Part 5 out of 7
not were I to do so. A little bribe would, of course, be necessary; you
cannot do anything without that. The officials here are all Gamarra's men,
and there is not one of them who would not take a bribe. But would it be
worth while, as we are only going to stay here a week? And if you got them
imprisoned they would be out again before I came back, and would be more
anxious than ever to get rid of me."
"There is a good deal in that, Dias. As, of course, we shall be away, and
starting for home again as soon as we return here, their spite would be
directed entirely against you."
"I hope, señors, that while you stop here you will never go out without
your pistols. It is against you they have a grudge now more than me; it
was owing to you that they failed in killing me."
"We will do so; and we won't carry sticks this time, so that if they see
us going along they will think we are unarmed."
Whenever they went out after dark, indeed, Harry and Bertie had an idea
that they were followed, and on their way home each invariably carried a
cocked pistol in his pocket, ready for instant use. It was well that they
did so, for on returning late one evening from Señor Pasquez, four men
suddenly sprang out upon them.
They were on their guard, and their arms went up in an instant, and two
shots were fired. As the pistols were almost touching the men's heads when
the trigger was pulled, both the assailants dropped dead, and the others
at once took to their heels.
"There are two of Dias's enemies wiped out," Harry said quietly. "I hope
the others will give us a chance before we leave. Well, let us walk on
before the watch comes along. It would ruin our plans altogether if we
were kept here for an indefinite time while enquiries are being made."
The next morning they heard from their waiter at breakfast that two men
had been found dead in the street.
"They are muleteers," he said, "but are known to be bad characters, and
are suspected of having been concerned in several murders. It is evident
that they made a mistake this time, and have got what they deserved. They
are known to be associated with others. There were five of them; one was
killed in a knife fight some months ago, and a search has been made for
the others, but it is not likely that they will be caught. They were
probably concerned in the affair, and knowing that they would be suspected
of having a hand in this, and that their character will go against them, I
expect they went off at once to the foot of the hills, and won't be heard
of again for some time to come."
"I think it a pity they were not all shot. It is a shame that in a town
like this people cannot walk in the streets after dark without the risk of
Dias was very pleased when, on coming up that morning, he heard of what
had happened. He quite agreed that the other men would almost certainly
have taken to the mountains.
"Even if they have not, señor, you are safe from another attack. Now they
know that you carry pistols, and are prepared for them, they will let you
"When we come back here, Dias, we will give you a brace of our pistols,
and I trust you will carry them in your pocket ready for use after dark,
whether you are in Lima or at Miraflores."
"Thank you, señor. I do not think they are likely to show their faces here
again for a long time; but at any rate I will be on my guard, and will
gratefully accept your offer of the pistols. Now, señors, I must set to
work to-day to get in our stores for the next journey. I have made a list
of what we shall want."
"Well, I have plenty of money, Dias, for I find two remittances from home
awaiting me here. We have already bought two double-barrelled guns and a
stock of ammunition, principally buck-shot, for we shall not be doing much
big game shooting. We can always buy food at the sea-side villages."
Three days later all was in readiness. The mules were brought up from
Miraflores by José, accompanied by Maria, and an early start was made on
the following morning.
THE CASTLE OF THE DEMONS
"To-morrow, señor," Dias said, "you will see the spot I was telling you
about, where, as the traditions say, the spirits of our ancestors inhabit
the ruins of a building so old, that it was ancient when the Incas first
came here. They are still there, and men who have been rash enough to
approach the spot have been found torn to pieces as if by wild beasts; but
none go near now."
"Did the Spaniards never go there?"
"I know not, sir; but 'tis likely they never even heard of it. The country
is all dry and barren, and there were no mines to tempt them. The Indians
never speak of it; those who were alive when the Spaniards came had some
reasons for not doing so; and even now you could go to the nearest
village, which lies more than twenty miles away, and ask the people about
it, but they would only say that they had never heard of it, that no such
place existed, for they believe that even to speak of it would bring dire
disaster. We Indians are Christians; the Spaniards made us so. We make the
sign of the cross, and we bow before their images and pictures, and once a
year we go to their churches; but among the tribes east of the mountains
that is all. We believe in the traditions of our fathers and in the demons
of the forest; and though on this side of the hills, where the Spaniards
held a tight grip upon us, the people have well-nigh forgotten their old
faith, they still believe in many of the tales they have learned from
their fathers, and this of the Castle of the Demons, as it is called, is
as strong as ever in these parts."
"Have you ever seen the castle, Dias?"
"I have seen it, señor. There is only one point from which it is visible.
We shall go there to-morrow, it is ten miles from here. The castle lies in
a rift of the rock. I should say that in ancient times this opened to the
sea, but the building closed the entrance. Whatever it may have been, it
does not rise above the summit of the cliff, which goes down as straight
as a wall for miles on the sea-face. The rift on the land side of the
castle seems to have a width of about fifty feet, and I could see openings
which were, I suppose, windows. The rocks on each side are higher than the
castle itself, so that anyone coming along would not see it until he
looked down upon it."
"But of course it is visible from the sea, Dias?"
"It would have been visible in the old days without a doubt, señor, but it
cannot be seen now. The stones are the colour of the rocks beside them.
They are stained and broken, and unless a boat went along within a very
short distance none would dream that there was a break in the cliff there.
I heard that from a fisherman whose boat was driven in by a gale and well-
nigh lost. He said that he could see that the stones, which are very
large--much larger than any of those in the remains of the buildings of
the Incas--were not in regular lines."
"It is very strange that anyone should have taken the trouble to build a
place in such a singular position. Is there not any legend as to its
"There is a tradition, señor, that it was built as a prison, by the king
of those times, a thousand years before the Spaniards came, and even
before the people whom the Incas conquered came into the land, and that it
was a place of imprisonment, some say of a wife, others of a son, who had
rebelled against him. Some say that it was built by the demons, but as it
happened long before our people came here, none can know."
"Well, Dias, it seems to me that this old place is very likely to have
been used as a hiding-place for treasure. As to these tales about demons,
of course they are ridiculous. I took your advice when we were being
opposed by fierce Indians, but when it is a question of demons, I can
trust to my revolvers and rifles against a legion of them."
"Well, señor, you are the master. I have led you here as I promised. There
may be treasure here or there may not. If you will go, you must; but I
pray you not to command me to go with you. I would have followed you to
the death through the swamps and forests on the other side, but I dare not
risk being torn to death by demons and being left without burial."
"I do not press you to go, Dias. I respect your convictions, though I do
not share in them. I have had a year of travel with you, and we have had
many adventures together. This will be my last before I return home. Here
at least there seems to me a chance of finding treasure, an infinitely
better chance than any we have had, except in the gold valley. Here is a
mysterious castle, of whose very existence the Spaniards seem never to
have heard. It is just the place where treasure might be hidden. If it has
guardians, they must be human, and also there can be but few. The urgent
necessity for secrecy was so great, that it must, like all the other
secrets, have been confided to a few only. Maybe but one or two old men
are there, of whom certainly I need not be afraid. I have told you why I
came here, and why I feel so anxious to find a valuable mine, or part of
the lost treasures of the Incas. So far I have failed altogether, and I
should be a fool as well as a coward were I not ready to run some slight
risk in searching this mysterious castle."
"So be it, señor. I say not that you may not succeed. It may be that the
demons have no power over white men. If you go and return safely I will go
with you, and, should you find treasure, aid you to carry it away. I will
lead you to within two miles of it, and will wait three days for your
return. If you come not then, I will return to my place and mourn for
"Very well, Dias, you may count upon my return long before the three days
are up. Now, in the first place, take me to the point from which I can
have a view of the castle."
"We have had a long journey to-day, señor, and it is two hours' journey
from here. We had better rest and go in the morning."
"We will be off early. You say it is ten miles from the spot where we
shall see it. If we start at daybreak I can be there before noon, which
will give me plenty of time for a first look round the place. We have got
some torches left. I shall want them, for possibly there may be some
chambers underground into which we shall have to penetrate. We may take it
as certain that, whether the old people hid a great treasure from the
Incas, or the Incas hid one from the Spaniards, they did not leave it
about in rooms, but stowed it away in vaults like those we saw at
Pachacamac, and these will certainly want a lot of looking for."
"I will help you look, señor, and will work there as long as you like in
the search, if you return and tell me that you have seen and heard nothing
of the demons that are said to be there. I am not afraid of danger when I
know that it is men that we have to do with. But I dread being strangled
and torn, as the legends say that all who have ventured here have been."
"But according to your own account, Dias," Bertie laughed, "that was long,
long ago, and the demons may have got tired of guarding a place that no
one came near, and have gone elsewhere in search of victims."
Dias shook his head gravely. In spite of his life as a muleteer, and his
acquaintance with Englishmen, he was as superstitious as the rest of his
countrymen. The nominal Christianity enforced by the Spaniards upon the
natives was but skin-deep, and thus they clung with undying fidelity to
the superstitions and traditions that had been handed down from generation
to generation, and had been preserved with a tenacity that even the
tortures of the Spaniards had failed to shake. The failure to obtain the
gold which they confidently expected to find in the valley had still
further strengthened his belief that it was destined that these treasures
should never be discovered; and although when there he had listened
gravely to Harry's explanations of the manner in which the lake had been
formed, his own conviction that all this was the work of demons had been
unshaken. If, then, a spot, which even the tradition handed down to him
had in no way connected with the guardianship of demons, was so firmly
watched, how much more must this be so at a spot which all legends agreed
was inhabited by demons, and had been the scene of so many executions by
them of those who had ventured near.
As Bertie and his brother sat together by the fire that evening after the
others had retired to rest, they talked long over the matter; for just as
when they had approached the gold valley, their excitement had increased
with every day's journey. Harry felt that this was his last chance, his
only hope of gaining the object for which he had left England.
"It is strange, Harry," Bertie said, "that the natives should believe
these absurd stories about demons. Dias seems, in every other way, as
sensible a fellow as one can want to meet, but in this respect he is as
bad as any of them."
"It is not extraordinary, Bertie, if you remember that it is not so very
long ago since people at home believed in witches who sailed through the
air to take part in diabolic ceremonies, and brought about the death of
anyone by sticking pins into a little waxen image, and that even now the
peasantry in out-of-the-way parts of the country still hold that some old
women bewitch cows, and prevent milk turning into butter however long they
may continue churning. Fairy superstitions have not quite disappeared, and
the belief in ghosts is very wide-spread.
