Part 3 out of 3
This was a little past noon, and a few minutes later Jack would be obliged
to part with Plum, who must start on his return to St. Resa.
"There is one favor you can do me, Plum. If you will lend me money enough
to buy a pair of oxen I will begin to team a cargo of nitrate down myself.
I do not feel you will take much risk in letting me have that amount."
"I only wish you would take more, Jack."
"I think I have hit on a better plan this time," said Jack, as he took the
loan. "I am going to draw enough for a shipload down on the Bolivian coast
and house it there until an American ship comes into harbor.
"I may have to wait a long time, but it will be best in the end."
With his oldtime vivacity Jack set out on his new undertaking. He soon
found a yoke of oxen to his liking, and finding he had money enough he
bought a second pair. Then he started for the mountain ridge where he had
so unceremoniously left his two loads of nitrate so long before.
He did not expect to recover the one that had gone over the precipice,
though it had not moved from its singular position. To his joy he found
the other just where he had left it. The rust had gathered on the iron-work
and the sun had discolored the wood, but the wagon was in running order,
and as the path from this point was generally descending he had no trouble
in drawing the load, though his team consisted of one yoke of oxen less
It would be tedious to follow him in his long, lonely journeys to Cobija,
on the coast of Bolivia, where he stored his nitrate until he had there
enough for a ship's cargo. During the time his cattle lived by feeding on
the grass that grew on the more fertile places along the route, while he
lived on whatever food he could pick up, sleeping at night under his cart.
He had no further use for his oxen, so he sold them at the first favorable
opportunity, realizing enough for them to pay back the money he had
borrowed of his friend, with a fair rate of interest. Surely he had made a
more auspicious beginning this time.
The Fate of Plum Plucky
It had been three months since Jack had seen Plum, so he resolved to go to
De la Pama and see his friend before making another move in his venture.
But he had not left town before he was surprised to meet his friend, who
had come to Cobija in search of him.
"Lost my job and so I thought I would hunt you up," said the latter,
bluntly. "Got a stunning piece of news for you, too. There is an American
brig ship just above here at the next town, and I made bold to ask him to
take your cargo to New York. He says he will do it for a snip in the
This was a bit of news worth hearing, and in the exuberance of his
spirits, Jack flung his cap high into the air and threw his arms about the
neck of his friend.
"At last I believe my dream will be fulfilled, but I shall never forget it
was you who helped to accomplish it. But I want to pay the money I owe
"Not yet, Jack; better keep it awhile longer. I know it is safe. You may
need it you know. Besides I am going to the States with you. I have got
enough of this country. The war grows hotter and hotter up St. Resa way. I
Jack lost no time in seeing the captain of the brig, a man named
Hillgrove, and who gave our hero a most cordial greeting. He had been in
Bouton daring his adventurous career, though he could give Jack no
information of his friends. He knew John Fowler, the great engine builder,
and that simple fact gave him confidence in the young speculator, who must
have presented a not very favorable appearance to him.
Jack's long exposure to the tropical sun had fairly blackened his
countenance, his hair was long and unkempt, while his clothes were sadly
in need of repair, or more truthfully new ones to take their place. But
there was an honest frankness in his manner, and Captain Hillgrove entered
into the spirit of the venture with a hearty good-will. The bluff old sea
dog, too, true to his nature, was anxious to get out to sea again as soon
"I must and will get out of this infernal country within a week," he said.
"So I will run down to Cobija as soon as possible, and if your nitrates is
on board by that time the old Elizabeth will be good-natured."
Plum having decided to go home with Jack, it was necessary for him to
return to De la Pama for his money.
"I will be back sure, Jack, on the third, if not before," were his parting
Captain Hillgrove ran into Cobija the next morning, when the loading of
the nitrates was begun with as little delay as possible, Jack feeling in
the best of spirits as he superintended the work.
But on the eve of the third day, Jack having got the last of the cargo
aboard a little after noon, to his anxiety, Plum Plucky had not appeared.
"He will surely come before morning, unless something has happened to him,
for I never knew Plum to break his word," said Jack to the skipper.
"Can't wait any longer!" declared captain Hillgrove the following morning,
when it was found that Plum was still missing. "We shall all be
confiscated by these infernal Spaniards."
Jack was now really alarmed about his friend, whom he believed had been
waylaid and robbed. But he could not think of leaving without making a
search for him.
"I am going to start for De la Pama to look for him, but you may expect me
back by sunset."
"If you are not I shall set sail without you, for I have seen some of the
Chilian spies around today."
"You need not wait any longer than sunset," said Jack, who could not blame
the other for his impatience.
Losing no more time, Jack mounted a fleet pony that he had hired at an
exorbitant price, and set out for De la Pama at a furious pace.
Toward noon he was gladdened by the sight of an inhabitant of the town
whom he knew, and who was on his way to Cobija.
Halting the Peruvian he inquired of him in regard to Plum. This fellow,
who knew Plum well, replied that he had seen him in town, and that he had
left two days before. Upon second thought, he volunteered the startling
information that news had come of an American being waylaid and killed by
a party of bush-raiders a dozen miles east of De la Pama!
"Did the young engineer start directly for Cobija?" asked Jack anxiously.
"No; he went toward the east, saying he wished to go to Don de Estuaray
before he went to Cobija."
This was sufficient to arouse the fears of Jack, who procured a fresh
horse and put on as rapidly as possible across the wild country toward the
estancia of Don de Estuaray.
All the afternoon he rode as fast as he could, but he saw nothing of his
missing friend. In his anxiety he halted on top of an eminence of land
commanding a wide view of the surrounding country, to scan the lonely
His attention was finally caught and held by the flight of one of those
enormous vultures of the Andes, which was descrying a circle in the air
directly over the valley at his feet. Smaller and smaller grew the orbit
of this dark bird while he watched, until suddenly it ended its gyrations
and swooped swiftly down out of sight.
Then a second took its place in the air, soon following it to the earth,
in turn succeeded by a third, and that by another, and so on, until a
dozen had come and gone in this mysterious way.
With a dread foreboding at his heart, Jack rode forward into the isolated
valley, when, from a small opening in the centre of the place the sudden
whir of wings and the rapid flight of many dark bodies told him the secret
of it all.
He found what he expected a moment later--the bones of a human being
picked clean of all flesh by the vultures, while scattered here and there
were shreds and pieces of the garments worn by the unfortunate person.
He found enough of the clothes to know only too well that they belonged to
his lost friend Plum Plucky, and tears filled his eyes as he turned away
to shut out the sad spectacle.
"This is fearful!" he murmured. "Poor, poor fellow!"
At this very moment, though of course unknown to him, tired of waiting for
him any longer, Captain Hillgrove was sailing out of Gobija harbor,
anxious to reach the open sea before night should set in.
