The Search for the Silver City
by James Otis
THE SEARCH FOR THE SILVER CITY.
A TALE OF ADVENTURE IN YUCATAN.
By JAMES OTIS. Author of The Castaways, A Runaway Brig, The
Treasure Finders, etc., etc.
NEW YORK: A. L. BURT, PUBLISHER.
Copyright, 1893, by A. L. BURT.
CHAPTER I. THE
CHAPTER IV. A
CHAPTER VI. THE
CHAPTER VII. ON
CHAPTER X. A
CHAPTER XI. THE
CHAPTER XII. THE
CHAPTER XIII. IN
CHAPTER XIV. THE
CHAPTER XV. A
CHAPTER XVII. A
CHAPTER XIX. A
CHANGE OF BASE.
CHAPTER XX. A
CHAPTER XXI. A
CHAPTER XXIII. A
CHAPTER XXV. ON
CHAPTER XXIX. A
CHAPTER XXX. A
CHAPTER XXXII. A
In Mr. E. G. Squier's preface to the translation of the Chevalier
Arthur Morelet's Travels in Central America the following paragraph
can be found:
Whoever glances at the map of Central America will observe a vast
region, lying between Chiapas, Tabasco, Yucatan, and the republic of
Guatemala, and comprising a considerable part of each of those states,
which, if not entirely a blank, is only conjecturally filled up with
mountains, lakes and rivers. It is almost as unknown as the interior of
Africa itself. We only know that it is traversed by nameless ranges of
mountains, among which the great river Usumasinta gathers its waters
from a thousand tributaries, before pouring them, in a mighty flood,
into the Lagoon of Terminos, and the Gulf of Mexico. We know that it
has vast plains alternating with forests and savannas; deep valleys
where tropical nature takes her most luxuriant forms, and high plateaus
dark with pines, or covered with the delicate tracery of arborescent
ferns. We know that it conceals broad and beautiful lakes, peopled with
fishes of new varieties, and studded with islands which supports the
crumbling yet still imposing remains of aboriginal architecture and
superstition. And we know, also, that the remnants of the ancient
Itzæs, Lacandones, Choles, and Manches, those indomitable Indian
families who successfully resisted the force of the Spanish arms, still
find a shelter in its fastnesses, where they maintain their
independence, and preserve and practice the rites and habits of their
ancestors as they existed before the discovery. Within its depths, far
off on some unknown tributary of the Usumasinta, the popular tradition
of Guatemala and Chiapas places that great aboriginal city, with its
white walls shining like silver in the sun, which the curé of
Quiche affirmed to Mr. Stephens he had seen, with his own eyes, from
the tops of the mountains of Quesaltenango.
In Stephens' Yucatan, Vol II, page 195, are the following lines:
He (meaning the padre of Quiche, with whom Mr. Stephens was
conversing), was then young, and with much labor climbed to the naked
summit of the Sierra, from which, at a height of ten or twelve thousand
feet, he looked over an immense plainand saw at a great distance a
large city spread over a great space, and with turrets white and
glittering in the sun. The traditionary account of the Indians of
Chajul is, that no white man has ever reached this city, that the
inhabitants speak the Maya language, are aware that a race of strangers
has conquered the whole country around, and murder any white man who
attempts to enter their territory. They have no coin or other
circulating medium; no horses, cattle, mules, or other domestic animals
except fowls, and the cocks they keep under ground to prevent their
crowing being heard. One look at that city would be worth ten years of
an every-day life. If he (the padre) is right, a place is left where
Indians and an Indian city exist as Cortez and Alvarado found them;
there are living men who can solve the mystery that hangs over the
ruined cities of America; who perhaps can go to Copan and read the
inscriptions on its monuments. No subject more exciting and attractive
presents itself to my mind, and the deep impression will never be
THE SEARCH FOR THE SILVER CITY.
CHAPTER I. THE SEA DREAM.
Three years ago last August, it is unnecessary to specify the exact
date, Teddy Wright was not only a very lonely fellow, but considered
himself abused by circumstances.
During the previous season he had studied very hard at the military
school on the Hudson which he often referred to slightingly as the
barracks, and as a reward for the flattering reports sent home by his
teachers, had been promised a long vacation in the Adirondacks with a
schoolmate who lived in the northern portion of New York state.
Teddy's parents and sisters intended spending the summer at some one
of the fashionable watering places; but with three long months of
roughing it where game could be found in abundance, he had no desire
to accompany them.
Life in the woods knocks staying at a big hotel on the sea-shore,
where a fellow is obliged to be dressed up all the time, he said when
one of his sisters expressed surprise at his choice. We shall
regularly camp out, and father has given me a doubled-barreled
breech-loader, to say nothing of his own rod and collection of flies.
Jack and I will have the jolliest kind of a time while you're moonin'
on the hot sands trying to think it is fun.
Teddy went to Jack's home, and, to his sorrow and dismay, found that
young gentleman so ill that there was no hope of his being allowed to
take the long-contemplated trip.
He remained there, however, until perfectly certain of this
unpleasant fact, and then returned home to the house which had been
left in charge of one servant, and, as he expressed it, just to spite
himself, refused to join the remainder of the family.
Of course this was a most foolish proceeding; but Teddy was in that
frame of mind where a boy of seventeen is prone to foolish deeds, and
there he stayed in a frame of mind very nearly approaching the sulks,
until he received a letter from Neal Emery, another schoolmate, whose
father lived in Bridgeport.
Mr. Emery owned a large factory in that city, and Neal had intended
to spend his vacation at home where he could enjoy the use of a small
sloop-rigged yacht his mother had presented him with the year previous.
The letter contained a very pressing invitation for Teddy to visit
Bridgeport, since his trip to the Adirondacks had been postponed, and
concluded with the startling announcement:
Father has just bought the Sea Dream, a beautiful steam yacht of an
hundred feet in length, and I don't know how many tons. He proposes to
cruise around three or four weeks while mother is at Bar Harbor, and is
perfectly willing I should invite you to join us. We will have a jolly
time, and if nothing prevents I want you to come at once. We are to
start Wednesday morning.
The letter had been received Monday afternoon, therefore Teddy had
but little time for preparation.
He first sent a long telegram to his father, repeating the substance
of what Neal had written, and asked permission to enroll himself on the
Sea Dream's passenger list.
Not until late in the evening did he receive a favorable reply; but
his traps, including the gun and fishing tackle, were packed, and on
the first train Tuesday morning he started, all traces of ill-humor
having vanished, for a cruise on a steam yacht promised quite as great
pleasure as had the stay in the woods, with not so much certainty of
hard work. Neal met him at the depot, and after going to the former's
home only long enough to leave the baggage, the two set out to view the
yacht which, in all the bravery of glistening paint and polished metal,
lay at anchor in the harbor.
Although not an expert in matters pertaining to marine architecture,
Teddy could appreciate the beauty of the little craft while she swung
lazily to and fro at her cable as if husbanding strength against the
time when speed and endurance would be required.
Neal signaled from the pier, two of the crew came ashore in the
captain's boat, and the boys went on board where, during the remainder
of the day, they were busy examining and admiring the jaunty little
Leading from the main saloon were two state-rooms on either side,
and in one of these Neal had already stored such of his belongings as
he intended to take on the cruise.
This is our room, and now that we are here I wonder why we were so
foolish as to carry your baggage up to the house. If it was with us we
would remain on board, for it is very much more pleasant than in the
There is nothing to prevent our bringing it down, Teddy replied
with a laugh. I had certainly rather stay here to-night.
Come on, and then we shall feel more at home when the cruise
The boys were rowed ashore, and the sailors instructed to remain at
the pier until their return.
Then a short visit was made to Mr. Emery's office, where Neal
explained what they proposed to do, and having received permission to
occupy the quarters slightly in advance of sailing time, Teddy's
baggage was soon in the small apartment which to both the boys looked
I wish we were to be gone three years, Teddy said as he threw
himself on a locker and gazed around.
If he could have known just at that moment how long the cruise would
really last it is very certain he would not have expressed such a
Next year father says he will start early in the season, take
mother with us, and not come back until it is time for me to go to
And you must get an invitation for me, Teddy replied, his eyes
glistening with pleasure at simply contemplating such an excursion.
There won't be any difficulty about it. He has already promised
that if nothing happens he will speak to your father.
And in the meanwhile we've got before us the jolly fact that we're
to stay on board a month.
Yes; but there's no good reason why we should remain below where it
is so warm. Come on deck for awhile, and then we'll have a look at the
The engineer, Jake Foster, was under the awning aft, and Neal
introduced his friend, saying as he did so:
Teddy has never been yachting before, not even in a sailing craft.
Jake, a stout, jolly looking fellow hardly more than twenty-five
years of age, gazed at the visitor curiously a moment, and then said
with a hearty laugh:
He'll have a chance to find out what an acquaintance with the ocean
means, for I understand that Mr. Emery is going to run well over to the
Bahamas before he comes back.
Father has business there which it would be necessary to attend to
not later than next fall, so intends to make it a portion of the
Are we likely to have much rough weather? Teddy asked, realizing
for the first time that it was more than possible he might be called
upon to pay Neptune a tribute.
Not at this time of the year; but its more'n probable the Sea Dream
will kick up her heels enough to show something of what is meant by a
life on the ocean wave before she pokes her nose into this port again.
Then the engineer was summoned from below, and the boys remained aft
recalling to mind all they had studied relative to the Bahama banks.
The stores were on board; everything was in readiness for the start
as soon as the owner should arrive, and when the steward summoned them
to supper it seemed as if the voyage had really begun.
CHAPTER II. UNDER WEIGH.
It was a long while before the boys could close their eyes in
slumber on this first night aboard the Sea Dream, owing to the novelty
of the surroundings. It seemed as if Teddy would never cease admiring
the snug quarters with the guns and fishing rods hung where they could
be seen to the best advantage, and Neal had very much to say regarding
the plans he proposed to carry into execution during the cruise.
Despite such enchanting topics of conversation they were not able to
remain awake all night, and when finally the journey into dreamland was
made, neither returned to a full realization of the situation until
quite late in the morning.
Teddy was the first to open his eyes, and in a very few seconds the
throbbing of the screw, as well as the invigorating draught of cool air
which came through the open port-hole, told him that the voyage had
Neal, Neal, he cried, shaking his friend vigorously. Wake up; I
think we are at sea.
Neal was on his feet in an instant, and after one glance through the
tiny window he replied with a laugh:
There's no question about our being under way; but we sha'n't see
the sea to-day.
Why, we are on it now.
If you have forgotten your geography as soon as this you'll be
obliged to do some mighty hard studying when we get back to school. The
Sea Dream must go through the sound before we reach the ocean, and most
likely we shall make harbor at Martha's Vineyard to-night.
Of course I knew about the sound; I had forgotten, that's all, and
Teddy looked just a trifle ashamed at having displayed so much
Never had the boys made their toilets more quickly. Both were eager
to be on deck in order to extract the greatest possible amount of
pleasure out of this first day of the cruise, and when they finally
emerged from the companion-way an exclamation of surprise and delight
burst from Teddy's lips.
The yacht was steaming at nearly full speed over waters as placid as
a pond, and here and there were craft of all kinds darting back and
forth like active fish.
I tell you there's nothing in the way of sport to beat sailing,
Teddy said enthusiastically.
There are times when it isn't quite as nice as this. When it
storms, and the yacht dances around so that it is impossible to come on
deck you will think camping in the Adirondacks is much better.
I thought vessels always went into a harbor at such times.
If you are at sea it is necessary to take whatever comes in the way
of weather, but there is no reason why we should speak of such things
now. Let's have a look at Jake and his engine before breakfast.
During this first day of the cruise the boys were very busy.
Considerable time was spent eating three decidedly hearty meals, and
what with inspecting every portion of the steamer and watching the
passing vessels, they managed without much trouble to find something in
the way of amusement until the Sea Dream arrived off Cottage City,
where Mr. Emery proposed to stop a day or two.
The wind had come up quite strong toward night, and when the little
craft swung to her anchors some distance from the shore Teddy was
feeling decidedly disagreeable.
There was not sea enough to trouble the greenest fresh-water sailor
that ever caught a crab; but to poor Teddy, who had never been on the
water save when crossing from New York to Brooklyn or Jersey City, it
seemed as if the Sea Dream was very like a hideous nightmare.
She danced lightly on the long swell as if courtesying to the craft
in her immediate vicinity, and each graceful movement caused Neal's
guest to fancy his stomach was turning somersaults.
You are not going below now? the former said as Teddy staggered
toward the companion-way.
I am if it is possible to get there, was the impatient reply.
But we shall have a chance to see the town. Father is going ashore
In one of those little boats? and Teddy pointed to the davits
where four polished tenders hung glistening in the sun like some
articles of adornment.
Of course. How else could he get there?
That doesn't make any difference to me. This boat is bouncing
around enough for a fellow to wish he'd never heard of such a thing as
a yacht, and in one of those egg-shells I'm certain it must be
But it isn't. Try not to think of being sick, and come on shore
How can I help not thinking about it when I feel as if I was
Then, as if unable to prolong the conversation, Teddy ran below,
while his friend followed more leisurely.
Neal could offer no inducements sufficiently strong to tempt his
companion out of the berth, and there he remained until next morning
when, in half a gale of wind, Mr. Emery decided to take a party of
friends to Nantucket.
Only this was needed to give Teddy a severe attack of seasickness
during which, when he spoke at all, it was to repeat over and over
again his intention of going home as soon as the Sea Dream arrived at
Probably he would have carried this threat into execution if the
excursion had not been prolonged; but it was four days before the yacht
returned to Martha's Vineyard, and by that time he had, as Jake
expressed it, found his sea legs.
Now no matter how much the little craft tumbled around he remained
undisturbed, and the sight of food was no longer disagreeable, but very
pleasing to him.
Therefore it was that when the Sea Dream left Cottage City for the
Bahamas, the delightful portion of the cruise, so far as Teddy was
concerned, had but just begun.
Inasmuch as there was no especial reason why they should arrive at
any certain time, and the owner wished to remain at sea as long as
possible while making the voyage, the yacht was run at half speed, thus
not only saving considerable coal; but unnecessary wear and tear of the
That it could be very warm on the water had never entered the minds
of the boys; but as they journeyed southward the heat became intense.
During two days it was almost a perfect calm, the only air stirring
being that caused by the motion of the steamer, and the cabin seemed
like an oven. There the thermometer stood at 84 degrees, while in the
galley it was twenty degrees higher, and in the engine-room it
frequently rose to 130 degrees.
Neal and Teddy could do little more than lie under the awning aft,
working hard but unsuccessfully to keep cool by the aid of fans and
such iced drinks as the steward prepared.
The novelty of yachting had passed away in a measure, and they were
already counting the days which must elapse before the Sea Dream would
be in a less torrid climate.
Jake had assured them that when the yacht came to an anchor and the
fires were drawn it would be much cooler on board, therefore both the
boys were delighted when Bridge Point at the entrance to the N. E.
Providence Channel was sighted.
There was a light breeze blowing off the banks, and the yacht was
running slowly as she passed within a quarter of a mile of the low
lying land, when suddenly a most disagreeable odor from the shore
caused Neal to say impatiently:
If such perfumes as that are common to the Bahamas I had rather
endure the heat than stay a very long while, no matter how cool it may
be when we cease steaming.
What is it? and Teddy covered his nose with his handkerchief.
I don't know; but I wish Jake would put her ahead faster, for it is
His desire for more speed was not gratified. To the surprise of both
the boys the engine-room gong sounded for the machinery to be stopped,
and as the headway was checked Mr. Walters, the sailing master, came
from the wheel-house to where Mr. Emery was sitting.
The boys could not hear the short conversation which followed; but
their surprise increased as the order was given to lower away one of
the port boats.
What are we stopping here for? Neal inquired of his father.
Doesn't the odor give you any idea? Mr. Emery asked with a smile.
None except that the sooner we get away the more comfortable I
When I tell you that we are likely to find as the cause of your
discomfort something nearly as precious as gold, it may be a trifle
Both Neal and Teddy looked perplexed, and the latter said
It is strong enough to be worth a good deal; but do you really mean
what you say, sir?
Every word. Mr. Walters thinks he can find ambergris which has been
washed up on the rocks, and that is quoted at ten dollars per ounce.
Now you boys have been at school long enough to know exactly why it is
I have heard of it as being the base of the finest perfumes, Neal
said slowly; but that must surely be a mistake if it smells anything
like this, and he did violence to his stomach by inhaling a long
breath of the disagreeably laden air.
It is true, nevertheless. Ambergris is believed to be the product
of a sort of ulcer or cancer which has formed in the bowels of a whale.
After a certain length of time, or because a cure has been wrought by
change of feeding place, the mass is dislodged. It floats, and is often
found far out to sea; but more particularly among the cays in the Turks
islands. It is the foundation of nearly every perfume, and in ancient
times was used for spicing wine.
During this conversation the boat had been lowered, and, with Mr.
Walters as steersman, was being pulled toward the land. Now Neal and
Teddy were sorry they had not accompanied the sailing master; but it
was too late for regrets, and the odor did not seem to be nearly as
disagreeable since they knew from what it proceeded.
Never mind how much the stuff is worth, Teddy said, as he and Neal
leaned over the rail in company with Jake, who had come on deck to
ascertain why the yacht had been brought to a standstill, it isn't a
nice thing to smell of, and I shall remember this afternoon whenever I
It isn't always the most agreeable things which are of the most
service, Jake replied with an air of wisdom; and then as a loud shout
was heard from the shore, the boat having reached the land some time
since, he added, It's ambergris for a fact, or they wouldn't be makin'
such a fuss.
Five minutes later the little craft was seen approaching the yacht,
and each instant the odor became stronger until both the boys were
forced to cover their organs of smell.
In the bow of the boat was a black mass looking not unlike coke, and
weighing, as was afterward ascertained, forty ounces.
I thought I couldn't be mistaken, although I never run across
anything of the kind but once before, Mr. Walters said triumphantly,
as he handed the precious substance up to one of the sailors, who took
it very unwillingly.
We shall be driven out of the yacht if you try to carry it home,
Mr. Emery replied, moving aft as far as possible.
It won't trouble us many hours. We will sell or ship it at Nassau,
and I reckon all hands can manage to live until we arrive there.
The valuable substance was wrapped carefully in several thicknesses
of canvas, and placed in the hold where it is not probable any odor
from it could have been perceptible on deck, although both the boys
were quite positive the yacht was thoroughly permeated.
After this short delay the Sea Dream continued on her course at a
higher rate of speed, for now that she was so near land the heat seemed
unbearable, and when night came Neal and Teddy stretched themselves out
in the hammocks which had been slung under the after awning, wishing,
not for a glimpse of Nassau; but that they were off the New England
coast instead of being so near the tropics.
Then, despite the profuse perspiration, both fell asleep, not to
waken until the rattling of the cable through the hawse-holes told that
they were in the harbor.
CHAPTER III. NASSAU.
A semi-tropical port in midsummer is by no means a pleasant place
however diversified and picturesque the scenery may be, and when the
boys awakened from their restless slumber the lassitude which beset
them told how great an effect the climate could exert.
Even Mr. Emery was disinclined to any severe exertion; but his
business must be transacted, and, after a breakfast eaten on deck, he
ordered the boat to be made ready.
If possible I shall leave to-night, Neal and Teddy heard him say
to the sailing master, therefore it will be well to get your ambergris
on shore before noon.
Neither of the boys cared to see the town at the expense of walking
around under the blazing sun, and when Mr. Emery was being rowed toward
the dock-yard they joined Jake who, in the coolest spot under the
awning, was watching the fishermen near by.
The water was clear as crystal, and of a bright greenish tinge which
admitted of their seeing very distinctly the tiny fish of silver and
golden hues as they darted to and fro; the violet and blue medusæ, and
the cream-colored jelly-fish as big as a watermelon. There were angel
fish of a bright blue tinge; yellow snappers; black and white sergeant
majors; pilot fish; puff fish which could inflate their bodies until
they were round as a ball, or flatten themselves to the shape of a
The cow fish attracted the boys' attention more particularly, for it
had two horns, and its head was shaped exactly like a cow, and when one
passed with a calf as Teddy called it, swimming by her side, both
agreed that it was well worth suffering so much from the heat to see
such a sight.
Fish of all colors and sizes swam around the yacht as if examining
her hull, and the effect of such brilliant hues displayed through the
crystal-like water was actually startling because of the gorgeousness.
Before they were weary of admiring this aquatic panorama Jake called
their attention to a fisherman who, in a small canoe, was pursuing his
vocation in a very odd manner.
In his boat he had a hideous looking sucking fish, around the tail
of which was tied a long cord with a wooden float at one end. While the
boys were watching him he dropped the monster overboard, and in an
instant it darted at a medium-sized Jew fish, attaching itself to the
latter by means of the sucking valve on the top of its head. Having
done this he remained motionless, his victim seeming to be literally
paralyzed, and there was nothing for the boatman to do but pull in on
the float, disengage his animated fishhook by a dextrous pressure on
the sucker after both had been drawn aboard, and send the repulsive
looking servant out again.
Although the Jew fish must have weighed at least a hundred pounds,
he was landed without difficulty, and Jake gravely assured his
companions that a sucking fish could pull up the whole bottom of the
ocean providin' the rope on his tail was strong enough to stand the
Then the engineer told a story which did not bear quite so hard on
the imagination since it was absolutely true, and began by saying as he
pointed toward the little fortification known as Montague fort:
That place has been the headquarters of at least a dozen pirates,
the worst of which was called Black Beard, a bloodthirsty villain who
sunk two vessels right where we are anchored this blessed minute. The
feller's real name was John Teach, an' that big banyan tree over there
is where he used to hold what he allowed was court martials.
He was drunk about three-quarters of the time, an' allers had a
great spree when there were any prisoners on hand. He an' his men would
get the poor wretches to the tree, go through all the ceremony of a
reg'lar trial, an' allers end by stringin' every blessed one of 'em up
in such a way as to prevent 'em from dyin' quick, when a fire'd be
built underneath, so's to roast the whole lot.
They do say he buried all the treasure among the roots of the
banyan, an' many's the one who has dug for it; but so far as I ever
heard, not a single piece has been found. While he lived this wasn't a
very pleasant harbor for them as cared about a livin' to make.
What became of him finally? Teddy asked.
An English man-of-war got hold of him after awhile, an' he was
strung on the yardarm to dry. If I'd been in command of the vessel he
should have found out how it felt to be roasted. Say, don't you boys
want to go over to Potter's cay?
What is to be seen there?
The sponge yards, an' it's a great sight if you never visited one.
It is too hot, Neal replied with a very decided shake of the head.
Jake did not urge the matter, for just at that moment the second
port boat was lowered, and Mr. Walters made ready to go ashore with his
precious bundle of aromatic ambergris.
Idly the boys watched the perspiring party, pressing handkerchiefs
to their faces meanwhile, since, despite the wrappings of canvas, the
valuable mass gave most decided proof of its being in the vicinity, and
when the boat started for the shore Neal and Teddy clambered into the
hammocks, for even leaning over the rail was an exertion in the sultry
During the middle of the day both the boys slept, for a siesta is as
necessary as food in hot climates, and when the light breeze of evening
crept over the waters Mr. Emery came aboard with the welcome
intelligence that his business had been concluded.
We will get under way again before midnight, he said as he stepped
over the rail, and was received by Mr. Walters. Now that a breeze has
set in it should be cool enough to permit of the men's working without
fear of prostration.
It would use me up to walk fore and aft twice, Neal said in an
undertone to Teddy; but it isn't for us to complain of the heat if we
can get out of this furnace.
Jake was nowhere to be seen. It was as if after his invitation to go
on shore had been declined he betook himself to some other portion of
the yacht, where he could perspire without allowing the others to see
his suffering, and the boys swung to and fro until the hour came when
the singing of steam told that preparations for departure were being
There could be no doubt but that Nassau would be a pleasant place in
which to spend the winter months; but it was by no means desirable
during the summer, and when the Sea Dream left the little harbor where
the water was hardly more than sufficient to float her, both Neal and
Teddy gave vent to a sigh of relief.
We are to run south until it is possible to give the banks a clear
berth, and then stand straight up the coast for home, the former said
as the yacht glided almost noiselessly over the phosphorescent lighted
waters down the eastern side of the shoals. If a good head of steam is
kept on we should be in a colder latitude very soon.
We can't get there any too soon to please me, Teddy replied, as he
waved the palm-leaf fan languidly. I believe it would be a positive
comfort to have my nose frost-bitten.
It isn't possible you will have such comfort as that for some time
to come; but we may be able to make your teeth chatter in a few days,
Neal replied laughingly, and then as the breeze caused by the movement
of the yacht over the water fanned his face, he added sleepily, Good
night; I don't believe I shall open my eyes until after sunrise
As a matter of fact this prediction was not verified; before evening
a wind had come out of the sea which caused the yacht to bow before it
like a reed in a storm, and the hammocks that, a few hours previous,
had seemed so rest-inviting, were swinging at a rate that threatened to
throw their occupants to the deck.
I fancy it is time we went below, Neal said, as he awakened his
friend by a series of vigorous shakes. If we stay here half an hour
longer it will be doubtful whether we're on board or in the water.
The Sea Dream's lee rail was already so near the surface that the
green waves curled over it now and then, and before the boys could
reach the cabin they were thoroughly drenched.
It was the greatest possible relief to crawl into the bunk and pull
up the bed-clothes to defend themselves against the cold wind which
came through the port-hole, and so delicious was this sense of being
chilly that they failed to realize the cause of the sudden change in
the weather, until they heard the sailing master in the cabin reply to
Mr. Emery's question:
You are getting your first taste of what is known as a norther; but
there isn't the slightest danger if we can crawl away from the land,
and we shall have no trouble in doing that so long as there is a full
head of steam on.
What does he mean by a norther? Teddy asked of Neal, who had
shown, by rising on his elbow, that he was awake.
A wind coming from the north, more frequently met in the Gulf of
Mexico, when the temperature falls very suddenly, as was the case this
evening, and a furious gale is often the result.
So long as it holds cold I don't see that we have any cause to
complain, was the sleepy rejoinder; but before the night came to a
close he had good reason for changing his mind on the subject.
It was about midnight, as near as the boys could judge without
looking at a watch, when the yacht was flung on her beam ends with a
sudden force which threw both out of the berth, and before the
port-hole could be fastened, flooded the state-room with water.
Teddy might well be excused for the shrill cry of alarm which
escaped from his lips, for at that moment even an experienced sailor
would have fancied the little craft had struck upon a reef, more
particularly since it was known they were in a dangerous locality.
We are sinking! he cried frantically as he tried in vain to open
the door, and Neal was of the same opinion.
After what seemed to be a very long while although in reality it
could have been but a few seconds, the Sea Dream slowly righted, and
then it was possible for the boys to gain the cabin.
Here they were met by Mr. Emery, who had just succeeded in leaving
his own room, and before any conversation could be indulged in the
steamer began pitching and rolling about in a manner that showed she
was not on the reef even if the first shock had been the result of
It was only by holding with all their strength to the immovable
articles of furniture that they avoided being flung from one end of the
cabin to the other, as the yacht plunged and tossed, throwing violently
to and fro everything which had not been securely fastened.
The cabin lamp was burning dimly, and the faint light only served to
reveal more clearly the general confusion.
Once amid the tumult the boys heard Mr. Emery shout:
Don't be frightened; if there was any immediate danger Mr. Walters
would warn us.
He may not be able to come where we are, Teddy thought; but he
refrained from giving words to such a dismal foreboding, and in silent
fear waited forhe knew not what.
CHAPTER IV. A NEW DANGER.
To the frightened boys in the cabin it was as if the night would
never come to an end, and during every one of those fearful moments
they believed the yacht was on the point of taking the final plunge.
At four o'clock in the morning the steamer's movements became more
regular; but not less in violence, and, shortly after, the sailing
master came below.
We are laying-to, he said to Mr. Emery. There is a nasty sea on,
and I didn't care to take the chances of fighting against it.
How does she stand it?
Like a darling. I was afraid of straining her at first; but when
she took the butt end of the storm in such a pleasant fashion there was
no longer any reason to fret about her.
It didn't seem like such a very pleasant fashion to us, Teddy said
to Neal, who had succeeded in gaining a chair near his friend.
It appeared to me as if she kicked pretty hard about it, Neal
replied, and then Mr. Emery asked:
What are the weather indications?
There is no reason to hope for anything better until the wind blows
itself out, and according to my way of thinking that won't be within
the next twenty-four hours. Why don't you people lie down?
Because it has been a matter of impossibility to remain in the
You can do so now without much difficulty. Come, boys, let me help
you to turn in.
The calm, matter-of-fact way in which Mr. Walters acted caused the
boys to feel more comfortable in mind, and they made no protest when he
assisted them to the state-room where there was yet water enough to
show what had happened.
Why didn't you call one of the stewards to mop this up? the
sailing master asked as he lighted the swinging lamp.
We haven't seen one since the gale begun, Neal replied with a
laugh. I fancy they were as much frightened as Teddy and I.
It won't take long to turn them out, and Mr. Walters started
forward in a manner which boded no good for the skulkers.
Neal and Teddy found little difficulty in retaining a recumbent
position, although the yacht was tossing up and down like a mad thing.
She no longer gave those sudden lurches which threatened to carry away
even the short spars, and for the first time since the deluge from the
port-hole, they began to feel really comfortable in mind.
The steward came in very shortly after Mr. Walters left, and from
the expression on his face it was evident he had been rated severely
for neglect of duty.
It didn't make any difference to us whether the water was washed up
or not, Neal said in a friendly tone. The sailing master saw it and
asked why we hadn't called you.
He don't allow that a man has any right to sleep, the steward
replied sulkily. If he'd been up since five o'clock, he'd want to turn
in before midnight instead of foolin' around the cabin till it was time
to begin another day's work.
Is it possible that you have been sleeping? Neal asked in
I don't see how you could even lie down while the yacht was
tumbling about in such a furious manner.
That was none of my business. I didn't ship before the mast,
consequently it ain't any duty of mine to go prowlin' 'round if the
wind happened to blow a little.
If you call this a 'little' I wouldn't like to be on board when you
thought it was a regular gale, Teddy said with a laugh.
I've seen the wind blow so hard that a fellow had to lash his hair
down to keep it from bein' carried away when he went on deck; but that
didn't stop my wantin' to get a watch below.
With this remark the steward, having finished his work, left the
room, and the boys were alone once more.
Although they had believed it would be impossible to sleep during a
gale such as the yacht was now laboring under, the eyes of both were
soon closed in slumber, not to be opened until late in the morning.
So far as could be told by the motion, there was no diminution in
the strength of the wind, and they experienced great difficulty in
making their toilets.
When this task had finally been accomplished, however, Neal said as
he opened the door after some trouble, owing to the erratic movements
of the yacht:
I'm going on deck. It can't be much worse there, and it wouldn't be
a bad idea to see what the ocean looks like in a gale.
I'll go too: but don't let's venture out of the companion-way, for
the waves must be making a clean sweep over the decks.
When the boys entered the cabin no one was to be seen save the surly
steward who visited them the night previous, and in reply to Neal's
question he said:
Your father left word that he wasn't to be called. It wouldn't be
much use for him to turn out, because we can't set the table in such a
What are we to do for breakfast?
The same as Mr. Walters did, get a cup of coffee and a hard-tack;
that'll go way ahead of nothin' if you're very hungry.
We can go into the galley when we want a bite, Neal replied, and
then he led the way up the narrow stairs where, through the half-opened
hatch, it was possible to get a view of the raging waters.
Perhaps it would have been better, so far as their peace of mind was
concerned, not to have ventured out, for the scene was anything rather
Standing there and looking forward the boys could see a huge wall of
water dead ahead bearing down upon the yacht as if to swamp her, and at
the moment when it appeared as if the final stroke had come she would
lurch to leeward, presenting her side to the wave, rising on the
succeeding one and shivering on its crest as if shaking the spray from
her shrouds, after which came the downward plunge that caused the boys
to hold their breath in fear.
The sky, the swiftly flying clouds, and the waves were of a grayish
hue looking ominous and threatening and the little craft appeared to be
but a plaything for the angry elements. That she could out-ride the
gale seemed almost impossible, and Teddy said with a shudder as he
descended the stairs:
Don't let's stay where we can see it. I wish I hadn't looked, for,
bad as matters seem to be down here, it is as nothing compared to being
Neal was of the same opinion, and the two passed through the cabin
to the engine-room where Jake was keeping vigilant watch over the
Why, I thought we were hove to, Neal exclaimed in surprise as the
engineer assisted him and Teddy to a seat by his side.
So we are; but it is necessary to keep the screw turning, otherwise
it might not be possible to hold her in the proper position.
How long have you been on duty?
Since I saw you last.
Haven't you had any sleep?
I can bottle up enough when the gale abates; but just now it stands
a man in hand to have his weather eye open pretty wide, for a bit of
carelessness would work considerable mischief. I'm going to have
breakfast, an' if you boys care to join me we'll make it three-handed.
You're not likely to fare any better in the cabin than here to-day.
The boys accepted the invitation, and with some cold meat and
hard-tack placed on the locker where it could not slide off, and mugs
of steaming coffee in their hands, all made a remarkably jolly meal
under the unfavorable circumstances.
During the remainder of the day Neal and Teddy stayed below, not
caring for another view of the angry sea, and when night came the gale
had so far abated that the yacht was sent ahead once more; but owing to
the force and direction of the wind it was deemed best to continue on a
southerly course even at the expense of reaching the Caribbean Sea,
rather than take the chances of putting about.
All this Jake explained when the boys visited him just previous to
retiring, and he added in conclusion:
It seems pretty tough to go yet further south; but Mr. Walters is a
cautious sailin' master, an' when he makes up his mind to a thing you
can count on its bein' mighty nigh right.
Will it be possible to get home as soon as father intended if we go
so far out of the way? Neal asked.
If he don't do any cruisin' after he gets up north I reckon it
could be done; but there's no sense in figgerin' on that till we're off
Now that the yacht had proved her seaworthiness by riding safely
through the storm the boys would have been willing to go almost
anywhere in her, and the idea that they might have no cruising in a
more agreeable climate caused a decided feeling of disappointment; but,
as Jake had said, there was no reason to worry about that while they
were so far from home, and as if by common consent the subject was not
On the following morning when they went on deck the sun was shining
down upon the yet angry looking waves; but one of the sailors assured
them that the gale had blowed itself out.