"When you think of that it is not surprising that these poor ignorant
natives still have implicit faith in the traditions of their ancestors. It
is possible that this old place is still inhabited by Indians, who have
been its guardians for ages, and if not now, may have had charge of it
long after the Spaniards came here, and murdered any who ventured to
approach the place. We know that the tradition of the gold valley has been
faithfully maintained in the family of Dias; this may also be the case in
the family to which the guardianship of this old place was entrusted, but
to my mind it is less likely. In the case of the gold valley there was
nothing for those in the secret to do but to hold their tongues; but to
supply guardians to this place from generation to generation must have
been a much more irksome task, and it may have been abandoned, either from
the dislike of those who had to spend their lives in such a monotonous
business, or by their families dying out. I certainly don't want to have a
fight with men who are only following orders passed down to them for
hundreds of years. If they attack us, we shall have to fight; but I
sincerely trust that we may find the place deserted, for, fight or no
fight, I mean to get the treasure if it is there."
"I should think so," Bertie agreed. "The treasure is absolutely of no use
to them, and may be no end of use to you."
"To both of us, Bertie. If there is a treasure, you may be sure it is a
large one, ample for both of us, and to spare. Of course we shall have
trouble in getting it away--the gold would be invaluable to any of these
rascally adventurers who are a curse to Peru. I really want to see the
place, even putting aside the question of the treasure, for it must have
been extraordinarily well hidden if the Spaniards never came upon it; and
I think there can be no doubt whatever that in this respect the traditions
must be true. The whole thing would have been upset if the Spaniards had
once paid a visit there, for, from what we saw at Pachacamac and Cuzco,
they spared no exertions whatever to root out likely hiding-places. The
treasure, if there is one, will be difficult to find, but I have got
nearly a year yet, and if necessary I will spend the whole of it in
digging. Dias could go and get provisions for us. Of course he must not
always go to the same place. Sometimes he can go up to Huaura, sometimes
down to Chancay or Ancon. This place, he has told me, lies a mile or two
south of the Salinas promontory, which would partly account for its
escaping notice, for the road from Huaura, as we see on the map, skirts
the foot of the hill, and goes straight on to Chancay and Ancon, and there
is no earthly reason why anyone should go out to the promontory. People
here don't leave the roads and travel eight or ten miles merely to look at
the ocean, especially when by following the straight line they would see
it without trouble. Well, we have both had hard work during the past year,
what with felling trees to make bridges, chopping logs for fires, making
roads practicable by moving rocks out of the way, occasionally using our
picks where Dias thought that there was a lode, and carrying mules'
burdens up and down steep places.
"Altogether it has been a sort of backwoodsman's life, and if there are
treasure-vaults in this place I think we shall be able to get at them,
however thick and heavy the stones may be on the top of them."
"I am game," Bertie said. "There is a lot more excitement in working when
possibly a treasure lies under your feet than in chopping away at trees,
some of which are so hard as almost to turn the edge of an axe. The place
cannot be very large, so it won't take us very long if we are obliged to
tear up every foot of it. I suppose there cannot be above three feet of
stone over the mouths of any of these vaults."
"I think, Bertie, that when we have once investigated the place and
settled on our plans, we had better send Dias and José down to Callao to
get three or four kegs of powder and some boring tools, besides a supply
of provisions. We should get on a lot faster with these than with only
pickaxes. We shall want a couple of strong iron crowbars for lifting slabs
of stone, and of course some fuse for the mines."
"We should have to be careful not to put too much powder in, so as not to
bring the whole thing down about our ears."
"Oh, we should not want to make a mine of that sort, but only to blast the
stone as they do in quarries and mines. We should have to make a hole to
begin with, by means of our picks and crowbars, in one corner of the room,
two or three feet wide; then we must make a couple of holes the size of
the boring tool, a foot or so away, according to the hardness of the
ground, put in charges and fire them, and in that way blow down the rock
into the hole we had made; and so we should go on until we had done the
whole floor. Of course, the bigger the hole we first make--that is to say,
the wider the face it has--the easier we shall blow the stone down
afterwards. I have watched them blasting stone at Portland, and at some
galleries they were making at Gibraltar, and I know pretty well how it is
done. Of course it is hard work driving the borers down, for that we shall
want two or three sledges of different weights. It will make our arms ache
at first, but after a week or two we shall be able to stick to it fairly
well. Now we had better turn in. We shall start at daybreak tomorrow. It
will take us two hours to reach the spot from which Dias said we could see
the place, and another three hours to get to the castle. That will give us
a long afternoon to take our first look over it."
"There, señor," Dias said, when at eight o'clock in the morning they
stopped on a projecting spur of the hill, "that is the castle!"
From where they stood they could see that the ground fell away into what
was at first a mere depression, but gradually deepened into a valley half
a mile wide. Still farther down the sides became more precipitous, and in
the distance the valley was closed in by rock walls, and appeared to come
to an end. That it did not do so was evident from a streak of bright green
in the centre of the valley, showing that a small stream must run down it.
From the point at which they stood they could see the level line of the
plateau near the cliff facing the sea, and on the surface of this a dark
zigzag line marked the course of the ravine. Then, when apparently close
to the termination of the flat land by the cliffs, the dark streak widened
out somewhat. Through a small but powerful telescope which Harry carried
he could make out distinctly the upper part of what might be a house.
"It is a strange-looking place for a castle to be built," he said, "but it
quite answers to your description, Dias. There are certainly some
openings, which may have been windows. I am sure no one looking from here,
and ignorant that such a place existed, would notice it, and of course
from the valley it could not be seen at all. Even from this height I do
not think I can see more than ten or twelve feet of the upper part. But
surely it must be noticeable to anyone coming along the cliffs?"
"It may be, señor, but I cannot say. Certainly no native would go along
there even in the daytime. Still, it does seem likely that in the Spanish
time some must have ridden along the top of the cliffs, and if they had
seen the castle it would certainly have been searched. Assuredly it has
not been so. I have been at Ancon and Salinas many times, and have talked
with the people there. They would never speak on the subject to one of
white blood, but knowing that I was of native blood, and belonged to one
of the families to whom the secret could be strictly trusted, they were
ready enough to talk about the Castle of Demons. Had the Spaniards ever
searched it they would have known, and the place would no longer be
feared; but all say that from the time of the conquest by the Spaniards no
living being has, as far as is known, entered it."
"Then the Incas knew of it, Dias?"
"I think so, señor, though I have not heard that any of them ever lived
there; but tradition says that the vessel in which a great store of
treasure was sent away from Pachacamac, and which, as is proved by Spanish
writings, was never heard of afterwards, and doubtless was sunk in a great
storm that came on two or three days after it sailed, was intended to be
landed and hidden in this castle, which they thought might well escape the
observation of the Spaniards."
"And even among your traditions there is no allusion to what became of
this treasure ship?"
"No, señor; all traditions say that it was never heard of from the day it
sailed. Had it landed at that castle the secret would have been handed
down to some of the native families, just as that of the golden valley and
of other hidden treasures has been. But there can be no doubt that the
ship was lost with all her treasure."
"Well, we need not talk any more about it now, Dias; we shall learn
nothing more, however long we stay here and stare at it."
They stopped half an hour for breakfast and then rode down the valley.
When they got near the spot where it closed in Harry saw by the pallor on
the native's face that he was beginning to be greatly alarmed.
"You had better stop here, Dias. My brother and I will go on and explore
this ravine and have a look at the place. We will take some ropes with us,
for the ravine may be blocked by falls of rocks, and we may have to let
ourselves down. Evidently the water gets to the sea, or this valley would
be a lake like that in the golden ravine, for although it is but a mere
driblet of water now, you can see by the banks that a considerable amount
comes down in the wet season. How it gets past the castle I don't know; I
can only suppose that there is a passage for it underneath the building.
We will take both our guns, Bertie, and our pistols. That there are no
demons we are quite sure, but the place may have been used as a hiding-
place for outlaws and brigands, who could find no better spot, as there
was no fear whatever of its being discovered. We will take some bread and
meat in our haversacks and a flask of spirits. Perhaps we shall be away
longer than we expect, Dias, but at any rate we will not stop there after
Tears were in the Indian's eyes as Harry and Bertie said good-bye to him
and started, and when he saw them enter the ravine he sat down with his
elbows on his knees and cried unrestrainedly. His wife went up to him and
put her hand on his shoulder.
"Do not sorrow, Dias; as for me, I have no fear, though I love them as
well as you do. I do not say that there may not be demons in the castle--
everyone says there are;--but though these may strangle our people who
break the orders that were given that none should go near, I do not
believe they can hurt our white friends. You saw that they had no fear;
you know how brave they are, and how they laughed at the idea of the
demons having any power over them. Do you think I could smile and talk if
I thought they were in danger? Still, as there is no need to prepare
dinner yet, I will tell my beads over and over again. We shall know if any
harm comes to them if we hear them fire their guns, for it is certain that
they would do so. Even if a legion of demons attacked them they would
never run away, but would fight till the last."
"I love them," Dias said; "I love them as my own sons. At first, when they
came to me from Señor Barriett, it was for his sake that I consented to
accompany and aid them; but from that night when they saved my life by
rushing, with no weapons save their sticks, into the midst of five men
with drawn knives, I felt how noble they were, and I loved them not only
for the sake of my life, but for their bravery. Since then my feelings
have grown every day. Have they not treated us as equals, as they would do
people of their own race--us who, by every Peruvian with white blood in
his veins, are looked down upon?"
"It is true, Dias. They have laughed and joked with us, and have treated
me with as much respect as if I had been of pure Spanish blood, and have
always done everything they could to make things easy for me. I will not
believe God and the Holy Virgin can permit them to be overpowered by the
evil ones. Should it be otherwise, should they never return, I should be
inconsolable. It would be to me as if you yourself had died, and I should
be ready to stab myself to the heart at the thought that we had brought
"I could not live after it either, Maria; but, as you say, I will trust
that God will protect them."
He cut down two rods and fastened them together in the form of a cross,
and then he and his wife knelt before it and repeated innumerable
paternosters and Ave Marias, crossing themselves as they did so.
José, as soon as he had removed the burdens from the mules and turned them
out to graze at the edge of the streamlet, came and joined them in their
supplications, occasionally breaking off from the repetition of the only
prayers he knew, and in his native language imploring the saints to
protect their friends.
"There is no humbug about Dias," Bertie said as they left the others. "He
is really in a blue funk."
"Yes, he is quite in earnest; and we know that he is no coward in other
"Certainly not. He showed any amount of pluck in the affair with the
Indians. But he seems such a bright, sensible sort of chap, that it is
quite funny to hear him going on about his demons. I should not be
surprised at anything the ordinary peasant might believe, but it is
different with a man like Dias."
