Roy Glashan's Library.
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RGL e-Book Cover 2019©

Ex Libris

Serialised in The Children's Newspaper,
The Amalgamated Press, London, 10 October 1931-2 April 1932

First book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2019©
Version Date: 2019-09-28
Produced by Keith Emmett and Roy Glashan

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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Chapter 32
Chapter 33
Chapter 34
Chapter 35
Chapter 36
Chapter 37
Chapter 38
Chapter 39
Chapter 40
Chapter 41
Chapter 42
Chapter 43
Chapter 44
Chapter 45
Chapter 46
Chapter 47
Chapter 48
Chapter 49
Chapter 50
Chapter 51
Chapter 52



LIFTING the loop of the tow line over his head Derek Fair hitched it round a projecting root and plumped himself down under the shade of the big tree to which the root belonged.

"Fairly worn out, eh?" chuckled his companion, a stocky youngster whose dark eyes, twinkling with fun, and thick red thatch contrasted strongly with Derek's Saxon fairness.

"Don't you talk," retorted Derek, laughing. "You're blowing like a grampus."

Tod Milligan dropped beside Derek and relaxed comfortably. He glanced at the canoe lying safely in an eddy, protected by a great rock from the furious rush of the rapids.

"We're past the worst, anyway," he remarked. "We'll be home tonight." He stopped short and Derek, turning his head, saw that his friend was gazing out across the wide stretches of the Piaquari Rapids.

"What's up?" he asked.

"Buzzards," said Tod briefly, pointing to a number of vultures perched on the rocks which raised their dark heads above the roaring waters. There were about a dozen of the birds and they formed a sort of ring, hideous creatures with bare, skinny necks, immensely powerful beaks, and greasy, dark brown plumage. Buzzards are the scavengers of all hot countries. They are particularly plentiful in Bolivia, which is the scene of this story.

"Dead beast," said Derek.

Instead of answering, Tod jumped up and climbed the steep bank behind. He stood a moment, gazing out across the wide expanse of thundering waters, then came springing down.

"Derek, it's a man," he exclaimed.

"A man!"

"An Indian. And alive. I saw him move."

In an instant Derek was clambering up the bank. When he came down his face was as eager as Tod's. "You're right. The poor beggar's in a bad way. What are we going to do about it?"

Tod shook his red head. "Not a thing we can do, Derek," he answered gloomily. "Even if we could fling a rope to him, which we can't, he's too weak to lay hold."

"Man, we can't leave him to die!" Derek looked across the river where, on the distant hillside, stood a group of rough buildings.

"There's the Piaquari Mine. Couldn't we get help from the people there?"

"From Carbajal!" Tod's voice was suddenly hard. "That dago wouldn't move an inch to help you and me if we were stranded out there. As for an Indian—"

"Then we must do it ourselves," cut in Derek, and there was a gleam in his grey eyes which Tod knew meant business.

"Tell me any way we can work it, and I'm game," Tod said. "But it's not a mite of use to think of the canoe."

Derek looked again at the rapids. The river, green and clear as the heart of an emerald, swept down the long slope with terrifying force, and wherever a rock broke its surface there rose a white spout of foam. The hot air throbbed with the roar of the tortured waters. As Tod had said, the canoe was useless. Yet to go away and leave him to die was unthinkable.

Derek climbed the bank again and looked at the man who was flat on his face on a rock at least fifty feet out. Old, brown, and shrunken, he lay helpless under the burning sun glare, only his beseeching eyes betraying the fact that he was still alive. And in a circle around him brooded the hideous scavengers of the sky.

Derek scanned the rocks, wondering if it would be possible to leap from one to the other, and so reach the Indian. But the gaps were far too wide to jump.

Tod came scrambling up beside him.

"If there was only something we could make a bridge of," he muttered.

Derek gave a yell. "A bridge. You've hit it, Tod. What's the matter with that tree?" He pointed to the big tree under which they had sheltered from the sun.

Tod's eyes brightened. "It's a chance," he said. "Anyway, we'll try it." He was down the bank like a shot, and into the canoe, to come up with the axe, and go straight for the tree. Derek checked him.

"No good rushing things, Tod. This tree has got to be cut so that it will fall exactly in the right direction. If it doesn't it's no use and the last chance is gone, because there isn't another tree close enough or tall enough to reach that rock."

Derek had a way of remaining cool in an emergency. It was the stolid Saxon blood in him. Tod was more excitable, yet the two made a capital team. Tod agreed, and they set steadily to work. Though both boys were good axemen, it was an hour's hard work before the cut was deep enough for the tree to begin to quiver in its fall.

Derek took the axe. He glanced at the great leafy summit; he tried to gauge the weight of the faint breeze blowing up the stream, then he stepped quickly to the back of the tree and once more swung the axe.

"She's going," said Tod sharply. There was a crunching sound, the great tree swayed, its huge head bent riverwards. Derek sprang back, and he and Tod stood breathless, watching. With a sound like muffled thunder the tree crashed over and fell.

"Fine," cried Tod. "Derek, you did that just exactly right. The top's touching the rock."

"I only hope it hasn't touched the Indian," Derek said anxiously.

"We'll soon see," Tod told him and, active as a cat, was off along the trunk.

Derek followed. Wedged against two rocks the big tree lay solid and it was easy walking along its rough-barked trunk.

"He's all right," Tod announced.

"All right, do you call him?" asked Derek sarcastically, as he reached the rock and looked down on the framework of bone with skin tightly stretched over it that had once been a man. "He's starved almost to death. Give me a hand." Between them they carried the poor wreck back and laid him on a blanket in the shade. Derek got a tin of condensed milk, mixed some with water, and spooned it down the Indian's throat.

"He can swallow," said Tod.

Both were busy with their work of mercy when the snap of a broken stick made Derek look up. A man was standing by him, a rather short but powerfully built man of about forty. His dark olive skin showed him to be a Spaniard, with probably a touch of Indian blood. He was handsome in a coarse fashion, but Derek did not like the hard stare in his jet-black eyes or the ugly twist of his lips.

"Is it permitted to ask," said the man, speaking in slow, sneering English, "why the Señor Inglese cuts down my trees without asking for permission?"



DEREK rose to his feet, and faced the stranger.

"Is it El Señor Carbajal?" he questioned.

"I am he and owner of this land."

Derek had lived in Bolivia long enough to know just how to talk to Bolivians.

"Then I can only apologise," he answered courteously. "As you see for yourself, it was done to save the life of this man who was stranded on a rock in midstream."

"An Indian!" sneered Carbajal. "And you have sacrificed this fine tree to bring a dead Indian to bank."

"He is not dead," objected Derek mildly.

"Dead or alive, no Indian is worth one of my trees," retorted Carbajal. "And no one but a fool of an Englishman would have wasted time and a tree in saving one."

Derek's brown cheeks reddened at the insult, but before he could speak Tod cut in: "Here's an American who was just as big a fool—and proud of it," he added.

"Americans and English, there is no difference," snapped Carbajal.

He was so openly hostile that Derek was puzzled. He had never yet met any Bolivian in the least like this one. Tod may have been puzzled too, but he was also very angry.

"They're alike in one thing. They've neither of them any use for a fellow with hog's manners," he said hotly.

Carbajal glared at him.

"You mean me, American?"

"Certainly I mean you. Got anything to say about it?" Tod's fists were clenched, his jaw stuck out, and Carbajal suddenly realised that these were no two helpless children over whom he could ride roughshod, but a pair of hard-bitten youngsters who would put up a pretty serious battle if he offered any violence. His mood changed.

"You will pay for that tree," he said.

"At what price do you value it?" asked Derek. Being as angry as Tod, he spoke with silky politeness.

"Five dollars," was the reply. Derek took out his pocket-book. Luckily he had just five dollars. "You will kindly give me a receipt," he said.

Carbajal glared, but Derek found pencil and pocket book and handed them over. Carbajal wrote and signed.

"Now you will leave my land," he snapped.

"We will," returned Tod. "And you too." With hardly an effort he picked up the wasted form of the Indian and carried him to the canoe where he made him comfortable. Derek put in the axe and blanket, then they took the tow rope and started up the short remaining part of the rapid.

Carbajal watched them as a cat might watch two birds escaping from its claws, but the boys never even looked back. Presently the man turned, and muttering under his breath walked down to the foot of the rapid where his own canoe was tied.

"What was biting the fellow?" asked Tod presently. To his surprise a hoarse voice came from the bottom of the canoe.

"Him bad man. Him hate all Inglesi."

Tod promptly forgot all about Carbajal.

"Hulloa, old lad, feeling better?" he asked kindly.

"I better," replied the old fellow, with a faint smile. "I get well."

"That's the way to talk," said Tod. "Have a drop more milk?"

The old Indian was able to hold the cup. It was amazing how quickly he was pulling round. After this second drink he talked more easily. His name, he told them, was Kespi and he was a cacique or hereditary chief of the Quichua Indians. He and a companion named Felipe had been running the rapids when the canoe struck a sunken log and was instantly wrecked. Felipe had been swept away and drowned, but Kespi, flung against the rock on which they had found him, had managed to crawl on to it.

The rescue had delayed the boys and it was dusk before they entered the White Gates, the great canyon through which the river leaves the lovely San Gabriel Valley. Beneath the tall white cliffs which towered on either side the gloom was thick as the boys drove the canoe against the swift stream. They were tired when at last they came through the pass into calmer, broader water where cattle grazed on sward as green and fresh as that of an English park.

"My, but it's good to be back," said Tod.

Boom! A roar like distant thunder came rolling up out of the gorge behind them, and the great sound beat away, echoing into the distance.

"What's that?" demanded Tod sharply.

"Cliff fall," replied Derek briefly.

A few minutes later they arrived at a landing, on the hill above which shone out the lights of a long white ranch house, Derek's home. Derek gave a shout which was answered shrilly from above, and next moment a small girl came tearing down to meet them.

"Nita, old thing!" said Derek, as he swung his sister up and kissed her.

"I said you'd be back tonight, Derry," declared the child, "Did you have a good trip? I say, who do you think came yesterday?"

"Monty Kane," said Derek.

"However did you know?"

"Dad said he'd asked him. I say, Nita, we've brought a visitor." He turned to the old Indian whom Tod was helping up the bank. "Chief, this is my sister. Nita, this is Kespi. Tod and I found him marooned on a rock and jolly near starved, so we brought him along." Nita went straight to Kespi and shook hands.

"Then you must be dreadfully hungry," she said. "Come up to the house and have supper." She stopped long enough to give Tod a hug, then took Kespi by the hand and led him up the hill.

At the door Mr and Mrs Fair were waiting and with them a big, capable-looking young man. He was Monty Kane, Mr Fair's cousin and a great friend of the family. A mining engineer, he had charge of a silver mine up in the hills.

It was a jolly supper party. Kespi had to eat with the boys for Nita refused to be parted from him. She was bubbling with excitement over the rescue. The old man, though very quiet and dignified, seemed actually to enjoy talking to her. Derek noticed with interest that his manners were as good as those of anybody at the table.

Later, when Nita had gone to bed, the men sat and talked. Mr Fair was troubled about the boys' encounter with Carbajal.

"The man hates all Europeans," he said, "and he has influence with the Government. I hope no trouble will come of this."

The boys were tired and presently all turned in. Derek was still deep in the land of dreams when he was roused by Nita shaking him violently.

"Derry! Derry! Wake up. It's a flood, a dreadful flood."

Derek sprang out of bed and ran barefooted to the window. An amazing sight met his eyes. Instead of the swift river curving between grassy banks a huge waste of water stretched beneath the bluff on which the house was built. Derek stared a moment, then turned to Nita.

"Cliffs have fallen," he said briefly.



MONTY KANE pushed the canoe off and picked up a paddle. "It's that rock-fall you fellows heard last night," he said. "It looks as if it had dammed the canyon pretty badly."

Derek looked across the newly-made lake and frowned.

"It's banking up pretty fast," he muttered uncomfortably. "Are we going to be drowned out, Monty?"

"That's what we have to find out," Monty answered. "No, don't paddle down the middle. Get across to the far side."

"What's the idea?" Tod asked.

"You'll see the idea before you're much older," replied Monty, in his quiet way. With three paddles working the canoe was soon across the wide expanse of water. "Keep close to the bank," Monty urged.

The boys were puzzled but obeyed, and the canoe drove swiftly along close under the bank. The lake narrowed as they neared the mouth of the Pass. All of a sudden the canoe seemed to leap forward.

"The bank," snapped Monty. "Quickly!"

With a tremendous stroke he turned the bow in toward the bank and ran the canoe ashore. "Out with you!" he ordered, and out they jumped.

"Look at the water!" gasped Tod.

"And a good thing you're looking at it from the bank and not from the canoe," remarked Monty dryly.

"My word, you're right," Derek answered as he gazed at the long lines of foam which streaked past. "She's going out like a bath with the plug pulled."

"Dam's burst," said Tod briefly. "Monty, I'm glad you were skippering this outfit."

Monty laughed. "After all, I'm an engineer. I knew that sooner or later the weight of the water would break down the dam. But it wouldn't be healthy to be caught in a flood, like that."

Tod turned to Derek. "I'm surely pleased we didn't meet this on our way home yesterday. It must be raving down over the rapids."

"I'm glad it's going out," said Derek. "I began to think the whole valley would be swamped."

"Which," said Monty, "is just what may happen if there's a really big fall of rock. As soon as this has run down I want to have a good look at those cliffs."

The water raced away at astonishing speed so that within half an hour the river was back in its old channel, and they were able to launch the canoe again and go down into the Gates. Monty spent nearly an hour examining the cliffs and his face was grave when he had finished.

"The rocks are rotten," was his verdict. "There might be a big fall any time. Derek, I'm going to tell your father that the only way to make the valley safe will be to pipe the river through the White Gates."

"But that will cost a heap," said Derek, looking rather blue.

"It'll be an expensive job, but the cost, of course, would be shared by all the families in the valley."

He told Mr Fair of his plan, and next day a council was held at the Fair's house. Tod's father was there, and Mr Jervis, the old bachelor who owned the next place, as well as Mrs Houghton and her eldest son Jim, who farmed the upper end of the valley. Monty Kane had worked out a rough estimate, which came to twelve thousand dollars.

"We can never raise that," said Mr Fair.

"Never's a long time," drawled Mr Milligan. "We might raise it in a year or two. Is it urgent, Mr Kane?"

"The fall might come next month or there might not be a fall for five years," began Monty, and broke off. "Who the dickens is this?" he asked as a brown-faced man stepped up on the verandah where they were talking.

"It's Carbajal," whispered Mr Fair.

The Spaniard lifted his sombrero.

"Good-day, Señores," he said, but though his words were courteous there was a sneer on his hard face.

"Good-day to you, Señor Carbajal," replied Derek's father. "Can I offer you refreshment?"

"It is not refreshment for which I come, Señor Fair. It is money."

Mr Fair's eyebrows lifted.

"I was not aware that we were in your debt, Señor."

"I have come to tell you that you are. The flood that you loosed yesterday has swept away my landing-stage and my boats. The damage done is five hundred dollars."

Mr Fair was the most peaceable of men but this cool demand made him angry.

"The flood was none of our doing, Señor. It was caused by a fall of cliff."

"A fall which occurred on your property," replied Carbajal. "Therefore you are responsible."

Monty Kane spoke up.

"Don't talk nonsense," he said bluntly. "You might as well hold us responsible for a thunderstorm or an earthquake."

Carbajal's dark eyes glittered dangerously but Mr Fair put out his hand.

"It's all right, Monty. I am quite capable of keeping my end up with this—gentleman."

Carbajal's eyes flashed. "Are you capable of paying?" he sneered.

"Quite," said Mr Fair. "But I have no intention of doing anything of the kind. Good-day, Señor."

The cool contempt in his voice drove Carbajal frantic. He made a sudden rush. Like a flash Monty thrust out a long leg and Carbajal, tripping over it, sprawled headlong off the verandah. He fell flat into a clump of scarlet-flowered cactus growing below, and the spines of cactus are sharp.

It was too much for Jim Houghton. He burst into a shout of laughter, and most of the others joined in. Carbajal picked himself up, and if ever stark rage was written on a human face it was on his. His eyes, black and glittering as those of a poisonous snake, roved over the group on the Verandah.

"For this," he hissed, "I will ruin you all." He turned and stalked away toward his boat, which was at the landing.



THREE weeks passed, then one evening the man who was sent once a week to San Guilio for the mail rode into the valley with his leather pouch full of letters and papers, and made his first stop at the Fair's house.

"English mail, Dad," cried Derek, as he came into his father's office with his hands full. "May I have the papers?"

"Yes, take them along, lad, and leave me to read my letters."

Derek went off with the papers which he shared up with the rest of the family. They were all busy reading when suddenly Mr Fair came into the sitting-room. Mrs Fair glanced up then rose quickly to her feet.

"What is the matter, Jack?" she exclaimed. "You are ill."

"No, no! But I have had a letter which has upset me. It is from Carbajal!"

"Carbajal, Dad. What's he done?" asked Derek quickly.

"It is not what he has done, but what he is going to do. He has a lease of the whole valley from the Government."

"A lease of the valley," repeated Mrs Fair. "How can that be? The land is ours. We have bought and paid for it."

"We bought it for farming. We forgot about the mining rights."

"I don't understand, Dad," said Derek.

Mr Fair pulled himself together.

"In this country mining rights rank higher than agricultural. What has happened is this. Carbajal has applied for and obtained a charter to turn the whole valley into a reservoir and use the water power for making electricity to run his gold mine at Piaquari."

Derek went white. "But he'll have to buy us out," he insisted.

"He buys us out at the price of unimproved land. We don't get a penny for our houses, stables, fences, or any of our improvements. This"—he held up the letter—"is notice to quit."

There was a dead silence. Mrs Fair dropped back into her chair and covered her face with her hands. But Derek's lips tightened. "It's blackmail," he said.

"It's revenge. That man will never forgive us for the way in which he was humiliated before us all. I doubt if it would be possible to buy him off, even if we had the money."

"Don't give up," Derek begged. "Ah, here's Monty. He'll know what to do."

But Monty Kane, when he heard what had happened, could only shake his head.

"It's revenge, of course, Derek, as your father says. He's mad to ruin us all. And he has the law on his side."

Derek felt an icy chill. He had been banking on Monty; if he could not help no one could. "Can't you suggest anything?" he begged.

Monty looked at him. "The only hope I can see is to buy his mine."

"Buy his mine? That's an idea."

"An idea and nothing more. Revenge is worth more to a fellow like that than money; I doubt if he would sell to us for any price."

"But couldn't you get some friend to offer for it?"

"I might, Derek, but we should have to pay whatever price Carbajal asked."

"Anything would be better than giving up our homes," said Derek earnestly. "And I'm sure Tod and his father would say the same."

"The boy's right, Monty," said Mr Fair. "Will you try?"

"Of course I'll try. I'll be off tomorrow and see what I can do."

He went, and the settlers in the valley waited in miserable suspense. They could not play and it hardly seemed worth while to work. A week passed, then came a telegram from Monty.

"Fifty thousand is his price."

Mr Fair let the paper flutter front his fingers, "Fifty thousand," he repeated dully. "He might as well ask a million. If we mortgaged all we have we could not raise more than half the money."

Derek stole out of the room. He could not bear to see the faces of his father and mother.

Tod was waiting outside for news and Derek told him. Tod never said a word, but there was a look on his face that Derek did not like.

No one ate much supper that night. They were all too miserable. Afterwards Derek went out on to the verandah and sat in a hammock, swinging his legs and thinking. But no amount of thought seemed to help him. There was no way out. Yet it nearly broke his heart to think that all the years of hard work that his father and mother had put into this place were to go for nothing. The house, the out-buildings, the corrals, the garden, all their acres of rich grass land were to be ruined and drowned just because an evil-tempered dago had taken a dislike to them.

Suddenly a figure appeared in front of him. There was no sound of its coming. One moment it was not there, the next it was. Derek caught his breath.

"You no be frightened," came a quiet voice. "I Kespi."

"Kespi," repeated Derek. "I thought you were miles away with your people. What brings you here?"

"I smell bad trouble," replied the old cacique. "I not forget you save Kespi's life. So I come."

"You're right about the trouble, Kespi," said Derek. "It couldn't well be worse. And it's jolly good of you to come, but I'm afraid it's beyond you or anyone to help us."

"Suppose you tell," said Kespi briefly; and Derek, glad of a sympathetic listener, told what had happened.

"I tell you him Carbajal bad man," said Kespi when Derek had finished. "Someday he come to bad end."

"He probably will," said Derek, "but he'll ruin us first."

Kespi seemed to be thinking.

"You say him want fifty thousand pesos for him mine?" he said presently.

"That's his price, but we can't begin to raise a sum like that. So there's nothing for it but to pack up and clear out."

Again Kespi did some thinking.

"How long time you have before you pay money?" he asked at last.

"Dad said the law gave us three months."

"Three moons. Him time. I give you money."

Derek stared. "You don't understand, Kespi. Fifty thousand pesos—ten thousand English pounds."

Kespi nodded. "I know. Him two mule loads of gold."

Derek said nothing. He could not have spoken if he had tried. Here was this ragged old Indian talking of two mule loads of gold as calmly as if they were two loads of coke, yet the strange thing was that Derek never doubted him. Kespi went on.

"You go make ready. Take him poncho, for him cold in hills."

"Do you mean we are to start now—at once?" Derek managed to ask.

"We go now, in dark, so no one see."

"But Tod, we can't leave him behind."

"Him know. Him waiting," Kespi answered quietly.



MR FAIR took a lot of persuading before he could be induced to give his consent to Kespi's suggestion.

When the boys were beginning to despair it was Tom's father who came to the rescue. A talk with Mr Milligan made him see things in a now light.

"Derek, I have changed my mind," he said. "You can go with Tod."

"Cheers!" said Tod, but Derek caught his father's hand and wrung it.

"Thanks, Dad. And thank you, too, Mr Milligan. Tod, tell Kespi to wait twenty minutes."

He rushed off, but was back in a very short time wearing an old khaki suit with heavy boots and carrying a pack and his rifle. A hug for his mother, a kiss for Nita, then the two boys joined Kespi and hurried away into the night. Three mules were waiting; they swung into the saddles and rode up the trail leading to the north end of the valley.

Here a pass ran curving up the hillside, and hour after hour the surefooted mules carried them up the narrow, winding trail. Within an hour they were glad of their ponchos, and by midnight they were crossing a pass where patches of snow gleamed ghost- like in the gullies. Then at last they were going down again, and dawn found them in another valley, a wild, desolate place ringed by lofty hills. Kespi led them into a gorge where there were water and grass, and there they off-saddled, hobbled the mules and turned them loose, and started breakfast. While the boys cooked on a tiny fire Kespi climbed a cliff.

"The old lad seems to think we may be followed," said Derek.

"If we are he'll spot them before they spot us," Tod answered, as he turned sliced bacon in the sizzling pan. "He's got eyes like a hawk."

"Is it Carbajal?" Derek asked.

"I guess so, if it's anyone."

"But how would that fellow know what we're after?" asked Derek, frowning.

Tod shrugged. "Ask me another! Why, we don't even know ourselves. But don't worry, Derek, Kespi's a wise old chap; he'll bring us through to—wherever we're going."

Tod was right. Travelling by night and camping by day, on the fourth morning after leaving the valley they found themselves in a deep gorge under a lofty limestone cliff. The mules were hidden with even greater care than usual, and Kespi led the boys into a small cave deep in the base of the cliff.

"You no go out," he said. "Stay here all day. Tonight we get gold."

"Get it tonight! Where?" Tod asked.

"I no say. You know plenty time," was the answer; and that was all they could get out of him.

Excited as they were, the long night ride had tired them so that, after a good meal, they were only too glad to roll up in their blankets and sleep. It was dusk when Kespi roused them to say supper was ready.

"You eat good," he said. "Plenty work this night."

"Sounds as if we'd got to dig the stuff," said Tod with a grin, but all the same he followed Kespi's advice and ate a very sound supper. They were eager to go, but Kespi would not let them move until it was dark. Then he went out along and scouted and it was some time before he came back.

"All quiet?" Derek asked.

"I think him quiet," replied the old man gravely. "But you walk soft."

He led them out into the black gloom of the gorge, where a thin cold wind whispered among the rocks. Leaving the mules tethered in a little side canyon, they went up the main cleft which led deep into the heart of the range. On his sandalled feet Kespi moved silent as a cat and the boys, impressed by his caution, went almost as quietly. Now and then the old man stopped and listened.

After about half an hour they turned up a side gorge, a mere cleft hundreds of feet deep and desperately narrow. There was no wind here and the silence was intense. The rocks almost met overhead, and it was dark as a dungeon. Kespi stopped again.

"You no see any more," he stated.

"See!" repeated Tod. "If you could see the state of my shins you'd realise what a lot of rocks I haven't seen in the last half-mile."

"But now you see nothing," Kespi answered, as he took out a handkerchief and tied it firmly over Tod's eyes. He treated Derek in the same way. It says a lot for the trust the boys had in him that neither made any objection to this treatment. When he was sure they were completely blindfolded he took each by a hand and led them forward.

They stumbled up a rough slope, then by the echo realised that they were inside a cave. Here Kespi stopped and they heard him strike a match and light a lantern. Then they went on again—on and on until it seemed they must be miles within the heart of the hills.

The echoes changed, became softer and more distant, and Derek felt sure that they had come into a wider space. Then at last Kespi stopped.

"You see now," he said simply, and quickly slipped off the blindfolds.



THE old-fashioned stable lantern which Kespi carried gave enough light to show that they were in a large cave or rock chamber. But next moment the Indian had lighted a torch made of resinous wood, which flared up with a great red flame. Dull yellow reflections came back from all sides, and strange figures seemed to rise out of the ruddy gloom. Derek and Tod stood stock still, staring at such a sight as perhaps the eyes of no white man had ever rested upon before.

All around them, stacked against the sides of a square chamber cut in the living rock, were riches such as they had not believed could exist. Bars of pure gold piled like pigs of iron ore against the walls, great pots and vases of silver and gold, some wonderfully chased and carved, others set with precious stones which glowed like eyes of green and crimson fire.

But the strangest sight was that of the figures ranged around the wall, statues of pure gold, each the size of a twelve-year- old boy and each seated on a golden throne. Their eyes and lips were naturally coloured, giving them a curious and almost terribly life-like appearance.

"The Big Fish!" Tod muttered in an awed voice.

Derek knew what he meant. When the mail-clad Spanish conquerors broke upon Peru and set to wresting its treasures from the great Indian Empire news of their coming was sent by swift runners to the farthest parts of the country, and the priests hastily hid the greater part of their wealth from the invaders. The story was that the most valuable part of these, including the statues of the Inca Emperors, was hidden in a cave near Cuzco, and that a second and almost equally valuable collection had been put underground farther south.

These two hoards, named the Big Fish and the Little Fish, had never been found by the Spaniards, but, so the legend went, the secret of their hiding-places was still known to the direct descendants of the Inca Emperors.

"It's the Big Fish all right," agreed Derek, and turned to Kespi. "Then you—" he began, and stopped short, gazing at the Indian with amazement. For the little, skinny old man had drawn himself up straight as a lance, his sunken eyes glowed, and he held his torch like a sceptre. His whole face and appearance were changed, and for the moment he was a living king among the images of his dead ancestors. He turned and caught Derek's astonished glance.

"Yes, I king," he said with a strange, quiet dignity. "Those"—he pointed to the images—"my fathers."

"And you have trusted us with a sight of these wonders!" Derek answered.

"I trust you, for your hearts are white like your skin. Now you take what you need from my gold. Then we go home." The practical Derek spoke.

"But see here, Kespi, we three can't begin to carry fifty thousand dollars' worth of gold. And we surely can't get our mules into this place."

A faint smile crossed the old man's face and, laying his hand on Derek's arm, he led him across to one of the huge golden vases and pointed down into it.

"Him good as gold, and easy carry," he said simply.

Derek, who had followed, saw there were at least a bushel of emeralds lying within the great cup, sonic of them the size of walnuts.

"How many should we take?" he asked. "I haven't an idea of their value."

Tod passed one hand over his forehead in a dazed way.

"I say, Derek, is it just a dream out of the Arabian Nights?"

"Dream or not," said Derek, "I'm going to do just what Kespi says, and take enough of these stones to buy off Carbajal. Suppose we say they're worth fifty pounds apiece, then two hundred will do the trick."

"I think him right," agreed Kespi, so Derek counted out two hundred of the lovely stones.

A hundred he put in his own pockets, and the other hundred he gave to Tod. Kespi stepped away to a corner of the room. He came back with two small objects in his hand. "You say Big Fish. Here Little Fish," he said. "For luck," he added, as he handed one to each of the boys.

They were fish carved out of pale green Chinese jade, most exquisitely done. Their eyes were made of pearls and their fins of mother-of-pearl.

"They belong Inca Atahualpa," Kespi told them; "but he leave them behind, and that why Spaniards kill him. You keep them safe, they keep you safe."

He made a queer sign with his fingers, and the boys thanked him gratefully and stowed their treasures in their safest pockets.

The torch was burning low, Kespi knocked out the embers, picked up his lantern and signed to the boys that they were again to be blindfolded.

"I no do this because I not trust you," he said, "but I vow by Manco Ceapac that I never show anyone this road."

As they left the chamber a low, deep boom came throbbing through the stillness.

"What's that?" gasped Derek.

Again came the sound. He counted twelve strokes. Tod spoke.

"If it wasn't clean craziness I'd vow it was a clock striking midnight."

"You right," Kespi answered. "Him clock strike."

"But you don't mean to tell us the Incas had clocks?" cried Tod.

"It clock big church, Cuzco. We underneath," Kespi explained briefly.

"What! Then the story of Dona Maria de Esquivel is true?"

"Him true," Kespi replied. "She marry Don Carlos Inca. He show her gold like I show you. Then she try come here again. She get lost in Chingana. No one ever find her."

"Chingana," repeated Derek. "That means maze. Then how do you find your way, Kespi?"

"I not find, I know way," Kespi answered. "You come now,"

In spite of the weight in his pockets Derek's spirits were light as air while he tramped blindfolded through that labyrinth of rock passages.

Long as the journey had been, it seemed hardly any time at all before he felt the fresher air of the gorge blowing in his face and Kespi halted at the mouth of the cave.

"You no move," said the old man in a whisper. "You no speak. Rock he carry noise. I go see."

Slipping off the handkerchiefs which had covered their eyes he glided away, silent as a ghost, and vanished in the gloom of the gorge.

"The old lad's not taking any chances," Tod whispered in Derek's ear.

"Do you blame him?" Derek answered, in an equally low voice.

"I do not. I didn't know there was that much gold in the world."

"And barring Dona Maria, we're the only white folk who've ever seen it," replied Derek.

Just then old Kespi appeared wraith-like out of the gloom.

"I tell you not speak," he hissed, and, low as his voice was, it had anger in it. He caught them each by an arm and drew them sharply back into the cave. The darkness was like pitch, yet he pressed on swiftly until they had rounded two sharp angles. Then he stopped and spoke.

"This very bad," he said. "Men follow us. They wait to catch us."

"Someone after us!" said Tod in a dismayed whisper. "Who is it—Carbajal?"

"I not see. I only hear. But they wait under rocks, and we no pass them."

"Sounds healthy," said Derek grimly. "And I suppose by this time they've got our mules."



IT seemed a hopeless fix. Here they were, penned in the cave, with enemies waiting for them in the pass outside. They had no weapons with which to fight them, and, what was worse, they were cut off from their mules and their stores.

"Got any notions, Kespi?" Tod asked.

"Only one thing can do," came the old Indian's voice; "we go out other way."

"Another way out, is there?" Derek said quickly. "That's good."

"You no think him so good when we get there, maybe," was Kespi's grim response. "But we go."

"Better light up first, hadn't you?" suggested Derek. "This is no place to be messing about in the dark."

There came the scratch of a match and Kespi relit the lantern. He held it up and felt its weight, then turned it down so that the wick gave only a glimmer.

"Oil him low. Way him long," he remarked, in a tone which sent a nasty chill through the boys. "We go quick," Kespi added, and the pace at which he started off proved that he, at any rate, was still fresh.

The floors were level and the walking good, but the way in which the passages wound and twisted through the mountain was amazing. What was even more amazing was that Kespi could find his way. There were no direction marks of any kind, so far as the boys could see, yet the Indian never hesitated.

Two hours passed, Kespi was walking faster than ever.

"The lantern's going out," Derek whispered to Tod.

"I saw that some time ago. Got any matches, Derek?"

"A few, but they won't carry us far. Kespi, how much farther is it?"

"No far now, but bad place come soon. You run?"

"We're good for a spurt, eh, Tod?"

Tod nodded and they all ran. The light was dying moment by moment. They broke into another natural rock chamber. It was long and narrow with a low roof, and the floor was rough with great juts of intensely hard white stalagmite formed by the dripping of water through the limestone roof. Slipping and stumbling among these, they reached the far end, and there the lantern finally went out. The only light was a dull red glow from the smouldering wick. There was not a drop of oil left.

