Part 5 out of 7
Inquiries about the deserter would provoke inquiries about the brig, and
if Inkspot really wished to run away from the vessel, it would take a
long time to find him and bring him back. The right course was quite
plain to every one. Having finished the business which brought them
there, they must up anchor and sail away as soon as possible. As for the
loss of the man, they must bear that as well as they could. Whether he
had been drowned, eaten by a shark, or had safely reached the shore, he
was certainly lost to them.
At the best, their crew had been small enough, but six men had sailed a
brig, and six men could do it again.
So the anchor was weighed, the sails were set, and before a northeast
wind the _Miranda_ went out to sea as gayly as the nature of her build
permitted, which is not saying much. It was a good wind, however, and
when the log had been thrown, the captain remarked that the brig was
making better time than she had made since they left Acapulco.
A HORSE-DEALER APPEARS ON THE SCENE
When the brig _Miranda_ was lying at anchor in the Rackbirds' cove, and
Mr. George Burke had silently left her in order to go on shore and pursue
some investigations in which he was interested, his departure from the
brig had not been, as he supposed, unnoticed. The big, good-natured
African, known as Inkspot, had been on watch, and, being himself so very
black that he was not generally noticeable in the dark, was standing on a
part of the deck from which, without being noticed himself, he saw a
person get over the taffrail and slip into the water. He knew this person
to be the second mate, and having a high respect and some fear of his
superiors, he did not consider it his business to interfere with him. He
saw a head above the water, moving toward the shore, but it soon
disappeared in the darkness. Toward the end of his watch, he had seen Mr.
Burke climb up the vessel's side as silently as he had gone down it, and
When Inkspot went to his hammock, which he did very shortly afterwards,
he reflected to the best of his ability upon what he had seen. Why did
Mr. Burke slip away from the ship so silently, and come back in the same
way? He must have gone ashore, and why did he want no one to know that he
had gone? He must have gone to do something he ought not to do, and
Inkspot could think of nothing wrong that Mr. Burke would like to do,
except to drink whiskey. Captain Horn was very particular about using
spirits on board, and perhaps Mr. Burke liked whiskey, and could not get
it. Inkspot knew about the storehouse of the Rackbirds, but he did not
know what it had contained, or what had been left there. Maka had said
something about the whiskey having been poured out on the sand, but that
might have been said just to keep people away from the place. If there
were no whiskey there, why did Mr. Burke go on shore?
Now, it so happened that Inkspot knew a good deal about whiskey. Before
he had gone into the service of the Rackbirds, he had, at different
times, been drunk, and he had the liveliest and most pleasant
recollections of these experiences. It had been a long time since he had
had enough whiskey to make him feel happy. This had probably been the
case with Mr. Burke, and he had gone on shore, and most likely had had
some very happy hours, and had come back without any one knowing where he
had gone. The consequence of this train of thought was that Inkspot
determined that he would go on shore, the next night, and hunt for
whiskey. He could do it quite as well as Mr. Burke had done it, perhaps
even better. But the _Miranda_ did not remain in the cove the next night,
and poor Inkspot looked with longing eyes upon the slowly departing spot
on the sands where he knew the Rackbirds' storehouse was located.
The days and nights went on, and in the course of time the _Miranda_
anchored in the harbor of Valparaiso; and, when this happened, Inkspot
determined that now would be his chance to go on shore and get a good
drink of whiskey--he had money enough for that. He could see the lights
of El Puerto, or the Old Town, glittering and beckoning, and they did
not appear to be very far off. It would be nothing for him to swim as
far as that.
Inkspot went off his watch at midnight, and he went into the water at
fifty minutes to one. He wore nothing but a dark-gray shirt and a pair of
thin trousers, and if any one had seen his head and shoulders, it is not
likely, unless a good light had been turned on them, that they would have
been supposed to be portions of a human form.
Inkspot was very much at home in the water, and he could swim like a dog
or a deer. But it was a long, long swim to those glittering and
beckoning lights. At last, however, he reached a pier, and having rested
himself on the timbers under it, he cautiously climbed to the top. The
pier was deserted, and he walked to the end of it, and entered the town.
He knew nothing of Valparaiso, except that it was a large city where
sailors went, and he was quite sure he could find a shop where they sold
whiskey. Then he would have a glass--perhaps two--perhaps three--after
which he would return to the brig, as Mr. Burke had done. Of course, he
would have to do much more swimming than had been necessary for the
second mate, but then, he believed himself to be a better swimmer than
that gentleman, and he expected to get back a great deal easier than he
came, because the whiskey would make him strong and happy, and he could
play with the waves.
Inkspot did find a shop, and a dirty one it was--but they sold whiskey
inside, and that was enough for him. With the exception of Maka, he was
the most intelligent negro among the captain's crew, and he had picked up
some words of English and some of Spanish. But it was difficult for him
to express an idea with these words. Among these words, however, was one
which he pronounced better than any of the others, and which had always
been understood whenever he used it,--whether in English or Spanish, no
matter what the nationality might be of the person addressed,--and that
word was "whiskey."
Inkspot had one glass, and then another, a third, and a fourth, and then
his money gave out--at least, the man who kept the shop insisted, in
words that any one could understand, that the silver the big negro had
fished out of his dripping pockets would pay for no more drinks. But
Inkspot had had enough to make him happy. His heart was warm, and his
clothes were getting drier. He went out into the glorious night. It was
dark and windy, and the sky was cloudy, but to him all things were
glorious. He sat down on the pavement in the cosey corner of two walls,
and there he slept luxuriously until a policeman came along and arrested
him for being drunk in the street.
It was two days before Inkspot got out of the hands of the police. Then
he was discharged because the authorities did not desire to further
trouble themselves with a stupid fellow who could give no account of
himself, and had probably wandered from a vessel in port. The first
thing he did was to go out to the water's edge and look out over the
harbor, but although he saw many ships, his sharp eyes told him that not
one of them was the brig he had left.
After an hour or two of wandering up and down the waterside, he became
sure that there was no vessel in that harbor waiting for him to swim to
her. Then he became equally certain that he was very hungry. It was not
long, however, before a good, strong negro like Inkspot found employment.
It was not necessary for him to speak very much Spanish, or any other
language, to get a job at carrying things up a gang-plank, and, in pay
for this labor, he willingly took whatever was given him.
That night, with very little money in his pocket, Inkspot entered a
tavern, a low place, but not so low as the one he had patronized on his
arrival in Valparaiso. He had had a meagre supper, and now possessed
but money enough to pay for one glass of whiskey, and having procured
this, he seated himself on a stool in a corner, determined to protract
his enjoyment as long as possible. Where he would sleep that night he
knew not, but it was not yet bedtime, and he did not concern himself
with the question.
Near by, at a table, were seated four men, drinking, smoking, and
talking. Two of these were sailors. Another, a tall, dark man with a
large nose, thin at the bridge and somewhat crooked below, was dressed in
very decent shore clothes, but had a maritime air about him,
notwithstanding. The fourth man, as would have been evident to any one
who understood Spanish, was a horse-dealer, and the conversation, when
Inkspot entered the place, was entirely about horses. But Inkspot did
not know this, as he understood so few of the words that he heard, and he
would not have been interested if he had understood them. The
horse-dealer was the principal spokesman, but he would have been a poor
representative of the shrewdness of his class, had he been trying to sell
horses to sailors. He was endeavoring to do nothing of the kind. These
men were his friends, and he was speaking to them, not of the good
qualities of his animals, but of the credulous natures of his customers.
To illustrate this, he drew from his pocket a small object which he had
received a few days before for some horses which might possibly be worth
their keep, although he would not be willing to guarantee this to any one
at the table. The little object which he placed on the table was a piece
of gold about two inches long, and shaped like an irregular prism.
This, he said, he had received in trade from a man in Santiago, who had
recently come down from Lima. The man had bought it from a jeweller, who
had others, and who said he understood they had come from California. The
jeweller had owed the man money, and the latter had taken this, not as a
curiosity, for it was not much of a curiosity, as they could all see, but
because the jeweller told him exactly how much it was worth, and because
it was safer than money to carry, and could be changed into current coin
in any part of the world. The point of the horse-dealer's remarks was,
however, the fact that not only had he sold his horses to the man from
Lima for very much more than they were worth, but he had made him believe
that this lump of gold was not worth as much as he had been led to
suppose, that the jeweller bad cheated him, and that Californian gold
was not easily disposed of in Chili or Peru, for it was of a very
inferior quality to the gold of South America. So he had made his trade,
and also a profit, not only on the animals he delivered, but on the pay
he received. He had had the little lump weighed and tested, and knew
exactly how much it was worth.
When the horse-dealer had finished this pleasant tale, he laughed
loudly, and the three other men laughed also because they had keen wits
and appreciated a good story of real life. But their laughter was
changed to astonishment--almost fright--when a big black negro bounded
out of a dark corner and stood by the table, one outstretched ebony
finger pointing to the piece of gold. Instantly the horse dealer
snatched his treasure and thrust it into his pocket, and almost at the
same moment each man sprung to his feet and put his hand on his favorite
weapon. But the negro made no attempt to snatch the gold, nor did there
seem to be any reason to apprehend an attack from him. He stood slapping
his thighs with his hands, his mouth in a wide grin, and his eyes
sparkling in apparent delight.
"What is the matter with you?" shouted the horse-dealer. "What do
Inkspot did not understand what had been said to him, nor could he have
told what he wanted, for he did not know. At that moment he knew nothing,
he comprehended nothing, but he felt as a stranger in a foreign land
would feel should he hear some words in his native tongue. The sight of
that piece of gold had given to Inkspot, by one quick flash, a view of
his negro friends and companions, of Captain Horn and his two white men,
of the brig he had left, of the hammock in which he had slept--of all, in
fact, that he now cared for on earth.
He had seen pieces of gold like that. Before all the treasure had been
carried from the caves to the _Miranda_, the supply of coffee-bags had
given out, and during the last days of the loading it had been necessary
to tie up the gold in pieces of sail-cloth, after the fashion of a
wayfarer's bundle. Before these had been put on board, their fastening
had been carefully examined, and some of them had been opened and retied.
Thus all the negroes had seen the little bars, for, as they knew the bags
contained gold, there was no need of concealing from them the shape and
size of the contents.
So, when, sitting in his gloomy corner, his spirits slowly rising under
the influence of his refreshment, which he had just finished, he saw
before him an object which recalled to him the life and friends of which
he had bereft himself, Inkspot's nature took entire possession of him,
and he bounded to the table in ecstatic recognition of the bit of metal.
The men now swore at Inkspot, but as they saw he was unarmed, and not
inclined to violence, they were not afraid of him, but they wondered at
him. The horse-dealer took the piece of gold out of his pocket and held
it in his hand.
"Did you ever see anything like that before?" he asked. He was a shrewd
man, the horse-dealer, and really wanted to know what was the matter with
Inkspot did not answer, but jabbered in African.