"You know, Bertie," Harry said, coming to a sudden stop, "I think we are
making a mistake going on into this ravine. I have no belief that the
place is inhabited; still, there may be desperadoes, and perhaps a few
fanatics. It is quite possible that a certain number of families bound
themselves to keep watch here, and formed a little community that has
lasted to the present day."
"But how could they have lived?"
"We will talk that over, Bertie, if we find any of them there. Now we must
turn back. It is not more than a mile at the outside to the place where we
can climb the hillside. In that way we shall be able to look down into
this ravine, and take a general view of the place. We shall know what we
are doing then, whereas if we were to go on through the gorge without
knowing anything about it, we might find ourselves caught in a trap. It
won't make half an hour's difference, for the ground up there will be as
good walking as it is here, while we might find all sorts of obstacles in
this ravine, and with two guns apiece, ammunition, pistols, coils of rope,
food, and so on, we should find it awkward work climbing among heaps of
"You were saying, How could a group of people exist here for centuries
without any communication with the outside world? Well, I don't suppose
they could. They might get water from the stream, and possibly there may
be some way of getting down to the sea-shore; anyhow, this stream must
find a passage when it is in flood. They might have been able to get
enough fish for their wants; but a fish-and-water diet would scarcely be
"At the same time we are by no means sure that they could have had no
communication with the outside, for just as some families may have been
ordered to live here, others may have been instructed to supply them with
food. The watchers may have had a store of gold-dust sufficient to last
them all this time, and their friends outside may have brought them a
sheep or two, and corn and other articles of necessity once a week. There
could have been no difficulty in doing so. The stories of demons, and
probably the murder of inquisitive people who tried to pry into what was
going on, created such a dread of the place that those in the secret would
come and go without the slightest difficulty. Conceivably, young men may
from time to time have gone out for a year into the world and brought back
wives with them, or girls may have been sent by the people in league with
them outside, and obtained husbands, which is less likely. I should think
it was more probable that young boys and girls would be kidnapped, and
brought in here from time to time. All this is pure guesswork, of course,
but nevertheless there may be people here, and it is just as well to take
a look round from above before we trust ourselves inside the place."
On gaining the plateau they followed the crest of the valley until they
came to a spot where the ravine appeared to end. They found that in fact
it made a sharp turn. It was here only some ten feet wide, but soon
broadened out to thirty. Fifty yards farther there was another sharp bend,
the ravine narrowed to twenty feet, and the sides became absolutely
perpendicular. Twenty yards farther still they saw something like a wall
about thirty or forty feet high stretching across the gorge, which was
here some seventy feet deep. About twenty feet from the foot there was a
steep ascent of rocks, such as might have fallen there by a slip from one
side or the other. Above these a perpendicular wall rose for another
twenty-five feet. Harry and his brother looked at it in surprise from the
height at which they stood. Its appearance was precisely that of the wall-
precipices on each side. It was rough and uneven, and they could see no
signs of any joints.
"It looks as if it were natural," Bertie said, "but it can't be."
"No, it must certainly be artificial, but it is a wonderful imitation, and
certainly anyone coming up the ravine would suppose that bank of rocks at
the foot had fallen from its face; but we know that it can't be that, for
the water makes its way through. Besides, you see it is only three feet
wide at the top, and then there is a narrow ledge a couple of feet wide,
which was evidently made for the garrison to stand upon and shoot their
arrows at anyone attempting to come up the ravine. Behind the slope is all
rough rocks, except just below our feet, where there is a narrow stone
staircase of regularly-cut steps. It is so narrow that it could not be
noticed by anyone standing here, unless they bent over to look straight
down as I am doing. Well, it is just as well that we made the circuit, for
we certainly could not have climbed over there."
Another sharp turn, and the ravine ran straight towards the castle. They
hurried on, and when they had gone fifty yards stood at the edge of a
roughly circular pit. It was seventy or eighty feet across, narrowing at
each end. At one end was the ravine at whose mouth they were standing, and
directly opposite, in what might be called the neck of the bottle, stood
the Castle of the Demons. It was some fifty feet in width, and as it stood
back about forty feet up the neck it could hardly be seen at any point
except that at which they were standing. There was no door or other
opening at less than some twenty-five feet from the ground. At that height
was a broad aperture about four feet high and twelve wide. Above this were
several smaller openings about four feet square. The singular point in the
structure was a rough arch of rock, which extended above it and formed its
roof. This arch projected thirty or forty feet in front of the building,
so that the latter had the appearance of standing in a great cave.
"What an extraordinary-looking place!" Bertie said in a low voice.
"Extraordinary, but how splendidly chosen for concealment! You see the top
of the rock above it is level with the ground on either side. This would
perfectly well account for people riding along the line of the cliffs, and
passing over without dreaming that there was a house below them. Even if
they went to the edge on this side, they would simply see this deep pit
and the ravine beyond, but could not by any possibility obtain a sight of
the house unless they came round to nearly where we are standing, which
they could have no possible motive for doing. Besides, you see, all the
way we have been passing through a thick bush; and I have no doubt that in
the old time a wood stood here, possibly planted by the builders of the
house. Of course the arch existed before the house was built. The stratum
below was probably softer, and the stream gradually trickled through, and
perhaps in some great flood, when this basin was full, burst its way out,
after which the rock gradually fell until it formed that great natural
"Well, let us go round and have a look at the other side."
They found that the width of the arch to the sea cliff was a hundred and
"If the castle extends to this face, Bertie, it is a hundred feet across,
but from here we can't see whether it does so. It is probably built flush,
however, as Dias said that it was not noticeable from the sea, and had the
arch projected beyond it it could certainly have been seen."
"Well, Harry, if you will tie a rope round my waist you can let me down,
and I will have a look at it. You can hold me easily enough if you stand
twenty feet back from the edge, and you won't have to pull me up, because
I can easily climb up the rope by myself. I need not go down more than
thirty or forty feet, and I can do that easily enough."
"Oh, I could pull you up, Bertie."
"Well, you could do that if by any chance I should get tired; then I could
give a shout, and you could haul on the rope."
"There are lots of stumps of trees here, Bertie, and I can take half a
turn round one of them and so let you down easily; then when you shout I
will fasten the rope there and come to the edge, and I can hear whether
you want me to haul or not. Of course it must depend whether there are any
jagged rocks sticking out. If so, it would be better for you to climb, as
the rope might chafe against them if I pulled."
"I understand." Bertie laid down his weapons and water-flask, made a loop
at the end of one of the ropes they had brought large enough for him to
sit in, then he looked for a spot where the short grass extended to the
very edge. "This is a good place, and the rope won't chafe as it runs over
that. Now I am ready. If you will go back to that stump fifteen feet away
and let it out gradually, I will be off."
He knelt down, and putting the rope over his head took a firm hold of it
just above the loop, and then crawled backwards, his brother keeping the
rope taut. "Slack it out gradually now," Bertie said; "I am just over."
Directly afterwards his shoulders disappeared. Harry let the rope slowly
out until he calculated that fifty feet were over the cliff, then he
fastened it very securely round the stump and went forward to the edge.
"Are you all right, Bertie?" he shouted.
The face of the rock was very even, and there was nothing for the rope to
chafe against. Harry lay down at the edge, keeping a firm hold of the rope
to prevent himself from slipping over, and was able to look down on
"Well, Bertie, what is it?"
"It is the wall of the house, I have no doubt, but it is so cleverly built
that I can scarcely see where the arch ends and the house begins. Looking
quite close I can see where the stones join, but their face has been left
rough; and as it is just the same colour as the rocks, and lines have been
cut down its face, and cracks made across it answering to the lines in the
rock on both sides, I am sure I should not have known it was built up
unless I had examined it. It is much narrower on this side than on the
other--not more than twenty-five feet, I should say. There seem to be some
irregularly-shaped holes in what looks like a fissure in the middle. I
suppose they are to light the rooms on this side of the house, but they
are certainly too small to be noticed from the sea."
"Does the sea come right up to the foot of the cliff?"
It was a minute before the answer came. "The water comes to the foot, but
there is a line of rocks running along forty or fifty feet farther out.
Some of them seem to be thirty feet out of the water; at one end they
touch the cliff, and at the other there is a free passage. The water is
very clear, but as far as I can judge I should say there is a depth of a
fathom or a fathom and a half between the rocks and the cliff. Certainly a
boat could row in to a position underneath where I am."
"Is there anything more?"
"You don't see an entrance down here?"
"All right! Then you may as well come up again. Can you climb up?"
"Well, hail me if you want me to haul."
Harry went back to the stump, unwound the rope until it was only half a
turn round it, and then, holding it firmly, stood ready to haul up.
Harry was relieved when, a few minutes later, Bertie's head appeared above
the edge, and directly afterwards he crawled over. "My arms have
strengthened ever so much with our work. I could have done it before, but
it would have been hard work."
"Well, so far so good, Bertie. There is no doubt that it is one of the
best hiding-places in the world, and I am not a bit surprised that the
Spaniards never found it. Now we will go back to the edge of the ravine
and have a good look from that side."
As they went along he said, "Let us have a look at these bushes, Bertie.
The soil is very thin about here, and I wonder that the trees grew."
"These are pines," Bertie said, "and in the mountains we often saw pines
growing among rocks where there did not seem a handful of soil for them."
On examining they found several old stumps, and thrusting a ramrod down
Harry found, to his surprise, that the soil was from three to four feet
deep. He tried again a little farther off, and found that it was two feet;
further still, it was only one.
"The tree must have stood in a hole in the rock," he said. "Try another
one, Bertie." The same results were obtained. "That explains it, Bert.
Evidently when they planted the trees to prevent this place from being
seen from the hills, they cut away the rock in circles about twelve feet
across and made cup-shaped holes, which they filled up with earth. When
they planted the young trees I dare say at first they watered them. They
could easily enough fetch water up from the stream. When the trees got
fairly rooted they would be able to leave them alone, perhaps giving them
a good watering once every two or three months. Whenever the rains came
they would be able to give up watering altogether, for in these basins the
earth would keep moist for a very long time. It would be a big job, but no
doubt the king who built the place had all his tribe at work on it. It is
probable that the Incas had established themselves at Cuzco for many years
before they came down to this place, and the trees may not have been
planted till their coming was first heard of. In that case there would be
plenty of time to hide the place before they came down and searched the
shore. We know that the Chimoos resisted them for a considerable time
before they were finally conquered. Well, for whatever purpose this place
was built it is one in which either the Chimoos or the Incas, if they ever
found the place, would be likely to hide treasure, which is satisfactory.
