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首页 » 英文短篇小说 » Captured by Apes » CHAPTER XII. THE TREASURE-CAVE.
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Philip’s first sensation after being left alone was one of intense relief. For the time being, at least, he was safe from pursuit, and had not only food, but water sufficient to satisfy his wants two or three days. Whether Alice returned or not he would be free from hunger or thirst, since to revisit the banana plantation only a brisk walk of fifteen minutes was necessary.

After making a hearty meal from the fruit he lay down, and during the next ten hours was wrapped in the blissful unconsciousness of sleep.

When he awakened it was nearly sunset. Far away in the distance could be heard the cries of the apes, and among them he fancied it was possible to distinguish Goliah’s hoarse voice. To venture forth would be both needless and unwise, and he remained within the grotto, trying in vain to find some amusement or occupation which would serve to make the time pass more rapidly.

As a matter of course, in this attempt he was unsuccessful. There was nothing to be done save to count the seconds, and it does not require many moments to weary one of such a useless occupation.

Now he had an opportunity to understand how[92] painful may be the attack of insects which in other quarters of the globe would be considered insignificant. His hands, face and ankles were completely covered with painful red blotches, caused by the bites of tiny flies; and a closer inspection of the grotto showed him that he was by no means alone.

Now and then could be seen curious little animals, similar to mice, which ran back and forth, nibbling at the bananas, his shoes, or anything within reach, until a movement by him would cause them to hide in alarm. Every time he overturned a stone or stick he found snugly ensconced under it formidable scorpions, with their tails sticking up ready for an attack or to defend themselves.

It seemed as if every nook and corner of the grotto was teeming with life in some form of viciousness, and not until he had cleared a space, six feet square, from gravel and the litter which would usually be found in such a place could he lie down with any chance of being unmolested.

There was plenty of time for reflection—too much, in fact, for his own good; and after making the wildest conjectures as to the probable fate of Captain Seaworth and his party, Philip began to speculate upon the probable length of his voluntary imprisonment. He could see no immediate relief from the unpleasant occupants of the island, and the longer his mind dwelt upon the subject the more convinced did he become that some desperate effort to escape must be made.

Then came the important question of where he[93] should flee. It was hardly probable there were other human beings on the island, otherwise they would have driven the apes from the cottages erected by the Seaworth party; and to leave this place of refuge, where he was reasonably sure of receiving food from the chimpanzee, would be to call down upon himself a repetition of the unpleasant and painful events which he had already experienced.

The night was very far advanced before his mind was sufficiently calm to permit of his sleeping once more; but slumber did finally visit his eyelids, bringing in its train most disagreeable dreams, from which he was glad to be awakened before the sun had again illumined this tiny portion of the world.

With absolutely nothing save painful thoughts to occupy his attention, he began in a listless manner to examine more closely his place of refuge.

As has been said, it was a natural grotto formed in the rocks, but apparently extending some distance into the range of hills which stretched nearly across the island. The rear portion narrowed down to what seemed to be a tunnel hardly more than four feet in diameter. In this Philip entered without hesitation, crawling upon his hands and knees for a distance of about a hundred feet, during which the passage grew more and more contracted, until to turn around would have been absolutely impossible.

At the end of such distance was an abrupt angle, after which it was possible for him to proceed in a half-bent attitude along the tunnel, which was[94] floored with sand, and obstructed here and there by boulders or irregular blocks of what appeared to be limestone.

Perhaps he had walked in this second direction two hundred feet, when, on turning a second angle, he stood in an oval-shaped chamber about twenty yards wide, twice as long, and twenty-five feet high.

It was a marvelous scene which met his startled gaze. Those who have entered natural caves may have seen a similar picture, but certainly nothing more imposing.

In the center of this subterranean cavern was a small circular lake, hardly more than twelve feet in diameter, and sunken half a dozen inches from the level of a floor formed of blackish-gray sand, covered with small pebbles of various brilliant colors. The ceiling towered high above, and was dome-shaped, thickly-studded with pendant stalactites, as if Nature had thus given to the artisan the first idea of lincrusta work. On the right, or eastern side, were benches of rocks rising like terraces, bearing huge stalagmites shaped like animals, and incrusted with myriads of tiny crystals which glistened like diamonds in the light admitted through an opening partially obscured by the foliage in the center of the dome.

After standing silent and motionless several moments, lost in admiration of the scene before him, Philip pushed on toward another tunnel which led from the chamber directly opposite the one he had just traversed.


