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Title: Hearts of Three
Author: London, Jack
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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HEARTS OF THREE

by

JACK LONDON

Author of “The Valley of the Moon,”
“Jerry of the Islands,”
“Michael, Brother of Jerry,” &c., &c.



Mills & Boon, Limited
49 Rupert Street
London, W.

Copyright in the United States of America by Jack London.



                                FOREWORD


I hope the reader will forgive me for beginning this foreword with a
brag. In truth, this yarn is a celebration. By its completion I
celebrate my fortieth birthday, my fiftieth book, my sixteenth year in
the writing game, and a new departure. “Hearts of Three” is a new
departure. I have certainly never done anything like it before; I am
pretty certain never to do anything like it again. And I haven’t the
least bit of reticence in proclaiming my pride in having done it. And
now, for the reader who likes action, I advise him to skip the rest of
this brag and foreword, and plunge into the narrative, and tell me if it
just doesn’t read along.

For the more curious let me explain a bit further. With the rise of
moving pictures into the overwhelmingly most popular form of amusement
in the entire world, the stock of plots and stories in the world’s
fiction fund began rapidly to be exhausted. In a year a single producing
company, with a score of directors, is capable of filming the entire
literary output of the entire lives of Shakespeare, Balzac, Dickens,
Scott, Zola, Tolstoy, and of dozens of less voluminous writers. And
since there are hundreds of moving pictures producing companies, it can
be readily grasped how quickly they found themselves face to face with a
shortage of the raw material of which moving pictures are fashioned.

The film rights in all novels, short stories, and plays that were still
covered by copyright, were bought or contracted for, while all similar
raw material on which copyright had expired was being screened as
swiftly as sailors on a placer beach would pick up nuggets. Thousands of
scenario writers—literally tens of thousands, for no man, nor woman, nor
child was too mean not to write scenarios—tens of thousands of scenario
writers pirated through all literature (copyright or otherwise), and
snatched the magazines hot from the press to steal any new scene or plot
or story hit upon by their writing brethren.

In passing, it is only fair to point out that, though only the other
day, it was in the days ere scenario writers became respectable, in the
days when they worked overtime for rough-neck directors for fifteen and
twenty a week or freelanced their wares for from ten to twenty dollars
per scenario and half the time were beaten out of the due payment, or
had their stolen goods stolen from them by their equally graceless and
shameless fellows who slaved by the week. But to-day, which is only a
day since the other day, I know scenario writers who keep their three
machines, their two chauffeurs, send their children to the most
exclusive prep schools, and maintain an unwavering solvency.

It was largely because of the shortage in raw material that scenario
writers appreciated in value and esteem. They found themselves in
demand, treated with respect, better remunerated, and, in return,
expected to deliver a higher grade of commodity. One phase of this new
quest for material was the attempt to enlist known authors in the work.
But because a man had written a score of novels was no guarantee that he
could write a good scenario. Quite to the contrary, it was quickly
discovered that the surest guarantee of failure was a previous record of
success in novel-writing.

But the moving pictures producers were not to be denied. Division of
labor was the thing. Allying themselves with powerful newspaper
organisations, or, in the case of “Hearts of Three,” the very reverse,
they had highly-skilled writers of scenario (who couldn’t write novels
to save themselves) make scenarios, which, in turn, were translated into
novels by novel-writers (who couldn’t, to save themselves, write
scenarios).

Comes now Mr. Charles Goddard to one, Jack London, saying: “The time,
the place, and the men are met; the moving pictures producers, the
newspapers, and the capital, are ready: let us get together.” And we
got. Result: “Hearts of Three.” When I state that Mr. Goddard has been
responsible for “The Perils of Pauline,” “The Exploits of Elaine,” “The
Goddess,” the “Get Rich Quick Wallingford” series, etc., no question of
his skilled fitness can be raised. Also, the name of the present
heroine, Leoncia, is of his own devising.

On the ranch, in the “Valley of the Moon,” he wrote his first several
episodes. But he wrote faster than I, and was done with his fifteen
episodes weeks ahead of me. Do not be misled by the word “episode.” The
first episode covers three thousand feet of film. The succeeding
fourteen episodes cover each two thousand feet of film. And each episode
contains about ninety scenes, which makes a total of some thirteen
hundred scenes. Nevertheless, we worked simultaneously at our respective
tasks. I could not build for what was going to happen next or a dozen
chapters away, because I did not know. Neither did Mr. Goddard know. The
inevitable result was that “Hearts of Three” may not be very vertebrate,
although it is certainly consecutive.

Imagine my surprise, down here in Hawaii and toiling at the novelization
of the tenth episode, to receive by mail from Mr. Goddard in New York
the scenario of the fourteenth episode, and glancing therein, to find my
hero married to the wrong woman!—and with only one more episode in which
to get rid of the wrong woman and duly tie my hero up with the right and
only woman. For all of which please see last chapter of fifteenth
episode. Trust Mr. Goddard to show me how.

For Mr. Goddard is the master of action and lord of speed. Action
doesn’t bother him at all. “Register,” he calmly says in a film
direction to the moving picture actor. Evidently the actor registers,
for Mr. Goddard goes right on with more action. “Register grief,” he
commands, or “sorrow,” or “anger,” or “melting sympathy,” or “homicidal
intent,” or “suicidal tendency.” That’s all. It has to be all, or how
else would he ever accomplish the whole thirteen hundred scenes?

But imagine the poor devil of a me, who can’t utter the talismanic
“register” but who must describe, and at some length inevitably, these
moods and modes so airily created in passing by Mr. Goddard! Why,
Dickens thought nothing of consuming a thousand words or so in
describing and subtly characterizing the particular grief of a
particular person. But Mr. Goddard says, “Register,” and the slaves of
the camera obey.

And action! I have written some novels of adventure in my time, but
never, in all of the many of them, have I perpetrated a totality of
action equal to what is contained in “Hearts of Three.”

But I know, now, why moving pictures are popular. I know, now, why
Messrs. “Barnes of New York” and “Potter of Texas” sold by the millions
of copies. I know, now, why one stump speech of high-falutin’ is a more
efficient vote-getter than a finest and highest act or thought of
statesmanship. It has been an interesting experience, this novelization
by me of Mr. Goddard’s scenario; and it has been instructive. It has
given me high lights, foundation lines, cross-bearings, and illumination
on my anciently founded sociological generalizations. I have come, by
this adventure in writing, to understand the mass mind of the people
more thoroughly than I thought I had understood it before, and to
realize, more fully than ever, the graphic entertainment delivered by
the demagogue who wins the vote of the mass out of his mastery of its
mind. I should be surprised if this book does not have a large sale.
(“Register surprise,” Mr. Goddard would say; or “Register large sale”).

If this adventure of “Hearts of Three” be collaboration, I am
transported by it. But alack!—I fear me Mr. Goddard must then be the one
collaborator in a million. We have never had a word, an argument, nor a
discussion. But then, I must be a jewel of a collaborator myself. Have I
not, without whisper or whimper of complaint, let him “register” through
fifteen episodes of scenario, through thirteen hundred scenes and
thirty-one thousand feet of film, through one hundred and eleven
thousand words of novelization? Just the same, having completed the
task, I wish I’d never written it—for the reason that I’d like to read
it myself to see if it reads along. I am curious to know. I am curious
to know.

                                                            JACK LONDON.

 Waikiki, Hawaii,
         _March 23, 1916_.



                   Back to Back Against the Mainmast


                 Do ye seek for fun and fortune?
                   Listen, rovers, now to me!
                 Look ye for them on the ocean:
                   Ye shall find them on the sea.


                                 CHORUS:

                     Roaring wind and deep blue water!
                       We’re the jolly devils who,
                     Back to back against the mainmast,
                       Held at bay the entire crew.

                 Bring the dagger, bring the pistols!
                   We will have our own to-day!
                 Let the cannon smash the bulwarks!
                   Let the cutlass clear the way!


                                 CHORUS:

                     Roaring wind and deep blue water!
                       We’re the jolly devils who,
                    Back to back against the mainmast,
                       Held at bay the entire crew.

                 Here’s to rum and here’s to plunder!
                   Here’s to all the gales that blow!
                 Let the seamen cry for mercy!
                   Let the blood of captains flow!


                                 CHORUS:

                   Roaring wind and deep blue water!
                     We’re the jolly devils who,
                   Back to back against the mainmast,
                     Held at bay the entire crew.

                 Here’s to ships that we have taken!
                   They have seen which men were best.
                 We have lifted maids and cargo,
                   And the sharks have had the rest.

                                 CHORUS:

                   Roaring wind and deep blue water!
                     We’re the jolly devils who,
                   Back to back against the mainmast,
                     Held at bay the entire crew.

                                                     —_George Sterling._



                            HEARTS OF THREE



                               CHAPTER I.


Events happened very rapidly with Francis Morgan that late spring
morning. If ever a man leaped across time into the raw, red drama and
tragedy of the primitive and the medieval melodrama of sentiment and
passion of the New World Latin, Francis Morgan was destined to be that
man, and Destiny was very immediate upon him.

Yet he was lazily unaware that aught in the world was stirring, and was
scarcely astir himself. A late night at bridge had necessitated a late
rising. A late breakfast of fruit and cereal had occurred along the
route to the library—the austerely elegant room from which his father,
toward the last, had directed vast and manifold affairs.

“Parker,” he said to the valet who had been his father’s before him,
“did you ever notice any signs of fat on R.H.M. in his last days?”

“Oh, no, sir,” was the answer, uttered with all the due humility of the
trained servant, but accompanied by an involuntarily measuring glance
that scanned the young man’s splendid proportions. “Your father, sir,
never lost his leanness. His figure was always the same,
broad-shouldered, deep in the chest, big-boned, but lean, always lean,
sir, in the middle. When he was laid out, sir, and bathed, his body
would have shamed most of the young men about town. He always took good
care of himself; it was those exercises in bed, sir. Half an hour every
morning. Nothing prevented. He called it religion.”

“Yes, he was a fine figure of a man,” the young man responded idly,
glancing to the stock-ticker and the several telephones his father had
installed.

“He was that,” Parker agreed eagerly. “He was lean and aristocratic in
spite of his shoulders and bone and chest. And you’ve inherited it, sir,
only on more generous lines.”

Young Francis Morgan, inheritor of many millions as well as brawn,
lolled back luxuriously in a huge leather chair, stretched his legs
after the manner of a full-vigored menagerie lion that is overspilling
with vigor, and glanced at a headline of the morning paper which
informed him of a fresh slide in the Culebra Cut at Panama.

“If I didn’t know we Morgans didn’t run that way,” he yawned, “I’d be
fat already from this existence.... Eh, Parker?”

The elderly valet, who had neglected prompt reply, startled at the
abrupt interrogative interruption of the pause.

“Oh, yes, sir,” he said hastily. “I mean, no, sir. You are in the pink
of condition.”

“Not on your life,” the young man assured him. “I may not be getting
fat, but I am certainly growing soft.... Eh, Parker?”

“Yes, sir. No, sir; no, I mean no, sir. You’re just the same as when you
came home from college three years ago.”

“And took up loafing as a vocation,” Francis laughed. “Parker!”

Parker was alert attention. His master debated with himself ponderously,
as if the problem were of profound importance, rubbing the while the
bristly thatch of the small toothbrush moustache he had recently begun
to sport on his upper lip.

“Parker, I’m going fishing.”

“Yes, sir!”

“I ordered some rods sent up. Please joint them and let me give them the
once over. The idea drifts through my mind that two weeks in the woods
is what I need. If I don’t, I’ll surely start laying on flesh and
disgrace the whole family tree. You remember Sir Henry?—the old original
Sir Henry, the buccaneer old swashbuckler?”

“Yes, sir; I’ve read of him, sir.”

Parker had paused in the doorway until such time as the ebbing of his
young master’s volubility would permit him to depart on the errand.

“Nothing to be proud of, the old pirate.”

“Oh, no, sir,” Parker protested. “He was Governor of Jamaica. He died
respected.”

“It was a mercy he didn’t die hanged,” Francis laughed. “As it was, he’s
the only disgrace in the family that he founded. But what I was going to
say is that I’ve looked him up very carefully. He kept his figure and he
died lean in the middle, thank God. It’s a good inheritance he passed
down. We Morgans never found his treasure; but beyond rubies is the
lean-in-the-middle legacy he bequeathed us. It’s what is called a fixed
character in the breed—that’s what the profs taught me in the biology
course.”

Parker faded out of the room in the ensuing silence, during which
Francis Morgan buried himself in the Panama column and learned that the
canal was not expected to be open for traffic for three weeks to come.

A telephone buzzed, and, through the electric nerves of a consummate
civilization, Destiny made the first out-reach of its tentacles and
contacted with Francis Morgan in the library of the mansion his father
had builded on Riverside Drive.

“But my dear Mrs. Carruthers,” was his protest into the transmitter.
“Whatever it is, it is a mere local flurry. Tampico Petroleum is all
right. It is not a gambling proposition. It is legitimate investment.
Stay with. Tie to it.... Some Minnesota farmer’s come to town and is
trying to buy a block or two because it looks as solid as it really
is.... What if it is up two points? Don’t sell. Tampico Petroleum is not
a lottery or a roulette proposition. It’s bona fide industry. I wish it
hadn’t been so almighty big or I’d have financed it all myself....
Listen, please, it’s not a flyer. Our present contracts for tanks is
over a million. Our railroad and our three pipe-lines are costing more
than five millions. Why, we’ve a hundred millions in producing wells
right now, and our problem is to get it down country to the
oil-steamers. This is the sober investment time. A year from now, or two
years, and your shares will make government bonds look like something
the cat brought in....”

“Yes, yes, please. Never mind how the market goes. Also, please, I
didn’t advise you to go in in the first place. I never advised a friend
to that. But now that they are in, stick. It’s as solid as the Bank of
England.... Yes, Dicky and I divided the spoils last night. Lovely
party, though Dicky’s got too much temperament for bridge.... Yes, bull
luck.... Ha! ha! My temperament? Ha! Ha!... Yes?... Tell Harry I’m off
and away for a couple of weeks.... Fishing, troutlets, you know, the
springtime and the streams, the rise of sap, the budding and the
blossoming and all the rest.... Yes, good-bye, and hold on to Tampico
Petroleum. If it goes down, after that Minnesota farmer’s bulled it, buy
a little more. I’m going to. It’s finding money.... Yes.... Yes,
surely.... It’s too good to dare sell on a flyer now, because it mayn’t
ever again go down.... Of course I know what I’m talking about. I’ve
just had eight hours’ sleep, and haven’t had a drink.... Yes, yes....
Good-bye.”

He pulled the ticker tape into the comfort of his chair and languidly
ran over it, noting with mildly growing interest the message it
conveyed.

Parker returned with several slender rods, each a glittering gem of
artisanship and art. Francis was out of his chair, ticker flung aside
and forgotten as with the exultant joy of a boy he examined the toys
and, one after another, began trying them, switching them through the
air till they made shrill whip-like noises, moving them gently with
prudence and precision under the lofty ceiling as he made believe to
cast across the floor into some unseen pool of trout-lurking mystery.

A telephone buzzed. Irritation was swift on his face.

“For heaven’s sake answer it, Parker,” he commanded. “If it is some
silly stock-gambling female, tell her I’m dead, or drunk, or down with
typhoid, or getting married, or anything calamitous.”

After a moment’s dialogue, conducted on Parker’s part, in the discreet
and modulated tones that befitted absolutely the cool, chaste, noble
dignity of the room, with a “One moment, sir,” into the transmitter, he
muffled the transmitter with his hand and said:

“It’s Mr. Bascom, sir. He wants you.”

“Tell Mr. Bascom to go to hell,” said Francis, simulating so long a
cast, that, had it been in verity a cast, and had it pursued the course
his fascinated gaze indicated, it would have gone through the window and
most likely startled the gardener outside kneeling over the rose bush he
was planting.

“Mr. Bascom says it’s about the market, sir, and that he’d like to talk
with you only a moment,” Parker urged, but so delicately and subduedly
as to seem to be merely repeating an immaterial and unnecessary message.

“All right.” Francis carefully leaned the rod against a table and went
to the ‘phone.

“Hello,” he said into the telephone. “Yes, this is I, Morgan. Shoot,
What is it?”

He listened for a minute, then interrupted irritably: “Sell—hell.
Nothing of the sort.... Of course, I’m glad to know. Even if it goes up
ten points, which it won’t, hold on to everything. It may be a
legitimate rise, and it mayn’t ever come down. It’s solid. It’s worth
far more than it’s listed. I know, if the public doesn’t. A year from
now it’ll list at two hundred ... that is, if Mexico can cut the
revolution stuff.... Whenever it drops you’ll have buying orders from
me.... Nonsense. Who wants control? It’s purely sporadic ... eh? I beg
your pardon. I mean it’s merely temporary. Now I’m going off fishing for
a fortnight. If it goes down five points, buy. Buy all that’s offered.
Say, when a fellow’s got a real bona fide property, being bulled is
almost as bad as having the bears after one ... yes.... Sure ... yes.
Good-bye.”

And while Francis returned delightedly to his fishing-rods, Destiny, in
Thomas Regan’s down-town private office, was working overtime. Having
arranged with his various brokers to buy, and, through his divers
channels of secret publicity having let slip the cryptic tip that
something was wrong with Tampico Petroleum’s concessions from the
Mexican government, Thomas Regan studied a report of his own oil-expert
emissary who had spent two months on the spot spying out what Tampico
Petroleum really had in sight and prospect.

A clerk brought in a card with the information that the visitor was
importunate and foreign. Regan listened, glanced at the card, and said:

“Tell this Mister Senor Alvarez Torres of Ciodad de Colon that I can’t
see him.”

Five minutes later the clerk was back, this time with a message
pencilled on the card. Regan grinned as he read it:

    “_Dear Mr. Regan_,
      “_Honoured Sir_:—

    “_I have the honour to inform you that I have a tip on the location
    of the treasure Sir Henry Morgan buried in old pirate days._

                                                     “_Alvarez Torres._”

Regan shook his head, and the clerk was nearly out of the room when his
employer suddenly recalled him.

“Show him in—at once.”

In the interval of being alone, Regan chuckled to himself as he rolled
the new idea over in his mind. “The unlicked cub!” he muttered through
the smoke of the cigar he was lighting. “Thinks he can play the lion
part old R.H.M. played. A trimming is what he needs, and old Grayhead
Thomas R. will see that he gets it.”

Senor Alvarez Torres’ English was as correct as his modish spring suit,
and though the bleached yellow of his skin advertised his Latin-American
origin, and though his black eyes were eloquent of the mixed lustres of
Spanish and Indian long compounded, nevertheless he was as thoroughly
New Yorkish as Thomas Regan could have wished.

“By great effort, and years of research, I have finally won to the clue
to the buccaneer gold of Sir Henry Morgan,” he preambled. “Of course
it’s on the Mosquito Coast. I’ll tell you now that it’s not a thousand
miles from the Chiriqui Lagoon, and that Bocas del Toro, within reason,
may be described as the nearest town. I was born there—educated in
Paris, however—and I know the neighbourhood like a book. A small
schooner—the outlay is cheap, most very cheap—but the returns, the
reward—the treasure!”

Senor Torres paused in eloquent inability to describe more definitely,
and Thomas Regan, hard man used to dealing with hard men, proceeded to
bore into him and his data like a cross-examining criminal lawyer.

“Yes,” Senor Torres quickly admitted, “I am somewhat embarrassed—how
shall I say?—for immediate funds.”

“You need the money,” the stock operator assured him brutally, and he
bowed pained acquiescence.

Much more he admitted under the rapid-fire interrogation. It was true,
he had but recently left Bocas del Toro, but he hoped never again to go
back. And yet he would go back if possibly some arrangement....

But Regan shut him off with the abrupt way of the master-man dealing
with lesser fellow-creatures. He wrote a check, in the name of Alvarez
Torres, and when that gentleman glanced at it he read the figures of a
thousand dollars.

“Now here’s the idea,” said Regan. “I put no belief whatsoever in your
story. But I have a young friend—my heart is bound up in the boy but he
is too much about town, the white lights and the white-lighted ladies,
and the rest—you understand?” And Senor Alvarez Torres bowed as one man
of the world to another. “Now, for the good of his health, as well as
his wealth and the saving of his soul, the best thing that could happen
to him is a trip after treasure, adventure, exercise, and ... you
readily understand, I am sure.”

Again Alvarez Torres bowed.

“You need the money,” Regan continued. “Strive to interest him. That
thousand is for your effort. Succeed in interesting him so that he
departs after old Morgan’s gold, and two thousand more is yours. So
thoroughly succeed in interesting him that he remains away three months,
two thousand more—six months, five thousand. Oh, believe me, I knew his
father. We were comrades, partners, I—I might say, almost brothers. I
would sacrifice any sum to win his son to manhood’s wholesome path. What
do you say? The thousand is yours to begin with. Well?”

With trembling fingers Senor Alvarez Torres folded and unfolded the
check.

“I ... I accept,” he stammered and faltered in his eagerness. “I ... I
... How shall I say?... I am yours to command.”

Five minutes later, as he arose to go, fully instructed in the part he
was to play and with his story of Morgan’s treasure revised to
convincingness by the brass-tack business acumen of the stock-gambler,
he blurted out, almost facetiously, yet even more pathetically:

“And the funniest thing about it, Mr. Regan, is that it is true. Your
advised changes in my narrative make it sound more true, but true it is
under it all. I need the money. You are most munificent, and I shall do
my best.... I ... I pride myself that I am an artist. But the real and
solemn truth is that the clue to Morgan’s buried loot is genuine. I have
had access to records inaccessible to the public, which is neither here
nor there, for the men of my own family—they are family records—have had
similar access, and have wasted their lives before me in the futile
search. Yet were they on the right clue—except that their wits made them
miss the spot by twenty miles. It was there in the records. They missed
it, because it was, I think, a deliberate trick, a conundrum, a puzzle,
a disguisement, a maze, which I, and I alone, have penetrated and
solved. The early navigators all played such tricks on the charts they
drew. My Spanish race so hid the Hawaiian Islands by five degrees of
longitude.”

All of which was in turn Greek to Thomas Regan, who smiled his
acceptance of listening and with the same smile conveyed his busy
business-man’s tolerant unbelief.

Scarcely was Senor Torres gone, when Francis Morgan was shown in.

“Just thought I’d drop around for a bit of counsel,” he said, greetings
over. “And to whom but you should I apply, who so closely played the
game with my father? You and he were partners, I understand, on some of
the biggest deals. He always told me to trust your judgment. And, well,
here I am, and I want to go fishing. What’s up with Tampico Petroleum?”

“What _is_ up?” Regan countered, with fine simulation of ignorance of
the very thing of moment he was responsible for precipitating. “Tampico
Petroleum?”

Francis nodded, dropped into a chair, and lighted a cigarette, while
Regan consulted the ticker.

“Tampico Petroleum is up—two points—you should worry,” he opined.

“That’s what I say,” Francis concurred. “I should worry. But just the
same, do you think some bunch, onto the inside value of it—and it’s
big—I speak under the rose, you know, I mean in absolute confidence?”
Regan nodded. “It is big. It is right. It is the real thing. It is
legitimate. Now this activity—would you think that somebody, or some
bunch, is trying to get control?”

His father’s associate, with the reverend gray of hair thatching his
roof of crooked brain, shook the thatch.

“Why,” he amplified, “it may be just a flurry, or it may be a hunch on
the stock public that it’s really good. What do you say?”

“Of course it’s good,” was Francis’ warm response. “I’ve got reports,
Regan, so good they’d make your hair stand up. As I tell all my friends,
this is the real legitimate. It’s a damned shame I had to let the public
in on it. It was so big, I just had to. Even all the money my father
left me, couldn’t swing it—I mean, free money, not the stuff tied
up—money to work with.”

“Are you short?” the older man queried.

“Oh, I’ve got a tidy bit to operate with,” was the airy reply of youth.

“You mean...?”

“Sure. Just that. If she drops, I’ll buy. It’s finding money.”

“Just about how far would you buy?” was the next searching
interrogation, masked by an expression of mingled good humor and
approbation.

“All I’ve got,” came Francis Morgan’s prompt answer. “I tell you, Regan,
it’s immense.”

“I haven’t looked into it to amount to anything, Francis; but I will say
from the little I know that it listens good.”

“Listens! I tell you, Regan, it’s the Simon-pure, straight legitimate,
and it’s a shame to have it listed at all. I don’t have to wreck anybody
or anything to pull it across. The world will be better for my shooting
into it I am afraid to say how many hundreds of millions of barrels of
real oil——say, I’ve got one well alone, in the Huasteca field, that’s
gushed 27,000 barrels a day for seven months. And it’s still doing it.
That’s the drop in the bucket we’ve got piped to market now. And it’s
twenty-two gravity, and carries less than two-tenths of one per cent. of
sediment. And there’s one gusher—sixty miles of pipe to build to it, and
pinched down to the limit of safety, that’s pouring out all over the
landscape just about seventy thousand barrels a day.—Of course, all in
confidence, you know. We’re doing nicely, and I don’t want Tampico
Petroleum to skyrocket.”

“Don’t you worry about that, my lad. You’ve got to get your oil piped,
and the Mexican revolution straightened out before ever Tampico
Petroleum soars. You go fishing and forget it.” Regan paused, with
finely simulated sudden recollection, and picked up Alvarez Torres’ card
with the pencilled note. “Look, who’s just been to see me.” Apparently
struck with an idea, Regan retained the card a moment. “Why go fishing
for mere trout? After all, it’s only recreation. Here’s a thing to go
fishing after that there’s real recreation in, full-size man’s
recreation, and not the Persian-palace recreation of an Adirondack camp,
with ice and servants and electric push-buttons. Your father always was
more than a mite proud of that old family pirate. He claimed to look
like him, and you certainly look like your dad.”

“Sir Henry,” Francis smiled, reaching for the card. “So am I a mite
proud of the old scoundrel.”

He looked up questioningly from the reading of the card.

“He’s a plausible cuss,” Regan explained. “Claims to have been born
right down there on the Mosquito Coast, and to have got the tip from
private papers in his family. Not that I believe a word of it. I haven’t
time or interest to get started believing in stuff outside my own
field.”

“Just the same, Sir Henry died practically a poor man,” Francis
asserted, the lines of the Morgan stubbornness knitting themselves for a
flash on his brows. “And they never did find any of his buried
treasure.”

“Good fishing,” Regan girded good-humoredly.

“I’d like to meet this Alvarez Torres just the same,” the young man
responded.

“Fool’s gold,” Regan continued. “Though I must admit that the cuss is
most exasperatingly plausible. Why, if I were younger—but oh, the devil,
my work’s cut out for me here.”

“Do you know where I can find him?” Francis was asking the next moment,
all unwittingly putting his neck into the net of tentacles that Destiny,
in the visible incarnation of Thomas Regan, was casting out to snare
him.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The next morning the meeting took place in Regan’s office. Senor Alvarez
Torres startled and controlled himself at first sight of Francis’ face.
This was not missed by Regan, who grinningly demanded:

“Looks like the old pirate himself, eh?”

“Yes, the resemblance is most striking,” Torres lied, or half-lied, for
he did recognize the resemblance to the portraits he had seen of Sir
Henry Morgan; although at the same time under his eyelids he saw the
vision of another and living man who, no less than Francis and Sir
Henry, looked as much like both of them as either looked like the other.

Francis was youth that was not to be denied. Modern maps and ancient
charts were pored over, as well as old documents, handwritten in faded
ink on time-yellowed paper, and at the end of half an hour he announced
that the next fish he caught would be on either the Bull or the Calf—the
two islets off the Lagoon of Chiriqui, on one or the other of which
Torres averred the treasure lay.

“I’ll catch to-night’s train for New Orleans,” Francis announced. “That
will just make connection with one of the United Fruit Company’s boats
for Colon—oh, I had it all looked up before I slept last night.”

“But don’t charter a schooner at Colon,” Torres advised. “Take the
overland trip by horseback to Belen. There’s the place to charter, with
unsophisticated native sailors and everything else unsophisticated.”

“Listens good!” Francis agreed. “I always wanted to see that country
down there. You’ll be ready to catch to-night’s train, Senor Torres?...
Of course, you understand, under the circumstances, I’ll be the
treasurer and foot the expenses.”

But at a privy glance from Regan, Alvarez Torres lied with swift
efficientness.

“I must join you later, I regret, Mr. Morgan. Some little business that
presses—how shall I say?—an insignificant little lawsuit that must be
settled first. Not that the sum at issue is important. But it is a
family matter, and therefore gravely important. We Torres have our
pride, which is a silly thing, I acknowledge, in this country, but which
with us is very serious.”

“He can join afterward, and straighten you out if you’ve missed the
scent,” Regan assured Francis. “And, before it slips your mind, it might
be just as well to arrange with Senor Torres some division of the loot
... if you ever find it.”

“What would you say?” Francis asked.

“Equal division, fifty-fifty,” Regan answered, magnificently arranging
the apportionment between the two men of something he was certain did
not exist.

“And you will follow after as soon as you can?” Francis asked the Latin
American. “Regan, take hold of his little law affair yourself and
expedite it, won’t you?”

“Sure, boy,” was the answer. “And, if it’s needed, shall I advance cash
to Senor Alvarez?”

“Fine!” Francis shook their hands in both of his. “It will save me
bother. And I’ve got to rush to pack and break engagements and catch
that train. So long, Regan. Good-bye, Senor Torres, until we meet
somewhere around Bocas del Toro, or in a little hole in the ground on
the Bull or the Calf—you say you think it’s the Calf? Well, until
then—adios!”

And Senor Alvarez Torres remained with Regan some time longer, receiving
explicit instructions for the part he was to play, beginning with
retardation and delay of Francis’ expedition, and culminating in similar
retardation and delay always to be continued.

“In short,” Regan concluded, “I don’t almost care if he never comes
back—if you can keep him down there for the good of his health that long
and longer.”



                               CHAPTER II


Money, like youth, will not be denied, and Francis Morgan, who was the
man-legal and nature-certain representative of both youth and money,
found himself one afternoon, three weeks after he had said good-bye to
Regan, becalmed close under the land on board his schooner, the
_Angelique_. The water was glassy, the smooth roll scarcely perceptible,
and, in sheer ennui and overplus of energy that likewise declined to be
denied, he asked the captain, a breed, half Jamaica negro and half
Indian, to order a small skiff over the side.

“Looks like I might shoot a parrot or a monkey or something,” he
explained, searching the jungle-clad shore, half a mile away, through a
twelve-power Zeiss glass.

“Most problematic, sir, that you are bitten by a _labarri_, which is
deadly viper in these parts,” grinned the breed skipper and owner of the
_Angelique_, who, from his Jamaica father had inherited the gift of
tongues.

But Francis was not to be deterred; for at the moment, through his
glass, he had picked out, first, in the middle ground, a white hacienda,
and second, on the beach, a white-clad woman’s form, and further, had
seen that she was scrutinising him and the schooner through a pair of
binoculars.

“Put the skiff over, skipper,” he ordered. “Who lives around here?—white
folks?”

“The Enrico Solano family, sir,” was the answer. “My word, they are
important gentlefolk, old Spanish, and they own the entire general
landscape from the sea to the Cordilleras and half of the Chiriqui
Lagoon as well. They are very poor, most powerful rich ... in
landscape—and they are prideful and fiery as cayenne pepper.”

As Francis, in the tiny skiff, rowed shoreward, the skipper’s alert eye
noted that he had neglected to take along either rifle or shotgun for
the contemplated parrot or monkey. And, next, the skipper’s eye picked
up the white-clad woman’s figure against the dark edge of the jungle.

Straight to the white beach of coral sand Francis rowed, not trusting
himself to look over his shoulder to see if the woman remained or had
vanished. In his mind was merely a young man’s healthy idea of
encountering a bucolic young lady, or a half-wild white woman for that
matter, or at the best a very provincial one, with whom he could fool
and fun away a few minutes of the calm that fettered the _Angelique_ to
immobility. When the skiff grounded, he stepped out, and with one sturdy
arm lifted its nose high enough up the sand to fasten it by its own
weight. Then he turned around. The beach to the jungle was bare. He
strode forward confidently. Any traveller, on so strange a shore, had a
right to seek inhabitants for information on his way—was the idea he was
acting out.

And he, who had anticipated a few moments of diversion merely, was
diverted beyond his fondest expectations. Like a jack-in-the-box, the
woman, who, in the flash of vision vouchsafed him demonstrated that she
was a girl-woman, ripely mature and yet mostly girl, sprang out of the
green wall of jungle and with both hands seized his arm. The hearty
weight of grip in the seizure surprised him. He fumbled his hat off with
his free hand and bowed to the strange woman with the imperturbableness
of a Morgan, New York trained and disciplined to be surprised at
nothing, and received another surprise, or several surprises compounded.
Not alone was it her semi-brunette beauty that impacted upon him with
the weight of a blow, but it was her gaze, driven into him, that was all
of sternness. Almost it seemed to him that he must know her. Strangers,
in his experience, never so looked at one another.

The double grip on his arm became a draw, as she muttered tensely:

“Quick! Follow me!”

A moment he resisted. She shook him in the fervor of her desire, and
strove to pull him toward her and after her. With the feeling that it
was some unusual game, such as one might meet up with on the coast of
Central America, he yielded, smilingly, scarcely knowing whether he
followed voluntarily or was being dragged into the jungle by her
impetuosity.

“Do as I do,” she shot back at him over her shoulder, by this time
leading him with one hand of hers in his.

He smiled and obeyed, crouching when she crouched, doubling over when
she doubled, while memories of John Smith and Pocahontas glimmered up in
his fancy.

Abruptly she checked him and sat down, her hand directing him to sit
beside her ere she released him, and pressed it to her heart while she
panted:

“Thank God! Oh, merciful Virgin!”

In imitation, such having been her will of him, and such seeming to be
the cue of the game, he smilingly pressed his own hand to his heart,
although he called neither on God nor the Virgin.

“Won’t you ever be serious?” she flashed at him, noting his action.

And Francis was immediately and profoundly, as well as naturally,
serious.

“My dear lady...” he began.

But an abrupt gesture checked him; and, with growing wonder, he watched
her bend and listen, and heard the movement of bodies padding down some
runway several yards away.

With a soft warm palm pressed commandingly to his to be silent, she left
him with the abruptness that he had already come to consider as
customary with her, and slipped away down the runway. Almost he whistled
with astonishment. He might have whistled it, had he not heard her
voice, not distant, in Spanish, sharply interrogate men whose Spanish
voices, half-humbly, half-insistently and half-rebelliously, answered
her.

He heard them move on, still talking, and, after five minutes of dead
silence, heard her call for him peremptorily to come out.

“Gee! I wonder what Regan would do under such circumstances!” he smiled
to himself as he obeyed.

He followed her, no longer hand in hand, through the jungle to the
beach. When she paused, he came beside her and faced her, still under
the impress of the fantasy which possessed him that it was a game.

“Tag!” he laughed, touching her on the shoulder. “Tag!” he reiterated.
“You’re It!”

The anger of her blazing dark eyes scorched him.

“You fool!” she cried, lifting her finger with what he considered undue
intimacy to his toothbrush moustache. “As if that could disguise you!”

“But my dear lady...” he began to protest his certain unacquaintance
with her.

Her retort, which broke off his speech, was as unreal and bizarre as
everything else which had gone before. So quick was it, that he failed
to see whence the tiny silver revolver had been drawn, the muzzle of
which was not presented merely toward his abdomen, but pressed closely
against it.

“My dear lady...” he tried again.

“I won’t talk with you,” she shut him off. “Go back to your schooner,
and go away....” He guessed the inaudible sob of the pause, ere she
concluded, “Forever.”

This time his mouth opened to speech that was aborted on his lips by the
stiff thrust of the muzzle of the weapon into his abdomen.

“If you ever come back—the Madonna forgive me—I shall shoot myself.”

“Guess I’d better go, then,” he uttered airily, as he turned to the
skiff, toward which he walked in stately embarrassment, half-filled with
laughter for himself and for the ridiculous and incomprehensible figure
he was cutting.

Endeavoring to retain a last shred of dignity, he took no notice that
she had followed him. As he lifted the skiff’s nose from the sand, he
was aware that a faint wind was rustling the palm fronds. A long breeze
was darkening the water close at hand, while, far out across the
mirrored water the outlying keys of Chiriqui Lagoon shimmered like a
mirage above the dark-crisping water.

A sob compelled him to desist from stepping into the skiff, and to turn
his head. The strange young woman, revolver dropped to her side, was
crying. His step back to her was instant, and the touch of his hand on
her arm was sympathetic and inquiring. She shuddered at his touch, drew
away from him, and gazed at him reproachfully through her tears. With a
shrug of shoulders to her many moods and of surrender to the
incomprehensibleness of the situation, he was about to turn to the boat,
when she stopped him.

“At least you...” she began, then faltered and swallowed, “you might
kiss me good-bye.”

She advanced impulsively, with outstretched arms, the revolver dangling
incongruously from her right hand. Francis hesitated a puzzled moment,
then gathered her in to receive an astounding passionate kiss on his
lips ere she dropped her head on his shoulder in a breakdown of tears.
Despite his amazement he was aware of the revolver pressing flat-wise
against his back between the shoulders. She lifted her tear-wet face and
kissed him again and again, and he wondered to himself if he were a cad
for meeting her kisses with almost equal and fully as mysterious
impulsiveness.

With a feeling that he did not in the least care how long the tender
episode might last, he was startled by her quick drawing away from him,
as anger and contempt blazed back in her face, and as she menacingly
directed him with the revolver to get into the boat.

He shrugged his shoulders as if to say that he could not say no to a
lovely lady, and obeyed, sitting to the oars and facing her as he began
rowing away.

“The Virgin save me from my wayward heart,” she cried, with her free
hand tearing a locket from her bosom, and, in a shower of golden beads,
flinging the ornament into the waterway midway between them.

From the edge of the jungle he saw three men, armed with rifles, run
toward her where she had sunk down in the sand. In the midst of lifting
her up, they caught sight of Francis, who had begun rowing a strong
stroke. Over his shoulder he glimpsed the _Angelique_, close hauled and
slightly heeling, cutting through the water toward him. The next moment,
one of the trio on the beach, a bearded elderly man, was directing the
girl’s binoculars on him. And the moment after, dropping the glasses, he
was taking aim with his rifle.

The bullet spat on the water within a yard of the skiff’s side, and
Francis saw the girl spring to her feet, knock up the rifle with her
arm, and spoil the second shot. Next, pulling lustily, he saw the men
separate from her to sight their rifles, and saw her threatening them
with the revolver into lowering their weapons.

The _Angelique_, thrown up into the wind to stop way, foamed alongside,
and with an agile leap Francis was aboard, while already, the skipper
putting the wheel up, the schooner was paying off and filling. With
boyish zest, Francis wafted a kiss of farewell to the girl, who was
staring toward him, and saw her collapse on the shoulders of the bearded
elderly man.

“Cayenne pepper, eh—those damned, horrible, crazy-proud Solanos,” the
breed skipper flashed at Francis with white teeth of laughter.

“Just bugs—clean crazy, nobody at home,” Francis laughed back, as he
sprang to the rail to waft further kisses to the strange damsel.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Before the land wind, the _Angelique_ made the outer rim of Chiriqui
Lagoon and the Bull and Calf, some fifty miles farther along on the rim,
by midnight, when the skipper hove to to wait for daylight. After
breakfast, rowed by a Jamaica negro sailor in the skiff, Francis landed
to reconnoiter on the Bull, which was the larger island and which the
skipper had told him he might find occupied at that season of the year
by turtle-catching Indians from the mainland.

And Francis very immediately found that he had traversed not merely
thirty degrees of latitude from New York but thirty hundred years, or
centuries for that matter, from the last word of civilisation to almost
the first word of the primeval. Naked, except for breech-clouts of
gunny-sacking, armed with cruelly heavy hacking blades of machetes, the
turtle-catchers were swift in proving themselves arrant beggars and
dangerous man-killers. The Bull belonged to them, they told him through
the medium of his Jamaican sailor’s interpreting; but the Calf, which
used to belong to them for the turtle season now was possessed by a
madly impossible Gringo, whose reckless, dominating ways had won from
them the respect of fear for a two-legged human creature who was more
fearful than themselves.

While Francis, for a silver dollar, dispatched one of them with a
message to the mysterious Gringo that he desired to call on him, the
rest of them clustered about Francis’ skiff, whining for money,
glowering upon him, and even impudently stealing his pipe, yet warm from
his lips, which he had laid beside him in the sternsheets. Promptly he
had laid a blow on the ear of the thief, and the next thief who seized
it, and recovered the pipe. Machetes out and sun-glistening their
clean-slicing menace, Francis covered and controlled the gang with an
automatic pistol; and, while they drew apart in a group and whispered
ominously, he made the discovery that his lone sailor-interpreter was a
weak brother and received his returned messenger.

The negro went over to the turtle-catchers and talked with a
friendliness and subservience, the tones of which Francis did not like.
The messenger handed him his note, across which was scrawled in pencil:

“Vamos.”

“Guess I’ll have to go across myself,” Francis told the negro whom he
had beckoned back to him.

“Better be very careful and utmostly cautious, sir,” the negro warned
him. “These animals without reason are very problematically likely to
act most unreasonably, sir.”

“Get into the boat and row me over,” Francis commanded shortly.

“No, sir, I regret much to say, sir,” was the black sailor’s answer. “I
signed on, sir, as a sailor to Captain Trefethen, but I didn’t sign on
for no suicide, and I can’t see my way to rowin’ you over, sir, to
certain death. Best thing we can do is to get out of this hot place
that’s certainly and without peradventure of a doubt goin’ to get hotter
for us if we remain, sir.”

In huge disgust and scorn Francis pocketed his automatic, turned his
back on the sacking-clad savages, and walked away through the palms.
Where a great boulder of coral rock had been upthrust by some ancient
restlessness of the earth, he came down to the beach. On the shore of
the Calf, across the narrow channel, he made out a dinghy drawn up.
Drawn up on his own side was a crank-looking and manifestly leaky dugout
canoe. As he tilted the water out of it, he noticed that the
turtle-catchers had followed and were peering at him from the edge of
the coconuts, though his weak-hearted sailor was not in sight.

To paddle across the channel was a matter of moments, but scarcely was
he on the beach of the Calf when further inhospitality greeted him on
the part of a tall, barefooted young man, who stepped from behind a
palm, automatic pistol in hand, and shouted:

“Vamos! Get out! Scut!”

“Ye gods and little fishes!” Francis grinned, half-humorously,
half-seriously. “A fellow can’t move in these parts without having a gun
shoved in his face. And everybody says get out pronto.”

“Nobody invited you,” the stranger retorted. “You’re intruding. Get off
my island. I’ll give you half a minute.”

“I’m getting sore, friend,” Francis assured him truthfully, at the same
time, out of the corner of his eye, measuring the distance to the
nearest palm-trunk. “Everybody I meet around here is crazy and
discourteous, and peevishly anxious to be rid of my presence, and
they’ve just got me feeling that way myself. Besides, just because you
tell me it’s your island is no proof——”

The swift rush he made to the shelter of the palm left his sentence
unfinished. His arrival behind the trunk was simultaneous with the
arrival of a bullet that thudded into the other side of it.

“Now, just for that!” he called out, as he centered a bullet into the
trunk of the other man’s palm.

The next few minutes they blazed away, or waited for calculated shots,
and when Francis’ eighth and last had been fired, he was unpleasantly
certain that he had counted only seven shots for the stranger. He
cautiously exposed part of his sun-helmet, held in his hand, and had it
perforated.

“What gun are you using?” he asked with cool politeness.

“Colt’s,” came the answer.

Francis stepped boldly into the open, saying: “Then you’re all out. I
counted ‘em. Eight. Now we can talk.”

The stranger stepped out, and Francis could not help admiring the fine
figure of him, despite the fact that a dirty pair of canvas pants, a
cotton undershirt, and a floppy sombrero constituted his garmenting.
Further, it seemed he had previously known him, though it did not enter
his mind that he was looking at a replica of himself.

“Talk!” the stranger sneered, throwing down his pistol and drawing a
knife. “Now we’ll just cut off your ears, and maybe scalp you.”

“Gee! You’re sweet-natured and gentle animals in this neck of the
woods,” Francis retorted, his anger and disgust increasing. He drew his
own hunting knife, brand new from the shop and shining. “Say, let’s
wrestle, and cut out this ten-twenty-and-thirty knife stuff.”

“I want your ears,” the stranger answered pleasantly, as he slowly
advanced.

“Sure. First down, and the man who wins the fall gets the other fellow’s
ears.”

“Agreed.” The young man in the canvas trousers sheathed his knife.

“Too bad there isn’t a moving picture camera to film this,” Francis
girded, sheathing his own knife. “I’m sore as a boil. I feel like a heap
bad Injun. Watch out! I’m coming in a rush! Anyway and everyway for the
first fall!”

Action and word went together, and his glorious rush ended
ignominiously, for the stronger, apparently braced for the shock,
yielded the instant their bodies met and fell over on his back, at the
same time planting his foot in Francis’ abdomen and, from the back
purchase on the ground, transforming Francis’ rush into a wild forward
somersault.

The fall on the sand knocked most of Francis’ breath out of him, and the
flying body of his foe, impacting on him, managed to do for what little
breath was left him. As he lay speechless on his back, he observed the
man on top of him gazing down at him with sudden curiosity.

“What d’ you want to wear a mustache for?” the stranger muttered.

“Go on and cut ‘em off,” Francis gasped, with the first of his returning
breath. “The ears are yours, but the mustache is mine. It is not in the
bond. Besides, that fall was straight jiu jiutsu.”

“You said ‘anyway and everyway for the first fall,’” the other quoted
laughingly. “As for your ears, keep them. I never intended to cut them
off, and now that I look at them closely the less I want them. Get up
and get out of here. I’ve licked you. _Vamos!_ And don’t come sneaking
around here again! Git! Scut!”

In greater disgust than ever, to which was added the humiliation of
defeat, Francis turned down to the beach toward his canoe.

“Say, Little Stranger, do you mind leaving your card?” the victor called
after him.

“Visiting cards and cut-throating don’t go together,” Francis shot back
across his shoulder, as he squatted in the canoe and dipped his paddle.
“My name’s Morgan.”

Surprise and startlement were the stranger’s portion, as he opened his
mouth to speak, then changed his mind and murmured to himself, “Same
stock—no wonder we look alike.”

Still in the throes of disgust, Francis regained the shore of the Bull,
sat down on the edge of the dugout, filled and lighted his pipe, and
gloomily meditated. Crazy, everybody, was the run of his thought. Nobody
acts with reason. “I’d like to see old Regan try to do business with
these people. They’d get his ears.”

Could he have seen, at that moment, the young man of the canvas pants
and of familiar appearance, he would have been certain that naught but
lunacy resided in Latin America; for the young man in question, inside a
grass-thatched hut in the heart of his island, grinning to himself as he
uttered aloud, “I guess I put the fear of God into that particular
member of the Morgan family,” had just begun to stare at a photographic
reproduction of an oil painting on the wall of the original Sir Henry
Morgan.

“Well, Old Pirate,” he continued grinning, “two of your latest
descendants came pretty close to getting each other with automatics that
would make your antediluvian horse-pistols look like thirty cents.”

He bent to a battered and worm-eaten sea-chest, lifted the lid that was
monogramed with an “M,” and again addressed the portrait:

“Well, old pirate Welshman of an ancestor, all you’ve left me is the old
duds and a face that looks like yours. And I guess, if I was really
fired up, I could play your Port-au-Prince stunt about as well as you
played it yourself.”

A moment later, beginning to dress himself in the age-worn and
moth-eaten garments of the chest, he added: “Well, here’s the old duds
on my back. Come, Mister Ancestor, down out of your frame, and dare to
tell me a point of looks in which we differ.”

Clad in Sir Henry Morgan’s ancient habiliments, a cutlass strapped on
around the middle and two flintlock pistols of huge and ponderous design
thrust into his waist-scarf, the resemblance between the living man and
the pictured semblance of the old buccaneer who had been long since
resolved to dust, was striking.

                  “Back to back against the mainmast,
                    Held at bay the entire crew....”

As the young man, picking the strings of a guitar, began to sing the old
buccaneer rouse, it seemed to him that the picture of his forebear faded
into another picture and that he saw:

The old forebear himself, back to a mainmast, cutlass out and flashing,
facing a semi-circle of fantastically clad sailor cutthroats, while
behind him, on the opposite side of the mast, another similarly garbed
and accoutred man, with cutlass flashing, faced the other semi-circle of
cutthroats that completed the ring about the mast.

The vivid vision of his fancy was broken by the breaking of a
guitar-string which he had thrummed too passionately. And in the sharp
pause of silence, it seemed that a fresh vision of old Sir Henry came to
him, down out of the frame and beside him, real in all seeming, plucking
at his sleeve to lead him out of the hut and whispering a ghostly
repetition of:

                   “Back to back against the mainmast
                     Held at bay the entire crew.”

The young man obeyed his shadowy guide, or some prompting of his own
profound of intuition, and went out the door and down to the beach,
where, gazing across the narrow channel, on the beach of the Bull, he
saw his late antagonist, backed up against the great boulder of coral
rock, standing off an attack of sack-clouted, machete-wielding Indians
with wide sweeping strokes of a driftwood timber.

                  *       *       *       *       *

And Francis, in extremity, swaying dizzily from the blow of a rock on
his head, saw the apparition, that almost convinced him he was already
dead and in the realm of the shades, of Sir Henry Morgan himself,
cutlass in hand, rushing up the beach to his rescue. Further, the
apparition, brandishing the cutlass and laying out Indians right and
left, was bellowing:

                  “Back to back against the mainmast,
                    Held at bay the entire crew.”

As Francis’ knees gave under him and he slowly crumpled and sank down,
he saw the Indians scatter and flee before the onslaught of the weird
pirate figure and heard their cries of:

“Heaven help us!” “The Virgin protect us!” “It’s the ghost of old
Morgan!”

                  *       *       *       *       *

Francis next opened his eyes inside the grass hut in the midmost center
of the Calf. First, in the glimmering of sight of returning
consciousness, he beheld the pictured lineaments of Sir Henry Morgan
staring down at him from the wall. Next, it was a younger edition of the
same, in three dimensions of living, moving flesh, who thrust a mug of
brandy to his lips and bade him drink. Francis was on his feet ere he
touched lips to the mug; and both he and the stranger man, moved by a
common impulse, looked squarely into each other’s eyes, glanced at the
picture on the wall and touched mugs in a salute to the picture and to
each other ere they drank.

“You told me you were a Morgan,” the stranger said. “I am a Morgan. That
man on the wall fathered my breed. Your breed?”

“The old buccaneer’s,” Francis returned. “My first name is Francis. And
yours?”

“Henry—straight from the original. We must be remote cousins or
something or other. I’m after the foxy old niggardly old Welshman’s
loot.”

“So’m I,” said Francis, extending his hand. “But to hell with sharing.”

“The old blood talks in you,” Henry smiled approbation. “For him to have
who finds. I’ve turned most of this island upside down in the last six
months, and all I’ve found are these old duds. I’m with you to beat you
if I can, but to put my back against the mainmast with you any time the
needed call goes out.”

“That song’s a wonder,” Francis urged. “I want to learn it. Lift the
stave again.”

And together, clanking their mugs, they sang:

                  “Back to back against the mainmast,
                    Held at bay the entire crew....”



                              CHAPTER III


But a splitting headache put a stop to Francis’ singing and made him
glad to be swung in a cool hammock by Henry, who rowed off to the
_Angelique_ with orders from his visitor to the skipper to stay at
anchor but not to permit any of his sailors to land on the Calf. Not
until late in the morning of the following day, after hours of heavy
sleep, did Francis get on his feet and announce that his head was clear
again.

“I know what it is—got bucked off a horse once,” his strange relative
sympathised, as he poured him a huge cup of fragrant black coffee.
“Drink that down. It will make a new man of you. Can’t offer you much
for breakfast except bacon, sea biscuit, and some scrambled turtle eggs.
They’re fresh. I guarantee that, for I dug them out this morning while
you slept.”

“That coffee is a meal in itself,” Francis praised, meanwhile studying
his kinsman and ever and anon glancing at the portrait of their
relative.

“You’re just like him, and in more than mere looks,” Henry laughed,
catching him in his scrutiny. “When you refused to share yesterday, it
was old Sir Henry to the life. He had a deep-seated antipathy against
sharing, even with his own crews. It’s what caused most of his troubles.
And he’s certainly never shared a penny of his treasure with any of his
descendants. Now I’m different. Not only will I share the Calf with you;
but I’ll present you with my half as well, lock, stock, and barrel, this
grass hut, all these nice furnishings, tenements, hereditaments, and
everything, and what’s left of the turtle eggs. When do you want to move
in?”

“You mean...?” Francis asked.

“Just that. There’s nothing here. I’ve just about dug the island upside
down and all I found was the chest there full of old clothes.”

“It must have encouraged you.”

“Mightily. I thought I had a hammerlock on it. At any rate, it showed
I’m on the right track.”

“What’s the matter with trying the Bull?” Francis queried.

“That’s my idea right now,” was the answer, “though I’ve got another
clue for over on the mainland. Those old-timers had a way of noting down
their latitude and longitude whole degrees out of the way.”

“Ten North and Ninety East on the chart might mean Twelve North and
Ninety-two East,” Francis concurred. “Then again it might mean Eight
North and Eighty-eight East. They carried the correction in their heads,
and if they died unexpectedly, which was their custom, it seems, the
secret died with them.”

“I’ve half a notion to go over to the Bull and chase those
turtle-catchers back to the mainland,” Henry went on. “And then again
I’d almost like to tackle the mainland clue first. I suppose you’ve got
a stock of clues, too?”

“Sure thing,” Francis nodded. “But say, I’d like to take back what I
said about not sharing.”

“Say the word,” the other encouraged.

“Then I do say it.”

Their hands extended and gripped in ratification.

“Morgan and Morgan strictly limited,” chortled Francis.

“Assets, the whole Caribbean Sea, the Spanish Main, most of Central
America, one chest full of perfectly no good old clothes, and a lot of
holes in the ground,” Henry joined in the other’s humor. “Liabilities,
snake-bite, thieving Indians, malaria, yellow fever——”

“And pretty girls with a habit of kissing total strangers one moment,
and of sticking up said total strangers with shiny silver revolvers the
next moment,” Francis cut in. “Let me tell you about it. Day before
yesterday, I rowed ashore over on the mainland. The moment I landed, the
prettiest girl in the world pounced out upon me and dragged me away into
the jungle. Thought she was going to eat me or marry me. I didn’t know
which. And before I could find out, what’s the pretty damsel do but pass
uncomplimentary remarks on my mustache and chase me back to the boat
with a revolver. Told me to beat it and never come back, or words to
that effect.”

“Whereabouts on the mainland was this?” Henry demanded, with a tenseness
which Francis, chuckling his reminiscence of the misadventure, did not
notice.

“Down toward the other end of Chiriqui Lagoon,” he replied. “It was the
stamping ground of the Solano family, I learned; and they are a red
peppery family, as I found out. But I haven’t told you all. Listen.
First she dragged me into the vegetation and insulted my mustache; next
she chased me to the boat with a drawn revolver; and then she wanted to
know why I didn’t kiss her. Can you beat that?”

“And did you?” Henry demanded, his hand unconsciously clinching by his
side.

“What could a poor stranger in a strange land do? It was some armful of
pretty girl——”

The next fraction of a second Francis had sprung to his feet and blocked
before his jaw a crushing blow of Henry’s fist.

“I ... I beg your pardon,” Henry mumbled, and slumped down on the
ancient sea chest. “I’m a fool, I know, but I’ll be hanged if I can
stand for——”

“There you go again,” Francis interrupted resentfully. “As crazy as
everybody else in this crazy country. One moment you bandage up my
cracked head, and the next moment you want to knock that same head clean
off of me. As bad as the girl taking turns at kissing me and shoving a
gun into my midrif.”

“That’s right, fire away, I deserve it,” Henry admitted ruefully, but
involuntarily began to fire up as he continued with: “Confound you, that
was Leoncia.”

“What if it was Leoncia? Or Mercedes? Or Dolores? Can’t a fellow kiss a
pretty girl at a revolver’s point without having his head knocked off by
the next ruffian he meets in dirty canvas pants on a notorious sand-heap
of an island?”

“When the pretty girl is engaged to marry the ruffian in the dirty
canvas pants——”

“You don’t mean to tell me——” the other broke in excitedly.

“It isn’t particularly amusing to said ruffian to be told that his
sweetheart has been kissing a ruffian she never saw before from off a
disreputable Jamaica nigger’s schooner,” Henry completed his sentence.

“And she took me for you,” Francis mused, glimpsing the situation. “I
don’t blame you for losing your temper, though you must admit it’s a
nasty one. Wanted to cut off my ears yesterday, didn’t you?”

“Yours is just as nasty, Francis, my boy. The way you insisted that I
cut them off when I had you down—ha! ha!”

Both young men laughed in hearty amity.

“It’s the old Morgan temper,” Henry said. “He was by all the accounts a
peppery old cuss.”

“No more peppery than those Solanos you’re marrying into. Why, most of
the family came down on the beach and peppered me with rifles on my
departing way. And your Leoncia pulled her little popgun on a
long-bearded old fellow who might have been her father and gave him to
understand she’d shoot him full of holes if he didn’t stop plugging away
at me.”

“It was her father, I’ll wager, old Enrico himself,” Henry exclaimed.
“And the other chaps were her brothers.”

“Lovely lizards!” ejaculated Francis. “Say, don’t you think life is
liable to become a trifle monotonous when you’re married into such a
peaceful, dove-like family as that!” He broke off, struck by a new idea.
“By the way, Henry, since they all thought it was you, and not I, why in
thunderation did they want to kill _you_? Some more of your crusty
Morgan temper that peeved your prospective wife’s relatives?”

Henry looked at him a moment, as if debating with himself, and then
answered.

“I don’t mind telling you. It is a nasty mess, and I suppose my temper
was to blame. I quarreled with her uncle. He was her father’s youngest
brother——”

“_Was?_” interrupted Francis with significant stress on the past tense.

“_Was_, I said,” Henry nodded. “He _isn’t_ now. His name was Alfaro
Solano, and he had some temper himself. They claim to be descended from
the Spanish _conquistadores_, and they are prouder than hornets. He’d
made money in logwood, and he had just got a big henequen plantation
started farther down the coast. And then we quarreled. It was in the
little town over there—San Antonio. It may have been a misunderstanding,
though I still maintain he was wrong. He always was looking for trouble
with me—didn’t want me to marry Leoncia, you see.

“Well, it was a hot time. It started in a _pulqueria_ where Alfaro had
been drinking more mescal than was good for him. He insulted me all
right. They had to hold us apart and take our guns away, and we
separated swearing death and destruction. That was the trouble—our
quarrel and our threats were heard by a score of witnesses.

“Within two hours the Comisario himself and two gendarmes found me
bending over Alfaro’s body in a back street in the town. He’d been
knifed in the back, and I’d stumbled over him on the way to the beach.
Explain? No such thing. There were the quarrel and the threats of
vengeance, and there I was, not two hours afterward, caught dead to
right with his warm corpse. I haven’t been back in San Antonio since,
and I didn’t waste any time in getting away. Alfaro was very
popular,—you know the dashing type that catches the rabble’s fancy. Why,
they couldn’t have been persuaded to give me even the semblance of a
trial. Wanted my blood there and then, and I departed very pronto.

“Next, up at Bocas del Toro, a messenger from Leoncia delivered back the
engagement ring. And there you are. I developed a real big disgust, and,
since I didn’t dare go back with all the Solanos and the rest of the
population thirsting for my life, I came over here to play hermit for a
while and dig for Morgan’s treasure.... Just the same, I wonder who did
stick that knife into Alfaro. If ever I find him, then I clear myself
with Leoncia and the rest of the Solanos and there isn’t a doubt in the
world that there’ll be a wedding. And now that it’s all over I don’t
mind admitting that Alfaro was a good scout, even if his temper did go
off at half-cock.”

“Clear as print,” Francis murmured. “No wonder her father and brothers
wanted to perforate me.—Why, the more I look at you, the more I see
we’re as like as two peas, except for my mustache——”

“And for this....” Henry rolled up his sleeve, and on the left forearm
showed a long, thin white scar. “Got that when I was a boy. Fell off a
windmill and through the glass roof of a hothouse.”

“Now listen to me,” Francis said, his face beginning to light with the
project forming in his mind. “Somebody’s got to straighten you out of
this mess, and the chap’s name is Francis, partner in the firm of Morgan
and Morgan. You stick around here, or go over and begin prospecting on
the Bull, while I go back and explain things to Leoncia and her
people——”

“If only they don’t shoot you first before you can explain you are not
I,” Henry muttered bitterly. “That’s the trouble with those Solanos.
They shoot first and talk afterward. They won’t listen to reason unless
it’s post mortem.”

“Guess I’ll take a chance, old man,” Francis assured the other, himself
all fire with the plan of clearing up the distressing situation between
Henry and the girl.

But the thought of her perplexed him. He experienced more than a twinge
of regret that the lovely creature belonged of right to the man who
looked so much like him, and he saw again the vision of her on the
beach, when, with conflicting emotions, she had alternately loved him
and yearned toward him and blazed her scorn and contempt on him. He
sighed involuntarily.

“What’s that for?” Henry demanded quizzically.

“Leoncia is an exceedingly pretty girl,” Francis answered with
transparent frankness. “Just the same, she’s yours, and I’m going to
make it my business to see that you get her. Where’s that ring she
returned? If I don’t put it on her finger for you and be back here in a
week with the good news, you can cut off my mustache along with my
ears.”

An hour later, Captain Trefethen having sent a boat to the beach from
the _Angelique_ in response to signal, the two young men were saying
good-bye.

“Just two things more, Francis. First, and I forgot to tell you, Leoncia
is not a Solano at all, though she thinks she is. Alfaro told me
himself. She is an adopted child, and old Enrico fairly worships her,
though neither his blood nor his race runs in her veins. Alfaro never
told me the ins and outs of it, though he did say she wasn’t Spanish at
all. I don’t even know whether she’s English or American. She talks good
enough English, though she got that at convent. You see, she was adopted
when she was a wee thing, and she’s never known anything else than that
Enrico is her father.”

“And no wonder she scorned and hated me for you,” Francis laughed,
“believing, as she did, as she still does, that you knifed her full
blood-uncle in the back.”

Henry nodded, and went on.

“The other thing is fairly important. And that’s the law. Or the absence
of it, rather. They make it whatever they want it, down in this
out-of-the-way hole. It’s a long way to Panama, and the gobernador of
this state, or district, or whatever they call it, is a sleepy old
Silenus. The Jefe Politico at San Antonio is the man to keep an eye on.
He’s the little czar of that neck of the woods, and he’s some crooked
_hombre_, take it from yours truly. Graft is too weak a word to apply to
some of his deals, and he’s as cruel and blood-thirsty as a weasel. And
his one crowning delight is an execution. He dotes on a hanging. Keep
your weather eye on him, whatever you do.... And, well, so long. And
half of whatever I find on the Bull is yours: ... and see you get that
ring back on Leoncia’s finger.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

Two days later, after the half-breed skipper had reconnoitered ashore
and brought back the news that all the men of Leoncia’s family were
away, Francis had himself landed on the beach where he had first met
her. No maidens with silver revolvers nor men with rifles were manifest.
All was placid, and the only person on the beach was a ragged little
Indian boy who at sight of a coin readily consented to carry a note up
to the young senorita of the big hacienda. As Francis scrawled on a
sheet of paper from his notebook, “I am the man whom you mistook for
Henry Morgan, and I have a message for you from him,” he little dreamed
that untoward happenings were about to occur with as equal rapidity and
frequence as on his first visit.

For that matter, could he have peeped over the out-jut of rock against
which he leaned his back while composing the note to Leoncia, he would
have been startled by a vision of the young lady herself, emerging like
a sea-goddess fresh from a swim in the sea. But he wrote calmly on, the
Indian lad even more absorbed than himself in the operation, so that it
was Leoncia, coming around the rock from behind, who first caught sight
of him. Stifling an exclamation, she turned and fled blindly into the
green screen of jungle.

His first warning of her proximity was immediately thereafter, when a
startled scream of fear aroused him. Note and pencil fell to the sand as
he sprang toward the direction of the cry and collided with a wet and
scantily dressed young woman who was recoiling backward from whatever
had caused her scream. The unexpectedness of the collision was
provocative of a second startled scream from her ere she could turn and
recognize that it was not a new attack but a rescuer.

She darted past him, her face colorless from the fright, stumbled over
the Indian boy, nor paused until she was out on the open sand.

“What is it?” Francis demanded. “Are you hurt? What’s happened?”

She pointed at her bare knee, where two tiny drops of blood oozed forth
side by side from two scarcely perceptible lacerations.

“It was a viperine,” she said. “A deadly viperine. I shall be a dead
woman in five minutes, and I am glad, glad, for then my heart will be
tormented no more by you.”

She leveled an accusing finger at him, gasped the beginning of
denunciation she could not utter, and sank down in a faint.

Francis knew about the snakes of Central America merely by hearsay, but
the hearsay was terrible enough. Men talked of even mules and dogs dying
in horrible agony five to ten minutes after being struck by tiny
reptiles fifteen to twenty inches long. Small wonder she had fainted,
was his thought, with so terribly rapid a poison doubtlessly beginning
to work. His knowledge of the treatment of snake-bite was likewise
hearsay, but flashed through his mind the recollection of the need of a
tourniquet to shut off the circulation above the wound and prevent the
poison from reaching the heart.

He pulled out his handkerchief and tied it loosely around her leg above
the knee, thrust in a short piece of driftwood stick, and twisted the
handkerchief to savage tightness. Next, and all by hearsay, working
swiftly, he opened the small blade of his pocket-knife, burned it with
several matches to make sure against germs, and cut carefully but
remorsely into the two lacerations made by the snake’s fangs.

He was in a fright himself, working with feverish deftness and
apprehending at any moment that the pangs of dissolution would begin to
set in on the beautiful form before him. From all he had heard, the
bodies of snake-victims began to swell quickly and prodigiously. Even as
he finished excoriating the fang-wounds, his mind was made up to his
next two acts. First, he would suck out all poison he possibly could;
and, next, light a cigarette and with its live end proceed to cauterize
the flesh.

But while he was still making light, criss-cross cuts with the point of
his knife-blade, she began to move restlessly.

“Lie down,” he commanded, as she sat up, and just when he was bending
his lips to the task.

In response, he received a resounding slap alongside of his face from
her little hand. At the same instant the Indian lad danced out of the
jungle, swinging a small dead snake by the tail and crying exultingly:

“Labarri! Labarri!”

At which Francis assumed the worst.

“Lie down, and be quiet!” he repeated harshly. “You haven’t a second to
lose.”