It stands to reason there'd be a heavy sea runnin'; but its
settlin' down fast, an' by to-morrow there won't be swell enough for
In this he was correct. Twenty-four hours later the awnings were up,
and all hands were panting under the blazing heat of a tropical sun.
This sudden change prostrated the boys, and during the next two days
they fanned themselves, drank iced drinks, and sought in vain for some
spot where a breath of cool air could be found.
It was the fourth day after the norther. While waiting for dinner to
be brought on deck (the meals had been served under the awnings since
the storm, for the cabin was too hot to permit even of their eating
there), Teddy lay near the after starboard boat lazily wondering why
that thin curl of blue smoke should come from the planking directly
over the kitchen, instead of through the pipe as it always had before.
Owing to the fact that there was no unusual disturbance he never
fancied for a moment anything could be wrong, and remained gazing at it
in silence so long that Neal asked curiously:
What do you see that is so very interesting?
I was wondering what had happened to the galley pipe.
How do you know that it isn't all right?
I suppose it is; but it looks queer to see that smoke coming up as
if from the deck.
Neal looked in the direction indicated by Teddy's outstretched
finger, and seeing the blue curl, which had now grown considerably
thicker, sprang to his feet very quickly.
Without speaking to his friend he ran forward, Teddy still ignorant
there was any danger, and in the shortest possible space of time Mr.
Walters came from the wheel-house in response to Neal's emphatic
To Teddy it seemed as if but an instant elapsed before the deck was
a scene of confusion, and as all hands were called for duty he heard
one of the sailors cry in a tone of alarm:
Tumble up, boys, the yacht is on fire!
CHAPTER V. FIGHTING THE FLAMES.
It was some moments after the fire was discovered before anything
could be done toward checking the flames, for the very good reason that
the exact location remained a mystery until a visit had been paid to
The cook said the galley felt unusually warm; but he paid no
particular attention to the fact, thinking the weather had grown
hotter, and, save for the smoke, there were no signs of fire to be seen
anywhere until Mr. Walters called upon one of the men to raise the
hatch which led into the eyes of the yacht directly beneath the
Instantly this was done a broad sheet of flame burst forth, and had
the stout covering not been replaced immediately, the little craft
would have soon been consumed.
Working with all speed, for even the seconds were precious now, the
hatch was battened down, and a hole large enough to admit of the nozzle
of the hose, bored just abaft the hatch-way.
While this was being done a portion of the crew had been getting
into working order the hose used for washing down the decks, and when
all was ready the real task of extinguishing the flames began.
A steady stream of water was forced into the hold as rapidly as the
men could work the pumps, and the lower deck examined carefully for the
slightest aperture which might admit air.
How the fire had started no one knew, nor was any time spent in
trying to ascertain, for every person had been detailed to some duty.
Neal and Teddy were given the lightest task, which was simply to
watch the hose at the place where it entered the deck, to make sure the
water flowed through freely, and the nozzle did not slip out.
Ten minutes after the alarm had been raised all hands were working
methodically, thanks to the discipline maintained by Mr. Walters, and
it became a question simply of whether the flames could be stifled or
Do you think they can save the yacht? Teddy asked after a short
time of silence, and Neal, who had not seen the broad sheet of flame
which leaped from the hatch-way replied confidently:
Of course. If the hold is filled with water she surely can't burn.
Are there boats enough to carry us all in case the fire does get
the best of us?
Certainly; but it won't come to anything quite as bad as that.
Before Teddy could ask another question one of the stewards shouted
down the forward companion-way:
Mr. Emery says that his son is to come on deck. There is no need of
Neal obeyed the summons thinking he was to assist at the pumps; but
in this he was speedily undeceived.
Take such things as you are likely to need most from your
state-room, and stow them in one of the boats aft, his father said
when he reported for further duty. Although I don't think we shall be
obliged to abandon the yacht, it is well to be prepared for any
This was no time to ask questions, and Neal obeyed at once,
observing as he entered the cabin that the stewards were collecting
food and such other things as might be needed in case they were forced
to depend upon the frail crafts.
This work rather than the evidences of fire in the hold, frightened
Neal. Until this moment he had not believed there was any possibility
the steamer could be destroyed while there were so many to assist in
saving her; but now there was no question as to the fact of their being
in great danger.
Unless father and Mr. Walters were convinced that the fire had got
considerable headway, the boats would not be provisioned so soon, he
said to himself.
His portion of the work could be performed quickly. He and Teddy had
brought all their belongings, with the exception of the fowling pieces
and the fishing rods, aboard in two satchels, and these he packed with
the utmost expedition. Then, with both weapons, he went on deck, stowed
all the goods in the after port boat, and returned to his father's
state-room to see if anything could be done there.
From the disorder it was apparent that the stewards had been in this
apartment before him; but a fine rifle yet hung on the bulk-head, and
in the open locker was quite a large amount of ammunition.
There's no reason why these cartridges shouldn't be taken if we are
obliged to leave the yacht, he said to himself as he gathered them
into convenient shape for carrying. In case we land on a desolate
island they would be mighty useful.
When he went on deck with his second burden the stewards were
putting small kegs of water into each boat, and after stowing the
ammunition by the side of the first articles brought, he looked over
the little craft to ascertain what his father had thought best to save.
He could find nothing there; but on searching the starboard gig he
discovered a small quantity of wearing apparel.
I wonder if that is the craft he intends to go in, or have the
clothes simply been thrown anywhere.
At that moment Mr. Emery came out of the pilot-house followed by Mr.
Walters, and Neal ran forward to ask which boat his father intended to
use in case the abandonment became necessary.
It makes no particular difference, Mr. Emery replied in answer to
Neal's question. We can easily arrange the details later. Go into the
engine-room and tell Jake to drive her at full speed, and to report if
the water we are pumping in is likely to rise as high as the furnaces.
Promising himself that he would re-stow the goods on the gig,
putting his father's with those belonging to himself and Teddy, as soon
as this message had been delivered, he descended the companion-way
after glancing rapidly around the horizon.
There was no land to be seen on either hand, and he understood at
once why the order to keep the yacht going at full speed had been
The small boats were by no means stanch enough to be depended on for
a long cruise unless the present dead calm should continue until they
could reach land, and every effort was to be made to gain some of the
islands in the vicinity.
When Neal entered the engine-room he believed for an instant that
Jake had not heard of the terrible danger which threatened. Work there
was going on as usual, except, perhaps, that the engineer and his
assistants were watching the machinery a trifle more carefully than
seemed really necessary; but when he repeated the message Jake's face
grew just a shade paler.
Say to your father that we have got on every pound of steam that
can be raised, and it will be necessary to slow down presently because
the bearings are growing warm. The water is already above the fire-room
floors, and if the pump is worked an hour longer the fires will be
But you must keep her going, Jake. It would be terrible to take to
the boats when there was no land in sight.
I'm bound to do my best; but a man can go only so far. Do you know
where we are?
What is being done on deck?
The sailors are pumping, and the stewards are provisioning the
Getting ready to abandon the little craft, are they?
Father said that was being done in order that we might be prepared
for any emergency.
And he's got a pretty clear idea that the flames can't be kept
under, or else there wouldn't be a thought of such a thing. How's the
A dead calm, as it was this morning.
Jake remained silent a few moments as if revolving some plan in his
mind, and then he said abruptly:
Neal, if we do have to put off you and Teddy must try to go in the
same boat with me.
Unless father makes different arrangements.
Of course, of course; but if nothin' is said we'll stick together.
Go back an' say that the Sea Dream shall do her best until the water
gets above the fire-boxes, an' then my part of the work has been done.
Neal left the engine-room feeling that there was very little chance
of reaching any port in the yacht, and since there was no reason why he
should hurry on deck, he went around by the way of the galley where
Teddy was stationed.
How are things going on here? he asked, forcing himself to speak
in a cheerful tone. Can you get any idea of the fire?
Put your hand on the deck, Teddy replied gravely, his face of a
livid white although big drops of perspiration were streaming down his
Neal obeyed, and immediately drew his hand back with a cry of
mingled pain and fear.
The planks were already so hot that it seemed as if the flesh must
Has father been here within a few moments?
He has just left.
Did he say anything?
Nothing except that I was to come on deck when it was so hot I
couldn't stand it any longer. Neal, and now Teddy spoke very
earnestly, you laughed when I referred to the possibility that the
yacht might be destroyed; but I know your father thinks she cannot be
I believe now that he does; but I didn't when I left you.
Everything is ready for us to abandon her when nothing more can be
Are we to go in the small boats? asked Teddy, excitedly.
It is the only chance we've got; but don't look so frightened, he
added, as Teddy's face grew yet paler. It is calm, there's absolutely
no sea at all running, and we shall be as safe as on board the yacht.
It will be horrible, Teddy whispered as if to himself, and Neal
I'll tell father what Jake said, and then come straight back to
stay with you.
Don't be away long. It seems as if I had been deserted, when there
is no one here.
Neal could not trust himself to speak. Ascending the companion-way
rapidly he approached his father who was conversing with Mr. Walters
near the bow, as if that position had been chosen to prevent the crew
from hearing what was said.
After repeating the engineer's message he asked:
Can I go back where Teddy is? I think it frightens him to stay
I can't say that I wonder very much; it is a very trying situation
for a boy, especially one who has never been to sea before. Ask Jake if
he will send a man to relieve him and then you may both come on deck.
To deliver this message and return after one of the firemen took
Teddy's place at the nozzle, did not occupy five minutes, and the
frightened boy gave vent to a long sigh of relief when he was in the
open air once more.
Except for the heat the weather was perfect. The Sea Dream, showing
no sign of the monster which was gnawing at her vitals, save by the
clouds of smoke that ascended from the bow, dashed on like the thing of
beauty she was; but when her flight should be checked there would
remain nothing but the tiny boats to bear those on board to a place of
CHAPTER VI. THE LAST RESORT.
Mr. Emery and the sailing master had decided that the yacht should
be kept at full speed, headed for the nearest land, until the water
which was being pumped into the hold drowned the fires in the furnaces,
when recourse must necessarily be had to the boats.
There could no longer be any question but that the entire forward
portion of the hold was a mass of flames which it would not be possible
to hold in check very much longer.
By this time all on board understood that the yacht was to be
abandoned, and, with the exception of those in the engine-room and at
the pumps, every one gazed as if fascinated at the clouds of smoke
arising from near the bow. Already were tiny curls coming from between
the deck planks, and Teddy heard Mr. Walters say in a low tone to
I am afraid the flames will burst through before the furnaces are
flooded. It is too late to cut another hole in the deck, and by an hour
at the latest we must take to the boats.
Have the crew been told off?
I will attend to that now.
Then the sailing master announced to each man the boat to which he
was assigned, and during the next hour hardly a word was spoken. Teddy
and Neal conversed now and then in whispers, as if not daring to make a
noise, and the sailors worked in grim silence.
Nothing save the clank of the pumps and the throbbing of the screw
could be heard.
When the hour had passed it was no longer possible to force water
into the hold. The heat was so great that the hose burned as fast as it
could be pushed through the aperture, and long tongues of flame were
appearing around the edges of the hatch.
All hands, including the boys, were formed in line, and water sent
below in buckets for twenty minutes more, when the word was given to
The lower deck had burst through, and there was no more than time
for Jake and his assistants to clamber up the ladders before the flames
had complete possession of the yacht from the bow to the engine-room
There was no time to be lost in lowering the boats, and the men were
forced to leap in regardless of the previous assignment, for once the
fire burst the bonds which had confined it so long it swept aft with
almost incredible rapidity.
Teddy and Neal, bewildered by the flames which actually burned their
flesh as they stood by the rail while the sailors let go the falls, had
only thought of reaching the craft in which their property was stowed,
and Jake followed; but as the little tenders were allowed to drop
astern beyond reach of the intense heat the boys discovered that Mr.
Emery was not with them.
He had charge of one boat; Mr. Walters commanded another; Jake was
held responsible for the safety of the third, and the last was handled
by the mate.
Shall we come with you, father? Teddy shouted.
I don't think it will be advisable to make any change now, and you
are as safe in one boat as another.
I'll answer for them, Jake cried cheerily, and the sailing master
Jake can handle a small boat better than any one here, therefore
you need not fear an accident will result through carelessness.
How am I to steer? the engineer asked.
Due west. The boats must remain together, and in each one is a
lantern to be hung up during the night to lessen the chances of being
separated. Two men in every craft are to be kept at the oars all the
time, and, in order to make the work light, they should be relieved
hourly. The indications are that the weather will hold clear; it is
only a couple of hundred miles to the Cuban coast, and we are not
likely to be cooped up in these cockle shells very long.
As he ceased speaking Mr. Walters gave the word for the oarsmen to
begin the work which it was supposed would be continued without
intermission until all were in a place of safety, and the boats were
pulled about a mile from the burning steamer, when, as if by common
consent, they were brought to a standstill to watch the destruction of
the Sea Dream.
The jaunty little craft was moving through the water slowly,
enveloped in flames from bow to stern, and the boys gazed at her with a
feeling of sadness which did not arise solely from the fact of their
present peril. It seemed to them as if she could understand that those
who should have saved her had fled when her need of assistance was
greatest, and she was creeping slowly away to die alone.
The poor thing can't swim much longer, Jake said, as if speaking
to himself. The boiler will explode
Even as he spoke a black cloud of smoke shot up from amidships,
followed by a shower of fiery fragments, some of which struck in the
immediate vicinity of the boats, and then the glare of the
conflagration suddenly vanished as the Sea Dream sank beneath the
It would have been strange indeed if each member of the little party
had not experienced a feeling of sorrow and desolation at this moment.
The yacht which, a few hours previous, had appeared so stanch, was
no longer afloat, and their only hope of reaching land was in the tiny
boats which could hardly be expected to live in an ordinary sailing
The tears were very near Teddy's and Neal's eyelids, and Jake's
voice was quite the reverse of steady as he gave the word for the men
to resume work at the oars.
[Illustration: Instead of releasing his hold on Neal the reptile
held firm, etc. See Page 193.]
Night was close at hand. The sun had already set, and the
short-lived twilight cast a sinister grayish hue over the waters. Mr.
Walters' boat had the lantern raised at the bow on the end of an oar
where it swung gently to and fro, and in a few moments all the others
could be distinguished by the same signal.
During such time as they had been waiting to witness the end of the
Sea Dream the little crafts had drifted farther apart, until the one in
charge of Neal's father was nearly half a mile away, and the sailing
master could be heard shouting for them to be brought nearer together.
We shall probably have a breeze to-night, he cried when Jake's
boat approached within easy hailing distance, and if it should come
you must rig up something to serve as a sail, for your only chance of
keeping afloat will be to run before it. You have a compass, and
remember that land is to be found to the westward.
Ay, ay, the engineer replied, as he looked around in vain for some
sign of the wind, and then he added in a low tone to the boys:
I allow Mr. Walters is off in his reckonin' this time, for there
isn't a breath of air stirring now.
We may get it later, Neal said apprehensively, and Jake muttered
to himself; but yet so loud that Teddy could hear him:
It'll be tough on us if it comes out of the wrong quarter.
In ten minutes from the time the word had been given to bring the
boats into closer order the mantle of night had fully fallen, and the
location of the other crafts could only be told by the tiny, swaying
lights, or the hum of voices.
Jake's boat was loaded less deeply than the remainder of the little
fleet. In addition to himself and the two boys, there were but three
sailors on board, and the stock of provisions was correspondingly
small. As a natural consequence she rode higher out of the water, and
although built on the same model as the others, the engineer insisted
she was by far the fastest sailing craft.
An hour had not elapsed before it was possible to test her quality
in this respect.
The breeze which Mr. Walters predicted came up from the east, and as
its first influence was felt Jake shouted in a tone of relief:
We're in luck this time, lads. Here's what will shove us along in
the right direction, an' we can count on striking land without too much
work. Lash a couple of coats to the oars, an' set them up close by the
forward thwart; you'll find a chance there to make 'em fast.
This apology for a sail was soon gotten in place, and, small as was
the surface presented to the wind, the little boat surged ahead,
rippling the water musically under her bow.
Jake held the rudder lines, the boys sitting either side of him on
the bottom of the boat where they could stretch out at full length in
case they felt inclined to sleep, and after they had listened to the
swish of the sea under the stern for some time Neal asked as he raised
his head to look over the side:
Where are the others?
Considerable distance astern. I knew this one could show them her
But the orders were that we must not separate, Neal exclaimed in
That is true; but how can we help ourselves just now? We can't
shorten sail, because there would be nothing left, and we're bound to
run ahead of the waves, small as they are, or be swamped.
But suppose we never see them again?
Don't worry about that; we're all headin' in the same direction,
an' have only got to wait till they overtake us after land is sighted.
Although Jake spoke in a positive tone Teddy and Neal were far from
feeling comfortable in mind; but, as he had said, nothing different
could be done, and each tried to hide his fears from the other.
The weight of the wind increased as the night advanced, and by the
words of caution which the sailors uttered from time to time, the boys
knew that those who should best understand such matters were anxious
regarding the outcome of this night run.
Now and then a small quantity of water would dash over the side; but
it was quickly bailed out, and, as one of the men said, did more good
than harm, for it gave them something to do.
Notwithstanding the gravity of the situation, Neal and Teddy fell
asleep before midnight, therefore they were unconscious of the fight
which their companions were making for life. It was necessary the frail
craft should be kept dead before the wind; otherwise she would have
been swamped by the following waves, which were now running dangerously
high, and the skill of the helmsman was all that prevented her from
Not for a single moment during the hours of darkness was it safe to
relax the vigilance, and the constant strain on one's nerves was more
fatiguing than the real labor.
Just as the day was breaking Neal awoke, and then he aroused Teddy
by asking Jake:
Can you see the other boats?
Not yet; but some of them may be in sight at sunrise. It isn't
possible their lights would show up more than a mile off.
Isn't the sea running very high? Teddy asked timidly as he
attempted to stand erect; but Jake grasped him by the shoulder as he
It isn't safe to move around very much. Lie quiet until the wind
dies away a bit; we've got more'n we want, and the boat must be kept
trimmed mighty carefully or there'll be trouble.
It was only necessary for the boys to watch their companions in
order to learn the dangers which beset them, and, clasping each other's
hands, they waited in anxious suspense for the rising of the sun to
learn if the remainder of the party was near.
CHAPTER VII. ON SHORE.
When the first rays of the sun appeared above the horizon the
sailors searched with their eyes in every direction; but neither land
nor a craft could be seen.
I knew we were bound to run away from the rest of the party, Jake
said, keeping his face turned toward the bow, for the slightest
carelessness might be fatal to all. If this wind dies out we can lay
still till they come up, as they're sure to do before long.
But suppose the other boats have been swamped? Neal suggested,
with a choking sob as he realized that he might never see his father
We won't suppose anything of the kind, Jake replied sharply.
There are plenty in the crowd who can handle the boats better than
this one was handled, and if we rode out the night in safety why
shouldn't they have done the same?
The only chance of our not seein' 'em, one of the sailors said
thoughtfully, is, that sailin' slower, they may now be near land that
we passed in the night without knowin' it. There should 'a been a lot
of keys within fifty miles of where we abandoned the Sea Dream.
That's very true, matey, and now Jake spoke in his customary
cheerful tone, an' we'll soon be makin' some place where there'll be a
chance of stretchin' our legs. Overhaul the grub, one of you, an' let's
have a bite; I feel like a man what's been on a thirty hour watch.
So you have, for that matter. Even if you ain't a sailor man I'd
like to see him as could handle a little craft any better. With me at
the helm she'd have gone to the bottom before midnight.
I won't kick 'cause you praise me, Jake replied with a laugh; but
don't lay it on too thick for fear I might get proud.
I was only tellin' the truth, an' jest what all of us think. When
the breeze freshened I made up my mind that the voyage was about ended;
but here we are yet, an' here we're likely to be a spell longer unless
we strike another norther.
While the man was speaking he had passed aft two cans of preserved
meat, some hard bread, and a small jar of pickles, after opening the
tins with his sheath knife, and every one on board made a hearty meal,
the boys in particular feeling decidedly cheerful when the repast had
The wind is fallin' off a bit, an' I reckon it'll come dead calm by
noon, Jake said, after refusing to allow one of the seamen to relieve
him. We'll all soon have a chance to bottle up sleep.
How long do you think it ought to be before we sight the land?
That's jest what I can't say, lad; but 'cordin' to my way of
thinkin' we was a good bit below the coast of Cuba when the little
yacht went down. That norther blew us a good way off our course, an'
it's possible Mr. Walters might have made a mistake in determinin' the
position, although it ain't exactly the proper thing for an engineer to
set up agin a first-class sailin' master.
It won't take long to find out if this breeze holds, an' that's
some comfort, one of the sailors replied, and then the three men drew
lots to see which two should take a watch below.
During the forenoon there was but little change in the condition of
affairs. The wind decreased until it was nothing more than a good
sailing breeze; but the expected calm did not come.
The boat reeled off the knots in fine style, despite the poor
apology for a sail, and the boys were allowed to change their position,
which they did by sitting on the after thwart.
About twelve o'clock Jake stretched himself out on the bottom for a
nap, awakening one of the sleepers that the man at the helm might have
assistance in case he should require it, and the boys alternately dozed
or searched the horizon in vain for some signs of the other boats.
Those who were hungry ate whenever it pleased them to do so, and
there was no lack of either food or water. Teddy would have talked with
his friend regarding the prospects of reaching home within a reasonable
length of time; but Neal was so anxious about his father that he could
speak of nothing else.
Toward the close of the day the wind freshened again, and, in
obedience to his previous orders, Jake was awakened, the man at the
helm saying in an apologetic tone:
I can hold on here a good bit longer; but you wanted to know if
there was any change, an' there is. It looks to me as if we should have
more of a breeze than we had last night.
No signs of land yet?
No sir; but the Cuban coast, if that's what we're headin' for, is
so low that we wouldn't be likely to raise it till we got close on.
Jake ate supper before taking his seat at the helm, and then the
boys were advised to lie down as on the preceding night.
You'll be comfortable there, and won't stand so much of a chance of
It was evident that Jake wanted to have them out of the way, and
both obeyed at once, Teddy saying as he stretched himself out on the
It seems as if my bones were coming through the skin, and I'm sore
Things are not nearly as bad as they might be, so we musn't
complain, Neal replied philosophically; but at the same time it seemed
as if he could not remain in that position another night.
Even in face of the danger to which they would be exposed, the
occupants of the boat welcomed the increase in the weight of the wind
since it was reasonable to suppose that each mile traversed carried
them just so much nearer the land, and, with the exception of Neal and
Teddy, all were in good spirits when the darkness of night covered the
Owing to the absence of exercise the boys did not sleep well, and
when the unconsciousness of slumber did come upon them for a few
moments at a time, it brought in its train dreams so distressing that
wakefulness with the full knowledge of the dangers which encompassed
them, was preferable.
It seemed as if twenty hours instead of ten had passed when one of
the men in the bow cried joyfully:
If I don't see the loom of land now it's because I never saw such a
Where away? Jake asked, straining his eyes in the vain effort to
discern anything amid the gloom.
Dead ahead as we are running. It must be somethin' more'n a cay, or
it wouldn't show up so big.
The gray light of approaching dawn was lifting the mantle of night
when the man spoke, and, ten minutes later, all saw with reasonable
distinctness the dark cloud which could be nothing less than land.
Now the roar of surf was heard, and Jake said in a troubled tone:
I don't see how we are to make it after all, unless we plump her
straight on, an' that's likely to be a dangerous experiment.
Why not take in the sail, and work the oars; then you can pick a
All right, let go the halyards; but instead of furling the canvas
you can stow it under one of the thwarts.
This order was given and obeyed cheerily, for all were in the best
of spirits now that the end of the wearisome journey seemed to be so
near at hand and in a very short time the boat was moving slowly toward
the shore, rising and falling gently on the heavy swell.
Each moment it was possible to see more distinctly the coast, and
when they were thirty yards from a shore strewn with jagged blocks of
coral, Jake shouted:
Hold on, boys, it would be worse than folly to attempt to run in
there while the sea is so high.
Can't you find a better place? one of the men asked.
It appears to be the same all along for a mile or so in either
There's more danger of bein' swamped while runnin' up or down the
coast, than in makin' a try for it here. Let her go in on the swell,
an' when the water shoals we can jump over to lighten her so she'll
strike well up on the shore where there'll be no trouble in savin'
I don't like the idea, Jake replied. We can't tell what a fellow
might meet with, an' to be swung agin one of them rocks would be hard
The sailors were determined to make the attempt regardless of his
warnings, and after a few moments he refused to argue longer.
You ought to know better than I, he said, an' its no more'n right
you should have your own way without any fuss; but the boys an' I will
stay here till she strikes. That is a better plan than goin' over the
side when you know nothing about the shore, and besides, I can't see
the advantage of lightenin' her.
So she'll strike higher up on the beach, of course, otherwise she'd
be stove before you could say Jack Robinson.
Do as you please, an' so will I. Shall I steer her in now?
The sailors kicked off their boots, and began pulling vigorously at
the oars while Jake said in a low tone to the boys:
Be ready to jump the minute she strikes; but not before. Look out
for the rocks, and take care the swell don't drag you back.
The heavy waves were rolling up on the shore with a roar that
rendered conversation difficult, and as he glanced ahead at the foaming
waters in which it did not seem possible the little craft could live
for a single moment, Teddy pressed Neal's hand as if to say good-by.
Neal gave him one quick, hopeful glance; pointed shoreward to
intimate that they must watch every motion of the boat in order to be
prepared when the most favorable time arrived, and, following Jake's
example both arose from the thwart, standing in a stooping posture in
order to steady themselves by the rail.
Carried on the crest of an enormous wave the tiny craft hangs as if
poised in mid-air for an instant, and as the vast body of water is
dashed forward the three sailors leap into the boiling, swirling foam.
Teddy fancied he heard a muffled cry of agony; but just at that
moment he could think only of saving his own life, and there was no
time to so much as glance around.
The boat was shot suddenly forward with the water dashing above the
stern and sides, and Jake shouted:
Over with you now!
At the same instant that the boat struck the boys leaped, and during
several fearful seconds it was doubtful whether they could hold their
own against the treacherous under-tow.
By clinging to the sides of the craft, and straining every muscle,
the attempt was successful, and as the wave receded the little tender
lay across a sharp piece of coral, almost a total wreck.
Take hold and shove her further up! Jake shouted. Work now as you
never did before, or we shall lose all our stores!
During the next half minute the three struggled to the utmost of
their power, and then the fragments of the boat and the goods which had
been brought from the Sea Dream were high upon the beach beyond reach
of the next wave, which swept in with a yet louder roar as if enraged
at having been deprived of its prey.
Not until this had been done was it possible to look around for the
sailors, and Teddy cried as he gazed seaward without seeing any living
Where are they?
Jake watched the boiling waters several seconds before he replied
It was as I feared. They either struck some of these jagged rocks
as they leaped from the boat or the under-tow was so strong that it
dragged them down.
Do you mean that all three have been drowned? Neal cried.
If they were alive we should see them by this time, and Jake ran
along the shore hoping they might have succeeded in scrambling out at
some other point.
Teddy and Neal followed him, and when five minutes passed there
could be no further doubt.
If they had waited until the boat struck, as we did, there would
have been little trouble to get ashore; but now we shall never see them
The boys could hardly realize that three strong men had been taken
from this world so quickly, and when finally the fact stood out boldly
without the slightest possibility of mistake, a feeling of deepest
depression took possession of all.
Teddy threw himself face downward on the sand and gave way to grief,
while Neal and Jake stood by his side in silence, for this dreadful
catastrophe seemed to be a warning of their own fate.
CHAPTER VIII. SUSPENSE.
How long they remained on the shore in an apathy of despair not one
of that party ever knew.
Jake was the first to arouse himself, and, understanding that work
is the best remedy for mental troubles, he said, with a great effort to
See here, lads, this will never do if we want to get out of the
scrape. We've got to stay here till the other boats come along, and it
is necessary to make some preparations for living. The goods must be
stowed where they won't be destroyed, an' there's plenty to keep us
busy for the rest of this day.
When do you think the other boats should arrive? Neal asked.
Jake realized fully how slight were the chances that either of the
crafts would come to that exact spot, even if they were all afloat; but
he had no idea of adding to his companions' grief, therefore he
It may be forty-eight hours. You see some or all of them might have
put out a sea anchor when it blew so hard, for they carried heavier
loads than we did, and while layin' still we hummed right along,
consequently its difficult tellin' when to expect 'em.
Of course they are bound to land here?
Jake hesitated only for an instant before he decided that under the
circumstances a lie was absolutely necessary, and then replied
Of course. Where else would they come?
I was afraid there might have been some little difference in the
We all were obliged to keep dead before the wind, therefore ought
to come out pretty nigh alike.
This reply appeared to satisfy Neal, and he set about cheering
Teddy, who finally arose to his feet and signified his willingness to
do whatever Jake should propose as necessary.
The engineer made many suggestions which he would not have thought
of had he been alone, or in the company of those who did not need such
All the goods were first carried from the beach to the edge of the
thick forest a hundred yards away, and over the collection was
constructed a shelter to protect it from the dew. The fragments of the
boat were carefully gathered up and deposited in the same place.
Then a quantity of such pieces of dead branches and decaying wood as
could be found near at hand was stacked close by the beach, to serve as
a signal in case a vessel or the boats should heave in sight.
When this had been done it was noon, and Jake set about preparing as
elaborate a meal as their store of provisions would permit, saying as
he summoned them to the repast:
Now boys, I want you to fill yourselves up so's to be ready for
hard work in case anything is to be done when the others get here.
Afterwards we'll take a snooze, which is the proper thing to do at the
middle of the day in a hot climate, and then there must be some
exploring, for we want to find out if we are really on the island of
The boys' hunger was very much greater than their grief, and without
further urging they did full justice to the meal, Teddy saying as he
helped himself to the third slice of preserved meat:
It wouldn't be a bad idea for us to hunt a little while for
something in the shape of a vegetable, or we shall soon run short of
It's the very plan I was thinking of. In these woods we should be
able to find many things that would help out on the bill of fare; but
in case that can't be done, you boys must turn hunters. It's mighty
lucky you have your guns and plenty of ammunition.
This last suggestion pleased the boys wonderfully and if Jake had
not insisted very strongly that they sleep during the hottest portion
of the day, both would have started into the forest without delay.
After lying down in the shade slumber came to their eyelids quickly,
and when he was convinced they were across the border of dreamland,
Jake arose softly, saying to himself as he stole up the shore:
This goes ahead of any scrape I ever had the bad luck to fall into,
an' I'd give all I've got to know exactly where we are, for I'm certain
it ain't Cuba. If two days pass without our sightin' a sail I must fix
up some story to make the boys eager to tramp across the country.
That'll be better than stayin' here where, 'cordin' to my idea, there's
mighty small chance of our finding anybody who can help us.
He walked along the shore fully two miles; but there was no
diversity of scene. The coast strewn thickly with coral rocks, and
backed by a dense forest, was all that could be seen either above or
below the place where they landed.
Then Jake forced his way through the tangled undergrowth,
experiencing no slight difficulty in so doing, and the vegetation
confirmed his belief that the little craft had been carried by the wind
to some land further south than was at first supposed.
On the water not a sail was in sight, and when Jake returned to the
place where the rude shelter had been put up he was in even a more
despondent mood than Teddy and Neal had been.
I s'pose we must wait here a couple of days to satisfy the boys the
other boats won't come, an' then it's a case of strikin' across the
country with good chance of wanderin' around until fever or wild
animals puts an end to it.
His companions were yet asleep, and he lay down beside them in order
to prevent any suspicion that he had been spying out the land.
Under other circumstances the monotonous roar of the surf would have
lulled him to rest; but now his anxiety was so great that, despite all
efforts, his eyes would persist in staying open very wide, and he spent
the remainder of the siesta trying in vain to decide what was best to
Not until late in the afternoon did the boys awaken, and then Neal
said as he sprang to his feet:
It won't do for us all to sleep again at the same time. If the
boats came in sight since we've been lying here it is very probable
father has missed us, for more than likely they would try for a better
place to land further up or down the coast.
You needn't worry about that, lad. I've kept honest watch, and not
so much as the wing of a sea gull has appeared above the horizon.
Teddy, remembering what Jake had said about hunting, began to clean
the guns, for both had been thoroughly wetted during the landing, and
Neal walked slowly along as he looked out over the water intently.
Before going very far he saw the engineer's footprints on the sand,
and shouted excitedly:
Some one has been here! Perhaps father arrived before we did.
There's no such good luck, Jake replied. While you fellows were
snoozing I went a long bit in that direction.
Then it's only a waste of time for me to go over the same ground,
and Neal retraced his steps, adding when he gained Teddy's side, I'll
do my share of that work.
You spoke too late, for I have finished. Now let's see what can be
done in the way of hunting; a roasted bird will be a big improvement
over salt meat, and I count on finding plenty of game.
All right, provided Jake is willing to stay here alone.
What is to prevent me from joining the party?
Someone must remain in case the boats heave in sight, Neal replied
in a positive tone, and the engineer said carelessly:
I didn't think of that; but it'll be all right, I'll keep my eyes
peeled, and he added to himself, I wish he wasn't so certain about
the others coming, an' then the disappointment wouldn't be quite so
Jake cautioned the boys against going very far from the beach
because of the danger of getting lost in the forest, and as they
disappeared among the underbrush he threw himself upon the ground,
unable longer to fight against the despair which was rapidly
He understood perfectly well how great would be the danger in
attempting to make their way through the wooded portion of the country
at this season of the year, when fever germs lurked in every spot where
stagnant water was to be found, and knew at the same time how extremely
difficult it might be to find a place offering any more advantages than
did the narrow strip of sand on which they had been thrown.
It wouldn't be quite as bad if I knew where we are, he said to
himself. It can't be possible that we're on the coast of South
America; but if that should prove to be the case we'd make a pretty
mess of it by trying to cross.
Then came the thought that perhaps it would be better to travel up
the coast, and as to the advisability of this he studied a long while
without being able to arrive at any satisfactory conclusion.
