly of your opinion, Miss Markham," he said. "That treasure
belongs to me. I discovered it, and it is for me to decide what is to be
done with it."

"Now, then," exclaimed Ralph, his face very red, "I differ with you! We
are all partners in this business, and it isn't fair for any one to have
everything."

"And I am not so sure, either," said Mrs. Cliff, "that the captain
ought to decide what is to be done with this treasure. Each of us
should have a voice."

"Mrs. Cliff, Miss Markham, and Ralph," said the captain, "I have a few
words to say to you, and I must say them quickly, for I see those black
fellows coming. That treasure in the stone mound is mine. I discovered
the mound, and no matter what might have been in it, the contents would
have been mine. All that gold is just as much mine as if I dug it in a
gold-mine in California, and we won't discuss that question any further.
What I want to say particularly is that it may seem very selfish in me
to claim the whole of that treasure, but I assure you that that is the
only thing to be done. I know you will all agree to that when you see
the matter in the proper light, and I have told you my plans about it. I
intended to claim all that treasure, if it turned out to be treasure. I
made up my mind to that last night, and I am very glad Miss Markham
told me her opinion of the rights of the thing before I mentioned it.
Now, I have just got time to say a few words more. If there should be
any discussion about the ownership of this gold and the way it ought to
be divided, there would be trouble, and perhaps bloody trouble. There
are those black fellows coming up here, and two of them speak English.
Eight of my men went away in a boat, and they may come back at any time.
And then, there were those two Cape Cod men, who went off first. They
may have reached the other side of the mountains, and may bring us
assistance overland. As for Davis, I know he will never come back. Maka
brought me positive proof that he was killed by the Rackbirds. Now, you
see my point. That treasure is mine. I have a right to it, and I stand
by that right. There must be no talk as to what is to be done with it. I
shall decide what is right, and I shall do it, and no man shall have a
word to say about it. In a case like this there must be a head, and I am
the head."

The captain had been speaking rapidly and very earnestly, but now his
manner changed a little. Placing his hand on Ralph's shoulder, he said:
"Now don't be afraid, my boy, that you and your sister or Mrs. Cliff will
be left in the lurch. If there were only us four, there would be no
trouble at all, but if there is any talk of dividing, there may be a lot
of men to deal with, and a hard lot, too. And now, not a word before
these men.--Maka, that is a fine lot of fire-wood you have brought. It
will last us a long time."

The African shrugged his shoulders. "Hope not," he said. "Hope Mr.
Rynders come soon. Don't want make many fires."

As Captain Horn walked away toward Ralph's lookout, he could not account
to himself for the strange and unnatural state of his feelings. He ought
to have been very happy because he had discovered vast treasures. Instead
of that his mind was troubled and he was anxious and fearful. One reason
for his state of mind was his positive knowledge of the death of Davis.
He had believed him dead because he had not come back, but now that he
knew the truth, the shock seemed as great as if he had not suspected it.
He had liked the Englishman better than any of his seamen, and he was a
man he would have been glad to have had with him now. The Cape Cod men
had been with him but a short time, and he was not well acquainted with
them. It was likely, too, that they were dead also, for they had not
taken provisions with them. But so long as he did not really know this,
the probability could not lower his spirits.

But when he came to analyze his feelings, which he did with the vigorous
directness natural to him, he knew what was the source of his anxiety and
disquietude. He actually feared the return of Rynders and his men! This
feeling annoyed and troubled him. He felt that it was unworthy of him. He
knew that he ought to long for the arrival of his mate, for in no other
way could the party expect help, and if help did not arrive before the
provisions of the Rackbirds were exhausted, the whole party would most
likely perish. Moreover, when Rynders and his men came back, they would
come to rare good fortune, for there was enough gold for all of them.

But, in spite of these reasonable conclusions, the captain was afraid
that Rynders and his men would return.

"If they come here," he said to himself, "they will know of that gold,
for I cannot expect to keep such fellows out of the cavern, and if they
know of it, it will be their gold, not mine. I know men, especially those
men, well enough for that."

And so, fearing that he might see them before he was ready for them,--and
how he was going to make himself ready for them he did not know,--he
stood on the lookout and scanned the ocean for Rynders and his men.




CHAPTER XIV

A PILE OF FUEL

Four days had passed, and nothing had happened. The stone mound in the
lake had not been visited, for there had been no reason for sending the
black men away, and with one of them nearer than a mile the captain would
not even look at his treasure. There was no danger that they would
discover the mound, for they were not allowed to take the lantern, and no
one of them would care to wander into the dark, sombre depths of the
cavern without a light.

The four white people, who, with a fair habitation in the rocks, with
plenty of plain food to eat, with six servants to wait on them, and a
climate which was continuously delightful, except in the middle of the
day, and with all fear of danger from man or beast removed from their
minds, would have been content to remain here a week or two longer and
await the arrival of a vessel to take them away, were now in a restless
and impatient condition of mind. They were all eager to escape from the
place. Three of them longed for the return of Rynders, but the other one
steadily hoped that they might get away before his men came back.

How to do this, or how to take with him the treasure of the Incas, was a
puzzling question with which the captain racked his brains by day and by
night. At last he bethought himself of the Rackbirds' vessel. He
remembered that Maka had told him that provisions were brought to them by
a vessel, and there was every reason to suppose that when these
miscreants went on some of their marauding expeditions they travelled by
sea. Day by day he had thought that he would go and visit the Rackbirds'
storehouse and the neighborhood thereabout, but day by day he had been
afraid that in his absence Rynders might arrive, and when he came he
wanted to be there to meet him.

But now the idea of the boat made him brave this possible contingency,
and early one morning, with Cheditafa and two other of the black fellows,
he set off along the beach for the mouth of the little stream which,
rising somewhere in the mountains, ran down to the cavern where it had
once widened and deepened into a lake, and then through the ravine of the
Rackbirds on to the sea. When he reached his destination, Captain Horn
saw a great deal to interest him.

Just beyond the second ridge of rock which Maka had discovered, the
stream ran into a little bay, and the shores near its mouth showed
evident signs that they had recently been washed by a flood. On points of
rock and against the sides of the sand mounds, he saw bits of debris from
the Rackbirds' camp. Here were sticks which had formed the timbers of
their huts; there were pieces of clothing and cooking-utensils; and here
and there, partly buried by the shifting sands, were seen the bodies of
Rackbirds, already desiccated by the dry air and the hot sun of the
region. But the captain saw no vessel.

"Dat up here," said Cheditafa. "Dey hide dat well. Come 'long, captain."

Following his black guide, the captain skirted a little promontory of
rocks, and behind it found a cove in which, well concealed, lay the
Rackbirds' vessel. It was a sloop of about twenty tons, and from the
ocean, or even from the beach, it could not be seen. But as the captain
stood and gazed upon this craft his heart sank. It had no masts nor
sails, and it was a vessel that could not be propelled by oars.

Wading through the shallow water,--for it was now low tide,--the captain
climbed on board. The deck was bare, without a sign of spar or sail, and
when, with Cheditafa's help, he had forced the entrance of the little
companionway, and had gone below, he found that the vessel had been
entirely stripped of everything that could be carried away, and when he
went on deck again he saw that even the rudder had been unshipped and
removed. Cheditafa could give him no information upon this state of
things, but after a little while Captain Horn imagined the cause for this
dismantled condition of the sloop. The Rackbirds' captain could not trust
his men, he said to himself, and he made it impossible for any of them to
escape or set out on an expedition for themselves. It was likely that the
masts and sails had been carried up to the camp, from which place it
would have been impossible to remove them without the leader knowing it.

When he spoke to Cheditafa on the subject, the negro told him that after
the little ship came in from one of its voyages he and his companions had
always carried the masts, sails, and a lot of other things up to the
camp. But there was nothing of the sort there now. Every spar and sail
must have been carried out to sea by the flood, for if they had been left
on the shores of the stream the captain would have seen them.

This was hard lines for Captain Horn. If the Rackbirds' vessel had been
in sailing condition, everything would have been very simple and easy for
him. He could have taken on board not only his own party, but a large
portion of the treasure, and could have sailed away as free as a bird,
without reference to the return of Rynders and his men. A note tied to a
pole set up in a conspicuous place on the beach would have informed Mr.
Rynders of their escape from the place, and it was not likely that any of
the party would have thought it worth while to go farther on shore. But
it was of no use to think of getting away in this vessel. In its present
condition it was absolutely useless.

While the captain had been thinking and considering the matter, Cheditafa
had been wandering about the coast exploring. Presently Captain Horn saw
him running toward him, accompanied by the two other negroes.

"'Nother boat over there," cried Cheditafa, as the captain approached
him,--"'nother boat, but badder than this. No good. Cook with it,
that's all."

The captain followed Cheditafa across the little stream, and a hundred
yards or so along the shore, and over out of reach of the tide, piled
against a low sand mound, he saw a quantity of wood, all broken into
small pieces, and apparently prepared, as Cheditafa had suggested, for
cooking-fires. It was also easy to see that these pieces of wood had
once been part of a boat, perhaps of a wreck thrown up on shore. The
captain approached the pile of wood and picked up some of the pieces. As
he held in his hand a bit of gunwale, not much more than a foot in
length, his eyes began to glisten and his breath came quickly. Hastily
pulling out several pieces from the mass of debris, he examined them
thoroughly. Then he stepped back, and let the piece of rudder he was
holding drop to the sand.

"Cheditafa," said he, speaking huskily, "this is one of the Castor's
boats. This is a piece of the boat in which Rynders and the men set out."

The negro looked at the captain and seemed frightened by the expression
on his face. For a moment he did not speak, and then in a trembling voice
he asked, "Where all them now?"

The captain shook his head, but said nothing. That pile of fragments was
telling him a tale which gradually became plainer and plainer to him, and
which he believed as if Rynders himself had been telling it to him. His
ship's boat, with its eight occupants, had never gone farther south than
the mouth of the little stream. That they had been driven on shore by the
stress of weather the captain did not believe. There had been no high
winds or storms since their departure. Most likely they had been induced
to land by seeing some of the Rackbirds on shore, and they had naturally
rowed into the little cove, for assistance from their fellow-beings was
what they were in search of. But no matter how they happened to land,
the Rackbirds would never let them go away again to carry news of the
whereabouts of their camp. Almost unarmed, these sailors must have fallen
easy victims to the Rackbirds.

It was not unlikely that the men had been shot down from ambush without
having had any intercourse or conversation with the cruel monsters to
whom they had come to seek relief, for had there been any talk between
them, Rynders would have told of his companions left on shore, and these
would have been speedily visited by the desperadoes. For the destruction
of the boat there was reason enough: the captain of the Rackbirds gave
his men no chance to get away from him.

With a heart of lead, Captain Horn turned to look at his negro
companions, and saw them all sitting together on the sands, chattering
earnestly, and holding up their hands with one or more fingers extended,
as if they were counting. Cheditafa came forward.

"When all your men go away from you?" he asked.

The captain reflected a moment, and then answered, "About two weeks ago."

"That's right! That's right!" exclaimed the negro, nodding violently as
he spoke. "We talk about that. We count days. It's just ten days and
three days, and Rackbirds go 'way, and leave us high up in rock-hole,
with no ladder. After a while we hear guns, guns, guns. Long time guns
shooting. When they come back, it almost dark, and they want supper
bad. All time they eat supper, they talk 'bout shooting sharks. Shot
lots sharks, and chuck them into the water. Sharks in water already
before they is shot. We say then it no sharks they shot. Now we say it
must been--"

The captain turned away. He did not want to hear any more. There was no
possible escape from the belief that Rynders and all his men had been
shot down, and robbed, if they had anything worth taking, and then their
bodies carried out to sea, most likely in their own boat, and thrown
overboard.

There was nothing more at this dreadful place that Captain Horn wished to
see, to consider, or to do, and calling the negroes to follow him, he set
out on his return.

During the dreary walk along the beach the captain's depression of
spirits was increased by the recollection of his thoughts about the
sailors and the treasure. He had hoped that these men would not come back
in time to interfere with his disposal, in his own way, of the gold he
had found. They would not come back now, but the thought did not lighten
his heart. But before he reached the caves, he had determined to throw
off the gloom and sadness which had come upon him. Under the
circumstances, grief for what had happened was out of place. He must keep
up a good heart, and help his companions to keep up good hearts. Now he
must do something, and, like a soldier in battle, he must not think of
the comrade who had fallen beside him, but of the enemy in front of him.

When he reached the caves he found supper ready, and that evening he said
nothing to his companions of the important discoveries he had made,
contenting himself with a general statement of the proofs that the
Rackbirds and their camp had been utterly destroyed by the flood.




CHAPTER XV

THE CLIFF-MAKA SCHEME

The next morning Captain Horn arose with a plan of action in his mind,
and he was now ready, not only to tell the two ladies and Ralph
everything he had discovered, but also what he was going to do. The
announcement of the almost certain fate of Rynders and his men filled his
hearers with horror, and the statement of the captain's plans did not
tend to raise their spirits.

"You see," said he, "there is nothing now for us to wait for here. As to
being taken off by a passing vessel, there is no chance of that whatever.
We have gone over that matter before. Nor can we get away overland, for
some of us would die on the way. As to that little boat down there, we
cannot all go to sea in her, but in it I must go out and seek for help."

"And leave us here!" cried Mrs. Cliff. "Do not think of that, captain!
Whatever happens, let us all keep together."

"That cannot be," he said. "I must go because I am the only seaman among
you, and I will take four of those black fellows with me. I do not
apprehend any danger unless we have to make a surf landing, and even
then they can all swim like fishes, while I am very well able to take
care of myself in the water. I shall sail down the coast until I come to
a port, and there put in. Then I will get a vessel of some sort and come
back for you. I shall leave with you two of these negroes--Cheditafa, who
seems to be a highly respectable old person, and can speak English, and
Mok, who, although he can't talk to you, can understand a great deal that
is said to him. Apart from his being such an abject coward, he seems to
be a good, quiet fellow, willing to do what he is told. On the whole, I
think he has the best disposition of the four black dummies, begging
their pardons. I will take the three others, with Maka as head man and
interpreter. If I should be cast on shore by a storm, I could swim
through the surf to the dry land, but I could not undertake to save any
one else. If this misfortune should happen, we could make our way on foot
down the coast."

"But suppose you should meet some Rackbirds?" cried Ralph.

"I have no fear of that," answered the captain. "I do not believe there
is another set of such scoundrels on this hemisphere. So, as soon as I
can get that boat in order, and rig up a mast and a sail for her, I
shall provision her well and set out. Of course, I do not want to leave
you all here, but there is no help for it, and I don't believe you need
have the slightest fear of harm. Later, we will plan what is to be done
by you and by me, and get everything clear and straight. The first thing
is to get the boat ready, and I shall go to work on that to-day. I will
also take some of the negroes down to the Rackbirds' camp, and bring
away more stores."

"Oh, let me go!" cried Ralph. "It is the cruellest thing in the world to
keep me cooped up here. I never go anywhere, and never do anything."

But the captain shook his head. "I am sorry, my boy," said he, "to keep
you back so much, but it cannot be helped. When I go away, I shall make
it a positive condition that you do not leave your sister and Mrs.
Cliff, and I do not want you to begin now." A half-hour afterwards, when
the captain and his party had set out, Ralph came to his sister and sat
down by her.

"Do you know," said he, "what I think of Captain Horn? I think he is a
brave man, and a man who knows what to do when things turn up suddenly,
but, for all that, I think he is a tyrant. He does what he pleases, and
he makes other people do what he pleases, and consults nobody."

"My dear Ralph," said Edna, "if you knew how glad I am we have such a man
to manage things, you would not think in that way. A tyrant is just what
we want in our situation, provided he knows what ought to be done, and I
think that Captain Horn does know."

"That's just like a woman," said Ralph. "I might have expected it."

During the rest of that day and the morning of the next, everybody in
the camp worked hard and did what could be done to help the captain
prepare for his voyage, and even Ralph, figuratively speaking, put his
hand to the oar.

The boat was provisioned for a long voyage, though the captain hoped to
make a short one, and at noon he announced that he would set out late
that afternoon.

"It will be flood-tide, and I can get away from the coast better then
than if the tide were coming in."

"How glad I should be to hear you speak in that way," said Mrs. Cliff,
"if we were only going with you! But to be left here seems like a death
sentence all around. You may be lost at sea while we perish on shore."

"I do not expect anything of the sort!" exclaimed Edna. "With Ralph and
two men to defend us, we can stay here a long time. As for the captain's
being lost, I do not think of it for a moment. He knows how to manage a
boat too well for that."

"I don't like it at all! I don't like it at all!" exclaimed Mrs. Cliff.
"I don't expect misfortunes any more than other people do, but our
common sense tells us they may come, and we ought to be prepared for
them. Of course, you are a good sailor, captain, but if it should happen
that you should never come back, or even if it should be a very long
time before you come back, how are we going to know what we ought to do?
As far as I know the party you leave behind you, we would all be of
different opinions if any emergency arose. As long as you are with us, I
feel that, no matter what happens, the right thing will be done. But if
you are away--"

At this moment Mrs. Cliff was interrupted by the approach of Maka, who
wished very much to speak to the captain. As the negro was not a man who
would be likely to interrupt a conversation except for an important
reason, the captain followed him to a little distance. There he found, to
his surprise, that although he had left one person to speak to another,
the subject was not changed.

"Cap'n," said Maka, "when you go 'way, who's boss?"

The captain frowned, and yet he could not help feeling interested in this
anxiety regarding his successor. "Why do you ask that?" he said. "What
difference does it make who gives you your orders when I am gone?"

Maka shook his head. "Big difference," he said. "Cheditafa don' like boy
for boss. He wan' me tell you, if boy is boss, he don' wan' stay. He wan'
go 'long you."

"You can tell Cheditafa," said the captain, quickly, "that if I want him
to stay he'll stay, and if I want him to go he'll go. He has nothing to
say about that. So much for him. Now, what do you think?"

"Like boy," said Maka, "but not for boss."

The captain was silent for a moment. Here was a matter which really
needed to be settled. If he had felt that he had authority to do as he
pleased, he would have settled it in a moment.

"Cap'n big man. He know everyt'ing," said Maka. "But when cap'n go 'way,
boy t'ink he big man. Boy know nothin'. Better have woman for boss."

Captain Horn could not help being amused. "Which woman?" he asked.

"I say old one. Cheditafa say young one."

The captain was not a man who would readily discuss his affairs with any
one, especially with such a man as Maka; but now the circumstances were
peculiar, and he wanted to know the opinions of these men he was about to
leave behind him.

"What made you and Cheditafa think that way?" he asked.

"I t'ink old one know more," replied the negro, "and Cheditafa t'ink wife
make bes' boss when cap'n gone, and young one make bes' wife."

"You impertinent black scoundrels!" exclaimed the captain, taking a step
toward Maka, who bounced backward a couple of yards. "What do you mean by
talking about Miss Markham and me in that way? I'll--" But there he
paused. It would not be convenient to knock the heads off these men at
this time. "Cheditafa must be a very great fool," said he, speaking more
quietly. "Does he suppose I could call anybody my wife just for the sake
of giving you two men a boss?"

"Oh, Cheditafa know!" exclaimed Maka, but without coming any nearer
the captain. "He know many, many t'ings, but he 'fraid come tell
you hisself."

"I should think he would be," replied the captain, "and I wonder you are
not afraid, too."

"Oh, I is, I is," said Maka. "I's all w'ite inside. But somebody got
speak boss 'fore he go 'way. If nobody speak, den you go 'way--no boss.
All crooked. Nobody b'long to anybody. Den maybe men come down from
mountain, or maybe men come in boat, and dey say, 'Who's all you people?
Who you b'long to?' Den dey say dey don' b'long nobody but demselves.
Den, mos' like, de w'ite ones gets killed for dey clothes and dey money.
And Cheditafa and me we gets tuck somew'ere to be slaves. But if we say,
'Dat lady big Cap'n Horn's wife--all de t'ings and de people b'long to
big he'--hi! dey men hands off--dey shake in de legs. Everybody know big
Cap'n Horn."

The captain could not help laughing. "I believe you are as big a fool as
Cheditafa," said he. "Don't you know I can't make a woman my wife just by
calling her so?"

"Don' mean dat!" exclaimed Maka. "Cheditafa don' mean dat. He make all
right. He priest in he own country. He marry people. He marry you 'fore
you go, all right. He talk 'bout dat mos' all night, but 'fraid come
tell cap'n."

The absurdity of this statement was so great that it made the captain
laugh instead of making him angry; but before he could say anything more
to Maka, Mrs. Cliff approached him. "You must excuse me, captain," she
said, "but really the time is very short, and I have a great deal to say
to you, and if you have finished joking with that colored man, I wish you
would talk with me."

"You will laugh, too," said the captain, "when you hear what he said to
me." And in a few words he told her what Maka had proposed.

Instead of laughing, Mrs. Cliff stood staring at him in silent amazement.

"I see I have shocked you," said the captain, "but you must remember that
that is only a poor heathen's ignorant vagary. Please say nothing about
it, especially to Miss Markham."

"Say nothing about it!" exclaimed Mrs. Cliff. "I wish I had a thousand
tongues to talk of it. Captain, do you really believe that Cheddy man is
a priest, or what goes for one in his own country? If he is, he ought to
marry you and Edna."

The captain frowned, with an air of angry impatience. "I could excuse
that poor negro, madam," he said, "when he made such a proposition to
me, but I must say I did not expect anything of the kind from you. Do you
think, even if we had a bishop with us, that I would propose to marry any
woman in the world for the sake of making her what that fellow called the
'boss' of this party?"

It was now Mrs. Cliff's turn to be impatient. "That boss business is a
very small matter," she replied, "although, of course, somebody must be
head while you are gone, and it was about this that I came to see you.
But after hearing what that colored man said, I want to speak of
something far more important, which I have been thinking and thinking
about, and to which I could see no head or tail until a minute ago.
Before I go on, I want you to answer me this question: If you are lost
at sea, and never come back, what is to become of that treasure? It is
yours now, as you let us know plainly enough, but whose will it be if
you should die? It may seem like a selfish and sordid thing for me to
talk to you in this way just before you start on such an expedition, but
I am a business woman,--since my husband's death I have been obliged to
be that,--and I look at things with a business eye. Have you considered
this matter?"

"Yes, I have," answered the captain, "very seriously."

"And so have I," said Mrs. Cliff. "Whether Edna has or not I don't
know, for she has said nothing to me. Now, we are not related to you,
and, of course, have no claim upon you in that way, but I do think
that, as we have all suffered together, and gone through dangers
together, we all ought to share, in some degree at least, in good
things as well as bad ones."

"Mrs. Cliff," said the captain, speaking very earnestly, "you need not
say anything more on that subject. I have taken possession of that
treasure, and I intend to hold it, in order that I may manage things in
my own way, and avoid troublesome disputes. But I have not the slightest
idea of keeping it all for myself. I intend that everybody who has had
any concern in this expedition shall have a share in it. I have thought
over the matter a great deal, and intended, before I left, to tell you
and Miss Markham what I have decided upon. Here is a paper I have drawn
up. It is my will. It is written in lead--pencil and may not be legal,
but it is the best I can do. I have no relatives, except a few second
cousins somewhere out in the Northwest, and I don't want them to have
anything to do directly with my property, for they would be sure to make
trouble. Here, as you see, I leave to you, Miss Markham, and Ralph all
the property, of every kind and description, of which I may die
possessed. This, of course, would cover all treasure you may be able to
take away from this place, and which, without this will, might be claimed
by some of my distant relatives, if they should ever chance to hear the
story of my discovery.

"Besides this, I have written here, on another page of this note--book, a
few private directions as to how I want the treasure disposed of. I say
nothing definite, and mention no exact sums, but, in a general way, I
have left everything in the hands of you two ladies. I know that you will
make a perfectly just and generous disposition of what you may get."

"That is all very kind and good of you," said Mrs. Cliff, "but I cannot
believe that such a will would be of much service. If you have relatives
you are afraid of,--and I see you have,--if Edna Markham were your widow,
then by law she would get a good part of it, even if she did not get it
all, and if Edna got it, we would be perfectly satisfied."

"It is rather a grim business to talk about Miss Markham being my widow,"
said the captain, "especially under such circumstances. It strikes me
that the kind of marriage you propose would be a good deal flimsier than
this will."

"It does not strike me so," said she. "A mere confession before witnesses
by a man and woman that they are willing to take each other for husband
and wife is often a legal ceremony, and if there is any kind of a
religious person present to perform the ceremony, it helps, and in a case
like this no stone should be left unturned. You see, you have assumed a
great deal of responsibility about this. You have stated--and if we were
called upon to testify, Miss Markham and I would have to acknowledge that
you have so stated--that you claimed this treasure as your discovery, and
that it all belonged to you. So, you see, if we keep our consciences
clear,--and no matter what happens, we are going to do that,--we might be
obliged to testify every cent of it away from ourselves. But if Edna were
your wife, it would be all right."

The captain stood silent for a few moments, his hands thrust into his
pockets, and a queer smile on his face. "Mrs. Cliff," said he, presently,
"do you expect me to go to Miss Markham and gravely propose this scheme
which you and that half--tamed African have concocted?"

"I think it would be better," said Mrs. Cliff, "if I were to prepare her
mind for it. I will go speak to her now."

"No," said he, quickly, "don't you do that. If the crazy idea is to be
mentioned to her at all, I want to do it myself, and in my own way. I
will go to her now. I have had my talk with you, and I must have one
with her."




CHAPTER XVI

ON A BUSINESS BASIS


Captain Horn found Edna at the entrance to the caves, busily employed in
filling one of the Rackbirds' boxes with ship-biscuit.

"Miss Markham," said he, "I wish to have a little business talk with you
before I leave. Where is Ralph?"

"He is down at the boat," she answered.

"Very good," said he. "Will you step this way?"

When they were seated together in the shade of some rocks, he stated to
Edna what he had planned in case he should lose his life in his intended
expedition, and showed her the will he had made, and also the directions
for herself and Mrs. Cliff. Edna listened very attentively, occasionally
asking for an explanation, but offering no opinion. When he had finished,
she was about to say something, but he interrupted her.

"Of course, I want to know your opinion about all this," he said, "but
not yet. I have more to say. There has been a business plan proposed
by two members of our party which concerns me, and when anything is
told concerning me, I want to know how it is told, or, if possible,
tell it myself."

And then, as concisely as possible, he related to her Maka's anxiety in
regard to the boss question, and his method of disposing of the
difficulty, and afterwards Mrs. Cliff's anxiety about the property, in
case of accident to himself, and her method of meeting the contingency.

During this recital Edna Markham said not one word. To portions of the
narrative she listened with an eager interest; then her expression
became hard, almost stern; and finally her cheeks grew red, but
whether with anger or some other emotion the captain did not know.
When he had finished, she looked steadily at him for a few moments,
and then she said:

"Captain Horn, what you have told me are the plans and opinions of
others. It seems to me that you are now called upon to say something for
yourself."

"I am quite ready to do that," he answered. "A half-hour ago I had never
thought of such a scheme as I have laid before you. When I heard it, I
considered it absurd, and mentioned it to you only because I was afraid I
would be misrepresented. But since putting the matter to you, even while
I have been just now talking, I have grown to be entirely in favor of it.
But I want you to thoroughly understand my views on the subject. If this
marriage is to be performed, it will be strictly a business affair,
entered into for the purpose of securing to you and others a fortune,
large or small, which, without this marriage, might be taken from you. In
other words," said he, "you are to be looked upon in this affair in the
light of my prospective widow."

For a moment the flush on the face of the young woman faded away, but it
quickly returned. Apparently involuntarily, she rose to her feet. Turning
to the captain, who also rose, she said:

"But there is another way in which the affair would have to be looked at.
Suppose I should not become your widow? Suppose you should not be lost at
sea, and should come back safely?"

The captain drew a deep breath, and folded his arms upon his chest. "Miss
Markham," said he, "if this marriage should take place, it would be
entirely different from other marriages. If I should not return, and it
should be considered legal, it may make you all rich and happy. If it
should not hold good, we can only think we have done our best. But as to
anything beyond this, or to any question of my return, or any other
question in connection with the matter, our minds should be shut and
locked. This matter is a business proposition, and as such I lay it
before you. If we adopt it, we do so for certain reasons, and beyond
those reasons neither of us is qualified to go. We should keep our eyes
fixed upon the main point, and think of nothing else."

"Something else must be looked at," said Edna. "It is just as likely that
you will come back as that you will be lost at sea."

"This plan is based entirely on the latter supposition," replied the
captain. "It has nothing to do with the other. If we consider it at all,
we must consider it in that light."

"But we must consider it in the other light," she said. She was now quite
pale, and her face had a certain sternness about it.

"I positively refuse to do that," he said. "I will not think about it,
or say one word about it. I will not even refer to any future settlement
of that question. The plan I present rests entirely upon my non-return."

"But if you do return?" persisted Edna.

The captain smiled and shook his head. "You must excuse me," he said,
"but I can say nothing about that."

She looked steadily at him for a few moments, and then she said: "Very
well, we will say nothing about it. As to the plan which has been
devised to give us, in case of accident to you, a sound claim to the
treasure which has been found here, and to a part of which I consider I
have a right, I consent to it. I do this believing that I should share
in the wonderful treasures in that cave. I have formed prospects for my
future which would make my life a thousand times better worth living
than I ever supposed it would be, and I do not wish to interfere with
those prospects. I want them to become realities. Therefore, I consent
to your proposition, and I will marry you upon a business basis, before
you leave."

"Your hand upon it," said the captain; and she gave him a hand so cold
that it chilled his own. "Now I will go talk to Maka and Cheditafa," he
said. "Of course, we understand that it may be of no advantage to have
this coal-black heathen act as officiating clergyman, but it can do no
harm, and we must take the chances. I have a good deal to do, and no time
to lose if I am to get away on the flood-tide this afternoon. Will it
suit you if I get everything ready to start, and we then have the
ceremony?"

"Oh, certainly," replied Edna. "Any spare moment will suit me."

When he had gone, Edna Markham sat down on the rock again. With her hands
clasped in her lap, she gazed at the sand at her feet.

"Without a minute to think of it," she said to herself,
presently,--"without any consideration at all. And now it is done! It
was not like me. I do not know myself. But yes!" she exclaimed, speaking
so that any one near might have heard her, "I do know myself. I said it
because I was afraid, if I did not say it then, I should never be able
to say it."

If Captain Horn could have seen her then, a misty light, which no man can
mistake, shining in her eyes as she gazed out over everything into
nothing, he might not have been able to confine his proposition to a
strictly business basis.

She sat a little longer, and then she hurried away to finish the work on
which she had been engaged; but when Mrs. Cliff came to look for her, she
did not find her packing provisions for the captain's cruise, but sitting
alone in one of the inner caves.

"What, crying!" exclaimed Mrs. Cliff. "Now, let me tell you, my dear
child, I do not feel in the least like crying. The captain has told me
that everything is all right between you, and the more I think of it, the
more firmly I believe that it is the grandest thing that could have
happened. For some reason or other, and I am sure I cannot tell you why,
I do not believe at all that the captain is going to be shipwrecked in
that little boat. Before this I felt sure we should never see him again,
but now I haven't a doubt that he will get somewhere all right, and that
he will come back all right, and if he does it will be a grand match.
Why, Edna child, if Captain Horn never gets away with a stick of that
gold, it will be a most excellent match. Now, I believe in my heart," she
continued, sitting down by Edna, "that when you accepted Captain Horn you
expected him to come back. Tell me isn't that true?"

At that instant Miss Markham gave a little start. "Mrs. Cliff," she
exclaimed, "there is Ralph calling me. Won't you go and tell him all
about it? Hurry, before he comes in here."

When Ralph Markham heard what had happened while he was down at the
beach, he grew so furiously angry that he could not find words in which
to express himself.

"That Captain Horn," he cried, when speech came to him, "is the most
despotic tyrant on the face of the earth! He tells people what they are
to do, and they simply go and do it. The next thing he will do is to tell
you to adopt me as a son. Marry Edna! My sister! And I not know it! And
she, just because he asks her, must go and marry him. Well, that is just
like a woman."

With savage strides he was about marching back to the beach, when Mrs.
Cliff stopped him.

"Now, don't make everybody unhappy, Ralph," she said, "but just listen to
me. I want to tell you all about this matter."

It took about a quarter of an hour to make clear to the ruffled mind of
Ralph the powerful, and in Mrs. Cliffs eyes the imperative, reasons for
the sudden and unpremeditated matrimonial arrangements of the morning.
But before she had finished, the boy grew quieter, and there appeared
upon his face some expressions of astute sagacity.

"Well," said he, "when you first put this business to me, it was tail
side up, but now you've got heads up it looks a little different. He will
be drowned, as like as not, and then I suppose we can call our souls our
own, and if, besides that, we can call a lot of those chunks of gold our
own, we ought not to grumble. All right. I won't forbid the banns. But,
between you and me, I think the whole thing is stuff and nonsense. What
ought I to call him? Brother Horn?"

"Now, don't say anything like that, Ralph," urged Mrs. Cliff, "and don't
make yourself disagreeable in any way. This is a very serious time for
all of us, and I am sure that you will not do anything which will hurt
your sister's feelings."

"Oh, don't be afraid," said Ralph. "I'm not going to hurt anybody's
feelings. But when I first meet that man, I hope I may be able to keep
him from knowing what I think of him."

Five minutes later Ralph heard the voice of Captain Horn calling him. The
voice came from the opening in the caves, and instantly Ralph turned and
walked toward the beach. Again came the voice, louder than before:
"Ralph, I want you." The boy stopped, put his hands in his pockets, and
shrugged his shoulders, then he slowly turned.

"If I were bigger," he said to himself, "I'd thrash him on the spot. Then
I'd feel easier in my mind, and things could go on as they pleased. But
as I am not six feet high yet, I suppose I might as well go to see what
he wants."

"Ralph," said the captain, as soon as the boy reached him, "I see Mrs.
Cliff has been speaking to you, and so you know about the arrangements
that have been made. But I have a great deal to do before I can start,
and I want you to help me. I am now going to the mound in the cave to get
out some of that gold, and I don't want anybody but you to go with me. I
have just sent all the negroes down to the beach to carry things to the
boat, and we must be quick about our business. You take this leather bag.
It is Mrs. Cliff's, but I think it is strong enough. The lantern is
lighted, so come on."

To dive into a treasure mound Ralph would have followed a much more
ruthless tyrant than Captain Horn, and although he made no remarks, he
went willingly enough. When they had climbed the mound, and the captain
had lifted the stone from the opening in the top, Ralph held the lantern
while the captain, reaching down into the interior, set himself to work
to fill the bag with the golden ingots. As the boy gazed down upon the
mass of dull gold, his heart swelled within him. His feeling of
indignant resentment began to disappear rapidly before the growing
consciousness that he was to be the brother-in-law of the owner of all
that wealth. As soon as the bag was filled, the stone was replaced, and
the two descended from the mound, the captain carefully holding the
heavy bag under his arm, for he feared the weight might break the
handle. Then, extinguishing the lantern as soon as they could see their
way without it, they reached the innermost cave before any of the
negroes returned. Neither Mrs. Cliff nor Edna was there, and the
captain placed his burden behind a piece of rock.

"Captain," said the boy, his eyes glistening, "there must be a fortune in
that bag!"

The captain laughed. "Oh, no," said he, "not a very large one. I have had
a good deal of experience with gold in California, and I suppose each one
of those little bars is worth from two hundred and fifty to three hundred
dollars." What we have represents a good deal of money. But now, Ralph, I
have something very important to say to you. I am going to appoint you
sole guardian and keeper of that treasure. You are very young to have
such a responsibility put upon you, but I know you will feel the
importance of your duty, and that you will not be forgetful or negligent
about it. The main thing is to keep those two negroes, and anybody who
may happen to come here, away from the mound. Do what you can to prevent
any one exploring the cave, and don't let the negroes go there for water.
They now know the way over the rocks to the stream.

"If I should not come back, or a ship should come along and take you off
before I return, you must all be as watchful as cats about that gold.
Don't let anybody see a piece of it. You three must carry away with you
as much as you can, but don't let any one know you are taking it. Of
course, I expect to come back and attend to the whole business, but if I
should not be heard from for a long time,--and if that is the case, you
may be sure I am lost,--and you should get away, I will trust to your
sister and you to get up an expedition to come back for it."

Ralph drew himself up as high as circumstances would permit. "Captain,"
said he, "you may count on me. I'll keep an eye on those black fellows,
and on anybody else who may come here."

"Very good," said the captain. "I am sure you will never forget that you
are the guardian of all our fortunes."




CHAPTER XVII

"A FINE THING, NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS"


After the noonday meal, on the day of Captain Horn's departure, Mrs.
Cliff went apart with Maka and Cheditafa, and there endeavored to find
out, as best she might, the ideas and methods of the latter in regard to
the matrimonial service. In spite of the combined efforts of the two,
with their limited command of English, to make her understand how these
things were done in the forests and wilds of the Dark Continent, she
could not decide whether the forms of the Episcopal Church, those of the
Baptists, or those of the Quakers, could be more easily assimilated with
the previous notions of Cheditafa on the subject. But having been married
herself, she thought she knew very well what was needed, and so, without
endeavoring to persuade the negro priest that his opinions regarding the
marriage rites were all wrong, or to make him understand what sort of a
wedding she would have had if they had all been in their own land, she
endeavored to impress upon his mind the forms and phrases of a very
simple ceremony, which she believed would embody all that was necessary.

Cheditafa was a man of considerable intelligence, and the feeling that
he was about to perform such an important ceremony for the benefit of
such a great man as Captain Horn filled his soul with pride and a strong
desire to acquit himself creditably in this honorable function, and he
was able before very long to satisfy Mrs. Cliff that, with Maka's
assistance as prompting clerk, he might be trusted to go through the
ceremony without serious mistake.

She was strongly of the opinion that if she conducted the marriage
ceremony it would be far better in every way than such a performance by a
coal-black heathen; but as she knew that her offices would not count for
anything in a civilized world, whereas the heathen ministry might be
considered satisfactory, she accepted the situation, and kept her
opinions to herself.

The wedding took place about six o'clock in the afternoon, on the plateau
in front of the great stone face, at a spot where the projecting rocks
cast a shade upon the heated ground. Cheditafa, attired in the best suit
of clothes which could be made up from contributions from all his
fellow-countrymen present, stood on the edge of the line of shadow, his
hands clasped, his head slightly bowed, his bright eyes glancing from
side to side, and his face filled with an expression of anxiety to
observe everything and make no mistakes. Maka stood near him, and behind
the two, in the brilliant sunlight, were grouped the other negroes, all
very attentive and solemn, looking a little frightened, as if they were
not quite sure that sacrifices were not customary on such occasions.

Captain Horn stood, tall and erect, his jacket a little torn, but with an
air of earnest dignity upon his handsome, sunburnt features, which, with
his full dark beard and rather long hair, gave him the appearance of an
old-time chieftain about to embark upon some momentous enterprise. By his
side was Edna Markham, pale, and dressed in the simple gown in which she
had left the ship, but as beautiful, in the eyes of Mrs. Cliff, as if she
had been arrayed in orange-blossoms and white satin.

[Illustration: Reverently the two answered the simple questions which
were put to them.]

Reverently the two answered the simple questions which were put to them,
and made the necessary promises, and slowly and carefully, and in very
good English, Cheditafa pronounced them man and wife. Mrs. Cliff then
produced a marriage certificate, written with a pencil, as nearly as she
could remember, in the words of her own document of that nature, on a
leaf torn from the captain's note-book, and to this she signed
Cheditafa's name, to which the African, under her directions, affixed his
mark. Then Ralph and Mrs. Cliff signed as witnesses, and the certificate
was delivered to Edna.

"Now," said the captain, "I will go aboard."

The whole party, Edna and the captain a little in the lead, walked down
to the beach, where the boat lay, ready to be launched. During the short
walk Captain Horn talked rapidly and earnestly to Edna, confining his
remarks, however, to directions and advice as to what should be done
until he returned, or, still more important, as to what should be done if
he did not return at all.

When they reached the beach, the captain shook hands with Edna, Mrs.
Cliff, and Ralph, and then, turning to Cheditafa, he informed him that
that lady, pointing to Edna, was now the mistress of himself and Mok, and
that every word of command she gave them must be obeyed exactly as if he
had given it to them himself. He was shortly coming back, he said, and
when he saw them again, their reward should depend entirely upon the
reports he should receive of their conduct.

"But I know," said he, "that you are a good man, and that I can trust
you, and I will hold you responsible for Mok."

This was the end of the leave-taking. The captain stepped into his boat
and took the oars. Then the four negroes, two on a side, ran out the
little craft as far as possible through the surf, and then, when they had
scrambled on board, the captain pulled out into smooth water.

Hoisting his little sail, and seating himself in the stern, with the
tiller in his hand, he brought the boat round to the wind. Once he turned
toward shore and waved his hat, and then he sailed away toward the
western sky.

Mrs. Cliff and Ralph walked together toward the caves, leaving Edna alone
upon the beach.

"Well," said Ralph, "this is the first wedding I ever saw, but I must say
it is rather different from my idea of that sort of thing. I thought that
people always kissed at such affairs, and there was general jollification
and cake, but this seemed more like a newfangled funeral, with the dear
departed acting as his own Charon and steering himself across the Styx."

"He might have kissed her," said Mrs. Cliff, thoughtfully. "But you see,
Ralph, everything had to be very different from ordinary weddings. It was
a very peculiar case."

"I should hope so," said the boy,--"the uncommoner the better. In fact,
I shouldn't call it a wedding at all. It seemed more like taking a first
degree in widowhood."

"Ralph," said Mrs. Cliff, "that is horrible. Don't you ever say anything
like that again. I hope you are not going to distress your sister with
such remarks."

"You need not say anything about Edna!" he exclaimed. "I shall not worry
her with any criticisms of the performance. The fact is, she will need
cheering up, and if I can do it I will. She's captain now, and I'll stand
up for her like a good fellow."

Edna stood on the beach, gazing out on the ocean illuminated by the rays
of the setting sun, keeping her eyes fixed on the captain's boat until it
became a mere speck. Then, when it had vanished entirely among the lights
and shades of the evening sea, she still stood a little while and
watched. Then she turned and slowly walked up to the plateau. Everything
there was just as she had known it for weeks. The great stone face seemed
to smile in the last rays of the setting sun. Mrs. Cliff came to meet
her, her face glowing with smiles, and Ralph threw his arms around her
neck and kissed her, without, however, saying a word about that sort of
thing having been omitted in the ceremony of the afternoon.

"My dear Edna," exclaimed Mrs. Cliff, "from the bottom of my heart I
congratulate you! No matter how we look at it, a rare piece of good
fortune has come to you."

Edna gazed at her for a moment, and then she answered quietly, "Oh, yes,
it was a fine thing, no matter what happens. If he does not come back, I
shall make a bold stroke for widowhood; and if he does come back, he is
bound, after all this, to give me a good share of that treasure. So, you
see, we have done the best we can do to be rich and happy, if we are not
so unlucky as to perish among these rocks and sand."

"She is almost as horrible as Ralph," thought Mrs. Cliff, "but she will
get over it."




CHAPTER XVIII

MRS. CLIFF IS AMAZED

After the captain set sail in his little boat, the party which he
left behind him lived on in an uneventful, uninteresting manner,
which, gradually, day by day, threw a shadow over the spirits of each
one of them.

Ralph, who always slept in the outer chamber of the caves, had been a
very faithful guardian of the captain's treasure. No one, not even
himself, had gone near it, and he never went up to the rocky promontory
on which he had raised his signal-pole without knowing that the two
negroes were at a distance from the caves, or within his sight.

For a day or two after the captain's departure Edna was very quiet, with
a fancy for going off by herself. But she soon threw off this dangerous
disposition, and took up her old profession of teacher, with Ralph as the
scholar, and mathematics as the study. They had no books nor even paper,
but the rules and principles of her specialty were fresh in her mind, and
with a pointed stick on a smooth stretch of sand diagrams were drawn and
problems worked out.

This occupation was a most excellent thing for Edna and her brother, but
it did not help Mrs. Cliff to endure with patience the weary days of
waiting. She had nothing to read, nothing to do, very often no one to
talk to, and she would probably have fallen into a state of nervous
melancholy had not Edna persuaded her to devote an hour or two each day
to missionary work with Mok and Cheditafa. This Mrs. Cliff cheerfully
undertook. She was a conscientious woman, and her methods of teaching
were peculiar. She had an earnest desire to do the greatest amount of
good with these poor, ignorant negroes, but, at the same time, she did
not wish to do injury to any one else. The conviction forced itself upon
her that if she absolutely converted Cheditafa from the errors of his
native religion, she might in some way invalidate the marriage ceremony
which he had performed.

"If he should truly come to believe," she said to herself, "that he had
no right to marry the captain and Edna, his conscience might make him
go back on the whole business, and everything that we have done would
be undone. I don't want him to remain a heathen any longer than it can
possibly be helped, but I must be careful not to set his priesthood
entirely aside until Edna's position is fixed and settled. When the
captain comes back, and we all get home, they must be married
regularly; but if he never comes back, then I must try to make
Cheditafa understand that the marriage is just as binding as any other
kind, and that any change of religious opinion that he may undergo will
have no effect upon it."

Accordingly, while she confined her religious teachings to very general
principles, her moral teachings were founded upon the strictest code, and
included cleanliness and all the household virtues, not excepting the
proper care of such garments as an indigent human being in a tropical
climate might happen to possess.

In spite, however, of this occupation, Mrs. Cliffs spirits were not
buoyant. "I believe," she thought, "things would have been more cheerful
if they had not married; but then, of course, we ought to be willing to
sacrifice cheerfulness at present to future prosperity."

It was more than a month after the departure of the captain that Ralph,
from his point of observation, perceived a sail upon the horizon. He had
seen sails there before, but they never grew any larger, and generally
soon disappeared, for it would lengthen the course of any
coasting-vessel to approach this shore. But the sail that Ralph saw now
grew larger and larger, and, with the aid of his little spy-glass, it
was not long before he made up his mind that it was coming toward him.
Then up went his signal-flag, and, with a loud hurrah, down went he to
shout out the glad news.

Twenty minutes later it was evident to the anxiously peering eyes of
every one of the party that the ship was actually approaching the shore,
and in the heart of each one of them there was a bounding delight in the
feeling that, after all these days of weary waiting, the captain was
coming back.

As the ship drew nearer and nearer, she showed herself to be a large
vessel--a handsome bark. About half a mile from the shore, she lay to,
and very soon a boat was lowered.

Edna's heart beat rapidly and her face flushed as, with Ralph's
spy-glass to her eyes, she scanned the people in the boat as it pulled
away from the ship.

"Can you make out the captain?" cried Ralph, at her side.

She shook her head, and handed him the glass. For full five minutes the
boy peered through it, and then he lowered the glass.

"Edna," said he, "he isn't in it."

"What!" exclaimed Mrs. Cliff, "do you mean to say that the captain is not
in that boat?"

"I am sure of it," said Ralph. "And if he isn't in the boat, of course he
is not on the ship. Perhaps he did not have anything to do with that
vessel's coming here. It may have been tacking in this direction, and so
come near enough for people to see my signal."

"Don't suppose things," said Edna, a little sharply. "Wait until the boat
comes in, and then we will know all about it.--Here, Cheditafa," said
she, "you and Mok go out into the water and help run that boat ashore as
soon as it is near enough."

It was a large boat containing five men, and when it had been run up on
the sand, and its occupants had stepped out, the man at the tiller, who
proved to be the second mate of the bark, came forward and touched his
hat. As he did so, no sensible person could have imagined that he had
accidentally discovered them. His manner plainly showed that he had
expected to find them there. The conviction that this was so made the
blood run cold in Edna's veins. Why had not the captain come himself?

The man in command of the boat advanced toward the two ladies, looking
from one to the other as he did so. Then, taking a letter from the
pocket of his jacket, he presented it to Edna.

"Mrs. Horn, I believe," he said. "Here is a letter from your husband."

Now, it so happened that to Mrs. Cliff, to Edna, and to Ralph this
recognition of matrimonial status seemed to possess more force and value
than the marriage ceremony itself.

Edna's face grew as red as roses as she took the letter.

"From my husband," she said; and then, without further remark, she
stepped aside to read it.

But Mrs. Cliff and Ralph could not wait for the reading of the letter.
They closed upon the mate, and, each speaking at the same moment,
demanded of him what had happened to Captain Horn, why he had not come
himself, where he was now, was this ship to take them away, and a dozen
similar questions. The good mariner smiled at their impatience, but could
not wonder at it, and proceeded to tell them all he knew about Captain
Horn and his plans.

The captain, he said, had arrived at Callao some time since, and
immediately endeavored to get a vessel in which to go after the party
he had left, but was unable to do so. There was nothing in port which
answered his purpose. The captain seemed to be very particular about
the craft in which he would be willing to trust his wife and the rest
of the party.

"And after having seen Mrs. Horn," the mate politely added, "and you two,
I don't wonder he was particular. When Captain Horn found that the bark
out there, the Mary Bartlett, would sail in a week for Acapulco, Mexico,
he induced the agents of the company owning her to allow her to stop to
take off the shipwrecked party and carry them to that port, from which
they could easily get to the United States."

"But why, in the name of common sense," almost screamed Mrs. Cliff,
"didn't he come himself? Why should he stay behind, and send a ship to
take us off?"

"That, madam," said the mate, "I do not know. I have met Captain Horn
before, for he is well known on this coast, and I know he is a man who
understands how to attend to his own business, and, therefore, I suppose
he has good reasons for what he has done--which reasons, no doubt, he has
mentioned in his letter to his wife. All I can tell you is that, after he
had had a good deal of trouble with the agents, we were at last ordered
to touch here. He could not give us the exact latitude and longitude of
this spot, but as his boat kept on a straight westward course after he
left here, he got a good idea of the latitude from the Mexican brig which
he boarded three days afterwards. Then he gave us a plan of the coast,
which helped us very much, and soon after we got within sight of land,
our lookout spied that signal you put up. So here we are; and I have
orders to take you all off just as soon as possible, for we must not lie
here a minute longer than is necessary. I do not suppose that, under the
circumstances, you have much baggage to take away with you, and I shall
have to ask you to get ready to leave as soon as you can."

"All right," cried Ralph. "It won't take us long to get ready."

But Mrs. Cliff answered never a word. In fact, the injunction to
prepare to leave had fallen unheeded upon her ear. Her mind was
completely occupied entirely with one question: Why did not the captain
come himself?

She hastened to Edna, who had finished reading the letter, and now stood
silent, holding it in her hand.

"What does he say?" exclaimed Mrs. Cliff. "What are his reasons for
staying away? What does he tell you about his plans? Read us the letter.
You can leave out all the loving and confidential parts, but give us his
explanations. I never was so anxious to know anything in all my life."

"I will read you the whole of it," said Edna. "Here, Ralph."

Her brother came running up. "That man is in an awful hurry to get away,"
he said. "We ought to go up to the caves and get our things."

"Stay just where you are," said Mrs. Cliff. "Before we do anything
else, we must know what Captain Horn intends to do, and what he wants
us to do."

"That's so!" cried Ralph, suddenly remembering his guardianship. "We
ought to know what he says about leaving that mound. Read away, Edna."

The three stood at some little distance from the sailors, who were now
talking with Cheditafa, and Edna read the letter aloud:

"Lima, May 14, 1884.

"MY DEAR WIFE: I reached this city about ten days ago. When I left you
all I did not sail down the coast, but stood directly out to sea. My
object was to reach a shipping-port, and to do this my best plan was to
get into the track of coasting-vessels. This plan worked well, and in
three days we were picked up by a Mexican guano brig, and were taken to
Callao, which is the port of Lima. We all arrived in good health and
condition.

