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Chapter XIX

Containing an Account of Our Flight, and Describing the Violence of the Great Earthquake.

WE made our way, as rapidly as the indifferent light would allow, up the rough steps I had descended so precipitously, then onward slowly through the dark passage, for the current of air still rushed swiftly by, debarring us the use of torches. Jimmy led the way throughout, and though we could not see him we found him an invaluable guide. He shouted what to avoid and which way to turn in such a manner and so precisely that we experienced little difficulty in getting along. We soon knew by the


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diminished current of air that we had passed the great overhead flue, and a minute or two afterwards our worthy guide thought fit to call a halt. Then he glided from our side and presently struck a light, and we saw that we had come once more into the temple of the Great Spirit.

I helped Ada through. Above us stood the big statue with the same evil grin upon its face. Ada trembled as she gazed upon it.

“Let us go,” she said. “That hideous thing terrifies me.”

“Wait a moment and you shall see the last of it,” cried Hardwicke. “It shall claim no more victims, I assure you. Stand clear, Archie, I am going to topple it over.” And with that he placed his shoulder to it and pushed, but though it shook he could not dislodge it.

“Come up, Jimmy, and lend me a hand,” he cried. The black, grinning from ear to ear as though he appreciated the task immensely, was beside his master in a moment, and their combined efforts dislodged the great thing. With a huge lurch it fell crashing to the earth, the arms and legs smashing to pieces, and the head severing from the body. Dick immediately took up a torch and hunted for that most objectionable portion of the idol, which he no sooner found than, with his knife, he began to extract its ruby eyes, remarking by the way that it would be nothing short of a crime to leave such stones behind.

I was impatient at this delay, which, considering the immediate nearness of the volcano and its likelihood, at any moment, to burst forth into violent eruption, was most unpardonable. I knew the rubies were of inestimable value, but of what would be their worth if we should fail to escape?

“Come, Dick; come, for heaven's sake!”

“In a moment,” he answered; “you see, I have a down on this fellow. He has had things too much his own way, and wants lowering a peg or two. There you are, my beauty,” he continued, as he manipulated the left eye from the great head, “your splendour and glory are gone. Belshazzar's grave is made. Forward, Archie, forward!”




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We prepared to set out, when our attention was suddenly arrested by a low groan. It proceeded from the further portion of the chamber, near the main entrance. We listened again, scarcely daring to breathe, but the sound was not repeated.

“That was a human moan, I'll swear,” Hardwicke ejaculated. “Here, Jimmy, lend me your light,” and seizing the proffered torch, he went on ahead, cautioning us to remain as we were.

He had not gone many yards before he stopped, and I saw him hold his torch low down, and then kneel beside it. We all drew near, little imagining the sight that was to meet our gaze. There, gagged and almost naked, was stretched the form of Lusota, while from her forehead flowed a small stream of blood—the trail of the Sacred Axe.

Ada trembled violently, and could not suppress a scream.

“Is she dead?” I asked.

“I think so,” Hardwicke replied, “though the body is not yet cold.”

“Who could have done this deed?”

“Wanjula,” was his fierce answer.

At the sound of that word the eyes of the unfortunate girl suddenly opened, and then as swiftly closed again. A tremor shook her frame, and she was dead.

“You see,” said Dick, “it was Wanjula. Poor thing, poor thing!” Perhaps he thought then of the great love this savage girl had borne him.

“Then the priest must have been here a short time since?”

“Undoubtedly.”

“Come, let us go,” said I, beginning to scent danger with that fiend at large. “Poor girl! we can do her no good now. Peace be with her.”

He undid the cruel gag from her mouth, took her hand in his and pressed it to his lips, then crossed them reverentially upon her breast, and rising up, followed us from the oppressive chamber.




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We reached the entrance without mishap, and on looking towards the village discovered a canoe rapidly approaching it, but whether it contained Wanjula or not we could not ascertain.

Thanks to the precaution we had taken of hiding our canoe the arch fiend had not tampered with it, so we all got aboard and paddled across to the village.

“Is this not going into the lion's den?” I inquired.

“True; but we must put a bold face on. Besides, if I gauge Wanjula's heroism correctly, he won't put himself within range of our bullets.”

“But that will not prevent him sending his men after us.”

“Then we shall fight them. Archie, we must go back. There is no other way of escape. See, the sun will be down in three or four hours. Who knows that we may not get clear away without a brush? Look at that mountain smoking. The people will find enough there to rivet their attention without thinking of us.”

