The Treasure of the Incas by G. A. Henty
Chapter XIX. The Treasure
The next morning Harry said:
"I will go upstairs to that look-out place again. I have been up there pretty nearly every day, and stared down. I can't get it out of my mind that the key of the mystery lies there, and that that hole was made for some other purpose than merely throwing stones out on to any of those who might go in behind the rocks. I have puzzled and worried over it."
"Shall I come up with you, Harry?"
"No, I would rather you didn't. I will go up by myself and spend the morning there; some idea may occur to me. You may as well all have a quiet day of it."
He lit his pipe and went upstairs. Jose went off to the mules, and Bertie descended the ladder, and strolled round what they called the courtyard, looking for eggs among the rocks and in the tufts of grass growing higher up. Dias scattered a few handfuls of maize to the chickens and then assisted Maria to catch two of them; after which he descended the ladder and sat down gloomily upon a stone. He had become more and more depressed in spirits as the search became daily more hopeless; and although he worked as hard as anyone, he seldom spoke, while Harry and his brother often joked, and showed no outward signs of disappointment. An hour passed, and then Harry appeared suddenly at the window.
"Bertie, Dias, come up at once, I have an idea!"
They ran to the ladder and climbed up. The excitement with which he spoke showed that the idea was an important one. "Now, Dias," he broke out as they joined him, "we know, don't we, that a part of the Incas' treasure was sent off by boat, and the belief of the Indians was that it was never heard of again."
"That is so, senor. There was certainly a storm the day after it started, and, as I have told you, it was never heard of again. Had it been, a report of it would surely have come down."
"I believe, Dias, that the boat was dashed to pieces against that line of rocks outside the entrance to the passage. We have reason to believe that the people here were expecting the treasure to arrive, and had the entrance to the cave in readiness to receive it. Certainly no better place could have been chosen for concealment. The boat may have been coming here when the storm broke and drove them towards the shore. They probably attempted to gain the mouth of the cove, but missed it, and were dashed to pieces against the rocks. The Indians on guard here no doubt saw it, and would be sure that the heavy sacks or boxes containing the gold would sink to the bottom. They would lie perfectly secure there, even more secure than if they had been removed and placed in the cave, and could always be recovered when the Spaniards left, so they were content to leave them there. Still, they obeyed the orders they had received to keep watch for ever over the treasure, and to do so knocked that strange hole through the wall and always kept two men on guard there.
"So it must have gone on. They and those who succeeded them never wavered. Doubtless they received food from their friends outside, or some of them went out, as you have done, to fetch it in. Then came a time when, for some reason or other--doubtless, as I supposed before, when the Spaniards swept pretty nearly all the natives up to work in the mines, and they themselves dared not issue out--the attempt to get food was made, when too late, by the men whose skeletons we found on the steps when we first came here; and the rest were all too feeble to repeat the experiment, and died --the two sentinels at their post, the rest in the room where we found them."
"Hurrah!" Bertie shouted, "I have no doubt you have hit it, Harry. I believe, after all, that we are going to find it. That is splendid! I shall dance at your wedding, Harry, which I had begun to think I never should do."
"Don't be a young ass, Bertie. It is only an idea, and we have had several ideas before, but nothing has come of them."
"Something is going to come of this, I am convinced; I would bet any money on it. Well, shall we go and have a trial at once?"
"What do you think, Dias?" Harry said, paying no attention to Bertie's last remark.
"I think it is quite possible, senor. Certainly, if the Indians had been told to guard the treasure, they would do so always. You know how they kept the secrets entrusted to them whatever tortures they were put to. If the gold had been, as you say, lost amongst the rocks, I do think they would have still watched the place. I thought it strange that they should have made that hole, but when you said that they might have made it to throw stones down it seemed to me to be likely enough; but the other suggestion is more probable. Well, senor, I am ready to try it, but I am not a very good swimmer."
