Part 6 out of 7
whatever behind them.
"Besides, they break the force of the waves. If it was not for them it
would be impossible for any boat to come up close to the face of the
house, and a heavy storm might even break down the wall altogether. A
tremendous sea would roll in here in a westerly gale; and if it hadn't
been for these rocks it would have been necessary to build the lower part
of the house absolutely solid to resist the sea. It is possible that the
rocks were higher than they now are when the place was first constructed,
in which case the house might have been almost entirely hidden from sight.
Well, we may as well go back again, Bertie; we know all there is to be
known about this side."
They swam back into the tunnel, dressed, and went out.
"We have come out, Maria," Bertie called. "The coast is clear for you. The
water is not so deep as we thought it was, and you can walk out to the
point where the roof comes down on to the water without getting out of
It did not take them long to cut a number of switches to serve as brooms,
and a couple of handles. They carried them up into the house, and lashed
the switches firmly on to the handles. The work was rough, but the brooms
when completed were large, and, although not strong enough for heavy work,
would do well to sweep aside the thin layer of almost impalpable dust on
the floor below.
"Shall we take wood down there, Harry?"
"No; I think a fire would be a drawback rather than an assistance. It
would be very valuable if we were working at one spot, but it could give
no general light in a place a hundred feet long. We will take a torch
down, and hold it and sweep by turns. We shall only want, to begin with,
to make a clear path a couple of feet wide down the middle. Of course
later on we shall clear it all. That will be sufficient to enable us to
see how the floor is constructed, whether with big blocks or small ones,
how closely they are fitted together, and so on. It is certainly unlikely
that we shall find any indication as to where chambers exist."
It took but a very short time to clear the path; the dust was so light
that one sweep of the broom cleared it away. When they got to the farther
end they returned to examine the floor. For four or five feet from the
cistern the rock had been evidently untouched, except to cut off any
projecting points. Then there was a clear line running across the path.
Bertie held the torch down close to it. Harry knelt down and examined it.
"This is a clean cut, Bertie. It is evidently solid above this, but the
stone is not quite the same colour on each side of it, and it looks as if
they had cut away the rock here and begun to build so as to keep the floor
level. The cut may be six inches deep and it may be a foot, that doesn't
matter. The face of this stone is very smooth, but it is not cut; it is, I
think, the face of the natural fracture. Move the torch along and let us
see where the next join is. Ah, here it is!"
The slab was four feet across.
"You had better sweep the dust off both ways, Bertie, so that we may see
what size it is."
It was, they found, about eight feet long.
"It has straight edges, Harry, almost as straight as if it had been sawn."
"Very likely it was sawn, Bertie; They could have had no tools that would
cut a hard stone like this regularly, but as they were certainly clever
builders they must have employed some means to do it. Possibly they used a
saw without teeth, for however much they might have hardened the copper,
the teeth could not have stood, but if they had a hard copper band fixed
like the saw some masons use, and kept the stone moistened with fine sand,
they might have cut into it. Of course it would have been a slow process;
but they would not have needed to go far into the stone, for when they got
down two or three inches they might have broken it through by dropping a
heavy weight on the end. It would not have mattered if the fracture had
not been straight below the cut, for only on the surface would they have
wanted to fit accurately to the next stone. In another way they might have
got a straight edge, that is, by driving very dry wedges into the cut made
by the saw, and then moistening them. I know that great stones can be
split in that way. They may have used both methods. However, it doesn't
matter to us much how they did it. It is clear that they could in some way
or other cut stones. As they took the trouble to do so here, we may
conclude that they were anxious to have a smooth floor that would be
extremely difficult to get up.
"They would never have taken all this trouble if they had merely been
making a floor for a cellar. For that purpose it would only have been
necessary to throw rocks and stones of all sizes into the vacant space
below, and when it was nearly full, to level it with small stones and
sand. That they chose to undertake such tremendous labour as the making of
so regular a floor as this must have been, shows that they had some very
strong motive for doing so."
Going carefully along the track they had cleared, they found that the
stones were of different sizes; some were but two feet wide, others as
much as ten, but all fitted so closely together that it was difficult to
see the joints.
"It is going to be a hard job to get these out, Bertie," Harry said, when
they had completed their examination, "and it is lucky for us that the
room gradually narrows from sixteen feet wide to two at the other end, and
when we stepped it we made it eighty feet long. We need not take up the
stones near the rock wall, for the ravine would naturally narrow as it
went lower, and the depth would be greatest by the side of the wall of the
"Well, we shall soon blow up the stones when we have got the powder."
"I hope so, Bertie; but I see that we shall have difficulty unless these
top stones are extraordinarily thick."
Bertie looked surprised. "Why, I should have thought the thicker they were
the more difficult to break up."
"Beyond a certain point that would be so. But suppose they are six inches
thick, you may take it for granted that underneath there will be rubble,
loose stuff, except where any chambers may be built. If we were to bore a
hole through this top layer the powder, instead of splitting the stones
up, would expend its force among the loose stuff beneath it; and besides,
instead of remaining in its place, it might get scattered, and we would
then get no explosion at all."
"Then we should only have to make the hole four inches deep, Harry?"
"As a result of which there would only be two inches of tamping over the
powder, and this would blow right out, as if from a little mortar, and
would have no effect whatever upon the stone. I have no doubt that we
shall find some way to get over these difficulties, but it is evident that
the work will not be all clear sailing."
"Of course we shall manage it somehow, Harry, even if we have to smash up
all the stones with the sledge-hammers Dias will bring us."
"Is breakfast nearly ready, señora? That swim in the sea has given us a
prodigious appetite. Did you enjoy it?"
"It is very nice, señor; but I should have liked it better if the water
had not been so blue. It seems so strange bathing in blue water."
"You will soon get accustomed to it," Bertie laughed. "There are no pools
except that one two miles up the valley. Besides, it is much nicer to have
a great bathing chamber all to yourself. Here comes José!"
"Well, José, are the mules all right?" he shouted.
"Yes, but I had difficulty in catching them. They had evidently been
frightened by something, and were three miles up the valley with their
coats all staring. It must have been either a puma or a jaguar. Of course
they must have got wind of him in time; but as, fortunately, they were not
tethered, they were able to get away from him."
"I should think he must be up somewhere among the bushes, José," Harry
said. "We had better go down tonight and see if he returns again. We shall
be losing some of the mules if we don't put a stop to his marauding
Besides, it will be very dangerous for you, José, cutting the wood up
there, if he is lurking somewhere. It is fortunate that you escaped
"I expect he was on the other side of the ravine, señor; and even if he
had not been, the sound of the chopping would have scared him. They will
not often attack in the daytime."
When they had finished their breakfast José asked what he should do next.
"There is nothing else to do, so it would be as well to take our pickaxes
and get some of those brackets out of the walls. We will begin with the
other rooms of this floor and leave these here till the last."
"I will come and hold a torch for you, señors," Maria said. "I like to be
doing something. I will wash up first, and then I shall have nothing to do
till it is time to get ready for dinner. Now I know there is a savage
beast about I should not like to go down the ladder."
"There is very little chance of his coming down the rocks," Harry said.
"He is more likely to be lying somewhere on the other side watching the
No move was made until the woman was ready to start. Then they lit two
torches. She took one and Bertie the other, while José and Harry took two
picks. It was hard work, for the brackets were driven far into the pillars
and walls. It was necessary to knock away the stones round them to a depth
of two or three inches before they could be got out. They worked one at
each side of a bracket, relieving each other by turns, and after four
hours' work only eighteen brackets had been got out. As far as they could
tell by lifting them, the weight was somewhat greater than they had at
first supposed. Harry could hold one out in each hand for a minute and a
half, Bertie and José for a little over half a minute, and they agreed
that they must be about twenty pounds each.
By this time their shoulders ached, and it was agreed that they had done a
good day's work. For the rest of the day they did nothing but sit on the
sill of the window and smoke quietly. The next day's work was similar, and
twenty more brackets were got out. Late in the afternoon they saw Dias
coming down the steps, and at once went down the ladder to meet him.
"Have you got everything, Dias?"
"I think so, señor, and I can tell you that the mules have had a pretty
heavy load to bring back."
"Well, we will go with you at once, Dias, and bring some of the things up.
I expect you have had nothing to eat since the morning. Before you do
anything else you had better go in. Your wife has been keeping a dish hot
for you, as she did not know when you might arrive."
"I shall not be long before I come and help you, señor. I have unsaddled
the mules and turned them out to graze."
"It is just as well, Dias, for there is a beast somewhere about that gave
them a fright last night. We will get all the eatables up to-night, the
powder and drills and hammers we can very well leave till to-morrow
It took them four trips to bring the provisions over, for it required two
of them to carry each sack of flour, and indeed all had to give their aid
in getting them up the rocky slope at the foot of the wall.
"No one seemed to think it unusual, your taking so large a load, I hope,
Dias?" Harry said as they sat down to their evening meal.
"No, señor. The man I bought the powder of was a little surprised at the
amount I wanted; but I said that I might be absent many weeks in the
mountains, and might want to drive a level in any lode that I might
discover. I led him to believe that I had seen a spot in the mountains
that gave good indications, and that two of my comrades were waiting there
for my return to begin work at it. I sold the llamas to a man who carries
goods from Ancon up to Canta, and got the same price that you gave for
Harry then told him the work on which he had been engaged since he had
"Of course there is no hurry about the brackets, but as we could do
nothing else without the powder and drills, it was just as well to get
them out, as otherwise we might have been delayed when we had done our
other work. We think that they weigh twenty pounds each, so that
altogether they will be worth nearly four thousand pounds. Not a bad
start. I am afraid we sha'n't make such quick work down below."
"We shall see," Dias said cheerfully, for now that his fear of the demons
had passed he was as eager as Harry himself to begin the search for the
"Has Maria seen any more bats?"
"Yes, she has seen some more bats," his wife said, "but no demons. Dias,
what do you think? Don Harry suggested that we might eat the bats."
"I have heard of their being eaten," Dias said, "and a man who ate them
raw told me that he had never enjoyed anything more. But I should not like
to try it myself, unless I were driven to it as he was."
"How was that, Dias?"
