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Chapter XVII

Concerning the Adventures Which Befell Us in the Great Cave.

WHEN I awoke next morning I was not surprised to find my cousin had already arisen and was out. I knew that he had passed a wretched night, poor fellow! for, whenever I chanced to awake from my dreams of happiness, I could hear him tossing restlessly on his bed, and at times I thought I heard a partly suppressed sigh. That this melancholy state of affairs was not to my liking may easily be imagined. It was more than sad to think my joy should be his woe—he to whom I had leaned with a more than brotherly affection. It was a strange trick fate had played us, a sad one it might prove. To love her, Dick, was your destiny as mine; to win her love, old friend, was my great blessing from God. It was the sun of my universe, the breath of my existence, life, heaven itself, the hope to which I clung for peace in this world and happiness in the next.

When he entered later on he bade me good morning with what he meant should be the same old smile, and tried to talk of things in the same light-hearted fashion as of yore, but when I stole a look at his dejected face my heart bled for him. He must have suffered a world of agony throughout the night. His mouth was drawn, his eyes hollow, and about his words and listless movements there was an indifference which he in vain endeavoured to conceal. I, however, pretended not to notice these things, and talked with him of the night that was to come and bring us good or bad fortune; if he thought we should escape the village without a fight, and how far he imagined we should have to travel westward before we could once more hope to see the

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face of a civilised man. To all these things he answered in a manner so strange, and so little interest did he seem to evince in our plans, that for the moment I began to think such thoughts I blush for even now. I know I wronged you, Dick, but in the littleness of my own nature I saw with little eyes; yet when you read these words you must think of me as one who, with all his faults, bore for you an affection which even the grave shall not destroy.

We had despatched our breakfast and had just finished cleaning our guns when we were unpleasantly startled by the sudden appearance of Lusota. She was breathless, her eyes dull and heavy with weeping, her hair loose and flying, and her usually tidy dress draggled and torn in many places. We gazed upon her with consternation, for that her wretched appearance foreboded evil we too easily guessed.

Her tale was soon told.

That very morning Ada and she had been surprised by Kalua and the priest, who, in company with two warriors, had entered their hut and made them both prisoners. And then she related, with a passion scarcely imaginable, how they first tied Ada's hands together and then fastened her (Lusota) to one of the corners of the hut.

When these operations were complete there ensued a furious outburst of long pent-up anger. The chief devoted all his eloquence to Ada. He upbraided her and abused her in turns, told that he knew of the preparations for our escape, and finally wound up by declaring, with a hideous laugh, that we should no longer prove an obstacle in his path as he had determined on our death that very night.

To all this she listened with cheeks aglow, defied him to do his worst, but warned him that for the indignity he had put upon her we would demand a horrible revenge: At this he grew so furious that he slapped her face again and again, mentioned something about the caves and refractory women, and then commanded the two warriors to march her off.

The priest and Lusota being then alone, Wanjula renewed the subject of his passion, but finding her deaf to

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all his prayers and entreaties he used her with extreme roughness, and wound up by seizing a thong that was lying by and flogging her in a most unmerciful manner. He then vilely taunted her with her love for Hardwicke, told how he had stolen the Sacred Axe, and also informed her that she should have the pleasure of seeing us burn that very night. Then, with threats of a similar beating when he returned, should she still remain obdurate, he left her. With great difficulty she managed to loosen the thongs that bound her, and her first thought being of us she made all haste to inform us of this wretched development of the situation.

Such was the story to which we listened with feelings of horror. All our bright prospects were blighted in a moment. Ada was gone, the preparations for our flight discovered, and the leaders of the tribe doubly incensed against us. It was a dull, black look-out, and one against which our other troubles seemed as nothing.

“Why should he want to take Laughing Hair to the cave?” asked Dick of the girl. “Is not his hut, surrounded by his men, strong or safe enough?”

“Ay, great chief,” she replied—she always called him chief or great chief—“but the cave is safer.”

“How safer? What do you mean?”

“It is sacred, chief, and no one is allowed to enter it, nay, not even the king himself, without the permission of the priest.”