"Try him in English," suggested the thin-nosed man, and this the
Many of the English words Inkspot understood. He had seen things like
that. Yes, yes! Great heaps! Heaps! Bags! Bags! He carried them! Throwing
an imaginary package over his shoulder, he staggered under it across the
floor. Heaps! Piles! Bags! Days and days and days he carried many bags!
Then, in a state of exalted mental action, produced by his recollections
and his whiskey, he suddenly conceived a scorn for a man who prized so
highly just one of these lumps, and who was nearly frightened out of his
wits if a person merely pointed to it. He shrugged his shoulders, he
spread out the palms of his hands toward the piece of gold, he turned
away his head and walked off sniffing. Then he came back and pointed to
it, and, saying "One!" he laughed, and then he said "One!" and laughed
again. Suddenly he became possessed with a new idea. His contemptuous
manner dropped from him, and in eager excitement he leaned forward and
The four men looked at each other and at him in wonder, and asked what,
in the name of his satanic majesty, the fellow was driving at. This
apparent question, now repeated over and over again in turn to each of
them, they did not understand at all. But they could comprehend that the
negro had carried bags of lumps like that. This was very interesting.
The subject of the labors of an African Hercules, mythical as these
labors might be, was so interesting to the four men who had been drinking
and smoking in the tavern, that they determined to pursue it as far as
their ignorance of the African's language, and his ignorance of English
and Spanish, would permit. In the first place, they made him sit down
with them, and offered him something to drink. It was not whiskey, but
Inkspot liked it very much, and felt all sorts of good effects from it.
In fact, it gave him a power of expressing himself by gestures and single
words in a manner wonderful. After a time, the men gave him something to
eat, for they imagined he might be hungry, and this also helped him very
much, and his heart went out to these new friends. Then he had a little
more to drink, but only a little, for the horse-dealer and the thin-nosed
man, who superintended the entertainment, were very sagacious, and did
not want him to drink too much.
In the course of an hour, these four men, listening and watching keenly
and earnestly, had become convinced that this black man had been on a
ship which carried bags of gold similar to the rude prism possessed by
the horse-dealer, that he had left that vessel for the purpose of
obtaining refreshments on shore and had not been able to get back to it,
thereby indicating that the vessel had not stopped long at the place
where he had left it, and which place must have been, of course,
Valparaiso. Moreover, they found out to their full satisfaction where
that vessel was going to; for Maka had talked a great deal about Paris,
which he pronounced in English fashion, where Cheditafa and Mok were, and
the negroes had looked forward to this unknown spot as a heavenly port,
and Inkspot could pronounce the word "Paris" almost as plainly as if it
were a drink to which he was accustomed.
But where the vessel was loaded with the gold, they could not find out.
No grimace that Inkspot could make, nor word that he could say, gave them
an idea worth dwelling upon. He said some words which made them believe
that the vessel had cleared from Acapulco, but it was foolish to suppose
that any vessel had been loaded there with bags of gold carried on men's
shoulders. The ship most probably came from California, and had touched
at the Mexican port. And she was now bound for Paris. That was natural
enough. Paris was a very good place to which to take gold. Moreover, she
had probably touched at some South American port, Callao perhaps, and
this was the way the little pieces of gold had been brought into the
country, the Californians probably having changed them for stores.
The words "Cap' 'Or," often repeated by the negro, and always in a
questioning tone, puzzled them very much. They gave up its solution, and
went to work to try to make out the name of the vessel upon which the
bags had been loaded. But here Inkspot could not help them. They could
not make him understand what it was they wanted him to say. At last, the
horse-dealer proposed to the others, who, he said, knew more about such
things than he did, that they should repeat the name of every
sailing-vessel on that coast of which they had ever heard--for Inkspot
had made them understand that his ship had sails, and no steam. This they
did, and presently one of the sailors mentioned the name _Miranda_, which
belonged to a brig he knew of which plied on the coast. At this, Inkspot
sprang to his feet and clapped his hands.
_"Miran'a! Miran'a.'"_ he cried. And then followed the words, "Cap' 'Or!
Cap' 'Or!" in eagerly excited tones.
Suddenly the thin-nosed man, whom the others called Cardatas,
"Cap'n Horn?" said he.
Inkspot clapped his hands again, and exclaimed:
"Ay, ay! Cap' 'Or! Cap' 'Or!"
He shouted the words so loudly that the barkeeper, at the other end of
the room, called out gruffly that they'd better keep quiet, or they would
have somebody coming in.
"There you have it!" exclaimed Cardatas, in Spanish. "It's Cap'n Horn
that the fool's been trying to say. Cap'n Horn of the brig _Miranda_. We
are getting on finely."
"I have heard of a Cap'n Horn," said one of the sailors. "He's a Yankee
skipper from California. He has sailed from this port, I know."
"And he touched here three days ago, according to the negro," said
Cardatas, addressing the horse-dealer. "What do you say to that, Nunez?
From what we know, I don't think it will be hard to find out more."
Nunez agreed with him, and thought it might pay to find out more. Soon
after this, being informed that it was time to shut up the place, the
four men went out, taking Inkspot with them. They would not neglect this
poor fellow. They would give him a place to sleep, and in the morning he
should have something to eat. It would be very unwise to let him go from
them at present.
The next morning Inkspot strolled about the wharves of Valparaiso, in
company with the two sailors, who never lost sight of him, and he had
rather a pleasant time, for they gave him as much to eat and drink as was
good for him, and made him understand as well as they could that it would
not be long before they would help him to return to the brig _Miranda_
commanded by Captain Horn.
In the meantime, the horse-dealer, Nunez, went to a newspaper office, and
there procured a file of a Mexican paper, for the negro had convinced
them that his vessel had sailed from Acapulco. Turning over the back
numbers week after week, and week after week, Nunez searched in the
maritime news for the information that the _Miranda_ had cleared from a
Mexican port. He had gone back so far that he had begun to consider it
useless to make further search, when suddenly he caught the name
_Miranda_. There it was. The brig _Miranda_ had cleared from Acapulco
September 16, bound for Rio Janeiro in ballast. Nunez counted the months
on his fingers.
"Five months ago!" he said to himself. "That's not this trip, surely.
But I will talk to Cardatas about that." And taking from his pocket a
little note-book in which he recorded his benefactions in the line of
horse trades, he carefully copied the paragraph concerning the _Miranda_.
When Nunez met Cardatas in the afternoon, the latter also had news. He
had discovered that the arrival of the _Miranda_ had not been registered,
but he had been up and down the piers, asking questions, and he had found
a mate of a British steamer, then discharging her cargo, who told him
that the _Miranda_, commanded by Captain Horn, had anchored in the harbor
three days back, during the night, and that early the next morning
Captain Horn had sent him a letter which he wished posted, and that very
soon afterwards the brig had put out to sea. Cardatas wished to know much
more, but the mate, who had had but little conversation with Shirley,
could only tell him that the brig was then bound from Acapulco to Rio
Janeiro in ballast, which he thought rather odd, but all he could add was
that he knew Captain Horn, and he was a good man, and that if he were
sailing in ballast, he supposed he knew what he was about.
Nunez then showed Cardatas the note he had made, and remarked that, of
course, it could not refer to the present voyage of the brig, for it
could not take her five months to come from Acapulco to this port.
"No," said the other, musing, "it oughtn't to, but, on the other hand,
it is not likely she is on her second voyage to Rio, and both times in
ballast. That's all stuff about ballast. No man would be such a fool as
to sail pretty nigh all around this continent in ballast. He could find
some cargo in Mexico that he could sell when he got to port. Besides, if
that black fellow don't lie,--and he don't know enough to lie,--she's
bound for Paris. It's more likely she means to touch at Rio and take
over some cargo. But why, in the devil's name, should she sail from
Acapulco in ballast? It looks to me as if bags of gold might make very
"That's just what I was thinking," said Nunez.
"And what's more," said the other, "I'll bet she brought it down from
California with her when she arrived at Acapulco. I don't believe she
originally cleared from there."
"It looks that way," said Nunez, "but how do you account for such a
"I've been talking to Sanchez about that _Miranda_," said Cardatas. "He
has heard that she is an old tub, and a poor sailer, and in that case
five months is not such a very slow voyage. I have known of slower
voyages than that."
"And now what are you going to do about it?" asked Nunez.
"The first thing I want to do is to pump that black fellow a
"A good idea," said Nunez, "and we'll go and do it."
Poor Inkspot was pumped for nearly an hour, but not much was got out of
him. The only feature of his information that was worth anything was the
idea that he managed to convey that ballast, consisting of stones and
bags of sand, had been taken out of the brig and thrown away, and bags of
gold put in their places. Where this transfer had taken place, the negro
could not make his questioners understand, and he was at last remanded to
the care of Sanchez and the other sailor.
"The black fellow can't tell us much," said Cardatas to Nunez, as they
walked away together, "but he has stuck to his story well, and there
can't be any use of his lying about it. And there is another thing. What
made the brig touch here just long enough to leave a letter, and that
after a voyage of five months? That looks as if they were afraid some of
their people would go on shore and talk."
"In that case," said Nunez, "I should say there is something shady about
the business. Perhaps this captain has slipped away from his partners up
there in California, or somebody who has been up to a trick has hired him
to take the gold out of the country. If he does carry treasure, it isn't
a fair and square thing. If it had been fair, the gold would have been
sent in the regular way, by a steamer. It's no crime to send gold from
California to France, or any other place."
"I agree with you," said Cardatas, as he lighted his twenty-seventh
Nunez did not smoke, but he mused as he walked along.
"If she has gold on board," said he, presently, "it must be a good deal."
"Yes," said the other. "They wouldn't take so much trouble for a small
lot. Of course, there can't be enough of it to take the place of all the
ballast, but it must weigh considerable."
Here the two men were joined by an acquaintance, and their special
conversation ceased. That night they met again.
"What are you going to do about this?" asked Nunez. "We can't keep on
supporting that negro."
"What is to be done?" asked the other, his sharp eyes fixed upon his
"Would it pay to go over to Rio and meet that brig when she arrives
there? If we could get on board and have a talk with her captain, he
might be willing to act handsomely when he found out we know something
about him and his ship. And if he won't do that, we might give
information, and have his vessel held until the authorities in California
can be communicated with. Then I should say we ought to make something."
"I don't think much of that plan," said Cardatas. "I don't believe she's
going to touch at Rio. If she's afraid to go into port here, why
shouldn't she be afraid to go into port there? No. It would be stupid for
us to go to Rio and sit down and wait for her."
"Then," answered the other, a little angrily, "what can be done?"
"We can go after her," said Cardatas.
The other sneered. "That would be more stupid than the other," said he.
"She left here four days ago, and we could never catch up with her, even
if we could find such a pin-point of a vessel on the great Pacific."
Cardatas laughed. "You don't know much about navigation," said he, "but
that's not to be expected. With a good sailing-vessel I could go after
her, and overhaul her somewhere in the Straits of Magellan. With such a
cargo, I am sure she would make for the Straits. That Captain Horn is
said to be a good sailor, and the fact that he is in command of such a
tub as the _Miranda_ is a proof that there is something underhand about
"And if we should overhaul her?" said the other.
