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Title: Harry Escombe - A Tale of Adventure in Peru
Author: Collingwood, Harry, 1851-1922
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Harry Escombe
A Tale of Adventure in Peru

By Harry Collingwood
________________________________________________________________________
Harry Escombe is a young apprentice in a civil engineer's office.  The
firm has received a contract to survey and built a railway line in Peru.
Harry is chosen to go, and is informed that if he does well in the work
the future for him is pretty bright.

But there is a fly in the ointment.  The man in charge of the project is
about as nasty as anyone can be: his character is beautifully depicted
throughout the book.  He makes Harry do a piece of surveying in an
unnecessarily dangerous manner, as a result of which he falls down a
precipice from which he cannot be rescued, and is therefore written off
as dead.

But he was indeed rescued.  He was taken to a house where he remained in
a coma for some time.  Then he is thought to be a re-incarnation of The
Inca, and taken by Indians to their own city, where he is worshipped as
a god.  This could be quite embarrassing if you found yourself in this
situation, as you'd be unable to perform miracles, and do the things a
deity might be expected to do.  However, Harry managed rather well.  But
eventually he manages to escape from the situation, and to return to his
home in England.
________________________________________________________________________
HARRY ESCOMBE
A TALE OF ADVENTURE IN PERU

BY HARRY COLLINGWOOD



CHAPTER ONE.

HOW THE ADVENTURE ORIGINATED.

The hour was noon, the month chill October; and the occupants--a round
dozen in number--of Sir Philip Swinburne's drawing office were more or
less busily pursuing their vocation of preparing drawings and tracings,
taking out quantities, preparing estimates, and, in short, executing the
several duties of a civil engineers' draughtsman as well as they could
in a temperature of 35° Fahrenheit, and in an atmosphere surcharged with
smoke from a flue that refused to draw--when the door communicating with
the chief draughtsman's room opened and the head of Mr Richards, the
occupant of that apartment, protruded through the aperture.  At the
sound of the opening door the draughtsmen, who were acquainted with Mr
Richards's ways, glanced up with one accord from their work, and the eye
of one of them was promptly caught by Mr Richards, who, raising a
beckoning finger, remarked:

"Escombe, I want you," and immediately retired.

Thereupon Escombe, the individual addressed, carefully wiped his drawing
pen upon a duster, methodically laid the instrument in its proper place
in the instrument case, closed the latter, and, descending from his high
stool, made his way into the chief draughtsman's room, closing the door
behind him.  He did this with some little trepidation; for these private
interviews with his chief were more often than not of a distinctly
unpleasant character, having reference to some stupid blunder in a
calculation, some oversight in the preparation of a drawing, or
something of a similar nature calling for sharp rebuke; and as the lad--
he was but seventeen--accomplished the short journey from one room to
the other he rapidly reviewed his most recent work, and endeavoured to
decide in which job he was most likely to have made a mistake.  But
before he could arrive at a decision on this point he was in the
presence of Mr Richards, and a single glance at the chief draughtsman's
face--now that it could be seen clearly and unveiled by a pall of
smoke--sufficed to assure Harry Escombe that in this case at least he
had nothing in the nature of censure to fear.  For Mr Richards's face
was beaming with satisfaction, and a large atlas lay open upon the desk
at which he stood.

"Sit down, Escombe," remarked the dreaded potentate as he pointed to a
chair.

Escombe seated himself; and then ensued a silence of a full minute's
duration.  The potentate seemed to be meditating how to begin.  At
length--

"How long have you been with us, Escombe?" he enquired, hoisting himself
onto a stool as he put the question.

"A little over two years," answered Escombe.  "I signed my articles with
Sir Philip on the first of September the year before last, and came on
duty the next day."

"Two years!" ejaculated Mr Richards.  "I did not think it had been so
long as that.  But time flies when one is busy, and we have done a lot
of work during the last two years.  Then you have only another year of
pupilage to serve, eh, Escombe?"

"Only one year more, Mr Richards," answered the lad.

"Ah!" commented Mr Richards, and paused again, characteristically.
"Look here, Escombe," he resumed; "you have done very well since you
came here; Sir Philip is very pleased with you, and so am I.  I have had
my eye on you, and have seen that you have been studying hard and doing
your best to perfect yourself in all the details of your profession.  So
far as theory goes you are pretty well advanced.  What you need now is
practical, out-of-door work, and," laying his hand upon the open atlas,
"I have got a job here that I think will just suit you.  It is in Peru.
Do you happen to know anything of Peru?"

Escombe confessed that his knowledge of Peru was strictly confined to
what he had learned about that interesting country at school.

"It is the same with me," admitted Mr Richards.  "All I know about Peru
is that it is a very mountainous country, which is the reason, I
suppose, why there is considerably less than a thousand miles of railway
throughout the length and breadth of it.  And what there is is made up
principally of short bits scattered about here and there.  But there is
some talk of altering all that now, and matters have gone so far that
Sir Philip has been commissioned to prepare a scheme for constructing a
railway from a place called Palpa--which is already connected with Lima
and Callao--to Salinas, which is connected with Huacho, and from Huacho
to Cochamarca and thence to a place called Cerro de Pasco, which in its
turn is connected with Nanucaca; and from Nanucaca along the shore of
Lake Chinchaycocha to Ayacucho, Cuzco, and Santa Rosa, which last is
connected by rail with Mollendo, on the coast.  There is also another
scheme afoot which will involve the taking of a complete set of
soundings over the length and breadth of Lake Titicaca.  Now, all this
means a lot of very important and careful survey work which I reckon
will take the best part of two years to accomplish.  Sir Philip has
decided to entrust the work to Mr Butler, who has already done a great
deal of survey work for him, as of course you know; but Mr Butler will
need an assistant, and Sir Philip, after consultation with me, has
decided to offer that post to you.  It will be a splendid opportunity
for you to acquire experience in a branch of your profession that you
know very little of, as yet; and if the scheme should be carried out,
you, in consequence of the familiarity with the country which you will
have acquired, will stand an excellent chance of obtaining a good post
on the job.  Now, what do you say, Escombe; are you willing to go?  Your
pay during the survey will be a guinea a day--seven days a week--
beginning on the day you sail from England and ending on the day of your
return; first-class passage out and home; all expenses paid; twenty-five
pounds allowed for a special outfit; and everything in the shape of
surveying instruments and other necessaries, found.  After your return
you will of course be retained in the office to work out the scheme, at
a salary to be agreed upon, which will to a great extent depend upon the
way in which you work upon the survey; while, in the event of the scheme
being carried out, you will, as I say, doubtless get a good post on the
engineering staff, at a salary that will certainly not be less than your
pay during the survey, and may possibly be a good deal more."

Young Escombe's heart leapt within him, for here was indeed a rosy
prospect suddenly opening out before him, a prospect which promised to
put an abrupt and permanent end to certain sordid embarrassments that of
late had been causing his poor widowed mother a vast amount of anxiety
and trouble, and sowing her beloved head with many premature white
hairs.  For Harry's father had died about four months before this story
opens, leaving his affairs in a condition of such hopeless disorder that
the family lawyer had only just succeeded in disentangling them, with
the result that the widow had found herself left almost penniless, with
no apparent resource but to allow her daughter Lucy to go out into a
cold, unsympathetic world to earn her own living and face the many
perils that lurk in the path of a young, lovely, innocent, and
unprotected girl.  But here was a way out of all their difficulties;
for, as Harry rapidly bethought himself, if all his expenses were to be
paid while engaged upon the survey, he could arrange for at least three
hundred pounds of his yearly salary to be paid to his mother at home,
which, with economy and what little she had already, would suffice to
enable her and Lucy to live in their present modest home, free from
actual want.

There was but one fly in his ointment, one disturbing item in the
alluring programme which Mr Richards had sketched out, and that was Mr
Butler, the man who was to be Escombe's superior during the execution of
the survey.  This man was well known to the occupants of Sir Philip
Swinburne's drawing office as a most tyrannical, overbearing man, with
an arrogance of speech and offensiveness of manner and a faculty for
finding fault that rendered it absolutely impossible to work amicably
with him, and at the same time retain one's self respect.  Moreover, it
was asserted that if there were two equally efficient methods of
accomplishing a certain task, he would invariably insist upon the
adoption of that method which involved the greatest amount of
difficulty, discomfort, and danger, and then calmly sit down in safety
and comfort to see it done.  Mr Richards had said that Escombe would,
upon his return to England, be retained in the office to work out the
scheme, at a salary the amount of which would "to a great extent depend
upon the way in which he worked on the survey"; and it seemed to Harry
that Sir Philip's estimate of the way in which he worked on the survey
would be almost entirely based upon Mr Butler's report.  Now it was
known that, in addition to possessing the unenviable attributes already
mentioned, Butler was a most vindictive man, cherishing an undying
enmity against all who had ever presumed to thwart or offend him, and he
seemed to be one of those unfortunately constituted individuals whom it
was impossible to avoid offending.  It is therefore not to be wondered
at if Escombe hesitated a moment before accepting Mr Richards's offer.

"Well, Escombe, what do you say?" enquired the chief draughtsman, after
a somewhat lengthy pause.  "You do not seem to be very keen upon
availing yourself of the opportunity that I am offering you.  Is it the
climate that you are afraid of?  I am told that Peru is a perfectly
healthy country."

"No, Mr Richards," answered Escombe.  "I am not thinking of the
climate; it is Mr Butler that is troubling me.  You must be fully aware
of the reputation which he holds in the office as a man with whom it is
absolutely impossible to work amicably.  There is Munro, who helped him
in that Scottish survey, declares that nothing would induce him to again
put himself in Mr Butler's power; and you will remember what a shocking
report Mr Butler gave of Munro's behaviour during the survey.  Yet the
rest of us have found Munro to be invariably most good natured and
obliging in every way.  Then there was Fielding--and Pierson--and
Marshall--"

"Yes, I know," interrupted Mr Richards rather impatiently.  "I have
never been able to rightly understand those affairs, or to make up my
mind which was in the wrong.  It may be that there were faults on both
sides.  But, be that as it may, Mr Butler is a first-rate surveyor; we
have always found his work to be absolutely accurate and reliable; and
Sir Philip has given him this survey to do; so it is too late for us to
draw back now, even if Sir Philip would, which I do not think in the
least likely.  So, if you do not feel inclined to take on the job--"

"No; please do not mistake my hesitation," interrupted Escombe.  "I will
take the post, most gratefully, and do my best in it; only, if Mr
Butler should give in an unfavourable report of me when all is over, I
should like you to remember that he has done the same with everybody
else who has gone out under him; and please do not take it for granted,
without enquiry, that his report is perfectly just and unbiased."

This was a rather bold thing for a youngster of Escombe's years to say
in relation to a man old enough to be his father; but Mr Richards
passed it over--possibly he knew rather more about those past episodes
than he cared to admit--merely saying:

"Very well, then; I dare say that will be all right.  Now you had better
go to Mitford and draw the money for your special outfit; also get from
him a list of what you will require; and to-morrow you can take the
necessary time to give your orders before coming to the office.  But you
must be careful to make sure that everything is supplied in good time,
for you sail for Callao this day three weeks."

The enthusiasm which caused Escombe's eyes to shine and his cheek to
glow as he strode up the short garden path to the door of the trim
little villa in West Hill, Sydenham, that night, was rather damped by
the reception accorded by his mother and sister to the glorious news
which he began to communicate before even he had stepped off the
doormat.  Where the lad saw only an immediate increase of pay that would
suffice to solve the problem of the family's domestic embarrassments,
two years of assured employment, with a brilliant prospect beyond, a
long spell of outdoor life in a perfect climate and in a most
interesting and romantic country, during which he would be perfecting
himself in a very important branch of his profession, and, lastly, the
possibility of much exciting adventure, Mrs Escombe and Lucy discerned
a long sea voyage, with its countless possibilities of disaster, two
years of separation from the being who was dearer to them than all else,
the threat of strange and terrible attacks of sickness, and perils
innumerable from wild beasts, venomous reptiles and insects, trackless
forests, precipitous mountain paths, fathomless abysses, swift-rushing
torrents, fierce tropical storms, earthquakes, and, worse than all else,
ferocious and bloodthirsty savages!  What was money and the freedom from
care and anxiety which its possession ensured, compared with all the
awful dangers which their darling must brave in order to win it?  These
two gently nurtured women felt that they would infinitely rather beg
their bread in the streets than suffer their beloved Harry to go forth,
carrying his life in his hands, in order that they might be comfortably
housed and clothed and sufficiently fed!  And indeed the picture which
they drew was sufficiently alarming to have daunted a lad of nervous and
timid temperament, and perhaps have turned him from his purpose.  But
Harry Escombe was a youth of very different mould, and was built of much
sterner stuff.  There was nothing of the milksop about him, and the
dangers of which his mother and sister spoke so eloquently had no
terrors for him, but, on the contrary, constituted a positive and very
powerful attraction; besides, as he pointed out to his companions, he
would not always be clinging to the face of a precipice, or endeavouring
to cross an impassable mountain torrent.  Storms did not rage
incessantly in Peru, any more than they did elsewhere; Mr Richards had
assured him that the climate was healthy; ferocious animals and deadly
reptiles did not usually attack a man unless they were interfered with;
and reference to an Encyclopaedia disclosed the fact that Peru, so far
from swarming with untamed savages, was a country enjoying a very fair
measure of civilisation.  Talking thus, making light of such dangers as
he would actually have to face, and dwelling very strongly upon the
splendid opening which the offer afforded him, the lad gradually brought
his mother and sister into a more reasonable frame of mind, until at
length, by the time that the bedroom candles made their appearance, the
two women, knowing how completely Harry had set his heart upon going,
and recognising also the strength of his contention as to the
advantageous character of the opening afforded him by Mr Richards's
proposal, had become so far reconciled to the prospect of the separation
that they were able to speak of it calmly and to conceal the heartache
from which both were suffering.  So on the following morning Mrs
Escombe and Lucy were enabled to sally forth with cheerful countenance
and more or less sprightly conversation as they accompanied the lad to
town to assist him in the purchase of his special outfit, the larger
portion of which was delivered at The Limes that same evening, and at
once unpacked for the purpose of being legibly marked and having all
buttons securely sewn on by two pairs of loving hands.

The following three weeks sped like a dream, so far as the individual
chiefly interested was concerned; during the day he was kept continually
busy by Mr Butler in the preparation of lists of the several
instruments, articles, and things--from theodolites, levels, measuring
chains, steel tapes, ranging rods, wire lines, sounding chains, drawing
and tracing paper, cases of instruments, colour boxes, T-squares, steel
straight-edges, and drawing pins, to tents, camp furniture, and
saddlery--and procuring the same.  The evenings were spent in packing
and re-packing his kit as the several articles comprising it came to
hand, diversified by little farewell parties given in his honour by the
large circle of friends with whom the Escombes had become acquainted
since their arrival and settlement in Sydenham.  At length the
preparations were all complete; the official impedimenta--so to speak--
had all been collected at Sir Philip Swinburne's offices in Victoria
Street, carefully packed in zinc-lined cases, and dispatched for
shipment in the steamer which was to take the surveyors to South
America.  Escombe had sent on all his baggage to the ship in advance,
and the morning came when he must say good-bye to the two who were
dearest to him in all the world.  They would fain have accompanied him
to the docks and remained on board with him until the moment arrived for
the steamer to haul out into the river and proceed upon her voyage; but
young Escombe had once witnessed the departure of a liner from
Southampton and had then beheld the long-drawn-out agony of the
protracted leave taking, the twitching features, the sudden turnings
aside to hide and wipe away the unbidden tear, the heroic but futile
attempts at cheerful, light-hearted conversation, the false alarms when
timid people rushed ashore, under the unfounded apprehension that they
were about to be carried off across the seas, and the return to the ship
to say goodbye yet once again when they found that their fears were
groundless.  He had seen all this, and was quite determined that his
dear ones should not undergo such torture of waiting, he therefore so
contrived that his good-bye was almost as brief and matter of fact as
though he had been merely going up to Westminster for the day, instead
of to Peru for two years.  Taking the train for London Bridge, he made
his way thence to Fenchurch Street and so to Blackwall, arriving on
board the s.s.  _Rimac_ with a good hour to spare.

But, early as he was, he found that not only had Mr Butler arrived on
board before him, but also that that impatient individual had already
worked himself into a perfect frenzy of irritation lest he--Harry--
should allow the steamer to leave without him.

"Look here, Escombe," he fumed, "this sort of thing won't do at all, you
know.  I most distinctly ordered you to be on board in good time this
morning.  I have been searching for you all over the ship; and now, at a
quarter to eleven o'clock, you come sauntering on board with as much
deliberation as though you had days to spare.  What do you mean by being
so late, eh?"

"Really, Mr Butler," answered Harry, "I am awfully sorry if I have put
you out at all, but I thought that so long as I was on board in time to
start with the ship it would be sufficient.  As it is I am more than an
hour to the good; for, as you are aware, the ship does not haul out of
dock until midday.  Have you been wanting me for anything in
particular?"

"No, I have not," snapped Butler.  "But I was naturally anxious when I
arrived on board and found that you were not here.  If you had happened
to miss the ship I should have been in a pretty pickle; for this
Peruvian survey is far too big a job for me to tackle singlehanded."

"Of course," agreed Escombe.  "But you might have been quite certain
that I would not have been so very foolish as to allow the ship to leave
without me.  I am far too anxious to avail myself of the opportunity
which this survey will afford me, to risk the loss of it by being late.
Is there anything that you want me to do, Mr Butler?  Because, if not,
I will go below and arrange matters in my cabin."

"Very well," assented Butler ungraciously.  "But, now that you are on
board, don't you dare to leave the ship and go on shore again--upon any
pretence whatever.  Do you hear?"

"You really need not feel the slightest apprehension, Mr Butler,"
replied Harry.  "I have no intention or desire to go on shore again."
And therewith he made his way to the saloon companion, and thence below
to his sleeping cabin, his cheeks tingling with shame and anger at
having been so hectored in public; for several passengers had been
within earshot and had turned to look curiously at the pair upon hearing
the sounds of Butler's high-pitched voice raised in anger.

"My word," thought the lad, "our friend Butler is beginning early!  If
he is going to talk to me in that strain on the day of our departure,
what will he be like when we are ready to return home?  However, I am
not going to allow him to exasperate me into forgetting myself, and so
answering him as to give him an excuse for reporting me to Sir Philip
for insolence or insubordination; there is too much depending upon this
expedition for me to risk anything by losing my temper with him.  I will
be perfectly civil to him, and will do my duty to the very best of my
ability, then nothing very serious can possibly happen."

Upon entering his cabin Escombe was greatly gratified to learn from the
steward that he was to be its sole occupant.  He at once annexed the top
berth, and proceeded to unpack the trunk containing the clothing and
other matters that he would need during the voyage, arranged his books
in the rack above the bunk, and then returned to the deck just in time
to witness the operation of hauling out of dock.

He found Butler pacing the deck in a state of extreme agitation.

"Where have you been all this while?" demanded the man, halting
abruptly, square in Escombe's path.  "What do you mean by keeping out of
my sight so long?  Are you aware, sir, that I have spent nearly an hour
at the gangway watching to see that you did not slink off ashore?"

"Have you, really?" retorted Harry.  "There was not the slightest need
for you to do so, you know, Mr Butler, for I distinctly told you that I
did not intend to go ashore again.  Didn't I?"

"Yes, you did," answered Butler.  "But how was I to know that you would
keep your word?"

"I always keep my word, sir; as you will learn when we become better
acquainted," answered the lad.

"I hope so, for your sake," returned Butler.  "But my experience of
youngsters like yourself is that they are not to be trusted."  Then,
glancing round him and perceiving that several passengers in his
immediate neighbourhood were regarding him with unconcealed amusement,
he hastily retreated below.  As he did so, a man who had been lounging
over the rail close at hand, smoking a cigar as he watched the traffic
upon the river, turned, and regarding Escombe with a good-natured smile,
remarked:

"Your friend seems to be a rather cantankerous chap, isn't he?  He will
have to take care of himself, and keep his temper under rather better
control, or he will go crazy when we get into the hot weather.  Is he
often taken like that?"

"I really don't know," answered Harry.  "The fact is that I only made
his acquaintance about three weeks ago; but I fear that he suffers a
great deal from nervous irritability.  It must be a very great
affliction."

"It is, both to himself and to others," remarked the stranger dryly.  "I
have met his sort before, and I find that the only way to deal with such
people is to leave them very severely alone.  He seems to be a bit of a
bully, so far as I can make out, but he will have to mind his p's and
q's while he is on board this ship, or he will be getting himself into
hot water and finding things generally made very unpleasant for him.
You are in his service, I suppose?"

"Yes, in a way I am," answered Escombe with circumspection; "that is to
say, we are both in the same service, but he is my superior."

"I see," answered the stranger.  "How far are you going in the ship?"

"We are going to Callao," answered Harry.

"To Peru, eh?" returned the stranger.  "So am I.  I know the country
pretty well.  I have lived in Lima for the last nine years, and I can
tell you that when your friend gets among the Peruvians he will have to
pull in his horns a good bit.  They are rather a peppery lot, are the
Peruvians, and if he attempts to talk to them as he has talked to you
to-day, he will stand a very good chance of waking up some fine morning
with a long knife between his ribs."

"Oh, I hope it will not come to that!" exclaimed Escombe.  "But--to
leave the subject of my friend and his temper for the present--since you
have lived in Peru so long, perhaps you can tell me something about the
country, what it is like, what is the character of its climate, and so
on.  It is possible that I may have to spend a year or so in it.  I
should therefore be glad to learn something about it, and to get such
tips as to the manner of living, and so on, as you can give me before we
land."

"Certainly," answered the stranger; "I shall be very pleased indeed to
give you all the information that I possibly can, and I fancy there are
very few people on board this ship who know more about Peru than I do."

And therewith Escombe's new acquaintance proceeded to hold forth upon
the good and the bad points of the country to which they were both
bound, describing in very graphic language the extraordinary varieties
of climate to be met with on a journey inland from the coast, the
grandeur of its mountain scenery, the astonishing variety of its
products, its interesting historical remains; the character of the
aboriginal Indians, the beliefs they cherish, and the legends which have
been preserved and handed down by them from father to son through many
generations; the character and abundance of its mineral wealth, and a
variety of other interesting information; so that by the time that Harry
went down below to luncheon, he had already become possessed of the
feeling that to him Peru was no longer a strange and unknown land.



CHAPTER TWO.

THE CHIEF OFFICER'S YARN.

Upon entering the saloon and searching for his place, Harry found that,
much to his satisfaction, he had been stationed at the second table,
presided over by the chief officer of the ship--a very genial individual
named O'Toole, hailing from the Emerald Isle--and between that important
personage and his recently-made Peruvian acquaintance, whose name he now
discovered to be John Firmin; while Mr Butler, it appeared, had
contrived to get himself placed at the captain's table, which was
understood to be occupied by the elite of the passengers.  With the
serving of the soup Escombe was given a small printed form, which he
examined rather curiously, not quite understanding for the moment what
it meant.

Mr Firmin volunteered enlightenment.  "That," he explained, "is an
order form, upon which you write the particular kind of liquid
refreshment--apart from pure water--with which you wish to be served.
You fill it in and hand it to your own particular table steward, who
brings you what you have ordered, and at the end of each week he
presents you with the orders which you have issued, and you are expected
to settle up in spot cash.  Very simple, isn't it?"

"Perfectly," agreed Harry.  "But supposing that one does not wish to
order anything, what then?"

"You leave the order blank, that is all," answered Firmin.  Then
noticing that the lad pushed the form away, he asked: "Are you a
teetotaler?"

"By no means," answered Harry; "I sometimes take a glass of wine or
beer, and very occasionally, when I happen to get wet through or am very
cold, I take a little spirits; but plain or aerated water usually
suffices for me."

"I see," remarked Firmin.  He remained silent for a few seconds, then
turning again to Harry, he said: "I wonder if you would consider me very
impertinent if, upon the strength of our extremely brief acquaintance, I
were to offer you a piece of advice?"

"Certainly not," answered Harry.  "You are much older and more
experienced than I, Mr Firmin, and have seen a great deal more of the
world than I have; any advice, therefore, that you may be pleased to
give me I shall be most grateful for, and will endeavour to profit by."

"Very well, then," said Firmin, "I will risk it, for I have taken rather
a fancy to you, and would willingly do you a good turn.  The advice that
I wish to give you is this.  Make a point of eschewing everything in the
nature of alcohol.  Have absolutely nothing to do with it.  You are
young, strong, and evidently in the best of health; your system has
therefore no need of anything having the character of a stimulant.  Nay,
I will go farther than that, and say that you will be very much better,
morally and physically, without it; and even upon the occasions which
you mention of getting wet or cold, a cup of scalding hot coffee,
swallowed as hot as you can take it, will do you far more good than
spirits.  I am moved to say this to you, my young friend, because I have
seen so many lads like you insensibly led into the habit of taking
alcohol, and when once that habit is contracted it is more difficult
than you would believe to break it off.  I have known many promising
young fellows who have made shipwreck of their lives simply because they
have not possessed the courage and strength of mind to say `no' when
they have been invited to take wine or spirits."

"By the powers, Misther Firmin, ye niver spoke a thruer word in your
life than that same," cut in the chief officer, who had been listening
to what was said.  "Whin I was a youngster of about Misther Escombe's
age I nearly lost my life through the dhrink.  I was an apprentice at
the time aboard a fine, full-rigged iron clipper ship called the _Joan
of Arc_.  We were outward bound, from London to Sydney, full up with
general cargo, and carried twenty-six passengers in the cuddy, and
nearly forty emigrants in the 'tween decks.  We had just picked up the
north-east trades, blowing fresh, and the `old man', who was a rare hand
at carrying on, and was eager to break the record, was driving her along
to the south'ard under every rag that we could show to it, including
such fancy fakements as skysails, ringtails, water-sails, and all the
rest of it.  It was a fine, clear, starlit night, with just the trade-
clouds driving along overhead, but there was no moon, and consequently,
when an exceptionally big patch of cloud came sweeping up, it fell a bit
dark.  Still, there was no danger--or ought to have been none--for we
were well out of the regular track of the homeward-bounders, and in any
case, with a proper look-out, it would have been possible to see another
craft plenty early enough to give her a good wide berth.  But after Jack
has got as far south as we then were he is apt to get a bit careless in
the matter of keeping a look-out--trusts rather too much to the officer
of the watch aft, you know, and is not above snatching a cat-nap in the
most comfortable corner he can find, instead of posting himself on the
heel of the bowsprit, with his eyes skinned and searching the sea ahead
of him.

"Now, it happened--although none of us knew it until it was too late--
that our chief mate had rather too strong a liking for rum; not that he
was exactly what you might call a drunkard, you know, but he kept a
bottle in his cabin, and was in the habit of taking a nip just whenever
he felt like it, especially at night time; and on this particular night
that I'm talking about he must have taken a nip too many, for when he
came on deck at midnight to keep the middle watch he hadn't been up
above an hour before he coiled himself down in one of the passenger's
deck-chairs and--went to sleep.  Of course, under such circumstances as
those of which I am speaking--the weather being fine and the wind
steady, with no necessity to touch tack or sheet--the watch on deck
don't make any pretence of keeping awake; they're on deck and at hand
all ready for a call if they're needed, and that's as much as is
expected of 'em at night time, since there's no work to be done; and the
consequence was that all hands of us were sound asleep long before the
mate; and there is no doubt that the look-out--who lost his life, poor
chap! through his carelessness--fell asleep too.  As to the man at the
wheel, well he is not expected to steer the ship and keep a look-out at
the same time, and, if he was, he couldn't do it, for his eyes soon grow
so dazzled by the light of the binnacle lamps that he can see little or
nothing except the illuminated compass card.

"That, gentlemen, was the state of affairs aboard the _Joan of Arc_ on
the night about which I'm telling ye; the skipper, the passengers, the
second mate, and the watch below all in their bunks; and the rest of us,
those who were on deck and ought to have been broad awake, almost if not
quite as sound asleep as those who were below.  I was down on the main
deck, sitting on the planks, with my back propping up the front of the
poop, my arms crossed, and my chin on my chest, dhreaming that I was
back at school in dear old Dublin, when I was startled broad awake by a
shock that sent me sprawling as far for'ard as the coaming of the after-
hatch, to the accompaniment of the most awful crunching, ripping, and
crashing sounds, as the _Joan_ sawed her way steadily into the vitals of
the craft that we had struck.  Then, amid the yelling of the awakened
watch, accompanied by muffled shrieks and shouts from below, there arose
a loud twang-twanging as the backstays and shrouds parted under the
terrific strain suddenly thrown upon them, then an ear-splitting crash
as the three masts went over the bows, and I found myself struggling and
fighting to free myself from the raffle of the wrecked mizenmast.  I
felt very dazed and queer, and a bit sick, for I was dimly conscious of
the fact that I had been struck on the head by something when the masts
fell, and upon putting up my hand I found that my hair was wet with
something warm that was soaking it and trickling down into my eyes and
ears.  Then I heard the voice of the `old man' yelling for the mate and
the carpenter; and as I fought myself clear of the raffle I became aware
of many voices frantically demanding to know what had happened, husbands
calling for their wives, mothers screaming for their children, the sound
of axes being desperately used to clear away the wreck, a sudden awful
wail from somewhere ahead, and a rushing and hissing of water as the
craft that we had struck foundered under our forefoot, and the skipper's
voice again, cracked and hoarse, ordering the boats to be cleared away."

O'Toole paused for a moment and gasped as if for breath; his soup lay
neglected before him, his elbows were on the table, and his two hands
locked together in a grip so tense that the knuckles shone white in the
light that came streaming in through the scuttles in the ship's side,
his eyes were glassy and staring into vacancy with an intensity of gaze
which plainly showed that the whole dreadful scene was again unfolding
itself before his mental vision, and the perspiration was streaming down
his forehead and cheeks.  Then the table steward came up, and, removing
his soup, asked him whether he would take cold beef, ham-and-tongue, or
roast chicken.  The sound of the man's voice seemed to bring the dazed
chief officer to himself again; he sighed heavily, and as though
relieved to find himself where he was, considered for a moment, and,
deciding in favour of cold beef, resumed his narrative.

"The next thing that I can remember, gentlemen," he continued, "was that
I was on the poop with the skipper, second and third mates, the
carpenter, and a few others, lighting for our lives as we strove to keep
back the frantic passengers and prevent them from interfering with the
hands who were cutting the gripes and working furiously to sling the
boats outboard.  We carried four boats at the davits, two on each
quarter, and those were all that were available, for the others were
buried under the raffle and wreckage of the fallen masts, and it would
have taken hours to clear them, with the probability that, when got at,
they would have been found smashed to smithereens, while a blind man
could have told by the feel of the ship that she was settling fast, and
might sink under us at any moment.  At last one of the boats was cleared
and ready for lowering, and as many of the women and children as she
would carry were bundled into her, the third mate, two able seamen, and
myself being sent along with them by the skipper to take care of them.
I would willingly have stayed behind, for there were other women and
children--to say nothing of men passengers--to be saved, but I knew that
a certain number of us Jacks must of necessity go in each boat to handle
and navigate her, and there was no time to waste in arguing the matter;
so in I tumbled, just as I was, and the next moment we were rising and
falling in the water alongside, the tackle blocks were cleverly
unhooked, and we out oars and shoved off, pulling to a safe distance and
then lying on our oars to wait for the rest.

"I shall never, to my dying day, forget the look of that ship as we
pulled away from her.  The _Joan_ had been as handsome a craft as ever
left the stocks when we hauled out of dock at London some three weeks
earlier; but now--her bows were crumpled in until she was as flat
for'ard as the end of a sea-chest; her decks were lumbered high with the
wreckage of her masts and spars; the standing and running rigging was
hanging down over her sides in bights; and she had settled so low in the
water that her channels were already buried; while her poop was crowded
with madly struggling figures, from which arose a confused babel of
sound--shouting, screaming, and cursing--than which I have never heard
anything more awful in all my life.

"When we had pulled off about fifty fathoms the third mate, who was in
charge of the boat, ordered us to lie upon our oars; and presently we
saw that the second quarter-boat was being lowered.  She reached the
water all right, and then we heard the voice of the second mate yelling
to the hands on deck to let run the after tackle.  The next moment, as
the sinking ship rolled heavily to starboard, we saw the stern of the
lowered boat lifted high out of the water, the bow dipped under, and in
a second, as it seemed, she had swamped, and the whole load of people,
some twenty in number, were struggling and drowning alongside as they
strove ineffectually to scramble back into the swamped boat, which had
now by some chance become released from the tackle that had held her.

"For a moment we, in the boat that had got safely away, sat staring,
dumb and paralysed with horror at the dreadful scene that was enacting
before our eyes.  But the next moment those of us who were at the oars
started madly backing and pulling to swing the boat round and pull in to
the help of the poor wretches who were perishing only a few fathoms away
from us.  We had hardly got the boat round, however, when Mr Gibson,
the third mate, gave the order for us to hold water.

"`We mustn't do it,' he said.  `The boat is already loaded as deep as
she will swim, and the weight of even one more person would suffice to
swamp her!  As it is, it will take us all our time, and tax our
seamanship to the utmost, to keep her afloat; you can see for yourselves
that it would be impossible for us to squeeze more than one additional
person in among us, and, even if we had the room, we could not get that
one in over the gunnel without swamping the craft.  To attempt such a
thing would therefore only be to throw away uselessly the lives of all
of us; we must therefore stay where we are, and endure the awful sight
as best we can--ah, there you have a hint of what will happen if we are
not careful!'--as the boat, lying broadside-on to the sea, rolled
heavily and shipped three or four bucketfuls of water--`pull, starboard,
and get her round stem-on to the sea; and you, O'Toole, get hold of the
baler and dish that water out of her.'

"It was true, every word of it, as a child might have had sense to see.
We could do absolutely nothing to help the poor wretches who were
drowning there before our very eyes; and in a few minutes all was over,
so far as they were concerned.  Two or three men, I believe, managed to
get back aboard the sinking ship by climbing up the davit tackles; but
the rest quickly drowned--as likely as not because they clung to each
other and pulled each other down.

"But the plight of those aboard the _Joan_ was rapidly becoming
desperate; and we could see that they knew it by observing the frantic
efforts which they were making to get the other two boats into the
water.  We could distinctly hear the voice of the skipper rising from
time to time above the clamour, urging the people to greater efforts,
encouraging one, cautioning another, entreating the maddened passengers
to keep back and give the crew room to work.  Then, in the very midst of
it all there came a dull boom as the decks blew up.  We heard the loud
hissing of the compressed air as it rushed out between the gaping deck
planks; there arose just one awful wail--the sound of which will haunt
me to my dying day--and with a long, sliding plunge the _Joan_ lurched
forward and dived, bows first, to the bottom.

"As for us, we could do nothing but just keep our boat head-on to the
sea and let her drift, humouring and coaxing her as best we could when
an extra heavy sea appeared bearing down upon us, and baling for dear
life continuously to keep her free of the water that, in spite of us,
persisted in slapping into her over the bows.  The Canaries were the
nearest bits of dry land to us, but Mr Jellicoe, the third mate,
reckoned that they were a good hundred and fifty miles away, and dead to
wind'ard; so it was useless for us to think of reaching them in a boat
with her gunnels awash, and not a scrap of food or a drop of fresh water
in her.  The only thing that we could do was to exert our utmost
endeavours to keep the craft afloat, and trust that Providence would
send something along soon to pick us up.  But--would you believe it?--
although we were right in the track of the outward-bound ships, and
although we sighted nine sailing craft and three steamers, nothing came
near enough to see us, lying low in the water as we were, until the
ninth day, when we were picked up by a barque bound for Cape Town.  But
by that time, gentlemen, Mr Jellicoe, one seaman, and I were all that
remained alive of the boatload that shoved off from the stricken _Joan
of Arc_ on that fatal night.  Don't ask me by what means we contrived to
keep the life in us for so long a time, for I won't tell you.  Thus you
see that, of the complete complement of ninety-two persons who left
London in the _Joan of Arc_, eighty-nine were drowned--to say nothing of
those aboard the craft that we had run down--because the mate couldn't--
or wouldn't--control his love of drink.  Since that day, gentlemen,
coffee is the strongest beverage that has ever passed my lips."

"I am delighted to hear it," remarked Firmin, "for observation has led
me to the conviction that at least half the tragedies of human life have
originated in the craving for intoxicants; and therefore,"--turning to
Escombe--"I say again, my young friend, have absolutely nothing to do
with them.  I have no doubt that, ere you have been long in Peru, you
will have made the discovery that it is a thirsty country; but, apart of
course from pure water, there is nothing better for quenching one's
thirst than fresh, sound, perfectly ripe fruit, failing which, tea, hot
or cold--the latter for preference--without milk, and with but a small
quantity of sugar, will be found hard to beat.  Now, if you are anxious
for hints, there is one of absolutely priceless value for you; but I
present it you free, gratis, and for nothing."

"Thanks very much!" returned Harry.  "I will bear it in mind and act
upon it.  No more intoxicants for me, thank you.  Mr O'Toole, accept my
thanks for telling us that terrible story of your shipwreck.  It has
brought home to me, as nothing else has ever done, the awful danger of
tampering with so insidious an enemy as alcohol, which I now solemnly
abjure for ever."

Meanwhile, at the captain's table, Mr Butler was expressing his opinion
upon various subjects in loud, strident tones, and with a
disputatiousness of manner that caused most of those about him mentally
to dub him a blatant cad, and to resolve that they would have as little
as possible to do with him.

One afternoon, when the _Rimac_ had reached the other side of the
Atlantic, Butler called Harry into the cabin of the former and said: "I
understand that we shall be at Montevideo the day after to-morrow.  Now
I want you to understand that I shall expect you not to go on shore
either at Montevideo or either of the other places that the _Rimac_ will
be stopping at.  She will only remain at anchor at any of these places
for a few hours; and if you were to go on shore it would be the easiest
thing in the world for you to get lost and to miss your passage;
therefore in order to obviate any such possibility I have decided not to
allow you to leave the ship.  Do you understand?"

"Yes," answered Escombe, "I understand perfectly, Mr Butler, what you
mean.  But I certainly do not understand by what authority you attempt
to interfere with my personal liberty to the extent of forbidding me to
go on shore for a few hours when the opportunity presents itself.  I
agreed with Sir Philip Swinburne to accompany you to Peru as your
assistant upon the survey which he has engaged you to make; and from the
moment when that survey commences I will render you all the obedience
and deference due to you as my superior, and will serve you to the best
of my ability.  But it was no part of my contract that I should
surrender my liberty to you during the outward and homeward voyage; and
when it comes to your forbidding me to leave the ship until our arrival
at Callao, you must permit me to say that I feel under no obligation to
defer to your wishes.  And, quite apart from that, I may as well tell
you that I have already accepted an invitation to accompany Mr and Mrs
Westwood and a party ashore at Montevideo, and I see no reason why I
should withdraw my acceptance."

"W-h-a-t!" screamed Butler; "do I understand that you are daring to
disobey and defy me?"

"Certainly not, sir," answered Harry, "because, as I understand it,
disobedience and defiance are impossible where no authority exists; and
I beg to remind you that your authority over me begins only upon our
arrival at Callao.  Yet, purely as a matter of courtesy, I am of course
not only prepared but perfectly willing to show all due deference to
such reasonable wishes as you may choose to express.  But I reserve to
myself the right of determining where the line shall be drawn."

"Very well, sir," stuttered Butler, "I am glad to learn thus early what
sort of behaviour I may expect from you.  I shall write home at once to
Sir Philip, reporting to him what has passed between us, and requesting
him to send me out someone to take your place--someone who can be
depended upon to render me implicit obedience at all times."  And
therewith he whirled about and marched off to his own cabin, where, with
the heat of his anger still upon him, he sat down and penned to Sir
Philip Swinburne a very strong letter of complaint of what he was
pleased to term young Escombe's "insolently insubordinate language and
behaviour".  As for Harry, Butler's threat to report him to Sir Philip
furnished him with a very valuable hint as to the wisest thing to do
under the circumstances, and he too lost no time in addressing an
epistle to Sir Philip, giving his own version of the affair.
Thenceforward Butler pointedly ignored young Escombe's existence for the
remainder of the voyage; but by doing so he only made matters still more
unpleasant for himself, for his altercation with Harry had been
overheard by certain of the passengers, and by them repeated to the
rest, with the final result that Butler was promptly consigned to
Coventry, and left there by the whole of the saloon passengers.

Harry duly went ashore with his friends at Montevideo and--having first
posted his letter to Sir Philip and another to his mother and sister--
went out with them by train to Bellavista, where they all enjoyed vastly
the little change from the monotony of life at sea, returning in the
nick of time to witness a violent altercation between Butler and the
boatman who brought him off from the shore.  Also Harry went ashore for
an hour or two at Punta Arenas, in the Straits of Magellan; and again at
Valparaiso and Arica; finally arriving at Callao something over a month
from the day upon which he sailed from London.



CHAPTER THREE.

BUTLER THE TYRANT.

At this point Escombe acknowledged himself to be legitimately under
Butler's rule and dominion, to obey unquestioningly all the latter's
orders, to go where bidden and to do whatever he might be told, even as
did the soldiers of the Roman centurion; and Butler soon made him
understand and feel that there was a heavy score to be wiped off--a big
wound in the elder man's self esteem to be healed.  There were a
thousand ways now in which Butler was able to make his power and
authority over Harry felt; he was careful not to miss a single
opportunity, and he spared the lad in nothing.  He would not even permit
Harry to land until the latter had personally supervised the
disembarkation of every item of their somewhat extensive baggage; and
when this was at length done he insisted that Escombe should in like
manner oversee the loading of them into a railway wagon for Lima, make
the journey thither in the same truck with them--ostensibly to ensure
that nothing was stolen on the way--and finally, upon their arrival in
Lima, he compelled Harry to remain by the truck and mount guard over it
until it was coupled to the train for Palpa, and then to proceed to that
town in the same truck without seeing anything more of the capital city
than could be seen from the station yard.  Then, again, at Palpa he
insisted that Harry should remain by the truck and supervise the
unloading of the baggage and its transference to a lock-up store, giving
the lad to understand that he would be held responsible for any loss or
damage that might occur during the operation; so that by the time that
all this was done poor Escombe was more dead than alive, so utterly
exhausted was he from long exposure to the enervating heat, and lack of
proper food.

But Harry breathed no word of expostulation or complaint.  He regarded
everything that he now did as in the way of duty and merely as somewhat
unpleasant incidents in the execution of the great task that lay before
him, and he was content, if not quite as happy and comfortable as he
might have been under a more congenial and considerate leader.  Besides,
he was learning something every minute of the day, learning how to do
things and also how not to do them, for he very quickly recognised that
although Butler might possibly be an excellent surveyor, he was but a
very poor hand at organisation.  Then, too, Butler had
characteristically neglected the acquisition of any foreign language,
consequently they had no sooner arrived at Palpa than he found himself
absolutely dependent upon Harry's knowledge of Spanish; and this
advantage on Escombe's part served in a great measure to place the two
upon a somewhat more equal footing, and gradually to suppress those acts
of petty tyranny which Butler had at first evinced a disposition to
indulge in.

Palpa was the place at which their labours were to begin, and here it
became necessary for them to engage a complete staff of assistants,
comprising tent bearers, grooms, bush cutters, porters, cooks, and all
the other attendants needed for their comfort and convenience during a
long spell of camp life in a tropical climate, and in a country where
civilisation is still elementary except in the more important centres.
Luckily for them, the first section of their work comprised only a
stretch of a little more than thirty miles of tolerably flat country,
where no serious natural difficulties presented themselves, and that
part of their work was soon accomplished.  Yet Escombe found even this
trifling bit of the great task before him sufficiently arduous; for
Butler not only demanded that he should be up and at work in the open at
daybreak, and that he should continue at work so long as daylight
lasted, but that, when survey work was no longer possible because of the
darkness, the lad should "plot" his day's work on paper before retiring
to rest.  Thus it was generally close upon midnight before Escombe was
at liberty to retire to his camp bed and seek his hard-earned and much-
needed rest.

But it was when they got upon the second section of their work--between
Huacho, Cochamarca, and Cerro de Pasco--that their real troubles and
difficulties began, for here they had to find a practicable route up the
face of the Western Cordillera in the first instance, and, having found
it, to measure with the nicest accuracy not only the horizontal
distances but the height of every rise and the depth of every declivity
in the face of a country made up to a great extent of lofty precipices
and fathomless ravines, the whole overgrown with dense vegetation
through which survey lines had to be cut at enormous expense of time and
labour.  And here it was that Butler's almost fiendish malice and
ingenuity in the art of making things unpleasant for other people shone
forth conspicuously.  It was his habit to ride forth every morning
accompanied by a strong band of attendants armed with axes and machetes,
and well provided with ropes to assist in the scaling of precipitous
slopes, for the purpose of selecting and marking out the day's route, a
task which could usually be accomplished in a couple of hours; and then
to return and supervise the work of his subordinate, which he made as
difficult and arduous as possible by insisting upon the securing of a
vast amount of superfluous and wholly unnecessary information, in the
obtaining of which Harry was obliged to risk his life at least a dozen
times a day.  Yet the lad never complained; indeed he could not have
done so even had he been so disposed, for it was for Butler to determine
what amount of information and of what nature was necessary for the
proper execution of the survey; but Escombe began to understand now the
means by which his superior had acquired the reputation of an
accomplished surveyor.  It is easy for a man in authority to stand or
sit in safety and command another to perform a difficult task at the
peril of his life!

And if Butler was tyrannically exacting in his treatment of Harry, he
was still more so toward the unfortunate peons in his service, and
especially those whom he detailed to accompany him daily to assist in
the task of selecting and marking out the route of the survey line.
These people knew no language but their own, and since Harry was always
engaged elsewhere with theodolite, level, and chain, and was, therefore,
not available to play the part of interpreter, it became necessary for
Butler to secure the services of a man who understood enough English to
translate his orders into the vernacular; and because this unfortunate
fellow was necessarily always at Butler's elbow, he became the scapegoat
upon whose unhappy head the sins and shortcomings of the others were
visited in the form of perpetual virulent abuse, until the man's life
positively became a burden to him, to such an extent, indeed, that he
would undoubtedly have deserted but for the fact that Butler, suspecting
his inclination perhaps, positively refused to pay him a farthing of
wages until the conclusion of his engagement.  It can easily be
understood, therefore, that, under the circumstances described, an
element of tragedy was steadily developing in the survey camp.

But although the overbearing and exacting behaviour of the chief of the
expedition was thus making matters particularly unpleasant for everybody
concerned, nothing of a really serious character occurred until the
second section of the survey had been in progress for a little over two
months, by which time the party had penetrated well into the mountain
fastnesses, and were beginning to encounter some of the more formidable
difficulties of their task.  Butler was still limiting his share of the
work to the mere marking out of the route, leaving Harry to perform the
whole of the actual labour of the survey under his watchful eye, and
stirring neither hand nor foot to assist the young fellow, although the
occasions were frequent when, had he chosen to give a few minutes'
assistance at the theodolite or level, such help would have saved young
Escombe some hours of arduous labour, and thus expedited the survey.

Now, it happened that a certain day's work terminated at the edge of a
_quebrada_, and Butler informed Harry that the first task of the latter,
upon the following morning, would be to take a complete set of accurate
measurements of this _quebrada_, before pushing on with the survey of
the route.  A _quebrada_, it may be explained, is a sort of rent or
chasm in the mountain, usually with vertical, or at least precipitous
sides, and very frequently of terrific depth, the impression suggested
by its appearance being that at some period of the earth's history the
solid rock of the mountain had been riven asunder by some titanic force.
Sometimes a _quebrada_ is several hundreds of feet in width, and of a
depth so appalling as to unnerve the most hardy mountaineer.  The
_quebrada_ in question, however, was of comparatively insignificant
dimensions, being only about forty feet wide at the point where the
survey line crossed it, and some four hundred feet deep.

Now, although Harry was only an articled pupil, he knew quite enough
about railway engineering to be perfectly well aware that the elaborate
measurements which Butler had instructed him to take were absolutely
unnecessary, the accurate determination of the width at the top--where a
bridge would eventually have to be thrown across--being all that was
really required.  Yet he made no demur, for he had already seen that it
would be possible to take as many measurements as might be required,
with absolute accuracy and ease, by the execution of about a quarter of
an hour's preliminary surveying.  But when, on the following morning, he
commenced this bit of preliminary work, Butler rushed out of his tent
and interrupted him.

"What are you doing?" he harshly demanded.  "Have you forgotten that I
ordered you to measure very carefully the _quebrada_ this morning,
before doing anything else?"

"No, sir," answered Harry, "I have not forgotten.  I am doing it now,
or, rather, doing the necessary preliminary work."

"Doing the necessary preliminary work?" echoed Butler.  "What do you
mean?  I don't understand you."

"Then permit me to explain," said Harry suavely.  "I have ascertained
that, by placing the theodolite over that peg yonder,"--pointing to a
newly driven peg some four hundred feet away to the left--"I shall be
able to get an uninterrupted view of the _quebrada_ from top to bottom,
and, by taking a series of vertical and horizontal angles from the top
edge, can measure the contour of the two sides, at the point crossed by
the survey line, with the nicest accuracy."

"How do you mean?" demanded Butler.

Harry proceeded to elaborate his explanation, patiently describing each
step of the intended operation, and making it perfectly clear that the
elaborate series of unnecessary measurements demanded could be secured
with the most beautiful precision.

"But," objected Butler, "when you have taken all those angles you will
have done only part of the work; you will still have to calculate the
length of the vertical and horizontal lines subtended by them--"

"A matter of about half an hour's work!" interjected Harry.

"Possibly," agreed Butler.  "But," he continued, "I do not like your
plan at all; I do not approve of it; it is amateurish and theoretical,
and I won't have it.  A much simpler and more practical way will be for
you to go down the _quebrada_ at the end of a rope, measuring as you
go."

"That is one way certainly," assented Harry; "but, with all submission,
Mr Butler, I venture to think that it will not be nearly so accurate as
mine.  Besides, consider the danger.  If the rope should happen to be
cut in its passage over the sharp edge of that rock--"

"Look here," interrupted Butler, "if you are afraid, you had better say
so, and I will do the work myself.  But I should like you to understand
that timid people are of no use to me."

The taunt was unjust, for Harry was not afraid; but he was convinced
that his own plan was far and away the more expeditious and the more
accurate, also it involved absolutely no danger at all; while it was
patent to even the dullest comprehension that there was a distinct
element of danger attaching to the other, inasmuch as that if anything
should happen to the rope, the person suspended by it must inevitably be
precipitated to the bottom, where a mountain stream roared as it leaped
and boiled and foamed over a bed of enormous boulders.

Had Escombe been ten years older than he actually was he would probably
not have hesitated--while disclaiming anything in the nature of
cowardice--to express very strongly the opinion that where there were
two methods of executing a certain task, one of them perfectly safe, and
the other seriously imperilling a human life, it was the imperative duty
of the person with whom the decision rested to select the safer method
of the two, particularly when that method offered equally satisfactory
results with the other.  But, being merely a lad, and as yet scarcely
certain of himself, remembering also that his future prospects were
absolutely at Butler's mercy, to make or mar as he pleased, Harry
contented himself with a disclaimer of any such feeling as fear, and
expressed his readiness to perform the task in any manner which Butler
might choose to approve.  At the same time he confessed his inability to
understand precisely how the required measurements were to be taken, and
requested instructions.

"Why," explained Butler impatiently, "the thing is surely simple enough
for a baby to understand.  You will be lowered over the cliff edge and
let down the cliff face exactly five feet at a time.  As it happens to
be absolutely calm, the rope by which you are to be lowered will hang
accurately plumb; all that you will have to do, therefore, will be to
measure the distance from your rope to the face of the rock, at every
five feet of drop, and you will then have the particulars necessary to
plot a contour of the cliff face, from top to bottom.  You will do this
on both sides of the _quebrada_, and then measure the width across at
the top, which will enable us to produce a perfectly correct section of
the gorge."

