The Secret Cave
of Hydas by F.
Chapter I.—The Fight and Theft in the Museum
A tall, muscular, black-bearded, dark-eyed, beak-nosed native strolled
into the Lahore Museum, in the Punjab; he carried a massive
five-foot-long stick with a crook handle, and studded with short
brass-headed nails from handle to ferrule. He sauntered about until he
came to a case containing ancient daggers and swords, which arrested his
attention for some time.
About a dozen other visitors were in the room, and of these a couple
strolled together from one object of interest to another; they were fine
stalwart natives, and each possessed a stick of ordinary size.
These two men quietly walked about exchanging opinions on the various
curios until they came face to face with the solitary man gazing at the
"What! art thou here, thou badmash (scoundrel)?" exclaimed one of the
"Ah, thou son of a swine, take that!" replied the tall man, and, with a
quickness which proved him to be an expert in the handling of a stick,
struck the native who had addressed him a vicious blow on the head, but,
the said head being protected by many folds of his puggari, the stroke
merely knocked him down without doing any serious injury.
In an instant the fallen man's friend struck at the assailant, and, the
other man springing up, a fierce fight was quickly in full swing, two
against one, and the noise of the sticks rattling together in powerful
strokes, and the insulting taunts thrown at each other by the
combatants, soon attracted the other sight-seers and the Museum
In a few minutes the fighters had been turned out of the building; they
had done no damage except to themselves, and neither party would bring a
charge against the other, so they scowlingly went in opposite directions
as soon as they were outside.
"A family feud," said a bystander.
"Yes, I expect it is a vendetta," responded another.
These remarks, however, were very far from the truth, for the apparent
enemies were the greatest friends and bound together by the most solemn
vows, and in fact the realistic fight had been pre-arranged with a
definite object, which was successfully attained, as indeed the Museum
officials discovered later.
The day after the fracas Doctor Mullen, Government geologist, called at
the Museum; he was accompanied by his son Mark, a sturdily built lad of
about eighteen, who was preparing to follow his father's profession, and
with them was Tom Ellison, the Doctor's assistant, a young man of
twenty-four, tall and extremely active.
"Well, Ramji Daji, what's this I hear about a robbery at the Museum
yesterday?" asked the doctor of the assistant curator.
"Ah, Sahib, I am very sorry, but the badmashes stole those pieces of
strangely carved stones you found on the Salt Range mountains, and also
another piece, which was lying near them on the table here," answered
"But what in the world did they carry them off for? They can be of no
value to anybody," remarked the Doctor.
"I don't know, Sahib. There was a fight here yesterday, and some hours
after we missed the five fragments of inscribed stone and one piece
belonging to another set. Had they taken any of the gold or silver
things we could have understood, but——" and Ramji Daji made a gesture
expressive of the puzzled state of his own mind.
"There can be only two reasons for the strange theft—it is either a
practical joke, or some one saw the stones who was able to decipher
them—which we could not—but the joke theory seems the more probable,"
said the Doctor.
The pieces of stone referred to consisted of five irregular fragments of
a slab, an inch or so thick, the largest being about seven inches long
by four or five wide, and the smallest some four inches by two. These
five parts would not fit evenly together, and in the Doctor's opinion
they formed about half of the original slab.
The Doctor had taken a careful rubbing on paper of the letters on the
stones, and sent it to a friend for the purpose of deciphering it if
"I wonder, Doctor, whether any one from the Salt Range stole the stones?
Do you remember that your tent was surreptitiously searched a few nights
after you had found the pieces?" remarked Tom Ellison.
"I remember my things having been ransacked, and we concluded some thief
had been disturbed, but we never for a moment thought they were after
the bits of inscribed slab, which, by the way, I had sent off the day
before when sending for stores for the camp," he replied.
"Well, if he was after the stones he may have followed us to Lahore and
you to the Museum, when you came to take a rubbing of the lettering,"
"There must be a clue to something written on them, if any one took all
the trouble to come so far for them," suggested Mark Mullen.
"To-morrow I hope to hear from Professor Muirson, and he will probably
throw some light on the meaning of the inscription," said the Doctor.
"But come, we must get back to work, for I have to finish my report
before we start into camp again in a couple of days' time," he added,
and they hurried away to their own office, but at least Mark's mind was
full of thoughts concerning the stolen stones, and conjuring up all
sorts of strange mysteries connected with them.
Doctor Mullen duly received from the Professor the expected letter, a
part of which read as follows—
"There can be no doubt that the ruins in which you found the fragments
of inscribed slab are those of a Greek settlement which was most
probably founded on the Salt Range by camp followers, and possibly
soldiers, of Alexander the Great's army who were left behind on his
return from India.
"I can only conclude from the rubbing you have sent me that it is not
from the original inspection, but that the slab of which you have found
parts was inscribed from memory at a much later period, it being made up
of three languages. The original sense may or may not have been
retained, and as far as I am able to understand it the incomplete
wording would in English read—' ... into thy charge ... guarded ...
descendants with life ... of Hydas ... sacrifice ... the gods.'
"I have made no attempt to guess at the missing words, for, as you will
see at a glance, the incomplete sentences allow of a variety of
renderings, thereby causing great uncertainty with regard to the
"I wish we had the other parts of the slab," exclaimed Mark, as soon as
his father had read out the letter.
