Captain Horn and his party sat down together the next morning on the platea_o drink their hot coffee and eat their biscuit and bacon, and it was plai_hat the two ladies, as well as the captain, had had little sleep the nigh_efore. Ralph declared that he had been awake ever so long, endeavoring t_alculate how many cubic feet of gold there would be in that mound if it wer_illed with the precious metal. "But as I did not know how much a cubic foo_f gold is worth," said he, "and as we might find, after all, that there i_nly a layer of gold on top, and that all the rest is Incas' bones, I gave i_p."
The captain was very grave—graver, Miss Markham thought, than the discovery o_old ought to make a man.
"We won't worry ourselves with calculations," said he. "As soon as I can ge_id of those black fellows, we will go to see what is really in that tomb, o_torehouse, or whatever it is. We will make a thorough investigation thi_ime."
When the men had finished eating, the captain sent them all down to look fo_riftwood. The stock of wood on the plateau was almost exhausted, and he wa_lad to think of some reasonable work which would take them away from th_avern.
As soon as they had gone, the captain rose to get the lantern, and called Ralph to accompany him to the mound.
When they were left alone, Edna said to Mrs. Cliff, "Let us go over there t_hat shady rock, where we can look out for a ship with Mr. Rynders in it, an_et us talk about our neighbors in America. Let us try to forget, for a time, all about what the captain is going to investigate. If we keep on thinking an_alking of it, our minds will not be in a fit condition to hear what he wil_ave to tell us. It may all come to nothing, you know, and no matter what i_omes to, let us keep quiet, and give our nerves a little rest."
"That is excellent advice," said Mrs. Cliff. But when they were comfortabl_eated in the shade, she said: "I have been thinking, Edna, that th_ossession of vast treasures did not weaken the minds of those Incas, _upposed, until yesterday, that the caverns here were intended for some sor_f temple for religious ceremonies, and that the great face on the rock ou_ere was an idol. But now I do not believe that. All openings into the cav_ust once have been closed up, but it would not do to hide the place so tha_o one could ever find it again, so they carved that great head on the rocks.
Nobody, except those who had hid the treasure, would know what the fac_eant."
Edna gave a little smile and sighed. "I see it is of no use to try to get tha_ound out of our minds," she said.
"Out of our minds!" exclaimed Mrs. Cliff. "If one of the Rothschilds were t_and you a check for the whole of his fortune, would you expect to get tha_ut of your mind?"
"Such a check," said Edna, "would be a certain fortune. We have not heard ye_hat this is."
"I think we are the two meekest and humblest people in the whole world!"
exclaimed Mrs. Cliff, walking up and down the sand. "I don't believe any othe_wo persons would be content to wait here until somebody should come and tel_hem whether they were millionaires or not. But, of course, somebody must sta_utside to keep those colored people from swarming into the cave when the_ome back."
It was not long after this that Mrs. Cliff and Edna heard the sound of quickl_dvancing feet, and in a few moments they were joined by Ralph and th_aptain.
"Your faces shine like gold," cried Edna. "What have you found?"
"Found!" cried Ralph. "Why, Edna, we've got—"
"Be quiet, Ralph," exclaimed Edna. "I want to hear what the captain has t_ay. Captain, what is in the mound?"
"We went to the mound," said he, speaking very rapidly, "and when we got t_he top and lifted off that stone lid—upon my soul, ladies, I believe there i_old enough in that thing to ballast a ship. It isn't filled quite up to th_op, and, of course, I could not find out how deep the gold goes down; but _orked a hole in it as far down as my arm would reach, and found nothing bu_old bars like this." Then, glancing around to see that none of the African_ere returning, he took from his pocket a yellow object about three inches i_ength and an inch in diameter, shaped like a rough prism, cast in a rudel_onstructed mortar or mould. "I brought away just one of them," he said, "an_hen I shut down the lid, and we came away."
"And is this gold?" exclaimed Edna, eagerly seizing the bar. "Are you sure o_t, captain?"
"I am as sure of it as I am that I have a head on my shoulders," said he,
"although when I was diving down into that pile I was not quite sure of that.
No one would ever put anything but gold in such a hiding-place. And then, anybody can see it is gold. Look here: I scraped that spot with my knife. _anted to test it before I showed it to you. See how it shines! I could easil_ut into it. I believe it is virgin gold, not hardened with any alloy."
"And that mound full of it!" cried Mrs. Cliff.
"I can't say about that," said the captain. "But if the gold is no deeper tha_y arm went down into it, and all pure metal at that, why—bless my soul!—i_ould make anybody crazy to try to calculate how much it is worth."
"Now, then," exclaimed Mrs. Cliff, "whom does all this gold belong to? We hav_ound it, but whose is it?"
"That is a point to be considered," said the captain. "What is your opinion?"
"I have been thinking and thinking and thinking about it," said Mrs. Cliff.
"Of course, that would have been all wasted, though, if it had turned out t_e nothing but brass, but then, I could not help it, and this is th_onclusion I have come to: In the first place, it does not belong to th_eople who govern Peru now. They are descendants of the very Spaniards tha_he Incas hid their treasure from, and it would be a shame and a wickedness t_et them have it. It would better stay there shut up for more centuries. Then, again, it would not be right to give it to the Indians, or whatever they cal_hemselves, though they are descendants of the ancient inhabitants, for th_eople of Spanish blood would not let them keep it one minute, and they woul_et it, after all. And, besides, how could such treasures be properly divide_mong a race of wretched savages? It would be preposterous, even if the_hould be allowed to keep it. They would drink themselves to death, and i_ould bring nothing but misery upon them. The Incas, in their way, were good, civilized people, and it stands to reason that the treasure they hid awa_hould go to other good, civilized people when the Incas had departed from th_ace of the earth. Think of the good that could be done with such wealth, should it fall into the proper hands! Think of the good to the poor people o_eru, with the right kind of mission work done among them! I tell you all tha_he responsibility of this discovery is as great as its value in dollars. Wha_o you think about it, Edna?"
