Five Alive

Hidden Treasure

Chapter 11

by L. H. Hall

Living Water at the Oasis
Living Water at the Oasis

Five Alive
Chapter 11

Hidden Treasure

After Lunch we decided to explore the other three exits at the back of the cave. We each got a large burning stick to use for lights. We started with the middle opening. It was only a corridor that intersected with the stream tunnel fifty to seventy-five feet back in the mountain. I was sure it was our stream. I thought about following the stream passage back to the main cave, but decided it might not be safe. "There is nothing of interest in here. Let's go back."

"Why don't we follow the stream back?" Jamie wondered.

"I thought about it, but decided it would be too dangerous. We can't see the light from the main cave. We have no idea what obstacles we might find, or how far it might be. There might even be another branch that would take us under ground all the way to the other end of the island."

We had to wade the stream, and I had to bend over to get into the stream passage from the main cave. The ceiling was not over about four and a half feet above the stream bed. A very few feet from the entrance, the ceiling began to rise. Within fifteen or twenty feet a small room opened up to the left about three feet above the stream bed. It was like a large shelf beside the stream maybe six to eight feet wide and ten to twelve feet long. The stream at that point was four feet across and about a foot deep. The wall on the right went straight up several feet; then, curved inward over the shelf on the left. We could go no farther than the end of the room because the passage stopped. Had we tried to come back this way from the other passage, we would have been in trouble because the stream filled the opening through which it came. This room was cooler than the west room. It was actually cold like a natural refrigerator. We would not have wanted to stay in there very long without some warm clothes on, but it would be a good place to put stuff to keep it cold.

"We've got a refrigerator." Sarah clapped her hands. "We can store a month's supply of fruit in here if we want."

"At least we can bring stuff in here long enough to cool. Fruit is much better cold." I held my fire stick out over the shelf to examine it.

Finally we got to the passage Sheba had used, but before we started we got some different light sticks. Sheba had not offered to go into the other passages, but when we started back into her tunnel, she ran ahead of us. We were not quite as cautious in this tunnel, because the dog was with us, and we trusted her. The passage led down a slight incline, and after bearing a little to the right, it seemed as if we were approaching an area that was not quite as dark. We continued on after Sheba, slowly making our way down the hill. We entered a gigantic room. Some light was coming through a small window high above our heads. I set my fire stick by the entrance so we would know which exit to take to get out, if there were more than the one. I did not think we would need it because Sheba seemed to know where she was, but I was not taking any chances.

We could not even see the other side of the room. Above us the ceiling rose so high we could not see it. The window had to be fifty or sixty feet above us. Cone shaped things hung from the ceiling. Some of them hung almost to the floor. Cones were also rising from the floor. Some of them were as high as we could see. Farther over in front of us, the ceiling seemed to drop to almost even with the floor we were standing on, but the floor fell a way, too; so, there was a wall of darkness between the floor and ceiling. The floor was covered with a soft material, that became much thicker in some places like piles or ridges. There was a low sound of chirping or squeaking high above us. It was remarkably cool, almost as cool as the little cold room we had just left. It was a real relief after being in the heat outside, but it was too cold to sit down and relax, or sleep in without some warm clothes. "We could get lost in here." I was frightened. If we went any farther, we might never find our way out. "Let's go back before the fire sticks go out." We turned to go, but Sheba barked, and headed deeper into the cave. "Come on, Sheba," I called her. She barked twice, whined, and came back and circled me and trotted off a few feet. She stopped and looked to see if we were coming.

"She wants us to follow her," Sarah started after her.

"Okay," I said, "Julie. can I have your light. You can hold Sarah's hand." She handed me the burning stick, and we followed Sheba along the wall into the darkness. We had not gone more than thirty or forty feet when Sheba turned to the left. There we saw another light coming from our right, and soon entered another room. This one had a large hole at least twenty feet long, and twelve or fifteen feet high in the wall ten or fifteen feet above our heads. This room was a large clean room maybe fifty feet in diameter. Several passages led from it that we did not explore. We could see where Sheba had made a bed for her pups. We looked around, but did not see much. The rough uneven walls appeared to rise straight up above the top of the big window, and then curve inward to form a rough dome ceiling. The floor had several levels. It was dusty and dry. Nothing, except the wall under the window, looked like it had ever seen any water. It was not so cold in this room, but it was cooler than the one we in which lived. The early afternoon tropical heat did not penetrate the room. We could have slept in here mid-day in complete comfort.