"Yes, it is rather interesting. Well, we start to-morrow for the Salt
Range to continue our work, and I will show you the exact spot where I
found the pieces, and a diligent search there may be rewarded by the
discovery of at least some of the other portion," said the Doctor; and
both Mark and Tom Ellison hoped such might prove to be the case, little
thinking what dangers they would be led into on account of those
fragments of an old, broken slab.
Chapter II.—Mark Mullen Disappears
"Now then, Mark, down you come," said Tom Ellison, as he shook the lad,
who had lowered the upper sleeping-berth in the train and gone to sleep.
"What time is it? Where are we?" Mark asked drowsily.
"Near midnight, and we are at Gunjyal," answered Tom.
"What a beastly hour to turn out!" grumbled Mark as he scrambled down.
In half an hour the servants and a camel—which had been waiting—had
started for the Doctor's destination, a place on the Salt Range some
twelve miles away.
At daybreak three horses arrived, and the Doctor and his two companions
started for their camp.
After breakfast the Doctor took his son and Tom Ellison, accompanied by
a servant, to a small valley about a quarter of a mile from the camp.
"Here you are," said the Doctor; "this is the exact spot where I found
the pieces of slab."
"Then I should say the rest can't be far away," remarked Tom, and they
commenced poking around with the ends of iron-shod sticks. They had been
twenty minutes at their task when a boy in charge of some goats planted
himself on a rock not far away and keenly watched the Sahibs at work.
"Don't you think it would be a good plan, Doctor, if we got a few
coolies to loosen the subsoil and turn over some of these loose stones
about here?—it would be easier for us to search," suggested Tom.
"Yes, we may as well make a thorough search now we are at it," replied
the Doctor, who at once sent the servant to the village near the camp
for some coolies and tools.
The boy had disappeared before the coolies arrived, for he had received
a signal from a man who was secretly watching the search-party from the
top of a cliff some seventy yards away.
The natives had not been long at work when one of them slipped, and his
puggari pitched off exactly on to the spot where the next coolie had
turned over a stone. The man picked up his puggari and moved a few yards
off to wind it round his head again, and almost immediately the goat-boy
appeared and asked him if he had seen a stray goat.
Tom Ellison happened to be standing up examining a strange fossil he had
found, and as he casually glanced at the boy he saw the coolie hand him
something, which he promptly hid in the folds of a kind of scarf hanging
over his shoulder.
In a moment a suspicion flashed into Tom's mind, and he rushed forward
and seized the boy before he could make off, and no sooner had he felt
the lad's kupra (cloth) than he discovered that the youngster had hidden
a newly found piece of the slab which had been picked up by the coolie.
The Doctor and Mark were at once by Tom's side examining the fragment
and listening to Tom's explanation. In their excitement they forgot
about the boy, and when they looked round became aware that both he and
the coolie had disappeared.
The sides of the hills all about were covered with low shrubs, large
stones, and nullahs, or ravines, and, although a quick search was made,
neither man nor boy could be seen.
When the day was over they had met with no further success as regards
finding parts of the slab, but they took away several other stones which
they thought might possibly prove to be of some interest, and most of
the evening after dinner was spent in discussing the reason which
prompted the theft from the Museum, and the attempt to steal the stone
found during the day.
"There can be no doubt I was seen examining the fragments I found," said
the Doctor. "I remember now that three or four natives were watching me
trying to place the several pieces together in my attempts to get an
idea of the whole. Strange that these natives should take so keen an
interest in an old, broken slab, for the pieces must have been lying
there for years."
"I expect we shall have to keep a sharp eye on this piece, for they are
sure to have a try for it, judging by what they have already done," said
"They seem to have a sharp eye on us. I shouldn't be surprised if they
thought we came here purposely to hunt for the stones," said Mark.
"Well, I will take a copy of the letters on it at once, in case anything
happens to the stone," said the Doctor.
Next day an official letter arrived which necessitated either the Doctor
or Tom returning to Lahore for a few hours, and it was decided the
letter should go.
"Now listen," said the Doctor as Tom was about to start on his journey.
"Take the stone to the Museum and tell them to place it where they can
watch any one who takes any peculiar interest in it. Further, get a
description of those men who were fighting there on the day the stones
were stolen; and don't forget to post my letter to the Professor, for it
contains a rubbing from the last piece."
With these parting instructions Tom started on his ride to Gunjyal
station so as to arrive there before dark, there being practically no
road from the foot of the Salt Range across the miles of dismal tract of
sandy plain to the station, although his train did not leave until
midnight; but it was the only train in the twenty-four hours.
Tom was half-asleep when he got into the train; he had the compartment
to himself, and he thought it likely he would remain alone until he
arrived at Lala Musa, about eight o'clock, where he would have to change
to get on to the main line, so he quickly spread his bedding, and,
drawing the green-baize shade over the lamp, he was soon asleep.
He could not say where it happened, but when he roused up the train was
in motion and he was just conscious he was not alone; but the instant he
attempted to move, a rug was thrown over his face, and he knew he was
being held down by at least two powerful assailants. In a very short
time, notwithstanding his fierce struggles, he was bound hand and foot,
a gag in his mouth, and blindfolded, without having the slightest idea
of the appearance of those who had attacked him.
Whilst Tom was in this condition the train stopped several times, but no
one entered the compartment, and, as the Venetian shutters were down, it
was impossible for any one to peer through the window and so become
aware of his position.
He tried to knock his feet against the side of the carriage at the first
station, but he was bound too securely to the seat which formed his bed
to allow of the slightest movement, so wearily and painfully the hours
dragged on until the guard discovered him and set him free at Lala Musa
The moment he was released he found that the only thing missing was the
fragment of slab he was to have taken to the Museum.
