My Buried Treasure by Richard Harding Davis
This is a true story of a search for buried treasure. The only part that is not true is the name of the man with whom I searched for the treasure. Unless I keep his name out of it he will not let me write the story, and, as it was his expedition and as my share of the treasure is only what I can make by writing the story, I must write as he dictates. I think the story should be told, because our experience was unique, and might be of benefit to others. And, besides, I need the money.
There is, however, no agreement preventing me from describing him as I think he is, or reporting, as accurately as I can, what he said and did as he said and did it.
For purposes of identification I shall call him Edgar Powell. The last name has no significance; but the first name is not chosen at random. The leader of our expedition, the head and brains of it, was and is the sort of man one would address as Edgar. No one would think of calling him "Ed," or "Eddie," any more than he would consider slapping him on the back.
We were together at college; but, as six hundred other boys were there at the same time, that gives no clew to his identity. Since those days, until he came to see me about the treasure, we had not met. All I knew of him was that he had succeeded his father in manufacturing unshrinkable flannels. Of course, the reader understands that is not the article of commerce he manufactures; but it is near enough, and it suggests the line of business to which he gives his life's blood. It is not similar to my own line of work, and in consequence, when he wrote me, on the unshrinkable flannels official writing-paper, that he wished to see me in reference to a matter of business of "mutual benefit," I was considerably puzzled.
A few days later, at nine in the morning, an hour of his own choosing, he came to my rooms in New York City.
Except that he had grown a beard, he was as I remembered him, thin and tall, but with no chest, and stooping shoulders. He wore eye-glasses, and as of old through these he regarded you disapprovingly and warily as though he suspected you might try to borrow money, or even joke with him. As with Edgar I had never felt any temptation to do either, this was irritating.
But from force of former habit we greeted each other by our first names, and he suspiciously accepted a cigar. Then, after fixing me both with his eyes and with his eye-glasses and swearing me to secrecy, he began abruptly.
"Our mills," he said, "are in New Bedford; and I own several small cottages there and in Fairhaven. I rent them out at a moderate rate. The other day one of my tenants, a Portuguese sailor, was taken suddenly ill and sent for me. He had made many voyages in and out of Bedford to the South Seas, whaling, and he told me on his last voyage he had touched at his former home at Teneriffe. There his grandfather had given him a document that had been left him by his father. His grandfather said it contained an important secret, but one that was of value only in America, and that when he returned to that continent he must be very careful to whom he showed it. He told me it was written in a kind of English he could not understand, and that he had been afraid to let any one see it. He wanted me to accept the document in payment of the rent he owed me, with the understanding that I was not to look at it, and that if he got well I was to give it back. If he pulled through, he was to pay me in some other way; but if he died I was to keep the document. About a month ago he died, and I examined the paper. It purports to tell where there is buried a pirate's treasure. And," added Edgar, gazing at me severely and as though he challenged me to contradict him, I intend to dig for it!"
Had he told me he contemplated crossing the Rocky Mountains in a Baby Wright, or leading a cotillon, I could not have been more astonished. I am afraid I laughed aloud.
"You!" I exclaimed. "Search for buried treasure?"
My tone visibly annoyed him. Even the eye-glasses radiated disapproval.
"I see nothing amusing in the idea," Edgar protested coldly. "It is a plain business proposition. I find the outlay will be small, and if I am successful the returns should be large; at a rough estimate about one million dollars."
Even to-day, no true American, at the thought of one million dollars, can remain covered. His letter to me had said, "for our mutual benefit." I became respectful and polite, I might even say abject. After all, the ties that bind us in those dear old college days are not lightly to be disregarded.
"If I can be of any service to you, Edgar, old man," I assured him heartily, "if I can help you find it, you know I shall be only too happy." With regret I observed that my generous offer did not seem to deeply move him.
"I came to you in this matter," he continued stiffly, "because you seemed to be the sort of person who would be interested in a search for buried treasure."
"I am," I exclaimed. "Always have been."
"Have you," he demanded searchingly, "any practical experience?"
I tried to appear at ease; but I knew then just how the man who applies to look after your furnace feels, when you ask him if he can also run a sixty horse-power dynamo.
