Part 4 out of 7
"'If we did not get the gold, he was to have eighteen dollars a month
for the time he sailed with me, and if we got safely back, I would give
him his share of what I had already secured. He was quite sure that Burke
would make the same agreement, and we telegraphed him to come
immediately. I am going to be very careful about Burke, however, and
sound him well before I tell him anything.
"'Yesterday we found our vessel. She arrived in port a few days ago, and
is now unloading. She is a small brig, and I think she will do; in fact,
she has got to do. By the time Burke gets here I think we shall be ready
to sail. Up to that time we shall be as busy as men can be, and it will
be impossible for me to go to San Francisco. I must attend to the
shipping of the treasure I have stored in the City of Mexico. I shall
send some to one place and some to another, but want it all turned into
coin or bonds before I start. Besides, I must be on hand to see Burke the
moment he arrives. I am not yet quite sure about him, and if Shirley
should let anything slip while I was away our looked-for fortune might be
lost to us.'
"And that," said Edna, "is all of the letter that I need read, except
that he tells me he expects to write again before he starts, and that
his address after he sails will be Wraxton, Fuguet & Co., American
bankers in Paris."
EDNA MAKES HER PLANS
When she had finished reading the many pages of the letter, Edna leaned
back on the sofa and closed her eyes. Ralph sat upright in his chair and
gazed intently before him.
"So we are not to see the captain again," he said presently. "But I
suppose that when a man has a thing to do, the best thing is to go
and do it."
"Yes," said his sister, "that is the best thing."
"And what are we to do?"
"I am now trying to decide," she answered.
"Doesn't he say anything about it?"
"Not a word," replied Edna. "I suppose he considered he had made his
letter long enough."
About an hour after this, when the two met again, Edna said: "I have been
writing to Captain Horn, and am going to write to Mrs. Cliff. I have
decided what we shall do. I am going to France."
"To France!" cried Ralph. "Both of us?"
"Yes, both of us. I made up my mind about this since I saw you."
"What are you going to France for?" he exclaimed. "Come, let us have it
"I am going to France," said his sister, "because Captain Horn is going
there, and when he arrives, I wish to be there to meet him. There is no
reason for our staying here--"
"Indeed, there is not," interpolated Ralph, earnestly.
"If we must go anywhere to wait," continued his sister, "I should
"Edna," cried Ralph, "you are a woman of solid sense, and if the
captain wants his gold divided up, he should get you to do it. And now,
when are we going, and is Mrs. Cliff to go? What are you going to do
with the two darkies?"
"We shall start East as soon as the captain sails," replied his sister,
"and I do not know what Mrs. Cliff will do until I hear from her, and as
for Cheditafa and Mok, we shall take them with us."
"Hurrah!" cried Ralph. "Mok for my valet in Paris. That's the best thing
I have got out of the caves yet."
Captain Horn was a strong man, prompt in action, and no one could know
him long without being assured of these facts. But although Edna's
outward personality was not apt to indicate quickness of decision and
vigor of purpose, that quickness and vigor were hers quite as much as the
captain's when occasion demanded, and occasion demanded them now. The
captain had given no indication of what he would wish her to do during
the time which would be occupied by his voyage to Peru, his work there,
and his subsequent long cruise around South America to Europe. She
expected that in his next letter he would say something about this, but
she wished first to say something herself.
She did not know this bold sailor as well as she loved him, and she was
not at all sure that the plans he might make for her during his absence
would suit her disposition or her purposes. Consequently, she resolved to
submit her plans to him before he should write again. Above everything
else, she wished to be in that part of the world at which Captain Horn
might be expected to arrive when his present adventure should be
accomplished. She did not wish to be sent for to go to France. She did
not wish to be told that he was coming to America. Wherever he might
land, there she would be.
The point that he might be unsuccessful, and might never leave South
America, did not enter into her consideration. She was acting on the
basis that he was a man who was likely to succeed in his endeavors. If
she should come to know that he had not succeeded, then her actions would
be based upon the new circumstances.
Furthermore, she had now begun to make plans for her future life. She had
been waiting for Captain Horn to come to her, and to find out what he
intended to do. Now she knew he was not coming to her for a long time,
and was aware of what he intended to do, and she made her own plans. Of
course, she dealt only with the near future. All beyond that was vague,
and she could not touch it even with her thoughts. When sending his
remittances, the captain had written that she and Mrs. Cliff must
consider the money he sent her as income to be expended, not as principal
to be put away or invested. He had made provisions for the future of all
of them, in case he should not succeed in his present project, and what
he had not set aside with that view he had devoted to his own
operations, and to the maintenance, for a year, of Edna, Ralph, and Mrs.
Cliff, in such liberal and generous fashion as might please them, and he
had apportioned the remittances in a way which he deemed suitable. As
Edna disbursed the funds, she knew that this proportion was three
quarters for herself and Ralph, and one quarter for Mrs. Cliff.
"He divides everything into four parts," she thought, "and gives me
Acting on her principle of getting every good thing out of life that
life could give her, and getting it while life was able to give it to
her, there was no doubt in regard to her desires. Apart from her wish to
go where the captain expected to go, she considered that every day now
spent in America was a day lost. If her further good fortune should
never arrive, and the money in hand should be gone, she wished, before
that time came, to engraft upon her existence a period of life in
Europe--life of such freedom and opportunity as never before she had had
a right to dream of.
Across this golden outlook there came a shadow. If he had wished to come
to her, she would have waited for him anywhere, or if he had wished her
to go to him, she would have gone anywhere. But it seemed as if that mass
of gold, which brought them together, must keep them apart, a long time
certainly, perhaps always. Nothing that had happened had had any element
of certainty about it, and the future was still less certain. If he had
come to her before undertaking the perilous voyage now before him, there
would have been a certainty in her life which would have satisfied her
forever. But he did not come. It was plainly his intention to have
nothing to do with the present until the future should be settled, so far
as he could settle it.
In a few days after she had written to Captain Horn, informing him of the
plans she had made to go to France, Edna received an answer which
somewhat disappointed her. If the captain's concurrence in her proposed
foreign sojourn had not been so unqualified and complete, if he had
proposed even some slight modification, if he had said anything which
would indicate that he felt he had authority to oppose her movements if
he did not approve of them,--in fact, even if he had opposed her
plan,--she would have been better pleased. But he wrote as if he were her
financial agent, and nothing more. The tone of his letter was kind, the
arrangements he said he had made in regard to the money deposited in San
Francisco showed a careful concern for her pleasure and convenience, but
nothing in his letter indicated that he believed himself possessed in any
way of the slightest control over her actions. There was nothing like a
sting in that kind and generous letter, but when she had read it, the
great longing of Edna's heart turned and stung her. But she would give no
sign of this wound. She was a brave woman, and could wait still longer.
The captain informed her that everything was going well with his
enterprise--that Burke had arrived, and had agreed to take part in the
expedition, and that he expected that his brig, the _Miranda_, would be
ready in less than a week. He mentioned again that he was extremely busy
with his operations, but he did not say that he was sorry he was unable
to come to take leave of her. He detailed in full the arrangements he had
made, and then placed in her hands the entire conduct of the financial
affairs of the party until she should hear from him again. When he
arrived in France, he would address her in care of his bankers, but in
regard to two points only did he now say anything which seemed like a
definite injunction or even request. He asked Edna to urge upon Mrs.
Cliff the necessity of saying nothing about the discovery of the gold,
for if it should become known anywhere from Greenland to Patagonia, he
might find a steamer lying off the Rackbirds' cove when his slow
sailing-vessel should arrive there. The other request was that Edna keep
the two negroes with her if this would not prove inconvenient. But if
this plan would at all trouble her, he asked that they be sent to him
In answer to this letter, Edna merely telegraphed the captain, informing
him that she would remain in San Francisco until she had heard that he
had sailed when she would immediately start for the East, and for France,
with Ralph and the two negroes.
Three days after this she received a telegram from Captain Horn, stating
that he would sail in an hour, and the next day she and her little party
took a train for New York.
"HOME, SWEET HOME"
On the high-street of the little town of Plainton, Maine, stood the neat
white house of Mrs. Cliff, with its green shutters, its porchless front
door, its pretty bit of flower-garden at the front and side, and its neat
back yard, sacred once a week to that virtue which is next to godliness.
Mrs. Cliff's husband had been the leading merchant in Plainton, and
having saved some money, he had invested it in an enterprise of a friend
who had gone into business in Valparaiso. On Mr. Cliff's death his widow
had found herself with an income smaller than she had expected, and that
it was necessary to change in a degree her style of living. The
hospitalities of her table, once so well known throughout the circle of
her friends, must be curtailed, and the spare bedroom must be less
frequently occupied. The two cows and the horse were sold, and in every
way possible the household was placed on a more economical basis. She had
a good house, and an income on which, with care and prudence, she could
live, but this was all.
In this condition of her finances it was not strange that Mrs. Cliff had
thought a good deal about the investments in Valparaiso, from which she
had not heard for a long time. Her husband had been dead for three years,
and although she had written several times to Valparaiso, she had
received no answer whatever, and being a woman of energy, she had finally
made up her mind that the proper thing to do was to go down and see after
her affairs. It had not been easy for her to get together the money for
this long journey,--in fact, she had borrowed some of it,--and so, to
lessen her expenses, she had taken passage in the _Castor_ from San
She was a housewife of high degree, and would not have thought of
leaving--perhaps for months--her immaculate window-panes and her spotless
floors and furniture, had she not also left some one to take care of
them. A distant cousin, Miss Willy Croup, had lived with her since her
husband's death, and though this lady was willing to stay during Mrs.
Cliff's absence, Mrs. Cliff considered her too quiet and inoffensive to
be left in entire charge of her possessions, and Miss Betty Handshall, a
worthy maiden of fifty, a little older than Willy, and a much more
determined character, was asked to come and live in Mrs. Cliffs house
until her return.
Betty was the only person in Plainton who lived on an annuity, and she
was rather proud of her independent fortune, but as her annuity was very
small, and as this invitation meant a considerable reduction in her
expenses, she was very glad to accept it. Consequently, Mrs. Cliff had
gone away feeling that she had left her house in the hands of two women
almost as neat as herself and even more frugal.
When Mrs. Cliff left Edna and Ralph in San Francisco, and went home,
nearly all the people in the little town who were worth considering
gathered in and around her house to bid her welcome. They had heard of
her shipwreck, but the details had been scanty and unsatisfactory, and
the soul of the town throbbed with curiosity to know what had really
happened to her. For the first few hours of her return Mrs. Cliff was in
a state of heavenly ecstasy. Everything was so tidy, everything was so
clean, every face beamed with such genial amity, her native air was so
intoxicating, that she seemed to be in a sort of paradise. But when her
friends and neighbors began to ask questions, she felt herself gradually
descending into a region which, for all she knew, might resemble
Of course, there was a great deal that was wonderful and startling to
relate, and as Mrs. Cliff was a good story-teller, she thrilled the
nerves of her hearers with her descriptions of the tornado at sea and the
Rackbirds on land, and afterwards filled the eyes of many of the women
with tears of relief as she told of their escapes, their quiet life at
the caves, and their subsequent rescue by the _Mary Bartlett_. But it was
the cross-examinations which caused the soul of the narrator to sink. Of
course, she had been very careful to avoid all mention of the gold mound,
but this omission in her narrative proved to be a defect which she had
not anticipated. As she had told that she had lost everything except a
few effects she had carried with her from the _Castor_, it was natural
enough that people should want to know how she had been enabled to come
home in such good fashion.