Two hours were spent in this profitless speculation, and then the
boys returned, bringing with them two large hoccos, birds looking not
unlike wild turkeys.
We shan't starve while such game as this is to be found, Neal
cried triumphantly. I believe we might have shot a dozen by staying
longer; but there was no sense in doing so just for the sake of
killing. It will be a hard job to eat all this meat before it spoils.
How far in did you go? Jake asked, rising to his feet quickly and
trying to banish from his face the look of dejection, lest his
companions should suspect how desperate he believed the situation to
Not more than half a mile, Teddy replied.
What is the general appearance of the country?
The undergrowth is very dense in places, and above here, a little
to the right, we came upon what seems to be a swamp. It was there we
found these birds, and something else which is not quite so promising.
As he spoke Teddy pulled up his shirt sleeve, and pointed to several
black specks on his skin.
They are ticks, or garrapatas, as the Spaniards call them, Jake
replied, as he opened his pocket knife. The sooner you get rid of them
the better, for they will make what is likely to be a bad sore unless a
cordial invitation to leave is extended.
Are you going to cut them out? Teddy asked in alarm.
Not exactly; but you won't get rid of the pests without
considerable pain, for they have the faculty of crawling under the skin
Jake set about the work in a methodical manner, causing Teddy to cry
aloud very often as the insects were pulled or dug from the flesh.
Then Neal was called upon to undergo the same operation, and not
until nearly an hour had passed were the hunters free from the painful
It was now nearly sunset, and all hands set about preparing the
hoccos for roasting, by first plucking the fowls, removing the
intestines, and sticking them on a sharpened stake in front of the
It was not an entirely satisfactory method of cooking, for while one
portion was done brown, another would be hardly warmed through; but, as
Teddy said, it went a long way ahead of nothing, and all three worked
industriously, turning the game or piling on the fuel until, about an
hour after sunset, the task was completed.
By this time the castaways were decidedly hungry, and the
half-cooked fowls tasted better than had the most elaborate meals on
board the Sea Dream.
CHAPTER IX. ACROSS THE COUNTRY.
When, supper having been eaten, preparations were made for the
night, Neal insisted that one of the party should remain on guard
during the hours of darkness, in order to watch for the boats, and Jake
had no slight trouble in convincing him that it was not absolutely
We couldn't see their lights half a mile away if they have any
hoisted, which isn't likely, for the oil must be scarce by this time,
the engineer said, and, in case we did sight them, what good would it
do? We should induce them to land here, and we know how dangerous that
is even in the daytime. I had rather let them pass without knowing
where we are, than to be the innocent cause of a second disaster.
After considerable discussion Neal was made to understand that no
good could come of posting sentinels, and the little party lay down on
the bed of leaves; but, owing to the suspense concerning the fate of
the others, neither slept very soundly.
It was hardly light enough to see surrounding objects when Jake
began to prepare breakfast, and as soon as the sun rose Neal and Teddy
paced to and fro on the beach gazing seaward; but without seeing that
for which they sought.
For the first time Neal began to despair concerning his father, and
returning to the camp he said in a voice choked by sobs:
I don't believe we shall ever see either of them again. The wind
has held steady since we landed, and they should have been here a long
while ago. Our boat couldn't have sailed so much faster than theirs
that we should arrive twenty-four hours in advance.
Now put out of your mind the idea that we are not to see all hands
some time, Jake replied quite sharply. I'm willing to admit that they
may not strike here, for I might as well own up to the truth, and say
the chances are against two boats coming so far and hitting the same
spot on the coast. That doesn't prove, however, that there has been any
Then you do believe that they won't come here?
Why haven't you proposed to make some change?
I didn't want to say anything until we were certain the boats
wouldn't heave in sight. I shouldn't advise making a move yet awhile;
but since you've broached the subject we may as well talk plainly.
Do you think we are likely to be taken off by a vessel?
The fact that none have passed within our line of vision certainly
shows that such a chance is slim. I have come to the conclusion that we
are not on the island of Cuba, and it stands us in hand to try for some
town or sea-port. We might stay here a month, and then have a craft
heave in sight when the surf run so high as to prevent a boat landing.
What do you want to do?
Strike straight through the woods. There must be people living here
somewhere, and the sooner we find them the sooner we'll get home.
Why not follow along the beach?
Because, if this is an island, as it surely must be, we could get
across quicker than around, and, besides, with all these coral rocks
the beach is not the best sort of a road for traveling, loaded down as
we shall be.
Neal was silent for a moment, and Teddy took advantage of the
opportunity to ask:
When do you think we ought to make a move?
My idea is that we should stay here to-day (our supply of water
won't last much longer), and start early to-morrow morning. That would
be time enough to prove whether the boats are coming, and give us a
chance to get the traps into proper shape for carrying.
You know best what should be done, Neal said, speaking slowly,
and I am ready to do as you propose.
Now that is what I call sensible talk, Jake replied, in a tone of
satisfaction. By buckling right down to work, and putting out of our
minds all unpleasant thoughts, for it don't do any good to moon over
what can't be changed, we shall soon get out of this scrape.
Neal remained silent. To leave the coast seemed like deserting his
father, and although he knew Jake's plan should be carried out, it made
him sad to think of going where it would be no longer possible to see
Teddy, however, experienced a sense of relief as soon as it was
decided to enter the forest in search of human beings. To him the place
was anything rather than agreeable, for he could never rid himself of
the feeling that the drowned sailors would soon be washed ashore, and
during the hours of darkness all kinds of queer fancies came into his
mind with every unusual sound.
He was eager to discuss with Jake the details of the proposed
journey, and, Neal listening to the conversation but taking no part in
it, the matter was arranged to the satisfaction of the engineer and
The ammunition and such provisions as had been brought ashore, was
divided into three portions, one being very much heavier than the
others, and each tied in such shape as would be most convenient for
So much of the game as would not be needed for immediate consumption
was wrapped in leaves for the travelers to take with them; but that
which caused Jake the most anxiety was the fact that the supply of
water would be exhausted before they started.
It can't be helped, he said ruefully, and we may be mighty
thirsty before finding any; but the case would be worse if we staid
here, so there is no reason why we need worry very much. In that swamp
you spoke of we shall surely find what thirsty men can drink on a
pinch, and I'm positive we'll get along all right.
As if eager to convince himself that there was no great danger to be
apprehended from the journey through the forest, he continued to talk
about his plans until both the boys were perfectly familiar with all he
hoped to gain by the attempt; but of his fears not a word was spoken.
At night all retired early in order to be fresh for the morrow's
work, and when the first faint flush of another day appeared in the
eastern sky Jake aroused his companions.
Turn out, boys, he shouted cheerily. We must make the most of
these cool hours, for it will be necessary to halt at noon, and we want
to get through the forest as quickly as possible.
While speaking he was fastening the heaviest package on his back,
and after a hurried toilet in the sea Neal and Teddy took up their
It was still quite dark under the towering trees when the journey
was begun; but each moment the gloom grew less, until, when the sun
rose it was possible to see the way with but little difficulty.
To travel very rapidly was out of the question. In certain places
the underbrush was so dense that considerable exertion became necessary
in order to force a passage, and despite all efforts not more than two
miles an hour could be made.
At the swamp plenty of cool, clear water was found, and with this
Jake filled the two bottles, all they had in which to carry a supply of
the precious liquid.
At noon a long halt was made, and when the sun began to decline the
weary march was resumed.
By no means the least of the travelers' suffering was caused by
thorns, and to one who has never had any experience of this sort, a
description of the various spines and needles which project from the
strange plants in these vast forests would seem exaggerated.
They are of all sizes and shapes, and in many places actually
prevent a man from making his way through the foliage even though he be
armed with a machete. Oftentimes it is absolutely necessary to make a
long detour in order to avoid the painful obstructions, and before half
of this day's journey was finished all three of the castaways bore
bloody evidence of what these natural bristles can do.
The siesta was decidedly abridged, for Jake realized the importance
of concluding the tramp as quickly as possible, and the afternoon was
but little more than half ended when, to the intense surprise of all,
they suddenly arrived at a clearing in the very midst of the forest.
After wandering among the luxuriant vegetation the travelers were
almost startled at seeing an avenue of banana trees which had evidently
been planted by the hand of man, and, following it up, the little party
were yet more surprised at seeing a white man swinging idly in a
Jake advanced as if unable to believe the evidences of his own
senses, and said hesitatingly:
We had no intention of intruding, sir; but followed the line of
banana trees without the slightest idea of finding a gentleman's home.
Don't apologize, the stranger replied in good English, and
springing to his feet as if in alarm. It is true that I am not in the
habit of receiving callers in this out-of-the-way place; but those of
my own race are none the less welcome. Will you walk into the house?
The boys peered through the foliage where, after some difficulty,
they saw a small cabin, hardly large enough to be called a dwelling,
and Jake replied quickly:
We would prefer to remain here. Having walked since sunrise, you
can fancy that any place in which to rest our legs without fear of
coming in contact with a scorpion or a snake is grateful.
I can't promise that you won't be troubled by such visitors; but
you are welcome to do as you choose.
Jake threw himself on the ground, asking as he did so:
Can you tell me how near we are to a sea-port? We have just landed
from a pleasure yacht which was destroyed by fire, and haven't any idea
where we are.
You are now in Yucatan, and probably know perfectly well how near
to the coast, for
In Yucatan? Jake repeated in surprise.
Exactly, and not so very far from the famed Silver City of the Chan
Santa Cruz Indians.
That last information doesn't seem to be very important so far as
we are concerned; but it does surprise me to know we are in this
section of the country, for our captain was quite positive we should
strike the coast of Cuba.
Tell me how such a mistake was made.
That is exactly what I don't know myself; but it won't take long to
explain why we are here.
Then Jake told the story of the cruise in the Sea Dream, of the
unaccountable conflagration, and the fatal landing on the coast,
concluding by saying:
As a matter of course we are most anxious to reach some place from
which we can find a steamer or sailing vessel going to the United
States. Probably you can give us the proper information, and by that
means get rid of unexpected and, perhaps, unwelcome visitors.
But I do not wish to get rid of you, the stranger replied quickly.
On the contrary I am more than delighted because you were forced to
come here, since you can render me a very great service.
I fail to understand how, Jake replied in perplexity.
You shall soon know, and I fancy you will be decidedly surprised
when I give you all the details. First, however, allow me to prepare
supper, and then it will be singular if I do not tell such a story as
will cause greater astonishment than you ever experienced before.
With these strange words the young manhe did not appear to be more
than thirty years oldleaped out of the hammock, and disappeared among
the shrubbery which so nearly concealed the building.
CHAPTER X. A STRANGE STORY.
The meal, which was partaken of heartily by the weary travelers,
consisted of eggs and fruit, with plenty of freshly cooked tortillas,
and as Teddy remarked in a low tone when it was absolutely impossible
for him to eat any more, it went way ahead of turkeys roasted on a
After his guests had finished this very satisfactory repast, the
stranger proposed that all adjourn to the banana avenue where he slung
another hammock that both the boys might lie down, gave Jake a cigar of
home manufacture, lighted one himself, and, lying upon the ground in an
attitude of absolute repose, said laughingly:
Now if you wish to hear the story I promised to tell there is
nothing to prevent.
I would certainly like to know how it happens that you are living
alone in this forest, Jake replied.
Then I will begin in regular story-book style, for when it is ended
I intend to make a proposition. My name is Byron Cummings, and the last
home I had previous to the building of this shanty, was in Baltimore,
Maryland. Two years agoit may have been longer, for one does not keep
a very strict record of time in this countryI visited Merida on a
pleasure trip, and while there heard the story of the Silver City.
Is that the name of a town, or do you mean that the precious metal
is so plentiful there? Teddy interrupted.
I refer to a city built by the Chan Santa Cruz Indians which has
received this name because the ornamentation of the houses is of
silver, and so profuse as to give it the appearance, at a distance, of
being a collection of silver buildings. Don't laugh until you hear the
whole story, he added, as a smile of incredulity passed over Jake's
Any one in Merida, and, in fact the English histories, will tell
you that this wonderful city is in the vast tract of marshy land
situated between here and Merida, known as the Black Swamp. It is a
fact that no white man has ever seen it, since the only approach is
across the swamp on the south side, and the way so closely guarded that
a person must have special sources of information in order to get
through the labyrinth of narrow water courses on the banks of which are
sentinels ready to salute the visitor with a shower of poisoned arrows.
It cannot be reached from the east because of the rocks, a few
samples of which you probably saw on the sea coast. As you doubtless
know, the Indians hereabout have never been conquered by the whites,
and the interior is as much an unknown land as it was at the time of
Certain of the Chan Santa Cruz Indians visit Merida at certain
seasons of the year, where they sell, or rather, exchange for goods,
gold dust and massive golden ornaments, valuing the yellow treasure so
lightly, and bringing such quantities that there can be no doubt they
have access to an enormous deposit. Silver they use as we do iron, and
I myself have seen one of these visitors wearing thick beaten bands of
it as a protection to his legs, probably because of the thorns.
If they come into the towns I should think some venturesome fellow
would follow, to learn the secret of the city in the swamp, Jake
suggested, and it could plainly be seen that he was growing decidedly
That has often been tried; but, so far as I can learn, no one ever
succeeded. Twice I tracked three villainous looking old fellows to the
very edge of the marsh, and both times they disappeared so silently and
completely as to make it seem as if the earth had opened and swallowed
them. Then, learning of the many who had failed in the same attempt, I
formed a plan which must give me the victory, although it has required
What is it? Jake asked breathlessly.
I resolved to learn the language, and to that end came here with an
Indian who knows the habits and customs of these people, he having
dealt with them for many years, and, what is more, has been within
sight of the famous city. From him I have gained all the information
necessary to enable me to penetrate the swamp, and now flatter myself
that I can speak the dialect of the Chan Santa Cruz tribe as perfectly
as a native.
Have you remained here two years doing nothing else but studying
how to reach the village? Neal asked.
Very little beside that. We built the hut, planted these trees for
a lounging place, and now raise chickens and fruit enough to provide us
Where is the man you speak of?
He went to Merida three days ago; but will return by the day after
to-morrow if no accident has befallen him.
When are you going to make the attempt to get through the swamp?
Very soon if you accept my proposition.
What have we to do with it? Jake asked in surprise.
I will explain. Old Poyor and myself are not strong enough
numerically to make the attempt alone, for in case the secret of our
identity should be discovered, nothing could save our lives. With you
three as an addition to the party, and two armed with good weapons, I
would not be afraid to travel straight through the city. As a matter of
fact the only real danger is in approaching the place; but I have
studied over that portion of the business so long that I do not fear a
failure if you can be prevailed upon to join us.
That is out of the question, Neal replied decidedly, speaking
quickly, as if afraid Jake might agree to the scheme. You know we must
get back to our own country as soon as possible, for if father is alive
he will suffer great anxiety concerning us.
You are right to make haste; but what if I tell you that by going
with me no time will be lost?
How can that be possible?
Because if you were in Merida to-day you could not reach Progresso
in time to take the steamer which left for the United States this
morning. If you remain here two weeks more, there will then be ample
opportunity to get passage on the next vessel which starts. I have a
time table, and you can see by it that I am telling the truth.
As he ceased speaking Cummings arose, walked leisurely to the house,
and returned with the article in question, which he handed to Neal.
It was only necessary to glance at it in order to learn that his
statement was a fact, and when Teddy was also convinced, the host
According to the plan I have formed we should be back in less than
ten days from the time we begin the journey, and if you agree to the
scheme it should make us all wealthy.
But you said the old Indian would not return for three days, Jake
Very true; but we shall not wait for him to come here. That which
he will bring is exactly what we want as an outfit, and we can meet him
at the only entrance to the swamp where, for more than three months, I
have had a boat hidden in readiness for the attempt.
Then Cummings gave a more detailed account of the wonderful city as
he had heard it in Merida and from Poyor, and so well did he tell the
story that in a short time his guests were in the highest state of
Now the question is whether you will join me? he said in
conclusion. Having studied the matter so long I feel warranted in
saying that it is not an unusually dangerous venture, and, if we are
successful, the amount of wealth we can carry away must be enormous.
It wouldn't take me long to decide, Jake replied promptly; but
seeing that I am in Mr. Emery's employ I couldn't go contrary to his
son's orders. As a matter of fact I'm not bound in any way; but it
seems to be the only square thing to do.
And what is your idea? Cummings asked as he looked toward Teddy.
Since we can't start for home immediately, I don't see why we
shouldn't spend the time in what will be the jolliest kind of an
adventure whether there is any gold to be gained or not.
The young man then turned to Neal questioningly, and the latter said
It isn't fair for Jake to make me decide. He should know better
than I whether we ought to go with you. If it was possible for us to
leave the country at once there could be no question, for we must
return to the United States at the earliest opportunity.
And since that cannot be done you have no objections to joining us
in the visit to the Silver City?
I don't know. You would not go until to-morrow, so we have a chance
to discuss the matter among ourselves.
Very true. I've some work to attend to, and while I am away you
will be able to talk privately.
Then Cummings arose, went toward the house and when he disappeared
from view Neal said to Jake:
Now tell me just what you think of going with him; I mean, what you
think father would say if we could consult him, not what we would like
Well, if you put it in that way, and now Jake spoke as if weighing
every word, I can't see why we shouldn't have a little fun, seein's
how we're bound to stay here longer than he allows is enough to go to
this Silver City an' back. It would be a mean kind of a man who'd
object to our havin' enjoyment after all that's happened.
Then you believe father would approve of our going with Mr.
Jake was not exactly prepared to say yes, and at the same time he
did not wish to reply in the negative after his acquiescence in all the
host had advanced as reasons why they should accompany him, and after a
long pause Neal added:
Of course I want to go, for it can't be possible that there is very
much danger, and I make this proposition: We must sail on the next
steamer, and if Mr. Cummings is willing we should desert him, no matter
what may be the condition of affairs when it is time for us to start
for the coast, then we are warranted in accepting the proposition.
That is what I call putting the matter in the proper light, Jake
replied with considerable emphasis. On this basis no one can possibly
find any fault, and we may as well tell him that we have decided to
First explain that we must leave Yucatan on the next steamer which
starts from Progresso.
I'll do it, and if he is so certain that we shall be out of the
Silver City in that time there can be no reason for any fault-finding.
I think Neal has arranged the business as it should be, Teddy said
approvingly, and from that moment the castaways believed they were
committed to the scheme.
Half an hour later, when Cummings returned to learn the result of
the interview, Jake explained upon what grounds the decision had been
arrived at, and he expressed himself as perfectly satisfied with the
If we can't get into the city during the coming week there is no
use trying, he said, and I will undertake to see you on board the
next steamer which sails. Now it only remains to decide upon the
details, and at sunrise to-morrow we will begin what I have been
preparing for, during the past two years.
Since the details consisted only in agreeing upon what amount of
luggage should be taken with them, but little time was spent in
discussion, and as the boys retired on this night it was with the
knowledge that when the sun rose again they would start for the Silver
City which every traveler in Yucatan admitted had an existence.
CHAPTER XI. THE JOURNEY.
The boys and Jake had no preparations to make for the journey. The
goods they had brought from the coast was their only property, and
could readily be carried as during the tramp to this point.
On the contrary, Cummings found many things which it was necessary
should be done before departure. Whether successful in the attempt to
reach the marvelous city or not, he could hardly hope to return to the
hut where all his preparations had been made, and there was much to be
After ascertaining that his guests were willing to accompany him he
made arrangements for their comfort during the night, and then,
excusing himself on the plea of work, was seen no more until the time
for departure had come.
Of the three castaways Neal was the only one who had any misgivings
regarding the proposed detour. It seemed to him as if he was in some
way abandoning his father by embarking in this enterprise, although how
anything more could be done to aid those who had taken refuge in the
boats was beyond his comprehension.
This much was clear in his mind, however: He had agreed to aid in
the attempt, and when Cummings awakened the little party he arose
quickly, firmly resolved to do everything in his power to reach the
city which, as yet, he was not thoroughly convinced existed.
It was still dark when the final preparations for the journey were
begun, and Cummings' impatience was so great that the sun had but just
shown himself above the horizon when the morning meal had been eaten,
and their host was urging them to make haste.
We must be at the rendezvous not later than this afternoon in order
to avoid the chance of passing Poyor on the way, he said impatiently,
therefore the sooner we start the better.
We are ready, Jake replied, and, after setting the fowls loose,
Cummings led the way through the underbrush, finding a path where the
others would not have believed any existed.
As if to prevent the boys from losing their interest in the search
for the Silver City, their guide continued to add to the story he had
already told, and during the long march but little else was talked
Jake who was as excited as a man well could be, for he had no doubt
but that they could find large quantities of treasure where there would
be no difficulties in the matter of carrying it away, plied Cummings
with questions whenever the conversation lagged, and Neal had but
little opportunity to speculate upon the fate of his father.
Not until late in the night, when to Neal and Teddy it seemed as if
they could go no further, did the party halt, and during the last hour
of the march the utmost silence was maintained.
It is absolutely necessary to avoid detection in case any of the
Indians may be in the vicinity, Cummings had said, and we must move
as stealthily as if we knew positively they were waiting for us.
From that time no one spoke. The guide crept on at a slow pace, his
every movement copied by the remainder of the party, and on arriving at
the rendezvous he motioned the others to lie down, whispering as they
gathered around him:
We are near the canoe, and it only remains to watch for Poyor, who
should be here by morning. I'll stand guard while the others sleep.
There was no thought of putting up anything in the shape of a
shelter, and the boys stretched themselves on the ground in the midst
of a thick clump of vegetation, Teddy whispering to Neal:
If it is necessary to take such precautions as these before we are
near the city, we may expect pretty rough times before arriving at the
That's a fact, and I begin to wish we hadn't started. There is no
positive assurance we shall get through in time to take the next
steamer for home, and even Cummings himself can't say whether any of us
will ever come back.
Do you want to give up the job now?
I'd be ashamed to do that, for it would look as if we were afraid;
but I'm sorry we agreed to the plan; and Teddy replied heartily:
So am I.
Jake had nothing to say; but whether his silence was caused by a
desire to obey Cummings' instructions to avoid making a noise, or by
misgivings as to the wisdom of the venture, neither of the boys could
Despite the anxiety of the younger members of the party they soon
fell asleep, owing to excessive fatigue, and did not arouse to
consciousness until Jake whispered as he shook them vigorously:
It's time to start. The Indian has come, an' ain't half as bad a
lookin' man as I counted on seeing.
The boys sprang to their feet, finding themselves face to face with
a tall, half naked figure which, in the dim light, looked more like a
statue of bronze than a human being. He stood scrutinizing them keenly
for fully a minute, and then, as if satisfied with their appearance,
turned away to walk swiftly along the edge of the swamp until lost to
view in the darkness.
Poyor has just arrived, Cummings said by way of explanation; and
according to his belief it is well for us to start at once.
Where has he gone? Teddy asked.
After the canoe; it is but a short distance from here.
Don't you dare to cook breakfast?
Certainly not; the light of a fire would be worse, for us, than the
report of a gun. Until we arrive at the Silver City it will be a case
of eating cold food, and perhaps we may be obliged to wait even longer
than that before having anything very elaborate in the way of a meal.
If we are only certain of coming back again where it is possible to
do as we please, I won't grumble about what we are obliged to eat,
Neal said, with a nervous laugh.
Don't borrow trouble, Cummings replied quickly; but both the boys
noticed that he no longer spoke in the same confident tone as before
the journey was begun. We shall surely get through without
The conversation was interrupted by the approach of Poyor, who came
down the water-way in the canoe more like a ghost than a creature of
flesh and blood, and Jake, whose head had been turned in the other
direction, could not suppress a slight exclamation of surprise as the
Indian suddenly appeared by his side.
The canoe which had been brought thus silently was simply the trunk
of a tree hollowed out, and about fifteen feet in length. It yet rested
lightly on the water when the entire party and all the traps were on
board, and the boys noticed with no slight degree of astonishment, that
one stroke of the paddle was sufficient to send it sharply in either
Now you have a chance to finish your nap, Cummings whispered as,
kneeling aft, he began to assist Poyor in propelling the craft.
Don't you want us to help? Teddy asked.
No, there will be nothing you can do until we enter the Silver
Tired though the boys were it was literally impossible to close
their eyes in slumber now, and they remained very wide awake watching
the coming of a new day.
When the sun had risen they could get some slight idea of the
country through which they were passing; but of what might be a few
yards beyond no one could say.
The shores of this particular water-way through the swamp were flat,
covered with reeds and long grass, with here and there dense tangles of
trees and vines, and the channel was so narrow that only at rare
intervals could the paddles be used. The Indian and the white man
pushed the boat from one bend to another, oftentimes finding it
difficult to pass the sharp curves, and the boys confidently expected
this labor would be continued during the entire day, therefore their
surprise was great when, about an hour after sunrise, the little craft
was forced under a clump of overhanging foliage as if the journey was
at an end.
What is the matter? Neal asked in a whisper, and Cummings replied
in the same cautious tone:
Nothing. It would be in the highest degree dangerous to travel very
far now that it is light.
How long are we to stay here?
Until the darkness comes again.
Wouldn't it be safe to go on the bank where we can stretch our
We must not leave the boat. It will be only for a few hours, and
then we shall have plenty of exercise paddling.
Immediately the canoe had been made fast under the mass of vines and
shrubbery Poyor stretched himself out in the bow as if the task of
remaining perfectly quiet during an entire day was a very agreeable
one, and Cummings followed his example.
Jake, who had been sitting amidships, moved toward his friends, and
the three spent an hour talking of what was now termed by all a
There was nothing left for it, however, but to continue on since
they were in the swamp, and after a time Neal said petulantly:
Well make the best of it, and if an opportunity should occur to go
to Merida there must be no hesitation, whatever Cummings may say.
As if this resolution gave them renewed courage, the boys lay down
in the most comfortable position possible, after eating a light lunch,
and until nightfall no sound save that caused by heavy breathing could
have been heard from the boat.
Then, when darkness came again, Poyor, who had remained almost
without motion during the entire time of the halt, aroused himself, ate
half a dozen bananas, and took up the paddle.
The precautions against being discovered by those who might be on
the watch were now redoubled. Before rounding a bend the Indian waited
in a listening attitude to assure himself no one was moving in the
immediate vicinity, and when it became necessary to work the canoe
along by aid of the foliage the utmost care was exercised to prevent
the branches from rustling.
As the hours wore on and no attack was made Cummings appeared to be
highly elated, and Jake's gloomy forebodings were dispelled in the
thought of the treasure which they might be able to bring away.
Once, about midnight, when they halted a moment for Poyor to
reconnoiter, Neal whispered to the leader:
How many nights of this kind of traveling is necessary before we
reach the city?
When we next halt it will be to leave the boat and continue the
journey on foot. It was the possible difficulties, not the distance,
which rendered the undertaking formidable.
The Indian returned, stepped into the canoe without speaking, and
took up the paddle as if to say there was nothing to prevent them from
From this time until faint streaks of light caused by the approach
of the sun could be seen in the sky there was no lengthy interruption
to the advance, and then as the boat was pulled out of the channel into
a sort of basin or break of the bank which led among the more dense
portions of the forests, Cummings said to Neal:
In two hours you shall have a full view of the Silver City, and
then there can be no doubt as to the truth of what I have told you.
CHAPTER XII. THE SILVER CITY.
To Neal and Teddy the thought that they were so near the wonderful
place described by Cummings overshadowed everything else, and the
probable danger was but a secondary consideration.
Jake was in a perfect fever of excitement, and so great was his
desire to see the city from which he fully expected to bring away
enormous amounts of gold that more than once did the leader caution him
in an impatient tone to remain quiet.
Impassive, apparently unmoved by the fact that the plan which he and
his white companion had spent so many months in perfecting was about to
be proven successful, or a failure that might result in the death of
all concerned, the Indian stood silent and motionless at the foot of a
gigantic cypress tree; but Teddy observed that he was on the alert for
the slightest unusual sound.
Cummings dealt out some food; but none of the party ate it. Hunger
had been banished by suspense, anxiety and anticipation.
Gradually the gloom was dispelled, and it became possible to see the
varied forms of life everywhere around.
The party had halted upon a slight elevation, where they had a
limited view of that portion of the forest which appeared to be
distinct from the region of marsh. As the sun arose, and a singularly
dazzling light, different from anything the boys had ever seen before
was reflected on the tops of the trees, it seemed as if every branch
was laden with birds of the most gorgeous plumage flitting here and
there like movable jewels against a background of green enamel.
Hundreds of monkeys filled the air with an almost incessant
chattering which drowned all other sounds, and snakes of every color
and size writhed and wriggled in different directions to greet the
grateful heat of the sun.
It was a picture most beautiful, and at the same time, because of
the serpents, terrifying.
Cummings began to make his way up the trunk of the cypress, aided by
Poyor; but when Jake would have followed, the Indian motioned for him
to remain with the boys.
[Illustration: The Indian stood silent and motionless at the foot of
the gigantic Cypress tree, etc.]
One glance appeared to be sufficient for the leader of the party,
and as he descended he whispered to Neal:
We have made no mistake. The city can be seen plainly. You and your
companions may gratify your curiosity, for we shall remain here until
Poyor comes back.
Then turning to the Indian, Cummings whispered a few words, and the
former glided through the underbrush, being lost to view almost
By assisting each other the three castaways were soon where such a
marvelous sight was presented that exclamations of surprise and
admiration burst from their lips; but, fortunately, the chattering of
the monkeys would have prevented the outcries from being heard had a
party of Chan Santa Cruz Indians been at the foot of the tree.
Far to the eastward was a long range of low, rocky mountains, and at
the north and south spurs or cliffs, all enclosing a beautiful valley
in the center of which was a city of dazzlingly white buildings.
To look at this collection of houses and temples very long at a time
was almost impossible because of the peculiar glare which the boys had
mistaken for the sun's rays.
It was caused by the reflection of the god of day on an edifice in
the center of the city, the dome-like roof of which was covered with a
burnished metal substance having the appearance of silver.
The adjoining buildings, composed of white stone having a softness
as of alabaster, threw this peculiar light in every direction, causing
the city to stand out amid the green foliage like a huge incandescent
Each house stood in a square by itself, and, judging from the area
of the city one might have estimated the population at about fifteen
thousand. The streets were laid out with the utmost precision, and
composed of what appeared to be fine white sand, while at every
intersection were monuments of grotesque figures or animals.
At regular intervals were enormous white columns capped with the
glistening metal, the same as displayed on the dome of the principal
building and on many of the houses.
After taking in this wonderful picture as a whole the boys gazed at
the most prominent objects in turn, the central edifice occupying the
greater share of attention.
That this was a place of worship seemed reasonable to suppose
because of the crowds of people entering or departing from the opening
formed by lofty pillars of shimmering metal, and also because of the
tiny threads of smoke which arose from several apertures in the roof as
if from altar fires. To confirm the beholders in this belief the faint
sound of sweet music arose in the air, and instantly the throngs in the
streets prostrated themselves in adoration of some one of the statues.
The citizens were dressed in flowing garments of white, and all
seemed intent on worship which was prolonged until after the spectators
left the tree.
One singular fact was noted by Teddy, and he called Neal's attention
Neither on the surrounding hills nor in the city could a single
animal of any kind be seen. It was as if even the birds from the forest
so shaped their course as to avoid flying over the dazzling wonderful
city which was shut out from the rest of the world by the swamp wherein
fever lurked in its most horrible form.
How long the boys and Jake gazed at this marvelous picture neither
of them could ever say. They took no heed of the passage of time, and
when Cummings called softly that it would be well to come down in order
to gain a little rest before Poyor returned, Teddy noticed with
surprise that the sun was high in the heavens.
Well, do you believe now that the Silver City really has an
existence? the leader asked when the three stood by his side.
After that anything seems possible, Neal replied with a sigh as if
weary of gazing at so much magnificence.
Save some adjectives expressive of admiration until we are in the
city, when I fancy you will see very much that is more curious.
The people don't appear to be so terribly ferocious, Teddy said,
and yet you think they would kill us all if our presence was
I am positive of it. In a white man they see only one of that race
which has worked them so much injury, making ruins of many cities, and
oppressing the rightful owners of the country.
If that is the case how are we to get in there? Neal asked.
Poyor has a plan which I think will be successful; wait until he
returns, and if the conditions are favorable to the attempt you shall
But suppose he stays away until a party of Indians take it into
their heads to come in this direction?
There is little danger of our being discovered unless it has been
suspected we have crossed the swamp, which is hardly probable. Very few
of the inhabitants ever venture out, and there is no reason why they
should come to this exact spot. Lie down now, Poyor will be with us by
It was a simple matter to follow the first portion of this advice;
but decidedly difficult to close their eyes in slumber after what had
Teddy and Neal, who threw themselves on the ground side by side,
could not keep their thoughts from the wonderful city, and when both
Jake and Cummings were apparently wrapped in slumber the former
Do you think now that we were foolish to come?
No, because it isn't so far in the swamp but that we can get out in
a short time if anything happens, and a glimpse of that city would
repay a fellow for considerable trouble.
But suppose the Indians get hold of us?
That is something I reckon Cummings can take care of. If he has
made such elaborate preparations for entering, when it is so near where
he was living we can be pretty certain there will be no very grave
Even if we succeed in reaching the city I can't understand how it
will be possible to carry away much gold.
Nor I; but yet you know a small package is valuable, and five
persons could lug a great deal.
Do you fancy he brought us simply to carry the treasure for him?
He said we would all share alike, so our services wouldn't be of
much advantage to him, more particularly since he and the Indian could
bring away a heavier load than all three of us.
In this manner, speculating upon the benefits which might accrue to
them rather than regarding the great danger to which the entire party
was exposed, the boys passed the time until late in the afternoon, and
then Poyor approached so softly that he stood in their midst before any
one had heard even a rustling among the leaves.
On seeing the man Cummings sprang up eagerly, asked a question in
the Indian dialect, and the reply was given at great length, Poyor
using more gestures than the boys had ever fancied were at his command.
That his report was in the highest degree interesting to Cummings
there could be no doubt, for the latter listened intently, interrupting
him only to ask some question, and not until nearly half an hour had
passed was any explanation made to the others.
Then Cummings said with a slight show of triumph:
Poyor has just come from the city, and there is no suspicion that
we have passed the line of sentinels.
If he did that what is to prevent us from doing the same? Jake
asked as the leader paused for an instant.