Now we will sit down here for a short time and watch both windows. You
look at the two top lines, Bertie, and I will look at the two lower lines.
I certainly do not see any signs of life. That is how the water gets out,"
and he pointed to a roughly-shaped arch about twelve feet wide and as many
high. Through this the little stream disappeared. "I expect there is a
similar passage at the other end."
"There may have been," Bertie said. "I was hanging so close to the wall
that there may very well have been one without my being able to see it.
But it looks pitch-dark in there. If there were much of an opening we
ought to see the light, for, as we agreed, it can't be more than a hundred
[Illustration: HARRY DROPPED THE BARREL OF HIS RIFLE INTO THE PALM OF HIS
"That is the first place we will investigate, Bertie. The question of how
we are to get into the house wants some thinking over. That lowest window
is a good twenty-five feet above the ground."
"Of course if we had a grapnel we could fasten it to the end of a rope and
chuck it in."
"We shall have to make something of that sort. If the window had been on
the other side instead of this it would have been easy enough, because I
could have lowered you and slipped down the rope afterwards, but that arch
sticking out so far on this side makes it impossible. All that we can do
now is, as far as I can see, to lower ourselves down on to the top of that
wall in the ravine, then go and examine the tunnel. We have got plenty of
rope to lower ourselves from here on to the wall."
They watched the building for another twenty minutes. "I am convinced that
no one is there," Harry said. "I have not seen as much as a shadow pass
any of the windows since. If people did live in it they would naturally be
on this side of the house, because the rooms here are better lighted and
more cheerful, and no doubt they are the principal rooms, as the house
narrows so much at the other end."
"Well, let us try it," Bertie said. "If there is a strong force here we
should only have to make a bolt back to that narrow staircase. We could
hold that against a whole tribe."
They rose and walked along the edge of the ravine till they were above the
wall, then, fastening the rope to a stump, they slid down on to it.
"So far so good," Harry said, as, holding their rifles in their hands,
they went down the steps. Then he suddenly stopped. "Hullo," he exclaimed,
"here are two skeletons!"
They were not quite skeletons, for the bones were covered by a parchment-
like skin, and there were still remains of the short skirt each had worn
in life. A spear lay beside each. With difficulty the brothers passed down
without treading upon them.
"They must have been here a long time, Harry," Bertie said when they got
to the bottom.
"Any time," the other said. "In the dry air of these low lands there is
scarce any decay. You remember those mummies we saw. I believe iron or
steel will lie here for years without rusting. They may have been here for
a couple of hundred years or more."
"I wonder what killed them, Harry?"
"I have no idea. You see, one was lying almost on the other with his arms
round his body, as if he had died trying to lift him up. If they had been
shot by arrows they would still be sticking into them; if they had been
killed by people pursuing them they would probably be lying upon their
backs, for they would naturally have faced round at the last moment to
resist their pursuers, whereas there are no signs of injury. This settles
the point that there is no one in the house. Had it been inhabited, the
bodies would have been removed from the path, for it is by this that
people would go out and return. There may have been a ladder down from the
wall; the only other way they could have got out would have been through
that passage to the sea. A boat may have been kept there; but even if that
had been so, we should scarcely have found those bodies on the steps.
Well, we shall have plenty of time to talk over that."
They walked across the open space until they approached the building. For
a height of twenty feet it was constructed of stone, above that it
appeared to be made of the great adobe bricks which had been so largely
used at Pachacamac, and in others of the old ruins they had seen.
"There is no question that it must have been built by the Chimoos or some
race before them," Harry said; "the Incas could have had no possible
reason for erecting such a place. Well, now for the tunnel."
The little stream only occupied two feet of the passage. They were
therefore enabled to walk down dry-foot.
"We ought to have brought a torch with us," Bertie said.
"I don't think we shall want that; there is a sort of thin blue light, the
reflection of the light upon the water outside, though I don't know why it
should be so blue."
The reason was soon manifest. The passage sloped downwards, and when they
had gone some fifty feet their progress was arrested by water which
appeared of a deep-blue colour.
"That is it," Harry said. "You see the roof comes down into the water
twenty feet off, and the light has come up under it. They sloped this
passage to make the water flow out below the surface of the sea, so that
the opening could not be seen from without. By the light I should not say
that the opening is more than six inches under the water. I don't know how
the tides are, but if it is high tide now, the top of the opening would be
eighteen inches out of water at low tide, for, as you know, the tide only
rises about two feet on this coast. In that case a boat would be able to
come in and out at low tide, but of course a man wanting to come in or go
out could easily dive under at any time. Well, that settles that point for
the present. It was a clever plan; any amount of water could flow out in
flood time, and yet no one who took the trouble to come behind that ledge
of rocks we saw would have any idea that there was an opening. I think now
that we had better go back, Bertie; in the first place because we can do
nothing until we have manufactured a grapnel of some sort, and in the next
place because every moment we delay will add to the anxiety of our friends
in camp. We must have been away three hours, I should say."
They ascended the steps, fastened the short rope round a block at the top
of the wall across the ravine, and lowered themselves down. They had to
proceed with great care while making their way down the slope composed of
rough and jagged rocks, Once at the bottom of the ravine, however, they
walked briskly on. They had scarcely issued from the entrance when they
saw a stir in the camp in the distance and heard a shout of delight, and
then Dias dashed off to meet them at the top of his speed.
"Thanks to all the saints, señor, that you are safe! You do not know how
we have suffered. We have prayed ever since you started, all of us. Once
or twice I threw myself down in despair, but Maria chided me for having so
little faith in God to keep you from evil, and cheered me by saying that
had harm come to you we should assuredly have heard the sound of your
guns. Have you been in the castle?"
"No, Dias, we have not been in--for the good reason that we could not get
in, because the only entrance is fully twenty-five feet from the ground.
We cannot enter until we have made some contrivance by which a rope can be
fixed there, or manufactured a ladder, which would be the best way and
save a lot of trouble, if we could get a couple of poles long enough. We
thought that we would come back when we had seen all there was to be seen
outside the place."
The Indian's face fell. "Then you do not know what is in the house,
"No; but we are certain that there is no one there, and that probably no
one has been there for the past two hundred years, and perhaps a good deal
"And the demons have not interfered with you?"
"The demons knew better," Bertie laughed.
"They may not be powerful in the daytime," Dias said in an awed tone. "It
is at night that they would be terrible."
"Well, Dias," Bertie said, "everyone knows that the demons cannot
withstand the sign of the cross. All you have to do is to make a small
cross, hold it up in front of you and say, '_Vade retro, Satanas!_' and
they will fly howling away."
"Seriously," Harry said, "you know it is all bosh about demons, Dias."
"But the church exorcises evil spirits. I have seen a priest go with
candles and incense to a haunted house, and drive out the evil spirits
"That is to say, Dias, no spirits were ever seen there afterwards, and we
may be very certain that no spirits were ever seen there before, though
cowardly people might have fancied they saw them. However, to-morrow we
shall get inside, and Bertie and I will stop there all night, and if we
neither see nor hear anything of them you may be quite sure that there are
"But the traditions say they have strangled many and torn them, señor;
their bodies have been found in the daytime and carried off."
"It is quite possible that they were strangled and torn there, but you may
be sure that it was the work not of demons, but of the men who were set to
guard the place from intruders. Well, those men have gone. We found two
skeletons, which must have been there at least a hundred years, perhaps a
great deal more. They were lying on the stairs, the only way of getting
into the place, and they would have been removed long ago if anyone had
been passing in or out."
By this time they had arrived at the camp. "I knew you would come back all
safe, señors," Donna Maria said triumphantly; "I told Dias so over and
over again. But what have you seen?"
"I see something now--or rather I don't see something now that I should
like to see," Bertie laughed. "I thought you would have got a good dinner
ready for me, but I do not see any signs of its being even begun."
The woman laughed. "I have been too busy praying, señor, and have been
keeping up Dias's spirits. I never knew him faint-hearted before, and it
really almost frightened me; but I will set about getting dinner at once."
"No, no," Harry said; "we are really not hungry. We had a good meal before
we started. So do you three sit down and I will tell you all we have
The three natives listened with intense interest. When he had done, Maria
clapped her hands. "It must be a wonderful place," she said. "I wish I had
gone with you, I will go to-morrow if you will take me."
"Certainly we will take you, Maria; and I have no doubt that Dias will go
"I will go as far as the place," said Dias, "but I will not promise to go
"I won't press you, Dias. When we have slept there a night I have no doubt
you will become convinced that it is quite safe. And now about the ladder.
We shall really want two to be comfortable--one for getting up to the
window, that must be made of wood; the other, which will be used for
getting up and down the wall in the ravine, may be made of ropes. But I
think that that had best be hung from the top of the ravine above it, so
as to avoid having to climb over those rough stones at the foot, which are
really very awkward. One might very well twist one's ankle among them."
"I will go at once, señor, and get the poles," Dias said. "You may as well
come with me, José. We passed a wood in the valley about five miles off;
there we can cut down a couple of young trees. If we put the saddles on
two of the riding mules, when we have got the poles clear we can fasten
the ends to ropes and trail them behind us."
"We shall also want some of the branches you cut off, Dias. You had better
say thirty lengths of about two feet long, so that we may place the rungs
nine inches apart. You had better get poles thirty feet long, for we may
not have just the height by a couple of feet."
The two natives at once rode off, and the brothers set to work to collect
sticks for the fire.
"It is too bad, señors, that this should not have been done while you were
away, but we thought of nothing but your danger."
"You were perfectly right, Maria; if we were in peril, you did the best
thing of all to obtain help for us. As to the dinner, there is no hurry
whatever for it. What have you got to eat?"
"There is nothing, señor, but a few of the fish we fried two days ago, and
the ham that we smoked of that bear."
"I will take the line, then, and go down and try to catch some fresh
fish," Bertie said. "There is a good-sized pool about half-way between
here and the ravine. I might get some fish there."
"I will take my gun, Bertie, and go up to the bushes by the ravine, and
see if I can get a bird or two. There is no other shelter anywhere about
In half an hour the lad brought a dozen fish into the camp. None of them
were above half a pound, but they were nearly of a size.
"These will be very nice," the woman said with a smile as he handed them
to her. "I have thrown away the others. I do not think we dried them
enough; they were certainly going bad. I have heard your brother fire
several times, and as he does not often miss, I have no doubt he will
bring us something."
Twenty minutes later Harry was seen coming along. When he arrived he threw
down a large bunch of wild pigeons.
