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Published by Hutchinson & Co., London, 1935

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"Tons of Gold,"
Hutchinson & Co., London, 1935


Title Page, "Tons of Gold"




Frontispiece: Bruce force his arm up.


"Up the hill keep climbing—climbing,
Hard am de road, weary de feet."

YOUNG Peter Carr's voice rang out cheerfully in the old negro melody as he tramped up the steep, rocky bush path. Though his round fourteen-year-old face was brown as a berry and his bare legs and arms burnt to an even darker hue by the fierce sun of New Guinea, no one could ever have mistaken him for anything but an English boy. He wore shorts and a flannel shirt and carried a light shot gun on his shoulder.

"Shut up, you ass!" A face appeared over the top of a boulder a little way up the steep slope. A face so like Peter's that there was no doubt about the relationship between the two. "Shut up, can't you? There's a brush turkey just ahead."

A brush turkey! Peter was all eagerness, for he and his brother Bruce had shot so much over the bush around their father's plantation that weeks, and the mere thought of such a prize made their mouths water.

"I saw him run into that patch of bush," explained Bruce as Peter joined him. "But I expect you've scared him a mile with your beastly noise.

"Don't worry," said Peter cheerfully. "We'll have him all right. That patch of brush is only about fifty yards wide. I'll go round and drive the beggar and you shoot him as he crosses the path."

"All right," said Bruce mollified. It was really rather decent of Peter to act as beater. Peter at once slipped away round to the far side of the patch of brush, and Bruce took his stand on the path. These brush turkeys do not fly much, but they run like rabbits and you need to be pretty nippy to kill one crossing a narrow opening.

Five minutes passed. Bruce could hear Peter tap-tapping his way through the thick thorny brush. He stood tense, his gun ready and his eyes fixed on the rocky path which ran straight and steep up towards the top of the ridge above.

A sudden flap of heavy wings. The turkey, instead of running as usual, had risen out of the scrub. Bruce could see its heavy body against the dull green of the trees beyond, and its short wings beating furiously. Up went his gun to his shoulder, his finger was on the trigger, yet he never fired. He stood as if struck to stone, staring at the figure that had suddenly appeared right in the line of fire at the head of the ridge less than fifty yards away.

"What's the matter? Why didn't you shoot?" Peter's voice was sharp with disappointment.

"Couldn't. Someone coming."

"Someone coming!" Peter's tone had changed to one of amazement. "A native?"

"No, a white man." By this time Bruce was hurrying forward. "Quickly, Peter. There's something wrong." Judging by the looks of the newcomer, there was something very wrong indeed for he was reeling and stumbling as he came down the slope. He was a tall man of fifty or so, thin to gauntness. His unshaven face was ghastly in its yellow pallor. His clothes were rags, and he had no gun. A small but heavy looking bundle hung on his back.

Peter burst out of the scrub and the two brothers raced towards the newcomer. He pulled up as he saw them. He was swaying on his feet and the two sturdy boys caught hold of him, one on each side.

"What's the matter?" Bruce asked.

"Done," said the man hoarsely. He was panting and sweat matted his hair and ran down his face. "Niggers after me." He paused and looked back. "No good. Save yourselves. They're bound to get me."

"Don't talk rot." Bruce's voice was curt. "We've both got guns, and anyhow I can't see any natives."

"They're in the bushes—stalking me. Followed me two days. They're Oroko's men."

"My hat!" gasped Peter. "That's bad. I never knew 'em come down so far as this. They must want you badly."

"You bet they want me," said the tall man grimly. "I've had to kill seven of 'em including Oroko's own brother." Peter turned to Bruce.

"Too far to get him to our place," he said swiftly. "What about the cave?"

"That's the ticket," agreed Bruce. He turned to the stranger. "We've a cave close by. Not a quarter mile. If you can get that far you'll be all right." The tall man braced himself.

"I'll have a darn good try anyhow. I'd hate to let those swine crow over me after dodging 'em all this time."

"Give me your bundle," said Bruce. The tall man handed it over without question, and Bruce was amazed at its extraordinary weight. As he slung it over his shoulder Peter who had been looking back along the path suddenly flung up his gun and blazed off both barrels. As the shot tore through the foliage a high pitched shriek ran out.

"Tickled him up anyhow," the boy remarked coolly as he thrust fresh cartridges into the breech. "That'll check 'em a minute and next time I'll give 'em buckshot. Bruce, you take him on while I act as rearguard."

Bruce strode back down the path and the tall man, relieved of his heavy pack, managed to follow. Just below the scrub, Bruce turned sharp to the right across a patch of fairly open ground which rose steeply to a ridge of rock. There was a rustle in the scrub and suddenly a spear came whizzing through the air. It fell short, but even before it fell Peter's gun roared again and the report was followed by a piercing yell.

"Buckshot that time," said Peter. Whatever it was, it seemed to discourage the natives, for nothing more was seen or heard of them until the three fugitives had reached a tunnel-like opening which dipped into the very bottom of the limestone cliff. The tall man hesitated and looked back.

"It's all right," Bruce assured him. "They can't get in here so long as we have cartridges."

"But afterwards," said the tall man grimly. "These fellows won't give up very easy."

"Time to think of that when we're inside," Bruce answered and led the way up a short slope into a good-sized rock chamber. The tall man dropped on a slab of rock and drew a long sighing breath. Peter went off to a corner where a tiny drip of water filled a clear pool, dipped an old beef tin in it and brought it across.

"My word, but that's good," declared the tall man as he drank. "I suppose you chaps haven't anything to eat?" Peter fished a packet wrapped in newspaper from his haversack.

"Just a sandwich," he said, "but it's better than nothing."

"I should just about think it was," replied the other as he bit into it hungrily. "Anyway it's my first mouthful for two days and nights." Peter looked at him admiringly. "You must be pretty tough to have stuck it."

"I'm glad I did," said the other. "It's something to see white faces again before I go out."

"You're not going out," said Peter sharply.

"I'm booked," said the tall man quietly. Then he calmly changed the subject. "You're Tudor Carr's boys."

"Do you know dad?" asked Peter in surprise.

"Well. My name is Cosby Dane." Peter's eyes widened.

"Cosby Dane. Then, of course I've heard of you often. I say, it was you who were with dad in the Solomons." Before the other could answer Bruce, who had been in the tunnel, called out:

"They're coming, Peter."

"I knew they would," said Dane. "What's more, they'll stick like leeches. And I've no gun. I chucked it away after I'd used up all my cartridges. Now I've simply got you lads into a peck of trouble."

"Don't worry about us, sir," said Peter. "As soon as you're rested we'll shift." Dane looked hard at the boy.

"I'd like to know where you mean to shift. By this time they're all round the entrance and even your guns won't save you from their spears."

"That's all right," said Peter calmly. "We know this cave pretty well, and there's a back entrance as well as a front."

"Strikes me I've fallen on my feet," said Dane with a smile that changed his face wonderfully.

"I'm feeling a lot better, thanks to your sandwich. Lead on." Peter called to Bruce, then led the way back through the cave. There was another passage behind which took them into a second chamber larger than the first, and lighted by a hole in the centre of the roof.

"But we can't get out there," said Dane, for the opening was ten or twelve feet above their heads.

"We've a better way than that," Peter told him, and keeping round the right-hand wall of the inner cave proceeded to scramble on to a ledge. Bruce followed and between them the brothers helped Dane up. From this they gained a second ledge and just above, hidden by a jut of rock, was a narrow hole in the wall.

"I say, I hope you can get through, Mr. Dane," said Bruce in sudden alarm. "It's pretty small."

"I can try anyhow," replied Dane. "Luckily, if I'm long, I'm thin." Peter went first. Dane followed and Bruce waited. The opening was not much bigger than a fox's earth and Dane had a hard time squeezing through. But with Peter's help he managed it and presently the three were out on top of the ridge which was covered with big stones, among which grew a sort of low brush with greyish leaves. Dane sat on the ground. He was breathing hard and his lips were blue.

"We're safe for a minute," he said, "but those beggars will certainly trail us if we start down off the ridge."

"We didn't think of starting just yet," said Bruce. "It wouldn't be any fun having Oroko's men on our trail." Dane looked puzzled.

"How are you going to stop 'em?"

"We thought we might box them up. We can if they come into the cave." Dane gave a low chuckle.

"You're lads after my own heart," he said. "All right. I'm game to sit here from now till to-morrow. Rest is the one thing I need most."

Bruce began operations by stopping the hole through which they had come, then he and Peter moved over to the central opening and watched. An hour passed, nothing happened, the sun was getting low and a little coolness came into the sultry air. The boys were growing anxious, not on their own account, but on that of their father. If they did not come home he would probably start to look for them, and how could they warn him of his danger?

"We shall have to sneak off?" said Bruce in Peter's ear, and just then came a rustle from below. Peter nudged Bruce.

"They're there," he whispered. "Get to it, Bruce."


THE two stole away towards the edge of the low cliff above the outer cave mouth. Bending double, they were quite hidden by the close growing bushes. Just above the mouth lay a pile of big stones. The odd thing was that the boys themselves had had nothing to do with piling those stones which looked as if they had been there for centuries. Yet there was no doubt that the people who originally piled them had done so for the very purpose for which the boys were now going to use them—that is to block the mouth of the cave.

And these stones were so cleverly stacked that it was only necessary to lever out one or two at the bottom for the whole lot to topple over. But before doing this it was necessary to see if any of Oroko's men were in sight beneath, so Peter went down on his stomach and wriggled to the edge.

"Three of 'em," he told Bruce as he came back.

"Only three," said Bruce in a relieved tone.

"All right. You keep your gun on 'em while I start the rock pile." He crept round and got to work.

The three Papuans, big fuzzy-headed brutes, black as sin, and ugly as apes, were standing a little back from the mouth of the cave. If they had looked up they couldn't have helped seeing Bruce, but they never thought of doing so. Their eyes were fixed on the opening like terriers waiting for a rabbit to bolt. Quite calmly Bruce drew out the first stone and so accurately balanced was the pile that he felt the whole thing quiver and hastily drew back. As he did so he made just noise enough for the quick-eared savages to hear him.

Instantly two of them drew back their arms to launch their throwing spears, but Peter's gun barked and two charges of fine shot set them dancing and yelling. Next instant over went the whole rock pile, falling with a tremendous roar. This was too much for the nerves of the niggers who bolted as hard as their legs would carry them.

"Topping!" said Peter gleefully as he noticed how neatly the rocks had blocked the opening. "I wonder how many are inside."

"The more the merrier," said Bruce. "Now let's get home. They won't be so full of beans after a few hours in the dark. Hulloa, here's Mr. Dane."

"You're a couple of young wonders," said Dane with deep approval in his sunken eyes. "You may have done a better day's work than you know. Now we might as well get home. Your dad will be getting anxious."

Tudor Carr was anxious. They met him a mile from the house. But his anxiety was changed to amazement when he saw Cosby Dane and heard about his rescue. By this time Cosby was nearly done, and as soon as they got him to the house Mr. Carr gave him hot coffee laced with brandy. Meantime Paloa, their head boy, a big fellow whose fuzzy hair was whitened with lime and who wore a ring in his nose, got ready a hot bath.

Half an hour later when Cosby Dane came down to supper, clean shaven and dressed in a suit of their father's white drill, they hardly knew him. From a ragged tramp he had turned into a remarkably handsome man. With his deep-set grey eyes, hawk nose and grizzled hair he was a very striking looking person.

"You've got my bag, Bruce?" he asked as they sat down to table.

"Quite safe, sir," replied Bruce. "It's in dad's strong box." The other nodded.

"A good place for it. Do you know what's in it?"

"Lead by the heft of it," laughed Bruce.

"Better than lead, my lad. It's gold." Bruce gasped.

"But it weighs all of forty pounds."

"Just about, I reckon. Good stuff, too. Worth all of six pounds an ounce."

"Great Scott! Cosby! Where did you get it?" asked Mr. Carr.

"In Gloom Gorge," replied the other briefly. Mr. Carr leaned forward. "I've heard of that place, but I thought no one could get into it. Crowder, who told me, said it was simply a crack in the mountains walled in with precipices a quarter of a mile high."

"Not a bad description," allowed Dane. "But we found a way down and I'm hardly exaggerating when I say the bottom is paved with gold. I could have brought half a ton if I'd had any means of carrying it."

"Paved with gold," repeated Mr. Carr whose thin face had gone suddenly tense. "Do you really mean it, or are you pulling our legs?"

"I mean it, every word, Tudor. There must be a huge lode of virgin gold somewhere in those mountains and the river has been washing it down for ages; wherever you can find a pool shallow enough to pan, you get dust and nuggets in such quantities as I have never seen. And I was in the Klondike in Ninety-nine."

"A little of that gold would go a long way with us, Cosby," said Mr. Carr, and he spoke very earnestly. "This plantation has hardly begun to pay yet, and I badly want to send these boys of mine to a decent school. They're good chaps, as you can see for yourself, but at their age they have no business to be running wild in the bush. If you'll tell me how to get to this Gorge I should feel like trying my luck there." Cosby Dane raised his thin hand.

"Don't dream of it, Tudor. No amount of gold will pay for a man's life and that's the cost of such a trip. It's Poison Country up there, and though I have come out of it alive, I am done for. I shall not live to enjoy the little fortune that I have brought out."

"Come now," began Mr. Carr, but Dane stopped him. "I'm telling you the literal truth. I am so full of fever that I know I cannot live long. I doubt if I shall last another month."

Mr. Carr looked at his friend with troubled eyes and noticed the leaden colour of his skin and his terrible thinness.

"I hope you're wrong, Cosby, but it doesn't follow that everyone is equally liable to these fever germs."

"If there were no fever at all the odds are all against anyone getting that gold," Dane said gravely. "The whole journey is perilous to the last degree. The natives are treacherous and hostile. Even now I can't understand how I passed them. Then travelling through that bush is next to impossible. The country is the worst I ever crossed. It is like a flight of stairs, each step of which is a sheer precipice varying between fifty and five hundred feet in height. The lower ground is infested with snakes, in the upper part it is nearly always raining or else thick mist hangs over the dripping forest. If I had known what I was going to face before I started, all the gold in New Guinea would not have tempted me to try so mad an enterprise."

"It sounds pretty bad," said Mr. Carr doubtfully.

"It couldn't be worse," was the reply. "To that I give you my word. As it is, I have lost my two faithful boys. One was taken by a croc, the other killed by a poisoned spear. No gold is worth such a risk."

Mr. Carr sighed. It was true, what he had said, that he wanted money sadly for the education of his boys. The coco-nut plantation would not be in full bearing for another four or five years and by that time it would be too late to send Bruce and Peter to school. Yet from what Cosby Dane had said it was hopeless to think of the gold in Gloom Gorge. Cosby changed the subject.

"What are we going to do about these niggers?" he asked.

"I've sent a boy in a canoe up the coast to Lanok, with a note to Cleave, the Police Commissioner. He'll attend to them," said Mr. Carr.

"He'll let them loose, I'm afraid," said Dane regretfully.

"Not till he's scared 'em pretty thoroughly," replied the other with a smile. "John Cleave is a good man." They went out on the veranda which was screened with wire gauze against mosquitoes and sat and chatted, but Dane tired and they took him to his room and made him comfortable.

"It's just Heaven to lie in a civilised bed once more," he told them gratefully. "But for your boys, Tudor, I should be providing a feast this minute for Oroko's ruffians. Believe me, I shan't forget what I owe you."

"Do you think he's as bad as he believes he is?" Peter asked his father as he bade him good night a little later. Mr. Carr shook his head.

"He's pretty bad, Peter. I don't like that blue look about his lips. It means that his heart is affected. But we'll take good care of him, and I hope he'll pull through."

Next morning Cosby Dane came down to breakfast, but he could not eat. He only drank a little coffee. An hour later he was shivering in a violent chill. They put him to bed again, piled blankets on him and gave him quinine and hot drinks, but they could not break the attack, and presently the lever fit followed and the poor fellow lay raving in delirium. The boys took turns to watch him and from his broken words they learned nearly everything of his terrible journey to and from Gloom Gorge.

Late in the afternoon the fever left him, but he was too weak to move.

The boys hovered about unhappily. They were dreadfully anxious.

"I hope to goodness he'll pull through, Peter," said Bruce. "It would be too rotten if he died after all he's been through."

"He's not going to die," vowed Peter.

"If we'd only got a doctor," sighed Bruce.

"Dad's as good as a doctor," Peter told his brother. "There isn't much he doesn't know about fevers."

"He's pretty good, I know," allowed Bruce. The afternoon dragged on. Now and then they heard voices coming faintly through the open window, but could not make out words. The sun was down and it was nearly time for supper when at last their father came out of the room where Cosby Dane lay.

"How—how is he?" asked Peter anxiously.

"Better. I think he'll pull through."

"Hurray!" Mr. Carr raised his hand.

"Quietly, Peter. He's asleep. Come into the other room. I have something to say to you." They followed him and he closed the door.

"I have a message for you from Cosby Dane. Even if he recovers, his heart is so weak that he will have to live quietly and he has decided to stay here with us."

"Good!" exclaimed both boys together.

"Wait. That is not what I have to tell you. He insists that his gold shall be used to give you schooling."

"What a brick!" said Peter.

"You're right, Peter. He is a brick. Now the question is to find a good school. There is no need to send you back to England, for there are capital schools in Sydney."

"But do you know of any, Dad?" asked Bruce.

"No, but I can find out. My brother, your Uncle Ralph, lives in Sydney. I haven't heard from him for years, but he's a good chap. I shall send him the gold and a letter asking him to find you a school and as soon as we hear you shall both go."


"WILL you sign the receipt for this, sir," asked the Express Company's messenger, who had just brought a small but heavy box into the handsome Sydney office of Mr. Ralph Carr. The tall young man who was seated at the desk with a cigarette between his lips rose and brushed a few specks of ash from the lapel of his well-cut coat.

"Give it to me," he said in a languid voice, and taking the paper signed it with the name 'Paul Bassett.' The other took the paper and left the room, and Paul went across to the chair on which the box lay and examined the label.

"What the deuce is it?" he said with a slight frown. "Lanok. I wonder where that is." He stooped and lifted the box and a surprised expression came into his sleepy blue eyes. Queer eyes they were, with a sort of smoky look in them.

"Heavy as lead," he remarked. Then he shrugged his shoulders. "Another of those heathen gods that old Ralph collects, I suppose," he said. "Well, it will have to wait until he comes back. I'm not going to unpack the beastly thing." He went back to his desk and picking up a slim steel knife, began to slit open the pile of letters that had come by the morning post. Some went straight into the wastepaper basket, some were filed, some set aside to answer. Presently he picked up an envelope so soiled and crumpled that it looked as if it had been kept in somebody's pocket for a week.

"What a filthy mess," said the elegant Paul with disgust, then suddenly those odd eyes of his gleamed. "Post mark, Lanok," he murmured. "Perhaps this explains the ton o' lead." He unfolded a closely-written sheet of thin paper, and as he read it all the sleepiness went out of his eyes and you could see that Master Paul Bassett had quite another side to his character than the indolent pose he usually showed to the world. He read the letter twice, then dropped it and sat staring straight in front of him.

"This is a nice mix-up," he said in a low, angry voice. "So Ralph has a brother alive and two nephews, and he's never said a word to me about them. And Tudor wants to send his boys here to school." He sat frowning, drumming with the tips of his beautifully manicured fingers on the table and thinking deeply. Paul Bassett had come into Ralph Carr's service five years earlier as clerk, and had made himself so useful to the wealthy bachelor that he had become his confidential secretary. But Paul, who was a pushful young man with a great idea of Number One, had no idea of remaining in any subordinate position. His idea was to get Ralph to adopt him and in the end to succeed to the great fortune which he had recently made by clever speculation.

This letter from Tudor threatened to upset his applecart, for Paul was shrewd enough to see that the arrival of two nephews would be quite enough to change all his prospects. Presently he got up and went across to the chair on which the box lay. He opened it carefully and gasped when he saw the mass of rough virgin gold in flakes and nuggets that filled it. He had never before seen gold in the rough, and the sight of it affected him oddly.

"So it's good goods," he said to himself slowly. "And when Ralph sees it he will be tremendously impressed, and I'll lay he'll send off for these confounded boys to come by the next boat." He was silent again, and by the lines on his forehead, thinking hard. At last he spoke. "Why should he see it," he asked himself. "After all, there's no reason why he should see it—or the letter." He gave a low chuckle. "I know how to fix it and I've plenty of time, for Ralph won't be back till tomorrow night." He turned to the desk again, took up a pencil and a pad and wrote as follows:

Dear Sir,

Your letter of March 15th last has reached this office to-day together with the box of gold consigned by s.s. 'Auckland.' I regret to have to inform you that your brother, the late Mr. Ralph Carr, died in June of last year. This office is now in other hands. Under the circumstances I have no choice but to return to you the box of gold, addressed to your brother, and express my regret that I am not able to be of further service to you.

Yours faithfully,

Humphrey Hedworth.

He slipped a sheet of paper into the typewriter and was about to make a fair copy of this precious effusion when another idea came to him and he scowled more angrily than before.

"This is no good," he muttered. "If Tudor Carr gets the gold back, next thing will be he'll come down to Sydney himself to look for a school for his brats. Then the fat will be in the fire, for he's bound to hear that Ralph is still alive. I've got to fix it so that the gold never reaches him." He thought again for a little, then his lips curved in an unpleasant grin.

"I've got it," he said. "Salter's my man." He locked away the rough draft of the letter, took up his stick, hat and gloves, and left the office, locking the door behind him. Outside he took a taxi and ordered the man to drive him to the docks. Here he paid off the driver and made his way down the crowded wharves until he came opposite a slovenly-looking schooner whose dirty decks matched her scarred sides. A very black native was leaning on the rail smoking an even blacker pipe, and Paul hailed him.

"Hi, your fellow marster aboard?"

"Him oboard," was the reply, and Paul crossed the gangway and went down the narrow hatch into a long, low-roofed, extremely-dirty cabin.

The man who rose to meet him was about as like a rat as it is possible for a human being to be. His nose was sharp, his keen little eyes were rimmed with red, and he carried his head poked forwards. A small, bristly moustache stuck out on each side of his mouth and his teeth were long and yellow. This was Captain Stephen Salter of the schooner Kiwi. He thrust out a dirty hand.

"Blimey if it ain't Mister Bassett," he said in a high-pitched whine. "Pleased to see yer, Mister Bassett, an' wot brings yer down 'ere ter see yer old friend?"

Paul repressed a shudder of disgust.

"You're sailing for Thursday Island, aren't you, Captain?"

"Aye. You wanting a trip?"

"No, but I've a parcel to send to a place a bit further on—a little port called Lanok in New Guinea."

"I knows it, but it's a goodish way. I'll need ter be pyde fer a trip like that."

"The pay is good," said Paul. "Listen now." He lowered his voice to a whisper, and spoke for some minutes. Salter's thin lips twisted in a grin.

"If you ain't a oner, Mister Bassett! I sees. The letter's ter get there, but the parcel, that don't." He chuckled and the sound made Paul shiver—there was something so ugly and evil about the laugh.


"AYE, I'll do it," resumed Steve Salter. "I kin do it, but"—he held up a dirty forefinger—"we got ter be careful."

"Of course we've got to be careful," replied Paul impatiently, "but there's no risk to speak of."

Salter nodded. "Not fer you, maybe, fer no one ain't a going to suspect you, but I gotter think of myself."

"All you have to think of is that you've a lump of luck coming for next to nothing," retorted Paul. "You'd better come back with me now, and get the box and the letter." Salter shook his head.

"Not me, mister. I ain't a coming ashore agin afore I sails. I'm safer aboard here—see?" he added significantly.

"I suppose you mean you have creditors ashore, who might make it hot for you," said Paul rather scornfully.

"Creditors—and worse." Salter drew his finger suggestively across his throat. "No, I ain't going up to your place, even ter get this here lump o' luck you talks about. You gotter bring it yourself. See here, now, you go back and get it and wait till dark. Then take a taxi. I'd change half way and take another if I was you. Come aboard about eight and have a bite o' supper with me. Oh, you don't need to worry," he added quickly. "My cook's slap up and I can give you a proper good feed." Paul hesitated. He did not in the least want to feed in this dirty ship with its unshaven skipper, but on the other hand he could not afford to offend Salter.

"All right," he said at last. "I'll come."

"Good fer you," said Salter heartily. "And I'll put some ginger into that cook o' mine. I'll promise ye won't be disappointed." As Paul returned to the deck a man was coming aboard, a man whom Paul had never seen before. He was short, deep-chested, with a skin so dark he might well have been an Asiatic. But his black hair was curly, not straight, and something about him suggested that he had European blood. He wore a clean suit of white ducks, brown shoes and a broad-rimmed hat of very pale grey felt. Salter introduced him.

"My mate, Joao Suarez," he said. "Ain't a man alive as is better at getting work out of a pack o' lazy niggers." Paul could believe it, for there was a look in Suarez's dark eyes which made Paul shiver inwardly. Little as he liked Steve Salter, he infinitely preferred him to his mate. He gave Suarez a civil word, and went ashore.

Paul knew perfectly well that he was doing a dirty trick and he was not happy. But although his conscience pricked him he had no idea of giving up his plan and as soon as it was dark he took a taxi and started. The gold was in an old suitcase, and the letter in his pocket. Half-way he changed cabs, as Salter had advised, and a little before eight he was aboard the Kiwi.

"You got your bag, I sees," said Salter, and Paul realized that this remark was for the benefit of the crew. They were not to know the value of the contents of the case. "Come right along down. Supper'll be ready most as soon as we are."

He took Paul into his own cabin, and eagerly opened the case. Paul saw the covetous gleam in the man's eyes as he lifted the bag of gold and judged its weight. Then he cut it open and his eyes glowed again as he ran his fingers through the mass of small nuggets and dust.

"Gee, Mr. Bassett, I dunno how you kin make up your mind ter part with this," he remarked with a sharp glance at Paul's face.

"I've told you my reasons," replied Paul curtly.

"I wouldn't say they were bad ones," returned Salter, "but you was right when you said this was a lump o' luck. A few more lumps like this here, and I'd go right back to London town and live like a gent." Paul spoke:

"You'll give me a receipt for this." Salter fixed his beady eyes on Paul's face.

"What yer want a receipt fer?" he asked suspiciously.

"In case there's any trouble. Suppose the owner came down to Sydney, you can see for yourself I must have something to show for all this gold."

"And wot about me?" demanded Salter in a voice that was suddenly surly. "You reckoning to put all the trouble on my shoulders?"

"Don't be foolish. The risk is next to nothing, and anyhow you can say you were robbed or wrecked or something."

"I ain't giving you no receipt," growled Salter.

"Then there's nothing doing, and I shall take the gold back and find some other way of disposing of it." Paul spoke with a sharpness which had its effect on Salter. He picked up some of the gold and handled it as if he coveted it. There was silence for some moments, then Salter looked up again.

"All right," he grumbled. "If you insists I suppose I got to do it." He went to the table, took a sheet of paper from a drawer and a rusty pen from a stand. Then sitting down and squaring his elbows he wrote a few lines, and handed the paper to Paul.

"That do?" he asked. Paul read it.

"That's all right, if you will sign it—and date it."

Salter did as he was requested and Paul folded the paper and placed it in his pocket book. Then Salter shut up the suitcase, locked it, and thrust it into an old iron safe which stood against the wall. This, too, he locked and stood up.

"An' now we'll go and have some supper," he remarked, and led the way into the main cabin. A meal was ready on the table and it looked and smelled better than Paul had expected. There was a joint of roast pork with vegetables, and some quite nice looking fruit, pine-apple, oranges and guavas. Suarez came in looking smart in his white ducks and the three sat down together.

Suarez, Paul gathered, was a half-bred Portuguese and Malay, but he appeared to have been well educated and talked infinitely better than his skipper. He seemed to have knocked about all over the South Seas, and had plenty to say about his travels. He told some wild stories of adventures on the coast of Malaita, that most dangerous of the Solomon Islands, with its steaming jungles, smoking volcanoes, and man-eating savages. Paul was so interested that he sat listening eagerly for more than an hour after supper was finished.

All of a sudden it occurred to him that the schooner was moving. He listened a moment, and made sure that the engine was running. He started up.

"We're moving," he said sharply.

"Don't worry about that, mister," said Salter with a laugh. "We're only changing berth so as to be ready fer the tide at six tomorrer morning." Paul dropped back in his seat. He had no real reason to be uneasy and yet he was. Presently he declared that it was time for him to go, and it seemed to him that he caught a swift glance pass between Salter and Suarez. Panic seized him and leaping up he rushed on deck.

It was a bright night with a moon just past the full rising out of the sea, and the first thing Paul noticed was that the ship was at least five miles out from the wharf where she had been lying and steering straight for the Heads. He heard steps behind him, and turned.

"You swine!" he cried furiously as he saw the grin on Salter's face. Salter laughed.

