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Title: The Bride of the Sun
Author: Leroux, Gaston
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Bride of the Sun" ***

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THE BRIDE OF THE SUN

By Gaston Leroux

1915, McBride, Nabt & Co.



BOOK I--THE GOLDEN SUN BRACELET



I

As the liner steamed into Callao Roads, and long before it had
anchored, it was surrounded by a flotilla of small boats. A moment
later, deck, saloons and cabins were invaded by a host of gesticulating
and strong-minded boatmen, whose badges attested that they were duly
licensed to carry off what passengers and luggage they could. They raged
impotently, however, round Francis Montgomery, F.R.S., who sat enthroned
on a pile of securely locked boxes in which were stored his cherished
manuscripts and books.

It was in vain that they told him it would be two full hours before the
ship came alongside the Darsena dock. Nothing would part him from his
treasures, nothing induce him to allow these half-crazed foreigners to
hurl his precious luggage overside into those frail-looking skiffs.

When this was suggested to him by a tall young man who called him uncle,
the irascible scientist explained with fluency and point that the idea
was an utterly ridiculous one. So Dick Montgomery shrugged his broad
shoulders, and with a “See you presently,” that hardly interrupted his
uncle’s flow of words, beckoned to a boatman.

A moment later he had left the ship’s side and was nearing the
shore--the Eldorado of his young ambition, the land of gold and legends,
the Peru of Pizarro and the Incas. Then the thought of a young girl’s
face blotted out those dreams to make way for new ones.

The monotonous outline of the waterfront brought no disappointment.
Little did he care that the city stretched out there before his eyes was
little more than a narrow, unbeautiful blur along the sea coast, that
there were none of those towers, steeples or minarets with which our
ancient ports beckon out to sea that the traveler is welcome. Even when
his boat had passed the Mole, and they drew level with the modern works
of the Muelle Darsena, well calculated to excite the interest of a
younger engineer, he remained indifferent.

He had asked the boatman where the Calle de Lima lay, and his eyes
hardly left the part of the city which had been pointed out to him in
reply. At the landing stage he threw a hand-full of centavos to his man,
and shouldered his way through the press of guides, interpreters, hotel
touts and other waterside parasites.

Soon he was before the Calle de Lima, a thoroughfare which seemed to be
the boundary line between the old city and the new. Above, to the east,
was the business section--streets broad or narrow fronted with big,
modern buildings that were the homes of English, French, German, Italian
and Spanish firms without number. Below, to the west, a network of
tortuous rows and alleys, full of color, with colonnades and verandahs
encroaching on every available space.

Dick plunged into this labyrinth, shouldered by muscular Chinamen
carrying huge loads, and by lazy Indians. Here and there was to be seen
a sailor leaving or entering one of the many cafés which opened their
doors into the cool bustle of the narrow streets. Though it was his
first visit to Callao, the young man hardly hesitated in his way. Then
he stopped short against a decrepit old wall close to a verandah from
which came the sound of a fresh young voice, young but very assured.

“Just as you like, señor,” it said in Spanish. “But at that price your
fertilizer can only be of an inferior quality.”

For a few minutes the argument went on within. Then there was an
exchange of courteous farewells and a door was closed. Dick approached
the balcony and looked into the room. Seated before an enormous ledger
was a young girl, busily engaged in transcribing figures into a little
note-book attached by a gold chain to the daintiest of waists. Her
face, a strikingly beautiful one, was a little set under its crown of
coal-black hair as she bent over her task. It was not the head of
a languorous Southern belle--rather the curls of Carmen helmeting a
blue-eyed Minerva, a little goddess of reason of today and a thorough
business-woman. At last she lifted her head.

“Maria-Teresa?...”

“Dick!”

The heavy green ledger slipped and crashed to the floor, as she ran
toward him both hands outstretched.

“Well, and how is business?”

“So, so.... And how are you?... But we did not expect you till
to-morrow.”

“We made rather a good passage.”

“And how is May?”

“She’s a very grown-up person now. I suppose you’ve heard? Her second
baby was born just before we left.”

“And dear smoky old London?”

“It was raining hard when last I saw it.”

“But where is your uncle?”

“Still on board. He won’t leave his collection.... Does nothing all
day but take notes for his next book.... Wait a minute, I’ll come in.
Where’s the door? I suppose it would be bad form to climb in through the
window? Won’t I be in the way, though? You seem awfully busy.”

“I am, but you may come in. Round the corner there, and the first door
on your right.”

He followed her indications and found an archway leading into a huge
courtyard crowded with Chinese coolies and Quichua Indians. A huge dray,
coming from the direction of the harbor, rumbled under the archway, and
wheeled in the court to let an empty one pass out. People and things
seemed to unite in making as much dust and noise as possible.

“So she manages all this,” he reflected as he made his way toward a door
at which she had appeared.

“You may kiss me,” she said as she closed the door behind them.

He took her in his arms and held her to him, by far the more troubled of
the two. Again it was she who spoke first.

“So you really have not forgotten?”

“Could you believe it, dear?”

“Well, you were so long in coming.”

“But I wrote, and...”

“Well, never mind now. It is not too late. I have just refused my fourth
suitor, Don Alonso de Cuelar. And father, I think, is furious with me
for refusing the most eligible young man in Lima.... Well, why don’t you
say something?”

“Forgive me, dear.... How is your father? and the kiddies?... I hardly
know what I am saying, I am so glad.”

“Father is very well, and very glad to hear that you were coming. To
tell the truth though, he is far more interested in your uncle’s visit.
He has arranged a meeting at the Geographical Society for him. And
for the past month he has been thinking and talking of nothing but
archaeology. They have been digging up all sorts of things.”

“And so he has been angry with you?”

“He seems to think he has every reason to be. I am twenty-three and he
already sees me an old maid.... It’s awfully funny! Do you know what
they call me in Lima now? The Virgin of the Sun!”

“What does that mean?”

“Aunt Agnes and Aunt Irene will explain better than I can. It’s
something like one of the Vestals--an old Inca legend.”

“H’m, some superstitious rot.... But look here, Maria-Teresa, I’m an
awful coward. Do you think your father...”

“Of course! He’ll do anything I like if he is asked at the right moment
We’ll be married in three months’ time from San Domingo. Truly we will!”

“You dear!... But I’m only a poor devil of an engineer, and he may not
think me much of a son-in-law for the Marquis de la Torre.”

“Nonsense, you’re clever, and I make you a gift of the whole of Peru.
There’s plenty to do there for an engineer.”

“I can hardly believe my luck, Maria-Teresa! That I--I.... But, tell me,
how did it all happen?”

“The old, old way. First you are neighbors, or meet by accident. Then
you are friends... just friends, nothing else.... And then...?”

Their hands joined, and they remained thus for a moment, in silence.

Suddenly, a burst of noise came from the courtyard, and a moment later
a hurried knock announced the entrance of an excited employee. At the
sight of the stranger, he stopped short, but Maria-Teresa told him to
speak. Dick, who both understood and spoke Spanish well, listened.

“The Indians are back from the Islands, señorita. There has been trouble
between them and the Chinamen. One coolie was killed and three were
badly wounded.”

Maria-Teresa showed no outward sign of emotion. Her voice hardened as
she asked:--

“Where did it happen... in the Northern Islands?”

“No, at Chincha.”

“Then Huascar was there?”

“Yes, señorita. He came back with them, and is outside.”

“Send him in to me.”



II

The man went out, signing as he went to a stalwart Indian who walked
quietly into the office. Maria-Teresa, back at her desk, hardly raised
her eyes. The newcomer, who took off his straw sombrero with a sweep
worthy of a hidalgo of Castille, was a Trigullo Indian. These
are perhaps the finest tribe of their race and claim descent from
Manco-Capac, first king of the Incas. A mass of black hair, falling
nearly to his shoulders, framed a profile which might have been copied
from a bronze medallion. His eyes, strangely soft as he looked at the
young girl before him, provoked immediate antagonism from Dick. He was
wrapped in a bright-colored poncho, and a heavy sheath-knife hung from
his belt.

“Tell me how it happened,” ordered Maria-Teresa without returning the
Indian’s salute.

Under his rigid demeanor, it was evident that he resented this tone
before a stranger. Then he began to speak in Quichua, only to be
interrupted and told to use Spanish. The Indian frowned and glanced
haughtily at the listening engineer.

“I am waiting,” said Maria-Teresa. “So your Indians have killed one of
my coolies?”

“The shameless ones laughed because our Indians fired cohetes in honor
of the first quarter of the moon.”

“I do not pay your Indians to pass their time in setting off fireworks.”

“It was the occasion of the Noble Feast of the Moon.”

“Yes, I know! The moon, and the stars, and the sun, and every Catholic
festival as well! Your Indians do nothing but celebrate. They are lazy,
and drunkards. I have stood them, so far because they were your friends,
and you have always been a good servant, but this is too much.”

“The shameless sons of the West are not your servants. They do not love
you....”

“No, but they work.”

“For nothing... They have no pride.

“They are the sons of dogs.”

“They earn their wages.... Your men, I keep out of charity!”

“Charity!” The Indian stepped back as if struck, and his hand, swung
clear of the poncho, was lifted over his head as if in menace. Then it
dropped and he strode to the door. But before opening it, he turned and
spoke rapidly in Quichua, his eyes flaming. Then, throwing his poncho
oyer his shoulder, he went out.

Maria-Teresa sat silent for a while, toying with her pencil.

“What did he say?” asked Dick.

“That he was going, and that I should never see him again.”

“He looked furious.”

“Oh, he is not dangerous. It is a way they have. He says he did
everything he could to prevent the trouble.... He is a good man himself,
but his gang are hopeless. You have no idea what a nuisance these
Indians are. Proud as Lucifer, and as lazy as drones.... I shall never
employ another one.”

“Wouldn’t that make trouble?”

“It might! But what else can I do? I can’t have all my coolies killed
off like that.”

“And what of Huascar?”

“He will do as he pleases.... He was brought up in the place, and was
devoted to my mother.”

“It must be hard for him to leave.”

“I suppose so.”

“And you wouldn’t do anything to keep him?”

“No.... Goodness, we are forgetting all about your uncle!” She rang,
and a man came in. “Order the motor.... By the way, what are the Indians
doing?”

“They’ve left with Huascar.”

“All of them?”

“Yes, señorita.”

“Without saying a word?”

“Not a word, señorita.”

“Who paid them off?”

“They refused to take any money. Huascar ordered them to.”

“And what of the Island coolies?”

“They have not been near the place.”

“But the dead man... and the wounded?”

“The Chinamen take them back to their own quarters.”

“Funny people.... Tell them to bring the motor round.”

While speaking she had put on a bonnet, and now drew on her gloves.

“I shall drive,” she said to the liveried negro boy who brought round
the car.

As they shot toward the Muelle Darsena, Dick admired the coolness
with which she took the machine through the twisting streets. The boy,
crouching at their feet, was evidently used to the speed, and showed no
terror as they grazed walls and corners.

“Do you do a great deal of motoring out here?”

“No, not very much. The roads are too bad. I always use this to get from
Callao to Lima, and there are one or two runs to the seaside, to places
like Ancon or Carillos--just a minute, Dick.”

She stopped the car, and waved her hand to a curly gray head which had
appeared at a window, between two flower pots. This head reappeared at
a low door, on the shoulders of a gallant old gentleman in sumptuous
uniform. Maria-Teresa jumped out of the motor, exchanged a few sentences
with him, and then rejoined Dick again.

“That was the Chief of Police,” she explained. “I told him about
that affair. There will be no trouble unless the Chinamen take legal
proceedings, which is not likely.”

They reached the steamers’ landing stage in time. The tugs had only just
brought alongside the Pacific Steam Navigation Company’s liner, on board
which Uncle Francis was still taking notes:--“On entering the port of
Callao, one is struck, etc., etc.” He lost precious material by not
being with Maria-Teresa as she enthusiastically descriRed “her harbor”
 to Dick.... Sixty millions spent in improvements... 50,000 square
meters of docks.... How she loved it all for its commercial bustle, for
its constant coming and going of ships, for its intense life, and all
it meant--the riches that would flow through it after the opening of the
Panama Canal... the renascence of Peru.... Chili conquered and Santiago
crushed... the defeat of 1878 avenged... and San Francisco yonder had
best look to itself!

Dick, listening to the girl at his side, was amazed to hear her give
figures with as much authority as an engineer, estimate profits as
surely as, a shipowner. What a splendid little brain it was, and how
much better than that imaginative, dreaming type which he deplored both
in men and women, a type exemplified by his uncle with all his chimeric
hypotheses.

“It would all be so splendid,” she added, frowning, “if we only stopped
making fools of ourselves. But we are always doing it.”

“In what way?”

“With our revolutions!”

They were now standing on the quay, while the liner gradually swung in.

“Oh, are they at it here as well? We found one on in Venezuela, and then
another at Guayaquil. The city was under martial law, and some general
or other who had been in power for about forty-eight hours was preparing
to march on Quito and wipe out the government.”

“Yes, it is like an epidemic,” went on the young girl, “an epidemic
which is sweeping the Andes just now. The news from Boloisa is worrying
me, too. Things are bad round Lake Titicaca.”

“Not really! That’s a nuisance... not a cheerful outlook for my business
in the Cuzco.” Dick was evidently put out by the news.

“I had not intended telling you about it until to-morrow. You must not
think of unpleasant things to-day... all that district is in the hands
of Garcia’s men now.”

“Who is Garcia?”

“Oh, one of my old suitors.”

“Has everybody in the country been in love with you, Maria-Teresa?”

“Well, I had the attraction of having been brought up abroad... at the
first presidential ball I went to after mother’s death there was no
getting rid of them.... Garcia was there. And now he has raised the
revolt among the Arequipa and Cuzco Indians.... He wants Vointemilla’s
place as president.”

“I suppose they have sent troops against them?”

“Oh, yes, the two armies are out there... but, of course, they are not
fighting.”

“Why?”

“Because of the festival of the Interaymi.”

“And what on earth is that?”

“The Festival of the Sun.... You see, three quarters, of the troops on
both sides are Indian.... So, of course, they get drunk together during
the fêtes.... In the end, Garcia will be driven over the Boloisan
border, but in the meantime he is playing the very mischief with
fertilizer rates.”

She turned toward the liner again, and, catching sight of Uncle Francis,
raised her hand in reply to the frantic waving of a notebook.

“How are you, Mr. Montgomery?” she cried. “Did you enjoy the crossing?”

The gangways were run out, and they went on board.

Mr. Montgomery’s first question was the same as had been his nephew’s.

“Well, and how is business?”

For all those who knew her in Europe had marveled at the change which
had come over the “little girl” at her mother’s death, and her sudden
determination to return to Peru and herself take charge of the family’s
fertilizer business and concessions. She had also been influenced in
this decision by the fact that there were her little brother and sister,
Isabella and Christobal, who needed her care. And finally there was her
father, perhaps the greatest child of the three, who had always royally
spent the money which his wife’s business brought in.

Maria-Teresa’s mother, the daughter of a big Liverpool shipowner, met
the handsome Marquis de la Torre one summer when he was an attaché at
the Peruvian legation in London. The following winter she went back to
Peru with him. Inheriting a great deal of her father’s business acumen,
she made a great success of a guano concession which her husband had
hitherto left unexploited.

At first the marquis protested vigorously that the wife of Christobal de
la Torre should not work, but when he found that he could draw almost to
any extent on an ever-replenishing exchequer, he forgave her for making
him so wealthy. Yet on his wife’s death did he find it surprising
that Maria-Teresa should have inherited her abilities, and allowed the
daughter to take over all the duties which had been the mother’s.

“And where is your father, my dear?” asked Uncle Francis, still with a
wary eye on his luggage.

“He did not expect to see you until to-morrow. They are going to give
you such a reception! The whole Geographical Society is turning out in
your honor.”

When his luggage had been taken to the station, and he had personally
supervised its registration for Lima, Uncle Francis at last consented
to take a seat in the motor, and Maria-Teresa put on full speed, for she
wished to reach home before the early tropical nightfall.

After passing a line of adobe houses and a few comfortable villas,
they came to a long stretch of marshy ground, overgrown with reeds and
willows, and spotted with clumps of banana trees and tamarisks,
with here and there an eucalyptus or an araucaria pine. The whole
countryside was burnt yellow by the sun, by a drought hardly ever
relieved by a drop of rain, and which makes the campo round Lima and
Callao anything but enchanting. A little further along they passed some
scattered bamboo and adobe huts.

This parched landscape would have been infinitely desolate had it not
been relieved at intervals by the luxuriant growth surrounding some
hacienda--sugar-cane, maize and rice plantations, making a brilliant
green oasis round the white farm buildings. The badly-built clay roads
which crossed the highway were peopled by droves of cattle, heavy carts,
and flocks of sheep which mounted shepherds were bringing back to the
farms. And all this animation formed a strange contrast to the arid
aspect of the surrounding country. In spite of the jolting shaking of
the car over a poorly kept road, Uncle Francis kept taking notes, and
even more notes. Soon, with the lower spurs of the Cordilleras, they saw
on the horizon the spires and domes which make Lima look almost like a
Mussulman city.

They were now running alongside the Rimac, a stream infested by
crayfish. Negro fishermen were to be seen every few yards dragging
behind them in the water sacks attached to their belts, and in which
they threw their catch to keep it alive. Turning to comment on them,
Dick noticed Maria-Teresa’s preoccupied air, and asked her the cause.

“It is very strange,” she said, “we have not met a single Indian.”

The motor was almost in Lima now, having reached the famous Ciudad de
los Reyes, the City of Kings founded by the Conquistador. Maria-Teresa,
who loved her Lima, and wished to show it off, made a detour, swerving
from the road and running a short distance along the stony Red of
dried-up Rimac, careless of the risk to her tires.

Certainly the picturesque corner to which she brought them was worth the
detour. The walls of the houses could hardly be seen, overgrown, as it
were, with wooden galleries and balconies. Some of them were for all
the world like finely carved boxes, adorned with a hundred
arabesques--little rooms suspended in mid-air, with mysterious bars and
trellised shutters, and strongly reminiscent of Peru or Bagdad. Only
here it was not rare to see women’s faces half hidden in the shadows,
though in no way hiding. For the ladies of Lima are famed for their
beauty and coquetry. They were to be seen here in the streets, wearing
the manta, that fine black shawl which is wrapped round the head and
shoulders and which no woman in South America uses with so much grace as
the girl of Lima. Like the haik of the Mor, the manta hides all but two
great dark eyes, but its wearer can, when she wishes, throw it aside
just enough to give a sweet glimpse of harmonious features and a
complexion made even more white by the provoking shadow of the veil.
Dick had this amply proved to him, and seemed so interested that
Maria-Teresa began to scold.

“They are far too attractive in those mantas,” she said. “I shall show
you some Europeans now.”

She turned the car up an adjoining street, which brought them to the
new city, to broad roads and avenues opening up splendid vistas of the
distant Andes. They crossed the Paseo Amancaes, which is the heart of
the Mayfair of Lima, and Maria-Teresa several times exchanged bows with
friends and acquaintances. Here the black manta was replaced by Paris
hats overdressed from the rue de la Paix, for its discreet shadow is
too discreet to be correct at nightfall. It was the hour at which all
fashionable Lima was driving or walking, or gossiping in the tearooms,
where one loiters happily over helados in an atmosphere of chiffons,
flirting and politics. When they reached the Plaza Mayor, the first
stars had risen on the horizon. The crowd was dense, and carriages
advanced only at a walking pace. Women dressed as for the ball, with
flowers in their dark curls, passed in open carriages. Young men grouped
round a fountain in the center of the square, raised their hats and
smiled into passing victorias.

“It really is strange,” murmured Maria-Teresa, “not an Indian in sight!”

“Do they generally come to this part of the city, then?”

“Yes, there are always some who come to watch the people come past....”

Standing in front of a café was a group of half-breeds, talking
politics. One could distinctly hear the names of Garcia and Vointemilla,
the president, neither of them treated over gently. One of the group,
evidently a shopkeeper, was moaning his fears of a return to the era of
pronunciamentos.

The car turned at the corner of the cathedral, and entered a rather
narrow street. Seeing the way clear, Maria-Teresa put on speed only to
pull up sharply a second later, just in time to avoid running down a man
wrapped in a poncho, who stood motionless in the middle of the street.
Both young people recognized him.

“Huascar!” exclaimed Maria-Teresa.

“Huascar, señorita, who begs you to take another road.”

“The road is free to all, Huascar. Stand aside.”

“Huascar has nothing more to say to the señorita. To pass, she must pass
over Huascar.”

Dick half rose in his seat, as if to intervene, but Maria-Teresa put a
hand on his sleeve.

“You behave very strangely, Huascar,” she said. “Why are there no
Indians in the town to-day?”

“Huascar’s brethren do as they please, they are free men.”

She shrugged her shoulders, thought a moment, and began to turn the car
round.

Before starting again, however, she spoke to the Indian, who had not
moved.

“Are you always my friend, Huascar?”

For an answer, the Indian slowly raised his sombrero, and looked up to
the early stars, as if calling them to witness. With a brief “Adios!”
 Maria-Teresa drove on.

When the motor stopped again, it was before a big house, the door-keeper
of which rushed out to help his young mistress to alight. He was
forestalled, however, by the Marquis de la Torre himself, who had just
driven up, and who greeted the two Montgomerys with delight. “Enter,
señor. This house is yours,” he said grandly to Uncle Francis.

The Marquis was a slim little gentleman of excessive smartness, dressed
almost like a young man. When he moved and he was hardly ever still, he
seemed to radiate brilliancy: from his eyes, his clothes, his jewels.
But for all that, he was never undignified, and kept his grand manner
without losing his vivacity in circumstances when others would have
had to arm themselves with severity. Outside his club and the study of
geographical questions he cared for nothing so much as romping with his
son Christobal, a sturdy youngster of seven. At times one might have
taken them for playmates on a holiday from the same school, filling the
house with their noise, while little Isabella, who was nearly six, and
loved ceremony, scolded them pompously, after the manner of an Infanta.



III

The Marquis de la Torre’s residence was half modern, half historical,
with here and there quaint old-fashioned rooms and corners. Don
Christobal was something of a collector, and had adorned his home with
ancient paneling, carved galleries several centuries old, rude furniture
dating back to before the conquest, faded tapestry--all so many relics
of the various towns of old Peru which his ancestors had first sacked
and then peopled. And each object recalled some anecdote or Story which
the host detailed at length to all willing listeners.

It was in one of these historical corners that Mr. Montgomery and his
nephew were presented to two old ladies--two Velasquez canvases brought
to life, yet striving to retain all their pictorial dignity. Attired
after a fashion long since forgotten, Aunt Agnes and her duenna might
almost have been taken for antiques of Don Christobal’s collection: they
lived altogether in another age, and their happiest moments were those
passed in telling fear-inspiring legends. All the tales of old Peru
had a home in this ancient room of theirs, and many an evening had been
whiled away there by these narratives--the two Christobals, father
and son, and little Infanta Isabella listening in one corner, while
Maria-Teresa, at the other end of the room, went over her accounts and
wrote her letters in a great splash of yellow lamplight.

Uncle Francis was delighted to meet in real life two such perfect types
of the New Spain of yore, set in the very frame they needed. They were
great friends at once, and the savant, taken to his own room, changed
his clothes hurriedly to be able to rejoin them. At dinner, installed
between the two, he begged for more legends, more stories. Maria-Teresa,
thinking it time to talk of more serious matters, interrupted by telling
her father of the trouble between the Indians and coolies.

When they heard that Maria-Teresa had discharged the Indians, Aunt Agnes
shook her head doubtfully, and Irene openly expressed her disapproval.
Both agreed that the young girl had acted imprudently, and particularly
so on the eve of the Interaymi festival. This view was also taken by
the Marquis, whose protest took an even more active form when he learned
that Huascar had also left. Huascar had always been a very faithful
servant, he argued, and his brusk departure was strange. Maria-Teresa
explained shortly that for some time past Huascar’s manner had
displeased her, and that she had let him know it.

“That is another matter,” said the Marquis.

“But I am no more comfortable about it... there is something in the
air... the Indians are not behaving normally.... The other day, in
the Plaza Mayor, I heard extraordinary remarks being made by some
half-breeds to a couple of Quichua chiefs.”

“Yes, we did not meet a single Indian on the way from Callao, and I have
not seen one in the city,” said Dick. “Why is that, I wonder?”

“Because of the festival,” interjected Aunt Agnes. “They have their
secret meetings. They disappear into the mountains, or some warren of
theirs--catacombs like the Early Christians. One day, the order comes
from some corner of the Andes, and they vanish like shadows, to reappear
a few days later like a swarm of locusts.”

“My sister exaggerates a little,” said the Marquis, smiling. “They are
not so very dangerous, after all.”

“But you yourself are worried, Christobal. You have just said so.”

“Only because there might be some rioting....”

“Have they got it in them?” asked Mr. Montgomery. “They seem so
nerveless....”

“They are not all like that.... Yes, we have had one or two native
rebellions, but it was never anything very serious.”

“How many of them are there in the country?” put in Dick.

“About two-thirds of the population,” answered Maria-Teresa. “But
they are no more capable of really rebelling than they are of working
properly. It is the Garcia business that has unsettled them, coming
after a long period of quiet.” She turned to her father. “What does the
President think of it all?”

“He does not seem to worry a great deal. This Indian unrest recurs every
ten years.”

“Why every ten years?” demanded Uncle Francis.

“Because of the Sun Festival,” said old Irene. “The Quichuas hold it
every ten years.”

“Where?” Dick took a sudden interest. “Nobody knows,” replied Aunt
Agnes, in a nervously strangled voice. “There are sacrifices... and the
ashes of the victims are thrown into rivers and streams... to carry away
the sins of the nation, the Indians believe.”

“That is really very interesting!” exclaimed Uncle Francis.

“Some of the sacrifices are human,” half groaned the old lady, dropping
her head to her plate.

“Human sacrifices!”

“Oh, Auntie!” laughed Maria-Teresa.

“Curious,” remarked the savant. “And there may be some truth in it.
I know that they were customary at the Festival of the Sun among the
Incas. And Prescott makes it clear that the Quichuas have kept not only
the language of their ancestors, but also many of the ancient customs.”

“Yes, but they became Christians when the Spaniards conquered their
country,” suggested Dick.

“Not that that affects them much,” commented the Marquis. “It gives
them two religions instead of one, and they have mixed up the rites and
beliefs of the two in a most amazing fashion.”

“What do they want to do, then? Re-build the Empire of the Incas?”

“They don’t know what they want,” replied Maria-Teresa. “In the days of
the Incas every living being in the Empire had to work, were practically
the slaves of the Sons of Sun. When that iron discipline was removed
they gradually learned to do nothing but sleep Of course, that meant
poverty and misery, which they attribute, not to their laziness, but to
the fact that they are no longer ruled by the descendants of Mono-Capac!
From what Huascar told me, they still hope for a return of the old
kings.”

“And they still go in for human sacrifice?” asked Dick.

“Of course not! What absolute nonsense!” Aunt Agnes and Irene both
turned to Uncle Francis.

“Maria-Teresa was brought up abroad, and does not know.... She cannot
know.... But she is wrong to laugh at what she calls ‘all these old
stories.’... There is plenty of proof, and we are sure of it.... Every
ten years--all great events were decennial among the Incas--every ten
years, the Quichua Indians offer a bride to the Sun.”

“A bride to the Sun?” exclaimed Uncle Francis, half horrified, half
incredulous.

“Yes... they sacrifice a young girl in one of those horrible Inca
temples of theirs, where no stranger has ever gone!... It is terrible,
but it is true.”

“Really... it is so difficult to believe.... Do you mean to say that
they kill her?”

“They do... as a sacrifice to the Sun.”

“But how? By fire?”

“No, it is even more horrible than that. Death by fire is only for far
more unimportant ceremonies. At the Interaymi, they wall up their
victim alive.... And it is always a Spanish girl.... They kidnap one, as
beautiful and of as good family as possible. It is vengeance against the
race that destroyed theirs.”

Maria-Teresa was frankly laughing at her aunt’s intense seriousness,
only equaled By gravity with which Uncle Francis listened. The savant
looked at her smiling face half disapprovingly, and brought his
scientific knowledge to the defense of the old ladies. Everything they
said corresponded perfectly with what well-known writers and explorers
had been able to discover about the Virgins of the Sun. There was no
doubt that human sacrifice had been rife among the Incas, both in honor
of the Sun and for the King himself, many of the victim» going to the
altar of their own free will. This was particularly the case when an
Inca died--it was like Suttee of the East.

“Prescott and Wiener, the greatest authorities on the subject, are
agreed,” said Uncle Francis. “Prescott tells us that at one royal
burial, more than a thousand people, wives, maids and servants of the
Inca, were sacrificed on his tomb.”

Aunt Agnes shuddered, while Irene, bending her head, made the sign of
the Cross.

“All this is very true, my dear sir,” said Don Christobal, carrying on
the conversation, “and I see that our Geographical Society here will be
able to give you very little that is new to you. Would it interest you
to visit our latest excavations at Ancon to-morrow? There is ample proof
there that Suttee was practised among the Incas.”

“What exactly were these Virgins of the Sun?” asked Dick, turning to his
uncle, who, delighted to be able to show his erudition, at once launched
into an explanation.

“The Virgins of the Sun, or the ‘elected ones,’ as they were called,
were young girls, vowed to the service of the divinity. They were taken
from their families as children, and put into convents where they were
placed under the care of women called mammaconas,--girls who had grown
old in these monasteries. Under the guidance of these venerable matrons,
the virgins were taught their religious duties, weaving and embroidery
were their chief occupations, and it was they who made the fine vicuna
wool for the hangings of the temples and the Inca’s home and attire.”

“Yes,” said gray-haired Irene, “but their chief duty was to guard the
sacred fire acquired anew by the temple at each Raymi festival.”

“That is so,” replied the savant. “They lived absolutely alone. From
the moment they entered the home, they were entirely cut off from their
families and friends. The Inca alone, and his queen, the Coya, were
allowed within the sacred precincts. The most rigid discipline and
supervision were exercised over them.”

“And woe to the girl who transgressed,” added Aunt Irene. “By Inca law
she was buried alive, while the town or village from which she came was
razed to the ground and ‘sown with stones,’ so that all memory of it
should be lost.”

“You are perfectly right, madam,” agreed Uncle Francis.

“Sweet country!” Dick exclaimed.

“What an amazing civilization they must have possessed,” continued Uncle
Francis. “The ceremonies of their temples are almost identical with
those of ancient Rome.... Little did Christopher Columbus think, when he
saw a few painted savages, that on the other seaboard, behind this belt
of primitive land and tribes, there was a whole world with its customs,
monuments, laws and conquests. Two empires, sir: that of the Aztecs in
Mexico, that of the Incas in Peru. And with civilizations rivaling
that of the Mediterranean. It is as if an Eastern prince, reaching the
steppes of Scythia, had claimed the discovery of Europe, returning to
his States without knowing that Rome existed, and convinced that the
rest of the world was a howling waste!”

“He must have been a bit of a fool,” hazarded Dick. “A true conqueror
guesses there are new lands to conquer even before he sees them.”

“Like Pizarro and Cortes!” exclaimed the Marquis.

“Who came to destroy everything...” began Uncle Francis. Fortunately,
Don Christobal did not hear him, and he stopped in time. Maria-Teresa,
seated opposite the savant, had trodden on his foot, and he bit his lip,
remembering that de la Torre, the Marquis’ ancestor, had been one of
Pizarro’s “destroyers.”

Both old ladies, however, had heard, and opened their eyes at this
denunciation of a cause which to them was that of the true faith against
the infidel. Maria-Teresa, anxious to smooth matters over, quickly
brought them back to their Inca legends.

“All this is very fine,” she said, “but there is nothing to show that
the Indians still sacrifice human brings.”

“How can you say that!” they exclaimed in chorus.

“Well, has anybody ever had definite proof of it?”

Aunt Agnes was not to be shaken in her convictions.

“When I was a little girl,” she declared, “I had an old nurse who
belonged to one of the Lake Titicaca tribes of Quichuas. She told me
that she herself had seen three Spanish girls walled up alive at three
successive Interaymi fêtes.”

“Where did the girls come from?” asked Dick.

“They were Lima girls.”

“But then, any number of people must have known of it,” he answered,
secretly amused by the grave airs of the two old ladies.

“It was, and is, common property,” retorted Aunt Agnes. “The names of
their last two victims were known to everybody. One vanished ten years
ago, and the other ten years before that.”

“Yes, yes, common property!” laughed Don Christobal.

“There is nothing to laugh about, Christobal,” said Aunt Agnes drily.

And the duenna repeated in a low voice, “No, no, nothing to laugh
about.”

The Marquis was determined to have his laugh.

“Let us mourn the poor children,” he said, groaning. “Cut off from the
affection of their parents at so early an age! How terrible!”

“Christobal, can you tell me what became of Amelia de Vargas and Marie
Cristina de Orellana?”

“Yes, what became of them?” urged Irene.

“There we are!... the old story! I expected it!” exclaimed the Marquis.

“You might speak seriously! You knew Amelia de Vargas....”

“A charming girl... the sweetest smile in the city!... That was twenty
years ago.... How time flies!... Yes, she disappeared... with a poor
cousin.”

“I heard the other day that it was a toreador,” interjected
Maria-Teresa. “They revive that old story every ten years, at the time
of the Interaymi.”

“She disappeared outside the bull-ring,” explained Aunt Agnes. “There
was a fight in the crowd, and she was separated from her parents. Nobody
ever saw her again. Afterwards, some people remembered catching sight of
her surrounded by a group of Indians. She died at their hands, walled up
alive.”

“What a gorgeous imagination crowds have! But the fact remains that that
poor cousin of hers disappeared about the same time.”

“So you are pleased to say, Christobal. But what of Maria Cristina de
Orellana?”

“Oh, that was another matter... a very sad case. She was out for a walk
with her father round the Cuzco, and went into one of the caves, never
to reappear. She lost her way in the old subterranean passages, of
course. The government had all the entrances blocked up after that.”

“And since then,” commented Aunt Agnes, “her poor father has been a
madman. For the past ten years, he has haunted the Cuzco ruins, calling
in vain to his daughter. He, at all events, will not believe that she
was not carried off by the Indians.”

“But you yourself say he is mad.”

“He lost his reason when he acquired the certitude that she had
perished in their temple. A few days before she vanished, Maria-Cristina
mysteriously received a very old and very heavy gold bracelet. That
bracelet had a center plaque representing the sun....”

“My dear Agnes, you know that in this country jewelers stick the sun in
wherever and whenever they can.”

“That bracelet was the real one... the same one that was sent to
Amelia.”

“Are you not exaggerating, Agnes? Really, really!... And with stories
like these running about, they expect poor historians to be accurate!...
I hope you are not taking notes of all this, Mr. Montgomery.”

“I am exaggerating nothing,” retorted Aunt Agnes obstinately. “It was
the real Golden Sun bracelet.... Every ten years since Atahualpa, the
last Inca king, was burned alive by Pizarro, the Inca priests have sent
it to a Spanish girl they had chosen to be the Bride of the Sun. And
every one of them has been walled up alive.... I remember that poor
Orellana girl laughing and joking about the Golden Sun bracelet! The
whole town knew about it.”