They had expected her to return in a shabby, or even needy, condition,
and now they had stories of delightful weeks at a hotel in San Francisco,
and beheld their poor shipwrecked neighbor dressed more handsomely than
they had ever seen her, and with a new trunk standing in the lower hall
which must contain something.
Mrs. Cliff began by telling the truth, and from this course she did not
intend to depart. She said that the captain of the _Castor_ was a just
and generous man, and, as far as was in his power, he had reimbursed the
unfortunate passengers for their losses. But as every one knows the
richest steamship companies are seldom so generous to persons who may be
cast away during transportation as to offer them long sojourns at hotels,
with private parlors and private servants, and to send them home in
drawing-room cars, with cloaks trimmed with real sealskin, the questions
became more and more direct, and all Mrs. Cliff could do was to stand
with her back against the captain's generosity, as if it had been a rock,
and rely upon it for defence.
But when the neighbors had all gone home, and the trunk had to be opened,
so that it could be lightened before being carried up-stairs, the remarks
of Willy and Betty cut clean to the soul of the unfortunate possessor of
its contents. Of course, the captain had not actually given her this
thing, and that thing, and the other, or the next one, but he had allowed
her a sum of money, and she had expended it according to her own
discretion. How much that sum of money might have been, Willy and Betty
did not dare to ask,--for there were limits to Mrs. Cliff's
forbearance,--but when they went to bed, they consulted together.
If it had not been for the private parlor and the drawing-room car, they
would have limited Captain Horn's generosity to one hundred dollars. But,
under the circumstances, that sum would have been insufficient. It must
have been nearly, if not quite, two hundred. As for Mrs. Cliff, she went
to bed regretting that her reservations had not been more extended, and
that she had not given the gold mound in the cave more company. She hated
prevarications and concealments, but if she must conceal something, she
should have concealed more. When the time came when she would be free to
tell of her good fortune, even if it should be no more than she already
possessed, then she would explain everything, and proudly demand of her
friends and neighbors to put their fingers on a single untruth that she
had told them.
For the next day or two, Mrs. Cliff's joy in living again in her own home
banished all other feelings, and as she was careful to say nothing to
provoke more questions, and as those which were still asked became
uncertain of aim and scattering, her regrets at her want of reticence
began to fade. But, no matter what she did, where she went, or what she
looked at, Mrs. Cliff carried about with her a millstone. It did not hang
from her neck, but it was in her pocket. It was not very heavy, but it
was a burden to her. It was her money--which she wanted to spend, but
On leaving San Francisco, Edna had wished to give her the full amount
which the captain had so far sent her, but Mrs. Cliff declined to receive
the whole. She did not see any strong reason to believe that the captain
would ever send any more, and as she had a home, and Ralph and Edna had
not, she would not take all the money that was due her, feeling that they
might come to need it more than she would. But even with this generous
self-denial she found herself in Plainton with a balance of some
thousands of dollars in her possession, and as much more in Edna's hands,
which the latter had insisted that she would hold subject to order. What
would the neighbors think of Captain Horn's abnormal bounteousness if
they knew this?
With what a yearning, aching heart Mrs. Cliff looked upon the little
picket-fence which ran across the front of her property! How beautiful
that fence would be with a new coat of paint, and how perfectly well she
could afford it! And there was the little shed that should be over the
back door, which would keep the sun from the kitchen in summer, and in
winter the snow. There was this in one room, and that in another. There
were new dishes which could exist only in her mind. How much domestic
gratification there was within her reach, but toward which she did not
dare to stretch out her hand!
There was poor old Mrs. Bradley, who must shortly leave the home in which
she had lived nearly all her life, because she could no longer afford to
pay the rent. There had been an attempt to raise enough money by
subscription to give the old lady her home for another year, but this had
not been very successful. Mrs. Cliff could easily have supplied the
deficit, and it would have given her real pleasure to do so,--for she had
almost an affection for the old lady,--but when she asked to be allowed
to subscribe, she did not dare to give more than one dollar, which was
the largest sum upon the list, and even then Betty had said that, under
the circumstances, she could not have been expected to give anything.
When she went out into the little barn at the rear of the house, and saw
the empty cow-stable, how she longed for fresh cream, and butter of her
own making! And when she gazed upon her little phaeton, which she had not
sold because no one wanted it, and reflected that her good, brown horse
could doubtless be bought back for a moderate sum, she almost wished that
she had come home as poor as people thought she ought to be.
Now and then she ordered something done or spent some money in a way that
excited the astonishment of Willy Croup--the sharper-witted Betty had
gone home, for, of course, Mrs. Cliff could not be expected to be able to
afford her company now. But in attempting to account for these
inconsiderable extravagances, Mrs. Cliff was often obliged to content
herself with admitting that while she had been abroad she might have
acquired some of those habits of prodigality peculiar to our Western
country. This might be a sufficient excuse for the new bottom step to the
side door, but how could she account for the pair of soft, warm
Californian blankets which were at the bottom of the trunk, and which she
had not yet taken out even to air?
Matters had gone on in this way for nearly a month,--every day Mrs. Cliff
had thought of some new expenditure which she could well afford, and
every night she wished that she dared to put her money in the town bank
and so be relieved from the necessity of thinking so much about
door-locks and window-fastenings,--when there came a letter from Edna,
informing her of the captain's safe arrival in Acapulco with the cargo of
guano and gold, and inclosing a draft which first made Mrs. Cliff turn
pale, and then compelled her to sit down on the floor and cry. The letter
related in brief the captain's adventures, and stated his intention of
returning for the gold.
"To think of it!" softly sobbed Mrs. Cliff, after she had carefully
closed her bedroom door. "With this and what I am to get, I believe I
could buy the bank, and yet I can only sit here and try to think of some
place to hide this dangerous piece of paper."
The draft was drawn by a San Francisco house upon a Boston bank, and Edna
had suggested that it might be well for Mrs. Cliff to open an account in
the latter city. But the poor lady knew that would never do. A
bank-account in Boston would soon become known to the people of Plainton,
and what was the use of having an account anywhere if she could not draw
from it? Edna had not failed to reiterate the necessity of keeping the
gold discovery an absolute secret, and every word she said upon this
point increased Mrs. Cliff's depression.
"If it were only for a fixed time, a month or three months, or even six
months," the poor lady said to herself, "I might stand it. It would be
hard to do without all the things I want, and be afraid even to pay the
money I borrowed to go to South America, but if I knew when the day was
certainly coming when I could hold up my head and let everybody know just
what I am, and take my proper place in the community, then I might wait.
But nobody knows how long it will take the captain to get away with that
gold. He may have to make ever so many voyages. He may meet with wrecks,
and dear knows what. It may be years before they are ready to tell me I
am a free woman, and may do what I please with my own. I may die in
poverty, and leave Mr. Cliff's nephews to get all the good of the draft
and the money in my trunk up-stairs. I suppose they would think it came
from Valparaiso, and that I had been hoarding it. It's all very well for
Edna. She is going to Europe, where Ralph will be educated, I suppose,
and where she can live as she pleases, and nobody will ask her any
questions, and she need not answer them, if they should. But I must stay
here, in debt, and in actual want of the comforts of life, making believe
to pinch and to save, until a sea-captain thousands and thousands of
miles away shall feel that he is ready to let me put my hand in my pocket
and spend my riches."
A COMMITTEE OF LADIES
It was about a week after the receipt of Edna's letter that Willy Croup
came to Mrs. Cliff's bedroom, where that lady had been taking a
surreptitious glance at her Californian blankets, to tell her that there
were three ladies down in the parlor who wished to see her.
"It's the minister's wife, and Mrs. Hembold, and old Miss Shott," said
Willy. "They are all dressed up, and I suppose they have come for
something particular, so you'd better fix up a little afore you go down."
In her present state of mind, Mrs. Cliff was ready to believe that
anybody who came to see her would certainly want to know something which
she could not tell them, and she went down fearfully. But these ladies
did not come to ask questions. They came to make statements. Mrs. Perley,
the minister's wife, opened the interview by stating that, while she was
sorry to see Mrs. Cliff looking so pale and worried, she was very glad,
at the same time, to be able to say something which might, in some
degree, relieve her anxiety and comfort her mind, by showing her that she
was surrounded by friends who could give her their heartfelt sympathy in
her troubles, and perhaps do a little more.
"We all know," said Mrs. Perley, "that you have had misfortunes, and
that they have been of a peculiar kind, and none of them owing to your
"We can't agree exactly to that," interpolated Miss Shott, "but I won't
"We all know," continued Mrs. Perley, "that it was a great loss and
disappointment to you not to be able to get down to Valparaiso and settle
your affairs there, for we are aware that you need whatever money is due
you from that quarter. And we understand, too, what a great blow it was
to you to be shipwrecked, and lose all your baggage except a hand-bag."
Miss Shott was about to say something here, but Mrs. Hembold touched her
on the arm, and she waited.
"It grieves us very much," continued the minister's wife, "to think that
our dear friend and neighbor should come home from her wanderings and
perils and privations, and find herself in what must be, although we do
not wish to pry into your private affairs, something of an embarrassed
condition. We have all stayed at home with our friends and our families,
and we have had no special prosperity, but neither have we met with
losses, and it grieves us to think that you, who were once as prosperous
as any of us, should now feel--I should say experience--in any manner the
pressure of privation."
"I don't understand," said Mrs. Cliff, sitting up very straight in her
chair. "Privation? What does that mean?"
"It may not be exactly that," said Mrs. Perley, quickly, "and we all know
very well, Mrs. Cliff, that you are naturally sensitive on a point like
this. But you have come back shipwrecked and disappointed in your
business, and we want to show you that, while we would not hurt your
feelings for anything in the world, we would like to help you a little,
if we can, just as we would hope you would help us if we were in any
"I must say, however--" remarked Miss Shott; but she was again silenced
by Mrs. Hembold, and the minister's wife went on.