"Took me fer a sucker, didn't you, but I ain't. If you think I'm going to be lagged fer stealing that there gold you got another guess coming. It's you as has took it." Paul's temper went to the winds, and he flung himself furiously on Salter. A leg swiftly thrust out by the little Cockney tripped him and down he came on the planking of the deck with such a thump as knocked all the senses out of him. When they came back he found himself lying on his back on the bare boards of a bunk in a small, stuffy and very dirty cabin and by the motion of the schooner he knew that she was beyond the Heads and out to sea. He struggled up only to fall back, sick and giddy, and for many hours he lay there so seasick that he hardly cared whether he lived or died.


THE rainy season was nearly over, but the coast lands of New Guinea still reeked with moisture and the hot air was full of the hum of insect life as the three Carrs and old Cosby Dane sat together on the veranda after supper. Out in the darkness a bell bird was sounding its curious call like a clapper striking on a gong of bronze, and in the swampy edges of the creek a great bull alligator bellowed now and then.

Peter spoke.

"I say, Dad, oughtn't we to hear from Uncle Ralph pretty soon. It's jolly near four months since you wrote to him." Mr. Carr knocked out his pipe against the arm of his chair.

"Yes, Peter, it's quite time we heard. His letter may be at Lanok this minute, and I think we'd better send a boy to-morrow to see if it's there." Before anyone else could speak a low growl was heard and Dingo, the big cross-bred Airedale, rose from beside Tudor Carr's chair.

"What's up, old man?" asked his master.

"Must be someone about," said Peter. "Look how he's bristling."

"Funny!" remarked his father in a puzzled voice. "It's no time of day for natives to be about." This was true, for the superstitious Papuan, bold enough in the day, is dreadfully afraid of the dark and if it is necessary to be abroad after nightfall usually goes in company.

For a few moments all sat very quiet, listening. Then Dingo growled again, deep in his throat, and all of a sudden a shadowy figure showed in the starlight in the open ground fronting the house.

"Who's there?" demanded Tudor Carr sharply.

"A friend," came the answer in good English, but with a slightly foreign accent.

"Come into the light," answered Mr. Carr.

"Down, Dingo!" he added, and caught the dog by the collar.

All craned forward to watch the newcomer, who advanced into the light thrown through the open window by the big paraffin lamp in the sitting-room. They saw a stockily-built dark-faced man dressed in what might once have been white ducks but were now mere mud-stained rags. He staggered as he walked and seemed to keep himself upright only by the stout stake he carried.

"Hold Dingo, Peter," said Tudor Carr, for the dog was straining forward and still growling angrily, then getting up he went forward to take a closer look at the strange visitor.

"What's your name and where do you come from?" he asked.

"My name is Suarez. I have a letter for Mr. Carr."

"That's my name. You can give it me." Suarez took a grimy, mud-stained envelope from the pocket of his ragged jacket and handed it over.

"May I sit down," he asked. "I'm nearly done."

Tudor Carr nodded.

"Sit on the steps a minute. If you're all right we'll look after you, but we have to be careful about strangers."

"I can understand that," said the other hoarsely, as he dropped on the steps and sat all in a heap, looking utterly exhausted. Tudor Carr took the letter to the window, opened and read it by the light of the lamp. Peter, watching him, saw his face change and knew that something was badly wrong. But he did not speak. Tudor Carr banded the letter to Cosby Dane and he, too, read it.

"A nice business?" said Tudor Carr. Old Dane frowned.

"A queer business. But where's the gold? Tell that fellow to come up here." Mr. Carr called Suarez up.

"Do you know what is in this letter?" he questioned.

"I can make a pretty good guess at it," was the answer. "Mr. Hedworth, who wrote it, brought it aboard the schooner Kiwi, of which I was the first mate, and asked Captain Salter to take it and a package to Lanok."

"And where is the package?" Suarez shrugged his shoulders.

"At the bottom of the sea, with the schooner."

"What?" cried Tudor Carr. "Wrecked!"

"Yes," was Suarez's quiet answer. "We ran on Dutch Shoal two nights ago in a thunder squall. The sea knocked the schooner to bits and so far as I know I am the only one who got ashore." For nearly a minute there was a dead silence broken only by a rumbling growl from Dingo. Peter had to hold the dog firmly. Dane was the first to speak.

"Bad luck, Tudor. And worse luck still that your brother is dead." Tudor Carr sighed heavily.

"It's a bad—bad business, Cosby. I don't know what we shall do."

"The first thing to do is to buck up," was Cosby Dane's answer. "The gold's gone. That can't be helped, and I'm sorry, for the boys' sake. But, after all, they're fit and well and so are you, and sooner or later your plantation will pay, and all will be well. The second thing, if I may remind you, is to give Mr. Suarez some food and a bath. He looks as if he needed them both."

"You are very kind, Señor," said Suarez. "I am indeed in need of food, for I have eaten nothing except some guavas since I got ashore." Tudor Carr roused to a sense of his duties as host. "Bruce, call Paloa and tell him to make some coffee and put some supper on the table." He turned to Suarez. "Come with me," he said, and Suarez followed him into the house. Bruce came back to where Peter and Cosby Dane were sitting.

"This is a bad job," he said gravely.

"Rotten," agreed Peter. "Dad's frightfully upset."

"That's the worst part of it," said Cosby Dane. "He's been so set on getting you boys away to school that the loss of this gold is a nasty shock to him."

"But, after all, you're right, sir," said Peter. "So long as we're fit we can always get along all right."

"We shall have a job to persuade dad of that," said Bruce uncomfortably. "He takes things like this so hard. And it's rotten," he added angrily. "It makes me sick to think of losing all that gold that cost you such a lot of getting, Mr. Dane."

"It's a sight worse for those poor folk in the Kiwi," said Cosby Dane in his quiet way.

"That's true," said Bruce thoughtfully. "All right, Mr. Dane, I'll try not to grouse any more." Dingo growled again as Mr. Carr and Suarez came into the dining-room. Suarez was wearing a suit belonging to Mr. Carr and had had a wash. He looked almost smart, but Dingo did not seem to like him any better. The native boy, Paloa, brought in a tray and Suarez began to eat hungrily. While he ate Mr. Carr questioned him about the wreck.

Suarez said he had managed to get hold of a floating hatch cover when the schooner broke up and had drifted ashore on it. He had had a bad time clambering through the mangrove swamp that lined the shore and had had a very narrow escape from an alligator.

"I was very grateful when I saw your light, sir," he added. When he had finished his meal he asked if he might turn in. "I'm so sleepy I can hardly keep my eyes open," he confessed, and Mr. Carr took him to the spare bedroom. Then he came back and joined the others on the veranda.

Bruce was right. His father was terribly upset about the loss of the gold. He blamed himself bitterly for sending it instead of taking it to Sydney, and nothing that the rest could say seemed to comfort him.

"You nearly gave your life for it, Cosby," he said, "and now I've let it all go. I can't ever forgive myself."

"Worrying won't do you any good," said Dane in his calm way. "There's a lot of truth in that old proverb about spilt milk."

Bruce and Peter shared a room. Later, when they were undressing they talked.

"What do you think of this fellow, Suarez, Peter?" Bruce asked.

"Not a lot," replied Peter frankly. "He's some sort of half breed, and dad's always said they're no good. And Dingo simply hates him."

"I noticed that," agreed Bruce. "We'll have to keep the dog tied up until Suarez leaves, or he'll go for him." He pulled the mosquito net aside and got into his cot.

"I don't know what we shall do about dad," he added.

"There's only one thing to do, said Peter.

"What's that?" demanded his brother.

"Get some more gold." Bruce stared.


"There's more where that came from," said Peter coolly.

"You're crazy," retorted Bruce. "We couldn't get it."

"I don't see why not. We know it came from Gloom Gorge. Cosby has told us the way so often I believe I could find it blindfold. Why shouldn't we go and have a shy at it?" Bruce sat on his cot gazing at his brother with a worried expression on his good-looking face.

"That's true enough so far as it goes, Peter, but what about the fever and the floods and the niggers? If the trip nearly killed Cosby what earthly chance should we have of getting through?" Peter was not at all dismayed.

"We're a lot younger than Cosby; we're pretty nearly fever proof. We know New Guinea about as well as any chaps can—well enough, anyhow, not to run ourselves into trouble. Honestly, Bruce, I can't see why we shouldn't do it all right." Bruce sat frowning and Peter watched him in silence. Outside an owl hooted and somewhere in the house a board creaked. At last Bruce spoke.

"Dad would never let us," he said.

"Of course he wouldn't, but why should he know? You and I have often been out and away shooting for two of three days at a time."

"But not alone," said Bruce.

"No. Dad's made us take Kinabula with us, but why shouldn't he come on this trip?" Bruce grunted and Peter went on.

"It's not so awfully far. We go up the river as far as Split Rock, That takes a day. Then we take the left hand branch and carry on as far as the rapids. We portage round them, then about three days paddling brings us right to the foot of the big hills. After that it's only a matter of going straight north. You can't miss Gloom Gorge, Cosby says, for it's about twenty miles long." He stopped again and watched his brother. Bruce drew a long breath.

"I'm game," he said at last.

"I knew you were," said Peter with warm approval. Suddenly he stiffened. "There's that board creaking again," he said in a low voice, and tiptoeing to the door in his bare feet opened it. He listened awhile, then closed it and came back.

"All right," he said. "Dad's in bed and so's Cosby, and I can hear that Suarez chap snoring. But we shall have to be jolly careful that no one gets wind of this plan or Dad will put the hat on it."

"When did you think of starting?" asked Bruce. Though the elder by more than a year, Bruce always deferred to his younger brother when there was any big decision to be made.

"The sooner the better. The rains are just about over. We might push off about Monday next." Bruce nodded, but he was still frowning.

"We shall want a lot of stores for a trip like that. We may be away a month or more. How are we going to get them?"

"Buy 'em," said Peter coolly. "We've got about ten quid between us that we've saved up. We'll take the boat to-morrow or next day and go over to Lanok. Grimball at the Store will let us have all we want and we can trust him to keep his mouth shut."

"We shall want shovels and pans," said Bruce.

"We can get the lot and leave them hidden in the little cave."

"There's Kinabula to think of," remarked Bruce. "We don't know whether he'll come or not."

"What a chap you are for making objections!" grinned Peter. "Kinny will simply jump at the chance. He comes from the mountains and he's always been longing to get back there. Now if you're quite satisfied I vote we turn in. We shall have plenty to do in the next few days."

"Don't know how I'm going to sleep with that blighter snoring next door," grumbled Bruce. "He's worse than a pig."

But Peter did not answer, and in spite of the noise which came through the thin boards from the next room, Bruce was soon sound asleep.


AS the boys dressed next morning Peter had a bright idea. "This fellow Suarez will want to go in Lanok. It's the only place he can get a ship, ain't it?"

"I suppose so," said Bruce, "but what about it?"

"Don't be thick. Can't you see what a topping excuse it gives us for a trip to Lanok?" Bruce whistled softly.

"You're right. But suppose he doesn't want to go?"

"Then we must wait until to-morrow. All the same, I don't think he'll stay here long." Peter was right for at breakfast Suarez began to inquire what chance there was of getting away.

"I have lost everything," he said in his soft purring voice. "I shall have to start afresh, and the sooner I do so the better."

"We can send you to Lanok," said Tudor Carr.

"It is some ten miles up the coast."

"I shall be very grateful," replied the half-breed, and then Peter struck in. "Dad, Bruce and I can take him. There's a fair breeze and if we start soon we can get back by night."

"Very well," said their father. "You can go. But you'll be careful." Suarez was full of thanks, and when he was in the boat proved to be a good sailor. Peter tried to get him to talk of the wreck of the Kiwi, but instead of that he told the boys stories he had told the unfortunate Paul Bassett a few weeks earlier, but the boys of course did not know that, and they were much interested. All the same when they reached Lanok and their unbidden guest bade them a polite adieu they both breathed a sigh of relief.

"Something rum about that chap," Peter said, and Bruce agreed. Then they dismissed him from their minds and started to look for Kinabula. They found him in his little house close to the beach. It was no palm leaf shack, but "a proper house" as its owner called it, built of sawn boards and roofed with shingles. True, it only had one room, but that room was furnished with a real stove, a kettle, a frying-pan and a white man's cot, and was decorated with an ancient picture of King Edward in full uniform and a coloured almanack of the year 1906.

Kinabula himself came out to welcome his visitors. He was a Papuan, black as coal and with a great mop of hair bleached with lime. But he wore white man's trousers and shirt and these were wonderfully clean and tidy. Kinabula had been in the native police and had retired with a small pension. Though past forty, which is old for a native, he was a fine built man and still very strong and active, a great hunter, and very fond of the two English boys.

"I very glad to see you," he declared, showing his teeth in a broad grin. "You please come in my house."

"And we're jolly glad to see you, Kinny," said Peter shaking hands. "Yes, we'll come in. We've something to tell you."

"Rains finish. You go shooting," suggested the native.

"Something better than shooting, Kinny," said Peter. "You listen." Kinabula listened in silence and when Peter had finished he still sat silent.

"Won't you come?" asked Peter sharply. "Don't you like the trip?"

"Him fine trip," allowed Kinabula, "but him very bad trip. I tink him Oroko kai-kai us if we go."

"Surely we can dodge him, Kinny. You know the country."

"Only way to do it, go past Oroko's place by night," Kinabula told him.

"Well, let's go by night."

"Him very bad go in dark," said the native gravely.

"We've got to chance it," Peter told him urgently. "Dad wants that gold terribly. Will you come, Kinny?" Kinabula still hesitated.

"One way you go better than canoe."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean him sky boat," said the black man waving his hand upwards.

"Aeroplane, oh, I see. Yes, that would be fine, but there's no 'plane at Lanok."

"White marster, Allen, he have sky boat."

"But he's not here. He's over on the Aird, two hundred miles away and we might be a month getting hold of him, and even then he might not be able to come. We can't wait for Allen. I'm sure we can manage by canoe. Say you'll come, Kinny."

"Yes, I come," said the man simply.

"Hurray for you, Kinny," exclaimed Peter, but Kinny held up a warning hand.

"You no hurray till you get back safe, marster."

"He's about right," said Bruce. "I wish we could get hold of Tubby Allen and his 'plane. This isn't going to be any picnic, Peter."

"I know," said Peter quietly. "Well, the next thing is to get the stores. What shall we want, Kinny?" The native, who knew as much about camping in the wilds of New Guinea as any man, began to talk, and Peter jotted down notes in an old pocket-book with a stub of pencil. This took some time and when they had finished they went through it all again to see roughly what it would cost. When at last it was finished Peter got up.

"Now Bruce, we'd better go to Grimball's and buy the stuff." Bruce shook his head.

"Much better let Kinny do it. If dad heard of our buying such a lot he'd smell a rat." Peter grunted.

"You're right, and Kinny will get the stuff cheaper anyhow. Go ahead, Kinny. We'll wait here for you." Kinny took the money and went. The boys drowsed in the heat. It was an hour or more before Kinny came back.

"You got it?" asked Peter.

"I got him, marster." He paused. "Him breed fellow, him from Kiwi, I see him buy stuff at store."

"Getting a new outfit, I suppose," said Bruce carelessly.

"Him get pretty big outfit," said Kinny. "I link him go trip somewhere."

"He's not likely to be going our way," said Peter with a laugh. "Now, Kinny, we'll go and get ourselves some food, and you meet us on Monday next at the mouth of the river."

"I do that," Kinny promised. "I have boat and all stuff."

The last of the big thunderstorms blew over during the week-end, and on Monday as the boys set out the sky was clearer than it had been for weeks. They had had no difficulty in getting their father's permission for a trip up the creek, especially as Kinabula was to be with them. Since the boys did not want Mr. Carr to be alarmed at their long absence Peter had written a note telling of their real intention, and given it to Paloa, ordering him to hand it to his master in a week's time. Bruce also wrote a letter though he did not tell Peter about it. It was addressed to "H. Allen, Esqre," and he sent it to the post office at Lanok by Paloa. In it he described his and Peter's plan and suggested that, if Allen was not too busy he might like to chip in.

"There seems to be gold enough for all of us up in this place we're going to," he ended.

Kinabula was waiting at the mouth of the Loma, but to their surprise the boys saw he had another man with him—a white man.

"Him name Miley," explained Kinabula. "Him say not want wages. Him know how white men wash gold, and him take small share for wages."

"I hope ye don't make no objection, mates," said Miley who spoke in a sort of Cockney drawl which did not in the least appeal to Peter. "I been stranded there in Lanok fer a month past, and I'd be mighty glad fer a chance of going along. I done three years gold digging in North Queensland so I ain't exactly a greenie. If you fellers'll give me a ten per cent rake off on anything you gets that'll be all hunky." Peter looked him up and down.

"I'll have to talk to my brother," he said frankly.

"Right oh!" replied Miley. "I'll step aside. And there won't be any ill-feeling if you says No." He moved away out of earshot, and Peter spoke to Bruce.

"I don't care for the look of the chap," he said.

"He isn't much to look at," agreed Bruce, "but if Kinny vouches for him it ought to be all right, and a fourth man will make all the difference in working up the river. Two can paddle and two can lay off." Peter nodded.

"That's true, but after all, we don't know anything about him, and he looks a pretty hard case."

"Ask Kinny," said Bruce. Peter called up Kinabula and questioned him. The native knew very little about Miley but thought he was good goods.

"All right," said Peter. "Then we take him, but he's got to understand that he does as we say, and that he only takes a tenth of the gold." Miley agreed, and within a few minutes the four were in the boat paddling upstream.

The river was very full with the recent rain and it was real hard work driving against the flood. At times all four had to paddle. Miley did his share, and before the day was half over Peter had to acknowledge he was very glad of his help.

They stopped for dinner on a beach of clean sand. A lovely spot for the steep banks were covered with croton bushes, the leaves of which, holding every tint of green, red and yellow, made a perfect blaze of colour in the glaring sunshine.

"We've done jolly well," said Bruce. "We're a good half-way to Split Rock."

Instead of answering, Peter caught his brother by the arm.

"Look!" he whispered.

"What at?"

"That man. No, it's too late. He's gone."

"Who was it—where was he?" asked Bruce sharply.

"A native. He was watching us from the top of the bluff opposite. I spotted his head poking out among the branches."

"What sort of a chap was he?" asked Bruce anxiously.

"I'm afraid he was one of Oroko's men," replied Peter, and Bruce whistled softly.

"That's torn it. What do we do—go back?"


"GO back!" repeated Peter staring at his brother. "You're not funking it, Bruce?"

"Of course not, you ass, but what chance have we against Oroko's cannibals? There are dozens of 'em, and after what we did to 'em at the cave you can bet they're just thirsting for our blood. I don't mean to go back altogether," he added, "but go downstream a bit and try some other way."

"There's no other way," said Peter, still gazing at the spot where the mop-haired savage had disappeared.

"Well, we can't stay here," returned Bruce. "That's one thing sure, for as soon as that blighter gets word to the rest they'll be all over us. If we don't go back we must go on."

"We'll ask Kinny," said Peter. Kinabula, busy with a small fire on which he was heating some coffee, had not seen the savage. He listened carefully to what Peter told him.

"It no matter if we go up or down," he said. "Them fella niggers come after us."

"Sounds healthy," said Bruce glumly. Miley, who had been dozing, woke up.

"Wot's that yer sye—niggers on our track?"

"Yes," Peter answered. "Oroko's men."

"Oroko—I've heard of him. Cannibal, ain't he?"

"He'll scoff the lot of us if he catches us."

"That's just what we're planning to avoid," said Bruce rather dryly. He thought Miley was scared. "What are we going to do, Kinny?" he asked of the big native.

"We go on," Kinny answered. "Them Oroko fella wait till him altogether dark before they come."

"That doesn't sound very helpful," said Bruce, but Kinny remained calm.

"You no worry marsta. We catch 'em one time."

"All right. You know best," said Bruce. "We'd best shift at once, hadn't we?"

"What use hurry? Belly belong me empty. We no can paddle unless full."

"He's got the rights of it, fellers," said Miley. "Grub afore work. That's my motto." Bruce and Peter were both watching the little Cockney pretty closely, but they had to admit that, if he was scared, fright did not spoil his appetite, and he ate his full share of the bully beef, biscuits and coffee that formed the midday meal. Also he insisted on time for a pipe of tobacco before starting again.

"Ain't no use killing of yourself the first day out," he told the boys. "It only means as you can't sleep, and then you ain't fit fer the next day's job." They took their full hour's rest and then started up river again. The boys noticed that Kinny kept in mid-stream and watched the banks closely, but neither he nor they saw a sign of natives. Bright-plumaged birds and even more brilliant butterflies were the only living things visible along the edges of the broad brown stream that came sweeping down from the distant mountains.

As the sun began to sink Kinny kept a keen lookout for a camping place and finally picked upon a place where a little stream came down into the river through a steep sided ravine. Bruce frowned.

"Don't think much of this, Kinny. If the niggers have followed us we'll be easy victims down at the bottom of this place."

"Orait (all right) Marsta. You no worry," replied the tall native gravely. "We finish them fella altogether."

"I hope we shall," said Bruce, but he looked very doubtful. A fire was lighted, and they proceeded to cook a good supper.

"What about them niggers?" asked Miley of Bruce. "You reckon they follered us?"

"That's what Kinabula thinks," Bruce answered. Miley looked round.

"Then this ain't much of a place to sleep in. They could rush us mighty easy."

"Just what I was thinking, Bruce answered, but Kinny knows what he's about."

"He's a wise bird," agreed Miley, "but me, I ain't going to sleep here, or likely I'll never wake up." Kinny heard.

"You rait," he said. "We no sleep here. We go back up there." He pointed up the gorge. "But we wait till altogether dark before we go. Now you help me, please get wood." There was plenty of timber handy, and under his direction they chopped four logs each about six feet long and laid these close to the fire which had got rather low. Kinabula turned to the others.

"You please go up there," he said pointing up the gorge. "Take guns and sleep-bags. You hide under him big tree and be altogether quiet. I come soon."

"All right," said Bruce. And as they walked away he added: "I wish I knew what the old beggar was after."

The tree which Kinny had pointed out was a banyan which grew on the top of the bank close above the camping place. The banyan has an odd way of dropping suckers to the ground, which take root and so make a thick jungle of stems. It was a hiding-place where a hundred men could easily have been concealed.

"He's making up the fire now," whispered Miley. "Looks like he wanted them niggers to find us."

"He's got some scheme in his woolly head." Peter answered. "Ah, here he comes." Kinabula came up the slope, dragging a thin wire behind him and joined the others. Below, the fire burned with a dull red glow which would last a long time.

"All fixed, Kinny?" asked Peter.

"Him fixed orait altogether. You see them logs?"

"Logs! They look just like people." Kinabula chuckled low in his throat.

"That what I want 'em look like, Marsta. I tink them fool Oroko men." Peter, too, laughed softly.

"I begin to see. A kind of booby trap."

"I no savvy booby trap, but it trap orait," said Kinny.

"I hope it will spring soon," Peter said. "These mosquitoes are pretty bad."

"Lumme, they're biting chunks out o' me," prowled Miley. "There's one on 'em trying to pull my right ear off." He slapped it as he spoke, but Peter said "Hush!" and after that there was silence. No—not silence for the bull frogs croaked, and smaller frogs bleated like lost lambs, and all sorts of queer insects made noises like rattles while night-moving creatures rustled in the brush. An hour passed—two hours. Nothing happened.

"Perhaps we got ahead of them," Peter whispered, but the big native pinched his arm.

"They come now," he answered. Peter never heard them come, yet suddenly the glade was full of savages. They came from the river and in the starlight moved softly as ghosts. Bent double they crept towards the fire, the dull light from which showed their great crops of hair bleached with lime and made their eyes glow red like those of wild beasts. Peter shuddered as he watched, and instinctively began to raise his rifle to his shoulder.

A score of spearheads flashed in the firelight sinewy black arms drew back and as the spears flew in a shower Peter shuddered again, for in every one of those logs which might have been their bodies three or four keen-bladed weapons quivered.

But the sound told the savages that something was wrong. Angry cries broke from them as they ran forward and bent over the logs which Kinabula had dressed up to represent human figures.

"Lumme but they're mad as hornets," muttered Miley. "Sye, but there's going to be all kinds o' trouble when they starts looking fer us."

"There be plenty trouble orait," observed Kinny as he reached for the cord. There followed a roar which sounded as loud as thunder and the fire rose up in a fountain of blazing logs and crimson sparks which made everything for a hundred yards round as bright as day. The roar was followed by the most fearful howls and yells as Oroko's men, scorched, scared and half-blinded, ran madly for their canoes.

"Dynamite," said Miley. "Well, I'll be jiggered."

"Better you be jiggered than kai-kaied," remarked Kinabula, and Miley smote him between the shoulder blades exclaiming:

"You're sure right, old son."

"Now take some sleep," said Kinabula calmly as he rose to his feet. "I no think them debbil-debbils come back this night." He went calmly back to the camping place, coiling the wire behind him as he walked, then he gathered up some burning embers and lit a fresh fire after which he wrapped himself in his blanket and lay calmly down to sleep. Peter looked at the crater which the dynamite had blown in the ground. He picked up a spear which one of their attackers had dropped.

"We shan't come to much harm as long as Kinny's on the job," he said.

"We're safe from Oroko's crowd anyhow," agreed Bruce.

"There's worse than them up in the hills," remarked the Cockney. "And that's as true as my name's Sam Miley."


NEXT morning dawned bright and clear and the only sign of the attack was the spears Oroko's men had left behind them. The party made an early start and after an hour's paddling saw ahead of them a huge crag, the dome-like top of which looked as if it had been split by an axe in the hands of a giant. This was Split Rock.

It did indeed split the river in two or rather it stood between the junction of the two streams that made the river. That to the right was small and swift but the left hand tributary was deep and not too rapid for paddling. They turned up it and kept on steadily for two hours when they began to hear a low droning sound which seemed to come from a great distance.

"That must be the rapid," said Bruce. "What did Mr. Dane call it—soda water, wasn't it?"

"Sounds more like Niagara," said Peter doubtfully, and as they travelled onwards the sound grew steadily till the whole air was full of the pulsing roar. The canoe rounded a bend, shot into a great pool and there in front were the rapids, a huge slide of white water quite straight and about a quarter of a mile long. Miley's eyes widened as he stared at the roaring eddies from which puffs of white foam rose and fell. "I reckon if we ever gets up there Oroko's men ain't a-going to follow us," he remarked dryly.

"How do we tackle it?" Peter asked.

"We gotter portage," Miley told him. "Take everything out of the canoe and carry it up the bank, then trail the canoe up at the end of a rope."

"All right then. Let's start," said Peter. But Kinny would not agree to this.

"Eat first—then pull strong," he said. So they landed and got out a tin of what Kinny called "bull-ma-cow" otherwise bully beef, and made a meal. That finished, everything was taken out of the canoe and made into loads; the canoe itself was pulled up and carefully hidden and they started.

It is not much fun to carry half a hundredweight of stuff up a steep hill in tropical heat, but when you have to carry it through virgin forest and over ground covered with boulders and seamed with deep cracks and crevices, the business becomes real slavery. Over and over again they had to stop and lay down their loads while Kinny used his axe to open a path. It took them more an hour to cover that quarter of a mile and they were all pretty nearly played out when at last they reached the top. Peter was limping. A thorn had run into his foot. Kinny himself pulled it out and Bruce poured some iodine into the wound. Wounds of this sort have a nasty way of getting poisoned in the sweltering heat of New Guinea.

Peter vowed he was all right but Bruce ordered him to stay where he was and watch the goods while the rest went back for the canoe. Bruce did not often put his foot down, but when he did Peter took it as said. Anyhow someone had to stay with the stuff so he sat on a log and watched the huge and gorgeous butterflies fluttering over the edges of the river.

Time passed and he was beginning to expect the others back when something moved in the bushes near-by and suddenly he caught sight of a fine black pig rooting near the edge of a little glade.

Pig-pork! The very thought made Peter's mouth water. He and all of them were sick and tired of tinned beef, and he thought what a triumph it would be if he could kill the pig and have it ready when the others returned. Very softly he picked up his gun which was loaded with buck shot and began to crawl through the bushes. His foot was a bit sore but not enough to prevent his walking.

The pig had moved but he could still glimpse its black, bristly back among the leaves. Yet he dared not shoot until he could get a better sight of it. Yard by yard he crept silently onwards but the pig, too, was moving and do what he would he could not get a clear shot. It was going straight back from the river and presently Peter found himself in a second and larger glade, a beautiful spot surrounded by thick tanamu trees and where the ground was thick with lovely flowers over which huge black and gold swallowtail butterflies hovered.

The pig was rooting under a tree at the opposite side of the glade. It was rather a long shot, but Peter was so afraid that the creature would disappear into the far bushes that he decided to risk it. He was in the act of raising his gun when he caught a movement among the trees beyond the glade, something swished through the air and the pig, transfixed by a spear, rolled over, squealed once and died. Peter had just time to drop as a tall, sinewy savage leaped out of the shadows upon the pig and uttering a grunt of satisfaction began to drag the spear out of the dead beast.

Then something else happened. Out of the tree above dropped an object like a thick rope that gleamed in the sunlight with prismatic colours. It was an immense snake and its great head with mouth wide open and three-inch fangs shining white, confronted the black man. Without his spear, he seemed helpless, yet he was not for he had a second weapon, a heavy club curved like a boomerang, and made of hard black iron wood. With great pluck he stood his ground and struck at the python with this weapon.

