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THE "MIRANDA" TAKES IN CARGO
The next day the work of removing the treasure
from the caves to the vessel began 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, to the caves.
For the benefit of the minds of the black men, the
captain had instructed Maka to assure them that they
would not be obliged to go anywhere where it was
really dark. But it was difficult to decide how to talk to
Burke. This man was quite different from Shirley. He
was smaller, but stout and strong, with a dark
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 give advice. But,
whatever might be the effect of the treasure on Burke,
the captain determined that he should not be surprised
by it. He had tried that on Shirley, and did not want to
try it again on anybody. So he conversed freely about
the treasure and the mound, and, as far as possible,
described its appearance and contents. But he need not
have troubled himself about the effect of the sight of a
wagon-load of gold upon Burke's mind. He was glad to
see it, and whistled cheerfully as he looked down into
"How far do you think it goes down?" said he to the
"Don't know," was the reply. "We can't tell anything
about that until we get it out."
"All right," said Burke. "The quicker we do it, the
The captain got into the mound with a lantern, for
the gold was now too low for him to reach it from
above, and having put as many bars into a coffee-bag as
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, the captain came
out, and he and Burke put each bag into another, and
these were tied up firmly at each end, for a single
coffee-bag was not considered strong enough to hold the
weighty treasure. Then the two carried the bags into the
part of the cave which was lighted by the great fissure,
and called the negroes. Then, each taking a bag on his
shoulder, the party returned to the cove. On the next
trip, Shirley decided to go with the captain, for he said
he did not care for anything if he did not have to look
down into the mound, for that was sure to make him
dizzy. Maka's place was taken by the negro who had
been previously left in the vessel. Day by day the work
went on, but whoever might be relieved, and whatever
arrangements might be made, the captain always got
into the mound and handed out the gold. Whatever
discovery should be made when 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 or concealment. The lid of the
mound was not replaced when they left it, and the bags
of gold were laid on the pier until it was convenient to
take them to the vessel. When they were put on board,
they were lowered into the hold, and took the place of a
proportionate amount of ballast, which was thrown out.
All the negroes now spoke and understood a little
English. They might think that those bags were filled
with gold, or they might think that they contained a
mineral substance, useful for fertilizer; but if by
questioning or by accidental information they found out
what was the load under which they toiled along the
beach, the captain was content. There was no reason
why he should fear these men more than he feared
Burke and Shirley. All of them were necessary to him,
and he must trust them. Several times when he was
crouched down in the interior of the mound, filling a
bag with gold, he thought how easy 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. But then, he could be shot in one place
almost as well as in another, and if the negroes should
be seized with the gold fever, and try to cut white
throats at midnight, they would be more likely to
attempt it after the treasure had been secured and the
ship had sailed than now. In any case, nothing could be
gained by making them feel that they were suspected
and distrusted. Therefore it was that when, one day,
Maka said to the captain that the little stones in the bags
had begun to make his shoulder tender, the captain
showed him how to fold an empty sack and put it
between the bags and his back, and then also told him
that 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 this voyage, he would be able
to buy a ship bigger than the Castor, and that they would
not have to sail in that little brig any more, and that he
expected to be cook on the new vessel, and have a fine
suit of clothes in which to go on shore.
For nearly a month the work went on, but the
contents of the mound diminished so slowly that the
captain, and, in fact, the two sailors, also, became very
impatient. Only about forty pounds could be carried by
each man on a trip, and the captain saw plainly that it
would not do to urge greater rapidity or more frequent
trips, for in that case there would be sure to be
breakdowns. The walk from the cove to the caves was a
long one, and rocky barriers had to be climbed, and
although now but one man was left on board the vessel,
only thirty bags a day were stored in its hold. This was
very slow work. Consultations were held, and it was
determined that some quicker method of transportation
must be adopted. The idea that they could be satisfied
with what they already had seemed to enter the mind of
none of them. It was a foregone conclusion that their
business there was to carry away all the gold that was in
A new plan, though rather a dangerous one, was
now put into operation. The brig was brought around
opposite the plateau which led to the caves, and
anchored just outside the line of surf, where bottom was
found at a moderate depth. Then the bags were carried
in the boats to the vessel. A line connected each 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 on very much more rapidly.