"I have never actually found any buried treasure," I admitted; "but I know where lots of it is, and I know just how to go after it." I endeavored to dazzle him with expert knowledge.
"Of course," I went on airily, "I am familiar with all the expeditions that have tried for the one on Cocos Island, and I know all about the Peruvian treasure on Trinidad, and the lost treasures of Jalisco near Guadalajara, and the sunken galleon on the Grand Cayman, and when I was on the Isle of Pines I had several very tempting offers to search there. And the late Captain Boynton invited me----"
"But," interrupted Edgar in a tone that would tolerate no trifling, "you yourself have never financed or organized an expedition with the object in view of----"
"Oh, that part's easy!" I assured him. "The fitting-out part you can safely leave to me." I assumed a confidence that I hoped he might believe was real. "There's always a tramp steamer in the Erie Basin," I said, "that one can charter for any kind of adventure, and I have the addresses of enough soldiers of fortune, filibusters, and professional revolutionists to man a battle-ship, all fine fellows in a tight corner. And I'll promise you they'll follow us to hell, and back----"
"That!" exclaimed Edgar, "is exactly what I feared! "
"I beg your pardon!" I exclaimed.
"That's exactly what I DON'T want," said Edgar sternly. "I don't INTEND to get into any tight corners. I don't WANT to go to hell!"
I saw that in my enthusiasm I had perhaps alarmed him. I continued more temperately.
"Any expedition after treasure," I pointed out, "is never without risk. You must have discipline, and you must have picked men. Suppose there's a mutiny? Suppose they try to rob us of the treasure on our way home? We must have men we can rely on, and men who know how to pump a Winchester. I can get you both. And Bannerman will furnish me with anything from a pair of leggins to a quick firing gun, and on Clark Street they'll quote me a special rate on ship stores, hydraulic pumps, divers' helmets----"
Edgar's eye-glasses became frosted with cold, condemnatory scorn. He shook his head disgustedly.
"I was afraid of this!" he murmured.
I endeavored to reassure him.
"A little danger," I laughed, "only adds to the fun."
"I want you to understand," exclaimed Edgar indignantly, "there isn't going to be any danger. There isn't going to be any fun. This is a plain business proposition. I asked you those questions just to test you. And you approached the matter exactly as I feared you would. I was prepared for it. In fact," he explained shamefacedly, "I've read several of your little stories, and I find they run to adventure and blood and thunder; they are not of the analytical school of fiction. Judging from them," he added accusingly, "you have a tendency to the romantic." He spoke reluctantly as though saying I had a tendency to epileptic fits or the morphine habit.
"I am afraid," I was forced to admit, "that to me pirates and buried treasure always suggest adventure. And your criticism of my writings is well observed. Others have discovered the same fatal weakness. We cannot all," I pointed out, "manufacture unshrinkable flannels."
At this compliment to his more fortunate condition, Edgar seemed to soften.
"I grant you," he said, "that the subject has almost invariably been approached from the point of view you take. And what," he demanded triumphantly, "has been the result? Failure, or at least, before success was attained, a most unnecessary and regrettable loss of blood and life. Now, on my expedition, I do not intend that any blood shall be shed, or that anybody shall lose his life. I have not entered into this matter hastily. I have taken out information, and mean to benefit by other people's mistakes. When I decided to go on with this," he explained, "I read all the books that bear on searches for buried treasure, and I found that in each case the same mistakes were made, and that then, in order to remedy the mistakes, it was invariably necessary to kill somebody. Now, by not making those mistakes, it will not be necessary for me to kill any one, and nobody is going to have a chance to kill me.
"You propose that we fit out a schooner and sign on a crew. What will happen? A man with a sabre cut across his forehead, or with a black patch over one eye, will inevitably be one of that crew. And, as soon as we sail, he will at once begin to plot against us. A cabin boy who the conspirators think is asleep in his bunk will overhear their plot and will run to the quarter-deck to give warning; but a pistol shot rings out, and the cabin boy falls at the foot of the companion ladder. The cabin boy is always the first one to go. After that the mutineers kill the first mate, and lock us in our cabin, and take over the ship. They will then broach a cask of rum, and all through the night we will listen to their drunken howlings, and from the cabin airport watch the body of the first mate rolling in the lee scuppers."