“The dog!” The same old fire was beginning to burn his blood. The girl's eyes gleamed.

“Yes, he is a dog—a dog of dogs! I hate him, the son of a dog!” and she railed on at the memory of the priest with such a Niagara of terrific epithets that poor Jimmy, utterly bewildered, ceased attempting to translate. Then she cooled down somewhat, and looking imploringly at Hardwicke, continued: “Thou art great, chief, and strong and beautiful as a god. I am thy slave and love thee more than thou shalt ever know. At thy command I would lie down for thee to trample on.”

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“Well, well,” said he impatiently, foreseeing that she meant to ask a favour.

“I hate the Wanjula chief.”

“And I.”

“And thou wilt avenge me?”

“Yes, Lusota,” he replied.

She fell before him and kissed his feet.

“Chief,” she said, and her eyes flashed ominously, “thou art great. Give this dog to me and I will die for thee.”

“It shall be as you wish.”

“Then he is mine, for thou art mighty,” and she arose to her feet with a furious expression upon her face. “I will tear his lying tongue from his throat, the dog, and beat it about his face.”

“Peace, peace,” cried Hardwicke sharply. “Art thou no better than the rest of thy tribe? I like not such ferocity, girl. No more of it, or I withdraw my promise. I tell thee thou shalt be avenged.”

“It is enough, chief. As the fire and the storm are mighty, so art thou.”

“Then listen, and forget thy anger, for it is not seemly in thee, and I like it not.”

“I listen, chief.” But I could see that she was thinking more of her revenge than anything else.

“Is there no other reason for taking the Laughing Hair to the cave but that it is sacred?”

“Should Kalua keep the Laughing Hair in his hut,” she answered, “many young men of the village might demand her of him, for she is as sweet to them as the south wind to the parched-up forests, and well both he and Wanjula, that dog of dogs, know it. And therefore he took her to the cave where none of the tribe may enter on pain of death.”

“On pain of death?”

“Ay, chief; and it is the Great Spirit himself who strikes the blow with the Sacred Axe.”

“The devils!”

Now that calamities so numerous had so suddenly befallen us, my cousin seemed instinctively to have regained

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his wonted activity of mind and body. There was the same bent brow, the same tightly-drawn lips, and the general defiant look upon his face which reflected the determined soul within. Interest had taken the place of indifference, and excitement was rapidly driving the dreary languor from his blood. He no longer thought of his unrequited affection. The girl he loved was in danger—he had forgotten all else.

“Then,” he continued, “it would be no use our asking any of those young men you speak of to accompany us and save the Laughing Hair?”

“No, chief; they dare not go.”

“Then,” turning to me, “we must carry out this project alone. We have nothing to expect from them now. It is war to the knife.”

Our arms were luckily in perfect order, and while we were going through the necessary equipment for such an undertaking I asked the girl Lusota what she thought had become of Wanjula, foreseeing serious complications through him should we be unfortunate enough not to find him in the cave with Kalua. But she did not know, neither could she guess what mischief he might be brewing.

“What a pity you gave that half-breed dog your knife,” remarked Hardwicke as we prepared to set out. “You might find it useful presently.”

“Good intentions,” I quoted. “Though I might have. known what a cur he was.”

Everything being now in readiness we sallied forth. Kalua had not more than an hour's start of us, if that, and we reckoned on being up with him, should we meet no serious opposition, much too soon for his liking. Quietly we stole through the village, meeting none of its inhabitants but a few old men and women, and quickly boarding a canoe in safety, we four pushed off—Lusota insisting upon making one of the party, nowithstanding the fact that it was death to enter the cave without the priest's authority. But I think she would have gone anywhere so that her vision was blest with the form of my cousin Hardwicke. Jimmy

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and she seized a paddle apiece and the frail craft fairly bounded across the still water towards the great coneshaped hill, from the summit of which, as we approached, I thought I saw a wreath of smoke arise, but so faint was it that when I drew Dick's attention to the circumstance it was gone.

“I dare say you are right, though,” he said, “for the summit of that hill looks exactly like the picture of a volcanic mountain. Look, there it is again!” And I saw another light blue wreath of smoke issue from the rounded top of the hill.