Nothing except our skins are white, and he can readily pass himself
off for a Chan Santa Cruz. He speaks the language, resembles them in
features, and could make his way around the town with but little
trouble; but on that point no great amount of time need be spent. Here
is the plan which I wish to carry into effect: Poyor has found a vacant
building on the outskirts of the place which he has bargained for,
representing himself as one of the sentinels recently released from
duty on the eastern side. In that character no person will be likely to
wonder why he is without acquaintances, for the watchmen often remain
away from the city one or two years, entering only when it is necessary
to procure provisions.
Is he to go on alone? Jake asked.
Certainly not. At a late hour to-night we will accompany him, and
all our hopes of success depend upon gaining this building without
How long are we to stay there?
A week if necessary.
A week! Teddy and Neal cried in concert.
Yes, and I hope we shall be able to remain concealed in the house
during that time, otherwise it may go hard with us.
But what do you expect to do shut up in a building, for of course
we must keep out of sight? and Jake's face expressed the utmost
surprise and apprehension.
That is exactly what you shall learn when we arrive there. Since I
have proven that the Silver City really has an existence, the least
that can be done is to aid in carrying out my programme without too
You won't have any reason to complain because I don't obey orders,
Jake replied quickly.
Then I will soon show you what we expect to do providing our plans
work without a hitch during the next ten hours. Let's get these traps
into a more convenient shape for carrying, in order that we may be
ready for the last stage of our journey when Poyor gives the word.
CHAPTER XIII. IN THE CITY.
The boys and Jake were decidedly perplexed and not a little worried
in regard to the outline of work as given by Cummings. They failed to
understand how it could be to their advantage to go into the city if it
should be necessary to remain hidden all the time, or in what way they
would derive any benefit from the visit.
Although the leader of the party knew from the expression of their
faces that they were dissatisfied with the general outlook, he did not
volunteer any information, thinking, perhaps, that it was unnecessary
to do so since they were where it was impossible to withdraw from the
Neither Teddy nor Neal believed the party would be exposed to any
extraordinary danger. The only idea in their minds was as to whether it
would be possible for them to get out of the swamp in time to take the
next steamer which left Progresso for the United States, and both
believed it would be a great misfortune to miss the first opportunity
of reaching home.
We can stand it for one week, Neal said in a whisper: but what I
am afraid of is that it won't be possible to leave the city at the end
of that time, and Teddy replied in the same cautious tones:
It is for us to see that such a contingency does not arise. Jake
will do as we say, and if Cummings refuses to leave at a date
sufficiently early for us to reach Progresso, we must force him to act
as has been promised.
What shall we do in case he refuses?
We are three out of a party of five, and should be able to arrange
matters to our own liking.
Neal was perfectly contented with such a view of the case, and he
felt well satisfied that nothing could prevent them from doing as they
wished; but unfortunately, he failed to take into consideration the
very important fact that while it might be a simple matter to enter the
city, they could not be certain of leaving it at will.
We can do as we please by standing firm to our determination of
going away in time to take passage on the steamer, he said; therefore
we'll see the adventure through to that point, and if Cummings fails in
his purpose of bringing away a large amount of gold we will have had
such an experience as can be talked about when we get home.
As for Jake, a glimpse of the glistening walls of the city had
literally intoxicated him, and his one and only desire was to reach
that point where he could satisfy himself by the sense of touch as well
As the time drew near for the final move in the bold scheme Cummings
became greatly agitated. It was as if all the blood had left his face,
and his eyes were open wide and staring as he gazed into vacancy.
Are you sick? Teddy asked in alarm.
The young man shook his head.
I suppose I'm acting like a fool; but can't prevent my nerves from
getting the best of me just at this time. After laboring two years for
one thing, and then being so near a successful completion of the work,
is enough to make any fellow excited.
Teddy was on the point of saying he fancied that fear of the
ultimate result might have some share in this alleged nervous attack;
but, fortunately, he checked himself in time, and turned to watch Poyor
who was hiding the boat beneath an ingeniously constructed screen of
Night came slowly; the twittering of the birds and the chattering of
the monkeys was hushed. Among the dense underbrush the darkness was
intense, yet the Indian remained motionless in a listening attitude.
Amid profound silence the moments passed until to the boys it seemed
as if it must have been midnight when Cummings whispered:
It is time. Poyor shall lead the way, and I will bring up the
Walking in single file, and keeping firm hold of each other's
garments lest they should be separated, the little party began the last
stage of the journey.
The Indian went forward as if familiar with all the surroundings,
and when half an hour had passed he halted only long enough to point
ahead where, through the foliage, could be seen the city, its buildings
gleaming ghostly white in the starlight.
The decisive moment had arrived.
If they should be seen by a single person the alarm would be given,
for the clothing as well as the skin of all the party, save Poyor,
would proclaim the fact that these newcomers belonged to the hated
race, and the end could not be long delayed.
Assuring himself that there was no one in sight, Poyor quickened his
pace, leading the way toward a small building on the outskirts of the
town, and ten minutes later, the strangers were inside the dwelling;
but although successful in the undertaking, were virtually prisoners.
The house was very small as compared with the majority of those seen
by the boys when they gazed from a distance, and had evidently been
unoccupied a long while.
The one room which comprised the entire lower floor was destitute of
anything in the way of furniture, and the sides, ceiling and floor were
formed of the same soft-looking white stone which appeared to be the
only building material in the city.
Poyor did not give his companions much time in which to inspect this
portion of the building. With an impatient gesture to the boys who were
gazing around them in evident disappointment, he led the way up a
narrow flight of stairs to a sort of attic hardly more than six feet
high, and with only two narrow slits in the wall to serve as windows.
Here five hammocks had been slung, and on one of them the Indian
threw himself without a word of rejoicing or comment upon the ease and
safety with which they had entered the city.
Now what is to be done? Neal asked as Cummings started toward the
I wish to bar the lower door, for it would be exceedingly
inconvenient if we should have callers.
It strikes me that there will be very little chance to get gold if
we are to stay shut up here.
That's just what has been puzzlin' me ever since I saw the place,
Jake added. We're not even in the city, only on the edge, and so far
as seein' what's goin' on is concerned, the big tree in the swamp would
have been a better place.
You may find that we are too near the heart of the town, Cummings
replied with a grimace. To-morrow, after Poyor has looked around some,
we will decide on a plan. You had better go to sleep while there is a
chance, for no one can say when we may be obliged to beat a hasty
The boys followed this advice for the simple reason that there was
nothing else to be done. Teddy had looked through the narrow slit in
the wall; but without being able to see anything of interest, and in
this city which may have been, and probably was standing when Columbus
discovered America, the three who had been literally thrown upon the
coast of Yucatan lay down to sleep.
Owing to the strangeness of their surroundings, and the knowledge of
the danger which threatened, no one gave himself up to very profound
The silence was so perfect as to be almost oppressive, until half an
hour before sunrise, when a low strain of sweetest music arose on the
air, gradually swelling in volume, and finally ending in a wild burst
which caused Poyor to spring to his feet.
What is the matter? Teddy asked, and Cummings replied carelessly:
Nothing in particular. That music is the summons to prayer, and now
is the time when the Indian can go through the streets with less danger
of being discovered.
In another instant Jake and the boys were at the apertures which
served as windows; but some time elapsed before they could see anything
owing to the gloom. Then, as day dissipated the darkness, they
distinguished throngs of white robed figures hurrying from every
quarter toward some common point, which was probably the temple with
its dome of silver.
It was an odd sight to see so many people moving rapidly, but
without noise, while neither cart nor animal of any kind accompanied
them. Here and there were men carrying burdens on their backs by aid of
a strap passed around the forehead, and many women and children
literally loaded down with flowers.
I don't see any great show of gold or silver, Teddy said, after
gazing at the scene some time in silence. No one appears to wear
anything like jewelry.
That may be because such metal is too common here, Jake replied.
What bothers me is to make out why Cummings and the Indian are so
afraid of being discovered. These people don't look as if they'd kill a
fly unless he made a noise, an' that's what they seem to be scared of.
Don't make a mistake, Cummings whispered, as he overheard the last
portion of the conversation. If it was known that a white man had
succeeded in entering the city our lives would be taken within the next
You may believe all that; but I'll hold to it that they're the most
peaceable lot I ever saw, until somethin' comes up to prove the
contrary, and Jake went toward the street door with Poyor, regardless
of whether he was seen by the passers-by or not until the Indian said
Go back; I do not wish to die.
If you're frightened of course I'll get out of the way, Jake
replied half angrily; but before we leave this town I'll show you how
much reason there is for being afraid.
And in ten minutes from that time you will cease to live, Poyor
replied gravely, as he left the building, closing the door carefully
It will be well to remember what he has said, Cummings added
sharply as he approached the engineer to bar the door. These people
are peaceable until the time comes when religion and all the traditions
of their race tell that a long remembered wrong should be avenged, and
then no class can be more implacable. I would not show my face outside
of this door for as much gold as can be found in Yucatan.
This remark silenced Jake, but he was by no means convinced of its
truthfulness, as could be told by his whispered remark to Neal:
They know we will have a chance to lug off a pile of money, an' to
prevent us from wantin' too much, try to prove that we must stay out of
sight so's they can get the cream of the bargain.
Don't do anything foolish, Teddy replied earnestly. Cummings
would not have asked us to come with him unless there had been good
reason for wanting assistance, and it is not possible he has made any
mistake regarding the nature of the people.
Jake had nothing more to say; but it could readily be seen that he
believed his own ideas on the subject were correct, and at this moment
something occurred which demanded his entire attention.
Poyor had but just left the building, and a crowd was gathering in
front of the door, causing Cummings to say with every sign of fear:
We shall soon have a chance of learning what these people will do
in event of finding a white man in the city, for it looks as if we were
CHAPTER XIV. THE FESTIVAL.
It can well be imagined with what anxiety the party in the building
looked through the narrow apertures at the crowd below.
Even Jake began to fancy he had made a mistake in regard to their
peaceful dispositions, and Teddy noticed that he examined very
carefully all the weapons.
Those on the outside were armed chiefly with bows and arrows; but a
few carried a sort of spear with a tip which looked not unlike glass,
and Neal whispered to Cummings:
If they have got nothing but arrows we ought to be able to hold a
large number in check with our guns.
Don't make the mistake of despising their weapons, for every one is
covered with a poison so deadly that a single scratch would be more
dangerous than a wound from a bullet.
Do you think they have learned that we are here?
I can't explain in any other way the motive for the gathering; but
none of them appear to be paying very much attention to the building.
As a matter of fact, although there were four to five hundred
directly in front of the house, hardly one of them glanced toward the
openings through which the little party were gazing; but the majority
appeared to be having a most sociable time.
As the moments passed without any evidence that an attack was to be
made the voluntary prisoners began to grow more comfortable in mind,
and again Jake proposed that such people were neither able nor inclined
to inflict much injury upon any one.
Suddenly there was a great commotion among the crowd; the men
shouted and waved their weapons, danced about in the most grotesque
fashion and from afar off could be heard the sound of music.
Five minutes later the cause of this sudden change of demeanor
Down the street from the direction of the forest came several
hundred women decorated with the most beautiful flowers, and carrying
huge bouquets or wreaths. They trooped along without any attempt at
marching in regular order: but on arriving in front of the men they
halted suddenly in response to sharp strokes on a gong or tongueless
bell which one of them held high in the air.
The men were now on one side of the street and the women on the
other, and in this order they stood when twenty persons of both sexes,
carrying on a broad flower-covered platform a repulsive looking figure
apparently composed of gold, marched between the ranks and halted.
Instantly every one sank down with bowed head as if in adoration,
and the invisible music, accompanied by the peals of sweet-toned bells,
filled the air with melody.
We were frightened too soon, Cummings said with a sigh of relief.
It is a festival of some sort, and this happens to be the place where
it is to be welcomed to the city. It would be most unfortunate if Poyor
should take it into his head to come back just at this time.
He could see the crowd before getting very near and would know
enough to stay at a distance, Neal replied. I'd like to know what
that statue represents.
The golden figure was certainly very odd. Its body was in shape not
unlike a panther's; but the tail was short, and stuck straight in the
air. The head might have been formed to represent a monkey, although
the ears were very long, and the whole was covered with carving to
How much do you suppose it weighs? Teddy asked of Jake, and the
latter, who had also been trying to compute its value, replied:
Not an ounce less than a hundred pounds. What a prize that would be
if we could carry it away!
There are many of the same kind in the city. Cummings added, and
we should be able to get off with some before a week is ended.
Then that is the plan you have formed? Neal said interrogatively.
Exactly. Poyor is to examine all the statues near by, and decide
upon such as we can pull down some night, after which it will only be a
question of reaching our boat. I have no fear of being able to get
through the swamp providing we have a start of five or six hours.
While this conversation was being carried on the people outside
remained in the same devout attitude; but just as Cummings ceased
speaking there was a change in the affairs.
The music grew louder, and the bells were rung more rapidly, and the
devotees sprang to their feet with shouts and songs, the women throwing
flowers on the platform until the hideous god was nearly hidden from
When the tongueless bell was struck three times the crowd gathered
around the image bearers, and all started toward what the white men
believed was the temple, chanting in perfect harmony with the music.
The worshipers were soon lost to view; but their voices could be
heard for ten or fifteen minutes, after which clouds of smoke, probably
caused by burning incense, arose from the silver-domed building.
If Poyor is wise he will come now, Cummings said, as he looked
anxiously out. The people are so intent upon the worship, or
installation of a new god, whichever it may be, that he can get into
the house without being seen.
But there were no signs of the Indian. Strain their eyes as they
might he did not appear.
The sounds of music died away. The smoke ceased to arise from the
temple, and the people began to walk the streets intent upon their
business or pleasure.
It is strange he is so imprudent, Cummings muttered half to
himself. Now the only safe way is to wait until night, if indeed he is
yet at liberty.
Do you think anything has happened to him? Neal asked.
Of course I can't even guess; but it is very strange he has waited
More than that Cummings would not say: but both the boys could
plainly see he was very anxious, and all grew greatly distressed in
mind as the hours wore on.
Noon came, and once more the streets were nearly deserted, for the
inhabitants of the city were indulging in a siesta.
Now Cummings stationed himself at the window, peering out eagerly;
but all in vain.
Slowly the moments passed. The boys tried to eat; but the terrible
suspense had spoiled all appetite for food, more especially since it
was not particularly inviting, and after swallowing a few crumbs Teddy
It's no use, I can't even force it down. Why did we come here,
knowing at least a portion of the danger?
'Cause we were fools, Jake replied philosophically; but that is
no reason why we shouldn't have as near to a square meal as is
possible, and he began to devour another tortilla.
We won't despair yet, Cummings said, as he left his post at the
window and joined the little group in the further corner of the room,
Poyor is cautious in the extreme, and may believe it isn't safe to
enter the house in the daytime under any circumstances.
Did he say when he would come back?
No; it was understood he should return at the first favorable
Could you find the way to the boat if we never saw him again?
Yes, although we might have some trouble in doing so.
Then another long interval of silence came upon the little party,
during which each one listened intently for the slightest sound which
might betoken a visitor.
Finally Jake fell asleep, and so loud was his snoring that it seemed
as if he must be heard from the street, therefore the boys pinched him
when there was too great a volume of sound, and at the same time wished
they could enjoy the same happy unconsciousness of the situation.
Cummings alternately paced to and fro, and stood by the narrow
aperture overlooking the street, until nightfall, when the citizens
walked up and down singing or chatting.
It was as if every one was perfectly happy, and this condition of
affairs caused Cummings to feel less despondent.
Look, he said to Neal and Teddy, if Poyor had been discovered the
people would show some signs of excitement. We have no reason to fear
The argument was certainly a good one, and the boys' courage revived
wonderfully. They made a reasonably hearty supper of tortillas, and
when the promenaders began to disappear, thus telling that the hour for
retiring was near at hand, Cummings went downstairs and unbolted the
Now every second appeared like a minute, and when it seemed as if
the night must be well nigh spent a slight sound was heard from below.
Jake would have rushed to the stair-case to welcome the Indian; but
Cummings restrained him. It was not certain who the visitor might be,
and with bated breath all listened until a low voice said:
It is Poyor.
The remark was commonplace in the extreme; but no combination of
words sounded more sweetly to the boys, and they rushed forward to
clasp the Indian by the hand.
In the dim light it was not possible to see him very clearly; but
from the imperfect view all understood that something serious had
happened. He was panting as if just having concluded a long race, and
the flowing white garments he had put on before leaving in order to
resemble the inhabitants of the city, were torn and stained with mud.
Cummings spoke to him in the Indian dialect, and he replied gravely,
the first words causing the white man to utter an exclamation of
What is the matter? What has happened? Teddy asked; but Cummings
made no reply until Poyor had spoken at considerable length, and then
The worst possible misfortune has befallen us. Our boat has been
discovered and brought into the city. It is believed we are hiding in
the swamp, and a number of men are searching there for us.
Why didn't he come straight back to tell us? Jake asked angrily.
If these people are so fierce as you pretend, it is time we were
making our escape.
To have approached this place in the daytime would have been in the
highest degree dangerous, and, besides, he had a good deal of work to
Such as what?
It was necessary we should know exactly the strength and
whereabouts of the searching party. That he has discovered.
And how much good will it do us while we are shut up in here?
Do not cast reproaches in the time of trouble, Cummings replied
gravely. We must work together to extricate ourselves from the danger
into which I have persuaded you to come.
Jake was silenced, and Poyor continued to tell his story, but still
speaking in his own language.
The boys fancied he was proposing some plan which did not meet with
Cummings' approbation, for the latter spoke vehemently at times.
While this was going on Teddy whispered to Neal:
It begins to look as if the sailors who were drowned in the surf
were more fortunate than the rest of us. They died quickly, and we
shall probably find out what it means to be tortured.
Don't speak of such horrible things, Teddy. We are not captured
yet, and there is no sense in looking trouble in the face.
It can't be helped sometimes. I've had enough of adventures, and if
we do live to escape from this place all the gold in the world wouldn't
tempt me to get into another such scrape.
CHAPTER XV. A RETREAT.
Cummings and Poyor talked together fully half an hour before the
former volunteered any further information to his white companions, and
then he said:
It would be useless for me to disguise the truth in any particular,
for it is important all should know the absolute facts of the
situation. In laying my plans for this expedition the only contingency
for which I did not prepare, was exactly what has happened. I never
believed there were so many sentinels in the swamp that the boat would
be discovered, and when we came through without seeing a single one, I
felt perfectly safe on that score.
Isn't it possible the Indians will think it is a craft belonging to
some of their own people? Neal asked.
There is no hope of that. She is entirely different in build, and
you must remember that we left a number of things on board. Those who
found her came directly to the city, and orders have been given by the
chief men that the swamp be searched thoroughly. There is no longer any
possibility that we could go through without being discovered.
Then we've got no chance of escaping, Jake cried passionately, and
Cummings replied calmly:
Who says we haven't? the coast line, where no one would think of
looking for an enemy, is still open, and what prevents us from trying
to make our way in that direction?
Then you have given up all hope of carrying away any treasure?
Under the circumstances I shall be well pleased if we succeed in
getting away alive. We are now in a position where nothing save escape
must be thought of, and I am the one who has placed you three in such a
dangerous situation. Shut your eyes to the fact that so much treasure
might be gained, and bend all your energies to leaving this section of
the country. As compared with life gold amounts to very little.
Then we are to say that the attempt has been a failure, Jake added
in a tone of reproach.
Yes, and I take upon myself all the blame. You have spent but
little time on the enterprise, while to it I have devoted not less than
two years, therefore you can get some idea of the extent of my
disappointment as compared with yours.
We recognize that fully, Neal replied, and understand that you
believed the expedition would be successful; but since it has proven to
be a failure let us decide upon the proper course to be pursued rather
than spend our time reproaching each other.
You are talking like a sensible fellow, Cummings said approvingly.
Here is the situation in a nut-shell, and Poyor understands English
sufficiently to follow us in all we say. To go back by the way we came
is now impossible, and yet we must leave the city before a house to
house search is made, as I am convinced will be the case when it is
shown that there are no strangers in the swamp. The only open course is
toward the east, over the mountains, and the journey can be
accomplished if we hang together. I am willing to acknowledge that I
have led you on an unsuccessful search, although that may be of little
satisfaction, and now my only aim is to release you from the dangers
which beset us all.
We understand that perfectly, Teddy said quickly, therefore there
is no reason why the matter should be discussed. We took the same
chances that you and Poyor did, consequently our interests are
identical. Show us how to get out of here, and the Chan Santa Cruz
Indians may keep all their gold and silver so far as I am concerned.
But how are we to be paid for the time spent? Jake asked
By saving your own life, which is now in great danger, Neal
replied. Give up all idea of making yourself rich by the venture, and
think only of how we can best get away.
That is something for Cummings to fix, Jake replied in a sulky
tone. I came here for gold, and if that can't be had let those who put
up the job help us out of the scrape.
I have already taken upon myself all the blame of the failure, and
admitted that it came about through an oversight of mine, Cummings
said sternly. Now if you will listen to my plan I believe we can get
out of here alive, which is the one important thing just at this time
when everything has gone against us.
What do you propose to do? Neal asked, with a glance at Jake which
should have silenced him.
Strike for the sea-shore. Poyor believes it is yet possible to
leave the city on the eastern side without danger of meeting the
sentinels, the majority of whom have been withdrawn to aid in searching
the swamp, and by moving quickly we can at least be out of this
hornets' nest before sunrise.
You are the best judge; we will follow your directions, Teddy
said, speaking more calmly than one would have fancied was possible in
view of all the danger. Tell us what you think is best and we will
agree to it, for now Neal and I have but one desire, which is to leave
the Silver City in the shortest possible space of time. We can be of
but little assistance in case of a regular fight, and according to my
way of thinking, your greatest mistake has been in accepting such
I am perfectly satisfied that so far as you are concerned I have
not made any error. With twenty well-armed men I should not try to
maintain my position, for to hold out against an attack would be
impossible, and the only question now is whether we can escape. Having
been here once I will come again, and at some time in the future you
shall hear that I succeeded in bringing away treasure from this same
Then Cummings held a short conversation with Poyor, and when it was
concluded turned toward Neal and Teddy, as if disdaining to submit any
plans to Jake, and said:
My first idea was to make an effort to return by the same way we
came; but the Indian has persuaded me to the contrary. Are you willing
to do as we think best?
You are as eager to save your own lives as we are ours, Neal
replied, and since you are familiar with this country it would be
foolish for us to offer any advice. Do whatever in the opinion of both
is best, and we will obey orders.
Our scheme necessitates an immediate move, for, as yet, no attempt
has been made to learn if there are any strangers in the city.
Then you propose to go without making any effort to carry away
gold? Jake asked.
Exactly. The journey has been a failure, through my carelessness as
I said before, and to load ourselves down with treasure when a long
march is before us, would be the height of folly.
Jake remained silent, and Neal said:
Don't waste any more time talking. Let us start at once.
Cummings spoke with Poyor, and the latter replied with the air of
one who considers himself vanquished, after which the former said:
We may need all this food. Make it up into bundles, and we will
start at once. The journey before us is a long and a dangerous one:
but, as I believe, it is the only way of escape left open.
The boys set about making the small amount of baggage into five
parcels while Cummings and the Indian were still discussing some point,
and when the conversation was concluded the former said:
We will start for the sea coast. There is no immediate hurry, for
there is yet at least six hours before the inhabitants will be
There must be sentinels on the east as well as the west side,
True; but if the information brought by Poyor be correct, there
will not be as strict a watch kept. The Indian believes we should try
to force a passage through the swamp, fighting in case of a necessity;
but I prefer that course where the least danger is to be met, even
though the distance be greater.
Neither Neal nor Teddy cared to discuss the matter: they knew that
Cummings was the best judge in such a case, and were well content to
follow his leadership; but Jake did not trust him so implicitly.
Before we leave here I want to know your plans, he said. My life
as well as yours and the others, is in danger, and it is no more than
right that I have at least a faint idea of what is to be done.
You are quite right, Cummings replied mildly. It is my purpose to
travel toward the east as far as the sea-shore, and from there make our
way to my hut. So far as I can see it is the only practicable course.
What does the Indian say?
He thinks we can go through the swamp even if we have no boat: but,
in my opinion, the danger of contracting the fever is too great.
Jake had the appearance of a man who is about to make some protest,
and Neal whispered to him:
In such a case as this it is our duty to accept Cummings' view of
the matter. Do not delay now when we all know that every moment is
Have it your own way, I won't say another word, the engineer
replied impatiently; but I think we have followed this man blindly as
long as we should.
Neal paid no attention to the latter portion of this remark, but
said as he turned toward the leader:
It is all right; we are ready.
Then follow me, and remember that our lives may pay the forfeit if
a single incautious word is spoken.
Thus speaking he took up one of the packages, looked once more to
the cartridges in his gun, and started down the stairs, the boys and
Jake following, while Poyor brought up the rear.
At the outer door he hesitated an instant, much as if to persuade
himself that it was absolutely necessary to flee from this city to
enter which he had spent so many days in making preparations, and then,
throwing it open, he led the way into the deserted streets.
Our safest plan is to go straight across, rather than try to circle
around the outskirts where we may meet with sentinels, he said,
motioning for Poyor to lead the way. At present no one suspects that
we are here, consequently the guard will not be particularly on the
Do as you think best, Neal replied, and then, falling back by the
side of Teddy, he whispered:
If it hadn't been for me you wouldn't have gotten into this scrape;
in case anything happens try not to believe it was my fault.
There is no possible chance that you can be to blame, Teddy
replied warmly. Any one would have accepted the invitation to go
yachting, and this last part of the cruise is only the result of an
accident with which you had nothing to do.
Jake did not open his mouth; he acted as if Cummings had done him a
personal injury in proposing such a trip, and the fact that they were
obliged to leave without making any effort to carry away the vast
amount of treasure which he knew to be in the city unguarded, aroused
his anger in a most unreasonable degree.
Poyor took the lead and conducted the party directly past the
enormous temple with its ornamentation of silver which shone in the
pale rays of the moon until the entire structure appeared to be a solid
mass of the precious metal, and the marvelous sight was too much for
Jake, who, coming to a sudden halt, said doggedly:
It may be all right for you boys with rich fathers to turn your
backs on so much wealth; but I'm goin' to have some part of this
treasure, or give the Indians a fair chance to kill me.
CHAPTER XVI. DISCOVERED.
Cummings was bringing up the rear during this march across the city,
and when Jake halted he naturally thought it was in obedience to some
signal made by Poyor, therefore he remained silent until hearing Neal
Go on, Jake. Don't stop now when we have a chance of getting away
in safety, for what is gold in comparison with life?
Have you halted with any idea that it may be possible to carry
anything off with us? Cummings asked, speaking in a whisper, and Jake
replied in the same cautious tone:
That's the size of it. You brought us here with the promise that we
could make ourselves rich, and when the first little thing goes wrong
you run. Now I will do as I please.
It is nothing less than suicide. We have before us a journey so
long and difficult that however small a burden you may have to carry,
it will seem all too heavy.
By this time Poyor turned back to learn the cause of the halt, and
when it was explained he said gravely:
Each instant we stand here brings death so much nearer. Even at
this moment watchful eyes may be upon us, and once we are discovered
flight will be almost impossible.
The little party stood directly in front of what was evidently the
main entrance to the temple. It was formed of twenty slender shafts of
white stone which in the moonlight looked translucent, and each column
upheld a grotesque figure composed of what appeared to be silver.
I am goin' to have one of them images, no matter what happens,
Jake said doggedly. I don't care how much of a tramp there is before
us, and the more the thing weighs the better I'll be pleased, for it's
the first chance I ever had to make myself rich.
But think of us, Teddy whispered. We all run the risk of being
killed because of what you propose to do.
There's no need of your waitin' here. Go on, an' I'll take care of
myself. I ain't such a chump as not to be able to find my way out.
It must be as he says. We can wait no longer, Poyor said
peremptorily. Better one should die than all, and, seizing Neal by
the shoulder, he literally dragged him away.
Cummings did the same by Teddy, and as the boys were thus forced
from the place they saw Jake trying to make his way up one of the
It is cruel to leave him when you know he will be killed, Neal
said as he struggled in vain to release himself from the Indian's
He knows the danger, and will not come. We must care for ourselves.
Now remain quiet; there has been too much noise and too long a delay.
Poyor was walking at a pace so rapid that the boys were forced to
run; but before they reached the next intersecting street a loud crash
was heard from the direction of the temple, and Cummings whispered:
He has toppled over one of the columns, and discovery is now
certain. He has insured our destruction as well as his own.
The words had hardly been uttered when shouts were heard from
different portions of the city, and, as if he had sprung from the
ground, a man appeared directly in their path.
A second's delay would have been fatal. Poyor, releasing his hold of
Neal, dashed forward with the agility of a cat, and springing upon the
stranger bore him to the ground.
There was a short, sharp struggle which lasted while one might
possibly have counted ten, and then the man lay motionless while Poyor,
grasping Neal by the arm once more, darted on down the street.
Now it seemed as if the entire city had been aroused. On every hand
could be heard shouts as if of command and cries of surprise and anger.
The sound of footsteps in the rear told that the pursuit had already
begun, and it was a race for life with the odds fearfully against the
You must run now as you never did before, Cummings said sharply to
Teddy. There can be no thought of fatigue until we reach some shelter
where it will be possible to make a stand.
I can hold out as long as Neal; but neither of us are a match for
He could run all day.
Two moments later, when they were nearing a broad street which
Cummings fancied led to the woods on the eastern side of the city,
Poyor slackened his pace to say:
There is one close behind who must be stopped. Will you do it, or
Help Teddy along, while I try it.
As the Indian took Teddy by the arm, thus having a boy on either
side of him, Cummings unslung the rifle which had been strapped over
his shoulder, and, wheeling suddenly, raised it at a man who was not
more than forty yards in the rear.
Don't shoot! It's me! a familiar voice cried, and as Cummings
turned to resume the flight he muttered to himself:
It's a pity they haven't caught you. But for your folly we could
have passed through the city unobserved.
Jake no longer believed the Chan Santa Cruz Indians to be such a
peaceable race. When, as Cummings had suspected, the shaft he was
trying to climb toppled over, he was able to escape injury by leaping
to one side, and immediately made an effort to detach the statue which
was cemented firmly to the stone.
It seemed to him that he had but just begun the task when two men
rushed from the interior of the temple. Fortunately for him they were
unarmed or his term of life would have expired at that moment; but as
it was one of them seized a fragment of the stone as he turned to run,
and threw it with such accuracy of aim that Jake's cheek was cut from
the eye to the chin as smoothly as if done with a razor.
With the blood streaming down his face Jake ran for dear life in the
direction taken by the remainder of the party, and now fully realizing
the danger he had brought upon them.
I deserve to be killed, he said to himself, and if that Poyor
don't try to even up things with me for this night's job it'll be
because he's a better Indian than I ever gave him credit for.
When the remainder of the party reached the end of the broad street
with the welcome shelter of the forest not more than half a mile away,
Jake was ten or twelve yards in the rear, and three times that distance
behind him were a dozen men who appeared to be gaining each instant.
Again Poyor spoke to Cummings, and again the latter stopped suddenly
and wheeled about: but this time there was no warning shout to prevent
the rifle from being discharged.
There was a loud report, a cry of pain from one of the pursuers, and
all halted for an instant to aid their wounded companion.
When Cummings turned to continue the flight Jake was by his side,
saying as they ran:
If it comes to close quarters I'll drop behind, and make as long a
fight as I can, which will give the rest a chance to gain on the
They would surely kill you. There could be no hope in a hand to
I know that, and it will be no more than I deserve. If I hadn't
been such a fool you would have got through without turning a hair.
This confession and the proposition to sacrifice himself had the
effect of dissipating Cummings' anger, and he said decidedly:
We will stick together and take even chances. No matter what has
been done one shall not be sacrificed to save the rest unless I, who
brought you here, am that one.
To carry on any extended conversation and at the same time continue
the pace was out of the question, and during the next five minutes not
a word was spoken.
Now there were two dozen pursuers, and the boys had become so nearly
exhausted that Teddy felt positive that he could not keep on his feet
long enough to reach the forest.
Poyor, seeing that both the boys had nearly run their race, shouted
in his own language a few words to Cummings, clasped his panting
companions by the waist, and, although thus burdened, soon drew away
from both the white men.
Nearer and nearer come the pursuers.
Once more Cummings halts, discharges his rifle, and then presses
Poyor gains the shelter while the others are a hundred yards away,
and allowing the boys to drop to the ground, he unslings Neal's gun,
stands at the very edge of the cover where he fires two shots just in
time to save the remainder of the party.
We must not stop here, he says as Cummings comes to a halt by his
side. Help the boys, and leave me here long enough to hold them in
check until you have put considerable distance between the crowd and
Cummings waited only until he had given the Indian his own rifle and
some cartridges, for it was a more effective weapon than Neal's, and
then he and Jake did as directed.
Traveling in as nearly a straight line as possible they marched
rapidly, while behind them could be heard shot after shot, telling that
Poyor was doing his duty.
If he can keep that up long enough we shall give them the slip
after all, Jake said, speaking with difficulty as he gasped for
There are others to be met. Between here and the coast is a line of
sentinels who may be more vigilant than those in the swamp.
Now that the pace was slower, and because of the assistance
rendered, Neal and Teddy were able to make their way unaided, and the
former said as he pushed Cummings from him:
I am all right now. You have as much as you can do to take care of
yourself, and it is not fair to half carry me as you and Poyor have
It hasn't been such a very hard job; but I'm perfectly willing to
give it up if you are feeling better.
We are both in fair condition, Teddy replied, and being relieved
of the burdens the men were able to travel more rapidly.
During the next ten minutes not a word was spoken, and then Cummings
said as he halted:
We'll take a little rest, for I am nearly blown.
All threw themselves on the ground where they lay panting until,
recovering somewhat, Jake asked:
How is Poyor to find us in this thicket? He can't follow a trail in
He will succeed in doing so asSay, are you wounded?
One of those fellows cut my cheek open with a rock; but beyond the
pain I don't reckon there's been any great damage done.
You are fortunate that it was not inflicted by an arrow or spear.