“The whole town always does have a pretty lively imagination at the time
of the Interaymi,” insisted the Marquis. He turned to Mr. Montgomery.
“You have no idea, my dear sir, how hard it is for our Society to get
away from all these weird legends.”

“Legends are not things to be despised in research work,” disagreed
Uncle Francis. “For my part, I am delighted to have found a country
where they are still so living.”

At this moment a servant came in with a small parcel on a silver tray.

“A registered package, señorita,” he said. “Will the señorita sign
here?”

Maria-Teresa, having signed, was turning the box over in her fingers.

“It is from Cajamarca,” she remarked. “Who from, I wonder? I know nobody
there. ... Will you excuse me?”

The young girl cut the string, broke the seals and opened the little
wooden box.

“A bracelet!” she exclaimed, and laughed a little nervously. “What an
extraordinary coincidence!... Why, it is the Golden Sun bracelet! It is,
really! The bracelet of the Bride of the Sun!”

Every person in the room had risen, with the exception of the two
old ladies, who sat as if stunned. All eyes were turned on the heavy
bracelet in darkened old gold, with its sun-adorned center plaque on
which the rays seemed blurred out by the dust of centuries.

“Well, that is funny!” laughed Maria-Teresa.

“Of course!” exclaimed the Marquis, whose voice had changed a little.
“Evidently a joke by Alonso de Cuelar. You refused him, my dear, and he
has invented rather a pretty revenge. His little vengeance on the Bride
of the Sun.... All the young men of the town call you that because you
refuse to marry.... Well, what are we looking so blue about over there?
Surely, Agnes, you are not going to make yourself ill over a harmless
joke like this?”

Maria-Teresa was showing the bracelet to Uncle Francis and Dick.

“Father!” she exclaimed. “I think I shall keep it! Tell Don Alonso I
shall wear it as a token of friendship.... It really is a beauty!...
What do you think of it, Mr. Montgomery?”

“It seems to me at least three or four hundred years old.”

“Pieces like that are still occasionally found in excavations round
royal tombs, but they are rare,” said the Marquis. “I am not surprised
Don Alonso had to go to Cajamarca for that one.”

“Where is Cajamarca?” asked Dick.

“Cajamarca,” said the savant, horrified at his nephew’s ignorance, “is
the Caxamarxa of the Incas, their second capital in Pizarro’s day....”

“And the city where their last king was burned at the stake!” groaned
Aunt Agnes.

They rushed to her side, for she was on the point of fainting and had
to be carried to her room. The old duenna followed them, as white as her
lace, and crossing herself tremulously.



IV

On the day after his arrival, Uncle Francis was solemnly and officially
received by the Geographical Society of Lima, the fine archeological,
statistical and hydrographical work of which keenly interested him. With
so much scientific enthusiasm did he express himself, that he conquered
all hearts. By far the proudest and happiest man present, however, was
Don Christobal, basking in the reflected glory of his distinguished
guest. As they were all leaving after the ceremony--Maria-Teresa wearing
her bracelet despite the protests of her aunt and the duenna--the
Marquis met Don Alonso de Cuelar.

“Why, Cuelar,” he exclaimed, “I thought you were at Cajamarca!”

Don Alonso opened his eyes in surprise, evidently not understanding.

“Come, come, Cuelar, you may confess. I shall not be angry. Both
Maria-Teresa and I agree that your little revenge was a very neat one.”

“My revenge?...”

“Of course! The bracelet!”

“What bracelet?”

At this moment Maria-Teresa and Dick joined the group. Maria-Teresa,
seeing her father laughing as he talked, felt quite sure that the
mystery of the bracelet had already been cleared up.

“Thank you ever so much,” she said, holding out the slim hand adorned by
the heavy bracelet “You see, I wear it as a token of friendship.”

“But I should never have permitted myself such a liberty,” protested the
young man, looking in amazement from one to the other.

“Are you serious?... It really was not you?”

“No!... But what does it all mean?... And what a peculiar bracelet.”

“Do you not recognize it?” laughed Maria-Teresa, still unconvinced. “It
is, apparently, the Golden Sun bracelet which the Indian priests
always send to the Bride of the Sun at the Interaymi.... And as you,
I understand, were the originator of my nickname, I naturally supposed
that, in spite of everything you heard, you bore no malice to the Virgin
of the Sun.”

“What a charming idea! I am only sorry,” he added, “that it was not
mine. I shall never forgive myself for not having thought of it. You
must attribute it, señorita, to one of those other unfortunates who,
like myself, have worshiped in vain.... There is Pedro Ribera.... He
looks dark enough to have done it.... Ribera!”

But Ribera knew no more of the bracelet than Don Alonso. He also admired
the strange jewel, and was equally sorry he had not sent it.

Don Christobal was becoming irritated, and was sorry now that he
had mentioned the matter to them. He could not, without appearing
ridiculous, ask them not to speak of it, and he knew very well that
within two hours every tea-table in the Plaza Mayor would be discussing
the new topic. Maria-Teresa guessed his thoughts.

“As our guess was wrong, the whole thing rather loses point So we must
wait until the generous donor comes and confesses. In the meantime, let
it be forgotten.” And, slipping off the bracelet, she put it into her
reticule.

“I wonder if it was Huascar,” suggested Dick, as the two young men left
them.

“Huascar? Why Huascar?” asked the Marquis.

“Well, it’s an old Indian bracelet.... He’s the only Indian I know
of, and I know he is very devoted to the family. Suppose he found the
bracelet in some old ruin and didn’t know what to do with it...

“Oh, let us not talk of it any more,” interrupted Maria-Teresa, slightly
troubled. “What does it matter!... Besides, we are bound to know, sooner
or later.... Some day a friend of father’s, back from the Sierra, will
ask me why I am not wearing his present. That is sure to happen.”

“Of course it is,” affirmed Dick.

The Marquis, far from satisfied, and still seeking a possible
explanation, suddenly turned on Dick.

“You sent it!” he exclaimed, triumphant.

“I? Why, I have only just arrived in the country....”

“But you could very well have bought it when the liner put in at
Guayaquil, and then sent it to some agent or other at Gajamarca to have
it forwarded here.... You must have read the legend of the bracelet in
one of your uncle’s books.”

“Really, Father!” protested Maria-Teresa. “Mr. Montgomery is an
engineer....”

“Yes, yes, I know. Very hard-working.... Come here to try experiments
with some new pump to clear the Cuzco gold-mines of water.... I know all
that.... But that is no reason why he should not send you a bracelet.”

“But why should he, Father?”

“Is there not a reason why he should, my daughter?”

This time, Maria-Teresa blushed deeply and Dick tried to look
unconcerned, while Don Chris-tobal smiled at them quizzically.

“So you thought your old father was blind, eh?... You thought he guessed
nothing... that he did not understand what you had left behind you in
London?... Well, Dick?”

“Really, sir... I... I... hardly dared hope....”

“Didn’t you?... There, there, that’s enough.... You may put the bracelet
on her arm again.... Pair of young fools.” Maria-Teresa slipped her arm
through her father’s, and squeezed it.

“Dear Father!”

Then, turning to Dick and opening her reticule, she whispered rapidly:

“Say you sent it. What can it matter?” Dick, completely taken aback,
clasped the bracelet on Maria-Teresa’s wrist without protest. He
scarcely heard a word said by the Marquis, who was delighted to have
solved the mystery.

“Well, young man, you can flatter yourself that you thoroughly mystified
everybody.” And with that he hurried after Uncle Francis, who had been
carried off to drink champagne by a group of admirers.

Dick and Maria-Teresa, left alone, exchanged looks. A moment later,
they were brought to earth again by the advent of a horde of excited
scientists.

“But what will your father say when he finds out who really sent the
bracelet?”

“He will forgive you. I only made you tell the story to reassure him....
Between you and me, those old tales told by Aunt Agnes and Irene were
worrying him a little.... He is rather a child in some ways.”

Carriages and motors were rapidly filling with people starting for the
excavations outside the town, and then on by rail to Ancon, where Uncle
Francis was to be shown the latest Inca discoveries. The Marquis and
Mr. Montgomery passed them in one motor. Maria-Teresa waved to them, and
walked on towards the town with Dick.

They were all to meet again that evening to dine and pass the night at
the Marquis’ sea-side villa between Lima and Ancon. Uncle Francis would
thus be able to begin his researches the very next morning, for Don
Christobal’s villa, itself a treasure-house of antiques, stood in the
very center of the excavations.

Meanwhile, the young people, less interested in things of death than the
members of the Geographical and Archaeological Society, went to explore
Lima. It was only after a long walk in the Pascos de Amancaes that they
in their turn started by motor over an execrable road.

The approach of night could already be felt, and the great plain over
which they were speeding was made even more desolate by the presence
of the slow-flying gallinazos, or black vultures, overhead. These
scavengers, half-starved in appearance, are the common adjuncts of
scenery in Peru, tolerated and even respected, as they are, by a
grateful municipality.

Here and there were haciendas, each with its group of pastures and
grazing horses, kept from galloping into the surrounding waste by the
four-foot mud walls. Otherwise, it was a sandy desert, at some points
dotted with skeletons of a long-dead race dug up by curious scientists
and then left to bleach in the sun.

“Not exactly cheerful,” commented Dick.

Maria-Teresa, intent on her driving, did not answer, but pointed with
one gauntleted hand at a group of half-breeds playing bowls with human
skulls at the corner of a hacienda.

They were soon in the outskirts of Ancon, and found the Marquis, Uncle
Francis, and their fellow-scientists busily arguing in the center of an
Inca cemetery. On all sides were opened tombs, each containing a mummy
rudely drawn from its thousand-year sleep by the pick of the excavator.
Dick and Maria-Teresa had left their motor, but did not join the others.
Instead, they wandered silently, almost sadly, in another direction, and
the car had started off again in the care of the negro chauffeur, to be
garaged at Ancon.

“It is horrible,” said Maria-Teresa, pressing Dick’s hand. “Why cannot
they leave them in peace?”

Seated on a little mound well out of sight of the others, they forgot
their surroundings. And it was in this horrible burial-ground they
exchanged their first true lovers’ kiss.

The sound of voices brought them back to reality. The president of the
Society, followed by an interested retinue, was explaining the most
interesting tombs.

“Walking through this necropolis,” he said, “it is no effort to evoke
the shades of the Incas, and to feel for a minute as if one were living
among them.... Here, six feet below ground, we first found a dog which
had been sacrificed on its master’s tomb.... The dead man’s wife and
chief servants also followed him to the next world.... We next found the
wife’s body.... Like the dog, she had been strangled, probably because
she had not had the courage to take her own life.... Finally, we heard
the Indian workman cry ont, ‘Aqui esta el muer to.’ (Here is the dead
one)... for to the native mind, the only body worthy of notice is that
of the master.... When we cut the thongs and unrolled the wrappings
about him--the man had evidently been a great chief--we found the
mummy in an extraordinary state of preservation,--the head was almost
intact.... Gentlemen, the ancient Egyptians did no better.”

At this moment, excited ones from another part of the cemetery attracted
their attention, and a workman ran up to tell them that a sensational
discovery had been made--the tomb of three Inca chiefs with
strange-shaped skulls. Dick and Maria-Teresa followed the others to the
spot indicated.

When they reached the newly-discovered tomb, workmen were passing up
to the surface little sacks full of corn, jars which had once
contained chicha--all the things necessary for a long voyage. Then came
golden-vases, silver amphora, goblets, hammered statuettes, jewels:--a
veritable treasure brought to light by one Stroke of the pick. Finally,
the three mummies were brought to the surface and unrolled with every
precaution. One of the scientists present bent down to uncover the
faces, and there was a murmur of horror from those present.

To understand what Dick and Maria-Teresa had been among the first to
see, it is necessary for the reader to know that it was customary among
the Incas to shape living skulls to any form they wished. This strange
custom exists even in modern days, though in a far lesser degree, among
the Basque inhabitants of the Pyrenees. The skulls of babies, set in
vices or bound into various molds, were gradually deformed till they
took the shape of a sugar-loaf, of a squarish box, of an enormous lime,
and so forth. Phrenology was evidently a science known to the Incas,
who, precursors of Gall and Spezhurn, thus sought to develop abnormally
the intellectual or warlike qualities of a child by compressing or
enlarging such and such a part of the brain. It has been proved, though,
that this practise was allowed only in the case of children of the Inca
himself, called upon in afterlife to take high position in the State.
The common people kept their normal skulls and normal brains.

Of the three heads just brought to light, one was cuneiform--a monstrous
sugar-loaf. It was horrible to see this nightmare face, like the head
of a beast of the Apocalypse, framed in locks which seemed to be still
living as they gently moved in the sea breeze. The second head was
flattened out, cap-like, with a huge bump at the back.. The third was
almost square, resembling nothing so much as a small valise.

Maria-Teresa shrank before this triple horror and, despite his evident
curiosity, drew her fiancé away from the violated sepulchre. They
strolled down to the beach, where the Pacific murmured gently as it
came to rest on the sands. So peaceful is the sea at Ancon, so free
from currents and gales, that it has become the great resort of the
inhabitants of Lima. At this season, however, it was still deserted, so
that Dick and Maria-Teresa met nobody during their walk to the Marquis’
villa.

It was dusk when they reached it, still under the depressing influence
of the three strange heads, and vainly trying to joke the impression
away. As the sun disappeared on the horizon, the wind rose and conjured
up in the half-light pale sand-whorls which might have been so many
phantoms dancing up from the huacas to reproach them for impiety and
sacrilege. Though they were neither of them over-imaginative, the young
people were glad to see the fat major-domo who came forward to announce
that the Marquis and Uncle Francis had already arrived. He, at all
events, was solid flesh and blood.

As Maria-Teresa entered the house, a little Quichua maid, Concha,
literally threw herself at her mistress’ feet, protesting that she had
been dead in the señorita’s absence, and had been brought to life again
by her return.

“See what devotion we get here for eight soles a month!” she laughed,
completely cured of her fears by the sight of the familiar objects
about her. “Into the bargain, she cooks puchero, our native stew, to
perfection. You must try it some day.”

“Señorita,” interjected the maid, her broad lips parting in an enormous
smile, “I have prepared locro for to-night.”

Dinner was not a very long meal. Everybody was tired, and Uncle Francis
was anxious to be up early in the morning. Dick and Maria-Teresa
prosaically enjoyed their locro--a maize cooked with meat, spiced and
served with the chicha which still further heightens the taste of all
popular dishes in Peru--and, when they parted at the doors of their
rooms on the first floor, were quite ready to laugh over the incidents
of the afternoon. Maria-Teresa’s hand lingered in Dick’s.

“Good night, little Bride of the Sun,” he said, and’ bending down,
kissed the disk on the bracelet. “But surely you are not going to keep
that thing on?... A bracelet from the Lord knows where and the Lord
knows whom?”

“It is dear to me now, Dick.... Now that you have kissed it, it shall
never leave me.... Good night.”

She disappeared into her room, and the young engineer had turned toward
his when a shriek was heard, and Maria-Teresa rushed to the landing, in
a panic of fear.

“They are in there! They are in there!” she gasped, her teeth
chattering.

“What? What?... what is the matter?”

“The three living skulls!”

“Maria-Teresa!”

“I tell you they are! All three of them, staring in through the
window!... They looked at me with such eyes... horrible, living eyes....
No, no!... Dick!... Don’t go in!”

Taking the light from her trembling hand, Dick went into the room. There
was nothing to be seen. He crossed to the balcony, and threw open the
French windows: on one side was the sea, on the other a panorama over
the flat country and the Inca burial-ground. Everything was perfectly
normal.

“Come, dear.... You must have imagined....”

“Dick, I tell you I saw them!”

“What did you see?”

“There, on the balcony, staring through the panes.... Those three Inca
chiefs with their hideous heads.”

“But, Maria-Teresa, be reasonable. They are dead.... You yourself saw
them dug up.... Surely you cannot believe in ghosts....”

“Those I saw were not ghosts. They were living.”

Thinking to reassure her, he began to laugh heartily.

“Don’t, Dick, don’t!... I did see them... they were exactly like those
in the grave... the sugar-loaf, the cap, and the valise.... Exactly the
same!... But what did they come here for?”

Don Christobal, drawn from the smoking-room by the noise, jeered at his
daughter’s fears. Uncle Francis, too, appeared in a night-cap, which
started everybody laughing except Maria-Teresa. To quieten her, the
major-domo was sent round the house and explored the grounds. He
returned to report that he had found nothing.

“You are worried by what you saw this afternoon, my child,” said the
Marquis.

But Maria-Teresa would not reenter the room, and ordered another on the
opposite side of the villa to be prepared for her. Dick, using every
argument he could think of, finally convinced her that she had been the
victim of a hallucination. Half ashamed of herself, she made him go out
to the first-floor balcony with her, trying, in her turn, to efface any
unfavorable impression she might have made.

The balcony on which they were was almost directly over the sea, for on
this side the beach reached right up to the walls of the villa. After a
time, the immense peace of the night completed Dick’s work, and the girl
was perfectly quiet when she took off her bracelet.

“I think this is what has been worrying me,” she said. “I never before
imagined that I saw a ghost....” And she threw the bracelet into the
sea.

“A very good place for it,” agreed Dick. “A ring will do ever so much
better. You do at all events know where that comes from.”

Before long the whole house was at rest, and the remainder of the night
passed by quietly. But at seven o’clock, when people were beginning
to stir again, an agonized scream from Maria-Teresa’s room sent the
servants rushing to her aid. When they entered the room, they
found their mistress sitting up in Red, staring at her wrist with
horror-stricken eyes. The Golden Sun bracelet had returned during the
night!



BOOK II--THE LIVING PAST



I

Dick was nearly as frightened as Maria-Teresa when he found what
had happened. On the previous night he himself had seen her throw the
bracelet into the sea, and yet it was there on her arm again when she
woke up. What could it all mean? He could find nothing to say, and in
spite of himself began to go over the terrible legend told by the two
old ladies. It was preposterous, impossible, but he could not help
believing in it now.

The Marquis and Uncle Francis, brought out by the noise, joined the
others in the young girl’s room. Don Christobal’s sharp voice drove the
servants from the room and brought out the whole story. Dick confessed
his duplicity in the matter of the bracelet, and told how the jewel had
been thrown away.

Maria-Teresa was shaking with fever, and her father took her in his
arms. He was less worried by the strange story told him than by the
state in which his daughter was. He had always seen her so calm, so
sure of herself, that her terror shook all his own matter-of-fact
convictions.

As to Uncle Francis, half-pleased with this striking story for his
next book, he could only repeat:--“But it’s impossible, you know. Quite
impossible.”

And then it was all explained in the most absurdly obvious way. Little
Concha, back from marketing at Ancon, hurried to her mistress’ room
and brought the solution of the mystery with her. Childishly naive, she
explained that, on going out onto the beach in the morning, she had seen
something glitter in the sand. She picked the object up, and found that
it was a bracelet, which she recognized as one worn by her mistress on
the previous day. Thinking that it had been lost from the balcony, and
rushing to give Maria-Teresa a pleasant surprise, she had put it on her
arm again without waking her. A huge burst of laughter from them all
greeted the end of her simple story and Concha, terribly vexed, ran out
of the room.

“It seems to me we are all getting a little mad,” said the Marquis.

“That infernal bracelet is enough to drive one to a lunatic asylum,”
 added Dick. “We must get rid of it at all costs.”

“No! If it ever came back a second time, I could not answer for my
reason.” And Maria-Teresa joined nervously in the laughter. “What we all
need,” she added, “is a change of air, of scenery.... We ought to go for
a little trip in the mountains, Father, and show a little of our country
to Mr. Montgomery and Dick.... Suppose we start to-night?... Back to
Lima first, and not a word to Aunt Agnes or Irene, for it would make
them both ill.... I shall go into Callao with Dick to give a few orders,
and in the evening we take the boat.”

“To get to the mountains?”

“Of course, Father... to get to Pacasmayo.”

“Pacasmayo!” groaned the scientist “A horrible place. I know it Our
liner put in there for four hours. There’s nothing interesting in that
part of the world, is there?”

“Nothing interesting! Why, do you know where one goes to from Pacasmayo?
To Cajamarca, Mr. Montgomery!”

Uncle Francis straightened himself up:--“Cajamarca!... the Caxamarxa of
the Incas!”

“The very place.”

“Cajamarca... the dream of my life, my dear!”

“There is nothing to prevent it becoming a reality.... And at the same
time, Father, we can find out the name of the mysterious sender of this
thing. It was sent from Cajamarca, you remember.”

“An excellent idea,” agreed Don Christobal. “We really must find a
solution to that mystery as well.”

“And whoever the joker is, he will pay for it,” said Maria-Teresa, who
was now toying with the bracelet. “He laughs best who laughs last!”

With which she drove them all out of her room and called for Concha,
who, when she came to dress her mistress, received a masterly box on the
ears to teach her to wake people up next time she brought back a lost
bracelet. Concha, unused to such treatment, burst into tears, and
Maria-Teresa, ashamed of herself, filled the little maid’s hands with
chocolates to make her smile again. Do what she would, Maria-Teresa
could not regain her calm. Every movement she made betrayed the inward
storm, and she stamped whenever she thought of the cowardice she had
shown....

Broadly speaking, all roads in Peru are little more than mule-paths.
The only exception is in favor of the great paved highways built by the
Incas, which link the wilds of Bolivia to the capital of Ecuador, and in
comparison with which the finest monuments of the Gallo-Roman period are
not so very remarkable, after all. It is for this reason that travelers
wishing to reach the interior must take boat along the coast to one of
the harbor towns which are the termini of the railways leading into the
ever-delightful Sierra.

For Peru may be divided into three great parallel bands of country.
First the Costa, or coast district, which rises gradually from the
sea-board to an altitude of from 1,500 to 2,000 meters on the western
slopes of the Andes. Then the Sierra, half mountain and half plateau,
with altitudes varying between 2,000 and 4,000 meters. Finally the
Montaña, with its forests, which sweeps down to the east of the
Cordilleras, stretching toward the Amazon in long slopes which, from
2,000 meters, gradually drop to only 500. Landscape, climate and
products are all different in these three zones. The Costa is rich; the
Sierra has smiling valleys and a relatively warm climate; the Montaña is
a veritable ocean of verdure.

Perhaps the most curious thing in this curious country is the variety of
its landscape in a relatively small region, for to reach the Sierra one
is obliged to scale some of the highest mountains in the world, and that
in an equatorial country. In a few hours, one travels through districts
where trees of all latitudes and plants of all climates grow and are
cultivated side by side. Walnut-trees neighbor with waving palms;
beetroot and sugar-cane grow in adjoining plantations; here, an orchard
full of splendid apples; there a group of banana-trees spreading their
broad leaves to the sun. In this amazing country, landowners can offer
their guests drinks cooled with ice from the hills just above and made
with sweet limes picked in the tropical gardens around the house.

Uncle Francis was in raptures, brimful of enthusiasm, and so
schoolboyish in his delight that his companions could not help laughing.
They teased the old gentleman constantly, and once the hiding of his
fountain-pen at a moment when the taking of notes was urgent made him
nearly frantic. All, in short, were in the best of spirits, and seemed
to have completely forgotten the Golden Sun bracelet. This had been
left in the care of Aunt Agnes and Irene, who immediately took it to
the church of San Domingo and left it as an offering on the altar of the
Lady Chapel.

There was an exciting landing for the travelers at Pacasmayo. They got
ashore with the aid of an enormous raft, rising and falling with the
waves alongside the liner. This raft they reached by means of a cradle
swung out on a small crane. All one had to do was to wait until the raft
rose to within jumping distance of the cradle.

Maria-Teresa led the way, and landed very neatly on her feet; the
Marquis, used to such gymnastics, followed suit; and Dick reached the
raft with his hands still in his pockets. Uncle Francis, thinking hard
of something else, arranged his own descent so badly that raft and
cradle met with a crash which nearly jerked him into the sea. The shock
was forgotten in a wave of enthusiasm over the novelty of it all, and
he even retained his equanimity when the jerk of the grounding raft sent
him rolling onto the wet sand of the beach.

It was not until the following morning that the party left Pacasmayo,
without any untoward incident to disturb the peace of a journey
commenced under the most favorable auspices.

Dick was the only one to think twice of the advent of a coppery-colored
gentleman who seemed to have attached himself to their party. Had he not
worn European dress, the stranger might well have passed for a typical
Trujillo--that Indian race of which Huascar was certainly the finest
representative. On the other hand, he wore his lounge suit with ease,
and during the voyage evidenced his civilized upbringing by rendering
to Maria-Teresa several of those little services which a man may allow
himself to do when traveling, even to a woman he does not know. The
stranger had embarked at Callao, had landed by the same raft as they,
had stopped at the same inn in Pacasmayo, and, the following morning,
took the same train for Cajamarca.

They were so engrossed with the landscape of the lower ranges of the
Andes that they did not at first notice his presence in their own
carriage. He drew their notice to himself in such an unexpected manner
that all, without knowing exactly why, experienced a strange feeling of
discomfort.

There had been a chorus of exclamations and interjections over the
variety of the panorama before them, and they had just entered the
wildest gorge imaginable, when the stranger said in a grave voice:

“Do you see that camp, señores? That is where Pizarro’s first messengers
reached the last King of the Incas.”

All turned at the words. The stranger, standing at the back of the
observation platform, seemed to see nobody; with arms crossed, he
stared out toward the rocky fastnesses at the foot of which the world’s
greatest adventurer rested for a moment before starting on the conquest
of an Empire.

“One of my ancestors was there!” exclaimed the Marquis involuntarily.

“We know it! We know it!” said the stranger, without turning, and
in such a voice that the others exchanged astonished glances. His
statuesque immobility also had its effect on them. Then after a moment’s
silence, he continued:

“No, we have not forgotten that a Christobal de la Torre was with
Pizarro. We know the whole story, sir. When Pizarro left the Spanish
colony of Panama, vaguely guessing that before him was an empire even
greater than the one which Cortes had just given to Charles V.; when,
after a thousand dangers, he saw himself on the point of being deserted
by all, he drew his sword and with the point drew a line in the sand,
from east to west. Then, turning toward the south, he said: ‘Comrades,
on this side are danger, privation, hunger, nakedness, ruin and death;
behind us, comfort and mediocrity. But to the south are also Peru and
its riches, glory and immortality. Let each one decide for himself which
is best for a hidalgo of Castille!’ And with those words, he crossed the
line. He was followed by Ruiz, his brave pilot, then by Pedro de Candia,
a knight born, as his name shows, in one of the Greek islands. Eleven
others crossed that line, ready to follow their chief to the world’s
end. And among those eleven was Juan-Christobal de la Torre. We know it!
Señor, we know it!”

“And, pray, who are you, señor?” demanded the Marquis brutally,
exasperated by the stranger’s manner, though he had in truth remained
studiously polite.

As if not hearing, as if intent on doing homage to the exploits of those
dead Conquistadors, the stranger continued:

“Is there not, señores, is there not, señorita, something gigantic in
this spectacle? This little handful of men confidently starting on
an expedition as wild as the wildest deeds of their knights-errant, a
handful of men, señores, without clothes or food, almost without arms,
left by their comrades on a deserted mountain-side to start on the
conquest of one of the most powerful empires ever known.

“And among those men there was a Christobal de la Torre.... señor Don
Marques, it is a glorious descent to claim.... And allow me to
present myself: your servant Huayna Capac Buntu, head clerk of the
Franco-Belgian Bank of Lima.... But we may fittingly travel in company,
señor, for I am of royal blood. Huayna Capac, King of the Incas, who
succeeded his father at the age of sixteen, married first Pillan Huaco,
by whom he had no children. He then took two other wives, Bava-Bello and
his cousin Mama-Buntu. I am the descendant of that Huayna Capac and that
Mama-Buntu!”

“Now on leave from your bank?” queried the Marquis, almost insolently.

There was a flash in the Indian’s eyes as he answered somberly:

“Yes, on leave, for the Interaymi.”

Dick started at these words, already repeated so often in connection
with the Golden Sun bracelet. He glanced at Maria-Teresa, who was
evidently ill at ease at the turn taken by the conversation between her
father and the stranger. She now remembered him quite clearly as a clerk
with whom she had had dealings over a consignment of phosphates for
Antwerp. An insignificant little body, she had thought--not at all
the haughty Indian of to-day, discarding the disguise of his European
clothes and proclaiming himself for what he was. Knowing by experience
how susceptible Trujillos are, and fearing that a careless word from her
father might provoke a storm, she intervened:

“The Interaymi! Of course, your great festival. Is it to be particularly
celebrated at Cajamarca?”

“This year, señorita, it will be particularly celebrated throughout the
Andes.”

“But you do not admit outsiders? What a pity.... I should so like to
see.... One hears so many things....”

“Old wives’ tales, señorita,” rejoined the Indian, with a complete
change of manner. He smiled, disclosing a line of teeth which Dick
mentally compared to those of a wild animal, and added in a slightly
lisping voice: “There is a lot of nonsense talked.... Human sacrifices,
and so forth.... Do I look as if I were going to such a ceremony?... I
and my clothes by Zarate?... No, señorita, just a few little ceremonies
to keep alive the memory of our lost glories... a few pious invocations
to the God of Day, a few prayers for poor Atahualpa, our last King, and
that is all.... At the end of the month, señorita, I shall be back at my
bank in Lima.”

Reassured by the matter-of-fact level reached by these words, Dick
growled at his own absurd fears. A smile from Maria-Teresa and a
grumbled comment on kings and bank clerks from Uncle Francis completely
dispelled the cloud raised by the mention of the Interaymi.

Their train was now traveling along the Red of a ravine, closed in by
dizzying heights. High up above, in a band of blazing blue sky, giant
condors could be seen winging their way in heavy circles.

“To think of Pizarro facing country like this!” exclaimed Dick. “How on
earth was it that they were not simply wiped out by the Incas?”

“They came as friends, señor,” answered the Indian.

“That is all very fine, but still does not explain it How many men were
there with Pizarro when he marched on Cajamarca?”

“He had received reenforcements,” interjected the Marquis, twisting his
mustache, “and there were then a hundred and seventy-seven of them.”

“Minus nine,” corrected the Indian.

“That is, unless I am mistaken, only a hundred and sixty-eight,” put in
Uncle Francis, busy with his note-book.

“Why minus nine?” questioned Maria-Teresa.

“Because, señorita,” replied the descendant of Mama-Buntu, who seemed
to know the history of the conquest of New Spain better than the
descendants of the conquerors themselves, “because Pizarro gave his new
followers the same chance to draw back that the others had received.
He had halted in the mountains to rest his band and make a careful
inspection. As you have said, señor, they were then only a hundred
and seventy-seven, including sixty-seven horse. There were only three
arquebusiers, and a few crossbowmen--not more than twenty altogether.
And with this band Pizarro was marching against an army of 50,000 men
and against a nation of twenty millions! For, under the Incas, Peru
included what are to-day called Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Chili. At
this point, señores, he decided that his soldiers were still too many.
He had noticed that some faces were dissatisfied, and, fearing that the
discontent might spread, he decided to cut away the weak limbs before
the gangrene reached the main body. Marshalling his men, he told them
that they had reached a crisis in their fortunes--not a man must go on
who doubted its ultimate success/ It was still not too late for waverers
to return to San Miguel, where he had already left some of his
companions. He was prepared to risk all with those who still wished to
follow him. Nine men took advantage of Pizarro’s offer--four infantrymen
and five from the cavalry. The others stopped with their general.”

“And cheered him to the echo at the call of Christobal de la Torre, who
served the Conquistador like a brother!” exclaimed the Marquis.

“We know, we know!” repeated the clerk. His tone roused the Marquis
again.

“And might I ask why you are pleased to recall all these things?”
 demanded Don Christobal haughtily.

“To prove to you, señor, that the vanquished know the history of
their country even better than the conquerors,” retorted Runtu with an
emphasis not a little ridiculous in a man of his dress and calling.

“Look! How beautiful!” exclaimed Maria-Teresa, anxious to divert their
attention to the landscape.

Their train was passing over a bridge from which a panorama of
unparalleled beauty could be obtained. Before them stretched the giant
chain of the Andes, peak heaped on peak. On one side, a rent in the
ridges opened onto green forests, broken by little cultivated plateaus,
each with its rustic cottage clinging to the rugged mountain-side And
there, above, snowy crests sparkling in the sun--a chaos of savage
magnificence and serene beauty to be found in no other mountain
landscape of the world.

It was almost more terrible than beautiful, and as the train crossed
abyss after abyss over quivering bridges, Maria-Teresa, clinging to
Dick’s arm, could not help murmuring: “And even this did not daunt
Pizarro.”

Unfortunately, she was overheard by the stranger, who took up the broken
conversation with evident hostility:

“We could have crushed them easily, could we not?”

The Marquis, turning superciliously, flicked the questioner’s shoulder
with his glove:

“And, pray, why did you not do so, then?”

“Because we, sir, were not traitors!”

Dick had only just time to stop the Marquis, who was on the point of
rushing at the insolent Indian. Maria-Teresa, knowing her father’s
pride, calmed him in a moment by urging in an undertone that it would
be ridiculous for a man of his rank and age to pay more attention to an
Indian bank-clerk.

“You are quite right,” said Don Christobal with a gesture of contempt
under which the Indian stood motionless as a statue. He had not been
without guessing the sense of Maria-Teresa’s remarks, and might have
said more had not the stopping of the train definitely closed the
incident.

The railway line, then still in course of construction, went no farther.
The remaining thirty miles to Cajamarca had to be covered on mule-back,
for they were still in the heart of the mountains, and the defiles were
steep.

It was too long a journey, however, for the tired travelers to undertake
until the following morning. Clinging to the flanks of the rocks were
a few rude sheds in which were lodged the men working on the line. Near
by, surrounding a canteen, stood a dozen fairly comfortable tents, in
which they themselves were to pass the night In a meager pasture just
beyond, some thirty mules wandered at liberty, grazing. Above, the
omnipresent galinagas flew in circles against a purple sky.

Dinner, served on the brink of a chasm from which rose the mutter of the
racing stream, was a gay meal. Buntu had vanished, and did not reappear
until after nightfall, when Maria-Teresa met him near her tent. He was
very apologetic, and, hat in hand, excused himself for the incident in
the train. He had had no intention of being rude, and knowing that the
Marquis was a great friend of the manager of the Franco-Belgian bank, he
hoped that he would not carry the matter further.

Maria-Teresa, conquering a strong desire to laugh, promised the
descendant of the Incas that he would not lose his clerkship through
them. When he had bowed himself out of sight, she carried the story to
her father and Dick, who were vastly amused. Then they all went to Red,
with the exception of Uncle Francis, who passed the greater part of the
night putting his notes in order and writing an article for a reverend
monthly in which he re-told the story of the conquest of Peru, with the
aid of the Last of the Incas. This Indian he sketched as a gloriously
picturesque character, carefully omitting to say that he wore European
clothes!

As every night since the appearance of the three strange heads on her
balcony Maria-Teresa found sleep with difficulty. To-night, though tired
by the journey, she tossed restlessly on her narrow camp-Red. Suddenly,
in the dead of night, she sat up, listening. A familiar voice seemed
to be speaking. She slipped noiselessly to the canvas flap covering the
entrance to the tent, and peeped out.