But she had eyes only for the dead snake. Her relief was patent; but
Francis was no witness to it, for he was bending again to perform the
classic treatment of snake-bite.

“You dare!” she threatened him. “It’s only a baby labarri, and its bite
is harmless. I thought it was a viperine. They look alike when the
labarri is small.”

The constriction of the circulation by the tourniquet pained her, and
she glanced down and discovered his handkerchief knotted around her leg.

“Oh, what have you done?”

A warm blush began to suffuse her face.

“But it was only a baby labarri,” she reproached him.

“You told me it was a viperine,” he retorted.

She hid her face in her hands, although the pink of flush burned
furiously in her ears. Yet he could have sworn, unless it were hysteria,
that she was laughing; and he knew for the first time how really hard
was the task he had undertaken to put the ring of another man on her
finger. So he deliberately hardened his heart against the beauty and
fascination of her, and said bitterly:

“And now, I suppose some of your gentry will shoot me full of holes
because I don’t know a labarri from a viperine. You might call some of
the farm hands down to do it. Or maybe you’d like to take a shot at me
yourself.”

But she seemed not to have heard, for she had arisen with the quick
litheness to be expected of so gloriously fashioned a creature, and was
stamping her foot on the sand.

“It’s asleep—my foot,” she explained with laughter unhidden this time by
her hands.

“You’re acting perfectly disgracefully,” he assured her wickedly, “when
you consider that I am the murderer of your uncle.”

Thus reminded, the laughter ceased and the color receded from her face.
She made no reply, but bending, with fingers that trembled with anger
she strove to unknot the handkerchief as if it were some loathsome
thing.

“Better let me help,” he suggested pleasantly.

“You beast!” she flamed at him. “Step aside. Your shadow falls upon me.”

“Now you are delicious, charming,” he girded, belying the desire that
stirred compellingly within him to clasp her in his arms. “You quite
revive my last recollection of you here on the beach, one second
reproaching me for not kissing you, the next second kissing me—yes, you
did, too—and the third second threatening to destroy my digestion
forever with that little tin toy pistol of yours. No; you haven’t
changed an iota from last time. You’re the same spitfire of a Leoncia.
You’d better let me untie that for you. Don’t you see the knot is
jammed? Your little fingers can never manage it.”

She stamped her foot in sheer inarticulateness of rage.

“Lucky for me you don’t make a practice of taking your tin toy pistol in
swimming with you,” he teased on, “or else there’d be a funeral right
here on the beach pretty pronto of a perfectly nice young man whose
intentions are never less than the best.”

The Indian boy returned at this moment running with her bathing wrap,
which she snatched from him and put on hastily. Next, with the boy’s
help, she attacked the knot again. When the handkerchief came off she
flung it from her as if in truth it were a viperine.

“It was contamination,” she flashed, for his benefit.

But Francis, still engaged in hardening his heart against her, shook his
head slowly and said:

“It doesn’t save you, Leoncia. I’ve left my mark on you that never will
come off.”

He pointed to the excoriations he had made on her knee and laughed.

“The mark of the beast,” she came back, turning to go. “I warn you to
take yourself off, Mr. Henry Morgan.”

But he stepped in her way.

“And now we’ll talk business, Miss Solano,” he said in changed tones.
“And you will listen. Let your eyes flash all they please, but don’t
interrupt me.” He stooped and picked up the note he had been engaged in
writing. “I was just sending that to you by the boy when you screamed.
Take it. Read it. It won’t bite you. It isn’t a viperine.”

Though she refused to receive it, her eyes involuntarily scanned the
opening line:

_I am the man whom you mistook for Henry Morgan_...

She looked at him with startled eyes that could not comprehend much but
which were guessing many vague things.

“On my honor,” he said gravely.

“You ... are ... not ... Henry?” she gasped.

“No, I am not. Won’t you please take it and read.”

This time she complied, while he gazed with all his eyes upon the golden
pallor of the sun on her tropic-touched blonde face which colored the
blood beneath, or which was touched by the blood beneath, to the
amazingly beautiful golden pallor.

Almost in a dream he discovered himself looking into her startled,
questioning eyes of velvet brown.

“And who should have signed this?” she repeated.

He came to himself and bowed.

“But the name?—your name?”

“Morgan, Francis Morgan. As I explained there, Henry and I are some sort
of distant relatives—forty-fifth cousins, or something like that.”

To his bewilderment, a great doubt suddenly dawned in her eyes, and the
old familiar anger flashed.

“Henry,” she accused him. “This is a ruse, a devil’s trick you’re trying
to play on me. Of course you are Henry.”

Francis pointed to his mustache.

“You’ve grown that since,” she challenged.

He pulled up his sleeve and showed her his left arm from wrist to elbow.
But she only looked her incomprehension of the meaning of his action.

“Do you remember the scar?” he asked.

She nodded.

“Then find it.”

She bent her head in swift vain search, then shook it slowly as she
faltered:

“I ... I ask your forgiveness. I was terribly mistaken, and when I think
of the way I ... I’ve treated you ...”

“That kiss was delightful,” he naughtily disclaimed.

She recollected more immediate passages, glanced down at her knee and
stifled what he adjudged was a most adorable giggle.

“You say you have a message from Henry,” she changed the subject
abruptly. “And that he is innocent...? This is true? Oh, I do want to
believe you!”

“I am morally certain that Henry no more killed your uncle than did I——”

“Then say no more, at least not now,” she interrupted joyfully. “First
of all I must make amends to you, though you must confess that some of
the things you have done and said were abominable. You had no right to
kiss me.”

“If you will remember,” he contended, “I did it at the pistol point. How
was I to know but what I would get shot if I didn’t.”

“Oh, hush, hush,” she begged. “You must go with me now to the house. And
you can tell me about Henry on the way.”

Her eyes chanced upon the handkerchief she had flung so contemptuously
aside. She ran to it and picked it up.

“Poor, ill-treated kerchief,” she crooned to it. “To you also must I
make amends. I shall myself launder you, and....” Her eyes lifted to
Francis as she addressed him. “And return it to you, sir, fresh and
sweet and all wrapped around my heart of gratitude....”

“And the mark of the beast?” he queried.

“I am so sorry,” she confessed penitently.

“And may I be permitted to rest my shadow upon you?”

“Do! Do!” she cried gaily. “There! I am in your shadow now. And we must
start.”

Francis tossed a peso to the grinning Indian boy, and, in high elation,
turned and followed her into the tropic growth on the path that led up
to the white hacienda.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Seated on the broad piazza of the Solano Hacienda, Alvarez Torres saw
through the tropic shrubs the couple approaching along the winding
driveway. And he saw what made him grit his teeth and draw very
erroneous conclusions. He muttered imprecations to himself and forgot
his cigarette.

What he saw was Leoncia and Francis in such deep and excited talk as to
be oblivious of everything else. He saw Francis grow so urgent of speech
and gesture as to cause Leoncia to stop abruptly and listen further to
his pleading. Next—and Torres could scarcely believe the evidence of his
eyes, he saw Francis produce a ring, and Leoncia, with averted face,
extend her left hand and receive the ring upon her third finger.
Engagement finger it was, and Torres could have sworn to it.

What had really occurred was the placing of Henry’s engagement ring back
on Leoncia’s hand. And Leoncia, she knew not why, had been vaguely
averse to receiving it.

Torres tossed the dead cigarette away, twisted his mustache fiercely, as
if to relieve his own excitement, and advanced to meet them across the
piazza. He did not return the girl’s greeting at the first. Instead,
with the wrathful face of the Latin, he burst out at Francis:

“One does not expect shame in a murderer, but at least one does expect
simple decency.”

Francis smiled whimsically.

“There it goes again,” he said. “Another lunatic in this lunatic land.
The last time, Leoncia, that I saw this gentleman was in New York. He
was really anxious to do business with me. Now I meet him here and the
first thing he tells me is that I am an indecent, shameless murderer.”

“Senor Torres, you must apologize,” she declared angrily. “The house of
Solano is not accustomed to having its guests insulted.”

“The house of Solano, I then understand, is accustomed to having its men
murdered by transient adventurers,” he retorted. “No sacrifice is too
great when it is in the name of hospitality.”

“Get off your foot, Senor Torres,” Francis advised him pleasantly. “You
are standing on it. I know what your mistake is. You think I am Henry
Morgan. I am Francis Morgan, and you and I, not long ago, transacted
business together in Regan’s office in New York. There’s my hand. Your
shaking of it will be sufficient apology under the circumstances.”

Torres, overwhelmed for the moment by his mistake, took the extended
hand and uttered apologies both to Francis and Leoncia.

“And now,” she beamed through laughter, clapping her hands to call a
house-servant, “I must locate Mr. Morgan, and go and get some clothes
on. And after that, Senor Torres, if you will pardon us, we will tell
you about Henry.”

While she departed, and while Francis followed away to his room on the
heels of a young and pretty _mestiza_ woman, Torres, his brain resuming
its functions, found he was more amazed and angry than ever. This, then,
was a newcomer and stranger to Leoncia whom he had seen putting a ring
on her engagement finger. He thought quickly and passionately for a
moment. Leoncia, whom to himself he always named the queen of his
dreams, had, on an instant’s notice, engaged herself to a strange Gringo
from New York. It was unbelievable, monstrous.

He clapped his hands, summoned his hired carriage from San Antonio, and
was speeding down the drive when Francis strolled forth to have a talk
with him about further details of the hiding place of old Morgan’s
treasure.

                  *       *       *       *       *

After lunch, when a land-breeze sprang up, which meant fair wind and a
quick run across Chiriqui Lagoon and along the length of it to the Bull
and the Calf, Francis, eager to bring to Henry the good word that his
ring adorned Leoncia’s finger, resolutely declined her proffered
hospitality to remain for the night and meet Enrico Solano and his tall
sons. Francis had a further reason for hasty departure. He could not
endure the presence of Leoncia—and this in no sense uncomplimentary to
her. She charmed him, drew him, to such extent that he dared not endure
her charm and draw if he were to remain man-faithful to the man in the
canvas pants even then digging holes in the sands of the Bull.

So Francis departed, a letter to Henry from Leoncia in his pocket. The
last moment, ere he departed, was abrupt. With a sigh so quickly
suppressed that Leoncia wondered whether or not she had imagined it, he
tore himself away. She gazed after his retreating form down the driveway
until it was out of sight, then stared at the ring on her finger with a
vaguely troubled expression.

From the beach, Francis signaled the _Angelique_, riding at anchor, to
send a boat ashore for him. But before it had been swung into the water,
half a dozen horsemen, revolver-belted, rifles across their pommels,
rode down the beach upon him at a gallop. Two men led. The following
four were hang-dog half-castes. Of the two leaders, Francis recognized
Torres. Every rifle came to rest on Francis, and he could not but obey
the order snarled at him by the unknown leader to throw up his hands.
And Francis opined aloud:

“To think of it! Once, only the other day—or was it a million years
ago?—I thought auction bridge, at a dollar a point, was some excitement.
Now, sirs, you on your horses, with your weapons threatening the violent
introduction of foreign substances into my poor body, tell me what is
doing now. Don’t I ever get off this beach without gunpowder
complications? Is it my ears, or merely my mustache, you want?”

“We want you,” answered the stranger leader, whose mustache bristled as
magnetically as his crooked black eyes.

“And in the name of original sin and of all lovely lizards, who might
you be?”

“He is the honorable Senor Mariano Vercara è Hijos, Jefe Politico of San
Antonio,” Torres replied.

“Good night,” Francis laughed, remembering the man’s description as
given to him by Henry. “I suppose you think I’ve broken some harbor rule
or sanitary regulation by anchoring here. But you must settle such
things with my captain, Captain Trefethen, a very estimable gentleman. I
am only the charterer of the schooner—just a passenger. You will find
Captain Trefethen right up in maritime law and custom.”

“You are wanted for the murder of Alfaro Solano,” was Torres’ answer.
“You didn’t fool me, Henry Morgan, with your talk up at the hacienda
that you were some one else. I know that some one else. His name is
Francis Morgan, and I do not hesitate to add that he is not a murderer,
but a gentleman.”

“Ye gods and little fishes!” Francis exclaimed. “And yet you shook hands
with me, Senor Torres.”

“I was fooled,” Torres admitted sadly. “But only for a moment. Will you
come peaceably?”

“As if——” Francis shrugged his shoulders eloquently at the six rifles.
“I suppose you’ll give me a pronto trial and hang me at daybreak.”

“Justice is swift in Panama,” the Jefe Politico replied, his English
queerly accented but understandable. “But not so quick as that. We will
not hang you at daybreak. Ten o’clock in the morning is more comfortable
all around, don’t you think?”

“Oh, by all means,” Francis retorted. “Make it eleven, or twelve noon—I
won’t mind.”

“You will kindly come with us, Senor,” Mariano Vercara è Hijos, said,
the suavity of his diction not masking the iron of its intention. “Juan!
Ignacio!” he ordered in Spanish. “Dismount! Take his weapons. No, it
will not be necessary to tie his hands. Put him on the horse behind
Gregorio.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

Francis, in a venerably whitewashed adobe cell with walls five feet
thick, its earth floor carpeted with the forms of half a dozen sleeping
peon prisoners, listened to a dim hammering not very distant, remembered
the trial from which he had just emerged, and whistled long and low. The
hour was half-past eight in the evening. The trial had begun at eight.
The hammering was the hammering together of the scaffold beams, from
which place of eminence he was scheduled at ten next morning to swing
off into space supported from the ground by a rope around his neck. The
trial had lasted half an hour by his watch. Twenty minutes would have
covered it had Leoncia not burst in and prolonged it by the ten minutes
courteously accorded her as the great lady of the Solano family.

“The Jefe was right,” Francis acknowledged to himself in a matter of
soliloquy. “Panama justice does move swiftly.”

The very possession of the letter given him by Leoncia and addressed to
Henry Morgan had damned him. The rest had been easy. Half a dozen
witnesses had testified to the murder and identified him as the
murderer. The Jefe Politico himself had so testified. The one cheerful
note had been the eruption on the scene of Leoncia, chaperoned by a
palsied old aunt of the Solano family. That had been sweet—the fight the
beautiful girl had put up for his life, despite the fact that it was
foredoomed to futility.

When she had made Francis roll up the sleeve and expose his left
forearm, he had seen the Jefe Politico shrug his shoulders
contemptuously. And he had seen Leoncia fling a passion of Spanish
words, too quick for him to follow, at Torres. And he had seen and heard
the gesticulation and the roar of the mob-filled courtroom as Torres had
taken the stand.

But what he had not seen was the whispered colloquy between Torres and
the Jefe, as the former was in the thick of forcing his way through the
press to the witness box. He no more saw this particular side-play than
did he know that Torres was in the pay of Regan to keep him away from
New York as long as possible, and as long as ever if possible, nor than
did he know that Torres himself, in love with Leoncia, was consumed with
a jealousy that knew no limit to its ire.

All of which had blinded Francis to the play under the interrogation of
Torres by Leoncia, which had compelled Torres to acknowledge that he had
never seen a scar on Francis Morgan’s left forearm. While Leoncia had
looked at the little old judge in triumph, the Jefe Politico had
advanced and demanded of Torres in stentorian tones:

“Can you swear that you ever saw a scar on Henry Morgan’s arm?”

Torres had been baffled and embarrassed, had looked bewilderment to the
judge and pleadingness to Leoncia, and, in the end, without speech,
shaken his head that he could not so swear.

The roar of triumph had gone up from the crowd of ragamuffins. The judge
had pronounced sentence, the roar had doubled on itself, and Francis had
been hustled out and to his cell, not entirely unresistingly, by the
gendarmes and the Comisario, all apparently solicitous of saving him
from the mob that was unwilling to wait till ten next morning for his
death.

“That poor dub, Torres, who fell down on the scar on Henry!” Francis was
meditating sympathetically, when the bolts of his cell door shot back
and he arose to greet Leoncia.

But she declined to greet him for the moment, as she flared at the
Comisario in rapid-fire Spanish, with gestures of command to which he
yielded when he ordered the jailer to remove the peons to other cells,
and himself, with a nervous and apologetic bowing, went out and closed
the door.

And then Leoncia broke down, sobbing on his shoulder, in his arms: “It
is a cursed country, a cursed country. There is no fair play.”

And as Francis held her pliant form, meltingly exquisite in its
maddeningness of woman, he remembered Henry, in his canvas pants,
barefooted, under his floppy sombrero, digging holes in the sand of the
Bull.

He tried to draw away from the armful of deliciousness, and only half
succeeded. Still, at such slight removal of distance, he essayed the
intellectual part, rather than the emotional part he desired all too
strongly to act.

“And now I know at last what a frame-up is,” he assured her, farthest
from the promptings of his heart. “If these Latins of your country
thought more coolly instead of acting so passionately, they might be
building railroads and developing their country. That trial was a
straight passionate frame-up. They just _knew_ I was guilty and were so
eager to punish me that they wouldn’t even bother for mere evidence or
establishment of identity. Why delay? They _knew_ Henry Morgan had
knifed Alfaro. They _knew_ I was Henry Morgan. When one knows, why
bother to find out?”

Deaf to his words, sobbing and struggling to cling closer while he
spoke, the moment he had finished she was deep again in his arms,
against him, to him, her lips raised to his; and, ere he was aware, his
own lips to hers.

“I love you, I love you,” she whispered brokenly.

“No, no,” he denied what he most desired. “Henry and I are too alike. It
is Henry you love, and I am not Henry.”

She tore herself away from her own clinging, drew Henry’s ring from her
finger, and threw it on the floor. Francis was so beyond himself that he
knew not what was going to happen the next moment, and was only saved
from whatever it might be by the entrance of the Comisario, watch in
hand, with averted face striving to see naught else than the moments
registered by the second-hand on the dial.

She stiffened herself proudly, and all but broke down again as Francis
slipped Henry’s ring back on her finger and kissed her hand in farewell.
Just ere she passed out the door she turned and with a whispered
movement of the lips that was devoid of sound told him: “I love you.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

Promptly as the stroke of the clock, at ten o’clock Francis was led out
into the jail patio where stood the gallows. All San Antonio was
joyously and shoutingly present, including much of the neighboring
population and Leoncia, Enrico Solano, and his five tall sons. Enrico
and his sons fumed and strutted, but the Jefe Politico, backed by the
Comisario and his gendarmes, was adamant. In vain, as Francis was forced
to the foot of the scaffold, did Leoncia strive to get to him and did
her men strive to persuade her to leave the patio. In vain, also, did
her father and brothers protest that Francis was not the man. The Jefe
Politico smiled contemptuously and ordered the execution to proceed.

On top the scaffold, standing on the trap, Francis declined the
ministrations of the priest, telling him in Spanish that no innocent man
being hanged needed intercessions with the next world, but that the men
who were doing the hanging were in need of just such intercessions.

They had tied Francis’ legs, and were in the act of tying his arms, with
the men who held the noose and the black cap hovering near to put them
on him, when the voice of a singer was heard approaching from without;
and the song he sang was:

                  “Back to back against the mainmast,
                    Held at bay the entire crew....”

Leoncia, almost fainting, recovered at the sound of the voice, and cried
out with sharp delight as she descried Henry Morgan entering, thrusting
aside the guards at the gate who tried to bar his way.

At sight of him the only one present who suffered chagrin was Torres,
which passed unnoticed in the excitement. The populace was in accord
with the Jefe, who shrugged his shoulders and announced that one man was
as good as another so long as the hanging went on. And here arose hot
contention from the Solano men that Henry was likewise innocent of the
murder of Alfaro. But it was Francis, from the scaffold, while his arms
and legs were being untied, who shouted through the tumult:

“You tried me! You have not tried him! You cannot hang a man without
trial! He must have his trial!”

And when Francis had descended from the scaffold and was shaking Henry’s
hand in both his own, the Comisario, with the Jefe at his back, duly
arrested Henry Morgan for the murder of Alfaro Solano.



                               CHAPTER IV


“We must work quickly—that is the one thing sure,” Francis said to the
little conclave of Solanos on the piazza of the Solano hacienda.

“One thing sure!” Leoncia cried out scornfully ceasing from her
anguished pacing up and down. “The one thing sure is that we must save
him.”

As she spoke, she shook a passionate finger under Francis’ nose to
emphasize her point. Not content, she shook her finger with equal
emphasis under the noses of all and sundry of her father and brothers.

“Quick!” she flamed on. “Of course we must be quick. It is that, or....”
Her voice trailed off into the unvoiceable horror of what would happen
to Henry if they were not quick.

“All Gringos look alike to the Jefe,” Francis nodded sympathetically.
She was splendidly beautiful and wonderful, he thought. “He certainly
runs all San Antonio, and short shrift is his motto. He’ll give Henry no
more time than he gave us. We must get him out to-night.”

“Now listen,” Leoncia began again. “We Solanos cannot permit this ...
this execution. Our pride ... our honor. We cannot permit it. Speak! any
of you. Father—you. Suggest something....”

And while the discussion went on, Francis, for the time being silent,
wrestled deep in the throes of sadness. Leoncia’s fervor was
magnificent, but it was for another man and it did not precisely
exhilarate him. Strong upon him was the memory of the jail patio after
he had been released and Henry had been arrested. He could still see,
with the same stab at the heart, Leoncia in Henry’s arms, Henry seeking
her hand to ascertain if his ring was on it, and the long kiss of the
embrace that followed.

Ah, well, he sighed to himself, he had done his best. After Henry had
been led away, had he not told Leoncia, quite deliberately and coldly,
that Henry was her man and lover, and the wisest of choices for the
daughter of the Solanos?

But the memory of it did not make him a bit happy. Nor did the rightness
of it. Right it was. That he never questioned, and it strengthened him
into hardening his heart against her. Yet the right, he found in his
case, to be the sorriest of consolation.

And yet what else could he expect? It was his misfortune to have arrived
too late in Central America, that was all, and to find this flower of
woman already annexed by a previous comer—a man as good as himself, and,
his heart of fairness prompted, even better. And his heart of fairness
compelled loyalty to Henry from him—to Henry Morgan, of the breed and
blood; to Henry Morgan, the wild-fire descendant of a wild-fire
ancestor, in canvas pants, and floppy sombrero, with a penchant for the
ears of strange young men, living on sea biscuit and turtle eggs and
digging up the Bull and the Calf for old Sir Henry’s treasure.

                  *       *       *       *       *

And while Enrico Solano and his sons talked plans and projects on their
broad piazza, to which Francis lent only half an ear, a house servant
came, whispered in Leoncia’s ear, and led her away around the ell of the
piazza, where occurred a scene that would have excited Francis’
risibilities and wrath.

Around the ell, Alvarez Torres, in all the medieval Spanish splendor of
dress of a great haciendado-owner, such as still obtains in Latin
America, greeted her, bowed low with doffed sombrero in hand, and seated
her in a rattan settee. Her own greeting was sad, but shot through with
curiousness, as if she hoped he brought some word of hope.

“The trial is over, Leoncia,” he said softly, tenderly, as one speaks of
the dead. “He is sentenced. To-morrow at ten o’clock is the time. It is
all very sad, most very sad. But....” He shrugged his shoulders. “No, I
shall not speak harshly of him. He was an honorable man. His one fault
was his temper. It was too quick, too fiery. It led him into a mischance
of honor. Never, in a cool moment of reasonableness, would he have
stabbed Alfaro——”

“He never killed my uncle!” Leoncia cried, raising her averted face.

“And it is regrettable,” Torres proceeded gently and sadly, avoiding any
disagreement. “The judge, the people, the Jefe Politico, unfortunately,
are all united in believing that he did. Which is most regrettable. But
which is not what I came to see you about. I came to offer my service in
any and all ways you may command. My life, my honor, are at your
disposal. Speak. I am your slave.”

Dropping suddenly and gracefully on one knee before her, he caught her
hand from her lap, and would have instantly flooded on with his speech,
had not his eyes lighted on the diamond ring on her engagement finger.
He frowned, but concealed the frown with bent face until he could drive
it from his features and begin to speak.

“I knew you when you were small, Leoncia, so very, very charmingly
small, and I loved you always.—No, listen! Please. My heart must speak.
Hear me out. I loved you always. But when you returned from your
convent, from schooling abroad, a woman, a grand and noble lady fit to
rule in the house of the Solanos, I was burnt by your beauty. I have
been patient. I refrained from speaking. But you may have guessed. You
surely must have guessed. I have been on fire for you ever since. I have
been consumed by the flame of your beauty, by the flame of you that is
deeper than your beauty.”

He was not to be stopped, as she well knew, and she listened patiently,
gazing down on his bent head and wondering idly why his hair was so
unbecomingly cut, and whether it had been last cut in New York or San
Antonio.

“Do you know what you have been to me ever since your return?”

She did not reply, nor did she endeavour to withdraw her hand, although
his was crushing and bruising her flesh against Henry Morgan’s ring. She
forgot to listen, led away by a chain of thought that linked far. Not in
such rhodomontade of speech had Henry Morgan loved and won her, was the
beginning of the chain. Why did those of Spanish blood always voice
their emotions so exaggeratedly? Henry had been so different. Scarcely
had he spoken a word. He had acted. Under her glamor, himself glamoring
her, without warning, so certain was he not to surprise and frighten
her, he had put his arms around her and pressed his lips to hers. And
hers had been neither too startled nor altogether unresponsive. Not
until after that first kiss, arms still around her, had Henry begun to
speak at all.

And what plan was being broached around the corner of the ell by her men
and Francis Morgan? Her mind strayed on, deaf to the suitor at her feet.
Francis! Ah—she almost sighed, and marveled, what of her self-known love
for Henry, why this stranger Gringo so enamored her heart. Was she a
wanton? Was it one man? Or another man? Or any man? No! No! She was not
fickle nor unfaithful. And yet?... Perhaps it was because Francis and
Henry were so much alike, and her poor stupid loving woman’s heart
failed properly to distinguish between them. And yet—while it had seemed
she would have followed Henry anywhere over the world, in any luck or
fortune, it seemed to her now that she would follow Francis even
farther. She did _love_ Henry, her heart solemnly proclaimed. But also
did she love Francis, and almost did she divine that Francis loved
her—the fervor of his lips on hers in his prison cell was inerasable;
and there was a difference in her love for the two men that confuted her
powers of reason and almost drove her to the shameful conclusion that
she, the latest and only woman of the house of Solano, was a wanton.

A severe pinch of her flesh against Henry’s ring, caused by the
impassioned grasp of Torres, brought her back to him, so that she could
hear the spate of his speech pouring on:

“You have been the delicious thorn in my side, the spiked rowel of the
spur forever prodding the sweetest and most poignant pangs of love into
my breast. I have dreamed of you ... and for you. And I have my own name
for you. Ever the one name I have had for you: the Queen of my Dreams.
And you will marry me, my Leoncia. We will forget this mad Gringo who is
as already dead. I shall be gentle, kind. I shall love you always. And
never shall any vision of him arise between us. For myself, I shall not
permit it. For you ... I shall love you so that it will be impossible
for the memory of him to arise between us and give you one moment’s
heart-hurt.”

Leoncia debated in a long pause that added fuel to Torres’ hopes. She
felt the need to temporise. If Henry were to be saved ... and had not
Torres offered his services? Not lightly could she turn him away when a
man’s life might depend upon him.

“Speak!—I am consuming!” Torres urged in a choking voice.

“Hush! Hush!” she said softly. “How can I listen to love from a live
man, when the man I loved is yet alive?”

_Loved!_ The past tense of it startled her. Likewise it startled Torres,
fanning his hopes to fairer flames. Almost was she his. She had said
_loved_. She no longer bore love for Henry. She _had_ loved him, but no
longer. And she, a maid and woman of delicacy and sensibility, could
not, of course, give name to her love for him while the other man still
lived. It was subtle of her. He prided himself on his own subtlety, and
he flattered himself that he had interpreted her veiled thought aright.
And ... well, he resolved, he would see to it that the man who was to
die at ten next morning should have neither reprieve nor rescue. The one
thing clear, if he were to win Leoncia quickly, was that Henry Morgan
should die quickly.

“We will speak of it no more ... now,” he said with chivalric
gentleness, as he gently pressed her hand, rose to his feet, and gazed
down on her.

She returned a soft pressure of thanks with her own hand ere she
released it and stood up.

“Come,” she said. “We will join the others. They are planning now, or
trying to find some plan, to save Henry Morgan.”

The conversation of the group ebbed away as they joined it, as if out of
half-suspicion of Torres.

“Have you hit upon anything yet?” Leoncia asked.

Old Enrico, straight and slender and graceful as any of his sons despite
his age, shook his head.

“I have a plan, if you will pardon me,” Torres began, but ceased at a
warning glance from Alesandro, the eldest son.

On the walk, below the piazza, had appeared two scarecrows of beggar
boys. Not more than ten years of age, by their size, they seemed much
older when judged by the shrewdness of their eyes and faces. Each wore a
single marvelous garment, so that between them it could be said they
shared a shirt and pants. But such a shirt! And such pants! The latter,
man-size, of ancient duck, were buttoned around the lad’s neck, the
waistband reefed with knotted twine so as not to slip down over his
shoulders. His arms were thrust through the holes where the side-pockets
had been. The legs of the pants had been hacked off with a knife to suit
his own diminutive length of limb. The tails of the man’s shirt on the
other boy dragged on the ground.

“Vamos!” Alesandro shouted fiercely at them to be gone.

But the boy in the pants gravely removed a stone which he had been
carrying on top of his bare head, exposing a letter which had been thus
carried. Alesandro leaned over, took the letter, and with a glance at
the inscription passed it to Leoncia, while the boys began whining for
money. Francis, smiling despite himself at the spectacle of them, tossed
them a few pieces of small silver, whereupon the shirt and the pants
toddled away down the path.

The letter was from Henry, and Leoncia scanned it hurriedly. It was not
precisely in farewell, for he wrote in the tenour of a man who never
expected to die save by some inconceivable accident. Nevertheless, on
the chance of such inconceivable thing becoming possible, Henry did
manage to say good-bye and to include a facetious recommendation to
Leoncia not to forget Francis, who was well worth remembering because he
was so much like himself, Henry.

Leoncia’s first impulse was to show the letter to the others, but the
portion about Francis with-strained her.

“It’s from Henry,” she said, tucking the note into her bosom. “There is
nothing of importance. He seems to have not the slightest doubt that he
will escape somehow.”

“We shall see that he does,” Francis declared positively.

With a grateful smile to him, and with one of interrogation to Torres,
Leoncia said:

“You were speaking of a plan, Senor Torres?”

Torres smiled, twisted his mustache, and struck an attitude of
importance.

“There is one way, the Gringo, Anglo-Saxon way, and it is simple,
straight to the point. That is just what it is, straight to the point.
We will go and take Henry out of jail in forthright, brutal and direct
Gringo fashion. It is the one thing they will not expect. Therefore, it
will succeed. There are enough unhung rascals on the beach with which to
storm the jail. Hire them, pay them well, but only partly in advance,
and the thing is accomplished.”

Leoncia nodded eager agreement. Old Enrico’s eyes flashed and his
nostrils distended as if already sniffing gunpowder. The young men were
taking fire from his example. And all looked to Francis for his opinion
or agreement. He shook his head slowly, and Leoncia uttered a sharp cry
of disappointment in him.

“That way is hopeless,” he said. “Why should all of you risk your necks
in a madcap attempt like that, doomed to failure from the start?” As he
talked, he strode across from Leoncia’s side to the railing in such way
as to be for a moment between Torres and the other men, and at the same
time managed a warning look to Enrico and his sons. “As for Henry, it
looks as if it were all up with him——”

“You mean you doubt me?” Torres bristled.

“Heavens, man,” Francis protested.

But Torres dashed on: “You mean that I am forbidden by you, a man I have
scarcely met, from the councils of the Solanos who are my oldest and
most honored friends.”

Old Enrico, who had not missed the rising wrath against Francis in
Leoncia’s face, succeeded in conveying a warning to her, ere, with a
courteous gesture, he hushed Torres and began to speak.

“There are no councils of the Solanos from which you are barred, Senor
Torres. You are indeed an old friend of the family. Your late father and
I were comrades, almost brothers. But that—and you will pardon an old
man’s judgment—does not prevent Senor Morgan from being right when he
says your plan is hopeless. To storm the jail is truly madness. Look at
the thickness of the walls. They could stand a siege of weeks. And yet,
and I confess it, almost was I tempted when you first broached the idea.
Now when I was a young man, fighting the Indians in the high
Cordilleras, there was a very case in point. Come, let us all be seated
and comfortable, and I will tell you the tale....”

But Torres, busy with many things, declined to wait, and with soothed
amicable feelings shook hands all around, briefly apologized to Francis,
and departed astride his silver-saddled and silver-bridled horse for San
Antonio. One of the things that busied him was the cable correspondence
maintained between him and Thomas Regan’s Wall Street office. Having
secret access to the Panamanian government wireless station at San
Antonio, he was thus able to relay messages to the cable station at Vera
Cruz. Not alone was his relationship with Regan proving lucrative, but
it was jibing in with his own personal plans concerning Leoncia and the
Morgans.

“What have you against Senor Torres, that you should reject his plan and
anger him?” Leoncia demanded of Francis.

“Nothing,” was the answer, “except that we do not need him, and that I’m
not exactly infatuated with him. He is a fool and would spoil any plan.
Look at the way he fell down on testifying at my trial. Maybe he can’t
be trusted. I don’t know. Anyway, what’s the good of trusting him when
we don’t need him? Now his plan is all right. We’ll go straight to the
jail and take Henry out, if all you are game for it. And we don’t need
to trust to a mob of unhung rascals and beach-sweepings. If the six men
of us can’t do it, we might as well quit.”

“There must be at least a dozen guards always hanging out at the jail,”
Ricardo, Leoncia’s youngest brother, a lad of eighteen, objected.

Leoncia, her eagerness alive again, frowned at him; but Francis took his
part.

“Well taken,” he agreed. “But we will eliminate the guards.”

“The five-foot walls,” said Martinez Solano, twin brother to Alvarado.

“Go through them,” Francis answered.

“But how?” Leoncia cried.

“That’s what I am arriving at. You, Senor Solano, have plenty of saddle
horses? Good. And you, Alesandro, does it chance you could procure me a
couple of sticks of dynamite from around the plantation? Good, and
better than good. And you, Leoncia, as the lady of the hacienda, should
know whether you have in your store-room a plentiful supply of that
three-star rye whiskey?”

“Ah, the plot thickens,” he laughed, on receiving her assurance. “We’ve
all the properties for a Rider Haggard or Rex Beach adventure tale. Now
listen. But wait. I want to talk to you, Leoncia, about private
theatricals....”



                               CHAPTER V.


It was in the mid-afternoon, and Henry, at his barred cell-window,
stared out into the street and wondered if any sort of breeze would ever
begin to blow from off Chiriqui Lagoon and cool the stagnant air. The
street was dusty and filthy—filthy, because the only scavengers it had
ever known since the town was founded centuries before were the carrion
dogs and obscene buzzards even then prowling and hopping about in the
debris. Low, whitewashed buildings of stone and adobe made the street a
furnace.

The white of it all, and the dust, was almost achingly intolerable to
the eyes, and Henry would have withdrawn his gaze, had not the several
ragged _mosos_, dozing in a doorway opposite, suddenly aroused and
looked interestedly up the street. Henry could not see, but he could
hear the rattling spokes of some vehicle coming at speed. Next, it
surged into view, a rattletrap light wagon drawn by a runaway horse. In
the seat a gray-headed, gray-bearded ancient strove vainly to check the
animal.

Henry smiled and marveled that the rickety wagon could hold together, so
prodigious were the bumps imparted to it by the deep ruts. Every wheel,
half-dished and threatening to dish, wobbled and revolved out of line
with every other wheel. And if the wagon held intact, Henry judged, it
was a miracle that the crazy harness did not fly to pieces. When
directly opposite the window, the old man made a last effort,
half-standing up from the seat as he pulled on the reins. One was
rotten, and broke. As the driver fell backward into the seat, his weight
on the remaining rein caused the horse to swerve sharply to the right.
What happened then—whether a wheel dished, or whether a wheel had come
off first and dished afterward—Henry could not determine. The one
incontestable thing was that the wagon was a wreck. The old man,
dragging in the dust and stubbornly hanging on to the remaining rein,
swung the horse in a circle until it stopped, facing him and snorting at
him.

By the time he gained his feet a crowd of _mosos_ was forming about him.
These were roughly shouldered right and left by the gendarmes who
erupted from the jail. Henry remained at the window and, for a man with
but a few hours to live, was an amused spectator and listener to what
followed.

Giving his horse to a gendarme to hold, not stopping to brush the filth
from his person, the old man limped hurriedly to the wagon and began an
examination of the several packing cases, large and small, which
composed its load. Of one case he was especially solicitous, even trying
to lift it and seeming to listen as he lifted.

He straightened up, on being addressed by one of the gendarmes, and made
voluble reply.

“Me? Alas senors, I am an old man, and far from home. I am Leopoldo
Narvaez. It is true, my mother was German, may the Saints preserve her
rest; but my father was Baltazar de Jesus y Cervallos é Narvaez, son of
General Narvaez of martial memory, who fought under the great Bolivar
himself. And now I am half ruined and far from home.”

Prompted by other questions, interlarded with the courteous expressions
of sympathy with which even the humblest _moso_ is over generously
supplied, he managed to be polite-fully grateful and to run on with his
tale.

“I have driven from Bocas del Toro. It has taken me five days, and
business has been poor. My home is in Colon, and I wish I were safely
there. But even a noble Narvaez may be a peddler, and even a peddler
must live, eh, senors, is it not so? But tell me, is there not a Tomas
Romero who dwells in this pleasant city of San Antonio?”

“There are any God’s number of Tomas Romeros who dwell everywhere in
Panama,” laughed Pedro Zurita, the assistant jailer. “One would need
fuller description.”

“He is the cousin of my second wife,” the ancient answered hopefully,
and seemed bewildered by the roar of laughter from the crowd.

“And a dozen Tomas Romeros live in and about San Antonio,” the assistant
jailer went on, “any one of which may be your second wife’s cousin,
Senor. There is Tomas Romero, the drunkard. There is Tomas Romero, the
thief. There is Tomas Romero—but no, he was hanged a month back for
murder and robbery. There is the rich Tomas Romero who owns many cattle
on the hills. There is....”

To each suggested one, Leopoldo Narvaez had shaken his head dolefully,
until the cattle-owner was mentioned. At this he had become hopeful and
broke in:

“Pardon me, senor, it must be he, or some such a one as he. I shall find
him. If my precious stock-in-trade can be safely stored, I shall seek
him now. It is well my misfortune came upon me where it did. I shall be
able to trust it with you, who are, one can see with half an eye, an
honest and an honorable man.” As he talked, he fumbled forth from his
pocket two silver pesos and handed them to the jailer. “There, I wish
you and your men to have some pleasure of assisting me.”

Henry grinned to himself as he noted the access of interest in the old
man and of consideration for him, on the part of Pedro Zurita and the
gendarmes, caused by the present of the coins. They shoved the more
curious of the crowd roughly back from the wrecked wagon and began to
carry the boxes into the jail.

“Careful, senors, careful,” the old one pleaded, greatly anxious, as
they took hold of the big box. “Handle it gently. It is of value, and it
is fragile, most fragile.”

While the contents of the wagon were being carried into the jail, the
old man removed and deposited in the wagon all harness from the horse
save the bridle.

Pedro Zurita ordered the harness taken in as well, explaining, with a
glare at the miserable crowd: “Not a strap or buckle would remain the
second after our backs were turned.”

Using what was left of the wagon for a stepping block, and ably assisted
by the jailer and his crew, the peddler managed to get astride his
animal.

“It is well,” he said, and added gratefully: “A thousand thanks, senors.
It has been my good fortune to meet with honest men with whom my goods
will be safe—only poor goods, peddler’s goods, you understand; but to
me, everything, my way upon the road. The pleasure has been mine to meet
you. To-morrow I shall return with my kinsman, whom I certainly shall
find, and relieve from you the burden of safeguarding my inconsiderable
property.” He doffed his hat. “Adios, senors, adios!”

He rode away at a careful walk, timid of the animal he bestrode which
had caused his catastrophe. He halted and turned his head at a call from
Pedro Zurita.

“Search the graveyard, Senor Narvaez,” the jailer advised. “Full a
hundred Tomas Romeros lie there.”

“And be vigilant, I beg of you, senor, of the heavy box,” the peddler
called back.

Henry watched the street grow deserted as the gendarmes and the populace
fled from the scorch of the sun. Small wonder, he thought to himself,
that the old peddler’s voice had sounded vaguely familiar. It had been
because he had possessed only half a Spanish tongue to twist around the
language—the other half being the German tongue of the mother. Even so,
he talked like a native, and he would be robbed like a native if there
was anything of value in the heavy box deposited with the jailers, Henry
concluded, ere dismissing the incident from his mind.

                  *       *       *       *       *

In the guardroom, a scant fifty feet away from Henry’s cell, Leopoldo
Narvaez was being robbed. It had begun by Pedro Zurita making a profound
and wistful survey of the large box. He lifted one end of it to sample
its weight, and sniffed like a hound at the crack of it as if his nose
might give him some message of its contents.

“Leave it alone, Pedro,” one of the gendarmes laughed at him. “You have
been paid two pesos to be honest.”

The assistant jailer sighed, walked away and sat down, looked back at
the box, and sighed again. Conversation languished. Continually the eyes
of the men roved to the box. A greasy pack of cards could not divert
them. The game languished. The gendarme who had twitted Pedro himself
went to the box and sniffed.

“I smell nothing,” he announced. “Absolutely in the box there is nothing
to smell. Now what can it be? The caballero said that it was of value!”

“Caballero!” sniffed another of the gendarmes. “The old man’s father was
more like to have been peddler of rotten fish on the streets of Colon
and his father before him. Every lying beggar claims descent from the
conquistadores.”

“And why not, Rafael?” Pedro Zurita retorted. “Are we not all so
descended?”

“Without doubt,” Rafael readily agreed. “The conquistadores slew many——”

“And were the ancestors of those that survived,” Pedro completed for him
and aroused a general laugh. “Just the same, almost would I give one of
these pesos to know what is in that box.”

“There is Ignacio,” Rafael greeted the entrance of a turnkey whose heavy
eyes tokened he was just out of his siesta. “He was not paid to be
honest. Come, Ignacio, relieve our curiosity by letting us know what is
in the box.”

“How should I know?” Ignacio demanded, blinking at the object of
interest. “Only now have I awakened.”

“You have not been paid to be honest, then?” Rafael asked.

“Merciful Mother of God, who is the man who would pay me to be honest?”
the turnkey demanded.

“Then take the hatchet there and open the box,” Rafael drove his point
home. “We may not, for as surely as Pedro is to share the two pesos with
us, that surely have we been paid to be honest. Open the box, Ignacio,
or we shall perish of our curiosity.”

“We will look, we will only look,” Pedro muttered nervously, as the
turnkey prized off a board with the blade of the hatchet. “Then we will
close the box again and——Put your hand in, Ignacio. What is it you
find?... eh? what does it feel like? Ah!”

After pulling and tugging, Ignacio’s hand had reappeared, clutching a
cardboard carton.

“Remove it carefully, for it must be replaced,” the jailer cautioned.

And when the wrappings of paper and tissue paper were removed, all eyes
focused on a quart bottle of rye whiskey.

“How excellently is it composed,” Pedro murmured in tones of awe. “It
must be very good that such care be taken of it.”

“It is Americano whiskey,” sighed a gendarme. “Once, only, have I drunk
Americano whiskey. It was wonderful. Such was the courage of it, that I
leaped into the bull-ring at Santos and faced a wild bull with my hands.
It is true, the bull rolled me, but did I not leap into the ring?”

Pedro took the bottle and prepared to knock its neck off.

“Hold!” cried Rafael. “You were paid to be honest.”

“By a man who was not himself honest,” came the retort. “The stuff is
contraband. It has never paid duty. The old man was in possession of
smuggled goods. Let us now gratefully and with clear conscience invest
ourselves in its possession. We will confiscate it. We will destroy it.”

Not waiting for the bottle to pass, Ignacio and Rafael unwrapped fresh
ones and broke off the necks.

“Three stars—most excellent,” Pedro Zurita orated in a pause, pointing
to the trade mark. “You see, all Gringo whiskey is good. One star shows
that it is very good; two stars that it is excellent; three stars that
it is superb, the best, and better than beyond that. Ah, I know. The
Gringos are strong on strong drink. No pulque for them.”

“And four stars?” queried Ignacio, his voice husky from the liquor, the
moisture glistening in his eyes.

“Four stars? Friend Ignacio, four stars would be either sudden death or
translation into paradise.”

In not many minutes, Rafael, his arm around another gendarme, was
calling him brother and proclaiming that it took little to make men
happy here below.

“The old man was a fool, three times a fool, and thrice that,”
volunteered Augustino, a sullen-faced gendarme, who for the first time
gave tongue to speech.

“Viva Augustino!” cheered Rafael. “The three stars have worked a
miracle. Behold! Have they not unlocked Augustino’s mouth?”

“And thrice times thrice again was the old man a fool!” Augustino
bellowed fiercely. “The very drink of the gods was his, all his, and he
has been five days alone with it on the road from Bocas del Toro, and
never taken one little sip. Such fools as he should be stretched out
naked on an ant-heap, say I.”

“The old man was a rogue,” quoth Pedro. “And when he comes back
to-morrow for his three stars I shall arrest him for a smuggler. It will
be a feather in all our caps.”

“If we destroy the evidence—thus?” queried Augustino, knocking off
another neck.

“We will save the evidence—thus!” Pedro replied, smashing an empty
bottle on the stone flags. “Listen, comrades. The box was very heavy—we
are all agreed. It fell. The bottles broke. The liquor ran out, and so
were we made aware of the contraband. The box and the broken bottles
will be evidence sufficient.”

The uproar grew as the liquor diminished. One gendarme quarreled with
Ignacio over a forgotten debt of ten centavos. Two others sat upon the
floor, arms around each other’s necks, and wept over the miseries of
their married lot. Augustino, like a very spendthrift of speech,
explained his philosophy that silence was golden. And Pedro Zurita
became sentimental on brotherhood.

“Even my prisoners,” he maundered. “I love them as brothers. Life is
sad.” A gush of tears in his eyes made him desist while he took another
drink. “My prisoners are my very children. My heart bleeds for them.
Behold! I weep. Let us share with them. Let them have a moment’s
happiness. Ignacio, dearest brother of my heart. Do me a favor. See, I
weep on your hand. Carry a bottle of this elixir to the Gringo Morgan.
Tell him my sorrow that he must hang to-morrow. Give him my love and bid
him drink and be happy to-day.”

And as Ignacio passed out on the errand, the gendarme who had once leapt
into the bull-ring at Santos, began roaring:

“I want a bull! I want a bull!”

“He wants it, dear soul, that he may put his arms around it and love
it,” Pedro Zurita explained, with a fresh access of weeping. “I, too,
love bulls. I love all things. I love even mosquitoes. All the world is
love. That is the secret of the world. I should like to have a lion to
play with....”

                  *       *       *       *       *

The unmistakable air of “Back to Back Against the Mainmast” being
whistled openly in the street, caught Henry’s attention, and he was
crossing his big cell to the window when the grating of a key in the
door made him lie down quickly on the floor and feign sleep. Ignacio
staggered drunkenly in, bottle in hand, which he gravely presented to
Henry.

“With the high compliments of our good jailer, Pedro Zurita,” he
mumbled. “He says to drink and forget that he must stretch your neck
to-morrow.”

“My high compliments to Senor Pedro Zurita, and tell him from me to go
to hell along with his whiskey,” Henry replied.

The turnkey straightened up and ceased swaying, as if suddenly become
sober.

“Very well, senor,” he said, then passed out and locked the door.

In a rush Henry was at the window just in time to encounter Francis face
to face and thrusting a revolver to him through the bars.

“Greetings, camarada,” Francis said. “We’ll have you out of here in a
jiffy.” He held up two sticks of dynamite, with fuse and caps complete.
“I have brought this pretty crowbar to pry you out. Stand well back in
your cell, because real pronto there’s going to be a hole in this wall
that we could sail the _Angelique_ through. And the _Angelique_ is right
off the beach waiting for you.—Now, stand back. I’m going to touch her
off. It’s a short fuse.”

Hardly had Henry backed into a rear corner of his cell, when the door
was clumsily unlocked and opened to a babel of cries and imprecations,
chiefest among which he could hear the ancient and invariable war-cry of
Latin-America, “Kill the Gringo!”

Also, he could hear Rafael and Pedro, as they entered, babbling, the
one: “He is the enemy of brotherly love”; and the other, “He said I was
to go to hell—is not that what he said, Ignacio?”

In their hands they carried rifles, and behind them urged the drunken
rabble, variously armed, from cutlasses and horse-pistols to hatchets
and bottles. At sight of Henry’s revolver, they halted, and Pedro,
fingering his rifle unsteadily, maundered solemnly:

“Senor Morgan, you are about to take up your rightful abode in hell.”

But Ignacio did not wait. He fired wildly and widely from his hip,
missing Henry by half the width of the cell and going down the next
moment under the impact of Henry’s bullet. The rest retreated
precipitately into the jail corridor, where, themselves unseen, they
began discharging their weapons into the room.

Thanking his fortunate stars for the thickness of the walls, and hoping
no ricochet would get him, Henry sheltered in a protecting angle and
waited for the explosion.

It came. The window and the wall beneath it became all one aperture.
Struck on the head by a flying fragment, Henry sank down dizzily, and,
as the dust of the mortar and the powder cleared, with wavering eyes he
saw Francis apparently swim through the hole. By the time he had been
dragged out through the hole, Henry was himself again. He could see
Enrico Solano and Ricardo, his youngest born, rifles in hand, holding
back the crowd forming up the street, while the twins, Alvarado and
Martinez, similarly held back the crowd forming down the street.

But the populace was merely curious, having its lives to lose and
nothing to gain if it attempted to block the way of such masterful men
as these who blew up walls and stormed jails in open day. And it gave
back respectfully before the compact group as it marched down the
street.

“The horses are waiting up the next alley,” Francis told Henry, as they
gripped hands. “And Leoncia is waiting with them. Fifteen minutes’
gallop will take us to the beach, where the boat is waiting.”

“Say, that was some song I taught you,” Henry grinned. “It sounded like
the very best little bit of all right when I heard you whistling it. The
dogs were so previous they couldn’t wait till to-morrow to hang me. They
got full of whiskey and decided to finish me off right away. Funny thing
that whiskey. An old caballero turned peddler wrecked a wagon-load of it
right in front of the jail——”

“For even a noble Narvaez, son of Baltazar de Jesus y Cervallos è
Narvaez, son of General Narvaez of martial memory, may be a peddler, and
even a peddler must live, eh, senors, is it not so?” Francis mimicked.

Henry looked his gleeful recognition, and added soberly:

“Francis, I’m glad for one thing, most damn glad....”

“Which is?” Francis queried in the pause, just as they swung around the
corner to the horses.

“That I didn’t cut off your ears that day on the Calf when I had you
down and you insisted.”



                               CHAPTER VI


Mariano Vercara e Hijos, Jefe Politico of San Antonio, leaned back in
his chair in the courtroom and with a quiet smile of satisfaction
proceeded to roll a cigarette. The case had gone through as prearranged.
He had kept the little old judge away from his _mescal_ all day, and had
been rewarded by having the judge try the case and give judgment
according to program. He had not made a slip. The six peons, fined
heavily, were ordered back to the plantation at Santos. The working out
of the fines was added to the time of their contract slavery. And the
Jefe was two hundred dollars good American gold richer for the
transaction. Those Gringos at Santos, he smiled to himself, were men to
tie to. True, they were developing the country with their _henequen_
plantation. But, better than that, they possessed money in untold
quantity and paid well for such little services as he might be able to
render.

His smile was even broader as he greeted Alvarez Torres.

“Listen,” said the latter, whispering low in his ear. “We can get both
these devils of Morgans. The Henry pig hangs to-morrow. There is no
reason that the Francis pig should not go out to-day.”

The Jefe remained silent, questioning with a lift of his eyebrows.

“I have advised him to storm the jail. The Solanos have listened to his
lies and are with him. They will surely attempt to do it this evening.
They could not do it sooner. It is for you to be ready for the event,
and to see to it that Francis Morgan is especially shot and killed in
the fight.”

“For what and for why?” the Jefe temporised. “It is Henry I want to see
out of the way. Let the Francis one go back to his beloved New York.”

“He must go out to-day, and for reasons you will appreciate. As you
know, from reading my telegrams through the government wireless——”

“Which was our agreement for my getting you your permission to use the
government station,” the Jefe reminded.

“And of which I do not complain,” Torres assured him. “But as I was
saying, you know my relations with the New York Regan are confidential
and important.” He touched his hand to his breast pocket. “I have just
received another wire. It is imperative that the Francis pig be kept
away from New York for a month—if forever, and I do not misunderstand
Senor Regan, so much the better. In so far as I succeed in this, will
you fare well.”

“But you have not told me how much you have received, nor how much you
will receive,” the Jefe probed.

“It is a private agreement, and it is not so much as you may fancy. He
is a hard man, this Senor Regan, a hard man. Yet will I divide fairly
with you out of the success of our venture.”

The Jefe nodded acquiescence, then said:

“Will it be as much as a thousand gold you will get?”

“I think so. Surely the pig of an Irish stock-gambler could pay me no
less a sum, and five hundred is yours if pig Francis leaves his bones in
San Antonio.”

“Will it be as much as a hundred thousand gold?” was the Jefe’s next
query.

Torres laughed as if at a joke.

“It must be more than a thousand,” the other persisted.

“And he may be generous,” Torres responded. “He may even give me five
hundred over the thousand, half of which, naturally, as I have said,
will be yours as well.”

“I shall go from here immediately to the jail,” the Jefe announced. “You
may trust me, Senor Torres, as I trust you. Come. We will go at once,
now, you and I, and you may see for yourself the preparation I shall
make for this Francis Morgan’s reception. I have not yet lost my cunning
with a rifle. And, as well, I shall tell off three of the gendarmes to
fire only at him. So this Gringo dog would storm our jail, eh? Come. We
will depart at once.”

He stood up, tossing his cigarette away with a show of determined
energy. But, half way across the room, a ragged boy, panting and
sweating, plucked his sleeve and whined:

“I have information. You will pay me for it, most high Senor? I have run
all the way.”

“I’ll have you sent to San Juan for the buzzards to peck your carcass
for the worthless carrion that you are,” was the reply.

The boy quailed at the threat, then summoned courage from his emptiness
of belly and meagerness of living and from his desire for the price of a
ticket to the next bull-fight.

“You will remember I brought you the information, Senor. I ran all the
way until I am almost dead, as you can behold, Senor. I will tell you,
but you will remember it was I who ran all the way and told you first.”

“Yes, yes, animal, I will remember. But woe to you if I remember too
well. What is the trifling information? It may not be worth a centavo.
And if it isn’t I’ll make you sorry the sun ever shone on you. And
buzzard-picking of you at San Juan will be paradise compared with what I
shall visit on you.”

“The jail,” the boy quavered. “The strange Gringo, the one who was to be
hanged yesterday, has blown down the side of the jail. Merciful Saints!
The hole is as big as the steeple of the cathedral! And the other
Gringo, the one who looks like him, the one who was to hang to-morrow,
has escaped with him out of the hole. He dragged him out of the hole
himself. This I saw, myself, with my two eyes, and then I ran here to
you all the way, and you will remember....”

But the Jefe Politico had already turned on Torres witheringly.

“And if this Senor Regan be princely generous, he may give you and me
the munificent sum that was mentioned, eh? Five times the sum, or ten
times, with this Gringo tiger blowing down law and order and our good
jail-walls, would be nearer the mark.”

“At any rate, the thing must be a false alarm, merely the straw that
shows which way blows the wind of this Francis Morgan’s intention,”
Torres murmured with a sickly smile. “Remember, the suggestion was mine
to him to storm the jail.”

“In which case you and Senor Regan will pay for the good jail wall?” the
Jefe demanded, then, with a pause, added: “Not that I believe it has
been accomplished. It is not possible. Even a fool Gringo would not
dare.”

Rafael, the gendarme, rifle in hand, the blood still oozing down his
face from a scalp-wound, came through the courtroom door and shouldered
aside the curious ones who had begun to cluster around Torres and the
Jefe.

“We are devastated,” were Rafael’s first words. “The jail is ‘most
destroyed. Dynamite! A hundred pounds of it! A thousand! We came bravely
to save the jail. But it exploded—the thousand pounds of dynamite. I
fell unconscious, rifle in hand. When sense came back to me, I looked
about. All others, the brave Pedro, the brave Ignacio, the brave
Augustino—all, all, lay around me dead!” Almost could he have added,
“drunk”; but, his Latin-American nature so compounded, he sincerely
stated the catastrophe as it most valiantly and tragically presented
itself to his imagination. “They lay dead. They may not be dead, but
merely stunned. I crawled. The cell of the Gringo Morgan was empty.
There was a huge and monstrous hole in the wall. I crawled through the
hole into the street. There was a great crowd. But the Gringo Morgan was
gone. I talked with a moso who had seen and who knew. They had horses
waiting. They rode toward the beach. There is a schooner that is not
anchored. It sails back and forth waiting for them. The Francis Morgan
rides with a sack of gold on his saddle. The moso saw it. It is a large
sack.”

“And the hole?” the Jefe demanded. “The hole in the wall?”

“Is larger than the sack, much larger,” was Rafael’s reply. “But the
sack is large. So the moso said. And he rides with it on his saddle.”

“My jail!” the Jefe cried. He slipped a dagger from inside his coat
under the left arm-pit and held it aloft by the blade so that the hilt
showed as a true cross on which a finely modeled Christ hung crucified.
“I swear by all the Saints the vengeance I shall have. My jail! Our
justice! Our law!——Horses! Horses! Gendarme, horses!” He whirled about
upon Torres as if the latter had spoken, shouting: “To hell with Senor
Regan! I am after my own! I have been defied! My jail is desolated! My
law—our law, good friends—has been mocked. Horses! Horses! Commandeer
them on the streets. Haste! Haste!”

                  *       *       *       *       *

Captain Trefethen, owner of the _Angelique_, son of a Maya Indian mother
and a Jamaica negro father, paced the narrow after-deck of his schooner,
stared shoreward toward San Antonio, where he could make out his crowded
long-boat returning, and meditated flight from his mad American
charterer. At the same time he meditated remaining in order to break his
charter and give a new one at three times the price; for he was
strangely torn by his conflicting bloods. The negro portion counseled
prudence and observance of Panamanian law. The Indian portion was urgent
to unlawfulness and the promise of conflict.

It was the Indian mother who decided the issue and made him draw his
jib, ease his mainsheet, and begin to reach in-shore the quicker to pick
up the oncoming boat. When he made out the rifles carried by the Solanos
and the Morgans, almost he put up his helm to run for it and leave them.
When he made out a woman in the boat’s sternsheets, romance and thrift
whispered in him to hang on and take the boat on board. For he knew
wherever women entered into the transactions of men that peril and pelf
as well entered hand in hand.

And aboard came the woman, the peril and the pelf—Leoncia, the rifles,
and a sack of money—all in a scramble; for, the wind being light, the
captain had not bothered to stop way on the schooner.

“Glad to welcome you on board, sir,” Captain Trefethen greeted Francis
with a white slash of teeth between his smiling lips. “But who is this
man?” He nodded his head to indicate Henry.

“A friend, captain, a guest of mine, in fact, a kinsman.”

“And who, sir, may I make bold to ask, are those gentlemen riding along
the beach in fashion so lively?”

Henry looked quickly at the group of horsemen galloping along the sand,
unceremoniously took the binoculars from the skipper’s hand, and gazed
through them.

“It’s the Jefe himself in the lead,” he reported to Leoncia and her
menfolk, “with a bunch of gendarmes.” He uttered a sharp exclamation,
stared through the glasses intently, then shook his head. “Almost I
thought I made out our friend Torres.”

“With our enemies!” Leoncia cried incredulously, remembering Torres’
proposal of marriage and proffer of service and honor that very day on
the hacienda piazza.

“I must have been mistaken,” Francis acknowledged. “They are riding so
bunched together. But it’s the Jefe all right, two jumps ahead of the
outfit.”

“Who is this Torres duck?” Henry asked harshly. “I’ve never liked his
looks from the first, yet he seems always welcome under your roof,
Leoncia.”

“I beg your parson, sir, most gratifiedly, and with my humilius
respects,” Captain Trefethen interrupted suavely. “But I must call your
attention to the previous question, sir, which is: who and what is that
cavalcade disporting itself with such earnestness along the sand?”

“They tried to hang me yesterday,” Francis laughed. “And to-morrow they
were going to hang my kinsman there. Only we beat them to it. And here
we are. Now, Mr. Skipper, I call your attention to your head-sheets
flapping in the wind. You are standing still. How much longer do you
expect to stick around here?”

“Mr. Morgan, sir,” came the answer, “it is with dumbfounded respect that
I serve you as the charterer of my vessel. Nevertheless, I must inform
you that I am a British subject. King George is my king, sir, and I owe
obedience first of all to him and to his laws of maritime between all
nations, sir. It is lucid to my comprehension that you have broken laws
ashore, or else the officers ashore would not be so assiduously in quest
of you, sir. And it is also lucid to clarification that it is now your
wish to have me break the laws of maritime by enabling you to escape.
So, in honor bound, I must stick around here until this little
difficulty that you may have appertained ashore is adjusted to the
satisfaction of all parties concerned, sir, and to the satisfaction of
my lawful sovereign.”

“Fill away and get out of this, skipper!” Henry broke in angrily.

“Sir, assuring you of your gratification of pardon, it is my unpleasant
task to inform you of two things. Neither are you my charterer; nor are
you the noble King George to whom I give ambitious allegiance.”

“Well, I’m your charterer, skipper,” Francis said pleasantly, for he had
learned to humor the man of mixed words and parentage. “So just kindly
put up your helm and sail us out of this Chiriqui Lagoon as fast as God
and this failing wind will let you.”

“It is not in the charter, sir, that my _Angelique_ shall break the laws
of Panama and King George.”

“I’ll pay you well,” Francis retorted, beginning to lose his temper.
“Get busy.”

“You will then recharter, sir, at three times the present charter?”

Francis nodded shortly.

“Then wait, sir, I entreat. I must procure pen and paper from the cabin
and make out the document.”

“Oh, Lord,” Francis groaned. “Square away and get a move on first. We
can make out the paper just as easily while we are running as standing
still. Look! They are beginning to fire.”

The half-breed captain heard the report, and, searching his spread
canvas, discovered the hole of the bullet high up near the peak of the
mainsail.

“Very well, sir,” he conceded. “You are a gentleman and an honorable
man. I trust you to affix your signature to the document at your early
convenience——Hey, you nigger! Put up your wheel! Hard up! Jump, you
black rascals, and slack away mainsheet! Take a hand there, you,
Percival, on the boom-tackle!”

All obeyed, as did Percival, a grinning shambling Kingston negro who was
as black as his name was white, and as did another, addressed more
respectfully as Juan, who was more Spanish and Indian than negro, as his
light yellow skin attested, and whose fingers, slacking the foresheet,
were as slim and delicate as a girl’s.

“Knock the nigger on the head if he keeps up this freshness,” Henry
growled in an undertone to Francis. “For two cents I’ll do it right
now.”

But Francis shook his head.

“He’s all right, but he’s a Jamaica nigger, and you know what they are.
And he’s Indian as well. We might as well humor him, since it’s the
nature of the beast. He means all right, but he wants the money, he’s
risking his schooner against confiscation, and he’s afflicted with
_vocabularitis_. He just must get those long words out of his system or
else bust.”

Here Enrico Solano, with quivering nostrils and fingers restless on his
rifle as with half an eye he kept track of the wild shots being fired
from the beach, approached Henry and held out his hand.

“I have been guilty of a grave mistake, Senor Morgan,” he said. “In the
first hurt of my affliction at the death of my beloved brother, Alfaro,
I was guilty of thinking you guilty of his murder.” Here old Enrico’s
eyes flashed with anger consuming but unconsumable. “For murder it was,
dastardly and cowardly, a thrust in the dark in the back. I should have
known better. But I was overwhelmed, and the evidence was all against
you. I did not take pause of thought to consider that my dearly beloved
and only daughter was betrothed to you; to remember that all I had known
of you was straightness and man-likeness and courage such as never stabs
from behind the shield of the dark. I regret. I am sorry. And I am proud
once again to welcome you into my family as the husband-to-be of my
Leoncia.”

And while this whole-hearted restoration of Henry Morgan into the Solano
family went on, Leoncia was irritated because her father, in
Latin-American fashion, must use so many fine words and phrases, when a
single phrase, a handgrip, and a square look in the eyes were all that
was called for and was certainly all that either Henry or Francis would
have vouchsafed had the situation been reversed. Why, why, she asked of
herself, must her Spanish stock, in such extravagance of diction, seem
to emulate the similar extravagance of the Jamaica negro?

While this reiteration of the betrothal of Henry and Leoncia was taking
place, Francis, striving to appear uninterested, could not help taking
note of the pale-yellow sailor called Juan, conferring for’ard with
others of the crew, shrugging his shoulders significantly, gesticulating
passionately with his hands.



                              CHAPTER VII


“And now we’ve lost both the Gringo pigs,” Alvarez Torres lamented on
the beach as, with a slight freshening of the breeze and with booms
winged out to port and starboard, the _Angelique_ passed out of range of
their rifles.

“Almost would I give three bells to the cathedral,” Mariano Vercara è
Hijos proclaimed, “to have them within a hundred yards of this rifle.
And if I had will of all Gringos they would depart so fast that the
devil in hell would be compelled to study English.”

Alvarez Torres beat the saddle pommel with his hand in sheer impotence
of rage and disappointment.

“The Queen of my Dreams!” he almost wept. “She is gone and away, off
with the two Morgans. I saw her climb up the side of the schooner. And
there is the New York Regan. Once out of Chiriqui Lagoon, the schooner
may sail directly to New York. And the Francis pig will not have been
delayed a month, and the Senor Regan will remit no money.”

“They will not get out of Chiriqui Lagoon,” the Jefe said solemnly. “I
am no animal without reason. I am a man. I know they will not get out.
Have I not sworn eternal vengeance? The sun is setting, and the promise
is for a night of little wind. The sky tells it to one with half an eye.
Behold those trailing wisps of clouds. What wind may be, and little
enough of that, will come from the north-east. It will be a head beat to
the Chorrera Passage. They will not attempt it. That nigger captain
knows the lagoon like a book. He will try to make the long tack and go
out past Bocas del Toro, or through the Cartago Passage. Even so, we
will outwit him. I have brains, reason. Reason. Listen. It is a long
ride. We will make it—straight down the coast to Las Palmas. Captain
Rosaro is there with the _Dolores_.”

“The second-hand old tugboat?—that cannot get out of her own way?”
Torres queried.