"But you forget," I protested eagerly, "there is always ONE faithful member of the crew, who----"
Edgar interrupted me impatiently.
"I have not overlooked him," he said. "He is a Jamaica negro of gigantic proportions, or the ship's cook; but he always gets his too, and he gets it good. They throw HIM to the sharks! Then we all camp out on a desert island inhabited only by goats, and we build a stockade, and the mutineers come to treat with us under a white flag, and we, trusting entirely to their honor, are fools enough to go out and talk with them. At which they shoot us up, and withdraw laughing scornfully." Edgar fixed his eye-glasses upon me accusingly.
"Am I right, or am I wrong?" he demanded. I was unable to answer. "The only man," continued Edgar warmly who ever showed the slightest intelligence in the matter was the fellow in the 'Gold Bug. HE kept his mouth shut. He never let any one know that he was after buried treasure, until he found it. That's me! Now I know EXACTLY where this treasure is, and----"
I suppose, involuntarily, I must have given a start of interest; for Edgar paused and shook his head, slyly and cunningly. "And if you think I have the map on my person now," he declared in triumph, "you'll have to guess again!"
"Really," I protested, "I had no intention----"
"Not you, perhaps," said Edgar grudgingly; "but your Japanese valet conceals himself behind those curtains, follows me home, and at night----"
"I haven't got a valet," I objected.
Edgar merely smiled with the most aggravating self- sufficiency. "It makes no difference," he declared. "NO ONE will ever find that map, or see that map, or know where that treasure is, until I point to the spot."
"Your caution is admirable," I said; "but what," I jeered, "makes you think you can point to the spot, because your map says something like, 'Through the Sunken Valley to Witch's Caldron, four points N. by N. E. to Gallows Hill where the shadow falls at sunrise, fifty fathoms west, fifty paces north as the crow flies, to the Seven Wells'? How the deuce," I demanded, "is any one going to point to that spot?"
"It isn't that kind of map," shouted Edgar triumphantly. " If it had been, I wouldn't have gone on with it. It's a map anybody can read except a half-caste Portuguese sailor. It's as plain as a laundry bill. It says," he paused apprehensively, and then continued with caution, "it says at such and such a place there is a something. So many somethings from that something are three what-you-may-call- 'ems, and in the centre of these three what-you-may-call-'ems is buried the treasure. It's as plain as that!"
"Even with the few details you have let escape you," I said, "I could find THAT spot in my sleep."
"I don't think you could," said Edgar uncomfortably; but I could see that he had mentally warned himself to be less communicative. "And," he went on, "I am willing to lead you to it, if you subscribe to certain conditions."
Edgar's insulting caution had ruffled my spirit.
"Why do you think you can trust ME?" I asked haughtily. And then, remembering my share of the million dollars, I added in haste, "I accept the conditions."
"Of course, as you say, one has got to take SOME risk," Edgar continued; "but I feel sure," he said, regarding me doubtfully, "you would not stoop to open robbery." I thanked him.
"Well, until one is tempted," said Edgar, "one never knows WHAT he might do. And I've simply GOT to have one other man, and I picked on you because I thought you could write about it."
"I see," I said, "I am to act as the historian of the expedition."
"That will be arranged later," said Edgar. "What I chiefly want you for is to dig. Can you dig?" he asked eagerly. I told him I could; but that I would rather do almost anything else.
"I MUST have one other man," repeated Edgar, "a man who is strong enough to dig, and strong enough to resist the temptation to murder me." The retort was so easy that I let it pass. Besides, on Edgar, it would have been wasted.
"I THINK you will do," he said with reluctance. "And now the conditions!"
I smiled agreeably.
"You are already sworn to secrecy," said Edgar. "And you now agree in every detail to obey me implicitly, and to accompany me to a certain place, where you will dig. If I find the treasure, you agree, to help me guard it, and convey it to wherever I decide it is safe to leave it. Your responsibility is then at an end. One year after the treasure is discovered, you will be free to write the account of the expedition. For what you write, some magazine may pay you. What it pays you will be your share of the treasure."