"You give me match," Kespi ordered, and Derek handed over his box.

Kespi counted the contents. Just fourteen matches. He struck one.

"This bad place," he explained, and pointed to a shaft leading down into darkness at a fearful angle. "I go first. You follow careful."

"All right, Kespi," groaned Tod. "I give you my word I'll be careful. I shall break my neck if I'm not."

Though Kespi had only one hand with which to steady himself he went down as surely and safely as a cat. The boy's, using both hands, had all they could do to follow. When the first match burned out Kespi stopped and lit another, then went on as quickly as before.

Derek was counting the matches. The idea that the wretched things might run out before they could reach the bottom brought drops of cold perspiration to his forehead.

Nine, ten, eleven—and still they were clambering down this terrible place. Twelve, thirteen—still no sign of the bottom. The thirteenth burned to its end and as Kespi dropped it Tod gave a shout.

"Light, Derek! I can see daylight!" Next moment they were on level ground, and hastening toward a circle of faint grey light, and within another minute they had stumbled out into a chill fog.

Derek drew a long breath. "That was a tight fit," he said. "And you still have a match left, Kespi."

"Him have no head," said Kespi quietly, and Derek gasped again. It had been closer even than he had supposed. He looked about, but the fog was too thick to see anything except that they stood on bare rock with a sheer cliff rising behind.

"And where are we now?" he asked of Kespi.

"This Pit of Mist," replied the Indian.

Tod chuckled.

"A mighty good name, but it doesn't mean much to me. Anyhow, we're clear of Carbajal and Co., and we've still got our emeralds. Now I vote we strike for home."

Kespi shook his head. "Him long way from home. We other side mountain."

Tod looked at the tremendous cliff which soared like a wall into the fog.

"You mean we can't get back over that?"

"Nothing cross him but condor," Kespi said. "We go round." He pointed southward. "Cross him Alto."

Tod's face fell.

"The Alto!" he repeated in dismay. He knew what that meant. The Alto Planicie is the vast tableland which is the roof of the New World; a snow-clad desert where blizzards rage and which is nowhere less than one hundred miles across.



THE fog lay in smothering folds as they tramped along the base of the great cliff. Somewhere up above the Sun was shining, but they could not see a sign of it.

"Wonder where the old lad is heading," Derek said to Tod.

"I don't care where so long as there's breakfast at the finish," Tod answered. "I'm empty as a punctured tyre."

Derek shook his head. "I am afraid we're a long way from grub, old man."

"All the same, I'll trust Kespi," declared Tod. "A man who can find his way right through a mountain can surely do a simple little trick like conjuring up a pot of coffee and some eggs and bacon," He broke off. "What's that?"

A hoarse whistling sound came through the fog, which seemed suddenly to thicken. The ground quivered slightly and there was a roar like that of a cataract. Kespi turned.

"Him hot spring," he explained briefly, and next moment they were on the rim of a great circular basin, the inside of which was white as snow. From a hole in the centre a feathery spout of boiling water was shooting up.

"A geyser," said Derek. "Hot water and cold air. That explains the fog."

Kespi kept straight on and the boys followed. They were very tired and very hungry. Presently they came to a rock, or rather two rocks, the top one balanced on the lower. The upper one was shaped like a great wheel, and looked almost as if it had been cut by the hand of man. It was curiously dark in colour.

"It's a logan stone!" Derek exclaimed. "A rocking stone. I've seen one at home in Cornwall. Hulloa, what's Kespi doing?"

The Indian had picked up a boulder and, lifting it in both hands, used it as a hammer to strike the logan stone. A sound like a great gong filled the valley and clanged along the cliffs. Three strokes, a pause, then two more.

Kespi dropped his stone and squatted down. "I call," he explained in his quiet way. "Friends come soon."

"Told you so," said Tod. "Another of his Arabian Nights stunts. Now watch for the Genie of the Lamp to appear."

Sure enough after a little while two brown men came noiselessly out of the fog. One was a finely-built fellow with a strong, square face; the other short, powerfully-built but slightly hunchbacked. Both wore ponchos, or cloaks, made of vicuna skin.

The moment they saw Kespi they bowed till their foreheads almost touched the ground. He took their homage as his due and spoke to them in their own language.

"He, Miguel," he told the boys, pointing to the taller. "He, Manacan," indicating the hunchback.

Derek and Tod shook hands with the two men; then they started again, the Indians leading them up a long slope toward the head of the valley. A breeze sprang up, sweeping away the fog, and they saw a small village of huts with clay walls and thatched roofs. Smoke rose from the chimneys and there was a pleasant smell of cooking in the cool, crisp air.

Miguel led them into the largest house and brought them water to wash. His wife, a pleasant-faced woman who wore a necklace, of lovely blue turquoise, was cooking, and presently served up very good coffee, with pancakes of maize meal, boiled eggs, and a roasted poujil, a bird rather like a guinea-fowl.

There was not much left by the time the boys had finished.

Then Kespi took them outside and, picking up a stick, began drawing in the dust. He showed the gorge from which they had started, the mountain through which they had passed, and the valley in which they now were.

"Now we go south," he said, drawing a long line in that direction, "then come over this way," as the line turned east.

"But see here, Kespi," Tod objected. "Why do you want to go so far? There's a pass leading back to Cuzco, isn't there?"

"No go Cuzco," said Kespi flatly. "Bad men have spies in Cuzco."

"I see," said Derek; "and if we go the long way we dodge them."

"That what I hope," Kespi answered. "Now you go sleep. Tomorrow big walk."

The two were fresh as paint when Kespi roused them out at dawn next morning. They were hardly surprised to find that two burros, or donkeys, were ready, each carrying a pack with blankets and provisions. The old chief had even managed to got hold of a gun and cartridges and a queer, old-fashioned spyglass. After a good breakfast they started away along a narrow track which led up the side of an immense bare mountain. . It was often not more than a yard wide, with a hair-raising drop to the right.

"Gee, but I feel like a fly on a window-pane," Tod muttered.

Toward midday they came to a broad ledge or step where greasewood and garetta grew. Garetta is a stumpy shrub like a big wooden mushroom, and Manacan, who had come with them to look after the burros, collected some and built a fire which was very welcome, for it was cold at this height. He made a pot of coffee, and after a meal they pushed on again.

Four hours more of climbing and they came over the rim of a tableland from the edge of which sprouted the most extraordinary crag they had over seen. It rose like a huge monument, only, instead of rising straight up in the air it curved over to the north.

"It's exactly like a big finger," declared Tod, staring at it.

Kespi nodded. "You got right name. Him called Finger of God."

He spoke to Manacan, who nodded and at once began to climb the pinnacle.

"What's he doing that for?" asked Tod.

"Him look see," Kespi answered, and began to unload the donkeys.

"We stop here tonight," he told them.

There was shelter under the base of the great crag and plenty of garetta growing close by. They soon had a fire burning, and Derek filled the kettle from a pool. For the moment he was so busy he had forgotten all about Manacan, and he started sharply when he heard a thin, high-pitched cry ringing down from above.

Looking up, there was the hunchback dwarfed to the size of a doll, standing far up close to the top of the Finger and beckoning.

"He see something. I go," said Kespi.

"Let me go," Derek begged.

"Let's all go," put in Tod; and as Kespi made no objection they all three started to climb.

The Finger was steep, but as its upper surface was full of cracks and crevices the climb was not hard, and they reached Manacan's lofty perch without great difficulty. Up here the wind was strong and bitterly cold, and Derek had to balance himself against it as he crawled to the edge and looked over.

The sight nearly took his breath away, for beneath yawned a mile of empty space. All the long zig-zag of the path they had climbed lay clear. He could even see the Pit of Mist and Miguel's village. To the west at least a hundred miles of rolling foothills were visible, dropping down toward the great coastal desert, while on the other side the vast snow-clad peaks of the Andes towered against the sunset.

But it was not to these that Manacan pointed. Following the direction indicated by the hunchback's outstretched arm, he saw far away to the north a dark dot outlined against the evening sky.

"An aeroplane," he said sharply.

Both boys turned to Kespi, who was watching the plane through his old spyglass. Presently he lowered it.

"That what I feared," he said; and neither of them had ever heard him speak so gravely. "I think him Carbajal."



THE plane side-slipped and began to drop. She came down in tight spirals. Her pilot, whoever he was, knew his business.

"She's going straight into the Pit of Mist," said Tod quickly.

"About the only place where she could land safely," Derek answered.

"I was reckoning she was coming right up here after us," said Tod.

Derek laughed. "They haven't a notion we're up here. The odds are they fully believe we're still in the valley—that is, if they really know that we got through the hill. See, he's down," he went on, "and two—three men getting out. I wonder if it's Carbajal. Kespi, can you see?"

Kespi lowered his spy-glass.

"Too far see good," he answered, "but I no think him Carbajal. I think him Dolaro."

"Who's Dolaro?" demanded Tod.

"He Carbajal's man. He all as bad as Carbajal."

"Sounds healthy," grumbled Tod. "And now I suppose that as soon as he finds out which way we've gone he'll be on our track. And he can get here before dark. What are we going to do about it?"

"He'll never try to fly up here," said Derek with decision. "Look at the ground. No plane could land up here without crashing."

"Hope you're right," Tod said. "It's precious cold up here, and the wind's getting stronger every minute. Let's get down."

Indeed it was quite time to go down for the wind, edged with ice from the snow peaks to the west, was blowing in great booming gusts which made the tall pillar of rock vibrate like an organ pipe, and threatened to tear the climbers from their holds. It was all they could do to get down in safety, and they were very glad of shelter and the warm glow of the fire when they reached firm ground. Manacan did the cooking, and over supper they held council.

The two boys were uneasy. The last thing they had expected was to be chased for they had felt sure that, by their journey through the heart of the mountain, they had thrown off their pursuers. Kespi explained that he was always watched. A few people, Carbajal among them, knew he had the secret of the hiding-place of the Royal Treasure, called the Big Fish, and were of course mad to lay their greedy hands on these riches. Carbajal or Dolaro had followed them, and, losing them in the gorge, had no doubt gone to Cuzco and hired a plane, hoping to spot them as they came out.

"He hasn't done that, anyhow," said Tod.

"He no do that," agreed Kespi, "but he find which way we go. That spy tell him. Tomorrow he come after us. But you no look so sad," he added as he noticed the expression of dismay on Tod's face. "I no think he catch us."

Tod looked out across the vast tableland which sloped upward to the distant mountains.

"I don't see how he can help it," he growled. "There's no cover."

"You mean no place hide. Maybe there more place than you think. Now you sleep. Tomorrow I show you."

The sun was not up and the wind had a bitter edge when Kespi roused them next morning. The little pool near the camp was crisped with ice and washing was a chilly business. Yet the thin, keen air was like champagne, and the blood tingled in their veins as the two boys tramped away across the great plateau. At any rate, they had twelve hours' start and they could trust Kespi to make the most of that.

Tod kept on looking round for he still had it at the back of his mind that their enemies would use their plane. Though the ground was rough and stony there were places where landing was possible. But as the morning wore away and there was no sign of it he began to feel happier. The wind had gone down, the sun was bright and there was more life up here than either of the boys had supposed.



EXCEPT for a short rest at midday they kept going steadily. They could not go fast because the burros stuck to a steady three miles an hour, yet by four in the afternoon they had covered a good twenty miles. Then without any warning at all they found their way barred by a vast gorge.

Accustomed as they were to surprises of this kind neither of the boys had ever seen anything to touch this canyon. It cut the tableland clean in two, and was so deep that the bottom was lost in a purple haze, One step over the edge and one would not have touched anything for nearly half a mile. Tod stared down into the immense depths and his face was blank as he turned to Kespi.

"Kind of forgot this, didn't you?"

"I no forget him. I have good reason I bring you here."

"All right," said Tod, with a shrug. "Then I suppose we walk round the end. Only trouble is I can't see any end."

A ghost of a smile crossed Kespi's wrinkled face. "You not trust old Kespi very much. But I show you."

He took Tod by the arm and led him a little way along the edge.

"Now you look," he said.

Tod's eyes widened as they rested on a path cut in the side of the cliff and leading down at a long slope into the depths of the canyon.

"Well, if that don't beat the band," he exclaimed. "Let's go right along before it gets dark."

Kespi shook his head.

"You go now, you die."

As he spoke a shadow crossed them and Kespi dragged Tod sharply back from the edge. With a Whistle of wind in its pinions a huge bird drove past close overhead and swept clown into the depths.

Derek stared at the great creature. "A condor!" he exclaimed.

Black plumaged, with a broad white band around its neck, its wings had a spread of fully twelve feet, With its beak hooked like a scimitar, its hard yellow eyes, and immense talons, it was a most formidable foe. "But I never knew they attacked you," he exclaimed.

"You know now," Kespi answered gravely. "You stay along edge or walk him path in daylight, and condor beat you with his wings. See!" He pointed across the gorge. The cliff opposite was not so steep as the one above which they stood, but was broken by ledges and terraces. Here and there grew clumps of brush. Along one of these ledges a creature about the size of a fallow deer was leaping. Its back was covered with long reddish wool, but it was white underneath.

It was a vicuna, an animal which is of the same family as the llama and, like it, lives only in the high country of the Andes. It had been resting in a clump of brush, but something had scared it out and it was running wildly for the next patch of cover.

"There's a tiger after it," cried Tod. His quick eyes had caught the long, sinuous, tawny form of a great puma in pursuit of the vicuna.

"There's something else after it," said Derek. "Look at the condor."

The huge bird of prey was swooping upon the vicuna, and the boys held their breath as they watched the terrible pounce.

But the vicuna seemed to sense the second danger and suddenly leaped sideways over a rock into a niche in the cliff side. The condor, foiled in its intention of knocking the animal off the ledge, braked sharply, and hung almost motionless a few feet above the ledge. At the same instant the puma came bounding up.

A hungry puma is as fierce as a Bengal tiger. Savage at losing sight of its prey, and seemingly aware that the condor was to blame, it leaped upward and made a lightning-like strike with its powerful front paw at the bird. Its rapier-like claws caught in the condor's wing and bird and beast together dropped back upon the ledge.

For an instant there was a wild whirl of feathers and fur as the condor beat furiously with its uninjured wing and drove its hooked talons into the puma's face.

"They're going over!" gasped Tod, and the words were hardly out of his mouth before both were over the edge, and still locked together, hurtling downward. They struck a jutting rock, bounced off it, and dropped another thousand feet. A faint thud came up from the depths.

Tod shivered. "Give us your orders, Kespi," he said curtly.

"We eat," the Indian answered. "Then wait for moon. Tomorrow we be over there." He pointed to the opposite cliff.

The moon did not rise until nine, so the party were able to get some hours of sleep before starting, and that was just as well, for the journey down the pass was as trying as anything they had yet attempted. The path was nowhere more than a yard wide and there was no ledge or parapet—nothing to save anyone who made a single false step.

It took three hours to reach the bottom, and the boys were only too thankful to drink from the cool river running through the gorge and rest for an hour before tackling the climb up the far side. This path was not quite so steep or narrow, but it was much longer, and the great snow peaks to the East were pink in the dawn flush when at last they reached the rim rock.

"My, but I'm glad that's done," panted Tod, as he dropped on a rock. "Where do we go next, Kespi?"

"We stay here. We eat, we sleep."

"What, and lose all our start?"

"We have plenty start," Kespi told him, and gave Manacan orders to light a fire. There was shelter from the sun under a projecting crag, and the boys were so tired that they were only too glad to get to sleep.

The shadows were long when Kespi roused them. "Dolaro, he come," he announced calmly.

Tod shot up as if driven by a spring.

"And you've let us sleep all this time!"

"You no walk unless you sleep," replied Kespi. "Burros no walk if they no eat. You no jump like that. Come quiet and see." He led them out from their rock shelter, and crept on hands and knees toward the edge of the cliff. Boulders gave plenty of cover and the burros were tethered out of sight.

In the clear evening light they saw men standing on the opposite rim of the canyon. Though dwarfed by distance, they were plainly visible. One white man, squat and powerfully built, six Indians, four donkeys.

The white man was standing on the very edge of the cliff, and searching the opposite rim with a pair of field-glasses. The Indians were armed with guns and rifles.

"Is that Dolaro?" Derek asked.

"Him Dolaro," replied Kespi.

"He's a bit too close to the edge for safety," said Derek. "Ah, watch!" As he spoke one of the broad-winged condors, of which several were soaring overhead, stooped. One of the Indians flung up his gun and fired. The huge bird came fluttering down almost on Dolaro's head, and he jumped back only just in time to avoid it.

"That'll learn him," said Tod.

Dolaro's men were all talking at once.

"They know too much," grumbled Tod. "See, they're camping."

"They camp. They wait for moon," Kespi said.

"The moon doesn't rise till ten," Derek added. "And by the time they've crossed the ravine they won't want to do much more for a bit. That means we have twenty-four hours' start. When do we shift, Kespi?"

"When dark come," was the answer.

As soon as it was dark they packed up and left. By the time the moon rose they were many miles on their way.

"We've got a fine start," said Tod.

"Yes, if we can keep it." Derek pointed to the icy peaks, silver under the moon. "We have to cross those. Anything may happen, Tod."

"So it may to Dolaro. Anyway, I'm trusting to Kespi to pull us through. Hulloa, what's the trouble with that burro? He's limping badly."

Sure enough, Sucki, the better of the two donkeys, was going very lame on his near fore-leg. Manacan explained that he had cut it against a sharp stone.

Tod was dismayed, but Kespi took it calmly. He told them there was a shelter not far away, and that a few hours' rest and a bandage would put Sucki to rights. They turned a little to the North and presently came to a hollow with a pool and beside it an old stone building. The roof was still sound and they were glad of the shelter.

Fifteen miles of tramping had made them all sleepy; they rolled up in their blankets and slept.

Derek woke in the middle of a horrible dream. Tod's voice roused him. Tod's voice hoarse and choking. He tried to spring up, but before he could get clear of his blankets a man flung himself upon him and forced him down.



DEREK fought desperately, but he had not a chance.

Tangled in his blanket, he could not use his legs, and in any case his enemy was twice his size and weight. The man's hard fingers pinched his throat till he was helpless and half choked. Then the Indian turned him over with his face to the floor, pulled his arms back, and tied his wrists behind him.

Derek lay quiet. It was no use wasting his strength. He must save himself in case a chance of escape came. Not that any such chance seemed likely, he thought bitterly, yet his chief feeling was wonder how Dolaro's party had managed to catch them up so quickly.

He had not much time for thought, for a pair of powerful hands seized and jerked him to his feet. The place seemed full of men. All but one were Indians, the exception being a tall man with a queer chalk-white face and eyes that were black and shiny as polished jet. A thin moustache made a black line across his face. This was certainly not Dolaro, and for the life of him Derek could not make out who he was.

Tod, like himself, was a prisoner; so was Kespi. He could not see Manacan and wondered if he could possibly have escaped. He was given no chance to speak, for the man who held him dragged him to the door and, pointing to the South, spoke harshly. Derek could not understand a word he said, but it was plain he meant him to march. At this moment he heard a shout, and here came two more Indians, dragging Manacan and the donkeys. Derek's heart sank still lower for the emeralds were in the packs on the donkeys' backs. The black-moustached man gave a sharp order, and the whole party with their prisoners marched away in a southerly direction.

Derek was more puzzled then ever, for this was not the way back to the edge of the plateau. Another thing puzzled him. These Indians were not lowland men but Aymaras, a tribe who live on the uplands. The ground sloped downward, and as the Sun rose they came to a dreary-looking little village with small thatched houses surrounded by bare walls of adobe (beaten mud). There was not a tree or shrub and the crops in the enclosures looked thin and poor. A few skinny goats and donkeys browsed on the brown grass.

In the middle of the village was a house larger than the rest. To this the prisoners were marched and the white-faced man roughly ordered them in.

Tod stumbled. It is not easy to go up steps with your hands tied tight behind you. The white-faced man struck him with his open hand across the face. In a flash Derek sprang, and as he could not use his hands butted the bully with his head. With a gasp the long fellow measured his length on the hard clay floor.

"Well done, Derek!" cried Tod. But one of the Indians seized Derek, another caught hold of Tod. The long man got up slowly. His eyes held a red glow and the expression on his face was fiendish. His right hand fell upon a long knife which hung in a sheath at his waist. Derek lashed out with his heel, and the Indian who held him fell back with a grunt of pain.

"Cut me loose and I'll fight you, you coward," he cried; but White-face had no such intention.

"For that I will cut you in pieces," he snarled in Spanish.

A low laugh broke the ugly silence. From a bed at the far side of the room a man had raised himself to a sitting position. He was a great, gaunt, old man, leather-skinned, with heavy, white mustachios, bushy brows, a great beak of a nose, and the muscles of his neck stood out like cords.

"The gringo has pluck," he chuckled. "Put your knife away, Olivido." Then, as the long man hesitated: "Put it away, I tell you!" he barked in a tone which made the Indian shiver. "I may be old, I may be sick, but while I live I am still King of the Condors."

King of the Condors! Derek's eyes widened, and he gave a gasp.

"You are the King of the Condors?" he asked sharply, speaking in Spanish. A grim smile curled the other's lips.

"Do I not look it, Gringo?"

"You do," replied Derek frankly, "but I wanted to be sure."

"Why so? Is it because you feel it an honour to have been taken by my band?"

"I don't know about its being an honour," returned Derek bluntly; "it's a great deal better than being captured by Carbajal."

A terrible look came into the eyes of the old man. "Carbajal! What have you to do with that perro (dog)?"

"He's been chasing us all across the Alto, and when we were surprised in the old posada we believed they were his men who had seized us."

"Ha! is that so? Tell me, boy."

"I'd like to," Derek answered, "but the story is for your ears alone."

The old king looked surprised. Small wonder, for it was long since anyone had talked to him in this frank, open tone. Then he chuckled.

"Very good, my son. Olivido, cut these prisoners loose, then take yourself and your men outside."

Olivido's white face worked with ill-suppressed fury, and for a moment it looked as if he would refuse to obey. But his chief's eyes were fixed upon him. Strange for a Spaniard, they were blue- grey eyes and just now were the colour of tempered steel. They seemed to hypnotise the man, and he slowly and unwillingly obeyed. When the room was cleared the bandit chief invited the three prisoners to be seated.

"Now I will hear your story. You tell it, English boy." And Derek began.

When he had finished the room was very silent. The bandit chief was as quiet as the rest. He filled a glass from a medicine bottle beside him and sipped it. Then he spoke.

"How do you come into this, Chief?" he asked of Kespi. "This is a great and unusual favour that you have conferred upon the Inglese."

"He not tell that. He and the Americano they save my life." Kespi went on to explain how Derek and Tod had got him out of the river, and how they had faced down Carbajal when he interfered.

"That was good work. I would I had been there to see it," said the king. "Carbajal is a dog, and not for the Big Fish itself would I give him the chance to triumph. But you come at a bad time, amigos. I am sick to death. My reign is nearly over." He paused as the door swung open and Olivido marched into the room. "The men wait to divide the spoil," he said harshly.



THE king's voice was soft, but his eyes glittered like steel. "And you are anxious for your share."

Olivido stepped nearer. "I am tired of your taunts," he said roughly. "We are all tired of your tyranny. You are no longer fit to be our leader."

The king's hand shot out, picked up the glass, and glass and liquid together struck Olivido full in the face.

"Get him," said the king, but there was no need for the order. As the braggart staggered back Derek and Tod together were upon him. Tod kicked his legs from under him, Derek fell on top of him. Before he had got his breath, before he well knew what was happening, Olivido was tied and gagged and as helpless as a mummy.

The king chuckled.

"If I am not your leader I have at any rate capable lieutenants," he said. "Chief, kindly go outside and tell Chulla that I wish to see him."

"I go," said Kespi and went out. He was back in a minute, accompanied by a powerfully-built man who, by his colour, was evidently part Indian, part Spaniard. He looked as hard as nails, yet there was an honest quality in his dark eyes which was in pleasant contrast to Olivido's treacherous face. The king pointed to Olivido.

"This man was insolent, he is no longer my lieutenant. That post is yours, Señor Chulla, and I name you my successor."

There was not a flicker of surprise on Chulla's hard face.

"Gracias, Señor," was all he said.

The king spoke again. "Chulla, you know Carbajal?"

Chulla spat upon tile floor. "That dog!" he said.

"Quite," purred the king. "These whom you have captured are being persecuted by Carbajal. They, so I think, will bring about his ruin. I desire, therefore, that you will release them and let them proceed on their journey with their burros and their stores."

"It shall be done, Señor. Are there further orders?"

"Merely that you will rid me of this," pointing to Olivido, "Place him in the Stone Room until I have leisure to consider his case."

Chulla seized Olivido by the arm and dragged him out as if he had been a sack of coals. They heard his body bump down the same steps where he had struck Tod for stumbling, then the sounds died away.

A faint smile crossed the king's face.

"I am still King of the Condors," he remarked. "And that is one thing Olivido never will be. Now, my friends, you shall eat with me, then my men shall set you on your way." He clapped his great hands, a door at the far end of the room opened, and an old Indian woman appeared.

"Breakfast for four, Corina," he ordered.

The old lady nodded and disappeared, but was back in a very short time carrying a tray laden with food. Tortillas with fresh butter, coffee with real milk, and hen's eggs nicely fried. The old bandit was a perfect host, and the boys sharp set made an excellent meal. Kespi as usual ate little but his table manners were as good as anybody's.

While they ate the king talked—not about himself or his band, but about London and New York, both of which capitals he seemed to know well. They might have been breakfasting with some Spanish don instead of the chief of the most notorious gang of bandits in the Andes. As they finished Chulla knocked and entered.

"All is ready for your guests, Señor," he said. "The burros have been fed and so has the driver. They should start, for there will be storm before night."

Derek got up. "We are greatly in your debt, Señor," he said. "Is there anything we can do for you before we say good-bye?"

A rather sad smile crossed the old chief's face. "I would ask you to send me word of your safe return, but before it can reach me I shall be with my fathers. Good-bye to you, my children, I wish you a safe journey and trust that you will treat Carbajal as he deserves." He shook hands all round, then Chulla showed them out.

Manacan was waiting with the burros, but none of the rest of the bandits was visible. They started straight away, tramping west across the great upland.

"Well, if that doesn't beat the band!" said Tod presently. "To think we've been breakfasting with the biggest old robber in South America."

"And the finest gentleman," put in Derek.

"All of that," agreed Tod. "Say, it's lucky for us the old lad was still boss. Chulla said something about a storm brewing," he added; "can't say I see much sign of it."

"Storm him come," said Kespi quietly.

"We find shelter, but it long way."

They kept on steadily. Luckily the injured donkey was no longer lame and they made good speed.

The ground was rising and with every hour the great Cordilleras to the West seemed to grow taller. From the peak of the nearest a faint trail of smoke crawled across the sky, showing that there was an active crater at the summit. At one they stopped for a little food, but Kespi allowed them only half an hour's rest, then they plodded on again.

By five they were close to the foot of the smoking mountain. A breeze had sprung up from the South, and it was growing cold. Kespi did not say anything, but the boys saw he was uneasy.

They topped a ridge and found themselves on an old Inca road which was cut in the side of the great mountain. Beneath was a wide valley perhaps a couple of thousand feet deep, and down in the bottom, three miles away, stood a ruined building.

"That where we camp. We hurry," said Kespi.

"What's the rush?" asked Tod. "Hulloa! what's that?"

A dull roaring sound came out of the South, and a great curtain of cloud suddenly covered the Sun. A white mist came rushing across the uplands. Next moment the blizzard struck them with such fury they could hardly stand, and the whole air was thick with flying ice-flakes.

"The Tormente," cried Kespi as he pulled his poncho over his head.



IT was a hurricane. "Tormente," gasped Tod. "It's torment all right. I feel as if I were being skinned alive."

"Put poncho over face," Kespi ordered. "You no breathe unless you cover mouth."

Tod did as he was bid.

"Derek, do you think we shall ever make that old house?"

"We'll do it all right," vowed Derek, as he staggered forward, bent almost double against the blast; "but don't waste breath in talking."

The snow thickened until the air was one fog of fine ice- flakes so cold that they stung like hot iron. The temperature was dropping and the wind was fierce beyond belief.

The worst of it was that there was no shelter, for the road ran along the southern flank of the great mountain, and it was from the South that the storm came. From the feel of it the wind might be blowing straight off the Antarctic ice cap, and the gale seemed to strengthen every minute. It was all they could do to keep their feet, and though they were going downhill they panted as if straining up a steep slope. The snow was so fine it blew into their eyes, ears, and noses; and so thick they could hardly see one another.

Derek pushed on as best he could, but was beginning to get scared. The two miles to shelter loomed as long as twenty. He bumped into something. It was one of the burros. A donkey will face more than a horse, or even a mule, but Sucki had apparently come to the conclusion that this was a bit too much, and had switched round with his back to the blast and his head tucked down between his legs. Manacan was trying to pull him round.

Derek lent a hand, and so did Tod, but it took all three to get him moving again.

Suddenly came a blast worse than any yet, and out of the white blinding smother rose a muffled cry.

"It's Manacan," Tod cried in Derek's ear. "It's blown him over the edge of the path."

"Hang on to the burros," Derek answered. "I'll find him."

The slope below the old road was steep, but how steep Derek had no means of telling, for he could see nothing. He lowered himself carefully over the edge and found foothold. The savage gusts threatened to tear him from the cliff side and he felt that if he once let go he would be blown like a feather into the depths beneath. But he had to get Manacan, About ten feet down he found a ledge and caught a glimpse of something dark lying there. It was the hunchback.

He groaned as Derek stooped over him and tried to lift him. Derek shouted to Tod to send down a rope. Tod heard and got one out from a pack. The wind whisked it sideways and Tod had to tie a stone to the end before Derek could get hold. He managed to fasten it round Manacan's body, then Tod and Kespi hauled on it, and with Derek pushing behind they got the man back to the path. He was conscious and, as far as they could tell, no bones were broken, but the fall had damaged him so that he could not walk.

"I finished," he told them. "You go leave me. I freeze quick."

"What are you talking about?" growled Tod. "Sucki will take the two packs and we'll sling you on the back of the other moke."

"It no good. I freeze," replied Manacan doggedly. "You wait—you freeze too."

Derek thought the man was probably right, but he did not say so. With numbed fingers he set to switching the packs, and Tod helped him. Somehow they got Manacan on to the other donkey's back and pushed on. Kespi led the way, the two boys followed, each leading a donkey.

The storm raged as furiously as ever, and Derek did not blink the fact that the odds were all against their ever reaching shelter. The snow was drifting badly, and every few steps they were in over their knees and had to haul the donkeys through by main force. Derek felt he would give anything for a moment's shelter from the stinging, cutting blast, and a chance to fill his lungs with something besides ice.

It came. A dark mass loomed up to windward, and instinctively they all pulled up under the shelter of a great blunt mass of rock which rose to the right of the road.

Tod leaned against the rock and drew long breaths while the gale roared overhead. "Hadn't we better camp here, Kespi?" he asked.

"No use camp here," answered the cacique gravely. "No wood, no fire. Snow, get deeper all time. We freeze. In morning all dead."

"You're a cheerful old dear," retorted Tod. "Do you mean we must go on?"

"We go on," replied Kespi simply. "Not far now. Maybe only mile."

"He is right," Derek said. "The temperature is down to zero, and even if we lived through the night Manacan wouldn't. We must get him under shelter."

Tod straightened his tired body.

"All right. No use putting off the evil hour. Let's push along."

The shelter was short. It lasted only for about thirty yards, then they were in the open and the full force of the blizzard, sweeping over hundreds of miles of snow-clad mountains, struck them with a fury that almost stunned them. Again the donkeys tried to turn back. It was all they could do to haul them on.

Derek was leading Sucki, with Kespi on the other side of the animal. The snow was up to the donkey's stomach, and Derek had to go ahead and trample it down so that the heavily-laden little animal could get through the drift. The path here sloped steeply downward and Derek began to hope they were nearing the valley.

Suddenly he felt himself slipping. A gulf opened in front. With a desperate effort he flung himself backward; but the snow was falling away beneath him, and if it had not been that he had hold of Sucki's halter rope he would have followed it. But the clever little burro had dug his legs in, giving Derek something to hold to, and presently he managed to scramble back into safety.

"What's up?" asked Tod, struggling forward out of the white smother.

"Get back," Derek ordered. "The path's gone. We'll have to camp under that rock, after all," he added.



AN hour later the four, with their two donkeys, were still under the rock. They had cleared a space from snow, and piled it up in a wall around them. They were out of the wind, but overhead the storm raged with unabated fury, and the cold was terrible. In spite of his blankets Derek felt himself getting numb. Every now and then he got up and stamped about on the bare rock to try to make the blood move in his veins, and Tod did the same.

But Manacan could not do that, and it was clear that he was slowly freezing to death. Tod and Derek had each given up one of their blankets to the hunchback, but no blankets could keep out the terrible frost. Tod, who was fond of the man, was frantic.

"Can't we do something?" he kept asking. "Isn't there some hole in the rock where we could put the poor chap? Are there any caves in the mountain, Kespi?"