"To come straight to the point," said she, "for a good while we have been
wanting to do something, and we did not know what to do. But a few days
ago we became aware, through Miss Willy Croup, that what was most needed
in this house is blankets. She said, in fact, that the blankets you had
were the same you bought when you were first married, that some of them
had been worn out and given to your poorer neighbors, and that now you
were very short of blankets, and, with cold weather coming on, she did
not consider that the clothing on your own bed was sufficient. She even
went so far as to say that the blankets she used were very thin, and that
she did not think they were warm enough for winter. So, some of us have
agreed together that we would testify our friendship and our sympathy by
presenting you with a pair of good, warm blankets for your own bed; then
those you have could go to Willy Croup, and you both would be comfortable
all winter. Of course, what we have done has not been upon an expensive
scale. We have had many calls upon us,--poor old Mrs. Bradley, for
one,--and we could not afford to spend much money. But we have bought you
a good pair of blankets, which are warm and serviceable, and we hope you
will not be offended, and we do not believe that you will be, for you
know our motives, and all that we ask is that when you are warm and
comfortable under our little gift, you will sometimes think of us. The
blankets are out in the hall, and I have no doubt that Miss Willy Croup
will bring them in."
Mrs. Cliff's eyes filled with tears. She wanted to speak, but how could
she speak! But she was saved from further embarrassment, for when Willy,
who had been standing in the doorway, had gone to get the blankets, Miss
Shott could be restrained no longer.
"I am bound to say," she began, "that, while I put my money in with the
rest to get those blankets,--and am very glad to be able to do it, Mrs.
Cliff,--I don't think that we ought to do anything which would look as if
we were giving our countenances to useless extravagances in persons, even
if they are our friends, who, with but small means, think they must live
like rich people, simply because they happen to be travelling among them.
It is not for me to allude to hotels in towns where there are good
boarding-houses, to vestibule cars and fur-trimmed cloaks; but I will say
that when I am called upon to help my friends who need it, I will do it
as quick as anybody, but I also feel called upon by my conscience to lift
up my voice against spending for useless things what little money a
person may have, when that person needs that money for--well, for things
I shall not mention. And now that I have said my say, I am just as glad
to help give you those blankets, Mrs. Cliff, as anybody else is."
Every one in the room knew that the thing she would not mention was the
money Mrs. Cliff had borrowed for her passage. Miss Shott had not lent
any of it, but her brother, a retired carpenter and builder, had, and as
his sister expected to outlive him, although he was twelve years younger
than she was, she naturally felt a little sore upon this point.
Now Mrs. Cliff was herself again. She was not embarrassed. She was
neither pale nor trembling. With a stern severity, not unknown to her
friends and neighbors in former days, she rose to her feet.
"Nancy Shott," said she, "I don't know anything that makes me feel more
at home than to hear you talk like that. You are the same woman that
never could kiss a baby without wanting to spank it at the same time. I
know what is the matter with you. You are thinking of that money I
borrowed from your brother. Well, I borrowed that for a year, and the
time is not up yet; but when it is, I'll pay it, every cent of it, and
interest added. I knew what I was about when I borrowed it, and I know
what I am about now, and if I get angry and pay it before it becomes due,
he will lose that much interest, and he can charge it to you. That is all
I have to say to you.
"As for you, Mrs. Perley, and the other persons who gave me these
blankets, I want you to feel that I am just as grateful as if--just as
grateful as I can be, and far more for the friendliness than for the
goods. I won't say anything more about that, and it isn't necessary, but
I must say one thing. I am ready to take the blankets, and to thank you
from the bottom of my heart, but I will not have them unless the money
Miss Shott put in is given back to her. Whatever that was, I will make it
up myself, and I hope I may be excused for saying that I don't believe it
will break me."
Now there was a scene. Miss Shott rose in anger and marched out of the
house. Mrs. Perley and the other lady expostulated with Mrs. Cliff for
a time, but they knew her very well, and soon desisted. Twenty-five
cents was handed to Mrs. Perley to take the place of the sum
contributed by Miss Shott, and the ladies departed, and the blankets
were taken up-stairs. Mrs. Cliff gave one glance at them as Willy
Croup spread them out.
"If those women could see my Californian blankets!" she said to herself,
but to Willy she said, "They are very nice, and you may put them away."
Then she went to her own room and went to bed. This last shock was too
much for her nerves to bear. In the afternoon Willy brought her some tea,
but the poor lady would not get up. So long as she stayed in bed, people
could be kept away from her, but there was nowhere else where she could
be in peace.
All night she lay and thought and thought and thought. What should she
do? She could not endure this condition of things. There was only one
relief that presented itself to her: she might go to Mr. Perley, her
minister, and confide everything to him. He would tell her what she
ought to do.
"But," she thought, "suppose he should say it should all go to the
Peruvians!" And then she had more thinking to do, based upon this
contingency, which brought on a headache, and she remained in bed all
the next day.
The next morning, Willy Croup, who had begun to regret that she had ever
said anything about blankets,--but how could she have imagined that
anybody could be so cut up at what that old Shott woman had
said?--brought Mrs. Cliff a letter.
This was from Edna, stating that she and Ralph and the two negroes had
just arrived in New York, from which point they were to sail for Havre.
Edna wished very much to see Mrs. Cliff before she left the country, and
wrote that if it would be convenient for that lady, she would run up to
Plainton and stay a day or two with her. There would be time enough for
this before the steamer sailed. When she read this brief note, Mrs. Cliff
sprang out of bed.
"Edna come here!" she exclaimed. "That would be simply ruin! But I must
see her. I must tell her everything, and let her help me."
As soon as she was dressed, she went down-stairs and told Willy that she
would start for New York that very afternoon. She had received a letter
from Mrs. Horn, and it was absolutely necessary to see her before she
sailed. With only a small leather bag in her hand, and nearly all her
ready money and her peace-destroying draft sewed up inside the body of
her dress, she left Plainton, and when her friends and neighbors heard
that she had gone, they could only ascribe such a sudden departure to the
strange notions she had imbibed in foreign parts. When Plainton people
contemplated a journey, they told everybody about it, and took plenty of
time to make preparations; but South Americans and Californians would
start anywhere at a moment's notice. People had thought that Mrs. Cliff
was too old to be influenced by association in that way, but it was plain
that they had been mistaken, and there were those who were very much
afraid that even if the poor lady had got whatever ought to be coming to
her from the Valparaiso business, it would have been of little use to
her. Her old principles of economy and prudence must have been terribly
shaken. This very journey to New York would probably cost twenty dollars!
When Mrs. Cliff entered Edna's room in a New York hotel, the latter was
startled, almost frightened. She had expected her visitor, for she had
had a telegram, but she scarcely recognized at the first glance the pale
and haggard woman who had come to her.
"Sick!" exclaimed poor Mrs. Cliff, as she sank upon a sofa. "Yes, I am
sick, but not in body, only in heart. Well, it is hard to tell you what
is the matter. The nearest I can get to it is that it is wealth struck
in, as measles sometimes strike in when they ought to come out properly,
and one is just as dangerous as the other."
When Mrs. Cliff had had something to eat and drink, and had begun to tell
her tale, Edna listened with great interest and sympathy. But when the
good lady had nearly finished, and was speaking of her resolution to
confide everything to Mr. Perley, Edna's gaze at her friend became very
intent, and her hands tightly grasped the arms of the chair in which she
"Mrs. Cliff," said she, when the other had finished, "there is but one
thing for you to do: you must go to Europe with us."
"Now!" exclaimed Mrs. Cliff. "In the steamer you have engaged passage
in? Impossible! I could not go home and settle up everything and come
back in time."
"But you must not go home," said Edna. "You must not think of it. Your
troubles would begin again as soon as you got there. You must stay here
and go when we do."
Mrs. Cliff stared at her. "But I have only a bag and the clothes I have
on. I am not ready for a voyage. And there's the house, with nobody but
Willy in it. Don't you see it would be impossible for me to go?"
"What you need for the passage," said Edna, "you can buy here in a few
hours, and everything else you can get on the other side a great deal
cheaper and better than here. As to your house, you can write to that
other lady to go there and stay with Miss Croup until you come back. I
tell you, Mrs. Cliff, that all these things have become mere trifles to
you. I dare say you could buy another house such as you own in Plainton,
and scarcely miss the money. Compared to your health and happiness, the
loss of that house, even if it should burn up while you are away, would
be as a penny thrown to a beggar."
"And there is my new trunk," said Mrs. Cliff, "with my blankets and ever
so many things locked up in it."
"Let it stay there," said Edna. "You will not need the blankets, and I
don't believe any one will pick the lock."
"But how shall I explain my running away in such a fashion? What will
they all think?"
"Simply write," said Edna, "that you are going to Europe as companion
to Mrs. Horn. If they think you are poor, that will explain everything.
And you may add, if you choose, that Mrs. Horn is so anxious to have
you, she will take no denial, and it is on account of her earnest
entreaties that you are unable to go home and take leave in a proper
way of your friends."
It was half an hour afterwards that Mrs. Cliff said: "Well, Edna, I will
go with you. But I can tell you this: I would gladly give up all the
mountains and palaces I may see in Europe, if I could go back to Plainton
this day, deposit my money in the Plainton bank, and then begin to live
according to my means. That would be a joy that nothing else on this
earth could give me."
Edna laughed. "All you have to do," she said, "is to be patient and wait
awhile, and then, when you go back like a queen to Plainton, you will
have had your mountains and your palaces besides."
AT THE HOTEL BOILEAU
It was early in December,--two months after the departure of Edna and her
little party from New York,--and they were all comfortably domiciled in
the Hotel Boileau, in a quiet street, not far from the Boulevard des
Italiens. This house, to which they came soon after their arrival in
Paris, might be considered to belong to the family order, but its grade
was much higher than that of the hotel in which they had lived in San
Francisco. As in the former place, they had private apartments, a private
table, and the service of their own colored men, in addition to that of
the hotel servants. But their salon was large and beautifully furnished,
their meals were cooked by a French chef, every one, from the lordly
porter to the quick-footed chambermaid, served them with a courteous
interest, and Mrs. Cliff said that although their life in the two hotels
seemed to be in the main the same sort of life, they were, in reality, as
different as an old, dingy mahogany bureau, just dragged from an attic,
and that same piece of furniture when it had been rubbed down, oiled, and
varnished. And Ralph declared that, so far as he knew anything about it,
there was nothing like the air of Paris to bring out the tones and
colorings and veinings of hotel life. But the greatest difference between
the former and the present condition of this little party lay in the fact
that in San Francisco its principal member was Mrs. Philip Horn, while in
Paris it was Miss Edna Markham.
This change of name had been the result of nights of thought and hours of
consultation. In San Francisco Edna felt herself to be Mrs. Horn as truly
as if they had been married at high noon in one of the city churches, but
although she could see no reason to change her faith in the reality of
her conjugal status, she had begun to fear that Captain Horn might have
different views upon the subject. This feeling had been brought about by
the tone of his letters. If he should die, those letters might prove that
she was then his widow, but it was plain that he did not wish to impress
upon her mind that she was now his wife.
If she had remained in San Francisco, Edna would have retained the
captain's name. There she was a stranger, and Captain Horn was well
known. His agents knew her as Mrs. Horn, the people of the _Mary
Bartlett_ knew her as such, and she should not have thought of resigning
it. But in Paris the case was very different. There she had friends, and
expected to make more, and in that city she was quite sure that Captain
Horn was very little known.