There were two shadows out there, moving away in the moonlight One she
recognized immediately for the Indian bank-clerk. Who was the other?
They stopped, and half turned toward the tent It was Huascar!

What was Huascar doing there, at that time of night, with that strange
Indian? Why were they pointing at her tent? What did it all mean?...
The two shadows were walking again.... Then the peace of the night was
broken by a neigh, and the young girl saw a picketed horse stamping in
the shadow beyond. Huascar vaulted into the saddle, while his companion
loosed the picket-rope, still talking and occasionally nodding toward
the tent. Then both disappeared, and silence descended again on the
sleeping camp.

Maria-Teresa could not sleep all night. Huascar’s unexpected
reappearance was in no way calculated to calm the half-expressed terror
which haunted her, and which she refused to acknowledge, stifling what
she called her cowardice.

Had she anything to fear from Huascar? She could not believe it. She
knew quite well that the Indian loved her, but as a faithful dog does,
she thought; and she felt certain that she could count on his devotion
were she in any danger.

And yet! And yet!... And yet what? What danger could there be? It was
too absurd! She was becoming as ridiculous as those two old ladies with
their crazy legends! With that, she decided not to say a word to either
Dick or her father. She was not going to be taken for a child afraid of
every shadow it saw at night. But she would question Huayna Gapac Runtu
on the very first occasion.

This occasion presented itself during the first stage of the next day’s
journey. Maria-Teresa, the Marquis, Dick and old Montgomery led the way.
Uncle Francis, at first delighted with the prospect of a mule-ride, soon
determined to get off again. Riding along the very edge of precipices,
his mount felt ten times too high, and he was sure that he would be
safer on foot and, at certain times, on all-fours. He gradually became
convinced that his mule would slip, and determined to dismount, at a
point where two riders could not pass abreast.

The whole cavalcade was thus stopped, while those behind called on the
scientist to go ahead, and he vowed that he would do nothing of the
kind, twisting in his saddle and trying to discover the best way to get
off. Immediate action of the Indian bank-clerk saved the situation, and
probably Uncle Francis’ neck. Getting off his own mule, Runtu squeezed
down the line, and catching Mr. Montgomery’s mount by the bridle, led
it on to a broader path and safety. Dick, the Marquis and Maria-Teresa
could not do less than thank him.

When they moved on, Maria-Teresa and the Indian were riding side by
side.

“Well, señor Huayna Capae Runtu?” she smiled at him.

“Oh, señorita, let us forget all those illustrious names, which died
with my ancestors. The only one I have a right to now is that by which I
am known at the bank--just plain Oviedo, like everybody else.”

“Yes, I remember now. That is what you called yourself when you came to
me from the bank.... Well, señor Oviedo, can you tell me now what you
were doing outside my tent last night with Huascar, my former servant?”

Oviedo Huayna Capac Runtu did not budge, but his mule swerved slightly.
He reined it in.

“So you saw Huascar, señorita? An old friend of mine. He arrived late
at night, on his way to Cajamarca, and knowing I was at the camp, halted
here a minute to see me. I remember now, we did stop outside your tents.
When I told him you were there, he asked me to keep watch over you....
He went on immediately afterwards.”

“Do I need somebody to keep watch over me, then? Am I in any danger?”

“The ordinary dangers of a journey like this. A mule may miss its
footing, or a saddle may slip off. In either case, it spells death.
That is what Huascar meant, and that is why I myself chose your mule and
girthed it up this morning.”

“You are too kind,” said Maria-Teresa drily.

At this moment, Uncle Francis drew level with them. He had recovered his
equanimity with the wider path, and spoke casually of mountain dangers.

“All the same,” he added, “I wonder how Pizarro managed to bring his
little army through here.”

Maria-Teresa threw him a look which, had he seen it, would have toppled
the clumsy scientist into a ravine, mule and all. But he remained
serenely unconscious.

“It is extraordinary,” acquiesced Oviedo. “I have made rather a study
of it. At some points, the road was so steep that the horsemen had to
dismount and almost drag their chargers after them. A single false step
would have hurled them thousands of feet below. The defiles were then
just practicable for the half-naked Indians, and think what it must have
been for armored men, with the menace of an unknown enemy above them.”

“But what were the Indians doing all this time?” asked Dick, approaching
in his turn.

“Nothing, señor... they were awaiting a visitor, not a foe.... Messages
had been exchanged which....”

“One question,” put in the Marquis’ voice. “Do you suppose that if King
Atahualpa had for one minute imagined his 50,000 men were incapable of
defending him against a hundred and fifty Spaniards, that he would have
behaved as he did? No, he merely felt contempt for their weakness. And
he was wrong!”

“Yes, señor, he was wrong.” The bank-clerk bent his head humbly over
his saddle-bow. Then, straightening himself again, he pointed to a peak
towering above. “He should have appeared in those defiles, like the
horseman yonder, and all would have been finished. The Sun our God would
still be reigning over the Empire of the Incas!”

As he said these words, the clerk seemed to have grown to a giant. His
sweeping gesture took in the whole huge mass of the Andes, making of it
a pedestal for the Indian above them, sitting motionless on his horse,
and watching their caravan.

“Huascar!” exclaimed Maria-Teresa.

All recognized Huascar. From that moment, until they had left the
first chain of the Andes behind them, that silhouette of horse and man
dominated and haunted them--sometimes behind, sometimes before, but
always above them:--a promise of protection, or a menace.



II

After another night in camp, the travelers came in sight of the
beautiful valley of Cajamarca, smiling below them in striking contrast
to the somber mountains around. Thus did this happy valley appear to the
astonished eyes of Pizarro’s men. It was inhabited in the days of the
Conquistador by a race far superior to those with which the Spaniards
had met on the other side of the mountains, as was clearly shown by the
taste of their clothes, the cleanliness and comfort of their homes. As
far as the eye could reach was a prosperous plain, watered by a wide
river, abundantly irrigated by canals and subterranean aqueducts, broken
up by green hedges and well-cultivated fields; for the ground was rich,
and the temperate climate favorable to farming. Immediately below the
adventurers lay the little city of Cajamarca, its white houses twinkling
in the sunlight, like a precious stone shining in the dark girdle of the
Sierra.

About a league beyond, in the valley, Pizarro could see columns of steam
rising to the sky, and showing the position of the famous hot baths of
the princes of Peru.

There was also a spectacle far less pleasing to the Spaniards. The lower
mountain slopes disappeared under a cloud of white tents, covering an
area of several miles. “We were amazed,” wrote one of the conquerors,
“to find the Indians holding so proud a position, and this sight threw
confusion, and even fear, into the staunchest hearts. But it was too
late to turn, or to show the slightest weakness, and after carefully
exploring the ground, we put on the best faces that we could, and
prepared to enter Caxamarxa.”

Flowing over with such memories, and wild with excitement at finding
himself in a land which he knew so well by hearsay, Uncle Francis stood
up in his stirrups, and held forth interminably on the Cajamarca of his
dreams. Instructed by Oviedo Runtu, he showed them the exact spot where
Atahualpa and his 50,000 warriors had awaited Pizarro. Uncle Francis
himself felt no fear of this huge army, massed in the hidden fastnesses
of a continent discovered by Christopher Columbus just forty years
before Pizarro’s wild venture. He felt like a hero of antiquity, and was
quite ready to give the order to charge.

There was nobody there to tell them, though, what were the feelings of
the Peruvian monarch when he saw the warlike band of Christians, banners
flying, corselets and morions gleaming, debouch from the dark defile and
advance into the rolling domains which until then no white man had ever
seen.

Suddenly, Uncle Francis’ mule bolted, and a burst of laughter went up
from the whole party. Excited by the shouts and cries, the other mules
followed their leader, helter-skelter down the incline. The obvious
dénouement was not long in coming. Uncle Francis’ mount, in a desperate
effort to get away from the noise behind, rolled over, and the
unfortunate scientist descriRed a neat somersault. He was on his feet
again almost at once, and soon set his anxious companions at rest.

“Thus it was,” he laughed, “that Pizarro won his first battle.”

Maria-Teresa and Dick appearing disposed to listen, he explained that in
the Conquistador’s first fight with Incas, before he crossed the Andes,
the little band of Spaniards, hard pressed, was saved by one hidalgo
being unhorsed. The Incas, knowing nothing of horses or horsemanship,
were so frightened that they fled, not daring to face this extraordinary
animal which became two and still went on fighting.

Naturally, nobody believed him, though he was in no way drawing on his
imagination. The whole story of the conquest of Peru is so extraordinary
that one must forgive incredulity.

These facts, however, are vouched for by well-authenticated documents
in the Royal Archives at Madrid, which Uncle Francis had taken care to
study before starting for the Americas with his nephew. They were still
laughing at his adventure and his story when their cavalcade reached the
walls of Cajamarca.

It was nightfall as they entered the city. The first thing to arrest
their attention was the enormous number of Indians in the streets, and
their silence. Cajamarca, with a normal population of between twelve and
thirteen thousand, certainly sheltered twice as many souls that night.
And still more people were coming.

On the highroad, the Marquis’ party had successively passed file after
file of Indians, plodding in the direction of their Sacred City. For
Cajamarca may be called the necropolis of the Incas, and one can hardly
take a step in its streets or avenues without meeting with some reminder
of the splendor of a vanished empire.

It was easy to see, by the manner of the Quichuas crowding the historic
roadways, that a religious pilgrimage had brought together this mass.

The amazement of the travelers, however, was as nothing to that of the
inhabitants themselves, who had never before witnessed such an invasion.
In the memory of living man, the Interaymi had never visibly moved the
multitude in this manner. Even the great decennial fête had been rather
the occasion for a general disappearance of Indians than for their
appearance.

What did it all mean? The authorities were distinctly ill at ease, and
the few troops massed at Cajamarca when the news came in of Garcia’s
Indian revolt at the other end of the country had been put under arms.
The doors of the city’s eight churches were militarily guarded, for
each one of these buildings might have made a fortress. The rest of the
troops had been gathered in the main square, not far from the ruined
palace in which stands the stone on which Atahualpa, last King of the
Incas, was burned alive.

These ruins were the goal of the Indians’ long pilgrimage over the
mountains, the visit to that stone being the religious and outward
pretext for this mute manifestation by a conquered race.

Don Christobal, amazed at what he saw, nervously remembered that the
great Indian revolt of 1818 had been preceded by just such happenings.
Were the Interaymi festivals which began next day really to be the
signal for one of those revolts which the governments of Peru had long
decided were no more to be feared?

As he was putting this question to himself, the Marquis caught sight
of the post-office, and immediately dismounted. Dick and Maria-Teresa
exchanged a smile. They were at last to know the name of the facetious
sender of the Golden Sun bracelet.

They pulled up their mules, and waited with an indifferent air that was
perhaps a little affected. Ten minutes later the Marquis came out.

“I have the name and address,” he said in a puzzled voice.

“And what is the name?” questioned Maria-Teresa.

“Atahualpa,” replied her father, mounting.

“So the jest continues.”--Maria-Teresa’s voice had changed a little.

“Apparently so. The clerk who received the parcel says it was brought in
by an Indian, who said his name really was Atahualpa. That, after all,
is possible.”

“Well, as you have the address, we might pay him a little call,”
 suggested Dick.

“Exactly what I was going to say.” And Don Christobal turned his mule.
Uncle Francis brought up the rear, vigorously taking notes, with his
book resting on the pommel of the saddle.

They crossed a rivulet racing towards an affluent of the upper Maranon,
passed San Francisco, the first Christian church built in Peru, and,
after the Marquis had asked his way several times, finally reached a
square teeming with Indians.

On one side of this square still stood ancient palace walls. There
had been the last home of the last Inca King. There he had lived
in splendor, and there he died a martyr. There had been the home of
Atahualpa, and there had the post-office clerk directed Don Christobal
de la Torre!



III

Taken in the dwirl of the crowd, the little cavalcade was gradually
headed toward the ruined palace, and forced through its huge gates
almost before the Marquis’ party knew what had happened.

They were now in a vast courtyard packed with Indians. Some of them,
standing erect, showed the proud foreheads of chiefs, but the great
majority were prostrate round a stone in the center--the stone of the
martyrdom of Atahualpa.

On the far side of this stone, standing on a rude bench, was a man
draped in a poncho of vivid red.... He was speaking in Quichua, while
the crowd listened in reverent silence.

As the party of strangers rode into the courtyard, a sharp voice behind
them interrupted the psalm-like recitation of the man in the red poncho.

“Speak Spanish, and everybody will understand,” it said.

The Marquis and Maria-Teresa turned. Behind them was their bank-clerk
traveling companion, bowing as if to make them understand that he
had intervened to do them a favor. Extraordinarily enough, this
interruption, almost sacrilegious as it was, did not stir a man. The
Indian in the red poncho paused for a moment, and continued in Spanish.

“In those days,” he said, “the Inca was all-powerful, and a vast army
bowed to his will. The city was surrounded by a triple wall of stone, in
the heart of which stood the citadel and the home of the Virgins of the
Sun. The Inca, knowing no fear, and ignorant of all treason, allowed the
white men to enter the city and received them as friends, as envoys from
that other great emperor beyond the seas.

“But the leader of the Strangers, doubting the generous heart of the
Inca, had divided his army into three bands, marching toward the city in
battle array. Then the Inca said, ‘Since they fear our hospitality, let
us all leave the city, so that peace may enter their hearts.’ Thus it
was that when the Conquistador rode through our streets, he met not
a living soul, and heard no sound but the stamp of his own warriors’
feet.” Here the speaker stopped, as if to gather his thoughts, and
continued:

“This was at a late hour in the afternoon. The Stranger then sent an
ambassador to the Inca’s camp. He sent his brother, Fernando, and twenty
horsemen. The Inca received Fernando on his throne, his forehead adorned
with the royal borla. He was surrounded by his officers and wives.

“The Strangers came with words of honey, and the Inca replied: ‘Tell
your leader that I am fasting until to-morrow. Then will I and my chiefs
visit him. Until then, I allow him to occupy the public buildings on the
square, but no others. I will decide to-morrow what is meet.’

“Now it happened that after these good words, a Spaniard, to thank the
Inca, put his horse through its paces, for the prince who had never seen
such an animal. And several of those present having shown fear, while
the Inca himself remained impassible, the Inca ordered them to be put
to death, as was just. Then the ambassadors drank chicha in golden vases
brought to them by the Virgins of the Sun, and returned to Cajamarca.

“When they told their leader of what they had seen, the splendor of the
Inca’s camp, the number of his troops, despair entered the soldiers’
hearts. At night they saw the Inca’s camp-fires lighting up the
mountain-sides, and blazing in the darkness like a multitude of stars.”

The Indian paused again, then went on:

“But the Stranger, intent on evil, went among his men spreading the
shameful words which gave them new courage. The next day, at noon, the
Inca’s bodyguard advanced toward the city. The King could be seen above
the multitude, carried on the shoulders of his princes. Behind him, the
ranks of his own soldiers stretched as far as the eye could reach. The
city was silent, save for the cry of the sentinels on the citadel walls,
reporting the movements of the Inca’s army.

“First there entered into the city three hundred servitors, chanting
songs of triumph to the glory of the Inca. Then came warriors, guards,
lords adorned with silver, copper, and gold. Our Atahualpa, Son of
the Sun, was borne above all on a throne of massive gold. Now, when
Atahualpa, with six thousand men, had reached the great square without
seeing a single white man, he asked: ‘Where are the strangers?’ And a
monk, whom none had seen until then, approached the Inca, a cross in his
hand. With the monk was an interpreter of our race. The Inca listened
while the priest told him of his religion and urged him to abandon the
faith of his fathers for that of the Christian. Atahualpa replied: ‘Your
God was put to death by the men to whom he gave life. But mine lives
still in the Heavens, and shines upon his children.”

At these words, the Indians surrounding the little band of Europeans
turned toward the sun, just about to vanish behind the Andes, uttering
a strange cry, a cry of mingled farewell and hope handed down by
generations as the salutation of their faith to the God of Day. Above
the reverently bowed throng, a purple sky awaited the coming of night.

The scene was so grandiose that Dick and Maria-Teresa could not restrain
a movement of admiration. There could be no doubt of it: the Sun god
still had his true worshipers, as in the tragic days of Atahualpa. To
know it, one had only to look at this trembling mass of men, who had
kept their language and their traditions through so many centuries. They
had been vanquished, but not conquered. Perhaps it was true after
all that back there in the mountains, in some city unknown to all but
themselves, guarded by the rampart of the Andes and the eternal snows,
there lived priests who passed their lives feeding the sacred fires.

After their salutation to the Sun, the Indians resumed their kneeling
posture, many, strangely enough, making the sign of the cross as they
bent to the ground. Where did that sign come from? Was it only another
instance of the extraordinary mingling of cults and creeds so often
seen, or did it go even further back? Historians there are who say
that the conquerors found it already used by the Incas. Did some early
Christian adventurers, then, found the twin empires of the Americas?
While Uncle Francis dreamed on, lost in such conjectures, the priest in
the red poncho, took up the broken thread of his narration:

“Pizarro and his men, armed for battle, were hiding in the halls of the
vast palace surrounding the square. There the monk who had spoken to
Atahualpa rejoined the Stranger, and said to him: ‘Do you not see that
we wrestle in vain with this dog’s pride? His troops are coming up by
the thousand. Strike while it is not too late!”’

The silence became, if possible, more intense. The man in red, about to
tell of what he called the Crime of the Stranger, straightened himself
on his pedestal till he dominated the whole assembly.

“‘St. James and at them!’ With that accursed battle-cry, Pizarro’s men
hurled themselves on the Inca and his guard. Horse and foot charged
out of the palace in which they had been hidden, smashing in the indian
ranks. A terrible panic seized Atahut and his followers, who fled in
all directions. Nobles and servants, princes and guards, fled before the
terrible horsemen, who trampled down all before them.

“They made no resistance. They could not, for they were unarmed. Nor
could they flee, for all the doors and streets were barred by the
corpses of those trampled to death in a vain effort to escape. So
terrible was the press, the whirling swords driving our people ever
further back, that one wall of the square fell. Hundreds fled through
this opening and scattered in all directions, the Spanish horse in
pursuit.

“Atahualpa’s throne, borne hither and thither in the crowd, was finally
reached by the Spaniards. He would have been killed there and then had
not Pizarro intervened. In doing so, he was wounded in the hand by one
of his own men. The nobles carrying the royal litter were cut down, and
the Inca was seized by Pizarro. A soldier named Estete tore the borla
from his forehead, and the captured monarch was conducted to a hall near
by.

“With the capture of the Inca, all resistance ceased. The news spread
through the country like wildfire, and all thought of real resistance
was gone. Even the thousands of soldiers encamped round the city took
fright, and scattered.

“The only being which might have kept the Indians united was cut.

“That night, the Inca supped with Pizarro. He showed surprising courage,
and remained impassible throughout the meal.

“The next day, the sack of the city began. Never had the Spaniards seen
so much gold and silver. Atahualpa, quick to see their greed, offered
Pizarro to buy his liberty by covering with gold the floor of the room
in which they were. Finally, he declared that he would not only cover
the floor, but also fill the room as high as he could reach.

“With that, he made a mark on the wall with his fingertip; and Pizarro,
accepting, ordered a red line to be drawn round the room at that height.
The room was seventeen feet by twenty-two long, and the line was drawn
nine feet from the ground.”

At this point, the red priest stopped and walked slowly to a ruined
wall. “Here,” he said, pointing to a still faintly visible line, “was
the mark of the ransom.

“Atahualpa, moreover, promised to fill a neighboring room with silver,
and asked for two months in which to fulfil the task. His messengers,
chosen among the Spaniards’ prisoners, were despatched into all the
provinces of the Empire.

“Meanwhile, the Inca was closely watched, for his captivity meant not
only Pizarro’s security, but also fabulous riches for the Conquistadors.
The room filled gradually, Indians arriving daily with golden goblets,
platters, vases and bar gold to lay at the feet of their prisoned ruler.
On some days, we are told, as much as 60,000 pesos of booty was brought
in.

“To hasten the gathering of the ransom, Pizarro sent his brother
Fernando to Cuzco, the greatest city of the Incas. With them went a
messenger from Atahualpa, at whose orders the priests stripped the
Temple of the Sun, and the inhabitants gave up every scrap of precious
metal in their possession. Fernando brought back with him, besides a
mass of silver, 200 full loads of gold.

“Now faced with the problem of taking his plunder from the country,
Pizarro ordered the melting-down of the hundreds of objects massed in
the treasure-room. The finest pieces sent from temples and palaces were
set aside for Charles V., to show the Emperor what a wonderful land had
been added to his possession--all the rest was to be reduced to ingots.

“The native jewelers, obeying Atahualpa, worked night and day for
a month to carry out this task. When the ingots were weighed, the
Spaniards found that they had gold to the value of 1,326,539 pesos de
oro. This would mean, in modern currency, and taking into consideration
the altered value of money, more than three and a half millions
sterling, or close on fifteen and a half million dollars.

“But now that the ransom had been paid, Atahualpa was not set at
liberty. His captors accused him of fomenting a rebellion against
Charles V., and threatened him with death. Atahualpa replied: “‘Am I not
a poor prisoner in your hands? Why should I do so, knowing that I should
be the first to suffer if my people rose? And unless I give the order,
none will raise a hand against you. Even the birds in my states hardly
dare fly against my will.

“But his protestations of innocence had little effect. Pizarro’s men
were convinced that a general rising was being prepared. Patrols were
doubled, and every man of the little army slept under arms.

“Pizarro did all he could, or pretended to do all he could, to save
the Inca’s life, but in vain. His followers demanded it, and Atahualpa,
brought to trial, was found guilty and sentenced to be burned alive. On
the 29th of August, 1533, his fate was proclaimed in the great square of
the city to the sound of bugles, and two hours after sunset he was taken
to the stake.

“Atahualpa left this hall loaded with chains! He passed through this
door on his way to martyrdom!”

Once again the red priest left his rude rostrum, walking here and there
through the crowd, evoking by deed as well as word the last hours of the
last Inca. The silence was intense, and his voice, alternately grave and
impassioned, rang out like a clarion note.

In the sad story, the Indian orator had omitted all that showed, the
immense courage of the Conquistadors and the cowardice of the Inca’s
followers. Everything was attributed to the treachery of the Spaniards.

“So Atahualpa died at the stake!”

Menacing and prophetic, the priest turned toward the spot where
Christobal de la Torre and his companions, hemmed in by the crowd, had
listened, as motionless as any of the faithful present.

“And I say unto you, cursed be all the sons of those who came to us
with a lie in their hearts! They shall die like dogs, and never know the
blessed palaces of the Sun. They shall die unblessed, the liars who say
that Atahualpa abjured his faith! The Son of the Sun remained true to
the God of Day!”

There was a threatening murmur in the crowd. Round the Sacred Stone,
it grew to a roar. How dared those strangers come there at such a time?
Centuries of slavery can never bend backs so low that they will not
straighten at certain hours. The descendant of Christobal de la Torre
had met one of those hours.



IV

Men, women and children began to press toward the group of riders.
Dick, first to realize the change in the humor of the mob, spurred
alongside Maria-Teresa.

“We must get out of this! Steady, and forward all!”

The Marquis, superbly cool, followed as if reluctant to show his back to
any horde of Indians. The menace in the voices grew clearer. He looked
round him, and drove his spurs home, till his mount reared and plunged
into the crowd, clearing a space around it.

The mob was howling now, and knives were being drawn on all sides, when
a giant Indian pushed his way toward the Spaniards. Maria-Teresa, Don
Christobal and Dick recognized Huascar, before whom his countrymen made
way with evident respect and dread.

“Back!” he shouted, taking the young girl’s mule by the bridle. “Who
touches the Virgin of the Sun is a dead man!”

At these words, the crowd parted. Silence succeeded the tumult of a
moment before.

“Let the strangers pass,” ordered Huascar, and himself escorted them to
the ancient palace gates.

Outside, on the plaza, they met a police patrol. The sergeant, in
undertaking to escort them to the inn, was eloquent on their imprudence
in coming into a quarter peopled by fanatical Indians on the eve of the
Interaymi.

The Marquis wished to thank Huascar, but the Indian had vanished.
Maria-Teresa and Dick, both very white, had not a word to say. Uncle
Francis was also dumb, and did not take a single note.

At the inn they found only one vacant room, in which they all gathered.
Dick was the first to utter the thought which was worrying them all.

“Suppose it was true!”

“Yes, suppose it was true!” repeated Maria-Teresa,

“What? Suppose what was true?” demanded the Marquis, refusing to
understand.

“The Virgin of the Sun!”

They were all silent for a moment, bent under the weight of one amazing,
absurd, monstrous thought. And they exchanged anxious, frightened looks,
like children who are being told some terrifying fairy-tale. Dick broke
the spell:

“You heard what Huascar said. ‘Who touches the Virgin of the Sun is a
dead man!’ Those were his own words!”

“Just a manner of speech,” hesitated Uncle Francis. “It cannot be
anything else.”

“Anything else? What do you mean?” demanded the Marquis violently.

“Well, it could not be... the other thing. If Maria-Teresa was... was
the Virgin of the Sun, they would not have let her pass out.”

“Are we all going mad! After all, we are masters here!” burst out Don
Christobal. “There are the police, and the troops. All those rascals out
there are our slaves. ‘Pon my soul, we are all raving!”

“Of course!” exclaimed Maria-Teresa.

“All the same, I think we ought to get out of Cajamarca as soon as we
can,” said Dick, going to the window and looking out Night had fallen,
and with it silence. The square outside was deserted.

Suddenly there was a knock at the door, and a servant brought in
a letter addressed to Maria-Teresa. She tore it open and read
aloud:--“Return to Lima at once. Leave Cajamarca tonight.”

“It is not signed,” she said, “but this warning comes from Huascar.”

“And we should follow his advice,” said Dick. There was another knock
at the door. This time, it announced the arrival of the Chief of Police,
who was anxious to know what had happened.

He had heard of the incident at Atahualpa’s palace, and had moreover
been warned by an Indian, an employee at the Franco-Belgian bank at
Lima, that it might be dangerous for the Marquis and his companions to
show themselves in the streets on the following day.

It was obvious that the man feared trouble, and would have given
anything to see the party a hundred miles away. When he learned that
they were ready to leave at once, he busied himself about finding them
fresh mules and a guide, and furthermore detailed four troopers to
escort the party as far as the railway.

Cajamarca was left at eleven o’clock that night, and the return journey
was made at double the speed at which they had come. Dick would let
nobody rest, and forced the pace throughout. It was not until the
following night, safe in the train for Pascamayo, that they realized
the ridicule that attached to their hasty flight. “Just like a pack
of children frightened out of their lives by Agnes’ stories,” said the
Marquis.

Back in civilized life again, they were all surprised at their panic.
After all, the whole thing could be so naturally explained--fanatics
resenting the presence of strangers at a religious festival, and nothing
more. The best thing they could do was to forget it as soon as possible.
Uncle Francis restored the party’s gaiety by going through the same
performance which he had rehearsed on landing.

Forty-eight hours in Lima completely dispelled the cobwebs. Maria-Teresa
found a great deal of work awaiting her, and forgot her fears in a maze
of figures which took her to Callao early, and kept her busy at the
offices until late in the afternoon, when Dick came to fetch her.

One afternoon, about eight days after the adventure at Cajamarca, the
tap at her window which announced Dick’s arrival came earlier than
usual. Maria-Teresa got up, and threw open the shutters. Dick was
not there.... Then she retreated with a half-strangled scream. Was it
possible? In the rapidly gathering darkness, she could not be sure, and
leaned out of the window to see better.... That thing, swaying in the
darkness, looked just like the sugar-loaf skull.... She retreated into
the room, trembling in every limb, and turned round. From the dark
corners of the chamber two other shadows, the valise and cap skulls,
were advancing slowly, swaying as they came.

For a moment, Maria-Teresa thought she had lost her reason. Then she
made a violent effort to regain control of herself. Dead skulls could
not come to life like this. And yet, they were coming toward her,
swaying horribly, above shadowy bodies! A desperate scream for help
was choked in her throat. “Dick!...” and nothing more. The three living
skulls had hurled themselves upon her, gagged her, and now, throwing the
inanimate girl over their shoulders, hurried through the black hole of
the open window. Maria-Teresa’s own motor was waiting there, her negro
boy at the wheel, smiling strangely.

Their mummy hands, horribly living, lifted the girl into the tonneau,
and the three monsters, like three larvae, climRed in after her. Then
the car shot down the street.



BOOK III--THE TRAIL OF THE PONCHOS



I

Meanwhile, Dick, wandering through Callao until the time came to call
for Maria-Teresa, was strolling up the Calle de Lima. He had just come
from the Darsena docks, where the harbor engineers had been giving him
news the reverse of cheerful. In the present condition of the country,
they said, any venture in the deserted gold-mines of the Cuzco was
hopeless.

The last two days had brought news of fighting from the other end of the
country. Or, at all events, cartridges were being used up, even if
there was no attendant damage. Everybody had thought Garcia feasting
at Arequipa, but the pretender had evaded his enemies and attacked the
Republican forces between Sicuani and the Cuzco. It was even rumored
that Cuzco itself had fallen into his hands.

Were all this true, the outlook for Dick’s affairs was bad. His company,
thanks to the influence of the Marquis de la Torre, had obtained a
concession from President Veintemilla, This would not be worth the paper
it was written on if Garcia proved victorious. Super-active by nature,
the young engineer could not endure the thought of the long months of
enforced idleness before him until the revolution had been settled in
one way or another.

As he came into the Calle de Lima, Dick pulled out his watch. He
found that he still had a few minutes to spare. Much as she loved him,
Maria-Teresa did not like being interrupted at her work, so he
turned into the Circulo de los Amigos de las Artes for a drink. This
establishment, though baptized a club, was in reality a huge café and
reading-room. The ground floor was packed with people discussing the
latest events. Cuzco was in every mouth, and it was noticeable that
Veintemilla’s warmest partizans now had a good word to say for Garcia.

A stampede of shock-headed newsboys, shouting the latest edition of
an official paper, tore past the café, scattering still wet sheets and
collecting coppers. One of the customers climRed onto a table and
read out a proclamation by the President, urging calm and giving a
categorical denial to the report of the capture of Cuzco. General Garcia
and his troops, the President announced, were bottled up in Arequipa,
all the sierra defiles were in the hands of Government troops, and the
traitors would be hurled into the sea or chased into the great sand
deserts. The proclamation concluded with a reference to Indian troubles
in the suburbs, attributing them to the usual Interaymi effervescence,
and dismissing them as negligible. Cheers for the President ended the
reading of his manifesto. Wavering allegiances were at once restored,
and it was generally agreed that his statement was superb.

Dick left the café a little happier, though he did not really place
a great deal of faith in the official denial. Night had fallen and
he walked briskly, now fearing that he might be late. As he went, he
remembered his first day’s walk through this same labyrinth of narrow
streets. Then he caught sight of his fiancée’s verandah in the distance,
and noticed that the window was open, as on the first day.

There she sat, the little business-woman, with her brass-covered green
registers. What a manly little brain it was! And to think that the pair
of them had been such fools over that Golden Sun bracelet... Something
to laugh about in after years, that!

“Hello, Maria-Teresa!”

There was no answer, and Dick walked up to the window.

“Maria-Teresa!”

Still no answer. He peered into the room, trying to see where she was
hiding. Nobody there.

“Good God! Maria-Teresa!”

He walked into the room. There could be no doubt of it. That table
knocked down, those books on the floor, that curtain torn from its
rings, this broken pane in the window told the story. Silence greeted
his shout for help. Not a servant, not a soul in the place, and all the
doors open! “Maria-Teresa! Maria-Teresa!”

Hardly knowing what he did, Dick ran into the deserted courtyard, and
then back into the office. There could be no doubt of it. Huascar and
his Indians had carried her off. That dog Huascar, whom she trusted,
and who loved her, not as a dog should, but as if he were a man.
Horror-stricken, furious, Dick searched the room for some clue.

The scoundrels! He swore aloud as he pictured Maria-Teresa struggling
in Huascar’s arms and calling for help in vain. That was where he should
have been, instead of listening to all those fools in the café. He could
have laid his hands on Huascar then! That was the man they should have
watched instead of being thrown off the scent by all those wild-cat
legends about the Bride of the Sun.

An Indian in love with a white girl and thirsting for revenge! Of
course! He saw it all now, and remembered how Huascar had last left that
same room, driven out by Maria-Teresa. The insolent dog, with his fist
raised in menace!

As idea after idea swept across his brain, Dick stared helplessly at the
blank walls about him. What could he do? He jumped back into the
street and hesitated. No clue here--only the doors of closed stores and
sightless walls--a pit of gloom.

Suddenly he heard voices, and leaped into action. At the corner of the
street there, under that lantern, was a wine-shop, the only living thing
in this dead street. He ran toward it, kicked the door open, and almost
fell on top of Domingo, the night watchman.

“Where is your mistress?”

Domingo, taken aback, mumbled indistinctly. He thought that the señorita
had returned to Lima as usual with the señor. The motor had gone by just
a little while ago.

“What motor?”

Domingo shrugged his shoulders. There were not so many motors as all
that in Callao and Lima.

“Who was driving?”

“The boy.”

“Libertad?”

“Si, señor, Libertad.”

“Did he say anything to you as he went past?”

“No, señor, he did not see me.”

“Did you see your mistress?”

“The hood was up, señor, and the motor was traveling fast.... Nay,
señor!... That is the truth. I swear it!”

Dick seized the man by the collar, and shook him like a rat

“What were you doing here? Why were you not with your mistress, at your
post?”

“I meant no harm, señor. A Quichua offered me a drink here... real
pisco, señor.”

Dick, without listening, dragged the protesting man through the streets
and into the empty office. When he realized what had happened, Domingo
would have torn his hair out with grief, but Dick, seizing him by the
throat, drove him to the wall and looked into his eyes. A fool or a
traitor, which was he?

Told to speak, and speak quickly, Domingo answered Dick’s volley of
questions without a minute’s hesitation. The señorita could not have
been carried off without the aid of Liber-tad, a rascally half-breed to
whom the señorita had given work out of pity. The day and hour had been
chosen by some one who knew the place well, for on Saturday afternoons
there were no workmen or clerks on the premises.

“When you went out to drink, was the motor already waiting?”

“Yes, señor. It had been there half an hour.”

“Was the hood up?”

“No, señor. Libertad was sitting in it alone.” Releasing his grip, Dick
dashed into the street again and started running toward the main avenue.
If Maria-Teresa had been carried off in her own motor, it would be easy
to trace her part of the way. As Domingo had said, there were not so
many cars about.

As he dashed round a corner, Dick came into sharp collision with a man
emerging from a doorway, who swore vigorously. Dick recognized him at
once, and gave such a shout that the chief of police, for it was he,
fell into a posture of defense.

“Forgive me, señor.... I am Dick Montgomery... the fiancé of Señorita de
la Torre.... She has been carried off by the Indians!...”

“Doña Maria-Tçresa? That is not possible!” In a few words, Dick told the
little old gentleman what had happened, and gave him his suspicions. He
found ready sympathy and belief.

