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chapter 2
 One evening Uncle Hormiga returned from his work every thoughtful and preoccupied, and earlier than usual.
 
His wife waited until after he had dismissed the laborers to ask him what was the matter, when he responded by showing her a leaden tube with a cover, somewhat like the tube in which a soldier on furlough keeps his leave, from which he drew a yellow parchment covered with crabbed handwriting, and carefully unrolling it said, with imposing gravity:
 
"I don't know how to read, even in Spanish, which is the easiest language in the world, but the devil take me if this was not written by a Moor."
 
"That is to say that you found it in the tower?"
 
"I don't say it on that account alone, but because these spider's legs don't look like anything I ever saw written by a Christian."
 
The wife of Juan Gomez looked at the parchment, smelled it, and exclaimed, with a confidence as amusing as it was ill-founded:
 
"By a Moor it was written!"
 
After a while she added, with a melancholy air:
 
"Although I am but a poor hand myself at reading writing, I would swear that we hold in our hands the discharge of some soldier of Mohammed who is now in the bottomless pit."
 
"You say that on account of the tube."
 
"On account of the tube I say it."
 
"Well, then, you are altogether wrong, my dear Torcuata, for such a thing as conscription was not known among the Moors, nor is this a discharge. This is a—a—"
 
Uncle Hormiga glanced around him cautiously, lowered his voice, and said with air of absolute certainty:
 
"This paper contains directions where to find a treasure!"
 
"You are right!" cried his wife, suddenly inspired with the same belief; "and have you already found it? Is it very big? Did you cover it up carefully again? Are the coins gold or silver? Do you think they will pass current now? What a happiness for our boys! How they will spend money and enjoy themselves in Granada and Madrid! I want to have a look at it. Let us go there. There is a moon to-night!"
 
"Silly woman! Be quiet! How do you suppose that I could find the treasure by these directions, when I don't know how to read, either in Moorish or in Christian?"
 
"That's true! Well, then, I'll tell you what to do. As soon as it is daylight, saddle a good mule, cross the Sierra through the Puerto de la Laguna, which they say is safe now, and go to Ugijar, to the house of our gossip, Don Matias Quesada. who knows something of everything. He will explain what is in the paper and give you good advice, as he always does."
 
"And money enough his advice has cost me, notwithstanding our gossipred!
But I was thinking of doing that myself. In the morning I will start for
Ugijar and be back by nightfall; I can do that easily by putting the mule
to his speed."
 
"But be sure and explain everything to him clearly."
 
"I have very little to explain. The tube was hidden in a hollow, or niche, in the wall, and covered with tiles, like those at Valencia. I tore down the whole of the wall, but I found nothing else. At the surface of the ground begin the foundation walls, built of immense stones, more than a yard square, any one of which it would take two or three men as strong as I am to move. Consequently, it is necessary to know exactly where the treasure is hidden, unless we want to tear up all the foundation walls of the tower, which could not be done without outside help."
 
"No no; set out for Ugijar as soon as it is daybreak. Offer our gossip a part—not a large one—of what we may find, and as soon as we know where we must dig, I will help you myself to tear up the foundation stones. My darling boys! It is all for them! For my part, the only thing that troubles me is lest there be some sin in this business that we are whispering about."
 
"What sin can there be in it, you great fool?"
 
"I can't explain what I mean, but treasures have always seemed to me to have something to do with the devil, or the fairies. And then, you got that ground for so low a rent! The whole town says there was some trickery in the business!"
 
"That concerns the secretary and councillors. They drew up the documents."
 
"Besides, as I understand, when a treasure is discovered, a part of it must be given to the king."
 
"That is when it is found on ground that is not one's own, like mine!"
 
"One's own! One's own! Who knows to whom that tower the Council sold you belonged!"
 
"Why, to the Moor, of course!"
 
"And who knows who that Moor may have been? It seems to me, Juan, whatever money the Moor may have hidden in his house should belong to him, or to his heirs, not to you or to me."
 
"You are talking nonsense. According to that, it is not I who ought to be the Alcalde of Aldeire, but the man who was Alcalde a year ago, at the time of the proclamation of Riego. According to that, we should have to send the rents of the lands of Granada and Guadix, and hundreds of other towns, every year to the descendants of the Moors in Africa."
 
"It may be that you are right. At any rate, go to Ugijar, and our gossip will tell you what is best to be done in the matter."


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