"This letter will be brought to you by the bark Mary Bartlett, which
vessel I have engaged to stop for you, and take you and the whole party
to Acapulco, which is the port of the City of Mexico, from which place I
advise you to go as soon as possible to San Francisco. I have paid the
passage of all of you to Acapulco, and I inclose a draft for one thousand
dollars for your expenses. I would advise you to go to the Palmetto
Hotel, which is a good family house, and I will write to you there and
send another draft. In fact, I expect you will find my letter when you
arrive, for the mail-steamer will probably reach San Francisco before you
do. Please write to me as soon as you get there, and address me here,
care of Nasco, Parmley & Co."

An exclamation of impatience here escaped from Mrs. Cliff. In her
opinion, the reasons for the non-appearance of the captain should, have
been the first thing in the letter.

"When I reached Lima, which is six miles from Callao," the letter
continued, "I disposed of some of the property I brought with me, and
expect to sell it all before long. Being known as a Californian, I find
no difficulty in disposing of my property, which is in demand here, and
in a very short time I shall have turned the whole of it into drafts or
cash. There is a vessel expected here shortly which I shall be able to
charter, and as soon as I can do so I shall sail in her to attend to the
disposition of the rest of my property. I shall write as frequently as
possible, and keep you informed of my operations.

"Of course, you understand that I could not go on the Mary Bartlett to
join you and accompany you to Acapulco, for that would have involved too
great a loss of time. My business must be attended to without delay, and
I can get the vessel I want here.

"The people of the _Mary Bartlett_ will not want to wait any longer than
can be helped, so you would all better get your baggage together as soon
as possible and go on board. The two negroes will bring down your
baggage, so there will be no need for any of the sailors to go up to the
caves. Tell Ralph not to forget the charge I gave him if they do go up.
When you have taken away your clothes, you can leave just as they are the
cooking-utensils, the blankets, and _everything else._ I will write to
you much more fully by mail. Cannot do so now. I hope you may all have a
quick and safe voyage, and that I may hear from you immediately after you
reach Acapulco. I hope most earnestly that you have all kept well, and
that no misfortune has happened to any of you. I shall wait with anxiety
your letter from Acapulco. Let Ralph write and make his report. I will
ask you to stay in San Francisco until more letters have passed and plans
are arranged. Until further notice, please give Mrs. Cliff one fourth of
all moneys I send. I cannot insist, of course, upon her staying in San
Francisco, but I would advise her to do so until things are more settled.

"In haste, your husband,

"Philip Horn."

"Upon my word!" ejaculated Mrs. Cliff, "a most remarkable letter! It
might have been written to a clerk! No one would suppose it the first
letter of a man to his bride! Excuse me, Edna, for speaking so plainly,
but I must say I am shocked. He is very particular to call you his wife
and say he is your husband, and in that way he makes the letter a
valuable piece of testimony if he never turns up, but--well, no matter."

"He is mighty careful," said Ralph, "not to say anything about the gold.
He speaks of his property as if it might be Panama stock or something
like that. He is awfully wary."

"You see," said Edna, speaking in a low voice, "this letter was sent by
private hands, and by people who were coming to the spot where his
property is, and, of course, it would not do to say anything that would
give any hint of the treasure here. When he writes by mail, he can speak
more plainly."

"I hope he may speak more plainly in another way," said Mrs. Cliff. "And
now let us go up and get our things together. I am a good deal more
amazed by the letter than I was by the ship."




CHAPTER XIX

LEFT BEHIND


"Ralph," said Edna, as they were hurrying up to the caves, "you must do
everything you can to keep those sailors from wandering into the lake
basin. They are very different from the negroes, and will want to explore
every part of it."

"Oh, I have thought of all that," said Ralph, "and I am now going to run
ahead and smash the lantern. They won't be so likely to go poking around
in the dark."

"But they may have candles or matches," said Edna. "We must try to keep
them out of the big cave."

Ralph did not stop to answer, but ran as fast as his legs would carry him
to the plateau. The rest of the party followed, Edna first, then the
negroes, and after them Mrs. Cliff, who could not imagine why Edna should
be in such a hurry. The sailors, having secured their boat, came
straggling after the rest.

When Edna reached the entrance to the caves, she was met by her brother,
so much out of breath that he could hardly speak.

"You needn't go to your room to get your things," he exclaimed. "I have
gathered them all up, your bag, too, and I have tumbled them over the
wall in the entrance back here. You must get over as quick as you can.
That will be your room now, and I will tell the sailors, if they go
poking around, that you are in there getting ready to leave, and then, of
course, they can't pass along the passage."

"That is a fine idea," said Edna, as she followed him. "You are getting
very sharp-witted, Ralph."

"Now, then," said he, as he helped her over the wall, "take just as long
as you can to get your things ready."

"It can't take me very long," said Edna. "I have no clothes to change,
and only a few things to put in my bag. I don't believe you have got them
all, anyway."

"But you must make it take a long time," said he. "You must not get
through until every sailor has gone. You and I must be the last ones to
leave the caves."

"All right," said Edna, as she disappeared behind the wall.

When Mrs. Cliff arrived, she was met by Ralph, who explained the state of
affairs, and although that lady was a good deal annoyed at the scattered
condition in which she found her effects, she accepted the situation.

The mate and his men were much interested in the caves and the great
stone face, and, as might have been expected, every one of them wanted to
know where the narrow passage led. But as Ralph was on hand to inform
them that it was the entrance to Mrs. Horn's apartment, they could do no
more than look along its dusky length, and perhaps wonder why Mrs. Horn
should have selected a cave which must be dark, when there were others
which were well lighted.

Mrs. Cliff was soon ready, and explained to the inquiring mate her
notion that these caves were used for religious purposes, and that
the stone face was an ancient idol. In fact, the good lady believed
this, but she did not state that she thought it likely that the
sculptured countenance was a sort of a cashier idol, whose duty it
was to protect treasure.

Edna, behind the stone barrier, had put her things in her bag, though she
was not sure she had found all of them in the gloom, and she waited a
long time, so it seemed to her, for Ralph's summons to come forth. But
although the boy came to the wall several times, ostensibly to ask if she
were not ready, yet he really told her to stay where she was, for the
sailors were not yet gone. But at last he came with the welcome news that
every one had departed, and they soon came out into the daylight.

"If anything is lost, charge it to me," said Ralph to Mrs. Cliff and his
sister, as they hurried away. "I can tell you, if I had not thought of
that way of keeping those sailors out of the passage, they would have
swarmed over that lake bed, each one of them with a box of matches in his
pocket; and if they had found that mound, I wouldn't give two cents for
the gold they would have left in it. It wouldn't have been of any use to
tell them it was the captain's property. They would have been there, and
he wasn't, and I expect the mate would have been as bad as any of them."

"You are a good fellow, Ralph," said Mrs. Cliff, "and I hope you will
grow up to be an administrator, or something of the kind. I don't
suppose there was ever another boy in the world who had so much wealth
in charge."

"You can't imagine," exclaimed Ralph, "how I hate to go away and leave
it! There is no knowing when the captain will get here, nor who will drop
in on the place before he does. I tell you, Edna, I believe it would be a
good plan for me to stay here with those two black fellows, and wait for
the captain. You two could go on the ship, and write to him. I am sure he
would be glad to know I am keeping guard here, and I don't know any
better fun than to be on hand when he unearths the treasure. There's no
knowing what is at the bottom of that mound."

"Nonsense!" exclaimed Edna. "You can put that idea out of your head
instantly. I would not think of going away and leaving you here. If the
captain had wanted you to stay, he would have said so."

"If the captain wanted!" sarcastically exclaimed Ralph. "I am tired of
hearing what the captain wants. I hope the time will soon come when those
yellow bars of gold will be divided up, and then I can do what I like
without considering what he likes."

Mrs. Cliff could not help a sigh. "Dear me!" said she, "I do most
earnestly hope that time may come. But we are leaving it all behind us,
and whether we will ever hear of it again nobody knows."

One hour after this Edna and Mrs. Cliff were standing on the deck of the
Mary Bartlett, watching the plateau of the great stone face as it slowly
sank into the horizon.

"Edna," said the elder lady, "I have liked you ever since I have known
you, and I expect to like you as long as I live, but I must say that, for
an intelligent person, you have the most colorless character I have ever
seen. Whatever comes to pass, you receive it as quietly and calmly as if
it were just what you expected and what you happened to want, and yet, as
long as I have known you, you have not had anything you wanted."

"You are mistaken there," said Edna. "I have got something I want."

"And what may that be?" asked the other.

"Captain Horn," said Edna.

Mrs. Cliff laughed a little scornfully. "If you are ever going to get any
color out of your possession of him," she said, "he's got to very much
change the style of his letter-writing. He has given you his name and
some of his money, and may give you more, but I must say I am very much
disappointed in Captain Horn."

Edna turned suddenly upon her companion. "Color!" she exclaimed, but she
did not finish her remark, for Ralph came running aft.

"A queer thing has happened," said he: "a sailor is missing, and he is
one of the men who went on shore for us. They don't know what's become of
him, for the mate is sure he brought all his men back with him, and so am
I, for I counted them to see that there were no stragglers left, and all
the people who were in that boat came on board. They think he may have
fallen overboard after the ship sailed, but nobody heard a splash."

"Poor fellow!" exclaimed Mrs. Cliff, "and he was one of those who came
to save us!"

At this moment a wet and bedraggled sailor, almost exhausted with a swim
of nearly a mile, staggered upon the beach, and fell down upon the sand
near the spot from which the Mary Bartlett's boat had recently been
pushed off. When, an hour before, he had slipped down the side of the
ship, he had swum under water as long as his breath held out, and had
dived again as soon as he had filled his lungs. Then he had floated on
his back, paddling along with little but his face above the surface of
the waves, until he had thought it safe to turn over and strike out for
land. It had been a long pull, and the surf had treated him badly, but he
was safe on shore at last, and in a few minutes he was sound asleep,
stretched upon the sand.

Toward the end of the afternoon he awoke and rose to his feet. The warm
sand, the desiccating air, and the sun had dried his clothes, and his nap
had refreshed him. He was a sharp-faced, quick-eyed man, a Scotchman, and
the first thing he did was to shade his face with his hands and look out
over the sea. Then he turned, with a shrug of his shoulders and a grunt.

"She's gone," said he, "and I will be up to them caves." After a dozen
steps he gave another shrug. "Humph!" said he, "those fools! Do they
think everybody is blind? They left victuals, they left cooking-things.
Blasted careful they were to leave matches and candles in a tin box. I
watched them. If everybody else was blind, I kenned they expected
somebody was comin' back. That captain, that blasted captain, I'll wager!
Wi' sae much business on his hands, he couldna sail wi' us to show us
where his wife was stranded!"

For fifty yards more he plodded along, looking from side to side at the
rocks and sand.

"A dreary place and lonely," thought he, "and I can peer out things at me
ease. I'll find out what's at the end o' that dark alley. They were so
fearsome that we'd go into her room. Her room, indeed! When the other
woman had a big lighted cave! They expected somebody to come back, did
they? Well, blast their eyes, he's here!"




CHAPTER XX

AT THE RACKBIRDS' COVE


It was about six weeks after the _Mary Bartlett_ had sailed away from
that desolate spot on the coast of Peru from which she had taken the
shipwrecked party, that the great stone face might have seen, if its
wide-open eyes had been capable of vision, a small schooner beating in
toward shore. This vessel, which was manned by a Chilian captain, a
mate, and four men, and was a somewhat dirty and altogether disagreeable
craft, carried Captain Horn, his four negroes, and three hundred and
thirty bags of guano.

In good truth the captain was coming back to get the gold, or as much of
it as he could take away with him. But his apparent purpose was to
establish on this desert coast a depot for which he would have nothing to
pay for rent and storage, and where he would be able to deposit, from
time to time, such guano as he had been able to purchase at a bargain at
two of the guano islands, until he should have enough to make it worth
while for a large vessel, trading with the United States or Mexico, to
touch here and take on board his accumulated stock of odorous
merchandise.

It would be difficult--in fact, almost impossible--to land a cargo at
the point near the caves where the captain and his party first ran their
boats ashore, nor did the captain in the least desire to establish his
depot at a point so dangerously near the golden object of his
undertaking. But the little bay which had been the harbor of the
Rackbirds exactly suited his purpose, and here it was that he intended to
land his bags of guano. He had brought with him on the vessel suitable
timber with which to build a small pier, and he carried also a lighter,
or a big scow, in which the cargo would be conveyed from the anchored
schooner to the pier.

It seemed quite evident that the captain intended to establish himself in
a somewhat permanent manner as a trader in guano. He had a small tent and
a good stock of provisions, and, from the way he went to work and set his
men to work, it was easy to see that he had thoroughly planned and
arranged all the details of his enterprise.

It was nearly dark when the schooner dropped her anchor, and early the
next morning all available hands were set to work to build the pier, and,
when it was finished, the landing of the cargo was immediately begun.
Some of the sailors wandered about a little, when they had odd moments to
spare, but they had seen such dreary coasts before, and would rather rest
than ramble. But wherever they did happen to go, not one of them ever got
away from the eye of Captain Horn.

The negroes evinced no desire to visit the cave, and Maka had been
ordered by the captain to say nothing about it to the sailors. There was
no difficulty in obeying this order, for these rough fellows, as much
landsmen as mariners, had a great contempt for the black men, and had
little to do with them. As Captain Horn informed Maka, he had heard from
his friends, who had arrived in safety at Acapulco; therefore there was
no need for wasting time in visiting their old habitation.

In that dry and rainless region a roof to cover the captain's stock in
trade was not necessary, and the bags were placed upon a level spot on
the sands, in long double rows, each bag on end, gently leaning
against its opposite neighbor, and between the double rows there was
room to walk.

The Chilian captain was greatly pleased with this arrangement. "I see
well," said he, in bad Spanish, "that this business is not new to you. A
ship's crew can land and carry away these bags without tumbling over each
other. It is a grand thing to have a storehouse with a floor as wide as
many acres."

A portion of the bags, however, were arranged in a different manner. They
were placed in a circle two bags deep, inclosing a space about ten feet
in diameter. This, Captain Horn explained, he intended as a sort of
little fort, in which the man left in charge could defend himself and the
property, in case marauders should land upon the coast.

"You don't intend," exclaimed the Chilian captain, "that you will leave a
guard here! Nobody would have cause to come near the spot from either
land or sea, and you might well leave your guano here for a year or more,
and come back and find it."

"No," said Captain Horn, "I can't trust to that. A coasting-vessel might
put in here for water. Some of them may know that there is a stream
here, and with this convenient pier, and a cargo ready to their hands, my
guano would be in danger. No, sir. I intend to send you off to-morrow, if
the wind is favorable, for the second cargo for which we have contracted,
and I shall stay here and guard my warehouse."

"What!" exclaimed the Chilian, "alone?"

"Why not?" said Captain Horn. "Our force is small, and we can only spare
one man. In loading the schooner on this trip, I would be the least
useful man on board, and, besides, do you think there is any one among
you who would volunteer to stay here instead of me?"

The Chilian laughed and shook his head. "But what can one man do," said
he, "to defend all this, if there should be need?"

"Oh, I don't intend to defend it," said the other. "The point is to have
somebody here to claim it in case a coaster should touch here. I don't
expect to be murdered for the sake of a lot of guano. But I shall keep my
two rifles and other arms inside that little fort, and if I should see
any signs of rascality I shall jump inside and talk over the guano-bags,
and I am a good shot."

The Chilian shrugged his shoulders. "If I stayed here alone," said he, "I
should be afraid of nothing but the devil, and I am sure he would come to
me, with all his angels. But you are different from me."

"Yes," said Captain Horn, "I don't mind the devil. I have often camped
out by myself, and I have not seen him yet."

When Maka heard that the captain intended staying alone, he was greatly
disturbed. If the captain had not built the little fort with the
guano-bags, he would have begged to be allowed to remain with him, but
those defensive works had greatly alarmed him, for they made him believe
that the captain feared that some of the Rackbirds might come back. He
had had a great deal of talk with the other negroes about those bandits,
and he was fully impressed with their capacity for atrocity. It grieved
his soul to think that the captain would stay here alone, but the captain
was a man who could defend himself against half a dozen Rackbirds, while
he knew very well that he would not be a match for half a one. With tears
in his eyes, he begged Captain Horn not to stay, for Rackbirds would not
steal guano, even if any of them should return.

But his entreaties were of no avail. Captain Horn explained the matter to
him, and tried to make him understand that it was as a claimant, more
than as a defender of his property, that he remained, and that there was
not the smallest reason to suspect any Rackbirds or other source of
danger. The negro saw that the captain had made up his mind, and
mournfully joined his fellows. In half an hour, however, he came back to
the captain and offered to stay with him until the schooner should
return. If Captain Horn had known the terrible mental struggle which had
preceded this offer, he would have been more grateful to Maka than he had
ever yet been to any human being, but he did not know it, and declined
the proposition pleasantly but firmly.

"You are wanted on the schooner," said he, "for none of the rest can
cook, and you are not wanted here, so you must go with the others; and
when you come back with the second load of guano, it will not be long
before the ship which I have engaged to take away the guano will touch
here, and then we will all go north together."

Maka smiled, and tried to be satisfied. He and the other negroes had been
greatly grieved that the captain had not seen fit to go north from
Callao, and take them with him. Their one desire was to get away from
this region, so full of horrors to them, as soon as possible. But they
had come to the conclusion that, as the captain had lost his ship, he
must be poor, and that it was necessary for him to make a little money
before he returned to the land of his home.

Fortune was on the captain's side the next day, for the wind was
favorable, and the captain of the schooner was very willing to start. If
that crew, with nothing to do, had been compelled by adverse weather to
remain in that little cove for a day or more, it might have been very
difficult indeed for Captain Horn to prevent them from wandering into the
surrounding country, and what might have happened had they chanced to
wander into the cave made the captain shudder to conjecture.

He had carefully considered this danger, and on the voyage he had made
several plans by which he could keep the men at work, in case they were
obliged to remain in the cove after the cargo had been landed. Happily,
however, none of these schemes was necessary, and the next day, with a
western wind, and at the beginning of the ebb-tide, the schooner sailed
away for another island where Captain Horn had purchased guano, leaving
him alone upon the sandy beach, apparently as calm and cool as usual, but
actually filled with turbulent delight at seeing them depart.




CHAPTER XXI

IN THE GATES


When the topmasts of the Chilian schooner had disappeared below the
horizon line, with no reason to suppose that the schooner would put back
again, Captain Horn started for the caves. Had he obeyed his instincts,
he would have begun to stroll along the beach as soon as the vessel had
weighed anchor. But even now, as he hurried on, he walked prudently,
keeping close to the water, so that the surf might wash out his footsteps
as fast as he made them. He climbed over the two ridges to the north of
Rackbirds' Cove, and then made his way along the stretch of sand which
extended to the spot where the party had landed when he first reached
this coast. He stopped and looked about him, and then, in fancy, he saw
Edna standing upon the beach, her face pale, her eyes large and
supernaturally dark, and behind her Mrs. Cliff and the boy and the two
negroes. Not until this moment had he felt that he was alone. But now
there came a great desire to speak and be spoken to, and yet that very
morning he had spoken and listened as much as had suited him.

As he walked up the rising ground toward the caves, that ground he had
traversed so often when this place had been, to all intents and purposes,
his home, where there had been voices and movement and life, the sense of
desertion grew upon him--not only desertion of the place, but of himself.
When he had opened his eyes, that morning, his overpowering desire had
been that not an hour of daylight should pass before he should be left
alone, and yet now his heart sank at the feeling that he was here and no
one was with him.

When the captain had approached within a few yards of the great stone
face, his brows were slowly knitted.

"This is carelessness," he said to himself. "I did not expect it of
them. I told them to leave the utensils, but I did not suppose that
they would leave them outside. No matter how much they were hurried in
going away, they should have put these things into the caves. A passing
Indian might have been afraid to go into that dark hole, but to leave
those tin things there is the same as hanging out a sign to show that
people lived inside."

Instantly the captain gathered up the tin pan and tin plates, and looked
about him to see if there was anything else which should be put out of
sight. He did find something else. It was a little, short, black, wooden
pipe which was lying on a stone. He picked it up in surprise. Neither
Maka nor Cheditafa smoked, and it could not have belonged to the boy.

"Perhaps," thought the captain, "one of the sailors from the _Mary
Bartlett_ may have left it. Yes, that must have been the case. But
sailors do not often leave their pipes behind them, nor should the
officer in charge have allowed them to lounge about and smoke. But it
must have been one of those sailors who left it here. I am glad I am the
one to find these things."

The captain now entered the opening to the caves. Passing along until he
reached the room which he had once occupied, there he saw his rough
pallet on the ground, drawn close to the door, however.

The captain knew that the rest of his party had gone away in a great
hurry, but to his orderly mariner's mind it seemed strange that they
should have left things in such disorder.

He could not stop to consider these trifles now, however, and going to
the end of the passage, he climbed over the low wall and entered the cave
of the lake. When he lighted the lantern he had brought with him, he saw
it as he had left it, dry, or even drier than before, for the few pools
which had remained after the main body of water had run off had
disappeared, probably evaporated. He hurried on toward the mound in the
distant recess of the cave. On the way, his foot struck something which
rattled, and holding down his lantern to see what it was, he perceived an
old tin cup.

"Confound it!" he exclaimed. "This is too careless! Did the boy intend to
make a regular trail from the outside entrance to the mound? I suppose he
brought that cup here to dip up water, and forgot it. I must take it with
me when I go back."

He went on, throwing the light of the lantern on the ground before him,
for he had now reached a part of the cave which was entirely dark.
Suddenly something on the ground attracted his attention. It was
bright--it shone as if it were a little pale flame of a candle. He
sprang toward it, he picked it up. It was one of the bars of gold he had
seen in the mound.

"Could I have dropped this?" he ejaculated. He slipped the little bar
into his pocket, and then, his heart beginning to beat rapidly, he
advanced, with his lantern close to the rocky floor. Presently he saw two
other pieces of gold, and then, a little farther on, the end of a candle,
so small that it could scarcely have been held by the fingers. He picked
up this and stared at it. It was a commonplace candle-end, but the sight
of it sent a chill through him from head to foot. It must have been
dropped by some one who could hold it no longer.

He pressed on, his light still sweeping the floor. He found no more gold
nor pieces of candle, but here and there he perceived the ends of burnt
wooden matches. Going on, he found more matches, two or three with the
heads broken off and unburnt. In a few moments the mound loomed up out of
the darkness like a spectral dome, and, looking no more upon the ground,
the captain ran toward it. By means of the stony projections he quickly
mounted to the top, and there the sight he saw almost made him drop his
lantern. The great lid of the mound had been moved and was now awry,
leaving about one half of the opening exposed.

In one great gasp the captain's breath seemed to leave him, but he was a
man of strong nerves, and quickly recovered himself; but even then he did
not lift his lantern so that he could look into the interior of the
mound. For a few moments he shut his eyes. He did not dare even to look.
But then his courage came back, and holding his lantern over the opening,
he gazed down into the mound, and it seemed to his rapid glance that
there was as much gold in it as when he last saw it.

The discovery that the treasure was still there had almost as much effect
upon the captain as if he had found the mound empty. He grew so faint
that he felt he could not maintain his hold upon the top of the mound,
and quickly descended, half sliding, to the bottom. There he sat down,
his lantern by his side. When his strength came back to him,--and he
could not have told any one how long it was before this happened,--the
first thing he did was to feel for his box of matches, and finding them
safe in his waistcoat pocket, he extinguished the lantern. He must not be
discovered, if there should be any one to discover him.

Now the captain began to think as fiercely and rapidly as a man's mind
could be made to work. Some one had been there. Some one had taken away
gold from that mound--how much or how little, it did not matter. Some one
besides himself had had access to the treasure!

His suspicions fell upon Ralph, chiefly because his most earnest desire
at that moment was that Ralph might be the offender. If he could have
believed that he would have been happy. It must have been that the boy
was not willing to go away and leave all that gold, feeling that perhaps
he and his sister might never possess any of it, and that just before
leaving he had made a hurried visit to the mound. But the more the
captain thought of this, the less probable it became. He was almost sure
that Ralph could not have lifted that great mass of stone which formed
the lid covering the opening of the mound, for it had required all his
own strength to do it; and then, if anything of this sort had really
happened, the letters he had received from Edna and the boy must have
been most carefully written with the intention to deceive him.

[Illustration: Holding his lantern over the opening he gazed down into
the mound.]

The letter from Edna, which in tone and style was a close imitation of
his own to her, had been a strictly business communication. It told
everything which happened after the arrival of the Mary Bartlett, and
gave him no reason to suppose that any one could have had a chance to
pillage the mound. Ralph's letter had been even more definite. It was
constructed like an official report, and when the captain had read it, he
had thought that the boy had probably taken great pride in its
preparation. It was as guardian of the treasure mound that Ralph wrote,
and his remarks were almost entirely confined to this important trust.

He briefly reported to the captain that, since his departure, no one had
been in the recess of the cave where the mound was situated, and he
described in detail the plan by which he had established Edna behind the
wall in the passage, so as to prevent any of the sailors from the ship
from making explorations. He also stated that everything had been left in
as high a condition of safety as it was possible to leave it, but that,
if his sister had been willing, he would most certainly have remained
behind, with the two negroes, until the captain's return.

Much as he wished to think otherwise, Captain Horn could not prevail upon
himself to believe that Ralph could have written such a letter after a
dishonorable and reckless visit to the mound.

It was possible that one or both of the negroes had discovered the
mound, but it was difficult to believe that they would have dared to
venture into that awful cavern, even if the vigilance of Edna, Mrs.
Cliff, and the boy had given them an opportunity, and Edna had written
that the two men had always slept outside the caves, and had had no call
to enter them. Furthermore, if Cheditafa had found the treasure, why
should he keep it a secret? He would most probably have considered it an
original discovery, and would have spoken of it to the others. Why
should he be willing that they should all go away and leave so much
wealth behind them? The chief danger, in case Cheditafa had found the
treasure, was that he would talk about it in Mexico or the United
States. But, in spite of the hazards to which such disclosures might
expose his fortunes, the captain would have preferred that the black men
should have been pilferers than that other men should have been
discoverers. But who else could have discovered it? Who could have been
there? Who could have gone away?

There was but one reasonable supposition, and that was that one or more
of the Rackbirds, who had been away from their camp at the time when
their fellow-miscreants were swept away by the flood, had come back, and
in searching for their comrades, or some traces of them, had made their
way to the caves. It was quite possible, and further it was quite
probable, that the man or men who had found that mound might still be
here or in the neighborhood. As soon as this idea came into the mind of
the captain, he prepared for action. This was a question which must be
resolved if he could do it, and without loss of time. Lighting his
lantern,--for in that black darkness it was impossible for him to find
his way without it, although it might make him a mark for some concealed
foe,--the captain quickly made his way out of the lake cavern, and,
leaving his lantern near the little wall, he proceeded, with a loaded
pistol in his hand, to make an examination of the caves which he and his
party had occupied.

He had already looked into the first compartment, but stopping at the
pallet which lay almost at the passage of the doorway, he stood and
regarded it. Then he stepped over it, and looked around the little
room. The pallet of blankets and rugs which Ralph had used was not
there. Then the captain stepped into the next room, and, to his
surprise, he found this as bare of everything as if it had never been
used as a sleeping-apartment. He now hurried back to the first room,
and examined the pallet, which, when he had first been looking at it,
he had thought to be somewhat different from what it had been when he
had used it. He now found that it was composed of all the rugs and
blankets which had previously made up the beds of all the party. The
captain ground his teeth.

"There can be no doubt of it," he said. "Some one has been here since
they left, and has slept in these caves."

At this moment he remembered the innermost cave, the large compartment
which was roofless, and which, in his excitement, he had forgotten.
Perhaps the man who slept on the pallet was in there at this minute. How
reckless he had been! To what danger he had exposed himself! With his
pistol cocked, the captain advanced cautiously toward the innermost
compartment. Putting his head in at the doorway, he glanced up, down, and
around. He called out, "Who's here?" and then he entered, and looked
around, and behind each of the massive pieces of rock with which the
floor was strewn. No one answered, and he saw no one. But he saw
something which made him stare.

On the ground, at one side of the entrance to this compartment, were five
or six pieces of rock about a foot high, placed in a small circle so that
their tops came near enough together to support a tin kettle which was
resting upon them. Under the kettle, in the centre of the rocks, was a
pile of burnt leaves and sticks.

"Here he has cooked his meals," said the captain--for the pallet made up
of all the others had convinced him that it had been one man who had been
here after his party had left. "He stayed long enough to cook his meals
and sleep," thought the captain. "I'll look into this provision
business." Passing through the other rooms, he went to a deep niche in
the wall of the entrance passage where his party had kept their stores,
and where Edna had written him they had left provisions enough for the
immediate use of himself and the men who should return. Here he found tin
cans tumbled about at the bottom of the niche, and every one of them
absolutely empty. On a little ledge stood a tin box in which they had
kept the matches and candles. The box was open, but there was nothing in
it. On the floor near by was a tin biscuit-box, crushed nearly flat, as
if some one had stamped upon it.

"He has eaten everything that was left," said the captain, "and he has
been starved out. Very likely, too, he got out of water, for, of
course, those pools would dry up, and it is not likely he found the
stream outside."

Now the captain let down the hammer of his revolver, and put it in his
belt. He felt sure that the man was not here. Being out of provisions, he
had to go away, but where he had gone to was useless to conjecture. Of
another thing the captain was now convinced: the intruder had not been a
Rackbird, for, while waiting for the disappearance of the Chilian
schooner, he had gone over to the concealed storehouse of the bandits,
and had found it just as he had left it on his last visit, with a
considerable quantity of stores remaining in it. If the man had known of
the Rackbirds' camp and this storehouse, it would not have been necessary
for him to consume every crumb and vestige of food which had been left in
these caves.

"No," said the captain, "it could not have been a Rackbird, but who he
was, and where he has gone, is beyond my comprehension."




CHAPTER XXII

A PACK-MULE


When Captain Horn felt quite sure that it was not Ralph, that it was not
Cheditafa, that it was not a Rackbird, who had visited the treasure
mound, he stood and reflected. What had happened was a great
misfortune,--possibly it was a great danger,--but it was no use standing
there thinking about it. His reason could not help him; it had done for
him all that it could, and it would be foolish to waste time in looking
for the man, for it was plain enough that he had gone away. Of course, he
had taken some gold with him, but that did not matter much. The danger
was that he or others might come back for more, but this could not be
prevented, and it was needless to consider it. The captain had come to
this deserted shore for a purpose, and it was his duty, without loss of
time, to go to work and carry out that purpose. If in any way he should
be interfered with, he would meet that interference as well as he could,
but until it came he would go on with his work. Having come to this
conclusion, he got over the wall, lighted his lantern, and proceeded to
the mound.

On his way he passed the tin cup, which he had forgotten to pick up, but
now he merely kicked it out of the way. "If the man comes back," he
thought, "he knows the way. There is no need of concealing anything."

When the captain had reached the top of the mound, he moved the stone lid
so that the aperture was entirely uncovered. Then he looked down upon the
mass of dull yellow bars. He could not perceive any apparent diminution
of their numbers.

"He must have filled his pockets," the captain thought, "and so full that
some of them dropped out. Well, let him go, and if he ventures back here,
we shall have it out between us. In the meantime, I will do what I can."

The captain now took from the pocket of his jacket two small canvas bags,
which he had had made for this purpose, and proceeded to fill one of them
with the gold bars, lifting the bag, every now and then, to try its
weight. When he thought it heavy enough, he tied up the end very firmly,
and then packed the other, as nearly as possible, to the same extent.
Then he got down, and laying one of the bags over each shoulder, he
walked about to see if he could easily bear their weight.

"That is about right," he said to himself. "I will count them when I take
them out." Then, putting them down, he went up for his lantern. He was
about to close the lid of the mound, but he reflected that this would be
of no use. It had been open nobody knew how long, and might as well
remain so. He was coming back as often as he could, and it would be a tax
upon his strength to lift that heavy lid every time. So he left the
treasures of the Incas open to the air under the black roof of the
cavern, and, with his lantern in his hand and a bag of gold on each
shoulder, he left the cave of the lake, and then, concealing his lantern,
he walked down to the sea.

Before he reached it he had thoroughly scanned the ocean, but not a sign
of a ship could be seen. Walking along the sands, and keeping, as
before, close to the curving line of water thrown up by the surf, he
said to himself:

"I must have my eyes and ears open, but I am not going to be nervous or
fidgety. I came here to be a pack-mule, and I intend to be a pack-mule
until something stops me, and if that something is one man, he can look
out for himself."

The bags were heavy and their contents were rough and galling to the
shoulders, but the captain was strong and his muscles were tough, and as
he walked he planned a pair of cushions which he would wear under his
golden epaulets in his future marches.

When the captain had covered the two miles of beach and climbed the two
rocky ridges, and reached his tent, it was long after noon, and throwing
his two bags on the ground and covering them with a blanket, he proceeded
to prepare his dinner. He laid out a complete working-plan, and one of
the rules he had made was that, if possible, nothing should interfere
with his regular meals and hours of sleep. The work he had set for
himself was arduous in the extreme, and calculated to tax his energies to
the utmost, and he must take very good care of his health and strength.
In thinking over the matter, he had feared that the greed of gold might
possess him, and that, in his anxiety to carry away as much as he could,
he might break down, and everything be lost.

Even now he found himself calculating how much gold he had brought away
in the two bags, and what would be its value in coined money, multiplying
and estimating with his food untouched and his eyes fixed on the distant
sea. Suddenly he clenched his fist and struck it on his knee.

"I must stop this," he said. "I shall be upset if I don't. I will not
count the bars in those bags. I will not make any more estimates. A rough
guess now and then I cannot help, but what I have to do is to bring away
all the gold I can. It will be time enough to find out what it is worth
when it is safe somewhere in North America."

When the captain had finished his meal, he went to his tent, and opened
one of the trunks which he had brought with him, and which were supposed
to contain the clothes and personal effects he had bought in Lima. This
trunk, however, was entirely filled with rolls of cheap cotton cloth,
coarse and strong, but not heavy. With a pair of shears he proceeded to
cut from one of these some pieces, rather more than a foot square. Then,
taking from his canvas bags as many of the gold bars as he thought would
weigh twelve or fifteen pounds, trying not to count them as he did so, he
made a little package of them, tying the corners of the cloth together
with a strong cord. When five of these bundles had been prepared, his
gold was exhausted, and then he carried the small bundles out to the
guano-bags.

He had bought his guano in bulk, and it had been put into bags under his
own supervision, for it was only in bags that the ship which was to take
it north would receive it. The bags were new and good, and Captain Horn
believed that each of them could be made twelve or fifteen pounds heavier
without attracting the attention of those who might have to lift them,
for they were very heavy as it was.

He now opened a bag of guano, and thrusting a stick down into its
contents, he twisted it about until he had made a cavity which enabled
him, with a little trouble, to thrust one of the packages of gold down
into the centre of the bag. Then he pressed the guano down firmly, and
sewed up the bag again, being provided with needles and an abundance of
necessary cord. When this was done, the bag containing the gold did not
differ in appearance from the others, and the captain again assured
himself that the additional weight would not be noticed by a common
stevedore, especially if all the bags were about the same weight. At this
thought he stopped work and looked out toward the sea, his mind
involuntarily leaping out toward calculations based upon the happy chance
of his being able to load all the bags; but he checked himself. "Stop
that," he said. "Go to work!"

Five guano-bags were packed, each with its bundle of gold, but the task
was a disagreeable, almost a distressing, one, for the strong ammoniacal
odor sometimes almost overpowered the captain, who had a great dislike
for such smells. But he never drew back, except now and then to turn his
head and take a breath of purer air. He was trying to make his fortune,
and when men are doing that, their likes and dislikes must stand aside.

When this task was finished, the captain took up his two empty canvas
bags and went back to the caves, returning late in the afternoon, loaded
rather more heavily than before. From the experiences of the morning, he
believed that, with some folded pieces of cloth on each shoulder, he
could carry without discomfort a greater weight than his first ones. The
gold he now brought was made up into six bundles, and then the captain
rested from his labors. He felt that he could do a much better day's work
than this, but this day had been very much broken up, and he was still
somewhat awkward.

Day after day Captain Horn labored at his new occupation, and a toilsome
occupation it was, which no one who did not possess great powers of
endurance, and great hopes from the results of his work, could have
undergone. In about a month the schooner was to be expected with another
load of guano, and the captain felt that he must, if possible, finish his
task before she came back. In a few days he found that, by practice and
improvements in his system of work, he was able to make four trips a day
between the cove of the Rackbirds and the caves. He rose very early in
the morning, and made two trips before dinner. Sometimes he thought he
might do more, but he restrained himself. It would not do for him to get
back too tired to sleep.

During this time in which his body was so actively employed, his mind was
almost as active, and went out on all sorts of excursions, some of them
beneficial and some of them otherwise. Sometimes the thought came to him,
as he plodded along bearing his heavy bags, that he was no more than a
common thief, carrying away treasures which did not belong to him. Then,
of course, he began to reason away these uncomfortable reflections. If
this treasure did not belong to him, to whom did it belong? Certainly not
to the descendants of those Spaniards from whom the original owners had
striven so hard to conceal it. If the spirits of the Incas could speak,
they would certainly declare in his favor over that of the children of
the men who, in blood and torture, had obliterated them and their
institutions. Sometimes such arguments entirely satisfied the captain;
but if they did not entirely satisfy him, he put the whole matter aside,
to be decided upon after he should safely reach the United States with
such treasure as he might be able to take with him.

"Then," he thought, "we can do what we think is right. I shall listen to
all that may be said by our party, and shall act justly. But what I do
not take away with me has no chance whatever of ever falling into the
proper hands."

But no matter how he might terminate such reflections, the captain always
blamed himself for allowing his mind to occupy itself with them. He had
fully decided that this treasure belonged to him, and there was no real
reason for his thinking of such things, except that he had no one to talk
to, and in such cases a man's thoughts are apt to run wild.

Often and often he wondered what the others were thinking about this
affair, and whether or not they would all be able to keep the secret
until he returned. He was somewhat afraid of Mrs. Cliff. He believed her
to be an honorable woman who would not break her word, but still he did
not know all her ideas in regard to her duty. She might think there was
some one to whom she ought to confide what had happened, and what was
expected to happen, and if she should do this, there was no reason why
he should not, some day, descry a ship in the offing with
treasure-hunters on board.

Ralph gave him no concern at all, except that he was young, and the
captain could foretell the weather much better than the probable actions
of a youth.

But these passing anxieties never amounted to suspicions. It was far
better to believe in Mrs. Cliff and Ralph, and he would do it; and every
time he thought of the two, he determined to believe in them. As to Edna,
there was no question about believing in her. He did so without
consideration for or against belief.

The captain did not like his solitary life. How happy he would have been
if they could all have remained here; if the guano could have been
brought without the crew of the schooner knowing that there were people
in the caves; if the negroes could have carried the bags of gold; if
every night, after having superintended their labors, he could have gone
back to the caves, which, with the comforts he could have brought from
Lima, would have made a very habitable home; if--But these were
reflections which were always doomed to banishment as soon as the captain
became aware of the enthralment of their charm, and sturdily onward,
endeavoring to fix his mind upon some better sailor's knot with which to
tie up his bundles, or to plant his feet where his tracks would soon be
obliterated by the incoming waves, the strong man trudged, bearing
bravely the burden of his golden hopes.




CHAPTER XXIII

HIS PRESENT SHARE


With four trips a day from the caves to the cove, taking time for rests,
for regular meals, and for sleep, and not working on Sundays,--for he
kept a diary and an account of days,--the captain succeeded in a little
over three weeks in loading his bags of guano, each with a package of
golden bars, some of which must have weighed as much as fifteen pounds.

When this work had been accomplished, he began to consider the return of
the schooner. But he had no reason to expect her yet, and he determined
to continue his work. Each day he brought eight canvas bags of gold from
the caves, and making them up into small bundles, he buried them in the
sand under his tent. When a full month had elapsed since the departure
of the schooner, he began to be very prudent, keeping a careful lookout
seaward, as he walked the beach, and never entering the caves without
mounting a high point of the rocks and thoroughly scanning the ocean.
If, when bearing his burden of gold, he should have seen a sail, he
would have instantly stopped and buried his bags in the sand, wherever
he might be.

Day after day passed, and larger and larger grew the treasure stored in
the sands under the tent, but no sail appeared. Sometimes the captain
could not prevent evil fancies coming to him. What if the ship should
never come back? What if no vessel should touch here for a year or two?
And why should a vessel ever touch? When the provisions he had brought
and those left in the Rackbirds' storehouse had been exhausted, what
could he do but lie down here and perish?--another victim added to the
millions who had already perished from the thirst of gold. He thought of
his little party in San Francisco. They surely would send in search of
him, if he did not appear in a reasonable time. But he felt this hope
was a vain one. In a letter to Edna, written from Lima, he had told her
she must not expect to hear from him for a long time, for, while he was
doing the work he contemplated, it would be impossible for him to
communicate with her.

She would have no reason to suppose that he would start on such an
expedition without making due arrangements for safety and support, and
so would hesitate long before she would commission a vessel to touch
at this point in search of him. If he should starve here, he would die
months before any reasonable person, who knew as much of his affairs
as did Edna, would think the time had arrived to send a relief
expedition for him.

But he did not starve. Ten days overdue, at last the Chilian
schooner appeared and anchored in the cove. She had now no white men
on board but the captain and his mate, for the negroes had improved
so much in seamanship that the economical captain had dispensed with
his Chilian crew.

Captain Horn was delighted to be able to speak again to a fellow-being,
and it pleased him far better to see Maka than any of the others.

"You no eat 'nough, cap'n," said the black man, as he anxiously scanned
the countenance of Captain Horn, which, although the captain was in
better physical condition than perhaps he had ever been in his life, was
thinner than when Maka had seen it last. "When I cook for you, you not so
long face," the negro continued. "Didn't us leave you 'nough to eat? Did
you eat 'em raw?"

The captain laughed. "I have had plenty to eat," he said, "and I never
felt better. If I had not taken exercise, you would have found me as fat
as a porpoise."

The interview with the Chilian captain was not so cordial, for Captain
Horn found that the Chilian had not brought him a full cargo of bags of
guano, and, by searching questions, he discovered that this was due
entirely to unnecessary delay in beginning to load the vessel. The
Chilian declared he would have taken on board all the guano which
Captain Horn had purchased at the smaller island, had he not begun to
fear that Captain Horn would suffer if he did not soon return to him,
and when he thought it was not safe to wait any longer, he had sailed
with a partial cargo.

Captain Horn was very angry, for every bag of guano properly packed with
gold bars meant, at a rough estimate, between two and three thousand
dollars if it safely reached a gold-market, and now he found himself with
at least one hundred bags less than he had expected to pack. There was no
time to repair this loss, for the English vessel, the _Finland,_ from
Callao to Acapulco, which the captain had engaged to stop at this point
on her next voyage northward, might be expected in two or three weeks,
certainly sooner than the Chilian could get back to the guano island and
return. In fact, there was barely time for that vessel to reach Callao
before the departure of the _Finland_, on board of which the captain
wished his negroes to be placed, that they might go home with him.

"If I had any men to work my vessel," said the Chilian, who had grown
surly in consequence of the fault-finding, "I'd leave your negroes here,
and cut loose from the whole business. I've had enough of it."

"That serves you right for discharging your own men in order that you
might work your vessel with mine," said Captain Horn. He had intended to
insist that the negroes should ship again with the Chilian, but he knew
that it would be more difficult to find reasons for this than on the
previous voyage, and he was really more than glad to find that the matter
had thus arranged itself.

Talking with Captain Horn, the Chilian mate, who had had no
responsibility in this affair, and who was, consequently, not out of
humor, proposed that he should go back with them, and take the English
vessel at Callao.

"I can't risk it," said Captain Horn. "If your schooner should meet
with head winds or any other bad luck, and the _Finland_ should leave
before I got there, there would be a pretty kettle of fish, and if she
touched here and found no one in charge, I don't believe she would take
away a bag."

"Do you think they will be sure to touch here?" asked the mate. "Have
they got the latitude and longitude? It didn't seem so bad before to
leave you behind, because we were coming back, but now it strikes me it
is rather a risky piece of business for you."

"No," said Captain Horn. "I am acquainted with the skipper of the
_Finland,_ and I left a letter for him telling him exactly how the matter
stood, and he knows that I trust him to pick me up. I do not suppose he
will expect to find me here all alone, but if he gives me the slip, I
would be just as likely to starve to death if I had some men with me as
if I were alone. The _Finland_ will stop--I am sure of that."

With every reason for the schooner's reaching Callao as soon as possible,
and very little reason, considering the uncordial relations of the two
captains, for remaining in the cove, the Chilian set sail the morning
after he had discharged his unsavory cargo. Maka had begged harder than
before to be allowed to remain with Captain Horn, but the latter had made
him understand, as well as he could, the absolute necessity of the
schooner reaching Callao in good time, and the absolute impossibility of
any vessel doing anything in good time without a cook. Therefore, after a
personal inspection of the stores left behind, both in the tent and in
the Rackbirds' storehouse, which latter place he visited with great
secrecy, Maka, with a sad heart, was obliged to leave the only real
friend he had on earth.

When, early the next morning, Captain Horn began to pack the newly
arrived bags with the bundles of gold which he had buried in the sand, he
found that the bags were not at all in the condition of those the
filling of which he had supervised himself. Some of these were more
heavily filled than others, and many were badly fastened up. This, of
course, necessitated a good deal of extra work, but the captain sadly
thought that probably he would have more time than he needed to do all
that was necessary to get this second cargo into fair condition for
transportation. He had checked off his little bundles as he had buried
them, and there were nearly enough to fill all the bags. In fact, he had
to make but three more trips in order to finish the business.

When the work was done, and everything was ready for the arrival of the
_Finland_, the captain felt that he had good reason to curse the
conscienceless Chilian whose laziness or carelessness had not only caused
him the loss of perhaps a quarter of a million of dollars, but had given
him days--how many he could not know--with nothing to do; and which of
these two evils might prove the worse, the captain could not readily
determine.

As Captain Horn walked up and down the long double rows of bags which
contained what he hoped would become his fortune, he could not prevent a
feeling of resentful disappointment when he thought of the small
proportion borne by the gold in these bags to the treasure yet remaining
in the mound. On his last visit to the mound he had carefully examined
its interior, and although, of course, there was a great diminution in
its contents, there was no reason to believe that the cavity of the mound
did not extend downward to the floor of the cave, and that it remained
packed with gold bars to the depth of several feet. It seemed silly,
crazy, in fact, almost wicked, for him to sail away in the _Finland_ and
leave all that gold behind, and yet, how could he possibly take away any
more of it?

He had with him a trunk nearly empty, in which he might pack some
blankets and other stuff with some bags of gold stowed away between them,
but more than fifty pounds added to the weight of the trunk and its
contents would make it suspiciously heavy, and what was fifty pounds out
of that vast mass? But although he puzzled his brains for the greater
part of a day, trying to devise some method by which he could take away
more gold without exciting the suspicions of the people on board the
English vessel, there was no plan that entered his mind that did not
contain elements of danger, and the danger was an appalling one. If the
crew of the _Finland_, or the crew of any other vessel, should, on this
desert coast, get scent of a treasure mound of gold ingots, he might as
well attempt to reason with wild beasts as to try to make them understand
that that treasure belonged to him. If he could get away with any of it,
or even with his life, he ought to be thankful.

The captain was a man who, since he had come to an age of maturity, had
been in the habit of turning his mind this way and that as he would turn
the helm of his vessel, and of holding it to the course he had
determined upon, no matter how strong the wind or wave, how dense the
fog, or how black the night. But never had he stood to his helm as he
now stood to a resolve.

"I will bring away a couple of bags," said he, "to put in my trunk, and
then, I swear to myself, I will not think another minute about carrying
away any more of that gold than what is packed in these guano-bags. If I
can ever come back, I will come back, but what I have to do now is to get
away with what I have already taken out of the mound, and also to get
away with sound reason and steady nerves."

The next day there was not a sail on the far horizon, and the captain
brought away two bags of gold. These, with some clothes, he packed in his
empty trunk.

"Now," said he, "this is my present share. If I permit myself to think of
taking another bar, I shall be committing a crime."




CHAPTER XXIV

HIS FORTUNE UNDER HIS FEET


Notwithstanding the fact that the captain had, for the present, closed
his account with the treasure in the lake cave, and had determined not to
give another thought to further drafts upon it, he could not prevent all
sorts of vague and fragmentary plans for getting more of the gold from
thrusting themselves upon him; but his hand was strong upon the tiller of
his mind, and his course did not change a point. He now began to consider
in what condition he should leave the caves. Once he thought he would go
there and take away everything which might indicate that the caves had
been inhabited, but this notion he discarded.

"There are a good many people," he thought, "who know that we lived
there, and if that man who was there afterwards should come back, I would
prefer that he should not notice any changes, unless, indeed,"--and his
eyes glistened as a thought darted into his mind,--"unless, indeed, he
should find a lake where he left a dry cave. Good! I'll try it."

With his hands in his pockets, the captain stood a few moments and
thought, and then he went to work. From the useless little vessel which,
had belonged to the Rackbirds he gathered some bits of old rope, and
having cut these into short pieces, he proceeded to pick them into what
sailors call oakum.

Early the next morning, his two canvas bags filled with this, he started
for the caves. When he reached the top of the mound, and was just about
to hold his lantern so as to take a final glance into its interior, he
suddenly turned away his head and shut his eyes.

"No," he said. "If I do that, it is ten to one I'll jump inside, and what
might happen next nobody knows."

He put the lantern aside, lifted the great lid into its place, and
then, with a hammer and a little chisel which he had brought with him
from the tools which had been used for the building of the pier, he
packed the crevices about the lid with oakum. With a mariner's skill he
worked, and when his job was finished, it would have been difficult for
a drop of water to have found its way into the dome, no matter if it
rose high above it.

It was like leaving behind a kingdom and a throne, the command of armies
and vast navies, the domination of power, of human happenings; but he
came away.

When he reached the portion of the cave near the great gap which opened
to the sky opposite the entrance to the outer caves, the captain walked
across the dry floor to the place where was situated the outlet through
which the waters of the lake had poured out into the Rackbirds' valley.

The machine which controlled this outlet was situated under the
overhanging ledge of the cave, and was in darkness, so that the captain
was obliged to use his lantern. He soon found the great lever which he
had clutched when he had swum to the rescue of Ralph, and which had gone
down with him and so opened the valve and permitted egress of the water,
and which now lay with its ten feet or more of length horizontally near
the ground. Near by was the great pipe, with its circular blackness
leading into the depths below.

"That stream outside," said the captain, "must run in here somewhere,
although I cannot see nor hear it, and it must be stopped off by this
valve or another one connected with it, so that if I can get this lever
up again, I should shut it off from the stream outside and turn it in
here. Then, if that fellow comes back, he will have to swim to the
mound, and run a good chance of getting drowned if he does it, and if
anybody else comes here, I think it will be as safe as the ancient
Peruvians once made it."

With this he took hold of the great lever and attempted to raise it. But
he found the operation a very difficult one. The massive bar was of
metal, but probably not iron, and although it was not likely that it had
rusted, it was very hard to move in its socket. The captain's weight had
brought it down easily, but this weight could not now be applied, and he
could only attempt to lift it.

When it had first been raised, it was likely that a dozen slaves had
seized it and forced it into an upright position. The captain pushed up
bravely, and, a few inches at a time, he elevated the end of the great
lever. Frequently he stopped to rest, and it was over an hour before the
bar stood up as it had been when first he felt it under the water.

When this was done, he went into the other caves, looked about to see
that everything was in the condition in which he had found it, and that
he had left nothing behind him during his many visits. When he was
satisfied on these points, he went back to the lake cave to see if any
water had run in. He found everything as dry as when he had left it, nor
could he hear any sound of running or dripping water. Considering the
matter, however, he concluded that there might be some sort of an outside
reservoir which must probably fill up before the water ran into the cave,
and so he came away.