Great clouds of smoke were now piling up into the air, and as we approached the village we found the water's edge thronged with an excited crowd. As there happened to be several canoes afloat, we landed without any special interest being evinced in our movements. Further up the sand many people were kneeling, lifting up their hands in supplication towards the mount and exhorting the Great Spirit with might and main to stay his wrath, for they were of one opinion the god had been angered, and in this terrific manner was he displaying his feelings. As we passed by an excited group many murmurs and fierce looks were directed towards us. There were half-a-dozen of Kalua's warriors among the crowd who, I am sure, were urging the people on. Ada trembled and walked still faster.

“What are they saying?” I asked.

She answered with great emotion: “Quick, quick, the people are angry with you; the god is angry with you.”

I guessed her meaning and hurried on, not liking a longer acquaintance with such scowling neighbours.




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We reached our hut without opposition, though Kalua's warriors no sooner saw us go than they made off in the direction of the chief's residence, where we guessed the priest would be. Having filled our pockets with the remaining cartridges, and taking a little meat and our bottles full of water, we roiled up our swags and stood ready for the march. We then accompanied Ada to her hut, where her bundle was lying already made up, and without a glance back to see if we were perceived, or one thought of anything but relief, we turned our backs on the village and struck out for the mountains.

For about an hour we walked quickly up the great valley, at the end of which time the village appeared no larger than a clump of black spots almost immediately beneath us, for this portion of the ascent was exceedingly steep. We halted awhile to regain our breath, and as we sat we surveyed the scene with mingled feelings of relief and insecurity, relief at our departure and insecurity because we knew that Wanjula was still at large, and while he remained so there was no safety for us.

“Take your last look of the village of the Mandanyah,” said Dick to Ada. “When the sun rises to-morrow we shall be far from it.”

“I am not sorry,” she replied, as she laid her hand in mine and looked lovingly into my face.

“Nor shall you be,” I answered. “Keep up that same brave spirit, my girl, for there is much to do before we can hope to strike the habitations of civilised men. There are many weary days ahead,” I continued, drawing her a little to one side, “many privations; perhaps the very worst, who knows?”

“No matter, I shall be with you—and Dick. So long as we do not part I am content. Ah, do not be afraid of me. I have not lived among these hills for nothing. I shall bear the journey well, never fear.”

“Forward,” cried Hardwicke at that moment, and we slung our swags once more upon our shoulders and were preparing to depart when the attention of


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all four was suddenly arrested by a strange, roaring noise.

“The volcano,” shouted Dick, and we stood still to listen, watching with breathless interest the smoking mountain. The noise grew louder and louder.

“That no belong volcano, Mass'r Dick,” said Jimmy. “That all the same black fellow.”

“What do you mean?”

But it was not necessary to wait for a reply. At that moment, distinct and awful, came the cries of the blacks up the great valley.

“We are pursued,” shouted my cousin. “Run for it.”

Ada and I immediately took the lead, Jimmy and Dick following. Up the uneven path we panted, scrambling, sprawling, and in a boil of perspiration, while, behind, the cries of our pursuers drew nearer and nearer. It was evident that they were fast gaining upon us, which was hardly to be wondered at considering the lightness of their equipment and the way in which we were weighted down with swags, water-bottles, guns and ammunition.

“This will never do,” cried Hardwicke in the midst of his gasps, “we must turn about and face them. Get to the top of this ravine; it will give us a commanding position.”

The ravine of which he spoke lay before us and was composed on either side of huge masses of rock which rose from sixty to seventy feet sheer into the air. It was a sort of natural pass, and from a military point of view was a position a captain would rather hold than storm. Dick saw this in a moment, consequently his orders to reach the top. As we raced up between the two jagged walls of rock, I looked above me for a moment at their great frowning, precipitous sides, and though they must have been fully thirty or forty feet apart they did not look half that width, so stupendous were they. Steep was this ravine and slippery, being of solid rock, but once we reached the top we were amply repaid for our toil. From that height we could literally sweep the whole of the passage.




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“If we only had a Gatling gun, Dick!”

“Ah!” he exclaimed. There was a wonderful amount of meaning in that expression.

As there were heaps of loose stones about, in a very few minutes we had built up an impromptu barricade, behind which we rested, awaiting the approach of the enemy.

We were not kept waiting long. The yells which had been drawing nearer now sounded harshly in our ears. We could hear their furious panting cries distinctly as they clambered up the steep, uneven way, and could also distinguish parts of the savage war-song they gasped or shrieked out with increasing difficulty. It was a wild, fiendish clamour for our blood, a piece of information we could have done just as well without.