Sheba went to one of the dark exits, a low dark hole, and whined, but she did not start in. The fire sticks were burning low, and I wanted to get out of there. We had some dark passages to travel, but Sheba apparently wanted me to see something. I went to see what she was trying to tell us. A foot back in the blackness was s chest of some kind. I tried to pull it out, but it was a little too heavy. "Okay, Sheba, we'll come back for it, but right now, we have to get out of here. The fire will be burning our hands before we can get back out to the other cave. She seemed to understand, and led us to the opening through which we had come, through the dark cave and out the passage next to the fire stick that I had left.

"What did Sheba show you?" Jamie voiced everyone's question.

"It's a big chest. Mr. Wilcox must have hidden it before he died. We're going to get some more fire sticks and come back, and see what's in it, but I'm going to the jungle and get a potato vine first. The chest is heavy. We might need something so we can all pull on it to get it out."

When Sheba and I got back with the vine, the others had three fire sticks ready, their arms full of fuel for a fire, and several extra fire sticks. Jamie, Sarah and I, each grabbed a burning stick from the fire, and I picked up the extra fire sticks, and followed Sheba back into her den cave. After a couple more trips, I could probably make it in here and out by myself without a light, I thought, but I am not about to take any chances now, even with Sheba. It was so dark in some places I could not even see her.

Everybody had been talking about the chest and wondering what could be in it. Jamie had suggested that it might be an old pirate's treasure, but Sarah could not see how that would help us. She was hoping the chest had washed ashore with dishes and little girls' dresses that would fit them; so, they could look pretty again. "Who's gonna look atcha?" Jamie wanted to know.

"We'll look at each other!" Debbie exclaimed.

"Boy! Girls are dumb!" Jamie exploded.

"Well, I hope it's got a gun and some bullets in it." I was sure the man would have had an extra gun hidden somewhere.

When we reached the cave, we put two of the burning sticks on the floor, and dropped the wood on top of them. I laid the extra sticks off to the side, and used my fire stick to see to get the vine behind the chest. Then we all pulled on the vine. It did not take long to get the chest out where we could open it, but it was locked. "What are we supposed to do now?" I asked.

"Maybe we could cut it open with the machete," Sarah suggested.

"I'd hate to ruin the chest. It looks almost brand new, but maybe I could break the lock with the machete. I'll go get it. Will the rest of you be all right here, Sarah?"

"Sure. We'll be okay."

"C'mon, Sheba. You make sure I don't get lost." I started for the entrance, and Sheba bounded ahead of me, almost leaving me behind.

"Wait!" Jamie called as I got to the exit. "I just remembered. Remember when we were moving Mr. Wilcox's bones. There was a key ring lying on the floor beside him. Maybe there's a key to the chest. Its right by that one leg of the table that's still standing.

"I'll find it. I'll be back before you know I'm gone." Sheba was waiting for me; as if she wondered why I was so slow. I had no trouble finding the keys, and picked up the machete. We were back with the others within five minutes. Everybody was anxious to see what was in that chest.

I fumbled around with the keys for a minute before I found the right one. It turned easily, and the lid opened on squeaking hinges.

"Oh!" Sarah exclaimed. "Blankets! How many are there?"

"Sure enough, blue U.S. NAVY blankets, of all things to find in the tropics. Just what we need." I said disgustedly, "One, two, three, four, five, six blue wool blankets. Now we can stay warm."

"We can put them under us. We won't have to sleep on that rock floor anymore," Sarah said defensively.

"And here's six pillows, and a whole bunch of sheets and pillow cases. Just what we need." I was pretty upset. "You'd think there would be at least one gun in here."

"What do we need a gun for?" Sarah asked.

"For hunting!" Now, I was being defensive.

"We don't have to hunt." Sarah reminded me of my mother. "If we had a gun, somebody might get careless, and one of us might get hurt, or even killed."

"Girls!" I exploded. "You sound just like my mother."

"Good! I'm supposed to sound like a mother! I am a mother to your brother and my sisters, and maybe you too!"

I knew she was right, and that made me all the more resentful. I pulled the junk out of the chest to see if there was anything else under it. "Finally! Here's something we can use," I pulled the last sheet out, and saw a half dozen new machetes, and a half dozen folding army shovels.

"What's this?" Sarah picked up a canvas bag with something in it. She removed one those floppy handled skillets, with a funny looking lid. The handle folded up to hold the lid on. "Hey! Here's something else we can use." She opened it and found a knife, a fork, and a spoon. "The spoon is awful big to eat with, but it's better'n a shell."