Lusota likewise saw it and cried out, “Ah, the god is angry. See how he frowns.”

So this was more of the mystery of the Great Spirit. Certainly a volcano is a terrific god to deal with. I ceased to wonder at the absolute submission of those uninitiated savages to their cunning priest.

“Yes,” said Hardwicke by way of answer, for she seemed to think her determination to act irreligiously had awakened the fury of the monster, “he is vexed with Kalua and the priest.”

A few minutes later we had landed at the mouth of the cave into which, after Jimmy and the girl had hidden the canoe behind a small promontory a few yards off, we plunged without a moment's hesitation. The darkness made slow progress a necessity. We stopped almost every few steps to listen if we could catch the sound of voices or any other noises, but nothing was moving. All was as still as death.

When at last we reached the end of the passage Dick whispered to Jimmy and me to stand still and let no one pass while he went forward with the girl, she having told him where the torches were kept. They passed so gently from my side and crossed the great chamber with a footstep so rapid and so light that almost before I was aware they had gone, the glare of a torch illuminated the far end of the great vault.

“Ada, Ada!” Hardwicke cried, but only the echo of the place gave back a faint response.

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We each lit a torch and searched, as we thought, every corner of the great cave, but could find no trace of her. The monstrous effigy of the god grinned down upon us, mocking our despair. It looked more hideous than ever in the indifferent light shed by our few torches, more horridly, dreadfully real. Its hand no longer held the Sacred Axe. Wanjula was no fool. Lusota trembled as she gazed upon the terrific features, and drew close to Hardwicke and hung upon his arm. It seemed as though she fully expected the monster to step down from its high pedestal and incontinently brain her.

We were nonplussed, and stood looking at one another in despair.

“Lusota,” said Dick to the girl, “are you sure Kalua would bring Laughing Hair here? Is there no other place to which he could bring her?”

“No, chief; no place so safe as this.”

“Then perhaps he has not yet arrived?”

“Perhaps not, chief. But he will come.”

“Are you sure of that?” I asked.

“Yes.” To disregard such a decisive reply was impossible.

“Then we must wait?”


I now remembered that on first entering the cave I had been conscious of the fact that notwithstanding the immense number of torches burning at one time, the smoke had never once offended me, but seemed to be carried off in some marvellous fashion. It struck me more forcibly now. There must be another outlet to the chamber.

When I made known my thoughts to Dick he almost shouted with joy. Of course there was, he said, and added that he must have been blind not to have noted the fact himself. He then inquired of Lusota if she had ever heard of such an opening, but she answered no, telling him that no such thing existed. But of this statement we took little heed. That an outlet of some sort existed somewhere, we knew, so set ourselves the task of discovering it.

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Jimmy, the girl, and I each took a portion of the cavern while Dick “fossicked” round the idols. But as we three happened to be unsuccessful in our researches it is little use recording them; therefore, we will follow my cousin who, after having peered into every conceivable nook and cranny, was about to abandon his explorations as futile when he suddenly missed his footing and fell heavily against the big image. To his surprise, for he thought it part of the rock against which it stood, it trembled violently. He knocked it again, and again it shook, and then pressing strongly against it with his shoulder he found it move a couple of inches.

“Archie, Archie, come here!” he shouted.

I was by his side immediately and he made known his find.

“Let us both push,” I said.

He put his shoulder to the side of the idol and I pressed against it with my hands.

“Now then.”

We both pushed with all our force and the great statue went flying from us along a groove in its pedestal. One man could have done the trick with the greatest of ease, so softly, once it was touched in the right place, did the great thing move. But if we were surprised at this singular contrivance you may judge the state of our astonished senses on beholding that the statue had concealed an aperture large enough for a man to go through with ease. I thrust my torch into it, but so strong a draught of wind rushed through that it nearly suffered extinction.

“That's the secret we want,” cried Hardwicke, “though it does not account for the disappearance of the smoke.”

Lusota regarded us with absolute terror. What she thought of our proceedings must ever remain a mystery, but strange it surely seemed to her to see her god thus roughly pushed about by a couple of dare-devil white men.