Soon half-a-dozen of the foremost warriors appeared in sight, about fifty yards from the entrance to the rocky pass. They immediately beheld us and, with a fierce cry of exultation, bounded forward with uplifted spears, shrieking hideously all the time.

“Wait till they are close,” said Dick, “we must not miss them.”

On they came, shrieking more horribly than ever. Close, closer, till they could not have been more than twenty yards off.

“Fire!” cried Hardwicke, and the two rifles and gun being let off simultaneously, filled the great valley with a thousand weird echoes.

We fired again and again and had the satisfaction of beholding five of our enemies stretched out dead or seriously wounded, while the sixth, with a wild cry of terror, turned about and bounded down the pass with the rapidity of an emu, to where a dozen more of our pursuers had collected. But he was not fated to reach them. A bullet from Dick's rifle struck his great, broad back, and with a cry he flung his arms into the air and toppled headlong to the earth.

“I did that,” said Hardwicke as he began to reload his magazine, “to give them a taste of our quality.”

And he evidently succeeded in impressing them with a


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sense of our greatness, for they withdrew some little distance from the mouth of the pass and held a council of war.

“I do not see Wanjula,” I remarked.

“Him hide behind them rocks, Mass'r Archie. Me see him just a minute ago.”

“He'll take care of his skin, never fear,” said Dick; “he's an excellent general. But I'd give something to have a pot at him.”

“What are they up to now?” I inquired, seeing a solitary black approach us without spear or waddy, and his two arms held straight over his head.

“A parley,” Hardwicke answered. “Come to make some modest demand, I'll bet.

The fellow approached, still holding his hands aloft, thereby showing that he neither carried nor concealed a weapon, and that consequently his mision was one of peace. When he had climbed to within twenty yards of our barricade he was commanded by Dick to stop.

“What seeks the warrior of the Mandanyah?”

“Behold,” replied the man pointing across to the smoking mountain, “the God is angry with the people.”

“Well?”

“He hath demanded of the people a sacrifice.”

“Well?”

“And ere the sun goes down that sacrifice must be made.”

“Have ye no more old women in the village that ye come to me with these things?”

This retort of Dick's seemed to anger the fellow.

“I came not here to bandy words with the white man, whose tongue is like the bite of the death adder. I came to demand that you (meaning Hardwicke, who of course had carried on this conversation through Jimmy) and the girl Laughing Hair return to the village of our people. The bla ck man and he with the hair of the night (meaning me) may pass on without molestation.”

‘And who has bid thee come on this child's errand, thou fool?”




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“He who is greater than the greatest—Wanjula the priest.”

“Is Wanjula with them yonder?” pointing down the defile.

“Ay”

“Then tell him to come and fetch us.”

“Is that the answer of the white man?

“It is.”

“Think well. We have a hundred warriors. The white men are but two.”

“Enough! The white man never yields. Behold, I am he who wore the Sacred Axe, the gift of the Great Spirit, and I tell you, oh fool, so that you may carry my words to your brother warriors, for they are the words of wisdom, and the words of one who is mighty upon earth. The Wanjula is a false priest, and the Great Spirit will protect Laughing Hair till every one of your hundred warriors is dead and she walks in peace once more. Mark yonder mountain, warrior, and listen to what I say. Seek to harm the Laughing Hair, seek to cause her but one pang of pain, and the wrath of the Great Spirit shall be as the voice of thunder, and the fury of his anger burn you as the lightning the great trees on the mountains. Now go, and if ye fear not the power of the white men, come on. I have spoken. So,” he remarked to me as the messenger turned about and departed, “I thought it would be some modest request. I wish to the lord that volcano would flame out. It might carry weight with the twaddle I have talked.”

“At present it looks angry enough for anything; but suppose it should get no worse?”

“Don't suppose anything so dreadful,” he replied. “It will be a bad look-out for us if it does not.”

In the meantime the savages had clustered in a huge mass at the bottom of the defile. There seemed to be fully a hundred of them, if not more, and I knew there would be no chance of escape for us should they prove persistent in their attacks. The victory must go to the stronger party. It was not a pleasant thing to contemplate,


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but when you are continually face to face with danger you lose your respect for it. And when you are driven into a corner you fight like a madman. That is the way heroes are made.