Let me try to bandage it, for the loss of blood will tell upon you if
we continue this gait very long.
With strips torn from Jake's shirt the wound was bound up in an
awkward fashion, and Cummings said as he finished the work:
When Poyor comes he will gather a certain leaf which has healing
properties, and in a short time all the pain will go away; but I fancy
you'll carry that scar to your grave.
CHAPTER XVII. A HALT.
Jake professed to have but little care how long the scar might
remain on his face providing the wound healed, and they succeeded in
escaping from the Chan Santa Cruz Indians.
Nothing that can happen to us during the journey to Merida would be
half as bad as to fall into their hands, he said with a shudder, and
what surprises me most is that I should have thought they were
But that is exactly what they are until it comes to dealing with a
white man, Cummings replied. You must remember all that the
peoplethe natives I meanhave suffered since America was discovered.
The barbarous treatment they received from the Spaniards is told from
father to son, and it is a portion of their religious training to work
all the injury possible to the whites. Read of what the invaders did to
satisfy their thirst for gold, and then you can no longer wonder why
these people, the only ones who have kept their city free from the
conqueror, are so implacable. Remember that Yucatan was once covered
with populous cities, the ruins of which show even at this late date
how magnificent they were, how splendid beyond comparison with the one
we have seen, and you ask yourselves why these Indians do not rise and
massacre all of the hated color that can be found.
But you also came hoping to take away their treasure, Neal said,
smiling at Cummings' vehemence.
That is true, therefore I have no word of blame when they attempt
to kill me; but, as a matter of course, I try to save my life even
though I am to them nothing more than a common robber. In my own eyes,
however, the case seems different. To procure such goods as I most
desired, would probably be, by the aid of Poyor, to solve that which
scholars have studied for so long in vainthe origin of the Aztecs and
Toltecs, for I believe the Chan Santa Cruz belong to the latter race,
and keep fresh all their histories and traditions.
And now that you have failed it would be better to go home with
us, Teddy said.
This attempt has failed; but I shall try again and again until I
succeed, providing we get out of this scrape alive, which is by no
means certain, for we have a long and perilous journey before us.
Which we are not likely to make unless Poyor comes back, Neal
added grimly. It surely seems as if he should be here by this time. I
haven't heard the report of his rifle for a long while.
Most likely we are too far away for the sound to reach us. We will
wait half an hour longer, and then I will go back to see if anything
Cummings had hardly ceased speaking before the Indian appeared in
their midst, having come so softly that no one heard him until he stood
It is not a good watch you keep, he said to Cummings, speaking in
We cannot guard against such an approach as yours. Where are the
I left them at the edge of the forest. Knowing how we are armed
they do not dare to follow very close; but when the sun rises a hundred
will be at our heels.
Shall we go on now, or will you rest awhile?
I am ready. We have no time to lose.
Cummings rose to his feet, the others following his example, and the
Indian started forward without delay.
How far are we from the sea-shore? Cummings asked as the march
More miles than we shall travel for many days. By sunrise every
sentinel will know we are here, and it will be impossible to break
through their lines.
Then how are we to get home? Teddy asked in alarm.
He probably hopes to find some place where we can stay in hiding
for awhile. In this section of the country there are many large caverns
in which streams of water are invariably found, thus causing the belief
that a subterranean river flows from the valley to the sea. If we stop
at one of them until it is decided we have succeeded in escaping, you
will not be able to take the steamer as intended.
But we may have to stay two or three weeks.
Better that than to be captured, Cummings replied, and then he
relapsed into silence.
During the next two hours the little party pressed steadily forward,
making their way with difficulty through the tangled foliage, and then
Neal was forced to ask for another halt.
I must rest awhile, he said. My feet are sore, and it seems
impossible to take another step.
Poyor halted, was about to seat himself, and then, as if suddenly
remembering something, he said:
Wait here. I will soon be back.
The white members of the party were too tired even to talk. Throwing
themselves upon the ground they enjoyed the luxury of rest, and,
convinced there was no danger to be apprehended from the enemy until
daylight, Neal and Teddy gave themselves up to the embrace of slumber.
An hour passed before the apparently tireless Poyor returned, and he
awakened the sleepers by saying:
I have found that for which I sought. Come with me, and repose
until labor will seem a pleasure.
What is it? A cave? Neal asked sleepily.
More than that. An underground house where we can live in safety,
unless the retreat should be discovered.
It was a great exertion to get into traveling trim; but all hands
did it after a time, and Poyor led the way, although he had probably
been there but once before, as if following a familiar path.
After about half an hour's rapid walking the Indian halted at an
opening in the hillside hardly more than large enough for one to go
through on his hands and knees, and motioned for the others to enter.
Cummings led the way, and while he was doing so Teddy asked Poyor:
Have you been here often before?
This is the first time.
How could you see a small hole like that while it is so dark?
On the line of these caves the earth is always damp. When we halted
last I could feel that we were on the underground water course, and it
was only necessary to follow it up. Here we shall find both food and
I don't understand where the food comes in unless we are to live on
bats, Neal said laughingly, as he in turn entered the aperture.
By the time Teddy was inside Cummings had lighted a branch of what
is mistakenly called fat wood, and, using this for a torch, it was
possible to have a reasonably good view of the temporary home.
The boys found themselves standing in an enormous chamber, from
which led several galleries or smaller rooms, lined with the same soft
white stone seen in the buildings of the Silver City, and at the
further end was a narrow stream rising apparently from the solid rock,
crossing the cavern to the opposite side where it disappeared.
To describe the beauty of this marble chamber fashioned by nature
would be impossible. Neal and Teddy had but just begun to realize its
magnificence when they were startled by the whirring of wings and a
clucking noise such as is made by a barn-yard fowl, and an instant
later Poyor had knocked over with a piece of rock what looked very much
like a chicken.
It is a toh, Cummings said, as he took the prize from the Indian.
At the city from which we came so unceremoniously these birds are kept
as hens, and their eggs are most delicious.
But how did this one happen to be in here, I wonder? Teddy
The species are found nowhere else but in the caverns. Probably
there are several hundred here.
Before the torch had burned out the boys had time to examine the odd
chicken. It was about as large as a bantam, had soft, silky plumage,
and a tail composed of two feathers which were nothing more than stems
up to the very tips, where were tassel-like appendages.
Now if the enemy does not track us here we can live pretty
comfortably for a few days; but I hope we shan't be obliged to stay any
longer. Poyor will destroy our trail as soon as it is light, and if
they should come I fancy we can tire them out, for one man can hold
this place against a hundred.
I am going to drink my fill of that water, Jake said, as he groped
his way toward the rear of the chamber. It seems as if I hadn't had
all I needed since we started on this trip.
Be careful, Cummings shouted quickly. Don't venture near the
stream until I get another torch.
Because in some of these caverns alligators are found, and it is
never safe to drink from the running water without first making sure
that there are no saurian guards about.
Cummings went to the entrance for more wood, and when he returned
the Indian was with him.
This will cure the wound on your face, the latter said to Jake as
he held out a branch covered with small, glossy green leaves. Take off
the cloth that I may see it.
While Jake obeyed, Cummings was kindling a fresh torch, and as the
light fell upon the engineer's cheek both the boys uttered exclamations
It was certainly a terrible looking wound, the dried blood causing
it to appear even larger than it really was; but Poyor set about
dressing it with the utmost indifference, perhaps because he thought
Jake deserved it for having been so stubborn and criminally foolish.
The Indian chewed the leaves to a pulp, and then spread them thickly
on the wound, after which Cummings replaced the cloth, and Jake
declared that the pain had subsided instantly.
I must remember the name of that plant if it can be found in a
dried state at home, he said, and there are many times when such a
poultice would come in mighty handy.
He has only bound on leaves from a shrub called guaco; but you
needn't try to remember the name, for they are efficacious only while
green. Now that the surgeon's duties have been performed we will get
some water, and then set about cooking breakfast. Poyor, bring in
plenty of wood, and then try to find another toh.
At the swiftly running stream nothing resembling an alligator was
seen, and the white members of the party enjoyed to the utmost copious
draughts of the ice-cold liquid.
Meanwhile the Indian was rapidly obeying Cummings' orders. He built
a fire near the water, and by the light which the white stones
reflected in every direction, had but little difficulty in knocking
over three more of what Teddy persisted in calling chickens.
Leaving the cave again he soon returned with a lot of clay which he
pasted over the tohs without removing the feathers or intestines, and
thus prepared one would have supposed they were nothing more than so
many balls of mud.
These he put into the fire, piled the wood over and around them, and
then sat down to wait for the fruits of his labor.
The boys fell asleep before the fowls were cooked: but after a
little more than an hour Cummings awakened them to get their share of
The now thoroughly baked clay was broken open, and it was found that
the feathers and skin of the birds had adhered to the covering, leaving
the white flesh temptingly exposed.
Among the small amount of stores there was salt sufficient for
several days' consumption, therefore they were not without seasoning
for the meat, and Jake, Neal and Teddy were quite positive they had
never eaten anything half so delicious as this odd chicken baked in a
most singular manner.
CHAPTER XVIII. CAVE LIFE.
When the meal was ended it was nearly daylight and Cummings said as
he stretched himself out close by the entrance:
It is necessary that the strictest kind of a watch should be kept
every moment of the time from now on. I'll take the first trick, Jake
shall be awakened next, and Poyor, who has done the most work, comes
But what are Teddy and I to do? Neal asked in surprise. We are as
well able to stand guard as any one else.
I allowed that it would be at least twenty-four hours before you
were in condition for anything, Cummings replied with a laugh.
That is where you made a big mistake, Teddy added. We insist on
doing our full share.
Very well, if Poyor is asleep when Jake goes off duty one of you
shall be called.
It was arranged that they should sleep near the entrance where the
sentinel could awaken them if necessary, without making a noise, and
after the weapons were examined once more to make certain they were in
good working order, all save Cummings made a business of going to
The Indian did not give any one an opportunity of awakening him. At
the expiration of an hour, just as Cummings was thinking it time to
call Jake, he arose and peered cautiously out through the opening.
Why did you get up so soon? Cummings asked. You need rest, and
there is nothing to prevent your sleeping until noon if you feel so
There is much work to be done, he replied gravely. When the sun
rises I must examine the trail to make sure it is not too plain.
It will be another hour before daylight.
By sitting here I shall be ready to go as soon as it is light.
I do not think you are giving me the true reason, and Cummings
ignited a match that he might see the Indian's face.
You must not do that, he said quickly, as he clasped his hand over
the tiny flame. It is unwise so near the entrance.
You believe then that we are in considerable danger?
We shall be until we are outside the Chan Santa Cruz country.
That is not all you can say. I wish to know exactly your opinion of
You shall know; but it is not well to explain to the others. Our
enemies will find us I think, and we may be forced to fight to the end,
for they will not give up the chase until after many days.
Do you think it would be unsafe to push on again now we have had
rest and food?
By this time the sentinels know what happened last night, and the
forest is full of enemies. A poisoned arrow can be sent in the daytime,
while he who shoots it remains concealed. Before noon we would all be
Cummings was silent for a moment, and then he asked in a low tone:
How far do you think we are from the sea-shore?
The distance is not great; but the way so difficult that the
journey could not be ended in less than five days.
Then it seems that we are in a tight place whatever course is
We can fight longer here than where the trees conceal our foes,
was the grave reply, and then Poyor crept through the opening into the
gloomy forest where wild animals and wilder human beings lurked to
After this conversation Cummings was in no mood for sleep, and he
refrained from awakening Jake.
Seated where he could hear the slightest sound from the outside, he
reflected upon all the dangers of the situation, and reproached himself
for having led the boys and the engineer into such peril.
I would have been culpable if no one but Poyor had accompanied me,
he said to himself, and now I am directly responsible for the lives of
those who but for me, would at this moment be safe in Merida.
There was nothing to be gained by scolding one's self, and he strove
with very poor success to put such thoughts from his mind until the sun
rose, partially lighting up the gloomy recesses of the forest, and
sending tiny rays of light through the narrow aperture.
The three sleepers breathed regularly and noisily; but the sentinel
disturbed them not.
The minutes passed slowly until two hours had elapsed, and then a
slight rustling of leaves near the entrance caused Cummings to seize
the rifle more firmly and peer out.
It was Poyor returning, and he appeared weary like one who has run a
Have you seen anything? Cummings asked anxiously.
There were four Indians about a mile south from here. They came
from the city last night, and are searching. It was possible to hear
them talk. The sentinels near the coast have been doubled in number,
and there is little hope we could pass them.
It is barely possible they may not find this cave; the entrance is
small, and almost hidden by the brushes.
Yet I found it in the night.
True, Cummings replied gloomily, and as he said nothing more Poyor
went to the stream to quench his thirst.
While passing by Jake he accidentally brushed the latter's arm with
his foot, and the engineer was on his feet in an instant, staring
around stupidly as if believing the enemy was upon him.
Why didn't you call me to stand my watch? he asked in a loud tone,
and Poyor, darting back to his side whispered:
It is not safe to make any noise. Do not so much as speak aloud.
By this time the boys were aroused, and when the Indian had
cautioned them in turn all three went to where Cummings was seated.
Are we going to move, or have you concluded to stay here? Neal
We shall be obliged to make this our headquarters for a few days.
Poyor has seen people from the city in the immediate vicinity,
consequently it is advisable to keep under cover.
Do you think we will be able to leave in a week? Teddy asked
anxiously, and Cummings replied evasively:
I hope so.
To Jake, who did not feel so eager to reach home by the next steamer
that left Progresso, the prospect of remaining in the cave several days
was agreeable rather than otherwise, and he asked:
Are we to cook any breakfast this morning?
No, because the smoke might be seen. To-night there will be no such
danger, and the light can be screened from view, therefore it is a case
of getting along with a cold bite until then. Sleep as much as possible
in order that you may be ready to do your share of the watching, and
remember that perfect silence is absolutely necessary.
Then Cummings intimated that the conversation should cease, by
turning his attention to what might be happening outside, and the three
went toward the opposite end of the cavern where the Indian had thrown
himself down for a nap.
Here, after discussing what little they knew regarding the
situation, they ate a few totopostes, a thin, dry tortilla which will
remain sweet many days, and then gave themselves up to slumber once
To sleep when one does not feel the necessity of such rest is,
however, not an easy matter to be arranged, and after two or three
short naps the boys found it impossible to woo the drowsy god.
They walked around the cavern, arousing flocks of tohs; but, owing
to the dim light, finding nothing worthy of attention, and then they
went to the entrance where Cummings refused to hold any conversation
with them because of the possibility that some of the enemy might be
lurking outside, where it was possible to hear the sound of their
In this restless manner the day was spent, and when night came again
Poyor ventured out once more.
By this time Cummings felt the necessity of gaining a little rest,
and he proposed that Neal and Teddy take their turn at standing watch.
It will not be so tedious if you remain here together, he said,
and we will give Jake a job later in the night.
It was really a relief to the boys to have something to occupy their
time, and as they took his place at the entrance he lay down near at
hand where they could awaken him without difficulty in case it should
To repeat all the unimportant incidents of the night would be
tedious. When Poyor returned from his first trip outside he built a
fire near the stream, shielded the flame by a screen of boughs that the
light might not be reflected from the entrance, and then, with the air
of one who is accustomed to such work, set about catching chickens
enough to make a hearty meal.
Dishing these up in clay he roasted them as before, and Cummings was
awakened to share in the appetizing meal.
Then the Indian went out again, while Jake was standing watch, and
an hour later (it was then about two o'clock in the morning), he
returned, and roused Cummings, saying in his native tongue as he did
Five miles from here is a smaller cave. The sentinels have just
finished searching it. They will be here in the morning. I have thought
we might slip past them, by exercising great caution, and it would be
just so much nearer the coast.
Do you believe it should be done? Cummings asked, as he sprang to
It can do no harm, providing we are not discovered during the march
through the forest, and we may possibly be able to throw them off the
Then we will start at once. Under such desperate circumstances
nothing should be neglected which might be of benefit. How much food
have we got on hand?
All that will be needed. It is not difficult to procure provisions
in this forest.
It surely seemed as if they might better their condition very
materially by making this change, and, in view of all things, it was
the proper manoeuvre since by remaining there was no doubt the party
would be discovered, when a regular siege must necessarily be the
There was yet a considerable amount of the roasted tohs on hand.
This was wrapped in leaves with the remainder of the provisions, and
all the luggage made up in three packages, for it had been decided that
the boys should not be called upon to carry any burden.
It may be that we shall be obliged to move quickly, Poyor said,
and it is best they have nothing but their guns.
When everything was in readiness for the start the Indian went
outside once more to reconnoiter, and on his return the final
preparations were made.
He, Cummings and Jake fastened the bundles to their backs; Neal and
Teddy were cautioned to take plenty of cartridges from the general
store, and then, Poyor leading the way, they emerged from the cave.
CHAPTER XIX. A CHANGE OF BASE.
Although the boys did not know the full extent of the danger, they
could understand something of the anxiety felt by both Cummings and
Poyor when the shelter of the cave had been left behind.
The latter moved with the utmost caution, taking half a dozen steps
and then stopping to listen; halting whenever the foliage rustled more
than he fancied was usual and otherwise acting as if believing the
enemy had completely surrounded them.
Under such circumstances the advance was necessarily slow, and at
least an hour was consumed in traveling less than a mile.
Teddy was on the point of protesting against such excessive
precaution when the sound of voices caused all the party to crouch low
among the bushes, hiding themselves in the foliage just as four Chan
Santa Cruz Indians came to a halt not more than twenty feet away.
It was not difficult to distinguish the form of each one even amid
the gloom, and from their manoeuvers Teddy and Neal were confident that
they had halted for the remainder of the night.
It would have been impossible to hold any conversation, however
guarded, without the certainty of being heard while these men were so
near, and the fugitives remained motionless, hardly daring to breathe,
until it seemed as if some change of position must be made regardless
of the consequences.
Each one with the possible exception of Poyor, was so cramped as to
be in great pain: but all knew that the slightest unusual noise among
the foliage would have attracted attention.
Of course Cummings' party was more than a match for the Indians; but
in addition to his disinclination to begin a fight, was the chance that
there might be others in the immediate vicinity who would join in the
battle, thus reducing the odds which appeared to be in favor of the
It was in the highest degree important, also, that they remain
hidden, for once the Indians got a glimpse of the party it would be a
simple matter to track them to the next hiding place.
There was another and a very weighty reason why both Cummings and
Poyor wished to avoid an encounter in the forest, even though their
weapons were much superior to those carried by the Chan Santa Cruz so
far as rapid work was concerned. Unless struck in some vital part, the
chances are in favor of recovery from a bullet wound; but let the skin
be punctured ever so slightly by arrows poisoned with the venom of the
snake known as the nahuyaca and death is certain to follow.
With all this in mind it is little wonder that the fugitives
suffered considerable pain before making any attempt to change
positions, and that they would be forced to remain exactly where the
halt had been made, until morning, seemed positive.
Poyor was well content to stay there as long as the men carried on a
conversation, for he was thus enabled to get some valuable information
concerning their proposed movements, and not a word escaped him.
Three hours elapsed before the pursuers gave any sign of leaving the
place, and then a peculiar sound as of a night bird calling to its
mate, caused them to start to their feet.
It was evidently a signal from another party of pursuers, for these
men answered it by a similar cry, and it was repeated several times by
those in the distance.
A moment later the Indians had started, and as they disappeared Neal
whispered to Teddy:
I never realized before how much comfort there is in the ability to
move whenever a fellow feels so disposed.
If I'd been obliged to keep still ten minutes longer I believe my
legs would have dropped off, Teddy replied with a sigh of relief.
There was no time to say anything more; Poyor had begun the advance,
and the little party moved slowly and silently through the gloomy
forest until the Indian halted in front of an opening slightly larger
than the one leading to the cave they had just left.
Jake did not wait to be told that the journey had come to an end;
but at once crawled through, followed by Cummings with the materials
for making a torch, and in a few moments the boys were also inside.
Poyor did not accompany them; he wanted to assure himself that they
had not been discovered, and proposed to stand guard among the trees
until this had been accomplished.
The cavern was not more than half as large as the one first visited;
but was formed of the same peculiar stone. Here also was a stream
across one corner, the bottom of which sloped gently up to the shore of
fine white sand, and, so far as could be ascertained, it did not afford
a home for disagreeable monsters in the shape of alligators.
There was plenty of evidence near the entrance to show that in
addition to searching the cave the Indians had made a long halt.
Fragments of totopostes were scattered around, and a small pile of fine
shavings told where one of them had repaired an arrow.
The only objection which could be found in this new refuge was that
it had not been taken possession of by tohs. Cummings searched
everywhere in vain for the chickens, and the troubled look on his
face spoke plainly of his disappointment in failing to find a supply of
food close at hand.
If we should be discovered and besieged it will be a case of short
rations, he said as the little party returned to the opening to wait
Don't you suppose there are fish in the stream? Teddy asked.
I never heard that there were; but even if it was stocked with them
we should be none the better off since there are neither hooks nor
Neal and I have got plenty of both, so what's to hinder our finding
out? A fresh fish wouldn't taste badly.
Very well. I'll stay here on guard, and
He was interrupted by the arrival of Poyor, who had crept through
the short passage without making sufficient sound to be heard by those
who were supposed to be watching, and, speaking in English, he said to
I do not think there is any one near here, and now I wish to go
further on to learn where the next line of sentinels is posted. We may
be able to change our quarters again, and if every move takes us nearer
the coast we shall be gaining just so much every time. You must keep a
better watch, however, for if I can surprise you, so can others.
I will take it upon myself to see that no one else is able to do
the same thing, Cummings replied with a laugh. When you are outside
in the vicinity I always feel secure; for the best Chan Santa Cruz that
ever lived couldn't pass without your knowledge. Did you hear anything
of importance while we were hiding so near that party?
From what they said it is positive fully a hundred men have been
sent from the city to search for us, and with the sentinels there must
be double that number between here and the coast.
It would seem as if with so many they ought to run us to the ground
finally, Cummings said musingly. Where were those fellows going?
They had been following the wet track examining the caves, and
began near the range of hills which forms the east boundary of their
country. One of the party believed we had doubled back in order to
cross the swamp, and if we can remain hidden it may not be long before
all the searchers will be sent in that direction.
Did they make any talk about what would be done with us in case
they run us down? Jake asked.
All are to be taken to the city alive, if possible, and it is not
hard to say what would be our fate there.
What do they do with their captives? Jake continued, as if this
not very cheerful subject fascinated him.
A white man would be sacrificed in the temple before the gods, and
the death stroke would not be delivered until much torture had been
Don't talk of such horrible things, Teddy interrupted nervously.
It can do us no good to learn all the terrible particulars. I want to
keep my mind on the one idea of escape.
That is where you are right, Cummings replied approvingly. We
shall be worth any number of dead men for some time to come, and won't
discuss even the possibility of capture. When are you going to start,
When I have bound more guaco leaves on this man's wound, was the
answer, and now the boys noticed that he had brought a fresh supply of
the wonderful shrub.
After preparing it as before the bandage was removed, and by the
light of a splinter of fat wood which Cummings fired with a match, it
could be seen that the edges of the gash had already united.
To-morrow there will be no reason for keeping it tied up.
That is to say, the wound will be healed, and you'll have a
souvenir of the Silver City which can never be lost, Cummings added.
I won't complain, for I came out of the scrape much better than I
deserved, the engineer replied with a laugh.
Poyor was now ready to go on the scout, and he delayed only long
enough to say:
There must be no talking while I am away, for one who speaks cannot
listen, and if the enemy should come here again his approach will be
like that of a serpent.
You shan't have any cause to complain, Cummings replied, and an
instant later the Indian had left the cave.
Teddy now thought the time had come when he should settle the
question of whether there were any fish in the stream, and after
gaining Cummings' permission to make the attempt he and Neal brought
out the lines and flies which had been saved from the wreck of the Sea
We shall need bait, he whispered. If there were a million fish
there they couldn't see a fly in the dark, and, besides, if this river
runs underground entirely not one of them knows anything about
A piece of roasted toh will be the very best we could have, and
Neal soon brought out some of the toughest portions of the remnants
left from the last meal.
Cummings would not listen to their proposition that a fire be
lighted, therefore it was necessary to work in the dark, and they
experienced considerable difficulty in beginning the task.
Then, while Jake sat near by deeply interested in the experiment,
the boys moved their lines to and fro, forced to wade quite a distance
into the water, and ten minutes passed before there was any sign that
their efforts would be rewarded by success.
I've got a bite, Teddy whispered excitedly. By the way he pulled
it must have been a big felHello, he's taken hook and all!
Tie on another quick while I try to catch him, and Neal ventured
further into the water, throwing the line as far as possible toward the
The thought came into Jake's mind that, while no alligators had been
seen when they first entered it was by no means certain one or more
would not follow down the course of the stream, and he was on the point
of warning Neal not to venture too far from the edge of the shore, when
there was a mighty splash, a cry of fear and pain from the fisherman,
and the engineer shouted regardless of the fact that the enemy might be
close at hand:
Help! An alligator has got Neal!
CHAPTER XX. A DESPERATE STRUGGLE.
There was no necessity for the outcry. The splashing of the water
told Cummings what had happened even before Jake had time to shout, and
he started forward at full speed, carrying with him the materials for
When Jake and Teddy were in a condition to understand anything, for
the sudden attack had bewildered them to a certain extent, Neal was
lying face downward upon the sand, and being slowly dragged backward.
The alligator had evidently snapped at his leg, and, missing his
aim, had caught the boy's trousers rather than the flesh. Instead of
releasing his hold for a better grip, he was trying to drag Neal into
deeper water, and once there the struggle would have been quickly
Neal had dug his hands into the sand, straining every muscle to
prevent being pulled into the stream; but despite all efforts the
monster was rapidly getting the best of him.
Cummings lost no time after arriving on the scene of action. The
boys' cries had guided him to the exact spot, and he waited only long
enough to kindle a blaze before joining in the fight.
Teddy, go back to the entrance, get one of the guns, and be sure
that no one comes through, for we are likely to make so much noise here
that if any of the enemy are in the vicinity we shall be discovered.
Jake, you are to hold the torch, and take good care that it burns
Cummings was armed with nothing but his hunting knife and by this
time the alligator had dragged fully half of Neal's body into the
water. There seemed to be but little hope that the boy could be rescued
before serious injury had been inflicted.
Pulling off his coat and belt Cummings leaped boldly on the back of
the saurian monster, burying the blade of his knife in the alligator's
eye at the same time, and then ensued a most terrific struggle.
Instead of releasing his hold on Neal the reptile held firm, and put
forth every effort to sink in the deeper water to dislodge the more
formidable antagonist who was striking beneath the surface with his
weapon in the hope of hitting some vulnerable spot.
Jake stood on the bank holding the torch high above his head to
prevent it from being extinguished by the showers which were sent up by
the lashing of the monster's tail, and powerless to aid in the fight
Slowly but surely Neal was being pulled from the shore. With only
the sand to clutch he could retard, not check the saurian's movements,
and work as he might, it seemed impossible for Cummings to strike a
Drop your torch and seize the boy by the arms, the latter shouted
as he saw that the battle was going against him. At this rate I shall
soon be where it will be out of the question to prolong the struggle.
Jake did as he was commanded, and in the darkness the remainder of
the terrible fight was waged.
The engineer pulled until to Neal it seemed as if his arms would be
torn from their sockets, and the alligator retained his hold as he
struggled to throw off Cummings.
The noise of the combat sounded almost deafening to Teddy, who was
doing his best to listen for any unusual disturbance among the foliage
outside, and he felt confident that if the enemy was anywhere in the
vicinity the secret of their hiding place would soon be discovered.
The struggle lasted only five minutes; but Neal would have said an
hour had passed since he was first seized, and then Cummings won the
victory by slipping from the alligator's back regardless of the rapidly
moving tail, and stabbing him under the fore leg.
Even then it appeared as if the victory was to be purchased at a
great cost, for, in order to avoid being killed by the monster's dying
struggles, Cummings was forced to release his hold, and the current
carried him rapidly toward the channel formed by the waters through the
Light the torch! he shouted, putting forth all his strength in
order to breast the tide. I'm in the middle of the stream, and likely
to be carried through the wall.
Jake had pulled Neal high up out of the water the instant the
alligator's hold was released, and at this appeal he dropped him
suddenly, groping around for the bundle of wood so hurriedly cast
It was several seconds before he could find it, and then much
valuable time was lost in trying to ignite the fuel made damp by the
spray which had been thrown up. It seemed to him that never had he been
so clumsy, and the anxiety to move quickly only served to retard his
Finally, after what to Teddy appeared to be a very long while, the
fat wood was ignited, and then it could be seen that Cummings was in a
most dangerous position. He was not more than six feet from the
aperture through which the water raced with redoubled force because the
opening was several inches lower than the surface, and swam as if
Jake was the only one who could render any assistance just at this
moment, and he proved to be equal to the occasion.
Seizing one of the guns he waded into the water to his waist, and
succeeded in extending the weapon sufficiently for Cummings to grasp
the end of the barrel.
Hold on for grim death; I've got to drop the torch! he shouted,
suiting the action to the words, and Teddy could see no more because
the light was suddenly extinguished.
Now the sentinel forgot that the enemy might creep upon them and
running forward he cried:
Don't give in, Jake; I'll help you.
Before he could reach the stream the work was accomplished. Jake
pulled Cummings on the bank by the side of Neal, and proceeded to
relight the torch, a difficult matter since the matches in his pocket
had been spoiled by the action of the water.
In this last work Teddy was able to render some assistance, and the
flame had but just sprung up from the wood when Cummings said
Extinguish that light. If we haven't advertised our whereabouts to
the Indians already there is no reason for taking foolish risks. We'll
attend to matters here, Teddy, and you get back to the entrance.
This command was obeyed at once, and the sentinel heard only a faint
sound from the direction of the stream until his companions rejoined
him, none the worse for the battle except in the respect of being
Have you heard anything suspicious? Cummings asked anxiously.
Not the slightest noise. If there had been any Indians in the
vicinity they would surely have made an attempt to enter when all hands
was raising such an uproar.
Cummings crept through the short tunnel and investigated in the
immediate vicinity of the opening before he could believe they had been
so fortunate, and when he returned Jake said:
I thought you wouldn't find anything. If those imps had had the
slightest inkling of where we are it wouldn't have been necessary to
wait so long as this before the fact was made known.
It was better to be sure. Poyor was so careful to caution us about
a noise that I was afraid he knew some of them were lurking near by. It
is all right, however, and we can congratulate ourselves on a fortunate
escape from more than one danger.
The weather was so warm that no one felt any serious effects from
the involuntary bath. A portion of the wet clothing was taken off and
hung on the guns set in the sand as stakes, to dry, and since their
fears regarding the proximity of the Indians had been partially set at
rest by Cummings' survey, there was a general disposition to talk of
something foreign to the struggle through which they had just passed.
You have said very much about the poisoned arrows which the Chan
Santa Cruz Indians use, Neal began, and I would like to know how they
manage to render them so deadly.
It is by no means a difficult matter, and as Poyor's people use
very nearly the same method of increasing the death-dealing power of
their weapons, I can describe the process exactly, Cummings replied,
speaking in a whisper, regardless of the Indian's remark that he who
talks cannot listen. You have heard me say many times that the
nahuyaca is the most venomous of serpents, and instead of being content
with a single bite, as is the case with snakes in general, he strikes
many times with almost incredible rapidity. When the Indians wish to
prepare the poison for their arrows or spears they first get the liver
of a tapir, or some other animal as large, and then hunt for the
species of serpent I have spoken of. Once found he is pinned to the
ground with a forked stick in such a manner that he can use his head
freely; but yet be unable to escape, and the liver, fastened to a long
pole, is held where he can strike at it.
When the snake refuses longer to bite he is killed, and the liver
placed where it will decompose without any of the moisture being lost.
You can imagine what a mixture it is when thus prepared, and in it the
weapons are dipped.
It is said that the venom retains its deadly properties for many
weeks, and, in fact, I know of a native who came very near losing his
life by being scratched with an old arrow that must have been poisoned
nearly a year previous.
I should think they might make a mistake when shooting game, and
use a doctored arrow rather than one of the ordinary kind, Teddy said.
That could only result from sheer carelessness. The point of a
poisoned weapon is covered with a reddish brown substance which cannot
be mistaken, and, for greater security, the feathers used for the tip
are invariably green. A Central American Indian never takes a green
shafted arrow, nor a spear on which is painted a band of the same
color, when he goes out to procure food.
Then if we happen to meet these fellows who are hunting for us, we
are likely to come out second best even though they have only bows with
which to shoot, Jake suggested grimly, and, evading a direct answer,
We will hope that we shan't get near enough to let any such thing
as that trouble us.
Then the conversation gradually ceased. Neal and Teddy, after
learning that Cummings intended to remain on watch until Poyor
returned, lay down together, where for at least the hundredth time they
discussed the chances of reaching home within a reasonable number of
days, and, hopeful though both tried to appear, neither could bring
himself to set any definite day for the end of the dangerous journey
which might never be finished.
There is so much certain, Neal said decidedly after a short pause,
once we get out of this section of the country we'll go to the nearest
sea-port and wait there for a steamer or a vessel, without ever setting
our feet outside the town. There'll be no more delays if we get clear
of this scrape.
You can count me in on that, and now I'm going to sleep. It seems
as if a week had passed since we started from the last cavern.
Jake had already taken advantage of the opportunity to indulge in
slumber, and soon Cummings was the only one on the alert; anxiety kept
his eyes very wide open, for he believed Poyor should have returned
some time before.
CHAPTER XXI. A LONG HALT.
When the morning dawned Poyor was still absent and Cummings' anxiety
had become intense.
It hardly seemed possible the Indian would go very far from the cave
of his own free will, and that he had been captured by the enemy
appeared more than probable.
Neither Jake nor the boys awakened until after the sun had risen,
and, as a matter of course, the first inquiry of each was concerning
the man upon whom all depended so entirely.
Before Cummings could give words to the fears which had haunted him
during the night the entrance to the cave was darkened, and Teddy cried
Here he is, and I hope we are to make another move pretty soon, for
after last night's adventure this isn't the most pleasant place I ever
saw in which to spend any length of time.
It could easily be seen from the Indian's general appearance that he
brought no bad news, and without waiting to be questioned he went
toward the stream to quench his thirst.