"I not know," answered the old Indian. "Maybe there are, but in this night of storm who find them?"

"I'm game to try," said Tod. "What about you, Derek?"

"Come on," said Derek sharply.

With their ponchos over their heads the two forced their way out again into the yelling blast. It was not so dark as it had been, for the moon had risen, and though the storm clouds hid it some light leaked through. The road was deep in drifted snow, fine and soft as powder, but above and below the rocks were mostly bare. The wind had whipped the snow from the steep flanks of the mountain.

They went down cautiously toward the break in the trail. There was light enough now to see the gap where a rock-slide from above had shorn away some dozen yards of the old road.

"A mighty good thing you didn't go down into that," said Tod, as he peered over into the depths, "Even if the storm gives over we won't be able to cross that break."

Derek did not answer, and Tod saw that he was looking hard at the mountainside to the left. "There's a hole," he said sharply. "See, Tod?"

Tod's eyes were so full of driven snow that for the moment he was almost blind, but in a lull between two blasts he managed to clear them.

"You're right," he panted. "Sure thing, it's a hole."

Both boys together went scrambling up the slope. Derek reached the place first and pushed in; Tod followed, and found himself in a crack in the hillside. Though the roof was high it was desperately narrow, not more than four feet wide. It seemed, however, to run in a good way. It was bitter cold and the snow was beating into it in thin dry whirls.

"Not much use, I'm afraid," said Derek, very disappointed.

"It's better than the open," declared Tod. "If we can all squeeze in we can block up the mouth with stones. The job will be to get the mokes in."

"We'll try it, anyhow," said Derek, as he plunged out again into the storm.

Short as the distance was, it took a full half-hour to get the donkeys and Manacan into the cave. The donkeys hated the place, and had to be pushed and hauled in. When at last they had them inside the boys tried to build up the mouth with loose rocks, but they were not very successful.

"Let's go in farther, Derek," Tod said.

"We can't. It's too narrow."

"We can if we can move this rock," Tod answered. He was at the end of the cave and was examining it by the light of a flash lamp. "Come and give me a hand."

They tugged and heaved, but it was not until Kespi came and lent a hand that they managed to pull it like a cork out of a bottle. Tod went through and Derek followed. The passage, high but narrow, went straight on into the mountain.

"We're out of the wind at last," said Tod.

"It feels almost warm," Derek answered.

"By gum, it is warm," declared Tod in a puzzled tone.

"It's getting wider too," Derek added. "I say, here's a real cave."

Sure enough, the passage widened and they walked into a chamber some twenty feet wide and at least fifty high, Here, there was no doubt about it, the air was many degrees warmer! Derek stopped.

"We must get Manacan in here at once," he said.

They carried him through and laid him on blankets, then went back for the donkeys. Again there was trouble for both the animals seemed badly frightened. It was all the boys and Kespi could do to drive them into the inner cave, and when they got them there the poor little animals stood trembling and snorting.

"I can't make it out," said Derek, "The air is all right."

"It is," agreed Tod. "Man, it's warm." It was warm and the joy of once more feeling the blood running in their veins made the boys forget everything except that they were hungry.

"Even if we can't cook we can eat." said Tod, as he began to unpack some food.

Cold meat and some remains of cold maize bread—that was all they had, but they were so starved after their struggle through the storm that they ate hungrily.

"A cup of coffee would go fine," said Tod regretfully, "but though it's warm I guess it's not warm enough to boil a kettle."

"What makes it so warm, Kespi?" Derek asked.

"Him fire mountain," was the calm reply.

"I'd forgotten this was a volcano!" exclaimed Tod. "Do you reckon we're somewhere near the crater, Derek?"

Derek laughed. "A mile at least, and probably two. But heat leaks out through a crack like this."

Tod looked round. "It would be awkward if there was an eruption, Derek."

"Why worry? An eruption comes only once in twenty or thirty years, so there's no special reason for one tonight. And, in any case, we'd get plenty of warning. I'm sleepy. What about a nap?"

"Ah right, but first I'll have a look at Manacan."

"Him better," Kespi said, and he was right. The warmth had saved him; the man was sleeping.

Tod lay down and was asleep at once. Kespi dozed with his back against the rock wall, Derek stretched out but could not get off. The two donkeys kept fidgetting and stamping. They had had no food and no water. That might explain their uneasiness, yet Derek had a sort of feeling there was something more at the bottom of their restless behaviour. Animals, as Derek knew, have senses which man has not. But he was very tired and at last dropped off, though in his dreams he still seemed to hear the sharp little hoofs striking the rock floor.

The noises grew louder and he found himself awake. Why, the whole floor of the cave was shaking. He sat up. Yes, the rock was quivering and from somewhere came a dull, rumbling sound.

"Tod!" he cried. "Tod, wake up!"

Tod jumped up and rubbed his eyes.

Kespi, too, was on his feet. "Tremblor," he said sharply, "We go out quick."

Again came the rumble, but louder. The burros broke loose and dashed for the opening. Before the boys could follow there was a loud crash, A cloud of dust rose.

"That finish," said Kespi. "Roof fall."



DEREK and Tod sprang up and raced for the mouth of the cave. Tod's face was white as he turned to Derek. "Kespi's right, Derek, we're boxed in."

Derek did not speak, he stood quite still, staring at the pile of rock which barred the mouth of the cave.

"Can't you say something?" demanded Tod roughly.

Derek laid a hand on his friend's shoulder.

"What can I say, old man? We can't dig through that."

Tod's hot temper flamed. "You mean you'll sit down and starve to death."

"I don't mean that. There may be some other way out."

"Then, why don't you say so? You stand there like a dummy. Anyone would think you were scared."

"I am scared. And so are you, Tod. Anyone would be scared in our place, so it's nothing to be ashamed of."

Tod did not answer. He was biting his lip and Derek saw he was trying to get hold of himself, and wisely remained silent. At last Tod turned.

"Sorry, Derek, I got kind of excited. Let's go and look for the other way out."

Kespi was sitting where they had left him. He showed no special sign of fright. Derek told him what they had found and what they meant to do, but Kespi shook his head.

"This not like Cuzco cave. This rock not same. I not think we find other way out."

"We're going to have a mighty good try," returned Tod.

"God go with you," said Kespi, speaking in Spanish. "I stay with Manacan. If I no see you again, good-bye."

"He's a cheerful old croaker," growled Tod as, torch in hand, he started down the big cave. "I'm going to keep on trying so long as I can stand up."

"Me, too," agreed Derek, but he really had as little hope as Kespi. Kespi was right. This cave was not like the cave of the Big Fish. That was all limestone, which is easily dissolved by water, and so is always full of holes and passages. This was hard volcanic rock, and Derek had no doubt that the tunnel they were in had been formed by eruption or earthquake. He was so badly frightened that it was all he could do to keep himself from falling into blind panic.

The cave narrowed again and dipped steeply downward. It became so warm that Derek threw off his poncho. The light of the torch showed walls of black rock, in places shining as if they had been melted by intense heat. But there were no side passages, and Derek realised that they were going straight toward the heart of the volcano. Tod stopped.

"What's that I hear?" he said sharply.

Tod's hearing was wonderful, and Derek had to listen hard before a faint murmuring sound reached his ears.

"Sounds like water," he said after a pause.

"It's water—running water," Tod said, and hurried forward.

How could there be water in a place like this? But a gleam of hope came back to Derek as he followed Tod down the steep slope. The cavern ran almost straight, dipping all the way. It varied in height and width, but there was always plenty of room. Here and there a big lump of stone, shaken from the roof, lay on the floor. Here, inside the mountain, the rock was so hard that it would take a very big earthquake to break it. The passage curved to the left and as the boys rounded the angle Tod gave a shout.

"It's a river, Derek."

A moment later the two stood on the edge of a stream which came from an arched tunnel to the right and disappeared into a similar tunnel on the left. It was about twenty feet wide and the torchlight was reflected from its smooth, shiny surface.

"A river," repeated Tod. "It must find its way out somewhere."

Derek looked at it doubtfully. "Yes," he said at last, "but how's that going to help us? We've no boat or anything to build one with."

"What's the matter with swimming?" demanded Tod.

Derek shrugged. "You and I might try that, but Manacan can't, or the donkeys."

Tod looked rather dashed. "They might be able to wade. Let's see how deep it is." He pulled off his coat, rolled up his shirt sleeve and probed it with his arm, but found no bottom.

"Ugh, it's cold," he growled.

"Comes from some glacier high up the mountain," Derek told him. "Wait, I'll strip off and try it," He had his clothes off in a twinkling, and Tod held his hand as he slipped over into the water. In he went up to his armpits, and the current swept him off his feet. It was all Tod could do to haul him out.

"No wading there," he said between chattering teeth. "You're right about its being cold, Tod. We shouldn't last long in it if we tried to swim."

"Then what in sense are we going to do?" Tod burst out. "I'd sooner freeze than starve."

Boom! again that dull roaring sound, and the rock floor heaved beneath their feet with a strange swaying motion.

"We shan't starve, Tod," said Derek grimly. "That eruption you talked of must have started." Tod did not answer, and Derek saw that he was staring at the stream. "What's the matter?" he asked.

Tod passed his hand across his eyes.

"Say, am I seeing things, or is the water falling?"

"Water falling!" repeated Derek in amazement.

"Yes: look at the wet line on the rock. It's an inch at least above the surface." It was, and Derek, gazing fixedly down at the river, distinctly saw that it was shrinking. Within a minute it was down another inch and its murmur was growing less.

"If this ain't the craziest place I ever did see!" muttered Tod.

"Nothing crazy about it," returned Derek. "It's the earthquake has done the trick. This stream comes out of some glacier miles up the mountain. The quake has shaken clown a big landslide or avalanche, filled the valley the stream runs through and dammed it up."

"Then it'll run dry?"

"Almost sure to."

"And we can get away down the dry bed."

"There's a pretty good chance, but we'll have to work quickly. You can't tell how long the dam will hold, and once it bursts—"

But Tod was gone. He was running hard back up the cavern passage, and Derek, though he had hardly any clothes on, followed. He did not care about being left in the dark.



IT was the two donkeys which made all the trouble. Kespi, when he heard what the boys had found, was as eager as they to take advantage of this possible means of escape. But Sucki and his mate hated the whole business.

Manacan at last got them to move He did it by lighting a piece of oil-soaked rag and holding it close behind them. The burros hated fire, and decided to move rather than risk being scorched.

But the delay had lasted half an hour, and Derek was very anxious. If the dam burst the flood would roar down the tunnel and sweep them all to destruction.

"It's dry," announced Tod as he reached the edge of what had been the river. So it was. There was nothing but the barest trickle where before there had been five or six feet of swiftly- flowing water.

Then began the most trying part of all that terrible night.

It was impossible to go fast. The bed of the river was in some places smooth as glass and terribly slippery; in others covered with rounded stones which were horrible things to walk over, and where even the surefooted burros tripped and stumbled.

Kespi went first, carrying the torch; then came the two donkeys, and behind them the boys with Manacan between them. Manacan was plucky, but his body was a mass of bruises, and he could not walk without help.

The first trouble came less than two hundred yards from the start. A rock had fallen from the roof, and although the men could pass it there was not room for the donkeys. Tod and Derek and Kespi put their shoulders to it and, after a struggle which left them all breathless and dripping, succeeded in shifting it. The next bit was easy—fairly level, with plenty of roof space, but then came a fall. It was shallow and nothing for the boys, but the donkeys jibbed, and the only way to get them down was to literally push them over the edge. The next stage was steep and slippery, and they had to go very slowly.

"Light he go out!" said Kespi.

For a moment Derek felt a throb of panic, but luckily Tod had another battery. Their very lives depended on light.

On again. The roof began to drop, and Derek got a fresh scare. It came down and down, then rose again, and they came into a larger cave. It was cooler here. The riverbed ran through the centre of the place.

Then came another tremor. The same dull roar, but the quake was very slight, and there was no fall of rock.

"That scared me!" Tod said to Derek.

"Me, too!" Derek answered. "And I'm still scared."


"The water. It may not take much to shift the dam."

"Ugh!" grunted Tod. "I'd forgotten that. If my hair's not gone grey I'll be surprised."

Derek tried to laugh, but it was rather a poor attempt.

They passed through the big cave and found a long slide. Sucki lost his feet and shot down it like a toboggan, but when he reached the bottom did not seem any the worse. They had come, Derek thought, nearly a mile, but so far there was no sign of any opening. All the time they had been going downhill, and he thought they must be on a level with the valley. Suppose the stream went under the valley?

The next obstacle was a pool, a deep hole in the bed of the subterranean river where water had lodged. In the glow of the torch the surface bubbled in the strangest fashion. The pool was full of tiny blind fish. Luckily they were able to clamber up the bank and got round the edge of the pool. It would have been no joke to wade it, for it was cold as ice. The roof began to drop again. Presently Tod nudged Derek.

"The water's rising," he whispered.

Derek looked down. Water was running down the stream bed. Only an inch or so, but it meant that behind them the choked river was lapping the rim of the dam or else that the dam itself was beginning to crumble. Kespi saw it too. If his eyes were old not much escaped them.

"We hurry!" he said briefly.

The boys did their best, but Monacan was almost exhausted. Then suddenly the torch flickered out.

"It can't have burned out!" said Tod sharply. "Give it to me, Kespi."

Kespi handed it back, and by the light of a match which Derek struck the American boy tried the connections.

"They're all right. It's the bulb," he said. "And—and I haven't another."

"Never mind, old man. We have plenty of matches!" He struck another. It went out. "There's a draught!" he cried.

"You're right," Tod answered unsteadily. "Then we must be near the opening."

"Don't count on it too much. It may be a hole in the roof," said Derek.

"Stop croaking. I tell you we're near the mouth!"

Derek was silent, for he realised that Tod was cracking. He did not wonder, for his own nerves were jumping. What was making things worse was that the water was rising quite fast. It was now over his ankles, running strongly with an increasing murmur of sound. He struck another match, shielding it with his hand.

"The donkeys!" cried Tod sharply. "They're gone!"

"They run," said Kespi.


"I think they go out."

"Out!" Tod's voice was almost a scream. "Come on, Derek!"

"But I can't see any opening!" said Derek, bewildered. "There's no light!"

"Never mind. There's some way out. Those burros wouldn't have gone if there hadn't been. Here, give me some matches."

Manacan gave a shrill cry.

"Light! I see light!"

"And so do I!" said Derek. "It's an S curve, Tod. That's why it's so dim. Don't worry about matches; we can make it."

With Manacan between them, the boys struggled on toward a faint, greyish patch which broke the intense gloom. For a few moments nothing was heard but their laboured breathing and the rush of the rapidly-rising stream. Then, rounding a second curve, they stopped short, blinking and half-blinded by brilliant sunlight which shone through a high rock arch.

"Safe!" gasped Tod, as they staggered out into the open where the new-risen sun turned a great plain of snow into a sheet of shimmering white, and where the two donkeys were pawing in the thick carpet to find the grass beneath.

Of them all Kespi was the only calm one.

"We in valley," he said. "There old temple. But I not think we go there."

"Why not?" demanded Tod.

"Dolaro there before us. See smoke."



TOD stared at Kespi. "Dolaro ahead of us! You're crazy."

"Maybe I wrong," replied Kespi gently. "I hope I wrong, but I no think I wrong."

"How did he get there?"

"You forget, Tod," said Derek. "We were hung up half a day by the bandits and we've been all night in the cave." Kespi raised his hand. "You wrong. We been night, day, and night in cave."

It was Derek's turn to stare. "You mean we slept the clock round."

"You very tired," said Kespi in his quiet voice. "You sleep long time. You need sleep, so I no wake you."

"Then I guess you're right, after all, Kespi," said Tod. "But we've jolly well got to find out."

"How are you going to do that?" Derek inquired. "Pay a morning call?"

Tod looked rather dashed. The ruin stood right out in the open, and there was not a hope of getting near it without being seen.

Kespi spoke. "I no think any hurry. Dolaro, he in storm like we. He very tired. I think he stay all day. We very tired too, and hungry. Best thing we make breakfast and sleep."

It seemed the only thing to do.

Many deep gullies ran back into the foot of the mountain. It was easy to find one where they were sheltered from the wind, yet not out of the sun. What was better still, there was grease-wood to make a fire and there was grass for the donkeys. Soon the kettle was boiling, and the hot coffee was a real treat. They fried a big dish of bacon and heated up maize cakes in the hot fat. By the time they had finished the meal and cleared up their one desire was for sleep.

"Oughtn't we to keep a watch?" Derek asked.

"I no think it," said Kespi, with a faint smile. "Dolaro, he think we long way before him."

"If you're satisfied, I am," grinned Derek, as he rolled himself in his blanket and lay down. In spite of the height the sun was positively hot, and the snow melting fast. There was not a cloud in the sky, and it was difficult to believe that only a day earlier they had been fighting for their lives in a frightful blizzard. But Derek had not much time to think over these things. His eyes closed and he was soon deep in sleep. There were no more earthquakes, and nothing disturbed him until an hour before sunset, when Kespi roused him.

"We have supper, then we go," he said.

Derek jumped up. "Dolaro, has he started?"

"Yes, he go midday."

"Then he's got ahead of us, after all!" exclaimed Derek, looking very blue.

"It no matter," Kespi assured him. "Manacan, he know way."

"Well, boss, what's the programme?" Tod asked.

"He means what do we do next," explained Derek, seeing the puzzled look on the old Indian's face.

"First we eat, then we go," said Kespi.

"Sounds mighty simple," said Tod. "But what happens when we catch up with Dolaro?"

"We no catch him. We go by him."

Tod shrugged. "Again it sounds all right, only I don't see how it works."

"It'll work if Kespi says so," Derek declared. "Let's eat."

Kespi was in no hurry, and insisted on a fire and a good hot meal. "We walk long way tonight," he told them.

It was nearly dark when they finished packing and started out. Manacan refused to ride. His tough body had recovered in a few hours from injuries that would have laid a white man on his back for a week. The donkeys, too, were well fed and rested.

It was cold. It is always cold at night up on the Alto, but it was a fine, calm night with stars shining brightly, and the moon was due to rise about eleven. The surface of the valley was level and, though covered with snow, there was frost enough to crust it, so that they were able to walk without breaking through. To prevent the donkeys slipping Manacan had tied sacking over their feet.

They passed quite close to the old Inca ruin, but did not stop. Beyond they came upon the tracks of Dolaro's party. They followed these tracks for five or six miles until the valley began to narrow. Here the old Inca trail led along the base of the western cliff.

Quite a broad track had been beaten in the snow by Dolaro's men, and this was, of course, a help to Kespi's party. The track rose, but Kespi kept on steadily. It was wonderful what a pace the wiry old Indian set. They came to a place where there was a break in the cliff. It looked like the sort of crack that might have been made by an earthquake centuries ago and been enlarged by frost and rain. Here Manacan stopped and spoke to Kespi in his own tongue.

Kespi turned to the boys. "We go up here," he told them.

Tod stared. "Up there! Say, Kespi, you're crazy."

Kespi remained quite calm. "I not crazy. You come."

It was nasty enough, yet not so bad as it looked from below. Higher up there was some sort of path, though this had been badly broken by. falling rocks and was blocked by small landslides of loose boulders and stones. Over and over again it looked as if they would be forced to turn back, but always Manacan found a way, until at last, panting and weary, the whole party arrived safely at the head of the gorge and found themselves on a level tableland covered with snow, which gleamed ghostly in the pale light of the new risen moon.

Kespi led the way back to the edge of the cliff from which they could look down into the valley.



IT was easy travelling on this level tableland, yet Kespi went cautiously, and made the rest keep well away from the rim of the cliff. But every now and then he approached the edge and peered over.

At last he stopped and beckoned the others. Derek and Tod, coming up quietly, looked down. Far below was a splash of red light, the embers of a fire, and round it the figures of sleeping men wrapped in their ponchos.

"So this is where we move up one," said Tod with a grin.

"You speak quiet," Kespi whispered urgently. "But you right. We go first now."

"Can we get a really good start?" asked Derek. "I mean, they can see us a long way off in this clear air."

"No matter if they see us. They no can catch us," Kespi answered.

There were many rocks along the edge of the cliff, and Derek saw that as they went Kespi was taking note of them. Presently he stopped opposite a large rounded boulder which lay on the very edge.

"This good," he said. "We all push."

"I get you," said Tod. "You mean to smash the road?"

"You right," agreed Kespi.

"But how will that help us?" asked Derek. "They'll only go a little way back and climb up the same way we came."

Kespi shook his head.

"They not know that way. They go back all one day, so we have two day start."

"That's a fact," said Tod. "I'm certain no one would try that gully unless they knew it. Over with her."

They put their backs to the rock. The base was firm in frozen snow, and at first they could not move it. Derek called, "All together! One! Two! Three!"

There was a crunch, the big stone quivered.

"Again," said Derek. "One! Two!"

"Steady, she's going!" cried Tod, and caught hold of Kespi just in time to save him from going too.

The big boulder swayed over sideways, hung poised an instant, then slowly toppled.

The cliff was not quite sheer, and twenty feet below a great rock jutted out. The boulder struck this, and there was a deep, crunching sound.

"Gee—look!" gasped Tod, as the rock, which must have weighed at least ten thousand pounds, broke loose and, carrying with it tons of shale and loose stuff, fell bodily into the depths. The crash with which it hit the road below resembled that of a bursting shell; snow and broken rock flew upwards and outwards in a fountain, then an avalanche went roaring into the depths of the canyon.

"That's done it!" exclaimed Tod gleefully. "They'll have to grow wings if they want to cross that."

"It's you'll be growing the wings if you don't keep back, you idiot," said Derek, as he pulled Tod sharply back from the edge.

As he spoke men came running wildly up the road. At this distance and in this light it was impossible to see their faces, but they were Dolaro's pack, and Dolaro himself, squat and thickset, followed behind them.

"An avalanche!" cried the first, as he came to the gap. "What misfortune! The road is gone."

"And you, too, will be gone, Perez, if you stand there," sneered another. "More will fall."

"I do not understand it." Dolaro's deep, growling voice came up from the depths. "Why should rocks fall at such an hour? The frost is strong."

To Derek's astonishment Kespi leaned over the edge.

"The rock fall, Señor Dolaro, because we push it," he cried. "Nay, do not shoot, or more may fall."

Dolaro looked up and saw Kespi on the cliff edge above him, and snarled; but his men stayed very still.

"It is the cacique," one said. "Let us listen."

"Aye, listen, all of you," said Kespi in high, clear Spanish. "I watched you sleeping by your fire. You had no guard. You were at my mercy, yet I spared you. Now I say to you, return by the way that you came, and trouble us no more."

"And what will you pay us to go home?" sneered Dolaro.

"Are your lives so worthless to you that you want more?" retorted the cacique. "Even now I have rocks and men to throw them over."

"He is right," said the man called Perez. "He has spared our lives. Let us return."

Dolaro seemed to have difficulty in speaking, and when he did his voice was harsh and strained.

"You have the advantage over us, Kespi. We go."

He issued a brief order to his men, and all turned and followed him back down the trail.

Tod spoke. "Glad I'm not one of that outfit. But we needn't worry," he added. "Thanks to Kespi, we have two days' start."

"And will need it," replied Derek, pointing to the huge peaks which cut the night sky to the East.

"We not talk, we walk," said Kespi, and they started again.

Toward dawn Kespi led them by a steep cliff path down to the Inca road, and they camped in the valley out of the wind.

The day turned out as calm and sunny as the one before and the snow melted fast, so that the donkeys found plenty of grass. Tod was very cheerful at supper that evening. "I reckon we're over the worst of our troubles," he said.

Kespi looked up.

"The cat docs not purr until it has caught the mouse," he said, quoting an old Spanish proverb. Tod frowned.

"What's the trouble?" he demanded. "We've beaten Dolaro. The odds are he'll never catch us again."

"Other things catch us," replied the old Indian in his queer clipped English, "We not over Alto yet."

"You mean we may strike another blizzard, Kespi," said Derek.

"Maybe storm, maybe snow-slide, maybe many troubles."

"Oh, don't croak," cried Tod.

"I not frog," said the old man, with his gentle smile. "But tonight we climb high, and road very hard. Maybe all go well. I hope it."

Half an hour later they were off again. Soon the valley ended and the road took them in long zig-zags up a vast slope. The air became thin and bitterly cold. Toward midnight Tod began to flag. He did not complain, but lagged behind.

"What's up, old lad?" Derek asked.

"I don't know," growled Tod, "but I'm feeling horribly giddy and sick."

"You must have eaten something that disagreed with you."

"Nothing ever disagrees with me. I feel as if I'd been poisoned."

Kespi stopped the donkeys and came back.

"It the saroche," he explained; "the sickness of the mountains."

Derek looked dismayed. He had heard of this mysterious illness, which affects some people while others are untouched.

"What are we going to do?" he asked.

"He lie down," Kespi said. "Pity he no speak before; now he must rest long time."



TOD treated the suggestion with scorn.

"Do you think I want to freeze into a lump of ice, for that's what I'll surely do if I stop here. See here, Kespi, I'll carry on slowly and after a bit I'll be better."

Kespi shook his head.

"You no be better, you be worse." He pointed to the great white ridge to the East. "Him Pico Blanco—him six thousand metres high. I no think you can walk over that."

"I'll have a jolly good try," said Tod grimly, and just then he was seized with another fit of shivering and sickness which left him hardly able to stand.

Manacan looked after him and Kespi drew Derek aside.

"Tod, he die if he go up more high," he said gravely. "And that hill very high."

A dismayed look came on Derek's face.

"But this is a horrible job. Do you mean we must go back again?"

"I think we no can help it," Kespi answered.

"But see here, Kespi," urged Derek. "We have to cross the Alto to get home; that is, unless we go back the way we came. And you've told us we can't do that."

"It true we must cross Alto," said the Indian, "but it not so high that way," pointing to the South.

"You mean there's a lower pass. Do you know of one?"

"I not know it, but my people tell me of him. I think we find him."

"All right, Kespi. Let's try it." Derek frowned. "Every time we think things are going right they seem to go wrong."

"We safe this far," said Kespi simply. "I think the great Spirit help us."

Derek's frown disappeared.

"You're right. We've had a lot of luck or help, and I'm an ungrateful pig. Come on. Let's back-track."

Kespi's rare smile made his wrinkled face very pleasant to look at.

"We go," he said briefly.

Tod was furious. He vowed it was madness to turn back. He suggested he might ride over the highest point on one of the donkeys, but Kespi gravely explained that this was impossible. He told him that the mountain sickness attacked some people, not others. It was no respecter of persons, for sometimes the strongest men would die of it while, on the other hand, a delicate woman might not have a touch of it. At last he convinced Tod that he was right and they turned back.

For a time Tod was dreadfully sick and giddy and had to be helped, but once they were down a couple of thousand feet he rapidly recovered. However, he was still shaky enough to be thankful when they reached a sheltered hollow where Kespi decided to camp.

A good sleep put him right and Kespi let him rest until nearly midday, then they had a late breakfast and made a fresh start.

Kespi led them due South. To the left were the peaks of the divide, bleak, snow-clad, and forbidding, but Derek could see for himself that further South they were less lofty. Kespi explained to them that as from now on they would be crossing country which neither he nor Manacan knew they would have to march by daylight, but he did not think there was much danger for Dolaro would be at least a day behind.

All the rest of that day they travelled South along the bleak uplands, yet so long as they were not above fourteen thousand feet Tod was well enough. The country was utterly bare and desolate except here and there where they found hollows in which grass grew and wild birds were plentiful. The weather remained fine, but it was bitterly cold. The boys noticed that whenever they reached high ground Kespi would stop and look back.

"Do you reckon Dolaro's chasing us?" Tod asked at last.

"I told you he never give up," Kespi answered.

"But surely he's off our trail. He'll have gone up over Pico Blanco."

Kespi shook his head.

"He see where we turn. His men pretty good trackers, I think."

They camped by a half-frozen little lake in a hollow and spent a quiet night. Early next morning they were off once more, still travelling parallel to the rugged peaks lying like a wall to the East. Though these were not so lofty as the Pico Blanco there was no sign of a pass across them, and Kespi reckoned they had all of twenty miles to go before they reached the pass.

After marching about five miles they came to the foot of a small, cone-shaped hill rising steeply from the plateau and Kespi stopped to climb it. When he came down the boys saw by his face that he had seen something.

"It good I climb hill," he told them. "Dolaro, he come."

"What! Already?" Tod exclaimed.

"He hurry. He try trick us like we trick him," said Kespi, and explained that Dolaro and his men were cutting across to the West, no doubt intending to reach the pass ahead of them and there lie in ambush.

"So that's his game!" said Derek. "Did he see you?"

"He no see me," the Indian assured Derek. "He go very quick."

"Can we beat him to it?" Tod asked.

"I'm game to travel all night if you reckon we can get there ahead of him?"

Kespi shook his head, and explained it was no use to try anything of that kind, for, even if they did get there first they would be in no shape to make a quick trip up a pass which was sure to be steep and where it was possible Tod might get another attack of mountain sickness.

"Then we're up against it once more," said Tod, half angrily. "Do you reckon there's any way out, Kespi?"

Kespi looked grave.

"There one way, but I think it very hard way." He pointed to the mountain wall to the East.

Tod whistled softly.

"Climb that. Say, Kespi, things must be kind of tough if that's your notion."

"We in very bad place," Kespi answered. "If stay here, starve. Only four days' food left. If go on Dolaro catch us."

Tod looked a bit solemn, then he grinned.

"You surely don't waste words, Chief. Well, I'm game. What about you, Derek?"

"No choice, old man," said Derek. "It don't look nice, but perhaps it won't be so bad when we get there."

Kespi pointed to a dark line which wound crookedly down the slopes. It was the bed of a little stream which came from the heights, and he suggested that, by following it up to its source, they might find a way to the top of the ridge.

Derek and Tod agreed that this was as good a chance as any, so they turned sharp to the left and started on what was to prove the worst stage of all their difficult journey.



THE stream came down through a barren rocky gorge. At first they tried to travel up the bottom of this gorge, but the bed was filled with loose boulders which made travelling so bad that they were forced to climb out and keep to the higher ground. This was seamed with deep ravines which were often difficult to cross and progress was so slow that it was two o'clock before they reached the source of the brook.

Imagine their dismay to find that it was an immense bowl or rock surrounded on three sides by cliffs at least two hundred feet high. Tod's face lengthened as he stared at the sheer rocks. He turned to Derek. "Do we sprout wings or build an aeroplane?"

Derek shrugged. "Even if we could climb those cliffs the donkeys couldn't. We'll just have to go back."

"We no can go back," said Kespi briefly.

"Why not?" demanded Tod.

By way of answer Kespi pointed back down the gorge. Far in the distance, yet perfectly visible in this clear mountain air, a line of black dots crawled slowly up the vast slope.

"Dolaro!" gasped Tod.

Dolaro it was, and all his men with him. Probably he had had a spy out watching the fugitives. Anyhow, there he was, and this time it seemed all odds that he was the winner. Kespi and the boys were in a trap from which there did not seem to be any escape. For a few moments Tod watched the bandits, then he turned to Derek.

"Mighty nigh three miles away," he remarked calmly. "Take 'em all of an hour and a half. I guess we can do it."

"We'll do it all right," Derek answered. "But what about the donkeys?"

"We leave them," said Kespi briefly. "They find way home."

The next few minutes were busy ones, for they had to unload the donkeys and choose what they could carry in small packs on their backs. They had also to take their gun, rope, and the emeralds.

Before starting Manacan whispered in Sucki's ear, and that sagacious animal started away downhill, the others following.

"So long, old lad," said Tod. "I'm going to miss you a whole lot."

The hollow where they stood was shaped like a china bowl. The floor sloping gradually up toward the sides at a steeper and steeper pitch was almost as smooth as china, polished by the action of ice in past ages. But here and there were crevices, and they chose one of these to work up.

Before beginning to climb the four roped themselves together with Derek in the lead. Derek had done more climbing than any of them, and, picking his way carefully up the fissure, he led them slanting across the face of the cliff until they were about two- thirds of the way up. There the fissure petered out.

Derek stopped and examined the face of the rock. He spotted another fissure some twenty feet to the left and saw there was a narrow ledge by which he might reach it.

"You chaps stay where you are," he ordered, and calmly untied himself.

The others watched him breathlessly as, with a length of rope coiled over his shoulder, he worked his way across.

Derek worked up until he was almost directly above the others, then dropped his rope and Tod scrambled up it. Together the two managed to pull the others up. The next bit was not so bad and at last they gained a little ledge. Looking up, they could see the rim of the cliff tantalisingly near, yet separated from them by about twelve feet of cliff which was not merely perpendicular but actually overhung. The only way up was by a chimney, that is, a narrow crack which ran perfectly straight up and down.

For the first time since beginning their climb Kespi faltered.

"We go back. Perhaps we find better way," he suggested.

Tod looked down.

"Too late for that, Chief. Dolaro's too close. He'll be near enough to start shooting in another five minutes. Derek, you've done all the work, I guess I'm fresher than you. Let me have a shy at it."