"They followed me to Gunjyal and then slipped into my carriage at some
station whilst I was asleep, and quietly slipped out at the next station
when they had got what they wanted," mused Tom.
By the time he had given an account of what had happened to him he had
only a few minutes in which to rush over to the refreshment-room and get
some breakfast before his train was due.
When Tom arrived in Lahore he went straight to his office, and in a
couple of hours he had completed the special work which had necessitated
his journey; then he went over to the Museum.
"The thief has been caught, Sahib," said one of the attendants as Tom
entered the building.
"When? Who is he?" asked Tom, in considerable surprise, for he had
concluded that his late assailants were the men who had robbed the
"They caught him during last night, but I don't know much about it yet,"
replied the man.
Tom at once hurried off to the police-station to learn full particulars.
"Yes, we found a piece of stone with some strange device on it," said
the Superintendent of Police. "This is it. Do you recognise it?" he
added, as he handed Tom the stone.
"No, this is not the one the Doctor found," said Tom, after a moment's
"Well, it is the only bit we got, and we are told it was stolen from
the Museum with some others, during a fight," said the officer.
"How did you get this?" asked Tom.
"Well, in rather a strange way. The night after the stones had
disappeared three clever burglaries took place in Lahore, and the
thieves made valuable hauls in each case, but we could get no clue. Last
night an anonymous letter came to us, and we decided to act upon it, so
we searched a house in the bazaar and recovered this stone together with
some gold and silver ornaments which had been stolen; we found them in
the exact spot where we were told to look for them. The man says he is
innocent, and that they were placed where we found them unknown to him.
Now you know the whole case," said the police-officer.
"And the man you have arrested, do you think he is connected with the
men who were fighting in the Museum?" asked Tom.
"He says not. He certainly is not one of the fighters. He does not bear
the best of characters, however," was the reply.
Tom related what had happened to him in the train; several theories were
advanced to account for the keen interest taken in the stones, and the
police began exerting themselves to fathom the mystery.
The morning after Tom Ellison had left the camp a shikari went to Mark
with the information that some oorial (wild sheep) were feeding about
half a mile away, and Mark, who was a keen sportsman, promptly got his
rifle and went with the shikari.
Mark was able to get a long shot, but missed, so sat down while the
shikari climbed the peaks around to try and find the oorial again. In
about ten minutes Mark heard a slight rustling in the bushes some twenty
yards away, and he got a glimpse of a porcupine. He did not wish to fire
at it lest he should startle the oorial if they had halted anywhere
near, so he picked up a stone and threw it at the animal when next he
"I have hit it," he muttered, as he heard a peculiar cry, and he hurried
forward, but he could find no sign of the porcupine, and he concluded it
had entered a small cave he discovered.
Mark struck a match and went in a few feet, but it appeared to be very
low, and when his match went out he decided to go no farther, for he had
no desire to stumble on the top of a porcupine.
In a short time the shikari returned, and Mark thought no more about the
animal until he had been back at the camp some time.
While Mark had been away on his shooting expedition, Harry Burton, the
Superintendent of Police, had called, and during the afternoon Mark
casually mentioned the incident of the porcupine.
"I think you are mistaken about it being a porcupine, my boy," said
"I don't think so. I saw it twice and hit it with the stone, for I
distinctly heard it make a peculiar noise as though hurt," persisted
"That is exactly what makes me certain it was not a porcupine, for it
is one of the animals without vocal cords, therefore cannot make a vocal
sound. It was more likely a wild pig, for there are a number about
here," said Burton, who was a great sportsman.
Mark, however, felt certain he had distinctly seen the animal's quills,
so a little later he quietly left the camp without saying a word to any
one as to where he was going.
At nine o'clock that night Mark had not returned to camp, and Burton,
who had remained to dinner, suggested that he might have got lost, or
met with an accident; so a search was at once commenced.
Chapter III.—The Mysterious Fakir
"Well, Burton, what is your opinion now?" asked Doctor Mullen on their
return to camp about three o'clock in the morning, after an unsuccessful
search for Mark.
"I am sorry to say I think he has met with a serious accident and is
unable to help himself. Listen to those natives shouting 'Sahib! Sahib!'
and far beyond them others are calling, and the boy would have replied
if he could have done so. You are sure he went alone?" asked Burton.
"Yes. He took his gun, which seems to suggest that he started for that
lake about a mile from here after duck. Had he gone after oorial he
would have taken his rifle and would have been accompanied by the
shikari," said the Doctor, who was greatly distressed about his son's
"As soon as it is light I will have every nullah and bush searched for
miles round," said Burton, and then he mused without giving expression
to his thoughts. "He may have fallen over a kud (precipice), or his gun
may have burst, or he may have been bitten by a snake, or he may have
run against those—well, fragments of slab"; and he left the tent and
sent off messages to the headmen of the villages around.
Harry Burton was one of the cleverest officers in the Indian police; he
was a few years over thirty, a dark-complexioned man of medium height,
very agile and powerful, and was known to the Salt Range natives as Koj
(tracker) Burton Sahib, owing to his smartness in following up the
Burton, at the Doctor's request, went to occupy Mark's empty tent for an
hour or two, and as he stretched himself on the camp bed his busy brain
was engaged in trying to form a connection between the broken slab and
Mark's absence, and these thoughts kept him awake, so he was the first
to hear the footsteps of an approaching horse.