The vultures were still screaming over his head, venting their rage over
being disturbed in their feast, as Jack hastily brushed the tears from his
eyes and looked more clearly around him.
"Poor Plum!" he exclaimed, "this is indeed a sad fate. It seems a certain
fatality for any one to be my friend. But I suppose you were killed for
your money. It seems only decent that I should give your bones human
With his knife and the stirrups taken from the trappings of his horse,
Jack hollowed out a spot to receive all that was left of the body he had
By the time he had finished the sad task it was quite dark in the forest,
so he knew he must get away from the lonely place as soon as possible, if
he valued his own life.
With a last farewell look at the wildwood grave which he was never to see
again, he rode away through the wilderness.
He soon found, however, that his horse was so spent that it must have rest
before going much further.
As impatient as he was to reach Cobija, wondering what Captain Hillgrove
would think of his prolonged absence, he yielded to the unavoidable and
stopped awhile in the heart of the forest.
It was broad daylight when he rode into De la Pama on a used up horse and
himself quite fagged out.
But notwithstanding his condition, he felt obliged to push on for Cobija,
dreading lest he should find Captain Hillgrove already gone. Accordingly
remounting the pony he had previously ridden, he started for the sea coast
at a rapid gait.
The wiry little animal made a remarkable record, but he might as well have
been on the road another day, as it seemed, for he found his worst fears
Captain Hillgrove had sailed!
Whither should he turn now? What should he do? Never in his life had he
felt so lonely and so near despair as he did at that time. The indomitable
pluck which had carried him through so many trials began to leave him.
Then, he rallied, exclaiming:
"I will earn money enough to take me back to the United States on the
first ship that comes this way. Perhaps with a sample of my nitrate
He suddenly felt a heavy hand laid on his shoulder, and turning he was
both astonished and pleased to find one of the seaman of the
Elizabeth standing beside him!
"Ahoy, shipmate!" greeted the sailor, giving the true nautical pitch, "so
I've follered you into port at last, though it's a sorry cruise I've had."
"Captain Hillgrove!" cried Jack, elated. "Where is he?"
"Outside, shipmate. He durstn't stay inside longer, and he sent me to keep
a lookout for you. I was giving you up when I clapped my old watchdogs on
you. You are ready to go out to the Elizabeth in my boat?"
Jack's reply was an exclamation of joy and a more fervant grip of the
honest old tar's hand.
"Captain Hillgrove had not deserted me after all!"
Without further trouble or delay the couple made the trip to the waiting
vessel, when Jack was greeted by the bluff old skipper:
"Bless my eyes! but I had given you up to old Davy Jones."
"And I thought you had left me in the lurch," said Jack frankly, as he
cringed under the grip given his hand by the other.
"I did not dare stay in Cobija longer, my hearty. If I had done so nary a
bit of your dust would have been left on the Elizabeth. Bless my
eyes! but I'm just overflowing and roaring glad--run up the yards lads.
Lively, lads! put the old Elizabeth on her wings. We must be a long
way from here afore sun-up."
Exciting scenes followed, of which Jack was a spectator and not an actor.
For the present his work was done, and he had time now to ponder upon his
ups and downs, hardly able to believe that at last he was really on his
homeward journey. He felt far more confident in the care of bluff Captain
Hillgrove than in that of the fickle Peruvians.
Nor was his confidence misplaced, for the night passed without anything
occurring to interrupt their progress, and when the sun rose the following
morning it found them many leagues from land, and bowling merrily on their
Captain Hillgrove listened to his account of the fate of poor Plum Plucky
with a feeling of sorrow, though he had never met the young American.
Jack's return home was something of a triumph, though he was saddened by
the loss of his companion during those trying scenes he could not put from
his mind, while his longings to reach home were tinged with those
forebodings one cannot escape who has been away so long, and the nearer he
approached his native land the more ominous became those feelings!
Were his parents still living and well? Was--was Jenny still true to him?
What had she thought of his long, weary years of absence? Until then he
had not realized that he had been away so long.
At last the old Elizabeth was safely moored at her dock.
Though Captain Hillgrove was anxious to know what the result of their
speculation was going to be, he allowed Jack time to hunt up his relatives
and friends before the nitrate was moved from the ship's hold.
I cannot begin to explain the joyous reception accorded our hero at his
home, for many had given him up as dead.
With a tremulous tongue he asked for Jenny dreading, doubting, expecting
he knew not what; and then his cup of happiness overflowed at the
thrice-welcome news of her well-being and faithfulness to him, and that
she had just returned to her native town.
Jenny was not only living and well, but she had never given up looking for
him, believing he would some day return to her.
The sweet happiness of the meeting between the pair is too sacred to be
When the first transport of his reception home had passed, Jack proceeded
to put on the market his ship-load of nitrate, to be met with another
rebuff in the checkered wheel of fortune.
He could find no one with faith in the virtue of his product brought from
the wilds of South America.
Captain Hillgrove began to think he had made a profitless voyage, though
be it said to his credit, he stood ever by Jack.
The latter met the words of scorn uttered against him with his
characteristic good-nature. Some of the nitrate was put in the hands of
competent chemists, and still more with practical agriculturists.
"I shall win out," said Jack confidently.
"I trust so with all my heart," answered Jenny.
At last some favorable reports came in and then the load of nitrates was
sold at a fair profit. Of the amount Jack got several hundred dollars, the
rest going to the captain of the Elizabeth.
Jack and the Ocelot
The one most satisfied with the result of this first cargo of nitrate was
Captain Hillgrove. He had not expected great returns, but found himself so
well paid that he was willing to return for another load as soon as
Jack felt confident of his ultimate success. Already he was the possessor
of a fair sum, and with the apparently unlimited deposits of nitrate now
in his possession, he believed he could easily secure a fortune. As soon
as he should get back to Peru he resolved to get possession of other
nitrate beds before the price should advance.
But with that far-seeing sagacity of his he made no talk of what he had
done or what he had in mind. Quietly he went about his work, engaging
several ships to go to South America with him, prepared to return with
loads of the precious substance. He fitted up an office at home and put a
trusty man in the place to begin to work up a business. He had fondly
looked forward to giving this place to Plum Plucky, but stern fate had
decreed different plans.
Jenny was enthusiastic over her Jack's plans, and that they might not be
separated so long again she consented to their marriage, which took place
before he started on his second trip to Peru, and she accompanied him.
Now that Jack had really got started in his speculations, he studied how
best he might promote his interest. His young wife going with him to South
America, he resolved to locate in that country until he had got fairly
under control the gigantic business he intended to build up.