He took off his pack, and bracing his arms and legs against the sides of the fissure began to worm his way upward. No one less strong than Tod could have done it at all, and even so the risk was so terrible that Derek turned his face away.

There came a crash. A stone the size of a pumpkin, dislodged by Tod, struck the ledge, bounced far out into the air and smashed upon the smooth rock beneath with a force that shattered it to fragments. Derek shivered, but Tod was safe, and a minute later had scrambled over the rim.

He dropped his rope and with its help the other three were soon in safety. It was time, too, for Manacan, who came last, had hardly been hauled over the edge before a rifle cracked below and a bullet sang viciously but harmlessly past them. Tod pushed a loose rock over the cliff and laughed to see Dolaro's men scatter and run as it burst like a shell in the bowl below.

"Why don't you come on up?" he shouted to them, but it was quite clear that the bandits had no mind for work of that sort. Obeying Dolaro's harsh orders, they turned and went back.

A bitter wind blew across this lofty ridge, and as soon as they had got back their breath Derek and Tod rose and began to look about them. They found themselves on the level top of a broad wall of rock, a sort of palisade no more than fifty paces wide. They were dismayed to find that the drop on the far side was actually higher and more sheer than the one they had already climbed. There was no getting down it, and so they reported to Kespi. After talking it over with the old man they decided to follow the crest south and trust to finding a place where they could get down.

They started, and it was a comfort to have level ground beneath them. But the wind grew stronger and tore at them so that it was hard to keep their feet. To make matters worse, it began to rain. Fine half-frozen stuff, bitterly cold and so thick that they could not see more than fifty yards ahead. They went about a mile, then Tod spoke:

"This ledge is getting mighty narrow."

He was right, and the farther they went the narrower it became until it was only the width of a footpath. On either side dropped great gulfs of emptiness hidden by clouds of sleet, while the cross wind tore at them with a fury that threatened to wrench them from their foothold and hurl them out into the depths.

There was worse to come. From a yard the causeway narrowed to two feet, and finally turned to a mere knife-like ridge across which it was impossible to walk. The only way to cross it was to sit with a leg on either side and hotch slowly onward.



THE wind was so bad that they decided to rope themselves together, then, with Derek leading, started off across the knife- edge.

Derek did not like it at all. It was not merely the great gusts of wind, which threatened every moment to tear them from their hold and send them whirling into the depths; it was not the sleet which stung their faces and filled their eyes; what frightened him more than anything was the thought that they might find that this knife-edge broke off altogether.

Every now and then he had to stop and cling as a furious gust swept down upon him. His fingers were numb with cold, and the icy wind drove through his soaked clothes and chilled him to the bone. The rock was slippery with the freezing rain, which made it all the harder to keep his balance. He wondered how Kespi was making it, and once or twice glanced round to see. But the wonderful old man was carrying on in his usual quiet way.

Derek was first, then came Tod, Kespi was third, and Manacan last. They were roped about twelve feet apart. A savage gust shrieked out of the void, forcing Derek to stop and cling with knees and hands. Suddenly he heard Tod call out.

"Say, am I crazy or is this mountain moving? Feels to me that she's rocking in the wind."

The words were hardly out of his mouth before there came an ominous cracking, and Derek felt the rock quiver beneath him. Looking back he saw the section on which Tod was sitting beginning to settle.

The rock was sandstone, which is always brittle, and this ridge, exposed through the centuries to fierce sun, biting frost, and furious storm, was seamed with a million cracks. It was in no condition to stand the extra strain of even the weight of a few men. Derek could do nothing except grip with all his might, and his soul went sick within him as he saw a huge V-shaped section of the knife-blade slide slowly from its place.

But Tod had felt it going, and with wonderful quickness, flung himself forward. As the great mass slid downward with a dull roar into the unseen depths he just managed to gain the firmer rock close behind Derek, and cling there breathless, for the moment unable even to speak. But he soon recovered.

"Kind of a hairbreadth escape," he said presently to Derek, and if his voice was a bit shaky he managed a grin.

"I—I thought you were gone," gasped Derek.

"Guess you'd have held me all right," replied Tod. "Cheer up, old son. We have to get Kespi and Manacan across."

Derek drew a long breath and tried to steady his jumping nerves.

"Praise be, there's the rope," he said. "Kespi," he shouted, "How's the rock your side?"

"It strong," piped the old Indian. "You no trouble. Manacan and I, we cross."

"Wait till we anchor it," Tod called. "Say, but the old lad's got the heart of a lion," he added to Derek, who nodded and began to untie the rope from round his body. Tod did the same, then Derek fastened the rope round a projecting knob and tied it with a jam knot.

"Think she'll hold?" whispered Tod.

"Rope's all right," Derek answered. "I think the rock is too."

"I'm turning round," said Tod. "Got to be ready to give the old lad a hand if he needs it."

It may not sound much, but think of reversing your position when sitting on a knife-edge of rock with your two feet dangling over empty space and a thundering gale trying to pluck you from your hold. Derek held his breath while Tod did it, but he did it safely.

"All set, Kespi," cried Tod. "Come right along."

Kespi came. With his thin old body dangling by his skinny arms, he made his way hand over hand along the wet, slippery, sagging rope. The wind tore at him so that he swung like a pendulum, but he kept perfectly cool, and at last Tod was able to grasp him and drag him on to the ridge.

Then came Manacan, but in spite of his crooked back the Indian was very strong and swung quickly across.

"Guess we'll have to cut the rope," Tod said, and Manacan, stretching out as far as he dared, cut it. Luckily there was plenty of it and they were able to tie themselves again. But before starting afresh Tod had to turn back to his old position.

Their perils were not yet over for they had still to face a long crawl across the narrow, wind-swept ridge. Compared, however, with what they had already been through this was child's play. A hundred yards farther on the knife-blade began to widen again, and they were able to get to their feet once more. Yet they were still on this terribly exposed ridge, there was not more than two hours of daylight left, and the storm raged with unabated fury.

Kespi looked at the sky. "I think him rain stop soon," he remarked.

"Can't be too soon for me," said Tod.

"I'm wet to my bones."

Kespi was right, for within a quarter of an hour the storm cleared as swiftly as it had come and the Sun showed among scurrying clouds.

"Now, maybe, we'll find some way down," said Tod. "Yes, sure, there is a way down," he added, as he pointed to the left where the sheer precipice gave place to a sort of giant's staircase dropping for many hundreds of feet to a broad valley.

Derek caught Tod's arm.

"Smoke!" he exclaimed, pointing to a curl of grey vapour which rose in the distance. "Must be a village."

Kespi screwed up his eyes and stared hard at the distant smoke.

"Him village," he agreed. "We go."

None of them ever forgot that journey. Tired already with their fearful scramble, stiff with cold, soaked to the skin, the climb down that rock staircase seemed endless, and even when at last they reached the bottom they had a long three miles to tramp before they gained the Village.

These Andean Villages are always poor places, but this one was worse than any the boys had seen. In the cold twilight it had a most desolate and forlorn appearance. It lay in a hollow, protected from the wind on the eastern side by the ruins of an old Inca temple. The houses looked to be almost as old as the temple.

"Whole place looks as if it were dying of old age," observed Tod.

"There's fire and shelter from this wind," said Derek. "So long as I can once get warm and dry again I can put up with pretty near anything else."

But Tod still hesitated.

"Those fellows have seen us, but not one of them is paying any attention. Odd, isn't it, Kespi?"

Kespi nodded. "I think something wrong, but we soon see."

They were not long in finding out what was wrong. As they came into the one street of the village a man met them.

Not an Indian. His skin was almost white, but it was his size that was the most striking point about him. He stood well over six feet, and weighed as much as two ordinary men.

His great head was crowned with an immense black felt hat of the sort cowboys call the two-gallon hat. It had a curly brim and was decorated with a silver band. Under it showed a huge, hooked nose and a wide, thin-lipped mouth. He wore black, bell-mouthed trousers, a fine white shirt, and a short, red jacket. Altogether such an astonishing figure to find in this forsaken village that the boys could only stare in silent amazement.



THE giant glared back. "Who are you, and what are you doing here?" he demanded in thunderous Spanish.

"Travellers caught in the storm," Derek answered in the same language. "We seek shelter for the night."

"Where do you come from?" questioned the big man harshly.

"From over the mountains," replied Derek. The man's manner annoyed him intensely, but he did his best to be polite.

"A lie!" retorted the giant. "There is no pass!"

Tod had been growing restless. Now he got really cross. "What do you know about it?" he snapped. "I'll lay you've never been there to see."

The huge man looked down on Tod and his lips curled.

"The cockerel crows loud," he said scornfully. Then he laughed. "It is shelter for the night you seek," he went on.

"It would be churlish to refuse it. Come with me."

Tod hesitated. There was a watchful look in his eye.

"I don't trust this big lout," he said to Derek in English.

Derek glanced at Kespi and Kespi made a little sign which showed he understood.

The giant led them up the ill-smelling street toward the great ruin which crowned the slope. It was curious how empty the place seemed and yet they had seen Indians in the street when they first arrived.

"A big man needs a big house," he said, but Derek caught a sneering tone in his voice and was more watchful than ever. Wide stone steps led to a platform on which the building stood. The walls were made of monstrous stones fitted so closely you could hardly see the seams. An arched entrance was closed by a door which, though old and massive, was not so old as the building itself. It was secured by a heavy bar.

The giant lifted the bar as if it had been a feather. He was enormously strong, yet Derek, who had been watching him, realised that he was fat and out of condition. Inside the place was very dim, but there was light enough for Derek and Tod to see a slope leading down into a great empty room.

"Enter," said the big man, but he stood aside for them to pass; and that confirmed the suspicions of the boys that he meant to trap them. One quick sign passed between Tod and Derek, then like a flash both flung themselves together at the giant. They drove at him like two young rams. It was the very last thing that he had been expecting and, caught unawares, he staggered backwards and sat down on the solid stone with a force that knocked every bit of breath out of his huge body.

Quick as thought the boys sprang back, banged the door shut, and dropped the bar into its slot. A queer, high cackle sounded. For the second time since they had met him the boys heard Kespi laugh.

"But what price his getting out?" asked Tod, in rather a scared tone as the great door shook under a fierce assault and a bellow that would not have disgraced the largest sized bull came from the inner side. Kespi pursed his lips thoughtfully.

"I no think he quite big enough to break that door."

"Gee, but he's trying hard enough," said Tod. "Sounds like a mad elephant at work."

Truly the row was appalling—bellows of fury, threats, and thundering blows. The noise echoed all down the street, and Indians came pouring out. Derek was the first to see the crowd.

"Here's trouble!" he exclaimed. "They're coming to rescue their Chief."

"Coming to rescue nothing!" retorted Tod. "Look at their faces. They're as pleased as a cat with a jugful of cream."

Tod was right. The Indians, a poor, half-starved-looking crowd, had a look of incredulous joy on their thin faces. One, who seemed to be a chief, came up to Kespi and saluted him respectfully, and he and Kespi talked in their own language.

Kespi turned to the boys.

"He say this man name Sporana. He come year ago. Say he collect taxes for Government. But he no go away. He stay here and take all they have. He beat them if they no give him food and money. They all hungry and tired, and Chief say he most glad you put Sporana in prison."

Tod laughed.

"Tell him we don't want any money, but we'll be glad of some grub and a fire."

Kespi nodded. "He say all they have is ours. He take us to Sporana's house."

Derek looked again at the door of the temple. Sporana was still pounding and roaring.

"Ask this chap if he's safe in there, Kespi," he said.

Kespi did so and the other assured him that even the giant could not break down the door, so, feeling relieved, Derek and Tod followed the Chief down the street. He took them to the largest house in the place. Outside it did not look much, but the inside was full of surprises. There was actually a carpet on the floor and a table and chairs, which must have been brought up from the low country. Best of all, there was a stone fireplace with a good fire in it.

Esquina, the Chief, told them that food would be brought, and they hurried to get off their wet things and rub themselves dry. Then they sat wrapped in blankets and ate an excellent supper while their clothes steamed in front of the fire. Tod finished his coffee and looked up.

"I wonder how our fat friend is getting on, Kespi," he chuckled.

Before Kespi could reply the door burst open and Esquina rushed in.

"Sporana, him got out," he said, "He find another way."



THE speed at which the boys got back into their clothes was wonderful. While they dressed, Kespi, cool as usual, was looking round the house for firearms. He found a gun and a pistol, and, slipping out, hid them in a heap of rubbish behind the house. Manacan meantime had barred the door.

"But it will not hold against that monster," he said nervously.

Kespi came back. "He come," he said. "He very angry. I think he kill us."

Derek whispered something quickly to Tod, then turned to Kespi. "Better clear, hadn't we? There's no moon, and I don't think he'll find us very easily."

Kespi agreed, and they all went softly out the back way. It was a fine starlight night and freezing hard.

They were hardly clear before there came a bellow and a crash from the front of the house. Sporana had arrived.

Kespi missed Derek.

"Where he go?" he demanded, catching Tod by the arm. For once he was anxious, even upset.

"Don't worry," Tod told him. "Derek's got a scheme up his sleeve." Before Tod could explain Sporana gave a yell of fury which echoed all across the valley. Heavy feet thudded, and by the pale starlight they saw the giant running furiously down the village street. In front of him flitted a slim shadow. Kespi drew a quick breath.

"Derek, he mad. That man kill him." Tod had never seen the old Chief so troubled, and he hastened to reassure him.

"It's all right, Kespi. Derek's rested and fed. Sporana couldn't catch him in a month of Sundays. Just watch."

Even in the dim light it was plain that Derek was not exciting himself. Derek, tough as wire, could run a hundred yards in eleven seconds; but Sporana, fat and out of condition, was already puffing. Yet he was in such a furious rage that he would not stop.

Derek kept just out of his reach.

"Derek him clever," said Kespi with approval, then he grew anxious again. "But the water, that stop him," he exclaimed. Just in front of Derek the stars were reflected in the little lake which lay below the village and supplied the people with water. A rim of ice was forming around the edge, but this was far too thin to carry anything heavier than a cat.

Yet Derek was running straight for it, with Sporana thundering at his heels. Even Tod got scared, for it looked to him as if Derek had cut it too fine, and that the big man would catch him.

At the very last moment Derek ducked and doubled like a hare. With his huge arms outstretched Sporana shot past him. There was a crunching sound, Sporana's great feet had broken through the frozen mud at the edge of the lake. Tod gave a shout of joy.

"He's bogged. What did I tell you, Kespi? Derek's tricked him properly."

Sporana's towering height seemed to have been reduced by half. He was in the mud up to his waist, he floundered like some monster of the deep, and his roars of fury echoed back from the grim walls of the great ruin opposite.

Tod ran up.

"Say, that's fine, Derek." He turned to Manacan. "Fetch the rope," he told him, and the hunchback hurried back.

Tod took it, made a loop at the end, and threw it. The loop dropped over Sporana's body and the boys drew it tight. The mud was deep, Sporana was enormously heavy, and it took the combined efforts of all four to drag him out.

"Be careful," said Derek. "He's dangerous."

Tod laughed. "He's scared stiff and so blown he can hardly breathe." He was right. The giant was helpless and they tied him without trouble.

By this time the Indians, who had all run for shelter when Sporana escaped, had gained courage to come out into the open. It was pitiful to see how thin and worn they were, and many showed scars from the great bully's whip.

"Almost a pity we didn't leave him in the mud," growled Tod. "What shall we do with him, Kespi?"

Kespi spoke to Esquina, then turned back to the boys. "He say put him back in Inca house."

"But he'll get out again," objected Derek.

"He no get out this time. Esquina's men, they fix other door."

Sporana sullenly refused to walk, so the Indians, fetched a sort of sledge on to which the giant was rolled. Then about a score of the Indians pulled him with ropes back to his prison. When at last all was safe they went back to Sporana's house and turned in.

They were all a bit stiff and sore next morning, but a cold sluice and a rub down put the boys all right. Esquina arrived early and told Kespi that he and his people were intensely grateful for their rescue from Sporana. They offered food and donkeys, and the only thing they could not or would not provide was a guide.

Kespi explained where they wanted to go and Esquina drew a rough map with a stick in the dust, showing a trail which, he said, led over the last range of mountains on the Eastern edge of the Alto. But when asked what was beyond that he shook his head. He did not know. Neither he nor any of his people had ever been off the Alto, and they had a curious horror of the low, hot forest country beyond. "A land of fever and snakes," said the Chief, "and of strange tribes who kill strangers."

It was nearly midday before the party was ready to start. Two good donkeys were ready loaded with food. Esquina wished to make them a present of these donkeys, but Derek and Tod insisted on paying for them. They had some money besides the emeralds.

Before leaving they made Esquina promise that he would feed Sporana, and they for their part promised that when they reached home they would inform the Government officials, who would send for the man and give him a proper trial.

The whole village gathered to see them off, and the boys had a pleasant feeling that they carried with them the goodwill of all these simple people.



"BIT different from yesterday, isn't it?" said Derek to Tod as they tramped across a sandy plain under a warm sun.

Tod agreed, then he added: "We've been real lucky, Derek. It was touch and go yesterday."

The weather remained fine all day, they had no trouble of any kind, and by nightfall were close beneath the last range of mountains.

They camped by a stream of clear, cold water, and lit a fire on which they cooked a brace of wild duck which Derek had shot during the midday halt. Kespi was fussy about the fire, and insisted on their keeping it very small.

"You're not thinking Dolaro's anywhere near?" Tod suggested.

"I not know. Dolaro he pretty clever," said the cacique gravely. "And he not forget green stones."

Clever or not, Dolaro did not show up and the night was peaceful. Next morning they were off early, and within an hour were climbing the foothills of the last range. A tangle of mountains was in front rising to snow-clad peaks, and Tod wondered unhappily how high they were and whether he would get that horrible mountain sickness again. Anyhow, as he said to Derek, it looked to be a pretty tough climb.

Then a wonderful bit of luck came their way. They had struggled across a huge landslide when, on its far side, they came upon an old Inca road. Not a mere path, but a road cut through living rock. A road with gullies for flood water at each side and wonderfully engineered. They could see it winding in great curves up into the heights above.

It was in wonderful condition. Here and there a boulder fallen from above had come to rest on it and occasionally they came upon cracks made by earthquakes, yet most of it was so good that you could have driven a motor-car up it.

"And to think these Inca chaps made it without dynamite!" exclaimed Tod.

Once on this ancient highway they travelled fast. Higher and higher it led them, winding along the sides of precipices, at times crossing gorges on arches built of massive blocks until at last they reached a deep defile with steep rock walls on either side. Then suddenly they found themselves at the mouth of a black tunnel leading into the heart of the hills.

On either side of the tunnel mouth was a watch house hollowed out in the rock, and over the door of each was carved the sun with rays, emblem of the great Inca emperors. In one of the watch houses was the skeleton of a man lying fiat on the rock floor. His bronze spear lay beside him.

"He died at his post," said Derek gravely, and, leaving the bones untouched, they passed into the darkness of the tunnel. It was lucky they had their flash lamps with a good store of batteries, for the tunnel was long and very dark. Yet the roadway was perfect as on the day it was finished, many centuries ago. At last they stepped out again into daylight, to find they had passed under the crest of the ridge.

The change in the scenery was startling for here snow covered the ground. They were on a great tableland some miles across and almost level. In the distance they could see that it began to slope downward.

Quite suddenly Tod went shaky again, but Kespi made him rest a while, then they put him on one of the donkeys and went on. Within an hour they would be going downhill again and he would be all right.

Luckily the weather was calm and fine, and though the snow was crisp under foot the sun had some warmth. The glare of the sunlight reflected from the snow hurt their eyes, and by Kespi's advice they burned some sticks and rubbed charcoal round their eyes.

The curious thing was that the whole top of this last range was almost flat. Not as flat as it looked, for the snow was deceptive, yet away to the South this gigantic crest ran in gentle waves as far as eye could see. It seemed to be three to four miles wide. Presently Kespi stopped.

"You see," he said quickly, and pointed up into the sky. A bird was hovering overhead. It was white as the snow itself, but of an amazing size.

"It looks like a condor," said Derek, "but who ever dreamed of a condor that size?"

"Him condor," Kespi answered. "Him Condor Real. You look hard for you never see him again."

Derek did look hard, and so did Tod, for both knew that this was a sight few white men had ever seen. So rare indeed is the King Condor that many naturalists vow it does not exist.

"Say, it must be twenty feet across the wings," said Tod in an awed voice.

"All of that," agreed Derek. "Humboldt says that the Condor Real is twenty to twenty-five feet from tip to tip. He says that in the whole range of the Andes he doesn't think 25 exist."

Light, as a feather in spite of its vast size, the King Condor floated past, and then they saw its escort, a dozen ordinary condors black plumaged and less than half its size.

"Hasn't anybody ever shot one, Kespi?" asked Tod.

"Yes," replied Kespi. "Bolivian man, he shoot one, but he not live to tell story. Other condors hunt him and he hide under big rock, but they stay round him till he shoot away all his shots. Then night come and he freeze to death."

Tod shivered slightly. "I guess that's one bird I don't go hunting," he remarked. They watched the splendid creature until it faded from sight in the blue, and were just starting off again when Tod made a queer gulping sound.

"Feeling bad, old chap?" asked Derek quickly.

"It's my eyes this time," said Tod. "I'm seeing things."

"What are you seeing?"

"Men walking upside down in the sky."

"Sounds horrid," said Derek. "But I wouldn't worry too much. It's just this beastly mountain sickness. Where do you think you saw the things?"

"I can still see them—away over there to the South." He pointed as he spoke. Derek looked in that direction, and Tod saw a look of amazement pass across his friend's face.

"I've got it too, Tod. I mean I can see 'em too."

"What do you see?" demanded Tod eagerly.

"Eight—nine men and four donkeys, and, as you say, they are upside down in the sky."

Kespi was a little ahead. Derek hurried after him and caught him by the arm. "Do you see them?" he asked eagerly, "those men in the sky," he added, pointing.

Kespi stopped and gazed in the direction indicated by Derek.

"I see," he said simply.

"You do! I say, I'm glad of that. Tod and I thought our eyes were playing us tricks. But what is it?"

"Him sky picture—what you call him, mirror?"

"Mirage," cried Derek, "I've got it now. Tod, it's a mirage."

"Then I guess it's a reflection of some real people."

"Tod right," said Kespi. "It Dolaro and his men."



DOLARO it was. Though the figures were inverted—upside down—and oddly vague yet, as they watched, the boys were able to recognise the bandits.

"Then they're pretty close," said Tod.

Kespi shook his head. "They long way off," he said with decision. "It not first time I see mirage. I think they half-day march away."

"I'll lay they don't know where we are now," said Tod with a satisfied air. "If we push on hard we'll get a real start, and probably never see that crowd again."

"You right," agreed Kespi, and they started on again.

Tod was still suffering a good deal, but now that they were within sight of the end of the Alto he was quite cheerful. Suddenly they came to the edge of the tableland, and all four stopped short and stood silent, almost breathless.

Beneath them the great range of the Andes broke off in a series of amazing cliffs. Far below were the summits of hills, which would have been great mountains anywhere else, and beyond these ranges the vast forests of Bolivia lay like a monstrous map.

Green Hell is the way in which the traveller Duguid has described this forest, and the boys knew how well it deserves the name, yet from this vast height it looked beautiful beyond words, a great carpet of exquisite greenery, cut here and there by blue lines which were actually great rivers.

"I reckon we could see all the way home if we only knew where to look," said Tod.

Derek laughed.

"It's a pretty long way off," he answered, "Still, it's a comfort to think that the rest of the way is downhill."

"If you were me you'd think it more than a comfort," returned Tod. "I shall be glad to get down where I can breathe with comfort and get rid of this headache."

"You'll do that before night," Derek assured him.

He was right, for the slope was so steep that within an hour they were two thousand feet below the summit and Tod was quite himself again.

The wonderful old road carried on in sweeping curves. It was a miracle of engineering. They were all getting tired, but they decided to carry on so long as it was light, for they wanted to get as big a start as possible over Dolaro and his gang. They passed two possible camping places, then, just as the Sun was setting, came to a dead stop. A huge landslide had crashed down from the cliffs to the right and the road was buried deep beneath millions of tons of broken rock.

"No crossing that in this light," said Derek.

"It's all right for a camp," declared Tod. "There's a spring."

A spring there was of delicious clear, cold water, there were bushes for firing and there was good shelter from the chill wind which blew down from the heights. It didn't take them long to settle down.

Tod was particularly happy.

"I'm surely glad to be off that snow," he said, as he stirred the coffee to make the grounds settle. "Give me the good old sun."

"And the good old mosquitoes," jeered Derek. "There are plenty of 'em waiting down there."

Early next morning they started to cross the slide, and found it what Tod called "Very hard sledding." The boulders were big and there were nasty cracks and crevices between them. The road was gone, and it was some time before they found it again.

When they did strike it it led them south-east, whereas the direction they wanted to go in was north-east. It dipped down between two great hills, dropped into a canyon, and finally split in two, one fork going almost due south, the other in an easterly direction. Naturally they took the eastern fork.

They were now in much lower country though still many thousands of feet above the plains, and here the road was not nearly so good as it had been on the heights. Bushes had grown across it; often they had to stop to cut a way. This slowed them up; but there was worse than that.

"We're leaving a right plain trail for Dolaro, if he happens this way," Tod said.

"The odds are he'll never find this road at all," declared Derek. But he was not so sure as he pretended to be. The lower they got the worse the road was. Certainly no one had used it for generations past. Often it was blocked by landslides or great rock falls, which even the sure-footed donkeys found it difficult to scramble over. In one place where the ancient track led along the face of a precipice they came upon a gap and were forced to go back some way, cut down a couple of small trees and build a bridge before they could cross. After crossing they broke the bridge down, to delay Dolaro if he were following them.

In the afternoon they found themselves in a deep defile with broken cliffs on each side. They were going uphill again. Thick scrub grew on the upper terraces and increased to tangled jungle in the hollows below. It was much warmer here, and there were many birds which were curiously tame. It almost seemed as if they had never seen man. There were deer too.

All next morning they travelled on down the valley, which ran in great curves between high hills. The road was still there, though so overgrown that in many places it was quite hidden. The scrub grew thicker, and in some places was formed of a shrub with bright yellow flowers which filled the hot air with a delicious scent. Tiny sun-birds gorgeous as jewels hung over them, and there were myriads of butterflies.

"Reminds me of those fairyland stories I used to read when I was a kid," said Tod.

"And here's the fairy palace," said Derek quietly, as they rounded a curve and there opened before them a sight so astonishing that even Tod was struck silent.



HALF a mile ahead the valley opened into a great oval-shaped basin rimmed by mighty hills which at the far end ran up to the snow-line. These hillsides looked as if they had been cut into giant steps. They were in fact terraced, and each terrace was brilliantly green, forming a strange contrast to the red-brown cliffs that backed it. The bottom of the valley was heavily timbered.

But what Derek pointed to was much the strangest feature of this curiously lovely place. On a mound in the centre of the valley were buildings of brown stone thatched with palm leaves, which clustered round a central building much larger than the rest. Its roof was cone-shaped and it was surrounded by a broad verandah. The verandah was covered with a creeper, whose scarlet blooms shone like flame in the brilliant sunshine. But there was not a living being in sight; all was quiet and strangely silent.

Kespi spoke. "The Terraced Valley," he said in Spanish.

"But what is it? Who lives there?" demanded Tod.

"They very old people, but I not know where they come from," was Kespi's answer.

"Are they Incas?" questioned Derek.

Kespi shook his head. "That house not like Inca. You see that."

"True," said Derek. "But anyhow they look pretty civilised. See those terraces. They're all covered with crops of different kinds. These folk are jolly good farmers."

"And no duds as engineers," put in Tod. "Those terraces must have taken a bit of making." He paused and gazed a moment at the valley, then turned to Kespi.

"What do we do—visit them?"

"We no can go back," Kespi said. "If go back meet Dolaro. I think we go on."

The road took them straight up the gorge toward the valley, but when they got nearer they realised that entering the valley was not the simple matter they had at first supposed, for it had a natural barrier in the shape of an enormous cleft, which ran all across the floor of the gorge from one side to the other.

If was about forty feet wide, immensely deep, and looked as if it had been formed by an earthquake in long past years. Yet not so very long ago, for the Inca road continued on the far side and seemed to run right up to the town which was a mile or so away.

The gap was spanned by a bridge, but one the appearance of which did not appeal to Tod. It was a suspension bridge made of lianas (stalks of creeping plants) twisted into two great ropes, and floored with cross pieces. It was only about three feet wide, and in the centre it sagged a yard or more below the level of the rim of the gorge.

"I didn't bargain for any more of this tight-rope business," grumbled Tod. "And, anyhow, we can't take the mokes across."

"There's plenty of grazing this side," said Derek. "We can hobble them and leave them to feed."

"All right, and you can give us a lead over the bridge."

Manacan took the loads off the donkeys and hobbled them, then they shouldered their packs and went forward.

"There's some sort of a guard house the far side," said Derek.

"But no one there, or if there is he's asleep," returned Tod. "Now let's see you do the tight-rope act, Derek."

Derek stepped forward, but Tod caught him by the arm.

"Are you sure it will bear your weight?" he asked anxiously.

"It quite strong," said Kespi with a smile. "I go if you afraid."

"What Kespi says goes," laughed Derek and started across.

The frail bridge swung like so much elastic. Derek did not seem to mind, but Tod was nervous. Tod, who would face an angry bull, had no head for heights.

"Are you sure it's all right, Kespi? Snakes, look at that!" he broke off as a man suddenly darted out of the guard house.

He was a rather small man, but beautifully made, and his skin was the colour of new bronze. He wore a breech-clout of cotton cloth, a short cloak over his shoulders and a fillet of yellow metal confined his long black hair. He carried a useful-looking bow and a sheaf of arrows was at his back. He shouted at Derek and waved him back.

"It's all right, old son," said Derek cheerfully and pushed on.

Without a moment's hesitation the Indian fitted an arrow to his string. Tod gave a yell of dismay and snatched up the gun.

"You no shoot," cried Kespi sharply, and stepping forward called loudly to the Indian.

The Indian stood like a bronze statue. His bow was bent, the heavy metal-tipped arrow pointed straight at Derek's chest. Derek, realising his danger, was standing perfectly still. As for Tod, he had gone quite white beneath his tan.

The Indian evidently understood what Kespi said, yet his pose did not relax and every moment Tod expected to see his fingers release the arrow. Then Kespi raised both hands and made a quick sign. A look of surprise crossed the Indian's stolid face and Tod gave a gasp of relief as he saw him lower his bow. The Indian spoke and Kespi translated. "Derek, he come back," he said. "I go first."

So Derek came back and Kespi started across. He looked back.

"You no trouble if I long time. You wait," he said.

The boys saw him reach the other side in safety, then the bridge guard gave a peculiar cry, not loud but very far carrying. Afterwards he stood quiet, talking to Kespi.

In about five minutes half a dozen more of the bronze-coloured warriors arrived, led by one who wore a headdress of feathers. Kespi spoke to the leader, and presently walked away with them and disappeared among the trees.

"Funny sort of game," growled Tod.

"It's all right," Derek told him. "They're quite friendly. Anyhow, you can trust Kespi to take care of himself—and us."

"He's surely a wonderful old chap," agreed Tod. "Well, I guess we may as well rest until something happens."

Kespi said he might be a long time. It was an hour before anyone appeared except the guard who had remained at the bridge head. Then a dozen of the bronze soldiers turned up, with the feathered man in charge, but Kespi was not with them. They came straight across the bridge, surrounded the boys and Manacan, then the officer signed curtly that they were to come with him.

"I don't think I like this," said Tod.

Derek shrugged. "Got to chance our luck," he answered, as he started across the bridge.

Tod hated the crossing worse than his escort, but managed to do it successfully, and they were taken up a good road through the forest to the town.

Hundreds of Indians—men, women, and children—watched them in silence, as they were marched through the main street. The boys expected to be taken to the palace or temple but instead they were escorted to a stern, bare- looking building with a heavy door. This was opened and they were ordered into a bare and almost dark room. The door was closed and barred and they were left alone. Where Manacan was they did not know. He had been left outside. Derek looked at Tod.

"If this isn't a prison I never saw one," he said.



DEREK looked round at the bare stone walls and paved floor. What light there was came through high, narrow windows, but the sun was already behind the hills and the shadow of night was falling over the valley.

"It's a prison all right," he said, "but after all they haven't treated us badly."

"They're a grim-looking lot," said Tod.

"Don't worry. Kespi will get us out."

"Maybe, but I'd like to know what's come of him."

They sat on the floor with their backs to the wall, and slowly the dusk deepened to darkness. Outside all was very quiet.

"Did you notice the way those people, stared at you, Derek?" said Tod presently.

"I don't suppose any of them had ever seen a white man, so of course they stared. But it wasn't at me any more than you."

"You're a sight too modest, old son. It was you they were looking at, specially the women."

"It don't matter anyhow," said Derek. "What does matter is supper. I'm getting hungry."

