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Chapter 49 A GOLDEN AFTERNOON

  • 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."