While successful in his nitrate ventures, he still preserved the
manuscript he had picked up in the convict cell on the island of Robinson
Crusoe, and he looked forward to the time when he should be able to visit
the strange lake in the Andes with means to reach its mysterious island of
So at last, accompanied by a party of surveyors and explorers, armed with
papers which would make him the owner of the whole region as soon as the
boundaries could be fixed, he started for the place.
He had told his real object to no one, knowing that to do so would be to
ruin his prospects without benefiting any one permanently.
He had no difficulty in leading the way to the spur of the Andes where he
had met with his thrilling experience with the jaguars, and then the party
started for the rocky ridge overlooking the niche in the mountains holding
the Devil's Waters.
It was a route that Jack had traveled several times, and feeling in the
best of spirits, he set off on a galop, on the pony he was riding.
"Poor Plum!" he murmured, as he rode along. "How I wish he was a live to
enjoy this with me."
On and on went our hero until he came to where there was a break in the
trail. He was absorbed in thought at the time and did not notice that his
pony turned to the left instead of the right.
The way seemed easy, and presently the pony set off on a galop, which soon
brought Jack out of his revery.
"Hullo! where am I going?" he asked himself, and brought his steed to a
halt. Then he gazed around in perplexity. "I declare I must be lost!"
With the memory of what had happened when he had been lost before, Jack
lost no time in turning back. But soon he became bewildered, and brought
his steed to a standstill a second time.
"What does this mean, Firefly?" he asked of the pony, but the animal could
Jack heaved a sigh and then drew a pistol he carried.
"I'll fire a shot--that will attract the attention of the others," he
reasoned. "What a dunce I was to get lost! I surely make a fine leader!"
Throwing up the pistol he discharged it. Hardly had he done so when his
pony started to bolt. Away dashed the steed under some trees and then
through a mass of vines, and Jack was thrown to the ground, striking on
his head as he fell,--and then his senses forsook him.
How long he laid where he had fallen he did not know exactly but when he
came to his senses, it was to find darkness around him. There was no rain,
but heavy clouds filled the air and a heavy breeze filled the woods around
him. He got up slowly, to make certain that no bones were broken, and
then looked around for his pony. The animal had disappeared and could not
be found. His pistol was also gone.
"Now I am surely in a pickle," reasoned Jack. "The question is, what am I
to do next?"
He knew his party must have gone on long before this. He would have to
find them in some way. But how?
Not relishing a stay in the bushes he started for higher ground. He had
not gone a dozen rods when he found himself at the edge of a ravine, lined
with tall trees and vines.
"I certainly did not come that way," he said to himself. "But beyond is
higher ground and I had better go up than down."
Thus reasoning, he looked around for some means of getting over the
ravine. A number of vines grew across, and he determined to test them and
if they were strong enough, to use them as a rope for getting across.
The vines appeared to be as firm as a cable, and without giving the matter
a second thought he launched himself forth and started to the other side
of the cut in the forest.
He had progressed less than two yards when he felt one end of the vines
giving way. He tried to turn back, but it was too late, and down he went.
Some heavy bushes broke his fall somewhat, but he continued to go down and
down, until with a dull thud he landed on a mass of soft dirt. He was
unharmed and soon arose to his feet, to gaze around in fresh dismay.
He had landed in an opening or cave, and presently went down into it still
further. Then, as he picked himself up, he heard a sudden low growl, that
filled him with fear. He strained his eyes and made out a small animal,
which proved to be the cub of an ocelot.
He followed its course to a litter of leaves and straining his glance in
that direction made out two other cubs.
They were too small to be dangerous. Plum had told him that there were
very few ocelots in that vicinity and these rather cowardly, unless
attacked or enraged.
Jack looked hurriedly around. The parent ocelot was not in evidence. The
baby cub he had stumbled over, however, was making a great outcry, and our
hero decided he would not linger any longer than was necessary.
He got under the hole he had fallen through. It was not accessible by
climbing, for the walls of the cave were perfectly perpendicular and came
nowhere near the central aperture.
Jack reached up and caught at the dangling end of the broken vine. It
sustained one hard pull, but, as he set his full weight, it tore up roots
and all, bringing down a shower of dirt and gravel.
About eight feet over his head the youth made out an exposed root of the
tree. It ran out of the solid dirt a few inches, looped, and was again
If he could reach this, he could grasp higher pieces of roots that showed
plainly, and easily draw himself to terra firma.
Our hero went back to the extreme end of the cave. The young cubs set up
outcries of affright as he passed near them, but he paid no attention to
He braced for a run and a jump to reach the piece of root that was the
bottom rung of a natural ladder to liberty.
Poised on one foot, Jack stood motionless in some dismay. The entrance to
the cave was suddenly darkened. A great heavy body dropped through. The
mother ocelot landed on four feet on the cave floor with a terrific growl.
She ran first to her crying cubs, nosed them affectionately, and then
turned with low, ominous growlings.
Jack saw the beast's eyes fix themselves upon him. They glowed with fire
and fury. Its collar ruffled and its white teeth showed.
Jack had not so much as a stick to defend himself with. He had loaned his
hunting knife to a friend when they first started and his pistol had been
dropped in the woods.
In his pocket was a small pocket knife. He was groping for this when the
ocelot, that had for a minute or two stood perfectly motionless, made a
It was not a spring or a glide, but a rush. Jack knew why they called this
species the Honey Eater. Its paws were enormous and armed with long curved
sharp pointed claws.
He was hedged in. The beast, still advancing, reared on its hind feet.
Its forepaws were extended and whipping the air. Jack knew that one
contact would tear the bark from the toughest tree. He mechanically seized
the first object his groping fingers met in his coat pocket.
It was one of two condiment bottles that he had brought from the last
camp. This was the one containing pepper.
In a desperate sort of a way Jack discovered this. He tore off the top of
It was all that he could do to stay the course of the determined animal.
As the ocelot thrust out one formidable paw to tear its victim into its
clasp, Jack flung the contents of the pepper bottle squarely into its
In the Quicksands
Jack ducked down and dodged the ocelot, and got past the animal. He could
do this now, for the whole contents of the pepper bottle had gone squarely
into the eyes of the beast.
The effect was indescribable. The animal gave a frightful roar, dropped to
the floor, and, rolling over and over, tore frantically with its paws at
its blinded, smarting eyes.
The cubs, excited and frightened by the uproar, joined in the chorus. They
waddled around, getting in our hero's way, and by their cries arousing the
mother from her own distress.
She got upright, and seemed to spot Jack. Her advance, however, was clumsy
and at fault, and the youth had time to get out of her way.
A second and a third rush she made at him. The last time one paw struck
Jack's coat sleeve and ripped it from place.
"This is getting serious," murmured the lad. "Each time she comes swifter
and surer. I must get out of here, now or never."