"Those must be for soldiers to eat out of. They have the knives and forks in them," I suggested, "and the cases have hooks to fasten to the belts."

"They still look like floppy handled skillets to me," Jamie declared.

"There's a whole dozen of them, whatever they are," I told them. "And here's some ponchos. One is big enough for all of us to stay dry under, but only one of us could stick his head out. Here's some canteens and their cups and cases too, and some belts to hook'em to. Dad still has his from the war. I guess we can use all this stuff. There's a half dozen or a dozen of everything, the navy musta thought there'd be at least six people here when they brought the stuff."

"How are we going to get it all out to the other cave?" Sarah queried.

"We'll put part of it back in the chest and carry it out, and come back for more until we get all that we want out there. I am going to keep some of the stuff here, like most of the machetes, and these floppy handled skillets. Except for the bedding, we'll just take five of everything we think we'll need." I put five machetes, most of the big belts, ponchos, seven canteens and the skillets, all in to a poncho and pushed it back into the dark hole again where they'll be safe. Then I put everything except the bedding back into the chest. "Can you carry one end, Sarah? We'll come back for the bedding."

Sarah picked up one end. "I can carry it. It's not too heavy."

When a stick was ablaze, I handed it to Jamie. "You take the lead and follow Sheba. Julie, you take Jamie's hand, and Debbie you take Julie's. Sarah and I will come last with the chest. Don't go too fast, Jamie, but keep moving. If you lose sight of Sheba, call her. She'll come back for you."

"I will." Jamie was proud to have the responsibility of taking the lead.

"Lets go then. C'mon, Sheba."

Sheba bounded to the entrance and led the procession through the darkness to the main cave. Once on the trip we put the chest down to rest a minute, but within a very few minutes we were in familiar surroundings.

When the chest was empty, I closed the lid. "Sarah, I don't think there is any need for you and the girls to go back in there. Jamie and I can carry the bedding out. If we can't make it in one trip, we can do it in two."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah. You're not afraid are you?"


"If the dogs come around before we get back, cut'em with that new machete."

"Oh, they won't come back. If they do, I'll sic Prince and Bruno on them." She picked up Prince who had been chewing on her toes trying to get attention.

The chest, with the bedding in it, was a little heavier than we thought at first. We had to stop twice to rest, but we made it faster than we would have, if we had made another trip. It was good to have that over. I sat down on the chest. It was also good to have something to sit on, besides the floor. "If only we had something to lean back against." Sheba went to the edge of the cave, drank from the stream, then looked at me, barked twice, and trotted off to the jungle. "She's gone after our dinner," I said but no one heard me. The girls were out in the stream scouring our new dishes with sand, and Jamie had joined them. "Thank you, Lord, You had everything prepared for us, didn't you? Dad says everything works out for good to those who love you. I wonder what purpose you had in bringing us here all by ourselves. Maybe, so we'll learn to depend on you for everything. We couldn't possibly do it by ourselves as young as we are."

"Who're you talking to?" Sarah interrupted.

"God. I was just thanking Him for having all that good stuff waiting for us.

"Do you think He did it?"

"I'm sure He did. Why else do you suppose it was here? It's been here for years, just waiting for today."

"Maybe it just happened. There's a word for it, but I can't think of it."

"Do you mean coincidence?"

"Yeah, that's it."

"We've had too many coincidences since the plane crash. It's just like everything had been prepared and waiting. As I see it, we've got just about everything we need. We've even got stuff to make clothes out of when these wear out."

"We don't have our parents. We need them. What do we have to make clothes out of?"

"Sheets. We could tear them into strips a foot or so wide, and wrap them around us like a towel."

"Those sheets are to sleep on!"

"Someday, you may have to choose whether you want to go naked and sleep on sheets, or to have something to wear and sleep on the blankets."

"I'll go naked. Those blankets are scratchy. We've got some of them at home."

"We'll see, if the time ever comes." I let the subject drop.

I went out to the far corner of the patio where the water flowed into the lake below, and the jungle stopped. As I stood looking out over the lake below, I decided that we needed to clear a path; so, we could go swimming. We were still a little sore from our bruises; my leg still bothered me; we still had to do our outside chores in the mornings and evenings, but the soreness was nearly gone from our sunburns. They were beginning to itch. I expected we would be peeling in a few days to expose some new white skin. Sarah did not think we would. She said they never peeled when her mother put that aloe stuff on them. I decided that was because they did not get burned badly enough. Now, it's time to check out the swimming hole.

