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- The Treasure of the Incas - 60/63 -
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 Josť 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 Josť.
"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
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