"Well," was the reply, "we might take along a dozen good fellows, and as
the _Miranda_ has only three men on board,--I don't count negroes worth
anything,--I don't see why we couldn't induce the captain to talk
reasonably to us. As for a vessel, there's the _Arato_."
"Your vessel?" said the other.
"Yes, I own a small share in her, and she's here in port now, waiting
for a cargo."
"I forget what sort of a craft she is," said Nunez.
"She's a schooner," said the other, "and she can sail two miles to the
_Miranda's_ one in any kind of weather. If I had money enough, I could
get the _Arato_, put a good crew on board, and be at sea and on the wake
of that brig in twenty-four hours."
"And how much money would be needed?" asked the other.
"That remains to be calculated," replied Cardatas. Then the two went to
work to calculate, and spent an hour or two at it.
When they parted, Nunez had not made up his mind that the plan of
Cardatas was a good one, but he told him to go ahead and see what could
be done about getting the _Arato_ and a reliable crew, and that he would
talk further to him about the matter.
That night Nunez took a train for Santiago, and on his arrival there, the
next morning, he went straight to the shop of the jeweller of whom had
been obtained the piece of gold in his possession. Here he made some
cautious inquiries, and found the jeweller very ready to talk about the
piece of gold that Nunez showed him. The jeweller said that he had had
four pieces of the gold in his possession, and that he had bought them in
Lima to use in his business. They had originally come from California,
and were very fine gold. He had been a little curious about it on account
of the shape of the pieces, and had been told that they had been brought
into the country by an American sea-captain, who had seemed to have a
good many of them. The jeweller thought it very likely that these pieces
of gold passed for currency in California, for he had heard that at one
time the people there had had to make their own currency, and that they
often paid for merchandise in so many penny-weights and ounces of gold
instead of using coin. The jeweller was himself very glad to do business
in this way, for he liked the feel of a lump of gold.
After explaining that his reason for making these inquiries was his fear
that the piece of gold he had accepted in trade because he also liked the
feel of lumps of gold, might not be worth what he had given for it, Nunez
thanked the jeweller, left him, and returned to Valparaiso. He went
straight to his friend Cardatas, and said that he would furnish the
capital to fit out the _Arato_ for the projected trip.
It was not in twenty-four hours, but in forty-eight, that the schooner
_Arato_ cleared from Valparaiso for Callao in ballast. She had a good set
of sails, and a crew of ten men besides the captain. She also had on
board a passenger, Nunez by name, and a tall negro, who doubtless could
turn his hand to some sort of work on board, and whom it would have been
very indiscreet to leave behind.
Once outside the harbor, the _Arato_ changed her mind about going to
Callao, and sailed southward.
THE COAST OF PATAGONIA
For about ten days after the brig _Miranda_ left Valparaiso she had good
winds and fair weather, and her progress was satisfactory to all on
board, but at the end of that time she entered upon a season of head
winds and bad weather. The vessel behaved very well in the stormy days
that followed, but she made very little headway. Her course was now laid
toward the Gulf of Penas, after reaching which she would sail along the
protected waterways between the chain of islands which lie along the
coast and the mainland, and which lead into the Straits of Magellan.
When the weather at last changed and the sea became smoother, it was
found that the working and straining of the masts during the violent
weather had opened some of the seams of the brig, and that she was taking
in water. She was a good vessel, but she was an old one, and she had had
a rough time of it. The captain thanked his stars that she had not begun
to leak before the storm.
The short-handed crew went to work at the pumps, but, after two days'
hard labor, it was found that the water in the hold steadily gained upon
the pumps, and there was no doubt that the _Miranda_ was badly strained.
According to a report from Burke, the water came in forward, aft, and
midships. Matters were now getting very serious, and the captain and his
two mates consulted together, while the three negroes pumped. It was
plain to all of them that if the water kept on gaining, it would not be
long before the brig must go to the bottom. To keep her afloat until they
reached a port would be impossible. To reach the shore in the boats was
quite possible, for they were not a hundred miles from land. But to carry
their treasure to land in two small boats was a thing which need not even
All agreed that there was but one thing to be done. The brig must be
headed to land, and if she could be kept afloat until she neared one of
the great islands which lie along the Patagonian coast, she might be run
into some bay or protected cove, where she could be beached, or where, if
she should sink, it might be in water so shallow that all hope of getting
at her treasure would not have to be abandoned. In any case, the sooner
they got to the shore, the better for them. So the brig's bow was turned
eastward, and the pumps were worked harder than ever. There was a good
wind, and, considering that the _Miranda_ was steadily settling deeper
and deeper, she made very fair progress, and in less than two days after
she had changed her course, land was sighted. Not long after, Captain
Horn began to hope that if the wind held, and the brig could keep above
water for an hour or so, he could double a small headland which now
showed itself plainly a couple of miles away, and might be able to beach
What a dreary, depressing hope it was that now possessed the souls of
Captain Horn, of Burke and Shirley, and of even the three negroes! After
all the hardships, the labor, and the anxieties, after all the joy of
success and escape from danger, after all happy chances which had come in
various ways and from various directions, after the sweet delights of
rest, after the super-exultation of anticipation which no one on board
had been able to banish from his mind, there was nothing left to them now
but the eager desire that their vessel might keep afloat until she could
find some friendly sands on which she might be run, or some shallow water
in which she might sink and rest there on the wild Patagonian coast,
leaving them far from human beings of any kind, far from help, far,
perhaps, from rescue and even safety.
To this one object each man gave his entire energy, his mind, and his
body. Steadily went the pumps, steadily the captain kept his eyes fixed
upon the approaching headland, and upon the waters beyond, and steadily,
little by little, the _Miranda_ sunk lower and lower into the sea.
At last the headland was reached, and on its ocean side the surf beat
high. Keeping well away to avoid shoals or a bar, the _Miranda_ passed
the southern point of the headland, and slowly sailed into a little bay.
To the left lay the rocky ridge which formed the headland, and less than
half a mile away could be seen the shining sands of the smooth beach.
Toward this beach the _Miranda_ was now headed, every sail upon her set,
and every nerve upon her strung to its tightest. They went in upon a
flood-tide. If he had believed that the brig would float so long,
Captain Horn would have waited an hour until the tide was high, so that
he might run his vessel farther up upon the beach, but he could not wait,
and with a strong west wind he steered straight for the sands.
There was a hissing under the bows, and a shock which ran through the
vessel from stem to stern, and then grinding and grinding and grinding
until all motion ceased, and a gentle surf began to curl itself against
the stern of the brig.
Every halliard was let go, and down came every sail by the run, and then
the brig _Miranda_ ended this voyage, and all others, upon the shore of a
desolate Patagonian island.
Between the vessel and dry land there was about a hundred feet of water,
but this would be much less when the tide went out. Beyond the beach was
a stretch of sandy hillocks, or dunes, and back of these was a mass of
scrubby thicket, with here and there a low tree, and still farther back
was seen the beginning of what might be a forest. It was a different
coast from the desolate shores of Peru.
Burke came aft to the captain.
"Here we are, sir," said he, "and what's to happen next?"
"Happen!" exclaimed the captain. "We must not wait for things to happen!
What we've got to do is to step around lively, and get the gold out of
this brig before the wind changes and drives her out into deep water."
Burke put his hands into his pockets. "Is there any good of it, captain?"
said he. "Will we be any better off with the bags on that shore than we
would be if they were sunk in this bay?"
"Good of it!" exclaimed the captain. "Don't talk that way, Burke. If we
can get it on shore, there is a chance for us. But if it goes to the
bottom, out in deep water, there is none. There is no time to talk now.
What we must do is to go to work."
"Yes," said Burke, "whatever happens, it is always work. But I'm in for
it, as long as I hold together. But we've got to look out that some of
those black fellows don't drop over the bow, and give us the slip."
"They'll starve if they do," said the captain, "for not a biscuit, or a
drop of water, goes ashore until the gold is out of the hold."
Burke shook his head. "We'll do what we can, captain," said he, "but that
hold's a regular fishpond, and we'll have to dive for the bags."
"All right," said the captain, "dive let it be."
The work of removing the gold began immediately. Tackle was rigged. The
negroes went below to get out the bags, which were hauled up to the deck
in a tub. When a moderate boat-load had been taken out, a boat was
lowered and manned, and the bags passed down to it.
In the first boat the captain went ashore. He considered it wise to land
the treasure as fast as it could be taken out of the hold, for no one
could know at what time, whether on account of wind from shore or waves
from the sea, the vessel might slip out into deep water. This was a
slower method than if everybody had worked at getting the gold on deck,
and then everybody had worked at getting it ashore, but it was a safer
plan than the other, for if an accident should occur, if the brig should
be driven off the sand, they would have whatever they had already
landed. As this thought passed through the mind of the captain, he could
not help a dismal smile.
"Have!" said he to himself. "It may be that we shall have it as that poor
fellow had his bag of gold, when he lay down on his back to die there in
the wild desert."
But no one would have imagined that such an idea had come into the
captain's mind. He worked as earnestly, and as steadily, as if he had
been landing an ordinary cargo at an ordinary dock.
The captain and the men in the boat carried the bags high up on the
beach, out of any danger from tide or surf, and laid them in a line along
the sand. The captain ordered this because it would be easier to handle
them afterwards--if it should ever be necessary to handle them--than if
they had been thrown into piles. If they should conclude to bury them, it
would be easier and quicker to dig a trench along the line, and tumble
them in, than to make the deep holes that would otherwise be necessary.
Until dark that day, and even after dark, they worked, stopping only for
necessary eating and drinking. The line of bags upon the shore had grown
into a double one, and it became necessary for the men, sometimes the
white and sometimes the black, to stoop deeper and deeper into the water
of the hold to reach the bags. But they worked on bravely. In the early
dawn of the next morning they went to work again. Not a negro had given
the ship the slip, nor were there any signs that one of them had thought
of such a thing.
Backward and forward through the low surf went the boat, and longer and
wider and higher grew the mass of bags upon the beach.
It was the third day after they had reached shore that the work was
finished. Every dripping bag had been taken out of the hold, and the
captain had counted them all as they had been put ashore, and verified
the number by the record in his pocket-book.
When the lower tiers of bags had been reached, they had tried pumping out
the water, but this was of little use. The brig had keeled over on her
starboard side, and early in the morning of the third day, when the tide
was running out, a hole had been cut in that side of the vessel, out of
which a great portion of the water she contained had run. It would all
come in again, and more of it, when the tide rose, but they were sure
they could get through their work before that, and they were right. The
bags now lay upon the beach in the shape of a long mound, not more than
three feet high, and about four rows wide at the bottom and two at the
top. The captain had superintended the arrangement of the bags, and had
so shaped the mass that it somewhat resembled in form the dunes of sand
which lay behind it. No matter what might be their next step, it would
probably be advisable to conceal the bags, and the captain had thought
that the best way to do this would be to throw sand over the long mound,
in which work the prevailing western winds would be likely to assist, and
thus make it look like a natural sand-hill. Burke and Shirley were in
favor of burial, but the consideration of this matter was deferred, for
there was more work to be done, which must be attended to immediately.