But the snake was quicker than he—so quick that even Peter, watching breathlessly, could hardly catch the movement. In a flash a coil of the huge reptile was round the man's body and he screamed as it tightened.

That scream roused Peter. He forgot that this man was a black and probably very dangerous cannibal; all he saw or thought of was that here was a fellow-being in desperate danger, and he rushed to the rescue. Placing the muzzle of his gun close against the body of the snake at a point just above the head of the native, he pulled the trigger.

The buckshot tore the great brute's body almost in two, shattering its spine. The fore part fell away from the man, and the whole of the monster dropped to the earth and lay writhing, thrashing fearfully among the long grass. Peter fired again and blew the brute's hideous head to pieces, then turned his attention to the native who lay flat on the ground. He had had a fearful squeeze and for a moment Peter thought he was done for. But his heart still beat and presently he opened his eyes and stared vaguely up into Peter's face. He gasped out some words which Peter, of course, could not understand, and tried to struggle up, but collapsed again, and lay panting. The fact was that the wind had been squeezed out of his lungs so that he could hardly breathe.

Peter did not know what to do, but just then he heard a shout, and here came Kinny running into the glade. His quick eyes took in the pig, the python and the man in a moment. Then he looked round swiftly to see if there was anyone else in sight.

"I was trying to shoot the pig," Peter explained quickly. "This fellow got ahead of me, then the python dropped out of the tree, and tackled the native and I shot him." Kinny nodded.

"Plenty good pig," he observed.

"Yes, but the man. Is he one of Oroko's crowd?" Kinny shook his head.

"Him Purari fella, I think." He spoke to the native who was slowly recovering and the latter, apparently relieved at seeing someone of his own colour, answered. Kinny looked up at Peter.

"Him name Mambare, his Purari man. He say he pretty pleased you kill dem snake." Peter laughed.

"He ought to be. He'd be mincemeat if I hadn't, and what about the pig Kinny?"

"Him say you take pig, but him help eat it." Peter chuckled again.

"That sounds all right. Then he'd better come back to camp with us."

"He help carry pig," agreed Kinny as he drew a big knife and started expertly butchering the animal. This done he cut it up, took half and Mambare the other half, and they went back to the head of the rapid where they found that Bruce and Miley had reloaded the canoe. Miley was delighted at the sight of the pig.

"Roast pork and crackling!" he grinned. "Ain't got no apple sauce, but I reckon we'll make do with guavas. I perposes a vote o' thanks to Mister Peter Carr."

"And I second it," laughed Bruce. "But what are we going to do with the black gentleman?"

"Him say he come along one piece," said Kinabula. "Him know river pretty good."

"And he looks like he can paddle," added Miley. "Boys, we're sure doing fine." They got aboard and paddled away. Tired as they were, they could not afford to waste the few hours before dark. Mambare wielded a good paddle and he certainly knew the river. Twice he saved them from running on rocks, and when dusk came he found them a good camping ground where they lit a big fire and roasted a great joint of pork. Large as it was, the whole thing was finished, and after the rest had rolled in their blankets Mambare was left still gnawing the bones.


NEXT morning Kinny had another talk with Mambare and the boys noticed a serious expression on the face of their black friend.

"What's up, Kinny?" asked Peter.

"Him say 'nother boat come up river," answered Kinny.

"Oroko's men?" asked Peter quickly.

"Him no Oroko; him white man."

"A white man! Who can that be?" asked Bruce, puzzled.

"I not know for sure, but I tink him Suarez."

"But Suarez had no money. He'd lost everything in the wreck," Bruce objected.

"Anyhow he was buying stuff at the store," put in Peter. "Kinny saw him."

"Yes I remember," said Bruce, "but what is he doing up here?"

"Following us," replied Peter sharply. "Bruce, don't you remember how that board creaked outside our room?"

"But he was asleep—snoring?"

"All camouflage, I'll bet. I don't believe he was any more asleep that I am. He listened, and he's after us to find out where the gold came from." Bruce whistled softly.

"I'm beginning to believe you've got the right end of the stick, Peter. But what a mess!"

"Don't worry," said Peter. "Likely as not Oroko will scupper him or scare him back. And in any case there are the rapids between him and us. But what's more likely than anything is that the whole business is a yarn. How can this fellow Mambare know anything about it?" Kinny, who had been listening, cut in.

"Him know all right. Him listen tom-tom." Bruce nodded. He and Peter had been long enough in New Guinea to know the way in which news travels just as it does in Africa and South America by means of native drums. There seemed no doubt that someone was following them, and probably it was Suarez.

"Then it's up to us to beat him to it," Bruce said. "And with Mambare to guide us we ought to do it. Will that nigger come with us up to the Gorge?" Kinny shook his head.

"Him no come hills; him scared."

"What of?"

"Him say big fella hairy men live in hills."

"Hairy men?" repeated Peter. "I never heard of them, have you, Kinny?" Kinny looked uncomfortable.

"I think him talk 'em true. I hear 'em altogether big fella live in trees."

"Sounds like apes," said Peter, "but there are none in New Guinea."

"Just a yarn," replied Bruce. "And anyhow it's not apes that are worrying me, but gold thieves."

"We'll beat him to the hills," vowed Peter as he glanced towards the great rampart of mountains which towered against the northern sky.

Another hard day's paddling, and now the river was growing shallower and more swift, but there was still plenty of water. There were more people, too, for they heard drums constantly. It was not altogether pleasant to know that news of their coming was spreading inland to the very foot of the mountains. Late in the afternoon they found themselves opposite a native village which was built close to the bank of the stream. Forty or fifty formidable looking savages stood on the shore, all fully armed, gazing at the white strangers, and Mambare seemed distinctly uneasy. Kinabula whispered to have their guns ready in case of trouble, for that these men were head-hunters. Suddenly Miley spoke.

"What about giving 'em a bit o' music?" he said, and with that pulled out a case containing a mouth organ and set it to his lips.

The strains of "Dixie" rang out through the hot, still air. Rich and full and clear—it was hard to believe that they could come from such a shabby-looking little instrument. The big black men on the bank relaxed. You could see the astonishment on their ugly faces. Even the two who were paddling the canoe checked to listen.

The tune changed. It was "Marching through Georgia." So he sang the chorus "from Atlanta to the Sea." The chorus pealed out magnificently. The natives began to stamp in time to the music.

The little man finished.

"Go on," whispered Bruce.

"I tink we go on," said Kinny dipping his paddle again. Once more Miley struck up. He played "Home Sweet Home," and so sweetly and softly that Peter actually felt the tears coming into his eyes. By the time Miley had finished the canoe was safe around the next bend. Bruce turned to Miley.

"My word, you can play," he exclaimed with heartfelt admiration. "Where did you learn?"

"Taught meself when I were sheep herdin' in New South Wales," replied Miley as he wiped his instrument with a very dirty handkerchief and carefully put it away.

"It's a great gift," said Bruce. "I think you saved us from those natives. I'm glad you came with us." Miley grinned.

"You been a long time making up your mind," he said, and this was so true that Bruce got rather red.

They saw no more villages during the next two days. On the third morning after passing the rapids they were quite close to the mountains which rose like a wall across their path, appallingly steep and massive. They went up, precipice after precipice, in gigantic steps until the summits were lost in cloud.

"Getting near now," said Peter eagerly.

"But all the worst ter come," replied Miley, squinting up at the heights. "Ain't it a pity we can't turn this here canoe into a airyplane? It'ud save us a lot o' shoe leather." For the last hour a roar like that of the rapids, only deeper and louder, had been in their ears. Now they came suddenly upon a terrific cataract where the whole body of the river plunged over a five hundred foot wall of rock into a huge black pool.

"And this is where we begin to walk," said Peter as he paddled towards the shore. It took two hours to hide the canoe deep in the woods and make up their packs. Then Mambare left them. Not even the offer of a looking-glass and a bead necklace would induce him to come a step up these haunted hills. He went back and they went on.

A little later they were all four climbing like flies up a wall. At first sight it seemed impossible to scale such cliffs, but luckily for them the face was cut into slanting ledges so that it was not nearly so bad as it looked, and by midday they had safely reached the top of the first huge step and found themselves on a broad terrace where they stopped for dinner.

But instead of eating, Miley got out of his pack an ancient pair of field glasses with which he proceeded to examine the country below. Suddenly he lowered them and handed them to Bruce.

"Take a look, mister," he said.

"Where?" asked Bruce.

"Strite down the river, 'bout as far as ye kin see." Bruce looked and Peter saw his face change.

"A boat," said Bruce. "White men in it."

"Let me see," cried Peter, and Bruce handed over the glasses. The air was clear as crystal and though the boat was still some three miles away Peter could see it clearly. It was not a canoe, but a small launch and there appeared to be no fewer than eleven men in it. Two were white, one was coffee-coloured, the rest were natives.

"Suarez," said Peter sharply.

"That's what I thought," replied Bruce, "but who are the others?"

"I don't know. I never saw them before, but there are two white men and I think one is older than the other." He paused a moment. "Two of the white men are fighting," he exclaimed. "One has knocked the other down."


"GIMME the glass." Miley almost snatched the field glasses from Peter and put them to his own eyes.

"By gum, you're right, mister," he exclaimed. "It's the younger one as has bin knocked down. Chap as did it is older and got a beard. My word, this is a rum go." He turned to the others. "Better lie down," he advised. "They ain't using glasses, but you can't tell when they'll start, and if they do we're in plain sight of 'em just like they are to us." It was good advice, and they all took it. Miley adjusted the glasses afresh.

"The chap as was knocked down is gettin' up again," he continued. "But he ain't trying ter fight back. I can't see his face, but looks like he's scared. I kin see the dago right enough and he's larfing."

"Nasty beast!" growled Peter. "I say, Miley, Mambare was right. These are the people he talked about."

"Sure thing," said Miley. "An' looks ter me like they're arter us."

"They're after us for a certainty," said Bruce. "This dago chap, Suarez, came to our house a few days ago with a yarn that he'd been wrecked. We put him up for the night, and he listened outside our door while Peter and I talked about this trip. The whole thing was a plant, and all he came for was to find out about the gold."

"But how did he know as there was any gold?" Miley asked shrewdly. Bruce hesitated and glanced at Peter.

"Tell him the whole story, Bruce," said Peter, and Bruce did so. Miley listened with great interest.

"I've heard tell of Cosby Dane," he said. "He were well known in the Mount Myall diggings ten years ago. I got it all now—clear as mud. This here Suarez and his pals is arter us. They reckon ter follow us to this here Gloom Gorge, then I reckon they means to wipe us out and collar the boodle."

"Sounds healthy," said Bruce dryly. "But now, since we know what they're up to what do we do about it?"

"Do," repeated Miley. "Why we does what they was going to do to us. We lies here on top o' the cliff and when they start up we starts a few rocks—I don't reckon as they'll trouble us much more arter that." Bruce's eyes widened.

"Kill them, do you mean?"

"Do unto others as they means to do to you. Only do it first," replied Miley with a grin. Peter laughed.

"I see what you mean, Miley, and I've no doubt it's very good advice, only—we can't."

"Why not?" demanded Miley.

"Too much like cold-blooded murder," replied Peter. "And what about the natives and the white man that was knocked down? They're probably innocent enough."

"You're too blooming particular," returned Miley with a frown. "You got yer chance, and I tell yer strite, you'll be sorry if ye don't take it." Peter shook his head.

"Can't be done, can it, Bruce?"

"Of course not," said Bruce, "and Kinny would say the same thing." The ex-policeman had been listening, but when Bruce appealed to him he shook his head.

"What name, Master?" he asked, meaning that he did not understand. Bruce explained Miley's plan and Kinny shook his mop-like head.

"You right, Master. Him be murder. We no do that." Miley shrugged his shoulders.

"Three to one," he said. "Well, all I sez is as you'll be sorry. And if we don't stop 'em my way, how do ye reckon to do it? Or do we stop and fight 'em?" Kinny shook his head again.

"We no fight. We go bush."

"Run away!" exclaimed Peter. "What's the good of that? They'll be right after us."

"Aye, and one morning we'll all wake up ter find our throats cut," prophesied Miley gloomily.

"They no catch us," Kinny assured him. "We altogether fool them fellas."

"How?" asked Miley.

"We make them fellas think we go one way, then we go 'nother way," explained the ex-policeman. He pointed across the terrace on which they were resting to the cliff behind. "We make them fellas think we go up there. Then we go bush," and he indicated a great mass of forest which lay against the hillside a mile or so to the left.

"Lay a false trail," said Peter. "The old paper chase dodge. Yes, that sounds good to me. We'd best get to work at once, before they land and see us."

"Suppose they find our canoe?" said Bruce uneasily.

"They no find canoe," declared Kinny. "Him too jolly well hid."

"We'll have to chance that anyhow," said Peter. "Now let's creep back from the rim here and set to making a trail."

There was thick grass on the terrace and a quantity of low bush, and through this they left a trail there was no mistaking. The cliff beyond was probably not quite unclimbable, but it was frightfully high and desperately steep. They picked a place where a sort of chimney ran upwards at a very stiff angle and up this Peter climbed for some distance. He was careful to scratch the rock, and he left a couple of bits of torn cloth in a crevice where they could easily be seen. Then he came down.

"That ought to work," he said.

"Him work good," agreed Kinny. "That catch 'em orait. Now you please follow feet belong me." He meant that they were to keep exactly in his steps, and really it was a wonderful lesson in camouflage that he gave them. At the bottom of the cliff were quantities of boulders great and small which had fallen from above in the course of ages. Across the tops of these Kinny picked his way, sometimes making long steps, sometimes jumps. So he took them along for about fifty paces, then made them stand still while he went back and very carefully rubbed out every mark of their booted feet. His own, being bare, made no marks at all on the hard rock. Miley watched him with interest.

"That nigger knows his job," he said to Peter. "I reckon he've put 'em off the trail all right. I only hopes as they all breaks their blooming necks a-climbing up them there cliffs. I'd be a sight happier if I knowed they was washed out."

"I think we shall be all right now," agreed Peter as Kinny came back to them and directing them to still "follow feet belong me," led them all along the base of the cliff to the end of the ledge. Here they had to climb down a steep slope, but luckily it was heavily bushed, so there was no risk of their being seen by Suarez's party. The chief risk came from snakes of which there were more than were pleasant, nasty brown reptiles which they knew to be very poisonous.

Presently the bush grew heavier and as they turned to the right up a steep hillside they found themselves in really big timber. Huge trees, some of them six feet through at the base, towered upwards, their matted branches cutting out the sun. They also cut off the air, and though it was not quite so hot as it had been down on the river they all dripped with perspiration in the close, sultry atmosphere. The ground beneath the trees was black and peaty and very wet. They had to be careful or they walked into bogs where they sank to their knees. The whole hillside oozed with water. Peter, walking next Bruce, looked up at the black roof of branches overhead.

"I don't like this place, Bruce." In spite of the heat Bruce shivered.

"More do I. It gives me the hump. I'd sooner be on the cliff again in spite of the danger."

"Looks like there was lots more of it," growled Miley. "I'd surely like to see the sun again." But there was no sun, nothing but monstrous trees, their great column-like trunks rising like pillars from the steep, yet boggy, hillside. They went on and on through the steaming gloom and though they were always climbing the air grew no cooler.

"Wonder how Suarez is getting on," said Peter at last.

"Broke his blooming neck by now, I hopes," answered Miley as he smote a mosquito which had settled on his cheek. Then he pulled up short. "Hulloa, what's that?" They all stopped and listened.

"Drums," said Bruce.

"Drums," repeated Miley. "You ain't telling me as niggers live in this here place?"

"It doesn't seem as if there was a living here for anybody," replied Peter, "but anyhow those are drums."

"Never heard drums like them afore," said Miley frowning. "Not in New Guinea, anyways, but"—he paused—"I've heard something like 'em in Africy."

"They are a bit different," agreed Bruce as he listened to the hollow booming. "It's not very far away either." He turned to Kinabula. "What do you make of it, Kinny?"

"Him drums, Marsta, but I never hear drum like him before."

"It's not that Suarez playing some kind o' dirty joke on us?" suggested Miley. The drumming ceased, and presently they went on again. But now they went very cautiously and with their guns ready. They walked close together and their eyes kept wandering down the long aisles of tree trunks which rose on every side like the columns of some vast cathedral. Yet they saw nothing, and heard nothing more. On and on they went, always climbing, yet never getting clear of the trees.

"I hopes to goodness as we'll get clear o' this here wood afore dark," said Miley at last. The light was beginning to fail and it looked as if they would be forced to spend the night in this unpleasant forest. None of them liked the idea, and they quickened their pace in the hope of getting clear. But it was impossible to go fast. The ground was too bad. At last Kinny pulled up.

"We camp here, I think," he said. "No good we go further." He was right. They all knew he was right. Darkness was falling fast and if they were to get wood and make fires before it was too dark to see, now was the time to stop. They picked the driest spot they could find and dumped their packs. Then they scattered to collect firewood. There was plenty of it, but most was rotten and water-soaked. Bruce managed to find some fairly dry pieces and came back to the camp to meet Miley dragging in a big log.

"Where's Peter?" he asked.

"Ain't seed him since he started out," said Miley. Bruce looked round but could not see or hear anything.

"Peter!" he called, but there was no reply. A feeling of panic came over him.

"Peter!" he shouted at the top of his voice, but still there was no answer. Then suddenly that same deep drumming sound which they had heard earlier in the afternoon came again booming horribly through the silence of the forest.


PETER had gone a little further than the others in his search for firewood. He came to a very big tree the branches of which swept down to within six or eight feet of the ground, and here the place was like a wood yard. He collected a number of dry branches and was stooping down, arranging them in a bundle so that he could carry them easily, when a hand fell on his shoulder. He thought it was Bruce playing a joke.

"You silly ass!" he began, and then before he knew what was happening the grip tightened, and suddenly he was lifted clean off his feet and whipped up into the tree. The shock was so great that for a moment he went half dizzy. When he got his senses back a little he found himself in the grasp of a creature so huge, hideous and utterly appalling that his first idea was that it could not be real, that he must be dreaming some terrible dream.

The thing that held him was a kind of ape. At least it looked like a picture of an African gorilla he had once seen in an illustrated paper. And yet it was not quite a gorilla, for it was more man-like than any ape. The eyes were not so deeply sunk as those of a gorilla nor was the nose so flat. Its ears, too, seemed quite human.

Its size was paralysing. Standing up it would measure he thought, at least seven feet in height and its chest was something like sixty inches round. Its body, arms and legs were covered with shaggy hair of a reddish brown colour. And this was the thing which, seated on a branch, held him as a man might hold a doll, and examined him just as a human being might examine some small animal that he had never seen before.

Peter did not move, hand or foot. He did not even attempt to call out. He could not have done so, however hard he tried, for he was simply paralysed by surprise and fright.

Still holding him with one hand the creature ran the other over Peter's clothes. It seemed unable to decide whether they were his skin or not. His boots puzzled it considerably. It pinched them and the grip of its fingers were like steel tongs. As Peter began to get over the first awful shock of his capture he remembered what Mambare had said about "big fellow, hairy men." Then Mambare had been right and this was one of them. No wonder the native had refused to venture into these mountains.

After a while Peter began to realize something else, which was that the creature was not actively hostile. It wasn't a head hunter. It did not seem to want to kill him. It was only inquisitive. He began to get back a little hope. Not much, because he felt that with one twist of its enormous hands the ape-thing could tear him in two as easily as he himself could break a pencil.

It might have been a minute that the ape-thing sat on the lower branch examining its capture. To Peter it felt like an hour. Peter kept perfectly still. He did not speak or move. He was hoping against hope that the beast might get tired and drop him. He knew how easily a monkey's attention is distracted. Then from somewhere high up in the top of the tree came a voice. A sort of harsh croak. Peter's captor stiffened, then before he knew what was happening the ape-thing had tucked him under one arm and was racing away up through the thick branches. The speed at which it travelled was amazing, and it made no more of Peter's weight than he would have made of that of a rabbit.

Up and up they went through the mat of huge branches, a nightmare journey for each moment Peter fully expected the creature would drop him and let him go smashing to the bottom, goodness knew how many feet beneath. As they went up it grew lighter, and through the thinning foliage Peter caught sight of the evening sky still pink and gold with sunset colours.

Almost before he knew it his captor had landed him on a kind of platform of branches and to his amazement he saw that on this platform was built a hut. It was quite large, being about eight feet high and ten feet across at the bottom. It was dome-shaped, built of branches cunningly twisted together and looked to be quite weather proof. A hole in one side acted as door, and out of this doorway was thrust the head of another ape-thing not so big as the first, yet quite as ugly and formidable. The wife, no doubt of number one.

At the sight of her husband she began to scold, but when she saw what he was carrying the scolding ceased and she made a sound that was quite plainly an exclamation of astonishment. She got up quickly and the male ape carried Peter into the hut and dumped him down. Then he turned to his wife and began to make queer noises. Clicks and grunts, yet quite plainly speech of a kind, and in spite of his terror Peter felt a queer thrill as he realised that these creatures were not apes, but human beings, or perhaps it would be better to say missing links. The same sort of people who, he had read, had lived in England half a million years ago and one of whose skulls had been dug up at Piltdown in Sussex.

The floor of the hut was fairly solid and Peter, feeling safe for the moment from the terror of falling, got his breath and began to think of some means of escape from his two dreadful gaolers. But Mrs. Missing Link was at least as interested in him as her husband, and with her long hairy fingers examined his clothes, his hair and his boots. Once she pinched his arm so badly that he flinched and nearly screamed, but he realised that she had not done it on purpose, and managed to keep still. All the time she was examining him Mrs. Missing Link kept up a conversation with her husband, but he was evidently beginning to get rather bored, and presently took a handful of guavas from a corner and started to eat them.

It was now getting dark and Peter knew that Bruce and the others would be terribly anxious. Sure enough, he heard them calling, but did not dare to answer. The Links, too, heard the voices and Peter saw them prick up their ears.

"Peter! Peter, where are you?" Bruce's voice sharp with anxiety echoed up from the depths below. The two great creatures both went out of the hut and Peter saw them peering downwards. It looked to him as if they were going down after Bruce and he resolved that if they started he would shout a warning. Whatever happened, he was not going to let them get Bruce. As he sat there on the floor of the tree-top hut, peering out on the branches outside, he was nearly at his wits' ends, but Peter's brain was of the sort that works best when its owner is in a tight place, and all of a sudden an idea flashed through his mind.

Matches! He had a box in his pocket and the inside of this hut was dry as tinder. The ape-folk evidently knew nothing of fire. Here was his chance and it was up to him to take it. In a moment out came his box, he struck a match and pushed it gently into the thickest of the dry leaves that covered the floor. Up flashed a bright flame, and then in a moment the floor was burning so fiercely that Peter himself had only just time to get outside before the whole hut was in a roaring blaze.

For all he knew, the ape folk might turn on him for what he had done and tear him to pieces, but as he flung himself out he heard a terrified chattering and saw them both swinging away at terrific speed. They did not go downwards but swung across into the next tree and so away, disappearing into the shadows like huge dusky ghosts.

He began climbing down. Quite time, too, for the hut was flaring like a torch and the tree itself, which was evidently resinous, had caught fire. Pieces of burning wood came shooting down past Peter as he climbed. It was lucky for him that the branches were close together—lucky, too, that excitement saved him from any thought of giddiness. The pace he went was amazing. It was almost as fast as that at which Link had brought him up. Though the tree was nearer two hundred than one hundred feet high it was little more than live minutes before he reached the ground and tumbled almost into Bruce's arms.

"What's the matter?" demanded Bruce. "What the mischief are you doing up that tree?" Peter seized him by the arm.

"Get away from here. Back to the fire. Quick!" he said so fiercely that Bruce obeyed instantly. Together the two plunged through the darkness towards the fire which Kinny had lighted and which was already burning strongly. The distance was less than one hundred yards, yet to Peter it seemed a mile for each moment he expected to see a great hairy arm reach down from above and snatch him and his brother away. And this time he knew they would both be torn to pieces. They reached the fire and Peter dropped beside it, panting. Now that the immediate danger was over he felt oddly weak and faint.

"Pile up the fire," he ordered. "Make a big fire. It's our only chance." They did not hesitate, for something in the boy's voice made them understand that the danger was pressing and terrible. Miley piled on wood and the flames blazed up, cracking loudly and flinging a great circle of light into the surrounding gloom. For a while no one spoke, but Kinny was busy boiling a pot of water on a small fire away from the others. The central blaze was enough to melt a kettle.

"Niggers?" asked Miley at last. Peter shuddered.

"Worse!" he said. "Monkeys." Miley's little eyes widened, but he said nothing. Peter, who had got his breath began to talk, and the other three listened in absolute silence. When he had finished they still sat quiet for some moments. Miley was the first to speak.

"Gosh, if that don't beat all!" he muttered in an awed tone. "Man monkeys. I told you as I'd heard a noise in Africy like we heard to-day. It were made by them big apes they calls gorillas a-beating themselves on their chests. I reckon these fellers makes it the same way." The words were hardly out of his mouth before the same drumming began again. It came from a distance of perhaps half a mile, but was taken up by another of the hairy men, and then a third and a fourth until the whole dark forest resounded with the booming clamour. Bruce went rather white and Peter felt himself shivering again. Kinny's black face looked oddly grey in the strong firelight. Miley was the only one of the lot who showed no signs of fright.

"We're all right, fellers," he told them calmly. "These here monkeys ain't going to bother us so lung as we keeps the fire going. Dish out the coffee, Kinny. Peter here needs something hot arter wot he's been through." The little man's cheerfulness put fresh heart into the others. They drank their coffee and ate their supper and felt better. When they had finished and washed up the dishes Miley took out the case containing the mouth organ and began to play. This time it was old English songs and shanties. "Wrap me up in my tarpailin jacket" was the first, and he went on with "Give me some time to blow the man down." The odd thing was that as the notes rang out through the blackness of the great forest the drumming ceased, and the silence became intense. Miley went on. Tune after tune—he seemed never at a loss for a new one. He ended with that lovely old sea song "The Golden Vanitee," and when the last notes died away the silence of his listeners was better than applause.

"Now what about a wink of sleep?" suggested Miley as he wiped his little instrument carefully and put it away. "One of us'll stay awake and keep the fire going." He flung a log on as he spoke. Bruce looked round.

"We've only got three logs left," he said sharply. "That won't keep the fire up for more than an hour." Miley whistled softly.

"Lumme, but you're right, mister. We'll have ter get some more wood. That's a sure thing."

`There was an uncomfortable silence. All looked at each other but no one spoke. After what had happened to Peter it was hardly wonderful that none of them were exactly anxious to go outside the ring of firelight. Even Miley hesitated. Suddenly Peter spoke up.

"It's all right if we take torches. They're scared stiff of fire." He seized a burning stick from the fire, and was gone before anyone could stop him. In a minute he was back with a couple of big dead branches. Bruce, not to be beaten, took another torch and ran out. Then it was Miley's turn and within half an hour they had fuel to last till morning.

Miley declared he would take first watch and made the boys lie down. But Peter could not sleep. Whenever he dropped off it was only to wake again, shivering and sweating with terror. He was horribly ashamed of himself, but of course he could not help it. Anyhow, he was only too glad when the dawn light began to leak down through the green canopy overhead and Kinny set to cooking breakfast. Miley swallowed down his coffee and began to strap up his pack.

"Come on, fellers. Let's get out Dr this. It fair gives me the hump," he said. The others, as eager as he to get away, packed up and followed. For an hour they climbed upwards, squelching through the mud, and still the great trees hemmed them in.

"Ain't we ever going ter get out of this 'ere blooming wood?" growled Miley.

"I think we catch 'em out pretty quick," observed Kinabula. "Him rock pretty near."

"Rock—where?" exclaimed Peter, and then he saw it, a glimpse of stark grey wall showing through the trees. A few steps more and quite suddenly they were standing beneath a great cliff. It was out of the question to climb it and they followed it up. Another mile of heavy walking and Peter gave a shout.

"A pass!" He pointed as he spoke to a break in the cliff, a great rift with a flat floor down the centre of which a small stream coursed.

"Gosh, but that's luck!" exclaimed Miley joyfully as he hurried forward. He was the first to enter the rift, but had barely set foot in it when there came a crashing sound followed by a dull thud, as a huge stone fell plump into the squashy ground just in front of him.


"WHAT in sin—!" began Miley as he gazed stupidly, first at the great ugly lump of rock, then up towards the heights from which it had come. Bruce sprang forward, caught him by the arm and dragged him back as a second rock, the double of the first, smote the ground almost on top of the first stone.

"Get back under the trees!" snapped Bruce, and next moment they were all four safe under the spreading branches of the nearest tree.

"Look!" said Peter, and pointed upwards.

"Monkeys!" gasped Miley, and so it was. Five—six, no seven in all, of the huge man apes were standing on a ledge high up on the right-hand side of the pass, each grasping in his giant arms a great stone. They were motionless as so many statues, but their eyes were fixed upon the four humans down below. Miley's eyes widened.


