Part 4 out of 7
back again. They have smelt the mules, and are probably hungry. It is
better to let them attack us at once and have done with it."
A minute or two later there was a snarling growl.
"They are jaguars," Dias said.
Again and again the threatening sound was heard, and in spite of Maria's
efforts the mules were almost mad with fright.
"We had better lie down beyond them," Dias said. "There is no doubt the
beasts will come from that side. If we posted ourselves behind them the
mules might break loose and knock us over just as we were taking aim."
They lay down side by side on the grass with their rifles at their
"I can see them now, Dias," Harry whispered, "not more than fifty yards
away. I think we could hardly miss them now."
"You could not if it were daylight, señor; but in the dark, when you can't
see the end of your rifle, you can never be certain about shooting."
The beasts had now apparently made up their minds to attack. They crouched
low, almost dragging their bellies on the ground, and one was somewhat in
advance of the other.
"That is the male ahead," Dias whispered. "Do you and your brother take
aim. I will take the female, and José will hold his fire of buck-shot till
she is within a length of us."
"How shall I know when it is going to spring?"
"When it stops, señor. It is sure to stop before it springs."
"Aim between the eyes, Bertie, and fire when I do," Harry whispered to his
brother, who was lying next to him.
When within twelve yards the jaguar halted.
"Now!" Harry said, and they discharged their rifles at the same moment,
and, dropping them, grasped the shot-guns.
The jaguar fell over on one side, clawing the air, and then recovered
himself. As he did so two charges of buck-shot struck him on the head, and
he rolled over and remained motionless.
Dias had fired at the same moment, but he had not stopped the second
jaguar. José, instead of waiting, hastily discharged his gun, and in
another instant a dark body bounded over their heads on to the back of one
of the mules, which it struck to the ground.
Harry and Bertie leapt to their feet, and discharged their second barrels
into the jaguar's body. It turned suddenly round and attempted to spring,
but its hindquarters were paralysed; and Bertie, pulling out his pistol,
fired both barrels into its head. The brute at once fell over dead, and
the lad gave a shout of triumph.
"Thank goodness that is over without accident!" Harry said. "They are
formidable beasts, Dias."
"In the daytime, when one can see to aim, they can be killed easily
enough, señor; at night their presence is to be dreaded."
"I am afraid we have lost a mule."
"I think not, señor. He was knocked down by the shock, but he had his
saddle on, and the brute had no time to carry him off."
The mule rose to its feet as they spoke; José ran and brought a flaming
brand from the fire. Blood was streaming from both the animal's shoulders.
"It stuck its claws in, señor, but has not made long gashes. I should say
that these wounds were caused by the contraction of the claws when you
finished her with your pistol. The animal will be all right in a day or
two; and as our stores have diminished, we need not put any load on it for
"I hope you were not frightened, Maria?" Bertie said
"I was a little frightened," she said, "when the mule came tumbling down
close to me, and I could see the jaguar's eyes within a few yards of me,
but I had my dagger ready."
"It would not have been much good," Dias said, "if the beast had attacked
"I think you showed no end of pluck," Bertie said. "If he had come close
to me, and I had got nothing but that little dagger in my hand, I should
have bolted like a shot."
"I am sure that you would not, señor," she said. "You are a great deal too
brave for that."
"It is all very well to be brave with a rifle in your hand and another gun
ready, to say nothing of the pistols. By the way, I thought Harry had
given you one of his?
"So he did, but I had forgotten all about it. If I had thought of it I
should have used it."
"It is just as well that you did not," Harry said. "If you had done so,
the brute would have made for you instead of turning round to attack us."
"Now, señor," Dias put in, "we had better drag the jaguars away; the mules
will never get quiet with the bodies so close to them."
It needed all his strength and that of his companions to drag each of the
bodies fifty yards away.
"Now, José," Dias said when they returned, "you had better give the
animals a feed of maize all round. They will settle down after that. I
shall keep watch to-night, señor. It is not likely that any more of these
beasts are in the neighbourhood; but it is as well to be careful, and I
don't think any of us would sleep if someone were not on the look-out."
"I will relieve you at two o'clock," Harry said.
"No, señor, I have not been on the watch for the past two nights. I would
rather sit up by the fire to-night."
Two days later they arrived at the foot of the pass. Just as they gained
it they met two muleteers coming down it. Dias entered into conversation
with them, while the others erected tents, preparing to camp.
"What is the news, Dias?" Harry asked as he returned.
"The men say, señor, that the pass is very unsafe. Many robberies have
taken place in it, and several men, who endeavoured to defend themselves
against the brigands, have been killed. They were questioned by four armed
men as they came down, and the goods they were carrying down to Ayapata
were taken from them. They say that traffic has almost ceased on the
"That is bad, Dias."
"Very bad, señor. We need not be afraid of brigands if they meet us as we
travel along the foot of the hills, but it would be another thing in the
passes. There are many places where the mules would have to go in single
file, and if we were caught in such a spot by men on the heights, we might
be shot down without any chance of defending ourselves successfully."
"That is awkward, Dias. It is a scandal that these brigands are not rooted
"People are thinking too much of fighting each other or their neighbours
to care anything about the complaints of a few muleteers, señor."
"Is there no other way of crossing the mountains than by this pass?"
"There is a pass, señor, between Ayapata and Crucero, but it is a very bad
"And where should we be then, Dias?"
"Well, señor, it would take us along the other side of the mountains to
Macari. From that place there is an easy path to La Raya; there we are on
the plateau again, and have only to travel by the road through Sicuani to
"In fact, it would double the length of our journey to Cuzco?"
"Yes, señor; but if you liked, from Crucero you might go down to Lake
Titicaca. There are certainly good mines in the mountains there."
"Yes, but is there any chance of our finding them?"
"I can't say that, señor, but I fear that the chance would be very small."
"Then it is of no use trying, Dias. We saw at the last place what pains
the old people took to hide places where gold could be found, and if there
had been rich mines among these mountains you speak of, no doubt they
would have hidden them just as carefully. The question is, shall we go up
this pass as we intended, and take our chance, or shall we go by this
By this time José had lit a fire, and they had seated themselves by it.
"One hates turning back, but we are not pressed for time. As far as I can
see, my only chance is the feeble one of finding treasure in the place you
spoke of up the coast above Callao. It is now four months since we left
Lima. Travelling straight to that place would take us how long?"
"Well, señor, if we go round by Ayapata to Crucero, and then to Macari, it
would be nearly a thousand miles."
"Quite a thousand, I should think. That is three months' steady work. By
the time we get there it will be about a year from the time we left
England. I have seen quite enough of the mountains to know that our chance
of finding anything among them is so small that it is not worth thinking
of. It seems to me, therefore, Dias, that we might just as well, instead
of going south over these difficult passes, return by the foot of the
mountains as we have come, going through Paucartambo, crossing the rivers
that flow north and fall somewhere or other into the Amazon, and keeping
along it till we come to Cerro de Pasco. There we should be nearly in a
line with this place you know of, and can keep due west--that is to say,
as nearly due west as the mountains will allow. It would be three or four
hundred miles shorter than by taking the pass at Ayapata. We should have a
good deal of sport by the way, and should certainly have no trouble with
the brigands till we got to Cerro. Of course it is possible that we might
fall in with savages again, but at any rate they are not so formidable as
brigands in the passes. What do you say to that?"
"It is certainly shorter, señor; and, as you say, we should have no
trouble with the brigands, and we should also escape the troubles that
have been going on for some years, and are likely, as far as anyone can
see, to go on for ever. We were very fortunate in not meeting any of the
armies that are always marching about."
Three months were spent in the journey to the foot of the pass leading up
to Cerro. They had good shooting, and found no difficulty in providing
themselves with food. Fish were plentiful in the streams, and in some of
the long-deserted plantations they found bananas, grapes, and other fruits
in abundance, together with sugar-canes, tomatoes, maize growing wild, and
potatoes which were reverting to the wild type. They met neither with
alligators nor large serpents, for they kept on the lower slopes of the
foot-hills, as much as possible avoiding the low forest lands, where they
might come in contact with the savages. For the same reason, they had no
opportunity of taking any of the great fish found in the sluggish rivers,
but had an abundance of smaller fish in the bright mountain streams. They
killed two tapirs and several pumas and jaguars. Their two llamas, having
one night wandered away from the mules, were killed by these beasts. But
as the stores were a good deal lighter than when they started, this was no
great misfortune. Occasionally they followed streams up into the hills,
and did a little washing for gold when they halted for a day or two there.
"We have had a good time of it," Harry said as they sat round the fire,
"and I am almost sorry that it is over, and that this is our last day of
wandering where we like, shooting and fishing, and above all, camping in
pleasant places. We have been very fortunate in not meeting any of the
savages since the fight we had with them four or five months ago. It is a
splendid country for sport, and except that we should like it a bit
cooler, and could have done without some of the thunder-storms, it is a
grand life. For a time now we are going back to a sort of civilization,
filthy inns, swarms of fleas, and fifteenth-rate cooking."
"It is not so much the fault of the cooking," Maria said, "as of the meat.
Here we get fish fresh out of the stream, and birds shot an hour or two
before they are eaten. We pick our fruit from the trees, instead of buying
it after it has been carried miles and miles to the market. We have a
capital stock of coffee, tea, and sugar. Among the old plantations we pick
cocoa and pound it fresh, and boil it. As we brought plenty of pepper and
spices, it would be hard indeed if one could not turn out a good meal. And
then, señors, you always come to eat it with a good appetite, which is all
in favour of the cook."
"Yes, I grant that you have had all those advantages, Maria, but it is not
everybody who makes the best of them. I can safely say that since we
started we have never sat down to a bad breakfast or dinner. Now, for a
bit, we are going to lead a different sort of life. We shall be on beaten
tracks. We shall meet lots of people. It is strange to think that, except
for those peasant muleteers we met at the foot of the pass by the Tinta
volcano, we have not seen a soul except the savages--who have souls, I
suppose--since we left Paucartambo more than six months ago; and yet
somehow we do not seem to have missed them. I wonder what we shall find
when we get up to Cerro, and who will be president then."
"I wonder what they are doing in Europe!" Bertie said. "We have heard no
later news than what we had when we went on board a ship sixteen months
ago. There may have been great wars all over Europe."