"My brother and I are both good swimmers, and we will do that part of the work. The hardest part will be getting it up, and you will be able to give us your help at that."
"Well, let us be off," Bertie said; "I am all on thorns to begin. We shall soon find it out. If it is there, it is almost certain to be at the foot of the rocks, though, of course, it is possible that the boat sank before striking them. At any rate, I feel sure she went down somewhere within the area that can be seen through that hole. It won't take many days' diving to search every yard of the bottom."
They hastily descended the ladder, and, divesting themselves of their clothes, swam out through the opening. Dias climbed up on the rocks, the others swam round by the ends of the barrier. The water was so warm that they would be able to remain in it for any time without inconvenience.
"We need not begin here, Bertie; we are outside the line of sight. From that hole I could not see the end of these rocks. We will start at the middle, and work in opposite directions."
On arriving off the centre of the wall both dived. The depth was about twelve feet, and as the water was perfectly clear, Harry could see four or five feet round him. He was obliged to swim carefully, for the bottom was covered with rocks, for the most part rounded by the action of the sea. For an hour he continued his search, by which time he had reached nearly the end of the line of rocks. Then he landed on a ledge of rock and sat down, calling to Bertie to join him.
"We will rest for a quarter of an hour," he said, "and then begin again. This time we will keep twenty or thirty feet farther out; it is more likely to be there than close in. If the boat struck, the next wave would sweep over her, and she would probably go down stern first, and her cargo would fall out that way."
After their rest they started again, swam out a few strokes, and then dived. Harry had gone down five or six times, when, on his coming to the surface, he heard a shout, and saw Bertie swimming towards him.
"I have found them, Harry! There are a number of ingots, but they were so heavy that I could not bring one of them to the surface."
As Harry reached him the lad turned round and swam back. "There they are, just opposite that cleft in the rock! I looked directly I came up so as to know the exact spot."
Harry trod water for half a minute, then took a long breath and dived.
It was as Bertie had said. Scattered among the rocks were a score of ingots. They had lost their brilliancy, but shone with a dull copperish hue, with bright gleams here and there where rocks had grated against them. Putting one hand on a block of rock he lifted one of them with the other.
"About twenty pounds," he said to himself. "Thank God, Hilda is as good as won!" Then he rose to the surface. "Shake hands, Bertie; there is enough there to make us all rich for life. Now we will get back again. We have to think matters over, and see how they are to be got ashore. There is no hurry; they have lain there for three hundred years, and would lie there as much longer if we did not take them. We have found them, Dias!" he shouted; and the latter gave a yell of delight. "Swim ashore, and we will join you there."
Not another word was spoken until they had dressed and walked out.
"I am too excited even to think," Harry broke out. "It is time for dinner. When we have had that and smoked a pipe I shall be able to talk calmly over it."
Maria was wild with delight at the news, and laughed and cried by turns. Even Jose, who was accustomed to take all things quietly, was almost as excited. The woman was only called to herself when Harry said, laughing, "Maria, for the first time since we started from Lima, you are letting the dinner burn."
"To think of it!" she cried. "It is your fault, senor; you should not have told me about it till we sat down."
"You won't have to cook much longer, Maria. You will be able now to have a servant, and a house as big as you like, and a beautiful garden."
"I should not like that, senor; what should I do all day with myself?"
"I am glad, senor, glad for your sake," Dias said gravely. "To us it will make no difference. You said there was enough there to make us rich. Assuredly that is so; but not one peso of it will we touch. No man with Indian blood in his veins, not even the poorest in Peru, would have aught to do with an ounce of the Incas' treasures. When they were buried, a curse was laid upon any who betrayed their hiding-place or who ever touched the gold. It has brought a curse upon Spain. At the time the Spaniards landed here they were a great nation. Now their glory has departed; they no longer own the land they tyrannized over for three hundred years, and we have heard that their power in Europe has altogether gone. It must be the curse of the gold, or they would never have allowed your great Englishman, Cochrane, with but two or three ships, to conquer them here. My mind is easy as to the finding of the treasure. You came here in spite of my prayers that you would not do so. It is you who have made the discovery, not me. But I will take no share in the gold. From the day I took it I should be a cursed man; my flesh would melt away, I should suffer tortures, and should die a miserable death." "Well, Dias, I will not try to persuade you. I know that, Christian though you be, your native belief still clings to you, and I will not argue against it; but I have money of my own, and from that I will give you enough to make you comfortable for life, and that you can take without feeling that you have incurred any curse from the finding of this treasure."