"I will give it time," he thought, "and come back to-morrow to see if it
is flooded."

That night, as he lay on his little pallet, looking through the open
front of his tent at the utter darkness of the night, the idea struck him
that it was strange that he was not afraid to stay here alone. He was a
brave man,--he knew that very well,--and yet it seemed odd to him that,
under the circumstances, he should have so little fear. But his reason
soon gave him a good answer. He had known times when he had been very
much afraid, and among these stood preeminent the time when he had
expected an attack from the Rackbirds. But then his fear was for others.
When he was by himself it was a different matter. It was not often that
he did not feel able to take care of his own safety. If there were any
danger now, it was in the daytime, when some stray Rackbirds might come
back, or the pilferer of the mound might return with companions. But if
any such came, he had his little fort, two pistols, and a repeating
rifle. At night he felt absolutely safe. There was no danger that could
come by land or sea through the blackness of the night.

Suddenly he sat up. His forehead was moist with perspiration. A shiver
ran through him, not of cold, but of fear. Never in his life had he been
so thoroughly frightened; never before had he felt his hands and legs
tremble. Involuntarily he rose and stood up in the tent. He was
terrified, not by anything real, but by the thought of what might happen
if that lake cave should fill up with water, and if the ancient valves,
perhaps weakened by his moving them backward and forward, should give way
under the great pressure, and, for a second time, a torrent of water
should come pouring down the Rackbirds' ravine!

As the captain trembled with fear, it was not for himself, for he could
listen for the sound of the rushing waters, and could dash away to the
higher ground behind him; but it was for his treasure-bags, his fortune,
his future! His soul quaked. His first impulse was to rush out and carry
every bag to higher ground. But this idea was absurd. The night was too
dark, and the bags too heavy and too many. Then he thought of hurrying
away to the caves to see if the lake had risen high enough to be
dangerous. But what could he do if it had? In his excitement, he could
not stand still and do nothing. He took hold of one end of his trunk and
pulled it out of his tent, and, stumbling and floundering over the
inequalities of the ground, he at last got it to a place which he
supposed would be out of reach of a sudden flood, and the difficulties of
this little piece of work assured him of the utter futility of
attempting to move the bags in the darkness. He had a lantern, but that
would be of little service on such a night and for such a work.

He went back into his tent, and tried to prevail upon himself that he
ought to go to sleep--that it was ridiculous to beset himself with
imaginary dangers, and to suffer from them as much as if they had been
real ones. But such reasoning was vain, and he sat up or walked about
near his tent all night, listening and listening, and trying to think of
the best thing to do if he should hear a coming flood.

As soon as it was light, he hurried to the caves, and when he reached the
old bed of the lake, he found there was not a drop of water in it.

"The thing doesn't work!" he cried joyfully. "Fool that I am, I might
have known that although a man might open a valve two or three
centuries old, he should not expect to shut it up again. I suppose I
smashed it utterly."

His revulsion of feeling was so great that he began to laugh at his own
absurdity, and then he laughed at his merriment.

"If any one should see me now," he thought, "they would surely think I
had gone crazy over my wealth. Well, there is no danger from a flood,
but, to make all things more than safe, I will pull down this handle, if
it will come. Anyway, I do not want it seen."

The great bar came down much easier than it had gone up, moving, in fact,
the captain thought, as if some of its detachments were broken, and when
it was down as far as it would go, he came away.

"Now," said he, "I have done with this cave for this trip. If possible, I
shall think of it no more."

When he was getting some water from the stream to make some coffee for
his breakfast, he stopped and clenched his fist. "I am more of a fool
than I thought I was," he said. "This solitary business is not good for
me. If I had thought last night of coming here to see if this little
stream were still running, and kept its height, I need not have troubled
myself about the lake in the cave. Of course, if the water were running
into the caves, it would not be running here until the lake had filled.
And, besides, it would take days for that great lake to fill. Well, I am
glad that nobody but myself knows what an idiot I have been."

When he had finished his breakfast, Captain Horn went to work. There was
to be no more thinking, no more plans, no more fanciful anxieties, no
more hopes of doing something better than he had done. Work he would, and
when one thing was done, he would find another. The first thing he set
about was the improvement of the pier which had been built for the
landing of the guano. There was a good deal of timber left unused, and he
drove down new piles, nailed on new planking, and extended the little
pier considerably farther into the waters of the cove. When this was
done, he went to work on the lighter, which was leaky, and bailed it out,
and calked the seams, taking plenty of time, and doing his work in the
most thorough manner. He determined that after this was done, and he
could find nothing better to do, he would split up the little vessel
which the Rackbirds had left rudderless, mastless, and useless, and make
kindling-wood of it.

But this was not necessary. He had barely finished his work on the
lighter, when, one evening, he saw against the sun-lighted sky the
topmasts of a vessel, and the next morning the _Finland_ lay anchored off
the cove, and two boats came ashore, out of one of which Maka was the
first to jump.

In five hours the guano had been transferred to the ship, and, twenty
minutes later, the _Finland_, with Captain Horn on board, had set sail
for Acapulco. The captain might have been better pleased if his
destination had been San Francisco, but, after all, it is doubtful if
there could have been a man who was better pleased. He walked the deck of
a good ship with a fellow-mariner with whom he could talk as much as he
pleased, and under his feet were the bags containing the thousands of
little bars for which he had worked so hard.




CHAPTER XXV

AT THE PALMETTO HOTEL


For about four months the persons who made up what might be considered as
Captain Horn's adopted family had resided in the Palmetto Hotel, in San
Francisco. At the time we look upon them, however, Mrs. Cliff was not
with them, having left San Francisco some weeks previously.

Edna was now a very different being from the young woman she had been.
Her face was smoother and fuller, and her eyes seemed to have gained a
richer brown. The dark masses of her hair appeared to have wonderfully
grown and thickened, but this was due to the loose fashion in which it
was coiled upon her head, and it would have been impossible for any one
who had known her before not to perceive that she was greatly changed.
The lines upon her forehead, which had come, not from age, but from
earnest purpose and necessity of action, together with a certain
intensity of expression which would naturally come to a young woman who
had to make her way in the world, not only for herself, but for her young
brother, and a seriousness born of some doubts, some anxieties, and some
ambiguous hopes, had all entirely disappeared as if they had been
morning mists rolling away from a summer landscape. Under the rays of a
sun of fortune, shining, indeed, but mildly, she had ripened into a
physical beauty which was her own by right of birth, but of which a few
more years of struggling responsibility would have forever deprived her.

After the receipt of her second remittance, Edna and her party had taken
the best apartments in the hotel. The captain had requested this, for he
did not know how long they might remain there, and he wanted them to have
every comfort. He had sent them as much money as he could spare from the
sale, in Lima, of the gold he had carried with him when lie first left
the caves, but his expenses in hiring ships and buying guano were heavy.
Edna, however, had received frequent remittances while the captain was at
the Rackbirds' cove, through an agent in San Francisco. These, she
supposed, came from further sales of gold, but, in fact, they had come
from the sale of investments which the captain had made in the course of
his fairly successful maritime career. In his last letter from Lima he
had urged them all to live well on what he sent them, considering it as
their share of the first division of the treasure in the mound. If his
intended projects should succeed, the fortunes of all of them would be
reconstructed upon a new basis as solid and as grand as any of them had
ever had reason to hope for. But if he should fail, they, the party in
San Francisco, would be as well off, or, perhaps, better circumstanced
than when they had started for Valparaiso. He did not mention the fact
that he himself would be poorer, for he had lost the _Castor_, in which
he was part-owner, and had invested nearly all his share of the proceeds
of the sale of the gold in ship hire, guano purchases, and other
necessary expenses.

Edna was waiting in San Francisco to know what would be the next scene in
the new drama of her life. Captain Horn had written before he sailed from
Lima in the Chilian schooner for the guano islands and the Rackbirds'
cove, and he had, to some extent, described his plans for carrying away
treasure from the mound; but since that she had not heard from him until
about ten days before, when he wrote from Acapulco, where he had arrived
in safety with his bags of guano and their auriferous enrichments. He had
written in high spirits, and had sent her a draft on San Francisco so
large in amount that it had fairly startled her, for he wrote that he had
merely disposed of some of the gold he had brought in his baggage, and
had not yet done anything with that contained in the guano-bags. He had
hired a storehouse, as if he were going regularly into business, and from
which he would dispose of his stock of guano after he had restored it to
its original condition. To do all this, and to convert the gold into
negotiable bank deposits or money, would require time, prudence, and even
diplomacy. He had already sold in the City of Mexico as much of the gold
from his trunk as he could offer without giving rise to too many
questions, and if he had not been known as a California trader, he might
have found some difficulties even in that comparatively small
transaction.

The captain had written that to do all he had to do he would be obliged
to remain in Acapulco or the City of Mexico--how long he could not tell,
for much of the treasure might have to be shipped to the United States,
and his plans for all this business were not yet arranged.

Before this letter had been received, Mrs. Cliff had believed it to be
undesirable to remain longer in San Francisco, and had gone to her home
in a little town in Maine. With Edna and Ralph, she had waited and waited
and waited, but at last had decided that Captain Horn was dead. In her
mind, she had allowed him all the time that she thought was necessary to
go to the caves, get gold, and come to San Francisco, and as that time
had long elapsed, she had finally given him up as lost. She knew the
captain was a brave man and an able sailor, but the adventure he had
undertaken was strange and full of unknown perils, and if it should so
happen that she should hear that he had gone to the bottom in a small
boat overloaded with gold, she would not have been at all surprised.

Of course, she said nothing of these suspicions to Edna or Ralph, nor did
she intend ever to mention them to any one. If Edna, who in so strange a
way had been made a wife, should, in some manner perhaps equally
extraordinary, be made a widow, she would come back to her, she would do
everything she could to comfort her; but now she did not seem to be
needed in San Francisco, and her New England home called to her through
the many voices of her friends. As to the business which had taken Mrs.
Cliff to South America, that must now be postponed, but it could not but
be a satisfaction to her that she was going back with perhaps as much
money as she would have had if her affairs in Valparaiso had been
satisfactorily settled.

Edna and Ralph had come to be looked upon at the Palmetto Hotel as
persons of distinction. They lived quietly, but they lived well, and
their payments were always prompt. They were the wife and brother-in-law
of Captain Philip Horn, who was known to be a successful man, and who
might be a rich one. But what seemed more than anything else to
distinguish them from the ordinary hotel guests was the fact that they
were attended by two personal servants, who, although, of course, they
could not be slaves, seemed to be bound to them as if they had been born
into their service.

Cheditafa, in a highly respectable suit of clothes which might have been
a cross between the habiliments of a Methodist minister and those of a
butler, was a person of imposing aspect. Mrs. Cliff had insisted, when
his new clothes were ordered, that there should be something in them
which should indicate the clergyman, for the time might come when it
would be necessary that he should be known in this character; and the
butler element was added because it would harmonize in a degree with his
duties as Edna's private attendant. The old negro, with his sober face,
and woolly hair slightly touched with gray, was fully aware of the
importance of his position as body-servant to Mrs. Horn, but his sense of
the responsibility of that position far exceeded any other sentiments of
which his mind was capable. Perhaps it was the fact that he had made Edna
Mrs. Horn which gave him the feeling that he must never cease to watch
over her and to serve her in every possible way. Had the hotel taken
fire, he would have rushed through the flames to save her. Had robbers
attacked her, they must have taken his life before they took her purse.
When she drove out in the city or suburbs, he always sat by the side of
the driver, and when she walked in the streets, he followed her at a
respectful distance.

Proud as he was of the fact that he had been the officiating clergyman at
the wedding of Captain Horn and this grand lady, he had never mentioned
the matter to any one, for many times, and particularly just before she
left San Francisco, Mrs. Cliff had told him, in her most impressive
manner, that if he informed any one that he had married Captain Horn and
Miss Markham, great trouble would come of it. What sort of trouble, it
was not necessary to explain to him, but she was very earnest in assuring
him that the marriage of a Christian by a heathen was something which was
looked upon with great disfavor in this country, and unless Cheditafa
could prove that he had a perfect right to perform the ceremony, it might
be bad for him. When Captain Horn had settled his business affairs and
should come back, everything would be made all right, and nobody need
feel any more fear, but until then he must not speak of what he had done.

If Captain Horn should never come back, Mrs. Cliff thought that Edna
would then be truly his widow, and his letters would prove it, but that
she was really his wife until the two had marched off together to a
regular clergyman, the good lady could not entirely admit. Her position
was not logical, but she rested herself firmly upon it.

The other negro, Mok, could speak no more English than when we first met
him, but he could understand some things which were said to him, and was
very quick, indeed, to catch the meanings of signs, motions, and
expressions of countenance. At first Edna did not know what to do with
this negro, but Ralph solved the question by taking him as a valet, and
day by day he became more useful to the youth, who often declared that he
did not know how he used to get along without a valet. Mok was very fond
of fine clothes, and Ralph liked to see him smartly dressed, and he
frequently appeared of more importance than Cheditafa. He was devoted to
his young master, and was so willing to serve him that Ralph often found
great difficulty in finding him something to do.

Edna and Ralph had a private table, at which Cheditafa and Mok assisted
in waiting, and Mrs. Cliff had taught both of them how to dust and keep
rooms in order. Sometimes Ralph sent Mok to a circulating library. Having
once been shown the place, and made to understand that he must deliver
there the piece of paper and the books to be returned, he attended to the
business as intelligently as if he had been a trained dog, and brought
back the new books with a pride as great as if he had selected them. The
fact that Mok was an absolute foreigner, having no knowledge whatever of
English, and that he was possessed of an extraordinary activity, which
enabled him, if the gate of the back yard of the hotel happened to be
locked, to go over the eight-foot fence with the agility of a monkey, had
a great effect in protecting him from impositions by other servants.
When a black negro cannot speak English, but can bound like an
india-rubber ball, it may not be safe to trifle with him. As for trifling
with Cheditafa, no one would think of such a thing; his grave and
reverend aspect was his most effectual protection.

As to Ralph, he had altered in appearance almost as much as his sister.
His apparel no longer indicated the boy, and as he was tall and large for
his years, the fashionable suit he wore, his gay scarf with its sparkling
pin, and his brightly polished boots, did not appear out of place upon
him. But Edna often declared that she had thought him a great deal
better-looking in the scanty, well-worn, but more graceful garments in
which he had disported himself on the sands of Peru.




CHAPTER XXVI

THE CAPTAIN'S LETTER


On a sofa in her well-furnished parlor reclined Edna, and on a table near
by lay several sheets of closely written letter-paper. She had been
reading, and now she was thinking--thinking very intently, which in these
days was an unusual occupation with her. During her residence in San
Francisco she had lived quietly but cheerfully. She had supplied herself
abundantly with books, she had visited theatres and concerts, she had
driven around the city, she had taken water excursions, she had visited
interesting places in the neighborhood, and she had wandered among the
shops, purchasing, in moderation, things that pleased her. For company
she had relied chiefly on her own little party, although there had been
calls from persons who knew Captain Horn. Some of these people were
interesting, and some were not, but they all went away thinking that the
captain was a wonderfully fortunate man.

One thing which used to be a pleasure to Edna she refrained from
altogether, and that was the making of plans. She had put her past life
entirely behind her. She was beginning a new existence--what sort of an
existence she could not tell, but she was now living with the
determinate purpose of getting the greatest good out of her life,
whatever it might be.

Already she had had much, but in every respect her good fortunes were but
preliminary to something else. Her marriage was but the raising of the
curtain--the play had not yet begun. The money she was spending was but
an earnest of something more expected. Her newly developed physical
beauty, which she could not fail to appreciate, would fade away again,
did it not continue to be nourished by that which gave it birth. But what
she had, she had, and that she would enjoy. When Captain Horn should
return, she would know what would happen next. This could not be a
repetition of the life she was leading at the Palmetto Hotel, but
whatever the new life might be, she would get from it all that it might
contain for her. She did not in the least doubt the captain's return, for
she believed in him so thoroughly that she felt--she knew--he would come
back and tell her of his failure or his success, and what she was to do
next. But now she was thinking. She could not help it, for her tranquil
mind had been ruffled.

Her cogitations were interrupted by the entrance of Ralph.

"I say, Edna," said he, throwing himself into an easy-chair, and placing
his hat upon another near by, "was that a returned manuscript that
Cheditafa brought you this morning? You haven't been writing for the
magazines, have you?"

"That was a letter from Captain Horn," she said.

"Whew!" he exclaimed. "It must be a whopper! What does he say? When is he
coming here? Give me some of the points of it. But, by the way, Edna,
before you begin, I will say that I think it is about time he should
write. Since the letter in which he told about the guano-bags and sent
you that lot of money--let me see, how long ago was that?"

"It was ten days ago," said his sister.

"Is that so? I thought it was longer than that. But no matter. Since that
letter came, I have been completely upset. I want to know what I am to
do, and, whatever I am to do, I want to get at it. From what the captain
wrote, and from what I remember of the size and weight of those gold
bars, he must have got away with more than a million dollars--perhaps a
million and a half. Now, what part of that is mine? What am I to do with
it? When am I to begin to prepare myself for the life I am to lead when I
get it? All this I want to know, and, more than that, I want to know what
you are going to do. Now, if I had got to Acapulco, or any other
civilized spot, with a million dollars in solid gold, it would not have
been ten days before I should have written to my family,--for I suppose
that is what we are,--and should have told them what I was going to do,
and how much they might count on. But I hope now that letter does tell?"

"The best thing to do," said Edna, taking up the letter from the table,
"is to read it to you. But before I begin I want to say something, and
that is that it is very wrong of you to get into these habits of
calculating about what may come to you. What is to come will come, and
you might as well wait for it without upsetting your mind by all sorts of
wild anticipations; and, besides this, you must remember that you are
not of age, and that I am your guardian, and whatever fortune may now
come to you will be under my charge until you are twenty-one."

"Oh, I don't care about that," said Ralph. "We will have no trouble
about agreeing what is the best thing for me to do. But now go ahead
with the letter."

"'I am going to tell you'" (at the beginning of the second paragraph)
"'of a very strange thing which happened to me since I last wrote. I will
first state that after my guano-bags had all been safely stored in the
warerooms I have hired, I had a heavy piece of work getting the packages
of gold out of the bags, and in packing the bars in small, stout boxes I
found in the City of Mexico and had sent down here. In looking around for
boxes which would suit my purpose, I discovered these, which had been
used for stereotype plates. They were stamped on the outside, and just
what I wanted, being about as heavy after I packed them with gold as they
were when they were filled with type-metal. This packing I had to do
principally at night, when I was supposed to be working in a little
office attached to the rooms. As soon as this was done, I sent all the
boxes to a safe-deposit bank in Mexico, and there the greater part of
them are yet. Some I have shipped to the mint in San Francisco, some have
gone North, and I am getting rid of the rest as fast as I can.

"'The gold bars, cast in a form novel to all dealers, have excited a good
deal of surprise and questioning, but for this I care very little. My
main object is to get the gold separated as many miles as possible from
the guano, for if the two should be connected in the mind of any one who
knew where the guano was last shipped from, I might have cause for
anxiety. But as the bars bear no sort of mark to indicate that they were
cast by ancient Peruvians, and, so far as I can remember,--and I have
visited several museums in South America,--these castings are not like
any others that have come down to us from the times of the Incas, the
gold must have been cast in this simple form merely for convenience in
transportation and packing. Some people may think it is California gold,
some may think it comes from South America, but, whatever they think,
they know it is pure gold, and they have no right to doubt that it
belongs to me. Of course, if I were a stranger it might be different, but
wherever I have dealt I am known, or I send a good reference. And now I
will come to the point of this letter.

"'Three days ago I was in my office, waiting to see a man to whom I hoped
to sell my stock of guano, when a man came in,--but not the one I
expected to see,--and if a ghost had appeared before me, I could not have
been more surprised. I do not know whether or not you remember the two
American sailors who were the first to go out prospecting, after Mr.
Rynders and his men left us, and who did not return. This man was one of
them--Edward Shirley by name.'"

"I remember him perfectly!" cried Ralph. "And the other fellow was George
Burke. On board the _Castor_ I used to talk to them more than to any of
the other sailors."

"'But astonished as I was,'" Edna went on to read, "'Shirley did not seem
at all surprised, but came forward and shook hands most heartily. He said
he had read in a newspaper that I had been rescued, and was doing
business in Acapulco, and he had come down on purpose to find me. I told
him how we had given up him and his mate for lost, and then, as he had
read a very slim account of our adventures, I told him the whole story,
taking great care, as you may guess, not to say anything about the
treasure mound. He did not ask any questions as to why I did not come
back with the rest of you, but was greatly troubled when he heard of the
murders of every man of our crew except himself and Burke and Maka.

"'When I had finished, he told me his story, which I will condense as
much as possible. When he and Burke started out, they first began to
make their way along the slope of the rocky ridge which ended in our
caves, but they found this very hard work, so they soon went down to the
sandy country to the north. Here they shot some little beast or other,
and while they were hunting another one, up hill and down dale, they
found night was coming on, and they were afraid to retrace their steps
for fear they might come to trouble in the darkness. So they ate what
they had with them, and camped, and the next morning the mountains to the
east seemed to be so near them that they thought it much easier to push
on instead of coming back to us. They thought that when they got to the
fertile country they would find a settlement, and then they might be able
to do something for the rest of the party, and it would be much wiser to
go ahead than to turn back. But they found themselves greatly mistaken.
Mountains in the distance, seen over a plain, appear very much nearer
than they are, and these two poor fellows walked and walked, until they
were pretty nearly dead. The story is a long one as Shirley told it to
me, but just as they were about giving up entirely, they were found by a
little party of natives, who had seen them from a long distance and had
come to them.

"'After a great deal of trouble,--I believe they had to carry Burke a
good part of the way,--the natives got them to their huts at the foot of
the mountains, and took care of them. These people told Shirley--he knows
a little Spanish--that it was a piece of rare good luck that they found
them, for it was very seldom they went so far out into the desert.

"'In a day or two the two men went on to a little village in the
mountains, and there they tried to get up an expedition to come to our
assistance. They knew that we had food enough to last for a week or two,
but after that we must be starved out. But nobody would do anything, and
then they went on to another town to see what they could do there.'"

"Good fellows!" exclaimed Ralph.

"Indeed, they were," said Edna. "But wait until you hear what they did
next.

"'Nobody in this small town,'" she read on, "'was willing to join Burke
and Shirley in their proposed expedition, and no wonder; for crossing
those deserts is a dangerous thing, and most people said it would be
useless anyway, as it would be easier for us to get away by sea than by
land. At this time Burke was taken sick, and for a week or two Shirley
thought he was going to die. Of course, they had to stay where they were,
and it was a long time before Burke was able to move about. Then they
might have gone into the interior until they came to a railroad, and so
have got away, for they had money with them, but Shirley told me they
could not bear to do that without knowing what had become of us. They did
not believe there was any hope for us, unless the mate had come back with
assistance, and they had not much faith in that, for if a storm had come
up, such as had wrecked the Castor, it would be all over with Mr.
Rynders's boat.

"'But even if we had perished on that desolate coast, they wanted to
know it and carry the news to our friends, and so they both determined,
if the thing could be done, to get back to the coast and find out what
had become of us. They went again to the little village where they had
been taken by the natives who found them, and there, by promises of big
pay,--at least, large for those poor Peruvians,--they induced six of
them to join in an expedition to the caves. They did not think they had
any reason to suppose they would find any one alive, but still, besides
the provisions necessary for the party there and back, they carried
something extra.

"'Well, they journeyed for two days, and then there came up a
wind-storm, hot and dry, filling the air with sand and dust, so that
they could not see where they were going, and the natives said they
ought all to go back, for it was dangerous to try to keep on in such a
storm. But our two men would not give up so soon, and they made a camp
in a sheltered place, and determined to press on in the morning, when
they might expect the storm to be over. But in the morning they found
that every native had deserted them. The wind had gone down, and the
fellows must have started back before it was light. Then Shirley and
Burke did not know what to do. They believed that they were nearer the
coast than the mountains, and as they had plenty of provisions,--for the
natives had left them nearly everything,--they thought they would try to
push on, for a while at least.

"'There was a bit of rising ground to the east, and they thought if they
could get on the top of that they might get a sight of the ocean, and
then discover how far away it was. They reached the top of the rising
ground, and they did not see the ocean, but a little ahead of them, in a
smooth stretch of sand, was something which amazed them a good deal more
than if it had been the sea. It was a pair of shoes sticking up out of
the sand. They were an old pair, and appeared to have legs to them. They
went to the spot, and found that these shoes belonged to a man who was
entirely covered by sand, with the exception of his feet, and dead, of
course. They got the sand off of him, and found he was a white man, in
sailor's clothes. First they had thought he might be one of our party,
but they soon perceived that this was a mistake, for they had never seen
the man before. He was dried up until he was nothing but a skeleton with
skin over it, but they could have recognized him if they had known him
before. From what they had heard of the rainless climate of the Peruvian
coast, and the way it had of drying up dead animals of all sorts, they
imagined that this man might have been there for years. He was lying on
his back, with his arms folded around a bundle, and when they tried to
move this bundle, they found it was very heavy. It was something wrapped
up in a blanket and tied with a cord, and when they opened the bundle,
they were pretty nearly struck dumb; for they saw it held, as Shirley
expressed it, about a peck of little hunks of gold.

"'They were utterly astounded by this discovery, and utterly unable to
make head or tail of it. What that man, apparently an English sailor, had
been doing out in the middle of this desert with a bundle of gold, and
where he got it, and who he was, and where he was going to, and how long
he had been dead, were things beyond their guessing. They dragged the
body out of its burrow in the sand, and examined the pockets, but there
was nothing in the trousers but an old knife. In the pocket of the shirt,
however, were about a dozen matches, wrapped up in an old envelope. This
was addressed, in a very bad hand, to A. McLeish, Callao, Peru, but they
could not make out the date of the postmark. These things were all there
was about the man that could possibly identify him, for his few clothes
were such as any sailor would wear, and were very old and dirty.

"'But the gold was there. They examined it and scraped it, and they were
sure it was pure gold. There was no doubt in their minds as to what they
would do about this. They would certainly carry it away with them. But
before they did so, Burke wanted to hunt around and see if they could not
find more of it, for the mass of metal was so heavy he did not believe
the sailor could have carried it very far. But after examining the
country as far as the eye could reach, Shirley would not agree to this.
They could see nothing but wide-stretching sands, and no place where it
seemed worth while to risk their lives hunting for treasure. Their best
plan was to get away with what they had found, and now the point was
whether or not they should press on to the coast or go back; but as they
could see no signs of the sea, they soon came to the conclusion that the
best thing to do if they wanted to save their lives and their treasure
was to get back to the mountains.

"'I forgot to say that as soon as Shirley began to talk about the dead
man and his gold, I left the warehouse in charge of Maka, and took him to
my hotel, where he told me the rest of his story in a room with the door
locked. I must try to take as many reefs in what followed as I can. I
don't believe that the finding of the gold made any difference in their
plans, for, of course, it would have been foolish for them to try to get
to us by themselves. They cut the blanket in half and made up the gold
into two packages, and then they started back for the mountains, taking
with them all the provisions they could carry in addition to the gold,
and leaving their guns behind them. Shirley said their loads got heavier
and heavier as they ploughed through the sand, and it took them three
days to cover the ground they had gone over before in two. When they got
to the village, they found scarcely a man in the place, for the fellows
who had deserted them were frightened, and kept out of sight. They stayed
there all night, and then they went on with their bundles to the next
village, where they succeeded in getting a couple of travelling-bags,
into which they put their gold, so that they might appear to be carrying
their clothes.

"'After a good deal of travel they reached Callao, and there they made
inquiries for A. McLeish, but nobody knew of him. Of course, he was a
sailor who had had a letter sent there. They went up to Lima and sold a
few pieces of the gold, but, before they did it, they got a heavy hammer
and pounded them up, so that no one would know what their original shape
was. Shirley said he could not say exactly why they did this, but that
they thought, on the whole, it would be safer. Then they went to San
Francisco on the first vessel that sailed. They must have had a good deal
of talk on the voyage in regard to the gold, and it was in consequence of
their discussions that Shirley wanted so much to find me. They had
calculated, judging by the pieces they had sold, that the gold they had
with them was worth about twelve thousand dollars, and they both thought
they ought to do the right thing about it. In the first place, they tried
in San Francisco to find out something about McLeish, but no one knew of
such a man. They then began to consider some persons they did know about.
They had heard in Lima that some of the people of the _Castor_ had been
rescued, and if any of them were hard up, as most likely they were,
Shirley and Burke thought that by rights they ought to have some of the
treasure that they had found. Shirley said at first they had gone on the
idea that each of them would have six thousand dollars and could go into
business for himself, but after a while they thought this would be a mean
thing to do. They had all been shipwrecked together, and two of them had
had a rare piece of good luck, and they thought it no more than honorable
to share this good luck with the others, so they concluded the best thing
to do was to see me about it. Burke left this business to Shirley,
because he wanted to go to see his sister who lives in St. Louis.

"'They had not formed any fixed plan of division, but they believed that,
as they had had the trouble, and, in fact, the danger, of getting the
gold, they should have the main share, but they considered that they had
enough to help out any of the original party who might be hard up for
money." Of course, we must always remember," said Shirley, in finishing
up his story, "that if we can find the heirs of McLeish, the money
belongs to them. But, even in that case, Burke and I think we ought to
keep a good share of it to pay us for getting it away from that beastly
desert." Here I interrupted him. "Don't you trouble yourself any more
about McLeish," I said. "That money did not belong to him. He stole it."
"How do you know that, and who did he steal it from?" cried Shirley.
"He stole it from me," said I.

"'At this point Shirley gave such a big jump backward that his chair
broke beneath him, and he went crashing to the floor. He had made a start
a good deal like that when I told him how the Rackbirds had been swept
out of existence when I had opened the flood-gate that let out the waters
of the lake, and I had heard the chair crack then. Now, while he had been
telling me about his finding that man in the sand, with his load of gold,
I had been listening, but I had also been thinking, and almost any man
can think faster than another one can talk, and so by this time I had
made up my mind what I was going to say to Shirley. I would tell him all
about my finding the gold in the mound. It touched me to think that these
poor fellows, who did all that they could to help us escape, and then,
when they got safely home, started immediately to find us in order that
they might give us some of that paltry twelve thousand dollars--give to
us, who are actually millionaires, and who may be richer yet! It would
not do to let any of the crew get ahead of their captain in fair dealing,
and that was one reason why I determined to tell him. Then, there was
another point. Ever since I have been here, selling and storing the gold
I brought away, I have had a heavy load on my mind, and that was the
thought of leaving all the rest of the gold in that mound for the next
person who might come along and find it.

"'I devised plan after plan of getting more of it, but none of them would
work. Two things were certain: One was that I could not get any more away
by myself. I had already done the best I could and all I could in that
line. And the second thing was that if I should try for any more of the
treasure, I must have people to help me. The plan that suited me best was
to buy a small vessel, man it, go down there, load up with the gold, and
sail away. There would be no reasonable chance that any one would be
there to hinder me, and I would take in the cargo just as if it were
guano, or anything else. Then I would go boldly to Europe. I have looked
into the matter, and I have found that the best thing I can do, if I
should get that gold, would be to transport it to Paris, where I could
distribute it better than I could from any other point. But the trouble
was, where could I get the crew to help me? I have four black men, and I
think I could trust them, as far as honesty goes, but they would not be
enough to work the ship, and I could not think of any white men with whom
I would trust my life and that gold in the same vessel. But now they
seemed to pop up right in front of me.

"'I knew Shirley and Burke pretty well when they were on the _Castor_,
and after what Shirley told me I knew them better, and I believed they
were my men. To be sure, they might fail me, for they are only human, but
I had to have somebody to help me, and I did not believe there were any
other two men who would be less likely to fail me. So by the time Shirley
had finished his yarn I was ready to tell him the whole thing, and
propose to him and Burke to join me in going down after the rest of the
treasure and taking it to France.'"

At this point Ralph sprang to his feet, his eyes flashing. "Edna!" he
cried, "I say that your Captain Horn is treating me shamefully. In the
first place, he let me come up here to dawdle about, doing nothing, when
I ought to have been down there helping him get more of that treasure. I
fancy he might have trusted me, and if I had been with him, we should
have brought away nearly twice as much gold, and at this minute we
should be twice as well off as we are. But this last is a thousand times
worse. Here he is, going off on one of the most glorious adventures of
this century, and he leaves me out. What does he take me for? Does he
think I am a girl? When he was thinking of somebody to go with him, why
didn't he think of me, and why doesn't he think of me now? He has no
right to leave me out!"

"I look at the matter in a different light," said his sister. "Captain
Horn has no right to take you off on such a dangerous adventure, and,
more than that, he has no right to take you from me, and leave me alone
in the world. He once made you the guardian of all that treasure, and now
he considers you as my guardian. You did not desert the first trust, and
I am sorry to think you want to desert the other."

"That's all very fine," said Ralph. "You blow hot and you blow cold at
the same time. When you want me to keep quiet and do what I am told, you
tell me I am not of age, and that you are my guardian; and when you want
me to stay here and make myself useful, you tell me I am wonderfully
trusty, and that I must be your guardian."

Edna smiled. "That is pretty good reasoning," she said, "but there isn't
any reasoning needed in this case. No matter what Captain Horn may say or
do, I would not let you go away from me."

Ralph sat down again. "There is some sense in what you say," he said. "If
the captain should come to grief, and I were with him, we would both be
gone. Then you would have nobody left to you. But that does not entirely
clear him. Even if he thought I ought not to go with him, he ought to
have said something about it, and put in a word or so about his being
sorry. Is there any more of the letter?"

"Yes," said Edna, "there is more of it," and she began to read again:

"'I intended to stop here and give you the rest of the matter in another
letter, but now, as I have a good chance to write, I think it is better
to keep on, although this letter is already as long as the pay-roll of
the navy. When I told Shirley about the gold, he made a bounce pretty
nearly as big as the others, but this time I had him in a stout
arm-chair, and he did no damage. He had in his pocket one of the gold
bars he spoke of, and I had one of mine in my trunk, and when we put them
together they were as like as two peas. What I told him dazed him at
first, and he did not seem properly to understand what it all meant, but,
after a little, a fair view of it came to him, and for hours we talked
over the matter. Who the man was who had gone there after we left did not
matter, for he could never come hack again.

"'We decided that what we should do was to go and get that gold as soon
as possible, and Shirley agreed to go with me. He believed we could trust
Burke to join us, and, with my four black men,--who have really become
good sailors,--we would have a crew of seven men altogether, with which
we could work a fair-sized brig to Havre or some other French port.
Before he went away our business was settled. He agreed to go with me as
first mate, to do his best to help me get that gold to France, to
consider the whole treasure as mine, because I had discovered it,--I
explained the reason to him, as I did to you,--and to accept as regular
pay one hundred dollars a day, from then until we should land the cargo
in a European port, and then to leave it to me how much more I would give
him. I told him there were a lot of people to be considered, and I was
going to try to make the division as fair as possible, and he said he was
willing to trust it to me.

"'If we did not get the gold, he was to have eighteen dollars a month
for the time he sailed with me, and if we got safely back, I would give
him his share of what I had already secured. He was quite sure that Burke
would make the same agreement, and we telegraphed him to come
immediately. I am going to be very careful about Burke, however, and
sound him well before I tell him anything.

"'Yesterday we found our vessel. She arrived in port a few days ago, and
is now unloading. She is a small brig, and I think she will do; in fact,
she has got to do. By the time Burke gets here I think we shall be ready
to sail. Up to that time we shall be as busy as men can be, and it will
be impossible for me to go to San Francisco. I must attend to the
shipping of the treasure I have stored in the City of Mexico. I shall
send some to one place and some to another, but want it all turned into
coin or bonds before I start. Besides, I must be on hand to see Burke the
moment he arrives. I am not yet quite sure about him, and if Shirley
should let anything slip while I was away our looked-for fortune might be
lost to us.'

"And that," said Edna, "is all of the letter that I need read, except
that he tells me he expects to write again before he starts, and that
his address after he sails will be Wraxton, Fuguet & Co., American
bankers in Paris."




CHAPTER XXVII

EDNA MAKES HER PLANS


When she had finished reading the many pages of the letter, Edna leaned
back on the sofa and closed her eyes. Ralph sat upright in his chair and
gazed intently before him.

"So we are not to see the captain again," he said presently. "But I
suppose that when a man has a thing to do, the best thing is to go
and do it."

"Yes," said his sister, "that is the best thing."

"And what are we to do?"

"I am now trying to decide," she answered.

"Doesn't he say anything about it?"

"Not a word," replied Edna. "I suppose he considered he had made his
letter long enough."

About an hour after this, when the two met again, Edna said: "I have been
writing to Captain Horn, and am going to write to Mrs. Cliff. I have
decided what we shall do. I am going to France."

"To France!" cried Ralph. "Both of us?"

"Yes, both of us. I made up my mind about this since I saw you."

"What are you going to France for?" he exclaimed. "Come, let us have it
all--quick."

"I am going to France," said his sister, "because Captain Horn is going
there, and when he arrives, I wish to be there to meet him. There is no
reason for our staying here--"

"Indeed, there is not," interpolated Ralph, earnestly.

"If we must go anywhere to wait," continued his sister, "I should
prefer Paris."

"Edna," cried Ralph, "you are a woman of solid sense, and if the
captain wants his gold divided up, he should get you to do it. And now,
when are we going, and is Mrs. Cliff to go? What are you going to do
with the two darkies?"

"We shall start East as soon as the captain sails," replied his sister,
"and I do not know what Mrs. Cliff will do until I hear from her, and as
for Cheditafa and Mok, we shall take them with us."

"Hurrah!" cried Ralph. "Mok for my valet in Paris. That's the best thing
I have got out of the caves yet."

Captain Horn was a strong man, prompt in action, and no one could know
him long without being assured of these facts. But although Edna's
outward personality was not apt to indicate quickness of decision and
vigor of purpose, that quickness and vigor were hers quite as much as the
captain's when occasion demanded, and occasion demanded them now. The
captain had given no indication of what he would wish her to do during
the time which would be occupied by his voyage to Peru, his work there,
and his subsequent long cruise around South America to Europe. She
expected that in his next letter he would say something about this, but
she wished first to say something herself.

She did not know this bold sailor as well as she loved him, and she was
not at all sure that the plans he might make for her during his absence
would suit her disposition or her purposes. Consequently, she resolved to
submit her plans to him before he should write again. Above everything
else, she wished to be in that part of the world at which Captain Horn
might be expected to arrive when his present adventure should be
accomplished. She did not wish to be sent for to go to France. She did
not wish to be told that he was coming to America. Wherever he might
land, there she would be.

The point that he might be unsuccessful, and might never leave South
America, did not enter into her consideration. She was acting on the
basis that he was a man who was likely to succeed in his endeavors. If
she should come to know that he had not succeeded, then her actions would
be based upon the new circumstances.

Furthermore, she had now begun to make plans for her future life. She had
been waiting for Captain Horn to come to her, and to find out what he
intended to do. Now she knew he was not coming to her for a long time,
and was aware of what he intended to do, and she made her own plans. Of
course, she dealt only with the near future. All beyond that was vague,
and she could not touch it even with her thoughts. When sending his
remittances, the captain had written that she and Mrs. Cliff must
consider the money he sent her as income to be expended, not as principal
to be put away or invested. He had made provisions for the future of all
of them, in case he should not succeed in his present project, and what
he had not set aside with that view he had devoted to his own
operations, and to the maintenance, for a year, of Edna, Ralph, and Mrs.
Cliff, in such liberal and generous fashion as might please them, and he
had apportioned the remittances in a way which he deemed suitable. As
Edna disbursed the funds, she knew that this proportion was three
quarters for herself and Ralph, and one quarter for Mrs. Cliff.

"He divides everything into four parts," she thought, "and gives me
his share."

Acting on her principle of getting every good thing out of life that
life could give her, and getting it while life was able to give it to
her, there was no doubt in regard to her desires. Apart from her wish to
go where the captain expected to go, she considered that every day now
spent in America was a day lost. If her further good fortune should
never arrive, and the money in hand should be gone, she wished, before
that time came, to engraft upon her existence a period of life in
Europe--life of such freedom and opportunity as never before she had had
a right to dream of.

Across this golden outlook there came a shadow. If he had wished to come
to her, she would have waited for him anywhere, or if he had wished her
to go to him, she would have gone anywhere. But it seemed as if that mass
of gold, which brought them together, must keep them apart, a long time
certainly, perhaps always. Nothing that had happened had had any element
of certainty about it, and the future was still less certain. If he had
come to her before undertaking the perilous voyage now before him, there
would have been a certainty in her life which would have satisfied her
forever. But he did not come. It was plainly his intention to have
nothing to do with the present until the future should be settled, so far
as he could settle it.

In a few days after she had written to Captain Horn, informing him of the
plans she had made to go to France, Edna received an answer which
somewhat disappointed her. If the captain's concurrence in her proposed
foreign sojourn had not been so unqualified and complete, if he had
proposed even some slight modification, if he had said anything which
would indicate that he felt he had authority to oppose her movements if
he did not approve of them,--in fact, even if he had opposed her
plan,--she would have been better pleased. But he wrote as if he were her
financial agent, and nothing more. The tone of his letter was kind, the
arrangements he said he had made in regard to the money deposited in San
Francisco showed a careful concern for her pleasure and convenience, but
nothing in his letter indicated that he believed himself possessed in any
way of the slightest control over her actions. There was nothing like a
sting in that kind and generous letter, but when she had read it, the
great longing of Edna's heart turned and stung her. But she would give no
sign of this wound. She was a brave woman, and could wait still longer.

The captain informed her that everything was going well with his
enterprise--that Burke had arrived, and had agreed to take part in the
expedition, and that he expected that his brig, the _Miranda_, would be
ready in less than a week. He mentioned again that he was extremely busy
with his operations, but he did not say that he was sorry he was unable
to come to take leave of her. He detailed in full the arrangements he had
made, and then placed in her hands the entire conduct of the financial
affairs of the party until she should hear from him again. When he
arrived in France, he would address her in care of his bankers, but in
regard to two points only did he now say anything which seemed like a
definite injunction or even request. He asked Edna to urge upon Mrs.
Cliff the necessity of saying nothing about the discovery of the gold,
for if it should become known anywhere from Greenland to Patagonia, he
might find a steamer lying off the Rackbirds' cove when his slow
sailing-vessel should arrive there. The other request was that Edna keep
the two negroes with her if this would not prove inconvenient. But if
this plan would at all trouble her, he asked that they be sent to him
immediately.

In answer to this letter, Edna merely telegraphed the captain, informing
him that she would remain in San Francisco until she had heard that he
had sailed when she would immediately start for the East, and for France,
with Ralph and the two negroes.

Three days after this she received a telegram from Captain Horn, stating
that he would sail in an hour, and the next day she and her little party
took a train for New York.




CHAPTER XXVIII

"HOME, SWEET HOME"


On the high-street of the little town of Plainton, Maine, stood the neat
white house of Mrs. Cliff, with its green shutters, its porchless front
door, its pretty bit of flower-garden at the front and side, and its neat
back yard, sacred once a week to that virtue which is next to godliness.

Mrs. Cliff's husband had been the leading merchant in Plainton, and
having saved some money, he had invested it in an enterprise of a friend
who had gone into business in Valparaiso. On Mr. Cliff's death his widow
had found herself with an income smaller than she had expected, and that
it was necessary to change in a degree her style of living. The
hospitalities of her table, once so well known throughout the circle of
her friends, must be curtailed, and the spare bedroom must be less
frequently occupied. The two cows and the horse were sold, and in every
way possible the household was placed on a more economical basis. She had
a good house, and an income on which, with care and prudence, she could
live, but this was all.

In this condition of her finances it was not strange that Mrs. Cliff had
thought a good deal about the investments in Valparaiso, from which she
had not heard for a long time. Her husband had been dead for three years,
and although she had written several times to Valparaiso, she had
received no answer whatever, and being a woman of energy, she had finally
made up her mind that the proper thing to do was to go down and see after
her affairs. It had not been easy for her to get together the money for
this long journey,--in fact, she had borrowed some of it,--and so, to
lessen her expenses, she had taken passage in the _Castor_ from San
Francisco.

She was a housewife of high degree, and would not have thought of
leaving--perhaps for months--her immaculate window-panes and her spotless
floors and furniture, had she not also left some one to take care of
them. A distant cousin, Miss Willy Croup, had lived with her since her
husband's death, and though this lady was willing to stay during Mrs.
Cliff's absence, Mrs. Cliff considered her too quiet and inoffensive to
be left in entire charge of her possessions, and Miss Betty Handshall, a
worthy maiden of fifty, a little older than Willy, and a much more
determined character, was asked to come and live in Mrs. Cliffs house
until her return.

Betty was the only person in Plainton who lived on an annuity, and she
was rather proud of her independent fortune, but as her annuity was very
small, and as this invitation meant a considerable reduction in her
expenses, she was very glad to accept it. Consequently, Mrs. Cliff had
gone away feeling that she had left her house in the hands of two women
almost as neat as herself and even more frugal.

When Mrs. Cliff left Edna and Ralph in San Francisco, and went home,
nearly all the people in the little town who were worth considering
gathered in and around her house to bid her welcome. They had heard of
her shipwreck, but the details had been scanty and unsatisfactory, and
the soul of the town throbbed with curiosity to know what had really
happened to her. For the first few hours of her return Mrs. Cliff was in
a state of heavenly ecstasy. Everything was so tidy, everything was so
clean, every face beamed with such genial amity, her native air was so
intoxicating, that she seemed to be in a sort of paradise. But when her
friends and neighbors began to ask questions, she felt herself gradually
descending into a region which, for all she knew, might resemble
purgatory.

Of course, there was a great deal that was wonderful and startling to
relate, and as Mrs. Cliff was a good story-teller, she thrilled the
nerves of her hearers with her descriptions of the tornado at sea and the
Rackbirds on land, and afterwards filled the eyes of many of the women
with tears of relief as she told of their escapes, their quiet life at
the caves, and their subsequent rescue by the _Mary Bartlett_. But it was
the cross-examinations which caused the soul of the narrator to sink. Of
course, she had been very careful to avoid all mention of the gold mound,
but this omission in her narrative proved to be a defect which she had
not anticipated. As she had told that she had lost everything except a
few effects she had carried with her from the _Castor_, it was natural
enough that people should want to know how she had been enabled to come
home in such good fashion.

They had expected her to return in a shabby, or even needy, condition,
and now they had stories of delightful weeks at a hotel in San Francisco,
and beheld their poor shipwrecked neighbor dressed more handsomely than
they had ever seen her, and with a new trunk standing in the lower hall
which must contain something.

Mrs. Cliff began by telling the truth, and from this course she did not
intend to depart. She said that the captain of the _Castor_ was a just
and generous man, and, as far as was in his power, he had reimbursed the
unfortunate passengers for their losses. But as every one knows the
richest steamship companies are seldom so generous to persons who may be
cast away during transportation as to offer them long sojourns at hotels,
with private parlors and private servants, and to send them home in
drawing-room cars, with cloaks trimmed with real sealskin, the questions
became more and more direct, and all Mrs. Cliff could do was to stand
with her back against the captain's generosity, as if it had been a rock,
and rely upon it for defence.

But when the neighbors had all gone home, and the trunk had to be opened,
so that it could be lightened before being carried up-stairs, the remarks
of Willy and Betty cut clean to the soul of the unfortunate possessor of
its contents. Of course, the captain had not actually given her this
thing, and that thing, and the other, or the next one, but he had allowed
her a sum of money, and she had expended it according to her own
discretion. How much that sum of money might have been, Willy and Betty
did not dare to ask,--for there were limits to Mrs. Cliff's
forbearance,--but when they went to bed, they consulted together.

If it had not been for the private parlor and the drawing-room car, they
would have limited Captain Horn's generosity to one hundred dollars. But,
under the circumstances, that sum would have been insufficient. It must
have been nearly, if not quite, two hundred. As for Mrs. Cliff, she went
to bed regretting that her reservations had not been more extended, and
that she had not given the gold mound in the cave more company. She hated
prevarications and concealments, but if she must conceal something, she
should have concealed more. When the time came when she would be free to
tell of her good fortune, even if it should be no more than she already
possessed, then she would explain everything, and proudly demand of her
friends and neighbors to put their fingers on a single untruth that she
had told them.

For the next day or two, Mrs. Cliff's joy in living again in her own home
banished all other feelings, and as she was careful to say nothing to
provoke more questions, and as those which were still asked became
uncertain of aim and scattering, her regrets at her want of reticence
began to fade. But, no matter what she did, where she went, or what she
looked at, Mrs. Cliff carried about with her a millstone. It did not hang
from her neck, but it was in her pocket. It was not very heavy, but it
was a burden to her. It was her money--which she wanted to spend, but
dared not.

On leaving San Francisco, Edna had wished to give her the full amount
which the captain had so far sent her, but Mrs. Cliff declined to receive
the whole. She did not see any strong reason to believe that the captain
would ever send any more, and as she had a home, and Ralph and Edna had
not, she would not take all the money that was due her, feeling that they
might come to need it more than she would. But even with this generous
self-denial she found herself in Plainton with a balance of some
thousands of dollars in her possession, and as much more in Edna's hands,
which the latter had insisted that she would hold subject to order. What
would the neighbors think of Captain Horn's abnormal bounteousness if
they knew this?

With what a yearning, aching heart Mrs. Cliff looked upon the little
picket-fence which ran across the front of her property! How beautiful
that fence would be with a new coat of paint, and how perfectly well she
could afford it! And there was the little shed that should be over the
back door, which would keep the sun from the kitchen in summer, and in
winter the snow. There was this in one room, and that in another. There
were new dishes which could exist only in her mind. How much domestic
gratification there was within her reach, but toward which she did not
dare to stretch out her hand!

There was poor old Mrs. Bradley, who must shortly leave the home in which
she had lived nearly all her life, because she could no longer afford to
pay the rent. There had been an attempt to raise enough money by
subscription to give the old lady her home for another year, but this had
not been very successful. Mrs. Cliff could easily have supplied the
deficit, and it would have given her real pleasure to do so,--for she had
almost an affection for the old lady,--but when she asked to be allowed
to subscribe, she did not dare to give more than one dollar, which was
the largest sum upon the list, and even then Betty had said that, under
the circumstances, she could not have been expected to give anything.

When she went out into the little barn at the rear of the house, and saw
the empty cow-stable, how she longed for fresh cream, and butter of her
own making! And when she gazed upon her little phaeton, which she had not
sold because no one wanted it, and reflected that her good, brown horse
could doubtless be bought back for a moderate sum, she almost wished that
she had come home as poor as people thought she ought to be.

Now and then she ordered something done or spent some money in a way that
excited the astonishment of Willy Croup--the sharper-witted Betty had
gone home, for, of course, Mrs. Cliff could not be expected to be able to
afford her company now. But in attempting to account for these
inconsiderable extravagances, Mrs. Cliff was often obliged to content
herself with admitting that while she had been abroad she might have
acquired some of those habits of prodigality peculiar to our Western
country. This might be a sufficient excuse for the new bottom step to the
side door, but how could she account for the pair of soft, warm
Californian blankets which were at the bottom of the trunk, and which she
had not yet taken out even to air?

Matters had gone on in this way for nearly a month,--every day Mrs. Cliff
had thought of some new expenditure which she could well afford, and
every night she wished that she dared to put her money in the town bank
and so be relieved from the necessity of thinking so much about
door-locks and window-fastenings,--when there came a letter from Edna,
informing her of the captain's safe arrival in Acapulco with the cargo of
guano and gold, and inclosing a draft which first made Mrs. Cliff turn
pale, and then compelled her to sit down on the floor and cry. The letter
related in brief the captain's adventures, and stated his intention of
returning for the gold.