"He was a muleteer, señor, and was up in the mountains. He had a cargo of
silver on his mule, and during the day he had seen some men who he doubted
not were brigands on the top of the ravine he passed through. He knew of a
cavern where he had once taken refuge with the animals during a storm. It
lay on the hillside some twenty or thirty yards away from the road. The
entrance was hidden by bushes, and he had first noticed it by seeing a
bear come out as he was passing along. He had his pistols, and thought
that it was better to risk meeting a bear than a brigand. He arrived
opposite the cave just as it became dark, and at once led the mules up
there. He first lighted a torch--the muleteers always carry these with
them--and then went in with his pistols ready, but there were no signs of
a bear anywhere near the entrance.
"He drove the mules in and put out his torch. The entrance had been only
wide enough for the laden animals to pass, but it widened out a great deal
inside. He took off the loads, piled them up in the narrow part to make a
barricade, and then sat down at the entrance and listened. He soon heard
five or six men come down the road talking. They were walking fast, and
one was saying that he could not be more than half a mile ahead, and that
they should soon catch him. When they had gone, he went some distance in
the cave and relighted his torch. He went on and on. The cave was a very
large one, and when he had gone, as he thought, four or five hundred
yards, it branched off into three. He took the middle one, and followed it
for a long way. At last it opened into a large chamber from which there
were several passages. Here he found a large number of things that had
evidently been stolen from muleteers. There were at least a dozen mule
loads of silver; goods of all kinds that had been brought up from the
coast; the ashes of fires, and a great many bones and skins of llamas, and
some sacks of flour.
"He thought he would now return to the mules; but apparently he entered
the wrong passage, for he went on till he felt sure he ought to be in the
chamber where he had left the animals, and he was turning to go back when
he tripped over a stone and fell, and his torch went out. Then he felt in
his pocket for his box of matches, and to his horror found that it had
gone. It must have dropped out when he was examining the passages. He did
not think much of it at first, but he had passed several openings on his
way, and in the dark he probably turned down one of these. At any rate he
lost his way somehow, and wandered about, he thinks, for hours; but it
might have been much less, for he told me that he quite lost his head. At
last he came out into a place where he could only feel the rock on one
side of him, and knew that he must be in a large chamber.
"Looking up he saw, to his joy, a faint light, and moving a little, caught
sight of a star. He was utterly worn out, and threw himself down. He was
awakened by a strange rustling sound, and looking up saw that daylight was
breaking, and that a stream of bats was pouring in through a hole, which
was about three feet wide. He made several efforts to climb up to it, but
failed. The bats hung thickly from every projecting point in the rocks. He
hurt himself badly in one of the attempts to get up, and twisted his foot.
All day he lay there. Then the idea struck him that he would kill a bat,
cut it open, and use it as a poultice to his foot. The creatures did not
move when he touched them, and he cut off the head of one of them and
split it open. He did this three or four times during the day, and felt
that the application was easing the pain of his ankle.
"When it became dusk the bats flew out again, and he knew his only chance
was to keep his ankle perfectly rested. In the morning he killed some more
bats. He was by this time tortured with thirst, and sucked the blood of
one of them, and in the afternoon ate one raw. Another night passed, and
in the morning he felt so much better that he could make another trial. He
ate another bat to give him strength, and in the middle of the day made a
fresh attempt. He had while lying there carefully examined the wall of
rock, at the top of which was the opening, and had made up his mind at
what point would be best to try. This time he succeeded. He made his way
down the hillside, and found that he was a quarter of a mile higher up the
pass than the spot at which he had left the mules. He hobbled down, and to
his delight found his animals still in the cavern.
"He had when he first got there opened their sack of grain in order to
ensure their keeping quiet. There was still some remaining at the bottom.
He lost no time in loading them and leading them out, and made his way
down the pass without seeing anything of the robbers. Afterwards he went
back there with a good supply of torches, found his way to the cave, and
brought down two mule-loads of silver. Gradually he brought the rest of
the goods down, and today he is a rich man."
"Well, I think under those circumstances, Dias, I would have eaten bats
myself. It was certainly a clever idea of his to convert them into
poultices, though the general opinion is that cold bandages are the best
for a sprained ankle."
Then they discussed their plans for the next day. "I know nothing about
blasting, señor. You give me instructions, and I will do my best to carry
them out; but it is useless for me to talk of what I know nothing about."
"There is a lot of common sense in that, and yet in every work, Dias,
sometimes while a skilled man is puzzling how to do a thing a looker-on
will suggest a satisfactory plan. That treasure has been buried there I
have no doubt whatever. They would never have gone to the labour of paving
those cellars as carefully as they have done unless for some special
purpose. The floor was undoubtedly made when the house was built, and if
we find treasure-chambers there they will be those of the old people. Of
course they may have been discovered by the Incas, and when they in turn
wanted to bury treasure this place might occur to them as being
particularly well fitted to escape search by Spaniards. However, to-morrow
we shall learn something more about them. The first thing to do in the
morning, when we have brought up the rest of the goods, is to sweep the
floors of those chambers carefully. When we have done that we will
determine where to set to work."
Two trips brought up the powder and instruments.
"We will take one of the kegs of powder down with us," said Harry, "and
leave the other five in the empty room behind this. It is just as well not
to have them in this room; the sparks fly about, and some things might
catch fire. I don't think there is any real danger, but, at the same time,
it is best to be on the safe side."
"There are a dozen pounds of candles in this bundle, señor. You did not
tell me to get them, but I thought they might be useful."
"Thank you, Dias! they certainly will be useful. What are they?--tallow?"
"Then before we go down we will get a couple of pieces of flat wood, and
drive a peg into each, sharpened at the upper end. Candles stuck on these
will stand upright, and we can put them down close to where we are
working. They will give a better light than a torch, and leave us all free
to use the tools. Did you think of buying some more tinder?"
"Yes, señor, I have five boxes, and half a dozen more flints."
They carried the keg of powder, the sledges, drills, and wedges
downstairs, and then Dias and José set to work to sweep out the two
chambers. The work was easy, but they were obliged to stop several times,
being almost choked with the light dust. Harry and Bertie offered to take
their turn, but the others would not hear of it, and they were glad to go
up to what they called their drawing-room until the work was done and the
dust had settled a little. Then they examined the pavement carefully with
their torches. They had hoped that they might find either copper rings, or
at least holes where rings had been fastened, but there were no signs
whatever of such things in either of the chambers.
"We will begin to work half-way down," Harry said. "Of course the treasure
may lie near the cistern end, but the depth below the floor would be very
shallow there. More likely the chambers would be at the deep end. If we
begin in the middle we may be pretty sure that we have not passed them. We
will begin rather nearer the passage wall than the other, as the depth
there will be greater. It does not matter which stone we take, one is as
likely as another. Step ten paces from the cistern, Bertie, and the stone
you stop on we will try first."
When Bertie came to a stand-still they carefully examined the pavement.
"You are standing on one of the cracks, Bertie; I will stay there while
you all bring the tools along."
"Shall I open the powder?" Bertie asked.
"No. It is no good doing that until we have quite decided what we are
going to do. The wedges certainly won't go into this crack. I think our
best plan will be to sink a bore-hole about two inches from the crack. We
will drive it in in a slanting direction towards the edge, and in that way
it will have more chance of blowing a piece out. First of all, we must
make a slight indentation with a pick, otherwise we sha'n't get the bore
to work. I will begin."
He took a pick and struck several blows.
"It is very hard stone," he said. "I have scarcely made a mark upon it."
He worked for some time, and then let Bertie take the pick. The lad struck
a blow with all his strength, and then dropped the pick with a loud cry,
wringing his hands as he did so.
"You have jarred your hands, Bertie; you should not hold the haft so
"It did sting!" Bertie said. "I feel as if I had taken hold of a red-hot
poker. It has jarred my arm up to the shoulder; I can't go on at present."
"You try, Dias."
Dias went more carefully to work, knelt down on one knee, and proceeded to
give a number of what seemed light blows.
"That is better than I did, Dias. The stone is crumbling into dust, and we
shall be able to use the borer in a short time. Perhaps it will be better
after all to drive the hole down straight. It will be easier to begin
with; when we see how thick the stone is we shall know better how to
In ten minutes Dias had made a hole a quarter of an inch deep.
"Now, give me one of the borers--that one about two and a half feet long.
I will hold it, and you strike to begin with, Dias, only mind my fingers.
Keep your eye fixed on the top of the borer, and take one or two gentle
strokes to begin with; then, when you know the distance you have to stand
from it, do your best. You needn't really be afraid of striking my
fingers. I shall hold the drill at least a foot from the top."
Dias began very carefully, gradually adding to the strength of the blows
as he got the right distance, and was soon striking hard. After each blow
Harry turned the borer a slight distance round. When he heard the native's
breath coming fast he told José to take a turn. The lad was nervous; the
first blow he struck only grazed the top of the borer, and narrowly missed
Harry's fingers. José dropped the sledge. "I can't do it, señor; I am
afraid of hitting your fingers. I will sit down and hold it; it does not
matter if you hit me."
"It would matter a good deal, José. No, no; you have got to learn."
"Would it not be well, señor," Dias said, "to take the borers and three
hammers outside, and try them in soft ground? We could work them there
till we all got accustomed always to hit them fair. There would be no
occasion for them to be held, and we should get confident. I could have
hit twice as hard as I did, if I hadn't been afraid of missing it."
"I think that is a very good plan, Dias. The loss of a day or two will
make no difference. We shall make up for it afterwards."
Accordingly the drills and hammers were all taken up, and they were soon
at work. Two or three gentle taps were given to the borers, to make them
stand upright, and then all four began work. At first they often either
missed the heads of the borers or struck them unevenly.
"It is well, Dias, that we carried out your suggestion, as I see I should
have had an uncommonly good chance of getting my fingers smashed, or a
wrist broken. I have missed as often as any of you."
They stopped frequently for breath, and at the end of an hour were glad to
lay down their hammers. Dias was comparatively fresh; his practice as a
woodsman now did him good service.
"I should have thought from the number of trees that I have helped to cut
down," Bertie said, "that I could hit pretty hard, but this is a great
deal stiffer work. I should say that this hammer is at least twice the
weight of the axe, and it is the lightest of the four. I ache a good deal
worse than I did when I first chopped that tree down."
"So do I, Bertie. We will stick at this till we get accustomed to the
work. By doing so we shall gain strength as well as skill."
"I will get some grease, señor, from Maria, and then I will rub your
shoulders, and arms; that will do you a great deal of good."