"I think this," said Miss Markham: "so far as any of us have anything to d_ith it, it belongs to Captain Horn. He discovered it, and it is his."
"The whole of it?" cried Ralph.
"Yes," said his sister, firmly, "the whole of it, so far as we are concerned.
What he chooses to do with it is his affair, and whether he gets every bar o_old, or only a reward from the Peruvian government, it is his, to do what h_leases with it."
"Now, Edna, I am amazed to hear you speak of the Peruvian government," crie_rs. Cliff. "It would be nothing less than a crime to let them have it, o_ven know of it."
"What do you think, captain?" asked Edna.
"I am exactly of your opinion, Miss Markham," he said. "That treasure belong_o me. I discovered it, and it is for me to decide what is to be done wit_t."
"Now, then," exclaimed Ralph, his face very red, "I differ with you! We ar_ll partners in this business, and it isn't fair for any one to hav_verything."
"And I am not so sure, either," said Mrs. Cliff, "that the captain ought t_ecide what is to be done with this treasure. Each of us should have a voice."
"Mrs. Cliff, Miss Markham, and Ralph," said the captain, "I have a few word_o say to you, and I must say them quickly, for I see those black fellow_oming. That treasure in the stone mound is mine. I discovered the mound, an_o matter what might have been in it, the contents would have been mine. Al_hat gold is just as much mine as if I dug it in a gold-mine in California, and we won't discuss that question any further. What I want to sa_articularly is that it may seem very selfish in me to claim the whole of tha_reasure, but I assure you that that is the only thing to be done. I know yo_ill all agree to that when you see the matter in the proper light, and I hav_old you my plans about it. I intended to claim all that treasure, if i_urned out to be treasure. I made up my mind to that last night, and I am ver_lad Miss Markham told me her opinion of the rights of the thing before _entioned it. Now, I have just got time to say a few words more. If ther_hould be any discussion about the ownership of this gold and the way it ough_o be divided, there would be trouble, and perhaps bloody trouble. There ar_hose black fellows coming up here, and two of them speak English. Eight of m_en went away in a boat, and they may come back at any time. And then, ther_ere those two Cape Cod men, who went off first. They may have reached th_ther side of the mountains, and may bring us assistance overland. As fo_avis, I know he will never come back. Maka brought me positive proof that h_as killed by the Rackbirds. Now, you see my point. That treasure is mine. _ave a right to it, and I stand by that right. There must be no talk as t_hat is to be done with it. I shall decide what is right, and I shall do it, and no man shall have a word to say about it. In a case like this there mus_e a head, and I am the head."
The captain had been speaking rapidly and very earnestly, but now his manne_hanged a little. Placing his hand on Ralph's shoulder, he said: "Now don't b_fraid, my boy, that you and your sister or Mrs. Cliff will be left in th_urch. If there were only us four, there would be no trouble at all, but i_here is any talk of dividing, there may be a lot of men to deal with, and _ard lot, too. And now, not a word before these men.—Maka, that is a fine lo_f fire-wood you have brought. It will last us a long time."
The African shrugged his shoulders. "Hope not," he said. "Hope Mr.
Rynders come soon. Don't want make many fires."
As Captain Horn walked away toward Ralph's lookout, he could not account t_imself for the strange and unnatural state of his feelings. He ought to hav_een very happy because he had discovered vast treasures. Instead of that hi_ind was troubled and he was anxious and fearful. One reason for his state o_ind was his positive knowledge of the death of Davis. He had believed hi_ead because he had not come back, but now that he knew the truth, the shoc_eemed as great as if he had not suspected it. He had liked the Englishma_etter than any of his seamen, and he was a man he would have been glad t_ave had with him now. The Cape Cod men had been with him but a short time, and he was not well acquainted with them. It was likely, too, that they wer_ead also, for they had not taken provisions with them. But so long as he di_ot really know this, the probability could not lower his spirits.
But when he came to analyze his feelings, which he did with the vigorou_irectness natural to him, he knew what was the source of his anxiety an_isquietude. He actually feared the return of Rynders and his men! Thi_eeling annoyed and troubled him. He felt that it was unworthy of him. He kne_hat he ought to long for the arrival of his mate, for in no other way coul_he party expect help, and if help did not arrive before the provisions of th_ackbirds were exhausted, the whole party would most likely perish. Moreover, when Rynders and his men came back, they would come to rare good fortune, fo_here was enough gold for all of them.
But, in spite of these reasonable conclusions, the captain was afraid tha_ynders and his men would return.
"If they come here," he said to himself, "they will know of that gold, for _annot expect to keep such fellows out of the cavern, and if they know of it, it will be their gold, not mine. I know men, especially those men, well enoug_or that."
And so, fearing that he might see them before he was ready for them,—and ho_e was going to make himself ready for them he did not know,—he stood on th_ookout and scanned the ocean for Rynders and his men.