"I thank you heartily," Dias said gratefully; "I thank you with all my heart. I have ever been a wanderer, and now I will gladly settle down. I do not desire wealth, but enough to live on in comfort with my wife, and only to travel when it pleases me."
"You shall have enough for that and more, Dias."
After some more meat had been cooked and eaten, and he had smoked a pipe, Harry said: "A boat would, of course, be the best thing, but there are difficulties connected with it. There is no spot, as far as I know, where we could land for fifteen miles on either side, and there would only be small villages where everything we did would be seen and talked about. There is no place where we could keep a boat here, for if even a slight breeze sprang up the swell coming in round the passage between the rocks and the cliff would smash her up in no time."
"That is so, senor."
Harry was silent again for some time, and then said: "The only plan I can think of is to get some strong leather bags. Then we could take one down with us when we dive, with a strong cord tied to it, put a couple of the ingots into it, and you could haul it up on to the rocks, and so on until we have finished a day's work. Then we could carry them to this side of the rocks; there you could put them, three or four at a time, into the bag, and drop them down in the water. We would swim up the tunnel and haul them in, and then bring the bag back again. We sha'n't be able to get anything approaching all the ingots, for a great many of them must have gone in between the crevices of the rocks, and unless we broke it up with powder, which would be next to impossible without a diving-dress and air- pumps and all sorts of things, which cannot be bought in this country, we could not get at them. However, we have only just begun to look for them yet; we may come across a pile. Heavy as the sea must be on this coast in a gale, I hardly think it would much affect a pile of ingots; their weight would keep them steady even were big rocks rolled about.
"I think the best thing, Dias, would be for you to go off with two or three mules. We shall soon be running short of provisions, and you had better get enough flour and dried meat to last us for a month. I don't suppose we shall be as long as that, but it is as well to have a good store so as not to have to make the journey again. Then you had better get twenty leather bags, such as those in which they bring the ore down from the mountains. We have plenty of stout rope, but we shall want some thin cord for tying the necks of the bags. You may as well bring another keg of spirits, brandy if you can get it, a bag of coffee, and some sugar, and anything else you think of. Now I am a millionaire we can afford to be comfortable. By the way, we might as well this afternoon get the rest of those silver brackets out. These are not a part of the Incas' treasure, and you can take them as your share without fear of the curse. It would be best for you to smelt them down; I know all of you natives can do that."
"Do you think that they are not part of the Incas' treasure, senor?" Dias said doubtfully.
"Certainly not; they were undoubtedly here before the Incas' time. But even had they been put there by Incas, you could not call them hidden treasure. They might be part of the Incas' property, but certainly not part of the treasures they hid."
"But it is altogether too much, senor; it is noble of you to offer it me."
"Not at all; we owe everything we find to you, and it would be only fair that you should have at least a third of the gold. But still, if you won't touch that, you must take the silver."
"But I heard you say that it was worth four thousand pounds."
"Well, if we are lucky we shall get twenty times as much, Dias."
"Certainly we will take it, senor, and grateful we shall both be to you," Maria said; "and so will Jose, who will inherit it all some day, as he is the only relative we have. I agree with Dias about the gold. I have heard so often about the curse on it that I should be afraid."
