“If you are right,” cried the captain, “this is, indeed, astounding! Treasure in a mound of stone—a mound covered by water, which could be let off! The whole shut up in a cave which must have originally been as dark as pitch! When we come to think of it,” he continued excitedly, “it is an amazing hiding-place, no matter what was put into the mound.”
“And do you mean,” almost screamed Mrs. Cliff, “that that stone thing down there is filled with the wealth of the Incas!—the fabulous gold we read about?”
“I do not know what else it can be,” replied Edna. “What I saw when I looked down into the hole was surely gold.”
“Yes,” said the captain, “it was gold—gold in small bars.”
“Why didn’t you get a piece, captain?” asked Ralph. “Then we could be sure about it. If that thing is nearly filled, there must be tons of it.”
“I did not think,” said the captain. “I could not think. I was afraid somebody would come.”
“And now tell me this,” cried Mrs. Cliff. “Whom does this gold belong to? That is what I want to know. Whose is if?”
“Come, come!” said the captain, “let us stop talking about this thing, and thinking about it. We shall all be maniacs if we don’t quiet ourselves a little, and, besides, it cannot be long before those black fellows come back, and we do not want to be speaking about it then. To-morrow we will examine the mound and see what it is we have discovered. In the meantime, let us quiet our minds and get a good night’s sleep, if we can. This whole affair is astounding, but we must not let it make us crazy before we understand it.”
Miss Markham was a young woman very capable of controlling herself. It was true she had been more affected in consequence of the opening of the mound than any of the others, but that was because she understood, or thought she understood, what the discovery meant, and to the others it was something which at first they could not appreciate. Now she saw the good common sense of the captain’s remarks, and said no more that evening on the subject of the stone mound.
But Mrs. Cliff and Ralph could not be quiet. They must talk, and as the captain walked away that they might not speak to him, they talked to each other.
It was nearly an hour after this that Captain Horn, standing on the outer end of the plateau, saw some black dots moving on the moonlit beach. They moved very slowly, and it was a long time—at least, it seemed so to the captain—before Maka and his companions reached the plateau.
The negroes were heavily loaded with bags and packages, and they were glad to deposit their burdens on the ground.
“Hi!” cried the captain, who spoke as if he had been drinking champagne, “you brought a good cargo, Maka, and now don’t let us hear any tales of what you have seen until we have had supper—supper for everybody. You know what you have got, Maka. Let us have the best things, and let every one of you take a hand in making a fire and cooking. What we want is a first-class feast.”