Jack drove the cubs to their litter, and poked them with his foot. They
set up a frantic uproar. This was just what he wanted. The mother flew
towards her offspring.
The moment that she did so, Jack glided to the opposite wall of the cave.
He made a sharp run for the opening overhead, calculated poise and
distance nicely, and landed with success.
He grabbed the rounding root. It held like iron, but his feet were
dangling, and as he swayed there the big ocelot brushed by them on the
hunt for the intruder.
Jack held firmly to the root and swung up his other hand. He caught at a
higher tree root. Now he had a double hold.
He knew that the ocelot might come after him even up there, and lost no
time in climbing from root to root. At last his head projected through the
mesh of verdure into clear daylight. Jack lifted himself to solid ground
and leaned against the tree trunk, out of breath and perspiring.
"That was action," he panted. "Will the beast come after me? No--but
something else may. Oh, the mischief!"
The roars and growlings down in the cave seemed to have attracted outside
attention. Jack turned sharply, at the sound of crackling branches and
rustling leaves at a densely-verdured spot near at hand.
There burst through the greenery a new enemy. This was an ocelot larger
than the one he had just escaped from.
"That is the head of the family, sure," thought Jack. "It's a race, now."
The new feature in the incident came straight for our hero, with bristling
muzzle and fiery eyes. Jack started down the edge of the ravine.
It crumbled so that he could not make very rapid progress. To turn aside
into the jungle meant to fight his way through thick, thorny bushes. To
leap down into the dry water-course was even worse. There, as he knew, the
spongy, shifting sand bottom would prevent even the progress of a decent
Jack glanced back over his shoulder. The big ocelot, more sure-footed than
himself, was following him up resolutely.
Jack took the first tree he came to. It was a dead one. There were lower
branches within reach, and he swung himself up to its first crotch
readily. The ocelot did not pause. It started up the tree without delay.
Jack armed himself with a piece of a thick limb. Reaching down, as the
beast got about four feet away, he delivered a smart whack directly across
The animal issued a terrific snort. Its eyes blazed madly. A second blow
with the club brought the blood, but it kept on climbing.
Jack knew that it would be folly to tempt to battle at any closer
quarters. He stood on a dead limb about twenty feet from the ground.
The limb was as thick as his arm, and over thirty feet long. It ran clear
across the ravine, and a discovery of this fact gave Jack an idea.
He planned to go out to the far end of the limb, swing from its extremity
and drop to the ground, landing on the ether bank of the cut.
The ocelot could not get hold or balance to venture as far out on the limb
as the lad dared to go. Jack calculated that the time it lost in getting
down to the ground again, would enable him to meantime put a considerable
distance between himself and the enemy.
The lad sat astride the dead tree branch and began to walk himself outward
from the main trunk of the tree.
The ocelot reached the crotch, surveyed Jack with a savage growl, and
carefully planting its feet, started out after him.
Its progress was slow. Jack hitched himself along more rapidly. The branch
began to creak. Our hero doubted if it would sustain their double weight.
However, he trusted to the wary instinct of the ocelot, which kept coming
right forward. Jack was about eight feet from the end of the branch when
it gave a very ominous crack. In fact, he saw the white splinters show
where it joined the tree.
He swung both feet to one side of the limb, held on only by his fingers,
and planned to get to its end hand over hand.
Snap! Jack hurried progress, but it was no use. He saw the ocelot crouch
and hug the limb. It gave way at its base. Jack let go. He landed directly
on the smooth, sandy bottom of that portion of the ravine.
He struck the ground upright, squarely with both feet. Glancing quickly at
the tree, he saw that the branch had whipped right down against the trunk.
The limb had not entirely broken loose, but swayed from several sustaining
wood filaments. The ocelot, still hugging the limb, was clawing
frantically at the main trunk of the tree to get a new hold there to keep
from a tumble.
"It won't do to stop, I see that," murmured Jack. "Ugh! what kind of a
mushy mess have I got into?"
Jack looked down at his feet. They had sunk into the sand and were covered
to the ankles. With the greatest difficulty he pulled out one foot.
The instant he put it down again in a new spot, however, it sank afresh.
He released the other. This threw his weight on a single foot, which went
down half way to the knee.
It was not ten feet to the bank of the ravine. Jack lost all interest in
the ocelot as he thrilled at a startling discovery.
"Quicksand!" he breathed hastily. "There is not a moment to lose!"
Our hero tugged to get the sunken foot free. He succeeded. Then,
half-dancing about, he threw himself flat.
His idea was to make a hurried scramble for the bank on hands and knees.
But he uttered a cry of the greatest alarm as his hands went down into the
treacherous mass clear to the wrists.
It took a great effort to get upright again. By the time he had done so,
Jack realized that he was in a most serious and critical situation.
He was sunk now clear to the knees in a weaving, shifting mass. It circled
his imprisoned limbs like great moving ropes, pulling him downward with a
suction force that was tremendous.
The youth uttered a grasp of real horror. He could not budge either limb.
As he sank to the thighs, he gave himself up for lost.
He saw that no help of any kind whatever was at hand. He knew that the
camp of the men who had come with him must be near. He raised his voice to
a desperate pitch.
He let out a series of the most piercing yells. But his heart sank, as
from the neighboring jungle there instantly arose a mocking imitation from
the throats of several parrots.
They drowned out his cries for help. Jack shuddered as the shifting sands
wound about his waist. He drew up his tingling fingers with a shock as the
mass swept them in ominous, warning contact.
"It is the last of me," thought Jack, as tears of despair came to his
eyes. "Jenny and the folks will never know my fate!"
Jack looked up at the dark sky, sick at heart, but trying to resign
himself to the terrible fate that hung over him.
His glance shifted to the tree. He instinctively dodged his head to one
side as he did so. Something spirited was happening there.
The ocelot had got a clutch on the main tree trunk, now. As it let go of
the dangling limb, however, this parted under the strain.
Its small end struck the ground, and it swung out, coming for Jack and
threatened to crush him.
The limb fell with a crash, the big end just reaching the west side of the
ravine. Its centre grazed our hero's shoulder.
"I am saved!" cried Jack.
He threw one arm tightly around the limb, then the other. Now he was
clinging to a natural bridge spanning the ravine from one side to the
Jack held on and tugged hard to draw himself up from this quicksand bath.
It was hard work. Finally he got one limb free, then the other. They were
numb, and felt like pieces of lead.
Jack was so exhausted with the effort that, crawling on top of the limb,
he lay there lengthwise, almost exhausted.
A Night in the Jungle
It was a good quarter of an hour before Jack felt like making another
move. As he lay on the log he kept a lookout for the ocelots, but neither
of the beasts appeared, the larger having gone to the cave-like opening to
learn what was the matter with its mate.