Directly below where I was standing was a nice sloping solid rock beach that looked like it still sloped gradually several feet into the water, where it would be safe to play and for Julie to learn to swim. I knew both Jamie and I were good swimmers. I did not know about the girls. It looked like it was deeper in the center, but the water was so clear; it was hard to tell. Twenty-five or thirty feet from the waterfall a large flat rock island rose three or four feet above the water. It looked like it was sitting on an underwater ledge. It sloped toward the shallow side. It would be easy to climb onto it.

There had been times I had been tempted to just dive or jump in off the cliff in the middle of the waterfall. I had dived that far before, but I knew better than to dive into water from any height without checking the bottom first. Maybe someday we could just dive in from the patio. That would be fun.

Sheba's single bark brought me out of my reverie. I had an animal to dress. "What has she brought this time?" I turned to see. "A goat! She brings us so much meat; we can't possibly eat it all. Now we'll have to spend two or three days fighting off the birds. Sheba had better help us." I sighed.

"If we could catch some mother goats, we could have milk to drink. I wonder how they got onto the island. I've got to make a pen and catch some, if we can find them."

"Who are you talking to?" Sarah called from the cave entrance.

"Myself, I guess."

"What's so exciting?"

"This is a goat, and probably the last one was too."

"So? What's so exciting about that?"

"A young goat means there's a momma goat."

"I still don't get it."

"Mamma goats give milk."


"I've drunk lots of goat milk in the Philippines. It's good."

"How ya gonna catch'em?"

"I haven't decided that yet, but I'll figure something out."

"How ya gonna keep'em from running off?"

"I'll build a fence. There's lots of bamboo around here. We can weave the bamboo with vines as long as we got trees to tie the vines to."

"That's a lot of work."

"We ain't got nothing else to do, and we probably got lotsa time. If we don't, we won't need the fence."

"I hope we don't need it." She went back into the cave crying.

"So do I."

When am I going to learn? Nothing would stop a conversation, and send her off pouting with tears in her eyes, faster than the suggestion that we might be stranded for longer than today, or tomorrow at the latest.

Sarah had put a breadfruit into the coals right after lunch. I took it out and built up the fire to fry the goat meat. If there was enough grease left from that piglet, we could have fried steaks for supper. I had watched natives in the Philippines grate coconut meat and squeeze the oil out of it for cooking, but we had not tried it yet. We had to depend on animal fat.

After supper I went out to the east corner of the cave, and looked into the thick underbrush where we had been collecting the most of our fire wood. It was so thick; I could not even tell whether the land rose or fell from the patio. I could see several tall coconut palms rising into the sky. I knew we could tie the fence to them. "This would be the best place for the goat yard. Maybe I'll start on it tomorrow evening," I planned aloud.

I went back over to the table rock where the pots of meat were still sitting, and started slicing the meat for drying. It was a mess. I wished I had a slicer like I had seen in stores.

Sarah saw me, and got the new machete. She came out to help, but the new machete had some kind of hard grease on it. I tried to scrape it off on the rock. When that failed to work, I put it into the fire and burned it off. After that, she scrubbed it good with sand. "We need to go to the beach for sand. This is the last of it."

"Could you and Jamie do that in the morning?" I asked. "I want to cut an easy path down to the lake so we can go swimming."

"What about Debbie and Julie?"

"They can watch the meat, and I'll be close enough to watch them."

"I don't know if I could find the way."

"Sheba'll go with you. All you have to do is follow her."

"I don't know. I'm kinda scared, but if Jamie isn't scared, I guess it'll be all right."

"Maybe I can have a path cleared to the lake by the time you get back and we can go swimming."

"Maybe Jamie and I will just go swimming in the ocean, and leave you up here working all day."

"It would be too dangerous to swim in the morning. The tide would be going out. I think high tide is just about dawn or just a little before, but you could dig some clams. We haven't had any since Thursday."

"We could, but while we were down there working, you'd be up here swimming."

"I won't let the girls go swimming until you get back."

"Yeah, but what about you?"

"I've got to check the pool out before the rest of you can go in anyway. What if there are a bunch of sharks in there?"

"You know sharks don't live in fresh water." She kicked my leg, laughing.

"I knew, but I didn't think you did."

"Do you really think I am that stupid?"

"No, I just didn't think you had ever thought about it."

"We talked about it in school a few weeks ago, or maybe I wouldn't have," she admitted.

Copyright © 1995
Leonard H. Hall, Sr.

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