"I don't think there is much chance of that, Bertie. India was the only
place where there was any fighting going on, and it seemed as if, since
Napoleon was crushed, Europe would become permanently pacific. Still, I do
hope that when we are at Lima we shall get hold of a pile of English
newspapers. The consul is sure to have them."
"I don't suppose we shall want to stay there many days, Harry, for we
shall be eager to start the search for the enchanted castle Dias has told
us of. We saw quite enough of Lima during the ten days that we were
"Is the pass a bad one up to Cerro, Dias?"
"There are some very bad points, señor. It never was a good one, but as
nothing has been done to the roads for at least a hundred years, it must
have got into a very bad state. I have been down it twice with travellers,
the second time ten years ago, and it was bad enough then. It is likely to
be worse now."
"Well, as the road is used so little, Dias," Harry said, "there is no fear
"I hope not, señor; but there may be some, though they would not be there
in the hope of plundering travellers. But desperate men are always to be
found in the mountains--men who have committed murders and fled from
justice. They are able to live on what they can shoot, and of course they
can get fish in the streams, and when they are tired of that can come down
here, where they will find plenty of turkeys, and pheasants, and other
game, besides the maize, and fruits, and other things in the old
plantations. Sometimes they will take a little plunder from the small
villages. Anyhow, they do not fare altogether badly. Therefore one can
never feel certain that one is safe from them, even when travelling over
tracks where travellers seldom pass. Still, we may very well hope that we
shall not have the bad luck to fall in with them."
"I hope so, Dias. We did not come out here to fight. So far we have been
very fortunate, and have not had to fire a shot, except at those wretched
The next day's journey took them far up into the hills, and they camped
that night at the upper end of a deep ravine. It had been a hard day's
work, for at several points the mules had to be unloaded and taken up
singly, and the loads then carried up. Fortunately, the packs were now
very light, and were carried or hauled up without much difficulty.
In the morning they again started. They were just issuing from the ravine
when a party of ten armed men made their appearance from amongst some
rocks, and shouted to them to halt. Dias rode in front.
"You speak to them, Dias. Keep them for a minute in talk if you can, and
then take shelter behind that boulder."
Then Harry ran back to José, who was walking with a leading mule twenty
"Turn them back again, José. Halt a little way down, and then come up;
there are some brigands ahead. Bertie, bring up your rifle and the two
shot-guns. Tell Maria to remain with the mules."
Then he ran back again just as a shot rang out, and, dodging among the
fallen rocks, he took shelter behind one abreast with Dias. "Was it you
who fired?" he asked.
"No, one of the brigands. The ball went through the brim of my sombrero. I
think they are talking to each other, they know there is no hurry."
"Hail them again, Dias, but don't show yourself above the rock."
"What do you want? Why did you fire at me?"
"We want everything you have got," a voice came back--"your mules and
their burdens, and your arms. If you will give them up without resistance,
we will let you up the pass without hindering you."
"Tell them that you must talk it over with the others, Dias."
"Well, we will give you five minutes," the man called back. "If you do not
accept our terms, we will cut your throats."
Dias stood up, and walked quietly down the rugged pass. At the point where
the mules stopped, the rock rose almost perpendicularly on each side.
"Maria," he said, "do you and José take off the saddles and bags and fill
up the spaces between these rocks on each side. Get the animals in behind
them. You stop with them, Maria. I have got five minutes, and will help
"You had better go up at once, señor," he went on to Bertie, "and help
your brother, so that they may not get sight of you. However, I am afraid
they know how many we are. It was foolish to light that fire yesterday
evening, I expect they were somewhere near and caught sight of us, and no
doubt one of them crept quietly down to find out what our force was.
Seeing there were but four of us, they thought they could take us all
easily here in the morning without firing a shot. But as your brother and
I happened to be going on first, they thought they would parley. They
would be sure that if they attacked us, we should kill two or three of
them at least before we had finished with them. And as they reckoned that
we should gladly accept their terms, they would get all they wanted
without trouble, and could shoot us afterwards if they felt inclined."
Bertie had by this time got the guns unstrapped, and had filled his
pockets with cartridges. He now went forward, and as he kept among the
rocks he was able to get within four or five yards of his brother without
being seen, as the mouth of the pass was almost blocked with great
"I cannot get any nearer without running the risk of being seen. I have
loaded the double-barrelled guns."
"Stay where you are then, Bertie. I don't think they will make a rush, and
if they do, you can use them as well as your rifle. Of course I have my
pistols and you have yours. I don't believe they will venture to attack in
daylight, our trouble will be after dark."
"Now, then, the five minutes are up!" the brigand shouted.
"I am coming!" Dias shouted back.
As he approached, Harry said: "Stand by the side of a rock, Dias, so as to
be able to shelter as soon as you have given them the answer; they are
likely enough to fire a volley."
"We will give you nothing," Dias shouted. "Anything you want you had
better come and take."
Three men raised their heads above the rocks and fired. Almost at the same
instant Harry's rifle and Bertie's cracked out, the heads disappeared, and
a fierce yell of rage showed that one, if not both of the shots had found
"You had better clear off," Harry shouted. "There are four of us, and we
have eight barrels between us, to say nothing of two brace of pistols."
A volley of curses was hurled back in reply.
"Now, Dias, what do you think is our best move?"
"I don't know, señor. I fancy there are only eight of them now. You and
your brother could hardly miss marks like their heads at thirty paces."
"If I were quite sure that there are no more of them I should say that, as
soon as it becomes dark, we had better creep forward and fight them. It
would be better to do that than wait for them to attack us. But there may
be, and very likely are, more of these bands among the hills. Besides,
Dias, we don't want to lose one of our number, and we could hardly hope to
get through unscathed, for if we were to try to push on they would have us
at a tremendous advantage. They would hide among the rocks and shoot us
down before we had time to level a gun at them. Now that we have killed
one, if not two of their number, they will certainly try to get their
revenge, and will harass us all the way up the pass."
"It is not only that, señor; it is the booty they expect to take."
"They could not expect much booty," Harry said, "for our baggage animals
only carry small loads."
"Gold does not take up a large bulk, señor; and I have not the least doubt
that they believe we have been gold-hunting, and have probably a big
amount of gold dust among the baggage."
"I did not think of that, Dias. If they believe we have gold we will take
it as granted that they will do their best to get it. Well, do you think
it would be a good thing to make a rush?"
"No, señor, it would be throwing away our lives. They will guess that we
shall probably attempt such a thing, and I have no doubt that they will
move away, if they haven't done so already, and hide themselves among
other rocks. Then if we dashed forward to the place where they had been,
they would pour a volley into us and finish us at once; for if they were
lying twenty yards away they ought certainly to hit every one of us, as
they have eight shots to fire. At present I have no doubt they are
talking, and I think we can safely get back to where we piled up the
saddles and bales. We can defend ourselves better there than here. We can
then talk matters over quietly."
"That will be the best plan, Dias, certainly."
Keeping under cover as well as they could they retired to the barricade,
thirty yards lower. José, aided by Maria, had completed the defence. They
had not, however, attempted to block the passage between two great rocks.
It was but three feet wide; the rocks lay about six feet from the cliffs
on either side, and these spaces were partly filled by smaller fragments.
Wherever there were open spaces the blankets had been thrust in from
behind. Dias had done the greater part of the work before he went up to
answer the demands of the bandits, but the others had laboured very hard
to finish it.
"Well done!" Harry said as they passed through the entrance.
"I told them not to close the path," Dias said. "We can do that now we are
all together. Most of the rocks are too heavy for José and Maria to lift.
Shall we build it up now, señor? I am sure they cannot force their way
through while we four are holding the barricade."
"Certainly not, Dias, and I have no fear of their attempting it. But I
think it would be as well for us to close it, otherwise we could not cross
from one side to the other without exposing ourselves."
It took them two hours' hard work--the harder because the stones had to be
thrown into the passage from the sides, as the brigands might be crouching
among the rocks higher up waiting for an opportunity to get a shot. At the
end of the two hours the gap was filled up to the height of six feet.
"Now we can talk matters over quietly, Dias," Harry said. "We may take it
that, whether they attack by day or by night, we can beat them off. There
is a little rill of water that trickles down along the centre, so we need
not fear being driven out by thirst, and we have food enough to last us a
fortnight. That is settled; but they may stay there for any time, and
without exposing ourselves to sudden death we cannot find out whether they
are still hanging about or not. Of course one very important question is,
are they going to be joined by others?"
"I think they certainly will be, señor. As many of these fellows are
hiding among the hills as would make a good-sized regiment, and they have
only to send off two or three of their number with the news that a party
of gold-diggers with five laden mules are shut up in this ravine to gather
any number of them. They would come as quickly as vultures to a dead
horse. It must be a long time since they had any really valuable plunder,
and the fact that we have five baggage mules besides the three riding ones
would show that we had probably been a very long time away, and might
therefore possess a lot of gold."
"Are there any other passes near?"
"The nearest, señor, is on the other branch of the Palcazu--the river we
followed till we entered the passes--and is about thirty miles to the
north. The pass starts from a spot about fifteen miles above the junction,
and goes up to Huaca, a place that is little more than ten miles south of
Huanuco. From Huaca we could either follow the road to Cerro, or strike
across the Western Cordilleras to Aguamiro."
"Then I think, Dias, that our best plan will be to go down again into the
valley we left yesterday morning, and then strike across for the mouth of
this pass you speak of. You know the direction?"
"I know the general direction, although I have never been along there."
"Well, Dias, you must be the guide. I should say the sooner we start the
better. My idea is this: If you with your wife and José will start at
once, so as to be down the pass before it gets dark, my brother and I will
remain here. You will leave our riding mules at the point where the track
is good enough for us to gallop on."
"We should not like to leave you, señor," Maria said.
"I have not the least fear of their attacking us, and with our rifles and
double-barrelled guns and pistols we could beat them off if they did. I
can't see any better way of getting out of this scrape, and am quite
willing to adopt this plan."
"I don't see any other way, señor," Dias said. "The plan is a good one;
but I wish I could stay here with you."
"But that would be impossible, Dias, for there would be no chance of our
finding the mouth of this pass by ourselves."
"Why could we not all go together?" Maria asked.