"To think of it!" softly sobbed Mrs. Cliff, after she had carefully
closed her bedroom door. "With this and what I am to get, I believe I
could buy the bank, and yet I can only sit here and try to think of some
place to hide this dangerous piece of paper."

The draft was drawn by a San Francisco house upon a Boston bank, and Edna
had suggested that it might be well for Mrs. Cliff to open an account in
the latter city. But the poor lady knew that would never do. A
bank-account in Boston would soon become known to the people of Plainton,
and what was the use of having an account anywhere if she could not draw
from it? Edna had not failed to reiterate the necessity of keeping the
gold discovery an absolute secret, and every word she said upon this
point increased Mrs. Cliff's depression.

"If it were only for a fixed time, a month or three months, or even six
months," the poor lady said to herself, "I might stand it. It would be
hard to do without all the things I want, and be afraid even to pay the
money I borrowed to go to South America, but if I knew when the day was
certainly coming when I could hold up my head and let everybody know just
what I am, and take my proper place in the community, then I might wait.
But nobody knows how long it will take the captain to get away with that
gold. He may have to make ever so many voyages. He may meet with wrecks,
and dear knows what. It may be years before they are ready to tell me I
am a free woman, and may do what I please with my own. I may die in
poverty, and leave Mr. Cliff's nephews to get all the good of the draft
and the money in my trunk up-stairs. I suppose they would think it came
from Valparaiso, and that I had been hoarding it. It's all very well for
Edna. She is going to Europe, where Ralph will be educated, I suppose,
and where she can live as she pleases, and nobody will ask her any
questions, and she need not answer them, if they should. But I must stay
here, in debt, and in actual want of the comforts of life, making believe
to pinch and to save, until a sea-captain thousands and thousands of
miles away shall feel that he is ready to let me put my hand in my pocket
and spend my riches."




CHAPTER XXIX

A COMMITTEE OF LADIES


It was about a week after the receipt of Edna's letter that Willy Croup
came to Mrs. Cliff's bedroom, where that lady had been taking a
surreptitious glance at her Californian blankets, to tell her that there
were three ladies down in the parlor who wished to see her.

"It's the minister's wife, and Mrs. Hembold, and old Miss Shott," said
Willy. "They are all dressed up, and I suppose they have come for
something particular, so you'd better fix up a little afore you go down."

In her present state of mind, Mrs. Cliff was ready to believe that
anybody who came to see her would certainly want to know something which
she could not tell them, and she went down fearfully. But these ladies
did not come to ask questions. They came to make statements. Mrs. Perley,
the minister's wife, opened the interview by stating that, while she was
sorry to see Mrs. Cliff looking so pale and worried, she was very glad,
at the same time, to be able to say something which might, in some
degree, relieve her anxiety and comfort her mind, by showing her that she
was surrounded by friends who could give her their heartfelt sympathy in
her troubles, and perhaps do a little more.

"We all know," said Mrs. Perley, "that you have had misfortunes, and
that they have been of a peculiar kind, and none of them owing to your
own fault."

"We can't agree exactly to that," interpolated Miss Shott, "but I won't
interrupt."

"We all know," continued Mrs. Perley, "that it was a great loss and
disappointment to you not to be able to get down to Valparaiso and settle
your affairs there, for we are aware that you need whatever money is due
you from that quarter. And we understand, too, what a great blow it was
to you to be shipwrecked, and lose all your baggage except a hand-bag."

Miss Shott was about to say something here, but Mrs. Hembold touched her
on the arm, and she waited.

"It grieves us very much," continued the minister's wife, "to think that
our dear friend and neighbor should come home from her wanderings and
perils and privations, and find herself in what must be, although we do
not wish to pry into your private affairs, something of an embarrassed
condition. We have all stayed at home with our friends and our families,
and we have had no special prosperity, but neither have we met with
losses, and it grieves us to think that you, who were once as prosperous
as any of us, should now feel--I should say experience--in any manner the
pressure of privation."

"I don't understand," said Mrs. Cliff, sitting up very straight in her
chair. "Privation? What does that mean?"

"It may not be exactly that," said Mrs. Perley, quickly, "and we all know
very well, Mrs. Cliff, that you are naturally sensitive on a point like
this. But you have come back shipwrecked and disappointed in your
business, and we want to show you that, while we would not hurt your
feelings for anything in the world, we would like to help you a little,
if we can, just as we would hope you would help us if we were in any
embarrassment."

"I must say, however--" remarked Miss Shott; but she was again silenced
by Mrs. Hembold, and the minister's wife went on.

"To come straight to the point," said she, "for a good while we have been
wanting to do something, and we did not know what to do. But a few days
ago we became aware, through Miss Willy Croup, that what was most needed
in this house is blankets. She said, in fact, that the blankets you had
were the same you bought when you were first married, that some of them
had been worn out and given to your poorer neighbors, and that now you
were very short of blankets, and, with cold weather coming on, she did
not consider that the clothing on your own bed was sufficient. She even
went so far as to say that the blankets she used were very thin, and that
she did not think they were warm enough for winter. So, some of us have
agreed together that we would testify our friendship and our sympathy by
presenting you with a pair of good, warm blankets for your own bed; then
those you have could go to Willy Croup, and you both would be comfortable
all winter. Of course, what we have done has not been upon an expensive
scale. We have had many calls upon us,--poor old Mrs. Bradley, for
one,--and we could not afford to spend much money. But we have bought you
a good pair of blankets, which are warm and serviceable, and we hope you
will not be offended, and we do not believe that you will be, for you
know our motives, and all that we ask is that when you are warm and
comfortable under our little gift, you will sometimes think of us. The
blankets are out in the hall, and I have no doubt that Miss Willy Croup
will bring them in."

Mrs. Cliff's eyes filled with tears. She wanted to speak, but how could
she speak! But she was saved from further embarrassment, for when Willy,
who had been standing in the doorway, had gone to get the blankets, Miss
Shott could be restrained no longer.

"I am bound to say," she began, "that, while I put my money in with the
rest to get those blankets,--and am very glad to be able to do it, Mrs.
Cliff,--I don't think that we ought to do anything which would look as if
we were giving our countenances to useless extravagances in persons, even
if they are our friends, who, with but small means, think they must live
like rich people, simply because they happen to be travelling among them.
It is not for me to allude to hotels in towns where there are good
boarding-houses, to vestibule cars and fur-trimmed cloaks; but I will say
that when I am called upon to help my friends who need it, I will do it
as quick as anybody, but I also feel called upon by my conscience to lift
up my voice against spending for useless things what little money a
person may have, when that person needs that money for--well, for things
I shall not mention. And now that I have said my say, I am just as glad
to help give you those blankets, Mrs. Cliff, as anybody else is."

Every one in the room knew that the thing she would not mention was the
money Mrs. Cliff had borrowed for her passage. Miss Shott had not lent
any of it, but her brother, a retired carpenter and builder, had, and as
his sister expected to outlive him, although he was twelve years younger
than she was, she naturally felt a little sore upon this point.

Now Mrs. Cliff was herself again. She was not embarrassed. She was
neither pale nor trembling. With a stern severity, not unknown to her
friends and neighbors in former days, she rose to her feet.

"Nancy Shott," said she, "I don't know anything that makes me feel more
at home than to hear you talk like that. You are the same woman that
never could kiss a baby without wanting to spank it at the same time. I
know what is the matter with you. You are thinking of that money I
borrowed from your brother. Well, I borrowed that for a year, and the
time is not up yet; but when it is, I'll pay it, every cent of it, and
interest added. I knew what I was about when I borrowed it, and I know
what I am about now, and if I get angry and pay it before it becomes due,
he will lose that much interest, and he can charge it to you. That is all
I have to say to you.

"As for you, Mrs. Perley, and the other persons who gave me these
blankets, I want you to feel that I am just as grateful as if--just as
grateful as I can be, and far more for the friendliness than for the
goods. I won't say anything more about that, and it isn't necessary, but
I must say one thing. I am ready to take the blankets, and to thank you
from the bottom of my heart, but I will not have them unless the money
Miss Shott put in is given back to her. Whatever that was, I will make it
up myself, and I hope I may be excused for saying that I don't believe it
will break me."

Now there was a scene. Miss Shott rose in anger and marched out of the
house. Mrs. Perley and the other lady expostulated with Mrs. Cliff for
a time, but they knew her very well, and soon desisted. Twenty-five
cents was handed to Mrs. Perley to take the place of the sum
contributed by Miss Shott, and the ladies departed, and the blankets
were taken up-stairs. Mrs. Cliff gave one glance at them as Willy
Croup spread them out.

"If those women could see my Californian blankets!" she said to herself,
but to Willy she said, "They are very nice, and you may put them away."

Then she went to her own room and went to bed. This last shock was too
much for her nerves to bear. In the afternoon Willy brought her some tea,
but the poor lady would not get up. So long as she stayed in bed, people
could be kept away from her, but there was nowhere else where she could
be in peace.

All night she lay and thought and thought and thought. What should she
do? She could not endure this condition of things. There was only one
relief that presented itself to her: she might go to Mr. Perley, her
minister, and confide everything to him. He would tell her what she
ought to do.

"But," she thought, "suppose he should say it should all go to the
Peruvians!" And then she had more thinking to do, based upon this
contingency, which brought on a headache, and she remained in bed all
the next day.

The next morning, Willy Croup, who had begun to regret that she had ever
said anything about blankets,--but how could she have imagined that
anybody could be so cut up at what that old Shott woman had
said?--brought Mrs. Cliff a letter.

This was from Edna, stating that she and Ralph and the two negroes had
just arrived in New York, from which point they were to sail for Havre.
Edna wished very much to see Mrs. Cliff before she left the country, and
wrote that if it would be convenient for that lady, she would run up to
Plainton and stay a day or two with her. There would be time enough for
this before the steamer sailed. When she read this brief note, Mrs. Cliff
sprang out of bed.

"Edna come here!" she exclaimed. "That would be simply ruin! But I must
see her. I must tell her everything, and let her help me."

As soon as she was dressed, she went down-stairs and told Willy that she
would start for New York that very afternoon. She had received a letter
from Mrs. Horn, and it was absolutely necessary to see her before she
sailed. With only a small leather bag in her hand, and nearly all her
ready money and her peace-destroying draft sewed up inside the body of
her dress, she left Plainton, and when her friends and neighbors heard
that she had gone, they could only ascribe such a sudden departure to the
strange notions she had imbibed in foreign parts. When Plainton people
contemplated a journey, they told everybody about it, and took plenty of
time to make preparations; but South Americans and Californians would
start anywhere at a moment's notice. People had thought that Mrs. Cliff
was too old to be influenced by association in that way, but it was plain
that they had been mistaken, and there were those who were very much
afraid that even if the poor lady had got whatever ought to be coming to
her from the Valparaiso business, it would have been of little use to
her. Her old principles of economy and prudence must have been terribly
shaken. This very journey to New York would probably cost twenty dollars!

When Mrs. Cliff entered Edna's room in a New York hotel, the latter was
startled, almost frightened. She had expected her visitor, for she had
had a telegram, but she scarcely recognized at the first glance the pale
and haggard woman who had come to her.

"Sick!" exclaimed poor Mrs. Cliff, as she sank upon a sofa. "Yes, I am
sick, but not in body, only in heart. Well, it is hard to tell you what
is the matter. The nearest I can get to it is that it is wealth struck
in, as measles sometimes strike in when they ought to come out properly,
and one is just as dangerous as the other."

When Mrs. Cliff had had something to eat and drink, and had begun to tell
her tale, Edna listened with great interest and sympathy. But when the
good lady had nearly finished, and was speaking of her resolution to
confide everything to Mr. Perley, Edna's gaze at her friend became very
intent, and her hands tightly grasped the arms of the chair in which she
was sitting.

"Mrs. Cliff," said she, when the other had finished, "there is but one
thing for you to do: you must go to Europe with us."

"Now!" exclaimed Mrs. Cliff. "In the steamer you have engaged passage
in? Impossible! I could not go home and settle up everything and come
back in time."

"But you must not go home," said Edna. "You must not think of it. Your
troubles would begin again as soon as you got there. You must stay here
and go when we do."

Mrs. Cliff stared at her. "But I have only a bag and the clothes I have
on. I am not ready for a voyage. And there's the house, with nobody but
Willy in it. Don't you see it would be impossible for me to go?"

"What you need for the passage," said Edna, "you can buy here in a few
hours, and everything else you can get on the other side a great deal
cheaper and better than here. As to your house, you can write to that
other lady to go there and stay with Miss Croup until you come back. I
tell you, Mrs. Cliff, that all these things have become mere trifles to
you. I dare say you could buy another house such as you own in Plainton,
and scarcely miss the money. Compared to your health and happiness, the
loss of that house, even if it should burn up while you are away, would
be as a penny thrown to a beggar."

"And there is my new trunk," said Mrs. Cliff, "with my blankets and ever
so many things locked up in it."

"Let it stay there," said Edna. "You will not need the blankets, and I
don't believe any one will pick the lock."

"But how shall I explain my running away in such a fashion? What will
they all think?"

"Simply write," said Edna, "that you are going to Europe as companion
to Mrs. Horn. If they think you are poor, that will explain everything.
And you may add, if you choose, that Mrs. Horn is so anxious to have
you, she will take no denial, and it is on account of her earnest
entreaties that you are unable to go home and take leave in a proper
way of your friends."

It was half an hour afterwards that Mrs. Cliff said: "Well, Edna, I will
go with you. But I can tell you this: I would gladly give up all the
mountains and palaces I may see in Europe, if I could go back to Plainton
this day, deposit my money in the Plainton bank, and then begin to live
according to my means. That would be a joy that nothing else on this
earth could give me."

Edna laughed. "All you have to do," she said, "is to be patient and wait
awhile, and then, when you go back like a queen to Plainton, you will
have had your mountains and your palaces besides."




CHAPTER XXX

AT THE HOTEL BOILEAU


It was early in December,--two months after the departure of Edna and her
little party from New York,--and they were all comfortably domiciled in
the Hotel Boileau, in a quiet street, not far from the Boulevard des
Italiens. This house, to which they came soon after their arrival in
Paris, might be considered to belong to the family order, but its grade
was much higher than that of the hotel in which they had lived in San
Francisco. As in the former place, they had private apartments, a private
table, and the service of their own colored men, in addition to that of
the hotel servants. But their salon was large and beautifully furnished,
their meals were cooked by a French chef, every one, from the lordly
porter to the quick-footed chambermaid, served them with a courteous
interest, and Mrs. Cliff said that although their life in the two hotels
seemed to be in the main the same sort of life, they were, in reality, as
different as an old, dingy mahogany bureau, just dragged from an attic,
and that same piece of furniture when it had been rubbed down, oiled, and
varnished. And Ralph declared that, so far as he knew anything about it,
there was nothing like the air of Paris to bring out the tones and
colorings and veinings of hotel life. But the greatest difference between
the former and the present condition of this little party lay in the fact
that in San Francisco its principal member was Mrs. Philip Horn, while in
Paris it was Miss Edna Markham.

This change of name had been the result of nights of thought and hours of
consultation. In San Francisco Edna felt herself to be Mrs. Horn as truly
as if they had been married at high noon in one of the city churches, but
although she could see no reason to change her faith in the reality of
her conjugal status, she had begun to fear that Captain Horn might have
different views upon the subject. This feeling had been brought about by
the tone of his letters. If he should die, those letters might prove that
she was then his widow, but it was plain that he did not wish to impress
upon her mind that she was now his wife.

If she had remained in San Francisco, Edna would have retained the
captain's name. There she was a stranger, and Captain Horn was well
known. His agents knew her as Mrs. Horn, the people of the _Mary
Bartlett_ knew her as such, and she should not have thought of resigning
it. But in Paris the case was very different. There she had friends, and
expected to make more, and in that city she was quite sure that Captain
Horn was very little known.

Edna's Parisian friends, were all Americans, and some of them people of
consideration, one of her old schoolmates being the wife of a secretary
of the American legation. Could she appear before these friends as Mrs.
Captain Philip Horn, feeling that not only was she utterly unable to
produce Captain Horn, but that she might never be able to do so? Should
the captain not return, and should she have proofs of his death, or
sufficient reason to believe it, she might then do as she pleased about
claiming her place as his widow. But should he return, he should not find
that she had trammelled and impeded his plans and purposes by announcing
herself as his wife. She did not expect ever to live in San Francisco
again, and in no other place need she be known as Mrs. Horn.

As to the business objects of her exceptional marriage, they were, in a
large degree, already attained. The money Captain Horn had remitted to
her in San Francisco was a sum so large as to astound her, and when she
reached Paris she lost no time in depositing her funds under her maiden
name. For the sake of security, some of the money was sent to a London
banker, and in Paris she did not deposit with the banking house which
Captain Horn had mentioned. But directions were left with that house that
if a letter ever came to Mrs. Philip Horn, it was to be sent to her in
care of Mrs. Cliff, and, to facilitate the reception of such a letter,
Mrs. Cliff made Wraxton, Fuguet & Co. her bankers, and all her letters
were addressed to them. But at Edna's bankers she was known as Miss
Markham, and her only Parisian connection with the name of Horn was
through Mrs. Cliff.

The amount of money now possessed by Edna was, indeed, a very fair
fortune for her, without regarding it, as Captain Horn had requested, as
a remittance to be used as a year's income. In his letters accompanying
his remittances the captain had always spoken of them as her share of the
gold brought away, and in this respect he treated her exactly as he
treated Mrs. Cliff, and in only one respect had she any reason to infer
that the money was in any manner a contribution from himself. In making
her divisions according to his directions, her portion was so much
greater than that of the others, Edna imagined Captain Horn sent her his
share as well as her own. But of this she did not feel certain, and
should he succeed in securing the rest of the gold in the mound, she did
not know what division he would make. Consequently, this little thread of
a tie between herself and the captain, woven merely of some hypothetical
arithmetic, was but a cobweb of a thread. The resumption of her maiden
name had been stoutly combated by both Mrs. Cliff and Ralph. The first
firmly insisted upon the validity of the marriage, so long as the captain
did not appear, but she did not cease to insist that the moment he did
appear, there should be another ceremony.

"But," said Edna, "you know that Cheditafa's ceremony was performed
simply for the purpose of securing to me, in case of his loss on that
boat trip, a right to claim the benefit of his discovery. If he should
come back, he can give me all the benefit I have a right to claim from
that discovery, just as he gives you your share, without the least
necessity of a civilized marriage. Now, would you advise me to take a
step which would seem to force upon him the necessity for such a
marriage?"

"No," said Mrs. Cliff. "But all your reasoning is on a wrong basis. I
haven't the least doubt in the world---I don't see how any one can have a
doubt--that the captain intends to come back and claim you as his wife;
and if anything more be necessary to make you such, as I consider there
would be, he would be as ready as anybody to do it. And, Edna, if you
could see yourself, not merely as you look in the glass, but as he would
see you, you would know that he would be as ready as any of us would wish
him to be. And how will he feel, do you suppose, when he finds that you
renounce him and are going about under your maiden name?"

In her heart Edna answered that she hoped he might feel very much as she
had felt when he did not come to see her in San Francisco, but to Mrs.
Cliff she said she had no doubt that he would fully appreciate her
reasons for assuming her old name.

Ralph's remarks were briefer, and more to the point.

"He married you," he said, "the best way he could under the
circumstances, and wrote to you as his wife, and in San Francisco you
took his name. Now, if he comes back and says you are not his wife, I'll
kill him."

"If I were you, Ralph," said his sister, "I wouldn't do that. In fact, I
may say I would disapprove of any such proceeding."

"Oh, you can laugh," said he, "but it makes no difference to me. I shall
take the matter into my own hands if he repudiates that contract."

"But suppose I give him no chance to repudiate it?" said Edna. "Suppose
he finds me Miss Edna Markham, and finds, also, that I wish to continue
to be that lady? If what has been done has any force at all, it can
easily be set aside by law."

Ralph rose and walked up and down the floor, his hands thrust deep into
his pockets.

"That's just like a woman," he said. "They are always popping up new and
different views of things, and that is a view I hadn't thought of. Is
that what you intend to do?"

"No," said Edna, "I do not intend to do anything. All I wish is to hold
myself in such a position that I can act when the time comes to act."

Ralph took the whole matter to bed with him in order to think over it. He
did a great deal more sleeping than thinking, but in the morning he told
Edna he believed she was right.

"But one thing is certain," he said: "even if that heathen marriage
should not be considered legal, it was a solemn ceremony of engagement,
and nobody can deny that. It was something like a caveat which people get
before a regular patent is issued for an invention, and if you want him
to do it, he should stand up and do it; but if you don't, that's your
business. But let me give you a piece of advice: wherever you go and
whatever you do, until this matter is settled, be sure to carry around
that two-legged marriage certificate called Cheditafa. He can speak a
good deal of English now, if there should be any dispute."

"Dispute!" cried Edna, indignantly. "What are you thinking of? Do you
suppose I would insist or dispute in such a matter? I thought you knew me
better than that."

Ralph sighed. "If you could understand how dreadfully hard it is to know
you," he said, "you wouldn't be so severe on a poor fellow if he happened
to make a mistake now and then."

When Mrs. Cliff found that Edna had determined upon her course, she
ceased her opposition, and tried, good woman as she was, to take as
satisfactory a view of the matter as she could find reason for.

"It would be a little rough," she said, "if your friends were to meet you
as Mrs. Horn, and you would be obliged to answer questions. I have had
experience in that sort of thing. And looking at it in that light, I
don't know but what you are right, Edna, in defending yourself against
questions until you are justified in answering them. To have to admit
that you are not Mrs. Horn after you had said you were, would be
dreadful, of course. But the other would be all plain sailing. You would
go and be married properly, and that would be the end of it. And even if
you were obliged to assert your claims as his widow, there would be no
objection to saying that there had been reasons for not announcing the
marriage. But there is another thing. How are you going to explain your
prosperous condition to your friends? When I was in Plainton, I thought
of you as so much better off than myself in this respect, for over here
there would be no one to pry into your affairs. I did not know you had
friends in Paris."

"All that need not trouble me in the least," said Edna. "When I went to
school with Edith Southall, who is now Mrs. Sylvester, my father was in a
very good business, and we lived handsomely. It was not until I was
nearly grown up that he failed and died, and then Ralph and I went to
Cincinnati, and my life of hard work began. So you see there is no reason
why my friends in Paris should ask any questions, or I should make
explanations."

"I wish it were that way in Plainton," said Mrs. Cliff, with a sigh. "I
would go back there the moment another ship started from France."

So it was Miss Edna Markham of New York who took apartments at the Hotel
Boileau, and it was she who called upon the wife of the American
secretary of legation.




CHAPTER XXXI

WAITING


For several weeks after their arrival, the members of the little party
had but one common object,--to see and enjoy the wonders and beauties of
Paris,--and in their sight-seeing they nearly always went together,
sometimes taking Cheditafa and Mok with them. But as time went on, their
different dispositions began to assert themselves, and in their daily
pursuits they gradually drifted apart.

Mrs. Cliff was not a cultivated woman, but she had a good, common-sense
appreciation of art in its various forms. She would tramp with untiring
step through the galleries of the Louvre, but when she had seen a
gallery, she did not care to visit it again. She went to the theatre and
the opera because she wanted to see how they acted and sang in France,
but she did not wish to go often to a place where she could not
understand a word that was spoken.

Ralph was now under the charge of a tutor, Professor Barre by name, who
took a great interest in this American boy, whose travels and experiences
had given him a precocity which the professor had never met with in any
of his other scholars. Ralph would have much preferred to study Paris
instead of books, and the professor, who was able to give a great deal of
time to his pupil, did not altogether ignore this natural instinct of a
youthful heart. In consequence, the two became very good friends, and
Ralph was the best-satisfied member of the party.

It was in regard to social affairs that the lives of Edna and Mrs. Cliff
diverged most frequently. Through the influence of Mrs. Sylvester, a
handsome woman with a vivacious intelligence which would have made her
conspicuous in any society, Edna found that social engagements, not only
in diplomatic circles and in those of the American colony, but, to some
extent, in Parisian society, were coming upon her much more rapidly than
she had expected. The secretary's wife was proud of her countrywoman, and
glad to bring her forward in social functions. Into this new life Edna
entered as if it had been a gallery she had not yet visited, or a museum
which she saw for the first time. She studied it, and enjoyed the study.

But only in a limited degree did Mrs. Cliff enjoy society in Paris. To be
sure, it was only in a limited degree that she had been asked to do it.
Even with a well-filled purse and all the advantages of Paris at her
command, she was nothing more than a plain and highly respectable woman
from a country town in Maine. More than this silks and velvets could not
make her, and more than this she did not wish to be. As Edna's friend and
companion, she had been kindly received at the legation, but after
attending two or three large gatherings, she concluded that she would
wait until her return to Plainton before she entered upon any further
social exercises. But she was not at all dissatisfied or homesick. She
preferred Plainton to all places in the world, but that little town
should not see her again until she could exhibit her Californian blankets
to her friends, and tell them where she got the money to buy them.

"Blankets!" she said to herself. "I am afraid they will hardly notice
them when they see the other things I shall take back there."

With society, especially such society as she could not enjoy, Mrs. Cliff
could easily dispense. So long as the shops of Paris were open to her,
the delights of these wonderful marts satisfied the utmost cravings of
her heart; and as she had a fine mind for bargaining, and plenty of time
on her hands, she was gradually accumulating a well-chosen stock of
furnishings and adornments, not only for her present house in Plainton,
but for the large and handsome addition to it which she intended to build
on an adjoining lot. These schemes for establishing herself in Plainton,
as a wealthy citizen, did not depend on the success of Captain Horn's
present expedition. What Mrs. Cliff already possessed was a fortune
sufficient for the life she desired to lead in her native town. What she
was waiting for was the privilege of going back and making that fortune
known. As to the increase of her fortune she had but small belief. If it
should come, she might change her plans, but the claims of the native
Peruvians should not be forgotten. Even if the present period of secrecy
should be terminated by the news of the non-success of Captain Horn, she
intended to include, among her expenses, a periodical remittance to some
charitable association in Peru for the benefit of the natives.

The Christmas holidays passed, January was half gone, and Edna had
received no news from Captain Horn. She had hoped that before leaving
South. America and beginning his long voyage across the Atlantic, he
would touch at some port from which he might send her a letter, which,
coming by steamer, would reach her before she could expect the arrival of
the brig. But no letter had come. She had arranged with a commercial
agency to telegraph to her the moment the Miranda should arrive in any
French port, but no message had come, and no matter what else she was
doing, it seemed to Edna as if she were always expecting such a message.
Sometimes she thought that this long delay must mean disaster, and at
such times she immediately set to work to reason out the matter. From
Acapulco to Cape Horn, up through the South Atlantic and the North
Atlantic to France, was a long voyage for a sailing-vessel, and to the
time necessary for this she must add days, and perhaps weeks, of labor at
the caves, besides all sorts of delays on the voyage. Like Ralph, she had
an unbounded faith in the captain. He might not bring her one bar of
gold, he might meet with all sorts of disasters, but, whenever her mind
was in a healthy condition, she expected him to come to France, as he had
said he would.

She now began to feel that she was losing a great deal of time. Paris was
all very well, but it was not everything. When news should come to her,
it might be necessary for her to go to America. She could not tell what
would be necessary, and she might have to leave Europe with nothing but
Paris to remember. There was no good objection to travel on the
Continent, for, if the _Miranda_ should arrive while she was not in
Paris, she would not be so far away that a telegram could not quickly
bring her back. So she listened to Mrs. Cliff and her own desires, and
the party journeyed to Italy, by the way of Geneva and Bern.

Ralph was delighted with the change, for Professor Barre, his tutor, had
consented to go with them, and, during these happy days in Italy, he was
the preceptor of the whole party. They went to but few places that he had
not visited before, and they saw but little that he could not talk about
to their advantage. But, no matter what they did, every day Edna expected
a message, and every day, except Sunday, she went to the banker's to look
over the maritime news in the newspapers, and she so arranged her affairs
that she could start for France at an hour's notice.

But although Edna had greatly enjoyed the Italian journey, it came to an
end at last, and it was with feelings of satisfaction that she settled
down again in Paris. Here she was in the centre of things, ready for
news, ready for arrivals, ready to go anywhere or do anything that might
be necessary, and, more than that, there was a delightful consciousness
that she had seen something of Switzerland and Italy, and without having
missed a telegram by being away.

The party did not return to the Hotel Boileau. Edna now had a much
better idea of the Continental menage than she had brought with her from
America, and she believed that she had not been living up to the
standard that Captain Horn had desired. She wished in every way to
conform to his requests, and one of these had been that she should
consider the money he had sent her as income, and not as property. It
was hard for her to fulfil this injunction, for her mind was as
practical as that of Mrs. Cliff, and she could not help considering the
future, and the probability of never receiving an addition to the funds
she now had on deposit in London and Paris. But her loyalty to the man
who had put her into possession of that money was superior to her
feelings of prudence and thrift. When he came to Paris, he should find
her living as he wanted her to live. It was not necessary to spend all
she had, but, whether he came back poor or rich, he should see that she
had believed in him and in his success.

The feeling of possible disaster had almost left her. The fears that had
come to her had caused her to reason upon the matter, and the more she
reasoned, the better she convinced herself that a long period of waiting
without news was to be expected in the case of an adventure such as that
in which Captain Horn was engaged. There was, perhaps, another reason for
her present state of mind--a reason which she did not recognize: she had
become accustomed to waiting.

It was at a grand hotel that the party now established themselves, the
space, the plate-glass, the gilt, and the general splendor of which made
Ralph exclaim in wonder and admiration.

"You would better look out, Edna," said he, "or it will not be long
before we find ourselves living over in the Latin Quarter, and taking our
meals at a restaurant where you pay a sou for the use of the napkins."

Edna's disposition demanded that her mode of life should not be
ostentatious, but she conformed in many ways to the style of her hotel.
There were returns of hospitality. There was a liveried coachman when
they drove. There was a general freshening of wardrobes, and even
Cheditafa and Mok had new clothes, designed by an artist to suit their
positions.

If Captain Horn should come to Paris, he should not find that she had
doubted his success, or him.

After the return from Italy, Mrs. Cliff began to chafe and worry under
her restrictions. She had obtained from Europe all she wanted at present,
and there was so much, in Plainton she was missing. Oh, if she could only
go there and avow her financial condition! She lay awake at night,
thinking of the opportunities that were slipping from her. From the
letters that Willy Croup wrote her, she knew that people were coming to
the front in Plainton who ought to be on the back seats, and that she,
who could occupy, if she chose, the best place, was thought of only as a
poor widow who was companion to a lady who was travelling. It made her
grind her teeth to think of the way that Miss Shott was talking of her,
and it was not long before she made up her mind that she ought to speak
to Edna on the subject, and she did so.

"Go home!" exclaimed the latter. "Why, Mrs. Cliff, that would be
impossible just now. You could not go to Plainton without letting people
know where you got your money."

"Of course I couldn't," said Mrs. Cliff, "and I wouldn't. There have
been times when I have yearned so much for my home that I thought it
might be possible for me to go there and say that the Valparaiso affair
had turned out splendidly, and that was how I got my money. But I
couldn't do it. I could not stand up before my minister and offer to
refurnish the parsonage parlor, with such a lie as that on my lips. But
there is no use in keeping back the real truth any longer. It is more
than eight months since Captain Horn started out for that treasure, and
it is perfectly reasonable to suppose either that he has got it; or that
he never will get it, and in either one of these cases it will not do
any injury to anybody if we let people know about the money we have, and
where it came from."

"But it may do very great injury," said Edna. "Captain Horn may have been
able to take away only a part of it, and may now be engaged in getting
the rest. There are many things which may have happened, and if we should
now speak of that treasure, it might ruin all his plans."

"If he has half of it," said Mrs. Cliff, "he ought to be satisfied with
that, and not keep us here on pins and needles until he gets the rest. Of
course, I do not want to say anything that would pain you, Edna, and I
won't do it, but people can't help thinking, and I think that we have
waited as long as our consciences have any right to ask us to wait."

"I know what you mean," replied Edna, "but it does not give me pain. I do
not believe that Captain Horn has perished, and I certainly expect soon
to hear from him."

"You have been expecting that a long time," said the other.

"Yes, and I shall expect it for a good while yet. I have made up my mind
that I shall not give up my belief that Captain Horn is alive, and will
come or write to us, until we have positive news of his death, or until
one year has passed since he left Acapulco. Considering what he has done
for us, Mrs. Cliff, I think it very little for us to wait one year before
we betray the trust he has placed in us, and, merely for the sake of
carrying out our own plans a little sooner, utterly ruin the plans he has
made, and which he intends as much for our benefit as for his own."

Mrs. Cliff said no more, but she thought that was all very well for Edna,
who was enjoying herself in a way that suited her, but it was very
different for her.

In her heart of hearts, Mrs. Cliff now believed they would never see
Captain Horn again. "For if he were alive," she said to herself, "he
would certainly have contrived in some way or other to send some sort of
a message. With the whole world covered with post routes and
telegraph-wires, it would be simply impossible for Captain Horn and those
two sailors to keep absolutely silent and unheard of for such a long
time--unless," she continued, hesitating even in her thoughts, "they
don't want to be heard from." But the good lady would not allow her mind
to dwell on that proposition; it was too dreadful!

And so Edna waited and waited, hoping day by day for good news from
Captain Horn; and so Mrs. Cliff waited and waited, hoping for news from
Captain Horn--good news, if possible, but in any case something certain
and definite, something that would make them know what sort of life they
were to lead in this world, and make them free to go and live it.




CHAPTER XXXII

A MARINER'S WITS TAKE A LITTLE FLIGHT


When Captain Horn, in the brig _Miranda_, with the American sailors Burke
and Shirley, and the four negroes, left Acapulco on the 16th of
September, he might have been said to have sailed "in ballast," as the
only cargo he carried was a large number of coffee-bags. He had cleared
for Rio Janeiro, at which port he intended to touch and take on board a
small cargo of coffee, deeming it better to arrive in France with
something more than the auriferous mineral matter with which he hoped to
replace a large portion of discarded ballast. The unusual cargo of empty
coffee-bags was looked upon by the customs officials as a bit of Yankee
thrift, it being likely enough that the captain could obtain coffee-bags
in Mexico much cheaper than in Rio Janeiro.

The voyage to the Peruvian coast was a slow one, the _Miranda_ proving to
be anything but a clipper, and the winds were seldom in her favor. But at
last she rounded Aguja Point, and the captain shaped his course toward
the coast and the Rackbirds' cove, the exact position of which was now
dotted on his chart.

A little after noon on a quiet October day, they drew near enough to
land to recognize the coast-line and the various landmarks of the
locality. The negroes were filled with surprise, and afterwards with
fright, for they had had no idea that they were going near the scene of
their former horrible captivity. From time to time, they had debated
among themselves the intentions of Captain Horn in regard to them, and
now the idea seized them that perhaps he was going to leave them where he
had found them. But, through Maka, who at first was as much frightened as
the rest, the captain succeeded in assuring them that he was merely going
to stop as near as possible to the cave where he had stayed so long, to
get some of his property which it had been impossible to take away when
the rest of the party left. Maka had great confidence in the captain's
word, and he was able to infuse a good deal of this into the minds of the
three other negroes.

Captain Horn had been in considerable doubt in regard to the best method
of shipping the treasure; should he be so fortunate as to find it as he
had left it. The cove was a quiet harbor in which the small boats could
easily ply between the vessel and the shore, but, in this case, the gold
must be carried by tedious journeys along the beach. On the other hand,
if the brig lay too near the entrance to the caves, the treasure-laden
boats must be launched through the surf, and, in case of high seas, this
operation might be hazardous; consequently, he determined to anchor in
the Rackbirds' cove and submit to the delay and inconvenience of the
land transportation of the gold.

When the captain and Shirley went ashore in a boat, nothing was seen to
indicate that any one had visited the spot since the last cargo of guano
had been shipped. This was a relief, but when the captain had wandered
through the place, and even examined the storehouse of the Rackbirds, he
found, to his regret, that it was too late for him to visit the caves
that day. This was the occasion of a night of wakefulness and
unreasonable anxiety--unreasonable, as the captain assured himself over
and over again, but still impossible to dissipate. No man who has spent
weeks in pursuit of a royal treasure, in a vessel that at times seemed
hardly to creep, could fail to be anxious and excited when he is
compelled to pause within a few miles of that treasure.

But early in the morning the captain started for the caves. He took with
him Shirley and Maka, leaving the brig in charge of Burke. The captain
placed great confidence in Shirley, who was a quiet, steady man. In fact,
he trusted every one on the ship, for there was nothing else to do. If
any of them should prove false to him, he hoped to be able to defend
himself against them, and it would be more than foolish to trouble his
mind with apprehensions until there should be some reason for them. But
there was a danger to be considered, quite different from the criminal
cupidity which might be provoked by companionship with the heap of gold,
and this was the spirit of angry disappointment which might be looked for
should no heap of gold be found. At the moment of such possible
disappointment, the captain wanted to have with him a man not given to
suspicions and resentments.

In fact, the captain thought, as the little party strode along the
beach, that if he should find the mound empty,--and he could not drive
from his mind that once he had found it uncovered,--he wished to have
with him some one who would back him up a little in case he should lower
his lantern into a goldless void.

As they walked up the plateau in the path worn principally by his own
feet, and the captain beheld the great stone face against the wall of
rock, his mind became quieter. He slackened his pace, and even began to
concoct some suitable remarks to make to Shirley in case of evil fortune.

Shirley looked about him with great interest. He had left the place
before the great stone face had been revealed by the burning of the
vines, and he would have been glad to stop for a minute and examine it.
But although Captain Horn had convinced himself that he was in no hurry,
he could not allow delay. Lighting a lantern, they went through the
passageway and entered the great cave of the lake, leaving Maka rummaging
around with eager delight through the rocky apartments where he had once
been a member of a domestic household.

When they reached the mound, the captain handed his lantern to Shirley,
telling him to hold it high, and quickly clambered to the top.

"Good!" he exclaimed. "The lid is just as I left it. Come up!"

In a moment Shirley was at his side, and the captain with his
pocket-knife began to pick out the oakum which he had packed around the
edges of the lid, for otherwise it would have been impossible for him to
move it. Then he stood up and raised the lid, putting it to one side.

"Give me the lantern!" he shouted, and, stooping, lie lowered it and
looked in. The gold in the mound was exactly as he had left it.

"Hurrah!" he cried. "Now you take a look!" And he handed the lantern to
his companion.

Shirley crawled a little nearer the opening and looked into it, then
lowered the lantern and put his head down so that it almost disappeared.
He remained in this position for nearly a minute, and the captain gazed
at him with a beaming face. His whole system, relieved from the
straining bonds of doubt and fear and hope, was basking in a flood of
ecstatic content.

Suddenly Shirley began to swear. He was not a profane man, and seldom
swore, but now the oaths rolled from him in a manner that startled
the captain.

"Get up," said he. "Haven't you seen enough?"

Shirley raised his head, but still kept his eyes on the treasure beneath
him, and swore worse than before. The captain was shocked.

"What is the matter with you?" said he. "Give me the lantern. I don't see
anything to swear at."

Shirley did not hand him the lantern, but the captain took it from him,
and then he saw that the man was very pale.

"Look out!" he cried. "You'll slip down and break your bones."

In fact, Shirley's strength seemed to have forsaken him, and he was on
the point of either slipping down the side of the mound or tumbling into
the open cavity. The captain put down the lantern and moved quickly to
his side, and, with some difficulty, managed to get him safely to the
ground. He seated him with his back against the mound, and then, while he
was unscrewing the top of a whiskey flask, Shirley began to swear again
in a most violent and rapid way.

"He has gone mad," thought the captain. "The sight of all that gold has
crazed him."

"Stop that," he said to the other, "and take a drink."

Shirley broke off a string of oaths in the middle, and took a pull at the
flask. This was of service to him, for he sat quiet for a minute or two,
during which time the captain brought down the lantern. Looking up at
him, Shirley said in a weak voice:

"Captain, is what I saw all so?"

"Yes," was the reply, "it's all so."

"Then," said the other, "help me out of this. I want to get out into
common air."

The captain raised Shirley to his feet, and, with the lantern in one
hand, he assisted him to walk. But it was not easy. The man appeared to
take no interest in his movements, and staggered and leaned upon the
captain as if he were drunk.

As soon as they came out of the utter darkness and had reached the
lighter part of the cave, the captain let Shirley sit down, and
went for Maka.

"The first mate has been taken sick," said he to the negro, "and you must
come help me get him out into the open air."

When the negro saw Shirley in a state of semi-collapse, he began to
tremble from head to foot, but he obeyed orders, and, with a great deal
of trouble, the two got the sailor outside of the caves and gave him
another drink of whiskey.

Maka had his own ideas about this affair. There was no use telling him
Mr. Shirley was sick--at least, that he was afflicted by any common
ailment. He and his fellows knew very well that there were devils back
in the blackness of that cave, and if the captain did not mind them, it
was because they were taking care of the property, whatever it was,
that he kept back here, and for which he had now returned. With what
that property was, and how it happened to be there, the mind of the
negro did not concern itself. Of course, it must be valuable, or the
captain would not have come to get it, but that was his business. He
had taken the first mate into that darkness, and the sight of the
devils had nearly killed him, and now the negro's mind was filled with
but one idea, and that was that the captain might take him in there and
make him see devils.

After a time Shirley felt very much better, and able to walk.

"Now, captain," said he, "I am all right, but I tell you what we must do:
I'll go to the ship, and I'll take charge of her, and I'll do whatever
has got to be done on shore. Yes, and, what's more, I'll help do the
carrying part of the business,--it would be mean to sneak out of
that,--and I'll shoulder any sort of a load that's put out on the sand in
the daylight. But, captain, I don't want to do anything to make me look
into that hole. I can't stand it, and that is the long and short of it. I
am sorry that Maka saw me in such a plight--it's bad for discipline; but
it can't be helped."

"Never mind," cried the captain, whose high spirits would have overlooked
almost anything at that moment. "Come, let us go back and have our
breakfast. That will set you up, and I won't ask you to go into the caves
again, if you don't want to."

"Don't let's talk about it," said Shirley, setting off. "I'd rather get
my mind down to marlin-spikes and bilge-water."

As the captain walked back to the cove, he said to himself:

"I expect it struck Shirley harder than it did the rest of us because
he knew what he was looking at, and the first time we saw it we were
not sure it was gold, as it might have been brass. But Shirley knew,
for he had already had a lot of those bars, and had turned them into
money. By George! I don't wonder that a poor fellow who had struggled
for life with a small bag of that gold was knocked over when he saw a
wagon-load of it."

Maka, closely following the others, had listened with eagerness to what
had been said, and had been struck with additional horror when he heard
Shirley request that he might not again be asked to look into that hole.
Suddenly the captain and Shirley were startled by a deep groan behind
them, and, turning, saw the negro sitting upon the sand, his knees drawn
up to his face, and groaning grievously.

"What's the matter?" cried the captain.

"I sick," said Maka. "Sick same as Mr. Shirley."

"Get up and come along," said the captain, laughing. He saw that
something was really ailing the black fellow, for he trembled from head
to foot, and his face had the hue of a black horse recently clipped. But
he thought it best not to treat the matter seriously. "Come along," said
he. "I am not going to give you any whiskey." And then, struck by a
sudden thought, he asked, "Are you afraid that you have got to go into
that cave?"

"Yes, sir," said Maka, who had risen to his feet. "It make me pretty near
die dead to think that."

"Well, don't die any more," said the captain. "You sha'n't go anywhere
that you have not been before."

The pupils of Maka's eyes, which had been turned up nearly out of sight,
were now lowered. "All right, cap'n," said he. "I lot better now."

This little incident was not unpleasant to the captain. If the negroes
were afraid to go into the blackness of the caves, it would make fewer
complications in this matter.




CHAPTER XXXIII

THE "MIRANDA" TAKES IN CARGO


The next day the work of removing the treasure from the caves to the
vessel began in good earnest. The Miranda was anchored not far from the
little pier, which was found in good order, and Shirley, with one negro,
was left on board, while the captain and Burke took the three others,
loaded with coffee-bags, to the caves.

For the benefit of the minds of the black men, the captain had instructed
Maka to assure them that they would not be obliged to go anywhere where
it was really dark. But it was difficult to decide how to talk to Burke.
This man was quite different from Shirley. He was smaller, but stout and
strong, with a dark complexion, and rather given to talk. The captain
liked him well enough, his principal objection to him being that he was
rather too willing to give advice. But, whatever might be the effect of
the treasure on Burke, the captain determined that he should not be
surprised by it. He had tried that on Shirley, and did not want to try it
again on anybody. So he conversed freely about the treasure and the
mound, and, as far as possible, described its appearance and contents.
But he need not have troubled himself about the effect of the sight of a
wagon-load of gold upon Burke's mind. He was glad to see it, and whistled
cheerfully as he looked down into the mound.

"How far do you think it goes down?" said he to the captain.

"Don't know," was the reply. "We can't tell anything about that until we
get it out."

"All right," said Burke. "The quicker we do it, the better."

The captain got into the mound with a lantern, for the gold was now too
low for him to reach it from above, and having put as many bars into a
coffee-bag as a man could carry, he passed it up to Burke, who slid it
down to the floor, where another lantern had been left. When five bags
had been made ready, the captain came out, and he and Burke put each bag
into another, and these were tied up firmly at each end, for a single
coffee-bag was not considered strong enough to hold the weighty
treasure. Then the two carried the bags into the part of the cave which
was lighted by the great fissure, and called the negroes. Then, each
taking a bag on his shoulder, the party returned to the cove. On the
next trip, Shirley decided to go with the captain, for he said he did
not care for anything if he did not have to look down into the mound,
for that was sure to make him dizzy. Maka's place was taken by the negro
who had been previously left in the vessel. Day by day the work went on,
but whoever might be relieved, and whatever arrangements might be made,
the captain always got into the mound and handed out the gold. Whatever
discovery should be made when the bottom of the deposit was reached, he
wanted to be there to make it.

The operations were conducted openly, and without any attempt at secrecy
or concealment. The lid of the mound was not replaced when they left it,
and the bags of gold were laid on the pier until it was convenient to
take them to the vessel. When they were put on board, they were lowered
into the hold, and took the place of a proportionate amount of ballast,
which was thrown out.

All the negroes now spoke and understood a little English. They might
think that those bags were filled with gold, or they might think that
they contained a mineral substance, useful for fertilizer; but if by
questioning or by accidental information they found out what was the load
under which they toiled along the beach, the captain was content. There
was no reason why he should fear these men more than he feared Burke and
Shirley. All of them were necessary to him, and he must trust them.
Several times when he was crouched down in the interior of the mound,
filling a bag with gold, he thought how easy it would be for one of the
sailors to shoot him from above, and for them, or perhaps only one of
them, to become the owner of all that treasure. But then, he could be
shot in one place almost as well as in another, and if the negroes should
be seized with the gold fever, and try to cut white throats at midnight,
they would be more likely to attempt it after the treasure had been
secured and the ship had sailed than now. In any case, nothing could be
gained by making them feel that they were suspected and distrusted.
Therefore it was that when, one day, Maka said to the captain that the
little stones in the bags had begun to make his shoulder tender, the
captain showed him how to fold an empty sack and put it between the bags
and his back, and then also told him that what he carried was not stones,
but lumps of gold.

"All yourn, cap'n!" asked Maka.

"Yes, all mine," was the reply.

That night Maka told his comrades that when the captain got to the end of
this voyage, he would be able to buy a ship bigger than the _Castor_, and
that they would not have to sail in that little brig any more, and that
he expected to be cook on the new vessel, and have a fine suit of clothes
in which to go on shore.

For nearly a month the work went on, but the contents of the mound
diminished so slowly that the captain, and, in fact, the two sailors,
also, became very impatient. Only about forty pounds could be carried by
each man on a trip, and the captain saw plainly that it would not do to
urge greater rapidity or more frequent trips, for in that case there
would be sure to be breakdowns. The walk from the cove to the caves was
a long one, and rocky barriers had to be climbed, and although now but
one man was left on board the vessel, only thirty bags a day were stored
in its hold. This was very slow work. Consultations were held, and it
was determined that some quicker method of transportation must be
adopted. The idea that they could be satisfied with what they already
had seemed to enter the mind of none of them. It was a foregone
conclusion that their business there was to carry away all the gold that
was in the mound.

A new plan, though rather a dangerous one, was now put into operation.
The brig was brought around opposite the plateau which led to the caves,
and anchored just outside the line of surf, where bottom was found at a
moderate depth. Then the bags were carried in the boats to the vessel. A
line connected each boat with the ship, and the negroes were half the
time in the water, assisting the boats backward and forward through the
surf. Now work went on very much more rapidly. The men had all become
accustomed to carrying the heavy bags, and could run with them down the
plateau. The boats were hauled to and from the vessel, and the bags were
hoisted on board by means of blocks and tackle and a big basket. Once the
side of the basket gave way, and several bags went down to the bottom of
the sea, never to be seen again. But there was no use in crying over
spilt gold, and this was the only accident.

The winds were generally from the south and east, and, therefore, there
was no high surf; and this new method of working was so satisfactory that
they all regretted they had not adopted it from the first,
notwithstanding the risk. But the captain had had no idea that it would
take so long for five men to carry that treasure a distance of two miles,
taking forty pounds at a time.

At night everybody went on board the brig, and she lay to some distance
from the shore, so as to be able to run out to sea in case of bad
weather, but no such weather came.

It was two months since the brig had dropped anchor in the Rackbirds'
cove when the contents of the mound got so low that the captain could not
hand up the bags without the assistance of a ladder, which he made from
some stuff on board the brig. By rough measurement, he found that he
should now be near the level of the outside floor of the cave, and he
worked with great caution, for the idea, first broached by Ralph, that
this mass of gold might cover something more valuable than itself, had
never left him.

But as he worked steadily, filling bag after bag, he found that, although
he had reached at the outer edge of the floor of the mound what seemed to
be a pavement of stone, there was still a considerable depth of gold in
the centre of the floor. Now he worked faster, telling Shirley, who was
outside, that he would not come out until he had reached the floor of the
mound, which was evidently depressed in the centre after the fashion of a
saucer. Working with feverish haste, the captain handed up bag after bag,
until every little bar of gold had been removed from the mound.

The bottom of the floor was covered with a fine dust, which had sifted
down in the course of ages from the inside coating of the mound, but it
was not deep enough to conceal a bar of gold, and, with his lantern and
his foot, the captain made himself sure that not a piece was left. Then
his whole soul and body thrilled with a wild purpose, and, moving the
ladder from the centre of the floor, he stooped to brush away the dust.
If there should be a movable stone there! If this stone should cover a
smaller cavity beneath the great one, what might he not discover within
it? His mind whirled before the ideas which now cast themselves at him,
when suddenly he stood up and set his teeth hard together.

"I will not," he said. "I will not look for a stone with a crack around
it. We have enough already. Why should we run the risk of going crazy by
trying to get more? I will not!" And he replaced the ladder.

"What's the matter in there?" called Shirley, from outside. "Who're you
talking to?"

The captain came out of the opening in the mound, pulled up the ladder
and handed it to Shirley, and then he was about to replace the lid upon
the mound. But what was the use of doing that, he thought. There would be
no sense in closing it. He would leave it open.

"I was talking to myself," he said to Shirley, when he had descended. "It
sounded crack-brained, I expect."

"Yes, it did," answered the other. "And I am glad these are the last bags
we have to tie up and take out. I should not have wondered if the whole
three of us had turned into lunatics. As for me, I have tried hard to
stop thinking about the business, and I have found that the best thing I
could do was to try and consider the stuff in these bags as coal--good,
clean, anthracite coal. Whenever I carried a bag, I said to myself,
'Hurry up, now, with this bag of coal.' A ship-load of coal, you know, is
not worth enough to turn a man's head."

