Buried Treasures by Bram Stoker
First published in two instalments March 13th 1875 and March 20th 1875 : The Shamrock, Irish National Newspaper and Publishing Co., Dublin
Buried Treasures Contents
Buried Treasures Chapter I The Old Wreck
Mr. Stedman spoke.
“I do not wish to be too hard on you; but I will not, I cannot consent to Ellen’s marrying you till you have sufficient means to keep her in comfort. I know too well what poverty is. I saw her poor mother droop and pine away till she died, and all from poverty. No, no, Ellen must be spared that sorrow at all events.”
“But, sir, we are young. You say you have always earned your living. I can do the same and I thought” – this with a flush – “I thought that if I might be so happy as to win Ellen’s love that you might help us.”
“And so I would, my dear boy; but what help could I give? I find it hard to keep the pot boiling as it is, and there is only Ellen and myself to feed. No, no, I must have some certainty for Ellen before I let her leave me. Just suppose anything should happen to me” –
“Then, sir, what could be better than to have some one to look after Ellen – some one with a heart to love her as she should be loved, and a pair of hands to be worked to the bone for her sake.”
“True, boy; true. But still it cannot be. I must be certain of Ellen’s future before I trust her out of my own care. Come now, let me see you with a hundred pounds of your own, and I shall not refuse to let you speak to her. But mind, I shall trust to your honour not to forestall that time.”
“It is cruel, sir, although you mean it in kindness. I could as easily learn to fly as raise a hundred pounds with my present opportunities. Just think of my circumstances, sir. If my poor father had lived all would have been different; but you know that sad story.”
“No, I do not. Tell it to me.”
“He left the Gold Coast after spending half his life there toiling for my poor mother and me. We knew from his letter that he was about to start for home, and that he was coming in a small sailing vessel, taking all his savings with him. But from that time to this he has never been heard of.”
“Did you make inquiries?”
“We tried every means, or rather poor mother did, for I was too young, and we could find out nothing.”
“Poor boy. From my heart I pity you; still I cannot change my opinion. I have always hoped that Ellen would marry happily. I have worked for her, early and late, since she was born, and it would be mistaken kindness to let her marry without sufficient provisions for her welfare.”
Robert Hamilton left Mr. Stedman’s cottage in great dejection. He had entered it with much misgiving, but with a hope so strong that it brightened the prospect of success. He went slowly along the streets till he got to his office, and when once there he had so much work to do that little time was left him for reflection until his work for the day was over. That night he lay awake, trying with all the intentness of his nature to conceive some plan by which he might make the necessary sum to entitle him to seek the hand of Ellen Stedman: but all in vain. Scheme after scheme rose up before him, but each one, though born of hope, quickly perished in succession. Gradually his imagination grew in force as the real world seemed to fade away; he built bright castles in the air and installed Ellen as their queen. He thought of all the vast sums of money made each year by chances, of old treasures found after centuries, new treasures dug from mines, and turned from mills and commerce. But all these required capital – except the old treasures – and this source of wealth being a possibility, to it his thoughts clung as a man lost in mid-ocean clings to a spar – clung as he often conceived that his poor father had clung when lost with all his treasure far at sea.
“Vigo Bay, the Schelde, already giving up their long-buried spoil,” so thought he. “All round our coasts lie millions lost, hidden but for a time. Other men have benefited by them – why should not I have a chance also?” And then, as he sunk to sleep the possibility seemed to become reality, and as he slept he found treasure after treasure, and all was real to him, for he knew not that he dreamt.
He had many dreams. Most of them connected with the finding of treasures, and in all of them Ellen took a prominent place. He seemed in his dreams to renew his first acquaintance with the girl he loved, and when he thought of the accident that brought them together, it might be expected that the seashore was the scene of many of his dreams. The meeting was in this wise: One holiday, some three years before, he had been walking on the flat shore of the ‘Bull,’ when he noticed at some distance off a very beautiful young girl, and set to longing for some means of making her acquaintance. The means came even as he wished. The wind was blowing freely, and the girl’s hat blew off and hurried seawards over the flat shore. He ran after it and brought it back: and from that hour the two had, after their casual acquaintance had been sanctioned by her father, became fast friends.
Most of his dreams of the night had faded against morning, but one he remembered.
He seemed to be in a wide stretch of sand near the hulk of a great vessel. Beside him lay a large iron-bound box of great weight, which he tried in vain to lift. He had by a lever just forced it through a hole in the side of the ship, and it had fallen on the sand and was sinking. Despite all he could do, it still continued to go down into the sand, but by slow degrees. The mist was getting round him, shutting out the moonlight, and from far he could hear a dull echoing roar muffled by the fog, and the air seemed laden with the clang of distant bells. Then the air became instinct with the forms of life, and amid them floated the form of Ellen, and with her presence the gloom and fog and darkness were dispelled, and the sun rose brightly on the instant, and all was fair and happy.