"Thank you, Dias! It would be a good plan."
Dias did this to José as well as to the brothers, and then José in turn
They waited half an hour, and then Harry said: "Let us have another
spell." This time a quarter of an hour sufficed. "It is of no use, Harry;
I can't go on any longer," Bertie said. "I feel as if my shoulders were
"I am beginning to feel the same, Bertie. However, we are all hitting
straighter now. We will go up into the shade and take it quietly for two
or three hours; then we will have a spell again."
However, after the rest, they all agreed that it would be useless to try
again, for they could not lift their arms over their heads without feeling
acute pain. Three days were spent at this exercise, and at the end of that
time they had gained confidence, and the heads of the drills were no
After the first day they only worked for a quarter of an hour at a time,
taking an hour's rest. The pain in their arms had begun to abate. On the
following day they practised striking alternately, three standing round
one borer. They found this at first awkward, but by the end of the day
they were able to strike in regular order, the blows falling faster after
each other on to the drill.
"I think we shall do now," said Bertie. "No doubt we shall hit harder with
a fortnight's practice, and shall be able to keep it up longer. However, I
think that even now we have sufficient confidence in striking to be able
to hold the borer without any fear of an accident."
The next day they began work early in the cellar. José volunteered to take
the first turn to hold the drill.
"You understand, José, you must turn it round a little after each stroke,
and in that way it will cut the hole regularly."
Harry took his place on one side of José, who sat with a leg on each side
of the drill. Dias stood facing Harry, Bertie behind José holding the
torch so that its light fell strongly on the head of the drill. At first
the two men struck gently, but gradually, as they grew confident,
increased the weight of their strokes until they were hitting with their
full power. After ten minutes they stopped. "Let us look at the hole,"
Harry said. "How far has it got down?"
José moved his position and Harry examined the hole. "About an eighth of
an inch," he said. "Let us scrape the dust out of it."
"Shall we take a spell now, Harry?" Bertie said.
"No, we will wait five minutes and then go on again, and after that we
will change places with you, relieving each other every twenty minutes."
The work went on, and at the end of two hours the hole was three inches
deep. Another hour and a half and the drill suddenly went down.
"We are through it," Bertie said, "and I am not sorry."
"Now I will lift the drill up gently, Bertie; do you kneel down, and when
I stop, take hold of it close to the floor, so that we may see the
thickness of the stone."
"Five inches," he said as he measured it. "Now put on a little grease,
Dias. I will lower it again, and we shall be perhaps able then to get some
idea of what is underneath."
He lowered the drill and turned it round two or three times, and then
carefully raised it. Some sand and little stones were sticking to it.
"Sand and gravel," he said. "That settles that point. Now we have done a
good morning's work, and let us go up and have breakfast."
Maria looked enquiringly at them. "I was just coming down for you. Well,
what have you done?"
"We have drilled one hole, Maria, and none of us have got our fingers
smashed, so I think we have every reason to be satisfied with our first
experience at the work."
As they breakfasted they talked matters over. Harry said that he was
certain that the thickness of the stone was not sufficient for them to
break it up by blasting. "We shall have to try some other plan. It is
equally certain that we cannot smash the stone with the sledge-hammers,
and I don't think that the wedges would break it. Of course if we got one
stone out it would be comparatively easy to lift the next, as we could put
the crowbars under it. If we can do it in no other way, we must drill a
line of holes close to each other right across the stone, and we might
then break off the piece between them and the crack and get our crowbars
under the slab. It might be worth while to drill holes a foot apart, from
the point where we have begun to the other end of the room. Of course if
we found that gravel and stones were everywhere under the slabs we should
learn nothing; but the opening to the chambers is probably covered by
another stone, and if we found that, we could put in one or two more holes
so as to be sure that it was flat, in which case we might smash it
somehow. Of course, if we don't come upon a flat stone we shall conclude
that they put a layer of sand and fine gravel over the slabs covering the
vaults, and must then, as I say, get up one stone and gradually lift all
the rest, clearing out the gravel as we go to the depth of a foot or so.
In that way we shall make sure that we shall not miss any chamber there
"I think that would certainly be the best plan. At present we are groping
altogether in the dark, and it will take us a fortnight at least to make
that row of holes close to each other, as you propose."
Six more days were spent in driving holes according to Harry's plan. The
result was in all cases the same. Sand and small stones were brought up
attached to the grease. They had now sunk the holes at a much more rapid
rate than at first, for they were accustomed to the work, their muscles
had hardened, and they were able to strike more frequently and with
greater force. They would have got on still more quickly had it not been
for the trouble in sharpening the drills. These were heated in the small
blacksmith's fire Dias had brought. They were first placed in the fire,
but this was not sufficiently hot to raise them beyond a dull red glow.
When this was done a shovelful of glowing fragments was taken from the
fire and placed on the hearth, and among these the small bellows raised
the ends of the drills to a white heat, when of course they were easily
worked. At first they had some difficulty in tempering them. Sometimes,
when cooled, the points were too soft, at other times too brittle; but at
the end of a week they had arrived at the proper medium. But one of the
party had to work steadily to keep the drills in good order.
Bertie was daily employed at this work, as José generally failed to give
the proper temper to the tools. Bertie, however, generally managed to get
in two or three hours' work below. Although perfectly ready to do his
share, he was by no means sorry to be otherwise employed for a part of the
day, and as he was now able to talk Spanish with perfect fluency he and
Donna Maria maintained a lively conversation whenever they were together.
All the party, however, were glad when Sunday came round and gave them a
day of complete rest; then they would bathe, fish, shoot pigeons, or lie
in the shade, each according to his fancy, and recommence work with fresh
vigour the next morning.
Just a fortnight after they had begun work they were about to begin a hole
in a fresh stone. Talking it over, they had come to the conclusion that
this was the most likely spot in the cellar for the situation of an
underground chamber. Farther on there would scarce be width for one, for
it was here but eight feet across. Where they had already tried there
would scarcely have been depth enough. This seemed to them to be the happy
Before setting to work Dias passed his torch over the stone. Presently he
stopped. "Will you light two of the candles, señor; the torch flickers too
much to see very plainly."
Somewhat surprised, for no such close examination had been made before,
the candles were lighted and handed to him. Dias knelt down, and, with his
face close to the stone, moved about carefully, examining it for some
minutes without speaking.
"This stone, señor, is broken," he said at last, "broken into a dozen
pieces, and they have been so carefully fitted together again that the
dust that settled upon it quite prevented our seeing it till we swept it
again just now, and it was only because there was a tiny chip out where I
first looked that I noticed it."
Harry knelt down and also examined the stone. Like all the others, it had
not been faced with tools. Consequently, although roughly even, there were
slight irregularities in the surface. Now, as Dias pointed them out to
him, he saw that there were lines running through it here and there.
"Look here, señor. The stone has been struck here. Here are some dents."
These were scarcely noticeable. The surface had taken the same colour as
the rest of the stone. They were of irregular size, and from a quarter of
an inch to an inch in diameter, and nearly in the centre of the stone,
from which point several of the cracks started.
"It certainly looks as if the stone had been struck with something heavy,"
Harry said. "I should think, by the appearance, some very heavy piece of
rock must have been dropped upon it."
"Yes, señor, very heavy rock--so heavy that there must have been many men
to lift it."
"It must have been heavy indeed to break up this slab."
"Perhaps it is not so thick as the others," Dias suggested.
"I don't like it, Dias. Well, let us set to work. We will try the wedges
there. They were no use against the solid stone, but they might move these
pieces. Put one of the borers just at the place from which these cracks
start--at least, I suppose they are cracks--and let us drive it in for an
inch. You hold it, José. Don't turn it, we want it to go in just in a line
with this crack. I know we cannot drive it in far, but at least we may
make it go deep enough to give a wedge a hold in it."
Five such small holes were made in a crack that seemed to form a rough
circle, then the wedges were put in, and they began to work with sledges.
In ten minutes Harry, examining the place carefully, said: "The bit of
stone is breaking up. There are lines running across it from the wedges.
Give me the heaviest sledge." He swung it round his head and brought it
down half a dozen times in the centre of the wedges. The cracks opened so
far that he could see them without stooping.
"Now we will try with the crowbars," he said.
In ten minutes a fragment of the stone was got up; then they hammered on
the wedges again, and a piece of rock, which was roughly seven or eight
inches in diameter, broke completely off.
"It is only about two and a half inches thick," Harry said as he drew one
of the fragments out. And, holding the candle to the hole, he went on:
"And there is another slab underneath. That settles it. We are at the top
of one of these vaults. The question is, is it empty? I am afraid it is.
This stone has evidently been broken up and fitted in again with wonderful
"Why should it be fitted in carefully if they emptied the chamber?"
"That I can't tell you, Dias, and it is of no use trying to guess now.
First of all, we will get the rest of the stone up. It won't be difficult,
for now that we have made a start we can use our crowbars. José, run up
and tell my brother to come down. We shall want him to help with the
crowbar; and besides, he would, of course, wish to be here, now that we
are on the point of making a discovery one way or the other."
In a minute Bertie came down with José, and Donna Maria followed. "José
tells me you have broken a hole in one of the stones," Bertie exclaimed as
he ran up,
"We have got a bit out of a broken stone, Bertie. This stone had been
broken before, and evidently not by accident. It is only half the
thickness of the others, and, as you can see, there is another slab
"Who can have broken it, Harry?"
"That question we cannot decide, but I should say probably the Incas. We
agreed that it was very possible they discovered the hidden treasures of
the Chimoos. They must have learned, as the Spaniards did, how cleverly
these places were hidden, and it must have been as evident to them as it
is to us, that if there was a hiding-place here, this must be the spot."
When one or two more pieces of the stone had been got out by the aid of
crowbars, the rest was removed without the least difficulty. Another slab
two feet square was exposed. In the middle of this was a copper ring, and
the slab fitted, into a stone casing about eighteen inches wide. As soon
as this casing was cleared, Dias and José took their places on one side,
the two brothers on the other. A crowbar was thrust through the ring, and
all of them, taking hold of the ends, lifted with all their strength. At
first the stone did not move, but at the second effort it lifted suddenly.
It was the same thickness as the one they had broken, and, on being moved,
was easily handled. The torches were thrust down, and all peered eagerly
into the vault. So far as they could see it was empty.