"I must get away from this vicinity," thought our hero, and at last
He scarcely knew in what direction to turn, for the running away of his
pony and his adventures with the wild beasts and in the quicksands had
completely bewildered him.
"I'd give a good round sum to be back with our party," he thought, as he
pushed his way through the jungle. "I wonder if they are out searching for
At last he had to rest again, and thinking himself safe for the time being
he set about cleaning his hands and face, and also his outfit.
"This is certainly treasure hunting with a vengeance," he mused. "I think
I would have done better had I stuck to the nitrates. Maybe I'll lose my
life and the vultures will pick my bones, just as they did poor Plum's."
It made our hero more dismal than ever to think of how Plum had departed,
and he was very sober as night drew on and he still found himself alone
and with no idea of where he was.
"I'll have to stay here alone in the dark," he said, half aloud. "That
won't be pleasant, but it can't be helped."
Soon it was so dark that to advance further would have been foolish.
Accordingly Jack came to a halt, and looked around for some means of
making himself comfortable for the night.
He did not deem it wise to remain on the ground, where some wild beast
might leap upon him, and so looked for some wide-spreading tree among
whose branches he might rest in peace.
At length he found a tree to his liking and having taken a final look
around, ascended to a number of the upper branches.
Here there was a sort of natural platform, where he might lie without much
danger of falling to the ground.
It was now pitch dark, the clouds obscuring the stars in the heavens. He
was very hungry but had absolutely nothing with which to gratify his
"I'll have to get something for breakfast," he reasoned. "If I don't I'll
be likely to starve to death."
It was but natural that Jack should find sleep difficult, and it was a
good two hours before he went off soundly. When he awoke it was with a
Jack listened intently, for he realized that some movement at the foot of
the tree had awakened him. He tried to look downward, but the darkness and
the leaves hid everything from view. He waited with bated breath and soon
heard a faint scratching. That some wild animal was at the foot of the
tree he had no doubt.
"I hope it doesn't try to come up," he thought. "If it does, what am I to
He did not dare to make a noise, and so remained silently on guard. The
minutes went by slowly, until a good hour had passed. The noises below
continued but that was all.
"Well, even if the beast can't get up it evidently intends to tree me,"
thought Jack, dismally.
Sleep was out of the question, and rather impatiently the youth waited for
the coming of dawn.
At last came a faint light in the east and at last daylight was at hand.
For some time Jack had heard no further noises below him and he fondly
hoped the thing on the ground--whatever it was--had gone away. But now the
noise was repeated, and then came another sound that made him start in
wonder and anticipation.
"Can it be possible!" he murmured, and began to climb down the tree with
all speed. Soon he reached the lower branches, and looking downward saw
his pony resting directly under him!
"Blind luck!" he cried. "And I thought it was a wild beast! How foolish I
was not to come down and take a look!"
Not to scare the pony, Jack called out softly, at which the steed pricked
up its ears. Then our hero slid down the tree to the ground and caught the
pony by the head. It did not offer to run away, but whinnied with evident
It gave Jack great pleasure to find the pony again, and he felt far less
lonely than he had during the night. He mounted into the saddle, and,
guided by the sun turned in the direction where he thought the mountain
trail might lie.
It was a dull day, a peculiar smoky air filling the jungle.
From a distance came the cry of wild birds, but that was all.
Jack journeyed for a good two hours, and then came to what looked like
another ravine. But the banks were not so steep as before and he had but
little difficulty in going down one side and getting up the other.
"Well, I never!"
This was the cry that burst from his lips half an hour later. A moment
before he had realized that the surroundings looked familiar. Now, on the
ground before him, he saw his lost pistol, shining among the grass and
He lost no time in securing the weapon. It was ready for use and with
great satisfaction he placed it in his pocket.
"Now I've got something with which to defend myself," he reasoned. "It may
not be as good as a gun, but it is better than nothing."
Onward he went once more, stopping once to get some handsful of berries
which he knew were good to eat, and then again for a drink of water for
himself and his steed. He had left his former trail, fearful of going in a
circle once more,--a common experience of those traveling in a dense
By noon Jack was more than hungry and he decided to shoot something and
cook it for a meal. He kept his eyes open, and when some plump birds came
close, brought down two with ease. Then a fire was lit, and he spitted the
birds and broiled them to his satisfaction. He took his time over the
meal, allowing his pony to graze in the meanwhile. Close at hand was a
spring of cold, mountain water and at this he quenched his thirst, and the
pony did the same.
"There, that makes me feel better," said the youth to himself. "It will
last me until nightfall, and by that time I ought to be able to find the
others of the party, or gain some regular trail which leads to somewhere."
So speaking Jack started to get into the saddle once more. As he did so,
he heard a rustling in the leaves of some bushes behind the spring. The
pony gave a violent snort and gave a side step, which threw our hero to
"Whoa there, Firefly!" he called out. "Whoa, I say!"
But instead of quieting down, the pony became more violent and it was
impossible for Jack to hold the steed. The pony broke away and like a
flash whirled around and disappeared once more into the jungle.
Somewhat bewildered, Jack stood up and gazed around him.
"What can this mean?" he asked himself. The next instant he saw the reason
for the pony's extreme fright. A snake had appeared, coming rapidly over
the rocks. It was ten or twelve feet long and as thick as a man's arm. It
was hissing viciously and had its glittering eyes fastened full upon our
Jack and the Big Snake
It was no wonder that Jack was both startled and alarmed. The snake was
certainly powerful, and the youth knew that many of the reptiles of that
vicinity were poisonous. A sting might mean death, and if the snake should
wind itself about him, he might be strangled until his breath was gone,
never to return.
By instinct more than reason he leaped to one side. At this the snake,
hissing louder than ever, did likewise. Then Jack made a wild leap into
the air, caught a low-hanging tree branch, and hauled himself upward.
For the time being our hero was clear of the snake, but he felt far from
comfortable. He perched himself on the limb and watched the reptile
closely. It whipped this way and that over the ground as if in high anger
over missing its intended prey.
Thus several minutes passed. The snake circled the tree three times and
then began to come up with a quickness that chilled Jack to the bone.
There was no help for it, and pulling his pistol, the youth blazed away at
the snake. The first shot took no effect, but the second hit the reptile
fairly in the body. It whipped around its head for a moment, then came
forward as before.
Jack was as far out on the limb as he could get, and now, as the snake
came forward, he blazed away a third and fourth time. Then he let himself
drop to the ground.
As he did this, the reptile thrashed around wildly in the tree, hitting
one limb after another with its tail. Then it came to the ground in a
heap, writhing horribly in its death agonies. Jack had wounded it fatally,
but the body would continue to move until sundown, if not longer. When the
scare was over the youth found himself bathed in a cold perspiration and
trembling as if with the ague. He realized that he had had a narrow
escape, and thanked providence that the snake was dead.