“But this night of calm and morrow of calm she will capture the
_Angelique_,” the Jefe replied. “On, comrades! We will ride! Captain
Rosaro is my friend. Any favor is but mine to ask.”

At daylight, the worn-out men, on beaten horses, straggled through the
decaying village of Las Palmas and down to the decaying pier, where a
very decayed-looking tugboat, sadly in need of paint, welcomed their
eyes. Smoke rising from the stack advertised that steam was up, and the
Jefe was wearily elated.

“A happy morning, Senor Capitan Rosaro, and well met,” he greeted the
hard-bitten Spanish skipper, who was reclined on a coil of rope and who
sipped black coffee from a mug that rattled against his teeth.

“It would be a happier morning if the cursed fever had not laid its
chill upon me,” Captain Rosaro grunted sourly, the hand that held the
mug, the arm, and all his body shivering so violently as to spill the
hot liquid down his chin and into the black-and-gray thatch of hair that
covered his half-exposed chest. “Take that, you animal of hell!” he
cried, flinging mug and contents at a splinter of a half-breed boy,
evidently his servant, who had been unable to repress his glee.

“But the sun will rise and the fever will work its will and shortly
depart,” said the Jefe, politely ignoring the display of spleen. “And
you are finished here, and you are bound for Bocas del Toro, and we
shall go with you, all of us, on a rare adventure. We will pick up the
schooner _Angelique_, calm-bound all last night in the lagoon, and I
shall make many arrests, and all Panama will so ring with your courage
and ability, Capitan, that you will forget that the fever ever whispered
in you.”

“How much?” Capitan Rosaro demanded bluntly.

“Much?” the Jefe countered in surprise. “This is an affair of
government, good friend. And it is right on your way to Bocas del Toro.
It will not cost you an extra shovelful of coal.”

“Muchacho! More coffee!” the tug-skipper roared at the boy.

A pause fell, wherein Torres and the Jefe and all the draggled following
yearned for the piping hot coffee brought by the boy. Captain Rosaro
played the rim of the mug against his teeth like a rattling of
castanets, but managed to sip without spilling and so to burn his mouth.

A vacant-faced Swede, in filthy overalls, with a soiled cap on which
appeared “Engineer,” came up from below, lighted a pipe, and seemingly
went into a trance as he sat on the tug’s low rail.

“How much?” Captain Rosaro repeated.

“Let us get under way, dear friend,” said the Jefe. “And then, when the
fever-shock has departed, we will discuss the matter with reason, being
reasonable creatures ourselves and not animals.”

“How much?” Captain Rosaro repeated again. “I am never an animal. I
always am a creature of reason, whether the sun is up or not up, or
whether this thrice-accursed fever is upon me. How much?”

“Well, let us start, and for how much?” the Jefe conceded wearily.

“Fifty dollars gold,” was the prompt answer.

“You are starting anyway, are you not, Capitan?” Torres queried softly.

“Fifty——gold, as I have said.”

The Jefe Politico threw up his hands with a hopeless gesture and turned
on his heel to depart.

“Yet you swore eternal vengeance for the crime committed on your jail,”
Torres reminded him.

“But not if it costs fifty dollars,” the Jefe snapped back, out of the
corner of his eye watching the shivering captain for some sign of
relenting.

“Fifty gold,” said the Captain, as he finished draining the mug and with
shaking fingers strove to roll a cigarette. He nodded his head in the
direction of the Swede, and added, “and five gold extra for my engineer.
It is our custom.”

Torres stepped closer to the Jefe and whispered:

“I will pay for the tug myself and charge the Gringo Regan a hundred,
and you and I will divide the difference. We lose nothing. We shall
make. For this Regan pig instructed me well not to mind expense.”

As the sun slipped brazenly above the eastern horizon, one gendarme went
back into Las Palmas with the jaded horses, the rest of the party
descended to the deck of the tug, the Swede dived down into the
engine-room, and Captain Rosaro, shaking off his chill in the sun’s
beneficent rays, ordered the deck-hands to cast off the lines, and put
one of them at the wheel in the pilot-house.

                  *       *       *       *       *

And the same day-dawn found the _Angelique_, after a night of almost
perfect calm, off the mainland from which she had failed to get away,
although she had made sufficient northing to be midway between San
Antonio and the passages of Bocas del Toro and Cartago. These two
passages to the open sea still lay twenty-five miles away, and the
schooner truly slept on the mirror surface of the placid lagoon. Too
stuffy below for sleep in the steaming tropics, the deck was littered
with the sleepers. On top the small house of the cabin, in solitary
state, lay Leoncia. On the narrow runways of deck on either side lay her
brothers and her father. Aft, between the cabin companionway and the
wheel, side by side, Francis’ arm across Henry’s shoulder, as if still
protecting him, were the two Morgans. On one side of the wheel, sitting,
with arms on knees and head on arms, the negro-Indian skipper slept, and
just as precisely postured, on the other side of the wheel, slept the
helmsman, who was none other than Percival, the black Kingston negro.
The waist of the schooner was strewn with the bodies of the mixed-breed
seamen, while for’ard, on the tiny forecastlehead, prone, his face
buried upon his folded arms, slept the lookout.

Leoncia, in her high place on the cabin-top, awoke first. Propping her
head on her hand, the elbow resting on a bit of the poncho on which she
lay, she looked down past one side of the hood of the companionway upon
the two young men. She yearned over them, who were so alike, and knew
love for both of them, remembered the kisses of Henry on her mouth,
thrilled till the blush of her own thoughts mantled her cheek at memory
of the kisses of Francis, and was puzzled and amazed that she should
have it in her to love two men at the one time. As she had already
learned of herself, she would follow Henry to the end of the world and
Francis even farther. And she could not understand such wantonness of
inclination.

Fleeing from her own thoughts, which frightened her, she stretched out
her arm and dangled the end of her silken scarf to a tickling of
Francis’ nose, who, after restless movements, still in the heaviness of
sleep, struck with his hand at what he must have thought to be a
mosquito or a fly, and hit Henry on the chest. So it was Henry who was
first awakened. He sat up with such abruptness as to awaken Francis.

“Good morning, merry kinsman,” Francis greeted. “Why such violence?”

“Morning, morning, and the morning’s morning, comrade,” Henry muttered.
“Such was the violence of your sleep that it was you who awakened me
with a buffet on my breast. I thought it was the hangman, for this is
the morning they planned to kink my neck.” He yawned, stretched his
arms, gazed out over the rail at the sleeping sea, and nudged Francis to
observance of the sleeping skipper and helmsman.

They looked so bonny, the pair of Morgans, Leoncia thought; and at the
same time wondered why the English word had arisen unsummoned in her
mind rather than a Spanish equivalent. Was it because her heart went out
so generously to the two Gringos that she must needs think of them in
their language instead of her own?

To escape the perplexity of her thoughts, she dangled the scarf again,
was discovered, and laughingly confessed that it was she who had caused
their violence of waking.

Three hours later, breakfast of coffee and fruit over, she found herself
at the wheel taking her first lesson of steering and of the compass
under Francis’ tuition. The _Angelique_, under a crisp little breeze
which had hauled around well to north’ard, was for the moment heeling it
through the water at a six-knot clip. Henry, swaying on the weather side
of the after-deck and searching the sea through the binoculars, was
striving to be all unconcerned at the lesson, although secretly he was
mutinous with himself for not having first thought of himself
introducing her to the binnacle and the wheel. Yet he resolutely
refrained from looking around or from even stealing a corner-of-the-eye
glance at the other two.

But Captain Trefethen, with the keen cruelty of Indian curiosity and the
impudence of a negro subject of King George, knew no such delicacy. He
stared openly and missed nothing of the chemic drawing together of his
charterer and the pretty Spanish girl. When they leaned over the wheel
to look into the binnacle, they leaned toward each other and Leoncia’s
hair touched Francis’ cheek. And the three of them, themselves and the
breed skipper, knew the thrill induced by such contact. But the man and
woman knew immediately what the breed skipper did not know, and what
they knew was embarrassment. Their eyes lifted to each other in a flash
of mutual startlement, and drooped away and down guiltily. Francis
talked very fast and loud enough for half the schooner to hear, as he
explained the lubber’s point of the compass. But Captain Trefethen
grinned.

A rising puff of breeze made Francis put the wheel up. His hand to the
spoke rested on her hand already upon it. Again they thrilled, and again
the skipper grinned.

Leoncia’s eyes lifted to Francis’, then dropped in confusion. She
slipped her hand out from under and terminated the lesson by walking
slowly away with a fine assumption of casualness, as if the wheel and
the binnacle no longer interested her. But she had left Francis afire
with what he knew was lawlessness and treason as he glanced at Henry’s
shoulder and profile and hoped he had not seen what had occurred.
Leoncia, apparently gazing off across the lagoon to the jungle-clad
shore, was seeing nothing as she thoughtfully turned her engagement ring
around and around on her finger.

But Henry, turning to tell them of the smudge of smoke he had discovered
on the horizon, had inadvertently seen. And the negro-Indian captain had
seen him see. So the captain lurched close to him, the cruelty of the
Indian dictating the impudence of the negro, as he said in a low voice:

“Ah, be not downcast, sir. The senorita is generously hearted. There is
room for both you gallant gentlemen in her heart.”

And the next fraction of a second he learned the inevitable and
invariable lesson that white men must have their privacy of intimate
things; for he lay on his back, the back of his head sore from contact
with the deck, the front of his head, between the eyes, sore from
contact with the knuckles of Henry Morgan’s right hand.

But the Indian in the skipper was up and raging as he sprang to his
feet, knife in hand. Juan, the pale-yellow mixed breed, leaped to the
side of his skipper flourishing another knife, while several of the
nearer sailors joined in forming a semi-circle of attack on Henry, who,
with a quick step back and an upward slap of his hand, under the
pin-rail, caused an iron belaying pin to leap out and up into the air.
Catching it in mid-flight, he was prepared to defend himself. Francis,
abandoning the wheel and drawing his automatic as he sprang, was through
the circle and by the side of Henry.

“What did he say?” Francis demanded of his kinsman.

“I’ll say what I said,” the breed skipper threatened, the negro side of
him dominant as he built for a compromise of blackmail. “I said——”

“Hold on, skipper!” Henry interrupted. “I’m sorry I struck you. Hold
your hush. Put a stopper on your jaw. Saw wood. Forget. I’m sorry I
struck you. I....” Henry Morgan could not help the pause in speech
during which he swallowed his gorge rising at what he was about to say.
And it was because of Leoncia, and because she was looking on and
listening, that he said it. “I ... I apologize, skipper.”

“It is an injury,” Captain Trefethen stated aggrievedly. “It is a
physical damage. No man can perpetrate a physical damage on a subject of
King George’s, God bless him, without furnishing a money requital.”

At this crass statement of the terms of the blackmail, Henry was for
forgetting himself and for leaping upon the creature. But, restrained by
Francis’ hand on his shoulder, he struggled to self-control, made a
noise like hearty laughter, dipped into his pocket for two ten-dollar
gold-pieces, and, as if they stung him, thrust them into Captain
Trefethen’s palm.

“Cheap at the price,” he could not help muttering aloud.

“It is a good price,” the skipper averred. “Twenty gold is always a good
price for a sore head. I am yours to command, sir. You are a sure-enough
gentleman. You may hit me any time for the price.”

“Me, sir, me!” the Kingston black named Percival volunteered with broad
and prideless chucklings of subservience. “Take a swat at me, sir, for
the same price, any time, now. And you may swat me as often as you
please to pay....”

But the episode was destined to terminate at that instant, for at that
instant a sailor called from amidships:

“Smoke! A steamer-smoke dead aft!”

The passage of an hour determined the nature and import of the smoke,
for the _Angelique_, falling into a calm, was overhauled with such
rapidity that the tugboat _Dolores_, at half a mile distance through the
binoculars, was seen fairly to bristle with armed men crowded on her
tiny for’ard deck. Both Henry and Francis could recognize the faces of
the Jefe Politico and of several of the gendarmes.

Old Enrico Solano’s nostrils began to dilate, as, with his four sons who
were aboard, he stationed them aft with him and prepared for the battle.
Leoncia, divided between Henry and Francis, was secretly distracted,
though outwardly she joined in laughter at the unkemptness of the little
tug, and in glee at a flaw of wind that tilted the _Angelique’s_ port
rail flush to the water and foamed her along at a nine-knot clip.

But weather and wind were erratic. The face of the lagoon was vexed with
squalls and alternate streaks of calm.

“We cannot escape, sir, I regret to inform you,” Captain Trefethen
informed Francis. “If the wind would hold, sir, yes. But the wind
baffles and breaks. We are crowded down upon the mainland. We are
cornered, sir, and as good as captured.”

Henry, who had been studying the near shore through the glasses, lowered
them and looked at Francis.

“Shout!” cried the latter. “You have a scheme. It’s sticking out all
over you. Name it.”

“Right there are the two _Tigres_ islands,” Henry elucidated. “They
guard the narrow entrance to Juchitan Inlet, which is called El Tigre.
Oh, it has the teeth of a tiger, believe me. On either side of them,
between them and the shore, it is too shoal to float a whaleboat unless
you know the winding channels, which I do know. But between them is deep
water, though the El Tigre Passage is so pinched that there is no room
to come about. A schooner can only run it with the wind abaft or abeam.
Now, the wind favors. We will run it. Which is only half my scheme——”

“And if the wind baffles or fails, sir—and the tide of the inlet runs
out and in like a race, as I well know—my beautiful schooner will go on
the rocks,” Captain Trefethen protested.

“For which, if it happens, I will pay you full value,” Francis assured
him shortly and brushed him aside. “—And now, Henry, what’s the other
half of your scheme?”

“I’m ashamed to tell you,” Henry laughed. “But it will be provocative of
more Spanish swearing than has been heard in Chiriqui Lagoon since old
Sir Henry sacked San Antonio and Bocas del Toro. You just watch.”

Leoncia clapped her hands, as with sparkling eyes she cried:

“It must be good, Henry. I can see it by your face. You must tell _me_.”

And, aside, his arm around her to steady her on the reeling deck, Henry
whispered closely in her ear, while Francis, to hide his perturbation at
the sight of them, made shift through the binoculars to study the faces
on the pursuing tug. Captain Trefethen grinned maliciously and exchanged
significant glances with the pale-yellow sailor.

“Now, skipper,” said Henry, returning. “We’re just opposite El Tigre.
Put up your helm and run for the passage. Also, and pronto, I want a
coil of half-inch, old, soft, manila rope, plenty of rope-yarns and sail
twine, that case of beer from the lazarette, that five-gallon kerosene
can that was emptied last night, and the coffee-pot from the galley.”

“But I am distrained to remark to your attention that that rope is worth
good money, sir,” Captain Trefethen complained, as Henry set to work on
the heterogeneous gear.

“You will be paid,” Francis hushed him.

“And the coffee-pot—it is almost new.”

“You will be paid.”

The skipper sighed and surrendered, although he sighed again at Henry’s
next act, which was to uncork the bottles and begin emptying the beer
out into the scuppers.

“Please, sir,” begged Percival. “If you must empty the beer please empty
it into me.”

No further beer was wasted, and the crew swiftly laid the empty bottles
beside Henry. At intervals of six feet he fastened the recorked bottles
to the half-inch line. Also, he cut off two-fathom lengths of the line
and attached them like streamers between the beer bottles. The
coffee-pot and two empty coffee tins were likewise added among the
bottles. To one end of the main-line he made fast the kerosene can, to
the other end the empty beer-case, and looked up to Francis, who
replied:

“Oh, I got you five minutes ago. El Tigre must be narrow, or else the
tug will go around that stuff.”

“El Tigre is just that narrow,” was the response. “There’s one place
where the channel isn’t forty feet between the shoals. If the skipper
misses our trap, he’ll go around, aground. Say, they’ll be able to wade
ashore from the tug if that happens.—Come on, now, we’ll get the stuff
aft and ready to toss out. You take starboard and I’ll take port, and
when I give the word you shoot that beer case out to the side as far as
you can.”

Though the wind eased down, the _Angelique_, square before it, managed
to make five knots, while the _Dolores_, doing six, slowly overhauled
her. As the rifles began to speak from the _Dolores_, the skipper, under
the direction of Henry and Francis, built up on the schooner’s stern a
low barricade of sacks of potatoes and onions, of old sails, and of
hawser coils. Crouching low in the shelter of this, the helmsman,
managed to steer. Leoncia refused to go below as the firing became more
continuous, but compromised by lying down behind the cabin-house. The
rest of the sailors sought similar shelter in nooks and corners, while
the Solano men, lying aft, returned the fire of the tug.

Henry and Francis, in their chosen positions and waiting until the
narrowness of El Tigre was reached, took a hand in the free and easy
battle.

“My congratulations, sir,” Captain Trefethen said to Francis, the Indian
of him compelling him to raise his head to peer across the rail, the
negro of him flattening his body down until almost it seemed to bore
into the deck. “That was Captain Rosaro himself that was steering, and
the way he jumped and grabbed his hand would lead one to conclude that
you had very adequately put a bullet through it. That Captain Rosaro is
a very hot-tempered hombre, sir. I can almost hear him blaspheming now.”

“Stand ready for the word, Francis,” Henry said, laying down his rifle
and carefully studying the low shores of the islands of El Tigre on
either side of them. “We’re almost ready. Take your time when I give the
word, and at ‘three’ let her go.”

The tug was two hundred yards away and overtaking fast, when Henry gave
the word. He and Francis stood up, and at “three” made their fling. To
either side can and beer-case flew, dragging behind them through the air
the beaded rope of pots and cans and bottles and rope-streamers.

In their interest, Henry and Francis remained standing in order to watch
the maw of their trap as denoted by the spread of miscellaneous objects
on the surface of their troubled wake. A fusillade of rifle shots from
the tug made them drop back flat to the deck; but, peering over the
rail, they saw the tug’s forefoot press the floated rope down and under.
A minute later they saw the tug slow down to a stop.

“Some mess wrapped around that propeller,” Francis applauded. “Henry,
salute.”

“Now, if the wind holds ...” said Henry modestly.

The _Angelique_ sailed on, leaving the motionless tug to grow smaller in
the distance, but not so small that they could not see her drift
helplessly onto the shoal, and see men going over the side and wading
about.

“We just must sing our little song,” Henry cried jubilantly, starting up
the stave of “Back to Back Against the Mainmast.”

“Which is all very nice, sir,” Captain Trefethen interrupted at the
conclusion of the first chorus, his eyes glistening and his shoulders
still jiggling to the rhythm of the song. “But the wind has ceased, sir.
We are becalmed. How are we to get out of Juchitan Inlet without wind?
The _Dolores_ is not wrecked. She is merely delayed. Some nigger will go
down and clear her propeller, and then she has us right where she wants
us.”

“It’s not so far to shore,” Henry adjudged with a measuring eye as he
turned to Enrico.

“What kind of a shore have they got ashore here, Senor Solano?” he
queried. “Maya Indians and haciendados—which?”

“Haciendados and Mayas, both,” Enrico answered. “But I know the country
well. If the schooner is not safe, we should be safe ashore. We can get
horses and saddles and beef and corn. The Cordilleras are beyond. What
more should we want?”

“But Leoncia?” Francis asked solicitously.

“Was born in the saddle, and in the saddle there are few Americanos she
would not weary,” came Enrico’s answer. “It would be well, with your
acquiescence, to swing out the long boat in case the _Dolores_ appears
upon us.”



                              CHAPTER VIII


“It’s all right, skipper, it’s all right,” Henry assured the breed
captain, who, standing on the beach with them, seemed loath to say
farewell and pull back to the _Angelique_ adrift half a mile away in the
dead calm which had fallen on Juchitan Inlet.

“It is what we call a diversion,” Francis explained. “That is a nice
word—_diversion_. And it is even nicer when you see it work.”

“But if it don’t work,” Captain Trefethen protested, “then will it spell
a confounded word, which I may name as _catastrophe_.”

“That is what happened to the _Dolores_ when we tangled her propeller,”
Henry laughed. “But we do not know the meaning of that word. We use
_diversion_ instead. The proof that it will work is that we are leaving
Senor Solano’s two sons with you. Alvarado and Martinez know the
passages like a book. They will pilot you out with the first favoring
breeze. The Jefe is not interested in you. He is after us, and when we
take to the hills he’ll be on our trail with every last man of his.”

“Don’t you see!” Francis broke in. “The _Angelique_ is trapped. If we
remain on board he will capture us and the _Angelique_ as well. But we
make the diversion of taking to the hills. He pursues us. The
_Angelique_ goes free. And of course he won’t catch us.”

“But suppose I do lose the schooner!” the swarthy skipper persisted. “If
she goes on the rocks I will lose her, and the passages are very
perilous.”

“Then you will be paid for her, as I’ve told you before,” Francis said,
with a show of rising irritation.

“Also are there my numerous expenses——”

Francis pulled out a pad and pencil, scribbled a note, and passed it
over, saying:

“Present that to Senor Melchor Gonzales at Bocas del Toro. It is for a
thousand gold. He is the banker; he is my agent, and he will pay it to
you.”

Captain Trefethen stared incredulously at the scrawled bit of paper.

“Oh, he’s good for it,” Henry said.

“Yes, sir, I know, sir, that Mr. Francis Morgan is a wealthy gentleman
of renown. But how wealthy is he? Is he as wealthy as I modestly am? I
own the _Angelique_, free of all debt. I own two town lots, unimproved,
in Colon. And I own four water-front lots in Belen that will make me
very wealthy when the Union Fruit Company begins the building of the
warehouses——”

“How much, Francis, did your father leave you?” Henry quipped teasingly.
“Or, rather, how many?”

Francis shrugged his shoulders as he answered vaguely: “More than I have
fingers and toes.”

“Dollars, sir?” queried the captain.

Henry shook his head sharply.

“Thousands, sir?”

Again Henry shook his head.

“Millions, sir?”

“Now you’re talking,” Henry answered. “Mr. Francis Morgan is rich enough
to buy almost all of the Republic of Panama, with the Canal cut out of
the deal.”

The negro-Indian mariner looked his unbelief to Enrico Solano, who
replied:

“He is an honorable gentleman. I know. I have cashed his paper, drawn on
Senor Melchor Gonzales at Bocas del Toro, for a thousand pesos. There it
is in the bag there.”

He nodded his head up the beach to where Leoncia, in the midst of the
dunnage landed with them, was toying with trying to slip cartridges into
a Winchester rifle. The bag, which the skipper had long since noted, lay
at her feet in the sand.

“I do hate to travel strapped,” Francis explained embarrassedly to the
white men of the group. “One never knows when a dollar mayn’t come in
handy. I got caught with a broken machine at Smith River Comers, up New
York way, one night, with nothing but a check book, and, d’you know, I
couldn’t get even a cigarette in the town.”

“I trusted a white gentleman in Barbadoes once, who chartered my boat to
go fishing flying fish——” the captain began.

“Well, so long, skipper,” Henry shut him off. “You’d better be getting
on board, because we’re going to hike.”

And for Captain Trefethen, staring at the backs of his departing
passengers, remained naught but to obey. Helping to shove the boat off,
he climbed in, took the steering sweep, and directed his course toward
the _Angelique_. Glancing back from time to time, he saw the party on
the beach shoulder the baggage and disappear into the dense green wall
of vegetation.

                  *       *       *       *       *

They came out upon an inchoate clearing, and saw gangs of peons at work
chopping down and grubbing out the roots of the virgin tropic forest so
that rubber trees for the manufacture of automobile tires might be
planted to replace it. Leoncia, beside her father, walked in the lead.
Her brothers, Ricardo and Alesandro, in the middle, were burdened with
the dunnage, as were Francis and Henry, who brought up the rear. And
this strange procession was met by a slender, straight-backed,
hidalgo-appearing, elderly gentleman, who leaped his horse across
tree-trunks and stump-holes in order to gain to them.

He was off his horse, at sight of Enrico, sombrero in hand in
recognition of Leoncia, his hand extended to Enrico in greeting of
ancient friendship, his lips wording words and his eyes expressing
admiration to Enrico’s daughter.

The talk was in rapid-fire Spanish, and the request for horses preferred
and qualifiedly granted, ere the introduction of the two Morgans took
place. The haciendado’s horse, after the Latin fashion, was immediately
Leoncia’s, and, without ado, he shortened the stirrups and placed her
astride in the saddle. A murrain, he explained, had swept his plantation
of riding animals; but his chief overseer still possessed a
fair-conditioned one which was Enrico’s as soon as it could be procured.

His handshake to Henry and Francis was hearty as well as dignified, as
he took two full minutes ornately to state that any friend of his dear
friend Enrico was his friend. When Enrico asked the haciendado about the
trails up toward the Cordilleras and mentioned oil, Francis pricked up
his ears.

“Don’t tell me, Senor,” he began, “that they have located oil in
Panama?”

“They have,” the haciendado nodded gravely. “We knew of the oil ooze,
and had known of it for generations. But it was the Hermosillo Company
that sent its Gringo engineers in secretly and then bought up the land.
They say it is a great field. But I know nothing of oil myself. They
have many wells, and have bored much, and so much oil have they that it
is running away over the landscape. They say they cannot choke it
entirely down, such is the volume and pressure. What they need is the
pipe-line to ocean-carriage, which they have begun to build. In the
meantime it flows away down the canyons, an utter loss of incredible
proportion.”

“Have they built any tanks?” Francis demanded, his mind running eagerly
on Tampico Petroleum, to which most of his own fortune was pledged, and
of which, despite the rising stock-market, he had heard nothing since
his departure from New York.

The haciendado shook his head.

“Transportation,” he explained. “The freight from tide-water to the
gushers by mule-back has been prohibitive. But they have impounded much
of it. They have lakes of oil, great reservoirs in the hollows of the
hills, earthen-dammed, and still they cannot choke down the flow, and
still the precious substance flows down the canyons.”

“Have they roofed these reservoirs?” Francis inquired, remembering a
disastrous fire in the early days of Tampico Petroleum.

“No, Senor.”

Francis shook his head disapprovingly.

“They should be roofed,” he said. “A match from the drunken or
revengeful hand of any peon could set the whole works off. It’s poor
business, poor business.”

“But I am not the Hermosillo,” the haciendado said.

“For the Hermosillo Company, I meant, Senor,” Francis explained. “I am
an oil-man. I have paid through the nose to the tune of hundreds of
thousands for similar accidents or crimes. One never knows just how they
happen. What one does know is that they do happen——”

What more Francis might have said about the expediency of protecting oil
reservoirs from stupid or wilful peons, was never to be known; for, at
the moment, the chief overseer of the plantation, stick in hand, rode
up, half his interest devoted to the newcomers, the other half to the
squad of peons working close at hand.

“Senor Ramirez, will you favor me by dismounting,” his employer, the
haciendado, politely addressed him, at the same time introducing him to
the strangers as soon as he had dismounted.

“The animal is yours, friend Enrico,” the haciendado said. “If it dies,
please return at your easy convenience the saddle and gear. And if your
convenience be not easy, please do not remember that there is to be any
return, save ever and always, of your love for me. I regret that you and
your party cannot now partake of my hospitality. But the Jefe is a
bloodhound, I know. We shall do our best to send him astray.”

With Leoncia and Enrico mounted, and the gear made fast to the saddles
by leather thongs, the cavalcade started, Alesandro and Ricardo clinging
each to a stirrup of their father’s saddle and trotting alongside. This
was for making greater haste, and was emulated by Francis and Henry, who
clung to Leoncia’s stirrups. Fast to the pommel of her saddle was the
bag of silver dollars.

“It is some mistake,” the haciendado was explaining to his overseer.
“Enrico Solano is an honorable man. Anything to which he pledges himself
is honorable. He has pledged himself to this, whatever it may be, and
yet is Mariano Vercara é Hijos on their trail. We shall mislead him if
he comes this way.”

“And here he comes,” the overseer remarked, “without luck so far in
finding horses.” Casually he turned on the laboring peons and with
horrible threats urged them to do at least half a day’s decent work in a
day.

From the corner of his eye, the haciendado observed the fast-walking
group of men, with Alvarez Torres in the lead; but, as if he had not
noticed, he conferred with his overseer about the means of grubbing out
the particular stump the peons were working on.

He returned the greeting of Torres pleasantly, and inquired politely,
with a touch of devilry, if he led the party of men on some
oil-prospecting adventure.

“No, Senor,” Torres answered. “We are in search of Senor Enrico Solano,
his daughter, his sons, and two tall Gringos with them. It is the
Gringos we want. They have passed this way, Senor?”

“Yes, they have passed. I imagined they, too, were in some oil
excitement, such was their haste that prevented them from courteously
passing the time of day and stating their destination. Have they
committed some offence? But I should not ask. Senor Enrico Solano is too
honorable a man——”

“Which way did they go?” the Jefe demanded, thrusting himself
breathlessly forward from the rear of his gendarmes with whom he had
just caught up.

And while the haciendado and his overseer temporized and prevaricated,
and indicated an entirely different direction, Torres noted one of the
peons, leaning on his spade, listen intently. And still while the Jefe
was being misled and was giving orders to proceed on the false scent,
Torres flashed a silver dollar privily to the listening peon. The peon
nodded his head in the right direction, caught the coin unobserved, and
applied himself to his digging at the root of the huge stump.

Torres countermanded the Jefe’s order.

“We will go the other way,” Torres said, with a wink to the Jefe. “A
little bird has told me that our friend here is mistaken and that they
have gone the other way.”

As the posse departed on the hot trail, the haciendado and his overseer
looked at each other in consternation and amazement. The overseer made a
movement of his lips for silence, and looked swiftly at the group of
laborers. The offending peon was working furiously and absorbedly, but
another peon, with a barely perceptible nod of head, indicated him to
the overseer.

“There’s the little bird,” the overseer cried, striding to the traitor
and shaking him violently.

Out of the peon’s rags flew the silver dollar.

“Ah, ha,” said the haciendado, grasping the situation. “He has become
suddenly affluent. This is horrible, that my peons should be wealthy.
Doubtless, he has murdered some one for all that sum. Beat him, and make
him confess.”

The creature, on his knees, the stick of the overseer raining blows on
his head and back, made confession of what he had done to earn the
dollar.

“Beat him, beat him some more, beat him to death, the beast who betrayed
my dearest friends,” the haciendado urged placidly. “But no——caution. Do
not beat him to death, but nearly so. We are short of labor now and
cannot afford the full measure of our just resentment. Beat him to hurt
him much, but that he shall be compelled to lay off work no more than a
couple of days.”

Of the immediately subsequent agonies, adventures, and misadventures of
the peon, a volume might be written which would be the epic of his life.
Besides, to be beaten nearly to death is not nice to contemplate or
dwell upon. Let it suffice to tell that when he had received no more
than part of his beating; he wrenched free, leaving half his rags in the
overseer’s grasp, and fled madly for the jungle, outfooting the overseer
who was unused to rapid locomotion save when on a horse’s back.

Such was the speed of the wretched creature’s flight, spurred on by the
pain of his lacerations and the fear of the overseer, that, plunging
wildly on, he overtook the Solano party and plunged out of the jungle
and into them as they were crossing a shallow stream, and fell upon his
knees, whimpering for mercy. He whimpered because of his betrayal of
them. But this they did not know, and Francis, seeing his pitiable
condition, lingered behind long enough to unscrew the metal top from a
pocket flask and revive him with a drink of half the contents. Then
Francis hastened on, leaving the poor devil muttering inarticulate
thanks ere he dived off into the sheltering jungle in a different
direction. But, underfed, overworked, his body gave way, and he sank
down in collapse in the green covert.

Next, Alvarez Torres in the lead and tracking like a hound, the
gendarmes at his back, the Jefe panting in the rear from shortness of
breath, the pursuit arrived at the stream. The foot-marks of the peon,
still wet on the dry stones beyond the margin of the stream, caught
Torres’ eye. In a trice, by what little was left of his garments, the
peon was dragged out. On his knees, which portion of his anatomy he was
destined to occupy much this day, he begged for mercy and received his
interrogation. And he denied knowledge of the Solano party. He, who had
betrayed and been beaten, but who had received only succor from those he
had betrayed, felt stir in him some atom of gratitude and good. He
denied knowledge of the Solanos since in the clearing where he had sold
them for the silver dollar. Torres’ stick fell upon his head, five
times, ten times, and went on falling with the certitude that in all
eternity there would be no cessation unless he told the truth. And,
after all, he was a miserable and wretched thing, spirit-broken by
beatings from the cradle, and the sting of Torres’ stick, with the
threat of the plenitude of the stick that meant the death his own owner,
the haciendado, could not afford, made him give in and point the way of
the chase.

But his day of tribulation had only begun. Scarcely had he betrayed the
Solanos the second time, and still on his knees, when the haciendado,
with the posse of neighboring haciendados and overseers he had called to
his help, burst upon the scene astride sweating horses.

“My peon, senors,” announced the haciendado, itching to be at him. “You
maltreat him.”

“And why not?” demanded the Jefe.

“Because he is mine to maltreat, and I wish to do it myself.”

The peon crawled and squirmed to the Jefe’s feet and begged and
entreated not to be given up. But he begged for mercy where was no
mercy.

“Certainly, senor,” the Jefe said to the haciendado. “We give him back
to you. We must uphold the law, and he is your property. Besides, we
have no further use for him. Yet is he a most excellent peon, senor. He
has done what no peon has ever done in the history of Panama. He has
told the truth twice in one day.”

His hands tied together in front of him and hitched by a rope to the
horn of the overseer’s saddle, the peon was towed away on the back-track
with a certain apprehension that the worst of his beatings for that day
was very imminent. Nor was he mistaken. Back at the plantation, he was
tied like an animal to a post of a barbed wire fence, while his owner
and the friends of his owner who had helped in the capture went into the
hacienda to take their twelve o’clock breakfast. After that, he knew
what he was to receive. But the barbed wire of the fence, and the lame
mare in the paddock behind it, built an idea in the desperate mind of
the peon. Though the sharp barbs of the wire again and again cut his
wrist, he quickly sawed through his bonds, free save for the law,
crawled under the fence, led the lame mare through the gate, mounted her
barebacked, and, with naked heels tattooing her ribs, galloped her away
toward the safety of the Cordilleras.



                               CHAPTER IX


In the meantime the Solanos were being overtaken, and Henry teased
Francis with:

“Here in the jungle is where dollars are worthless. They can buy neither
fresh horses, nor can they repair these two spineless creatures, which
must likewise be afflicted with the murrain that carried off the rest of
the haciendado’s riding animals.”

“I’ve never been in a place yet where money wouldn’t work,” Francis
replied.

“I suppose it could even buy a drink of water in hell,” was Henry’s
retort.

Leoncia clapped her hands.

“I don’t know,” Francis observed. “I have never been there.”

Again Leoncia clapped her hands.

“Just the same I have an idea I can make dollars work in the jungle, and
I am going to try it right now,” Francis continued, at the same time
untying the coin-sack from Leoncia’s pommel. “You go ahead and ride on.”

“But you must tell _me_,” Leoncia insisted; and, aside, in her ear as
she leaned to him from the saddle, he whispered what made her laugh
again, while Henry, conferring with Enrico and his sons, inwardly
berated himself for being a jealous fool.

Before they were out of sight, looking back, they saw Francis, with pad
and pencil out, writing something. What he wrote was eloquently brief,
merely the figure “50.” Tearing off the sheet, he laid it conspicuously
in the middle of the trail and weighted it down with a silver dollar.
Counting out forty-nine other dollars from the bag, he sowed them very
immediately about the first one and ran up the trail after his party.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Augustino, the gendarme who rarely spoke when he was sober, but who when
drunk preached volubly the wisdom of silence, was in the lead, with bent
head nosing the track of the quarry, when his keen eyes lighted on the
silver dollar holding down the sheet of paper. The first he
appropriated; the second he turned over to the Jefe. Torres looked over
his shoulder, and together they read the mystic “50.” The Jefe tossed
the scrap of paper aside as of little worth, and was for resuming the
chase, but Augustino picked up and pondered the “50” thoughtfully. Even
as he pondered it, a shout from Rafael advertised the finding of another
dollar. Then Augustino knew. There were fifty of the coins to be had for
the picking up. Flinging the note to the wind, he was on hands and knees
overhauling the ground. The rest of the party joined in the scramble,
while Torres and the Jefe screamed curses on them in a vain effort to
make them proceed.

When the gendarmes could find no more, they counted up what they had
recovered. The toll came to forty-seven.

“There are three more,” cried Rafael, whereupon all flung themselves
into the search again. Five minutes more were lost, ere the three other
coins were found. Each pocketed what he had retrieved and obediently
swung into the pursuit at the heels of Torres and the Jefe.

A mile farther on, Torres tried to trample a shining dollar into the
dirt, but Augustino’s ferret eyes had been too quick, and his eager
fingers dug it out of the soft earth. Where was one dollar, as they had
already learned, there were more dollars. The posse came to a halt, and
while the two leaders fumed and imprecated, the rest of the members cast
about right and left from the trail.

Vicente, a moon-faced gendarme, who looked more like a Mexican Indian
than a Maya or a Panamanian “breed,” lighted first on the clue. All
gathered about, like hounds around a tree into which the ‘possum has
been run. In truth, it was a tree, or a rotten and hollow stump of one,
a dozen feet in height and a third as many feet in diameter. Five feet
from the ground was an opening. Above the opening, pinned on by a thorn,
was a sheet of paper the same size as the first they had found. On it
was written “100.”

In the scramble that ensued, half a dozen minutes were lost as half a
dozen right arms strove to be first in dipping into the hollow heart of
the stump to the treasure. But the hollow extended deeper than their
arms were long.

“We will chop down the stump,” Rafael cried, sounding with the back of
his machete against the side of it to locate the base of the hollow. “We
will all chop, and we will count what we find inside and divide
equally.”

By this time their leaders were frantic, and the Jefe had begun
threatening, the moment they were back in San Antonio, to send them to
San Juan where their carcasses would be picked by the buzzards.

“But we are not back in San Antonio, thank God,” said Augustino,
breaking his sober seal of silence in order to enunciate wisdom.

“We are poor men, and we will divide in fairness,” spoke up Rafael.
“Augustino is right, and thank God for it that we are not back in San
Antonio. This rich Gringo scatters more money along the way in a day for
us to pick up than could we earn in a year where we come from. I, for
one, am for revolution, where money is so plentiful.”

“With the rich Gringo for a leader,” Augustino supplemented. “For as
long as he leads this way could I follow forever.”

“If,” Rafael nodded agreement, with a pitch of his head toward Torres
and the Jefe, “if they do not give us opportunity to gather what the
gods have spread for us, then to the last and deepest of the roasting
hells of hell for them. We are men, not slaves. The world is wide. The
Cordilleras are just beyond. We will all be rich, and free men, and live
in the Cordilleras where the Indian maidens are wildly beautiful and
desirable——”

“And we will be well rid of our wives, back in San Antonio,” said
Vicente. “Let us now chop down this treasure tree.”

Swinging their machetes with heavy, hacking blows, the wood, so rotten
that it was spongy, gave way readily before their blades. And when the
stump fell over, they counted and divided, in equity, not one hundred
silver dollars, but one hundred and forty-seven.

“He is generous, this Gringo,” quoth Vicente. “He leaves more than he
says. May there not be still more?”

And, from the debris of rotten wood, much of it crumbled to powder under
their blows, they recovered five more coins, in the doing of which they
lost ten more minutes that drove Torres and Jefe to the verge of
madness.

“He does not stop to count, the wealthy Gringo,” said Rafael. “He must
merely open that sack and pour it out. And that is the sack with which
he rode to the beach of San Antonio when he blew up with dynamite the
wall of our jail.”

The chase was resumed, and all went well for half an hour, when they
came upon an abandoned freehold, already half-overrun with the returning
jungle. A dilapidated, straw-thatched house, a fallen-in labor barracks,
a broken-down corral the very posts of which had sprouted and leaved
into growing trees, and a well showing recent use by virtue of a fresh
length of riata attaching bucket to well-sweep, showed where some man
had failed to tame the wild. And, conspicuously on the well-sweep, was
pinned a familiar sheet of paper on which was written “300.”

“Mother of God!—a fortune!” cried Rafael.

“May the devil forever torture him in the last and deepest hell!” was
Torres’ contribution.

“He pays better than your Senor Regan,” the Jefe sneered in his despair
and disgust.

“His bag of silver is only so large,” Torres retorted. “It seems we must
pick it all up before we catch him. But when we have picked it all up,
and his bag is empty, then will we catch him.”

“We will go on now, comrades,” the Jefe addressed his posse
ingratiatingly. “Afterwards, we will return at our leisure and recover
the silver.”

Augustino broke his seal of silence again.

“One never knows the way of one’s return, if one ever returns,” he
enunciated pessimistically. Elated by the pearl of wisdom he had
dropped, he essayed another. “Three hundred in hand is better than three
million in the bottom of a well we may never see again.”

“Some one must descend into the well,” spoke Rafael, testing the braided
rope with his weight. “See! The riata is strong. We will lower a man by
it. Who is the brave one who will go down?”

“I,” said Vicente. “I will be the brave one to go down——”

“And steal half that you find,” Rafael uttered his instant suspicion.
“If you go down, first must you count over to us the pesos you already
possess. Then, when you come up, we can search you for all you have
found. After that, when we have divided equitably, will your other pesos
be returned to you.”

“Then will I not go down for comrades who have no trust in me,” Vicente
said stubbornly. “Here, beside the well, I am as wealthy as any of you.
Then why should I go down? I have heard of men dying in the bottom of
wells.”

“In God’s name go down!” stormed the Jefe. “Haste! Haste!”

“I am too fat, the rope is not strong, and I shall not go down,” said
Vicente.

All looked to Augustino, the silent one, who had already spoken more
than he was accustomed to speak in a week.

“Guillermo is the thinnest and lightest,” said Augustino.

“Guillermo will go down!” the rest chorused.

But Guillermo, glaring apprehensively at the mouth of the well, backed
away, shaking his head and crossing himself.

“Not for the sacred treasure in the secret city of the Mayas,” he
muttered.

The Jefe pulled his revolver and glanced to the remainder of the posse
for confirmation. With eyes and head-nods they gave it.

“In heaven’s name go down,” he threatened the little gendarme. “And make
haste, or I shall put you in such a fix that never again will you go up
or down, but you will remain here and rot forever beside this hole of
perdition.—Is it well, comrades, that I kill him if he does not go
down?”

“It is well,” they shouted.

And Guillermo, with trembling fingers, counted out the coins he had
already retrieved, and, in the throes of fear, crossing himself
repeatedly and urged on by the hand-thrusts of his companions, stepped
upon the bucket, sat down on it with legs wrapped about it, and was
lowered away out of the light of day.

“Stop!” he screamed up the shaft. “Stop! Stop! The water! I am upon it!”

Those on the sweep held it with their weight.

“I should receive ten pesos extra above my share,” he called up.

“You shall receive baptism,” was called down to him, and, variously:
“You will have your fill of water this day”; “We will let go”; “We will
cut the rope”; “There will be one less with whom to share.”

“The water is not nice,” he replied, his voice rising like a ghost’s out
of the dark depth. “There are sick lizards, and a dead bird that stinks.
And there may be snakes. It is well worth ten pesos extra what I must
do.”

“We will drown you!” Rafael shouted.

“I shall shoot down upon you and kill you!” the Jefe bullied.

“Shoot or drown me,” Guillermo’s voice floated up; “but it will buy you
nothing, for the treasure will still be in the well.”

There was a pause, in which those at the surface questioned each other
with their eyes as to what they should do.

“And the Gringos are running away farther and farther,” Torres fumed. “A
fine discipline you have, Senor Mariano Vercara è Hijos, over your
gendarmes!”

“This is not San Antonio,” the Jefe flared back. “This is the bush of
Juchitan. My dogs are good dogs in San Antonio. In the bush they must be
handled gently, else may they become wild dogs, and what then will
happen to you and me?”

“It is the curse of gold,” Torres surrendered sadly. “It is almost
enough to make one become a socialist, with a Gringo thus tying the
hands of justice with ropes of gold.”

“Of silver,” the Jefe corrected.

“You go to hell,” said Torres. “As you have pointed out, this is not San
Antonio but the bush of Juchitan, and here I may well tell you to go to
hell. Why should you and I quarrel because of your bad temper, when our
prosperity depends on standing together?”

“Besides,” the voice of Guillermo drifted up, “the water is not two feet
deep. You cannot drown me in it. I have just felt the bottom and I have
four round silver pesos in my hand right now. The bottom is carpeted
with pesos. Do you want to let go? Or do I get ten pesos extra for the
filthy job? The water stinks like a fresh graveyard.”

“Yes! Yes!” they shouted down.

“Which? Let go? Or the extra ten?”

“The extra ten!” they chorused.

“In God’s name, haste! haste!” cried the Jefe.

They heard splashings and curses from the bottom of the well, and, from
the lightening of the strain on the riata, knew that Guillermo had left
the bucket and was floundering for the coin.

“Put it in the bucket, good Guillermo,” Rafael called down.

“I am putting it in my pockets,” up came the reply. “Did I put it in the
bucket you might haul it up first and well forget to haul me up
afterward.”

“The double weight might break the riata,” Rafael cautioned.

“The riata may not be so strong as my will, for my will in this matter
is most strong,” said Guillermo.

“If the riata should break ...” Rafael began again.

“I have a solution,” said Guillermo. “Do you come down. Then shall I go
up first. Second, the treasure shall go up in the bucket. And, third and
last, shall you go up. Thus will justice be triumphant.”

Rafael, with dropped jaw of dismay, did not reply.

“Are you coming, Rafael?”

“No,” he answered. “Put all the silver in your pockets and come up
together with it.”

“I could curse the race that bore me,” was the impatient observation of
the Jefe.

“I have already cursed it,” said Torres.

“Haul away!” shouted Guillermo. “I have everything in my pockets save
the stench; and I am suffocating. Haul quick, or I shall perish, and the
three hundred pesos will perish with me. And there are more than three
hundred. He must have emptied his bag.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

Ahead, on the trail, where the way grew steep and the horses without
stamina rested and panted, Francis overtook his party.

“Never again shall I travel without minted coin of the realm,” he
exulted, as he described what he had remained behind to see from the
edge of the deserted plantation. “Henry, when I die and go to heaven, I
shall have a stout bag of cash along with me. Even there could it redeem
me from heaven alone knows what scrapes. Listen! They fought like cats
and dogs about the mouth of the well. Nobody would trust anybody to
descend into the well unless he deposited what he had previously picked
up with those that remained at the top. They were out of hand. The Jefe,
at the point of his gun, had to force the littlest and leanest of them
to go down. And when he was down he blackmailed them before he would
come up. And when he came up they broke their promises and gave him a
beating. They were still beating him when I left.”

“But now your sack is empty,” said Henry.

“Which is our present and most pressing trouble,” Francis agreed. “Had I
sufficient pesos I could keep the pursuit well behind us forever. I’m
afraid I was too generous. I did not know how cheap the poor devils
were. But I’ll tell you something that will make your hair stand up.
Torres, Senor Torres, Senor Alvarez Torres, the elegant gentleman and
old-time friend of you Solanos, is leading the pursuit along with the
Jefe. He is furious at the delay. They almost had a rupture because the
Jefe couldn’t keep his men in hand. Yes, sir, and he told the Jefe to go
to hell. I distinctly heard him tell the Jefe to go to hell.”

Five miles farther on, the horses of Leoncia and her father in collapse,
where the trail plunged into and ascended a dark ravine, Francis urged
the others on and dropped behind. Giving them a few minutes’ start, he
followed on behind, a self-constituted rearguard. Part way along, in an
open space where grew only a thick sod of grass, he was dismayed to find
the hoof-prints of the two horses staring at him as large as dinner
plates from out of the sod. Into the hoof-prints had welled a dark,
slimy fluid that his eye told him was crude oil. This was but the
beginning, a sort of seepage from a side stream above off from the main
flow. A hundred yards beyond he came upon the flow itself, a river of
oil that on such a slope would have been a cataract had it been water.
But being crude oil, as thick as molasses, it oozed slowly down the hill
like so much molasses. And here, preferring to make his stand rather
than to wade through the sticky mess, Francis sat down on a rock, laid
his rifle on one side of him, his automatic pistol on the other side,
rolled a cigarette, and kept his ears pricked for the first sounds of
the pursuit.

                  *       *       *       *       *

And the beaten peon, threatened with more beatings and belaboring his
over-ridden mare, rode across the top of the ravine above Francis, and,
at the oil-well itself, had his exhausted animal collapse under him.
With his heels he kicked her back to her feet, and with a stick
belabored her to stagger away from him and on and into the jungle. And
the first day of his adventures, although he did not know it, was not
yet over. He, too, squatted on a stone, his feet out of the oil, rolled
a cigarette, and, as he smoked it, contemplated the flowing oil-well.
The noise of approaching men startled him, and he fled into the
immediately adjacent jungle, from which he peered forth and saw two
strange men appear. They came directly to the well, and, by an iron
wheel turning the valve, choked down the flow still further.

“No more,” commanded the one who seemed to be leader. “Another turn, and
the pressure will blow out the pipes—for so the Gringo engineer has
warned me most carefully.”

And a slight flow, beyond the limited safety, continued to run from the
mouth of the gusher down the mountain side. Scarcely had the two men
accomplished this, when a body of horsemen rode up, whom the peon in
hiding recognized as the haciendado who owned him and the overseers and
haciendados of neighboring plantations who delighted in running down a
fugitive laborer in much the same way that the English delight in
chasing the fox.

No, the two oil-men had seen nobody. But the haciendado who led saw the
footprints of the mare, and spurred his horse to follow, his crowd at
his heels.

The peon waited, smoked his cigarette quite to the finish, and
cogitated. When all was clear, he ventured forth, turned the mechanism
controlling the well wide open, watched the oil fountaining upward under
the subterranean pressure and flowing down the mountain in a veritable
river. Also, he listened to and noted the sobbing, and gasping, and
bubbling of the escaping gas. This he did not comprehend, and all that
saved him for his further adventures was the fact that he had used his
last match to light his cigarette. In vain he searched his rags, his
ears, and his hair. He was out of matches.

So, chuckling at the river of oil he was wantonly running to waste, and,
remembering the canyon trail below, he plunged down the mountainside and
upon Francis, who received him with extended automatic. Down went the
peon on his frayed and frazzled knees in terror and supplication to the
man he had twice betrayed that day. Francis studied him, at first
without recognition, because of the bruised and lacerated face and head
on which the blood had dried like a mask.

“Amigo, amigo,” chattered the peon.

But at that moment, from below on the ravine trail, Francis heard the
clatter of a stone dislodged by some man’s foot. The next moment he
identified what was left of the peon as the pitiable creature to whom he
had given half the contents of his whiskey flask.

“Well, amigo,” Francis said in the native language, “it looks as if they
are after you.”

“They will kill me, they will beat me to death, they are very angry,”
the wretch quavered. “You are my only friend, my father and my mother,
save me.”

“Can you shoot?” Francis demanded.

“I was a hunter in the Cordilleras before I was sold into slavery,
Senor,” was the reply.

Francis passed him the automatic, motioned him to take shelter, and told
him not to fire until sure of a hit. And to himself he mused: The
golfers are out on the links right now at Tarrytown. And Mrs. Bellingham
is on the clubhouse veranda wondering how she is going to pay the three
thousand points she’s behind and praying for a change of luck. And——here
am I,—Lord! Lord——backed up to a river of oil....

His musing ceased as abruptly as appeared the Jefe, Torres, and the
gendarmes down the trail. As abruptly he fired his rifle, and as
abruptly they fell back out of sight. He could not tell whether he had
hit one, or whether the man had merely fallen in precipitate retreat.
The pursuers did not care to make a rush of it, contenting themselves
with bushwhacking. Francis and the peon did the same, sheltering behind
rocks and bushes and frequently changing their positions.

At the end of an hour, the last cartridge in Francis’ rifle was all that
remained. The peon, under his warnings and threats, still retained two
cartridges in the automatic. But the hour had been an hour saved for
Leoncia and her people, and Francis was contentedly aware that at any
moment he could turn and escape by wading across the river of oil. So
all was well, and would have been well, had not, from above, come an
eruption of another body of men, who, from behind trees, fired as they
descended. This was the haciendado and his fellow haciendados, in chase
of the fugitive peon—although Francis did not know it. His conclusion
was that it was another posse that was after him. The shots they fired
at him were strongly confirmative.

The peon crawled to his side, showed him that two shots remained in the
automatic he was returning to him, and impressively begged from him his
box of matches. Next, the peon motioned him to cross the bottom of the
canyon and climb the other side. With half a guess of the creature’s
intention, Francis complied, from his new position of vantage emptying
his last rifle cartridge at the advancing posse and sending it back into
shelter down the ravine.

The next moment, the river of oil flared into flame from where the peon
had touched a match to it. In the following moment, clear up the
mountainside, the well itself sent a fountain of ignited gas a hundred
feet into the air. And, in the moment after, the ravine itself poured a
torrent of flame down upon the posse of Torres and the Jefe.

Scorched by the heat of the conflagration, Francis and the peon clawed
up the opposite side of the ravine, circled around and past the blazing
trail, and, at a dog-trot, raced up the recovered trail.



                               CHAPTER X


While Francis and the peon hurried up the ravine-trail in safety, the
ravine itself, below where the oil flowed in, had become a river of
flame, which drove the Jefe, Torres, and the gendarmes to scale the
steep wall of the ravine. At the same time the party of haciendados in
pursuit of the peon was compelled to claw back and up to escape out of
the roaring canyon.

Ever the peon glanced back over his shoulder, until, with a cry of joy,
he indicated a second black-smoke pillar rising in the air beyond the
first burning well.

“More,” he chuckled. “There are more wells. They will all burn. And so
shall they and all their race pay for the many blows they have beaten on
me. And there is a lake of oil there, like the sea, like Juchitan Inlet
it is so big.”

And Francis recollected the lake of oil about which the haciendado had
told him—that, containing at least five million barrels which could not
yet be piped to sea transport, lay open to the sky, merely in a natural
depression in the ground and contained by an earth dam.

“How much are you worth?” he demanded of the peon with apparent
irrelevance.

But the peon could not understand.

“How much are your clothes worth—all you’ve got on?”

“Half a peso, nay, half of a half peso,” the peon admitted ruefully,
surveying what was left of his tattered rags.

“And other property?”

The wretched creature shrugged his shoulders in token of his utter
destitution, then added bitterly:

“I possess nothing but a debt. I owe two hundred and fifty pesos. I am
tied to it for life, damned with it for life like a man with a cancer.
That is why I am a slave to the haciendado.”

“Huh!” Francis could not forbear to grin. “Worth two hundred and fifty
pesos less than nothing, not even a cipher, a sheer abstraction of a
minus quantity without existence save in the mathematical imagination of
man, and yet here you are burning up not less than millions of pesos’
worth of oil. And if the strata is loose and erratic and the oil leaks
up outside the tubing, the chances are that the oil-body of the entire
field is ignited—say a billion dollars’ worth. Say, for an abstraction
enjoying two hundred and fifty dollars’ worth of non-existence, you are
some hombre, believe me.”

Nothing of which the peon understood save the word “hombre.”

“I am a man,” he proclaimed, thrusting out his chest and straightening
up his bruised head. “I am a hombre and I am a Maya.”

“Maya Indian—you?” Francis scoffed.

“Half Maya,” was the reluctant admission. “My father is pure Maya. But
the Maya women of the Cordilleras did not satisfy him. He must love a
mixed-breed woman of the _tierra caliente_. I was so born; but she
afterward betrayed him for a Barbadoes nigger, and he went back to the
Cordilleras to live. And, like my father, I was born to love a mixed
breed of the _tierra caliente_. She wanted money, and my head was
fevered with want of her, and I sold myself to be a peon for two hundred
pesos. And I saw never her nor the money again. For five years I have
been a peon. For five years I have slaved and been beaten, and behold,
at the end of five years my debt is not two hundred but two hundred and
fifty pesos.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

And while Francis Morgan and the long-suffering Maya half-breed plodded
on deeper into the Cordilleras to overtake their party, and while the
oil fields of Juchitan continued to go up in increasing smoke, still
farther on, in the heart of the Cordilleras, were preparing other events
destined to bring together all pursuers and all pursued—Francis and
Henry and Leoncia and their party; the peon; the party of the
haciendados; and the gendarmes of the Jefe, and, along with them,
Alvarez Torres, eager to win for himself not only the promised reward of
Thomas Regan but the possession of Leoncia Solano.

In a cave sat a man and a woman. Pretty the latter was, and young, a
_mestiza_, or half-caste woman. By the light of a cheap kerosene lamp
she read aloud from a calf-bound tome which was a Spanish translation of
Blackstone. Both were barefooted and bare-armed, clad in hooded
gabardines of sackcloth. Her hood lay back on her shoulders, exposing
her black and generous head of hair. But the old man’s hood was cowled
about his head after the fashion of a monk. The face, lofty and ascetic,
beaked with power, was pure Spanish. Don Quixote might have worn
precisely a similar face. But there was a difference. The eyes of this
old man were closed in the perpetual dark of the blind. Never could he
behold a windmill at which to tilt.

He sat, while the pretty _mestiza_ read to him, listening and brooding,
for all the world in the pose of Rodin’s “Thinker.” Nor was he a
dreamer, nor a tilter of windmills, like Don Quixote. Despite his
blindness, that ever veiled the apparent face of the world in
invisibility, he was a man of action, and his soul was anything but
blind, penetrating unerringly beneath the show of things to the heart
and the soul of the world and reading its inmost sins and rapacities and
noblenesses and virtues.

He lifted his hand and put a pause in the reading, while he thought
aloud from the context of the reading.

“The law of man,” he said with slow certitude, “is to-day a game of
wits. Not equity, but wit, is the game of law to-day. The law in its
inception was good; but the way of the law, the practice of it, has led
men off into false pursuits. They have mistaken the way for the goal,
the means for the end. Yet is law law, and necessary, and good. Only,
law, in its practice to-day, has gone astray. Judges and lawyers engage
in competitions and affrays of wit and learning, quite forgetting the
plaintiffs and defendants, before them and paying them, who are seeking
equity and justice and not wit and learning.

“Yet is old Blackstone right. Under it all, at the bottom of it all, at
the beginning of the building of the edifice of the law, is the quest,
the earnest and sincere quest of righteous men, for justice and equity.
But what is it that the Preacher said? ‘They made themselves many
inventions.’ And the law, good in its beginning, has been invented out
of all its intent, so that it serves neither litigants nor injured ones,
but merely the fatted judges and the lean and hungry lawyers who achieve
names and paunches if they prove themselves cleverer than their
opponents and than the judges who render decision.”

He paused, still posed as Rodin’s “Thinker,” and meditated, while the
_mestiza_ woman waited his customary signal to resume the reading. At
last, as out of a profound of thought in which universes had been
weighed in the balance, he spoke:

“But we have law, here in the Cordilleras of Panama, that is just and
right and all of equity. We work for no man and serve not even paunches.
Sack-cloth and not broadcloth conduces to the equity of judicial
decision. Read on, Mercedes. Blackstone is always right if always
rightly read—which is what is called a paradox, and is what modern law
ordinarily is, a paradox. Read on. Blackstone is the very foundation of
human law—but, oh, how many wrongs are cleverly committed by clever men
in his name!”

Ten minutes later, the blind thinker raised his head, sniffed the air,
and gestured the girl to pause. Taking her cue from him, she, too,
sniffed:

“Perhaps it is the lamp, O Just One,” she suggested.

“It is burning oil,” he said. “But it is not the lamp. It is from far
away. Also, have I heard shooting in the canyons.”

“I heard nothing——” she began.

“Daughter, you who see have not the need to hear that I have. There have
been many shots fired in the canyons. Order my children to investigate
and make report.”

Bowing reverently to the old man who could not see but who, by
keen-trained hearing and conscious timing of her every muscular action,
knew that she had bowed, the young woman lifted the curtain of blankets
and passed out into the day. At either side the cave-mouth sat a man of
the peon class. Each was armed with rifle and machete, while through
their girdles were thrust naked-bladed knives. At the girl’s order, both
arose and bowed, not to her, but to the command and the invisible source
of the command. One of them tapped with the back of his machete against
the stone upon which he had been sitting, then laid his ear to the stone
and listened. In truth, the stone was but the out-jut of a vein of
metalliferous ore that extended across and through the heart of the
mountain. And beyond, on the opposite slope, in an eyrie commanding the
magnificent panorama of the descending slopes of the Cordilleras, sat
another peon who first listened with his ear pressed to similar
metalliferous quartz, and next tapped response with his machete. After
that, he stepped half a dozen paces to a tall tree, half-dead, reached
into the hollow heart of it, and pulled on the rope within as a man
might pull who was ringing a steeple bell.

But no sound was evoked. Instead, a lofty branch, fifty feet above his
head, sticking out from the main-trunk like a semaphore arm, moved up
and down like the semaphore arm it was. Two miles away, on a mountain
crest, the branch of a similar semaphore tree replied. Still beyond
that, and farther down the slopes, the flashing of a hand-mirror in the
sun heliographed the relaying of the blind man’s message from the cave.
And all that portion of the Cordilleras became voluble with coded speech
of vibrating ore-veins, sun-flashings, and waving tree-branches.

                  *       *       *       *       *

While Enrico Solano, slenderly erect on his horse as an Indian youth and
convoyed on either side by his sons, Alesandro and Ricardo, hanging to
his saddle trappings, made the best of the time afforded them by
Francis’ rearguard battle with the gendarmes, Leoncia, on her mount, and
Henry Morgan, lagged behind. One or the other was continually glancing
back for the sight of Francis overtaking them. Watching his opportunity,
Henry took the back-trail. Five minutes afterward, Leoncia, no less
anxious than he for Francis’ safety, tried to turn her horse about. But
the animal, eager for the companionship of its mate ahead, refused to
obey the rein, cut up and pranced, and then deliberately settled into a
balk. Dismounting and throwing her reins on the ground in the Panamanian
method of tethering a saddle horse, Leoncia took the back-trail on foot.
So rapidly did she follow Henry, that she was almost treading on his
heels when he encountered Francis and the peon. The next moment, both
Henry and Francis were chiding her for her conduct; but in both their
voices was the involuntary tenderness of love, which pleased neither to
hear the other uttering.

Their hearts more active than their heads, they were caught in total
surprise by the party of haciendados that dashed out upon them with
covering rifles from the surrounding jungle. Despite the fact that they
had thus captured the runaway peon, whom they proceeded to kick and
cuff, all would have been well with Leoncia and the two Morgans had the
owner of the peon, the old-time friend of the Solano family, been
present. But an attack of the malarial fever, which was his due every
third day, had stretched him out in a chill near the burning oilfield.

Nevertheless, though by their blows they reduced the peon to weepings
and pleadings on his knees, the haciendados were courteously gentle to
Leoncia and quite decent to Francis and Henry, even though they tied the
hands of the latter two behind them in preparation for the march up the
ravine slope to where the horses had been left. But upon the peon, with
Latin-American cruelty, they continued to reiterate their rage.

Yet were they destined to arrive nowhere, by themselves, with their
captives. Shouts of joy heralded the debouchment upon the scene of the
Jefe’s gendarmes and of the Jefe and Alvarez Torres. Arose at once the
rapid-fire, staccato, bastard-Latin of all men of both parties of
pursuers, trying to explain and demanding explanation at one and the
same time. And while the farrago of all talking simultaneously and of no
one winning anywhere in understanding, made anarchy of speech, Torres,
with a nod to Francis and a sneer of triumph to Henry, ranged before
Leoncia and bowed low to her in true and deep hidalgo courtesy and
respect.

“Listen!” he said, low-voiced, as she rebuffed him with an arm movement
of repulsion. “Do not misunderstand me. Do not mistake me. I am here to
save you, and, no matter what may happen, to protect you. You are the
lady of my dreams. I will die for you—yes, and gladly, though far more
gladly would I live for you.”

“I do not understand,” she replied curtly. “I do not see life or death
in the issue. We have done no wrong. I have done no wrong, nor has my
father. Nor has Francis Morgan, nor has Henry Morgan. Therefore, sir,
the matter is not a question of life or death.”

Henry and Francis, shouldering close to Leoncia, on either side,
listened and caught through the hubble-bubble of many voices the
conversation of Leoncia and Torres.

“It is a question absolute of certain death by execution for Henry
Morgan,” Torres persisted. “Proven beyond doubt is his conviction for
the murder of Alfaro Solano, who was your own full-blood uncle and your
father’s own full-blood brother. There is no chance to save Henry
Morgan. But Francis Morgan can I save in all surety, if——”

“If?” Leoncia queried, with almost the snap of jaws of a she-leopard.

“If ... you prove kind to me, and marry me,” Torres said with
magnificent steadiness, although two Gringos, helpless, their hands tied
behind their backs, glared at him through their eyes their common desire
for his immediate extinction.

Torres, in a genuine outburst of his passion, though his rapid glances
had assured him of the helplessness of the two Morgans, seized her hands
in his and urged:

“Leoncia, as your husband I might be able to do something for Henry.
Even may it be possible for me to save his life and his neck, if he will
yield to leaving Panama immediately.”

“You Spanish dog!” Henry snarled at him, struggling with his tied hands
behind his back in an effort to free them.

“Gringo cur!” Torres retorted, as, with an open backhanded blow, he
struck Henry on the mouth.

On the instant Henry’s foot shot out, and the kick in Torres’ side drove
him staggering in the direction of Francis, who was no less quick with a
kick of his own. Back and forth like a shuttlecock between the
battledores, Torres was kicked from one man to the other, until the
gendarmes seized the two Gringos and began to beat them in their
helplessness. Torres not only urged the gendarmes on, but himself drew a
knife; and a red tragedy might have happened with offended
Latin-American blood up and raging, had not a score or more of armed men
silently appeared and silently taken charge of the situation. Some of
the mysterious newcomers were clad in cotton singlets and trousers, and
others were in cowled gabardines of sackcloth.

The gendarmes and haciendados recoiled in fear, crossing themselves,
muttering prayers and ejaculating: “The Blind Brigand!” “The Cruel Just
One!” “They are his people!” “We are lost.”

But the much-beaten peon sprang forward and fell on his bleeding knees
before a stern-faced man who appeared to be the leader of the Blind
Brigand’s men. From the mouth of the peon poured forth a stream of loud
lamentation and outcry for justice.

“You know that justice to which you appeal?” the leader spoke
gutturally.

“Yes, the Cruel Justice,” the peon replied. “I know what it means to
appeal to the Cruel Justice, yet do I appeal, for I seek justice and my
cause is just.”

“I, too, demand the Cruel Justice!” Leoncia cried with flashing eyes,
although she added in an undertone to Francis and Henry: “Whatever the
Cruel Justice is.”

“It will have to go some to be unfairer than the justice we can expect
from Torres and the Jefe,” Henry replied in similar undertones, then
stepped forward boldly before the cowled leader and said loudly: “And I
demand the Cruel Justice.”

The leader nodded.