We closely examined the opening and found that it had been clumsily walled by the hand of man. Four or five yards from the entrance it widened out considerably,

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presenting the rough, uneven sides of a natural cavern. The statue, then, had been specially placed over the aperture to hide it, and whatever lay beyond, it was certain the people of the Mandanyah had no conception of the existence of such a place.

I stepped in first, Dick next, the girl and Jimmy bringing up the rear. The rush of air was so powerful that with the greatest difficulty we kept our torches alight. As it was they gave a spluttering, indistinct glare which, a moment later, was extinguished altogether by a fresher and stronger blast of wind that came from above our heads. We were immediately thrown into total darkness, but guessed that this was the passage through which the air rushed when the statue was in its proper place. It being impossible, in such a situation, to relight our smoking torches, we groped on in the dark, hoping that the cavern would widen out, which would naturally lessen the force of the wind. As it was, it seemed as though a mighty hurricane was roaring through the funnel-like passage, which led us to suppose that either the wind had arisen outside or that there was some agency at work of whose powers we were totally ignorant.

At that moment I felt Dick slip one of his hands in mine, while with the other he drew my head towards his mouth, and shouted in my ear, the roaring of the wind necessitating such proceedings—

“This must be the cavern through which Morton passed to the secret chamber.”

I did not doubt it for a moment, but so thoroughly engrossed had I been with my thoughts of Ada that I do not believe I should have remembered Morton's story of the cavern through which the “wind rushed like a hurricane,” had not Dick so forcibly brought it to my mind. Yet as such knowledge in itself was of but little value, we pushed warily onward.

Frightfully slow was the progress made, as we had to feel with our feet and hands every inch of the way we travelled. Dick, who was at my heels, laid hold of my waistbelt for

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further security, for to navigate, as it were, such a passage without a gleam of light was an extremely risky, not to say dangerous, undertaking. Yet still we went on, on, foot by foot, through a darkness terrible in its intensity. The wind roared like a fiend around us, nay, like a million fiends. It screamed and beat itself upon us with the fury of a tornado. Would it never cease? would the darkness never grow less?

How far we had gone I could not even guess, but at last I thought the passage widened, and felt sure the hurricane-current of air had become less violent, though it yet blew terrifically. Another dozen of yards, however, convinced me of the truth of my imaginings. Decidedly the wind was decreasing; and when appealed to, my cousin held the same opinion. Still farther on, its force still more diminished, and eventually we were enabled to relight our torches.

The cavern we were now exploring was exceedingly wide and lofty, and had been, like all these subterraneous excavations, the work of some gigantic force. Great masses of rock had been torn bodily from the walls and roof, and were now piled, certainly by the hand of man, on either side of the cavern, making a clear path in the centre along which we strode.

“Ada, Ada!” I shouted again and again, but no welcome response came back. “My God, where can she be?”

“Here somewhere, never fear,” cried Dick. “We shall find her, Archie, and unless I am very much mistaken, the golden chamber too. Look, look!”

These words ejaculated suddenly quite startled me. The cavern, which had been gradually narrowing, here came to an abrupt termination, and right before us we beheld a fac-simile, though on a much smaller scale, of the monstrous effigy in the great chamber.

“The guardian of the treasure, I will stake my life,” cried Hardwicke. “Found at last.”

“Back, back,” screamed Lusota as Dick advanced towards it, “or it will strike you.”

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It is true one of the great arms was extended as though about to deliver a blow, but Hardwicke, laughingly telling her it was nothing but stone, rapped his rifle against its face, when of a sudden the great arm fell with a terrific crash, knocking the weapon flying from his grasp. Had he been under that awful arm and had received the blow which smote the barrel of his rifle, it would have killed him on the spot.

“A pleasant people these Mandanyahs,” he coolly remarked as he picked up the weapon. “Now let us see what you're made of.” And as there were no more arms to fall we approached and examined the image, and found that by a simple piece of mechanism, much after the manner in which the arms are put on a wooden doll, the great thing had thus been able to so nearly destroy my cousin.