"Shall I jump down, señor?'
"No, the air may be bad, José. Run up and bring down a short length of
rope, twenty feet will be ample. Now, let your torch drop down, Dias. If
it burns, it will be safe for us to go down; if not, we must keep on
dropping blazing brands into it till they burn."
As, however, the torch burnt brightly, Harry lay down, and, saying, "Hold
my legs, Bertie!" looked down into the vault. Eighteen inches below the
surface, the hole widened out suddenly. A minute later Harry's head
appeared above the surface again,
"It is empty," he said in as cheerful a voice as he could manage. "Of
course it is a disappointment," he went on, "but I felt certain that it
would be so directly we found the stone was cracked. The only hope was
that the first finders of the treasure afterwards used the place for the
same purpose. That they thought it possible they might do so is clear by
the care with which they fitted the stones together."
None of the others spoke. The disappointment was a heavy one. Bertie broke
the silence by saying; "Well, better luck next time. They may have found
out this place, but there may be others which they did not find."
"Quite so, Bertie. Now we have got up one stone, It will be comparatively
easy work getting up the others. We will take up every stone to the end,
and then work back till we get to a place where there is not more than a
couple of feet between the bottom of the stone and the top of the rock."
At this moment José ran into the room with the rope. Harry took it, and
dropped one end until it nearly touched the floor below. "Hold on," he
said, "and I will slip down first." Half a minute later he stood at the
bottom of the chamber, beside the torch, which was still burning.
"It is only about three feet across at the bottom," he said; "the wall by
the passage goes straight up, on the other side it is the bare rock, so it
is almost wedge-shaped. It is twenty feet long, and five feet high up to
its roof, that makes it nearly seven to the upper part of the mouth." The
vault was absolutely empty. He moved about for a minute and then said:
"Gold has been stored here. There are particles of gold at the bottom, and
there is gold-dust in the cracks of the broken face of the rock. Now I
will come up again. Hold the rope tight; I will climb about a yard, and
then I can get my fingers on the ledge."
He was soon up. "Now, do any of you want to go down?" Dias and José shook
their heads; and Bertie grumbled, "I don't want to look at the beastly
hole; it has been trouble enough to get at it."
"Well, I think we will not do any more to-day, Dias. It has rather taken
the heart out of one. Still, we could not expect to hit upon the treasure
for the first time. We will go up and talk it over, and when we have
smoked a pipe or two we shall be more inclined to take a cheerful view of
the matter. We won't talk about it till we have got to the end of our
The tobacco did its usual work, and it was with quite a cheerful voice
that Bertie broke the silence: "The Incas must have been pretty sharp
fellows to find that hole, Harry?"
"Well, very likely they heard that the Chimoos had treasure there. Indeed
they must have known, because, you see, not one of the other stones is
broken, so they evidently knew where that chamber was situated."
"Yes, I suppose that was it. Well, we are in fine working order now, and
we sha'n't be very long getting the other stones up."
"Not very long this side anyhow, Bertie. We shall want some short blocks
of wood to put under the stones as we raise them. I expect they are all
five inches thick, and they must be a very big weight. Evidently it is
going to be a longish job. As we have been a fortnight without fresh meat,
Dias had better go off and buy half a dozen sheep. We won't have dead meat
this time. He can bring them slung over the mules, and we can kill them as
we want them."
"We have not had fresh meat, but we have not done badly, Harry; we have
generally had a good many eggs and some pigeons, and José has brought us
in fish from that pool. But they have dwindled down lately. He only
brought in a couple of fish yesterday evening."
"Well, the pigeons are getting scarcer too, Bertie. We have killed a good
many, but the rest are getting very shy, and I think most of them must
have gone off and settled in new places on the face of the rocks above the
ravine. While Dias is away, we will try and lay in a stock of sea-fish. We
can swim out and sit on the rocks during the day, and lay our lines at
night. We have worked very hard for a fortnight, and we deserve a
Dias, when he was spoken to, said he would start at once with four mules
for Huacha. "It is not above fifteen miles," he said, "and I can get there
this evening. I should think that I could buy the sheep there; if not, I
must go on to Huaura. Each mule will bring two sheep. Of course I could
drive them, but that would seem more singular."
"You had certainly better take the mules, Dias. Tie the sheep carefully on
them, so that they will not be hurt."
"I will take eight of the leather bags, señor. The sheep are not large,
and I will sling one on each side of the mules."
"Yes, it would be as well, while you are about it, to bring eight. You may
as well get some more coffee. We drink a lot of that, and like it strong.
If your wife thinks we shall want more sugar, or anything else, by all
means get some."
As soon as Dias started, the lines were got ready. They cut a couple of
saplings to serve as rods, and José, digging among the rocks, found plenty
of worms, beetles, and grubs for bait. In addition, they took a cake or
two of maize, to break up and throw in to attract the fish.
"We had better swim out in our flannel shirts and trousers," Harry said.
"They will soon dry, and they will keep off the sun. If we were to sit
there without them, we should get blistered from head to foot."
"Shall we fish outside the rocks, or inside, Harry?"
"We will try both; but I think we are likelier to catch most inside. I
should think a back-water like that would attract them."
They met with equal success on both sides of the rocks, and by evening had
caught over forty fish, at least half of which weighed over four pounds.
Then they set the long lines, each carrying forty hooks, and returned to
the castle with as many fish as they could possibly carry. Maria was
delighted with the addition to her larder, and she and José set to work at
once to clean and split them. In the morning they were hung in strings
from the broad window. Maria said they would get the benefit of the heat
from the walls, and any air there might be would be able to pass round
By means of the night-lines they caught almost as many fish as they had
done with their rods, and that day they had the satisfaction of bringing
in more than they could carry in one journey.
"We have got plenty now to keep us going for another three weeks," Harry
said, "and we can always replenish our stock when we choose."
Dias returned at sunset carrying one sheep over his shoulders.
"I have left the others out there, señor; I don't think there is any fear
of their straying. There is no fresh grass anywhere except near the
stream, and moreover, being strange to the valley, they will naturally
keep near the mules."
Another month passed in continuous labour. The stones had all been taken
up in the basement they had first visited, but no other chamber had been
found. The parallel chamber had given them much trouble at starting, as no
stone had been found showing any cracks upon it, and they had had to blast
one stone to pieces before they could begin to cut up the others. No
chamber whatever had been discovered until they were within six feet of
the farther end. Then one was found, but it showed no signs whatever of
having ever been used. "So far so bad," Harry said when the supper had
been eaten almost in silence; "but that is no reason why we should be
disheartened. If the Incas buried a treasure they may have thought it
prudent to choose some other spot than that used by the old people."
"But where could it be, Harry? You agreed that there was not sufficient
depth between the floors for any place of concealment."
"That is so, Bertie, of course. I have been thinking of it a lot during
the past few days, when the chances of our finding a treasure under the
basement were nearly extinguished. There are still the side walls."
"The side walls!" Bertie repeated. "Surely they are built against the
"Yes, but we don't know how straight the wall of rock is. You see, they
did not build against it at all in the basement, but above that the side
walls begin. The rock must have been irregular, and as the walls were
built the space behind may have been filled in or may not. When they came
to build they may have found that there was a cavern or caverns in the
rock--nothing is more likely--and they may have left some sort of entrance
to these caverns, either as a place of refuge to the garrison if the place
were taken, or as a hiding-place. They might have thought it more secure
for this purpose than the underground chamber, which was their general
hiding-place. At any rate it is possible, and to-morrow I vote that we
have a thorough inspection of the walls of the storeroom below this. That
would be the most likely place, for near the sea-level the chances of
finding caverns would be much greater than higher up."
Bertie's face brightened as Harry proceeded.
"It certainly seems possible, Harry. Of course the other place seemed so
much more likely to us that we have never given the side walls a thought.
We may find something there after all. I do hope we may, old boy. I cannot
believe that after things have gone altogether so well with us, and we
have been twice so near finding treasure, that we should fail after all.
Which side shall we begin on?"
"We will have a look at them before we decide, Bertie. We have not really
examined them since the first day; I really forget what stores we found in
the two side-rooms."
An examination in the morning showed that the passage near the entrance to
the rock on the left-hand side had been used for fuel, that on the other
side was filled at the upper end with skins for some distance, and spears
and sheaves of arrows were piled against the outer wall along the rest of
"Which do you think is the most likely hiding-place?"
"I should say the right-hand passage. The other with the fire-wood in it
might be visited every day, but the spears and arrows would only be wanted
in case of any attacks upon the castle, or to arm a large force going out
to give battle there. They would naturally put anything they wanted to
hide in the passage less likely to be visited."
"That does seem probable," Bertie agreed; "therefore, hurrah for the
"I still think, señor," Dias said, "that there must be treasure concealed
somewhere. I should not think a guard would have been placed here, and
remained here so many years still keeping watch, as we find they did at
that big loophole on the top floor, unless there was something to watch."
"Quite so, Dias. I have thought that over in every way, and I can see no
possible motive for their being here except to prevent the place from
being examined. That was needless if there was nothing to guard, and
nothing to take away, except these silver brackets, which in those days
would scarcely have been worth the trouble of getting out and carrying
away. There must be treasure somewhere. We know now that it is not in the
basement, and we will try these side walls, even if we have to blow half
of them in; there is no doubt that the stones are at least as thick as
those at the end, but they will not be difficult to manage. I noticed in
the upper story that they had not taken the trouble to fit them nearly so
accurately as they did those of the outer walls. I don't say that they
didn't fit well, but the stones were of irregular sizes, and I have no
doubt that in many places we could prize them out with a crowbar. Once an
opening is made, there will be no difficulty in getting a lot of them out,
as the old people did not use cement or mortar. Well, to-morrow morning we
will move all the spears and arrows across to the other side of that
passage and have a good look at the stones, but we will go up first and
look at the side walls of all the other rooms and see if they are of the
same build. There may be some difference which we have not noticed. You
see all the side walls of this room are built like those in front. I
didn't notice whether it was the same in the other rooms."
"I will look at once," Dias said, lighting a torch at the fire.
"No, señor," he said, when in ten minutes he returned; "none of the walls
on this floor are built of stone like this. This was the grand chamber,
the stones are all nearly one size, and so well fitted that you can hardly
see where they join each other. In the other rooms they are not so, but
the stones are, as you noticed above, irregular in size, and although they
fit closely, there is no attempt to conceal the cracks."