A sharp cry from both the boys caused him to halt very suddenly, and
when Cummings told the story of the adventure with the alligator he
You should not have made such an attempt except when a fire was
burning, and even then to wade into the water was wrong. I will get
what can be used for both drinking and fishing.
Again he left the cave, returning ten minutes later with what looked
like a slender bamboo, save that there were no joints in it. Through
the middle of the pole, running the entire length, was a small hole
hardly larger than is to be found in a reed, and with this while
standing five or six feet from the stream he drank at leisure, keeping
his eyes fixed upon the surface of the water to guard against an
Having thus quenched his thirst he returned to where Cummings was on
guard and told the story of his wanderings.
He had followed straight along the line of moisture, finding cave
after cave but none of them as well adapted to their purpose as was
this one, and had seen none of the enemy until five or six miles had
been traversed, when a strong cordon of sentinels was discovered.
The men were stationed not more than twenty feet apart, and, as
nearly as he could judge, had been ordered to remain and prevent the
fugitives from leaving the country by way of the coast. From what he
already knew concerning the people, he understood the number of men on
duty at this particular point had been largely increased, therefore the
natural inference was that there were two distinct bodies engaged in
trying to capture the white men. One whose duty it was to guard the
boarder so thoroughly that it would be impossible to escape, while the
other scoured the forest and swamp.
We must stay here several days, he said in conclusion. After a
time the men will grow careless, and then we may be able to make our
way through the lines; but now it is impossible.
Until this moment Neal and Teddy had hoped there might yet be a
chance for them to reach Progresso in time to take passage on the
steamer as first agreed upon; but now they were in despair. Poyor spoke
so positively that there could be no doubt the journey to the coast
would be a long one, in case they ever succeeded in making it, and the
thoughts of the loved ones at home who were probably mourning them as
dead caused them to be more gloomy than on the night of the flight,
when it did not seem possible any of the party would escape alive.
Cummings, who had no care as to when he reached the coast, and Jake,
to whom time was no particular object, received the news calmly. A week
more or less made but little difference to them, and after a short
pause Cummings said:
If you will stay on guard, Jake, I'll find out if it is possible to
catch any fish. The food supply is an important matter which should be
settled at once, for we must not depend upon what can be gotten in the
forest, since no one can say how soon we may be besieged.
Poyor lay down to sleep as if perfectly indifferent to the
experiment, and the boys followed Cummings. To watch him fish was
better than remaining quiet thinking over their troubles.
The reflection of the sun from the outside had so far dispelled the
gloom that it was possible to distinguish surrounding objects with
reasonable distinctness, and Cummings stood by the bank of the stream
as he tied one end of Teddy's line to the pole Poyor had used for
drinking purposes, while, with the last remaining fragments of roasted
toh, began the work.
In the most perfect silence the boys watched him for ten minutes,
and Teddy said:
I guess you'll have to give it up as a bad job. There's nothing but
alligators in the stream, and what they most want is another chance to
get hold of Neal's trousers.
It was lucky for me that they didn't get hold of my ankle as well.
I don't understand how I escaped so easily, for
Here's the first one, Cummings said triumphantly, as he swung on
shore a fish weighing about three pounds. If we find many such there
won't be any danger of suffering from hunger.
The boys seized the flapping evidence of Cummings' skill as an
angler, and hurried to the entrance in order to examine it more
In shape it was similar to a brook trout; but instead of being
spotted had black scales as large as one's thumb nail, and not until it
had been scrutinized carefully was anything seen to betoken the
presence of organs of sight. Then Jake pointed out two slight
depressions near the end of the upper jaw, which were protected and
nearly covered by a cartilaginous substance extending entirely across
the head something after the fashion of a hood.
I don't wonder he had to try a long while before catching this
fellow, Teddy said with a laugh. A fish that has such poor apologies
for eyes can't be expected to see bait very quickly.
It isn't likely they can see anything, and if these small specks
are eyes they've probably only been put on as ornaments.
At this point Jake, regardless of the fact that he should have been
listening intently at the aperture, began what was evidently about to
be a long dissertation on the subject of a fish being able to smell
while in the water, and to prevent him from neglecting his duties as
sentinel, the boys went back to the stream, arriving there just as
Cummings landed a second prize.
At the end of an hour four fish, aggregating in weight not less than
ten pounds, were on the bank, and it was decided that no more should be
We've got food enough to last us during twenty-four hours,
Cummings said, and it would be a waste of time to fish any longer.
When are we to cook them? Teddy asked.
That is a job which must be left for Poyor. He can do it better
than either of us, and, since there are none of the enemy in the
immediate vicinity, I fancy we may count on having these for the next
Then Cummings took his turn at sleeping, after impressing on the
minds of the boys and Jake that a strict watch should be kept by all
regardless of the news brought by the Indian, and during the two hours
which followed before there was any change in the condition of affairs,
little else was done save to discuss the situation.
They talked of the loved ones at home; of the probable whereabouts
of those who had left the burning yacht in their company, and of the
chances that they would soon reach the coast, until Jake changed the
subject by saying abruptly:
We'll soon be blind if the Indian don't find a hidin' place where
the sunlight penetrates once in awhile. I begin to feel a good deal
like a bat already, an' have a big mind to slip out for a walk.
Don't so much as think of it, Teddy cried in alarm. It isn't
certain that the enemy are not close by, and the risk is too great.
I can't see it in that light, Jake replied in his old obstinate
manner. Perhaps Poyor has had more experience in these woods than I
have; but I'll bet considerable that I can get around as well as he
Do you remember what happened the last time you believed Cummings
and Poyor were mistaken or ignorant? Neal asked meaningly.
What has that got to do with my going where I can use my eyes a
Very much, considering the fact that Cummings thinks it is
dangerous even for him to venture out. You are safe so long as the
Indians do not get a glimpse of you, and it would be endangering the
lives of all hands if you tried such a foolish experiment that can be
of no especial benefit in case it is made successfully.
Jake did not reply; but from his manner Neal believed he intended to
leave the cave at the first favorable opportunity, and resolved to keep
a close watch upon him.
Nothing more was said on the subject because at this moment Poyor
arose, and going to the stream for a drink of water, saw the fish on
Hungry? he asked, coming toward the entrance.
I wouldn't object to something warm, Teddy replied with a laugh;
but I suppose it isn't safe to build a fire till after dark.
We can have one now, the Indian said, as he began to crawl through
There, Jake said triumphantly, as Poyor disappeared, you can see
how much danger there would be in our taking a stroll. Yesterday he
wouldn't let a fellow whisper, and now we're to cook as if such a tribe
as the Chan Santa Cruz had never existed.
That doesn't make the slightest difference so far as we are
concerned. He could go in safety where you'd be certain to get into
Again the engineer was silenced but not convinced and Neal's fears
that some dangerously foolish move might be made by him, were
When Poyor returned he brought with him a small quantity of wood,
more mud, and a bundle of green leaves.
At the further end of the cave he built a fire; encased the fish as
he previously had the chickens, piled the embers over them, and then,
in the canteen brought by Cummings, he steeped the leaves.
Breakfast or dinner, whichever it might be called was ready in half
an hour, and when Poyor set the repast before them, where all could be
on the alert while eating, Teddy exclaimed:
Those leaves must have been from a tea plant; it seems quite like
being on the yacht again to smell that.
You'll be disappointed when you taste of the beverage, Cummings,
who had just been awakened by the Indian, said, as he approached his
companions. He has made an infusion of pimientillo leaves, a drink of
which the natives of Yucatan are very fond.
Teddy was pleased rather than otherwise with the flavor, which was
as of tea mixed with cloves, and drank so much that Poyor was forced to
brew another canteen full in order to satisfy his own desires.
The fish were pronounced delicious, and although Cummings thought he
had caught considerably more than could be consumed in one meal, there
was very little left when the hunger of all had been appeased.
It was now nearly noon, when every native of the country believes a
siesta is necessary, however important business he may have on hand,
and Poyor stretched himself once more out on the sand, Cummings
advising the boys and Jake to do the same thing.
I slept so long that I couldn't close my eyes now if I tried, so
you had better take advantage of the opportunity.
CHAPTER XXII. JAKE'S VENTURE.
The boys followed Cummings' advice; but owing to the fact that they
had taken no exercise the slumber was neither prolonged nor refreshing.
When they awakened Poyor and Jake were yet asleep, and they went
softly to where Cummings was keeping most vigilant watch.
Had enough of it? he asked with a smile.
Yes: we are not feeling so comfortable in mind that we can sleep at
will, and just now a little goes a great way, Neal replied.
Don't make the mistake of dwelling upon your troubles. By putting
them from your mind you are in better condition to meet what may come,
and besides, fretting never did mend matters.
I'll admit that the advice is good; but it is not every one who can
Why not? Have you tried by looking for something else with which to
occupy your attention?
Shut up here as we are it would be pretty hard work to think of
anything except our own situation.
I'm not so certain of that. Suppose we try by speaking of the
country on whose shores you were cast by the waves?
It was formerly an independent republic; but now forms one of the
Mexican states, Teddy replied promptly.
I'll admit that to be true; but it is a small fund of information
for a schoolboy to have regarding a country which was probably the most
powerful on the hemisphere hundreds of years before Columbus crossed
the ocean. Here have been found the ruins of forty-four large cities;
the remains of enormous artificial lakes, paved roads, and, in fact,
all the evidences of a high state of civilization which existed before
Europe could boast of the slightest form of government.
You may be certain that I shall study about it with more interest
in case we are so fortunate as to be able to go to school again, Teddy
replied. Tell us about the people who lived here when it was so
I wish I could, Cummings said with a sigh. If it had been
possible for us to have taken from the Silver City any records, or
sculptured figures, or plates of a historical nature, I might have
succeeded in solving that which the student can speak of only as a
mystery. Before the Conquest it was known as Mayathat is to say, the
territory now called Yucatan, and the Chan Santa Cruz yet speak the
Maya language. It is only certain that for many centuries there was
here an important feudal monarchy, which doubtless arose after the
Toltec overthrow of the very ancient kingdom of Xibalba.
Cortez was the first white man to come into this country, Neal
said half questioningly.
Not by any manner of means. In the year 1502 Ferdinand Columbus,
driven by adverse currents out of his southerly course, sighted a group
of islands off Honduras, and captured a huge canoe, which is described
as having been as wide as a galley and eighty feet long, formed of the
trunk of a single tree. In the middle was an awning of palm leaves, not
unlike those of Venetian gondolas, under which were the women, children
and goods. The canoe was propelled by twenty-five Indians who wore
cotton coverlets and tunics without sleeves, dyed various colors and
curiously worked. The women wrapped themselves in large mantles of
The men wore long swords, with channels each side of the blade,
edged with sharp flints that cut the body as well as steel. They had
copper hatchets for chopping wood, belts of the same material, and
crucibles in which to melt it. For provisions they carried roots and
grain, a sort of wine made from maize, and great quantities of almonds.
This is a fragment of the history of Yucatan, simply a suggestion of
what can be found by study, and some day when you have nothing to do,
ask Poyor to tell you of his people's traditions.
Cummings had succeeded in interesting the boys despite Neal's
assertion that it would be impossible to think of anything but their
own condition, and Teddy asked, hoping to hear more about the country:
How large is Yucatan?
I question if even the officials know. It is set down as containing
76,560 square kilometres, with 302,315 inhabitants; but the last
figures can be only guess-work, since regarding the unconquerable
tribes of the interior, such as we are now trying to escape from, all
This concluded the conversation so far as Cummings was concerned,
for Poyor had awakened and joined the party, and there was very much to
be discussed with him relative to what move should be made, when a
sufficient time had elapsed.
In order that the boys might understand all which was said, the two
men spoke only in English, and when the consultation was brought to a
close the former had a very clear idea of the condition of affairs.
It is safe to venture out in search of food, Poyor said, when
Cummings intimated by his silence that there was no further topic which
he wished to discuss, and I will go for a short time.
Why not take one of the boys with you? the leader of the
expedition asked. It is dull work for them here, and a little exercise
will be beneficial.
Not yet, the Indian replied quickly. Too broad a trail would
surely attract the attention of the enemy, and we must not run such a
Very well, we will do a little fishing in order to have something
hearty for supper in case you are not successful.
Then the Indian went cautiously out through the narrow passage, and
he had but just disappeared when Jake awakened.
What's goin' on? he asked with a yawn. Has Poyor left us again?
He thought it might be possible to get some game near by, and
proposes to make the attempt, Cummings replied carelessly. Now that
you are awake stand watch awhile, for the boys and I are going to catch
a few more fish.
Jake seated himself by the entrance, and Cummings led the way to the
stream, never fancying for a single moment that the sentinel might
desert his post.
The second effort to draw food from the water was more successful
than the first. Cummings had hardly dropped the line before the bait
was seized, and he landed a fairly good sized fish, after which he
proposed that Teddy should try his hand at the work.
I don't want to monopolize all the fun, he said laughingly,
therefore you boys had better take turns until we get enough for
supper. To-night we'll ask Poyor to cut another pole, and then both can
enjoy the sport at the same time.
The fish were smaller than those previously taken and half an hour
elapsed before there were enough on the shore to make up what Cummings
believed was sufficient for a hearty meal.
Then the three walked slowly toward the entrance to relieve Jake;
but, to the surprise of all, he was not there.
It is my fault, Neal cried while Cummings was looking around in
the belief that the sentinel had gone to another portion of the cave
and would soon be back. I knew from what was said this forenoon that
he had an idea of venturing out, and made up my mind to watch him
closely; but the history lesson and the fishing caused me to forget it
Do you mean that he has had an idea of leaving us? Cummings asked
No; he simply proposed to take a walk. He thinks it is as safe for
him as for Poyor.
But I, who surely understand the woods better than he, would not
dare to attempt it.
You know what he has done.
If he does not lose his own life ours may be sacrificed, Cummings
said passionately. The Indian can go through the undergrowth without
leaving any sign of his passage: but for Jake to do so is simply to set
up a guide-board by which the enemy can find us.
I should have told you at once, Neal said in self reproach.
You are not to be blamed in the slightest; but if I could get my
hands on him at this moment he would regret most sincerely ever having
such a thought in his head.
What will be the result? Teddy asked in distress.
If he succeeds in finding his way back, which I doubt very much, we
will be forced to make a change regardless of the consequences, and if
he is captured it becomes a case of our putting the greatest possible
distance between this cave and ourselves, Cummings replied bitterly.
I might go out and try to find him, Neal suggested, and his
companion put an end to any such idea by saying impatiently:
Your efforts to aid him would only result in making our own
position just so much the worse. We must wait until Poyor comes back,
and learn what he has to say in regard to the affair.
But it seems cruel to let him run into danger without saying a
It is not half as bad as it is for him to jeopardize all our lives.
He did the same thing once before, and the consequence was that instead
of making back tracks to my shanty, as could easily have been done, we
are forced to skulk around two or three weeks with no certainty of
escaping even at the end of that time.
Both Neal and Teddy understood that it would be useless to say
anything more in Jake's favor, and as a matter of fact, they felt quite
as bitter toward him as did Cummings, for it was not difficult to see
what might be the result of his foolish excursion.
In silence the little party waited until the Indian returned
bringing the carcass of a tapir, a small quantity of alligator pears,
and two so-called cabbages cut from palm trees.
It is not difficult to get all the food that may be needed provided
we can keep the fact of our being here a secret, he said in a tone
which showed how greatly he was pleased by his success.
And that we shall not be able to do many hours longer except by
some piece of rare good luck, Cummings said bitterly. Jake went out a
long while ago, and is now, I presume, roaming around in order to give
the enemy an opportunity of looking at him.
Went out? the Indian repeated in surprise. Do you mean that he
has left the cave?
That is exactly the size of it.
Why did he do such a foolish thing?
Because he was too much of a baby or an idiot to stay in hiding
until the danger had passed. He claimed that exercise was necessary.
He will get all he needs, Poyor said half to himself, as he
allowed the supply of provisions to fall unheeded from his hands. We
also must leave this place.
Do you mean that we should go at once? Cummings asked as if he had
been expecting such a remark.
When the night has come we will start, and with but little hope of
breaking through the line of sentinels.
Are we not to wait for Jake? Neal interrupted.
If he does not return before we are ready there will be little
chance of ever seeing him again, was the grim reply as Poyor paced to
and fro, evidently so disturbed that it was impossible for him to
remain in one position.
CHAPTER XXIII. A HURRIED DEPARTURE.
Neal and Teddy were in a state of the most painful suspense from the
moment Poyor returned until the time for their departure arrived.
The one hope was that Jake would succeed in finding his way back,
for the thought that he might be captured was terrible, and they sat
near the entrance listening intently to every sound.
You're bound to be disappointed if you count on hearing him,
Cummings said bitterly.
But there is a chance that the Indians are some distance from
here, Teddy replied. Poyor didn't find any until he reached the line
I am not saying that he is necessarily captured yet; but it would
be little short of a miracle if he found his way back after going any
distance from this cave. I wouldn't dare to make the attempt.
But are we to go away without trying to find the poor fellow? Neal
asked in a tone of distress.
It would be useless to search, and we are now in too much danger to
waste any time, Cummings said sternly. Our one chance of escape was
to give the enemy the idea that we had succeeded in getting out of the
country, and he has destroyed it. Now this portion of the forest will
be filled with Indians, and in twenty-four hours from the moment he or
his trail is seen, we shall be discovered. We cannot aid him, and I
doubt whether I would be willing to do so if it was possible, for a man
of average common sense who will act as he has done deserves
The boys made no reply. Each instant their companion's anger against
Jake increased, and it was not well to rouse him by further
Near the bank of the stream Poyor had built a fire and was cooking a
portion of the tapir and the fish, for in the hurried flight which was
soon to be begun there might not be an opportunity to prepare food.
The Indian had unpacked the bundles in order to discard everything
not absolutely necessary, and was tying each compactly when the boys
Why are you making only three packages? Neal asked. Teddy and I
want to do our full share of the work, and it isn't right for you and
Cummings to lug everything.
You will be forced to do more than an equal share because that
which Jake carried must now be divided between us, Poyor replied
grimly. The fourth load is to be made up of the provisions.
Are you going straight for the coast, and try to force your way
through the line of sentinels?
That cannot be done. We must now ascend the mountain range on the
north of the forest.
But by so doing the journey will be made much longer, won't it?
Then why not try to fight through?
Because it is impossible. Not one of us would live to see the
There was not much comfort to be derived from such a conversation,
and again the boys went to the entrance where Cummings was examining
carefully all the weapons.
You must carry plenty of cartridges where they can be gotten at
quickly, he said, as they came up. It is impossible to say what may
happen, and no precaution should be neglected. The guns are in good
order, and with them we may succeed in holding the enemy at such a
distance that their arrows cannot be used.
We have filled our pockets, Neal replied, and throwing himself
upon the ground, he watched Cummings and Poyor at their work.
Ten minutes later the Indian came to the entrance and said as he
began to crawl through the narrow passage:
I will make one effort to find him who has caused us so much
Don't spend any time on such a fool, Cummings cried fiercely. He
knew the danger, and if he chooses to run into it, jeopardizing our
lives at the same moment, nothing too bad can happen to him.
He may be near at hand. I will make a search, Poyor replied as he
rose to his feet on the outside, and Neal whispered to Teddy:
If Jake can be found matters won't seem quite so hard, for it will
be terrible to think of him wandering around until captured, and we
running away from him.
Teddy nodded his head; but did not dare trust himself to speak. He
had been thinking of home until the tears were so very near his eyelids
that he feared they would overflow.
During the next half hour not a word was spoken by either of the
little party, and then Poyor returned alone.
There was no necessity of questioning him, and Neal covered his face
with his hands to hide the distress he knew must be pictured there, for
there was no longer any hope the engineer would accompany them on their
rapid and most dangerous flight. By this time the meat was cooked, and
the Indian brought a generous supply to the entrance; but no one had
any particular desire for food.
You must take some, Cummings said, when Neal and Teddy turned
away. We may not have an opportunity to eat again for many hours, and
it is necessary to be prepared for a long tramp.
The boys managed to swallow a small quantity after considerable
effort, when the final preparations were made, and by the time they
were completed the sun had set.
Night had not fully settled down when Poyor gave the signal for the
start, and one by one the fugitives crept from the cave, pushing their
bundles before them, since the passage was not sufficiently large to
admit of their walking upright.
Strap the pack on firmly, Cummings said in a whisper, when they
were in the open air. We may be obliged to run, in which case there
must be no chance of losing our baggage. You boys follow Poyor, and I
will bring up the rear.
The Indian was waiting for them to get into proper marching order,
and instantly this had been done he started at a rapid pace.
As they left the cave it seemed to Neal and Teddy that Jake had
really been abandoned, and, regardless of what he had done, they felt
that it was cruel to hurry away so soon.
It could have done no harm to wait until morning, Neal said in a
whisper, when they halted a short distance from the starting point
while Poyor went ahead to reconnoiter.
And by that time we might have found ourselves besieged. It would
have been a delay of twenty-four hours, for all our traveling must be
done in the night, Cummings replied. We have taken the only course he
left open to us, and we won't discuss the matter any more.
The march was resumed after a short delay, and not until two hours
had passed did the Indian so much as slacken his pace.
They had arrived where the forest is less dense; but the undergrowth
more tangled, and Poyor signified by gestures that the boys would be
allowed a short time of rest.
Teddy was about to ask if he could take off the pack, for the cords
were cutting into his flesh in a painful manner; but the Indian checked
him with a quick motion of the hand.
The party were now near where it was supposed a line of sentinels
was stationed, and, holding his finger to his lips, Cummings gave them
to understand that the utmost silence must be preserved.
Again Poyor went forward alone, and the tired boys sat with their
backs against a tree thinking only of Jake and his possible fate.
The silence was so profound as to be almost alarming. Here and there
amid the foliage could be seen countless fire-flies; but not even the
rustling of the leaves broke the stillness, and it did not require any
very great stretch of the imagination to fancy that the enemy were
lurking close at hand awaiting an opportunity to spring upon them.
Once a rat-like tuza ran past within a few inches of Teddy's feet,
and as the boy leaped up in affright, fancying the vengeful Indians had
discovered him, it was with difficulty he repressed a cry of alarm.
With so many horrible things to think of it was a decided relief
when Poyor came gliding noiselessly back to announce that the journey
could be continued, and once more the little party picked their way
over fallen and decaying timber, or through thickets where thorns tore
both clothing and flesh.
After a time they reached ascending ground, showing that they were
on the foot hills of the range, and the advance became more laborious,
until, shortly before sunrise, Neal declared that he could go no
We must stop, he whispered to Poyor. I have held out as long as
possible, and could not keep on half a mile more if the enemy were in
The Indian nodded his head to signify that the halt should be made,
and a few moments later he turned aside into a small ravine or cut on
the side of the hill.
Here he threw down his burden, and the boys followed the example,
paying no attention to the advantages or disadvantages of the spot as a
refuge during the day which was so near at hand.
Lying at full length on the ground, heeding not that deadly reptiles
might be close at hand, Neal and Teddy fell asleep almost immediately,
and Poyor proposed that Cummings should also seek repose.
I will watch, he said, and when the sun rises we can decide
whether it is safe to stay here.
Although the white man was weary he would not admit that the Indian
could bear more fatigue, and insisted on keeping awake until it was
learned if they should be warranted in remaining.
In perfect silence the two stood guard over the sleeping boys, and
when the morning came the important question was soon settled.
The place of refuge to which chance had brought them was admirable
both for purposes of defense and for hiding. It was a deep, narrow cut
extending thirty feet into what appeared to be a mass of sandstone, and
at the entrance was not more than ten feet wide, while over the top the
foliage grew so luxuriantly as to completely conceal them from the view
of any one who might be above.
In front the trees were small, and it was possible to see forty or
fifty yards down the side of the hill, therefore the enemy could not
approach unobserved save from the top.
It is good, Poyor said approvingly. We can remain here until
But why have we not met the sentinels which you believe to be so
They are further on. At the end of the next march we shall be in
And then comes the most difficult portion of our journey. But we
won't search for trouble, Cummings added after a short pause. Let us
have breakfast, and then one shall stand guard while the others sleep.
Poyor unpacked the provisions, awakened Neal and Teddy, and with a
view before them which, under other circumstances, would have called
forth expressions of the most lively admiration, the little party made
a hearty meal.
CHAPTER XXIV. JAKE.
It was only natural that on awakening Neal and Teddy should first
think of the engineer and his possible fate; but the other two members
of the party were so incensed against him that neither cared to speak
on the subject.
They asked concerning their location, and were told all that
Cummings and Poyor knew, and when the very satisfactory meal was
brought to a close the former said as if inviting a discussion:
We have sufficient food to last us three days if there is no game
picked up on the way; but our supply of water threatens to run short
very soon unless we can manage to refill the canteens. Are we likely to
find a stream among these hills, Poyor?
When we descend into the valley there will be no lack of plenty to
drink; but on beginning the ascent of the mountains we must be careful
not to use too much.
How long shall we probably be on the range providing every thing
Three daysperhaps four.
But we can only carry water enough for two days at the best.
Then each one must take but half as much as he needs.
Of course that would settle the matter; but it is going to be
pretty tough to travel in heat without all we want to drink.
Better that than to fall into the hands of the Chan Santa Cruz,
Poyor replied gravely.
I am willing to admit it; but at the same time I believe we can hit
upon some plan of carrying all that may be needed.
We may find the water pitchers in the forest, and by means of them
replenish the supply.
That is figuring upon a possibility, and we are by no means certain
of getting what we want.
There is plenty of time to think the matter over, for, unless we
are discovered, it will be necessary to stay here until night. Will you
You need rest more than I, Cummings replied. Lie down while I
The Indian did not hesitate; it made very little difference who
remained on watch providing the utmost vigilance was maintained, and he
stretched himself on the ground at the farther end of the ravine where
he could be sheltered from the rays of the sun.
The boys seated themselves by Cummings' side where the best view of
the surrounding country could be had; but the latter was in no mood for
further conversation, and the three remained silent for an hour or
more, when Teddy asked:
How long before you intend to call Poyor?
There is plenty of time, Cummings replied carelessly. We have all
day before us, and when I am tired he shall take his turn.
Why can't we do something? If you lie down now it will be gaining
just so much more sleep, and surely both of us can keep watch as well
as either you or he.
That is a good idea, and I'll take advantage of the offer. Call me
if you see the slightest thing suspicious, or hear any sound not made
by the birds. I don't fancy we shall be troubled; but at the same time
no one knows what may happen.
We'll take good care; you shall be told if anything larger than a
rat comes in view, Teddy replied, so don't lose time that might be
spent in sleep.
Cummings followed this advice at once, and in a few moments his
heavy breathing told that he had crossed over into slumberland.
During the next hour nothing was seen or heard by the sentinels, who
sat just within the shadow cast by the rock gazing intently down the
hill, and then Teddy whispered excitedly as he pointed to a clump of
bushes near where the trees were thickest:
Look in that direction. Can't you see the foliage is moving to and
fro more than should be the case on a calm day like this?
Neal followed with his eyes Teddy's finger, and after a close
I see what you mean: but there is probably some animal among the
bushes. At all events we shan't be a great while finding out, and it
isn't well to call Cummings until we are positive something is wrong.
During five minutes the boys watched intently, and then there could
be no question but that the leader should be awakened. They had seen a
man, or at least a portion of one, as the foliage was parted gently to
admit of his looking out, and Neal said as he raised his gun:
Call Cummings. I won't fire until he gives the word unless that
fellow comes too near.
Believing that they were about to be attacked, Teddy shook the
leader of the party vigorously as he whispered:
They've found out where we are, and one is just getting ready to
make a rush.
This information was well calculated to arouse Poyor as well as the
white man, and they ran with all speed toward the entrance to the
ravine where Neal was making ready to shoot.
He has shown himself twice since Teddy went to call you, the boy
said, and I know exactly where to fire if you believe it ought to be
Do you think he knows we are here? Cummings asked, and Neal
He has been looking out from among the bushes as if suspicious that
there was something wrong in this quarter; but I don't fancy he has
Then do not fire. It is of the greatest importance that we should
remain concealed, and to discharge a weapon now would only be to bring
down a crowd upon us. Get back to the farther end of the ravine while
Poyor and I find out what is going on.
The boys did as they were bidden, taking their station where it was
possible to see all the men were doing, and after ten minutes both were
surprised by hearing Cummings say in a tone of relief:
It is only that idiot, and he evidently mistakes us for enemies.
The best thing we can do is to let him stay where he is, for then he
can't get us into another scrape.
It's Jake! Teddy cried. I thought that arm didn't look like an
It will be worse than wicked if Cummings don't let him know who we
are. Of course he's hunting for us, and we must call to him.
As Neal spoke he stepped forward, and was about to cry out when
Cummings prevented him.
Let the fool alone, the latter said. If he joins us we shall
never be able to pass the sentinels.
You can't mean to let him wander off by himself.
Better that than give him another chance to bring the enemy down
But I won't allow it, Neal cried angrily. It is true he has been
worse than foolish twice
And the third time he'll succeed in bringing all hands up with a
sharp turn. We are where very little is needed to put us in the power
of the enemy, and we cannot afford to take such chances as he appears
to delight in.
Then Teddy and I will leave you, and run all the risk with him,
which is nothing more than fair, considering the fact that he is one of
From the look on Cummings' face it was evident he intended to make
an angry reply; but before he could speak Poyor said:
The boys are right. It is not good to desert a friend, no matter
what he has done.
Very well, Cummings said impatiently. Call him in, and during the
remainder of this journey, if we live to finish it, I will see that he
does not have a chance to work any more mischief.
Neal did not delay. Stepping out from the ravine he shouted:
Jake! Jake, come in here!
Although the engineer was so far away the cry of mingled surprise
and joy which burst from his lips could be heard distinctly, and in the
shortest possible space of time he was in the ravine shaking the boys'
What are you up to here? he asked. Looking for me?
Indeed we were doing nothing of the kind, Cummings said angrily.
After you so kindly did all you could to tell the Indians where we had
located it was necessary to make a quick move, and if I had had my way
you would never have known how near we were.
I don't suppose it will do any good to say that I am sorry? Jake
Not a bit, for this is the second time you have done all the
mischief possible. By this last performance it has been necessary to
take a course nearly three times as long as the one we intended to
travel, and no one can say what you won't do before we are out of the
I pledge my word to obey orders. The experience I have had during
the past twenty-four hours has taught me that I can't afford to take
any more chances while we are in this heathenish country.
It is a grave question whether we shall be able to get clear, and
now that you have come we must make another change, running all the
risks of traveling in the daytime, for the enemy can follow up on your
trail as readily as if you had set sign-boards all the way.
Jake understood that it would do no good to make any reply while
Cummings was in such a rage, and he very wisely retreated to the
further end of the ravine where he whispered to Teddy:
Can't you give me a bite to eat? I'm just about starved.
Haven't you had anything since leaving the cave?
Not a mouthful, and only one drink of water.
Where have you been?
Walkin' all the time. When I went away it was only with the
intention of travelin' a short distance. It didn't seem as if I had
gone a quarter of a mile before I turned to go back, an' I've been
tryin' to get there ever since.
Didn't you sleep any last night?
Not a wink. I wanted to; but some kind of a big animal came
prowlin' around the tree I'd chosen as my sleepin' apartment, and after
that I couldn't so much as shut my eyes without takin' the chances of
fallin' off the branch.
Did you meet any one?
But how came you over here so far?
It seems as if I'd had time to go across the whole country since I
saw you last. Say, give me some water and a mouthful of anything that's
eatable, an' then I'll get a little sleep before tacklin' Cummings
again. I suppose its a case of goin' way down on my marrow bones before
he'll forget what I've done.
I fancy you are right in that respect, Teddy said gravely, as he
overhauled the stores to procure the food, and he can't be blamed, for
you have put us in a very bad position without even the poor excuse of
having tried to benefit the party.
From this out I won't so much as yip, Jake replied earnestly, as
he made a vigorous attack on the roast tapir. Getting lost in such a
forest as this is enough to make a fellow's hair turn white.
If it will prevent you from playing the fool any more I shall be
satisfied, Cummings, who had come up unperceived, said emphatically.
CHAPTER XXV. ON THE RANGE.
Although it was nearly noon, the time when the natives of Yucatan
believe a siesta is absolutely necessary, Cummings insisted that the
flight should be continued without further delay.
It would not be surprising if the Chan Santa Cruz sentinels had
seen that idiotic Jake, and followed him in order to learn where we
were hiding, he said when Neal asked why they had left the ravine
during the hottest portion of the day. If the Indians should besiege
us here, it would only be a few hours before surrender must be made,
because of lack of water, therefore we can render our position no
worse, and may succeed in bettering it by going now.
Poyor evidently looked at the matter in the same light, for he made
no protest; but began at once to prepare for the tramp.
Jake, after eating a hearty meal, had stretched out at the further
end of the hiding place, and was just giving himself up to the luxury
of slumber when Teddy aroused him by saying:
Come, what are you lying here for? We are ready to start, and
there's a good deal of satisfaction in knowing that this time you'll
have to carry your share of the load.
But I've got to have a nap first. Just think how long it's been
since I've had a chance to close my eyes.
You'll have to wait awhile. Both Cummings and Poyor believe it is
absolutely necessary for us to make a quick move, and if you're not
ready they will go away alone.
Jake began to protest; but Teddy cut him short by saying:
It won't do any good to kick. They are angry because we were forced
to leave the cave, and won't spend much time coaxing.
Hurry along, Cummings shouted impatiently. We must be well up on
the range before sunset.
These words spoken in an imperative tone caused Jake to spring to
his feet very nimbly, and as he neared the entrance Poyor pushed one of
the packages toward him as he said:
We carried all last night, and it would be only right to give you a
I'd have to take it if you did, Jake replied; but as if to prevent
any different distribution of the burdens, he tied this one on quickly,
saying when it was fastened firmly to his back, Now I'm ready to tramp
as long as you do; but it would have suited me better if I'd had time
for a nap.
It will serve you right if you don't get a chance to sleep for a
week, Cummings replied sharply. Go on, Poyor leads the way as before,
and see to it that you keep close at his heels.
The fugitives soon learned that however difficult it might be to
travel through the tangled underbrush of the forest, it was as nothing
compared to clambering over the ledges of green or white rock which
formed the base of the range.