"Hello! Is that you, Ellison?" greeted Burton, as the new arrival
"Yes. I heard at Gunjyal about Mark, so, instead of waiting for
daylight, I hunted up a horse, and, by all this shouting, I conclude
Mark is still missing," said Tom, and in a very few minutes he had
related to Burton and the Doctor his experience in the train and what he
had learnt in Lahore.
"Ah, things are getting a bit more complicated," said Burton aloud, and
then muttered to himself, "But I begin to get a better hold of the
"Now you clearly understand me," said Burton when instructing the
headmen. "You are to send out every available man and boy from your
villages, and they are to search every nullah until they meet the men
from the next village. We think the young Sahib has met with an
accident, and if you find him you are to send word here immediately; and
you, Appoyas, instruct your men to be most careful in searching those
cliffs near your village."
"What's that man's name?" asked the Doctor as soon as the men had gone.
"Appoyas. It is an unusual name—certainly not a Punjabi one," replied
"I never heard the name before. He is a fine-looking man," remarked the
"And a very wealthy man, according to report. That is his village on the
very edge of those cliffs about a mile away. It is the most prosperous
village on the Salt Range, and celebrated for its stamped-cloth work.
Appoyas and his brother Atlasul—another uncommon name—buy up all the
cloth made and stamped in the place, and give a good price too, and
their camels frequently go off laden with bales. But come over here a
minute," and Burton led the Doctor some short distance from the camp.
"I can scarcely credit it; surely it is too improbable, how——" began
the Doctor when he had heard what Burton had to say.
"Never mind; kindly act in the manner I suggest," interrupted Burton,
"and I think you will find I am right. Now I must be off, and—well,
expect me when you see me, as they say"; and in a couple of minutes he
was riding from the camp on a secret and dangerous expedition.
The search was continued all day, but not the slightest sign of Mark
could be discovered.
If any one, about sunset, had been near the place where Mark was resting
at the time he thought he saw the porcupine, a Fakir might have been
seen sitting on the identical spot. He appeared to be in deep
meditation, but, as soon as it was dark, he crept cautiously to the
entrance of the cave into which Mark thought the porcupine had
The Fakir paused, and after listening intently for a few moments he
scrambled in; and after again listening he produced a bull's-eye lamp—a
most unusual thing for a native to possess—and carefully lit it.
He next examined a revolver and a knife he carried in a girdle under a
loose garment he had wrapped round him, and in addition to these weapons
he had an iron rod about three feet and a-half long, similar to what
many Fakirs carry.
He now advanced along a narrow passage which widened into a large cave,
from which opened another narrow passage, and this he proceeded
cautiously to explore, but when he had gone about a hundred yards it
came to an abrupt end, the roof here being exceedingly high, and as he
flashed his light around he could not see the top.
For the space of an hour he probed about with his iron rod, and felt in
the cracks and crevices in the walls; then suddenly he sat down, and,
had any one been near enough, they would have heard him chuckling to
himself, for he had made a great discovery.
In a short time he made his way out of the cave and disappeared into the
darkness of the night.
"What do you make of this, Ellison?" said the Doctor early next morning.
"I have just found this note in my tent; it is written in Punjabi, and
in English it reads: 'If the Sahib wishes to learn where his son is he
will be told if you promise to give up the other pieces of stone you
found. Let the Sahib write his promise on the blank part of this paper
and place it on the small olive-tree near the salt spring. The Sahib's
men need not watch, for they will not see who fetches it.'
"Do you think it is a hoax?" asked the Doctor.
"I don't know. I scarcely think so. I wish Burton was back," said Tom,
who thought that Burton's experience might enable him to get something
of a clue from the strange message. "They have got all the stones," he
"We took others that did not belong to the slab," said the Doctor.
"Of course, I had forgotten; and the writer of this is under the
impression they are parts of the slab," remarked Tom.
"If this is genuine, then Mark is a prisoner, which is Burton's opinion;
and I believe he is acting in some secret manner on his opinion," said
After a long consultation the Doctor tore off the blank piece of paper
and wrote on it in the native language: "You must first give me some
proof that you know where my son is before I promise to comply with your
request. Let him write to me."
"We both know where the salt spring is, Tom, so I will take the paper
there, and you go to some place where you can watch the spring through
your field-glasses," said the Doctor.
"Very good. By the time we get a reply Burton may be back," said Tom,
and they left the camp.
Tom watched patiently all day, but, with the exception of a boy in
charge of some goats, no one went near the spring, and the boy did not
go within a hundred yards of it, though his goats were feeding all round
and close to it.
"Glad to see you back, Burton," exclaimed Tom when he returned to camp
and found the officer there.
"What luck, Tom?" asked the Doctor.
"Bad. I waited until it was too dark to see, and the message had not
been taken when I came away," he replied.
"You are wrong, Tom, my boy, for I saw it taken," said Burton.
"How? Where were you?" asked Tom, in surprise.
"Not far from you, and I saw a goat sniff it and quickly walk off with
the paper in its mouth, and five minutes later the boy had it in his
hand. Here, smell this," and Burton held out the paper containing the
message to the Doctor.
"A peculiar smell," said Tom.
"Yes, and the goat is trained to carry anything impregnated with that
subtle odour," explained Burton.
"Do you believe the writer of this knows where Mark is, Burton? Have you
discovered anything?" asked Tom.
"Yes, the man knows well enough, and I know to half a mile," said
"They why not try to release him at once?" exclaimed Tom.