"There are ten brace," he said. "That will give us four apiece. I found
nothing in the bushes, but I suddenly remembered that when we went across
from the ravine to the house, lots of wild pigeons rose from the sides of
the rocks. We did not give them a thought at the time, our attention being
fixed upon the building. But when I got nothing above, I suddenly
remembered them, and concluded that they had their nests in the crannies
of the rocks. So I walked along to the top, and as I did so numbers of
them flew up. I shot a couple; most of the others soon settled again, but
some kept flying round and round, and in ten minutes I got as many as I
wanted. Then of course I had to go down into the ravine by the rope and
the steps to gather them up. I returned the way we did, by the rope we had
left hanging from the top of the wall."
Maria was already at work on the birds. Taking them by the legs, she
dipped them for a minute into a pot of boiling water, and as she took them
out Bertie pulled off the feathers. Then she cut off the heads and feet,
cleaned them, and spitted them on José's ramrod, and, raking out a line of
embers from the fire, laid the ends of the ramrod on two forked twigs
while she attended to the fish.
"But they will be done before the others arrive," Bertie said.
"No, señor; there they come! They will be here in a quarter of an hour.
The cakes are ready and hot, so we will lay the pigeons on them, and they
will be nicely flavoured by the time that we have eaten the fish and are
ready for them."
Dias and José soon arrived at a gallop, with the long poles trailing
behind them and a fagot of short sticks fastened to each saddle.
"Those are capital poles, Dias," Harry said as he examined them--"strong
enough for anything. We will chop notches in them for the rungs to lie in.
There will be no fear then of their shifting, which they might do if the
lashings stretched. Now, we have got a capital dinner just done to a turn,
so you see we have not been lazy while you were away.
"You see," he said, after they had finished breakfast, "my shooting has
quite settled the point that no Indians are in the castle. If there had
been they would certainly have come to the windows to see who was firing.
I kept an eye on the castle between each shot, and saw no signs of any
movement. It is a capital thing that so many pigeons live among the rocks.
If we content ourselves with say five brace a day, they will last us a
long time, and will be a change from salt and dried meat, which we should
otherwise have to depend upon, for we cannot be sending away for fresh
meat two or three times a week. We can get fish, though I don't suppose
that will last very long, for the pool will soon be fished out, and I
don't think that there is water enough in other places for fish of that
"We can get them from the sea, Harry. We have got plenty of large hooks
and lines, which we used on the other side of the mountains. If any of the
window openings on that side are large enough, we can let down the lines
from there. If not, we can do it from the top where I went down."
"I should not like that," Harry said. "One might slip on that short
"Well, one could dive out through the passage and sit on that ledge of
rocks, and fish either inside them or in the sea outside."
"Yes, we might do that, Bertie, and certainly it would be a first-rate
thing if we could get plenty of fish. It would keep us in good health and
make a nice change. I think to-morrow morning, Dias, we had better fix our
camp close up to the mouth of the ravine. Out here in the open valley we
can be seen from the hills, and if anyone caught sight of the animals, it
would very soon get talked about, and we should have a party down here to
see who we were and what we were about."
"Yes, señor, that would be much better. I should not have liked to go
nearer this morning; but now that you have been there twice, and have
returned safely, I am ready to move."
"It would certainly be better; besides, it would save us a couple of
miles' walk each time we wanted a meal. However, when we once set to work
I have no doubt we shall establish ourselves in the castle. Of course one
of us will come down morning and evening to see to the animals."
As soon as the meal was finished they set to work to make the ladder. A
short stick was cut as a guide to the space that was to be left between
the rungs. Bertie and José marked off the distances on the two poles, and
Dias and Harry with their axes cut the grooves in which the sticks were to
lie. Then the poles were laid a foot apart, and the work of pressing the
sticks into their places began. They agreed that the ropes should not be
cut up, as they would be wanted for fastening on the loads whenever the
mules went to fetch food or powder. Two of the head-ropes were used on
each side, and a firm job was made.
"When you go, Dias, for the powder and so on, you must get another supply
of rope. We shall want a longer ladder than this in the ravine, and also a
rope to lift powder and firewood and so on into the castle, and perhaps
for other things that one does not think of at present. Tomorrow we will
unfasten the cord by which we descended to the wall, as we shall not want
to use that in future. I think to-morrow, when we go to the castle, as you
and José do not mean to accompany us, you might take your axes and cut
down a lot of those stumps among the brushwood, split them up, and pitch
them into the courtyard of the castle. It would be well to lay in a good
stock of firewood. We shall want it for cooking and lighting of an
evening. We have only one or two torches left, and we shall want a
"I may go with you to-morrow, may I not?" Maria said.
"Certainly you may, if you wish."
"I should like to," she said. "In your company I sha'n't be a bit afraid
of demons; and I want to see the place."
"That is right, Maria, and it shows at any rate that your curiosity is
stronger than your superstition."
"If Maria goes I will go," Dias said. "I don't like it; but if she went
and I didn't I should never hear the last of it."
"Very well," Harry said with a laugh, "I do think she would have the
better of you in the future if you didn't. So you see you will be both
conquering your superstitions--she, because her curiosity is greater; you,
because you are more afraid of her tongue than you are of the demons."
"A woman never forgets, señor; if she once has something to throw up in a
man's teeth it comes out whenever she is angry."
"I suppose so, Dias. Bertie and I have had no experience that way, but we
will take your word for it."
The next morning they moved the mules and all their belongings to the
extreme end of the valley. Then they had an early breakfast. José took up
his axe and the others their arms; the former turned back for the point
where he could climb the hill. Dias and Harry took the heavy end of the
ladder, Bertie the light one, and they started up the ravine. Maria
followed with a store of bread that she had baked the day before. It was
hard work carrying the ladder up the rocks at the foot of the wall. When
it was securely fastened there, they mounted and dragged it up to them.
When they came out into the open space there was a pause. "It is, as you
said, a strange place, señor."
"It is, Dias, an extraordinary place; and if the people who built it
wanted, as I suppose they did, to avoid observation, they could not have
chosen a better. When those trees were growing it would have been
impossible to catch eight of them without coming down the ravine."
"It looks very still," Dias said in a doubtful voice.
"That is generally the case when a place is empty, Dias, Now let us go on
at once and get the ladder up."
As soon as the ladder was in position Harry mounted, closely followed by
Bertie. Dias hesitated; but a merry laugh from his wife settled the point,
and he followed with an expression of grave determination on his face. As
soon as he was on the ladder his wife followed him with a light step.
As Harry reached the top, he found that the sill of the window was two
feet and a half above the floor of the apartment. He stepped down and then
looked round. The room occupied the whole width of the house, and was some
twenty feet wide. Four rows of pillars ran across it, supporting the roof
above. The ends of the room were in semi-darkness. It was not above ten
feet in height. There were rude carvings on the pillars and the walls.
By the time he had made these observations the others had joined him. "I
see people there," Dias said, in an awed voice, pointing to one end of the
room. Harry dropped the barrel of his rifle into the palm of his left
hand. After gazing two seconds he placed it on his shoulder, saying,
"There are people, Dias, but they won't do us any harm;" and he walked in
that direction. Two figures lay on the ground; four others were in a
sitting position, close to each other, against the end wall. Some bows and
arrows and spears lay near them. All were dressed in a garment of rough
cloth. Harry walked up to one and touched it on the head with the muzzle
of his gun. As he did so it crumbled away; the bones rattled on the stone
floor as they fell. Donna Maria gave a little cry.
"They are dead!" she exclaimed. "They must have been dead years and years
"Two or three hundred, I should think. Your legends are evidently true,
Dias. There was a party left here to keep strangers from entering this
place. Now, before we go farther, let us think this out. We will sit down
on the ledge of the window. But before we do so, take a good look at their
arms and skulls, Dias. You have often been with travellers to the ruins;
let us hear what you say."
Dias, who was now assured that he had only to deal with human beings,
examined them carefully, looking at the ornaments that still hung round
their necks, and then said: "They are not the old people, señor; these
"That is an important point; now let us see how this is to be explained.
Now," he said, as they sat down, "it is clear that the Incas did know this
building. They may have discovered treasures here or they may not; but it
would certainly seem that they were as anxious as the Chimoos had been to
keep its existence a secret, and it is certain that they must have had
some interest in doing so. We have reason to believe that the Spaniards at
least did not know of it. There is no doubt whatever that these men were
not killed in fight; on the contrary, their sitting position proves that
they died quietly, and probably at the same time. We see no signs of food;
we may find some as we search the place. If we do not, we must take it
that they either died from an outbreak of some epidemic or from hunger.
And it is quite probable that the two skeletons on the steps were two of
their companions who were going out to seek for food, and that they fell
from weakness; one clearly died in the act of trying to lift the other.
What do you think of that, Dias?"
"I think that what you say is likely. But why should they have died from
"It is probable that others were in the secret, and were in the habit of
bringing provisions to them, and perhaps of relieving them at certain
periods. We know that there were fierce battles in the early times of the
Spaniards. In one of these battles the whole of those who were acquainted
with the secret may have fallen. Or it may have been earlier after the
conquest had been completed, when the Spaniards drove tens of thousands of
men to work as slaves in the mines. The people here may have remained at
their post, hoping for relief until it was too late. Two of the strongest
may have started at last, but have been too weak to climb the steps, and
died there. Their comrades may have never known their fate, but have sat
down to die here, as you see. I should think it probable that the second
of my suggestions is likely to be the right one, and that this did not
take place until perhaps a hundred years after the arrival of the
Spaniards, otherwise those legends of men who came near this place being
killed would never have been handed down. If all this is as I suggest,
either the Incas knew that the Chimoos had buried treasure here, or they
themselves buried some, although, as you say, there is no tradition of
treasure having been taken here. But it is possible that that treasure
ship, which undoubtedly sailed from some place along the coast and was
never again heard of, really came here; that her treasure was landed, and
the vessel then destroyed. In either case, there is strong reason for hope
that there is treasure somewhere in this castle if we can but find it."
"We will find it," Bertie said confidently. "What you say must be true.
These Indians would never have been fools enough to sit here and die
without some good reason for it. Well, I vote that before we do anything
else we clear these bones out."
"We can do that the first thing to-morrow morning, Bertie. We can't just
throw them out of the window. The bones are of men who died doing their
duty to their country. We will leave them as they are to-day, and to-
morrow we will bring up one of the big leather bags, place the bones in
it, and take them down into the valley and bury them."
"Then you won't sleep here to-night, Harry?"