“I was on my way to dine with a friend just opposite. A minute while I
tell them that I cannot come, and I am with you.”

He hurried across the street while Dick, with an indignant snort, moved
on toward the harbor, questioning shopkeepers and pedestrians as he
went. So far as he could gather, the motor had about half-an-hour’s
start of them.

Dick was convinced that he had seen the last of the Chief of Police.
In this he did the little man an injustice, for he had hardly gone two
hundred yards before he heard footsteps behind him.

“You did not wait, señor? Well, here I am. Natividad is always to be
counted upon.”

Though his real name was Perez, the Chief of Police was known throughout
the city as Natividad, a nickname earned him by his cherubic face,
and of which he was rather proud. Dick found the little man hot enough
against the Indians even for his taste. Natividad hated the Quichuas,
and believed them capable of anything.

Just before they reached the harbor, at the corner of the narrow Calle de
San Lorenzo, Natividad seized Dick by the arm and drew him to the wall.
The street was deserted, and lighted only by feeble rays from a low
glass-paned door a few steps ahead. This door had just been opened,
and a man peered out cautiously. Dick stifled a desire to shout. He had
recognized Huascar!

The Indian whistled, and two shadows, wearing wide-brimmed Indian
sombreros, detached themselves from the wall at the other end of the
street. They rejoined Huascar, who had closed the door behind him, and
exchanged a few rapid words. Then the two walked off in the direction of
the harbor, and Huascar disappeared as he had come.

Natividad, pressed against the wall, held Dick’s hand in a grip that
imposed silence. “Why is it? What does it mean? Perhaps she is in
there,” the young man whispered.

Signing the engineer to stop talking, Natividad crept toward the door,
and at the risk of being discovered, peeped through the uncurtained
panes. Dick, looking over his shoulder, saw a room full of Indians
sitting at tables, but neither smoking nor drinking. Huascar was walking
up and down between the tables, in deep thought Then he vanished up a
staircase leading to some room on the first floor.

Natividad had apparently seen enough, for he dragged Dick into the
shadow of a neighboring porch.

“I cannot make it out,” he said. “What are they all doing here during
the Interaymi? I thought every Quichua in the city had left for the
mountains. There should not be one here for the next ten days. But
I cannot believe Huascar has anything to do with the kidnaping. He
wouldn’t tell his secret to all the Indians of Peru, when he knows that
nearly every one of them can be bought for a few centavo!”

“Wait before you make up your mind. We can at all events find the motor.
I am sure Huascar knows where Maria-Teresa is. We must not lose sight of
him.”

“We shall not have to wait long,” replied Natividad, stiffening at a
fresh noise from the other end of the calle. “Here are those Indians
coming back with horses.... What does it mean?... Madré de Dios!... Is
it possible?... The Interaymi!... Silence!”

The clatter of hoofs on the cobbled roadway showed that quite a strong
cavalcade was approaching, and the watchers drew back farther to the
shelter of an alley nearly opposite the low door, and from which they
could still see all that was happening round it. As the cavalcade rode
up, the door opened again, showing all the Indians standing up, and
apparently waiting for somebody.

Huascar appeared first; after him an Indian whom Dick recognized at
once for the Red Preacher of Cajamarca; lastly a man in a lounge-suit of
impeccable cut:--Oviedo Huayna Runtu himself. Then an incredible thing
happened. All these men who had remained motionless before Huascar and
the priest bent on their knees, humbled their heads to the ground before
the bank-clerk.

The troop of horses and mules had halted before the low door, and men
with lanterns came out of the house. The bank-clerk was the first to
vault into the saddle, Huascar holding his stirrup. Then Huascar and the
Cajamarca priest mounted, ranging themselves on each side of the leader,
but just behind him.

Huascar turned in his saddle and made a sign. Every Indian in the party
threw open his poncho, showing beneath it, in the light of the lanterns,
another cloak of brilliant red.

“The Red Ponchos!” gasped Natividad, grasping Dick’s arm.

There was a whistle at the end of the street, answered by another a
long way off, at the other end of the Darsena quay,... and the cavalcade
started.

Dick made as if to follow, but Natividad held him back.

“Wait, and listen! We must know which way they are going!”



II

Hunched forward, he listened, then turned to his companion.

“The Chorillos road. Unless I am much mistaken, they are following the
motor.”

“Come on; we must get after them! Where can we get horses?”

“Follow me. We can do better than that. We have the telephone and the
railway.” And once again he took up his litany:--“The Red Ponchos! The
Red Ponchos!”

“What do you mean by that?... Red or gray, it’s all one.... Those men
belong to Huascar’s band, and helped him.... That seems pretty clear to
me.”

“Quite right, quite right. I agree with you now, young sir,” replied
Natividad, puffing by Dick’s side as they hurried toward the railway
station. “Yes, indeed. They are all in it.... The Red Ponchos.... The
Priests of the Sun.” Dick stopped dead. Natividad’s last words at last
made him understand. He remembered, in a flash, all the legends told by
Aunt Agnes and old Irene. And they had seen fit to laugh.

“Good God!” he groaned, and began running again. As he ran, he shouted
to his companion:--“But we’ll catch them yet, and you’ll arrest them
all!”

“I shall do what I can. But there are at least thirty of them, and there
are not enough troops in Callao to send a squadron in pursuit.... Every
soldier the city could spare has been sent into the sierra against
Garcia.”

“You can telephone to Lima.”

“And they’ll take me for a madman, as they did ten years ago,” replied
Natividad enigmatically.

“Will we get to Chorillos before them?”

“Yes, there’s a train in ten minutes’ time.”

“It seems to me we would have done better to follow on horseback. Then
we could have found out where they were going. Thirty of them, are
there? Only damned Indians, though. I wouldn’t mind tackling the lot
myself.”

“This way is the best....” And Natividad added in an undertone: “They
wouldn’t believe me ten years ago. Well, it’s beginning again.” Dick,
intent on reaching the railway station, did not hear him. He could only
think of those mysterious Indians on the highroad out there. “We shall
lose their track,” he groaned.

“You need not fear that,” replied the Chief of Police. “Their road runs
alongside the railway line. If we see a motor waiting on it, we stop the
train. If we overhaul the Red Ponchos alone, we go on to Chorillos, and
wait for them there. I’ll see that the police expect them. Nothing is
lost yet, Señor Montgomery.”

At the railway station, Natividad found he had just time to telephone
his instructions to the Chorillos police. No motor coming from the
direction of Callao was to be allowed to pass.

They were talking to the guard of the express when a Lima train steamed
into the station, and they saw the Marquis, Uncle Francis and little
Christobal appear.

“Where is Maria-Teresa?” shouted the Marquis as he caught sight of Dick,
and ran toward him. “Why are you alone? Where is she? What has happened?
Speak, boy!”

Little Christobal, clinging to Dick’s legs, reiterated his father’s
questions, while Uncle Francis’ long shanks took him wandering aimlessly
round the little group. The guard blew his whistle, and Natividad pushed
them all into a carriage just as the train started.

“Yes, she has been carried off by the Indians, but we know where she is.
She is at Chorillos.” Dick’s attempt to reduce the force of the blow to
the Marquis partly succeeded. Then he explained what he knew while Don
Christobal, raging in his corner, swore to kill with his own hands every
Quichua in the country. Little Christobal, understanding only that his
sister was lost, sobRed bitterly.

But what had given the others the alarm? The Marquis explained that Aunt
Agnes and Irene, going to church for the evening angelus, found that the
Golden Sun bracelet had been stolen from the shrine of the Virgin of San
Domingo. They had returned home in a panic, to find the Marquis nearly
distracted with fear. Going to his club for the first time in a week,
he had there found an anonymous letter warning him to watch over his
daughter day and night throughout the Interaymi. This letter, a twin
of the one received at Cajamarca, had been waiting some days. It
particularly warned him not to allow his daughter to go to Callao on
Saturday. It was then seven o’clock, and going home to find that neither
Maria-Teresa nor Dick were back, he had at once rushed to Callao. Little
Christobal, refusing to listen to orders, had followed his father and
Uncle Francis.

Dick listened like one demented. He was silent, but his mind was in
a turmoil. To think of such a thing! In a country where people used
telephones and traveled by rail! It was too horrible, too incredible,
yet horribly credible. There was no doubt in his mind now as to the
reasons for the abduction.

Natividad, closely questioned by the Marquis, finished by telling all he
knew, and left them little hope. While loth to cause pain, he could
not disguise certain facts. In a sense, too, he was triumphant. A
conscientious official, he had once almost ruined his administrative
career by certain reports on Quichua customs, dealing notably with the
ritual murder of women and children. He had been laughed at, and called
a lunatic--now the Red Ponchos were at work again.

The silence of despair greeted his words. Then, anxious to reassure
them, the little old gentleman insisted that the Indians could not go
far with their precious burden. All the defiles of the sierra were
held by Veintemilla’s troops. They would always give assistance to the
police, and the Indians were bound to run into them as soon as they left
the costa. The chief thing was not to lose the trail.

They had now reached the point where the railway line joined the
highroad running parallel to the sea, and all eyes were fixed on the
great white band stretching out there in the moonlight. At first, it was
bordered by a few tumble-down cabins and bamboo cottages, but soon there
was only the nakedness of a huge sandy plain before them. Dick, the
Marquis and Natividad, grouped at the windows, searched the night, while
Uncle Francis took little Christobal in his arms and strove to console
him. But the boy insisted on being held up, that he also might see out,
moaning the while: “Maria-Teresa, Maria-Teresa!... Why have they taken
my big sister?... Maria-Teresa!”

Suddenly, the same cry broke from them all: “The motor!” There it was,
standing before the gates of a lonely hacienda. Natividad almost tore
out the emergency cord, and the train, with a grinding of brakes, slowed
down and then stopped. They tumbled to the line, Natividad shouting to
the guard to go on, and send back police, troops and horses as soon as
they could.

Dick raced across the plain, while Natividad, panting in the rear,
called out to him to be careful, and not to give the alarm. The young
engineer drew a revolver as he reached the motor, ready to shoot down
the first man he saw. But there was nobody there. The car was empty, and
the courtyard of the hacienda showed deserted, peopled only by the blue
shadows of moonlight.

The gates were wide open, and he entered cautiously. Some of the
buildings round the courtyard were in ruins; all were manifestly
deserted. On his right, the bodega, or store-house; on his left, the
proprietor’s casa. Here again the doors were open.

Dick returned to the motor, and was there rejoined by the Marquis and
Natividad just as he lit one of the headlights. There was not a sound
to be heard, and they followed the young man in silence. As they entered
the first room of the house, a heavy, pungent perfume greeted their
nostrils. Dick, leading the way, made a few cautious steps, and then
fell back with a cry of horror. The furniture of the place was scattered
in all directions, and there was blood everywhere.

“Maria-Teresa!” The Marquis and Dick, both calling out at the same time,
were as suddenly silent again. Both seemed to have heard a faint voice
answering them.

“It’s up there!” shouted the young man, dashing toward a staircase
leading to the first floor. All could now distinctly hear a low,
prolonged moan. Dick, slipping on the stairs in his hurry, rose again
with a white face. His hands were red with blood!



III

The first two rooms were empty, but bore unmistakable signs of a
desperate flight and struggle. Then a landing, a door and a dark
cupboard, from which a loud cry for help now resounded throughout the
deserted hacienda. Dick, signing to the Marquis to turn the light into
the corner, bent down, and dragged a body from the cupboard. It was
Libertad!

Covered with knife-wounds, the negro boy was on the point of’ death,
struggling for air. They took him into the next room, and threw open the
windows, while Dick questioned him brutally. “Where is your mistress?”
 A feeble hand pointed toward the sierra, and Dick stood away from the
dying man. That was all he wanted to know. The Red Ponchos were already
on the road to the mountains with his fiancée.

He dashed down into the road to find Uncle Francis with little
Christobal. The boy, climbing into the motor had discovered his sister’s
cloak there, and was crying over it. He threw himself into Dick’s arms,
but was roughly pushed aside while the young engineer raged impotently.

What could he do? Anything for a horse, a mule, something to carry on
the pursuit! The irony of it! That motor there, which had served for the
crime, was useless now on the narrow rocky mountain pathway which they
must follow.

Then little Christobal, listening with wide-open eyes, started. He had
heard a noise at the far end of the court. Could there be horses in
that deserted bodega. It sounded just like hoofs stamping on a plank
flooring. Then the child heard a faint neigh.

Dick had vanished, and Christobal, running toward the farm buildings,
slipped through a half-open door. Yes, there was something there...
llamas... three llamas,.. but thin, miserable creatures, worn out by the
heavy loads of years, and incapable of carrying even a child. But llamas
do not neigh. The boy slipped round the corner of the building, and
stopped short in the shadow. Sitting motionless a few yards away was a
horseman, watching the house. At his stirrup, attentively immobile as
the horseman, was a llama--one of those light, fine-limRed, long-necked
beasts which carry a man’s belongings and follow him like a dog.

As Christobal caught sight of them, the horse shied. The rider reined it
in, and swore, but his oath was cut short by a shot. A shadow had risen
in the night, only a few feet away, and had fired; the rider rolled from
his saddle, while the shadow, seizing the horse’s bridle, swung itself
into his place. Little Christobal ran toward it.

“Tell your father I’ve bagged one of them,” shouted Dick, turning his
mount and riding for the sierra.

The child, without answering, ran after the llama, which in its turn was
following the horse. His little fingers caught in its wool, he checked
it with the words one uses to llamas, scrambled up and dashed after
Dick. Uncle Francis, on the roadway, was passed by two black streaks,
and left alone there, speechless.

Meanwhile, in the room on the first floor, Libertad was making his
confession. Natavitad had realized, and had made the Marquis realize, the
great value to them which this might have. Nor, to tell the truth, did
he forget the value of the Marquis as a witness to this confession,
which he regarded in the light of a valuable piece of fresh evidence
in his case against the Indians generally. For this twofold reason,
Natividad was merciless, and forced the negro to speak till his last
breath.

This confession, made in gasps and groans, built up by question and
answer, and cut short by death, showed clearly that the abduction had
been long planned, and that the daughter of the Marquis de la Torre had
been chosen as the victim of the Interaymi at least two months before
the festival. That was as clear as the wonderful tropical night without.

Two months before, Libertad had first been sounded, and he had not long
resisted the temptation of the money offered him. All he was asked to
do was to drive the motor to a certain spot on a certain day, without
looking to see what was happening behind him. For this, he was to
receive two hundred silver soles, of which fifty were paid to him in
advance.

“And who did you make the bargain with?” demanded Natividad.

“With a clerk from the Franco-Belgian bank who sometimes came to see the
señorita. His name was Oviedo.”

Don Christobal started. Oviedo Huayna Runtu, the intruder of the
Cajamarca trip! If he had planned to kidnap Maria-Teresa at Callao,
that voyage must have been particularly disagreeable to him. That would
explain his close watch over them, and perhaps also the hint to the
police at Cajamarca, which resulted in their hasty return to Lima.

“When did you first know the date chosen?” questioned Natividad, holding
up the negro, who was choking.

“This morning. Oviedo came to see me. He told me that a man would say to
me, ‘Dios anki tiourata’ [‘good-day,’ in Aimara), and that I was to obey
that man. I was to take the wheel, not turn my head, and drive where I
was told to go.”

Libertad’s story, told in jerky sentences, showed that he did not really
know until the evening what had been plotted. Though he did not move
or look, the sound of the struggle at the open window told him what was
happening. It was then too late to draw back, and, when the order came,
he drove the car to the calle San Lorenzo, where they stopped for a
minute before a low door. Huascar came out, exchanged a few words with
the occupants of the machine, and ordered him to take the Chorillos
road, and not to stop until he had reached Ondegarda’s hacienda. There
was not a sound behind him throughout the journey.

At the hacienda, when his passengers got out, he had instinctively
glanced sideways, and had seen the señorita, unconscious, being lifted
out by three dwarfs with horribly-shaped heads. They took her into the
casa, while he, more dead than alive, waited where he was, anxious only
to be paid and to get away.

Then they were overtaken by a troop of mounted Indians, all wearing
red ponchos, and led by Oviedo. Huascar was also with them, and ordered
Libertad to come into the house. To his surprise, he found there half a
dozen women, veiled in black, and guarding the door to another room.

“The mammaconas,” gasped Natividad. “We can have no doubts now....
Speak, Libertad.... Speak, and God may forgive you.”

“Yes, the mammaconas,” said the negro lad, feverishly.... “But I did not
know.... God will forgive me.... The señorita, too, will forgive me....
You must save her.... She was so good to me.... And I betrayed her...
betrayed her for two hundred silver soles.... They did not know I
understood Aimara... they said that Atahualpa would have a beautiful
bride.... And they fell on their faces before her when she passed.”

“You saw her, then?” demanded the Marquis, bending low over the
prostrate figure at his feet to catch the faint words.

“Yes, I saw her.... She was so good.... And I sold her for two hundred
silver soles.”

“Tell us how it happened,” interrupted Natividad. “Was she no longer
unconscious?”

“She came out of the room, held up by women in black veils... the three
dwarfs were dancing around her.... She seemed to be in a dream... they
have terrible poisons and perfumes.... My sweet señorita... wrapped in
a gold veil... her face was hidden... only her eyes, staring sightlessly
before her.... The mammaconas were all round her... and the dwarfs were
dancing. I saw it all, because they had left me alone, and I looked
out of the window... they put her on a mule... in front of one of the
mammaconas... and the others followed.... Yes, señor, it is true...
all these stories you hear in the ranchos.... Quite true... the dwarfs
followed, señor.... Oviedo was there... they had prepared everything
in this hacienda.... I believe they murdered the owner and all his
people....

“Yes, I saw it all.... I did not care then that I had not been paid....
I watched.... And the Red Ponchos carried off my mistress... they are
taking her to the Temple of the Sun.... It is the Interaymi.... But you
will find them first... You must.... And God will forgive me.”

Libertad closed his eyes and fell back, but seemed to recover his forces
with the last flicker of life, and opened them again.

“What happened to you?” asked Natividad. “Was it in trying to save your
mistress?...”

Libertad smiled bitterly, and tried to cross himself, but his arm fell
nerveless by his side.

“Huascar,” he said. “He came into the room, and when I asked him to pay
me, pointed to the two hundred silver soles... they were on the table
there.... Not one over.... It was not much for betraying my mistress....
I did not know that was what they wanted.... When I told him so, he
asked me what I would have done if I had known.... I answered I would
have asked double the amount....”

“What then?”

“Then he drew a knife and came at me.... I ran, but he followed.... He
stabRed me once, and I escaped, but he followed.... I ran upstairs....
He stabRed me again and again.... When I fell, he thought I was dead...
and I am... I am... dying... oh!... Have mercy!”

Libertad’s last moment had come. The Marquis and Natividad, bending
over him, were startled by the shot outside, and rushed downstairs. They
found Uncle Francis by the motor, staring down the road. When they
asked him where Dick and little Christobal were, he gazed back as if not
understanding, and vaguely answered that he was looking for them.

Don Christobal and Natividad, turning to look in the direction the old
scientist was staring, suddenly saw two shadows dash across a moonlit
stretch of road and vanish in the darkness of a ravine leading into the
mountains, and spanned above by the railway bridge. Dick on his horse,
little Christobal on his llama, did not even check for an instant at
their hail.

Hardly had the hoof-beats died out in the depths of the ravine than the
sound of galloping horses came from the right, on the Chorillos road. A
moment later, a knot of riders appeared.



IV

Horses!” exclaimed Natividad. “Then we have them. They are probably
making for the Cuzco, or some place round Titicaca, But they are bound
to pass through Veintemilla’s lines, and we shall catch them at Canete
or Pisco.”

As Natividad had surmised, the riders were cavalrymen sent out from
Chorillos at his order. They ran toward them, Uncle Francis questioning
the Marquis, who did not answer. Indeed, Don Christobal, doubly anxious
now that his son had left his side, could not contain himself. Hardly
had the troopers dismounted than he swung himself into the nearest
saddle, and rode off after Dick.

“Sheer madness,” growled Natividad. “If they ever overhaul the Indians,
they are lost.”

“What are we going to do now?” demanded Uncle Francis. Maria-Teresa’s
fate moved him deeply, particularly from a literary point of view, but
under the circumstances he asked no better than to keep a little in the
background.

“We can only follow at a distance,” replied Natividad.

“Excellent... excellent... find out where they are making for, and all
that sort of thing.”

“There are still laws, a police force and troops in Peru, señor. We are
not afraid of the Indians.”

With which he turned to the four soldiers who had joined them, and who
represented what remained of the military force op the costa. Uncle
Francis, already delighted with Natividad’s plan of following at a
distance, approved of it even more warmly when he found that this little
escort was to accompany them.

Three policemen mounted on mules, coming from the direction of Callao,
now appeared on the road. Natividad at once requisitioned the mules for
his expedition. Before starting, however, he went back into the casa to
write a hurried letter to President Veintemilla, explaining what had
happened. He did so with a certain malice, remembering that ten years
ago this same president had been Chief of Police, and had threatened to
suspend him for his “mad reports.”

One of the policemen, entrusted with the letter, started back toward
Callao at once. The two others were ordered to take charge at the
hacienda and begin a preliminary enquiry. Then Natividad and Uncle
Francis mounted two of the commandeered mules, the third being taken by
the soldier whose horse had been carried off by Don Christobal. When the
soldiers saw that they were heading for the sierra instead of Chorillos,
there was a grumble, but Natividad silenced them. “Forward,” he ordered,
and they, in their turn, entered the ravine.

“We can, at all events, travel as fast as the mammaconas,” said the
Chief of Police to Uncle Francis.

“The mammaconas? Were they here then?” The scientist, intensely
interested, urged his mount alongside Natividad’s.

“Yes señor... the mammaconas... and three head priests of the temple...
only they may touch the Virgin of the Sun.... señor, for the past
fifteen years I have known all this, but they called me a lunatic. Why
should we suppose that the Indians have changed? Do they not eat, drink,
and get married just as they did five centuries ago? If their outward
customs have not changed, why should their secret rites have done so?
Why, señor, why?... But nobody will believe me. It all began when I was
a young man. I had to investigate a mysterious crime, the only possible
explanation for which was a religious one. You must not forget that you
are dealing with Incas to this day.... And I got my knuckles rapped....
Five years later, when the Orellana girl disappeared, they treated me in
the same way. So I let them give what explanation they liked, and worked
on my own. I speak Quichua like a native now, señor. I also learned
Aimara, which is their sacred language in the Cuzco and round
Titicaca.... That’s where they are making for now; some hidden temple,
where their priests have been working since the days of the conquest.”

Uncle Francis looked at his companion suspiciously. Were they all
engaged in a huge practical joke at his expense? This Chief of Police
was singularly calm under the circumstances; off-handed, almost gay.

“We are sure to catch them, are we not?”

“Of a surety, señor. Dios mio, be content! We will catch them.... How
can they possibly escape? We are on their heels; if they stick to the
mountains, they run into our troops; if they go down into the costa,
every corregidor (mayor) is at my orders.”

There was a moment’s silence, and he went on:--

“Will you not put on that cloak at your saddle-bow, señor? The nights
are chilly, and we are nearing the cordilleras.... The only road, you
see. They must have passed here. At dawn, we shall be able to see their
trail distinctly.... If only those crazy people who dashed on ahead
do not make fools of themselves.... A plucky youngster, little
Christobal.... We shall soon overhaul them.... One does not climb these
mountains as a bull jumps over the barrier at the ring....”

Natividad’s garrulous flow of words was interrupted by a chuckle from
Uncle Francis. Not a little astonished, he asked him what he meant,
but Mr. Montgomery contented himself with replying:--“I understand, I
understand.” Natividad, who did not understand, eyed him doubtfully.

Just before day-break they reached the first masses of the true Andes.
Their mounts did not appear over-tired, and after a two-hours’ halt at a
wayside guebrada, where beasts and men obtained food, they continued
the journey. Over them towered the giant mountain chain, blazing in the
molten light of dawn.

The half-breeds at the guebrada could not, or would not, give them any
information as to those they followed. That the Indian cavalcade had not
stopped there, however, was certain, or larder and loft would have been
empty. Natividad, convinced he would get nothing else out of the men,
forced them, in the name of “the supreme government,” to exchange two
strong mules for two of the horses.

Shortly after they had started again, they came on unmistakable traces
of a strong party of horse. Thistles, and the great yellow flower of the
amancaes, trampled flat, showed where hoofs had passed.

“We are close on them now, señor,” said Natividad.

Uncle Francis, coughing knowingly, assented in such a detached manner
that Natividad began to have serious doubts as to the mental welfare
of-that illustrious scientist.

Before long, though, he was worrying a great deal more about something
else. So far, there had not been a sign anywhere of the Indians’ first
pursuers. Uncle Francis, on the other hand, was thoroughly happy, and
seemed to be enjoying the scenery.

As they climRed steadily upwards, the road was becoming more and more
dangerous, twisting and turning round the mountain-side. Peaks, sky, and
precipices; in the blue of the distance, a few mountain goats, all four
feet joined together, balancing on some rocky point.

The cold was now intense, and the soldiers grumbled openly. When
Natividad reminded them that they were serving “the supreme government,”
 they let it be inferred that they did not give a tinker’s damn for the
supremo gobesnie, but nevertheless followed.

“Are you sure of those men of yours?” asked Uncle Francis.

“As sure as of myself,” replied Natividad, determined to be optimistic.

“What are they? Indians?”

“Quichuas, of course.... Where else would we get soldiers?”

“They do not seem to me to be enthusiastic militarists.”

“A grave error, señor. They are delighted to be soldiers. What else
could they be?”

“They are volunteers, then?” questioned the scientist. And to
Natividad’s stupefaction, he produced his note-book.

“No, not volunteers, illustrious señor.... We send troops into the
Indian villages, and arrest every able-bodied man who has not bolted.
Then we enroll them as volunteers.”

“Charming! And you are not afraid that they may turn on you when you
have armed them?”

“Not in the least. After the first few days they decide they are so
much better off under the colors that they would not go back to their
families for anything.... You should see them join in the recruiting
afterwards!... They make very good soldiers.... These men are
only annoyed at being taken into the mountains; they would die for
Veintemilla.”

“So much the better,” concluded Uncle Francis philosophically. And
he added, to Natividad’s growing amazement:--“But why insist on their
coming with us? We can find those other Indians just as well without
their aid.”

Natividad jumped. What kind of a man was this? Then his attention was
suddenly drawn to the road again.

“There, over there! They camped there.”

At this point, the mountain path widened to a kind of little plateau, on
which were unmistakable traces of a recently-pitched camp. The ashes of
the fire had not yet been swept away by the wind, and remains of food
littered one corner. Natividad, convinced that he had found the first
resting-place of the escort of the Virgin of the Sun, urged on his
party.

“It is strange,” he said, “that we should have seen nothing yet of the
Marquis, little Christobal, or your nephew.”

“Why worry? We’ll find them all, sooner or later.”

“What?”

“Sooner or later--some day.... Hello, what’s the matter? This beast of
mine won’t move. Gee up.”

Calm and collected, quite different from the frightened Mr. Montgomery
of the flight from Cajamarca, he urged on his mount, but the mule
refused to answer to his heel. Then Natividad, pressing forward to see
what was the matter, saw the body of a llama stretched across the narrow
path. Dismounting, he lifted its head, examined the nostrils, and then
pushed the body over the edge of the ravine.

“Little Christobal’s llama,” he pronounced. “The animal has been ridden
to death.... Poor child! I wonder where he is.”

Uncle Francis, busy with his note-book, refused to get excited.

“With my nephew, probably. Even if Dick had left him behind, his father
must have come upon him.”

“That is possible, of course,” said Natividad, doubtfully.

“Is this llama-riding common over here?” questioned the scientist,
intent on acquiring knowledge.

“No. Children sometimes amuse themselves with it if the llama is willing.
Rich people give them to their sons occasionally. Christobal probably
had his.”

“I would never have believed a llama capable of going so far, and so
fast.”

“No pack-llama could. But that was a good one, trained to carry light
weights and travel fast Probably used to being ridden by children....
I wonder where they found it... Your nephew’s horse, too... in the
hacienda stables, I suppose.... A tragedy might have been avoided had
they not.”

The little party had ridden on, and now, taking a sharp corner, came
suddenly upon Dick and the Marquis, the former on foot, and the latter
mounted. Little Christobal was not there.



V

Dick was pale, but the Marquis was livid. So they appeared to
Natividad; as to Uncle Francis, he had not his glasses on, and noticed
nothing disquieting in their appearance.

“Those scoundrels have both my children now,” groaned Don Christobal in
answer to Natividad’s eager questions, and told what had happened.

Badly mounted for mountain roads, the Marquis had found great difficulty
in following. Several times he had been on the point of abandoning his
horse, but, thinking it might be valuable later on, had kept to it. Once
or twice he had been obliged to dismount and drag the unwilling beast
behind him. At dawn, he reached the Indians’ camp, which he searched in
vain for some personal sign of his daughter. She was evidently too well
guarded. Finally he found the llama’s body, but being convinced that
Dick was with little Christobal, had not worried overmuch. Then, a
little further on, he found Dick, but alone.

Dick, powerless to interfere, had seen little Christobal carried off
by the same Indians who already held Maria-Teresa. When they started on
their wild ride, and as soon as the road became steeper, the llama had
rapidly outpaced Dick’s horse. Little Christobal, riding it hard, would
not stop, and soon vanished ahead. Two hours later, Dick had lost his
horse in a ravine, throwing himself from the saddle only just in time,
and narrowly saving his own life by clinging to a projecting rock. He
continued his pursuit on foot, and finally came in sight of the boy,
just as the llama, exhausted, burst a blood-vessel and fell. He had
called to little Christobal, but the boy, unheeding, had run on, crying,
“Maria-Teresa! Maria-Teresa!”

They were right on the Indians then, and Dick could see them far above
him on the zig-zagging mountain-path. They had checked their horses,
waiting for the boy to catch up to them. Then one of the Red Ponchos
bent down, lifted him up to his saddle-bow, and hurried on with his new
captive. Dick was too far away to open fire, and the Indians had at once
spurred on, soon leaving him far behind. The Marquis had come up a short
time after.

“You must not despair, Don Christobal,” urged Natividad. “Your news is
not all bad. They are only just ahead, and cannot escape us. They must
pass through Huancavelica, and there we have troops to help us.”

Natividad ordered one of the soldiers to dismount and give his mule to
Dick. The man was indignant, and continued protesting in a weird jargon
as he trotted afoot behind the cavalcade. In this manner they reached a
point where the road forked, one branch going on up into the hills,
the other stretching down toward the coast. They had all turned up the
former when the dismounted soldier turned--he would go no further, but
would descend to the coast; and once there he would report to the powers
the manner in which he had been treated by a mere civilian. Natividad
wished him an ironical good-by, and he started, but only to reappear a
moment later, waving a soft felt hat in his hand.

“That belongs to Christobal!” exclaimed the Marquis.

They turned their mounts, grateful for the chance-found sign which had
saved them from a grievous mistake. Natividad alone hesitated, wondering
whether this was not an Indian ruse. They advanced slowly therefore,
until the mud and sand on the banks of a torrent just below showed
beyond doubt that a large number of mounted men had passed that way
and restored Natividad’s serene belief in the ultimate success of their
search.

“So they’re doubling back to the costa. They must have been warned
that the passes were guarded... all they have gained by the detour is
avoiding Chorillos.... Perhaps they are making for Canete.... Well, they
must stop somewhere, and then we have them!”

After an hour’s rest, they hurried on again at top speed, one of the
soldiers giving his dismounted comrade a lift behind.

“Did you, then, ever think that we might not catch them?” asked Uncle
Francis of Natividad, with an enigmatical smile.

“Why not, señor?... Between you and me, it is about time we did catch
them.... I for one shall not feel happy if señorita de la Torre and the
boy are still in their hands on the last day of the Interaymi.”

“Do you mean that the boy is in danger?”

“Speak lower, señor, speak lower.... Nothing is too young, too beautiful
or too innocent for the Sun. Do you understand?”

“More or less. More or less.”

“You people do not know what horrors they are capable of.... They still
have their priests.... You might blink at facts if it were only the
ordinary Red Ponchos, but there are also those three monsters.... You
always find them together in the old burial-grounds.... When one dies,
the other two are put to death.... Or when a king died, they sacrificed
themselves on his tomb.... They still exist, those monsters, those
high-priests of the sacred slaughters.... They exist, señor.”

“Do they?”

“You, señor, are a savant, and know about the Temple of Death. But do
you know how many dead were found buried with the mummy of Huayna Capac?
Four thousand, señor! Four thousand human lives sacrificed to honor the
dead--some by suicide, others strangled, knifed or suffocated.... And
the House of the Serpent.... But I prefer not to tell you what happened
there.”

“Tell me some other day.... You make an admirable guide. When we return,
I will tell the supremo gobierno how grateful I am to them for having
made the most erudite of police officers my cicerone.”

“I beg your pardon, señor?”

Natividad, completely taken aback, could only stare at his interlocutor.

“Nothing, nothing! I am only joking!” Scandalized at such levity,
Natividad turned away with an indignant snort, while Uncle Francis
chuckled. That worthy gentleman had now quite made up his mind that
there was a plot afoot against him, and sternly refused to be “taken
in.” The joke was rather tiring physically, but he would not cry for
mercy. As to all these hair-raising stories, he would take them for what
they were worth. Let them play their pranks till they tired of them.

The more he thought of it, the more he became convinced of the truth of
his deductions. His antiquarian’s eye rested lovingly on the traces of
that long-dead Inca civilization which they met. Here, aqueducts that
would have made the Romans wonder; there, remains of the great road
which ran from end to end of South America. They were all dead, those
Incas. Yet these people wished to make him believe that those vanished
warriors and priests had carried off a boy and girl of to-day to offer
them as a sacrifice to equally-forgotten gods!

They had now left the arid ranges and dusty wind behind them, and
reached a little village nestling in green fields at the foot of the
mountain. A babbling stream, tumbling down from the Cordilleras, had
transformed this corner into an oasis of verdure, in which Uncle Francis
would willingly have passed a few hours. But now that they were in
flat country again, Dick, the Marquis and Natividad increased the pace
feverishly. Uncle Francis, still determined not to show that he had
fathomed their plot, was careful not to protest.

Once or twice, they stopped to ask questions, but it was difficult to
obtain information. Hamlets were rare, and the Interaymi festivals
had drawn away nearly the whole population. The few Indians they met
received their questions with evident suspicion, and even hostility. Nor
would money loosen their tongues.

Fortunately, there were half-breeds more ready to talk, and they learned
that Huascar and his companions were riding hard. Nobody had seen Red
Ponchos; presumably the priests had concealed the ceremonial raiment
imposed by their ritual for the reception of the Bride of the Sun. They
were traveling so fast that nobody had had time to notice whether they
had a captive boy or young woman with them. At the questions on this
score all their informants began to grow uneasy, and turned away with
evasive sentences.

Huascar and his men had about two hours’ start, but it soon became
evident that they were gating ground steadily. Natividad could not
fathom the meaning of the Indians sudden turn toward the sea, this
riding into a town where, normally, everything must be against them if
the alarm was given.

