The next day the work of loading the Arato with the bags of gold was begun, and it was a much slower and more difficult business than the unloading of the Miranda, for the schooner lay much farther out from the beach. But there were two men more than on the former occasion, and the captain did not push the work. There was no need now for extraordinary haste, and although they all labored steadily, regular hours of work and rest were adhered to. The men had carried so many bags filled with hard and uneven lumps that the shoulders of some of them were tender, and they had to use cushions of canvas under their loads. But the boats went backward and forward, and the bags were hoisted on board and lowered into the hold, and the wall of gold grew smaller and smaller.
“Captain,” said Burke, one day, as they were standing by a pile of bags waiting for the boat to come ashore, “do you think it is worth it! By George! we have loaded and unloaded these blessed bags all down the western coast of South America, and if we’ve got to unload and load them all up the east coast, I say, let’s take what we really need, and leave the rest.”
“I’ve been at the business a good deal longer than you have,” said the captain, “and I’m not tired of it yet. When I took away my first cargo, you must remember that I carried each bag on my own shoulders, and it took me more than a month to do it, and even all that is only a drop in the bucket compared to what most men who call themselves rich have to do before they make their money.”
“All right,” said Burke, “I’ll stop growling. But look here, captain. How much do you suppose one of these bags is worth, and how many are there in all? I don’t want to be inquisitive, but it would be a sort of comfort to know.”
“No, it wouldn’t,” said the captain, quickly. “It would be anything else but a comfort. I know how many bags there are, but as to what they are worth, I don’t know, and I don’t want to know. I once set about calculating it, but I didn’t get very far with the figures. I need all my wits to get through with this business, and I don’t think anything would be more likely to scatter them than calculating what this gold is worth. It would be a good deal better for you—and for me, too—to consider, as Shirley does, that these bags are all filled with good, clean, anthracite coal. That won’t keep us from sleeping.”
“Shirley be hanged!” said Burke, “He and you may be able to do that, but I can’t. I’ve got a pretty strong mind, and if you were to tell me that when we get to port, and you discharge this crew, I can walk off with all the gold eagles or twenty-franc pieces I can carry, I think I could stand it without losing my mind.”
“All right,” said the captain, “If we get this vessel safely to France, I will give you a good chance to try your nerves.”
Day by day the work went on, and at last the Arato took the place of the Miranda as a modern Argo.