Part 2 out of 7
"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.
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
"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
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.
"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
"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.
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
"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
"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
"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."
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
"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
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
"I got 'em," said Maka, who understood English a good deal better
than he could speak it,--"ham, cheese, lots things. All want
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
"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
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.
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
"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
"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 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.
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,
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
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
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.
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
"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
"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
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
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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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."
"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
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
"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."
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
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
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.