"So am I," growled Tod. "Wonder if it would be any use to rattle the door."

"No need. There's someone there already. I hear the bar coming down."

The door opened and four of the bronze men appeared. One carried a torch which burned with a smokeless flame and a pleasant resinous odour, another brought a tray carved out of black wood, which he set down on the floor. On it were two covered metal dishes and a pile of fruit. The remaining two brought a couple of stools, also made of the same dark wood.

"Hurray!" cried Tod, so loudly that the men started and stared at him.

"All right, my lads," said Tod. "Don't be scared. I'm only shouting for joy at the sight of food."

"Anyhow, they don't mean to starve us," Derek said. He sat down on one of the stools and lifted the cover from a dish.

"Smells fine," said Tod, following his example.

The Indians placed the torch in a holder fixed against the wall, filed out as silently as they had come and, barring the door, left the prisoners to their supper.

The dishes held a stew made of meat with sweet corn, yams, and peppers. It tasted as good as it smelled, and using the wooden spoons provided the boys finished it all. The fruit was oranges, bananas, and small grapes which had a faint musky taste but were very sweet. There was not much left when Tod and Derek had ended their meal.

"I feel a heap better," declared Tod. "I could do with a sleep if there was anything to sleep on."

"They'll bring something," said Derek, and they did. The same men came back carrying a couple of thin mattresses and blankets made of cotton beautifully woven. What pleased the boys even better, they brought two large bowls of water and towels.

"Say, the only thing you've forgotten are the pyjamas!" said Tod with a laugh, but the men only looked at him. From first to last they had not said a word.

Morning brought breakfast but still no sign of Kespi. Presently the guard arrived again and signed to the boys that they were to accompany them. They were taken straight up to the big house. All the people were out in the street, and now Derek realised that Tod was right and that it was at himself they were staring.

The guard marched them briskly up the stone steps of the great house, through a heavy door studded with bronze nails into a very large room. The roof was supported by huge beams black with age, but the walls were of the red stone of the country. The floor was paved with great blocks of stone, and light came through narrow windows hung with bright coloured curtains.

These points the boys did not notice till afterwards, for their attention was fixed on the people who occupied a dais or platform on the far side of the room. Of these the most impressive was a very old man who sat in a sort of throne made of black wood overlaid with plates of silver. Old as he was, he was much taller than his Indian subjects and far fairer. In fact, he was almost white. He had a splendid head of snow-white hair, and wore a tunic of silvery-looking stuff and on his head a small circlet of silver which was set with large blue stones.

Beside him was a woman so like him she was either his daughter or more likely his granddaughter, and she too wore a silver robe. She was almost as fair as an English girl, and charmingly pretty. On either side of this royal couple stood an old Indian, apparently priests, who wore white robes. They were stern-faced old gentlemen with faces that looked as if they had been carved out of stone.

"Court's all set," Tod whispered to Derek. "I don't mind the old chief or the lady, but those priests give me a pain. They don't look as if they ever smiled in all their lives."

The room was so big and dim that it was only now that the boys spotted a group of people to the left.

"Why, it's Kespi!" exclaimed Tod, "and Manacan. Say, Kespi, we reckoned you were lost," he called in a loud, cheerful voice.

The priests and the guard stared at him in a sort of shocked silence.

"Made me feel as if I'd laughed in church," said Tod afterwards.

The king too looked surprised, but the princess smiled and spoke in her own language to Tod.

Tod stepped forward, taking off his hat as he did so, and Derek followed his example. Again Derek had the feeling that everyone was staring at him. He got red and stiffened.

"Stand still," came Kespi's voice. "You no laugh or talk."

The princess was pointing at Derek and speaking eagerly to the old king. Derek heard the word Ativa more than once. Then the king gave an order and one of the guards pulled aside the curtain from a window on the East so that a shaft of sunlight fell upon Derek, making his fair hair shine like gold.

"Ativa!" cried the princess again, and the old king echoed the word. The guard, too, whispered it, only the two priests remained silent.

"What do they mean?" grumbled Derek under his breath. He just hated having them all stare at him like this.

The king beckoned him forward, and as Derek stood in front of him he and his granddaughter spoke rapidly together.

Derek was getting distinctly annoyed with the whole business. He was no longer blushing but he had drawn himself up to his full height. With his lithe, straight body, his clean-cut face, blue eyes, and very fair hair, he was a fine specimen of an English boy, and all the finer because he had not the least idea of his own good looks.

Suddenly the princess rose to her feet, and so did the king. She beckoned to Derek and Tod to follow, and with the two priests in attendance they all went through a door behind the dais leading into an inner room.

It was smaller than the other and lit only by narrow slits in the thick stone walls. The light such as it was was all centred on a kind of altar against the far wall and on a head carved in stone, which stood in a niche of the wall above the altar. The princess pointed first at the carven head then at Derek, and Derek drew his breath with a hiss. But it was Tod who spoke.

"If that don't beat all!" he exclaimed. "It's Derek's very own face."



THERE was no getting away from it. Feature for feature, Derek's face and the stone face were the same, except that Derek's was somewhat younger.

"What does it mean?" Derek asked in a bewildered voice.

The princess spoke, but Derek, of course, could not understand. Kespi stepped forward, and spoke to the princess and she smiled and gave a sign of assent. Kespi explained.

"Face is Ativa, great prince here long time ago. They think Derek Ativa come again. They very pleased. Old race die out. Only two left, King Koh and Princess Mesrue. Terrace people, they no have queen, only king, so I think they make Derek king."

Such a look of dismay crossed Derek's face that Tod chuckled. The two priests looked scandalised and Kespi spoke quickly.

"You no laugh, Tod. Derek, you look pleased. This save all our lives, for they not like strangers in this place."

Derek found himself quite unable to smile, but he drew himself up and tried to look dignified. The whole business was so astonishing that he felt muddled and confused. The king and the princess looked delighted, but Derek saw very plainly that the two grim-faced priests were not so pleased. However, the whole thing was out of his hands and he felt that he must just carry on and see what happened. Already King Koh was giving orders to one of the officers. Kespi translated.

"He say tell all people Ativa come back. He say word to be sent to all the terraces." The old cacique smiled. "You—what you say? Play up, Derek. It only thing to do."

"I'll try," Derek promised quickly, "but I don't know anything about this king business."

"You're not king yet, old son," grinned Tod, "only Prince Royal."

From outside came the note of a horn which was taken up by other horns at a distance. The notes were sweet and clear and rang and echoed against the heights surrounding the valley. They were blown in several notes, evidently a code of some sort, and the sounds were repeated again and again until they rang from the highest terraces half a mile or more in vertical height above the floor of the valley.

King Koh had been speaking to his chief priest, whoso name the boys found later was Yarm, and Yarm himself went out and came back with two younger priests, who carried a silver tunic and other garments.

"Royal apparel for your Highness," chuckled the irrepressible Tod; and he was perfectly right for Derek was marched off into a side room and there attired in a silver tunic, sandals with silver lacings, while a small silver fillet was placed on his head. He was horribly embarrassed, yet felt it was up to him to follow Kespi's advice and play up, so he came in again with a straight back and stepping out in fine form.

For once Tod did not laugh.

"Say, Kespi," he whispered. "He looks the part to the life. I never knew Derek was such a good looker."

King Koh seemed to share Tod's opinion, for a slight smile crossed his grave face. As for the princess, she was clearly delighted for she clapped her small hands, then went up to Derek, and to his intense confusion kissed him on each cheek. But he kept his wits and lifting her hand touched it with his lips. This pleased her greatly, and she gave him a charming smile.

From outside came a murmur of voices, and the king beckoned Derek forward. Walking between him and the princess, these three led the procession on to the broad verandah or porch in front of the palace to the head of the broad steps leading down into the square.

In the square was gathered a crowd of the bronze folk, which must have numbered at least a couple of thousand, and more were coming every minute. For a moment they gazed at Derek, and Derek felt a queer thrill at being the centre of all these eager eyes. Then came a sudden crashing shout.

"Ativa! Ativa!" The king stepped forward, and there was silence while he made a short speech which, of course, Derek could not understand. But the people understood and approved, for at the end they all shouted again.

They had deep, musical voices, and their cheers, which sounded like "Hee-uh, Hee-uh!" must have been heard on the topmost terraces. The only persons who did not seem pleased were Yarm and the other elderly priest.

"The next item on the programme," said Tod, "will be the coronation feast."

He was right again for the cooks had been busy, and after a short pause a move was made into another room where a long table was laid. The king sat at the head, with Derek on his right and the princess on his left. Yarm and the other priest were opposite, and there were about a score of the bronze men present, all of them chiefs.

The food was simple but good. Derek found that these people ate little meat but had a wonderful variety of fruits and vegetables.

Tod enjoyed the good things, especially a delicious drink which was made of the juice of pineapple mixed with that of grape fruit and orange, and cooled by snow from the heights; but Derek was very bored. At last it was all over. Then Derek, Tod, and Kespi were led to a room made ready for them to enjoy the siesta which was a habit with all these people.

Derek flung off his silver crown and tunic.

"See here, Kespi," he began angrily, "I can't stick much more of this sort of thing. What are we going to do about it? Can't we make a bolt?"

Kespi shook his head.

"No can go," he answered briefly.

"Why not? We could slip away by night, collar the sentinel at the bridge head and tie him up. By morning we'd be miles away."

Again the old chief shook his head.

"These people not fools, Derek," he answered gravely. "They make sure we no go. I hear Koh say put ten men on the bridge."



THERE was silence for a little in the big, dim room, then Tod laughed.

"You'll make a right fine king, Derek," he remarked, and ducked just in time to avoid the boot which Derek flung at him.

Presently Derek spoke again.

"Tod, we have only three months before we must pay Carbajal or lose the valley. If we're hung up here the valley goes, and that'll just about break Dad's heart and finish your people. Guards or not, we must get out."

"I'm with you all the way," Tod answered, and he was serious enough now. "But it's no use rushing the job. We've got to work out some scheme." He turned to Kespi. "What do you say, chief?"

"I say, like you, go slow. No hurry for two—three day. We make them think we pleased, then maybe they not be so careful."

"That's the ticket," agreed Derek. "I'll stick it so long as they don't make me wear that fool crown."

"Old Yarm's our bright hope," said Tod shrewdly. "I don't believe that old gent has any special use for us, and I've a sort of notion he'd like to see the last of us."

"I think you right," Kespi said. "Yarm no like us at all, and I think he say us goodbye very quick if he have chance. Now I like think a little."

Kespi may have thought, but the boys slept. They had been travelling hard for many days and found it pleasant to slack a while. When they woke the sun was low, and a messenger from Koh was waiting with a request that they would come to him.

Koh was very cordial and said nice things which Kespi translated. He offered them cool drinks, which were very welcome, and suggested that Derek might like to see his future domain.

Derek agreed quite eagerly. It was just the chance he had been looking for, and presently they started out. Koh and Mesrue were carried in litters.

It was quite a procession that started up the valley along a made road which ran through its centre. At the head of the valley a great flight of broad, shallow steps led up to the first terrace.

They went up and found that the terrace was about 150 yards wide and wonderfully cultivated. He saw yams and peppers, tomatoes and peanuts growing, all watered by little channels from streams that poured down from the snows thousands of feet above. Terrace after terrace they climbed till they were high above the valley floor and could see the whole sweep of the mountains surrounding it. Then Tod nudged Derek.

"I've spotted what looks like another way out," he said softly. "Don't look round in a hurry, but it's on the South side, a kind of cleft."

Derek waited a full minute before he turned. Then he saw it, a narrow cleft, but its floor was level with that of the valley, and it seemed to lead right out of the big basin. He was careful to make no remark and not to gaze at it too closely. Indeed, he did not say a word until he and Tod were back again in their quarters. Then they talked it over.

"It may be nothing but a blind canyon," said Derek. "It looks to me as if we had to find out something about it before we try it. And there's another thing. How are we going to get hold of our donkeys? They're still on the far side of the ravine."

"I guess we'll have to go without them," Tod answered. "We're not a long way from the low country where we can find a river and build a balsa. But there's one thing you're right about, we've got to find out where the gap leads. Nice fools we'd look if we had to come back and let on we'd been trying to clear out and found we'd missed the boat. The trouble is we can't talk their lingo, but maybe Kespi can manage."

"He's coming now," said Derek, as someone pushed open the door.

But to their surprise it was not Kespi. Yarm, the sour-faced old priest, came in. They got a second and greater surprise when Yarm addressed them in Spanish.

"Buenos noches, señores." (Good-evening, gentlemen.)

"You speak Spanish?" exclaimed Derek in that language.

"I do, but you are the only persons in this valley who are aware of that fact, just as I am the only one among my people who has ever been out of the valley."

Derek was almost too surprised to speak. Yarm went on.

"As a young man I was sent on a mission; by Halak, who was then chief priest. I visited La Paz and Cuzco. I have seen the great lake and stood upon the site of the Temple of the Sun. For three years I lived among white men and I learned to hate them."

"I guessed as much," said Derek.

Yarm nodded.

"You have brains," he said bluntly, "and it is possible that you might make a good successor to Koh. But you are restless, like all your people. You would not be content to stay here. You would bring in other whites and their foolish inventions. It is not my wish that you should stay."

"It is not mine," returned Derek, as bluntly as the priest himself. "It is no fault of mine that I happen to resemble this Prince Ativa."

"That is true," agreed Yarm. He stared at Derek and frowned. "Yet the likeness is strange and the people believe that you are Ativa come back to life. I dare not kill you, as I at first intended, and it will be a difficult task to get you out of the valley."

Derek gasped, then laughed.

"You are frank, at any rate, Señor Yarm."

"I would have killed you without remorse for the good of my people. Now, if it is possible, I will let you go alive. But first"—he paused and his face hardened—"first I will take an oath from you."



DEREK wondered what was coming. Yarm spoke slowly.

"You must swear by all you hold most sacred that you will not inform anyone, not even your own family, of the way to or from this valley, that you will never attempt to visit it again or to bring or send anyone here. This is the only condition on which I will help you to escape."

"I agree," said Derek promptly, "and my friends will make the same promise."

"You swear that by the Sun?"

"I am not a worshipper of the Sun. I swear it by the Great Spirit in whom we all believe," Derek answered.

Yarm's hard little eyes bored, into his very brain, and presently the old fellow nodded and seemed satisfied. He took the same oath from Tod, then spoke again.

"There is a second way out of the valley," he told them.

"The cleft on the South," Derek put in.

"That is it. It leads into a second valley called The Valley of Fire. The place is forbidden to the People of the Terraces. It is haunted by a strange beast, and there are serpents there. It is a place of danger, and it may be that you will not live to cross it. Yet if you can win through there is a way out. At the end stands the Leaning Stone. It rises high above the trees and can be seen from afar. Behind this is a cleft in the hills where the people of old made a path up the heights. By this you can pass over the mountain, and beyond is a road which leads to the River Ybera."

"That's fine," said Tod who, though he did not speak much Spanish, understood it well enough. "But, say, how are we going to get away without the folk seeing us? Ask him that, Derek."

Yarm answered that their best chance would be to start two hours before dawn. He himself would see that their packs were ready and food for the journey. The donkeys they would have to leave behind, but in any case the climb was too steep for these animals. He added that the sooner they started the better, and suggested they should go that same night. Then he went away, leaving the two boys in a state of great excitement.

Kespi, who had been at the palace, came in, and they told him what Yarm had said. He showed no surprise.

"It is the thing I think of, myself," he told them.

"What about the queer beast, chief?" Tod asked. "Do you reckon it's real, or did Yarm invent it?"

"It real," Kespi assured them. "Other priests, they tell of him. I think it bad thing of old time."

"You mean it's some sort of prehistoric monster?" Derek asked. But this was a little too much for Kespi. He shook his head.

"Maybe it very old," he admitted. "Men say it very great."

"Then I don't reckon our old scattergun is going to be much use," said Tod regretfully. "But I guess we can dodge it some way. Anyhow, I'm good and rested and quite ready for the road."

"You be more ready if you sleep," said Kespi, and though the boys vowed they were quite fresh he insisted on their turning in.

In spite of their excitement they slept soundly, till he roused them at three. Their packs were ready. Yarm had seen to that. There was as much food as they could carry, and a light- coloured Indian, a powerfully-built man who was one of the younger priests, was waiting to guide them to the valley entrance.

Clouds covered the sky and the night was very dark as the four started. Derek and Tod had done a lot of night marching up on the Alto, but this was a very different business, for now they were picking their way among trees. Fireflies shone in the gloom, wild things rustled overhead.

Erkon, their guide, moved like a shadow on his thin-soled sandals. Once something whizzed like an arrow past Derek's head. But it was only a bird, a sort of night-jar. During the whole of their walk they never saw a soul, and it was still an hour before dawn when they arrived at the ravine.

Ahead was a tunnel of impenetrable gloom. Not a breath of air moved; the silence was uncanny. Erkon said a few words in a whisper to Kespi, then turned and instantly vanished in the darkness. The others moved slowly forward up the bed of the ravine.

It was dry and sandy, quite good walking. No danger seemed to threaten, yet Derek felt oddly uneasy. So, it seemed, did Tod, for presently he spoke in a low voice.

"Say, Derek, I suppose Yarm wasn't kidding us?"

"I wish I knew," Derek answered. "I'm not what you might call happy."

"Nor me, but I don't know why."

"It's just the darkness and the heavy air. We shall be all right when we get out of this crack in the hills," said Derek, trying to speak cheerfully but not making much of a success of it. Then they went on in silence, groping their way in the pitchy gloom.

At last the blackness became a shade lighter, and they knew they had passed through the canyon into the second valley. The floor of it was quite flat, but almost at once they found themselves in heavy timber. There was very little undergrowth, but everywhere huge trunks shot up like shafts, and in the darkness they kept blundering into them until Kespi stopped them.

"We lose way," he said in his clipped English. "I think wait till light come."

The others agreed, and they grouped together beneath one of the forest giants.

"There's a mighty funny smell in this place," remarked Tod presently.

"I've noticed it," Derek answered. "Like very strong musk."

"Crocs, I was going to say," said Tod, "but it's the same thing."

"It might be the snakes Yarm spoke of," Derek suggested. "Boas and anacondas smell like that."

"Ugh!" grunted Tod. "I hate snakes."

It seemed a long time before the blackness changed to grey and the huge tree trunks began to take shape around them. As soon as they could see at all they pushed on.

The difference between this valley and the other was very great. The tremendous trees sprang from a rich volcanic soil which was covered with a thick layer of leaf mould over which their feet passed silently. The whole place was astonishingly, uncannily silent. It was impossible to see more than a few yards ahead, and they had to shape their course by means of the small compass which Derek carried.

Tod stopped suddenly and pointed. Wrapped around a limb of a spreading tree a little to the left was coil upon coil of what resembled a mottled brown cable. From the end there hung down about twelve feet of straight cable ending in a head. A pair of yellow, lidless eyes glared at them, a forked tongue licked pale lips.

"One thing Yarm was right about," Tod muttered as he gazed at the huge serpent. Instinctively they all turned off, leaving the great reptile unmolested.

The light increased as the sun rose, yet down here beneath the dense canopy of foliage the light could never penetrate. Yet the air became hot and sultry. By degrees the forest thinned, and presently they came out upon the rim of a lake.

Close to the shore grew giant water weeds, and a little farther out water lilies with leaves six feet across and blossoms of incredible size and red as blood. The water, when they felt it, was surprisingly warm.

"Must be fed by hot spring," was Derek's verdict.

"But, I say, what's done that?" exclaimed Tod, as he pointed to a channel through the weeds. "It looks as if a big boat had been drawn up through the stuff."

They went nearer and examined the ground at the point of landing.

"It not boat," said Kespi. "It beast Yarm tell of."



TOD and Derek stared at the wide channel through the weeds and at the marks on the muddy shore.

"What a beast!" said Tod at last. "It must be as big as a battleship. Derek, you read up these things, what is it?"

Derek shook his head. "Too much for me, Tod."

He was examining the marks, which were eight or ten inches deep in the mud. The foot that had made them must have been nearly a yard long. There were three toes in front and one behind. Manacan, who had been standing very silent behind the rest and with a very scared look on his brown face, now gave a gasping cry and pointed. Far out in the lake something showed a moment on the surface. It looked like a great ridge of spikes. The oily water rose in waves as it vanished again.

"This bad place," said the hunchback with a shudder. "We go."

"He's right," said Tod grimly. "The quicker we're out of it the better."

Kespi agreed, and they drew back into the shade of the forest, where they stopped long enough to eat breakfast, then shouldered their packs and went on again.

They kept at a respectful distance from the ominous-looking lake and travelled through the edge of the forest. The heat was intense and swarms of flies worried them, but apart from their vicious humming the same strange silence brooded over the whole valley.

Kespi spoke. "I see him Leaning Stone."

Sure enough his keen old eyes had been the first to discover the strange stone of which Yarm had spoken.

"Gee, but it's big!" exclaimed Tod.

So it was. Although they were too far away to estimate its size correctly it towered to twice the height of the tall trees surrounding it, and that in spite of the fact that it was tilted over at a steep angle.

"Worse than that Finger of God we climbed the first day we reached the Alto," Tod said. "Looks to me as if it's going to fall down."

"It's probably stood like that since the last big earthquake and will last till the next," Derek answered. "Let's get there as quick as we can. I'm as keen as Manacan to get out of this place. It gives me creeps."

"Carried unanimously," grinned Tod, whose spirits began to revive now that he could see the way out. All this time he had had an unpleasant suspicion that perhaps Yarm had been fooling them, sending them into some trap; but now that he had seen the big beast and the Leaning Stone he felt sure this was not the case.

In spite of the heat they quickened their pace, for behind the Leaning Stone they could see the cliffs which bounded the valley, and they were eager to climb them. But about a mile farther on they came to a slough. It was a broad belt of mire running from the lake westwards as far as they could see. The black, slimy ooze was evidently of immense depth, and was too wide to bridge by cutting down trees. There was nothing for it but to go round.

It was midday before they reached the cliff wall, and even there the water was so deep that they did not dare to wade. Tod suggested stripping and swimming, but Kespi, who had been leaning over the bank peering into the water, shook his head.

"Him piranha," he remarked; and sure enough the river was alive with these terrible little fish which will strip the flesh from a man's body in a matter of moments.

Tod looked and shivered.

"Nasty brutes!" he muttered. "I guess this means building a bridge."

"There's a tree here," Derek told him.

"But we've got to cut her down first," groaned Tod, "and she's a big one. Let's have something to eat before we start."

Kespi agreed, so they made a fire and some coffee and ate a good meal. Then Derek took the axe and set to work. The tree was big, the wood was hard, and it was a long, hot task. By the time they had got it down across the creek it was past three, and they still had the long march back.

"Hadn't we better cut her through?" Derek suggested. "I mean, in case Koh's people come after us."

"No," retorted Tod quickly. "If we waste any more time we'll have to spend the night in this haunted place, and I'm not having any. No need to worry about Koh's folk. Money wouldn't pay them to follow into this valley. Yarm told us that."

Derek shrugged.

"All right. Anyhow, once we're out of the valley we're safe enough."

In actual distance it was no more than five or six miles to the Leaning Stone, but the going was bad and it was fearfully hot. All were carrying heavy packs. Tired as they were the Stone amazed them.

"A sort of giant Cleopatra's Needle," said Derek, as he stared up at it. "I suppose it's natural."

"No men ever put that there unless they were giants," replied Tod. "But see the angle of it!"

The vast column, nearly two hundred feet high, was tilted at such an angle that it was quite possible to climb up its upper side. It leaned toward the cliff, and though its base was a couple of hundred feet from it the top was only about half the distance.

"It's got carvings on it," Derek exclaimed. "A bird, by the look of it."

Tod went nearer. "No bird, Derek," he answered. "It's some sort of fancy beast; what do you call it, heraldic."

The two stared at the carving, which was done in relief on the base of the column. Though worn by centuries of weather it was still fairly clear.

"It's a lizard," Derek said. "Look at its long neck and tail."

Tod turned and looked Derek in the eyes.

"I guess you've hit it, old lad. That's the thing we saw in the pond."

Derek whistled softly. "But this carving was done centuries ago."

Tod shrugged. "Then I reckon that beast is centuries old. Or maybe there's a family of them."

Derek shivered and turned sharply away. "Let's find that path and get out. This place is getting on my nerves."

Without another word they made off toward the cliff.

At first they saw no sign of the path of which Yarm had spoken, but it was hidden by a great buttress of rock, and when they rounded this they sighed with relief to see the cleft of which Yarm had told them. They started climbing at once.

It was desperately steep and the rock worn smooth by the storms of centuries, yet the way it zig-zagged up the cliff and the fact that steps had been cut here and there showed that it had been a regular road in old days. Presently it turned to the left and ran in a long slant up the face of the precipice. Derek, who was leading, rounded a curve and came to a sudden stop.

"What's up?" demanded Tod.

"Path's gone," was Derek's brief answer.



A BIG fall of rock from above had shorn the whole road away, leaving a gap full fifty feet wide. Tod looked up, he looked down, but there was no way round. The cliff fell sheer as the wall of a house, without foot or hand-hold, and the gap was, of course, far too wide to bridge, even if they had had the logs to do it.

Kespi came up and gravely regarded the great cut. The wrinkles deepened on his lined old face, but he wasted no words.

"We go back," was all he said.

"Go back!" repeated Derek in dismay.

"No other thing to do," said Kespi.

Derek frowned.

"We can't go back now. The sun will set in an hour, and it would be a crazy business to try to get through that wood in the dark. Seems to me the only tiling is to camp down below and wait till morning, when we can have another look for a way out."

Kespi agreed, and with heavy hearts they turned back and went down the steep path into the valley.

"Yarm called it the Valley of Fire," said Tod. "I guess we'll make it one tonight." Derek nodded.

"Yes; the bigger fire we have the better. We don't want a visit from the Monster."

They got busy with the axe and stacked up a great pile of firewood.

Night was falling as they finished, and the shadow of the lofty cliffs lay heavy in the deep valley. The last rays of the sun reddened the oily surface of the gloomy lake and the big lilies closed their blood-red blossoms. Here and there the surface broke in heavy rings, showing the teeming life in the hot waters below.

The site they picked for their camp was close to the base of the Leaning Stone; they built two fires, one a small one for cooking, the other much larger as a protection against unknown invaders.

The last of the daylight died, and outside the ring of red firelight all was black mystery. Scores of nights the two boys had spent in the open, many of them in the thick forests below their valley, but never before had they felt such an uncomfortable sense of danger as they did now. The gloom was intense, and the darkness held a vague threat which they all sensed in their different ways.

Usually, after cooking and eating their supper, they sat and talked a while, then rolled in their blankets and slept, but tonight they sat silent and no one offered to turn in. Suddenly Tod laughed.

"Say, folk, we've all got the jumps. We're letting our imagination run away with us. Whatever there is in this valley it's not going to come near us so long as the fire's burning. I vote we take turns on guard to keep the fire good and bright. I'll stand first watch."

"Right you are," said Derek. "I'll take second, and Manacan can come on later."

"I take third watch," said Kespi with decision, and so it was agreed.

A few minutes later Derek was flat on his back, and though the mosquitoes were pretty bad he soon drowsed off. The last tiling he saw was Tod sitting bolt upright watching the big fire.

Derek had had a hard day and the heat had tired him. He slept heavily; so it was curious that he should suddenly find himself wide awake. He sat up swiftly and glanced round. Kespi and Manacan were both lying where he had last seen them, and the fire was burning strongly, but there was no sign of Tod.

In a flash Derek was on his feet. He had turned in all standing, so had his boots on. He listened, but could hear nothing except dull splashings from the lake in the distance. The air was intensely still, and a thin mist hung over the moist ground. Yet this was not enough to hide the stars which showed in the black vault overhead. He picked up his flashlight and walked out to the edge of the ring of light cast by the fire, where he stood listening. He was very uneasy. At last he heard a faint rustle.

"Tod!" he called in a low voice.

Tod came in out of the gloom. He was carrying the gun and his face looked oddly white and set.

"What's up?" Derek asked.

"Don't know, exactly. Come and look."

Derek followed him in among the trees. Once his eyes became accustomed to the darkness he was able to see farther than he had thought. The stars gave some light. A few steps and Tod stopped on the edge of a small opening among the tall timber.

"See that column?" he whispered. "It wasn't there just before dark because I got a lot of dead wood here for the fire."

He pointed to a tall column which looked as if it was made of grey stone. It seemed to be about a yard and a half thick.

"That's odd," said Derek. "A thing like that would take a bit of shifting." He paused and sniffed. "The place simply reeks of musk," he added. He pulled out his torch. "Let's have a look at the thing," he said, as he focused the beam on the column and let it travel slowly up it.

The thing seemed to be about twenty-five feet high, and at the top was a big stone.

"Rummiest-looking thing I've seen for a long time," said Tod, frowning. And then he gave a gasp. "It's got eyes! It's looking at us."

Frozen with horror, the boys stared at two huge green eyes which glowed on either side of the vast headpiece. Tod was the first to recover. He flung up the gun.

Derek grabbed him.

"Don't be a fool. You might as well use a pea-shooter. We must get away."

He swung Tod round and together they bolted back toward the fire. Derek had a horrible cold feeling at the back of his neck. He knew that the creature need not even move. It had only to dip its head to seize them both before they were out of its reach. Yet they gained the trees in safety, and almost fell into the fire in their blind hurry. Kespi was sitting up.

"The beast," panted Derek. "It's quite close and—and it's as big as a house."

Kespi kept cool.

"Where it come?" he asked.

Derek pointed, and as he did so the firelight shone on a vast head which pushed slowly forward between two trees at a distance of less than fifty paces.

Kespi sprang to life.

"Big Stone," he cried. "We climb up."

He seized Manacan, who was so petrified with terror that he could not move, and wrenched him round. Then all four raced like hares for the foot of the great Leaning Stone. Up they went, their feet rattling on the hard stone like squirrels' claws on the bark of a tree.

At a height of about forty feet Derek ventured to pause an instant and glance round. The fire had blazed up and in its glow there was the monster advancing. As he watched it quickened its pace.



DEREK scrambled madly upward, and bumped into Kespi.

"No can go farther," said the old Indian; and he was right, for the stone, which up to this point had been rough surfaced, was suddenly smooth—so smooth that it was impossible to climb its polished surface. Derek looked round. They were nearly fifty feet above the ground, surely out of reach of any living thing, however huge. Yet when he looked at the incredible size of the monster he was not so sure.

"It's still coming," Tod muttered.

Now that it was within the circle of the firelight they saw it plainly—a gigantic neck towering nearly thirty feet into the air, a squat but enormously heavy body and a long tail. A frill of huge spikes ran down its back and tail and its colour was a dirty grey. Two things struck Derek, one that the creature seemed to have no fear of fire; the other that it moved quite silently in spite of its giant bulk. The only sound of its approach was that of its tail dragging along the ground.

"What is it?" gasped Tod.

"Something that has survived from the past," replied Derek in an equally low voice. "But I don't believe it's as bad as it looks."

"It couldn't be," returned Tod. "But what do you mean?"

"I don't think it's after us. It comes out of the lake so I expect it eats fish."

"That thing looks as if it would eat an elephant if it saw one. I say, Derek, are we out of the brute's reach?"

Derek looked again at the giant beast which was coming slowly toward the column.

"I think so. I hope so, anyhow," he added grimly, "for we can't get any higher. Keep as still as you can and perhaps it won't notice us."

"Those searchlights it keeps on its top are fixed straight on us," Tod answered. He was doing his plucky best to be cheerful, yet in spite of himself his voice shook a little.

The monster still came on slowly. In its small, dull brain it was perhaps wondering what new sort of monkey had the impudence to invade its solitude. It was in Derek's mind that the beast was merely curious. It did not seem to be specially vicious, yet the sight of this tremendous bulk of living flesh advancing straight upon them was enough to freeze the blood of the bravest man alive.

Derek knew he was frightened. He was cold all over. He had never been half so terrified in all his life. With one lick of its tongue this thing could wipe him out of existence as easily as a toad can lick up a fly.

It came past the fire, paying no attention to it, then as it turned slightly its vast tail swept the whole camp out of existence. It also swept the fire.

Now the fire was big and even the thick scales of the great beast's tail did not protect it from a severe burn. A high- pitched scream burst from its throat, a noise as shrill as the escape of steam from an over-heated boiler. Its tail switched round and two moderate sized trees were snapped like carrots. Then it leaped forward exactly like a giant kangaroo. The leap brought it to the very foot of the Leaning Stone. Next instant it had reared its whole incredible bulk against the stone.

"It can reach us," screamed Tod, and, balancing himself as best he could, pointed his gun downward and fired both barrels at the monster's head.

"That's done it," was the thought that flashed through Derek's mind, yet he had the presence of mind to seize and hold Tod, who was slipping.

It had done it, but not in the way that Derek had supposed. At such point-blank range the heavy buck shot with which the gun was loaded had struck like bullets, and though it was not likely they had done much more than penetrate the hide of the great beast they had for the moment blinded and stunned it.