That the savages were debating excitedly we could tell by the incessant shouting that reached us, though who was leading the debate it was impossible to see, for the great rocks hid many of them. Wanjula, we doubted not. Had it been any one else there might have been some hope. Superstition could as easily have been aroused for as against us. But Wanjula was too well acquainted with those superstitions himself to let us profit by them. He had aroused the people to frenzy against us by pretending the god had demanded us as a sacrifice, and they, the quintessence of superstitious ignorance, were too ready to believe him. He had now a splendid chance of revenge, which he did not intend to let slip. And as the smoke from the burning mountain grew thicker and thicker, so their frenzy increased, till the longing to gain possession of us and appease the fury of the fiend they worshipped, amounted to the grossest form of madness. They danced and shrieked before the entrance of the defile like a detachment of infuriated devils. They screamed with such vehemence and shook their spears at us with such ungovernable fury, that I was at a loss to understand why they restrained themselves from rushing upon us pellmell.

At last there was a movement among them, and a dozen of their biggest and most able-bodied men dashed into the defile; and with continuous shrieks of the most horrible description, intended no doubt to terrify us, came bounding up the steep pass.

Crack, crack, went our rifles and two of the foremost savages threw up their arms and fell. Again we fired and two more bit the dust, yet on they came undaunted, and whether it was intense excitement on our part or the quick movement of the savages which made us miss, I do not know, but that we missed terribly was an appalling fact.


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To my consternation I saw that each bullet did not bring down a man as I confidently expected it would. Thus were our magazines emptied and only six of the enemy accounted for, and as we had no time to refill them, we were obliged to lay aside our rifles and draw our revolvers. By this time the remaining six savages were sc close that before we could bring more than two to the ground they had breasted our little barricade. I remember seeing two of them rush for Dick; I heard a hard dull thud, and then beheld one of the two topple down the steep rocks. Then I was in turn attacked, and narrowly escaped a spear-thrust through my side, but I had my revolver ready and the rash black paid for his boldness with his life. So was it with Jimmy's assailant. That sturdy little man had closed with his opponent and in a moment had passed his knife into his side. Then, with a disdainful laugh, he flung the body over the barricade.

I then turned my attention to the scuffle that was going on between my cousin and a big savage. The fellow was one of the two who had assaulted Dick, and he was now trying his best to seize Hardwicke by the throat. Being a powerful fellow he gave my hero some little trouble, and while they were at what might be called arm's length seemed to possess equal strength, but when, with a quick movement, Dick closed and got his arms round his adversary, the aborigine was entirely at his mercy and yelled with pain as Hardwicke's arms pressed him like a vice. I could have sworn I heard his bones crack. Then he let go his hold and the savage fell like a log to the earth. But with superhuman power Hardwicke seized him once more by the body and lifted him high above his head so that the warriors at the entrance of the pass might clearly see; then, with a great swing, he hurled the body from him, and the shriek that flew from the doomed man's lips was more horrible than words can tell. There was a dull thud as his body struck the rocks below, a wild cry of alarm from the savage on-lookers, and the second attack on our position had come to an end.




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We hurriedly reloaded our rifles, during which operation I asked Hardwicke why he had not used his revolver in the late scrimmage. Stooping down he picked it up and explained.

“When those two fellows rushed me,” he said, “they knocked it out of my hand.”

“Do you think they will attack us again?”

“Certainly. You may bet your life Wanjula means to have us, and—” he sank his voice so that Ada, who all this time was crouched behind a rock a few yards off, might not hear, “and if they attack us en masse we are done for.”

These were most unpleasant words to hear, and yet I wanted not this confirmation of my own suspicions. I had seen all along that we could not hope to hold out against so many. And now the end was come. We had cheated death too often. He was about to be revenged at last. I turned my face to Ada and her eyes caught mine. There were great tears in them, but she spoke no word. She knew too well the extreme peril of our position; how much the odds were against us. She knew that we would fight to the end, and then the rest is silence.

I went over to her and kissed her.

“It may be for the last time,” I thought. “Who knows?”

“They're coming, Archie,” cried Hardwicke, who all this time had been watching their movements. I immediately flew from her side and posted myself in my old position.

This time I saw to my horror that the savages, to the number of seventy or eighty, meant to attack us in a body. They moved in a compact mass brandishing their spears and axes and chanting their hideous war-song.

“It will go hard with us this time, old man,” and without adding another word he seized my hand and shook it warmly, and then turned to watch the enemy.

“Wanjula, look!”

Yes, it was he, his beard and hair flying confusedly about, and every action of his body denoting the keen excitement under which he laboured. He was one of the foremost of


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the attacking party and was, by his gesticulations, exhorting the rest of his followers to advance.