"That was not a bad idea," said the captain. "But now the work is done,
and we will soon get used to thinking of it without being excited about
it. There is absolutely no reason why we should not be as happy and
contented as if we had each made a couple of thousand dollars apiece on a
good voyage."

"That's so," said Shirley, "and I'm going to try to think it."

When the last bag had been put on board, Burke and the captain were
walking about the caves looking here and there to take a final leave of
the place. Whatever the captain considered of value as a memento of the
life they had led here had been put on board.

"Captain," said Burke, "did you take all the gold out of that mound?"

"Every bit of it," was the reply.

"You didn't leave a single lump for manners?"

"No," said the captain. "I thought it better that whoever discovered that
empty mound after us should not know what had been in it. You see, we
will have to circulate these bars of gold pretty extensively, and we
don't want anybody to trace them back to the place where they came from.
When the time comes, we will make everything plain and clear, but we will
want to do it ourselves, and in our own way."

"There is sense in that," said Burke. "There's another thing I want to
ask you, captain. I've been thinking a great deal about that mound, and
it strikes me that there might be a sub-cellar under it, a little one,
most likely, with something else in it--rings and jewels, and nobody
knows what not. Did you see if there was any sign of a trap-door?"

"No," said the captain, "I did not. I wanted to do it,--you do not know
how much,--but I made up my mind it would be the worst kind of folly to
try and get anything else out of that mound. We have now all that is good
for us to have. The only question is whether or not we have not more than
is good for us. I was not sure that I should not find something, if I
looked for it, which would make me as sick as Shirley was the first time
he looked into the mound. No, sir; we have enough, and it is the part of
sensible men to stop when they have enough."

Burke shook his head. "If I'd been there," he said, "I should have looked
for a crack in that floor."

When the brig weighed anchor, she did not set out for the open sea, but
proceeded back to the Rackbirds' cove, where she anchored again. Before
setting out, the next day, on his voyage to France, the captain wished to
take on board a supply of fresh water.




CHAPTER XXXIV

BURKE AND HIS CHISEL


That night George Burke went off his watch at twelve o'clock, and a few
minutes after he had been relieved, he did something he had never done
before--he deserted his ship. With his shoes and a little bundle of
clothes on his head, he very quietly slipped down a line he had fastened
astern. It was a very dark night, and he reached the water unseen, and as
quietly as if he had been an otter going fishing. First swimming, and
then wading, he reached the shore. As soon as he was on land, he dressed,
and then went for a lantern, a hammer, and a cold-chisel, which he had
left at a convenient spot.

Without lighting the lantern, he proceeded as rapidly as possible to the
caves. His path was almost invisible, but having travelled that way so
often, he knew it as well as he knew his alphabet. Not until he was
inside the entrance to the caves did he light his lantern. Then he
proceeded, without loss of time, to the stone mound. He knew that the
ladder had been left there, and, with a little trouble, he found it,
where Shirley had put it, behind some rocks on the floor of the cave. By
the aid of this he quickly descended into the mound, and then, moving
the foot of the ladder out of the way, he vigorously began to brush away
the dust from the stone pavement. When this was done, he held up the
lantern and carefully examined the central portion of the floor, and very
soon he discovered what he had come to look for. A space about three feet
square was marked off on the pavement of the mound by a very perceptible
crevice. The other stones of the pavement were placed rather irregularly,
but some of them had been cut to allow this single square stone to be set
in the centre.

"That's a trap-door," said Burke. "There can't be any doubt about that."
And immediately he set to work to get it open.

There was no ring, nor anything by which he could lift it; but if he
could get his heavy chisel under it, he was sure he could raise it until
he could get hold of it with his hands. So he began to drive his chisel
vigorously down into the cracks at various places. This was not difficult
to do, and, trying one side after another, he got the chisel down so far
that he could use it as a lever. But with all his strength he could not
raise the stone.

At last, while working at one corner, he broke out a large piece of the
pavement, eight or nine inches long, and found that it had covered a
metal bar about an inch in diameter. With his lantern he carefully
examined this rod, and found that it was not iron, but appeared to be
made of some sort of bronze.

"Now, what is this?" said Burke to himself. "It's either a hinge or a
bolt. It doesn't look like a hinge, for it wouldn't be any use for it to
run so far into the rest of the pavement, and if it is a bolt, I don't
see how they got at it to move it. I'll see where it goes to." And he
began to cut away more of the pavement toward the wall of the dome. The
pieces of stone came up without much trouble, and as far as he cut he
found the metal rod.

"By George!" said he, "I believe it goes outside of the mound! They
worked it from outside!"

Putting the ladder in place, he ran up with his lantern and tools, and
descended to the outside floor. Then he examined the floor of the cave
where the rod must run if it came outside the mound. He found a line of
flat stones, each about a foot square, extending from the mound toward
the western side of the cave.

"Oh, ho!" he cried, and on his knees he went to work, soon forcing up one
of these stones, and under it was the metal rod, lying in a groove
considerably larger than itself. Burke now followed the line of stones to
the western side of the cave, where the roof was so low he could scarcely
stand up under it. To make sure, he took up another stone, and still
found the rod.

"I see what this means," said he. "That bolt is worked from clean
outside, and I've got to find the handle of it. If I can't do that, I'll
go back and cut through that bolt, if my chisel will do it."

He now went back to a point on the line of stones about midway between
the side of the cave and the mound, and then, walking forward as nearly
as possible in a straight line, which would be at right angles with the
metal rod, he proceeded until he had reached the entrance to the
passageway which led to the outer caves, carefully counting his steps as
he went. Then he turned squarely about, entered the passage, and walked
along it until he came to the door of the room which had once been
occupied by Captain Horn.

"I'll try it inside first," said Burke to himself, "and then I'll
go outside."

He walked through the rooms, turning to the right about ten feet when he
came to the middle apartment,--for the door here was not opposite to the
others,--but coming back again to his line of march as soon as he was on
the other side. He proceeded until he reached the large cave, open at the
top, which was the last of these compartments. This was an extensive
cavern, the back part being, however, so much impeded by rocks that had
fallen from the roof that it was difficult for him to make any progress,
and the numbering of his steps depended very much upon calculation. But
when he reached the farthest wall, Burke believed that he had gone about
as great a distance as he had stepped off in the cave of the lake.

"But how in the mischief," thought he, "am I to find anything here?" He
held up his lantern and looked about. "I can't move these rocks to see
what is under them."

As he gazed around, he noticed that the southeast corner seemed to be
more regular than the rest of the wall of the cave. In fact, it was
almost a right-angled corner, and seemed to have been roughly cut into
that shape. Instantly Burke was in the corner. He found the eastern wall
quite smooth for a space about a foot wide and extending about two yards
from the floor. In this he perceived lines of crevice marking out a
rectangular space some six inches wide and four feet in height.

"Ha, ha!" cried Burke. "The handle is on the other side of that slab,
I'll bet my head!" And putting down the lantern, he went to work.

With his hammer and chisel he had forced the top of the slab in less than
two minutes, and soon he pulled it outward and let it drop on the floor.
Inside the narrow, perpendicular cavity which was now before him, he saw
an upright metal bar.

"The handle of the bolt!" cried Burke. "Now I can unfasten the
trap-door." And taking hold of the top of the bar, he pulled back with
all his force. At first he could not move it, but suddenly the resistance
ceased, and he pulled the bar forward until it stood at an angle of
forty-five degrees from the wall. Further than this Burke could not move
it, although he tugged and bore down on it with all his weight.

"All right," said he, at last. "I guess that's as far as she'll come.
Anyway, I'm off to see if I've drawn that bolt. If I have, I'll have that
trap-door open, if I have to break my back lifting it."

With his best speed Burke ran through the caves to the mound, and,
mounting by means of the stone projections, he was about to descend by
the ladder, when, to his utter amazement, he saw no ladder. He had left
it projecting at least two feet through the opening in the top of the
mound, and now he could see nothing of it.

What could this mean? Going up a little higher, he held up his lantern
and looked within, but saw no signs of the ladder.

"By George!" he cried, "has anybody followed me and pulled out
that ladder?"

Lowering the lantern farther into the mound, he peered in. Below, and
immediately under him, was a black hole, about three feet square.
Burke was so startled that he almost dropped the lantern. But he was a
man of tough nerve, and maintained his clutch upon it. But he drew
back. It required some seconds to catch his breath. Presently he
looked down again.

"I see," said he. "That trap-door was made to fall down, and not to lift
up, and when I pulled the bolt, down it went, and the ladder, being on
top of it, slipped into that hole. Heavens!" he said, as a cold sweat
burst out over him at the thought, "suppose I had made up my mind to cut
that bolt! Where would I have gone to?"

It was not easy to frighten Burke, but now he trembled, and his back was
chilled. But he soon recovered sufficiently to do something, and going
down to the floor of the cave, he picked up a piece of loose stone, and
returning to the top of the mound, he looked carefully over the edge of
the opening, and let the stone drop into the black hole beneath. With all
the powers of his brain he listened, and it seemed to him like half a
minute before he heard a faint sound, far, far below. At this moment he
was worse frightened than he had ever been in his life. He clambered down
to the foot of the mound, and sat down on the floor.

"What in the name of all the devils does it mean?" said he; and he set
himself to work to think about it, and found this a great deal harder
labor than cutting stone.

"There was only one thing," he said to himself, at last, "that they could
have had that for. The captain says that those ancient fellows put their
gold there keep it from the Spaniards, and they must have rigged up this
devilish contrivance to work if they found the Spaniards had got on the
track of their treasure. Even if the Spaniards had let off the water and
gone to work to get the gold out, one of the Incas' men in the corner of
that other cave, which most likely was all shut up and not discoverable,
would have got hold of that bar, given it a good pull, and let down all
the gold, and what Spaniards might happen to be inside, to the very
bottom of that black hole. By George! it would have been a pretty trick!
The bottom of that mound is just like a funnel, and every stick of gold
would have gone down. But, what is more likely, they would have let it
out before the Spaniards had a chance to open the top, and then, if the
ancients had happened to lick the Spaniards, they could have got all that
gold up again. It might have taken ten or twenty years, but then, the
ancients had all the time they wanted."

After these reflections, Burke sat for a few moments, staring at the
lantern. "But, by George!" said he again, speaking aloud, though in low
tones, "it makes my blood run cold to think of the captain working day
after day, as hard as he could, right over that horrible trap-door.
Suppose he had moved the bolt in some way! Suppose somebody outside had
found that slab in the wall and had fooled with the bar! Then, there is
another thing. Suppose, while they were living here, he or the boy had
found that bar before he found the dome, and had pulled out the concern
to see what it was! Bless me! in that case we should all be as poor as
rats! Bat I must not stop here, or the next watch will be called before I
get back. But one thing I'll do before I go. I'll put back that lid.
Somebody might find the dome in the dark, and tumble into it. Why, if a
wandering rat should make a slip, and go down into that black hole, it
would be enough to make a fellow's blood run cold if he knew of it."

Without much trouble Burke replaced the lid, and then, without further
delay, he left the caves. As he hurried along the beach, he debated
within himself whether or not he should tell Captain Horn what he had
discovered.

"It will be mighty hard on his nerves," said he, "if he comes to know how
he squatted and worked for days and weeks over that diabolical trap that
opens downward. He's a strong man, but he's got enough on his nerves as
it is. No, I won't tell him. He is going to do the handsome thing by us,
and it would be mean for me to do the unhandsome thing by him. By George!
I don't believe he could sleep for two or three nights if he knew what I
know! No, sir! You just keep your mouth shut until we are safe and sound
in some civilized spot, with the whole business settled, and Shirley and
me discharged. Then I will tell the captain about it, so that nobody need
ever trouble his mind about coming back to look for gold rings and royal
mummies. If I don't get back before my watch is called, I'll brazen it
out somehow. We've got to twist discipline a little when we are all hard
at work at a job like this."

He left his shoes on the sand of the cove, and swam to the ship without
taking time to undress. He slipped over the taffrail, and had scarcely
time to get below and change his clothes before his watch was called.




CHAPTER XXXV

THE CAPTAIN WRITES A LETTER


On the afternoon of the next day, the Miranda, having taken in water, set
sail, and began her long voyage to Rio Janeiro, and thence to France.

Now that his labors were over, and the treasure of the Incas safely
stored in the hold of the brig, where it was ignominiously acting as
ballast, Captain Horn seated himself comfortably in the shade of a sail
and lighted his pipe. He was tired of working, tired of thinking, tired
of planning--tired in mind, body, and even soul; and the thought that
his work was done, and that he was actually sailing away with his great
prize, came to him like a breeze from the sea after a burning day. He
was not as happy as he should have been. He knew that he was too tired
to be as happy as his circumstances demanded, but after a while he would
attend better to that business. Now he was content to smoke his pipe,
and wait, and listen to the distant music from all the different kinds
of enjoyment which, in thought, were marching toward him. It was true he
was only beginning his long voyage to the land where he hoped to turn
his gold into available property. It was true that he might be murdered
that night, or some other night, and that when the brig, with its
golden cargo, reached port, he might not be in command of her. It was
true that a hundred things might happen to prevent the advancing
enjoyments from ever reaching him. But ill-omened chances threaten
everything that man is doing, or ever can do, and he would not let the
thought of them disturb him now.

Everybody on board the Miranda was glad to rest and be happy, according
to his methods and his powers of anticipation. As to any present
advantage from their success, there was none. The stones and sand they
had thrown out had ballasted the brig quite as well as did the gold they
now carried. This trite reflection forced itself upon the mind of Burke.

"Captain," said he, "don't you think it would be a good idea to touch
somewhere and lay in a store of fancy groceries and saloon-cabin grog? If
we can afford to be as jolly as we please, I don't see why we shouldn't
begin now."

But the captain shook his head. "It would be a dangerous thing," he said,
"to put into any port on the west coast of South America with our present
cargo on board. We can't make it look like ballast, as I expected we
could, for all that bagging gives it a big bulk, and if the custom-house
officers came on board, it would not do any good to tell them we are
sailing in ballast, if they happened to want to look below."

"Well, that may be so," said Burke. "But what I'd like would be to meet a
first-class, double-quick steamer, and buy her, put our treasure on
board, and then clap on all steam for France."

"All right," said the captain, "but we'll talk about that when we meet a
steamer for sale."

After a week had passed, and he had begun to feel the advantages of rest
and relief from anxiety, Captain Horn regretted nothing so much as that
the _Miranda_ was not a steamer, ploughing her swift way over the seas.
It must be a long, long time before he could reach those whom he supposed
and hoped were waiting for him in France. It had already been a long,
long time since they had heard from him. He did not fear that they would
suffer because he did not come. He had left them money enough to prevent
anything of that sort. He did not know whether or not they were longing
to hear from him, but he did know that he wanted them to hear from him.
He must yet sail about three thousand miles in the Pacific Ocean, and
then about two thousand more in the Atlantic, before he reached Rio
Janeiro, the port for which he had cleared. From there it would be nearly
five thousand miles to France, and he did not dare to calculate how long
it would take the brig to reach her final destination.

This course of thought determined him to send a letter, which would reach
Paris long before he could arrive there. If they should know that he was
on his way home, all might be well, or, at least, better than if they
knew nothing about him. It might be a hazardous thing to touch at a port
on this coast, but he believed that, if he managed matters properly, he
might get a letter ashore without making it necessary for any meddlesome
custom-house officers to come aboard and ask questions. Accordingly, he
decided to stop at Valparaiso. He thought it likely that if he did not
meet a vessel going into port which would lay to and take his letter, he
might find some merchantman, anchored in the roadstead, to which he
could send a boat, and on which he was sure to find some one who would
willingly post his letter.

He wrote a long letter to Edna--a straightforward, business-like
missive, as his letters had always been, in which, in language which she
could understand, but would carry no intelligible idea to any
unauthorized person who might open the letter, he gave her an account of
what he had done, and which was calculated to relieve all apprehensions,
should it be yet a long time before he reached her. He promised to write
again whenever there was an opportunity of sending her a letter, and
wrote in such a friendly and encouraging manner that he felt sure there
would be no reason for any disappointment or anxiety regarding him and
the treasure.

Burke and Shirley were a little surprised when they found that the
captain had determined to stop at Valparaiso, a plan so decidedly opposed
to what he had before said on the subject. But when they found it was for
the purpose of sending a letter to his wife, and that he intended, if
possible, barely to touch and go, they said nothing more, nor did Burke
make any further allusions to improvement in their store of provisions.

When, at last, the captain found himself off Valparaiso, it was on a
dark, cloudy evening and nothing could be done until the next morning,
and they dropped anchor to wait until dawn.

As soon as it was light, the captain saw that a British steamer was
anchored about a mile from the _Miranda_, and he immediately sent a boat,
with Shirley and two of the negroes, to ask the officer on duty to post
his letter when he sent on shore. In a little more than an hour Shirley
returned, with the report that the first mate of the steamer knew Captain
Horn and would gladly take charge of his letter.

The boat was quickly hauled to the davits, and all hands were called to
weigh anchor and set sail. But all hands did not respond to the call. One
of the negroes, a big, good-natured fellow, who, on account of his
unpronounceable African name, had been dubbed "Inkspot," was not to be
found. This was a very depressing thing, under the circumstances, and it,
almost counterbalanced the pleasure the captain felt in having started a
letter on its way to his party in France.

It seemed strange that Inkspot should have deserted the vessel, for it
was a long way to the shore, and, besides, what possible reason could he
have for leaving his fellow-Africans and taking up his lot among absolute
strangers? The crew had all worked together so earnestly and faithfully
that the captain had come to believe in them and trust them to an extent
to which he had never before trusted seamen.

The officers held a consultation as to what was to be done, and they very
quickly arrived at a decision. To remain at anchor, to send a boat on
shore to look for the missing negro, would be dangerous and useless.
Inquiries about the deserter would provoke inquiries about the brig, and
if Inkspot really wished to run away from the vessel, it would take a
long time to find him and bring him back. The right course was quite
plain to every one. Having finished the business which brought them
there, they must up anchor and sail away as soon as possible. As for the
loss of the man, they must bear that as well as they could. Whether he
had been drowned, eaten by a shark, or had safely reached the shore, he
was certainly lost to them.

At the best, their crew had been small enough, but six men had sailed a
brig, and six men could do it again.

So the anchor was weighed, the sails were set, and before a northeast
wind the _Miranda_ went out to sea as gayly as the nature of her build
permitted, which is not saying much. It was a good wind, however, and
when the log had been thrown, the captain remarked that the brig was
making better time than she had made since they left Acapulco.




CHAPTER XXXVI

A HORSE-DEALER APPEARS ON THE SCENE


When the brig _Miranda_ was lying at anchor in the Rackbirds' cove, and
Mr. George Burke had silently left her in order to go on shore and pursue
some investigations in which he was interested, his departure from the
brig had not been, as he supposed, unnoticed. The big, good-natured
African, known as Inkspot, had been on watch, and, being himself so very
black that he was not generally noticeable in the dark, was standing on a
part of the deck from which, without being noticed himself, he saw a
person get over the taffrail and slip into the water. He knew this person
to be the second mate, and having a high respect and some fear of his
superiors, he did not consider it his business to interfere with him. He
saw a head above the water, moving toward the shore, but it soon
disappeared in the darkness. Toward the end of his watch, he had seen Mr.
Burke climb up the vessel's side as silently as he had gone down it, and
disappear below.

When Inkspot went to his hammock, which he did very shortly afterwards,
he reflected to the best of his ability upon what he had seen. Why did
Mr. Burke slip away from the ship so silently, and come back in the same
way? He must have gone ashore, and why did he want no one to know that he
had gone? He must have gone to do something he ought not to do, and
Inkspot could think of nothing wrong that Mr. Burke would like to do,
except to drink whiskey. Captain Horn was very particular about using
spirits on board, and perhaps Mr. Burke liked whiskey, and could not get
it. Inkspot knew about the storehouse of the Rackbirds, but he did not
know what it had contained, or what had been left there. Maka had said
something about the whiskey having been poured out on the sand, but that
might have been said just to keep people away from the place. If there
were no whiskey there, why did Mr. Burke go on shore?

Now, it so happened that Inkspot knew a good deal about whiskey. Before
he had gone into the service of the Rackbirds, he had, at different
times, been drunk, and he had the liveliest and most pleasant
recollections of these experiences. It had been a long time since he had
had enough whiskey to make him feel happy. This had probably been the
case with Mr. Burke, and he had gone on shore, and most likely had had
some very happy hours, and had come back without any one knowing where he
had gone. The consequence of this train of thought was that Inkspot
determined that he would go on shore, the next night, and hunt for
whiskey. He could do it quite as well as Mr. Burke had done it, perhaps
even better. But the _Miranda_ did not remain in the cove the next night,
and poor Inkspot looked with longing eyes upon the slowly departing spot
on the sands where he knew the Rackbirds' storehouse was located.

The days and nights went on, and in the course of time the _Miranda_
anchored in the harbor of Valparaiso; and, when this happened, Inkspot
determined that now would be his chance to go on shore and get a good
drink of whiskey--he had money enough for that. He could see the lights
of El Puerto, or the Old Town, glittering and beckoning, and they did
not appear to be very far off. It would be nothing for him to swim as
far as that.

Inkspot went off his watch at midnight, and he went into the water at
fifty minutes to one. He wore nothing but a dark-gray shirt and a pair of
thin trousers, and if any one had seen his head and shoulders, it is not
likely, unless a good light had been turned on them, that they would have
been supposed to be portions of a human form.

Inkspot was very much at home in the water, and he could swim like a dog
or a deer. But it was a long, long swim to those glittering and
beckoning lights. At last, however, he reached a pier, and having rested
himself on the timbers under it, he cautiously climbed to the top. The
pier was deserted, and he walked to the end of it, and entered the town.
He knew nothing of Valparaiso, except that it was a large city where
sailors went, and he was quite sure he could find a shop where they sold
whiskey. Then he would have a glass--perhaps two--perhaps three--after
which he would return to the brig, as Mr. Burke had done. Of course, he
would have to do much more swimming than had been necessary for the
second mate, but then, he believed himself to be a better swimmer than
that gentleman, and he expected to get back a great deal easier than he
came, because the whiskey would make him strong and happy, and he could
play with the waves.

Inkspot did find a shop, and a dirty one it was--but they sold whiskey
inside, and that was enough for him. With the exception of Maka, he was
the most intelligent negro among the captain's crew, and he had picked up
some words of English and some of Spanish. But it was difficult for him
to express an idea with these words. Among these words, however, was one
which he pronounced better than any of the others, and which had always
been understood whenever he used it,--whether in English or Spanish, no
matter what the nationality might be of the person addressed,--and that
word was "whiskey."

Inkspot had one glass, and then another, a third, and a fourth, and then
his money gave out--at least, the man who kept the shop insisted, in
words that any one could understand, that the silver the big negro had
fished out of his dripping pockets would pay for no more drinks. But
Inkspot had had enough to make him happy. His heart was warm, and his
clothes were getting drier. He went out into the glorious night. It was
dark and windy, and the sky was cloudy, but to him all things were
glorious. He sat down on the pavement in the cosey corner of two walls,
and there he slept luxuriously until a policeman came along and arrested
him for being drunk in the street.

It was two days before Inkspot got out of the hands of the police. Then
he was discharged because the authorities did not desire to further
trouble themselves with a stupid fellow who could give no account of
himself, and had probably wandered from a vessel in port. The first
thing he did was to go out to the water's edge and look out over the
harbor, but although he saw many ships, his sharp eyes told him that not
one of them was the brig he had left.

After an hour or two of wandering up and down the waterside, he became
sure that there was no vessel in that harbor waiting for him to swim to
her. Then he became equally certain that he was very hungry. It was not
long, however, before a good, strong negro like Inkspot found employment.
It was not necessary for him to speak very much Spanish, or any other
language, to get a job at carrying things up a gang-plank, and, in pay
for this labor, he willingly took whatever was given him.

That night, with very little money in his pocket, Inkspot entered a
tavern, a low place, but not so low as the one he had patronized on his
arrival in Valparaiso. He had had a meagre supper, and now possessed
but money enough to pay for one glass of whiskey, and having procured
this, he seated himself on a stool in a corner, determined to protract
his enjoyment as long as possible. Where he would sleep that night he
knew not, but it was not yet bedtime, and he did not concern himself
with the question.

Near by, at a table, were seated four men, drinking, smoking, and
talking. Two of these were sailors. Another, a tall, dark man with a
large nose, thin at the bridge and somewhat crooked below, was dressed in
very decent shore clothes, but had a maritime air about him,
notwithstanding. The fourth man, as would have been evident to any one
who understood Spanish, was a horse-dealer, and the conversation, when
Inkspot entered the place, was entirely about horses. But Inkspot did
not know this, as he understood so few of the words that he heard, and he
would not have been interested if he had understood them. The
horse-dealer was the principal spokesman, but he would have been a poor
representative of the shrewdness of his class, had he been trying to sell
horses to sailors. He was endeavoring to do nothing of the kind. These
men were his friends, and he was speaking to them, not of the good
qualities of his animals, but of the credulous natures of his customers.
To illustrate this, he drew from his pocket a small object which he had
received a few days before for some horses which might possibly be worth
their keep, although he would not be willing to guarantee this to any one
at the table. The little object which he placed on the table was a piece
of gold about two inches long, and shaped like an irregular prism.

This, he said, he had received in trade from a man in Santiago, who had
recently come down from Lima. The man had bought it from a jeweller, who
had others, and who said he understood they had come from California. The
jeweller had owed the man money, and the latter had taken this, not as a
curiosity, for it was not much of a curiosity, as they could all see, but
because the jeweller told him exactly how much it was worth, and because
it was safer than money to carry, and could be changed into current coin
in any part of the world. The point of the horse-dealer's remarks was,
however, the fact that not only had he sold his horses to the man from
Lima for very much more than they were worth, but he had made him believe
that this lump of gold was not worth as much as he had been led to
suppose, that the jeweller bad cheated him, and that Californian gold
was not easily disposed of in Chili or Peru, for it was of a very
inferior quality to the gold of South America. So he had made his trade,
and also a profit, not only on the animals he delivered, but on the pay
he received. He had had the little lump weighed and tested, and knew
exactly how much it was worth.

When the horse-dealer had finished this pleasant tale, he laughed
loudly, and the three other men laughed also because they had keen wits
and appreciated a good story of real life. But their laughter was
changed to astonishment--almost fright--when a big black negro bounded
out of a dark corner and stood by the table, one outstretched ebony
finger pointing to the piece of gold. Instantly the horse dealer
snatched his treasure and thrust it into his pocket, and almost at the
same moment each man sprung to his feet and put his hand on his favorite
weapon. But the negro made no attempt to snatch the gold, nor did there
seem to be any reason to apprehend an attack from him. He stood slapping
his thighs with his hands, his mouth in a wide grin, and his eyes
sparkling in apparent delight.

"What is the matter with you?" shouted the horse-dealer. "What do
you want?"

Inkspot did not understand what had been said to him, nor could he have
told what he wanted, for he did not know. At that moment he knew nothing,
he comprehended nothing, but he felt as a stranger in a foreign land
would feel should he hear some words in his native tongue. The sight of
that piece of gold had given to Inkspot, by one quick flash, a view of
his negro friends and companions, of Captain Horn and his two white men,
of the brig he had left, of the hammock in which he had slept--of all, in
fact, that he now cared for on earth.

He had seen pieces of gold like that. Before all the treasure had been
carried from the caves to the _Miranda_, the supply of coffee-bags had
given out, and during the last days of the loading it had been necessary
to tie up the gold in pieces of sail-cloth, after the fashion of a
wayfarer's bundle. Before these had been put on board, their fastening
had been carefully examined, and some of them had been opened and retied.
Thus all the negroes had seen the little bars, for, as they knew the bags
contained gold, there was no need of concealing from them the shape and
size of the contents.

So, when, sitting in his gloomy corner, his spirits slowly rising under
the influence of his refreshment, which he had just finished, he saw
before him an object which recalled to him the life and friends of which
he had bereft himself, Inkspot's nature took entire possession of him,
and he bounded to the table in ecstatic recognition of the bit of metal.

The men now swore at Inkspot, but as they saw he was unarmed, and not
inclined to violence, they were not afraid of him, but they wondered at
him. The horse-dealer took the piece of gold out of his pocket and held
it in his hand.

"Did you ever see anything like that before?" he asked. He was a shrewd
man, the horse-dealer, and really wanted to know what was the matter with
the negro.

Inkspot did not answer, but jabbered in African.

"Try him in English," suggested the thin-nosed man, and this the
horse-dealer did.

Many of the English words Inkspot understood. He had seen things like
that. Yes, yes! Great heaps! Heaps! Bags! Bags! He carried them! Throwing
an imaginary package over his shoulder, he staggered under it across the
floor. Heaps! Piles! Bags! Days and days and days he carried many bags!
Then, in a state of exalted mental action, produced by his recollections
and his whiskey, he suddenly conceived a scorn for a man who prized so
highly just one of these lumps, and who was nearly frightened out of his
wits if a person merely pointed to it. He shrugged his shoulders, he
spread out the palms of his hands toward the piece of gold, he turned
away his head and walked off sniffing. Then he came back and pointed to
it, and, saying "One!" he laughed, and then he said "One!" and laughed
again. Suddenly he became possessed with a new idea. His contemptuous
manner dropped from him, and in eager excitement he leaned forward and
exclaimed:

"Cap' 'Or?"

The four men looked at each other and at him in wonder, and asked what,
in the name of his satanic majesty, the fellow was driving at. This
apparent question, now repeated over and over again in turn to each of
them, they did not understand at all. But they could comprehend that the
negro had carried bags of lumps like that. This was very interesting.




CHAPTER XXXVII

THE "ARATO"

The subject of the labors of an African Hercules, mythical as these
labors might be, was so interesting to the four men who had been drinking
and smoking in the tavern, that they determined to pursue it as far as
their ignorance of the African's language, and his ignorance of English
and Spanish, would permit. In the first place, they made him sit down
with them, and offered him something to drink. It was not whiskey, but
Inkspot liked it very much, and felt all sorts of good effects from it.
In fact, it gave him a power of expressing himself by gestures and single
words in a manner wonderful. After a time, the men gave him something to
eat, for they imagined he might be hungry, and this also helped him very
much, and his heart went out to these new friends. Then he had a little
more to drink, but only a little, for the horse-dealer and the thin-nosed
man, who superintended the entertainment, were very sagacious, and did
not want him to drink too much.

In the course of an hour, these four men, listening and watching keenly
and earnestly, had become convinced that this black man had been on a
ship which carried bags of gold similar to the rude prism possessed by
the horse-dealer, that he had left that vessel for the purpose of
obtaining refreshments on shore and had not been able to get back to it,
thereby indicating that the vessel had not stopped long at the place
where he had left it, and which place must have been, of course,
Valparaiso. Moreover, they found out to their full satisfaction where
that vessel was going to; for Maka had talked a great deal about Paris,
which he pronounced in English fashion, where Cheditafa and Mok were, and
the negroes had looked forward to this unknown spot as a heavenly port,
and Inkspot could pronounce the word "Paris" almost as plainly as if it
were a drink to which he was accustomed.

But where the vessel was loaded with the gold, they could not find out.
No grimace that Inkspot could make, nor word that he could say, gave them
an idea worth dwelling upon. He said some words which made them believe
that the vessel had cleared from Acapulco, but it was foolish to suppose
that any vessel had been loaded there with bags of gold carried on men's
shoulders. The ship most probably came from California, and had touched
at the Mexican port. And she was now bound for Paris. That was natural
enough. Paris was a very good place to which to take gold. Moreover, she
had probably touched at some South American port, Callao perhaps, and
this was the way the little pieces of gold had been brought into the
country, the Californians probably having changed them for stores.

The words "Cap' 'Or," often repeated by the negro, and always in a
questioning tone, puzzled them very much. They gave up its solution, and
went to work to try to make out the name of the vessel upon which the
bags had been loaded. But here Inkspot could not help them. They could
not make him understand what it was they wanted him to say. At last, the
horse-dealer proposed to the others, who, he said, knew more about such
things than he did, that they should repeat the name of every
sailing-vessel on that coast of which they had ever heard--for Inkspot
had made them understand that his ship had sails, and no steam. This they
did, and presently one of the sailors mentioned the name _Miranda_, which
belonged to a brig he knew of which plied on the coast. At this, Inkspot
sprang to his feet and clapped his hands.

_"Miran'a! Miran'a.'"_ he cried. And then followed the words, "Cap' 'Or!
Cap' 'Or!" in eagerly excited tones.

Suddenly the thin-nosed man, whom the others called Cardatas,
leaned forward.

"Cap'n Horn?" said he.

Inkspot clapped his hands again, and exclaimed:

"Ay, ay! Cap' 'Or! Cap' 'Or!"

He shouted the words so loudly that the barkeeper, at the other end of
the room, called out gruffly that they'd better keep quiet, or they would
have somebody coming in.

"There you have it!" exclaimed Cardatas, in Spanish. "It's Cap'n Horn
that the fool's been trying to say. Cap'n Horn of the brig _Miranda_. We
are getting on finely."

"I have heard of a Cap'n Horn," said one of the sailors. "He's a Yankee
skipper from California. He has sailed from this port, I know."

"And he touched here three days ago, according to the negro," said
Cardatas, addressing the horse-dealer. "What do you say to that, Nunez?
From what we know, I don't think it will be hard to find out more."

Nunez agreed with him, and thought it might pay to find out more. Soon
after this, being informed that it was time to shut up the place, the
four men went out, taking Inkspot with them. They would not neglect this
poor fellow. They would give him a place to sleep, and in the morning he
should have something to eat. It would be very unwise to let him go from
them at present.

The next morning Inkspot strolled about the wharves of Valparaiso, in
company with the two sailors, who never lost sight of him, and he had
rather a pleasant time, for they gave him as much to eat and drink as was
good for him, and made him understand as well as they could that it would
not be long before they would help him to return to the brig _Miranda_
commanded by Captain Horn.

In the meantime, the horse-dealer, Nunez, went to a newspaper office, and
there procured a file of a Mexican paper, for the negro had convinced
them that his vessel had sailed from Acapulco. Turning over the back
numbers week after week, and week after week, Nunez searched in the
maritime news for the information that the _Miranda_ had cleared from a
Mexican port. He had gone back so far that he had begun to consider it
useless to make further search, when suddenly he caught the name
_Miranda_. There it was. The brig _Miranda_ had cleared from Acapulco
September 16, bound for Rio Janeiro in ballast. Nunez counted the months
on his fingers.

"Five months ago!" he said to himself. "That's not this trip, surely.
But I will talk to Cardatas about that." And taking from his pocket a
little note-book in which he recorded his benefactions in the line of
horse trades, he carefully copied the paragraph concerning the _Miranda_.

When Nunez met Cardatas in the afternoon, the latter also had news. He
had discovered that the arrival of the _Miranda_ had not been registered,
but he had been up and down the piers, asking questions, and he had found
a mate of a British steamer, then discharging her cargo, who told him
that the _Miranda_, commanded by Captain Horn, had anchored in the harbor
three days back, during the night, and that early the next morning
Captain Horn had sent him a letter which he wished posted, and that very
soon afterwards the brig had put out to sea. Cardatas wished to know much
more, but the mate, who had had but little conversation with Shirley,
could only tell him that the brig was then bound from Acapulco to Rio
Janeiro in ballast, which he thought rather odd, but all he could add was
that he knew Captain Horn, and he was a good man, and that if he were
sailing in ballast, he supposed he knew what he was about.

Nunez then showed Cardatas the note he had made, and remarked that, of
course, it could not refer to the present voyage of the brig, for it
could not take her five months to come from Acapulco to this port.

"No," said the other, musing, "it oughtn't to, but, on the other hand,
it is not likely she is on her second voyage to Rio, and both times in
ballast. That's all stuff about ballast. No man would be such a fool as
to sail pretty nigh all around this continent in ballast. He could find
some cargo in Mexico that he could sell when he got to port. Besides, if
that black fellow don't lie,--and he don't know enough to lie,--she's
bound for Paris. It's more likely she means to touch at Rio and take
over some cargo. But why, in the devil's name, should she sail from
Acapulco in ballast? It looks to me as if bags of gold might make very
good ballast."

"That's just what I was thinking," said Nunez.

"And what's more," said the other, "I'll bet she brought it down from
California with her when she arrived at Acapulco. I don't believe she
originally cleared from there."

"It looks that way," said Nunez, "but how do you account for such a
long voyage?"

"I've been talking to Sanchez about that _Miranda_," said Cardatas. "He
has heard that she is an old tub, and a poor sailer, and in that case
five months is not such a very slow voyage. I have known of slower
voyages than that."

"And now what are you going to do about it?" asked Nunez.

"The first thing I want to do is to pump that black fellow a
little more."

"A good idea," said Nunez, "and we'll go and do it."

Poor Inkspot was pumped for nearly an hour, but not much was got out of
him. The only feature of his information that was worth anything was the
idea that he managed to convey that ballast, consisting of stones and
bags of sand, had been taken out of the brig and thrown away, and bags of
gold put in their places. Where this transfer had taken place, the negro
could not make his questioners understand, and he was at last remanded to
the care of Sanchez and the other sailor.

"The black fellow can't tell us much," said Cardatas to Nunez, as they
walked away together, "but he has stuck to his story well, and there
can't be any use of his lying about it. And there is another thing. What
made the brig touch here just long enough to leave a letter, and that
after a voyage of five months? That looks as if they were afraid some of
their people would go on shore and talk."

"In that case," said Nunez, "I should say there is something shady about
the business. Perhaps this captain has slipped away from his partners up
there in California, or somebody who has been up to a trick has hired him
to take the gold out of the country. If he does carry treasure, it isn't
a fair and square thing. If it had been fair, the gold would have been
sent in the regular way, by a steamer. It's no crime to send gold from
California to France, or any other place."

"I agree with you," said Cardatas, as he lighted his twenty-seventh
cigarette.

Nunez did not smoke, but he mused as he walked along.

"If she has gold on board," said he, presently, "it must be a good deal."

"Yes," said the other. "They wouldn't take so much trouble for a small
lot. Of course, there can't be enough of it to take the place of all the
ballast, but it must weigh considerable."

Here the two men were joined by an acquaintance, and their special
conversation ceased. That night they met again.

"What are you going to do about this?" asked Nunez. "We can't keep on
supporting that negro."

"What is to be done?" asked the other, his sharp eyes fixed upon his
companion's face.

"Would it pay to go over to Rio and meet that brig when she arrives
there? If we could get on board and have a talk with her captain, he
might be willing to act handsomely when he found out we know something
about him and his ship. And if he won't do that, we might give
information, and have his vessel held until the authorities in California
can be communicated with. Then I should say we ought to make something."

"I don't think much of that plan," said Cardatas. "I don't believe she's
going to touch at Rio. If she's afraid to go into port here, why
shouldn't she be afraid to go into port there? No. It would be stupid for
us to go to Rio and sit down and wait for her."

"Then," answered the other, a little angrily, "what can be done?"

"We can go after her," said Cardatas.

The other sneered. "That would be more stupid than the other," said he.
"She left here four days ago, and we could never catch up with her, even
if we could find such a pin-point of a vessel on the great Pacific."

Cardatas laughed. "You don't know much about navigation," said he, "but
that's not to be expected. With a good sailing-vessel I could go after
her, and overhaul her somewhere in the Straits of Magellan. With such a
cargo, I am sure she would make for the Straits. That Captain Horn is
said to be a good sailor, and the fact that he is in command of such a
tub as the _Miranda_ is a proof that there is something underhand about
his business."

"And if we should overhaul her?" said the other.

"Well," was the reply, "we might take along a dozen good fellows, and as
the _Miranda_ has only three men on board,--I don't count negroes worth
anything,--I don't see why we couldn't induce the captain to talk
reasonably to us. As for a vessel, there's the _Arato_."

"Your vessel?" said the other.

"Yes, I own a small share in her, and she's here in port now, waiting
for a cargo."

"I forget what sort of a craft she is," said Nunez.

"She's a schooner," said the other, "and she can sail two miles to the
_Miranda's_ one in any kind of weather. If I had money enough, I could
get the _Arato_, put a good crew on board, and be at sea and on the wake
of that brig in twenty-four hours."

"And how much money would be needed?" asked the other.

"That remains to be calculated," replied Cardatas. Then the two went to
work to calculate, and spent an hour or two at it.

When they parted, Nunez had not made up his mind that the plan of
Cardatas was a good one, but he told him to go ahead and see what could
be done about getting the _Arato_ and a reliable crew, and that he would
talk further to him about the matter.

That night Nunez took a train for Santiago, and on his arrival there, the
next morning, he went straight to the shop of the jeweller of whom had
been obtained the piece of gold in his possession. Here he made some
cautious inquiries, and found the jeweller very ready to talk about the
piece of gold that Nunez showed him. The jeweller said that he had had
four pieces of the gold in his possession, and that he had bought them in
Lima to use in his business. They had originally come from California,
and were very fine gold. He had been a little curious about it on account
of the shape of the pieces, and had been told that they had been brought
into the country by an American sea-captain, who had seemed to have a
good many of them. The jeweller thought it very likely that these pieces
of gold passed for currency in California, for he had heard that at one
time the people there had had to make their own currency, and that they
often paid for merchandise in so many penny-weights and ounces of gold
instead of using coin. The jeweller was himself very glad to do business
in this way, for he liked the feel of a lump of gold.

After explaining that his reason for making these inquiries was his fear
that the piece of gold he had accepted in trade because he also liked the
feel of lumps of gold, might not be worth what he had given for it, Nunez
thanked the jeweller, left him, and returned to Valparaiso. He went
straight to his friend Cardatas, and said that he would furnish the
capital to fit out the _Arato_ for the projected trip.

It was not in twenty-four hours, but in forty-eight, that the schooner
_Arato_ cleared from Valparaiso for Callao in ballast. She had a good set
of sails, and a crew of ten men besides the captain. She also had on
board a passenger, Nunez by name, and a tall negro, who doubtless could
turn his hand to some sort of work on board, and whom it would have been
very indiscreet to leave behind.

Once outside the harbor, the _Arato_ changed her mind about going to
Callao, and sailed southward.




CHAPTER XXXVIII

THE COAST OF PATAGONIA


For about ten days after the brig _Miranda_ left Valparaiso she had good
winds and fair weather, and her progress was satisfactory to all on
board, but at the end of that time she entered upon a season of head
winds and bad weather. The vessel behaved very well in the stormy days
that followed, but she made very little headway. Her course was now laid
toward the Gulf of Penas, after reaching which she would sail along the
protected waterways between the chain of islands which lie along the
coast and the mainland, and which lead into the Straits of Magellan.

When the weather at last changed and the sea became smoother, it was
found that the working and straining of the masts during the violent
weather had opened some of the seams of the brig, and that she was taking
in water. She was a good vessel, but she was an old one, and she had had
a rough time of it. The captain thanked his stars that she had not begun
to leak before the storm.

The short-handed crew went to work at the pumps, but, after two days'
hard labor, it was found that the water in the hold steadily gained upon
the pumps, and there was no doubt that the _Miranda_ was badly strained.
According to a report from Burke, the water came in forward, aft, and
midships. Matters were now getting very serious, and the captain and his
two mates consulted together, while the three negroes pumped. It was
plain to all of them that if the water kept on gaining, it would not be
long before the brig must go to the bottom. To keep her afloat until they
reached a port would be impossible. To reach the shore in the boats was
quite possible, for they were not a hundred miles from land. But to carry
their treasure to land in two small boats was a thing which need not even
be considered.

All agreed that there was but one thing to be done. The brig must be
headed to land, and if she could be kept afloat until she neared one of
the great islands which lie along the Patagonian coast, she might be run
into some bay or protected cove, where she could be beached, or where, if
she should sink, it might be in water so shallow that all hope of getting
at her treasure would not have to be abandoned. In any case, the sooner
they got to the shore, the better for them. So the brig's bow was turned
eastward, and the pumps were worked harder than ever. There was a good
wind, and, considering that the _Miranda_ was steadily settling deeper
and deeper, she made very fair progress, and in less than two days after
she had changed her course, land was sighted. Not long after, Captain
Horn began to hope that if the wind held, and the brig could keep above
water for an hour or so, he could double a small headland which now
showed itself plainly a couple of miles away, and might be able to beach
his vessel.

What a dreary, depressing hope it was that now possessed the souls of
Captain Horn, of Burke and Shirley, and of even the three negroes! After
all the hardships, the labor, and the anxieties, after all the joy of
success and escape from danger, after all happy chances which had come in
various ways and from various directions, after the sweet delights of
rest, after the super-exultation of anticipation which no one on board
had been able to banish from his mind, there was nothing left to them now
but the eager desire that their vessel might keep afloat until she could
find some friendly sands on which she might be run, or some shallow water
in which she might sink and rest there on the wild Patagonian coast,
leaving them far from human beings of any kind, far from help, far,
perhaps, from rescue and even safety.

To this one object each man gave his entire energy, his mind, and his
body. Steadily went the pumps, steadily the captain kept his eyes fixed
upon the approaching headland, and upon the waters beyond, and steadily,
little by little, the _Miranda_ sunk lower and lower into the sea.

At last the headland was reached, and on its ocean side the surf beat
high. Keeping well away to avoid shoals or a bar, the _Miranda_ passed
the southern point of the headland, and slowly sailed into a little bay.
To the left lay the rocky ridge which formed the headland, and less than
half a mile away could be seen the shining sands of the smooth beach.
Toward this beach the _Miranda_ was now headed, every sail upon her set,
and every nerve upon her strung to its tightest. They went in upon a
flood-tide. If he had believed that the brig would float so long,
Captain Horn would have waited an hour until the tide was high, so that
he might run his vessel farther up upon the beach, but he could not wait,
and with a strong west wind he steered straight for the sands.

There was a hissing under the bows, and a shock which ran through the
vessel from stem to stern, and then grinding and grinding and grinding
until all motion ceased, and a gentle surf began to curl itself against
the stern of the brig.

Every halliard was let go, and down came every sail by the run, and then
the brig _Miranda_ ended this voyage, and all others, upon the shore of a
desolate Patagonian island.

Between the vessel and dry land there was about a hundred feet of water,
but this would be much less when the tide went out. Beyond the beach was
a stretch of sandy hillocks, or dunes, and back of these was a mass of
scrubby thicket, with here and there a low tree, and still farther back
was seen the beginning of what might be a forest. It was a different
coast from the desolate shores of Peru.

Burke came aft to the captain.

"Here we are, sir," said he, "and what's to happen next?"

"Happen!" exclaimed the captain. "We must not wait for things to happen!
What we've got to do is to step around lively, and get the gold out of
this brig before the wind changes and drives her out into deep water."

Burke put his hands into his pockets. "Is there any good of it, captain?"
said he. "Will we be any better off with the bags on that shore than we
would be if they were sunk in this bay?"

"Good of it!" exclaimed the captain. "Don't talk that way, Burke. If we
can get it on shore, there is a chance for us. But if it goes to the
bottom, out in deep water, there is none. There is no time to talk now.
What we must do is to go to work."

"Yes," said Burke, "whatever happens, it is always work. But I'm in for
it, as long as I hold together. But we've got to look out that some of
those black fellows don't drop over the bow, and give us the slip."

"They'll starve if they do," said the captain, "for not a biscuit, or a
drop of water, goes ashore until the gold is out of the hold."

Burke shook his head. "We'll do what we can, captain," said he, "but that
hold's a regular fishpond, and we'll have to dive for the bags."

"All right," said the captain, "dive let it be."

The work of removing the gold began immediately. Tackle was rigged. The
negroes went below to get out the bags, which were hauled up to the deck
in a tub. When a moderate boat-load had been taken out, a boat was
lowered and manned, and the bags passed down to it.

In the first boat the captain went ashore. He considered it wise to land
the treasure as fast as it could be taken out of the hold, for no one
could know at what time, whether on account of wind from shore or waves
from the sea, the vessel might slip out into deep water. This was a
slower method than if everybody had worked at getting the gold on deck,
and then everybody had worked at getting it ashore, but it was a safer
plan than the other, for if an accident should occur, if the brig should
be driven off the sand, they would have whatever they had already
landed. As this thought passed through the mind of the captain, he could
not help a dismal smile.

"Have!" said he to himself. "It may be that we shall have it as that poor
fellow had his bag of gold, when he lay down on his back to die there in
the wild desert."

But no one would have imagined that such an idea had come into the
captain's mind. He worked as earnestly, and as steadily, as if he had
been landing an ordinary cargo at an ordinary dock.

The captain and the men in the boat carried the bags high up on the
beach, out of any danger from tide or surf, and laid them in a line along
the sand. The captain ordered this because it would be easier to handle
them afterwards--if it should ever be necessary to handle them--than if
they had been thrown into piles. If they should conclude to bury them, it
would be easier and quicker to dig a trench along the line, and tumble
them in, than to make the deep holes that would otherwise be necessary.

Until dark that day, and even after dark, they worked, stopping only for
necessary eating and drinking. The line of bags upon the shore had grown
into a double one, and it became necessary for the men, sometimes the
white and sometimes the black, to stoop deeper and deeper into the water
of the hold to reach the bags. But they worked on bravely. In the early
dawn of the next morning they went to work again. Not a negro had given
the ship the slip, nor were there any signs that one of them had thought
of such a thing.

Backward and forward through the low surf went the boat, and longer and
wider and higher grew the mass of bags upon the beach.

It was the third day after they had reached shore that the work was
finished. Every dripping bag had been taken out of the hold, and the
captain had counted them all as they had been put ashore, and verified
the number by the record in his pocket-book.

When the lower tiers of bags had been reached, they had tried pumping out
the water, but this was of little use. The brig had keeled over on her
starboard side, and early in the morning of the third day, when the tide
was running out, a hole had been cut in that side of the vessel, out of
which a great portion of the water she contained had run. It would all
come in again, and more of it, when the tide rose, but they were sure
they could get through their work before that, and they were right. The
bags now lay upon the beach in the shape of a long mound, not more than
three feet high, and about four rows wide at the bottom and two at the
top. The captain had superintended the arrangement of the bags, and had
so shaped the mass that it somewhat resembled in form the dunes of sand
which lay behind it. No matter what might be their next step, it would
probably be advisable to conceal the bags, and the captain had thought
that the best way to do this would be to throw sand over the long mound,
in which work the prevailing western winds would be likely to assist, and
thus make it look like a natural sand-hill. Burke and Shirley were in
favor of burial, but the consideration of this matter was deferred, for
there was more work to be done, which must be attended to immediately.

Now provisions, water, and everything else that might be of value was
taken out of the brig and carried to shore. Two tents were constructed
out of sails and spars, and the little party established themselves
upon the beach. What would be their next work they knew not, but they
must first rest from their long season of heavy labor. The last days
had been harder even than the days of storm and the days of pumping.
They had eaten hurriedly and slept but little. Regular watches and
irregular watches had been kept--watches against storm, which might
sweep the brig with all on board out to sea, watches against desertion,
watches against they knew not what. As chief watcher, the captain had
scarcely slept at all.

It had been dreary work, unrelieved by hope, uncheered by prospect of
success; for not one of them, from the captain down, had any definite
idea as to what was to be done after they had rested enough to act.

But they rested, and they went so far as to fill their pipes and stretch
themselves upon the sand. When night came on, chilly and dark, they
gathered driftwood and dead branches from the thicket and built a
camp-fire. They sat around it, and smoked their pipes, but they did not
tell stories, nor did they talk very much. They were glad to rest, they
were glad to keep warm, but that was all. The only really cheerful thing
upon the beach was the fire, which leaped high and blazed merrily as the
dried wood was heaped upon it.