"Thank you, Dias! Well, we won't look any more to-night; we shall see in
the morning if the room below us is built in the same way. I have no doubt
it is. At any rate we have done enough for to-day. There is some whisky
left in that bottle, Bertie, and we may as well make ourselves a glass of
grog. Maria, you had better get down that jar of pulque. We will drink to
better luck next time."
The woman smiled faintly. She did not often do so now, her spirits had
gradually gone down as the hopes of success faded.
"Now, Maria," Harry said, "you had better take a glass of pulque for
yourself. I know you don't often touch it, but you have been working so of
late that I think you want it more than any of us."
"I cannot help feeling low-spirited, señor," she said. "I have so hoped
that you would find the treasure you wanted, and marry this lady you love,
and it would be such joy for us to have in some small way repaid the
service you rendered us, that I felt quite broken down. I know I ought not
to have been, when you and your brother bear the disappointment so
"'It is of no use crying over spilt milk', which is an English saying,
Maria. Besides, it is possible that the milk may not be spilt yet, and
until lately your good spirits have helped us greatly to keep ours up. If
I were once convinced that we had failed, I have no doubt I should feel
hard hit; but I am a long way from giving up hope yet. There is treasure
here, and if I have to blow up the whole of the old place I will find it.
I have got six months yet, and in six months one can do wonders. Anyhow,
these brackets will pay us very well for our work. I certainly should not
have earned half the sum in any other way in the same time. And even if I
fail in my great object, I shall have the satisfaction of knowing that I
have done all in my power to gain it. She will know that I have done my
best. I have always told her, when I have written, how much I owe to you
and Dias, how faithfully you have served me, and how you have always been
so bright and pleasant. I have no doubt it has cheered her up as well as
Maria was wiping her eyes now. "You are too good, señor; it is so little I
can do, or Dias either, to show our gratitude."
"Nonsense! You show it in every way, even in the matter-of-fact way of
always giving us excellent food, which is by no means unimportant. Now we
will all turn in, and make a fresh start to-morrow morning."
They were up at daybreak, and after taking their usual cup of coffee lit
the torches and descended the stairs to the floor below.
As soon as they reached the right-hand wall, Harry exclaimed: "Why, this
is built in the same way as the one we have left! The stones are squared
and fitted together as closely as those in the drawing-room. Then why
should that be, except in that one room? The side walls all the way up are
roughly built. Why should they have taken the trouble on this floor to
build these, which are only meant as store-rooms, when even in the rooms
above, which were meant for the habitation of the chief and his family,
the rough work was deemed sufficiently good? There must have been some
motive for this, Dias."
"There must have been, señor; it is certainly strange."
"First of all, let us clear the wall and take a general view of it.
Guessing won't help us; but I have the strongest hopes that behind one of
these stones lies a cavern. By the way, Dias, take a torch and go into the
next chamber and see if the stones are solid there."
"They are just the same as those here," Dias said when he returned.
"I would rather that it had been the other way," Harry said, "for then I
should have been more sure that there was some special reason for their
building them in this way here."
It took them all half an hour's work to move the spears and arrows to the
"Do you think, Harry, if we were to tap the stones we should be able to
find whether there is a hollow behind any of them?"
Harry shook his head.
"Not in the least. I have no doubt these stones are two or three feet
thick, and there could be no difference in the sound they would make if
struck, whether they were filled in solid behind or had no backing. To
begin with, we will make a careful examination of the walls. Possibly we
shall see some signs of a stone having been moved. It would be very much
more difficult to take one of the great blocks out and put it in again
than it would be to get up one of the paving-stones."
When they had gone about half-way along, examining each stone with the
greatest care, Bertie, who was ahead of the rest, and passing the candle
he held along the edge of every joint, said, "Look here! this stone
projects nearly half an inch beyond the rest."
The others gathered round him. The stone was of unusual size, being fully
two and a half feet wide and four feet long, the bottom joint being two
feet above the floor.
Bertie moved along to let the others look at the edge. He was keeping his
finger on the joint, and they had scarcely come up when he said, "The
other end of the stone's sunk in about as much as this end projects."
"Something certainly occurred to shift this stone a little," Harry said,
examining it carefully. "It is curious. If others had been displaced, one
would have put it down to the shock of an earthquake--a common enough
occurrence here--but both above and below it the stones are level with the
others, and nowhere about the house have we seen such another
displacement. Look! there is a heap of rubbish along the foot of the wall
here. Stir it up, Dias, and let us see what it is."
"It is sand and small stones, and some chips that look like chips of
"Yes, these bits look, as you say, as if they had been chipped off a rock,
not like water-worn stones. Though how they got here, where everywhere
else things are perfectly tidy, I cannot say. However, we can think that
over afterwards. Now for the stone! Let us all put our weight against this
projecting end. I don't in the least expect that we can move it, but at
any rate we can try."
They all pushed together.
"I think it moved a little," Harry said, and looked at the edge.
"Yes, it is not above half as far out now as it was."
"That is curious, for if it is as thick as we took it to be, it would
weigh at least a couple of tons. We won't try to push it in any farther. I
am sorry we pushed it at all. Now, give me that heavy sledge, José,
possibly there may be a hollow sound to it. I will hit at the other end,
for I don't want this to go in any farther."
He went to the stone beyond it first and struck two or three blows with
all his strength. Then he did the same with the stone that they were
"I don't think it gives such a dead sound," he said.
The others were all of the same opinion.
"Good! This is another piece of luck," he said. "We have certainly hit on
something out of the way."
"Your hammering has brought this end out again, Harry," Bertie said.
"So it has, and it has pushed this end in a little. Let us try again." But
although all took turns with the sledges, they could make no further
impression on the stone.
"Well, we will try the drills," Harry said. "In the first place, we will
find out how thick it is."
They at once set to work with the drill. Progress was slower than it had
been before, because, instead of striking down on the head of the drill,
they had now to swing the hammer sideways and lost the advantage of its
weight; and they were obliged to work very carefully, as a miss would have
seriously damaged the one holding the drill. It took them four hours'
steady work to get the hole in three inches. Ten minutes later, to their
astonishment, the drill suddenly disappeared. Dias, who was striking,
nearly fell, for instead of the resistance he had expected, the drill shot
forward; the hammer hit José, who had this time been holding the drill, a
heavy blow on the arm, causing him to utter a shout of pain.
Harry, who was sitting down having breakfast, having just handed his
hammer to Bertie, jumped to his feet.
"How did you manage that, Dias? I suppose it slipped off the head. You
must have hit José a very heavy blow."
"I have hit him a heavy blow, señor, and nearly tumbled down myself; but I
struck the drill fairly enough, and it has gone."
"Gone where, Dias?"
"I think it must have gone right through the hole, señor."
"Then there is an empty space behind!" Harry shouted joyfully. "However,"
he went on in changed tones, "we must see to José first. That blow may
have fractured his arm. Let me look, José. No, I don't think anything is
broken, but there is a nasty cut on the wrist. It is fortunate that you
were not striking straight down, Dias, for I am sure we have not put
anything approaching the strength into our blows, now we are hitting
sideways, that we exerted before. You had better go up to Maria, José, and
get her to bathe your wrist with cold water, and put on a bandage."
"Now, señor, what shall we do next?"
"Well, now that we know that its weight cannot be anything very great, and
that certainly to some extent it can be moved, we will try hammering again
at that end. Do you stand three or four feet beyond it, so as to be able
to bring your sledge down with all your strength just on the lower corner.
I will face you and strike six or eight inches above where you hit. Of
course we must both bring our hammers down at the same instant. We shall
be able to do that after two or three trials. Stand at the other end of
the stone, Bertie, and tell us if it moves at all."
After one or two attempts the two men got to swing their hammers so as to
strike precisely at the same moment, and when half a dozen blows had
fallen, Bertie said: "It comes out a little at each blow. It is not much,
but it comes."
Three or four minutes later he reported, "It is an inch and a half out
now, and there is room to get the end of a crowbar in here."
"That is curious," Harry said as he lowered his sledgehammer, and, taking
up the candle, examined the end where he had been striking.
"This is sunk about the same distance, Bertie. The stone must work somehow
on a pivot."
They now put a crowbar into the end Bertie had been watching, and all
three threw their weight on the lever. Slowly the stone yielded to the
pressure, and moved farther and farther out. It was pushed open until the
crowbar could act no longer as a lever, but they could now get a hold of
the inside edge. It was only very slowly and with repeated efforts that
they could turn the stone round, and at last it stood fairly at right
angles to the wall, dividing the opening into equal parts about two feet
"There is a pivot under it; that is quite evident. It may be a copper ball
in the stone below, or it may be that a knob of the upper stone projects
into a hole in the lower. However, it does not matter how it works. Here
is an opening into something. Dias, will you go upstairs and tell your
wife and José to come down? They had better bring half a dozen more
torches. Our stock here is getting low, and we shall want as much light as
possible. It is only fair that we should all share in the discovery."
Dias went off.
"Now, Bertie, we must not let our hopes grow too high. I think it is more
likely than not that we shall find nothing here."
"Why do you think so, Harry? I made sure we had as good as got the
"I think, if there had been treasure," Harry went on, "that this stone
would have been closed with the greatest care. They would hardly have left
it so carelessly closed that anyone who examined the wall would have
noticed it, just as we did. We found the other places most carefully
closed, though there was nothing in them."
"Perhaps there was something that prevented them from shutting--a little
stone or something."
"But we know that that wasn't so, Bertie, because the stone yielded to our
weight; and if it did so now, it could have been shut with the greatest
ease originally, when no doubt the pivot was kept oiled, and the whole
worked perfectly smoothly. It is almost certain that they were able in
some way to fasten it securely when it was shut. What is that piece of
square stone lying there?"
"It fell down from above just as the slab opened."
Harry took it up. It was about six inches long by two inches square.
"It is a very hard stone," he said--"granite, I should say. I expect you
will find that it fits into a hole in the stone above."
"Yes, there is a hole here," Bertie said, feeling it; "the stone goes
"Well, I think, Bertie, you will find a hole in that end of the stone we
moved that it will fit."
Bertie crept in, and felt along the top of the stone.
"Yes, there is a hole here about the same size as the stone, but it is not
more than three inches deep."