“You have done your duty,” said he, addressing it, “but it's no good. You must go,” and putting his shoulder to its side, he pushed, and the thing slid along a groove, in the manner of the larger one, disclosing a similar aperture, into which he plunged, we following.

As soon as our eyes had become accustomed to the place, we knew we had entered the very chamber into which Morton had been led blindfolded. It was a room some twenty by twenty-five feet, and on every side of it great lumps of some dull-looking substance were piled, which at first seemed ordinary rocks, but which, in reality, were huge nuggets of solid gold. Neither of us could believe our senses for a while, and it was only after jagging some dozen of the larger pieces with our knives, which disclosed the bright yellow of the metal, that I could become perfectly convinced. There were also great stone receptacles which, once the covering of dust was removed, were found to be full of pieces of gold ranging in lumps from an ounce downwards. Ten of these we saw, and many others into which had been thrown pieces of greater value, while even the soft ground upon which we walked, once turned over, was shown to be a carpet of thick gold-dust.

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I stood like one stupefied, forgetting for the moment everything but this vast wealth. I took the lumps of gold in my hand and threw them about the chamber; I kicked with my old boots the wonderful carpet and made showers of gold-dust fly. It seemed a grand idea to treat money in this fashion.

“How many millions of sovereigns do you think this lot would coin?” asked Dick from the other end of the chamber.

“About five.”

“Say ten, and you'll be nearer the mark. My God! if we could only get it away!”

“That's why I think it dam fool's work to come all this way for gold you can't carry back, Mass'r Dick,” observed King Jimmy.

“Yet we'll take it back, Jimmy; never fear, never fear. But look, here are the royal jewels. We can at least take them.” And he held up several strings of magnificent rubies.

“They belong to Kalua and the priest,” said Lusota.

“Then we'll take care of them for them,” and he popped a quantity of them in his pockets, throwing Jimmy the remainder.

“And now, Dick,” I said, as soon as the excitement of our stupendous find had somewhat abated, “let us continue our search for Ada.”

“God forgive me, yes,” he cried. “Come, there is nothing more to be done here,” and, without even one backward glance, we made our exit from the golden chamber.

“We have not done so badly,” said he, as he rattled the precious stones in his pockets “and if we live we'll do better still.” And as we retraced our steps he cried to me, who was leading, “Keep to the right, old fellow. Unless I am much mistaken this passage is but a branch of the main one.”

He was right, for soon our torches were again extinguished by the current of air, and we groped on as before in utter darkness.

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Presently I saw what appeared to be a faint glow of light. Mystically dim, it was light beyond a doubt, for the others also beheld it at the same moment and uttered a cry of joy.

Towards it we now moved with more rapid steps, a most unwise proceeding as I was presently to know, for though we saw it distinctly enough, it was not yet sufficient to illumine the footway. However, the closer we approached the clearer it loomed up, and I knew that soon the mystery which enshrouded the fate of my beloved would be revealed. And while through my brain was rushing a thousand thoughts of her, thoughts charged with pain and madness at her unhappy fate, our ears were suddenly startled by a long, wild cry of agony.

It was her voice, and was so full of woe and horror that I stood for a moment like one turned to stone. Then as quickly came the reaction, and with a cry to her that I was coming, I bounded forward like one possessed. Unluckily I was too excited to pay attention to Dick's quick word of warning to be careful. I only saw the light ahead, only knew that she was in danger, and bounded on. The consequences were calamitous in the extreme. I had not gone many yards before I found myself whirling head over heels down a long flight of roughly hewn steps. I seemed to have broken every bone in my body, but with the aid of Dick and Jimmy, who had descended carefully, I was quickly placed upon my feet and was thankful to find that, with the exception of a few cuts and bruises, no mischief had been done.

“A lucky let off——” began Hardwicke, but he stopped suddenly, for at that moment our ears were again startled by the same heartrending scream. This time it was so close that we could hear another voice, raised in an angry tone, accompanying it.

“Help! help!”

“Ada, Ada, we are here!” I cried.

Dick bounded forward like lightning, for being at the bottom of the passage now there was sufficient light to see the way, which at every step grew more clear.

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She heard my cry, for she answered in the same wild, terror-stricken voice—

“Quick, quick, or it will be too late!”

