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Chapter 8
The Toilers of the Sea.—New Efforts to find the Plunder of the Spanish Main.—Modern Science versus Captain Kidd.—The Landlord’s Faith.—Scoffers and Mockers at the Money-hole.—Objections considered.—The Timber Floorings.—The Stone, with its mysterious Inscription.—The Gravel pit, with its Surroundings of blue Clay.—The Drain from the Sea to the Money-hole.

||SO, you see,” said the landlord, “how all these efforts to get at the treasure have failed; and it is not difficult to see the reason, either. For, you see, as I have already said, the money-hole has been all filled in with sand and gravel, and there is a drain, or channel, connecting with the sea, which lets in the sea water; so, the moment any one undertakes to touch the money-hole, he has to contend with the sea itself, and there hasn’t, thus far, been force enough put forth there to do that. The money-hole is something peculiar. All around it the soil is this blue clay. No doubt the soil where this was first dug was blue clay also; but, after burying the treasure, Kidd, for his own crafty purposes, filled it up with this gravel. No doubt his idea was, that the sea water should affect it the more thoroughly, and make it like a great quicksand. The pumps they set up there did no more good than if they were so many toys.

“Well, the failure of the last company has been followed by a pause, partly on account of discouragement, but still more from the determination, on the part of a few, to begin again on a grand scale; on a scale, indeed, so grand, that it will take some time to make all the preparations. Some of the leaders in the previous undertakings are at the head of this new movement, and have already done very much towards putting it into life and action. This new plan is to get up a regular joint stock company, with a thousand shares, each worth a hundred dollars, or thereabouts. It will be a regular company; the shares will be sold in the market, and the stockholdors will stand in the same relation to this business as they would to a coal mine, or any other ordinary undertaking. They’ll have a president, a board of directors, and a superintendent of the mining works. It is proposed to employ a regular engineer to survey the ground, and design the best mode of going to work; to put up a steam engine of sufficient power to pump out the money-hole, and keep a large force of men at work, night and day, in separate detachments. The idea is, to do it up as fast as possible, and get at it once for all, or fail utterly.

“Now, this company is already started, and about a quarter of the stock has been taken up. I shouldn’t be surprised to see them set to work next year, or the year after, at the farthest. The thing is bound to go on. Besides those who believe that the treasure is here, there are ever so many who wish to see the mystery cleared op, irrespective of any treasure. These men are going into the new company almost as extensively as those who believe in the money. Then, again, there are ever so many people about the country who have heard about it for the first time, and are taking shares just as they would buy tickets in a lottery; not because they expect to make anything, exactly, but because they are willing to run the risk, and take their chance.

“This sort of thing, of course, has a far different prospect from what the old companies had. It puts the whole plan on a different footing. It makes it, in fact, a thoroughly legitimate business, and sets on as sound a basis as if it was an iron or coal mining company. A real, practical engineer—a man who is a practical geologist also—could tell more about Oak Island in one walk round it, than the other workers found out in years. He could find out the real place where the sea water enters; whether there is one only, or more than one. When once that is found out, and stopped, the rest is easy. But, if they can’t stop it, why, then, let the steam pump go to work, and I don’t think the money-hole would be flooded much longer. Then, again, the plan of having two gangs to work night and day, so as to have no stoppage in the operations, will be a most important thing. And so, what with modern science, and steam, and continuous work of large gangs, oven old Kidd himself ’ll find his match.

“The fact is the gold is there—the treasure of Captain Kidd—brought here by him, and buried in that hole. I no more doubt that than I doubt my own existence. If that hole had never been touched, and people went to work now at the fresh ground, I believe the treasure would be got at. Why, the first diggers almost got it, though there were only two of them. The gold is there—there’s not the slightest doubt of that—a treasure beyond all estimate—worth millions on millions, no doubt—gold and silver ingots—the plunder of Spanish cathedrals and Spanish galleons—diamonds and rubies—and all that. Millions? Why, it’s equal in value to the revenue of a great nation. There it is; and all it wants is for people to go to work in the right way; not in a pettifogging, mean, peddling fashion, but in a large-handed, bold, vigorous way. That’s the thing that ’ll fetch up the plunder of the Spanish Main! I’ve sometimes heard people say that there was once a great confederacy of pirates that made this buy their headquarters, and that Captain Kidd was the last and greatest of the brotherhood. Until his time the plunder had been kept in a safe place, but in a place where it could be got at; but that he, being the last of the brotherhood, determined to fix up some safer place, and so he arranged this place—the hole and the drain; and if that’s so, we have here not merely the plunder of Captain Kidd himself, but of all the pirates, for no one knows how long a time—centuries, I dare say.”

