As the captain trembled with fear, it was not for himself, for he could listen for the sound of the rushing waters, and could dash away to the higher ground behind him; but it was for his treasure-bags, his fortune, his future! His soul quaked. His first impulse was to rush out and carry every bag to higher ground. But this idea was absurd. The night was too dark, and the bags too heavy and too many. Then he thought of hurrying away to the caves to see if the lake had risen high enough to be dangerous. But what could he do if it had? In his excitement, he could not stand still and do nothing. He took hold of one end of his trunk and pulled it out of his tent, and, stumbling and floundering over the inequalities of the ground, he at last got it to a place which he supposed would be out of reach of a sudden flood, and the difficulties of this little piece of work assured him of the utter futility of attempting to move the bags in the darkness. He had a lantern, but that would be of little service on such a night and for such a work.
He went back into his tent, and tried to prevail upon himself that he ought to go to sleep—that it was ridiculous to beset himself with imaginary dangers, and to suffer from them as much as if they had been real ones. But such reasoning was vain, and he sat up or walked about near his tent all night, listening and listening, and trying to think of the best thing to do if he should hear a coming flood.
As soon as it was light, he hurried to the caves, and when he reached the old bed of the lake, he found there was not a drop of water in it.
“The thing doesn’t work!” he cried joyfully. “Fool that I am, I might have known that although a man might open a valve two or three centuries old, he should not expect to shut it up again. I suppose I smashed it utterly.”
His revulsion of feeling was so great that he began to laugh at his own absurdity, and then he laughed at his merriment.
“If any one should see me now,” he thought, “they would surely think I had gone crazy over my wealth. Well, there is no danger from a flood, but, to make all things more than safe, I will pull down this handle, if it will come. Anyway, I do not want it seen.”
The great bar came down much easier than it had gone up, moving, in fact, the captain thought, as if some of its detachments were broken, and when it was down as far as it would go, he came away.
“Now,” said he, “I have done with this cave for this trip. If possible, I shall think of it no more.”
When he was getting some water from the stream to make some coffee for his breakfast, he stopped and clenched his fist. “I am more of a fool than I thought I was,” he said. “This solitary business is not good for me. If I had thought last night of coming here to see if this little stream were still running, and kept its height, I need not have troubled myself about the lake in the cave. Of course, if the water were running into the caves, it would not be running here until the lake had filled. And, besides, it would take days for that great lake to fill. Well, I am glad that nobody but myself knows what an idiot I have been.”