Edna's Parisian friends, were all Americans, and some of them people of
consideration, one of her old schoolmates being the wife of a secretary
of the American legation. Could she appear before these friends as Mrs.
Captain Philip Horn, feeling that not only was she utterly unable to
produce Captain Horn, but that she might never be able to do so? Should
the captain not return, and should she have proofs of his death, or
sufficient reason to believe it, she might then do as she pleased about
claiming her place as his widow. But should he return, he should not find
that she had trammelled and impeded his plans and purposes by announcing
herself as his wife. She did not expect ever to live in San Francisco
again, and in no other place need she be known as Mrs. Horn.
As to the business objects of her exceptional marriage, they were, in a
large degree, already attained. The money Captain Horn had remitted to
her in San Francisco was a sum so large as to astound her, and when she
reached Paris she lost no time in depositing her funds under her maiden
name. For the sake of security, some of the money was sent to a London
banker, and in Paris she did not deposit with the banking house which
Captain Horn had mentioned. But directions were left with that house that
if a letter ever came to Mrs. Philip Horn, it was to be sent to her in
care of Mrs. Cliff, and, to facilitate the reception of such a letter,
Mrs. Cliff made Wraxton, Fuguet & Co. her bankers, and all her letters
were addressed to them. But at Edna's bankers she was known as Miss
Markham, and her only Parisian connection with the name of Horn was
through Mrs. Cliff.
The amount of money now possessed by Edna was, indeed, a very fair
fortune for her, without regarding it, as Captain Horn had requested, as
a remittance to be used as a year's income. In his letters accompanying
his remittances the captain had always spoken of them as her share of the
gold brought away, and in this respect he treated her exactly as he
treated Mrs. Cliff, and in only one respect had she any reason to infer
that the money was in any manner a contribution from himself. In making
her divisions according to his directions, her portion was so much
greater than that of the others, Edna imagined Captain Horn sent her his
share as well as her own. But of this she did not feel certain, and
should he succeed in securing the rest of the gold in the mound, she did
not know what division he would make. Consequently, this little thread of
a tie between herself and the captain, woven merely of some hypothetical
arithmetic, was but a cobweb of a thread. The resumption of her maiden
name had been stoutly combated by both Mrs. Cliff and Ralph. The first
firmly insisted upon the validity of the marriage, so long as the captain
did not appear, but she did not cease to insist that the moment he did
appear, there should be another ceremony.
"But," said Edna, "you know that Cheditafa's ceremony was performed
simply for the purpose of securing to me, in case of his loss on that
boat trip, a right to claim the benefit of his discovery. If he should
come back, he can give me all the benefit I have a right to claim from
that discovery, just as he gives you your share, without the least
necessity of a civilized marriage. Now, would you advise me to take a
step which would seem to force upon him the necessity for such a
"No," said Mrs. Cliff. "But all your reasoning is on a wrong basis. I
haven't the least doubt in the world---I don't see how any one can have a
doubt--that the captain intends to come back and claim you as his wife;
and if anything more be necessary to make you such, as I consider there
would be, he would be as ready as anybody to do it. And, Edna, if you
could see yourself, not merely as you look in the glass, but as he would
see you, you would know that he would be as ready as any of us would wish
him to be. And how will he feel, do you suppose, when he finds that you
renounce him and are going about under your maiden name?"
In her heart Edna answered that she hoped he might feel very much as she
had felt when he did not come to see her in San Francisco, but to Mrs.
Cliff she said she had no doubt that he would fully appreciate her
reasons for assuming her old name.
Ralph's remarks were briefer, and more to the point.
"He married you," he said, "the best way he could under the
circumstances, and wrote to you as his wife, and in San Francisco you
took his name. Now, if he comes back and says you are not his wife, I'll
"If I were you, Ralph," said his sister, "I wouldn't do that. In fact, I
may say I would disapprove of any such proceeding."
"Oh, you can laugh," said he, "but it makes no difference to me. I shall
take the matter into my own hands if he repudiates that contract."
"But suppose I give him no chance to repudiate it?" said Edna. "Suppose
he finds me Miss Edna Markham, and finds, also, that I wish to continue
to be that lady? If what has been done has any force at all, it can
easily be set aside by law."
Ralph rose and walked up and down the floor, his hands thrust deep into
"That's just like a woman," he said. "They are always popping up new and
different views of things, and that is a view I hadn't thought of. Is
that what you intend to do?"
"No," said Edna, "I do not intend to do anything. All I wish is to hold
myself in such a position that I can act when the time comes to act."
Ralph took the whole matter to bed with him in order to think over it. He
did a great deal more sleeping than thinking, but in the morning he told
Edna he believed she was right.
"But one thing is certain," he said: "even if that heathen marriage
should not be considered legal, it was a solemn ceremony of engagement,
and nobody can deny that. It was something like a caveat which people get
before a regular patent is issued for an invention, and if you want him
to do it, he should stand up and do it; but if you don't, that's your
business. But let me give you a piece of advice: wherever you go and
whatever you do, until this matter is settled, be sure to carry around
that two-legged marriage certificate called Cheditafa. He can speak a
good deal of English now, if there should be any dispute."
"Dispute!" cried Edna, indignantly. "What are you thinking of? Do you
suppose I would insist or dispute in such a matter? I thought you knew me
better than that."
Ralph sighed. "If you could understand how dreadfully hard it is to know
you," he said, "you wouldn't be so severe on a poor fellow if he happened
to make a mistake now and then."
When Mrs. Cliff found that Edna had determined upon her course, she
ceased her opposition, and tried, good woman as she was, to take as
satisfactory a view of the matter as she could find reason for.
"It would be a little rough," she said, "if your friends were to meet you
as Mrs. Horn, and you would be obliged to answer questions. I have had
experience in that sort of thing. And looking at it in that light, I
don't know but what you are right, Edna, in defending yourself against
questions until you are justified in answering them. To have to admit
that you are not Mrs. Horn after you had said you were, would be
dreadful, of course. But the other would be all plain sailing. You would
go and be married properly, and that would be the end of it. And even if
you were obliged to assert your claims as his widow, there would be no
objection to saying that there had been reasons for not announcing the
marriage. But there is another thing. How are you going to explain your
prosperous condition to your friends? When I was in Plainton, I thought
of you as so much better off than myself in this respect, for over here
there would be no one to pry into your affairs. I did not know you had
friends in Paris."
"All that need not trouble me in the least," said Edna. "When I went to
school with Edith Southall, who is now Mrs. Sylvester, my father was in a
very good business, and we lived handsomely. It was not until I was
nearly grown up that he failed and died, and then Ralph and I went to
Cincinnati, and my life of hard work began. So you see there is no reason
why my friends in Paris should ask any questions, or I should make
"I wish it were that way in Plainton," said Mrs. Cliff, with a sigh. "I
would go back there the moment another ship started from France."
So it was Miss Edna Markham of New York who took apartments at the Hotel
Boileau, and it was she who called upon the wife of the American
secretary of legation.
For several weeks after their arrival, the members of the little party
had but one common object,--to see and enjoy the wonders and beauties of
Paris,--and in their sight-seeing they nearly always went together,
sometimes taking Cheditafa and Mok with them. But as time went on, their
different dispositions began to assert themselves, and in their daily
pursuits they gradually drifted apart.
Mrs. Cliff was not a cultivated woman, but she had a good, common-sense
appreciation of art in its various forms. She would tramp with untiring
step through the galleries of the Louvre, but when she had seen a
gallery, she did not care to visit it again. She went to the theatre and
the opera because she wanted to see how they acted and sang in France,
but she did not wish to go often to a place where she could not
understand a word that was spoken.
Ralph was now under the charge of a tutor, Professor Barre by name, who
took a great interest in this American boy, whose travels and experiences
had given him a precocity which the professor had never met with in any
of his other scholars. Ralph would have much preferred to study Paris
instead of books, and the professor, who was able to give a great deal of
time to his pupil, did not altogether ignore this natural instinct of a
youthful heart. In consequence, the two became very good friends, and
Ralph was the best-satisfied member of the party.
It was in regard to social affairs that the lives of Edna and Mrs. Cliff
diverged most frequently. Through the influence of Mrs. Sylvester, a
handsome woman with a vivacious intelligence which would have made her
conspicuous in any society, Edna found that social engagements, not only
in diplomatic circles and in those of the American colony, but, to some
extent, in Parisian society, were coming upon her much more rapidly than
she had expected. The secretary's wife was proud of her countrywoman, and
glad to bring her forward in social functions. Into this new life Edna
entered as if it had been a gallery she had not yet visited, or a museum
which she saw for the first time. She studied it, and enjoyed the study.
But only in a limited degree did Mrs. Cliff enjoy society in Paris. To be
sure, it was only in a limited degree that she had been asked to do it.
Even with a well-filled purse and all the advantages of Paris at her
command, she was nothing more than a plain and highly respectable woman
from a country town in Maine. More than this silks and velvets could not
make her, and more than this she did not wish to be. As Edna's friend and
companion, she had been kindly received at the legation, but after
attending two or three large gatherings, she concluded that she would
wait until her return to Plainton before she entered upon any further
social exercises. But she was not at all dissatisfied or homesick. She
preferred Plainton to all places in the world, but that little town
should not see her again until she could exhibit her Californian blankets
to her friends, and tell them where she got the money to buy them.
"Blankets!" she said to herself. "I am afraid they will hardly notice
them when they see the other things I shall take back there."
With society, especially such society as she could not enjoy, Mrs. Cliff
could easily dispense. So long as the shops of Paris were open to her,
the delights of these wonderful marts satisfied the utmost cravings of
her heart; and as she had a fine mind for bargaining, and plenty of time
on her hands, she was gradually accumulating a well-chosen stock of
furnishings and adornments, not only for her present house in Plainton,
but for the large and handsome addition to it which she intended to build
on an adjoining lot. These schemes for establishing herself in Plainton,
as a wealthy citizen, did not depend on the success of Captain Horn's
present expedition. What Mrs. Cliff already possessed was a fortune
sufficient for the life she desired to lead in her native town. What she
was waiting for was the privilege of going back and making that fortune
known. As to the increase of her fortune she had but small belief. If it
should come, she might change her plans, but the claims of the native
Peruvians should not be forgotten. Even if the present period of secrecy
should be terminated by the news of the non-success of Captain Horn, she
intended to include, among her expenses, a periodical remittance to some
charitable association in Peru for the benefit of the natives.
The Christmas holidays passed, January was half gone, and Edna had
received no news from Captain Horn. She had hoped that before leaving
South. America and beginning his long voyage across the Atlantic, he
would touch at some port from which he might send her a letter, which,
coming by steamer, would reach her before she could expect the arrival of
the brig. But no letter had come. She had arranged with a commercial
agency to telegraph to her the moment the Miranda should arrive in any
French port, but no message had come, and no matter what else she was
doing, it seemed to Edna as if she were always expecting such a message.