Dick followed him with his rifle, but the priest was so restless and moved about so incessantly, that it was impossible to get a shot at him. There was a look of acute disappointment on Hardwicke's face.

“If we could shoot him,” he said, “the others might not be so eager to attack. As it is, they require no end of pressing. He is the soul of the party, and by personal influence alone commands them against their will.”

As he finished speaking the priest seemed to stand still for a moment. Up went Dick's rifle in an instant and a snap-shot was the result, but instead of bringing the priest to earth, he hit a tall warrior who was standing beside him. The next moment Wanjula disappeared and we saw him no more.

The attacking force drew nearer and nearer with a steady, deadly precision. They were in earnest this time, as could be seen by the way they marched and held their heads. The leaders had advanced more than halfway through the defile and were now so close to us that I could see their eyes gleaming with the fury of wild animals.

“God help us!” I thought.

“Give it to them, Archie, give it to them!'

We both raised our rifles to fire, when of a sudden the earth gave a violent quiver and shook as shakes a sheet of water when ruffled by a squall. The savages stopped awestruck, and gazed with dumb horror upon one another.

“Look at the mountain,” cried Dick.

It was in violent eruption. A mass of fire and smoke hung over its brow, while the air was filled with ashes and small stones. Shock quickly followed shock; then a severer one was felt and a low, rumbling roar was heard which gradually grew louder and louder till it burst forth like one great peal of thunder. The earth swayed like the bosom of the sea. It seemed as though some mighty giants were beneath our feet heaving with great levers the mountains from their solid base. The air grew more dark with


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ashes and smoke, while immense rocks, torn with terrific force from the sides of the crater, were hurled high into the air and fell crashing on the hills around us.

“My God, look!”

Dick seized my arm and pointed down the defile. There, all cowering together, too terrified to move, stood or crouched our would-be assailants, while on each side of them the great, precipitous rocks which went to form the pass, swayed like trees in a wind. Suddenly a great cry of horror arose from the ranks of the enemy, and before the poor wretches had time to escape or even move, one side of the pass gave way with a roar like thunder, crushing the whole of our assailants beneath its massive form.

For a moment the position on which we stood swayed horribly, but by slow degrees it grew less and then quieted altogether. The volcano still spouted smoke and fire, but the trembling of the earth had ceased. Jimmy was almost white with excitement; Dick and I were much the same, while Ada knelt clinging to a rock, her face more like a ghost's than a human being's. I flew to her and took her in my arms.

“We are saved, Ada, thank God, thank God!”

And never did man more devoutly thank his Maker for great mercies vouchsafed than did I there and then in the midst of that stupendous ruin. What had we not escaped through the merciful interposition of Providence? The savage fury both of man and nature, which but a moment before had roared alike for our lives, was now calm, one stilled for ever in the calm of death. Beneath the great granite rock, which like a tombstone marked their last home, lay stretched all that was left of that wild mass of savage hate. Below again, the path up which we had ascended was seamed with great rents and chasms, as though the earthquake had played sad havoc with the valley up to our very feet. There it ceased, and the ground above us remained as though this strange convulsion of nature had never been. For several minutes I stood surveying the wild ruin below, buried in thought too


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complex even to attempt defining, when my attention was arrested by Hardwicke asking me if I saw anything strange about the mountain. I answered in the negative.

“All the same,” he said “it's settling in the lake.”

A closer and more studied scrutiny convinced me of the truth of this statement. The great hill was indeed visibly sinking. The smoke and flame still issued in immense clouds from its cone-like top, but by degrees that top was most assuredly descending to the water. Gradually it sank lower and lower, till I almost seemed to see it move. Then there was a terrific roaring noise, as though the eruption was about to be repeated, denser volumes of smoke arose completely blocking out the view, and we stood gaping into the distance wondering what was coming next. The smokeclouds, however, gradually rolled away, and over the spot where but a few minutes before stood the great fiery mountain, the silvery waters of the lake now sparkled. The great hill had sunk for ever from the sight of man.

“And thus ends the temple of the Great Spirit,” said Dick.

“And all that mighty pile of gold, Mass'r Dick.”

“And all that mighty pile of gold.”

“Dam bad luck and no gammon.”

“And yet I dare say we are just as fortunate as we deserve to be,” replied his master. “But come,” he said to me, “it is time we were away. The sun will soon be down, and we must reach the top of this valley before we camp for the night.”

And we turned from the spot which had so nearly been our grave and resumed our journey with sad though thankful hearts.

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