Derek felt the whole vast column quiver to its rock as the creature sprawled forward with all its weight against it, and for a ghastly moment he fully believed that the Leaning Stone itself was going to fall.

It was the beast that fell. Sliding off the stone, it hit the ground with a crash like that of an earthquake. Then it screamed again, and such was the noise that Derek felt as if his ear drums were cracking.

"Load again, Tod," he cried quickly; and Tod, white-faced, began thrusting fresh cartridges into the breech of the gun. There was no need. The monster, maddened by the sting of the shot, went charging madly away in a series of terrific bounds.

It was as if a tornado had burst loose in the sleeping forest. Trees crashed down like straws, boulders torn from the ground hurtled through the air. The fire was nothing but scattered embers so it was impossible to see what was happening, but the noise was appalling, and the echoes tossed back from the cliff added to the fearful clamour, Tod put his mouth to Derek's ear.

"It's not going back to the lake," he said.

"No. It's making toward the cliff. Your shot dazed it."

As Derek spoke there came a crash louder than any yet.

"It's hit the cliff," Tod shouted, but his voice was drowned by a perfect thunder of sound—as if a mountain had fallen.

"A rock slide!" gasped Tod. "Look at the sparks. Flashes of light shone through the night as huge boulders meeting in midair struck fire from one another. Slowly the roar died, and all was still.

"What's happened?" Derek asked at last in an awed voice.

"Great beast hit cliff and make rock fall," was Kespi's brief explanation, and Derek thought it was probably the true one.

"I think we go down," said Kespi quietly.

"What! With that thing walking about. Chief, you're crazy!" cried Tod.

"I no think he make any more trouble," was the calm reply. "I go down, light fire again," said the plucky old man. "No can stay up here all night."

"He's right, Tod," put in Derek. "I'm getting cramp already, clawing on to these cracks. If one of us slips he's done."

"I'm game if you are," returned Tod, and very quietly all four scrambled down.

The firewood as well as the fire was scattered in every direction, but they collected it and soon a huge blaze lit the scene. By its light they were able to form some idea of the wreckage.

Not even the largest Tank could have ploughed such a path as had been made by the mad rush of the immense creature. Trees were broken off short, others were leaning with their roots torn half out of the ground. Pits, each of which would have taken a man an hour to dig, had been made where the creature's hind feet had struck the earth in its prodigious bounds.

As for the camp itself, it had ceased to exist. Their belongings were crushed and broken, scattered over a wide space.

Tod turned to Derek.

"Say, even if we find that path it won't be a bit of good. The grub's all gone."



THERE was no more sleep for any of them. They sat close to the fire, saying very little but listening anxiously until at last the first pale light of dawn greyed the sky above the eastern cliffs. They breakfasted on roasted yucas. Poor stuff, without even a pinch of salt to flavour it, but it made them feel a little less empty, and while they ate they talked. In spite of everything the boys were keen to go on. They wanted to make another attempt to find a way up the cliffs.

"If we can get round that gap," said Derek, "we're on a made road, and we can push on till we find a village. We have the gun, so we shan't starve. Of course it's going to be rough, but surely anything is better than going back to the valley."

Kespi listened in silence. He saw how keen the boys were to get away and he allowed them to take his consent for granted.

As soon as the sun was up they gathered the tattered remains of their camp equipment and started for the cliff. On the way down the previous evening Derek had spotted a place where he thought they might be able to climb above the gap. It was a nasty-looking cleft, tremendously steep, and going almost straight up. But it was narrow and the rock was rough, and Derek vowed he could work up it with his back against one side and feet against the other. When he found footing he would drop the rope he carried and help the rest up.

No need to describe the muscle-wrenching struggle. Enough to say that some forty feet up he found a ledge where he could stand in safety, but, when he did stand up and take a look round, the first thing he saw was that the ledge ran only a little way across the cliff face, then broke off. He went to the end to make quite sure, but it was no good. The cliff face was simply a wall. Nothing without wings could cross it. He went back.

The cleft above the ledge grew wide and shallow and there were no holds. With sinking heart Derek saw he would have to come down again. He shouted to the others, but to his surprise they were not watching him. All three had turned round and were gazing eagerly down the valley.

He came down as fast as he dared. Tod turned as Derek dropped beside him. His eyes had a queer shine.

"Look!" he said, and pointed.

Derek looked. At the foot of the cliff about half a mile to the East lay a great mass of broken rock all fresh and red as it had fallen from the cliff above. And half buried in it the body of the monster.

The great grey head lay full in the sunlight and though most of the body was covered the tremendous tail lay stretched at length beyond the fall.

"We killed it," gasped Tod.

"You did," said Derek. "But, Tod, that doesn't help us to get up the cliff, and there's no way up so far as I can see."

"That's bad," said Tod in an absent sort of voice. "But, say, Derek, if we could only take that beast back with us! Why, it would be worth a million dollars."

"We can't," Derek spoke sharply, almost angrily. "And what do we want with a million dollars? We've got the emeralds. Wake up, man. Think how we're going to get out of this horrid place."

"Sorry," said Tod. "I guess I got a bit excited. Come right along and we'll try some other place."

"There isn't another place," Derek told him. "Not near here, at any rate. The cliff's sheer as a wall."

"We'll find some way," said Tod. "We'd better go back to the bottom and try a bit farther on. It's the only thing to do. We can't find any way across the gap from here."

So down they went into the sultry heat of the valley, and worked along the bottom of the cliff until they came to a second swamp, which ran right up to the base of the crag and stopped them.

"It's no use," Derek said despondently. "We're trapped."

Kespi, who all this time had said nothing, spoke suddenly.

"Only one thing we do, Derek. We go back."

"To the other valley!" exclaimed Derek. "But they'll kill us or stick us in prison."

"I no think they do that."

Kespi was very calm, and Derek wondered what the old man had in his mind. But he had learned to trust the cacique, who had led them in safety through so many dangers.

"All right," he answered. "Do you agree, Tod?"

"Anything Kespi says goes with me," Tod answered. "He's never yet made a bloomer."

"You do what I say, and I think all be well," said Kespi, and, turning, led the way back along the cliff foot. He took them past the mouth of the cleft and straight on until they came to the spot where the dead monster lay beneath the rock pile.

Tod and Derek stood staring at the thing, marvelling once more at its amazing bulk. But Kespi spoke to Manacan, and Manacan, who carried the axe, set to work to hew off one of the paws of the colossal creature. It was like hewing through the trunk of a great tree and the musky smell sickened them. Yet at last they got it off.

"We take him back," said Kespi.

But the thing was so heavy that Manacan alone could not carry it. They had to cut a stake, sling the paw from the centre with a piece of their rope, then two carried it between them. They started back on the long, hot tramp round the mire and down the Valley of Fire.

"A mighty good name for it," gasped Tod, as he pulled up to take breath. "It's the hottest place I ever was in. It's lucky there's shade or I reckon we'd roast."

Though the ground was level and walking easy, it was late in the afternoon before they reached the deep, narrow gorge leading into the Terraced Valley. They met no one, and when they reached the Terraced Valley the place was quiet as usual. The only people they saw were two Indians working in a field, and these stared, then shrank away.

They were almost in the town when, turning a corner of the path, they came suddenly upon two priests in their grey robes. And one was Yarm.

"Now we're for it," muttered Tod, but Kespi showed no sign of fear.

Yarm pulled up short and stared—almost, you might say, glared at the party. Then his eyes fell upon the huge paw, his jaw dropped, he almost staggered. As for the other priest, he gave a loud exclamation and fell flat on his face.

Tod's face glowed. "Kespi knew. The paw's done the trick. We're all right."



TOD was triumphant, Derek not so sure. The monster's paw might be a big argument in their favour, but he noticed how quickly Yarm recovered from his first amazement, and did not feel easy in his mind.

Yarm began to talk to Kespi, and Derek wished intensely he could understand what they were saying. Yarm asked quick, harsh questions. Kespi answered quietly. But then Kespi was always calm and collected. Even if Yarm had been threatening them with instant death Kespi would not have raised his voice in reply. At last Yarm's questions ceased and he turned and started toward the town. The others followed.

"What's the old fellow been saying?" Tod asked eagerly of Kespi.

"He say Koh very angry. I say best thing he tell Koh we go to Fire Valley to hunt great beast."

"It's a good notion, Kespi, and Koh will never know how scared we were."

A ghost of a smile crossed Kespi's wrinkled face, "No; we not tell him that," he agreed. "And Yarm say no harm come."

"I hope he's right," Derek said anxiously. "Anyhow, it seems the only thing to do. It was smart of you to think of bringing the paw, Kespi, but then I suppose you made this plan as soon as you saw we had to go back."

"It best to think in good time," said the old cacique with a little smile.

As they neared the town they met a couple of men coming in from their work in the fields. The men stared as if they had seen a party of ghosts, then as their eyes fell upon the monstrous paw which swung between Derek and Tod, their eyes nearly burst from their heads. They gave queer, gasping cries, and ran like hares up the road.

"Gone to tell their friends, I guess," said Tod, and he was right. But neither he nor Derek was prepared for the sensation caused by their trophy. When they came to the main street leading up to the palace it seemed as if every man, woman, and child in the place were lining the sides. They stood in dead silence but every eye was fixed on the beast's great foot.

"Wish they'd say something," growled Tod. Like Derek, he was feeling a bit nervous.

Koh was waiting in the big hall, a fine figure in his silver- grey tunic with the circlet of silver on his head. He did not salute the boys and there was a formidable frown on his handsome face. Yet when he saw the paw the frown faded.

He stopped forward and stood gazing at the huge, ugly trophy with its vast curved claws. He put out his hand and touched it and they saw him shiver slightly. Then he turned to Kespi with a quick question and Kespi answered in his usual quiet voice. They saw Koh's eyes begin to shine and suddenly he swung round on them, smiling, his whole expression changed.

"I wish I knew what Kespi's been stuffing him with," remarked Tod softly to Derek.

Kespi heard. "I tell him how you shoot great beast," he said.

Koh began to talk to Tod.

"He say you very great hunter," Kespi translated. "He say this greatest thing ever done in valley. He say he and all his people thank you very much. He make you Prince."

Tod got as red as his own hair.

"Stop him, Kespi," he implored. "Tell him the only reason I let off the old gun was that I was scared green."

Koh, still smiling, went on and Kespi continued to translate.

"Now he say he see you modest like all brave people. He going to make great feast for you." Kespi changed his tone slightly. "Please, you look pleased, Tod, then Koh forget how you run away."

"Grin, you ass," said Derek.

Tod did his best, but it was not a very good best.

"He'll give the whole show away," Derek said to Kespi. "Tell Koh we're very tired and hot, and ask him if we can go and wash and change before the feast."

Kespi did as Derek asked, and Koh most graciously permitted them to retire.

The feast was splendid and the boys quite hungry enough to enjoy the good things. And they would not have been human if they had not also enjoyed the way in which Koh and his people looked at them. They were treated as heroes, and Kespi explained that, now the beast was dead, the Terrace People would be able to settle and cultivate the Valley of Fire. This, he said, would be a great advantage to them because the Terraced Valley was already overcrowded.

The beast's paw was hung from the roof of the hall, and one man after another would go up and look at it, touch it, then stare at the boys as if he could not believe that they had actually killed such a monster.

But this praise grew tiresome. The boys were glad when it was over and they were able to get back to their own quarters, strip off their State garments, and fling themselves into their broad, comfortable hammocks. Tod lay silent a while and Derek saw he was frowning.

"Looks to me it's a case of as you were," Tod said at last.

"It's worse," replied Derek. "When we first came it was just my likeness to Ativa that took their fancy, but now we've done this stunt every man jack of them believes we were sent for the special purpose of doubling their territory. They'll hang on to us tighter than wax."

Tod groaned.

"Yarm's our only hope," Derek went on, "but with the bridge guarded and no other way out I can't imagine how we're going to get away."

Tod stiffened.

"We've got to get away. We don't let our folk down, whatever happens." He yawned. "But I'm too tired to do any more thinking tonight. Let's sleep and tomorrow we'll make plans."

They had done a lot that day and they had had precious little sleep the previous night. In a very few minutes they were both in the land of dreams. Derek woke with the sound of a gunshot in his ears. It was early dawn and he sat up and listened.

Yes; there it was again. It was like the crack of a rifle at a distance, yet who could possibly be shooting in this unknown valley where the only firearm was their own old double-barrel which at the moment was leaning against the wall in the corner of the room? He slipped out of his hammock, went across to Tod and shook him awake.

"What's up?" growled Tod.

"Someone's shooting," Derek told him.

"Shooting!" Tod sat up sharply, and at that very moment a regular volley broke out. Rifle shots; not a doubt of it. Tod fairly leaped out of his hammock and grabbed for his clothes.

Two minutes later both boys were running down the street.



INDIANS, roused by the firing, were out, but these people were not fighters. They looked scared. None of them interfered with the boys. Three more shots came in rapid succession, and Tod turned to Derek as he ran.

"From the bridge," he said quickly, and Derek nodded. In a few minutes they were clear of the town and racing down the path toward the bridge head. As they passed out of the trees and came within sight of the ravine Derek, who was leading, pulled up short. "Dolaro," he said with a gasp.

"Might have known it," Tod answered curtly. "I reckon he tracked us."

"Anyway he's here and, what's more, he's across the bridge."

They stood and watched. By dint of heavy firing Dolaro and his brigands had driven the bridge guard back and had crossed into the valley. Now they were standing, grouped together, talking among themselves, evidently discussing what was best to do.

"This is a sweet mess up," muttered Derek, but before he could say more he and Tod were surrounded by a large body of Indians armed with bows and arrows and bronze knives who had come up as silent as snakes. Their leader, a powerfully-built young man, signed to the boys to follow him and led them back off the road. He put his fingers to his lips for silence, then he and his men crouched down among the bushes lining both sides of the path.

"An ambush," Derek whispered to Tod, and Tod nodded. "We can't do anything," Derek added in the same low voice.

"Why should we?" was Tod's retort. "Dolaro's no friend of ours. Sit tight and wait—that's our lay."

They had not long to wait, for presently came the tramp of heavy feet as Dolaro led his men up the path. The boys noticed that both Dolaro and his men looked gaunt and ragged. Derek judged that they had run out of food, and that it was for this reason they had forced their way into the valley.

The Indians lay quiet. They were so perfectly hidden that even the boys could only see the two or three nearest. Not one moved until the signal was given. This was one note from a horn. Then like one man they sprang upon the invaders.

Dolaro and his men were caught unaware. They had not a chance. A rifle or two squibbed off, but the bullets went wild and in a flash Dolaro's whole party were on the ground, each held down by a couple of sturdy warriors. The officer gave an order, and each man's hands were tied behind his back. Within three minutes the whole lot were being marched into the town.

The boys followed. They might have made a break for the bridge, but what was the use? Kespi and Manacan were not with them. Even the emeralds were still in their quarters.

"Here's a pretty mess," said Derek.

"What's worrying you?" asked Tod. "Looks to me these Indians have done us a good turn. Now we won't have them dogging us all the way home."

"You don't understand, Tod. After all, they're white men, and we can't see them scuppered."

"And don't they deserve it?" returned Tod. "They've killed some of the bridge guards. I tell you, straight, Derek," he added doggedly, "I'm not going into mourning for Dolaro and Co."

Derek saw it was no use saying anything more for the moment, but he was very uneasy as they walked back.

They found Kespi up and waiting for them. Somehow he already had the news. Kespi always seemed to know everything that was going on, but though his wrinkled face was calm as usual Derek had a feeling he was not happy.

"What will they do with them?" was Derek's first question.

"I think you know like me," was Kespi's answer.

"Kill them?" Derek asked anxiously.

Kespi nodded. "They wound two Indians on bridge with bullets. Yarm very angry."

"But they're white men, Kespi. We can't let them be murdered."

Kespi's lips tightened a little.

"I not think you right to say murder. These bad man, but they get trial."

Later in the morning Yarm came to the boys' quarters. His hard old face looked as if cut in granite. He stared at Derek.

"These men have been following you," he stated in Spanish.

Derek wondered how he knew and hesitated a moment before replying. He wished for Kespi, but Kespi had gone out. He decided it was best to tell the truth. "They have been following us," he answered.

"Trying to kill you?"

"No; only to rob us. What are you going to do with them?" Derek added.

"They will receive justice," was the grim reply.

"You will not kill them," Derek begged.

Yarm's eyes widened. "Why do you say that? They are your enemies."

"That is true, but they are thieves only, not murderers. In my country they would be punished with imprisonment, not death."

"But this is not your country," retorted Yarm. "And they are murderers. They shot at my people and one who is wounded may die.. They have deserved death."

Derek saw that argument was useless. If these men's lives were to be saved some other means must be found. It was hopeless to appeal to stern old Yarm. All he said was: "They will have trial, Yarm?" And Yarm nodded.

"They shall have full trial. Be sure of that. The Court will be held at the fourth hour after midday. And you and the Americano will be present," he added. Then he went away.

Tod and Derek loafed through the morning and were very bored. They had their dinner, slept through the heat of the early afternoon, then walked to the great hall where all was ready for the trial.

Koh and the chief priests were on the dais, and the two boys and Kespi were given seats on the platform. The body of the hall was filled with people and the prisoners were brought in under a strong guard.

"Gee, but they look a mouldy lot," observed Tod.

"Half starved," agreed Derek. "I can't help feeling sorry for them, Tod."

"More than I am," returned Tod.

The trial began, but the boys could not understand what was being said. It did not last long and presently Koh pronounced sentence.

"What does he say?" Derek asked.

"They die," said Kespi. "They go to the Place of Sacrifice on the night of the Full Moon."

Derek's face hardened. "They don't," he said. "Not if I can stop it."



DEREK was consulting his pocket calendar. "Sixteen days to the full moon," he said. "It gives us time to do something."

Tod looked up from the gun he was cleaning.

"Say, Derek, surely you've given up that mad notion of rescuing Dolaro's crowd."

Derek stiffened, and a peculiar glitter came into his blue eyes.

"I haven't, and I don't mean to," he answered. Though he spoke very quietly his voice had gone suddenly hard. Tod knew the signs and was worried.

"See here, old man," he remonstrated. "These folk have given Dolaro and his men a proper trial and sentenced them according to their own laws. It isn't for us to go butting in."

Derek looked straight at Tod.

"You look at it one way, I look at it another. I could never hold up my head again if I left those fellows to be scuppered without at least trying to save them."

Tod laid the gun down. "And how do you propose to set about it?"

"That's what I'm trying to plan out. What I want is a talk with Dolaro."

Tod's lips curled.

"You've as much chance of that as of an interview with the President of Bolivia. The gaol is guarded and double guarded. If I'm not making a big mistake Yarm has a notion you're interested in these fellows, and Yarm's no one's fool." He paused. "If you ask me, I'll say the whole notion is lunatic."

"I'm sorry you feel like that," said Derek quietly, then he went out.

Tod, more upset than he would have admitted, found Kespi.

"Derek's gone loony," he said. "He's nuts on getting Dolaro out of the pen." He went on to repeat what Derek had said. "What are we going to do about it, Kespi?" he asked. "Can't you persuade him it's clean craziness?"

Kespi lifted his keen old eyes to Tod's.

"Maybe he no so crazy as you think. I not think we leave these men to be killed."

"I never dreamed you'd back him up," Tod gasped in dismay. "But you don't reckon Derek can do anything?"

"When Derek say thing he very hard to turn," replied Kespi. "One thing sure. He no leave off try till he get Dolaro out."

Tod shook his head, but he knew Kespi was right. Derek rarely asserted himself, but when he did nothing could change him.

When Derek came again he was thoughtful.

"Tod," he said presently, "I've been looking at that prison, The wall's adobe; no stone in it. If I could get tools to Dolaro he could probably dig his way out."

"But that's just what you can't do," Tod answered sharply. "They'd never let you in, and, even if they did, how would you carry the tools?"

"I don't know yet," said Derek frankly, "but I'll find some way before long."

"You'll get shut up there yourself," Tod prophesied gloomily.

Derek refused to be discouraged, yet the difficulties were great and plain. For one thing, he could never move about the town without being noticed, for the people looked on him as something rather more than human, and followed him wherever he went. Also Koh and Mesrue claimed much of his time. He had to spend hours each day with them. They were trying to teach him their language, and Derek, who was good at that sort of thing, was already picking up a few words.

Yet the chance always comes to one who knows how to wait. A few days later Derek and Tod and Kespi were dining at the palace with Koh and Mesrue when a messenger came in. He was panting, and his brown face showed signs of a hard run. First saluting the king, he spoke rapidly, and Koh's face showed that the news was bad.

Kespi translated. "Man say black tiger in valley. It kill ox and hurt man."

"A tiger," repeated Derek. "A jaguar I suppose he means. But I didn't know there was such a beast left in the valley."

"It come from Valley of Fire. Plenty there," said Kespi.

"What do they reckon to do about it?" Tod asked.

"Koh, he say he like you go kill it," replied Kespi. Tod grinned.

"Thinks I'm the star hunter. I reckon he'd send me out to meet an army if one happened along. All rigid. Tell him Derek and I'll take on the job. Derek's a long sight better shot than me, anyway."

Koh seemed doubtful about letting Derek go, but Derek declared he could not let Tod go alone, and Koh at last consented. Kespi said he had better go too, to act as interpreter. So within half an hour all three were away, accompanied by the messenger, whose name was Micura, and a couple of other Indians to act as porters.

There, are four sorts of jaguar in South America, of which the largest is as big as a Bengal tiger. The black is not so large as this, but is by far the fiercest and the rarest. It is as untamable as the wild cat, a solitary, savage beast rarely seen by man.

They left the trees and came into more open country close to the western wall of the valley. This was a patch of sandy soil not fit for cultivation, and the sun blazed down with cruel heat, scorching the clumps of tall grass so that they had turned brown and brittle. Micura pointed and the boys realised that the tiger was hidden in one of these clumps ahead of them.

Tod slackened his pace. "We'd better go slow. A tiger in long grass is bad medicine."

A cloud of flies rose buzzing, and there lay the remains of the jaguar's kill, partly eaten. They went forward slowly, their eyes alert for any movement, but it was Micura who saw it first.

A head showed for an instant above a clump of grass, a big flat head with gleaming green eyes, the black lips twisted in an evil snarl. Then it was gone, and there was not a sound except the hum of flies.

Micura was badly scared, yet he fitted an arrow to his bow. Derek looked round, then he put a finger into his mouth and held it up. The breeze was but the faintest draught, but this told him that it was coming down the valley.

"Going to burn him out?" said Tod in a whisper.

"It's the only thing to do," was Derek's answer.

Tod grunted. Derek was right. It was the only thing to do, yet it meant that Derek would have to go ahead and shoot the brute as it left the cover. And if he failed to stop it—well, that hardly bore thinking about, for a cornered jaguar is one of the most deadly things in nature.

"Wish we had another gun," said Tod.

Micura seemed to understand. He spoke in a low voice to Kespi, and Kespi translated what he said.

"Micura say he go one side of clump."

A little glow shone in Derek's eyes.

"Fine!" he said. "Tell him it's just what I want."



DEREK took up his position, and Micura moved softly to his. There they stood, white boy and brown man, one on each side of the top end of the grass patch, waiting tensely for what would happen.

"Wish I had a gun too," muttered Tod.

It was not the first time that Tod had hunted the king of South American beasts, and he knew the risk.

Derek signed to him, and Tod took a matchbox from his pocket, struck a match and, stooping down, put it to the grass. A little crackle, a faint curl of grey smoke, then flame hardly visible in the white-hot glare of the tropic sun. But the bone-dry grass burned like tinder, and next moment a red, dancing line of flame was sweeping down through the tall brown stuff, accompanied by snapping pistol-like reports as the thick stems burst and flared in the intense heat.

Behind this line of fire the grass fell away in grey ash, leaving the sandy soil bare; in front of it rolled a cloud of smoke; yet the jaguar did not move. The great beast seemed to have vanished.

Not until the stinging flames must have been actually scorching its hide did the jaguar come to life. Through the smoke cloud Derek saw the great jetty form rise in a splendid leap. He swung his gun upon it, but dared not fire, for the beast was exactly between him and Micura.

Quick as a flash Micura drew his bow and the arrow sped and buried itself in the side of the jaguar. The beast wheeled. Its feet hardly seemed to touch the ground before it was in the air again, leaping straight at the Indian.

But Micura saw it coming and flung himself flat on the ground. Before Derek's horrified eyes the jaguar lit full upon the man's prostrate body. Derek did not waste a moment. Dashing through the stinging smoke he reached the spot almost as quickly as the jaguar itself. The beast stood astride Micura's body, but as it saw Derek it crouched to spring at him, showing its fangs in a savage snarl.

To Tod and Kespi it seemed as if its leap and the crash of the gun came at the same moment. They saw Derek go over backwards, with the jaguar on top of him.

"It's got him," groaned Tod as he raced for the spot, drawing his knife as he ran. Derek was on his back, the jaguar on top of him. Both lay very still.

Tod, half mad with fright, buried his knife in the jaguar's neck. It did not stir. Tod seized the beast by the hind legs and hauled desperately, and then Kespi reached the spot.

"Tiger dead," he said, and indeed the jaguar was very dead, for Derek's charge of buckshot had blown the top of its head off. Between them Tod and Kespi hauled the great glossy body off Derek, and to their delight Derek sat up.

"I'm all right," he panted. "J-just winded."

Tod could hardly believe him, yet, barring a few scratches and bruises, Derek was none the worse.

"But Micura," Derek went on anxiously.

"The brute lit full on top of him."

"Don't seem to have damaged him a lot," said Tod. "Here he is."

As he spoke Micura threw himself down before Derek and, flinging his arms around Derek's knees, began a long speech.

"What's the matter with the fellow?" asked Derek, frowning.

Kespi translated.

"He say he very grateful you save his life. He say you very brave, and he sure you the real Ativa come back."

"Tell him not to talk rot," said Derek sharply. "And tell him that he drew first blood with his arrow, so the skin belongs to him."

Micura's eyes nearly fell out of his head when Kespi told him that the skin was his. He protested vehemently, but Derek was firm, telling him that it was the custom of the white man. Between them they skinned the jaguar, then tramped back to the town.

Micura hurried to tell his friends, and the people poured out and this time cheered the boys in a fashion new to them.

Then Koh himself came out and congratulated them. But Derek told him plainly that Micura was the best man, and when Koh said nice things to the Indian Micura was the happiest man in the valley.

"You've made a friend, Derek," said Tod, grinning, as they went back to their quarters for a wash, which they needed.

"A jolly useful one," replied Derek quietly. "Micura's brother is one of the prison guards."

Tod whistled softly.

"Now I'm going to talk to Kespi."

Later that afternoon Derek came in and Tod saw his eyes were shining.

"I'm going to see Dolaro tonight," he said.

A look of dismay crossed Tod's face.

"Listen. Micura and his brother are going to disguise me as an Indian, and I'm to take his brother's place in the guard."

Tod shook his head.

"It's sheer lunacy," he remonstrated. "They'd spot you right off."

"They won't. Wait till you see how I'll be fixed up. There's no risk about it, Tod."

But Tod was not to be persuaded, and for the rest of the evening he was very silent and gloomy.

After supper Derek usually stopped for a talk with Koh and Mesrue. He was already able to understand a good deal of what they said. He went as usual this evening, but Tod stayed in their quarters. Tod was just thinking of going to bed when the door opened and an Indian walked in, a slim brown man.

Tod stared, for this was a stranger. The man came closer and produced a bronze knife from under his tunic. He held it, handle forward, toward Tod, and said something in his own language.

"Sorry, old lad," said Tod, "but I don't get you. Is this a present from Santa Claus?"

The Indian laughed, showing very white teeth. "It's a present for Dolaro," he said in English.

Tod flopped down on the nearest seat.

"D-Derek!" he gasped.

"Will I do, Tod?"

Tod stared. "It's wonderful!"

"If I can fool you I can fool the rest," said Derek. "I'm off to relieve the guard at the prison."

A few minutes later Derek had joined the party of guards who were waiting outside the gaol. The day guard came out and Derek and the others marched in.

"Why, it's all too easy," said Derek to himself, as he found himself inside the gloomy old building.

Suddenly he noticed his companions stiffen. Somebody was standing in the big, dimly-lit chamber, and Derek recognised this man as Yarm. A nasty chill ran down his spine. It would not be easy to fool Yarm.



YARM came closer. Derek was badly scared. Although his disguise had been good enough to deceive Tod he had a nasty feeling that Yarm might see through it. Besides, if Yarm were not suspicious, what brought him here to the prison at this hour?

Zupa, Micura's brother, was in charge of the guard. Yarm spoke to him, but Derek did not understand what he said.

At this critical moment a loud explosion sounded outside, followed a moment later by a second. Derek recognised the sounds as shots from Tod's old double-barrel gun; but shots had so seldom been heard in the valley that the guard all looked badly startled, and as for Yarm, he turned and hurried out.

Derek sighed with relief. He turned to Zupa, raising his eyebrows, and Zupa signed back that it was all right. So it was, for to Derek's relief Yarm did not return.

"Good old Tod!" said Derek to himself. "He must have seen Yarm messing around and fired on purpose to get him out."

The first work of the night guard was to see that the prisoners had their supper, and Zupa managed that Derek should take in the meal. He found Dolaro and his men in a large bare room which, however, was clean and fairly airy. Some were seated on the floor with their backs against the wall; others were lying in hammocks. All looked listless and dispirited.

Dolaro himself sat on a stool, with his chin resting on his hands, the picture of despair. It was plain to Derek that he understood, better than the others, how desperate was their case.

Derek laid his tray of food on the floor, for there was no table. Some of the men came forward for their portions, but others did not move. Derek came near to Dolaro.

"I am a friend," he whispered in Spanish.

The effect of his words was electrical. Dolaro stiffened, his whole expression changed, and his dark, muddy-looking eyes brightened.

"Do not speak loudly," Derek cautioned him. "And do not let your men show any excitement."

Dolaro nodded and hissed a quick command to his men.

"I am Derek Fair. Like you, I and my friends want to get out of this valley. If I help you to escape do you give me your solemn promise to molest us no longer?"

"I swear it," said Dolaro eagerly. "I will take any oath you wish."

"Your word is all I ask," said Derek quietly. "The word of a Spaniard should be as good as any oath."

"You are right, Señor. Save our lives, and you and your friends and your goods go safe, so far as we are concerned. You agree, men?"

"We agree," was the answer, and there was no doubt in Derek's mind they meant it. He glanced round to make sure that no one was listening, then went on quickly.

"This place is built of adobe. You can dig your way out."

"We have tried it," growled Dolaro, "but we have no tools."

"I have brought you some." He handed him the two bronze daggers. Dolaro clutched them eagerly.

", they will do," he said.

"Listen," said Derek. "You will cut a hole on the North side and you must be very careful to hide the earth. Yarm, the priest, is already suspicious; if he finds out what is being done all hope is gone. Do not break through the outer wall, but leave a thin shell. Then wait for a dark night. On the first night of clouds I will give a signal by taps. Three—one—three. You understand?"

"I understand," Dolaro answered earnestly.

"Then," said Derek, "we will go quietly down to the bridge, seize the guard, tie them, and so escape; after which we will cut the bridge behind us."

"The plan is good." said Dolaro with emphasis. "And I will guarantee that the guards make no sound." A savage gleam came into his dull eyes.

Derek raised a hand.

"Not one of them is to be killed. Remember that. Unless you promise this I and my friends will have nothing to do with the business."

Dolaro glowered. "You are foolish. These men have horns, and their sound will rouse the whole valley."

"We will tie and gag them and take their horns, but I will not have one of them hurt. They are my friends, and in guarding the bridge doing only their duty."

Dolaro scowled again, and there were ugly looks on the faces of some of his men. But Derek was firm.

"Take it or leave it," he said curtly. "But if you leave it remember that I wash my hands of the whole business, and that the date of your execution is fixed for the night of the full moon, which is now only nine days away."

This scared them, and Dolaro hastened to accept the conditions laid down. Then Derek went out. He had to spend the rest of the night in the prison, but Yarm did not come back, and very early in the morning Derek got safely back to his quarters. He had just finished washing off the brown stain when Tod came in, eager to hear what had happened. Derek told him and Tod nodded.

"Yes, I spotted Yarm mooching around," he said. "I thought he might be making trouble, so I let off the old scatter gun and he came running. I told him I was shooting a vampire bat, and he swallowed it." He paused and his face grew grave. "But see here, Derek, there's one snag I see ahead. You've told Dolaro to wait for a dark night, but the rains aren't due yet and the odds are against it."

"I know," admitted Derek. "If we don't get one before the full moon it's going to be pretty serious."



DAY followed day and not a sign of rain. Sometimes clouds gathered in the afternoon, but they were gone before sunset, and the nights were brilliant. Derek grew very anxious, and so did Tod. Kespi said little, but he was more silent than ever these days.

From the prison Tod had news that Dolaro and his men had cut through the wall and were eagerly awaiting the signal. Micura told him they were growing very restless, and Derek began to be afraid that they would take matters into their own hands and make a bolt.

Time dragged by until only three days were left before the date of the full moon.