“Me, too,” Francis murmured low, and then made loud demand.

The gendarmes did not seem to count in the matter, while the haciendados
signified their willingness to abide by whatever justice the Blind
Brigand might mete out to them. Only the Jefe objected.

“Maybe you don’t know who I am,” he blustered. “I am Mariano Vercara è
Hijos, of long illustrious name and long and honorable career. I am Jefe
Politico of San Antonio, the highest friend of the governor, and high in
the confidence of the government of the Republic of Panama. I am the
law. There is but one law and one justice, which is of Panama and not
the Cordilleras. I protest against this mountain law you call the Cruel
Justice. I shall send an army against your Blind Brigand, and the
buzzards will peck his bones in San Juan.”

“Remember,” Torres sarcastically warned the irate Jefe, “that this is
not San Antonio, but the bush of Juchitan. Also, you have no army.”

“Have these two men been unjust to any one who has appealed to the Cruel
Justice?” the leader asked abruptly.

“Yes,” asseverated the peon. “They have beaten me. Everybody has beaten
me. They, too, have beaten me and without cause. My hand is bloody. My
body is bruised and torn. Again I appeal to the Cruel Justice, and I
charge these two men with injustice.”

The leader nodded and to his own men indicated the disarming of the
prisoners and the order of the march.

“Justice!—I demand equal justice!” Henry cried out. “My hands are tied
behind my back. All hands should be so tied, or no hands be so tied.
Besides, it is very difficult to walk when one is so tied.”

The shadow of a smile drifted the lips of the leader as he directed his
men to cut the lashings that invidiously advertised the inequality
complained of.

“Huh!” Francis grinned to Leoncia and Henry. “I have a vague memory that
somewhere around a million years ago I used to live in a quiet little
old burg called New York, where we foolishly thought we were the wildest
and wickedest that ever cracked at a golf ball, electrocuted an
Inspector of Police, battled with Tammany, or bid four nullos with five
sure tricks in one’s own hand.”

“Huh!” Henry vouchsafed half an hour later, as the trail, from a lesser
crest, afforded a view of higher crests beyond. “Huh! and hell’s bells!
These gunny-sack chaps are not animals of savages. Look, Henry! They are
semaphoring! See that near tree there, and that big one across the
canyon. Watch the branches wave.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

Blindfold for a number of miles at the last, the prisoners, still
blindfolded, were led into the cave where the Cruel Justice reigned.
When the bandages were removed, they found themselves in a vast and
lofty cavern, lighted by many torches, and, confronting them, a blind
and white-haired man in sackcloth seated on a rock-hewn throne, with,
beneath him, her shoulder at his knees, a pretty mestiza woman.

The blind man spoke, and in his voice was the thin and bell-like silver
of age and weary wisdom.

“The Cruel Justice has been invoked. Speak! Who demands decision and
equity?”

All held back, and not even the Jefe could summon heart of courage to
protest against Cordilleras law.

“There is a woman present,” continued the Blind Brigand. “Let her speak
first. All mortal men and women are guilty of something or else are
charged by their fellows with some guilt.”

Henry and Francis were for with-straining her, but with an equal smile
to them she addressed the Cruel Just One in clear and ringing tones:

“I only have aided the man I am engaged to marry to escape from death
for a murder he did not commit.”

“You have spoken,” said the Blind Brigand. “Come forward to me.”

Piloted by sackcloth men, while the two Morgans who loved her were
restless and perturbed, she was made to kneel at the blind man’s knees.
The mestiza girl placed his hand on Leoncia’s head. For a full and
solemn minute silence obtained, while the steady fingers of the Blind
One rested about her forehead and registered the pulse-beats of her
temples. Then he removed his hand and leaned back to decision.

“Arise, Senorita,” he pronounced. “Your heart is clean of evil. You go
free.—Who else appeals to the Cruel Justice?”

Francis immediately stepped forward.

“I likewise helped the man to escape from an undeserved death. The man
and I are of the same name, and, distantly, of the same blood.”

He, too, knelt, and felt the soft finger-lobes play delicately over his
brows and temples and come to rest finally on the pulse of his wrist.

“It is not all clear to me,” said the Blind One. “You are not at rest
nor at peace with your soul. There is trouble within you that vexes
you.”

Suddenly the peon stepped forth and spoke unbidden, his voice evoking a
thrill as of the shock of blasphemy from the sackcloth men.

“Oh, Just One, let this man go,” said the peon passionately. “Twice was
I weak and betrayed him to his enemy this day, and twice this day has he
protected me from my enemy and saved me.”

And the peon, once again on his knees, but this time at the knees of
justice, thrilled and shivered with superstitious awe, as he felt wander
over him the light but firm finger-touches of the strangest judge man
ever knelt before. Bruises and lacerations were swiftly explored even to
the shoulders and down the back.

“The other man goes free,” the Cruel Just One announced. “Yet is there
trouble and unrest within him. Is one here who knows and will speak up?”

And Francis knew on the instant the trouble the blind man had divined
within him—the full love that burned in him for Leoncia and that
threatened to shatter the full loyalty he must ever bear to Henry. No
less quick was Leoncia in knowing, and could the blind man have beheld
the involuntary glance of knowledge the man and woman threw at each
other and the immediate embarrassment of averted eyes, he could have
unerringly diagnosed Francis’ trouble. The mestiza girl saw, and with a
leap at her heart scented a love affair. Likewise had Henry seen and
unconsciously scowled.

The Just One spoke:

“An affair of heart undoubtedly,” he dismissed the matter. “The eternal
vexation of woman in the heart of man. Nevertheless, this man stands
free. Twice, in the one day, has he succored the man who twice betrayed
him. Nor has the trouble within him aught to do with the aid he rendered
the man said to be sentenced to death undeserved. Remains to question
this last man; also to settle for this beaten creature before me who
twice this day has proved weak out of selfishness, and who has just now
proved bravely strong out of unselfishness for another.”

He leaned forward and played his fingers searchingly over the face and
brows of the peon.

“Are you afraid to die?” he asked suddenly.

“Great and Holy One, I am sore afraid to die,” was the peon’s reply.

“Then say that you have lied about this man, say that his twice
succoring of you was a lie, and you shall live.”

Under the Blind One’s fingers the peon cringed and wilted.

“Think well,” came the solemn warning. “Death is not good. To be forever
unmoving, as the clod and rock, is not good. Say that you have lied and
life is yours. Speak!”

But, although his voice shook from the exquisiteness of his fear, the
peon rose to the full spiritual stature of a man.

“Twice this day did I betray him, Holy One. But my name is not Peter.
Not thrice in this day will I betray him. I am sore afraid, but I cannot
betray him thrice.”

The blind judge leaned back and his face beamed and glowed as if
transfigured.

“Well spoken,” he said. “You have the makings of a man. I now lay my
sentence upon you: From now on, through all your days under the sun, you
shall always think like a man, act like a man, be a man. Better to die a
man any time, than live a beast forever in time. The Ecclesiast was
wrong. A dead lion is always better than a live dog. Go free, regenerate
son, go free.”

But, as the peon, at a signal from the mestiza, started to rise, the
blind judge stopped him.

“In the beginning, O man who but this day has been born man, what was
the cause of all your troubles?”

“My heart was weak and hungry, O Holy One, for a mixed-breed woman of
the tierra caliente. I myself am mountain born. For her I put myself in
debt to the haciendado for the sum of two hundred pesos. She fled with
the money and another man. I remained the slave of the haciendado, who
is not a bad man, but who, first and always, is a haciendado. I have
toiled, been beaten, and have suffered for five long years, and my debt
is now become two hundred and fifty pesos, and yet I possess naught but
these rags and a body weak from insufficient food.”

“Was she wonderful?—this woman of the tierra caliente?” the blind judge
queried softly.

“I was mad for her, Holy One. I do not think now that she was wonderful.
But she was wonderful then. The fever of her burned my heart and brain
and made a task-slave of me, though she fled in the night and I knew her
never again.”

The peon waited, on his knees, with bowed head, while, to the amazement
of all, the Blind Brigand sighed deeply and seemed to forget time and
place. His hand strayed involuntarily and automatically to the head of
the mestiza, caressed the shining black hair and continued to caress it
while he spoke.

“The woman,” he said, with such gentleness that his voice, still clear
and bell-like, was barely above a whisper. “Ever the woman wonderful.
All women are wonderful ... to man. They love our fathers; they birth
us; we love them; they birth our sons to love their daughters and to
call their daughters wonderful; and this has always been and shall
continue always to be until the end of man’s time and man’s loving on
earth.”

A profound of silence fell within the cavern, while the Cruel Just One
meditated for a space. At the last, with a touch dared of familiarity,
the pretty mestiza touched him and roused him to remembrance of the peon
still crouching at his feet.

“I pronounce judgment,” he spoke. “You have received many blows. Each
blow on your body is quittance in full of the entire debt to the
haciendado. Go free. But remain in the mountains, and next time love a
mountain woman, since woman you must have, and since woman is inevitable
and eternal in the affairs of men. Go free. You are half Maya?”

“I am half Maya,” the peon murmured. “My father is a Maya.”

“Arise and go free. And remain in the mountains with your Maya father.
The tierra caliente is no place for the Cordilleras-born. The haciendado
is not present, and therefore cannot be judged. And after all he is but
a haciendado. His fellow haciendados, too, go free.”

The Cruel Just One waited, and, without waiting, Henry stepped forward.

“I am the man,” he stated boldly, “sentenced to the death undeserved for
the killing of a man I did not kill. He was the blood-uncle of the girl
I love, whom I shall marry if there be true justice here in this cave in
the Cordilleras.”

But the Jefe interrupted.

“Before a score of witnesses he threatened to his face to kill the man.
Within the hour we found him bending over the man’s dead body that was
yet warm and limber with departing life.”

“He speaks true,” Henry affirmed. “I did threaten the man, both of us
heady from strong drink and hot blood. I was so found, bending over his
dead warm body. Yet did I not kill him. Nor do I know, nor can I guess,
the coward hand in the dark that knifed out his life through the back
from behind.”

“Kneel both of you, that I may interrogate you,” the Blind Brigand
commanded.

Long he interrogated with his sensitive, questioning fingers. Long, and
still longer, unable to attain decision, his fingers played over the
faces and pulses of the two men.

“Is there a woman?” he asked Henry Morgan pointedly.

“A woman wonderful. I love her.”

“It is good to be so vexed, for a man unvexed by woman is only half a
man,” the blind judge vouchsafed. He addressed the Jefe. “No woman vexes
you, yet are you troubled. But this man”—indicating Henry—“I cannot tell
if all his vexation be due to woman. Perhaps, in part, it may be due to
you, or to what some prompting of evil may make him meditate against
you. Stand up, both men of you. I cannot judge between you. Yet is there
the test infallible, the test of the Snake and the Bird. Infallible it
is, as God is infallible, for by such ways does God still maintain truth
in the affairs of men. As well does Blackstone mention just such methods
of determining the truth by trial and ordeal.”



                               CHAPTER XI


To all intents it might have been a tiny bull-ring, that pit in the
heart of the Blind Brigand’s domain. Ten feet in depth and thirty in
diameter, with level floor and perpendicular wall, its natural formation
had required little work at the hands of man to complete its symmetry.
The sackcloth men, the haciendados, the gendarmes—all were present, save
for the Cruel Just One and the mestiza, and all were lined about the rim
of the pit, as an audience, to gaze down upon some bull-fight or
gladiatorial combat within the pit.

At command of the stern-faced leader of the sackcloth men who had
captured them, Henry and the Jefe descended down a short ladder into the
pit. The leader and several of the brigands accompanied them.

“Heaven alone knows what’s going to happen,” Henry laughed up in English
to Leoncia and Francis. “But if it’s rough and tumble, bite and gouge,
or Marquis of Queensbury or London Prize Ring, Mister Fat Jefe is my
meat. But that old blind one is clever, and the chances are he’s going
to put us at each other on some basis of evenness. In which case, do
you, my audience, if he gets me down, stick your thumbs up and make all
the noise you can. Depend upon it, if it’s he that’s down, all his crowd
will be thumbs up.”

The Jefe, overcome by the trap into which he had descended, in Spanish
addressed the leader.

“I shall not fight with this man. He is younger than I, and has better
wind. Also, the affair is illegal. It is not according to the law of the
Republic of Panama. It is extra-territorial and entirely unjudicial.”

“It is the Snake and the Bird,” the leader shut him off. “You shall be
the Snake. This rifle shall be in your hands. The other man shall be the
Bird. In his hand shall be the bell. Behold! Thus may you understand the
ordeal.”

At his command, one of the brigands was given the rifle and was
blindfolded. To another brigand, not blindfolded, was given a silver
bell.

“The man with the rifle is the Snake,” said the leader. “He has one shot
at the Bird who carries the bell.”

At signal to begin, the bandit with the bell, tinkled it at extended
arm’s length and sprang swiftly aside. The man with the rifle lowered it
as if to fire at the space just vacated and pretended to fire.

“You understand?” the leader demanded of Henry and the Jefe.

The former nodded, but the latter cried exultantly:

“And I am the Snake?”

“You are the Snake,” affirmed the leader.

And the Jefe was eager for the rifle, making no further protests against
the extra-territoriality of the proceedings.

“Are you going to try to get me?” Henry warned the Jefe.

“No, Senor Morgan. I am merely going to get you. I am one of the two
best shots in Panama. I have two score and more of medals. I can shoot
with my eyes shut. I can shoot in the dark. I have often shot, and with
precision, in the dark. Already may you count yourself a dead man.”

Only one cartridge was put into the rifle, ere it was handed to the Jefe
after he was blindfolded. Next, while Henry, equipped with the tell-tale
bell, was stationed directly across the pit, the Jefe was faced to the
wall and kept there while the brigands climbed out of the pit and drew
the ladder up after them. The leader, from above, spoke down:

“Listen carefully, Senor Snake, and make no move until you have heard.
The Snake has but one shot. The Snake cannot tamper with his blindfold.
If he so tampers it is our duty to see that he immediately dies. The
Snake has no time limit. He may take the rest of the day, and all of the
night, and the remainder of eternity ere he fires his one shot. As for
the Bird, the one rule is that never must the bell leave his hand, and
never may he stop the clapper of it from making the full noise intended
of the clapper against the sides of the bell. Should he do so, then will
he immediately die. We are here above you, both of you Senors, rifles in
hand, to see that you die the second you infract any of the rules. And
now, God be with the right, proceed!”

The Jefe turned slowly about and listened, while Henry, essaying
gingerly to move with the bell, caused it to tinkle.

The rifle was quick to bear upon the sound, and to pursue it as Henry
ran. With a quick shift he transferred the bell to the other extended
hand and ran back in the opposite direction, the rifle sweeping after
him in inexorable pursuit. But the Jefe was too cunning to risk all on a
chance shot, and slowly advanced across the arena. Henry stood still,
and the bell made no sound.

So unerringly had the Jefe’s ear located the last silvery tinkle, and so
straightly did he walk despite his blindfold, that he advanced just to
the right of Henry and directly at the bell. With infinite caution,
provoking no tinkle, Henry slightly raised his arm and permitted the
Jefe’s head to go under the bell with a bare inch of margin.

His rifle pointed, and within a foot of the pit-wall, the Jefe halted in
indecision, listened vainly for a moment, then made a further stride
that collided the rifle muzzle with the wall. He whirled about, and,
with the rifle extended, like any blind man felt out the air-space for
his enemy. The muzzle would have touched Henry had he not sprung away on
a noisy and zig-zag course.

In the center of the pit he came to a frozen pause. The Jefe stalked
past a yard to the side and collided with the opposite wall. He circled
the wall, walking cat-footed, his rifle forever feeling out into the
empty air. Next he ventured across the pit. After several such
crossings, during which the stationary bell gave him no clue, he adopted
a clever method. Tossing his hat on the ground for the mark of his
starting point, he crossed the edge of the pit on a shallow chord,
extended the chord by a pace farther along the wall, and felt his way
back along the new and longer chord. Again against the wall, he verified
the correctness of the parallelness of the two chords, by pacing back to
his hat. This time, with three paces along the wall from the hat, he
initiated his third chord.

Thus he combed the area of the pit, and Henry saw that he could not
escape such combing. Nor did he wait to be discovered. Tinkling the bell
as he ran and zigzagged and exchanging it from one hand to the other, he
froze into immobility in a new place.

The Jefe repeated the laborious combing out process; but Henry was not
minded longer to prolong the tension. He waited till the Jefe’s latest
chord brought him directly upon him. He waited till the rifle muzzle,
breast high, was within half a dozen inches of his heart. Then he
exploded into two simultaneous actions. He ducked lower than the rifle
and yelled “Fire!” in stentorian command.

So startled, the Jefe pulled the trigger, and the bullet sped above
Henry’s head. From above, the sackcloth men applauded wildly. The Jefe
tore off his blindfold and saw the smiling face of his foe.

“It is well—God has spoken,” announced the sackcloth leader, as he
descended into the pit. “The man uninjured is innocent. Remains now to
test the other man.”

“Me?” the Jefe almost shouted in his surprise and consternation.

“Greetings, Jefe,” Henry grinned. “You _did_ try to get me. It’s my turn
now. Pass over that rifle.”

But the Jefe, with a curse, in his disappointment and rage forgetting
that the rifle had contained only one cartridge, thrust the muzzle
against Henry’s heart and pulled the trigger. The hammer fell with a
metallic click.

“It is well,” said the leader, taking away the rifle and recharging it.
“Your conduct shall be reported. The test for you remains, yet must it
appear that you are not acting like God’s chosen man.”

Like a beaten bull in the ring seeking a way to escape and gazing up at
the amphitheatre of pitiless faces, so the Jefe looked up and saw only
the rifles of the sackcloth men, the triumphing faces of Leoncia and
Francis, the curious looks of his own gendarmes, and the blood-eager
faces of the haciendados that were like the faces of any bull-fight
audience.

The shadowy smile drifted the stern lips of the leader as he handed the
rifle to Henry and started to blindfold him.

“Why don’t you make him face the wall until I’m ready?” the Jefe
demanded, as the silver bell tinkled in his passion-convulsed hand.

“Because he is proven God’s man,” was the reply. “He has stood the test.
Therefore he cannot do a treacherous deed. You now must stand the test
of God. If you are true and honest, no harm can befall you from the
Snake. For such is God’s way.”

Far more successful as the hunter than as the hunted one, did the Jefe
prove. Across the pit from Henry, he strove to stand motionless; but out
of nervousness, as Henry’s rifle swept around on him, his hand trembled
and the bell tinkled. The rifle came almost to rest and wavered
ominously about the sound. In vain the Jefe tried to control his flesh
and still the bell.

But the bell tinkled on, and, in despair, he flung it away and threw
himself on the ground. But Henry, following the sound of his enemy’s
fall, lowered the rifle and pulled trigger. The Jefe yelled out in sharp
pain as the bullet perforated his shoulder, rose to his feet, cursed,
sprawled back on the ground, and lay there cursing.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Again in the cave, with the mestiza beside him at his knee, the Blind
Brigand gave judgment.

“This man who is wounded and who talks much of the law of the tierra
caliente, shall now learn Cordilleras law. By the test of the Snake and
the Bird has he been proven guilty. For his life a ransom of ten
thousand dollars gold shall be paid, or else shall he remain here, a
hewer of wood and a carrier of water, for the remainder of the time God
shall grant him to draw breath on earth. I have spoken, and I know that
my voice is God’s voice, and I know that God will not grant him long to
draw breath if the ransom be not forthcoming.”

A long silence obtained, during which even Henry, who could slay a foe
in the heat of combat, advertised that such cold-blooded promise of
murder was repugnant to him.

“The law is pitiless,” said the Cruel Just One; and again silence fell.

“Let him die for want of a ransom,” spoke one of the haciendados. “He
has proved a treacherous dog. Let him die a dog’s death.”

“What say you?” the Blind Brigand asked solemnly. “What say you, peon of
the many beatings, man new-born this day, half-Maya that you are and
lover of the woman wonderful? Shall this man die the dog’s death for
want of a ransom?”

“This man is a hard man,” spoke the peon. “Yet is my heart strangely
soft this day. Had I ten thousand gold I would pay his ransom myself.
Yea, O Holy One and Just, and had I two hundred and fifty pesos, even
would I pay off my debt to the haciendado of which I am absolved.”

The old man’s blind face lighted up to transfiguration.

“You, too, speak with God’s voice this day, regenerate one,” he
approved.

But Francis, who had been scribbling hurriedly in his check book, handed
a check, still wet with the ink, to the mestiza.

“I, too, speak,” he said. “Let not the man die the dog’s death he
deserves, proven treacherous hound that he is.”

The mestiza read the check aloud.

“It is not necessary to explain,” the Blind Brigand shut Francis off. “I
am a creature of reason, and have not lived always in the Cordilleras. I
was trained in business in Barcelona. I know the Chemical National Bank
of New York, and through my agents have had dealings with it aforetime.
The sum is for ten thousand dollars gold. This man who writes it has
told the truth already this day. The check is good. Further, I know he
will not stop payment. This man who thus pays the ransom of a foe is one
of three things: a very good man; a fool; or a very rich man. Tell me, O
Man, is there a woman wonderful?”

And Francis, not daring to glance to right or left, at Leoncia or Henry,
but gazing straight before him on the Blind Brigand’s face, answered
because he felt he must so answer:

“Yes, O Cruel Just One, there is a woman wonderful.”



                              CHAPTER XII


At the precise spot where they had been first blindfolded by the
sackcloth men, the cavalcade halted. It was composed of a number of the
sackcloth men; of Leoncia, Henry, and Francis, blindfolded and mounted
on mules; and of the peon, blindfolded and on foot. Similarly escorted,
the haciendados, and the Jefe and Torres with their gendarmes, had
preceded by half an hour.

At permission given by the stern-faced leader, the captives, about to be
released, removed their blindfolds.

“Seems I’ve been here before,” Henry laughed, looking about and
identifying the place.

“Seems the oil-wells are still burning,” Francis said, pointing out half
the field of day that was eaten up by the black smoke-pall. “Peon, look
upon your handiwork. For a man who possesses nothing, you are the
biggest spender I ever met. I have heard of drunken oil-kings lighting
cigars with thousand dollar bank-notes, but here are you burning up a
million dollars a minute.”

“I am not a poor man,” the peon boasted in proud mysteriousness.

“A millionaire in disguise!” Henry twitted.

“Where do you deposit?” was Leoncia’s contribution. “In the Chemical
National Bank?”

The peon did not understand the allusions, but knew that he was being
made fun of, and drew himself up in proud silence.

The stern leader spoke:

“From this point you may now go your various ways. The Just One has so
commanded. You, senors, will dismount and turn over to me your mules. As
for the senorita, she may retain her mule as a present from the Just
One, who would not care to be responsible for compelling any senorita to
walk. The two senors, without hardship, may walk. Especially has the
Just One recommended walking for the rich senor. The possession of
riches, he advised, leads to too little walking. Too little walking
leads to stoutness; and stoutness does not lead to the woman wonderful.
Such is the wisdom of the Just One.”

“Further, he has repeated his advice to the peon to remain in the
mountains. In the mountains he will find his woman wonderful, since
woman he must have; and it is wisest that such woman be of his own
breed. The woman of the tierra caliente are for the men of the tierra
caliente. The Cordilleras women are for the Cordilleras men. God
dislikes mixed breeds. A mule is abhorrent under the sun. The world was
not intended for mixed breeds, but man has made for himself many
inventions. Pure races interbred leads to impurity. Neither will oil nor
water congenially intermingle. Since kind begets kind, only kind should
mate. Such are the words of the Just One which I have repeated as
commanded. And he has especially impressed upon me to add that he knows
whereof he speaks, for he, too, has sinned in just such ways.”

And Henry and Francis, of Anglo-Saxon stock, and Leoncia of the Latin,
knew perturbation and embarrassment as the vicarious judgment of the
Blind Brigand sank home. And Leoncia, with her splendid eyes of woman,
would have appealed protest to either man she loved, had the other been
absent; while both Henry and Francis would have voiced protest to
Leoncia had either of them been alone with her. And yet, under it all,
deep down, uncannily, was a sense of the correctness of the Blind
Brigand’s thought. And heavily, on the heart of each, rested the burden
of the conscious oppression of sin.

A crashing and scrambling in the brush diverted their train of thought,
as descending the canyon slope on desperately slipping and sliding
horses, appeared on the scene the haciendado with several followers. His
greeting of the daughter of the Solanos was hidalgo-like and profound,
and only less was the heartiness of his greeting to the two men for whom
Enrico Solano had stood sponsor.

“Where is your noble father?” he asked Leoncia. “I have good news for
him. In the week since I last saw you, I have been sick with fever and
encamped. But by swift messengers, and favoring winds across Chiriqui
Lagoon to Bocas del Toro, I have used the government wireless—the Jefe
of Bocas del Toro is my friend—and have communicated with the President
of Panama—who is my ancient comrade whose nose I rubbed as often in the
dirt as did he mine in the boyhood days when we were schoolmates and
cubicle-mates together at Colon. And the word has come back that all is
well; that justice has miscarried in the court at San Antonio from the
too great but none the less worthy zeal of the Jefe Politico; and that
all is forgiven, pardoned, and forever legally and politically forgotten
against all of the noble Solano family and their two noble Gringo
friends——”

Here, the haciendado bowed low to Henry and Francis. And here, skulking
behind Leoncia’s uncle, his eyes chanced to light on the peon; and, so
lighting, his eyes blazed with triumph.

“Mother of God, thou has not forgotten me!” he breathed fervently, then
turned to the several friends who accompanied him. “There he is, the
creature without reason or shame who has fled his debt of me. Seize him!
I shall put him on his back for a month from the beating he shall
receive!”

So speaking, the haciendado sprang around the rump of Leoncia’s mule;
and the peon, ducking under the mule’s nose, would have won to the
freedom of the jungle, had not another of the haciendados, with quick
spurs to his horse’s sides, cut him off and run him down. In a trice,
used to just such work, the haciendados had the luckless wight on his
feet, his hands tied behind him, a lead-rope made fast around his neck.

In one voice Francis and Henry protested.

“Senors,” the haciendado replied, “my respect and consideration and
desire to serve you are as deep as for the noble Solano family under
whose protection you are. Your safety and comfort are sacred to me. I
will defend you from harm with my life. I am yours to command. My
hacienda is yours, likewise all I possess. But this matter of this peon
is entirely another matter. He is none of yours. He is _my_ peon, in
_my_ debt, who has run away from _my_ hacienda. You will understand and
forgive me, I trust. This is a mere matter of property. He is _my_
property.”

Henry and Francis glanced at each other in mutual perplexity and
indecision. It was the law of the land, as they thoroughly knew.

“The Cruel Just One did remit my debt, as all here will witness,” the
peon whispered.

“It is true, the Cruel Justice remitted his debt,” Leoncia verified.

The haciendado smiled and bowed low.

“But the peon contracted with me,” he smiled. “And who is the Blind
Brigand that his foolish law shall operate on my plantation and rob me
of my rightful two hundred and fifty pesos?”

“He’s right, Leoncia,” Henry admitted.

“Then will I go back to the high Cordilleras,” the peon asserted. “Oh,
you men of the Cruel Just One, take me back to the Cordilleras.”

But the stern leader shook his head.

“Here you were released. Our orders went no further. No further
jurisdiction have we over you. We shall now bid farewell and depart.”

“Hold on!” Francis cried, pulling out his check book and beginning to
write. “Wait a moment. I must settle for this peon now. Next, before you
depart, I have a favor to ask of you.”

He passed the check to the haciendado, saying:

“I have allowed ten pesos for the exchange.”

The haciendado glanced at the check, folded it away in his pocket, and
placed the end of the rope around the wretched creature’s neck in
Francis’ hand.

“The peon is now yours,” he said.

Francis looked at the rope and laughed.

“Behold! I now own a human chattel. Slave, you are mine, my property
now, do you understand?”

“Yes, Senor,” the peon muttered humbly. “It seems, when I became mad for
the woman I gave up my freedom for, that God destined me always
afterward to be the property of some man. The Cruel Just One is right.
It is God’s punishment for mating outside my race.”

“You made a slave of yourself for what the world has always considered
the best of all causes, a woman,” Francis observed, cutting the thongs
that bound the peon’s hands. “And so, I make a present of you to
yourself.” So saying, he placed the neck-rope in the peon’s hand.
“Henceforth, lead yourself, and put not that rope in any man’s hand.”

While the foregoing had been taking place, a lean old man, on foot, had
noiselessly joined the circle. Maya Indian he was, pure-blooded, with
ribs that corrugated plainly through his parchment-like skin. Only a
breech-clout covered his nakedness. His unkempt hair hung in dirty-gray
tangles about his face, which was high-cheeked and emaciated to
cadaverousness. Strings of muscles showed for his calves and biceps. A
few scattered snags of teeth were visible between his withered lips. The
hollows under his cheek-bones were prodigious. While his eyes, beads of
black, deep-sunk in their sockets, burned with the wild light of a
patient in fever.

He slipped eel-like through the circle and clasped the peon in his
skeleton-like arms.

“He is my father,” proclaimed the peon proudly. “Look at him. He is pure
Maya, and he knows the secrets of the Mayas.”

And while the two re-united ones talked endless explanations, Francis
preferred his request to the sackcloth leader to find Enrico Solano and
his two sons, wandering somewhere in the mountains, and to tell them
that they were free of all claims of the law and to return home.

“They have done no wrong?” the leader demanded.

“No; they have done no wrong,” Francis assured him.

“Then it is well. I promise you to find them immediately, for we know
the direction of their wandering, and to send them down to the coast to
join you.”

“And in the meantime shall you be my guests while you wait,” the
haciendado invited eagerly. “There is a freight schooner at anchor in
Juchitan Inlet now off my plantation, and sailing for San Antonio. I can
hold her until the noble Enrico and his sons come down from the
Cordilleras.”

“And Francis will pay the demurrage, of course,” Henry interpolated with
a sly sting that Leoncia caught, although it missed Francis, who cried
joyously:

“Of course I will. And it proves my contention that a checkbook is
pretty good to have anywhere.”

To their surprise, when they had parted from the sackcloth men, the peon
and his Indian father attached themselves to the Morgans, and journeyed
down through the burning oil-fields to the plantation which had been the
scene of the peon’s slavery. Both father and son were unremitting in
their devotion, first of all to Francis, and, next, to Leoncia and
Henry. More than once they noted father and son in long and earnest
conversations; and, after Enrico and his sons had arrived, when the
party went down to the beach to board the waiting schooner, the peon and
his Maya parent followed along. Francis essayed to say farewell to them
on the beach, but the peon stated that the pair of them were likewise
journeying on the schooner.

“I have told you that I was not a poor man,” the peon explained, after
they had drawn the party aside from the waiting sailors. “This is true.
The hidden treasure of the Mayas, which the conquistadores and the
priests of the Inquisition could never find, is in my keeping. Or, to be
very true, is in my father’s keeping. He is the descendant, in the
straight line, from the ancient high priest of the Mayas. He is the last
high priest. He and I have talked much and long. And we are agreed that
riches do not make life. You bought me for two hundred and fifty pesos,
yet you made me free, gave me back to myself. The gift of a man’s life
is greater than all the treasure in the world. So are we agreed, my
father and I. And so, since it is the way of Gringos and Spaniards to
desire treasure, we will lead you to the Maya treasure, my father and I,
my father knowing the way. And the way into the mountains begins from
San Antonio and not from Juchitan.”

“Does your father know the location of the treasure?—just where it is?”
Henry demanded, with an aside to Francis that this was the very Maya
treasure that had led him to abandon the quest for Morgan’s gold on the
Calf and to take to the mainland.

The peon shook his head.

“My father has never been to it. He was not interested in it, caring not
for wealth for himself. Father, bring forth the tale written in our
ancient language which you alone of living Mayas can read.”

From within his loin-cloth the old man drew forth a dirty and
much-frayed canvas bag. Out of this he pulled what looked like a snarl
of knotted strings. But the strings were twisted sennit of some fibrous
forest bark, so ancient that they threatened to crumble as he handled
them, while from under the touch and manipulation of his fingers a fine
powder of decay arose. Muttering and mumbling prayers in the ancient
Maya tongue, he held up the snarl of knots, and bowed reverently before
it ere he shook it out.

“The knot-writing, the lost written language of the Mayas,” Henry
breathed softly. “This is the real thing, if only the old geezer hasn’t
forgotten how to read it.”

All heads bent curiously toward it as it was handed to Francis. It was
in the form of a crude tassel, composed of many thin, long strings. Not
alone were the knots, and various kinds of knots, tied at irregular
intervals in the strings, but the strings themselves were of varying
lengths and diameters. He ran them through his fingers, mumbling and
muttering.

“He reads!” cried the peon triumphantly. “All our old language is there
in those knots, and he reads them as any man may read a book.”

Bending closer to observe, Francis and Leoncia’s hair touched, and, in
the thrill of the immediately broken contact, their eyes met, producing
the second thrill as they separated. But Henry, all eagerness, did not
observe. He had eyes only for the mystic tassel.

“What d’you say, Francis?” he murmured. “It’s big! It’s big!”

“But New York is beginning to call,” Francis demurred. “Oh, not its
people and its fun, but its business,” he added hastily, as he sensed
Leoncia’s unuttered reproach and hurt. “Don’t forget, I’m mixed up in
Tampico Petroleum and the stock market, and I hate to think how many
millions are involved.”

“Hell’s bells!” Henry ejaculated. “The Maya treasure, if a tithe of what
they say about its immensity be true, could be cut three ways between
Enrico, you and me, and make each of us richer than you are now.”

Still Francis was undecided, and, while Enrico expanded on the
authenticity of the treasure, Leoncia managed to query in an undertone
in Francis’ ear:

“Have you so soon tired of ... of treasure-hunting?”

He looked at her keenly, and down at her engagement ring, as he answered
in the same low tones:

“How can I stay longer in this country, loving you as I do, while you
love Henry?”

It was the first time he had openly avowed his love, and Leoncia knew
the swift surge of joy, followed by the no less swift surge of mantling
shame that she, a woman who had always esteemed herself good, could love
two men at the same time. She glanced at Henry, as if to verify her
heart, and her heart answered yes. As truly did she love Henry as she
did Francis, and the emotion seemed similar where the two were similar,
different where they were different.

“I’m afraid I’ll have to connect up with the _Angelique_, most likely at
Bocas del Toro, and get away,” Francis told Henry. “You and Enrico can
find the treasure and split it two ways.”

But the peon, having heard, broke into quick speech with his father,
and, next, with Henry.

“You hear what he says, Francis,” the latter said, holding up the sacred
tassel. “You’ve got to go with us. It is you he feels grateful to for
his son. He isn’t giving the treasure to us, but to you. And if you
don’t go, he won’t read a knot of the writing.”

But it was Leoncia, looking at Francis with quiet wistfulness of
pleading, seeming all but to say, “Please, for my sake,” who really
caused Francis to reverse his decision.



                              CHAPTER XIII


A week later, out of San Antonio on a single day, three separate
expeditions started for the Cordilleras. The first, mounted on mules,
was composed of Henry, Francis, the peon and his ancient parent, and of
several of the Solano peons, each leading a pack-mule, burdened with
supplies and outfit. Old Enrico Solano, at the last moment, had been
prevented from accompanying the party because of the bursting open of an
old wound received in the revolutionary fighting of his youth.

Up the main street of San Antonio the cavalcade proceeded, passing the
jail, the wall of which Francis had dynamited, and which was only even
then being tardily rebuilt by the Jefe’s prisoners. Torres, sauntering
down the street, the latest wire from Regan tucked in his pocket, saw
the Morgan outfit with surprise.

“Whither away, senors?” he called.

So spontaneous that it might have been rehearsed, Francis pointed to the
sky, Henry straight down at the earth, the peon to the right, and his
father to the left. The curse from Torres at such impoliteness, caused
all to burst into laughter, in which the mule-peons joined as they rode
along.

Within the morning, at the time of the siesta hour, while all the town
slept, Torres received a second surprise. This time it was the sight of
Leoncia and her youngest brother, Ricardo, on mules, leading a third
that was evidently loaded with a camping outfit.

The third expedition was Torres’ own, neither more nor less meager than
Leoncia’s, for it was composed only of himself and one, José Mancheno, a
notorious murderer of the place whom Torres, for private reasons, had
saved from the buzzards of San Juan. But Torres’ plans, in the matter of
an expedition, were more ambitious than they appeared. Not far up the
slopes of the Cordilleras dwelt the strange tribe of the Caroos.
Originally founded by runaway negro slaves of Africa and Carib slaves of
the Mosquito Coast, the renegades had perpetuated themselves with stolen
women of the tierra caliente and with fled women slaves like themselves.
Between the Mayas beyond, and the government of the coast, this unique
colony had maintained itself in semi-independence. Added to, in later
days, by runaway Spanish prisoners, the Caroos had become a hotchpotch
of bloods and breeds, possessing a name and a taint so bad that the then
governing power of Colombia, had it not been too occupied with its own
particular political grafts, would have sent armies to destroy the
pest-hole. And in this pest-hole of the Caroos José Mancheno had been
born of a Spanish-murderer father and a mestiza-murderess mother. And to
this pest-hole José Mancheno was leading Torres in order that the
commands of Thomas Regan of Wall Street might be carried out.

                  *       *       *       *       *

“Lucky we found him when we did,” Francis told Henry, as they rode at
the rear of the last Maya priest.

“He’s pretty senile,” Henry nodded. “Look at him.”

The old man, as he led the way, was forever pulling out the sacred
tassel and mumbling and muttering as he fingered it.

“Hope the old gentleman doesn’t wear it out,” was Henry’s fervent wish.
“You’d think he’d read the directions once and remember them for a
little while instead of continually pawing them over.”

They rode out through the jungle into a clear space that looked as if at
some time man had hewn down the jungle and fought it back. Beyond, by
the vista afforded by the clearing, the mountain called Blanco Rovalo
towered high in the sunny sky. The old Maya halted his mule, ran over
certain strings in the tassel, pointed at the mountain, and spoke in
broken Spanish:

“It says: _In the foot-steps of the God wait till the eyes of Chia
flash._”

He indicated the particular knots of a particular string as the source
of his information.

“Where are the foot-steps, old priest?” Henry demanded, staring about
him at the unbroken sward.

But the old man started his mule, and, with a tattoo of bare heels on
the creature’s ribs, hastened it on across the clearing and into the
jungle beyond.

“He’s like a hound on the scent, and it looks as if the scent is getting
hot,” Francis remarked.

At the end of half a mile, where the jungle turned to grass-land on
swift-rising slopes the old man forced his mule into a gallop which he
maintained until he reached a natural depression in the ground. Three
feet or more in depth, of area sufficient to accommodate a dozen persons
in comfort, its form was strikingly like that which some colossal human
foot could have made.

“The foot-step of the God,” the old priest proclaimed solemnly, ere he
slid off his mule and prostrated himself in prayer. “_In the foot-step
of the God must we wait till the eyes of Chia flash_——so say the sacred
knots.”

“Pretty good place for a meal,” Henry vouchsafed, looking down into the
depression. “While waiting for the mumbo-jumbo foolery to come off, we
might as well stay our stomachs.”

“If Chia doesn’t object,” laughed Francis.

And Chia did not object, at least the old priest could not find any
objection written in the knots.

While the mules were being tethered on the edge of the first break of
woods, water was fetched from a nearby spring and a fire built in the
foot-step. The old Maya seemed oblivious of everything, as he mumbled
endless prayers and ran the knots over and over.

“If only he doesn’t blow up,” Francis said.

“I thought he was wild-eyed the first day we met him up in Juchitan,”
concurred Henry. “But it’s nothing to the way his eyes are now.”

Here spoke the peon, who, unable to understand a word of their English,
nevertheless sensed the drift of it.

“This is very religious, very dangerous, to have anything to do with the
old Maya sacred things. It is the death-road. My father knows. Many men
have died. The deaths are sudden and horrible. Even Maya priests have
died. My father’s father so died. He, too, loved a woman of the tierra
caliente. And for love of her, for gold, he sold the Maya secret and by
the knot-writing led tierra caliente men to the treasure. He died. They
all died. My father does not like the women of the tierra caliente now
that he is old. He liked them too well in his youth, which was his sin.
And he knows the danger of leading you to the treasure. Many men have
sought during the centuries. Of those who found it, not one came back.
It is said that even conquistadores and pirates of the English Morgan
have won to the hiding-place and decorated it with their bones.”

“And when your father dies,” Francis queried, “then, being his son, you
will be the Maya high priest?”

“No, senor,” the peon shook his head. “I am only half-Maya. I cannot
read the knots. My father did not teach me because I was not of the pure
Maya blood.”

“And if he should die, right now, is there any other Maya who can read
the knots?”

“No, senor. My father is the last living man who knows that ancient
language.”

But the conversation was broken in upon by Leoncia and Ricardo, who,
having tethered their mules with the others, were gazing sheepishly down
from the rim of the depression. The faces of Henry and Francis lighted
with joy at the sight of Leoncia, while their mouths opened and their
tongues articulated censure and scolding. Also, they insisted on her
returning with Ricardo.

“But you cannot send me away before giving me something to eat,” she
persisted, slipping down the slope of the depression with pure feminine
cunning in order to place the discussion on a closer and more intimate
basis.

Aroused by their voices, the old Maya came out of a trance of prayer and
observed her with wrath. And in wrath he burst upon her, intermingling
occasional Spanish words and phrases with the flood of denunciation in
Maya.

“He says that women are no good,” the peon interpreted in the first
pause. “He says women bring quarrels among men, the quick steel, the
sudden death. Bad luck and God’s wrath are ever upon them. Their ways
are not God’s ways, and they lead men to destruction. He says women are
the eternal enemy of God and man, forever keeping God and man apart. He
says women have ever cluttered the foot-steps of God and have kept men
away from travelling the path of God to God. He says this woman must go
back.”

With laughing eyes, Francis whistled his appreciation of the diatribe,
while Henry said:

“Now will you be good, Leoncia? You see what a Maya thinks of your sex.
This is no place for you. California’s the place. Women vote there.”

“The trouble is that the old man is remembering the woman who brought
misfortune upon him in the heyday of his youth,” Francis said. He turned
to the peon. “Ask your father to read the knot-writing and see what it
says for or against women traveling in the foot-steps of God.”

In vain the ancient high priest fumbled the sacred writing. There was
not to be found the slightest authoritative objection to woman.

“He’s mixing his own experiences up with his mythology,” Francis grinned
triumphantly. “So I guess it’s pretty near all right, Leoncia, for you
to stay for a bite to eat. The coffee’s made. After that....”

But “after that” came before. Scarcely had they seated themselves on the
ground and begun to eat, when Francis, standing up to serve Leoncia with
tortillas, had his hat knocked off.

“My word!” he said, sitting down. “That was sudden. Henry, take a squint
and see who tried to pot-shoot me.”

The next moment, save for the peon’s father, all eyes were peeping
across the rim of the foot-step. What they saw, creeping upon them from
every side, was a nondescript and bizarrely clad horde of men who seemed
members of no particular race but composed of all races. The breeds of
the entire human family seemed to have moulded their lineaments and
vari-colored their skins.

“The mangiest bunch I ever laid eyes on,” was Francis’ comment.

“They are the Caroos,” the peon muttered, betraying fear.

“And who in——” Francis began. Instantly he amended. “And who in Paradise
are the Caroos?”

“They come from hell,” was the peon’s answer. “They are more savage than
the Spaniard, more terrible than the Maya. They neither give nor take in
marriage, nor does a priest reside among them. They are the devil’s own
spawn, and their ways are the devil’s ways, only worse.”

Here the Maya arose, and, with accusing finger, denounced Leoncia for
being the cause of this latest trouble. A bullet creased his shoulder
and half-whirled him about.

“Drag him down!” Henry shouted to Francis. “He’s the only man who knows
the knot-language; and the eyes of Chia, whatever that may mean, have
not yet flashed.”

Francis obeyed, with an out-reach of arm to the old fellow’s legs,
jerking him down in a crumpled, skeleton-like fall.

Henry loosed his rifle, and elicited a fusillade in response. Next,
Ricardo, Francis, and the peon joined in. But the old man, still running
his knots, fixed his gaze across the far rim of the foot-step upon a
rugged wall of mountain beyond.

“Hold on!” shouted Francis, in a vain attempt to make himself heard
above the shooting.

He was compelled to crawl from one to another and shake them into
ceasing from firing. And to each, separately, he had to explain that all
their ammunition was with the mules, and that they must be sparing with
the little they had in their magazines and belts.

“And don’t let them hit you,” Henry warned. “They’ve got old muskets and
blunderbusses that will drive holes through you the size of
dinner-plates.”

An hour later, the last cartridge, save several in Francis’ automatic
pistol, was gone; and to the irregular firing of the Caroos the pit
replied with silence. José Mancheno was the first to guess the
situation. He cautiously crept up to the edge of the pit to make sure,
then signaled to the Caroos that the ammunition of the besieged was
exhausted and to come on.

“Nicely trapped, senors,” he exulted down at the defenders, while from
all around the rim laughter arose from the Caroos.

But the next moment the change that came over the situation was as
astounding as a transformation scene in a pantomime. With wild cries of
terror the Caroos were fleeing. Such was their disorder and haste that
numbers of them dropped their muskets and machetes.

“Anyway, I’ll get you, Senor Buzzard,” Francis pleasantly assured
Mancheno, at the same time flourishing his pistol at him.

He leveled his weapon as Mancheno fled, but reconsidered and did not
draw trigger.

“I’ve only three shots left,” he explained to Henry, half in apology.
“And in this country one can never tell when three shots will come in
handiest, ‘as I’ve found out, beyond a doubt, beyond a doubt.’”

“Look!” the peon cried, pointing to his father and to the distant
mountainside. “That is why they ran away. They have learned the peril of
the sacred things of Maya.”

The old priest, running over the knots of the tassel in an ecstasy that
was almost trance-like, was gazing fixedly at the distant mountainside,
from which, side by side and close together, two bright flashes of light
were repeating themselves.

“Twin mirrors could do it in the hands of a man,” was Henry’s comment.

“They are the eyes of Chia,” the peon repeated. “It is so written in the
knots as you have heard my father say. _Wait in the foot-steps of the
God till the eyes of Chia flash._”

The old man rose to his feet and wildly proclaimed: “_To find the
treasure we must find the eyes!_”

“All right, old top,” Henry soothed him, as, with his small traveler’s
compass he took the bearings of the flashes.

                  *       *       *       *       *

“He’s got a compass inside his head,” Henry remarked an hour later of
the old priest, who led on the foremost mule. “I check him by the
compass, and, no matter how the natural obstacles compel him to deviate,
he comes back to the course as if he were himself a magnetic needle.”

Not since leaving the foot-step, had the flashings been visible. Only
from that one spot, evidently, did the rugged landscape permit the
seeing of them. Rugged the country was, broken into arroyos and cliffs,
interspersed with forest patches and stretches of sand and of volcanic
ash.

At last the way became impassable for their mounts, and Ricardo was left
behind to keep charge of the mules and mule-peons and to make a camp.
The remainder of the party continued on, scaling the jungle-clad steep
that blocked their way by hoisting themselves and one another up from
root to root. The old Maya, still leading, was oblivious to Leoncia’s
presence.

Suddenly, half a mile farther on, he halted and shrank back as if stung
by a viper. Francis laughed, and across the wild landscape came back a
discordant, mocking echo. The last priest of the Mayas ran the knots
hurriedly, picked out a particular string, ran its knots twice, and then
announced:

“_When the God laughs, beware!—so say the knots._”

Fifteen minutes were lost ere Henry and Francis succeeded in only partly
convincing him, by repeated trials of their voices, that the thing was
an echo.

Half an hour later, they debouched on a series of abrupt-rolling
sand-dunes. Again the old man shrank back. From the sand in which they
strode, arose a clamor of noise. When they stood still, all was still. A
single step, and all the sand about them became vocal.

“_When the God laughs, beware!_” the old Maya warned.

Drawing a circle in the sand with his finger, which shouted at him as he
drew it, he sank down within it on his knees, and as his knees contacted
on the sand arose a very screaming and trumpeting of sound. The peon
joined his father inside the noisy circle, where, with his forefinger,
the old man was tracing screeching cabalistic figures and designs.

Leoncia was overcome, and clung both to Henry and Francis. Even Francis
was perturbed.

“The echo was an echo,” he said. “But here is no echo. I don’t
understand it. Frankly, it gets my goat.”

“Piffle!” Henry retorted, stirring the sand with his foot till it
shouted again. “It’s the barking sand. On the island of Kauai, down in
the Hawaiian Islands, I have been across similar barking sands——quite a
place for tourists, I assure you. Only this is a better specimen, and
much noisier. The scientists have a score of high-brow theories to
account for the phenomenon. It occurs in several other places in the
world, as I have heard. There’s only one thing to do, and that is to
follow the compass bearing which leads straight across. Such sands do
bark, but they have never been known to bite.”

But the last of the priests could not be persuaded out of his circle,
although they succeeded in disturbing him from his prayers long enough
to spout a flood of impassioned Maya speech.

“He says,” the son interpreted, “that we are bent on such sacrilege that
the very sands cry out against us. He will go no nearer to the dread
abode of Chia. Nor will I. His father died there, as is well known
amongst the Mayas. He says he will not die there. He says he is not old
enough to die.”

“The miserable octogenarian!” Francis laughed, and was startled by the
ghostly, mocking laugh of the echo, while all about them the sand-dunes
bayed in chorus. “Too youthful to die! How about you, Leoncia? Are you
too young to die yet a while?”

“Say,” she smiled back, moving her foot slightly so as to bring a moan
of reproach from the sand beneath it. “On the contrary, I am too old to
die just because the cliffs echo our laughter back at us and because the
sandhills bark at us. Come, let us go on. We are very close to those
flashings. Let the old man wait within his circle until we come back.”

She cast off their hands and stepped forward, and as they followed, all
the dunes became inarticulate, while one, near to them, down the sides
of which ran a slide of sand, rumbled and thundered. Fortunately for
them, as they were soon to learn, Francis, at abandoning the mules, had
equipped himself with a coil of thin, strong rope.

Once across the sands they encountered more echoes. On trials, they
found their halloes distinctly repeated as often as six or eight times.

“Hell’s bells,” said Henry. “No wonder the natives fight shy of such a
locality!”

“Wasn’t it Mark Twain who wrote about a man whose hobby was making a
collection of echoes?” Francis queried.

“Never heard of him. But this is certainly some fine collection of Maya
echoes. They chose the region wisely for a hiding place. Undoubtedly it
was always sacred, even before the Spaniards came. The old priests knew
the natural causes of the mysteries, and passed them over to the herd as
mystery with a capital ‘M’ and supernatural in origin.”

Not many minutes afterward they emerged on an open, level space, close
under a crannied and ledge-ribbed cliff, and exchanged their single-file
mode of progression to three-abreast. The ground was a hard, brittle
crust of surface, so crystalline and dry as never to suggest that it was
aught else but crystalline and dry all the way down. In an ebullition of
spirits, desiring to keep both men on an equality of favor, Leoncia
seized their hands and started them into a run. At the end of half a
dozen strides the disaster happened. Simultaneously Henry and Francis
broke through the crust, sinking to their thighs, and Leoncia was only a
second behind them in breaking through and sinking almost as deep.

“Hell’s bells!” Henry muttered. “It’s the very devil’s own landscape.”

And his low-spoken words were whispered back to him from the nearby
cliffs on all sides and endlessly and sibilantly repeated.

Not at first did they fully apprehend their danger. It was when, by
their struggles, they found themselves waist-deep and steadily sinking,
that the two men grasped the gravity of the situation. Leoncia still
laughed at the predicament, for it seemed no more than that to her.

“Quicksand,” Francis gasped.

“Quicksand!” all the landscape gasped back at him, and continued to gasp
it in fading ghostly whispers, repeating it and gossiping about it with
gleeful unction.

“It’s a pot-hole filled with quicksand,” Henry corroborated.

“Maybe the old boy was right in sticking back there on the barking
sands,” observed Francis.

The ghostly whispering redoubled upon itself and was a long time in
dying away.

By this time they were midway between waist and arm-pits and sinking as
methodically as ever.

“Well, somebody’s got to get out of the scrape alive,” Henry remarked.

And, even without discussing the choice, both men began to hoist Leoncia
up, although the effort and her weight thrust them more quickly down.
When she stood, free and clear, a foot on the nearest shoulder of each
of the two men she loved, Francis said, though the landscape mocked him:

“Now, Leoncia, we’re going to toss you out of this. At the word ‘Go!’
let yourself go. And you must strike full length and softly on the
crust. You’ll slide a little. But don’t let yourself stop. Keep on
going. Crawl out to the solid land on your hands and knees. And,
whatever you do, don’t stand up until you reach the solid land.—Ready,
Henry?”

Between them, though it hastened their sinking, they swung her back and
forth, free in the air, and, the third swing, at Francis’ “Go!” heaved
her shoreward.

Her obedience to their instructions was implicit, and, on hands and
knees, she gained the solid rocks of the shore.

“Now for the rope!” she called to them.

But by this time Francis was too deep to be able to remove the coil from
around his neck and under one arm. Henry did it for him, and, though the
exertion sank him to an equal deepness, managed to fling one end of the
rope to Leoncia.

At first she pulled on it. Next, she fastened a turn around a boulder
the size of a motor car, and let Henry pull. But it was in vain. The
strain or purchase was so lateral that it seemed only to pull him
deeper. The quicksand was sucking and rising over his shoulders when
Leoncia cried out, precipitating a very Bedlam of echoes:

“Wait! Stop pulling! I have an idea! Give me all the slack! Just save
enough of the end to tie under your shoulders!”

The next moment, dragging the rope after her by the other end, she was
scaling the cliff. Forty feet up, where a gnarled and dwarfed tree
rooted in the crevices, she paused. Passing the rope across the
tree-trunk, as over a hook, she drew in the slack and made fast to a
boulder of several hundredweight.

“Good for the girl!” Francis applauded to Henry.

Both men had grasped her plan, and success depended merely on her
ability to dislodge the boulder and topple it off the ledge. Five
precious minutes were lost, until she could find a dead branch of
sufficient strength to serve as a crowbar. Attacking the boulder from
behind and working with tense coolness while her two lovers continued to
sink, she managed at the last to topple it over the brink.

As it fell, the rope tautened with a jerk that fetched an involuntary
grunt from Henry’s suddenly constricted chest. Slowly, he arose out of
the quicksand, his progress being accompanied by loud sucking reports as
the sand reluctantly released him. But, when he cleared the surface, the
boulder so outweighed him that he shot shoreward across the crust until
directly under the purchase above, when the boulder came to rest on the
ground beside him.

Only Francis’ head, arms, and tops of shoulders were visible above the
quicksand when the end of the rope was flung to him. And, when he stood
beside them on terra firma, and when he shook his fist at the quicksand
he had escaped by so narrow a shave, they joined with him in deriding
it. And a myriad ghosts derided them back, and all the air about them
was woven by whispering shuttles into an evil texture of mockery.



                              CHAPTER XIV


“We can’t be a million miles away from it,” Henry said, as the trio came
to pause at the foot of a high steep cliff. “If it’s any farther on,
then the course lies right straight over the cliff, and, since we can’t
climb it and from the extent of it it must be miles around, the source
of those flashes ought to be right here.”

“Now could it have been a man with looking-glasses?” Leoncia ventured.

“Most likely some natural phenomenon,” Francis answered. “I’m strong on
natural phenomena since those barking sands.”

Leoncia, who chanced to be glancing along the face of the cliff farther
on, suddenly stiffened with attention and cried, “Look!”

Their eyes followed hers, and rested on the same point. What they saw
was no flash, but a steady persistence of white light that blazed and
burned like the sun. Following the base of the cliff at a scramble, both
men remarked, from the density of vegetation, that there had been no
travel of humans that way in many years. Breathless from their
exertions, they broke out through the brush upon an open-space where a
not-ancient slide of rock from the cliff precluded the growth of
vegetable life.

Leoncia clapped her hands. There was no need for her to point. Thirty
feet above, on the face of the cliff, were two huge eyes. Fully a fathom
across was each of the eyes, their surfaces brazen with some white
reflecting substance.

“The eyes of Chia!” she cried.

Henry scratched his head with sudden recollection.

“I’ve a shrewd suspicion I can tell you what they’re composed of,” he
said. “I’ve never seen it before, but I’ve heard old-timers mention it.
It’s an old Maya trick. My share of the treasure, Francis, against a
perforated dime, that I can tell you what the reflecting stuff is.”

“Done!” cried Francis. “A man’s a fool not to take odds like that, even
if it’s a question of the multiplication table. Possibly millions of
dollars against a positive bad dime! I’d bet two times two made five on
the chance that a miracle could prove it. Name it? What is it? The bet
is on.”

“Oysters,” Henry smiled. “Oyster shells, or, rather, pearl-oyster
shells. It’s mother-of-pearl, cunningly mosaicked and cemented in so as
to give a continuous reflecting surface. Now you have to prove me wrong,
so climb up and see.”

Beneath the eyes, extending a score of feet up and down the cliff, was a
curious, triangular out-jut of rock. Almost was it like an excrescence
on the face of the cliff. The apex of it reached within a yard of the
space that intervened between the eyes. Rough inequalities of surface,
and cat-like clinging on Francis’ part, enabled him to ascend the ten
feet to the base of the excrescence. Thence, up to the ridge of it, the
way was easier. But a twenty-five-foot fall and a broken arm or leg in
the midst of such isolation was no pleasant thing to consider, and
Leoncia, causing an involuntary jealous gleam to light Henry’s eyes,
called up:

“Oh, do be careful, Francis!”

Standing on the tip of the triangle he was gazing, now into one, and
then into the other, of the eyes. He drew his hunting knife and began to
dig and pry at the right-hand eye.

“If the old gentleman were here he’d have a fit at such sacrilege,”
Henry commented.

“The perforated dime is yours,” Francis called down, at the same time
dropping into Henry’s outstretched palm the fragment he had dug loose.

Mother-of-pearl it was, a flat piece cut with definite purpose to fit in
with the many other pieces to form the eye.

“Where there’s smoke there’s fire,” Henry adjudged. “Not for nothing did
the Mayas select this God-forsaken spot and stick these eyes of Chia on
the cliff.”

“Looks as if we’d made a mistake in leaving the old gentleman and his
sacred knots behind,” Francis said.

“The knots should tell all about it and what our next move should be.”

“Where there are eyes there should be a nose,” Leoncia contributed.

“And there is!” exclaimed Francis. “Heavens! That was the nose I just
climbed up. We’re too close up against it to have perspective. At a
hundred yards’ distance it would look like a colossal face.”

Leoncia advanced gravely and kicked at a decaying deposit of leaves and
twigs evidently blown there by tropic gales.

“Then the mouth ought to be where a mouth belongs, here under the nose,”
she said.

In a trice Henry and Francis had kicked the rubbish aside and exposed an
opening too small to admit a man’s body. It was patent that the
rock-slide had partly blocked the way. A few rocks heaved aside gave
space for Francis to insert his head and shoulders and gaze about with a
lighted match.

“Watch out for snakes,” warned Leoncia.

Francis grunted acknowledgment and reported:

“This is no natural cavern. It’s all hewn rock, and well done, if I’m
any judge.” A muttered expletive announced the burning of his fingers by
the expiring match-stub. And next they heard his voice, in accents of
surprise: “Don’t need any matches. It’s got a lighting system of its
own——from somewhere above——regular concealed lighting, though it’s
daylight all right. Those old Mayas were certainly some goers. Wouldn’t
be surprised if we found an elevator, hot and cold water, a furnace, and
a Swede janitor.—Well, so long.”

His trunk, and legs, and feet disappeared, and then his voice issued
forth:

“Come on in. The cave is fine.”

“And now aren’t you glad you let me come along?” Leoncia twitted, as she
joined the two men on the level floor of the rock-hewn chamber, where,
their eyes quickly accustoming to the mysterious gray-percolation of
daylight, they could see about them with surprising distinctness.
“First, I found the eyes for you, and, next, the mouth. If I hadn’t been
along, most likely, by this time, you’d have been half a mile away,
going around the cliff and going farther and farther every step you
took.

“But the place is bare as old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard,” she added, the
next moment.

“Naturally,” said Henry. “This is only the antechamber. Not so sillily
would the Mayas hide the treasure the conquistadores were so mad after.
I’m willing to wager right now that we’re almost as far from finding the
actual treasure as we would be if we were not here but in San Antonio.”

Twelve or fifteen feet in width and of an unascertainable height, the
passage led them what Henry judged forty paces, or well over a hundred
feet. Then it abruptly narrowed, turned at a right angle to the right,
and, with a similar right angle to the left, made an elbow into another
spacious chamber.

Still the mysterious percolation of daylight guided the way for their
eyes, and Francis, in the lead, stopped so suddenly that Leoncia and
Henry, in a single file behind, collided with him. Leoncia in the
center, and Henry on her left, they stood abreast and gazed down a long
avenue of humans, long dead, but not dust.

“Like the Egyptians, the Mayas knew embalming and mummifying,” Henry
said, his voice unconsciously sinking to a whisper in the presence of so
many unburied dead, who stood erect and at gaze, as if still alive.

All were European-clad, and all exposed the impassive faces of
Europeans. About them, as to the life, were draped the ages-rotten
habiliments of the conquistadores and of the English pirates. Two of
them, with visors raised, were encased in rusty armor. Their swords and
cutlasses were belted to them or held in their shriveled hands, and
through their belts were thrust huge flintlock pistols of archaic model.

“The old Maya was right,” Francis whispered. “They’ve decorated the
hiding place with their mortal remains and been stuck up in the lobby as
a warning to trespassers.—Say! If that chap isn’t a real Iberian! I’ll
bet he played haia-lai, and his fathers before him.”

“And that’s a Devonshire man if ever I saw one,” Henry whispered back.
“Perforated dimes to pieces-of-eight that he poached the fallow deer and
fled the king’s wrath in the first forecastle for the Spanish Main.”

“Br-r-r!” Leoncia shivered, clinging to both men. “The sacred things of
the Mayas are deadly and ghastly. And there is a classic vengeance about
it. The would-be robbers of the treasure-house have become its
defenders, guarding it with their unperishing clay.”

They were loath to proceed. The garmented spectres of the ancient dead
held them temporarily spell-bound. Henry grew melodramatic.

“Even to this far, mad place,” he said, “as early as the beginning of
the Conquest, their true-hound noses led them on the treasure-scent.
Even though they could not get away with it, they won unerringly to
it.—My hat is off to you, pirates and conquistadores! I salute you, old
gallant plunderers, whose noses smelt out gold, and whose hearts were
brave sufficient to fight for it!”

“Huh!” Francis concurred, as he urged the other two to traverse the
avenue of the ancient adventurers. “Old Sir Henry himself ought to be
here at the head of the procession.”

Thirty paces they took, ere the passage elbowed as before, and, at the
very end of the double-row of mummies, Henry brought his companions to a
halt as he pointed and said:

“I don’t know about Sir Henry, but there’s Alvarez Torres.”

Under a Spanish helmet, in decapitated medieval Spanish dress, a big
Spanish sword in its brown and withered hand, stood a mummy whose lean
brown face for all the world was the lean brown face of Alvarez Torres.
Leoncia gasped, shrank back, and crossed herself at the sight.

Francis released her to Henry, advanced, and fingered the cheeks and
lips and forehead of the thing, and laughed reassuringly:

“I only wish Alvarez Torres were as dead as this dead one is. I haven’t
the slightest doubt, however, but what Torres descended from him——I mean
before he came here to take up his final earthly residence as a member
of the Maya Treasure Guard.”

Leoncia passed the grim figure shudderingly. This time, the elbow
passage was very dark, compelling Henry, who had changed into the lead,
to light numerous matches.

“Hello!” he said, as he paused at the end of a couple of hundred feet.
“Gaze on that for workmanship! Look at the dressing of that stone!”

From beyond, gray light streamed into the passage, making matches
unnecessary to see. Half into a niche was thrust a stone the size of the
passage. It was apparent that it had been used to block the passage. The
dressing was exquisite, the sides and edges of the block precisely
aligned with the place in the wall into which it was made to dovetail.

“I’ll wager here’s where the old Maya’s father died,” Francis exclaimed.
“He knew the secret of the balances and leverages that pivoted the
stone, and it was only partly pivoted, as you’ll observe——”

“Hell’s bells!” Henry interrupted, pointing before him on the floor at a
scattered skeleton. “It must be what’s left of him. It’s fairly recent,
or he would have been mummified. Most likely he was the last visitor
before us.”

“The old priest said his father led men of the tierra caliente here,”
Leoncia reminded Henry.

“Also,” Francis supplemented, “he said that none returned.”

Henry, who had located the skull and picked it up, uttered another
exclamation and lighted a match to show the others what he had
discovered: Not only was the skull dented with what must have been a
blow from a sword or a machete, but a shattered hole in the back of the
skull showed the unmistakable entrance of a bullet. Henry shook the
skull, was rewarded by an interior rattling, shook again, and shook out
a partly flattened bullet. Francis examined it.

“From a horse-pistol,” he concluded aloud. “With weak or greatly
deteriorated powder, because, in a place like this, it must have been
fired pretty close to point blank range and yet failed to go all the way
through. And it’s an aboriginal skull all right.”

A right-angled turn completed the elbow and gave them access to a small
but well-lighted rock chamber. From a window, high up and barred with
vertical bars of stone a foot thick and half as wide, poured gray
daylight. The floor of the place was littered with white-picked bones of
men. An examination of the skulls showed them to be those of Europeans.
Scattered among them were rifles, pistols, and knives, with, here and
there, a machete.

“Thus far they won, across the very threshold to the treasure,” Francis
said, “and, from the looks, began to fight for its possession before
they laid hands on it. Too bad the old man isn’t here to see what
happened to his father.”

“Might there not have been survivors who managed to get away with the
loot?” suggested Henry.

But at that moment, casting, his eyes from the bones to a survey of the
chamber, Francis saw what made him say:

“Without doubt, no. See those gems in those eyes. Rubies, or I never saw
a ruby!”

They followed his gaze to the stone statue of a squat and heavy female
who stared at them red-eyed and open-mouthed. So large was the mouth
that it made a caricature of the rest of the face. Beside it, carved
similarly of stone, and on somewhat more heroic lines, was a more
obscene and hideous male statue, with one ear of proportioned size and
the other ear as grotesquely large as the female’s mouth.

“The beauteous dame must be Chia all right,” Henry grinned. “But who’s
her gentleman friend with the elephant ear and the green eyes?”

“Search me,” Francis laughed. “But this I do know: those green eyes of
the elephant-eared one are the largest emeralds I’ve ever seen or
dreamed of. Each of them is really too large to possess fair carat
value. They should be crown jewels or nothing.”