"Because if there were no one here the brigands might discover that we had
gone, within an hour or so of our starting. They might fire a shot or two,
and, finding that we did not answer, crawl gradually down till they got
here, for it must seem possible to them that we should return down the
pass; and as there is no getting the baggage mules to go fast, we might
very well be overtaken--I don't mean by those eight men, but by a
"But how are you to find your way, señor?" Dias said.
"We shall follow the valley down till we come to the spot where you have
struck off. You can fasten a white handkerchief to a stick and put it in
some bare place where we are sure to see it. I want you to halt when you
get to the river somewhere opposite the mouth of the pass. We will ride
nearly due north, and when we strike the river will follow it down till we
"We can't halt opposite the mouth of the pass, for the river there is
already some size, and we could not cross it. I shall keep along near the
foot of the hills--the water there is shallow enough to ford. Then I will
follow it down until, as you say, near the entrance to the pass, and there
stop on the bank till you come."
"That will do very well. In that case it won't matter much where we strike
the stream, as our mules can swim across easily enough--they have had
plenty of practice during the past six months. However, we will turn off
north where we can see your signal."
"When will you leave, señor?"
"To-morrow morning. I have no fear of their attacking during the night,
for they can hardly bring other bands down here before morning. As soon as
it gets dark we will light two torches and put them down at the foot of
the barricade, so that we shall be in the shadow. These will show them
that we are still here, and they won't care to venture down into the
circle of light. We have let them know what a formidable amount of
firearms we have, and have given them a lesson that we can shoot
"They certainly would not come, señor, as long as your torches are
burning, but three hours are as much as you can reckon upon their
"Well, we have a dozen left now, Dias, and when they burn out we must
light two more and throw them over and trust to their burning as they lie
among the stones. Of course we should not think of going down to stick
them upright, for the scoundrels will probably be watching us as closely
as we are watching them. However, I shall manage to keep the lights going
till daybreak, and shall start a good hour before that. We shall have to
go down cautiously, and I should like to be well away with the mules
before they discover that we have left. Now, the sooner you are off the
better. Breakfast has been ready for the past hour. You had better eat it
and get under weigh as soon as you can. After you have gone one of us will
keep watch while the other eats. I have no doubt there will be plenty left
for our supper."
"Yes, señor, and enough cakes to carry you on till you join us."
Half an hour later the party started, Dias having muffled the mules'
hoofs, so that the clatter, as they passed over the rocks, might not be
"Now, Bertie, you go down to breakfast. When you have done come up and
relieve me. You have no occasion to hurry, for it is absolutely certain
that they won't dare to attack till they get reinforcements."
When Bertie returned he said, "Here is a lot of food, Harry, they have
hardly eaten anything. There is plenty for us to-day and to-morrow."
"That is just like them, Bertie; but I daresay they will camp in five or
six hours. It feels quite lonely without them."
"That it does. It is really the first time we have been alone since we
left Lima, except, of course, when we were out shooting together."
"Be sure you don't show your head above the barricade, Bertie. You must do
as I have been doing, sit down here and look out through this peep-hole
between these rocks Shove your rifle through it, so that, if you see a
head looking out from between the rocks up there, you can fire at once."
In half an hour Harry came back and sat down by his brother, and, lighting
their pipes, they chatted over the events of their journey and the
prospect before them.
"I am afraid, Harry, the journey will be a failure, except that we have
had a very jolly time."
"Well, so far it has not turned out much; but, somehow or other, I have
great faith in this haunted castle. Of course the demons Dias is so afraid
of are probably Indians, who are placed there to frighten intruders away,
and they would not keep watch unless they had something to guard. I cannot
understand how it has escaped the notice of the Spaniards all these years.
I had not much faith in their stories until we found how true they were in
all particulars as to what they call the golden river. There is one
satisfaction, however: if the place is really a castle, it can hardly have
disappeared under the lake. Of course if it is in ruins we may have a lot
of difficulty in getting at the vaults, or wherever else treasure may have
been buried; but unless it is a very big place, which is hardly probable,
the work would be nothing compared with the draining of the lake."
"We have got nearly a year in hand, Harry, and can do a lot of work in
that time, especially if we use powder."
"Yes; but, you see, we ought to allow at least five months for getting
home. Still, no doubt if I felt justified in writing to ask for another
three or four months, saying I had great hopes of finding something very
good in a short time, she would stand out against her father a little
longer. I shall write directly we get to Lima to say that, although I have
so far failed, I do not give up hope, and am just starting on another
enterprise that promises well." Bertie held up his finger. "I think I
heard somebody move. It sounded like a stone being turned over." For two
or three minutes he lay motionless, with his finger on the trigger. Then
"What was it, Bertie?"
"It was a man's leg. I suddenly saw it below that rift behind the rock. I
expect he had no idea that his foot showed there. I am pretty sure I hit
it, for I had time to take a steady aim, and the foot disappeared the
instant I fired. If he did not know it was exposed, there was no reason
why he should have moved at all if he hadn't been hit."
"It was better to hit his foot than his head, Bertie. It is equally good
as a lesson, if not better, for though we don't mean to let them kill us,
I don't want to take life unless it is absolutely necessary. Well, after
that proof of the sharpness of our watch they are not likely to make any
The day passed slowly. They took it by turns to keep watch, and just
before dusk Harry said, "I think, Bertie, that we might pull out the
leaves and bush that Dias shoved into one of these gaps when he took the
blankets and things out. I could push the torch through and fix it there,
that would save having to cross the barricade. It is quite possible that
one of those fellows may be keeping as sharp a look-out as we are doing,
and it is as well not to set one's self up as a mark. If I put it through
now it won't show much, while if I wait till darkness falls it will be an
easy object to fire at. You keep a sharp lookout while I am doing this,
and if you see either a head or a gun try to hit it."
Harry accomplished the operation without drawing a shot, and as soon as he
had fixed the torch he again stopped the hole up behind it.
"It is evident that they are not watching us very closely," he said. "If
they have not sent for help, they have gone off. With two of their men
killed and two disabled, the fight must have been taken out of them. We
will watch by turns to-night. It is six o'clock now; will you sit up till
eleven, or shall I?"
"I don't care a bit. Which would you rather take?"
"I don't care;--however, I may as well take the first watch. We will start
at five, so rouse me at four. If they come at all, which is possible, but
not probable, it will be between four and five."
At ten o'clock Harry could see a glow of light at some distance from the
mouth of the ravine, and in the stillness could occasionally catch the
sound of voices. When he woke Bertie at twelve the lad looked at his watch
and said, "You are an hour late in calling me, Harry."
"Yes, I had no inclination for sleep. The fellows have been reinforced. Of
course I don't know to what extent, but I should say pretty strongly. They
have lit a big fire some distance from the ravine. They would not have
dared to light one if they had not felt themselves strong enough to fight
us. No doubt they have half a dozen men on watch where we first saw them,
and these would give notice if we were coming. I think we may as well fire
a couple of shots, it will show them that we are here and on guard. They
will suppose we thought we heard someone coming down to reconnoitre our
They both fired over the top of the barricade.
"I see you have renewed the torch, Harry," Bertie said as they reloaded.
"Yes, I have done so twice. I was very careful, however, as I feared they
might be watching. I did not wait for the lighted one to burn out, but
passed the other one out, putting the end of my poncho round my hand and
arm, so that they could hardly be noticed even by anyone within ten yards,
and certainly could not be seen from up there. As I pushed it through I
lighted it at the stump of the old torch and then withdrew my hand like a
shot. I did the same thing again an hour ago with equal success, so it is
evident that they are not keeping a very sharp look-out above, and have no
fear of our making a sortie, hampered as we are by our animals."
The torch was changed again at four o'clock, and a little later Bertie
heard a slight noise.
"I think they are coming, Harry," he said quietly.
Harry was at once on his feet. "Use your rifle first, Bertie, and sling it
over your shoulder before you give them the two barrels of buck-shot, so
that you can start to run at once if we don't stop them."
"Yes, I am certain they are coming," he said, after listening for two or
three minutes. "We have got two or three torches left, and I will give
them the benefit of them."
He went back to the embers of the fire, lighted the torches, and,
returning to the barrier, threw them twenty or thirty yards up the ravine.
There was a hoarse shout of anger, and then a dozen shots were fired.
Bertie's rifle cracked out in return, and Harry's followed almost
immediately. A dark group of some twenty or thirty men were rushing
forward, and had just reached the line where the torches were burning,
when four barrels of buck-shot were poured into them. Three or four fell,
the rest fled at once, and the cries and oaths showed that many of them
"They won't venture again for the present," Harry said. "You may be sure
they will hold a council of war, so load again and then we will be off."
Two minutes later they were making their way carefully down the rocky
passage, Harry carrying the bundle they had made up of the unconsumed
provisions. As they had to exercise great care in climbing over the rocks,
the day was just breaking when they came upon two mules that had been left
behind for them. They rode cautiously until they were quite out of the
ravine, and then started down the valley at a gallop. In an hour Bertie
exclaimed, "There is the flag!" They rode to it and then turned off to the
north, slackening their pace to a trot. The animals were in good
condition, as they had of late been making short marches, and at eleven
o'clock they came upon the river. Here they waited for an hour, gave a
couple of cakes to each animal, and ate the rest themselves. The river was
some fifty yards across, but the mules only needed to swim about half this
distance. The brothers kept beside them, placing one elbow on the saddles
and holding their rifles and ammunition well above the water. They were
soon across, and, mounting, followed the river down, letting the animals
go their own pace, and sometimes walking beside them, as they wished to
keep them fresh for the next day's work. At five in the afternoon they saw
smoke ahead of them, and, riding faster now, soon joined their companions,
who hailed their arrival with shouts of joy.
"We have been terribly anxious about you, señors," Dias said, "and
regretted deeply that we deserted you."
"It was not desertion, Dias; you were obeying orders, and were on duty
guarding the baggage. There was really no cause for uneasiness; we were
certain that we could beat them off if they ventured to attack us."
"And did they do so?"
"They made a feeble attack this morning at four o'clock, but we were ready
for them. They might have carried the barricade had we only had our
rifles, but buck-shot was too much for them. Of course we brought down two
with our rifles; but there must have been over a score of them, and the
four barrels of buck-shot did heavy execution. Some of them fell, and I
fancy most of the others got a dose of shot, as they were all in a close
body. I will tell you all about it after we have had supper."