"But how am I to measure the distance from the rope to the cliff face?"
demanded Harry.  "For, as you will have observed, sir, the rock
overhangs at the top, and the gorge widens considerably as it descends."

"You can do your measuring with a ranging-rod," answered Butler tersely;
"and if one is not long enough, tie two together."

"Even so," persisted Harry, "I fear I shall not be able to manage--"

"Will you, or will you not, do as you are told?" snapped Butler.  "If
you cannot manage with two rods, I will devise some other plan."

"Very well, sir," said Harry.  "If you are quite determined to send me
over the cliff, I am ready to go.  What rope is it your pleasure that I
shall use?"

"Take the tent ropes," ordered Butler.  "You will have an ample quantity
if you join them all together.  Make a seat for yourself in the end, and
then mark off the rest of the rope into five-foot lengths, so that we
may know exactly how much to pay out between the measurements.  Then
lash two ranging-rods together, and you will find that you will manage
splendidly."

Harry had his doubts, for to his own mind the tent ropes seemed none too
strong for such a purpose.  Moreover, the clips upon them would render
the paying out over the cliff edge exceedingly awkward; still, since it
seemed that the choice lay between risking his life and ruining his
professional prospects, he chose the former, and set about making his
preparations for what he could not help regarding as a distinctly
hazardous experiment.  These did not occupy him very long, and in about
twenty minutes he was standing at the cliff edge, with a padded bight of
the rope about his body, and the two joined ranging-rods in his hand,
quite ready to be lowered down the face.  Then two peons whom he had
specially selected for the task, drew in the slack of the rope, passed a
complete turn of it round an iron bar driven deep into a rock crevice,
and waited for the command of a third who now laid himself prone on the
ground, with his head projecting over the edge of the cliff, to watch
and regulate the descent.  Then Harry, fully realising, perhaps for the
first time, the perilous nature of the enterprise, laid himself down and
carefully lowered himself over the rocky edge.

"Lower gently, brothers!" ordered the man who was supervising the
operation, and the rope was carefully eased away until the first five-
foot mark reached the cliff edge, while Butler, who now also began at
last to recognise and appreciate the ghastly peril to which his
obstinacy had consigned a fellow creature, moved off to a point about a
hundred yards distant, from which he could watch the entire descent.
And he no sooner reached it than he perceived that Harry's objections to
the plan were well grounded, and that, even with the two joined rods, it
would be impossible for the lad to take the required measurements over
more than the first quarter of the depth.  This being the case, it was
obviously his duty at once to put a stop to so dangerous an attempt,
especially as he knew perfectly well that it was as unnecessary as it
was dangerous; but to do this would have been tantamount to confessing
that he had made a mistake, and this his nature was too mean and petty
to permit, so he simply sat down and watched in an ever-growing fever of
anxiety lest anything untoward should happen for which he could be
blamed.

Meanwhile, at the very first stoppage, Harry began to experience some of
the difficulties that beset him in the task which he had undertaken.
Despite the utmost care in lowering, the rope would persist in
oscillating, very gently, it is true, but still sufficient to render it
necessary to pause until the oscillation had ceased before attempting to
take the measurement; also the torsion of the rope set up a slow
revolving movement, so that, even when at length the oscillation ceased,
it was only with difficulty that the correct measurement was taken and
recorded in the book.  This difficulty recurred as every additional
five-foot length of rope was paid out, so that each measurement cost
fully five minutes of precious time.  Moreover, despite the padding of
the rope, Harry soon began to find it cutting into his flesh so
unpleasantly that he had grave doubts whether he would be able to endure
it and hold out until the bottom, far below, should be reached.

At length, when about forty feet of rope had been very cautiously paid
out, and some eight measurements taken, the peon who was superintending
the operation of lowering was suddenly seen to stiffen his body, as
though something out of the common had attracted his attention; he
raised one hand as a sign to the other two to cease lowering, and gazed
intently downward for several seconds.  Then he signed for the lowering
to be continued, and, to the astonishment of the others, wriggled
himself back from the edge of the cliff until he had room to stand
upright, when, scrambling hastily to his feet, he sprang to the two men
who were lowering, and hissed between his set teeth:

"Lower! lower away as quickly and as steadily as you can, my brothers;
the life of the young _Senor_ depends upon your speed and steadiness.
The rope has stranded--cut by the edge of the rock, most probably--and
unless you can lower the _muchacho_ to the bottom ere it parts
altogether, he will be dashed to pieces!"

Meanwhile Harry, hanging there swinging and revolving in the bight of
the rope, was not a little astonished when he found himself being
lowered without pause, save such momentary jerks as were occasioned by
the passage of the clips round the bar and over the cliff edge, and he
instinctively glanced upward to see if he could discover what was
wrong--for that something had gone amiss he felt tolerably certain.  For
a few seconds his eye sought vainly for an explanation, then his gaze
was arrested by the sight of two severed ends of one strand of the rope
standing out at a distance of about thirty feet above his head, and he
knew!--knew that the strength of the slender rope had been decreased by
one third, and that his life now depended upon the holding together of
the two remaining strands!

Harry could see that those two remaining strands were stretched by his
hanging weight to the utmost limit of their resistance, and he watched
them with dull anxiety, as one in a dream, every moment expecting to see
the yarns of which they were composed part one by one under the strain.
And the worst of it was that that strain was not a steady one, otherwise
there might be some hope that the strands would withstand it long enough
to permit him to reach the bottom of the _quebrada_; but at frequent
intervals there occurred a couple of jerks--one as a clip passed round
the bar, and another as it slid over the cliff edge--and, of course, at
every recurrence of the jerk the strain was momentarily increased to an
enormous extent.  And presently that which he feared happened, a more
than usually severe jerk occurred, and one of the yarns in the remaining
strands parted.  Escombe dully wondered how far he still was from the
bottom--a fearful distance, he believed--for he seemed to be cruelly
close to the overhanging edge of the cliff, although he had been hanging
suspended for a length of time that seemed to him more like hours than
minutes.  He did not dare to look down, for he had the feeling that if
he removed his gaze from those straining and quivering strands for a
single instant they would snap, and he would go plunging downward to
destruction.  Then, as he watched, another yarn parted, and another.  A
catastrophe was now inevitable, and the lad began to speculate
curiously, and from a singularly impersonal point of view, what the
sensation would be like when the last yarn had snapped.  He had read
somewhere that the sensation of falling from a great height was
distinctly pleasurable; but what about the other, upon reaching the
bottom?  A quaint story came into his mind about an Irishman who was
said to have fallen off the roof of a house, and who, upon being picked
up, was asked whether he had been hurt by his fall, to which the man
replied: "No, the fall didn't hurt me a bit, it was stoppin' so quick
that did all the mischief!"  The humour of the story was not very
brilliant, yet somehow it seemed to Escombe at that moment to be
ineffably amusing, and he laughed aloud at the quaintness of the
conceit.  And, as he did so, the remaining yarns of the second strand
parted with a little jerk that thrilled him through and through, and he
hung there suspended by a single strand, but still being lowered rapidly
from above.  His eyes were now fixed intently upon the unbroken strand,
and he distinctly saw it stretching and straightening out under his
weight, but, as it seemed to him, with inconceivable slowness.  Then--to
such a preternatural state of acuteness had his senses been wrought by
the imminence and certainty of ghastly disaster--he saw the last strand
slowly parting, not yarn by yarn but fibre by fibre, until, after what
seemed to be a veritable eternity of suspense, the last fibre snapped,
he heard a loud twang, and found himself floating--as it seemed to him--
very gently downward, so gently, indeed, that, as he was swung round,
facing the rocky wall, he was able to note clearly and distinctly every
inequality, every projection, every crack, every indentation in the face
of the rock; nay, he even felt that, were it worth while to do so, he
would have had time enough to make sketches of every one of them as they
drifted slowly upward.  The next thing of which he was conscious was a
loud swishing sound which rose even above the deafening brawl of water
among rocks, that he now remembered with surprise had been thundering in
his ears for--how many months--or years, was it?  Then he became aware
that he was somehow among leaves and branches; and again memory
reproduced the scene upon which he had looked when, standing upon the
cliff edge at a point from which he could command a view of the whole
depth of the gorge, he had idly noted that, at the very bottom of it, a
few inconsiderable shrubs or small trees, nourished by eternal showers
of spray, grew here and there from interstices of the rock, and he
realised that he had fallen into the heart of one of them.  He contrived
to grasp a fairly stout branch with each hand, and was much astonished
when they bent and snapped like twigs as his body ploughed through the
thick growth; but he knew that the force of his fall had been broken,
and, for the first time since he had made the discovery of the severed
strand, the hope came that, after all, he might emerge from this
adventure with his life.  Then he alighted--on his feet--on a great,
moss-grown boulder, felt his legs double up and collapse under him, sank
into a huddled heap upon the wet, slippery moss, shot off into the
leaping, foaming water, and knew no more.



CHAPTER FOUR.

MAMA CACHAMA.

When young Escombe regained his senses it was night, or so he supposed,
for all was darkness about him, save for such imperfect illumination as
came from a small wood fire which flickered and crackled cheerfully in
one corner of the apartment in which he found himself.  The apartment!
Nay, it was far too large, much too spacious in every dimension, to be a
room in an ordinary house, and those walls--or as much as could be seen
of them in the faint, ruddy glow of the firelight--were altogether too
rough and rugged to have been fashioned by human hands, while the roof
was so high that the flickering light of the flames was not strong
enough to reach it.  It was a cavern, without doubt, and Harry began to
wonder vaguely by what means he had come there.  For, upon awakening,
his mind had been in a state of the most utter confusion, and it was not
until he had lain patiently waiting for his ideas to arrange themselves,
and had thereby come to the consciousness that he was aching in every
bone and fibre of his body, while the latter was almost entirely swathed
in bandages, that the recollection of his adventure returned to him.
Even then the memory of it was but a dreamy one, and indeed he did not
feel at all certain that the entire incident was not a dream from
beginning to end, and that he should not presently awake to find himself
on the cot in his tent, with the cold, clear dawn peering in past the
unfolded flap, and another day's arduous work before him.  But he
finally concluded that the fire upon which his eyes rested was too real,
and, more especially, that his pain was too acute and insistent for him
to be dreaming.  Then he fell to wondering afresh how in the name of
fortune he had found his unconscious way into that cave and upon the
pallet which supported him.

The fire was the only thing in the cavern that was distinctly visible;
certain objects there were here and there, a vague suggestion of which
came and went with the rise and fall of the flame, but what they were
Harry could not determine.  There was, among other matters, an object on
the far side of the fire, that looked not unlike a bundle of rags; but
when Escombe, in attempting to turn himself over into a more comfortable
position, uttered an involuntary groan as a sharp twinge of pain shot
through his anatomy, the bundle stirred, and instantly resolved itself
into the quaintest figure of a little, old, bowed Indian woman that it
is possible to picture.  But, notwithstanding her extreme age and
apparent decrepitude, the extraordinary old creature displayed
marvellous activity.  In an instant she was on her feet and beside the
pallet, peering eagerly and anxiously into Harry's wide-open eyes.  The
result of her inspection appeared to be satisfactory, for presently she
turned away and, muttering to herself in a tongue which was quite
incomprehensible to her patient, disappeared in the all-enveloping
darkness, only to reappear a moment later with a small cup in her hand
containing a draught of very dark brown, almost black, liquid of an
exceedingly pungent but rather agreeable bitter taste, which she placed
to his lips, and which the lad at once swallowed without demur.  The
effect of the draught was instantaneous, as it was marvellously
stimulating and exhilarating; and it must also have possessed very
remarkable tonic properties, for scarcely had Escombe swallowed it when
a sensation of absolutely ravenous hunger assailed him.

"Ah!" he sighed, "that was good; I feel ever so much better now.
Mother," he continued in Spanish, "I feel hungry: can you find me
something to eat?"

"Aha! you feel hungry, do you?" responded the old woman in the same
language.  "Good!  I am prepared for that.  Wait but a moment, _caro
mio_, until I can heat the broth, and your hunger shall soon be
satisfied."  And with the birdlike briskness which characterised all her
actions she moved away into the shadows, presently returning with three
iron rods in her hand, which she dexterously arranged in the form of a
tripod over the fire, and from which she suspended a small iron pot.
Then, taking a few dry sticks from a bundle heaped up near the fire, she
broke them into short lengths, which she carefully introduced, one by
one, here and there, into the flame, coaxing it into a brisk blaze which
soon caused a most savoury and appetising steam to rise from the pot.
Next, from some hidden receptacle she produced a bowl and spoon, emptied
the smoking contents of the pot into the former, and then, carefully
propping her patient into a sitting position, proceeded to feed him.
The stew was delicious, to such an extent, indeed, that Harry felt
constrained to compliment his hostess upon its composition and to ask of
what it was made.  He was much astonished--and also, it must be
confessed, a little disgusted--when the old lady simply answered,
_Lagarto_ (lizard).  There was no doubt, however, that he had greatly
enjoyed his meal, and felt distinctly the better for it; he therefore
put his squeamishness on one side, and asked his companion to enlighten
him as to the manner in which he came to be where he was.

"It is very simple," answered the old woman.  "While my son Yupanqui was
fishing in the river, two days ago, he caught sight of something unusual
lying at the edge of a sandbank, and upon paddling his _balsa_ to the
spot, he found your insensible body lying stranded there, bruised and
bleeding; so, like a sensible boy, he took you up and brought you hither
as quickly as possible, in order that I might exercise my skill in the
attempt to restore you to life.  We managed to do so at last, between
us; but you were _caduco_ (crazy), and could tell us nothing of
yourself, for you spoke persistently in a language that we did not
understand; so, as soon as it was seen that you would live, I busied
myself in dressing your wounds and bruises, after which I prepared for
you a certain medicine which, as I expected, threw you into a deep
sleep, from which you have at length awakened in your right mind.  And
now you have but to lie still and allow your wounds to heal.  Which
reminds me that now is a very favourable time to dress them afresh."

"Two days ago--stranded on a sandbank!" repeated Escombe in
bewilderment.  "I do not understand you, Mother.  Surely I have not been
lying insensible for two whole days!  And how could I possibly have
become stranded on a sandbank?  I fell into the river in the _quebrada_,
and I am prepared to avouch that there were no sandbanks there!"

"In the _quebrada_!  Is it possible?" echoed the old woman.  "Why, the
end of the _quebrada_ is more than a mile away from where Yupanqui found
you!  But I think I begin to understand a little.  You are not a
Spaniard--I can tell that by your accent--therefore you must be an
Ingles, one of the _ingenieros_ who are making the new railway among the
mountains.  Is it not so?"

"You have guessed it, Mother," answered Escombe.  "Yes, I was taking
some measurements in the _quebrada_ when the rope by which I was hanging
broke, and I fell into a tree, and thence on to the rocks beneath, after
which I lost consciousness."

"Ah!" exclaimed the old woman, as she proceeded to remove deftly the
bandages and re-dress Harry's hurts; "yes, it is wonderful--very
wonderful; for if you had not chanced to fall into the tree before
striking the rocks, you must certainly have been killed.  That I can
quite understand.  But I cannot understand how, after having fallen into
the river, you escaped being dashed to pieces upon the many rocks among
which it flows, nor how, having escaped that death, you afterwards
escaped drowning in the deep water, for you must have been swept along
quite a mile after issuing from the _quebrada_.  It is true that when
Yupanqui found you, you were lying upon your back; so that, I suppose,
is the reason why the river did not suffocate you.  Your hurts are doing
famously, _Senor Ingles_, thanks to my knowledge of simples.  There is
only one--this in your head--which is likely to give trouble; but we
will soon mend that, if you can prevail upon yourself to lie still and
not disturb the bandage."

"Oh!" answered Harry; "I will do that all right, now that my senses have
come back to me, don't you fear; for I must get well quickly, and return
to my work as soon as possible.  Meanwhile, Mother, where is your son?
I should like to send him with a message to the engineer's camp, if he
will go, to let them know that I am alive."

"Assuredly, assuredly," assented the queer old creature, as she
assiduously bathed the wound in Harry's head with a hot fomentation
which she had specially prepared.  "He is out hunting, now, but the
evening is drawing in and I expect him back ere long.  When he returns
we will hear what he has to say about it.  Doubtless he will willingly
go; but if your camp is near the spot where I think you must have
fallen, it will take him quite half a day to reach it."

"Half a day!" echoed Harry, aghast.  "How is that?  I should have
thought that half an hour would have been nearer the mark."

"Nay, my son," answered the old woman, "he will have to travel fast to
do it in half a day.  You do not know how difficult it is to travel from
place to place among these mountains, even when one knows the way.  He
will have to go a long way round to reach the spot of which I am
thinking, for there are many impassable precipices in his course, to say
nothing of bogs in which, if one be not very careful, one can disappear,
leaving no trace behind."

Harry could understand this, now that it had been explained to him, for
he had already had experience of the impassable precipices and
bottomless morasses spoken of by his companion.  But it was
disconcerting, to say the least of it, that it would occupy so long to
send a message to camp; for, taking into consideration the fact that he
had already been two days absent, and that it would require another
half-day to send a message, the chances were that, when Yupanqui reached
the spot, he would find the survey party gone, and would be obliged to
follow them up until he should overtake them.  Also he began to wonder
how long it would be before his injuries would be sufficiently healed to
allow him to travel over a road of so difficult a character as that
hinted at in his companion's remarks.  He had only to attempt to move on
his pallet, and to feel the intolerable aching in every limb that
resulted from the effort, to understand that some days--probably at
least a week--must elapse ere he would be fit to attempt the journey;
and meanwhile where would the survey party be, and how would they be
faring without him?  What would Butler do?  Would he take Harry's death
for granted, and proceed singlehanded with the survey; or would he send
out a search party to seek for traces of his lost assistant?  He must of
necessity do one or the other, and the comforting reflection came to
Harry that, even if the first course were adopted, the party could not
get very far away without being overtaken.

"How long do you think it will be, Mother, before I shall be able to
rise and move about again?" he enquired.

"Nay, my son, who can tell save the good God who holds our lives in His
hands?" answered the old woman.  "It may be two weeks, or it may be two
months, according to whether or not the fever returns.  Much must depend
upon yourself.  If you keep quite quiet, and do not become impatient,
you may be able to rise and go into the open for a short time in two
weeks, possibly even in less.  But you must do in all things exactly as
I say, if you wish to get well quickly; and you may trust in me, for I
have seen many years and have always been skilled in the art of
healing."

"I will trust you, of course," answered Harry, reaching out at the cost
of some pain and squeezing the old creature's clawlike hand.  "Get me
well as quickly as you can, Mother, and you will not find me ungrateful.
I have the means of rewarding you liberally for all your trouble as
soon as I can return to camp."

"Reward!" ejaculated the old woman, angrily snatching away her hand;
"who spoke of reward?  I require no reward, if by that you mean money
payment.  I have no need of money.  This cave has provided me with dry
and comfortable housing for many years, while the garden outside and my
son's hunting and fishing furnish us with ample food.  What need have we
of money?"

"Pardon, Mother," exclaimed Harry penitently, "I did not mean to offend
you.  But if you do not need money, there are perhaps other things that
you or your son may be glad to have, and you must let me show my
gratitude to you in some way, for I cannot forget that to you and your
son I owe my life."

"Ay, ay; ay, ay; that's as may be," muttered the old creature, as though
speaking to herself.  "There," she added, as, having completed the
dressing of Escombe's injuries, she secured the last bandage, "that is
done.  Now, more medicine, and then more sleep."  And therewith she
bustled away into the shadows, returning, a few minutes later, with a
generous draught that foamed and sparkled in the goblet like champagne,
but left a taste of sickly sweetness upon the palate.  As the invalid
swallowed the dose a sensation of great ease and comfort permeated his
entire system, and the next moment he was asleep.

When Harry next awoke, feeling very much better, he saw that his
hostess, and a fine, stalwart, copper-coloured young Indian whom he took
to be her son, were seated at a roughly framed table, at some little
distance from his cot, taking a meal by the light of an earthenware
lamp, and conversing together in low tones in a language with which he
was unfamiliar.  From the manner in which the pair glanced in his
direction from time to time he rather suspected that he was the subject
of their conversation, which was being conducted with much earnestness,
especially by the old woman.  That she was maintaining a very keen watch
upon her patient was perfectly evident, for at Harry's first movement
she sprang to her feet and, snatching up the lamp, rapidly approached
his bedside, peering down into his eyes with the same intense eagerness
that she had before exhibited, muttering and mumbling to herself
excitedly the while.

"Ah, ah!" she exclaimed, in tones of much satisfaction, "so you are
awake again at last!  You have slept well and long, my friend--slept all
through the night without a movement.  And your skin is cool, too," she
continued, laying her skinny hand on Harry's forehead; "cool and moist;
no fever.  But what of the pain?  Is it still severe as ever?"

"The pain!" exclaimed Hal, moving himself slightly.  "Why, no, it seems
almost gone.  What magic is this?"

"No magic at all," chuckled the quaint old creature, "but merely a poor
old Indian woman's skill in simples.  You are doing excellently well,
_Senor Ingles_--better, even, than I dared hope.  And now you are
hungry, is it not so?  Good! your breakfast is ready and shall be
brought to you instantly; and when you have finished, there is my son
Yupanqui, who is ready to take any message that you may desire to send
to your camp."

An excellently roasted bird--which the patient subsequently learned was
a parrot,--bread made of Indian corn flour, and a cup of delicious
chocolate were speedily dispatched.  Then Harry having asked for his
notebook, which had been found in his pocket and carefully dried, he
pencilled a note to Butler, briefly informing that individual of his
escape, and of his hope that he would be sufficiently recovered from his
injuries to rejoin the camp in about a fortnight's time, and dispatched
Yupanqui with it, describing to the Indian the probable situation of the
camp, as nearly as he could, and instructing the man to give it only
into the hands of the Englishman, and to ask for a reply, which he was
to bring back with him.

The next few days passed uneventfully, save that the invalid's progress
toward recovery was so rapid and satisfactory that about midday of the
third day Harry--who began to find bed becoming very wearisome--was
allowed by his nurse to rise and, clad in trousers and the remains of
his shirt, go as far as the entrance of the cave and sit there for an
hour or two, enjoying the magnificent prospect which greeted his
astonished eyes.

He found that the cave which had afforded him such perfect shelter
during his helplessness formed a chamber, or rather a series of
chambers, in an enormous mass of rock that rose sheer out of a little
circular, basin-like valley through which flowed the stream from the
_quebrada_, the water here spreading out in the form of a lake measuring
about a mile across and evidently rather shallow, for here and there he
could see small sandbanks showing clear of the water.  It was upon one
of these that he had been found stranded by Yupanqui.  The _quebrada_
died out in the valley about a mile from the mouth of the cave, as could
be seen when the spot was indicated by the old Indian woman, and Escombe
wondered more than ever by what chance his senseless body had been
carried so far by the rushing water without destroying such life as
remained in it.  The ground sloped rather steeply from the cave down to
the water's edge, and some eight or ten acres of it had been dug up at
intervals and planted with maize, vegetables of various kinds, and fruit
trees, among which Harry recognised the peach, the orange, the mulberry,
and the cacao.  It was no wonder, he told himself, that his queer but
kind-hearted old hostess indignantly disclaimed any need of money.  For,
with the produce of the garden, and what Yupanqui could bring in from
the forest and the river, it seemed to him that their every want, except
perhaps in the matter of clothes, must be abundantly supplied.  And, so
far as clothes were concerned, doubtless the cultivated ground yielded a
superabundance ample enough to afford them the means of bartering it for
such simple clothing as they needed.  The valley was of basin-like form,
the sides of it growing ever steeper as they receded from the middle,
until they eventually merged into the mountain slopes which hemmed in
the valley on every side and went rolling away, ridge beyond ridge, in
interminable perspective, until, in the extreme distance, they
terminated in the snow-clad peaks of the Andes.

Harry's hostess--who now mentioned that she bore the name of Cachama--
appeared to be in a singularly communicative mood that day, for she
beguiled the time by not only pointing out and naming the principal
peaks in sight, but she also related several very interesting legends
connected with certain of them and with the country generally, going
back to the time before the conquest, and painting in dazzling colours
the glories of the Inca dynasty, and the incredible wealth of the
ancient rulers of Peru.  She appeared to be pretty intimately acquainted
with the history of the conquest of the country by Pizarro, and had many
bitter things to say of the strange pusillanimity of the Inca,
Atahuallpa, on that fatal 16th of November, 1532, when he went, open-
eyed, into the trap prepared for him at Caxamalca, and suffered himself
to be seized, in the presence of his entire army, by a mere handful of
Spaniards.  She gave a most emphatic denial to the suggestion that the
country had benefited by the civilised conditions that had followed the
conquest.

"No, no," said she, "we are infinitely worse off in every way, to-day,
than we were under the rule of the Incas.  Poverty, misery, oppression,
and suffering of every kind are to be met with on all hands and wherever
one goes, while four hundred years ago we had a far higher state of
civilisation than now exists, in which poverty and oppression, with
their countless attendant evils, were unknown.  But it will not last for
ever, I tell you; brighter and happier days are in store for us of the
ancient race, and perhaps even I, old as I am, may live to see it.  Yes,
I, poor though I am, and compelled to lodge my worn-out body in a cave,
have royal blood in my veins, as had my husband, Yupanqui; we are both
descended from Huayna Capac, and, but for Atahuallpa's incredible folly,
I might have been enjoying comfort and affluence to-day; ay, and
possibly my husband might also have been living."

Escombe had read Prescott's _Conquest of Peru_ during his schooldays,
and the romantic story had implanted within his mind a keen interest in
everything pertaining to the history of the country, which had never
waned, and which had received a fresh stimulus when he learned that he
was not only to visit and spend some time in Peru but also to explore
certain parts of it.  And now, to find himself actually conversing with
someone who claimed descent from those proud Incas, who appeared to have
lived in a regal splendour only to be equalled by that of the potentates
of the _Arabian Nights_, seemed to him to be a rare slice of good luck;
he was therefore careful to say nothing calculated to divert the
conversation from the channel in which it was so satisfactorily flowing,
but, on the contrary, did everything he could to keep it there.  He was,
however, very much surprised to find his hostess looking forward so
confidently to brighter and happier times for the despised Indian race;
for if any one thing seemed absolutely certain, it was that the time was
not very far distant when the few scattered survivors must perish, and
the race vanish from the face of the earth.  It was therefore in
somewhat incredulous tones that he turned to Cachama and said:

"What grounds have you for the hope--or should I call it the certainty--
that better days are in store for your race?  To me it seems that there
are very few of you left."

"Ay," she answered, "it may so seem to you, for you have as yet seen but
little of the country save the _terra caliente_, and very few of us are
now to be found near the coast.  But when you get farther up among the
mountains, and especially when you get into the neighbourhood of Lake
Titicaca, you will find that we have not all perished.  Furthermore, it
is said--with what truth I know not--that when Atahuallpa fell into the
hands of the _Conquistadors_, and was strangled by torchlight in the
great _plaza_ of Caxamalca, many of the nobles who had been with him
fled with their families into the heart of the mountains, and,
establishing themselves in a certain secret place, set to work, at the
bidding of one Titucocha, a priest of the Sun, to build a new City of
the Sun--beside the glories of which those of Cuzco were to be as
nothing--against the time when our Lord the Sun should again send Manco
Capac, the founder of the Inca dynasty, back to earth to restore the
dynasty in all its ancient splendour."

"And do you really believe that such a restoration is possible?" asked
Escombe with a smile at the old woman's credulity.

"Ay," answered Cachama with conviction, "I more than believe, I know!
For I have the gift of foreknowledge, to a certain extent, and from my
earliest childhood I have felt convinced that the prophecy is true--I
cannot explain how, or why; I only know that it is so.  And with the
passage of the years I have ever felt that the time for its fulfilment
was drawing nearer, until now I know that it is so close at hand that
even I, old though I am, may live to see it.  I would that I could feel
as sure of the continuance of the dynasty as I am of its restoration;
but I cannot; I can only see--dimly--up to a certain point, beyond which
everything is misty and uncertain, with a vague suggestion of disaster
which fills, me with foreboding."



CHAPTER FIVE.

WHAT HAS BECOME OF BUTLER?

On the second day after the dispatch of Yupanqui to the surveyors' camp,
he had duly returned with a curt officially worded note from Butler
acknowledging the receipt of Escombe's "report" of his accident and its
result, and requesting the latter to rejoin the survey party with the
least possible delay, "as his absence was the cause of much
inconvenience and delay in the progress of the survey".  Not a word of
regret at the occurrence of the accident, much less anything that could
be construed into an admission that the writer's own unreasonable
demands and orders were the cause of the mishap; and not even a word of
congratulation at Escombe's narrow escape from a terrible death; simply
a formal request that he would rejoin, "with the least possible delay",
for a certain good and sufficient reason.  Poor Harry shrugged his
shoulders with something very like contempt for the hidebound creature
who was, to a great extent, the master of his fate, and who seemed to be
absolutely destitute of the very smallest shred of good feeling.  He
felt that it would be quite hopeless to look for any praise or
appreciation from such a man; he foresaw that the fellow would
appropriate to himself whatever credit might result from the expedition,
and lay upon his (Harry's) shoulders the onus of any shortcomings of
complete success.  And he came to the conclusion that since such a chief
was not worth putting oneself out for, he would remain where he was
until it was quite certain that he could travel with perfect safety, and
resume duty immediately upon his return to camp.  But he was young, and
possessed a thoroughly sound constitution; moreover, he had miraculously
escaped with unbroken bones, his recovery therefore was rapid, and on
the nineteenth day after the accident he rejoined the camp and formally
reported himself as prepared to resume duty.

It had been Butler's custom, from the commencement of the survey, to
flag out a certain length of route daily, and to insist--without very
much regard to the difficulties of the task--that that amount of work
should be done by nightfall.  This length of route usually amounted to
from two to three miles, and Escombe had once or twice protested--when
the natural difficulties of the work were excessive--that he could not
undertake to guarantee the accuracy of his work if so much were demanded
of him; to which Butler had retorted that, in his opinion, the amount of
work demanded was exceedingly moderate, that he should expect it to be
done, and that he should hold Escombe responsible for all inaccuracies.
Yet, upon Escombe's return to camp he found that, during the nineteen
days of his absence, Butler had advanced the survey by a distance of
less than four miles! the explanation which the elder man condescended
to make being that, during the four days immediately following the
accident, no survey work at all had been done, the whole body of peons
having been scattered in various directions, seeking some clue to
Harry's fate.

For a week or two after Escombe's return to camp matters went very much
more smoothly.  Whether it was that Harry's accident had given Butler a
wholesome fright, or that the conviction had been forced upon the latter
that he had been outrageously exacting, there was nothing to show, but
certain it was that, for a while, Escombe was allowed to take his own
time over his work and do it his own way, with the result that while
this state of affairs lasted the lad actually took pleasure in, nay,
thoroughly enjoyed, his work.  But on the third week after his return
Harry began to detect signs that these agreeable conditions were drawing
to an end.  Thenceforth Butler allowed himself to gradually drift back
into his former exacting and autocratic ways, until at length life in
the camp again became a veritable purgatory for everybody concerned,
Butler himself included, the natural result of his tyrannical conduct
being that everybody--Harry excepted--did everything in his power to
thwart him, while even the lad himself ceased to attempt the apparently
impossible task of pleasing his chief.

In this unpleasant and unsatisfactory manner the railway survey
proceeded for the two months following Escombe's return to duty; by
which time Butler's behaviour had become so unendurable that nearly
three-fourths of the peons originally engaged had deserted,
notwithstanding the fact that their desertion involved them in the loss
of a sum in wages that, to these humble toilers, represented quite a
little fortune, and their places had been filled by others of a much
less desirable type in every way.  And this was all the more to be
regretted since the surveyors were now in the very heart of the
mountains, where the natural difficulties to be contended with were at
their worst, while the newcomers, being of course utterly strange to
such work, had to be taught their duties, down to the simplest detail,
under the most adverse conditions possible.  It can be readily
understood that the attempt to instruct a set of ignorant, stupid,
sullen, and lawless half-castes under such conditions was a task of
surpassing difficulty, resulting in constant acute friction, and
demanding the nicest judgment and the utmost diplomacy upon the part of
the teachers.  Harry met this difficulty by bringing to his assistance
an almost sublime patience, that in the course of time--and not a very
long time either--completely wore down the opposition of his unwilling
pupils and brought a change in their mental attitude which was as
surprising as it was satisfactory.  Butler, however, knew not the
meaning of the word "patience", nor did his character contain the
smallest particle of that valuable quality; his method was what he
termed "the rough-and-ready", and consisted in emphasising every order,
and item of construction, with a kick!  It was not surprising,
therefore, that the relations between him and the peons daily grew more
strained.

It was when the tension between Butler on the one hand and the peons on
the other had developed to such an extent that the labourers had been
goaded into a state of almost open mutiny, that the former set out as
usual, on horseback, one morning, accompanied by a half-dozen of the new
hands, to seek for and stake out a few miles farther of practicable
route.  Such a duty as this he usually contrived to complete in time to
return to the camp for lunch, after which he was wont to saunter out
along the line until he encountered Harry, when he would spend the
remainder of the day in making the poor lad's life a burden to him by
finding fault with everything he did, frequently insisting upon having
some particularly awkward and difficult piece of work done over again.
Consequently the progress of the survey was abnormally and
exasperatingly slow; and when, upon the day in question, Butler failed
to put in an appearance on the scene of operations, young Escombe's
first feeling was one of gratification, for he was just then engaged
upon an exceptionally difficult task which he was most anxious to
complete without being interfered with.  So absorbed was the lad in his
work that he had not much thought to spare for speculation as to the
reason for so unusual a piece of good luck, although it is true that, as
the afternoon wore on, he did once or twice permit himself to wonder
whether "perchance" he had to thank a slight touch of indisposition, or
possibly a sprained ankle, for this unexpected and most welcome freedom
from interruption.  But when at length, upon his arrival in camp at the
conclusion of his day's survey work, he learned, to his astonishment,
that neither Butler nor his party of peons had returned, the impression
forced itself upon him that something serious had happened, and
mustering afresh his own gang of tired and hungry assistants, and
providing them with lanterns, ropes, and other aids to a search, he led
them forth along the survey line in quest of the absent ones.

For a distance of nearly two miles from the camp the route of the
missing party was easily followed, being marked by stakes at frequent
intervals, indicating the line chosen by Butler as that to be surveyed
by Escombe.  It ended at the foot of a precipitous slope of bare rock
towering aloft some seven or eight hundred feet, with further heights
beyond it.  Here the searchers were brought to an abrupt halt, for Harry
was fully aware that no sane engineer would for a single moment dream of
carrying an ordinary railway up that rocky acclivity, while it was well
understood that the rack system of construction was to be avoided, if
possible, upon the score of expense.  The probability was that Butler,
upon reaching this point, and finding himself confronted by the
necessity to make a wide detour, or, alternatively, to consider the
question of a tunnel, had struck off, either to the right or to the
left, on a tour of investigation; and there was the chance that,
becoming involved in the maze-like intricacies of his surroundings, he
had decided to camp out for the night rather than risk an accident by
attempting to return in darkness over difficult ground.  But this was a
question which Harry felt ought to be settled forthwith, and he
accordingly issued instructions to his peons to search for the spoor of
the party and follow it up.  To find the spoor was a very easy matter,
for the last stake had been driven in comparatively soft ground, and
despite the fact that it was by this time almost pitch dark, a short
search, aided by the light of the lanterns, disclosed the hoof prints of
Butlers horse, which led off to the left, and which were followed until
the searchers found themselves on the borders of an extensive pine wood
growing on hard, steeply rising ground over which it was impossible to
trace further the trail in the darkness.  This impossibility once
realised, the search was abandoned for the night, and Harry very
reluctantly gave the word for a return to camp, which was reached about
nine o'clock.

At daybreak the next morning the camp was roused, breakfast prepared and
eaten, and, taking with them rations to last until nightfall, the search
party again set out upon their quest, making their way direct to the
spot where the trail had been lost on the previous night, where it was
again picked up without much trouble.  It led in straight toward the
heart of the wood, and was followed, with ever-increasing difficulty,
for a distance of about three-quarters of a mile until it was lost on
hard, shaley ground, nor were the utmost efforts of the party equal to
finding it again.  After carefully considering the situation, therefore,
Escombe detailed one man, an Indian, to accompany him, and, placing the
remainder of the peons in charge of a man whom he believed he could
trust, with instructions to search the wood thoroughly, returned to the
outskirts of the timber, and, beginning at the spot where the trail
entered it, proceeded, with the assistance of the Indian, to encircle
the wood, carefully examining every foot of the ground as they went, in
the hope that, if Butler and his party had passed through the timber and
emerged on its other side, the Indian would succeed in picking up the
spoor.  But the hope was vain, for the wood was completely encircled--
the task occupying the entire day--without the discovery of the faintest
trace or sign of the passage of the missing party, which was not at all
surprising, for when the far side of the wood was reached the soil
proved to be of so stony a character, thickly interspersed with great
outcrops of rock, that even the most skilled and keen-eyed of trackers
might have been excused for failing in the search for footprints on so
unyielding a surface.  It was a little puzzling to Harry that not even
the horse had left any trace behind him; but this was accounted for
when, upon rejoining the party who had been detailed to search the
interior of the wood, it was discovered that the animal had been found
by them, still saddled and bridled, wandering aimlessly about in search
of such scanty herbage as the soil there afforded.  Upon the horse being
brought to him, the young Englishman--mindful of the scarcely concealed
hatred which Butler had, almost wantonly, as it seemed, aroused in the
breasts of the peons--immediately subjected the animal and his trappings
to a most rigorous examination in search of any sign of possible
violence, but nothing of the kind could be found, and the only result of
the examination was the conclusion, to which everything pointed, that
Butler had, for some reason, voluntarily dismounted and at least
temporarily abandoned the animal.

Butler and his party had now been missing for full twenty-four hours,
and Harry speedily arrived at two conclusions which inexorably led him
to a third.  The first conclusion at which he arrived was that the peons
who had accompanied his chief, accustomed as they had been from their
earliest childhood to make their way about the country, were so little
likely to have lost their way that that theory might be unhesitatingly
abandoned; the second was that Butler would certainly not have absented
himself purposely from the camp for a whole night and a day, and that
therefore--this was the third conclusion--something had gone very
seriously wrong.  The next problem that presented itself for solution
was: What was it that had gone wrong?  Had the entire party met with an
accident?  It was most unlikely.  There were seven of them altogether,
and in the event of an accident, surely at least one of the seven would
have escaped and returned to the camp for help.  Had they been seized
and carried off by brigands?  When Harry put this question to the peons
who remained with him he was laughed at good-naturedly and assured that,
in the first place, there were no brigands in Peru, so far as they were
aware; and, in the second place, that if perchance there were they would
probably not have contented themselves with simply carrying off seven
men, six of whom would be only an encumbrance to them, but would almost
certainly have attacked and sacked the camp some time during the hours
of daylight, when it was left comparatively unprotected.  There was but
one other probable alternative of which Harry could think, and that was
that Butler's peons, exasperated at length beyond endurance by some
fresh piece of petty tyranny on the white man's part, had deserted,
carrying off their employer with them, either with the purpose of being
revenged upon him, or in the hope that by holding him as a hostage they
might be able to secure payment of the amount of wages due to them.  But
when Escombe submitted this alternative to his peons for their
consideration and opinion, they shook their heads and emphatically
declared that they did not believe that any such thing had happened.
And when further asked for their opinion as to what had happened, they
simply answered that they did not know what to think.  But to Harry it
seemed that there was a certain lack of spontaneity in this reply, which
caused him to doubt whether the speakers were quite sincere in so
saying.

With a very heavy load of responsibility thus unexpectedly thrown upon
his shoulders, the young Englishman spent several anxious hours in camp
that night pondering upon what was the proper course for him now to
pursue, and he finally came to the conclusion that, having ascertained
beyond much possibility of doubt that his chief had been abducted, the
next thing to be done was to discover whither and under what
circumstances he had been carried off, and then to take the necessary
steps to effect his rescue.  On the following morning, therefore, he
mustered the peons who still remained with him, and briefly explaining
to them his theory of an abduction, dispatched six of them in as many
different directions to seek for traces of the missing party, offering a
substantial reward to the one who should bring him such information as
should lead to the recovery of the missing white man; and then, taking a
couple of sure-footed mules, set off in company with an Indian tracker
to scour the entire neighbourhood, in the hope of obtaining some clue to
the whereabouts of the missing party from some of the people by whom
that particular part of the country was sparsely inhabited.  And in
order to avoid the loss of time which would be entailed by returning to
camp at night, he took with him three days' provisions for himself and
his guide, intending to carry out as exhaustive a search as possible in
that space of time.

Thus far the search had been prosecuted entirely in a forward direction;
but at the last moment, before setting out upon his three days' quest,
it suddenly occurred to Escombe that the missing ones might possibly
have doubled back and be making their way toward the sea coast, so in
order to test the value of this theory he determined to return a few
miles along the line of the survey and see whether he could discover any
traces of them in that direction.

At this time the surveyors were in the heart of an exceptionally
difficult tract of country, where the obstacles to rapid work were such
that, since Harry's return to duty after his adventures in the
_quebrada_, they had not advanced very much more than twenty miles from
that spot; thus it was still early in the afternoon of the first day
when he found himself gazing down into the abyss, wherein he had so
narrowly escaped a terrible death.  By a natural association of ideas he
no sooner beheld the scene so indelibly engraven upon his memory than
his thoughts reverted to Cachama, his kind-hearted old Indian nurse, and
her son Yupanqui, and he vaguely wondered whether perhaps either of
these might be able to afford him any information or suggestion that
would assist him in his quest.  The more he thought of it the more did
the idea grow upon his mind, and at length he came to the decision that
he might as well prosecute his search in the direction of their cave as
in any other, and he forthwith communicated his decision to his guide,
who, somewhat to Escombe's surprise, at once admitted that he was well
acquainted with Cachama and her son, and offered to conduct the young
Englishman to the cave in which the two resided, by a short route, if
Harry would consent to be blindfolded during their passage of certain
portions of the way.  To this the lad readily agreed--for he was by this
time becoming exceedingly anxious on Butler's account--and thereupon the
Indian, having hobbled the mules, demanded Harry's pocket--handkerchief
and immediately proceeded to blindfold the owner therewith, after which,
with joined hands, the pair resumed their way, travelling for two full
hours or more over exceedingly broken and difficult ground.  Then the
pocket-handkerchief was removed, and Harry found himself standing in the
midst of a number of enormous fallen boulders at the foot of a
stupendous cliff, and facing an opening in the latter which had all the
appearance of being the mouth of a cavern.  But by what route he had
arrived at the spot he could not tell, for he was so completely hemmed
in on every side by the boulders in the midst of which he stood that the
surrounding landscape was completely shut out, nothing being visible
save the boulders and the face of the cliff with the opening in it.
That he was correct in his surmise that this opening was a cavern was
now demonstrated by his Indian guide, who said:

"Be pleased to take my hand again, Senor, and follow me without fear.
This is one of several entrances to the cavern in which Cachama dwells.
You will find the ground smooth and even for almost the entire distance,
and presently we shall find torches by which to light our way."

And so, as a matter of fact, they did; for after traversing some ten or
fifteen yards the Indian halted and, releasing Escombe's hand, was heard
groping about in the darkness, and a moment later the rattling of dry
branches reached the lad's ears.

"Now, Senor," came the voice of the Indian out of the darkness, "if you
will graciously condescend to produce fire by means of those small
sticks which you call `matches' we shall soon have light to guide our
steps."

So said, so done; and as the torch kindled and blazed up the pair found
themselves standing in a rugged rock passage some five feet wide and
about eight feet high, with a perfectly smooth floor which, in the
flickering, uncertain light of the torch, presented the appearance of
having been brought into this condition by human agency.  It was not
only smooth, but also level at the point where they stood.  But even as
they started to resume their journey--the Indian bearing the torch and
leading the way--Harry saw that it almost immediately began to dip, and
ere they had advanced many paces the dip became so pronounced that the
smooth floor gave place to a long flight of roughly hewn steps, at first
broad and shallow, but rapidly steepening, until they became so narrow
and deep as to necessitate a considerable amount of care in the
negotiation of them.  To Harry this flight seemed interminable; there
must have been hundreds of steps, for--although the lad did not time
himself--the descent appeared to have occupied considerably more than
half an hour; but at length they once more reached level ground and,
leaving the steps behind them, proceeded to traverse a narrow and
winding passage, the air in which smelt stale and musty, while here and
there they were obliged to squeeze their painful way between long, spiky
stalactites and stalagmites until they came to more steps--this time
leading upward.  Harry counted these; there were only one hundred and
twenty-three of them, and they were not nearly so steep as the others;
and then they ceased, and the pair came to a gently rising floor, along
which they passed for about half a mile, finally entering a spacious
chamber or cavern, where, very much to the young Englishman's surprise,
they found Cachama awaiting them with a torch in her hand.

It was perfectly evident that the old lady was intensely angry, for upon
the appearance of her visitors she darted toward them and, shaking her
fist furiously in the face of the Indian--whom, by the way, she
addressed as Arima--she poured out upon him a torrent of strange words,
the virulence of which could be pretty accurately estimated by the
effect which they produced upon their recipient, for poor Arima writhed
under them as though they had been the lash of a whip.  For fully ten
minutes the old woman stormed relentlessly before she was reduced to
silence through want of breath, and then the Indian got his chance to
reply, and apparently vindicate himself, for, as he proceeded with what
appeared to Escombe to be his explanation, Cachama's wrath gradually
subsided until she became sufficiently mistress of herself to greet the
young white man, which she did with more cordiality than her previous
outburst had led him to expect.

"Welcome back to my poor home, Senor!" she exclaimed.  "I knew that you
were coming, and am glad to see you; but that dolt Arima enraged me, for
he brought you by the secret way, although he knew that it is forbidden
to reveal that way, or even the fact of its existence, to strangers.  He
tells me, however, that the matter is urgent, and that he adopted the
precaution of blindfolding you so that you might not learn the secret of
the approach, therefore I will let the matter pass, especially as I feel
certain that I have but to express the wish and you will forget that
such a way exists."

"Certainly I will, Mama Cachama," answered Harry cheerfully.  "You saved
my life not long ago, and I should be an ingrate indeed if I refused to
conform to your wishes in so simple a matter as that.  But I understood
you to say that you knew I was coming to you!  How on earth could you
possibly know that?  I didn't know it myself until a few hours ago!"

"Did not I tell you that I possess the gift of foreknowledge?" remarked
Cachama somewhat impatiently.  "You had no sooner conceived the idea of
coming to me than I became aware of it; nay, I even knew the way by
which you were coming, and it was that knowledge which angered me, for I
knew that you could not visit the cave by the secret approach except
with the help of one of us!  But let that pass.  Follow me to my living
room, where I have provided a meal for you; and while you are partaking
of it you may tell me in what manner you think I can assist you."

Ten minutes later Escombe once more found himself in the cavern which he
knew so well, partaking of a most excellent stew, and detailing to his
hostess between mouthfuls all the particulars relating to the
disappearance of Butler and his party of peons.  He brought his recital
to a close by enquiring whether Cachama or Yupanqui had chanced to see
any of the missing ones.

"No," said Cachama.  "They have not passed near here, or Yupanqui would
certainly have seen something of them and mentioned the fact to me.  But
you have done well to come to me, for it will be strange indeed if I
cannot help you.  You wish to know what has become of the Senor whom you
call Butler; is not that so?  Very well.  Seat yourself there before me,
hold my two hands in yours, and recall to your mind as vividly as
possible all the circumstances, be they ever so trivial, that you can
remember relating to the doings of the day upon which the Senor
disappeared, beginning with the moment of your awakening.  Now begin,
for I am ready."

While the old creature spoke she was arranging matters in such a way
that she and Escombe could sit facing each other, knee to knee and with
their hands clasped, she leaning slightly back in a reclining posture,
with her eyes upturned toward the invisible roof of the cavern.  As she
finished speaking the young Englishman directed his thoughts backward to
the morning of two days ago, mentally reproducing every incident of the
day, beginning with the moment when he arose from his camp bed, and
intending to continue, if need were, to that other moment when, after
the long fruitless search in the pine wood, he cast himself on that same
bed at the end of the day and, completely exhausted, sank to sleep.

But when he had reached this latter point of retrospection Mama
Cachama's eyes were closed and, to Harry's chagrin, she appeared to have
fallen into a deep sleep.  Before, however, his disappointment had found
time to express itself in words the old Indian woman began to speak in a
low tone, as though soliloquising.

"Yes," she murmured, "I see it all quite distinctly, the white tents
gleaming in the brilliant sunshine of early morning, with their ropes
strained tight by the dew that has fallen heavily during the night; the
peons moving hither and thither, shivering in the keen air as they make
their preparations for the day's work; the horses and mules feeding
eagerly; the fires blazing cheerily and the blue smoke streaming
straight up in the still air.  Yes, and I see the two Englishmen, the
old and the young one, sitting at breakfast in their tents.  The elder
man is tall and thin, with black hair touched here and there with grey,
and a close-clipped moustache.  He is dressed in dark-grey woollen
clothing, and wears brown boots reaching to the knee.  He is glancing
through a little book as he eats, writing in it from time to time.  Now
he rises and, taking a whip in his hand, puts on a soft cloth cap and
goes to the tent door.  He calls to one named Jose to bring him his
horse, and then gives the young _Ingles_ certain instructions, speaking
sharply as though in anger.

"Now the horse is brought, and the elder _Ingles_ mounts him somewhat
awkwardly, as though he were not accustomed to life in the saddle, and
rides off, accompanied by six peons who carry long poles with small
flags on them, also heavy hammers, axes, machetes, ropes, and bundles of
wooden stakes.  The young _Ingles_ also prepares to leave the camp, and
busies himself in examining certain strange instruments that are packed
in boxes of polished wood.  But it is the elder _Ingles_ that I must
follow.  He leads the way over rising ground, riding toward a snow-clad
peak that gleams like silver in the far distance, pausing occasionally
while his peons drive a stake into the ground where directed by him.
They proceed thus until they find themselves facing a bare rocky slope
so steep that scarcely might a llama climb it; and here they pause for a
time while the _Ingles_ looks about him.  Then they move off to the
left, skirting the precipice until they come to a great wood growing on
a steep spur of the mountain.  They enter this wood and penetrate it for
a considerable distance, the ground ever rising more steeply and
becoming looser and more difficult as they go.  Here the horse finds it
so hard to keep his feet, and is in such constant danger of falling,
that at length the rider dismounts and, leaving the horse standing,
presses forward as though anxious to get to the other side of the wood,
his peons following and whispering eagerly together.  They are
encumbered with the various articles which they carry, and consequently
cannot travel over that steep, loose ground so rapidly as the
Englishman, who carries nothing but his riding whip and one of the poles
with a flag on it, which he uses to help him over the rough ground, and
he turns upon them from time to time with angry words, urging them to
greater exertion.  At first they answer nothing; but at length the
strictures of the _Ingles_ goad them to retort, humbly in the beginning,
but soon with such heat that he lifts his whip and strikes one of them
savagely with it across the face.  And at that, as though the blow were
a signal, every peon flings from him his burden, and the whole of them
hurl themselves upon the white man and bear him to the ground, the one
who was struck raising his machete as though to split the skull of his
enemy."



CHAPTER SIX.

FOUND!

At this point Mama Cachama became greatly agitated, and struggled
violently in an endeavour to wrench her hands out of Escombe's grasp,
crying that they were going to murder the Englishman, and that she would
not remain to see it.  But the vision which she had thus far described
was of so extraordinary a character, and impressed the young man so
strongly with a sense of its reality and truth, that he was determined
to follow up the clue as far as possible; he therefore resolutely
retained his grip upon the old woman's hands, under the impression that,
if he released them, the vision would pass, possibly beyond recall.

But suddenly Cachama's struggles ceased, and she sighed as though
relieved of some great fear.