Of my part of the million dollars, which I had hastily calculated could not be less than one-fifth, I had already spent over one hundred thousand dollars and was living far beyond my means. I had bought a farm with a waterfront on the Sound, a motor-boat, and, as I was not sure which make I preferred, three automobiles. I had at my own, expense produced a play of mine that no manager had appreciated, and its name in electric lights was already blinding Broadway. I had purchased a Hollander express rifle, a REAL amber cigar holder, a private secretary who could play both rag-time and tennis, and a fur coat. So Edgar's generous offer left me naked. When I had again accustomed myself to the narrow confines of my flat, and the jolt of the surface cars, I asked humbly:
"Is that ALL I get?"
"Why should you expect any more?" demanded Edgar. "It isn't YOUR treasure. You wouldn't expect me to make you a present of an interest in my mills; why should you get a share of my treasure?" He gazed at me reproachfully. "I thought you'd be pleased," he said. " It must be hard to think of things to write about, and I'm giving you a subject for nothing. I thought," he remonstrated, "you'd jump at the chance. It isn't every day a man can dig for buried treasure."
"That's all right," I said. "Perhaps I appreciate that quite as well as you do. But my time has a certain small value, and I can't leave my work just for excitement. We may be weeks, months---- How long do you think we----"
Behind his eye-glasses Edgar winked reprovingly.
"That is a leading question," he said. "I will pay all your legitimate expenses--transportation, food, lodging. It won't cost you a cent. And you write the story--with my name left out," he added hastily; "it would hurt my standing in the trade," he explained-- "and get paid for it."
I saw a sea voyage at Edgar's expense. I saw palm leaves, coral reefs. I felt my muscles aching and the sweat run from my neck and shoulders as I drove my pick into the chest of gold.
"I'll go with you!" I said. We shook hands on it. "When do we start?" I asked.
"Now!" said Edgar. I thought he wished to test me; he had touched upon one of my pet vanities.
"You can't do that with me!" I said. "My bags are packed and ready for any place in the wide world, except the cold places. I can start this minute. Where is it, the Gold Coast, the Ivory Coast, the Spanish Main----"
Edgar frowned inscrutably. "Have you an empty suit-case?" he asked.
"Why EMPTY?" I demanded.
"To carry the treasure," said Edgar. "I left mine in the hall. We will need two."
"And your trunks?" I said.
"There aren't going to be any trunks," said Edgar. From his pocket he had taken a folder of the New Jersey Central Railroad. "If we hurry," he exclaimed, " we can catch the ten-thirty express, and return to New York in time for dinner."
"And what about the treasure?" I roared.
"We'll' bring it with us," said Edgar.
I asked for information. I demanded confidences. Edgar refused both. I insisted that I might be allowed at least to carry my automatic pistol. "Suppose some one tries to take the treasure from us?" I pointed out.
"No one," said Edgar severely, "would be such an ass as to imagine we are carrying buried treasure in a suit-case. He will think it contains pajamas."
"For local color, then," I begged, "I want to say in my story that I went heavily armed."
"Say it, then," snapped Edgar. "But you can't DO it! Not with me, you can't! How do I know you mightn't----" He shook his head warily.
It was a day in early October, the haze of Indian summer was in the air, and as we crossed the North River by the Twenty- third Street Ferry the sun flashed upon the white clouds overhead and the tumbling waters below. On each side of us great vessels with the Blue Peter at the fore lay at the wharfs ready to cast off, or were already nosing their way down the channel toward strange and beautiful ports. Lamport and Holt were rolling down to Rio; the Royal Mail's MAGDALENA, no longer "white and gold," was off to Kingston, where once seven pirates swung in chains; the CLYDE was on her way to Hayti where the buccaneers came from; the MORRO CASTLE was bound for Havana, which Morgan, king of all the pirates, had once made his own; and the RED D was steaming to Porto Cabello where Sir Francis Drake, as big a buccaneer as any of them, lies entombed in her harbor. And I was setting forth on a buried-treasure expedition on a snub-nosed, flat- bellied, fresh-water ferry-boat, bound for Jersey City! No one will ever know my sense of humiliation. And, when the Italian boy insulted my immaculate tan shoes by pointing at them and saying, "Shine?" I could have slain him. Fancy digging for buried treasure in freshly varnished boots! But Edgar did not mind. To him there was nothing lacking; it was just as it should be. He was deeply engrossed in calculating how many offices were for rent in the Singer Building!
