The Treasure of the Incas – Chapter 4: A Street Fray

“Now, señor,” Dias said, “as we have settled the main point, let us talk over the arrangements. What is the weight of your baggage?”

“Not more than a mule could carry. Of course we shall sling our rifles over our shoulders. We have a good stock of ammunition for them and for our pistols. We shall each take two suits of clothes besides those we wear, and a case of spirits in the event of accident or illness. We shall each have three flannel shirts, stockings, and so on, but certainly everything belonging to us personally would not mount up to more than a hundred and fifty pounds. We should, of course, require a few cooking utensils, tin plates, mugs, and cups. What should we need besides these?”

“A tent and bedding, señor. We should only have, at the start, to carry such provisions as we could not buy. When we are beyond the range of villages in the forests we might often be weeks without being able to buy anything; still, we should probably be able to shoot game for food. We should find fruits, but flour we shall have to take with us from the last town we pass through before we strike into the mountains, and dried meat for an emergency; and it would be well to have a bag of grain, so that we could give a handful or so to each of the mules. I am glad you have brought some good spirits—we shall need it in the swamps by the rivers. Your tea and coffee will save your having to buy them here, but you will want some sugar. We must take two picks and a shovel, a hammer for breaking up ore, a small furnace, twenty crucibles and bellows, and a few other things for aiding to melt the ore. You would want for the journey five baggage mules, and, of course, three riding mules. I could hardly manage them, even with aid from you, in very bad places, and I would rather not take any strange man with me on such business as we have in hand. But some assistance I must have, and I will take with me my nephew José. He has lost his father, and I have taken him as my assistant, and shall train him to be a guide such as I am. He is but fifteen, but he already knows something of his business, and such an expedition will teach him more than he would learn in ten years on the roads.”

“That would certainly be far better than having a muleteer whom you could not trust, Dias. My brother and myself will be ready to lend you a hand whenever you want help of any kind. We have not had any experience with mules, but sailors can generally turn their hands to anything. Now, how about the eight mules?”

“I have five of my own, as good mules as are to be found in the province; we shall have to buy the three others for riding. Of course I have saddles and ropes.”

“But you will want four for riding.”

“No, señor; yours and the one I ride will be enough. José at times will take my place, and can when he likes perch on one of the most lightly laden animals.”

“How much will the riding mules cost?”

“I can get fair ones for about fifty dollars apiece; trade is slack at present owing to the troubles, and there are many who would be glad to get rid of one or two of their train.”

“And now, Dias, we come to the very important question, what are we to pay you for yourself, your nephew, and the five mules—say by the month?”

“I have been thinking the matter over, señor—I have talked it over with my wife”—he paused for a moment, and then said: “She wishes to go with me, señor.”

Harry opened his eyes in surprise. “But surely, Dias, you could not think of taking her on such an expedition, where, as you say yourself, you may meet with many grave dangers and difficulties?”

“A woman can support them as well as a man,” Dias said quietly. “My wife has more than once accompanied me on journeys when I have been working on contract. We have been married for fifteen years, and she has no children to keep her at home. She is accustomed to my being away for weeks. This would be for months, perhaps for two years. I made no secret to her that we might meet with many dangers. She says they will be no greater for her than for me. At first she tried to dissuade me from going for so long a time; but when I told her that you were sent me by the gentleman who saved my life a year after I married her, and that he had recommended you to me as standing to him almost in the relation of a son, and I therefore felt bound to carry his wishes into effect, and so to pay the debt of gratitude that I owed him, she agreed at once that it was my duty to go and do all in my power for you, and she prayed me to take her with me. I said that I would put it before you, señor, and that I must abide by your decision.”

“By all means bring her with you, Dias. If you and she are both willing to share the dangers we should meet with, surely we cannot object in any way.”

“Thank you, señor; you will find her useful. You have already seen that she can cook well; and if we have José to look after the animals when we are searching among the hills, you will find it not unpleasant, when we return of an evening, to find a hot supper ready for us.”

“That is quite true, and I am sure we shall find your wife a great acquisition to our party. The only difference will be, that instead of one large tent we must have two small ones—it does not matter how small, so long as we can crawl into them and they are long enough for us to lie down. And now about payment?”

“I shall not overcharge you,” Dias said with a smile. “If my wife had remained behind I must have asked for money to maintain her while we were away. It would not have been much, for she has her garden and her house, and there is a bag hid away with my savings, so that if she had been widowed she could still live in the house until she chose someone else to share it with her; she is but thirty-two, and is as comely as when I first married her. However, as she is going with us, there will be no need to trouble about her. If misfortune comes upon us and I am killed, it is likely she will be killed also. We shall have no expenses on the journey, as you will pay for food for ourselves and the animals. You will remember, señor, that I make this journey not as a business matter—no money would buy from me any information that I may have as to hidden mines or treasures,—I do it to repay a debt of gratitude to my preserver, Don Henry Barnett, and partly because I am sure that I shall like you and your brother as I did him. I shall aid you as far as lies in my power in the object for which you are undertaking this journey. Therefore until it is finished there shall be no talk about payment. You may have many expenses beyond what you calculate upon. If we meet with no success, and return to Lima empty-handed, I shall have lost nothing. I shall have had no expenses at home, my wife and I will have fed at your expense, and José will have learned so much that he would be as good a guide as any in the country. You could then give me the three mules you will buy, to take the place of any of mine that may have perished on the journey, and should you have them to spare, I will take a hundred dollars as a bueno mano. If we succeed, and you discover a rich mine or a hidden treasure, you shall then pay me what it pleases you. Is it a bargain?”