“Captain,” said he, “don’t you think it would be a good idea to touch somewhere and lay in a store of fancy groceries and saloon-cabin grog? If we can afford to be as jolly as we please, I don’t see why we shouldn’t begin now.”
But the captain shook his head. “It would be a dangerous thing,” he said, “to put into any port on the west coast of South America with our present cargo on board. We can’t make it look like ballast, as I expected we could, for all that bagging gives it a big bulk, and if the custom-house officers came on board, it would not do any good to tell them we are sailing in ballast, if they happened to want to look below.”
“Well, that may be so,” said Burke. “But what I’d like would be to meet a first-class, double-quick steamer, and buy her, put our treasure on board, and then clap on all steam for France.”
“All right,” said the captain, “but we’ll talk about that when we meet a steamer for sale.”
After a week had passed, and he had begun to feel the advantages of rest and relief from anxiety, Captain Horn regretted nothing so much as that the Miranda was not a steamer, ploughing her swift way over the seas. It must be a long, long time before he could reach those whom he supposed and hoped were waiting for him in France. It had already been a long, long time since they had heard from him. He did not fear that they would suffer because he did not come. He had left them money enough to prevent anything of that sort. He did not know whether or not they were longing to hear from him, but he did know that he wanted them to hear from him. He must yet sail about three thousand miles in the Pacific Ocean, and then about two thousand more in the Atlantic, before he reached Rio Janeiro, the port for which he had cleared. From there it would be nearly five thousand miles to France, and he did not dare to calculate how long it would take the brig to reach her final destination.
This course of thought determined him to send a letter, which would reach Paris long before he could arrive there. If they should know that he was on his way home, all might be well, or, at least, better than if they knew nothing about him. It might be a hazardous thing to touch at a port on this coast, but he believed that, if he managed matters properly, he might get a letter ashore without making it necessary for any meddlesome custom-house officers to come aboard and ask questions. Accordingly, he decided to stop at Valparaiso. He thought it likely that if he did not meet a vessel going into port which would lay to and take his letter, he might find some merchantman, anchored in the roadstead, to which he could send a boat, and on which he was sure to find some one who would willingly post his letter.
He wrote a long letter to Edna—a straightforward, business-like missive, as his letters had always been, in which, in language which she could understand, but would carry no intelligible idea to any unauthorized person who might open the letter, he gave her an account of what he had done, and which was calculated to relieve all apprehensions, should it be yet a long time before he reached her. He promised to write again whenever there was an opportunity of sending her a letter, and wrote in such a friendly and encouraging manner that he felt sure there would be no reason for any disappointment or anxiety regarding him and the treasure.