Next day was Sunday, and so after prayers he went for a walk with his friend, Tom Harrison.
They directed their steps towards Dollymount, and passing across the bridge, over Crab Lake, found themselves on the North Bull. The tide was “black” out, and when they crossed the line of low bent-covered sand-hills, or dunnes, as they are called in Holland, a wide stretch of sand intersected with shallow tidal streams lay before them, out towards the mouth of the bay. As they looked, Robert’s dream of the night before flashed into his memory, and he expected to see before him the hulk of the old ship.
Presently Tom remarked:
“I do not think I ever saw the tide so far out before. What an immense stretch of sand there is. It is a wonder there is no rock or anything of the kind all along this shore.”
“There is one,” said Robert, pointing to where, on the very edge of the water, rose a little mound, seemingly a couple of feet at most, over the level of the sand.
“Let us go out to it,” said Tom, and accordingly they both took off their boots and stockings, and walked over the wet sand, and forded the shallow streams till they got within a hundred yards of the mound. Suddenly Tom called out: “It is not a rock at all; it is a ship, bottom upwards, with the end towards us, and sunk in the sand.”
Robert’s heart stood still for an instant.
What if this should be a treasure-ship, and his dream prove prophetic? In an instant more he shook aside the fancy and hurried on.
They found that Tom had not been mistaken. There lay the hulk of an old ship, with just its bottom over the sand. Close round it the ebb and flow of the tide had worn a hole like the moat round an old castle; and in this pool small fishes darted about, and lazy crabs sidled into the sand.
Tom jumped the narrow moat, and stood balanced on the keel, and a hard task he had to keep his footing on the slippery seaweed. He tapped the timbers with his stick, and they gave back a hollow sound. “The inside is not yet choked up,” he remarked.
Robert joined him, and walked all over the bottom of the ship, noticing how some of the planks, half rotten with long exposure, were sinking inwards.
After a few minutes Tom spoke –
“I say, Bob, suppose that this old ship was full of money, and that you and I could get it out.”
“I have just been thinking the same.”
“Suppose we try,” said Tom, and he commenced to endeavour to prize up the end of a broken timber with his stick. Robert watched him for some minutes, and when he had given up the attempt in despair, spoke –
“Suppose we do try, Tom. I have a very strange idea. I had a curious dream last night, and this old ship reminds me of it.”
Tom asked Robert to tell the dream. He did so, and when he had finished, and had also confided his difficulty about the hundred pounds, Tom remarked –
“We’ll try the hulk, at any rate. Let us come some night and cut a hole in her and look. It might be worth our while; it will be a lark at any rate.”
He seemed so interested in the matter that Robert asked him the reason.
“Well, I will tell you,” he said. “You know Tomlinson. Well, he told me the other day that he was going to ask Miss Stedman to marry him. He is well off – comparatively, and unless you get your chance soon you may be too late. Don’t be offended at me for telling you. I wanted to get an opportunity.”
“Thanks, old boy,” was Robert’s answer, as he squeezed his hand. No more was spoken for a time. Both men examined the hulk carefully, and then came away, and sat again on a sand hill.
Presently a coastguard came along, with his telescope under his arm. Tom entered into conversation with him about the wreck.
“Well, sir,” he said, “that was afore my time here. I’ve been here only about a year, and that’s there a matter o’ fifteen year or thereabouts. She came ashore here in the great storm when the ‘Mallard’ was lost in the Scillies. I’ve heerd tell” –
Robert interrupted him to ask –
“Did anyone ever try what was in her?”
“Well, sir, there I’m out. By rights there should, but I’ve bin told that about then there was a lawsuit on as to who the shore belonged to. The ship lay in the line between the Ballast Board ground and the Manor ground, or whatever it is, and so nothin’ could be done till the suit was ended, and when it was there weren’t much use lookin’ for anything, for she was settled nigh as low as she is now, and if there ever was anything worth havin’ in her the salt water had ruined it long ago.”
“Then she was never examined?” said Tom.
“Most like not, sir; they don’t never examine little ships like her – if she was a big one we might,” and the coastguard departed.
When he was gone Tom said, “By Jove, he forgot to say on whose ground she is,” and he ran after him to ask the question. When he came back he said, “It’s all right; it belongs to Sir Arthur Forres.”
After watching for some time in silence Robert said, “Tom, I have very strange thoughts about this. Let us get leave from Sir Arthur – he is, I believe, a very generous man – and regularly explore.”
“Done,” said Tom, and, it being now late, they returned to town.