Now provisions, water, and everything else that might be of value was
taken out of the brig and carried to shore. Two tents were constructed
out of sails and spars, and the little party established themselves
upon the beach. What would be their next work they knew not, but they
must first rest from their long season of heavy labor. The last days
had been harder even than the days of storm and the days of pumping.
They had eaten hurriedly and slept but little. Regular watches and
irregular watches had been kept--watches against storm, which might
sweep the brig with all on board out to sea, watches against desertion,
watches against they knew not what. As chief watcher, the captain had
scarcely slept at all.
It had been dreary work, unrelieved by hope, uncheered by prospect of
success; for not one of them, from the captain down, had any definite
idea as to what was to be done after they had rested enough to act.
But they rested, and they went so far as to fill their pipes and stretch
themselves upon the sand. When night came on, chilly and dark, they
gathered driftwood and dead branches from the thicket and built a
camp-fire. They sat around it, and smoked their pipes, but they did not
tell stories, nor did they talk very much. They were glad to rest, they
were glad to keep warm, but that was all. The only really cheerful thing
upon the beach was the fire, which leaped high and blazed merrily as the
dried wood was heaped upon it.
SHIRLEY SPIES A SAIL
When the _Arato_ changed her mind about going to Callao, and sailed
southward some five days after the _Miranda_ had started on the same
course, she had very good weather for the greater part of a week, and
sailed finely. Cardatas, who owned a share in her, had sailed upon her as
first mate, but he had never before commanded her. He was a good
navigator, however, and well fitted for the task he had undertaken. He
was a sharp fellow, and kept his eyes on everybody, particularly upon
Nunez, who, although a landsman, and in no wise capable of sailing a
ship, was perfectly capable of making plans regarding any vessel in which
he was interested, especially when such a vessel happened to be sailing
in pursuit of treasure, the value of which was merely a matter of
conjecture. It was not impossible that the horse-dealer, who had embarked
money in this venture, might think that one of the mariners on board
might be able to sail the schooner as well as Cardatas, and would not
expect so large a share of the profits should the voyage be successful.
But when the storms came on, Nunez grew sick and unhappy, and retired
below, and he troubled the mind of Cardatas no more for the present.
The _Arato_ sailed well with a fair wind, but in many respects she was
not as good a sea-boat in a storm as the _Miranda_ had proved to be, and
she had been obliged to lie to a great deal through the days and nights
of high winds and heavy seas. Having never had, until now, the
responsibility of a vessel upon him, Cardatas was a good deal more
cautious and prudent, perhaps, than Captain Horn would have been had he
been in command of the _Arato_. Among other methods of precaution which
Cardatas thought it wise to take, he steered well out from the coast, and
thus greatly lengthened his course, and at last, when a clearing sky
enabled him to take an observation, he found himself so far to the
westward that he changed his course entirely and steered for the
Notwithstanding all these retarding circumstances, Cardatas did not
despair of overhauling the _Miranda_. He was sure she would make for the
Straits, and he did not in the least doubt that, with good winds, he
could overtake her before she reached them, and even if she did get out
of them, he could still follow her. His belief that the _Arato_ could
sail two miles to the _Miranda's_ one was still unshaken. The only real
fear he had was that the _Miranda_ might have foundered in the storm. If
that should happen to be the case, their voyage would be a losing one,
indeed, but he said nothing of his fears to Nunez.
The horse-dealer was now on deck again, in pretty fair condition, but he
was beginning to be despondent. After such an awful storm, and in all
that chaos of waves, what chance was there of finding a little brig such
as they were after?
"But vessels sail in regular courses," Cardatas said to him. "They don't
go meandering all over the ocean. If they are bound for any particular
place, they go there on the shortest safe line they can lay down on the
map. We can go on that line, too, although we may be thrown out of it by
storms. But we can strike it again, and then all we have to do is to keep
on it as straight as we can, and we are bound to overtake another vessel
on the same course, provided we sail faster than she does. It is all
plain enough, don't you see?"
Nunez could not help seeing, but he was a little cross, nevertheless. The
map and the ocean were wonderfully different.
The wind had changed, and the _Arato_ did not make very good sailing on
her southeastern course. High as was her captain's opinion of her, she
never had sailed, nor ever could sail, two miles to the _Miranda's_ one,
although she was a good deal faster than the brig. But she was fairly
well handled, and in due course of time she approached so near the coast
that her lookout sighted land, which land Cardatas, consulting his
chart, concluded must be one of the Patagonian islands to the north of
the Gulf of Penas.
As night came on, Cardatas determined to change his course somewhat to
the south, as he did not care to trust himself too near the coast,
when suddenly the lookout reported a light on the port bow. Cardatas
had sailed down this coast before, but he had never heard of a
lighthouse in the region, and with his glass he watched the light. But
he could not make it out. It was a strange light, for sometimes it was
bright and sometimes dull, then it would increase greatly and almost
fade away again.
"It looks like a fire on shore," said he, and some of the other men who
took the glass agreed with him.
"And what does that mean?" asked Nunez.
"I don't know," replied Cardatas, curtly. "How should I? But one thing I
do know, and that is that I shall lie to until morning, and then we can
feel our way near to the coast and see what it does mean."
"But what do you want to know for?" asked Nunez. "I suppose somebody on
shore has built a fire. Is there any good stopping for that? We have lost
a lot of time already."
"I am going to lie to, anyway," said Cardatas. "When we are on such
business as ours, we should not pass anything without understanding it."
Cardatas had always supposed that these islands were uninhabited, and he
could not see why anybody should be on one of them making a fire, unless
it were a case of shipwreck. If a ship had been wrecked, it was not at
all impossible that the _Miranda_ might be the unfortunate vessel. In any
case, it would be wise to lie to, and look into the matter by daylight.
If the _Miranda_ had gone down at sea, and her crew had reached land in
boats, the success of the _Arato's_ voyage would be very dubious. And
should this misfortune have happened, he must be careful about Nunez when
he came to hear of it. When he turned into his hammock that night,
Cardatas had made up his mind that, if he should discover that the
_Miranda_ had gone to the bottom, it would be a very good thing if
arrangements could be made for Nunez to follow her.
That night the crew of the Miranda slept well and enjoyed the first real
rest they had had since the storm. No watch was kept, for they all
thought it would be an unnecessary hardship. The captain awoke at early
dawn, and, as he stepped out of the tent, he glanced over sea and land.
There were no signs of storm, the brig had not slipped out into deep
water, their boats were still high and dry upon the beach, and there was
something encouraging in the soft, early light and the pleasant morning
air. He was surprised, however, to find that he was not the first man
out. On a piece of higher ground, a little back from the tents, Shirley
was standing, a glass to his eye.
"What do you see?" cried the captain.
"A sail!" returned Shirley.
At this every man in the tents came running out. Even to the negroes the
words, "A sail," had the startling effect which they always have upon
The effect upon Captain Horn was a strange one, and he could scarcely
understand it himself. It was amazing that succor, if succor it should
prove to be, had arrived so quickly after their disaster. But
not-withstanding the fact that he would be overjoyed to be taken off that
desolate coast, he could not help a strong feeling of regret that a sail
had appeared so soon. If they had had time to conceal their treasure, all
might have been well. With the bags of gold buried in a trench, or
covered with sand so as to look like a natural mound, he and his sailors
might have been taken off merely as shipwrecked sailors, and carried to
some port where he might charter another vessel and come back after his
gold. But now he knew that whoever landed on this beach must know
everything, for it would be impossible to conceal the contents of that
long pile of bags, and what consequences might follow upon such knowledge
it was impossible for him to imagine. Burke had very much the same idea.
"By George, captain!" said he, "it is a great pity that she came along so
soon. What do you say? Shall we signal her or not? We want to get away,
but it would be beastly awkward for anybody to come ashore just now. I
wish we had buried the bags as fast as we brought them ashore."
The captain did not answer. Perhaps it might be as well not to signal
her. And yet, this might be their only chance of rescue!
"What do you say to jumping into the boats and rowing out to meet them?"
asked Burke. "We'd have to leave the bags uncovered, but we might get to
a port, charter some sort of a craft, and get back for the bags before
any other vessel came so near the coast."
"I don't see what made this one come so near," said Shirley, "unless it
was our fire last night. She might have thought that was a signal."
"I shouldn't wonder," said the captain, who held the glass. "But we
needn't trouble ourselves about going out in boats, for she is making
straight for land."
"That's so," said Shirley, who could now see this for himself, for the
light was rapidly growing stronger. "She must have seen our fire last
night. Shall I hoist a signal?"
"No," said the captain. "Wait!"
They waited to see what this vessel was going to do. Perhaps she was only
tacking. But what fool of a skipper would run so close to the shore for
the sake of tacking! They watched her eagerly, but not one of the white
men would have been wholly disappointed if the schooner, which they could
now easily make out, had changed her course and gone off on a long tack
to the southwest.
But she was not tacking. She came rapidly on before a stiff west wind.
There was no need of getting out boats to go to meet her. She was south
of the headland, but was steering directly toward it. They could see what
sort of craft she was--a long schooner, painted green, with all sails
set. Very soon they could see the heads of the men on board. Then she
came nearer and nearer to land, until she was less than half a mile from
shore. Then she shot into the wind; her sails fluttered; she lay almost
motionless, and her head-sails were lowered.
"That's just as if they were coming into port," said Burke.
"Yes," said Shirley, "I expect they intend to drop anchor."
This surmise was correct, for, as he spoke, the anchor went down
with a splash.
"They're very business-like," said Burke. "Look at them. They are
lowering a boat."
"A boat!" exclaimed Shirley, "They're lowering two of them."
The captain knit his brows. This was extraordinary action on the part of
the vessel. Why did she steer so straight for land? Why did she so
quickly drop anchor and put out two boats? Could it be that this vessel
had been on their track? Could it be that the Peruvian government--But he
could not waste time in surmise as to what might be. They must act, not
It was not a minute before the captain made up his mind how they should
act. Five men were in each boat, and with a glass it was easy to see that
some of them carried guns.
"Get your rifles!" cried he to Shirley and Burke, and he rushed
for his own.
The arms and ammunition had been all laid ready in the tent, and in a
moment each one of the white men had a rifle and a belt of cartridges.
For the blacks there were no guns, as they would not have known how to
use them, but they ran about in great excitement, each with his knife
drawn, blindly ready to do whatever should be ordered. The poor negroes
were greatly frightened. They had but one idea about the approaching
boats: they believed that the men in them were Rackbirds coming to wreak
vengeance upon them. The same idea had come into the mind of the captain.
Some of the Rackbirds had gone back to the cove. They had known that
there had been people there. They had made investigations, and found the
cave and the empty mound, and in some way had discovered that the
_Miranda_ had gone off with its contents. Perhaps the black fellow who
had deserted the vessel at Valparaiso had betrayed them. He hurriedly
mentioned his suspicions to his companions.