When we reached the other side, he refused to answer any of my eager questions. He would not let me know even for what place on the line he had purchased our tickets, and, as a hint that I should not disturb him, he stuffed into my hands the latest magazines. "At least tell me this," I demanded. "Have you ever been to this place before to-day?"
"0nce," said Edgar shortly, "last week. That's when I found out I would need some one with me who could dig."
"How do you know it's the RIGHT place?" I whispered.
The summer season was over, and of the chair car we were the only occupants; but, before he answered, Edgar looked cautiously round him and out of the window. We had just passed Red Bank.
"Because the map told me," he answered. "Suppose," he continued fretfully, "you had a map of New York City with the streets marked on it plainly? Suppose the map said that if you walked to where Broadway and Fifth Avenue meet, you would find the Flatiron Building. Do you think you could find it?"
"Was it as easy as THAT?" I gasped.
"It was as easy as THAT!" said Edgar.
I sank back into my chair and let the magazines slide to the floor. What fiction story was there in any one of them so enthralling as the actual possibilities that lay before me? In two hours I might be bending over a pot of gold, a sea chest stuffed with pearls and rubies!
I began to recall all the stories I had heard as a boy of treasure buried along the coast by Kidd on his return voyage from the Indies. Where along the Jersey sea-line were there safe harbors? The train on which we were racing south had its rail head at Barnegat Bay. And between Barnegat and Red Bank there now was but one other inlet, that of the Manasquan River. It might be Barnegat; it might be Manasquan. It could not be a great distance from either; toward the ocean down a broad, sandy road. The season had passed and the windows of the cottages and bungalows on either side of the road were barricaded with planks. On the verandas hammocks abandoned to the winds hung in tatters, on the back porches the doors of empty refrigerators swung open on one hinge, and on every side above the fields of gorgeous golden-rod rose signs reading "For Rent." When we had progressed in silence for a mile, the sandy avenue lost itself in the deeper sand of the beach, and the horse of his own will came to a halt.
On one side we were surrounded by locked and deserted bathing houses, on the other by empty pavilions shuttered and barred against the winter, but still inviting one to 'Try our salt water taffy" or to "Keep cool with an ice-cream soda." Rupert turned and looked inquiringly at Edgar. To the north the beach stretched in an unbroken line to Manasquan Inlet. To the south three miles away we could see floating on the horizon-like a mirage the hotels and summer cottages of Bay Head.
"Drive toward the inlet," directed Edgar. "This gentleman and I will walk."
Relieved of our weight, the horse stumbled bravely into the trackless sand, while below on the damper and firmer shingle we walked by the edge of the water.
The tide was coming in and the spent waves, spreading before them an advance guard of tiny shells and pebbles, threatened our boots' and at the same time in soothing, lazy whispers warned us of their attack. These lisping murmurs and the crash and roar of each incoming wave as it broke were the only sounds. And on the beach we were the only human figures. At last the scene began to bear some resemblance to one set for an adventure. The rolling ocean, a coast steamer dragging a great column of black smoke, and cast high upon the beach the wreck of a schooner, her masts tilting drunkenly, gave color to our purpose. It became filled with greater promise of drama, more picturesque. I began to thrill with excitement. I regarded Edgar appealingly, in eager supplication. At last he broke the silence that was torturing me.
"We will now walk higher up," he commanded. "If we get our feet wet, we may take cold."
My spirit was too far broken to make reply. But to my relief I saw that in leaving the beach Edgar had some second purpose. With each heavy step he was drawing toward two high banks of sand in a hollow behind which, protected by the banks, were three stunted, wind-driven pines. His words came back to me.
"So many what-you-may-call-'ems." Were these pines the three somethings from something, the what-you-may-call-'ems? The thought chilled me to the spine. I gazed at them fascinated. I felt like falling on my knees in the sand and tearing their secret from them with my bare hands. I was strong enough to dig them up by the roots, strong enough to dig the Panama Canal! I glanced tremulously at Edgar. His eyes were wide open and, eloquent with dismay, his lower jaw had fallen. He turned and looked at me for the first time with consideration. Apology and remorse were written in every line of his countenance.
I'm sorry, he stammered. I had a cruel premonition. I exclaimed with distress.