Sometimes she thought that this long delay must mean disaster, and at
such times she immediately set to work to reason out the matter. From
Acapulco to Cape Horn, up through the South Atlantic and the North
Atlantic to France, was a long voyage for a sailing-vessel, and to the
time necessary for this she must add days, and perhaps weeks, of labor at
the caves, besides all sorts of delays on the voyage. Like Ralph, she had
an unbounded faith in the captain. He might not bring her one bar of
gold, he might meet with all sorts of disasters, but, whenever her mind
was in a healthy condition, she expected him to come to France, as he had
said he would.
She now began to feel that she was losing a great deal of time. Paris was
all very well, but it was not everything. When news should come to her,
it might be necessary for her to go to America. She could not tell what
would be necessary, and she might have to leave Europe with nothing but
Paris to remember. There was no good objection to travel on the
Continent, for, if the _Miranda_ should arrive while she was not in
Paris, she would not be so far away that a telegram could not quickly
bring her back. So she listened to Mrs. Cliff and her own desires, and
the party journeyed to Italy, by the way of Geneva and Bern.
Ralph was delighted with the change, for Professor Barre, his tutor, had
consented to go with them, and, during these happy days in Italy, he was
the preceptor of the whole party. They went to but few places that he had
not visited before, and they saw but little that he could not talk about
to their advantage. But, no matter what they did, every day Edna expected
a message, and every day, except Sunday, she went to the banker's to look
over the maritime news in the newspapers, and she so arranged her affairs
that she could start for France at an hour's notice.
But although Edna had greatly enjoyed the Italian journey, it came to an
end at last, and it was with feelings of satisfaction that she settled
down again in Paris. Here she was in the centre of things, ready for
news, ready for arrivals, ready to go anywhere or do anything that might
be necessary, and, more than that, there was a delightful consciousness
that she had seen something of Switzerland and Italy, and without having
missed a telegram by being away.
The party did not return to the Hotel Boileau. Edna now had a much
better idea of the Continental menage than she had brought with her from
America, and she believed that she had not been living up to the
standard that Captain Horn had desired. She wished in every way to
conform to his requests, and one of these had been that she should
consider the money he had sent her as income, and not as property. It
was hard for her to fulfil this injunction, for her mind was as
practical as that of Mrs. Cliff, and she could not help considering the
future, and the probability of never receiving an addition to the funds
she now had on deposit in London and Paris. But her loyalty to the man
who had put her into possession of that money was superior to her
feelings of prudence and thrift. When he came to Paris, he should find
her living as he wanted her to live. It was not necessary to spend all
she had, but, whether he came back poor or rich, he should see that she
had believed in him and in his success.
The feeling of possible disaster had almost left her. The fears that had
come to her had caused her to reason upon the matter, and the more she
reasoned, the better she convinced herself that a long period of waiting
without news was to be expected in the case of an adventure such as that
in which Captain Horn was engaged. There was, perhaps, another reason for
her present state of mind--a reason which she did not recognize: she had
become accustomed to waiting.
It was at a grand hotel that the party now established themselves, the
space, the plate-glass, the gilt, and the general splendor of which made
Ralph exclaim in wonder and admiration.
"You would better look out, Edna," said he, "or it will not be long
before we find ourselves living over in the Latin Quarter, and taking our
meals at a restaurant where you pay a sou for the use of the napkins."
Edna's disposition demanded that her mode of life should not be
ostentatious, but she conformed in many ways to the style of her hotel.
There were returns of hospitality. There was a liveried coachman when
they drove. There was a general freshening of wardrobes, and even
Cheditafa and Mok had new clothes, designed by an artist to suit their
If Captain Horn should come to Paris, he should not find that she had
doubted his success, or him.
After the return from Italy, Mrs. Cliff began to chafe and worry under
her restrictions. She had obtained from Europe all she wanted at present,
and there was so much, in Plainton she was missing. Oh, if she could only
go there and avow her financial condition! She lay awake at night,
thinking of the opportunities that were slipping from her. From the
letters that Willy Croup wrote her, she knew that people were coming to
the front in Plainton who ought to be on the back seats, and that she,
who could occupy, if she chose, the best place, was thought of only as a
poor widow who was companion to a lady who was travelling. It made her
grind her teeth to think of the way that Miss Shott was talking of her,
and it was not long before she made up her mind that she ought to speak
to Edna on the subject, and she did so.
"Go home!" exclaimed the latter. "Why, Mrs. Cliff, that would be
impossible just now. You could not go to Plainton without letting people
know where you got your money."
"Of course I couldn't," said Mrs. Cliff, "and I wouldn't. There have
been times when I have yearned so much for my home that I thought it
might be possible for me to go there and say that the Valparaiso affair
had turned out splendidly, and that was how I got my money. But I
couldn't do it. I could not stand up before my minister and offer to
refurnish the parsonage parlor, with such a lie as that on my lips. But
there is no use in keeping back the real truth any longer. It is more
than eight months since Captain Horn started out for that treasure, and
it is perfectly reasonable to suppose either that he has got it; or that
he never will get it, and in either one of these cases it will not do
any injury to anybody if we let people know about the money we have, and
where it came from."
"But it may do very great injury," said Edna. "Captain Horn may have been
able to take away only a part of it, and may now be engaged in getting
the rest. There are many things which may have happened, and if we should
now speak of that treasure, it might ruin all his plans."
"If he has half of it," said Mrs. Cliff, "he ought to be satisfied with
that, and not keep us here on pins and needles until he gets the rest. Of
course, I do not want to say anything that would pain you, Edna, and I
won't do it, but people can't help thinking, and I think that we have
waited as long as our consciences have any right to ask us to wait."
"I know what you mean," replied Edna, "but it does not give me pain. I do
not believe that Captain Horn has perished, and I certainly expect soon
to hear from him."
"You have been expecting that a long time," said the other.
"Yes, and I shall expect it for a good while yet. I have made up my mind
that I shall not give up my belief that Captain Horn is alive, and will
come or write to us, until we have positive news of his death, or until
one year has passed since he left Acapulco. Considering what he has done
for us, Mrs. Cliff, I think it very little for us to wait one year before
we betray the trust he has placed in us, and, merely for the sake of
carrying out our own plans a little sooner, utterly ruin the plans he has
made, and which he intends as much for our benefit as for his own."
Mrs. Cliff said no more, but she thought that was all very well for Edna,
who was enjoying herself in a way that suited her, but it was very
different for her.
In her heart of hearts, Mrs. Cliff now believed they would never see
Captain Horn again. "For if he were alive," she said to herself, "he
would certainly have contrived in some way or other to send some sort of
a message. With the whole world covered with post routes and
telegraph-wires, it would be simply impossible for Captain Horn and those
two sailors to keep absolutely silent and unheard of for such a long
time--unless," she continued, hesitating even in her thoughts, "they
don't want to be heard from." But the good lady would not allow her mind
to dwell on that proposition; it was too dreadful!
And so Edna waited and waited, hoping day by day for good news from
Captain Horn; and so Mrs. Cliff waited and waited, hoping for news from
Captain Horn--good news, if possible, but in any case something certain
and definite, something that would make them know what sort of life they
were to lead in this world, and make them free to go and live it.
A MARINER'S WITS TAKE A LITTLE FLIGHT
When Captain Horn, in the brig _Miranda_, with the American sailors Burke
and Shirley, and the four negroes, left Acapulco on the 16th of
September, he might have been said to have sailed "in ballast," as the
only cargo he carried was a large number of coffee-bags. He had cleared
for Rio Janeiro, at which port he intended to touch and take on board a
small cargo of coffee, deeming it better to arrive in France with
something more than the auriferous mineral matter with which he hoped to
replace a large portion of discarded ballast. The unusual cargo of empty
coffee-bags was looked upon by the customs officials as a bit of Yankee
thrift, it being likely enough that the captain could obtain coffee-bags
in Mexico much cheaper than in Rio Janeiro.
The voyage to the Peruvian coast was a slow one, the _Miranda_ proving to
be anything but a clipper, and the winds were seldom in her favor. But at
last she rounded Aguja Point, and the captain shaped his course toward
the coast and the Rackbirds' cove, the exact position of which was now
dotted on his chart.
A little after noon on a quiet October day, they drew near enough to
land to recognize the coast-line and the various landmarks of the
locality. The negroes were filled with surprise, and afterwards with
fright, for they had had no idea that they were going near the scene of
their former horrible captivity. From time to time, they had debated
among themselves the intentions of Captain Horn in regard to them, and
now the idea seized them that perhaps he was going to leave them where he
had found them. But, through Maka, who at first was as much frightened as
the rest, the captain succeeded in assuring them that he was merely going
to stop as near as possible to the cave where he had stayed so long, to
get some of his property which it had been impossible to take away when
the rest of the party left. Maka had great confidence in the captain's
word, and he was able to infuse a good deal of this into the minds of the
three other negroes.
Captain Horn had been in considerable doubt in regard to the best method
of shipping the treasure; should he be so fortunate as to find it as he
had left it. The cove was a quiet harbor in which the small boats could
easily ply between the vessel and the shore, but, in this case, the gold
must be carried by tedious journeys along the beach. On the other hand,
if the brig lay too near the entrance to the caves, the treasure-laden
boats must be launched through the surf, and, in case of high seas, this
operation might be hazardous; consequently, he determined to anchor in
the Rackbirds' cove and submit to the delay and inconvenience of the
land transportation of the gold.
When the captain and Shirley went ashore in a boat, nothing was seen to
indicate that any one had visited the spot since the last cargo of guano
had been shipped. This was a relief, but when the captain had wandered
through the place, and even examined the storehouse of the Rackbirds, he
found, to his regret, that it was too late for him to visit the caves
that day. This was the occasion of a night of wakefulness and
unreasonable anxiety--unreasonable, as the captain assured himself over
and over again, but still impossible to dissipate. No man who has spent
weeks in pursuit of a royal treasure, in a vessel that at times seemed
hardly to creep, could fail to be anxious and excited when he is
compelled to pause within a few miles of that treasure.
But early in the morning the captain started for the caves. He took with
him Shirley and Maka, leaving the brig in charge of Burke. The captain
placed great confidence in Shirley, who was a quiet, steady man. In fact,
he trusted every one on the ship, for there was nothing else to do. If
any of them should prove false to him, he hoped to be able to defend
himself against them, and it would be more than foolish to trouble his
mind with apprehensions until there should be some reason for them. But
there was a danger to be considered, quite different from the criminal
cupidity which might be provoked by companionship with the heap of gold,
and this was the spirit of angry disappointment which might be looked for
should no heap of gold be found. At the moment of such possible
disappointment, the captain wanted to have with him a man not given to
suspicions and resentments.