"Ah!" she exclaimed, "they will not kill him after all; one of the peons
intervenes, pointing out that if the Englishman is killed, none of them
may dare to again show their faces in the towns, for information of the
murder will be given, and the Peruvian Corporation--who have employed
the Englishman to do this work for them--will never rest until every one
of the murderers is brought to justice.  The others understand this at
once, and agree that there shall be no murder; but they are binding the
Englishman's hands and feet, so that he cannot escape; and now they are
asking each other what will be best to do with him.  There is much
talk--some urge one thing, some another--now Jose, the man who prevented
the murder, speaks--he proposes that the prisoner shall be carried to a
certain place and there detained until the whole of their wages be paid
them, after which they are to release their prisoner, and each man will
go his way, working no more for the Englishman.  Now they are pondering
on the proposal--yes, they have all agreed to it; and now they are
releasing the Englishman's feet, in order that he may walk with them,
but his hands remain tied behind him, and one of the peons holds the end
of the rope, to make sure that their prisoner shall not escape.  Two
others grasp him, one by either arm, to help him, for the ground is
rough and steep, and the going bad.  They move forward again, following
an easterly direction--their progress is slow, for the Englishman
stumbles at almost every step, his hands being tied.  He declares that
walking, under such circumstances, is impossible, and angrily demands to
be released--but they laugh and jeer at him.  He struggles on, falling
frequently despite the assistance of the two men who are holding him,
and at length the party emerge from the wood on its far side and find
themselves on the spur of the mountain, on barren, rocky, open ground.
Now they reach the crest of the spur, and, passing over it, still
travelling in an easterly direction, descend into the valley beyond
until they reach the margin of a small stream flowing northward.  Here
they pause in the shadow of an enormous granite rock of very remarkable
appearance, for it bears a most extraordinary resemblance to the head
and neck of an Indian--I know it well; and among us it is called `The
Inca's Head'.  They sit down beneath this rock and proceed to eat and
drink--for it is now two hours past midday--binding the Englishman's
feet and releasing his hands to enable him to feed himself.  Now the
meal is over, and the party resume their march, going northward along
the western bank of the stream and plunging ever deeper into the valley.
The soil here is once more rich and fertile, being overgrown with long,
rank grass--through which they leave a trail easy to follow--and dense
masses of mimosa and other bush.  Now it is evening, the valley grows
dark, and the party prepare to camp for the night; they have found a
suitable spot, quite close to the river bank, and are lighting a large
fire.  They eat and drink again.  Now they have finished, and are
disposing themselves to rest, one man of the party undertaking to remain
awake for a certain time to watch the prisoner, until relieved by
another who will perform the same service.

"The night passes; the light of dawn sweeps down the steep mountain
slopes into the valley, and the peon who is watching the prisoner awakes
his fellows.  Again they eat and drink.  Now they have finished their
meal and resume their march, still following the western bank of the
stream.  I go with them as they plod on, hour after hour, until they
reach a point where the stream turns westward, and here they take
advantage of a shallow spot which enables them to cross to the other
side.  They are now marching eastward up the slope of the valley, and at
length they emerge upon a great plateau, thickly dotted with extensive
clumps of bush, interspersed here and there with wide belts of timber
through which they pass.  For many miles they plod onward, winding
hither and thither among the clumps of bush and through the belts of
forest trees, but all the while holding steadily toward the east.  Night
comes again; a fire is lighted, as on the preceding night, they eat and
drink, and once more dispose themselves to sleep, one man again
undertaking to watch the prisoner.  For a time--how long I know not, but
it appears to be about an hour--this man remains faithful to his duty;
but, as the moments pass and the prisoner appears to be sleeping
heavily, the watcher's vigilance relaxes, he grows drowsy, his eyelids
close, he dozes, awakes, dozes again, once more awakes, and finally
succumbs to sleep.

"Meanwhile the prisoner, who has to all appearance been sleeping
heavily, has remained very wide awake, and, observing that his guard is
not over watchful, proceeds to strain stealthily upon his bonds, which,
he has noticed, are not drawn quite so tight as usual.  Gradually he
succeeds in loosening them to such an extent that eventually he is able
to free one hand.  To free the other at once becomes easy, and, this
done, the prisoner very cautiously raises himself sufficiently to assure
himself that his captors are all soundly sleeping.  Satisfied of this,
he rolls himself gently over and over, a few inches at a time, until he
is outside the circle of his captors, when he rises to his feet and with
infinite caution withdraws into the darkness, making for the nearest
clump of bush, which, upon reaching, he places between himself and the
faint glow of the dying camp fire.  Hidden thus from his late captors,
should any of them chance to awake and miss him, he now walks rapidly
forward, constantly glancing over his shoulder in fear lest he should be
pursued; and in this manner he soon places a couple of miles between
himself and the sleeping peons.  He believes that he is now returning
toward the camp over the ground which he has already traversed, and he
hastens onward as fast as the uneven nature of the ground will permit.
But the night is dark, the stars are obscured by heavy masses of
threatening rain-cloud; there is therefore no beacon by which he can
guide his footsteps, and, unsuspected by himself, he has gradually swung
round until he is heading south-east.  And now the gathering storm
breaks, the rain falls heavily, and in a few minutes the unhappy
fugitive is drenched to the skin, and chilled to the marrow by the
fierce and bitter wind which comes swooping down from the snowfields and
glaciers of the higher Andes; yet he dares not take shelter from the
storm, even in the recesses of a clump of scrub, for he fears that by
dawn at the latest, his enemies will be on his track, and--forgetful or
ignorant of the fact that the storm will obliterate his trail from all
but dogs or experienced trackers--of which the peons have none--the
fugitive is madly anxious to put as many miles as possible between
himself and his pursuers.  On he staggers, blindly and breathlessly,
whipped by the pelting rain, buffeted by the furious wind, half-fainting
already from exhaustion, yet spurred on by unreasoning terror--I think
that unless he is quickly rescued the Englishman will die."

Escombe shuddered and went white to the lips.  This man, whose every
wandering footstep had been faithfully traced through Mama Cachama's
marvellous clairvoyant gift, was a remorseless tyrant in his petty way,
so curiously constituted that his one idea of pleasure appeared to be
the making miserable the lives of all about him, even to going out of
his way to do so, to such extent, indeed, that men had been heard to say
bitterly that, as in the case of some noxious animal or reptile, the
world would be the better for his death.  The young Englishman could
recall without effort many an occasion when he had been so harassed and
worried, and his existence so embittered by the impish spite of this
same Butler that even he, gentle and kindly as was his disposition in
general, believed he could have contemplated the demise of the other
with a feeling not far removed from equanimity.  Yet, now that the man
was in actual peril, all that was forgotten, every generous instinct in
the lad sprang at once to the surface, his one idea was to hurry to the
rescue, and he cried eagerly:

"Tell me exactly where to find him and I will go at once and bring him
in."

"Wait, _muchacho_, wait!" exclaimed Cachama impatiently.  "Let me follow
him first as far as I may, lest I lose him, for now his way is growing
erratic, his mind and body are becoming numb with the misery of his
plight, and he no longer has any clear knowledge of anything, the one
conviction which haunts him being that he must press onward anywhere--no
matter where--otherwise his pursuers will overtake him and put him to a
terrible death.  Ah! now the dawn breaks, and the storm is subsiding;
but the Englishman takes no note of this.  He seems quite incapable of
noticing anything now, but runs on aimlessly, panting and gasping, his
breath bursting from his labouring lungs in great sobs, his eyes staring
unseeingly before him, his limbs quivering and staggering beneath him,
his thin clothing clinging in saturated tatters to his body, which is
streaked here and there with blood where the thorns have torn him, as he
burst through them in his headlong flight.  Aha! the end must surely now
be drawing near, for see, the foam upon his lips is tinged with blood,
and rapidly grows a deeper crimson; he reels and stumbles as he runs--he
is down--no--yes--he is up again--and staggers onwards for a few yards--
now he is down again, falling with a crash--and, rolling over on his
back with outstretched arms, lies motionless, his eyes closed, and the
blood trickling out of the corners of his mouth."

"Is he dead, Mama Cachama? is he dead?" gasped Escombe, his grievances
all forgotten now, and his sense of pity stirred to its uttermost depths
by the shocking plight of his chief, so graphically painted by the words
of the old Indian woman.

"Nay," answered Cachama, "he still lives, for his chest heaves and he
now and then gasps for breath; but his flight is ended, for the present
at least, and if you would find him with the life still in his body you
must surely hasten."

"But how shall I find him?" demanded Harry.  "You must direct me how to
go straight to where he lies; for should it be necessary for us to pick
up his trail and follow that, he would be dead long ere we could reach
him."

"Where is Arima?" demanded Cachama.  "Let him come to me."

"I am here," answered the Indian, drawing near to the old woman.

"Then listen attentively, Arima, and mark well what I say," commanded
the Mama.  She spoke to him for a full minute or more in the Indian
tongue, of which Escombe comprehended enough to understand that she was
describing what might be termed the bearings of the spot where Butler
lay exhausted and senseless, Arima nodding his head understanding and
murmuring here and there a word of comprehension as she went on.  Her
description ended, she paused for a few seconds, then murmured: "It is
enough.  Now let me awake, for I am old.  I have wandered afar, and the
journey has wearied me."

Whereupon, after an interval of a minute or two, she slowly opened her
eyes, stared about her vacantly for a little, and finally said: "Ah,
yes, I remember!  I was to tell you something, Senor.  Have you learned
what you desired to know?"

"Yes, thanks," answered Harry, "always provided, of course, that--
that,"--he was about to say--"that your information is reliable"; but
substituted for those somewhat ungracious words--"that Arima can find
the spot which you have described to him."

"Think you that you can find it, Arima?" demanded the old woman.

"Yes, Mama Cachama," answered Arima, "I shall find it without doubt; for
I have listened attentively to all that you have said, and already know
the direction generally, in which to seek it, while the particulars
which you have given me are so explicit that I can scarcely miss the
exact spot."

"That is well," approved Cachama.  Then, turning to Escombe, she said:
"And now, Senor, if you will remain with me for the rest of the day and
the coming night it will give me pleasure, and I will do my best for
your comfort; the afternoon is wellnigh spent, and if, as I understood
you to say, you started from your camp shortly after daybreak this
morning, you can scarcely return to it ere nightfall, and the way is a
rough and dangerous one to travel in the darkness."

"Nevertheless, with many thanks for your hospitable offer, I must go,"
answered Harry, "for the matter is urgent, as you must know, for your
last words to me were that if I would find my--friend with the life
still in him I must hasten."

"Nay, _amigo_, I know nothing of what I told you while in my state of
trance," answered the old woman; "but, whatever it may have been, you
may depend that it was true; therefore if I bade you hasten, it is
certain that hasten you must, and in that case it would be no kindness
in me to urge you to stay.  Yet you will not go until you have again
eaten and drank."

"Thanks again, Mama," answered Harry, "but I fear we must.  As you have
said, the afternoon is far advanced, and there is therefore all the more
reason why we should make the best possible use of every remaining
moment of daylight.  If you will excuse us, therefore, we will bid you
adios and go forthwith.  You have rendered me an inestimable service,
Mama, for which mere words of thanks seem a very inadequate recompense,
yet I will not offend you by offering any other reward.  Still, if there
is a way--"

"There is none--at present--_amigo mio_" interrupted the old woman; "nor
do I wish any recompense beyond your thanks.  If, as you say, I have
been able to help you I am glad, and shall be glad to help you again
whenever and as often as you may need my assistance.  Nevertheless,"--
looking with sudden intentness into the young Englishman's eyes--"I
think--nay, I am certain--that a time is coming when, if you care to
remember them, Mama Cachama and Yupanqui will be glad that they
befriended you."

"Rest assured, then, Mama, that when that time arrives, you will not be
forgotten," answered Harry.  "And now, _adios_, until we meet again.
Remember me to Yupanqui, and say that I am sorry I could not stay to see
him.  Are you ready, Arima?  Then march!"

It was close upon midnight when Escombe and his Indian guide rode into
camp, after a fatiguing and somewhat adventurous journey; for as Mama
Cachama had said, the way was rough and by no means devoid of danger
even in the daytime, while at night those dangers were multiplied a
hundredfold.  Enquiry revealed that none of the six peons whom Harry had
that morning despatched to seek for traces of the missing party had
returned, and the young man therefore gave Arima instructions to make
all necessary preparations to start with him at daybreak, in search of
the spot at which Cachama had described Butler as falling exhausted
after his terrible flight through the night and storm.  Of course Harry
scarcely expected to find Butler there, and still less did he hope it,
for in that event it would only too probably mean that the missing man
was dead, whereas Harry hoped that, after lying exhausted for perhaps
some hours, his chief would recover strength enough to make a further
effort to return to camp; but he knew that in any case the search must
necessarily start from the spot indicated by Cachama, and for that spot,
therefore, he must make in the first instance.

It was broad daylight, but the sun had not yet risen above the snow-
capped Andes when Escombe, accompanied by Arima, each of them mounted
upon a sturdy mule, and the Indian leading Butler's saddled and bridled
horse, rode out of camp the next morning on their quest for the missing
man, taking with them a week's rations for each, and a similar quantity
for Butler's use--should they be fortunate enough to find him--as well
as a small supply of medical comforts, the whole contained in a pack
securely strapped upon the saddle of the led horse.

For the first hour the route followed by Arima was identical with that
described by Mama Cachama while in her clairvoyant state; but when they
reached the wood wherein Butler's horse had been found straying, the
Indian bore away to the right, and, skirting the belt of timber for some
distance, cut through it near its southern extremity, emerging upon the
mountain spur some three miles from, and much higher than, the spot
where the first search party had come out.  The crest of the spur now
lay about half a mile in front of them, and upon reaching it the
travellers beheld a magnificent prospect before them.  The mountain spur
sloped away steeply from their feet, plunging down until it was lost in
a wide, densely wooded ravine about a mile in width, beyond which the
ground again rose somewhat irregularly in a wide sweep of upland,
gradually merging into foothills which, viewed from that distance,
appeared to be the advance guard of the towering Andes.  The atmosphere
was exquisitely clear, revealing every object in the landscape with
photographic sharpness, and Arima paused for a few minutes, with the
double object of breathing the animals and taking a good, long,
comprehensive view of the scene before him.  For some minutes he gazed
intently at the many landmarks, that stretched away before him and on
either hand, and at length turned to Escombe and said, pointing:

"You see those twin peaks yonder, Senor?"

"Assuredly," assented Harry.

"And you also see that hill between them and us--the one, I mean, with
the cloud shadow resting upon it which causes it to tell up dark against
the sunlit mountain slopes beyond?"

"Certainly," again assented Harry.

"It is a few miles on the other side of that hill that we shall find the
spot of which Mama Cachama spoke," explained Arima.

"Then you recognise the various marks which she described for your
guidance, do you, and believe that she actually saw them in her trance?"

"Without doubt, Senor," answered the Indian in a tone of surprise, as
though he wondered at the slight hint of incredulity suggested by the
question.

"And do you think that, when we arrive, we shall find the chief there?"
asked Harry.

"Nay, Senor, that I cannot say," answered Arima.  "But this I know, that
if he is still there when we reach the spot he will be dead."

"Yes," assented Escombe, "I fear you are right.  And how long will it
take us to reach the spot?"

"We shall do well if we get there before the sun sinks half-way down the
heavens to-morrow," was the answer.

"To-morrow!" ejaculated Harry incredulously.  "How far, then, is it from
where we now stand?"

"If we could ride straight to it we might reach it to-day some two hours
before sunset," answered Arima.  "But that is impossible, Senor; our
road lies off yonder to the right, along the slope of the mountain, to
the nearest point at which it will be possible for us to cross the
ravine; and when we have accomplished that, there will still be a
toilsome ride of some three hours before us, ere we can hope to emerge
from the ravine on the other side.  We shall be fortunate if we
accomplish so much before we are overtaken by the darkness."

"Is that so?" questioned Harry.  "Then in that case we had better press
forward without further delay."  And, digging his heels into the ribs of
his mule, the young Englishman resumed his march.

It was shortly after three o'clock on the following afternoon when
Arima, who for the previous half-hour had been riding slowly and
studying the ground intently, suddenly reined up his mule, and, leaping
lightly to the ground, knelt down and carefully examined the long,
coarse grass that thickly carpeted the soil.  For a full minute he
remained thus, delicately fingering the blades and gently pushing them
aside, then he rose to his feet, and, with a sigh of satisfaction,
pointed with his finger, saying:

"Here is the trail of the chief, Senor; he came from yonder and went in
that direction."

"Are you sure, Arima?" demanded Harry.  "I can see no sign of the
passage of a man through this grass."

"Very possibly not, Senor," answered Arima dryly, "because, you see, you
are not accustomed to tracking; moreover, this trail is some days old,
and was made while the grass was wet and beaten down by the rain.  But
it is there, nevertheless, for practised eyes to read, and, being found,
can now be easily followed.  When the chief passed here he was in a
terribly exhausted state, and staggered as he ran, exactly as Mama
Cachama described, for just here he stumbled--if your honour will take
the trouble to dismount you can see the mark where the toe of his boot
dug into the soil--and I think the spot where he fell finally cannot be
very far from here."

"In that case," said Harry, "let us press on as quickly as possible, for
even minutes may be of inestimable value now.  As to dismounting and
examining the marks for myself, we have no time for that at present,
Arima, and I am quite content to take your word for it that matters are
as you say.  Can you follow the trail mounted, or must you proceed on
foot?"

"I can follow it mounted, Senor, seeing that I was mounted when I found
it," answered Arima.  "But it will be well that you should ride a few
yards behind me, lest the trail should swerve suddenly to right or left
and be crossed by your mule."  So saying, the Indian sprang into his
saddle and, turning the head of his animal, rode forward at a foot pace,
his eyes intently searching the sea of waving grass before him.  For a
quarter of an hour he rode on thus, with Harry, leading Butler's horse,
following a yard or two in his rear; then he suddenly reined his mule
aside and, pointing to a barely perceptible depression in the grass,
said:

"See, Senor, there is where the chief first fell, as described by Mama
Cachama--yes--and,"--as his keen eyes roved hither and thither--"yonder
is the spot where he fell and lay."

A few paces brought them to the spot indicated, and here the signs were
clear enough for even Escombe's untrained eyes to read, the grass being
still depressed sufficiently to show that a human form had lain there
motionless and stretched at length for several hours; moreover, at that
part of the depression where the man's head had rested, the grass blades
were still flecked here and there with dried, ruddy froth, beneath which
lay a little patch of coagulated blood, from which a swarm of flies
arose as Arima bent over it and pointed it out to Harry.  But the
fugitive had disappeared, and the Indian gave it as his opinion that the
chief had revived after lying insensible for about six hours, and had
immediately resumed his interrupted flight.  As to the direction in
which he had gone, there was no difficulty in determining that, for,
leading away toward the eastward there were two wavering lines, close
together, traced through the long grass by the feet of the wanderer, and
still distinct enough to be followed by even so inexperienced a tracker
as the young Englishman.

"Now, Arima," exclaimed Harry, "is there anything worth knowing to be
gained by a prolonged examination of this `form'?  Because, if not, we
will press on at once, since time is precious.  The chief went in that
direction, of course--even I can see that--and the trail is so clear
that we ought to be able to follow it at a canter."

"Yes, quite easily, Senor," acquiesced Arima.  "There is nothing to be
learned here beyond the fact that the Senor Butler fell at this spot,
and lay absolutely motionless for so long a time that he must have been
in a swoon.  Then he revived, sat up, rose to his knees--see, there are
the impressions of his two knees, and of the toes of his boots behind
them--then he stood for several minutes, as though uncertain whither he
would go, and finally struck off to the eastward.  But see how the trail
wavers this way and that way, even in the short length of it that we can
trace from here.  He moved quite aimlessly, not knowing whither he would
go; and I think that, if he is still alive when we find him, Senor, he
will be quite crazy."

"So much the greater reason for finding him as quickly as possible.
Mount and ride, Arima," exclaimed Harry, pressing his heels into his
mule's sides, and urging the animal into a canter along the plainly
marked trail until he was taught better by the Indian.

"Never ride immediately over a trail which you are following, Senor, but
close beside it, on one side or the other of it, so that the trail
itself is left quite undisturbed.  One never can tell when it may be
necessary to study the trail carefully in search of some bit of
information which might easily be obliterated if it were ridden or
walked over."

Harry at once pulled his mule to one side of the trail, Arima following
it on the opposite side, and the pair pushed on, winding hither and
thither as the track of the fugitive swerved this way and that, until
they had travelled a further distance of some nine or ten miles, when
they came upon another "form", where Butler had laid himself down to
rest for--as Arima estimated--a space of about two hours.  There was
nothing of importance to be learned here; they therefore pushed forward
again with all possible speed, for the sun was now rapidly declining
toward the western horizon, and Escombe was anxious to find the wanderer
before nightfall, if possible, since another night's exposure in the
keen air of that elevated plain might very well prove fatal to a man in
Butler's terribly exhausted condition.

For the last hour of the pursuit the track had led over rising ground,
and it soon became pretty evident that the fugitive had been making his
uncertain way toward a gorge between two mountains, which had gradually
been opening out ahead of the pursuers.  Meanwhile the spoor had been
growing fresher with every stride of the cantering mules, showing that
the trackers were rapidly gaining upon the chase, and that the latter
was now in the very last stage of exhaustion, for the "forms" where he
had paused to rest were ever becoming more frequent and closer together.
The Indian, therefore, after attentively studying the last form which
was encountered, gave it as his opinion that the hunted man could not
now be more than a mile or two ahead, and suggested that Harry should
push straight on for the entrance of the gorge, in the hope of sighting
the fugitive and running him down, while he (Arima), with the led horse,
should continue to follow the trail, for if Butler should gain the gorge
before being overtaken, his pursuit over the rocky ground might be slow
and difficult.  Accordingly, Harry turned his mule slightly aside from
the trail, and made straight for a landmark indicated by the Indian,
pressing his beast forward at its best pace.  He had ridden thus about a
quarter of an hour, and was rapidly approaching the entrance of the
gorge, when he suddenly caught sight of a moving object ahead, winding
its way among a number of masses of granite outcrop; and urging his
exhausted mule to a final effort, Escombe presently had the satisfaction
of identifying the moving object as a man--a white man--attired in a few
tattered remnants of what had once been civilised clothing.  That the
man was Butler there could be no shadow of doubt, and a few strides
farther enabled Harry to recognise him.  As he did so, the stumbling,
staggering figure paused for a moment, glanced behind him, and saw that
he was pursued; whereupon he flung his arms above his head, emitted a
most horrible, eldritch scream, started to run forward again, staggered
a few paces, and fell forward prone upon the ground, where he lay
motionless.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

THE JEWEL.

Reining up his mule, Escombe at once glanced behind him to ascertain
whether Arima happened to be within sight.  Yes, there he was, about a
mile distant, pushing along at a trot and winding hither and thither, as
he persistently followed the erratic twistings and turnings of the
pursued man's spoor.  Harry therefore drew his revolver from his belt,
and, pointing the muzzle of the weapon upward, discharged two shots in
rapid succession to attract the Indian's attention, and then waved his
white pocket handkerchief in the air as a sign that the lost man had
been found, and that the pursuit was at an end.  The Indian immediately
uttered a peculiar shrill whoop by way of reply, and turned his beast's
head directly toward the spot where the young Englishman could be seen
sitting motionless in his saddle; whereupon Harry at once sprang to the
ground and, throwing his mule's bridle upon the grass--a sign which the
animal had been trained to obey by standing perfectly still--rushed
toward the prostrate figure, and, turning it gently over, raised it to a
sitting posture, passing his arm round the neck as a support to the
drooping head.

Yes, the man was Butler, there could be no doubt about that; but oh!
what a dreadful change had been wrought by those few days of flight and
exposure!  Butler had always been a man of somewhat spare build, but now
he was emaciated to an extent almost past belief--his cheeks were so
hollow that it seemed as though an incautiously rough touch would cause
the protruding cheek-bones to burst through the skin; his closed eyes
were sunk so deep in their sockets that the eyeballs appeared to have
dwindled to the size of small marbles; while the lips had contracted to
such an extent as to leave the tightly clenched teeth clearly visible,
the general effect being that of a grinning, fleshless skull with a
covering of shrivelled skin drawn tightly over it.  The once immaculate
suit of white clothing was now deeply soiled and stained by contact with
the earth and grass, and was a mere wrapping of scarcely recognisable
rags, the coat being missing altogether, while great rents in the
remaining garments revealed the protruding ribs and the shrunken limbs,
the colour of the yellowish-brown skin being almost completely obscured
by the latticing of long and deep blood-smeared scratches that mutely
told how desperately the man had fought his way through all obstacles in
his headlong, panic-stricken flight; his finger nails were broken and
ragged; his boots were cut and torn to pieces to such an extent that
they afforded scarcely any protection to his feet; and his once iron-
grey hair and moustache, as well as his short growth of stubbly beard,
were almost perfectly white.

With a quick slash of his knife Escombe severed the filthy wisp of silk
that had once been a smart necktie, as it had somehow become tightly
knotted round the unconscious man's throat, and then impatiently awaited
the coming of Arima, who was leading the horse on the saddle of which
were strapped the small supply of medical comforts which had been
brought along to meet just such a contingency as this; and a few minutes
later the Indian cantered up and, flinging himself from the back of his
mule, came forward to render assistance.

Bidding the man kneel down and support the unconscious Butler's head,
Harry sprang to the saddle bags and drew forth a flask of brandy, which
he held to the sick man's lips, allowing a few drops of the liquid to
find their way between the clenched teeth.  For fully ten minutes he
strove to coax a small quantity of the spirit down his chiefs throat,
and at length had the satisfaction of seeing that some at least had been
swallowed.  The almost immediate result of this was a groan and a
slight, spasmodic movement of the emaciated limbs; and presently, after
a few minutes of further persistent effort, Butler opened his eyes.

"Ah, that's better!" ejaculated the amateur physician with a sigh of
extreme satisfaction.  "You will soon be all right now, sir.  Let me
give you just another spoonful and you will feel like a new man.  No,
no, please don't keep your teeth clenched like that; open your mouth,
Mr Butler, and let me pour a little more down your throat.  Do
please,"--in a most insinuating tone of voice--"it will do you no end of
good.  Arima, take hold of his chin and see if you can force his lower
jaw open, but be as gentle as you can.  There, that's right!  Now then!"

With a deft touch and no apparent violence the Indian succeeded in
getting the locked jaws apart, and Escombe promptly availed himself of
the opportunity to pour about a tablespoonful of spirits into the
partially open mouth.  For a moment there was no result, then a cough
and a splutter on the part of the sick man showed that the potent elixir
was making its way down his throat, and, with another groan, the patient
made a feeble effort to struggle to his feet.  But the attempt was a
failure, the last particle of strength had already been spent, and,
sighing heavily, Butler subsided back upon the supporting arm of the
Indian, and lay staring vacantly at the rich sapphire sky that arched
above him.  Then Harry took him by the hand, and, calling him by name,
endeavoured to win some sign of recognition from him, but all in vain.
The utmost that he could accomplish was to extract from his patient a
few meaningless, incoherent mumblings, which conveyed nothing save the
fact that the speaker's mind was, at least for the moment, a perfect
blank.  At length, convinced that he could do no more until he had got
his patient settled in camp, he called upon Arima to help him, and
between the two they soon had the unfortunate man comfortably stretched
upon a blanket under the lee of an enormous granite rock, which would at
least partially shield him from the keen wind of the fast approaching
night.  Then, with the help of a few stout saplings cut from a clump of
bush close at hand, they contrived to rig a small, makeshift kind of
tent over the upper half of his body, as a further protection from the
cold, and lighted their camp fire close to his feet.  Then, while the
Indian, with gentle touch, cut away the soiled rags of clothing from the
wasted body and limbs, and swathed them in a waterproof rug, Escombe
unsaddled and hobbled the horse and mules, and turned them loose to
graze.  Next he unpacked the saddle bags and camp equipage, and
proceeded to prepare a small quantity of hot, nourishing soup, which,
with infinite difficulty, he at length induced his patient to swallow, a
few drops at a time; and finally, with a makeshift pillow beneath his
head, the invalid was gently laid down in a comfortable posture, when he
soon sank into a refreshing sleep.  The weary pair seized the
opportunity thus afforded them to attend to their own most pressing
needs; but neither of them closed their eyes in sleep that night, for
they had scarcely finished their supper when Butler awoke and again
demanded their most unremitting care and attention, as he evinced great
uneasiness and perturbation of mind which speedily developed into a
state of such violent delirium, that it was only with the utmost
difficulty the combined efforts of the pair were able to restrain him
from doing either himself or them some serious injury.

For more than forty hours did that dreadful delirium continue, the
patient being extraordinarily violent during almost the entire period;
then his unnatural strength suddenly collapsed, leaving him weak as an
infant and in an almost continuous state of lethargy, so profound that
it was with great difficulty that his two nurses were able to arouse him
sufficiently to administer small quantities of liquid nourishment.  It
was by this time evident, even to Harry's inexperienced eye, that
Butler's condition was desperate, even if not altogether hopeless, and
he consulted Arima as to the possibility of procuring the services of a
qualified physician; but the Indian had no encouragement to offer.
Cerro de Pasco, the nearest town in which one might hope to find a
doctor, was some fifty miles distant, as the crow flies, but the
difficulties of the way were such that, using the utmost expedition, it
would take a messenger at least four days to reach the place, and as
many to return--assuming that the messenger were fortunate enough to
find a doctor who could be persuaded to set out forthwith--by which
time, Harry knew instinctively, the patient would be long past all human
aid.  Besides, there was no messenger to send, save Arima; and, in view
of the possible recurrence of delirium, the lad felt that he would not
be justified in sending the Indian away.  While the two were still
engaged in debating the question of what was best to be done under the
distressing circumstances, Butler ended the difficulty by quietly
breathing his last, crossing the borderland between life and death
without a struggle, and without recovering consciousness.  Indeed so
perfectly quiet and peaceful was the end that it was some time before
young Escombe could convince himself that his chief was really dead; but
when at length there could no longer be any question as to the fact, the
body was at once wrapped in the waterproof sheet which had formed a
makeshift tent for the shelter of the sick man, and packed, with as much
reverence as the circumstances would allow, upon the deceased man's
horse, for conveyance back to camp for interment, the pair having with
them no implements wherewith to dig a grave.  Moreover, Harry considered
that, taking the somewhat peculiar circumstances of the case into
consideration, it was very desirable that the body should be seen and
identified by the other members of the survey party before burial took
place.

This event occurred on the evening of the third day after death, Escombe
himself reading the burial service; and he afterwards fashioned with his
own hands, and placed at the head of the grave, a wooden cross, upon
which he roughly but deeply cut with his pocket knife the name of the
dead man and the date of his death.  He also, as a matter of precaution,
took a very careful set of astronomical observations for the
determination of the exact position of the grave, recording the result
in his diary at the end of the long entry detailing all the
circumstances connected with the sad event.

Escombe now suddenly found his young shoulders burdened with a heavy
load of responsibility, for not only did Butler's death leave the lad in
sole charge of the survey party, with the task of carrying on unaided
the exceedingly important work upon which that party was engaged, until
assistance could be sent out to him from England; but it also became his
immediate duty to report all the circumstances of the death of his
leader to the British Consul at Lima--who would doubtless put in motion
the necessary machinery for the capture and punishment of the men who
were responsible for the events which had brought about Butler's death--
and also to Sir Philip Swinburne, who would, of course, in turn,
communicate the sad intelligence to the deceased man's family.  And
there were also all Butler's private effects to be packed up and sent
home forthwith.

Yet, taking everything into consideration, the death of his chief was a
relief rather than otherwise to the lad, unfeeling though the statement
may appear at the first blush.  Butler was a man for whom it was quite
impossible for anyone to acquire a friendly feeling; Harry therefore
felt that when he had committed his chief's body to the earth with as
much respectful observance as the circumstances permitted, had carefully
and scrupulously collected together and dispatched to England all the
dead man's personal belongings, and had taken such steps as were
possible for the capture and punishment of the men who were primarily
responsible for Butler's death, he had done everything that a strict
sense of duty claimed from him, and was not called upon to feign and
outwardly manifest a sorrow which had no place in his heart.  Besides,
he was now the responsible head of the survey party; upon him depended--
for at least the next three months--the conduct of an important and
highly scientific operation; and upon the manner in which he conducted
it depended very serious issues involving the expenditure of exceedingly
large sums of money.  This was his opportunity to demonstrate to all
concerned the stuff of which he was made; it was an opportunity so
splendid that many a young fellow of his age would cheerfully give half
a dozen years of his life to obtain such another; for Harry fully
realised that if he could carry his task to a successful conclusion his
fortune, from the professional point of view, was made.  And he felt
that he could--ay, and would--do this.  The experience which he had
already gained since his arrival in Peru had been of inestimable value
to him, and he had made the very utmost of it; he therefore felt
confident of his ability to carry through his task to the satisfaction
of his employers and with credit to himself, and he entered upon it with
avidity and keen enjoyment.  Moreover, he was tactful, and possessed the
happy knack of managing those under him in such a way that he was able
to extract the very last ounce of work from them without offending their
susceptibilities, or causing them to feel that he was making undue
demands upon them.

Under these circumstances, and with the perpetual galling irritation of
Butler's presence and influence removed, the survey made rapid and very
satisfactory progress, the party arriving at Cerro de Pasco in a trifle
under six weeks from the date of Butler's death, thus completing the
second section of the survey.  The third section was very much longer
and more difficult in every respect than either of the two completed,
since it extended from Nanucaca--already connected by rail with Cerro de
Pasco--along the shore of Lake Chinchaycocha to Ayacucho and Cuzco, and
thence on to Santa Rosa, the distance being some four hundred and
seventy miles as the crow flies, while the difficulties of the route
might possibly increase that distance by nearly one-third.  But Escombe
was by no means dismayed by the formidable character of the obstacles
that lay before him; he had come to realise that, to the man who would
achieve success, obstacles exist only that they may be overcome, and he
was gaining experience daily in the overcoming of obstacles.  He
therefore attacked this third and very formidable section, not only
without any anxiety or fear, but with a keen zest that instantly
communicated itself to his little band of followers, welding them
together into a perfectly harmonious, smooth-working whole.

It must not be thought, however, that Escombe allowed himself to become
so completely absorbed in his work that he could think of nothing else.
On the contrary, he understood perfectly the meaning of the word
"recreation" and the value of the thing itself.  He knew that no man can
work for ever without wearing himself out, and he looked upon recreation
as--what its name implied--a re-creation or rebuilding of those forces,
mental and physical, which labour wears away, and valued it accordingly,
taking it whenever he felt that he really needed it, even as he took
food or medicine.

Now it chanced that fishing was one of Escombe's favourite recreations;
and no sooner had he started the third section of the survey--which
began by skirting the eastern shore of Lake Chinchaycocha--than he made
a practice of indulging in an hour or two's fishing whenever the
opportunity offered.  It was this practice that led to an occurrence
which was destined to culminate in an adventure so startling and
extraordinary as to be scarcely credible in these prosaic twentieth-
century days.

It happened on a Saturday afternoon.

On the day in question, the survey party being then encamped on the
shore of Lake Chinchaycocha, as soon as he had squared up his week's
work, and snatched a hasty luncheon, the young Englishman brought forth
his fishing tackle, and, getting aboard a balsa, or light raft, which
Arima had constructed for him, proceeded to paddle some distance out
from the shore to a spot which he had already ascertained afforded him a
fair prospect of sport.  Arrived there he dropped his keeleg--a large
stone serving the purpose of an anchor--overboard and settled down
comfortably to enjoy his favourite pastime, and also provide an
exceedingly welcome addition to the somewhat monotonous fare of camp
life.

The sport that afternoon was not so good as Harry had expected, and it
was drawing well on toward evening before the fish began to bite at all
freely--he was trying especially for a certain particularly delicious
kind of fish, something between a trout and a mullet, which was only to
be captured by allowing the hook to rest at the very bottom of the lake.
Suddenly he felt a smart tug at his line and at once began to haul it
in, but he had scarcely got it fairly taut when the tremulous jerk which
denoted the presence of a fish at the other end was exchanged for a
steady strain, and it soon became perfectly evident that the hook had
become entangled in something at the bottom.  Now Escombe's stock of
fishing tackle was of exceedingly modest proportions, so much so,
indeed, that the loss of even a solitary hook was a matter not to be
contemplated with indifference, therefore he brought all his skill to
bear upon the delicate task of releasing the hook from its entanglement.

But at the end of half an hour he was no nearer to success than at the
beginning of his endeavours, while the sun was within a hand's breadth
of the horizon, and he had no fancy for being caught by the darkness
while on the lake, therefore he adopted other tactics, and strove to
bring the object, whatever it might be, to the surface by means of a
steady yet not dangerously powerful strain.  Ah, that was better!  At
the very first tug Escombe felt the resistance yield by the merest
hairs-breadth, and presently a faint jerk told him that he had gained
another fraction of an inch, which success was repeated every few
seconds until he was able to lift and drop the line a clear foot.  Then
the sun's lower limb touched and rested for an instant upon the ridge of
the Western Cordilleras before it began to sink behind them, and Harry
realised that the moment for energetic measures had arrived; for he was
a good two miles from the shore, and it would take him the best part of
an hour to paddle his clumsy craft that distance.  Therefore he steadily
increased the strain upon his line, determined to release himself one
way or another, even though at the cost of a hook.  But it proved
unnecessary for him to make so great a sacrifice, it was the unknown
object that yielded, with little momentary jerks and an ever decreasing
resistance until it finally let go its hold of the bottom altogether and
came to the surface securely entangled with the hook.  Upon its
emergence from the water Harry gazed at his catch in astonishment; he
had expected to see the water-logged branch of a tree, a bunch of weed,
or something of that sort, but as it dangled, dripping with sandy ooze
in the last rays of the setting sun, certain ruddy-yellow gleams that
flashed from it told its finder that he had fished up something metallic
from the bottom of the lake.  The next moment Escombe was busily engaged
in disentangling his find from the fish hook, but long ere he had
succeeded in doing so the young man had made the interesting discovery
that he had been fortunate enough to retrieve a most remarkable jewel,
in the form of a gold and emerald collar, from the depths of the lake.
Methodical even in the midst of his excitement at having made so
valuable a find, the young Englishman carefully disentangled his hook
and line from the jewel, neatly wound up the former, and then proceeded
patiently to wash away from the latter the ooze with which it was
thickly coated, having done which he found himself in possession of an
ornament so massive in material and so elaborate and unique in
workmanship that he felt certain it must be worth quite a little fortune
to any curio collector.  It was, or appeared to be, a collar or
necklace, a trifle over two feet in length, the ends united by a massive
ring supporting a medallion.  The links, so to speak, of the necklace
consisted of twelve magnificent emeralds, each engraved upon one side
with certain cabalistic characters, the meaning of which Escombe could
not guess at, and upon the other with a symbol which was easily
identifiable as that of the sun; these emeralds were massively set--
framed would be almost the more appropriate word--in most elaborately
sculptured gold, and joined together by heavy gold links also very
elaborately cut.  The pendant was likewise composed of a superb emerald
of fully three inches diameter set in a gold frame, chiselled to
represent the rays of the sun, the emerald itself being engraved with
the representation of a human face, which, oddly enough, Harry
recognised, even at the first glance, to be extraordinarily,
astoundingly like his own.  This was a find worth having, the young man
told himself, and might prove worth several hundreds of pounds if
judiciously advertised and offered for sale at Christie's upon his
return home; for safety's sake, therefore, he put it round his neck,
tucking it inside his shirt, snugly out of sight, and, heaving up his
keeleg, proceeded to paddle thoughtfully back to the shore.

It was some three months after this occurrence--and in the interim young
Escombe had pushed forward the survey so rapidly, despite all
difficulties, that he had covered more than half the distance between
Nanucaca and Ayacucho--when, as he returned to camp at the end of his
day's work, he observed two strange mules tethered near his tent; and
presently a stranger emerged from the tent and advanced toward him.  The
stranger, although deeply tanned by the sun, was unmistakably an
Englishman, some twenty-eight years of age, rather above middle height,
and with a pleasant though resolute expression stamped upon his good--
looking features.  Approaching Harry, he held out his hand and smilingly
remarked:

"Mr Escombe, I presume.  My name is Bannister--John Bannister--and I
come from Sir Philip Swinburne to act as your colleague in the
completion of the survey upon which you are engaged.  These,"--producing
a packet of papers--"are my credentials.  Grand country this,"--casting
an admiring glance at the magnificent scenery amid which the camp was
pitched--"but, my word, you must have had some tough bits of work, even
before reaching this spot."

"You are right, we have," answered Harry as he cordially returned
Bannister's grasp.  "I am right glad to see you, and to bid you welcome
to our camp, for I have been pretty badly in want of intelligent help
lately.  These fellows,"--indicating the native helpers who were now
scattered about the camp busily preparing for the evening meal--"are all
well enough in their way, and since poor Butler's death I have managed
to drill them into something like decent, useful shape; but I have often
been badly hampered for the want of another surveyor who could work with
me in surmounting some of the especially bad places.  Now that you have
come we shall be able to get ahead nearly twice as fast.  I suppose you
came out by the last mail, eh?  And how are things going in the dear old
country?"

Harry led the new arrival into his tent, and proceeded forthwith to
discard his working clothes and divest himself of the stains of his
day's toil as he chatted animatedly, asking questions for the most part,
as is the wont of the old hand--and Escombe had by this time grown to
quite regard himself as such--when he foregathers with somebody fresh
from "home".  Bannister, having arrived at the camp pretty early in the
afternoon, had already bathed and changed; he therefore had nothing to
do but to sit still and answer Harry's questions, jerking in one or two
himself occasionally, until the younger man's toilet was completed, when
they sat down to dinner together.  By the time that the meal was over
each felt perfectly satisfied that he would be able to get on well with
the other, and was looking forward to a quite pleasant time up there
among the stupendous mountains.

Upon first seeing Bannister, and learning that he had come out from Sir
Philip, Harry naturally thought that the new arrival had been dispatched
to fill the position of chief of the survey party, rendered vacant by
the death of the unfortunate Butler; but upon opening the credentials
which Bannister had presented, he found that it was actually as the
bearer had stated, that he and Harry were to act as colleagues, not as
chief and subordinate, in the completion of the survey, thus making the
pair jointly responsible for the work, while they would share equally
the credit upon its completion.  They spent an exceedingly pleasant
evening together, chatting mostly over the work that still lay before
them, Harry producing his plans and explaining what had already been
done, while Bannister sat listening gravely to the recital of sundry
hairbreadth escapes from death in the execution of duty, and of the
manner in which a few of the more than ordinarily difficult bits of work
had been accomplished; and when the pair again sat chatting together,
twenty-four hours later, at the end of their first day together, each
felt absolutely satisfied with the comrade with which fortune had
brought him into touch.  Under these agreeable circumstances the survey
progressed with greater rapidity than ever, the two Englishmen
conquering obstacle after obstacle, and meeting with plenty of thrilling
adventures in the process, until in the fullness of time they reached
first Ayacucho and then Cuzco, when the worst of their troubles were
over.  For there was a road--of sorts--between the ancient capital and
Santa Rosa, and the two Englishmen, after riding over it in company,
agreed that, for a considerable part of the way at least, the best route
for a railway would be found contiguous to the highroad, by following
which the surveyors would derive many substantial advantages, in
addition to finding a comparatively easy route to survey.



CHAPTER EIGHT.

THE ABDUCTION.

The survey party had traversed about half the distance between Cuzco and
Santa Rosa when the two Englishmen, following their invariable custom of
indulging in a swim as often as opportunity afforded, made their way, at
the end of a hard day's work, to a most romantic spot which they had
encountered.  Here a small stream, flowing through a rocky gorge, fell
over a granite ledge on to a large flat slab of rock some nine feet
below, from which in turn it poured into a noble basin almost perfectly
circular in shape, about twenty feet deep, and nearly or quite a hundred
feet in diameter, ere it continued its course down the ravine.  To stand
on the slab of rock beneath the fall was to enjoy an ideal shower bath;
and to dive from that same slab into the deep, pellucid pool and
thereafter swim across the pool and back three or four times was a
luxury worth riding several miles to enjoy; small wonder, therefore, was
it that the two Englishmen resolved to make the most of their
opportunity, and continue to use this perfect natural swimming bath so
long as their work kept them within reach of it.

The camp was situated some two miles back from the pool, the bathers
therefore, fatigued with a long day's work, decided to ride to and from
the spot, instead of walking, and Arima, the Indian--who had by this
time constituted himself Escombe's especial henchman--was directed to
accompany them to look after the horses while the riders were enjoying
their dip.

Arrived at the pool, the two friends dismounted and proceeded to undress
on a small space of rich, lush grass in close proximity to the basin,
the Indian meanwhile squatting upon his heels and holding the horses'
bridles while the animals eagerly grazed.

Now, Arima's devotion to Harry, originating at the time when the two had
made their memorable journey together to Mama Cachama's cave, and very
greatly strengthened during the adventurous hunt for the missing Butler,
had steadily developed until it had become almost if not quite as strong
as that of a parent for an idolised child.  The Indian could not bear
his young master to be out of his sight for a moment, and was always
most unhappy whenever the exigencies of work necessitated a separation
of the two.  He had been known to resort to the most extraordinary
devices to prevent such an occurrence, and when the two were together
Arima never allowed his gaze to wander for a moment from his master's
form if he could help it.  Yet, singularly enough, it was not until this
particular evening that the Indian had become aware of Escombe's
possession of the jewel so strangely fished up from the depths of Lake
Chinchaycocha, or had ever caught sight of it.  But he saw it now, as
Escombe undressed at a few yards' distance, the light falling strongly
upon the dull red gold and the emeralds, as the lad carefully removed it
from his neck and laid it upon the top of his clothes ere he rushed,
with a joyous shout, and placed himself immediately beneath the foaming
water of the fall.  The sight appeared to arouse a feeling of very
powerful curiosity in the breast of the Indian, for it was only with the
utmost difficulty that he contrived to retain his attitude of passivity
until the more deliberately moving Bannister had joined his friend upon
the slab beneath the fall; but no sooner had this happened than,
abandoning the horses to their own devices, Arima crept cautiously
forward until he reached Escombe's heap of clothing, and, availing
himself of the preoccupation of the bathers, took the jewel in his hand
and examined it with the most rapt attention and care.  For a space of
nearly five minutes he continued his examination, after which he slowly
and thoughtfully made his way back to the horses, which were too busily
feeding upon the luscious grass to stray far.  For the remainder of the
evening the Indian seemed to be plunged in a state of meditation so
profound as to be quite oblivious of all outward things save his young
master, his conduct toward whom was marked by a new and yet subtle
attitude of almost worshipping reverence.  But when the hands were
mustered for work on the following morning, Arima was nowhere to be
found; he had vanished some time during the night, saying nothing to
anyone, and leaving no trace behind.

Harry was very much upset at this sudden and inexplicable disappearance
of the servant who, in a thousand little unobtrusive ways, had
ministered so effectually to his comfort that his loss was at once felt
as a serious misfortune, and he devoted two whole days to a search for
the missing man, fearing that the fellow had strayed away from the camp
and that something untoward had befallen him.  But the search was quite
unavailing, and on the third day it was abandoned, the only conclusion
at which Escombe could arrive being that the Indian had deserted under
the influence of pique at some unintentional affront and gone back to
his own people.

It was some two months later--by which time the party was drawing near
to Santa Rosa, and the great railway survey was approaching completion--
that in the dead of a dark and starless night three Indians stealthily
approached the surveyors' camp and, having first reconnoitred the ground
as carefully as the pitch darkness would permit, made their way,
noiseless as shadows, to the tent occupied by young Escombe.  The
leading Indian was Arima, the two who followed were very old men, their
scanty locks, white as snow, hanging to their shoulders, their ascetic,
clean-cut features sharp and shrunken, yet they carried themselves as
upright as though they had been in the heyday of youth, and their sunken
eyes glowed and sparkled with undiminished fire.  They wore sleeveless
shirts of pure white, finely woven of vicuna wool, reaching to the knee,
the opening at the throat and arms, and also the hem of the garment,
being richly ornamented with embroidery in heavy gold thread.  This
garment was confined at the waist by a massive belt of solid gold
composed of square placques hinged together, and each elaborately
sculptured with conventional representations of the sun.  Over this was
worn a long cloak, dyed blue, also woven of vicuna wool, but without
ornament of any description.  Their heads were bare, and the lobe of
each ear was pierced and distended to receive a gold medallion nearly
four inches in diameter, also heavily sculptured with a representation
of the sun.  Their legs were bare, but each wore sandals bound to the
feet and ankles by thongs of leather.  To judge from the travel-stained
appearance of their garments they must have come a considerable
distance, and have been exposed to many vicissitudes of weather.

Entering Escombe's tent, which was dimly lighted by a hanging lamp
turned low, Arima noiselessly moved aside and silently, with
outstretched hand, indicated to his two companions the form of the
sleeping lad, who lay stretched at length upon his camp bed, breathing
the long, deep breath of profound slumber.  Nodding silently, one of the
two withdrew from a pouch which hung suspended from his belt a soft
cloth and a small phial.  Extracting the stopper from the latter, he
emptied the contents of the phial upon the cloth, which he then very
gradually approached to the nostrils of the sleeper until it was within
an inch of them.  He held the cloth thus for about five minutes,
allowing the fumes of the liquid to enter the sleeper's nostrils, while
his companion very gently laid his fingers upon the pulse of Escombe's
right hand, which happened to be lying outside the coverlet.  At length
the second Indian--he who held Harry's wrist--nodded to the first,
saying, in a low voice, in the ancient Quichua language: "It is enough;
nothing will now awaken him,"--whereupon the holder of the cloth
returned it and the phial to his pouch and stepped back from the side of
the bed.  Then, turning to Arima, he said, in the same language:

"Say you, Arima, that this youth always wears the collar upon his
person, night and day?"

"Even so, Lord," answered Arima.  "At least," he modified his statement,
"so I surmise; for I have never seen the jewel save the once whereof I
told you, and again on that same night when I stole into his tent while
he slept, and found that he was wearing it then.  Whereupon I hastened
to you with my momentous news."

"You have done well, friend," answered the first speaker.  "Should all
prove to be as you say, you shall be richly rewarded.  And now,"--he
caught his breath with sudden excitement--"to settle the question."
Then, turning to his companion, he said:

"Approach, brother, and look with me.  It is meet that we should both
gaze upon the sacred emblem--if so it should prove--at the self-same
moment."  He signed to Arima, who turned up the flame of the lamp,
whereupon the two Inca priests--for such the strangers actually were--
bent over Escombe's sleeping figure, one on each side of the bed, and
while one drew down the coverlet the other unbuttoned the lad's sleeping
jacket, exposing to view the jewel which he had fished up from Lake
Chinchaycocha, and which, for safety, he always wore round his neck.

Eagerly the two priests bent down and scrutinised the magnificent
ornament as it lay upon the gently heaving breast of the sleeper; and as
their eyes hungrily took in the several peculiarities of the jewel a
thrill of excitement visibly swept over them.  Finally, he who appeared
to be the elder of the two said to the other:

"There can scarcely be a doubt that Arima's surmise is correct;
nevertheless, brother, pass your hand beneath the young man's shoulder
and raise him slightly that I may remove the collar and examine it."

The priest addressed at once obeyed the request of the other, who
thereupon gently passed the ornament over the sleeper's head and, taking
it immediately beneath the lamp, proceeded to examine every part of it
with the closest scrutiny, his companion allowing Escombe's limp body to
subside back on the pillow before he, too, joined in the inspection.
Every link, almost every mark of the chisel, was subjected to the most
careful examination, and apparently certain of the engraved marks were
recognised as bearing a definite meaning; for on more than one occasion
the elder of the two priests pointed to such a mark, saying, "Behold,
Motahuana, here is, unmistakably, the secret sign," while the other
would nod his head solemnly and respond, "Even so, Tiahuana; I see it."
Finally he who had been addressed by the other as Tiahuana turned the
jewel over in his hand and examined the back of it.  His gaze instantly
fell upon the cabalistic characters engraved upon the backs of the
emeralds, which had puzzled Escombe, and, laying the jewel gently down
upon the bed, he prostrated himself before it, Motahuana immediately
following his example, as also did Arima.

