“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 be divided among us all. I make the claim, but I make it for every one who was on the Castor when she was wrecked, and for the families of those who are not alive—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-five or thirty, for all she knew. Only this, after the dreams she had had, after the castles she had built! Of course, she had money now, and she would have some more, and she had a great many useful and beautiful things which she had bought, and she could go back to Plainton in very good circumstances. But that was not what she had been waiting for, and hoping for, and anxiously trembling for, ever since she had found that the captain had really reached France with the treasure.
“Captain,” she said, and her voice was as husky as if she had been sitting in a draught, “I have had so many ups and so many downs, and have been turned so often 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 any idea how much you are to have, or, at least, how much I shall have, and let me make myself satisfied with whatever it is? Do you think that I shall be able to go back to Plainton and take my place as a leading citizen there? I don’t mind in the least asking that before you three. I thought I was justified in making that my object in life, and I have made it my object. Now, if I have been mistaken all this time, I would like to know it. Don’t find fault with me. I have waited, and waited, and waited—”
“Well,” interrupted the captain, “you need not wait any longer. The sum that I have retained shall be divided as soon as possible, and I shall divide it in as just a manner as I can, and I am ready to hear appeals from any one who is not satisfied. Of course, I shall keep the largest share of it—that is my right. 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 main object which made me work so hard and brave everything to get that treasure here. And then the rest will share according to rank, as we say on board ship.”
“Oh, dear! Oh, dear!” murmured Mrs. Cliff, “he never comes to any point. We never 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 fired beneath her.