"Easier said than done, and I am fully convinced it would be dangerous
to force matters without careful arrangements. I practically know with
whom we have to deal, and, if I am any judge of native character, I
believe we are in conflict with some of the most cunning and fearless
men in India—men who had been carrying on their work for many years,
and that, too, without raising suspicion, and who will not hesitate to
risk life and cause death to accomplish their purpose, and——" Burton
suddenly stopped speaking; then, almost in a whisper, he hurriedly said,
"Go on talking about Mark," and noiselessly he left the tent.
In a few moments there was a sound of a scuffle at the back of the tent,
followed by a thud and an exclamation from Burton; so they rushed out to
see what had happened, the Doctor taking the lamp from the tent-pole as
"What's the matter, Burton?" asked Tom.
"Bring the lamp here," he answered, rubbing his knees. "They were too
smart for me, and I got the worst of it this time," he added.
"What is that rope doing there?" asked the Doctor, as the light revealed
a long rope extending from a tent-peg to a considerable distance into
"Oh, it is there for a purpose, and it answers too well to suit me, for
it has given me one of the heaviest falls I have had for a long time. A
man was there listening to us, and it would have made no difference
which way I had come round the tent, for the eavesdropper would have
gone in the opposite direction. When I heard him making off I dashed
after him, and his comrade, who was at the far end of the rope, jerked
it taut when it was between me and the man I was after, with the result
that I came a most terrific cropper; then they promptly fled, and are
safely away by this time," explained Burton.
"But how did you know there was any one outside?" asked Tom. "I never
heard a sound."
"I saw the side of the tent shake, and there is not a breath of air
stirring. The man who was listening must know English, I feel sure; and
I am afraid we have made a terrible mistake in not taking precautionary
measures against being overheard. If they understood what I said about
suspecting who they are, I may make up my mind to having a rather lively
time." Burton said in a whisper, for he did not know but some one might
still be listening screened in the darkness.
"They may have only come to watch us, and probably did not grasp the
meaning of our conversation," said the Doctor, in a low voice.
"Let us hope so, for it may mean life or death," was Burton's serious
reply, and that night guards were set over the camp.
Early next morning Burton left, but before going he slipped a letter
into the Doctor's hand, saying as he did so, "Don't open it unless I am
not back by eight o'clock to-morrow morning. Inside you will find full
instructions what to do if I have not returned."
Chapter IV.—A Capture
Soon after Burton had left the camp the Doctor received a letter from
Professor Muirson in which he said, "The only word on the rubbing you
sent me from the last fragment of slab you found means 'Cave,' and I
think it should be placed before the words 'of Hydas'; thus you have a
reference to the 'Cave of Hydas,' in which there is, or was, something
to be carefully guarded."
"Then, putting two and two together, the men who hold Mark a prisoner
are either anxious to learn where this Cave of Hydas is, or they know
where it is and do not wish any one else to obtain the knowledge," said
"I am inclined to think that Mark is in that very cave at the present
moment," said Tom.
"Quite possible. By the way, Tom, tell the natives who are crowding
about the camp to continue the search for Mark. Burton wishes it to be
kept up for some reason or other," said the Doctor as he went into his
"Hi! Tom; come here a moment," almost immediately shouted the Doctor;
and as soon as Tom had joined him he said, "I have just found
this—listen: 'I have been asked to say that I am all right, and to
advise you to do what my captors have requested you. Your reply is to be
written on the blank part of this paper and placed where you put the
last. Mark.' There can be no doubt about the writing—it is Mark's, and
my mind is greatly relieved," said the Doctor.
"Mark knows one of his captors understands English or he would have
written more; he was only allowed to write what he was told," said Tom.
The Doctor at once wrote the following reply: "Mark, you are to tell
them that if one of their number will come with you here he may take
away any of the stones we have found."
This answer was written with the object of delay until Burton's return;
and, as before, the Doctor took the paper to the salt spring, while Tom
went to a position where he could watch the goat carry away the message
to the boy; and he had not long to wait, for within a couple of hours
the boy and his goats appeared and slowly passed the place, and, as they
quietly went along from bush to bush cropping the leaves, one took the
letter, and in a few minutes the boy had taken it from the goat.
That night, as soon as it was dark, the mysterious Fakir again entered
the cave he had examined a couple of nights previously. He lit his lamp
as soon as he was inside, and went straight to the far end.
Here he stood for a time and listened; then he flashed his light up the
chimney-shaped opening high above him, the top of which extended far
beyond the reach of his light; then, having satisfied himself that all
was quiet, he put his arm into a narrow crack in the side of the cave
and his fingers grasped two thin ropes; he gave them a sharp jerk, and
instantly there was a rustling, swishing noise as a rope-ladder came
The Fakir tugged at the ladder, and, finding that it was securely
fastened above, he at once climbed up. When he had gone about forty feet
he found the entrance to another passage; but before venturing to
explore it he carefully drew up the ladder as it had been before.
The Fakir cautiously made his way, frequently stopping to put his ear to
the floor to listen, and keeping a sharp look-out for any side
galleries, of which he passed three, but they were much narrower than
the one he was following.
He had proceeded about three hundred yards when he suddenly closed the
shutter of his lamp; then, after listening a while, he went on in the
dark, and it was well he had turned off his light, for the passage took
an abrupt turn, and he saw the glimmer of a light in the distance and
faintly heard the sound of voices.