Huge man apes were standing on a ledge.

"Darned if they ain't waiting for us!" he exclaimed. "Them ain't monkeys," he added. "They're men."

"That's what I told you," said Peter. Miley grew angry.

"Men or monkeys, they ain't a going to stop us," he raised his rifle. Bruce caught his arm and dragged it down.

"Stop! Do you want to get us all killed?"

"That's what I wants ter stop," retorted Miley.

"They aren't going to kill us," said Bruce.

"Seems ter me they had a dern good try at it," Miley answered.

"They didn't," Bruce assured him. "They missed us on purpose. Those rocks were only dropped as a warning.

"You're right," said Peter. "They could have hit us if they'd wanted to." Miley frowned.

"But what were they warning us about?"

"Not to go any further up the pass," Bruce told him. "Now you watch." He left the tree and went on slowly into the mouth of the pass. As he went he held his hands up over his head.

"He's crazy," growled Miley, and then one of the great Links above pitched his stone. It weighed half a hundred-weight, but he lobbed it as easily as Bruce himself could have thrown a cricket ball. Bruce stopped, and the stone pitched exactly in front of him, but some ten yards away. Bruce turned and went back.

"Am I right?" he said.

"Mebbe you are," grumbled Miley, "but what are we a going ter do about it? Ef we can't go up that there pass we gotter go back." Bruce shook his head sadly.

"There's nothing else for it," he replied.

"Wot—go all the way back through that there black forest," exclaimed Miley in dismay.

"There's nothing else for it," Bruce told him.

"Wot's the matter with shooting them fellers? I reckon I could pick the lot off afore they could get up the cliff."

Bruce shook his head.

"Even if you did, there are probably scores more of them further up the pass. My notion is that this is where they live. I mean they're some sort of a cave village in these cliffs. Besides, Miley, it would be a bit too much like murder."

"Murder ter kill a pack o' great hairy apes!"

"They're not apes; they're men. You said so yourself. What's more, seeing they spared our lives when they could easily have killed us."

He turned to Kinabula. "What do you think, Kinny?"

"Them big fella hairy men," agreed Kinabula. "They kill us orait if we shoot them." Miley swore under his breath.

"Three ter one. I reckon I takes a back seat. Come on then." The boys stopped a moment for a last look at the seven great, grim, hairy sentinels on the ledge, then turned back downhill into the dark forest.

It is never very pleasant to back-track, and the four were very silent during the long day's march. Luckily for them it was easier going downhill than up, and besides, they had their own tracks to follow, so were able to avoid the bogs. Nightfall found them clear of the great trees, and they camped on the ledge from which they had started.

"And to-morrer we got ter climb that cussed cliff," grumbled Miley, as he drank his coffee. "And mind this," he added. "Now we'll be behind that there Suarez lot—not in front."

"Unless they've broken their necks as you suggested," grinned Peter.

"I hopes they have," said Miley fervently. "Truth is, I ain't hankering to meet this here Suarez."

"You're not scared of him?" asked Peter in surprise.

"I'm plumb scared of greasers," said Miley gravely. "They're gents as don't fight fair. You mark my words. That feller'll bush-whack us afore we're through."

Very early next morning they were afoot again and soon reached the foot of the cliff where they had laid the false trail. Peter was the first to get there and they saw him start back with a cry. As they reached him he was bending over the body of a native. It was simply smashed to pieces. Kinny looked at Miley.

"You say right," he said gravely. "Him neck broke."

"And most of the rest of him," said Miley with a slight shiver. "But looks like Suarez and the rest has got up." Kinabula examined the rock face. He nodded.

"Them fella go up. Now we go."

As Kinabula walked forward to the foot of the cliff there came a heavy thudding sound from far up in the heights. Kinny spun.

"You come," he shouted urgently, and darted in under a projecting spur. For an instant Bruce hesitated. Miley seized him by the arm.

"Rocks. Quick. Kinny knows." He dragged him forward and next instant all four were crouched under the great spur.

Only just in time for, with a roar like thunder, an avalanche of earth and boulders came plunging down on to the very spot where they had been standing a few seconds earlier. But for Kinny's quickness they would all have been killed. Miley waited until the last lump had thumped into the turf.

"Told ye greasers don't fight fair," he remarked.

"They must have been watching us all the time," exclaimed Bruce.

"And now they believe they've finished us," put in Peter.

"They finish us all right," said Kinney. "Them rocks break path. We no go any further." The others looked at one another in dismay.

"I reckon Kinny's right," Miley said at last. "It's back tracks for us, boys." The boys said nothing. They were both too unhappy to speak. The thought of going back without the gold made them quite ill.

"You not move yet," Kinny said. "If you go more rocks come." This was sound sense and there they stayed, crouching under the spur while the sun rose steadily and the heat increased.

"All this trouble for nothing," Bruce said at last. Peter spoke up.

"Not for nothing. We know our way now. We'll get Tubby's 'plane and try again."

"And by that time the dago gent will have cleaned up the gold," observed Miley. "Hulloa, what's the matter with Kinny?" he went on, for Kinny was standing up and staring into the blue with a curious expression on his black face. Kinny turned and spoke.

"I think perhaps we no go back after all."

"What do you mean?" demanded Peter, greatly puzzled.

"You no hear?" asked Kinny. A faint humming sound reached Peter's ears, and straining his eyes into the sky he saw a tiny speck against the blue.

"It's a 'plane," he said. "It's Harry Allen. Hurray! Kinny's right. We shan't have to go back after all."


THE 'plane came sliding down out of the blue New Guinea sky and made a perfect landing at the foot of the towering cliff beneath a spur of which the party were crouching.

"It's Tubby!" cried Peter, as he and his brother left the shelter of the spur and ran towards the 'plane. As the boys ran up the pilot was pulling off his goggles.

"Hulloa, you chaps!" he greeted them.

Tubby Allen was not in the least like the typical pilot. He was short and square and had a broad red face and small twinkling blue eyes. Yet he had the reputation of being the most fearless flier in the island.

"Thought I'd come along and see how you chaps were making it," he went on.

"You got my letter?" cried Bruce.

"No, I didn't get any letter from you. I happened over to Lanok yesterday and went on to see your dad. Found him in a nice taking. The head boy, Paloa, had given him a note from you to say you'd gone gold digging. He wanted me to fetch you back. Well, I couldn't do that, and I told him so. Not room in this bus. However, I said I'd fly up and see if you were all right." As he spoke he climbed out of the 'plane and stretched himself.

"Let's squat under the rock," he continued. "I want to hear now how you've been mixing it. Looks like trouble," he grinned as he pointed to the huge mass of rocks and rubble piled at the cliff foot. He greeted Kinabula, whom he knew well, and the boys introduced Miley. Then they all sat in the shade and Bruce told Tubby the whole story.

"We started all right, Tubby, but when we got a bit of the way up the river we found that some other birds were after the gold. One of them's a nasty beast of a dago called Suarez. After we landed from the boat at the foot of the cliff here, we tried to lay a false trail and ourselves take a cut up through the forest.

"There we ran into a tribe of ape men, whacking great hairy chaps who looked more like monkeys than men. They hove rocks, not to kill us but to warn us to backtrack. So back we came to find that Suarez and Company had got ahead of us and were up the cliff."

"And I suppose it's them's been chucking rocks at you," grinned Tubby, pointing to the huge pile of raw rubble lying beneath the cliff.

"That's it," said Bruce ruefully. Tubby laughed.

"Great stuff?" he remarked. "I say, I'd like a look at these hairy gents who chuck rocks."

"Never mind them," said Bruce quickly. "What we want is to get up the cliff. We were hoping you could take us right up to Gloom Gorge." Tubby shook his head.

"You're forgetting the juice, my son. There's no petrol store up that way, and I haven't much more than enough to take me back to the coast, besides, I don't reckon there's any landing ground beyond this. From the air the country above looked plumb horrid." Bruce was bitterly disappointed.

"Then there's nothing for it but to go back," he said. "This dago fellow has smashed the path up the cliff. Besides, I suppose dad wants us back." Tubby got up, walked out from the spur and looked up at the cliff. Then he came back. He was always very leisurely in his movements.

"Your dad did want you back," he said slowly, "but Cosby Dane sort of persuaded him. And seeing you had Kinny along he reckoned you wouldn't come to no harm." He paused. "As for this here cliff, I could see it pretty well as I came along and it's not so bad as it looks from the bottom here. If you've got a rope you can get up all right."

"We have rope," cried Peter. Miley spoke.

"See here, mister. That dago and his crowd have got ahead of us, and I reckon likely they're laying fer us up top-side. If it wouldn't be asking too much, couldn't you take a flip around and see where they've got to." Tubby nodded.

"I'll do that, Miley. But there's no sense in taking off twice I'll suggest we eat our dinner here and now. I've got a pretty nice meal along with me in the bus. Then I'll take off and fly over the cliff top, see where your dago friends have got to and drop a note as I come back."

"Fine!" said Miley briefly, and Tubby getting up again, fetched a hamper out of the 'plane and brought it back into the shade. He had a large tin of tongue, fresh bread and tinned butter, two tins of peaches and a big thermos full of iced coffee.

"Bit of a change after bully beef," chuckled Peter as he set to work to open the tins. "Reckon we'll go up that cliff like lamp-lighters after this," Miley declared.

There wasn't much left when they had finished their meal, then Tubby got back to his bus and took off and they watched him spiralling upwards. He vanished over the rim of the cliff, and it was some time before he appeared again. The 'plane came swooping over the broad ledge only fifty feet overhead and from it dropped a tiny parcel which fell quite close to the spur. With a wave of his hand Tubby turned away and shot down over the lower forest. Within two minutes he was a mere speck in the distance. Peter retrieved the note which was rolled round a cartridge. He read it aloud.

"Dagoes hurrying on, two miles ahead. Young white man with them. Reckon they think you're done in. Go steady and good luck. Tubby."

"Sounds all hunky," said Miley. "Reckon we'd as well go." As he spoke he picked up his packet and strapped it on. Then he looked at the cliff face.

"I've heard tell of a play called 'The Only Way,'" he said with a grin. "Feller as wrote it ought ter hev been here." Peter did not grin. He was feeling rather sick. He glanced at Bruce and saw that he, too, looked a bit white, yet there was a resolute set to his jaw, and he was tightening his pack straps so as to be able to climb better. Peter did the same, and as he did so wondered who was to lead the climbers. Kinny solved that problem.

"I go first," he said simply, as he coiled the rope which he had brought from the boat. Luckily all of them had known that they had stiff climbing ahead of them, so had well-nailed boots and a good length of fine strong rope. Kinny was the only one who had no boots, but the soles of his feet were like pads of hard rubber, and although he was the oldest of the party he climbed like a cat.

They started up the "chimney," which was a kind of narrow crack running upwards at a slight slope. Getting their feet against one wall and their backs against the other, they were able to go up slowly but pretty safely. Then they came to a ledge where they were able to rest and take breath, but Peter glancing up, did not like the rock above them. It looked to actually bulge outwards, and he did not see how they could possibly get over this bulge. Still, it seemed clear that Suarez's party had got up it, so there must, he thought, be some way.

Kinny sniffed about, and presently made up his mind.

"We go this way," he said, and turned to the right. The ledge grew wider but the rock above bulged more and more until it formed a roof above their heads.

"This ain't no good to us," grumbled Miley. "We better go back and try the other way."

"This right way," Kinny insisted, and so it was, for after rounding a curve they came quite suddenly to the end of the ledge. Here the cliff face was split by a mighty crack which seemed to run from the bottom to the very top. It was shaped like a V, and though it was fearfully steep its rough sides and narrow bottom seemed to offer plenty of hand and foot hold.

"What I tell you?" said Kinny, and Miley grinned.

"You're right, old son. It ain't exactly Piccadilly, but it looks like we might make a do of it." They started to make a do of it, and for a long time crawled like flies up its steep and endless length. By degrees the air grew cooler and now and then a puff of breeze, feeling almost cold compared with the stifling heat below, chilled their heated bodies.

It was too good to last, and after climbing about three hundred feet they came to a place where the crack, instead of sloping, went up straight as the wall of a house. There were no holds of any kind, the nearest, a big spike of rock, being a good twenty feet above them. Peter's heart sank as he looked in vain for any way up or round.

"Done again!" he muttered. The thought of having to climb all the way down again to the ledge in order to find a fresh way up was simply heart-breaking. Miley overheard.

"Done, says you, mister. No, we ain't done yet. Kinny, chuck us that there rope." The others watched with breathless interest as the little man made a running noose at the end of the rope. Then he moved about until he got a firm foothold, coiled the rope and flung it upwards.

"Got it!" cried Peter in delight as he saw the loop settle neatly over the end of the spur. Miley shook his head.

"Just what I ain't," he growled as he gave the rope a jerk. To Peter's dismay the loop came away and dropped back.

"That there rock'll hold the rope if I kin get the loop fur enough back," explained Miley. "Trouble is as the end tapers off and is too smooth ter hold it." He tried a second time but the result was the same. Again and again, but always it slipped. Miley was tiring, for his foothold was none too good, and Peter's spirits began to sink again.

"Sit down and rest a bit, Miley," said Bruce, and Miley nodded and obeyed. He was dripping with perspiration and breathing hard.

"We'll have ter try something else," he said presently. "Gimme a rock. That one'll do." He took a rough stone weighing about two pounds, fastened it to the end of the rope and stood up.

"Mind your heads," he said, and slung the stone upwards. At the second attempt the stone fell across the spur. Miley eased the rope till the stone was level with Bruce who was on the opposite side of the crack, and Bruce caught it.

"That's better," said Miley. "Now work him back gently." They did so, and at last got the rope firmly across the base of the spur. Miley then fastened the end he held around his body.

"Haul up," he said briefly, and the others tailed on and he went dangling slowly upwards until he was able to catch hold of the spur and scramble on to it.

After that it was simple. Miley made the rope fast and one by one they swarmed up. Peter was the last and it was not pleasant to feel himself dangling, spinning in mid-air with empty space beneath. He was glad indeed to find himself safe on the spur, and when he got there he lay flat on his face, panting.

"Scared?" asked Miley.

"I am," confessed Peter.

"I don't blame ye," said the Cockney. "I been scared stiff every minute since we started. If it warn't fer thinking of that there gold I'd have chucked it and gone back as soon as I seed this here blamed great cliff."

"I pretty scared, too," put in Kinny, "but I think him orait now." He pointed upwards, and they all could see that the rest of the slope was not nearly so steep as what they had covered already. All the same it was a long way to the top, and tough as they were their muscles were aching when at last they clambered over the edge to find themselves on another terrace like the lower one, but much more broken. It was covered with low bush, but here and there were clumps of trees. One was straight in front, only a few hundred yards away. Kinabula looked at the sky.

"Big rain come," he remarked. "We make camp." He pointed to the clump. Rain was coming. There was no doubt about that, for a black cloud hung over the mountain-tops inland and already thunder was beginning to rumble. They all knew that it would be wise to get under cover. It does not pay to stay out in the rain in New Guinea. It generally means a dose of fever. Yet Bruce, who was the brain of the party, hesitated.

"What about Suarez?" he asked. "You chaps have got to remember that he's ahead of us now."

"Aye, he's half a day ahead of us," said Miley. "I reckon his crowd is up that there next step by now." He pointed to the next line of cliffs.

"I'm not so sure," said Bruce cautiously.

"I don't see no signs of 'em anywheres," replied Miley, "and that there clump looks like a mighty good place to camp. If we goes along careful we won't run into no trouble." As he spoke he took his rifle from its sling and loaded it. Then they went forward. Peter stopped, picked up something and held it up. It was a burnt match. Miley nodded.

"They had been here all right. Keep your eyes peeled, fellers." The track led straight in to the clump. They went on very slowly and carefully but there was no signs of their enemies except the cold ashes of a fire.

"I were right," said Miley. "They're gone on." The sun was hidden, a chill wind was beginning to blow. Kinny went to work with his axe, and in a wonderfully short time had built a shelter of branches. They had just time to pack themselves into this when lightning blazed across the sky and down came the rain like a waterfall. There was nothing to do but wait till the storm passed. It lasted an hour then the sun came out again and they all got up, prepared to make a fresh start. But Kinny spoke.

"Feet belong me pretty tired. I think better all stay here to-night."

"I seconds that there motion," said Miley. Bruce and Peter agreed. Anxious as they were to get on, it was no use trying to climb the next line of cliffs so late as this. And a rest would do them all good.

"What I want," said Peter, "is a wash. I wonder if there's any water handy? Come and look for some, Bruce."

"All right, only we mustn't go far. We have to remember Suarez." There was water everywhere, from the rain, but it was not until they had gone some little distance from the clump of trees that they found what they wanted. A lovely pool of clear greenish water but it was at the bottom of a regular pit with steep rocky sides.

"We'll need the rope to get down there," said Bruce doubtfully.

"All right. I'll get it," declared Peter and was off at a run to be back in five minutes with the rope. He fastened one end to a bush, and slid down the twenty foot bank to the rim of the pool. Bruce hesitated.

"Nasty place to get caught if Suarez turned up," he said to his brother.

"All right. Then I'll bathe and you watch," replied Peter, "and afterwards I'll stand guard while you have a dip."

"That'll be best," agreed Bruce and that was what they did. The pool was sulphur water and most refreshing. But there was no sign of their enemies, and they returned to camp, much cleaner and fresher than when they had started. By this time it was getting late, so they cooked and ate supper and afterwards drew straws for the order in which they should keep watch. Peter drew the third straw which meant that he could sleep till two when Miley would rouse him to keep guard till daybreak.

It was chilly up at this height and Peter shivered as he crept out. He wrapped himself in his blanket as he took his seat on a rock close to the fire.

"No sign o' them Dagoes," said Miley, "but keep your eyes peeled." Then he lay down and was asleep in a minute.

Peter was dreadfully drowsy. There was no moon and it was very dark here under the trees. It was also strangely still, for they were above the region of frogs and crickets. All he could hear was water tinkling down the cliff sides in the distance.

"Next thing I know I shall be asleep," Peter grumbled to himself. "I'll get a cup of coffee. That'll keep me awake." He went over to the fire where the blackened old coffee-pot stood in the embers. He was stooping and filling a mug when a hand was clapped across his mouth, and he was dragged backwards and flung to the ground.


PETER was not very big, but he was quick as chain lightning, and in spite of the surprise did not lose his head. As he fell he doubled himself up and drove out with both legs at once. His feet struck the body of his unseen captor somewhere in the stomach, judging by the gasp, and sent him catapulting back almost into the fire.

"Look out! It's Suarez!" Peter shouted at the top of his voice, at the same time springing to his feet. The fire had died to a red glow, and it was too dark to see. Peter heard a yell from Miley and realised that he was being attacked. He plunged to his rescue and bumped into the naked ill-smelling body of a big savage who grabbed him with both hands. Peter kicked him fiercely on the shin, broke away and leaped on the back of a man who was apparently trying to strangle Miley. He sent this fellow spinning and they two rolled over together. Before he could get clear this fellow had him rolled over and two great sinewy paws closed on his throat.

Fighting was going on all round, but Peter could take no part. The breath was whistling in his throat. He was being throttled to death. Whump!

"I'll learn ye, ye dirty nigger," roared Miley as he raised his rifle butt for a second blow, but it was not needed for the big savage lay stunned.

"Thanks," gasped Peter hoarsely as he struggled up for a second time. It was no use. Before he could gain his feet a club swung out of the darkness and thudded on his head. Peter dropped and all went black.

When he came to his senses he was tied hand and foot and his head was aching severely. The fire, piled with fresh wood, was blazing in great red flames and by its light he saw Bruce, Miley and Kinabula all tied like himself, lying in a row. Over them stood Suarez with a very black eye and a nasty scowl on his olive face and beside him a white man with the ugliest, meanest expression that Peter had ever seen. He was Steve Salter of the Kiwi, but this was the first time Peter had ever set eyes on him, and of course he did not know who he was. A third man, who looked a perfect wreck, lurked behind the rest. This was Paul Bassett. Six big natives armed with clubs and spears completed the unpleasant party.

"So," said Suarez, glaring at Bruce and Peter, "you thought yourselves clever enough to humbug me?"

"You're a pretty one to talk of humbugging," retorted Peter. "A man who'd play such a low-down trick as you did, pretending to be shipwrecked, and then sneaking up and listening at a door. You ought to be jolly well ashamed of yourself." Suarez took Peter's remarks as a compliment. His scowl changed to a smile.

"It took brains to think of such a plan. And it succeeded for I learned where the gold came from."

"Then you'd better go and get it," said Peter curtly.

"That is what Captain Salter and I propose to do," replied Suarez suavely. "And you and your brother will guide us." Peter laughed.

"You flatter yourself, Suarez." Suarez came closer and bent over him.

"You think to oppose your puny will to mine, boy. You will learn better, if you try any such thing."

"Peter's perfectly right," said Bruce. "We'll see you in a warmer place than New Guinea before we show you and your gang of thieves the way to Dane's Goldfield." Suarez's expression changed like a flash. His face became as dangerous as that of a striking snake.

"I would have you remember that you are in my power. Law does not run in these mountains, and the nearest policeman is many miles away."

"He isn't," retorted Peter. "He's here." He pointed to Kinny.

"This blackamoor!" sneered Suarez.

"Oh, cut the cackle," broke in Salter in his sharp, high-pitched voice. "We ain't got time ter waste. String 'em up and let's see 'ow quick they'll talk when they feels the lash on their bare backs." Peter's heart dropped a beat. So they were to be tortured! Yet he vowed to himself that, whatever happened, he would never give away the secret and he thanked his stars that neither he nor Bruce had a map of the road to Gloom Gorge. Suarez turned to Salter.

"Let me settle this, Captain Salter. Believe me, I understand how to make stubborn prisoners talk. And there is, after all, no hurry, for two of our niggers are hurt and need rest."

"'Ave it your own way," growled Salter. "Only if you don't make 'em talk, I will." There was a horrid ferocity about Salter which made Peter's blood run cold, but he had not much time to think, for Suarez was already giving orders to his natives. The prisoners were lifted to their feet, and the cords binding their ankles were taken off, but since their hands were tied fast behind their backs they were quite helpless. Then, with Suarez behind them, they were marched out of the clump. It was cloudy and darker than ever but one of the natives carried a flaring torch so that they were able to walk without falling.

"Where are we going?" Bruce whispered to Peter.

"Looks like they were taking us to our bathing pool."

"Does Suarez mean to drown us?" asked Bruce.

"Not he. We're too jolly valuable. He knows as well as we do that he can't reach Gloom Gorge without us."

"Then that's why he wouldn't have us beaten," suggested Bruce.

"Sure thing," replied Peter. "We shouldn't do much climbing after they'd used a rawhide on us." Bruce shivered slightly.

"It's a rotten business," he muttered.

"And all my fault for not keeping better watch," said Peter sadly.

"Don't talk rot. You did your best," returned Bruce.

"Hush!" whispered Peter, "Suarez is listening."

Peter was right about their destination. They were taken straight to the queer sink-hole where they had bathed on the previous afternoon, a rope was produced and one by one they were lowered over the rocky rim. When all four were at the bottom Suarez, holding the torch, looked down. The red glare lit up his olive face and was reflected in his inky-black eyes.


Suarez, holding the torch, looked down.

"I watched you bathing here yesterday, and it seemed to me that I could not find a better ready-made prison. I am at any rate certain that you cannot get out of it without help. Now listen to me. You will stay in this pit without food. When the sun rises the place will be uncomfortably warm, and, as I have already ascertained, the water is not fit to drink. I shall visit you at intervals to see how you are getting on, and it will be up to you to be freed at any time you wish. All you need do is to give me your word that you will lead my party to Gloom Gorge. Do you quite understand?" He paused and looked down at the prisoners but there was no answer. "Perhaps," he added, "you would like to speak now and save yourselves and me further trouble," Peter laughed.

"You've got another guess coming, Señor Suarez."

"And get your ugly head out of our sight," added Miley. "It fair gives me the pip." If Miley had thought for a month he couldn't have hit on anything to make Suarez angrier. The half-breed was absurdly proud of his looks, and even up here in the wilds, was carefully shaven and had his hair cut to a proper length. In a flash he was turned into a raging fury. All his careful English went overboard. "I weel skeen you for you say that," he screamed. "I weel make you sorree the longest day you live." He burst into a torrent of Portuguese—shocking bad language, no doubt—but since none of them understood what he was saying it did not make much odds.

"Lumme, he's a-coming down to start on us!" said Miley and for a while it seemed as if Suarez would actually do so, but by degrees he got over his rage and thought better of it.

"For that you shall stay till to-morrow night. By that time you will be mild enough," was his last threat. Then he stalked away leaving the prisoners alone in black darkness.

"Nice little gentleman, ain't he?" remarked Miley. "One o' these days I'm a-going to tell him just what I thinks of him, and arter that I'm a-going to beat him up so his own mother won't know him."

"Sort of counting your chickens before they're hatched, aren't you, Miley?" said Peter.

"Not me, mister. How long is it afore daylight?"

"Two or three hours," replied Peter.

"Time enough to get loose and jump 'em," said Miley.

"Get loose?" repeated Bruce. "You're crazy. How can you get loose?"

"I got me hands near free already," replied Miley coolly. "'Tain't as if a sailor had tied me. It were one of them nigs." In the darkness they heard him wrestling with his cords and within a surprising short time he announced that he was free.

"And I got my knife, too," he added with a chuckle. "They got my gun but they didn't find my knife." Within a couple of minutes he had cut them all free.

"And now how about getting out of this here place?" he asked.

"It'll be a job," said Peter. "Bruce and I couldn't do it without a rope."

"We'll find a way all right," declared Miley, and started to do so. The others followed, and they worked all round the pit, testing the rock wall as high as they could reach, but finding no sort of hold. Miley refused to be discouraged.

"Kinny," he said, "gimme a back. I'll lay I'll reach something." The big black leaned against the wall and Miley, first taking off his boots, climbed on the others' shoulders. Kinny moved on slowly. The clouds had drifted away and the stars were shining so that it was possible to see objects at a few feet distance. Suddenly Miley gave a low cry of triumph.

"I got it. A big root. Stand right still, Kinny, till I gets up on it." There came a sharp whisper from Peter.

"Someone coming. Get down, Miley."


MILEY slipped quietly down off Kinabula's shoulders and all stood crouching under the rock, quiet as mice. Peter was right. Someone was coming. In the still night they could plainly hear footsteps approaching the edge of the pit.

Was it Suarez again? That was the question in all their minds, yet not one of them dared to speak.

The steps came nearer. They were oddly slow and hesitating, but that was not much wonder for their owner had no light and the ground was very rough. They heard him stumble more than once. At last he reached the edge and Peter could see a head over the edge outlined against the sky.

"You fellows!" The voice was hoarse and hesitating. "Carr, are you there?"

"Blimey, it ain't the dago!" exclaimed Miley in a tone of much relief. "It's the third chap."

"Yes, I'm the third man. Bassett's my name—Paul Bassett."

"And wot yer doing here?" Miley's voice was sharp with suspicion.

"I—I've come to see if I could get you out," was the reply.

"Double-crossin' yer pals," growled Miley.

"Don't call them my pals," Paul Bassett spoke with bitter, savage earnestness. "They're the two biggest swine on the face of this earth."

"But you're travelling along with 'em," retorted Miley.

"That's true," said Paul bitterly. "I don't wonder you suspect me when you find me in such company. And I deserve it, too." Miley grunted. He was not yet convinced. Bruce cut in.

"Don't be so rough on him, Miley. You know we saw that man Salter beating him. And that wasn't for show because Salter had no notion we were watching.

"That's true," allowed Miley.

"It's true enough," added Paul. "They've nearly killed me, between them."

"Well, don't make such a moan about it," was Miley's retort, "but chuck us a rope if you've brought one. We're sick of this hole—long ago."

"I've got a rope," responded Paul meekly, and uncoiling it he flung the end down. The other end he fastened around a bush, and it was not many minutes before all four were safe out of the pit.

"And now I reckon we'll go and settle with them gents," said Miley grimly.

"You're not going back to the clump?" exclaimed Paul, aghast.

"Where did you reckon we was going—home?"

"Why—why—yes. Back to the coast of course," said Paul. "It's our only chance."

"A fat chance," jeered Miley. "Without guns or grub or blankets, how long d'ye think we'd last? About as long as a cracker in a bonfire." Bruce cut in. He was always the sensible one of the party.

"We can't get back to the coast without our packs—you're right there, Miley. But on the other hand it would be crazy lunacy for us, unarmed, to tackle that crowd in the clump. They'd finish us as quick as the cracker you talked of. We have to think of some way of getting the better of them."

"How are ye going ter do it? We'll stop here all the rest of the night, gassing, and when light comes they'll have us for keeps. Only thing is ter sneak up and jump 'em afore they wakes. They'll be sleeping sound enough fer the next hour."

"But the natives won't," returned Bruce. "There's no sneaking up on them, is there Kinny?"

"You right, Marsta. They be too much awake." Miley shrugged his shoulders.