CHAPTER XXXIX

SHIRLEY SPIES A SAIL


When the _Arato_ changed her mind about going to Callao, and sailed
southward some five days after the _Miranda_ had started on the same
course, she had very good weather for the greater part of a week, and
sailed finely. Cardatas, who owned a share in her, had sailed upon her as
first mate, but he had never before commanded her. He was a good
navigator, however, and well fitted for the task he had undertaken. He
was a sharp fellow, and kept his eyes on everybody, particularly upon
Nunez, who, although a landsman, and in no wise capable of sailing a
ship, was perfectly capable of making plans regarding any vessel in which
he was interested, especially when such a vessel happened to be sailing
in pursuit of treasure, the value of which was merely a matter of
conjecture. It was not impossible that the horse-dealer, who had embarked
money in this venture, might think that one of the mariners on board
might be able to sail the schooner as well as Cardatas, and would not
expect so large a share of the profits should the voyage be successful.
But when the storms came on, Nunez grew sick and unhappy, and retired
below, and he troubled the mind of Cardatas no more for the present.

The _Arato_ sailed well with a fair wind, but in many respects she was
not as good a sea-boat in a storm as the _Miranda_ had proved to be, and
she had been obliged to lie to a great deal through the days and nights
of high winds and heavy seas. Having never had, until now, the
responsibility of a vessel upon him, Cardatas was a good deal more
cautious and prudent, perhaps, than Captain Horn would have been had he
been in command of the _Arato_. Among other methods of precaution which
Cardatas thought it wise to take, he steered well out from the coast, and
thus greatly lengthened his course, and at last, when a clearing sky
enabled him to take an observation, he found himself so far to the
westward that he changed his course entirely and steered for the
southeast.

Notwithstanding all these retarding circumstances, Cardatas did not
despair of overhauling the _Miranda_. He was sure she would make for the
Straits, and he did not in the least doubt that, with good winds, he
could overtake her before she reached them, and even if she did get out
of them, he could still follow her. His belief that the _Arato_ could
sail two miles to the _Miranda's_ one was still unshaken. The only real
fear he had was that the _Miranda_ might have foundered in the storm. If
that should happen to be the case, their voyage would be a losing one,
indeed, but he said nothing of his fears to Nunez.

The horse-dealer was now on deck again, in pretty fair condition, but he
was beginning to be despondent. After such an awful storm, and in all
that chaos of waves, what chance was there of finding a little brig such
as they were after?

"But vessels sail in regular courses," Cardatas said to him. "They don't
go meandering all over the ocean. If they are bound for any particular
place, they go there on the shortest safe line they can lay down on the
map. We can go on that line, too, although we may be thrown out of it by
storms. But we can strike it again, and then all we have to do is to keep
on it as straight as we can, and we are bound to overtake another vessel
on the same course, provided we sail faster than she does. It is all
plain enough, don't you see?"

Nunez could not help seeing, but he was a little cross, nevertheless. The
map and the ocean were wonderfully different.

The wind had changed, and the _Arato_ did not make very good sailing on
her southeastern course. High as was her captain's opinion of her, she
never had sailed, nor ever could sail, two miles to the _Miranda's_ one,
although she was a good deal faster than the brig. But she was fairly
well handled, and in due course of time she approached so near the coast
that her lookout sighted land, which land Cardatas, consulting his
chart, concluded must be one of the Patagonian islands to the north of
the Gulf of Penas.

As night came on, Cardatas determined to change his course somewhat to
the south, as he did not care to trust himself too near the coast,
when suddenly the lookout reported a light on the port bow. Cardatas
had sailed down this coast before, but he had never heard of a
lighthouse in the region, and with his glass he watched the light. But
he could not make it out. It was a strange light, for sometimes it was
bright and sometimes dull, then it would increase greatly and almost
fade away again.

"It looks like a fire on shore," said he, and some of the other men who
took the glass agreed with him.

"And what does that mean?" asked Nunez.

"I don't know," replied Cardatas, curtly. "How should I? But one thing I
do know, and that is that I shall lie to until morning, and then we can
feel our way near to the coast and see what it does mean."

"But what do you want to know for?" asked Nunez. "I suppose somebody on
shore has built a fire. Is there any good stopping for that? We have lost
a lot of time already."

"I am going to lie to, anyway," said Cardatas. "When we are on such
business as ours, we should not pass anything without understanding it."

Cardatas had always supposed that these islands were uninhabited, and he
could not see why anybody should be on one of them making a fire, unless
it were a case of shipwreck. If a ship had been wrecked, it was not at
all impossible that the _Miranda_ might be the unfortunate vessel. In any
case, it would be wise to lie to, and look into the matter by daylight.
If the _Miranda_ had gone down at sea, and her crew had reached land in
boats, the success of the _Arato's_ voyage would be very dubious. And
should this misfortune have happened, he must be careful about Nunez when
he came to hear of it. When he turned into his hammock that night,
Cardatas had made up his mind that, if he should discover that the
_Miranda_ had gone to the bottom, it would be a very good thing if
arrangements could be made for Nunez to follow her.

That night the crew of the Miranda slept well and enjoyed the first real
rest they had had since the storm. No watch was kept, for they all
thought it would be an unnecessary hardship. The captain awoke at early
dawn, and, as he stepped out of the tent, he glanced over sea and land.
There were no signs of storm, the brig had not slipped out into deep
water, their boats were still high and dry upon the beach, and there was
something encouraging in the soft, early light and the pleasant morning
air. He was surprised, however, to find that he was not the first man
out. On a piece of higher ground, a little back from the tents, Shirley
was standing, a glass to his eye.

"What do you see?" cried the captain.

"A sail!" returned Shirley.

At this every man in the tents came running out. Even to the negroes the
words, "A sail," had the startling effect which they always have upon
ship-wrecked men.

The effect upon Captain Horn was a strange one, and he could scarcely
understand it himself. It was amazing that succor, if succor it should
prove to be, had arrived so quickly after their disaster. But
not-withstanding the fact that he would be overjoyed to be taken off that
desolate coast, he could not help a strong feeling of regret that a sail
had appeared so soon. If they had had time to conceal their treasure, all
might have been well. With the bags of gold buried in a trench, or
covered with sand so as to look like a natural mound, he and his sailors
might have been taken off merely as shipwrecked sailors, and carried to
some port where he might charter another vessel and come back after his
gold. But now he knew that whoever landed on this beach must know
everything, for it would be impossible to conceal the contents of that
long pile of bags, and what consequences might follow upon such knowledge
it was impossible for him to imagine. Burke had very much the same idea.

"By George, captain!" said he, "it is a great pity that she came along so
soon. What do you say? Shall we signal her or not? We want to get away,
but it would be beastly awkward for anybody to come ashore just now. I
wish we had buried the bags as fast as we brought them ashore."

The captain did not answer. Perhaps it might be as well not to signal
her. And yet, this might be their only chance of rescue!

"What do you say to jumping into the boats and rowing out to meet them?"
asked Burke. "We'd have to leave the bags uncovered, but we might get to
a port, charter some sort of a craft, and get back for the bags before
any other vessel came so near the coast."

"I don't see what made this one come so near," said Shirley, "unless it
was our fire last night. She might have thought that was a signal."

"I shouldn't wonder," said the captain, who held the glass. "But we
needn't trouble ourselves about going out in boats, for she is making
straight for land."

"That's so," said Shirley, who could now see this for himself, for the
light was rapidly growing stronger. "She must have seen our fire last
night. Shall I hoist a signal?"

"No," said the captain. "Wait!"

They waited to see what this vessel was going to do. Perhaps she was only
tacking. But what fool of a skipper would run so close to the shore for
the sake of tacking! They watched her eagerly, but not one of the white
men would have been wholly disappointed if the schooner, which they could
now easily make out, had changed her course and gone off on a long tack
to the southwest.

But she was not tacking. She came rapidly on before a stiff west wind.
There was no need of getting out boats to go to meet her. She was south
of the headland, but was steering directly toward it. They could see what
sort of craft she was--a long schooner, painted green, with all sails
set. Very soon they could see the heads of the men on board. Then she
came nearer and nearer to land, until she was less than half a mile from
shore. Then she shot into the wind; her sails fluttered; she lay almost
motionless, and her head-sails were lowered.

"That's just as if they were coming into port," said Burke.

"Yes," said Shirley, "I expect they intend to drop anchor."

This surmise was correct, for, as he spoke, the anchor went down
with a splash.

"They're very business-like," said Burke. "Look at them. They are
lowering a boat."

"A boat!" exclaimed Shirley, "They're lowering two of them."

The captain knit his brows. This was extraordinary action on the part of
the vessel. Why did she steer so straight for land? Why did she so
quickly drop anchor and put out two boats? Could it be that this vessel
had been on their track? Could it be that the Peruvian government--But he
could not waste time in surmise as to what might be. They must act, not
conjecture.

It was not a minute before the captain made up his mind how they should
act. Five men were in each boat, and with a glass it was easy to see that
some of them carried guns.

"Get your rifles!" cried he to Shirley and Burke, and he rushed
for his own.

The arms and ammunition had been all laid ready in the tent, and in a
moment each one of the white men had a rifle and a belt of cartridges.
For the blacks there were no guns, as they would not have known how to
use them, but they ran about in great excitement, each with his knife
drawn, blindly ready to do whatever should be ordered. The poor negroes
were greatly frightened. They had but one idea about the approaching
boats: they believed that the men in them were Rackbirds coming to wreak
vengeance upon them. The same idea had come into the mind of the captain.
Some of the Rackbirds had gone back to the cove. They had known that
there had been people there. They had made investigations, and found the
cave and the empty mound, and in some way had discovered that the
_Miranda_ had gone off with its contents. Perhaps the black fellow who
had deserted the vessel at Valparaiso had betrayed them. He hurriedly
mentioned his suspicions to his companions.

"I shouldn't wonder," said Burke, "if that Inkspot had done it. Perhaps
he could talk a good deal better than we thought. But I vow I wouldn't
have supposed that he would be the man to go back on us. I thought he was
the best of the lot."

"Get behind that wall of bags," cried the captain, "every one of you.
Whoever they are, we will talk to them over a breastwork."

"I think we shall have to do more than talk," said Burke, "for a blind
man could see that there are guns in those boats."




CHAPTER XL

THE BATTLE OF THE GOLDEN WALL


The five men now got behind the barrier of bags, but, before following
them, Captain Horn, with the butt of his rifle, drew a long, deep furrow
in the sand about a hundred feet from the breastwork of bags, and
parallel with it. Then he quickly joined the others.

The three white men stationed themselves a little distance apart, and
each moved a few of the top bags so as to get a good sight between them,
and not expose themselves too much.

As the boats came on, the negroes crouched on the sand, entirely out of
sight, while Shirley and Burke each knelt down behind the barrier, with
his rifle laid in a crevice in the top. The captain's rifle was in his
hand, but he did not yet prepare for action. He stooped down, but his
head was sufficiently above the barrier to observe everything.

The two boats came rapidly on, and were run up on the beach, and the men
jumped out and drew them up, high and safe. Then, without the slightest
hesitation, the ten of them, each with a gun in his hand, advanced in a
body toward the line of bags.

"Ahoy!" shouted the captain, suddenly rising from behind the barrier.
"Who are you, and what do you want?" He said this in English, but
immediately repeated it in Spanish.

"Ahoy, there!" cried Cardatas. "Are you Captain Horn?"

"Yes, I am," said the captain, "and you must halt where you are. The
first man who passes that line is shot."

Cardatas laughed, and so did some of the others, but they all stopped.

"We'll stop here a minute to oblige you," said Cardatas, "but we've got
something to say to you, and you might as well listen to it."

Shirley and Burke did not understand a word of these remarks, for they
did not know Spanish, but each of them kept his eye running along the
line of men who still stood on the other side of the furrow the captain
had made in the sand, and if one of them had raised his gun to fire at
their skipper, it is probable that he would have dropped. Shirley and
Burke had been born and bred in the country; they were hunters, and were
both good shots. It was on account of their fondness for sport that they
had been separated from the rest of their party on the first day of the
arrival of the people from the _Castor_ at the caves.

"What have you to say?" said the captain. "Speak quickly."

Cardatas did not immediately answer, for Nunez was excitedly talking to
him. The soul of the horse-dealer had been inflamed by the sight of the
bags. He did not suppose it possible that they could all contain gold,
but he knew they must be valuable, or they would not have been carried
up there, and he was advising a rush for the low wall.

"We will see what we can do with them, first," said Cardatas to Nunez.
"Some of us may be shot if we are in too great a hurry. They are well
defended where they are, and we may have to get round into their rear.
Then we can settle their business very well, for the negro said there
were only three white men. But first let us talk to them. We may manage
them without running any risks."

Cardatas turned toward the captain, and at the same time Burke said:

"Captain, hadn't you better squat down a little? You're making a very
fine mark of yourself."

But the captain still stood up to listen to Cardatas.

"I'll tell you what we've come for," said the latter. "We are not
officers of the law, but we are the same thing. We know all about you and
the valuable stuff you've run away with, and we've been offered a reward
to bring back those bags, and to bring you back, too, dead or alive, and
here we are, ready to do it. It was good luck for us that your vessel
came to grief, but we should have got you, even if she hadn't. We were
sure to overhaul you in the Straits. We know all about you and that old
hulk, but we are fair and square people, and we're sailors, and we don't
want to take advantage of anybody, especially of sailors who have had
misfortunes. Now, the reward the Californian government has offered us is
not a very big one, and I think you can do better by us, so if you'll
agree to come out from behind that breastwork and talk to us fair and
square, your two white men and your three negroes,--you see, we know all
about you,--I think we can make a bargain that'll suit all around. The
government of California hasn't any claim on us, and we don't see why we
should serve it any more than we should serve you, and it will be a good
deal better for you to be content with half the treasure you've gone off
with, or perhaps a little more than that, and let us have the rest. We
will take you off on our vessel, and land you at any port you want to go
to, and you can take your share of the bags ashore with you. Now, that's
what I call a fair offer, and I think you will say so, too."

Captain Horn was much relieved by part of this speech. He had had a
slight fear, when Cardatas began, that these men might have been sent out
by the Peruvian government, but now he saw they were a set of thieves,
whether Rackbirds or not, doing business on their own account.

"The Californian government has nothing to do with me," cried Captain
Horn, "and it never had anything to do with you, either. When you say
that, you lie! I am not going to make any bargain with you, or have
anything to do with you. My vessel is wrecked, but we can take care of
ourselves. And now I'll give you five minutes to get to your boats, and
the quicker you go, the better for you!"

At this, Nunez stepped forward, his face red with passion. "Look here,
you Yankee thief," he cried, "we'll give you just one minute to come out
from behind that pile of bags. If you don't come, we'll--"

But if he said any more, Captain Horn did not hear it, for at that moment
Burke cried: "Drop, captain!" And the captain dropped.

Stung by the insult he had received, and unable to resist the
temptation of putting an end to the discussion by shooting Captain Horn,
Cardatas raised his rifle to his shoulder, and almost in the same
instant that the captain's body disappeared behind the barrier, he
fired. But the bullet had scarcely left his barrel when another ball,
from Shirley's gun, struck Cardatas under his uplifted left arm, and
stretched him on the sand.

A shock ran through the attacking party, and instinctively they retreated
several yards. So suddenly had they lost their leader that, for a few
moments, they did not seem to understand the situation. But, on a shout
from one of them to look out for themselves, every man dropped flat upon
the beach, behind a low bank of sand scarcely a foot high. This was not
much protection, but it was better than standing up as marks for the
rifles behind the barrier.

The men from the _Arato_ were very much surprised by what had happened.
They had expected to have an easy job with the crew of the _Miranda_. As
soon as the sailor Sanchez had seen the stranded brig, he had recognized
her, and Cardatas, as well as the rest of them, had thought that there
would be nothing to do but to go on shore with a party of well-armed men,
and possess themselves of whatever treasure she had brought to this
deserted coast. But to find her crew strongly intrenched and armed had
very much amazed them.

Nunez's anger had disappeared, and his accustomed shrewdness had taken
its place, for he now saw that very serious business was before them. He
was not much of a soldier, but he knew enough to understand that in the
plan proposed by Cardatas lay their only hope of success. It would be
ridiculous to lie there and waste their ammunition on that wall of bags.
He was lying behind the others, and raised his head just enough to tell
them what they should do.

"We must get into their rear," he said. "We must creep along the sand
until we reach those bushes up there, and then we can get behind them.
I'll go first, and you can follow me."

At, this, he began to work himself along the beach, somewhat after the
fashion of an earthworm. But the men paid no attention to him. There was
little discipline among them, and they had no respect for the
horse-dealer as a commander, so they remained on the sands, eagerly
talking among themselves. Some of them were frightened, and favored a
rush for the boats. But this advice brought down curses from the others.
What were three men to nine, that they should run away?

Burke now became tired of waiting to see what would happen next, and
putting his hat on a little stick, he raised it a short distance above
the breastwork. Instantly one of the more excitable men from the _Arato_
fired at it.

"Very good," said Burke. "They want to keep it up, do they? Now,
captain," he continued, "we can see the backs and legs of most of them.
Shall we fire at them? That will be just as good as killing them. They
mean fight--that's easy to see."

But the captain was not willing to follow Burke's advice.

"I don't want to wound or maim them," he replied. "Let's give them a
volley just over their heads, and let them see what we are prepared to
do. Now, then, when I give the word!"

In a few moments three shots rang out from the intrenchment, and the
bullets went whistling over the prostrate bodies of the men on the sand.
But these tactics did not have the effect Captain Horn hoped for. They
led to no waving of handkerchiefs, nor any show of an intention to treat
with an armed and intrenched foe. Instead of that, the man Sanchez sprang
to his feet and cried:

"Come on, boys! Over the wall and at them before they can reload!"

At this all the men sprang up and dashed toward the line of bags, Nunez
with them. Somebody might get hurt in this wild charge, but he must reach
the treasure as soon as the others. He must not fail in that. But Sanchez
made a great mistake when he supposed that Captain Horn and his men
fought with such arms as the muzzle-loading rifles and shot--guns which
the _Arato's_ men had thought quite sufficient to bring with them for the
work they had to do. Captain Horn, when he had fitted out the _Miranda_,
had supplied himself and his two white men with fine repeating rifles,
and the _Arato's_ men had scarcely crossed the line which had been drawn
on the sand before there were three shots from the barrier, and three of
the enemy dropped. Even the captain made a good shot this time.

At this the attacking party stopped, and some of them shouted, "To the
boats!" Nunez said nothing, for he was dead. There had been much
straggling in the line, and Shirley had singled him out as one of the
leaders. Before one of them had turned or a retreat begun, Burke's rifle
flashed, and another man fell over against a companion, and then down
upon the sand. The distance was very short, and a bad shot was almost
impossible for a good hunter.

Now there was no hesitation. The five men who had life and legs, turned
and dashed for the boats. But the captain did not intend, now, that they
should escape, and rifle after rifle cracked from the barricade, and
before they reached the boats, four of the flying party had fallen. The
fifth man stumbled over one of his companions, who dropped in front of
him, then rose to his feet, threw down his gun, and, turning his face
toward the shore, held up his hands high above his head.

"I surrender!" he cried, and, still with his arms above his head, and his
face whiter than the distant sands, he slowly walked toward the barrier.

The captain rose. "Halt!" he cried, and the man stood stock-still. "Now,
my men," cried the captain, turning to Burke and Shirley, "keep your eyes
on that fellow until we reach him, and if he moves, shoot him."

The three white men, followed by the negroes, ran down to the man, and
when they had reached him, they carefully searched him to see if he had
any concealed weapons.

After glancing rapidly over the bodies which lay upon the sand, the
captain turned to his men.

"Come on, every one of you," he shouted, "and run out that boat,"
pointing to the largest one that had brought the _Arato's_ men ashore.

Shirley and Burke looked at him in surprise.

"We want that vessel!" he cried, in answer. "Be quick!" And taking hold
of the boat himself, he helped the others push it off the sand. "Now,
then," he continued, "Shirley, you and Burke get into the bow, with your
rifles. Tumble in, you black fellows, and each take an oar. You," he said
in Spanish to the prisoner, "get in and take an oar, too."

The captain took the tiller. Shirley and Burke pushed the boat into
deep water, and jumped aboard. The oars dipped, and they were off,
regardless of the low surf which splashed its crest over the gunwale as
the boat turned.

"Tell me, you rascal," said the captain to the prisoner, who was tugging
at his oar as hard as the others, "how many men are aboard that
schooner?"

"Only two, I swear to you, Senor Capitan; there were twelve of us in
all."

The men left on the schooner had evidently watched the proceedings on
shore, and were taking measures accordingly.

"They've slipped their anchor, and the tide is running out!" shouted the
captain. "Pull! Pull!"

"They're running up their jib!" cried Burke. "Lay to, you fellows, or
I'll throw one of you overboard, and take his place!"

The captured man was thoroughly frightened. They were great fighters,
these men he had fallen among, and he pulled as though he were rowing to
rescue his dearest friend. The black fellows bent to their oars like
madmen. They were thoroughly excited. They did not know what they were
rowing: for they only knew they were acting under the orders of their
captain, who had just killed nine Rackbirds, and their teeth and their
eyes flashed as their oars dipped and bent.




CHAPTER XLI

THE "ARATO" ANCHORS NEARER SHORE


On went the boat, each one of the oarsmen pulling with all his force, the
captain in the stern, shouting and encouraging them, and Shirley and
Burke crouched in the bow, each with his rifle in hand. Up went the jib
of the _Arato_. She gently turned about as she felt the influence of the
wind, and then the captain believed the men on board were trying to get
up the foresail.

"Are you sure there are only two of the crew on that schooner?" said the
captain to the prisoner. "Now, it isn't worth while to lie to me."

"Only two," said the man. "I swear to it. Only two, Senor Capitan."

The foresail did not go up, for one of the men had to run to the wheel,
and as the vessel's head got slowly around, it seemed as if she might
sail away from the boat, even with nothing but the jib set. But the
schooner gained headway very slowly, and the boat neared her rapidly.
Now the man at the wheel gave up all hope of sailing away from his
pursuers. He abandoned the helm, and in a few moments two heads and two
guns showed over the rail, and two shots rang out. But the schooner was
rolling, and the aim was bad. Shirley and Burke fired at the two heads
as soon as they saw them, but the boat was rising and pitching, and
their shots were also bad.

For a minute there was no more firing, and then one of the heads and one
of the guns were seen again. Shirley was ready, and made his
calculations, and, as the boat rose, he drew a bead upon the top of the
rail where he saw the head, and had scarcely pulled his trigger when he
saw a good deal more than a head, for a man sprung up high in the air and
then fell backward.

The captain now ordered his men to rest on their oars, for, if the other
man on board should show himself, they could get a better shot at him
than if they were nearer. But the man did not show himself, and, on
consideration of his probable tactics, it seemed extremely dangerous to
approach the vessel. Even here they were in danger, but should they
attempt to board her, they could not tell from what point he might fire
down upon them, and some of them would surely be shot before they could
get a chance at him, and the captain did not wish to sacrifice any of his
men, even for a vessel, if it could be helped. There seemed to be no hope
of safely gaining their object, except to wait until the man should
become tired and impatient, and expose himself.

Suddenly, to the amazement of every one in the boat, for all heads were
turned toward the schooner, a man appeared, boldly running over her deck.
Shirley and Burke instantly raised their rifles, but dropped them again.
There was a shout from Maka, and an exclamation from the prisoner. Then
the man on deck stooped close to the rail and was lost to their sight,
but almost instantly he reappeared again, holding in front of him a
struggling pair of legs, feet uppermost. Then, upon the rail, appeared a
man's head and body; but it only remained there for an instant, for his
legs were raised still higher by the person behind him, and were then
propelled outward with such force that he went headlong overboard. Then
the man on deck sprang to the top of the rail, regardless of the rolling
of the vessel in the gentle swell, and waved his hands above his head.

"Inkspot!" shouted the captain. "Pull away, you fellows! Pull!"

The tall, barefooted negro sprang to the deck from his perilous position,
and soon reappeared with a line ready to throw to the boat.

In a few minutes they reached the vessel, and the boat was quickly made
fast, and very soon they were on board. When he saw his old friends and
associates upon the deck, Inkspot retired a little distance and fell upon
his knees.

"You black rascal!" roared Burke, "you brought these cut-throat
scoundrels down upon us! You--"

"That will do," said the captain. "There is no time for that sort of
thing now. We will talk to him afterwards. Mr. Shirley, call all hands
and get up sail. I am going to take this schooner inside the headland.
We can find safe anchorage in the bay. We can sail over the same course
we went on with the _Miranda_, and she drew more water than this vessel."

In an hour the _Arato_, moored by her spare anchor, lay in the little
bay, less than two hundred yards from shore. It gave the shipwrecked men
a wild delight to find themselves again upon the decks of a seaworthy
vessel, and everybody worked with a will, especially the prisoner and
Inkspot. And when the last sail had been furled, it became evident to all
hands on board that they wanted their breakfast, and this need was
speedily supplied by Maka and Inkspot from the _Arato's_ stores.

That afternoon the captain went on shore with the negroes and the Chilian
prisoner, and the bodies of the nine men who had fallen in the attack
upon the wall of gold were buried where they lay. This was a very
different climate from that of the Peruvian coast, where the desiccating
air speedily makes a mummy of any dead body upon its arid sands.

When this work had been accomplished, the party returned to the _Arato_,
and the captain ordered Inkspot and the prisoner to be brought aft to be
tried by court martial. The big negro had been wildly and vociferously
received by his fellow-countrymen, who, upon every possible occasion, had
jabbered together in their native tongue, but Captain Horn had, so far,
said nothing to him.

The captain had been greatly excited from the moment he had seen the sail
in the offing. In his dire distress, on this almost desolate shore, he
had beheld what might prove to be speedy relief, and, much as he had
needed it, he had hoped that it might not come so soon. He had been
apprehensive and anxious when he supposed friendly aid might be
approaching, and he had been utterly astounded when he was forced to
believe that they were armed men who were rowing to shore, and must be
enemies. He had fought a terrible fight. He had conquered the scoundrels
who had come for his life and his treasure, and, best of all, he had
secured a vessel which would carry him and his men and his fortune to
France. He had endeavored to keep cool and think only of the work that
was immediately in hand, and he had no wish to ask anybody why or how
things had happened. They had happened, and that was all in all to him.
But now he was ready to make all necessary inquiries, and he began with
Inkspot. Maka being interpreter, the examination was easily carried on.

The story of the negro was a very interesting one. He told of his
adventures on shore, and how kind the men had been to him until they went
on board the _Arato_, and how then they treated him as if he had been a
dog--how he had been made to do double duty in all sorts of disagreeable
work, and how, after they had seen the light on the beach, he had been
put into the hold and tied hand and foot. While down there in the dark he
had heard the firing on shore, and, after a long while, the firing from
the deck, and other shots near by. All this had so excited him that he
managed to get one hand loose from his cords, and then had speedily
unfastened the rest, and had quietly crept to a hatchway, where he could
watch what was going on without showing himself. He had seen the two men
on deck, ready to fire on the approaching boat. He had recognized Captain
Horn and the people of the _Miranda_ in the boat. And then, when there
was but one man left on deck, and the boat was afraid to come nearer, he
had rushed up behind him and tumbled him overboard.

One thing only did Inkspot omit: he did not say that it was Mr. Burke's
example that had prompted him to go ashore for refreshments. When the
story had been told, and all questions asked and answered, the captain
turned to Burke and Shirley and asked their opinions upon the case.
Shirley was in favor of putting the negro in irons. He had deserted them,
and had nearly cost them their lives by the stories he had told on shore.
Burke, to the captain's surprise,--for the second mate generally dealt
severely with nautical transgressions,--was in favor of clemency.

"To be sure," said he, "the black scoundrel did get us into trouble. But
then, don't you see, he has got us out of it. If these beastly fellows
hadn't been led by him to come after our money, we would not have had
this schooner, and how we should have got those bags away without
her,--to say nothing of ourselves,--is more than I can fathom. It is my
belief that no craft ever comes within twenty miles of this coast, if she
can help it. So I vote for letting him off. He didn't intend to do us any
harm, and he didn't intend to do us any good, but it seems to me that the
good he did do rises higher above the water-line than the harm. So I say,
let him off. We need another hand about as much as we need anything."

"And so say I," said the captain. "Maka, you can tell him we forgive him,
because we believe that he is really a good fellow and didn't intend any
harm, and he can turn in with the rest of you on his old watch. And now
bring up that Chilian fellow."

The prisoner, who gave his name as Anton Garta, was now examined in
regard to the schooner _Arato_, her extraordinary cruise, and the people
who had devised it. Garta was a fellow of moderate intelligence, and
still very much frightened, and having little wit with which to concoct
lies, and no reason for telling them, he answered the questions put to
him as correctly as his knowledge permitted. He said that about two
months before he had been one of the crew of the _Arato_, and Manuel
Cardatas was second mate, and he had been very glad to join her on this
last cruise because he was out of a job. He thought she was going to
Callao for a cargo, and so did the rest of the crew. They did not even
know there were guns on board until they were out at sea. Then, when they
had turned southward, their captain and Senor Nunez told them that they
were going in pursuit of a treasure ship commanded by a Yankee captain,
who had run away with ever so much money from California, and that they
were sure to overhaul this ship, and that they would all be rich.

The guns were given to them, and they had had some practice with them,
and thought that Cardatas intended, should the _Miranda_ be overhauled,
to run alongside of her as near as was safe, and begin operations by
shooting everybody that could be seen on deck. He was not sure that this
was his plan, but they all had thought it was. After the storm the men
had become dissatisfied, and said they did not believe it was possible to
overhaul any vessel after so much delay, and when they had gone so far
out of their course; and Senor Nunez, who had hired the vessel, was in
doubt as to whether it would be of any use to continue the cruise. But
when Cardatas had talked to him, Senor Nunez had come among them and
promised them good rewards, whether they sighted their prize or not, if
they would work faithfully for ten days more. The men had agreed to do
this, but when they had seen the light on shore, they had made an
agreement among themselves that, if this should be nothing but a fire
built by savages or shipwrecked people of no account, they would not work
the schooner any farther south. They would put Cardatas and Nunez in
irons, if necessary, and take the _Arato_ back to Valparaiso. There were
men among them who could navigate. But when they got near enough to shore
to see that the stranded vessel was the _Miranda_, there was no more
insubordination.

As for himself, Garta said he was a plain, common sailor, who went on
board the _Arato_ because he wanted a job. If he had known the errand on
which she was bound, he would never have approached within a league of
her. This he vowed, by all the saints. As to the ownership of the vessel
Garta could tell but little. He had heard that Cardatas had a share in
her, and thought that probably the other owners lived in Valparaiso, but
he could give no positive information on this subject. He said that every
man of the boat's crew was in a state of wild excitement when they saw
that long pile of bags, which they knew must contain treasure of some
sort, and it was because of this state of mind, most likely, that
Cardatas lost his temper and got himself shot, and so opened the fight.
Cardatas was a cunning fellow, and, if he had not been upset by the sight
of those bags, Garta believed that he would have regularly besieged
Captain Horn's party, and must have overcome them in the end. He was
anxious to have the captain believe that, when he had said there were
only two men on board, he had totally forgotten the negro, who had been
left below.

When Garta's examination had been finished, the captain sent him
forward, and then repeated his story in brief to Shirley and Burke,
for, as the prisoner had spoken in Spanish, they had understood but
little of it.

"I don't see that it makes much difference," said Burke, "as to what his
story is. We've got to get rid of him in some way. We don't want to
carry him about with us. We might leave him here, with a lot of grub and
a tent. That would be all he deserves."

"I should put him in irons, to begin with," said Shirley, "and then we
can consider what to do with him when we have time."

"I shall not leave him on shore," said the captain, "for that would
simply be condemning him to starvation; and as for putting him in irons,
that would deprive us of an able seaman. I suppose, if we took him to
France, he would have to be sent to Chili for trial, and that would be of
no use, unless we went there as witnesses. It is a puzzling question to
know what to do with him."

"It is that," said Burke, "and it is a great pity he wasn't shot with
the others."

"Well," said the captain, "we've got a lot of work before us, and we want
hands, so I think it will be best to let him turn in with the rest, and
make him pay for his passage, wherever we take him. The worst he can do
is to desert, and if he does that, he will settle his own business, and
we shall have no more trouble with him."

"I don't like him," said Shirley. "I don't think we ought to have such a
fellow going about freely on board."

"I am not afraid he will hurt any of us," said the captain, "and I
am sure he will not corrupt the negroes. They hate him. It is easy to
see that."

"Yes," said Burke, with a laugh. "They think he is a Rackbird, and it is
just as well to let them keep on thinking so."

"Perhaps he is," thought the captain, but he did not speak this
thought aloud.




CHAPTER XLII

INKSPOT HAS A DREAM OF HEAVEN


The next day the work of loading the _Arato_ with the bags of gold was
begun, and it was a much slower and more difficult business than the
unloading of the _Miranda_, for the schooner lay much farther out from
the beach. But there were two men more than on the former occasion, and
the captain did not push the work. There was no need now for
extraordinary haste, and although they all labored steadily, regular
hours of work and rest were adhered to. The men had carried so many bags
filled with hard and uneven lumps that the shoulders of some of them were
tender, and they had to use cushions of canvas under their loads. But the
boats went backward and forward, and the bags were hoisted on board and
lowered into the hold, and the wall of gold grew smaller and smaller.

"Captain," said Burke, one day, as they were standing by a pile of bags
waiting for the boat to come ashore, "do you think it is worth it! By
George! we have loaded and unloaded these blessed bags all down the
western coast of South America, and if we've got to unload and load them
all up the east coast, I say, let's take what we really need, and leave
the rest."

"I've been at the business a good deal longer than you have," said the
captain, "and I'm not tired of it yet. When I took away my first cargo,
you must remember that I carried each bag on my own shoulders, and it
took me more than a month to do it, and even all that is only a drop in
the bucket compared to what most men who call themselves rich have to do
before they make their money."

"All right," said Burke, "I'll stop growling. But look here, captain.
How much do you suppose one of these bags is worth, and how many are
there in all? I don't want to be inquisitive, but it would be a sort of
comfort to know."

"No, it wouldn't," said the captain, quickly. "It would be anything else
but a comfort. I know how many bags there are, but as to what they are
worth, I don't know, and I don't want to know. I once set about
calculating it, but I didn't get very far with the figures. I need all my
wits to get through with this business, and I don't think anything would
be more likely to scatter them than calculating what this gold is worth.
It would be a good deal better for you--and for me, too--to consider, as
Shirley does, that these bags are all filled with good, clean, anthracite
coal. That won't keep us from sleeping."

"Shirley be hanged!" said Burke, "He and you may be able to do that, but
I can't. I've got a pretty strong mind, and if you were to tell me that
when we get to port, and you discharge this crew, I can walk off with all
the gold eagles or twenty-franc pieces I can carry, I think I could stand
it without losing my mind."

"All right," said the captain, "If we get this vessel safely to France,
I will give you a good chance to try your nerves."

Day by day the work went on, and at last the _Arato_ took the place of
the _Miranda_ as a modern _Argo_.

During the reembarkation of the treasure, the captain, as well as Shirley
and Burke, had kept a sharp eye on Garta. The two mates were afraid he
might run away, but, had he done so, the captain would not have regretted
it very much. He would gladly have parted with one of the bags in order
to get rid of this encumbrance. But the prisoner had no idea of running
away. He knew that the bags were filled with treasure, but as he could
now do nothing with any of it that he might steal, he did not try to
steal any. If he had thoughts of the kind, he knew this was no time for
dishonest operation. He had always been a hardworking sailor, with a good
appetite, and he worked hard now, and ate well.

The _Miranda's_ stores had not been injured by water, and when they had
been put on board, the _Arato_ was well fitted out for a long voyage.
Leaving the _Miranda_ on the beach, with nothing in her of much value,
the _Arato_, which had cleared for Callao, and afterwards set out on a
wild piratical cruise, now made a third start, and set sail for a voyage
to France. They had good weather and tolerably fair winds, and before
they entered the Straits of Magellan the captain had formulated a plan
for the disposition of Garta.

"I don't know anything better to do with him," said he to Shirley and
Burke, "than to put him ashore at the Falkland Islands. We don't want to
take him to France, for we would not know what to do with him after we
got him there, and, as likely as not, he would swear a lot of lies
against us as soon as he got on shore. We can run within a league of
Stanley harbor, and then, if the weather is good enough, we can put him
in a boat, with something to eat and drink, and let him row himself into
port. We can give him money enough to support himself until he can
procure work."

"But suppose there is a man-of-war in there," said Shirley, "he might say
things that would send her after us. He might not know where to say we
got our treasure, but he could say we had stolen a Chilian vessel."

"I had thought of that," said the captain, "but nothing such a vagrant as
he is could say ought to give any cruiser the right to interfere with us
when we are sailing under the American flag. And when I go to France,
nobody shall say that I stole a vessel, for, if the owners of the _Arato_
can be found, they shall be well paid for what use we have made of their
schooner. I'll send her back to Valparaiso and let her be claimed."

"It is a ticklish business," said Burke, "but I don't know what else can
be done. It is a great pity I didn't know he was going to surrender when
we had that fight."

They had been in the Straits less than a week when Inkspot dreamed he
was in heaven. His ecstatic visions became so strong and vivid that they
awakened him, when he was not long in discovering the cause which had
produced them. The dimly lighted and quiet forecastle was permeated by a
delightful smell of spirituous liquor. Turning his eyes from right to
left, in his endeavors to understand this unusual odor of luxury,
Inkspot perceived the man Garta standing on the other side of the
forecastle, with a bottle in one hand and a cork in the other, and, as
he looked, Garta raised the bottle to his mouth, threw back his head,
and drank.

Inkspot greatly disliked this man. He had been one of the fellows who had
ill-treated him when the _Arato_ sailed under Cardatas, and he fully
agreed with his fellow-blacks that the scoundrel should have been shot.
But now his feelings began to undergo a change. A man with a bottle of
spirits might prove to be an angel of mercy, a being of beneficence, and
if he would share with a craving fellow-being his rare good fortune, why
should not all feelings of disapprobation be set aside? Inkspot could see
no reason why they should not be, and softly slipping from his hammock,
he approached Garta.

"Give me. Give me, just little," he whispered.

Garta turned with a half-suppressed oath, and seeing who the suppliant
was, he seized the bottle in his left hand, and with his right struck
poor Inkspot a blow in the face. Without a word the negro stepped back,
and then Garta put the bottle into a high, narrow opening in the side of
the forecastle, and closed a little door upon it, which fastened with a
snap. This little locker, just large enough to hold one bottle, had been
made by one of the former crew of the _Arato_ solely for the purpose of
concealing spirits, and was very ingeniously contrived. Its door was a
portion of the side of the forecastle, and a keyhole was concealed behind
a removable knot. Garta had not opened the locker before, for the reason
that he had been unable to find the key. He knew it had been concealed
in the forecastle, but it had taken him a long time to find it. Now his
secret was discovered, and he was enraged. Going over to the hammock,
where Inkspot had again ensconced himself, he leaned over the negro and
whispered:

"If you ever say a word of that bottle to anybody, I'll put a knife into
you! No matter what they do to me, I'll settle with you."

Inkspot did not understand all this, but he knew it was a threat, and he
well understood the language of a blow in the face. After a while he went
to sleep, but, if he smelt again the odor of the contents of the bottle,
he had no more heavenly dreams.

The next day Captain Horn found himself off the convict settlement of
Punta Arenas, belonging to the Chilian government. This was the first
port he had approached since he had taken command of the _Arato_, but he
felt no desire nor need to touch at it. In fact, the vicinity of Punta
Arenas seemed of no importance whatever, until Shirley came to him and
reported that the man Garta was nowhere to be found. Captain Horn
immediately ordered a search and inquiry to be made, but no traces of the
prisoner could be discovered, nor could anybody tell anything about him.
Burke and Inkspot had been on watch with him from four to eight, but they
could give no information whatever concerning him. No splash nor cries
for help had been heard, so that he could not have fallen overboard, and
it was generally believed that, when he knew himself to be in the
vicinity of a settlement, he had quietly slipped into the water and had
swum for Punta Arenas. Burke suggested that most likely he had formerly
been a resident of the place, and liked it better than being taken off
to unknown regions in the schooner. And Shirley considered this very
probable, for he said the man had always looked like a convict to him.

At all events, Garta was gone, and there was no one to say how long he
had been gone. So, under full sail, the _Arato_ went on her way. It was a
relief to get rid of the prisoner, and the only harm which could come of
his disappearance was that he might report that his ship had been stolen
by the men who were sailing her, and that some sort of a vessel might be
sent in pursuit of the _Arato_, and, if this should be the case, the
situation would be awkward. But days passed on, the schooner sailed out
of the Straits, and no vessel was seen pursuing her.

To the northeast Captain Horn set his course. He would not stop at Rio
Janeiro, for the _Arato_ had no papers for that port. He would not lie to
off Stanley harbor, for he had now nobody to send ashore. But he would
sail boldly for France, where he would make no pretensions that his
auriferous cargo was merely ballast. He was known at Marseilles. He had
business relations with bankers in Paris. He was a Californian and an
American citizen, and he would merely be bringing to France a vessel
freighted with gold, which, by the aid of his financial advisers, would
be legitimately cared for and disposed of.

One night, before the _Arato_ reached the Falkland Islands, Maka, who was
on watch, heard a queer sound in the forecastle, and looking down the
companionway, he saw, by the dim light of the swinging lantern, a man
with a hatchet, endeavoring to force the blade of it into the side of the
vessel. Maka quickly perceived that the man was Inkspot, and as he could
not imagine what he was doing, he quietly watched him. Inkspot worked
with as little noise as possible, but he was evidently bent upon forcing
off one of the boards on the side of the forecastle. At first Maka
thought that his fellow-African was trying to sink the ship by opening a
seam, but he soon realized that this notion was absurd, and so he let
Inkspot go on, being very curious to know what he was doing. In a few
minutes he knew. With a slight noise, not enough to waken a sound
sleeper, a little door flew open, and almost immediately Inkspot held a
bottle in his hand.

Maka slipped swiftly and softly to the side of the big negro, but he was
not quick enough. Inkspot had the neck of the bottle in his mouth and the
bottom raised high in the air. But, before Maka could seize him by the
arm, the bottle had come down from its elevated position, and a doleful
expression crept over the face of Inkspot. There had been scarcely a
teaspoonful of liquor left in the bottle. Inkspot looked at Maka, and
Maka looked at him. In an African whisper, the former now ordered the
disappointed negro to put the bottle back, to shut up the locker, and
then to get into his hammock and go to sleep as quickly as he could, for
if Mr. Shirley, who was on watch on deck, found out what he had been
doing, Inkspot would wish he had never been born.

The next day, when they had an opportunity for an African conversation,
Inkspot assured his countryman that he had discovered the little locker
by smelling the whiskey through the boards, and that, having no key, he
had determined to force it open with a hatchet. Maka could not help
thinking that Inkspot had a wonderful nose for an empty bottle, and
could scarcely restrain from a shudder at the thought of what might
have happened had the bottle been full. But he did not report the
occurrence. Inkspot was a fellow-African, and he had barely escaped
punishment for his former misdeed. It would be better to keep his mouth
shut, and he did.

Against the north winds, before the south winds, and on the winds from
the east and the west, through fair weather and through foul, the _Arato_
sailed up the South Atlantic. It was a long, long voyage, but the
schooner was skilfully navigated and sailed well. Sometimes she sighted
great merchant-steamers plying between Europe and South America,
freighted with rich cargoes, and proudly steaming away from the little
schooner, whose dark-green hull could scarcely be distinguished from the
color of the waves. And why should not the captain of this humble little
vessel sometimes have said to himself, as he passed a big three-master or
a steamer:

"What would they think if they knew that, if I chose to do it, I could
buy every ship, and its cargo, that I shall meet between here and
Gibraltar!"

"Captain," said Shirley, one day, "what do you think about the right and
wrong of this?"

"What do you mean?" asked Captain Horn.

"I mean," replied Shirley, "taking away the gold we have on board. We've
had pretty easy times lately, and I've been doing a good deal of
thinking, and sometimes I have wondered where we got the right to clap
all this treasure into bags and sail away with it."

"So you have stopped thinking the bags are all filled with anthracite
coal," said the captain.

"Yes," said the other. "We are getting on toward the end of this voyage,
and it is about time to give up that fancy. I always imagine, when I am
near the end of a voyage, what I am going to do when I go ashore, and if
I have any real right to some of the gold down under our decks, I shall
do something very different from anything I ever did before."

"I hope you don't mean going on a spree," said Burke, who was standing
near. "That would be something entirely different."

"I thought," said the captain, "that you both understood this business,
but I don't mind going over it again. There is no doubt in my mind that
this gold originally belonged to the Incas, who then owned Peru, and they
put it into that mound to keep it from the Spaniards, whose descendants
now own Peru, and who rule it without much regard to the descendants of
the ancient Peruvians. Now, when I discovered the gold, and began to have
an idea of how valuable the find was, I knew that the first thing to do
was to get it out of that place and away from the country. Whatever is to
be done in the way of fair play and fair division must be done somewhere
else, and not there. If I had informed the government of what I had
found, this gold would have gone directly into the hands of the
descendants of the people from whom its original owners did their very
best to keep it, and nobody else would have had a dollar's worth of it.
If we had stood up for our rights to a reward for finding it, ten to one
we would all have been clapped into prison."

"I suppose by that," said Burke, "that you looked upon the stone mound in
the cave as a sort of will left by those old Peruvians, and you made
yourself an executor to carry out the intentions of the testators, as
the lawyers say."

"But we can set it down as dead certain," interrupted Shirley, "that the
testators didn't mean us to have it."

"No," said the captain, "nor do I mean that we shall have all of it. I
intend to have the question of the ownership of this gold decided by
people who are able and competent to decide such a question, and who will
be fair and honest to all parties. But whatever is agreed upon, and
whatever is done with the treasure, I intend to charge a good price--a
price which shall bear a handsome proportion to the value of the
gold--for my services, and all our services. Some of this charge I have
already taken, and I intend to have a great deal more. We have worked
hard and risked much to get this treasure--"

"Yes," thought Burke, as he remembered the trap at the bottom of the
mound. "You risked a great deal more than you ever supposed you did."

"And we are bound to be well paid for it," continued the captain. "No
matter where this gold goes, I shall have a good share of it, and this I
am going to divide among our party, according to a fair scale. How does
that strike you, Shirley?"

"If the business is going to be conducted as you say, captain," replied
the first mate, "I say it will be all fair and square, and I needn't
bother my head with any more doubts about it. But there is one thing I
wish you would tell me: how much do you think I will be likely to get out
of this cargo, when you divide?"

"Mr. Shirley," said the captain, "when I give you your share of this
cargo, you can have about four bags of anthracite coal, weighing a little
over one hundred pounds, which, at the rate of six dollars a ton, would
bring you between thirty and forty cents. Will that satisfy you? Of
course, this is only a rough guess at a division, but I want to see how
it falls in with your ideas."

Shirley laughed. "I guess you're right, captain," said he. "It will be
better for me to keep on thinking we are carrying coal. That won't
bother my head."

"That's so," said Burke. "Your brain can't stand that sort of badger. I'd
hate to go ashore with you at Marseilles with your pocket full and your
skull empty. As for me, I can stand it first-rate. I have already built
two houses on Cape Cod,--in my head, of course,--and I'll be hanged if I
know which one I am going to live in and which one I am going to put my
mother in."




CHAPTER XLIII

MOK AS A VOCALIST


It would have been very comfortable to the mind of Edna, during her
waiting days in Paris, had she known there was a letter to her from
Captain Horn, in a cottage in the town of Sidmouth, on the south coast of
Devonshire. Had she known this, she would have chartered French trains,
Channel steamers, English trains, flies, anything and everything which
would have taken her the quickest to the little town of Sidmouth. Had she
known that he had written to her the first chance he had had, all her
doubts and perplexities would have vanished in an instant. Had she read
the letter, she might have been pained to find that it was not such a
letter as she would wish to have, and she might have grieved that it
might still be a long time before she could expect to hear from him
again, or to see him, but she would have waited--have waited patiently,
without any doubts or perplexities.

This letter, with a silver coin,--much more than enough to pay any
possible postage,--had been handed by Shirley to the first mate of the
British steamer, in the harbor of Valparaiso, and that officer had given
it to a seaman, who was going on shore, with directions to take it to
the post-office, and pay for the postage out of the silver coin, and
whatever change there might be, he should keep it for his trouble. On the
way to the post-office, this sailor stopped to refresh himself, and
meeting with a fellow-mariner in the place of refreshment, he refreshed
him also. And by the time the two had refreshed themselves to their
satisfaction, there was not much left of the silver coin--not enough to
pay the necessary postage to France.

"But," said the seaman to himself, "it doesn't matter a bit. We are bound
for Liverpool, and I'll take the letter there myself, and then I'll send
it over to Paris for tuppence ha'penny, which I will have then, and
haven't now. And I bet another tuppence that it will go sooner than if I
posted it here, for it may be a month before a mail-steamer leaves the
other side of this beastly continent. Anyway, I'm doing the best I can."

He put the letter in the pocket of his pea-jacket, and the bottom of that
pocket being ripped, the letter went down between the outside cloth and
the lining of the pea-jacket to the very bottom of the garment, where it
remained until the aforesaid seaman had reached England, and had gone
down to see his family, who lived in the cottage in Sidmouth. And there
he had hung up his pea-jacket on a nail, in a little room next to the
kitchen, and there his mother had found it, and sewed on two buttons, and
sewed up the rips in the bottoms of two pockets. Shortly after this, the
sailor, happening to pass a post-office box, remembered the letter he had
brought to England. He went to his pea-jacket and searched it, but could
find no letter. He must have lost it--he hoped after he had reached
England, and no doubt whoever found it would put a tuppence ha'penny
stamp on it and stick it into a box. Anyway, he had done all he could.

One pleasant spring evening, the negro Mok sat behind a table in the
well-known beer-shop called the "Black Cat." He had before him a
half-emptied beer-glass, and in front of him was a pile of three small
white dishes. These signified that Mok had had three glasses of beer, and
when he should finish the one in his hand, and should order another, the
waiter would bring with it another little white plate, which he would put
on the table, on the pile already there, and which would signify that the
African gentleman must pay for four glasses of beer.

Mok was enjoying himself very much. It was not often that he had such an
opportunity to sample the delights of Paris. His young master, Ralph, had
given him strict orders never to go out at night, or in his leisure
hours, unless accompanied by Cheditafa. The latter was an extremely
important and sedate personage. The combined dignity of a butler and a
clergyman were more than ever evident in his person, and he was a painful
drawback to the more volatile Mok. Mok had very fine clothes, which it
rejoiced him to display. He had a fine appetite for everything fit to eat
and drink. He had money in his pockets, and it delighted him to see
people and to see things, although he might not know who they were or
what they were. He knew nothing of French, and his power of expressing
himself in English had not progressed very far. But on this evening, in
the jolly precincts of the Black Cat, he did not care whether the people
used language or not. He did not care what they did, so that he could
sit there and enjoy himself. When he wanted more beer, the waiter
understood him, and that was enough.

The jet-black negro, gorgeously arrayed in the livery Ralph had chosen
for him, and with his teeth and eyeballs whiter than the pile of plates
before him, was an object of great interest to the company in the
beer-shop. They talked to him, and although he did not understand them,
or answer them, they knew he was enjoying himself. And when the landlord
rang a big bell, and a pale young man, wearing a high hat, and sitting at
a table opposite him, threw into his face an expression of exalted
melancholy, and sang a high-pitched song, Mok showed how he appreciated
the performance by thumping more vigorously on the table than any of the
other people who applauded the singer.

Again and again the big bell was rung, and there were other songs and
choruses, and then the company turned toward Mok and called on him to
sing. He did not understand them, but he laughed and pounded his fist
upon the table. But when the landlord came down to his table, and rang
the bell in front of him, that sent an informing idea into the African
head. He had noticed that every time the bell had been rung, somebody had
sung, and now he knew what was wanted of him. He had had four glasses of
beer, and he was an obliging fellow, so he nodded his head violently, and
everybody stopped doing what they had been doing, and prepared to listen.