Slowly and noiselessly he approached the light, for he concluded it came
from some side cave, and this proved to be the case when he had gone a
"I tell you again that you have got all the stones if, as you say, you
have stolen the one Ellison Sahib was taking to Lahore."
The words were spoken in a loud voice, and so suddenly had they broken
the stillness of the dismal place that the Fakir started with surprise,
and then crouched closer to listen.
"What the Sahib says is not true, for we have only got one of the last
you found the other day," said another speaker.
"Then get the rest if you can, for I know nothing about any more. How
long is this farce going to last? My father says he will let you have
any stones he has found if one of you will go with me for them, but I
told you when you first captured me that you would get nothing of value
by keeping me a prisoner," replied Mark, for he it was.
"Then you shall not leave this cave until the other parts of the broken
slab are discovered and in our hands, and I may tell you that it is more
than a hundred years since the slab was broken and some of the parts
stolen and lost. Take him back to his cave"; and the Fakir could hear
footsteps ascending steps and then die away in the distance.
"Now, brothers, hearken," began the speaker who had addressed Mark. "We
have learnt that Koj Burton has almost guessed who we are, and if he
follows up his idea he will surely track us down. Our forefathers
through many generations protected the secret of their work and amassed
wealth in the way we are doing, and, with the exception of the man who
accidentally found his way into this cave and stole the inscribed slab,
no outsider has ever known the secret of the Cave of Hydas—and that man
met his death without having an opportunity of revealing what he had
learnt, although he caused us to lose part of that on which was written
the command to guard the secret of the cave with our lives.
"Are we now going to allow this Koj Burton to bring destruction upon us
and thereby destroy our method of obtaining wealth?" asked the speaker
"Never! never! never!" shouted fully half a dozen voices.
"Then he must die, and I will see that he does so, and in such a manner
that his death cannot in any way be traced to us"; and as the Fakir
heard these words he gripped his revolver more tightly, and a grim
smile played about his mouth.
"If this Koj Burton suspects who we are, do you not think, Appoyas, that
he may also have gained some idea of the Cave of Hydas?" a voice asked.
"It may be so, and we will have the cave well guarded. Do not forget
that to-morrow night at ten o'clock it will be, according to the
records, exactly fifty years since the offerings in the Temple of Atlas
were removed to the Temple of Hydas. This has been done every fifty
years, and only on those occasions is the inner temple opened, and——"
the speaker stopped abruptly, and then, after a moment's pause,
continued—"and, brothers, you may now go."
On hearing the last words so suddenly spoken the Fakir began quickly and
noiselessly to retreat along the passage, but, as no one appeared to be
following, he stopped.
For some minutes he heard men talking, and dimly saw some figures come
into the passage and go in the opposite direction, and in a short time
the sound of footsteps died away and the Fakir was left alone in the
More than a quarter of an hour he remained motionless; then he felt his
way to the entrance of the side cave in which he had heard the men, and,
finding all still, he turned on his light.
It was a cave-chamber, about twelve feet square; the walls were fairly
smooth, but the roof was uneven—it was evidently an enlarged cave.
From this cave-chamber there was a flight of steps to a passage above,
and the Fakir was on the point of ascending them when he heard quick
footsteps coming along the passage towards him, which caused him to
hurry back into the passage he had left; then, turning off his light, he
waited and listened.
"One of the brothers must have come back for something," the Fakir heard
some one mutter. "It is all right, though; I will return to my
prisoner," and then he went away.
Without venturing to turn on his light the Fakir started for the
rope-ladder; every few paces he paused to listen; he appeared extremely
suspicious, for at times he would halt for three or four minutes and was
constantly feeling his revolver.
At last he had nearly reached the ladder, when suddenly he saw a faint
glimmer as though from a light in the passage below, so, inch by inch,
he approached the edge until he was able to peer down, and almost at the
instant he did so the light below went out; but he had learnt much in
that one glance, and, as the sound of a severe struggle from below
reached him, he quickly lowered the ladder and quietly slipped down.
No sooner had he reached the bottom than he turned on his light for an
instant, which revealed Tom Ellison and a powerful native trying to get
the better of each other, the latter having a knife in his hand, but Tom
was holding him by the wrist and preventing him using it.
In a moment the Fakir had twisted the knife from the man's grasp, and
in a few seconds the man was bound and gagged.
"Well I'm——" began Tom, but the Fakir put his hand over Tom's mouth
and, taking him by the arm, led him to the cave-entrance.
"Speak low, Tom," said the Fakir in a low voice.
"Marvellous! Is it you, Burton? I should never have known you in that
get-up," whispered the surprised Tom.
"Seems like it. But quick's the word, my boy. We must have that man out
before any of his comrades come along, and this must be done without his
discovering who I am. We must blindfold him, for there is a rope-ladder
hanging near him, and on no account must he learn that it is down, and
that we are aware of its existence; as soon as we have him here I will
return and place the ladder as I found it," said Burton.
"Ah, now I understand why you so promptly put out your light when you
had secured the knife," said Tom. "But where shall you take the man? His
comrades will hear about his capture if you take him to the camp," he
"That is the very last thing I wish them to learn. About an hour's walk
from here—but two hours for us to-night, I am afraid—there is a
salt-mine, and to-day I arranged—in case I needed it—to use part of it
as a temporary prison until we make a grand coup on the rest of the
gang. I have a couple of my men waiting near the mine now," explained
It was a difficult tramp they had with their prisoner. They kept him
blindfolded, and his hands bound; and each held him by an arm as they
stumbled over the rough ground in the dark, for Burton would not risk
using his lamp lest the light, at that unusual hour, should attract the
attention of the man's friends and cause them to try and discover what
When they had safely lodged their prisoner they started for the camp.