They reached Canete at nightfall, Dick still leading. There was a
big fête on, with torchlight processions and the deafening noise of
fireworks set off by delirious roisterers. Half the native population
was under the influence of drink, and Natividad, trained to understand
the populace, at once saw that the town was in a state of dangerous
effervescence.

Of all the towns in Peru, Canete is perhaps the one which shows most
markedly that strange admixture of the new and old. Factory chimneys
tower to the sky side by side with Inca aqueducts which to this day
bring the water of the Rio Canete to the surrounding plantations.
Just above the town are still the remains of the huge native fortress
demolished some two hundred years ago by the then viceroy of Mañdelova
when he needed materials for the defenses of Callao.

Natividad’s first visit was to the corregidor, who told him that the
town was celebrating Garcia’s victories. It was now certain that the
rebels had captured Cuzco, and routed the Federal forces. Natividad then
told him of the plight of the Marquis de la Torre’s children. The Mayor
was skeptical, and showed it. Indians committing such a crime, he said,
would never have dared pass through a town.

“They could not stop in the Sierra,” said Natividad, “and had to make
for somewhere. Perhaps they intend taking boat, and reaching Are-quipa
by sea. They could get up into the Cuzco that way.”

“That is more than possible,” replied the corregidor, anxious to rid
himself of the troublesome visitor. “A troop of strange Indians has, in
fact, passed through the town. They bought provisions, and then hurried
on to Pisco. They might have a boat ready there.... Personally, I can do
nothing for you. I haven’t a single soldier or policeman to dispose of.
They have all gone to fight Garcia.”

At this moment, an extraordinary procession passed under the
corregidor’s windows. A dancing, singing procession, at the head of
which Natividad recognized his four troopers. He opened the window and
shouted menaces, but they passed unheeding.

In a sad mood Natividad rejoined his companions. Without any
explanation, he told them they must follow to Pisco, and they started
again. Natividad, in a brown study meanwhile, would answer no questions.

Don Christobal, hearing that the Indians were making for Pisco, grew
hopeful. He was known in the town, having a branch business there,
with big guano dépôts, stores in the harbor, and a considerable coolie
station on the Chincha Islands, which are just off the town. There he
could speak with authority, and make the corregidor listen.

They reached Pisco dog-tired, on mounts that could hardly stand. Uncle
Francis alone displayed a calm and unconcern which would haye convinced
the others he was mad, had they had time to notice him. The news of
Garcia’s victory had just reached Pisco, and the mob was even more
delirious than that of Canete.

The Marquis, taking the leadership, led the way to his dépôt and stores,
only to find them completely deserted. There was not a single employee
there to answer his questions.

“To the corregidor’s, then,” he ordered.

The four travelers had entered the main and only street of the town, and
were riding toward the sandy central square when a thundering _feu de
joie_ made them pull up. The Indians were burning the sacred maize-leaf
in honor of Garcia, to the grave danger of the little blue-and-white
houses around. The inhabitants of these, well-to-do half-breeds, had
locked themselves in, or taken to flight.

The madness of alcohol and the madness of fire crackers had taken firm
hold of all that was visible of the population. The mob had pillaged a
pisco distillery, and was enjoying itself thoroughly with that virulent
spirit, which is made from a kind of Malaga grape, and takes its name
from the town.

Natividad, casting round for a guide, found a half-breed sadly huddled
under a doorway. He doubtless was one of those who had something to lose
by the rioting; a house to be burned, or a cellar to be plundered.

“Follow me,” he said, when asked where the corregidor could be found.

He led them along a plank pavement which was just beginning to burn,
until they reached the corner of the arena, opposite the church. Four
skinny palms adorned the center of the square, and at the foot of one of
these a mob was dancing round a fire. Above, something was hanging from
a branch. The half-breed pointed to that thing.

“There is the corregidor,” he said.

Natividad, Dick and the Marquis stopped short, mute with horror. The
half-breed whispered a few rapid words to Natividad, who turned to run.

“Come on! Come on!” he almost screamed.

“Why this hurry?” demanded Uncle Francis, phlegmatically.

“Why? Why?... Because they are going to eat him!”

“Not really?” drawled the scientist with mediocre interest. “Right
away?”

But Natividad did not notice his tone. He was really running away, for
he had not forgotten a scene in Lima, when the Guttierg brothers were
torn from the presidency they had usurped by the same mob which had
placed them there. Massacred, then hanged over the cathedral gates, they
were finally roasted and devoured by the populace.

So fast did Natividad flee, that Dick and the Marquis could hardly
keep up with him. Uncle Francis, bringing up the rear, was muttering to
himself:

“Damn nonsense, sir, damn nonsense. They’re not going to frighten me.”



BOOK IV--THE DICTATOR



I

Arequipa was _en fête_; the entire population of the city and its
campina (suburbs) was packed in the main square and the adjacent streets
to witness the triumphal return of the victor of the Cuzco--brave
General Garcia, who had already been christened “the good Dictator,” and
who had promised his partizans that within a fortnight he would sweep
out of the country President Veintemilla, the two Chambers, and the
whole parliamentary system which, he declared, had ruined Peru.

This was language the Arequipinos loved and understood. Politics had
always flourished in that part of the country, and all revolutions began
there. And the turbulent inhabitants of Arequipa felt that it was a
terribly long time since they had had a “savior” to cheer.

Now they had one; a particularly picturesque one, who was to appear on
horseback. So they had all donned their Sunday clothes, and the women
had flowers in their hair and more flowers in their arms to scatter
before the hero.

The Indian population, having sold its hens and vegetables in the
market-place, joined the throng.

The square, for the occasion, seemed to have straightened out its
tumble-down arcades, badly shaken by the last earthquake. The illusion
was aided by brilliant-hued carpets, flags, banners and festoons which
blazed in all directions and gave new life to the dilapidated walls.
The cracked old towers of the church, the carved wooden balconies,
flower-adorned galleries, and decorated windows were black with people.
Above the city rose the Misti, one of the world’s highest volcanoes,
wearing a fresh cap, glistening with the snows of the night.

Bells chimed and cannons roared out Then came silence, broken again by
the sound of bugles and the roar of a thousand voices. The procession of
the troops had begun. Contrary to European custom, it commenced with all
the impedimenta of the camp. It was like a rout:--Indians leading mules
loaded down with baggage, provisions, and kitchen utensils; then a
regiment of women bent under the weight of knapsacks, babies, and sacks
of food.

The crowd cheered everything wildly, from the llamas loaded with
captured Federal arms to the women, the rabonas, as they are called out
there. These rabonas are a precious institution from the point of view
of the Peruvian soldier; each man has his own, and she carries his
baggage, buys all his food, and prepares his meals.

Then came the troops, Garcia, leading. Mounted on a splendid horse,
wearing a brilliant uniform, he appeared like a star of the first
magnitude in the constellation of his staff. A tall man, he showed head
and shoulders above the generals and colonels prancing around him. His
tri-color plumes waved splendidly in the wind, and the deafening rant
of bugles accompanied him. Handsome, radiant, happy was he, nonchalantly
curling his black mustache and smiling on all with brilliant white
teeth.

Garcia smiled to the ladies as he passed under their balconies, and the
ladies, showering down rose-leaves over horse and rider, called him by
his Christian name, Pedro. In this triumphal fashion, he slowly rode
round the square twice, and then came to a halt in the middle of it,
between two guns, his staff behind him and, before him, two Indians
bearing a standard, a quaint patch-work quilt of a flag, which was the
token of submission of all the tribes to the new government These men
wore hats covered with variegated plumes, and had over their shoulders
surplice-like tunics.

Five hundred infantrymen and two hundred horse had formed round the
square. Young girls, clad in floating tunics and wearing Garcia’s
colors, advanced toward the general, their hands heavy with floral
crowns. One of them made a little speech, while Garcia continued curling
his mustache and showing his teeth. The speech over, he gallantly bent
down and took all the crowns, passing them over his arm. Then he lifted
a hand to command silence.

“Long live Liberty!” he shouted. A hurricane of cheers arose. Again he
lifted up the crown-charged arm, and again there was silence.

He told them the program of the new Government meant “Liberty for
all, except for evil-doers! With such a program, is there any need for
parliaments?”

“No! No! No!” roared the crowd deliriously. “Long live Garcia! Death
to, Veintemilla! Muera! Muera! Muera el larron de salitre! (Death to
the saltpetre thief! ),” for Veintemilla was popularly supposed to have
largely profited by some recent concessions.

Garcia was an orator, and, wishing to show it once again, told in a
few words the history of the campaign that had ended in the rout of the
“saltpetre thieves” on the Cuzco plains. To be seen and heard by all, he
stood erect in his stirrups.

Then an incredible thing happened. The powers above actually dared spoil
this splendid _fête_--it began to rain! There was a general rush for
shelter in the crowd. Even the infantrymen lining the square broke
their ranks, while the cavalrymen dismounted, took off their saddles and
loaded them on their heads in guise of umbrellas. As to those soldierly
ladies, the rabonas, they calmly threw their bell-shaped petticoats over
their heads.

Garcia alone did not move. Furious at this spoiling of his triumph, he
threatened his officers with immediate death if they dared leave his
side. He did not even fall back into his saddle, but stood erect there,
his crown-charged arm menacing the heavens.

Then the Chief of Staff approached the Dictator, saluted thrice, and
said:

“Excellency, it is not the fault of the sky. The sky would not have
dared! The roar of your guns compelled the clouds, Excellency.”

“You are right,” replied Garcia. “And since the guns did the harm, let
them repair it.”

With which, a battery was rolled out into the square, and opened fire on
the clouds. They thundered on until the short tropical storm had passed.
Then Garcia, triumphant, shouted: “I have had the last word with the
heavens!” The review was over.



II

Watching the proceedings from a window at the “Jockey Club Hotel” were
the Marquis de la Torre and Natividad, both wild with impatience, for
their only hope now lay in Garcia.

At Pisco, they had ended by discovering that the Bride of the Sun’s
escort had embarked in the very steam-tug used to tow the Marquis’ own
barges from the Chincha Islands to Callao. This once again proved that
the scheme had been well thought out and prepared long in advance, the
Indians about Maria-Teresa being in the plot.

Securing a boat in their turn, the pursuers followed to Mollendo. There
they took the train, and reached Arequipa only a few hours after the
Red Ponchos--Uncle Francis still supernaturally calm, and Natividad
beginning to despair of everything.

Chance favored them when they landed in this city of mad people, who
would not even trouble to answer questions. Dick recognized Huascar
strolling through the streets, and tracked him to the house where
Maria-Teresa and her brother were kept prisoners. This was a low adobe
building on the edge of the suburbs, and quite close to the Rio de
Chili. It was openly guarded by a dozen armed Indians in red ponchos.
Dick and the Marquis soon found, however, that they could not even get
as near as that line of guards. Fifty yards away from the house, Civil
Guards stopped them, and ordered them back. Garcia’s own troops were
guarding the Virgin of the Sun!

“Of course, Garcia cannot know,” said the Marquis. “I know him, and
though he has faults, he is not a savage. He once wanted to marry
Maria-Teresa. Let us go and find him.”

But Dick refused to lose sight of the adobe house. Had they listened to
him, they would have forced their way to it at once. It was only after
long arguing that Natividad convinced him such a step would be absurd.
Lives are cheap during revolutions, and two or three corpses more or
less in the Rio de Chili would not make it overflow its banks. Nor
would they contribute greatly to the freeing of Maria-Teresa and little
Christobal.

He promised to be reasonable, but would not go with them when they
returned to the inn for a meal; instead, he took up his post in a boat
on the river, and thence watched his fiancée’s prison and the armed men
walking up and down before.

The Marquis and Natividad therefore, witnessed Garcia’s triumph alone.
Uncle Francis had been lost, or rather, had been left alone in the
middle of the street, staring up at the Misti. He was now doubtless in
the crowd somewhere, taking notes.

Garcia in all his glory was a sight which did not please the Marquis.

“I never thought he was that kind of man,” he commented, “though I
always suspected he had negro blood in his veins.”

“Drunk with success,” replied Natividad drily.

After the review, they followed the Dictator and his staff only to find
their way barred by troops at the road leading down to the headquarters.
Here the Marquis ordered the men out of the way with such insolence, and
spoke with such assurance of “his friend Garcia,” that he was allowed to
pass, Natividad clinging to his sleeve.

The subaltern in command at the guard-room took the Marquis’ card, and a
moment later they were ushered upstairs. There were soldiers everywhere,
some of them fast asleep on the staircase, their guns between their
knees, so that the visitors had to pick their way upstairs over
prostrate bodies.

Finally, their guide pushed open a door and ushered them into a
Redroom, where Garcia was presiding over a meeting of the Cabinet he had
appointed the previous day. Some of these high functionaries were seated
on the Dictator’s Red, others on the table, and one on a bundle of
soiled linen.

They were received more than courteously. Garcia, who was in his
shirt-sleeves, and shaving, ran toward the Marquis with both hands
outstretched, scattering white flakes from his shaving-brush as he came.

“Forgive me, señor,” he said. “Antique simplicity! Antique
simplicity!... I receive you as I would a friend... for I trust you come
as a friend, as a friend of the new Government. Let me introduce you.”

He began with the Minister of War, who was astride the bolster, and
finished up with the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, a hideous
half-breed chewing cocoa-nut leaves.

“No fuss, you see,” babbled on Garcia. “Antique simplicity. Cato, and
all that sort of thing.... Nothing like antiquity, sir, to make men....
The good padres taught us that, and I took the lesson to heart.” He
laughed. “All that show is for outside... the crowds like it. You must
amuse the crowd!... Did you see my review? Splendid, wasn’t it?...
Magnificent soldiers.... And the rain., Did you see what I did?
Effective, eh?”

Daring all this verbiage, Garcia was thinking hard, and watching the
new-comers’ faces. He was far from being a fool. Were they, or were they
not, ambassadors from Veintemilla? Would he accept a compromise, if they
came to offer it? In a moment his mind was made up; he would refuse,
and risk everything on the result of this rising, his large fortune and
his life included.

At last the Marquis was able to speak.

“I have come to ask the assistance of the master o Peru.”

At these words the Dictator, who was washing the soap from his face,
looked up in surprise over a towel. He knew that the Marquis was a
personal friend of Veintemilla. Natividad looked away uneasily, for he
was compromising himself horribly.

“The master of Peru,” repeated the Marquis, “whose motto is ‘Liberty for
all.’ I want him to restore to me my two children, who have been
stolen.”

“Stolen! What do you mean, señor? Those who have done this thing shall
be punished. I swear it by my ancestor, Pedro de la Vega, who gave his
life for the True Faith, and was killed by the infidels in the year of
grace 1537 at the Battle of Xauxa, in which he received seventeen wounds
while fighting at the side of the illustrious Christobal de la Torre!”

The Marquis had always said that Garcia was in no way descended from
Pedro de la Vega, and Garcia knew it.

“Those same infidels have now carried off my daughter, Excellency.”

“The beautiful señorita! But what do you mean by infidels? What
infidels?”

“She has been kidnaped from Callao by the Quichuas... as a sacrifice to
their gods during the Interaymi.”

“Sacrifice!... Interaymi... but that cannot be, señor.”

“I am sure of what I say, Excellency, and she has certainly been carried
off. Let me introduce señor Perez, the inspector superior of the police
of Callao. Like myself, he is devoted to your cause. He will tell you
the same thing. Speak, Natividad.”

Horrified at the form of the Marquis’ introduction, Natividad stammered
a corroboration. If Garcia did not win now, all that was left for him to
do was to cross the Bolivian frontier.

The change in Garcia’s manner was immediate. He did not want trouble
with the Quichuas, his partisans and allies.

“But I can do nothing for you, señor. All this happened in Callao.
Veintemilla is still master there, and you must go to him.”

“They are now in this very city, imprisoned in a house which is guarded
by your own troops.”

“That is not possible. I should have known it. But if by some
extraordinary fact this is so, you have not done wrong in coming to me.”

“I knew I would not appeal to you in vain. As long as I live, I shall
not forget this service. I have friends in Lima, señor! And this
gentleman also,” he pointed to Natividad. “The police of Callao is
yours.... Only accompany us to the gates of the city, and set my
children free, and my life and my fortune are yours.”

“I am afraid I cannot come myself, for I am expecting the British
Consul. But I will send my Minister for War with you. You will find
him just as useful.” Garcia turned and whistled for the dignitary
in question, who seemed in no hurry to move. “Go and see what is
happening,” he ordered, “and let me know.... I believe you are in error,
gentlemen, but I will do what I can for you.”

Don Christobal and Natividad went out, followed by the Minister, whose
enormous spurs made the hall and staircase echo. Garcia closed the door.

“I wonder what it all means,” he mused aloud, evidently much put out.
“Ten to one, Oviedo Runtu is in it. If he really has carried off
señorita de la Torre, the outlook for us at Lima is bad.”

The door opened, and an officer announced the British Consul.
This official was a big tradesman of the town, who had secured the
commissariat contracts to Garcia’s army by promising him the support of
Great Britain.

Garcia began to speak of his soldiers, and the consul put in that the
worth of an army resided more in the general who commanded it than in
the men themselves. His compliment provoked a self-satisfied bow from
Garcia, but he made the mistake of trying to improve it, and added:

“For, between you and me, Excellency, those troops of yours are not
worth much, and if you had not been there to...”

“Not worth much! What the devil do you mean! Do you know what kind of
fighting they have been doing in the mountains? Not worth much, indeed!
Did you see a single laggard...”

“No, but the guard are all sound asleep now.”

“Asleep!” Garcia swore, and ran to the door.



III

Garcia opened the door, and looked down the staircase, where he both
heard and saw his guards sleeping. Pale with anger, the Dictator woke
them, and ordered the officer to muster his men on the landing.

“My soldiers never sleep!” he declared to the consul. “Look at them. Do
they look as if they wanted sleep?... Come, my lads, a little exercise
to keep you fit. Out of that window with you all!”

His outstretched arm pointed to the Redroom window, nearly five yards
above the ground. The poor hussars looked at him, hesitated, and jumped.
Remained only the officer.

“Well, and what are you waiting for, major? You should be with your
men.”

Then, as the officer did not move, he seized him round the waist, and
threw him out of the window. The watching ministers and the consul,
anxious not to take the same route, laughed heartily at the jest, and
went to look into the courtyard. Those of the soldiers who had landed
more or less safely were picking up three comrades with broken legs. The
officer was being carried off, his skull fractured.

Just as this interlude ended, the Minister for War returned, still
followed by the Marquis and Natividad.

“Well?” asked Garcia, closing the window.

“The Red Ponchos,” replied the Minister, looking meaningly at his
illustrious chief. “Oviedo Runtu quartered them there, and added a few
soldiers to the guard. They leave to-morrow night for the Cuzco.”

“What else?” Garcia was nervously twisting his mustache.

“They know nothing of the young lady and the little boy.”

“Excellency,” burst in the Marquis, who could contain himself no longer,
“you must have that house searched. I know they are in it. You cannot
allow those scoundrels to go free! Your name would be tarnished for
ever if you did such a thing! It would make you the accomplice of
murderers!....On you depend the life of my son, the only heir of a great
name which in the past has always fought for civilization, side by side
with yours, and of my daughter, whom you once loved.”

The latter consideration might have had little effect on the Dictator,
who did not believe in confusing love and politics, but the sentence
before, appealing to his sentiments as the representative of “a great
name” moved him powerfully. He turned bruskly to his Minister for War.

“But you must have seen something. I presume you searched the house?”

“If I forced that house, Excellency, every one of our Quichua soldiers
would rise. Runtu has only to make a sign, and they cut all our throats.
That house is sacred, for the Red Ponchos and the mammaconas are
escorting the ‘sacred imprints from Cajamarca to the Cuzco for the
Interaymi fêtes. It is impossible, Excellency.” One look from the
Dictator drove all his ministers from the room. When the door had closed
on the last one, he turned to the Marquis.

“If your children are in that house, señor, it is terrible... but I can
do nothing for you.” Don Christobal staggered under the blow, and leaned
against the wall.

“Listen, Garcia,” he said in a strangled voice, “if this horrible crime
is allowed, I shall make you personally responsible for it before the
civilized world.”

He reeled, almost on the point of fainting. Garcia ran to his side, and
held him up, but Don Christobal seemed to regain his forces at once.

“Hands off, you general of murderers!” he shouted.

Garcia went white, while the Marquis walked toward the door, turning his
back on the Dictator though he expected to be stabRed at any moment. But
Garcia controlled himself, and his lisping voice checked Don Christobal
in surprise.

“Do not go yet, señor. I can do nothing for you, but I can at all events
give you some advice.”

Don Christobal turned, but ignored the hand which waved to a chair, and
waited. He had already wasted too much time here.

“Speak, sir,” he said; “time passes.”

“Have you any money?” asked Garcia bruskly.

“Money? What for? To...” He was on the point of saying “to bribe
you,” but stopped at a suppliant look from Natividad, who was signing
desperately to him from behind the Dictator’s back.

Garcia, remembering there was somebody else in the room, took Natividad
by the arm, and put him out of the room without a word. Then he sat down
at a little table loaded with papers, rested his head in his hands, and
began to speak in an undertone, without looking at the Marquis, still
standing and suspicious.

“I can do nothing for you against the Red Ponchos and the mammaconas.
Their house, or their temporary quarters, must be sacred, for they have
the relics of Atahualpa with them. You say your children are in that
house as well. That may be, but I am helpless to prove or disprove it.
It is horrible, I agree, but I am powerless. You say that my soldiers
are guarding the house? That is not true. I am nobody in all this. Who
put them there? Oviedo Runtu. They are Oviedo Runtu’s soldiers.”

He paused for a moment.

“Who is Oviedo Runtu? A bank-clerk whom you may have had dealings with
at Lima? Yes, and no. He is a bank clerk, but he is also the master of
every Quichua in the country. Yes, he dresses like a European, and
earns a humble living among us, but meanwhile he is studying all our
institutions, our financial methods, all our secrets. He earns two
hundred soles a month behind a counter, and he is perhaps a king. I
don’t know.
===
“King or not, all the Quichua and Aimara chiefs are his slaves. Huascar,
your former servant, is his right hand.... If you ask me, a man who has
dreamed the regeneration of his race! That’s what he is.... When I was
preparing this revolt at Arequipa, Huascar came and offered me Oviedo
Runtu’s aid, and I accepted the alliance because I could not do
otherwise. Do you understand now? It is not I, but Oviedo Runtu.... He
is in your way, as he is in mine.... And, believe me, I am as sorry for
you as for myself.”

“That’s the man. I can see his hand in it all.”

“As I said before, force is out of the question. But though I cannot
fight the Red Ponchos, _you_ can bribe them. They are Quichuas, and any
Indian can be bought. That is why I asked if you had any money.”

“No, I have none,” replied the Marquis, who had been listening to the
Dictator eagerly. “We left in a hurry, and I had not time to think of
it.”

“Fortunately, though, I have.”

Garcia whistled in a certain manner, and the Minister for Finance came
in.

“Where is the war chest?”

“Under the Red, Excellency.” The Minister went down on his knees, and
dragged an iron-bound box to Garcia’s side.

“You may go now.”

When they were alone again, Garcia took a little key from his pocket,
opened the box, and took out a bundle of bank-notes, which he threw on
the table. Locking the box, he pushed it under the Red again, picked up
the notes, and handed them to the Marquis.

“Count them afterwards, and pay me back in Lima, when I am President.
There is enough there to bleach every Red Poncho in existence. They are
gentlemen who know the value of those little pieces of paper. Oviedo
Runtu himself probably taught them. Good-by, señor, and good luck.”

“Excellency,” said the Marquis, forgetting that a moment before he had
called this man a murderer, “I do not thank you... but if I succeed...”

“Yes, yes, I know... your life and fortune are mine.”

“One word more. I shall try to bribe your troopers with the rest.”

“By all means! By all means!”

“And if we fail, Excellency, I warn you that weak as we are, desperate
as the venture may be, we shall attack those priests and their escort.
Can we count on your neutrality?”

“Most certainly. And if by chance you injure Oviedo, I shall not have
you hauled up before a court-martial!”

They shook hands, and the Marquis ran out. As he crossed the threshold,
Garcia shrugged his shoulders.

“His daughter is lost, but he, the fool, has been bought by me. All this
would not have happened if she had married me.”

At the bottom of the staircase, the Marquis found Natividad waiting
anxiously. In the street, they met Dick, who had come to look for them.
He was pale and agitated, and it was evident that some extraordinary
event had made him leave his post.

“What has happened?” asked the Marquis.

“Back to the inn, quick! We must decide on some course of action. What
did Garcia say?”

“That he could do nothing for us. But he gaye me money and a piece of
advice that may save them. But what made you leave your post? Are they
still there?”

“Yes. Only one person has left the house. Huascar. I followed,
determined to corner him, and kill him like a dog, if need he. He went
straight to our inn, and asked for you. They told him you had gone out,
but were returning. He then said he would wait, so I came to fetch you.”

“They are saved!” exclaimed Don Christobal. “Why else should Huascar
come to see me?”

“I don’t like the man, and don’t believe in him. You must not forget
that you have to do with a fanatic, and one who owes Maria-Teresa a
grudge.”

“My wife found him starving in the street, and gave him shelter. I
cannot believe he has altogether forgotten that.... I have always
thought he was in the whole business against his will, and determined to
save Maria-Teresa sooner or later. Hurry!”

“I hope you’re right, but I don’t believe it,” replied Dick. “We’ll
have him cornered in a minute, and if he doesn’t answer my questions
properly, he’ll be sorry.”

“You must not forget, Dick, that they have hostages.”

“Hostages which they will massacre even if we let Huascar go free, sir!
I would give anything to wring his neck!”

“And I, boy, would give anything to save my children.”

The Marquis’ tone was so icy that Dick refrained from further comment.

Just before they reached the inn, Natividad noticed on the opposite
pavement a tall old man leaning on a shepherd’s crook, and watching the
door through which Huascar had entered. A ragged cloak hung over his
thin shoulders, and a straggling white beard framed a face so white that
it was deathlike. Natividad stopped, and looked at him hard.

“I know that face,” he muttered. “Who is it? Who is it?”

Don Christobal, entering the inn, told Dick that he was going to their
room, and asked him to bring Huascar there. The stairs leading up to the
first floor were just inside the archway, and the Marquis, putting his
foot on the first step, noticed Natividad staring across the road. His
eye followed, and he also was struck by a sudden vague memory.

“Who on earth is that?” he wondered. “I have seen that man before.”



IV

Hardly had the Marquis entered the room than Huascar made his
appearance, followed by Dick and Natividad, like a prisoner with his
two guards. The Indian swept off his hat, with a grave “_Dios anki
tiourata,_” To wish a white man good-day thus, in the sacred Aimara
language, was a sign of great respect. Then, seeing that the Marquis did
not respond to the greeting, Huascar began to speak in Spanish.

“Señor, I bring you news of the señorita and your son. If the God of the
Christians, whom the benefactress worshiped, aids me, they will both be
restored to you.”

Don Christobal, though seething within, forced himself to the same calm
as the Indian.

“Why have you and yours committed this crime?” he questioned, crossing
his arms.

“Why did you and yours commit the crime of not watching over them?
Had you not been warned? Huascar, for your sake, twice betrayed his
brethren, his god, and his country. He remembered that the mother of
the señorita once befriended a naked child in Callao. That is why he
has sworn to save her daughter from the terrible honor of entering the
Enchanted Realms of the Sun.”

Don Christobal half held out his hand, but the Indian did not take it,
smiling badly.

“Gracias, señor.”

“And my son, Huascar?”

“Your son is in no danger. Huascar watches over him.”

“You say you watch over them! But to-morrow I may have neither son nor
daughter.”

“Neither son nor daughter will you have if you do not obey Huascar.” The
man’s tone had become somber and menacing. “But if you obey, I swear by
the head of Atahualpa, who awaits your daughter should I betray her, I
swear by my eternal soul, that the señorita will be saved!”

“What must we do?”

“Nothing. You must abstain from all action. Do not pursue the Red
Ponchos and put them on their guard. I will do everything if you and
yours promise not to come near that house again. They know you, and when
you appear, the mammaconas form the black chain round the Bride of the
Sun. If a stranger appeared, they would offer her up to Atahualpa dead,
rather than see her escape. Be warned, and do not leave this inn. If you
promise me that, I swear that I will bring your son here, unharmed, at
midnight. For your daughter, you must wait.”

Don Christobal took down a little crucifix from a nail over the Red, and
came toward Huas-car.

“The señora brought you up in our holy faith,” he said. “Swear upon this
that you will do as you say.”

Huascar held out his hand and took the oath.

“I have sworn,” he said proudly, “but for me, your word is enough.”

“You have it,” replied Don Christobal. “We await you here at midnight.
Gentlemen,” he added, as Huascar’s steps rang on the staircase without,
“I have given my word, and you must help me keep it. I believe in
Huascar.”

“So do I,” added Natividad.

Dick was silent. He had been watching the Indian, and was unconvinced.

“What do you think, Dick?”

“I don’t like it Perhaps I am mistaken, though. I feel that Huascar
hates me, and I do not love him particularly. We are not in a position
to judge one another. Midnight will show.”

Natividad, going to the window, had opened it, and was leaning out into
the street.

“I tell you I have seen that face somewhere before,” he reiterated.

“So have I,” added the Marquis, going to the window as well.

Dick joined them, and watched the skeletonlike old man across the
street He was tracking Huascar, like a little boy playing at brigands,
childishly taking ineffective cover behind carts, pedestrians and trees.
The Indian had noticed him, and turned once or twice; then continued on
his way openly, quite unconcerned.

Suddenly, the Marquis, pensively leaning against the window,
straightened himself with an exclamation.

“That is Orellana! The father of Maria-Cristina de Orellana!”

Natividad started.

“You are right. That’s who it is.... I remember him well now.”

They remained as if stunned by this apparition from the terrible past;
this ghost come to remind them that he too had had a beautiful daughter;
that she had vanished ten years before, during the Interaymi, and that
he would never see her again. The Marquis, crushed by a flood of old
memories, sat inert in an armchair, deaf to Natividad’s reassuring
words, and refused to touch a mouthful of the meal prepared for them.

Dick, at the Marquis’ exclamation, had dashed down into the street,
caught up with the mysterious old man at the corner of the square, and
put a hand on his shoulder. The stranger turned, looking at the young
man fixedly.

“What do you desire, señor?” he asked in a toneless voice.

“I want to know why you are following that man.” Dick pointed to
Huascar, just disappearing at another corner.

“Do you not know, then? The great day of the Interaymi is near. I am
following that man because he commands the Red Ponchos, who are taking
my daughter to the Cuzco. She is the Bride of the Sun, you know. But
this time I shall not let her die! I shall save her, and we will return
together to Lima, where her fiancée is waiting. Adios señor!”

He stalked away on his long legs, leaning on the crook.

“Mad!” said Dick aloud. Then he clenched his fists as if to hold his own
reason. This inaction would drive him insane! To think that in the very
heart of a supposedly civilized city there was nothing to do but to wait
And wait for what? Huascar’s good pleasure; his good pleasure to keep
his word or break it Could he force that house alone? He could at all
events try, and fight his way to Maria-Teresa’s feet, even if he was
killed the minute afterwards.

He stopped, and pulled himself together.

What good purpose would that serve? No, he must wait; wait until
midnight, when Huascar would return. That was the only thing to do; ruse
for ruse, and the golden voice of money to talk to those Indians. But
midnight was a long way off. Ten times the young man paced round
the square, wondering and raging. Surely there were behind all these
beflagged and festooned windows a legion of Christian men who would rise
like a hurricane if they knew the abominable truth!

Dick’s thoughts were interrupted by the appearance of a dancing,
singing, howling mob at the end of the neighboring calle. This, then,
was the populace which he would have raised against Garcia, and which
obeyed Garcia, while the Dictator, like Pilate, washed his hands of it.
The mob approached, to the thunder of drums and bugles, while flaming
torches and swaying paper lanterns lit up the scene, for night had now
fallen. Overhead fluttered banners adorned with crosses and strange
symbols perhaps two thousand years old. Christians, this crowd? Perhaps!

Not a man of the upper classes was to be seen, not even a high-caste
Indian. Here were only the dregs of the city; a mass of howling maniacs,
whirling and whooping round a huge bonfire which had flared up in the
center of the square, their wild yells punctuated by salvas of cohetes
(crackers). On one side of the square they were singing hymns; on the
other they were drinking, smoking, swearing. One group of natives swept
into a church, still dancing; another entered the theater and became
religiously silent, awaiting the arrival of Garcia, for whom a gala was
being given.

Dick, arms crossed and brows knit, glared at the passing groups. There
was nothing to be done with such brutes as these! Then he took a sudden
resolution. To the four winds with Huascar and his promises! He would go
to that little adobe house! Feeling to see if his revolver was safe in
his pocket, he turned, only to be confronted by Huascar.

“Señor, where go you?”

He put a hand on the engineer’s arm, restraining him. Dick roughly
shouldered the man away.

“You know where I am going.”

Again the Indian intervened.

“Return to the inn, señor,” he advised calmly. “I will be there in two
hours’ time with the little lord. But if you make another step I cannot
answer for the safety of your betrothed.” Huascar’s voice had changed as
he said “your betrothed.” Dick, looking up quickly, saw nothing but
hatred in the Indian’s eyes. Maria-Teresa is lost, he thought
despairingly. Then a flash of light seemed to illumine the abyss into
which he felt himself rolling with her.

“Huascar,” he said abruptly, “if you save Don Christobal’s daughter...”

He stopped a moment, for his heart was beating as if it would burst.
In those few seconds of silence, which seemed an eternity, the barbaric
picture of that scene became imprinted on his brain for all time--this
dark archway under which they had instinctively drawn, the somber and
deserted street before them, the intermittent uproar from the plaza
mayor, and, in the adjacent streets, the banging of cohetes thrown by
mischievous boys under the feet of all that passed. Just opposite, at
a window on the first floor, half-a-dozen globules of colored fire
flickered in the darkness; a family of royal Arequipenos had been
illuminating in honor of Garcia before going to see the torchlight
procession, or to the gala at the Municipal Theater.

Dick waited until an Indian, loaded down with horse-cloths, had passed
and vanished; perhaps, sub-consciously, he was awaiting the miracle
which would render unnecessary what he was about to say. The Indian
waited, motionless as a statue.

“If you save her, I swear to you by my God that she shall never be my
wife.”

Huascar did not answer at once. He was evidently taken by surprise.

“I shall save her,” he said at last. “Return to the inn, señor. I shall
be there at midnight.” He turned and walked toward the river without
another look at Dick, who made his way back to the plaza mayor, his ears
buzzing, convinced that he had delivered Maria-Teresa.



V

AbsorRed by his thoughts, shaken by the mental storm through which he
had just passed, Dick did not notice what was happening about him, and
was nearly ridden down by a detachment of hussars clearing a way to
the theater. The hussars were escorting an open carriage drawn by four
splendidly-caparisoned horses, and seated in the carriage were two men:
General Garcia, in all the glory of the fullest of full uniforms, and
beside him, in immaculate evening-dress, Oviedo Runtu.

