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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesIn The Sargasso Sea: A Novel - Chapter 25. I Am The Master Of A Great Treasure
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In The Sargasso Sea: A Novel - Chapter 25. I Am The Master Of A Great Treasure Post by :Bill999 Category :Long Stories Author :Thomas A. Janvier Date :May 2012 Read :1385

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In The Sargasso Sea: A Novel - Chapter 25. I Am The Master Of A Great Treasure

CHAPTER XXV. I AM THE MASTER OF A GREAT TREASURE

For a while, down in that black little place, I was quite a crazy creature; being so stirred by my finding this great store of riches that I went to dancing and singing there--and was not a bit bothered by the vile stench rising from the rotten wood that my feet sent flying, nor by the still viler stench rising from the reeking mass of rottenness below me in the galleon's hold.

And then, that I might see my treasure the more clearly, I fell to tossing the ingots up through the hatch into the cabin--where I could have a good light upon them, and could gloat upon the yellow gleam of them, and could make some sort of a guess at how much each of them represented in golden coin. From that I went on to calculating how much the whole of them were worth together; and when I got to the end of my figuring I fairly was dazed.

In a rough way I estimated that each ingot weighed at least five pounds, and as each of the little boxes contained ten of them the value of every single box stored there was not less than fifteen thousand dollars. As well as I could make out, the boxes were in rows of ten and there were ten rows of them--which gave over a million and a half of dollars for the top tier alone; and as there certainly was an under-tier the value of my treasure at the least was three millions. But actually, as I found by digging down through the ingots until I came to the solid flooring, there were in all five tiers of boxes; and what made the whole of them worth close upon eight millions of our American money, or well on toward two millions of English pounds. My brain reeled as I thought about it. The treasure that I had possession of was a fortune fit for a king!

I had swung myself up from the little chamber and was standing in the cabin while I made these calculations, and when at last I got to my sum total I felt so light-headed that it seemed as though I were walking on air. Indeed, I fairly was stunned by my tremendous good fortune and could not think clearly: and it was because my mind thus was turned all topsy-turvy, I suppose, that the odd thought popped into it that in the matter of weight my gold ingots were pretty much the same as the tins of beans to get which I was about to return to the barque--a foolish notion which so tickled my fancy that I burst out into a loud laugh.

The jarring sound of my laughter, which rang out with a ghastly impropriety in that deathly place, brought me to my senses a little and made me calmer. But my mind ran on for a moment or so upon the odd notion that had provoked it, and in that time certain other thoughts flashed into my head which had only to get there to spill out of me every bit of my crazy joy. For first I realized that since I could carry only the same weight of gold that I could carry of food my actual wealth was but a single back-load, which brought my millions down to a few beggarly thousands; and on top of that I realized--and this came like a douse of ice-water--that for every ingot that I carried away with me I must leave a like weight of food behind: which meant neither more nor less than that my great treasure, for all the good that ever it would be to me--so little could I venture to take of it on these terms--might as well be already at the bottom of the sea.

And then, being utterly dispirited and broken, I fell to thinking how little difference it made one way or the other--how even a single ingot would be a vain lading--since I had no ground for hoping that ever again would I get to a region where I would have use for gold. And with that--though I kept on staring in a dull way at the ingots scattered over the floor of the cabin--I thought of the treasure no longer: my heart being filled with a great sorrowing pity for myself, because of the doom upon me to live out whatever life might be left me in the most horrid solitude into which ever a man was cast.

For a long while I stood despairing there; and then at last the hope of life began to rise in me again--as it always must rise, no matter how desperate are the odds against it, in the mind of a sound and vigorous man. And with this saner feeling came again my desire to push on in the direction that offered me a chance of deliverance--leaving all my treasure behind me, since it was worth less to me than food; and presently came the farther hope that when I had succeeded in finding a way out of my sea-prison, and so was sure of my life once more, I might be able to return to the galleon and take away with me at least some portion of the great riches that I had found.

Because of this foolish hope, and the very human comfort that I found in knowing myself to be the possessor of such prodigious wealth, I needs must jump down again to where it was and take another survey of it before I left it behind. And then, being cooler and looking more carefully, I noticed that the box to which the tackle had been made fast was not like the other boxes--though about the same size with them--but was a little coffer that seemed once to have been locked and that still had around it the rusty remnants of iron bands. This difference in the make of it put into my head the notion that its contents were more precious than the contents of the other boxes--though how that could be I did not well see; and my notion seemed the more reasonable as I reflected that if the coffer really were of an extraordinary value there would have been sense in trying to save it even in a time of great peril--which was more than could be said of trying to load down boats launched in the midst of some final disaster with any of those heavy boxes of gold.

My mind became excited by another mirage of riches as these thoughts went through it, and to settle the matter I stooped down and got a grip on the coffer--which was made of a tougher wood than the boxes and held together--and managed by a good deal of straining to lift it up through the hatch into the cabin, where I could examine it at my ease.

When it was new an axe would not have made much impression upon it, so strongly had it been put together; but there were left only black stains to show where the iron had bound it, and the wood had rotted until it was softer than the softest bit of pine. Indeed, I had only to give a little jerk to the lid to open it: both the lock and the hinges being gone with rust, and the lid held in place only by a sort of sticky slime.

But when I did get it open the first thing that came out of it was a stench so vile that I had to jump up in a hurry and rush to the open deck until the worst of it had ebbed away; and this exceeding evil odor was given off by a slimy ooze of rotted leather--as I knew a little later by finding still unmelted some bits of small leather bags in which what was stored there had been tied. But even as I jumped up and left the cabin my eyes caught a gleam of brightness in the horrid slimy mess that set my heart to beating hard again; and it pounded away in my breast still harder when I came back and made out clearly what I had found.

For there in the rotten ooze, strewn thickly, was such a collection of glittering jewels that my eyes fairly were dazzled by them; and when I had turned the coffer upside down on the deck so that the slime flowed away stickily--giving off the most dreadful stench that ever I have encountered--I saw a heap of precious stones such as for size and beauty has not been gathered into one place, I suppose--unless it may have been in the treasury of some Eastern sovereign--since the very beginning of the world. At a single glance I knew that the great treasure of gold, which had seemed to me overwhelming because of its immensity, was as nothing in comparison with this other treasure wherein riches were so concentrate and sublimate that I had the very essence of them: and I reeled and trembled again as I hugged the thought to me that by my finding of it I was made master of it all.

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