Jack did not remain in that vicinity long, but set at once to work to find
his pony. Fortunately the animal had not gone far on this occasion and a
call soon brought the steed to the youth's side. Then Jack hopped into the
saddle once more.
"Gracious! what a lot of adventures I am having!" he murmured, as he again
rode along. "I hope I don't have any more."
On and on through the forest rode Jack, gradually gaining higher ground.
The sun was breaking through the smoky air and this did something towards
raising his spirits.
A good two miles covered, and our hero came out in a clearing some
distance above the jungle. Here he could get a tolerable view of the
surrounding country and he looked eagerly for some trace of his party. To
the southward he made out what he took to be the smoke of a camp-fire, but
that was all.
"I may as well turn in that direction," he reasoned. "Where there is a
fire there must be human beings. And as the war is now at an end it isn't
likely that they will harm me."
For some distance the new route was an easy one, but then it became
rougher and rougher, until riding was all but impossible. At some points
he had to dismount and lead the pony. Once both went into a rocky hollow,
Jack barking a shin and the pony skinning a knee.
"I hope this doesn't last very far," thought the youth. The roughness
continued a quarter of a mile, when he came out on a beautiful grassy
plain, at the rear of which he saw a thatched house and a small garden
enclosure containing a score or more of chickens.
As he approached the house an old man came forth to meet him. He viewed
Jack with astonishment, for visitors in that lonely spot were rare. "Where
does the most noble senor come from?" he asked, bowing low.
"I came from the town far below here," answered Jack. "I have lost my
way," and then as well as he was able he described the road he wished to
"The Americano senor is a long distance from that road," said the
"Can you guide me to it?" questioned the youth, eagerly. "I will pay you
well for your services."
At the mention of pay the native showed an increased interest. He was
naturally a lazy fellow, but the promise of a Peruvian half dollar made
him hustle to take Jack on his way. He too had a pony, and soon the pair
set off, across the plateau and then through a sparingly grown forest,
where some of the trees were of enormous height.
"What had made the air so smoky?" questioned Jack, as they rode along.
"Have there been heavy forest fires?"
"No forest fires, senor," the native answered. "The smoke comes from the
bowels of the earth. The rocks have opened once more--we shall soon have
"You think so?" cried Jack. He had experienced several slight earthquakes
while in that quarter of the globe, and, though they had done small harm,
he dreaded the coming of another quake.
"Two, three days, it may be--or perhaps a week," answered the native.
After that they rode along in silence for fully half a mile, when they
reached a trail running east and west.
"Is this the road the senor is looking for?" asked the native, bringing
his pony to a halt.
"I believe it is," answered Jack. "But I must look around first to see if
my party has passed this way."
He surveyed the scene with care, but could find no trace of the others.
Had they come thus far, or had they turned back, in a hunt for him? Jack
was in a quandary over what to do next. Night was again coming on, and he
had no desire to remain alone again, after his many adventures of the past
"Where can we stop around here?" he asked.
"The senor wants his humble servant to remain with him over night?"
"Yes, unless some other house is handy, and others there."
"There is a house not far away, but it is empty."
"Then let us go to it. It will be better to remain there than to stay in
They went up the trail a short distance, and then turned to the southward
and took to a side road leading through a patch of high brushwood.
Crossing a tiny mountain torrent, they came in sight of a dilapidated
house, one end of which was all but wrecked. To the surprise of both Jack
and his guide, smoke was issuing from behind the structure.
"Somebody must be here after all," said the youth, as he rode forward.
"It must be a stranger, senor," was the native's reply.
Not to fall into the hands of enemies Jack advanced with caution. As he
rounded the end of the dilapidated house, he saw a bright fire burning
among some piled-up stones. In front of this fire a tall young man,
dressed in rags, was crouching, cooking something in a battered pan. As
Jack came closer the young man suddenly leaped to his feet, uttering a cry
of alarm. Then he gave another cry, and dropping the pan with its contents
to the ground, he rushed forward with wide-stretched arms yelling at the
top of his voice.
"Jack! Jack! It is really my own Jack! Oh, how glad I am to see yeou!"
Back from the Dead
Jack literally fell from his horse. Was he dreaming or was this a ghost
that confronted him? He gazed at the other fellow with eyes that almost
popped from his head.
"Ain't yeou glad to see me?" came from the fellow in rags, and his voice
took on a hurt tone. "Plum! Is it--is it really you?" faltered Jack.
"Sure ez yeou air born it's me," was the answer from Plum Plucky.
"But I thought you were dead--I was sure you were dead. Why, I--I buried
"Not by a jugful yeou didn't bury my bones, Jack. I've got 'em all with
me, although I allow they ain't much meat on 'em jest now," went on Plum,
"But this--this staggers me! I was certain you were dead, and when I found
a heap of bones which the vultures had picked clean I buried them for
yours. This is the most wonderful thing I ever heard of. I can't
understand it. Where have you been, and why didn't you let me hear from
"I have been a prisoner of war," answered Plum. "Got caught in the
mountains one day. Fust they was up fer shootin' me, but then they changed
their minds and carted me off to some little town in the mountains. They
fired me into a dungeon an' I took sick, an' would have died only a native
gal up an' nussed me back to health. Then I give the gal some silver I had
hidden away an' she showed me how to git away, an' I got. Then I got lost
in the mountains, an' would have starved to death only I run down some
sort o' a wild beast that had two legs broken in a fall over the rocks. I
killed the beast--I reckon it was a puma--with some rocks, an' lived on
the meat fer nigh on to a week. Then, after all kinds o' adventures in the
mountains, I reached here, an' here I am, an' so happy to see yeou I don't
know what to do."
As he finished tears stood in the honest eyes of the Yankee lad, and Jack
was no less affected. They embraced, the native looking on in wonder,
until the matter was explained to him.
"I know this road like a book, so ye won't need thet native no longer,"
said Plum. "But I'd like to have his nag. I'm dead tired o' hoofin' it."
"You shall have the pony--if he will sell," said Jack.
"Got any money to pay with? I ain't got a red cent."
Jack had some funds with him, and soon a bargain was closed with the
native. Then the fellow went off, leaving the former chums to themselves.
The supper Plum had been cooking was spoilt, but another was presently
prepared and both sat down to do justice to the repast. As they ate each
told his story in detail, and Jack related his reason for coming back to
that portion of the country.
"I'm glad to learn yeou made money on them nitrates," said Plum. "An' I am
glad, too, thet you found yer gal true blue an' waitin' for ye, Jack. But
about this treasure hunt,--well, I don't put much stock in it."