"Well, Maria, you see there is a lot of nonsense in all your superstitions. You know it was one of them that this place was guarded by demons. Now you have seen for yourself that it was all humbug. If you are afraid about the silver, I will take it to England and sell it there and send you the money it fetches; but that would give a great deal of trouble. It will be difficult to get the gold safely away, without being bothered with all this silver.
"You had better buy some bags of charcoal, Dias. I suppose you will use that small hearth we have?"
"No, senor, it would take an immense time to do it in that. I will load one of the mules with hard bricks."
"You will want two mules to carry a hundred, Dias--I think they weigh about four pounds and a half each. Will that be enough?"
"Plenty, senor; but I shall want another bellows. Jose and I can work the two of them, and that will make a great heat. We can melt two or three hundred pounds a day. I have helped to make many a furnace up in the mountains, and I know very well all about the way to build and work them."
"Very well, then, that is settled. You had better start to-morrow morning with Jose, and we will spend the day in finding out a little more about the gold."
Dias started the next morning, and the two brothers were in the water most of the day. Harry found, as he had expected, that a great deal of the treasure had sunk out of reach between the rocks; but he came upon one pile, which had apparently been originally packed in sacks or skins, lying in a heap a little farther out than they had before searched. He had no doubt that this was the point where the stern of the boat had sunk, and a considerable portion of the contents had been shot out, while the rest had been scattered about as the boat broke up, and as the skins rotted their contents had fallen between the rocks. There were, as nearly as he could calculate, two hundred and fifty to three hundred ingots in the pile.
"I need not trouble about the rest," he laughed to himself. "Each ingot, if it weighs twenty pounds, is worth a thousand. Two hundred of them would make me as rich as any man can want to be. I can hardly believe in my luck; it is stupendous. Fancy a half-pay lieutenant with two hundred thousand pounds! Old Fortescue will become one of the most complaisant of fathers-in-law."
The evening before Dias left, Harry had written a letter for him to post at Callao, telling Hilda to keep up a brave heart, for that he hoped to be at home before the end of the second year with money enough to satisfy her father.
"I should not tell you so unless I felt certain of what I am saying. I told you before I left that it was almost a forlorn hope that I was undertaking, and that the chances were ten thousand to one against me. I think now that the one chance has turned up, and I hope to be home within two months of the time that you receive this letter."
He did not say more; but even now he could scarcely believe that the good fortune had befallen him, and feared that some unlucky fate might interfere between him and the fulfilment of his hopes. When Dias returned after two days' absence the work began. Each morning they worked together at bringing up the gold and piling the ingots on the rock. It was slower work than Harry had expected, for on hauling the bag to the rocks it was often caught by the boulders, and he and Bertie sometimes had to dive four or five times before they could free it and get it ashore. The gold was piled in the tunnel just beyond the water. In a fortnight the last ingot they could get at was stored with its fellows--two hundred and eighty-two in all.
They had repeatedly talked over the best plan of getting the gold away, and finally concluded that it would be risking too much to take it into a town, and that the best plan would be for Harry to buy a boat at Callao, which, as a naval officer, would be natural enough. They decided to procure three times as many bags as the ingots would really require, and that they should put in each bag three ingots only, filling it up with pieces of stone, so that the weight should not exceed what it would have been were the contents heavy ore. Harry arranged that he would go down to Callao, buy a large boat, and after having made several excursions, to accustom the officials at Callao to seeing him going about, he would make a bargain with the captains of two ships about to sail to England, to carry about two tons each of ore, which he could put on board them after dark, so as to avoid the extortion he would have to submit to before the port officials and others would allow him to ship it. The question that puzzled them most was the best way of taking the bags into the boat. Dias was in favour of their being carried on the mules to a point lower down the coast, at which they could be loaded into the boat.
"It would be only necessary to carry the gold," he said, "the stones to fill the bags could be put in there."