"I have got it ready," Maria said. "We have been expecting you for the
past hour, and I was sure you would have good appetites when you arrived."
After the story had been told Dias said: "That was a capital plan of
keeping the torches burning all night, and especially of throwing two of
them up the ravine when you heard the fellows coming. Of course they
calculated on getting within fifteen yards or so before you saw them.
Well, there is no fear of our hearing any more of them. I expect you must
have been gone hours before they found out that you had left,
"I should not be surprised if, after they had recovered from their defeat,
half of them made a big circuit over the hills--no doubt they know every
foot of them--and, coming down at the bottom of the ravine, built a strong
barricade, making up their minds to guard both ends until we were obliged
to surrender from want of food. Having suffered so heavily, they would do
everything in their power to prevent any of us from getting out alive."
"In that case they must have been prepared to wait for some time, Dias,
for they knew we had eight animals to eat."
"They would not have lasted long, señor, for we have only a few handfuls
of grain left, and there is not enough forage in the ravine to last them a
couple of days."
"I expect they would have tried to get us to surrender, by offering to let
us pass if we would give them half of the gold they thought we had with
us. There is no chance of our being followed, I suppose, Dias?"
"Not the slightest. When at last they discover that we have gone, they
will come down the pass and find where the mules were left standing. They
will then see that only two of us had remained at the barricade, and will
guess at once that the rest left hours before. They will therefore
conclude that, being on foot, they have no chance of overtaking us, even
if they could find the track."
"No, I expect by this time they are dancing with rage, and as likely as
not quarrelling furiously among themselves. How far do you think we have
"Nearer sixty miles than fifty, señor."
"Yes, I suppose we have. And if we had come straight here?"
"It would have been nearly fifteen miles shorter. But if they pursued they
would not come that way, because they would not be able to get across. I
think they would have to go round and ford the river some miles higher
than you did. They could never swim across with their guns and ammunition
"I should not count on that, Dias. They might come straight here, as they
would guess that we had made for this pass, and they might make bundles of
reeds to carry their guns and ammunition across, and swim over."
"That would be possible," Dias admitted reluctantly, "and if they knew
that the five mules were all loaded with gold they might be tempted to
follow; but that they could only guess. I have no doubt, too, that many of
them had been walking for hours across the mountains before the attack,
and as you fired into the thick of them, a fair share must have been too
much wounded to start on a forty-miles' tramp.
"No, señor. I do not think there is any chance whatever of their pursuing
us. Besides, I chose a spot where the ground was hard and rocky to plant
that flag. And they would have a good deal of difficulty in ascertaining
in what direction we went from there."
"We pulled up the flag-staff and threw it away among the bushes a mile and
a half farther, and of course brought the handkerchief with us."
"I don't think we need give another thought to them, señor. At the same
time, it would be as well to keep one on watch all night. José and I will
be on guard by turns. Neither of you slept a wink last night, so you must
not keep watch this time."
"I sha'n't be sorry for a good sleep, for the meal we have eaten has made
me drowsy. However, if you hear the least noise, wake us at once."
"That I will do, señor. It is a great deal more likely to be made by a
wild beast than by a brigand."
The brothers were sound asleep in a few minutes, and did not wake till
Dias called them, and said that Maria had coffee ready.
"What sort of a pass is it to-day, Dias?"
"Not a very bad one, señor. The one we tried yesterday hadn't been used
for very many years, there is regular traffic up and down this; not
valuable traffic, for Pozuco is a small place. They send up fruit and
dried fish, and the oil they get from the fish; and bring back cloth, and
such things as are required in the village."
"So there is nothing to tempt brigands to infest the pass and rob
"No, señor. When I last went through it I heard no talk of them at all.
They are more likely to infest the hills beyond Cerro, for near that place
really valuable captures can be made."
"That accounts for their being able to gather so many men to attack us."
The journey up the pass occupied two days. They met three or four small
parties of men with donkeys or mules, but all these when questioned said
that the pass was perfectly open, and that it was a very rare thing indeed
for anyone to be robbed on the way. Late in the evening of the second day
they arrived at Huaca, and were advised to go to the priest's house, as
the accommodation at the inn was so bad. The man who directed them there
was the head man of the place, and they gladly accepted his offer to guide
them to the priest's house.
"It would be the best way, señor," Dias said. "I know a man here who would
willingly put us up, and who has a yard where the mules could pass the
"Very well, Dias. Be sure you buy a good stock of grain. They have scarce
had any for the last three days."
The priest--a cheery, hearty man--received Harry and Bertie cordially when
they were introduced as English travellers, especially when he found that
they could both speak Spanish fluently.
"It is a pleasure to receive British travellers," he said. "Cochrane and
Miller have done more for us than any of our own countrymen. It is not
often that travellers come this way. I have heard of two or three going to
Cuzco, but they never come farther north than Cerro. I shall be delighted
if you will stay two or three days here, señors. We get so little news of
the world that it would be a great pleasure to us to hear what is going on
outside this unfortunate country."
"We can give you but little news, for it is more than a year since we left
England, and we have heard nothing of what is doing in Europe, as we have
been travelling and shooting at the foot of the mountains between the
bottom of this pass and Tinta volcano."
"And gold seeking?" the priest asked with a twinkle in his eye.
"We have occasionally washed the sands in the streams, but have not found
enough to repay our work. The amount we have gathered is only about twenty
"Well, gentlemen, I shall be delighted to have you as my guests as long as
you are willing to stay." "We are greatly obliged to you," Harry said,
"and will gladly be your guests. To-morrow the animals need a rest, and we
shall enjoy one too. Next morning we must be going on, as we have been
away longer than we ought, and want to get down to Lima quickly."
They had great difficulty in getting away from Huaca, where the good
priest made them extremely comfortable, and was very loath to let them go.
However, at dawn on the second day they started for Cerro, and arrived
there forty-eight hours later after a rough journey through the Mils.
"We never know in Peru, when we go to bed, who will be president when we
wake," Dias said that evening. "There have been a dozen of them in the
past five years. Lamar, Gamarra, La Fuente, Orbegozo, Bermudes, and
Salaverry succeeded one another; then Santa Cruz became master. Nieto had
the upper hand for a bit, and at that time there was no travelling on the
roads, they were so infested by robbers; one band was master of Lima for
some time. Then the Chilians occupied Lima; Santa Cruz was defeated, and
Gamarra came in again. None of these men was ever supreme over the whole
country. Generals mutinied with the troops under them, other leaders
sprang up, and altogether there has been trouble and civil war ever since
the Spaniards left. That is why the country is so full of robbers. When an
army was defeated, those who escaped took to the hills and lived by
plunder until some other chief revolted, then they would go down and join
him; and so it has gone on."
"Who composed those armies? because the fields seem to have been well
cultivated, and the peasants are quiet enough."
"Yes, señor, for the most part they take no part in these affairs. The men
who compose the armies were in the first place the remains of those who
fought against the Spaniards. When the Spaniards left the country these
men had nothing to do, and were ready to enlist under anyone who raised a
flag and promised them pay. Of bourse there are many men in the towns who
are too lazy to work, and who help to keep up the supply of armed men. The
good God only knows when these things will come to an end. A few of those
who have come into power really loved their country, and hoped to
establish order and do away with all the abuses caused by the men who were
appointed to offices by one or another of those tyrants; but most of them
were ambitious soldiers, who led mutineers against the chief of the
moment. If Heaven would but destroy or strike with blindness the soldiers
--and above all, every official in Peru--the country might hope for peace
and good government. The best man who has ever fought out here since Lord
Cochrane left the place was General Miller, your countryman, who was
splendidly brave. He was always true to his word, never allowed his
soldiers to plunder, and never ill-treated those captured in battle. Ah!
they should have made him president, but it would never have done. As the
Chilians were jealous of Lord Cochrane, the Peruvians were jealous of
Miller, first because he was a foreigner, secondly because his uprightness
and fidelity were a reproach to their ambition and treachery, their greed,
and their cruelty. Besides, he understood them too well, and if all Peru
had asked him to be president, he knew well enough that conspiracies
against him would begin the next morning. Ah, he was a great man!
"Well, señor, I think that before we start it will be well that I at least
should go on to Ayapata and find out what is doing. That would only delay
us two days, and we might be better able to judge as to which route to
take. They may be fighting in the north, and we do not want to get mixed
up in any way in their quarrels."
"I think that would be a very good plan, Dias. You start in the morning,
and we will stay quietly here till you come back with the news. If many
brigands are in the pass they might get to hear of us from someone going
over from this side, and take it into their heads to come down. I would
certainly rather not have to fight with you away."
Accordingly next morning Dias went on ahead. On the following evening he
"There is fresh trouble in the south, señor. Colonel Vivancohidas has
declared himself Regenerator of Peru, and is now marching against Gamarra,
and General Castilla is advancing against him. The fighting will be
somewhere near Arequipa. Whichever wins will presently cross the mountains
and make for Cuzco."
"Then that settles it, Dias. Certainly I have heard nothing in Gamarra's
favour, but a great deal against him, since I landed, and I care nothing
about either side; but I hope the new man will win, because I think that
any change from Gamarra will be an improvement."
When they arrived at Cerro de Pasco they found that the division of
Gamarra's army stationed in the district had mutinied and had declared for
Vivancohidas, and were killing all those known as adherents of Gamarra.
All traffic was at a stand-still. Numbers of the soldiers who did not
choose to join in the mutiny had taken to the hills, and were pillaging
convoys and peaceful travellers alike.
"I think, señor," Dias said, "that instead of crossing the Cordilleras to
the west, as we had intended, it will be better for us to go south, skirt
the lake of Junin, and make for Oroya. That is the route generally taken,
for the passes west are terribly difficult. I have traversed this route
many times, and when going with merchandise I always go through Oroya,
though in returning from Cerro I take the shorter route."
"Very well, Dias, you are the best judge of that. It is a great nuisance
that this rising should have taken place just as we want to traverse the
country, but it can't be helped. I will go to the head-quarters of Quinda
--he is established at the mayor's house here--and get a pass from him.
"It would be well, perhaps, if you were to go with me, Dias, to confirm my
statement that we have been shooting and hunting. I hope he will give us a
pass, so that we shall not be interfered with by his men gathered at
different points on the road to Oroya. I hear that a considerable portion
of his force have already marched forward."