"Then, that stone was the bolt, Bertie. You see it was pushed up, and the
door then closed; and when the stone was exactly in its place, it would
drop into the hole and keep it from moving, and nothing short of breaking
up the bolt would give an entrance. It is lucky that we did not push it
quite to; another quarter of an inch and that bolt would have fallen, and
we could not have moved it unless by smashing the whole thing into bits.
That was why they did not quite close the stone; they wanted to get in
"Here come the others!"
Maria had been washing some clothes in the stream, and they had therefore
been longer in coming than if she had been in the room. They all looked
"So you have found it, señor!" Dias exclaimed in delight.
"We have found an entrance into somewhere, but I am afraid it will be as
empty as the other chambers."
"Why do you think so, señor?" Dias asked in dismay.
Harry repeated the reasons he had given Bertie for his belief that the
stone must have been left in such a position as to be easily opened when
"Why should it have been left so?"
"Because the treasure they expected had never arrived. It is possible that
when the Incas discovered the treasure in that chamber we searched, they
may also have found this entrance. It may have been shown to them by one
of the prisoners, and they may have broken the stone here into pieces as
they broke that over the chamber afterwards. Seeing what a splendid
hiding-place it was, they may have, when the Spaniards first arrived, made
another stone to fit, with the intention of using it for a hiding-place
themselves. The fact that the stone was left so that it could be at once
opened is conclusive proof to my mind that the treasure never came. That
heap of sand, small stones, and chips of rock is another proof that they
were ready to receive treasure, and it was probably swept out of the
chamber that is behind here, and would, of course, have been removed when
the treasure was put in and the door closed; but as the treasure never did
come, it was left where it lay. However, we will now go and see. I have
only kept you waiting because I did not want you to be disappointed."
One by one they crept through the opening. For four feet in, the passage
was the same width as the stone, but two feet deeper; then it at once
opened into a large cavern.
"This wall was four feet thick, you see, Dias. Apparently squared stone
was only used for the facing, as the stones are of irregular shape on the
back. This would be a natural cavern, and a splendid hiding-place it
makes. No doubt its existence was one of the reasons for building this
The cavern was some twelve feet wide and thirty feet high at the mouth;
the floor sloped up sharply, and the sides contracted, and met forty feet
from the mouth. The floor had been cut into steps two feet wide, running
across the cave and extending to the back. These steps were faced with a
perfectly flat slab of stone. The cave was empty.
The natives uttered loud exclamations of disappointment and regret.
Harry had so thoroughly made up his mind that nothing would be found there
that he surveyed the place calmly and in silence. Bertie imitated his
example with some difficulty, for he too was bitterly disappointed.
"You see, Dias," Harry went on quietly, "this place was prepared to
receive treasure. The steps have all been swept perfectly clean. You see,
the gold could be piled up, and no doubt the steps were cut and faced with
stone to prevent any gold-dust that might fall from the bags, in which, no
doubt, it would be brought, and small nuggets, from falling into the
cracks and crevices of the rock. I should say that in all probability they
expected that treasure ship that was lost, and had everything in readiness
for hiding the cargo here directly it came. It never did come. The door
was shut as far as it could be without the bolt falling down and fastening
it; then they waited for the ship; and if it did not arrive, other
treasure might be brought by land. Well, it cannot be helped. So far we
have failed. There may still be treasure hidden somewhere. We cannot say
that we have searched the place thoroughly yet."
For another six weeks they worked hard. The wall was broken through in
several places, but no signs of the existence of any other cavern or
hiding-place was discovered.
"I should give it up," Harry said, when at the end of that time they were
sitting gloomily round the fire, "but for one thing: I can see no possible
explanation why a party of men should have been left here, and a guard
kept, for perhaps a hundred years, perhaps more, and the stories about
demons been circulated, and people who ventured to approach been murdered,
unless there had been some good reason for it. That reason could only have
been, as far as I can see, that there was a treasure hidden here. I have
turned it over and over in my mind a thousand times, and I can think of no
other reason. Can you, Bertie, or you, Dias?"
"No," Bertie replied. "I have often thought about it; but, as you say,
there must have been some good reason, for no people in their senses would
have spent their lives in this old place, and starved here, unless they
had some cause for it."
Dias made no reply beyond shaking his head.
"You see," Harry went on, "they kept up their watch to the end. There were
those two skeletons of men who had died at their post at that curious
window where nothing could be seen. I hate to give up the search, and yet
we seem to have tried every point where there was a possibility of a
The next morning Harry said:
"I will go upstairs to that look-out place again. I have been up there
pretty nearly every day, and stared down. I can't get it out of my mind
that the key of the mystery lies there, and that that hole was made for
some other purpose than merely throwing stones out on to any of those who
might go in behind the rocks. I have puzzled and worried over it."
"Shall I come up with you, Harry?"
"No, I would rather you didn't. I will go up by myself and spend the
morning there; some idea may occur to me. You may as well all have a quiet
day of it."
He lit his pipe and went upstairs. José went off to the mules, and Bertie
descended the ladder, and strolled round what they called the courtyard,
looking for eggs among the rocks and in the tufts of grass growing higher
up. Dias scattered a few handfuls of maize to the chickens and then
assisted Maria to catch two of them; after which he descended the ladder
and sat down gloomily upon a stone. He had become more and more depressed
in spirits as the search became daily more hopeless; and although he
worked as hard as anyone, he seldom spoke, while Harry and his brother
often joked, and showed no outward signs of disappointment. An hour
passed, and then Harry appeared suddenly at the window.
"Bertie, Dias, come up at once, I have an idea!"
They ran to the ladder and climbed up. The excitement with which he spoke
showed that the idea was an important one. "Now, Dias," he broke out as
they joined him, "we know, don't we, that a part of the Incas' treasure
was sent off by boat, and the belief of the Indians was that it was never
heard of again."
"That is so, señor. There was certainly a storm the day after it started,
and, as I have told you, it was never heard of again. Had it been, a
report of it would surely have come down."
"I believe, Dias, that the boat was dashed to pieces against that line of
rocks outside the entrance to the passage. We have reason to believe that
the people here were expecting the treasure to arrive, and had the
entrance to the cave in readiness to receive it. Certainly no better place
could have been chosen for concealment. The boat may have been coming here
when the storm broke and drove them towards the shore. They probably
attempted to gain the mouth of the cove, but missed it, and were dashed to
pieces against the rocks. The Indians on guard here no doubt saw it, and
would be sure that the heavy sacks or boxes containing the gold would sink
to the bottom. They would lie perfectly secure there, even more secure
than if they had been removed and placed in the cave, and could always be
recovered when the Spaniards left, so they were content to leave them
there. Still, they obeyed the orders they had received to keep watch for
ever over the treasure, and to do so knocked that strange hole through the
wall and always kept two men on guard there.
"So it must have gone on. They and those who succeeded them never wavered.
Doubtless they received food from their friends outside, or some of them
went out, as you have done, to fetch it in. Then came a time when, for
some reason or other--doubtless, as I supposed before, when the Spaniards
swept pretty nearly all the natives up to work in the mines, and they
themselves dared not issue out--the attempt to get food was made, when too
late, by the men whose skeletons we found on the steps when we first came
here; and the rest were all too feeble to repeat the experiment, and died
--the two sentinels at their post, the rest in the room where we found
"Hurrah!" Bertie shouted, "I have no doubt you have hit it, Harry. I
believe, after all, that we are going to find it. That is splendid! I
shall dance at your wedding, Harry, which I had begun to think I never
"Don't be a young ass, Bertie. It is only an idea, and we have had several
ideas before, but nothing has come of them."
"Something is going to come of this, I am convinced; I would bet any money
on it. Well, shall we go and have a trial at once?"
"What do you think, Dias?" Harry said, paying no attention to Bertie's
"I think it is quite possible, señor. Certainly, if the Indians had been
told to guard the treasure, they would do so always. You know how they
kept the secrets entrusted to them whatever tortures they were put to. If
the gold had been, as you say, lost amongst the rocks, I do think they
would have still watched the place. I thought it strange that they should
have made that hole, but when you said that they might have made it to
throw stones down it seemed to me to be likely enough; but the other
suggestion is more probable. Well, señor, I am ready to try it, but I am
not a very good swimmer."
"My brother and I are both good swimmers, and we will do that part of the
work. The hardest part will be getting it up, and you will be able to give
us your help at that."
"Well, let us be off," Bertie said; "I am all on thorns to begin. We shall
soon find it out. If it is there, it is almost certain to be at the foot
of the rocks, though, of course, it is possible that the boat sank before
striking them. At any rate, I feel sure she went down somewhere within the
area that can be seen through that hole. It won't take many days' diving
to search every yard of the bottom."
They hastily descended the ladder, and, divesting themselves of their
clothes, swam out through the opening. Dias climbed up on the rocks, the
others swam round by the ends of the barrier. The water was so warm that
they would be able to remain in it for any time without inconvenience.
"We need not begin here, Bertie; we are outside the line of sight. From
that hole I could not see the end of these rocks. We will start at the
middle, and work in opposite directions."
On arriving off the centre of the wall both dived. The depth was about
twelve feet, and as the water was perfectly clear, Harry could see four or
five feet round him. He was obliged to swim carefully, for the bottom was
covered with rocks, for the most part rounded by the action of the sea.
For an hour he continued his search, by which time he had reached nearly
the end of the line of rocks. Then he landed on a ledge of rock and sat
down, calling to Bertie to join him.
"We will rest for a quarter of an hour," he said, "and then begin again.
This time we will keep twenty or thirty feet farther out; it is more
likely to be there than close in. If the boat struck, the next wave would
sweep over her, and she would probably go down stern first, and her cargo
would fall out that way."
After their rest they started again, swam out a few strokes, and then
dived. Harry had gone down five or six times, when, on his coming to the
surface, he heard a shout, and saw Bertie swimming towards him.
"I have found them, Harry! There are a number of ingots, but they were so
heavy that I could not bring one of them to the surface."
As Harry reached him the lad turned round and swam back. "There they are,
just opposite that cleft in the rock! I looked directly I came up so as to
know the exact spot."
Harry trod water for half a minute, then took a long breath and dived.