For a space of some three or four minutes the trio appeared to be
absorbed in some act of silent devotion, then Tiahuana rose to his feet
and fixed his gaze on the jewel which lay upon the coverlet of Escombe's
bed.  Meditatively his eyes rested upon the great emerald pendant with
its engraved representation of a human face, and from thence they
wandered to the calm features of the sleeping lad.  Suddenly he started,
and his gaze became alert, almost startled.  He bent down and
scrutinised the engraved features intently, then quickly diverted his
gaze to those on the pillow.  Was it some trick of light, he asked
himself, or were the two sets of features identical?

"Look, Motahuana, look!" he whispered in tense accents; "see you the
resemblance?  I have but observed it this instant.  Nay, man, you can
scarcely see it from where you stand, for that side of his face is in
shadow.  Come to this side of the couch--or, stay, I will move the
lamp."

He did so, holding the lamp so that its light fell full upon the
sleeper's face, while with the other hand he rearranged the collar so
that the pendant lay upright upon Escombe's breast.  In this position,
and in the stronger light, the likeness was even more startlingly
striking than before, and for two long minutes the aged pair bent
intently over the object of their scrutiny with an ever-growing
expression of wonder and awe upon their attenuated features.

"Well, brother," at length demanded Tiahuana, somewhat sharply, "see you
what I mean, or is it merely my fancy--a figment of my over-heated
imagination?"

"Nay, Lord," answered Motahuana in an awestruck whisper, "it is no
figment, no fancy; the likeness is wonderful, marvellous, perfect; the
features are identical, curve for curve and line for line, save that
those engraved on the emerald bear the impress of a few more years of
life.  That, however, is immaterial, and in no wise affects the fact
that in this sleeping youth we behold the reincarnation of him who first
wore the sacred jewel, the lord and father of our people, Manco Capac!"

"Even so; you say truly, Motahuana," agreed Tiahuana in tones of
exultation.  "The revelation is complete and indisputable past all
doubt; the mighty Manco Capac has returned to earth from his home among
the stars, and soon now shall Peru resume its former glorious position
as the greatest and most powerful nation in the world.  It is true that
the great Manco returns to us in the guise of a young Englishman, for
which circumstance I was scarcely prepared; but what of that?  It is
better so; for England is to-day the wisest and most mighty nation on
the face of the earth, and doubtless the Inca brings with with him a
rich store of the knowledge of England.  Come, there is no occasion for
further delay; let us be going, for we must be far hence and beyond the
reach of pursuit ere our father the Sun awakens his children and
discloses the fact of our Lord's disappearance.  Go thou, Arima, and
summon hither the litter bearers and the others."

In a perfect ecstasy of pride and delight that it should have fallen to
his lot to become the humble instrument whereby had been made known to
his people the glorious fact of the great Inca's reincarnation in the
person of Escombe--as he never for a moment doubted was the case--Arima
hurried out to where the remainder of the party lay patiently in ambush,
briefly announced to them that all was well, and bade them follow him in
perfect silence to the tent in which Harry still lay plunged in a
deathlike yet quite harmless sleep.  The litter--a light but strong
structure, framed of bamboos and covered with vicuna cloth, so arranged
that it could be completely closed--was carried right into the tent, the
covering thrown back, and Escombe was lifted, on his mattress and still
covered with the bedclothes, off the little iron camp bedstead and
carefully placed in the litter, the jewel was replaced about his neck,
the pillow under his head was comfortably arranged by Arima, the litter
was closed, and then a little procession, consisting of the litter and
its four bearers, with the eight other men who acted as reliefs, headed
by the two priests, filed silently out into the darkness, leaving Arima,
with six men, armed to the teeth with bows and arrows--the latter tipped
with copper--lances of hardwood sharpened by fire, and short swords, the
copper blades of which were hardened and tempered almost to the
consistency of steel by a process known only to the Peruvians
themselves.  The duty of these men was to collect together and pack,
under Arima's supervision, the whole of Escombe's private and personal
belongings; and this they did with such expedition that, in less than
half an hour from the involuntary departure of its owner, the tent was
almost entirely stripped of its contents and left deserted.

Under the anaesthetic influence of the vapour which he had unconsciously
inhaled, Escombe continued to sleep soundly until close upon midday, by
which time the effect had almost entirely passed off, and he began to
awake very gradually to the consciousness that something very much out
of the ordinary course of things was happening.  The first thing to
impress itself upon his slowly awakening senses was the fact that the
bed upon which he was lying was in motion, a gentle, easy, rhythmic,
swaying motion, unlike any movement that he had ever before experienced.
Yet the bed seemed to be the same as that upon which he had retired to
rest upon the preceding night, so far as he could judge; the mattress
had the old familiar feel, and--yes, certainly, he was still under the
shelter of the bedclothes, and his head still rested upon the familiar
pillow--he could feel the lumps in it where the flock filling had become
matted together.  But why the mysterious motion?  Could it be that he
was experiencing for the first time the effects of a Peruvian
earthquake?  Slowly and reluctantly he opened his eyes, and saw that his
bed was indeed the same, yet with a certain difference, the precise
nature of which he was at first unable to define.  But presently he saw
that the bed or couch upon which he was lying was closely encompassed by
a soft blanket-like cloth, tightly strained over a light bamboo
framework, forming a sort of canopy.  And the motion?  He was by this
time sufficiently awake to understand that it was real; nor was it due
to earthquake, as he had at first been inclined to think it might be;
no, it was the regular, rhythmic movement of men marching and keeping
step; he was being carried!

With a rush his senses came fully back to him, and he started up into a
sitting posture.  It was high time for him to get to the bottom of this
mystery, he told himself.  He saw that midway in their length the side
curtains which enclosed him were divided and overlapped, and, stretching
out his hand, he wrenched them apart, at the same time, in his
forgetfulness, calling loudly for Arima.

In an instant the Indian was by the side of the litter and peering in
through the opening between the parted curtains, to his masters intense
astonishment.

"You called, Senor--my Lord, I mean?" exclaimed the man submissively.

"I did!" answered Escombe incisively.  "What has happened, Arima?  Where
have you been?  Where am I?  Why am I being carried off in this
outrageous manner?  Answer me quickly."

"My Lord," answered the Indian deprecatingly, "I implore you not to be
disturbed or alarmed in the least.  We are all your slaves, and are
prepared to lay down our lives in your service.  No harm is intended
you; but it is necessary that you accompany us to the place whither we
are going.  Here is my Lord Tiahuana.  He will perhaps explain further."

Meanwhile, during this brief colloquy, the cortege had come to a halt,
and now the elder of the two priests presented himself as Arima retired,
and, with a profound obeisance, said:

"Let my Lord pardon his servants, and let not his anger be kindled
against them.  What we have done has been done of necessity and because
there seemed to be no other way.  But my Lord need have no fear that
evil is meditated against him; on the contrary, a position of great
power and glory will be his at the end of his journey; and meanwhile
every possible provision has been made for the comfort and wellbeing of
my Lord during his passage through the mountains."

"But--but--I don't understand," stammered Harry.  "Who are you, why do
you address me as Lord, and what do you mean by talking about a passage
through the mountains?  There is a ridiculous mistake."

"Nay, Lord, be assured that there is no mistake," answered Tiahuana
impressively.  "The matter has been most carefully investigated, and the
fact has been conclusively established that my Lord is he whom we want.
The jewel which my Lord even now wears about his neck proves it.
Further than that--"

"The jewel that I am wearing about my neck--this thing?" exclaimed
Harry, drawing it forth.  "Why, man, I fished this up from the bottom of
Lake Chinchaycocha, and am simply wearing it because it appeared
valuable and I did not wish to lose it."

"Even so, Lord," answered Tiahuana soothingly, and with even increased
reverence, if that were possible.  "The circumstance that my Lord drew
the collar of the great Manco Capac from the depths of Chinchaycocha is
but an added proof--if such were needed--that my Lord is he whom we have
believed him to be, and that no mistake has been made."

"But, my good man, I tell you that a mistake _has_ been made--a very
stupid mistake--which I must insist that you rectify at once," exclaimed
Escombe, who was beginning to grow a trifle exasperated at what he
inwardly termed the fellow's stupid persistence.  "Look here," he
continued, "I don't in the least know whom you suppose me to be, but I
will tell you who I am.  My name is Escombe--Henry Escombe.  I am an
Englishman, and I only came to Peru--"

"My Lord," interposed Tiahuana with deep humility, yet with a certain
inflection of firmness in his voice, "all that you would say is
perfectly well known to us your servants; it has been told to us by the
man Arima.  But nothing can alter the fact that my Lord is the man
referred to in the prophecy pronounced by the great High Priest
Titucocha on the awful night when the Inca Atahuallpa was strangled by
the Spaniards in the great square of Caxamalca.  From that moment the
ancient Peruvian people have looked for the coming of my lord to free
them from the yoke of the foreign oppressor, to give them back their
country, and to restore them to the proud position which they occupied
ere the coming of the cruel Spaniard; and now that my lord has deigned
to appear we should be foolish indeed to permit anything--anything,
Lord--to stand in the way of the realisation of our long-deferred
hopes."

Harry began to realise that the misunderstanding was more serious than
he had at first thought.  It must be put right without any further
delay.  But he could not sit there in that ridiculous palankeen affair
and argue with a man who stood with his head thrust between the
curtains; he must get up and dress.  Moreover, he was ravenously hungry,
and felt certain that the breakfast hour must have long gone past.  So,
instead of replying to Tiahuana's last remarks, he simply said: "Send
Arima to me."

The old priest instantly withdrew, and in his place appeared Arima
again, who had been standing within earshot, quite expecting a summons
at any moment.

"Behold, I am here, Lord," remarked the Indian with a deep obeisance.
"What is my Lord's will with the least of his servants?"

"My will," answered Harry, "is to dress and have breakfast at once.
When you and your friends kidnapped me last night, did you by any chance
have the sense to bring my clothes along?"

"We have brought everything with us, Lord," answered Arima.  "Nothing
that I know to be my Lord's property has been left behind."

"Um!" thought Harry, "the beggar has been altogether too faithful for my
liking.  He has brought everything of mine, has he?  That means that if
I cannot persuade these idiots to take me back to the camp, and it
becomes necessary for me to make my escape, I shall have to go off with
just what I stand up in, leaving the rest of my belongings in their
hands!"  Aloud he said: "Very well, then please bring me the clothes
that I wore while at work yesterday."

With breathless haste the clothes required were brought forth from a
bundle into which they had been hastily thrust, and presented to their
owner; the litter was gently deposited upon the ground, and Harry,
lightly clad in his pyjama suit, scrambled out, to find himself in the
midst of an extensive pine wood, with his escort, consisting of twenty-
one persons all told, prostrate on their faces around him!  Evidently,
he told himself, he was a personage of such dignity and consequence that
he must not be looked at by profane eyes while dressing.  Smiling to
himself at the absurdity of the whole adventure, he quickly proceeded
with his toilet, obsequiously assisted by the faithful Arima; and when
at length he was dressed, a word from Arima caused the escort to rise to
their feet.  Then, while some of them proceeded to gather branches and
light a fire, others set to work to open certain bundles from which they
rapidly extracted bread, chocolate, sugar, and, in short, all the
ingredients required to furnish forth an appetising and satisfying
breakfast.  Finally, about half an hour later, the young Englishman, in
a frame of mind about equally divided between annoyance at his abduction
and amazement at the unaccountable behaviour of his abductors, found
himself partaking of the said breakfast, presented to him in a service
of solid gold of curious but most elaborate design and workmanship, and
waited upon by his entire suite with as much ceremony and obsequiousness
as though he were a king.



CHAPTER NINE.

TIAHUANA TELLS A STRANGE STORY.

Escombe's appetite was good, the food delicious, the cooking perfection,
the service irreproachable, if somewhat elaborate.  It is not to be
wondered at, therefore, that the young man made an excellent meal, and
that at its conclusion he should feel himself in admirable form for
tackling his captors upon the subject of their outrageous abduction of
him.  Therefore, after performing his post-prandial ablutions in a basin
of solid gold, held before him by a kneeling man, and drying himself
upon an immaculate towel woven of cotton which was a perfect miracle of
absorbent softness, tendered to him by another kneeling man, he
resolutely seated himself upon a moss-grown rock which happened to
conveniently protrude itself from the soil close at hand, and proceeded
to deal with the matter.  He had no difficulty in recognising that
Tiahuana and Motahuana were the two wielders of authority in his
escort--which, by the way, he noticed had a persistent trick of
arranging itself about him in a tolerably close circle of which he was
the centre--he therefore opened the proceedings by remarking:

"Now, before I go another step I insist upon having a full and explicit
explanation of your unwarrantable behaviour in entering my camp last
night and abducting me, to the serious detriment of the exceedingly
important work upon which I am engaged.  You have assured me that I have
nothing to fear at your hands, and you appear to be quite satisfied that
in abducting me you have got the man you want; but I am as far as ever
from understanding what your motive can be.  Which of you two men is
responsible for the outrage?"

"I am the responsible one, Lord," answered Tiahuana.  "I, the high
priest of the remnant of the ancient Peruvian race, now and for many
long years established in the city of the Sun which, unknown to any but
ourselves, lies hidden far away among the mountains.  You demand an
explanation of what you have termed my unwarrantable action in taking
possession of your august person.  It is a just and reasonable demand,
Lord; moreover, it is necessary that you should have it.  Therefore, let
my Lord deign to listen to what to him may seem a wild and incredible
story, but which is strictly true in every particular.

"When in the dim and remote past our Lord and Father the Sun took
compassion upon us his people, he sent two of his children--Manco Capac
and Mama Oello Huaco--to earth in order that they might form us into a
united and consolidated nation.  These two established themselves in a
certain spot, the locality of which had been divinely revealed to them
by a certain sign--even as your identity, Lord, has been revealed to us;
and our forefathers gathering about them, the ancient and royal city of
Cuzco was built, wherein Manco Capac took up his abode as our first
Inca.  Now, Manco Capac, being of divine origin, was endowed with
marvellous wisdom and knowledge, even to the foreseeing of future
events; and among the events which he foretold was that of the conquest
of our country by the Spaniard.  He also formulated many wise and
righteous laws for the government of the people, which laws were further
added to by his successors.

"Now, with the building of the city of Cuzco and his establishment
therein as Inca, Manco assumed royal dignity, and inaugurated a code of
stately ceremonial for all those who formed his court and might have
occasion to come to it.  He also arrayed himself in regal garments and
adorned his person with certain regal ornaments, of which the collar now
worn by you, Lord, was the most important next to the imperial borla, or
tasselled fringe of scarlet, adorned with coraquenque feathers, which
was the distinguishing insignia of royalty.

"When in the fullness of time Manco was called home to the mansions of
his father the Sun, he gave minute instructions, before his departure,
as to the disposal of everything belonging to him, including his royal
jewels.  Some of these he ordained were to be deposited with his body in
the great temple of the Sun at Cuzco.  But the jewel which you are now
wearing, Lord, he decreed was to be handed down from Inca to Inca, even
unto the last of the race; and it was so.  Atahuallpa wore it as he
entered the city of Caxamalca at the head of his vassals and retinue on
the afternoon of that fatal day when he fell into the hands of the
treacherous Spaniards and, helpless to prevent it, beheld thousands of
his unarmed followers slaughtered like sheep in the great square.  But
he did not wear it on the night when, at the command of the false and
treacherous Pizarro, he was haled forth himself to die in the great
square where so many of his followers had previously perished.  Nor did
it fall into the hands of his captors, thus much was ascertained beyond
all possibility of doubt.  What became of it nobody could--or would--
say; but on the night of Atahuallpa's murder the High Priest Titucocha
suddenly emerged from the great temple of the Sun in Cuzco and, standing
before the entrance, summoned the inhabitants of the city to assemble
before him.  Then he told them that Atahuallpa was dead, that the Inca
dynasty was at an end, and that the great Peruvian nation was doomed to
pass under the rule of the _Conquistadors_, and be swallowed up by them
and their descendants.  `But not for all time, my children,' he cried.
`We have sinned in that we have permitted the Spaniards to overrun our
country without opposition, instead of utterly destroying them as we
might have done; and this is our punishment for not defending the land
which our Father the Sun gave us for our sustenance and enjoyment.  But
be not dismayed; a remnant of you shall survive, and under my leadership
shall retire to a certain place the locality of which has been revealed
to me, and there will we build a new City of the Sun, the glory of which
shall exceed that of Cuzco, even as the glory of our Lord and Father the
Sun exceeds that of his consort the Moon.  And in the fullness of time
it shall come to pass that Manco Capac, the founder of our nation, shall
be reincarnated and shall appear among us, and he will become our Inca,
to reign over us as aforetime, and restore the Peruvian nation to its
pristine power and glory by virtue of his own wisdom and the power of
the wealth which we will accumulate for his use.  And when he appears ye
shall know him from the fact that he will wear about his neck the great
emerald collar worn first by himself and afterward by all the Incas.'

"And behold, Lord, as Titucocha spake, so hath it all happened.  A
remnant of the ancient Peruvian race survives to this day, untainted by
any admixture with the blood of aliens; and while many of them are
scattered abroad over the face of the country watching ever for the
reappearance of Manco Capac, the lesser part are gathered together in
the City of the Sun, founded by Titucocha, and now in the very zenith of
its magnificence, awaiting the coming of my Lord."

"So that is the yarn, is it?" exclaimed Harry, as Tiahuana came to a
halt in his narrative.  "And a very extraordinary story it is; never
heard anything like it in all my life!  And I suppose, friend Tiahuana,
that because I happen to have fished up this collar out of Lake
Chinchaycocha, and am wearing it round my neck because I do not wish to
lose it, you identify me as the reincarnated Manco Capac, eh?"

"Assuredly, Lord," answered Tiahuana.  "He would indeed be a sceptic who
should venture to entertain the shadow of a doubt in the face of proof
so complete in all respects as that which has been vouchsafed to us."

"Ah!" ejaculated Harry, bracing himself to demolish this absurd fable,
and secure his release at a stroke.  "Now, I don't understand very much
about the doctrine of reincarnation, but I suppose, if I were really
Manco Capac come to earth again, I should have some recollection of my
former state of existence, shouldn't I?  Well, will it surprise you to
learn that I have nothing of the sort--not the feeblest glimmer?"

"Nay, Lord," answered Tiahuana, "that is not in the least surprising.
It often happens that the reincarnated one has no recollection of his
former existence until he finds himself amid surroundings similar to
those with which he was familiar in his past state; and even then
remembrance often comes but slowly.  Your lack of recollection does not
in the least alter facts; and of those facts we have all the proof that
can possibly be required.  And now, Lord, will it please you that we
resume our journey?  There are many difficulties to be surmounted before
we reach the spot at which we must encamp to-night, and it is high time
that our march should be resumed."

"No," answered Harry, "it does not please me that we resume our journey.
On the contrary, I refuse to accompany you another step unless you will
undertake to convey me back to the camp whence you brought me.  If you
will do this I am willing to overlook the outrage which you have
perpetrated in abducting me, and promise that you shall hear nothing
more about it.  But if you persist in keeping me a prisoner, I warn you
that the British Consul will be speedily made acquainted with the facts,
and he will never rest until I have been released and every one of you
severely punished; and that punishment, let me tell you, will be no
joke; for he will take care that it is adequate to the offence.  You
will be made to understand that even a solitary young Englishman like
myself cannot be kidnapped with impunity!"

"Pardon, Lord," answered Tiahuana with a deprecatory gesture.  "I am
overwhelmed with distress at having incurred my Lord's displeasure; but
I must not permit even that to interfere with the discharge of my duty.
It is imperative that my Lord should accompany us.  Were we to fail to
convey him to the hidden City of the Sun we should all be justly put to
death; my Lord will therefore see that we have no choice in the matter.
The only one who has a choice is my Lord himself, who can choose whether
he will accompany us willingly, or whether we must resort to something
in the nature of coercion."

As Tiahuana spoke the last words he made a sign with his hand, upon
which the little band of attendants contracted themselves into a circle
of considerably smaller diameter than before, yet still preserving an
attitude of the most profound respect.  Escombe saw at once that the
moment was by no means favourable for an attempt to escape; he therefore
quickly decided to make the best of things and to submit _pro tem_, with
a good grace to what was unavoidable.  He accordingly said:

"Very well; since you are absolutely determined to carry me off, I
prefer to accompany you voluntarily.  But I warn you that you will all
suffer severely for this outrage."

It is most regrettable to be obliged to record it, but Escombe's
threatened invocation of Britain's might and majesty seemed to
discompose those obstinate Indians not at all; to use his own expression
when talking of it afterwards, his threats glanced off them as
harmlessly as water off a duck's back, and all that they seemed in the
least concerned about was his welfare and comfort during the journey.
With much solicitude Tiahuana enquired whether it would please him to
walk or to be carried in the litter.  "We would have brought your horse
with us for your use, Lord," the High Priest explained apologetically,
"but much of the road before us is impassable for horses or mules--nay,
even a llama might scarcely pass it."

"Oh, that's all right!" answered Harry cheerily; "I dare say I can walk
as fast and as far as you people can."

Nevertheless he deeply regretted that they had not thought fit to bring
his horse, for he felt that, mounted, he would have had a much better
chance of escape than on foot; and this conviction was greatly
strengthened when, as the day wore on toward evening and the stiff
ascents which they were frequently obliged to negotiate began to tell
upon him, he observed how the Indians, with their short, quick step,
covered mile after mile of the uneven, rocky road, without the slightest
apparent effort or any visible sign of distress.  Then it began to dawn
upon him gradually that, even should he find a suitable opportunity to
give his custodians the slip, they could easily run him down and
recapture him.  Besides, he was by no means certain that he could now
find his way back to the camp.  He had not the remotest notion of the
direction in which the camp lay, for during many hours of his journey he
had been asleep, and the Indians were not only continually changing the
direction of their travel, but were apparently taking a constant
succession of short cuts across country, now winding their way for a
mile or two along the face of some dizzy precipice by means of a ledge
only a foot or two in width, anon clambering some hundreds of feet up or
down an almost vertical rock face, where a slip or a false step meant
instant death; now crossing some ghastly chasm by means of a frail and
dilapidated suspension bridge constructed of cables of maguey fibres and
floored with rotten planking, which swung to the tread until the
oscillation threatened to precipitate the entire party into the terrible
abyss that yawned beneath them, and perhaps half an hour later forcing
their way, slowly and with infinite labour and difficulty, up the
boulder-strewn bed of some half-dry mountain stream that was liable at
any moment--if there happened to be rain higher up among the hills--to
become swollen into a raging, foaming, irresistible torrent, against the
impetuous fury of which no man could stand for an instant.  To do the
Indians no more than the barest justice, they were to the last degree
solicitous to spare their prisoner the least fatigue, and repeatedly
assured him that there was not the slightest necessity for him to walk a
single step of the way, while whenever there was the barest possibility
of danger there was always a sufficient number of them within arm's
reach to render him every required assistance, and to ensure that no
harm should possibly befall him.  But although continuous travelling
hour after hour over such very difficult ground became at last most
horribly fatiguing.  Harry set his teeth and plodded grimly on.  He was
not going to let "those copper-coloured chaps" suppose that they could
tire an Englishman out, not he!  Besides, he wished to become accustomed
to the work against the time when the opportunity should come for him to
break away successfully and effect his escape.  For that he would escape
he was resolutely determined.  The prospect of being an Inca--an
absolute monarch whose lightest word was law--had, at that precise
moment, no attraction for him.  He had not a particle of ambition to
become the regenerator of a nation; or, if a scarce-heard whisper
reached his mental ear that to become such would be an exceedingly grand
thing, he promptly replied that his genius did not lie in that
direction, and that any attempt on his part to regenerate anybody must
inevitably result in dismal and utter failure.  No, he had been sent out
to Peru by Sir Philip Swinburne to execute certain work, and he would
carry out his contract with Sir Philip in spite of all the Indians in
the South American continent.  As to that story about his being the
reincarnated Inca, Manco Capac, Harry Escombe was one of those estimable
persons whose most valued asset is their sound, sterling common sense.
He flattered himself that he had not an ounce of romance in his entire
composition; and it did not take him a moment to make up his mind that
the yarn, from end to end, was the veriest nonsense imaginable.  He
laughed aloud--a laugh of mingled scorn and pity for the stupendous
ignorance of these poor savages, isolated from all the rest of the
world, and evidently priding themselves, as such isolated communities
are apt to do, upon their immeasurable superiority to everybody else.
Then he happened to think of the exquisitely wrought service of gold
plate off which he had fed that day, and the wonderfully fine quality of
the material of the priests' clothing; and he began to modify his
opinion somewhat.  A people with the taste and skill needed to produce
such superb goldsmith's work and such beautiful cloth--soft and smooth
as silk, yet as warm as and very much finer than any woollen material
that he had ever seen--could scarcely be classed as mere savages; they
must certainly possess some at least of the elements of civilisation.
And then those "second thoughts", which are proverbially best, or more
just, gradually usurped in young Escombe's mind his first crude ideas
relative to the ignorance and benighted condition generally of the
inhabitants of the unknown City of the Sun.  And as they did so, a
feeling of curiosity to see for himself that wonderful city gradually
took root, and began to spring up and strengthen within him.  Why should
he not? he asked himself.  The only obstacle which stood in the way was
his duty to Sir Philip Swinburne to complete the work which he had been
sent out to do.  But after all, when he came to consider the matter
dispassionately, his absence--his enforced absence--was not likely to
prejudice appreciably Sir Philip's interests; for the railway survey was
very nearly completed, and what remained to be done was simple in the
extreme compared with what had already been accomplished, and there was
Bannister--a thoroughly capable man--to do it.  And as to the soundings
on Lake Titicaca, they were simply child's play--anybody could take
them!  No, it was only his own conceit that had caused him to think that
his absence, especially at the existing state of the survey, would be in
the least inimical to Sir Philip's interests; it would be nothing of the
kind.  Bannister could finish the work as satisfactorily as he--
Escombe--could, probably much more so!

It will be seen, from these arguments--which were in the main perfectly
sound--that Mr Henry Escombe, having conceived the idea that he would
like to have a peep at the mysterious City of the Sun, was now
endeavouring to reconcile himself as thoroughly as might be to what was
rapidly assuming to him the appearance of the inevitable; for with every
step that the party took, it was being borne with increasing clearness
upon his inner consciousness that to escape was already impossible.
For, first of all, their route had been over such trackless wastes that,
despite the keenness with which he had noted the appearance of every
conspicuous object passed, they were all so very much alike that he had
the gravest doubts as to his ability to find his way back to the camp
without a guide.  And if he were to attempt it and should lose his way,
there could be very little doubt that he would perish miserably of
exposure and starvation in that wilderness, where not even so much as a
solitary hut had been sighted throughout the day.  But, apart from this,
and granting for the moment that his memory might be trusted to guided
him aright, there were places to be passed and obstacles to be overcome
which he admitted to himself he would not care to attempt unaided unless
he were in actual peril of his life, and the assurances of Tiahuana had
completely set his mind at rest on that score.  The thought of invoking
Arima's assistance came to him for a moment, only to be dismissed the
next, however; for, faithful and devoted as the Indian had proved
himself in the past, Harry remembered that it was through his
instrumentality and direct intervention that all the pother had arisen.
Arima seemed to be as completely convinced as any of the others that
Harry was the person foreordained to restore the ancient Peruvian nation
to its former power and splendour, and Escombe knew enough of the
fellow's character to feel certain that he would not permit personal
feeling to interfere with so glorious a consummation.  It seemed, then,
as though fate, or destiny, or whatever one pleased to call it, willed
that he--Harry Escombe--should see the mysterious city; and he finally
concluded that, taking everything into consideration, perhaps the wisest
thing would be to go quietly and with as much semblance of goodwill as
possible, since it appeared that no other course was open to him.

This thought naturally suggested others, each more wild and extravagant
than the last, until by the time that the party at length reached the
camping ground that had been their objective all through the day, the
young Englishman discovered, to his unqualified amazement, that not only
did there exist within him a strong vein of hitherto entirely
unsuspected romance--awakened and brought to light by the extraordinary
nature of the adventure of which he was the hero--but also that, quite
unconsciously to himself, his views relative to the exigency and binding
character of his engagement to Sir Philip Swinburne had become so far
modified that it no longer appeared imperatively necessary for him to
jeopardise his life in a practically hopeless endeavour to escape.

The journey had been an up-and-down one all day, that is to say, the
party had been either climbing or descending almost the whole of the
time; the general tendency, however, had been distinctly upward, and
when at length a bare, rocky plateau was reached about sunset, affording
ample space upon which to camp, the greatly increased keenness of the
atmosphere indicated a net rise of probably some two or three thousand
feet.  The scene was one of almost indescribable but dreary grandeur,
titanic peaks crowned with snow and ice towering high on every hand,
divided by gorges of immeasurable depth, their sides for the most part
shaggy with pine forests, and never a sign of human habitation to be
seen, nor indeed any sign of life in any form, save where, here and
there, a small moving blotch on the distant landscape indicated the
presence of a flock of huanacos or vicunas; but even these were but few,
for the travellers had not yet reached the lofty frozen wastes where
alone the ychu grass is found, which is therefore the favoured habitat
of those animals.

Escombe now had fresh evidence of the foresight exercised by his escort
in providing for his comfort and welfare; for no sooner had the precise
spot been selected upon which to camp than from among the baggage borne
by the attendants a small tent made of cloth woven from vicuna wool was
produced and erected upon jointed bamboo poles; and in a few minutes,
with his litter placed inside it to serve as a bed, and a lighted talc
lantern suspended from the ridge pole, the young man was able to enter
and make himself quite at home.

Nor was he at all sorry; for although he had now been accustomed for
several months to be on his feet all day long, day after day, and up to
that moment had regarded himself as in the very pink of condition as to
toughness and wiriness, the past day's journey had been a revelation to
him in the matter of endurance.  He had never before in his life
experienced anything like the intense fatigue which now racked every
joint in his body; and, ravenously hungry as he was, he felt that it
would scarcely be possible for him to remain awake long enough to get a
meal.  But those wonderful Indians appeared to have foreseen everything.
Loaded as most of them were with heavy burdens in addition, to their
weapons, they had each gradually accumulated a very respectable bundle
of firewood during the progress of their march; and while one party had
been erecting the tent and arranging its interior for Harry's
occupation, a second had been busily engaged in lighting a roaring fire,
while a third had been still more busily occupied in preparing the
wherewithal to furnish forth a most appetising and acceptable evening
meal, which, when placed before the prospective Inca, was found to
consist of broiled vicuna chops, delicious bread, mountain honey, fruit,
and chocolate.  By the time that the meal was ready night had completely
fallen, a bitterly keen and piercing wind from the eastward had arisen
and came swooping down from the frozen wastes above in savage gusts that
momentarily threatened to whirl the frail tent and its occupant into
space, and hurl them into one of the many unfathomable abysses that
yawned around the party, while, to add to the general discomfort, the
wind brought with it a dank, chilling fog, thick as a blanket, that
penetrated everywhere and left on everything great beads of icy moisture
like copious dew.  But Escombe was too unutterably weary to let any of
these things trouble him.  Sleep was what every fibre of his body was
crying aloud for; and he had no sooner finished his meal than, leaving
all responsibility for the safety and welfare of the party in the hands
of the two priests, he hurriedly divested himself of his clothing, and
snuggling into his warm and comfortable bed-litter, instantly sank into
absolute unconsciousness, his last coherent thought being a vague wonder
how he would fare in such a place and on such a night if, instead of
being under the care and protection of the Indians, he had chanced to be
a lonely and houseless fugitive from them.



CHAPTER TEN.

THE VALLEY OF MYSTERY.

When young Escombe next morning awoke from the soundest sleep that he
had ever enjoyed in his life he at once became aware, from the motion of
the litter, that his Indian friends were already on the move; and when,
in obedience to his command, they halted to enable him to dress and
partake of breakfast, a single glance, as he stepped forth from the
litter into the keen air, sufficed to assure him that they must have
been in motion for at least three or four hours, for the sun had already
topped the peaks of the Andes, and the aspect of the landscape
surrounding him was entirely unfamiliar.  Not a trace of the spot where
they had camped during the preceding night was to be seen, and there was
no indication of the direction in which it lay; which fact tended still
further to drive home to the young man a conviction of the folly of
attempting to find his way back to the survey party alone and unaided.

The journey that day was in all essential respects a counterpart of that
of the day before.  Tiahuana, who was evidently the leader of the
expedition in a double sense, chose his own route, making use of the
regular roads only at very infrequent intervals, and then for
comparatively short distances, soon abandoning them again for long
stretches across country where no semblance of a path of any description
was to be found.  As on the preceding day, he skirted, climbed, or
descended precipices without hesitation, crossing ravines, ascending
gorges, and, in fact, he took the country pretty much as it came,
guiding the party apparently by means of landmarks known only to
himself, but, on the whole, steadily ascending and steadily forcing his
way ever deeper into the heart of the stupendous mountain labyrinth that
lay to the eastward.  And ever as they went the air grew keener and more
biting, the aspect of the country wilder and more desolate, the
_quebradas_ more appalling in their fathomless depth.  The precipices
became more lofty and difficult to scale, the mountain torrents more
impetuous and dangerous to cross, the primitive suspension bridges more
dilapidated and precarious, the patches of timber and vegetation more
tenuous, the flocks of huanaco and vicuna larger and more frequent, the
way more savage and forbidding, the storms more frequent and terrible,
until at length it began to appear to Escombe as though the party had
become entangled in a wilderness from which escape in any direction was
impossible, and wherein they must all quickly perish in consequence of
the unendurable rigours of the climate.  Yet Tiahuana still pushed
indomitably forward, overcoming obstacle after obstacle that, to anyone
less experienced than himself in the peculiarities of the country and
the mode of travel in it, must have seemed unconquerable.  For ten more
days--which to the Indians must have seemed endless by reason of the
awful toil, the frightful suffering, and the intense misery that were
concentrated in them, although, thanks to the sublime self sacrifice of
his escort, Escombe was permitted to feel very little of them--the
priest led the way over vast glaciers, across unfathomable crevasses,
and up apparently unscalable heights, battling all the time with
whirling snow storms that darkened the air, blinded the eyes, and
obliterated every landmark, and buffeted by furious winds that came
roaring and shrieking along the mountain side and momentarily threatened
to snatch the party from their precarious hold and hurl them to
destruction on the great gaunt rocks far below, while the cold was at
times so terrible that to continue to live in it seemed impossible.

About the middle of the afternoon of the twelfth day after leaving the
survey camp, the party topped a ridge and saw before them a long, steep,
smooth slope of snow, frozen hard by a night of almost deadly frost; and
a sigh of intense relief and thankfulness broke from the breasts of the
utterly exhausted Indians.  Without wasting a moment, they proceeded to
open and unpack a certain bale which formed part of the baggage which
they had brought with them, and drew from it a number of llama skins.
These they spread out flat on the crest of the snow slope, with the hair
side upward, and then the entire party carefully seated themselves upon
them--two men to each skin, one behind the other--when, with a little
assistance from the hands of the occupants, the skins started to glide
smoothly over the surface of the snow, slowly at first, but with swiftly
increasing velocity, until the descent of the party became a sweeping,
breathless, exhilarating flight, speedy as that of a falcon swooping
upon its prey.  The riders sat cross-legged upon the skins, and to
Escombe--who was piloted by Tiahuana--it seemed that the slightest
inclination, right or left as the case might be, throwing a trifle more
weight on one knee than the other, and thus causing one part of the skin
to press more hardly than another upon the snow, was all that was needed
for steering purposes; for the toboggan-like skins swept downward
straight as the flight of an arrow, save when some black fang of rock
protruded through the snow fair in the track, when a slight slope of the
body sufficed to cause a swerve that carried the adventurous riders
safely clear of the obstacle.  To Escombe this headlong, breathless
swoop down the slope seemed to last but a few seconds, yet during those
few seconds the party had travelled nearly three miles and descended
some three thousand feet.  The slide terminated at last upon the very
edge of the snow-line, where it met a mile-wide meadow thickly clothed
with lush grass and bountifully spangled with lovely flowers, many of
which were quite new to the young Englishman.

For some minutes the entire party, as with one consent, remained sitting
motionless just where their impromptu toboggans had come to a halt; for
they felt that they needed a certain amount of time in which to become
accustomed to the glorious change that had been wrought by that three-
mile glissade.  Above and behind them were furious tempest, deadly cold,
and never-ceasing danger; while here was perfect safety, cloudless
sunshine, grateful warmth, and surroundings of surpassing beauty.  The
meadow upon which they rested sloped gently away before them for about a
mile, where it appeared to plunge abruptly down into a thickly wooded
ravine, beyond which shot up a long, rocky ridge, the slopes of which
appeared to be absolutely inaccessible; for, search as Escombe might
with the aid of his telescope, nowhere could he detect so much as a
single speck of snow to indicate the presence of even the smallest ledge
or inequality in the face of the rock.  This ridge, or range, stretched
away to right and left of the spot where the party had come to a halt,
retiring to the eastward, as it went, in a tolerably regular curve,
until the cusps, if such there were, swept out of sight behind the
nearer ridge.

At length Escombe rose from his llama skin and, with an ejaculation of
inexpressible relief, began to slap his still benumbed hands together,
and vigorously rub his stiffened limbs, in order to restore feeling and
warmth to them; whereupon Tiahuana also rose and gave the order to re-
pack the skins prior to resuming the journey.  A few minutes later the
entire party were once more on the march, moving rapidly athwart the
meadow toward the ravine, and within a quarter of an hour they were in
the ravine itself, clambering down the steep slope of its hither side
toward where the sound of rushing water began to make itself heard with
increasing distinctness.  Another ten minutes, after a wild and
breathless downward scramble among the trunks of thick-growing pine
trees, brought them to the margin of a wide and turbulent mountain
torrent that in the course of ages had scored a deep channel for itself
right down the centre of the ravine.  The bed of the stream was thickly
strewed with enormous boulders, moss-grown upon their upper surfaces
where drenched with the everlasting spray, and between these the turbid
waters from the melting snow on the heights above leapt and foamed with
a clamour and fury that rendered conversation impossible, and threatened
instant death to the foolhardy adventurer who should attempt to cross
them.

Yet those indomitable Indians somehow contrived to win a passage across;
and half an hour later the entire party stood safely on the opposite
side.

Then followed a long and toilsome scramble up the other side of the
ravine, the top of which was not reached until the sun had set and
darkness had fallen upon the scene.  But, at the top of the ravine and
clear of the trees, they found themselves on a grassy slope very similar
in character to that which they had encountered on the other side of the
stream, and there, fatigued to the point of exhaustion by their long and
arduous day's travel, they went into camp, prepared and partook of their
evening meal, and at once resigned themselves to a long night of repose
under conditions of infinitely greater comfort than they had enjoyed for
many days past.

Escombe's sleep that night was unusually sound, even after making every
allowance for the excessive fatigue of the past day; in fact he had not
slept so soundly and so long since the night of his abduction from the
survey camp.  When at length he awoke he found himself labouring under
the same feeling of puzzlement that had oppressed him on that eventful
morning; for when consciousness again returned to him and, opening his
eyes, he looked about him, he at once became aware that his surroundings
were very different from what he had expected.  It is true that he still
occupied the litter in which he had retired to rest on the previous
evening, but a single glance was sufficient to show him that the litter
was no longer in the little tent which had then sheltered it; the tent
was gone, and the litter, or couch, upon which he lay comfortably
stretched now stood in a room lighted by a single window in the wall,
facing the foot of the couch.  The window was unglazed, and apparently
had no window frame; it seemed in fact to be no more than a mere
rectangular aperture in a thick stone wall through which the sun,
already some hours high in the sky, was pouring his genial rays into the
room.  The couch stood so low on the floor that from it nothing could be
seen of the landscape outside save a glimpse of a range of serrated
peaks, touched here and there with snow that gleamed dazzlingly white in
the brilliant sunshine.  Urged therefore by surprise at the mysterious
change that had been wrought in his surroundings while he slept, and
curious to ascertain where he now was, Harry sprang from his couch and
went to the open window, out of which he gazed in an ecstasy of
astonishment and admiration.  For his eyes rested upon the most glorious
landscape that he had ever beheld.  He discovered that the building in
which he so strangely found himself stood at one extremity of an
enormous, basin-like valley, roughly oval in shape, some thirty miles
long by twenty miles in width, completely hemmed in on every side by a
range of lofty hills averaging, according to his estimate, from three to
four thousand feet in height.  The centre of the valley was occupied by
a most lovely lake about fifteen miles long by perhaps ten miles wide,
dotted here and there with fairy-like islets, some of which were crowned
by little clumps of trees, while others appeared to be covered with
handsome buildings.  But that was only a part of the wonder!  At the far
end of the lake he could distinctly see--so exquisitely clear and
transparent was that crystalline atmosphere--the general outline and
formation of a large and doubtless populous town built on the margin of
the lake, his attention being at once attracted to it by the strong
flash and gleam of the sun upon several of the roofs of the buildings,
which had all the appearance of being covered with sheets of gold!  From
this city broad white roads shaded by handsome trees ran right round the
margin of the lake, and for a mile or two on either side of the city,
glimpses could be had of detached buildings embosomed in spacious
gardens, forming a kind of suburb of the city; while the entire
remainder of the valley, and the sides of the hills for a distance of
about one-third of their height, were entirely laid out as orchards,
pasture, and cultivated land, the appearance of the whole strongly
suggesting that the utmost had been made of every inch of available
space.

As Escombe stood gazing, enraptured at the surpassing beauty of the
panorama thus spread out before him, the sound of approaching footsteps
reached his ear, and, turning round, he beheld Arima entering the room.
The Indian made the profound obeisance usual with him upon entering
Harry's presence, and enquired:

"Is it the will of my Lord that he now bathe, dress, and partake of
breakfast?"

"Yes, by all means," answered Harry, "for I have somehow managed to
oversleep myself again, and am ravenously hungry.  But, Arima, what
means this?  How do I come to be here?  And what town is that which I
see yonder at the far end of the lake?"

"As my Lord has truly said, he slept long this morning, being doubtless
greatly fatigued with the toilsome journey of yesterday," answered Arima
smoothly, with another profound bow.  "Therefore, when the hour arrived
to break camp and resume our march it was Tiahuana's order that my Lord
should not be disturbed, but should be allowed to sleep on and take a
full measure of rest; and therefore was my Lord brought hither to this
house, there to sojourn and recruit himself after the fatigues and
hardships of his long journey, while Tiahuana went forward to the City
of the Sun--which my Lord sees yonder at the head of the valley--to
acquaint the Council with the success of our expedition, and to make the
necessary arrangements for my Lord's reception by the inhabitants of the
city.  If it be my Lord's will, I will now conduct him to the bath,
which I have made ready for him."

"So that is the City of the Sun, is it?" remarked Harry, still gazing
admiringly at the enchanting view from the window.  "I guessed as much;
and it appears to be fully worthy of its name.  All right, Arima," he
continued, tearing himself reluctantly away; "yes, I will have my bath
now.  Where is it?"

"If my Lord will be pleased to follow I will show it him," answered the
Indian, with the inevitable bow, as he led the way out of the room.

They passed into a long stone corridor, lighted at each end by an
unglazed window, and, traversing the length of it, entered another room,
much larger than the first, stone paved, and having a large plunge-bath
full of crystal-clear water, sunk into the floor at one end.  The room
was unfurnished, save for a plain wooden bench, or seat, a soft woollen
mat for the bather to stand on when emerging from the bath, and a few
pegs along the wall, from which Harry's own clothes and three or four
very large bath towels depended.  This room also was illuminated by a
large, unglazed window through which the sun-rays streamed, warming the
atmosphere of the apartment to a most delightful temperature.  Harry
therefore made no delay, but forthwith discarded his pyjama suit and at
once plunged headlong into the cool, refreshing water.  To dress and
take breakfast were the next things in order; and half an hour later
Escombe rose from the table like a giant refreshed, amid the obsequious
bows of his attendants.  Then Motahuana stepped forward and, prefacing
his speech with another bow, said:

"Lord, I have been commanded by Tiahuana to say that, knowing well how
anxious the inhabitants of the City of the Sun will be to learn the
issue of this expedition, he has presumed to hasten forward to apprise
them that all is well, without waiting until my Lord awoke to mention
his intention and crave my Lord's permission to absent himself; for the
way is long, and my Lord slept late this morning.  The High Priest also
bade me say that he will probably be absent at least four days, for
there are many preparations to be made in connection with my Lord's
triumphal entrance into his city, and his reception by his rejoicing
people.  My Lord will therefore have time to rest and recover his
strength after the fatigue of his arduous journey; and it is the prayer
of Tiahuana that he will do so, since there will be much to fatigue my
Lord in the various ceremonies attendant upon his ascent of the throne
of the ancient Incas."

"Thanks, Motahuana," answered Harry; "but I am not in the least fatigued
by what I have gone through during the last twelve days.  If anyone were
suffering from fatigue it should be yourself and Tiahuana, for you are
both well advanced in years, while I am young and strong, and, so far
from being fatigued, I feel quite fresh after my long and refreshing
night's sleep; so much so, indeed, that I was just thinking how much I
should enjoy a walk down into that lovely valley.  I suppose there is no
objection to my doing so?"

"My Lord is monarch of the valley and all within it," answered Motahuana
with another bow and an expressive throwing apart of the hands.  "All is
his; his will is absolute in all things; he has but to express a wish,
and we his slaves will gladly do our best to gratify it.  If my Lord
desires to go forth into the open, either on foot or in his litter, he
has but to say so, and we his slaves will make the path smooth for him
or bear him upon our shoulders, as may seem best to him.  But it will be
well that my Lord should not venture too far into the valley, for he is
a stranger; and it is undesirable, on many accounts, that he should be
seen by the inhabitants of the valley until all preparations have been
made for his public reception."

"Oh, very well!" returned Escombe.  "I have no desire to go very far; a
walk of a mile or two from the house, and back, with Arima as my only
attendant, to show me the way and answer questions, will satisfy me."

Whereupon Motahuana, with another bow, turned away and addressed a few
quick words to Arima in a tongue which was strange to Escombe, after
which the Indian fetched the young Englishman's hat and signified his
readiness to attend the latter whithersoever he might be pleased to go.

Harry's first act, upon getting outside the house, was to walk away from
it some fifty feet, and then turn round and stare at the building to
which he had been so mysteriously conveyed while asleep.  He saw before
him simply a solid, rectangular, stone--built structure, plain almost to
the point of ugliness, for it had not a single projection of any kind to
mitigate the severity of its simplicity, not even so much as a window
sill; and it was thatched!--not with the trim neatness characteristic of
some of our charmingly picturesque country cottages in England, but in a
slovenly, happy-go-lucky style, that seemed to convey the idea that, so
long as a roof was weather-proof, it did not in the least matter what it
looked like.  The windows were simply rectangular holes in the thick
stone walls, unglazed, and without even a frame; but now that Escombe
was outside he was able to see that each window was provided with a
shutter, something like the jalousies fitted to the houses in most
tropical and sub-tropical countries, to keep out the rain.  The only
thing remarkable about the house, apart from its extreme plainness, was
the fact that it appeared to be cut out of a single enormous block of
stone; and it was not until he went close up to it, and examined it
minutely, that he discovered it to be built of blocks of stone dressed
to fit each other with such marvellous precision that the joints were
practically invisible.

Having satisfied his curiosity thus far, Escombe looked about him at his
surroundings generally.  He found that the house to which he had been
brought stood at the extreme end of the extraordinary basin-like valley,
immediately opposite to the City of the Sun, which occupied the other
end, and he naturally concluded that the entrance to the valley must be
somewhere not very far distant from the spot on which he stood.  But,
look as he would, he could see nothing in the remotest degree resembling
a pass through those encircling sierras, the upper portion of the sides
of which appeared to be everywhere practically vertical, without even as
much projection or ledge anywhere as would afford foothold to a goat.
Nor was there the least semblance of a road or path of any description
leading to the house, save a narrow and scarcely perceptible footpath
leading down to the great road which encompassed the lake.  Harry turned
to the Indian.

"Those hills appear to be everywhere quite impassable, Arima," he said.
"Where is the road by which we came over them?"

"It is not permitted to me to say, Lord," answered Arima with a
deprecatory bow.  "There is but one known way of passing to and from the
outside world, and that way is a jealously guarded secret, communicated
to but few, who are solemnly sworn to secrecy.  It is regarded by the
Council as of the first importance that the secret should be preserved
intact, as it is known that rumours of the existence of the City of the
Sun have reached the outer world, and more than one attempt has been
made to find it.  But we are all pure-blooded Peruvians of the ancient
race here, and it is a tradition with us to keep ourselves
uncontaminated by any admixture of alien blood, therefore every possible
precaution is taken to maintain the most absolute secrecy as to the way
by which the Valley of the Sun is entered and left."

"But if that is so, why has Tiahuana brought me here?" demanded Harry.
"I am an alien, you know; yet, as I understand it, I have been brought
here to rule over you all!"

"Yes, it is even so, Lord," answered Arima.  "But my Lord is an alien
only by an accident of birth, which must not be allowed to interfere
with the fact that my Lord is in very truth the reincarnation of Manco
Capac, our first Inca and the founder of the Peruvian nation."

"In that case," said Harry, "it is but meet and right that I should know
the secret way into the outer world.  Surely what is known to several of
my subjects should also be known to me?"

"Undoubtedly, Lord," answered the Indian; "and the information will
certainly be imparted to my Lord in due time, when he has been accepted
and proclaimed Inca by the Council of Seven.  But I have no authority to
impart that information, and I implore my Lord that he will not urge me
to do so and thus break the solemn oath of secrecy which I have sworn."

"Very well, Arima, let it be so," answered Harry.  "Doubtless, as you
say, I shall be informed in due time; and meanwhile you are perfectly
right to remain true to the oath which you have sworn.  Now, let us get
down into the valley.  After scrambling up and down mountain sides for
so many days, I have a longing to walk on a smooth and level road once
more."

The footpath from the house to the main road sloped obliquely along the
face of the hill, descending by a tolerably easy gradient for a distance
of about a mile before it joined the road at a depth of some three
hundred feet below the level of the house.  Upon reaching the road,
which, be it remembered, completely encircled the lake, Escombe had yet
another opportunity to note the thoroughness with which the Peruvians
did their work, and the inexhaustible patience which they brought to
bear upon it.  For this road, approximating to one hundred miles in
length, was constructed of a uniform width of about one hundred feet,
apparently also of uniform gradient--for in some parts it was raised on
a low embankment, while in others it passed through more or less shallow
cuttings--and with just the right amount of camber to quickly throw off
the rainwater into the broad gutters or watercourses that were built on
either side of it.  The most remarkable feature of the road, however,
was that it was paved throughout with broad flags of stone, which, like
the blocks of which the house was built, were so accurately fitted
together that the joints could only be found with difficulty.

The young Englishman spent some three hours sauntering along that
magnificent road, enjoying the pure air, the genial temperature, and the
sight of the superb panorama that hemmed him in on every side, pausing
often to note the clever system of irrigation adopted by the
inhabitants, whereby every square inch of cultivable soil could at any
moment receive precisely the right quantity of water to satisfy its
requirements; admiring, with the eye of an engineer, the workmanship
displayed in the construction of the ample culverts whereby all excess
of water was promptly discharged into the lake; and marvelling at the
varied nature of the agricultural products of the valley; for it seemed
to him that, in the comparatively circumscribed space between the margin
of the lake and the highest point on the mountain slope to which the
barest handful of soil could be induced to cling, there were to be found
examples of every vegetable product known to the sub-tropical and
temperate zones, while it was a never-ceasing source of astonishment to
him that such enormous numbers of cattle and sheep were apparently able
to find ample sustenance on the proportionately small quantity of land
allotted to pasture.  What seemed to him somewhat remarkable was that,
while cattle, sheep, and even horses were apparently plentiful in the
valley, he saw no llamas; but it was afterwards explained to him that
the climate there was altogether too mild for them, and that the
enormous herds owned by the inhabitants were kept in the highlands on
the other side of the encircling mountains.