Here there was nothing to shield them from the fervent rays of the
sun, and so intense was the heat that it seemed as if they were walking
over the top of a furnace.
The only relief from the excessive warmth was when they came upon a
deep fissure in the rocks where was a pool of water, with the most
gorgeous flowers around the margin. Everywhere else the soil was sandy,
covered in places with pebbles and burning gravel. In front of them
were the mountains, bare and sterile, on which the least experienced of
the party knew no drop of water could be found.
As a matter of course both Cummings and Poyor kept strict watch over
the surrounding country lest the enemy should be creeping upon them
unawares; but when, late in the afternoon, a short halt was called,
nothing suspicious had been seen.
I don't understand how you could have wandered around twenty-four
hours without being discovered by some of the sentinels, Cummings said
to Jake, when they were reclining on the side of the mountain in the
shadow cast by an overhanging rock, where a full view of the valley
beneath could be had.
Perhaps they have given over lookin' for us, the engineer
There's no chance of that. Every square foot of the country will be
searched, and sooner or later they'll come across our trail.
How long will it take us to get over the range? Neal asked.
It is impossible to say: but we must keep moving nearly all the
time, for the small amount of water we have with us now is the last
that'll be seen until we are on the other side.
I feel as if I could drink the entire supply, and then want more,
Teddy said, the knowledge that they were cut off from all means of
adding to the store making him thirsty.
I reckon every one in the party feels much the same way, Cummings
replied grimly. If it was possible to find a stream now and then the
journey across the range would not be such a dangerous one.
With the exception of the suggestion he made when they first halted,
Jake did not join in the conversation. His eyes had closed in slumber
almost instantly after lying down, and during half an hour he was
allowed to sleep uninterruptedly.
Then Poyor awakened him, and the weary march was resumed, the
advance becoming more difficult each moment as they climbed higher up
on the range.
About two hours before nightfall the sun was hidden from view by
dense masses of dark clouds, and the boys hailed with joy this relief
from the burning heat.
If we could only have it like this all the time! Neal exclaimed.
Better the sun than the clouds, Cummings said in a tone of
anxiety, and Poyor increased his pace, no longer searching with his
eyes for the enemy; but casting quick glances from side to side as if
hunting for some particular object.
A south wind came up, and the boys were trudging along right
merrily, despite their fatigue, when it was as if a solid sheet of
water descended upon them.
There had been no warning drops to give notice of the coming storm;
but the rain literally fell in torrents, drenching the fugitives at the
It was now impossible to see twenty feet in either direction. The
driving rain and the white clouds which completely enveloped the
mountain shut out everything from view.
The enemy might have crept close upon them without being aware of
There was no place in which to shelter themselves, and the boys had
a thorough illustration of what a tropical rain-storm may be during the
time Poyor was hunting for such a place as would serve to shield them
from the flood.
Not until half an hour had passed did they make a halt, and then the
Indian led them under an overhanging ledge, in front of which was a
sheer descent of eighty feet or more to the valley beneath.
Here we can wait until the worst of the gale has blown over, he
said, as he threw down his burden and prepared to enjoy a long rest.
It is not likely we shall be able to move to-night, and there is no
fear the enemy will come upon us while the storm rages.
We shall at least be where the canteens can be filled, Cummings
replied in a tone of content, and by gaining a fresh supply of water
the journey will be robbed of half its dangers, consequently a wetting
is of but little consequence.
To have seen the mountain at this moment one would hardly have
thought that the party could have suffered from thirst. Every crevice
of the rocks was now a stream, and by reaching out in a dozen different
directions a quantity of the precious liquid could be obtained.
The only thing to cause alarm was the fact that this storm was but
the beginning of the summer season, during which rain might be expected
each day, and thus the danger of fever while crossing the low lands
would be greatly increased.
The sentinels will certainly keep under cover during such weather
as this, Cummings said in a tone of satisfaction, and we may be able
to get over the range without a hand to hand fight, as I had
Under such climatic conditions the meat would not keep sweet many
hours, and Poyor set the entire stock before his companions, saying as
he did so:
What cannot be eaten must be thrown away, therefore he is fortunate
who can now swallow enough to prevent the pangs of hunger from being
felt during the next forty-eight hours.
But we certainly won't be forced to stay here that length of time,
Neal replied. It can't rain all the day and night.
It is safe to count on a long storm, Cummings added. This is the
beginning of the bad season, and there will be a certain amount of
water fall each day.
Did you take the fact into consideration when you made ready to
visit the Silver City? Neal asked.
Of course, and if there had been nothing to prevent the carrying
out of my plans we would have been clear of the swamp by this time, or
so near the edge that but a few hours traveling must have taken us
It was worse than useless to talk of what might have been, and the
little party settled down to make themselves as comfortable as possible
under the circumstances.
Overhead the rock sheltered them from the rain; but now that every
crevice had been turned into a stream it was difficult to protect one's
self from the innumerable tiny crevices through which the water was
pouring, and each member of the party lay down in turn only to find
himself literally flooded out before it was possible to gain any rest.
The night had come, and the air, so warm a few hours previous, was
Jake proposed that a fire be built, providing he could find a
sufficient quantity of dry wood; but both Cummings and Poyor decided
against it in a very emphatic manner.
Although we have been traveling for the past six or eight hours
where any one in the valley might see us, we are not so insane as to
build a beacon here that our pursuers may be guided to this halting
Cummings spoke in a petulant tone, and fearing that he might add
something regarding the fact that if Jake had behaved himself all would
now be in the cave, Teddy hastened to say:
If we can't build a fire why not spend the time walking, for it
will be impossible to sleep with this rain beating down upon us?
It would take a better man than Poyor to lead the way in the
darkness and storm. Here we must stay, at least until morning, and then
unless the rain has ceased falling, it will be a case of going hungry
Finding that there was to be no change in the condition of affairs,
Jake had crawled into the further end of the shelter where, with the
water dripping down upon him he was trying his best to sleep, and Neal
curled up beside him.
Poyor, regardless of the weather, remained just outside the rock as
if on guard, while Cummings, a few paces behind him, sat upon a
fragment of stone listening intently, and Teddy wisely concluded to
find a resting place somewhere, for he was so weary that repose seemed
absolutely necessary, more especially since there could be no doubt but
that the journey would be continued immediately the storm cleared away.
Selecting a spot where some portion of his body could be kept dry,
he lay down, and, regardless of all discomforts was soon oblivious to
everything around him.
CHAPTER XXVI. THE PURSUIT.
During this night of discomforts the boys and Jake succeeded in
gaining more rest than one would have thought possible under the
The temperature had fallen so much that, in comparison with the heat
of the day, it was positively cold; but by lying close together and
covering themselves with half a dozen enormous leaves from a vine which
encircled the rock, they managed to pass the long hours without
Whenever Neal, who awakened very often, opened his eyes he saw
Cummings and Poyor standing near at hand like statues, and the natural
supposition was that they did not seek repose even to the slight extent
of sitting down.
Once he called to the white man, proposing to do his share of the
watching; but the offer was positively declined.
I could not rest even if I should lie down, he replied in a
whisper. There are too many chances that the Chan Santa Cruz Indians
may creep upon us under cover of this mist, and both Poyor and myself
are needed. Sleep if you can, so that we may be prepared for a hard
As it proved, however, these excessive precautions were useless. The
rain continued to fall steadily and in great volume until daybreak, and
then all hands prepared for another tramp, for each one was so
completely drenched that a little water more or less could not make
The breakfast was by no means a hearty one. The moisture had spoiled
the roast tapir, and even the remaining totopostes were so damp as to
be decidedly unpleasant to the sight as well as the taste.
Jake shut his eyes and ate a small quantity: but neither Neal nor
Teddy could force the food down, and, in view of the fact that there
was little likelihood of finding any game on the summit of the
mountain, it seemed reasonably certain they would be forced to fast a
The burdens, soaked with water, had increased in weight very
materially, and again Poyor overhauled them in order to throw away yet
more of the load.
All the fishing tackle, two extra suits of clothes belonging to the
boys, the spoiled provisions and, in fact, nearly everything except the
ammunition and weapons, was left behind when the ascent of the mountain
It was not yet time for the sun to rise; but the gray light of
coming day served to show the way, and Poyor strode on in advance at a
pace which would have soon winded the boys had Cummings not ordered him
to proceed more slowly.
We must keep on without a halt until noon, he said, and it would
be bad policy to use a portion of the party up before the journey has
Even at the best pace possible the progress was by no means rapid,
owing to the obstructions in the path. Here it was necessary to make a
long detour that an overhanging ledge might be avoided, and there they
were literally forced to scramble among boulders of every size at
imminent risk of breaking limbs or being precipitated to the valley
Before half an hour had passed the rain ceased falling as rapidly as
it had begun, and as the sun appeared the clouds at the foot of the
mountain were dispersed.
Poyor halted and turned to look toward the valley.
Almost at the same instant a loud shout was heard and Cummings
uttered an exclamation of dismay, as a party of at least a hundred
Indians burst into view about a mile below.
They halted rather than run the risk of passing us during the
storm, he said half to himself. Inasmuch as the slowest of that crowd
can travel two yards to our one we are likely to be overhauled in a
very short time.
It is the end, Poyor said gravely. There is little chance of
escape, and none of running from them.
Do you propose that we shall stand and fight? Cummings asked.
There is nothing else to be done.
But we have no show against them.
As much as to run.
Here in the open they can soon surround us.
We will be able to throw up a line of these rocks before they get
here, and because it is in the open we can hold them back a few hours.
There was plenty of material near at hand with which to make a
shelter sufficient to protect them from the poisoned arrows, and after
a few seconds' hesitation Cummings saw that Poyor's plan was the only
one which could be carried into execution.
Set to work lively, boys, he shouted, as he began to throw up the
smaller boulders in a circle. Everything depends on our getting a fort
ready before they come within shooting distance.
There was no necessity of urging the boys or Jake to labor
industriously. They could see the enemy and hear their yells of triumph
at having tracked the game so successfully, therefore not a second was
It seemed as if Poyor had the strength of a dozen men in his arms.
He lifted huge boulders which the remainder of the party together could
hardly have moved from their resting place; flung the smaller ones
around as if they were nothing more than pebbles, and when the circle
had been raised four feet high, set about digging away the sand from
the center in order to increase the depth.
The preparations were not yet completed when the foremost of the
pursuers came in view from beneath a ledge about forty yards away, and
he said to Cummings:
Three guns are enough to hold them back while Jake and I finish the
work here. Do not hesitate to shoot, for they will stop at nothing when
the time comes that we can hold out no longer.
Teddy, you sit there, Cummings said, as he pointed to an aperture
in the wall which had been left as a loop-hole. Neal, you're stationed
next to him, and I'll hold this place. Now work lively, and pick off
every one of those yelling villains that comes within range.
He discharged both barrels of his weapon in rapid succession as he
ceased speaking, and the two leaders disappeared immediately; but
whether they had been hit by the leaden messengers, or only frightened,
no one could say.
Teddy raised his gun as a third man pressed forward, and, as he
afterward confessed, closed his eyes while pulling the trigger, for to
fire deliberately at a human being was something inexpressibly
Even if he did not hit the mark the bullet must have gone so near
the man as to frighten him, for when Neal discharged his weapon at a
fourth Indian the entire party beat a retreat, disappearing behind the
They can't send an arrow from that distance with any accuracy of
aim, Cummings said in a tone of satisfaction, therefore we may count
on keeping them back until night, at all events.
And then what? Teddy asked with a shudder.
That is something we won't talk about yet awhile, was the grave
reply. We've got at least twelve hours before us, providing they don't
catch us napping, and at such a time as this it is a much longer lease
of life than I expected.
Teddy and Neal looked at each other in silence. The situation must
indeed be desperate if Cummings could count on remaining at liberty
only one day, and then
In fancy Teddy could see them led back to the Silver City as
prisoners. He almost heard the strains of music while they were marched
into the temple amid the slender, silver-tipped columns, with the
throng of people following to witness the torture and final stroke
which should relieve them from suffering.
What is the matter? Neal whispered. You have turned as white as a
I was thinking of what will happen when those murderers get us in
Don't do anything of the kind; it is too terrible. I will die here
fighting rather than be taken prisoner.
And is that all the hope we have left?
To be killed here? Perhaps not; but it is far preferable to the
torture Poyor and Cummings say is sure to be our portion in case of
Neal's face was also pale; but there was a certain look of
determination about it which told he had made up his mind for the
worst, and would struggle manfully to the end.
Jake on the contrary, was nearly paralyzed with fear. He understood
now if never before all the trouble he had brought upon his companions,
first by making their presence in the city known, and, lastly, by
betraying the whereabouts of the party when he ventured out of the
cave. That the Indians would not be turned from their purpose he
realized fully, and there could be no mistaking the desperate condition
in which he had placed all hands.
He was supposed to be aiding Poyor; but, as a matter of fact he
could do little more than look out over the fortifications, fearing
each moment that the enemy would make a sudden dash.
The particular thought in the minds of all was as to what might be
done in the way of replenishing the larder, for now the siege had
really begun the question of how food could be procured was a serious
matter, more especially since no one had eaten what would be worthy the
name of breakfast.
Neither Cummings nor Poyor feared a direct assault. In their opinion
it was only a question of holding the enemy in check, and to this alone
did they pay any attention.
Cummings watched over the line of rocks, and at the slightest show
of a living target discharged his weapon; but, so far as could be
ascertained, without inflicting any injury upon those who were ready to
deal out death at the first opportunity.
It is only a question of holding back until the night comes, when
they can ascend the mountain, and, being above us, be able to shoot us
down without exposing themselves, Teddy said as he sat by the aperture
watching for a sight of the enemy.
We will wait until sunset before we give up entirely, Neal
replied, in a tone that showed he had lost all hope. Then, unless
Poyor can devise some plan for escape, we shall have to stand a hand to
hand fight which can result in but one way.
You admit that we can't escape? Teddy replied interrogatively.
Five against a hundred won't be able to stand very long.
We can at least hold our own a few hours, and when the end comes we
will be found fighting.
This was poor consolation for a fellow who hoped his friend might
see some better way out of the difficulty, and Teddy settled back to
watch for an opportunity to discharge his weapon with effect; but
feeling that it was vain labor so far as the ultimate result was
During the forenoon, while every crevice in the rocks was running
with water, Poyor filled the canteens, and when this work was done he
insisted that Jake should continue to aid him in lowering the level
behind the line of rocks; but the engineer was, to use his own words,
completely played out, and the necessary work was neglected until he
could gain a certain amount of rest, which, under the circumstances,
every other number of the party was willing to forego for a time.
CHAPTER XXVII. AT BAY.
When the Indian had scraped the sand away to the solid rock, thereby
deepening the enclosure at least twelve inches, he ceased work, and,
seating himself by Cummings' side, prepared to do his share of the
By this time the assailants had become convinced that it was useless
to expose themselves to the murderous fire which could not be returned
with any possibility of injuring the white men, and they remained under
I believe we might sneak away from them, Neal said, after looking
fifteen or twenty minutes at the ledge beneath which the enemy had
taken refuge, without seeing so much as a man's head. They think we
will shoot them down, and might keep under cover while we were
Then you believe they do not know what we are about? Cummings
How can it be possible if no one comes out to reconnoiter?
Look down the valley.
Following with their eyes the direction of Cummings' outstretched
finger the boys saw a party of Indians far down the mountain side out
of range, traveling rapidly in the opposite direction.
They are running away! Teddy cried gleefully. Our guns were too
much for them.
Do you believe there are as many in that crowd as we saw coming up
Teddy gazed again, and this time the look of joy and relief faded
from his face.
No, he replied slowly, only about half as many.
And the remainder are under the ledge ready to come out at the
first good opportunity.
But what are those fellows doing?
Going out of range where every movement we make can be seen without
risk of being shot at, and when the night comes they will circle around
That this supposition was correct could be seen a few moments later
when the party halted in full view, and disposed of themselves in such
places as the bushes afforded any shade from the sun's hot rays.
They are taking things mighty easy, Neal said after a long pause,
during which he watched the enemy intently.
What is to prevent? Cummings replied. Time is of no especial
object to them providing we can be captured finally, and just now we
are situated very much like rats in a trap.
I wonder what would be the result if one of us should show
himself? Teddy said musingly.
You shall soon see. Poyor, walk a short distance up the mountain,
and let the boys learn how well we are watched.
The Indian did as he was requested, and had hardly left the
fortification when those in the valley made a series of signals to the
men above, and instantly Cummings had another opportunity to empty his
weapon at a living target as several men sprang out from beneath the
Now you have some slight idea of what the result would be if we
should attempt to run away, he said while re-loading the gun.
But what is to be gained by staying here if you are certain we
shall be surrounded? Wouldn't it be better to have the fight out when
it is possible to see what we are doing?
Yes, decidedly; but I prefer to wait longer. While there's life
there's hope, and before sunset something may happen to give us the
Poyor came back leisurely, and as he re-entered the circle of rocks
those in the valley settled down contentedly once more.
During this conversation Jake had been sleeping soundly; but now the
sun shone full upon him, and the heat was so great that he was forced
to change his position, saying as he did so:
In a couple of hours more we shall be roasted to a turn.
That isn't the worst that may befall us, Cummings replied,
evidently pleased at an opportunity to increase the engineer's fears.
But it seems as if we might make a try for some game. I'm very
You are at liberty to do as you please, because it is not possible
to work us any further injury. According to your belief the Chan Santa
Cruz Indians are such peaceable fellows that they might allow you to
hunt in the valley awhile.
What's the use of roughing into me now? I know I've made a fool of
myself twice; but I'm in the same hole with the rest.
That doesn't make our situation any the more bearable, and when we
think how it was brought about it is only natural to feel sore. Even
now you insist on taking rest when the others are working.
But I traveled steadily for twenty-four hours, and haven't had half
as much sleep as the remainder of the party.
What about last night?
Jake made no reply. He considered himself abused because Cummings
persisted in talking about what had been done, when he believed the
matter should be dropped after the fault was acknowledged.
Another hour passed. The sun was directly overhead, and the heat
seemed excessive. There was no longer any shadow cast by the rocks, and
the sand was so hot as to be painful to the touch.
There is no reason why you boys should remain on guard, Cummings
finally said. The Indians will not make a move before afternoon, and
it is equally certain we shall not get a chance to shoot at those under
We may as well sit here, for no fellow could sleep in this oven,
Teddy replied; but Poyor showed what might be done, by lying down near
the front wall and closing his eyes.
At the end of two hours there was no further change in the condition
of affairs. Poyor continued to sleep, the boys and Cummings remained on
guard, and Jake sat leaning his head against the rocks while the
perspiration ran down his face in tiny streams.
Then, as on the previous evening, the clouds began to gather, and
Cummings said in a tone of satisfaction as he gazed toward the sky:
There's evidently no danger that we shall suffer from thirst, for
another storm is coming up, and while it lasts we may see some chance
of giving those fellows the slip.
But you didn't dare to travel last night when it was raining,
Very true; but that was at a time when we were not positive the
enemy were so near. Now they are close at our heels we shall be
warranted in running many risks which, twenty-four hours ago, would
have been most imprudent.
In a very short time the sun was hidden from view; a cooling wind
blew across the mountain, and every member of the sad visaged party
experienced a wonderful sense of relief.
Poyor arose to his feet like one refreshed, and Jake bestirred
himself sufficiently to propose that he relieve Neal or Teddy a short
You can sleep now that the sun doesn't shine, he said, and I
promise to keep strict watch.
After some hesitation Teddy accepted the offer while he paced to and
fro to rest his cramped and aching limbs, and Poyor consulted with
Cummings relative to an attempt at flight when the storm should come.
His idea was that they could not be any worse off by making one
effort to reach the summit of the range, even if the desired result was
not attained, and after considerable discussion the white man agreed to
It is barely possible that we may get on all right, and the
situation is so desperate that almost any change must be for the
better, he said. We will wait half an hour or so, and then start if
the enemy have made no move meanwhile.
The threatened storm was not long delayed.
In less than an hour it was upon them in all its fury, and Cummings
said sharply as he pressed nearer the front of the fortification:
Now we need all the eyes in the party. Keep a sharp watch, and fire
at the first moving thing you see.
On this occasion thunder and lightning accompanied the wind and
rain, and by the glare of the flashes it was possible to see as if at
Never before had the boys witnessed such a terrible tempest. The
entire heavens seemed ablaze at times, and the peals which echoed and
re-echoed from one point to another appeared to shake the mountain.
The wind was so powerful that even Poyor could not stand against it,
and Cummings said in a tone of deepest disappointment:
Unless we choose to venture into the valley again flight is out of
the question. We must stay here and take what the Indians care to give
us when the storm clears away.
He had hardly ceased speaking when a flash of lightning nearly
blinded them; the earth shook most decidedly before the thunder peal
came, and then it was as if all nature was in convulsion.
The rocks forming the fortification were precipitated down the
mountain; the little party were hurled violently forward, and then
intense darkness and the most profound silence ensued.
Teddy reached out his hand to touch Neal; but the latter was not
Neal! Neal! he shouted again and again, and several moments
elapsed before he heard, as if far away, an answering cry.
Where are you, Teddy?
Here, on the side of the hill. Come this way.
I can't. I'm nearly buried in the sand.
From the direction of the voice Teddy knew his friend had been
thrown quite a distance down the hill, and he cried:
Keep on shouting so I can find you.
Don't move! Wait for another flash of lightning!
It was Cummings who had spoken, and an instant later Jake was heard
begging for help.
[Illustration: The little party were hurled violently forward, and
then intense darkness ensued.]
All the rocks of the fort must be on top of me. Will somebody help
pull them away.
The rain was yet falling in torrents: but the electrical disturbance
had ceased entirely.
That something terrible had occurred all knew; but what it was no
one could say.
When Jake implored some one to aid him the second time, Poyor cried:
Let each remain motionless. I will find the engineer. The earth has
opened here, and I am on the brink of a chasm.
This order was obeyed, and the boys knew by the sound of the
Indian's voice that he was making his way toward Jake.
At the end of ten minutes he shouted:
There has been no harm done here. We will come to you.
The boys spoke from time to time to guide him, regardless of the
fact that they might also be calling the enemy, and after what seemed
to be a very long while the party were re-united at the spot where Neal
was, as he had said, nearly buried in the sand.
CHAPTER XXVIII. THE CATASTROPHE.
To extricate Neal from his disagreeable position was a long, but not
a difficult operation.
It appeared as if the earth Poyor had dug up from the middle of the
fortification was all heaped above him in such a manner that he could
do nothing in his own behalf, and it was only necessary to dig this
What could have happened to upset things so thoroughly? he asked,
staggering to his feet, and being obliged to sit down very suddenly
lest the wind should blow him down.
As near as I can guess there has been a land slide, Cummings
replied. I believe it began at the ledge under which the Indians were
hidden, and how far it extends no one can so much as guess until it is
possible to get a view of the country.
Are you not afraid of an attack? Teddy asked.
Not while this storm is raging. Stand up for a moment, and then you
can see whether those fellows would make much headway trying to reach
The wind was blowing furiously, and the rain falling in great
volume. Now and then the little party cowering close together for
mutual protection, would be struck by a perfect shower of pebbles and
wet sand with such force that, had they been in a standing position,
all would have been overthrown, and it really required considerable
exertion to remain in one spot.
The ammunition, or rather, the greater portion of it, had been left
near the front wall of the fort, and the chances were that it was
destroyed by the water or scattered beyond finding.
Teddy was the first to think of this misfortune, and he said in a
tone of despair:
There's little hope now that we can hold the enemy in check even
for an hour, in case they should make an attack, for I don't believe we
have twenty cartridges left.
And but two guns, for I lost mine when I was blown down the side of
the mountain, Neal added.
Don't make the mistake of searching for trouble, Cummings
interrupted. It is sufficient to know that we are alive and uninjured.
The Indians will not bother us for some time.
Not until considerably past midnight did the rain cease falling; but
the wind storm still continued, and Poyor said, speaking for the first
time since the party were united:
It will not be possible to leave here until sunrise. Those who can
sleep should try to do so, for we may have a hard day's work before us
I should as soon think of sleeping during a battle, Teddy replied
with a shudder. The suspense is worse than actual danger.
What can you be afraid of just now? Jake asked.
At this particular moment, nothing: but I feel positive that when
the sun rises we shall find ourselves surrounded by the Indians.
This was not a pleasant subject of conversation, and it was dropped
as if by mutual consent.
The wind seemed icy cold, and the fugitives nestled closer together
for protection against the blast, counting the slowly passing moments
until heralds of the coming dawn appeared in the sky.
Before it was sufficiently light to distinguish surrounding objects
the wind lulled, and, standing erect each looked anxiously down the
side of the mountain, waiting impatiently for the rising of the sun.
As the misty clouds which veiled the top of the range drifted away,
an exclamation of astonishment burst from the lips of all.
Where, a few hours previous, had been a band of men eager to capture
or slay the white strangers, was now only a yawning chasm.
Beginning at the ledge of rocks it appeared as if a giant hand had
rent the side of the mountain apart, throwing the huge mass of earth
into the valley, uprooting or crushing trees, and making desolate for
many hundred yards what had been a perfect garden of trees, flowers and
Why, there must have been an earthquake! Jake exclaimed when the
first burst of astonishment passed away.
Hardly as bad as that, Cummings replied. I fancy the lightning
struck the ledge, and then a regular land slide followed.
Do you suppose the Indians are buried under that pile of earth and
Unless they understood what damage might be done by such storms
they must be, and it stands us in hand to get away from this spot
before others can arrive.
It is terrible to think of so many being killed, Teddy said
mournfully, and Jake asked sharply:
Are you sorry we've got a chance for escape?
Certainly not; but no matter who they were, one can't help feeling
shocked at such a catastrophe.
It is not well for us to stay here, Poyor said before any reply
could be made. While looking at what we believe to be the grave of the
Chan Santa Cruz army, they may be climbing the mountain to cut us off.
You are right, Poyor. Boys, look around for the ammunition and
Neal's gun, and whether we find anything or not we must be on our
journey in five minutes.
Cummings led in the search, which resulted in nothing, for even the
boulders which formed the fort were hidden from view by the sand and
gravel, and then Poyor advanced on the way upward once more.
Although it seemed certain the enemy had been destroyed the Indian
did not neglect any precaution. He traveled further in advance than
usual and from time to time cast searching glances toward the valley
where, in all probability, so many lay dead.
Now every member of the party were suffering for food. It was
thirty-six hours since they had satisfied their hunger, and during the
greater portion of this time a large amount of labor had been
I believe I could eat an iguana, and that's the most disagreeable
looking reptile I've ever seen, Teddy whispered to Neal, and the
latter replied gravely:
It doesn't seem right to complain about being hungry after escaping
from such a terrible situation; but at the same time I'm willing to
confess that almost anything would taste mighty good just now.
The travelers were nearing the summit of the mountain where not so
much as a blade of grass could be seen, and there was nothing for it
but to endure hunger, as they were forced to, the heat, which, as the
day advanced, seemed almost insupportable.
It was about noon when the little party stood on the highest point
of land, and, looking over a long stretch of valley and plain covered
with verdure of the deepest green, saw the blue waters of the Caribbean
sea, the crests of the waves sparkling in the sunlight like jewels set
in sapphire-colored enamel.
Never had the ocean seemed so beautiful and friendly as now, after
the long, dangerous tramp, and the boys forgot all privations and
discomforts as they gazed at the broad expanse of water.
If the Sea Dream was afloat and anchored off there how quickly we
could get home, Teddy cried.
Even allowing that nothing happens to prevent our traveling ten
hours a day, it will be a week before you can stand on the shore of the
sea, Cummings replied, glancing backward as if regretting that he was
about to descend the range which would separate him from the wonders
and wealth of the Silver City.
At least, we have nothing more to fear from the Indians, and there
is now good reason to believe we shall get home at some time, which is
more than either of us could have said truthfully last night.
We can't have that satisfaction, and Cummings turned to resume the
march. The Chan Santa Cruz frequently go to the coast, and there are
plenty living near by who may try to make matters disagreeable for us.
But we must not stand here speculating; it is necessary to gain the
forest below before finding anything for supper, and I'm free to
confess that either fish or meat will be very acceptable.
The thought of food caused all to forget their fatigue, and the
descent was begun, the progress being as easy and rapid as it had
previously been slow and difficult.
The afternoon was not more than half spent when they reached the
fringe of bushes marking the forest line, and an hour later the little
party were shielded from the rays of the sun by the wide spreading
branches of enormous trees.
Now the advance was more of a hunting excursion than the ending of a
day's journey, and each member of the band searched among the foliage
for something eatable.
Poyor was the one who finally succeeded in replenishing the larder,
and he did it in a right royal manner.
While Neal and Teddy were looking for a bird which the latter
declared he had caught a glimpse of among the leaves, the Indian
started off at full speed, returning in a short time with two
Good for you! Cummings shouted joyfully. We'll have a first-class
supper now, with plenty to spare for breakfast. How did you manage to
An Indian is a better hunter than the white man, Poyor said with a
smile as he set about building a fire.
Do you intend to eat those horrid looking things? Teddy asked in
Indeed I do, and after you get a taste of the old fellow's flesh,
roasted in his own shell, you'll say it goes ahead of everything except
a morsel of fat from the back of Mr. Armadillo.
A small spring bubbled out of the ground beneath a huge logwood
tree, giving rise to what would probably be a large stream by the time
it reached the coast, and here it was proposed to spend the night.
To protect themselves from possible visits from wild beasts Cummings
set about collecting fuel for camp-fires, and in this work the others
assisted while the Indian played the part of cook.
While his game was being roasted Poyor searched the forest in the
immediate vicinity, and succeeded in finding a quantity of yellowish
green fruit which Cummings explained to his companions were mangoes.
I thought it was necessary to cultivate mangoes, Teddy said in
Not here, although it was originally introduced from India; but it
took so kindly to the soil that one finds the fruit even in the heart
of the primitive forest. Except for the odor of turpentine, I think it
the most pleasing of all that nature has bestowed.
Just at that moment the boys were more interested in what Poyor was
doing than regarding the fruits of Yucatan, and instantly he pulled the
first armadillo from the fire they were ready to be served.
During ten minutes after receiving his share of the meat on a broad
leaf, every member of the party ate ravenously, and then Jake said with
a sigh of content, as he helped himself to another generous portion:
I declare it is almost worth while going without grub in order to
know how good it tastes.
I'd rather eat less at a time, and have my meals more regularly,
Teddy said with a laugh, as he made an attack upon a pile of mangoes.
Then Cummings began to discuss with Poyor the best course to pursue
while journeying to the coast, and the others listened in silence, for
upon the decision arrived at might depend all their chances of ever
reaching home again.
CHAPTER XXIX. A FIERCE CONFLICT.
That Poyor believed the more serious danger was over, the boys
understood from the fact that camp-fires were to be kept burning during
the night, something which would never have been allowed had he feared
an attack from the Chan Santa Cruz.
Then again, the Indian no longer refused to converse lest the duty
of the sentinel should be neglected; but talked readily and at
considerable length with Cummings regarding the course to be pursued.
He also indulged in the luxury of a smoke, something he had not done
since leaving the white man's hut, and, taking their cue from him, the
remainder of the party gave themselves up to absolute repose both of
body and mind, therefore because of these reasons if for no other, this
particular halting place was afterward remembered as the most pleasant
they knew during the long, fruitless journey.
When Cummings and Poyor finally decided upon the line of march for
the following day, the twilight was rapidly deepening into the gloom of
night, and the latter lighted the fires, thus making a circle of flame
completely around the party.
Is it really necessary to have such a blaze, or are you indulging
in it simply because it has been so long since we dared allow our
whereabouts to be known? Teddy asked, as he sat with his chin on his
knees gazing at the burning wood.
We are guarding against brute enemies. It is said that jaguars are
plenty in this section, and there can be no question but snakes abound.
These embers, which require only labor to keep alive, will do very much
toward saving our small stock of ammunition.
Jake did not appear disposed to join in any conversation since
dinner. He had thrown himself on the ground near the foot of a gigantic
tree, and, from the expression on his face, Neal fancied he was
regretting that they had not succeeded in bringing away any treasure
from the Silver City.
What are you thinking of? he asked.
Only figgerin' out what a 'royal excursion this would 'a been if
I'd got that image I tried so hard for.
If you had succeeded in carrying it outside the city we should not
be here now, Cummings said gravely. With that lump of silver added to
our load I fancy we would be prisoners at this moment if they allowed
us to live so long.
I reckoned you'd take the disappointment harder, after spendin' so
much time gettin' ready for the trip.
Of what use would it be for me to complain? In view of all that has
happened we have been remarkably fortunate in getting away alive, and
consequently there is very much to be thankful for.
Do you think that if I'd obeyed orders right up to the handle
anything more could have been done?
Not in the matter of carrying away treasure, for all hope fled the
moment our boat was discovered. You simply caused us additional
hardships, and have put an end to my visiting the place again for many
What? Teddy cried in surprise. Are you still thinking of entering
the city again?
I am, most certainly. It shall be my life work to discover the
history of these people, and tell to the world the meaning of the
inscriptions on the monuments of Copan. This failure has simply been a
misfortune, not anything which will prevent my continuing the labor.
Do you count on asking others to go with you?
No, Cummings replied, with a meaning glance toward Jake. If I
ever succeed the honor will be divided among Poyor and myself alone.
Then, as on the day when he first broached the subject, he reviewed
all that is known to the white race concerning the buried cities of
Central America and of the descendants of that mighty race of people
whose once high state of civilization cannot be questioned. When he
concluded Jake indulged in but one remark before composing himself for
It don't make any difference to me whether the inscriptions can
ever be read or not; but a fellow feels sore to think that he had a
chance of scoopin' in enough to set himself up in great shape, an' was
prevented when the precious metal was under his very fingers.
Have you any particular reason for going to Progresso? Neal asked
after a pause.
I have most decidedly. Since getting you in a scrape which nearly
cost your lives, it is only right I should see you homeward bound.
Couldn't we find our way alone?
That would be impossible even for me. Poyor is the only guide, and
when he has done his work you sail on the steamer, while he and I
return to the little hut, there to wait for another opportunity of
getting inside the Silver City.
