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Chapter 33 THE "MIRANDA" TAKES IN CARGO

  • The next day the work of removing the treasure from the caves to the vesse_egan in good earnest. The Miranda was anchored not far from the little pier,
  • which was found in good order, and Shirley, with one negro, was left on board,
  • while the captain and Burke took the three others, loaded with coffee-bags, t_he caves.
  • For the benefit of the minds of the black men, the captain had instructed Mak_o assure them that they would not be obliged to go anywhere where it wa_eally dark. But it was difficult to decide how to talk to Burke. This man wa_uite different from Shirley. He was smaller, but stout and strong, with _ark complexion, and rather given to talk. The captain liked him well enough,
  • his principal objection to him being that he was rather too willing to giv_dvice. But, whatever might be the effect of the treasure on Burke, th_aptain determined that he should not be surprised by it. He had tried that o_hirley, and did not want to try it again on anybody. So he conversed freel_bout the treasure and the mound, and, as far as possible, described it_ppearance and contents. But he need not have troubled himself about th_ffect of the sight of a wagon-load of gold upon Burke's mind. He was glad t_ee it, and whistled cheerfully as he looked down into the mound.
  • "How far do you think it goes down?" said he to the captain.
  • "Don't know," was the reply. "We can't tell anything about that until we ge_t out."
  • "All right," said Burke. "The quicker we do it, the better."
  • The captain got into the mound with a lantern, for the gold was now too lo_or him to reach it from above, and having put as many bars into a coffee-ba_s a man could carry, he passed it up to Burke, who slid it down to the floor,
  • where another lantern had been left. When five bags had been made ready, th_aptain came out, and he and Burke put each bag into another, and these wer_ied up firmly at each end, for a single coffee-bag was not considered stron_nough to hold the weighty treasure. Then the two carried the bags into th_art of the cave which was lighted by the great fissure, and called th_egroes. Then, each taking a bag on his shoulder, the party returned to th_ove. On the next trip, Shirley decided to go with the captain, for he said h_id not care for anything if he did not have to look down into the mound, fo_hat was sure to make him dizzy. Maka's place was taken by the negro who ha_een previously left in the vessel. Day by day the work went on, but whoeve_ight be relieved, and whatever arrangements might be made, the captain alway_ot into the mound and handed out the gold. Whatever discovery should be mad_hen the bottom of the deposit was reached, he wanted to be there to make it.
  • The operations were conducted openly, and without any attempt at secrecy o_oncealment. The lid of the mound was not replaced when they left it, and th_ags of gold were laid on the pier until it was convenient to take them to th_essel. When they were put on board, they were lowered into the hold, and too_he place of a proportionate amount of ballast, which was thrown out.
  • All the negroes now spoke and understood a little English. They might thin_hat those bags were filled with gold, or they might think that they containe_ mineral substance, useful for fertilizer; but if by questioning or b_ccidental information they found out what was the load under which the_oiled along the beach, the captain was content. There was no reason why h_hould fear these men more than he feared Burke and Shirley. All of them wer_ecessary to him, and he must trust them. Several times when he was crouche_own in the interior of the mound, filling a bag with gold, he thought ho_asy it would be for one of the sailors to shoot him from above, and for them,
  • or perhaps only one of them, to become the owner of all that treasure. Bu_hen, he could be shot in one place almost as well as in another, and if th_egroes should be seized with the gold fever, and try to cut white throats a_idnight, they would be more likely to attempt it after the treasure had bee_ecured and the ship had sailed than now. In any case, nothing could be gaine_y making them feel that they were suspected and distrusted. Therefore it wa_hat when, one day, Maka said to the captain that the little stones in th_ags had begun to make his shoulder tender, the captain showed him how to fol_n empty sack and put it between the bags and his back, and then also told hi_hat what he carried was not stones, but lumps of gold.
  • "All yourn, cap'n!" asked Maka.
  • "Yes, all mine," was the reply.
  • That night Maka told his comrades that when the captain got to the end of thi_oyage, he would be able to buy a ship bigger than the  _Castor_ , and tha_hey would not have to sail in that little brig any more, and that he expecte_o be cook on the new vessel, and have a fine suit of clothes in which to g_n shore.
  • For nearly a month the work went on, but the contents of the mound diminishe_o slowly that the captain, and, in fact, the two sailors, also, became ver_mpatient. Only about forty pounds could be carried by each man on a trip, an_he captain saw plainly that it would not do to urge greater rapidity or mor_requent trips, for in that case there would be sure to be breakdowns. Th_alk from the cove to the caves was a long one, and rocky barriers had to b_limbed, and although now but one man was left on board the vessel, onl_hirty bags a day were stored in its hold. This was very slow work.
  • Consultations were held, and it was determined that some quicker method o_ransportation must be adopted. The idea that they could be satisfied wit_hat they already had seemed to enter the mind of none of them. It was _oregone conclusion that their business there was to carry away all the gol_hat was in the mound.
  • A new plan, though rather a dangerous one, was now put into operation. Th_rig was brought around opposite the plateau which led to the caves, an_nchored just outside the line of surf, where bottom was found at a moderat_epth. Then the bags were carried in the boats to the vessel. A line connecte_ach boat with the ship, and the negroes were half the time in the water,
  • assisting the boats backward and forward through the surf. Now work went o_ery much more rapidly. The men had all become accustomed to carrying th_eavy bags, and could run with them down the plateau. The boats were hauled t_nd from the vessel, and the bags were hoisted on board by means of blocks an_ackle and a big basket. Once the side of the basket gave way, and severa_ags went down to the bottom of the sea, never to be seen again. But there wa_o use in crying over spilt gold, and this was the only accident.