The objection to this was that they might be observed at work, and that at most points it would be difficult both to run the boat up and to get her off again through the rollers. If the boat were brought round into the inlet she could be loaded there comfortably. The only fear was of being caught in a gale. But as gales were by no means frequent the risk was small; and should a sudden storm come on when she was lying there, and she were broken up, it would be easy to recover the gold from the shallow water behind the rocks. This was therefore settled. Only half the treasure was to be taken away at once, and not till this had been got on board a ship and the vessel had sailed would the boat come back for the rest of their treasure.
Dias was at once to start with the mules and carry the silver, in two journeys, to a safe place among the mountains. There he could bury it in three or four hiding-places, to be fetched out as he might require it, only taking some fifty pounds to Lima. Here he was to dispose of a portion of it to one of the dealers who made it his business to buy up silver from the natives. As many of these worked small mines, and sent down the produce once a month to Lima, there would be nothing suspicious in its being offered for sale, especially as it would be known that Dias had been away for a very long time among the mountains. It was necessary that the sale should be effected at once, because Harry's stock of money was running very low, and he would have to pay for the passages of Bertie and himself to England, and for the freight of the gold. Dias was to dispose later on of all the remaining stores, the powder and tools, and the three riding mules.
Two days later the last of the silver brackets had been melted, and Dias and Harry started with the eight mules, six of them being laden with the silver. They struck back at once into the hills, and after travelling for two days, ascended a wild gorge. "It is not once a year that anyone would come up here, senor. There is no way out of it. We can bury the silver here with a certainty that it will be safe from disturbance."
"Yes, it will be safe here; and as you want it you have only to make a journey with a couple of mules to fetch as much as you require, carry it home, and bury it in your garden or under the house; then you could from time to time take a few ingots into the town and dispose of them. But to begin with, I will borrow fifty pounds weight of it, and get you to dispose of it for me at Lima. My money is beginning to run short. I shall have to pay for the freight of the gold and my own passage home, and to buy a boat large enough to carry half the treasure. It is not likely that there will be two vessels sailing at the same time, in which case I shall make two trips. As I should not put it on board until the night before the ship sailed, of course I could go home with the second lot."
"I shall never know what to do with a tenth part of this silver, senor. It would never do for me to make a show of being rich; the authorities would seize me, and perhaps torture me to make me reveal the source of my wealth."
"Well, there are thousands of your countrymen in the deepest poverty, Dias; you could secretly help those in distress; a single ingot, ten pounds in weight, would be a fortune to them. And when you die you might get a respectable lawyer to make out a will, leaving your treasure to some charity for the benefit of Indians, giving, of course, instructions where the treasure is to be found."
"That is good," Dias said. "Thank you, senor! that will make me very happy."
They had brought a pick and shovel with them, and, dividing the bags, buried them at some distance apart, rolling stones to cover up the hiding- places, and obliterating any signs of the ground having been disturbed. A hundred pounds were left out, and with this in their saddle-bags they arrived at Lima two days later.
Harry went on alone into Callao. He had no difficulty in purchasing a ship's boat in fair condition. She carried two lug-sails, and was amply large enough for the purpose for which she was required, being nearly thirty feet long with a beam of six feet. He got her cheaply, for the ship to which she belonged had been wrecked some distance along the coast, and a portion of the crew had launched her and made their way to Callao; the mate, who was the sole surviving officer, was glad to accept the ten pounds Harry offered for her, as this would enable the crew to exist until they could obtain a passage home, or ship on board some British vessel short of hands. The boat was too large to be worked by one man, and seeing that the mate was an honest and intelligent fellow, Harry arranged with him to aid him to sail the boat, and each day they went out for some hours. After spending a week in apparent idleness, and getting to know more of the man, Harry told him that he had really bought the boat for the purpose of getting some ore he had discovered on board a ship homeward- bound.
