He had with him a trunk nearly empty, in which he might pack some blankets and other stuff with some bags of gold stowed away between them, but more than fifty pounds added to the weight of the trunk and its contents would make it suspiciously heavy, and what was fifty pounds out of that vast mass? But although he puzzled his brains for the greater part of a day, trying to devise some method by which he could take away more gold without exciting the suspicions of the people on board the English vessel, there was no plan that entered his mind that did not contain elements of danger, and the danger was an appalling one. If the crew of the Finland, or the crew of any other vessel, should, on this desert coast, get scent of a treasure mound of gold ingots, he might as well attempt to reason with wild beasts as to try to make them understand that that treasure belonged to him. If he could get away with any of it, or even with his life, he ought to be thankful.
The captain was a man who, since he had come to an age of maturity, had been in the habit of turning his mind this way and that as he would turn the helm of his vessel, and of holding it to the course he had determined upon, no matter how strong the wind or wave, how dense the fog, or how black the night. But never had he stood to his helm as he now stood to a resolve.
“I will bring away a couple of bags,” said he, “to put in my trunk, and then, I swear to myself, I will not think another minute about carrying away any more of that gold than what is packed in these guano-bags. If I can ever come back, I will come back, but what I have to do now is to get away with what I have already taken out of the mound, and also to get away with sound reason and steady nerves.”
The next day there was not a sail on the far horizon, and the captain brought away two bags of gold. These, with some clothes, he packed in his empty trunk.
“Now,” said he, “this is my present share. If I permit myself to think of taking another bar, I shall be committing a crime.”
HIS FORTUNE UNDER HIS FEET
Notwithstanding the fact that the captain had, for the present, closed his account with the treasure in the lake cave, and had determined not to give another thought to further drafts upon it, he could not prevent all sorts of vague and fragmentary plans for getting more of the gold from thrusting themselves upon him; but his hand was strong upon the tiller of his mind, and his course did not change a point. He now began to consider in what condition he should leave the caves. Once he thought he would go there and take away everything which might indicate that the caves had been inhabited, but this notion he discarded.
“There are a good many people,” he thought, “who know that we lived there, and if that man who was there afterwards should come back, I would prefer that he should not notice any changes, unless, indeed,”—and his eyes glistened as a thought darted into his mind,—“unless, indeed, he should find a lake where he left a dry cave. Good! I’ll try it.”