It was as Bertie had said. Scattered among the rocks were a score of
ingots. They had lost their brilliancy, but shone with a dull copperish
hue, with bright gleams here and there where rocks had grated against
them. Putting one hand on a block of rock he lifted one of them with the
"About twenty pounds," he said to himself. "Thank God, Hilda is as good as
won!" Then he rose to the surface. "Shake hands, Bertie; there is enough
there to make us all rich for life. Now we will get back again. We have to
think matters over, and see how they are to be got ashore. There is no
hurry; they have lain there for three hundred years, and would lie there
as much longer if we did not take them. We have found them, Dias!" he
shouted; and the latter gave a yell of delight. "Swim ashore, and we will
join you there."
Not another word was spoken until they had dressed and walked out.
"I am too excited even to think," Harry broke out. "It is time for dinner.
When we have had that and smoked a pipe I shall be able to talk calmly
Maria was wild with delight at the news, and laughed and cried by turns.
Even José, who was accustomed to take all things quietly, was almost as
excited. The woman was only called to herself when Harry said, laughing,
"Maria, for the first time since we started from Lima, you are letting the
"To think of it!" she cried. "It is your fault, señor; you should not have
told me about it till we sat down."
"You won't have to cook much longer, Maria. You will be able now to have a
servant, and a house as big as you like, and a beautiful garden."
"I should not like that, señor; what should I do all day with myself?"
"I am glad, señor, glad for your sake," Dias said gravely. "To us it will
make no difference. You said there was enough there to make us rich.
Assuredly that is so; but not one peso of it will we touch. No man with
Indian blood in his veins, not even the poorest in Peru, would have aught
to do with an ounce of the Incas' treasures. When they were buried, a
curse was laid upon any who betrayed their hiding-place or who ever
touched the gold. It has brought a curse upon Spain. At the time the
Spaniards landed here they were a great nation. Now their glory has
departed; they no longer own the land they tyrannized over for three
hundred years, and we have heard that their power in Europe has altogether
gone. It must be the curse of the gold, or they would never have allowed
your great Englishman, Cochrane, with but two or three ships, to conquer
them here. My mind is easy as to the finding of the treasure. You came
here in spite of my prayers that you would not do so. It is you who have
made the discovery, not me. But I will take no share in the gold. From the
day I took it I should be a cursed man; my flesh would melt away, I should
suffer tortures, and should die a miserable death." "Well, Dias, I will
not try to persuade you. I know that, Christian though you be, your native
belief still clings to you, and I will not argue against it; but I have
money of my own, and from that I will give you enough to make you
comfortable for life, and that you can take without feeling that you have
incurred any curse from the finding of this treasure."
"I thank you heartily," Dias said gratefully; "I thank you with all my
heart. I have ever been a wanderer, and now I will gladly settle down. I
do not desire wealth, but enough to live on in comfort with my wife, and
only to travel when it pleases me."
"You shall have enough for that and more, Dias."
After some more meat had been cooked and eaten, and he had smoked a pipe,
Harry said: "A boat would, of course, be the best thing, but there are
difficulties connected with it. There is no spot, as far as I know, where
we could land for fifteen miles on either side, and there would only be
small villages where everything we did would be seen and talked about.
There is no place where we could keep a boat here, for if even a slight
breeze sprang up the swell coming in round the passage between the rocks
and the cliff would smash her up in no time."
"That is so, señor."
Harry was silent again for some time, and then said: "The only plan I can
think of is to get some strong leather bags. Then we could take one down
with us when we dive, with a strong cord tied to it, put a couple of the
ingots into it, and you could haul it up on to the rocks, and so on until
we have finished a day's work. Then we could carry them to this side of
the rocks; there you could put them, three or four at a time, into the
bag, and drop them down in the water. We would swim up the tunnel and haul
them in, and then bring the bag back again. We sha'n't be able to get
anything approaching all the ingots, for a great many of them must have
gone in between the crevices of the rocks, and unless we broke it up with
powder, which would be next to impossible without a diving-dress and air-
pumps and all sorts of things, which cannot be bought in this country, we
could not get at them. However, we have only just begun to look for them
yet; we may come across a pile. Heavy as the sea must be on this coast in
a gale, I hardly think it would much affect a pile of ingots; their weight
would keep them steady even were big rocks rolled about.
"I think the best thing, Dias, would be for you to go off with two or
three mules. We shall soon be running short of provisions, and you had
better get enough flour and dried meat to last us for a month. I don't
suppose we shall be as long as that, but it is as well to have a good
store so as not to have to make the journey again. Then you had better get
twenty leather bags, such as those in which they bring the ore down from
the mountains. We have plenty of stout rope, but we shall want some thin
cord for tying the necks of the bags. You may as well bring another keg of
spirits, brandy if you can get it, a bag of coffee, and some sugar, and
anything else you think of. Now I am a millionaire we can afford to be
comfortable. By the way, we might as well this afternoon get the rest of
those silver brackets out. These are not a part of the Incas' treasure,
and you can take them as your share without fear of the curse. It would be
best for you to smelt them down; I know all of you natives can do that."
"Do you think that they are not part of the Incas' treasure, señor?" Dias
"Certainly not; they were undoubtedly here before the Incas' time. But
even had they been put there by Incas, you could not call them hidden
treasure. They might be part of the Incas' property, but certainly not
part of the treasures they hid."
"But it is altogether too much, señor; it is noble of you to offer it me."
"Not at all; we owe everything we find to you, and it would be only fair
that you should have at least a third of the gold. But still, if you won't
touch that, you must take the silver."
"But I heard you say that it was worth four thousand pounds."
"Well, if we are lucky we shall get twenty times as much, Dias."
"Certainly we will take it, señor, and grateful we shall both be to you,"
Maria said; "and so will José, who will inherit it all some day, as he is
the only relative we have. I agree with Dias about the gold. I have heard
so often about the curse on it that I should be afraid."
"Well, Maria, you see there is a lot of nonsense in all your
superstitions. You know it was one of them that this place was guarded by
demons. Now you have seen for yourself that it was all humbug. If you are
afraid about the silver, I will take it to England and sell it there and
send you the money it fetches; but that would give a great deal of
trouble. It will be difficult to get the gold safely away, without being
bothered with all this silver.
"You had better buy some bags of charcoal, Dias. I suppose you will use
that small hearth we have?"
"No, señor, it would take an immense time to do it in that. I will load
one of the mules with hard bricks."
"You will want two mules to carry a hundred, Dias--I think they weigh
about four pounds and a half each. Will that be enough?"
"Plenty, señor; but I shall want another bellows. José and I can work the
two of them, and that will make a great heat. We can melt two or three
hundred pounds a day. I have helped to make many a furnace up in the
mountains, and I know very well all about the way to build and work them."
"Very well, then, that is settled. You had better start to-morrow morning
with José, and we will spend the day in finding out a little more about
Dias started the next morning, and the two brothers were in the water most
of the day. Harry found, as he had expected, that a great deal of the
treasure had sunk out of reach between the rocks; but he came upon one
pile, which had apparently been originally packed in sacks or skins, lying
in a heap a little farther out than they had before searched. He had no
doubt that this was the point where the stern of the boat had sunk, and a
considerable portion of the contents had been shot out, while the rest had
been scattered about as the boat broke up, and as the skins rotted their
contents had fallen between the rocks. There were, as nearly as he could
calculate, two hundred and fifty to three hundred ingots in the pile.
"I need not trouble about the rest," he laughed to himself. "Each ingot,
if it weighs twenty pounds, is worth a thousand. Two hundred of them would
make me as rich as any man can want to be. I can hardly believe in my
luck; it is stupendous. Fancy a half-pay lieutenant with two hundred
thousand pounds! Old Fortescue will become one of the most complaisant of
The evening before Dias left, Harry had written a letter for him to post
at Callao, telling Hilda to keep up a brave heart, for that he hoped to be
at home before the end of the second year with money enough to satisfy her
"I should not tell you so unless I felt certain of what I am saying. I
told you before I left that it was almost a forlorn hope that I was
undertaking, and that the chances were ten thousand to one against me. I
think now that the one chance has turned up, and I hope to be home within
two months of the time that you receive this letter."
He did not say more; but even now he could scarcely believe that the good
fortune had befallen him, and feared that some unlucky fate might
interfere between him and the fulfilment of his hopes. When Dias returned
after two days' absence the work began. Each morning they worked together
at bringing up the gold and piling the ingots on the rock. It was slower
work than Harry had expected, for on hauling the bag to the rocks it was
often caught by the boulders, and he and Bertie sometimes had to dive four
or five times before they could free it and get it ashore. The gold was
piled in the tunnel just beyond the water. In a fortnight the last ingot
they could get at was stored with its fellows--two hundred and eighty-two
They had repeatedly talked over the best plan of getting the gold away,
and finally concluded that it would be risking too much to take it into a
town, and that the best plan would be for Harry to buy a boat at Callao,
which, as a naval officer, would be natural enough. They decided to
procure three times as many bags as the ingots would really require, and
that they should put in each bag three ingots only, filling it up with
pieces of stone, so that the weight should not exceed what it would have
been were the contents heavy ore. Harry arranged that he would go down to
Callao, buy a large boat, and after having made several excursions, to
accustom the officials at Callao to seeing him going about, he would make
a bargain with the captains of two ships about to sail to England, to
carry about two tons each of ore, which he could put on board them after
dark, so as to avoid the extortion he would have to submit to before the
port officials and others would allow him to ship it. The question that
puzzled them most was the best way of taking the bags into the boat. Dias
was in favour of their being carried on the mules to a point lower down
the coast, at which they could be loaded into the boat.
"It would be only necessary to carry the gold," he said, "the stones to
fill the bags could be put in there."