"Why not try it tonight?" suggested Tod. "There's two hours' darkness before dawn, tomorrow there'll be only one."

"No." Derek spoke doggedly. "No; I'll give the weather every chance. Micura says there's rain coming."

"Not much sign of it," replied Tod dryly, as he stared up at the blue sky.

"Those natives know," insisted Derek, but he was not happy. What made him still more uncomfortable was the fact that old Yarm seemed to be full of suspicion. He had taken to dropping in at all sorts of hours, and when Derek met him at the Palace he was gruff and sometimes rude.

"Might almost think the old pig read my mind," Derek told Tod.

All that day Derek kept watching the sky. It was intensely hot, yet looked as fine as ever.

Night came. There was not a breath of wind moving; the air had a sticky and oppressive heat as Derek went to the Palace for supper. Tod had cried off, and sent an apology to Koh, saying he did not feel very well, which was true enough for he had a headache.

Still no clouds and the great moon burned in the night sky, casting black shadows as Derek walked. Derek found it very hard to keep his attention on what Koh and Mesrue were saying, and it was all the more difficult because Kespi was not there to translate. Kespi, as Derek knew, was busy getting things ready for the journey.

People went to bed early in the valley, and it was only a little after eight when Derek got away. Still the moon shone, and still the sky was clear. Yet it seemed hotter than ever, and Derek was glad of his cool bath before turning in. Tod came in.

"I guess Micura was a bit off," he remarked. "We'll have to wait till the moon's down."

"Looks like it," said Derek. "Is everything ready?"

"All set," replied Tod. "You'd better got a snooze. I had a nap this afternoon. I'll wake you in good time."

"Don't suppose I shall sleep," said Derek with a sigh.

Yet after a while he dropped off.

A roaring sound roused him. It was not thunder, and for a moment or two he lay drowsily, wondering what was happening.

Tod was beside his hammock.

"I guess I've got to apologise to Micura," he said. "Here's the rain, and I never saw the like of it in all my life."

Derek shot up. "Rain!" he repeated. "It sounds like a cataract."

"That's just what it is," said Tod.

"Splendid!" cried Derek.

The rain was coming down perfectly straight, but with a power and fury that was terrifying. When they reached the street the water stood six inches deep. It was impossible to see a yard ahead.

But it was only a very short distance to the prison. Somehow the two boys struggled and waded to the building, and Derek made his signal by knocks on the outside wall; then he put his head close against the wall and listened.

Someone was moving inside. There were scratching, thumping noises, and a few minutes later a mass of stuff fell outwards, revealing a three-foot hole in the thick wall. Dolaro was the first to crawl out.

"Is it you, Señor Fair?" he asked in a hoarse whisper.

"It is I and the Señor Milligan. All is ready."

Dolaro straightened his bulky form.

"But the darkness. Shall we ever find our way to the bridge?"

"I'll find it," said Derek briefly. "Bring your men along. Better tell them to hold on to one another."

"Our stores and guns, Señor?" Dolaro questioned anxiously.

"They are hidden among the trees close to the road. Do not disturb yourself. All will be well."

"You are confident, young sir," said Dolaro, and there was a sort of unwilling admiration in his heavy voice.

"Come," said Derek quietly. "There is no time to waste. This rain is too heavy to last long."

Dolaro's men were already out.

"They'll get a wash for once in their lives," remarked Tod in English to Derek. Derek chuckled.

"I'll go first," he said to Tod. "You follow behind them and keep them up to the mark."

It was impossible to go fast, and the procession splashed slowly along.

Derek kept to the road. He could never have found his way among the trees, but he felt pretty sure that no one would be out in this downpour. About a hundred yards from the bridge-head he stopped and spoke to Dolaro.

"Wait here. Kespi and Manacan are close at hand with the stores."

Almost as he spoke two dim figures splashed up to them from under the trees.

"Is all well?" came Kespi's voice.

"All right, so far!" Derek answered.

"Stores here," said Kespi briefly. "Tell men take their loads."

With some difficulty they got the loads sorted out. Dolaro's men were given their guns, but Derek had taken the wise precaution of keeping all their cartridges in a separate pack, which Manacan carried. Before moving on he spoke again to Dolaro.

"Remember your promise, Señor. The men of the guard are not to be hurt."

"I have given my word," replied Dolaro rather sulkily.

"Then let us get forward. The rain is already slackening."

This was true, yet even so it was still coming down with a steady roar which drowned all other sounds.

The bridge guards were all in their guard house. The unfortunate Indians got the shock of their lives when the door was suddenly burst open and the place filled with white men carrying guns. The Indians, of course, did not know that these were not loaded, and they made little or no resistance. Their leader did put his horn to his lips, but Tod wrested it from him.

"Too easy," said Tod with a laugh, as he helped to tie the last of the Indians.

"Don't crow. We're not out of the wood," returned Derek. "Kespi, tell them, please, that we mean them no harm. Then let's get away for the rain is stopping."

A sudden glare of white light lit the dark little place, and was followed instantly by a rattling peal of thunder.

Derek started. "I didn't expect this," he said uneasily.

Kespi made for the door.

"We go quick," he said, with unusual sharpness. For the moment the rain had quite stopped and the only sound was the splash of water pouring off the level into the deep ravine. Suddenly the lightning glared again, and between him and the bridge Derek saw a small, compact figure.

"Yarm!" he gasped, and ran forward. But Yarm darted aside and ran with astonishing speed back into the trees. Next moment his horn was sounding and Derek knew the call. It was for help.

Tod started to chase Yarm, but Derek called him back.

"That's no use," he said sharply. "Our only chance is to cross the bridge and cut it behind us."



THE blinding white light of each flash of lightning was followed by pelting blackness, and the swinging bridge, a nasty thing to cross at the best of times, was a nightmare under these conditions.

Dolaro's men tried to bolt across it in a bunch, but Derek stopped them, and Dolaro himself came to his aid.

Not more than two were allowed on the bridge at the same time and Dolaro warned them to go quietly. It was not easy to go slow when, behind them, the horns were shrilling and they knew that hundreds of Indians were gathering to follow them.

Dolaro stood with Derek, Tod, and Kespi while his men crossed. Manacan went with them. He had to find the donkeys.

"You next, Señor," said Derek to Dolaro.

Dolaro hesitated a moment. "Gracias, Señor," he muttered, and plunged across. In the brightness of a crooked flash they saw his thick figure balancing along the swinging platform.

"They're coming," said Tod in Derek's ear.

"Wonder they aren't here already," Derek answered, "It's only the flood that's saving us. Go ahead. Don't argue. You first."

Tod hurried across, followed by Kespi, and Derek came last. Already arrows were beginning to swish past, but the conditions were not good for accurate shooting.

Tod had the axe ready and the moment Derek was across attacked the bridge. But the great ropes of twisted creepers wore almost as tough as wire and the axe had little effect on them.

By this time some of the Indians had reached the far side of the gorge, and the arrows were coming more rapidly. Dolaro was shouting for cartridges, but Manacan had them and he had disappeared in the darkness.

A tall, gaunt fellow came hurrying back to the bridge head. Derek recognised him as Antonio Vargas, one of Dolaro's men.

"The axe is useless, Señor," he told Derek. "Dynamite is the only thing."

"You are right," Derek answered; "but where is the dynamite?"

"I have a stick and a fuse. Stand back."

The lightning glared again, showing scores of brown men hurrying down from the wood toward the edge of the ravine, but happily the rain ceased for the moment, giving Vargas a chance to light the fuse of his dynamite stick.

The matches were damp and the first two failed to strike, but the third burned up, and quite coolly Vargas set the little flame to the fuse. The fuse was short, it was calculated to burn only a few seconds. Just as it began to hiss and splutter Vargas staggered and dropped like a log.

Tod gave a sharp cry of alarm, but Derek, quick as lightning, stooped, snatched the stick of dynamite from Vargas's limp hand and deliberately lobbed it out on to the bridge.

"Get down. Lie flat!" he cried to Tod; and he and Tod flung themselves down flat across Vargas's body. With a dull roar the dynamite exploded.

"That's done the trick!" exclaimed Tod joyfully, as he scrambled to his feet. "The bridge is busted, and we're all right."

"More than Vargas is," Derek answered dryly. "Or we either, for the moment those chaps on the other side get over their scare this place is going to be stiff with arrows. Help me to get him away."

They caught hold of Vargas, lifted and staggered away with him. He was a big man and they had their work cut out. But they managed between them to reach the shelter of a tree.

Dolaro was there and Kespi, but it was so dark that it was not until another flash came that the boys knew it.

"It is Vargas," said Dolaro quickly. "Is he badly wounded?"

"I don't know," Derek answered, "I hope not, for it is he who saved us all by remembering the dynamite."

Kespi was already kneeling down beside the man.

"He is not dead," he said in Spanish. "His heart beats strongly and he breathes."

"But he must have an arrow in him somewhere," Derek said anxiously.

"I cannot find it," Kespi answered, and just then the injured man gave a gasp and tried to sit up. Kespi pressed him gently back. "Keep still," he said. "You are hurt."

"My head aches like sin," growled the man. "I have a lump like an egg upon my crown."

"I guess it was a stone hit him," put in Tod. "Some of the Indians use slings."

Dolaro struck in.

"Can you walk, Vargas? We ought to be moving while it is still dark. We cannot tell how soon those Indians will find means of crossing the barranca."

"We shall not get far in this darkness," Kespi said in Spanish. "Yet I agree that it will be well to be out of sight of the valley before daylight."

Vargas got slowly to his feet, but he was very shaky, and it was plain he was not good for much. Just then Manacan came up with the donkeys. How he had ever found them was a puzzle, yet there they were, fat and fit.

"You shall ride one of the burros," Derek told Vargas, and Vargas gratefully accepted the offer.

It took some time to collect all the goods and make a start. Luckily the great storm was passing, and though the sky was still constantly lit with great flares of many-coloured lightning and the thunder rumbled heavily among the high peaks the rain stopped, and it grew a little lighter. At last all was ready and the party moved away up the valley.

It was slow going for in places the old trail had been washed into deep gullies by the tremendous rainfall and in others it was still under water. Yet they kept moving steadily and by dawn reckoned that they were ten miles from the valley. Everyone was tired and all were soaked to the skin. It was decided to camp and make breakfast and rest before going on.

Dolaro came to Derek.

"You know these Indians," he said. "Will they follow us?"

"They would catch us if they could," Derek told him. "But I doubt if even Yarm could get his people to go far from the valley. In any case it will take them at least a day to repair the bridge."

"You relieve my mind, Señor Fair," said Dolaro. He looked hard at the other. "Now," he said, "it will be well that you and I have a talk."



WHATEVER Derek felt he was careful not to show it.

"At your service, Señor," he answered. They moved a little aside, and Dolaro began.

"Señor Fair, you have fulfilled your promise, and brought us safely out of the valley. For that I am grateful." He paused but Derek said nothing. He did not trust Dolaro, and was wondering a good deal what the crafty fellow was after. "You have saved our lives," Dolaro went on, "yet at the same time taken from us our livelihood."

"I am sorry," said Derek courteously, "but I regret that I do not understand you."

Dolaro flung out his thick hands in a gesture of despair.

"Surely it is plain, Señor. My oath not to molest you must be kept. But if I return to my employer, Señor Carbajal, and tell him that I abandoned my pursuit what, think you, will he do?"

Derek wanted to laugh, but instead looked very solemn.

"If you explain the circumstances he will surely agree that a Spanish gentleman could act in no other way than you have done," he answered.

Dolaro shook his head mournfully.

"You do not know the Señor Carbajal. He will declare the whole fault is mine for entering the valley. He will say I have wasted his money and his time and will drive me from him with evil words."

"Then you will know that he is wrong and that you are right," Derek told him.

"It is true that my conscience will be clear," admitted Dolaro, "but that, alas! will not fill my pocket nor those of my followers. And Carbajal had promised me five thousand bolivianos if I succeeded."

Derek made a quick mental calculation.

"I cannot promise you such a sum as that, Señor Dolaro, yet after I have returned home and told my father of your hard fortune I have no doubt he will recompense you for the help you have given us."

Dolaro's dull eyes brightened.

"You are generous, Señor. And now I will say what I was going to say. My oath binds me not to interfere with you or your property, but I do not feel that I can trust my men. The riches you carry are a terrible temptation to them. Myself, I think it best that our ways part here. We shall return to Miranda, where I have friends, and after you reach home I will come to claim your promise."

Derek felt greatly relieved. The idea of travelling all the way back in company with this band of brigands had been a nightmare. But again he was too wise to show his feelings. He merely nodded gravely.

"You may be right, Señor. Indeed, I think your plan is a wise one. I, for my part, shall not forget my promise, and I can answer for my father."

"After breakfast, then," said Dolaro, "I tell my men and we part company. Gracias, Señor, and good luck to your journey."

Tod looked as if he could hardly believe his ears when Derek told him of Dolaro's decision, but he had the good sense not to make any audible remarks.

"Gee!" he whispered in Derek's ear, "I'll believe it when I see it."

He did see it, for, as soon as breakfast was over, Dolaro took his leave and, mustering his men, marched off up the valley.

"Well, if that don't beat all!" exclaimed Tod as the line of bandits vanished in the distance. "Say, Derek, you don't really believe he's chucked it?"

"I rather think he has. You see, I've promised that Dad will make him a pretty handsome present if we got safely home."

Tod roared with laughter, "That's the best yet. You're going to pay that fat bandit for chasing us all over creation."

Kespi spoke. "Derek, he wise," he said mildly. "Money only thing keep Dolaro from stealing."

"I'm glad you approve, Kespi," said Derek, "but all the same, I'm a bit bothered. Dolaro must know that the emeralds are worth a fortune. Don't you think he's probably planning to lay a trap for us?"

Kespi's answer was prompt.

"He swear he not rob us, and I not think he break his oath." He paused. "But, all same, we be careful," he added.

"We will," Tod declared vigorously. "I've had enough of Dolaro to last a lifetime. All I want is to get home." He turned to Derek. "Say, we've been a jolly long time on the road, haven't we?"

"A goodish time," Derek agreed. "But we're all right, aren't we, Kespi? We ought to do the rest of the journey in a week."

Kespi looked doubtful.

"I no think we do him in a week. It long way still to go. If trail good perhaps we do him in two weeks."

"We don't want to be a lot longer," said Tod uneasily. "There's a time limit for the payment, and we have to sell the emeralds before we get the cash to pay Carbajal." Derek frowned.

"I hate the idea of paying good money to that blackmailing scoundrel. Still, I suppose it can't be helped; and, anyhow, it's a big thing to have the money to save the valley. We're very grateful to you, Kespi."

The old Indian smiled.

"I very glad help you, and I more glad still now I travel with you."

"Why, he's paying us compliments, Derek," chuckled Tod.

"I not pay compliments like white man," replied Kespi gravely, "I say true things, and it true when I say I proud of you and like you like my own son."

Tod got rather red.

"And if I was an Indian I'd be mighty proud to have you for a father," he said abruptly, and began packing up his load.

As they tramped up the valley they often looked back, but saw no sign of pursuit. Nor did they see any trace of Dolaro and his men. Yet they knew they must be somewhere not very far ahead of them, for they had not yet come to the spot where the valley forked, and it was not likely that Dolaro had climbed out of it.

When at last they did reach the fork they were all tired. Derek had had little sleep the previous night, and Tod none.

As it seemed clear that the Indians of the valley were not following them they decided to camp early and get away again at dawn. It was a good place to camp; there was firewood and water, also a great overhanging rock which would, give shelter in case of another storm. They unpacked, and Manacan lit a fire and began to cook. Tod was looking round.

"I guess this is where Dolaro's track leaves ours," he said, "He'd take the upper trail for Miranda, wouldn't he, Kespi?"

"That his best way," agreed Kespi.

"Still, I guess I'll go and see," said Tod, and mouched off. Five minutes later they saw him running back.

"Say, look at this," he said eagerly, as he handed Derek a scrap of dirty paper on which a few words were scrawled in pencil. "I can't read it, but it's signed with a V."

Derek glanced at it and his lips tightened.

"It's from Vargas," he said. "He says: Have a care, Señor. Dolaro goes South."



DEREK looked up, frowning. "Dolaro goes South," he repeated. "But why South?"

"That fork turns South. That's all he means," replied Tod quickly. "And Vargas is right. I've been down the trail a piece and found Dolaro's tracks."

"Then the beggar means to break his oath and double-cross us," said Derek curtly. He turned to Kespi.

"He intends to ambush and rob us."

"Maybe that so," Kespi answered. "Yet Spaniard not very often break oath."

Derek grew a little impatient.

"But Dolaro has made it perfectly clear that he's breaking his, Kespi. He said plainly he was making for Miranda, but now he's gone the other way."

Kespi nodded.

"He bad man, I think," he answered, "but I not sure he rob us."

"Well, I don't think we'll take any chances," said Derek rather dryly. "Forewarned is forearmed, and it will be our own fault if we run into trouble."

"What do you reckon to do," demanded Tod, "go back the way we came?"

"It mightn't be a bad idea," replied Derek. "One thing's sure—we should dodge Dolaro."

Kespi spoke up. "We no can go back that way," he said with decision. "We no food for so long journey and we sure find plenty snow on mountains."

"That's true," agreed Derek. "It's getting a bit late in the season for the Alto and we might run into a bad blizzard."

"And there's another thing you'd better remember, Derek," said Tod. "We have to get home before Carbajal's option, or whatever they call it, is up. We'd never be back in time if we had to climb up over the old Alto again."

Derek agreed.

"We'll have to go down through the forest," he said. "But it's going to be a ticklish business if Dolaro means to lay for us. Isn't there some third way we could take, Kespi?"

"I not know this part," Kespi confessed. "But I not think there more than one trail. That lead to Ybera River, where we cross by Indian bridge."

"We shall be all right if we can reach that bridge," Derek declared. "I know the country the far side of the Ybera." He looked round. "We have another range to climb and it looks pretty steep. Tell you what, I'll get up early and see if I can scramble up to the top of that big hill. From that height one might get a pretty good view of the forest country and perhaps see the river itself."

They supped and spent a comfortable night. There was nothing to disturb them. Derek was up before dawn and after helping himself to a cold tortilla (cake of bread made in a frying-pan) started off up the hill.

The climb was steep but not difficult, for the rocks were broken and there were heavy bushes. In less than half an hour he had reached the summit fully a thousand feet above the camp.

The Sun had just come up over the great forest to the East, and as its rays lapped up the morning mists the view became magnificent. Beneath him low ranges of foothills broke down into a vast ocean of greenery, which stretched to the far horizon more than a hundred miles away. Here and there the hills were seamed by dark gorges; at the bottom of them ran the streams which drained the great snow peaks. Yet these gorges were of such profound depth that he had no sight of the rivers themselves. But the Ybera, he knew, was a much larger river, and some part of it ought to be visible. Straining his eyes, he caught a glimpse of silver far to the North-East, and as he gazed at it became convinced that this was light reflected from one of the broader stretches of the big stream. He turned North and walked along the crest of the ridge. It broke off steeply, and beneath he saw the trail along which Dolaro and his men had passed, and the only way by which his own party could reach the lower country. This trail was merely the rock-strewn bottom of a deep and narrow ravine.

He turned round and looked back toward the Terraced Valley. He could see only the ring of mountains which surrounded it.

Suddenly he stiffened. Far away down the valley crept a long line of little black dots. To him they looked no larger than ants, but he knew them to be men.

"I might have known it," he said aloud.

"Yarn's not the sort to give up easily. He's chasing us. My word, but it's lucky I thought of coming up here, or he'd have caught us on the hop."

Next moment he was plunging downhill again at reckless speed.

Tod, making coffee over a small fire, looked up.

"Yarm's on the warpath," Derek told him.

"How far?"

"A goodish way still. We've time to eat and pack up."

"And what then?" Tod demanded.

"Why, clear out for all we're worth."

"A mighty lot of good that will be," said Tod with scorn. "Yarm's men can travel twice as fast as we can with our mokes. They'll catch us before night. No; it ain't a bit of use running. We've got to fight."



DEREK was very troubled. The last thing he wanted was to fight these Indians, many of whom had been so kind to him, and yet he realised that what Tod said was true. It was no good bolting, for the Indians were bound to catch them.

"Can't we dodge them?" he suggested.

Tod shook his red head.

"You know better than that, Derek. Those fellows are trackers. They wouldn't be five minutes before they found their mistake. The first bit of damp ground would show them that there were no donkeys' hoof marks."

Derek in despair turned to Kespi.

"What can we do, Chief?" he asked.

"You no want to fight. Then only thing we do we leave burros and climb uphill. Maybe we find some way to hide from Yarm, but I not know. He hold the trail like hunting dog."

"Kespi's right, Derek," said Tod gravely. "I don't want to shoot any more than you do, but you can take it from me that's what it will come to."

"We'll try Kespi's plan first," said Derek doggedly, and Tod agreed.

There was plenty of time, for Yarm's men must still be at least two or three miles away, so they ate their food, then made up their stuff into four packs. After that Manacan drove the donkeys away down the pass to the South-East, and when he came back all four started up the mountainside.

With the heavy loads they carried the climb was not easy, but Derek knew the way, and they went up at a good pace. When they reached the top they stopped and looked back. The Indians had just arrived at their camping-place and were evidently searching for tracks. Presently they swung away into the gorge.

"After the donkeys," said Tod. "They haven't spotted us yet."

"Our feet make no mark on rocks," Kespi put in, but Derek said nothing. He was flat on his face, peering over into the gorge. In a moment or two he got up and came back to the others.

"What's the notion, old son?" he asked. "I see you've hatched one."

"It isn't much of a plan," said Derek, "but it might work. See that big rock over there?" He pointed to a great boulder poised on the edge of the cliff. "If we can shove that over," he continued, "it might block the whole pass."

Tod nodded. "I wouldn't wonder if you were right, but then they'll spot us and go back and climb up here after us."

"Not a chance," Derek told him. "We could hold that slope against an army. Once we start rolling stones down it they'd be helpless."

"I reckon your plan's good enough to try," Tod said. "Let's cut a couple of poles and see if we can lever that big lump over the side. We'll have to be quick."

There was plenty of timber close by and it took only a few moments to find and trim a couple of stout poles. Armed with these they hurried to the rock.

The Indians, about thirty in all, had halted in the ravine, and two of them, evidently the best trackers, were down on their marrow-bones, examining the ground.

The rock was a huge rounded boulder weighing well over a ton, far too heavy for them to move if it had not been poised like a rocking stone on the edge of the steep. They dug their poles under it and heaved with all their might. It rocked, but it was not until Manacan put his powerful shoulder to it that it moved.

"All together!" panted Derek.

There was a low grinding sound as the huge stone leaned over.

"Once more!" Derek gasped. "Look out, Manacan, or you'll go with it."

Manacan staggered back just in time as the rock toppled over and fell.

"They've heard that all right," said Tod, as the Indians, roused by the dull roar of the fall, looked up. Then, like one man, they turned and ran.

And that was just as well because the rock, striking a ledge a score of feet below, started a regular landslide. Tons of loose rubble broke away and went sliding down the steep cliff face. And every stone as it rolled broke away fresh stuff so that in a matter of seconds a vast mass weighing hundreds of tons was thundering down into the depths.

The fall caused by the monster charging the cliff in the Valley of Fire was nothing to this; the boys stood appalled at what they had started. Ledge over ledge the rock avalanche leaped, at each leap growing in volume until it seemed as if the very mountain itself was tumbling in ruins. The whole cliff quivered with the tremendous vibration and the roar of it was deafening. A huge cloud of dust rose, hiding everything beneath, and when it cleared the whole pass was seen to be blocked by a barrier fully a hundred feet high over which nothing but perhaps a squirrel could pass.

The Indians had, every one of them, vanished. They had bolted back into the upper gorge. Tod gazed down at the vast ruin. "We've done them all right," he remarked; "but it looks to me we've done ourselves as well."

Derek paid no attention. He was hurrying back to the brow of the slope up which they had climbed. As he had expected, Yarm's men were already making ready to climb it.

"Come on down," Derek shouted to Tod. "We have to get to that ledge where the loose stones lie."

All four scurried down to the ledge. They had left their packs at the top. Tod was already rolling a large stone to the edge when Derek stopped him.

"Yarm is signalling. He wants to parley."

Sure enough the old priest was standing up in the open making signals with his raised arms.

As Derek spoke he was signalling back. There was a regular code of signals used in the valley between the terraces and Derek knew enough of them to answer Yarm's. Presently Yarm came forward alone up the hill, and Derek went down to meet him. They met on a broad ledge midway between where Tod stood and the bottom.

The priest's face was set in hard lines and Derek felt he was going to be pretty difficult to handle. He waited to hear what the old man would say.

"You have aided the enemies of our people," he began harshly. "By our law your lives are forfeit."

"I thought you had another law," replied Derek quietly. "One which made it a capital offence for any of your people to leave the valley."

"Such a law does not hold in a case like this," returned Yarm. "The King is above the law, and his were the orders by which we have followed you. The order of the King is that you and your companions shall at once return to the valley."

"We are no longer in his territory, so we are not under his law or orders," replied Derek. "I think the best thing you can do is to return and tell him so."

Yarm's face quivered with rage and for a moment. Derek thought the priest was going to seize him. But the man controlled himself.

"You refuse to come?" he said fiercely.

"Do not be foolish," Derek answered with a smile. "You know quite well that you do not want me back, for your people would not allow me or my friends to be killed."

"That is not so certain," retorted Yarm grimly. "And so you will find when we have taken you back."

Derek grew a little impatient.

"But we are not going back, and you cannot take us. If you try we shall loose more stones upon you. And above you stands the Americano with the gun. Even if the stones miss you the shots from his gun will not."

Yarm looked at Derek with a sort of unwilling admiration.

"It may be that Koh is right," he said slowly. "A boy such as you might grow into a good king." Then his eyes narrowed again, and his whole face took on that rock-like look. "But that is a matter for thought. Meantime, you will obey orders and return to the valley." Quick as a striking snake he caught Derek round the waist and held him tightly.

"Now let your friends roll stones or shoot," he said with a sneer.



WHEN a person is seized unexpectedly his natural impulse is to fling himself back against the pull. But luckily for Derek he had been watching Yarm.

He had half expected treachery, so instead of pulling back he tried an old but very useful trick and threw himself forward, flinging his whole weight against the priest. Yarm, taken for once quite by surprise, staggered backwards and fell on his back, with Derek on top of him.

Derek's luck was in, for the back of Yarm's head rapped so sharply against the hard rock of the ledge that for a moment he was stunned. Quick as a flash Derek turned him over on his face, pulled his arms round, and with his handkerchief knotted the priest's wrists securely together.

"Oh, well done, Derek!" shouted Tod from up above; but the Indians below stood paralysed with dismay. They had never dreamed of anyone daring to lay hands on their chief priest, and the amazing quickness with which Derek had mastered him seemed to them a miracle. They felt more certain than ever that Derek was really Ativa, their here of old times, come to life again.

"Shall I come down?" Tod sang out.

"No need. I've got the old lad quite safe. The fall knocked him out, but he's not much the worse. Now I'm going to talk to him like a Dutch uncle."

"Give him socks," cried Tod. "That was a dirty trick he tried to play you."

Derek smiled rather grimly as he watched Yarm struggling back to consciousness. It was not long before the tough old fellow got his senses back, then Derek rolled him over again and pulled him up to a sitting position. Yarm stared up at him with a queer look in his agate eyes. He was furiously angry, but at the same time shaken and even a little frightened. Derek looked down at him.

"You gave me the Peace Sign, Yarm," he said quietly. "And yet you attacked me What is the punishment for treachery among your people?"

"There is no treachery when I am obeying the orders of my king," Yarm answered.

"I differ," said Derek dryly, "No orders can justify treachery. And as it happens I know your punishment for this crime. It is to be taken to the Place of Sacrifice and thrown down. Have you anything to say why I should not execute you in the same way? This is a high place."

Derek's level way of speaking frightened Yarm. Derek saw a quiver cross his hard old face.

"So that is what you mean to do with me?" he said bitterly. "Then waste no time about it. My men will not interfere."

"Then you own that you were wrong?" said Derek.

"Wrong in a way, I will-admit, yet in my eyes nothing is wrong that is for the good of my people."

"I see what you mean, Yarm. But I for my part am working for my people, and I would break laws to save them from the ruin that threatens them. But if you will promise not to interfere with me or my friends I will set you free at once."

Yarm was silent for some moments.

"I could forgive you for escaping," he said at last. "What I find hard to forgive is that you should have released those robbers who may bring terrible trouble upon my people."

"You need not be afraid of that," replied Derek. "There is nothing to bring them back to the Terraced Valley. It is the last place in the world they will ever visit again."

"But they may send others by their foolish talk."

"That is not likely either for, now the pass is blocked, it would be almost impossible to find the way to your kingdom."

Yarm seemed somewhat reassured.

"And you will keep silence?" he demanded.

"You already have my word on that," Derek told him.

There was silence again for a few moments, then Yarm spoke again.

"Very good, Señor Fair. I, too, give my word."

Without a moment's hesitation Derek untied his hands. The two faced one another, and Derek's heart beat a little faster, for it was on the cards that Yarm might attack him again. But the old priest had no such intention. Derek spoke.

"Yarm, you have not liked me, nor I you. Yet I respect you as a good priest and a good ruler. I hope that you and your people will be happy, and I will ask you to give my thanks to the King and the Princess for their kindness, and to assure them that I shall not forget it."

Yarm looked hard at Derek.

"I like no white men," he said slowly. "I wish to have nothing to do with them or their ways, and to keep my people free of them. Yet you are different. You are honest and you are brave. I will take your message and wish you a good journey to your home."

He made the sign of farewell and Derek returned it. Then, turning, Yarm went away down the hillside to rejoin his own people.

"You handled him all right," said Tod gleefully, as Derek came back.

But Derek did not smile. "We parted good friends," he said gravely. "We shall have no more trouble with Yarm."

"You're a bit of a wonder, Derek," said Tod, and though he laughed there was real admiration in his words. "Well, now we have one trouble settled, what do we do about the next?"

"What trouble?" Derek asked.

"Say, stir that old brain of yours. Have you forgotten that the pass is blocked?"

"But the donkeys are on the other side of the fall. We must just climb down and catch them."

Tod turned to Kespi.

"He talks as if all we have to do is to walk down a flight of steps, instead of a precipice about a thousand feet high."

Derek laughed. "We've faced worse places before. We'll find a way down."

Sure enough he did find a way, but it was a long one, and it was not until the shadows had begun to lengthen toward the East that the four at last reached the bottom of the gorge on the far side of the big fall. Then they had to catch the donkeys, which had strayed a long way. In the end they decided to camp for the night, after the shortest day's march they had ever made, for it was barely a mile from their last camping-place.

"It's all right," said Tod, as he began to gather wood for their fire. "It gives Dolaro a chance to get well ahead."

"That not right at all," replied Kespi gravely. "It give Dolaro chance to make trouble for us."



NEXT morning dawned fine and bright; they set off early, and tramped along the bottom of the gorge. Indeed, there was no choice for the hills on each side were far too steep for the donkeys.

"We're right in Dolaro's tracks," Tod remarked to Derek, as he pointed to heavy footprints in a damp patch. "Say, what was Kespi croaking about last night? Does he reckon Dolaro means to lay for us?"

"I don't quite know what's in the old boy's mind," Derek answered.

"Nothing to worry about, I guess. There's not cover here for the beggars to hide if they want to ambush us. Looks to me that Dolaro has gone right ahead."

"I think so, too," Derek agreed, "but it may be a different story when we get out of the gorge. Kespi thinks something is going to happen, and you can take it from me the old chap is usually right."

All the morning they marched steadily down the gorge, following the course of a small stream. In the afternoon the valley widened and the cliffs on either side became less steep. They came into heavy timber.

The trees thickened, shutting out the sunlight. It was very hot and insects swarmed. The little sting-less bees were thick as midges, and there were many of the big South American wasps which sting very severely. Their pace slowed down and they went forward very silently and softly, keeping a careful look-out on both sides.

The boys had had plenty of practice in this sort of work, and their eyes and ears were well trained, but it was Kespi who gave the first danger signal.

All stopped, and Tod, who was carrying the gun, quickly thrust a couple of cartridges into the breech. But he could see nothing unusual, nor could Derek.

"What's up?" Derek whispered. "Is it Dolaro?"

"I not think Dolaro," replied Kespi in an equally low tone. "I think Indians."

Derek gave a little sigh of relief.

"You can handle them all right," he answered. But Kespi shook his head.

"These Beni men. They bad men."

"But they'll never touch you, Kespi," said Derek quickly.

Kespi showed no sign of fear, yet Derek sensed that he was not happy.

"I not sure," he answered. "If they friends, why they hide?" he paused. "Maybe, Dolaro, he tell them lies."

Derek's lips pursed in a silent whistle, for now he began to understand. Supposing, for instance, he had said they were tax- gatherers from the Government?

After a while he began to feel really jumpy. He could see that the waiting was having just the same effect upon Tod.

"Call to them, Kespi," he begged. "Get them to come out into the open."