“But a couple of emeralds and a couple of rubies, no matter what size,
should not constitute the totality of the Maya treasure,” Henry
contended. “We’re across the threshold of it, and yet we lack the key——”

“Which the old Maya, back on the barking sands, undoubtedly holds in
that sacred tassel of his,” Leoncia said. “Except for these two statues
and the bones on the floor, the place is bare.”

As she spoke, she advanced to look the male statue over more closely.
The grotesque ear centered her attention, and she pointed into it as she
added: “I don’t know about the key, but there is the key-hole.”

True enough, the elephantine ear, instead of enfolding an orifice as an
ear of such size should, was completely blocked up save for a small
aperture that not too remotely resembled a key-hole. They wandered
vainly about the chamber, tapping the walls and floor, seeking for
cunningly-hidden passageways or unguessable clues to the hiding place of
the treasure.

“Bones of tierra caliente men, two idols, two emeralds of enormous size,
two rubies ditto, and ourselves, are all the place contains,” Francis
summed up. “Only a couple of things remain for us to do: go back and
bring up Ricardo and the mules to make camp outside; and bring up the
old gentleman and his sacred knots if we have to carry him.”

“You wait with Leoncia, and I’ll go back and bring them up,” Henry
volunteered, when they had threaded the long passages and the avenues of
the erect dead and won to the sunshine and the sky outside the face of
the cliff.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Back on the barking sands the peon and his father knelt in the circle so
noisily drawn by the old man’s forefinger. A local rain squall beat upon
them, and, though the peon shivered, the old man prayed on oblivious to
what might happen to his skin in the way of wind and water. It was
because the peon shivered and was uncomfortable that he observed two
things which his father missed. First, he saw Alvarez Torres and José
Mancheno cautiously venture out from the jungle upon the sand. Next, he
saw a miracle. The miracle was that the pair of them trudged steadily
across the sand without causing the slightest sound to arise from their
progress. When they had disappeared ahead, he touched his finger
tentatively to the sand, and aroused no ghostly whisperings. He thrust
his finger into the sand, yet all was silent, as was it silent when he
buffeted the sand heartily with the flat of his palm. The passing shower
had rendered the sand dumb.

He shook his father out of his prayers, announcing:

“The sand no longer is noisy. It is as silent as the grave. And I have
seen the enemy of the rich Gringo pass across the sand without sound. He
is not devoid of sin, this Alvarez Torres, yet did the sand make no
sound. The sand has died. The voice of the sand is not. Where the sinful
may walk, you and I, old father, may walk.”

Inside the circle, the old Maya, with trembling forefinger in the sand,
traced further cabalistic characters; and the sand did not shout back at
him. Outside the circle it was the same——because the sand had become
wet, and because it was the way of the sand to be vocal only when it was
bone-dry under the sun. He fingered the knots of the sacred writing
tassel.

“It says,” he reported, “that when the sand no longer talks it is safe
to proceed. So far I have obeyed all instruction. In order to obey
further instruction, let us now proceed.”

So well did they proceed, that, shortly beyond the barking sands, they
overtook Torres and Mancheno, which worthy pair slunk off into the brush
on one side, watched the priest and his son go by, and took up their
trail well in the rear. While Henry, taking a short cut, missed both
couples of men.



                               CHAPTER XV


“Even so, it was a mistake and a weakness on my part to remain in
Panama,” Francis was saying to Leoncia, as they sat side by side on the
rocks outside the cave entrance, waiting Henry’s return.

“Does the stock market of New York then mean so much to you?” Leoncia
coquettishly teased; yet only part of it was coquetry, the major portion
of it being temporization. She was afraid of being alone with this man
whom she loved so astoundingly and terribly.

Francis was impatient.

“I am ever a straight talker, Leoncia. I say what I mean, in the
directest, shortest way——”

“Wherein you differ from us Spaniards,” she interpolated, “who must
garnish and dress the simplest thoughts with all decorations of speech.”

But he continued undeterred what he had started to say.

“There you are a baffler, Leoncia, which was just what I was going to
call you. I speak straight talk and true talk, which is a man’s way. You
baffle in speech, and flutter like a butterfly——which, I grant, is a
woman’s way and to be expected. Nevertheless, it is not fair ... to me.
I tell you straight out the heart of me, and you understand. You do not
tell me your heart. You flutter and baffle, and I do not understand.
Therefore, you have me at a disadvantage. You know I love you. I have
told you plainly. I? What do I know about you?”

With downcast eyes and rising color in her cheeks, she sat silent,
unable to reply.

“You see!” he insisted. “You do not answer. You look warmer and more
beautiful and desirable than ever, more enticing, in short; and yet you
baffle me and tell me nothing of your heart or intention. Is it because
you are woman? Or because you are Spanish?”

She felt herself stirred profoundly. Beyond herself, yet in cool control
of herself, she raised her eyes and looked steadily in his as steadily
she said:

“I can be Anglo-Saxon, or English, or American, or whatever you choose
to name the ability to look things squarely in the face and to talk
squarely into the face of things.” She paused and debated coolly with
herself, and coolly resumed. “You complain that while you have told me
that you love me, I have not told you whether or not I love you. I shall
settle that forever and now. I do love you——”

She thrust his eager arms away from her.

“Wait!” she commanded. “Who is the woman now? Or the Spaniard? I had not
finished. I love you. I am proud that I love you. Yet there is more. You
have asked me for my heart and intention. I have told you part of the
one. I now tell you all of the other: I _intend_ to marry Henry.”

Such Anglo-Saxon directness left Francis breathless.

“In heaven’s name, why?” was all he could utter.

“Because I love Henry,” she answered, her eyes still unshrinkingly on
his.

“And you ... you say you love _me_?” he quavered.

“And I love you, too. I love both of you. I am a good woman, at least I
always used to think so. I still think so, though my reason tells me
that I cannot love two men at the same time and be a good woman. I don’t
care about that. If I am bad, it is I, and I cannot help myself for
being what I was born to be.”

She paused and waited, but her lover was still speechless.

“And who’s the Anglo-Saxon now?” she queried, with a slight smile, half
of bravery, half of amusement at the dumbness of consternation her words
had produced in him. “I have told you, without baffling, without
fluttering, my full heart and my full intention.”

“But you can’t!” he protested wildly. “You can’t love me and marry
Henry.”

“Perhaps you have not understood,” she chided gravely. “I intend to
marry Henry. I love you. I love Henry. But I cannot marry both of you.
The law will not permit. Therefore I shall marry only one of you. It is
my intention that that one be Henry.”

“Then why, why,” he demanded, “did you persuade me into remaining?”

“Because I loved you. I have already so told you.”

“If you keep this up I shall go mad!” he cried.

“I have felt like going mad over it myself many times,” she assured him.
“If you think it is easy for me thus to play the Anglo-Saxon, you are
mistaken. But no Anglo-Saxon, not even you whom I love so dearly, can
hold me in contempt because I hide the shameful secrets of the impulses
of my being. Less shameful I find it, for me to tell them, right out in
meeting, to you. If this be Anglo-Saxon, make the most of it. If it be
Spanish, and woman, and Solano, still make the most of it, for I am
Spanish, and woman——a Spanish woman of the Solanos——”

“But I don’t talk with my hands,” she added with a wan smile in the
silence that fell.

Just as he was about to speak, she hushed him, and both listened to a
crackling and rustling from the underbrush that advertised the passage
of humans.

“Listen,” she whispered hurriedly, laying her hand suddenly on his arm,
as if pleading. “I shall be finally Anglo-Saxon, and for the last time,
when I tell you what I am going to tell you. Afterward, and for always,
I shall be the baffling, fluttering, female Spaniard you have chosen for
my description. Listen: I love Henry, it is true, very true. I love you
more, much more. I shall marry Henry ... because I love him and am
pledged to him. Yet always shall I love you more.”

Before he could protest, the old Maya priest and his peon son emerged
from the underbrush close upon them. Scarcely noticing their presence,
the priest went down on his knees, exclaiming, in Spanish:

“For the first time have my eyes beheld the eyes of Chia.”

He ran the knots of the sacred tassel and began a prayer in Maya, which,
could they have understood, ran as follows:

“O immortal Chia, great spouse of the divine Hzatzl who created all
things out of nothingness! O immortal spouse of Hzatzl, thyself the
mother of the corn, the divinity of the heart of the husked grain,
goddess of the rain and the fructifying sun-rays, nourisher of all the
grains and roots and fruits for the sustenance of man! O glorious Chia,
whose mouth ever commands the ear of Hzatzl, to thee humbly, thy priest,
I make my prayer. Be kind to me, and forgiving. From thy mouth let issue
forth the golden key that opens the ear of Hzatzl. Let thy faithful
priest gain to Hzatzl’s treasure——Not for himself, O Divinity, but for
the sake of his son whom the Gringo saved. Thy children, the Mayas,
pass. There is no need for them of the treasure. I am thy last priest.
With me passes all understanding of thee and of thy great spouse, whose
name I breathe only with my forehead on the stones. Hear me, O Chia,
hear me! My head is on the stones before thee!”

For all of five minutes the old Maya lay prone, quivering and jerking as
if in a catalepsy, while Leoncia and Francis looked curiously on,
themselves half-swept by the unmistakable solemnity of the old man’s
prayer, non-understandable though it was.

Without waiting for Henry, Francis entered the cave a second time. With
Leoncia beside him, he felt quite like a guide as he showed the old
priest over the place. The latter, ever reading the knots and mumbling,
followed behind, while the peon was left on guard outside. In the avenue
of mummies the priest halted reverently——not so much for the mummies as
for the sacred tassel.

“It is so written,” he announced, holding out a particular string of
knots. “These men were evil, and robbers. Their doom here is to wait
forever outside the inner room of Maya mystery.”

Francis hurried him past the heap of bones of his father before him, and
led him into the inner chamber, where first of all, he prostrated
himself before the two idols and prayed long and earnestly. After that,
he studied certain of the strings very carefully. Then he made an
announcement, first in Maya, which Francis gave him to know was
unintelligible, and next in broken Spanish:

“_From the mouth of Chia to the ear of Hzatzl_——so is it written.”

Francis listened to the cryptic utterance, glanced into the dark cavity
of the goddess’ mouth, stuck the blade of his hunting-knife into the
key-hole of the god’s monstrous ear, then tapped the stone with the hilt
of his knife and declared the statue to be hollow. Back to Chia, he was
tapping her to demonstrate her hollowness, when the old Maya muttered:

“_The feet of Chia rest upon nothingness._”

Francis caught by the idea, made the old man verify the message by the
knots.

“Her feet _are_ large,” Leoncia laughed, “but they rest on the solid
rock-floor and not on nothingness.”

Francis pushed against the female deity with his hand and found that she
moved easily. Gripping her with both hands, he began to wrestle, moving
her with quick jerks and twists.

“_For the strong men and unafraid will Chia walk_,” the priest read.
“But the next three knots declare: _Beware! Beware! Beware!_”

“Well, I guess, that nothingness, whatever it is, won’t bite me,”
Francis chuckled, as he released the statue after shifting it a yard
from its original position.

“There, old lady, stand there for a while, or sit down if that will rest
your feet. They ought to be tired after standing on nothing for so many
centuries.”

A cry from Leoncia drew his gaze to the portion of the floor just
vacated by the large feet of Chia. Stepping backward from the displaced
goddess, he had been just about to fall into the rock-hewn hole her feet
had concealed. It was circular, and a full yard in diameter. In vain he
tested the depth by dropping lighted matches. They fell burning, and,
without reaching bottom, still falling, were extinguished by the draught
of their flight.

“It looks very much like nothingness without a bottom,” he adjudged, as
he dropped a tiny stone fragment.

Many seconds they listened ere they heard it strike.

“Even that may not be the bottom,” Leoncia suggested. “It may have been
struck against some projection from the side and even lodged there.”

“Well, this will determine it,” Francis cried, seizing an ancient musket
from among the bones on the floor and preparing to drop it.

But the old man stopped him.

“The message of the sacred knots is: _whoso violates the nothingness
beneath the feet of Chia shall quickly and terribly die_.”

“Far be it from me to make a stir in the void,” Francis grinned, tossing
the musket aside. “But what are we to do now, old Maya man? From the
mouth of Chia to the ear of Hzatzl sounds easy——but how?—and what? Run
the sacred knots with thy fingers, old top, and find for us _how_ and
_what_.”

For the son of the priest, the peon with the frayed knees, the clock had
struck. All unaware, he had seen his last sun-rise. No matter what
happened this day, no matter what blind efforts he might make to escape,
the day was to be his last day. Had he remained on guard at the
cave-entrance, he would surely have been killed by Torres and Mancheno,
who had arrived close on his heels.

But, instead of so remaining, it entered his cautious, timid soul to
make a scout out and beyond for possible foes. Thus, he missed death in
the daylight under the sky. Yet the pace of the hands of the clock was
unalterable, and neither nearer nor farther was his destined end from
him.

While he scouted, Alvarez Torres and José Mancheno arrived at the
cave-opening. The colossal, mother-of-pearl eyes of Chia on the wall of
the cliff were too much for the superstition-reared Caroo.

“Do you go in,” he told Torres. “I will wait here and watch and guard.”

And Torres, with strong in him the blood of the ancient forebear who
stood faithfully through the centuries in the avenue of the mummy dead,
entered the Maya cave as courageously as that forebear had entered.

And the instant he was out of sight, José Mancheno, unafraid to murder
treacherously any living, breathing man, but greatly afraid of the
unseen world behind unexplainable phenomena, forgot the trust of watch
and ward and stole away through the jungle. Thus, the peon, returning
reassured from his scout and curious to learn the Maya secrets of his
father and of the sacred tassel, found nobody at the cave mouth and
himself entered into it close upon the heels of Torres.

The latter trod softly and cautiously, for fear of disclosing his
presence to those he trailed. Also his progress was still further
delayed by the spectacle of the ancient dead in the hall of mummies.
Curiously he examined these men whom history had told about, and for
whom history had stopped there in the antechamber of the Maya gods.
Especially curious was he at the sight of the mummy at the end of the
line. The resemblance to him was too striking for him not to see, and he
could not but believe that he was looking upon some direct
great-ancestor of his.

Still gazing and speculating, he was warned by approaching foot-steps,
and glanced about for some place to hide. A sardonic humor seized him.
Taking the helmet from the head of his ancient kin, he placed it on his
own head. Likewise did he drape the rotten mantle about his form, and
equip himself with the great sword and the great floppy boots that
almost fell to pieces as he pulled them on. Next, half tenderly, he
deposited the nude mummy on its back in the dark shadows behind the
other mummies. And, finally, in the same spot at the end of the line,
his hand resting on the sword-hilt, he assumed the same posture he had
observed of the mummy.

Only his eyes moved as he observed the peon venturing slowly and
fearfully along the avenue of upright corpses. At sight of Torres he
came to an abrupt stop and with wide eyes of dread muttered a succession
of Maya prayers. Torres, so confronted, could only listen with closed
eyes and conjecture. When he heard the peon move on he stole a look and
saw him pause with apprehension at the narrow elbow-turn of the passage
which he must venture next. Torres saw his chance and swung the sword
aloft for the blow that would split the peon’s head in twain.

Though this was the day and the very hour for the peon, the last second
had not yet ticked. Not there, in the thoroughfare of the dead, was he
destined to die under the hand of Torres. For Torres held his hand and
slowly lowered the point of the sword to the floor, while the peon
passed on into the elbow.

The latter met up with his father, Leoncia, and Francis, just as Francis
was demanding the priest to run the knots again for fuller information
of the how and what that would open the ear of Hzatzl.

“Put your hand into the mouth of Chia and draw forth the key,” the old
man commanded his reluctant son, who went about obeying him most
gingerly.

“She won’t bite you——she’s stone,” Francis laughed at him in Spanish.

“The Maya gods are never stone,” the old man reproved him. “They seem to
be stone, but they are alive, and ever alive, and under the stone, and
through the stone, and by the stone, as always, work their everlasting
will.”

Leoncia shuddered away from him and clung against Francis, her hand on
his arm, as if for protection.

“I know that something terrible is going to happen,” she gasped. “I
don’t like this place in the heart of a mountain among all these dead
old things. I like the blue of the sky and the balm of the sunshine, and
the widespreading sea. Something terrible is going to happen. I know
that something terrible is going to happen.”

While Francis reassured her, the last seconds of the last minute for the
peon were ticking off. And when, summoning all his courage, he thrust
his hand into the mouth of the goddess, the last second ticked and the
clock struck. With a scream of terror he pulled back his hand and gazed
at the wrist where a tiny drop of blood exuded directly above an artery.
The mottled head of a snake thrust forth like a mocking, derisive tongue
and drew back and disappeared in the darkness of the mouth of the
goddess.

“A viperine!” screamed Leoncia, recognising the reptile.

And the peon, likewise recognising the viperine and knowing his certain
death by it, recoiled backward in horror, stepped into the hole, and
vanished down the nothingness which Chia had guarded with her feet for
so many centuries.

For a full minute nobody spoke, then the old priest said: “I have
angered Chia, and she has slain my son.”

“Nonsense,” Francis was comforting Leoncia. “The whole thing is natural
and explainable. What more natural than that a viperine should choose a
hole in a rock for a lair? It is the way of snakes. What more natural
than that a man, bitten by a viperine, should step backward? And what
more natural, with a hole behind him, than that he should fall into
it——”

“That is then just natural!” she cried, pointing to a stream of crystal
water which boiled up over the lips of the hole and fountained up in the
air like a geyser. “He is right. Through stone itself the gods work
their everlasting will. He warned us. He knew from reading the knots of
the sacred tassel.”

“Piffle!” Francis snorted. “Not the will of the gods, but of the ancient
Maya priests who invented their gods as well as this particular device.
Somewhere down that hole the peon’s body struck the lever that opened
stone flood-gates. And thus was released some subterranean body of water
in the mountain. This is that water. No goddess with a monstrous mouth
like that could ever have existed save in the monstrous imaginations of
men. Beauty and divinity are one. A real and true goddess is always
beautiful. Only man creates devils in all their ugliness.”

So large was the stream that already the water was about their ankles.

“It’s all right,” Francis said. “I noticed, all the way from the
entrance, the steady inclined plane of the floors of the rooms and
passages. Those old Mayas were engineers, and they built with an eye on
drainage. See how the water rushes away out through the passage.—Well,
old man, read your knots, where is the treasure?”

“Where is my son?” the old man counter-demanded in dull and hopeless
tones. “Chia has slain my only born. For his mother I broke the Maya law
and stained the pure Maya blood with the mongrel blood of a woman of the
tierra caliente. Because I sinned for him that he might be, is he thrice
precious to me. What care I for treasure? My son is gone. The wrath of
the Maya gods is upon me.”

With gurglings and burblings and explosive air-bubblings that advertised
the pressure behind, the water fountained high as ever into the air.
Leoncia was the first to notice the rising depth of the water on the
chamber floor.

“It is half way to my knees,” she drew Francis’ attention.

“And time to get out,” he agreed, grasping the situation. “The drainage
was excellently planned, perhaps. But that slide of rocks at the cliff
entrance has evidently blocked the planned way of the water. In the
other passages, being lower, the water is deeper, of course, than here.
Yet is it already rising here on the general level. And that way lies
the only way out. Come!”

Thrusting Leoncia to lead in the place of safety, he caught the
apathetic priest by the hand and dragged him after. At the entrance of
the elbow turn the water was boiling above their knees. It was to their
waists as they emerged into the chamber of mummies.

And out of the water, confronting Leoncia’s astounded gaze, arose the
helmeted head and ancient-mantled body of a mummy. Not this alone would
have astounded her, for other mummies were over-toppling, falling and
being washed about in the swirling waters. But this mummy moved and made
gasping noises for breath, and with eyes of life stared into her eyes.

It was too much for ordinary human nature to bear——a four-centuries old
corpse dying the second death by drowning. Leoncia screamed, sprang
forward, and fled the way she had come, while Francis, in his own way
equally startled, let her go past as he drew his automatic pistol. But
the mummy, finding footing in the swift rush of the current, cried out:

“Don’t shoot! It is I—Torres! I have just come back from the entrance.
Something has happened. The way is blocked. The water is over one’s head
and higher than the entrance, and rocks are falling.”

“And your way is blocked in this direction,” Francis said, aiming the
revolver at him.

“This is no time for quarreling,” Torres replied. “We must save all our
lives, and, afterwards, if quarrel we must, then quarrel we will.”

Francis hesitated.

“What is happening to Leoncia?” Torres demanded slyly. “I saw her run
back. May she not be in danger by herself?”

Letting Torres live and dragging the old man by the arm, Francis waded
back to the chamber of the idols, followed by Torres. Here, at sight of
him, Leoncia screamed her horror again.

“It’s only Torres,” Francis reassured her. “He gave me a devil of a
fright myself when I first saw him. But he’s real flesh. He’ll bleed if
a knife is stuck into him.—Come, old man! We don’t want to drown here
like rats in a trap. This is not all of the Maya mysteries. Read the
tale of the knots and get us out of this!”

“The way is not _out_ but _in_,” the priest quavered.

“And we’re not particular so long as we get away. But how can we get
in?”

“From the mouth of Chia to the ear of Hzatzl,” was the answer.

Francis was struck by a sudden grotesque and terrible thought.

“Torres,” he said, “there is a key or something inside that stone lady’s
mouth there. You’re the nearest. Stick your hand in and get it.”

Leoncia gasped with horror as she divined Francis’ vengeance. Of this
Torres took no notice, and gaily waded toward the goddess, saying: “Only
too glad to be of service.”

And then Francis’ sense of fair play betrayed him.

“Stop!” he commanded harshly, himself wading to the idol’s side.

And Torres, at first looking on in puzzlement, saw what he had escaped.
Several times Francis fired his pistol into the stone mouth, while the
old priest moaned “Sacrilege!” Next, wrapping his coat around his arm
and hand, he groped into the mouth and pulled out the wounded viper by
the tail. With quick swings in the air he beat its head to a jelly
against the goddess’ side.

Wrapping his hand and arm against the possibility of a second snake,
Francis thrust his hand into the mouth and drew forth a piece of worked
gold of the shape and size of the hole in Hzatzl’s ear. The old man
pointed to the ear, and Francis inserted the key.

“Like a nickle-in-the-slot machine,” he remarked, as the key disappeared
from sight. “Now what’s going to happen? Let’s watch for the water to
drain suddenly away.”

But the great stream continued to spout unabated out of the hole. With
an exclamation, Torres pointed to the wall, an apparently solid portion
of which was slowly rising.

“The way out,” said Torres.

“_In_, as the old man said,” Francis corrected. “Well, anyway, let’s
start.”

All were through and well along the narrow passage beyond, when the old
Maya, crying, “My son!” turned and ran back.

The section of wall was already descending into its original place, and
the priest had to crouch low in order to pass it. A moment later, it
stopped in its old position. So accurately was it contrived and fitted
that it immediately shut off the stream of water which had been flowing
out of the idol room.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Outside, save for a small river of water that flowed out of the base of
the cliff, there were no signs of what was vexing the interior of the
mountain. Henry and Ricardo, arriving, noted the stream, and Henry
observed:

“That’s something new. There wasn’t any stream of water here when I
left.”

A minute later he was saying, as he looked at a fresh slide of rock:
“This was the entrance to the cave. Now there is no entrance. I wonder
where the others are.”

As if in answer, out of the mountain, borne by the spouting stream, shot
the body of a man. Henry and Ricardo pounced upon it and dragged it
clear. Recognizing it for the priest, Henry laid him face downward,
squatted astride of him, and proceeded to give him the first aid for the
drowned.

Not for ten minutes did the old man betray signs of life, and not until
after another ten minutes did he open his eyes and look wildly about.

“Where are they?” Henry asked.

The old priest muttered in Maya, until Henry shook more thorough
consciousness into him.

“Gone——all gone,” he gasped in Spanish.

“Who?” Henry demanded, shook memory into the resuscitated one, and
demanded again.

“My son; Chia slew him. Chia slew my son, as she slew them all.”

“Who are the rest?”

Followed more shakings and repetitions of the question.

“The rich young Gringo who befriended my son, the enemy of the rich
young Gringo whom men call Torres, and the young woman of the Solanos
who was the cause of all that happened. I warned you. She should not
have come. Women are always a curse in the affairs of men. By her
presence, Chia, who is likewise a woman, was made angry. The tongue of
Chia is a viperine. By her tongue Chia struck and slew my son, and the
mountain vomited the ocean upon us there in the heart of the mountain,
and all are dead, slain by Chia. Woe is me! I have angered the gods. Woe
is me! Woe is me! And woe upon all who would seek the sacred treasure to
filch it from the gods of Maya!”



                              CHAPTER XVI


Midway between the out-bursting stream of water and the rock-slide,
Henry and Ricardo stood in hurried debate. Beside them, crouched on the
ground, moaned and prayed the last priest of the Mayas. From him, by
numerous shakings that served to clear his addled old head, Henry had
managed to extract a rather vague account of what had occurred inside
the mountain.

“Only his son was bitten and fell into that hole,” Henry reasoned
hopefully.

“That’s right,” Ricardo concurred. “He never saw any damage, beyond a
wetting, happen to the rest of them.”

“And they may be, right now, high up above the floor in some chamber,”
Henry went on. “Now, if we could attack the slide, we might open up the
cave and drain the water off. If they’re alive they can last for many
days, for lack of water is what kills quickly, and they’ve certainly
more water than they know what to do with. They can get along without
food for a long time. But what gets me is how Torres got inside with
them.”

“Wonder if he wasn’t responsible for that attack of the Caroos upon us,”
Ricardo suggested.

But Henry scouted the idea.

“Anyway,” he said, “that isn’t the present proposition——which
proposition is: how to get inside that mountain on the chance that they
are still alive. You and I couldn’t go through that slide in a month. If
we could get fifty men to help, night and day shifts, we might open her
up in forty-eight hours. So, the primary thing is to get the men. Here’s
what we must do. I’ll take a mule and beat it back to that Caroo
community and promise them the contents of one of Francis’ check-books
if they will come and help. Failing that, I can get up a crowd in San
Antonio. So here’s where I pull out on the run. In the meantime, you can
work out trails and bring up all the mules, peons, grub and camp
equipment. Also, keep your ears to the cliff——they might start
signalling through it with tappings.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

Into the village of the Caroos Henry forced his mule——much to the
reluctance of the mule, and equally as much to the astonishment of the
Caroos, who thus saw their stronghold invaded single-handed by one of
the party they had attempted to annihilate. They squatted about their
doors and loafed in the sunshine, under a show of lethargy hiding the
astonishment that tingled through them and almost put them on their
toes. As has been ever the way, the very daring of the white man, over
savage and mongrel breeds, in this instance stunned the Caroos to
inaction. Only a man, they could not help but reason in their slow way,
a superior man, a noble or over-riding man, equipped with potencies
beyond their dreaming, could dare to ride into their strength of numbers
on a fagged and mutinous mule.

They spoke a mongrel Spanish which he could understand, and, in turn,
they understood his Spanish; but what he told them concerning the
disaster in the sacred mountain had no effect of rousing them. With
impassive faces, shrugging shoulders of utmost indifference, they
listened to his proposition of a rescue and promise of high pay for
their time.

“If a mountain has swallowed up the Gringos, then is it the will of God,
and who are we to interfere between God and His will?” they replied. “We
are poor men, but we care not to work for any man, nor do we care to
make war upon God. Also, it was the Gringos’ fault. This is not their
country. They have no right here playing pranks on our mountains. Their
troubles are between them and God. We have troubles enough of our own,
and our wives are unruly.”

Long after the siesta hour, on his third and most reluctant mule, Henry
rode into sleepy San Antonio. In the main street, midway between the
court and the jail, he pulled up at sight of the Jefe Politico and the
little fat old judge, with, at their heels, a dozen gendarmes and a
couple of wretched prisoners——runaway peons from the henequen
plantations at Santos. While the judge and the Jefe listened to Henry’s
tale and appeal for help, the Jefe gave one slow wink to the judge, who
was his judge, his creature, body and soul of him.

“Yes, certainly we will help you,” the Jefe said at the end, stretching
his arms and yawning.

“How soon can we get the men together and start?” Henry demanded
eagerly.

“As for that, we are very busy——are we not, honorable judge?” the Jefe
replied with lazy insolence.

“We are very busy,” the judge yawned into Henry’s face.

“Too busy for a time,” the Jefe went on. “We regret that not to-morrow
nor next day shall we be able to try and rescue your Gringos. Now, a
little later——”

“Say next Christmas,” the judge suggested.

“Yes,” concurred the Jefe with a grateful bow. “About next Christmas
come around and see us, and, if the pressure of our affairs has somewhat
eased, then, maybe possibly, we shall find it convenient to go about
beginning to attempt to raise the expedition you have requested. In the
meantime, good day to you, Senor Morgan.”

“You mean that?” Henry demanded with wrathful face.

“The very face he must have worn when he slew Senor Alfaro Solano
treacherously from the back,” the Jefe soliloquized ominously.

But Henry ignored the later insult.

“I’ll tell you what you are,” he flamed in righteous wrath.

“Beware!” the judge cautioned him.

“I snap my fingers at you,” Henry retorted. “You have no power over me.
I am a full-pardoned man by the President of Panama himself. And this is
what you are. You are half-breeds. You are mongrel pigs.”

“Pray proceed, Senor,” said the Jefe, with the suave politeness of
deathly rage.

“You’ve neither the virtues of the Spaniard nor of the Carib, but the
vices of both thrice compounded. Mongrel pigs, that’s what you are and
all you are, the pair of you.”

“Are you through Senor?—quite through?” the Jefe queried softly.

At the same moment he gave a signal to the gendarmes, who sprang upon
Henry from behind and disarmed him.

“Even the President of the Republic of Panama cannot pardon in
anticipation of a crime not yet committed——am I right, judge?” said the
Jefe.

“This is a fresh offense,” the judge took the cue promptly. “This Gringo
dog has blasphemed against the law.”

“Then shall he be tried, and tried now, right here, immediately. We will
not bother to go back and reopen court. We shall try him, and when we
have disposed of him, we shall proceed. I have a very good bottle of
wine——”

“I care not for wine,” the judge disclaimed hastily. “Mine shall be
mescal. And in the meantime, and now, having been both witness and
victim of the offense and there being no need of evidence further than
what I already possess, I find the prisoner guilty. Is there anything
you would suggest, Senor Mariano Vercara é Hijos?”

“Twenty-four hours in the stocks to cool his heated Gringo head,” the
Jefe answered.

“Such is the sentence,” the judge affirmed, “to begin at once. Take the
prisoner away, gendarmes, and put him in the stocks.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

Daybreak found Henry in the stocks, with a dozen hours of such
imprisonment already behind him, lying on his back asleep. But the sleep
was restless, being vexed subjectively by nightmare dreams of his
mountain-imprisoned companions, and, objectively, by the stings of
countless mosquitoes. So it was, twisting and squirming and striking at
the winged pests, he awoke to full consciousness of his predicament. And
this awoke the full expression of his profanity. Irritated beyond
endurance by the poison from a thousand mosquito-bites, he filled the
dawn so largely with his curses as to attract the attention of a man
carrying a bag of tools. This was a trim-figured, eagle-faced young man,
clad in the military garb of an aviator of the United States Army. He
deflected his course so as to come by the stocks, and paused, and
listened, and stared with quizzical admiration.

“Friend,” he said, when Henry ceased to catch breath. “Last night, when
I found myself marooned here with half my outfit left on board, I did a
bit of swearing myself. But it was only a trifle compared with yours. I
salute you, sir. You’ve an army teamster skinned a mile. Now if you
don’t mind running over the string again, I shall be better equipped the
next time I want to do any cussing.”

“And who in hell are you?” Henry demanded. “And what in hell are you
doing here?”

“I don’t blame you,” the aviator grinned. “With a face swollen like that
you’ve got a right to be rude. And who beat you up? In hell, I haven’t
ascertained my status yet. But here on earth I am known as Parsons,
Lieutenant Parsons. I am not doing anything in hell as yet; but here in
Panama I am scheduled to fly across this day from the Atlantic to the
Pacific. Is there any way I may serve you before I start?”

“Sure,” Henry nodded. “Take a tool out of that bag of yours and smash
this padlock. I’ll get rheumatism if I have to stick here much longer.
My name’s Morgan, and no man has beaten me up. Those are
mosquito-bites.”

With several blows of a wrench, Lieutenant Parsons smashed the ancient
padlock and helped Henry to his feet. Even while rubbing the circulation
back into his feet and ankles, Henry, in a rush, was telling the army
aviator of the predicament and possibly tragic disaster to Leoncia and
Francis.

“I love that Francis,” he concluded. “He is the dead spit of myself.
We’re more like twins, and we must be distantly related. As for the
senorita, not only do I love her but I am engaged to marry her. Now will
you help? Where’s the machine? It takes a long time to get to the Maya
Mountain on foot or mule-back; but if you give me a lift in your machine
I’d be there in no time, along with a hundred sticks of dynamite, which
you could procure for me and with which I could blow the side out of
that mountain and drain off the water.”

Lieutenant Parsons hesitated.

“Say yes, say yes,” Henry pleaded.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Back in the heart of the sacred mountain, the three imprisoned ones
found themselves in total darkness the instant the stone that blocked
the exit from the idol chamber had settled into place. Francis and
Leoncia groped for each other and touched hands. In another moment his
arm was around her, and the deliciousness of the contact robbed the
situation of half its terror. Near them they could hear Torres breathing
heavily. At last he muttered:

“Mother of God, but that was a close shave! What next, I wonder?”

“There’ll be many nexts before we get out of this neck of the woods,”
Francis assured him. “And we might as well start getting out.”

The method of procedure was quickly arranged. Placing Leoncia behind
him, her hand clutching the hem of his jacket so as to be guided by him,
he moved ahead with his left hand in contact with the wall. Abreast of
him, Torres felt his way along the right-hand wall. By their voices they
could thus keep track of each other, measure the width of the passage,
and guard against being separated into forked passages. Fortunately, the
tunnel, for tunnel it truly was, had a smooth floor, so that, while they
groped their way, they did not stumble. Francis refused to use his
matches unless extremity arose, and took precaution against falling into
a possible pit by cautiously advancing one foot at a time and
ascertaining solid stone under it ere putting on his weight. As a
result, their progress was slow. At no greater speed than half a mile an
hour did they proceed.

Once only did they encounter branching passages. Here he lighted a
precious match from his waterproof case, and found that between the two
passages there was nothing to choose. They were as like as two peas.

“The only way is to try one,” he concluded, “and, if it gets us nowhere,
to retrace and try the other. There’s one thing certain: these passages
lead somewhere, or the Mayas wouldn’t have gone to all the trouble of
making them.”

Ten minutes later he halted suddenly and cried warning. The foot he had
advanced was suspended in emptiness where the floor should have been.
Another match was struck, and they found themselves on the edge of a
natural cavern of such proportions that neither to right nor left, nor
up nor down, nor across, could the tiny flame expose any limits to it.
But they did manage to make out a rough sort of stairway, half-natural,
half-improved by man, which fell away beneath them into the pit of
black.

In another hour, having followed the path down the length of the floor
of the cavern, they were rewarded by a feeble glimmer of daylight, which
grew stronger as they advanced. Before they knew it, they had come to
the source of it——being much nearer than they had judged; and Francis,
tearing away vines and shrubbery, crawled out into the blaze of the
afternoon sun. In a moment Leoncia and Torres were beside him, gazing
down into a valley from an eyrie on a cliff. Nearly circular was the
valley, a full league in diameter, and it appeared to be mountain-walled
and cliff-walled for its entire circumference.

“It is the Valley of Lost Souls,” Torres utterly solemnly. “I have heard
of it, but never did I believe.”

“So have I heard of it and never believed,” Leoncia gasped.

“And what of it?” demanded Francis. “We’re not lost souls, but good
flesh-and-blood persons. We should worry.”

“But Francis, listen,” Leoncia said. “The tales I have heard of it, ever
since I was a little girl, all agreed that no person who ever got into
it ever got out again.”

“Granting that that is so,” Francis could not help smiling, “then how
did the tales come out? If nobody ever came out again to tell about it,
how does it happen that everybody outside knows about it?”

“I don’t know,” Leoncia admitted. “I only tell you what I have heard.
Besides, I never believed. But this answers all the descriptions of the
tales.”

“Nobody ever got out,” Torres affirmed with the same solemn utterance.

“Then how do you know that anybody got in?” Francis persisted.

“All the lost souls live here,” was the reply. “That is why we’ve never
seen them, because they never got out. I tell you, Mr. Francis Morgan,
that I am no creature without reason. I have been educated. I have
studied in Europe, and I have done business in your own New York. I know
science and philosophy; and yet do I know that this is the valley, once
in, from which no one emerges.”

“Well, we’re not in yet, are we?” retorted Francis with a slight
manifestation of impatience. “And we don’t have to go in, do we?” He
crawled forward to the verge of the shelf of loose soil and crumbling
stone in order to get a better view of the distant object his eye had
just picked out. “If that isn’t a grass-thatched roof——”

At that moment the soil broke away under his hands. In a flash, the
whole soft slope on which they rested broke away, and all three were
sliding and rolling down the steep slope in the midst of a miniature
avalanche of soil, gravel, and grass-tufts.

The two men picked themselves up first, in the thicket of bushes which
had arrested them; but, before they could get to Leoncia, she, too, was
up and laughing.

“Just as you were saying we didn’t have to go into the valley!” she
gurgled at Francis. “Now will you believe?”

But Francis was busy. Reaching out his hand, he caught and stopped a
familiar object bounding down the steep slope after them. It was Torres’
helmet purloined from the chamber of mummies, and to Torres he tossed
it.

“Throw it away,” Leoncia said.

“It’s the only protection against the sun I possess,” was his reply, as,
turning it over in his hands, his eyes lighted upon an inscription on
the inside. He showed it to his companions, reading it aloud:

“DA VASCO.”

“I have heard,” Leoncia breathed.

“And you heard right,” Torres nodded. “Da Vasco was my direct ancestor.
My mother was a Da Vasco. He came over the Spanish Main with Cortez.”

“He mutinied,” Leoncia took up the tale. “I remember it well from my
father and from my Uncle Alfaro. With a dozen comrades he sought the
Maya treasure. They led a sea-tribe of Caribs, a hundred strong
including their women, as auxiliaries. Mendoza, under Cortez’s
instructions, pursued; and his report, in the archives, so Uncle Alfaro
told me, says that they were driven into the Valley of the Lost Souls
where they were left to perish miserably.”

“And he evidently tried to get out by the way we’ve just come in,”
Torres continued, “and the Mayas caught him and made a mummy of him.”

He jammed the ancient helmet down on his head, saying:

“Low as the sun is in the afternoon sky, it bites my crown like acid.”

“And famine bites at me like acid,” Francis confessed. “Is the valley
inhabited?”

“I should know, Senor,” Torres replied. “There is the narrative of
Mendoza, in which he reported that Da Vasco and his party were left
there ‘to perish miserably.’ This I do know: they were never seen again
of men.”

“Looks as though plenty of food could be grown in a place like this——”
Francis began, but broke off at sight of Leoncia picking berries from a
bush. “Here! Stop that, Leoncia! We’ve got enough troubles without
having a very charming but very much poisoned young woman on our hands.”

“They’re all right,” she said, calmly eating. “You can see where the
birds have been pecking and eating them.”

“In which case I apologize and join you,” Francis cried, filling his
mouth with the luscious fruit. “And if I could catch the birds that did
the pecking, I’d eat them too.”

By the time they had eased the sharpest of their hunger-pangs, the sun
was so low that Torres removed the helmet of Da Vasco.

“We might as well stop here for the night,” he said. “I left my shoes in
the cave with the mummies, and lost Da Vasco’s old boots during the
swimming. My feet are cut to ribbons, and there’s plenty of seasoned
grass here out of which I can plait a pair of sandals.”

While occupied with this task, Francis built a fire and gathered a
supply of wood, for, despite the low latitude, the high altitude made
fire a necessity for a night’s lodging. Ere he had completed the supply,
Leoncia, curled up on her side, her head in the hollow of her arm, was
sound asleep. Against the side of her away from the fire, Francis
thoughtfully packed a mound of dry leaves and dry forest mould.



                              CHAPTER XVII


Daybreak in the Valley of the Lost Souls, and the Long House in the
village of the Tribe of the Lost Souls. Fully eighty feet in length was
the Long House, with half as much in width, built of adobe bricks, and
rising thirty feet to a gable roof thatched with straw. Out of the house
feebly walked the Priest of the Sun——an old man, tottery on his legs,
sandal-footed, clad in a long robe of rude home-spun cloth, in whose
withered Indian face were haunting reminiscences of the racial
lineaments of the ancient conquistadores. On his head was a curious cap
of gold, arched over by a semi-circle of polished golden spikes. The
effect was obvious, namely, the rising sun and the rays of the rising
sun.

He tottered across the open space to where a great hollow log swung
suspended between two posts carved with totemic and heraldic devices. He
glanced at the eastern horizon, already red with the dawning, to
reassure himself that he was on time, lifted a stick, the end of which
was fiber-woven into a ball, and struck the hollow log. Feeble as he
was, and light as was the blow, the hollow log boomed and reverberated
like distant thunder.

Almost immediately, while he continued slowly to beat, from the
grass-thatched dwellings that formed the square about the Long House,
emerged the Lost Souls. Men and women, old and young, and children and
babes in arms, they all came out and converged upon the Sun Priest. No
more archaic spectacle could be witnessed in the twentieth-century
world. Indians, indubitably they were, yet in many of their faces were
the racial reminiscences of the Spaniard. Some faces, to all appearance,
were all Spanish. Others, by the same token, were all Indian. But
betwixt and between, the majority of them betrayed the inbred blend of
both races. But more bizarre was their costume——unremarkable in the
women, who were garbed in long, discreet robes of home-spun cloth, but
most remarkable in the men, whose home-spun was grotesquely fashioned
after the style of Spanish dress that obtained in Spain at the time of
Columbus’ first voyage. Homely and sad-looking were the men and women—as
of a breed too closely interbred to retain joy of life. This was true of
the youths and maidens, of the children, and of the very babes against
breasts——true, with the exception of two, one, a child-girl of ten, in
whose face was fire, and spirit, and intelligence. Amongst the sodden
faces of the sodden and stupid Lost Souls, her face stood out like a
flaming flower. Only like hers was the face of the old Sun Priest,
cunning, crafty, intelligent.

While the priest continued to beat the resounding log, the entire tribe
formed about him in a semi-circle, facing the east. As the sun showed
the edge of its upper rim, the priest greeted it and hailed it with a
quaint and medieval Spanish, himself making low obeisance thrice
repeated, while the tribe prostrated itself. And, when the full sun
shone clear of the horizon, all the tribe, under the direction of the
priest, arose and uttered a joyful chant. Just as he had dismissed his
people, a thin pillar of smoke, rising in the quiet air across the
valley, caught the priest’s eye. He pointed it out, and commanded
several of the young men.

“It rises in the Forbidden Place of Fear where no member of the tribe
may wander. It is some devil of a pursuer sent out by our enemies who
have vainly sought our hiding-place through the centuries. He must not
escape to make report, for our enemies are powerful, and we shall be
destroyed. Go. Kill him that we may not be killed.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

About the fire, which had been replenished at intervals throughout the
night, Leoncia, Francis, and Torres lay asleep, the latter with his
new-made sandals on his feet and with the helmet of Da Vasco pulled
tightly down on his head to keep off the dew. Leoncia was the first to
awaken, and so curious was the scene that confronted her, that she
watched quietly through her down-dropped lashes. Three of the strange
Lost Tribe men, bows still stretched and arrows drawn in what was
evident to her as the interrupted act of slaying her and her companions,
were staring with amazement at the face of the unconscious Torres. They
looked at each other in doubt, let their bows straighten, and shook
their heads in patent advertisement that they were not going to kill.
Closer they crept upon Torres, squatting on their hams the better to
scrutinize his face and the helmet, which latter seemed to arouse their
keenest interest.

From where she lay, Leoncia was able privily to nudge Francis’ shoulder
with her foot. He awoke quietly, and quietly sat up, attracting the
attention of the strangers. Immediately they made the universal peace
sign, laying down their bows and extending their palms outward in token
of being weaponless.

“Good morning, merry strangers,” Francis addressed them in English,
which made them shake their heads while it aroused Torres.

“They must be Lost Souls,” Leoncia whispered to Francis.

“Or real estate agents,” he smiled back. “At least the valley is
inhabited.—Torres, who’re your friends? From the way they regard you,
one would think they were relatives of yours.”

Quite ignoring them, the three Lost Souls drew apart a slight distance
and debated in low sibilant tones.

“Sounds like a queer sort of Spanish,” Francis observed.

“It’s medieval, to say the least,” Leoncia confirmed.

“It’s the Spanish of the conquistadores pretty badly gone to seed,”
Torres contributed. “You see I was right. The Lost Souls never get
away.”

“At any rate they must give and be given in marriage,” Francis quipped,
“else how explain these three young huskies?”

But by this time the three huskies, having reached agreement, were
beckoning them with encouraging gestures to follow across the valley.

“They’re good-natured and friendly cusses, to say the least, despite
their sorrowful mug,” said Francis, as they prepared to follow. “But did
you ever see a sadder-faced aggregation in your life? They must have
been born in the dark of the moon, or had all their sweet gazelles die,
or something or other worse.”

“It’s just the kind of faces one would expect of lost souls,” Leoncia
answered.

“And if we never get out of here, I suppose we’ll get to looking a whole
lot sadder than they do,” he came back. “Anyway, I hope they’re leading
us to breakfast. Those berries were better than nothing, but that is not
saying much.”

An hour or more afterward, still obediently following their guides, they
emerged upon the clearings, the dwelling places, and the Long House of
the tribe.

“These are descendants of Da Vasco’s party and the Caribs,” Torres
affirmed, as he glanced over the assembled faces. “That is
incontrovertible on the face of it.”

“And they’ve relapsed from the Christian religion of Da Vasco to old
heathen worship,” added Francis. “Look at that altar——there. It’s a
stone altar, and, from the smell of it, that is no breakfast, but a
sacrifice that is cooking, in spite of the fact that it smells like
mutton.”

“Thank heaven it’s only a lamb,” Leoncia breathed. “The old Sun Worship
included human sacrifice. And this is Sun Worship. See that old man
there in the long shroud with the golden-rayed cap of gold. He’s a sun
priest. Uncle Alfaro has told me all about the sun-worshipers.”

Behind and above the altar, was a great metal image of the sun.

“Gold, all gold,” Francis whispered, “and without alloy. Look at those
spikes, the size of them, yet so pure is the metal that I wager a child
could bend them any way it wished and even tie knots in them.”

“Merciful God!—look at that!” Leoncia gasped, indicating with her eyes a
crude stone bust that stood to one side of the altar and slightly lower.
“It is the face of Torres. It is the face of the mummy in the Maya
cave.”

“And there is an inscription——” Francis stepped closer to see and was
peremptorily waved back by the priest. “It says, ‘Da Vasco.’ Notice that
it has the same sort of helmet that Torres is wearing.—And, say! Glance
at the priest! If he doesn’t look like Torres’ full brother, I’ve never
fancied a resemblance in my life!”

The priest, with angry face and imperative gesture, motioned Francis to
silence, and made obeisance to the cooking sacrifice. As if in response,
a flaw of wind put out the flame of the cooking.

“The Sun God is angry,” the priest announced with great solemnity, his
queer Spanish nevertheless being intelligible to the newcomers.
“Strangers have come among us and remain unslain. That is why the Sun
God is angry. Speak, you young men who have brought the strangers alive
to our altar. Was not my bidding, which is ever and always the bidding
of the Sun God, that you should slay them?”

One of the three young men stepped tremblingly forth, and with trembling
forefingers pointed at the face of Torres and at the face of the stone
bust.

“We recognised him,” he quavered, “and we could not slay him for we
remembered prophecy and that our great ancestor would some day return.
Is this stranger he? We do not know. We dare not know nor judge. Yours,
O priest, is the knowledge, and yours be the judgment. Is this he?”

The priest looked closely at Torres and exclaimed incoherently. Turning
his back abruptly, he rekindled the sacred cooking fire from a pot of
fire at the base of an altar. But the fire flamed up, flickered down,
and died.

“The Sun God is angry,” the priest reiterated; whereat the Lost Souls
beat their breasts and moaned and lamented. “The sacrifice is
unacceptable, for the fire will not burn. Strange things are afoot. This
is a matter of the deeper mysteries which I alone may know. We shall not
sacrifice the strangers ... now. I must take time to inform myself of
the Sun God’s will.”

With his hands he waved the tribespeople away, ceasing the ceremonial
half-completed, and directed that the three captives be taken into the
Long House.

“I can’t follow the play,” Francis whispered in Leoncia’s ear, “but just
the same I hope here’s where we eat.”

“Look at that pretty little girl,” said Leoncia, indicating with her
eyes the child with the face of fire and spirit.

“Torres has already spotted her,” Francis whispered back. “I caught him
winking at her. He doesn’t know the play, nor which way the cat will
jump, but he isn’t missing a chance to make friends. We’ll have to keep
an eye on him, for he’s a treacherous hound and capable of throwing us
over any time if it would serve to save his skin.”

Inside the Long House, seated on rough-plaited mats of grass, they found
themselves quickly served with food. Clear drinking water and a thick
stew of meat and vegetables were served in generous quantity in queer,
unglazed pottery jars. Also, they were given hot cakes of ground Indian
corn that were not altogether unlike tortillas.

After the women who served had departed, the little girl, who had led
them and commanded them, remained. Torres resumed his overtures, but
she, graciously ignoring him, devoted herself to Leoncia who seemed to
fascinate her.

“She’s a sort of hostess, I take it,” Francis explained. “You know—like
the maids of the village in Samoa, who entertain all travellers and all
visitors of no matter how high rank, and who come pretty close to
presiding at all functions and ceremonials. They are selected by the
high chiefs for their beauty, their virtue, and their intelligence. And
this one reminds me very much of them, except that she’s so awfully
young.”

Closer she came to Leoncia, and, fascinated though she patently was by
the beautiful strange woman, in her bearing of approach there was no
hint of servility nor sense of inferiority.

“Tell me,” she said, in the quaint archaic Spanish of the valley, “is
that man really Capitan Da Vasco returned from his home in the sun in
the sky?”

Torres smirked and bowed, and proclaimed proudly: “I am a Da Vasco.”

“Not _a_ Da Vasco, but Da Vasco himself,” Leoncia coached him in
English.

“It’s a good bet—play it!” Francis commanded, likewise in English. “It
may pull us all out of a hole. I’m not particularly stuck on that
priest, and he seems the high-cockalorum over these Lost Souls.”

“I have at last come back from the sun,” Torres told the little maid,
taking his cue.

She favored him with a long and unwavering look, in which they could see
her think, and judge, and appraise. Then, with expressionless face, she
bowed to him respectfully, and, with scarcely a glance at Francis,
turned to Leoncia and favored her with a friendly smile that was an
illumination.

“I did not know that God made women so beautiful as you,” the little
maid said softly, ere she turned to go out. At the door she paused to
add, “The Lady Who Dreams is beautiful, but she is strangely different
from you.”

But hardly had she gone, when the Sun Priest, followed by a number of
young men, entered, apparently for the purpose of removing the dishes
and the uneaten food. Even as some of them were in the act of bending
over to pick up the dishes, at a signal from the priest they sprang upon
the three guests, bound their hands and arms securely behind them, and
led them out to the Sun God’s altar before the assembled tribe. Here,
where they observed a crucible on a tripod over a fierce fire, they were
tied to fresh-sunken posts, while many eager hands heaped fuel about
them to their knees.

“Now buck up—be as haughty as a real Spaniard!” Francis at the same time
instructed and insulted Torres. “You’re Da Vasco himself. Hundreds of
years before, you were here on earth in this very valley with the
ancestors of these mongrels.”

“You must die,” the Sun Priest was now addressing them, while the Lost
Souls nodded unanimously. “For four hundred years, as we count our
sojourn in this valley, have we slain all strangers. You were not slain,
and behold the instant anger of the Sun God: _our altar fire went out_.”
The Lost Souls moaned and howled and pounded their chests. “Therefore,
to appease the Sun God, you shall now die.”

“Beware!” Torres proclaimed, prompted in whispers, sometimes by Francis,
sometimes by Leoncia. “I am Da Vasco. I have just come from the sun.” He
nodded with his head, because of his tied hands, at the stone bust. “I
am that Da Vasco. I led your ancestors here four hundred years ago, and
I left you here, commanding you to remain until my return.”

The Sun Priest hesitated.

“Well, priest, speak up and answer the divine Da Vasco,” Francis spoke
harshly.

“How do I know that he is divine?” the priest countered quickly. “Do I
not look much like him myself? Am I therefore divine? Am I Da Vasco? Is
he Da Vasco? Or may not Da Vasco be yet in the sun?—for truly I know
that I am man born of woman three-score and eighteen years ago and that
I am not Da Vasco.”

“You have not spoken to Da Vasco!” Francis threatened, as he bowed in
vast humility to Torres and hissed at him in English: “Be haughty, damn
you, be haughty.”

The priest wavered for the moment, and then addressed Torres.

“I am the faithful priest of the sun. Not lightly can I relinquish my
trust. If you are the divine Da Vasco, then answer me one question.”

Torres nodded with magnificent haughtiness.

“Do you love gold?”

“Love gold!” Torres jeered. “I am a great captain in the sun, and the
sun is made of gold. Gold? It is like to me this dirt beneath my feet
and the rock of which your mighty mountains are composed.”

“Bravo,” Leoncia whispered approval.

“Then, O divine Da Vasco,” the Sun Priest said humbly, although he could
not quite muffle the ring of triumph in his voice, “are you fit to pass
the ancient and usual test. When you have drunk the drink of gold, and
can still say that you are Da Vasco, then will I, and all of us, bow
down and worship you. We have had occasional intruders in this valley.
Always did they come athirst for gold. But when we had satisfied their
thirst, inevitably they thirsted no more, for they were dead.”

As he spoke, while the Lost Souls looked on eagerly, and while the three
strangers looked on with no less keenness of apprehension, the priest
thrust his hand into the open mouth of a large leather bag and began
dropping handfuls of gold nuggets into the heated crucible of the
tripod. So near were they, that they could see the gold melt into fluid
and rise up in the crucible like the drink it was intended to be.

The little maid, daring on her extraordinary position in the Lost Souls
Tribe, came up to the Sun Priest and spoke that all might hear.

“That is Da Vasco, the Capitan Da Vasco, the divine Capitan Da Vasco,
who led our ancestors here the long long time ago.”

The priest tried to silence her with a frown. But the maid repeated her
statement, pointing eloquently from the bust to Torres and back again;
and the priest felt his grip on the situation slipping, while inwardly
he cursed the sinful love of the mother of the little girl which had
made her his daughter.

“Hush!” he commanded sternly. “These are things of which you know
nothing. If he be the Capitan Da Vasco, being divine he will drink the
gold and be unharmed.”

Into a rude pottery pitcher, which had been heated in the pot of fire at
the base of the altar, he poured the molten gold. At a signal, several
of the young men laid aside their spears, and, with the evident
intention of prying her teeth apart, advanced on Leoncia.

“Hold, priest!” Francis shouted stentoriously. “She is not divine as Da
Vasco is divine. Try the golden drink on Da Vasco.”

Whereat Torres bestowed upon Francis a look of malignant anger.

“Stand on your haughty pride,” Francis instructed him. “Decline the
drink. Show them the inside of your helmet.”

“I will not drink!” Torres cried, half in a panic as the priest turned
to him.

“You shall drink. If you are Da Vasco, the divine capitan from the sun,
we will then know it and we will fall down and worship you.”

Torres looked appeal at Francis, which the priest’s narrow eyes did not
fail to catch.

“Looks as though you’ll have to drink it,” Francis said dryly. “Anyway,
do it for the lady’s sake and die like a hero.”

With a sudden violent strain at the cords that bound him, Torres jerked
one hand free, pulled off his helmet, and held it so that the priest
could gaze inside.

“Behold what is graven therein,” Torres commanded.

Such was the priest’s startlement at sight of the inscription, DA VASCO,
that the pitcher fell from his hand. The molten gold, spilling forth,
set the dry debris on the ground afire, while one of the spearmen,
spattered on the foot, danced away with wild yells of pain. But the Sun
Priest quickly recovered himself. Seizing the fire pot, he was about to
set fire to the faggots heaped about his three victims, when the little
maid intervened.

“The Sun God would not let the great captain drink the drink,” she said.
“The Sun God spilled it from your hand.”

And when all the Lost Souls began to murmur that there was more in the
matter than appeared to their priest, the latter was compelled to hold
his hand. Nevertheless was he resolved on the destruction of the three
intruders. So, craftily, he addressed his people.

“We shall wait for a sign.—Bring oil. We will give the Sun God time for
a sign.——Bring a candle.”

Pouring the jar of oil over the faggots to make them more inflammable,
he set the lighted stub of a candle in the midst of the saturated fuel,
and said:

“The life of the candle will be the duration of the time for the sign.
Is it well, O People?”

And all the Lost Souls murmured, “It is well.”

Torres looked appeal to Francis, who replied:

“The old brute certainly pinched on the length of the candle. It won’t
last five minutes at best, and, maybe, inside three minutes we’ll be
going up in smoke.”

“What can we do?” Torres demanded frantically, while Leoncia looked
bravely, with a sad brave smile of love, into Francis’ eyes.

“Pray for rain,” Francis answered. “And the sky is as clear as a bell.
After that, die game. Don’t squeal too loud.”

And his eyes returned to Leoncia’s and expressed what he had never dared
express to her before——his full heart of love. Apart, by virtue of the
posts to which they were tied and which separated them, they had never
been so close together, and the bond that drew them and united them was
their eyes.

First of all, the little maid, gazing into the sky for the sign, saw it.
Torres, who had eyes only for the candle stub, nearly burned to its
base, heard the maid’s cry and looked up. And at the same time he heard,
as all of them heard, the droning flight as of some monstrous insect in
the sky.

“An aeroplane,” Francis muttered. “Torres, claim it for the sign.”

But no need to claim was necessary. Above them not more than a hundred
feet, it swooped and circled, the first aeroplane the Lost Souls had
ever seen, while from it, like a benediction from heaven, descended the
familiar:

                  “Back to back against the mainmast,
                    Held at bay the entire crew.”

Completing the circle and rising to an elevation of nearly a thousand
feet, they saw an object detach itself directly overhead, fall like a
plummet for three hundred feet, then expand into a spread parachute,
with beneath it like a spider suspended on a web, the form of a man,
which last, as it neared the ground, again began to sing:

                  “Back to back against the mainmast,
                    Held at bay the entire crew.”

And then event crowded on event with supremest rapidity. The stub of the
candle fell apart, the flaming wick fell into the tiny lake of molten
fat, the lake flamed, and the oil-saturated faggots about it flamed. And
Henry, landing in the thick of the Lost Souls, blanketing a goodly
portion of them under his parachute, in a couple of leaps was beside his
friends and kicking the blazing faggots right and left. Only for a
second did he desist. This was when the Sun Priest interfered. A right
hook to the jaw put that aged confidant of God down on his back, and,
while he slowly recuperated and crawled to his feet, Henry slashed clear
the lashings that bound Leoncia, Francis, and Torres. His arms were out
to embrace Leoncia, when she thrust him away with:

“Quick! There is no time for explanation. Down on your knees to Torres
and pretend you are his slave——and don’t talk Spanish; talk English.”

Henry could not comprehend, and, while Leoncia reassured him with her
eyes, he saw Francis prostrate himself at the feet of their common
enemy.

“Gee!” Henry muttered, as he joined Francis. “Here goes. But it’s worse
than rat poison.”

Leoncia followed him, and all the Lost Souls went down prone before the
Capitan Da Vasco who received in their midst celestial messengers direct
from the sun. All went down, except the priest, who, mightily shaken,
was meditating doing it, when the mocking devil of melodrama in Torres’
soul prompted him to overdo his part.

As haughtily as Francis had coached him, he lifted his right foot and
placed it down on Henry’s neck, incidentally covering and pinching most
of his ear.

And Henry literally went up in the air.

“You can’t step on my ear, Torres!” he shouted, at the same time
dropping him, as he had dropped the priest with his right hook.

“And now the beans are spilled,” Francis commented in dry and spiritless
disgust. “The Sun God stuff is finished right here and now.”

The Sun Priest, exultantly signaling his spearmen, grasped the
situation. But Henry dropped the muzzle of his automatic pistol to the
old priest’s midrif; and the priest, remembering the legends of deadly
missiles propelled by the mysterious substance called “gunpowder,”
smiled appeasingly and waved back his spearmen.

“This is beyond my powers of wisdom and judgment,” he addressed his
tribespeople, while ever his wavering glance returned to the muzzle of
Henry’s pistol. “I shall appeal to the last resort. Let the messenger be
sent to wake the Lady Who Dreams. Tell her that strangers from the sky,
and, mayhap, the sun, are here in our valley. And that only the wisdom
of her far dreams will make clear to us what we do not understand, and
what even I do not understand.”



                             CHAPTER XVIII


Convoyed by the spearmen, the party of Leoncia, the two Morgans, and
Torres, was led through the pleasant fields, all under a high state of
primitive cultivation, and on across running streams and through
woodland stretches and knee deep pastures where grazed cows of so
miniature a breed that, full-grown, they were no larger than young
calves.

“They’re milch cows without mistake,” Henry commented. “And they’re
perfect beauties. But did you ever see such dwarfs! A strong man could
lift up the biggest specimen and walk off with it.”

“Don’t fool yourself,” Francis spoke up. “Take that one over there, the
black one. I’ll wager it’s not an ounce under three hundredweight.”

“How much will you wager?” Henry challenged.

“Name the bet,” was the reply.

“Then a hundred even,” Henry stated, “that I can lift it up and walk
away with it.”

“Done.”

But the bet was never to be decided, for the instant Henry left the path
he was poked back by the spearmen, who scowled and made signs that they
were to proceed straight ahead.

Where the way came to lead past the foot of a very rugged cliff, they
saw above them many goats.

“Domesticated,” said Francis. “Look at the herd boys.”

“I was sure it was goat-meat in that stew,” Henry nodded. “I always did
like goats. If the Lady Who Dreams, whoever she may be, vetoes the
priest and lets us live, and if we have to stay with the Lost Souls for
the rest of our days, I’m going to petition to be made master goatherd
of the realm, and I’ll build you a nice little cottage, Leoncia, and you
can become the Exalted Cheese-maker to the Queen.”

But he did not whimsically wander farther, for, at that moment, they
emerged upon a lake so beautiful as to bring a long whistle from
Francis, a hand-clap from Leoncia, and a muttered ejaculation of
appreciation from Torres. Fully a mile in length it stretched, with more
than half the same in width, and was a perfect oval. With one exception,
no habitation broke the fringe of trees, bamboo thickets, and rushes
that circled its shore, even along the foot of the cliff where the
bamboo was exceptionally luxuriant. On the placid surface was so vividly
mirrored the surrounding mountains that the eye could scarcely discern
where reality ended and reflection began.

In the midst of her rapture over the perfect reflection, Leoncia broke
off to exclaim her disappointment in that the water was not crystal
clear:

“What a pity it is so muddy!”

“That’s because of the wash of the rich soil of the valley floor,” Henry
elucidated. “It’s hundreds of feet deep, that soil.”

“The whole valley must have been a lake at some time,” Francis
concurred. “Run your eye along the cliff and see the old water-lines. I
wonder what made it shrink.”

“Earthquake, most likely—opened up some subterranean exit and drained it
off to its present level—and keeps on draining it, too. Its rich
chocolate color shows the amount of water that flows in all the time,
and that it doesn’t have much chance to settle. It’s the catch-basin for
the entire circling watershed of the valley.”

“Well, there’s one house at least,” Leoncia was saying five minutes
later, as they rounded an angle of the cliff and saw, tucked against the
cliff and extending out over the water, a low-roofed bungalow-like
dwelling.

The piles were massive tree-trunks, but the walls of the house were of
bamboo, and the roof was thatched with grass-straw. So isolated was it,
that the only access, except by boat, was a twenty-foot bridge so narrow
that two could not walk on it abreast. At either end of the bridge,
evidently armed guards or sentries, stood two young men of the tribe.
They moved aside, at a gesture of command from the Sun Priest, and let
the party pass, although the two Morgans did not fail to notice that the
spearmen who had accompanied them from the Long House remained beyond
the bridge.

Across the bridge and entered into the bungalow-like dwelling on stilts,
they found themselves in a large room better furnished, crude as the
furnishings were, than they would have expected in the Valley of Lost
Souls. The grass mats on the floor were of fine and careful weave, and
the shades of split bamboo that covered the window-openings were of
patient workmanship. At the far end, against the wall, was a huge golden
emblem of the rising sun similar to the one before the altar by the Long
House. But by far most striking, were two living creatures who strangely
inhabited the place and who scarcely moved. Beneath the rising sun,
raised above the floor on a sort of dais, was a many-pillowed divan that
was half-throne. And on the divan, among the pillows, clad in a
softly-shimmering robe of some material no one of them had seen before,
reclined a sleeping woman. Only her breast softly rose and softly fell
to her breathing. No Lost Soul was she, of the inbred and degenerate
mixture of Carib and Spaniard. On her head was a tiara of beaten gold
and sparkling gems so large that almost it seemed a crown.

Before her, on the floor, were two tripods of gold——the one containing
smouldering fire, the other, vastly larger, a golden bowl fully a fathom
in diameter. Between the tripods, resting with outstretched paws like
the Sphinx, with unblinking eyes and without a quiver, a great dog,
snow-white of coat and resembling a Russian wolf-hound, stedfastly
regarded the intruders.

“She looks like a lady, and seems like a queen, and certainly dreams to
the queen’s taste,” Henry whispered, and earned a scowl from the Sun
Priest.

Leoncia was breathless, but Torres shuddered and crossed himself, and
said:

“This I have never heard of the Valley of Lost Souls. This woman who
sleeps is a Spanish lady. She is of the pure Spanish blood. She is
Castilian. I am as certain, as that I stand here, that her eyes are
blue. And yet that pallor!” Again he shuddered. “It is an unearthly
sleep. It is as if she tampered with drugs, and had long tampered with
drugs——”

“The very thing!” Francis broke in with excited whispers. “The Lady Who
Dreams drug dreams. They must keep her here doped up as a sort of
super-priestess or super-oracle.—That’s all right, old priest,” he broke
off to say in Spanish. “If we wake her up, what of it? We have been
brought here to meet her, and, I hope, awake.”

The Lady stirred, as if the whispering had penetrated her profound of
sleep, and, for the first time, the dog moved, turning his head toward
her so that her down-dropping hand rested on his neck caressingly. The
priest was imperative, now, in his scowls and gestured commands for
silence. And in absolute silence they stood and watched the awakening of
the oracle.