The objection to this was that they might be observed at work, and that at
most points it would be difficult both to run the boat up and to get her
off again through the rollers. If the boat were brought round into the
inlet she could be loaded there comfortably. The only fear was of being
caught in a gale. But as gales were by no means frequent the risk was
small; and should a sudden storm come on when she was lying there, and she
were broken up, it would be easy to recover the gold from the shallow
water behind the rocks. This was therefore settled. Only half the treasure
was to be taken away at once, and not till this had been got on board a
ship and the vessel had sailed would the boat come back for the rest of
Dias was at once to start with the mules and carry the silver, in two
journeys, to a safe place among the mountains. There he could bury it in
three or four hiding-places, to be fetched out as he might require it,
only taking some fifty pounds to Lima. Here he was to dispose of a portion
of it to one of the dealers who made it his business to buy up silver from
the natives. As many of these worked small mines, and sent down the
produce once a month to Lima, there would be nothing suspicious in its
being offered for sale, especially as it would be known that Dias had been
away for a very long time among the mountains. It was necessary that the
sale should be effected at once, because Harry's stock of money was
running very low, and he would have to pay for the passages of Bertie and
himself to England, and for the freight of the gold. Dias was to dispose
later on of all the remaining stores, the powder and tools, and the three
Two days later the last of the silver brackets had been melted, and Dias
and Harry started with the eight mules, six of them being laden with the
silver. They struck back at once into the hills, and after travelling for
two days, ascended a wild gorge. "It is not once a year that anyone would
come up here, señor. There is no way out of it. We can bury the silver
here with a certainty that it will be safe from disturbance."
"Yes, it will be safe here; and as you want it you have only to make a
journey with a couple of mules to fetch as much as you require, carry it
home, and bury it in your garden or under the house; then you could from
time to time take a few ingots into the town and dispose of them. But to
begin with, I will borrow fifty pounds weight of it, and get you to
dispose of it for me at Lima. My money is beginning to run short. I shall
have to pay for the freight of the gold and my own passage home, and to
buy a boat large enough to carry half the treasure. It is not likely that
there will be two vessels sailing at the same time, in which case I shall
make two trips. As I should not put it on board until the night before the
ship sailed, of course I could go home with the second lot."
"I shall never know what to do with a tenth part of this silver, señor. It
would never do for me to make a show of being rich; the authorities would
seize me, and perhaps torture me to make me reveal the source of my
"Well, there are thousands of your countrymen in the deepest poverty,
Dias; you could secretly help those in distress; a single ingot, ten
pounds in weight, would be a fortune to them. And when you die you might
get a respectable lawyer to make out a will, leaving your treasure to some
charity for the benefit of Indians, giving, of course, instructions where
the treasure is to be found."
"That is good," Dias said. "Thank you, señor! that will make me very
They had brought a pick and shovel with them, and, dividing the bags,
buried them at some distance apart, rolling stones to cover up the hiding-
places, and obliterating any signs of the ground having been disturbed. A
hundred pounds were left out, and with this in their saddle-bags they
arrived at Lima two days later.
Harry went on alone into Callao. He had no difficulty in purchasing a
ship's boat in fair condition. She carried two lug-sails, and was amply
large enough for the purpose for which she was required, being nearly
thirty feet long with a beam of six feet. He got her cheaply, for the ship
to which she belonged had been wrecked some distance along the coast, and
a portion of the crew had launched her and made their way to Callao; the
mate, who was the sole surviving officer, was glad to accept the ten
pounds Harry offered for her, as this would enable the crew to exist until
they could obtain a passage home, or ship on board some British vessel
short of hands. The boat was too large to be worked by one man, and seeing
that the mate was an honest and intelligent fellow, Harry arranged with
him to aid him to sail the boat, and each day they went out for some
hours. After spending a week in apparent idleness, and getting to know
more of the man, Harry told him that he had really bought the boat for the
purpose of getting some ore he had discovered on board a ship homeward-
"You know what these Peruvians are," he said, "and how jealous they are of
our getting hold of mines, so I have got to do the thing quietly, and the
only way will be to take the ore off by night. It is on a spot some eighty
miles along the coast. I am going off tomorrow to get it ready for
embarkation, and I shall be away about a week. I find that the _London_
will leave in ten days, and I shall get it put on board the night before
she sails. While I am away, look after the boat. The _Nancy_ will sail
five days later. I am going to put half on board each ship, as I am
anxious to ensure that some at least of the ore shall reach home, so as to
be analysed, and see if it is as rich as I hope. But be sure not to
mention a word of this to a soul. I should have immense trouble with the
authorities if it got about that I had discovered a mine."
"I understand, sir. You may be quite sure I shall say nothing about it."
"How are your men getting on?"
"Four are shipped on board the _Esmerelda_, which sailed yesterday, the
others are hanging on till they can get berths. I hope a few will be able
to go in the two ships you name, but they haven't applied at present. Some
of the crew may desert before the time for sailing comes, and of course
they would get better paid if they went as part of the crew than if they
merely worked their passage home."
"I am sorry for them," Harry said. "Here is another five pounds to help
them to hold on. As an old naval officer I can feel for men in such a
Dias, after selling the silver, had, a week before, returned with the
mules to the castle, and on his arrival there had sent José to join Harry
and bring news to them of the day on which the boat would arrive. Dias and
Bertie were packing half the bags, of which the former took with him an
ample supply, to get the gold out on the rocks facing the entrance, so
that they could be shipped without delay. Great pains were taken in
packing the bags so that the three ingots placed in each should be
completely surrounded by stones. Anyone who might take a fancy to feel
them, in order to ascertain their contents, would have no reason to
suppose that they carried anything beyond the ore they were stated to
Harry had had no difficulty in arranging with the captain of the London to
take from a ton and a half to two tons of ore the night before he sailed,
and three days before this Harry started with the mate. There was but a
light breeze, and it was daylight next morning before they arrived. A pole
had been stuck up at the edge of the cliff just above the cavern, and as
it became dark a lantern was also placed there, so they had no trouble in
finding the entrance of the little cove.
"It is a rum-looking place, sir," the man said. "As far as I can see there
is no break in the cliffs."
"It is a curious place, but you will find the bags with the ore on the
rocks inside here ready for us, and my brother and one of my men waiting
there. They will have made us out an hour ago, so we can load up at once
and get out of this tiny creek. I don't want to stay in there any longer
than is necessary, for if there is anything of a swell we could not get
As they approached the place Harry gave a shout, which was at once
answered. The sails were lowered, and the boat passed round the edge of
"It is a rum place," the mate repeated. "Why, one might have rowed past
here fifty times without thinking there was water inside the rocks. Of
course you must have lowered the sacks down from the top?"
"It was a difficult job," Harry said carelessly; "but we were anxious to
get the things away quietly. If we had taken them down to the port we
should have had no end of bother, and a hundred men would have set off at
once to try and find out where we got the ore."
Bertie and Dias had everything ready, and as the boat drew up alongside
the rocks on which they were standing the former said, "Everything all
"Yes, I hope so. We are to put the ore on board the _London_ to-morrow
after dark; she will get up her anchor at daylight. You have got all the
bags ready, I hope?"
"Everything; the others will be ready for you when you come back for
"The next ship sails in about a week. Now, let us get them on board at
once, I don't want to stop in here a minute longer than is necessary.
There is scarcely a breath of wind now; if it doesn't blow up a bit in the
morning, we shall have a long row before us to get there in time. This is
my brother, Owen; the other is a mule-driver, who has been my guide and
companion for the past year, and whom I am proud to call my friend."
"You don't want anything in the way of food, do you?" Bertie asked.
"We have got some here," Harry laughed. "I am too old a sailor to put to
sea without having provisions in my craft. Now, let us get the bags on
It did not take them long to transfer the sacks into the boat.
"They are pretty heavy," the mate said, "I should say a hundredweight
"About that," Harry said carelessly. "This ore stuff is very heavy."
As soon as all was on board Harry said: "Now we can put out at any moment,
but I don't want to leave till dark. We may as well begin to get the rest
of the bags out here at once. We might finish that job before we start.
Then you could come down with us, Bertie, and Dias could pack up the
remaining stores to-morrow and start for Lima with the mules, and his wife
"Very well, Harry. I think we can leave the sacks here safely."
"Just as safely as if they were ashore. So far as we know no one has been
in here for the past two hundred years, and no one is likely to come in
the next week."
By evening all the work was done. The mate had been greatly surprised at
the manner in which the bags had been brought on board, but had helped in
the work and asked no questions. As soon as it was dark they rowed out
from the cove. There was not a breath of wind. Bertie volunteered to take
the first watch, the mate was to take the next.
Harry was not sorry to turn in. He had had but little sleep for the past
week. Everything had seemed to be going well, but at any moment there
might be some hitch in the arrangements, and he had been anxious and
excited. Wrapping himself in his poncho he lay down in the stern of the
boat and slept soundly until morning.
"I have had a sleep," he said on waking. "I have slept longer to-night
than I have done for the past fortnight. Now I will take the helm. How
fast have we been moving?"
"We have not gone many miles, and if what tide there is hadn't been with
us we should not have moved at all, for the sails have not been full all
night. A breeze only sprang up an hour ago, and we are not moving through
the water now at more than a knot and a half; but I think it is
"I hope it is," Harry said. "It is not often that we have a dead calm; but
if it doesn't spring up we shall have to row. With two tons and a half of
stuff on board it is as much as we can do to move two knots an hour
through the water."
"All right, sir! when you think it is time to begin, stir me up."
In half an hour the breeze had increased so much that the boat was running
along three knots an hour. By eight o'clock she was doing a knot better.
So she ran along till, at four o'clock in the afternoon, the wind died
away again, and they could just see the masts of the ships at Callao in
"I should think that we are about fifteen miles off," Harry said.
"About that," Bertie replied. "We had better get our oars and help her
along, she is not going much more than a knot through the water an hour."
They got out the oars and set to work. Occasionally a puff of wind gave
them a little assistance, but it was one o'clock before they arrived
alongside the _London_.
A lamp was alight at the gangway as arranged, and two sailors were on
"The captain turned in an hour ago, sir," one of them said. "He left
orders that the mate was to call him if you arrived. We will soon have him
In five minutes the mate and four other sailors were on deck.
"We have got a whip rigged in readiness," the officer said. "How much do
the packages weigh, sir?"
"They are leathern bags, and weigh about a hundredweight each."
"How many are there?"
"We have got the fore-hatch open, and can hand them down in no time. If
you will pass the boat along to the chains forward we shall be ready for
you. Shall I send a couple of hands down into the boat to hook them on?"
"No, you needn't do that."
As soon as the boat reached her station a rope with a couple of small
chains attached descended. One of the chains was fastened round a bag, and
this was at once run up. By the time the rope came down again the other
chain was passed round another bag, and in a quarter of an hour the whole
were on board and down in the hold. The captain had now come out,
"So you have got them off all right, Mr. Prendergast?"
"Yes. There are forty-six bags. We will say, roughly, two ton and a half;
though I doubt whether there is as much as that. At any rate, I will pay