The men had all become accustomed to carrying the
heavy bags, and could run with them down the plateau.
The boats were hauled to and from the vessel, and the
bags were hoisted on board by means of blocks and
tackle and a big basket. Once the side of the basket gave
way, and several bags went down to the bottom of the
sea, never to be seen again. But there was no 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 no high surf; and this new
method of working was so satisfactory that they all
regretted 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 to carry that
treasure a distance of two miles, taking forty pounds at a
At night everybody went on board the brig, and she
lay to some distance from the shore, so as to be able to
run out to sea in case of bad weather, but no such
It was two months since the brig had dropped
anchor in the Rackbirds' cove when the contents of the
mound got so low that the captain could not hand up the
bags without the assistance of a ladder, which he made
from some stuff on board the brig. By rough
measurement, he found that he should now be near the
level of the outside floor of the cave, and he worked
with great caution, for the idea, first broached by Ralph,
that this mass of gold might cover something more
valuable than itself, had never left him.
But as he worked steadily, filling bag after bag, he
found that, although he had reached at the outer edge of
the floor of the mound what seemed to be a pavement of
stone, there was still a considerable depth of gold in the
centre of the floor. Now he worked faster, telling
Shirley, who was outside, that he would not come out
until he had reached the floor of the mound, which was
evidently depressed in the centre after the fashion of a
saucer. Working with feverish haste, the captain handed
up bag after bag, until every little bar of gold had been
removed from the mound.
The bottom of the floor was covered with a fine
dust, which had sifted down in the course of ages from
the inside coating of the mound, but it was not deep
enough to conceal a bar of gold, and, with his lantern
and his foot, the captain made himself sure that not a
piece was left. Then his whole soul and body thrilled
with a wild purpose, and, moving the ladder from the
centre of the floor, he stooped to brush away the dust. If
there should be a movable stone there! If this stone
should cover a smaller cavity beneath the great one,
what might he not discover within it? His mind whirled
before the ideas which now cast themselves at him,
when suddenly he stood up and set his teeth hard
"I will not," he said. "I will not look for a stone with
a crack around it. We have enough already. Why should
we run the risk of going crazy by trying to get more? I
will not!" And he replaced the ladder.
"What's the matter in there?" called Shirley, from
outside. "Who're you talking to?"
The captain came out of the opening in the mound,
pulled up the ladder and handed 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 in closing it. He would leave it open.
"I was talking to myself," he said to Shirley, when
he had descended. "It sounded crack-brained, I expect."
"Yes, it did," answered the other. "And I am glad
these are the last bags we have to tie up and take out. I
should not have wondered if the whole three of us had
turned into lunatics. As for me, I have tried hard to stop
thinking about the business, and I have found that the
best thing I could do was to try and 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 of coal.' A ship-load of coal, you
know, is not worth enough to turn a man's head."
"That was not a bad idea," said the captain. "But
now the work is done, and we will soon get used to
thinking of it without being excited about it. There is
absolutely no reason why we should not be as happy
and contented as if we had each made a couple of
thousand dollars apiece on a good voyage."
"That's so," said Shirley, "and I'm going to try to
When the last bag had been put on board, Burke
and the captain were walking about 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 led here 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 that empty mound after us should
not know what had been in it. You see, we will have to
circulate these bars of gold pretty extensively, and we
don't want anybody to trace them back to the place
where they came from. When the time comes, we will
make everything plain and clear, but we will want to do
it ourselves, and in our own way."
"There is sense in that," said Burke. "There's
another thing I want to ask you, captain. I've been
thinking a great deal about that mound, and it strikes me
that there might be a sub-cellar under it, a little one,
most likely, with something else in it--rings and jewels,
and nobody knows what not. Did you see if there was
any sign of a trap-door?"
"No," said the captain, "I did not. I wanted to do
it,--you do not know how much,--but I made up my
mind it would be the worst kind of folly to try and get
anything 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. I was not sure that
I should not find something, if I looked for it, which
would make 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 have
Burke shook his head. "If I'd been there," he said, "I
should have looked for a crack in that floor."
When the brig weighed anchor, she did not set out
for the open sea, but proceeded back to the Rackbirds'
cove, where she anchored again. Before setting out, the
next day, on his voyage to France, the captain wished to
take on board a supply of fresh water.
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