"You know what these Peruvians are," he said, "and how jealous they are of our getting hold of mines, so I have got to do the thing quietly, and the only way will be to take the ore off by night. It is on a spot some eighty miles along the coast. I am going off tomorrow to get it ready for embarkation, and I shall be away about a week. I find that the London will leave in ten days, and I shall get it put on board the night before she sails. While I am away, look after the boat. The Nancy will sail five days later. I am going to put half on board each ship, as I am anxious to ensure that some at least of the ore shall reach home, so as to be analysed, and see if it is as rich as I hope. But be sure not to mention a word of this to a soul. I should have immense trouble with the authorities if it got about that I had discovered a mine."
"I understand, sir. You may be quite sure I shall say nothing about it."
"How are your men getting on?"
"Four are shipped on board the Esmerelda, which sailed yesterday, the others are hanging on till they can get berths. I hope a few will be able to go in the two ships you name, but they haven't applied at present. Some of the crew may desert before the time for sailing comes, and of course they would get better paid if they went as part of the crew than if they merely worked their passage home."
"I am sorry for them," Harry said. "Here is another five pounds to help them to hold on. As an old naval officer I can feel for men in such a place."
Dias, after selling the silver, had, a week before, returned with the mules to the castle, and on his arrival there had sent Jose to join Harry and bring news to them of the day on which the boat would arrive. Dias and Bertie were packing half the bags, of which the former took with him an ample supply, to get the gold out on the rocks facing the entrance, so that they could be shipped without delay. Great pains were taken in packing the bags so that the three ingots placed in each should be completely surrounded by stones. Anyone who might take a fancy to feel them, in order to ascertain their contents, would have no reason to suppose that they carried anything beyond the ore they were stated to contain.
Harry had had no difficulty in arranging with the captain of the London to take from a ton and a half to two tons of ore the night before he sailed, and three days before this Harry started with the mate. There was but a light breeze, and it was daylight next morning before they arrived. A pole had been stuck up at the edge of the cliff just above the cavern, and as it became dark a lantern was also placed there, so they had no trouble in finding the entrance of the little cove.
"It is a rum-looking place, sir," the man said. "As far as I can see there is no break in the cliffs."
"It is a curious place, but you will find the bags with the ore on the rocks inside here ready for us, and my brother and one of my men waiting there. They will have made us out an hour ago, so we can load up at once and get out of this tiny creek. I don't want to stay in there any longer than is necessary, for if there is anything of a swell we could not get out again."
As they approached the place Harry gave a shout, which was at once answered. The sails were lowered, and the boat passed round the edge of the rocks.
"It is a rum place," the mate repeated. "Why, one might have rowed past here fifty times without thinking there was water inside the rocks. Of course you must have lowered the sacks down from the top?"
"It was a difficult job," Harry said carelessly; "but we were anxious to get the things away quietly. If we had taken them down to the port we should have had no end of bother, and a hundred men would have set off at once to try and find out where we got the ore."
Bertie and Dias had everything ready, and as the boat drew up alongside the rocks on which they were standing the former said, "Everything all right, Harry?"
"Yes, I hope so. We are to put the ore on board the London to-morrow after dark; she will get up her anchor at daylight. You have got all the bags ready, I hope?"
"Everything; the others will be ready for you when you come back for them."
"The next ship sails in about a week. Now, let us get them on board at once, I don't want to stop in here a minute longer than is necessary. There is scarcely a breath of wind now; if it doesn't blow up a bit in the morning, we shall have a long row before us to get there in time. This is my brother, Owen; the other is a mule-driver, who has been my guide and companion for the past year, and whom I am proud to call my friend."
"You don't want anything in the way of food, do you?" Bertie asked.
"We have got some here," Harry laughed. "I am too old a sailor to put to sea without having provisions in my craft. Now, let us get the bags on board."
It did not take them long to transfer the sacks into the boat.
"They are pretty heavy," the mate said, "I should say a hundredweight each."
"About that," Harry said carelessly. "This ore stuff is very heavy."
As soon as all was on board Harry said: "Now we can put out at any moment, but I don't want to leave till dark. We may as well begin to get the rest of the bags out here at once. We might finish that job before we start. Then you could come down with us, Bertie, and Dias could pack up the remaining stores to-morrow and start for Lima with the mules, and his wife and Jose.