"What else is there to do? I tell yer, we got to chance it. If we gets hold of some clubs we can knock 'em silly afore they knows what's up." Bruce was silent. Rack his brain as he might, he could think of nothing better than Miley's surprise attack. Kinny came unexpectedly to the rescue.

"I think I got plan. I think I scare them black fellas. You got knife Marsta Miley?"

"Knife, yes. But what do yer want it for?"

"I show you," said the ex-policeman as he took the knife and began groping round. His eyes were as keen as a cat's and presently he was back with a piece of wood which he began quickly to fashion into a curious shape. He made it about eight inches long and three broad and sharpened it at both ends. While he was doing this he asked Peter to cut out a strand from the rope "so long as a arm and half an arm belong me," he explained.

Peter was puzzled, and so was Bruce but Miley whistled under his breath.

"Lumme, but I wouldn't wonder if he'd hit it," he said softly. By the time the string was ready Kinny had finished his instrument and then he carefully attached the cord to one end of the piece of wood, and wound the rest of it round his fingers.

"Him orait," he said. "Now you come."

"You're crazy," groaned Paul. "We shall all be killed."

"You keep out of it if you're scared," snapped Miley. "You better keep out anyway, or they'll hear your teeth a-chattering. We don't want no cowards in this show."

"Don't be so rough on him, Miley," said Peter indignantly. "After all, he got us out of the pit."

"We could hev got out without him," returned Miley. "He ain't no use to us." He turned to Paul. "We're a-going through with this job. We'd sooner be shot than starved. So if you ain't a-going ter help, jest keep clear." Bruce and Peter had provided themselves with stout clubs, Miley, too, had a stick and with Kinny in the lead they stole towards the clump. Paul followed but kept some distance behind.

In the clump all was quiet, and all they could see was the glow of the fire which had now died to red embers. It was now only about half an hour before dawn but except for the stars it was quite dark. A little way outside the grove Kinny stopped and they did the same. Then Kinny's right arm began to move in a circle, and as it moved the wooden instrument flew out at the end of the string and began to hum. Faster and faster it went and the hum grew to a deep booming sound.

"A bull-roarer," whispered Peter to Bruce.

"That's what it is. I see now." Bruce's voice shook a little with excitement. "They'll think the Papangis are attacking."

The boom grew to a roar which echoed back from the cliffs to the right and filled the night with its deep and terrible sound. It was beyond belief how much noise this simple thing could make in the skilled hands of the man who had made it.

"They're running," hissed Miley. "Gosh, but that's scared 'em proper." As he spoke there was a thud of bare running feet and half a dozen natives burst from the far side of the clump and ran with incredible speed in the opposite direction. Immediately afterwards they heard Salter yelling furiously to the carriers to come back, and when they failed to obey his rifle began to bark.

"He's firing at 'em," said Miley gleefully. "Now's our chance." He ducked in among the trees and the others followed.

"Stop shooting, you fool." It was Suarez's angry voice. "Do you think we have cartridges to waste? We'll need 'em all and more than we've got before light comes."

"Wot's up?" growled Salter.

"Niggers. Papangis, most likely. The fiercest devils in the mountains. Get your back against a tree. No—not that one. Farther away from the fire. And don't shoot until you can see their eyes."

"We got 'em rattled," whispered Miley in Peter's ear. "Now we got ter slip up and surround 'em."

"But they'll shoot."

"They'll be looking fer niggers—not us. And niggers runs in. They don't crawl. So they won't be looking on the ground."

"You mean we crawl up on them?"

"That's the ticket. Kinny gets one, I gets the other." Peter had too much sense to suggest that he should take the place of either. He knew he was not able to tackle a grown man. But another idea flashed through his mind.

"Suppose I slip away among the trees on the other side and make a bit of a noise. They'll start firing and that'll give you and Kinny a chance."

"A proper good notion, son. Only don't let 'em plug you."

"I'll be careful. I'll keep a tree between me and them. So long." He slipped off and crawled on hands and knees away into the darkness beyond the fire glow. His heart was beating hard, for he fully realised that these men would shoot at the first sound. Salter would anyhow. It was dark as pitch in among these trees. All of a sudden he felt the ground give way beneath him, and down he went with a crash into an ant eater's burrow.

Crack! Crack! Two rifles opened up and bullets simply sizzled overhead. He lay where he was—quite safe, but desperately anxious. A few moments passed—then a sharp cry, a savage oath. Salter's voice, and Peter hastily scrambled out of his muddy refuge and ran hard towards the fire. He heard two more shots, then the sound of a struggle, and he reached the spot to find Miley on top of Suarez and already carrying out his threat of beating him up so his own mother wouldn't know him.

"Dirty dog!" he panted as Suarez flattened out and lay still. "Tried ter put a knife inter me, but I learned him."

"Salter—where's he?" asked Peter.

"Kinny's got him," said Bruce.

"I poor blackamoor," remarked Kinny, referring to Salter's taunt, "but blackamoor still pretty good policeman."

"You're a nailer, Kinny," cried Peter in high delight. Kinny finished tying Salter and got to his feet.

"I think we orait now," he announced. Salter glared up with blood-shot eyes.

"'Ow did yer git out o' that pit?" he snarled.

"Climbed out," Miley told him.

"Yer didn't. It was that there Bassett as got ye out, the—" He went off into a stream of such lurid and awful profanity as left the boys gasping. His mildest threat was that he would skin Paul alive and then peg him out on an anthill.

"Nice kind gentleman, ain't he?" said Miley with a grin. "What are we a-going to do with him, now we got him?" They looked at the unpleasant Salter who was still mouthing curses, but no one made any suggestion.

"No one got nothing ter say," said Miley. "Then I'll tell yer. Shove him and Suarez both inter that there pit where Suarez put us—and leave 'em there."

"We can't do that," said Bruce firmly.

"Whay for not?" demanded Miley.

"They'll die."

"O' course they'd die—die slow and have time to think o' their sins. They ain't nothing but pirates and murderers."

"I dare say they are, but we're not their judges," said Bruce.

"Kinny's a perliceman. That's as near as we'll come to a judge up in these here mountains. Let him try 'em and sentence 'em."

"You'd let a black try me!" cried Suarez.

"He may be black outside, but I'll lay he's a sight whiter'n you, my dago friend," said Miley. He paused.

"Honest, gents, what yer going ter do about it? I told yer when we started that the only way to treat 'em was to roll a rock on 'em. You wouldn't do it, and they've dern nearly outed us. If we lets 'em go this time we deserve all as is coming to us." Peter looked worried, but Bruce held to his point. "If we did what was right we should take them straight back to Lanok, hand them over to the Commissioner, and have them properly tried and sentenced. We don't want to do that, so here's what I suggest. We leave them just enough grub to get back to their boat, and we start them back over the cliff to it." Miley shook his head.

"If you thinks as that's a-going to choke them orf you're mistook, mister. Chaps like them is like buzzards. Wherever there's a dead carcass there's buzzards, and wherever there's gold there's men like Salter and Suarez."

"What do you think, Kinny?" Bruce asked.

"I think him better make them go back," said Kinabula simply.

"And you, Peter?"

"It's the only thing to do," agreed Peter.

"Three ter one as before," said Miley with a bitter laugh. "Helloa, here's Bassett. Let's see what he's got ter say." Paul, when the situation was explained to him, looked embarrassed.

"They've knocked me about every hour since we started up-country, and nothing would give me more pleasure than to see them both hung, but we haven't any power to do that, and we haven't a prison to stick them in. I agree with Carr—that the best thing will be to start them over the cliff."

"If you chucked 'em over I wouldn't say no," said Miley. "Well, have it your own way, and don't say I didn't tell you so when the trouble comes." He walked away and began mending the fire.

"He's pretty sick," said Peter in a low voice to his brother.

"I know," answered Bruce, "but I can't help it. I know we're doing right, and I know dad would say so." His jaw tightened. "I can't help what happens, I'm going to stick to it."


"GRUB ready," came Miley's voice from the fire. Among his other qualities the Cockney was a top-hole cook, and his coffee was streets above the brew that the others could produce.

"And I'm jolly well ready for grub," said Peter cheerfully. "It seems about a week since supper last night." The four gathered by the fire. Dawn was breaking and at this height the air was so chilly they were glad of the fire and the steaming hot coffee.

"My word, that's something like a dish of bacon!" continued Peter. "Aren't you a bit extravagant, Miley?"

"I been looking through them feller's packs," observed the little man dryly. "Do 'emselves well, they do."

"Spoiling the Amalekites," chuckled Peter.

"I never heard that word but it sounds pretty nigh bad enough for 'em," replied Miley as he skewered another slice of sizzling bacon from the pan.

"Seen any signs of those carriers?" Bruce asked.

"Not a eye-lash," said Miley. "I reckon they're running yet." They finished their food and gave the remains to Salter and Suarez who were still tied up. Salter was merely sullen, but the look in Suarez's dark eyes gave Peter a chill.

The next job was to sort out the stores. With their native porters Salter and Suarez had been able to carry far more than the boys—far more of course than they could possibly carry back by themselves. Bruce and Peter made up two packs for them, and the rations did not err on the side of luxury. Miley was against letting them have any firearms, but Bruce decided they might take one double-barrelled sporting gun. However he only allowed them small-shot cartridges and not too many of those. When all was ready they untied the prisoners' legs and marched them to the edge of the cliff, the same place where they had come up on the previous day. There they stopped and Bruce ordered them to shoulder their packs. They obeyed without a word.

"Now," said Bruce, "if you know what's good for you you'll go straight back to the coast." The men stared at him, but neither spoke.

"Carr's got the rights of it," said Miley. "The quicker you goes the better it'll be fer you. If I had my way you'd go a dern sight quicker still." Suarez smiled but it was a smile that made Peter's blood run cold.

"Thank you, Mr. Miley," he said. "We shall not forget your kind advice." Without another word he swung down into the great crevice and started downwards. Salter followed. The others watched them till they were out of sight. Then Peter drew a long breath.

"Good riddance of bad rubbish," he said.

"I wished I thought we was rid of 'em," growled Miley. Peter stared.

"They can't come back," he exclaimed.

"I ain't so sure," said Miley frowning. "Even if they don't come back up here the odds are they'll wait fer us down below and try to get the gold off us. They're snakes, them two." He turned away and they went back to the clump. There was no sign of the natives and they busied themselves making fresh packs of the best provisions. The rest they cached among some rocks at a distance.

"It'll likely come in handy when we gets back here," said Miley. He looked at the next line of cliffs.

"Is them as bad as what we come up already?" he asked.

"No," said Peter. "Cosby Dane said he did that lot in about three hours." Miley nodded.

"How do you fellers feel? Do we tike forty winks now, and then climb, or do we go strite erlong?"

"Go at once," said Bruce quickly, "and rest when we get to the top. I bar this place."

"Me, too," added Peter. "I'll feel a lot happier once we're away."

"Right you be," said Miley. "Strap on your packs, and let's git."

"Where are you going?" asked Paul Bassett nervously.

"Up them hills," replied Miley. "You kin come along if you've a mind to, or you kin go arter Salter and the dago."

"I'll come with you," said Paul quickly.

"You got a pretty hard row to hoe," Miley told him.

"Anything will be better than being with those two brutes," Paul assured him as he shouldered one of the packs. Peter proved right. The second step, though steep and in some places risky, was nothing like so bad as the first. The only one who found much difficulty was Paul, who lagged badly at times. Miley was inclined to be impatient, but Bruce pointed out to him that Paul was weak. He had been knocked about and half-starved.

"You must be fair to him," he said. Miley only grunted.

"You don't like him?" said Bruce.

"I got no use fer him," said Miley briefly, and Bruce had to leave it at that.

They had been resting while they talked. Now they got up and went on, and by midday had reached the top of the big step. Here they turned and looked back. Miley focused his old field-glasses.

"I wants ter see if them fellers has come back," he said.

"What fellows?" demanded Peter.

"Salter and Suarez, my son."

"But they can't come back."

"I wish I was as sure as you," said Miley. Then he stiffened. "Helloa, there's them nigs."

"The carriers?" asked Bruce.

"Sure thing," replied Miley. "They've got over their scare."

"What will they do now?" Peter questioned.

"They go home pretty quick," said Kinny. "They altogether scared of Papangi fellas."

"We'd ought ter waited and used 'em ourselves," said Miley regretfully. "If it weren't so steep I'd go back now and fetch 'em."

"I wouldn't go back there for a dozen niggers," said Peter. "And anyhow it's going to rain. Let's find shelter."

"There's a pile of rocks over there," suggested Bruce. "Let's try it." They did so and found good cover and sat there and ate their dinner while the daily storm roared overhead. When it was over they pushed on. They were now beyond the great ledges but the mountains still rose towering against the sky. Some of the distant peaks gleamed white with everlasting snow.

The going was terrible, for much of the ground was covered with rocks great and small and these were so hidden by spear grass and low scrub that they had to walk very carefully or risk breaking their legs. Presently they came to ground that was so bad that they were forced to avoid it altogether. Peter said that if they turned to the right they would find a stream. One that Crosby Dane had followed up and just before sunset they struck it, a deep-cleft gorge at the bottom of which a yellow, boulder-strewn river roared down from the inland heights. There was thick brush on either side of the river and here they found a camping place with plenty of firewood.

The boys got wood, Kinny built a shelter and Miley cooked. It was a fine evening, cool as an English May, there were no signs of natives and they were all longing for a good night's sleep. Yet Kinny said that a watch must be kept and Miley backed him. As before, they drew lots for turn, but nothing happened. The night passed quietly. All got a fair whack of sleep and next morning they started early on their journey up the valley.

The worst of it was the bush came right down to the water's edge so that most of the time they had to hop from boulder to boulder on the edge of the swift-flowing stream. The boulders were smooth and slippery and they had many a fall, floundering waist-deep in the icy-cold water. The boys stood it well, and Kinny and Miley took it as part of the day's work, but Paul did not manage so well. He lagged behind and the others had to help him. Still he did not complain, but at night he was so worn out that they let him off his share of the work and made him turn in as soon as he had finished his supper.

The following day was like the one before but the stream was getting swifter and smaller.

"We turn off somewhere along here," Peter said. "There's a brook comes in on the right over a biggish fall. We go up alongside it and then it's only one day's march to the gorge."

"Good job, too," said Miley in a low voice. "That there Bassett ain't going ter be able ter walk a lot farther. We're in trouble with that bloke."

"Oh, he'll be all right," said Peter. "We'll give him a hand again to-morrow." They did and Paul seemed to get through the day pretty well though, truth to say, the ground was awful. Once they had to cross a bog of black mud so bad that they were forced to rope themselves for safety, and at another place climb a sheer wall of rock about thirty feet high. To do it they had to cut a tree and make a rough ladder. Early in the afternoon they reached a crest and the ground began to slope in the opposite direction.

"We're getting jolly close," said Peter. "That—that must be the Gorge," he pointed as he spoke to a dark line far down the slope, with another great mountain rising behind it. Full of excitement they hurried on. Peter was the first to reach the rim, but the others were only a few yards behind. The boys could only stare in silence—Miley was the first to speak.

"Looks like the edge o' nowhere," he said at last. It was not a bad description, for they were staring into a black chasm so profoundly deep and narrow that they could not even see the bottom. All they could see was black cliffs dropping endlessly into a thin mist out of which came a dull roar of tortured water.

"Looks like we gotter grow wings if we wants ter get down there," said Miley.

"There's a way down," said Peter confidently. "Mr. Dane got down."

"I'd like ter see it," remarked Miley.

"You shall to-morrow. Meantime we'd better camp."

"I think him pretty good camp," said Kinny pointing to a dark hole in the hillside some way back from the Gorge.

"Good egg," said Peter. "A cave will save us a lot of trouble, if it's big enough." The cave proved to be of ample size, and cold as it was they were very glad of the shelter. They collected grass for beds and made themselves very comfortable. They had killed two brush partridges and these made a capital supper and since there was no sign of natives Kinny decided that they need not keep watch. Usually Peter slept until someone shook him awake but this night he roused suddenly to find it still pitch dark. Someone was talking close by.

"A thief," he said. "A thief deserves all he gets. And I'm a thief—a dirty, low-down thief." Peter sat up sharply. The voice was that of Paul Bassett.

"Poor beggar—he's dreaming," he said. Paul began again. "Don't beat me, Salter. Not before those niggers. I'm a white man. Don't—don't hit me!" His voice rose to a scream which woke all the others.

"Wot's up?" growled Miley.

"Bassett's ill," Peter told him.

"Didn't I know it. Here, wait a jiff. I'll get a light." He stirred the embers into a blaze and piled on fresh wood. Then he stooped over Paul.

"He's got fever," he pronounced, "—got it bad."

"How bad?" asked Bruce in dismay.

"About as bad as ever I seed. If he don't peg out it's a cert it'll be a month afore he's fit ter move." Bruce and Peter gazed at one another in dismay.

"But—but what are we going to do?" asked Peter. "We can't stay here a month. We haven't got the grub."


FOR some moments no one spoke, and by the looks on their faces their thoughts were not pleasant ones. For Peter was right. The stores they had with them would not last more than about three weeks, and if they had to wait here a month they would be starving before they started back. And even then they would have no gold, for it was quite plain that even when Paul got better it would be a long time before he was fit to climb down into the gorge. Bruce was the first to speak.

"We'll have to go back and collect Salter's grub," he said.

"That ain't going to do us a lot o' good," Miley answered. "There can't more than two of us go, and two can't carry enough to make much difference. I reckon our best bet is ter see what we can shoot or trap. Anyways, there'll be pigs, and partridges." Peter struck in.

"Why not carry on with the job? We can leave Kinny to look after Bassett, and Bruce and you and I can push on down into the Gorge and start digging or washing or whatever it is we do." Miley considered a moment, then nodded.

"It might work," he said at last. "But it's kinder risky leaving old Kinny all on his lonesome."


"Nigs. We ain't seen none yet, but that ain't ter sye they ain't about."

"If Kinny keeps in the cave, he'll be all right," said Bruce. Miley grinned.

"Then you don't know niggers, Carr—not hill niggers anyway. They'd track a mouse, let alone a man. Seems ter me like them fellers have got eyes in their feet."

"But Peter's plan ain't a bad one," he went on. "And ter morrow I'd say we'd better go and look fer the way down inter this here big crack."

So it was settled, and next morning the three were off. Paul was a little better. They had given him aspirin and he was sleeping quietly. Yet there was no doubt he was very ill. The brutes he had travelled with had overworked and underfed him, so that he had not the strength to fight the bad attack of malaria that had seized him.

The three carried two soldiers' entrenching tools (a sort of cross between a pick and a shovel) and also had an axe, a length of rope and food for the day. Peter led the way straight along the edge of the Gorge.

"It's about a mile from here," he explained. Peter had a memory like wax, and every detail that Cosby Dane had told him was firmly imprinted on his brain. "It isn't very difficult," he went on. "A sort of giant's stairway, Mr. Dane said."

"There'll be a heck of a lot o' steps," grumbled Miley, and in this he was right, for the gorge was something like eight hundred feet in depth. The spot, when they reached it, proved to be the site of some long past landslide. Something—probably a big earthquake—had broken away the wall of the canon, flinging down tens of thousands of tons of rock into the depths and leaving a huge semi-circular gap in the wall. When the fall had first happened it must have blocked the whole river for many days, but at last the overpowering weight of water behind the dam had broken it away and cleared the channel. Miley stood gazing at the tremendous slope and frowning as he gazed.

"Giant's Stairs—not a bad name, mister. Pity we ain't got giant's legs ter tackle 'em." He nosed along the edge. "Wonder where Dane tackled it." Since there was no saying he chose the most likely looking spot and started down, and the boys following soon realised what Miley had meant about giant's legs, for the steps were, most of them, three or four feet deep, and it was one long scramble from top to bottom. There was only one bad place. This was where a rift about eight feet wide cut the slide, and since they could not get round either end they had to find some way across.

"There's a way across all right," Peter told them. "Mr. Dane told me about this. There's a sort of natural stone bridge." He turned to the left and went scrambling along, and a minute later called out.

"Here it is!" They crossed it, then Miley stopped, turned and looked at it.

"Pretty mess we'd be in if some bloke came along and shifted that there stone," he remarked.

"It would take a bit of shifting," said Peter.

"Wot price a stick o' dynamite," returned Miley.

"Natives wouldn't have dynamite," said Bruce.

"But the dago and his pal might," replied Miley.

"Still harping on those fellows?" said Peter sharply.

"It's you and me ud be playing the harps ef they gets arter us," retorted Miley.

"But they've gone back," insisted Peter.

"I'd like ter think so," said Miley darkly, and then he pushed on. It took them the better part of an hour to get to the bottom, and they were all surprised to find how much bigger the river was than it had looked from the top—and how much wider the valley was. There was quite a broad beach of shingle and sand on either side of the rushing stream, but not a blade of grass or any vegetation. That was easily explained, for one glance was enough to show that the floods not only covered the beaches but reached a good ten feet up the cliffs on either side. "No plice to git caught in a thunderstorm;" said Miley dryly as he glanced at the flood-marks high overhead. "I ain't reckoning to go a long way off from these here steps."

"No need to," replied Peter. "Mr. Dane got all his gold quite close to where we are. Let's start. How do you do it, Miley?" Miley looked at him.

"I thought you and your brother was coming here arter gold when I met yer."

"So we were."

"But ye didn't know how ter use a pan!" Peter grinned.

"We'd have found out."

"Orl right. Tike the pan and try." Peter took the pan. It was of rough iron, not tinned, and about four inches deep. The top was eighteen and the bottom ten inches across. Peter took the shovel, dug out some gravel and half-filled the pan, then filled it up with water and began working it round and round. Miley watched. The water flew out, but nothing happened.

"A fat lot o' gold you'd have got," said Miley at last.

"What's wrong?" asked Peter.

"Everything," said Miley briefly as he took the pan and flung out the whole of its contents. Then he waded into the river and took fine gravel from under the water. Holding the pan under the surface he began to swill it round and round, shaking up the contents vigorously. Next he slanted the pan, still working it round and round so that the upper layer of gravel was rapidly flung out. A few stones the size of cherries he picked out with his fingers and pitched away. Then he set to working the pan again until there was only a cupful of fine gravel at the bottom. He held the pan above the water now and then dipping up a little more water and shaking the remains away until all that was left was a mere spoonful of sand. Presently he held the pan at an angle so that the light caught the bottom.

"See?" he remarked quietly. The boys both stared at a streak of pale yellow which lay against the bottom of the pan.

"Gold?" exclaimed Bruce.

"Colour," corrected Miley.

"But it's awfully little," said Peter disappointed.

"Little!" repeated Miley with a touch of scorn. "There's nigh on three pennyweights. I ain't disappointed, if you be." There was silence for a minute, then Peter snatched up the other pan.

"I'll do it properly this time," he vowed, and after a few trials he did do it right and got colour. Then all three started in, and for a long time were too busy to speak. Miley showed them that the best gold-bearing gravel came from the lowest layer, coarse water-worn grit which lay on a bed of rock about eighteen inches down.

The difference was amazing. Single pans yielded as much as a quarter of an ounce of golden dust, and presently Peter gave a yell of delight as he picked out a piece of quartz as big as his fist heavily impregnated with gold.

"A nugget!" he yelled.

"Aye, it's worth a fiver or so," allowed Miley after inspecting it, "but it ain't worth making a song about. We'll do better than that afore the day's out." Which was true, for Bruce found a real nugget weighing about three ounces and worth double Peter's find.

If Miley had not made them stop for dinner the boys would have gone on all day without a break, and he had a job to make them quit an hour before sundown. By that time he reckoned they had between them about seventy pounds' worth of gold.

"Earned our supper anyways," he remarked.

"And we've got to go all the way up there, and come all the way down again to-morrow morning," groaned Peter, as he looked up at the towering stairs. "I say, Miley, can't we camp here after to-night?"

"You can, but I won't," said Miley flatly. "Me, I'd sooner do a bit o' climbing than wake in the middle of the night to find myself drowned." He stood and gazed for a moment at the great pool which had been formed by the landslide.

"Look at that," he said. "If she was dry and I could work over the bottom I wouldn't change places with the Governor of the Bank of England."

"As rich as that?" asked Peter thrilled to the marrow. Miley laughed.

"We'd need a lorry to take the stuff home," he said; then, pocketing the bag of gold turned and started up the great stairs.

All seemed quiet as they walked back to the cave, but one thing Miley noticed, there was no smoke, and therefore no supper fire. This made him a little uneasy, but he said nothing to the boys. He was much relieved to see Kinny waiting at the entrance.

"How's Bassett?" he asked.

"Him pretty good," Kinny answered; then he added in a lower voice, "Papangis, him come."

"I reckoned it was something like that," Miley answered quietly.

"What's the matter?" asked Bruce. "Why no fire, Kinny?" Miley answered.

"Kinny's seen nigger sign." Bruce whistled softly.

"Did you see the natives themselves, Kinny?"

"No, Marster. I see smoke belong them when I fetch water." Bruce looked at Miley.

"What do we do—hide up for a day or two?" Miley shook his head.

"That ain't no use. They've seed us by now. I reckon they'll call to-morrow or maybe to-night. What a beastly nuisance! And just as we're beginning to get the gold." He shrugged his shoulders. "We must just sit tight and fight them off." Again Miley shook his head.

"These ain't coast niggers, mister. You can't scare 'em off with a few rifle shots. Once they starts there ain't no stopping 'em so long as any is left alive."

"Sounds healthy," said Bruce calmly. "Any advice, Miley?" Miley frowned.

"I got a kind of a notion, only I ain' sure how it'll work out. But care killed the cat. Best thing we can do is to have some grub and some sleep. You kin light a fire, Kinny. It won't make no odds if they do see the smoke, for they know mighty well just where we are."

A good watch was kept, but the night passed quietly, and next morning, when there was still no sign of savages, Peter was keen to get back to the gold washing. But Bruce and Miley flatly refused to let him do anything of the sort, and Peter, who thought they were needlessly scary, was as near sulky as Bruce had ever seen him. It is odd how the gold madness seizes on even the best of us. But Miley was right and Peter wrong, for towards the middle of the morning Kinny suddenly stiffened.

"Them drums," he said, but it was several minutes before the rest heard the thumping of the tom-toms. Miley went out, and presently shot back.

"Coming up the river," he remarked. "Nigh on a hundred of 'em." There was thick scrub down in that direction and presently they saw the horde of savages advancing. In the brilliant sunlight they were a splendid but terrifying sight. With their painted faces and tall headdresses of brilliant feathers above their shiny black bodies they advanced like a flame.

"I told you they knowed where we was," said Miley and quietly as he spoke, Peter felt a nasty thrill run down his spine for he knew that never since the start of this wild journey had they ever been in so tight a place. Miley had said there was no scaring these savages, and by the look of them he could well believe it.

Guns ready, they all stood at the mouth of the cave. If they had to fight they would fight—to the last cartridge, but Peter's heart sank still further to think that even if every cartridge told there were not enough to finish this horde. Nearer they came and nearer and the drum-beat echoed and thudded across the wide hill-tops while spearheads clashed upon shields.

"Look at the chap in front," said Bruce. "He's prancing like a scalded cat."

"That's the Lord High Muck-a-Muck," Miley answered. "The Chief sorcerer. And he's the gent as'll give us most trouble." The army arrived in front of the cave. They had known all along exactly where the white men were. The sorcerer was a dreadful object, his naked body covered with long streaks of white paint and hung round with necklaces of bones and shells. Round his neck was suspended a white rounded object which was too plainly a polished skull. Miley spoke and now his voice had a ring which the boys had never heard before.

"Peter, are you game ter back me?"

"Anything you like," replied Peter.

"There's jest one chance," said Miley. "And it ain't a very fat one. That's bluff. I'm going to walk out there and try to put it over the sorcerer and I wants you with me. If I kin do it all's hunky, if I can't, well, you won't have a chance to kiss me good-bye."


PETER glanced at Kinabula who stood behind them, but he couldn't make out much from his face. Then he found himself walking out beside Miley. Now Peter saw, and it was the first time he had noticed it, that Miley had dressed himself for the part. Round his neck he wore a string of glass beads brilliantly coloured, blue, red and green. They glittered amazingly in the sunshine, and as a pendant held up a small round looking-glass. On his head Miley wore his old felt hat, but he had something on top of it from which dangled a thick black cord, otherwise he was quite unarmed.

The beat of tom-toms ceased, and the silence after the din was almost oppressive. A hundred pair of savage eyes were fixed on the three whites. With savages it is always the unexpected that pays, and it was quite clear that the last thing these Papangis had expected was that the victims should walk out like this. The warriors stood as still as guardsmen on parade, the only one of the lot who was still moving was the sorcerer. He stepped forward and his black beady eyes were fixed upon the necklace Miley wore.

Miley spoke. To the amazement of Bruce and Peter he spoke to the sorcerer in a language that the latter understood. But what he said did not seem to meet with the approval of the magician who scowled. The Papangis saw the scowl; a rustle ran through them as they raised their spears. At that moment no spectator would have given a sixpence for the lives of any of the three whites.