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

THE CITY OF THE SUN.

On the afternoon of the fourth day following Tiahuana's departure, about
an hour before sunset, as Escombe was about to enter the house after a
somewhat longer walk than usual in the valley, he paused for a moment at
the head of the footpath to take a last, long look at the lovely
landscape, with the leading features of which he was now becoming
tolerably familiar, when his wandering gaze was arrested by the glint of
the sunlight upon what had the appearance of a number of rapidly moving
objects indistinctly seen about a mile distant among the low spreading
branches of the trees which lined the great road leading from the City
of the Sun.

"Hillo, Arima," he said to the Indian who was his sole attendant, "who
comes here?  Are they soldiers?  Do you see that flash and glitter
yonder among the trees?  To me it has the appearance of sun-glint upon
spear points and military accoutrements."

Arima looked for a moment, and then replied:

"Without question it is so, Lord.  Doubtless it is Tiahuana returning
with the bodyguard which is to escort my Lord the Inca on the occasion
of his triumphal entry into the City of the Sun."

"But those fellows are surely mounted, Arima!" said Escombe.  "The
movement is that of cavalry; and--listen!--unless I am greatly mistaken,
I can hear the clatter of hoofs on the stone pavement of the road."

"It is even so, Lord," answered the Indian.  "The bodyguard of my Lord
the Inca consists of a thousand picked men, mounted on the finest horses
that it is possible to breed in the valley."

"But I have always understood," said Harry, "that you Peruvians did not
believe in mounted men, and that it was, in fact, as much due to your
terror of the mounted Spaniards as anything else that you were
vanquished in the old days.  But I am forgetting; you knew nothing of
horses then, did you?"

"My Lord says truth," answered Arima.  "We had no horses in Peru until
the Spaniards brought them.  But since then we have learned the value of
horses, and I understand that the inhabitants of the valley have devoted
especial attention to the breeding of them, even from the date of the
foundation of the city."

"And with a marvellous success, I should say, if one may judge from the
appearance of the animals yonder," remarked Harry enthusiastically, as
he watched the approaching horsemen.

The cavalcade had by this time reached the junction of the footpath with
the road, and, debouching on to the former, or rather on to the hillside
which it traversed, breasted the slope at a gallop, presenting as it did
so a superb and inspiriting picture of eager, prancing, satin-skinned,
gaily caparisoned, foam-flecked horses, bestridden by lithe, sinewy
forms gorgeous in their blue and gold uniforms, and a-glitter with their
burnished copper shields, swords, maces, and lance-heads.  At their head
rode Tiahuana in his long, white, gold-embroidered robe and mitre-like
head--dress as Chief Priest, gallantly holding his own with the
magnificently attired commander of the regiment; and in the centre of
the cortege there appeared an open litter--somewhat similar to a sedan
chair with the top part removed--entirely covered with burnished plates
of gold and silver, hammered into a bold but very intricate pattern,
while the interior was lined with richly coloured feathers also arranged
in a very elaborate design.  This structure was supported before and
behind by a pair of long, springy poles or shafts, to which were
harnessed six white horses, three abreast, the harness and trappings of
the animals being blue, elaborately embroidered with gold, while the
headstall of each horse was decorated with a plume of half a dozen long
blue feathers.  The middle horse of each trio--that which ran between
the shafts--was ridden by a postilion, who guided and controlled all
three of the horses under his charge.

While the gorgeous cavalcade was still some distance away, Motahuana
came running out of the house, babbling the most earnest and urgent
entreaties that Harry would be graciously pleased to enter the house
forthwith, as it was not meet that the members of the Inca's bodyguard
should set eyes upon their sovereign lord until the latter should be
attired in the robes of his regal rank; and Harry, already painfully
aware of the dilapidated condition of the jacket and knickers in which
he had accomplished the march from the survey camp, fully agreeing with
him, hastily retreated to the interior of the building and, standing
well back from the window, where he was concealed in the deep shadow,
interestedly watched the movements of his regiment as it went into camp
on a little plateau at the rear of the house.

But the troopers had scarcely begun to unsaddle before Tiahuana, still
hot and dusty from his long ride, entered the house, followed by a
servant bearing a large bundle.  And a few minutes later the old fellow
entered the room where Harry was standing and, having first made his
obeisances, respectfully invited the young Englishman to retire to his
sleeping room, there to don certain garments more suitable to his rank
and state than those which he was wearing, in order that he might be
ready to receive the Lord Umu, commander of the royal bodyguard, who was
represented to be dying of impatience to do homage to his Sovereign
Lord.  With another glance at his ragged and disreputable garments,
Harry smilingly admitted the desirability of the change, and followed
Tiahuana into the chamber where Arima, now formally confirmed in his
rank and position of chief valet and body servant of the new Inca,
awaited his master.  Ten minutes later, attired in white skin-tight
pantaloons which were also stockings; a shirt of white wool, of so
marvellously fine a texture that it was thin, soft, and light as silk; a
fine white wool sleeveless tunic, the material of which was stiff and
almost completely hidden by an elaborately embroidered pattern in heavy
gold thread, and which was confined to the waist by a broad white
leather belt, also heavily embroidered in gold and fastened by a massive
and exquisitely chased gold clasp; with soft, white, gold-embroidered
boots on his feet, reaching halfway up to the knee; with the royal
borla, or tasselled fringe of scarlet adorned with two feathers from the
coraquenque bound round his temples, and the emerald collar of Manco
Capac--which he had fished up from the mud of Lake Chinchaycocha--round
his neck and hanging down over the breast of his tunic, young Escombe
was led by Tiahuana into the largest room in the house.  Here, seated
upon an extemporised throne, and with his feet resting upon a footstool
of solid gold, massively chiselled in an elaborate and particularly
graceful scroll-work pattern, hastily brought in from the imperial
litter, he presently received not only Umu, the captain of the royal
bodyguard, but also some half-dozen other nobles who had come from the
City of the Sun to pay their homage to their re-incarnated Lord and
Sovereign, Manco Capac.

These individuals were introduced, one by one, by Tiahuana, who, as each
person presented himself in the doorway, loudly proclaimed the rank and
titles of the visitor, who then, barefooted, and carrying a light burden
upon his shoulders as an act of humility in the presence of his
sovereign, slowly advanced, with head and body humbly bent, until he
reached the footstool, when he knelt down on the bare stone floor and
kissed, first the hands and then the feet of the young Inca; after
which, still kneeling, he murmured a few words expressive of joy,
gratitude, and devotion at the condescension of the great Manco in
deigning to return to earth for the purpose of regenerating the ancient
Peruvian nation.  Then he rose to his feet and, with more bows, retired
to make way for the next.  The whole ceremony was exceedingly brief, not
occupying much more than a quarter of an hour altogether; but, brief as
it was, it constituted in itself an education for Harry, who, as he
witnessed the almost slavish humility of the demeanour of these proud
and haughty nobles toward him, now began to realise, for the first time,
the tremendous power to which he had been raised by a most unique and
extravagant freak of fortune.  And it did him good; for it set him to
think seriously of the enormous responsibility which he had almost
unwittingly incurred when he so light-heartedly allowed himself to
become enmeshed in the toils of the adventure, and caused him to make
many very excellent resolutions as to the manner in which he would
discharge that responsibility.

With the coming of dawn on the following morning the camp of the royal
bodyguard suddenly awoke to strenuous life and activity.  The troopers,
attired only in thin shirts, riding their barebacked horses down to the
lake, where the animals were watered and bathed in preparation for the
return journey to the City of the Sun.  Then, having returned to the
camp, the horses were carefully groomed and fed, after which the
troopers spent a busy hour in examining and burnishing their arms and
accoutrements.  For this was the great day upon which the re-incarnated
Inca was to make his triumphal entry into his capital, the new holy and
royal city which, during a period of over three hundred and fifty years,
his people had been patiently building and extending and decorating and
enriching in order that it might be worthy the reception of the monarch
when it should please him to return to earth.  It was to be the day of
days, the first day in the history of a great, glorious, regenerated
nation, in which much was to be done, and that in a manner which would
becomingly adorn the first page of that history.  Then everybody,
including Harry--who, meanwhile had bathed and dressed--partook of
breakfast; after which the final preparations for the journey were
completed.  Then Tiahuana and Umu, having first craved audience of their
Lord, presented themselves before Harry to intimate respectfully that
there were two alternative methods of travel open to him, namely by
horse litter or on horseback, and to crave humbly that he would be
pleased to indicate which of the two he would choose.  To which Harry,
who was by this time beginning to enter thoroughly into the spirit of
the adventure, replied that, since the task had been laid upon him of
restoring the ancient Peruvian race to its former power and splendour,
and that, before this could be accomplished it would be necessary for
him to lead his troops many times to battle, it was his will to make his
first appearance among his subjects on horseback, as a warrior, at the
head of his own bodyguard; a reply which created a perfect furore of
enthusiasm among the other nobles, and the troopers of the royal
bodyguard, when it was communicated to them by Tiahuana and Umu.

That the possibility of such a choice on the part of their new Inca had
not been altogether unanticipated was soon apparent; for Umu presently
returned to the house, bearing on a cushion of azure blue--which it
appeared was the royal colour--trimmed with a heavy cord of bullion and
with a bullion tassel at each corner, a sword of hardened and burnished
copper, with a hilt of solid gold elaborately chased, and encased in a
scabbard of solid gold, also most magnificently chased.  This he
presented on bended knees to Tiahuana, who, in his capacity of High
Priest, then knelt before Harry and girded the weapon to his side, after
which Arima came forward with a long roll of extraordinarily fine silk-
like cloth woven in bands of many different colours in which, however,
scarlet and azure predominated.  This was the llautu, or turban, which
the Indian at once proceeded with deft fingers to bind about his royal
master's head in such a manner as to afford complete protection from the
ardent rays of the sun while leaving the borla, or tasselled fringe of
scarlet, which was really the royal diadem, fully exposed to view.  A
woollen mantle of almost silken texture, azure blue in colour, with a
very broad border of gold embroidery, and with more gold embroidery on
the shoulders and halfway down the back, was next laid upon his
shoulders and secured at the throat by a pair of massive gold clasps and
chain, and Escombe was fully equipped for the road.  And a very handsome
and gallant figure he looked as, tall, lithe, and slim, and clad in all
his barbaric finery, he stepped out of the house into the dazzling
sunshine, to be greeted with a deafening shout of welcome from the
officers and troopers of his bodyguard, who were already mounted and
drawn up in a double line for his inspection.  So obviously was this
expected of him that Harry needed no hint to that effect, but, vaulting
lightly into the saddle of the magnificent white stallion that,
gorgeously caparisoned, chafed and fretted under the restraint of his
bridle, held by two of the nobles, while two more held the heavy gold
stirrups for the royal rider's feet, wheeled his steed and cantered
gaily off to where Umu, sitting bolt upright in his saddle with drawn
sword, waited in the centre, and some few paces in front of the
regiment, to receive him.  That the military usages of the more
civilised nations had not been permitted to pass altogether unnoticed
now became apparent; for as Harry approached Umu uttered a loud shout of
command, and at the word every sword flashed up in salute in the most
approved fashion, while a band of mounted musicians blared forth certain
weird strains which, the young Inca subsequently learned, was the
national anthem of the ancient Peruvians.

Accompanied by Umu, Harry now rode to the right flank of the regiment,
from whence he proceeded slowly along the front rank and finally the
rear, noting critically the appearance and bearing of the men, and
gauging the breed and quality of the horses as he went.  The horses
were, without exception, splendid animals, while the men were, for the
most part, fine, stalwart fellows, well set up; but, accustomed as
Escombe had been to the sight of the Life Guards and other crack cavalry
regiments in London, he could not avoid seeing that there was plenty of
room for improvement in the appearance and discipline generally of his
own bodyguard.  Yet it was glaringly apparent to him that Umu, their
captain, was inordinately proud of his regiment; and the new Inca was by
no means untactful.  Wherefore, having completed his inspection, Harry
spoke a few well-considered words of praise that rang sufficiently true
to make Umu his devoted slave henceforward, while the faint suggestion
conveyed that the praise was not quite unqualified impressed the Indian
noble with a sense of the high standard of perfection that must exist in
the young monarch's mind, and caused him there and then to register a
silent vow that the regiment should be brought up to that standard, even
though he should be obliged to kill every man of it in the process.

By the time that the inspection was completed the priests and nobles had
climbed into their saddles, and everything was ready for the
commencement of the march.  Harry therefore gave the word to Umu, who in
turn uttered a few sharp orders to the men, whereupon the ranks closed
up.  The horses pranced and tossed their heads as they wheeled into
line, and the cavalcade proceeded, the band leading the way, followed by
a solitary horseman in gorgeous array who bore proudly aloft the Inca's
banner--a blue silk flag embroidered in gold and coloured thread with an
image of the rainbow, which was the symbol sacred to the Inca, and
trimmed with heavy gold fringe round the three free edges.  Harry rode
immediately behind, surrounded by a little group consisting of the two
priests and the nobles who had come out to meet him, and followed by
Umu, who led his glittering and imposing regiment.

It was rather a trying ride in some respects for the young Inca, at
least at the outset, for Escombe's knowledge of the Quichua, or ancient
Peruvian, language was extremely restricted, while the nobles, with the
exception of Tiahuana and Umu, were apparently ignorant of Spanish.
Anything in the nature of conversation was therefore extremely
difficult, quite apart from the fact that everybody excepting Tiahuana
seemed altogether too shy to address the Inca, unless first spoken to by
him.  Harry very quickly realised that his ignorance of the Quichua was
likely to handicap him most seriously, and he there and then ordered
Tiahuana to make the necessary arrangements to have himself taught
without delay.

But although for the first few miles of the journey the young Inca
suffered from a certain feeling of constraint, he did not allow it to
trouble him long, for if conversation lagged there was plenty apart from
it to interest and delight him.  There was his horse, for instance.
Harry had alway been particularly fond of horses, and was an excellent
rider; as a boy, indeed, he had often followed the staghounds over
Dartmoor.  He therefore had a very fair idea of what a horse ought to
be; but he had not been in the saddle more than five minutes, on this
particular morning, before he realised that at length he had come into
possession of that rarest of all good things, a perfect horse; perfect
in temper, shape, and action, full of fire and courage, yet with a mouth
so sensitive that it would be quite possible to control him with a
thread for a bridle, while one had but to glance at the great; hard
muscles sliding so smoothly beneath the satin skin to be assured of his
indomitable endurance and insensibility to fatigue.  Then there was
plenty to interest and occupy his attention as they swept along the
great, smooth road at a hand gallop.  First of all, there was the road
itself, which was, in its way, a masterpiece of engineering; but, apart
from that, Harry could not but marvel at the perfect cleanliness of it,
until he learned that it had been traversed throughout the entire length
of the route by a whole army of sweepers during the early hours of the
morning, since when no living thing had been allowed upon it.  Then
there was the noble and endless avenue of shade trees which bordered the
road on either hand, dividing it from the wide footpaths, which in their
turn were shaded by less lofty trees, fruit-bearing for the most part,
the fruit being intended for the refreshment of the wayfarer.  Then
there were neat, orderly, and perfectly cultivated fields of sugar cane,
maize, tobacco, indigo, cotton, rice, coca trees, cacao, and other
tropical products on the flats immediately adjoining the road, while
farther back, toward the hills, were grain of all sorts, interspersed
with vast orchards and, at intervals, a stretch of pasture land, with
low, squat farmhouses and outbuildings dotted about in the midst.  The
farmers and their helpers were all busily engaged upon various kinds of
labour in their fields, but those who were near enough to the roads to
do so no sooner heard the distant hoof-beats of the approaching
cavalcade, and beheld the royal banner flaunting its blue and gold in
the wind, than they flung down their implements and rushed helter-
skelter to the roadside to watch the Inca go by, and acclaim him as he
passed.

But with every mile of that exhilarating ride towards the City of the
Sun the aspect of the landscape became subtly modified; the farms became
more extensive, the farmhouses larger and more elaborate in their style
of architecture, ornamental and decorative features became increasingly
conspicuous in every building encountered, until finally the aspect
became distinctly suburban, the farmhouses gave place to country
residences, the farms gradually merged into pleasure gardens, gay with
flowers and rich in carefully-cultivated fruit trees; the houses drew
closer together, and little groups of people in gala attire were
encountered, gradually increasing in numbers until the footpaths on
either hand were lined with joyous crowds of cheering people.

Then the white buildings of the city itself swung into view, gleaming
like alabaster between the boles of the bordering trees, with here and
there a flash of sunlight from the golden roofs of the principal
buildings; and finally a great archway, pierced through the lofty and
massive wall that enclosed the city, came into view, spanning the road,
and at the same moment a great blare of horns stifled the sound of
trampling hoof-beats, the jingle of accoutrements, and the frantic
shouts of the cheering multitude.  Then Umu flung his flashing sword-
blade aloft and shouted a word of command, whereupon the panting,
sweating horses were pulled into a walking pace, the riders straightened
themselves in their saddles, the band of musicians which led the way
struck up a weird, barbaric air, the great bronze gates, which had been
closed, were flung open, and the cavalcade passed through into the
principal street of the City of the Sun.  If Escombe had been questioned
ten minutes earlier he would, in reply, have expressed the confident
opinion that every man, woman, and child had left the city in order to
line the road outside the gates by which it was known that he must pass;
but he had no sooner traversed the echoing archway in the immensely
thick city wall than he saw how greatly mistaken such an opinion would
have been.  For, starting from the very wall itself, the pavement on
either hand, all along the line of route, was simply packed with
people--the children in front, the women next, and the men in the rear--
frantic with enthusiasm, and shouting themselves hoarse in their
eagerness to afford an adequate welcome to the Inca whose coming had
been looked forward to by them and their ancestors for more than three
hundred years.  But they did not confine their demonstrations of welcome
to mere acclamations.  At frequent intervals triumphal arches of an
elaborate character and of great beauty, decorated with banners and
flags, and profusely wreathed with flowers, were thrown across the
roadway, each being connected with the next by a line of poles, painted
blue, surmounted by a banner or flag, twined with flowers, and
supporting a heavy festoon of flowers which formed an unbroken floral
chain from one triumphal arch to the next.  The houses on either hand
were also decorated with flowers, banners, and long streamers of many-
tinted cloths hung from the eaves and windows, the whole scene strongly
reminding the young Englishman of the aspect of London's streets on the
occasion of our own gracious King's coronation.  But what impressed
Escombe more than anything else was the fact that all along the line of
route children and young girls, provided with large baskets of flowers,
were stationed, and, as the procession approached, these young people
stepped forward and strewed the road with the contents of their baskets,
thus carpeting the hard pavement with freshly gathered flowers, which
exhaled a delightful fragrance as they were trampled under foot by the
horses.

The young monarch, bowing right and left in response to the enthusiastic
greetings of his subjects, now had an opportunity to observe a few of
the more striking characteristics of the people among whom he had been
thrown in so extraordinary a fashion, and he was considerably surprised
to see how widely the different types varied.  The lower orders--or what
he deemed to be such, from the fact that they were compelled to take as
their viewpoint the pavement of the open street--were, as a rule, of
merely medium stature, sturdily built, and not particularly intellectual
in expression, while the colour of their skin was something very nearly
approaching to ruddy copper, very few even of their womenkind having any
pretentions to comeliness, to say nothing of beauty.  The occupants of
the buildings, however, who viewed the procession from their windows or
the flat roofs of their houses, and who might be taken to represent a
somewhat better class, were not only lighter in colour and more
intelligent in expression, but some of them were distinctly good-
looking.  And, as a general rule, the larger and more important the
building--and presumably, therefore, the higher the rank of the owner--
the more strongly marked was the difference, which at length, in the
case of the nobles, became so accentuated that they might very easily
have been taken to be members of a distinct race, the men being much
fairer of complexion, of greater stature, and more finely proportioned,
as well as much more intellectual in appearance than their humbler
brethren; while the women of the higher classes and nobility were in
many cases as fair and as lovely as, say, Spanish or Italian women.

Winding its way slowly through some two miles of wide and handsome
streets, the buildings in which became ever more imposing as it
advanced, the cavalcade at length arrived before a very large building
of two stories in height--as against the single story which appeared to
be the vogue in the City of the Sun--planned to form three sides of a
square, and standing in the midst of a magnificent garden of some thirty
acres in extent, which Escombe rightly judged to be the royal palace.
It was not a particularly handsome structure--indeed, the builders of
the city seemed to be singularly devoid of architectural taste as it is
understood elsewhere--but it was imposing on account of its size and
solidity, and the bold and massive character of such ornamentation as it
displayed.  Contrary to the usual custom, which appeared to favour white
marble as a building material, the palace was built throughout of
massive blocks of greyish-green granite, so accurately joined together
that the joints were almost indistinguishable.  It stood upon a solid
base of much darker granite, some six feet high, and access to its
interior was gained by means of a very wide flight of eighteen steps,
each about four inches high and some eighteen inches wide from back to
front.  The door and window openings were surrounded by broad bands or
frames of granite projecting some six inches beyond the general face of
the walls, and in these bands were set several large, elaborately
sculptured medallions, which had all the appearance of--and, as a matter
of fact, actually were--solid gold.  And all round the building, between
the upper and lower tier of windows, ran a flat band, or string course,
of solid gold, about two feet in depth, upon which a graceful pattern of
scroll-work was boldly chased.  Finally, above the upper row of windows,
in the place usually occupied by a cornice in European buildings, there
was a massive bull-nose moulding, quite three feet deep, also of solid
gold, surmounted by the parapet which guarded the flat roof of the
building.  The facade of the building was the middle of the three sides,
and faced toward the road, while the two wings ran from it at right
angles back toward the lake.

So much Escombe was able to note with regard to his new home, as the
cavalcade swung in through the magnificent gates of wrought copper which
gave access to the grounds, and made its way up a wide path or drive to
the main entrance, before which it halted.  In an instant the two nobles
who had held his horse for him while he mounted some hours earlier were
again at the animal's head, and Harry swung himself somewhat stiffly out
of the saddle; for the ride had been a long and hot one, and it was now
a full fortnight since he had last been on horseback.  As his foot
touched the ground the band of his bodyguard again struck up the
national anthem, and every officer and man raised his sword in salute,
after which, as Harry ascended the steps and passed through the wide
doorway of the palace, Umu shouted a command, the swords flashed in the
glaring afternoon sunshine as they were returned to their scabbards, and
the weary horses and their riders trotted soberly off to the cavalry
stables.  The nobles who had accompanied Harry on his ride, and also
Tiahuana, entered the palace with the young Inca, doing the honours of
the building, and indicating the character of the various apartments
which they passed as they conducted him to a superb bathroom, where they
assisted him to disrobe, and where he enjoyed a most welcome "tub" in
tepid water, made additionally refreshing by the mingling with it of a
certain liquid which imparted to it a most exquisite fragrance.  Then,
attired in a fresh costume, they conducted him to a small but very
handsome room, the chairs and tables in which were made of solid silver,
where, waited on by a small army of servants in the royal livery, he
partook of a light meal.  Tiahuana, who, at Harry's special invitation,
joined him at the repast, explaining that there was still much to be
done that day, since in little more than an hour a solemn service of
thanksgiving was to be held in the great Temple of the Sun to
commemorate the return of the great Manco to his long-expectant people,
and to inaugurate suitably the commencement of a new and glorious era in
that people's history.



CHAPTER TWELVE.

HUANACOCHA IS UNCONVINCED.

The meal over, it became necessary for Escombe to effect another change
of attire, the simple garb that he had assumed upon emerging from the
bath being discarded in favour of certain gorgeous garments that had
been especially prepared for the solemn service in the great Temple of
the Sun.  There was only one item in this costume which Harry had worn
before, and that was the borla or tasselled fringe of scarlet round the
temples, which proclaimed his royal rank.  On this occasion also, the
ceremony in which he was about to take part being a strictly religious
one, he wore no weapons.  The great Temple of the Sun being the most
important building in the city, not even excepting the royal palace, was
built on the crest of a hill which dominated the entire city, and was
situated about a mile from the palace; the journey thither, therefore,
afforded opportunity for another royal procession, in which Harry was to
figure in a sort of litter borne aloft on the shoulders of eight men.
This litter consisted of a platform covered with a magnificent carpet
woven in a pattern composed of many rich colours, and supported by two
pairs of shafts made of some tough, springy wood, the end of each shaft
being attached to a kind of yoke which rested upon the shoulders of two
of the bearers.  Upon the platform, which was carried shoulder-high, was
mounted a throne, the woodwork of which was entirely enclosed in gold
plates, richly wrought and thickly studded with emeralds; and, seated on
this throne and surrounded by an escort of some five hundred foot
soldiers gorgeously attired and armed with bows, spears, and maces with
heavy spiked heads, the young Inca presently found himself being borne
at a rapid trot through another wide and handsome street, which, judging
from the character of the buildings bordering it, evidently formed the
aristocratic quarter of the town.  This street, like those which he had
already passed through, was lined on both sides by gaily attired people
of both sexes and all ages, who rent the air with their enthusiastic
acclamations as the cortege swept past them, the only difference being
that the majority at least of these folk were, like himself, hurrying in
the direction of the temple.

It was with a somewhat abstracted air that Harry acknowledged the
salutations of these people, for, truth to tell, his mind and his
conscience were being rather severely exercised upon the subject of the
function in which he was about to take part.  The one great outstanding
fact in relation to it was that it was a pagan rite; and he felt that,
regarded from an abstract point of view, it was distinctly wrong for
him, a professed Christian, to countenance or abet idolatry in any form.
Yet he had not been all those months in Peru without having acquired a
certain elementary knowledge of the early history of the country, much
of which, by the way, had been gained through his conversations with
Arima long before that individual had so much as dreamed of the
brilliant destiny that awaited his pleasant-mannered young English
master.  Thus, for instance, he knew that the Peruvian Indians
recognised the existence of a Supreme Being, the Creator and Ruler of
the Universe, whom they sometimes named Pachacamac, and at others
Viracocha; and he also knew that the attributes of this Being were
believed to be of so superlatively divine a character that the simple
Indians had never dared to rear more than one temple in his honour,
which had long since been destroyed.  He was aware also that the Inca
was not only an absolute monarch, an autocrat invested with greater
powers than any other earthly monarch, but that he was implicitly
believed to be of divine origin, and that some of the attributes of
divinity still clung to him; he was therefore not only a monarch who
wielded absolute power, and whose will was law, but he was also the head
of the priesthood.  Taking these two facts in conjunction, Escombe, with
the extreme assurance of youth, and perhaps not attaching quite enough
importance to the fact that the sun was the deity whose worship had been
especially inculcated and carefully handed down from generation to
generation, thought, as he considered the matter, that he could see his
way first to divert the adoration of his subjects from the sun to
Pachacamac, and afterwards to explain that Pachacamac and the God of the
Christians were one and the same, thus insensibly leading them from the
paths of paganism into those of Christianity.  And he resolved to do it.
It was a grand ambition, and it spoke well for him that this should be
the first definite resolution that he had taken in connection with the
tremendous powers with which he had become so strangely invested; for,
singularly enough, it had never occurred to him until within the last
hour that he would be called upon to take any part in the functions and
ceremonies of pagan worship.  Moreover, it swept away every one of the
scruples that had been worrying him as to whether or not he was
justified in being present at the impending function; for he felt that,
having come to the above resolution, he was justified in being present,
otherwise how could he offer any suggestions as to a change in the
ceremonial?

By the time that he had thought the matter out thus far, and had arrived
at the conclusion that he believed he could see his way pretty clearly
before him, he had reached the great open space, in the centre of which
stood the temple, and he had time only to run his eye hastily over the
enormous building and gather in a general idea of its aspect before his
litter was deposited at the foot of the magnificent flight of forty-five
broad, shallow steps which ran all round the building, and which gave
access to the spacious platform upon which the edifice was raised.

As Harry leisurely dismounted from the litter his escort ran nimbly up
the steps and arranged itself--four deep on each step, and the remainder
on the platform above--into a wide avenue of spearmen to keep back the
crowds that thronged the steps, and thus afford the young Inca a clear
space in which to accomplish the ascent to the great main doorway of the
building.  At the same moment Tiahuana, gorgeously attired in a long
flowing robe of white that was stiff with the heavy gold embroidery
which almost covered it, with a mitre-like headdress, similarly
embroidered, on his head, and a gold wand surmounted by a golden image
of the sun in his right hand, emerged from the doorway, followed by
apparently the entire staff of the priesthood, and stood at the head of
the long flight of steps to receive the Inca.

Contrary to his expectation, instead of being conducted directly into
the main body of the building, Escombe, surrounded by fully a hundred
priests, was led by Tiahuana into an anteroom, where he found assembled
the Council of Seven, under the leadership of one Huanacocha--who,
Tiahuana whisperingly mentioned, was the chief and most powerful noble
of the entire nation--and some five hundred other nobles, to whom he was
now to be presented, and who were thus to be afforded an opportunity of
thoroughly satisfying themselves before matters were allowed to proceed
any further, that the young man was indeed the re-incarnated Manco, for
whose return to earth the nation had been looking forward for over three
hundred years.

Upon entering this anteroom Escombe found himself upon a dais occupying
one end of, and reaching across the entire width of the apartment.  In
the centre of the dais, but close up to the front of it, was a throne of
solid silver, with a footstool before it, and upon this throne Harry was
directed by Tiahuana to seat himself, the body of priests immediately
arranging themselves behind and on either side of it.  Before him, and
on the main floor of the room, which was some eighteen inches below the
level of the dais, were arranged several rows of benches upon which the
nobles were seated, the Council of Seven, which had governed in the
absence of an Inca, with Huanacocha occupying the middle place, being
seated on the front bench, or that nearest the dais.

The little stir which had been occasioned by the entrance of Harry and
the priests having subsided, Arima--to Escombe's amazement--was
mysteriously produced by Tiahuana and led forward to the front of the
dais, from which standpoint he was ordered to relate the circumstances
under which he first came into contact with the young Englishman; how
his suspicions as to the identity of his employer with the expected Inca
were first aroused; what steps he took to verify those suspicions, and
how he proceeded after those suspicions were confirmed; all of which he
told in the Quichua language, not only with a total absence of
embarrassment, but with a certain undertone of pride and exultation
running through his narrative; for he felt that, as the first discoverer
of the returned Manco, he was a person of very great consequence.  Then
Harry was requested to state where and in what manner he came into
possession of the long-lost emerald collar of Manco Capac, which he did
in Spanish, Tiahuana afterwards interpreting his brief statement into
Quichua.  Then came Tiahuana's own turn.  He began by reminding his
hearers of the terrible happenings of that dreadful day when Atahuallpa,
deceived by the treacherous Spaniards, unsuspectingly entered the city
of Caxamalca, only to see his followers ruthlessly slaughtered, and to
find himself a captive in the hands of the _Conquistadors_.  Then he
drew a graphic word picture of that still more awful night when
Atahuallpa, chained hand and foot, was led out into the great square of
the city and ignominiously strangled by his unscrupulous and
bloodthirsty betrayers.  Warming to his subject, he next very briefly
sketched the untoward fate of the Inca Manco, son of Huayna Capac, whom
the Spaniards had installed, as their tool and puppet, on the throne
vacated by the murder of Atahuallpa; and he concluded this portion of
his address by briefly reminding his hearers of the sudden and dramatic
appearance of the prophet-priest Titucocha on the night of Atahuallpa's
murder, and of the prophecy then uttered by him, which Tiahuana repeated
word for word.  Then, gathering fresh energy and fire as he proceeded,
the High Priest told how, after waiting impatiently all his life long
for the reappearance of the great Manco, foretold by Titucocha, until he
had begun to despair of living to see that happy day, he had been
suddenly startled into new life and hope by the arrival of Arima in the
city with the glad news that the divine Manco had actually returned to
earth and was even then among the mountains of his beloved Peru.  He
reminded them of how he, Tiahuana, had conducted Arima into the presence
of the Council of Seven and caused him to relate his story to them; of
the scepticism with which that story had been received, of the
difficulty which he had encountered in persuading the Council that it
was their duty to permit him, as High Priest, to sift the story and
ascertain how far it was true; and how, having at length secured their
somewhat reluctant consent, he had triumphantly accomplished his mission
and now had the duty and pleasure to present them to the divine Manco,
promised of Heaven as the deliverer and restorer of the Peruvian nation.

"But how are we to be assured beyond all possibility of doubt that this
young man is in very deed the reincarnated Manco, whose return was
foretold by the prophet Titucocha, and for whom the nation has looked
these three hundred years and more?" demanded Huanacocha, the head of
the Council of Seven.  "He is a white man to begin with; and for my part
it has always been in my mind that when the divine Manco should deign to
return to us, he would come in the form of a full-blooded Peruvian
Indian, even as we are."

A low murmur of concurrence and approval filled the room at these bold
words of Huanacocha, and every eye was at once turned upon Tiahuana to
see what reply he would give to this apparently unanswerable objection.

"Why should you suppose any such thing?" demanded Tiahuana in a cold,
level voice.  "There is no word in Titucocha's prophecy, as handed down
to us in our records, to justify any such belief.  I am prepared to
admit, if you like, that such an expectation was natural, but further
than that I cannot go.  Nay, rather let me say that, taking into
consideration the careful minuteness with which Titucocha particularised
the several means of identification--every one of which has been
literally fulfilled in him whom you now see before you--I am convinced
that if our Lord the Sun had intended that his child should return to us
as an Indian, born of us and among us, Titucocha would have specifically
said so.  But, as I have already reminded you, he did not.  What he said
was that the re-incarnated Manco was to be the deliverer and restorer of
the ancient Peruvian nation; and who so fit to undertake and
successfully carry through this stupendous task as one born, and who has
lived all his life in England, that great nation of which we have all
heard, whose empire extends north and south, east and west, to the
uttermost parts of the earth, so that it has been said of her that she
is the empire upon which the sun never sets.  My Lords, I, who am full
of years and of the wisdom that comes with many years, tell you that if
ever we are to free ourselves from the yoke of the oppressor, and to
restore Peru to its ancient position of power and glory, we must be
helped and guided in that great, that almost impossible task, by one who
unites within himself superlative wisdom and superlative courage; and
the crowning proof, to my mind, that heaven has now at last fulfilled
its glorious promise is to be found in the fact that it has ordained our
new Inca to be born an Englishman, possessed of all that courage, that
wisdom, and that knowledge for which Englishmen are famed throughout the
world.  I have spoken!  And now, I pray you, come forward every one of
you, from the first unto the last, and see with your own eyes the final
proof that the great Manco has indeed returned to us.  Thus far you have
merely been called upon to believe the testimony of Arima and myself;
but now it is for you to look with your own eyes upon the collar which
this young man wears, and to say whether in very truth it is or is not
the emerald collar of the divine Manco, of which we have so perfect and
complete a description, and by the wearing of which he was to be
recognised in his re-incarnated form."

As Tiahuana ceased speaking, another low murmur ran round the assembly,
but whether of approval or of dissent it was not easy to judge.  Then
Huanacocha, as chief of the Council of Seven, arose, and, stepping
forward to the dais, took in his hand the emerald collar that Tiahuana
handed to him--having removed it from Harry's neck for the purposes of
inspection--and examined it with the most scrupulous care.  He was about
to return it to Tiahuana when the latter said:

"Has my Lord Huanacocha compared the features delineated on the pendant
with those of him whom I am offering to the nation as its long-looked-
for deliverer?"

Huanacocha had not, it seemed, for, taking the pendant in his hand, he
studied it intently, and then gazed long and steadily at Harry's
features.

"I admit that there certainly is some resemblance," he said coldly, as
he handed back the jewel.

Then, one after the other, the remaining members of the assembly came
forward one by one, scrutinised the jewel with more or less
deliberation, and returned to their seats, until every one in the room
had obeyed Tiahuana's summons.  Then the High Priest stepped forward to
the edge of the dais, and said:

"Nobles of the ancient Peruvian blood-royal, I have now submitted to you
the last piece of evidence upon which I base my contention that the
young man whom I have brought into your midst--and of whose existence we
became aware through a sequence of events that can only be described as
miraculous--is in very truth he for whose appearance we and our
forefathers have been anxiously looking during a period of more than
three hundred years.  You are all perfectly acquainted with the words of
the prophecy which foretold his appearance; for so important, so vital
to the interests of the nation, were those words regarded that it has
been our rule throughout the ages to teach them to every child until
that child can repeat them by heart.  You are therefore perfectly
cognisant of all the signs and tokens of identification by which the re-
incarnated Manco was to be recognised when in the fulness of time he
should again come to us, to execute his great mission of our
regeneration.  It now rests with you to decide whether those signs and
tokens have been fulfilled in the case of this young man so clearly and
unmistakably as to justify our acceptance of him as the being whom I
claim him to be.  Although it is perhaps hardly necessary for me to do
so, it is my duty to remind you that never in the history of our nation
have the Peruvian nobility been called upon to decide a more momentous
question.  I now ask you to rise in your places, one by one, beginning
with my Lord Huanacocha, and say whether or not you are satisfied that
this young man is in very truth the divine Manco returned to earth."

A very perceptible pause followed this appeal, and then Huanacocha rose
to his feet.

"Before replying to your question, my Lord Tiahuana," said he, "I should
like the young man to tell us what he can remember of his former
existence.  The history of Manco Capac, our first Inca and the founder
of our nation, is well known to all of us, and if your claim be indeed
justified there must be many incidents in his career, well known to us
but quite unknown to the outer world, which the claimant can recall.
Let him mention a few of those incidents, and the most doubting among us
will be satisfied."

This speech was delivered in the Quichua language, and it was necessary
for Tiahuana to translate to Harry, who at once replied:

"I have already told you, I believe, that I have no recollection
whatever of any former state of existence."

"My Lords," said Tiahuana, "the young man asserts, with perfect candour,
that he has no recollection whatever of any former state of existence;
therefore he is unable to furnish those further proofs demanded by the
Lord Huanacocha.  But what of that?  Does this absence of recollection
invalidate all the other proofs that have been given?  How many of us
remember any of our former states of existence distinctly enough to
recall any of their happenings?  I confess that I do not.  Does my Lord
Huanacocha, or do any of you?"

A long and profound silence followed this pointed question.  So
prolonged, indeed, was it that it at length became evident that no one
in that assembly had a reply to it; whereupon Tiahuana, his eyes
gleaming with triumph, once more stepped forward and said:

"My Lords, your silence is a complete and sufficient answer to my
question, and proves that the objection raised by my Lord Huanacocha was
an unreasonable one.  I must therefore again call upon him to say
whether he is or is not satisfied with the other proofs advanced."

There was no pause or hesitation this time; Huanacocha at once rose and
said:

"I have no fault to find with the other proofs; but I contend that they
do not go far enough.  I am still strongly of opinion that when the
divine Manco returns to us he will come in the guise of one of
ourselves, an Indian of the blood-royal; and therefore I must refuse to
accept the dictum of my Lord Tiahuana that the young white man is the
re-incarnation of the first Manco, the founder of our nation."  And he
resumed his seat.

This bold and defiant speech created, as might be expected, a most
tremendous sensation among the other occupants of the hall; but
Tiahuana, with a slight gesture of impatience, at once threw up his hand
to demand silence, and said:

"You have all heard the objections raised by my Lord Huanacocha, and are
as well able as I am to weigh and judge their value.  Let now the other
lords arise, each in his turn, and express his opinion."

The man on Huanacocha's right at once arose, and said:

"I am quite satisfied with the proofs adduced by the High Priest.  To me
they are complete and perfectly convincing."

The man on the left of Huanacocha then sprang to his feet and said:

"I find it quite impossible to come to a definite decision, one way or
the other.  On the one hand, I regard the proofs adduced by my Lord
Tiahuana as perfectly satisfactory; but on the other I think there is
reason in the objection raised by my Lord Huanacocha that the aspirant
is a white man.  Notwithstanding what has been said by the High Priest,
my conviction is that the true Manco, when he appears, will be born
among us and be one of ourselves.  I am unconvinced."

Thus the expression of opinion went on until all had given one, when it
appeared that Huanacocha had four adherents to his views, the remainder
of the nobles being quite unanimous in their conviction that Harry was
in very deed the re-incarnation of the first Manco.  He was therefore
accepted by an overwhelming majority, as Tiahuana had confidently
anticipated; and the discomfited Huanacocha and his friends were
compelled to waive their objections, which, after recording them, they
did with a somewhat better grace than might have been expected.

Then came the ceremony of swearing allegiance to the new sovereign,
which was done by every individual present, beginning with Tiahuana, who
was followed by Motahuana and the entire body of the priests, who, in
their turn, were succeeded by the nobles, beginning with Huanacocha.

By the time that this ceremony was concluded the afternoon was well
advanced and it was time to repair to the main body of the temple, where
the service of thanksgiving was to be held; and in consideration of the
fact that Harry was a stranger, and of course completely ignorant of the
religious ritual followed by the worshippers of the Sun, Motahuana was
told off to accompany and prompt him.  Accordingly, led by the deputy
High Priest, the young monarch, followed by the nobles, passed down a
long corridor and, wheeling to the left, passed through an enormous
archway veiled by great gold-embroidered curtains which, upon being
drawn aside at their approach, revealed the whole of the vast interior
of the temple proper in which the ceremony was to be held.

When, an hour or two earlier, the young Inca--whose official name was
now Manco Capac--had approached the enormous building in which he now
found himself, he had promptly come to the conclusion that the edifice
owed little or nothing of its imposing character to the skill of the
architect; for, so far as architectural beauty was concerned, it was
almost as plain and unpretentious as his own palace: it was imposing
merely because of its immense dimensions.  It consisted of a huge
rectangular block of pure white marble, the walls of which were from
eight to ten feet thick, without columns, or pediment, or even so much
as a few pilasters to break up the monotonous smoothness and regularity
of its exterior surface, the only aids in this direction being the great
east doorway, or main entrance, which was some thirty feet wide by about
sixty feet high, with an immense window opening on either side of it,
through which and the doorway entered all the light which illuminated
the interior.  True, the doorway and window openings were each
surrounded by heavy marble borders, or frames, encrusted with great
plates of gold elaborately ornamented with a boldly sculptured design.
There was also a heavy gold string course and bull-nose moulding similar
to that on the palace; but, apart from that and the gold-tiled roof,
there was no attempt at exterior decorative effect.  Whatever might have
been deemed lacking in this direction, however, was more than
compensated for by the barbaric splendour and profusion of the interior
decorations.  The entire west wall of the building was covered with a
solid plate of burnished gold emblazoned with a gigantic face from which
emanated rays innumerable, representing the sun, the great eyes being
reproduced in a perfect blaze of gems; precious stones of all kinds
being thickly powdered also all over the plate, which was primarily
intended to receive the rays of the rising sun through the great east
door in the early morning--at which hour the most impressive ceremony of
the day was celebrated--and reflect the light back upon the people.  The
two side walls were also decorated with great gold plates, about two
feet square, richly engraved, and arranged in a chequer pattern, a
square of gold alternating with a square of the white marble wall of the
building from top to bottom and from end to end, each of the white
marble squares having in its centre a gold ornament about the size of
one's hand which formed a mount for a precious stone, rubies and
emeralds being the most numerous, although diamonds of considerable size
gleamed here and there.  Had the stones been cut and polished, instead
of being set in the rough, the effect would have been gorgeous beyond
description.  Perhaps the most wonderful part of the whole building,
however, was the ceiling.  This was composed entirely of white marble
slabs supported and divided into panels by great beams of solid marble
made up of enormous blocks of the stone the ends of which were so
cunningly "scarphed", or fitted together, that the joints were invisible
and gripped each other so tightly that neither cement nor bolts were
needed to complete the union.  And in the centre of each panel of the
ceiling, and at each crossing of the beams, was a great golden ornament
bearing some resemblance to a full-blown rose.  The western wall of the
building was decorated like the two side walls, save that in place of
the bare marble a silver square alternated with a gold one.  And,
finally, the great doors in the western wall were of solid silver
wrought to represent timber, the grain and knots of the wood being
imitated with marvellous fidelity, while the nails were represented in
gold.



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

THE DAUGHTER OF UMU.

Piloted by Motahuana, Harry presently found himself installed in a
marble throne raised on a dais at the western extremity of the building,
behind the altars--of which there were three--and facing them and the
vast assembly.  Immediately on the other side of the altars, and facing
them, were the nobles, also occupying marble seats; and a brave show
they made in their gala attire, Umu, the captain of the royal bodyguard,
in his gorgeous uniform, being a very conspicuous figure among them.
And behind the nobles, seated on wooden benches, was the people ranged
row after row, until, so vast was the building, the features of those
seated near the eastern wall were quite indistinguishable to the young
Inca.

The slight stir in that immense assemblage caused by the entrance of the
monarch and his train of nobles had scarcely subsided when the strains
of distant music were heard, rapidly increasing in power and volume as
the musicians drew near; and presently, through an archway immediately
opposite that by which Escombe had entered, there filed a small army of
priests led by Tiahuana, still in his robes and bearing his wand.  Some
sixty of these were performing on a variety of wind and string
instruments more or less remotely suggestive of those known to civilised
nations, while the remainder chanted to their accompaniment a quaint but
by no means unpleasing melody, the air of which was quite distinctly
suggestive of rejoicing.  The words of the song--or hymn, rather--were
Quichua, and Escombe was therefore unable to gather the sense of them.
In the midst of the priests walked a band of some twenty youths attired
in richly embroidered white tunics of soft woollen material, girt about
the waist with a gold-embroidered belt; and each youth bore in his arms
a mass of beautiful flowers, the delicate perfume of which quickly
diffused itself throughout the building.  Priests and youths were alike
barefooted; and a more careful scrutiny soon revealed to Harry the fact
that he was the only individual in the building--so far as he could
see--who remained shod.

Led by the instrumentalists, the procession wheeled to the right and
passed slowly down the first aisle of the building to its eastern
extremity, then right across it, past the great eastern door, up the
fourth aisle, down the third, and up the second, which brought them
finally to the altar which stood on the right of the main or high altar,
as looked at from Escombe's point of view.  Then, while the priests
continued their chanting, the flower-laden youths piled their fragrant
burdens upon the right-hand altar and twined them about it until it was
completely hidden from view by the vari-coloured blooms and their
delicate foliage.  This done, the youths retired, and the High Priest--
or Villac Vmu, as he was called--standing before the flower-draped
altar, with his back to the people, uttered what appeared to be a short
invocation or prayer, during which the worshippers all knelt upon the
beautifully tessellated marble pavement.  This prayer lasted three or
four minutes, and upon its conclusion the people rose and resumed their
seats; while Tiahuana, turning and facing them, delivered an address of
some twenty minutes' length, after which another hymn was sung by both
priests and people, the former slowly filing out of the building during
the singing, and so timing their movements that as the last note was
sung the last priest disappeared through the arch, and the curtain fell
behind him.

Harry not unnaturally concluded that this ended the ceremonial; but he
was quickly undeceived by Motahuana, who informed him that one, if not
two, burnt sacrifices yet remained to be offered.  And indeed, scarcely
had this piece of information been conveyed when the music and singing
again made themselves heard, and the priests filed into the building
once more.  But, instead of the band of flower-bearing youths, there
appeared a llama, decked with garlands and wreaths of flowers, and led
by two young priests.  This time the order of procedure was reversed,
the procession crossing over to the fourth aisle, passing down it and up
the first, down the second, and up the third, which finally brought them
opposite the second subsidiary altar, to a golden ring in which the
llama was now tethered, the processional hymn lasting long enough to
allow this operation to be completed.  Then followed another prayer,
succeeded by another address, during which the unfortunate llama was
bound and trussed up so ingeniously that the unhappy creature was
rendered incapable of making the least struggle.  Then a number of
priests seized the helpless animal and laid it upon the top of the
altar, upon which meanwhile a great pile of cedar boughs and other
scented wood had been carefully piled.  This done, two priests strode
forward, one bearing a very formidable-looking copper knife, while the
other carried a large and most beautifully wrought basin of solid gold.
Seizing the llama by the ears and dragging its head back, the first of
these two priests raised his knife on high.  There was a yellow flash as
the keen and heavy blade descended upon the animal's throat, and the
next instant the llama's lifeblood was pouring and smoking into the
basin which the second priest held to receive it.  And so dexterously
was the whole thing done that not a single drop of blood stained the
white garment of either priest; had it been otherwise, it would have
been regarded as an unfavourable omen.

The moment that the blood ceased to flow, the thongs which confined the
poor beast's limbs to its body were released, the carcass was turned
upon its back, the belly was ripped open, and the Villac Vmu stepped
forward and carefully examined the entrails, during which the people
appeared to be held in a state of the most painfully breathless
suspense.  This, however, was happily not prolonged, for it lasted only
a few seconds when Tiahuana, stepping forward and facing the assembly,
threw up his hands and shouted:

"Blessed be our Father the Sun, the omens are all exceptionally,
marvellously, favourable, and our sovereign Lord the Inca is assured of
a long and prosperous reign, during which he will be permitted to
accomplish all that was prophesied concerning him."

Instantly the priests burst into a loud paean of praise, which was
promptly taken up by the entire people, standing, during the singing of
which a priest appeared, bearing a torch kindled at the sacred fire,
which was kept alight throughout the year.  This torch he presented to
Harry, who, at Motahuana's prompting, and with several qualms of
conscience, rose to his feet and thrust it in among the pile of wood on
the top of the altar, beneath the body of the llama.  The crackling of
the dry twigs that formed the substructure of the cunningly arranged
pile, and the curling wreaths of fragrant smoke, soon showed that the
wood was fairly alight; and as the little tongues of yellow flame leapt
from twig to twig and gathered power, and the smoke shot upward from the
altar in a thin perfectly straight column to the ceiling, the great
building fairly resounded with the shouts of jubilation of the enormous
congregation, for this was the last and most important omen of all.  If
the smoke column had bent or wavered in the least it would have foretold
trouble--ay, or even disaster, had the wavering been sufficiently
pronounced.  But, on the contrary, every omen, from first to last, had
been of so exceptionally favourable a character that the special
sacrifice of thank-offering that was always tentatively arranged for
upon such occasions as the present became a foregone conclusion, and the
assembly, instead of dispersing, as they would have done had the omens
been less eminently favourable, settled again into their seats with a
great sigh and shudder of tense expectancy; for this would be the first
time that many of them had ever been present at a ceremony of the kind
that was now pending.

Escombe, who was by this time beginning to feel very tired, as well as
distinctly dissatisfied with himself for taking part in all this
mummery, noticed vaguely that something out of the common was evidently
toward, but he was too thoroughly distrait to even seek an explanation
from Motahuana, and he watched, as in a dream, the long procession of
priests file out of the building to the accompaniment of an unmistakable
song of triumph.  Presently, with more singing and music, they came
filing back again; but in the comparatively brief interval of their
absence they had contrived to effect a complete change in their
appearance, for, instead of the white garments which they had previously
worn, they were now robed in crimson, heavily bordered with gold
embroidery, while Tiahuana's robe was so completely covered with gold
embroidery, encrusted with gems, that it was as stiff as a board, the
crimson colour of the material scarcely showing through it.  He still
bore his wand in his hands, and the mitre which he now wore blazed with
gold and precious stones.  On this occasion, instead of leading the
procession, he was preceded by a priest, scarcely less gorgeously robed
than himself, who held aloft a beautiful banner of crimson cloth
emblazoned with the figure of the Sun.  Other banners, equally rich and
beautiful, about twenty in all, were borne by the main body of the
priests.