The Peruvian colonel questioned Harry closely as to his motives for
"I suppose," he said, "you have been searching for gold. We are sorely in
need of funds, and I shall feel myself obliged to borrow any gold that you
may have collected for the use of my army, giving you an order on the
treasury at Lima, which will, of course, be honoured as soon as the
authority of President Vivancohidas is established."
"I do not doubt the goodness of the security," Harry said quietly,
"although possibly I might have to wait some time before the order was
cashed; but while hunting I have not come upon any treasure. We have
occasionally, when halting at streams, amused ourselves by doing a, little
gold-washing, but when I tell you that during the eight months since we
started from Cuzco we have only collected about twenty ounces of gold, you
may well suppose that no good fortune has attended us."
"Is that all, señor?"
"I give you my word of honour that is all, señor; and as I shall have to
lay in a store of provisions and so on for my journey down to Lima, you
may well imagine that it would be a serious inconvenience to me to part
"Quite so, señor; so small a sum as that would not go far among the four
thousand men under my command. However, I shall have pleasure in giving
you the pass that you ask. You have had good sport, I hope?"
"As good as I expected. We kept ourselves in food, and have seen a
splendid country, which I hope some time will again be cultivated, and add
to the wealth of your country."
After a further exchange of compliments Harry returned to the inn where
they had put up.
Next morning, after purchasing some coffee and other stores that were
needed, they set out.
"Now we are all right, Dias," Harry said as they started.
"I hope so, señor; but from what I heard yesterday evening several strong
bands of disaffected soldiers are in the hills between this and Oroya.
Quinda's troops have by no means all joined him, and several companies
that broke off have stationed themselves in the hills along this road.
They have stopped and robbed more than one mule train with silver from the
mines there. They have not meddled, as far as I hear, with Quinda's
troops, but have simply seized the opportunity of perpetrating brigandage
on a large scale."
"Well, we must take our chance, Dias. Fortunately we have money enough at
Lima to replace the animals. We have pretty well finished all our stores,
and beyond the tents and the bedding, which would be a matter of a hundred
dollars, there is nothing worth thinking of; still, certainly I do not
want to lose it. I hope we sha'n't fall in with any of those scoundrels."
"I hope not, señor. Perhaps we had better put our gold dust and money in
José's boots. They are less likely to examine him than they are us.
"You had better put half in his boots, and give the other half to my wife
to hide about her clothes. We shall want some money, if we are robbed, to
take us down to Lima. With the gold dust we could get a couple of mules
and enough provisions to take us down there. We should be in a very
awkward position if we found ourselves penniless."
They stopped for the night at a little village close to the lake. There
was but one small room at the inn, but at the other end of the straggling
village there was a yard where the mules could stand, and a loft where
Dias, Maria, and José could sleep.
Harry and his brother had lain down but an hour on their blankets when
there was a shouting in the street, and two or three shots were fired.
They leapt up.
"We had better hide our rifles and pistols," Harry said, "under that
ragged bed that we did not care about sleeping on. We may possibly get
them again even if we are robbed of everything else."
A minute later four or five men with a lantern rushed into the room. They
were all armed with muskets, and one carried a torch.
"Who are you?" this man asked.
"We are English sportsmen," Harry said. "We have been shooting for some
months at the foot of the hills, and are now returning to Lima. There are
our guns, you see."
"We will take you before the captain," the man said. "Bring those guns
along, Pedro and Juan."
The village was in an uproar. Some fifty men were occupied in searching
the houses and in appropriating everything they thought useful. One house
had been set on fire, and near this a man in an officer's uniform was
standing. He heard the report of Harry's and Bertie's capture.
"English sportsmen, eh! How long have you been shooting?" he asked.
"Eight months! Then guard them securely, Montes; they are doubtless rich
Englishmen, and we shall get a good ransom for them. English señors who
come out here to shoot must be men with plenty of money; but likely enough
they are not sportsmen, but gold-seekers. However, it matters little."
"I protest against this," Harry said. "Our consul at Lima will demand
satisfaction from the government."
The other laughed.
"Government!" he said, "there is no government; and if there were, they
would have no power up in the hills."
So saying he turned away.
Plunder that had been collected was brought in and divided among the
party, four of the men with muskets keeping guard over the prisoners.
"I don't see anything of Dias and the mules," Bertie said in English.
"No, I have been expecting to see them brought up every minute. Now I am
beginning to hope that they have got safely off. I think the fellows began
their attack at our end of the village.
"You know how watchful Dias is. Very likely he or José were up, and you
may be sure that the moment they heard the uproar they would drive the
mules out and be off. You see only two of them are laden, and they could
have thrown the things on to their backs and been off at once. He would
know that it was useless to wait for us. I expect he would turn them off
the road at once and make down towards the lake. If these fellows had
caught him and the mules they would certainly have brought them up here
"I hope he got off--not so much because of the mules, as because I am sure
that, if he gets fairly away, he will do what he can to help us."
"I am sure he will, Bertie. We must make the best of it. There is one
thing, we have got a good month before us. It will take them all that time
to go down to Lima about our ransom and return; and it is hard if we don't
give them the slip before that."
A quarter of an hour later the band started with their booty and prisoners
for the hills.
"I don't suppose they will go far," Harry said. "Quinda has got his hands
full, and will be wanting to start as soon as he can to join Vivancohidas.
He won't lose time in hunting the scoundrel who has caught us, so I expect
the band make their head-quarters in some village at the foot of the
This turned out to be so. After a march of four hours the band halted in a
village in a valley running up into the hills. The prisoners were thrust
into an empty hut, and four men with muskets told off as their guard. Next
morning the captain of the band came in.
"I shall require a hundred thousand dollars for your ransom," he said.
"We could never pay such a sum," Harry said. "We are not rich men. I am a
lieutenant on half-pay in the English navy, and, having nothing to do at
home, came out with my brother for a year's sport. I could not pay a tenth
of that sum."
"That we shall see," the man said. "If you cannot pay, your government
can. You will at once write to your consul at Lima, telling him that if
this hundred thousand dollars are not handed over to my messenger within
four days of his arrival there, you will both have your throats cut."
"I will write the letter if you wish," Harry replied quietly, "but you
won't get the money. If you like to say ten thousand dollars, I dare say
the consul will do his best to raise that amount."
"One hundred thousand is the smallest sum," the man said angrily. "He can
get it out of the government there. They will not choose to risk having
trouble with your country for the sake of such a sum."
"Gamarra is away," Harry said, "and it is pretty certain that he will not
have left a hundred thousand dollars in the treasury; and even if he has,
you maybe sure that his people there would not give it up, for he wants
every penny for his war expenses."
The man shrugged his shoulders.
"So much the worse for you. Write as I told you; here is paper, pen, and
ink. Do not write in English. I will come back in a quarter of an hour for
"This is awkward, Bertie. It is evident that I must write. As to their
paying twenty thousand pounds, the thing is absurd; if he had mentioned
two thousand they might have considered the matter. What I hope is that
they will not send up anything. I feel certain that we shall be able to
get away from here within a month; and if they were to send up one or two
thousand pounds, we should probably miss the fellow on the way. In that
case we should have to repay the money when we got to Lima, which I
certainly should not see my way to do--anyhow, until I got to England,
when I could, of course, sell out some of my stock. There is nothing here
that we could use as invisible ink. If there were, I would risk writing a
message with it; but even then it is fifty to one against their bringing
it to light. Well, here goes!" and he wrote in Spanish the required
The robber on his return read it through, turned the paper over to see
that nothing was written on the back, and held it up to the light.
"That will do," he said. "Now let me warn you, don't attempt to escape.
You won't succeed if you do, and the sentries have orders to shoot you
down should you attempt it."
The time passed slowly. The brigand was evidently determined to give them
no chance of escaping, and four sentries remained round the hut, one at
each corner. In the daytime the prisoners were allowed to sit at the door
of the hut, but they were shut up at nightfall. The guards were not
allowed to speak to them, and there was therefore no chance of offering
them a bribe. On the evening of the fifth day they had, as usual, been
shut up, and were chatting over the situation.
"If they continue to guard us like this, Bertie, I really don't see a
shadow of a chance of getting away. We calculated on there being one, or
perhaps two sentries at the door, and thought we could have cut a hole
through that adobe wall at the back and crept out through it; but as there
is a guard at each corner, I don't see a chance of it. The fellows are
evidently afraid of their captain, and each keeps to his corner, and sits
there and smokes and drones out songs, but they never move till they are
relieved. Of course we must make the attempt if we see no other way of
escaping. But I have still great hope that Dias will somehow or other try
to get us out, though how he can do it I don't know."
They observed that the sentries were not changed in any military way. Five
minutes before sunset the four men who were to relieve those on guard came
sauntering up. The former guard ordered the captives into the hut and
bolted the door, and then after a short chat with the others went off, the
new sentries having already taken their posts at the corners of the hut.
On the fifth evening after their capture they saw approaching a peasant
woman sitting on a mule. A man was walking beside her. Behind the woman
was a small barrel, and two packs and two small wine-skins hung on each
"Harry," Bertie exclaimed, "I believe that is Dias and Maria!"
"It is," Harry said. "Thank God they have found us! Twenty to one they
will get us out. What have they got with them, I wonder?"
They stopped in the road opposite the house, which was the end one in the
"You are not to come nearer," one of the sentries shouted.
"I am sure I don't want to come nearer," the woman said pertly. "You don't
think you are so handsome that I want to get a better sight of your face?"
"What have you got there?" the man asked. "We shall be coming off duty in
"Well, we have got a little of everything," she said. "As pretty sashes as
there are in the country, beautiful silk neckerchiefs, silver brooches for
your sweethearts, and for those who purchase freely a glass of the best
"Well, wait, and I dare say we shall lay out a dollar or two."
A minute or two later four other men sauntered up, and began to talk to
Maria, who slipped off her mule. The guards, fearful that the best
bargains would be sold before they could get forward, hurried the
prisoners into the hut and bolted the door. The brothers heard a great
deal of talking and arguing, and ten minutes later the sentries came up to
their usual post.
"I would not mind betting odds," Bertie said with delight, "that Dias has
drugged that spirit."
"I expect so, Bertie. He would be sure that they could not resist it, for
it is the best spirit there is in Peru."