To all this extraordinary story the boys had listened with the deepest attention. The landlord’s announcement of his own belief in it was to them very impressive, and his extravagant conclusion did not seem at all extravagant to them. It jibed perfectly with what they had heard from the governor of Sable Island. They were most profoundly impressed, and the treasure island seemed to them more attractive than ever. The landlord’s mind seemed to be filled with a vision of inconceivable treasure, and by long familiarity with the thought, it seemed quite natural to him to speak so glibly about gold, and silver, and precious stones, and all the rest that went to make up the plunder of the Spanish Main.

Bart and Pat were not critical; none of the boys were. This remark has already been made in connection with the story of the governor of Sable Inland. Had they been critical, they could have picked various holes in this narrative, and asked questions to which it would have been difficult for the landlord, or any other believer in Kidd’s treasure, to give any sufficient answer. They might have asked how it was that the tradition about the early diggers had been so minute, and why it was that no competent scholar or archeologist had been found who might decipher the inscription on the stone. They might have asked how it was that the so-called “drain” had been discovered, and also how it was that Kidd’s so-called “place” was known so accurately. But they were not at all critically inclined, and the questions which they did ask were of a totally different kind.

They did ask questions, of course; and the questions referred to the chief points in the landlord’s story. They had much to ask about the first discovery, the size of the island, the appearance of the blasted circular spot, of the tree and the projecting bough; about the pulley and its chain; about the log floorings, their number, their distance apart, and their probable use in a money-hole; about the West Indian grass, the cocoa-nut husks, and the sugar-cane, which were the signs of some connection with the Spanish Main; about the shavings and chips of wood; about the gravelly soil, contrasting with the blue clay around it; about the eventful moment when the first diggers touched the money-box with the crowbar, and the destruction of their work during the night. They asked also, very minutely, about the stone with the inscription, its kind and its size, and why it should have been inserted into the chimney of a hut; about the drain, its size, and whether it was built of wood, or brick, or stone; and about the nature of the signs brought up by the anger when they bored through the money-box.

All these questions showed how close had been the attention with which they had listened. To every one of them, without exception, the land-lord responded in the most unhesitating and the most comprehensive manner. It was evident that he had turned over every point in his mind that they now suggested; that he was familiar with every objection, and was armed and equipped at all points with facts and arguments to sustain his theory.

That there were plenty of objections to that theory became evident from the landlord’s own very frequent allusions to them, and it seemed, by the way in which he spoke of them, as though he himself had often and often done battle with scornful or sceptical opponents.

“For my own part,” said the landlord, “I don’t think much of any of these objections. Objections are easy enough to make. You can make them to anything you like—or don’t like. The truest things in the world meet with lots of unbelievers, who offer objections. Now, I know this whole story to be true, and I don’t value the objections a rush.

“Ono objection, for instance, is, that the story of the first diggers had been exaggerated in every particular. In passing from mouth to mouth, they say, each one has added to it, and that all the little circumstances that I have mentioned have been either thrown in to make up a story, or colored so as to favor a belief in the money-hole. Now, as to that, all I can say is, that the two men always told a straight story, without any additions, and the younger one lived down to my time, and so could easily be referred to by any ono. He always made the same statement.

“A great objection is, that two men could never have dug down so far, and stayed up the sides of the pit, as the story said they did. It has been asserted that they couldn’t have dug down more than twenty or thirty feet, and that they probably got down that far when they came to the water, which prevented them from going any farther. To which I answer, not only that two men could have dug a hundred feet, but that they have done so, over and over, on the same ground, for in the holes made since, it isn’t possible for more than two to work at the same time. The shafts are only about six feet long by three wide, and in that space there isn’t room for more than two, of course.