"What caused you to go to that cave, Tom?" asked Burton, as they walked
"Oh, the word on that last piece of stone turns out to be 'cave,' and
when thinking the matter over I thought of the place Mark had entered
after the porcupine, so I spotted the place before dark, and then
quietly left the camp after dinner on a private exploring expedition.
That man suddenly sprang upon me just before you so opportunely appeared
on the scene," explained Tom.
"Then that's all right—you were followed from the camp; I was afraid
they had placed a guard over that entrance," said Burton. "I branch off
here, for I cannot enter the camp in this disguise; I want to use it
again, and as a Fakir I do not wish to be seen near the camp; but I hope
to turn up early in the—or rather this morning. I advise you to get all
the rest you can, for I think I can promise you a very lively time
before many hours are over."
As Burton went on alone, he muttered, "Yes, I must have all arrangements
carefully made. I expect we shall have a dangerous tussle, for they are
not the class of men to give in quietly."
Chapter V.—A Valuable Find in the Temple of Atlas
"It's what I call a tall order, Burton," exclaimed Tom Ellison, who,
with the Doctor, had been listening to the police officer's plan to raid
the Cave of Hydas.
"I am glad you turned up before eight o'clock, Burton, for it would be
difficult to enter the cave and find our way about without your
guidance. It seems a likely place to get one's head cracked in the
dark," remarked the Doctor.
"It would not be easy for you to get in, but had I been caught last
night you would have found a clue to my whereabouts in the letter I gave
you. However, we are all here yet, and I expect we shall get the better
of Appoyas and his gang if our plans work out properly, and if they
don't, then, well—look out for yourselves," said Burton, and he
shrugged his shoulders.
"What led you to suspect Appoyas, who you say is supposed to be one the
wealthiest and most respected men on the Salt Range, Burton?" asked the
"Well, I saw him with that long brass-studded stick, and his general
description answers to the tall man who fought the other two in the
museum. Then I followed the goat-boy who got the message from the goat,
and the boy handed the message to a man, and this man took it to
Appoyas, and finally my suspicions were confirmed when I heard Appoyas
addressed by name in the cave last night," explained Burton.
"It must have been pleasant listening to your own death-sentence!"
remarked the Doctor.
"I am glad I heard it," said Burton, "for never was it more true than in
my case that to be fore-warned is to be fore-armed. Two traps have been
already laid this morning to get me away from the Salt Range, and—I
believe here is another," he said, as a coolie came at the trot with a
telegram in his hand.
"Come at once. Most serious. Mirkwort," read out Burton, as soon as the
coolie had retired. "This pretends to be a message ordering my speedy
return to headquarters, and I shall make a pretence of going, but I
shall soon be back in this neighbourhood in disguise," he added.
"How do you know it is an attempt to get you away?" asked the Doctor.
"Because I requested Mirkwort to use a cypher in all his communications
for some days, and this is not in cypher," replied Burton. "But to
persist in staying here would only cause Appoyas to suspect that I am
about to take some decisive steps. I have twenty men around here now,
and as soon as it is dark to-night some of them will watch the house of
Appoyas in the village on the top of the cliffs, for I feel convinced
there is an entrance to the cave from his house.
"At the foot of the cliffs and immediately under the village there is
another entrance through a house built against the rocks, and other men
will watch there. I shall be near the camp at nightfall, together with
some specially picked men who will have arrived by that time, and we
shall enter the cave by what I will call the porcupine entrance, and,
once inside—well, we have to rescue Mark and capture as many of the
gang as we can. We must take all precautionary measures, for I do not
know how many rascals we shall have to contend with, and that cave is
like a rabbit-warren. Expect me as a Fakir at dusk. I will send for you
when the time comes," and as Burton clattered away on his horse the camp
understood that he had been called to headquarters on important
It was about nine o'clock and very dark when Burton, with a number of
his men, though not in uniform, were sitting under the bushes a couple
of hundred yards or so from the cave entrance.
"Ali Khan, go and meet the party from the camp and see that they make as
little noise as possible," said Burton to one of his men; and then to
another he said, "Sergeant, come with me; we must find out whether there
is a guard placed at the entrance; if there is, we must secure him."
The two crept stealthily along, and, when some twenty yards from the
cave, a man sprang up within a few feet of them and dashed off towards
the cave, but he had not taken many steps when he tripped, and before he
could recover himself Burton pounced upon him, and in a few moments the
man was gagged and bound.
By the time the Doctor and Tom with the rest of the men had arrived,
Burton had explored the cave as far as the rope-ladder without any
Two men were left at the entrance of the cave with the prisoner, another
was stationed at the foot of the ladder and two more at the top, and a
man was left at each of the side passages opening from the main gallery.
"Now, Doctor," said Burton, when he had led the party some distance into
the cave beyond the ladder, "will you remain here with the men whilst
Tom goes with me to try and discover where Appoyas and his gang are, and
how many we have to deal with? They have some special work on at ten
o'clock in what they call the Temple of Atlas, and I don't know where it
is. If you hear me whistle, then light your lamps and come on as quickly
as possible. Now quietly, Tom," and they went ahead.
"She—e—e! See, there's a light. Some of them are in the cave-chamber
where I heard them last night," whispered Burton to Tom.