Slowly she drew herself half upright, paused, and re-caressed the happy
wolf hound, whose cruel fangs were exposed in a formidable, long-jawed
laugh of joy. Awesome the situation was to them, yet more awesome it
became to them when she turned her eyes full upon them for the first
time. Never had they seen such eyes, in which smouldered the world and
all the worlds. Half way did Leoncia cross herself, while Torres, swept
away by his own awe, completed his own crossing of himself and with
moving lips of silence enunciated his favorite prayer to the Virgin.
Even Francis and Henry looked, and could not take their gaze away from
the twin wells of blue that seemed almost dark in the shade of the long
black eyelashes.

“A blue-eyed brunette,” Francis managed to whisper.

But such eyes! Round they were, rather than long. And yet they were not
round. Square they might have been, had they not been more round than
square. Such shape had they that they were as if blocked off in the
artist’s swift and sketchy way of establishing circles out of the sums
of angles. The long, dark lashes veiled them and perpetuated the
illusion of their darkness. Yet was there no surprise nor startlement in
them at first sight of her visitors. Dreamily incurious were they, yet
were they languidly certain of comprehension of what they beheld. Still
further, to awe those who so beheld, her eyes betrayed a complicated
totality of paradoxical alivenesses. Pain trembled its quivering anguish
perpetually impending. Sensitiveness moistly hinted of itself like a
spring rain-shower on the distant sea-horizon or a dew-fall of a
mountain morning. Pain—ever pain—resided in the midst of languorous
slumberousness. The fire of immeasurable courage threatened to glint
into the electric spark of action and fortitude. Deep slumber, like a
palpitant, tapestried background, seemed ever ready to obliterate all in
sleep. And over all, through all, permeating all, brooded ageless
wisdom. This was accentuated by cheeks slightly hollowed, hinting of
asceticism. Upon them was a flush, either hectic or of the paint-box.

When she stood up, she showed herself to be slender and fragile as a
fairy. Tiny were her bones, not too-generously flesh-covered; yet the
lines of her were not thin. Had either Henry or Francis registered his
impression aloud, he would have proclaimed her the roundest thin woman
he had ever seen.

The Sun Priest prostrated his aged frame till he lay stretched flat out
on the floor, his old forehead burrowing into the grass mat. The rest
remained upright, although Torres evidenced by a crumpling at the knees
that he would have followed the priest’s action had his companions shown
signs of accompanying him. As it was, his knees did partly crumple, but
straightened again and stiffened under the controlled example of Leoncia
and the Morgans.

At first the Lady had no eyes for aught but Leoncia; and, after a
careful looking over of her, with a curt upward lift of head she
commanded her to approach. Too imperative by far was it, in Leoncia’s
thought, to proceed from so etherially beautiful a creature, and she
sensed with immediacy an antagonism that must exist between them. So she
did not move, until the Sun Priest muttered harshly that she must obey.
She approached, regardless of the huge, long-haired hound, threading
between the tripods and past the beast, nor would stop until commanded
by a second nod as curt as the first. For a long minute the two women
gazed steadily into each other’s eyes, at the end of which, with a
flicker of triumph, Leoncia observed the other’s eyes droop. But the
flicker was temporary, for Leoncia saw that the Lady was studying her
dress with haughty curiosity. She even reached out her slender, pallid
hand and felt the texture of the cloth and caressed it as only a woman
can.

“Priest!” she summoned sharply. “This is the third day of the Sun in the
House of Manco. Long ago I told you something concerning this day.
Speak.”

Writhing in excess of servility, the Sun Priest quavered:

“That on this day strange events were to occur. They have occurred, O
Queen.”

Already had the Queen forgotten. Still caressing the cloth of Leoncia’s
dress, her eyes were bent upon it in curious examination.

“You are very fortunate,” the Queen said, at the same time motioning her
back to rejoin the others. “You are well loved of men. All is not clear,
yet does it seem that you are too well loved of men.”

Her voice, mellow and low, tranquil as silver, modulated in exquisite
rhythms of sound, was almost as a distant temple bell calling believers
to worship or sad souls to quiet judgment. But to Leoncia it was not
given to appreciate the wonderful voice. Instead, only was she aware of
anger flaming up to her cheeks and burning in her pulse.

“I have seen you before, and often,” the Queen went on.

“Never!” Leoncia cried out.

“Hush!” the Sun Priest hissed at her.

“There,” the Queen said, pointing at the great golden bowl. “Before, and
often, have I seen you there.

“You——also, there,” she addressed Henry.

“And you,” she confirmed to Francis, although her great blue eyes opened
wider and she gazed at him long——too long to suit Leoncia, who knew the
stab of jealousy that only a woman can thrust into a woman’s heart.

The Queen’s eyes glinted when they had moved on to rest on Torres.

“And who are you, stranger, so strangely appareled, the helmet of a
knight upon your head, upon your feet the sandals of a slave?”

“I am Da Vasco,” he answered stoutly.

“The name has an ancient ring,” she smiled.

“I am the ancient Da Vasco,” he pursued, advancing unsummoned. She
smiled at his temerity but did not stay him. “This is the helmet I wore
four hundred years ago when I led the ancestors of the Lost Souls into
this valley.”

The Queen smiled quiet unbelief, as she quietly asked:

“Then you were born four hundred years ago?”

“Yes, and never. I was never born. I am Da Vasco. I have always been. My
home is in the sun.”

Her delicately stenciled brows drew quizzically to interrogation, though
she said nothing. From a gold-wrought box beside her on the divan she
pinched what seemed a powder between a fragile and almost transparent
thumb and forefinger, and her thin beautiful lips curved to gentle
mockery as she casually tossed the powder into the great tripod. A sheen
of smoke arose and in a moment was lost to sight.

“Look!” she commanded.

And Torres, approaching the great bowl, gazed into it. What he saw, the
rest of his party never learned. But the Queen herself leaned forward
and gazing down from above, saw with him, her face a beautiful
advertisement of gentle and pitying mockery. And what Torres himself saw
was a bedroom and a birth in the second story of the Bocas del Toro
house he had inherited. Pitiful it was, with its last secrecy exposed,
as was the gently smiling pity in the Queen’s face. And, in that
flashing glimpse of magic vision, Torres saw confirmed about himself
what he had always guessed and suspected.

“Would you see more,” the Queen softly mocked. “I have shown you the
beginning of you. Look now, and behold your ending.”

But Torres, too deeply impressed by what he had already seen, shuddered
away in recoil.

“Forgive me, Beautiful Woman,” he pleaded. “And let me pass. Forget, as
I shall hope ever to forget.”

“It is gone,” she said, with a careless wave of her hand over the bowl.
“But I cannot forget. The record will persist always in my mind. But
you, O Man, so young of life, so ancient of helmet, have I beheld before
this day, there in my Mirror of the World. You have vexed me much of
late with your portending. Yet not with the helmet.” She smiled with
quiet wisdom. “Always, it seems to me, I saw a chamber of the dead, of
the long dead, upright on their unmoving legs and guarding through
eternity mysteries alien to their faith and race. And in that dolorous
company did it seem that I saw one who wore your ancient helmet....
Shall I speak further?”

“No, no,” Torres implored.

She bowed and nodded him back. Next, her scrutiny centred on Francis,
whom she nodded forward. She stood up upon the dais as if to greet him,
and, as if troubled by the fact that she must gaze down on him, stepped
from the dais to the floor so that she might gaze up into his face as
she extended her hand. Hesitatingly he took her hand in his, then knew
not what next to do. Almost did it appear that she read his thought, for
she said:

“Do it. I have never had it done to me before. I have never seen it
done, save in my dreams and in the visions shown me in my Mirror of the
World.”

And Francis bent and kissed her hand. And, because she did not signify
to withdraw it, he continued to hold it, while, against his palm, he
felt the faint but steady pulse of her pink finger-tips. And so they
stood in pose, neither speaking, Francis embarrassed, the Queen sighing
faintly, while the sex anger of woman tore at Leoncia’s heart, until
Henry blurted out in gleeful English:

“Do it again, Francis! She likes it!”

The Sun Priest hissed silencing command at him. But the Queen, half
withdrawing her hand with a startle like a maiden’s, returned it as
deeply as before into Francis’ clasp, and addressed herself to Henry.

“I, too, know the language you speak,” she admonished. “Yet am I
unashamed, I, who have never known a man, do admit that I like it. It is
the first kiss that I have ever had. Francis——for such your friend calls
you——obey your friend. I like it. I do like it. Once again kiss my
hand.”

Francis obeyed, waited while her hand still lingered in his, and while
she, oblivious to all else, as if toying with some beautiful thought,
gazed lingeringly up into his eyes. By a visible effort she pulled
herself together, released his hand abruptly, gestured him back to the
others, and addressed the Sun Priest.

“Well, priest,” she said, with a return of the sharpness in her voice,
“You have brought these captives here for a reason which I already know.
Yet would I hear you state it yourself.”

“O Lady Who Dreams, shall we not kill these intruders as has ever been
our custom? The people are mystified and in doubt of my judgment, and
demand decision from you.”

“And you would kill?”

“Such is my judgment. I seek now your judgment that yours and mine may
be one.”

She glanced over the faces of the four captives. For Torres, her
brooding expression portrayed only pity. To Leoncia she extended a
frown; to Henry, doubt. And upon Francis she gazed a full minute, her
face growing tender, at least to Leoncia’s angry observation.

“Are any of you unmarried?” the Queen asked suddenly. “Nay,” she
anticipated them. “It is given me to know that you are all unmarried.”
She turned quickly to Leoncia. “Is it well,” she demanded, “that a woman
should have two husbands?”

Both Henry and Francis could not refrain from smiling their amusement at
so absurdly irrelevant a question. But to Leoncia it was neither absurd
nor irrelevant, and in her cheeks arose the flush of anger again. This
was a woman, she knew, with whom she had to deal, and who was dealing
with her like a woman.

“It is not well,” Leoncia answered, with clear, ringing voice.

“It is very strange,” the Queen pondered aloud. “It is very strange. Yet
is it not fair. Since there are equal numbers of men and women in the
world, it cannot be fair for one woman to have two husbands, for, if so,
it means that another woman shall have no husband.”

Another pinch of dust she tossed into the great bowl of gold. The sheen
of smoke arose and vanished as before.

“The Mirror of the World will tell me, priest, what disposition shall be
made of our captives.”

Just ere she leaned over to gaze into the bowl, a fresh thought
deflected her. With an embracing wave of arm she invited them all up to
the bowl.

“We may all look,” she said. “I do not promise you we will see the same
visions of our dreams. Nor shall I know what you will have seen. Each
for himself will see and know.——You, too, priest.”

They found the bowl, six feet in diameter that it was, half-full of some
unknown metal liquid.

“It might be quicksilver, but it isn’t,” Henry whispered to Francis. “I
have never seen the like of any similar metal. It strikes me as hotly
molten.”

“It is very cold,” the Queen corrected him in English. “Yet is it
fire.—You, Francis, feel the bowl outside.”

He obeyed, laying his full palm unhesitatingly to the yellow outer
surface.

“Colder than the atmosphere of the room,” he adjudged.

“But look!” the Queen cried, tossing more powder upon the contents. “It
is fire that remains cold.”

“It is the powder that smokes with the heat of its own containment,”
Torres blurted out, at the same time feeling into the bottom of his coat
pocket. He drew forth a pinch of crumbs of tobacco, match splinters, and
cloth-fluff. “This will not burn,” he challenged, inviting invitation by
extending the pinch of rubbish over the bowl as if to drop it in.

The Queen nodded consent, and all saw the rubbish fall upon the liquid
metal surface. The particles made no indentation on that surface. Only
did they transform into smoke that sheened upward and was gone. No
remnant of ash remained.

“Still is it cold,” said Torres, imitating Francis and feeling the
outside of the bowl.

“Thrust your finger into the contents,” the Queen suggested to Torres.

“No,” he said.

“You are right,” she confirmed. “Had you done so, you would now be with
one finger less than the number with which you were born.” She tossed in
more powder. “Now shall each behold what he alone will behold.”

And it was so.

To Leoncia was it given to see an ocean separate her and Francis. To
Henry was it given to see the Queen and Francis married by so strange a
ceremony, that scarcely did he realise, until at the close, that it was
a wedding taking place. The Queen, from a flying gallery in a great
house, looked down into a magnificent drawing-room that Francis would
have recognized as builded by his father had her vision been his. And,
beside her, his arm about her, she saw Francis. Francis saw but one
thing, vastly perturbing, the face of Leoncia, immobile as death, with
thrust into it, squarely between the eyes, a slender-bladed dagger. Yet
he did not see any blood flowing from the wound of the dagger. Torres
glimpsed the beginning of what he knew must be his end, crossed himself,
and alone of all of them shrank back, refusing to see further. While the
Sun Priest saw the vision of his secret sin, the face and form of the
woman for whom he had betrayed the Worship of the Sun, and the face and
form of the maid of the village at the Long House.

As all drew back by common consent when the visions faded, Leoncia
turned like a tigress, with flashing eyes, upon the Queen, crying:

“Your mirror lies! Your Mirror of the World lies!”

Francis and Henry, still under the heavy spell of what they had
themselves beheld, were startled and surprised by Leoncia’s outburst.
But the Queen, speaking softly, replied:

“My Mirror of the World has never lied. I know not what you saw. But I
do know, whatever it was, that it is truth.”

“You are a monster!” Leoncia cried on. “You are a vile witch that lies!”

“You and I are women,” the Queen chided with sweet gentleness, “and may
not know of ourselves, being women. Men will decide whether or not I am
a witch that lies or a woman with a woman’s heart of love. In the
meanwhile, being women and therefore weak, let us be kind to each
other.”

“——And now, Priest of the Sun, to judgment. You, as priest under the Sun
God, know more of the ancient rule and procedure than do I. You know
more than do I about myself and how I came to be here. You know that
always, mother and daughter, and by mother and daughter, has the tribe
maintained a Queen of Mystery, a Lady of Dreams. The time has come when
we must consider the future generations. The strangers have come, and
they are unmarried. This must be the wedding day decreed, if the
generations to come after of the tribe are to possess a Queen to dream
for them. It is well, and time and need and place are met. I have
dreamed to judgment. And the judgment is that I shall marry, of these
strangers, the stranger allotted to me before the foundations of the
world were laid. The test is this: If no one of these will marry, then
shall they die and their warm blood be offered up by you before the
altar of the Sun. If one will marry me, then all shall live, and Time
hereafter will register our futures.”

The Sun Priest, trembling with anger, strove to protest, but she
commanded:

“Silence, priest! By me only do you rule the people. At a word from me
to the people—well, you know. It is not any easy way to die.”

She turned to the three men, saying:

“And who will marry me?”

They looked embarrassment and consternation at one another, but none
spoke.

“I am a woman,” the Queen went on teasingly. “And therefore am I not
desirable to men? Is it that I am not young? Is it, as women go, that I
am not beautiful? Is it that men’s tastes are so strange that no man
cares to clasp the sweet of me in his arms and press his lips on mine as
good Francis there did on my hand?”

She turned her eyes on Leoncia.

“You be judge. You are a woman well loved of men. Am I not such a woman
as you, and shall I not be loved?”

“You will ever be kinder to men than to women,” Leoncia
answered——cryptically as regarded the three men who heard, but clearly
to the woman’s brain of the Queen. “And as a woman,” Leoncia continued,
“you are strangely beautiful and luring; and there are men in this
world, many men, who could be made mad to clasp you in their arms. But I
warn you, Queen, that in this world are men, and men, and men.”

Having heard and debated this, the Queen turned abruptly to the priest.

“You have heard, priest. This day a man shall marry me. If no man
marries me, these three men shall be offered up on your altar. So shall
be offered up this woman, who, it would seem, would put shame upon me by
having me less than she.”

Still she addressed the priest, although her message was for the others.

“There are three men of them, one of whom, long cycles before he was
born, was destined to marry me. So, priest, I say, take the captives
away into some other apartment, and let them decide among themselves
which is the man.”

“Since it has been so long destined,” Leoncia flamed forth, “then why
put it to the chance of their decision? You know the man. Why put it to
the risk? Name the man, Queen, and name him now.”

“The man shall be selected in the way I have indicated,” the Queen
replied, as, at the same time, absently she tossed a pinch of powder
into the great bowl and absently glanced therein. “So now depart, and
let the inevitable choice be made.”

They were already moving away out of the room, when a cry from the Queen
stopped them.

“Wait!” she ordered. “Come, Francis. I have seen something that concerns
you. Come, gaze with me upon the Mirror of the World.”

And while the others paused, Francis gazed with her upon the strange
liquid metal surface. He saw himself in the library of his New York
house, and he saw beside him the Lady Who Dreams, his arm around her.
Next, he saw her curiosity at sight of the stock-ticker. As he tried to
explain it to her, he glanced at the tape and read such disturbing
information thereon that he sprang to the nearest telephone and, as the
vision faded, saw himself calling up his broker.

“What was it you saw?” Leoncia questioned, as they passed out.

And Francis lied. He did not mention seeing the Lady Who Dreams in his
New York library. Instead, he replied:

“It was a stock-ticker, and it showed a bear market on Wall Street
somersaulting into a panic. Now how did she know I was interested in
Wall Street and stock-tickers?”



                              CHAPTER XIX


“Somebody’s got to marry that crazy woman,” Leoncia spoke up, as they
lolled upon the mats of the room to which the priest had taken them.
“Not only will he be a hero by saving our lives, but he will save his
own life as well. Now, Senor Torres, is your chance to save all our
lives and your own.”

“Br-r-r!” Torres shivered. “I would not marry her for ten million gold.
She is too wise. She is terrible. She—how shall I say?—she, as you
Americans say, gets my goat. I am a brave man. But before her I am not
brave. The flesh of me melts in a sweat of fear. Not for less than ten
million would I dare to overcome my fear. Now Henry and Francis are
braver than I. Let one of them marry her.”

“But I am engaged to marry Leoncia,” Henry spoke up promptly.
“Therefore, I cannot marry the Queen.”

And their eyes centered on Francis, but, before he could reply, Leoncia
broke in.

“It is not fair,” she said. “No one of you wants to marry her. The only
equitable way to settle it will be by drawing lots.” As she spoke, she
pulled three straws from the mat on which she sat and broke one off very
short. “The man who draws the short straw shall be the victim. You,
Senor Torres, draw first.”

“Wedding bells for the short straw,” Henry grinned.

Torres crossed himself, shivered, and drew. So patently long was the
straw, that he executed a series of dancing steps as he sang:

                   “No wedding bells for me,
                         I’m as happy as can be ...”

Francis drew next, and an equally long straw was his portion. To Henry
there was no choice. The remaining straw in Leoncia’s hand was the fatal
one. All tragedy was in his face as he looked instantly at Leoncia. And
she, observing, melted in pity, while Francis saw her pity and did some
rapid thinking. It was the way out. All the perplexity of the situation
could be thus easily solved. Great as was his love for Leoncia, greater
was his man’s loyalty to Henry. Francis did not hesitate. With a merry
slap of his hand on Henry’s shoulder, he cried:

“Well, here’s the one unattached bachelor who isn’t afraid of matrimony.
I’ll marry her.”

Henry’s relief was as if he had been reprieved from impending death. His
hand shot out to Francis’ hand, and, while they clasped, their eyes
gazed squarely into each other’s as only decent, honest men’s may gaze.
Nor did either see the dismay registered in Leoncia’s face at this
unexpected denouement. The Lady Who Dreams had been right. Leoncia, as a
woman, was unfair, loving two men and denying the Lady her fair share of
men.

But any discussion that might have taken place, was prevented by the
little maid of the village, who entered with women to serve them the
midday meal. It was Torres’ sharp eyes that first lighted upon the
string of gems about the maid’s neck. Rubies they were, and magnificent.

“The Lady Who Dreams just gave them to me,” the maid said, pleased with
their pleasure in her new possession.

“Has she any more?” Torres asked.

“Of course,” was the reply. “Only just now did she show me a great chest
of them. And they were all kinds, and much larger; but they were not
strung. They were like so much shelled corn.”

While the others ate and talked, Torres nervously smoked a cigarette.
After that, he arose and claimed a passing indisposition that prevented
him from eating.

“Listen,” he quoth impressively. “I speak better Spanish than either of
you two Morgans. Also, I know, I am confident, the Spanish woman
character better. To show you my heart’s in the right place, I’ll go in
to her now and see if I can talk her out of this matrimonial
proposition.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

One of the spearmen barred Torres’ way, but, after going within,
returned and motioned him to enter. The Queen, reclined on the divan,
nodded him to her graciously.

“You do not eat?” she queried solicitously; and added, after he had
reaffirmed his loss of appetite, “Then will you drink?”

Torres’ eyes sparkled. Between the excitement he had gone through for
the past several days, and the new adventure he was resolved upon, he
knew not how, to achieve, he felt the important need of a drink. The
Queen clapped her hands, and issued commands to the waiting woman who
responded.

“It is very ancient, centuries old, as you will recognize, Da Vasco, who
brought it here yourself four centuries ago,” she said, as a man carried
in and broached a small wooden keg.

About the age of the keg there could be no doubt, and Torres, knowing
that it had crossed the Western Ocean twelve generations before, felt
his throat tickle with desire to taste its contents. The drink poured by
the waiting woman was a big one, yet was Torres startled by the mildness
of it. But quickly the magic of four-centuries-old spirits began to
course through his veins and set the maggots crawling in his brain.

The Queen bade him sit on the edge of the divan at her feet, where she
could observe him, and asked:

“You came unsummoned. What is it you have to tell me or ask of me?”

“I am the one selected,” he replied, twisting his moustache and striving
to look the enticingness of a male man on love adventure bent.

“Strange,” she said. “I saw not your face in the Mirror of the World.
There is ... some mistake, eh?”

“A mistake,” he acknowledged readily, reading certain knowledge in her
eyes. “It was the drink. There is magic in it that made me speak the
message of my heart to you, I want you so.”

Again, with laughing eyes, she summoned the waiting woman and had his
pottery mug replenished.

“A second mistake, perhaps will now result, eh?” she teased, when he had
downed the drink.

“No, O Queen,” he replied. “Now all is clarity. My true heart I can
master. Francis Morgan, the one who kissed your hand, is the man
selected to be your husband.”

“It is true,” she said solemnly. “His was the face I saw, and knew from
the first.”

Thus encouraged, Torres continued.

“I am his friend, his very good best friend. You, who know all things,
know the custom of the marriage dowry. He has sent me, his best friend,
to inquire into and examine the dowry of his bride. You must know that
he is among the richest of men in his own country, where men are very
rich.”

So suddenly did she arise on the divan that Torres cringed and half
shrank down, in his panic expectance of a knife-blade between his
shoulders. Instead, the Queen walked swiftly, or, rather, glided, to the
doorway to an inner apartment.

“Come!” she summoned imperiously.

Once inside, at the first glance around, Torres knew the room for what
it was, her sleeping chamber. But his eyes had little space for such
details. Lifting the lid of a heavy chest of ironwood, brass-bound, she
motioned him to look in. He obeyed, and saw the amazement of the world.
The little maid had spoken true. Like so much shelled corn, the chest
was filled with an incalculable treasure of gems——diamonds, rubies,
emeralds, sapphires, the most precious, the purest and largest of their
kinds.

“Thrust in your arms to the shoulders,” she said, “and make sure that
these baubles be real and of the adamant of flint, rather than illusions
and reflections of unreality dreamed real in a dream. Thus may you make
certain report to your very rich friend who is to marry me.”

And Torres, the madness of the ancient drink like fire in his brain, did
as he was told.

“These trifles of glass are such an astonishment?” she plagued. “Your
eyes are as if they were witnessing great wonders.”

“I never dreamed in all the world there was such a treasure,” he
muttered in his drunkenness.

“They are beyond price?”

“They are beyond price.”

“They are beyond the value of valor, and love, and honor?”

“They are beyond all things. They are a madness.”

“Can a woman’s or a man’s true love be purchased by them?”

“They can purchase all the world.”

“Come,” the Queen said. “You are a man. You have held women in your
arms. Will they purchase women?”

“Since the beginning of time women have been bought and sold for them,
and for them women have sold themselves.”

“Will they buy me the heart of your good friend Francis?”

For the first time Torres looked at her, and nodded and muttered, his
eyes swimming with drink and wild-eyed with sight of such array of gems.

“Will good Francis so value them?”

Torres nodded speechlessly.

“Do all persons so value them?”

Again he nodded emphatically.

She began to laugh in silvery derision. Bending, at haphazard she
clutched a priceless handful of the pretties.

“Come,” she commanded. “I will show you how I value them.”

She led him across the room and out on a platform that extended around
three sides of a space of water, the fourth side being the perpendicular
cliff. At the base of the cliff the water formed a whirlpool that
advertised the drainage exit for the lake which Torres had heard the
Morgans speculate about.

With another silvery tease of laughter, the Queen tossed the handful of
priceless gems into the heart of the whirlpool.

“Thus I value them,” she said.

Torres was aghast, and, for the nonce, well-nigh sobered by such
wantonness.

“And they never come back,” she laughed on. “Nothing ever comes back.
Look!”

She flung in a handful of flowers that raced around and around the whirl
and quickly sucked down from sight in the center of it.

“If nothing comes back, where does everything go?” Torres asked thickly.

The Queen shrugged her shoulders, although he knew that she knew the
secret of the waters.

“More than one man has gone that way,” she said dreamily. “No one of
them has ever returned. My mother went that way, after she was dead. I
was a girl then.” She roused. “But you, helmeted one, go now. Make
report to your master——your friend, I mean. Tell him what I possess for
dowry. And, if he be half as mad as you about the bits of glass, swiftly
will his arms surround me. I shall remain here and in dreams await his
coming. The play of the water fascinates me.”

Dismissed, Torres entered the sleeping chamber, crept back to steal a
glimpse of the Queen, and saw her sunk down on the platform, head on
hand, and gazing into the whirlpool. Swiftly he made his way to the
chest, lifted the lid, and stowed a scooping handful into his trousers’
pocket. Ere he could scoop a second handful, the mocking laughter of the
Queen was at his back.

Fear and rage mastered him to such extent, that he sprang toward her,
and pursuing her out upon the platform, was only prevented from seizing
her by the dagger she threatened him with.

“Thief,” she said quietly. “Without honor are you. And the way of all
thieves in this valley is death. I shall summon my spearmen and have you
thrown into the whirling water.”

And his extremity gave Torres cunning. Glancing apprehensively at the
water that threatened him, he ejaculated a cry of horror as if at what
strange thing he had seen, sank down on one knee, and buried his
convulsed face of simulated fear in his hands. The Queen looked sidewise
to see what he had seen. Which was his moment. He rose in the air upon
her like a leaping tiger, clutching her wrists and wresting the dagger
from her.

He wiped the sweat from his face and trembled while he slowly recovered
himself. Meanwhile she gazed upon him curiously, without fear.

“You are a woman of evil,” he snarled at her, still shaking with rage,
“a witch that traffics with the powers of darkness and all devilish
things. Yet are you woman, born of woman, and therefore mortal. The
weakness of mortality and of woman is yours, wherefore I give you now
your choice of two things. Either you shall be thrown into the whirl of
water and perish, or ...”

“Or?” she prompted.

“Or....” He paused, licked his dry lips, and burst forth. “No! By the
Mother of God, I am not afraid. Or marry me this day, which is the other
choice.”

“You would marry me for me? Or for the treasure?”

“For the treasure,” he admitted brazenly.

“But it is written in the Book of Life that I shall marry Francis,” she
objected.

“Then will we rewrite that page in the Book of Life.”

“As if it could be done!” she laughed.

“Then will I prove your mortality there in the whirl, whither I shall
fling you as you flung the flowers.”

Truly intrepid Torres was for the time—intrepid because of the ancient
drink that burned in his blood and brain, and because he was master of
the situation. Also, like a true Latin-American, he loved a scene
wherein he could strut and elocute.

Yet she startled him by emitting a hiss similar to the Latin way of
calling a servitor. He regarded her suspiciously, glanced at the doorway
to the sleeping chamber, then returned his gaze to her.

Like a ghost, seeing it only vaguely out of the corner of his eye, the
great white hound erupted through the doorway. Startled again, Torres
involuntarily stepped to the side. But his foot failed to come to rest
on the emptiness of air it encountered, and the weight of his body
toppled him down off the platform into the water. Even as he fell and
screamed his despair, he saw the hound in mid-air leaping after him.

Swimmer that he was, Torres was like a straw in the grip of the current;
and the Lady Who Dreams, gazing down upon him fascinated from the edge
of the platform, saw him disappear, and the hound after him, into the
heart of the whirlpool from which there was no return.



                               CHAPTER XX


Long the Lady Who Dreams gazed down at the playing waters. At last, with
a sighed “My poor dog,” she arose. The passing of Torres had meant
nothing to her. Accustomed from girlhood to exercise the high powers of
life and death over her semi-savage and degenerate people, human life,
per se, had no sacredness to her. If life were good and lovely, then,
naturally, it was the right thing to let it live. But if life were evil,
ugly, and dangerous to other lives, then the thing was to let it die or
make it die. Thus, to her, Torres had been an episode——unpleasant, but
quickly over. But it was too bad about the dog.

Clapping her hands loudly as she entered her chamber, to summon one of
her women, she made sure that the lid of the jewel chest was raised. To
the woman she gave a command, and herself returned to the platform, from
where she could look into the room unobserved.

A few minutes later, guided by the woman, Francis entered the chamber
and was left alone. He was not in a happy mood. Fine as had been his
giving up of Leoncia, he got no pleasure from the deed. Nor was there
any pleasure in looking forward to marrying the strange lady who ruled
over the Lost Souls and resided in this weird lake-dwelling. Unlike
Torres, however, she did not arouse in him fear or animosity. Quite to
the contrary, Francis’ feeling toward her was largely that of pity. He
could not help but be impressed by the tragic pathos of the ripe and
lovely woman desperately seeking love and a mate, despite her imperious
and cavalier methods.

At a glance he recognized the room for what it was, and idly wondered if
he were already considered the bridegroom, sans discussion, sans
acquiescence, sans ceremony. In his brown study, the chest scarcely
caught his attention. The Queen, watching, saw him evidently waiting for
her, and, after a few minutes, walk over to the chest. He gathered up a
handful of the gems, dropped them one by one carelessly back as if they
had been so many marbles, and turned and strolled over to examine the
leopard skins on her couch. Next, he sat down upon it, oblivious equally
of couch or treasure. All of which was provocative of such delight to
the Queen that she could no longer with-strain herself to mere spying.
Entering the room and greeting him, she laughed:

“Was Senor Torres a liar?”

“_Was?_” Francis queried, for the need of saying something, as he arose
before her.

“He no longer is,” she assured him. “Which is neither here nor there,”
she hastened on as Francis began to betray interest in the matter of
Torres’ end. “He is gone, and it is well that he is gone, for he can
never come back. But he did lie, didn’t he?”

“Undoubtedly,” Francis replied. “He is a confounded liar.”

He could not help noticing the way her face fell when he so heartily
agreed with her concerning Torres’ veracity.

“What did he say?” Francis questioned.

“That he was the one selected to marry me.”

“A liar,” Francis commented dryly.

“Next he said that you were the selected one—which was also a lie,” her
voice trailed off.

Francis shook his head.

The involuntary cry of joy the Queen uttered touched his heart to such
tenderness of pity that almost did he put his arms around her to soothe
her. She waited for him to speak.

“I am the one to marry you,” he went on steadily. “You are very
beautiful. When shall we be married?”

The wild joy in her face was such that he swore to himself that never
would he willingly mar that face with marks of sorrow. She might be
ruler over the Lost Souls, with the wealth of Ind and with supernatural
powers of mirror-gazing; but most poignantly she appealed to him as a
lonely and naïve woman, overspilling of love and totally unversed in
love.

“And I shall tell you of another lie this Torres animal told to me,” she
burst forth exultantly. “He told me that you were rich, and that, before
you married me, you desired to know what wealth was mine. He told me you
had sent him to inquire into what riches I possessed. This I know was a
lie. You are not marrying me for that!”—with a scornful gesture at the
jewel chest.

Francis shook his head.

“You are marrying me for myself,” she rushed on in triumph.

“For yourself,” Francis could not help but lie.

And then he beheld an amazing thing. The Queen, this Queen who was the
sheerest autocrat, who said come here and go there, who dismissed the
death of Torres with its mere announcement, and who selected her royal
spouse without so much as consulting his prenuptial wishes, this Queen
began to blush. Up her neck, flooding her face to her ears and forehead,
welled the pink tide of maidenly modesty and embarrassment. And such
sight of faltering made Francis likewise falter. He knew not what to do,
and felt a warmth of blood rising under the sun-tan of his own face.
Never, he thought, had there been a man-and-woman situation like it in
all the history of men and women. The mutual embarrassment of the pair
of them was appalling, and to save his life he could not have summoned a
jot of initiative. Thus, the Queen was compelled to speak first.

“And now,” she said, blushing still more furiously, “you must make love
to me.”

Francis strove to speak, but his lips were so dry that he licked them
and succeeded only in stammering incoherently.

“I never have been loved,” the Queen continued bravely. “The affairs of
my people are not love. My people are animals without reason. But we,
you and I, are man and woman. There must be wooing, and tenderness——that
much I have learned from my Mirror of the World. But I am unskilled. I
know not how. But you, from out of the great world, must surely know. I
wait. You must love me.”

She sank down upon the couch, drawing Francis beside her, and true to
her word, proceeded to wait. While he, bidden to love at command, was
paralyzed by the preposterous impossibility of so obeying.

“Am I not beautiful?” the Queen queried after another pause. “Are not
your arms as mad to be about me as I am mad to have them about me? Never
have a man’s lips touched my lips. What is a kiss like——on the lips, I
mean? Your lips on my hand were ecstasy. You kissed then, not alone my
hand, but my soul. My heart was there, throbbing against the press of
your lips. Did you not feel it?”

                  *       *       *       *       *

“And so,” she was saying, half an hour later, as they sat on the couch
hand in hand, “I have told you the little I know of myself. I do not
know the past, except what I have been told of it. The present I see
clearly in my Mirror of the World. The future I can likewise see, but
vaguely; nor can I always understand what I see. I was born here. So was
my mother, and her mother. How it chanced is that always into the life
of each queen came a lover. Sometimes, as you, they came here. My
mother’s mother, so it was told me, left the valley to find her lover
and was gone a long time——for years. So did my mother go forth. The
secret way is known to me, where the long dead conquistadores guard the
Maya mysteries, and where Da Vasco himself stands whose helmet this
Torres animal had the impudence to steal and claim for his own. Had you
not come, I should have been compelled to go forth and find you, for you
were my appointed one and had to be.”

A woman entered, followed by a spearman, and Francis could scarce make
his way through the quaint antiquated Spanish of the conversation that
ensued. In commingled anger and joy, the Queen epitomized it to him.

“We are to depart now to the Long House for our wedding. The Priest of
the Sun is stubborn, I know not why, save that he has been balked of the
blood of all of you on his altar. He is very blood-thirsty. He is the
Sun Priest, but he is possessed of little reason. I have report that he
is striving to turn the people against our wedding——the dog!” She
clinched her hands, her face set, and her eyes blazed with royal fury.
“He shall marry us, by the ancient custom, before the Long House, at the
Altar of the Sun.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

“It’s not too late, Francis, to change your mind,” Henry urged.
“Besides, it is not fair. The short straw was mine. Am I not right,
Leoncia?”

Leoncia could not reply. They stood in a group, at the forefront of the
assembled Lost Souls, before the altar. Inside the Long House the Queen
and the Sun Priest were closeted.

“You wouldn’t want to see Henry marry her, would you, Leoncia?” Francis
argued.

“Nor you, either,” Leoncia countered. “Torres is the only one I’d like
to have seen marry her. I don’t like her. I would not care to see any
friend of mine her husband.”

“You’re almost jealous,” commented Henry. “Just the same, Francis
doesn’t seem so very cast down over his fate.”

“She’s not at all bad,” Francis retorted. “And I can accept my fate with
dignity, if not with equanimity. And I’ll tell you something else,
Henry, now that you are harping on this strain: she wouldn’t marry you
if you asked her.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Henry began.

“Then ask her,” was the challenge. “Here she comes now. Look at her
eyes. There’s trouble brewing. And the priest’s black as thunder. You
just propose to her and see what chance you’ve got while I’m around.”

Henry nodded his head stubbornly.

“I will——but not to show you what kind of a woman-conqueror I am, but
for the sake of fair play. I wasn’t playing the game when I accepted
your sacrifice of yourself, but I am going to play the game now.”

Before they could prevent him, he had thrust his way to the Queen,
shouldered in between her and the priest, and began to speak earnestly.
And the Queen laughed as she listened. But her laughter was not for
Henry. With shining triumph she laughed across at Leoncia.

Not many moments were required to say no to Henry’s persuasions,
whereupon the Queen joined Leoncia and Francis, the priest tagging at
her heels, and Henry, following more slowly, trying to conceal the
gladness that was his at being rejected.

“What do you think,” the Queen addressed Leoncia directly. “Good Henry
has just asked me to marry him, which makes the fourth this day. Am I
not well loved? Have you ever had four lovers, all desiring to marry you
on your wedding day?”

“Four!” Francis exclaimed.

The Queen looked at him tenderly.

“Yourself, and Henry whom I have just declined. And, before either of
you, this day, the insolent Torres; and, just now, in the Long House,
the priest here.” Wrath began to fire her eyes and cheeks at the
recollection. “This Priest of the Sun, this priest long since renegade
to his vows, this man who is only half a man, wanted me to marry him!
The dog! The beast! And he had the insolence to say, at the end, that I
should not marry Francis. Come. I will show him.”

She nodded her own private spearmen up about the group, and with her
eyes directed two of them behind the priest to include him. At sight of
this, murmurs began to arise in the crowd.

“Proceed, priest,” the Queen commanded harshly. “Else will my men kill
you now.”

He turned sharply about, as if to appeal to the people, but the speech
that trembled to his lips died unuttered at sight of the spear-points at
his breast. He bowed to the inevitable, and led the way close to the
altar, placing the Queen and Francis facing him, while he stood above on
the platform of the altar, looking at them and over them at the Lost
Souls.

“I am the Priest of the Sun,” he began. “My vows are holy. As the vowed
priest I am to marry this woman, the Lady Who Dreams, to this stranger
and intruder, whose blood is already forfeit to our altar. My vows are
holy. I cannot be false to them. I refuse to marry this woman to this
man. In the name of the Sun God I refuse to perform this ceremony——”

“Then shall you die, priest, here and now,” the Queen hissed at him,
nodding the near spearmen to lift their spears against him, and nodding
the other spearmen to face the murmuring and semi-mutinous Lost Souls.

Followed a pregnant pause. For less than a minute, but for nearly a
minute, no word was uttered, no thought was betrayed by a restless
movement. All stood, like so many statues; and all gazed upon the priest
against whose heart the poised spears rested.

He, whose blood of heart and life was nearest at stake in the issue, was
the first to act. He gave in. Calmly he turned his back to the
threatening spears, knelt, and, in archaic Spanish, prayed an invocation
of fruitfulness to the Sun. Returning to the Queen and Francis, with a
gesture he made them fully bow and almost half kneel before him. As he
touched their hands with his finger-tips he could not forbear the
involuntary scowl that convulsed his features.

As the couple arose, at his indication, he broke a small corn-cake in
two, handing a half to each.

“The Eucharist,” Henry whispered to Leoncia, as the pair crumbled and
ate their portions of cake.

“The Roman Catholic worship Da Vasco must have brought in with him,
twisted about until it is now the marriage ceremony,” she whispered back
comprehension, although, at sight of Francis thus being lost to her, she
was holding herself tightly for control, her lips bloodless and
stretched to thinness, her nails hurting into her palms.

From the altar the priest took and presented to the Queen a tiny dagger
and a tiny golden cup. She spoke to Francis, who rolled up his sleeve
and presented to her his bared left forearm. About to scarify his flesh,
she paused, considered till all could see her visibly think, and,
instead of breaking his skin, she touched the dagger point carefully to
her tongue.

And then arose rage. At the taste of the blade she threw the weapon from
her, half sprang at the priest, half gave command to her spearmen for
the death of him, and shook and trembled in the violence of her effort
for self-possession. Following with her eyes the flight of the dagger to
assure herself that its poisoned point should not strike the flesh of
another and wreak its evilness upon it, she drew from the breast-fold of
her dress another tiny dagger. This, too, she tested with her tongue,
ere she broke Francis’ skin with the point of it and caught in the cup
of gold the several red blood-drops that exuded from the incision.
Francis repeated the same for her and on her, whereupon, under her
flashing eyes, the priest took the cup and offered the commingled blood
upon the altar.

Came a pause. The Queen frowned.

“If blood is to be shed this day on the altar of the Sun God——” she
began threateningly.

And the priest, as if recollecting what he was loath to do, turned to
the people and made solemn pronouncement that the twain were man and
wife. The Queen turned to Francis with glowing invitation to his arms.
As he folded her to him and kissed her eager lips, Leoncia gasped and
leaned closely to Henry for support. Nor did Francis fail to observe and
understand her passing indisposition, although when the flush-faced
Queen next sparkled triumph at her sister woman, Leoncia was to all
appearance proudly indifferent.



                              CHAPTER XXI


Two thoughts flickered in Torres’ mind as he was sucked down. The first
was of the great white hound which had leaped after him. The second was
that the Mirror of the World told lies. That this was his end he was
certain, yet the little he had dared permit himself to glimpse in the
Mirror had given no hint of an end anything like this.

A good swimmer, as he was engulfed and sucked on in rapid, fluid
darkness, he knew fear that he might have his brains knocked out by the
stone walls or roof of the subterranean passage through which he was
being swept. But the freak of the currents was such that not once did he
collide with any part of his anatomy. Sometimes he was aware of being
banked against water-cushions that tokened the imminence of a wall or
boulder, at which times he shrank as it were into smaller compass, like
a sea-turtle drawing in its head before the onslaught of sharks.

Less than a minute, as he measured the passage of time by the holding of
his breath, elapsed, ere, in an easier-flowing stream, his head emerged
above the surface and he refreshed his lungs with great inhalations of
cool air. Instead of swimming, he contented himself with keeping afloat,
and with wondering what had happened to the hound and with what next
excitement would vex his underground adventure.

Soon he glimpsed light ahead, the dim but unmistakable light of day;
and, as the way grew brighter, he turned his face back and saw what made
him proceed to swim with a speed-stroke. What he saw was the hound,
swimming high, with the teeth of its huge jaws gleaming in the
increasing light. Under the source of the light, he saw a shelving bank
and climbed out. His first thought, which he half carried out, was to
reach into his pocket for the gems he had stolen from the Queen’s chest.
But a reverberant barking that grew to thunder in the cavern reminded
him of his fanged pursuer, and he drew forth the Queen’s dagger instead.

Again two thoughts divided his judgment for action. Should he try to
kill the swimming brute ere it landed? Or should he retreat up the rocks
toward the light on the chance that the stream might carry the hound
past him? His judgment settled on the second course of action, and he
fled upward along a narrow ledge. But the dog landed and followed with
such four-footed certainty of speed that it swiftly overtook him. Torres
turned at bay on the cramped footing, crouched, and brandished the
dagger against the brute’s leap.

But the hound did not leap. Instead, playfully, with jaws widespread of
laughter, it sat down and extended its right paw in greeting. As he took
the paw in his hand and shook it, Torres almost collapsed in the
revulsion of relief. He laughed with exuberant shrillness that
advertised semi-hysteria, and continued to pump the hound’s leg up and
down, while the hound, with wide jaws and gentle eyes, laughed as
exuberantly back.

Pursuing the shelf, the hound contentedly at heel and occasionally
sniffing his calves, Torres found that the narrow track, paralleling the
river, after an ascent descended to it again. And then Torres saw two
things, one that made him pause and shudder, and one that made his heart
beat high with hope. The first was the underground river. Rushing
straight at the wall of rock, it plunged into it in a chaos of foam and
turbulence, with stiffly serrated and spitefully spitting waves that
advertised its swiftness and momentum. The second was an opening to one
side, through which streamed white daylight. Possibly fifteen feet in
diameter was this opening, but across it was stretched a spider web more
monstrous than any product of a madman’s fancy. Most ominous of all was
the debris of bones that lay beneath. The threads of the web were of
silver and of the thickness of a lead pencil. He shuddered as he touched
a thread with his hand. It clung to his flesh like glue, and only by an
effort that agitated the entire web did he succeed in freeing his hand.
Upon his clothes and upon the coat of the dog he rubbed off the
stickiness from his skin.

Between two of the lower guys of the great web he saw that there was
space for him to crawl through the opening to the day; but, ere he
attempted it, caution led him to test the opening by helping and shoving
the hound ahead of him. The white beast crawled and scrambled out of
sight, and Torres was about to follow when it returned. Such was the
panic haste of its return that it collided with him and both fell. But
the man managed to save himself by clinging with his hands to the rocks,
while the four-footed brute, not able so to check itself, fell into the
churning water. Even as Torres reached a hand out to try to save it, the
dog was carried under the rock.

Long Torres debated. That farther subterranean plunge of the river was
dreadful to contemplate. Above was the open way to the day, and the life
of him yearned towards the day as a bee or a flower toward the sun. Yet
what had the hound encountered to drive it back in such precipitate
retreat? As he pondered, he became aware that his hand was resting on a
rounded surface. He picked the object up, and gazed into the eyeless,
noseless features of a human skull. His frightened glances played over
the carpet of bones, and, beyond all doubt, he made out the ribs and
spinal columns and thigh bones of what had once been men. This inclined
him toward the water as the way out, but at sight of the foaming madness
of it plunging through solid rock he recoiled.

Drawing the Queen’s dagger, he crawled up between the web-guys with
infinite carefulness, saw what the hound had seen, and came back in such
vertigo of retreat that he, too, fell into the water, and, with but time
to fill his lungs with air, was drawn into the opening and into
darkness.

                  *       *       *       *       *

In the meanwhile, back at the lake dwelling of the Queen, events no less
portentous were occurring with no less equal rapidity. Just returned
from the ceremony at the Long House, the wedding party was in the action
of seating itself for what might be called the wedding breakfast, when
an arrow, penetrating an interstice in the bamboo wall, flashed between
the Queen and Francis and transfixed the opposite wall, where its
feathered shaft vibrated from the violence of its suddenly arrested
flight. A rush to the windows looking out upon the narrow bridge, showed
Henry and Francis the gravity of the situation. Even as they looked,
they saw the Queen’s spearman who guarded the approach to the bridge,
midway across it in flight, falling into the water with the shaft of an
arrow vibrating out of his back in similar fashion to the one in the
wall of the room. Beyond the bridge, on the shore, headed by their
priest and backed by their women and children, all the male Lost Souls
were arching the air full with feathered bolts from their bows.

A spearman of the Queen tottered into the apartment, his limbs spreading
vainly to support him, his eyes glazing, his lips beating a soundless
message which his fading life could not utter, as he fell prone, his
back bristling with arrow shafts like a porcupine. Henry sprang to the
door that gave entrance from the bridge, and, with his automatic, swept
it clear of the charging Lost Souls who could advance only in single
file and who fell as they advanced before his fire.

The siege of the frail house was brief. Though Francis, protected by
Henry’s automatic, destroyed the bridge, by no method could the besieged
put out the blazing thatch of roof ignited in a score of places by the
fire-arrows discharged under the Sun Priest’s directions.

“There is but one way to escape,” the Queen panted, on the platform
overlooking the whirl of waters, as she clasped one hand of Francis in
hers and threatened to precipitate herself clingingly into his arms. “It
wins to the world.” She pointed to the sucking heart of the whirlpool.
“No one has ever returned from that. In my Mirror I have beheld them
pass, dead always, and out to the wider world. Except for Torres, I have
never seen the living go. Only the dead. And they never returned. Nor
has Torres returned.”

All eyes looked to all eyes at sight of the dreadfulness of the way.

“There is no other way?” Henry demanded, as he drew Leoncia close to
him.

The Queen shook her head. About them already burning portions of the
thatch were falling, while their ears were deafened by the blood-lust
chantings of the Lost Souls on the lake-shore. The Queen disengaged her
hand from Francis’, with the evident intention of dashing into her
sleeping room, then caught his hand and led him in. As he stood
wonderingly beside her, she slammed down the lid on the chest of jewels
and fastened it. Next, she kicked aside the floor matting and lifted a
trap door that opened down to the water. At her indication, Francis
dragged over the chest and dropped it through.

“Even the Sun Priest does not know that hiding place,” she whispered,
ere she caught his hand again, and, running, led him back to the others
on the platform.

“It is now time to depart from this place,” she announced.

“Hold me in your arms, good Francis, husband of mine, and lift me and
leap with me,” she commanded. “We will lead the way.”

And so they leapt. As the roof was crashing down in a wrath of fire and
flying embers, Henry caught Leoncia to him, and sprang after into the
whirl of waters wherein Francis and the Queen had already disappeared.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Like Torres, the four fugitives escaped injury against the rocks and
were borne onward by the underground river to the daylight opening where
the great spider-web guarded the way. Henry had an easier time of it,
for Leoncia knew how to swim. But Francis’ swimming prowess enabled him
to keep the Queen up. She obeyed him implicitly, floating low in the
water, nor clutched at his arms nor acted as a drag on him in any way.
At the ledge, all four drew out of the water and rested. The two women
devoted themselves to wringing out their hair, which had been flung
adrift all about them by the swirling currents.

“It is not the first mountain I have been in the heart of with you two,”
Leoncia laughed to the Morgans, although more than for them was her
speech intended for the Queen.

“It is the first time I have been in the heart of a mountain with my
husband,” the Queen laughed back, and the barb of her dart sank deep
into Leoncia.

“Seems as though your wife, Francis, and my wife-to-be, aren’t going to
hit it off too well together,” Henry said, with the sharpness of censure
that man is wont to employ to conceal the embarrassment caused by his
womankind.

And, as inevitable result of such male men’s ways, all that Henry gained
was a silence more awkward and more embarrassing. The two women almost
enjoyed the situation. Francis cudgeled his brains vainly for some
remark that would ameliorate matters; while Henry, in desperation, arose
suddenly with the observation that he was going to “explore a bit,” and
invited, by his hand out to help her to her feet, the Queen to accompany
him. Francis and Leoncia sat on for a moment in stubborn silence. He was
the first to break it.

“For two cents I’d give you a thorough shaking, Leoncia.”

“And what have I done now?” she countered.

“As if you didn’t know. You’ve been behaving abominably.”

“It is you who have behaved abominably,” she half-sobbed, in spite of
her determination to betray no such feminine signs of weakness. “Who
asked you to marry her? You did not draw the short straw. Yet you must
volunteer, must rush in where even angels would fear to tread? Did I ask
you to? Almost did my heart stop beating when I heard you tell Henry you
would marry her. I thought I was going to faint. You had not even
consulted me; yet it was on my suggestion, in order to save you from
her, that the straws were drawn——yes, and I am not too little shameless
to admit that it was because I wanted to save you for myself. Henry does
not love me as you led me to believe you loved me. I never loved Henry
as I loved you, as I do love you even now, God forgive me.”

Francis was swept beyond himself. He caught her and pressed her to him
in a crushing embrace.

“And on your very wedding day,” she gasped reproachfully in the midmost
of his embrace.

His arm died away from about her.

“And this from you, Leoncia, at such a moment,” he murmured sadly.

“And why not?” she flared. “You loved me. You gave me to understand,
beyond all chance of misunderstanding, that you loved me; yet here,
to-day, you went out of your way, went eagerly and gladly, and married
yourself to the first woman with a white skin who presented herself.”

“You are jealous,” he charged, and knew a heart-throb of joy as she
nodded. “And I grant you are jealous; but at the same time, exercising
the woman’s prerogative of lying, you are lying now. What I did, was not
done eagerly nor gladly. I did it for your sake and my sake——or for
Henry’s sake, rather. Thank God, I have a man’s honor still left to me!”

“Man’s honour does not always satisfy woman,” she replied.

“Would you prefer me dishonorable?” he was swift on the uptake.

“I am only a woman who loves,” she pleaded.

“You are a stinging, female wasp,” he raged, “and you are not fair.”

“Is any woman fair when she loves?” she made the great confession and
acknowledgment. “Men may succeed in living in their heads of honor; but
know, and as a humble woman I humbly state my womanhood, that woman
lives only in her heart of love.”

“Perhaps you are right. Honor, like arithmetic, can be reasoned and
calculated. Which leaves a woman no morality, but only ...”

“Only moods,” Leoncia completed abjectly for him.

Calls from Henry and the Queen put an end to the conversation, for
Leoncia and Francis quickly joined the others in gazing at the great
web.

“Did you ever see so monstrous a web!” Leoncia exclaimed.

“I’d like to see the monster that made it,” said Henry.

“And I’d rather see than be it,” Francis paraphrased from the “Purple
Cow.”

“It is our good fortune that we do not have to go that way,” the Queen
said.

All looked inquiry at her, and she pointed down to the stream.

“That is the way,” she said. “I know it. Often and often, in my Mirror
of the World, have I seen the way. When my mother died and was buried in
the whirlpool, I followed her body in the Mirror, and I saw it come to
this place and go by this place still in the water.”

“But she was dead,” Leoncia objected quickly.

The rivalry between them fanned instantly.

“One of my spearmen,” the Queen went on quietly, “a handsome youth,
alas, dared to look at me as a lover. He was flung in alive. I watched
him, too, in the Mirror. When he came to this place he climbed out. I
saw him crawl under the web to the day, and I saw him retreat backward
from the day and throw himself into the stream.”

“Another dead one,” Henry commented grimly.

“No; for I followed him on in the Mirror, and though all was darkness
for a time and I could see nothing, in the end, and shortly, under the
sun he emerged into the bosom of a large river, and swam to the shore,
and climbed the bank——it was the left hand bank as I remember well——and
disappeared among large trees such as do not grow in the Valley of the
Lost Souls.”

But, like Torres, the rest of them recoiled from thought of the dark
plunge through the living rock.

“These are the bones of animals and of men,” the Queen warned, “who were
daunted by the way of the water and who strove to gain the sun. Men
there are there——behold! Or at least what remains of them for a space,
the bones, ere, in time, the bones, too, pass into nothingness.”

“Even so,” said Francis, “I suddenly discover a pressing need to look
into the eye of the sun. Do the rest of you remain here while I
investigate.”

Drawing his automatic, the water-tightness of the cartridges a
guarantee, he crawled under the web. The moment he had disappeared from
view beyond the web, they heard him begin to shoot. Next, they saw him
retreating backward, still shooting. And, next, falling upon him, two
yards across from black-haired leg-tip to black-haired leg-tip, the
denizen of the web, a monstrous spider, still wriggling with departing
life, shot through and through again and again. The solid center of its
body, from which the legs radiated, was the size of a normal
waste-basket, and the substantial density of it crunched audibly as it
struck on Francis’ shoulders and back, rebounded, the hairy legs still
helplessly quivering, and pitched down into the wave-crisping water. All
four pair of eyes watched the corpse of it plunge against the wall of
rock, suck down, and disappear.

“Where there’s one, there are two,” said Henry, looking dubiously up
toward the daylight.

“It is the only way,” said the Queen. “Come, my husband, each in the
other’s arms let us win through the darkness to the sun-bright world.
Remember, I have never seen it, and soon, with you, shall I for the
first time see it.”

Her arms open in invitation, Francis could not decline.

“It is a hole in the sheer wall of a precipice a thousand feet deep,” he
explained to the others the glimpse he had caught from beyond the spider
web, as he clasped the Queen in his arms and leaped off.

Henry had gathered Leoncia to him and was about to leap, when she
stopped him.

“Why did you accept Francis’ sacrifice?” she demanded.

“Because ...” He paused and looked at her wonderingly.

“Because I wanted you,” he completed. “Because I was engaged to you as
well, while Francis was unattached. Besides, if I’m not greatly
mistaken, Francis appears to be a pretty well satisfied bridegroom.”

“No,” she shook her head emphatically. “He has a chivalrous spirit, and
he is acting his part in order not to hurt her feelings.”

“Oh, I don’t know. Remember, before the altar, at the Long House, when I
said I was going to ask the Queen to marry me, that he bragged she
wouldn’t marry me if I did ask? Well, the conclusion’s pretty obvious
that he wanted her himself. And why shouldn’t he? He’s a bachelor. And
she’s some nice woman herself.”

But Leoncia scarcely heard. With a quick movement, leaning back in his
arms away from him so that she could look him squarely in the eyes, she
demanded:

“How do you love me? Do you love me madly? Do you love me badly madly?
Do I mean that to you, and more, and more, and more?”

He could only look his bewilderment.

“Do you?—do you?” she urged passionately.

“Of course I do,” he made slow answer, “but it would never have entered
my head to describe it that way. Why, you’re the one woman for me.
Rather would I describe it as loving you deeply, and greatly, and
enduringly. Why, you seem so much a part of me that I feel almost as if
I had always known you. It was that way from the first.”

“She is an abominable woman!” Leoncia broke forth irrelevantly. “I hated
her from the first.”

“My! What a spitfire! I hate to think how much you would have hated her
had I married her instead of Francis.”

“We’d better follow them,” she put an end to the discussion.

And Henry, very much be-puzzled, clasped her tightly and leaped off into
the white turmoil of water.

                  *       *       *       *       *

On the bank of the Gualaca River sat two Indian girls fishing. Just
up-stream from them arose the precipitous cliff of one of the buttresses
of the lofty mountains. The main stream flowed past in chocolate-colored
spate; but, directly beneath them, where they fished, was a quiet eddy.
No less quiet was the fishing. No bites jerked their rods in token that
the bait was enticing. One of them, Nicoya, yawned, ate a banana, yawned
again, and held the skin she was about to cast aside suspended in her
hand.

“We have been very quiet, Concordia,” she observed to her companion,
“and it has won us no fish. Now shall I make a noise and a splash. Since
they say ‘what goes up must come down,’ why should not something come up
after something has gone down? I am going to try. There!”

She threw the banana peel into the water and lazily watched the point
where it had struck.

“If anything comes up I hope it will be big,” Concordia murmured with
equal laziness.

And upon their astonished gaze, even as they looked, arose up out of the
brown depths a great white hound. They jerked their poles up and behind
them on the bank, threw their arms about each other, and watched the
hound gain the shore at the lower end of the eddy, climb the sloping
bank, pause to shake himself, and then disappear among the trees.

Nicoya and Concordia giggled.

“Try it again,” Concordia urged.

“No; you this time. And see what you can bring up.”

Quite unbelieving, Concordia tossed in a clod of earth. And almost
immediately a helmeted head arose on the flood. Clutching each other
very tightly, they watched the man under the helmet gain the shore where
the hound had landed and disappear into the forest.

Again the two Indian girls giggled; but this time, urge as they would,
neither could raise the courage to throw anything into the water.

Some time later, still giggling over the strange occurrences, they were
espied by two young Indian men, who were hugging the bank as they
paddled their canoe up against the stream.

“What makes you laugh,” one of them greeted.

“We have been seeing things,” Nicoya gurgled down to them.

“Then have you been drinking pulque,” the young man charged.

Both girls shook their heads, and Concordia said:

“We don’t have to drink to see things. First, when Nicoya threw in a
banana skin, we saw a dog come up out of the water——a white dog that was
as big as a tiger of the mountains——”

“And when Concordia threw in a clod,” the other girl took up the tale,
“up came a man with a head of iron. It is magic. Concordia and I can
work magic.”

“José,” one of the Indians addressed his mate, “this merits a drink.”

And each, in turn, while the other with his paddle held the canoe in
place, took a swig from a square-face Holland gin bottle part full of
pulque.

“No,” said José, when the girls had begged him for a drink. “One drink
of pulque and you might see more white dogs as big as tigers or more
iron-headed men.”

“All right,” Nicoya accepted the rebuff. “Then do you throw in your
pulque bottle and see what you will see. We drew a dog and a man. Your
prize may be the devil.”

“I should like to see the devil,” said José, taking another drain at the
bottle. “The pulque is a true fire of bravery. I should very much like
to see the devil.”

He passed the bottle to his companion with a gesture to finish it.

“Now throw it into the water,” José commanded.

The empty bottle struck with a forceful splash, and the evoking was
realized with startling immediacy, for up to the surface floated the
monstrous, hairy body of the slain spider. Which was too much for
ordinary Indian flesh and blood. So suddenly did both young men recoil
from the sight that they capsized the canoe. When their heads emerged
from the water they struck out for the swift current, and were swiftly
borne away down stream, followed more slowly by the swamped canoe.

Nicoya and Concordia had been too frightened to giggle. They held on to
each other and waited, watching the magic water and out of the tails of
their eyes observing the frightened young men capture the canoe, tow it
to shore, and run out and hide on the bank.

The afternoon sun was getting low in the sky ere the girls summoned
courage again to evoke the magic water. Only after much discussion did
they agree both to fling in clods of earth at the same time. And up
arose a man and a woman——Francis and the Queen. The girls fell over
backward into the bushes, and were themselves unobserved as they watched
Francis swim with the Queen to shore.

“It may just have happened——all these things may just have happened at
the very times we threw things into the water,” Nicoya whispered to
Concordia five minutes later.

“But when we threw one thing in, only one came up,” Concordia argued.
“And when we threw two, two came up.”

“Very well,” said Nicoya. “Let us now prove it. Let us try again, both
of us. If nothing comes up, then have we no power of magic.”

Together they threw in clods, and uprose another man and woman. But this
pair, Henry and Leoncia, could swim, and they swam side by side to the
natural landing place, and, like the rest that had preceded them, passed
on out of sight among the trees.

Long the two Indian girls lingered. For they had agreed to throw
nothing, and, if something arose, then would coincidence be proved. But
if nothing arose, because nothing further was by them evoked, they could
only conclude that the magic was truly theirs. They lay hidden and
watched the water until darkness hid it from their eyes; and, slowly and
soberly, they took the trail back to their village, overcome by an
awareness of having been blessed by the gods.



                              CHAPTER XXII


Not until the day following his escape from the subterranean river, did
Torres reach San Antonio. He arrived on foot, jaded and dirty, a small
Indian boy at his heels carrying the helmet of Da Vasco. For Torres
wanted to show the helmet to the Jefe and the Judge in evidence of the
narrative of strange adventure he chuckled to tell them.

First on the main street he encountered the Jefe, who cried out loudly
at his appearance.

“Is it truly you, Senor Torres?” The Jefe crossed himself solemnly ere
he shook hands.

The solid flesh, and, even more so, the dirt and grit of the other’s
hand, convinced the Jefe of reality and substance.

Whereupon the Jefe became wrathful.

“And here I’ve been looking upon you as dead!” he exclaimed. “That Caroo
dog of a José Mancheno! He came back and reported you dead——dead and
buried until the Day of Judgment in the heart of the Maya Mountain.”

“He is a fool, and I am possibly the richest man in Panama,” Torres
replied grandiosely. “At least, like the ancient and heroic
conquistadores, I have braved all dangers and penetrated to the
treasure. I have seen it. Nay——”

Torres’ hand had been sunk into his trousers’ pocket to bring forth the
filched gems of the Lady Who Dreams; but he withdrew the hand empty. Too
many curious eyes of the street were already centered upon him and the
draggled figure he cut.

“I have much to say to you,” he told the Jefe, “that cannot well be said
now. I have knocked on the doors of the dead and worn the shrouds of
corpses. And I have consorted with men four centuries dead but who were
not dust, and I have beheld them drown in the second death. I have gone
through mountains, as well as over them, and broken bread with lost
souls, and gazed into the Mirror of the World. All of which I shall tell
you, my best friend, and the honorable Judge, in due time, for I shall
make you rich along with me.”

“Have you looked upon the pulque when it was sour?” the Jefe quipped
incredulously.

“I have not had drink stronger than water since I last departed from San
Antonio,” was the reply. “And I shall go now to my house and drink a
long long drink, and after that I shall bathe the filth from me, and put
on garments whole and decent.”

Not immediately, as he proceeded, did Torres gain his house. A ragged
urchin exclaimed out at sight of him, ran up to him, and handed him an
envelope that he knew familiarly to be from the local government
wireless, and that he was certain had been sent by Regan.

    _You are doing well. Imperative you keep party away from New York
    for three weeks more. Fifty thousand if you succeed._

Borrowing a pencil from the boy, Torres wrote a reply on the back of the
envelope:

    _Send the money. Party will never come back from mountains where he
    is lost._

Two other occurrences delayed Torres’ long drink and bath. Just as he
was entering the jewelry store of old Rodriguez Fernandez, he was
intercepted by the old Maya priest with whom he had last parted in the
Maya mountain. He recoiled as from an apparition, for sure he was that
the old man was drowned in the Room of the Gods. Like the Jefe at sight
of Torres, so Torres, at sight of the priest, drew back in startled
surprise.

“Go away,” he said. “Depart, restless old man. You are a spirit. Thy
body lies drowned and horrible in the heart of the mountain. You are an
appearance, a ghost. Go away, nothing corporeal resides in this illusion
of you, else would I strike you. You are a ghost. Depart at once. I
should not like to strike a ghost.”

But the ghost seized his hands and clung to them with such beseeching
corporality as to unconvince him.

“Money,” the ancient one babbled. “Let me have money. Lend me money. I
will repay——I who know the secrets of the Maya treasure. My son is lost
in the mountain with the treasure. The Gringos also are lost in the
mountain. Help me to rescue my son. With him alone will I be satisfied,
while the treasure shall all be yours. But we must take men, and much of
the white man’s wonderful powder and tear a hole out of the mountain so
that the water will run away. He is not drowned. He is a prisoner of the
water in the room where stand the jewel-eyed Chia and Hzatzl. Their eyes
of green and red alone will pay for all the wonderful powder in the
world. So let me have the money with which to buy the wonderful powder.”

But Alvarez Torres was a strangely constituted man. Some warp or slant
or idiosyncrasy of his nature always raised insuperable obstacles to his
parting with money when such parting was unavoidable. And the richer he
got the more positively this idiosyncrasy asserted itself.

“Money!” he asserted harshly, as he thrust the old priest aside and
pulled open the door of Fernandez’s store. “Is it I who should have
money—. I who am all rags and tatters as a beggar. I have no money for
myself, much less for you, old man. Besides, it was you, and not I, who
led your son to the Maya mountain. On your head be it, not on mine, the
death of your son who fell into the pit under the feet of Chia that was
digged by your ancestors and not by mine.”

Again the ancient one clutched at him and yammered for money with which
to buy dynamite. So roughly did Torres thrust him aside that his old
legs failed to perform their wonted duty and he fell upon the
flagstones.

The shop of Rodriguez Fernandez was small and dirty, and contained
scarcely more than a small and dirty showcase that rested upon an
equally small and dirty counter. The place was grimy with the undusted
and unswept filth of a generation. Lizards and cockroaches crawled along
the walls. Spiders webbed in every corner, and Torres saw, crossing the
ceiling above, what made him step hastily to the side. It was a
seven-inch centipede which he did not care to have fall casually upon
his head or down his back between shirt and skin. And, when he appeared
crawling out like a huge spider himself from some inner den of an
unventilated cubicle, Fernandez looked like an Elizabethan
stage-representation of Shylock——withal he was a dirtier Shylock than
even the Elizabethan stage could have stomached.