But no sooner was the procession--singing a peculiarly sweet and
plaintive air--fairly inside the body of the temple than Escombe aroused
himself with a violent start, for walking in the midst of the priests,
attired in a simple white robe, from the hem of which her little bare
feet peeped as she walked with downcast eyes, and wreathed and garlanded
about with a long chain of magnificent crimson roses, and with her hands
bound behind her, there walked the most lovely maiden that the young man
had ever seen.  Although there was little doubt that she was of pure
Indian blood, she was as fair as a Spaniard, but without a vestige of
colour--as might well be expected under the circumstances.  Her long,
dark hair, unbound, clustered in wavy ringlets upon her shoulders and
far enough below her waist to completely veil her tied hands.  Every eye
in the building was instantly turned upon this fair vision as the
congregation rose _en masse_, and a loud gasp of what sounded very much
like dismay drew Escombe's attention to Umu, who distinctly staggered as
he rose to his feet, while his face went a sickly, yellowish-white, and
the perspiration poured from his forehead like rain.  The poor fellow
stared at the girl as though he could scarcely believe his eyes; yet
that he did believe them was perfectly evident, while the anguished
expression of his countenance made it equally evident that he was very
deeply interested in the young lady and her fate.  As to what that fate
was to be there could be no shadow of doubt, even in the mind of one so
ignorant of the details of the religious ceremonial of the Peruvians as
was its new monarch.  The girl's awful pallor, her very presence in the
procession, and the fact of her being garlanded with flowers, each had
its own significance, and pointed indubitably to the fact that she was
the destined victim in a human sacrifice!

Turning to Motahuana, Harry demanded, in a fierce whisper:

"Who is that girl, and why is she taking part in the procession?"  To
which Motahuana replied:

"She is Maia, the daughter of Umu, captain of my Lord's bodyguard; and,
as the most beautiful maiden in the city, she has been chosen by the
Villac Vmu as worthy the great honour of being offered in sacrifice upon
the altar of thanksgiving on this most memorable and auspicious
occasion.  It is a great surprise to Umu, of course, to see his only
daughter occupying her present proud position, for by the order of
Tiahuana she was taken from her father's house within an hour of his
departure to meet my Lord and escort him to the city; and his duties
have probably not permitted him to visit his home since his return,
hence the sight of his daughter in the procession is the first
intimation which he has received of the honour conferred upon her--and
him."

The utter indifference to the anguish of those chiefly concerned which
Motahuana betrayed in this speech made Escombe fairly writhe with
disgust and abhorrence, which feelings were increased a hundredfold by
the knowledge that this young maiden was to be forced to lay down her
life, and her parent's home was to be made desolate, in order that his--
Harry Escombe's--accession to the throne of the Incas might be fitly
celebrated!  He ground his teeth in impotent fury, and unrestrainedly
execrated the stupendous folly which had induced him to enter so light-
heartedly into an adventure fraught with elements of such unimaginable
horror.  True, he had done so with the very best intentions; yes, but
how often, even in his comparatively brief experience of life, had he
known of actions instigated by "the very best intentions" that had
culminated in grim disaster!  And now he was adding yet another to the
long list!

But stay; was this thing inevitable?  He suddenly remembered that many
of the good intentions that had determined him to acquiesce passively in
the events that had placed him where he now was were based upon the fact
that, as Inca, he would be the possessor of absolute power, and would be
able to mould events to his will; that, as Inca, he would be superior to
everybody, even the priesthood, for the Inca was not only the head of
the priesthood but was actually credited with the possession of a
certain measure of divinity in his own person.  If all this were really
true, now was the time to assert his authority and test his power.  He
would forbid the sacrifice, and see what came of it.

As he arrived at this determination he glanced up, to find Umu's gaze
fixed fully upon him, and there was such intensity of unmistakable
anguish and entreaty in the gaze that Harry unhesitatingly answered it
with a nod and an encouraging smile, which evoked a gasp of almost
incredulous joy and relief from its recipient.

The procession had by this time passed down the first aisle and was
coming up the second, the paean of triumph and thanksgiving pealing
louder and more thrillingly on the ear with every step of its progress.
At length it reached the head of the aisle and wheeled to the right with
the evident intention of turning into the third aisle, which would have
caused it to brush close past the row of benches by which Umu was
standing.  But a moment before the banner bearer who was leading the
procession arrived at the wheeling point, Harry rose from his throne
and, standing on his footstool, so that every person in that vast
building might see and hear him, flung up his right hand and imperiously
called a halt in the proceedings, in response to which the procession
came to an abrupt standstill, and the singers and musicians almost as
abruptly became silent.  Then Harry beckoned Tiahuana to his side, and
said:

"Interpret for me; I have a message for the people."

Then, as Tiahuana gazed aghast and speechless at the young man who had
resorted to so unheard of a proceeding as to interrupt a ceremony of
thanksgiving at its most intensely interesting and dramatic moment,
Harry proceeded:

"Children of the ancient Peruvian nation, hearken unto me; for
Pachacamac, the Supreme, the Creator and Ruler of the Universe, who made
all things, yea even unto the Sun, Moon, and Stars which you adore, each
in their several seasons, has this moment put a message into my mouth
and bid me deliver it unto you.

"Thus saith Pachacamac, the Great and Only One.  `In the days of old,
when the Peruvians were but a few scattered tribes plunged in the depths
of ignorance and barbarism, I took pity upon them and sent to them Manco
Capac and Mama Oello Huaco, two of my children, to gather together those
scattered tribes and form them into communities, to instruct them in the
mysteries of my worship, and to teach them the arts whereby they might
become a great and civilised nation.  And for a time all things went
well with the Peruvians, for they listened to the voice of my
messengers, and obeyed it, worshipping me and acting in accordance with
my commands.  Therefore I blessed and prospered them exceedingly, and
made of them a glorious and powerful nation, wise in the art of
government, and invincible in the field of battle, so that as the years
rolled on they conquered all the surrounding tribes and nations and
absorbed them into themselves.

"`But with the progress of time my people fell into error.  They ceased
to worship and honour me, and transferred their adoration to the Sun,
which I had made and given unto them as the beneficent source of all
their material benefits, from which they derived light and warmth, which
caused their streams to flow and their soil to bring forth abundant
crops for the sustenance of man and beast, which caused their flocks to
increase and multiply greatly, and which is the source of all life,
health, and beauty.  They gave their gratitude and devotion to that
which I had created, and forgot me, the Creator of all things; they
built hundreds of temples in honour of the Sun--and one only did they
dedicate to me!  Therefore was I displeased with them and withdrew from
them the light of my countenance.  I permitted the _Conquistadors_ to
land upon their shores and gave them power to triumph over the Peruvians
in battle, to destroy Atahuallpa, and to wrest their land from them
until, behold, all that is left of that once great nation is this valley
and the city that ye have built in it.

"`But my anger burns not for ever, nor will I hide my face from you for
all time.  Behold, I have given you another Inca, who shall guide your
straying feet back into the right path, who shall point out to you the
mistakes which you have made and teach you how to correct them.  And if
ye will obey him it may be that in process of time I will again make you
a great and powerful nation, even as you were in the old days ere I hid
my face from you and permitted calamity to overtake you.

"`And now, listen, my people, unto this.  I have no pleasure in sorrow
or suffering; the shedding of blood in sacrifice is an abomination unto
me.  Therefore do I forbid now and henceforth the sacrifice in burnt
offering of any creature that doth breathe the breath of life; for death
is a curse that I have sent upon the earth, and not a blessing, as ye
shall be taught in due time.  Ye may deck my altars with flowers, and
make beautiful the houses in which ye worship me, if ye will; but
obedience to my laws and precepts is more precious to me than any other
thing, and if ye render that unto me ye shall do well.'"

As Harry uttered the last words, and sank back into his seat, it is safe
to say that no individual in that great building was more astonished at
his behaviour than himself; for he had sprung to his feet without the
ghost of a notion of what he meant to say, animated only by the one
great and overmastering impulse to save the life of Umu's daughter and
rescue a household from a great and terrible grief.  But the words had
leapt to his lips, and he had spoken as one under the influence of
inspiration, without thought, or pause, or hesitation.  In the very
building devoted to the worship of that object which, ever since Peru
became a nation, had been the especial veneration of its inhabitants, he
had stood up and boldly denounced the worship of the Sun as idolatry;
had told them that their religious beliefs were all wrong, and had
unceremoniously broken in upon and put a stop to the most impressive
ceremony in their ritual, and had forbidden certain practices hallowed
by ages of religious teaching!  And now, what was to be the result?
Would the priests and the congregation rise up as one man and tear the
audacious young innovator limb from limb, or offer him up as a sacrifice
on the altar from which he had essayed to snatch its destined victim, to
propitiate their outraged deity?  The sensation produced on all sides as
Tiahuana had translated Escombe's denunciation, sentence by sentence,
was tremendous, and grew in intensity as the denunciation proceeded.
But whether the emotion excited was that of anger, or of blank
astonishment, the young man could not determine; nor, to speak the
truth, did he very greatly care, for he felt that he was doing his duty
regardless of the possibility of the most ghastly peril to himself.
Indeed there are few possibilities more dreadful than those attendant
upon the bearding of a multitude of fanatical idolators and the
denouncing of the objects of their idolatry.  Everything, or almost
everything, would depend entirely upon the view which Tiahuana and the
priests took of Harry's conduct.  If, after that uncompromisingly
outspoken attack upon the worship of the Sun--the fundamental principle
of their religion--Tiahuana's belief in the theory that Escombe was
indeed the re-incarnation of the first Manco, foretold by the prophet
Titucocha, remained unshaken, all might yet be well; but if not--!

For some minutes excitement and consternation reigned supreme over that
vast assembly, yet there was nothing approaching tumult or disorder in
the behaviour of the people; the points raised by the young Inca's
message were evidently of such tremendous import that they felt
themselves quite unable to deal with them.  They recognised, almost from
the first moment, that these were matters which must be left in the
hands of the priests, and presently the excitement began to die down,
and everybody waited to see what would next happen.  As for Tiahuana,
the denunciation had fallen upon him with such paralysing effect that he
had simply translated Escombe's message as nearly word for word as the
Quichua language would permit, with the air and aspect of a man speaking
under the influence of some fantastically horrible dream.  But by the
time that the excitement had subsided, and silence again reigned in the
great building, he had pulled himself together and, turning to Harry,
said:

"Is my Lord quite certain, beyond all possibility of doubt, that the
message which he has just delivered has been put into his mouth by
Pachacamac, and not by some evil and malignant spirit?"

"Yes," answered Escombe with conviction; "I am.  What evil spirit would
instruct the Peruvians to worship and adore the Great Pachacamac Himself
instead of one of the works of His hands?  The very import of the
message ought to be convincing testimony of the source from which it
comes."

"It may be; it may be; I cannot tell," answered Tiahuana wearily.  "If
the message comes in very truth from Pachacamac, then have we indeed
strayed far from the right path, and much that has troubled and puzzled
the wisest heads among us can be accounted for.  It would also explain
why our forefathers were so blind as to permit the _Conquistadors_ to
enter their country, and so weak as to be conquered by them!  Yes,
methinks there are matters of vast moment contained in that message; but
they cannot be discussed here and now.  Is it my Lord's will that the
people be dismissed?"

"Yes," answered Harry, almost breathless with astonishment at the
complete success of his intervention.  "Tell the people that my
appearance among them is the signal for many great and momentous changes
decreed by Pachacamac for their advantage, one of the most important of
which will be that, henceforth, Pachacamac Himself--the Supreme, the
Creator of the Heavens and Earth, and all that are therein, and only He,
is to be worshipped in this building.  Ye have wandered far astray; but
be of good comfort, I--and, later on, others whom Pachacamac will send
to you--will point the way of return, and all shall be well with you."

"And the maiden, Lord, who was to have been offered as a thank-
offering--what is to be done with her?" demanded Tiahuana.

"Let her be returned with all honour to her home and parent," answered
Harry.  "Henceforth there are to be no burnt sacrifices, whether human
or otherwise."

Then Tiahuana, standing before the central altar, where he could be seen
by all, and heard by perhaps about half of the congregation, raising his
hand to command the attention of his audience, interpreted Escombe's
second message to them, adding the words "Go in peace!" and raising both
hands in a gesture of blessing, which he maintained until the last
person had passed out through the great eastern door.  Meanwhile Maia,
the daughter of Umu and the destined victim of the thank-offering,
having not only heard but also understood everything that had
transpired, had fainted from excess of emotion produced by the revulsion
of feeling from that of lofty exaltation to relief and joy at her
reprieve from death--even though that death had come, through long
usage, to be regarded as more honourable and glorious than anything that
this life had to offer--and had been delivered to her father, who had
lost not a moment in conveying her back to the shelter of his roof.

"And now, Lord," said Tiahuana, "tell me, I pray you, what is to be done
in the matter of conducting the ceremonies in the temple, henceforth;
for Pachacamac's message seems to strike at the very root of our
religion, and until I am more fully instructed I know not what to do, or
how to proceed."

"Nay," said Harry reassuringly, for he saw that the old man was
intensely worried and distressed, "the matter is surely very simple.
All that you have to do is to transfer your adoration from the Sun to
Pachacamac, offering to him your prayers and praises instead of
addressing them to the Sun.  Surely it is wiser and more reasonable to
worship Him who made all things, than it is to worship one of the things
that He has made?  Do this, and ye shall do well.  And if any doubts
should arise in your minds, come to me and I will resolve them.  Also I
will instruct you from time to time in the truth concerning Pachacamac,
until his messengers shall arrive.  And now, go in peace; for ye have
but to be obedient, and to instruct the people in the truth, even as you
yourselves shall be instructed, and all will be well."

Then Harry rose, and, escorted by the nobles, made his way out of the
building to the place where his litter and his guard awaited him,
whence, mounting into his seat, he was rapidly borne back to the palace
amid the enthusiastic acclamations of the populace which lined the
streets.  But as the bearers trotted smoothly and evenly along the road
Escombe detected--or thought that he did--a new note in those
acclamations; a note which he could not for the life of him interpret.
It was not that the acclamations were less hearty than before.  On the
contrary, they seemed to be more enthusiastic than ever; yet, mingled
with their enthusiasm and joy there seemed to be a certain subtle
undertone that thrilled him curiously and caused him to vaguely wonder
whether that "message" of his, delivered without forethought on the spur
of the moment, would prove to have been a master-stroke of genius--or an
irreparable mistake.  Anyhow, he had delivered it, and that was the main
thing.  He had quite determined that he would deliver it at the first
fitting and convenient opportunity; he had, therefore, no regrets on
that score, and the only thing that worried him was the question whether
it had been delivered prematurely; whether, in fact, it would have been
more powerful and effective if he had deferred its deliverance until he
had taken time to prepare the minds of the people for its reception.
But, be the issue what it might, he had accomplished at least one good
deed; he had saved a life and given joy to one household in the city,
and that was certainly a matter upon which he might unreservedly
congratulate himself.

Meditating thus, Harry found himself, he scarcely knew how, back at the
palace, where his chamberlain informed him, first, that a grand banquet
had been arranged for that same evening, to be given by him to the
nobles to celebrate his accession to the throne; and, secondly, that the
Lord Umu was in waiting, and craved an audience.  Whereupon the young
man requested to be conducted to some room in which he could suitably
receive the captain of his bodyguard, and directed that functionary to
be brought to him.

Flinging himself wearily into the only chair in the room to which he had
been conducted, Escombe awaited the arrival of Umu, who was presently
ushered into the apartment barefooted, and carrying upon his shoulders a
small burden as a badge of his immeasurable inferiority--great and
powerful noble though he was--to the Inca.  So intense was his emotion
upon finding himself in his Lord's presence that, for the moment, he
seemed quite incapable of speech; and, to help him out of his
difficulty, whatever it might be, Harry extended his hand to him and
said:

"Well, Umu, my friend, what is it?  Are you in trouble, and can I help
you?"

Whereupon Umu, the great and powerful noble, and captain of a thousand
picked warriors, flung himself upon his knees before the young Inca,
and, clasping the outstretched hand in both of his, pressed it
convulsively to his lips, while the tears streamed like rain from his
eyes.  But he quickly pulled himself together, and, gazing up into
Harry's face, answered:

"Gracious Lord, pardon this unseemly emotion, I pray you, and attribute
it to the awful ordeal through which I have this day passed.  I have
presumed to hasten hither, Lord, to express, as well as may be, the
heartfelt gratitude of myself and my daughter for your gracious
intervention to-day in the temple, but for which my Maia would now be
dead and my home desolate.  Lord, you are as yet strange among us, and
may therefore not know that for a maiden to be chosen to be offered as a
thank-offering on the altar of the temple upon such an occasion as that
of to-day is regarded by the Peruvian Indians as the highest honour that
can be conferred upon her and all who are connected with her; and
doubtless it would be so regarded by many.  But, Lord, natural affection
is not always to be so easily stifled.  I am a widower, and Maia my
daughter is my only child; the love that exists between us is therefore
perhaps unusually strong, and the honour of having given my daughter as
a thank-offering would never have compensated me for, or reconciled me
to, her loss.  The shock which I experienced to-day when I recognised
her, bound and decked with flowers for the sacrifice, in the midst of
the priests, I shall never forget, for I had not then been to my house,
and knew not that she had been chosen.  And though, having been chosen,
she had wrought herself up to the point of passive submission, she had
no wish to die, for she is young, and the best part of her life is still
before her; moreover she loves me, and knows that without her my heart
and my house would be empty and desolate.  Therefore, Lord, I pray you
to accept our heartfelt thanks for her deliverance, and to believe my
assurance that henceforth, let what will betide, we two are your
faithful and devoted slaves unto our lives' end."

"Thanks, Umu, for your assurance of devotion, which, I am convinced,
comes from your heart," said Harry, raising the soldier to his feet.
"But, Umu, I wish to regard you henceforth not as my `slave', but as a
faithful and devoted friend.  Servants who will unhesitatingly do my
will I shall doubtless be able to command in plenty; but sincere friends
are less easily won, especially by a monarch, and a wise, faithful,
devoted friend who will help and advise me in the difficult task that
lies before me will be of greater value than many slaves.  I shall
always remember with especial pleasure that my first official act was to
save an innocent life, and that the life of your daughter, whom heaven
long spare to be a joy and comfort to you.  Go in peace, Umu, and serve
me faithfully."

"I will, Lord; I swear it by the great Pachacamac Himself!" answered
Umu, raising his right hand as though to register his oath.  Then,
turning, he went forth from the palace the proudest, and probably the
happiest, man in the Valley of the Sun that day.



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

THE INCA'S TREASURE CHAMBERS.

The fatigue and excitement of the momentous day were by this time
beginning to tell upon Escombe.  If he could have followed his own
inclination he would certainly have called for a light meal, and, having
partaken of it, retired forthwith to rest; but he was already beginning
to learn the lesson that even an absolute monarch has sometimes to put
aside his own inclinations and do that which is politic rather than that
which is most pleasing in his own eyes.  Here was this banquet, for
instance.  He would much rather not have been present at it; but it was
an official affair, and to absent himself from it would simply be to
inflict a gratuitous slight upon every guest present, and sow a seed of
unpopularity that might quite possibly, like the fabled dragon's teeth,
spring up into a harvest of armed men to hurl him from his throne.  With
a sigh of resignation, therefore, he summoned Arima, and, resigning
himself into that functionary's hands, submitted to be conducted to the
bath, and afterwards attired in the festal garments prepared for the
occasion.  The bath of warm, delicately perfumed water he found to be so
wonderfully refreshing that upon emerging from it all sensation of
fatigue had vanished; and by the time that he was completely arrayed for
the banquet he felt perfectly prepared to do both himself and the
occasion full justice.

He was only just ready in the nick of time, for as Arima was completing
the adjustment of the imperial borla upon the young monarch's temples,
the lord high chamberlain appeared with the intimation that the guests
were all assembled, and that nothing now was needed, save the Inca's
presence, to enable the banquet to be begun.  Whereupon Harry arose,
and, preceded by the chamberlain and his satellites, made his way to the
banqueting hall, which was an enormous chamber on the upstairs floor of
the palace, occupying the entire length and width of that part of the
building in which was situated the main entrance.  One row of windows
overlooked that part of the garden which gave upon the main road, while
the windows on the opposite side of the apartment commanded a view of
the piece of garden which lay between the two wings and extended down to
the shore of the lake.

The decorations of this room, if they could not be accurately described
as "artistic", from a European's point of view, were at least impressive
on account of the wanton lavishness with which gems and the precious
metals were used; for, look where one would, the eye encountered nothing
but gold, silver, and precious stones; indeed the impression conveyed
was that the architect had exhausted his ingenuity in devices for the
employment of the greatest possible quantity of these costly minerals.
The huge beams which supported the ceiling were encased in thick plates
of gold, the ceiling itself, or at least those portions of it which
showed between the beams, consisted of plates of silver, thickly studded
with precious stones arranged--as Tiahuana explained--to represent the
stars in the night sky over the city.  The walls, of enormous thickness,
with deep niches or recesses alternating with the windows, were covered
with thick gold plates heavily chased into a variety of curious
patterns; and each niche contained either a life-size image of an
animal--the llama figuring most frequently--in solid gold, wrought with
the most marvellous patience and skill, or was a miniature garden in
which various native trees and plants, wrought with the same lifelike
skill, and of the same precious materials, seemed to flourish
luxuriantly.  The floor was the only portion of the apartment that had
escaped this barbarously magnificent system of treatment, but even that
was composed of thick planks of costly, richly tinted native timber of
beautiful grain, polished to the brilliancy of a mirror; and, as though
this were not sufficient to meet the insatiable craving for extravagance
everywhere displayed, the beauties of the highly polished wood were
almost completely concealed by thick, richly coloured, woollen rugs of
marvellously fine texture, made of the wool of the vicuna.  Nor was the
furniture of the apartment permitted to fall short of its surroundings
in point of extravagance.  For the tables and chairs occupied by the
guests were of solid silver, while that occupied by the Inca and such of
his guests as he chose to especially honour by an invitation to sit with
him were of solid gold; and all the table utensils throughout the room
were of the same precious metal, most exquisitely and elaborately
wrought.

As for the guests, as might be expected, they had taken especial care
that their personal appearance should be in keeping with the general
scheme of wantonly lavish display that characterised the adornment of
the banqueting room.  Every one of them, men and women alike, were
apparelled in the richest and most brilliantly coloured stuffs
procurable, stiffened with great masses of embroidery in heavy gold
thread, while they were literally loaded with ornaments of massive gold,
encrusted with gems, upon the hair, neck, and arms.  And now, for the
first time, Harry had leisure to note--and to strongly disapprove of--
the characteristic ornament which was adopted to distinguish the
Peruvian noble from his plebeian brother.  This consisted of a massive
circular disc of gold, wrought into the semblance of a wheel, and
measuring in some cases three or four inches in diameter, which was
inserted into the cartilage of each ear, which, of course, had
previously been pierced and gradually distended to receive it.  To
Harry's unsophisticated eye these so-called ornaments constituted a
hideous disfigurement, and he was glad to see that they were worn by men
only, the ears of the women being for the most part innocent of
artificial adornment, although a few of the ladies wore ear-rings of
somewhat similar character to those of their more civilised sisters.

The Inca's table was placed at one end of the room, and raised upon a
dais some three feet high, from which elevation he could of course be
seen of all, and also command a view of the entire apartment, easily
distinguishing the whereabouts of any particular guest whom he desired
to honour especially with a summons to his own table; and to this he was
conducted by the chamberlain and ushers, the guests rising upon his
entrance and remaining standing until he had seated himself.  There was
at this moment but one guest at the royal table, and that was Tiahuana,
whom Harry had commanded to sit beside him to act as a sort of "coach",
and generally explain things.  And the first communication which the
Villac Vmu made to his young monarch was not precisely of a reassuring
character.  It was to the effect that Huanacocha, and the four friends
who had sided with him that afternoon in the expression of a doubt as to
the genuine character of Harry's claims to be accepted as Inca, had
absented themselves from the feast.

"Yes," said Tiahuana, again casting his eyes carefully over the room,
"they are all five absent, Lord; and I like it not.  They are men of
great power and influence, and they can easily stir up very serious
trouble in the city if they choose to do so.  We must keep a wary eye
upon them; and upon the first sign of a disposition to be troublesome
they must be summarily dealt with."

"Yes," said Harry; "I have been raised to the position of Inca by a very
remarkable combination of circumstances, in the bringing about of which
I have had no part; but, being where I am, I intend to govern firmly and
justly, to the best of my ability; and I will certainly not tolerate the
presence in the city of turbulent spirits bent upon the stirring up of
discord and strife.  I have already seen, elsewhere, too much of the
evil results of mistaken leniency to permit anything of the kind here.
But this is not the moment to discuss politics: you hinted, a short time
ago, Tiahuana, that at functions of this kind it is usual for the Inca
to show honour to certain individuals by inviting them to his table.
Now, of course I know none of those present--except Umu, the captain of
my bodyguard, whom I see yonder--so I must look to you for guidance in
the matter of making a judicious choice.  There is room for ten at this
table, beside ourselves; therefore, if it be the proper thing for me to
do, choose ten persons, and I will summon them to come to us."

Whereupon Tiahuana, who to the sanctity of the Villac Vmu added the
shrewdness and sagacity of a Prime Minister, named those members of the
late Council of Seven who had accepted Escombe as Inca, and certain
other powerful nobles, completing the list by naming Umu, whom, he
rather satirically suggested, was perhaps entitled to some especial
consideration in recompense for the distinction which he had that day
missed in consequence of the rescue of his daughter from the sacrificial
altar.  "And, remember, Lord," concluded Tiahuana, "that it is not
necessary to keep any of those people at your table during the entire
progress of the banquet; let them stay here long enough to taste a
single dish, or to drink with you out of your cup, and then dispatch
them with instructions to send up someone else in their stead."

Upon this principle, accordingly, Harry acted, arranging matters so
judiciously that, under Tiahuana's able guidance, he was able, during
the course of the evening, to compliment every guest whom that astute
old diplomatist considered it desirable especially to honour, and thus
avoid all occasion for jealousy.

It is not necessary to describe the banquet in detail; let it suffice to
say that for fully three hours there was placed before the Inca and his
guests a constant succession of dishes representing all that was
esteemed most choice and dainty in Peruvian culinary art, washed down by
copious libations of the wine of the country, prepared from the
fermented juice of the maguey, for which, it is deplorable to add, the
Peruvians exhibited an inordinate fondness.  By the exercise of extreme
circumspection, taking merely a taste here and there of such food as
especially appealed to him, and merely suffering the wine to moisten his
lips when pledging his nobles, the young Inca contrived to emerge from
the ordeal of the banquet not a penny the worse.

The next morning Escombe spent in the company of a sort of committee of
the chief _amautas_ or "wise men", who represented the concentrated
essence--so to speak--of all Peruvian wisdom and learning, and who had
been embodied for the express purpose of instructing the young Inca in
the intricacies--such as they were--of the code of Tavantinsuyu--or
"four quarters of the world"--as it then stood.  This code was simple,
but exceedingly severe, the laws, properly so called, relating almost
exclusively to criminal matters and their punishment.  The regulations
governing the daily life of the Peruvian Indian--where he should live,
what should be the character of his work, what should be the distinctive
character of his clothing, when and whom he should marry, how much land
he should hold and cultivate, and so on, were the result of ages of
tentative experiment, and were so numerous and intricate that probably
none but the _amautas_ themselves thoroughly understood them.  The
committee, however, which had for nearly a month been preparing itself
for the task of initiating the young Inca into the secrets of good
government, had arranged a procedure of such a character that even in
the course of that one morning's instruction they contrived to give
Escombe a sufficiently clear general insight of the subject to enable
him to see that, taken altogether, the system of government was
admirably designed to secure the prosperity of the nation.

Then, in the afternoon, at the instigation of the Council of Seven, who
had now become a sort of cabinet, to control the machinery of
government, under the supervision of the Inca, Harry was conducted, by
an official who performed the functions of Chief of the Treasury,
through the enormous vaults beneath the palace, in order that he might
view the treasure, industriously accumulated during more than three
hundred years, to form the sinews of war for the regeneration of the
race which was Escombe's great predestined task.

If, before visiting these vaults, Harry had been invited to express an
opinion upon the subject, he would have confidently asserted the
conviction that such treasure as the inhabitants of the Valley of the
Sun had been able to accumulate must all, or very nearly all, have been
expended in the adornment of the great temple and the royal palace.  But
that such a conviction would have been absolutely erroneous was speedily
demonstrated when the great bronze doors guarding the entrance of the
vaults were thrown open.  For the first room into which he was
conducted--an apartment measuring some twenty feet wide by thirty feet
long, and about fourteen feet high--was full of great stacks of silver
bars, each bar being about twenty pounds in weight; the stacks, of
varying height, being arranged in tiers of three running lengthwise
along the room, with two narrow longitudinal passages between them.
Escombe, after staring in dumb amazement at this enormous accumulation
of dull white metal, drew from his pocket a small memorandum book and
pencil which he had found in one of the pockets of his old clothes, and,
with the instinct of the engineer rising for a moment to the surface,
made a rapid calculation by which he arrived at the astounding result
that there must be very nearly eight hundred tons of bar silver in the
stacks before him!

From this room he was conducted into another of about the same size, and
similarly arranged; but in this case the metal in the stacks was virgin
gold, instead of silver, while the bulk of the stacks was, if anything,
rather greater than those in the outer rooms.  But, for the purposes of
a rough estimate, Escombe assumed them to be of only equal bulk, upon
the strength of which assumption his figures informed him that the gold
in this vault amounted to the not altogether insignificant weight of
close upon fourteen hundred tons.  The sight of such incredible
quantities of the precious metals had so paralysing an effect upon the
young Englishman that he could scarcely stammer an enquiry as to where
it all came from.  The custodian of this fabulous wealth replied, with a
smile, that the mountains which hemmed the valley about were enormously
rich in both gold and silver, and that some hundreds of men had been
kept industriously employed in working the mines almost from the moment
when the city had been first founded.  "But, Lord," he continued,
flinging open a third door, "what you have already seen is by no means
all our wealth; the most valuable part of it is to be found in this
small room."

Passing through the doorway, which, like the other two, was fitted with
massive doors of solid bronze secured by an enormously strong lock of
the same metal, the young Inca--who, as one of the results of his having
been placed upon the throne, had become the absolute owner of all this
wealth, with power to use it in such manner as might seem to him good--
found himself in a much smaller room, its dimensions being about ten
feet long by the same width, and some twelve feet high.  To the sides of
the room were fitted large chests of very heavy wood, three chests on
each side occupying the entire length of the room, with a passage way
about six feet wide between the two rows of chests.  Each chest was
fitted with a massive wooden cover secured to it by strong bronze
hinges, and fastened by a ponderous bronze lock.

The custodian unlocked these chests one at a time, and, raising the
heavy cover with difficulty, held the lamp which he carried over the
yawning interior, disclosing its contents.  The first chest opened was
nearly full of what to Escombe appeared to be dull black stones, most of
them with at least one smooth surface, ranging in size from that of a
walnut to lumps as large as a man's two fists.  One of these lumps
Harry's conductor took out and handed to the young man for his
inspection.

"Well, what do you call this?" demanded Harry, turning the stone about
in his hands, and inspecting it curiously.

"That, Lord, is an amethyst," answered the other; "and, as you see, the
chest is nearly full of them.  But, unless we should happen to discover
a new mine, I am afraid we shall get no more of them, for the mine from
which those were extracted appears to be exhausted; and it was never
very productive even at its best.  We did not know what the stones were
when they were first discovered, but, as it was suspected that they
might possess a certain value, steps were taken to determine the
question, with the result that we were told they are amethysts.  They
are not especially valuable, I believe, but we make a point of never
wasting anything, so it was decided to store these until wanted.  Now
here,"--opening the next chest--"we have another mineral about which we
were a bit puzzled at first; but we were in less doubt in this case than
we were with regard to the amethysts, as the appearance of the stone
seemed to indicate that it possessed a value.  We dealt with this as we
did with the amethysts, and found that we had chanced upon a
particularly rich opal deposit."

The chest of opals was, like the one previously opened, almost full, and
Harry took admiringly into his hand the great piece of rock representing
the half of a mass of stone that had been accidentally broken in two,
and found to contain a considerable quantity of iridescent, many-hued
crystal.  The next chest contained some very fine specimens of sapphire;
but it was little more than half-full, the mine having only been
discovered within the last decade, and even then not very industriously
worked; but there were in the chest a few specimens that Escombe
shrewdly suspected to be practically priceless.

Having completed the inspection of the contents of the coffers on one
side of the room, the custodian crossed over to the other side, and
threw up the lid of a chest, the interior of which at once began to glow
as though each of the stones--looking very much like lumps of ordinary
washing soda--contained within it a morsel of phosphorus.

"Aha!" exclaimed Escombe, plunging his hand delightedly into the chest
and fishing up two or three of the stones; "no need to ask what these
are; there's no possibility of mistaking them.  Yes, there's the genuine
soapy feel about them all right," as he ran his fingers over the smooth
surface of the crystals.  "But I didn't know that you had diamonds in
Peru."

"There is at all events one mine in the country, Lord, namely that from
which these stones came," answered the Indian.  "But the existence and
locality are known only to the few who work it and who guard the
approach to it; for we believe it to be the richest mine in the whole
world, and we are naturally anxious to retain possession of it for
ourselves exclusively.  It is not in this valley; it lies a long three-
days' journey from here, in a particularly wild and desolate part of the
country which is practically inaccessible, save to the boldest and
hardiest mountaineers among us.  It has only been known for about twenty
years, and the contents of this coffer represent the labour of only six
men during that time.  But the mine is enormously rich, and, as you may
see, the size and quality of the stones improve as the miners penetrate
deeper, the largest and finest stones, which are those most recently
extracted, being at the top of the others in the chest."

Harry stooped over and picked up a particularly fine specimen, larger
than one of his clenched fists, which glowed and scintillated in the
light of the lamp as though it were on fire.

"Why," he said, gazing admiringly at the stone as he turned it about in
his hand, "The contents of this chest must be of absolutely incalculable
value!  This stone alone would constitute a very handsome fortune to its
lucky possessor, if I am any judge of diamonds."

"True, Lord," answered his companion.  "But there are several finer
stones than that--this one, and this, for example," as he fished up a
couple of superb specimens.  "There are probably no diamonds in the
world equal to these two in size and purity of colour.  And all belong
to my Lord."

"Ay," said Harry; "with such enormous and inexhaustible wealth as this
at one's command it should not be very difficult to provide the means of
reconquering the country and restoring it to its former state of power
and glory.  What have you in the other two chests?"

"My Lord shall see," answered the Indian, as he unlocked and threw back
the lid of the next chest, which proved to be three parts full of
rubies, every one of which constituted a little fortune in itself, while
many were of such exceptional size and superb colour that the young
Englishman could only gasp in speechless amazement and admiration.

"Why, Huatama," he exclaimed at length, "I am at a loss to express my
astonishment.  Aladdin's cave was nothing to this, nothing at all!"

"Aladdin, did my Lord say?" murmured the Indian, looking enquiringly at
Harry.  "I do not seem to remember him.  Surely he was not a Peruvian?
The name does not--"

"No," answered Harry with a laugh.  "Aladdin knew nothing of Peru; he
was an Eastern--a Chinese fellow, or something like that, if I remember
rightly."

"Ah, yes!" remarked Huatama reflectively; "I have seen a few Chinese,
down at Lima and Callao, when I had occasion to go there a year ago on
business for the Council of Seven.  I do not like them; and I hope that
when my Lord has subjugated the country he will drive them all out of
it."

"Well, we shall see," rejoined Escombe with a laugh.  "But it is early
days as yet to talk of driving out the Chinese; there is a great deal to
be done before we shall find ourselves face to face with that question.
And now, what does your last chest contain?"

It contained emeralds, and was more than half-full of stones of
surpassing size and purity of colour, every one of them being a picked
stone especially selected for its exceptional quality.  But Escombe's
powers of admiration were by this time completely exhausted, and after
having rather perfunctorily examined and expressed his approval of a few
of the finest specimens, and commended the treasure as a whole to the
unflagging care of Huatama, he returned to his apartments in the palace
and flung himself into a chair to endeavour to convince himself that
what he had seen in those rock-hewn chambers below was all prosaically
real and not the fantasy of a disordered imagination.

As he pictured to himself the great chambers with their heaped-up stacks
of silver and gold bars, and the smaller room with its six coffers of
uncut gems, his thoughts insensibly floated away across the ocean to the
modest little Sydenham home, and he tried to imagine the raptures of his
mother and sister, could they but behold the incredible accumulation of
priceless gems that his eyes had rested upon that day.  Then he
remembered that in consequence of this extraordinary adventure of his a
mail boat had been permitted to leave for England with no letter on
board from him to his mother, and he began to wonder anxiously what
would happen at The Limes when its occupants fully realised that the
Peruvian mail had arrived, and that there was no letter for them.  It
was the first time that such a thing had ever been permitted to occur;
and, although he had been quite helpless to prevent the accident,
Escombe somehow felt that it ought not to have been allowed to happen;
that he ought to have remembered in time, and taken steps to ensure that
a letter had been despatched by some means or other.  What was the use
of being an Inca if he could not manage a simple little thing like that?
To summon Arima and enquire of that trusty henchman whether, in the
hurry of departure from the survey camp, he had remembered to pack up
and bring away his master's writing desk was naturally the next thing in
order.  Upon learning that the desk had not been forgotten, Escombe at
once had it brought to him, and sat down and wrote a long letter,
addressed jointly to his mother and sister.  This letter contained a
full account of his abduction and all that had followed thereupon,
together with an assurance that not only would he contrive henceforward
to communicate with them regularly, but also that if, after the lapse of
a certain length of time to allow the process of "settling down" to
become complete, it should appear that his scheme of government was
likely to prove a success, he would send for them to come out to him.
He added that, meanwhile, the enormous wealth represented by the
accumulations of more than three hundred years was at his absolute
disposal, and that he felt quite justified in awarding himself a salary
of one gold bar per calendar month for his services to the state; also,
that since under present circumstances he had no use for a private
purse, he should dispatch to them the monthly bar of gold for their own
personal use and enjoyment, and that he should expect them to employ it
for the purpose named.  This somewhat lengthy epistle concluded by
giving instructions for the conversion of the gold bar into coin of the
realm.  Harry also wrote to Sir Philip Swinburne, stating that he had
fallen into the hands of the Indians, but was being well-treated by
them, and believed he was in no immediate danger, also that at the
moment he saw no prospect of being permitted to return to civilisation;
he was therefore writing for the purpose of allaying any apprehension
that might be experienced on his account.  Finally, he wrote to
Bannister in somewhat similar terms.  Then he sent for Huatama, and gave
that functionary instructions to withdraw one gold bar from the treasury
vaults and have it securely packed in a suitable box for transmission to
Europe.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

THE MONSTERS THAT HAUNTED THE LAKE.

These matters attended to, Escombe summoned the Council of Seven to the
palace, and held what might be considered his first official conference.
He began by laying before them his views as to the steps necessary to
be taken in order to carry out successfully the desire of the people to
become a regenerated nation, instructing them to cause several different
kinds of information to be obtained for him, and finally pointing out to
them the necessity for free communication with the outside world, and
the consequent establishment of something in the nature of a regular
postal and transport service between the valley and two or three points
on the railway system.

Long before he had finished all that he had to say it was perfectly
evident to the young Inca that the members of the Council--or at least
some of them--were entirely out of sympathy with many of his views and
ideas, and that he would have to contend with a vast amount of ignorance
and prejudice.  To indicate a few out of many points where this lack of
sympathy most strongly manifested itself, Harry had commented upon the
necessity for establishing an army and providing it with the most modern
and efficient weapons and equipment.  To this Huanacocha and his
supporters strongly objected, arguing that the State already possessed
an army in the shape of the Inca's bodyguard, horse and foot, which, in
their opinion, ought to be amply sufficient to reconquer the country in
view of the fact that Pizarro's army numbered less than two hundred men
when he captured Atahuallpa and thus achieved the conquest of Peru.
And, as to the importation of modern weapons, they were altogether
opposed to the proposal for many reasons, the chief of which were the
difficulty and delay attendant upon the procuring of them and of their
introduction into the country, and the further delay involved in
training the troops to use them.  Moreover, the weapons with which the
existing troops were armed were such as they had always been accustomed
to, and in the use of which they were already thoroughly skilled.  Such
a radical change as was proposed must of necessity involve an enormous
delay, and for their part they were unable to see any advantage in the
proposal.  They looked with equal disfavour upon the proposal to
establish a postal and transport service, arguing that there was no need
for anything of the kind, the fundamental idea governing the settlement
of their forefathers in the valley and the founding of the City of the
Sun being that its inhabitants and the resources of the valley itself
would be amply sufficient to achieve the reconquest of the country.  It
was not until Harry had very nearly lost his temper in arguing with
these men that he learned that not one of them had ever been outside the
valley, and that their very meagre knowledge of the outside world had
been derived from the few individuals who at rare intervals had been
obliged to make short and hasty journeys outside the confines of the
encircling mountains upon State business.  As soon as Harry had
thoroughly grasped this fact he gave them to understand, as politely as
possible, that none of them knew in the least what they were talking
about, and for that reason he would feel himself compelled to dispense
with their advice for the future, forming his own plans in accordance
with the knowledge which he had acquired during a residence of several
years in the biggest, busiest, and best-informed city in the world; and
that henceforth he would ask of them nothing more than loyal
wholehearted obedience to his commands.  He finally dismissed them with
instructions to establish immediately a service of postal runners
between the valley and the town of Juliaca on the Santa Rosa, Puno,
Arequipa, and Mollendo railway; with further instructions to arrange for
the establishment of a thoroughly trustworthy agent at Juliaca, whose
sole business it should be to see that all letters for Europe and other
parts of the world were duly stamped and posted upon receipt by him; and
to the care of whom all letters for the valley might be addressed.  This
done, Escombe summoned Arima to his presence and, handing him all the
coin that he happened to have in his possession, delivered to him the
letters which he had written, together with the gold bar--by this time
securely packed and ready for posting--and directed him to proceed with
all possible speed to Islay--using the railway as far as possible in
order to save time--and there post the letters and the box containing
the bar.  Then he suddenly bethought himself and, before dismissing
Arima upon his journey, sat down and wrote a long letter to Mr John
Firmin, of Lima, he who had been a fellow-passenger from England with
Harry on board the _Rimac_, In this letter he told Firmin as much of his
story as he thought it necessary for him to know, and made certain
arrangements whereby Firmin was to undertake certain business
transactions from time to time, and to supply immediately certain
necessaries, for the due delivery of which Harry gave his friend the
most minute instructions.  This completed what the Inca was pleased to
regard as a very excellent and satisfactory day's work.

And now the young Englishman began to find his time very fully occupied,
so much so, indeed, that the days seemed not nearly long enough to
enable him to accomplish the half of what he wished to do.  There was,
for instance, the learning of the Quichua language.  Harry had not been
domiciled in his palace twenty-four hours before it had become patent to
him that this was the first task which he must undertake; for very few
of the nobles had any knowledge whatever of Spanish, and the
inconvenience and loss of time involved in conversing through an
interpreter were far too great to be passively endured.  And, since he
could do very little else as satisfactorily as he would wish until he
had mastered this rich and expressive language, he devoted four hours of
every day--two in the morning and two in the evening--to its study.
Then he soon learned that, exclusive of the inhabitants of the Valley of
the Sun, there were some three hundred and fifty thousand Indians
scattered up and down the country, at least one in every ten of whom
might be counted as a fighting man.  These people had to be brought into
the valley, housed, fed, disciplined, in preparation for the time when
arms should be put into their hands; also--what was more difficult
still--matters had to be so arranged that the families of these men, and
all dependent upon them, should suffer neither loss nor inconvenience
from the drafting of the able-bodied into the valley.  Then the
arrangements and preparations for the importation of arms and ammunition
into the country--everything connected with which had, of course, to be
done entirely without the knowledge of the authorities--involved a
tremendous amount of hard and intricate work.  It is therefore not to be
wondered at that during the first six months of his reign the young Inca
was unable to spare a single hour for amusement.

But the moment was at hand when Harry was to enjoy some sport of a quite
unique character; and the way in which it came about was thus.  As he
stood one morning in the palace garden, gazing out over the lake, with
his faithful henchman Arima close at hand, an idea suddenly occurred to
him, and, turning, he remarked:

"The lake looks particularly enticing this morning, Arima.  Are there
any balsas near at hand?  Because, if so, you shall fetch me one, and we
will go out together to deep water and indulge in a glorious swim."

"A swim, Lord, in the deep water of the lake?" ejaculated Arima in
horror-stricken accents.  "Nay, that is impossible."

"Impossible!" repeated Harry.  "And why, pray?"

"Because of the monsters, Lord," answered Arima.  "Were we to venture to
plunge into the lake we should almost certainly be devoured."

"Indeed!" answered Harry.  "So there are monsters in the lake, are
there?  I was not aware of that.  And what are those `monsters'?  Are
they alligators, or voracious fish, or what are they?  I should hardly
have supposed that the water of the lake was warm enough for alligators
to flourish in it."

"Nay, Lord," answered Arima, "they are not alligators.  I have seen
alligators in some of the northern rivers, and know them well enough to
be able to distinguish between them and the monsters which haunt our
lake.  Nor are they fish; or if they be, they are quite unlike any other
fish that these eyes of mine have ever beheld.  We call them `monsters'
because our forefathers did so, and because we have no other name for
them; also because of their exceeding size and malevolence."

"Ah!" commented Harry.  "Well, what are these creatures--these
monsters--like, and how big are they?  Have you ever seen them?"

"Yes, Lord," was the answer.  "I have seen them no less than three times
at close quarters, and always with the same disastrous results.  The
first time was when, during my passage of the lake on a balsa, one of my
companions had the misfortune to fall into the water.  Ere the balsa
could be stopped and paddled back to where the man was struggling, two
of the monsters appeared and tore him limb from limb.  The resemblance
to an alligator lies chiefly in the shape of the head, which, however,
is longer in proportion and more pointed than that of the alligator.
Also, our monsters have smooth skins, nearly black in colour, and
instead of feet and legs they have fins.  The tail also is differently
shaped from that of an alligator, being wide and flat at the end."

"By Jove!" exclaimed Harry in astonishment, "they must be queer and
formidable-looking creatures indeed; and fins in place of legs and feet!
I'll be shot if I can place them at all.  Are there many of them?"

"We do not generally see more than two, or three at most, although it is
on record that on one occasion, many years ago, four were seen, two of
them being obviously young ones," answered Arima.

"Upon my word, this all sounds exceedingly interesting," commented
Harry.  "I should dearly like to see the creatures myself.  Do they
often show themselves?"

"Very rarely, Lord, save in the case of such accidents as those of which
I have told you," answered Arima.  "Yet," he continued, "if my Lord
desires to see the monsters it could doubtless be managed.  If the
carcass of an animal were deposited upon yonder rock,"--the Indian
pointed to a rock showing slightly above the water's surface about a
mile from the shore--"and another were cast into the water quite near
it, the monsters would doubtless be attracted to the place; and if my
Lord were close at hand at the time, upon a large and safe balsa, he
would see them when they crawl up on the rock to reach the carcass
exposed there."

"Ah!" ejaculated Harry; "you think so?  Then let the matter be arranged
for to-morrow, Arima.  I confess that your description of the creatures
has powerfully excited my curiosity, and made me very anxious to see
them."

And on the morrow the young Inca's curiosity was fully gratified, and
with something to spare.

Oh, those monsters!  Harry believed he possessed a passably fair general
knowledge of natural history, but these creatures--monsters truly--were
entirely new to him.  In no natural history had he ever seen a
representation of anything like them.  And yet, when he came to think of
it again, singular and terrifying as was their appearance, it was not
altogether unfamiliar.  He believed he had seen them portrayed
somewhere, although he could not for the moment remember where.  Fully
forty feet long from the snout to the tip of the tail, with a head
shaped midway between that of a pike and a crocodile, with enormous
protruding eyes, with a smooth somewhat fish-shaped body almost black
above and shading off to a dirty whitish-grey beneath, with a long tail
broad and flat at its extremity, and with four seal-like flippers
instead of legs and feet, the monsters looked more like nightmare
creatures, evolved by reading a book on antediluvian animals after a--.
Of course, that was it, Escombe decided, as his thoughts took some such
turn as above.  He now distinctly remembered having read some years ago
a most interesting illustrated magazine article upon extinct animals,
and one of the pictures portrayed these identical monsters, labelling
them "Plesiosaurus"!  Yes, the more Harry thought about it the less room
did he find for doubt that these so-called monsters haunting the lake in
the Valley of the Sun were actually survivors--most probably the only
ones--of the antediluvian plesiosaurus.  How they got there was a most
interesting problem, yet it seemed by no means a difficult one to solve.
The conclusion at which Escombe speedily arrived--rightly or wrongly--
was that upon the subsidence of the waters of the Deluge a pair of
plesiosauri had found themselves imprisoned in the great basin of the
valley, where, the conditions presumably being exceptionally favourable,
they had not only survived but had actually contrived to perpetuate
their species to a very limited extent.  And the reason why the lake was
not swarming with them, instead of containing probably only three or
four specimens at the utmost, was doubtless that the waters were too
circumscribed in extent, and too unproductive in the matter of fish, to
support more than that number.

The problem of how they came to be where they were was, however, not one
of very great importance; the thing that really mattered was, in
Escombe's opinion, that their presence in the lake constituted a
horrible danger to those who were obliged to traffic upon its waters,
and they must be destroyed.  They must not be permitted to exist another
day longer than was absolutely necessary.  Why, when one came to think
of it, how many hundreds of lives might not already have fallen victims
to the savage voracity of those creatures?  What hope for his life would
a man have if he chanced to fall off his balsa at a moment when one of
those monsters happened to be close at hand?  Positively none.  Escombe
shuddered as he reflected that, ignorant as he had hitherto been of the
presence of the plesiosauri in the lake, it had only been by a series of
fortuitous circumstances--or was it the intervention of a merciful
Providence?--that he had been from time to time prevented from bathing
in the lake, ay, and actually swimming out to the distant rock, as he
had several times been strongly tempted to do.

Yes, those implacably ferocious monsters must be destroyed forthwith;
and the only point remaining to be settled was, how was the work of
destruction to be accomplished?

The plan which first suggested itself to the young Inca was the very
obvious one of fishing for them with a baited hook and line, even as
sharks were fished for.  True, it would need a very big hook and a very
strong line to capture a creature of the size and strength of a
plesiosaurus; but to manufacture them was surely not beyond the
resources of the inhabitants of the valley.  Yes; but there was another
matter to be considered.  What about a craft from which to do the
fishing?  The largest balsa that Harry had ever seen upon the lake was
not nearly big enough for the purpose; a hooked plesiosaurus would drag
it under water without an effort, and then what would become of its
occupants?  The probabilities were too awful for contemplation, and the
idea was not to be entertained for a moment.  Besides, a balsa was not
at all the kind of craft on which to engage in so dangerous a form of
sport, even though it were possible to build one big enough; what was
needed was a good stanch sturdy boat of, say, twenty tons or so.  And,
having arrived at this point in his meditations, Escombe was naturally
reminded that he had often wished that he possessed a small yacht
wherein to disport himself on the lake.  Why should he not have one?
His will was law; he had but to speak the word and the best and most
skilled workers in the valley would be at his disposal for the
construction of the vessel.  And as to her design, why, he had always
been an enthusiastic yacht sailor, and knew, as well as most amateurs,
what the shape of such a craft should be, and was quite capable of
putting that shape on paper in a form that could be worked from.

Escombe's mind was made up: he would destroy those plesiosauri, and to
destroy them a suitable boat was necessary.  That boat might be so
designed and built as to also afford him a great deal of pleasure, and
he would have her.  And thereupon he set to work and devoted every
minute he could spare to the preparation of her design, which, a week
later, was in the hands of a small army of carpenters, eager to show
what they could do in a line of work that was entirely new to them.



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

THE SLAYING OF THE MONSTERS.