When he saw the Indian, Dick made as if to rush after the carriage,
but he was swept away in a swirl of the crowd and, hardly knowing how,
carried right into the theater on that human flood. He at once tried
to escape, but could not battle his way back to the door. Garcia,
surrounded by a glittering staff, was bowing to the cheering crowd from
the front of the presidential box. Dick was so placed that he could
not see Oviedo Runtu. The Indian, modestly hidden behind a column, left
Garcia to wrestle with his glory alone.

A French actress, “of the Comédie Française,” if the bills were to be
believed, came before the footlights and recited Spanish verse, in which
Garcia was hailed as “the Savior of the country.”

Then the curtain rose, revealing a pedestal, on which was the bust of a
general. It had served several times before for a like purpose, but this
time it was supposed to represent Garcia. Round it was grouped the whole
company, which intoned a triumphal chorus. Then, one by one, the actors
filed past the bust, each with his little speech and a wreath.

The bust was almost buried in flowers when an Indian girl appeared. She
was wearing the Quichua costume:--a little tunic open at the neck, and
a dozen skirts of various colors worn one on the other; over her
shoulders, a woolen mantlet, secured at the throat by a spoon-shaped
brooch.

She was greeted with a roar of delight by the Indian part of the
audience. And she, in her turn, that nothing might be lacking in
Garcia’s triumph, sang something in Indian, something by which the
Indians also put all their hope and trust in the Savior of the Country.
At the last verse she shouted, as was only meet, “Long live Garcia!” the
crowd taking up the echo. There were other voices, however, shouting,
“Huayna Capac Runtu!”

A gorgeous din followed. Every Indian in the theater jumped up,
cheering, joined by scores of half-breeds who suddenly remembered their
descent and, tired of being treated with contempt by the whites, joined
in the roar of “Long live Huayna Capac Runtu!” The purely Peruvian
element sat motionless in stalls and boxes.

Meanwhile, in the presidential box, Garcia had drawn to his constellated
bosom the resplendent shirt-front of the bank-clerk, embracing
before all the illustrious descendant of the Inca kings. The house,
enthusiastic before, became delirious.

The gala was over, and Dick was carried out of the theater as he had
been swept in. He had seen enough to realize how useless had been the
Marquis’ visit to the Dictator. Garcia was helpless without the Indians,
and the real master of the situation was Oviedo. Dick had now no hope
but in Huascar. It was eleven o’clock, and he hurried back to the inn.

There he found Natividad and the Marquis equally anxious at his
protracted absence. As to Uncle Francis, nobody had seen him since the
arrival at Arequipa, and nobody worried about him. Dick told them of his
meeting with Huascar; he was convinced now of the Indian’s good faith.

They did not exchange another word until midnight, anxiously peering out
of the windows for some sign to confirm their hopes. Natividad was as
anxious as his two companions. He was a kind-hearted man, and had gone
so far into the adventure that he could no longer withdraw without
loss of self-esteem. Moreover, he was so compromised, administratively
speaking, that, all things taken into consideration, he could not do
better than stand by the Marquis to the end. Whatever the result, he was
sure that Don Chris-tobal would not let him starve.

Midnight came, and the twelve strokes rang out from the church tower.

The theater had long since given up its last enthusiasts, and the square
was now more or less deserted. All the paper lanterns had gone out, but
the night was a clear one, and they could easily distinguish the shadows
moving homewards under the arcades. None of them, though, came toward
the inn. A quarter past twelve. Not one of the three men in the room
dared say a word!

At half-past twelve, still nothing! The Marquis heaved a strangled sigh.
At a quarter to one, Dick went over to the little lamp smoking on the
table, took out his revolver, and opened it to see that it was loaded
and working properly.

“Huascar has fooled us like children,” he said, vainly striving to
control his voice. “He came here in broad daylight, with the knowledge
of his accomplices, and threw sand in our eyes. He has kept us quiet for
hours that were priceless to them, and might have been to us. I have no
hope left. Maria-Teresa is lost, but I shall see her again if I die for
it.”

He left the room. Don Christobal, catching up his cloak and arming
himself as well, followed, Natividad in his wake. They crossed the
square in silence. At the top of the alley leading down to the adobe
house, Natividad asked the Marquis what he intended to do against fifty
armed men.

“The first man we see will be offered a thousand soles to speak. If he
refuses, a knife in the ribs. Then we shall see.”

When they reached the point where they had been stopped by Civil Guards
earlier in the day, they were astonished to find the sentry gone. For a
moment, there was a flicker of hope in their hearts, but when they had
advanced another twenty yards and saw the house unguarded, they realized
the truth. They ran forward and entered the open door. All the rooms
were deserted. In one of them they found the same pungent odor as at
the hacienda on the Chorillos road. “They are lost,” muttered Natividad,
while the Marquis, breaking down at last, called his children’s names
aloud through the deserted house.

Dick, exploring the place, fell over a crouching figure, and put all his
pent-up rage into throwing the man. Half strangled and trembling with
fear, the captured half-breed explained that he was the owner of the
house. He had been roistering in the city, but the threat of death
sobered him and loosened his tongue.

Just after eleven o’clock, a closed carriage had driven up to the door.
He did not know who had entered it, but it had been escorted to the
station by all the women and the Red Ponchos. This he knew for certain,
because he had followed them out of curiosity. At the station, the man
they called Huascar had given him some money, telling him to go away
and not to return to the house before daylight “The blackguard!” growled
Dick. “He knew we would come here when he didn’t turn up! Come on! To
the station, quick!”

When they reached it, it was with the greatest difficulty that they
finally unearthed an employee asleep on a bench. He made no secret
of the fact that a large number of Indians had left at a quarter past
eleven, in a special train ordered by Oviedo Runtu “for his servants.”
 No, they could not get another special train that night for all the
money in the world. If they wanted to get to Sicuapi as well, they
would have to wait until the morning. This said, he returned to his
interrupted nap.

That night was a terrible one for the three men. They made another vain
attempt to reach Garcia, and then wandered through the streets until
dawn. Don Christobal was beginning to talk incoherently, and showed all
the signs of approaching dementia. Again and again Dick led them back to
the adobe house and wandered through the empty rooms. The half-breed had
taken to his heels.

Natividad was not in a much better condition than his companions, and
when the first morning train started, it carried three specters in one
compartment. Other travelers, hesitating at the door, literally bolted
when they saw their wild eyes.

The train went as far as Sicuani, but they did not reach it the same
day, being obliged to pass a night at Juliaca, nearly ten thousand feet
above sea-level, where they again found the trace of the Red Ponchos.
It was intensely cold, and all three were taken with mountain sickness,
which made them so weak that they were forced to take some rest. They
only partially recovered next day, at Sicuani. There was a motor service
between Sicuani and Cuzco, which was working despite the revolution, but
the Marquis, unwilling to trust anybody or anything, bought a car for
himself at a fabulous price. He was also moved by the thought that it
might prove useful later on.

Just as they were leaving the station road in their motor, they met
Uncle Francis, cool, unperturRed, and fresh as a daisy. An avalanche of
questions did not ruffle his calm.

“Well, I lost you at Arequipa and did not know what to do. Then I said
to myself; ‘They are sure to be somewhere near the Red Ponchos.’ We are
following them, are we not? So when I saw one, I stuck to him like
a leech. I followed him to a little house near the river, which was
guarded by soldiers. That, said I to myself, must be where these dear
children are being kept prisoners. You did not appear, and I thought
you had gone ahead. Everybody knows where these ceremonies take place,
I suppose. But I did not, so I stuck to my Red Poncho. When they went to
the station, I followed. Somebody told me it was a special train and I
couldn’t get in, but I gave the guard two soles and slept in his van.
When we arrived, I couldn’t see you anywhere. I went on to Cuzco, but
you were not there either. So I came back to meet this morning’s train.
And here I am!”

Uncle Francis does not realize to this day how near he came to being
strangled by his dutiful nephew, or stabRed by the Marquis. His superb
calm nearly drove them frantic.

“Where did they take Maria-Teresa?” demanded Dick, roughly, though he
owed the unconscious tracker more thanks than blame.

“You know well enough! To the House of the Serpent.”

“The House of the Serpent!” Dick turned, to Natividad, gripping his
sleeve. “I have heard you say something about that place. What does it
mean?”

“It means that they are in the Antechamber of Death.”



BOOK V--THE HOUSE OF THE SERPENT



I

Maria-Teresa opened her eyes. What was this dream from which she had
awakened, or into which she had fallen? Little Christobal’s plaintive
voice brought her keen realization of the brutal truth. She held out
her arms to the child, but felt neither his kisses nor his tears on her
face. Her eyes were still heavy with magic sleep, and she opened them
with difficulty.

When, gradually, she came out of the abyss of darkness and dreams into
which she could be plunged almost instantly by the sacred sachets always
ready in the hideous fists of the three living mummies; the mammaconas,
too, had terrible perfumes which they burned round her in precious
vases, sandia more pungent than incense, more hallucinating than opium,
which transformed the Bride of the Sun into a beautiful living statue.
Then they could sing their songs uninterruptedly, for Maria-Teresa had
gone to another world, and heard nothing of what happened about her.

Curiously enough, her spirit then carried her back to the hour when the
knock had come at her window in Callao and when, dropping the big green
register to the floor, she had run to meet Dick. She was worried, too,
by the everpresent memory of an unfinished letter to their agent in
Antwerp, which she had been writing when that other knock at the
window had sent her running to Dick again. She remembered with horrible
distinctness the appearance of the three living mummies, swaying in
the darkness, and the feel on her mouth and face of the hands made
parchment-like by the eternal night of the catacombs. Waking from this
lethargic slumber, she thought she had shaken off a dream, but when her
eyes opened, she no longer knew whether she had not just entered into a
terrible dreamland.

When Maria-Teresa opened her eyes this time, she was in the House of the
Serpent. She knew, for the mammaconas had told her, that when she, awoke
there she would be near unto death. There it was that Huayna Capac,
father of the last King of the Incas, would come to fetch the bride
offered to Atahualpa, and take her with him to the Enchanted Realms of
the Sun. In the lucid moments left to her during the voyage, when she
was given the nectar that kept her alive, the mammaconas had taught her
the duties of the Bride, and the first principles of the faith to which
she was to be sacrificed.

At first, Maria-Teresa had hoped that she would be happy enough to lose
her reason, or that the terrible fever which took her would free the
troubled soul before the body was taken to martyrdom. But the mammaconas
knew the secrets which cure such fevers, and had given her to drink
a reddish liquid, chanting the while: “Fever has spread over you its
poisoned robe. The hated race shall never know our secrets, but our love
for Atahualpa’s bride is greater than our hatred. Drink and be well, in
the name of Atahualpa, who awaits thee!”

So she had returned to life, only to die again, and so, a nerveless
statue, she had traveled right across Peru, to the little adobe house at
Arequipa, the last stopping-place before the House of the Serpent. There
she had seen Huascar for the first time, bearing in his arms something
covered with a veil. Careless of all the listening ears about her, she
had risen, and called to him as to a savior. He had answered: “Thou
belongest to the Sun, but before he takes you, thou shalt have a great
joy. Thou shalt see thy little brother again.” Then he lifted the veil
and showed her Christobal, sleeping. She had run forward, while he had
retreated in terror. None but the appointed may touch the Bride of
the Sun, and the three guardians of the Temple were there, armed, and
swaying gently. One of them signed to a mammacona, who carried the
sleeping boy to his sister; she burst into tears, for the first time
since her captivity. The child opened his eyes and clung to her,
sobbing, “Maria-Teresa! Maria-Teresa!”

“How did he come here? You would not hurt him!”

“We shall do as he wishes. He came to us, not we to him. He himself
shall decide his fate. Let him beware of his words. That is all I can
say to you, all I can do for you. Is that not so, ye Guardians of the
Temple?”

Maria-Teresa, clutching the child to her, looked at them with fresh
terror painted on her features; at Huascar, calm and motionless; at the
three living mummies, gently swaying.

“What do you mean? How can a child beware of his words?”

Huascar, without moving, then spoke to little Christobal.

“Child, will you come with me? I will take you to your father.”

“No! I will stop with Maria-Teresa!”

“The child has spoken,” said Huascar. “So it is ordered. Is it not so,
Guardians of the Temple?”

The three horrible skulls swayed gently.

Then Huascar, before leaving, had chanted the words of an Almara psalm:
“Blessed are those who shall come pure to the Kingdom of the Sun, pure
as the hearts of little children, at the dawn of the world.”

“Huascar, have pity! Remember my mother! Have pity!”

Huascar bowed to the Guardians of the Temple and went out silently.

Maria-Teresa, crooning over little Christobal, covered him with kisses.
“Why did you come, little one? Why did you come?”

“To tell you not to be afraid, Maria-Teresa. Papa and Dick are coming.
They are following, and will save us both. But if you must die, little
sister, I will die with you.”

The mammaconas, moving silently, had lit the sandia in their precious
vases; brother and sister slept together, in each other’s arms.

Now she had awakened in the House of the Serpent, and Christobal was not
with her. She struggled to regain consciousness, heard his cries near
by, and rose from the cushioned couch on which she had been reclining.
There was Christobal, naked, struggling in the hands of the mammaconas.
Terrified, she made as if to rush to his assistance, but six of the
women surrounded her, calmed her with fluttering hands. No harm would
come to the child; he was being dressed, as she would be dressed, in a
robe made of bat skins. They spoke with infinite respect, giving her a
title she had not heard before; they called her Coya, which, in Inca,
means queen.

The mammaconas took her in their powerful arms, lifting her like a
child, and took off the sulphur-hued robes with which she had been
adorned in the deserted hacienda. Again they anointed her with sweet
oils and perfumed creams, chanting the while a slow and restful lullaby,
stilling to the senses. They were tall women from the province of Puno,
born on the shores of Titicaca, strong and beautiful; their walk was
almost rhythmic, supple and harmonious, while their rounded arms showed
golden against the black of their veils. They had splendid eyes, all
that could be seen of their faces.

Maria-Teresa and little Christobal were afraid of them, but they were
not cruel. Two of their number were to die with Maria-Teresa, to prepare
the nuptial chamber in the Palace of the Sun, and they were the most
lively, the happiest, the most consoling and understanding. They were
wholly happy, and were sad that the Bride did not share that happiness,
doing all they could to make her understand the joy of being chosen
among all as the Goya. On their ankles they wore great golden bracelets,
and in their ears heavy circlets.

The child was no longer crying. They had promised him that if he
was good he would return to Maria-Teresa’s arms. She also obeyed the
mammaconas docilely. The chant with which they filled her ears lulled
her spirit, still heavy with the magic sleep.

There was a thought, too, which gave her courage. Those who were dearest
to her knew where she was, what had happened to her, who had carried her
off, and why. If little Christobal had been able to find her, surely her
father and Dick could do so. They would both be saved. If Dick had not
appeared before, it was because he delayed until he was sure of success.
At any moment they might appear with the police and soldiers, all these
savages would vanish in the mountains, and the horrible dream would be
ended. She felt as weak as a child face to face with Destiny.



II

In the Home of the Sun,” sang the mammaconas for the hundredth time,
“the trees are heavy with fruits, and when they are ripe the branches
bend down to the earth, that the Indian need not even raise his hand
to pick them. Do not weep! Thou shalt live eternally, eternally! Death
knocks at the doors of the earthly palace, and the Spirit of Evil
stretches his accursed wings over our forests. Weep not! On high in
the heavens, near the Sun and the Moon, who is his sister and his first
bride, near Charca, who is his faithful page, thou shalt live eternally,
eternally!”

On Maria-Teresa’s perfumed tresses they placed the royal borla, its
golden fringe overshadowing her eyes and giving her a strange hieratic
beauty. She shivered when the bat-skin robe slipped over her limbs;
it was as if she had donned something viscous and icy, which from that
instant made her part and parcel of the eternal night of which the bat
is Coya.

Then they placed on her wrist a circlet which she recognized as the
Golden Sun bracelet. She realized that her last hours had begun, and
thought sadly of the happy yet terrible day when this bracelet first
appeared in her existence; she remembered the horror-stricken face of
Aunt Agnes, the old duenna crossing herself, her father’s skepticism and
Dick’s loving laugh. Where were they all now? Why--why did they not come
to her rescue?

Maria-Teresa stretched out her arms to the Providence that seemed to
have deserted her, and closed them again on little Christobal, placed in
her lap by one of the attendants. When she saw him, clad like herself in
the robes of night, she was seized with revolt. This could not be! She
turned to the Guardians of the Temple, who came forward in answer to
her look, gently swaying. There was no doubt of it! There were the same
horrible skulls which Dick and she had seen taken out of the earth, come
from their tombs to take her back with them. But she _would_ speak, and
test their mercy. She turned away her eyes, mortally afraid that the
steady swaying would overpower her will, and told them she was ready to
die quietly, as befitted a Bride of the Sun, if only they would spare
the little boy and send him safely back to Lima.

“I will not leave you, Maria-Teresa! I will not leave you!”

“The child has spoken. So it is ordained.”

The Guardians of the Temple exchanged glances and moved away again,
gently swaying.

Maria-Teresa burst into tears, the ring of madness in her high sobs,
while the little boy clung desperately, striving to console her.

“Do not cry, Maria-Teresa! They will come to save us. Papa and Dick will
come.... Oh! What was that?”

From behind the walls come the strains of music. A curtain is raised,
and the players enter--tall, sad-faced men who take their places in a
ring around them. They are the sacred players of the quenia, the flute
which is made of human bones. Their song is sadder than a De Profundis,
and Maria-Teresa shivers, her beseeching eye exploring in vain every
corner of the great bare room which is the antechamber of her tomb.

Monstrous, Cyclopean masses of stone, hexagonal in shape and placed
one upon the other without mortar, held in place by their mighty weight
alone, from the walls of the House of the Serpent. She knows where
she is, for the mammaconas have told her. There are two Houses of the
Serpent, one at Cajamarca, the other at Cuzco. They are called thus
because of the stone serpent carved over the main entrances. The serpent
is there to guard the sacred precincts, and never allows the victims of
the Sun to escape. Aunt Agnes and old Irene have often told her this,
and until now she has always laughed.

Maria-Teresa, then, is in Cuzco, in a palace well known to travelers,
historians, and archaeologists; a place which all may enter, which
all may leave in freedom; a place to which guides bring the curious
stranger. Then what does it all mean? Why should she fear? They are Sure
to come to her rescue. But why are they still not here?

Which way will they come? Listen! Yes, above the sad piping of the
quenias rise other sounds: murmurs, footsteps, and the dull rumble of
a gathering throng. It comes from over there, from behind that vast
curtain, that vast golden-yellow curtain which stretches right across
the room and prevents her from seeing. What does it hide, and what is
that crowd awaiting?

Maria-Teresa questions the two mammaconas who are to die with her.
They are stretched at her feet in their long black veils, and rise with
respect to answer. The faithful are waiting to adore King Huayna
Capac, who will come to lead her back to Atahualpa. Maria-Teresa,
uncomprehending, asks more questions. He will come from the bowels of
the earth to claim them, and they will pass through the realms of night
in their robes of mourning, till they reach the Enchanted Realms of the
Sun. Then they will be clad all in gold, with golden dresses and jewels
of gold, for all time.

“And the little boy?” asked Maria-Teresa.

To her horror, they turned their heads away and did not answer. She
caught Christobal more closely to her, covering his face with kisses,
as if she wished to smother him with caresses to save him from a more
terrible fate. The child strove to console her. “Do not be afraid,” he
whispered. “Papa and Dick will come, not the wicked King. They will soon
be here.”

On one of the giant stones are mysterious signs to which the whispering
mammaconas draw each other’s attention--strange sculptured figures with
the head of man and the body of the coraquenque. In all time and on
all the earth, so say the Incas, there has been only one couple of
coraquenques, two of the mystic birds which appeared in the mountains
at the coronation of each new king and gave him two of their feathers to
adorn his head-dress.

Behind the curtain, the noise has ceased, and the song of the quenias
suddenly grows so piercing that Maria-Teresa cries out in terror.
Christobal, clutching at her bosom, nestles closer. Then the curtains
are parted, and the whole hall is revealed.

Below, a long way below her, is a prostrate and silent crowd. On
the porphyry steps which stretch down to this crowd stand the three
Guardians of the Temple. A step below them, Huas-car, his arms crossed
under his red poncho. Lower still, four prostrate Red Ponchos, who
are the Guards of the Sacrifice. Their heads, completely hidden by the
sacred bonnet and ear-caps, are bent so low that none can see their
faces.

Surely there is somebody in that huge crowd who will free her!
Maria-Teresa, filled with a wild hope, rises with the child in her arms,
and cries for mercy. But the booming answer takes away all hope. “Muera
la Coya! Muera la Coya! To death with the Queen!” They give her the
title in Aïmara, but clamor for her death in Spanish, that she may
understand.

The four mammaconas on her right, the four others on her left and the
two who were to die with her surrounded the young girl, forced her back
to her seat. But she still struggled, holding up the boy, and begging
that he at least might be spared.

“He is the sacrifice of Pacahuamac,” came the answer. And the
mammaconas, taking up the echo, chanted: “The sacrifice of Pacahuamac!
Before all things began, before the Sun and before the Moon, his sister,
was the Great Spirit, Pacahuamac. Pacahuamac, the Great Spirit!”

Down below there, the surging crowd took up the cry. Huascar, turning,
commanded silence with a gesture.

They were all standing now, except the four Red Ponchos on the last
step; still prostrate and silent. The cry of the quenias rose again,
strident and shrill; soon they alone were to be heard. Maria-Teresa,
crushed, conquered, had ceased struggling. Not a voice, not a sign, had
answered the appeal. In a groan, she begged the mammaconas for their
perfumes. “Have mercy. Bring your perfumes. Then we shall not suffer.”
 The two who were to die with her shook their heads. “We must go to
Atahualpa waking, with all our hearts and all our senses, that heart and
senses may live hereafter.”

The quenia players ceased their music, and a terrible, gripping silence
descended on the hall. The faithful fell to their knees, and Huascar’s
sonorous voice commanded silence.

“Silence! Silence in the House of the Serpent! The dead King is coming!
Listen!”

It was as if an earthquake had shaken the walls. The place was filled
with thunder. But instead of coming from the heavens, it rose from the
very bowels of the earth.

Little Christobal trembled in his sister’s arms, clung closer, and
whispered, “Look, Maria-Teresa! Look at the Red Ponchos.” She lifted her
eyes, looked, trembled, and forced herself to silence. While every other
head was bent in worship, the Guards of the Sacrifice had raised theirs,
and under the sacred bonnets, despite the stain that disguised them,
Maria-Teresa recognized the faces of Dick, her father, Natividad and
Uncle Francis.

When she looked a second time, the four bonnets were prostrate again,
and a cry from Huascar, herald of Huayna Capac, brought the multitude to
its feet.

Another tremor shook the very foundations of the temple, and one wall
seemed to vanish.

“Huayna Capac!”



III

That part of the wall on which were sculptured the strange signs and
the two human-headed birds had opened, as if on a pivot. Maria-Teresa
cowered and covered her face with her hands, for the dead king was
emerging from the gulf of shadow beyond. The wall swung back into
position, and the young girl, opening her eyes again, saw before her
a two-seated throne of massive gold. The seat on the right of the dead
majesty was unoccupied. The great crowd of Indians was bent to the dust
in adoration, while the dirge of the quenia-players rose to the roof in
ever-increasing volume.

The two mammaconas who were to accompany Maria-Teresa to the Enchanted
Realms of the Sun stood on each side of her, while the ten other
priestesses, formed in two lines, passed and re-passed before her, in
the intricate steps of a sacred dance. When they came before the Dead
One’s throne, they fell to their knees, then rose again, chanting: “This
is Huayna Capac, King of kings, son of the great Tapac Inca Yupanqui.
He has come by the Corridors of Night to claim the new Coya offered
by the Inca people to his son Atahualpa.” Then they moved backwards,
crossing and re-crossing, swaying their black veils. Twelve times they
repeated this movement, and each time the chant grew louder, while the
purl of the quenias swelled and broadened.

Maria-Teresa, holding Christobal closely to her, stared fixedly at
Huayna Capac, and the Dead One seemed to stare back at her. He also wore
the bat-skin robe made for the Corridors of Night, but beneath it could
be seen the royal mantle and the golden sandals. His face, calm and
severe, majestic in its still beauty, nearly had the hues of life; it
was framed in masses of coal-black hair, crowned with the royal borla in
which quivered the plumes of the coraquenque. Under the half-closed lids
the eyes seemed living. The dead king was seated naturally, his hands
resting on his knees, and so life-like was his whole attitude that to
Maria-Teresa’s horrified eyes he seemed to be breathing. Only little
Christobal heard her half-strangled cry, for the mammaconas were
repeating their chant for the twelfth time, and with the piercing note
of the quenias, deadened all other sound in the House of the Serpent.

Down below there, the mob of Indians was swaying, swaying gently from
right to left, in imitation of the rhythmic movements of the three
Guardians of the Temple. Maria-Teresa kept her eyes fixed on the dead
king, not only because he was just opposite her and, half fascinated,
she could not do otherwise, but also because she did not wish to look at
the Red Ponchos. She felt that if her eyes were allowed to wander for an
instant, they would fatally betray the four.

Maria-Teresa was now as if half buried in the idea of death; she felt as
if the earth had already claimed her, only leaving her head free for a
little longer. She was becoming gradually hypnotized by the motionless
monarch, while the fanatical crowd about her wondered, awestruck.

Huascar raised his arm, two fingers of his right hand imposing immediate
and absolute silence. The Guardians of the Temple drew near, pointing
towards the vacant seat on the golden throne. Two mammaconas lifted up
Maria-Teresa, carried her to it, and placed her beside Huayna Capac,
son of the great Tapac Inca Yupanqui. Then the double throne was turned
until it faced the assembly and the Red Ponchos.

Maria-Teresa closed her eyes, shivering at the thought of the
corpse beside her. She dared not open them, realizing with horrible
distinctness that if she did she must try to run down to Dick, or call
out something that would betray them. Though her eyes were closed, and
she outwardly seemed as dead as the mummy beside her, Maria-Teresa knew
what was happening. Little Christobal, peeping over the curve of his
sister’s arms, was watching everything, and a whisper, so low that
she hardly felt the breath rising along her bare neck, said: “Dick
has lifted his head.... Papa is looking at us... we must not move.”
 Maria-Teresa pressed her trembling fingers on the child’s lips, and he
was silent.

So they were there. Her tired brain, working, working, wondered what
they were going to do. It was horrible to know them there, hidden and
helpless. For if they had not been helpless, they would not be hidden,
they would have come with police and soldiers. Could it be that the
Indians were masters of the country now? Then she thought of the
revolution, of Garcia, who had once loved her. Why had they not gone to
him? At a word, he would have come with his whole army. And they, hidden
under their red ponchos, what could they do? What was their plan?

The mammaconas were chanting:--

“Earthquakes shook the world. The moon was girt with rings of many
colors. Thunder fell on the royal palace, and reduced it to ashes. An
eagle, hard pursued by falcons, circled over the great square of the
city, filling the heavens with his cries. Pierced by the talons of his
foes, he fell dead at the feet of the noblest among the Incas.”

At these words, recalling the defeat and death of their last ruler,
all bent their heads, groaning, and the breath of the quenia players
trembled in the dead men’s bones. Huascar had also bent to the ground;
then he raised his forehead and his eyes met those of Maria-Teresa. She
shivered, and when he moved toward her, she thought her last hour had
come. She had been able to appeal to the mercy of the crowd, but she
could not call to this man, whose look showed that he loved her. She
closed her eyes.

Huascar’s voice reached her, slow, cadenced, and monotonous.

“Coya, thou belongest to Huayna Capac, the great King who will take thee
to the House of the Sons of the Sun. We leave thee alone with him. He
will lead thee through the Corridors of Night, which no living man must
know, and in the temple will seat thee among the Hundred Wives. Thou
must obey him, thou must rise only if he rises! Thou must obey. And
remember that the serpent watches in the House of the Serpent.”

He withdrew, still facing her, with the three Guardians of the Temple,
while the great crowd below flowed silently through the three doors.

All the mammaconas followed, drawing their black veils over their faces,
like widows leaving a cemetery. Even the two who were also to die left
her, first bending to kiss her feet, peeping shoeless from under the
bat-skin robe.

Darkness was rapidly gaining the hall. Why were they leaving her alone
there? What was this horror which even they dared not see? She must not
rise unless he rose. Would this dead thing come to life, then, take
her by the hand, and lead her into the eternal night? What of the Red
Ponchos? She looked. They were still there, prostrate at the foot of the
steps. The Guards of the Sacrifice, she had heard them called. They were
stopping! A surge of joy filled her heart She felt less afraid now.

The Guardians of the Temple had left. Huascar had left.

Would the Red Ponchos follow? No, they did not move. She was watching
them now, with her whole soul. They were still there, motionless, ready
to spring to her rescue when the hall was empty, ready to carry her to
the horses that must be waiting. The Dead One at all events could do
nothing to prevent it.

There were only twenty Indians left in the hall now... only five...
four... three.... They turned slowly at the doorway to look at her
again... She sat motionless, rigid.... She must not move unless the Dead
One moved.... Only the four Red Ponchos remained....

She half screamed.... They also had risen, pacing slowly toward the
doors.

It could not be! They could not be deserting her! But they were going
away like the others, without looking in her direction. No, she must
not scream... she must wait patiently... wait for a sign. Still walking
slowly, three of them had gone to the three doors, but the fourth, Dick,
turned suddenly, his finger on his lips.

Forgetting Huascar’s words, Maria-Teresa half rose in her seat. There
was a revolver in Dick’s fist now, and her father had vanished through
one of the doors, looking to make sure that the courtyard was deserted.
Then his voice gave the signal:--“Recuerda!” (Remember!) Dick dashed
up the porphyry steps, Don Christobal following, while the two others
remained at the doors.

“Come, Maria-Teresa! Quick!”

Dick stretched out his hands to take little Christobal, and Maria-Teresa
had risen, when a terrible whistling sound filled the hall, and the two
prisoners, shrieking, were hurled back into the seat by the monstrous
folds of a huge serpent which seemed to spring into life about them,
binding them down to the throne of Death. The serpent of the House of
the Serpent had come to claim his prey.

Raising his revolver, Dick thundered at the hideous head towering
above them, whistling with wide-open jaws, and tore at the coils which
imprisoned his fiancée. His hands fell, not on living flesh, but on
hard, cold metal; copper rings which ground one against the other,
overlapped, and drew tighter. It was in vain that he and Don Christobal
tore at them with furious hands.

“Look out! They are coming!” shouted Natividad from the doorway, and the
hall was invaded by Indians, while the Serpent shrieked stridently, and
a thousand rattles seemed to sound the alarm. The Marquis still tore at
the coils that were choking his children, but Dick, hesitating a moment,
dashed down the stairs. In a twinkling, the hall was full of Indians,
priests, caciques, mammaconas, scores of Quichua soldiers from the train
of Oviedo Runtu, who alone remained invisible.

Huascar appeared, still calm and immovable, as if this scene did not
surprise him, as if nothing could surprise him. Had he known beforehand
what was to have happened, he could not have given his orders more
deliberately. Don Christobal, Natividad, and Uncle Francis were tied up
in a trice, the latter at last alarmed by the brutality of his captors.
Dick had disappeared.

“Take them away,” ordered Huascar.

Don Christobal struggled, turned and looked once again. “Maria-Teresa!
Christobal!” Then he too was hurried away.

Meanwhile Huascar, more and more somber, directed the search for Dick.
They hunted in vain; he had disappeared like a drop of water in the sea.
Finally, Huascar gave the order to clear the hall again.

Left alone with the Guardians of the Temple, who stood caressing the
serpent’s folds with their hideous little hands, the high-priest went
behind the throne. In a moment, the brazen monster was silent, loosened
its grip, and shrank link by link, until it vanished whence it had come.

Going to the wall, Huascar placed his hand on the coraquenque, and the
massive stones rolled back; the throne shook, slipped backwards, and
vanished down the Corridors of Night, taking with it the dead King,
Maria-Teresa and little Christobal, both unconscious. The wall closed
upon them, hiding again the secrets which only those who are ready to
die may know.

The Guardians of the Temple bent their monstrous heads in obeisance
before Huascar, and in their turn went out Huascar, last High-Priest of
the Incas, was alone in the House of the Serpent Slowly going to the top
of the porphyry steps, he sat down. His head dropped between his hands,
and there he remained till dawn.



IV

Dick, clear of the House of the Serpent by what was little short of a
miracle, crouched down in a niche of the palace wall, hewn out by some
dead Inca hand, and there waited for Huascar throughout the night,
watching the door at which he must appear. He was careless of the
danger he ran, and his very boldness saved him. Not one of the passing
Quichuas, dignitaries of the Interaymi, dreamed for an instant that
the poor Indian wrapped in his poncho, and apparently asleep, was the
sacrilegious stranger who had slipped from their clutches. The darkness,
too, favored him, as it had favored his daring escape; he had merely
turned his red poncho inside out, so that it looked like any other
poncho, and had joined the howling crowd, stopping in it until Huascar’s
order had cleared the hall.

Argue the matter as he would, the young man saw no hope. Garcia’s
victory over the Federal troops at Cuzco had given the district into
the hands of the Indians. The Spanish population, only an eighth of the
50,000 souls in the ancient city, had fled. Never since the Spanish Con
quest had the Quichuas so completely been the masters. Garcia himself
had prudently left the town, waiting for the end of the Interaymi;
and the few troops he had left behind him were heart and soul with the
native population, from which they had been levied, and with which they
shared customs, faith and fetichism. In a word, the Cuzco was as much
the home of the Incas as it had been in the heyday of their despotic
rulers.

When Dick and his companions had reached the outskirts of the city they
had hidden their  motor in a half-deserted country inn, bribing the
landlord. They had at once realized that force was out of the question.
Happily, there remained Garcia’s money. The landlord, a poor half-breed
who asked no better than to become rich, had listened readily, and the
offer of a small fortune had set him off looking for Red Ponchos willing
to betray Huascar.

He found four, the very men who were to be the Guards of the Sacrifice,
in the House of the Serpent. When these men had explained their
functions, the four Europeans could hardly believe their good fortune.
Dick and Don Chris-tobal were so absorRed by the idea of getting
through to the prisoners somehow, that they did not stop to think how
suspiciously easy their task had been. Uncle Francis, a witness of
the bargain, was for once not altogether wrong when he shrugged his
shoulders at their childish scheme to “take him in.”

The Red Ponchos agreed to everything, and the price was fixed, and they
received half-payment. The remainder was to be handed over when the
Marquis’ children were free. The traitors promised to help them escape
from the sacred precincts, and moreover brought them their disguises.

Uncle Francis, chuckling covertly, accepted the part assigned to him
with such readiness, showed such quiet courage in his attitude, that he
reconquered at one stroke the lost esteem of both the Marquis and his
nephew. Natividad, ever ready to believe anything to the discredit of an
Indian, and knowing from experience how easily they were to be bought,
was quite confident in the success of the expedition.

Thoroughly fooled by Huascar, they had walked into the trap, and only
amazing luck had saved one of them. Where were the others now? Where was
the dungeon that held them, and what was to be their fate?