"Very well, Harry. I think we can leave the sacks here safely."
"Just as safely as if they were ashore. So far as we know no one has been in here for the past two hundred years, and no one is likely to come in the next week."
By evening all the work was done. The mate had been greatly surprised at the manner in which the bags had been brought on board, but had helped in the work and asked no questions. As soon as it was dark they rowed out from the cove. There was not a breath of wind. Bertie volunteered to take the first watch, the mate was to take the next.
Harry was not sorry to turn in. He had had but little sleep for the past week. Everything had seemed to be going well, but at any moment there might be some hitch in the arrangements, and he had been anxious and excited. Wrapping himself in his poncho he lay down in the stern of the boat and slept soundly until morning.
"I have had a sleep," he said on waking. "I have slept longer to-night than I have done for the past fortnight. Now I will take the helm. How fast have we been moving?"
"We have not gone many miles, and if what tide there is hadn't been with us we should not have moved at all, for the sails have not been full all night. A breeze only sprang up an hour ago, and we are not moving through the water now at more than a knot and a half; but I think it is freshening."
"I hope it is," Harry said. "It is not often that we have a dead calm; but if it doesn't spring up we shall have to row. With two tons and a half of stuff on board it is as much as we can do to move two knots an hour through the water."
"All right, sir! when you think it is time to begin, stir me up."
In half an hour the breeze had increased so much that the boat was running along three knots an hour. By eight o'clock she was doing a knot better. So she ran along till, at four o'clock in the afternoon, the wind died away again, and they could just see the masts of the ships at Callao in the distance.
"I should think that we are about fifteen miles off," Harry said.
"About that," Bertie replied. "We had better get our oars and help her along, she is not going much more than a knot through the water an hour."
They got out the oars and set to work. Occasionally a puff of wind gave them a little assistance, but it was one o'clock before they arrived alongside the London.
A lamp was alight at the gangway as arranged, and two sailors were on watch.
"The captain turned in an hour ago, sir," one of them said. "He left orders that the mate was to call him if you arrived. We will soon have him up."
In five minutes the mate and four other sailors were on deck.
"We have got a whip rigged in readiness," the officer said. "How much do the packages weigh, sir?"
"They are leathern bags, and weigh about a hundredweight each."
"How many are there?"
"We have got the fore-hatch open, and can hand them down in no time. If you will pass the boat along to the chains forward we shall be ready for you. Shall I send a couple of hands down into the boat to hook them on?"
"No, you needn't do that."
As soon as the boat reached her station a rope with a couple of small chains attached descended. One of the chains was fastened round a bag, and this was at once run up. By the time the rope came down again the other chain was passed round another bag, and in a quarter of an hour the whole were on board and down in the hold. The captain had now come out,
"So you have got them off all right, Mr. Prendergast?"
"Yes. There are forty-six bags. We will say, roughly, two ton and a half; though I doubt whether there is as much as that. At any rate, I will pay you for the freight agreed upon at once. They have all got labels on them, and on your arrival, after being handed into store, are to remain till called for. I am coming on in the Nancy. I do not know whether she is faster than you are or not. At any rate, she is not likely to be long behind you."
"I think that possibly you will be home first, sir; the Nancy made the voyage out here a fortnight quicker than we did; but it depends, of course, on what weather we meet with. I was on board her this afternoon, and her captain and I made a bet of five pounds each as to which would be in the port of London first. I shall have the anchor up by daylight. Now, gentlemen, will you come down into the cabin and we will take a glass together."
Harry did so, and after emptying a tumbler and wishing the captain a quick and pleasant voyage, he got into the boat and rowed two or three miles along the shore, as a landing at that time of night might cause questions to be asked; and then they lay down and slept by turns until morning broke. A light breeze then sprang up, and hoisting sail they returned to Callao. The London was already far out at sea.