The jeweler fawned to Torres and in a cracked falsetto humbled himself
even beneath the dirt of his shop. Torres pulled from his pocket a
haphazard dozen or more of the gems filched from the Queen’s chest,
selected the smallest, and, without a word, while at the same time
returning the rest to his pocket, passed it over to the jeweler.

“I am a poor man,” he cackled, the while Torres could not fail to see
how keenly he scrutinised the gem.

He dropped it on the top of the show case as of little worth, and looked
inquiringly at his customer. But Torres waited in a silence which he
knew would compel the garrulity of covetous age to utterance.

“Do I understand that the honorable Senor Torres seeks advice about the
quality of the stone?” the old jeweler finally quavered.

Torres did no more than nod curtly.

“It is a natural gem. It is small. It, as you can see for yourself, is
not perfect. And it is clear that much of it will be lost in the
cutting.”

“How much is it worth?” Torres demanded with impatient bluntness.

“I am a poor man,” Fernandez reiterated.

“I have not asked you to buy it, old fool. But now that you bring the
matter up, how much will you give for it?”

“As I was saying, craving your patience, honorable senor, as I was
saying, I am a very poor man. There are days when I cannot spend ten
centavos for a morsel of spoiled fish. There are days when I cannot
afford a sip of the cheap red wine I learned was tonic to my system when
I was a lad, far from Barcelona, serving my apprenticeship in Italy. I
am so very poor that I do not buy costly pretties——”

“Not to sell again at a profit?” Torres cut in.

“If I am sure of my profit,” the old man cackled. “Yes, then will I buy;
but, being poor, I cannot pay more than little.” He picked up the gem
and studied it long and carefully. “I would give,” he began
hesitatingly, “I would give——but, please, honorable senor, know that I
am a very poor man. This day only a spoonful of onion soup, with my
morning coffee and a mouthful of crust, passed my lips——”

“In God’s name, old fool, what will you give?” Torres thundered.

“Five hundred dollars—but I doubt the profit that will remain to me.”

“Gold?”

“Mex.,” came the reply, which cut the offer in half and which Torres
knew was a lie. “Of course, Mex., only Mex., all our transactions are in
Mex.”

Despite his elation at so large a price for so small a gem, Torres
play-acted impatience as he reached to take back the gem. But the old
man jerked his hand away, loath to let go of the bargain it contained.

“We are old friends,” he cackled shrilly. “I first saw you, when, a boy,
you came to San Antonio from Boca del Toros. And, as between old
friends, we will say the sum is gold.”

And Torres caught a sure but vague glimpse of the enormousness, as well
as genuineness, of the Queen’s treasure which at some remote time the
Lost Souls had ravished from its hiding place in the Maya Mountain.

“Very good,” said Torres, with a quick, cavalier action recovering the
stone. “It belongs to a friend of mine. He wanted to borrow money from
me on it. I can now lend him up to five hundred gold on it, thanks to
your information. And I shall be grateful to buy for you, the next time
we meet in the pulqueria, a drink—yes, as many drinks as you can care to
carry—of the thin, red, tonic wine.”

And as Torres passed out of the shop, not in any way attempting to hide
the scorn and contempt he felt for the fool he had made of the jeweler,
he knew elation in that Fernandez, the Spanish fox, must have cut his
estimate of the gem’s value fully in half when he uttered it.

                  *       *       *       *       *

In the meanwhile, descending the Gualaca River by canoe, Leoncia, the
Queen, and the two Morgans, had made better time than Torres to the
coast. But ere their arrival and briefly pending it, a matter of moment
that was not appreciated at the time, had occurred at the Solano
hacienda. Climbing the winding pathway to the hacienda, accompanied by a
decrepit old crone whose black shawl over head and shoulders could not
quite hide the lean and withered face of blasted volcanic fire, came as
strange a caller as the hacienda had ever received.

He was a Chinaman, middle-aged and fat, whose moon-face beamed the
beneficent good nature that seems usual with fat persons. By name, Yi
Poon, meaning “the Cream of the Custard Apple,” his manners were as
softly and richly oily as his name. To the old crone, who tottered
beside him and was half-supported by him, he was the quintessence of
gentleness and consideration. When she faltered from sheer physical
weakness and would have fallen, he paused and gave her chance to gain
strength and breath. Thrice, at such times, on the climb to the
hacienda, he fed her a spoonful of French brandy from a screw-cap pocket
flask.

Seating the old woman in a selected, shady corner of the piazza, Yi Poon
boldly knocked for admittance at the front door. To him, and in his
business, back-stairs was the accustomed way; but his business and his
wit had taught him the times when front entrances were imperative.

The Indian maid who answered his knock, took his message into the living
room where sat the disconsolate Enrico Solano among his
sons—disconsolate at the report Ricardo had brought in of the loss of
Leoncia in the Maya Mountain. The Indian maid returned to the door. The
Senor Solano was indisposed and would see nobody, was her report, humbly
delivered, even though the recipient was a Chinese.

“Huh!” observed Yi Poon, with braggart confidence for the purpose of
awing the maid to carrying a second message. “I am no coolie. I am smart
Chinaman. I go to school plenty much. I speak Spanish. I speak English.
I write Spanish. I write English. See—I write now in Spanish for the
Senor Solano. You cannot write, so you cannot read what I write. I write
that I am Yi Poon. I belong Colon. I come this place to see Senor
Solano. Big business. Much important. Very secret. I write all this here
on paper which you cannot read.”

But he did not say that he had further written:

“_The Senorita Solano. I have great secret._”

It was Alesandro, the eldest of the tall sons of Solano, who evidently
had received the note, for he came bounding to the door, far
outstripping the returning maid.

“Tell me your business!” he almost shouted at the fat Chinese. “What is
it? Quick!”

“Very good business,” was the reply, Yi Poon noting the other’s
excitement with satisfaction. “I make much money. I buy—what you
call—secrets. I sell secrets. Very nice business.”

“What do you know about the Senorita Solano?” Alesandro shouted,
gripping him by the shoulder.

“Everything. Very important information——”

But Alesandro could no longer control himself. He almost hurled the
Chinaman into the house, and, not relaxing his grip, rushed him on into
the living room and up to Enrico.

“He has news of Leoncia!” Alesandro shouted.

“Where is she?” Enrico and his sons shouted in chorus.

Hah!—was Yi Poon’s thought. Such excitement, although it augured well
for his business, was rather exciting for him as well.

Mistaking his busy thinking for fright, Enrico stilled his sons back
with an upraised hand, and addressed the visitor quietly.

“Where is she?” Enrico asked.

Hah!—thought Yi Poon. The senorita was lost. That was a new secret. It
might be worth something some day, or any day. A nice girl, of high
family and wealth such as the Solanos, lost in a Latin-American country,
was information well worth possessing. Some day she might be
married—there was that gossip he had heard in Colon—and some later day
she might have trouble with her husband or her husband have trouble with
her——at which time, she or her husband, it mattered not which, might be
eager to pay high for the secret.

“This Senorita Leoncia,” he said, finally, with sleek suavity. “She is
not your girl. She has other papa and mama.”

But Enrico’s present grief at her loss was too great to permit
startlement at this explicit statement of an old secret.

“Yes,” he nodded. “Though it is not known outside my family, I adopted
her when she was a baby. It is strange that you should know this. But I
am not interested in having you tell me what I have long since known.
What I want to know now is: _where is she now_?”

Yi Poon gravely and sympathetically shook his head.

“That is different secret,” he explained. “Maybe I find that secret.
Then I sell it to you. But I have old secret. You do not know the name
of the Senorita Leoncia’s papa and mama. I know.”

And old Enrico Solano could not hide his interest at the temptation of
such information.

“Speak,” he commanded. “Name the names, and prove them, and I shall
reward.”

“No,” Yi Poon shook his head. “Very poor business. I no do business that
way. You pay me I tell you. My secrets good secrets. I prove my secrets.
You give me five hundred pesos and big expenses from Colon to San
Antonio and back to Colon and I tell you name of papa and mama.”

Enrico Solano bowed acquiescence, and was just in the act of ordering
Alesandro to go and fetch the money, when the quiet, spirit-subdued
Indian maid created a diversion. Running into the room and up to Enrico
as they had never seen her run before, she wrung her hands and wept so
incoherently that they knew her paroxysm was of joy, not of sadness.

“The Senorita!” she was finally able to whisper hoarsely, as she
indicated the side piazza with a nod of head and glance of eyes. “The
Senorita!”

And Yi Poon and his secret were forgotten. Enrico and his sons streamed
out to the side piazza to behold Leoncia and the Queen and the two
Morgans, dropping dust-covered off the backs of riding mules
recognizable as from the pastures of the mouth of the Gualaca River. At
the same time two Indian man-servants, summoned by the maid, cleared the
house and grounds of the fat Chinaman and his old crone of a companion.

“Come some other time,” they told him. “Just now the Senor Solano is
very importantly busy.”

“Sure, I come some other time,” Yi Poon assured them pleasantly, without
resentment and without betrayal of the disappointment that was his at
his deal interrupted just ere the money was paid into his hand.

But he departed reluctantly. The place was good for his business. It was
sprouting secrets. Never was there a riper harvest in Canaan out of
which, sickle in hand, a husbandman was driven! Had it not been for the
zealous Indian attendants, Yi Poon would have darted around the corner
of the hacienda to note the newcomers. As it was, half way down the
hill, finding the weight of the crone too fatiguing, he put into her the
life and ability to carry her own weight a little farther by feeding her
a double teaspoonful of brandy from his screw-top flask.

Enrico swept Leoncia off her mule ere she could dismount, so
passionately eager was he to fold her in his arms. For several minutes
ensued naught but noisy Latin affection as her brothers all strove to
greet and embrace her at once. When they recollected themselves, Francis
had already helped the Lady Who Dreams from her mount, and beside her,
her hand in his, was waiting recognition.

“This is my wife,” Francis told Enrico. “I went into the Cordilleras
after treasure, and behold what I found. Was there ever better fortune?”

“And she sacrificed a great treasure herself,” Leoncia murmured bravely.

“She was queen of a little kingdom,” Francis added, with a grateful and
admiring flash of eyes to Leoncia, who quickly added:

“And she saved all our lives but sacrificed her little kingdom in so
doing.”

And Leoncia, in an exaltation of generousness, put her arm around the
Queen’s waist, took her away from Francis, and led the way into the
hacienda.



                             CHAPTER XXIII


In all the magnificence of medieval Spanish and New World costume such
as was still affected by certain of the great haciendados of Panama,
Torres rode along the beach-road to the home of the Solanos. Running
with him, at so easy a lope that it promised an extension that would
outspeed the best of Torres’ steed, was the great white hound that had
followed him down the subterranean river. As Torres turned to take the
winding road up the hill to the hacienda, he passed Yi Poon, who had
paused to let the old crone gather strength. He merely noticed the
strange couple as dirt of the common people. The hauteur that he put on
with his magnificence of apparel forbade that he should betray any
interest further than an unseeing glance.

But him Yi Poon noted with slant Oriental eyes that missed no details.
And Yi Poon thought: He looks very rich. He is a friend of the Solanos.
He rides to the house. He may even be a lover of the Senorita
Leoncia.—Or a worsted rival for her love. In almost any case, he might
be expected to buy the secret of the Senorita Leoncia’s birth, and he
certainly looks rich, most rich.

Inside the hacienda, assembled in the living room, were the returned
adventurers and all the Solanos. The Queen, taking her turn in piecing
out the narrative of all that had occurred, with flashing eyes was
denouncing Torres for his theft of her jewels and describing his fall
into the whirlpool before the onslaught of the hound, when Leoncia, at
the window with Henry, uttered a sharp exclamation.

“Speak of the devil!” said Henry. “Here comes Torres himself.”

“Me first!” Francis cried, doubling his fist and flexing his biceps
significantly.

“No,” decreed Leoncia. “He is a wonderful liar. He is a very wonderful
liar, as we’ve all found out. Let us have some fun. He is dismounting
now. Let the four of us disappear.—Father!” With a wave of hand she
indicated Enrico and all his sons. “You will sit around desolated over
the loss of me. This scoundrel Torres will enter. You will be thirsty
for information. He will tell you no one can guess what astounding lies
about us. As for us, we’ll hide behind the screen there.—Come! All of
you!”

And, catching the Queen by the hand and leading the way, with her eyes
she commanded Francis and Henry to follow to the hiding place.

And Torres entered upon a scene of sorrow which had been so recently
real that Enrico and his sons had no difficulty in acting it. Enrico
started up from his chair in eagerness of welcome and sank weakly back.
Torres caught the other’s hand in both his own and manifested deep
sympathy and could not speak from emotion.

“Alas!” he finally managed heart-brokenly. “They are dead. She is dead,
your beautiful daughter, Leoncia. And the two Gringo Morgans are dead
with her. As Ricardo, there, must know, they died in the heart of the
Maya Mountain.

“It is the home of mystery,” he continued, after giving due time for the
subsidence of the first violent outburst of Enrico’s grief. “I was with
them when they died. Had they followed my counsel, they would all have
lived. But not even Leoncia would listen to the old friend of the
Solanos. No, she must listen to the two Gringos. After incredible
dangers I won my way out through the heart of the mountain, gazed down
into the Valley of Lost Souls, and returned into the mountain to find
them dying——”

Here, pursued by an Indian man-servant, the white hound bounded into the
room, trembling and whining in excitement as with its nose it quested
the multitudinous scents of the room that advertised his mistress.
Before he could follow up to where the Queen hid behind the screen,
Torres caught him by the neck and turned him over to a couple of the
Indian house-men to hold.

“Let the brute remain,” said Torres. “I will tell you about him
afterward. But first look at this.” He pulled forth a handful of gems.
“I knocked on the doors of the dead, and, behold, the Maya treasure is
mine. I am the richest man in Panama, in all the Americas. I shall be
powerful——”

“But you were with my daughter when she died,” Enrico interrupted to
sob. “Had she no word for me?”

“Yes,” Torres sobbed back, genuinely affected by the death-scene of his
fancy. “She died with your name on her lips. Her last words were——”

But, with bulging eyes, he failed to complete his sentence, for he was
watching Henry and Leoncia, in the most natural, casual manner in the
world stroll down the room, immersed in quiet conversation. Not noticing
Torres, they crossed over to the window still deep in talk.

“You were telling me her last words were ...?” Enrico prompted.

“I ... I have lied to you,” Torres stammered, while he sparred for time
in which to get himself out of the scrape. “I was confident that they
were as good as dead and would never find their way to the world again.
And I thought to soften the blow to you, Senor Solano, by telling what I
am confident would be her last words were she dying. Also, this man
Francis, whom you have elected to like. I thought it better for you to
believe him dead than know him for the Gringo cur he is.”

Here the hound barked joyfully at the screen, giving the two Indians all
they could do to hold him back. But Torres, instead of suspecting,
blundered on to his fate.

“In the Valley there is a silly weak demented creature who pretends to
read the future by magic. An altogether atrocious and blood-thirsty
female is she. I am not denying that in physical beauty she is
beautiful. For beautiful she is, as a centipede is beautiful to those
who think centipedes are beautiful. You see what has happened. She has
sent Henry and Leoncia out of the Valley by some secret way, while
Francis has elected to remain there with her in sin——for sin it is,
since there exists in the valley no Catholic priest to make their
relation lawful. Oh, not that Francis is infatuated with the terrible
creature. But he is infatuated with a paltry treasure the creature
possesses. And this is the Gringo Francis you have welcomed into the
bosom of your family, the slimy snake of a Gringo Francis who has even
dared to sully the fair Leoncia by casting upon her the looks of a
lover. Oh, I know of what I speak. I have seen——”

A joyous outburst from the hound drowned his voice, and he beheld
Francis and the Queen, as deep in conversation as the two who had
preceded them, walk down the room. The Queen paused to caress the hound,
who stood so tall against her that his forepaws, on her shoulders,
elevated his head above hers; while Torres licked his suddenly dry lips
and vainly cudgeled his brains for some fresh lie with which to
extricate himself from the impossible situation.

Enrico Solano was the first to break down in mirth. All his sons joined
him, while tears of sheer delight welled out of his eyes.

“I could have married her myself,” Torres sneered malignantly. “She
begged me on her knees.”

“And now,” said Francis, “I shall save you all a dirty job by throwing
him out.”

But Henry, advancing swiftly, asserted:

“I like dirty jobs equally. And this is a dirty job particularly to my
liking.”

Both the Morgans were about to fall on Torres, when the Queen held up
her hand.

“First,” she said, “let him return to me, from there in his belt, the
dagger he stole from me.”

“Ah,” said Enrico, when this had been accomplished. “Should he not also
return to you, lovely lady, the gems he filched?”

Torres did not hesitate. Dipping into his pocket, he laid a handful of
the jewels on the table. Enrico glanced at the Queen, who merely waited
expectantly.

“More,” said Enrico.

And three more of the beautiful uncut stones Torres added to the others
on the table.

“Would you search me like a common pickpocket?” he demanded in frantic
indignation, turning both trousers’ pockets emptily inside out.

“Me,” said Francis.

“I insist,” said Henry.

“Oh, all very well,” Francis conceded. “Then we’ll do it together. We
can throw him farther off the steps.”

Acting as one, they clutched Torres by collar and trousers and started
in a propulsive rush for the door.

All others in the room ran to the windows to behold Torres’ exit; but
Enrico, quickest of all, gained a window first. And, afterward, into the
middle of the room, the Queen scooped the gems from the table into both
her hands, and gave the double handful to Leoncia, saying:

“From Francis and me to you and Henry——your wedding present.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

Yi Poon, having left the crone by the beach and crept back to peer at
the house from the bushes, chuckled gratifiedly to himself when he saw
the rich caballero thrown off the steps with such a will as to be sent
sprawling far out into the gravel. But Yi Poon was too clever to let on
that he had seen. Hurrying away, he was half down the hill ere overtaken
by Torres on his horse.

The celestial addressed him humbly, and Torres, in his general rage,
lifted his riding whip savagely to slash him across the face. But Yi
Poon did not quail.

“The Senorita Leoncia,” he said quickly, and arrested the blow. “I have
great secret.” Torres waited, the whip still lifted as a threat. “You
like ‘m some other man marry that very nice Senorita Leoncia?”

Torres dropped the whip to his side.

“Go on,” he commanded harshly. “What is the secret?”

“You no want ‘m other man marry that Senorita Leoncia?”

“Suppose I don’t?”

“Then, suppose you have secret, you can stop other man.”

“Well, what is it? Spit it out.”

“But first,” Yi Poon shook his head, “you pay me six hundred dollars
gold. Then I tell you secret.”

“I’ll pay you,” Torres said readily, although without the slightest
thought of keeping his word. “You tell me first, then, if no lie, I’ll
pay you.—See!”

From his breast pocket he drew a wallet bulging with paper bills; and Yi
Poon, uneasily acquiescing, led him down the road to the crone on the
beach.

“This old woman,” he explained, “she no lie. She sick woman. Pretty soon
she die. She is afraid. She talk to priest along Colon. Priest say she
must tell secret, or die and go to hell. So she no lie.”

“Well, if she doesn’t lie, what is it she must tell?”

“You pay me?”

“Sure. Six hundred gold.”

“Well, she born Cadiz in old country. She number one servant, number one
baby nurse. One time she take job with English family that come
traveling in her country. Long time she work with that family. She go
back along England. Then, bime by——you know Spanish blood very hot——she
get very mad. That family have one little baby girl. She steal little
baby girl and run away to Panama. That little baby girl Senor Solano he
adopt just the same his own daughter. He have plenty sons and no
daughter. So that little baby girl he make his daughter. But that old
woman she no tell what name belong little girl’s family. That family
very high blood, very rich, everybody in England know that family. That
family’s name ‘Morgan.’ You know that name? In Colon comes San Antonio
men who say Senor Solano’s daughter marry English Gringo named Morgan.
That Gringo Morgan the Senorita Leoncia’s brother.”

“Ah!” said Torres with maleficent delight.

“You pay me now six hundred gold,” said Yi Poon.

“Thank you for the fool you are,” said Torres with untold mockery in his
voice. “You will learn better perhaps some day the business of selling
secrets. Secrets are not shoes or mahogany timber. A secret told is no
more than a whisper in the air. It comes. It goes. It is gone. It is a
ghost. Who has seen it? You can claim back shoes or mahogany timber. You
can never claim back a secret when you have told it.”

“We talk of ghosts, you and I,” said Yi Poon calmly. “And the ghosts are
gone. I have told you no secret. You have dreamed a dream. When you tell
men they will ask you who told you. And you will say, ‘Yi Poon.’ But Yi
Poon will say, ‘No.’ And they will say, ‘Ghosts,’ and laugh at you.”

Yi Poon, feeling the other yield to his superior subtlety of thought,
deliberately paused.

“We have talked whispers,” he resumed after a few seconds. “You speak
true when you say whispers are ghosts. When I sell secrets I do not sell
ghosts. I sell shoes. I sell mahogany timber. My proofs are what I sell.
They are solid. On the scales they will weigh weight. You can tear the
paper of them, which is legal paper of record, on which they are
written. Some of them, not paper, you can bite with your teeth and break
your teeth upon. For the whispers are already gone like morning mists. I
have proofs. You will pay me six hundred gold for the proofs, or men
will laugh at you for lending your ears to ghosts.”

“All right,” Torres capitulated, convinced. “Show me the proofs that I
can tear and bite.”

“Pay me the six hundred gold.”

“When you have shown me the proofs.”

“The proofs you can tear and bite are yours after you have put the six
hundred gold into my hand. You promise. A promise is a whisper, a ghost.
I do not do business with ghost money. You pay me real money I can tear
or bite.”

And in the end Torres surrendered, paying in advance for what did
satisfy him when he had examined the documents, the old letters, the
baby locket and the baby trinkets. And Torres not only assured Yi Poon
that he was satisfied, but paid him in advance, on the latter’s
insistence, an additional hundred gold to execute a commission for him.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile, in the bathroom which connected their bedrooms, clad in fresh
underlinen and shaving with safety razors, Henry and Francis were
singing:

                  “Back to back against the mainmast,
                    Held at bay the entire crew....”

In her charming quarters, aided and abetted by a couple of Indian
seamstresses, Leoncia, half in mirth, half in sadness, and in all
sweetness and wholesomeness of generosity, was initiating the Queen into
the charmingness of civilized woman’s dress. The Queen, a true woman to
her heart’s core, was wild with delight in the countless pretties of
texture and adornment with which Leoncia’s wardrobe was stored. It was a
maiden frolic for the pair of them, and a stitch here and a take-up
there modified certain of Leoncia’s gowns to the Queen’s slenderness.

“No,” said Leoncia judicially. “You will not need a corset. You are the
one woman in a hundred for whom a corset is not necessary. You have the
roundest lines for a thin woman that I ever saw. You ...” Leoncia
paused, apparently deflected by her need for a pin from her dressing
table, for which she turned; but at the same time she swallowed the
swelling that choked in her throat, so that she was able to continue:
“You are a beautiful bride, and Francis can only grow prouder of you.”

In the bathroom, Francis, finished shaving first, broke off the song to
respond to the knock at his bedroom door and received a telegram from
Fernando, the next to the youngest of the Solano brothers. And Francis
read:

    _Important your immediate return. Need more margins. While market
    very weak but a strong attack on all your stocks except Tampico
    Petroleum, which is strong as ever. Wire me when to expect you.
    Situation is serious. Think I can hold out if you start to return at
    once. Wire me at once._

                                                               _Bascom._

In the living room the two Morgans found Enrico and his sons opening
wine.

“Having but had my daughter restored to me,” Enrico said, “I now lose
her again. But it is an easier loss, Henry. To-morrow shall be the
wedding. It cannot take place too quickly. It is sure, right now, that
that scoundrel Torres is whispering all over San Antonio Leoncia’s
latest unprotected escapade with you.”

Ere Henry could express his gratification, Leoncia and the Queen
entered. He held up his glass and toasted:

“To the bride!”

Leoncia, not understanding, raised a glass from the table and glanced to
the Queen.

“No, no,” Henry said, taking her glass with the intention of passing it
to the Queen.

“No, no,” said Enrico. “Neither shall drink the toast which is
incomplete. Let me make it:

“To the brides!”

“You and Henry are to be married to-morrow,” Alesandro explained to
Leoncia.

Unexpected and bitter though the news was, Leoncia controlled herself,
and dared with assumed jollity to look Francis in the eyes while she
cried:

“Another toast! To the bridegrooms!”

Difficult as Francis had found it to marry the Queen and maintain
equanimity, he now found equanimity impossible at the announcement of
the immediate marriage of Leoncia. Nor did Leoncia fail to observe how
hard he struggled to control himself. His suffering gave her secret joy,
and with a feeling almost of triumph she watched him take advantage of
the first opportunity to leave the room.

Showing them his telegram and assuring them that his fortune was at
stake, he said he must get off an answer and asked Fernando to arrange
for a rider to carry it to the government wireless at San Antonio.

Nor was Leoncia long in following him. In the library she came upon him,
seated at the reading table, his telegram unwritten, while his gaze was
fixed upon a large photograph of her which he had taken from its place
on top the low bookshelves. All of which was too much for her. Her
involuntary gasping sob brought him to his feet in time to catch her as
she swayed into his arms. And before either knew it their lips were
together in fervent expression.

Leoncia struggled and tore herself away, gazing upon her lover with
horror.

“This must stop, Francis!” she cried. “More: you cannot remain here for
my wedding. If you do, I shall not be responsible for my actions. There
is a steamer leaves San Antonio for Colon. You and your wife must sail
on it. You can easily catch passage on the fruit boats to New Orleans
and take train to New York. I love you!—you know it.”

“The Queen and I are not married!” Francis pleaded, beside himself,
overcome by what had taken place. “That heathen marriage before the
Altar of the Sun was no marriage. In neither deed nor ceremony are we
married. I assure you of that, Leoncia. It is not too late——”

“That heathen marriage has lasted you thus far,” she interrupted him
with quiet firmness. “Let it last you to New York, or, at least, to ...
Colon.”

“The Queen will not have any further marriage after our forms,” Francis
said. “She insists that all her female line before her has been so
married and that the Sun Altar ceremony is sacredly binding.”

Leoncia shrugged her shoulders non-committally, although her face was
stern with resolution.

“Marriage or no,” she replied, “you must go—to-night—the pair of you.
Else I shall go mad. I warn you: I shall not be able to withstand the
presence of you. I cannot, I know I cannot, be able to stand the sight
of you while I am being married to Henry and after I am married to
Henry.—Oh, please, please, do not misunderstand me. I do love Henry, but
not in the ... not in that way ... not in the way I love you. I—and I am
not ashamed of the boldness with which I say it—I love Henry about as
much as you love the Queen; but I love you as I should love Henry, as
you should love the Queen, as I know you do love me.”

She caught his hand and pressed it against her heart.

“There! For the last time! Now go!”

But his arms were around her, and she could not help but yield her lips.
Again she tore herself away, this time fleeing to the doorway. Francis
bowed his head to her decision, then picked up her picture.

“I shall keep this,” he announced.

“You oughtn’t to,” she flashed a last fond smile at him. “You may,” she
added, as she turned and was gone.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Yet Yi Poon had a commission to execute, for which Torres had paid him
one hundred gold in advance. Next morning, with Francis and the Queen
hours departed on their way to Colon, Yi Poon arrived at the Solano
hacienda. Enrico, smoking a cigar on the veranda and very much pleased
with himself and all the world and the way the world was going,
recognized and welcomed Yi Poon as his visitor of the day before. Even
ere they talked, Leoncia’s father had dispatched Alesandro for the five
hundred pesos agreed upon. And Yi Poon, whose profession was trafficking
in secrets, was not averse to selling his secret the second time. Yet
was he true to his salt, in so far as he obeyed Torres’ instructions in
refusing to tell the secret save in the presence of Leoncia and Henry.

“That secret has the string on it,” Yi Poon apologized, after the couple
had been summoned, as he began unwrapping the parcel of proofs. “The
Senorita Leoncia and the man she is going to marry must first, before
anybody else, look at these things. Afterward, all can look.”

“Which is fair, since they are more interested than any of us,” Enrico
conceded grandly, although at the same time he betrayed his eagerness by
the impatience with which he motioned his daughter and Henry to take the
evidence to one side for examination.

He tried to appear uninterested, but his side-glances missed nothing of
what they did. To his amazement, he saw Leoncia suddenly cast down a
legal-appearing document, which she and Henry had read through, and
throw her arms, whole-heartedly and freely about his neck, and
whole-heartedly and freely kiss him on the lips. Next, Enrico saw Henry
step back and exclaim in a dazed, heart-broken way:

“But, my God, Leoncia! This is the end of everything. Never can we be
husband and wife!”

“Eh?” Enrico snorted. “When everything was arranged! What do you mean,
sir? This is an insult! Marry you shall, and marry to-day!”

Henry, almost in stupefaction, looked to Leoncia to speak for him.

“It is against God’s law and man’s,” she said, “for a man to marry his
sister. Now I understand my strange love for Henry. He is my brother. We
are full brother and sister, unless these documents lie.”

And Yi Poon knew that he could take report to Torres that the marriage
would not take place and would never take place.



                              CHAPTER XXIV


Catching a United Fruit Company boat at Colon within fifteen minutes
after landing from the small coaster, the Queen’s progress with Francis
to New York had been a swift rush of fortunate connections. At New
Orleans a taxi from the wharf to the station and a racing of porters
with hand luggage had barely got them aboard the train just as it
started. Arrived at New York, Francis had been met by Bascom, in
Francis’ private machine, and the rush had continued to the rather
ornate palace R.H.M. himself, Francis’ father, had built out of his
millions on Riverside Drive.

So it was that the Queen knew scarcely more of the great world than when
she first started her travels by leaping into the subterranean river.
Had she been a lesser creature, she would have been stunned by this vast
civilisation around her. As it was, she was royally inconsequential,
accepting such civilization as an offering from her royal spouse. Royal
he was, served by many slaves. Had she not, on steamer and train,
observed it? And here, arrived at his palace, she took as a matter of
course the showing of house servants that greeted them. The chauffeur
opened the door of the limousine. Other servants carried in the hand
baggage. Francis touched his hand to nothing, save to her arm to assist
her to alight. Even Bascom—a man she divined was no servitor—she also
divined as one who served Francis. And she could not but observe Bascom
depart in Francis’ limousine, under instruction and command of Francis.

She had been a queen, in an isolated valley, over a handful of savages.
Yet here, in this mighty land of kings, her husband ruled kings. It was
all very wonderful, and she was deliciously aware that her queenship had
suffered no diminishing by her alliance with Francis.

Her delight in the interior of the mansion was naïve and childlike.
Forgetting the servants, or, rather, ignoring them as she ignored her
own attendants in her lake dwelling, she clapped her hands in the great
entrance hall, glanced at the marble stairway, tripped in a little run
to the nearest apartment, and peeped in. It was the library, which she
had visioned in the Mirror of the World the first day she saw Francis.
And the vision realized itself, for Francis entered with her into the
great room of books, his arm about her, just as she had seen him on the
fluid-metal surface of the golden bowl. The telephones, and the
stock-ticker, too, she remembered; and, just as she had foreseen herself
do, she crossed over to the ticker curiously to examine, and Francis,
his arm still about her, stood by her side.

Hardly had he begun an attempted explanation of the instrument, and just
as he realized the impossibility of teaching her in several minutes all
the intricacies of the stock market institution, when his eyes noted on
the tape that Frisco Consolidated was down twenty points—a thing
unprecedented in that little Iowa railroad which R.H.M. had financed and
builded and to the day of his death maintained proudly as so legitimate
a creation, that, though half the banks and all of Wall Street crashed,
it would weather any storm.

The Queen viewed with alarm the alarm that grew on Francis’ face.

“It is magic—like my Mirror of the World?” she half-queried,
half-stated.

Francis nodded.

“It tells you secrets, I know,” she continued. “Like my golden bowl, it
brings all the world, here within this very room, to you. It brings you
trouble. That is very plain. But what trouble can this world bring you,
who are one of its great kings?”

He opened his mouth to reply to her last question, halted, and said
nothing, realizing the impossibility of conveying comprehension to her,
the while, under his eyelids, or at the foreground of his brain, burned
pictures of great railroad and steamship lines, of teeming terminals and
noisy docks; of miners toiling in Alaska, in Montana, in Death Valley;
of bridled rivers, and harnessed waterfalls, and of power-lines stilting
across lowlands and swamps and marshes on two-hundred-foot towers; and
of all the mechanics and economics and finances of the twentieth century
machine-civilization.

“It brings you trouble,” she repeated. “And, alas! I cannot help you. My
golden bowl is no more. Never again shall I see the world in it. I am no
longer a ruler of the future. I am a woman merely, and helpless in this
strange, colossal world to which you have brought me. I am a woman
merely, and your wife, Francis, your proud wife.”

Almost did he love her, as, dropping the tape, he pressed her closely
for a moment ere going over to the battery of telephones. She is
delightful, was his thought. There is neither guile nor malice in her,
only woman, all woman, lovely and lovable——alas, that Leoncia should
ever and always arise in my thought between her whom I have and herself
whom I shall never have!

“More magic,” the Queen murmured, as Francis, getting Bascom’s office,
said:

“Mr. Bascom will undoubtedly arrive back in half an hour. This is Morgan
talking——Francis Morgan. Mr. Bascom left for his office not five minutes
ago. When he arrives, tell him that I have started for his office and
shall not be more than five minutes behind him. This is important. Tell
him I am on the way. Thank you. Good bye.”

Very naturally, with all the wonders of the great house yet to be shown
her, the Queen betrayed her disappointment when Francis told her he must
immediately depart for a place called Wall Street.

“What is it,” she asked, with a pout of displeasure, “that drags you
away from me like a slave?”

“It is business——and very important,” he told her with a smile and a
kiss.

“And what is Business that it should have power over you who are a king?
Is business the name of your god whom all of you worship as the Sun God
is worshipped by my people?”

He smiled at the almost perfect appositeness of her idea, saying:

“It is the great American god. Also, is it a very terrible god, and when
it slays it slays terribly and swiftly.”

“And you have incurred its displeasure?” she queried.

“Alas, yes, though I know not how. I must go to Wall Street——”

“Which is its altar?” she broke in to ask.

“Which is its altar,” he answered, “and where I must find out wherein I
have offended and wherein I may placate and make amends.”

His hurried attempt to explain to her the virtues and functions of the
maid he had wired for from Colon, scarcely interested her, and she broke
him off by saying that evidently the maid was similar to the Indian
women who had attended her in the Valley of Lost Souls, and that she had
been accustomed to personal service ever since she was a little girl
learning English and Spanish from her mother in the house on the lake.

But when Francis caught up his hat and kissed her, she relented and
wished him luck before the altar.

After several hours of amazing adventures in her own quarters, where the
maid, a Spanish-speaking Frenchwoman, acted as guide and mentor, and
after being variously measured and gloated over by a gorgeous woman who
seemed herself a queen and who was attended by two young women, and who,
in the Queen’s mind, was without doubt summoned to serve her and
Francis, she came back down the grand stairway to investigate the
library with its mysterious telephones and ticker.

Long she gazed at the ticker and listened to its irregular chatter. But
she, who could read and write English and Spanish, could make nothing of
the strange hieroglyphics that grew miraculously on the tape. Next, she
explored the first of the telephones. Remembering how Francis had
listened, she put her ear to the transmitter. Then, recollecting his use
of the receiver, she took it off its hook and placed it to her ear. The
voice, unmistakably a woman’s, sounded so near to her that in her
startled surprise she dropped the receiver and recoiled. At this moment,
Parker, Francis’ old valet, chanced to enter the room. She had not
observed him before, and, so immaculate was his dress, so dignified his
carriage, that she mistook him for a friend of Francis rather than a
servitor——a friend similar to Bascom who had met them at the station
with Francis’ machine, ridden inside with them as an equal, yet departed
with Francis’ commands in his ears which it was patent he was to obey.

At sight of Parker’s solemn face she laughed with embarrassment and
pointed inquiringly to the telephone. Solemnly he picked up the
receiver, murmured “A mistake,” into the transmitter, and hung up. In
those several seconds the Queen’s thought underwent revolution. No god’s
nor spirit’s voice had been that which she had heard, but a woman’s
voice.

“Where is that woman?” she demanded.

Parker merely stiffened up more stiffly, assumed a solemner expression,
and bowed.

“There is a woman concealed in the house,” she charged with quick words.
“Her voice speaks there in that thing. She must be in the next room——”

“It was Central,” Parker attempted to stem the flood of her utterance.

“I care not what her name is,” the Queen dashed on. “I shall have no
other woman but myself in my house. Bid her begone. I am very angry.”

Parker was even stiller and solemner, and a new mood came over her.
Perhaps this dignified gentleman was higher than she had suspected in
the hierarchy of the lesser kings, she thought. Almost might he be an
equal king with Francis, and she had treated him peremptorily as less,
as much less.

She caught him by the hand, in her impetuousness noting his reluctance,
drew him over to a sofa, and made him sit beside her. To add to Parker’s
discomfiture, she dipped into a box of candy and began to feed him
chocolates, closing his mouth with the sweets every time he opened it to
protest.

“Come,” she said, when she had almost choked him, “is it the custom of
the men of this country to be polygamous?”

Parker was aghast at such rawness of frankness.

“Oh, I know the meaning of the word,” she assured him. “So I repeat: is
it the custom of the men of this country to be polygamous?”

“There is no woman in this house, besides yourself, madam, except
servant women,” he managed to enunciate. “That voice you heard is not
the voice of a woman in this house, but the voice of a woman miles away
who is your servant, or is anybody’s servant who desires to talk over
the telephone.”

“She is the slave of the mystery?” the Queen questioned, beginning to
get a dim glimmer of the actuality of the matter.

“Yes,” her husband’s valet admitted. “She is a slave of the telephone.”

“Of the flying speech?”

“Yes, madam, call it that, of the flying speech.” He was desperate to
escape from a situation unprecedented in his entire career. “Come, I
will show you, madam. This slave of the flying speech is yours to
command both by night and day. If you wish, the slave will enable you to
talk with your husband, Mr. Morgan——”

“Now?”

Parker nodded, arose, and led her to the telephone.

“First of all,” he instructed, “you will speak to the slave. The instant
you take this down and put it to your ear, the slave will respond. It is
the slave’s invariable way of saying ‘Number?’ Sometimes she says it,
‘Number? Number?’ And sometimes she is very irritable.

“When the slave has said ‘Number,’ then do you say ‘Eddystone 1292,’
whereupon the slave will say ‘Eddystone 1292?’ and then you will say,
‘Yes, please——‘”

“To a slave I shall say ‘please’?” she interrupted.

“Yes, madam, for these slaves of the flying speech are peculiar slaves
that one never sees. I am not a young man, yet I have never seen a
Central in all my life.—Thus, next, after a moment, another slave, a
woman, who is miles away from the first one, will say to you, ‘This is
Eddystone 1292,’ and you will say, ‘I am Mrs. Morgan. I wish to speak
with Mr. Morgan, who is, I think, in Mr. Bascom’s private office.’ And
then you wait, maybe for half a minute, or for a minute, and then Mr.
Morgan will begin to talk to you.”

“From miles and miles away?”

“Yes, madam——just as if he were in the next room. And when Mr. Morgan
says ‘Good-bye,’ you will say ‘Good-bye,’ and hang up as you have seen
me do.”

And all that Parker had told her came to pass as she carried out his
instructions. The two different slaves obeyed the magic of the number
she gave them, and Francis talked and laughed with her, begged her not
to be lonely, and promised to be home not later than five that
afternoon.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile, and throughout the day, Francis was a very busy and perturbed
man.

“What secret enemy have you?” Bascom again and again demanded, while
Francis shook his head in futility of conjecture.

“For see, except where your holdings are concerned, the market is
reasonable and right. But take your holdings. There’s Frisco
Consolidated. There is neither sense nor logic that it should be beared
this way. Only your holdings are being beared. New York, Vermont and
Connecticut, paid fifteen per cent. the last four quarters and is as
solid as Gibraltar. Yet it’s down, and down hard. The same with Montana
Lode, Death Valley Copper, Imperial Tungsten, Northwestern Electric.
Take Alaska Trodwell——as solid as the everlasting rock. The movement
against it started only yesterday late. It closed eight points down, and
to-day has slumped twice as much more. Every one, stock in which you are
heavily interested. And no other stocks involved. The rest of the market
is firm.”

“So is Tampico Petroleum firm,” Francis said, “and I’m interested in it
heaviest of all.”

Bascom shrugged his shoulders despairingly.

“Are you sure you cannot think of somebody who is doing this and who may
be your enemy?”

“Not for the life of me, Bascom. Can’t think of a soul. I haven’t made
any enemies, because, since my father died, I have not been active.
Tampico Petroleum is the only thing I ever got busy with, and even now
it’s all right.” He strolled over to the ticker. “There. Half a point up
for five hundred shares.”

“Just the same, somebody’s after you,” Bascom assured him. “The thing is
clear as the sun at midday. I have been going over the reports of the
different stocks at issue. They are colored, artfully and delicately
colored, and the coloring matter is pessimistic and official. Why did
Northwestern Electric pass its dividend? Why did they put that black-eye
stuff into Mulhaney’s report on Montana Lode? Oh, never mind the rest of
the black-eying, but why all this activity of unloading? It’s clear.
There’s a raid on, and it seems on you, and it’s not a sudden rush raid.
It’s been slowly and steadily growing. And it’s ripe to break at the
first rumor of war, at a big strike, or a financial panic——at anything
that will bear the entire market.

“Look at the situation you’re in now, when all holdings except your own
are normal. I’ve covered your margins, and covered them. A grave
proportion of your straight collateral is already up. And your margins
keep on shrinking. You can scarcely throw them overboard. It might start
a break. It’s too ticklish.”

“There’s Tampico Petroleum, smiling as pretty as you please——it’s
collateral enough to cover everything,” Francis suggested. “Though I’ve
been chary of touching it,” he amended.

Bascom shook his head.

“There’s the Mexican revolution, and our own spineless administration.
If we involved Tampico Petroleum, and anything serious should break down
there, you’d be finished, cleaned out, broke.

“And yet,” Bascom resumed, “I see no other way out than to use Tampico
Petroleum. You see, I have almost exhausted what you have placed in my
hands. And this is no whirlwind raid. It’s slow and steady as an
advancing glacier. I’ve only handled the market for you all these years,
and this is the first tight place we’ve got into. Now your general
business affairs? Collins has the handling and knows. You must know.
What securities can you let me have? Now? And to-morrow? And next week?
And the next three weeks?”

“How much do you want?” Francis questioned back.

“A million before closing time to-day.” Bascom pointed eloquently at the
ticker. “At least twenty million more in the next three weeks, if——and
mark you that _if_ well——if the world remains at peace, and if the
general market remains as normal as it has been for the past six
months.”

Francis stood up with decision and reached for his hat.

“I’m going to Collins at once. He knows far more about my outside
business than I know myself. I shall have at least the million in your
hands before closing time, and I’ve a shrewd suspicion that I’ll cover
the rest during the next several weeks.”

“Remember,” Bascom warned him, as they shook hands, “it’s the very
slowness of this raid that is ominous. It’s directed against you, and
it’s no fly-by-night affair. Whoever is making it, is doing it big, and
must be big.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

Several times, late that afternoon and evening, the Queen was called up
by the slave of the flying speech and enabled to talk with her husband.
To her delight, in her own room, by her bedside, she found a telephone,
through which, by calling up Collins’ office, she gave her good night to
Francis. Also, she essayed to kiss her heart to him, and received back,
queer and vague of sound, his answering kiss.

She knew not how long she had slept, when she awoke. Not moving, through
her half-open eyes she saw Francis peer into the room and across to her.
When he had gone softly away, she leapt out of bed and ran to the door
in time to see him start down the staircase.

More trouble with the great god Business——was her surmise. He was going
down to that wonderful room, the library, to read more of the dread
god’s threats and warnings that were so mysteriously made to take form
of written speech to the clicking of the ticker. She looked at herself
in the mirror, adjusted her hair, and with a little love-smile of
anticipation on her lips put on a dressing-gown——another of the
marvelous pretties of Francis’ forethought and providing.

At the entrance of the library she paused, hearing the voice of another
than Francis. At first thought she decided it was the flying speech, but
immediately afterward she knew it to be too loud and near and different.
Peeping in, she saw two men drawn up in big leather chairs near to each
other and facing. Francis, tired of face from the day’s exertions, still
wore his business suit; but the other was clad in evening dress. And she
heard him call her husband “Francis,” who, in turn, called him “Johnny.”
That, and the familiarity of their conversation, conveyed to her that
they were old, close friends.

“And don’t tell me, Francis,” the other was saying, “that you’ve
frivoled through Panama all this while without losing your heart to the
senoritas a dozen times.”

“Only once,” Francis replied, after a pause, in which the Queen noted
that he gazed steadily at his friend.

“Further,” he went on, after another pause, “I really lost my heart——but
not my head. Johnny Pathmore, O Johnny Pathmore, you are a mere
flirtatious brute, but I tell you that you’ve lots to learn. I tell you
that in Panama I found the most wonderful woman in the world——a woman
that I was glad I had lived to know, a woman that I would gladly die
for; a woman of fire, of passion, of sweetness, of nobility, a very
queen of women.”

And the Queen, listening and looking upon the intense exaltation of his
face, smiled with proud fondness and certitude to herself, for had she
not won a husband who remained a lover?

“And did the lady, er——ah——did she reciprocate?” Johnny Pathmore
ventured.

The Queen saw Francis nod as he solemnly replied.

“She loves me as I love her——this I know in all absoluteness.” He stood
up suddenly. “Wait. I will show her to you.”

And as he started toward the door, the Queen, in roguishness of a very
extreme of happiness at her husband’s confession she had overheard, fled
trippingly to hide in the wide doorway of a grand room which the maid
had informed her was the drawing room, whatever such room might be.
Deliciously imagining Francis’ surprise at not finding her in bed, she
watched him go up the wide marble staircase. In a few moments he
descended. With a slight chill at the heart she observed that he
betrayed no perturbation at not having found her. In his hand he carried
a scroll or roll of thin, white cardboard. Looking neither to right nor
left, he re-entered the library.

Peeping in, she saw him unroll the scroll, present it before Johnny
Pathmore’s eyes, and heard him say:

“Judge for yourself. There she is.”

“But why be so funereal about it, old man?” Johnny Pathmore queried,
after a prolonged examination of the photograph.

“Because we met too late. I was compelled to marry another. And I left
her forever just a few hours before she was to marry another, which
marriage had been compelled before either of us ever knew the other
existed. And the woman I married, please know, is a good and splendid
woman. She will have my devotion forever. Unfortunately, she will never
possess my heart.”

In a great instant of revulsion, the entire truth came to the Queen.
Clutching at her heart with clasped hands, she nearly fainted of the
vertigo that assailed her. Although they still talked inside the
library, she heard no further word of their utterance as she strove with
slow success to draw herself together. Finally, with indrawn shoulders,
a little forlorn sort of a ghost of the resplendent woman and wife she
had been but minutes before, she staggered across the hall and slowly,
as if in a nightmare wherein speed never resides, dragged herself
upstairs. In her room, she lost all control. Francis’ ring was torn from
her finger and stamped upon. Her boudoir cap and her turtle-shell
hairpins joined the general havoc under her feet. Convulsed, shuddering,
muttering to herself in her extremity, she threw herself upon her bed
and only managed, in an ecstasy of anguish, to remain perfectly quiet
when Francis peeped in on his way to bed.

An hour, that seemed a thousand centuries, she gave him to go to sleep.
Then she arose, took in hand the crude jeweled dagger which had been
hers in the Valley of the Lost Souls, and softly tiptoed into his room.
There on the dresser it was, the large photograph of Leoncia. In
thorough indecision, clutching the dagger until the cramp of her palm
and fingers hurt her, she debated between her husband and Leoncia. Once,
beside his bed, her hand raised to strike, an effusion of tears into her
dry eyes obscured her seeing so that her dagger-hand dropped as she
sobbed audibly.

Stiffening herself with changed resolve, she crossed over to the
dresser. A pad and pencil lying handy, caught her attention. She
scribbled two words, tore off the sheet, and placed it upon the face of
Leoncia as it lay flat and upturned on the surface of polished wood.
Next, with an unerring drive of the dagger, she pinned the note between
the pictured semblance of Leoncia’s eyes, so that the point of the blade
penetrated the wood and left the haft quivering and upright.



                              CHAPTER XXV


Meanwhile, after the manner of cross purposes in New York, wherein Regan
craftily proceeded with his gigantic raid on all Francis’ holdings while
Francis and Bascom vainly strove to find his identity, so in Panama were
at work cross purposes which involved Leoncia and the Solanos, Torres
and the Jefe, and, not least in importance, one, Yi Poon, the rotund and
moon-faced Chinese.

The little old judge, who was the Jefe’s creature, sat asleep in court
in San Antonio. He had slept placidly for two hours, occasionally
nodding his head and muttering profoundly, although the case was a grave
one, involving twenty years in San Juan, where the strongest could not
survive ten years. But there was no need for the judge to consider
evidence or argument. Before the case was called, decision and sentence
were in his mind, having been put there by the Jefe. The prisoner’s
lawyer ceased his perfunctory argument, the clerk of the court sneezed,
and the judge woke up. He looked about him briskly and said:

“Guilty.”

No one was surprised, not even the prisoner.

“Appear to-morrow morning for sentence.——Next case.”

Having so ordered, the judge prepared to settle down into another nap,
when he saw Torres and the Jefe enter the courtroom. A gleam in the
Jefe’s eye was his cue, and he abruptly dismissed court for the day.

“I have been to Rodriguez Fernandez,” the Jefe was explaining five
minutes later, in the empty courtroom. “He says it was a natural gem,
and that much would be lost in the cutting, but that nevertheless he
would still give five hundred gold for it.——Show it to the judge, Senor
Torres, and the rest of the handful of big ones.”

And Torres began to lie. He had to lie, because he could not confess the
shame of having had the gems taken away from him by the Solanos and the
Morgans when they threw him out of the hacienda. And so convincingly did
he lie that even the Jefe he convinced, while the judge, except in the
matter of brands of strong liquor, accepted everything the Jefe wanted
him to believe. In brief, shorn of the multitude of details that Torres
threw in, his tale was that he was so certain of the jeweler’s
under-appraisal that he had despatched the gems by special messenger to
his agent in Colon with instructions to forward to New York to Tiffany’s
for appraisement that might lead to sale.

As they emerged from the courtroom and descended the several steps that
were flanked by single adobe pillars marred by bullet scars from
previous revolutions, the Jefe was saying:

“And so, needing the ægis of the law for our adventure after these gems,
and, more than that, both of us loving our good friend the judge, we
will let him in for a modest share of whatever we shall gain. He shall
represent us in San Antonio while we are gone, and, if needs be, furnish
us with the law’s protection.”

Now it happened that behind one of the pillars, hat pulled over his
face, Yi Poon half-sat, half-reclined. Nor was he there by mere
accident. Long ago he had learned that secrets of value, which always
connoted the troubles of humans, were markedly prevalent around
courtrooms, which were the focal points for the airing of such troubles
when they became acute. One could never tell. At any moment a secret
might leap at one or brim over to one. Therefore it was like a fisherman
casting his line into the sea for Yi Poon to watch the defendant and the
plaintiff, the witnesses for and against, and even the court hanger-on
or casual-seeming onlooker.

So, on this morning, the one person of promise that Yi Poon had picked
out was a ragged old peon who looked as if he had been drinking too much
and yet would perish in his condition of reaction if he did not get
another drink very immediately. Bleary-eyed he was, and red-lidded, with
desperate resolve painted on all his haggard, withered lineaments. When
the courtroom had emptied, he had taken up his stand outside on the
steps close to a pillar.

And why? Yi Poon had asked himself. Inside remained only the three chief
men of San Antonio——the Jefe, Torres, and the judge. What connection
between them, or any of them, and the drink-sodden creature that shook
as if freezing in the scorching blaze of the direct sun-rays? Yi Poon
did not know, but he did know that it was worth while waiting on a
chance, no matter how remote, of finding out. So, behind the pillar,
where no atom of shade protected him from the cooking sun which he
detested, he lolled on the steps with all the impersonation of one
placidly infatuated with sun-baths. The old peon tottered a step, swayed
as if about to fall, yet managed to deflect Torres from his companions,
who paused to wait for him on the pavement a dozen paces on, restless
and hot-footed as if they stood on a grid, though deep in earnest
conversation. And Yi Poon missed no word nor gesture, nor glint of eye
nor shifting face-line, of the dialogue that took place between the
grand Torres and the wreck of a peon.

“What now?” Torres demanded harshly.

“Money, a little money, for the love of God, senor, a little money,” the
ancient peon whined.

“You have had your money,” Torres snarled. “When I went away I gave you
double the amount to last you twice as long. Not for two weeks yet is
there a centavo due you.”

“I am in debt,” was the old man’s whimper, the while all the flesh of
him quivered and trembled from the nerve-ravishment of the drink so
palpably recently consumed.

“On the pulque slate at Peter and Paul’s,” Torres, with a sneer,
diagnosed unerringly.

“On the pulque slate at Peter and Paul’s,” was the frank acknowledgment.
“And the slate is full. No more pulque can I get credit for. I am
wretched and suffer a thousand torments without my pulque.”

“You are a pig creature without reason!”

A strange dignity, as of wisdom beyond wisdom, seemed suddenly to
animate the old wreck as he straightened up, for the nonce ceased from
trembling, and gravely said:

“I am old. There is no vigor left in the veins or the heart of me. The
desires of my youth are gone. Not even may I labor with this broken body
of mine, though well I know that labor is an easement and a forgetting.
Not even may I labor and forget. Food is a distaste in my mouth and a
pain in my belly. Women—they are a pest that it is a vexation to
remember ever having desired. Children—I buried my last a dozen years
gone. Religion—it frightens me. Death—I sleep with the terror of it.
Pulque—ah, dear God! the one tickle and taste of living left to me!

“What if I drink over much? It is because I have much to forget, and
have but a little space yet to linger in the sun, ere the Darkness, for
my old eyes, blots out the sun forever.”

Impervious to the old man’s philosophy, Torres made an impatient threat
of movement that he was going.

“A few pesos, just a handful of pesos,” the old peon pleaded.

“Not a centavo,” Torres said with finality.

“Very well,” said the old man with equal finality.

“What do you mean?” Torres rasped with swift suspicion.

“Have you forgotten?” was the retort, with such emphasis of significance
as to make Yi Poon wonder for what reason Torres gave the peon what
seemed a pension or an allowance.

“I pay you, according to agreement, to forget,” said Torres.

“I shall never forget that my old eyes saw you stab the Senor Alfaro
Solano in the back,” the peon replied.

Although he remained hidden and motionless in his posture of repose
behind the pillar, Yi Poon metaphorically sat up. The Solanos were
persons of place and wealth. That Torres should have murdered one of
them was indeed a secret of price.

“Beast! Pig without reason! Animal of the dirt!” Torres’ hands clenched
in his rage. “Because I am kind do you treat me thus! One blabbing of
your tongue and I will send you to San Juan. You know what that means.
Not only will you sleep with the terror of death, but never for a moment
of waking will you be free of the terror of living as you stare upon the
buzzards that will surely and shortly pick your bones. And there will be
no pulque in San Juan. There is never any pulque in San Juan for the men
I send there. So? Eh? I thought so. You will wait two weeks for the
proper time when I shall again give you money. If you do not wait, then
never, this side of your interment in the bellies of buzzards, will you
drink pulque again.”

Torres whirled on his heel and was gone. Yi Poon watched him and his two
companions go down the street, then rounded the pillar to find the old
peon sunk down in collapse at his disappointment of not getting any
pulque, groaning and moaning and making sharp little yelping cries, his
body quivering as dying animals quiver in the final throes, his fingers
picking at his flesh and garments as if picking off centipedes. Down
beside him sat Yi Poon, who began a remarkable performance of his own.
Drawing gold coins and silver ones from his pockets he began to count
over his money with chink and clink that was mellow and liquid and that
to the distraught peon’s ear was as the sound of the rippling and
riffling of fountains of pulque.

“We are wise,” Yi Poon told him in grandiloquent Spanish, still clinking
the money, while the peon whined and yammered for the few centavos
necessary for one drink of pulque. “We are wise, you and I, old man, and
we will sit here and tell each other what we know about men and women,
and life and love, and anger and sudden death, the rage red in the heart
and the steel bitter cold in the back; and if you tell me what pleases
me, then shall you drink pulque till your ears run out with it, and your
eyes are drowned in it. You like that pulque, eh? You like one drink
now, _now_, soon, very quick?”

                  *       *       *       *       *

The night, while the Jefe Politico and Torres organized their expedition
under cover of the dark, was destined to be a momentous one in the
Solano hacienda. Things began to happen early. Dinner over, drinking
their coffee and smoking their cigarettes, the family, of which Henry
was accounted one by virtue of his brotherhood to Leoncia, sat on the
wide front veranda. Through the moonlight, up the steps, they saw a
strange figure approach.

“It is like a ghost,” said Alvarado Solano.

“A fat ghost,” Martinez, his twin brother, amended.

“A Chink ghost you couldn’t poke your finger through,” Ricardo laughed.

“The very Chink who saved Leoncia and me from marrying,” said Henry
Morgan, with recognition.

“The seller of secrets,” Leoncia gurgled. “And if he hasn’t brought a
new secret, I shall be disappointed.”

“What do you want, Chinaman?” Alesandro, the eldest of the Solano
brothers, demanded sharply.

“Nice new secret, very nice new secret maybe you buy,” Yi Poon murmured
proudly.

“Your secrets are too expensive, Chinaman,” said Enrico discouragingly.

“This nice new secret very expensive,” Yi Poon assured him complacently.

“Go away,” old Enrico ordered. “I shall live a long time, yet to the day
of my death I care to hear no more secrets.”

But Yi Poon was suavely certain of himself.

“One time you have very fine brother,” he said. “One time your very fine
brother, the Senor Alfaro Solano, die with knife in his back. Very well.
Some secret, eh?”

But Enrico was on his feet quivering.

“You know?” he almost screamed his eager interrogation.

“How much?” said Yi Poon.

“All I possess!” Enrico cried, ere turning to Alesandro to add: “You
deal with him, son. Pay him well if he can prove by witness of the eye.”

“You bet,” quoth Yi Poon. “I got witness. He got good eye-sight. He see
man stick knife in the Senor Alfaro’s back in the dark. His name ...”

“Yes, yes,” Enrico breathed his suspense.

“One thousand dollars his name,” said Yi Poon, hesitating to make up his
mind to what kind of dollars he could dare to claim. “One thousand
dollars gold,” he concluded.

Enrico forgot that he had deputed the transaction to his eldest son.

“Where is your witness?” he shouted.

And Yi Poon, calling softly down the steps into the shrubbery, evoked
the pulque-ravaged peon, a real-looking ghost who slowly advanced and
tottered up the steps.

                  *       *       *       *       *

At the same time, on the edge of town, twenty mounted men, among whom
were the gendarmes Rafael, Ignacio, Augustino, and Vicente, herded a
pack train of more than twenty mules and waited the command of the Jefe
to depart on they knew not what mysterious adventure into the
Cordilleras. What they did know was that, herded carefully apart from
all other animals, was a strapping big mule loaded with two hundred and
fifty pounds of dynamite. Also, they knew that the delay was due to the
Senor Torres, who had ridden away along the beach with the dreaded Caroo
murderer, José Mancheno, who, only by the grace of God and of the Jefe
Politico, had been kept for years from expiating on the scaffold his
various offenses against life and law.

And, while Torres waited on the beach and held the Caroo’s horse and an
extra horse, the Caroo ascended on foot the winding road that led to the
hacienda of the Solanos. Little did Torres guess that twenty feet away,
in the jungle that encroached on the beach, lay a placid-sleeping,
pulque-drunken, old peon, with, crouching beside him, a very alert and
very sober Chinese with a recently acquired thousand dollars stowed
under his belt. Yi Poon had had barely time to drag the peon into hiding
when Torres rode along in the sand and stopped almost beside him.

Up at the hacienda, all members of the household were going to bed.
Leoncia, just starting to let down her hair, stopped when she heard the
rattle of tiny pebbles against her windows. Warning her in low whispers
to make no noise, José Mancheno handed her a crumpled note which Torres
had written, saying mysteriously:

“From a strange Chinaman who waits not a hundred feet away on the edge
of the shrubbery.”

And Leoncia read, in execrable Spanish:

    “First time, I tell you secret about Henry Morgan. This time I have
    secret about Francis. You come along and talk with me now.”

Leoncia’s heart leaped at mention of Francis, and as she slipped on a
mantle and accompanied the Caroo it never entered her head to doubt that
Yi Poon was waiting for her.

And Yi Poon, down on the beach and spying upon Torres, had no doubts
when he saw the Caroo murderer appear with the Solano senorita, bound
and gagged, slung across his shoulder like a sack of meal. Nor did Yi
Poon have any doubts about his next action, when he saw Leoncia tied
into the saddle of the spare horse and taken away down the beach at a
gallop, with Torres and the Caroo riding on either side of her. Leaving
the pulque-sodden peon to sleep, the fat Chinaman took the road up the
hill at so stiff a pace that he arrived breathless at the hacienda. Not
content with knocking at the door, he beat upon it with his fists and
feet and prayed to his Chinese gods that no peevish Solano should take a
shot at him before he could explain the urgency of his errand.

“O go to hell,” Alesandro said, when he had opened the door and flashed
a light on the face of the importunate caller.

“I have big secret,” Yi Poon panted. “Very big brand new secret.”

“Come around to-morrow in business hours,” Alesandro growled as he
prepared to kick the Chinaman off the premises.

“I don’t sell secret,” Yi Poon stammered and gasped. “I make you
present. I give secret now. The Senorita, your sister, she is stolen.
She is tied upon a horse that runs fast down the beach.”

But Alesandro, who had said good night to Leoncia, not half an hour
before, laughed loudly his unbelief, and prepared again to boot off the
trafficker in secrets. Yi Poon was desperate. He drew forth the thousand
dollars and placed it in Alesandro’s hand, saying:

“You go look quick. If the Senorita stop in this house now, you keep all
that money. If the Senorita no stop, then you give money back....”

And Alesandro was convinced. A minute later he was rousing the house.
Five minutes later the horse-peons, their eyes hardly open from sound
sleep, were roping and saddling horses and pack-mules in the corrals,
while the Solano tribe was pulling on riding gear and equipping itself
with weapons.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Up and down the coast, and on the various paths leading back to the
Cordilleras, the Solanos scattered, questing blindly in the blind dark
for the trail of the abductors. As chance would have it, thirty hours
afterward, Henry alone caught the scent and followed it, so that, camped
in the very Footstep of God where first the old Maya priest had sighted
the eyes of Chia, he found the entire party of twenty men and Leoncia
cooking and eating breakfast. Twenty to one, never fair and always
impossible, did not appeal to Henry Morgan’s Anglo-Saxon mind. What did
appeal to him was the dynamite-loaded mule, tethered apart from the
off-saddled forty-odd animals and left to stand by the careless peons
with its load still on its back. Instead of attempting the patently
impossible rescue of Leoncia, and recognising that in numbers her
woman’s safety lay, he stole the dynamite-mule.

Not far did he take it. In the shelter of the low woods, he opened the
pack and filled all his pockets with sticks of dynamite, a box of
detonators, and a short coil of fuse. With a regretful look at the rest
of the dynamite which he would have liked to explode but dared not, he
busied himself along the line of retreat he would have to take if he
succeeded in stealing Leoncia from her captors. As Francis, on a
previous occasion at Juchitan, had sown the retreat with silver dollars,
so, this time, did Henry sow the retreat with dynamite——the sticks in
small bundles and the fuses, no longer than the length of a detonator,
and with detonators fast to each end.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Three hours Henry devoted to lurking around the camp in the Footstep of
God, ere he got his opportunity to signal his presence to Leoncia; and
another precious two hours were wasted ere she found her opportunity to
steal away to him. Which would not have been so bad, had not her escape
almost immediately been discovered and had not the gendarmes and the
rest of Torres’ party, mounted, been able swiftly to overtake them on
foot.

When Henry drew Leoncia down to hide beside him in the shelter of a
rock, and at the same time brought his rifle into action ready for play,
she protested.

“We haven’t a chance, Henry,” she said. “They are too many. If you fight
you will be killed. And then what will become of me? Better that you
make your own escape, and bring help, leaving me to be retaken, than
that you die and let me be retaken anyway.”

But he shook his head.

“We are not going to be taken, dearest sister. Put your trust in me and
watch. Here they come now. You just watch.”

Variously mounted, on horses and pack mules—whichever had come handiest
in their haste—Torres, the Jefe, and their men clattered into sight.
Henry drew a sight, not on them, but on the point somewhat nearer where
he had made his first plant of dynamite. When he pulled trigger, the
intervening distance rose up in a cloud of smoke and earth dust that
obscured them. As the cloud slowly dissipated, they could be seen, half
of them, animals and men, overthrown, and all of them dazed and shocked
by the explosion.

Henry seized Leoncia’s hand, jerked her to her feet, and ran on side by
side with her. Conveniently beyond his second planting, he drew her down
beside him to rest and catch breath.

“They won’t come on so fast this time,” he hissed exultantly. “And the
longer they pursue us the slower they’ll come on.”

True to his forecast, when the pursuit appeared, it moved very
cautiously and very slowly.

“They ought to be killed,” Henry said. “But they have no chance, and I
haven’t the heart to do it. But I’ll surely shake them up some.”

Again he fired into his planted dynamite, and again, turning his back on
the confusion, he fled to his third planting.

After he had fired off the third explosion, he raced Leoncia to his
tethered horse, put her in the saddle, and ran on beside her, hanging on
to her stirrup.



                              CHAPTER XXVI


Francis had left orders for Parker to call him at eight o’clock, and
when Parker softly entered he found his master still asleep. Turning on
the water in the bathroom and preparing the shaving gear, the valet
re-entered the bedroom. Still moving softly about so that his master
would have the advantage of the last possible second of sleep, Parker’s
eyes lighted on the strange dagger that stood upright, its point pinning
through a note and a photograph and into the hard wood of the
dresser-top. For a long time he gazed at the strange array, then,
without hesitation, carefully opened the door to Mrs. Morgan’s room and
peeped in. Next, he firmly shook Francis by the shoulder.

The latter’s eyes opened, for a second betraying the incomprehension of
the sleeper suddenly awakened, then lighting with recognition and memory
of the waking order he had left the previous night.

“Time to get up, sir,” the valet murmured.

“Which is ever an ill time,” Francis yawned with a smile.

