When Ralph met Captain Horn that afternoon, there rose within him a sudden,
involuntary appreciation of the captain's worthiness to possess a ship-load o_old and his sister Edna. Before that meeting there had been doubts in th_oy's mind in regard to this worthiness. He believed that he had thoroughl_eighed and judged the character and capacities of the captain of th_Castor_ , and he had said to himself, in his moments of reflection, tha_lthough Captain Horn was a good man, and a brave man, and an able man in man_ays, there were other men in the world who were better fitted for th_lorious double position into which this fortunate mariner had fallen.
But now, as Ralph sat and gazed upon his sister's lover and heard him talk,
and as he turned from him to Edna's glowing eyes, he acknowledged, withou_nowing it, the transforming power of those two great alchemists,—gold an_ove,—and from the bottom of his heart he approved the match.
Upon Mrs. Cliff the first sight of Captain Horn had been a little startling,
and had she not hastened to assure herself that the compact with Edna was _hing fixed and settled, she might have been possessed with the fear tha_erhaps this gentleman might have views for his future life very differen_rom those upon which she had set her heart. But even if she had not known o_he compact of the morning, all danger of that fear would have passed in th_oment that the captain took her by the hand.
To find his three companions of the wreck and desert in such high state an_lourishing condition so cheered and uplifted the soul of the captain that h_ould talk of nothing else. And now he called for Cheditafa and Mok—those tw_ood fellows whose faithfulness he should never forget. But when they entered,
bending low, with eyes upturned toward the lofty presence to which they ha_een summoned, the captain looked inquiringly at Edna. As he came in tha_fternoon, he had seen both the negroes in the courtyard, and, in the passin_hought he had given to them, had supposed them to be attendants of som_oreign potentate from Barbary or Morocco. Cheditafa and Mok! The ragged,
half-clad negroes of the sea-beach—a parson-butler of sublimate_espectability, a liveried lackey of rainbow and gold! It required minutes t_armonize these presentments in the mind of Captain Horn.
When the audience of the two Africans—for such it seemed to be—had lasted lon_nough, Edna was thinking of dismissing them, when it became plain to her tha_here was something which Cheditafa wished to say or do. She looked at hi_nquiringly, and he came forward.
For a long time the mind of the good African had been exercised upon th_ubject of the great deed he had done just before the captain had sailed awa_rom the Peruvian coast. In San Francisco and Paris he had asked man_uestions quietly, and apparently without purpose, concerning the marriag_eremonies of America and other civilized countries. He had not learned enoug_o enable him, upon an emergency, to personate an orthodox clergyman, but h_ad found out this and that—little things, perhaps, but things which made _reat impression upon him—which had convinced him that in the ceremony he ha_erformed there had been much remissness—how much, he did not clearly know.
But about one thing that had been wanting he had no doubts.
Advancing toward Edna and the captain, who sat near each other, Cheditafa too_rom his pocket a large gold ring, which he had purchased with his savings.
"There was a thing we didn't do," he said, glancing from one to the other. "I_as the ring part—nobody thinked of that. Will captain take it now, and put i_n the lady?"
Edna and the captain looked at each other. For a moment no one spoke. The_dna said, "Take it." The captain rose and took the ring from the hand o_heditafa, and Edna stood beside him. Then he took her hand, and reverentl_laced the ring upon her fourth finger. Fortunately, it fitted. It had no_een without avail that Cheditafa had so often scanned with a measuring ey_he rings upon the hands of his mistress.
A light of pleasure shone in the eyes of the old negro. Now he had done hi_ull duty—now all things had been made right. As he had seen the priests stan_n the churches of Paris, he now stood for a moment with his hands outspread.
"Very good," he said, "that will do." Then, followed by Mok, he bowed himsel_ut of the room.
For some moments there was silence in the salon. Nobody thought of laughing,
or even smiling. In the eyes of Mrs. Cliff there were a few tears. She was th_irst to speak. "He is a good man," said she, "and he now believes that he ha_one everything that ought to be done. But you will be married to-morrow, al_he same, of course."
"Yes," said Edna. "But it will be with this ring."
"Yes," said the captain, "with that ring. You must always wear it."
"And now," said Mrs. Cliff, when they had all reseated themselves, "you mus_eally tell us your story, captain. You know I have heard nothing yet."
And so he told his story—much that Edna had heard before, a great deal she ha_ot heard. About the treasure, almost everything he said was new to her. Mrs.
Cliff was very eager on this point. She wanted every detail.
"How about the ownership of it?" she said. "After all, that is the grea_oint. What do people here think of your right to use that gold as your own?"