In fact, the captain thought, as the little party strode along the
beach, that if he should find the mound empty,--and he could not drive
from his mind that once he had found it uncovered,--he wished to have
with him some one who would back him up a little in case he should lower
his lantern into a goldless void.
As they walked up the plateau in the path worn principally by his own
feet, and the captain beheld the great stone face against the wall of
rock, his mind became quieter. He slackened his pace, and even began to
concoct some suitable remarks to make to Shirley in case of evil fortune.
Shirley looked about him with great interest. He had left the place
before the great stone face had been revealed by the burning of the
vines, and he would have been glad to stop for a minute and examine it.
But although Captain Horn had convinced himself that he was in no hurry,
he could not allow delay. Lighting a lantern, they went through the
passageway and entered the great cave of the lake, leaving Maka rummaging
around with eager delight through the rocky apartments where he had once
been a member of a domestic household.
When they reached the mound, the captain handed his lantern to Shirley,
telling him to hold it high, and quickly clambered to the top.
"Good!" he exclaimed. "The lid is just as I left it. Come up!"
In a moment Shirley was at his side, and the captain with his
pocket-knife began to pick out the oakum which he had packed around the
edges of the lid, for otherwise it would have been impossible for him to
move it. Then he stood up and raised the lid, putting it to one side.
"Give me the lantern!" he shouted, and, stooping, lie lowered it and
looked in. The gold in the mound was exactly as he had left it.
"Hurrah!" he cried. "Now you take a look!" And he handed the lantern to
Shirley crawled a little nearer the opening and looked into it, then
lowered the lantern and put his head down so that it almost disappeared.
He remained in this position for nearly a minute, and the captain gazed
at him with a beaming face. His whole system, relieved from the
straining bonds of doubt and fear and hope, was basking in a flood of
Suddenly Shirley began to swear. He was not a profane man, and seldom
swore, but now the oaths rolled from him in a manner that startled
"Get up," said he. "Haven't you seen enough?"
Shirley raised his head, but still kept his eyes on the treasure beneath
him, and swore worse than before. The captain was shocked.
"What is the matter with you?" said he. "Give me the lantern. I don't see
anything to swear at."
Shirley did not hand him the lantern, but the captain took it from him,
and then he saw that the man was very pale.
"Look out!" he cried. "You'll slip down and break your bones."
In fact, Shirley's strength seemed to have forsaken him, and he was on
the point of either slipping down the side of the mound or tumbling into
the open cavity. The captain put down the lantern and moved quickly to
his side, and, with some difficulty, managed to get him safely to the
ground. He seated him with his back against the mound, and then, while he
was unscrewing the top of a whiskey flask, Shirley began to swear again
in a most violent and rapid way.
"He has gone mad," thought the captain. "The sight of all that gold has
"Stop that," he said to the other, "and take a drink."
Shirley broke off a string of oaths in the middle, and took a pull at the
flask. This was of service to him, for he sat quiet for a minute or two,
during which time the captain brought down the lantern. Looking up at
him, Shirley said in a weak voice:
"Captain, is what I saw all so?"
"Yes," was the reply, "it's all so."
"Then," said the other, "help me out of this. I want to get out into
The captain raised Shirley to his feet, and, with the lantern in one
hand, he assisted him to walk. But it was not easy. The man appeared to
take no interest in his movements, and staggered and leaned upon the
captain as if he were drunk.
As soon as they came out of the utter darkness and had reached the
lighter part of the cave, the captain let Shirley sit down, and
went for Maka.
"The first mate has been taken sick," said he to the negro, "and you must
come help me get him out into the open air."
When the negro saw Shirley in a state of semi-collapse, he began to
tremble from head to foot, but he obeyed orders, and, with a great deal
of trouble, the two got the sailor outside of the caves and gave him
another drink of whiskey.
Maka had his own ideas about this affair. There was no use telling him
Mr. Shirley was sick--at least, that he was afflicted by any common
ailment. He and his fellows knew very well that there were devils back
in the blackness of that cave, and if the captain did not mind them, it
was because they were taking care of the property, whatever it was,
that he kept back here, and for which he had now returned. With what
that property was, and how it happened to be there, the mind of the
negro did not concern itself. Of course, it must be valuable, or the
captain would not have come to get it, but that was his business. He
had taken the first mate into that darkness, and the sight of the
devils had nearly killed him, and now the negro's mind was filled with
but one idea, and that was that the captain might take him in there and
make him see devils.
After a time Shirley felt very much better, and able to walk.
"Now, captain," said he, "I am all right, but I tell you what we must do:
I'll go to the ship, and I'll take charge of her, and I'll do whatever
has got to be done on shore. Yes, and, what's more, I'll help do the
carrying part of the business,--it would be mean to sneak out of
that,--and I'll shoulder any sort of a load that's put out on the sand in
the daylight. But, captain, I don't want to do anything to make me look
into that hole. I can't stand it, and that is the long and short of it. I
am sorry that Maka saw me in such a plight--it's bad for discipline; but
it can't be helped."
"Never mind," cried the captain, whose high spirits would have overlooked
almost anything at that moment. "Come, let us go back and have our
breakfast. That will set you up, and I won't ask you to go into the caves
again, if you don't want to."
"Don't let's talk about it," said Shirley, setting off. "I'd rather get
my mind down to marlin-spikes and bilge-water."
As the captain walked back to the cove, he said to himself:
"I expect it struck Shirley harder than it did the rest of us because
he knew what he was looking at, and the first time we saw it we were
not sure it was gold, as it might have been brass. But Shirley knew,
for he had already had a lot of those bars, and had turned them into
money. By George! I don't wonder that a poor fellow who had struggled
for life with a small bag of that gold was knocked over when he saw a
wagon-load of it."
Maka, closely following the others, had listened with eagerness to what
had been said, and had been struck with additional horror when he heard
Shirley request that he might not again be asked to look into that hole.
Suddenly the captain and Shirley were startled by a deep groan behind
them, and, turning, saw the negro sitting upon the sand, his knees drawn
up to his face, and groaning grievously.
"What's the matter?" cried the captain.
"I sick," said Maka. "Sick same as Mr. Shirley."
"Get up and come along," said the captain, laughing. He saw that
something was really ailing the black fellow, for he trembled from head
to foot, and his face had the hue of a black horse recently clipped. But
he thought it best not to treat the matter seriously. "Come along," said
he. "I am not going to give you any whiskey." And then, struck by a
sudden thought, he asked, "Are you afraid that you have got to go into
"Yes, sir," said Maka, who had risen to his feet. "It make me pretty near
die dead to think that."
"Well, don't die any more," said the captain. "You sha'n't go anywhere
that you have not been before."
The pupils of Maka's eyes, which had been turned up nearly out of sight,
were now lowered. "All right, cap'n," said he. "I lot better now."
This little incident was not unpleasant to the captain. If the negroes
were afraid to go into the blackness of the caves, it would make fewer
complications in this matter.
THE "MIRANDA" TAKES IN CARGO
The next day the work of removing the treasure from the caves to the
vessel began in good earnest. The Miranda was anchored not far from the
little pier, which was found in good order, and Shirley, with one negro,
was left on board, while the captain and Burke took the three others,
loaded with coffee-bags, to the caves.
For the benefit of the minds of the black men, the captain had instructed
Maka to assure them that they would not be obliged to go anywhere where
it was really dark. But it was difficult to decide how to talk to Burke.
This man was quite different from Shirley. He was smaller, but stout and
strong, with a dark complexion, and rather given to talk. The captain
liked him well enough, his principal objection to him being that he was
rather too willing to give advice. But, whatever might be the effect of
the treasure on Burke, the captain determined that he should not be
surprised by it. He had tried that on Shirley, and did not want to try it
again on anybody. So he conversed freely about the treasure and the
mound, and, as far as possible, described its appearance and contents.
But he need not have troubled himself about the effect of the sight of a
wagon-load of gold upon Burke's mind. He was glad to see it, and whistled
cheerfully as he looked down into the mound.
"How far do you think it goes down?" said he to the captain.
"Don't know," was the reply. "We can't tell anything about that until we
get it out."
"All right," said Burke. "The quicker we do it, the better."
The captain got into the mound with a lantern, for the gold was now too
low for him to reach it from above, and having put as many bars into a
coffee-bag as a man could carry, he passed it up to Burke, who slid it
down to the floor, where another lantern had been left. When five bags
had been made ready, the captain came out, and he and Burke put each bag
into another, and these were tied up firmly at each end, for a single
coffee-bag was not considered strong enough to hold the weighty
treasure. Then the two carried the bags into the part of the cave which
was lighted by the great fissure, and called the negroes. Then, each
taking a bag on his shoulder, the party returned to the cove. On the
next trip, Shirley decided to go with the captain, for he said he did
not care for anything if he did not have to look down into the mound,
for that was sure to make him dizzy. Maka's place was taken by the negro
who had been previously left in the vessel. Day by day the work went on,
but whoever might be relieved, and whatever arrangements might be made,
the captain always got into the mound and handed out the gold. Whatever
discovery should be made when the bottom of the deposit was reached, he
wanted to be there to make it.
The operations were conducted openly, and without any attempt at secrecy
or concealment. The lid of the mound was not replaced when they left it,
and the bags of gold were laid on the pier until it was convenient to
take them to the vessel. When they were put on board, they were lowered
into the hold, and took the place of a proportionate amount of ballast,
which was thrown out.
All the negroes now spoke and understood a little English. They might
think that those bags were filled with gold, or they might think that
they contained a mineral substance, useful for fertilizer; but if by
questioning or by accidental information they found out what was the load
under which they toiled along the beach, the captain was content. There
was no reason why he should fear these men more than he feared Burke and
Shirley. All of them were necessary to him, and he must trust them.
Several times when he was crouched down in the interior of the mound,
filling a bag with gold, he thought how easy it would be for one of the
sailors to shoot him from above, and for them, or perhaps only one of
them, to become the owner of all that treasure. But then, he could be
shot in one place almost as well as in another, and if the negroes should
be seized with the gold fever, and try to cut white throats at midnight,
they would be more likely to attempt it after the treasure had been
secured and the ship had sailed than now. In any case, nothing could be
gained by making them feel that they were suspected and distrusted.
Therefore it was that when, one day, Maka said to the captain that the
little stones in the bags had begun to make his shoulder tender, the
captain showed him how to fold an empty sack and put it between the bags
and his back, and then also told him that what he carried was not stones,
but lumps of gold.
"All yourn, cap'n!" asked Maka.
"Yes, all mine," was the reply.
That night Maka told his comrades that when the captain got to the end of
this voyage, he would be able to buy a ship bigger than the _Castor_, and
that they would not have to sail in that little brig any more, and that
he expected to be cook on the new vessel, and have a fine suit of clothes
in which to go on shore.