Dick was waiting in the dark street before the palace, determined to
shoot Huascar when he saw him. All night through, nobody came out of the
House of the Serpent. At dawn, the young engineer suddenly felt a hand
on his arm, and, looking up, recognized the old man to whom he had
spoken at Arequipa, the father of Maria Cristina de Orellana.

“Why do you stop here?” asked the stranger. “You won’t see the
procession if you do. Follow me, and I’ll show you my daughter coming
out of the Corridor of Night.”

Dick stared at him. Groups of Indians were passing, all heading in the
same direction. The old man spoke again.

“You may as well go with them. They are all off to see the procession of
the Bride of the Sun.”

Dick followed him mechanically. Why not, after all? He was nearly mad
himself. Why should a madman not be his guide? As they walked, Orellana
babbled on tonelessly.

“I know you well. You want to see the Bride of the Sun. I see you
have even disguised yourself as an Indian to do so. Not in the least
necessary, I assure you. You’ll see her, right enough, if you come with
me. I know Cusco, below ground and above ground, better than any living
man. I have lived in their secret passages for ten years. When I am not
under ground, I guide strangers through the city, and show them where
the Bride of the Sun used to pass on her way to the Temple of Death.
You know that, of course? It’s the same as the Temple of the Sun, only
underneath. I’ll show it you, for it’s worth seeing.

“Fine fêtes this year, señor. Last time, they had to hide themselves
in the Corridors of Night, but to-day they are masters both above and
below, and that dead king of theirs, Huayna Capac, will see daylight
again. They’ll take him all through the city, as they used to do. If you
don’t know that, you haven’t been keeping your ears open.

“Where are your friends? I could have shown it to them as well. And
I don’t charge much; a few centavos keep me going for weeks. All the
innkeepers know me, and send for Orellana when they have visitors. I
know you all quite Well. I saw you at Mollendo, then at Arequipa, and
now here you are again outside the House of the Serpent. That’s where
they always go first. Yes, that’s the way they brought Maria Cristina
ten years ago. She was the prettiest girl in Lima, so they chose her
for their god. I didn’t know then, but this time they won’t have their
way quite so easily. When I saw the Interaymi come round again, I said
to myself: ‘Orellana, you must get ready for them.’ And I’m ready for
them, never fear!”

Thus they crossed the whole city. Dick, walking like a man in a dream,
following to the next station in the martyrdom of his sweetheart, paid
no heed to the wonderful ruins on all sides of him, the mighty buildings
piled rock on rock by demi-gods, and which have not moved, nor will move
until the earth dies, long after the winds of heaven and the quivering
of the mountains have stamped flat the miserable huts left by the
Conquistadors.

They left the city behind them and Orellana, taking Dick by the hand,
like a little child, made him climb the mount which the Quichuas call
the Hill of the Dancing Monkey. Its gigantic summit, hewn into terraces,
galleries and giant stairways by long-dead craftsmen, was already I
crowned with Indians. All eyes were turned toward that other miracle
of Inca work which is Sacsay-Huaynam, a hill of stone fashioned into a
Cyclopean fortress, with three lines of defenses rising one above the
other, each wall dotted with niches from which on this day, as of
yore, armed sentries looked out over the country. On the summit of
Sacsay-Huaynam towered the Intihuatana, or “the pillar on which the sun
is bound.”

Orellana’s broken voice explained it all to Dick, guide-like.

“This pillar, señor, was used by the Incas to measure time. A religious
stone, erected to mark the exact period of the equinoxes. That is why
they call it Intihuatana; it means where the sun is bound.’ Look over
there! You can see the procession starting.... Don’t you understand?
The Corridors of Night run right under the city, from the House of the
Serpent to Sacsay-Huaynam. When my daughter comes out, they will take
her round the hill, and round the Intihuatana. Then, when the Sun has
been freed by the High-Priest, the procession will come down to the
gates of the city.”

Dick could now clearly see the procession forming up on the walls, and
even distinguished Huascar at its head, giving orders. Leaving Orellana,
he hurried toward Sacsay-Huaynam, getting as near as the press of
Indians would allow. He could now see that the solstice pillar, placed
in the center of a circle, was loaded with festoons of flowers and
fruit, while on its summit stood a golden throne. The throne of the Sun,
vanished centuries before, had been brought out from the Corridors of
Night and replaced there before the dawn.

There was silence on Sacsay-Huaynam; a few priests were grouped round
the Pillar, waiting for the hour of noon. Then Huascar appeared, clad in
golden vestments. Facing the throne of the Sun, the High-Priest waited
a few seconds, turned and cried aloud in Aïmara a phrase which was
taken up on all sides in Quichua and Spanish:--“The god is seated on the
Column in all his light!” Then he struck his hands together, giving the
signal for all to march; the god, having visited his people, had been
freed, and continued his voyage through the heavens. The faithful
followed him on earth, from east to west.

The sacred procession sprang into life, led by Huascar. First came a
hundred servitors of the god, simply dressed, whose task it was to
clear the way, chanting paeans of triumph. After them, a group of men
in chequer-board tunics of red-and-white, whom the populace greeted with
shouts of “The amautas! The amautas!” (the sages). Then others all in
white, bearing hammers and maces of silver and copper, who were
the apparitors of the royal palace; the guards and the Inca’s body
attendants, their azure robes blazing with precious metals; finally, the
nobles, with heavy ear-rings marking their rank. The procession wound
slowly down from Sacsay-Huaynam to the plain, and then the double
throne, borne on the shoulders of the noblest among the Indians,
appeared to the multitude. Thousands of throats greeted the dead
king and his living companion; a roar of mingled enthusiasm for
the descendant of Manco Capac, and hatred for the conquering race,
translated by deafening shouts of “Muera la Coya! Muera la Coya!”

Maria-Teresa seemed to hear nothing; pale as marble and beautiful as
a statue, she passed unheeding, little Christobal still in her arms.
Instead of the bat-skin robes, they now wore vicuna tunics, sheer as
silk. Behind them walked the two mammaconas who were to die, their faces
veiled with black; the other women and the three Guardians of the Temple
had disappeared. The cortège was brought up by a company of Quichua
soldiers in modern uniform, rifle on shoulder, tramping to the lilt of
the quenia-players, who closed the march.

The contrast between this antique procession and that fragment of a
modern army was more than curious. Uncle Francis, the only one who could
have really appreciated it under the circumstances, was not there. As
to Dick, he was watching Maria-Teresa with the fixed gaze of a madman.
Strive as he would, he could get no nearer, and so backed out of the
press to run toward the gates of the city, where he hoped to fight his
way to the front ranks.

On the last steps of the Hill of the Dancing Monkey he was immobilized
by the press of people and forced to look with them to the summit of
Sacsay-Huaynam, where, on the top of the highest tower, had appeared the
scarlet figure of a priest, sharp-cut against the azure of the sky.

Dick at once recognized the Preacher of Cajamarca, and voices around him
further explained that this was the chief officer of the quipucamyas,
or Keepers of the Historical Word. His voice, sweeping down from
Sacsay-Huaynam, checked the advance of the procession, chanted the glory
of by-gone days.

Ringing clear and impassioned, it recalled the day when the Stranger and
his diabolical train had first entered those plains after the death of
Atahualpa. As to-day, the Sun blazed over the Imperial City, then full
of altars sacred to his cult. Then, innumerable buildings, which the
conqueror was to leave in ruins, traced white streets in the heart
of the valley, and clustered on the lower slopes of the hills. In the
conqueror’s train was Manco, descendant of kings, in whose name he gave
orders and was obeyed. On that day, when the sun went down behind the
Cordilleras, it might well have been thought that the Empire of the
Incas had ceased to exist.

“But it still lives!” thundered the voice. “The Sun still shines on
his children; the Andes, cradle of our race, still tower to the skies;
Cuzco, navel of the earth, still quivers at the voice of his priests;
Sacsay-Huaynam and the Intihuatana are still standing; the procession of
the Interaymi still starts from these sacred walls!”

At these words, the procession moved on again, and had it not been for
the anachronism of the riflemen bringing up the rear, one could almost
have believed that five hundred years had brought no change in the
plains of the Cuzco.

Dick, Anally free to move on, was despairing of ever getting nearer to
Maria-Teresa when he met Orellana again.

“What are you looking for?” asked the old man. “A place to see from?
Then come with me, and I’ll show you my daughter. I know Cuzco better
than the Incas themselves. Come with me.”

Once again Dick allowed the madman to be his guide. They reentered
the city by way of the Huatanay ravine, spanned to this day by the
Conquistadors’ bridges, and entered a maze of side-streets free
from the crowd. Skirting the prodigious Hatun Rumioc, or
wall-which-is-of-one-rock, they passed Calcaurpata, which tradition
makes the palace of Manco Capac himself, first King of the Incas and
founder of Cuzco; then they turned toward the Plaza Principale, called
Huàcaypata by the Quichuas of to-day as by the Incas of yore. To reach
it, Orellana took Dick through the ruined palace of the Virgins of the
Sun, detailing, as he went, the uses and names of the various rooms. The
young man’s impatient interruptions left him quite unmoved.

“We have plenty of time. You shall see my daughter from so near that you
could speak to her. Stop a minute, and listen to the quenias.
The head of the procession has no more than reached San Domingo. That
church, curiously enough, was built on the very foundations of the
Temple of the Sun.... I have never met a visitor less curious than you
are.... This is the cloister of the Virgins of the Sun.... It has always
been the home of virtue and piety, for the Christians turned it into a
convent under the auspices of Santa Catarina.”

Dick, unable to stand the guide’s jargon any longer, began to run toward
the noise of the advancing procession.

“You might pay me!” shouted Orellana in his wake. “Pay me what you owe
me!” and stooped to pick up the centavos which the young engineer threw
on the ground.

Nearing the plaza principale, Dick again found his way blocked by the
crowd, and forgot his anger in the relief of finding a friend when
Orellana tugged at his poncho again.

“You might as well stop with me,” urged the old man. “Hurrying won’t
help you. I know a little tiny Corridor of Night that will lead us
to the Sun, right to the top stone of one of those temples.... It’s a
temple dedicated to Venus.... They call her Chasca, or the young man
with the long and curly locks, and he’s supposed to be the page of the
Sun. Come with me.” Orellana had taken Dick by the hand, and led him to
a cellar, in which they found the foot of a harrow staircase. Once at
the top of it, they were, as the old man had promised, on the summit
of a ruined temple, dominating the crowded square below and the streets
radiating to it like the spokes of a wheel to the huh. Around them were
other ruins; temples sacred to the moon, to the “armies of the heavens,”
 which are the stars, to the rainbow, lightning and thunder... walls
which still defied the elements, though the temples were now shops,
work-rooms or stables.

The head of the procession had appeared, the hundred servitors of the
god pressing back the crowd, and slowly wound its way round the square.
Then the golden litter came into sight and Huayna Capac, for the first
time in centuries, came to the center of the world, the Umbilicus of
which he had been lord and master. All heads were bowed before this
sovereign shadow and the memory of ancient glories once again brought
to life. The crowd even forgot for the moment its hatred of the stranger
woman, the motionless Coya with the stranger child in her arms.

The double throne was brought to the center of the square, and the crowd
rose with clamoring voices. Around the litter, the caciques and the
chiefs, the nobles and the amautas, who are the sages, joined hands and
began to circle, dancing as they danced of yore, when each man held a
link of the golden chain and danced the Dance of the Chain. Hands made
the links to-day, for when the Strangers slew Atahualpa, the nobles
of the Cuzco threw that chain, which otherwise would have gone to the
King’s ransom, into the deepest water of Lake Titicaca.

“Recuerda!”

Suddenly, as if from the heavens, this cry checked the rhythm of the
Dance of the Chain. Maria-Teresa started on her throne, remembering the
signal in the House of the Serpent. The child in her arms also lifted
its head, and their eyes questioned the blue vault above from which this
word of hope had fallen.

“That was Dick’s voice, Maria-Teresa! I told you he would come to save
us!”

The girl’s eyes explored the towering walls about her, black with
Indians. How could she recognize him in that crowd? Where was he? Again
the voice rang out over their heads, so loud that it could be heard by
the most distant  unit of the crowd.

“Recuerda!”

Every head was turned upwards, and a threatening murmur rose from that
human mass, torn from its dream of renascence and liberty by a single
Spanish word. Recuerda! What must they remember? That they were slaves?
That these fêtes, striving to recall an abolished past, could only
last the space of a day? That the sun of to-morrow, forgetting that of
to-day, would only shine anew on their servitude?

Maria-Teresa started up from the golden throne with the child in her
arms, brought to life and action again by the beloved voice.

Looking higher, they at last saw, on the highest stone in the azure,
a pigmy figure holding out its arms to the Coya, and crying,
“Maria-Teresa! Maria-Teresa!”

“Dick!”

Then all understood that on high there was a stranger, one of the hated
race, come to rob them of the soul of their Coya.



V

Pandemonium reigned in the square. This was sacrilege unspeakable! Did
not the Coya already belong to the gods! Muera la Coya! Death to the
stranger! There was a huge rush, a scramble of raging Indians along
parapets, over rocks and the ruins of temples, while the golden litter
was hurried away by the Guards of the Sacrifice and the amautas.
Maria-Teresa closed her eyes, carrying to the tomb that supreme farewell
which was perhaps to cost Dick his life.

“You must be mad,” said the madman Orellana, when he saw Dick lean over
and call to Maria-Teresa, and when she answered, asked almost angrily:
“How did you come to know my daughter?”

The roar of the angry crowd surged up to them, surrounded them, and drew
nearer. It was with the greatest difficulty that Orellana shook Dick out
of his strange torpor, dragged him through the gap from which they
had emerged, and finally to the labyrinth below the Temple. Apparently
familiar with every twist and turning of the place, he led him through
a mile of passages, their darkness relieved here and there by
round, square or triangular patches of light sifting down between
thousand-year-old stones from the world above. Occasionally he stopped
to tell Dick what temple, what palace, they were passing under.

“Yaca-Huasi, which they also call the House of the Serpent, is over our
heads now.”

“Perhaps they have taken her there!”

“No, no! That’s against all the rules. The Temple of Death is the next
place.”

“Where are we going to? Where are you taking me?”

“To the Temple of Death, of course!”

Dick followed him without another word, but expressed his surprise when
they emerged into the open country.

“Where is the Temple, then?” he asked.

“On the Island of Titicaca. You needn’t be afraid. We shall get there
before them.”

They hired horses at a wayside inn and rode to Sicuani. Here they took a
train which, turning onto a branch line at Juliaca, then ran to Puno,
on the shores of Lake Titicaca. On the way, Orellana babbled ceaselessly
about the country through which they were passing and the ceremony they
were to witness.

No stranger has ever seen it. But he, Orellana, asked nobody’s
permission, and since his daughter was to be wedded to the Sun, it
was the least of things that he should be present at the marriage, and
particularly as he had planned it all so carefully! It had taken him
years to find the Temple of Death, but with patience all things could be
done. There was not one dried-up river-Red underground, not a deserted
goldmine which he did not know so well that he could find his way about
it with his eyes shut.

And what fortunes he had discovered under the earth; a fortune equal
to all the fortunes on earth! It was obvious that the Incas must have
got their gold somewhere. Well, he had discovered where! There was
plenty of it left, plenty of it left!... One day, some clever young
engineer would find out, and he would only have to stoop to be as rich
as Croesus. (A bitter smile from the young engineer, whose thoughts were
far from such things.)... But he, Orellana, did not give a fig for all
the gold in creation.

He loved only his daughter, whom the Indians had taken to the Temple of
Death, and it was only the Temple of Death which he had sought.

It had taken him years, but now everything was; ready and he was going
to save her. He had waited long enough to kiss her again! Ten whole
years!

So the old man wandered on, while Dick listened eagerly, striving to
guess how much was truth, and how much madness.

“But how do they get from Cuzco to the Temple of Death?”

“Don’t you worry about that.... By the Corridors of Night, by the
Corridors of the Mountains of Night, by the Corridors of the Lake of
Night.... By the way, do you know anything about fishing?”

Dick did not have time to answer this extraordinary question, for the
guard had come through to their carriage, and was inviting them to the
luggage-van to see the samacuena danced. Everybody else seemed to
be going there, and they accepted so as not to draw attention to
themselves. They found the van peopled with Indians, dancing, playing
the guitar, and drinking hard. At each step, the guard, to celebrate
Garcia’s victories, fired a volley of cohetes, the mountains throwing
back the echo of the explosions.

Then some of the Quichua soldiers in the train gave themselves up to the
pleasures of the chase. Spying flocks of vicuñas in the hills, they went
to the observation-car and tried their luck. One of them, something of
a marksman, brought down a vicuña, the train stopped with a grinding of
brakes, and the guard himself went off to retrieve the bag.

Dick, wild with impatience, would have liked to club the engine driver
and take charge of the locomotive himself, but Orellana calmed him down.

“We’re sure to get there before them. You’ll see! Why, we shall even
have time to do some fishing!”

Leaving their fellow-travelers to cut up the vicuña, they returned
to their carriage, where the stove had been lighted. It had become
intensely cold, for they were now in the snow regions, more than
fourteen thousand feet above sea-level. Soroche, or mountain fever,
threw the young engineer, and after bleeding violently at the nose, he
fell into a semi-comatose condition. He did not recover until Punho,
when he again remembered the horrible nightmare through which he was
living, and savagely demanded to be shown the way to the Temple of
Death.

“We’re going there,” replied his strange guide, but first took him to
the main square, where about a hundred Indian girls, wearing skirts of a
dark material and the low-cut bodices of their race, squatted in orderly
rows, selling fruits and vegetables dried in the cold.

“There are usually two hundred of them,” explained Orellana, “but the
Red Ponchos have been this way and chosen the best-looking half for the
ceremony. It’s the same thing every ten years.”

He made a few purchases with Dick’s money, and after adding a flask
of pisco to his stores, led the way out of the city. At nightfall they
reached a huge marsh, alive with water-fowl. Next they crossed a heath,
llamas and alpacas fleeing at their approach, and finally came to a
dismal little bay on the shores of the lake.

Titicaca, in its mountain cradle, is the highest lake in the world.
That night, its waters looked somber and heavy, almost dead. A storm,
growling in the distance, soon swept down on them with a howl of rain,
the waves dashing up the beach mountain-high, and the lightning touching
the surrounding peaks with fire.

“Splendid, splendid,” muttered Orellana as the storm broke. “That
means fine weather for to-morrow. In the meantime, we may as well have
supper.”

He had led the young man under a giant monolith, hewn to the shape of a
door. In a niche of it, Orellana managed to light a dung-cake fire, and
here they ate a little and warmed themselves with generous pulls at the
pisco flask. Dick at last fell asleep, while the old man covered him
with a horse blanket and paternally watched over his slumbers.

Just before dawn, Dick awoke to find Orellana reminiscent.

“This place has always brought me luck since I started to look for my
daughter, but I cannot make out who to thank for it. Do _you_ know who
this god is?”

He pointed to the bas-reliefs which covered the stone. They represented
a human being, the head adorned with allegorical rays, and each hand
holding a different scepter. Around this being were symmetrically ranged
other figures, some with human faces, others with the heads of condors,
all holding scepters, and all facing toward the center.

“There’s no doubt about it,” mused Orellana aloud. “This is nothing like
the Incas’ work. It is much more sculptural, and much older. There must
have been worlds on these shores before the advent of the Incas. They’re
only savages who steal children.... Well, come on. We may as well go out
in my boat and meet the sun.”

In a little creek, half hidden by rushes, they found a cane pirogue, in
which Orellana had soon hoisted a mast and a mat sail.

“Come on,” he said, “we’ll do some fishing. It’s all on the way to the
Temple of Death.”

Dick followed him into the fragile craft, and they started for the
islands. These came into sight late in the afternoon, a blue blur on
the horizon. To Dick’s fevered imagination, they seemed like threatening
shadows on the face of the waters, ghostly guardians of the Temple of
Death.

Orellana refused to go any nearer that night, hauled down the sail, and
threw overboard a heavy stone to anchor his boat. Then he handed Dick a
fishing-rod. At his astonished look, the madman replied:

“People come to the islands to fish, because these waters are blessed
by the gods and the catches are better than anywhere else. Can’t you do
what everybody else does?”

He pointed across the waters to little lights flaring up at the bows of
other pirogues, in which sat motionless fishermen.

“All those Indians are fishing,” he said. “You may as well join them. If
you can’t, go to sleep, and don’t worry us. You’ll see something worth
while when you wake up.”

Orellana woke Dick just before dawn. The last stars were paling in
the heavens at the approach of their King. The deep waters of the lake
showed uniformly gray, not a light and not a shadow upon them. Not a
sound to break stillness, not a breath of wind in the air. Suddenly, in
the Orient, the mountain peaks were touched with fire, a giant furnace
sprang into being behind the torn curtain of the Cordilleras, and the
sun painted scarlet splashes into the shadows of the sacred islands.

When they pass before the largest of them, which is Titicaca, the Indian
fishermen in their fragile pirogues never fail to chant the Aïmara Hymn
of the Ancestors, for it was from this island, untold years ago, that
sprang the founders of the Inca race in the persons of Manco Capac and
Mama Cello, husband and wife, brother and sister, both children of the
Sun. Coming in sight of the island, the traveler perceives giant ruins
find great masses of rock piled up in an inexplicable manner, so strange
that science has not yet been able to give them a date. These are the
baths, the palaces and temples of the first Incas.

Dick, staring landwards from the pirogue, hardly knew whether he was
awake or dreaming. Was this a hallucination born of the terrors of the
week, or did his eyes really reveal what other eyes had first adored
centuries before, at the dawn of the Inca world? As the shadows of
night drew away and the island stood out above the waters in all its
terrestrial grandeur, he did not merely see dead stones, lifeless
temples, and deserted palaces; the Cyclopean whole was peopled by a vast
throng, motionless and silent, its myriad faces turned to the flaming
Orient This immobility and silence were those of a dream; there were
thousands there who seemed to live and breathe only in the expectation
of some mysterious and sacred event.

The disc of the sun was still hidden behind the Andes, but all Nature
heralded its approach; the flanks of the mountains were jeweled with a
thousand dazzling stones, brooks and torrents were afire, and the broad
bosom of the lake was a roseate mirror bearing the still reflections
of palaces and temples. Virgins, bearing, as of old, the most beautiful
flowers of the season and the emblems of their religion, peopled the
porticoes. At the summits of towers, luminous with the dawn, priests
waited for their god to show his face.

Suddenly, he appears... he rises... he blazes down on his empire, and
is hailed by a great roar. “Hail, O Sun, King of the Heavens, father
of men!” Earth trembles, waters shiver, the heavens even quiver at the
call. “Hail, O Sun, father of the Inca!” Arms are stretched toward him,
hands heavy with offerings implore his intercession, and every voice
chants his glory. “Hear thy children! Hail, O Sun!”

Cries and songs of triumph are swelled by the clamor of barbaric
instruments, and the tumult grows as the radiant disc climbs higher in
the heavens, bathing the multitude in light.

Sun, behold thy Empire! After so many centuries, the faithful, the men
who labor in valley and mountain, are still here, and still do thee
obeisance. The golden-armed virgins have poured libations from the
sacred vases, and the hymns of the priests, after having risen to the
heavens, now seem to plunge into the earth.

What is this miracle? The dream has vanished; vanished as do the light
mists of morning before the first rays of the sun.



BOOK VI--THE TEMPLE OF DEATH



I

Dick rubRed his eyes. What had become of that crowd? Who had hailed the
god of Day? Now that the sun was high on the horizon, and that things
had taken on their true shapes again, he could see only ruined palaces
and solitude.

Orellana had driven his pirogue to the shore, and jumped onto the
beach, signing to the young man to follow. As they neared the cliffs, he
stopped him; the pious throng had vanished, but not in a dream, for the
sound of chanting could still be heard from within the rock.

“Come with me,” said the old man. “They have gone to the Temple of
Death, but we shall be there before them.”

They entered a grotto. Dick had no will but Orellana’s, and no hope.
He was convinced that Maria-Teresa must die, and regarded that last
greeting of theirs as the supreme one. Once certain that she had passed
to the realms of night, he would follow her there. He had been told she
was to end her life in the Temple of Death, and this old man, who ten
years before had lost his daughter in the same way, said he knew where
it was. Well, he would follow him.

The grotto was a deep one. After walking for a few seconds over sand
and shells, the old man lit a resinous torch, and the spluttering flame
showed the dark entrance of a passage. Before entering it, however, he
bent down in a corner and picked something up. Dick saw that it was a
pick.

“What are you going to do with that?”

“Save my daughter, of course! Just come with me, and I’ll show you. I
shan’t let those devils choke her as they did ten years ago. They wall
them up alive, you see. All we need do is to wait until they have
gone, and then take her out again. Clear enough, isn’t it?... When I
discovered the Temple of Death and saw all the slabs on the wall, I said
to myself: ‘It would have been easy enough to save her if I had been
there.’ It was too late then. And of course, I didn’t know which stone
she was behind. This time, though, I shall watch them.... We’ll get the
best of them yet. See if we don’t!”

There was hope, then! Dick took a long breath, and steadied himself.
Madmen with their set ideas are sometimes nearer the truth than sane men
with their set reason. Dick took the pick, and followed Orellana down
the winding passage, the torch in the old man’s trembling hand throwing
weird lights and shadows on their path. There was not a foreign sound to
be heard. The earth had choked all noise as it might yet choke them.

Hacked through the stone, their corridor opened at intervals onto little
square rooms, probably the burial-places of long-forgotten priests and
dignitaries, slumbering there as their brethren of ancient Egypt slumber
in the Pyramids. In the last of these rooms, Orellana put out the torch,
and fell on his knees, for the narrow gut which they now entered was far
too low for a man to stand upright in. A few yards further on, they came
to a spacious niche, and stood up again.

“We are there,” said the old man, stopping Dick.

It was far less dark here, and Dick, his eyes growing used to the
obscurity, realized that a diffused light was reaching them from
somewhere. The shadowy outline of columns and cornices gradually took
shape, and he realized that he was looking down from a height of several
feet into a vast hall.

“That is the Temple of Death,” said Orellana. “Listen!”

From the distance came the sound of rhythmic chanting, and suddenly
a blinding stream of light descended into the chamber before them.
Instinctively, they threw themselves back into the darkest corner of
their niche. Above them, at the summit of the vast subterranean hall, a
stone had been removed, letting in the golden sunlight. In the heart of
the vault was a kind of truncated cone, so fashioned that the sunbeams,
sliding along its surface, were thrown into the farthest corner of the
mysterious temple.

Altars, altar-steps, and niches were heavy with gold, the plaques of the
precious metal being bound together by a wonderful cement, to make
which liquid gold had been used. This hidden temple was, in a word, a
veritable goldmine.

On the eastern wall was an image of the divinity, wrought in massive
gold, and representing a human head surrounded by shafts of light. So
the old world has also represented the sun. The heavy plaque was studded
with emeralds and other precious stones. The rays of the rising sun fell
full upon it, filling the whole temple with a light that seemed almost
supernatural, and flashing back from the gold ornaments with which walls
and vault were incrusted. Gold, in the poetic language of the country,
is “the tears shed by the Sun,” and the Temple blazed with the precious
metal. The cornices crowning the sanctuary walls were also of gold, and
a frieze of gold, hammered into the stone, ran right round the hall.

Dick and Orellana, from their coign of vantage, could see a number of
chapels placed symmetrically round the great central chamber. One of
them was sacred to the Moon, mother of the Incas. Her effigy was almost
identical with that of the Sun, but the plaque was of silver, recalling
the soft glow of that gentle planet. Another chapel was dedicated to the
Armies of the Heavens, which are the stars and the brilliant court of
the sister of the Sun; a third, to thunder and lightning, the terrible
ministers of her wrath; yet another, to the rainbow. And in all these
chapels, as in the temple, all that was not silver was gold, gold, gold.

The young engineer’s eyes gradually took in all the details of the
temple. First, the central altar, several steps above the floor, on
which were golden vases brimming over with maize, incense-burners, ewers
for the blood of the sacrifice, and a great golden knife on a tray of
gold. Then he realized that something living was moving in the hall,
which he had thought deserted. The Guardians of the Temple, like three
hideous gnomes, glided from altar to altar, while the one with the
cap skull, given the taste for blood from his earliest years by this
deformation of the cranium, urged the others to hasten, and every little
while went to the main altar to pat the great knife waiting there.
Behind the altar, and rising above it, was a kind of golden pyramid,
crowned with a golden throne. “That is for the King,” said Orellana. On
each side of the altar, and before it, were three other pyramids. But
they were not so high, and were not of gold. They were of wood. “The
pyres,” explained Orellana.

“The pyres! What do you mean, man?”

“Steady, steady! They’re not going to burn her. She’s the Bride of the
Sun, and they wall her up. Burn her, indeed! It’s not done, I tell you.
Every Aïmara child knows that. Little children don’t see the Temple of
Death unless they are to die in it, but they know that much. Burn my
daughter, indeed! As if I would allow it! What do you think I brought
this pick for? You do just as well not to answer. Much better remain
silent than talk nonsense like that. If you look at the walls out there
you’ll see a big porphyry slab between each gold panel. There are just
a hundred of them, and behind each one is one of the Sun’s brides. If
I only knew which  tomb my daughter was in, I would have had her out a
long time ago. But the slabs are all just alike, and there is nothing to
help a poor father in his search. This time, though, I’m watching, and
as soon as they’ve gone, I shall save her.”

“She may be dead, smothered alive, when you get her out.” Dick, thinking
hard while the old man babbled on in whispers, was hoping against hope.

“That just shows how little you know about it. They are deep tombs, like
cupboards, and you can sit in them. Don’t you know the Indians always
bury people sitting? There’s air enough in there to keep her alive for
an hour, or even two. And I shall have her out in ten minutes!”

Dick stared blindly at the porphyry slabs before him.

“But if there are a hundred of them in there already, there isn’t room
for another. Are you sure?”

“Of course I am. You needn’t worry, boy. The pyres are for the two
mammaconas who go before the Bride to prepare her chamber in the
Enchanted Realms of the Sun.”

“There are three pyres, though.”

“Naturally. They have to take out the oldest bride to make room for my
daughter. Then they burn her. What else should they do?”

“Burn her? Then they do burn her!”

Dick had almost lost control of his mind.

“The old one, you fool!” retorted Orellana testily. “Didn’t I tell
you there were a hundred there? The Sun is given a new bride every ten
years. Can you count, or can’t you? That makes one of them a thousand
years old.... There’s no harm in burning a wife who is a thousand years
old. The Sun has got tired of her by then. Doesn’t he set fire to her
pyre himself? That proves it.... Listen. Here they come!”

The chanting grew louder, and soon the priests appeared. Behind them
walked the nobles, recognizable by the heavy ear-rings which only
descendants of an Inca may wear; they were dressed in sleeveless red
tunics, and each man bore a banner on which was embroidered a rainbow,
its brilliant hues varying to mark the coat-armor of each house. Next
came young girls of noble family, who in the old days would have become
Virgins of the Sun, ending their lives on the altars of the deity, or
as the wives of the Inca. They were followed by their adult brothers,
wearing the white robes, crosses embroidered on the breast, which were
the traditional costume of men of their caste about to enter the order
of knighthood. After them, the curacas, chiefs of the races conquered
by the Incas and of all the tribes which had taken the oath of fealty.
These men wore multi-colored tunics, unadorned with gold.

The cortège had advanced to the center of the temple, and suddenly,
as the chanting ceased, all turned toward the door by which they
had entered. A strange silence succeeded the rhythmic throbbing of
canticles. Then a terrible scream tore the air. Dick gripped Orellana’s
arm.

“What was that?” he asked hoarsely.

“Nothing to do with us. They’re sacrificing a child in the Black Chapel
of Pacahuamac, the Pure Spirit.”



II

The devils!” Dick wrenched ont his revolver, but the old man gripped
his wrist.

“Quiet, you fool! We can’t save the child now, and if you make a sign we
shan’t save her either. If you can’t stand it, get out!”

The young engineer controlled himself.

“It’s too horrible! Poor little Christobal! My God, why can’t they kill
us all and have done with it!”

“You should be ashamed of yourself, talking like that,” said the madman.
“When a man has nerves like a woman he shouldn’t come to the Temple of
Death.”

After that one terrible cry, all was silence again. Nobles, virgins,
young men and curacas continued their slow progress round the Temple.
Behind them entered the amautas, sages who teach the children of the
Incas; the Red Ponchos, who surrounded the altar like a sacred guard.
None of them carried visible arms. The high dignitaries of the court
followed, wearing the blanchana, a flowing tunic of light bark, painted
in vivid colors. Each man carried a barbaric emblem with wide-open jaws,
destined to frighten away all evil spirits.

Dick thought that Maria-Teresa was entering, but then saw that the
litter borne on the shoulders of nobles was occupied by a figure which
he did not at first recognize. His robe and sandals seemed of solid
gold, and his ears were weighted down with enormous ear-rings, reaching
almost to the shoulders. About his head was the royal llantu, a
multi-colored turban of delicate tissue, and his forehead was further
adorned by the kingly borla, the heavy scarlet and gold fringe of which
partly hid his eyes. Two coraquenque plumes towered above the crown.

As he descended from his litter, aided by two pages, and slowly mounted
the steps of the golden pyramid, the assembly bent to its knees. At the
summit of the pyramid, he paused gravely, took his seat on the golden
throne, and gave the Aimara greeting:--“Dios anki tiourata.”

Then all rose to their feet, while he sat motionless, like a graven
image.

“The bank-clerk!” exclaimed Dick, as he faced toward the hidden
watchers.

They had before them Huayna Gapac Runtu, King of the Incas.

“The god is seated in all his light!” chanted the assembly in unison,
repeating the words three times. Then the wail of the quenias filled
the air, and the religious cortège entered the temple, led by the four
Guards of the Sacrifice, their heads erect now, for the sacred bonnets
hid no secret Behind them walked another Red Poncho, bearing in
his hands a mass of knotted cords. Dick recognized the Preacher of
Caja-marca, head of the quipucamyas, or Keepers of the Historic Word.
Then came Huascar, in the saffron-colored vestments of the high-priest,
preceded by lesser dignitaries of the church, while four curacas held
over him a canopy of brilliant-hued plumes. All bowed before Huascar;
the Inca alone was above him.

From the high-priest’s stern face and somber eyes, Dick looked to his
hands, to see if they were red with the blood of sacrifice. He felt a
wild desire to shoot him down there, to kill him like a mad dog among
his priests and servitors.

The mammaconas advanced, chanting. He could not at first see
Maria-Teresa, hidden from view by black veils, rhythmically waved about
her. The movement ceased and the women parted, leaving the way clear
for the two among them who were to die and who advanced with uncovered
faces, smiling like happy children.

The quenias ceased their song, and the second litter was brought forward
in solemn silence. Dick shivered. Was Maria-Teresa dead or alive? He
hoped vainly that her litter might pass close to him, as had Huascar’s
canopy. From where he was, she seemed as inert and lifeless as the mummy
monarch beside her, and little Christobal was no longer in her arms.
That part of her face left uncovered by the golden robe and head-dress
was tomb-like in its pallor, and her eyes were closed.