"I shouldn't wonder," said Burke, "if that Inkspot had done it. Perhaps
he could talk a good deal better than we thought. But I vow I wouldn't
have supposed that he would be the man to go back on us. I thought he was
the best of the lot."
"Get behind that wall of bags," cried the captain, "every one of you.
Whoever they are, we will talk to them over a breastwork."
"I think we shall have to do more than talk," said Burke, "for a blind
man could see that there are guns in those boats."
THE BATTLE OF THE GOLDEN WALL
The five men now got behind the barrier of bags, but, before following
them, Captain Horn, with the butt of his rifle, drew a long, deep furrow
in the sand about a hundred feet from the breastwork of bags, and
parallel with it. Then he quickly joined the others.
The three white men stationed themselves a little distance apart, and
each moved a few of the top bags so as to get a good sight between them,
and not expose themselves too much.
As the boats came on, the negroes crouched on the sand, entirely out of
sight, while Shirley and Burke each knelt down behind the barrier, with
his rifle laid in a crevice in the top. The captain's rifle was in his
hand, but he did not yet prepare for action. He stooped down, but his
head was sufficiently above the barrier to observe everything.
The two boats came rapidly on, and were run up on the beach, and the men
jumped out and drew them up, high and safe. Then, without the slightest
hesitation, the ten of them, each with a gun in his hand, advanced in a
body toward the line of bags.
"Ahoy!" shouted the captain, suddenly rising from behind the barrier.
"Who are you, and what do you want?" He said this in English, but
immediately repeated it in Spanish.
"Ahoy, there!" cried Cardatas. "Are you Captain Horn?"
"Yes, I am," said the captain, "and you must halt where you are. The
first man who passes that line is shot."
Cardatas laughed, and so did some of the others, but they all stopped.
"We'll stop here a minute to oblige you," said Cardatas, "but we've got
something to say to you, and you might as well listen to it."
Shirley and Burke did not understand a word of these remarks, for they
did not know Spanish, but each of them kept his eye running along the
line of men who still stood on the other side of the furrow the captain
had made in the sand, and if one of them had raised his gun to fire at
their skipper, it is probable that he would have dropped. Shirley and
Burke had been born and bred in the country; they were hunters, and were
both good shots. It was on account of their fondness for sport that they
had been separated from the rest of their party on the first day of the
arrival of the people from the _Castor_ at the caves.
"What have you to say?" said the captain. "Speak quickly."
Cardatas did not immediately answer, for Nunez was excitedly talking to
him. The soul of the horse-dealer had been inflamed by the sight of the
bags. He did not suppose it possible that they could all contain gold,
but he knew they must be valuable, or they would not have been carried
up there, and he was advising a rush for the low wall.
"We will see what we can do with them, first," said Cardatas to Nunez.
"Some of us may be shot if we are in too great a hurry. They are well
defended where they are, and we may have to get round into their rear.
Then we can settle their business very well, for the negro said there
were only three white men. But first let us talk to them. We may manage
them without running any risks."
Cardatas turned toward the captain, and at the same time Burke said:
"Captain, hadn't you better squat down a little? You're making a very
fine mark of yourself."
But the captain still stood up to listen to Cardatas.
"I'll tell you what we've come for," said the latter. "We are not
officers of the law, but we are the same thing. We know all about you and
the valuable stuff you've run away with, and we've been offered a reward
to bring back those bags, and to bring you back, too, dead or alive, and
here we are, ready to do it. It was good luck for us that your vessel
came to grief, but we should have got you, even if she hadn't. We were
sure to overhaul you in the Straits. We know all about you and that old
hulk, but we are fair and square people, and we're sailors, and we don't
want to take advantage of anybody, especially of sailors who have had
misfortunes. Now, the reward the Californian government has offered us is
not a very big one, and I think you can do better by us, so if you'll
agree to come out from behind that breastwork and talk to us fair and
square, your two white men and your three negroes,--you see, we know all
about you,--I think we can make a bargain that'll suit all around. The
government of California hasn't any claim on us, and we don't see why we
should serve it any more than we should serve you, and it will be a good
deal better for you to be content with half the treasure you've gone off
with, or perhaps a little more than that, and let us have the rest. We
will take you off on our vessel, and land you at any port you want to go
to, and you can take your share of the bags ashore with you. Now, that's
what I call a fair offer, and I think you will say so, too."
Captain Horn was much relieved by part of this speech. He had had a
slight fear, when Cardatas began, that these men might have been sent out
by the Peruvian government, but now he saw they were a set of thieves,
whether Rackbirds or not, doing business on their own account.
"The Californian government has nothing to do with me," cried Captain
Horn, "and it never had anything to do with you, either. When you say
that, you lie! I am not going to make any bargain with you, or have
anything to do with you. My vessel is wrecked, but we can take care of
ourselves. And now I'll give you five minutes to get to your boats, and
the quicker you go, the better for you!"
At this, Nunez stepped forward, his face red with passion. "Look here,
you Yankee thief," he cried, "we'll give you just one minute to come out
from behind that pile of bags. If you don't come, we'll--"
But if he said any more, Captain Horn did not hear it, for at that moment
Burke cried: "Drop, captain!" And the captain dropped.
Stung by the insult he had received, and unable to resist the
temptation of putting an end to the discussion by shooting Captain Horn,
Cardatas raised his rifle to his shoulder, and almost in the same
instant that the captain's body disappeared behind the barrier, he
fired. But the bullet had scarcely left his barrel when another ball,
from Shirley's gun, struck Cardatas under his uplifted left arm, and
stretched him on the sand.
A shock ran through the attacking party, and instinctively they retreated
several yards. So suddenly had they lost their leader that, for a few
moments, they did not seem to understand the situation. But, on a shout
from one of them to look out for themselves, every man dropped flat upon
the beach, behind a low bank of sand scarcely a foot high. This was not
much protection, but it was better than standing up as marks for the
rifles behind the barrier.
The men from the _Arato_ were very much surprised by what had happened.
They had expected to have an easy job with the crew of the _Miranda_. As
soon as the sailor Sanchez had seen the stranded brig, he had recognized
her, and Cardatas, as well as the rest of them, had thought that there
would be nothing to do but to go on shore with a party of well-armed men,
and possess themselves of whatever treasure she had brought to this
deserted coast. But to find her crew strongly intrenched and armed had
very much amazed them.
Nunez's anger had disappeared, and his accustomed shrewdness had taken
its place, for he now saw that very serious business was before them. He
was not much of a soldier, but he knew enough to understand that in the
plan proposed by Cardatas lay their only hope of success. It would be
ridiculous to lie there and waste their ammunition on that wall of bags.
He was lying behind the others, and raised his head just enough to tell
them what they should do.
"We must get into their rear," he said. "We must creep along the sand
until we reach those bushes up there, and then we can get behind them.
I'll go first, and you can follow me."
At, this, he began to work himself along the beach, somewhat after the
fashion of an earthworm. But the men paid no attention to him. There was
little discipline among them, and they had no respect for the
horse-dealer as a commander, so they remained on the sands, eagerly
talking among themselves. Some of them were frightened, and favored a
rush for the boats. But this advice brought down curses from the others.
What were three men to nine, that they should run away?
Burke now became tired of waiting to see what would happen next, and
putting his hat on a little stick, he raised it a short distance above
the breastwork. Instantly one of the more excitable men from the _Arato_
fired at it.
"Very good," said Burke. "They want to keep it up, do they? Now,
captain," he continued, "we can see the backs and legs of most of them.
Shall we fire at them? That will be just as good as killing them. They
mean fight--that's easy to see."
But the captain was not willing to follow Burke's advice.
"I don't want to wound or maim them," he replied. "Let's give them a
volley just over their heads, and let them see what we are prepared to
do. Now, then, when I give the word!"
In a few moments three shots rang out from the intrenchment, and the
bullets went whistling over the prostrate bodies of the men on the sand.
But these tactics did not have the effect Captain Horn hoped for. They
led to no waving of handkerchiefs, nor any show of an intention to treat
with an armed and intrenched foe. Instead of that, the man Sanchez sprang
to his feet and cried:
"Come on, boys! Over the wall and at them before they can reload!"
At this all the men sprang up and dashed toward the line of bags, Nunez
with them. Somebody might get hurt in this wild charge, but he must reach
the treasure as soon as the others. He must not fail in that. But Sanchez
made a great mistake when he supposed that Captain Horn and his men
fought with such arms as the muzzle-loading rifles and shot--guns which
the _Arato's_ men had thought quite sufficient to bring with them for the
work they had to do. Captain Horn, when he had fitted out the _Miranda_,
had supplied himself and his two white men with fine repeating rifles,
and the _Arato's_ men had scarcely crossed the line which had been drawn
on the sand before there were three shots from the barrier, and three of
the enemy dropped. Even the captain made a good shot this time.
At this the attacking party stopped, and some of them shouted, "To the
boats!" Nunez said nothing, for he was dead. There had been much
straggling in the line, and Shirley had singled him out as one of the
leaders. Before one of them had turned or a retreat begun, Burke's rifle
flashed, and another man fell over against a companion, and then down
upon the sand. The distance was very short, and a bad shot was almost
impossible for a good hunter.
Now there was no hesitation. The five men who had life and legs, turned
and dashed for the boats. But the captain did not intend, now, that they
should escape, and rifle after rifle cracked from the barricade, and
before they reached the boats, four of the flying party had fallen. The
fifth man stumbled over one of his companions, who dropped in front of
him, then rose to his feet, threw down his gun, and, turning his face
toward the shore, held up his hands high above his head.
"I surrender!" he cried, and, still with his arms above his head, and his
face whiter than the distant sands, he slowly walked toward the barrier.
The captain rose. "Halt!" he cried, and the man stood stock-still. "Now,
my men," cried the captain, turning to Burke and Shirley, "keep your eyes
on that fellow until we reach him, and if he moves, shoot him."
The three white men, followed by the negroes, ran down to the man, and
when they had reached him, they carefully searched him to see if he had
any concealed weapons.
After glancing rapidly over the bodies which lay upon the sand, the
captain turned to his men.
"Come on, every one of you," he shouted, "and run out that boat,"
pointing to the largest one that had brought the _Arato's_ men ashore.
Shirley and Burke looked at him in surprise.
"We want that vessel!" he cried, in answer. "Be quick!" And taking hold
of the boat himself, he helped the others push it off the sand. "Now,
then," he continued, "Shirley, you and Burke get into the bow, with your
rifles. Tumble in, you black fellows, and each take an oar. You," he said
in Spanish to the prisoner, "get in and take an oar, too."
The captain took the tiller. Shirley and Burke pushed the boat into
deep water, and jumped aboard. The oars dipped, and they were off,
regardless of the low surf which splashed its crest over the gunwale as
the boat turned.
"Tell me, you rascal," said the captain to the prisoner, who was tugging
at his oar as hard as the others, "how many men are aboard that
"Only two, I swear to you, Senor Capitan; there were twelve of us in
The men left on the schooner had evidently watched the proceedings on
shore, and were taking measures accordingly.