Mok's repertoire of songs could not be expected to be large. In fact, he
only knew one musical composition, and that was an African hymn which
Cheditafa had taught him. This he now proceeded to execute. He threw
back his head, as some of the others had done, and emitted a succession
of grunts, groans, yelps, barks, squeaks, yells, and rattles which
utterly electrified the audience. Then, as if his breath filled his whole
body, and quivering and shaking like an angry squirrel when it chatters
and barks, Mok sang louder and more wildly, until the audience, unable to
restrain themselves, burst into laughter, and applauded with canes,
sticks, and fists. But Mok kept on. He had never imagined he could sing
so well. There was only one person in that brasserie who did not applaud
the African hymn, but no one paid so much attention to it as this man,
who had entered the Black Cat just as Mok had begun.

He was a person of medium size, with a heavy mustache, and a face
darkened by a beard of several days' growth. He was rather roughly
dressed, and wore a soft felt hat. He was a Rackbird.

This man had formerly belonged to the band of desperadoes which had been
swept away by a sudden flood on the coast of Peru. He had accompanied his
comrades on the last marauding expedition previous to that remarkable
accident, but he had not returned with them. He had devised a little
scheme of his own, which had detained him longer than he had expected,
and he was not ready to go back with them. It would have been difficult
for him to reach the camp by himself, and, after what he had done, he did
not very much desire to go, there as he would probably have been shot as
a deserter; for Captain Raminez was a savage fellow, and more than
willing to punish transgressions against his orders. This deserter,
Banker by name, was an American, who had been a gold-digger, a gambler,
a rough, and a dead shot in California, and he was very well able to take
care of himself in any part of the world.

He had made his way up to Panama, and had stayed there as long as it was
safe for him to do so, and had eventually reached Paris. He did not like
this city half so well as he liked London, but in the latter city he
happened to be wanted, and he was not wanted in Paris. It was generally
the case that he stayed where he was not wanted.

Of course, Banker knew nothing of the destruction of his band, and the
fact that he had not heard from them since he left them gave him not the
slightest regret. But what did astonish him beyond bounds was to sit at a
table in the Black Cat, in Paris, and see before him, dressed like the
valet of a Spanish grandee, a coal-black negro who had once been his
especial and particular slave and drudge, a fellow whom he had kicked and
beaten and sworn at, and whom he no doubt would have shot had he stayed
much longer with his lawless companions, the Rackbirds. There was no
mistaking this black man. He well remembered his face, and even the tones
of his voice. He had never heard him sing, but he had heard him howl, and
it seemed almost impossible that he should meet him in Paris. And yet, he
was sure that the man who was bellowing and bawling to the delight of the
guests of the Black Cat was one of the African wretches who had been
entrapped and enslaved by the Rackbirds.

But if Banker had been astonished by Mok, he was utterly amazed and
confounded when, some five minutes later, the door of the brasserie was
suddenly opened, and another of the slaves of the Rackbirds, with whose
face he was also perfectly familiar, hurriedly entered.

Cheditafa, who had been sent on an errand that evening, had missed Mok
on his return. Ralph was away in Brussels with the professor, so that
his valet, having most of his time on his hands, had thought to take a
holiday during Cheditafa's absence, and had slipped off to the Black
Cat, whose pleasures he had surreptitiously enjoyed before, but never to
such an extent as on this occasion. Cheditafa knew he had been there,
and when he started out to look for him, it was to the Black Cat that he
went first.

Before he had quite reached the door, Cheditafa had been shocked and
angered to hear his favorite hymn sung in a beer-shop by that reprobate
and incompetent Mok, and he had rushed in, and in a minute seized the
blatant vocalist by the collar, and ordered him instantly to shut his
mouth and pay his reckoning. Then, in spite of the shouts of
disapprobation which arose on every side, he led away the negro as if he
had been a captured dog with his tail between his legs.

Mok could easily have thrown Cheditafa across the street, but his respect
and reverence for his elder and superior were so great that he obeyed his
commands without a word of remonstrance.

Now up sprang Banker, who was in such a hurry to go that he forgot to pay
for his beer, and when he performed this duty, after having been abruptly
reminded of it by a waiter, he was almost too late to follow the two
black men, but not quite too late. He was an adept in the tracking of
his fellow-beings, and it was not long before he was quietly following
Mok and Cheditafa, keeping at some distance behind them, but never
allowing them to get out of his sight.

In the course of a moderate walk he saw them enter the Hotel Grenade.
This satisfied the wandering Rackbird. If the negroes went into that
hotel at that time of night, they must live there, and he could suspend
operations until morning.




CHAPTER XLIV

MR. BANKER'S SPECULATION


That night Banker was greatly disturbed by surmises and conjectures
concerning the presence of the two negroes in the French capital. He knew
Cheditafa quite as well as he knew Mok, and it was impossible that he
should be mistaken. It is seldom that any one sees a native African in
Paris, and he was positive that the men he had seen, dressed in expensive
garments, enjoying themselves like gentlemen of leisure, and living at a
grand hotel, were the same negroes he had last seen in rags and shreds,
lodged in a cave in the side of a precipice, toiling and shuddering under
the commands of a set of desperadoes on a desert coast in South America.
There was only one way in which he could explain matters, and that was
that the band had had some great success, and that one or more of its
members had come to Paris, and had brought the two negroes with them as
servants. But of one thing he had no doubts, and that was that he would
follow up the case. He had met with no successes of late, but if any of
his former comrades had, he wanted to meet those dear old friends. In
Paris he was not afraid of anything they might say about his desertion.

Very early in the morning Banker was in front of the Hotel Grenade. He
did not loiter there; he did not wander up and down like a vagrant, or
stand about like a spy. It was part of his business to be able to be
present in various places almost at the same time, and not to attract
notice in any of them. It was not until after ten o'clock that he saw
anything worthy of his observation, and then a carriage drove up to the
front entrance, and on the seat beside the driver sat Cheditafa, erect,
solemn, and respectable. Presently the negro got down and opened the door
of the carriage. In a few moments a lady, a beautiful lady, handsomely
dressed, came out of the hotel and entered the carriage. Then Cheditafa
shut the door and got up beside the driver again. It was a fine thing to
have such a footman as this one, so utterly different from the ordinary
groom or footman, so extremely _distingue_!

As the carriage rolled off, Banker walked after it, but not in such a way
as to attract attention, and then he entered a cab and told the _cocher_
to drive to the Bon Marche. Of course, he did not know where the lady was
going to, but at present she was driving in the direction of that
celebrated mart, and he kept his eye upon her carriage, and if she had
turned out of the Boulevard and away from the Seine, he would have
ordered his driver to turn also and go somewhere else. He did not dare to
tell the man to follow the carriage. He was shaved, and his clothes had
been put in as good order as possible, but he knew that he did not look
like a man respectable enough to give such an order without exciting
suspicion.

But the carriage did go to the Bon Marche, and there also went the cab,
the two vehicles arriving at almost the same time. Banker paid his fare
with great promptness, and was on the pavement in time to see the
handsomely dressed lady descend and enter the establishment. As she went
in, he took one look at the back of her bonnet. It had a little green
feather in it. Then he turned quickly upon Cheditafa, who had shut the
carriage door and was going around behind it in order to get up on the
other side.

"Look here," whispered Banker, seizing the clerical butler by the
shoulder, "who is that lady? Quick, or I'll put a knife in you."

At these words Cheditafa's heart almost stopped beating, and as he
quickly turned he saw that he looked into the face of a man, an awfully
wicked man, who had once helped to grind the soul out of him, in that
dreadful cave by the sea. The poor negro was so frightened that he
scarcely knew whether he was in Paris or Peru.

"Who is she?" whispered again the dreadful Rackbird.

"Come, come!" shouted the coachman from his seat, "we must move on."

"Quick! Who is she?" hissed Banker.

"She?" replied the quaking negro. "She is the captain's wife. She is--"
But he could say no more, for a policeman was ordering the carriage to
move on, for it stopped the way, and the coachman was calling
impatiently. Banker could not afford to meet a policeman. He released his
hold on Cheditafa and retired unnoticed. An instant afterward he entered
the Bon Marche.

Cheditafa climbed up to the side of the driver, but he missed his
foothold several times, and came near falling to the ground. In all Paris
there was no footman on a carriage who looked less upright, less sedate,
and less respectable than this poor, frightened black man.

Through the corridors and passageways of the vast establishment went
Banker. But he did not have to go far. He saw at a counter a little green
feather in the back of a bonnet. Quietly he approached that counter, and
no sooner had the attendant turned aside to get something that had been
asked for than Banker stepped close to the side of the lady, and leaning
forward, said in a very low but polite voice:

"I am so glad to find the captain's wife. I have been looking for her."

He was almost certain, from her appearance, that she was an American, and
so he spoke in English.

Edna turned with a start. She saw beside her a man with his hat off, a
rough-looking man, but a polite one, and a man who looked like a sailor.

"The captain!" she stammered. "Have you--do you bring me anything!
A letter?"

"Yes, madam," said he. "I have a letter and a message for you."

"Give them to me quickly!" said she, her face burning.

"I cannot," he said. "I cannot give them to you here. I have much to say
to you, and much to tell you, and I was ordered to say it in private."

Edna was astounded. Her heart sank. Captain Horn must be in trouble, else
why such secrecy? But she must know everything, and quickly. Where could
she meet the man? He divined her thought.

"The Gardens of the Tuileries," said he. "Go there now, please. I will
meet you, no matter in what part of it you are." And so saying, he
slipped away unnoticed.

When the salesman came to her, Edna did not remember what she had asked
to see, but whatever he brought she did not want, and going out, she had
her carriage called, and ordered her coachman to take her to the Gardens
of the Tuileries. She was so excited that she did not wait for Cheditafa
to get down, but opened the door herself, and stepped in quickly, even
before the porter of the establishment could attend to her.

When she reached the Gardens, and Cheditafa opened the carriage door for
her, she thought he must have a fit of chills and fever. But she had no
time to consider this, and merely told him that she was going to walk in
the Gardens, and the carriage must wait.

It was some time before Edna met the man with whom she had made this
appointment. He had seen her alight, and although he did not lose sight
of her, he kept away from her, and let her walk on until she was entirely
out of sight of the carriage. As soon as Edna perceived Banker, she
walked directly toward him. She had endeavored to calm herself, but he
could see that she was much agitated.

"How in the devil's name," he thought to himself, "did Raminez ever come
to marry such a woman as this? She's fit for a queen. But they say he
used to be a great swell in Spain before he got into trouble, and I
expect he's put on his old airs again, and an American lady will marry
anybody that's a foreign swell. And how neatly she played into my hand!
She let me know right away that she wanted a letter, which means, of
course, that Raminez is not with her."

"Give me the letter, if you please," said Edna.

"Madam," said Banker, with a bow, "I told you I had a letter and a
message. I must deliver the message first."

"Then be quick with it," said she.

"I will," said Banker. "Our captain has had great success lately, you
know, but he is obliged to keep a little in the background for the
present, as you will see by your letter, and as it is a very particular
letter, indeed, he ordered me to bring it to you."

Edna's heart sank. "What has happened?" said she. "Why--"

"Oh, you will find all that in the letter," said Banker. "The captain has
written out everything, full and clear. He told me so himself. But I must
get through with my message. It is not from him. It is from me. As I just
said, he ordered me to bring you this letter, and it was a hard thing to
do, and a risky thing to do. But I undertook the job of giving it to you,
in private, without anybody's knowing you had received it."

"What!" exclaimed Edna. "Nobody to know!"

"Oh, that is all explained," said he, hurriedly. "I can't touch on that.
My affair is this: The captain sent me with the letter, and I have been
to a lot of trouble to get it to you. Now, he is not going to pay me for
all this,--if he thanks me, it will be more than I expect,--and I am
going to be perfectly open and honest with you, and say that as the
captain won't pay me, I expect you to do it; or, putting it in another
way, before I hand you the letter I brought you, I want you to make me a
handsome present."

"You rascal!" exclaimed Edna. "How dare you impose on me in this way?"

It humiliated and mortified her to think that the captain was obliged to
resort to such a messenger as this. But all sorts of men become sailors,
and although her pride revolted against the attempted imposition, the man
had a letter written to her by Captain Horn, and she must have it.

"How much do you want?" said she.

"I don't mind your calling me names," said Banker. "The captain has made
a grand stroke, you know, and everything about you is very fine, while I
haven't three francs to jingle together. I want one thousand dollars."

"Five thousand francs!" exclaimed Edna. "Absurd! I have not that much
money with me. I haven't but a hundred francs, but that ought to
satisfy you."

"Oh, no," said Banker, "not at all. But don't trouble yourself. You have
not the money, and I have not the letter. The letter is in my lodgings. I
was not fool enough to bring it with me, and have you call a policeman to
arrest me, and take it for nothing. But if you will be here in two hours,
with five thousand francs, and will promise me, upon your honor, that you
will bring no one with you, and will not call the police as soon as you
have the letter, I will be here with it."

"Yes," said Edna, "I promise."

She felt humbled and ashamed as she said it, but there was nothing
else to do. In spite of her feelings, in spite of the cost, she must
have the letter.

"Very good," said Banker, and he departed.

Banker had no lodgings in particular, but he went to a brasserie and
procured writing materials. He had some letters in his pocket,--old,
dirty letters which had been there for a long time,--and one of them was
from Raminez, which had been written when they were both in California,
and which Banker had kept because it contained an unguarded reference to
Raminez's family in Spain, and Banker had thought that the information
might some day be useful to him. He was a good penman, this
Rackbird,--he was clever in many ways,--and he could imitate handwriting
very well, and he set himself to work to address an envelope in the
handwriting of Raminez.

For some time he debated within himself as to what title he should use in
addressing the lady. Should it be "Senora" or "Madame"? He inclined to
the first appellation, but afterwards thought that as the letter was to
go to her in France, and that as most likely she understood French, and
not Spanish, Raminez would probably address her in the former language,
and therefore he addressed the envelope to "Madame Raminez, by private
hand." As to the writing of a letter he did not trouble himself at all.
He simply folded up two sheets of paper and put them in the envelope,
sealing it tightly. Now he was prepared, and after waiting until the
proper time had arrived he proceeded to the Gardens.

Edna drove to her hotel in great agitation. She was angry, she was
astounded, she was almost frightened. What could have happened to
Captain Horn?

But two things encouraged and invigorated her: he was alive, and he had
written to her. That was everything, and she would banish all
speculations and fears until she had read his letter, and, until she had
read it, she must keep the matter a secret--she must not let anybody
imagine that she had heard anything, or was about to hear anything. By
good fortune, she had five thousand francs in hand, and, with these in
her pocket-book, she ordered her carriage half an hour before the time
appointed.

When Cheditafa heard the order, he was beset by a new consternation. He
had been greatly troubled when his mistress had gone to the Gardens the
first time--not because there was anything strange in that, for any lady
might like to walk in such a beautiful place, but because she was alone,
and, with a Rackbird in Paris, his lady ought never to be alone. She had
come out safely, and he had breathed again, and now, now she wanted to go
back! He must tell her about that Rackbird man. He had been thinking and
thinking about telling her all the way back to the hotel, but he had
feared to frighten her, and he had also been afraid to say that he had
done what he had been ordered not to do, and had told some one that she
was the captain's wife. But when he had reached the Gardens, he felt that
he must say something--she must not walk about alone. Accordingly, as
Edna stepped out of the carriage, he began to speak to her, but, contrary
to her usual custom, she paid no attention to him, simply telling him to
wait until she came back.

Edna was obliged to wander about for some time before Banker appeared.

"Now, then, madam," said he, "don't let us waste any time on this
business. Have you the money with you?"

"I have," said she. "But before I give it to you, I tell you that I do so
under protest, and that this conduct of yours shall be reported. I
consider it a most shameful thing, and I do not willingly pay you for
what, no doubt, you have been sufficiently paid before."

"That's all very well," said Banker. "I don't mind a bit what you say to
me. I don't mind your being angry--in fact, I think you ought to be. In
your place, I would be angry. But if you will hand me the money--"

"Silence!" exclaimed Edna. "Not another word. Where is my letter?"

"Here it is," said Banker, drawing the letter he had prepared from his
pocket, and holding it in such a position that she could read the
address. "You see, it is marked, 'by private hand,' and this is the
private hand that has brought it to you. Now, if you will count out the
money, and will hand it to me, I will give you the letter. That is
perfectly fair, isn't it?"

Edna leaned forward and looked at it. When she saw the superscription,
she was astonished, and stepped back.

"What do you mean?" she exclaimed, and was about to angrily assert that
she was not Madame Raminez, when Banker interrupted her. The sight of her
pocket-book within two feet of his hands threw him into a state of
avaricious excitement.

"I want you to give me that money, and take your letter!" he said
savagely. "I can't stand here fooling."

[Illustration: "I want you to give me that money, and take your letter!"
he said savagely.]

Edna firmly gripped her pocket-book, and was about to scream, but there
was no occasion for it. It had been simply impossible for Cheditafa to
remain on the carriage and let her go into the Gardens alone; he had
followed her, and, behind some bushes, he had witnessed the interview
between her and Banker. He saw that the man was speaking roughly to her
and threatening her. Instantly he rushed toward the two, and at the very
top of his voice he yelled:

"Rackbird! Rackbird! Police!"

Startled out of her senses, Edna stepped back, while Banker turned in
fury toward the negro, and clapped his hand to his hip pocket. But
Cheditafa's cries had been heard, and down the broad avenue Banker saw
two gendarmes running toward him. It would not do to wait here and
meet them.

"You devil!" he cried, turning to Cheditafa, "I'll have your blood before
you know it. As for you, madam, you have broken your word! I'll be even
with you!" And, with this, he dashed away.

When the gendarmes reached the spot, they waited to ask no questions, but
immediately pursued the flying Banker. Cheditafa was about to join in the
chase, but Edna stopped him.

"Come to the carriage--quick!" she said. "I do not wish to stay here and
talk to those policemen." Hurrying out of the Gardens, she drove away.

The ex-Rackbird was a very hard man to catch. He had had so much
experience in avoiding arrest that his skill in that direction was
generally more than equal to the skill, in the opposite direction, of the
ordinary detective. A good many people and two other gendarmes joined in
the chase after the man in the slouch-hat, who had disappeared like a
mouse or a hare around some shrubbery. It was not long before the
pursuers were joined by a man in a white cap, who asked several questions
as to what they were running after, but he did not seem to take a
sustained interest in the matter, and soon dropped out and went about his
business. He did not take his slouch-hat out of his pocket, for he
thought it would be better to continue to wear his white cap for a time.

When the police were obliged to give up the pursuit, they went back to
the Gardens to talk to the lady and her servant who, in such strange
words, had called to them, but they were not there.




CHAPTER XLV

MENTAL TURMOILS


Edna went home faint, trembling, and her head in a whirl. When she had
heard Cheditafa shout "Rackbird," the thought flashed into her mind that
the captain had been captured in the caves by some of these brigands who
had not been destroyed, that this was the cause of his silence, and that
he had written to her for help. But she considered that the letter could
not be meant for her, for under no circumstance would he have written to
her as Madame Raminez--a name of which she had never heard. This thought
gave her a little comfort, but not much. As soon as she reached the
hotel, she had a private talk with Cheditafa, and what the negro told her
reassured her greatly.

He did not make a very consecutive tale, but he omitted nothing. He told
her of his meeting with the Rackbird in front of the Bon Marche, and he
related every word of their short conversation. He accounted for this
Rackbird's existence by saying that he had not been at the camp when the
water came down. In answer to a question from Edna, he said that the
captain of the band was named Raminez, and that he had known him by that
name when he first saw him in Panama, though in the Rackbirds' camp he
was called nothing but "the captain."

"And you only told him I was the captain's wife?" asked Edna. "You didn't
say I was Captain Horn's wife?"

Cheditafa tried his best to recollect, and he felt very sure that he had
simply said she was the captain's wife.

When his examination was finished, Cheditafa burst into an earnest
appeal to his mistress not to go out again alone while she stayed in
Paris. He said that this Rackbird was an awfully wicked man, and that he
would kill all of them if he could. If the police caught him, he wanted
to go and tell them what a bad man he was. He did not believe the police
had caught him. This man could run like a wild hare, and policemen's
legs were so stiff.

Edna assured him that she would take good care of herself, and, after
enjoining upon him not to say a word to any one of what had happened
until she told him to, she sent him away.

When Edna sat in council with herself upon the events of the morning, she
was able to make some very fair conjectures as to what had happened. The
scoundrel she met had supposed her to be the wife of the Rackbirds'
captain. Having seen and recognized Cheditafa, it was natural enough for
him to suppose that the negro had been brought to Paris by some of the
band. All this seemed to be good reasoning, and she insisted to herself
over and over again that she was quite sure that Captain Horn had nothing
to do with the letter which the man had been intending to give her.

That assurance relieved her of one great trouble, but there were others
left. Here was a member of a band of bloody ruffians,--and perhaps he had
companions,--who had sworn vengeance against her and her faithful
servant, and Cheditafa's account of this man convinced her that he would
be ready enough to carry out such vengeance. She scarcely believed that
the police had caught him. For she had seen how he could run, and he had
the start of them. But even if they had, on what charge would he be held?
He ought to be confined or deported, but she did not wish to institute
proceedings and give evidence. She did not know what might be asked, or
said, or done, if she deposed that the man was a member of the Rackbird
band, and brought Cheditafa as a witness.

In all this trouble and perplexity she had no one to whom she could turn
for advice and assistance. If she told Mrs. Cliff there was a Rackbird in
Paris, and that he had been making threats, she was sure that good lady
would fly to her home in Plainton, Maine, where she would have iron bars
put to all the windows, and double locks to her doors.

In this great anxiety and terror--for, although Edna was a brave woman,
it terrified her to think that a wild and reckless villain, purple with
rage, had shaken his fist at her, and vowed he would kill Cheditafa--she
could not think of a soul she could trust.

Her brother, fortunately, was still in Belgium with his
tutor--fortunately, she thought, because, if he knew of the affair, he
would be certain to plunge himself into danger. And to whom could she
apply for help without telling too much of her story?

Mrs. Cliff felt there was something in the air. "You seem queer," said
she. "You seem unusually excited and ready to laugh. It isn't natural.
And Cheditafa looks very ashy. I saw him just a moment ago, and it seems
to me a dose of quinine would do him good. It may be that it is a sort of
spring fever which is affecting people, and I am not sure but that
something of the kind is the matter with me. At any rate, there is that
feeling in my spine and bones which I always have when things are about
to happen, or when there is malaria in the air."

Edna felt she must endeavor in all possible ways to prevent Mrs. Cliff
from finding out that the curses of a wicked Rackbird were in the air,
but she herself shuddered when she thought that one or more of the cruel
desperadoes, whose coming they had dreaded and waited for through that
fearful night in the caves of Peru, were now to be dreaded and feared in
the metropolis of France. If Edna shuddered at this, what would Mrs.
Cliff do if she knew it?

As for the man with the white cap, who had walked slowly away about his
business that morning when he grew tired of following the gendarmes, he
was in a terrible state of mind. He silently raged and stormed and
gnashed his teeth, and swore under his breath most awfully and
continuously. Never had he known such cursed luck. One thousand dollars
had been within two feet of his hand! He knew that the lady had that sum
in her pocket-book. He was sure she spoke truthfully. Her very
denunciation of him was a proof that she had not meant to deceive him.
She hesitated a moment, but she would have given him the money. In a few
seconds more he would have made her take the letter and give him the
price she promised. But in those few seconds that Gehenna-born baboon
had rushed in and spoiled everything. He was not enraged against the
lady, but he was enraged against himself because he had not snatched the
wallet before he ran, and he was infuriated to a degree which resembled
intoxication when he thought of Cheditafa and what he had done. The more
he thought, the more convinced he became that the lady had not brought
the negro with her to spy on him. If she had intended to break her word,
she would have brought a gendarme, not that ape.

No, the beastly blackamoor had done the business on his own account. He
had sneaked after the lady, and when he saw the gendarmes coming, he had
thought it a good chance to pay off old scores.

"Pay off!" growled Banker, in a tone which made a shop-girl, who was
walking in front of him carrying a band-box, jump so violently that she
dropped the box. "Pay off! I'll pay him!" And for a quarter of a mile he
vowed that the present purpose of his life was the annihilation, the
bloody annihilation, of that vile dog, whom he had trampled into the dirt
of the Pacific coast, and who now, decked in fine clothes, had arisen in
Paris to balk him of his fortune.

It cut Banker very deeply when he thought how neat and simple had been
the plan which had almost succeeded. He had had a notion, when he went
away to prepare the letter for the captain's wife, that he would write in
it a brief message which would mean nothing, but would make it necessary
for her to see him again and to pay him again. But he had abandoned this.
He might counterfeit an address, but it was wiser not to try his hand
upon a letter. The more he thought about Raminez, the less he desired to
run the risk of meeting him, even in Paris. So he considered that if he
made this one bold stroke and got five thousand francs, he would retire,
joyful and satisfied. But now! Well, he had a purpose: the annihilation
of Cheditafa was at present his chief object in life.

Banker seldom stayed in one place more than a day at a time, and before
he went to a new lodging, that night, he threw away his slouch-hat, which
he had rammed into his pocket, for he would not want it again. He had his
hair cut short and his face neatly shaved, and when he went to his room,
he trimmed his mustache in such a way that it greatly altered the cast of
his countenance. He was not the penniless man he had represented himself
to be, who had not three francs to jingle together, for he was a billiard
sharper and gambler of much ability, and when he appeared in the street,
the next morning, he was neatly dressed in a suit of second-hand clothes
which were as quiet and respectable as any tourist of limited means could
have desired. With Baedeker's "Paris" in his hand, and with a long knife
and a slung-shot concealed in his clothes, he went forth to behold the
wonders of the great city.

He did not seem to care very much whether he saw the sights by day or by
night, for from early morning until ten or eleven o'clock in the evening,
he was an energetic and interested wayfarer, confining his observations,
however, to certain quarters of the city which best suited his
investigations. One night he gawkily strolled into the Black Cat, and one
day he boldly entered the Hotel Grenade and made some inquiries of the
porter regarding the price of accommodations, which, however, he
declared were far above his means. That day he saw Mok in the courtyard,
and once, in passing, he saw Edna come out and enter her carriage with an
elderly lady, and they drove away, with Cheditafa on the box.

Under his dark sack-coat Banker wore a coarse blouse, and in the pocket
of this undergarment he had a white cap. He was a wonderful man to move
quietly out of people's way, and there were places in every neighborhood
where, even in the daytime, he could cast off the dark coat and the derby
hat without attracting attention.

It was satisfactory to think, as he briskly passed on, as one who has
much to see in a little time, that the incident in the Tuileries Gardens
had not yet caused the captain's wife to change her quarters.




CHAPTER XLVI

A PROBLEM


It was a little more than a week after Edna's adventure in the Gardens,
and about ten o'clock in the morning, that something happened--something
which proved that Mrs. Cliff was entirely right when she talked about the
feeling in her bones. Edna received a letter from Captain Horn, which was
dated at Marseilles.

As she stood with the letter in her hand, every nerve tingling, every
vein throbbing, and every muscle as rigid as if it had been cast in
metal, she could scarcely comprehend that it had really come--that she
really held it. After all this waiting and hoping and trusting, here was
news from Captain Horn--news by his own hand, now, here, this minute!

Presently she regained possession of herself, and, still standing, she
tore open the letter. It was a long one of several sheets, and she read
it twice. The first time, standing where she had received it, she skimmed
over page after page, running her eye from top to bottom until she had
reached the end and the signature, but her quick glance found not what
she looked for. Then the hand holding the letter dropped by her side.
After all this waiting and hoping and trusting, to receive such a
letter! It might have been written by a good friend, a true and generous
friend, but that was all. It was like the other letters he had written.
Why should they not have been written to Mrs. Cliff?

Now she sat down to read it over again. She first looked at the envelope.
Yes, it was really directed to "Mrs. Philip Horn." That was something,
but it could not have been less. It had been brought by a messenger from
Wraxton, Fuguet & Co., and had been delivered to Mrs. Cliff. That lady
had told the messenger to take the letter to Edna's salon, and she was
now lying in her own chamber, in a state of actual ague. Of course, she
would not intrude upon Edna at such a moment as this. She would wait
until she was called. Whether her shivers were those of ecstasy,
apprehension, or that nervous tremulousness which would come to any one
who beholds an uprising from the grave, she did not know, but she surely
felt as if there were a ghost in the air.

The second reading of the letter was careful and exact. The captain had
written a long account of what had happened after he had left Valparaiso.
His former letter, he wrote, had told her what had happened before that
time. He condensed everything as much as possible, but the letter was a
very long one. It told wonderful things--things which ought to have
interested any one. But to Edna it was as dry as a meal of stale crusts.
It supported her in her fidelity and allegiance as such a meal would have
supported a half-famished man, but that was all. Her soul could not live
on such nutriment as this.

He had not begun the letter "My dear Wife," as he had done before. It
was not necessary now that his letters should be used as proof that she
was his widow! He had plunged instantly into the subject-matter, and had
signed it after the most friendly fashion. He was not even coming to her!
There was so much to do which must be done immediately, and could not be
done without him. He had telegraphed to his bankers, and one of the firm
and several clerks were already with him. There were great difficulties
yet before him, in which he needed the aid of financial counsellors and
those who had influence with the authorities. His vessel, the _Arato_,
had no papers, and he believed no cargo of such value had ever entered a
port of France as that contained in the little green-hulled schooner
which he had sailed into the harbor of Marseilles. This cargo must be
landed openly. It must be shipped to various financial centres, and what
was to be done required so much prudence, knowledge, and discretion that
without the aid of the house of Wraxton, Fuguet & Co., he believed his
difficulties would have been greater than when he stood behind the wall
of gold on the shore of the Patagonian island.

He did not even ask her to come to him. In a day or so, he wrote, it
might be necessary for him to go to Berlin, and whether or not he would
travel to London from the German capital, he could not say, and for this
reason he could not invite any of them to come down to him.

"Any of us!" exclaimed Edna.

For more than an hour Mrs. Cliff lay in the state of palpitation which
pervaded her whole organization, waiting for Edna to call her. And at
last she could wait no longer, and rushed into the salon where Edna sat
alone, the letter in her hand.

"What does he say?" she cried, "Is he well? Where is he? Did he get
the gold?"

Edna looked at her for a moment without answering. "Yes," she said
presently, "he is well. He is in Marseilles. The gold--" And for a moment
she did not remember whether or not the captain had it.

"Oh, do say something!" almost screamed Mrs. Cliff. "What is it? Shall I
read the letter? What does he say?"

This recalled Edna to herself. "No," said she, "I will read it to you."
And she read it aloud, from beginning to end, carefully omitting those
passages which Mrs. Cliff would have been sure to think should have been
written in a manner in which they were not written.

"Well!" exclaimed Mrs. Cliff, who, in alternate horror, pity, and
rapture, had listened, pale and open-mouthed, to the letter. "Captain
Horn is consistent to the end! Whatever happens, he keeps away from us!
But that will not be for long, and--oh, Edna!"--and, as she spoke, she
sprang from her chair and threw her arms around the neck of her
companion, "he's got the gold!" And, with this, the poor lady sank
insensible upon the floor.

"The gold!" exclaimed Edna, before she even stooped toward her fainting
friend. "Of what importance is that wretched gold!"

An hour afterwards Mrs. Cliff, having been restored to her usual
condition, came again into Edna's room, still pale and in a state of
excitement.

"Now, I suppose," she exclaimed, "we can speak out plainly, and tell
everybody everything. And I believe that will be to me a greater delight
than any amount of money could possibly be."

"Speak out!" cried Edna, "of course we cannot. We have no more right to
speak out now than we ever had. Captain Horn insisted that we should not
speak of these affairs until he came, and he has not yet come."

"No, indeed!" said Mrs. Cliff, "that seems to be the one thing he cannot
do. He can do everything but come here. And are we to tell nobody that he
has arrived in France?--not even that much?"

"I shall tell Ralph," replied Edna. "I shall write to him to come here as
soon as possible, but that is all until the captain arrives, and we know
everything that has been done, and is to be done. I don't wish any one,
except you and me and Ralph, even to know that I have heard from him."

"Not Cheditafa? Not the professor? Nor any of your friends?"

"Of course not," said Edna, a little impatiently. "Don't you see how
embarrassing, how impossible it would be for me to tell them anything, if
I did not tell them everything? And what is there for me to tell them?
When we have seen Captain Horn, we shall all know who we are, and what we
are, and then we can speak out to the world, and I am sure I shall be
glad enough to do it."

"For my part," said Mrs. Cliff, "I think we all know who we are now. I
don't think anybody could tell us. And I think it would have been a great
deal better--"

"No, it wouldn't!" exclaimed Edna. "Whatever you were going to say, I
know it wouldn't have been better. We could have done nothing but what we
have done. We had no right to speak of Captain Horn's affairs, and having
accepted his conditions, with everything else that he has given us, we
are bound to observe them until he removes them. So we shall not talk any
more about that."

Poor Mrs. Cliff sighed. "So I must keep myself sealed and locked up, just
the same as ever?"

"Yes," replied Edna, "the same as ever. But it cannot be for long. As
soon as the captain has made his arrangements, we shall hear from him,
and then everything will be told."

"Made his arrangements!" repeated Mrs. Cliff. "That's another thing I
don't like. It seems to me that if everything were just as it ought to
be, there wouldn't be so many arrangements to make, and he wouldn't have
to be travelling to Berlin, and to London, and nobody knows where else. I
wonder if people are giving him any trouble about it! We have had all
sorts of troubles already, and now that the blessed end seems almost
under our fingers, I hope we are not going to have more of it."

"Our troubles," said Edna, "are nothing. It is Captain Horn who
should talk in that way. I don't think that, since the day we left
San Francisco, anybody could have supposed that we were in any sort
of trouble."

"I don't mean outside circumstances," said Mrs. Cliff. "But I suppose we
have all got souls and consciences inside of us, and when they don't know
what to do, of course we are bound to be troubled, especially as they
don't know what to tell us, and we don't know whether or not to mind
them when they do speak. But you needn't be afraid of me. I shall keep
quiet--that is, as long as I can. I can't promise forever."

Edna wrote to Ralph, telling him of the captain's letter, and urging him
to come to Paris as soon as possible. It was scarcely necessary to speak
to him of secrecy, for the boy was wise beyond his years. She did speak
of it, however, but very circumspectly. She knew that her brother would
never admit that there was any reason for the soul-rending anxiety with
which she waited the captain's return. But whatever happened, or whatever
he might think about what should happen, she wanted Ralph with her. She
felt herself more truly alone than she had ever been in her life.

During the two days which elapsed before Ralph reached Paris from
Brussels, Edna had plenty of time to think, and she did not lose any of
it. What Mrs. Cliff had said about people giving trouble, and about her
conscience, and all that, had touched her deeply. What Captain Horn had
said about the difficulties he had encountered on reaching Marseilles,
and what he had said about the cargo of the _Arato_ being probably more
valuable than any which had ever entered that port, seemed to put an
entirely new face upon the relations between her and the owner of this
vast wealth, if, indeed, he were able to establish that ownership. The
more she thought of this point, the more contemptible appeared her own
position--that is, the position she had assumed when she and the captain
stood together for the last time on the shore of Peru. If that gold truly
belonged to him, if he had really succeeded in his great enterprise,
what right had she to insist that he should accept her as a condition of
his safe arrival in a civilized land with this matchless prize, with no
other right than was given her by that very indefinite contract which had
been entered into, as she felt herself forced to believe, only for her
benefit in case he should not reach a civilized land alive?

The disposition of this great wealth was evidently an anxiety and a
burden, but in her heart she believed that the greatest of his anxieties
was caused by his doubt in regard to the construction she might now place
upon that vague, weird ceremony on the desert coast of Peru.

The existence of such a doubt was the only thing that could explain the
tone of his letters. He was a man of firmness and decision, and when he
had reached a conclusion, she knew he would state it frankly, without
hesitation. But she also knew that he was a man of a kind and tender
heart, and it was easy to understand how that disposition had influenced
his action. By no word or phrase, except such as were necessary to
legally protect her in the rights he wished to give her in case of his
death, had he written anything to indicate that he or she were not both
perfectly free to plan out the rest of their lives as best suited them.

In a certain way, his kindness was cruelty. It threw too much upon her.
She believed that if she were to assume that a marriage ceremony
performed by a black man from the wilds of Africa, was as binding, at
least, as a solemn engagement, he would accept her construction and all
its consequences. She also believed that if she declared that ceremony
to be of no value whatever, now that the occasion had passed, he would
agree with that conclusion. Everything depended upon her. It was too
hard for her.

To exist in this state of uncertainty was impossible for a woman of
Edna's organization. At any hour Captain Horn might appear. How should
she receive him? What had she to say to him?

For the rest of that day and the whole of the night, her mind never left
this question: "What am I to say to him?" She had replied to his letter
by a telegram, and simply signed herself "Edna." It was easy enough to
telegraph anywhere, and even to write, without assuming any particular
position in regard to him. But when he came, she must know what to do and
what to say. She longed for Ralph's coming, but she knew he could not
help her. He would say but one thing--that which he had always said. In
fact, he would be no better than Mrs. Cliff. But he was her own flesh and
blood, and she longed for him.




CHAPTER XLVII

A MAN-CHIMPANZEE


Since the affair with the Rackbird, Cheditafa had done his duty more
earnestly than ever before. He said nothing to Mok about the Rackbird. He
had come to look upon his fellow-African as a very low creature, not much
better than a chimpanzee. During Ralph's absence Mok had fallen into all
sorts of irregular habits, going out without leave whenever he got a
chance, and disporting himself generally in a very careless and
unservant-like manner.

On the evening that Ralph was expected from Brussels, Mok was missing.
Cheditafa could not find him in any of the places where he ought to
have been, so he must be out of doors somewhere, and Cheditafa went to
look for him.

This was the first time that Cheditafa had gone into the streets alone at
night since the Rackbird incident in the Tuileries Gardens. As he was the
custodian of Mok, and responsible for him, he did not wish to lose sight
of him, especially on this evening.

It so happened that when Cheditafa went out of the hotel, his
appearance was noticed by Mr. Banker. There was nothing remarkable
about this, for the evening was the time when the ex-Rackbird gave
the most attention to the people who came out of the hotel. When he
saw Cheditafa, his soul warmed within him. Here was the reward of
patience and steadfastness--everything comes to those who wait.

A half-hour before, Banker had seen Mok leave the hotel and make his way
toward the Black Cat. He did not molest the rapidly walking negro. He
would not have disturbed him for anything. But his watchfulness became so
eager and intense that he almost, but not quite, exposed himself to the
suspicion of a passing gendarme. He now expected Cheditafa, for the
reason that the manner of the younger negro indicated that he was playing
truant. It was likely that the elder man would go after him, and this was
exactly what happened.

Banker allowed the old African to go his way without molestation, for the
brightly lighted neighborhood of the hotel was not adapted to his
projected performance. But he followed him warily, and, when they reached
a quiet street, Banker quickened his pace, passed Cheditafa, and,
suddenly turning, confronted him. Then, without a word having been said,
there flashed upon the mind of the African everything that had happened,
not only in the Tuileries Gardens, but in the Rackbirds' camp, and at the
same time a prophetic feeling of what was about to happen.

By a few quick pulls and jerks, Banker had so far removed his disguise
that Cheditafa knew him the instant that his eyes fell upon him. His
knees trembled, his eyeballs rolled so that nothing but their whites
could be seen, and he gave himself up to death. Then spoke out the
terrible Rackbird.

What he said need not be recorded here, but every word of superheated
vengeance, with which he wished to torture the soul of his victim before
striking him to the earth, went straight to the soul of Cheditafa, as if
it had been a white-hot iron. His chin fell upon his breast. He had but
one hope, and that was that he would be killed quickly. He had seen
people killed in the horrible old camp, and the man before him he
believed to be the worst Rackbird of them all.

When Banker had finished stabbing and torturing the soul of the
African, he drew a knife from under his coat, and down fell Cheditafa
on his knees.

The evening was rainy and dark, and the little street was nearly
deserted. Banker, who could look behind and before him without making
much show of turning his head, had made himself sure of this before he
stepped in front of Cheditafa. But while he had been pouring out his
torrent of heart-shrivelling vituperation, he had ceased to look before
and behind him, and had not noticed a man coming down the street in the
opposite direction to that in which they had been going.

This was Mok, who was much less of a fool than Cheditafa took him for. He
had calculated that he would have time to go to the Black Cat and drink
two glasses of beer before Ralph was likely to appear, and he also made
up his mind that two glasses were as much as he could dispose of without
exciting the suspicions of the young man. Therefore, he had attended to
the business that had taken him out of doors on that rainy night, and was
returning to the hotel with a lofty consciousness of having done wrong in
a very wise and satisfactory manner.

He wore india-rubber overshoes, because the pavements were wet, and also
because this sort of foot-gear suited him better than hard, unyielding
sole-leather. Had he had his own way, he would have gone bare-footed, but
that would have created comment in the streets of Paris--he had sense
enough to know that.

When he first perceived, by the dim light of a street lamp, two persons
standing together on his side of the street, his conscience, without any
reason for it, suggested that he cross over and pass by without
attracting attention. To wrong-doers attention is generally unwelcome.

Mok not only trod with the softness and swiftness of a panther, but he
had eyes like that animal, and if there were any light at all, those
eyes could make good use of it. As he neared the two men, he saw that
one was scolding the other. Then he saw the other man drop down on his
knees. Then, being still nearer, he perceived that the man on his knees
was Cheditafa. Then he saw the man in front of him draw a knife from
under his coat.

As a rule, Mok was a coward, but two glasses of beer were enough to turn
his nature in precisely the opposite direction. A glass less would have
left him timorous, a glass more would have made him foolhardy and silly.
He saw that somebody was about to stab his old friend. In five long,
noiseless steps, or leaps, he was behind that somebody, and had seized
the arm which held the knife.

With a movement as quick as the stroke of a rattlesnake, Banker turned
upon the man who had clutched his arm, and when he saw that it was Mok,
his fury grew tornado-like. With a great oath, and a powerful plunge
backward, he endeavored to free his arm from the grasp of the negro. But
he did not do it. Those black fingers were fastened around his wrist as
though they had been fetters forged to fit him. And in the desperate
struggle the knife was dropped.

In a hand-to-hand combat with a chimpanzee, a strong man would have but
little chance of success, and Mok, under the influence of two glasses of
beer, was a man-chimpanzee. When Banker swore, and when he turned so that
the light of the street lamp fell upon his face, Mok recognized him. He
knew him for a Rackbird of the Rackbirds--as the cruel, black-eyed savage
who had beaten him, trodden upon him, and almost crushed the soul out of
him, in that far-away camp by the sea. How this man should have suddenly
appeared in Paris, why he came there, and what he was going to do,
whether he was alone, or with his band concealed in the neighboring
doorways, Mok did not trouble his mind to consider. He held in his brazen
grip a creature whom he considered worse than the most devilish of
African devils, a villain who had been going to kill Cheditafa.

Every nerve under his black skin, every muscle that covered his bones,
and the two glasses of beer, sung out to him that the Rackbird could not
get away from him, and that the great hour of vengeance had arrived.

Banker had a pistol, but he had no chance to draw it. The arms of the
wild man were around him. His feet slipped from under him, and instantly
the two were rolling on the wet pavement. But only for an instant. Banker
was quick and light and strong to such a degree that no man but a
man-chimpanzee could have overpowered him in a struggle like that. Both
were on their feet almost as quickly as they went down, but do what he
would, Banker could not get out his pistol.

Those long black arms, one of them now bared to the shoulder, were about
him ever. He pulled, and tugged, and swerved. He half threw him one
instant, half lifted the next, but never could loosen the grasp of that
fierce creature, whose whole body seemed as tough and elastic as the
shoes he wore.

Together they fell, together they rolled in the dirty slime, together
they rose as if they had been shot up by a spring, and together they went
down again, rolling over each other, pulling, tearing, striking, gasping,
and panting.

Cheditafa had gone. The moment of Mok's appearance, he had risen and
fled. There were now people in the street. Some had come out of their
houses, hearing the noise of the struggle, for Banker wore heavy shoes.
There were also one or two pedestrians who had stopped, unwilling to pass
men who were engaged in such a desperate conflict.

No one interfered. It would have seemed as prudent to step between two
tigers. Such a bounding, whirling, tumbling, rolling, falling, and rising
contest had never been seen in that street, except between cats. It
seemed that the creatures would dash themselves through the windows of
the houses.

It was not long before Cheditafa came back with two policemen, all
running, and then the men who lay in the street, spinning about as if
moving on pivots, were seized and pulled apart. At first the officers
of the law appeared at a loss to know what had happened, and who had
been attacked. What was this black creature from the Jardin des
Plantes? But Banker's coat had been torn from his back, and his pistol
stood out in bold relief in his belt, and Cheditafa pointed to the
breathless bandit, and screamed: "Bad man! Bad man! Try to kill me!
This good Mok save my life!"

Two more policemen now came hurrying up, for other people had given the
alarm, and it was not considered necessary to debate the question as to
who was the aggressor in this desperate affair. Cheditafa, Mok, and
Banker were all taken to the police station.

As Cheditafa was known to be in the service of the American lady at the
Hotel Grenade, the _portier_ of that establishment was sent for, and
having given his testimony to the good character of the two negroes, they
were released upon his becoming surety for their appearance when wanted.

As for Banker, there was no one to go security. He was committed
for trial.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Ralph went to his room, that night, he immediately rang for his
valet. Mok, who had reached the hotel from the police station but a few
minutes before, answered the summons. When Ralph turned about and beheld
the black man, his hair plastered with mud, his face plastered with mud,
and what clothes he had on muddy, torn, and awry, with one foot wearing a
great overshoe and the other bare, with both black arms entirely denuded
of sleeves, with eyes staring from his head, and his whole form quivering
and shaking, the young man started as if some afrit of the "Arabian
Nights" had come at this dark hour to answer his call.

To the eager questions which poured upon him when his identity became
apparent, Mok could make no intelligible answer. He did not possess
English enough for that. But Cheditafa was quickly summoned, and he
explained everything. He explained it once, twice, three times, and then
he and Mok were sent away, and told to go to bed, and under no
circumstances to mention to their mistress what had happened, or to
anybody who might mention it to her. And this Cheditafa solemnly
promised for both.

The clock struck one as Ralph still sat in his chair, wondering what
all this meant, and what might be expected to happen next. To hear
that a real, live Rackbird was in Paris, that this outlaw had
threatened his sister, that the police had been watching for him, that
he had sworn to kill Cheditafa, and that night had tried to do it,
amazed him beyond measure.

At last he gave up trying to conjecture what it meant. It was foolish to
waste his thoughts in that way. To-morrow he must find out. He could
understand very well why his sister had kept him in ignorance of the
affair in the Gardens. She had feared danger to him. She knew that he
would be after that scoundrel more hotly than any policeman. But what the
poor girl must have suffered! It was terrible to think of.

The first thing he would do would be to take very good care that she
heard nothing of the attack on Cheditafa. He would go to the police
office early the next morning and look into this matter. He did not
think that it would be necessary for Edna to know anything about
it, except that the Rackbird had been arrested and she need no
longer fear him.

When Ralph reached the police station, the next day, he found there the
portier of the hotel, together with Cheditafa and Mok.

After Banker's examination, to which he gave no assistance by admissions
of any sort, he was remanded for trial, and he was held merely for his
affair with the negroes, no charge having been made against him for his
attempt to obtain money from their mistress, or his threats in her
direction. As the crime for which he had been arrested gave reason
enough for condign punishment of the desperado, Ralph saw, and made
Cheditafa see, it would be unnecessary as well as unpleasant to drag
Edna into the affair.

That afternoon Mr. Banker, who had recovered his breath and had collected
his ideas, sent for the police magistrate and made a confession. He said
he had been a member of a band of outlaws, but having grown disgusted
with their evil deeds, had left them. He had become very poor, and having
heard that the leader of the band had made a fortune by a successful
piece of rascality, and had married a fine lady, and was then in Paris,
he had come to this city to meet him, and to demand in the name of their
old comradeship some assistance in his need. He had found his captain's
wife. She had basely deceived him after having promised to help him, and
he had been insulted and vilely treated by that old negro, who was once a
slave in the Rackbirds' camp in Peru, and who had been brought here with
the other negro by the captain. He also freely admitted that he had
intended to punish the black fellow, though he had no idea whatever of
killing him. If he had had such an idea, it would have been easy enough
for him to put his knife into him when he met him in that quiet street.
But he had not done so, but had contented himself with telling him what
he thought of him, and with afterwards frightening him with his knife.
And then the other fellow had come up, and there had been a fight.
Therefore, although he admitted that his case was a great misdemeanor,
and that he had been very disorderly, he boldly asserted that he had
contemplated no murder. But what he wished particularly to say to the
magistrate was that the captain of the Rackbirds would probably soon
arrive in Paris, and that he ought to be arrested. No end of important
results might come from such an arrest. He was quite sure that the great
stroke of fortune which had enabled the captain's family to live in Paris
in such fine style ought to be investigated. The captain had never made
any money by simple and straightforward methods of business.

All this voluntary testimony was carefully taken down, and although the
magistrate did not consider it necessary to believe any of it, the
arrival of Captain Horn was thenceforth awaited with interest by the
police of Paris.

It was not very plain how Miss Markham of the Hotel Grenade, who was well
known as a friend of a member of the American legation, could be the wife
of a South American bandit. But then, there might be reasons why she
wished to retain her maiden name for the present, and she might not know
her husband as a bandit.




CHAPTER XLVIII

ENTER CAPTAIN HORN


It was less than a week after the tumbling match in the street between
Banker and Mok, and about eleven o'clock in the morning, when a brief
note, written on a slip of paper and accompanied by a card, was brought
to Edna from Mrs. Cliff. On the card was written the name of Captain
Philip Horn, and the note read thus:

"He is here. He sent his card to me. Of course, you
will see him. Oh, Edna! don't do anything foolish when
you see him! Don't go and throw away everything
worth living for in this world! Heaven help you!"

This note was hurriedly written, but Edna read it at a glance.

"Bring the gentleman here," she said to the man.

Now, with all her heart, Edna blessed herself and thanked herself that,
at last, she had been strong enough and brave enough to determine what
she ought to do when she met the captain. That very morning, lying awake
in her bed, she had determined that she would meet him in the same spirit
as that in which he had written to her. She would be very strong. She
would not assume anything. She would not accept the responsibility of
deciding the situation, which responsibility she believed he thought it
right she should assume. She would not have it. If he appeared before her
as the Captain Horn of his letters, he should go away as the man who had
written those letters. If he had come here on business, she would show
him that she was a woman of business.

As she stood waiting, with her eyes upon his card, which lay upon the
table, and Mrs. Cliffs note crumpled up in one hand, she saw the captain
for some minutes before it was possible for him to reach her. She saw him
on board the _Castor_, a tall, broad-shouldered sailor, with his hands in
the pockets of his pea-jacket. She saw him by the caves in Peru, his
flannel shirt and his belted trousers faded by the sun and water, torn
and worn, and stained by the soil on which they so often sat, with his
long hair and beard, and the battered felt hat, which was the last thing
she saw as his boat faded away in the distance, when she stood watching
it from the sandy beach. She saw him as she had imagined him after she
had received his letter, toiling barefooted along the sands, carrying
heavy loads upon his shoulders, living alone night and day on a dreary
desert coast, weary, perhaps haggard, but still indomitable. She saw him
in storm, in shipwreck, in battle, and as she looked upon him thus with
the eyes of her brain, there were footsteps outside her door.