For a time the sentries talked, saying that the pedlars' goods were cheap
and the spirit as good as any they had ever tasted. "We had great
difficulty in getting her to sell us a second glass each; and she was
right, for she had not much of it, and it must help her rarely to sell her
goods. The husband seemed a surly sort of chap. I wonder such a pretty
little woman would marry such a fellow."
"I suppose he was well-to-do and she was poor," another said; "such is
generally the case when you see a marriage like that. I dare say he makes
a good thing of it; the goods are as cheap, though, as they would be in
Gradually the talking ceased, and within an hour there was perfect quiet
outside the hut. Half an hour later they heard footsteps coming quietly up
to the door. They held their breath; but instead of, as they expected,
hearing the bolt drawn, they heard the new-comers going round the hut,
pausing a minute at each corner. Then they again stopped at the door; the
two bolts were shot back, and the door opened.
"Come, señors," Dias said; "it is quite safe. We have put them all to
sleep. Here are their muskets and pistols. You had better take them, in
case we are pursued, which is not likely. At any rate, should one of them
wake the want of a gun will mean delay in raising the alarm.
"Don't speak, señors; it is as well to keep quiet till we are fairly off."
He shut the door and rebolted it, and then led the way down into the road.
Not a word was spoken till they had gone a hundred yards, and then Harry
said: "You have done us another good turn, Dias; we did not see any
possible way of getting out; but we both agreed that if you could find us
"Of course, señors, you could not suppose that Maria and I would go
"How did you manage to get away, Dias?"
"It was easy enough. After what we had heard of these brigands I made up
my mind that I would not unsaddle the mules, nor take the packs off the
two loaded ones. The burdens were not heavy, for we have little but our
bedding and the tents left, and I thought they might as well stay where
they were, and in the morning we could shift them on to the others. I told
José to watch about half the night; but I was standing talking to him, and
smoking my last cigarette, when he said suddenly, 'I can hear a noise at
the other end of the village.'
"The evening was still, and I could also hear the sound of many footsteps,
so I ran and pulled down the bar at the back of the yard, called Maria,
and told her and José to take the mules straight down to the lake, and
then to follow the bank. Then I ran to warn you; but before I got half-way
I heard shouts and firing, and knew that I was too late, so I ran back to
the lake, where I overtook the mules, and we mounted and went off at a
trot. When I got a quarter of a mile away I told the others to go on to
Junin, which we knew was twenty miles away, and put up there till I joined
them. Then I ran back to the village, and, keeping myself well behind a
house, watched them getting ready to start, and saw you. There was nothing
to do but to follow you. I did so, and observed where they had shut you
up, and I waited about for some hours, so as to see how you were guarded.
"I saw their captain go into your hut twice. When he came out the second
time he had a paper in his hand. He went to the house he has taken
possession of, and I kept a good watch over that. Presently two
lieutenants came out, talking together. They entered another house, and
ten minutes afterwards issued out again, dressed in ordinary clothes, such
as a muleteer or a cultivator fairly well off would wear, and returned to
the captain's house, and stayed there for a good half-hour before they
came out again. Two horses had been brought round to the door. The captain
came out with them, and was evidently giving them some last instructions.
Then they rode off, saying good-bye to some of the men as they passed
through the village.
"Knowing the ways of these bandits, I had no doubt the paper I saw their
captain bring out of the hut where you were was a letter he had compelled
you to write to request a large sum of money to be sent in exchange for
you; and as I felt certain that we should rescue you somehow, I thought it
was a pity that this letter should go down, so I started at once to follow
them. They had not got more than a quarter of an hour's start of me, and
by the line they had taken I saw that they intended to go to Junin. I did
not think it likely that they would enter the place, because they would be
sure to meet some of Quinda's men there; but would probably sleep at some
small village near it, and then make a circuit to strike the road beyond
"Fortunately I had some money in my pocket, and at the first farm I came
to I bought a mule. You see, señor, I had not lain down the night before,
and had done a fair day's work before I started to follow your captors. I
had walked twenty miles with them, and had been busy all the morning. I
knew it could not be much less than thirty miles to Junin, and that if I
could not find them there I should have to push on after them again the
next morning, so I gave the farmer what he asked for his mule, and started
at once on it barebacked. It turned out to be a good animal, and I rode
hard, for I wanted to get down to Junin before the two men. I reckoned I
should do that, because, as they were going a very long journey, they
would not want to press their horses, and besides would prefer that it
should be dark before they stopped for the night.
"When I got to Junin I found Maria and José, who had put up the mules at
the only inn there. I set Maria to watch on the road leading into the
town, and went out with José to a little village a mile back, where I made
sure the fellows would stop. I was not long in finding out that they had
arrived about half an hour after I had ridden through, and had put up at
the priest's. That was good enough for me. We went back to the town. I had
some supper, which I can tell you I wanted badly, for I had been afraid of
going into the brigand's village to buy anything, as, being a stranger, I
might have been asked questions, so I had had nothing since the night
before. I had found that there was a road from the place where they had
stopped, by which they could ride along by the lake without going into the
town; so José and I ambushed there an hour before daylight, thinking that
they would be off early. We were right; for in a quarter of an hour they
came along. Day was just breaking, so we could make out their figures
easily enough, and as they were not five yards away as they passed, we
were not likely to miss them. Well, I found the paper you had written in
the coat-pocket of one of them, together with two hundred dollars, no
doubt for the expenses of his journey. We hid the two bodies under a heap
"Then you killed them, Dias?" Harry said, in a tone of surprise.
"Of course! what else would one do with them? They were brigands, and they
had attacked a peaceable village and killed several people. Even if I had
not wanted to get your paper it would have been a very meritorious
"Oh, I am not blaming you, Dias, at all! There was no other way of getting
the paper, and it may be regarded as an act of necessity. And what did you
do with their horses?"
"José went on with them, and I returned to the town again and started with
Maria and the mules. We journeyed to a village half-way to Oroya. Of
course we overtook José a mile or two after we had left Junin. There we
put up at a quiet place and talked over the situation. We knew that there
was no particular hurry, for we read your letter, and knew that no harm
would come to you for a long time. It would be a month at least before
they would expect the men back with the money. There was another letter,
addressed to Don Mariano Carratala, whom I know to be a busy politician in
Lima. The money was to be paid to him; at least he was to receive it from
the two men immediately they left the British consul's house, and he was
to hold it for Valdez, which is the name of the brigand."
"I thought he would not trust the men to bring up a sum like that."
"It would be enough to tempt the most incorruptible Peruvian, and
certainly the men he sent down would have taken good care never to come to
this part of the country again if they had got the money into their
possession. I don't think either it would have been safe in the hands of
Carratala, if he did not know that sooner or later he would get a knife
between his shoulders if he kept it. Next morning Maria and I started
back, bringing with us four mules, the fastest we had. We rode on two and
led the others. I knew some people at Junin, for I have often passed
through the town when I have been bringing down silver from Cerro, and one
managed to get for us that little barrel of pisco. I was sure that no
soldier would refuse a glass; but it was almost a sin to give such liquor
to the dogs. Then we bought peasants' clothes, and a parcel of goods such
as travelling hawkers carry.
"You know how we succeeded. Of course we had drugged the pisco heavily,
and knew that two glasses would send any man off to sleep in half an hour.
As soon as it was dark, Maria went on with the mule. We shall find her
half a mile from here at a deserted hut where we left the other three
"Well, Dias, you have assuredly saved our lives. Guarded as we were, there
was not the slightest chance of our getting away by ourselves; and as the
British consul certainly could not have raised the sum they demanded, we
should have had our throats cut when the messengers returned empty-handed.
Valdez is not the man to go back from his word in that respect."
"It is a pity you have lost your arms, señor."
"Yes, we have certainly lost our double-barrelled guns, but our rifles and
pistols are hidden in the straw of the bed in the room where we slept. We
had just time to hide them before the brigands burst into the room."
"Then we can recover them, señor. Of course I intended to ride straight to
Junin, but it won't make very much difference. We will ride to the
village, get the rifles and pistols, and then follow the road by the lake.
It is now only nine o'clock; we can be there by one easily, and reach
Junin by morning. It will be perfectly safe to rest there. I suppose your
guards will be relieved about twelve o'clock?"
"Yes, that was the time we heard them changed."
"They will most likely discover that you have gone then. When they find
the four guards sound asleep, they are sure to unbolt the door and see if
you are there, then of course they will give the alarm at once. But I
hardly think they will even attempt to pursue. They are infantry, and none
of them are mounted but the officers, which means that at present only
Valdez himself has a horse. They would know that you had been assisted,
and that probably horses were waiting for you somewhere. There is the hut,
Maria ran out as they came up.
"The saints be praised," she exclaimed, "that you are with us again,
"The saints are no doubt to be praised," Harry said, "but we feel at
present a good deal more indebted to Dias and yourself than to them. We
are indeed grateful to you both, and you managed it splendidly. My brother
and I felt so confident that you would do something to get us out, that we
were not in the least surprised when we recognized you and Diaz got up as
"You did not tell them that we were with you?"
"No. Fortunately they asked no questions at all, and took us for
Englishmen travelling by ourselves. They may have thought of it
afterwards, but in the hurry of carrying off their booty they apparently
gave the matter no attention. If they had done so they would probably have
sent a party out in pursuit of the mules. Even if they had not done so,
they would have been sure to look with some suspicion at two hawkers
arriving at such an out-of-the-way village at such a time."
"Well, we had better be moving at once," Dias said. "We are going down to
the village where they were captured, Maria. They hid their rifles and
pistols there when they found the place was in the hands of the brigands."
Three minutes later they started. There was a full moon, so they were able
to ride fast, and it was just midnight when they arrived at the village.
When they knocked at the house where their rifles had been left, the
proprietor looked out from the upper window in great dismay, fearing that
the brigands might have returned. However, as soon as he recognized the
party he came down and opened the door. The arms were found where they had
been hidden, and in five minutes they were again on their way, and arrived
at Junin at five o'clock. It was necessary to wait here twenty-four hours
to rest the animals. The next morning they started as soon as it was
light, and picked up José and the convoy. The brothers mounted the two
horses, and Dias and Maria rode on one mule, and led three behind them.