"Many hands make light work"; and in just two months from the day of
starting work upon the cutter she was complete, rigged, and ready for
launching.  She was of the most up-to-date type with which Escombe was
acquainted; that is to say, beamy, rather shallow of body, with spoon
bow, and a fin keel, and her designer felt particularly proud of her as
he walked round her and critically surveyed her lines and general shape
the last thing before giving the word to put her into the water.
Needless to say she was also the object of great and ever-increasing
curiosity to the inhabitants of the valley generally, not more than
perhaps a dozen of whom had ever seen anything more handy and shipshape
than the unwieldy balsa, or raft constructed of reeds, a not very
manageable craft at the best of times, and of course quite incapable of
being navigated under sail except before the wind.  The cutter was got
into the water without accident, and after some slight readjustment of
her inside ballast, to bring her accurately to her correct water line,
her young owner got on board and, a nice sailing breeze happening to be
blowing right down the lake, took her for a trial spin from one end of
the lake to the other, running down and beating back.  The result was
eminently satisfactory in every respect, the little vessel developing a
fine turn of speed, not only before the wind but also close-hauled,
while she was of course, like all craft of similar form, remarkably
weatherly; indeed the smartness with which she worked back against the
wind, from the lower end of the lake, was regarded by the
unsophisticated inhabitants of the valley as nothing short of
miraculous.

Meanwhile, Escombe having given instructions for the manufacture of a
hardened copper hook, with two fathoms of chain attached, and a stout
rope of plaited raw hide, at the same time that he had put the yacht in
hand, these articles were now ready.  Therefore, after exercising his
crew for a week, to get them thoroughly accustomed to the working of the
new craft, he made arrangements for a grand plesiosaurus hunt, to which
he invited his stanch friend Umu, and three or four other nobles who had
manifested a capacity for development into kindred spirits.

On a certain glorious morning this novel fishing party embarked on board
the yacht, taking with them, of course, their fishing line and the
carcasses of two llamas, cut in half, for bait, together with a
formidable battery of bows and arrows, spears, heavy maces, and other
weapons for the killing of their quarry when captured; to which armament
Escombe added his magazine rifle and two packets of cartridges, which
the faithful Arima had been careful to bring away from the survey camp,
together with everything else belonging to his young master, on the
memorable occasion of that individual's abduction.  Starting under easy
sail, and heading for the bottom of the lake, the great fishing line--
made fast by its inner end to the windlass bitts, and the remainder of
it led aft outside and clear of all rigging--was baited and paid out
astern as soon as the cutter had run into deep water.

It was not very long before the party, intently on the watch for the
approach of the plesiosauri, detected a strong, swirling ripple mingling
with that of the yacht's wake, which indicated that at least one of the
monsters was at hand, and presently the ripple broke, revealing some six
feet of smooth, black, glistening back keeping pace with the little
vessel, while occasionally, when the light favoured, an indistinct and
momentary glimpse might be caught, through the swirling water, of two
enormous, glaring eyes.  But the beast, in its eagerness to reach its
supposed prey, had apparently passed the baited hook as unworthy of its
notice, for the bait was a long way astern of the creature, which seemed
intent only on overtaking the yacht, for it now made frequent rushes
forward until it was within a few fathoms of the little vessel's
counter, and then sank out of sight and dropped astern again, as though
it knew not what to make of the moving object ahead of it.  But,
provokingly enough, from the sportsmen's point of view, it never dropped
far enough astern to bring it level with the bait, while, on the other
hand, when it approached the yacht it was careful to keep far enough
below the surface to render anything like an accurate aim impossible;
indeed it behaved as though it instinctively knew that danger threatened
it.  Although Escombe's companions were eager enough to waste their
arrows in obviously futile attempts to hit it, the young leader of the
expedition rigorously forbade everything of the nature of chance
shooting, lest the creature should happen to receive a more or less
slight wound, and thus be driven to flight.  And, for the same reason,
Escombe himself declined to attempt a shot with his rifle.

But while they were all intently watching the movements of the creature,
and standing with weapons in hand, ready to discharge an effective shot
at the first favourable opportunity, a sudden, startled yell from Arima,
who was tending the fishing line, caused the whole party to wheel round
to see what was the matter, and Harry had only bare time to drop his
rifle and grip his faithful henchman by the belt, to thus prevent him
from being dragged overboard, as the line suddenly tautened out like a
bar, flinging up a great shower of spray as it did so, while a terrific
plunge in the water far astern revealed the fact that a second monster,
whose presence had hitherto been undetected, had taken the bait and
become hooked.

"Let go the line, you idiot, let go!" hissed Escombe through his
clenched teeth, as he braced his feet against a stanchion and flung
himself back, clinging with both hands to Arima's belt, while that
individual vainly strove to hold the now frantically struggling
reptile--"let go, man, if you don't want to be dragged overboard and
eaten alive!  Haul down the foresail, there, for'ard!"

The stout raw-hide line twanged like a harp-string as the terrified
Arima relaxed his convulsive grip on it and was hauled back inboard to
safety by his master, and the yacht's forward progress was checked with
an abruptness that threatened to drag the bitts out of her as the strain
of the line, with the plunging, struggling monster at the end of it, was
suddenly thrown upon them, while the shock sent every individual, fore
and aft, sprawling upon the deck, to the uproarious and most undignified
amusement of the young Inca, and the mortal terror of his faithful
subjects.  Then, as all hands scrambled to their feet again and
instinctively regained possession of their weapons, the hooked saurian
started to "run", in the vain hope, possibly, of breaking away from the
restraining influence which had so suddenly and unaccountably seized
upon it.  The yacht was whirled violently round--almost capsizing in the
process--and dragged, with her bows nearly buried in the hissing and
curling water, back toward the head of the lake, at a steadily
increasing pace, as the now thoroughly terrified plesiosaurus surged
forward at headlong speed in its frenzied endeavour to escape, with its
companion keeping pace by its side.

The yacht had only travelled a distance of some three miles down the
lake when the monster had taken the bait, and on the backward journey
this distance was covered in about a quarter of an hour--a fact which
bore eloquent testimony to the tremendous strength of the creature.
Harry was beginning to feel exceedingly uneasy lest his vessel should be
towed into such shallow water that he would be compelled to cut the line
in order to save her from being dragged ashore, when the quarry, which
probably also objected to shallow water, wheeled suddenly right round
and, rushing close past the cutter, in a perfect maelstrom of foam and
spray, headed back for the lower end of the lake, with its companion
still bearing it company.  To thrust the helm hard over, and to shout to
everybody to lie down and hang on for their lives, was, with Harry, the
work of but a moment; yet the yacht, handy as she was on her helm, had
scarcely swept halfway round when the stout line again jerked itself
taut, the terrific strain again came upon the bitts, causing them to
ominously creak and groan, and once more the little vessel heeled
gunwale under as she was whirled violently round, until she righted
again and ploughed up a glassy sheet of foam-laced water on either bow
as she tore along in the wake of the monster reptiles.

"This cannot possibly last very much longer," remarked Escombe
reassuringly to his companions, who had by this time turned a sickly,
greenish-yellow with terror at so unaccustomed an adventure--and that,
too, on an element to which they were practically strangers--"the brute
will soon become exhausted at this rate, and when he does we will haul
him alongside and finish him off with our spears and arrows.  I don't
care how far he runs, so long as he heads as he is now going; it is
those sudden twists and turns that are dangerous.  If he were to break
away we should probably never have a chance to hook him again."

Nevertheless, despite Harry's confident prognostication, they had
traversed quite half the length of the lake ere there was the slightest
perceptible sign of the creature weakening; and they accomplished
another quarter of the distance ere the reptile slackened speed
sufficiently to admit of their attempting to haul the yacht up alongside
it.  Then, when they at length proceeded to make the attempt, the
additional strain thrown on the rope, as it was hauled in and coiled
down, seemed to exhaust the last remnant of the brute's strength, and,
stopping suddenly, it rose to the surface and, throwing its head out of
the water, shook it savagely from side to side in a futile endeavour to
shake itself free of the hook, emitting a curious grunting kind of roar
as it did so.

Yet, even now, the creature was not conquered; for when it found itself
being hauled alongside the yacht it suddenly sank, and nearly the whole
of the length of rope that had been hauled in was allowed to run out
again ere Harry, by taking a quick turn round the bitts, was able to
stay its downward progress.  And then it became a matter of sheer,
downright drag by all hands ere the huge bulk could be brought near
enough to the surface to permit of the use of their weapons on it, when
it was found that its companion still clung faithfully to its side.

At length, after some fifteen minutes of exhausting labour on the one
hand, opposed to stolid dogged resistance on the other, the monster
reptile was dragged so close to the surface that the point of its snout
was actually raised above the level or the water, and the whole of the
gigantic body, right down to the extremity of the broad-ended tail,
could be clearly seen hanging suspended vertically in the pellucid
depths beneath the yacht, while swimming agitatedly round and round the
suspended body could occasionally be seen the creature's mate, now
plunging deep, as though, thoroughly terrified, it had at length
determined to abandon so dangerous a neighbourhood, and anon returning
with a swift rush to the surface, and furious dartings to and fro, as
though meditating an attempt at the rescue of its companion.

And now, for the first time, the hunters were able to obtain a
thoroughly clear and satisfactory view, at close quarters, of the
gruesome-looking brutes, and a truly hideous and nightmare-inspiring
sight it was; a sight which, as Escombe gazed at the ponderous,
powerful, thick-skinned bodies, the enormous, protruding, balefully
glaring eyes, and the long, cavernous, gaping jaws, armed with great
serrated teeth--those of the upper jaw fitting in between those of the
lower--caused him to feel, more strongly than ever, the conviction that
in destroying the creatures he was a public benefactor.

The captured brute now hung so nearly motionless, with the point of the
great barbed hook protruding through its upper jaw, that it was evident
its strength must be practically exhausted; and Escombe, standing by to
open fire with his magazine rifle in case of an emergency, gave the word
to his companions to deal the death stroke, advising some to endeavour
to reach the creature's brain by means of a spear-thrust through the
eye, while others were to attempt to pierce the heart.  But, with the
arrival of the crucial moment, the nerves of the natives seemed to
suddenly fail them; they became flurried and frightened in the very act
of raising their weapons to strike, and every man of them missed his
mark, inflicting many serious and doubtless painful wounds, but not one
that seemed in the least degree likely to prove mortal.  The result was
the immediate resumption of a struggle so violent that for a breathless
minute or two it really seemed as though the cutter, stout little craft
as she was, would be dragged under water and sunk.  And in the very
height of the confusion one of the hunters must needs fall overboard
into the midst of the boiling flurry of bloodstained foam raised by the
struggles of the frantic brute, and was only dragged aboard again by
Harry in the very nick of time to save him from the terrific rush of the
second plesiosaurus.  Then the young leader of the party, seeing that
his companions were too completely unnerved to be of any use, and that
the violent struggles of the wounded brute threatened to seriously
injure, if they did not actually destroy, the cutter, stepped forward,
and, raising his rifle, seized the opportunity afforded by a pause of a
fraction of a second in the violent movements of the creature, and sent
a bullet crashing through its right eye into its brain.  That settled
the matter.  The struggles ceased for a moment or two with startling
suddenness; a convulsive, writhing movement followed; then came a
terrible shudder, and with a final gasping groan the monster yielded up
its life and hung motionless, its body supported, still in an upright
position, by the great hook through its jaw.  With the crack of
Escombe's rifle the second monster had suddenly vanished.

The question now was, what was to be done with the carcass of the dead
plesiosaurus.  As Harry stood there, contemplatively regarding it, it
was perfectly obvious to him that if the great fish hook were cut out of
the creature's jaw with an axe, the body would at once sink to the
bottom of the lake, and there would be an end of it, so far as he was
concerned, and the party would at once be free to resume their fishing,
although he had his doubts as to whether, after what had already
happened, another of the monsters could be tempted to take the baited
hook.  But it suddenly occurred to him that, the plesiosaurus being to
all intents and purposes an extinct and antediluvian animal, the only
remains of it in existence must necessarily consist of such fossilised
fragments as had been accidentally discovered in the course of
excavation, and that the complete skeleton of such a gigantic specimen
as that before him would be regarded as a priceless acquisition by the
curator of the Natural History Museum at South Kensington; so he at once
resolved to take the necessary steps for its preservation.  He gave
orders for the line to which the hook was bent to be led aft, for
convenience of towage, and then commanded his crew to set the cutter's
sails, his purpose being to tow the carcass to a lonely part of the
shore, and there have the body hauled up out of water, the flesh
carefully removed from the bones, and the skeleton as carefully
disarticulated, prior to packing it for dispatch to England.

But the cutter was scarcely under way, and heading for the spot that had
been selected as suitable for the above operations, when a disturbance
of the water near at hand indicated the presence of some bulky moving
body, most probably the companion of the dead creature, which had been
terrified into temporary flight by the report of Harry's rifle.  The
animal, however, or whatever it might be, remained invisible, the little
swirling eddies and ripples on the surface of the water alone betraying
its whereabouts.  But while Harry and his friends were discussing this
appearance, and wondering what it might portend, one of them happened to
glance around him in another direction, and his startled exclamation
caused the rest of the party to look in the direction toward which he
pointed.  And there, somewhat to their consternation, the party saw, not
half a dozen yards away, on the cutter's weather beam, the indications
that two more of the monsters were present, keeping way with the cutter,
and, as was presently pretty evident, edging in toward her; indeed, so
close were they to her that an occasional momentary flicker of the black
back of the nearer of the two could already be caught through the
gleaming water.  Two or three of the nobles who had by this time
succeeded in pulling themselves together and getting a grip upon their
courage, proposed an instant attack upon the monsters; but Escombe felt
that, for the moment, he had as much upon his hands as he could manage.
For with that huge dead bulk in tow the cutter was scarcely under
command, and he had no desire to scare the creatures away by commencing
an attack upon them which he could not follow up.

The choice, however, was not left to him for long; for within five
minutes of the discovery of the last arrivals all three of the
plesiosauri, as with one consent and at a signal, closed in upon the
carcass of their comrade, and, flinging themselves upon it with the
utmost fury, gave themselves up to the task of tearing it to pieces, the
work being accomplished in the midst of a foaming, splashing turmoil of
water that was absolutely terrifying to witness, which caused the little
cutter to pitch and roll to such an extent that it was almost impossible
to retain a footing upon her heaving deck.  Whether the creatures made
any attempt to devour the great lumps of flesh that they tore from the
violently swaying carcass it was quite impossible to determine, but in
any case the process of disintegration was a speedy one, for in less
than ten minutes from the moment of attack all that was left attached to
the hook was the head of the defunct saurian.

Justly vexed at this malicious interference with his plans, and
determined to save at least this last relic as a trophy of his prowess,
the young Inca gave orders for the head to be hauled inboard; but upon
the first attempt to do this, one of the monsters made a savage rush and
seized the head in its great jaws, worrying it as a dog worries a rat,
giving utterance as it did so to a succession of horrid grunting kind of
growls that caused most of the hearers to break into a cold
perspiration.  So tenaciously did the brute retain its grip that for a
few minutes the onlookers were almost persuaded that it was hooked; but
ultimately it released the mangled fragment--which its powerful jaws had
by this time crushed and splintered almost out of recognition--and,
retreating some thirty yards, suddenly wheeled and came foaming back to
the yacht, at which it made a furious dash, with the apparent
determination to climb on board and sweep her deck clear of its human
freight.  So resolute, indeed, was it in driving home its attack that it
actually succeeded in getting its two fore flippers in on the boat's
deck, scattering its occupants right and left, and almost driving two or
three over the side, while so heavily was the boat listed by the weight
of the monster, that Harry, sliding upon the steeply inclined deck, had
the narrowest possible escape of being precipitated headlong into the
creature's gaping jaws, and indeed only saved himself by stretching out
his hand and thrusting the snout violently aside, the violence of the
thrust luckily enabling him to recover his equilibrium.  Then Umu--who
appeared to be the only native of the party blessed with any real
courage or presence of mind--seeing his beloved master in imminent
danger, as he believed, of being seized and devoured before their eyes,
raised his bow, and hastily fitting an arrow to the string, drew the
shaft to its very head and let it fly into the reptile's throat, where
it stuck fast, inflicting so much pain that the beast at once flung
itself back into the water, roaring and choking, coughing up blood, and
throwing itself into the most indescribable contortions.

Then a very extraordinary thing happened.  No sooner did the wounded
plesiosaurus begin to vomit blood than the other two, which had
meanwhile been swimming excitedly to and fro, hurled themselves upon it
in what seemed to be a perfect frenzy of fury, and a most ferocious and
sanguinary battle ensued, the swirling, flying, foam-flecked water being
almost instantly deeply dyed with blood, while the air fairly vibrated
with the terrifying sounds emitted by the combatants.  The cutter,
meanwhile, relieved of the heavy drag upon her of the carcass of the
dead plesiosaurus, began to slide rapidly away from the vicinity of the
fighting monsters, and would soon have left them far behind.  But this
did not at all suit Harry, who, having undertaken to destroy the
ferocious reptiles, was by no means inclined to leave his task less than
half done.  He therefore put the cutter about and, to the mingled
astonishment and dismay of his companions, headed her back toward the
scene of the combat, steering in such a manner as to pass just to
leeward of the spot where the violent commotion in the water showed that
the battle was still raging with unabated fury.  Then, as the boat
ranged up alongside, with her foresheet hauled to windward, the great
bodies of the monsters could be seen rushing and plunging and leaping
hither and thither, whereupon the whole party of sportsmen opened a
vigorous and well-directed fire of arrows and javelins upon them, Harry
chiming in with his deadly rifle whenever a good chance for a shot
offered itself.  The result of this determined attack was that the young
leader was lucky enough to get in a splendid shot close behind the left
shoulder of one of the struggling brutes, which must have reached its
heart, for upon receiving the bullet the great reptile flung itself more
than half out of the water, uttering a dreadful cry as it did so, and
then, falling back, turned slowly over, and with one last writhing,
convulsive shudder, sank slowly to the bottom of the lake.  Meanwhile
the remaining two, both severely wounded, flung themselves upon each
other with such a maniacal intensity of fury as was truly awful to see.
Finally, one of the monsters succeeded in getting a firm grip upon the
throat of the other, and hung on, despite the frantic struggles of the
other to get clear.  For perhaps two full minutes the commotion in the
water was positively terrific; then it rapidly decreased until, probably
quite exhausted by the intensity of their prolonged efforts, they lay
practically still upon the surface of the water, their only signs of
life being an occasional slight twist of the body on the part of one or
the other of them.  Such an opportunity was much too good to be missed,
and, raising his rifle, Escombe was lucky enough to shoot both the
monsters dead by a couple of rapid, well-directed shots through the
head.  The two carcasses immediately began to sink; but before they
vanished completely out of sight, one of the cutter's crew, by means of
a lucky cast, succeeded in hooking one of the defunct saurians with the
great fish hook; and by this means the monster was eventually landed,
with some difficulty, at the spot originally chosen for the purpose.
Thus terminated the great plesiosaurus hunt, after nearly three hours of
the most exciting work that Escombe had ever enjoyed.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

HUANACOCHA THE PLOTTER.

About a fortnight after Escombe's destruction of the plesiosauri, it
pleased Huanacocha, the late chief of the Council of Seven, to entertain
a small but select party of his especial friends at a banquet, which he
gave in his house, situate on the borders of the lake, the grounds of
which adjoined those of the Virgins of the Sun, which, in turn, were
contiguous to those of the royal palace.

Huanacocha was probably the most wealthy man in the City of the Sun,
next to the Inca himself; for he had held the position of chief of the
Council of Seven for nearly a quarter of a century, and previous to the
appearance of Escombe upon the scene the portion of the national revenue
that would otherwise have gone into the coffers of the sovereign had
always been awarded to the Council of Seven; while, Huanacocha being not
only an astute but also an utterly unscrupulous man, of exceptionally
strong and overbearing character, the larger portion of this award had
regularly found its way, by various devious channels, into his own
private treasure chest.  He was consequently well able to offer his
guests an entertainment of almost regal magnificence.  It is not to be
wondered at, therefore, that when the Lord Huanacocha issued invitations
to a banquet--which was not very often--the full number of the invited
generally made a point of accepting, and being present at the function.

Upon the occasion in question the guests consisted of our old friends
Tiahuana, the Villac Vmu, and Motahuana, together with the Lords
Licuchima and Chalihuama, late of the Council of Seven, and the Lords
Chinchacocheta and Lehuava--six in all.

It is not necessary to describe the banquet in detail; let it suffice to
say that, for reasons of his own, the host had given special
instructions that neither trouble nor expense was to be spared to make
the function a complete success; and that therefore, so well had his
instructions been carried out, the entertainment as a whole fell not
very far short of that which had marked the occasion of Escombe's
accession to the throne of the Incas.

There is no need to record in detail the conversation that followed upon
the dismissal of the servants.  It is sufficient to say that Huanacocha
had arranged this banquet with the express object of eliciting the views
of his guests upon a certain project that had been gradually taking
shape in his mind, which he believed was now ripe for execution.  But,
to his astonishment and consternation, he now discovered that he had to
a very important extent entirely misapprehended the situation; and after
a long and somewhat heated discussion the meeting had broken up without
result, save that the guests had departed from his house in a mutually
distrustful and uneasy frame of mind.

When Huanacocha at length retired to rest that night not only did he
feel somewhat uneasy, but he was also distinctly angry with himself; for
although he had achieved the purpose with which the banquet had been
given--which was to elicit a frank expression of opinion from certain
individuals relative to the Inca and his schemes of reformation--he felt
that he had blundered badly.  He had used neither tact nor discretion in
his manner of conducting the conversation; he had been reckless even to
the point of suggesting opposition to the decrees of the sovereign; and
when it was too late, when he had fatally committed himself, he had
seen, to his discomfiture, that two of his companions--and those two the
most powerful persons in the community, next to the Inca himself, namely
the Villac Vmu and his deputy, Motahuana--were distinctly out of
sympathy with him.  True, the Villac Vmu had expressed himself as
puzzled, disturbed, anxious at the attitude of the Inca towards the
religious question; but it was perfectly clear that the frame of mind of
the High Priest was not nearly acute enough to induce him to regard with
favour, or even with patience, any suggestion at all savouring of
sedition.  And he, Huanacocha, in his heat and impatience, had been
foolish enough to throw out such a suggestion.  The question that now
disturbed him was: what would be Tiahuana's attitude toward him
henceforward in view of what he had said; nay more, what would be the
attitude of the High Priest toward his friends in view of what they had
said?  Would the Villac Vmu and his deputy accept a suggestion which he
had thrown out, that this momentous and imprudent conversation should be
regarded as private and confidential, and treat it as such, or would
they consider it their duty to report the affair to the Inca?  If they
did, then Huanacocha knew that he and his friends would have good cause
to regret their imprudence; for, despite all his cavilling, the late
Chief of the Council of Seven had already seen enough of Escombe's
methods to feel certain that the young monarch would stand no nonsense,
particularly of the seditious kind, and that, at the first hint of
anything of that sort, if the culprits did not lose their heads, they
would at least find themselves bestowed where their seditious views
could work no mischief.

As these reflections passed through the mind of Huanacocha, that
somewhat impulsive and overbearing individual grew increasingly uneasy,
and he now began to fear that he had been altogether too outspoken.

For, be it known, this man Huanacocha had conceived nothing less than
the audacious idea of overthrowing the Inca, and securing his own
election in his stead.  In his capacity of Chief of the Council of Seven
he had for a long term of years enjoyed a measure of power scarcely less
than that invested in the Inca himself; for, being by nature of an
unusually arrogant and domineering disposition, while the other members
of the Council had been exceedingly pliant and easy-going, he had never
experienced any difficulty in browbeating them into tolerably quick
compliance with his wishes, however extravagant they might happen to
have been.  As for the people, they had rendered the same implicit,
unquestioning obedience to the Council that they would have rendered to
the Inca, had there been one on the throne.  Having enjoyed this power,
together with all the privileges and emoluments attaching thereto, for
so long a time, Huanacocha had found it particularly hard and unpleasant
to be called upon to resign them all, practically at a moment's notice,
when young Escombe made his appearance upon the scene.  Possibly, had
Harry chanced to conform to this man's preconceived opinion of what the
Inca would be like whenever it should please him to revisit the earth,
he might have accepted the situation with a reasonably good grace; but
to be ousted by "a mere boy"--for as such he always thought of the young
Inca--was altogether too much to be submitted to tamely.

At the first his mental revolt had been vague, indefinite, and formless;
perhaps he had thought that in course of time it would pass away and he
would grow reconciled to the new order of things, particularly if the
young Inca should show himself properly willing to submit to the guiding
hand of the Council of Seven, as represented by its late chief.  But
Escombe lost no time in making it perfectly clear to everybody that he
had his own ideas upon the subject of government, and meant to act upon
them.  Upon more than one occasion--upon several, in fact--the young
Inca had turned a deaf ear to the counsels of Huanacocha, and had
carried out his own ideas because he had honestly believed them to be
better and more advantageous to the community.  He had put his foot down
heavily upon many abuses of power on the part of certain of the highest
nobles, and in this way Huanacocha had suffered perhaps more severely
than anyone else.  For this reason his condition of mental revolt,
instead of passing away, gathered new force and gradually began to
assume a definite form which ultimately resolved itself into the
determination to cause Harry's "removal" by some means--he did not
particularly care what they were--and procure his own election to the
vacant throne, if that might be; or, if not that, at least the re-
instatement of the Council of Seven, with himself, of course, as its
chief.

With this object in view he had commenced operations by proceeding to
manufacture sedulously a number of imaginary grievances from which he
asserted that the people were suffering, and these he industriously
spread abroad among his own friends, hoping that in course of time they
would filter through to the people themselves, and be eagerly adopted by
them; which delectable plan certainly met with some measure of success.

But as he lay tossing sleeplessly upon his bed he realised that he had
that evening been both foolish and precipitate: he had seriously
mistaken the nature of the views held by the two priests, and had
betrayed himself and his friends in their presence.  How would the
Villac Vmu and his deputy act, or would they act at all, was the
question which he now repeatedly asked himself?  Could he by any means
ascertain their intentions?  He must, by fair means or foul: it would
never do for him to remain in ignorance upon such a vital point after
the reckless manner in which he and his friends had spoken.  Ay, and
more than that, he must make quite sure that they maintained silence
upon the subject of that most imprudent conversation, otherwise--!

He flung himself over restlessly upon his bed: the longer he thought
upon the matter the more glaring did his folly appear.  He must guard
himself and his friends from the consequences of that folly at all
costs.  But how?  Who was there to advise him?  Suddenly he bethought
himself of Xaxaguana, the priest who ranked next below Motahuana.  Of
course, he was the very man of all others; for, first of all, he was
Huanacocha's very particular friend, and a man, moreover, who was deeply
indebted to him for many past favours of a somewhat exceptional kind;
also he was young, comparatively speaking, very ambitious, and not over
scrupulous.  Yes, Xaxaguana was undoubtedly the man for his purpose, and
Huanacocha told himself, with a smile of relief, that he had been a fool
for not thinking of the priest before.

But although Huanacocha believed that he saw in Xaxaguana the "friend in
need" for whom he had been so anxiously casting about, he was still much
too uneasy to sleep, and he was up and about with the appearance of the
first faint suggestion of dawn, too anxious to remain inactive any
longer, yet fully conscious of the fact that the hour was altogether too
early for him to seek his friend without running a very grave risk of
attracting unwelcome attention by so unusual a proceeding.  He therefore
decided to take a long walk, and think the whole affair over again while
his brain and his pulses were being steadied by the cool, fresh air of
the morning.

Was it fate or was it mere chance that caused him to select a route
which led him past that part of the temple which constituted the
quarters of the priests?  Huanacocha told himself that it was his lucky
star that was in the ascendant; for as he was passing the building the
door gently opened and the very man that he was so anxious to see
stepped into the roadway and quietly closed the door behind him.  Then
he looked round and beheld Huanacocha, and a little ejaculation of
astonishment escaped him.

"This is a fortunate meeting indeed," he exclaimed as he stepped forward
to greet his friend; "most fortunate; for perhaps you will be astonished
to hear that I am thus early astir with the express object of seeking
you."

"Ah!" thought Huanacocha; "unless I am greatly mistaken that means that
I must prepare for the worst."  But, having by this time shaken off his
panic to a considerable extent, and once more pulled himself together,
he decided to allow his friend to speak first, as by so doing he would
probably be better able to judge what he should himself say.  He
therefore responded to Xaxaguana's greeting by remarking:

"Then it is lucky that I chose this direction for my morning ramble,
otherwise we should have missed each other.  You look somewhat
astonished at seeing me astir so early; but the fact is, my friend, that
I was sleepless; I have therefore left my bed early, to take a walk in
the early morning air.  But I understood you to say that you wished to
see me.  Which way shall we go?"

"Let us go up the road toward the hills," answered Xaxaguana.  "There
will be the less chance of our being seen; and it may be well for me to
mention, at the outset, that there may be several good reasons why you
and I should not be seen together at this juncture, my Lord Huanacocha."

"Ah! and wherefore so, my good friend?" demanded Huanacocha.

"Because," answered Xaxaguana, "last night you betrayed yourself into
the committal of a serious imprudence, namely that of presuming to
criticise unfavourably certain acts of our Lord the Inca, which, as you
are surely aware, is a crime punishable with death.  Do you ask how I
happen to know this?  I will tell you.  It chanced that I was kept late
from my bed last night by certain business connected with the
approaching Feast of Raymi, and I was therefore astir when the Villac
Vmu and Motahuana returned from your banquet.  You may possibly be aware
that it is a rule among us that nothing which transpires within the
precincts of the temple is ever to be referred to, or even so much as
hinted at, outside the temple walls.  It is therefore our habit, when
within those walls, to speak before each other with the most perfect
freedom; and, friend Huanacocha, I am breaking one of our most stringent
vows in telling you even this much.  I hope, therefore, that should the
time ever arrive when you can do me a service, you will remember this
fact, and allow it to weigh in my favour."

"Rest assured that I will do so, my good friend," answered Huanacocha;
"although methinks that there are one or two services rendered to you
for which I have as yet received no adequate return.  But let that pass;
I am interrupting you; pray proceed with your story."

"I will," returned Xaxaguana.  "As I have already mentioned, I was astir
when Tiahuana and Motahuana returned from your house last night.  They
entered the common room, in which I was at work--possibly because it was
the only room in which any lights were burning--and, flinging themselves
upon a couch quite near to me, began to talk.  It was easy to see that
they were much agitated and excited; but, being busy, I paid little heed
to their conversation at the outset, and only pricked up my ears when I
heard your name mentioned.  Then I confess that I listened, and soon
heard sufficient to convince me that you, Huanacocha, and your friends
Lehuava, Chinchacocheta, Licuchima, and Chilihuama were, last night,
guilty of such imprudence as may well cost you all your lives, unless
you have the wit and readiness of action to prevent it!"

"But," ejaculated Huanacocha, all his former alarms returning to him
with tenfold force, "how mean you, friend?  Surely, neither the Villac
Vmu nor Motahuana will dream of reporting what was said within the
privacy of my house, will they?"

"What was said in the privacy of your house, last night, amounted to
blasphemy," remarked Xaxaguana dryly; "and it is the bounden duty of
every loyal subject of the Inca to report blasphemy, wherever it may be
spoken.  From what was said last night I gathered the impression that
neither of the persons mentioned are likely to shrink from the
performance of their duty, however unpleasant it may be; so for this
reason I set out to warn you this morning.  And it was for reasons
connected with this that I ventured to indicate the exceeding
undesirability of our being seen together just now."

"But--but--" stammered Huanacocha, completely thrown off his balance by
what he had just learned--"if I understand you aright, my good
Xaxaguana, all this means that the lives of my friends and myself have
been put into the utmost jeopardy by my crass folly of last night, I
knew--yes, I knew, when it was too late, that I had been a fool," he
concluded bitterly.

"To be absolutely candid with you, friend Huanacocha, I think you were,"
rejoined Xaxaguana somewhat cynically.  "Why did you do it?"

Huanacocha stopped short in the middle of the road and looked his friend
square in the eye.

"Xaxaguana," said he, "when I was Chief of the Council of Seven it was
in my power to do you several good turns--and I did them.  Under certain
conceivable circumstances it might be in my power to do you several
others; and if you can indicate to me a way by which I can extricate
myself from my present peril, rest assured that I will not prove
ungrateful.  I believe you are my friend; and I believe also that you
are astute enough to recognise that I can serve you better living than
dead.  I will therefore be perfectly frank with you and will tell you
all that has been in my mind of late.  But see, there is the sun, and
the good folk of the town will soon be astir, and we may be seen
together; let us go over yonder and sit in the shadow of that pile of
rocks; we can talk freely there without risk of being seen, or
interrupted."

Without another word Xaxaguana turned and led the way across the upland
meadow to a somewhat remarkable pile of rocks that cropped out of the
soil about a hundred yards from the road, and, passing round to the
shady side, which was also the side hidden from the road, seated himself
on a bed of soft moss, signing to his companion to do the same.  For
nearly an hour the pair conversed most earnestly together; then
Xaxaguana rose to his feet and, reconnoitring the road carefully to see
that there was no likelihood of his being observed, stepped forth from
his place of concealment.  Then he hurried across the intervening
stretch of grass, and on reaching the road, once more glanced keenly
about him, and briskly turned his steps homeward.  Half an hour later
Huanacocha did pretty much the same thing; and it was noticeable--or
would have been, had there been anyone there to see--that his
countenance had lost much of the expression of anxiety that it had worn
when he set out for his walk early that morning.  He had scarcely bathed
and finished his morning meal after his unwonted exertions when his
favourite servant rushed into his presence and in agitated accents
informed him that one of the underlings of the temple, on his passage
into the town, had given forth the startling intelligence that the
Villac Vmu and Motahuana, both of whom had been his lord's honoured
guests at the banquet of the previous night, had just been found dead
upon their beds!



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

TRAPPED!

The emotion of Huanacocha at this surprising piece of news was almost
painful to see.  As he listened to the hurriedly told story, poured
forth by his man, his features took on a sickly yellow tinge, his eyes
seemed to be on the point of starting out of his head, and his breath
came in labouring gasps from his wide-open mouth; finally, when at
length he seemed to have fully grasped the purport of the story, he hid
his face in his hands, rested his elbows upon his knees, and sat there
quivering like an aspen leaf.  In the course of a few minutes, however,
he regained his self-control, and with a sigh of such depth that anyone
unaware of its melancholy cause might have almost mistaken it for one of
relief, he rose to his feet and, muttering to himself something about
the difficulty of believing so incredible a story, and the necessity for
personally ascertaining the truth, he gave orders for his litter to be
brought to the door, and presently sallied forth on his way to the
temple, with this intention.

The distance to be covered was not great, and by the time that
Huanacocha reached the temple he had almost completely recovered his
composure.  Alighting from his litter, and bidding his bearers to wait,
he climbed the long flight of steps leading up to the building and,
accosting the first person he met, demanded, in an authoritative tone of
voice to see Xaxaguana.  It was perfectly evident, even to one less
experienced than Huanacocha in matters pertaining to the temple routine
and its discipline, that some very unusual occurrence had happened, for
everybody about the place seemed excited, agitated, distraught; but
Huanacocha was, of course, well known to every inhabitant of the City of
the Sun, and presently someone was found possessing enough authority to
deal with the great man's request, or command, rather, and in the course
of a few minutes he was conducted along a passage and shown into an
empty room, there to await the arrival of the man he sought.

Apparently Xaxaguana was busy at the moment, for it was nearly a quarter
of an hour ere he appeared, and when he did so his countenance was heavy
with concern.

"Pardon me for having kept you so long waiting, my Lord," he said in a
loud voice, "but this terrible occurrence, of which I presume you have
heard, has thrown us all into a shocking state of confusion, and when
your message reached me I was, in my capacity of senior priest, with the
physicians whom we summoned, and who have been endeavouring to discover
the cause of the death of our lamented friends the Villac Vmu and
Motahuana."  And, as he spoke, he closed the door carefully behind him.

"And have they succeeded?" demanded Huanacocha.

"Oh yes!" answered Xaxaguana.  "They are in complete agreement that the
cause of death in each case was senile decay.  They were both very old
men, you know."

"Senile decay!" exclaimed Huanacocha, in astonishment.  "Surely you are
not serious, Xaxaguana.  Why, they were at my house last night, as you
know, and nobody who then saw them will ever believe that they died of
old age.  They were almost as active and vigorous as the youngest of us,
and neither of them exhibited the slightest symptoms of senile decay."

"Possibly not," assented Xaxaguana; "nevertheless that is the verdict of
the physicians.  And, after all, you know, these exceedingly old men
often pass away with the suddenness of a burnt-out lamp; a single
flicker and they are gone.  I must confess that, personally, I am not
altogether surprised; for when they returned from your house last night
it occurred to me that they seemed to have suddenly grown very old and
feeble; indeed I said as much when the news of their death was brought
to me."

"You did, did you?" retorted Huanacocha.  "By our Lord the Sun, you are
a wonder, Xaxaguana; nothing less!  How did you manage it, man, and so
promptly too?  Why it must all have happened within half an hour of your
return home this morning."

"It did," said Xaxaguana.  "I was still in my bath--for you must know
that, being somewhat fatigued with my protracted labours of yesterday, I
overslept myself this morning--when the intelligence was brought to me
that our two friends had been discovered lying dead in their beds.  And
they could only have died very recently, for they were neither stiff nor
cold."

"And--I suppose there were no signs--no marks of violence on the bodies;
nothing to suggest the possibility of--of--foul play?" stammered
Huanacocha.

"No," answered Xaxaguana; "the physicians found nothing whatever of that
kind.  How should they?  It is certain that both men died in their beds,
within the precincts of the temple.  And who is there within these
precincts who would dare to commit an act of sacrilege, to say nothing
of the fact that, so far as is known, there is no one who would be in
the slightest degree benefited by their death, or could possibly desire
it."

Huanacocha looked at his friend admiringly.

"As I said just now, you are a wonder, Xaxaguana," he remarked.  "But
you have not yet told me how you managed it, and I am anxious to know.
So set aside all further pretence, my friend; be frank with me, and
satisfy my curiosity."

"No," said Xaxaguana firmly.  "The man who has a secret and fails to
keep it to himself is a fool, friend Huanacocha, and I am not a fool;
therefore if I happen to have a secret I prefer to retain it within my
own breast.  But the matter stands thus.  You told me certain things
this morning, and among them was this.  You said that if perchance
anything were to happen to Tiahuana and Motahuana, that they died before
it was possible for them to take certain action which you had reason to
fear, you would use your powerful influence with our Lord the Inca to
see that I obtained promotion to the position of Villac Vmu, as is,
indeed, my right, together with certain other advantages.  Is not that
so?  Very well.  Singularly enough, that which you desired has
happened--most fortunately for you; and now it seems to me that all that
remains is for you to fulfil your promise.  Do not you agree with me?"

"Yes," answered Huanacocha frankly, "I do; and I will proceed hence to
the palace and officially inform the Inca of the sudden and lamented
death of the Villac Vmu and his deputy, and will urge the immediate
appointment of yourself to the vacant post of High Priest.  There is no
doubt that you will get the appointment, for in the first place you are
entitled to it as senior priest; in the next, you will get the full
advantage of my recommendation; and, in the third, the Inca has no
personal friend to whom he would wish to give the appointment in
preference to yourself.  That matter may therefore be regarded as
settled.

"But there is another, and an equally important, matter which I now wish
to discuss with you, Xaxaguana, and in which I desire your advice and
help.  Tiahuana and Motahuana being dead, there is nobody, so far as I
know, who has any particular interest in retaining the present Inca upon
the throne.  To that remark you may of course object that he is the re-
incarnated Manco whose coming, as the regenerator of the ancient
Peruvian nation, was prophesied by Titucocha, and that, in the event of
anything happening to him, the regenerating process would be deferred
indefinitely.  But, I ask you, my dear friend, what if it were?  In what
way should we suffer?  It is true that we have accustomed ourselves to
look forward to our regeneration as the one thing to be desired above
and before all others; but is it?  We are perfectly happy here in this
valley as we are.  Do we in very truth desire to exchange our present
happy and peaceful existence for an indefinite and doubtless long period
of toil, and warfare, and suffering?  And in what respects should we be
the better at the end, even if we should be successful--of which, permit
me to say, I have my doubts?  And do we really desire that change in the
character of our religion, and the so-called amendment of our morals
upon which this young man insists?  I doubt it, my friend, not only as
regards you and myself, but also as regards the people generally.  Now,
I have spoken to you quite frankly; be equally frank with me, and give
your view of the matter."

"I will, my friend, and in a very few words," answered Xaxaguana.  "My
view of the matter is identical with your own.  And it is possibly
identical also with that of many others.  But how is that going to help
us?  Also, with all your frankness you have not yet given utterance to
the idea that I see you have in your mind.  You are far too cautious,
friend Huanacocha, ever to become a successful conspirator."

"One must needs be cautious in broaching such a conspiracy as I have in
my mind," answered Huanacocha.  "Nevertheless," he continued, "boldness
and caution are sometimes the same thing, therefore will I be bold with
you, Xaxaguana, since I think it will not be difficult for me to prove
to you that not only our views, but also our interests, are identical.
In a word, then, I believe that it would be advantageous to you and to
me--and possibly also to the rest of the inhabitants of this valley--if
the present Inca were deposed, and I were made Inca in his place.  The
question is, how is the matter to be accomplished?  If he were to die
now, even as the Villac--"

"It would be the most unfortunate thing that could possibly happen," cut
in Xaxaguana.  "The Villac Vmu and Motahuana were both old men, and
therefore that they should die is not at all remarkable.  But that they
should both die at the same moment is, to say the least of it, somewhat
singular, and, despite all our precautions, is not unlikely to arouse
more or less suspicion in many minds.  Now, if the Inca also were to
die, that suspicion would undoubtedly be converted into certainty and an
investigation would assuredly be set on foot which could not fail to end
disastrously for those found responsible for the three deaths, and
especially for that of the Inca; for, as of course you are fully aware,
practically the whole of the inhabitants of the valley are still old-
fashioned enough to cling to the superstition that to murder the Inca is
the blackest of black sacrilege.

"But on the day when the Inca was presented to us in the temple, you
spoke certain words which, if they were now repeated, might find an echo
in the mind of many an inhabitant of this city.  You boldly expressed
your doubts as to the identity of the youth with him whose appearance
was foretold by the prophet Titucocha, and whom we of the ancient
Peruvian nation have been expecting for the last three hundred years and
more.  Now, we know that many of the Inca's ordinances are regarded with
disfavour by the people generally; and I believe that, as a consequence
of this, it would not be very difficult to implant in the minds of the
discontented a suggestion that the late Villac Vmu made a very serious
mistake--if, indeed, he did not commit an unpardonable crime--in
introducing this young man to us as the re-incarnated Manco Capac.  That
suspicion once instilled into them, it should be a comparatively easy
matter to incite them to demand that the Inca shall establish his
identity by submitting to the ordeal by fire, after which your election
to the vacant throne should be a foregone conclusion; for, of course,
neither you nor I believe for a moment that the young Englishman can
possibly survive the fire ordeal."

Huanacocha gazed at his companion for several moments in silent
admiration; then he exclaimed enthusiastically:

"I have already told you twice this morning that you are a wonder, and I
now say it for the third time--you are a wonder, Xaxaguana, the
possessor of the most astute and clever brain in the valley; and I
foresee that, working together, you and I may achieve such dazzling
results as we have scarcely yet dared to dream of.  But how do you
propose to bring about the result of which you have just spoken?  It
will be a slow and tedious process at best, and while it is being
achieved many things may happen."

"Nay," answered Xaxaguana, "it will not be nearly so lengthy a process
as you seem to think.  This is my plan."

And, placing his mouth to his companion's ear, Xaxaguana proceeded to
whisper a few sentences which appeared to fill Huanacocha with wonder
and admiration.

"Do you think it will succeed?"  Xaxaguana demanded, as he concluded his
communication.

"It cannot possibly fail, if carried out with promptitude and
discretion," answered Huanacocha in tones of conviction.  "And its
perfect simplicity is its greatest recommendation.  When do you propose
to commence operations?"

"At once," answered Xaxaguana, "now, this very day.  Nothing will be
talked of during the next few days save the sudden death of the Villac
Vmu and Motahuana, and such a topic of conversation will afford me the
precise opportunity which I require.  And now, friend Huanacocha, you
and I have been together quite as long as is either prudent or
desirable.  Go, therefore, hence to the palace, acquaint the Inca with
the sad news of which you are the official bearer; inform him, if you
will, that in the zealous discharge of your duty you have visited me for
the purpose of obtaining the fullest information relative to the
deplored event, and direct his attention to the extreme desirability of
creating me Villac Vmu at once."

"Fear not, friend," answered Huanacocha, as he rose to take his leave,
"you shall receive the notification of your appointment in the course of
the day."  And, followed by Xaxaguana, who accompanied him as far as the
outer door, he left the apartment and proceeded on his way to the
palace.

Huanacocha was as good as his word; for he not only secured from Harry
the appointment of Xaxaguana to the dignity of Villac Vmu, but actually
took the trouble to hurry back from the palace to the temple with the
information of his success, and the royal warrant duly signed.

As Xaxaguana had anticipated, almost the sole topic of conversation
during the ensuing fortnight was the death of the late Villac Vmu, and
that of his deputy, at practically the same instant of time, as was
determined by the physicians.  For the first few days this circumstance
was spoken of simply as a somewhat remarkable coincidence, but not very
long after the obsequies--which were celebrated with unprecedented pomp
in the temple--were over, it began to be noticed that, when the subject
happened to be referred to, people were acquiring a trick of putting
their heads together and whispering mysteriously to each other.  The
trick rapidly developed into something nearly approaching a habit; and
as it did so, the whispers as rapidly changed into plain, open speech,
and the words which were interchanged lost their original air of
confidential mysteriousness, until, finally, people told each other
without very much circumlocution that there was, in their opinion, more
in the strange deaths of Tiahuana and Motahuana than met the eye.  And
if they were asked to express themselves more plainly they reminded each
other that the two priests, who had died under such really remarkable
circumstances, were the men who were responsible for the finding of the
white Inca, and the introduction of him into the community, and this
reminder was quite frequently followed by a somewhat pointed question as
to whether, after all, they--the priests--could by any chance have made
a mistake in their method of identifying the Inca, some people even
going to the length of expressing the opinion that it was no question of
mistake, but rather a case of deliberate deception of the people, with
some mysterious purpose which would probably now be never brought to
light, inasmuch as that our Lord the Sun, angry at the change in the
form of the national religion, has cut off the offenders in the midst of
their sins, as a sign of His displeasure.  The transition from such talk
as this to openly expressed doubts concerning the genuineness of the
Inca's claim to be the re-incarnation of the divine Manco Capac was an
easy one, made all the more easy by the unpopular character of many--one
might indeed almost say all--of Escombe's decrees.  Yet so consummate
was the cunning and subtlety with which the campaign was conducted that
scarcely a whisper of it was allowed to reach the ears of those who were
suspected of being favourably inclined toward the Inca, and not the
faintest inkling of it ever penetrated to Escombe himself.  Such extreme
care indeed was exercised by those who were pulling the strings that no
sign whatever of the Inca's fast-waning popularity was for a moment
permitted to manifest itself.  The process of corrupting the palace
officials and staff generally was found to be exceptionally tedious and
difficult, for Escombe's genial disposition and straightforward
character enabled him to endear himself without effort to everybody with
whom he was brought into intimate contact.  But it was accomplished at
length by the exercise of almost superhuman ingenuity, with a solitary
exception in the case of Arima, who, it was at once recognised, was so
faithfully and devotedly attached to his royal master that it would be
worse than folly to attempt to corrupt him; he was therefore left
severely alone; the most stringent precautions being taken to keep the
whole thing secret from him.

Matters had reached the stage above indicated when Escombe, having
grappled with an exceptionally arduous day's work, retired to rest close
upon midnight, and soon afterward sank into a heavy sleep, only to be,
as it seemed, almost instantly awakened by the light of torches flashing
upon his closed eyelids, and the scuffle of sandalled feet about his
couch.  Springing up into a sitting posture in his bed, he opened his
eyes, still heavy with sleep, to find his chamber full of men--many of
whom were armed--conspicuous among whom were Huanacocha and Xaxaguana,
the new Villac Vmu.

"Why, my Lord Huanacocha," he exclaimed, rubbing his eyes to assure
himself that he was awake, "what does this mean?  How did you get in
here?  And what is the matter?"

"The matter, Lord," answered Huanacocha, "is one of the utmost gravity
and importance, as the Villac Vmu, here, will inform you.  It is nothing
less than a revolt among the priests generally, most of whom have
declared against the modifications in the form of the worship and
service in the temple, instituted by my Lord, and have risen against the
Villac Vmu and those others who have pronounced themselves in favour of
my Lord's modifications.  Some of those who were in favour of the
modifications have been slain; but the larger number, amounting to
between twenty and thirty, are even now being subjected to the fire
ordeal, as would have been the Villac Vmu, had he not happily escaped
and made his way to my house for shelter and help.  That, in brief, is
how the matter stands; is it not, Villac Vmu?"

"'Tis even so, Lord," answered Xaxaguana.  "And when I had stated the
facts to my Lord Huanacocha, he regarded them as of import serious
enough to justify us even to the extent of disturbing the rest of my
Lord the Inca, and--"

"By Jove, yes, I should think so," exclaimed Harry, interrupting the
High Priest unceremoniously, and springing from his couch to the floor.
"Where is Arima?  Pass the word for Arima, somebody, please--or, stay,
hand me my clothes; I'll get into them myself without waiting for Arima.
How many of these revolting priests are there, do you say?"

"They number about a thousand, Lord," answered Xaxaguana.  "We have
already taken it upon ourselves to send to Umu, asking him to come to
our assistance; but it will be some time ere our messenger can reach
him, and he in turn can reach and order out the guard.  We therefore
thought it well to come to my Lord and ask him to hasten with us to the
temple, there to use his authority to save the lives of those who must
otherwise undergo the fire ordeal."

"Of course," assented Harry, as he scrambled into his clothes.  "But
what will happen if those mutinous beggars refuse to obey me, eh?"

"Refuse to obey you, Lord?" repeated the Villac Vmu in shocked tones.
"Nay, they will certainly not do that.  They have revolted now merely
because they cannot be brought to believe that the innovations against
which they rebel are in accordance with the orders of our Lord the Inca.
You have but to personally assure them that such is the case, and they
will instantly return to their allegiance."

"Very well," answered Harry, as he threw a heavy cloak over his
shoulders to protect himself from the keen night air.  "Now I am ready.
Lead the way, somebody, and let us be going."

Emerging from the palace, and hurrying along the almost pitch--dark
garden paths, the party swept through the palace gates into the main
road, and made a dash for the temple by the nearest possible route,
which happened to be through several dark, narrow, deserted side
streets, in which not a soul was stirring; the little crowd of hurrying
figures consequently passed on its way and soon reached the temple
without having been observed by so much as a single person.

Somewhat to Escombe's surprise the temple proved to be in absolute
darkness, when the party arrived before the walls; but Xaxaguana
explained this by informing the young monarch that the revolted priests
were all assembled in the opposite wing of the building, and that he had
deemed it a wise precaution not to attempt to enter on that side, lest
they should meet with resistance before the Inca could find an
opportunity to make his presence known.  As they drew in under the
temple walls Xaxaguana called a halt, expressing some anxiety as to the
possibility of the door being closed by means of which he proposed to
effect an entrance, and he sent forward a scout to reconnoitre.  His
anxiety, however, proved to be unfounded, for the scout presently
returned with the information that the door was unfastened and
everything quiet on that side of the building.  The party therefore
moved forward once more, and presently Escombe found himself being
conducted along a corridor, unlighted save by the smoky flare of the
torches carried by his escort.  Contrary to the young ruler's
expectations, the building, even now that he was inside it, remained
dark and silent as the grave; but this was explained by the statement of
Xaxaguana that the revolting priests were all gathered together in the
rock-hewn basement of the building, where they were at that moment
engaged in putting their more faithful brethren to the dreadful "ordeal
by fire".  Accordingly, when Xaxaguana unlocked a massive bronze gate
let into a wall, and invited Harry to descend with him to the chamber
where the horrid rite was in progress, the young man followed
unhesitatingly, as he also did through a door which the priest unlocked
when they had reached the foot of the flight of stone steps and
traversed some yards of corridor apparently hewn out of the living rock.
The room was comfortably enough furnished, and looked almost as though
it might have been prepared for his reception, for it was lighted by a
handsome lamp suspended from the roof.