"I want to solve the mystery of that boiling lake, Plum. Even if I don't
get the treasure it will be something to learn what makes that water shoot
up as it does."
"Oh, I suppose so, but don't yeou take too many risks finding eout,"
returned the Yankee lad.
Plum said he had expected to remain at the deserted house all night and
then push on for the seacoast. But now he had met Jack, and had a pony at
his service, he was willing to go anywhere.
"I ain't got no home nor nuthin'," he remarked. "One place is ez good ez
another to me,--only I like to be among friends."
"Stay with me, Plum, and welcome," said Jack, cordially. "I can use you in
my business, if you want to come in."
"I am with yeou every time," said Plum, and shook hands on it. As said
before, he was without funds and more than glad that our hero was willing
to assist him.
The night was spent at the dilapidated house without anything unusual
happening, and early in the morning they got breakfast,--eating some birds
Jack brought down with his pistol--and then went on their journey.
Noon found them on the main road, and an hour later they came across two
of the members of Jack's party.
"Well, I am glad to see you are alive," said one of the men. "We had about
given you up for lost."
"I came pretty near being lost forever," answered Jack, and once again had
to tell his story. Then one of the men was despatched to bring up the rest
of the party; and by nightfall all hands were together again.
"I shall certainly be more careful in the future," declared Jack. "Such
absent-mindedness does not pay."
Fortunately some extra clothing had been brought along, and a suit was
given to Plum, for which he was exceedingly thankful. That night Jack
slept finely, and in the morning declared himself in the best of health.
Once again the party moved forward to the rocky bowl in the mountains
holding the Devil's Waters. By noon the summit of the ascent was gained
and the party came to a halt. Then Jack went ahead accompanied only by
As soon as Jack reached a spot where he could look into the vast bowl he
saw that something unusual had occurred. He was mystified and appalled and
sat on his pony spellbound.
The roar and thunder of the mysterious boiling lake was gone. Not a sound
broke the stillness of the mountainous scene. He looked down on a
grass-covered valley, somewhat round, in size and having in its center a
mound or "island," upon which grew a lonely pimento tree. A branch of the
tree, devoid of foliage, pointed like a great finger, to a cut in the
great mountain bowl.
There was no mistaking such a landmark, and as Jack viewed it he gave a
long low whistle.
"Well?" demanded Plum, questioningly.
"I am--am staggered, Plum."
"This doesn't look like a lake, does it?"
"Sure not, Jack."
"Well, the last time I was here it was a boiling, writhing lake, and that
mound you see yonder was an island in the middle."
"Gosh all hemlock, Jack! Yeou don't mean it!"
"I assuredly do."
"There ain't a drop o' water around here neow!"
"I know it and that is what puzzles me."
"Ain't mistaken in the spot?"
"Not at all. Do you see that solitary pimento tree? Well, that was there,
exactly as it is now."
"Yeou said it would be, I remember that," said Plum, scratching his head.
"But this ain't no lake."
"It has been. See, the grass shows signs of having been covered with water
mixed with mud."
"That is so too, an' neow I look at it, Jack, ther's big holes in the
ground here an' there, where the water must have run off."
For several minutes Jack and his friend surveyed the scene. Then our hero
urged his pony down the somewhat steep side of the gigantic mountain bowl.
"Whar be yeou a going now?" asked Plum.
"To the mound in the middle of the valley, to see if I can find the
treasure," shouted back Jack.
"All right, I'm with yeou," answered the Yankee lad, and followed down the
The Treasure of the Boiling Lake
It must be owned that Jack's heart beat rather rapidly as he rode down
into the little valley, hemmed in on all sides by the high walls of the
He remembered well what the paper had said concerning the treasure, yet he
did his best to steel himself against possible disappointment.
Plum Deemed to read his thoughts, for as he rode up he said:
"Jack, thet treasure might have been here years ago, but don't be
disapp'inted if it's gone now. Them waters may have washed it away."
"I am willing to take what comes, Plum," was the answer. "But I want to
know the exact truth--I hate to be kept in suspense."
"Well, we'll know afore long, I calkerlate," returned the Yankee lad.
They had to pick their way with care to the "island," as Jack insisted
upon calling it. The bed of the valley was filled with holes and cuts, all
of unknown depth. Here and there the flat rocks were split in twain in the
most extraordinary fashion.
"There has been some great convulsion of nature here," said Jack. "Maybe
the earthquakes have something to do with the disappearance of the water."
"If the water was here--an' I believe what you say--it must have gone down
in 'em holes and cuts," said Plum. "But what made it spout up ag'in?"
"Some contraction of the hollows under the lake's surface," answered Jack.
"Maybe a cave would get filled with water, then some rocks would fill the
cave up, causing the water to spout out into the valley."
"It must be thet--but it is certainly wonderful, Jack."
At last the pair reached the side of the mound or "island," Here they
could gain a good idea of the big pimento tree with its stricken branch
pointing to the distant hills. Around the pimento the rocks were strewn in
"If there was a cave here it is filled up," said Jack.
"Pity we didn't bring a spade along," answered his companion.
Dismounting, they tied their ponies to the pimento and then began to look
around the mound, which was several acres in extent. Rocks were cast up in
all directions, as if by the force of a volcano.
A half hour had passed, and they had found nothing of value, when of a
sudden Plum snatched up something and gave a yell:
"True enough," answered Jack, when he had examined the piece. It was the
size of his little finger and similarly formed.
"The treasure must be here!" went on the Yankee lad. "Come, let us look
"That is what we are doing already," answered Jack, with something of a
happy laugh. He, too, had spotted something yellow between the rocks, and
now brought it forth, another piece of gold, twice the size of Plum's
"Good for yeou!" shouted the Yankee boy. "The rocks must be full o' gold!"
In feverish haste the search was continued, and soon Jack had at least a
pound of gold to his credit, while Plum had nearly as much. Then, of a
sudden, Jack stepped on some loose dirt and shot out of sight.
"Hi! what yeou doing?" yelled Plum, in alarm, as he retreated from the
hole that had appeared.
"Help me out!" called up Jack. He had gone down about a dozen feet, to
bring up in a bed of sand and small stones.
"Hurt any?" queried Plum anxiously.
"Not a bit, Plum."
"Any gold down there?"
"I'll see," said Jack.
He hunted around the opening and soon discovered a passageway between two
immense rocks. He lit a match and one look around made his eyes open
Gold was there, on all sides of the passageway--enough to make him rich
"Plum, look here!" he yelled. "Gold--all you want of it!"
"Du tell!" roared the Yankee boy, and without stopping to think twice he
dropped down to the bottom of the hole.
Another match was lit, and then some dry brushwood, and by the flickering
light the two youths filled their pockets with the precious metal.