The double throne was set down between the altar and the pyres;
Huascar took his seat on the right of the altar, and the chief of the
qui-pucamyas on the left; the mammaconas stood on the altar-steps. The
two who were to die, their black veils discarded for dainty holiday
attire, with flowers in their tresses, knelt at Maria-Teresa’s feet. The
nobles and the curacas were ranged round the temple with the virgins and
young men. The three Guardians of the Temple closed the doors. No
others might enter, for the common people, forbidden the sight of these
mysteries, waited far away, in the Corridors of Night, until the priests
should return to lead them back through the labyrinth to the light of
day.

Huascar rose, and his sonorous voice opened the ceremony.

“At the beginning was Pacahuamac, the Pure Spirit, who reigned in the
darkness; then came his son, the Sun, and his daughter, the Moon; and
Paeahuamac gave them armies, which are the Stars.

“Unto the Sun and Moon were born children. First were the Pirhuas,
king-pontiffs; then the Amautas, pontiff-kings; and then the Incas,
kings of kings, sent on earth to rule mankind.”

The assembly repeated Huascar’s words like a litany. When it was ended,
young men brought a llama to the altar, and the Guardians of the Temple
offered up the sacrifice. Huascar bent over the entrails.

“The gods are propitious,” he announced to the King.

At a sign from the throne, the chief of the quipucamyas rose to his
feet, and in a few verses recalled the chief terrestrial episodes of the
history of the Incas, the assembly chanting other verses in reply in the
same monotonous rhythm, while the priest slipped the knots of the quipus
through his fingers like a monk telling his beads.

When he reached the verse recounting Atahualpa’s martyrdom, a great
shout went up in the temple. The King, from his throne, raised a
sceptered hand, and spoke. The end of the bondage placed upon his people
by the gods was near; he, Huayna Gapac Runtu, had been chosen by the Sun
to drive out the strangers; and as a gage of his reconciliation with
the faithful, the god had permitted them to offer him in sacrifice the
noblest and most beautiful virgin of the hated race, a descendant of one
of those who had murdered Atahualpa.

At the King’s words, all eyes were carried to Maria-Teresa, and a roar
of “Muera la Coya!” beat round her. Was she not already dead, then?
The savage cries did not even make her eyelids quiver. If she was still
alive, she must be unconscious. Dick, falling to his knees, thanked
heaven for that.

Again the King’s voice rose, telling the people that the day of
deliverance was near; that their empire would be re-born in all its
splendor. The altars of their god, served for centuries in the darkness,
would soon smoke anew in his light Once again would they be the Free
Children of the Sun.

“Let the Children of the Sun advance!”

The young men approached the royal throne. For thirty days they had
gone through the tests of yore; they had fasted, fought, displayed their
skill in wrestling and with arms; they had worn coarse clothing, walked
barefoot, and slept on the hard floor. Now they advanced in their white
robes, the cross on their breasts, like young knights of the Middle Ages
in the Gothic cathedrals of another faith and land.

They surrounded the golden pyramid and

Huascar, taking evergreen branches from a golden vase held by two
virgins, bound them in their hair as a sign that the virtues they had
acquired must last for all time. Then, one by one, he called their names
to the King, who, as each young man knelt before him, pierced his ears
with a golden awl. They descended, their white robes smeared with blood,
while Huascar, from another vase, took heavy ear-rings, with which he
adorned them. Nothing in the young faces betrayed their suffering. Then
all raised their hands and took the oath of bravery and of fealty to the
Inca.

“That is well,” said the King. “Let them now put on their sandals.”

This part of the ceremony was performed by the quipucamyas, the most
venerable among them strapping on the young men’s feet the sandals of
the Order of the Incas.

“That is well,” repeated the King. “Let them be given their girdles.”
 Again the old men passed down the ranks, buckling on the heavy
war-belts.

“That is well,” said the King for the third time. “And I say unto you
before the dead King and the Goya who is to die, that they may repeat it
to your ancestors, that our race is still the first of all living races,
for you are the pure Children of the Sun, without earthly leaven, the
brother having always drunk the blood of the sister!”

The virgins advanced, taking the places of the young men on the steps
of the throne, while fathers and brothers intoned the Aïmara Song of
Triumph.

“The savages! The savages!” raged Dick, thinking only of vengeance now
that he thought Maria-Teresa was dead. He balanced the revolver in his
palm, hesitating. There were at all events Huascar and the King he could
bring down; that would be some satisfaction. But suppose Maria-Teresa
was not dead after all? He might still save her. For a moment he thought
she had moved. He questioned Orellana in a whisper. “My daughter is very
tired, and must be sleeping,” replied the madman.

Meanwhile the cap-skulled Guardian of the Temple had made a little
incision on the throat of each virgin, gathering their blood in a gold
ewer. When the cup was full, he touched it with his lips and handed
it to the young men, among whom it passed from hand to hand, while the
girls, proud of their light wounds, cried, “Glory to the Children of the
Sun!”

“The cup is empty,” announced Huascar.

At his words the King rose, and holding up both arms to the heavens,
implored the Sun to give the signal for the sacrifice.

Clouds of pungent incense rose from the burners, and gradually hid from
view the azure disc overhead. The mammaconas who were to die, obeying
the ritual, ran forward to the King’s feet.

“We implore you, O King, to stop all the smokes of the earth. They hide
his face, and the Sun cannot give the signal for the sacrifice.”

At a sign from the figure on the golden pyramid, the burners were
extinguished, and the spot of blue gradually reappeared. The Guardians
of the Temple, by the pyres, held in their hands metal mirrors, drawing
the sun to a little heap of cotton in the center of each resinous pile.
Thus did the god, of his own will, give the signal for the sacrifice!
There were no stakes on the pyres, no chains; the victims must die
willingly.

While the throng about them chanted prayers, the two mammaconas watched
the pyres. They feared that the god might reject them; then they would
live, shunned by all, until they disappeared. Their eyes, large with
hope in the mercy of the divinity, anxiously awaited the first flicker
of flame.

If the pyre destined to the thousand-year-old Coya did not take fire,
it did not mean that the new one was distasteful to the god. It meant
merely that the old one had not known how to please him, that she was
not worthy of the sepulcher of fire, and that her body must be thrown to
the black vultures in the mountains.

On this day, the first pyre to blaze up was that of the long-dead Coya.
She was waiting. Songs rang out in her honor, and a purple veil which
Dick had not yet noticed fell to the ground. A black gap showed in
the wall, and in it could be seen the shadowy figure of the
thousand-year-old queen, stiff in her scented wrappings.



III

Dick’s head swam. There, before him, was the narrow tomb into which
Maria-Teresa would be plunged living. But was she still living? She must
have died when the child was torn from her arms, or when she had heard
his terrible cry.

The priests had lifted the dead Coya from her tomb, and carried her to
the pyre. She sat severely erect, as Coyas should sit, even when slowly
done to death in a living tomb. So she must sit, and that is why the
tomb is made so narrow that she can only remain motionless on her
throne.

Erect and calm, she vanished in the flames of the pyre, while the two
living mammaconas watched her enviously.

Dick did not even glance at the pyres. His eyes were fixed on the hole
in the wall. She could not live long in there, and they must lose no
time if she was to be saved. One hand gripped Orellana’s pick, while the
other, armed with a revolver, still hesitated. Perhaps Maria-Teresa was
not dead yet! But, if so why did she not open her eyes?

Still the two other pyres did not take fire, and the mammaconas prayed
passionately to the Sun. They must die before Maria-Teresa, to prepare
her chamber in the Enchanted Realms of the Sun, and if they did not
hasten they would never reach them first. “Have pity, O Sun! Send us
your flames, Ejma of the Heavens! We are women; give us courage.”

“Have pity! Send us your flames!” chanted the throng in unison.

But the Sun did not send his flame until the first pyre had nearly
died down, its end hastened by the perfumes heavy with spirit which the
Guards of the Sacrifice poured over the blazing logs.

Dropping their festive garments from them, the two mammaconas ran to the
pyres with cries of joy, and waited, their eyes turned heavenwards in
ecstasy. Diabolical music burst out about them, and a savage frenzy
seemed to seize the other mammaconas as they whirled round the fires.
The greedy flames climRed upwards and reached the victims. One of them
leapt down with a terrible cry.

“Return to the flames! Return to the flames!” chanted the others,
surrounding her. She writhed on the ground, calling for the knife, and
a Guardian of the Temple went toward her. The black veils of the
mammaconas were spotted with blood, but they danced on, singing. The
hideous dwarfs lifted up a body, which disappeared in the fire.

The other mammacona, heroically erect, had cried out only once, and when
she in her turn vanished in the scarlet chariot which the Sun had sent
to take her to his Enchanted Realms, hymns of glory thundered through
the temple.

Maddened by the songs, the flames, the incense, and the acrid smoke
of the pyres, three more mammaconas followed their sisters. It is
impossible to guess how far this delirium of sacrifice would have gone
had not Huascar stopped it. At a sign from him, the diabolical music
ceased, and the Guardians of the Temple choked the glowing pyres with
sand.

It was Maria-Teresa’s turn. Dick, half fainting, opened his eyes again
at Orellana’s words. He saw the mammaconas strip her of the jewels with
which she was literally covered from head to foot. From her hair, ears,
cheeks, breast, shoulders, from her beautiful arms and shapely ankles,
the “tears of the Sun” fell one by one, and were placed preciously in a
golden basin. Last of all they removed the fatal Golden Sun bracelet All
these jewels were to be hidden again until the day, ten years thence,
when the Inca would demand another bride for the Sun.

As she was rapidly divested of her golden sheath as well, Maria-Teresa
appeared swathed in bands of soft material. Her eyes were closed, and
externally at all events, she was already a mummy. Her arms were bound
to her sides, and all that remained to be done was to lift her into her
tomb. Dick’s eyes did not leave what could still be seen of the
beloved face under the bands of perfumed linen which bound her chin
and forehead. Her lips were parted, but motionless, as if she had just
breathed her last sigh.

Again he told himself that she must be dead. It was better so, for then
she could not feel the hands of the horrible Guardians of the Temple
lift her to the death-throne and then slide her into the hole where she
was to wait a thousand years before being burned in her turn.

At that moment the rays of the Sun, as if to make a golden ladder for
the woman whom the Incas, in their cruel piety, were sending to his
realms, fell on Maria-Teresa, and lit up the narrow tomb, so that Dick
saw every detail of the atrocious ceremony.

The three porphyry slabs, fitting perfectly one into the other, had
now to be adjusted, and the tomb would be closed. It was done in
terrible-silence, and all eyes were fixed on workers and victim.

Bending under its weight, the Guardians of the Temple slipped the first
into position, hiding Maria-Teresa up to the knees. The second, brought
to the right level on a rolling platform, covered her to the shoulders.

All that could now be seen was her head, swathed and bound up for the
thousand-year sleep, with a face that was that of a dead woman. Then
a shiver ran through the throng, though it had witnessed the sacred
horrors preceding it without a quiver. Maria-Teresa had opened her
eyes....

They had opened wide and stared out from the depths of the tomb which
was closing on her. They were terribly living, terribly wide open,
staring, staring, at all she would see of life before the eternal Shadow
took her to its bosom. And those eyes traveled slowly over the throng
in gala attire which was there to see her die, then rested for the last
time on the golden sunlight, on the beautiful light of day.

The superhuman agony forced those eyes even wider, those eyes which were
never to see again. Her lips moved, as if about to utter a supreme cry
of appeal to life, a cry of horror at the living night of the tomb.
Then they closed again on a poor, weak little groan, while the last slab
blotted out the look of those great eyes.

She belonged to the god now.



IV

Huascar raised his hand, and the temple began to empty in silence.
There was not a song, not a murmur, only the slip of innumerable sandals
on the stone slabs of the floor. Huascar and his priests, the nobles,
young men, virgins, curacas and mammaconas crossed the threshold of the
golden doors.

Huayna Capac Runtu had descended from his throne and taken his seat
beside the dead King, on the seat left vacant by Maria-Teresa; the Red
Ponchos lifted the two monarchs, the dead, and the living, to their
shoulders, and in their turn vanished into the Corridor of Night.

There remained in the hall only the Guardians of the Temple and the
ashes of the first victims.

Hardly had the three gnomes closed the doors to carry out their horrible
duties in peace than a shadow rose up before them. Squeaking with
terror, they fled into the Chapel of the Moon, but vengeance followed
them there, and it was at the foot of its altar that they were shot down
like loathsome beasts. White as Maria-Teresa had been, but icy-cool in
the moment of action, Dick fired only one shot into each hideous skull.

Then he turned and ran into the temple, where Orellana was already
raining blows on the tomb with his pick. Dick wrenched the tool from
his hands, and set to work. But the stones did not move. His forehead
covered with icy perspiration, he forced himself to think, to reason,
trying to forget Maria-Teresa in her tomb and bring his engineer’s
knowledge to bear on the problem. Those stones could not be very heavy.
Orellana and he could lift them easily if the three dwarfs could. They
were evidently made light so that they could be readily removed by the
priests at certain ceremonies. But what, was their secret? What was
their secret?

Quelling the moral storm that would have sent him raging impotently
against this rampart, he compelled himself to look for the jointing
of the stones. His hands were trembling, so he stopped for a minute to
control himself, and then tried again. Again he failed. How were they
moved?

He had seen them put back into position before his eyes, so there
_must_ be a way. But where was he to press, where strike? And meanwhile
Maria-Teresa was dying behind those stones! Dying!

Again he raised the pick, whirled it over his head, and struck at
random, on the left side of the stone. Every ounce of his strength,
doubled by despair, had been put into that blow, and the slab turned
slightly on itself, to the right. The socket in which the stones rested
was so made that they could swing and slip out of their frame on that
side.

With a shout of triumph, he swung the pick over his head.

“Maria-Teresa! Maria-Teresa!”

Behind him, the madman was calling too.

“Maria Cristina! Maria Cristina!”

Dick was still raining blows on the slab. Soon it had turned so far that
he could catch hold of it with his hands, and tore them in a vain effort
to hasten. With the handle of the pick he pushed on the left again, and
the stone came half out of its socket.

This time, both he and Orellana could get firm hold and put their
strength into it. The stone yielded, came toward them. “Maria-Teresa!
Maria-Teresa!” One more effort and she would be free.

A prodigious heave, a struggle with teeth set and breath whistling, and
the slab came away altogether, thundered on the floor as Dick hurled it
from off his shoulder.

“Maria-Teresa!”

There was no answer from the tightly-bound head dimly visible in the
darkness. He leaned forward.

“My God. It’s not Maria-Teresa!”



V

Turning from the century-dead Coya with an inarticulate cry of rage,
Dick seized Orellana by the throat as if he would have strangled the
poor madman, who had started work on the wrong tomb. And he, thrice
accursed fool that he was, had followed the madman’s lead, made a
mistake when every minute might mean Maria-Teresa’s life!

And now, which was it? The tomb on the right or that on the left? Or
neither?

Loosing the old man, he controlled himself again by a superhuman effort
and looked round the temple. No, there could be no mistake this time.
It must be the one on the right. He looked for the angle from their
hiding-place to the altar. Yes, this was the one!

The pick thundered on another slab, while Orellana, a raving maniac
now, danced and gibbered behind him, grunting with every blow as if he
himself had delivered it.

At last the stone turned.... It moved... slid into their arms... fell to
the ground.

“Maria-Teresa! It is I, Dick! For God’s sake, speak!”

Again he bent oyer the rigid face of a long-forgotten Coya.

Dick fell to the ground as if stunned. But Orellana was already at work
again, setting him the example, and the young engineer was on his feet
in a moment. It must be that other one on the left, then! Once again he
wrenched the pick from the old man’s feeble hands and hammered on the
granite.... The minutes are flying... flying. And She may be dying
behind that slab, struggling for breath!... The thunder of blows echoed
through the hall... the stone moved... slipped... fell.... At last....
No!... Another dead woman.... Another, another!... Not Maria-Teresa!

“Maria Cristina! My daughter! Dearest, I am coming! Your father is
here!”

While Dick staggered to the wall, staring before him with blind eyes,
the old man, peering into the tomb, had recognized his child.

“Maria Cristina! Dearest! Wait, wait! Only one more stone, and you will
be out of your prison!”

Sobbing and laughing in turn, Orellana worked desperately, finding the
strength of his youth anew.

Then Dick fell on him.

“Give me that pick. You’re wasting time on a dead woman. Give it to me,
I say!”

There was a terrible struggle between the two, and Dick, triumphant,
whirled the tool over his head at another tomb, while Orellana, by the
last effort of his life, tore the second stone from its socket, drew the
dead body of his daughter to him and covered it with kisses and tears.
Old madman and dead girl fell to the floor together.

Orellana was dead, but he had found his daughter.

Dick saw and heard nothing. Another tomb open... and another dead Coya
of long ago.... The gods of the Temple of Death were ready to give up
their dead, but not the living bride....

Crying, calling, driving his nails into his bleeding palms; ready to
offer himself up to the ferocious spirit that guarded those tombs, Dick
staggered, fell, and got up again, dragging behind him the pick, which
he no longer knew where to use, striving to reason and understand.

There was nothing here to help him! His eyes wandered hopelessly round
the circular temple, trying to find a guiding point. Nothing! Perhaps
chance would give him what his reasoning had failed to secure.... Yes,
that was it... why not try here?... It might be this tomb as well as any
other.... He set to work again, but heavily... oh, so heavily... and the
pick weighed down his hands terribly.

... Exhausted, he dropped it.... He could do no more.... And she was
dying... dying... while the dead, torn from their eternal sleep, stared
back at him with unseeing eyes.

How many hours had he been toiling? He did not know. The oblique rays of
the sun had gradually risen on the walls, then vanished. Then the light
which succeeded them faded in its turn.... Twilight had fallen... then
darkness had come.

Stretched out on the altar steps, whither he had dragged himself with
his last remaining strength, he closed his eyes and waited... waited for
sleep or death. What did it matter, since Maria-Teresa was dead?



VI


_In which it is seen that lovers should never despair of Providence_


One morning, as the little steamboat which runs between the Island of
Titicaca and the mainland, was plowing its way through the waters of the
lake, it was hailed by a tall Quichua Indian, standing upright in his
pirogue. In the bottom of the frail craft lay a white man, and the
captain, seeing the prostrate figure, hove to for a moment to pick it
up. Thus did Dick Montgomery return to civilization.

Among the passengers of the _Yavari_ was a good-hearted alpaca merchant
of Punho who took pity on the fever-stricken stranger and had him
removed to his own home, where the whole household devoted itself to
nursing the young man back to life. The Indian who brought him to the
steamer explained that he had found the stranger, probably some tourist,
unconscious among the ruins of the sacred island. He had therefore dosed
him with pink water for the fever, and had brought him back to people
of his own race. The Indian refused all reward, and the captain was the
more surprised at this when, on searching Dick, he found a considerable
sum of money in his pockets. For a Quichua not to strip a helpless man
was indeed remarkable.

When Dick had sufficiently recovered to understand what was being said,
he immediately recognized the Indian descriRed to him as Huas-car. In
his quality as high-priest, Huascar had probably returned to the temple
late at night, and had there found Dick, surrounded by gaping tombs, and
the corpses of Orellana and the three Guardians of the Temple. Coldly
calculating in his hatred, the Indian had decided to inflict the
worst possible torture on Dick, leaving him to live after the death of
Maria-Teresa.

That torture would not last long, the young man decided. The idea that
he might have saved Maria-Teresa had he not lost his head, and that her
death lay at his door, tormented him without ceasing. He realized that
he would never be able to free himself of this obsession and that it
would finally drive him mad. Better to end it all at once.

Only he did not wish to die among these awful mountains, mute witnesses
of the horrors that had cost him his self-respect and happiness. The
Maria-Teresa who was constantly before his mind’s eye was not the
terrible mummy-like figure he had last seen, but the dainty silhouette
in the homely surroundings of the office at Callao, among the big green
registers, where they had met again after so long an absence and where
they had exchanged words of love. He would go there to rejoin her.

Once this decision was taken, he grew rapidly better, and one day, after
warmly thanking his host and showering presents on the whole family, he
took the train to Mollendo, where he would join some ship for Callao.
The voyage seemed an interminable one. At Arequipa, he visited the
little adobe house by the rio de Chili, and thought of the vain appeal
they had made to that scoundrel Garcia. There also, for the first time
since his illness, he thought of his traveling companions.

What had happened to Uncle Francis, Don Christobal and Natividad?
Perhaps their bones were then bleaching in some inaccessible corner of
the Corridors of Night. The Marquis, at all events, had not endured the
torture of impotently witnessing the murder of his two children.

When Dick reached Mollendo there was a howling gale on, but he at once
went down to the harbor. It was deserted save for two shadows,
which rushed toward him with cries of joy. Yes, they were alive and
breathing:--Uncle Francis and Natividad! Though white and sad-looking,
they did not seem to have suffered a great deal. Dick clasped their
hands, and they, seeing him so pale and thin, said no word.

Together they walked along for a few minutes, deep in thoughts. At last
Mr. Montgomery turned to his nephew:

“What happened to Don Christobal? Do you know?”

“I thought he was with you.” Dick’s voice was toneless, detached from
all things of this world.

It was only then that Natividad, without being asked, explained how
he and Uncle Francis, after the frustrated attempt in the House of the
Serpent, had been thrown into a dungeon in which they passed four days,
and in which the illustrious scientist had at last become convinced of
the reality of their adventure. At the end of those four days, finding
the prison doors open and unguarded, they had fled.

Apparently all the Indians were bolting to the mountains from Cuzco, and
the explanation for this they had found on reaching Sicuani. President
Veintemilla, risking his all on one bold stroke, had surprised Garcia’s
forces in the middle of the Interaymi fêtes, and the four squadrons of
his escort which remained faithful had cut up and routed the thousands
of Quichua riflemen. Barely five hundred in all, but of Spanish blood,
they had repeated Pizarro’s exploit on those same plains of Xauxa, while
the same ancient walls, with the impassability of immortal things, again
stared down on the struggle of the races.

Garcia had escaped over the Bolivian frontier, and was on the point of
blowing out his brains when he heard of a revolution in Paraguay which
made life worth living again. So he crossed into Paraguay with his
lawless “cabinet,” to the great satisfaction of the President of
Bolivia.

Prom Sicuani, Uncle Francis and Natividad had gone straight to Mollendo,
hoping to find the Marquis there, if the new fortunes of the republic
had also opened the doors of his prison. As to Dick, they had not
expected to see him until Lima, “after he had done everything to save
Maria-Teresa.”

It was the first time that they had pronounced her name before him, and
Dick saw a very real and very great sympathy in their faces.

“She is dead,” he said, gripping his uncle’s shoulder.

“Poor boy!”

They paced up and down again, silently, before the raging breakers of
the Pacific, which had already kept two of them prisoners in Mollendo
for the past ten days. Dick would not say another word, and his
companions, ignorant of what had happened, could not even try to give
him hope.

Eight more days passed by, and the elements still held them prisoners at
Mollendo. His uncle and Natividad watched Dick closely, but his outward
calm finally dispelled their fears, and once aboard a ship for Callao,
they even questioned him. He told them what he had seen in the Temple
of Death, while they listened in horror to the simply-worded narrative,
made in a singularly quiet voice. Afterwards, Uncle Francis locked
himself in his cabin and sat for a long time with his head between his
hands, staring at an unopened note-book.

Dick, leaning over the ship’s side, was now gazing idly at the rapidly
approaching coast on which he had landed with so much hope and joy. The
Peru of Pizarro and the Incas, the fabulous land of gold and legends,
the Eldorado of his young ambition and of his love! Dead were his
love and his ambition. There lived only the legends, at which they had
laughed, which had killed all their dreams and which was to kill him
after sending Maria-Teresa to a living tomb! And they had laughed,
laughed at the warning of those two stately old ladies, Velasquez
canvases brought to life and striving to retain all their pictorial
dignity!

As on that first day, he was the first man off the liner, dropping over
the side into the swaying craft of a noisy boatman. This time, though,
he did not need to ask where the Galle de Lima lay, and his eyes hardly
left the part of the city to which he had hastened so full of hope,
where Maria-Teresa had waited for him.

He did not hurry on reaching land. Walking slowly he entered the network
of tortuous streets, passed through the labyrinth of alleys, and finally
reached the point whence he could see the verandah.... There he had come
to greet her every night, there he had come one night to find her gone.
Never again would he see that dear face, that dainty figure bent over
the big green books, while the slim fingers toyed with a golden pencil
attached to her supple waist with a long gold chain.

Suddenly Dick stopped, staggered, and put his hand to his side with a
choking intake of breath.... It hurt, that hallucinating apparition
on the verandah.... Or perhaps it is true that the shades of the dear
departed come back to people the spots they loved best, that they
have the power of showing themselves to those they loved.... For
Maria-Teresa is there, leaning out as she used to, turning her
sweet face as she used to.... How pale she is, how diaphanous;
her well-remembered gestures are no more than the ghosts of those
gestures!...

He hardly dared breathe, fearing that the vision would vanish at the
sound of his voice-... He advanced cautiously, stealthily, like a child
stalking a butterfly.

“Dick!”

“Maria-Teresa!”

They are in each other’s arms. The cry which has come from those pale
lips is a living one. They clung to each other, trembling, laughing,
crying, and would have fallen in their weakness had not other shadows
come to their aid.

Aunt Agnes and her duenna, Irene, held up Maria-Teresa, while Don
Christobal, running out into the street, caught the young engineer under
the arm, and led him slowly in.

Little Christobal, dancing at the door of the office, shouted with glee
and clapped his hands together.

“I told you so, Maria-Teresa! I told you he wasn’t dead!... Now you’ll
get better, Maria-Teresa!”

Maria-Teresa, in Dick’s arms again, was sobbing.

“I knew you would come back here if you were still alive.... But is it
really you, Dick?... Really you?”

“Maria-Teresa has been awfully ill,” explained the child, while the two
old ladies cried. “But we cured her by telling her you were _not_
dead. Of course I _knew_ Huascar had saved you too.... Huascar saved us
all, you know.... He took us away from all those nasty Indians....
And father said that we should all be dead but for him. Didn’t you,
Father?... But now you mustn’t die any more, must you?”

“I was there, Maria-Teresa. I saw them put you into the tomb.”

“You _were_ there, then! I knew it. I felt your eyes on mine, and that’s
why I looked. I knew you were watching... somewhere.... When they took
Christobal away from me I thought I should die... Huascar had told me
he would be quite safe, but I couldn’t believe it.... Then that horrible
cry!... I didn’t open my eyes again until I felt yours on them.... I
knew you were there, dear.”

The two old ladies and the Marquis were making desperate signs to him,
and Dick tried to stop her, but she went on:--

“I knew you wouldn’t leave me there to die, and so I waited, waited....
It was terribly long.... And then I began to choke.... I couldn’t move;
only sit there and wait... What does it matter, Father, now that we’re
all alive and happy?... Then I heard somebody thundering blows on the
wall, and thought you were coming.... Only just in time, for I was
choking.... There was such funny music in my ears.... Then I heard the
stone torn away, and felt myself being lifted out.... When I opened my
eyes, Dick, it was not you, but Huas-car.... He carried me into a dark
little room, with a torch burning in it, and untied my arms and head....
Then he slipped on that horrible bat-skin dress again.... I couldn’t
believe I was saved, though he told me so....”

She paused for a moment, choking, and continued:

“He left me where I was, and started working. First he lifted a mummy
into my place. ‘There is no sacrilege,’ he said, ‘for the god now has
the number of wives he needs.’... He had evidently prepared everything,
and dug an opening as deep into the back of my tomb as he dared....
I was horribly afraid, because he said he had done it all for love of
me... and I screamed when he tried to pick me up.... I was ever so much
more afraid than in the tomb.... He laughed, and said I was lucky to
have had him for a friend.... You, he said, had nearly spoiled his
plans, and he had had to trap you all to save me.

“When I told him that he had only saved me for a worse fate, he laughed
again.... Then he picked me up, for I was too weak to move, and carried
me miles and miles through the darkness.... When he stopped, it was
before a low door.... He pushed it open, and there were father and
Christobal.... While they were kissing me, Huascar went to the door....
He looked awful.... Then he said to father: ‘Señor, I promised to return
your son and daughter to you. Here they both are. You will find nothing
to prevent your departure. An Inca, señor, never breaks his word.’... We
have not seen him since.... I had to tell you, Dick, so that if ever you
meet that man again, you will know what we owe him.”

At her last words, the young engineer shivered and pressed her hand.

“He need not be afraid. I remember what I owe him. He saved both of you
and us, dear, and I promised him that if he saved you....”

“I know, I know! Father has told me....”

“He considered: your promise an insult,” interrupted the Marquis. “After
my capture, they took me to the Island, and he came to see me in my
dungeon. I thought my last hour had come, and did not spare him with my
tongue. He let me finish, and then explained what he had done, his whole
plan of action. When Maria-Teresa and Christobal were brought to me, the
two Indians guarding my door, who were his absolute slaves, would take
us both to the mainland in a pirogue. He told me, too, of your interview
at Arequipa, and gave me a message for you. Here it is:

“‘Tell that young man, whom I do not know, that the señorita will be as
free as her heart, which is mine neither to take, to buy nor to sell.
He must know that. I have done him no harm, and he has insulted me. I
forgive him.’

“Then, as he was about to go, he turned again:--

“Do not thank me, señor. Thank the one who is now in heaven, and who
was the señora de la Torre. I ask for only one thing in exchange for my
services, and that is for you never to speak of them. The memory of the
High Priest of the Incas must not be dishonored.’

“That is Huascar’s message, Dick. There is no reason why you should not
marry Maria-Teresa.”

At this moment Uncle Francis and Natividad dashed into the room. On
their way from the harbor, they had learned of the Marquis’ miraculous
return to Lima with his two children, and hearing that the whole family
had come to Callao that day--Maria-Teresa to see her dear old office
for the last time!--they had come there running. Aunt Agnes and Irene,
anxious for their charge’s health, would have taken her away, but
the young girl insisted that this storm of still shaky laughter and
interjections was the best medicine for her malady.

“It’s all a bad dream,” she said. “That is how we must take it.”

Don Christobal took up the cue.

“Exactly. I have had a long talk with Veintemilla, and that is the
way he asks us to treat it, for patriotic reasons. In exchange, he has
promised to help me wind up the business here and sell our concessions.
Dick and Maria-Teresa will be married in England, if nobody objects.”

Natividad alone had objections to make, and waved his arms
disconsolately above his head.

“The same old story!” he groaned. “If I had my way, we should soon get
to the bottom of those Corridor of Night mysteries.... But no!... the
same old game of shut your eyes and see nothing.... Here’s Veintemilla
now, instead of settling with those Indians once and for all, asking us
to call it a bad dream!... Bad dream indeed!”

“My dear Natividad,” said the Marquis. “I fear you are a troublous
spirit. By the way, I have sad news for you. You are no longer inspector
superior of Callao.”

Natividad fell into a chair, his mouth wide open, struggling for
words to qualify the airy attitude of this man, for whom he had risked
everything. He was so comical that they all burst into laughter, while
the little old gentleman, purple with fury, strode toward the door.

“Not so quick, Natividad, not so quick!” called the Marquis after him.
“There is also some good news for you. You have been appointed inspector
superior at Lima.”

Again Natividad fell into a chair, but beaming, stuttering with joy and
gratitude.

“It’s a dream.... the dream of my life.... I might have been dead
though!”

“The appointment, which I saw President Veintemilla sign, is, of course,
only valid in the event of your being living,” smiled the Marquis. “As
those Indians of yours haven’t eaten you alive, you can keep an eye on
them again.”

“Hush! We must not talk about it,” replied Natividad, the magistrate’s
toga weighing on his shoulders again.

“And neither shall we,” whispered Dick, bending over Maria-Teresa’s pale
face.

She nodded slowly. “Do you know, Dick, looking round me and seeing the
same old chairs and books again, the same dear faces, and when I think
of the Temple of Death, it really does only seem like an ugly dream.”

Natividad, having said good-by to all, was talking to the Marquis by the
door. He opened it and fell back with a muffled exclamation.

A corpse, until then held upright by the closed door, fell into the
room. Maria-Teresa, first to realize what it was, fell on her knees
beside the body.

It was Huascar, whom she had driven out of that door and who had dragged
himself there to die, a dagger in his heart.



EPILOGUE

This story must have an epilogue, for I have not yet had occasion to
speak again of Oviedo Runtu, bank-clerk and last King of the Incas.
After a thousand adventures in the Andes, which I may describe to you
some day, Oviedo Runtu and his lieutenants in the revolt with Garcia
were tracked down by Natividad’s police.

Oviedo Runtu surrendered and saved his life by promising to quench
the last embers of revolt. Tried by court-martial, he was sentenced to
perpetual exile, but Natividad subsequently interceded and obtained his
pardon. It was, moreover, the new Chief of Police of Lima who secured
him a post at Punho, in a branch of the Franco-Belgian bank. There
Natividad could watch him, and finally convinced himself that the
bank-clerk King did nothing to resuscitate the marvelous fêtes of the
Interaymi.

Oviedo Runtu died very prosaically, after marrying a lady of Lima who
had made the trip to Lake Titicaca specially to see the last King of the
Incas. Of that journey was born a romance, and in after years travelers
passing through Punho would have the royal couple pointed out to them.
They were always very much amused when they heard that the King, working
daily in a bank, earned just one hundred’ and fifty soles a month.

One day, when some charitable souls were chaffing the King’s widow about
the mediocre state in which she lived, the Coya, as she was derisively
called, retorted that had she and her husband so wished, they could have
been the wealthiest couple on earth. But the treasures of the Incas, she
added, belonged to the gods and the dead, and none might touch them.

Asked if she had ever seen those treasures, the Coya asserted that her
husband had shown them to her once, and she told fabulous stories of the
riches hidden in the Temple of Death. * Naturally, nobody believed her.


     * The anonymous author of the MS. “_Antiy y monumentos del
     Peru_” says:--

     “It Is widely known, and generally admitted, that there
     exists in the ancient fortress of the Cuzco a secret room In
     which is hidden a vast treasure, consisting chiefly of
     golden statues of all the Incas. A lady who has been in this
     room is still living. This is Doña Maria de Esquivel, wife
     of the last Inca. I have heard her tell how she was taken
     there.

     “Don Carlos, husband of this lady, did not live in a manner
     suited to his rank, and she often upbraided him, saying that
     she had been cozened into marrying a poor Indian under the
     pompous style of ‘Lord of the Incas.9 She said this so often
     that Don Carlos grew angry, and one day retorted: ‘Madam, I
     will show you whether I am rich or poor. Too will see that
     no lord, no monarch on this earth, has a greater treasure
     than I.’ Taking her to the ruined fortress, he bound her
     eyes, and led her only a few steps before removing the
     bandage again.

     “She was in a great quadrangular hall, and ranged all about
     it were the statues of the Incas, each about the size of a
     twelve-year-old child, and all of massive gold. She saw also
     many vases of gold and silver, the whole making one of the
     most magnificent treasures in the world.”


Even so, none believed the soldiers of Pizarro when they said that in
Peru their horses had been shod with silver!


THE END





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