"They've slipped their anchor, and the tide is running out!" shouted the
captain. "Pull! Pull!"
"They're running up their jib!" cried Burke. "Lay to, you fellows, or
I'll throw one of you overboard, and take his place!"
The captured man was thoroughly frightened. They were great fighters,
these men he had fallen among, and he pulled as though he were rowing to
rescue his dearest friend. The black fellows bent to their oars like
madmen. They were thoroughly excited. They did not know what they were
rowing: for they only knew they were acting under the orders of their
captain, who had just killed nine Rackbirds, and their teeth and their
eyes flashed as their oars dipped and bent.
THE "ARATO" ANCHORS NEARER SHORE
On went the boat, each one of the oarsmen pulling with all his force, the
captain in the stern, shouting and encouraging them, and Shirley and
Burke crouched in the bow, each with his rifle in hand. Up went the jib
of the _Arato_. She gently turned about as she felt the influence of the
wind, and then the captain believed the men on board were trying to get
up the foresail.
"Are you sure there are only two of the crew on that schooner?" said the
captain to the prisoner. "Now, it isn't worth while to lie to me."
"Only two," said the man. "I swear to it. Only two, Senor Capitan."
The foresail did not go up, for one of the men had to run to the wheel,
and as the vessel's head got slowly around, it seemed as if she might
sail away from the boat, even with nothing but the jib set. But the
schooner gained headway very slowly, and the boat neared her rapidly.
Now the man at the wheel gave up all hope of sailing away from his
pursuers. He abandoned the helm, and in a few moments two heads and two
guns showed over the rail, and two shots rang out. But the schooner was
rolling, and the aim was bad. Shirley and Burke fired at the two heads
as soon as they saw them, but the boat was rising and pitching, and
their shots were also bad.
For a minute there was no more firing, and then one of the heads and one
of the guns were seen again. Shirley was ready, and made his
calculations, and, as the boat rose, he drew a bead upon the top of the
rail where he saw the head, and had scarcely pulled his trigger when he
saw a good deal more than a head, for a man sprung up high in the air and
then fell backward.
The captain now ordered his men to rest on their oars, for, if the other
man on board should show himself, they could get a better shot at him
than if they were nearer. But the man did not show himself, and, on
consideration of his probable tactics, it seemed extremely dangerous to
approach the vessel. Even here they were in danger, but should they
attempt to board her, they could not tell from what point he might fire
down upon them, and some of them would surely be shot before they could
get a chance at him, and the captain did not wish to sacrifice any of his
men, even for a vessel, if it could be helped. There seemed to be no hope
of safely gaining their object, except to wait until the man should
become tired and impatient, and expose himself.
Suddenly, to the amazement of every one in the boat, for all heads were
turned toward the schooner, a man appeared, boldly running over her deck.
Shirley and Burke instantly raised their rifles, but dropped them again.
There was a shout from Maka, and an exclamation from the prisoner. Then
the man on deck stooped close to the rail and was lost to their sight,
but almost instantly he reappeared again, holding in front of him a
struggling pair of legs, feet uppermost. Then, upon the rail, appeared a
man's head and body; but it only remained there for an instant, for his
legs were raised still higher by the person behind him, and were then
propelled outward with such force that he went headlong overboard. Then
the man on deck sprang to the top of the rail, regardless of the rolling
of the vessel in the gentle swell, and waved his hands above his head.
"Inkspot!" shouted the captain. "Pull away, you fellows! Pull!"
The tall, barefooted negro sprang to the deck from his perilous position,
and soon reappeared with a line ready to throw to the boat.
In a few minutes they reached the vessel, and the boat was quickly made
fast, and very soon they were on board. When he saw his old friends and
associates upon the deck, Inkspot retired a little distance and fell upon
"You black rascal!" roared Burke, "you brought these cut-throat
scoundrels down upon us! You--"
"That will do," said the captain. "There is no time for that sort of
thing now. We will talk to him afterwards. Mr. Shirley, call all hands
and get up sail. I am going to take this schooner inside the headland.
We can find safe anchorage in the bay. We can sail over the same course
we went on with the _Miranda_, and she drew more water than this vessel."
In an hour the _Arato_, moored by her spare anchor, lay in the little
bay, less than two hundred yards from shore. It gave the shipwrecked men
a wild delight to find themselves again upon the decks of a seaworthy
vessel, and everybody worked with a will, especially the prisoner and
Inkspot. And when the last sail had been furled, it became evident to all
hands on board that they wanted their breakfast, and this need was
speedily supplied by Maka and Inkspot from the _Arato's_ stores.
That afternoon the captain went on shore with the negroes and the Chilian
prisoner, and the bodies of the nine men who had fallen in the attack
upon the wall of gold were buried where they lay. This was a very
different climate from that of the Peruvian coast, where the desiccating
air speedily makes a mummy of any dead body upon its arid sands.
When this work had been accomplished, the party returned to the _Arato_,
and the captain ordered Inkspot and the prisoner to be brought aft to be
tried by court martial. The big negro had been wildly and vociferously
received by his fellow-countrymen, who, upon every possible occasion, had
jabbered together in their native tongue, but Captain Horn had, so far,
said nothing to him.
The captain had been greatly excited from the moment he had seen the sail
in the offing. In his dire distress, on this almost desolate shore, he
had beheld what might prove to be speedy relief, and, much as he had
needed it, he had hoped that it might not come so soon. He had been
apprehensive and anxious when he supposed friendly aid might be
approaching, and he had been utterly astounded when he was forced to
believe that they were armed men who were rowing to shore, and must be
enemies. He had fought a terrible fight. He had conquered the scoundrels
who had come for his life and his treasure, and, best of all, he had
secured a vessel which would carry him and his men and his fortune to
France. He had endeavored to keep cool and think only of the work that
was immediately in hand, and he had no wish to ask anybody why or how
things had happened. They had happened, and that was all in all to him.
But now he was ready to make all necessary inquiries, and he began with
Inkspot. Maka being interpreter, the examination was easily carried on.
The story of the negro was a very interesting one. He told of his
adventures on shore, and how kind the men had been to him until they went
on board the _Arato_, and how then they treated him as if he had been a
dog--how he had been made to do double duty in all sorts of disagreeable
work, and how, after they had seen the light on the beach, he had been
put into the hold and tied hand and foot. While down there in the dark he
had heard the firing on shore, and, after a long while, the firing from
the deck, and other shots near by. All this had so excited him that he
managed to get one hand loose from his cords, and then had speedily
unfastened the rest, and had quietly crept to a hatchway, where he could
watch what was going on without showing himself. He had seen the two men
on deck, ready to fire on the approaching boat. He had recognized Captain
Horn and the people of the _Miranda_ in the boat. And then, when there
was but one man left on deck, and the boat was afraid to come nearer, he
had rushed up behind him and tumbled him overboard.
One thing only did Inkspot omit: he did not say that it was Mr. Burke's
example that had prompted him to go ashore for refreshments. When the
story had been told, and all questions asked and answered, the captain
turned to Burke and Shirley and asked their opinions upon the case.
Shirley was in favor of putting the negro in irons. He had deserted them,
and had nearly cost them their lives by the stories he had told on shore.
Burke, to the captain's surprise,--for the second mate generally dealt
severely with nautical transgressions,--was in favor of clemency.
"To be sure," said he, "the black scoundrel did get us into trouble. But
then, don't you see, he has got us out of it. If these beastly fellows
hadn't been led by him to come after our money, we would not have had
this schooner, and how we should have got those bags away without
her,--to say nothing of ourselves,--is more than I can fathom. It is my
belief that no craft ever comes within twenty miles of this coast, if she
can help it. So I vote for letting him off. He didn't intend to do us any
harm, and he didn't intend to do us any good, but it seems to me that the
good he did do rises higher above the water-line than the harm. So I say,
let him off. We need another hand about as much as we need anything."
"And so say I," said the captain. "Maka, you can tell him we forgive him,
because we believe that he is really a good fellow and didn't intend any
harm, and he can turn in with the rest of you on his old watch. And now
bring up that Chilian fellow."
The prisoner, who gave his name as Anton Garta, was now examined in
regard to the schooner _Arato_, her extraordinary cruise, and the people
who had devised it. Garta was a fellow of moderate intelligence, and
still very much frightened, and having little wit with which to concoct
lies, and no reason for telling them, he answered the questions put to
him as correctly as his knowledge permitted. He said that about two
months before he had been one of the crew of the _Arato_, and Manuel
Cardatas was second mate, and he had been very glad to join her on this
last cruise because he was out of a job. He thought she was going to
Callao for a cargo, and so did the rest of the crew. They did not even
know there were guns on board until they were out at sea. Then, when they
had turned southward, their captain and Senor Nunez told them that they
were going in pursuit of a treasure ship commanded by a Yankee captain,
who had run away with ever so much money from California, and that they
were sure to overhaul this ship, and that they would all be rich.
The guns were given to them, and they had had some practice with them,
and thought that Cardatas intended, should the _Miranda_ be overhauled,
to run alongside of her as near as was safe, and begin operations by
shooting everybody that could be seen on deck. He was not sure that this
was his plan, but they all had thought it was. After the storm the men
had become dissatisfied, and said they did not believe it was possible to
overhaul any vessel after so much delay, and when they had gone so far
out of their course; and Senor Nunez, who had hired the vessel, was in
doubt as to whether it would be of any use to continue the cruise. But
when Cardatas had talked to him, Senor Nunez had come among them and
promised them good rewards, whether they sighted their prize or not, if
they would work faithfully for ten days more. The men had agreed to do
this, but when they had seen the light on shore, they had made an
agreement among themselves that, if this should be nothing but a fire
built by savages or shipwrecked people of no account, they would not work
the schooner any farther south. They would put Cardatas and Nunez in
irons, if necessary, and take the _Arato_ back to Valparaiso. There were
men among them who could navigate. But when they got near enough to shore
to see that the stranded vessel was the _Miranda_, there was no more
As for himself, Garta said he was a plain, common sailor, who went on
board the _Arato_ because he wanted a job. If he had known the errand on
which she was bound, he would never have approached within a league of
her. This he vowed, by all the saints. As to the ownership of the vessel
Garta could tell but little. He had heard that Cardatas had a share in
her, and thought that probably the other owners lived in Valparaiso, but
he could give no positive information on this subject. He said that every
man of the boat's crew was in a state of wild excitement when they saw
that long pile of bags, which they knew must contain treasure of some
sort, and it was because of this state of mind, most likely, that
Cardatas lost his temper and got himself shot, and so opened the fight.
Cardatas was a cunning fellow, and, if he had not been upset by the sight
of those bags, Garta believed that he would have regularly besieged
Captain Horn's party, and must have overcome them in the end. He was
anxious to have the captain believe that, when he had said there were
only two men on board, he had totally forgotten the negro, who had been
When Garta's examination had been finished, the captain sent him
forward, and then repeated his story in brief to Shirley and Burke,
for, as the prisoner had spoken in Spanish, they had understood but
little of it.