He closed his eyes with a, “Let me lie a minute, Parker. If I doze,
shake me.”

But Parker shook him immediately.

“You must get up right away, sir. I think something has happened to Mrs.
Morgan. She is not in her room, and there is a queer note and a knife
here that may explain. I don’t know, sir——”

Francis was out of bed in a bound, staring one moment at the dagger, and
next, drawing it out, reading the note over and over as if its simple
meaning, contained in two simple words, were too abstruse for his
comprehension.

“Adios forever,” said the note.

What shocked him even more, was the dagger thrust between Leoncia’s
eyes, and, as he stared at the wound made in the thin cardboard, it came
to him that he had seen this very thing before, and he remembered back
to the lake-dwelling of the Queen when all had gazed into the golden
bowl and seen variously, and when he had seen Leoncia’s face on the
strange liquid metal with the knife thrust between the eyes. He even put
the dagger back into the cardboard wound and stared at it some more.

The explanation was obvious. The Queen had betrayed jealousy against
Leoncia from the first, and here, in New York, finding her rival’s
photograph on her husband’s dresser, had no more missed the true
conclusion than had she missed the pictured features with her point of
steel. But where was she? Where had she gone?——she who was the veriest
stranger that had ever entered the great city, who called the telephone
the magic of the flying speech, who thought of Wall Street as a temple,
and regarded Business as the New York man’s god. For all the world she
was as unsophisticated and innocent of a great city as had she been a
traveler from Mars. Where and how had she passed the night? Where was
she now? Was she even alive?

Visions of the Morgue with its unidentified dead, and of bodies drifting
out to sea on the ebb, rushed into his brain. It was Parker who steadied
him back to himself.

“Is there anything I can do, sir? Shall I call up the detective bureau?
Your father always——”

“Yes, yes,” Francis interrupted quickly. “There was one man he employed
more than all others, a young man with the Pinkertons——do you remember
his name?”

“Birchman, sir,” Parker answered promptly, moving away. “I shall send
for him to come at once.”

And thereupon, in the quest after his wife, Francis entered upon a
series of adventures that were to him, a born New Yorker, a liberal
education in conditions and phases of New York of which, up to that
time, he had been profoundly ignorant. Not alone did Birchman search,
but he had at work a score of detectives under him who fine-tooth-combed
the city, while in Chicago and Boston, he directed the activities of
similar men.

Between his battle with the unguessed enemy of Wall Street, and the
frequent calls he received to go here and there and everywhere, on the
spur of the moment, to identify what might possibly be his wife, Francis
led anything but a boresome existence. He forgot what regular hours of
sleep were, and grew accustomed to being dragged from luncheon or
dinner, or of being routed out of his bed, to respond to hurry calls to
come and look over new-found missing ladies. No trace of one answering
her description, who had left the city by train or steamer had been
discovered, and Birchman assiduously pursued his fine-tooth combing,
convinced that she was still in the city.

Thus, Francis took trips to Mattenwan and down Blackwell’s, and the
Tombs and the All-Night court knew his presence. Nor did he escape being
dragged to countless hospitals nor to the Morgue. Once, a fresh-caught
shoplifter, of whom there was no criminal record and to whom there was
no clew of identity, was brought to his notice. He had adventures with
mysterious women cornered by Birchman’s satellites in the back rooms of
Raines’ Hotels, and, on the West Side, in the Fifties, was guilty of
trespassing upon two comparatively innocent love-idyls, to the
embarrassment of all concerned including himself.

Perhaps his most interesting and tragic adventure was in the
ten-million-dollar mansion of Philip January, the Telluride mining king.
The strange woman, a lady slender, had wandered in upon the Januarys a
week before, ere Francis came to see her. And, as she had
heartbreakingly done for the entire week, so she heartbreakingly did for
Francis, wringing her hands, perpetually weeping, and murmuring
beseechingly: “Otho, you are wrong. On my knees I tell you you are
wrong. Otho, you, and you only, do I love. There is no one but you,
Otho. There has never been any one but you. It is all a dreadful
mistake. Believe me, Otho, believe me, or I shall die....”

And through it all, the Wall Street battle went on against the
undiscoverable and powerful enemy who had launched what Francis and
Bascom could not avoid acknowledging was a catastrophic,
war-to-the-death raid on his fortune.

“If only we can avoid throwing Tampico Petroleum into the whirlpool,”
Bascom prayed.

“I look to Tampico Petroleum to save me,” Francis replied. “When every
security I can lay hand to has been engulfed, then, throwing in Tampico
Petroleum will be like the eruption of a new army upon a losing field.”

“And suppose your unknown foe is powerful enough to swallow down that
final, splendid asset and clamor for more?” Bascom queried.

Francis shrugged his shoulders.

“Then I shall be broke. But my father went broke half a dozen times
before he won out. Also was he born broke. I should worry about a little
thing like that.”

For a time, in the Solano hacienda, events had been moving slowly. In
fact, following upon the rescue of Leoncia by Henry along his
dynamite-sown trail, there had been no events. Not even had Yi Poon
appeared with a perfectly fresh and entirely brand new secret to sell.
Nothing had happened, save that Leoncia drooped and was apathetic, that
neither Enrico nor Henry, her full brother, nor her Solano brothers who
were not her brothers at all, could cheer her.

But, while Leoncia drooped, Henry and the tall sons of Enrico worried
and perplexed themselves about the treasure in the Valley of the Lost
Souls, into which Torres was even then dynamiting his way. One thing
they did know, namely, that the Torres’ expedition had sent Augustino
and Vicente back to San Antonio to get two more mule-loads of dynamite.

It was Henry, after conferring with Enrico and obtaining his permission,
who broached the matter to Leoncia.

“Sweet sister,” had been his way, “we’re going to go up and see what the
scoundrel Torres and his gang are doing. We do know, thanks to you,
their objective. The dynamite is to blow an entrance into the Valley. We
know where the Lady Who Dreams sank her treasure when her house burned.
Torres does not know this. The idea is that we can follow them into the
Valley, when they have drained the Maya caves, and have as good a
chance, if not a better chance than they in getting possession of that
marvelous chest of gems. And the very tip of the point is that we’d like
to take you along on the expedition. I fancy, if we managed to get the
treasure ourselves, that you wouldn’t mind repeating that journey down
the subterranean river.”

But Leoncia shook her head wearily.

“No,” she said, after further urging. “I never want to see the Valley of
the Lost Souls again, nor ever to hear it mentioned. There is where I
lost Francis to that woman.”

“It was all a mistake, darling sister. But who was to know? I did not.
You did not. Nor did Francis. He played the man’s part fairly and
squarely. Not knowing that you and I were brother and sister, believing
that we were truly betrothed——as we were at the time——he refrained from
trying to win you from me, and he rendered further temptation impossible
and saved the lives of all of us by marrying the Queen.”

“I miss you and Francis singing your everlasting ‘Back to back against
the mainmast,’” she murmured sadly and irrelevantly.

Quiet tears welled into her eyes and brimmed over as she turned away,
passed down the steps of the veranda, crossed the grounds, and aimlessly
descended the hill. For the twentieth time since she had last seen
Francis she pursued the same course, covering the same ground from the
time she first espied him rowing to the beach from the _Angelique_,
through her dragging him into the jungle to save him from her irate
menfolk, to the moment, with drawn revolver, when she had kissed him and
urged him into the boat and away. This had been his first visit.

Next, she covered every detail of his second visit from the moment,
coming from behind the rock after her swim in the lagoon, she had gazed
upon him leaning against the rock as he scribbled his first note to her,
through her startled flight into the jungle, the bite on her knee of the
labarri (which she had mistaken for a deadly viperine), to her recoiling
collision against Francis and her faint on the sand. And, under her
parasol, she sat down on the very spot where she had fainted and come
to, to find him preparing to suck the poison from the wound which he had
already excoriated. As she remembered back, she realized that it had
been the pain of the excoriation which brought her to her senses.

Deep she was in the sweet recollections of how she had slapped his cheek
even as his lips approached her knee, blushed with her face hidden in
her hands, laughed because her foot had been made asleep by his
too-efficient tourniquet, turned white with anger when he reminded her
that she considered him the murderer of her uncle, and repulsed his
offer to untie the tourniquet. So deep was she in such fond
recollections of only the other day that yet seemed separated from the
present by half a century, such was the wealth of episode, adventure,
and tender passages which had intervened, that she did not see the
rattletrap rented carriage from San Antonio drive up the beach road. Nor
did she see a lady, fashionably clad in advertisement that she was from
New York, dismiss the carriage and proceed toward her on foot. This
lady, who was none other than the Queen, Francis’ wife, likewise
sheltered herself beneath a parasol from the tropic sun.

Standing directly behind Leoncia, she did not realize that she had
surprised the girl in a moment of high renunciation. All that she did
know was that she saw Leoncia draw from her breast and gaze long at a
tiny photograph. Over her shoulder the Queen made it out to be a
snapshot of Francis, whereupon her mad jealousy raged anew. A poniard
flashed to her hand from its sheath within the bosom of her dress. The
quickness of this movement was sufficient to warn Leoncia, who tilted
her parasol forward so as to look up at whatever person stood at her
back. Too utterly dreary even to feel surprise, she greeted the wife of
Francis Morgan as casually as if she had parted from her an hour before.
Even the poniard failed to arouse in her curiosity or fear. Perhaps, had
she displayed startlement and fear, the Queen might have driven the
steel home to her. As it was, she could only cry out.

“You are a vile woman! A vile, vile woman!”

To which Leoncia merely shrugged her shoulders, and said:

“You would better keep your parasol between you and the sun.”

The Queen passed round in front of her, facing her and staring down at
her with woman’s wrath compounded of such jealousy as to be speechless.

“Why?” Leoncia was the first to speak, after a long pause. “Why am I a
vile woman?”

“Because you are a thief,” the Queen flamed. “Because you are a stealer
of men, yourself married. Because you are unfaithful to your husband——in
heart, at least, since more than that has so far been impossible.”

“I have no husband,” Leoncia answered quietly.

“Husband to be, then——I thought you were to be married the day after our
departure.”

“I have no husband to be,” Leoncia continued with the same quietness.

So swiftly tense did the other woman become that Leoncia idly thought of
her as a tigress.

“Henry Morgan!” the Queen cried.

“He is my brother.”

“A word which I have discovered is of wide meaning, Leoncia Solano. In
New York there are worshippers at certain altars who call all men in the
world ‘brothers,’ all women ‘sisters.’”

“His father was my father,” Leoncia explained with patient explicitness.
“His mother was my mother. We are full brother and sister.”

“And Francis?” the other queried, convinced, with sudden access of
interest. “Are you, too, his sister?”

Leoncia shook her head.

“Then you do love Francis!” the Queen charged, smarting with
disappointment.

“You have him,” said Leoncia.

“No; for you have taken him from me.”

Leoncia slowly and sadly shook her head and sadly gazed out over the
heat-shimmering surface of Chiriqui Lagoon.

After a long lapse of silence, she said, wearily, “Believe that. Believe
anything.”

“I divined it in you from the first,” the Queen cried. “You have a
strange power over men. I am a woman not unbeautiful. Since I have been
out in the world I have watched the eyes of men looking at me. I know I
am not all undesirable. Even have the wretched males of my Lost Valley
with downcast eyes looked love at me. One dared more than look, and he
died for me, or because of me, and was flung into the whirl of waters to
his fate. And yet you, with this woman’s power of yours, strangely
exercise it over my Francis so that in my very arms he thinks of you. I
know it. I know that even then he thinks of you!”

Her last words were the cry of a passion-stricken and breaking heart.
And the next moment, though very little to Leoncia’s surprise, being too
hopelessly apathetic to be surprised at anything, the Queen dropped her
knife in the sand and sank down, buried her face in her hands, and
surrendered to the weakness of hysteric grief. Almost idly, and quite
mechanically, Leoncia put her arm around her and comforted her. For many
minutes this continued, when the Queen, growing more calm, spoke with
sudden determination.

“I left Francis the moment I knew he loved you,” she said. “I drove my
knife into the photograph of you he keeps in his bedroom, and returned
here to do the same to you in person. But I was wrong. It is not your
fault, nor Francis’. It is my fault that I have failed to win his love.
Not you, but I it is who must die. But first, I must go back to my
valley and recover my treasure. In the temple called Wall Street,
Francis is in great trouble. His fortune may be taken away from him, and
he requires another fortune to save his fortune. I have that fortune,
and there is no time to lose. Will you and yours help me? It is for
Francis’ sake.”



                             CHAPTER XXVII


So it came about that the Valley of the Lost Souls was invaded
subterraneously from opposite directions by two parties of
treasure-seekers. From one side, and quickly, came the Queen and
Leoncia, Henry Morgan, and the Solanos. Far more slowly, although they
had started long in advance, did Torres and the Jefe progress. The first
attack on the mountain had proved the chiefest obstacle. To blow open an
entrance to the Maya caves had required more dynamite than they had
originally brought, while the rock had proved stubborner than they
expected. Further, when they had finally made a way, it had proved to be
above the cave floor, so that more blasting had been required to drain
off the water. And, having blasted their way in to the water-logged
mummies of the conquistadores and to the Room of the Idols, they had to
blast their way out again and on into the heart of the mountain. But
first, ere they continued on, Torres looted the ruby eyes of Chia and
the emerald eyes of Hzatzl.

Meanwhile, with scarcely any delays, the Queen and her party penetrated
to the Valley through the mountain on the opposite side. Nor did they
entirely duplicate the course of their earlier traverse. The Queen,
through long gazing into her Mirror, knew every inch of the way. Where
the underground river plunged through the passage and out into the bosom
of the Gualaca River it was impossible to take in their boats. But, by
assiduous search under her directions, they found the tiny mouth of a
cave on the steep wall of the cliff, so shielded by a growth of mountain
berries that only by knowing for what they sought could they have found
it. By main strength, applied to the coils of rope which they had
brought along, they hoisted their canoes up the cliff, portaged them on
their shoulders through the winding passage, and launched them on the
subterranean river itself where it ran so broadly and placidly between
wide banks that they paddled easily against its slack current. At other
times, where the river proved too swift, they lined the canoes up by
towing from the bank; and wherever the river made a plunge through the
solid tie-ribs of mountain, the Queen showed them the obviously hewn and
patently ancient passages through which to portage their light crafts
around.

“Here we leave the canoes,” the Queen directed at last, and the men
began securely mooring them to the bank in the light of the flickering
torches. “It is but a short distance through the last passage. Then we
will come to a small opening in the cliff, shielded by climbing vines
and ferns, and look down upon the spot where my house once stood beside
the whirl of waters. The ropes will be necessary in order to descend the
cliff, but it is only about fifty feet.”

Henry, with an electric torch, led the way, the Queen beside him, while
old Enrico and Leoncia brought up the rear, vigilant to see that no
possible half-hearted peon or Indian boatman should slip back and run
away. But when the party came to where the mouth of the passage ought to
have been, there was no mouth. The passage ceased, being blocked off
solidly from floor to roof by a debris of crumbled rocks that varied in
size from paving stones to native houses.

“Who could have done this?” the Queen exclaimed angrily.

But Henry, after a cursory examination, reassured her.

“It’s just a slide of rock,” he said, “a superficial fault in the outer
skin of the mountain that has slipped; and it won’t take us long with
our dynamite to remedy it. Lucky we fetched a supply along.”

But it did take long. For what was the remainder of the day and
throughout the night they toiled. Large charges of explosive were not
used because of Henry’s fear of exciting a greater slip along the fault
overhead. What dynamite was used was for the purpose of loosening up the
rubble so that they could shift it back along the passage. At eight the
following morning the charge was exploded that opened up to them the
first glimmer of daylight ahead. After that they worked carefully, being
apprehensive of jarring down fresh slides. At the last, they were
baffled by a ten-ton block of rock in the very mouth of the passage.
Through crevices on either side of it they could squeeze their arms into
the blazing sunshine, yet the stone-block thwarted them. No leverage
they applied could more than quiver it, and Henry decided on one final
blast that would topple it out and down into the Valley.

“They’ll certainly know visitors are coming, the way we’ve been knocking
on their back door for the last fifteen hours,” he laughed, as he
prepared to light the fuse.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Assembled before the altar of the Sun God at the Long House, the entire
population was indeed aware, and anxiously aware, of the coming of
visitors. So disastrous had been their experiences with their last ones,
when the lake dwelling had been burned and their Queen lost to them,
that they were now begging the Sun God to send no more visitors. But
upon one thing, having been passionately harangued by their priest, they
were resolved; namely, to kill at sight and without parley whatever
newcomers did descend upon them.

“Even Da Vasco himself,” the priest had cried.

“Even Da Vasco!” the Lost Souls had responded.

All were armed with spears, war-clubs, and bows and arrows; and while
they waited they continued to pray before the altar. Every few minutes
runners arrived from the lake, making the same reports that while the
mountain still labored thunderously nothing had emerged from it.

The little girl of ten, the Maid of the Long House who had entertained
Leoncia, was the first to spy out new arrivals. This was made possible
because of the tribe’s attention being fixed on the rumbling mountain
beside the lake. No one expected visitors out of the mountain on the
opposite side of the valley.

“Da Vasco!” she cried. “Da Vasco!”

All looked and saw, not fifty yards away, Torres, the Jefe, and their
gang of followers, emerging into the open clearing. Torres wore again
the helmet he had filched from his withered ancestor in the Chamber of
the Mummies. Their greeting was instant and warm, taking the form of a
flight of arrows that arched into them and stretched two of the
followers on the ground. Next, the Lost Souls, men and women, charged;
while the rifles of Torres’ men began to speak. So unexpected was this
charge, so swiftly made and with so short a distance to cover, that,
though many fell before the bullets, a number reached the invaders and
engaged in a desperate hand-to-hand conflict. Here the advantage of
firearms was minimized, and gendarmes and others were thrust through by
spears or had their skulls cracked under the ponderous clubs.

In the end, however, the Lost Souls were outfought, thanks chiefly to
the revolvers that could kill in the thickest of the scuffling. The
survivors fled, but of the invaders half were down and down forever. The
women having in drastic fashion attended to every man who fell wounded.
The Jefe was spluttering with pain and rage at an arrow which had
perforated his arm; nor could he be appeased until Vicente cut off the
barbed head and pulled out the shaft.

Torres, beyond an aching shoulder where a club had hit him, was
uninjured; and he became jubilant when he saw the old priest dying on
the ground with his head resting on the little maid’s knees.

Since there were no wounded of their own to be attended to with rough
and ready surgery, Torres and the Jefe led the way to the lake, skirted
its shores, and came to the ruins of the Queen’s dwelling. Only charred
stumps of piles, projecting above the water, showed where it had once
stood. Torres was nonplussed, but the Jefe was furious.

“Here, right in this house that was, the treasure chest stood,” he
stammered.

“A wild goose chase!” the Jefe grunted. “Senor Torres, I always
suspected you were a fool.”

“How was I to know the place had been burned down?”

“You ought to have known, you who are so very wise in all things,” the
Jefe bickered back. “But you can’t fool me. I had my eye on you. I saw
you rob the emeralds and rubies from the eye-sockets of the Maya gods.
That much you shall divide with me, and now.”

“Wait, wait, be a trifle patient,” Torres begged. “Let us first
investigate. Of course, I shall divide the four gems with you——but what
are they compared with a whole chest-full? It was a light, fragile
house. The chest may have fallen into the water undamaged by fire when
the roof fell in. And water will not damage precious stones.”

In amongst the burnt piling the Jefe sent his men to investigate, and
they waded and swam about in the shoal water, being careful to avoid
being caught by the outlying suck of the whirlpool. Augustino, the
Silent, made the find, close in to shore.

“I am standing on something,” he announced, the level of the lake barely
to his knees.

Torres plunged in, and, reaching under till he buried his head and
shoulders, felt out the object.

“It is the chest, I am certain,” he declared. “—Come! All of you! Drag
this out to the dry land so that we may examine into it!”

But when this was accomplished, and just as he bent to open the lid, the
Jefe stopped him.

“Go back into the water, the lot of you,” he commanded his men. “There
are a number of chests like this, and the expedition will be a failure
if we don’t find them. One chest would not pay the expenses.”

Not until all the men were floundering and groping in the water, did
Torres raise the lid. The Jefe stood transfixed. He could only gaze and
mutter inarticulate mouthings.

“Now will you believe?” Torres queried. “It is beyond price. We are the
richest two men in Panama, in South America, in the world. This is the
Maya treasure. We heard of it when we were boys. Our fathers and our
grandfathers dreamed of it. The Conquistadores failed to find it. And it
is ours——ours!”

And, while the two men, almost stupefied, stood and stared, one by one
their followers crept out of the water, formed a silent semi-circle at
their backs, and likewise stared. Neither did the Jefe and Torres know
their men stood at their backs, nor did the men know of the Lost Souls
that were creeping stealthily upon them from the rear. As it was, all
were staring at the treasure with fascinated amazement when the attack
was sprung.

Bows and arrows, at ten yards distance, are deadly, especially when due
time is taken to make certain of aim. Two-thirds of the treasure-seekers
went down simultaneously. Through Vicente, who had chanced to be
standing directly behind Torres, no less than two spears and five arrows
had perforated. The handful of survivors had barely time to seize their
rifles and whirl, when the club attack was upon them. In this Rafael and
Ignacio, two of the gendarmes who had been on the adventure to the
Juchitan oil fields, almost immediately had their skulls cracked. And,
as usual, the Lost Souls women saw to it that the wounded did not remain
wounded long.

The end for Torres and the Jefe was but a matter of moments, when a loud
roar from the mountain followed by a crashing avalanche of rock, created
a diversion. The few Lost Souls that remained alive, darted back
terror-stricken into the shelter of the bushes. The Jefe and Torres, who
alone stood on their feet and breathed, cast their eyes up the cliff to
where the smoke still issued from the new-made hole, and saw Henry
Morgan and the Queen step into the sunshine on the lip of the cliff.

“You take the lady,” the Jefe snarled. “I shall get the Gringo Morgan if
it’s the last act of what seems a life that isn’t going to be much
longer.”

Both lifted their rifles and fired. Torres, never much of a shot, sent
his bullet fairly centered into the Queen’s breast. But the Jefe, master
marksman and possessor of many medals, made a clean miss of his target.
The next instant, a bullet from Henry’s rifle struck his wrist and
traveled up the forearm to the elbow, whence it escaped and passed on.
And as his rifle clattered to the ground he knew that never again would
that right arm, its bone pulped from wrist to elbow, have use for a
rifle.

But Henry was not shooting well. Just emerged from twenty-four hours of
darkness in the cave, not at once could his eyes adjust themselves to
the blinding dazzle of the sun. His first shot had been lucky. His
succeeding shots merely struck in the immediate neighbourhood of the
Jefe and Torres as they turned and fled madly for the brush.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Ten minutes later, the wounded Jefe in the lead, Torres saw a woman of
the Lost Souls spring out from behind a tree and brain him with a huge
stone wielded in both her hands. Torres shot her first, then crossed
himself with horror, and stumbled on. From behind arose distant calls of
Henry and the Solano brothers in pursuit, and he remembered the vision
of his end he had glimpsed but refused to see in the Mirror of the World
and wondered if this end was near upon him. Yet it had not resembled
this place of trees and ferns and jungle. From the glimpse he remembered
nothing of vegetation——only solid rock and blazing sun and bones of
animals. Hope sprang up afresh at the thought. Perhaps that end was not
for this day, maybe not for this year. Who knew? Twenty years might yet
pass ere that end came.

Emerging from the jungle, he came upon a queer ridge of what looked like
long disintegrated lava rock. Here he left no trail, and he proceeded
carefully on beyond it through further jungle, believing once again in
his star that would enable him to elude pursuit. His plan of escape took
shape. He would find a safe hiding place until after dark. Then he would
circle back to the lake and the whirl of waters. That gained, nothing
and nobody could stop him. He had but to leap in. The subterranean
journey had no terrors for him because he had done it before. And in his
fancy he saw once more the pleasant picture of the Gualaca River
flashing under the open sky on its way to the sea. Besides, did he not
carry with him the two great emeralds and two great rubies that had been
the eyes of Chia and Hzatzl? Fortune enough, and vast good fortune, were
they for any man. What if he had failed by the Maya Treasure to become
the richest man in the world? He was satisfied. All he wanted now was
darkness and one last dive into the heart of the mountain and through
the heart of the mountain to the Gualaca flowing to the sea.

And just then, the assured vision of his escape so vividly filling his
eyes that he failed to observe the way of his feet, he dived. Nor was it
a dive into swirling waters. It was a head-foremost, dry-land dive down
a slope of rock. So slippery was it that he continued to slide down,
although he managed to turn around, with face and stomach to the
surface, and to claw wildly up with hands and feet. Such effort merely
slowed his descent, but could not stop it.

For a while, at the bottom, he lay breathless and dazed. When his senses
came back to him, he became aware first of all of something unusual upon
which his hand rested. He could have sworn that he felt teeth. At
length, opening his eyes with a shudder and summoning his resolution, he
dared to look at the object. And relief was immediate. Teeth they were,
in an indubitable, weather-white jaw-bone; but they were pig’s teeth and
the jaw was a pig’s jaw. Other bones lay about, on which his body
rested, which, on examination, proved to be the bones of pigs and of
smaller animals.

Where had he glimpsed such an arrangement of bones? He thought, and
remembered the Queen’s great golden bowl. He looked up. Ah! Mother of
God! The very place! He knew it at first sight, as he gazed up what was
a funnel at the far spectacle of day. Fully two hundred feet above him
was the rim of the funnel. The sides of hard, smooth rock sloped steeply
in and down to him, and his eyes and judgment told him that no man born
of woman could ever scale that slope.

The fancy that came to his mind caused him to spring to his feet in
sudden panic and look hastily round about him. Only on a more colossal
scale, the funnel in which he was trapped had reminded him of the
funnel-pits dug in the sand by hunting spiders that lurked at the bottom
for such prey that tumbled in upon them. And, his vivid fancy leaping,
he had been frightened by the thought that some spider monster, as
colossal as the funnel-pit, might possibly be lurking there to devour
him. But no such denizen occurred. The bottom of the pit, circular in
form, was a good ten feet across and carpeted, he knew not how deep, by
a debris of small animals’ bones. Now for what had the Mayas of old time
made so tremendous an excavation? he questioned; for he was more than
half-convinced that the funnel was no natural phenomenon.

Before nightfall he made sure, by a dozen attempts, that the funnel was
unscalable. Between attempts, he crouched in the growing shadow of the
descending sun and panted dry-lipped with heat and thirst. The place was
a very furnace, and the juices of his body were wrung from him in
profuse perspiration. Throughout the night, between dozes, he vainly
pondered the problem of escape. The only way out was up, nor could his
mind devise any method of getting up. Also, he looked forward with
terror to the coming of the day, for he knew that no man could survive a
full ten hours of the baking heat that would be his. Ere the next
nightfall the last drop of moisture would have evaporated from his body
leaving him a withered and already half-sun-dried mummy.

With the coming of daylight his growing terror added wings to his
thought, and he achieved a new and profoundly simple theory of escape.
Since he could not climb up, and since he could not get out through the
sides themselves, then the only possible remaining way was down. Fool
that he was! He might have been working through the cool night hours,
and now he must labour in the quickly increasing heat. He applied
himself in an ecstasy of energy to digging down through the mass of
crumbling bones. Of course, there was a way out. Else how did the funnel
drain? Otherwise it would have been full or part full of water from the
rains. Fool! And thrice times thrice a fool!

He dug down one side of the wall, flinging the rubbish into a mound
against the opposite side. So desperately did he apply himself that he
broke his finger-nails to the quick and deeper, while every finger-tip
was lacerated to bleeding. But love of life was strong in him, and he
knew it was a life-and-death race with the sun. As he went deeper, the
rubbish became more compact, so that he used the muzzle of his rifle
like a crowbar to loosen it, ere tossing it up in single and double
handfuls.

By mid-forenoon, his senses beginning to reel in the heat, he made a
discovery. Upon the wall which he had uncovered, he came upon the
beginning of an inscription, evidently rudely scratched in the rock by
the point of a knife. With renewed hope, his head and shoulders down in
the hole, he dug and scratched for all the world like a dog, throwing
the rubbish out and between his legs in true dog-fashion. Some of it
fell clear, but most of it fell back and down upon him. Yet had he
become too frantic to note the inefficiency of his effort.

At last the inscription was cleared, so that he was able to read:

              Peter McGill, of Glasgow. On March 12, 1820,
           I escaped from the Pit of Hell by this passage by
                      digging down and finding it.

A passage! The passage must be beneath the inscription! Torres now
toiled in a fury. So dirt-soiled was he that he was like some huge,
four-legged, earth-burrowing animal. The dirt got into his eyes, and, on
occasion, into his nostrils and air passages so as to suffocate him and
compel him to back up out of the hole and sneeze and cough his breathing
apparatus clear. Twice he fainted. But the sun, by then almost directly
overhead, drove him on.

He found the upper rim of the passage. He did not dig down to the lower
rim; for the moment the aperture was large enough to accommodate his
lean shape, he writhed and squirmed into it and away from the destroying
sun-rays. The cool and the dark soothed him, but his joy and the
reaction from what he had undergone sent his pulse giddily up, so that
for the third time he fainted.

Recovered, mouthing with black and swollen lips a half-insane chant of
gratefulness and thanksgiving, he crawled on along the passage. Perforce
he crawled, because it was so low that a dwarf could not have stood
erect in it. The place was a charnel house. Bones crunched and crumbled
under his hands and knees, and he knew that his knees were being worn to
the bone. At the end of a hundred feet he caught his first glimmering of
light. But the nearer he approached freedom, the slower he progressed,
for the final stages of exhaustion were coming upon him. He knew that it
was not physical exhaustion, nor food exhaustion, but thirst exhaustion.
Water, a few ounces of water, was all he needed to make him strong
again. And there was no water.

But the light was growing stronger and nearer. He noted, toward the
last, that the floor of the passage pitched down at an angle of fully
thirty degrees. This made the way easier. Gravity drew him on, and
helped every failing effort of him, toward the source of light. Very
close to it, he encountered an increase in the deposit of bones. Yet
they bothered him little, for they had become an old story, while he was
too exhausted to mind them.

He did observe, with swimming eyes and increasing numbness of touch,
that the passage was contracting both vertically and horizontally.
Slanting downward at thirty degrees, it gave him an impression of a
rat-trap, himself the rat, descending head foremost toward he knew not
what. Even before he reached it, he apprehended that the slit of bright
day that advertised the open world beyond was too narrow for the egress
of his body. And his apprehension was verified. Crawling unconcernedly
over a skeleton that the blaze of day showed him to be a man’s, he
managed, by severely and painfully squeezing his ears flat back, to
thrust his head through the slitted aperture. The sun beat down upon his
head, while his eyes drank in the openness of the freedom of the world
that the unyielding rock denied to the rest of his body.

Most maddening of all was a running stream not a hundred yards away,
tree-fringed beyond, with lush meadow-grass leading down to it from his
side. And in the tree-shadowed water, knee-deep and drowsing, stood
several cows of the dwarf breed peculiar to the Valley of Lost Souls.
Occasionally they flicked their tails lazily at flies, or changed the
distribution of their weight on their legs. He glared at them to see
them drink, but they were evidently too sated with water. Fools! Why
should they not drink, with all that wealth of water flowing idly by!

They betrayed alertness, turning their heads toward the far bank and
pricking their ears forward. Then, as a big antlered buck came out from
among the trees to the water’s edge, they flattened their ears back and
shook their heads and pawed the water till he could hear the splashing.
But the stag disdained their threats, lowered his head, and drank. This
was too much for Torres, who emitted a maniacal scream which, had he
been in his senses, he would not have recognised as proceeding from his
own throat and larynx.

The stag sprang away. The cattle turned their heads in Torres’
direction, drowsed, their eyes shut, and resumed the flicking of flies.
With a violent effort, scarcely knowing that he had half-torn off his
ears, he drew his head back through the slitted aperture and fainted on
top of the skeleton.

Two hours later, though he did not know the passage of time, he regained
consciousness, and found his own head cheek by jowl with the skull of
the skeleton on which he lay. The descending sun was already shining
into the narrow opening, and his gaze chanced upon a rusty knife. The
point of it was worn and broken, and he established the connection. This
was the knife that had scratched the inscription on the rock at the base
of the funnel at the other end of the passage, and this skeleton was the
bony framework of the man who had done the scratching. And Alvarez
Torres went immediately mad.

“Ah, Peter McGill, my enemy,” he muttered. “Peter McGill of Glasgow who
betrayed me to this end.—This for you!—And this!—And this!”

So speaking, he drove the heavy knife into the fragile front of the
skull. The dust of the bone which had once been the tabernacle of Peter
McGill’s brain arose in his nostrils and increased his frenzy. He
attacked the skeleton with his hands, tearing at it, disrupting it,
filling the pent space about him with flying bones. It was like a
battle, in which he destroyed what was left of the mortal remains of the
one time resident of Glasgow.

Once again Torres squeezed his head through the slit to gaze at the
fading glory of the world. Like a rat in the trap caught by the neck in
the trap of ancient Maya devising, he saw the bright world and day dim
to darkness as his final consciousness drowned in the darkness of death.

But still the cattle stood in the water and drowsed and flicked at
flies, and, later, the stag returned, disdainful of the cattle, to
complete its interrupted drink.



                             CHAPTER XXVIII


Not for nothing had Regan been named by his associates, The Wolf of Wall
Street! While usually no more than a conservative, large-scale player,
ever so often, like a periodical drinker, he had to go on a rampage of
wild and daring stock-gambling. At least five times in his long career
had he knocked the bottom out of the market or lifted the roof off, and
each time to the tune of a personal gain of millions. He never went on a
small rampage, and he never went too often.

He would let years of quiescence slip by, until suspicion of him was
lulled asleep and his world deemed that the Wolf was at last grown old
and peaceable. And then, like a thunderbolt, he would strike at the men
and interests he wished to destroy. But, though the blow always fell
like a thunderbolt, not like a thunderbolt was it in its inception. Long
months, and even years, were spent in deviously preparing for the day
and painstakingly maturing the plans and conditions for the battle.

Thus had it been in the outlining and working up of the impending
Waterloo for Francis Morgan. Revenge lay back of it, but it was revenge
against a dead man. Not Francis, but Francis’ father, was the one he
struck against, although he struck through the living into the heart of
the grave to accomplish it. Eight years he had waited and sought his
chance ere old R.H.M.——Richard Henry Morgan——had died. But no chance had
he found. He was, truly, the Wolf of Wall Street, but never by any luck
had he found an opportunity against the Lion—for to his death R.H.M. had
been known as the Lion of Wall Street.

So, from father to son, always under a show of fair appearance, Regan
had carried the feud over. Yet Regan’s very foundation on which he built
for revenge was meretricious and wrongly conceived. True, eight years
before R.H.M.’s death, he had tried to double-cross him and failed; but
he never dreamed that R.H.M. had guessed. Yet R.H.M. had not only
guessed but had ascertained beyond any shadow of doubt, and had promptly
and cleverly double-crossed his treacherous associate. Thus, had Regan
known that R.H.M. knew of his perfidy, Regan would have taken his
medicine without thought of revenge. As it was, believing that R.H.M.
was as bad as himself, believing that R.H.M., out of meanness as mean as
his own, without provocation or suspicion, had done this foul thing to
him, he saw no way to balance the account save by ruining him, or, in
lieu of him, by ruining his son.

And Regan had taken his time. At first Francis had left the financial
game alone, content with letting his money remain safely in the safe
investments into which it had been put by his father. Not until Francis
had become for the first time active in undertaking Tampico Petroleum to
the tune of millions of investment, with an assured many millions of
ultimate returns, had Regan had the ghost of a chance to destroy him.
But, the chance given, Regan had not wasted time, though his slow and
thorough campaign had required many months to develop. Ere he was done,
he came very close to knowing every share of whatever stock Francis
carried on margin or owned outright.

It had really taken two years and more for Regan to prepare. In some of
the corporations in which Francis owned heavily, Regan was himself a
director and no inconsiderable arbiter of destiny. In Frisco
Consolidated he was president. In New York, Vermont and Connecticut he
was vice-president. From controlling one director in Northwestern
Electric, he had played kitchen politics until he controlled the
two-thirds majority. And so with all the rest, either directly, or
indirectly through corporation and banking ramifications, he had his
hand in the secret springs and levers of the financial and business
mechanism which gave strength to Francis’ fortune.

Yet no one of these was more than a bagatelle compared with the biggest
thing of all——Tampico Petroleum. In this, beyond a paltry twenty
thousand shares bought on the open market, Regan owned nothing,
controlled nothing, though the time was growing ripe for him to sell and
deal and juggle in inordinate quantities. Tampico Petroleum was
practically Francis’ private preserve. A number of his friends were, for
them, deeply involved, Mrs. Carruthers even gravely so. She worried him,
and was not even above pestering him over the telephone. There were
others, like Johnny Pathmore, who never bothered him at all, and who,
when they met, talked carelessly and optimistically about the condition
of the market and financial things in general. All of which was harder
to bear than Mrs. Carruthers’ perpetual nervousness.

Northwestern Electric, thanks to Regan’s machinations, had actually
dropped thirty points and remained there. Those on the outside who
thought they knew, regarded it as positively shaky. Then there was the
little, old, solid-as-the-rock-of-Gibraltar Frisco Consolidated. The
nastiest of rumors were afloat, and the talk of a receivership was
growing emphatic. Montana Lode was still sickly under Mulhaney’s
unflattering and unmodified report, and Weston, the great expert sent
out by the English investors, had failed to report anything reassuring.
For six months, Imperial Tungsten, earning nothing, had been put to
disastrous expense in the great strike which seemed only just begun. Nor
did anybody, save the several labor leaders who knew, dream that it was
Regan’s gold that was at the bottom of the affair.

The secrecy and the deadliness of the attack was what unnerved Bascom.
All properties in which Francis was interested were being pressed down
as if by a slow-moving glacier. There was nothing spectacular about the
movement, merely a steady persistent decline that made Francis’ large
fortune shrink horribly. And, along with what he owned outright, what he
held on margin suffered even greater shrinkage.

Then had come rumors of war. Ambassadors were receiving their passports
right and left, and half the world seemed mobilizing. This was the
moment, with the market shaken and panicky, and with the world powers
delaying in declaring moratoriums, that Regan selected to strike. The
time was ripe for a bear raid, and with him were associated half a dozen
other big bears who tacitly accepted his leadership. But even they did
not know the full extent of his plans, nor guess at the specific
direction of them. They were in the raid for what they could make, and
thought he was in it for the same reason, in their simple directness of
pecuniary vision catching no glimpse of Francis Morgan nor of his
ghostly father at whom the big blow was being struck.

Regan’s rumor factory began working overtime, and the first to drop and
the fastest to drop in the dropping market were the stocks of Francis,
which had already done considerable dropping ere the bear market began.
Yet Regan was careful to bring no pressure on Tampico Petroleum. Proudly
it held up its head in the midst of the general slump, and eagerly Regan
waited for the moment of desperation when Francis would be forced to
dump it on the market to cover his shrunken margins in other lines.

                  *       *       *       *       *

“Lord! Lord!”

Bascom held the side of his face in the palm of one hand and grimaced as
if he had a jumping toothache.

“Lord! Lord!” he reiterated. “The market’s gone to smash and Tampico Pet
along with it. How she slumped! Who’d have dreamed it!”

Francis, puffing steadily away at a cigarette and quite oblivious that
it was unlighted, sat with Bascom in the latter’s private office.

“It looks like a fire-sale,” he vouchsafed.

“That won’t last longer than this time to-morrow morning——then you’ll be
sold out, and me with you,” his broker simplified, with a swift glance
at the clock.

It marked twelve, as Francis’ swiftly automatic glance verified.

“Dump in the rest of Tampico Pet,” he said wearily. “That ought to hold
back until to-morrow.”

“Then what to-morrow?” his broker demanded, “with the bottom out and
everybody including the office boys selling short.”

Francis shrugged his shoulders. “You know I’ve mortgaged the house,
Dreamwold, and the Adirondack Camp to the limit.”

“Have you any friends?”

“At such a time!” Francis countered bitterly.

“Well, it’s the very time,” Bascom retorted. “Look here, Morgan. I know
the set you ran with at college. There’s Johnny Pathmore——”

“And he’s up to his eyes already. When I smash he smashes. And Dave
Donaldson will have to readjust his life to about one hundred and sixty
a month. And as for Chris Westhouse, he’ll have to take to the movies
for a livelihood. He always was good at theatricals, and I happen to
know he’s got the ideal ‘film’ face.”

“There’s Charley Tippery,” Bascom suggested, though it was patent that
he was hopeless about it.

“Yes,” Francis agreed with equal hopelessness. “There’s only one thing
the matter with him——his father still lives.”

“The old cuss never took a flyer in his life,” Bascom supplemented.
“There’s never a time he can’t put his hand on millions. And he still
lives, worse luck.”

“Charley could get him to do it, and would, except the one thing that’s
the matter with me.”

“No securities left?” his broker queried.

Francis nodded.

“Catch the old man parting with a dollar without due security.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

Nevertheless, a few minutes later, hoping to find Charley Tippery in his
office during the noon hour, Francis was sending in his card. Of all
jewelers and gem merchants in New York, the Tippery establishment was
the greatest. Not only that. It was esteemed the greatest in the world.
More of the elder Tippery’s money was invested in the great Diamond
Corner, than even those in the know of most things knew of this
particular thing.

The interview was as Francis had forecast. The old man still held tight
reins on practically everything, and the son had little hope of winning
his assistance.

“I know him,” he told Francis. “And though I’m going to wrestle with
him, don’t pin an iota of faith on the outcome. I’ll go to the mat with
him, but that will be about all. The worst of it is that he has the
ready cash, to say nothing of oodles and oodles of safe securities and
United States bonds. But you see, Grandfather Tippery, when he was young
and struggling and founding the business, once loaned a friend a
thousand. He never got it back, and he never got over it. Nor did Father
Tippery ever get over it either. The experience seared both of them.
Why, father wouldn’t lend a penny on the North Pole unless he got the
Pole for security after having had it expertly appraised. And you
haven’t any security, you see. But I’ll tell you what. I’ll wrestle with
the old man to-night after dinner. That’s his most amiable mood of the
day,. And I’ll hustle around on my own and see what I can do. Oh, I know
a few hundred thousand won’t mean anything, and I’ll do my darnedest for
something big. Whatever happens, I’ll be at your house at nine
to-morrow——”

“Which will be my busy day,” Francis smiled wanly, as they shook hands.
“I’ll be out of the house by eight.”

“And I’ll be there by eight then,” Charley Tippery responded, again
wringing his hand heartily. “And in the meantime I’ll get busy. There
are ideas already beginning to sprout....”

                  *       *       *       *       *

Another interview Francis had that afternoon. Arrived back at his
broker’s office, Bascom told him that Regan had called up and wanted to
see Francis, saying that he had some interesting information for him.

“I’ll run around right away,” Francis said, reaching for his hat, while
his face lighted up with hope. “He was an old friend of father’s, and if
anybody could pull me through, he could.”

“Don’t be too sure,” Bascom shook his head, and paused reluctantly a
moment before making confession. “I called him up just before you
returned from Panama. I was very frank. I told him of your absence and
of your perilous situation here, and——oh, yes, flatly and flat
out——asked him if I could rely on him in case of need. And he baffled.
You know anybody can baffle when asked a favor. That was all right. But
I thought I sensed more ... no, I won’t dare to say enmity; but I will
say that I was impressed ... how shall I say?—well, that he struck me as
being particularly and peculiarly cold-blooded and non-committal.”

“Nonsense,” Francis laughed. “He was too good a friend of my father’s.”

“Ever heard of the Conmopolitan Railways Merger?” Bascom queried with
significant irrelevance.

Francis nodded promptly, then said:

“But that was before my time. I merely have heard of it, that’s all.
Shoot. Tell me about it. Give me the weight of your mind.”

“Too long a story, but take this one word of advice. If you see Regan,
don’t put your cards on the table. Let him play first, and, if he
offers, let him offer without solicitation from you. Of course, I may be
all wrong, but it won’t damage you to hold up your hand and get his play
first.”

At the end of another half hour, Francis was closeted with Regan, and
the stress of his peril was such that he controlled his natural
impulses, remembering Bascom’s instruction, and was quite fairly
nonchalant about the state of his affairs. He even bluffed.

“In pretty deep, eh?” was Regan’s beginning.

“Oh, not so deep that my back-teeth are awash yet,” Francis replied
airily. “I can still breathe, and it will be a long time before I begin
swallowing.”

Regan did not immediately reply. Instead, pregnantly, he ran over the
last few yards of the ticker tape.

“You’re dumping Tampico Pet pretty heavily, just the same.”

“And they’re snapping it up,” Francis came back, and for the first time,
in a maze of wonderment, he considered the possibility of Bascom’s
intuition being right. “Sure, I’ve got _them_ swallowing.”

“Just the same, you’ll note that Tampico Pet is tumbling at the same
time it’s being snapped up, which is a very curious phenomenon,” Regan
urged.

“In a bear market all sorts of curious phenomena occur,” Francis bluffed
with a mature show of wisdom. “And when they’ve swallowed enough of my
dumpings they’ll be ripe to roll on a barrel. Somebody will pay
something to get my dumpings out of their system. I fancy they’ll pay
through the nose before I’m done with them.”

“But you’re all in, boy. I’ve been watching your fight, even before your
return. Tampico Pet is your last.”

Francis shook his head.

“I’d scarcely say that,” he lied. “I’ve got assets my market enemies
never dream of. I’m luring them on, that’s all, just luring them on. Of
course, Regan, I’m telling you this in confidence. You were my father’s
friend. Mine is going to be some clean up, and, if you’ll take my tip,
in this short market you start buying. You’ll be sure to settle with the
sellers long in the end.”

“What are your other assets?”

Francis shrugged his shoulders.

“That’s what they’re going to find out when they’re full up with my
stuff.”

“It’s a bluff!” Regan admired explosively. “You’ve got the old man’s
nerve, all right. But you’ve got to show me it isn’t bluff.”

Regan waited, and Francis was suddenly inspired.

“It is,” he muttered. “You’ve named it. I’m drowning over my back-teeth
now, and they’re the highest out of the wash. But I won’t drown if you
will help me. All you’ve got to do is to remember my father and put out
your hand to save his son. If you’ll back me up, we’ll make them all
sick....”

And right there the Wolf of Wall Street showed his teeth. He pointed to
Richard Henry Morgan’s picture.

“Why do you think I kept that hanging on the wall all these years?” he
demanded.

Francis nodded as if the one accepted explanation was their tried and
ancient friendship.

“Guess again,” Regan sneered grimly.

Francis shook his head in perplexity.

“So I shouldn’t ever forget him,” the Wolf went on. “And never a waking
moment have I forgotten him.——Remember the Conmopolitan Railways Merger?
Well, old R.H.M. double-crossed me in that deal. And it was some
double-cross, believe me. But he was too cunning ever to let me get a
come-back on him. So there his picture has hung, and here I’ve sat and
waited. And now the time has come.”

“You mean?” Francis queried quietly.

“Just that,” Regan snarled. “I’ve waited and worked for this day, and
the day has come. I’ve got the whelp where I want him at any rate.” He
glanced up maliciously at the picture. “And if that don’t make the old
gent turn in his grave....”

Francis rose to his feet and regarded his enemy curiously.

“No,” he said, as if in soliloquy, “it isn’t worth it.”

“What isn’t worth what?” the other demanded with swift suspicion.

“Beating you up,” was the cool answer. “I could kill you with my hands
in five minutes. You’re no Wolf. You’re just mere yellow dog, the part
of you that isn’t plain skunk. They told me to expect this of you; but I
didn’t believe, and I came to see. They were right. You were all that
they said. Well, I must get along out of this. It smells like a den of
foxes. It stinks.”

He paused with his hand on the door knob and looked back. He had not
succeeded in making Regan lose his temper.

“And what are you going to do about it?” the latter jeered.

“If you’ll permit me to get my broker on your ‘phone maybe you’ll
learn,” Francis replied.

“Go to it, my laddy buck,” Regan conceded, then, with a wave of
suspicion, “—I’ll get him for you myself.”

And, having ascertained that Bascom was really at the other end of the
line, he turned the receiver over to Francis.

“You were right,” the latter assured Bascom. “Regan’s all you said and
worse. Go right on with your plan of campaign. We’ve got him where we
want him, though the old fox won’t believe it for a moment. He thinks
he’s going to strip me, clean me out.” Francis paused to think up the
strongest way of carrying on his bluff, then continued. “I’ll tell you
something you don’t know. He’s the one who manœuvred the raid from the
beginning. So now you know who we’re going to bury.”

And, after a little more of similar talk, he hung up.

“You see,” he explained, again from the door, “you were so crafty that
we couldn’t make out who it was. Why hell, Regan, we were prepared to
give a walloping to some unknown that had several times your strength.
And now that it’s you, it’s easy. We were prepared to strain. But with
you it will be a walk-over. To-morrow, around this time, there’s going
to be a funeral right here in your office and you’re not going to be one
of the mourners. You’re going to be the corpse——and a not-nice looking
financial corpse you’ll be when we get done with you.”

“The dead spit of R.H.M.,” the Wolf grinned. “Lord, how he could pull
off a bluff!”

“It’s a pity he didn’t bury you and save me all the trouble,” was
Francis’ parting shot.

“And all the expense,” Regan flung after him. “It’s going to be pretty
expensive for you, and there isn’t going to be any funeral from this
place.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

“Well, to-morrow’s the day,” Francis delivered to Bascom, as they parted
that evening. “This time to-morrow I’ll be a perfectly nice scalped and
skinned and sun-dried and smoke-cured specimen for Regan’s private
collection. But who’d have believed the old skunk had it in for me! I
never harmed him. On the contrary, I always considered him father’s best
friend.——If Charley Tippery could only come through with some of the
Tippery surplus coin....”

“Or if the United States would only declare a moratorium,” Bascom hoped
equally hopelessly.

And Regan, at that moment, was saying to his assembled agents and
rumor-factory specialists:

“Sell! Sell! Sell all you’ve got and then sell short. I see no bottom to
this market!”

And Francis, on his way up town, buying the last extra, scanned the
five-inch-lettered headline:

            “I SEE NO BOTTOM TO THIS MARKET.—THOMAS REGAN.”

But Francis was not at his house at eight next morning to meet Charley
Tippery. It had been a night in which official Washington had not slept,
and the night-wires had carried the news out over the land that the
United States, though not at war, had declared its moratorium. Wakened
out of his bed at seven by Bascom in person, who brought the news,
Francis had accompanied him down town. The moratorium had given them
hope, and there was much to do.

Charles Tippery, however, was not the first to arrive at the Riverside
Drive palace. A few minutes before eight, Parker was very much disturbed
and perturbed when Henry and Leoncia, much the worse for sunburn and
travel-stain, brushed past the second butler who had opened the door.

“It’s no use you’re coming in this way,” Parker assured them. “Mr.
Morgan is not at home.”

“Where’s he gone?” Henry demanded, shifting the suit-case he carried to
the other hand. “We’ve got to see him _pronto_, and I’ll have you know
that _pronto_ means quick. And who in hell are you?”

“I am Mr. Morgan’s confidential valet,” Parker answered solemnly. “And
who are you?”

“My name’s Morgan,” Henry answered shortly, looking about in quest of
something, striding to the library, glancing in, and discovering the
telephones. “Where’s Francis? With what number can I call him up?”

“Mr. Morgan left express instructions that nobody was to telephone him
except on important business.”

“Well, my business is important. What’s the number?”

“Mr. Morgan is very busy to-day,” Parker reiterated stubbornly.

“He’s in a pretty bad way, eh?” Henry quizzed.

The valet’s face remained expressionless.

“Looks as though he was going to be cleaned out to-day, eh?”

Parker’s face betrayed neither emotion nor intelligence.

“For a second time I tell you he is very busy——” he began.

“Hell’s bells!” Henry interrupted. “It’s no secret. The market’s got him
where the hair is short. Everybody knows that. A lot of it was in the
morning papers. Now come across, Mr. Confidential Valet. I want his
number. I’ve got important business with him myself.”

But Parker remained obdurate.

“What’s his lawyer’s name? Or the name of his agent? Or of any of his
representatives?”

Parker shook his head.

“If you will tell me the nature of your business with him,” the valet
essayed.

Henry dropped the suit-case and made as if about to leap upon the other
and shake Francis’ number out of him. But Leoncia intervened.

“Tell him,” she said.

“Tell him!” Henry shouted, accepting her suggestion. “I’ll do better
than that. I’ll show him.—Here, come on, you.” He strode into the
library, swung the suit-case on the reading table, and began opening it.
“Listen to me, Mr. Confidential Valet. Our business is the real
business. We’re going to save Francis Morgan. We’re going to pull him
out of the hole. We’ve got millions for him, right here inside of this
thing——”

Parker, who had been looking on with cold, disapproving eyes, recoiled
in alarm at the last words. Either the strange callers were lunatics, or
cunning criminals. Even at that moment, while they held him here with
their talk of millions, confederates might be ransacking the upper parts
of the house. As for the suit-case, for all he knew it might be filled
with dynamite.

“Here!”

With a quick reach Henry had caught him by the collar as he turned to
flee. With his other hand, Henry lifted the cover, exposing a bushel of
uncut gems. Parker showed plainly that he was overcome, although Henry
failed to guess the nature of his agitation.

“Thought I’d convince you,” Henry exulted. “Now be a good dog and give
me his number.”

“Be seated, sir ... and madame,” Parker murmured, with polite bows and a
successful effort to control himself. “Be seated, please. I have left
the private number in Mr. Morgan’s bedroom, which he gave to me this
morning when I helped him dress. I shall be gone but a moment to get it.
In the meantime please be seated.”

Once outside the library, Parker became a most active, clear-thinking
person. Stationing the second footman at the front door, he placed the
first one to watch at the library door. Several other servants he sent
scouting into the upper regions on the chance of surprising possible
confederates at their nefarious work. Himself he addressed, via the
butler’s telephone, to the nearest police station.

“Yes, sir,” he repeated to the desk sergeant. “They are either a couple
of lunatics or criminals. Send a patrol wagon at once, please, sir. Even
now I do not know what horrible crimes are being committed under this
roof ...”

In the meantime, in response at the front door, the second footman, with
visible relief, admitted Charley Tippery, clad in evening dress at that
early hour, as a known and tried friend of the master. The first butler,
with similar relief, to which he added sundry winks and warnings,
admitted him into the library.

Expecting he knew not what nor whom, Charley Tippery advanced across the
large room to the strange man and woman. Unlike Parker, their sunburn
and travel-stain caught his eye, not as insignia suspicious, but as
tokens worthy of wider consideration than average New York accords its
more or less average visitors. Leoncia’s beauty was like a blow between
the eyes, and he knew she was a lady. Henry’s bronze, brazed upon
features unmistakably reminiscent of Francis and of R.H.M., drew his
admiration and respect.

“Good morning,” he addressed Henry, although he subtly embraced Leoncia
with his greeting. “Friends of Francis?”

“Oh, sir,” Leoncia cried out. “We are more than friends. We are here to
save him. I have read the morning papers. If only it weren’t for the
stupidity of the servants ...”

And Charley Tippery was immediately unaware of any slightest doubt. He
extended his hand to Henry.

“I am Charley Tippery,” he said.

“And my name’s Morgan, Henry Morgan,” Henry met him warmly, like a
drowning man clutching at a life preserver. “And this is Miss Solano—the
Senorita Solano—Mr. Tippery. In fact, Miss Solano is my sister.”

“I came on the same errand,” Charley Tippery announced, introductions
over. “The saving of Francis, as I understand it, must consist of hard
cash or of securities indisputably negotiable. I have brought with me
what I have hustled all night to get, and what I am confident is not
sufficient——”

“How much have you brought?” Henry asked bluntly.

“Eighteen hundred thousand—what have you brought?”

“Piffle,” said Henry, pointing to the open suit-case, unaware that he
talked to a three-generations’ gem expert.

A quick examination of a dozen of the gems picked at random, and an even
quicker eye-estimate of the quantity, put wonder and excitement into
Charley Tippery’s face.

“They’re worth millions! millions!” he exclaimed. “What are you going to
do with them?”

“Negotiate them, so as to help Francis out,” Henry answered. “They’re
security for any amount, aren’t they?”

“Close up the suit-case,” Charley Tippery cried, “while I telephone!—I
want to catch my father before he leaves the house,” he explained over
his shoulder, while waiting for his switch. “It’s only five minutes’ run
from here.”

Just as he concluded the brief words with his father, Parker, followed
by a police lieutenant and two policemen, entered.

“There’s the gang, lieutenant—arrest them,” Parker said.—“Oh, sir, I beg
your pardon, Mr. Tippery. Not you, of course.—Only the other two,
lieutenant. I don’t know what the charge will be—crazy, anyway, if not
worse, which is more likely.”

“How do you do, Mr. Tippery,” the lieutenant greeted familiarly.

“You’ll arrest nobody, Lieutenant Burns,” Charley Tippery smiled to him.
“You can send the wagon back to the station. I’ll square it with the
Inspector. For you’re coming along with me, and this suit-case, and
these suspicious characters, to my house. You’ll have to be
bodyguard—oh, not for me, but for this suit-case. There are millions in
it, cold millions, hard millions, beautiful millions. When I open it
before my father, you’ll see a sight given to few men in this world to
see.—And now, come on everybody. We’re wasting time.”

He made a grab at the suit-case simultaneously with Henry, and, as both
their hands clutched it, Lieutenant Burns sprang to interfere.

“I fancy I’ll carry it until it’s negotiated,” Henry asserted.

“Surely, surely,” Charley Tippery conceded, “as long as we don’t lose
any more precious time. It will take time to do the negotiating. Come
on! Hustle!”



                              CHAPTER XXIX


Helped tremendously by the moratorium, the sagging market had ceased
sagging, and some stocks were even beginning to recover. This was true
for practically every line save those lines in which Francis owned and
which Regan was bearing. He continued bearing and making them
reluctantly fall, and he noted with joy the huge blocks of Tampico
Petroleum which were being dumped obviously by no other person than
Francis.

“Now’s the time,” Regan informed his bear conspirators. “Play her coming
and going. It’s a double ruff. Remember the list I gave you. Sell these,
and sell short. For them there is no bottom. As for all the rest, buy
and buy now, and deliver all that you sold. You can’t lose, you see, and
by continuing to hammer the list you’ll make a double killing.”

“How about yourself?” one of his bear crowd queried.

“I’ve nothing to buy,” came the answer. “That will show you how square I
have been in my tip, and how confident I am. I haven’t sold a share
outside the list, so I have nothing to deliver. I am still selling short
and hammering down the list, and the list only. There’s my killing, and
you can share in it by as much as you continue to sell short.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

“There you are!” Bascom, in despair in his private office, cried to
Francis at ten-thirty. “Here’s the whole market rising, except your
lines. Regan’s out for blood. I never dreamed he could show such
strength. We can’t stand this. We’re finished. We’re smashed now——you,
me, all of us——everything.”

Never had Francis been cooler. Since all was lost, why worry?—was his
attitude; and, a mere layman in the game, he caught a glimpse of
possibilities that were veiled to Bascom who too thoroughly knew too
much about the game.

“Take it easy,” Francis counseled, his new vision assuming form and
substance with each tick of a second. “Let’s have a smoke and talk it
over for a few minutes.”

Bascom made a gesture of infinite impatience.

“But wait,” Francis urged. “Stop! Look! Listen! I’m finished, you say?”

His broker nodded.

“You’re finished?”

Again the nod.

“Which means that we’re busted, flat busted,” Francis went on to the
exposition of his new idea. “Now it is perfectly clear, then, to your
mind and mine, that a man can never be worse than a complete, perfect,
hundred-percent., entire, total bust.”

“We’re wasting valuable time,” Bascom protested as he nodded
affirmation.

“Not if we’re busted as completely as you’ve agreed we are,” smiled
Francis. “Being thoroughly busted, time, sales, purchases, nothing can
be of any value to us. Values have ceased, don’t you see.”

“Go on, what is it?” Bascom said, with the momentarily assumed patience
of abject despair. “I’m busted higher than a kite now, and, as you say,
they can’t bust me any higher.”

“Now you get the idea!” Francis jubilated. “You’re a member of the
Exchange. Then go ahead, sell or buy, do anything your and my merry
hearts decide. We can’t lose. Anything from zero always leaves zero.
We’ve shot all we’ve got, and more. Let’s shoot what we haven’t got.”

Bascom still struggled feebly to protest, but Francis beat him down with
a final:

“Remember, anything from zero leaves zero.”

And for the next hour, as in a nightmare, no longer a free agent, Bascom
yielded to Francis’ will in the maddest stock adventure of his life.

“Oh, well,” Francis laughed at half-past eleven, “we might as well quit
now. But remember, we’re no worse off than we were an hour ago. We were
zero then. We’re zero now. You can hang up the auctioneer’s flag any
time now.”

Bascom, heavily and wearily taking down the receiver, was about to
transmit the orders that would stop the battle by acknowledgment of
unconditional defeat, when the door opened and through it came the
familiar ring of a pirate stave that made Francis flash his hand out in
peremptory stoppage of his broker’s arm.

“Stop!” Francis cried. “Listen!”

And they listened to the song preceding the singer:

                  “Back to back against the mainmast,
                    Held at bay the entire crew.”

As Henry swaggered in, carrying a huge and different suit-case, Francis
joined with him in the stave.

“What’s doing?” Bascom queried of Charley Tippery, who, still in evening
dress, looked very jaded and worn from his exertions.

From his breast pocket he drew and passed over three certified checks
that totaled eighteen hundred thousand dollars. Bascom shook his head
sadly.

“Too late,” he said. “That’s only a drop in the bucket. Put them back in
your pocket. It would be only throwing them away.”

“But wait,” Charley Tippery cried, taking the suit-case from his singing
companion and proceeding to open it. “Maybe that will help.”

“That” consisted of a great mass of orderly bundles of gold bonds and
gilt edge securities.

“How much is it?” Bascom gasped, his courage springing up like
wild-fire.

But Francis, overcome by the sight of such plethora of ammunition,
ceased singing to gasp. And both he and Bascom gasped again when Henry
drew from his inside pocket a bundle of a dozen certified checks. They
could only stare at the prodigious sum, for each was written for a
million dollars.

“And plenty more where that came from,” Henry announced airily. “All you
have to do is say the word, Francis, and we’ll knock this bear gang to
smithereens. Now suppose you get busy. The rumors are around everywhere
that you’re gone and done for. Pitch in and show them, that’s all. Bust
every last one of them that jumped you. Shake ‘m down to their gold
watches and the fillings out of their teeth.”

“You found old Sir Henry’s treasure after all,” Francis congratulated.

“No,” Henry shook his head. “That represents part of the old Maya
treasure——about a third of it. We’ve got another third down with Enrico
Solano, and the last third’s safe right here in the Jewelers and
Traders’ National Bank.—Say, I’ve got news for you when you’re ready to
listen.”

And Francis was quickly ready. Bascom knew even better than he what was
to be done, and was already giving his orders to his staff over the
telephone—buying orders of such prodigious size that all of Regan’s
fortune would not enable him to deliver what he had sold short.

“Torres is dead,” Henry told him.

“Hurrah!” was Francis’ way of receiving it.

“Died like a rat in a trap. I saw his head sticking out. It wasn’t
pretty. And the Jefe’s dead. And ... and somebody else is dead——”

“Not Leoncia!” Francis cried out.

Henry shook his head.

“Some one of the Solanos——old Enrico?”

“No; your wife, Mrs. Morgan. Torres shot her, deliberately shot her. I
was beside her when she fell. Now hold on, I’ve got other news.
Leoncia’s right there in that other office, and she’s waiting for you to
come to her.—Can’t you wait till I’m through? I’ve got more news that
will give you the right steer before you go in to her. Why, hell’s
bells, if I were a certain Chinaman that I know, I’d make you pay me a
million for all the information I’m giving you for nothing.”

“Shoot——what is it?” Francis demanded impatiently.

“Good news, of course, unadulterated good news. Best news you ever
heard. I—now don’t laugh, or knock my block off——for the good news is
that I’ve got a sister.”

“What of it?” was Francis’ brusque response. “I always knew you had
sisters in England.”

“But you don’t get me,” Henry dragged on. “This is a perfectly brand new
sister, all grown up, and the most beautiful woman you ever laid eyes
on.”

“And what of it?” growled Francis. “That may be good news for you, but I
don’t see how it affects me.”

“Ah, now we’re coming to it,” Henry grinned. “You’re going to marry her.
I give you my full permission——”

“Not if she were ten times your sister, nor if she were ten times as
beautiful,” Francis broke in. “The woman doesn’t exist I’d marry.”

“Just the same, Francis boy, you’re going to marry this one. I know it.
I feel it in my bones. I’d bet on it.”

“I’ll bet you a thousand I don’t.”

“Aw, go on and make it a real bet,” Henry drawled.

“Any amount you want.”

“Done, then, for a thousand and fifty dollars.—Now go right into the
office there and take a look at her.”

“She’s with Leoncia?”

“Nope; she’s by herself.”

“I thought you said Leoncia was in there.”

“So I did, so I did. And so Leoncia _is_ in there. And she isn’t with
another soul, and she’s waiting to talk with you.”

By this time Francis was growing peevish.

“What are you stringing me for?” he demanded. “I can’t make head nor
tale of your foolery. One moment it’s your brand new sister in there,
and the next moment it’s your wife.”

“Who said I ever had a wife?” Henry came back.

“I give up!” Francis cried. “I’m going on in and see Leoncia. I’ll talk
with you later on when you’re back in your right mind.”

He started for the door, but was stopped by Henry.

“Just a second more, Francis, and I’m done,” he said. “I want to give
you that steer. I am not married. There is only one woman waiting for
you in there. That one woman is my sister. Also is she Leoncia.”

It required a dazed half minute for Francis to get it clearly into his
head. Again, and in a rush, he was starting for the door, when Henry
stopped him.

“Do I win?” queried Henry.

But Francis shook him off, dashed through the door, and slammed it after
him.


                                THE END.


            CAHILL & CO., LTD., PRINTERS, LONDON AND DUBLIN

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 └─────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────┘



------------------------------------------------------------------------



Transcriber’s note:

 1. Moved the ad page to the end.

 2. Changed ‘broken’ to ‘broke’ on p. 53.

 3. Changed ‘woman’ to ‘women on p. 64.

 4. Added ‘of’ to p. 71.

 5. Added ‘an’ to p. 148.

 6. Changed ‘thy’ to ‘they’ on p. 181.

 7. Changed ‘posses’ to ‘possess’ on p. 244.

 8. Added ‘a’ to p. 284.

 9. Silently corrected typographical errors.

10. Retained anachronistic and non-standard spellings as printed.

11. Enclosed italics font in _underscores_.





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