"If my Lord will condescend to wait here a moment and rest, I, his
servant, will go and see exactly what is happening, and return to
report," remarked Xaxaguana as he stood aside to allow Harry to pass
him.

"But why wait?" demanded Harry, facing round to the High Priest.
"Surely we have not a moment of time to waste.  Would it not be--"

But, even as he was speaking, the Villac Vmu slid rapidly back into the
passage, closing the door behind him with a slam, through the thunderous
reverberation of which in the hollow vault Harry thought he caught the
sound of a sharp click.  With a muttered ejaculation, expressive of
annoyance, he sprang to the door and endeavoured to open it; but it was
fast, and, as he listened, he heard the sounds of hastily retreating
footsteps in the passage outside.  And in that same moment the truth
flashed upon him that, for some inscrutable reason, he was trapped and a
prisoner!



CHAPTER NINETEEN.

UMU TAKES A HAND IN THE GAME.

The first rays of the next morning's sun had scarcely flashed over the
ridge of the sierra which hemmed in the eastern side of the valley, when
Arima, awaking with a most atrocious headache, and the feeling generally
of a man who has just passed through an unusually prolonged bout of
dissipation--or, alternatively, has been drugged--arose from his bed
and, staggering across the room, plunged his throbbing and buzzing head
into a large basin of cold water, preparatory to dressing.  Once, twice,
thrice did he plunge head, neck, and hands into the cooling liquid, with
but little satisfactory result, for the relief which he sought, and
confidently expected to derive, from the process, refused to come; and
he groaned as he sank upon a seat and tightly gripped his throbbing
temples in his hands.  Never before in his life had he felt so ill, so
utterly cheap and used-up, as he did at that moment.  In addition to the
violent headache from which he was suffering, his blood felt like fire
in his veins, his skin was dry and rough; he was so giddy that he could
scarcely stand.  The truth was that he had been drugged with such brutal
severity on the preceding night, by Xaxaguana's emissaries, to make sure
of his being out of the way at the moment of his master's seizure, that
it had been due more to chance than anything else that he had ever again
awakened.  After a few minutes' rest he felt so much better that he was
able to dress, and afterwards make his way to his master's room.  For,
ever since the slaying of the monsters in the lake, it had been
Escombe's habit to rise early in the morning, and, making his way to the
bottom of the garden, embark on a balsa, from which, after Arima had
paddled it a few hundred yards from the shore, master and man had been
wont to bathe together.  And now, according to custom, the faithful
Indian hurried away to awaken his master, as usual, for indulgence in
the regular morning dip.

But upon entering the sleeping chamber he of course found it untenanted,
and for a moment the thought occurred to him that possibly he was late,
and that his master, having awakened at his usual hour, had risen and
gone down into the garden alone.  A single glance out of the window,
however, at the length of the shadows cast by the various objects
lighted by the sun outside, sufficed to satisfy him that habit had
triumphed over even the influence of the narcotic which had been
administered to him, and that he was certainly not more than a few
minutes late.  Then, with the instinct of the semi-savage, he flung his
glances quickly about the room, and instantly detected signs that it had
been invaded during the night by a number of people, and that his master
had arisen and dressed in haste.  Quick to take the alarm where Escombe
was concerned, he at once hurried out, and, without waiting to find any
of the palace officials to whom to report his discovery, proceeded
forthwith to question as many of the servants as he met.  But here again
he only found matter for further alarm and apprehension; for not only
did the whole service of the building appear to be in a state of
complete disorganisation, but it at once became evident to him that
every man he met was confused, agitated, and more or less anxious of
manner; and, although each and all professed themselves unable to throw
any light upon the mystery of the Inca's inexplicable disappearance, he
felt instinctively that they were all lying to him.

Realising at length that no information was to be obtained from these
people, Arima passed from the palace into the grounds, making his way,
in the first instance, down to the shore of the lake, for the purpose of
satisfying himself beyond all possibility of question whether or not
there was any foundation for his first surmise, that Escombe had risen
early and left the palace without waiting for him.  But no; there was no
sign of his young master in that direction; moreover, the balsa was
lying moored in its proper place; also the cutter was at her usual
moorings.  There was therefore no possibility that the Inca had taken it
into his head to go for a solitary early morning sail.  Satisfied upon
this point, the Indian next made his way round to the front of the
palace, and here at once the evidences of a visit of a large party of
people to the palace, some time during the preceding night, once more
presented themselves, the latest--that is to say the topmost--set of
footprints showing that quite a crowd of people had hurried from the
main entrance of the building down the broad path leading to the
entrance gates of the garden and thence into the main road.  Moreover,
the "spoor" remained undisturbed in the road for a distance sufficient
to indicate the general direction in which the party had gone, although
it was lost in the ordinary signs of traffic within a few yards of the
gates.  Having ascertained thus much, Arima returned to the spot where
the footprints first showed outside the palace doors, and, going down
upon his hands and knees, patiently set himself to the task of
endeavouring to discover his young master's among them.  But before he
had had time to achieve any result in this direction one of the palace
officials appeared and, angrily demanding to know what he was doing
there, ordered him back into the palace to attend to his duty;
explaining, by way of reply to Arima's agitated representations, that
the Inca had left the palace during the early hours of the morning, with
a party of companions, to hunt the vicuna.  The Indian at once knew this
to be a falsehood, for the hunting grounds lay many miles down the
valley, and hunting parties never dreamed of proceeding thither
otherwise than on horseback, and Arima was prepared to swear that none
of the party had been mounted.  Moreover he was convinced that his
master would never have dreamed of leaving his favourite servant behind
had he been bound upon a hunting expedition.  The official, however, was
curt and peremptory in his manner, and Arima soon understood that he
must obey his orders or suffer arrest.  He therefore returned to the
Inca's rooms and proceeded to put them in order, as was his duty.  But
the very curtness and peremptoriness of the official's manner to him, as
well as the improbable story which he had told, only had the effect of
strengthening and confirming the suspicions in the faithful fellow's
mind; for the attachment of the young Inca to this man was well known,
and even the highest officials of the palace had thus far not disdained
to be extremely civil to him.

But the question in Arima's mind now was: what precisely was it that had
happened to his young master, and whither and why had he gone?  For even
thus far no glimmering of the hideous truth had reached the Indian's
mind.  His suspicions and apprehensions were all as yet chaotic and
formless, and he was very far from fearing that Escombe's life was in
danger.  But as he proceeded with his business, seeking from time to
time to get some relief from his splitting headache and the other
extremely disagreeable symptoms from which he was still suffering
acutely, it gradually began to dawn upon him, as his mental faculties
slowly shook off their stupor, that every one of those symptoms were
synonymous with those following upon the administration of an overdose
of a decoction made from a certain poisonous plant growing here and
there in the valley, and which was sometimes used as an anaesthetic by
the local physicians.  He was fully aware of the tremendous potency of
the extracted juices of this plant, as also of its tastelessness, and
the consequent ease with which it could be administered, and he
recognised clearly that if anyone had wished to administer such a
draught to him on the previous night it could easily have been done.
The question which next arose in his mind naturally was: why should
anyone desire to administer such a draught to him?  But his mental
powers had by this time sufficiently recovered from the effects of the
drug to enable him quickly to trace a connection--however obscure as
yet--between this act and the extraordinary fact of his master being
missing.  When once the faithful fellow had reached the length of
connecting the two circumstances together he was not long in realising
the terrible possibilities that lurked in such a sinister combination of
circumstances.  And with this realisation he suddenly took fright, for
at the same moment the significance of certain apparently trivial
remarks and occurrences that had lately come to his knowledge suddenly
dawned upon him.  Could it be that these matters, scarcely noticed at
the moment, really bore the significance which he now attached to them,
or was it all the result of some bodily disorder reacting upon his
mental processes and causing him to take a distorted and unnatural view
of things that were actually of no moment whatever?  He could not tell;
his brain was still in too muddled a condition for him to feel that he
could trust it.  But there was one sensible thing that he could do, he
told himself.  He could go to Umu and lay the whole matter before him.
Umu was a shrewd sensible man, who would soon say whether or not there
was anything in those mad fantasies that were now beginning to chase
each other through his bewildered brain.  Besides, Umu was the Inca's
most devoted friend--next to himself, perhaps.  So, slipping out of the
palace by the garden entrance--lest perchance he should be seen and
stopped if he attempted to pass out by way of the other--he plunged at
once into the most unfrequented paths, and so betook himself, by a
circuitous route, to the lake shore, where he at once got aboard the
balsa, and, paddling the primitive craft some half a mile beyond the
royal demesne, beached her in a secluded spot, and thence made the best
of his way to Umu's house.

The morning was by this time so well advanced that the hour for the
first meal of the day was past, and it became a moot point with Arima
whether to seek Umu at his house or at the barracks of the Inca's
bodyguard.  He decided, however, upon trying the house first, and it was
well that he did; for, although Umu was not at home, neither, it seemed,
was he at the barracks.  But Maia, his daughter, had an impression that
she knew where he might be found, and Arima had not poured into the
girl's ear half a dozen sentences of his somewhat disjointed tale before
she cut him short by explaining that she was about to seek her father,
and that he (Arima) must on no account whatever attempt to stir from the
house until her return, unless, of course, her father should make his
appearance in the interim.  Having bestowed that injunction, Maia, wild-
eyed and white-lipped, rushed into the street and hurried on her way;
for she, too, had heard words said, to which at the moment she had given
scant heed, but which in the light of what was hinted at by Arima now
bore to the quick-witted girl an awful significance.

As it happened, she had not to go very far, for she had not left the
house more than five minutes at the utmost when she caught sight of her
father, mounted, on his way to the barracks, a good mile distant.
Fortunately for her he reined up to exchange a few passing words with an
acquaintance, and that afforded her the opportunity to overtake and stop
him.  She did not dare, however, to mention the errand which had brought
her out in search of her father until the two friends had parted, when
she briefly explained that Arima was seeking him, and urged him to
hasten back to the house without delay, at the same time telling him
sufficient of what had passed between herself and the Inca's henchman to
cause Umu to realise something of the gravity of the situation; for he
dug his heels into his charger's ribs and dashed off at a gallop.

When Maia arrived back at the house, she found Arima in the midst of the
relation of his story to her father, and, quite as a matter of course,
sat down to listen.  The Indian had, in the interim between her
departure and Umu's arrival, found time to pull himself together and
properly arrange his thoughts, and he related his narrative with due
regard to sequence of events, beginning with such apparently casual
words and trivial occurrences as had come under his notice, and had only
assumed a significance in the light of more recent happenings.  Then
going on to describe his sensations upon awaking that morning, he
completed his story by relating in detail everything he had done, and
the thoughts and suspicions that had occurred to him subsequent to his
discovery of his master's absence.

"Yes," agreed Umu, when Arima had brought his story to a conclusion,
"the whole thing seems reasonably clear, up to a certain point.  I have
not a shadow of doubt that certain disaffected persons have adopted the
extreme, and altogether unprecedented, step of seizing the person of our
Lord the Inca; and they caused you, my friend, to be drugged in order
that you might not interfere with their plans.  The question which we
now have to decide is: who are those persons, and what is their object
in seizing the Inca?  They must be individuals of very great power and
influence, otherwise they would never dare--"

At this point Maia, who had been betraying rapidly increasing signs of
anxiety and impatience, cut in with:

"My father, to me it seems of the utmost importance that not a moment
should be lost in discovering what has become of the Inca, whose life
may at this moment be in the utmost jeopardy; for those who were
desperate enough to carry him off would probably not hesitate to kill
him, if need were: indeed that may be their purpose.  Your task,
therefore, must be to rescue him without an instant's unnecessary delay,
which you should be easily able to do with the aid of your troops.
Probably if the officials of the palace were carefully questioned they
could be persuaded to tell you what has become of the Inca, for
doubtless they know, since he could not have been carried off without
their knowledge and acquiescence."

"Yes, you are right, Maia.  I see exactly what you mean, and I have no
doubt that I can devise a method of making the palace people tell what
they know," answered Umu.  "I will ride to the barracks at once, and
order the guard to turn out in readiness to proceed wherever required;
after which I will proceed to the palace with a squadron, and it will be
strange if I do not find means to make somebody tell me what I require
to know.  You, Arima, had better go to the barracks and await my return
there from the palace, when you can ride with us.  And now I will go;
for, as Maia has said, even moments may now be of importance."

Some twenty minutes later a troop of the Inca's mounted bodyguard, led
by Umu, dashed at a gallop in through the gates of the palace gardens,
and, at a word from their commander, surrounded the building, a party of
a dozen of them following their leader into the palace, to the
consternation of all who encountered them.  This dozen constituted a
search party, which, with drawn swords, systematically swept the
building from basement to roof-tree, gathering together every official
and individual of the palace staff that could be found, until the whole,
with the exception of some dozen or so underlings, had been captured.
Then all were marched out into the vast palace garden and surrounded by
the now dismounted troopers, who meanwhile had made prisoners of four of
the chief officials as they were endeavouring to slink out of the palace
and make good their escape.

Marching the whole of the captives off to a secluded part of the
gardens, where nothing which might happen could be seen save by those
immediately concerned, Umu ordered the chamberlain and his three
immediate subordinates to be brought to him, and said to them:

"Now, sirs, my business here is to ascertain from you what has become of
our Lord the Inca.  I have not the slightest doubt that you can tell me;
but whether you will tell me the truth or not is quite another matter.
I intend to arrive at the truth, however, either by persuasion or force,
and I will try the former first: let me very earnestly advise you not to
compel me to resort to the latter.  And to make as certain as I can that
the information with which you are about to furnish me is true, you will
each withdraw from your comrades to a distance at which it will be
impossible for you to communicate with each other, and where you will
each inform the officer--who, with a file of men, will accompany you--of
everything that you know concerning the mysterious disappearance of the
Inca--where he has been taken, by whom, and for what purpose.  If your
stories, when compared with each other, are found to agree at all
points, I shall consider that I am justified in believing them to be
true; if they do not--" He turned to the other captives and said: "Go to
work at once, collect timber, and build a large fire in this open
space."  Then, turning to the officers who had been deputed to examine
the four prisoners, Umu concluded: "Take them away; hear their story;
and then bring them back to me, that each man's tale may be compared
with those of the others."

Umu knew his fellow countrymen well.  He was fully aware that while the
South American Indian, like his brother of the northern continent, will
endure the most frightfully excruciating tortures with stoical fortitude
if the occasion happens to demand it, he will not willingly subject
himself to even a very minor degree of suffering for the sake of
shielding those whom he has no particular object in serving.  He felt
pretty well convinced that these craven wretches who had allowed
themselves to be corrupted into betraying their monarch would have very
little hesitation in also betraying their corrupters, especially as they
might feel assured that, Umu having taken the matter in hand, those
corrupters would henceforth have scant power or opportunity either to
reward or to punish.  The hint conveyed by the building of a large fire
therefore proved quite sufficiently persuasive.  In little more than ten
minutes the commander of the bodyguard found himself in possession of
all the information which the palace officials had it in their power to
communicate.  This information, in brief, was to the effect that they
had, one and all, from the highest to the lowest, been heavily bribed by
the emissaries of Huanacocha and Xaxaguana to allow those two powerful
nobles, with a strong party of followers, to enter the palace in the
dead of night and abduct the person of the Inca, and to hold their peace
upon the matter until either Huanacocha or Xaxaguana should personally
give them leave to speak and tell them what to say.  As the stories of
all four of the officials happened to agree, even down to the smallest
detail, Umu decided that he might venture to accept them as true;
whereupon the whole of the prisoners were hustled back into the palace
by way of the back entrance, driven down into one of the basement
chambers, and there securely locked up, with a corporal's guard in the
passage outside.  The palace then being locked up, the troop mounted and
departed at a gallop for the house of Huanacocha.

This house, or palace as it might be more appropriately termed, was,
like most of the residences of the great Peruvian lords, a large and
sumptuous edifice, standing in its own spacious grounds.  Umu's tactics
upon approaching it were similar to those which he had employed upon
approaching the palace; that is to say, upon entering the grounds he
caused his men to dismount and surround the building, which he then
entered, accompanied by a sergeant in charge of a squad of troopers.  As
he unceremoniously made his way into the great entrance hall he found
himself confronted by the chief steward of the establishment, who,
followed by the entire staff of terrified servants, was hurrying to the
garden, anxious to ascertain the meaning of this unwonted invasion of
his master's privacy.

"Where is your lord, sirrah?" thundered Umu, as a file of soldiers
promptly arrested the quaking functionary.

"I know not, Lord Umu," answered the unfortunate man, as well as his
chattering teeth would allow; "indeed I was about to send out the
servants to seek news of him, for I am beginning to fear that evil has
befallen him.  He left the house alone last night, less than an hour
before midnight, saying that he knew not when he should return; and he
has not since been seen."

"Then, if he told you that he knew not when he would return, why do you
fear that evil has befallen him?" demanded Umu.

"Because, Lord--nay, I know not, except that--that--well, it is a most
unusual--for my Lord Huanacocha to absent himself for so many hours
without saying whither he intended to go," stammered the steward.

"Say you so?" sneered Umu.  "That seems to me strange indeed; for it is
not the usual custom of a noble to acquaint his steward with his
business.  Nay, friend, I cannot believe your story: you must have some
better reason than the one which you have given me for your anxiety as
to your lord's safety, and it will be to your great advantage to
acquaint me with it forthwith."

"Lord, I have told you the truth; indeed I have," protested the
unfortunate man, making as though he would throw himself upon his knees
before Umu.

"So much the worse for you," growled Umu savagely, for the delay was
beginning to tell upon his patience.  "Is there any man here," he
continued, "who can tell me where my Lord Huanacocha is to be found?"

He glared round upon the assembled servants, the whole of whom had by
this time been quietly herded together by the soldiers.  There was no
answer.

"Very well," continued Umu, addressing his men.  "Take these people down
to the cellars below; lock them in securely; and then set fire to the
house and burn it over their heads!  I can waste no more time here."

As the troopers, in obedience to this order, closed round the prisoners,
and with coarse jests began to hustle them unceremoniously toward the
head of the flight of steps leading down to the basement of the
building, the steward, suddenly realising the desperate nature of his
own and his fellow servants' predicament, turned to Umu and cried:

"Stay, Lord, I pray you, and visit not upon us the misdeeds of our lord.
When I said just now that I knew not the whereabouts of my Lord
Huanacocha, I spoke only the truth, for indeed I cannot tell for certain
where he is--nay, Lord, have patience, and hear what I have to say ere
you condemn me to a frightful death for a fault which is not mine.  It
is indeed true that I know not where my Lord Huanacocha is to be found,
for he did not deign to tell me his business when he went out last
night; but I believe I can form a very good guess as to where he now
is."

"You can?" ejaculated Umu.  "Then say on, and that right quickly.  For
within the next five minutes this house will be ablaze, and you within
it, if you have not by then told me what I want to know."  Then, turning
to a sergeant, he said: "Take with you a dozen men; bring everything in
the house that will burn, pile it in this hall, and pour on it all the
oil you can find.  Now, sirrah, proceed with your tale."

"Then, Lord, in brief, it is this," answered the wretched steward,
speaking as well as his chattering teeth would allow.  "From words which
I have overheard from time to time of late passing between my Lord
Huanacocha and others, especially the new Villac Vmu, I believe that
when my master left this house last night he did so with the purpose of
accompanying the High Priest and an armed party to the palace in order
to seize the person of our Lord the Inca and convey him to the temple,
that he might be subjected to the fire ordeal, to prove whether or no--"

"The fire ordeal, say you?" roared Umu in a paroxysm of fury, as the
full horror of the situation at last dawned upon him.

"Even so, Lord," answered the quaking steward.  "I heard my--"

"You had reason to believe that your master had conspired with the
Villac Vmu to seize the Inca and subject him to the fire ordeal, yet you
never took the trouble to come and report the matter to me?" roared Umu.

"I--I--Lord, I knew not that--it was no part of my duty to--" stammered
the wretched steward, as too late he began to realise the terrible
nature of the predicament in which he had placed himself by his too
great fidelity to his master.

"It is enough," interrupted Umu.  "Bind him hand and foot; lay him upon
that pile yonder; and set fire to it.  Sergeant Huarima, you will remain
here with six men to ensure the utter destruction of this house, after
which you will follow the rest of the corps to the temple.  As for you,"
he continued, turning to the staff of servants, who were huddling
together, paralysed with terror at the tragic turn which affairs were
taking, "you would only be receiving your just deserts if I were to
order you to be consumed, with your chief, upon that pile.  I am
merciful, however; you are therefore at liberty to go.  But let the fate
of the steward be a lesson to you all henceforth, that fidelity to the
Inca comes before fidelity to your master.  And now, men, pass out and
mount.  Our next place of call is the temple."



CHAPTER TWENTY.

IN THE NICK OF TIME!

"Well," soliloquised Harry, as he glanced about him upon realising that
he was indeed a prisoner, "what does this mean?  Is it mutiny, or
treason, or what is it?  And as to there being a revolt of the priests,
I don't believe a word of it.  Had there been any such thing it would
not have been possible for me to have entered this building without
encountering some sign--either sight or sound--of it.  No; that was just
a yarn, a ruse to get me to come here willingly.  Now, I wonder what the
dickens they want with me, and what they intend to do with me now that
they have me.  Nothing very serious, I expect; for I am the Inca, and
they would never dare to lay violent hands upon the Inca; that amounts
to sacrilege of the very worst kind.  Yes; no doubt.  And yet I am by no
means certain that that fact would exercise any very powerful
restraining influence upon our friends Huanacocha and Xaxaguana.  They
are both ambitious men, and I am very much inclined to question whether
the religious convictions of either man are powerful enough to hold him
back from sacrilege, if his ambition urged him in that direction.  Ah,
well! time will show, I have no doubt; meanwhile I have not had half my
night's rest, so I will do what I can to recover arrears."  And, thus
thinking, he quietly stretched himself upon a couch which stood against
one wall of the room, and composed himself to sleep.

With the light-hearted carelessness of extreme youth he actually did
sleep--slept so soundly that he was not even disturbed when, some hours
later, the door was quietly opened and two attendants entered bearing
food and drink, which, seeing that the prisoner still slumbered, they
placed upon the table and departed, securing the door again as they
passed out.  It was past ten o'clock in the forenoon when the young man,
having completely rested, opened his eyes and looked about him in
wonderment at finding himself in strange quarters.  The next moment,
however, memory returned to him: he recalled the proceedings of the past
night, and once more began to speculate upon the purpose which could
have been powerful enough to induce Huanacocha and Xaxaguana to resort
to so extreme a measure as that of his abduction from the palace.  And
now, with the more sober reflections following upon a sound night's
rest, he began to take a somewhat more serious view of the situation.
He began to realise that what these two powerful nobles had done was no
hasty, ill-considered act, undertaken upon the spur of the moment,
without thought of the probable consequences, but was doubtless the
result of long and anxious premeditation; and, if so, they would surely
have taken every possible precaution to guard themselves against evil
consequences.  And--a slight shudder thrilled through him as the thought
obtruded itself upon his mind--for aught that he could tell to the
contrary one of those precautions might take the form of providing that
he should never return to the light of day, and that no one should ever
know what had become of him!  But here again the optimism of youth came
to support him, and he dismissed the grim reflection with a smile; the
matter, of course, could not be anything like so serious as that, he
told himself, and without doubt in an hour or two hence he would be back
in the palace, heartily laughing at the whole adventure.

He drew forth his watch and looked at it.  To his astonishment he found
that it was a quarter after ten o'clock--for, his place of confinement
being below the ground level, and hewn out of the heart of the rock,
there were no windows to it, and the only source of light was the lamp
suspended from the roof, which still burned brightly.  For an instant he
was under the impression that his watch had stopped overnight at the
hour indicated, but upon putting it to his ear he found that it was
still running.  Then his eye felt upon the viands on the table, and he
suddenly discovered that he was hungry.  Without further ado, therefore,
he seated himself at the table, and, dismissing for the moment all
further considerations of the future, fell to and made a most excellent
breakfast.

Escombe had finished his meal a full hour and more, and had found time
once more to become distinctly apprehensive as to the intentions of
Huanacocha and Xaxaguana toward him, when the sound of footsteps
approaching along the passage outside his door warned him that the
crisis was at hand, and the next moment the door was flung open and a
priest entered.

"My Lord," he said, "it is the command of the Villac Vmu that you
accompany me into his presence."

"The command, did you say?" retorted Harry.  "Surely the Villac Vmu
strangely forgets himself and his position when he presumes to send
commands to the Inca.  However," seeing that the passage outside was
full of armed men who were evidently quite prepared to enforce obedience
to the orders of the High Priest, he continued, "I will not stand upon
ceremony, or carp at a mere form of words, but will obey the summons of
the Villac Vmu.  Yet, let him and all who hear me remember that I am the
Inca, and that my power to reward obedience is as great as it is to
punish presumption.  Now, lead on."

The priest led the way into the passage, Harry following, and the moment
that the latter emerged from the room in which he had been confined an
armed guard of a dozen men closed in around him, rendering escape on his
part impossible.  In this order the procession passed along the passage,
up the steps which Harry had descended upon his arrival, and thence
along a corridor into a room crowded with priests and civilians, where,
raised upon a dais, sat the Villac Vmu enthroned.  Still surrounded by
the guard, Harry was halted in front of this dais, and directed to seat
himself in a handsome chair that had been placed there for his
reception.  This done, the proceedings at once commenced, and Harry
immediately perceived that he was about to be subjected to some sort of
a trial, for no sooner was he seated than the Villac Vmu cried:

"Let my Lord Huanacocha stand forth."

There was a moment's bustle and confusion, and then from the midst of
the assembled crowd Huanacocha shouldered his way through, and placed
himself near Harry, but outside the encircling guards.

"My Lord Huanacocha," said the Villac Vmu, "at your instigation, and
because of certain representations made by you, I have taken the
unprecedented course of causing our Lord the Inca to be brought hither,
that he may answer, before those here assembled, to the charges which I
understand you desire to bring against him.  State, therefore, those
charges; but before doing so ye shall swear by the Light of our Lord the
Sun that your motive in instigating these proceedings is free from all
bias or personal ill will; that you are animated therein solely by
anxiety for the public welfare, and that you will say no word save what
you, personally, know to be the truth."

"All this I swear!" answered Huanacocha, raising his right hand aloft.

"It is well," commented the High Priest.  "Proceed now with your
charges."

"My Lord," answered Huanacocha, "my first and most serious charge
against the young man who sits there, and whom we have for these many
months past honoured and served as the re-incarnated Manco Capac, the
father and founder of our nation, is that he is an impostor, with no
right or title whatsoever to the service and reverence which we have
given him.

"My second charge," continued Huanacocha, "which, however, should be
preferred by you rather than by me, O Villac Vmu, is that this youth has
blasphemously forbidden us any longer to worship our Lord the Sun, our
Father and Benefactor, and the Giver of all good gifts, and has
commanded that we shall worship instead Pachacamac, whom he calls God,
of whom we know little or nothing, and whom we have never until now been
bidden to worship.  I am strongly opposed to this change of religion--
for it amounts to nothing less--as is everybody else with whom I have
spoken on the subject.  We all fear that such change will certainly
bring disaster and ruin upon the nation.  There are other charges which
could be preferred against the prisoner," concluded Huanacocha; "but I
am content that the case against him shall rest upon those which I have
already enumerated."

"It is well," commented Xaxaguana.  "My Lord Huanacocha, the gratitude
of the community is due to you for the public spirit which has prompted
you to come forward and perform what we all recognise to be an
exceedingly disagreeable task, and doubtless the public generally will
be careful to see that your disinterestedness is suitably rewarded.  Is
there anyone present who desires to support the charges preferred
against the prisoner by my lord?"

There was.  The ball of high treason once set rolling, everybody seemed
anxious to add to its momentum, and man after man came forward, either
to support the charges made by Huanacocha, or to ventilate some petty
grievance, real or imaginary, of his own, until at length so much time
had been consumed that Xaxaguana, growing impatient, refused to listen
to any further evidence.  He then turned to Escombe and said:

"Prisoner, you have heard the charges that have been brought against
you.  What answer have you to them?"

"I might well answer," said Escombe, "that I am the Inca, and that no
one has the right to question my actions, and no one--not even the
Villac Vmu--has the right to bring me to trial, as you have dared to do;
for I am supreme and infinitely above and beyond you all.  But I have no
desire to take refuge behind my dignity.  If anyone considers that he
has a grievance against me, as appears to be the case, I prefer to
answer it.

"And first as to the charge which Huanacocha brings against me of being
an impostor.  Let me remind you who were present of what took place in
the temple upon the memorable occasion when I was first brought here by
Tiahuana and Motahuana.  Tiahuana was the man responsible for my
presence in this valley, and my elevation to the position of Inca.  It
was he who, having heard certain particulars concerning me, sought me
out, satisfied himself and his colleague that I fulfilled in my person
all the conditions referred to in a certain prophecy, and brought me
hither without even going through the preliminary formality of asking my
consent.  It was he who, when he presented me before you all here in the
temple, convinced you all, with two or three exceptions, of whom
Huanacocha was one, that I was the re-incarnated Manco Capac, the Inca
destined to restore the ancient Peruvian nation to its former power and
grandeur; and it was you who, convinced by his arguments, placed me on
the throne.  I had nothing whatever to do with that; I made no claims or
pretensions of any kind; I was simply passive throughout.  But when,
convinced by Tiahuana's arguments and proofs, you had placed me on the
throne, and I learned what was expected of me, I devoted all my energies
to the performance of the task which I felt had been laid upon me; and
you know how far I have succeeded.  You know that those of pure Peruvian
blood are being daily gathered into this valley from every part of the
kingdom; you know that they are being trained to play their part as
fighting men; and you know also--at least Huanacocha does--that I am
even now engaged in making plans and arrangements for the secret
introduction into the country of an adequate supply of the most modern
weapons, in order that, when the proper moment comes, you may be able to
fight upon equal terms with your enemies.

"As to my having decreed an alteration in your religion, I did so
because when I came among you I found you to be idolaters, worshippers
of the Sun, which is but one of the many beneficent gifts which
Pachacamac--whom I call God--has given to His children.  The sun can
only give you his light and heat according to God's will and pleasure;
and therefore it is God, and not the sun, whom you should worship.  And
I tell you that until you transfer your adoration from the sun to Him
who made it, you will never be a prosperous and happy people; nor will I
consent to rule over you, or help to restore you as a nation to your
ancient power and glory.  Choose, therefore, now, whether you will
worship God, or continue in idolatry; whether you will achieve the great
destiny which Titucocha, your prophet, foretold for you, or whether you
will remain the mere remnant of a once powerful and splendid nation,
lurking here in obscurity in this valley from which you dare not venture
forth lest those who now hold the land that once was yours fall upon and
destroy you.  If you choose the latter fate, as you seem inclined to do,
then must I go forth from this valley, and leave you to your own
devices; for, as I have said, I will not rule a nation of idolaters.
But if you choose to obey me, and submit unquestioningly to such
ordinances as I shall promulgate from time to time for your advantage,
then will I undertake to make you all that Titucocha foretold you should
become."

It was evident that Harry's address had produced an exceedingly powerful
impression upon the bulk of his audience, for the moment that he ceased
to speak there arose a great hubbub among those who composed it, the
assembly almost instantly breaking up into little knots and groups, the
members of which at once proceeded to discuss eagerly the several points
of the speech.  It was a result as unwelcome as unlooked for by the
prime movers of the conspiracy, and the glance which Huanacocha shot at
the Villac Vmu was full of dismay and apprehension.  The latter,
however, who had noted something of the effect which Harry was
producing, saw also how to avail himself of that effect and at the same
time achieve his own and his friend's purpose.  He therefore allowed the
commotion to continue unchecked for full ten minutes, before he rose and
held up his hand for silence.  Then, when the disturbance had subsided
sufficiently to allow his voice to be heard, he said:

"My friends, I perceive that, like myself, you are in a difficulty, and
know not what to believe.  You feel, as I do, that if this youth is in
very truth the re-incarnated Manco whose return to earth was promised by
the prophet Titucocha, it would not only be rankest folly but absolute
sacrilege to reject him.  But how are we to know; how is this most
important, this vital point to be determined?  There is but one way--a
way which I have already provided for: we must subject him to the ordeal
by fire!  If he survives that ordeal, well and good; we shall then know
for certain who he is, and we will serve and obey him in all things.
But, if not--"

He got no further; for at the mention of the ordeal by fire Harry saw at
once, as in a lightning flash, the villainous trap into which he had
been betrayed, and the hideous fate to which it was intended to consign
him.  Leaping to his feet, he snatched the drawn sword from the hand of
one of the astonished guards who surrounded him and, before any of them
could interpose to prevent him, had leapt upon the dais and seized the
terrified Xaxaguana by the throat with one hand, while with the sword
which he held in the other he threatened to run the quaking wretch
through the heart.

"Oh no, you don't," he cried, as he tightened his grip upon the
struggling priest's throat; "no fire ordeal for me, thank you!  Sit
still and give over struggling, you villain, or I'll pin you to the back
of the chair you sit in.  Do you hear me?  Ah, that's better; put your
hands down by your sides and keep them there.  And you other fellows
stand still where you are, and don't attempt to lift so much as a hand
against me, unless you wish to see me slay this man before your eyes!
Now, Villac Vmu, grasp the seat of your chair with both hands--just to
keep them out of mischief, you know--and do as I tell you.  First order
those men of yours to lay down their arms and march out of the
building--see, I release your throat that you may draw breath to give
the order--ah! would you, you treacherous scoundrel?  Then take that!"

For as Harry released his grip upon the priest's throat the latter
sprang to his feet and endeavoured to clasp the young Englishman round
the arms and body, at the same time shouting to the others to come to
his help.  But Harry was too quick for his would-be captor; he sprang
back a single pace, thus just eluding the grip of the priest, and at the
same time lunged at him with the copper sword which he held, driving it
straight through the man's scheming, treacherous heart.  Then, as a
great roar of dismay and execration arose from the assemblage, he
quickly withdrew his reeking weapon from the quivering body and, hastily
wrapping his cloak about his left arm, leaped to the wall, placed his
back to it, and prepared to sell his life as dearly as might be.

He gave himself about half a minute more to live; for what could he
single-handed do against the swordsmen, to say nothing of the rest of
that howling, bloodthirsty crowd who now came surging toward him.  They
could overwhelm him in a moment, by sheer force of numbers!  But as the
swordsmen sprang upon the dais, with gleaming eyes and threatening
points, the voice of Huanacocha rang through the chamber as he shouted:

"Take the young fool alive, and harm him not, as you value your lives!
He has slain the Villac Vmu; and for that reason, if for no other, he
must pass through the fire.  Hem him in, take his weapon from him, and
then bind him hand and foot!"

It was, however, very much easier to give that order than to obey it;
for Escombe had always been passionately fond of sword-play--to such an
extent, indeed, that he had placed himself in the hands of a certain
well-known _maitre d'armes_ in Westminster, and had been pronounced by
that gentleman to be his most promising pupil--so now, with a tolerably
good weapon in his hand, and his back to a solid, substantial wall, he
felt quite in the mood and form to put up an excellent fight.

The swordsmen closed in round him and, as by tacit consent, flung
themselves upon him in a huddled mob, with the evident intention of
bearing him to the ground by sheer preponderance of numbers.  But the
next instant three of them recoiled, shrieking, with their faces slashed
open, as Harry met their charge with a sweeping circular cut from left
to right.  Then a fourth man staggered and fell with a ghastly wound in
his throat, while the rest drew back in dismay and wonder at a feat of
swordsmanship that to their comparatively untrained minds seemed to
savour strongly of either magic or the supernatural.  As to Escombe, he
took a long breath, and told himself that perhaps, with luck, he might
be able to hold out for as much as five minutes; for that first
encounter, brief though it was, showed him that these men had not the
remotest idea of how to handle a sword, while as for himself, he had no
sooner gripped the hilt of his weapon than he felt all the keen delight
of the practised fencer thrill through him at the prospect of an
encounter.  Oh yes! he would put up a good fight, such a fight as these
people should remember to their dying day; though of course one of them
would get him, sooner or later, when his weapon happened to be plunged
in the body of an enemy.

These thoughts flashed through the young Englishman's mind in the
drawing of a breath.  Then he braced himself afresh against the wall to
meet a second and much more wary attack--his enemies had learned caution
already, for instead of flinging themselves upon him pell-mell, as at
the first rush, they attacked him three at a time, one in front, and one
on either hand, thus allowing plenty of room for the play of their
blades.  Also they strove, by every stratagem they could think of, to
entice him away from the wall, so that they might be able to slip round
and take him in the rear; but to keep one's back to the wall was one of
the fundamental rules of self defence that had been dinned into him
until it had become impossible to forget it, and Harry was not to be
tempted.  Close to the wall he kept, allowing himself only just
sufficient room for the free play of his blade; and when at length the
attacking trio, losing patience, attempted to rush in upon him, his
point seemed to threaten all three at once, and the next moment two of
the three were _hors de combat_, one with his sword hand half severed at
the wrist, and the other with his right arm laid open from wrist to
elbow.

The ineffectiveness of the attack proved too much for Huanacocha, who
had thus far been looking on at the fray with a sardonic grin upon his
countenance.  Now, as he saw the swordsmen hanging back, obviously
afraid to approach that charmed semicircle, the whole of which Escombe's
blade seemed to cover at the same moment, he lost patience, and, with an
angry roar, dashed forward, snatched a weapon from one of the disabled
fighters, and called upon all present to help him to capture the
audacious young foreigner who seemed determined to make fools of them
all.  Then, as the others sprang at his call, an idea suddenly seized
him.  Tearing the cloak off his shoulders, he flung the heavy garment
straight at Harry, whose blade became entangled in the folds for just
the fraction of a second.  But it was enough; the others, seeing in an
instant what had happened, tossed away their weapons and, flinging
themselves upon Escombe before he could clear his sword, tore his weapon
from his grasp and bore him, still fighting savagely with his fists, to
the ground.  In another minute it was all over; with men grasping each
of his limbs, and two or three more piled upon his prostrate body, poor
Harry was soon overcome and reduced to a condition of comparative
quiescence, after which it was not a very difficult matter to enwrap his
body with so many turns of a thin, tough, raw-hide rope that further
movement became an impossibility.

Immediately the whole place rang with howls and shouts of fiendish
rejoicing at the brilliance of the feat which had culminated in the
capture of this pestilent young foreigner, whose gallant resistance, so
far from exciting admiration in the breasts of his captors, seemed to
have filled them with the ferocity of wild beasts.  As he was raised to
his feet preparatory to bearing him away to the place where a fiery
death even now awaited him, first one and then another fought and
struggled through the yelling crowd to glare into his face with
ferocious glee, and to hiss into his ear bloodcurdling hints of the doom
prepared for him.

The uproar was at its height when Escombe's preternaturally sharpened
ear detected a new note in it, a note of astonishment, consternation,
and terror that quickly overbore and drowned the tones of savage
exultation.  The next instant the air was vibrant with shrieks and cries
for mercy as the crowd, scattering right and left, made way before the
levelled spears and whirling blades of the Inca's bodyguard; while the
voice of Umu, harsh and tense with concentrated fury, was heard high
above the din, exhorting his followers to let not one of those present
escape.  Within a moment Umu himself, whirling a heavy battle mace about
him with savage freedom, had forced his way to Harry's side, and had
either beaten down or driven off those who had constituted themselves
his custodians.

"Are you hurt, Lord; have these sacrilegious beasts dared to harm a hair
of your head?" he panted, as he flung a supporting arm about Escombe's
bound and helpless body.

"No," answered Harry, smiling rather wanly upon him; "I am as sound as
ever I was, thank God!  But you have only arrived in the very nick of
time, Umu.  In another five minutes you would have been too late, my
good and trusty friend.  How did you know where I was, and what was
happening?"

"The tale is too long to tell just now, Lord," answered Umu, as he
busied himself in freeing Harry from his bonds; "it shall be told later,
when I have disposed of these vile wretches.  It was Arima who brought
me the first hint of what was afoot.  Pachacamac be praised that I was
able to get here in time!  What were they about to do with you, Lord?"

"They talked of putting me to the fire ordeal," answered Harry; "but I
had a word to say against that, as you may see.  Xaxaguana, one of the
chief conspirators, has already paid the penalty of his perfidy, and
lies there dead."

"Truly, Lord, you fought well," exclaimed Umu admiringly, as he glanced
about him at the dead and wounded.  "And Huanacocha--is he among this
rabble?"

"He is--unless he has escaped," answered Harry.

"If he has, every tenth man of your bodyguard shall lose his hands and
feet," snarled Umu savagely.  And then his brow cleared as, glancing at
the mob of prisoners which the troopers were now forming up, he detected
Huanacocha alive, and apparently unhurt, among them.  "Ah, no! he is
there, I see," he continued.  "Very well; this plot was of his hatching.
He shall undergo the fire ordeal himself."

"Nay, not that, good Umu; not that," protested Harry.  "Such a fate is
too horrible to be thought of.  Punish him by all means, if you will,
for indeed he deserves punishment; but not in that way."

"Very well, Lord," answered Umu; "it shall be as you wish.  Meanwhile, I
pray you to return to the palace, escorted by your bodyguard; while I,
with a few men, attend to the safe disposal of these fellows."

Five minutes later, Escombe found himself, he scarcely knew how, mounted
on a trooper's horse, wending his way back to the palace, surrounded by
his devoted bodyguard, while the populace, quick to detect how matters
were going, rent the air with their acclamations.

An hour later Umu bowed himself into Escombe's presence to report
progress.

"The prisoners, Lord," he said, "are, with the exception of Huanacocha,
safely confined, and now await such punishment as you may be pleased to
inflict upon them.  In the presence of a great multitude I have caused
the head of Huanacocha to be struck from his body in the grounds of his
own palace, and have thrown head and body together upon the smoking
ruins of the place.  I have likewise posted a notice upon the entrance
gates forbidding anyone to interfere with the body or give it burial.
It is to be left where it lies, for the dogs of the city to devour, as a
warning and example to others of the fate of those who conspire
sacrilegiously against the authority or person of the sovereign.  And I
have left two armed troopers to mount sentry at the gates, to ensure
that my orders are obeyed."

"Two only," ejaculated Harry in horrified tones.  "My dear Umu, if I may
judge of the temper of the people at large by those with whom I had to
deal in the temple to-day, those two unfortunate men have been torn to
pieces before now.  You must send supports at once to them.  I want no
more bloodshed over this unfortunate business."

"There will be no more, Lord," answered Umu grimly.  "The sentries are
as safe as if they were in barracks.  The people know me.  They know
that at the first sign of disorder I would sack the city from end to
end, and put every one of its inhabitants to the sword; and there will
be no more crime of any sort for many a day to come, after what has
befallen Huanacocha, who was the most powerful noble in all the land."

"I am sure I hope not," answered Harry.  "And if you should prove to be
right in your estimate of the salutary influence exercised by the
example which you have made of that turbulent fellow, his death will not
have been in vain.  And now, Umu, what about the palace servants?  I see
that an entirely new staff has been installed here, by your orders,
Arima tells me; and he also tells me that the others are safely lodged
in prison.  Surely they had nothing to do with the conspiracy?"

Whereupon Umu, by way of reply, proceeded to recount to his royal master
the whole history of the affair, so far as he had learned it.  And that
included pretty nearly everything that was worth repeating; for in the
course of his investigations during that eventful morning the soldier
had come upon thread after thread, until, taking into account what he
then learned, and adding to it such stray hints as had previously
reached him, and to which he had, up to that morning, attached no
significance, there was very little left to be learned relative to the
conspiracy.  The result of it all was that, after thinking the matter
over very carefully, Escombe was driven to the conclusion that this
curious people, into whose midst he had been so strangely brought, were
not ripe for those reforms which he, as their ruler, would have felt it
his duty to introduce; that they did not want them, and would never
willingly accept them; and that, consequently, he must either govern
them as they desired to be governed, at the expense of his own
conscience, or else abandon the idea of ruling them at all:

Having come to this conclusion, he summoned all the nobles to a
conference, at which he put the case frankly before them, inviting them
as frankly to express their opinion upon it, with the result that he was
fully confirmed in the opinion which he had formed.  The day after the
close of the conference he definitely announced to Umu his intention to
abdicate and quit the valley; at the same time asking that officer's
advice as to the best and most desirable mode of procedure in so
exceedingly delicate a business.

"The affair can be arranged quite easily, Lord," answered Umu.  "There
is not the slightest need for you to abandon us.  After what has
happened to the Villac Vmu and Huanacocha, who were the two chief
conspirators, and the example which I shall make of all those who were
foolish enough to listen to them, you will be troubled by no more
conspiracies; and I will see that whatever laws you may choose to make
are obeyed, whether they happen to be to the taste of the people or not.
There are a few, who, like myself, are able to recognise that such laws
as you have thus far made are for our advantage, and you will always be
able to reckon upon their support; while, for the others, who have not
sense enough to understand what is good for them, they must be compelled
to bow to the decrees of those who are wiser than themselves.

"But if, as you have intimated, you are quite resolved not to enforce
your wishes upon the people against their will, I will issue a
proclamation declaring that, since the inhabitants of the valley have
rejected the enormous benefits and advantages which you had desired to
bestow upon them, you have decided to leave the valley and abandon them
to their fate, and that I have assumed the reins of government and will
henceforth rule them in your stead.  It is for you, Lord, to say which
of these two alternatives shall be adopted."

"Very well, Umu," said Escombe, "I have already quite made up my mind.
I will not remain here to force upon the people laws and ordinances
which are unacceptable to them; therefore issue your proclamation as
soon as you please, and I will make arrangements to leave forthwith.  I
presume I may depend upon you to furnish me with guides and an escort as
far as Santa Rosa, from which I will take the train to Islay.  Also, as
I shall require money to defray my expenses back to England, I shall
take the liberty of withdrawing one bar of gold from the palace treasure
chamber for that purpose."

"Assuredly, Lord," answered Umu.  "You shall be furnished with a
reliable guide--you can have none better than Arima--and also such an
escort as will enable you to perform your journey in perfect safety and
comfort.  As to the gold, it must of course be for you to determine how
much you will need to defray your expenses back to your own country; but
what of the remainder of the treasure?  You will scarcely be able to
take the whole of it with you; for to transport it across the mountains
would need the services of every man in the valley, and so large a
following as that would be apt to attract undue and unwelcome
attention."

"Ay, that it would," laughed Harry.  "But I have no intention of robbing
you of all your treasure, Umu; very far from it.  A single bar of gold
will suffice for all my needs, thanks!"

"But the whole of the treasure is yours, Lord, to do what you will with
it," answered Umu.  "It was given to you on the day when you were
proclaimed Inca; and--"

"Oh, yes, I know!" interrupted Harry; "it was given me for a certain
purpose, to wit, the reconquest of the country and its restoration to
its former owners.  But since the people are too indolent and too self-
indulgent to allow me to do this for them, of course I have no claim
upon the treasure, and could not possibly dream of appropriating it to
my own uses."

"So let it be then, Lord," answered Umu.  "Take what you require; and,
for the rest, I will deal with the matter."

A week later witnessed Escombe's departure from the Valley of the Sun,
with Arima as his guide, and a troop of the Inca's bodyguard as his
escort.  As Umu had promised, every possible arrangement had been made
for his safety and comfort on the journey; and that portion of it which
lay between the valley and Santa Rosa was accomplished far more
agreeably than was that which lay between Santa Rosa and the sea.  The
bodyguard escorted him to within twenty miles of Santa Rosa, which was
as close to the city as it was prudent for them to approach, and then
left him to complete the journey in the company of Arima and the porters
who bore his baggage for him.  There was not very much of the latter now
remaining; nevertheless his following amounted to some twenty-five men;
for in addition to Escombe's personal belongings, tent, etcetera, there
were three stout wooden cases measuring about eighteen inches each way,
containing, as Umu, at parting, informed Harry, the smallest possible
share of the treasure which he could be permitted to leave with.  When
these were ultimately opened, they proved to contain gems--diamonds,
rubies, and emeralds--of such enormous value as to constitute their
owner a multi-millionaire.  It is not to be supposed that Escombe
succeeded in conveying all this treasure down to the coast and getting
it safely embarked upon the mail boat for England without tremendous
difficulty and trouble.  But by the exercise of immense ingenuity and
tact, and the expenditure of a very considerable amount of time, he
ultimately managed it.

Harry is now safe at home, and settled down very comfortably, with his
mother and sister, in the most lovely part of Devonshire, where he
divides his time pretty evenly between enjoying himself, converting his
store of gems into coin of the realm, and seeking opportunities to
employ his enormous wealth for the benefit and advantage of his less-
fortunate fellow men.

Let it not be thought, however, that Harry's adventures in the City of
the Sun had banished from his mind the fact that he still owed a very
important duty to Sir Philip Swinburne.  On the contrary, it was the
subject which became the most important one in his thoughts after he had
finally completed his arrangements for the safe transport of his
treasure to England.  Indeed it claimed his attention immediately upon
his arrival at the coast, and one of his first acts was to write to Sir
Philip, acquainting that gentleman with the fact of his escape from the
Indians--for so he put it--and his impending departure for England,
adding that he would afford himself the pleasure of calling at the
office in Westminster at the earliest possible moment after his arrival
home.  He had already ascertained that the survey party had completed
its operations, and that Bannister had left for England some two months
prior to the date of his own arrival upon the coast.  He knew that there
were many points in connection with that portion of the survey which had
been executed prior to Bannister's arrival upon the scene which nobody
but himself could make clear, and accordingly he had no sooner started
upon the long homeward voyage than he betook himself to the task of
preparing voluminous explanatory notes on those points, so far as his
memory served him, in order that he might have all his information cut
and dried for submission upon his arrival home.

In conformity with his promise, he duly presented himself in Westminster
within twenty-four hours of his return to English soil, receiving an
enthusiastic welcome from his former confreres, and especially from
Bannister, whom he found busily engaged in plotting the result of the
soundings taken at Lake Titicaca.  He was also effusively welcomed by
Mr Richards, who had already wrought himself into a state of
distraction in his futile endeavours to clear up those very obscurities
which formed the subject of Harry's notes.  But with the return of
Escombe to the office the troubles of the chief draughtsman on that
account ceased, and he found himself once more able to sleep at night;
for Harry promptly made it clear that he held himself absolutely at Sir
Philip's disposal until the whole of the plans relating to the survey
should be completed.  He presented himself at the office punctually at
ten o'clock every morning, and worked diligently throughout the day for
the succeeding two months until the entire work had been brought to a
satisfactory conclusion, and Sir Philip had written his report and
dispatched it with his proposals to the Chairman of the Peruvian
Corporation.

Whether those proposals will be carried into effect the future only can
tell, for they involve the expenditure of a formidable number of
millions.  But it is safe to say that, if they are, Harry will take no
part in the work, his view being that, since he has no need to earn his
living, it would be wrong of him to accept a post and thus shut out
someone who has that need.

Still, he has the satisfaction of knowing that, although his future is
independent of the goodwill of any man, he so conducted himself during
the trying time of his service under Butler, and afterwards, while
working singlehanded, as to win the warmest approval and esteem of Sir
Philip Swinburne and the worthy Richards, the latter of whom is now wont
to quote Harry Escombe as the pattern and model of all engineering
pupils.

It is also due to Harry to mention that he made an early opportunity to
call upon Butler's widow for the purpose of personally acquainting her
with the details of the surveyor's unhappy end.  But in doing this he
contrived so to modify the particulars of the story that, by judicious
omissions here and there, without any sacrifice of truth, he succeeded
in conveying an impression that was very comforting and consoling to the
unfortunate lady in the midst of her grief.  As he found that the poor
soul had been left in very straitened circumstances, he made it his
business promptly to arrange with his lawyers that she should be paid
anonymously a sufficient sum quarterly to place her beyond the reach of
want.





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