  • The winds were generally from the south and east, and, therefore, there was n_igh surf; and this new method of working was so satisfactory that they al_egretted they had not adopted it from the first, notwithstanding the risk.
  • But the captain had had no idea that it would take so long for five men t_arry that treasure a distance of two miles, taking forty pounds at a time.
  • At night everybody went on board the brig, and she lay to some distance fro_he shore, so as to be able to run out to sea in case of bad weather, but n_uch weather came.
  • It was two months since the brig had dropped anchor in the Rackbirds' cov_hen the contents of the mound got so low that the captain could not hand u_he bags without the assistance of a ladder, which he made from some stuff o_oard the brig. By rough measurement, he found that he should now be near th_evel of the outside floor of the cave, and he worked with great caution, fo_he idea, first broached by Ralph, that this mass of gold might cove_omething more valuable than itself, had never left him.
  • But as he worked steadily, filling bag after bag, he found that, although h_ad reached at the outer edge of the floor of the mound what seemed to be _avement of stone, there was still a considerable depth of gold in the centr_f the floor. Now he worked faster, telling Shirley, who was outside, that h_ould not come out until he had reached the floor of the mound, which wa_vidently depressed in the centre after the fashion of a saucer. Working wit_everish haste, the captain handed up bag after bag, until every little bar o_old had been removed from the mound.
  • The bottom of the floor was covered with a fine dust, which had sifted down i_he course of ages from the inside coating of the mound, but it was not dee_nough to conceal a bar of gold, and, with his lantern and his foot, th_aptain made himself sure that not a piece was left. Then his whole soul an_ody thrilled with a wild purpose, and, moving the ladder from the centre o_he floor, he stooped to brush away the dust. If there should be a movabl_tone there! If this stone should cover a smaller cavity beneath the grea_ne, what might he not discover within it? His mind whirled before the idea_hich now cast themselves at him, when suddenly he stood up and set his teet_ard together.
  • "I will not," he said. "I will not look for a stone with a crack around it. W_ave enough already. Why should we run the risk of going crazy by trying t_et more? I will not!" And he replaced the ladder.
  • "What's the matter in there?" called Shirley, from outside. "Who're yo_alking to?"
  • The captain came out of the opening in the mound, pulled up the ladder an_anded it to Shirley, and then he was about to replace the lid upon the mound.
  • But what was the use of doing that, he thought. There would be no sense i_losing it. He would leave it open.
  • "I was talking to myself," he said to Shirley, when he had descended. "I_ounded crack-brained, I expect."
  • "Yes, it did," answered the other. "And I am glad these are the last bags w_ave to tie up and take out. I should not have wondered if the whole three o_s had turned into lunatics. As for me, I have tried hard to stop thinkin_bout the business, and I have found that the best thing I could do was to tr_nd consider the stuff in these bags as coal—good, clean, anthracite coal.
  • Whenever I carried a bag, I said to myself, 'Hurry up, now, with this bag o_oal.' A ship-load of coal, you know, is not worth enough to turn a man'_ead."
  • "That was not a bad idea," said the captain. "But now the work is done, and w_ill soon get used to thinking of it without being excited about it. There i_bsolutely no reason why we should not be as happy and contented as if we ha_ach made a couple of thousand dollars apiece on a good voyage."
  • "That's so," said Shirley, "and I'm going to try to think it."
  • When the last bag had been put on board, Burke and the captain were walkin_bout the caves looking here and there to take a final leave of the place.
  • Whatever the captain considered of value as a memento of the life they had le_ere had been put on board.
  • "Captain," said Burke, "did you take all the gold out of that mound?"
  • "Every bit of it," was the reply.
  • "You didn't leave a single lump for manners?"
  • "No," said the captain. "I thought it better that whoever discovered tha_mpty mound after us should not know what had been in it. You see, we wil_ave to circulate these bars of gold pretty extensively, and we don't wan_nybody to trace them back to the place where they came from. When the tim_omes, we will make everything plain and clear, but we will want to do i_urselves, and in our own way."
  • "There is sense in that," said Burke. "There's another thing I want to as_ou, captain. I've been thinking a great deal about that mound, and it strike_e that there might be a sub-cellar under it, a little one, most likely, wit_omething else in it—rings and jewels, and nobody knows what not. Did you se_f there was any sign of a trap-door?"
  • "No," said the captain, "I did not. I wanted to do it,—you do not know ho_uch,—but I made up my mind it would be the worst kind of folly to try and ge_nything else out of that mound. We have now all that is good for us to have.
  • The only question is whether or not we have not more than is good for us. _as not sure that I should not find something, if I looked for it, which woul_ake me as sick as Shirley was the first time he looked into the mound. No,
  • sir; we have enough, and it is the part of sensible men to stop when they hav_nough."
  • Burke shook his head. "If I'd been there," he said, "I should have looked fo_ crack in that floor."
  • When the brig weighed anchor, she did not set out for the open sea, bu_roceeded back to the Rackbirds' cove, where she anchored again. Befor_etting out, the next day, on his voyage to France, the captain wished to tak_n board a supply of fresh water.