"We can load our ponies with gold," said Jack. He was so delighted he
could scarcely speak.
"That's it--we'll carry away all we can an' then come back fer more,"
answered the Yankee lad.
How to get to the top of the hole once more was a problem, but at last
Jack climbed on Plum's shoulders. He was then able to grasp a tree root,
and by this means hauled himself upward.
"I'll tell you what to do, Plum!" he called down. "You throw up the gold
to me and I'll load it on the ponies."
"All right, Jack. But don't forgit to pay me fer the job," laughed Plum.
"Pay you? Why, Plum, a good share of this gold is yours!"
"Yes, but yeou knew about the treasure, I didn't."
"I don't care. You can have a third anyway--and I'll pay all expenses of
"Thanks, Jack, yeou allers was a good feller."
After that both boys worked away like Trojans for the best part of an
hour. The gold was there and Plum flung up one piece after another, until
the saddle bags on both ponies were overflowing.
"We've got a load!" cried Jack at last. "Any more down there?"
"Plenty," was the answer.
"Well, let us take this to yonder hills and hide it. Then we can come back
"Why to the hills, Jack?"
"Because something tells me not to trust this spot too long, Plum.
Remember the boiling lake."
He assisted the Yankee lad to the top of the opening and then, mounted on
their ponies, they made their way over the dry bottom of the lake to the
rocky ridge beyond. Here they deposited the gold in a safe place, and then
returned to the "island."
"I'll go down this time," said Jack, and did so. A torch had been brought
along, and sticking it in a crack of the rocks, the youth went to work
with a will.
In less than half an hour the ponies were again loaded with gold. Jack had
picked up almost the last piece in sight when he came to a sudden pause in
What was that strange sound, and was it possible the earth beneath him was
trembling? He leaped back to the center of the hole. Yes, the earth was
surely quaking, and now some loose dirt came down on top of him.
"It is the earthquake!" he murmured, and at that moment came a loud cry
"Jack! Jack! come up, as quick as yeou can! The water is squirting up
through 'em holes, an' the lake is filling up!"
A Ride for Life--Conclusion
The earthquake was indeed upon them, and as Plum threw down a rope to Jack
the whole landscape seemed to rock to and fro, causing the Yankee lad to
miss his footing and pitch headlong on our hero's head.
"Oh, Jack, did I hurt you?" spluttered Plum, as he stood upright at the
bottom of the hole.
Jack did not answer, for at that instant the earth shook again, sending
them both on their backs. Then all became, for the instant, quiet.
"We must get away from this spot!" gasped Jack. "If we don't, we'll be
The rope had fallen at his feet. He picked it up. There was a noose at one
end and this he whirled upward.
Twice he missed the object for which he aimed, but the third time the rope
caught fast to a projecting rock.
"Now, Plum, up you go!" he said, and gave his companion a lift. Fear lent
the Yankee lad strength and he went up hand over hand in rapid fashion.
Jack followed, and in a moment more both stood on the surface of the
The sight that met their gaze was enough to make them shudder. On all
sides the darkish-green water was spouting from the holes and cuts in the
lake bed. Some of the columns arose to a height of a hundred feet, the
water falling back into the basin with a tremendous report, and causing
the drops to fly in all directions. At one point in the lake the water was
already a foot or more deep.
"To the shore!" yelled Jack, and flew for a pony, while Plum did likewise.
The animals were crazy with fear and could scarcely be controlled.
As they left the island there came another movement of the earthquake,
followed by a crash behind them. They looked back, to see the lonely
pimento tree fall into the very hole they had just left!
"Gosh! what a narrer escape!" gasped Plum.
"We are not out of it yet, Plum," answered Jack. "Come, we must ride for
all we are worth. Perhaps we had better throw away the gold."
"No! no! Don't do it!" screamed the Yankee lad. "We can make the shore if
Down they plunged side by side from the island and into the water that was
now flowing in all directions around the mound. They made a bee line for
the rocky ridge beyond.
"Look out for holes!" cried Jack, but even as he spoke his pony plunged
downward, nearly causing our hero to take a header. But he clung fast,
and, struggling up, the pony went forward as before.
It was a ride that can scarcely be described. Soon the water was up to the
bodies of the ponies and then they were carried off their feet. They swam
a short distance, and then, coming to a shallow spot, galloped on as
It was a wild ride, and dripping from foam and water the ponies kept on
until once again they had to swim.
Then came a roar from the bottom of the lake, and steeds and riders were
hurled high in the air, to fall again with a noise in the spume of the
"We--we air lost!" panted Plum. "Th--the wind is gone out o' me!"
"Keep on, we have only a short distance further to go!" cried Jack.
The earth was shaking again and the water appeared to swing away from them
toward the island.
Then it came on with a rush, carrying ponies and riders far up the rocky
ridge. Then the water went back as before, boiling and foaming furiously,
while a mist blotted out the immediate landscape.
"Come, don't stop here!" yelled Jack, urging his pony forward. "To higher
ground, before it is too late!"
Again they went on, but not for far. Another earthquake threw them flat
and Plum rolled down under his pony. Then the quaking ceased; and that was
the last of the earthquake. Arising, Jack helped his companion and found
that the Yankee youth was uninjured. Both looked down the rocks toward the
lake. The water was boiling and foaming as before, but gradually the
surface of the lake grew calm. Then Jack gave another exclamation:
"The island! It is sinking from sight!"
It was true, the island was going down slowly but surely. In a few minutes
it was but a mere speck on the surface, and then even this disappeared.
"Gone!" gasped Plum. "But we got the gold--or a good part o' it!"
"Thank heaven that our lives were spared!" murmured Jack. "I never want to
go through another such experience--not for all the gold in the world!"
* * * * *
A few words more and we will bring our tale to a close.
When they had rested, Jack and Plum rejoined the others of the party. The
story of the hunt for gold was told, much to the amazement of the rest,
and, later, the gold was taken down to the seacoast and placed with some
reliable bankers. The boiling lake was inspected and found to be deeper
than ever. Strange to say, the lake remained where it was for about two
months, when it gradually disappeared, and that was the last seen of it.
The ground around where the pimento island had been was greatly upheaved,
and a long search in that vicinity failed to bring any more gold to light.
The treasure that had been found proved to be worth nearly thirty thousand
dollars, one-third of which went to Plum and the rest to Jack. Out of his
share our hero paid all the expenses of the trip and also rewarded
handsomely all those who had accompanied him into the mountains.
With a portion of his money Jack continued to develop his nitrate fields
and shipped vast quantities of the stuff to this country and elsewhere. He
soon became immensely wealthy, and then settled down with his wife, Jenny,
in Boston, where we will bid him farewell.