“I have it!” he cried to Rosa. Seizing the candle, he thrust it into the opening. He beheld what he had expected to find, a small cavern or grotto which had evidently been pierced during the digging of the well. He could appreciate now how simple had been the task of sealing it up so as to baffle discovery. Rosa, poised above him, scarcely breathed until he straightened himself and turned his face upward once more.
He tried to speak, but voiced nothing more than a hoarse croak; the candle in his hand described erratic figures.
“What do you see?” the girl cried in an agony of suspense.
“I—It’s here! B-boxes, chests, casks—everything!”
“God be praised! My father’s fortune at last!”
Rosa forgot her surroundings; she beat her hands together, calling upon O’Reilly to make haste and determine beyond all question that the missing hoard was indeed theirs. She drew perilously close to the well and knelt over it like some priestess at her devotions; her eyes were brimming with tears and there was a roaring in her ears. It was not strange that she failed to see or to hear the approach of a great blurred figure which materialized out of the night and took station scarcely an arm’s-length behind her.
“He intended it for his children,” she sobbed, “and Providence saved it from our wicked enemies. It was the hand of God that led us here, O’Reilly. Tell me, what do you see now?”
Johnnie had wormed his way into the damp chamber and a slim rectangle of light was projected against the opposite side of the well. Rosa could hear him talking and moving about.
Don Esteban Varona’s subterranean hiding-place was large enough to store a treasure far greater than his; it was perhaps ten feet in length, with a roof high enough to accommodate a tall man. At the farther end were ranged several small wooden chests bound with iron and fitted with hasps and staples, along one side was a row of diminutive casks, the sort used to contain choice wines or liquors; over all was a thick covering of slime and mold. The iron was deeply rusted and the place itself smelled abominably stale.
O’Reilly surveyed this Aladdin’s cave in a daze. He set his candle down, for his fingers were numb and unsteady. Cautiously, as if fearful of breaking some spell, he stooped and tried to move one of the casks, but found that it resisted him as if cemented to the rock. He noted that its head was bulged upward, as if by the dampness, so he took his iron bar and aimed a sharp blow at the chine. A hoop gave way; another blow enabled him to pry out the head of the cask. He stood blinking at the sight exposed, for the little barrel was full of coins—yellow coins, large and small. O’Reilly seized a handful and held them close to the candle-flame; among the number he noted a Spanish doubloon, such as young Esteban had found.