The captain smiled. "That is not an easy question to answer, but I think w_hall settle it very satisfactorily. Of course, the first thing to do is t_et it safely entered and stored away in the great money centres over here. _ood portion of it, in fact, is to be shipped to Philadelphia to be coined. O_ourse, all that business is in the hands of my bankers. The fact that _riginally sailed from California was a great help to us. To ascertain m_egal rights in the case was the main object of my visit to London. Ther_raxton and I put the matter before three leading lawyers in that line o_usiness, and although their opinions differed somewhat, and although we hav_ot yet come to a final conclusion as to what should be done, the matter i_retty well straightened out as far as we are concerned. Of course, the affai_s greatly simplified by the fact that there is no one on the other side to b_ claimant of the treasure, but we consider it as if there were a claimant, o_wo of them, in fact. These can be no other than the present government o_eru, and that portion of the population of the country which is native to th_oil, and the latter, if our suppositions are correct, are the only real heir_o the treasure which I discovered. But what are the laws of Peru in regard t_reasure-trove, or what may be the disposition of the government toward th_ative population and their rights, of course we cannot find out now. Tha_ill take time. But of one thing we are certain: I am entitled to a fai_emuneration for the discovery of this treasure, just the same as if I claime_alvage for having brought a wrecked steamer into port. On this point th_awyers are all agreed. I have, therefore, made my claim, and shall stand b_t with enough legal force behind me to support me in any emergency.
"But it is not believed that either the Peruvian government, or the native_cting as a body, if it shall be possible for them to act in that way, wil_ive us any trouble. We have the matter entirely in our own hands. They do no_now of the existence of this treasure, or that they have any rights to it,
until we inform them of the fact, and without our assistance it will be almos_mpossible for them to claim anything or prove anything. Therefore, it will b_ood policy and common sense for them to acknowledge that we are actin_onestly, and, more than that, generously, and to agree to take what we offe_hem, and that we shall keep what is considered by the best legal authoritie_o be our rights.
"As soon as possible, an agent will be sent to Peru to attend to the matter.
But this matter is in the hands of my lawyers, although, of course, I shal_ot keep out of the negotiations."
"And how much percentage, captain?" asked Mrs. Cliff. "What part do they thin_ou ought to keep?"
"We have agreed," said he, "upon twenty per cent. of the whole. After carefu_onsideration and advice, I made that claim. I shall retain it. Indeed, it i_lready secured to me, no matter what may happen to the rest of the treasure."
"Twenty per cent.!" exclaimed Mrs. Cliff. "And that is all that you get?"
"Yes," said the captain, "it is what I get—and by that is meant what is to b_ivided among us all. I make the claim, but I make it for every one who was o_he _Castor_ when she was wrecked, and for the families of those who are no_live—for every one, in fact, who was concerned in this matter."
The countenance of Mrs. Cliff had been falling, and now it went down, down,
again. After all the waiting, after all the anxiety, it had come to this:
barely twenty per cent., to be divided among ever so many people—twenty-fiv_r thirty, for all she knew. Only this, after the dreams she had had, afte_he castles she had built! Of course, she had money now, and she would hav_ome more, and she had a great many useful and beautiful things which she ha_ought, and she could go back to Plainton in very good circumstances. But tha_as not what she had been waiting for, and hoping for, and anxiously tremblin_or, ever since she had found that the captain had really reached France wit_he treasure.
"Captain," she said, and her voice was as husky as if she had been sitting i_ draught, "I have had so many ups and so many downs, and have been turned s_ften this way and that, I cannot stand this state of uncertainty any longer.
It may seem childish and weak, but I must know something. Can you give me an_dea how much you are to have, or, at least, how much I shall have, and let m_ake myself satisfied with whatever it is? Do you think that I shall be abl_o go back to Plainton and take my place as a leading citizen there? I don'_ind in the least asking that before you three. I thought I was justified i_aking that my object in life, and I have made it my object. Now, if I hav_een mistaken all this time, I would like to know it. Don't find fault wit_e. I have waited, and waited, and waited—"
"Well," interrupted the captain, "you need not wait any longer. The sum that _ave retained shall be divided as soon as possible, and I shall divide it i_s just a manner as I can, and I am ready to hear appeals from any one who i_ot satisfied. Of course, I shall keep the largest share of it—that is m_ight. I found it, and I secured it. And this lady here," pointing to Edna,
"is to have the next largest share in her own right, because she was the mai_bject which made me work so hard and brave everything to get that treasur_ere. And then the rest will share according to rank, as we say on boar_hip."
"Oh, dear! Oh, dear!" murmured Mrs. Cliff, "he never comes to any point. W_ever know anything clear and distinct. This is not any answer at all."
"The amount I claim," continued the captain, who did not notice that Mrs.
Cliff was making remarks to herself, "is forty million dollars."
Everybody started, and Mrs. Cliff sprang up as if a torpedo had been fire_eneath her.
"Forty million dollars!" she exclaimed. "I thought you said you would onl_ave twenty per cent.?"
"That is just what it is," remarked the captain, "as nearly as we ca_alculate. Forty million dollars is about one fifth of the value of the carg_ brought to France in the _Arato_. And as to your share, Mrs. Cliff, _hink, if you feel like it, you will be able to buy the town of Plainton; an_f that doesn't make you a leading citizen in it, I don't know what else yo_an do."