It is needless to say I ran my fastest, but my fall had somewhat stiffened my limbs. Dick was consequently many yards in front of me. I saw him spring forward with a mighty rush—he seemed to bound in the air like the greyhound that he was; then there was a noise as of many things falling into a deep pit, and I stopped short in my headlong flight, for I was standing upon the brink of a great wide gulf down which the falling things I have mentioned roared with a noise like thunder. Upon the opposite ledge my cousin was struggling wildly. He was mounting it by his hands and knees, and I was in terror lest he should fall back into the abyss, when, like an evil spirit, I saw the hateful Kalua dart forward with the intention of hurling him over. But before he could make good his evil design, another form rushed forward and threw itself between him and my cousin.

It was Ada. She saw Dick's peril and saved him. Before Kalua could throw her off, which he did by hurling her heavily to the ground, my cousin had pulled himself over the ledge and was out of danger. This the chief no sooner observed than he fled back into the darkness of the cave and was lost to sight. It was a painfully exciting time while it lasted, and I breathed a great sigh of relief when it was all over. And yet that intense relief quickly gave place to unutterable horror when I discovered the terrible trap into which we had fallen. Before me yawned a chasm fully forty feet wide, the jaws and sides of which, for a considerable distance, were illuminated by a great broad sheet of light that descended from above. A moment's thought was all that was required to take in the situation. The chasm was the crater of a volcano, and the light came from the top of the cone-shaped hill of which I have spoken so often. Indeed, on looking up the big, craggy funnel I could see the blue sky above.

“Is she hurt, Dick?” I shouted.

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“No,” came back the answer, “she is a little frightened, that is all. The villain had her hands bound——” and he took out his knife (a thing with a blade about seven inches long, similar to the one I had given Kalua) and cut the bonds asunder. “She is all right now.”

“Thank God! And you, old fellow?”

“Right, too,” he answered. “Yet that half-bred dog played me a nasty trick, and but for Ada I should have been a dead man by this.”

“What was it, Dick?”

“You heard that stuff falling into the chasm, did you not?”


“Well, that was a small foot-bridge which I was not more than halfway across when yonder beauty heaved it over. But I've got him here now, old chap, and I'll make him sing before I'm done with him,” saying which he turned to Ada, with whom he held a rapid conversation.

I was like one standing on the proverbial pins and needles. To see her so near me, and yet as surely parted as though an ocean rolled between us, was madness intolerable. What would I not have given to have been in Hardwicke's place, to have taken her in my arms and comforted her, and then to have vented my fury on the savage wretch who had been the cause of all our misery. But there I stood, chained like one to a pillar, incapable of movement, incapable of stretching out my hand to protect the life that was dearer to me than all the world. Look at our position in whatever way I might, I could see no chance of escape, for how they were going to recross that dreadful gulf was an enigma of which I held not the key. This awful thought caused me inexpressible anguish. I carefully examined the abyss on my side and begged Dick to do likewise on his, but no crags or rocks jutted out which would afford a passage, however dangerous.

Such a mode of crossing was impossible, he said, and I informed him that my side of the chasm dropped sheer down as though it had been cut by the hand of man.

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“Have you any idea, Dick?” I cried, for this enforced inactivity was driving me to the verge of madness. “We cannot stay here for ever.”

“True,” he answered. “But till we have discovered a possible plan we can attempt nothing.”

“Forgive me, Dick, but I am almost mad. I can think of nothing. It seems impossible that you will ever recross.”

“Nothing is impossible to men who are determined,” he replied. “But in the meantime we must make ourselves secure. Watch Ada well, old fellow, and should any one but me come near her, shoot him.”

“What, then, do you intend doing?”

“I am going in yonder,” and he pointed into the black interior of the cave. “We shall never recross the chasm with that fellow's permission.”

“In Heaven's name be careful, Dick. Think, should any harm befall you.”

He answered almost coldly, “What would it matter?”

“It would break my heart,” said Ada.

He turned and looked upon her suddenly, and even at my distance I could see the intense expression of his gaze. Then he laughed lightly.