José rode another and led four. The horses and the mule Dias had bought
were sold at Oroya, and after purchasing enough provisions for the rest of
their journey they started for Lima, having concluded that it would be
better, now that they were on the main track, to follow it instead of
striking across the hills.
LETTERS FROM HOME
There was some little discussion over the amount of supplies that it would
be necessary to purchase.
"Travelling quietly, the journey will not occupy over fourteen days,"
Harry said. "Do not get anything more than is absolutely necessary. It is
evident that the whole country is in a disturbed state, and it is as well
to have nothing to lose. We can buy nearly everything we want in the way
of meat and flour at villages we pass through. Therefore, if we have
enough tea, coffee, and sugar there will be really no occasion to buy
anything more. We have still two or three bottles of spirits left, and you
can buy pulque everywhere. There is a proverb two or three thousand years
old, 'The empty traveller can sing before the robber'. We are reduced to
that condition, except for our tents, bedding, and blankets, and they have
done good service and would not cost much to replace. There remain, then,
only the animals. They would certainly be a serious loss to us."
"Brigands would not want to take them. They would not be of the least use
to them in the mountains. I would not say the same of parties of disbanded
soldiers making their way down to Lima or Callao, who might prefer riding
to travelling all that distance."
"The brigands might take our rifles and pistols, Dias."
"Yes, they would be sure to do that, señor. But we have had more than our
share of bad luck already, what with the brigands in the Cerro pass, and
these rascals we have just had to do with. I will enquire when the last
silver convoy went down. If one has gone during the past five or six days,
we could overtake it soon, for we can do two days' journey to its one. If
no convoy has gone forward later, and there is one starting shortly, it
might be worth our while to wait for it, for by all accounts the road down
to Lima is infested by discharged soldiers, and ruffians of all kinds from
Callao and Lima."
"Have the convoys an escort?"
"Yes, señors. The silver mines have always a considerable force in their
pay. They used to have troops from the division stationed here, but what
with the constant revolutions, and the fact that more than once the
escort, instead of protecting the convoys, mutinied and seized them, they
found it better to raise a force themselves. They do not take Creoles,
preferring pure-bred Indians, who are just as brave as the Creoles, if not
braver, and can be relied upon to be faithful to their trust. The
consequence is that, in spite of the disturbed state of the country, it is
a long time now since one of their escorts has been attacked, especially
as the robbers would find great difficulty in disposing of the silver, as
each ingot is marked with the name of the mine it comes from.
"They might, of course, melt it up again; but even then there would be a
difficulty, as the law is very strict as to the sale of silver, and a
certificate has to be obtained from the local authorities in every case,
stating where it was obtained. This is hard upon the natives, for many of
the little mines are worked among the mountains, and the rascals, to whom
all official positions are given in reward for services done to the party
which happens to be in power for the time, take good care to fleece the
Indians heavily before they will give them the necessary documents.
Nothing can be done here, señors, without greasing the palms of two or
three people, and the grease has to be pretty heavily laid on."
Dias went out and made enquiries. "There will be no convoy for another
fortnight. One went down ten days ago."
"I certainly shall not wait another fortnight, Dias. As to an escort, less
than a dozen men would be useless, and as they would be a fortnight at
least going down, and as much returning, even if you could get twelve men
who could be relied upon, it would be a very expensive job. We might as
well risk losing our baggage, and even our guns. The great thing will be
to reduce the weight as much as possible. Four cotton beds take up a lot
of space, and I think in any case I should have bought new ones at Lima;
at any rate they can go. The blankets and ponchos we could, of course,
carry behind us. So that practically there are only the two tents, cooking
utensils, and the stores, which will not weigh many pounds, to carry, and
with our clothes the whole will make a ridiculously small load even for
one mule. We had better get rid of the pickaxes and shovels, they would
fetch pretty nearly as much here as we should give for new ones at Lima.
"Thus, then, with Donna Maria riding one of the mules, there would be our
five selves and three led mules, of which only one would be laden. That
would offer no great temptation to plunderers; and as we shall all have
guns across our shoulders, they would see that it would not be worth while
to interfere on the very slight chance that the one laden mule might be
carrying anything valuable."
"I agree with you, señor. Our appearance would be that of a party of
travellers who have been exploring the old ruins, or, as has been done
before, endeavouring to ascertain whether the rivers on the east are
navigable down to the Amazon. Besides, the bulk of the people here do not
forget what they owe to Englishmen, and the fact that you are of that
nation would in itself secure good treatment for you among all except
Accordingly they started the next morning. Maria rode, in Amazon fashion,
on a mule between her husband and Harry. Bertie followed with José, to
whose saddle the three baggage mules were attached in single file. They
were undisturbed on their journey. Three or four times they were hailed by
men on the rocks above as they went through difficult points of the pass.
The reply of Dias, that the two gentlemen with him were Englishmen who had
been exploring the ruins and doing a little shooting among the hills,
generally satisfied them. One or two, however, who enquired what the mule
was carrying, were invited by him to come down and see, though at the same
time they were informed that the load contained nothing but blankets and
cooking vessels, and enough provisions to last them on the way.
When, within two days' journey from Lima, a party of rough men came down
into the road, Dias rode forward to meet them and repeated his usual
story. "You can examine the mule if you like," he said, "but I warn you
not to interfere with us; the English señors are not men to be meddled
with. They are armed with rifles, and each carries a brace of double-
barrelled pistols. They are dead shots, too, and you may reckon that it
will cost you over a dozen lives were you to interfere with them.
Moreover, the other muleteer and myself could give a fair account of
ourselves. Rather than have trouble, however, two of you can come forward
and see that my statement as to what the mule carries is correct. Its
burden would not fetch fifty dollars at Lima."
Two of the men came forward and examined the mule's burden, and felt the
saddles of the others to see that nothing was concealed there. When they
rejoined their party one who appeared to be their leader came forward.
"Señors," he said, "I regret that we have stopped you; but we are poor
men, and are obliged to take to the road to live. Perhaps your honours
would not mind giving us ten dollars to buy food at the next village."
[Illustration: THEY SAW APPROACHING A PEASANT WOMAN SITTING ON A MULE.]
"I have not many dollars left," Harry said, "but if you really need food
you are welcome to ten of them, for we shall need nothing more than what
we carry till we arrive at Lima." He handed him the ten dollars, and then,
showing him his purse, said, "You see there are but five others."
With many thanks the man retired, and he and his companions took off their
hats as Harry and his party rode through them.
"Another such stoppage," Harry said with a laugh, "and we shall have to
fall back upon our little stock of gold-dust."
However, they met with no more trouble, and on the following evening rode
into Lima and took up their quarters at the hotel. Dias asked that he
might go on with the mules to his home.
"In the first place, señor, we want to know how things have gone on in our
absence. We had arranged with neighbours to look after the garden and the
house. They were glad to do so, as the garden was a fruitful one. They
were to take all they could raise and keep it well planted, so that
whenever we might return we should find our usual supply of fruits and
vegetables. In the next place, Maria is nervous about my staying here
after what happened last time. We may take it as certain that the friends
of the men we hurt will take the chance of paying off the score if they
can find an opportunity. I shall come in each day to see if you have any
orders for me."
"There will be no occasion for that, Dias. We have quite made up our minds
to wait here for a week before starting on our next expedition, so if you
will come over in four days that will be quite soon enough. You can
overhaul the blankets and bags, and see that those good enough to keep are
put in good repair, and those worn out replaced. We shall want quite as
many stores as those we took last time, for there are very few villages
except on the sea-shore, and we shall find difficulty in replenishing our
stock. We shall have to buy double-barrelled guns in place of those we
lost, but that we shall do ourselves. We have plenty of ammunition and
cartridges for the rifles and pistols, but we had only a few shot
cartridges left when we lost the guns."
As soon as Dias had gone on with the mules Harry went to the British
consul's and found three letters waiting there for him, two from Miss
Fortescue and one from Mr. Barnett. He put the former into his pocket to
be read and enjoyed privately, but opened that of Mr. Barnett at once. It
was in answer to that Harry had written at Cuzco.
"My dear Harry," he said,
"Your first letter was quite satisfactory. I was glad to find that you had
reached Lima without encountering more than a stiffish gale, which was as
well as you could have expected. I was still more glad that you had found
Dias alive and willing to accompany you. Your letter from Cuzco has now
reached me. I think you were extremely lucky to get through that street
broil without any damage to either of you. It was certainly a hazardous
business to interfere in an affair of that kind without having any weapons
except the sticks you carried. Still, I can well understand that, as you
would certainly have lost the services of Dias had you not done so, it was
worth running a good deal of risk; and, as you say, it had the natural
effect of binding him to you heart and soul.
"I feel very uneasy about you both, and have blamed myself many a time for
suggesting this scheme to you. I can only say that it is really the only
possible way in which it seemed to me you could carry out the task set
you. In fairy stories it is, so far as I can remember, a not uncommon
thing for a king to set some task, that appears absolutely hopeless, to
the suitors for his daughter's hand, and the hero always accomplishes the
impossible. But this is always done with the assistance of some good
fairy, and unfortunately good fairies are not to be met with in the
present day. I have great faith in Dias, but fear that he is a very poor
substitute for a fairy godmother. Still, I am convinced that he will do
all in his power, and will even strain his conscience severely, by
conducting you to places where his traditions lead him to believe that
gold, either in the shape of mines or hidden treasure, is to be found.
"Your search will not improbably lead you into places where the Indians
have won back their own from the civilization introduced by the Spaniards,
and I have always heard that on the eastern side of the Cordilleras the
natives entertain a deadly hatred for whites, and attack all who endeavour
to penetrate into the forest. Don't be too rash, lad. Remember that it
will not add to your lady-love's happiness to learn that you have been
massacred in your attempt to carry out your knight-errant adventure, and
if you are careless about your own life, don't forget that its loss will
probably entail the loss of your brother's also. Dangers, of course, you
must meet and face, but remember that prudence is a valuable aid to
"I am glad to know that Dias has taken his wife with him. A woman is a
very useful adjunct to an expedition such as yours. Of course in some ways
she is necessarily a trouble, and always a responsibility. Still, if, as
you say is the case with her, she is a good cook, this makes a wonderful
difference in your comfort, and certainly adds to the chance of your
preserving your health. And in the next place, should you fall ill, or be
mauled by a tiger or puma, she will make a far better nurse than Dias
himself would be. Now that you are cutting yourself adrift from
civilization, I shall not expect to hear from you again for a long time. I
shall try and not be uneasy; but really, Harry, I do feel that I have
incurred a very heavy responsibility, and may, with the best intentions in
the world, have sent you and Bertie to your death. I have, as you directed
me, addressed this to the care of our consul, and it must be many months
before you receive it, many months more before I again hear from you.