"I don't see that it makes much difference," said Burke, "as to what his
story is. We've got to get rid of him in some way. We don't want to
carry him about with us. We might leave him here, with a lot of grub and
a tent. That would be all he deserves."
"I should put him in irons, to begin with," said Shirley, "and then we
can consider what to do with him when we have time."
"I shall not leave him on shore," said the captain, "for that would
simply be condemning him to starvation; and as for putting him in irons,
that would deprive us of an able seaman. I suppose, if we took him to
France, he would have to be sent to Chili for trial, and that would be of
no use, unless we went there as witnesses. It is a puzzling question to
know what to do with him."
"It is that," said Burke, "and it is a great pity he wasn't shot with
"Well," said the captain, "we've got a lot of work before us, and we want
hands, so I think it will be best to let him turn in with the rest, and
make him pay for his passage, wherever we take him. The worst he can do
is to desert, and if he does that, he will settle his own business, and
we shall have no more trouble with him."
"I don't like him," said Shirley. "I don't think we ought to have such a
fellow going about freely on board."
"I am not afraid he will hurt any of us," said the captain, "and I
am sure he will not corrupt the negroes. They hate him. It is easy to
"Yes," said Burke, with a laugh. "They think he is a Rackbird, and it is
just as well to let them keep on thinking so."
"Perhaps he is," thought the captain, but he did not speak this
INKSPOT HAS A DREAM OF HEAVEN
The next day the work of loading the _Arato_ with the bags of gold was
begun, and it was a much slower and more difficult business than the
unloading of the _Miranda_, for the schooner lay much farther out from
the beach. But there were two men more than on the former occasion, and
the captain did not push the work. There was no need now for
extraordinary haste, and although they all labored steadily, regular
hours of work and rest were adhered to. The men had carried so many bags
filled with hard and uneven lumps that the shoulders of some of them were
tender, and they had to use cushions of canvas under their loads. But the
boats went backward and forward, and the bags were hoisted on board and
lowered into the hold, and the wall of gold grew smaller and smaller.
"Captain," said Burke, one day, as they were standing by a pile of bags
waiting for the boat to come ashore, "do you think it is worth it! By
George! we have loaded and unloaded these blessed bags all down the
western coast of South America, and if we've got to unload and load them
all up the east coast, I say, let's take what we really need, and leave
"I've been at the business a good deal longer than you have," said the
captain, "and I'm not tired of it yet. When I took away my first cargo,
you must remember that I carried each bag on my own shoulders, and it
took me more than a month to do it, and even all that is only a drop in
the bucket compared to what most men who call themselves rich have to do
before they make their money."
"All right," said Burke, "I'll stop growling. But look here, captain.
How much do you suppose one of these bags is worth, and how many are
there in all? I don't want to be inquisitive, but it would be a sort of
comfort to know."
"No, it wouldn't," said the captain, quickly. "It would be anything else
but a comfort. I know how many bags there are, but as to what they are
worth, I don't know, and I don't want to know. I once set about
calculating it, but I didn't get very far with the figures. I need all my
wits to get through with this business, and I don't think anything would
be more likely to scatter them than calculating what this gold is worth.
It would be a good deal better for you--and for me, too--to consider, as
Shirley does, that these bags are all filled with good, clean, anthracite
coal. That won't keep us from sleeping."
"Shirley be hanged!" said Burke, "He and you may be able to do that, but
I can't. I've got a pretty strong mind, and if you were to tell me that
when we get to port, and you discharge this crew, I can walk off with all
the gold eagles or twenty-franc pieces I can carry, I think I could stand
it without losing my mind."
"All right," said the captain, "If we get this vessel safely to France,
I will give you a good chance to try your nerves."
Day by day the work went on, and at last the _Arato_ took the place of
the _Miranda_ as a modern _Argo_.
During the reembarkation of the treasure, the captain, as well as Shirley
and Burke, had kept a sharp eye on Garta. The two mates were afraid he
might run away, but, had he done so, the captain would not have regretted
it very much. He would gladly have parted with one of the bags in order
to get rid of this encumbrance. But the prisoner had no idea of running
away. He knew that the bags were filled with treasure, but as he could
now do nothing with any of it that he might steal, he did not try to
steal any. If he had thoughts of the kind, he knew this was no time for
dishonest operation. He had always been a hardworking sailor, with a good
appetite, and he worked hard now, and ate well.
The _Miranda's_ stores had not been injured by water, and when they had
been put on board, the _Arato_ was well fitted out for a long voyage.
Leaving the _Miranda_ on the beach, with nothing in her of much value,
the _Arato_, which had cleared for Callao, and afterwards set out on a
wild piratical cruise, now made a third start, and set sail for a voyage
to France. They had good weather and tolerably fair winds, and before
they entered the Straits of Magellan the captain had formulated a plan
for the disposition of Garta.
"I don't know anything better to do with him," said he to Shirley and
Burke, "than to put him ashore at the Falkland Islands. We don't want to
take him to France, for we would not know what to do with him after we
got him there, and, as likely as not, he would swear a lot of lies
against us as soon as he got on shore. We can run within a league of
Stanley harbor, and then, if the weather is good enough, we can put him
in a boat, with something to eat and drink, and let him row himself into
port. We can give him money enough to support himself until he can
"But suppose there is a man-of-war in there," said Shirley, "he might say
things that would send her after us. He might not know where to say we
got our treasure, but he could say we had stolen a Chilian vessel."
"I had thought of that," said the captain, "but nothing such a vagrant as
he is could say ought to give any cruiser the right to interfere with us
when we are sailing under the American flag. And when I go to France,
nobody shall say that I stole a vessel, for, if the owners of the _Arato_
can be found, they shall be well paid for what use we have made of their
schooner. I'll send her back to Valparaiso and let her be claimed."
"It is a ticklish business," said Burke, "but I don't know what else can
be done. It is a great pity I didn't know he was going to surrender when
we had that fight."
They had been in the Straits less than a week when Inkspot dreamed he
was in heaven. His ecstatic visions became so strong and vivid that they
awakened him, when he was not long in discovering the cause which had
produced them. The dimly lighted and quiet forecastle was permeated by a
delightful smell of spirituous liquor. Turning his eyes from right to
left, in his endeavors to understand this unusual odor of luxury,
Inkspot perceived the man Garta standing on the other side of the
forecastle, with a bottle in one hand and a cork in the other, and, as
he looked, Garta raised the bottle to his mouth, threw back his head,
Inkspot greatly disliked this man. He had been one of the fellows who had
ill-treated him when the _Arato_ sailed under Cardatas, and he fully
agreed with his fellow-blacks that the scoundrel should have been shot.
But now his feelings began to undergo a change. A man with a bottle of
spirits might prove to be an angel of mercy, a being of beneficence, and
if he would share with a craving fellow-being his rare good fortune, why
should not all feelings of disapprobation be set aside? Inkspot could see
no reason why they should not be, and softly slipping from his hammock,
he approached Garta.
"Give me. Give me, just little," he whispered.
Garta turned with a half-suppressed oath, and seeing who the suppliant
was, he seized the bottle in his left hand, and with his right struck
poor Inkspot a blow in the face. Without a word the negro stepped back,
and then Garta put the bottle into a high, narrow opening in the side of
the forecastle, and closed a little door upon it, which fastened with a
snap. This little locker, just large enough to hold one bottle, had been
made by one of the former crew of the _Arato_ solely for the purpose of
concealing spirits, and was very ingeniously contrived. Its door was a
portion of the side of the forecastle, and a keyhole was concealed behind
a removable knot. Garta had not opened the locker before, for the reason
that he had been unable to find the key. He knew it had been concealed
in the forecastle, but it had taken him a long time to find it. Now his
secret was discovered, and he was enraged. Going over to the hammock,
where Inkspot had again ensconced himself, he leaned over the negro and
"If you ever say a word of that bottle to anybody, I'll put a knife into
you! No matter what they do to me, I'll settle with you."
Inkspot did not understand all this, but he knew it was a threat, and he
well understood the language of a blow in the face. After a while he went
to sleep, but, if he smelt again the odor of the contents of the bottle,
he had no more heavenly dreams.
The next day Captain Horn found himself off the convict settlement of
Punta Arenas, belonging to the Chilian government. This was the first
port he had approached since he had taken command of the _Arato_, but he
felt no desire nor need to touch at it. In fact, the vicinity of Punta
Arenas seemed of no importance whatever, until Shirley came to him and
reported that the man Garta was nowhere to be found. Captain Horn
immediately ordered a search and inquiry to be made, but no traces of the
prisoner could be discovered, nor could anybody tell anything about him.
Burke and Inkspot had been on watch with him from four to eight, but they
could give no information whatever concerning him. No splash nor cries
for help had been heard, so that he could not have fallen overboard, and
it was generally believed that, when he knew himself to be in the
vicinity of a settlement, he had quietly slipped into the water and had
swum for Punta Arenas. Burke suggested that most likely he had formerly
been a resident of the place, and liked it better than being taken off
to unknown regions in the schooner. And Shirley considered this very
probable, for he said the man had always looked like a convict to him.
At all events, Garta was gone, and there was no one to say how long he
had been gone. So, under full sail, the _Arato_ went on her way. It was a
relief to get rid of the prisoner, and the only harm which could come of
his disappearance was that he might report that his ship had been stolen
by the men who were sailing her, and that some sort of a vessel might be
sent in pursuit of the _Arato_, and, if this should be the case, the
situation would be awkward. But days passed on, the schooner sailed out
of the Straits, and no vessel was seen pursuing her.
To the northeast Captain Horn set his course. He would not stop at Rio
Janeiro, for the _Arato_ had no papers for that port. He would not lie to
off Stanley harbor, for he had now nobody to send ashore. But he would
sail boldly for France, where he would make no pretensions that his
auriferous cargo was merely ballast. He was known at Marseilles. He had
business relations with bankers in Paris. He was a Californian and an
American citizen, and he would merely be bringing to France a vessel
freighted with gold, which, by the aid of his financial advisers, would
be legitimately cared for and disposed of.
One night, before the _Arato_ reached the Falkland Islands, Maka, who was
on watch, heard a queer sound in the forecastle, and looking down the
companionway, he saw, by the dim light of the swinging lantern, a man
with a hatchet, endeavoring to force the blade of it into the side of the
vessel. Maka quickly perceived that the man was Inkspot, and as he could
not imagine what he was doing, he quietly watched him. Inkspot worked
with as little noise as possible, but he was evidently bent upon forcing
off one of the boards on the side of the forecastle. At first Maka
thought that his fellow-African was trying to sink the ship by opening a
seam, but he soon realized that this notion was absurd, and so he let
Inkspot go on, being very curious to know what he was doing. In a few
minutes he knew. With a slight noise, not enough to waken a sound
sleeper, a little door flew open, and almost immediately Inkspot held a
bottle in his hand.