As Captain Horn came through the long corridors and up the stairs,
following the attendant, he saw the woman he was about to meet, and saw
her before he met her. He saw her only in one aspect--that of a tall, too
thin, young woman, clad in a dark-blue flannel suit, unshapely,
streaked, and stained, her hair bound tightly round her head and covered
by an old straw hat with a faded ribbon. This picture of her as he had
left her standing on the beach, at the close of that afternoon when his
little boat pulled out into the Pacific, was as clear and distinct as
when he had last seen it.

A door was opened before him, and he entered Edna's salon. For a moment
he stopped in the doorway. He did not see the woman he had come to meet.
He saw before him a lady handsomely and richly dressed in a Parisian
morning costume--a lady with waving masses of dark hair above a lovely
face, a lady with a beautiful white hand, which was half raised as he
appeared in the doorway.

She stood with her hand half raised. She had never seen the man before
her. He was a tall, imposing gentleman, in a dark suit, over which he
wore a light-colored overcoat. One hand was gloved, and in the other he
held a hat. His slightly curling brown beard and hair were trimmed after
the fashion of the day, and his face, though darkened by the sun, showed
no trace of toil, or storm, or anxious danger. He was a tall,
broad-shouldered gentleman, with an air of courtesy, an air of dignity,
an air of forbearance, which were as utterly unknown to her as everything
else about him, except his eyes--those were the same eyes she had seen on
board the _Castor_ and on the desert sands.

Had it not been for the dark eyes which looked so steadfastly at him,
Captain Horn, would have thought that he had been shown into the wrong
room. But he now knew there was no mistake, and he entered. Edna raised
her hand and advanced to meet him.

He shook hands with her exactly as he had written to her, and she shook
hands with him just as she had telegraphed to him. Much of her natural
color had left her face. As he had never seen this natural color, under
the sun-brown of the Pacific voyage, he did not miss it.

Instantly she began to speak. How glad she was that she had prepared
herself to speak as she would have spoken to any other good friend! So
she expressed her joy at seeing him again, well and successful after
all these months of peril, toil, and anxiety, and they sat down near
each other.

He looked at her steadfastly, and asked her many things about Ralph, Mrs.
Cliff, and the negroes, and what had happened since he left San
Francisco. He listened with a questioning intentness as she spoke. She
spoke rapidly and concisely as she answered his questions and asked him
about himself. She said little about the gold. One might have supposed
that he had arrived at Marseilles with a cargo of coffee. At the same
time, there seemed to be, on Edna's part, a desire to lengthen out her
recital of unimportant matters. She now saw that the captain knew she did
not care to talk of these things. She knew that he was waiting for an
opportunity to turn the conversation into another channel,--waiting with
an earnestness that was growing more and more apparent,--and as she
perceived this, and as she steadily talked to him, she assured herself,
with all the vehemence of which her nature was capable, that she and this
man were two people connected by business interests, and that she was
ready to discuss that business in a business way as soon as he could
speak. But still she did not yet give him the chance to speak.

The captain sat there, with his blue eyes fixed upon her, and, as she
looked at him, she knew him to be the personification of honor and
magnanimity, waiting until he could see that she was ready for him to
speak, ready to listen if she should speak, ready to meet her on any
ground--a gentleman, she thought, above all the gentlemen in the world.
And still she went on talking about Mrs. Cliff and Ralph.

Suddenly the captain rose. Whether or not he interrupted her in the
middle of a sentence, he did not know, nor did she know. He put his hat
upon a table and came toward her. He stood in front of her and looked
down at her. She looked up at him, but he did not immediately speak. She
could not help standing silently and looking up at him when he stood and
looked down upon her in that way. Then he spoke.

"Are you my wife?" said he.

"By all that is good and blessed in heaven or earth, I am," she answered.

Standing there, and looking up into his eyes, there was no other answer
for her to make.

       *       *       *       *       *

Seldom has a poor, worn, tired, agitated woman kept what was to her a
longer or more anxious watch upon a closed door than Mrs. Cliff kept that
day. If even Ralph had appeared, she would have decoyed him into her own
room, and locked him up there, if necessary.

In about an hour after Mrs. Cliff began her watch, a tall man walked
rapidly out of the salon and went down the stairs, and then a woman came
running across the hall and into Mrs. Cliff's room, closing the door
behind her. Mrs. Cliff scarcely recognized this woman. She had Edna's
hair and face, but there was a glow and a glory on her countenance such
as Mrs. Cliff had never seen, or expected to see until, in the hereafter,
she should see it on the face of an angel.

"He has loved me," said Edna, with her arms around her old friend's neck,
"ever since we had been a week on the _Castor_."

Mrs. Cliff shivered and quivered with joy. She could not say anything,
but over and over again she kissed the burning cheeks of her friend.
At last they stood apart, and, when Mrs. Cliff was calm enough to
speak, she said:

"Ever since we were on the _Castor!_ Well, Edna, you must admit that
Captain Horn is uncommonly good at keeping things to himself."

"Yes," said the other, "and he always kept it to himself. He never let it
go away from him. He had intended to speak to me, but he wanted to wait
until I knew him better, and until we were in a position where he
wouldn't seem to be taking advantage of me by speaking. And when you
proposed that marriage by Cheditafa, he was very much troubled and
annoyed. It was something so rough and jarring, and so discordant with
what he had hoped, that at first he could not bear to think of it. But he
afterwards saw the sense of your reasoning, and agreed simply because it
would be to my advantage in case he should lose his life in his
undertaking. And we will be married to-morrow at the embassy."

"To-morrow!" cried Mrs. Cliff. "So soon?"

"Yes," replied Edna. "The captain has to go away, and I am going
with him."

"That is all right," said Mrs. Cliff. "Of course I was a little surprised
at first. But how about the gold? How much was there of it? And what is
he going to do with it?"

"He scarcely mentioned the gold," replied Edna. "We had more precious
things to talk about. When he sees us all together, you and I and Ralph,
he will tell us what he has done, and what he is going to do, and--"

"And we can say what we please?" cried Mrs. Cliff.

"Yes," said Edna,--"to whomever we please."

"Thank the Lord!" exclaimed Mrs. Cliff. "That is almost as good as
being married."

       *       *       *       *       *

On his arrival in Paris the night before, Captain Horn had taken
lodgings at a hotel not far from the Hotel Grenade, and the first thing
he did the next morning was to visit Edna. He had supposed, of course,
that she was at the same hotel in which Mrs. Cliff resided, which
address he had got from Wraxton, in Marseilles, and he had expected to
see the elderly lady first, and to get some idea of how matters stood
before meeting Edna. He was in Paris alone. He had left Shirley and
Burke, with the negroes, in Marseilles. He had wished to do nothing, to
make no arrangements for any one, until he had seen Edna, and had found
out what his future life was to be.

Now, as he walked back to his hotel, that future life lay before him
radiant and resplendent. No avenue in Paris, or in any part of the world,
blazing with the lights of some grand festival, ever shone with such
glowing splendor as the future life of Captain Horn now shone and
sparkled before him, as he walked and walked, on and on, and crossed the
river into the Latin Quarter, before he perceived that his hotel was a
mile or more behind him.

From the moment that the _Arato_ had left the Straits of Magellan, and
Captain Horn had had reason to believe that he had left his dangers
behind him, the prow of his vessel had been set toward the Strait of
Gibraltar, and every thought of his heart toward Edna. Burke and Shirley
both noticed a change in him. After he left the Rackbirds' cove, until he
had sailed into the South Atlantic, his manner had been quiet, alert,
generally anxious, and sometimes stern. But now, day by day, he appeared
to be growing into a different man. He was not nervous, nor apparently
impatient, but it was easy to see that within him there burned a steady
purpose to get on as fast as the wind would blow them northward.

Day by day, as he walked the deck of his little vessel, one might have
thought him undergoing a transformation from the skipper of a schooner
into the master of a great ship, into the captain of a swift Atlantic
liner, into the commander of a man-of-war, into the commodore on board a
line-of-battle ship. It was not an air of pride or assumed superiority
that he wore, it was nothing assumed, it was nothing of which he was not
entirely aware. It was the gradual growth within him, as health grows
into a man recovering from a sickness, of the consciousness of power.
The source of that consciousness lay beneath him, as he trod the deck of
the _Arato_.

This consciousness, involuntary, and impossible to resist, had nothing
definite about it. It had nothing which could wholly satisfy the soul of
this man, who kept his eyes and his thoughts so steadfastly toward the
north. He knew that there were but few things in the world that his power
could not give him, but there was one thing upon which it might have no
influence whatever, and that one thing was far more to him than all other
things in this world.

Sometimes, as he sat smoking beneath the stars, he tried to picture to
himself the person who might be waiting and watching for him in Paris,
and to try to look upon her as she must really be; for, after her life in
San Francisco and Paris, she could not remain the woman she had been at
the caves on the coast of Peru. But, do what he would, he could make no
transformation in the picture which was imprinted on the retina of his
soul. There he saw a woman still young, tall, and too thin, in a suit of
blue flannel faded and worn, with her hair bound tightly around her head
and covered by a straw hat with a faded ribbon. But it was toward this
figure that he was sailing, sailing, sailing, as fast as the winds of
heaven would blow his vessel onward.




CHAPTER XLIX

A GOLDEN AFTERNOON


When Ralph met Captain Horn that afternoon, there rose within him a
sudden, involuntary appreciation of the captain's worthiness to possess a
ship-load of gold and his sister Edna. Before that meeting there had been
doubts in the boy's mind in regard to this worthiness. He believed that
he had thoroughly weighed and judged the character and capacities of the
captain of the _Castor_, and he had said to himself, in his moments of
reflection, that although Captain Horn was a good man, and a brave man,
and an able man in many ways, there were other men in the world who were
better fitted for the glorious double position into which this fortunate
mariner had fallen.

But now, as Ralph sat and gazed upon his sister's lover and heard him
talk, and as he turned from him to Edna's glowing eyes, he acknowledged,
without knowing it, the transforming power of those two great
alchemists,--gold and love,--and from the bottom of his heart he approved
the match.

Upon Mrs. Cliff the first sight of Captain Horn had been a little
startling, and had she not hastened to assure herself that the compact
with Edna was a thing fixed and settled, she might have been possessed
with the fear that perhaps this gentleman might have views for his
future life very different from those upon which she had set her heart.
But even if she had not known of the compact of the morning, all danger
of that fear would have passed in the moment that the captain took her
by the hand.

To find his three companions of the wreck and desert in such high state
and flourishing condition so cheered and uplifted the soul of the captain
that he could talk of nothing else. And now he called for Cheditafa and
Mok--those two good fellows whose faithfulness he should never forget.
But when they entered, bending low, with eyes upturned toward the lofty
presence to which they had been summoned, the captain looked inquiringly
at Edna. As he came in that afternoon, he had seen both the negroes in
the courtyard, and, in the passing thought he had given to them, had
supposed them to be attendants of some foreign potentate from Barbary or
Morocco. Cheditafa and Mok! The ragged, half-clad negroes of the
sea-beach--a parson-butler of sublimated respectability, a liveried
lackey of rainbow and gold! It required minutes to harmonize these
presentments in the mind of Captain Horn.

When the audience of the two Africans--for such it seemed to be--had
lasted long enough, Edna was thinking of dismissing them, when it became
plain to her that there was something which Cheditafa wished to say or
do. She looked at him inquiringly, and he came forward.

For a long time the mind of the good African had been exercised upon the
subject of the great deed he had done just before the captain had sailed
away from the Peruvian coast. In San Francisco and Paris he had asked
many questions quietly, and apparently without purpose, concerning the
marriage ceremonies of America and other civilized countries. He had not
learned enough to enable him, upon an emergency, to personate an orthodox
clergyman, but he had found out this and that--little things, perhaps,
but things which made a great impression upon him--which had convinced
him that in the ceremony he had performed there had been much
remissness--how much, he did not clearly know. But about one thing that
had been wanting he had no doubts.

Advancing toward Edna and the captain, who sat near each other, Cheditafa
took from his pocket a large gold ring, which he had purchased with his
savings. "There was a thing we didn't do," he said, glancing from one to
the other. "It was the ring part--nobody thinked of that. Will captain
take it now, and put it on the lady?"

Edna and the captain looked at each other. For a moment no one spoke.
Then Edna said, "Take it." The captain rose and took the ring from the
hand of Cheditafa, and Edna stood beside him. Then he took her hand, and
reverently placed the ring upon her fourth finger. Fortunately, it
fitted. It had not been without avail that Cheditafa had so often scanned
with a measuring eye the rings upon the hands of his mistress.

A light of pleasure shone in the eyes of the old negro. Now he had done
his full duty--now all things had been made right. As he had seen the
priests stand in the churches of Paris, he now stood for a moment with
his hands outspread. "Very good," he said, "that will do." Then, followed
by Mok, he bowed himself out of the room.

For some moments there was silence in the salon. Nobody thought of
laughing, or even smiling. In the eyes of Mrs. Cliff there were a few
tears. She was the first to speak. "He is a good man," said she, "and he
now believes that he has done everything that ought to be done. But you
will be married to-morrow, all the same, of course."

"Yes," said Edna. "But it will be with this ring."

"Yes," said the captain, "with that ring. You must always wear it."

"And now," said Mrs. Cliff, when they had all reseated themselves,
"you must really tell us your story, captain. You know I have heard
nothing yet."

And so he told his story--much that Edna had heard before, a great deal
she had not heard. About the treasure, almost everything he said was new
to her. Mrs. Cliff was very eager on this point. She wanted every detail.

"How about the ownership of it?" she said. "After all, that is the
great point. What do people here think of your right to use that gold
as your own?"

The captain smiled. "That is not an easy question to answer, but I think
we shall settle it very satisfactorily. Of course, the first thing to do
is to get it safely entered and stored away in the great money centres
over here. A good portion of it, in fact, is to be shipped to
Philadelphia to be coined. Of course, all that business is in the hands
of my bankers. The fact that I originally sailed from California was a
great help to us. To ascertain my legal rights in the case was the main
object of my visit to London. There Wraxton and I put the matter before
three leading lawyers in that line of business, and although their
opinions differed somewhat, and although we have not yet come to a final
conclusion as to what should be done, the matter is pretty well
straightened out as far as we are concerned. Of course, the affair is
greatly simplified by the fact that there is no one on the other side to
be a claimant of the treasure, but we consider it as if there were a
claimant, or two of them, in fact. These can be no other than the present
government of Peru, and that portion of the population of the country
which is native to the soil, and the latter, if our suppositions are
correct, are the only real heirs to the treasure which I discovered. But
what are the laws of Peru in regard to treasure-trove, or what may be the
disposition of the government toward the native population and their
rights, of course we cannot find out now. That will take time. But of one
thing we are certain: I am entitled to a fair remuneration for the
discovery of this treasure, just the same as if I claimed salvage for
having brought a wrecked steamer into port. On this point the lawyers are
all agreed. I have, therefore, made my claim, and shall stand by it with
enough legal force behind me to support me in any emergency.

"But it is not believed that either the Peruvian government, or the
natives acting as a body, if it shall be possible for them to act in that
way, will give us any trouble. We have the matter entirely in our own
hands. They do not know of the existence of this treasure, or that they
have any rights to it, until we inform them of the fact, and without our
assistance it will be almost impossible for them to claim anything or
prove anything. Therefore, it will be good policy and common sense for
them to acknowledge that we are acting honestly, and, more than that,
generously, and to agree to take what we offer them, and that we shall
keep what is considered by the best legal authorities to be our rights.

"As soon as possible, an agent will be sent to Peru to attend to the
matter. But this matter is in the hands of my lawyers, although, of
course, I shall not keep out of the negotiations."

"And how much percentage, captain?" asked Mrs. Cliff. "What part do they
think you ought to keep?"

"We have agreed," said he, "upon twenty per cent. of the whole. After
careful consideration and advice, I made that claim. I shall retain it.
Indeed, it is already secured to me, no matter what may happen to the
rest of the treasure."

"Twenty per cent.!" exclaimed Mrs. Cliff. "And that is all that you get?"

"Yes," said the captain, "it is what I get--and by that is meant what is
to be divided among us all. I make the claim, but I make it for every one
who was on the _Castor_ when she was wrecked, and for the families of
those who are not alive--for every one, in fact, who was concerned in
this matter."

The countenance of Mrs. Cliff had been falling, and now it went down,
down, again. After all the waiting, after all the anxiety, it had come to
this: barely twenty per cent., to be divided among ever so many
people--twenty-five or thirty, for all she knew. Only this, after the
dreams she had had, after the castles she had built! Of course, she had
money now, and she would have some more, and she had a great many useful
and beautiful things which she had bought, and she could go back to
Plainton in very good circumstances. But that was not what she had been
waiting for, and hoping for, and anxiously trembling for, ever since she
had found that the captain had really reached France with the treasure.

"Captain," she said, and her voice was as husky as if she had been
sitting in a draught, "I have had so many ups and so many downs, and have
been turned so often this way and that, I cannot stand this state of
uncertainty any longer. It may seem childish and weak, but I must know
something. Can you give me any idea how much you are to have, or, at
least, how much I shall have, and let me make myself satisfied with
whatever it is? Do you think that I shall be able to go back to Plainton
and take my place as a leading citizen there? I don't mind in the least
asking that before you three. I thought I was justified in making that my
object in life, and I have made it my object. Now, if I have been
mistaken all this time, I would like to know it. Don't find fault with
me. I have waited, and waited, and waited--"

"Well," interrupted the captain, "you need not wait any longer. The sum
that I have retained shall be divided as soon as possible, and I shall
divide it in as just a manner as I can, and I am ready to hear appeals
from any one who is not satisfied. Of course, I shall keep the largest
share of it--that is my right. I found it, and I secured it. And this
lady here," pointing to Edna, "is to have the next largest share in her
own right, because she was the main object which made me work so hard and
brave everything to get that treasure here. And then the rest will share
according to rank, as we say on board ship."

"Oh, dear! Oh, dear!" murmured Mrs. Cliff, "he never comes to any
point. We never know anything clear and distinct. This is not any
answer at all."

"The amount I claim," continued the captain, who did not notice that Mrs.
Cliff was making remarks to herself, "is forty million dollars."

Everybody started, and Mrs. Cliff sprang up as if a torpedo had been
fired beneath her.

"Forty million dollars!" she exclaimed. "I thought you said you would
only have twenty per cent.?"

"That is just what it is," remarked the captain, "as nearly as we can
calculate. Forty million dollars is about one fifth of the value of the
cargo I brought to France in the _Arato_. And as to your share, Mrs.
Cliff, I think, if you feel like it, you will be able to buy the town of
Plainton; and if that doesn't make you a leading citizen in it, I don't
know what else you can do."




CHAPTER L

A CASE OF RECOGNITION


Every one in our party at the Hotel Grenade rose very early the next
morning. That day was to be one of activity and event. Mrs. Cliff, who
had not slept one wink during the night, but who appeared almost
rejuvenated by the ideas which had come to her during her sleeplessness,
now entered a protest against the proposed marriage at the American
legation. She believed that people of the position which Edna and the
captain should now assume ought to be married in a church, with all
proper ceremony and impressiveness, and urged that the wedding be
postponed for a few days, until suitable arrangements could be made.

But Edna would not listen to this. The captain was obliged, by
appointment, to be in London on the morrow, and he could not know how
long he might be detained there, and now, wherever he went, she wished to
go with him. He wanted her to be with him, and she was going. Moreover,
she fancied a wedding at the legation. There were all sorts of
regulations concerning marriage in France, and to these neither she nor
the captain cared to conform, even if they had time enough for the
purpose. At the American legation they would be in point of law upon
American soil, and there they could be married as Americans, by an
American minister.

After that Mrs. Cliff gave up. She was so happy she was ready to agree to
anything, or to believe in anything, and she went to work with heart and
hand to assist Edna in getting ready for the great event.

Mrs. Sylvester, the wife of the secretary, received a note from Edna
which brought her to the hotel as fast as horses were allowed to travel
in the streets of Paris, and arrangements were easily made for the
ceremony to take place at four o'clock that afternoon.

The marriage was to be entirely private. No one was to be present but
Mrs. Cliff, Ralph, and Mrs. Sylvester. Nothing was said to Cheditafa of
the intended ceremony. After what had happened, they all felt that it
would be right to respect the old negro's feelings and sensibilities.
Mrs. Cliff undertook, after a few days had elapsed, to explain the whole
matter to Cheditafa, and to tell him that what he had done had not been
without importance and real utility, but that it had actually united his
master and mistress by a solemn promise before witnesses, which in some
places, and under certain circumstances, would be as good a marriage as
any that could be performed, but that a second ceremony had taken place
in order that the two might be considered man and wife in all places and
under all circumstances.

The captain had hoped to see Shirley and Burke before he left Paris, but
that was now impossible, and, on his way to his hotel, after breakfasting
at the Hotel Grenade, he telegraphed to them to come to him in London.
He had just sent his telegram when he was touched on the arm, and,
turning, saw standing by him two police officers. Their manner was very
civil, but they promptly informed him, the speaker using very fair
English, that he must accompany them to the presence of a police
magistrate.

The captain was astounded. The officers could or would give him no
information in regard to the charge against him, or whether it was a
charge at all. They only said that he must come with them, and that
everything would be explained at the police station. The captain's brow
grew black. What this meant he could not imagine, but he had no time to
waste in imaginations. It would be foolish to demand explanations of the
officers, or to ask to see the warrant for their action. He would not
understand French warrants, and the quicker he went to the magistrate and
found out what this thing meant, the better. He only asked time to send a
telegram to Mr. Wraxton, urging him to attend him instantly at the police
station, and then he went with the officers.

On the way, Captain Horn turned over matters in his mind. He could think
of no cause for this detention, except it might be something which had
turned up in connection with his possession of the treasure, or perhaps
the entrance of the _Arato_, without papers, at the French port. But
anything of this kind Wraxton could settle as soon as he could be made
acquainted with it. The only real trouble was that he was to be married
at four o'clock, and it was now nearly two.

At the police station, Captain Horn met with a fresh annoyance. The
magistrate was occupied with important business and could not attend to
him at present. This made the captain very impatient, and he sent
message after message to the magistrate, but to no avail. And Wraxton did
not come. In fact, it was too soon to expect him.

The magistrate had good reason for delay. He did not wish to have
anything to do with the gentleman who had been taken in custody until his
accuser, Banker by name, had been brought to this station from his place
of confinement, where he was now held under a serious charge.

Ten minutes, twenty minutes, twenty-five minutes, passed, and the
magistrate did not appear. Wraxton did not come. The captain had never
been so fiercely impatient. He did not know to whom to apply in this
serious emergency. He did not wish Edna to know of his trouble until he
found out the nature of it, and if he sent word to the legation, he was
afraid that the news would speedily reach her. Wraxton was his man,
whatever the charge might be. He would be his security for any amount
which might be named, and the business might be settled afterwards, if,
indeed, it were not all a mistake of some sort.

But Wraxton did not appear. Suddenly the captain thought of one man who
might be of service to him in this emergency. There was no time for
delay. Some one must come, and come quickly, who could identify him, and
the only man he could think of was Professor Barre, Ralph's tutor. He had
met that gentleman the evening before. He could vouch for him, and he
could certainly be trusted not to alarm Edna unnecessarily. He believed
the professor could be found at the hotel, and he instantly sent a
messenger to him with a note.

It took a good deal of time to bring the prisoner Banker to the station,
and Professor Barre arrived there before him. The professor was amazed to
find Captain Horn under arrest, and unable to give any reason for this
state of things. But it was not long before the magistrate appeared, and
it so happened that he was acquainted with Barre, who was a well-known
man in Paris, and, after glancing at the captain, he addressed himself to
the professor, speaking in French. The latter immediately inquired the
nature of the charges against Captain Horn, using the same language.

"Ah! you know him?" said the magistrate. "He has been accused of being
the leader of a band of outlaws--a man who has committed murders and
outrages without number, one who should not be suffered to go at large,
one who should be confined until the authorities of Peru, where his
crimes were committed, have been notified."

The professor stared, but could not comprehend what he had heard.

"What is it?" inquired Captain Horn. "Can you not speak English?"

No, this Parisian magistrate could not speak English, but the professor
explained the charge.

"It is the greatest absurdity!" exclaimed the captain. "Ralph told me
that a man, evidently once one of that band of outlaws in Peru, had been
arrested for assaulting Cheditafa, and this charge must be part of his
scheme of vengeance for that arrest. I could instantly prove everything
that is necessary to know about me if my banker, Mr. Wraxton, were here.
I have sent for him, but he has not come. I have not a moment to waste
discussing this matter." The captain gazed anxiously toward the door,
and for a few moments the three men stood in silence.

The situation was a peculiar one. The professor thought of sending to the
Hotel Grenade, but he hesitated. He said to himself: "The lady's
testimony would be of no avail. If he is the man the bandit says he is,
of course she does not know it. His conduct has been very strange, and
for a long time she certainly knew very little about him. I don't see how
even his banker could become surety for him if he were here, and he
doesn't seem inclined to come. Anybody may have a bank-account."

The professor stood looking on the ground. The captain looked at him,
and, by that power to read the thoughts of others which an important
emergency often gives to a man, he read, or believed he did, the thoughts
of Barre. He did not blame the man for his doubts. Any one might have
such doubts. A stranger coming to France with a cargo of gold must expect
suspicion, and here was more--a definite charge.

At this moment there came a message from the banking house: Mr. Wraxton
had gone to Brussels that morning. Fuguet did not live in Paris, and the
captain had never seen him. There were clerks whom he had met in
Marseilles, but, of course, they could only say that he was the man known
as Captain Horn.

The captain ground his teeth, and then, suddenly turning, he interrupted
the conversation between the magistrate and Barre. He addressed the
latter and asked, "Will you tell me what this officer has been saying
about me?"

"He says," answered Barre, "that he believes you know nobody in Paris
except the party at the Hotel Grenade, and that, of course, you may have
deceived them in regard to your identity--that they have been here a long
time, and you have been absent, and you have not been referred to by
them, which seems strange."

"Has he not found out that Wraxton knows me?"

"He says," answered Barre, "that you have not visited that banking house
since you came to Paris, and that seems strange also. Every traveller
goes to his banker as soon as he arrives."

"I did not need to go there," said the captain. "I was occupied with
other matters. I had just met my wife after a long absence."

"I don't wonder," said the professor, bowing, "that your time was
occupied. It is very unfortunate that your banker cannot come to
you or send."

The captain did not answer. This professor doubted him, and why should he
not? As the captain considered the case, it grew more and more serious.
That his marriage should be delayed on account of such a preposterous and
outrageous charge against him was bad enough. It would be a terrible blow
to Edna. For, although he knew that she would believe in him, she could
not deny, if she were questioned, that in this age of mail and telegraph
facilities she had not heard from him for nearly a year, and it would be
hard for her to prove that he had not deceived her. But the most
unfortunate thing of all was the meeting with the London lawyers the next
day. These men were engaged in settling a very important question
regarding the ownership of the treasure he had brought to France, and
his claims upon it, and if they should hear that he had been charged with
being the captain of a band of murderers and robbers, they might well
have their suspicions of the truth of his story of the treasure. In fact,
everything might be lost, and the affair might end by his being sent a
prisoner to Peru, to have the case investigated there. What might happen
then was too terrible to think of. He turned abruptly to the professor.

"I see that you don't believe in me," he said, "but I see that you are a
man, and I believe in you. You are acquainted with this magistrate. Use
your influence with him to have this matter settled quickly. Do as much
as that for me."

"What is it that you ask me to do?" said the other.

"It is this," replied the captain. "I have never seen this man who says
he was a member of the Rackbirds' band. In fact, I never saw any of those
wretches except dead ones. He has never met me. He knows nothing about
me. His charge is simply a piece of revenge. The only connection he can
make between me and the Rackbirds is that he knew two negroes were once
the servants of his band, and that they are now the servants of my wife.
Having never seen me, he cannot know me. Please ask the magistrate to
send for some other men in plain clothes to come into this room, and then
let the prisoner be brought here, and asked to point out the man he
charges with the crime of being the captain of the Rackbirds."

The professor's face brightened, and without answer he turned to the
magistrate, and laid this proposition before him. The officer shook his
head. This would be a very irregular method of procedure. There were
formalities which should not be set aside. The deposition of Banker
should be taken before witnesses. But the professor was interested in
Captain Horn's proposed plan. In an emergency of the sort, when time was
so valuable, he thought it should be tried before anything else was done.
He talked very earnestly to the magistrate, who at last yielded.

In a few minutes three respectable men were brought in from outside, and
then a policeman was sent for Banker.

When that individual entered the waiting-room, his eyes ran rapidly over
the company assembled there. After the first glance, he believed that he
had never seen one of them before. But he said nothing; he waited to hear
what would be said to him. This was said quickly. Banker spoke French,
and the magistrate addressed him directly.

"In this room," he said, "stands the man you have accused as a robber and
a murderer, as the captain of the band to which you admit you once
belonged. Point him out immediately."

Banker's heart was not in the habit of sinking, but it went down a little
now. Could it be possible that any one there had ever led him to deeds of
violence and blood? He looked again at each man in the room, very
carefully this time. Of course, that rascal Raminez would not come to
Paris without disguising himself, and no disguise could be so effectual
as the garb of a gentleman. But if Raminez were there, he should not
escape him by any such tricks. Banker half shut his eyes, and again went
over every countenance. Suddenly he smiled.

"My captain," he said presently, "is not dressed exactly as he was when
I last saw him. He is in good clothes now, and that made it a little hard
for me to recognize him at first. But there is no mistaking his nose and
his eyebrows. I know him as well as if we had been drinking together last
night. There he stands!" And, with his right arm stretched out, he
pointed directly to Professor Barre.

At these words there was a general start, and the face of the magistrate
grew scarlet with anger. As for the professor himself, he knit his brows,
and looked at Banker in amazement.

"You scoundrel! You liar! You beast!" cried the officer. "To accuse this
well-known and honorable gentleman, and say that he is a leader of a band
of robbers! You are an impostor, a villain, and if you had been
confronted with this other gentleman alone, you would have sworn that he
was a bandit chief!"

Banker made no answer, but still kept his eyes fixed upon the professor.
Now Captain Horn spoke: "That fellow had to say something, and he made a
very wild guess of it," he said to Barre. "I think the matter may now be
considered settled. Will you suggest as much to the magistrate? Truly, I
have not a moment to spare."

Banker listened attentively to these words, and his eyes sparkled.

"You needn't try any of your tricks on me, you scoundrel Raminez," he
said, shaking his fist at the professor. "I know you. I know you better
than I did when I first spoke. If you wanted to escape me, you ought to
have shaved off your eyebrows when you trimmed your hair and your
beard. But I will be after you yet. The tales you have told here won't
help you."

"Take him away!" shouted the magistrate. "He is a fiend!"

Banker was hurried from the room by two policemen.

To the profuse apologies of the magistrate Captain Horn had no time to
listen; he accepted what he heard of them as a matter of course, and only
remarked that, as he was not the man against whom the charges had been
brought, he must hurry away to attend to a most important appointment.
The professor went with him into the street.

"Sir," said the captain, addressing Barre, "you have been of the most
important service to me, and I heartily acknowledge the obligation. Had
it not been that you were good enough to exert your influence with the
magistrate, that rascal would have sworn through thick and thin that I
had been his captain."

Then, looking at his watch, he said, "It is twenty-five minutes to four.
I shall take a cab and go directly to the legation. I was on my way to my
hotel, but there is no time for that now," and, after shaking hands with
the professor, he hailed a cab.

Captain Horn reached the legation but a little while after the party from
the Hotel Grenade had arrived, and in due time he stood up beside Edna in
one of the parlors of the mansion, and he and she were united in marriage
by the American minister. The services were very simple, but the
congratulations of the little company assembled could not have been more
earnest and heartfelt.

"Now," said Mrs. Cliff, in the ear of Edna, "if we knew that that gold
was all to be sunk in the ocean to-morrow, we still ought to be the
happiest people on earth."

She was a true woman, Mrs. Cliff, and at that moment she meant
what she said.

It had been arranged that the whole party should return to the Hotel
Grenade, and from there the newly married couple should start for the
train which would take them to Calais; and, as he left the legation
promptly, the captain had time to send to his own hotel for his effects.
The direct transition from the police station to the bridal altar had
interfered with his ante-hymeneal preparations, but the captain was
accustomed to interference with preparations, and had long learned to
dispense with them when occasion required.

"I don't believe," said the minister's wife to her husband, when
the bridal party had left, "that you ever before married such a
handsome couple."

"The fact is," said he, "that I never before saw standing together such a
fine specimen of a man and such a beautiful, glowing, radiant woman."

"I don't see why you need say that," said she, quickly. "You and I stood
up together."

"Yes," he replied, with a smile, "but I wasn't a spectator."




CHAPTER LI

BANKER DOES SOME IMPORTANT BUSINESS


When Banker went back to the prison cell, he was still firmly convinced
that he had been overreached by his former captain, Raminez; and,
although he knew it not, there were good reasons for his convictions.
Often had he noticed, in the Rackbirds' camp, a peculiar form of the
eyebrows which surmounted the slender, slightly aquiline nose of his
chief. Whenever Raminez was anxious, or beginning to be angered, his
brow would slightly knit, and the ends of his eyebrows would approach
each other, curling upward and outward as they did so. This was an
action of the eyebrows which was peculiar to the Darcias of Granada,
from which family the professor's father had taken a wife, and had
brought her to Paris. A sister of this wife had afterwards married a
Spanish gentleman named Blanquote, whose second son, having fallen into
disgrace in Spain, had gone to America, where he changed his name to
Raminez, and performed a number of discreditable deeds, among which was
the deception of several of his discreditable comrades in regard to his
family. They could not help knowing that he came from Spain, and he made
them all believe that his real name was Raminez. There had been three
of them, besides Banker, who had made it the object of their lives to
wait for the opportunity to obtain blackmail from his family, by
threatened declarations of his deeds.

This most eminent scoundrel, whose bones now lay at the bottom of the
Pacific Ocean, had inherited from his grandfather that same trick of the
eyebrows above his thin and slightly aquiline nose which Banker had
observed upon the countenance of the professor in the police station, and
who had inherited it from the same Spanish gentleman.

The next day Banker received a visitor. It was Professor Barre. As this
gentleman entered the cell, followed by two guards, who remained near the
door, Banker looked up in amazement. He had expected a message, but had
not dreamed that he should see the man himself.

"Captain," he exclaimed, as he sprang to his feet, "this is truly good
of you. I see you are the same old trump as ever, and do not bear
malice." He spoke in Spanish, for such had been the language in common
use in camp.

The professor paid no attention to these words. "I came here," he said,
"to demand of you why you made that absurd and malicious charge against
me the other day. Such charges are not passed over in France, but I will
give you a chance to explain yourself."

Banker looked at him admiringly. "He plays the part well," he said to
himself. "He is a great gun. There is no use of my charging against him.
I will not try it, but I shall let him see where I stand."

"Captain," said he, "I have nothing to explain, except that I was
stirred up a good deal and lost my temper. I oughtn't to have made that
charge against you. Of course, it could not be of any good to me, and I
am perfectly ready to meet you on level ground. I will take back
everything I have already said, and, if necessary, I will prove that I
made a mistake and never saw you before, and I only ask in return that
you get me out of this and give me enough to make me comfortable. That
won't take much, you know, and you seem to be in first-class condition
these days. There! I have put it to you fair and square, and saved you
the trouble of making me any offers. You stand by me, and I'll stand by
you. I am ready to swear until I am black in the face that you never were
in Peru, and that I never saw you until the other day, when I made that
mistake about you on account of the queer fashion of your eyebrows, which
looked just like those of a man who really had been my captain, and that
I now see you are two entirely different men. I will make a good tale of
it, captain, and I will stick to it--you can rely on that. By all the
saints, I hope those two fellows at the door don't understand Spanish!"

The professor had made himself sure that the guards who accompanied him
spoke nothing but French. Without referring to Banker's proposed bargain,
he said to him, "Was the captain of the bandits under whom you served a
Spaniard?"

"Yes, you were a Spaniard," said Banker.

"From what part of Spain did he come?"

"You let out several times that you once lived in Granada."

"What was that captain's real name?" asked the professor.

"Your name was Raminez--unless, indeed," and here his face clouded a
little, "unless, indeed, you tricked us. But I have pumped you well on
that point, and, drunk or sober, it was always Raminez."

"Raminez, then, a Spaniard of my appearance," said the professor, "was
your captain when you were in a band called the Rackbirds, which had its
rendezvous on the coast of Peru?"

"Yes, you were all that," said Banker.

"Very well, then," said Barre. "I have nothing more to say to you at
present," and he turned and left the cell. The guards followed, and the
door was closed.

Banker remained dumb with amazement. When he had regained his power of
thought and speech, he fell into a state of savage fury, which could be
equalled by nothing living, except, perhaps, by a trapped wildcat, and
among his objurgations, as he strode up and down his cell, the most
prominent referred to the new and incomprehensible trick which this
prince of human devils had just played upon him. That he had been talking
to his old captain he did not doubt for a moment, and that that captain
had again got the better of him he doubted no less.

It may be stated here that, the evening before, the professor had had a
long talk with Ralph regarding the Rackbirds and their camp. Professor
Barre had heard something of the matter before, but many of the details
were new to him.

When Ralph left him, the professor gave himself up to reflections upon
what he had heard, and he gradually came to believe that there might
be some reason for his identification as the bandit captain by the
man Banker.

For five or six years there had been inquiries on foot concerning the
second son of Senor Blanquote of Granada, whose elder brother had died
without heirs, and who, if now living, would inherit Blanquote's estates.
It was known that this man had led a wild and disgraceful career, and it
was also ascertained that he had gone to America, and had been known on
the Isthmus of Panama and elsewhere by the name of Raminez. Furthermore,
Professor Barre had been frequently told by his mother that when he was a
boy she had noticed, while on a visit to Spain, that he and this cousin
very much resembled each other.

It is not necessary to follow out the legal steps and inquiries, based
upon the information which he had had from Ralph and from Banker, which
were now made by the professor. It is sufficient to state that he was
ultimately able to prove that the Rackbird chief known as Raminez was, in
reality, Tomaso Blanquote, that he had perished on the coast of Peru, and
that he, the professor, was legal heir to the Blanquote estates.

Barre had not been able to lead his pupil to as high a place in the
temple of knowledge as he had hoped, but, through his acquaintance with
that pupil, he himself had become possessed of a castle in Spain.




CHAPTER LII

THE CAPTAIN TAKES HIS STAND


It was now July, and the captain and Edna had returned to Paris. The
world had been very beautiful during their travels in England, and
although the weather was beginning to be warm, the world was very
beautiful in Paris. In fact, to these two it would have been beautiful
almost anywhere. Even the desolate and arid coast of Peru would have been
to them as though it were green with herbage and bright with flowers.

The captain's affairs were not yet definitely arranged, for the final
settlement would depend upon negotiations which would require time, but
there was never in the world a man more thoroughly satisfied than he. And
whatever happened, he had enough; and he had Edna. His lawyers had made a
thorough investigation into the matter of his rights to the treasure he
had discovered and brought to Europe, and they had come to a conclusion
which satisfied them. This decision was based upon equity and upon the
laws and usages regarding treasure-trove.

The old Roman law upon the subject, still adhered to by some of the Latin
countries of Europe, gave half of a discovered treasure to the finder,
and half to the crown or state, and it was considered that a good legal
stand could be taken in the present instance upon the application of this
ancient law to a country now governed by the descendants of Spaniards.

Whether or not the present government of Peru, if the matter should be
submitted to it, would take this view of the case, was a subject of
conjecture, of course, but the captain's counsel strongly advised him to
take position upon the ground that he was entitled to half the treasure.
Under present circumstances, when Captain Horn was so well prepared to
maintain his rights, it was thought that the Peruvian authorities might
easily be made to see the advisability of accepting a great advantage
freely offered, instead of endeavoring to obtain a greater advantage, in
regard to which it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to legally
prove anything or to claim anything.

Therefore, it was advised that a commission should be sent to Lima to
open negotiations upon the subject, with instructions to make no
admissions in regard to the amount of the treasure, its present places of
deposit, or other particulars, until the Peruvian government should
consent to a satisfactory arrangement.

To this plan Captain Horn consented, determining, however, that, if the
negotiations of his commission should succeed, he would stipulate that at
least one half the sum paid to Peru should be devoted to the advantage of
the native inhabitants of that country, to the establishment of schools,
hospitals, libraries, and benefactions of the kind. If the commission
should not succeed, he would then attend to the matter in his own way.

Thus, no matter what happened, he would still insist upon his claim
to one fifth of the total amount as his pay for the discovery of the
treasure, and in this claim his lawyers assured him he could be
fully secured.

Other matters were in a fair way of settlement. The captain had made
Shirley and Burke his agents through whom he would distribute to the
heirs of the crew of the _Castor_ their share of the treasure which had
been apportioned to them, and the two sailors had already gone to America
upon this mission. How to dispose of the _Arato_ had been a difficult
question, upon which the captain had taken legal advice. That she had
started out from Valparaiso with a piratical crew, that those pirates had
made an attack upon him and his men, and that, in self-defence, he had
exterminated them, made no difference in his mind, or that of his
counsellors, as to the right of the owners of the vessel to the return of
their property. But a return of the vessel itself would be difficult and
hazardous. Whoever took it to Valparaiso would be subject to legal
inquiry as to the fate of the men who had hired it, and it would be,
indeed, cruel and unjust to send out a crew in this vessel, knowing that
they would be arrested when they arrived in port. Consequently, he
determined to sell the _Arato_, and to add to the amount obtained what
might be considered proper on account of her detention, and to send this
sum to Valparaiso, to be paid to the owners of the _Arato_.

The thoughts of all our party were now turned toward America. As time
went on, the captain and Edna might have homes in different parts of the
world, but their first home was to be in their native land.

Mrs. Cliff was wild to reach her house, that she might touch it with the
magician's wand of which she was now the possessor, that she might touch
not only it, but that she might touch and transform the whole of
Plainton, and, more than all, that with it she might touch and transform
herself. She had bought all she wanted. Paris had yielded to her
everything she asked of it, and no ship could sail too fast which should
carry her across the ocean.

The negroes were all attached to the captain's domestic family. Maka and
Cheditafa were not such proficient attendants as the captain might have
employed, but he desired to have these two near him, and intended to keep
them there as long as they would stay. Although Mok and the three other
Africans had much to learn in regard to the duties of domestic servants,
there would always be plenty of people to teach them.

       *       *       *       *       *

In his prison cell Banker sat, lay down, or walked about, cursing his
fate and wondering what was meant by the last dodge of that rascal
Raminez. He never found out precisely, but he did find out that the visit
of Professor Barre to his cell had been of service to him.

That gentleman, when he became certain that he should so greatly profit
by the fact that an ex-brigand had pointed him out as an ex-captain of
brigands, had determined to do what he could for the fellow who had
unconsciously rendered him the service. So he employed a lawyer to attend
to Banker's case, and as it was not difficult to prove that the accused
had not even touched Cheditafa, but had only threatened to maltreat him,
and that the fight which caused his arrest was really begun by Mok, it
was not thought necessary to inflict a very heavy punishment. In fact, it
was suggested in the court that it was Mok who should be put on trial.

So Banker went for a short term to prison, where he worked hard and
earned his living, and when he came out he thought it well to leave
Paris, and he never found out the nature of the trick which he supposed
his old chief had played upon him.

The trial of Banker delayed the homeward journey of Captain Horn and his
party, for Cheditafa and Mok were needed as witnesses, but did not delay
it long. It was early in August, when the danger from floating icebergs
had almost passed, and when an ocean journey is generally most pleasant,
that nine happy people sailed from Havre for New York. Captain Horn and
Edna had not yet fully planned their future life, but they knew that they
had enough money to allow them to select any sphere of life toward which
ordinary human ambitions would be apt to point, and if they never
received another bar of the unapportioned treasure, they would not only
be preeminently satisfied with what fortune had done for them, but would
be relieved of the great responsibilities which greater fortune must
bring with it.

As for Mrs. Cliff, her mind was so full of plans for the benefit of her
native town that she could talk and think of nothing else, and could
scarcely be induced to take notice of a spouting whale, which was
engaging the attention of all the passengers and the crew.

The negroes were perfectly content. They were accustomed to the sea, and
did not mind the motion of the vessel. They had but little money in
their pockets, and had no reason to expect they would ever have much
more, but they knew that as long as they lived they would have everything
that they wanted, that the captain thought was good for them, and to a
higher earthly paradise their souls did not aspire. Cheditafa would serve
his mistress, Maka would serve the captain, and Mok would wear fine
clothes and serve his young master Ralph, whenever, haply, he should have
the chance.

As for Inkspot, he doubted whether or not he should ever have all the
whiskey he wanted, but he had heard that in the United States that
delectable fluid was very plentiful, and he thought that perhaps in that
blessed country that blessed beverage might not produce the undesirable
effects which followed its unrestricted use in other lands.




CHAPTER LIII

A LITTLE GLEAM AFAR


It was late in the autumn of that year, and upon a lonely moor in
Scotland, that a poor old woman stood shivering in the cold wind. She was
outside of a miserable little hut, in the doorway of which stood two men.

For five or six years she had lived alone in that little hut.

It was a very poor place, but it kept out the wind and the rain and the
snow, and it was a home to her, and for the greater part of these years
in which she had lived there alone, she had received, at irregular and
sometimes long intervals, sums of money, often very small and never
large, from her son, who was a sailorman upon seas of which she did not
even know the name.

But for many months no money had come from this wandering son, and it was
very little that she had been able to earn. Sometimes she might have
starved, had it not been for the charity of others almost as poor as she.
As for rent, it had been due for a long time, and at last it had been due
so long that her landlord felt that further forbearance would be not only
unprofitable, but that it would serve as a bad example to his other
tenants. Consequently, he had given orders to eject the old woman from
her hut. She was now a pauper, and there were places where paupers would
be taken care of.

The old woman stood sadly shivering. Her poor old eyes, a little dimmed
with tears, were directed southward toward the far-away vanishing-point
of the rough and narrow road which meandered over the moor and lost
itself among the hills.

She was waiting for the arrival of a cart which a poor neighbor had
promised to borrow, to take her and her few belongings to the nearest
village, where there was a good road over which she might walk to a place
where paupers were taken care of. A narrow stream, which roared and
rushed around or over many a rock, ran at several points close to the
road, and, swelled by heavy rains, had overflowed it to the depth of a
foot or more. The old woman and the two men in the doorway of the hut
stood and waited for the cart to come.

As they waited, heavy clouds began to rise in the north, and there was
already a drizzle of rain. At last they saw a little black spot upon the
road, which soon proved to be a cart drawn by a rough pony. On it came,
until they could almost hear it splashing through the water where the
stream had passed its bounds, or rattling over the rough stones in other
places. But, to their surprise, there were two persons in the cart.
Perhaps the boy Sawney had with him a traveller who was on his way north.

This was true. Sawney had picked up a traveller who was glad to find a
conveyance going across the moor to his destination. This man was a
quick-moving person in a heavy waterproof coat with its collar turned up
over his ears.

As soon as the cart stopped, near the hut, he jumped down and approached
the two men in the doorway.

"Is that the widow McLeish?" he said, pointing to the old woman.

They assured him that he was correct, and he approached her.

"You are Mrs. Margaret McLeish?" said he.

She looked at him in a vague sort of way and nodded. "That's me," said
she. "Is it pay for the cart you're after? If that's it, I must walk."

"Had you a son, Mrs. McLeish?" said the man.

"Ay," said she, and her face brightened a little.

"And what was his name?"

"Andy," was the answer.

"And his calling?"

"A sailorman."

"Well, then," said the traveller in the waterproof, "there is no doubt
that you are the person I came here to see. I was told I should find you
here, and here you are. I may as well tell you at once, Mrs. McLeish,
that your son is dead."

"That is no news," she answered. "I knew that he must be dead."

"But I didn't come here only to tell you that. There is money coming
to you through him--enough to make you comfortable for the rest of
your life."

"Money!" exclaimed the old woman. "To me?"

The two men who had been standing in the doorway of the hut drew near,
and Sawney jumped down from the cart. The announcement made by the
traveller was very interesting.

"Yes," said the man in the waterproof, pulling his collar up a little
higher, for the rain was increasing, "you are to have one hundred and
four pounds a year, Mrs. McLeish, and that's two pounds a week, you know,
and you will have it as long as you live."

"Two pounds a week!" cried the old woman, her eyes shining out of her
weazened old face like two grouse eggs in a nest. "From my Andy?"

"Yes, from your son," said the traveller. And as the rain was now much
more than a drizzle, and as the wind was cold, he made his tale as short
as possible.

He told her that her son had died far away in South America, and, from
what he had gained there, one hundred and four pounds a year would be
coming to her, and that she might rely on this as long as she lived. He
did not state--for he was not acquainted with all the facts--that Shirley
and Burke, when they were in San Francisco hunting up the heirs of the
Castor's crew, had come upon traces of the A. McLeish whose body they had
found in the desert, lying flat on its back, with a bag of gold clasped
to its breast--that they had discovered, by means of the agent through
whom McLeish had been in the habit of forwarding money to his mother, the
address of the old woman, and, without saying anything to Captain Horn,
they had determined to do something for her.

The fact that they had profited by the gold her son had carried away from
the cave, was the main reason for this resolution, and although, as
Shirley said, it might appear that the Scotch sailor was a thief, it was
true, after all, he had as much right to a part of the gold he had taken
as Captain Horn could have. Therefore, as they had possessed themselves
of his treasure, they thought it but right that they should provide for
his mother. So they bought an annuity for her in Edinburgh, thinking this
better than sending her the total amount which they considered to be her
share, not knowing what manner of woman she might be, and they arranged
that an agent should be sent to look her up, and announce to her her good
fortune. It had taken a long time to attend to all these matters, and it
was now late in the autumn.

"You must not stand out in the rain, Mrs. McLeish," said one of the men,
and he urged her to come back into the hut. He said he would build a fire
for her, and she and the gentleman from Edinburgh could sit down and talk
over matters. No doubt there would be some money in hand, he said, out of
which the rent could be paid, and, even if this should not be the case,
he knew the landlord would be willing to wait a little under the
circumstances.

"Is there money in hand for me?" asked the old woman.

"Yes," said the traveller. "The annuity was to begin with October, and it
is now the first of November, so there is eight pounds due to you."

"Eight pounds!" she exclaimed, after a moment's thought. "It must be more
than that. There's thirty-one days in October!"

"That's all right, Mrs. McLeish," said the traveller. "I will pay you the
right amount. But I really think you had better come into your house, for
it is going to be a bad afternoon, and I must get away as soon as I can.
I will go, as I came, in the cart, for you won't want it now."

Mrs. McLeish stood up as straight as she could, and glanced from the
traveller to the two men who had put her out of her home. Then, in the
strongest terms her native Gaelic would afford, she addressed these two
men. She assured them that, sooner than enter that contemptible little
hut again, she would sleep out on the bare moor. She told them to go to
their master and tell him that she did not want his house, and that he
could live in it himself, if he chose--that she was going in the cart to
Killimontrick, and she would take lodgings in the inn there until she
could get a house fit for the habitation of the mother of a man like her
son Andy; and that if their master had anything to say about the rent
that was due, they could tell him that he had satisfied himself by
turning her out of her home, and if he wanted anything more, he could
whistle for it, or, if he didn't choose to do that, he could send his
factor to whistle for it in the main street of Killimontrick.

"Come, Sawney boy, put my two bundles in the cart, and then help me in.
The gentleman will drive, and I'll sit on the seat beside him, and you
can sit behind in the straw, and--you're sure it's two pounds a week,
sir?" she said to the traveller, who told her that she was right, and
then she continued to Sawney, "I'll make your mother a present which will
help the poor old thing through the winter, and I'm sure she needs it."

With a heavier load than he had brought, the pony's head was turned
homeward, and the cart rattled away over the rough stones, and splashed
through the water on the roadway, and in the dark cloud which hung over
the highest mountain beyond the moor, there came a little glint of
lighter sky, as if some lustre from the Incas' gold had penetrated even
into this gloomy region.







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