After this Cummings appeared disinclined to talk any more, and the
boys lay down near Jake for the slumber which both needed so badly.
Although their eyelids were heavy with sleep, it was not possible to
lose consciousness immediately. Now their safety was in a measure
assured, the thoughts of Cummings' great disappointment, and the lost
opportunity of making themselves famous, came to mind more forcibly
than ever before, causing both to remain awake after all save Poyor
were breathing heavily.
This won't do, Teddy said half to himself. The mysteries of the
Silver City are not to be solved by us, and the sooner we go to sleep
the better condition we shall be in for to-morrow's tramp.
Before Neal could reply the Indian stole softly toward them and
If you would see the father of serpents, sit up and look toward the
spring; but make no noise.
The boys did as they were directed and could distinguish by the
glare of the camp-fires the largest snake either had ever seen.
It was a boa, moving lazily toward the water course as if conscious
that its own wonderful strength was sufficient to enable it to cope
successfully with all enemies.
Before it was possible to form any estimate as to the serpent's size
another stranger appeared on the scene, causing Poyor to raise his gun
ready to shoot.
This visitor was a jaguar, who had evidently come out for a drink,
and the unusual light prevented him from seeing the boa. He moved
warily forward, ready to meet an attack, and probably trying to make up
his mind whether or not this was a favorable opportunity to get a
particularly good supper, when the boa darted upon him.
Taken by surprise from the rear, the snake had one complete turn
around the animal's body before there was any show of resistance, and
then ensued a most thrilling conflict.
The boys could see that the boa's tail was fastened firmly around a
tree, thus giving him a purchase such as the jaguar would have
difficulty in overcoming.
Using both claws and teeth the animal defended himself bravely for
ten minutes, and then it could be seen that the rapidly tightening
folds of the serpent were hampering his movements. He no longer
struggled so desperately; but uttered shrill cries of alarm which were
responded to from a distance.
His mate is coming, Poyor whispered. Now we shall see a royal
It was as he had said. A few moments later another jaguar appeared,
and the boys could understand that the boa was making haste to crush
the first victim before meeting the second enemy.
It was possible to see the muscles of the serpents' tail stand out
as the pressure was increased, and then could be plainly heard the
breaking bones while the victim uttered wild screams of agony.
The female jaguar had but just come into view when her mate was
killed, and she darted at the serpent with a yell of rage which was
answered by an angry hiss.
Whether the boa was taken at a disadvantage in the beginning of the
fight, or had become so weary with its previous exertions as to render
it incapable of putting forth all its powers could not be told; but
certain it is that the second battle was short.
The beast caught it by the neck at the third attempt, and the
lashing of the monster's tail told that he was beaten.
He killed one jaguar easily; but this last beast will soon finish
him, Teddy whispered, and almost before the words had been uttered the
battle was virtually at an end.
Having relinquished its hold of the tree, and unable to encircle the
animal's body with its deadly folds, the boa's strength was useless,
and from that time on only the snarling of the jaguar and the threshing
of the serpent could be heard until the fight came to an end.
What are you going to do? Neal asked as Poyor raised his weapon
when the silence told that the conflict had been decided in favor of
the weaker party.
Kill the beast. There are too many of her kind already, and I shall
be doing a favor to those who come after us by reducing the number.
Don't shoot; she has proved her right to live, if the theory of the
survival of the fittest be correct, and after such a battle it would be
cowardly to kill her.
If, on the morrow, you should find yourself suddenly seized by her,
there would not be so much pity in your heart, Poyor replied, and
before Neal could make any reply the animal had vanished in the
There is no longer any question of what should be done, the Indian
said regretfully, after a pause, as he lowered his weapon. There is a
fine skin for those who care to save it.
It can lay there for all I care, Teddy replied with a laugh. Fur
in this kind of weather isn't pleasant even to think of. Perhaps in the
morning Cummings will fancy it worth his while to carry the hide away.
The ants will have devoured it before the sun rises, and since it
has no value for you it is well to go to sleep. One of the white men
can call you when it is time to stand your share of the watch.
Is guard to be kept all night?
It would be unsafe for all to sleep. If the jaguars had not met the
serpent what would have been the result to those whose eyes were closed
There is no necessity of saying anything more, Neal replied with a
laugh. We will be ready when our turn comes.
Then, as soon as they could compose themselves sufficiently, the
boys surrendered to the demand of slumber, and Cummings must have stood
their watch himself, since they were not awakened until another day had
Breakfast was already cooked. On a number of gigantic leaves the
Indian had spread such food as he could procure: Mangoes without stint;
a roasted bird shaped not unlike a goose, and several small, white
cones which tasted like radishes.
Except for such articles as bread or vegetables, it was a meal which
would have tempted an epicure and to it all hands did full justice.
When their hunger had been satisfied, Cummings said as he shouldered
one of the two remaining guns and took up a greater portion of the
It is time we were moving. We can travel reasonably slow, in order
that no one may become exhausted; but not an hour must be lost. The way
before us is long, even after we reach the sea-shore, and each day
wasted is just so much delay in reaching our destination.
Now that we are really homeward bound you will have no reason to
complain because our powers of endurance are too slight, Neal replied,
as he took up the remaining weapon, and the march was immediately
CHAPTER XXX. A WELCOME CHANGE.
While they were on the mountain where no shade could be found the
boys thought that it would be a wonderful relief to gain the shelter of
the forest; but after traveling an hour they realized that the heat was
nearly as great in one place as another.
Among the trees the rays of the sun did not beat directly down upon
them; but to balance this every breath of wind was shut out, and the
atmosphere seemed stifling.
The perspiration rolled from their faces in streams, and so great
was the humidity that it seemed as if it would be a positive relief to
be in the sunlight.
I reckon you've got a better opinion of mountain travel by this
time, Cummings said laughingly, as Neal involuntarily halted. In such
a climate the shade of the trees is a positive discomfort.
We can stand it, Teddy replied bravely. Every step takes us just
so much nearer the coast, and one glimpse of the sea will repay us for
all our exertions.
It seemed as if even Poyor was affected by the heat. He no longer
strode forward at such a rapid pace; but lagged from time to time as
badly as either member of the party.
Cummings urged first one and then another on until about eleven
o'clock in the forenoon, and then he said, coming to a full stop by the
side of the stream they had been following:
We can now afford to indulge in a siesta, and shall probably travel
all the better for frequent halts. Later in the day one of us will do a
little hunting, and the march need not come to an end until it is no
longer light enough for us to see the way.
To this very welcome proposition no one had any objections to offer,
and in the shortest possible space of time only the sentinel, which on
this occasion proved to be Teddy, was left awake.
It was dull work sitting there listening to the droning of the
insects; but no member of the party could have kept watch more
conscientiously than did he, and when it seemed impossible to hold his
eyes open any longer he paced to and fro to prevent them from closing.
With the exception of the usual noises of the forest, it was as if
all nature slumbered, and he had just begun to think that standing
watch was a useless precaution when an unusual rustling among the
foliage caused him to start in surprise.
His first thought was that the Chan Santa Cruz had followed them
over the range; but an instant later this was shown to be a mistake, as
four copper-colored men, bearing no resemblance to the inhabitants of
the Silver City, however, passed through the forest a short distance
away without apparently being aware of the proximity of the white
To arouse Poyor was but the work of an instant, for it was only
necessary to touch him gently on the shoulder when he sprang to his
There are some men over there, Teddy whispered as he pointed in
the direction taken by the strangers.
The Indian started through the underbrush as noiselessly as a
serpent, and as he disappeared the boy awakened Cummings.
Were they armed? the latter asked, after the short story had been
I didn't notice. My only idea was to arouse you and Poyor, and
there wasn't much time for an examination.
It can't be that they have followed us over the range, Cummings
said, half to himself, as he seized his weapon and made sure it was
loaded. It won't do any harm to be prepared, therefore you had best
get the others on their feet; we may have to trust to our legs.
It was not an easy matter to awaken the remainder of the party
without causing an outcry; but by first covering the mouth of each with
his hand Teddy finally succeeded, and then stood on the alert with them
as Cummings made his way in the direction taken by Poyor to assist in
One, two, three minutes of suspense followed, and then came a cry
which set all their fears at rest. It was the salutation of friends,
and an instant later Cummings shouted:
Do not fear; we have found acquaintances.
It is time something of the kind was discovered, Jake said in a
tone of relief. I was beginning to think we should never meet one
They looked like Indians, Teddy said doubtfully, and Neal added:
I fancy we can take Cummings' word for it. Here they are, and it
will soon be possible to know why they were so foolish as to come into
this part of the country where wild beasts are not the least of the
dangers to be encountered.
The strangers appeared, escorted by Poyor and the white man, and the
latter said as they came into the opening selected as a halting place:
These are acquaintances of ours from Merida, who have visited this
section of the country in search of bird skins, which find a ready sale
among your people. They have a canoe, and report that a dozen miles
below here the stream widens until it can be navigated by reasonably
Since we haven't so much as the smallest kind of a boat I can't see
how that information will be of any use to us, Neal replied
It won't take long for me to explain. I propose to hire them to
carry us to the sea-shore, and thus save just so much labor of
traveling on foot.
Is their canoe large enough?
It will carry a dozen.
Then our troubles are indeed over, Teddy cried joyously; but
Cummings dampened his ardor somewhat when he added:
There will then remain the journey around the coast, and with such
a load it would not be safe to put to sea in their craft. But let us
enjoy the blessings which come to us, he added, on observing how
quickly his companions' countenances fell. Half a loaf is decidedly
better than no bread at all, and when a tramp of six days can be set
aside we have good cause to feel pleased.
The strangers had not waited to be welcomed by the other members of
the party. Without stopping to be invited they began preparations for
cooking on rather an extensive scale, using the contents of their well
filled game bags, and the savory odor which soon arose brought Jake to
a full realization of the good fortune that had come to them.
With those fellows to hunt the game it will be a regular feast from
here to the coast, he said approvingly, and I think this is the first
piece of good luck we've had since leaving the Sea Dream.
The newcomers could not speak the English language, consequently all
the conversation on the part of the fugitives was carried on by
Cummings and Poyor; but these two interpreted such portions as they
thought might be of interest to the boys.
From the middle of what is known as the dry season until the
period of almost incessant rains is well advanced, these hunters spend
their time on one or another of the streams leading from the coast, and
they consider themselves well paid when a year's work nets each an
That is really a large amount of money to them, Cummings explained
when Neal suggested that hunting was not a very profitable employment.
One quarter of the sum will serve to purchase the absolute necessities
of life in a country where fruit can be had for the labor of gathering,
and in ten years they can well afford to retire from business, or
become landed proprietors by leasing logwood cuttings, sub-letting the
land to those who will pay fifteen cents a hundred pounds for all that
can be gathered.
The strangers were quite as satisfactory cooks as Poyor, and when
the dinner had been spread on the leaves each member of Cummings' party
was ready to do it full justice.
After the meal a short time was spent by the men in smoking, and at
about four o'clock in the afternoon the journey was resumed.
Feeling secure because of numbers, and the reports made by the
newcomers that there was no one in the immediate vicinity the boys were
allowed to follow their own inclinations as to the line of march, and
each strayed here or there as he pleased until the coming of night
forced them to keep together because of the danger to be apprehended
from wild animals.
It was late in the evening when they arrived at the hunters' camp;
but Cummings did not propose to remain there even for one night.
He insisted that they could travel by water as well during the hours
of darkness, while it would be no more labor for one to guide the
canoe, allowing her to drift with the current, than to stand watch.
The strangers used every argument to induce him to defer the
beginning of the journey until morning; but he was determined, and
after some controversy the men made the canoe ready.
Neal, Teddy and Jake were stationed amidships, where thanks to the
generous size of the craft, they could stretch out at full length
whenever the fancy seized them. Poyor was seated in the bow, Cummings
on the stern thwart, and the owners of the boat where they could use
the paddles to advantage.
Of this first night's journeying the boys knew very little. The
stream was narrow, and lined on either bank with trees so that at times
even the heavens were obscured by foliage, therefore they could
perceive nothing save the dark wall on either side.
From the movements of the helmsman it was possible to understand
when the canoe was rounding a bend, or being pulled from the bank; but
that was all, and, weary of watching without being able to see
anything, the boys soon gave themselves up to slumber.
When they awakened the little craft was moored to the bank at a
point where the stream formed a basin; a fire was burning brightly, and
over it Poyor bent in a suggestive attitude.
Well, this is the kind of traveling that suits me, Teddy cried,
springing to his feet and arousing his companions. While we were
sleeping the boat drifted steadily on, and, at this rate, when we
arrive at the coast all hands ought to be in good condition for a long
Where's Cummings? Neal asked, as he in turn arose from the bottom
of the canoe.
Gone for game, the Indian replied.
Oh, we're not to have breakfast until it is shot, he added
It makes no difference what they find, for there are twenty fat
fish roasting in the coals, and you may eat at any time.
Is there a chance of meeting with an alligator or a crocodile in
Then I'm going to have a bath, and Neal began to undress, Teddy
and Jake quickly following his example.
During half an hour they had most glorious sport swimming, and then
the return of the hunters literally laden down with game warned them
that it was time to prepare for the morning meal.
CHAPTER XXXI. THE SEA.
After breakfast the voyage was resumed.
The owners of the canoe urged that the party remain in camp until
the following day, in order as they said, that all hands might be the
better fitted for the journey; but Cummings decided against such delay
in a very emphatic manner.
It is of the greatest importance to these boys that we reach the
coast at the earliest possible moment, he said, and there is no good
reason for halting any longer than is necessary for the purpose of
cooking. With such a large crew each one can get all the rest he needs,
and yet not be obliged to do a great amount of labor.
Very unwillingly the Indians took their seats in the boat, and
during the day the boys saw very much to interest them.
Among the trees were monkeys in regular droves, and the more
mischievous appeared to think it great sport to follow the craft and
pelt the occupants with fruit.
Next to these long tailed brutes, black squirrels were the most
numerous, and had the party been on a hunting excursion it would have
been possible to load the canoe to the water's edge with this species
Now and then a sleek jaguar showed himself. Again a drove of
peccaries peered out from among the underbrush, and more than once
Cummings was forced to exert all his authority to prevent the Indians
from stopping to bag an incautious tapir which had come to the stream
The animals seen on this day's journey were few, however, as
compared with the birds.
There were times when it seemed as if the channel was literally
blocked with them, and as the boat advanced they dived under the
surface or flew with harsh, discordant cries past the travelers' heads.
There were tantales with hard, crooked beaks, white heron, the
spoon-bill with pink plumage, long necked flamingoes with flaming
wings, cranes on their stilt-like legs, and teal and ducks in greatest
Only once did Cummings allow any shooting to be done, and then it
was to bring down a jacana that the boys might see the long spur, sharp
as steel, which nature has placed under the wing, thus rendering him a
formidable antagonist even to the boa.
For the noon-day meal there was plenty of provisions left from
breakfast, and while the canoe was being borne along by the current at
the rate of three or four miles per hour, the little party regaled
themselves with meat or fruit as fancy dictated.
When the sun was within an hour of sinking behind the trees the word
to halt was given, and that they had covered a long distance since
morning could be told from the alligators and the turtles which were so
numerous as to often render navigation dangerous.
You will indulge in no more baths this side of Progresso, Cummings
said, as the boys leaped ashore just as the long snout of an alligator
appeared at the very edge of the water, its owner waiting in the hope
that by falling overboard some of the boatmen would provide him with a
supper. The presence of these fellows shows that we are nearing the
coast, and if they will give us half a chance you shall know the taste
of fresh water turtle, which is much finer than that of their cousins
from the sea.
It would have been a very agile alligator who could have stopped
Poyor in his search for a toothsome morsel, and in a short time two,
known as hicoteas, were roasting in the midst of a roaring fire.
While a fellow is traveling in this manner he can't complain of the
bill of fare, Jake said, in a tone of most perfect content, as he
helped himself to another portion of the turtle. With a different kind
of food at each meal, and all of the primest quality, we ought to grow
More especially since you are not obliged to exert yourself in the
slightest, Teddy added with a laugh.
There's a good deal in that also, though I never refuse to do my
share of the work.
Except when you feel very tired.
Well a man must take care of himself, and there are times when it
becomes absolutely necessary to rest. Say, if we had some of those
silver images here it wouldn't be a very hard job to carry them, eh?
Now don't get back to that subject, Neal said impatiently. If you
are so eager to have two or three stop here with Cummings, and make one
of the party when he tries the venture again.
Jake did not appear inclined to trust his precious body in such a
dangerous place again, and, the command to go on board the canoe having
been given, the conversation was brought to an abrupt close.
All night the little craft drifted with the current, more than once
striking with considerable force the back of a sleeping alligator, and
neither the boys nor Jake were called upon to stand watch.
Neal offered to do his share of the work; but Cummings would not
listen to the proposition.
With six men on board the time of duty for each one is short, and
we have an opportunity to get more sleep than is really needed.
Besides, you are not sufficiently acquainted with such sailing to be a
very valuable assistant at the helm.
When the boys awakened on the second morning the character of their
surroundings had changed entirely. Instead of being on a narrow,
swiftly-running stream, they were in a broad lagoon with innumerable
water-ways leading in every direction, and it had become necessary to
use the paddles.
Where are we? Neal asked in surprise.
Within less than a day's journey from the sea, Cummings replied.
The stream led into this lagoon, and if these Indians know the true
course, as they claim to do, we shall start direct for Progresso in the
morning, in good condition for a long tramp.
A short stop was made at a spot where a few trees broke the monotony
of the scene, and here a second meal of turtle was prepared, Cummings
saying as the boys began the repast:
Our water supply is now limited, for that by which we are
surrounded is brackish if not absolutely salt. I intend to take the
greater portion of what the men have on board, when we start up the
coast, and every drop will be needed before the journey is finally
When did they take it on board? Teddy asked in surprise, as he
learned by examination that all the gourds had been filled.
While you were asleep.
We can't carry one of these big things.
By tying a rope of vines around the necks of two I guarantee to get
along without much trouble, for they will grow lighter every hour.
Will the journey be a hard one?
You mean up the coast? Yes, it will, and what is bound to make it
particularly bad is the glare of the sun as reflected from the water.
It can't be any worse than climbing the range, knowing the Indians
were close behind, Teddy said with evident satisfaction.
You are right, my boy, and we shall have the pleasure of knowing
that each step taken is one the less, without any fear of being obliged
to double back in order to escape enemies.
During nearly the entire day the boys strained their eyes trying to
get a glimpse of the sea; but not until late in the afternoon was this
Then, as the canoe rounded a point, the vast expanse of water lay
spread out before them, and was greeted with three rousing cheers.
It begins to look now as if there was some chance of our getting
home, Teddy cried excitedly. We are at least where a vessel can be
signaled in case anything should prevent us from walking and
Don't flatter yourself that we shall see many sailing crafts within
hailing distance, Cummings interrupted. At this point the water is so
shallow that only the smallest boats venture inshore.
Never mind, we can see the ocean while tramping along, and know
that somewhere on it is the steamer which will carry us home.
When the voyage was resumed all hands worked at the paddles, for it
was quite important, according to Cummings' belief, that they should
get out of the lagoon before sunset, and the canoe sped on, dashing the
spray in the air with her bow as if rejoicing that the journey was so
There were yet two hours of daylight remaining when the party
reached the mouth of the narrow channel they had been threading, and to
the left was the coast, piled high with rocks.
Only through the inlet leading to the lagoon could a landing be
effected from a vessel, and it was at this point that the hunters had
been set ashore by the craft on which they had come from Progresso.
There was yet a small supply of provisions on the canoe, and these
the Indians willingly shared with their passengers. The water gourds
were divided between the two parties, and, having been paid a good
price for their labor, by Cummings, the four men departed, not wishing
to spend the night where fever lurked.
We don't particularly need rest, Cummings said, when the fugitives
from the Silver City were alone again; but it would be foolish to
begin the last portion of our journey so late at night. We'll carry our
belongings up the shore a bit, and then camp.
The crooked necks of the water gourds afforded a good handle by
which to carry them, and, each taking a portion of their sadly depleted
outfit, the little party followed the leader about a hundred yards from
the place at which they had landed, to where the huge rocks gave
promise of a partial shelter.
Now the time had come when both food and water must be husbanded
with care, and instead of setting out the entire amount for each to
thoroughly satisfy himself, Cummings divided so much as he thought
would be sufficient for the meal, giving every one an equal share.
It is to be short rations for awhile, he said cheerfully. That
will be better than to fill ourselves up now, and suffer afterward.
No one could take any exception to this very reasonable precaution,
and the meal was eaten in the merriest possible fashion.
Then there was nothing to do but wait until morning, when the march
was to be resumed, and Neal and Teddy occupied their time speculating
as to what the loved ones at home were doing just at that particular
It was not a remarkably pleasant thing to do, considering how great
a distance separated them, and when they grew weary of thus making
themselves mentally uncomfortable, Teddy asked:
How long do you suppose it will take us to reach Progresso?
I hope to be there in about a week.
And you feel positive there is no chance of hailing a vessel?
Just a chance: nothing more. The possibilities are so slight that
it wouldn't pay to spend any time waiting for a craft to heave in
What would you do if one should come along to-morrow morning?
Try to attract the attention of those on board, of course; but
there'll be no such good fortune as that, so the best thing we can do
is to lie down now, for we have a hard day's work before us.
CHAPTER XXXII. A HAPPY SURPRISE.
The monotonous roar of the surf should have lulled the boys to sleep
very shortly after they lay down on the sand where a number of boulders
formed a partial shelter; but instead of doing so it appeared to have
the opposite effect.
For a long while after Cummings and Jake were wrapped in slumber
they talked of the journey which lay before them, and speculated with
heavy hearts as to the fate of those who had left the burning yacht in
This was a topic of conversation seldom brought up since the day
they first saw the Silver City, because their peril had been so great
as to overshadow everything else. Now, however, when it seemed as if
they were very near home, the fear that but one boat of the four had
lived to reach the land came to both with painful intensity, and fully
half the night was spent in trying to persuade themselves that it was
well with the remainder of the Sea Dream's crew.
When they did finally sink into slumber Poyor was sitting bolt
upright with his back against a huge block of coral-like rock, looking
out over the water, and in the morning when Neal opened his eyes the
Indian was in the same position.
Have you seen a vessel? the boy asked.
There is one, was the calm reply, and Neal sprang to his feet in
the greatest excitement to see a small, schooner-rigged craft with all
sail set moving slowly through the water on a parallel line with the
coast, about three miles away.
In another instant he had awakened the remainder of the party by
shouting vigorously, as if believing it possible that those on board
could hear his voice.
What's the matter? Cummings asked: but before the question could
be answered he also saw the craft.
It looks as if she was bound in our direction, and we had better
try to attract attention; but you'll never do it by shouting, my boy.
What shall we do?
Build a fire, of course, Jake replied. They have got plenty of
time to send a boat ashore, for it is nearly calm, and in another hour
there won't be so much as a breath of wind.
Before he had ceased speaking Neal and Teddy were running back
toward the line of trees for wood, and in a short time a cloud of smoke
was ascending from the shore at the very edge of the water.
While the others continued to bring fuel Poyor sprinkled the flames
with a bough wet in the sea in order to prevent them from burning too
freely, and there was no interruption in the work until a flag was
raised on the schooner's main-mast to signify that the signal would be
We're in great luck, Cummings said, as he seated himself on one of
the boulders, for it was no longer necessary to keep the fire burning.
No matter where she is bound I don't fancy we shall have much trouble
in persuading them to put into Progresso, and the tramp up the shore
which all have been dreading can be avoided.
As a matter of course the entire party were in the best of spirits,
and to Neal and Teddy the little craft had a particularly friendly
The schooner had been headed for the shore when the smoke first
began to ascend; but the wind was so light that she hardly moved
through the water, and, after a few moments, the watchers could see
that a boat was being lowered.
That dashes some of my hopes, Cummings said with a laugh.
What do you mean? Neal asked.
I thought there might be just a chance that she hailed from
Progresso, and we should have no trouble in persuading them to do as we
Why do you think that isn't the case?
Because you couldn't find a crew of natives who would willingly row
so far; the majority would wait for a breeze a week before voluntarily
performing so much labor.
The boys watched the boat as she approached slowly, and when she
neared the shore both they and Jake started in surprise, scrutinized
her more intently, and then looking at each other as if in fear.
What is the matter? Cummings asked, and Neal replied slowly:
The man who is steering resembles Mr. Walters, the sailing master
of the Sea Dream, that is all.
It is him! Teddy cried excitedly. I am certain of it now;
but how did he get here in that schooner?
As a matter of course the question could not be answered by his
companions, and all waited with the liveliest signs of impatience until
the gentleman was within hailing distance, and then Neal shouted:
Is that really you, Mr. Walters?
To the best of my knowledge it is, was the laughing reply. Are
you all well?
In first-class condition. Where is father?
On board the schooner. I will give the signal to let him know the
crew of the yacht have all been saved.
As he spoke he discharged a revolver, and the waving of the flag
told that the good news was understood.
Not all, Mr. Walters, the three sailors in our boat were drowned
while trying to land on this coast.
It is too late now to rectify the mistake. I hoped when I saw so
many that there had been no disaster.
By this time the little craft had been rowed around the point of the
lagoon where it was possible to effect a landing without danger of
being swamped, and the sailing master leaped ashore to welcome by
hearty handshakes those whom he had feared were dead.
Cummings and Poyor were introduced, and then Neal asked:
Where did you get the schooner?
Chartered her to hunt for you; but Mr. Emery shall tell the story.
Will you come aboard now?
You are to go with us, Neal said, turning quickly toward Cummings.
I hardly know what to do. It would probably be wisest for Poyor and
I to begin the homeward march since there is no longer any necessity of
going to Progresso.
But you must see my father. Time is not so precious just now but
that you can afford to spend another day in our company.
It shall be as you say, Cummings replied laughingly. I hesitated
only because the sooner our long tramp comes to an end the more
comfortable I shall feel in mind.
Jake and Teddy had already clambered into the boat; the others
followed, and the little craft, loaded down nearly to the water's edge,
was rowed out toward the schooner.
It is not necessary to make any attempt at trying to describe the
reception the castaways met with from the remainder of the yacht's
crew, nor the manner in which Poyor and Cummings were welcomed.
After the heartiest greetings had been exchanged Mr. Emery and the
sailing master asked for an account of the landing and subsequent
wanderings, and it is safe to say that they were treated to a wilder
story than they had ever dreamed of hearing.
Mr. Walters was at first disposed to look upon it as a yarn; but
the souvenir which Jake carried on his face was evidence that could not
be doubted, and Cummings soon convinced the skeptical sailing master
that the Chan Santa Cruz really had an existence.
That is an adventure I would like to have, he finally said in a
tone of enthusiasm. I can't understand why it shouldn't be possible to
hit upon some hiding place within half a mile of the city, and on a
stormy night, for instance, lug away precious metal enough to make
That and more can be done if one has patience and discretion.
Now we're where there's little doubt about gettin' home you may rap
at me as often as you please, Jake said with a hearty laugh. I admit
having acted like a fool; but so long as nothing serious came of it,
except the cut on my own cheek, it isn't a hanging matter.
I haven't a relative in this world, Mr. Walters continued, and
now the Sea Dream has gone down would be obliged to look around for a
job, therefore if you'll accept me as a comrade I'll stay here instead
of going back to the states.
Do you really mean to enter upon such a wild venture? Mr. Emery
asked in surprise.
Most certainly. What is to prevent?
Nothing that I know of; but it seems little less than suicide to go
there after the Indians have been so thoroughly aroused.
We shall not make the attempt for several months, perhaps a year,
Where would you propose to stop? Here?
How far do you intend to go in this schooner?
To the nearest port where we can find a steamer bound for the
That is Progresso, and if you have no objections Poyor and I will
accompany you there. We need some supplies from Merida, and if Mr.
Walters is of the same mind when we arrive I shall be more than pleased
to have him go with us.
The vessel is at your disposal. We will land you at any point, and
I yet have sufficient money with me to pay Walters' wages and make him
a slight advance if he needs it.
Very little will be required if he joins Poyor and myself. The cost
of living in this country is small, for nature provides bountifully.
The captain of the schooner, a full-blooded negro, was told to head
his craft for Progresso as soon as the wind should spring up again, and
then Mr. Emery asked many questions concerning the city the boys had
seen, while their answers only made the sailing master more eager to
remain with Cummings.
This is hardly fair, Neal finally said. All the time we have been
telling you of our adventures, and not one word have we heard regarding
your movements. I would like to know where the three boats we
out-sailed went to on the night after leaving the yacht, and where this
schooner was found?
It is not a long story, Mr. Emery replied. When you disappeared
in the darkness we continued on the same course, and succeeded in
keeping the three boats well together. At sunrise your craft was not in
sight. We held on all that day and the next, finally arriving at
Cozumel where we stayed three days in the hope you would appear. Then
this schooner touched at the island, and I chartered her to search for
you. We have been cruising up and down the coast ever since, for it
seemed positive your boat reached the land in this immediate vicinity.
How long would you have stayed here?
Not many days more, for we had begun to believe you were picked up
by a vessel. Knowing Jake could handle a small craft better, perhaps
than any other member of the crew, and also that she was the most
seaworthy of the four tenders, it did not seem reasonable she had
foundered while the others went through in safety.
Then we came out just in time.
Yes, for I had no idea you could be so far up this way, and we
should have left the locality as soon as the wind would permit.
Jake wanted to ask the sailing master how it happened that he had
made such a mistake in his reckoning; but it was a delicate question,
and he thought it best to wait until Mr. Walters had left them, when
Neal's father could probably give the desired explanation.
CHAPTER XXXIII. HOMEWARD BOUND.
One can readily fancy what a feeling of perfect content had come
over the boys after finding themselves once more with nearly all the
crew of the Sea Dream.
There was no longer anything to cause anxiety; the vengeful Indians
had been left far behind, and the fear of an attack was among the
things of the past.
I used to think it would be mighty nice to go into some such place
as we have just left, Neal said to Teddy, while the two were sitting
under the awning aft, some distance from their companions; but now we
know what the reality is like, I've had enough.
I suppose our story would sound pretty fair if it was put into a
book; but whoever wrote it couldn't be all the time telling about how
hungry and tired we were, how the mosquitoes and flies nearly ate us
up, how thoroughly we were frightened the greater portion of the time,
nor how disagreeable it is to be where there's precious little chance
for a fellow to keep clean.
That is why adventures seem so nice when you read about them, for
all the trifling things which serve to make a person uncomfortable in
both body and mind are omitted.
Yes, Teddy said very emphatically, one day would be enough for
any fellow I know, and the idea of going where there is likely to be
plenty of chance for adventure will never again have any fascination
In this strain the boys talked until dinner was served on deck,
which was not a particularly well cooked meal, after which the
conversation became general.
The re-united party spoke chiefly of Mr. Walters' determination to
remain with Cummings, and while listening to it Jake forgot all else
save the wonderful sights he had seen in the famous city.
I have a good mind to stay with you, he finally said. The idea
that I have been where silver could be had for the labor of carrying it
away, and didn't get any, makes me angry with myself. Now that Mr.
Walters has concluded to try his hand at it I believe I'll do the same
Poyor looked up quickly, shook his head very decidedly, and Cummings
Then it will be necessary for you to go alone; I've been there once
with you, and it was only by the rarest good fortune that we succeeded
in coming away alive, therefore I'm not disposed to try the same
dangerous experiment again.
I suppose you think I would make a fool of myself once more?
I am positive of it. When your opinion chanced to be at variance
with ours you would go straight on without giving the slightest heed to
the consequences. It is best for you to stay with the boys.
Jake had nothing more to say; but later in the day he told Neal and
Teddy privately that he believed he would venture into the swamp alone.
I could do it as well as Poyor can. They want to make out that it
is a very dangerous venture.
You thought the same on the night when that beautiful scar was
presented, and also when you wandered away from the cave, unable to
find your way back, Neal replied with a laugh.
Then Jake had a desperate fit of the sulks from which he did not
recover until the schooner was standing up the coast under the
influence of the strong night breeze.
The voyage to Progresso from this time on occupied but a few hours.
The clumsy looking vessel proved to be a good sailor, and on the
following afternoon she had dropped anchor in the harbor, twenty-four
hours before the next steamer was advertised to leave.
There was yet plenty of chance to bid good-by to those who intended
to remain behind, and the last moments were spent together rather than
visit the quaint town, for no one could say whether they would meet
Jake made no further preparation to join the treasure seekers, and
Neal felt positive that if they had allowed him to make one of the
party his courage would have failed him at the last minute.
Not until a late hour in the night was there any attempt to break up
the gathering. Each felt a certain repugnance to so doing, and if Mr.
Emery had not finally insisted on retiring all might have remained
under the awning until morning.
It is good-by as well as good-night, Cummings said as he arose.
We do not care to stay here very long for fear some of the Chan Santa
Cruz may recognize us, and by daybreak I propose to be on our way to
Merida, from which point we shall return to the hut where we first saw
We can at least count on hearing from you, Mr. Emery said. The
boys will be eager to learn how your venture succeeded.
It is not convenient to post a letter where a journey of fifty
miles on foot is necessary to reach a mailing place; but you shall hear
from us at the first favorable opportunity.
With Jake, Cummings and Poyor spent but little time; neither had any
especial love for him after all that had happened; but with the boys
the Indian was almost affectionate.
If the gods will listen to Poyor's prayer your lives shall be free
from clouds, he said gravely, and laying his hands on their heads he
went through a certain ceremony as if blessing them, after which he did
not speak again.
If good wishes were of any avail both Walters and Cummings should
have succeeded in their attempt to carry away treasure from the Silver
City; but whether they have yet been able to do so neither Neal nor
Teddy know, for not a word has been heard from them since that parting
in the harbor at Progresso.
The trip home was as uneventful as is usually the case when one
travels on a steam vessel, and at about the time when the Sea Dream
should have arrived the castaways landed in New York before the news of
the yacht's destruction had been learned.
As a consequence neither Teddy's parents nor Neal's mother had been
anxious concerning them, and the home coming was a very tame affair, as
compared with what both had been through.
Even at this late day the boys are speculating as to whether the
white men and the Indian ever succeeded in their desires, and both
believe the news will soon come that Cummings has been able to read the
inscriptions on the monuments at Copan by the aid of his researches in
the Silver City.