For nearly a month the work went on, but the contents of the mound
diminished so slowly that the captain, and, in fact, the two sailors,
also, became very impatient. Only about forty pounds could be carried by
each man on a trip, and the captain saw plainly that it would not do to
urge greater rapidity or more frequent trips, for in that case there
would be sure to be breakdowns. The walk from the cove to the caves was
a long one, and rocky barriers had to be climbed, and although now but
one man was left on board the vessel, only thirty bags a day were stored
in its hold. This was very slow work. Consultations were held, and it
was determined that some quicker method of transportation must be
adopted. The idea that they could be satisfied with what they already
had seemed to enter the mind of none of them. It was a foregone
conclusion that their business there was to carry away all the gold that
was in the mound.
A new plan, though rather a dangerous one, was now put into operation.
The brig was brought around opposite the plateau which led to the caves,
and anchored just outside the line of surf, where bottom was found at a
moderate depth. Then the bags were carried in the boats to the vessel. A
line connected each boat with the ship, and the negroes were half the
time in the water, assisting the boats backward and forward through the
surf. Now work went on very much more rapidly. The men had all become
accustomed to carrying the heavy bags, and could run with them down the
plateau. The boats were hauled to and from the vessel, and the bags were
hoisted on board by means of blocks and tackle and a big basket. Once the
side of the basket gave way, and several bags went down to the bottom of
the sea, never to be seen again. But there was no use in crying over
spilt gold, and this was the only accident.
The winds were generally from the south and east, and, therefore, there
was no high surf; and this new method of working was so satisfactory that
they all regretted they had not adopted it from the first,
notwithstanding the risk. But the captain had had no idea that it would
take so long for five men to carry that treasure a distance of two miles,
taking forty pounds at a time.
At night everybody went on board the brig, and she lay to some distance
from the shore, so as to be able to run out to sea in case of bad
weather, but no such weather came.
It was two months since the brig had dropped anchor in the Rackbirds'
cove when the contents of the mound got so low that the captain could not
hand up the bags without the assistance of a ladder, which he made from
some stuff on board the brig. By rough measurement, he found that he
should now be near the level of the outside floor of the cave, and he
worked with great caution, for the idea, first broached by Ralph, that
this mass of gold might cover something more valuable than itself, had
never left him.
But as he worked steadily, filling bag after bag, he found that, although
he had reached at the outer edge of the floor of the mound what seemed to
be a pavement of stone, there was still a considerable depth of gold in
the centre of the floor. Now he worked faster, telling Shirley, who was
outside, that he would not come out until he had reached the floor of the
mound, which was evidently depressed in the centre after the fashion of a
saucer. Working with feverish haste, the captain handed up bag after bag,
until every little bar of gold had been removed from the mound.
The bottom of the floor was covered with a fine dust, which had sifted
down in the course of ages from the inside coating of the mound, but it
was not deep enough to conceal a bar of gold, and, with his lantern and
his foot, the captain made himself sure that not a piece was left. Then
his whole soul and body thrilled with a wild purpose, and, moving the
ladder from the centre of the floor, he stooped to brush away the dust.
If there should be a movable stone there! If this stone should cover a
smaller cavity beneath the great one, what might he not discover within
it? His mind whirled before the ideas which now cast themselves at him,
when suddenly he stood up and set his teeth hard together.
"I will not," he said. "I will not look for a stone with a crack around
it. We have enough already. Why should we run the risk of going crazy by
trying to get more? I will not!" And he replaced the ladder.
"What's the matter in there?" called Shirley, from outside. "Who're you
The captain came out of the opening in the mound, pulled up the ladder
and handed it to Shirley, and then he was about to replace the lid upon
the mound. But what was the use of doing that, he thought. There would be
no sense in closing it. He would leave it open.
"I was talking to myself," he said to Shirley, when he had descended. "It
sounded crack-brained, I expect."
"Yes, it did," answered the other. "And I am glad these are the last bags
we have to tie up and take out. I should not have wondered if the whole
three of us had turned into lunatics. As for me, I have tried hard to
stop thinking about the business, and I have found that the best thing I
could do was to try and consider the stuff in these bags as coal--good,
clean, anthracite coal. Whenever I carried a bag, I said to myself,
'Hurry up, now, with this bag of coal.' A ship-load of coal, you know, is
not worth enough to turn a man's head."
"That was not a bad idea," said the captain. "But now the work is done,
and we will soon get used to thinking of it without being excited about
it. There is absolutely no reason why we should not be as happy and
contented as if we had each made a couple of thousand dollars apiece on a
"That's so," said Shirley, "and I'm going to try to think it."
When the last bag had been put on board, Burke and the captain were
walking about the caves looking here and there to take a final leave of
the place. Whatever the captain considered of value as a memento of the
life they had led here had been put on board.
"Captain," said Burke, "did you take all the gold out of that mound?"
"Every bit of it," was the reply.
"You didn't leave a single lump for manners?"
"No," said the captain. "I thought it better that whoever discovered that
empty mound after us should not know what had been in it. You see, we
will have to circulate these bars of gold pretty extensively, and we
don't want anybody to trace them back to the place where they came from.
When the time comes, we will make everything plain and clear, but we will
want to do it ourselves, and in our own way."
"There is sense in that," said Burke. "There's another thing I want to
ask you, captain. I've been thinking a great deal about that mound, and
it strikes me that there might be a sub-cellar under it, a little one,
most likely, with something else in it--rings and jewels, and nobody
knows what not. Did you see if there was any sign of a trap-door?"
"No," said the captain, "I did not. I wanted to do it,--you do not know
how much,--but I made up my mind it would be the worst kind of folly to
try and get anything else out of that mound. We have now all that is good
for us to have. The only question is whether or not we have not more than
is good for us. I was not sure that I should not find something, if I
looked for it, which would make me as sick as Shirley was the first time
he looked into the mound. No, sir; we have enough, and it is the part of
sensible men to stop when they have enough."
Burke shook his head. "If I'd been there," he said, "I should have looked
for a crack in that floor."
When the brig weighed anchor, she did not set out for the open sea, but
proceeded back to the Rackbirds' cove, where she anchored again. Before
setting out, the next day, on his voyage to France, the captain wished to
take on board a supply of fresh water.
BURKE AND HIS CHISEL
That night George Burke went off his watch at twelve o'clock, and a few
minutes after he had been relieved, he did something he had never done
before--he deserted his ship. With his shoes and a little bundle of
clothes on his head, he very quietly slipped down a line he had fastened
astern. It was a very dark night, and he reached the water unseen, and as
quietly as if he had been an otter going fishing. First swimming, and
then wading, he reached the shore. As soon as he was on land, he dressed,
and then went for a lantern, a hammer, and a cold-chisel, which he had
left at a convenient spot.
Without lighting the lantern, he proceeded as rapidly as possible to the
caves. His path was almost invisible, but having travelled that way so
often, he knew it as well as he knew his alphabet. Not until he was
inside the entrance to the caves did he light his lantern. Then he
proceeded, without loss of time, to the stone mound. He knew that the
ladder had been left there, and, with a little trouble, he found it,
where Shirley had put it, behind some rocks on the floor of the cave. By
the aid of this he quickly descended into the mound, and then, moving
the foot of the ladder out of the way, he vigorously began to brush away
the dust from the stone pavement. When this was done, he held up the
lantern and carefully examined the central portion of the floor, and very
soon he discovered what he had come to look for. A space about three feet
square was marked off on the pavement of the mound by a very perceptible
crevice. The other stones of the pavement were placed rather irregularly,
but some of them had been cut to allow this single square stone to be set
in the centre.
"That's a trap-door," said Burke. "There can't be any doubt about that."
And immediately he set to work to get it open.
There was no ring, nor anything by which he could lift it; but if he
could get his heavy chisel under it, he was sure he could raise it until
he could get hold of it with his hands. So he began to drive his chisel
vigorously down into the cracks at various places. This was not difficult
to do, and, trying one side after another, he got the chisel down so far
that he could use it as a lever. But with all his strength he could not
raise the stone.
At last, while working at one corner, he broke out a large piece of the
pavement, eight or nine inches long, and found that it had covered a
metal bar about an inch in diameter. With his lantern he carefully
examined this rod, and found that it was not iron, but appeared to be
made of some sort of bronze.
"Now, what is this?" said Burke to himself. "It's either a hinge or a
bolt. It doesn't look like a hinge, for it wouldn't be any use for it to
run so far into the rest of the pavement, and if it is a bolt, I don't
see how they got at it to move it. I'll see where it goes to." And he
began to cut away more of the pavement toward the wall of the dome. The
pieces of stone came up without much trouble, and as far as he cut he
found the metal rod.
"By George!" said he, "I believe it goes outside of the mound! They
worked it from outside!"
Putting the ladder in place, he ran up with his lantern and tools, and
descended to the outside floor. Then he examined the floor of the cave
where the rod must run if it came outside the mound. He found a line of
flat stones, each about a foot square, extending from the mound toward
the western side of the cave.
"Oh, ho!" he cried, and on his knees he went to work, soon forcing up one
of these stones, and under it was the metal rod, lying in a groove
considerably larger than itself. Burke now followed the line of stones to
the western side of the cave, where the roof was so low he could scarcely
stand up under it. To make sure, he took up another stone, and still
found the rod.
"I see what this means," said he. "That bolt is worked from clean
outside, and I've got to find the handle of it. If I can't do that, I'll
go back and cut through that bolt, if my chisel will do it."
He now went back to a point on the line of stones about midway between
the side of the cave and the mound, and then, walking forward as nearly
as possible in a straight line, which would be at right angles with the
metal rod, he proceeded until he had reached the entrance to the
passageway which led to the outer caves, carefully counting his steps as
he went. Then he turned squarely about, entered the passage, and walked
along it until he came to the door of the room which had once been
occupied by Captain Horn.
"I'll try it inside first," said Burke to himself, "and then I'll
He walked through the rooms, turning to the right about ten feet when he
came to the middle apartment,--for the door here was not opposite to the
others,--but coming back again to his line of march as soon as he was on
the other side. He proceeded until he reached the large cave, open at the
top, which was the last of these compartments. This was an extensive
cavern, the back part being, however, so much impeded by rocks that had
fallen from the roof that it was difficult for him to make any progress,
and the numbering of his steps depended very much upon calculation. But
when he reached the farthest wall, Burke believed that he had gone about
as great a distance as he had stepped off in the cave of the lake.
"But how in the mischief," thought he, "am I to find anything here?" He
held up his lantern and looked about. "I can't move these rocks to see
what is under them."
As he gazed around, he noticed that the southeast corner seemed to be
more regular than the rest of the wall of the cave. In fact, it was
almost a right-angled corner, and seemed to have been roughly cut into
that shape. Instantly Burke was in the corner. He found the eastern wall
quite smooth for a space about a foot wide and extending about two yards
from the floor. In this he perceived lines of crevice marking out a
rectangular space some six inches wide and four feet in height.
"Ha, ha!" cried Burke. "The handle is on the other side of that slab,
I'll bet my head!" And putting down the lantern, he went to work.
With his hammer and chisel he had forced the top of the slab in less than
two minutes, and soon he pulled it outward and let it drop on the floor.