“When I find some who don’t believe in Kidd’s treasure, and ask them what could have been there, they make various answers; but the favorite one is, that it was some sort of a signal-station. But, unfortunately, Oak Inland it the last place about here that one could think of for such a purpose as that. Still, that is what they urge, and they say that the timber floorings were probably intended as a foundation. When I ask them why there were so many timber floorings, they quietly deny the fact They say that there might have been one or two such floorings, to the depth of perhaps ten feet, or so, but won’t believe any more. When I point to the testimony of the surviving one of the first diggers, they deny the value of it, and say that it is only the exaggeration of an old man, who has been telling the same tall story for years, till it has grown to its present dimensions. And when people choose to argue in that style, and reject the best sort of evidence that there can be, why, of course, thero’s no end of all discussion. They set out with a blind prejudice, deny plain facts, or explain them away in the most fanciful manner, and then turn round and ridicule those who believe in what is as plain as day.”

The landlord was silent for a moment, overcome by a kind of mild indignation at the sceptic of whom he spoke, after which he proceeded.

“Then there’s that stone with the mysterious inscription. It’s been seen by hundreds. No one has ever been found yet who can make out what it means. As I said before, it is either some foreign language, or else, as is quite probable, it is some secret cipher, known only to Kidd himself—perhaps used by the great pirate confederacy. It shows, more than anything else, that this hole was dug by Captain Kidd, and that his treasure is there. Now, how do you suppose they get over that?”

And with this question the landlord looked earnestly and solemnly at the two boys.

The two boys couldn’t imagine how anybody could get over it; though Bart could not help wondering a little how it came that, if the inscription could not be deciphered, the landlord should nevertheless know so well that it referred to Captain Kidd.

“I’ll tell you,” said the landlord, “the way they get over it. They have the impudence to say that it isn’t an inscription at all. Actually, because no one can decipher it, they say it ain’t an inscription. They say it’s only some accidental scratches! Now, I allow,” continued the landlord, “that the marks are rather faint, and irregular; but how any man can look at them, and say that they’re not an inscription—how any man can look at them and say that they’re accidental scratches—is a thing that makes me fairly dumb with amazement.”

“Well, then there are other things, too,” continued the landlord, “which they handle in the same manner. One of the strangest things about this whole story is the fact that the soil in the money-hole is different from that of the rest of the island, being sand and gravel; whereas the rest of the island, as I told you, is blue clay. It’s just as if a hole was dug in the blue clay, and then filled in with sand and gravel brought from somewhere else. Well, how do you think they got over this?”

Again the landlord looked inquiringly at the two buys.

Again the two hoys gave it up.

“Why,” said the landlord, “they get over it in the usual fashion. They say it isn’t a fact that the island is blue clay, but that there’s streaks and patches of gravel all over it, and the two men hit upon a place where the soil was sandy and gravelly. That’s the way they get over that point; and I’d like to ask any man if that’s fair; if that’s honest; if that’s decent. Yet that’s the way they talk—when they can go to the island, and see wherever fresh boles have been dug, the blue clay is turned up. But when I point out that, they say, ‘O, that’s because the holes are all dug on that one side of the island where the blue clay is.’

“Then, again, there’s the drain,” continued the landlord. “Now, if any one thing is an established foot, next to the buried money—it’s Kidd’s drain. It’s been broken into time after time. It’s flooded hole after hole. Yet, in the face of this, they say that there isn’t any drain at all; that there’s merely some loose soil on the island, or some subterranean passage, made by nature, through which the sea water passes, and that the bottom of the so-called money-hole has been connected with this. Some say, that as the island is small, the sea water trickles through the soil, in some places, all the way across. So, of course, these men, shutting their eyes obstinately to hard facts, laugh at the very idea of a drain. And that’s the sort of objections that we have to meet!” concluded the landlord, with a snort of contempt.

“Is any one working on Oak Island now,” asked Bart, after a pause.

“Well, no, not just now. There isn’t a soul on the island. Since the last company gave up, no one has touched the works—except, occasionally, some visitors. Everything is standing there—the pumps, the hoisting tackle, and all that. You’ll see the holes all about; and the money-hole can easily be known, for it is a hollow in the ground, shaped like a bowl, close by the largest pump, with a deep hole beside it, full of water; for, unfortunately, they struck the drain too soon, and of course the water rushed upon them.”

At this point the landlord recollected some business that he had to attend to, and rising to his feet, he slowly sauntered away.



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