Miley, instead of flinching, stepped forward. He laughed. Then with a quick movement of one hand he snapped a match alight and touched it to the fuse which hung from his hat. With a fizzing sound the fire ran up it and suddenly there spurted from the top of his hat a plume of sparks and thick smoke. It was nothing but a "devil" made of wet powder, but it had a paralysing effect upon the sorcerer who simply stood and gaped.

Before the devil had burned itself out Miley put a hand into his pocket and fished out a second looking-glass which he handed to the sorcerer. The ugly fiend grabbed it in his skinny claws, held it up, and as he saw his own face could not repress a cry of amazement.

Peter's spirits rose with a jump. The day was won. So at least he thought, but he was mistaken. The chief, a giant of a man, turned jealous. He did not dare to touch the sorcerer but he stepped forward and scowled savagely at Miley, addressing him angrily. His men, quick to respond, raised their spears again.

Miley remained as cool as ever. From another pocket he took a trade watch, one of those cheap nickel things with a loud tick. He held it against his ear for a moment, then handed it to the chief who at once put it to his ear. The tick startled him so that he nearly dropped it. But he was so interested he forgot his jealousy and this gave Miley his chance to talk again.

Peter stood perfectly still. He could hear his own heart thumping. It was the witch doctor now who was scowling, but Miley went on quite calmly, and the big chief listened and presently answered. Then the sorcerer broke in again. There was a fierce sort of undertone in his words which Peter did not like at all. He seemed to be urging the chief to some course of action, probably, Peter thought, to finishing these white intruders speedily. But Miley still smiled. Peter wondered, and realised that he had never yet begun to do justice to the cool pluck of the little Cockney. At last Miley turned to Peter.

"I got the chief buffaloed," he said. "But this here wizard chap, Goola, he's a-trying to mike trouble. He wants our guns, but if he gets 'em it's good-bye. Only way I could get out of it was by saying as we'd pay 'em a visit at their village. It's a 'tapu' visit but I can't stop to explain that now. Question is, are you game to go?"

"I'm game to do anything you say," replied Peter quietly.

"That's the talk. Then go back into the cave an' get my war-bag. You knows—the little un. It's got my bunch o' tricks in it. And tell yer brother ter carry on, and we'll be back in a couple of days. Walk slow," he ended. Peter did exactly as he was bid, and the cool way in which he sauntered back into the cave was a triumph in its way.

"You go tapu?" Kinny said when Peter had quickly told him and Bruce of what was happening. Peter saw that the ex-policeman was very anxious.

"Miley says it's all right," he said quickly. "We've got to trust him. Don't worry, Bruce, the little man's a wonder, and quite equal to handling that witch doctor beast. So long. Expect me when you see me." Bruce gave his brother's hand one sharp hard clasp.

"I wish I could go instead of you, Peter," he said earnestly, "but you'll do the job better than I can. Here's Miley's bag. So long and good luck."

A minute later Peter and Miley were marching away with the Papangis. They were prisoners rather than guests. Peter knew that right enough, but he knew, too, that the chief was disposed to be friendly, and he had the greatest faith in Miley. The fly in the ointment was the wizard who looked and was dangerous. He was savagely jealous of Miley and—he wanted those rifles. He walked silent and scowling but Miley chatted gaily with the chief who had hung the watch round his neck and every now and then raised it to his ear to be sure it was still ticking.

The road lay down the side of the gorge. They passed the big slide and went on for about three miles, all the way steeply downhill, until they came to a place where the gorge narrowed to a width of no more than a hundred feet and here, to Peter's amazement, a bridge spanned it. At first he could not imagine who had built this bridge, but when he came nearer he saw that the architect was Mother Nature herself. It was simply a ridge of extra hard rock which had been left when the river tunnelled underneath. It was frightfully narrow and the top was weather-worn and smooth. The bare-footed Papangis swung across in single file without hesitation, but Peter felt his head swim and his skin crawl as he followed. A terrible roar came up from the torrent in the black depths far below.

"Don't look down," Miley said quickly, and somehow Peter managed to cross without showing the terror that made him cold all over. The path led on beside the ravine, and all of a sudden they found themselves on the edge of a valley at the bottom of which a small stream entered the big river.

This valley was a good half-mile across and some five hundred feet deep. In the bottom was the village, a very big one surrounded by a stockade. The ground around was cleared and planted with yams, taro, sugar-cane and bananas. A steep track led down into the valley and when they reached the bottom Peter found the air unpleasantly warm compared with the coolness of the heights which they had left.

The drums began to throb as they reached the village and women and children came out to stare at the white men, perhaps the first they had ever seen. Suddenly a woman came hurrying to the chief and burst out with a message which seemed to upset the big man badly. Miley explained quickly to Peter.

"Chief's kid's bad. He's proper upset. The wiz says he kin cure him all right," Miley went on. "Let's see what happens." He and Peter followed the chief and the wizard into a large hut where a boy of about ten lay on a grass bed. He was doubled up and moaning.

"Looks ter me like he's got the stumick ache," whispered Miley, "but the wiz sez he's got a evil spirit in him." Goola went out but was back in a few minutes wearing a hideous wooden mask which made him look more like a demon than ever. He began prancing round the bed uttering weird cries.

"He won't get very far like that," said Peter to Miley.

"The kid's scared stiff," replied Miley. There was no doubt about that. The poor child was screaming with fear but Goola only yelled louder and pranced more wildly. At last Peter could stand it no longer.

"Miley, that brute is scaring the kid to death, and all the boy wants is a dose o' medicine."

"You've got the rights of it, Peter, and I have the stuff fer him right here in my bag. But we better wait a while yet."

They waited a long time, but of course the boy got no better. Goola was streaming with perspiration and evidently tiring, the boy was groaning worse than ever. At last the wizard stopped, and turning on Miley and Peter, spat out some angry words.

"Says we're doing the harm," explained Miley. "'Bout time I took a hand in this here job, I reckon." He spoke forcibly to the chief, who stared at him doubtfully and then at the wizard. Miley spoke again crisp and sharp, and Peter knew he was telling the chief that he could cure the boy. His confidence impressed the big man, and at last he made up his mind and spoke sternly to the wizard. Goola gave Miley a look so venomous it fairly made Peter's skin crawl, then he went out.

Miley took a bottle from his bag, and measured a dose. Peter saw that he was careful first to taste it himself, so that there would be no suspicion of poison. Then he spoke to the chief, and pointing to the watch indicated that he must have an hour—the time the hand would take to go once round the dial. He went to the boy, spoke to him gently and began to rub his poor little middle. Then he made him swallow the dose, and rubbed him again.

Whether it was the rubbing or the medicine, it did not take anything like an hour before the child was better. In twenty minutes he relaxed and went quietly to sleep. The chief, who had stood by all this time, turned and stared at Miley. Then he spoke. Peter thought he was expressing his thanks, but he saw Miley's face change oddly.

"What did he say?" Peter asked.

"Says I knocked spots off Goola as a wiz, and tells me I'm to take on his job," replied Miley.

"Stay here, you mean?" replied Peter horrified.

"It ain't what I mean. It's what he means," Miley answered. "It looks like a life-time job, old son."


"BUT we can't stay here," exclaimed Peter in dismay.

"It's a case of gotter," replied Miley, "and don't look like that, son. The chief won't like it as a compliment."

"You can find some way out of this fix," declared Peter.

"You got a heap o' faith in me, ain't you?" said Miley.

"Any amount," Peter answered stoutly. Miley grinned.

"Don't count on me too much. We're in a proper tight place. You gotter remember as this 'ere chief ain't any limited monarch. He's the whole works." The chief, who had been watching them, broke in, and Miley replied to what was evidently a question.

"He wants to know what you're looking so doleful about," he told Peter. "Luckily he things as you're jealous o' my job, so he sez you kin be my assistant, and that you shall have all the grub you can eat. Now try and look happy, even if you don't feel that way, for if we put his back up we won't never get away." Peter managed a smile, though he felt just the other way. This was an awful mix-up, and he could not see any way out of it. The chief spoke again, and Miley translated.

"We gotter go to the ju-ju house. And—" he chuckled, "Goola's got ter tike us there." Goola was sent for and came again into the big hut. He glanced at the boy still sleeping soundly, and a dangerous light flickered in his deep-set eyes, but when the chief told him that he had lost his job and that Miley had been promoted in his place he looked for a moment quite stunned. Yet he did not dare to remonstrate. The witch-doctor is a big man in a New Guinea village, but he comes very much second to the chief, and he knew it would be a case of "off with his head" if he made trouble. So presently Peter and Miley found themselves on the way to the ju-ju house, with Goola as their guide.

"Miley," said Peter, "can't you tell Goola that we don't want this job. Can't you explain to him that all he has to do is to let us clear out?"

"All in good time, son. But you're right one way. Goola's our best bet. He ain't a-going ter tike this lying down. All the same we gotter go slow."

The ju-ju house stood away from the other buildings in an enclosure of its own. It was a big place, circular in shape, built rather like a Chinese pagoda, with walls of bamboo and a tall, peaked roof thatched with the broad leaves of the pandanus palm. The eaves hung down nearly to the ground. Goola, who had not said a word during the whole of the walk, opened a door and let them in. Then he closed it, and when Peter looked round he saw that the door was so cunningly concealed that, once closed, it was no longer visible, but appeared to be a part of the wall. He and Miley found themselves alone in a vast, dim, shadowy room.

Peter looked round and the look gave him no comfort. This was the Tapu hall of the tribe, a chamber of horrors which could give points and a beating to that at Madame Tussaud's. There were no windows. What light there was came down through an opening at the top of the roof and fell in a circle on the floor, which was covered with hard pounded clay. As Peter's eyes became accustomed to the gloom he saw that all around the walls were hung hideous figures. Dreadful, demon-like shapes carved out of wood and painted with fantastic colours.

"Ugh!" he grunted, "they're the sort of things one sees in a bad dream."

"That's right," agreed Miley. "I had one like that once arter eating a home-made Christmas pudding when I were sheep-herding in New South Wales. But even then I don't believe as the things I seed were as bad as these." He paused. "An' there's worse behind," he added. Peter looked again, and in the deep gloom behind the circle of horrible masks saw something that looked like a great shadowy curtain. Its darkness was dotted with circles of paler colour. He shivered.

"Skulls!" he said hoarsely.

"Skulls," agreed Miley, and so they were—hundreds of human skulls arranged in tiers and suspended by their cords of sennit which quivered with the slightest draught. The thought came to Peter that, but for Miley's pluck and cleverness and the fact that he spoke the Papangi language, his skull and his brother's, and of all their party would most certainly have been added to this gruesome array. Meantime Miley, curiously unafraid, had gone nearer to the hideous curtain. He turned.

"Peter, come here," he said, and Peter, still feeling unpleasantly chilled, passed through the line of images and came to the curtain.

"Look at their eyes," said Miley. Peter looked. In each of the empty eye sockets gleamed something dull and yellow. Peter ventured to touch one of these objects. He started.

"Gold!" he exclaimed.

"That's fight," said Miley calmly. "And everyone of 'em beat out of a nugget. Lumme, if we had this lot we wouldn't need ter worry about messin' any more in that there cold water." Peter said nothing. He was gazing at the hideous curtain. There were literally hundreds of skulls, and each eye was worth roughly ten pounds.

"But we could never get away with them," he said at last.

"I ain't so sure o' that," said Miley slowly. "I got a kind o' notion fer doing it. But it ain't worth worrying about now. What we got ter do is ter find a way out o' this here fix."

"What will happen?" asked Peter.

"Next move'll be from the wiz," said Miley. "Meantime we'd better stoke."


"That's wot I said. There ain't no need ter starve in any Tapu house." He led the way back towards the centre of the place and there they found food in abundance. Baked yams, taro, bread-fruit, coco-nuts, and a quantity of cooked pork.

"These is the offerings ter the gods," Miley explained. "Put in fresh and fresh every day."

"But—but ought we to touch them?" asked Peter doubtfully. Miley laughed—an odd sound in this abode of death.

"You ain't forgetting we're the priests. The more we eats the better the nigs'll be pleased." He picked up a coco-nut and began to open it, and Peter followed his example. The sweet "milk" was most refreshing. Then they sat down on the floor and made their meal. They did not touch the pork, but there was plenty else and they fed well. Afterwards Miley prowled about the place to come back after a while with a length of strong cord.

"And now what about forty winks?" he suggested. Peter looked round uncomfortably.

"Sleep in this place!" he said.

"I'd a sight sooner sleep among dead niggers than live uns, son. And the sooner we gets a sleep the better, for I miss my guess if we gets much ter-night."

"Why?" Peter asked.

"I told yer. Goola."

"I don't understand. Do you mean he'd try to kill us?" Miley pursed his lips.

"I don't reckon he'll try to kill us—though he'd like to mighty well. But he'll do something, you kin take yer Davy to that." Miley leaned back with his head against a big log drum, he closed his eyes and calmly went to sleep.

"Well, of all the nerve!" Peter muttered. "How anyone can sleep in this place beats me." He himself sat staring at the ghastly images which faced him. It was very quiet in the great lofty place, the only sound being the buzzing of flies which circled in the light overhead, and Peter was tired after the tremendous work of the previous day and all the excitement of the present one. Within five minutes his eyelids, too, began to droop, his head lolled back and very soon he had forgotten his troubles and was deep asleep.

When he awoke he felt a cool breeze play across his face. He sat up. Night was falling and the gloom was deep in the great Tapu house. There was just light enough left to see Miley, who was also awake, sitting up straight and still. As Peter looked at him the little man lifted his hand and laid two fingers across his mouth as a sign of silence.

Again came the draught of air, and the curtain of skulls wavered and moved into horrible life. Then there sounded a thin wailing voice, and to Peter's horror it came from between the jaws of a hideous crocodile-headed god just in front. Cold chills ran down Peter's spine, but Miley was quite unmoved. He waited till the voice ceased, then answered. There was silence for a full minute, then another of the gods spoke and again Miley answered. Peter was getting his nerve back. He had begun to realise that Goola was at the bottom of this business. The wizard was no doubt a ventriloquist and was trying to scare his deputies. Peter almost laughed as he thought what a very bad blunder the witch-doctor was making if he thought he was going to frighten Miley in this childish way.

The voices died away and all was silence, but Miley again put his fingers to his lips. He certainly thought that Goola had something else up his sleeve. The dusk deepened, and once more the draught blew through the great dim place, making the skulls rattle. Then Peter, listening hard, felt sure that someone was moving softly moving towards them. Miley heard it, too, and Peter saw him stiffen.

The sound became clearer. It was a dull rustling as if something heavy were being dragged across the floor. All of a sudden a great pointed head showed, and Peter stiffened as a huge snake came slithering across the beaten clay. In the faint light it looked monstrous beyond belief, and Peter felt his throat go dry at sight of the terror.

In a flash Miley was on his feet, and now Peter saw that he had the rope in his hands, and that there was a loop at one end. He set to whirling the rope around him in a quickly widening coil. Quite clearly it was not the first time he had handled a lasso. Next instant out it flashed, and before Peter realised what was up the noose settled round the head of the serpent, and was instantly drawn tight.

"Hang on!" snapped Miley, and Peter, springing up, grabbed the rope.

"Now pull!" To Peter's intense surprise, the snake, instead of lashing about, came like a dead weight across the floor. Also it was making noises that no snake ever made.

"Got him," chuckled Miley. "And by glory I'd scrag him for keeps if it weren't that I needed the beggar—slack it off, Peter, but look out for his knife." Peter slacked off the tight coil, and Miley ripped open the skin which was that of one of the great pythons which haunt the forests of New Guinea. Inside was Goola, gasping and more than half-choked.

Miley caught him and dragged him roughly out of his hiding-place. The wizard was quivering with terror. He had fully expected to have these white men frightened almost out of their senses, and now that his tricks for terrifying them had failed he was scared stiff, for he believed they would kill him at once.

"And now I'll tell him jest wot I thinks of him," said Miley, and proceeded to do so, while the ugly wizard stood trembling with fear.

"Your tricks may scare black men, but they don't worry whites," Miley told him, speaking in the man's own language. "Yes, you are jealous because the big chief has made us his medicine men. But it's a job we haven't time for. I am already a medicine man to a tribe a hundred times larger than yours. See here, do you want your job back?"

Goola's eyes widened. He could hardly believe his ears, for it seemed to him impossible that anyone could think of giving up a job that gave a man all he could eat as well as power second only to that of the chief. He was almost humble as he answered that he now realised that the white man's magic was greater than his own, but that, for that very reason, the great chief would never allow them to depart.

"But suppose we flew out of that hole in the roof?" said Miley, pointing upwards. Goola's eyes fairly bulged, and he hesitatingly explained that such a thing was impossible.

"I'd do it quick enough if I had my wings with me," Miley told him, "but I'm going to send my spirit out. Lie down on your face on the floor and shut your eyes, and don't dare open them till I tell you, or I'll blast them and make you blind." Down went the wizard flat on the floor. Miley took out his cherished mouth organ and handed it to Peter.

"You can't play it," he said, "but you kin make a noise." Peter grinned and proceeded to make a noise, and Miley began his preparations.


FROM his war bag, the small canvas case to which he had clung all through their adventures, Miley took one of those small rubber balloons and a little black metal capsule. He fixed the open end of the balloon on the capsule, gave the latter a twist and the balloon at once filled with gas. And Peter, engaged in making a noise which sounded like two cats quarrelling, very nearly stopped playing when he saw that the inflated globe of transparent rubber shone luminous in the dark, and that on it was painted a human face with great red eyes.

Miley tied the mouth of the balloon, put away the capsule, then fastened a fine thread to the balloon. Then he signed to Peter to cease his hideous discords. He let the balloon float up a little way before he allowed Goola to look.

A gasp—a sort of long-drawn sigh escaped the lips of the wizard as he saw the luminous globe floating overhead. This was real magic—far beyond anything he could aspire to, and for the first time since meeting Miley he was honestly prepared to admit that the white man was his superior. Miley spoke again, using the Papangi language.

"My spirit will now rise through the roof," he said as he let the thread run through his hand. Up went the luminous ball straight for the opening. At the proper moment Miley snipped the thread between his fingers and the little balloon, passing through the opening, soared upwards.

"If you go outside you will see it rise to the sky," Miley went on, and in a flash the wizard had scuttled to the hidden door and opened it. Miley pointed and there against the dark sky which, as it happened, was covered with a thin layer of cloud the balloon soared upwards until lost to sight. When it had finally disappeared Miley spoke again.

"Suppose I gave you one of those sky balls in which I can send my spirit aloft, what would you do for us, Goola?"

"Anything that is in my power," returned the wizard earnestly.

"You would help us on our way so that we can return to our tribe?" Goola hesitated. Miley laughed.

"You can tell him that we disappeared by our own magic and that we left you the medicine for his son. Then you can show him how I sent my spirit to the sky, and he will be no longer angry."

"I will do it," Goola answered. "If you will give me the medicine and the ball of light that flies then I will do as you say."

"But there is something more," said Miley. "One of our men is sick and though I can make him well, it will be a moon before he is strong to walk. Can you manage it that we shall be safe from your warriors for that time? It is true that we could kill them with our magic tubes, but we are men of peace and do not take heads." Goola considered.

"That can be done," he said at last. "There is a cave not far from where you shelter, which is Tapu. It is the abode of ghosts, but with your magic you can use it safely."

Since it was now quite dark, he took flint and steel and lighted a torch which burned with a clear flame, then he took an arrow from the wall and with its pointed end drew a little map on the floor showing where their cave was and where the Tapu cave could be found. Miley nodded.

"I can find it," he said. "Now how soon will it be safe to start?"

"Two hours before dawn," Goola told him.

"But why not now?" asked Miley.

"Because you will need light to cross the great bridge," Goola explained, and Miley agreed.

"And now give me the spirit carrier," said the wizard, and Miley brought out one of his little balloons. But before he blew it up he made Goola close his eyes, and got Peter to play the mouth organ. It was just as well not to give away too many tricks of the trade. When the balloon was filled he cautioned Goola not to prick it or let it get near fire. The wizard covered it with a piece of cloth and hid it in a secret place. It was clear that he was tremendously impressed.

Miley took the mouth organ from Peter and began to play, and to Goola this was the biggest miracle of all. Somewhere in the depths of this savage head-hunter's heart was a real love of music and he sat still as a statue, listening while Miley poured out all sorts of old melodies.

So the night passed, the queerest night Peter had ever known. Sometimes Miley played, sometimes he and the wizard talked, and Peter saw that the Cockney had conquered all the wizard's suspicions and that Goola was now ready to believe anything that his white friend told him. The torch burned out, and Goola again took out his flint and steel and tinder, but Miley stopped him and struck a match. Goola fell back gasping.

"Great magic!" he said hoarsely. So Miley gave him three matches, and this gift, more than anything, sealed the wizard's friendship.

Goola had no means of telling the time yet just two hours before dawn up he got and told them that it was time to start. Before they left the Tapu house Goola gave them each a spear. These spears were tipped with sharp flints let into the wood in a most cunning manner.

"What are they for?" Peter asked.

"To fight the devil birds—that's what the wizard sez," Miley answered.

"Devil birds! What's he mean?"

"I ain't got a notion, but he sez as they flies at dawn and kills men."

"Sounds cheerful," said Peter frowning. "Strikes me that the sooner we're shifting the better."

"We can't cross the bridge afore daylight—that's a sure thing," said Miley. "However, we'll go." Goola led them by a path which did not go through the village at all, but made a circle through the fields and out into the bush. He cautioned them to walk on the beaten paths so that their tracks might not be seen. At the foot of the bluff he stopped, and told them they would now know their road. Miley took the necklace of coloured glass from around his own neck, and placed it over Goola's head.

"That's for you," he said, "and it's good magic. Only don't show it to the chief or he may be jealous." Goola gasped again. He thanked Miley quite humbly. Miley went on.

"One day I will come back with much more magic for you," he said. "Now good-bye and good luck." He shook hands solemnly and so did Peter, and the two went quickly up the bluff, leaving the wizard gazing after them.

"You're a wonder, Miley," said Peter. "How did you come to have all those tricks, the balloons and things?"

"Ain't the first time I been among nigs, son," said Miley quietly. "A few bobs' worth o' stuff as you kin buy in a toy-shop goes a mighty long way with natives."

"And we never knew," said Peter humbly.

"Well, ye knows now," replied Miley and tramped on.

It was still dark when they reached the great bridge and there was nothing to do but wait for daylight. All was quiet except for the deep-toned roar of the river raging in its narrow channel far below. They sat on a rock and chatted.

"Wonder what Goola meant about those birds?" Peter asked.

"Eagles, most like, but I never heard tell of eagles attacking anyone unless they went fooling round their nest."

"They say the condor of the Andes will go for men and mules, and knock them over the edge of a pass," said Peter. "But there are no condors here."

"No one don't know what there is up in these here mountains," Miley answered. "Wot about them ape men?" Peter nodded.

"Yes, the South Kensington Museum would give something handsome for one of those fellows. He'd be worth more than all the gold we could carry."

"Gimme the gold," returned Miley. "I ain't gotter go as far as South Kensington to find what ter do with gold dust."

"Dawn's breaking," said Peter pointing to the sky where the snow-clad Eastern peaks were beginning to show rosy pink against the darkness. Miley began to unlace his boots.

`"We'll walk better without 'em," he said. Peter followed his example, and tying the laces together hung the boots around his neck. Dawn "comes up like thunder" in the Tropics, and within a very few minutes there was light enough to see the outline of the great arch spanning the mighty gulf. It was very beautiful. Peter, however, was not thinking of its beauty, but rather of its horrid narrowness and slipperiness.

"Like me ter go first?" said Miley.

"No. I think I feel better if you're behind me," Peter answered.

"Well, keep a-looking up," returned Miley, and with his heart in his mouth Peter started.

It had been bad enough on the former occasion when he had had a lead from a whole regiment of natives, but now it was a thousand times worse. He felt as if he was walking a tight rope over Niagara. The roar beneath was terrifying and it was all he could do to keep himself from looking down. He had just reached the centre of the arch, the narrowest, highest part, when he heard Miley's voice behind him.

"Hurry, son!" Though Miley spoke quite quietly there was a desperate urgency in his tone which made Peter forget the perils of the way. He broke into a run and within a few seconds was safely on the far side. Miley dashed up beside him.

"Nigs arter us. Chief and half a dozen o' his biggest men." Peter turned and sure enough here came the giant chief at a run. He and his men were in full war-paint, and one glance at his face showed that he was furiously angry.

"What do we do?" asked Peter, trying to steady his voice. "Run?"

"Not a hope. They'd ketch us afore we'd run a minute. We gotter fight. Get hold o' some rocks." Peter snatched up some chunks of stone.

"If we'd only got a gun!" he heard Miley mutter under his breath, and the tone of his voice made Peter realise that, for the first time since he had met him, the little man was very near to despair. No wonder, for to these savages the bridge was nothing and all of them carried throwing spears, deadly things up to a range of thirty yards. As for the stones—. But there was Miley standing firm at the end of the bridge, a stone in each hand, and Peter vowed that he would back him to his last breath.

Instead of charging straight across the bridge the Papangis halted. The chief was talking to them.

"Ordering 'em to take us alive," said Miley, a wry grin twisting his lips. "Wonder how he got on to our leaving."

"Was it Goola? Did he go and sneak?" asked Peter.

"No," said Miley slowly, his eyes on their enemies. "No, I ain't thinking that. Watch out, Peter!" His voice was suddenly sharp. "They're a-coming." He was right. With the tall chieftain at their head, the savage head-hunters were coming across the bridge. They ran lightly and confidently as though on a highway. The height troubled them not at all.

"Wait till he gits close," hissed Miley between half-shut lips. "Then plug him. If we gets him there's a chance. If not—" He did not finish his sentence, but Peter knew what he meant.


THE big chief was fairly leaping across the bridge, yet to Peter the wait seemed endless as he stood there, stone in hand, waiting to fling it. Suddenly came an odd whistling sound like that of a 'plane coming down at great speed with engine shut off. But he did not look up. Not for one moment did his eyes leave the figure of the chief.

Something flashed into the circle of his sight. The chief stopped short and flung his spear. An enormous bird, by far the biggest Peter had ever seen, had swooped out of the sky. It was like an eagle, but in size rivalled the condor, the great vulture of the Andes. It was at least twelve feet across the wings, its head was huge and crowned with a crest of dark feathers, while its beak was like a scimitar.

"The devil birds!" he found himself saying, then suddenly a second was in sight. The first drove straight at the giant chief, and he, bracing himself on the uppermost height of the great rock arch, struck at it with his spear. With a flick of its wings the bird evaded the blow and passed, then before the man had time to recover himself the second was upon him. There was a scream and he was gone—swept away like a fly from a window-pane, and Peter gasped as he saw his body turning over and over into the chasm beneath. He was gone in a flash into the mists of spray far below.


There was a scream and he was gone.

His men yelling with terror turned and raced back towards the far bank, but the devil birds were after them and before they gained the bank two more had followed their chief.

Peter stood like a stone, paralysed with horror, but Miley roused him by grasping his arm.

"Time fer us to be shifting, son," he said in his ear. "And we better hump ourselves if we don't want to be chopped by them devil birds. Lumme, they're worse'n the apes."

"Them rocks," he added, and they both ran for the boulders. Behind came the same whistling which they had heard before, but they gained the rocks in time and flung themselves face forward into a cleft just as one of the great birds swooped past. The rush of its wings was tremendous. It turned in mid-air and swept back upon them, but by this time they were hidden and the bird passed on and away. Miley peeped out.

"Give it up, he has. Gosh, Peter, did ye ever see such a brute?"

"No—nor want to—but all the same they've done us a jolly good turn, Miley."

"That's a fact," allowed Miley. "If the big lad had got us back to the village we'd never have seed home again, that's one thing sure. And I've seed places I liked a lot better thin that there Tapu house." Peter shuddered.

"It was an awful place, Miley, but I don't know that this is much better. We shall have to stick here all day or risk being finished by those eagles, and I'm getting cramp already, squeezed up here between these two rocks."

"Oh, it ain't as bad as that," Miley told him. "Remember what the wiz said—that them devil birds fly at dawn. I reckon they'll go home arter a bit and then we kin do the same." He looked up. "I kin see them," he added. "They're away up in the sky a-soaring in big circles. I reckon they're looking fer the fellers they knocked inter the river." Peter shivered again. The thought was a horrid one.

"One on 'em's coming down," Miley went on. "And the other's a follering. I reckon it's all hunky." The eagles vanished into the depths of the gorge and Peter and Miley hurried back to the cave.

"What about the natives?" Peter asked. "Will they send another party after us?"

"Likely, ain't it!" retorted Miley. "No, sir, they ain't a-going to bother us no more. When them four fellers gets back and tells their story the rest'll think we're bigger wizards than old Goola hisself."

"You mean they'll think we set the devil birds on them?"

"Sure thing," said Miley. "All the same I reckon we'll move to this here Tapu cave."


"Looks ter me like it's a better place," said Miley vaguely, and Peter wondered what he was thinking of. They saw no more of the great eagles, and in about an hour reached the cave. Bruce saw them coming and ran out to meet them.