"No; I have not a shadow of superstition, but I do not think it would be
lively here with those things at the end of the room. Now, let us look
about a bit.
"This was evidently the great hall of the place; do you not think so,
"Yes, señor; the house gets narrower as it nears the sea. This is by far
the best lighted room on this side. No doubt the rooms on this floor were
the abode of the chief who built it, and his principal followers; the
others would be above."
"Well, we will light the two torches. Yes, there is no doubt that this was
the room. You see there are brackets against all the pillars for holding
torches. Before we go farther we will see what they are made of."
He took his knife out of his pocket and went up to one of the brackets,
which consisted of bars of metal an inch and a half square and eighteen
inches long. They widened out at the end, and here was a round hole about
two inches in diameter, evidently intended to put the torch in. The metal
was black with age. He scraped a few inches off one of them with his
knife. "Silver!" he exclaimed. "It would have been better if they had been
gold. But as there are four on each pillar, and twelve pillars, they would
make a tidy weight. That is a good beginning, Bertie. If they are the same
in all the rooms there would be several tons of it."
There was but one door to the room; through this they passed. Dias, now
that there was some explanation for what he considered the work of the
demons, had a more assured air. One passage led straight on; two others
ran parallel to the wall of the room they had left.
"We will examine these first," Harry said. "It is likely enough they lead
to the stairs to the lower room. There must be two floors below us, one
above the level of the top of the tunnel, the other below that must be
divided in two by it."
As they advanced into the passage there was a strange and sudden clamour,
a roaring sound mingled with sharp shrieks and strange little piping
squeaks. Maria ran back with a shriek of alarm, and there was a strange
rush overhead. The torches were both extinguished, and Harry and his
brother discharged their rifles almost at the same moment. Dias burst into
a shout of laughter as they both dropped their weapons and swung their
double-barrelled guns forward. "What on earth is it, Dias?"
"It is bats and birds, señor. I have seen them come out of caves that way
many times. I dare say the place is full of bats. The birds would only
come into rooms where there is some light."
Turning round they saw quite a cloud of bats flying out through the door.
"Confound it!" Harry said. "They have given me the worst fright I ever had
in my life."
They went back to the room, they had left. Both Hairy and Bertie had lost
every tinge of colour from their faces.
"I am very glad, Harry," Bertie said, with an attempt at a laugh, "that
you were frightened. I was scared almost out of my life."
Maria had thrown herself down on her face.
"Ah, señors," Dias said triumphantly, "you thought they were demons!"
"I did not think they were demons, Dias, but what they were I could not
tell you. I never heard any such sound before. I am not ashamed to say
that I did feel badly frightened. Now, see to your wife, Dias."
"There is nothing to be afraid of, Maria. What are you lying there for?"
The woman raised herself slightly. "Are you alive?" she said in a dazed
"Alive? of course I am! You don't suppose I am going to be frightened at a
lot of bats? There, look at them, they are still streaming out."
"It is all right, Maria," Harry said. "You have had a fright; and so have
Bertie and I, so you need not be ashamed of yourself. It is all very well
for Dias to laugh, but he says he has seen such things before."
"If you were afraid, señor, I need not be ashamed that I was; I really did
think it was the demons."
"There is no such thing, Maria; but it was as good an imitation of them as
you are ever likely to see."
"I was in a horrible funk, Maria," Bertie said, "and I am only just
getting over it; I feel I am quite as pale as you. What are you looking so
pleased about, Dias?" he asked almost angrily.
"I am pleased, señor, now I have got even with Maria. The first time she
says to me 'demons', I shall say to her 'bats'."
"Now, let us start again," Harry said as they all laughed. "But instead of
going down, we will go upstairs. I have not pulled myself quite together
yet, and I don't suppose you have."
"No, my knees are quite wobbling about, and if I saw anything, I certainly
could not aim straight just at present. And it's rum; we had the main-mast
struck by lightning off the Cape one voyage I made, and I did not feel a
bit like this."
"I dare say not, Bertie. We all feel brave in dangers that we are
accustomed to; it is what we don't know that frightens us. We will sit
here on the window-sill for another five minutes before we move again.
José, you have got some pulque in your gourd, I suppose?"
"Then we will all take a drink of it. I don't like the stuff, but just at
present I feel that it won't come amiss at all."
Some of the spirit was poured into a tin mug they had with them, and mixed
with water, with which they had filled their water-bottles from the stream
THE SEARCH BEGINS
In a few minutes all were ready to go on again. Harry had asked Maria if
she would like to go down the ladder and wait till they returned.
"No, señor, I should not like it at all. I don't care how full of bats the
rooms are, now that I know what they are. As for Dias, I have no doubt
that the first time he heard them he was just as frightened."
"No, I was not; but I dare say I should have been if the man I was with--I
was then only about José's age--had not told me that the cavern was full
of bats. There was a great storm coming on, and he proposed that we should
take shelter there. We brought the mules into the mouth of the cave, and
he said, 'Now, we will light a torch and go in a bit farther, and then
you will be astonished. It is a bat cavern, and I have no doubt there are
thousands of them here. They won't hurt us, though they may knock out our
torch, and the noise they make is enough to scare one out of one's senses,
if one does not know what it is.' Though I did know, I own I was
frightened a bit; but since then I have been into several such caves, so I
knew in a moment what it was. I ought to have warned the señors, for an
old house like this, where there is very little light, is just the place
"But there were birds too, Dias."
"Yes, I expect they were nearer. Perhaps some of them were in the other
rooms, where they would be close to the openings. But they were probably
scared too by the noise of the bats, and as the windows behind were too
small for them all to fly out together, they made for the light instead."
"Well, now, let us start," Harry said, getting up. They again lit their
torches, and this time found everything perfectly quiet in the passage.
Two or three yards beyond the spot at which they had before arrived they
saw a staircase to the left. It was faintly lighted from above, and,
mounting it, they found themselves in a room extending over the whole
width and depth of the house. The roof at the eastern end was not
supported by pillars, but by walls three feet wide and seven or eight feet
apart. The first line of these was evidently over the wall of the room
they had left. There were four lines of similar supports erected, they had
no doubt, over the walls of rooms below. The light from the four windows
in front, and from an irregular opening at the other end some three feet
high and six inches wide, afforded sufficient light for them to move about
without difficulty. There were many signs of human habitation here. Along
the sides were the remains of mats, which had apparently divided spaces
six feet wide into small apartments. Turning these over they found many
trifles--arrow-heads, bead-necklaces, fragments of pots, and even a
"I expect this is the room where the married troops lived and slept,"
Harry said; "there is not much to see here."
The two stories above were exactly similar, except that there were no
remains of dividing mats nor of female ornaments. They walked to the
narrow end. Here the opening for light was of a different shape from those
in the rooms below. It had apparently been originally of the same shape,
but had been altered. In the middle it was, like the others, three feet
high and six inches wide, but a foot from the bottom there was a wide cut,
a foot high and three feet wide. As they approached it Dias gave an
exclamation of surprise. Two skeletons lay below it. "They must have been
on watch here, señor, when they died," he said as they came up to them.
"It is a rum place to watch," Bertie said, "for you cannot see out."
"You are right, Bertie, it is a curious hole."
The wall was over two feet thick; all the other openings had been driven
straight through it, and, as they had noticed, were doubtless made in the
stones before they were placed there, for inside they were cleanly cut,
and it was only within three inches of the outer face that the edges had
been left rough. This opening was of quite a different character. It
sloped at a sharp angle, and no view of the open sea could be obtained,
but only one of the line of rocks at the foot of the cliffs. It was
roughly made, and by the marks of tools, probably of hardened copper, it
had evidently been cut from the inside.
Harry stood looking for some time. "I cannot understand their cutting the
hole like this. It could not be noticed from the sea that there was an
opening at all; that is plain enough. But why make the hole at all when
you can see nothing from it? And yet a watch has been placed here, while
there was none at the other places where they could make out any passing
"Perhaps," Bertie said, "it was done in order that if from the other
places boats were seen approaching, they could chuck big stones down from
here and sink any boat that might row inside the rocks into the entrance
to the passage, which, as this is in the middle of the room, must be just
"In that case they would have kept a supply of big stones here. I have no
doubt whatever that it was made some time after the castle was built, and
I should say, judging by its unfinished state, the work was done in haste.
But what for, goodness only knows. Well now, having made no discoveries
whatever on the upper floor, we will go down. It is certain that there can
be no great treasure hidden under any of these floors, there is not depth
enough for hiding-places. I counted the steps as we came upstairs, and
there cannot be much more than two feet between the floor of one room and
the ceiling in the next. I fancy that this is of single stones, each the
flooring length of the space between the half-walls. You see that there is
a long beam of stone running on the top of the dividing wall, and the ends
of these stones appear to rest on it. It is below that we must look for
They descended to the first floor. They found that the space behind the
great room was divided into a number of chambers. All of these, with the
exception of the small one on the sea-face, were necessarily in absolute
darkness, and in all were brackets for torches, similar to those in the
principal chamber. Bertie counted them, and found that, including those
first met with, they numbered one hundred and twenty-three.
"How much do you think they weigh apiece?" he asked Harry when the tour
"I have not the slightest idea, Bertie. I should think about fifteen
pounds, but it may be five pounds less than that. They would certainly
give a very nasty knock on the head."
"Oh, I was not thinking of knocks on the head. If there are a hundred bars
at fifteen pounds apiece, it is a big amount of silver; if they are only
ten pounds each--and really I think that is nearer the mark--they weigh a
thousand pounds. What is silver worth a pound?"
"It varies. You can put it at five shillings an ounce; that would be three
pounds sterling for one of silver--three thousand pounds in a rough
calculation for the lot."
"Well, that is not a bad beginning, Harry; it would pay all the expenses
and leave a couple of thousand over."
Harry shrugged his shoulders. "A drop in the ocean as far as I am
concerned, Bertie. Still, it is a beginning; and you may be sure that they
did not take all this trouble to guard this castle for the sake of three
thousand pounds' worth of silver."
They now went down to the next floor. Here there were two staircases, and
the space was divided into two parts by a wall along the centre. There
were no openings whatever for light. One half had evidently been devoted
to arms. Here still lay hundreds of spear-shafts, tens of thousands of
arrows, piles of hide shields, and caps of the same material.
"This store must have been larger than was required for the garrison of
the place," Harry said, "it must have been a reserve for re-arming a whole
Besides the arms there were great bales of rough cloth and piles of skins,
all in a marvellous state of preservation owing to the dryness of the air.