Maka slipped swiftly and softly to the side of the big negro, but he was
not quick enough. Inkspot had the neck of the bottle in his mouth and the
bottom raised high in the air. But, before Maka could seize him by the
arm, the bottle had come down from its elevated position, and a doleful
expression crept over the face of Inkspot. There had been scarcely a
teaspoonful of liquor left in the bottle. Inkspot looked at Maka, and
Maka looked at him. In an African whisper, the former now ordered the
disappointed negro to put the bottle back, to shut up the locker, and
then to get into his hammock and go to sleep as quickly as he could, for
if Mr. Shirley, who was on watch on deck, found out what he had been
doing, Inkspot would wish he had never been born.
The next day, when they had an opportunity for an African conversation,
Inkspot assured his countryman that he had discovered the little locker
by smelling the whiskey through the boards, and that, having no key, he
had determined to force it open with a hatchet. Maka could not help
thinking that Inkspot had a wonderful nose for an empty bottle, and
could scarcely restrain from a shudder at the thought of what might
have happened had the bottle been full. But he did not report the
occurrence. Inkspot was a fellow-African, and he had barely escaped
punishment for his former misdeed. It would be better to keep his mouth
shut, and he did.
Against the north winds, before the south winds, and on the winds from
the east and the west, through fair weather and through foul, the _Arato_
sailed up the South Atlantic. It was a long, long voyage, but the
schooner was skilfully navigated and sailed well. Sometimes she sighted
great merchant-steamers plying between Europe and South America,
freighted with rich cargoes, and proudly steaming away from the little
schooner, whose dark-green hull could scarcely be distinguished from the
color of the waves. And why should not the captain of this humble little
vessel sometimes have said to himself, as he passed a big three-master or
"What would they think if they knew that, if I chose to do it, I could
buy every ship, and its cargo, that I shall meet between here and
"Captain," said Shirley, one day, "what do you think about the right and
wrong of this?"
"What do you mean?" asked Captain Horn.
"I mean," replied Shirley, "taking away the gold we have on board. We've
had pretty easy times lately, and I've been doing a good deal of
thinking, and sometimes I have wondered where we got the right to clap
all this treasure into bags and sail away with it."
"So you have stopped thinking the bags are all filled with anthracite
coal," said the captain.
"Yes," said the other. "We are getting on toward the end of this voyage,
and it is about time to give up that fancy. I always imagine, when I am
near the end of a voyage, what I am going to do when I go ashore, and if
I have any real right to some of the gold down under our decks, I shall
do something very different from anything I ever did before."
"I hope you don't mean going on a spree," said Burke, who was standing
near. "That would be something entirely different."
"I thought," said the captain, "that you both understood this business,
but I don't mind going over it again. There is no doubt in my mind that
this gold originally belonged to the Incas, who then owned Peru, and they
put it into that mound to keep it from the Spaniards, whose descendants
now own Peru, and who rule it without much regard to the descendants of
the ancient Peruvians. Now, when I discovered the gold, and began to have
an idea of how valuable the find was, I knew that the first thing to do
was to get it out of that place and away from the country. Whatever is to
be done in the way of fair play and fair division must be done somewhere
else, and not there. If I had informed the government of what I had
found, this gold would have gone directly into the hands of the
descendants of the people from whom its original owners did their very
best to keep it, and nobody else would have had a dollar's worth of it.
If we had stood up for our rights to a reward for finding it, ten to one
we would all have been clapped into prison."
"I suppose by that," said Burke, "that you looked upon the stone mound in
the cave as a sort of will left by those old Peruvians, and you made
yourself an executor to carry out the intentions of the testators, as
the lawyers say."
"But we can set it down as dead certain," interrupted Shirley, "that the
testators didn't mean us to have it."
"No," said the captain, "nor do I mean that we shall have all of it. I
intend to have the question of the ownership of this gold decided by
people who are able and competent to decide such a question, and who will
be fair and honest to all parties. But whatever is agreed upon, and
whatever is done with the treasure, I intend to charge a good price--a
price which shall bear a handsome proportion to the value of the
gold--for my services, and all our services. Some of this charge I have
already taken, and I intend to have a great deal more. We have worked
hard and risked much to get this treasure--"
"Yes," thought Burke, as he remembered the trap at the bottom of the
mound. "You risked a great deal more than you ever supposed you did."
"And we are bound to be well paid for it," continued the captain. "No
matter where this gold goes, I shall have a good share of it, and this I
am going to divide among our party, according to a fair scale. How does
that strike you, Shirley?"
"If the business is going to be conducted as you say, captain," replied
the first mate, "I say it will be all fair and square, and I needn't
bother my head with any more doubts about it. But there is one thing I
wish you would tell me: how much do you think I will be likely to get out
of this cargo, when you divide?"
"Mr. Shirley," said the captain, "when I give you your share of this
cargo, you can have about four bags of anthracite coal, weighing a little
over one hundred pounds, which, at the rate of six dollars a ton, would
bring you between thirty and forty cents. Will that satisfy you? Of
course, this is only a rough guess at a division, but I want to see how
it falls in with your ideas."
Shirley laughed. "I guess you're right, captain," said he. "It will be
better for me to keep on thinking we are carrying coal. That won't
bother my head."
"That's so," said Burke. "Your brain can't stand that sort of badger. I'd
hate to go ashore with you at Marseilles with your pocket full and your
skull empty. As for me, I can stand it first-rate. I have already built
two houses on Cape Cod,--in my head, of course,--and I'll be hanged if I
know which one I am going to live in and which one I am going to put my
MOK AS A VOCALIST
It would have been very comfortable to the mind of Edna, during her
waiting days in Paris, had she known there was a letter to her from
Captain Horn, in a cottage in the town of Sidmouth, on the south coast of
Devonshire. Had she known this, she would have chartered French trains,
Channel steamers, English trains, flies, anything and everything which
would have taken her the quickest to the little town of Sidmouth. Had she
known that he had written to her the first chance he had had, all her
doubts and perplexities would have vanished in an instant. Had she read
the letter, she might have been pained to find that it was not such a
letter as she would wish to have, and she might have grieved that it
might still be a long time before she could expect to hear from him
again, or to see him, but she would have waited--have waited patiently,
without any doubts or perplexities.
This letter, with a silver coin,--much more than enough to pay any
possible postage,--had been handed by Shirley to the first mate of the
British steamer, in the harbor of Valparaiso, and that officer had given
it to a seaman, who was going on shore, with directions to take it to
the post-office, and pay for the postage out of the silver coin, and
whatever change there might be, he should keep it for his trouble. On the
way to the post-office, this sailor stopped to refresh himself, and
meeting with a fellow-mariner in the place of refreshment, he refreshed
him also. And by the time the two had refreshed themselves to their
satisfaction, there was not much left of the silver coin--not enough to
pay the necessary postage to France.
"But," said the seaman to himself, "it doesn't matter a bit. We are bound
for Liverpool, and I'll take the letter there myself, and then I'll send
it over to Paris for tuppence ha'penny, which I will have then, and
haven't now. And I bet another tuppence that it will go sooner than if I
posted it here, for it may be a month before a mail-steamer leaves the
other side of this beastly continent. Anyway, I'm doing the best I can."
He put the letter in the pocket of his pea-jacket, and the bottom of that
pocket being ripped, the letter went down between the outside cloth and
the lining of the pea-jacket to the very bottom of the garment, where it
remained until the aforesaid seaman had reached England, and had gone
down to see his family, who lived in the cottage in Sidmouth. And there
he had hung up his pea-jacket on a nail, in a little room next to the
kitchen, and there his mother had found it, and sewed on two buttons, and
sewed up the rips in the bottoms of two pockets. Shortly after this, the
sailor, happening to pass a post-office box, remembered the letter he had
brought to England. He went to his pea-jacket and searched it, but could
find no letter. He must have lost it--he hoped after he had reached
England, and no doubt whoever found it would put a tuppence ha'penny
stamp on it and stick it into a box. Anyway, he had done all he could.
One pleasant spring evening, the negro Mok sat behind a table in the
well-known beer-shop called the "Black Cat." He had before him a
half-emptied beer-glass, and in front of him was a pile of three small
white dishes. These signified that Mok had had three glasses of beer, and
when he should finish the one in his hand, and should order another, the
waiter would bring with it another little white plate, which he would put
on the table, on the pile already there, and which would signify that the
African gentleman must pay for four glasses of beer.
Mok was enjoying himself very much. It was not often that he had such an
opportunity to sample the delights of Paris. His young master, Ralph, had
given him strict orders never to go out at night, or in his leisure
hours, unless accompanied by Cheditafa. The latter was an extremely
important and sedate personage. The combined dignity of a butler and a
clergyman were more than ever evident in his person, and he was a painful
drawback to the more volatile Mok. Mok had very fine clothes, which it
rejoiced him to display. He had a fine appetite for everything fit to eat
and drink. He had money in his pockets, and it delighted him to see
people and to see things, although he might not know who they were or
what they were. He knew nothing of French, and his power of expressing
himself in English had not progressed very far. But on this evening, in
the jolly precincts of the Black Cat, he did not care whether the people
used language or not. He did not care what they did, so that he could
sit there and enjoy himself. When he wanted more beer, the waiter
understood him, and that was enough.
The jet-black negro, gorgeously arrayed in the livery Ralph had chosen
for him, and with his teeth and eyeballs whiter than the pile of plates
before him, was an object of great interest to the company in the
beer-shop. They talked to him, and although he did not understand them,
or answer them, they knew he was enjoying himself. And when the landlord
rang a big bell, and a pale young man, wearing a high hat, and sitting at
a table opposite him, threw into his face an expression of exalted
melancholy, and sang a high-pitched song, Mok showed how he appreciated
the performance by thumping more vigorously on the table than any of the
other people who applauded the singer.
Again and again the big bell was rung, and there were other songs and
choruses, and then the company turned toward Mok and called on him to
sing. He did not understand them, but he laughed and pounded his fist
upon the table. But when the landlord came down to his table, and rang
the bell in front of him, that sent an informing idea into the African
head. He had noticed that every time the bell had been rung, somebody had
sung, and now he knew what was wanted of him. He had had four glasses of
beer, and he was an obliging fellow, so he nodded his head violently, and
everybody stopped doing what they had been doing, and prepared to listen.
Mok's repertoire of songs could not be expected to be large. In fact, he
only knew one musical composition, and that was an African hymn which
Cheditafa had taught him. This he now proceeded to execute. He threw
back his head, as some of the others had done, and emitted a succession
of grunts, groans, yelps, barks, squeaks, yells, and rattles which
utterly electrified the audience. Then, as if his breath filled his whole
body, and quivering and shaking like an angry squirrel when it chatters
and barks, Mok sang louder and more wildly, until the audience, unable to
restrain themselves, burst into laughter, and applauded with canes,
sticks, and fists. But Mok kept on. He had never imagined he could sing
so well. There was only one person in that brasserie who did not applaud
the African hymn, but no one paid so much attention to it as this man,
who had entered the Black Cat just as Mok had begun.
He was a person of medium size, with a heavy mustache, and a face
darkened by a beard of several days' growth. He was rather roughly
dressed, and wore a soft felt hat. He was a Rackbird.
This man had formerly belonged to the band of desperadoes which had been