Here, after five minutes of leisurely walking, the air became warmer and humid, as if filled with steam, while on the left side of the tunnel was a stream of water from which arose a peculiar phosphorescent light which permitted the amazed traveler to see several inches below the surface.

A closer examination revealed the fact that the stream was filled with fish, shaped something like a trout, and, singular as it may seem, the luminous glow was emitted from their bodies. He plunged his hand in without alarming the finny tribe, and lifting one out discovered that it was blind, having no sign of an eye, which accounted for the readiness with which he had made the capture.

Curiosity impelled Philip to continue his explorations without delay, and he advanced rapidly along the tunnel, in which it was now possible to stand erect. With every step the air grew warmer, until it was as if one were suddenly plunged in a steam bath.

The cause of this excessive humidity was soon learned. In one corner of a second chamber was a boiling spring, which bubbled and hissed just below the surface of the floor.

He dipped his hand in, but immediately withdrew it as he gave vent to a cry of pain. The water was boiling hot!

This cavern also had an exit or outlet about forty feet long, which opened into a third, nearly twice as large as the first. From the roof hung hundreds of stalactites, some only a few feet in length and others[96] which descended to the floor. Stalagmites glittered and glistened like immense diamonds in a strong phosphorescent light, until the radiations and reflections lent such an indescribable charm to the cave that it seemed as if one were living through a story from the “Arabian Nights.” This third room was evidently the end of the chain of caverns. In it there was no opening, yet the glow from the middle apartment filled it with light.

Wandering from one point to another without thought of weariness because of the many wondrous beauties, Philip soon began to realize the fact that he was hungry, and when on the point of retreating to the grotto where the bananas were, he bethought himself of the trout. To boil two or three in this kettle formed by nature would be comparatively an easy task, and at the same time give him a change of diet.

Passing rapidly on to the stream where he had seen the fish, he caught and dressed four, fastening them together with a strip torn from his handkerchief. Returning to the spring he lowered them, and in a few moments had sufficient and appetizing food for a hearty meal. Although eaten without salt, this change in his bill of fare was a welcome one, and Philip resolved to take with him a supply of cooked fish large enough to satisfy his wants during several days.

To this end he groped about once more on the bed of the stream until his hand came in contact with a very heavy round substance, which, simply through idle curiosity, he raised to the surface.


His astonishment can hardly be described when he discovered that the supposed rock was apparently a nugget of pure gold, weighing, as nearly as he could judge, from three to four pounds.

The sight of this wealth, which was also evidence that more might be found in the vicinity, so bewildered him that it was several moments before he could make further examinations, and then came the fever for riches which has been at the same time the destruction and delight of thousands.

Working with desperate energy, as if the unlimited time at his disposal was all too short for the purpose, he brought up nugget after nugget, ranging in size from an ounce to half a pound, until he had collected at least ten pounds’ weight of the precious metal.

The supply appeared to be inexhaustible. As nearly as he could judge, the bed of the stream was literally covered with these yellow lumps, which represented wealth in any civilized country; and his labor ceased only when he began to realize how impossible, under the present circumstances, it would be to derive any benefit from this unexpected discovery.

Now, more than ever, was it necessary he should devise some means of finding his fellow-man, even though it should be impossible to carry his treasure away. With a vessel and a crew such as could be procured at Batavia untold wealth might be taken away; but how the first step was to be made he had no idea.

In order to give himself time for reflection he first[98] hid the nuggets behind one of the statue-like formations in the outer chamber, and then returned to the grotto.

Here he found the chimpanzee looking disturbed and alarmed because of his absence, but she gave way to manifestations of the greatest delight at his appearance. With an instinct which seemed almost like human intelligence she had brought more bananas, and by gestures which were unmistakable gave him to understand that as yet it was dangerous to leave his hiding-place.

Then, after fawning upon him like a dog once more, she walked slowly away in the direction of the village, turning from time to time, as if to be certain he would not follow.

When finally the animal was lost to view amid the foliage, Philip retreated to the further end of the grotto as if desirous of guarding the entrance to the treasure-cave, and there gave himself up to speculations regarding his flight from the island, forming some plans which were hardly more than wild dreams, and others possible of execution.

The desire to learn the fate of Captain Seaworth and his party was almost forgotten in his eagerness to profit by the rich discovery, and during the remainder of that day the only thought in his mind was how to leave the island, taking with him at least a portion of the newly-found wealth.


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