After thoroughly examining the room they went up the stairs leading into
it and descended those into the adjoining chamber. This was divided into
compartments by transverse walls four feet shorter than the width, thereby
leaving a passage through from end to end. Here in confusion--for the most
part turned inside out--were sacks of matting and bags of leather. One of
the compartments was filled with great jars arranged in tiers. Some of the
compartments were quite empty.
"I think, señor, that these were stores of loose grain, probably maize. I
do not see a single grain left."
They looked carefully round with the torches. "This carries out our idea,
Dias, that the people upstairs died of hunger. I have no doubt, as you
say, that the sacks did contain grain. If these had been cleared in the
ordinary way there would certainly remain a good deal loosely scattered
about. They might have been full or half-full at the time the place was
left as we found it. Possibly, instead of ten men, the garrison may have
been ten times as strong at first, but in the fifty or hundred years
before the last survivors died they may have dwindled to a tenth of that
number. However, it is plain that, as you say, the store of food was not
carried away, but was consumed to the last grain. In the same way you can
see, by the way the sacks and bags are tumbled about and turned inside
out, how careful was the search for any remnant that might have been
overlooked when they were first emptied. It all points to starvation."
Three of the largest divisions bore evident traces that at some time or
other, animals, probably llamas or vicuñas, had been closely penned there.
Another had been occupied by a store of hay, some of which still remained.
When they had thoroughly examined this room, Harry looked at his watch and
said, "It is late in the afternoon--our torches are nearly finished;
however, there is time for a casual look round at the cellars below. To-
morrow we will begin a regular search there."
They descended by the staircase to the basement.
"How narrow this place is!" Bertie exclaimed. "It is not much more than
half the width of the room above."
"Of course it is not; the two rooms above occupied the whole width of the
house, these only occupy the width between the passage and the rock-wall
on each side. You see, the tunnel is twelve feet wide, and we may take it
that these walls are at least three feet thick--it is not as if they had
been built of brick, or even of stones cut to shape. They knew nothing of
the arch, and, as you saw outside, this came up nearly to a point. The
stones were longer and longer with each course, each projecting over the
one below it, until, when they were within two feet of joining, a very
long slab was laid across them. The stones may be three feet wide at the
bottom and ten feet at the top, and you see the wall extends over here in
the same way--as of course it must have done, otherwise the whole thing
would have overbalanced and fallen in before that slab at the top was
added. So, you see, there is the width of the tunnel, twelve feet, and the
two walls, say six feet more, to be taken off the fifty feet. So the
cellars by the side of the passage can only be about sixteen feet and a
half at this end, which is what they seem to be, and will go away to
nothing at the other end, as we shall see presently."
The first thing they saw was a sunken tank in the floor. This was full of
water. It was about four feet square, and on sounding it with one of the
ramrods, they found it was about the same in depth, the water coming to
within a foot of the top. It was against the wall facing the ravine.
"This must have some connection with the stream. Otherwise it would have
been dry long ago."
"We did not see any hole when we went down the passage," Bertie said.
"No. Most likely a hole something like this was cut in the rock outside,
and a pipe driven to the bottom of this cistern. They would only have to
fill the one in the tunnel with cut blocks to within a foot of the
surface, and with smaller stones to the same level as the bed of the
stream; then the water in the cistern would always be level with that
outside. They put it in this end so as to be well out of reach of the salt
water farther in. They were no fools who built this place. However closely
they were besieged, and even if the enemy occupied the space in front of
the house, their water-supply was secure."
"But in time of floods, Harry, if the water rose a foot in the passage--
and we saw it did more than that--it would flood the whole of this
"That is so, Bertie; but you may be sure that there was some provision
against that. They would have some valve that they could shut, or possibly
there was a block of wood covered with leather that they could push into
the pipe at the bottom of this cistern."
Beyond a considerable store of firewood, in large and small blocks,
nothing could be seen in the chamber.
"I expect these two places were used as prisons," Harry said, "though in
case a very large force were assembled some may have slept here. At
ordinary times the upper rooms would be quite sufficient. But you see they
had to build the whole height of the rocky arch, and they wanted the
entrance to the place to be so far above the ground-level that it would be
extremely difficult for an enemy to climb into it. A hostile force could
only have come in at that entrance, and a small body of determined men
might have held it against a host. These lower chambers were simply
cellars; the store-rooms were above them, and the habitable part of the
castle. Now let us look at the chamber on the other side; no doubt we
shall find it just like this."
This proved to be the case. There were another cistern and more piles of
firewood, otherwise it was empty. After a short survey they returned to
the main chamber, bringing up with them two of the empty leather bags. In
these they placed the bones of the dead, the remains all crumbling when
touched, as the first skeleton had done. The bags were lowered to the
ground, and the four searchers descended and carried them to the mouth of
the ravine. In a spare bag which they brought with them they placed the
bones of the two skeletons on the steps, and then carried them all out to
the open valley.
"We will bury them when we move the camp down here to-morrow morning,"
Harry said. "We forgot the two up at that window. That is no matter, we
can throw them out to-morrow; they will lie as well at the bottom of the
sea as in the earth here."
Not much was said as they returned to the castle. They had been a very
silent party all day. The gloom and darkness, the way in which their
voices echoed in the empty hall, had exercised a depressing effect on
them; and Donna Maria, generally the most talkative of the party, had not
quite recovered from the shock which the exit of the bats had given her.
It was not until she had cooked a meal, and they all sat down to it, that
they quite recovered their spirits. They had found José awaiting their
return. He had a blazing fire, having brought down as much firewood as he
could carry, and Dias had briefly told him the result of their
"Well, Harry, what do you think altogether?" Bertie asked after the meal
"I think we ought to be very well satisfied," he replied. "Everything has
borne out the ideas we had. The castle may have been built as a fortress
by some great chief, certainly before the time of the Incas, or it may
have been used for a prison. The ornaments and things we found showed that
it was known to the Incas. They would have had no occasion to use it when
they were undisputed masters of the country, but when the troubles came
with the Spaniards a garrison was placed here, and possibly some of their
chiefs took refuge in the place. Then came the time when all opposition to
the invaders ceased, and only a small body of men were left here to guard
the secret, and the treasure if there were any. Generations may have
passed before the last of the garrison died of hunger, and probably all
others who were in the secret fell in some insurrection or died in the
mines. All this seems plain enough, except that possibly there was no
treasure. That left by the Chimoos may have been discovered by the Incas.
I should think it extremely likely that the ship Dias mentioned as setting
out with a large amount of treasure was intended to land its stores here.
"It may have done so, or it may have sunk at sea. I am inclined to think
that it was lost, because the traditions concerning these hidden treasures
seem to be extremely accurate; and yet, as Dias says, none tell of any
Inca treasure being concealed here. However, it is quite possible that the
treasure did come here and was landed, and that the ship was then broken
up, so that it might be supposed she was lost at sea, and that this was
kept so profound a secret by the men here, that the news was never
generally known even among the natives. So far our search to-day has been
successful, but I see that a hunt for the treasure will be a very
difficult one. Certainly in the upper chambers there doesn't appear any
possibility of such a hiding-place existing. The whole space is accounted
for. The walls are all of solid stone, and have no special thickness. If
the roofs had been arched there might be empty spaces on each side of the
spring of the arch, but they are supported by pillars or walls, with only
just space between the floors for the beams of solid stone. Of course it
is in the lowest room that one would expect to find hiding-places like
those we saw at Pachacamac." He paused.
"Well, why should they not be there, Harry?"
"Because, as we saw, the floor is at most twelve inches above the water-
level. How is it possible that they could have constructed chambers below
that level, that is in the bed of a torrent? It is probable that the solid
rock lies many feet below the bed of the stream. A portion of that great
arch must from time to time have fallen into it; and it may be that the
river once ran forty or fifty feet below its present level. In all the
places that we have seen these treasure chambers were formed in solid
adobe foundations, as the temples always stood on artificial terraces.
With all our appliances at the present time it would be next to impossible
to sink in a stratum of great rock fragments below the water level, and I
do not believe that the old people here could have done so even had it
been a solid rock. The difficulties of excavating chambers in it would
have been enormous. They could split rocks with the grain, and all the
stone walls we have seen were made of regular pieces, and evidently formed
of stone so split. They were able to give them a sort of facing with great
labour, but the tools they had were not made of material hard enough to
work in solid rock, and the labour of excavating such chambers would have
been stupendous. Therefore I am at a loss to imagine where any such
chambers can be in that castle."
Dias nodded gravely. He had been with travellers who had done a great deal
of excavation, and he was able to understand Harry's argument. Maria, who
was listening attentively, also understood it. José simply rolled
cigarettes and smoked them. It was a matter for his elders, and he did not
even try to follow what Harry was saying. There was some minutes' silence,
and then Bertie said, "But the floors are all even."
"What do you mean, Bertie?" Harry asked in a puzzled tone.
"I mean, Harry, that they run straight along. There is no dip in them."
"Of course there isn't. Who ever heard of building floors on the slope?"
"Yes, that is what I mean. We know that the tunnel slopes down its own
height. It is twelve feet high at the entrance, and at the lower end it is
some inches below the level, so it falls twelve feet at least. At the end
where the cistern is, the floor of the basement is only a few inches above
the bottom of the passage; therefore at the other end it must be twelve
feet above the water-level."
"You are right, Bertie!" Harry exclaimed. "What a fool I was not to think
of it! There must be a space underneath it a hundred feet long, sloping
from nothing down to twelve feet. There is room for a dozen chambers such
as those we saw on each side of the tunnel. Well done, Bertie! you have
given me fresh hope. It would be a splendid hiding-place, for any
searchers who came down and saw the water in the cistern would believe at
once that, as neither the Chimoos nor the Incas could have known how to
build under water, there was no use in searching for hidden chambers under
this floor. You see, neither of them had any knowledge of cement or
mortar. All their bricks and stones are laid without anything of the sort;
and whatever amount of labour was available no chamber could be made under
water, for as fast as holes were dug the water would come in, and even if
they could line it with stone-work the water would penetrate through the
cracks. Now, Dias, that we see with certainty where we have to dig, we can
make our preparations. I will write down a list of the things we decided
the other day we should want:--Six kegs of powder, two hundred feet of
fuse, four boring-tools, six steel wedges, the smallest smith's fire you
can buy--for we shall have to sharpen the tools,--six borers, a large
bundle of torches, four sledge-hammers--we have enough pickaxes and
shovels,--and another fifty fathoms, that is a hundred yards, of rope. I
don't know anything else that we shall want in the mining way.