Hearing voices, they silently crept nearer until they could hear what
"I sent no message to the Doctor Sahib to-day, lest Koj Burton should
remain to inquire into it. Brothers, Koj Burton is far away, and at the
bottom of the river Hydaspes (Jhelum), I hope, if our men did their
duty. Now, brothers, follow me to the Temple of Atlas and we will take
the fifty years' offerings to the inner Temple of Hydas. By giving
liberal offerings to the gods they bless us and we get much wealth.
Come, it is the time."
The speaker was Appoyas, and under cover of the noise made in the
chamber as his men lighted torches and prepared to follow him, Burton
and Tom slipped some distance back along the passage, for they knew not
which direction the men would take.
"Seven," whispered Burton as Appoyas and his men came into the passage
and fortunately went the opposite way to where the Englishmen were
Cautiously they followed; suddenly the men disappeared down a flight of
steps, and when Burton and Tom peered below they were amazed at what
They were gazing into a large cave-temple, and at the far end was an
enormous statute of a figure evidently representing Atlas with a large
globe on his shoulders.
Burton and Tom were intently watching the men in the temple, when they
were startled by hearing some on rapidly approaching along the passage.
The man carried no light, and as the two Englishmen crouched close to
the side of the cave to allow him to pass he knocked against Tom's arm.
"Strangers in the cave!" shouted the man, and he turned and fled.
For a moment the men in the temple were too amazed to move; then,
simultaneously, they stamped out their torches.
"We have them trapped below if they have no other exit but the steps.
That man's gone for help," said Burton, and blew his whistle. "We will
have a look at them," he added, and turned on his lamp.
In an instant something flashed in the light and the lamp was knocked
out of his hand and fell with a clatter down the steps, for Appoyas had
crept up with his long brass-studded stick.
Next moment Tom felt himself hooked by the ankle, and before he could
free himself his legs were jerked from under him and he fell on his
back; then he felt a bare foot placed on his chest as some one trod on
him and dashed down the passage.
No one else was able to pass, for Burton stood on the top of the steps,
swinging his iron rod to and fro, and at the same time holding his
whistle in his mouth and blowing until some of his men arrived with
"Tom, you stop here with some of the men, and don't let any of these
rascals escape. Listen! The Doctor is having a tussle; there is a fight
going on all over the place, and I must discover where Mark is lest they
should try to injure him." Taking a couple of men, he hurried away in
the direction of the shouts which were ringing through the galleries.
"Hi! This way, Bur—r—r——" some one tried to shout in English.
"That's Mark's voice, and they are strangling him," said Burton. "Quick
with your lamp, Sergeant, this way," he added.
Burton found Mark in the grasp of two men, who dashed the lad to the
ground and then fled in the darkness, after showing fight for a few
seconds, Burton pursuing them hotly, received a terrific blow on the
head after being tripped by Appoyas, who was waiting in a side passage,
and Burton lay partly stunned for some time.
Appoyas fought like a fiend, doing great damage with his stick, but at
last he fled along a side passage.
In half an hour the fight was over, and Burton found they had eight
prisoners; among whom was Atlasul, but Appoyas and some of the others
Burton and Tom were exploring one of the narrow galleries when they
suddenly came face to face with Appoyas, who, after throwing a knife at
Burton, dashed down the passage followed by the two Englishmen.
They had gone about a hundred yards when Appoyas stopped, and his
pursuers could see that he was standing on the very edge of a black
chasm. For a moment he stood and faced them, his eyes flashing fiercely
in the light of the lamp.
"You cannot escape us now, Appoyas," said Burton, covering him with a
"I will have a bitter revenge on you, Koj Burton. Here is the end of the
passage, below is the Cave of Doom, but you have not got me yet," and,
to the astonishment of Burton and Tom, Appoyas shouted a fierce cry of
"Revenge!" and sprang into the fearsome black abyss.
"He must be dashed to pieces. I can't see the bottom," said Tom, holding
his lamp over the gulf.
"I am doubtful. We will get a rope and make a search," said Burton.
Some time later a lamp was lowered, and far below, about six feet from
the bottom, could be seen a strong net stretched the full width of the
"He dropped into that, and escaped by a secret exit," said Burton.
They proceeded to thoroughly explore the cave, and were astonished at
the extent and number of side passages.
"I say, Burton, this globe on the shoulders of old Atlas is hollow and
has a big slit in it like a letter-box, and has a lock on it," exclaimed
Mark as they were examining the Temple of Atlas.
When the globe was opened it proved to be nearly full of gold and silver
ornaments, precious stones, and coins.
"Ah, these are the offerings to the gods, a portion of the things stolen
by these thieves during the last fifty years. A system of theft and
sacrifice which has been handed down from father to son for many
generations," exclaimed Burton.
The prisoners proved to be connected with burglaries which had taken
place all over the Punjab and far beyond. The villains had been in the
habit of placing a few of the things stolen in some innocent person's
house, and had employed a variety of tricks to avoid suspicion resting
The valuables recovered in the Temple of Atlas were restored to their
rightful owners where they could be traced, and the balance was
ultimately considered as treasure-trove, the Government claiming four
annas in the rupee, thus leaving three-fourths of the value to be
divided amongst those who had discovered it.
Many hours did the Englishmen spend in trying to discover the inner
Temple of Hydas, but its secret baffled all their efforts, neither were
they able to find any parts of the broken slab which might have aided
them in their search. They were equally unsuccessful in getting any
trace of Appoyas, who had so suddenly disappeared while his cry of
revenge was ringing through the Cave of Hydas.