“This isn’t stone in the middle of the slab,” said Ralph. “It’s a lot more resinous stuff. I had the lantern over it and did not see it. Let’s take it out.”
There was a circular space in the centre of the stone, about eight inches in diameter, which seemed to be covered with resin. After a few minutes’ work with the jack-knives this substance was loosened and came out in two parts, showing a bowl-like depression in the slab, which had been so cut as to leave a little bar running from side to side of it.
“A handle!” cried Ralph.
“That is what it is,” said Captain Horn. “If it is intended to be lifted, I ought to be able to do it. Move down a little with the lantern, and give me room.”
The captain now stood on the top of the mound, with the slab between his feet, and stooping down, he took hold of the handle with both hands. He was a powerful man, but he could not lift the stone. His first effort, however, loosened it, and then he began to move it from side to side, still pulling upward, until at last he could feel it rising. Then, with a great heave, he lifted it entirely out of the square aperture in which it had been fitted, and set it on one side.
In an instant, Ralph, lantern in hand, was gazing down into the opening. “Hello!” he cried, “there is something on fire in there. Oh, no,” he added quickly, correcting himself, “it’s only the reflection from our light.”
A TRADITION AND A WAISTCOAT
Captain Horn, his face red with exertion and excitement, stood gazing down into the square aperture at his feet. On the other edge of the opening knelt Ralph, holding the lantern so that it would throw its light into the hole. In a moment, before the boy had time to form a question, he was pushed gently to one side, and his sister Edna, who had clambered up the side of the mound, knelt beside him. She peered down into the depths beneath, and then she drew back and looked up at the captain. His whole soul was in his downward gaze, and he did not even see her.
Then there came a voice from below. “What is it?” cried Mrs. Cliff. “What are you all looking at! Do tell me.”
With half-shut eyes, Edna let herself down the side of the mound, and when her feet touched the ground, she made a few tottering steps toward Mrs. Cliff, and placing her two hands on her companion’s shoulders, she whispered, “I thought it was. It is gold! It is the gold of the Incas.” And then she sank senseless at the feet of the older woman.
Mrs. Cliff did not know that Miss Markham had fainted. She simply stood still and exclaimed, “Gold! What does it mean?”
“What is it all about?” exclaimed Ralph. “It looks like petrified honey. This never could have been a beehive.”
Without answering, Captain Horn knelt at the edge of the aperture, and taking the lantern from the boy, he let it down as far as it would go, which was only a foot or two.