"You and your wife had better settle what provisions you must get. We
shall certainly need a good supply of flour--a couple of sacks, I should
think--tea, coffee, and sugar, dried or salted meat. And you might get a
supply of smoked fish. I have no doubt that we shall catch fresh fish here
in the sea, but we shall all be too busy to spend much time on that. You
had better get three or four gallons of pulque; one cannot be always
drinking coffee. We have still got a good stock of whisky and brandy. Your
wife will certainly want a good supply of red pepper and other things for
her stews. It would not be a bad thing to have a couple of crates of
poultry. Don't pack them too closely, or half of them will be smothered
before you get them here. Dead meat would be of no use, for it won't keep
in this heat. We can turn them all out in the courtyard in front of the
castle, and they can pick up their living there among the lower slopes of
the cliffs. We can give them a few handfuls of grain a day. Don't get too
many cocks, and let the hens be young ones. They ought to supply us with
plenty of eggs and some broods of chickens. You must calculate what the
weight will be, and take the mules accordingly."
"Very well, señor. I need not be away more than three days at most. It is
only about twenty miles to Ancon."
"You might take the two llamas down with you and sell them there. They
have done good work, and I should not like to kill and eat them. So mind
you sell them to someone who wants them for carriage work. We shall not
require them any more for that purpose. Will you want to take José with
"I think not, señor, for I should say that four baggage mules will be
ample, and I can lead them myself; and certainly you will find José useful
Dias and his wife then withdrew a short distance from the fire, and
engaged in an animated conversation as to the things she required.
"Don't stint matters," Harry said, raising his voice. "We may be here for
the next two or three months, and the less frequently you have to go down
to buy things the better. It would be easy to account for your first
purchases by saying that you were going on an expedition to the mountains,
but you could not go to the place with the same story again."
"There are other places I can go to, señor; but I will get a good store of
everything this time."
Dias started at daybreak with four mules and the two llamas. The others
rolled up the tent-beds and the remaining stores, loaded up the other
mules, and moved down to the mouth of the ravine. Here they pitched the
little tents again.
"They will form a central point for the mules to come to," Harry said. "We
will leave the sacks of maize here, but give the animals a good feed now.
They will be sure to keep close to the spot. All the other things we will
carry into the castle; but before we start we will bury these bags of
When this was done, and the saddles taken off and piled together against
the rocks, the other things were made up in portable packets, and they
started up the ravine. They made three journeys before everything was
brought to the foot of the ladder leading up to the window. Then the two
brothers mounted, and hauled the things up with a rope which José, who
remained below, fastened to them. When the last was up he went to the foot
of the rock and brought several armfuls of the wood he had thrown down on
the previous day. This was also hauled up.
"You had better fetch some more, José. We mean to keep a big fire burning
here night and day; it will make the place cheerful. I will have a fire
also burning where we are at work below. Now, señora, we will rig up some
blankets on a line between the pillars at the end of the room opposite to
that in which we found the skeletons, so as to make a special apartment
for you and Dias. We will spread our beds at night near the fire."
The screen was soon made. A cord was run from the wall to the pillar next
to it, some five feet above the floor, and three blankets were sufficient
to fill the space.
Harry was about to make another line from the pillar, when Maria said:
"I would rather not, señor; I am not a bit afraid. This screen is quite
large enough, and it will be more cheerful not to be shut up altogether,
as then, when I am lying down, I can see the reflection of the fire on the
walls, and it will be much more cheerful."
Then a blazing fire was lit. The wood was almost as dry as tinder, and
burnt without smoke. It was built almost touching the back wall, in which,
some five feet above the fire, Harry with a pick made a hole four inches
While he was doing this, José went down and cut a sapling four inches in
diameter, growing in a cleft on the rock, and from this cut off two six-
foot lengths and brought them up. One end of the thickest of these was
driven into the hole and tightly wedged in there, the other end was lashed
securely to an upright beam.
"There, Maria," he said when it was finished, "you will be able to hang
your pots and kettles from that at any height you like above the fire.
Now, you can set to work as soon as you like, to get breakfast for us. We
have been at work for four or five hours, and have good appetites."
"I have the cakes ready to bake, señor, and I sha'n't be long before I get
an olla ready for you."
"Well, José, what do you think of the place?" Harry asked.
"I should like it better if it were not so big," the lad said. "I shall
want a broom, señor, to sweep out the dust."
"It is three inches deep," Maria said.
"I should not bother about that, Maria; it would be a tremendous job to
sweep such a big room, and the dust is so fine that it would settle again
and cover everything. Besides, it will be a good deal softer to lay our
beds on than the stones would be, so I think you had better let it remain
as it is, especially as you are fond of going about without your shoes. I
think I will rig up a blanket against the doorway. It will make the place
look a good deal more snug, and will keep the bats from returning."
"I am not afraid of the bats, now I know what they are; but I should be
constantly expecting them to rush out again."
"I expect a good many went back last night," Harry said. "We won't put the
blankets up till after dark. They are sure to come out again; then, as
soon as they have gone, we will close it, and they won't be able to get in
when they come back before daybreak."
Harry's expectations were fulfilled. At dusk a stream of bats rushed out
again, but this time quite noiselessly. The rush lasted for three or four
minutes. As soon as they had gone, the blankets were hung up, and fastened
across the doorway.
"They will be puzzled when they come back."
"Yes, señor," Maria said; "but when they find that they can't get in here,
they will come in through the openings above."
"So they will; I did not think of that. But when they once find that they
cannot get out here in the evening, they will go out where they came in,
and we shall have no more trouble with them. I don't know whether they are
good to eat?"
Maria gave a little cry of horror.
"Oh, señor! I could not eat such horrible things!"
"Their appearance is against them, Maria; but when people eat alligators,
frogs, snakes, and even rats, I don't see why a bat should be bad.
However, we won't touch them unless we are threatened by starvation."
"I should indeed be starving before I could touch bats' flesh, señor."
"Well," Harry said, "if people eat monkeys, rats, and squirrels--and it
seems to me that a bat is something of a mixture of the three--one might
certainly eat bats, and if we are driven to it I should not mind trying;
but I promise you that I won't ask you to cook them."
They chatted for another hour, and then Maria went off to her corner. The
brothers spread their beds by the fire, and José had his blanket and
poncho, and it was arranged that any of them who woke should put fresh
logs on the fire.
They were all roused just before dawn by a squeaking and twittering noise.
They threw on fresh logs, and as these blazed up they could see a cloud of
bats flying overhead. They kept on going to the doorway, and when they
found they could not get through they retired with angry squeaks. The
light was gradually breaking, and in a few minutes all had flown out
through the opening. Harry and his brother followed them, and could see
them flitting about the upper windows. Presently, as if by a common
impulse, they poured in through the various openings.
"I don't suppose we shall see any more of them," Harry said, "and I own
that I shall be glad. There is something very weird in their noiseless
flitting about, and in the shadows the fire casts on the ceiling."
"They are a great deal larger than any bats I have seen," Bertie said.
"I have seen as large, or larger, at Bombay and some of the towns on the
"They bite people's toes when they are asleep, don't they?"
"Yes, the great vampire bat does, but I have never heard of any others
doing so. They live on insects, and some of them are, I believe,
"Are vampire bats found here?"
"I do not think so; I fancy that they inhabit Java and other islands in
the Malay Archipelago. However, they are certainly rare, wherever they
come from, and you can dismiss them altogether from your mind."
"I was glad when I heard your voices, señors," Maria said when she
appeared a quarter of an hour later. "I knew they would not hurt me; but I
was horribly frightened, and wrapped myself up in my blanket and lay there
till I heard you talking, and I heard the logs thrown on the fire; then I
felt that it was all right."
"I don't suppose they will come again, Maria."
After drinking a cup of coffee, with a small piece of maize cake, Bertie
"What is the programme for to-day?"
"We can't do much till Dias comes back. We may as well go down and have a
look at the lower rooms. I don't think there is much dust on the floor
there, but while José is away looking after the mules we will cut enough
bushes to make a couple of brooms. We shall want the place swept as clean
as possible, so that we can look about, but I don't think there is the
least chance of our being able to move the stones. Before we do anything
we will go down to the pool and have a swim, and dive out through the
entrance and have a look at those rocks."
"That is right," Bertie said. "I was longing for one yesterday morning,
but of course the first thing to be done was to examine this place."
"Would it be safe for me to bathe, señor?"
"Quite safe, Maria; the slope is very gradual, and you need have no fear
of getting out of your depth suddenly. We will be off at once, Bertie."
Harry and his brother went to the edge of the pool, where they undressed
and waded out. They found that the bottom of the passage sloped more
gradually at the edge of the water than it did higher up, and they were
able to walk out till they came to the point where the roof dipped into
the water. They dived, and in a few strokes came up beyond the roof.
"This is glorious!" Bertie said. "We have often bathed in pools, but this
is a different thing altogether. It is more than a year since we had our
last dip in the sea, the day we arrived at Callao."
Although there was little or no wind, the rollers were breaking on the
line of rocks outside, pouring over the lower points in volumes of foam,
and coming in broken waves up the passage.
"We mustn't go beyond the point, Bertie, or we may be dashed against the
foot of the cliff. We will climb up that rock to the left; it is not too
steep, and I think we can manage it. From there we shall get a good view
of this side of the house and of the situation in general."
It required considerable care to climb the rocks, and more than once they
hurt their feet on sharp projections. The top of the rock, however, was
smooth by the action of time and sea, and they were able to sit down on it
"The castle is just as you described it, Bertie; and certainly no one
sailing past, however close he came outside these rocks, would be able to
detect it. No doubt the stone of which it is built is the same as that of
the cliffs. Most likely it was taken from the ravine where the passage now
is, and had fallen from the arch above. It might have been more noticeable
at first, but now it is weathered into exactly the same tint as the
cliffs. The openings are very dodgily placed, and a stranger would not
dream that they went many inches in. Now, from where we stand we can look
up into that curious opening on the top story. I have been puzzling over
that ever since I saw it, but can't think of any possible reason for its
having been cut like that, except to enable them to throw stones on to any
boat that came into this passage behind the rocks; and yet that can hardly
have been the case, for, as I remarked, there are no stones piled up
there. Certainly they had a very large number of arrows, but stones would
be very much more useful than arrows against a boat almost under their
feet. However, that does not concern us now. This line of rocks must
greatly aid in hiding the house from the sea. They are higher than you
thought they were, looking down at them from above. We are quite thirty
feet above the water, and at two or three points they are at least ten or
twelve feet higher. Of course a short way out no one would be able to see
that they were detached from the cliff, or that there was any passage