Should you require more money, draw upon me. I have always a good balance
standing at the bank, therefore do not hesitate to draw, in case the
amount sent out to you quarterly does not prove sufficient to carry out
any scheme you may have in hand.
"With all good wishes for your own and Bertie's welfare,
"Your affectionate guardian,
When he returned to the hotel he handed Mr. Barnett's letter to Bertie to
read, and said:
"Stop down here in the patio, Bertie; I have two letters that I want to
"All right, Harry; take your time over them; I won't disturb you."
It was dusk now, and when Harry went to his room he lit a couple of
candles and seated himself in a large cane arm-chair and opened his
The first one consisted chiefly of expressions of pleasure at his arrival
at Callao, of remarks upon the voyage, of complaints as to the long time
that had passed without news of him, and of assurances of affection.
The second was, like Mr. Barnett's, in reply to his letter from Cuzco.
"My dearest Harry,
"After reading your letter I have been more and more impressed with my
heartlessness in allowing you to undertake such a journey as you have
before you. I ought to have been braver. I ought to have refused
absolutely to allow you to go. The prospect of your being able to overcome
my father's objections really amounts to nothing, and I ought to have said
that I would not accept the sacrifice, and would not allow you to run such
risks; that it would be better and kinder for both of us to accept the
inevitable, and not enter upon such a struggle with fate.
"Do not think that I am already growing weary of waiting, and that my
heart is in any way changed. It is not that. It is anxiety about you, and
the feeling how wrong I was to let you go. Were there even a shadow of
chance of your success I would wait patiently for years. I do not say that
my life is a pleasant one. It is not. My father is still bitterly angry
with me for, as he says, throwing away my chances; that is to say, of
marrying a man I do not care for, simply because he is rich. But I can
bear that. Mother is very very good, and does all in her power to cheer
me; but, as you know, she has never been much more than a cipher,
accustomed always to submit to my father's will, and it is wonderful to me
that in our matter she has ventured, not openly to oppose him, but to give
me what strength and comfort she can.
"I hardly know how I should have got on without her comfort. My father
hardly speaks to me. He treats me as if I had been convicted of some
deadly sin, and is only restrained from punishing me in some way because,
by some blunder or other, contumacy against the will of a father has been
omitted from the penal code. Seriously, Harry, it makes me unhappy, not
only for myself but for him. Until I was unable to give in to him in this
question he has always been the kindest of fathers. I am sure he feels
this estrangement between us almost as much as I do, but believes that he
is acting for my good; and it is a great pain to him that I cannot see the
matter in the same light as he does. Of course to me it is most ridiculous
that he should suppose that my happiness depends upon having a title, and
cutting a figure at court, and that sort of thing; but there is no arguing
over it, and I am as thoroughly convinced that my view is the correct one
as he is that it is utter folly.
"However, I am almost as sorry for him as for myself, and would do almost
anything short of giving you up to make him happy. However, do not think
that I am very miserable, because I am not. Somehow, though I can't give
any good reason for my belief, I do think you will succeed. I do not say
that I think for a moment you are likely to come home with the sum my
father named as necessary; that seems to be quite hopeless. But I think
somehow you may succeed in doing well; and though some people might
consider that he was justified in refusing his consent to what he might
think was a bad match, he could not do so with any justice were I to
determine upon marrying a gentleman with some fortune. He thinks a great
deal of public opinion, and would know that even chat would be against
him. But Indeed, Harry, I am beginning to doubt whether in the end I shall
be able to sacrifice my life to his unfortunate mania, that I must marry
what he calls well. I love you, and told him that if at the end of two
years you were not in a position to claim my hand, I would give in to my
father's wishes. I will keep my promise so far, that I will not run away
with you or marry you in defiance of his command. But as I have agreed to
wait for two years for you, I may ask you to wait another two years for
"When I think of you going through all sorts of dangers and hardships for
my sake, I feel that it would be downright wickedness to turn against you
if you find that you cannot perform an impossible task. Instead of this
separation making you less dear to me, it is affecting me in quite the
other way. My thoughts are always with you. How could it be otherwise? I
have worked myself up to such a pitch that I have almost resolved that,
when the two years are up, I will say to my father: 'I shall ask Harry to
release me from my promise to him, and for two years, Father, I will go
about and allow men a fair chance of winning my love. If at the end of
that time I have met no one to whom I can give my heart, I will then go my
own way, and if Harry will take me I will marry him.' It will require a
great deal of courage to say so; but you are doing so much to try and win
me, that it would be hard indeed if I were to shrink from doing a little
on my part.
"Still, it would make it easier for me if you should have the good fortune
to bring home something; not because, as I have told you many times, I
should shrink for a moment from renouncing all the luxuries in which I
have been brought up, and for which I care so little, but because it
would, in his eyes, be a proof of how earnestly you have striven to do
what you could to meet his requirements. I did not mean to say this when I
began my letter, but it seems to me that it will give you heart and
strength in your work, and that you will see from it that I, too, have
taken my courage in my hand, and show you that your love and faithfulness
shall some day have the reward they deserve.
"God bless you and keep you, dearest,
"Your loving HILDA."
Harry read the letter through again and again, and at last Bertie came in.
"What! at it still, Harry?" he said with a laugh. "You must have got your
letters by heart by this time. I have been sitting in the patio by myself
for two mortal hours expecting you to come down. At last I said to myself,
'This sort of thing will bring on madness. When a healthy sailor forgets
that his brother is waiting for supper, to say nothing of himself, it is
clear that there is something radically wrong.'"
"It is evident, Bertie, that at present you know nothing of human nature.
If there had been anything radically wrong in this letter I should
probably have been down long ago. It is just the contrary. Hilda says that
if I don't succeed here, she will give herself, or rather her father, two
years, and at the end of that time, if she doesn't find someone she likes
better, she will marry me, whether he likes it or not--at least, that is
what it comes to."
"I congratulate you, old boy. At the same time, it is evident that she
would not have been worth her salt if she had arrived at any other
conclusion. Now, having settled that comfortably, let us go and have
something to eat. You appear to forget altogether that you have had
nothing since breakfast, and it is now past eight o'clock."
"You boys think of nothing but eating," Harry grumbled.
"Well, up till now, Harry, from the time we started, I have observed that
you have a very healthy appetite yourself, and I can tell you it has cost
me half a dollar in bribing the cook to stay on beyond his usual hour. I
did not like to tell him that you were engaged in reading a love-letter
fifty times, so I put it delicately and said that you were engaged in
business of importance. It went against my conscience to tell such a
"There, come on, Bertie. I had begun to hope that you were growing into a
sensible fellow, but I am afraid that there is no chance of that now, and
that you will continue to be a donkey to the end of your life."
Harry had told Dias that they had better take two or three days at home
before they came into Lima again, but to his surprise the muleteer came in
at ten o'clock next morning.
"Well, Dias, I did not expect to see you again so soon. You have found
everything right at home, I hope?"
"No, señor, I am sorry to say I did not. Three days after we left here our
house was burnt down."
"Burnt down, Dias! I am sorry indeed to hear that. How did it happen? I
thought you said that you had locked it up, and left no one there."
"That was so, señor. The people who took over the garden were to go into
the house once a week to see that everything was in order; but as this
fire broke out only three days after I left, they had not entered it.
Everyone says that it must have been fired on purpose, for the flames seem
to have burst out in all parts at once. No one in the town thought that I
had an enemy in the world, and all have been wondering who could have had
a grudge against me. Of course we need not go very far to guess who was at
the bottom of it."
"I suppose not, Dias. It must have been those scoundrels we gave such a
"There is no doubt of that, señor. But this time they have got the best of
me, for they know very well that I have no proof against them, and that it
would be useless to lodge any complaint."
"I am afraid it would, Dias. Is it quite burnt down?"
"The walls are standing, señor. It takes a good deal to burn adobe."
"What do you suppose it would cost to put it in the same condition as
before, with the furniture and everything?"
"No great thing, señor; two hundred or two hundred and fifty dollars. It
would not be as much as that if it hadn't been that Maria had left her
festa dresses and her silver trinkets behind. There was not much furniture
in the house; but I think I could replace everything for about two hundred
dollars, and I have a good deal more than that laid by."
"I shall certainly make that up to you, Dias. It was entirely your
kindness in deciding to take us on Mr. Barnett's recommendation, and to
undertake this journey, that brought the ill-will of these scoundrels upon
you. Of course it is of no use doing anything now, but when our search is
over I shall certainly see that you are not in any way the loser."
"No, señor; if I could not replace it myself I might accept your kind
offer, but I can do it without breaking very heavily into my savings. And
indeed their attack on me was the outcome of an old grudge. I have been
long regarded as a fortunate man, and truly I have been so. If there was a
job for five mules, and I was disengaged, I always had the first offer."
"But that was not fortune, Dias; that was because you were known to be
"There are few muleteers who are not so, señor; it is rarely indeed that
muleteers are false to their trust. I can scarce remember an instance. We
Indians have our faults, but we are honest."
"Well, perhaps your getting the first job to go with foreign travellers
may have been a piece of good fortune, but it is because these were so
well satisfied with you that others engaged you. Trustworthiness is not
the only thing wanted in a muleteer; willingness, cheerfulness, and a
readiness to oblige are almost as important for the comfort of travellers.
Well, do you think these fellows will try and play you another trick,
"I hope they will," Dias said savagely, "that is, if they don't have too
much odds against me. I owe them a big score now, for twice they have got
the better of me. I should like to get even with them."
"Well, Dias, I hope they won't try anything of the sort. If anything
should happen to you, I should not only be extremely sorry for your sake
and your wife's, but it would destroy the last chance I have of carrying
out my search for treasure. Do you think that if I were to go to the
consul and lay a complaint against them, on the ground, in the first
place, of their attack on you, and now of burning your house, it would
have any effect?"
"If you were to make a complaint it might do, señor; it certainly would