"You have lost the map!" I hissed.
"No, no," protested Edgar; "but I entirely forgot to bring any lunch!"
With violent mutterings I tore off my upper and outer garments and tossed them into the hack.
"Where do I begin?" I asked.
Edgar pointed to a spot inside the triangle formed by the three trees and equally distant from each.
"Put that horse behind the bank," I commanded, "where no one can see him! And both you and Rupert keep off the sky-line!" From the north and south we were now all three hidden by the two high banks of sand; to the east lay the beach and the Atlantic Ocean, and to the west stretches of marshes that a mile away met a wood of pine trees and the railroad round- house.
I began to dig. I knew that weary hours lay before me, and I attacked the sand leisurely and with deliberation. It was at first no great effort; but as the hole grew in depth, and the roots of the trees were exposed, the work was sufficient for several men. Still, as Edgar had said, it is not every day that one can dig for treasure, and in thinking of what was to come I forgot my hands that quickly blistered, and my breaking back. After an hour I insisted that Edgar should take a turn; but he made such poor headway that my patience could not contain me, and I told him I was sufficiently rested and would continue. With alacrity he scrambled out of the hole, and, taking a cigar from my case, seated himself comfortably in the hack. I took my comfort in anticipating the thrill that would be mine when the spade would ring on the ironbound chest; when, with a blow of the axe, I would expose to view the hidden jewels, the pieces of eight, coated with verdigris, the string of pearls, the chains of yellow gold. Edgar had said a million dollars. That must mean there would be diamonds, many diamonds. I would hold them in my hands, watch them, at the sudden sunshine, blink their eyes and burst into tiny, burning fires. In imagination I would replace them in the setting, from which, years before, they had been stolen. I would try to guess whence they came from a jewelled chalice in some dim cathedral, from the breast of a great lady, from the hilt of an admiral's sword.
After another hour I lifted my aching shoulders and, wiping the sweat from my eyes, looked over the edge of the hole. Rupert, with his back to the sand-hill, was asleep. Edgar with one hand was waving away the mosquitoes and in the other was holding one of the magazines he had bought on the way down. I could even see the page upon which his eyes were riveted. It was an advertisement for breakfast food. In my indignation the spade slipped through my cramped and perspiring fingers, and as it struck the bottom of the pit, something --a band of iron, a steel lock, an iron ring-- gave forth a muffled sound. My heart stopped beating as suddenly as though Mr. Corbett had hit it with his closed fist. My blood turned to melted ice. I drove the spade down as fiercely as though it was a dagger. It sank into rotten wood. I had made no sound; for I could hardly breathe. But the slight noise of the blow had reached Edgar. I heard the springs of the hack creak as he vaulted from it, and the next moment he was towering above me, peering down into the pit. His eyes were wide with excitement, greed, and fear. In his hands he clutched the two suit-cases. Like a lion defending his cubs he glared at me.
"Get out!" he shouted.
"Like hell!" I said.
"Get out!" he roared. "I'll do the rest.
That's mine, not yours! GET OUT!"
With a swift kick I brushed away the sand. I found I was standing on a squat wooden box, bound with bands of rusty iron. I had only to stoop to touch it. It was so rotten that I could have torn it apart with my bare hands. Edgar was dancing on the edge of the pit, incidentally kicking sand into my mouth and nostrils.
"You PROMISED me!" he roared. "You PROMISED to obey me!"
"You ass!" I shouted. "Haven't I done all the work? Don't I get----"
"You get out!" roared Edgar.
Slowly, disgustedly, with what dignity one can display in crawling out of a sand-pit, I scrambled to the top.
"Go over there," commanded Edgar pointing, "and sit down."
In furious silence I seated myself beside Rupert. He was still slumbering and snoring happily. From where I sat I could see nothing of what was going forward in the pit, save once, when the head of Edgar, his eyes aflame and his hair and eye-glasses sprinkled with sand, appeared above it. Apparently he was fearful lest I had moved from the spot where he had placed me. I had not; but had he known my inmost feelings he would have taken the axe into the pit with him.