"My word, I'm glad to see you," he said, and there was no doubt he meant it. "I hardly slept last night for worrying about you. How an earth did you manage to get away so soon?"

"It's quite a story," said Miley. "And Peter and me ain't had no breakfast. If there's any grub going—"

"Grub," broke in Bruce. "Heaps. I killed a brush turkey last evening and Kinny's grilling the legs. Come on in, and feed, and then you can tell me about it."

"How's Paul?" Peter asked.

"Pretty good," Bruce told them, "but still weak as a kitten." Kinny was even more pleased than Bruce to see Peter and Miley back, for he had understood the risks better than Bruce.

"I scared you never come back," he said to Peter. "Tapu house, him pretty bad place altogether to come out of." Peter nodded.

"It's a rotten place, Kinny. I shall dream of it for years. Ugh, those skulls!"

"You talk 'em true, marster," agreed Kinny. "Now I make breakfast. Then you tell all." He deftly dished up the grilled legs of the turkey, and Peter and Miley, who were sharp set after their sleepless night and long walk, did justice to them and while they ate told of what had happened. Bruce listened with breathless interest, especially to the story of the devil birds.

"Then the chief is finished," he said.

"And Goola is boss," Miley told him. "You kin reckon he's running the show till the chief's son is old enough ter tyke on."

"Then you think they won't tackle us again?" Bruce asked, doubtfully.

"That's a safe bet," said Miley. "I'm fer moving to this here Tapu cave. Fer one thing it's a lot nearer The Steps, and we won't have so far ter go ter the river."

"Just as you say," agreed Bruce. "But what about these eagles?"

"I ain't worrying abaht them so long as I got a gun," said Miley, "and I ain't moving without one so long as I'm in these parts. All we got to do now is wash all the gold as we can carry and shove out for home."

"And jolly glad I shall be to get there," Bruce agreed. "What do you say, Peter?" Peter grinned.

"Can't be too soon for me, old man. I've had all the adventures I want for the present."


THE party left the cave in which they had been camping and trekked away across the stony ground of the New Guinea Highlands. With Kinabula on one side and Peter on the other, Paul was able to walk, but he was very weak and had to stop and rest several times. Bruce and Miley staggered along under the heavy loads of provisions and blankets.

The tapu cave was less than a mile from the big steps and well back from the river. The month was hidden by a thick patch of scrub, and the entrance was low, but inside there was plenty of room, and a hole in the roof which let in light and air and would let out smoke. At the back the tunnel ran into a second chamber, which was full of bats and horribly smelly. But a lighted torch soon routed out the bats and a fire lit inside got rid of the smell.

It was past midday by the time they were settled, and it was decided that they should not go down to the river that day, but that Peter and Miley should rest while Kinny and Bruce went out to look for game. Late that evening Bruce and the ex-policeman came back in triumph with a small pig and they all enjoyed a sumptuous supper of roast pork.

Next morning Peter, Bruce and Miley went down to the river. There had been no rain for the past two days and the water had gone down so much that a big bar of gravel showed in mid-stream.

"Wouldn't that hold a lot of gold?" Peter asked. Miley nodded.

"That's a fact," he agreed, "but I don't see meself swimming to it."

"No need to swim," said Peter. "There's heaps of driftwood. We could build a raft and get out there."

"Let's do it," said Bruce eagerly, and Miley, after a little consideration, agreed. There was plenty of driftwood piled at flood edge on the great stone steps, and since they had the axe with them and plenty of rope there was no difficulty in making a raft. With a couple of long poles they pushed this out and landed on the bar.

There they set to work and the very first pan produced a full ounce of coarse yellow dust. There were no nuggets, but the pans averaged half an ounce to an ounce, and by the time dusk began to fall Miley estimated that they had no less than one hundred and twenty ounces of dust, worth in all, something like four hundred pounds. Peter was jubilant.

"In a week we'll have all we can carry," he declared. "We'll be able to go to college as well as school, Bruce."

"School's good enough for me," said Bruce, "the rest must go to dad to help him out."

"You better not count your chickens afore they're hatched," Miley advised. "You ain't home yet."

"Don't croak, Miley," Peter retorted.

"I ain't croaking, but Suarez and Salter ain't dead—not as I've heard of."

"They're back at the coast by now," said Peter.

"I wish I thought so," said Miley, but he spoke too low for Peter to hear.

Tired out, they got back to the cave, ate a huge supper and slept like the dead until Kinny roused them at dawn. Peter and Bruce were eager to start at once, but Miley refused to be hurried.

"The gold ain't going ter run awye," he drawled, "and there ain't no sense in killing ourselves. And don't you chaps ferget them there eagles." So the sun was an hour high before they scrambled again down the giant steps, crossed the stone bridge over the rift and reached the beach.

"Water's down another foot," said Peter eagerly. "My word, we ought to do well to-day. Where does all this gold come from, Miley?" he asked as he loaded the pans and tools on the raft.

"Comes outer the mother lode somewheres up in the mountains," Miley told him. "Been washing down here a million years, I reckon."

"There must be tons of it in this gorge," said Peter. "What a pity we couldn't turn the whole river and leave the bed dry."

"And what ud you do then?" asked Miley. "How'd yer get it out if yew hadn't water ter wash the dust out o' the sand?"

"I hadn't thought of that," replied Peter, rather crestfallen. Miley grinned.

"You ain't got no cause ter kick," he said. "You better be grateful as there ain't a flood. If there was we wouldn't get nothing."

"You're right," said Peter quickly. "After all, we're jolly lucky." Work began again and, as on the previous day, every pan showed coarse gold. As they dug deeper into the bar the gravel grew richer and richer until sometimes a single pan gave as much as two ounces of gold. Good stuff, too. As Miley told them, some stream gold is half silver, and therefore worth no more than a couple of pounds an ounce, but this was nearly pure. It was pleasant work, pouring one handful of dust after another into the canvas bag which grew heavier with every pan they washed.

"Dad will be pleased," said Bruce, as they stopped at last to straighten their aching backs and eat their dinner. But Peter was not listening. He was looking at the river and there was a puzzled frown on his pleasant, brown face.

"What's up?" asked Bruce.

"The water," Peter answered. "Look at the way it's gone down."

"But it's been sinking for the past two days," said Bruce.

"It's gone down more in the past hour than in the whole two days. Hasn't it, Miley?"

Miley, who was lying on his back with his old cabbage-tree hat pulled over his eyes, sat up and looked round.

"That's right," he said at last. "She's dropped all of a foot." He considered. "You didn't hear nothing, chaps?" he asked presently.

"Nothing," said Peter. "We've been a jolly sight too busy, and anyhow, there's such a roar of water down here in the Gorge you'd hardly hear a gun unless it was fired pretty close." He looked hard at the Cockney. "What did you think we might have heard?"

Miley pointed to the Giant steps.

"Somethin' like that," he remarked dryly.


FOR a moment Peter looked puzzled, then his face cleared. "You mean a slide—a big land slide?" Miley shrugged.

"I don't see what else could have cut off the water. And she's still a-falling." Peter whistled softly.

"If that's what happened the whole bed of the river will run pretty near dry and—"

"And there'll be nuggets for the picking," added Bruce eagerly.

"She won't run so dry as that," Miley told him. "And anyways, we ain't going ter stay here if she does."

"The dam will break, you mean, and there'll be a flood," said Peter.

"She'll come a-whooping," Miley answered.

"Then we'd better shove on while we can," said Peter jumping up. Miley looked at the river again.

"I reckon we're all right fer a hour or two," he told them. He got up and stretched. "Lumme, I'm that stiff," he groaned.

"You sit still and we'll carry on," Bruce said, but Miley only grinned and picked up his pan.

"I ain't that old," he remarked. The river continued to fall and by Miley's advice they tackled the upper end of the bar. If the lower had been rich this was richer. The dust was coarse and the quantity was amazing. In some pans they got six, eight, even ten pounds' worth of gold. The boys were wild with excitement, even Miley's eyes shone.

"This beats Caunter's Creek," he said. "I never seed nothing like it, and I don't believe no one else did either."

"I've struck something," Peter cried at that moment. "It's—it's a nugget—a big one!" He dropped on his hands and knees and got hold of something deep in the gravel and yanked it out. It was a lump of dull gold about the size and shape of a small dumb-bell, but whereas an iron dumb-bell of that size would weigh about three pounds, this was enormously heavier. Miley took it and weighed it in his hand.

"You struck something this time, Peter," he said and quietly as he spoke his voice was not quite steady. "Eight pound weight and pretty near solid gold."

"What's it worth?" demanded Peter.

"I'd chance going ye four hundred pounds fer it and I'd make a profit," was the answer. They stood round the treasure, admiring it, forgetful of everything else. They did not hear the dull roar that boomed in the gorge above them. It was not until a crash like that of an earthquake smote upon their ears that they roused to their danger. Bruce saw it first.

"The flood!" he shouted, and grabbing up the tools raced for the raft. Miley took the bag of gold, Peter the nugget, and all three flung themselves on the raft and pushed frantically for the foot of the steps.

It was hopeless. The flood wave coming down in a wall of brown water tipped with yellow foam, was travelling with the speed of a train and striking the raft before it was half-way to the beach, lifted it with one dizzy swing and hurled it away like a chip. Peter lying flat on his face felt the raft tip and saw Miley lose his grip and slide past him. Clinging to the edge of the planks with one hand, he caught Miley by the leg with the other and hung on like grim death. For a moment the water was right over their heads but Peter still hung on though he felt as if his arms were being torn from their sockets.

Then the strain relaxed and at the same time the raft lifted above the surface. Miley had managed to get fresh hold and Peter saw his lips move and realised he was saying thank you, but the thunder of the flood quite drowned his voice. Bruce was safe. He was spread-eagled on the front of the raft, but still had his two shovels beneath him. It was like Bruce to stick to them in spite of everything.

Not that it mattered much for, so far as Peter could see, they would none of them ever need a shovel again. They had already been carried far past the steps and were flying at dizzy speed down the bottom of a tremendous gulf with monstrous walls of rock towering on either side. Far—far above a streak of blue showed the sky and sunlight, but down here all was a dark welter of crashing waters and spinning eddies. It could be only a matter of a few minutes before they were smashed against a rock or sucked down into one of these roaring whirlpools.

It was the very size and weight of the flood that had saved them so far. All the rocks were deep beneath the mighty mass of water, which poured down with such furious speed that its centre was actually several feet above the sides.

One pole was still left on the raft. Peter saw Miley get hold of it and push it over aft, wedging it between two logs, so as to use it as a rudder. He worked himself nearer to the little man.

"Any hope, Miley?" he shouted in his ear.

"I ain't never said die, and I ain't going to till I'm dead," was the reply. "But I wouldn't say as the prospects is rosy," he added. In spite of everything Peter almost laughed. Rosy! So far as he or any human being could see there was not a chance in a million of their getting out alive. None of them knew how far this gorge ran, but it was certainly many miles. Even if it was dead straight the odds were all against getting through, but it was not. It was crooked as a cat's claw, and at every curve there must be a whirlpool. Falls, too. The chances were that they might find themselves pitching over a regular Niagara where the river dropped over the great cliffs towards the sea.

These thoughts flashed through Peter's mind as the raft, carrying himself and his two companions flashed with almost equal speed down the centre of the gorge. There was a curve below, and Peter held his breath as he saw the huge wave that struck the left-hand cliff and curved back upon itself in a vast fan of foam.

"That's the finish," he said to himself as the raft shot like a bullet aimed straight against the wall of granite. But Miley, tugging frantically at his pole, managed to keep the raft a little to the right and next instant they whizzed past, tilted at a fearful angle, yet safe. For a mile or more the gorge ran straight as a stretched string and down this the raft fled as if all the fiends of Hades were chasing it. Then came another curve.


The raft fled as if all the fiends of Hades were chasing it.

Once again Miley succeeded in holding the raft off the cliff face, but it swung away to the right, and caught in a great eddy, spun round and round at dizzy speed. Peter saw Bruce looking at him and realised that he was saying good-bye.

But the end was not yet. Just as the raft was sucked under some new freak of the current caught it and flung it upwards like a toy. For a few seconds Peter felt himself driving through spray so thick it almost strangled him, while the raft rolled from side to side in terrifying fashion. Then it steadied again and once more they were tearing down a long straight. But now there was nothing left except themselves and Miley's pole. The tools, the bag of gold, the great nugget—all were gone. Peter hardly noticed. His mind was becoming numbed with horror.

Presently he saw Miley raise his arm and point. He realised that there was more light. Miley's lips were moving, but Peter could not hear what he said. Then Miley pointed forward, and Peter's heart gave a great leap. Only a little way ahead the sunlight broke down into the chill gloom of the great gorge. The left-hand wall had broken away and he saw level ground, grass and trees. Now he understood.

"The village," he yelled, and Miley heard and nodded. "Bruce, wake up," Peter shouted at the top of his voice. "There's a chance for us." Bruce roused. He raised his head. Peter saw, by the set look on his face, that he had long ago given up hope, but now, as he saw the great opening, his eyes brightened. The river broadened, the roar was a little less deafening. Miley shouted again.

"Jump when you see me jump." As he spoke he was forcing the raft over to the left. The muscles on his thin brown arms stood out like cords as he struggled with the heavy pole, but the tremendous force of the stream baulked his efforts and the raft flew past the level beach towards the tunnel-like entrance beyond. Once they were snatched into that gaping maw it was the finish.

Peter was dimly aware that brown men and women lined the bank, watching wide-eyed the amazing voyage of these mad white men. They seemed to flash past like figures in a film. And still Miley strove with all his strength to reach the bank.

Just ahead a rock thrust its grey head above the swirling surface and split the current. Miley's efforts carried the raft to its left, and it spun for a moment in a vast eddy. With a last effort Miley thrust the pole down and found bottom. One frantic shove, they cleared the eddy and were flung upon the beach with such force that all three were thrown clear and went sprawling on to the shingle.

Peter scrambled to his feet to find himself surrounded by natives who started at him with a sort of sullen amazement. More than one warrior gripped his flint-headed spear in dangerous fashion. But Miley had his wits about him. Addressing the biggest man, he curtly ordered him to take him and his companions to the great medicine man.

There was no need for this. News spreads quickly among natives, and next minute here was Goola himself in all his finery. He looked uglier than ever, but was perfectly friendly.

"You choose a strange way in which to visit us, white man," were his first words. "Are you tired of life that you swim in the river of death?"

"It is quicker than walking," Miley told him carelessly, and Goola stared. This man must be a great wizard, indeed, was his thought, for if the Death River could not kill him nothing else could. He ushered them up to his hut in great state and made them a feast, and afterwards Miley played to him, for luckily the mouth-organ had been safe in his pocket.

It was late before they got away and they walked back in the cool of the evening laden with fruit which Goola had given them.

"We've lost all our gold," said Peter rather bitterly.

"But we're alive to dig more," Bruce reproved him.

"How can we without pans or shovels?" returned Peter. "What are we going to do about it?" he asked Miley. Miley was looking thoughtful. All that evening Miley was very quiet, and Peter wondered what was in his mind. Next morning, however, he started for the stairs and the boys, still very puzzled, went with him. Miley had his gun, and he went very slowly and carefully. His eyes were constantly on the ground as if he was looking for something. When the three came near the head of the steps he bent double and finally crawled. The boys did the same.

At last he reached the edge and looked down into the gorge. The first thing that Peter saw was that the water had fallen to the same level as the previous day, the next that a number of men were busy on the gravel close to the edge of the river.

"Suarez!" said Peter with a gasp. "And Salter—and their natives!" But Miley showed no sign of surprise.

"I thought as how that flood were a bit too big and sudden ter be real," he remarked.


PETER hardly heard what Miley said. He had gone quite red with rage, his eyes were glittering, and his fists clenched.

"Our gold—they're digging our gold," he exclaimed furiously.

"And getting it too by the looks of it," agreed Miley.

"We'll see about that." Even Bruce had never seen his brother so angry. "We'll get back to the cave and get our guns." Peter turned, but Miley caught him by the arm. It was astonishing how strong the little man's grip was. In spite of his struggles Peter could not get free.

"Go slow, son," advised Miley quietly.

"Go slow!" repeated Peter still striving to get away. "Do you mean that we're to stand here like dummies and watch those beastly thieves stealing our gold?"

"What was you thinking of doing?" questioned Miley.

"Getting our guns, and going down there and holding them up," returned Peter fiercely.

"And what would they be doing? Got guns, too."

"They won't hear us," Peter insisted.

"Mebbe they won't, but they'll see us. At least the niggers will."

"That won't matter. We shall be among the rocks on the steps. We shall get the drop on them."

"I ain't saying we mightn't," allowed Miley. He was still as calm as ever. "Yes, we might do it, and again we mightn't. And one of us might get shot." Peter's eyes widened.

"You're not scared, Miley?" he asked in amazement. Bruce spoke.

"Don't be silly, Peter. Did you ever see Miley scared?"

"I never did," allowed Peter, "but I can't understand. If we don't stop them they'll have all the gold out of the beach."

"That's jest wot I was reckoning on," Miley told him, and Peter stopped struggling and simply stood and stared at him helplessly. A whimsical smile curled the corners of Miley's mouth.

"Diggin' gold is mighty like work, son," he suggested.

"What's that got to do with it?"

"A lot. Me, I'd always sooner set in the shade and watch another feller work." He still smiled, but Peter shook his head.

"I think you're crazy," he said hopelessly.

"He's got more sense than you, Peter," remarked Bruce. "Can't you see what he means?"

"No. I haven't a notion," said Peter flatly.

"He means—let them dig the gold," Bruce explained. Light began to dawn on Peter. An eager look came into his eyes.

"Let them do the job," he said breathlessly, "—then bag the gold from them afterwards—is that it?"

"There or thereabouts," said Miley. Peter chuckled.

"You're a nailer, Miley," he declared.

"I aims ter hit the right nail on the head sometimes," said Miley. But Peter was frowning again.

"How can we do it? It means watching them day and night. And when they do start how are we going to stop them?"

"Same way as you sed jest now," Miley answered.

"With guns—yes, but that means fighting, and if one of us gets hurt who's going to get him back down the mountain.

"Who's scared now?" asked Bruce sarcastically.

"I'm not scared," retorted Peter. "I'm only asking. I thought Miley might have some idea for collaring them without a fight." Miley nodded.

"That's a fact, Peter. I have got a kind of a notion. First off, we got a pull over 'em becos they thinks we're dead."

"Why do they think we're dead?"

"Ain't they killed us—drowned us?" Peter's eyes widened.

"The flood You mean they did that?"

"Sure thing. A stick or two o' dynamite'll break off a mighty lot o' rock in a gorge like this." Peter's lips tightened.

"Of course you're right. So they're murderers as well as thieves."

"Thet's wot I told you down there in the Clump," Miley said. "If you'd done wot I said you wouldn't be having this here trouble now."

"Left them in that hole, you mean?" Peter shook his head. "No, we couldn't have done that. We couldn't do that now, could we, Bruce."

"No," said Bruce firmly. "I wouldn't mind killing them in fair fight, but we couldn't leave them in a hole to starve." Miley shrugged his shoulders.

"You ain't lived so long as me. Fellers like them is better dead, and I ain't pertiklar how they dies so long as they're finished. And if we don't finish 'em this time the odds is as they'll do us in next time." He stopped and gazed down at the men who were working furiously on the bar. Indeed Salter and Suarez were for once doing more than their brown-skinned followers.

"They'd ought to get pretty near two hundred ounces a day besides nuggets," he continued thoughtfully. "And they'll reckon to carry out about fifty pound weight apiece. They'll be here all of three weeks, so there ain't no hurry."

"I see they have their camp down there on the steps," said Bruce. "But do you suppose they have grub enough for three weeks, Miley."

"I'll maybe know more about that in another twenty-four hours," said Miley. "This arternoon I'll get my glasses and have a look. But my notion is that they've found the stuff as we hid near the Clump. If thet's so they got a-plenty."

"And what are we going to do all this time?" Peter.

"Set and rest our legs," replied Miley with a dry smile. "Me, I done enough work the last fortnight to last me till I got ter walk home." He glanced up at the sun which was bearing down with every promise of a savagely hot day. "Time ter get back, lads. I'm kind of anxious to get in a cool place."

Kinny was cooking when they reached the cave. He had managed to kill an iguana, a big lizard of which the meat is very like chicken.

"I make good dinner to-day," he told them.

"We need something like that, Kinny," said Peter. "Those two nigger-drivers are down in the gorge digging our gold." Kinny nodded.

"I think him come like that," he said quietly.

"What!" exclaimed Peter. "You knew?" Before Kinny could answer another voice struck in.

"Suarez—you don't mean he's here?" Paul Bassett was sitting up on his bed of grass. His eyes were round with fright, and his face was white. He was simply terrified.

"Yes," said Peter, "they're down in the gorge, both of them, with five natives. But you don't need to worry. They don't know where we are. As a matter of fact they believe that Miley and Bruce and I are finished."

"But not Kinny and me," returned Paul in a voice that was hoarse with fear. "And Suarez swore he'd get me. He will, too." Paul's cowardice disgusted Peter.

"Don't worry. We'll look after you," he said curtly.

"You can't," insisted Paul. "You think you know Suarez, but you don't. Salter's a brute, and would cut your throat as soon as look at you, but Suarez is a fiend. I tell you our only chance is to clear out at once."

"Don't be a fool," retorted Peter sharply. "A lot of walking you could do, couldn't you?"

"I can walk all right," Paul declared. "I'm ever so much better."

"Then you can go if you want to. We aren't going back without our gold." Paul sank back, shaking. He looked so utterly wretched that Peter felt half-sorry for him.

"They're down in the gorge, I tell you. They're much too busy digging gold to think of anything else. You're as safe here as if you were at Lanok." Paul shook his head.

"You don't know 'em," he repeated. "They'll get us all sooner or later." Peter paid no attention. He was getting needle and thread out of his pack.

"A good chance to mend my clothes," he said to Bruce, and Bruce laughed.

"They certainly need it, Peter." That day they spent tidying up and doing repairs. It was the first chance they had had since leaving Lanok. All of them were glad of the rest. Late in the afternoon Miley went out with his glasses to spy upon the gold thieves. He came back looking rather thoughtful.

"They got that grub all right," he told the boys.

"That'll leave us a bit short," said Peter.

"We got plenty of stuff in the boat," Miley answered. "And one good thing is that, with all that grub they won't need to come up, hunting. They'll stay where they be till they've got as much gold as they kin carry." Peter nodded.

"And how are we going to get it from them? You said you had a plan."

"That there bridge," Miley answered. "The big stone that crosses the rift. If we was ter blow that up they'd be properly stuck."

"Yes," said Peter, "but couldn't they build a bridge out of driftwood?"

"Not if we was watching with a gun."

"No—I suppose not. But even then they wouldn't chuck it until they was starved out. And meantime we got to live."

"If you got any better plan let's hear it," said Miley.

"I haven't," Peter admitted.

"Then I reckon mine goes," said Miley. "As fer grub we ain't going ter starve so long as we got a gun and cartridges. There's pigs and brush turkeys and guannies fer the killing." Bruce struck in:

"Then your idea is simply to sit tight until Suarez and Co. are ready to move?"

"That's right," agreed Miley. Peter looked thoughtful.

"But how shall we know when they're ready to move? If they got some big nuggets they might be off in a week."

"We gotter watch 'em," said Miley. "Don't you worry. I'll see ter it." Miley was as good as his word, and for several days spent much of his time hidden among the rocks at the top of the great steps, watching Salter and Suarez.

"They're getting a lot of gold," he told the others, "but it's mostly dust. I ain't seed 'em find no nuggets."

"Then they won't be ready to start yet?" said Peter.

"They're like burglars in a bank," Miley answered. "Don't want ter leave so long as there's anything in the vault. No, they ain't ready to go yet."

"Then it's time we killed something," said Peter. "Kinny says he knows where we can find some brush turkeys. He and I are off in the morning." That evening the sun set in a blood-red sky, and in the night Peter woke to the roar of rain outside. It was coming down like Niagara.

"Jolly good job we're not in a tent," said Peter to himself and lying back on his soft, dry bed of scented grass went to sleep again. It did not occur to him at the moment how much difference a rainstorm might make to their plans. Next morning dawned fine and bright and cooler after the storm. They breakfasted early as usual, and the sun was barely up before Kinny and Peter were off.

They had got to know the country round the cave pretty well by this time and they had shot over most of it. This day Kinny had it in mind to visit a valley which ran back to the right of the gorge about half-way between them and the Papangi village. Kinny had been to the mouth of it before and had seen a brace of brush turkeys there. The two kept a sharp look out for the devil birds. They did not fear them so long as they had their guns, but on this occasion they saw nothing of them. They passed the head of the great steps and peeping over saw that the river had risen enough to cover most of the beach, but that the natives were working on the strip that remained. Salter and Suarez seemed to be still busy with their breakfast.

"Not quite so keen as they were," snorted Peter, then he and the ex-policeman went on. The mouth of the valley was wide and shallow, and the bottom covered with clumps of thick scrub. It looked good ground for game, yet though they quartered it carefully for an hour or more they saw nothing on which to spend a cartridge. Since their supply of ammunition was not large they did not waste shot on quail. Farther up Kinny's eyes spotted the spoor of a pig.

"Him altogether big boar," he said. "We follow." Follow they did, but the trail was not very fresh, and they saw nothing of its owner. The farther they went up the valley the narrower it grew, while the sides became steeper. Great boulders fallen from the cliffs littered the ground, but the centre was still covered with bush which was very thick in places. Heavy clouds were drifting over the cliff tops giving the place a singularly gloomy appearance, but there was no wind and the air was full of a sultry silence. Kinny stopped.

"I go climb rock," he announced. "Then maybe I see pig. You stay here, Marster." Peter was only too glad to rest a little and take a sip from his canteen for the tramp had been a hard one. Kinny went off and was away some little time. When he came back, stealing like a dark shadow through the low trees, Peter at once sensed something wrong.

"Suarez, he track us," was Kinny's startling announcement.


"SUAREZ after us—are you sure, Kinny?" asked Peter quickly.

"I altogether sure."

"But he wouldn't spot our tracks on ground like this."

"He hab two niggers," Kinny answered, and Peter whistled softly for he knew the tracking powers of these Papuans.

"Did he see you?" was his next question.

"I no think him see me, but I no sure."

"How far off are they?"

"Altogether long way."

"Gives us time to do a bit of thinking," said Peter. He looked up towards the end of the valley. "Can we get out that way?" he asked.

"I not know, Marster, but we more better try, for him only way we go."

"That's a fact," allowed Peter. "We can't double back. I suppose there's no doubt he's hunting us."

"I altogether sure he hunts us."

"But he doesn't know I'm alive," objected Peter. "He believes I was drowned in the flood."

"He thinks you Marster Bassett. He like kill Bassett."

"That's it of course," agreed Peter. "He's mad with Paul because he came over to us. We'd best be getting along." Kinny agreed and took the lead. The speed at which he led the way through the thickest of the scrub was wonderful, and Peter had all he could do to keep up. Luckily there was plenty of cover, and if they had been on open ground Peter would not have worried. Kinny, he knew, was a match for Suarez's men in the matter of bush craft.

The trouble was that the valley kept on closing in. It was rapidly becoming a mere gorge with towering cliffs on either side. Cliffs of broken, rugged rock far too steep to climb. Suppose that it turned out to be what Americans call a box-cañon with a cliff at the upper end.

"Then we shall be in the soup and no mistake," Peter remarked to himself. The Gorge curved and as they rounded the curve Peter saw that his fear was coming true. Half a mile farther on the cañon ended in a sheer wall of rock. He pulled up.

"Now we're for it, Kinny. Nothing for it but to turn round and tackle Master Suarez."

"More better go on I think," remarked Kinabula.

"What's the use. We're not monkeys or birds."

"No, Marster, we not monkeys or birds but it no use go back."

"I wish you'd explain," said Peter patiently.

"I savvy cave," said Kinny, pointing to a dark streak on the cliff face away to the left. Peter looked.

"It may be a cave, it may be only a cleft. Still it looks as if we can get there without being spotted, so if you say so I'm game to try."

"We try," said Kinny simply, and turned in that direction. To reach the cave they had to leave the scrub, but there were any amount of boulders on the slope and with a certain amount of crawling and dodging Peter saw that they could reach the place, unseen. What was more, the ground itself was so rocky that he hoped they could do it without leaving any tracks. After about ten minutes hard and careful work they came to the mouth of the place. It was a deep cleft in the side of the Gorge which ended in a cave mouth.

"Him pretty good place," remarked Kinny as they stopped to take breath.

"Take a squint round the corner of the rock and see if those blighters are still following us," Peter said, and Kinny obeyed. After a bit he drew back.

"They come," he announced, "but they still in bush." Peter grunted. He did not like the state of things a hit. His only hope was that Suarez's men would not notice where his tracks and Kinny's had left the bush and that they would go straight on to the head of the Gorge. In that case he and Kinny might slip away, unseen. But it was only a slender hope. These natives were human bloodhounds and were not likely to miss a trail.

"We'd better go on into the cave," he said. "It gives us a pull for they won't be able to see us while we can see them. The cave mouth was low but the place was bigger inside. Peter paused and sniffed.