Inside the narrow, perpendicular cavity which was now before him, he saw
an upright metal bar.
"The handle of the bolt!" cried Burke. "Now I can unfasten the
trap-door." And taking hold of the top of the bar, he pulled back with
all his force. At first he could not move it, but suddenly the resistance
ceased, and he pulled the bar forward until it stood at an angle of
forty-five degrees from the wall. Further than this Burke could not move
it, although he tugged and bore down on it with all his weight.
"All right," said he, at last. "I guess that's as far as she'll come.
Anyway, I'm off to see if I've drawn that bolt. If I have, I'll have that
trap-door open, if I have to break my back lifting it."
With his best speed Burke ran through the caves to the mound, and,
mounting by means of the stone projections, he was about to descend by
the ladder, when, to his utter amazement, he saw no ladder. He had left
it projecting at least two feet through the opening in the top of the
mound, and now he could see nothing of it.
What could this mean? Going up a little higher, he held up his lantern
and looked within, but saw no signs of the ladder.
"By George!" he cried, "has anybody followed me and pulled out
Lowering the lantern farther into the mound, he peered in. Below, and
immediately under him, was a black hole, about three feet square.
Burke was so startled that he almost dropped the lantern. But he was a
man of tough nerve, and maintained his clutch upon it. But he drew
back. It required some seconds to catch his breath. Presently he
looked down again.
"I see," said he. "That trap-door was made to fall down, and not to lift
up, and when I pulled the bolt, down it went, and the ladder, being on
top of it, slipped into that hole. Heavens!" he said, as a cold sweat
burst out over him at the thought, "suppose I had made up my mind to cut
that bolt! Where would I have gone to?"
It was not easy to frighten Burke, but now he trembled, and his back was
chilled. But he soon recovered sufficiently to do something, and going
down to the floor of the cave, he picked up a piece of loose stone, and
returning to the top of the mound, he looked carefully over the edge of
the opening, and let the stone drop into the black hole beneath. With all
the powers of his brain he listened, and it seemed to him like half a
minute before he heard a faint sound, far, far below. At this moment he
was worse frightened than he had ever been in his life. He clambered down
to the foot of the mound, and sat down on the floor.
"What in the name of all the devils does it mean?" said he; and he set
himself to work to think about it, and found this a great deal harder
labor than cutting stone.
"There was only one thing," he said to himself, at last, "that they could
have had that for. The captain says that those ancient fellows put their
gold there keep it from the Spaniards, and they must have rigged up this
devilish contrivance to work if they found the Spaniards had got on the
track of their treasure. Even if the Spaniards had let off the water and
gone to work to get the gold out, one of the Incas' men in the corner of
that other cave, which most likely was all shut up and not discoverable,
would have got hold of that bar, given it a good pull, and let down all
the gold, and what Spaniards might happen to be inside, to the very
bottom of that black hole. By George! it would have been a pretty trick!
The bottom of that mound is just like a funnel, and every stick of gold
would have gone down. But, what is more likely, they would have let it
out before the Spaniards had a chance to open the top, and then, if the
ancients had happened to lick the Spaniards, they could have got all that
gold up again. It might have taken ten or twenty years, but then, the
ancients had all the time they wanted."
After these reflections, Burke sat for a few moments, staring at the
lantern. "But, by George!" said he again, speaking aloud, though in low
tones, "it makes my blood run cold to think of the captain working day
after day, as hard as he could, right over that horrible trap-door.
Suppose he had moved the bolt in some way! Suppose somebody outside had
found that slab in the wall and had fooled with the bar! Then, there is
another thing. Suppose, while they were living here, he or the boy had
found that bar before he found the dome, and had pulled out the concern
to see what it was! Bless me! in that case we should all be as poor as
rats! Bat I must not stop here, or the next watch will be called before I
get back. But one thing I'll do before I go. I'll put back that lid.
Somebody might find the dome in the dark, and tumble into it. Why, if a
wandering rat should make a slip, and go down into that black hole, it
would be enough to make a fellow's blood run cold if he knew of it."
Without much trouble Burke replaced the lid, and then, without further
delay, he left the caves. As he hurried along the beach, he debated
within himself whether or not he should tell Captain Horn what he had
"It will be mighty hard on his nerves," said he, "if he comes to know how
he squatted and worked for days and weeks over that diabolical trap that
opens downward. He's a strong man, but he's got enough on his nerves as
it is. No, I won't tell him. He is going to do the handsome thing by us,
and it would be mean for me to do the unhandsome thing by him. By George!
I don't believe he could sleep for two or three nights if he knew what I
know! No, sir! You just keep your mouth shut until we are safe and sound
in some civilized spot, with the whole business settled, and Shirley and
me discharged. Then I will tell the captain about it, so that nobody need
ever trouble his mind about coming back to look for gold rings and royal
mummies. If I don't get back before my watch is called, I'll brazen it
out somehow. We've got to twist discipline a little when we are all hard
at work at a job like this."
He left his shoes on the sand of the cove, and swam to the ship without
taking time to undress. He slipped over the taffrail, and had scarcely
time to get below and change his clothes before his watch was called.
THE CAPTAIN WRITES A LETTER
On the afternoon of the next day, the Miranda, having taken in water, set
sail, and began her long voyage to Rio Janeiro, and thence to France.
Now that his labors were over, and the treasure of the Incas safely
stored in the hold of the brig, where it was ignominiously acting as
ballast, Captain Horn seated himself comfortably in the shade of a sail
and lighted his pipe. He was tired of working, tired of thinking, tired
of planning--tired in mind, body, and even soul; and the thought that
his work was done, and that he was actually sailing away with his great
prize, came to him like a breeze from the sea after a burning day. He
was not as happy as he should have been. He knew that he was too tired
to be as happy as his circumstances demanded, but after a while he would
attend better to that business. Now he was content to smoke his pipe,
and wait, and listen to the distant music from all the different kinds
of enjoyment which, in thought, were marching toward him. It was true he
was only beginning his long voyage to the land where he hoped to turn
his gold into available property. It was true that he might be murdered
that night, or some other night, and that when the brig, with its
golden cargo, reached port, he might not be in command of her. It was
true that a hundred things might happen to prevent the advancing
enjoyments from ever reaching him. But ill-omened chances threaten
everything that man is doing, or ever can do, and he would not let the
thought of them disturb him now.
Everybody on board the Miranda was glad to rest and be happy, according
to his methods and his powers of anticipation. As to any present
advantage from their success, there was none. The stones and sand they
had thrown out had ballasted the brig quite as well as did the gold they
now carried. This trite reflection forced itself upon the mind of Burke.
"Captain," said he, "don't you think it would be a good idea to touch
somewhere and lay in a store of fancy groceries and saloon-cabin grog? If
we can afford to be as jolly as we please, I don't see why we shouldn't
But the captain shook his head. "It would be a dangerous thing," he said,
"to put into any port on the west coast of South America with our present
cargo on board. We can't make it look like ballast, as I expected we
could, for all that bagging gives it a big bulk, and if the custom-house
officers came on board, it would not do any good to tell them we are
sailing in ballast, if they happened to want to look below."
"Well, that may be so," said Burke. "But what I'd like would be to meet a
first-class, double-quick steamer, and buy her, put our treasure on
board, and then clap on all steam for France."
"All right," said the captain, "but we'll talk about that when we meet a
steamer for sale."
After a week had passed, and he had begun to feel the advantages of rest
and relief from anxiety, Captain Horn regretted nothing so much as that
the _Miranda_ was not a steamer, ploughing her swift way over the seas.
It must be a long, long time before he could reach those whom he supposed
and hoped were waiting for him in France. It had already been a long,
long time since they had heard from him. He did not fear that they would
suffer because he did not come. He had left them money enough to prevent
anything of that sort. He did not know whether or not they were longing
to hear from him, but he did know that he wanted them to hear from him.
He must yet sail about three thousand miles in the Pacific Ocean, and
then about two thousand more in the Atlantic, before he reached Rio
Janeiro, the port for which he had cleared. From there it would be nearly
five thousand miles to France, and he did not dare to calculate how long
it would take the brig to reach her final destination.
This course of thought determined him to send a letter, which would reach
Paris long before he could arrive there. If they should know that he was
on his way home, all might be well, or, at least, better than if they
knew nothing about him. It might be a hazardous thing to touch at a port
on this coast, but he believed that, if he managed matters properly, he
might get a letter ashore without making it necessary for any meddlesome
custom-house officers to come aboard and ask questions. Accordingly, he
decided to stop at Valparaiso. He thought it likely that if he did not
meet a vessel going into port which would lay to and take his letter, he
might find some merchantman, anchored in the roadstead, to which he
could send a boat, and on which he was sure to find some one who would
willingly post his letter.
He wrote a long letter to Edna--a straightforward, business-like
missive, as his letters had always been, in which, in language which she
could understand, but would carry no intelligible idea to any
unauthorized person who might open the letter, he gave her an account of
what he had done, and which was calculated to relieve all apprehensions,
should it be yet a long time before he reached her. He promised to write
again whenever there was an opportunity of sending her a letter, and
wrote in such a friendly and encouraging manner that he felt sure there
would be no reason for any disappointment or anxiety regarding him and
Burke and Shirley were a little surprised when they found that the
captain had determined to stop at Valparaiso, a plan so decidedly opposed
to what he had before said on the subject. But when they found it was for
the purpose of sending a letter to his wife, and that he intended, if
possible, barely to touch and go, they said nothing more, nor did Burke
make any further allusions to improvement in their store of provisions.
When, at last, the captain found himself off Valparaiso, it was on a
dark, cloudy evening and nothing could be done until the next morning,
and they dropped anchor to wait until dawn.
As soon as it was light, the captain saw that a British steamer was
anchored about a mile from the _Miranda_, and he immediately sent a boat,
with Shirley and two of the negroes, to ask the officer on duty to post
his letter when he sent on shore. In a little more than an hour Shirley
returned, with the report that the first mate of the steamer knew Captain
Horn and would gladly take charge of his letter.
The boat was quickly hauled to the davits, and all hands were called to
weigh anchor and set sail. But all hands did not respond to the call. One
of the negroes, a big, good-natured fellow, who, on account of his
unpronounceable African name, had been dubbed "Inkspot," was not to be
found. This was a very depressing thing, under the circumstances, and it,
almost counterbalanced the pleasure the captain felt in having started a
letter on its way to his party in France.
It seemed strange that Inkspot should have deserted the vessel, for it
was a long way to the shore, and, besides, what possible reason could he
have for leaving his fellow-Africans and taking up his lot among absolute
strangers? The crew had all worked together so earnestly and faithfully
that the captain had come to believe in them and trust them to an extent
to which he had never before trusted seamen.
The officers held a consultation as to what was to be done, and they very
quickly arrived at a decision. To remain at anchor, to send a boat on
shore to look for the missing negro, would be dangerous and useless.