I must have sat so for half an hour. In the sky above me a fish-hawk drifted lazily. From the beach sounded the steady beat of the waves, and from the town across the marshes came the puffing of a locomotive and the clanging bells of the freight trains. The breeze from the sea cooled the sweat on my aching body; but it could not cool the rage in my heart. If I had the courage of my feelings, I would have cracked Edgar over head with the spade, buried him in the pit, bribed Rupert, and forever after lived happily on my ill-gotten gains. That was how Kidd, or Morgan, or Blackbeard would have acted. I cursed the effete civilization which had taught me to want many pleasures but had left me with a conscience that would not let me take human life to obtain them, not even Edgar's life.
In half an hour a suit-case was lifted into view and dropped on the edge of the pit. It was followed by the other, and then by Edgar. Without asking me to help him, because he probably knew I would not, he shovelled the sand into the hole, and then placed the suitcases in the carriage. With increasing anger I observed that the contents of each were so heavy that to lift it he used both hands.
"There is no use your asking any questions," he announced, "because I won't answer them."
I gave him minute directions as to where he could go; but instead we drove in black silence to the station. There Edgar rewarded Rupert with a dime, and while we waited for the train to New York placed the two suit-cases against the wall of the ticket office and sat upon them. When the train arrived he warned me in a hoarse whisper that I had promised to help him guard the treasure, and gave me one of the suit- cases. It weighed a ton. Just to spite Edgar, I had a plan to kick it open, so that every one on the platform might scramble for the contents. But again my infernal New England conscience restrained me.
Edgar had secured the drawing-room in the parlor-car, and when we were safely inside and the door bolted my curiosity became stronger than my pride.
"Edgar," I said, "your ingratitude is contemptible. Your suspicions are ridiculous; but, under these most unusual conditions, I don't blame you. But we are quite safe now. The door is fastened," I pointed out ingratiatingly, it and this train doesn't stop for another forty minutes. I think this would be an excellent time to look at the treasure." "I don't!" said Edgar.
I sank back into my chair. With intense enjoyment I imagined the train in which we were seated hurling itself into another train; and everybody, including Edgar, or, rather, especially Edgar, being instantly but painlessly killed. By such an act of an all-wise Providence I would at once become heir to one million dollars. It was a beautiful, satisfying dream. Even MY conscience accepted it with a smug smile. It was so vivid a dream that I sat guiltily expectant, waiting for the crash to come, for the shrieks and screams, for the rush of escaping steam and breaking window-panes.
But it was far too good to be true. Without a jar the train carried us and its precious burden in safety to the Jersey City terminal. And each, with half a million dollars in his hand, hurried to the ferry, assailed by porters, news-boys, hackmen. To them we were a couple of commuters saving a dime by carrying our own hand-bags.
It was now six o'clock, and I pointed out to Edgar that at that hour the only vaults open were those of the Night and Day Bank. And to that institution in a taxicab we at once made our way. I paid the chauffeur, and two minutes later, with a gasp of relief and rejoicing, I dropped the suit-case I had carried on a table in the steel-walled fastnesses of the vaults. Gathered excitedly around us were the officials of the bank, summoned hastily from above, and watchmen in plain clothes, and watchmen in uniforms of gray. Great bars as thick as my leg protected us. Walls of chilled steel rising from solid rock stood between our treasure and the outer world. Until then I had not known how tremendous the nervous strain had been; but now it came home to me. I mopped the perspiration from my forehead, I drew a deep breath.
"Edgar," I exclaimed happily, "I congratulate you!" I found Edgar extending toward me a two-dollar bill. "You gave the chauffeur two dollars,"' he said. "The fare was really one dollar eighty; so you owe me twenty cents."
Mechanically I laid two dimes upon the table.
"All the other expenses," continued Edgar, "which I agreed to pay, I have paid." He made a peremptory gesture. "I won't detain you any longer," he said. "Good-night!"
"Good-night!" I cried. "Don't I see the treasure?" Against the walls of chilled steel my voice rose like that of a tortured soul. "Don't I touch it!" I yelled. "Don't I even get a squint? "
Even the watchmen looked sorry for me.
"You do not!" said Edgar calmly. "You have fulfilled your part of the agreement. I have fulfilled mine. A year from now you can write the story." As I moved in a dazed state toward the steel door, his voice halted me.
"And you can say in your story," called Edgar," that there is only one way to get a buried treasure. That is to go, and get it!"