“Don't be afraid,” he said. “I value my skin too much.” Then he cried to me. “Ada tells me this cavern opens into a wide chamber, and that I need have no fear of pitfalls. Keep a good look-out,” and almost before I was aware of it he had glided from her side into the darkness.

“Come as much into the light as you can, dear,” I cried to her, “and let me know the approach of the first footstep. Be brave, my girl, we shall escape this danger yet.” And I held my rifle ready to shoot at the first sign of the enemy.

What my feelings were with regard to my cousin Hardwicke may easily be imagined. Every minute seemed an eternity. I peered into the thick blackness opposite with an intensity of vision which was painful to an extreme degree.

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I seemed to see the two men as they crept slowly and slowly round each other with the long knives in their hands, scarcely daring to breathe for fear of discovering to each other their whereabouts. Was Hardwicke a match for the chief in such a strange encounter? Had he the same catlike agility of movement which characterised the native races the same wonderful power of piercing the darkness? I knew he had the heart fifty Kaluas could not possess, and that few men would be a match for him in the open, but a conflict in that vast, vault-like chamber had a horror for me which was simply unendurable.

Jimmy stood by all eyes and ears. He gasped more than breathed, yet never spoke a word. Each nerve was drawn to its utmost tension and he quivered with excitement. Occasionally would he finger his knife or toy nervously with his pistol, but no sound, except his quick gaspings, escaped him. Brave little man, he would gladly have changed places with his master, and would, I am sure, have given a magnificent account of himself too. He had the cat-like tread, the keen instinct, the wonderful sight, and the bold heart. All that was necessary for such a combat in such a place he possessed in full. I wished you no harm, Jimmy, but at that moment I would you had been in your master's place. The girl Lusota stood beside him. She spoke not, but by the hard panting way in which she breathed I knew that she too suffered all the horrors of that dreadful uncertainty which is more cruel than the truth itself.

The moments moved on as slowly as though they each carried the burden of a thousand years. I strained my ears, but no movement, no sound was to be heard except the short, quick breathings of my companions, and the rustle of the wind in the dark cavern behind. I strained my eyes to pierce the horrible gloom, and in imagination saw many hideous sights which, like one awaking from some awful nightmare, I thanked God were only dreams. The stillness was intense, the darkness frightful; and out of that darkness what might not come? I dreaded to think,

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I tried to change my thoughts, but each attempt was fruitless. What if he should never again emerge from that awful cavern? What if the half-breed's knife should find a resting-place in his heart, that lion heart that never knew a beat of fear? And as if to add to my feelings an intenser dreariness I pictured poor Murphy sleeping his eternal sleep in the far-off oasis. He was the first victim; was Dick to be the second? And then who was to follow?

In the meantime Ada sat upon the other side of the gulf as still and motionless as the stone around her. Her form was clearly outlined in the pale light which played about the mouth of the cavern, and upon her I fixed my eyes. Poor girl! what must have been her feelings? To sit there and know not at what moment she would hear Hardwicke's death-cry ring out, and behold the half-bred savage Kalua rush upon her with his blood-stained knife, utterly regardless of me and my rifle, and hurl her into the yawning gulf below, was enough to freeze each drop of blood in her heart. So shocking was the contemplation of this thought that I felt my own flesh quiver, and I know not what I should have done to break the still, uncanny spell had I not at that moment been startled by a long, wild shriek. It came rushing from the inmost depths of the darkness and went howling up the craggy jaws of the crater.

Whose was that wild, unnatural cry? I could not answer, so unlike anything human was it. I was beside myself with an excitement which I vainly endeavoured to control. Jimmy and the girl Lusota were breathing harder than ever, and away on the other side Ada had arisen and was peering into the darkness. No other noise was heard. That one wild cry was the only sound which told the men had closed.

Presently I saw Ada put her hand up as a sign that some one was coming, and I prepared myself to shoot should it prove to be the thrice unwelcome form of the half-blood. But her hand suddenly fell to her side and in a voice wild with joy she cried—

  ― 251 ―


The next moment, to our inexpressible relief, the form of my cousin Hardwicke advanced into the light of day.