Kespi considered for some moments.

"Yes, I call," he said at last.

"We are friends," he cried in Spanish. "Come out and speak with us."

There was no answer, no movement, but Derek had the feeling that the bush in front of them was alive.

"Perhaps they don't understand Spanish," he said to Kespi.

"If they don't Dolaro couldn't talk to them," Tod put in. "Dolaro can't talk Indian."

"Do you know any of their talk, Kespi?" Derek asked.

"I make Beni man understand," Kespi told him modestly.

"Then try again, please. I'm getting horribly jumpy."

He called again in a language quite strange to Derek, and again they waited. Yet again nothing happened.

Kespi was frowning a little, and Derek saw that, in spite of his cheerful words, he was troubled. He knew, too, that some of these Indians of the Bolivian forest are wild, savage folk whose hatred of the white man dates from the time of the Spanish rule of fire and sword.

There was a little open space in front of the thicket by which they stood. Suddenly Kespi stepped out into it, and, raising his hands above his head, made a peculiar sign.

"That's worked!" Tod whispered, as a figure suddenly appeared out of the thick trees opposite. "But look at it!" he went on. "Say, it's a live golliwog!"

That was not a bad description, for the man who came out was very short, very broad, very black, and his head, which looked several sizes too big for his body, was crowned with a huge mop of fuzzy black hair which stuck out stiffly in every direction. He wore no clothes except a waist-belt of panther skin and a variety of silver armlets. His face was tattooed in a curious pattern of dark blue, and he had tattoo marks on his arms and legs. For weapon he carried a spear with a nasty-looking barbed head beaten out of iron, and sharp as a razor. He stood in front of Kespi, showing none of the reverence which other Indians gave to this descendant of the Incas. He said something in a loud, harsh voice.

A curious change came over Kespi. His small figure seemed to grow in height and his eyes flashed. As for his voice, when he spoke Derek hardly recognised it.

What he said Derek, of course, did not understand, but it had its effect on the Indian. The haughty expression faded from the man's face, and he fidgeted, standing first on one foot then on the other. When he spoke again his tone was milder, yet Derek did not like the sulky look on his face. Kespi turned to the boys.

"He say we spies from Government and we bring bad medicine to kill his people. He say we give him the green stones and we can go. If we not give the stones he say his people take them and kill us."

Derek gave a short laugh.

"So Dolaro has made him his deputy," he said. "I say, Kespi, things look ugly. How many men has he got?"

"Plenty men," was the discouraging reply, And it was true, for now the Beni men were showing themselves. Like wild animals they moved soundlessly out of cover. There were at least thirty of them, as ugly a lot of savages as could be seen even in South America. All were armed with spears and short, stiff bows.

"And when they've got the emeralds Dolaro will come back and collect them," said Tod. "Tell him there's nothing doing, Kespi."

"It's all very well to put up a bluff, Tod," said Derek, "but we can't back it with only one gun."

"This gun has two charges of buckshot," said Tod dryly. "I don't believe they'll want more than those two loads."

Kespi shook his head. Derek had never seen him look so grave.

"Tod, you no shoot," he ordered. "If you kill Beni men others all fight till die. And I think we die first."

Tod's temper flared.

"You mean we've got to give up our emeralds to those black savages!" he exclaimed passionately. "You're crazy! I won't stand for anything like that."



DEREK glanced at Tod. Tod, in this mood, was entirely reckless. He would go bull-headed for the Indians with his bare fists rather than give up the emeralds.

Derek knew Tod much better than Kespi did, and he was certain it was no use giving him orders, for Tod would not obey them.

"Then you want to fight?" he said.

"There's nothing else for it," said Tod.

"Well, it's no use going into it blind. Have you any plan of campaign?"

"How'd it be to collar this golliwog gent, and hold him as hostage?"

The golliwog chief seemed to know they were talking about him. He had moved back and was watching them with a scowl on his ugly face.

Derek knew that was no good, for before they could reach the man his Indians would be all over them. While he racked his brain for some way out he was surprised to see a sudden grin spread over Tod's face.

"Derek, I've a scheme," he chuckled, and before Derek could stop him Tod flung up his gun and fired.

To Derek it was clear that he fired over the heads of the Indians, for none of them moved. For the moment they stood quite still, too startled to take any action.

"And now," said Tod, jumping back, "we'd better take cover, and do it quick." He flung himself flat and pulled his coat over his head. As he did so one of the Indians gave a shrill scream.

Not till then did Derek see what Tod had done. A huge hornet's nest hung from a branch directly above the spot where the Indians had been standing. It was a grey, papery mass larger than a football. The charge of shot had knocked it all to bits, and several hundred extremely angry yellow and black hornets were already taking vengeance on whatever was near.

The naked bodies of the Indians gave them no protection, and next moment the whole lot were dancing, screaming, yelling, and trying vainly to beat away the savage insects which fastened on them. Some hornets flew across toward Tod and Derek, but they and Kespi and Manacan were all flat on the ground and lying perfectly still.

The Indians were already running. Golliwog chief and all, they went away at a pace which must have broken all records, and when the boys ventured to look up not one was within sight.

"Tod, you're a genius," chuckled Derek, "and you've saved the emeralds. Didn't he, Kespi?"

"He take big chance," replied Kespi gravely, "but it work well. Now I think we not be here when Indians come back."

"We won't!" said Tod with emphasis. "Let's go."

They went, and at top speed. Even the donkeys seemed to understand there must be no dawdling for they had never before travelled so fast.

It began to grow dusk, but Kespi did not stop. There is not much twilight in Bolivia; the darkness thickened quickly under the heavy trees. The trail was very bad, and twice the donkeys got bogged and had to be hauled out of deep mud. Still Kespi pushed on.

"Wish I knew what he was making for," grunted Tod.

With his short legs he was making heavy weather of it in the muddy ground, and, like the rest, was dog-tired. They bumped into trees, they lost the trail and found it again, and Derek was beginning to wonder if they were going to travel all night when all of a sudden they came to a more open space, where the ground dipped to a small stream.

"I think we came pretty soon," said Kespi, speaking for the first time for more than an hour. It was lighter here, for though the Moon was not up the stars were bright. Their light showed a bridge made of one huge tree trunk spanning the narrow gorge through which the stream flowed, and it took them a quarter of an hour of the hardest kind of work to get the donkeys to cross. When at last this was done Kespi pointed to the log.

"We cut him, then we camp," he said.

Tod groaned. Every muscle was aching, but he knew that Kespi was right. He got out the axe, and set to work. Derek relieved him at intervals, and at last the great log went crashing down into the ravine. Not until he was certain no one could cross would Kespi allow a fire.

Then coffee was made and some meat and yams cooked, and the boys swallowed their food and, waiting only to swing their hammocks and arrange a scrap of mosquito net around their heads, were soon asleep.

When Derek woke dawn was breaking. The first thing he saw was Kespi crouched by the red ashes of the fire. He sprang out. "Kespi, you haven't been there all night!" he exclaimed.

Kespi raised a hand. "You tired, I old and not want much sleep. You no tell Tod."

Not another word would he let Derek say, but it was one of those things which Derek never forgot.

That morning the road ran upward again, so the air was cooler, and before night they covered a lot of ground. From the crest of a rise they saw again the river which Derek had seen two days before. It was nearer now; Kespi prophesied they would reach it in another couple of days.

All that day they travelled steadily along the narrow, winding track, and before midday they came upon the ashes of a camp fire.

"Say, we're catching up on Dolaro," Tod remarked.

"Not much wonder seeing the way we've been travelling," Derek answered. "And the odds are that he's taking it easy, thinking we're in the hands of those Indians."

"We catch him by night," Kespi said.

"Do we want to catch him?" Derek asked.

"We want pass him," was Kespi's answer. They were now in the lower foothills, but the ground still rose and fell in great waves, and toward evening they came to a low ridge which was all rock.

Queer sort of rock too, for it was a mass of steep little ridges. It looked, as Tod said, very much like a rough sea suddenly turned into stone. The tops of the ridges were bare, but there was thick bush in the gullies. As they started to climb the ridge Kespi checked them and pointed. A thin column of smoke rose straight into the air.

"Him Dolaro," said Kespi.



"COLD supper tonight," said Tod dismally, for Kespi would allow no fire for fear of Dolaro seeing the smoke.

"It be all right tomorrow," he said. "We start soon and go on before him." They ate and they turned in at once. Their camp was in one of the small gullies so they were safe from the sight of Dolaro and his men. Kespi's directions were to rise an hour before dawn and, making a round, pass Dolaro. It was fairly certain that he was not hurrying.

Derek was sleeping soundly when Tod roused him.

"There's the nastiest kind of a noise going on I ever did hear. Wish you'd listen and tell me what you think it is."

The sound which came out of the night was like nothing earthly. Derek shivered.

"It sounds like a ghost child crying for its mother," he said, and it was not a bad description. Tod looked at Derek, and in the light of a new risen Moon his face seemed white and pinched.

"Ever hear of the Ghost Bear, Derek?" he asked. "The Indians all believe in it. They say it's a bad spirit which wails at night like a child, and when anyone goes out to it the thing kills them."

Derek shivered again.

"It sounds perfectly beastly, but it's just one of these silly legends."

A shot rang out, and Tod started.

"That's Dolaro. He's worse scared than we."

A regular volley crashed, and the noise roused Kespi. The boys told him of the strange wailing they had heard.

"Is there such a thing as the Ghost Bear?" Tod asked him.

"There ghosts in all places," Kespi answered, "but I no think this one ghost."

"Whatever it is, it's stopped now," said Derek. "We'd best go back to sleep if we have to get up early."

Kespi was standing up listening keenly.

"What's up, Chief?" Tod asked.

"Someone come," Kespi answered briefly. And a moment later a dim figure was in sight, slipping softly clown the hill toward the camp.

Tod raised his gun, then lowered it. "Why, it's Manacan!" he exclaimed softly.

Manacan it was. Kespi faced him.

"What have you been doing away from the camp?" he demanded in the man's own tongue.

Manacan answered in English, of which he had picked up a good deal in the past few weeks. "I scare Dolaro men," he said.

Tod whistled softly. "So you were playing the Ghost Bear?"

"I Ghost Bear," said Manacan proudly. "I scare them—how you say—out of their boots."

Tod was amazed and so was Derek. That the quiet Manacan should steal out in the middle of the night to play a practical joke on the Spaniards was the very strangest thing. But neither of them realised how much the stolid Indian had learned by being with them for so long a time. Kespi cut in.

"You foolish, Manacan," he said with unusual sharpness. "I think you spoil all our plans. Now you keep quiet till morning."

Kespi was right. Manacan had spoiled his plan, for in the morning they found Dolaro's camp deserted. He and his men had cleared out in the night and there was no sign of them at all. Kespi's lined old face was grim.

"This bad," he said, but did not explain further. That day they marched fast and far, yet failed to get sight of Dolaro. When night fell they reckoned they were no more than ten miles from the Ybera Gorge.

"You tired?" Kespi asked of the boys as dusk fell.

"I'm all right," Derek told him, and Tod declared he also was good for a lot more.

Kespi looked him over. He grunted.

"We rest and eat," he said. "Two hours we rest, then march."

Supper gave them fresh strength, yet every muscle in Derek's body protested when it was time to start again, and he knew that Tod, with his short legs, was suffering worse than he. A night march through a tropical forest is a bad business at best. One's feet catch at crooked roots, and trailing creepers covered with sharp thorns tear one's clothes and body. There is always the risk of stumbling into a bog, and two miles an hour is about the best pace one can hope for.

They were too tired to speak, and staggered along with their eyes on the ground, following the trail as best they could.

At last Kespi spoke. "Not so far now. Hope we in time."

"What for?" Derek asked hoarsely.

Before Kespi could answer there came a dull, distant boom.

"Say, that's dynamite!" Tod exclaimed. Kespi stopped.

"It dynamite," he said heavily. "We too late."

"What do you mean?" Derek cried.

"They blow up bridge," Kespi answered. "No use go on. Wait now till day." They stopped and slung their hammocks. They were too tired to care much what had happened. Their one idea was to rest. Within three minutes all were asleep, and the Sun was high before they roused.

Breakfast was a very silent meal. A gloom hung over them all. They wasted very little time in packing up, and after another hour's march came out of the forest on to the edge of the Ybera Gorge. Here the big river foamed in a series of thundering rapids between cliffs fifty or sixty feet high.

At its narrowest point the gorge had been spanned by an Indian-built suspension bridge, made of great lianas twisted together and carrying a narrow roadway made of branches. This now hung broken, its ends dangling in the white water. For a while they all stood gazing in silence at the river. Tod was the first to speak.

"I guess Dolaro has cooked our goose, fellows," he remarked. "Where's the next bridge, Kespi?"

"There no other bridge," sighed the old Indian, in a tone of quiet despair.

"We've got to get across some way," Tod said sharply. "I reckon we can build a boat or a raft."

Derek pointed to the roaring water below. Tod bristled. "You make me tired, Derek. Surely the river ain't all rapids."

"Most of it is," Derek answered quietly. "This gorge very long," Kespi said. "Nearest place we cross is up above."

"I don't care where it is so long as we can find still water," retorted Tod doggedly. "Just remember that our time is limited, and if we don't reach home by the proper day Carbajal will get the valley. And there are just thirteen days left."

Without another word they turned west and set to forcing their way upstream. But there was no trail now, and every yard had to be cut through virgin forest.



BETWEEN them the four had just launched the boat which had taken them two days hard work to build. As time was so short they had made up their minds not to cross the river but to run straight down it, to the point where the San Gabriel River ran into it. In fact, they would travel all the way home by water.

The boat was what the Indians call a balsa, a cross between a boat and a raft, built of a kind of wood lighter than cork.

As they had no nails they had had to fasten the logs together with wooden pegs. The whole was lashed with bush-rope, and they had cut a lot of creepers to use as tow-ropes for letting her down the rapids.

They had made their paddles, one a big one which was fixed in the stern to act as a rudder, the other two to paddle with.

Derek frowned. "She's a rum-looking craft. I have my doubts as to whether she'll hold together in the rough water."

"We'll know all about that pretty soon," Tod answered. "The first rapid, the one we saw under the broken bridge, will try her out. Let's load up."

They lashed their goods on a sort of deck which they had made in the centre of the boat, and then came the saddest part of the day's work, the parting with Manacan.

The boys had wished to take the faithful Indian home with them, but he had decided to go back with his donkeys. He declared he would get past the wild Indians in safety, and that he would spend the winter at the village from which the donkeys came. They gave him all the money they had with them, and all of their camp equipment and clothes which they did not actually need. Also six fine emeralds. If he did win back to his own home he would be a rich man for life.

He shook hands with each in turn, then he made a little speech.

"You good fellows," he said in English. "I very sorry I not see you again. I hope you get home safe and all be very happy." Then he stood like a brown statue on the bank, watching them as they embarked.

Derek slipped the mooring-rope, Tod drove in his paddle, and the balsa moved smoothly out into the stream. The boys turned and waved to Manacan, then the strong current caught the boat and switched her round a bend.

"A mighty good chap, Manacan," said Tod, but Derek did not answer. At that moment he could not speak. He had not much time for thought because almost at once rocks showed above the surface, and both he and Tod had to paddle hard to avoid them.

Within less than half an hour they were at the head of the deep ravine. The whole air throbbed with a dull thunder of sound.

"Got to run it," cried Tod. "There's no beach for towing."

The noise grew in volume, the balsa travelled faster. Next moment its bow tilted downward and the clumsy craft went whizzing down the long slope of white water.

A rock heaved up like a black ghost ahead, Derek drove in his paddle and the balsa shaved past. They tore onward through a roaring so tremendous that neither of the boys could hear what the other said. The speed was breath-taking and the spray fell upon them like a rain-storm. They were now lifted high on a swelling billow, then flung down into a deep hollow.

Again and again it seemed the boat must be smashed upon the jutting boulders, yet each time Derek and Tod between them managed to ward off disaster.

"Watch out!" yelled Tod at the pitch of his voice. "Whirlpool!"

They were at the end of the rapid, but here the cross current sent the whole volume of water into a great spin. Once caught in that deadly whirl it was all up.

Derek understood. The corded muscles of his forearms swelled as he paddled furiously, and Tod's powerful shoulders helped. The balsa swerved. For a moment she seemed to hang as if a giant's hand had clutched her keel. Then the desperate drive of the paddles freed her and site was safe in smooth water.

Tod laughed. "This is better than walking, Derek. I guess we came a mile in two minutes that time."

"You did jolly well, old man," said Derek, "but don't crow until we're out of the canyon. Remember we still have the Place of Bears to tackle."

"I don't care if it's the Place of Tigers," declared Tod. "Can't be any worse than the one we've just been through."

"You wrong," said Kespi from the stern. "We find much badder rapids."

For a time the big river carried them onward so swiftly and smoothly that by midday they had covered thirty miles. They landed for dinner on a spit of sand, from which they dug up a lot of freshwater turtle eggs, and Tod made a capital omelette. A troop of large, coffee-coloured monkeys watched them from the trees on the bank and chattered loudly.

"Telling us just what they think of us, I reckon," said Tod, as he flung an egg at them. A big old monkey caught it and hurled it back; and this was followed by a shower of nuts and rubbish which literally drove them from their camping place and forced them to get aboard and clear out, with all speed. The monkeys followed, swinging from tree to tree, scolding angrily.

An hour later a dull roar in the distance warned them of another rapid, which they approached cautiously. It was short, but so steep it was almost a cataract, and there was a very bad whirlpool at the bottom. Luckily there was a ridge of rocks on the right bank, so they landed, took their goods out of the balsa, and portaged them to the bottom. They then let the balsa down with bush-ropes. In the whirlpool she rolled over and disappeared altogether in the central suck, but luckily the rope held, and they were able to drag her out and pull her to shore.

That night they camped on a shingle beach, having covered a distance of at least fifty miles since starting.



"THERE are those monkeys again!" Tod pointed as he spoke, and Derek, glancing up, caught a glimpse of a brown figure among the thick trees bordering the high bank.

"Monkey," he repeated; "that's not a monkey, it's a man."

"You right," said Kespi. "Indian man."

"Not the Golliwogs!" Tod exclaimed.

"I no think they Beni men," Kespi answered; "but you paddle quick."

Tod's blade dipped, so did Derek's, and the balsa shot away like a live thing.

No one spoke until they had passed the next bend and come to a wider stretch. There they drove the canoe over toward the far bank and felt happier, for they were now out of range of the arrows which these river Indians shoot from their long wooden blow-pipes, and which are poisoned with the deadly curare. The merest scratch from one of these darts is certain death. From the distance came a dull roar.

"More rapids," said Tod.

"Big one this time," Kespi remarked quietly. "I think him Place of Bears."

"It sounds like a whole menagerie," grinned Tod, who was never more cheerful than when danger threatened.

The nearer they came the more certain it was that something unusual was ahead of them. The banks rose, the river narrowed, and the force of the current sent the balsa flying forward. They rounded a curve and saw before them the whole river falling away in a mass of snowy foam. With quick strokes the boys forced the balsa to the right-hand bank, and Derek held her to a rock.

"We can't run this," he said. "We'll have to portage and let her down by the rope."

"You right," said Kespi. "No can run this swift water. You land. I go look."

They found a place where they could tie up the balsa and lift her contents out on a big, flat rock, and while they did this Kespi went forward. It was some time before he came back, and his lined old face was graver than usual.

"It bad place," he said, "but I think we go past all right. First we carry things, then we let down balsa."

If Kespi allowed that anything was bad the boys knew it was really so, but even they were not prepared for what was before them. Half-way down the rapid the rocks which lined it were covered by a huge mass of loose boulders fallen from the cliff above. A lot of big trees had come down with the fall, making a barrier which they had to cut through with their axe before they could pass at all.

The worst of it was that some of the great crooked branches and roots extended out over the rapid, and all these had to be cleared to leave room for the passage of the tow rope. It. was not only hard work but desperately dangerous, for the rocks were slippery with spray, and whoever was using the axe had to be held by the others by a rope round his body. It took three hours to make the passage, and by the time they had all their stuff down at the lower end the boys were glad of a rest.

Using some of the dead wood they built a small fire and made coffee, and after their meal Kespi insisted that they take a full hour before they went back for the balsa.

"She's going to pull pretty hard," Tod remarked. "We'll have to be careful."

Derek nodded. "We'll need an extra long rope," he said, "to get her round the end of that big slide."

"That right," Kespi agreed. "You tie him, Tod, and tie him strong."

Tod selected a second length of bush-rope and carefully spliced it to the first, then they pushed the balsa off.

Next moment the rope tightened and the balsa was plunging like a frightened horse in the spouting waves.

"I wish we had Manacan along," panted Tod, as he slipped on the broken rocks.

Over and over again the balsa threatened to pull them all off the slippery rocks into the roaring river. Every now and then they were forced to take a turn of the rope around a jutting crag and rest a little. Their arms felt as if they were being pulled out of their sockets.

At last they reached the slide, and here had to keep well up on the rocks, for the edge close to the water was too steep for safe foothold. To do this they were forced to let out the rope right to its end. The roar of the rapid in this confined space was deafening. They were all very nearly exhausted.

Then Tod, trying to step across a gap too wide for his short legs, slipped and fell, losing his hold on the rope. In a flash Derek realised that he and Kespi between them could not hold the balsa, and with quick presence of mind took a turn of the rope around a projecting tree root.

The sudden strain proved too much for the bush-rope; it snapped in two. Before their horrified eyes the balsa drove swiftly down the rapid and vanished in the whirlpool at the bottom.

Tod scrambled to his feet, and Derek did not like the look on his face. He bolted forward, but Derek caught and held him.

"Let me go!" Tod cried fiercely. "It's my fault. I've got to go after her."

It was all that Derek and Kespi could do between them to hold him.

"You silly ass!" said Derek sharply. "What good will it do to any of us if you drown yourself? And it wasn't your fault any more than mine or Kespi's."

"That true," said Kespi, who as usual kept very calm. "But I not think it so bad. All things safe except boat."

"What good will they do us?" groaned Tod. "We can't get out of this gorge; the cliffs are too steep to climb. We've grub for a week, and after that we shall starve. If I hadn't been such a fool—"

"Oh, stop it!" said Derek impatiently. "We've been in tight places before. We'll find some way out."

"I think we find way out pretty easy," said Kespi, and there was an odd little note of triumph in his quiet voice which startled Derek.

"What do you mean?" he demanded.

"You look. Balsa, he come out again."

Kespi pointed, and to his amazement Derek saw that the boat had been flung up out of the maw of the whirlpool and was floating down the quiet stretch below.

Hardly able to believe their eyes, they watched it drift across to the far side of the river and come to rest on a point of shingle running out into the river. In a moment Tod had forgotten all his remorse.

"Say, Lady Luck is sure looking after us!" he cried. "I'll get her back."

He broke away and went jumping from rock to rock down alongside the rapid until he reached the lower end. Derek, following, found him tearing off his clothes. He was on the very point of jumping in when Kespi arrived and caught Tod by the arm. "You wait," he ordered, with unusual sharpness.

"What's the matter?" demanded Tod.

"I think you look in water first."

Kespi had a piece of meat in his hand. He dropped it in and waited. Next instant the surface boiled as a great shoal of fish dashed upon the meat, snapping at it savagely with their long, sharp, pike-like teeth. Tod went white under his tan.

"Piranha!" he said hoarsely.

"Piranha," Kespi repeated. "I no think you swim in this river."



THERE was the boat separated from them by only fifty yards of smooth water, yet as for reaching it the whole wide Atlantic might as well have rolled between, for anyone who ventured into that river would be torn to pieces by the savage piranha.

There were thousands of them, and more kept swimming up through the clear water till the whole river seemed alive with the fierce little monsters.

Tod refused to give up.

"We'll build a raft," he declared.

"What of?" Derek asked. "That stuff in the landslide is no good. It's all iron-wood, and heavy as lead."

"Then we must climb out."

"That's the only thing," Derek answered. "We still have part of the rope. I believe we can make it."

Yet when he looked at the tremendous cliffs which rose behind him and saw that their wall-like faces gave no foothold of any kind his heart sank.

"Let's go, Derek," said Tod. "There must be some way up."

Derek hesitated, but Kespi spoke.

"You go, Derek, but no try climb up till you show me way."

Derek promised and he and Tod went off. They made for the place where the slide had come down, but this was no good at all. A squirrel could not have climbed the sheer one-hundred-foot wall. Farther up the rapid it was worse still. The rock was all some form of granite, intensely hard and in most places perfectly smooth.

They went right to the top, and then could go no farther, for the water cut them off. Tod's face grew longer and longer.

"It's a prison, Derek," he said at last.

Derek did not answer. He was looking down the gorge. "Whatever is Kespi up to?" he asked sharply.

From where they stood they could just see Kespi. He had piled damp sticks on the fire, for it was sending up a lot of smoke which rose straight through the windless air. He had a sack in his hands, and this he would lay quickly across the fire for a moment, so cutting off the smoke, then as rapidly pull it off. The result was that the smoke rose in irregular puffs or clouds.

"Smoke signals," Tod answered quickly.

"But what for?"

They raced back.

"Kespi, whom are you signalling to?"

Kespi shrugged.

"Any who see them. They Indian signals for help. All tribes know."

And he went on with his signalling. He kept it up at intervals for an hour, then waited. Another hour passed. The sun was getting low.

"We try once more," said the old chief.

"No need. Here they are," said Derek.

He pointed upward to where three brown heads were visible over the rim of the cliff. Kespi gazed at them a moment, then gave a call in a loud, clear voice. It was answered at once. Kespi smiled.

"We all right. These good men."

Tod looked at Derek.

"If that don't beat all!" he remarked; but Derek paid no attention. He was listening to the shouted talk between Kespi and their rescuers high overhead. The Indians up above disappeared.

Presently a bush-rope appeared over the edge of the cliff; to the end was fastened a log, which was quickly lowered.

Tod gave a sudden shout.

"It's balsa wood. That's a sight better than hauling us up."

Within a short time four good logs of the cork-like wood were lowered, and Kespi called that this was enough. The boys set to work at once to fasten the logs together, and soon had a raft fit to carry them both.

After that it was only a matter of minutes to launch it and paddle across to where the balsa lay. Just as darkness fell they brought her back. Kespi sat by the fire—his face was grave as ever. Tod marched up to him.

"Chief, you're a wonder," he said.

Kespi smiled a little.

"We not quite out of soup yet. Zerpa, him chief who help us, he get news that Dolaro know we on river. And Dolaro, he hurry very much. He try reach Piaquari before we do, then he tell Carbajal, and Carbajal he stop us and steal emeralds."

Tod first scowled, then grinned. "We'll beat Dolaro to it, even if we have to paddle hours out of the twenty-four."



"HERE we are!" cried Tod joyfully, as the balsa swung round a point and opened up the mouth of a big stream. "Here's our own river!"

In a day and a half of paddling they had covered over sixty miles. Derek did not look so happy.

"But she's in flood," he answered, as he noticed the great volume of yellow water streaming out from the mouth of the San Gabriel.

"That don't matter," retorted Tod. "We can keep in close to the shore."

"It'll slow us a lot."

Derek was right, for they could not average even two miles an hour. Night found them camped only eight miles upstream, and there were forty more miles between them and Piaquari. It was going to be a tight squeeze.

All next day and the day after they fought their way against the yellow flood. Every rapid meant landing, carrying their stuff up and hauling the balsa by ropes. Their hands were blistered, their muscles ached, they were always soaking wet, and they hardly took time to eat.

It was not until afternoon of the third day that they sighted Piaquari, Then Kespi made them stop under cover of trees overhanging the water.

"No use we take chances," he told them.

"Why not wait till night and sneak past?" suggested Tod.

Kespi shook his head.

"That no good. If Carbajal know he stop us. You wait here. I go see if Dolaro he come back."

The boys protested, but Kespi was iron.

"They not see me," he said calmly. "You hide here; I back before dark."

He got out of the boat and next moment had melted into the forest.

They waited and waited. There was no sound but the rush of the water and the screaming of green parrots in the trees above. Two hours passed, then suddenly Tod pointed.

"A boat," he whispered, and through the screen of leaves which hid the balsa they saw a large canoe with four paddlers coming downstream.

"It's Carbajal," Tod hissed in Derek's car. "He's after us." He began to load his gun. "Whatever happens he shan't have the emeralds," he vowed.

Derek watched the canoe. His heart was thumping. Had Carbajal caught Kespi, or had Dolaro just arrived and sent Carbajal out to look for them?

The canoe came on rapidly. Derek could plainly see Carbajal seated in the stern. There came a rustle behind him and he started round.

"Kespi!" he gasped. Kespi himself stepped lightly into the balsa and sat down.

"Carbajal," whispered Derek, pointed to the canoe. "After us," he added.

Kespi remained quite calm. "He no after us."

"What do you mean?"

"I find friend among Carbajal's peons. Delgado his name. I send word by him to Carbajal that Dolaro on river and stuck on rock in Pumar Rapids. So Carbajal go meet him."

"Then Dolaro hasn't arrived?"

"He not come yet," Kespi answered.

Tod watched Carbajal's canoe pass; he gave a smothered chuckle.

"If you aren't the limit, Chief! Then all we have to do is to wait till Carbajal has passed, and push on?"

"We wait till dark," Kespi said. "Then go by quietly."

Carbajal's canoe vanished in the distance, and the three waited. Dusk fell and within fifteen minutes after sunset the stars were bright. They pushed out and paddled upstream. Lights shone at the Piaquari Mine, but there was no sign of life by the river.

It is tough work portaging up a rapid by starlight, but luckily the boys and Kespi knew every rock, and were soon towing the balsa up. Every inch had to be won against a fierce stream, and the upper part was the steepest and worst. They were within fifty yards of the top when a light flashed across the water. It was on the far side, some way below them.

"Carbajal!" gasped Tod. "Hurry!"

They tugged frantically, but you cannot hurry against a twenty-mile torrent. The light showed again higher up. Someone was using a powerful electric torch, searching the surface of the rapids.

"Can we hide?" Derek asked.

"No use," snapped. Tod. "Best thing is to push on."

"You right," said Kespi. To and fro across the white water the beam passed. Every moment they expected it to reach them. But they were at the top before the pencil of light fell on them and a savage shout announced that they were seen. Now that there was real danger Tod became quite cool. "Chuck in the emeralds and the gun," he said briefly. "Never mind about anything else."

Bang! A bullet whizzed overhead. A voice was heard shouting.

"It's not Carbajal at all!" exclaimed Tod. "It's Dolaro."

More bullets. Derek had a brain wave. He switched on his own torch and stuck it down between two stones, with the beam pointing straight up in the air.

"That may fool them," he said as he ran for the balsa.

It did. The men opposite let fly at the light, but the three adventurers were already in the balsa and paddling hard upstream.

They never saw any sign of pursuit. They paddled for three hours, rested for two, and were off again at dawn. That night, worn out but extremely cheerful, they reached the valley in safety.

* * * * *

What Derek had always looked forward to was the showing of their spoil to their own people, and for once the reality was as good as his hopes. When he emptied the bag of emeralds on the table before them all there was dead silence. Every eye was fixed on the great pile of glittering gems. Little Nita was the first to speak.

"I think they're lovely. May I have one to play with?"

Kespi took something out of his pocket. It was a huge emerald carved in the shape of a llama, a marvellous piece of work.

"This for you, little lady," he said, and Nita, overjoyed, threw her small arms round his neck.

"Thank you ever so much," she cried.

The old Chief's face softened. He just brushed her hair with his lips.

"It good luck. It make you happy," he said. Then everyone began to talk at once.

"They're worth a fortune," said Mr Fair.

Monty Kane struck in.

"We mustn't sell them all at once or we'll flood the market. About a quarter of them will pay off Carbajal. With your permission I will take that quantity to La Paz today, sell them, and bring back the money."

"I hate the idea of Carbajal getting all that cash," said Mr Fair. "It's maddening to have to buy that worthless mine of his."

"That's the way I feel too," said Tod's father, but Kespi's voice broke in:

"You no find that mine worthless. There plenty gold if proper worked."

Monty Kane nodded.

"I shouldn't wonder a bit if you were right, Chief. That rock ought to hold gold. And there's another thing," he added shrewdly, "Carbajal thinks the workings arc played out, so I should not wonder if he will take a good deal less than he is asking if he gets cash. What do you people say? Will you leave it to me?"

One and all agreed that this was the best thing to do and within an hour Monty had started for La Paz.

It all turned out exactly as Monty had said. Carbajal, only too glad to get rid of the old mine, took just two-thirds of the price he had at first asked and cleared out of the country.

"Chuckling," said Monty, "at the idea that he has sold us a pup."

But in the end it was the others who did the chuckling, for the pup, under Monty's able management, turned out a very fine property, and today the people of the valley are all prosperous.

Derek and Tod are going to an Agricultural College in England, and Derek means to finish up with a course of mining.

They often talk between themselves about the Terraced Valley. But they don't tell other people. Koh and his subjects are safe so far as they are concerned.


Roy Glashan's Library.
Non sibi sed omnibus
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