"There's a most poisonous smell. What is it, Kinny?"

"Him smell like crocodile," replied Kinny, and Peter realised that he was right. It was a strong musky, odour mixed with that of carrion.

"But there couldn't be a croc up here," he objected. "There's no water."

"Him smell like crocodile any amount," Kinny insisted.

"And here are bones on the floor," added Peter as something brittle cracked under his feet. "I don't like this a bit."

"You like him better than him fellow Suarez," said Kinny and again he was right. Peter looked round. There was a sort of hollow to the left of the entrance where the floor sloped upwards ending in a kind of flat shelf.

"Let's get up there," he said, and Kinny agreed. Peter was quite glad to sit down. He was very hot, tired and thirsty. He took a drink from his canteen, and saw that he had fresh cartridges in his gun. If it came to shooting he proposed to shoot first. There was a long wait.

"What on earth made Suarez leave his gold digging?" he asked of Kinny. "They had lots of food."

"Plenty too much water," Kinny told him, and Peter understood. The flood of course. That was what had stopped the search for gold and sent Suarez off in search of game.

Minutes dragged by and still all was quiet. Peter had begun to hope that the trackers had missed his trail when Kinny stiffened. He had heard something though Peter's ears had so far caught not the faintest sound.

"Him come," whispered the ex-policeman. A queer feeling came over Peter. It was not fright; it was more a sort of excitement, the knowledge that within a very few minutes he would have to shoot or be shot. From his perch he could see through the mouth of the cave part of the slope leading up to it, and presently there came into view the two natives, big ugly fellows who walked with their bodies bent and their eyes scanning the ground. Behind them was Suarez carrying not a gun but a rifle. A heavy revolver swung in a holster at his belt.

The sun had come out again, and Peter saw plainly the cruel glint in the man's hard eyes. The natives stopped and pointed to the cave mouth. Suarez harshly ordered them to go in, but they were plainly frightened.

"They say they no want to be shot," Kinny whispered to Peter. Suarez swore at them savagely and raised his fist. They went on and he followed.

"Pretty soon you shoot," Kinny whispered to Peter, but Peter shook his head.

"I can't," he muttered.

"Shoot him legs," suggested Kinny.

"I'll shoot over his head," said Peter and, raising his gun to his shoulder, pulled the trigger. The crash in this closed space was deafening. With yells of terror the two natives bolted back past Suarez, but he held his ground. To do the ruffian justice, he was no coward. Peter saw him raise his rifle, trying to catch sight of the person who had fired the shot, but Peter and Kinny were flat on the floor in almost complete darkness. There was a moment of horrible suspense which was broken suddenly by a harsh coughing bark coming from the inner part of the cave, and out of the blackness glowed two eyes like red lamps.

"What is it?" gasped Peter and as he spoke the thing came forward with an ugly, shuffling rush.

"A croc!" said Peter breathlessly and raised his gun. Kinny caught his arm.

"You no shoot. You let him Suarez shoot." Before the words had left his lips Suarez had fired straight at the monster. He hit it but failed to stop it, and as it charged him with amazing speed the half-caste turned tail and ran like a rabbit.

Small blame to him for the brute was all of twenty feet long and must have weighed pretty nearly a ton. As it came into the light Peter saw that it was yellow in colour with a black stripe down its back and a kind of ridge or crest on the top of its head. It had not scales like a crocodile, it was longer in the legs, and—more horrible than anything else—it had a forked tongue which darted in and out of its terrific jaws which were armed with immense teeth.

"Him lizard," said Kinny briefly, but Peter hardly heard. He was watching Suarez tearing away down the slope with the monster after him. Fright gave him speed and he managed to keep ahead of his horrible pursuer. Peter was so fascinated by the sight that he lay still watching, but Kinny seized and pulled him to his feet.

"Now we altogether run," he said sharply, and Peter realising that he was right, did run. As they came out of the cave they saw the back of Suarez as he plunged frantically into the brush at the bottom of the valley, the huge lizard still chasing him venomously, but unable to catch him.

"Suarez mustn't see me," said Peter, pulling up.

"You right," agreed Kinny. "We hide." He turned in among the rocks and they crouched down in a safe place and waited. They heard a rifle bang again, then there was silence and strain their eyes as they might they could see nothing.

"Wonder if the beast got him or he got it," Peter said at last.

"I wish crocodile get him," said Kinny almost viciously. "Him Suarez altogether bad man."

"He's a bad egg," agreed Peter. "What do we do now—go home?"

"We no hurry," Kinny told him, and Peter had to agree that he was right. It was much better not to run any silly risks. So they waited for nearly two hours, then a thunderstorm broke and under cover of the driving rain they got down into the bush and so by a roundabout way back to the cave. They saw nothing of the big lizard or the dago. Miley frowned when he heard of their adventure.

"Never seed such a feller for wasting his chances," he growled. "There were the dago right under your gun. Why didn't you shoot him in the legs like Kinny said?"

"If I had the lizard would have got him," said Peter.

"And a derned good job, too," returned Miley sourly.

"That lizard must have been a weird beast," put in Bruce. "A dragon I'd call it. Miley, didn't they find dragons on Komondo Island?"

"I dessay," said Miley. "I ain't never been there." All that evening Miley was very silent, and next morning, as soon as breakfast was over, he announced his intention of going down to the head of the steps.

"I'll come along," said Peter.

"I ain't wanting company," snapped Miley so sharply that Peter stared. "I'm going alone." Peter got rather red, but swallowed his resentment, and Miley, carrying his gun, went off alone. Within half an hour he was back, and the first sight of his face warned Peter that something was seriously wrong.

"What's up?" he blurted out.

"They're gone," said Miley harshly.

"Gone!" repeated Peter vaguely. "Who's gone?"

"Well it ain't us," retorted Miley.

"Not Suarez!" gasped Peter.

"Yes, Suarez, and Salter, and them niggers—and the gold." Peter was so staggered it was several moments before he could find words.

"But why?" he asked at last.

"You're the last as should ask that," retorted Miley.

"I don't know what you mean."

"Then I'll tell yer. Suarez seed you, yesterday. And as you was alive he reckoned I was, and Bruce. Then, having sense in his head, which is more'n you got, he and Salter packed up and quit."


PETER bit his lip. An angry retort was on the tip of his tongue, but it was Bruce who spoke.

"You're not fair, Miley. It wasn't Peter's fault that Suarez saw him—if he ever did see him. You're sore because Peter didn't shoot Suarez."

"You're right about me being sore," said Miley. "Arter all we done it do seem a bit over the mark ter lose everything just on account of Peter here being too squeamish ter dust that there dago with small shot. He didn't need ter kill him, but a charge o' shot in his legs would have stopped this here gyme."

"It would have stopped it all right," agreed Bruce, "but Suarez would have been chewed up by this dragon beast. I'd have done just the same as Peter if I'd been in his place. And I tell you straight, Miley, I'd sooner lose the gold than kill a man in cold blood, even if he's a beast like Suarez." Miley shrugged.

"You've lost the gold, and we ain't got no picks or pans ter dig no more." Kinny, who had been listening, but saying nothing, now broke in.

"Why you lose him gold? I tink you catch them fellows plenty quick."

"What do you mean?" demanded Miley.

"You go short way. You go plenty faster. Then you catch 'em," said Kinny.

"Short way," repeated Miley frowning. "Short cut, you means. D'ye know of one?"

"I know. I talk 'em true. I show you." Miley grunted.

"But wot about that there Bassett? He ain't fit fer any sort o' cuts. Two mile a hour is about all we'd get out o' him."

"He stay here," said Kinny simply.

"And you stop and look after him," put in Peter. "And Bruce and Miley and I chase Suarez and Salter. It's a jolly good notion, and the sooner we start the better."

"But Kinny's got ter come," Miley objected. "He's the one as knows this here cut."

"He can come far enough to show us," said Peter quickly. "Then he can come back and we go on."

"Mighty anxious not ter be left behind, ain't yer?" said Miley, but there was a ghost of a smile on his lips, and Peter saw that his ill-humour was passing. "All right. Snap to it," Miley ordered, and snap to it they did. Three light packs were made with food for two days only, a blanket apiece and a few odds and ends. These and their guns were all they were to carry. In less than an hour after Miley had brought the news of the departure of Salter and Suarez the pursuit begun.

The back trail lay in a curve. It meant going three miles up the bank of the gorge before reaching its head. The way Kinny took them was perfectly straight back over the hill behind the cave. Bad going, for it was all rocks and scrub, but as they marched light they made pretty good time. The top of the ridge was crowned with a wall of rock which looked to be impossible to climb, but Kinny took them a little way along it to a narrow cleft which ran sloping into it, so that they were able to cross without more than a scramble. At the top Kinney paused, and pointed to the long slope which fell away in front of them.

"You see him big rock?" he asked, pointing to a tremendous boulder as big as a four story house which loomed above the scrub. "You go him. Then you see trail. Mebbe you see thieves, too. Now I go back," he added simply.

"Right you are, Kinny," said Peter. "And we'll be back to-morrow night—with the gold."

"Bit of an optimist, ain't yer?" remarked Miley dryly as they started down the hill, but Peter only laughed.

It was about two miles to the great rock, and it was getting unpleasantly hot by the time they reached it. Up here in the hills the nights were cool, but the sun had tremendous power by day. One side of the big rock was easy so they climbed it, and lay on the flat top.

"There's the trail," said Peter. "I can see the head of that little brook we came up."

"Aye, I kin see that," replied Miley, "but wot I wants ter see is them gold thieves. Looks ter me like they got more start than I reckon."

"Then they must have left before daylight," said Bruce.

"More like yesterday arternoon," growled Miley. "They wouldn't wait long arter Suarez got back with the news as we was still in the land o' the living. Him and Salter, they knowed well enough wot was coming to them if they stayed down in the big crack."

"In that case they may be ten or twelve miles ahead," said Bruce soberly.

"Yes," said Peter, "but they won't be able to travel fast. Think of the loads they're carrying."

"It's the niggers as is carrying the loads, and the dago won't spare 'em," growled Miley. "Well, I can't see nothing of 'em so I reckon they're down in the stream bed already. What you blokes think we better do?"

"Do you remember that place where the brook runs through a kind of rock gate?" asked Peter. "On one side there's a very steep bank with a big casuarina tree on top and on the other a slope not quite so steep with some queer looking grey scrub. We stopped there to eat dinner."

"Aye, I got some notion of it," replied Miley, and Bruce added "I remember quite well. We saw a big speckled python coiled on a rock."

"Wouldn't that be a jolly good place to catch them?" Peter asked eagerly. "The brook's deep and the path so narrow you have to go single file. If we could get there ahead of them we could hide in the scrub and they wouldn't know a thing about it until they were right under our guns."

"Aye, if we can get there first," said Miley, "but that's going ter tyke a bit of doing."

"We'll do it," vowed Peter scrambling to his feet. "Pull up your socks, and let's be shifting." They shifted, but Miley was right. It did take doing. In the first place they had to travel through the bush. They dared not take to the river bed for fear of Suarez and Co. spotting them, and this upland bush was the most horrid stuff to cross. It was full of a ghastly plant called lawyer vine which is more like barbed wire than anything else that grows. Then the ground was a mass of pits and boulders and bogs so that it was out of the question to go really fast.

To make matters worse they had to be always on the watch for snakes of which there were any number, mostly poisonous. One brown brute with diamond shaped markings on its back, was especially deadly. Add black flies in swarms which bit like fire and a blazing sun of which the bush was not high enough to cut off the rays and you may form some faint idea of the unpleasantness of that forced march.

A little before dusk they came right on the edge of the ravine up which they had travelled, and since all seemed quiet Miley climbed down to see whether the Suarez gang had passed or not. He came back with the cheering news that there were no signs that they had done so.

"But I ain't plumb certain," he added, "for, of course, they might hev walked in the water. I reckon we'll go a bit farther and try again." They went on about half a mile and had another search but there were no marks, and Miley began to look a little more cheerful.

"We've beat 'em this far," he remarked. "What d'ye say? Do we git on ter that there plice as Peter talked of or do we camp here?"

"We camp here," said Bruce, and added in a whisper to Miley, "Peter's all in."

"Syme here," answered Miley in an equally low voice. "And by the looks o' you, Bruce, you ain't too brash."

Since they dared not camp in the ravine they had to find a place on the bank, and even then they dared not light a fire. They ate food, rolled up in their blankets on the hard ground and were asleep in a minute.

Peter was the first to wake and to his horror the sun was already up. He jumped up, only to flop down again.

"I'm one big ache," he groaned as he shook Bruce awake.

"I'm not much better," said Bruce as he rolled stiffly out of his blanket. He looked towards the river.

"And we can't even have a wash," he added sadly.

"Nor any hot coffee," replied Peter still more dolefully.

"Ravens ain't in it with you two," growled Miley. "Sufferin' snakes, but the sun's up. I only hopes them fellers ain't got ahead of us." He slipped away to the river bank, then came crawling back. His pale blue eyes were snapping.

"They ain't only about a quarter mile above us—and they're a-moving. We gotter shift sharp."

"No breakfast, even!" moaned Peter. "My word, I'm piling up a score against those two."

They snatched up their goods and crept away through the bush.

The next hour was about as bad as anything Peter had ever known for they had to fairly race through the tangled bush, and yet make no noise. Once a flock of parakeets feeding on some guava bushes rose screaming and Peter got an awful scare that this would give them away to their enemies, but Bruce told him he thought it would be all right for the river made too much noise for Suarez and Salter to hear much else.

They were dripping with sweat and panting when at last they spotted the big casuarina tree, and when they came to the bank there was no sign of their enemies.

"They're all of a mile back," Miley told them. "Now see here. I'm a-going across t'other side, and I'll lay on that there ledge where you kin see me. You stop here and keep your eyes on me. Don't move, either of ye—till I pokes my gun at 'em." He paused and his eyes went hard. "And listen. No monkey business. If either of them swine lifts his gun you shoot."

"We'll shoot if they do that," Bruce promised.

Miley slipped across and took up his position, and the two boys flattened out in the short, stiff, grey bush which lined the near bank. They could see Miley plainly as he crouched on a narrow ledge under the casuarina, the sweeping branches of which hung over him. His face was set in hard lines and the barrels of his gun pointed downwards. The little gorge between them was very narrow and the stream ran deep and swift at the bottom. On their side the bank sloped steeply into the water, but on Miley's was a ledge making a path about a yard wide just above the level of the stream.

"You were right, Peter. It's a jolly good place," whispered Bruce. Peter nodded and put his finger to his lips and Bruce was silent.

It was very quiet. The only sounds were the gurgle and murmur of the clear water and the metallic clink of a bell bird in the distance. It was all so quiet and peaceful that Peter found it hard to believe that in a few minutes the two worst blackguards in New Guinea would be coming round the bend just above, with their black porters laden with stolen gold. And then—then he and Bruce and Miley had to stop them. What would happen? Would they surrender or would there be a fight. And if there was a fight—a little thrill of excitement ran through him and he vowed to himself that the treacherous dago and the ruffianly Salter should not get away this time.

There was not much time for thoughts of this kind. A high-pitched, angry voice came echoing down the little ravine and next moment the five big natives came into sight staggering under their heavy packs, and behind them Salter and Suarez. They carried nothing but their guns with which they poked and prodded the wretched natives forward. Suarez was quiet but Salter kept up a continual flow of abuse. One of the natives had a blood-stained rag tied round his head, another was limping, all looked as though they were pretty well played out.

"They won't count for much if it comes to a scrap," was Peter's thought. But Suarez and Salter were fresh enough, and besides their rifles each had a big revolver strapped in a holster at his waist. They would fight—especially Suarez. There was something deadly in his smooth, olive face and stony eyes.

Peter glanced across at Miley and the look on the little man's face gave him a fresh shock. His jaw was set like a rock, his pale eyes were hard as glass. He looked as dangerous as Suarez himself. One of the porters stumbled. Salter prodded him viciously with the muzzle of his rifle, and as the man winced with pain Peter felt a sudden fury run through him.

"Steady!" he heard Bruce whisper.


THE black men came on in single file. Peter was not watching them for his eyes were on Miley. Miley was letting them pass, and Peter quivered. What was the little man up to? He had not long to wait before he understood, for as Salter came opposite Miley's gun barrel dropped.

"Put your hands up!" the little man barked in a voice sharp and hard as a rifle shot.

The surprise was complete. Salter glanced round, saw the twin barrels of Miley's gun within a dozen feet of his head, and up shot his hands, while his rifle clattered to the ground. Suarez hesitated, but now it was Bruce who shouted.

"You're covered. Drop your gun or I'll shoot." Black fire seemed to flash from Suarez's eyes, and the look on his face made Peter's blood run cold. But the half-breed knew when he was beaten. He dropped his rifle and raised his hands. As for the carriers, they huddled away out of range, dropped their loads and stood ready to run.

"So you have staged a hold-up, Miley?" sneered Suarez.

"We turned the tables on yer this time, ye dirty dago," retorted Miley. "Keep your hands where they be if you wants to keep yer head on yer body." He spoke to the boys. "Come on down the bank and tike their guns and pistols while I covers 'em." Bruce and Peter sprang up, but as they did so there came a crunching sound, and to their horror they saw the shelf on which Miley was lying give way and he came sliding helplessly downwards amid a shower of rubble.

In a twinkling the whole situation was changed. Quick as a cat to seize his chance, Suarez stooped for his rifle.

"Hold him, Salter," he cried harshly, and as Salter spun to catch Miley, Suarez swung to cover the boys with his rifle.

Quick as he was the boys were quicker. Peter had got off the mark even quicker than Bruce, and making a wild run down the bank had jumped outwards with all his might. Before Suarez could level his rifle or pull the trigger Peter landed on the ledge alongside him, and ducking down caught him round the legs with both arms and flung his weight forward. If it had not been for the bank he would have had him down, but the bank saved Suarez from falling and, recovering his balance, he drove at Peter's back with the butt-end of his rifle.

If the blow had got home on Peter's spine it would probably have killed him, but luckily it missed that vital point. Even so it caught Peter so heavily in the ribs that his grip slackened and he slipped down on to his knees. But his arms were still closed round Suarez's knees, and half-conscious as he was he hung on. With a savage oath Suarez kicked the boy away and Peter rolled backwards into the brook.

Then Bruce arrived. Bruce, usually a self-contained fellow, was roused to red hot fury by the sight of the brutal blow his brother had received, and he came at Suarez like a cyclone. Forgetting all about his gun, he went for the dago with his fists. Left, right, his blows went home, solid punches with all the weight of his angry young body behind them. The first flattened Suarez's nose and filled his eyes with tears, the second, meant for his jaw, went a trifle high and knocked out two of his front teeth, besides splitting his lip into a gory mess.

Suarez went mad. Screaming like a savage, he snatched out his pistol, but Bruce saw the danger and caught him by the wrist and forced his arm up.

While the two struggled desperately together, another battle was raging between Miley and Salter. The two were fairly evenly matched, being much of a height and weight, but at first Salter had all the advantage for he was on top and Miley underneath. But Miley, mad clean through with the failure of his plan, fought like a wild cat. To begin with, Salter got him by the throat, but Miley kicked him in the stomach and broke his grip, then made a desperate effort to regain his feet. The space was too narrow and Salter came at him again, scratching, biting, gouging, using every foul trick known at sea, and spitting out hideous oaths. Again he was on top of Miley and with his knees on Miley's chest trying to throttle him. It was all Miley could do to hold him off.

Peter was out of it. The plunge into the icy cold water of the brook had brought him back to his senses, but Suarez's savage blow had numbed him, and at first it was all he could do to keep afloat. Then as the current took him down he managed to grasp a projecting rock, but struggle as he might he could not get out of the water, and he had to watch with agonised eyes while his brother and Miley battled against their enemies.

And the battle was going against Bruce and Miley. Suarez, enormously stronger than Bruce, was recovering from the shock of Bruce's blows, and slowly but surely breaking down his resistance. Inch by inch the revolver was being lowered and it could be only a matter of seconds before its muzzle would be against Bruce's head. The gloating triumph on Suarez's blood-smeared face told Peter how the brute would take his savage revenge. And Peter could do nothing to help—only hang on there in the freezing water, and watch his brother being murdered.

All this takes a long time to tell but it did not take long to happen. Probably no more than twenty seconds passed since the bank, giving way under Miley, had delivered them into the hands of their enemies. But the very accident which had done the damage now brought its cure.

Though he had known nothing of it, the stone on which Miley had crouched had been the lid or roof of the little den where the big speckled python had its home, and when the shelf broke away the unfortunate snake found itself buried in a mass of gravel and earth. Badly frightened, it lashed around until it burst its way out of the loose stuff, then still terrified drove blindly down the bank—so blindly that it never paused to see where it was going. Its only idea was to leave for quieter parts.

Down it flashed, and a frightened python can travel like a blue streak, and as luck had it, its course took it straight in the direction of Suarez and Bruce. Bruce was too intent on holding off Suarez to see anything else, while Suarez had his back to the bank. The first thing Suarez knew of it was when eighty pounds weight of scared snake hit him on the back and went slithering across his left shoulder so close that the cold, dry scales rustled against his cheek.

What he thought he only knew, what he did was to utter the most appalling yell and fling himself away to the right. Bruce saw his chance and snatching the pistol from Suarez's hand cracked him over the head with the butt. Without a sound the dago dropped and lay still.

Bruce looked round, saw Miley on his back struggling desperately, but slowly getting the worst of it. Salter's talon-like fingers were at his throat and the plucky little Cockney's face was turning blue. One jump, the pistol butt rose again, and with a gulping groan Salter went limp and fell flat across Miley. Bruce stopped, dragged him aside, and helped Miley to his feet.

"Where's Peter?" was Miley's first question, but Bruce had already seen his brother and had run to his help. Miley followed and between them they pulled Peter out.

"Are you hurt much?" demanded Bruce shakily.

"I'm all right," gasped Peter. "I s-say, we ought to move a vote of thanks to that snake."

"Wot snake?" Miley looked at Peter as if he thought his mind was wandering, but Bruce quickly explained.

"Well, I'll be jiggered!" was all Miley could find to say, but in a moment he was his practical self again.

"Help Peter up inter the sun, Bruce, and light a fire. He'll get fever if he don't have something hot. I'll attend to these blokes," he added with an ominous tightening of his lips. Bruce obeyed, and presently Miley came back.

"You whacked 'em proper," he said to Bruce with a slight chuckle.

"Not dead, are they?" exclaimed Bruce.

"Dead! No sech luck, but they ain't woke up yet, and when they do they'll have a proper headache. Anyways, I've tied 'em good and tight, an' what's more I got them niggers ter come back. Knowing their lingo, I were able ter make 'em understand as we'd treat 'em better than them two swine."

"Topping!" said Peter. "Then they'll carry the gold for us." Miley nodded.

"They'll do that, son. Now let's see where that dago hit ye."

He made Peter take off his wet shirt. There was an ugly bruise on his side, but Miley declared that no ribs were broken. "But you'll need a rest," he went on. "I reckon we all needs a rest—and some grub. We'll stay here till ter-morrow, then get back to the cave."

"And what about those two?" said Bruce.

"We tikes them with us," said Miley.

"And all the way back to the coast?" inquired Peter.

"Nah!" Miley's voice was full of scorn. "Goola is going ter tike care of 'em fer us."

"But he'll eat them," objected Bruce.

"I don't hold with that kai-kai business," Miley said. "And if I tells Goola ter keep them, he'll do just wot I sez. Now it ain't no use your arguing. That goes."

Peter did not feel like arguing. What he did feel like was hot coffee and rest—a good deal of rest, for that crack in the ribs had shaken him badly.

So they all three ate and drank and then Peter rolled up in a dry blanket while his wet clothes dried and presently fell asleep. It was quite late in the afternoon when he awoke, feeling very much better. Salter and Suarez were not visible, but Bruce told him that they were tied to trees and were being watched by natives, and that Miley had gone off to find game. Miley came back with a small pig which made a capital supper and left plenty for the five natives, who were delighted with such a feed.

The night passed quietly and early next morning they started back up the stream. But first they cached the gold, for there was no point in carrying that back since they would be coming home this way.

The natives walked first, the two prisoners next, the boys and Miley last. They had to untie Salter and Suarez so that they might walk, but Miley warned them that, if they tried to bolt, they would be shot. Neither of them said anything, but Peter did not like their looks.

All went well until about three in the afternoon when suddenly the sun vanished and a deep rumble of thunder boomed across the hills. "Going ter get it in the neck," growled Miley as he looked round for shelter. They were tramping along a steep hillside with the stream a long way beneath, and there did not seem to be any cover in sight.

Before they had gone a hundred yards there came a blinding flash of lightning followed by a crash which made the very ground quiver beneath them, then the clouds burst and down came the rain, not in drops but sheets. In an instant it was pitch darkness, lit only by streaks and ribands of blinding fire, while the wind was so furious it was all they could do to stand.

"Look out for them fellers," Peter heard Miley shout.

"They're gone," cried Bruce, and as another blaze of electric fire burned through the gloom Peter saw that Bruce was right; Suarez and Salter had seized their chance and bolted, flinging themselves into the scrub below the path, which hid them completely.


ON a fine morning three weeks after the fight on the creek, Peter slid down the last ledge of the great cliff and landed safely on the flat terrace which lay above the thicket where they had hidden their boat.

"Done it," he said triumphantly.

"All over bar the shouting," remarked Miley as he followed him, but there was a sarcastic note in his voice which made Peter stare.

"What's the matter now, Miley?" he demanded.

"We ain't home yet," replied Miley dryly.

"No, we're not quite home," allowed Peter, "but all we have to do is launch the boat and drift down with the stream. A picnic after taking all this gold down the cliffs." Miley grunted and Peter got quite cross.

"Who's to stop us?" he asked sharply.

"I don't say as anyone will stop us, but I ain't seed no funeral notices of Suarez or Salter."

"Don't be silly," retorted Peter. "What could those wretched men do without food or guns? They must be dead long ago."

"All right, mister. If you says so," was Miley's irritating answer. Peter snorted and picking up his load which he had dropped to take breath, marched away across the little plateau and down the slope towards the pool into which the waterfall fell. The rest followed, including Paul Bassett, who was now looking fit and hard, if rather thin, and the five big brown porters. Between them the party carried just on two hundredweight of gold, and the heavy little bundles gave the boys a pleasant feeling of success. They had done what they set out to do, and dad could not say much when he saw all this wealth.

"Three days more and we'll be home," said Peter joyfully to Bruce, and Bruce nodded. "Miley's just an old croaker," added Peter as he marched ahead into the thicket where they had cached the boat. Next moment the others heard him give a gasping cry.

"The boat. Look at the boat! Bruce ran up, the others crowded round and stood gazing at the melancholy wreck of what had once been a fine solid craft. Now it was a battered hulk. Two great holes yawned in the bottom. The oars were gone, so were all the carefully packed stores. Miley was the first to speak.

"All over bar the shouting," he repeated dryly. Peter swung on him.

"What do you mean?"

"I warned ye, didn't I? I told ye them fellers weren't dead yet."

"You mean Salter and Suarez have done this?"

"Who else?" asked Miley briefly.

"It can't be. It must be natives."

"Natives don't wear boots," replied Miley, and pointed to the unmistakable print of a pair of nailed boots in the soft soil under a tree.

"He's right," said Bruce. Paul Bassett broke in.

"You mean those brutes have done this? Then they're waiting for us. They'll kill us. Give me a gun." His face had gone quite white, he was shaking all over.

"Fat lot o' good you'd do with a gun!" said Miley scornfully. He had never concealed his dislike for Paul. "Anyways, they ain't here," he added, speaking to Bruce. "If I knows anything they've gone down river ter hunt up some o' them Oroko chaps."

"I expect you're right," agreed Bruce. "What's your advice, Miley? We're in a very tight place."

"It's tight all right. No boat and no grub. I hardly knows what ter say." He began to examine the boat.

"We kin mend her," he said at last, "but it's going ter take quite a time. And the longer we are the wuss it is fer it gives them blighters the chance ter collect niggers."

"And there is the food question, too, Miley," said Bruce. "We have nothing left except coffee and sugar and a little flour. And ten people to feed."

"We kin fix that," Miley told him. "Remember them nigs I played to—fellers as stood on the bank a bit below here. We'll git grub from them."

"But they're wild niggers—head-hunters," said Peter quickly.

"They ain't no wilder than them Papangis," replied Miley.

"And he had Goola eating out of his hand," said Bruce to his brother. "Why, the wizard actually came to say good-bye to him. I don't believe there are any niggers in New Guinea Miley couldn't get round." Miley grinned.

"Soft soap, mister, but mebbe you ain't far wrong. Anyways, I ain't scared to try. I still got my war bag and a few tricks inside of it. I'll take that big nigger Tulagi along with me ter carry stuff. And mebbe Bassett would like ter come, too," he added with a grin. Paul went white again, then suddenly stiffened.

"I'll come," he said between set teeth, and Miley stared.

"You mean that?"

"I do," said Paul firmly.

"Gosh, I believe you does. But I don't want ye. I were only pullin' your leg. You'll be more useful a-helping these chaps ter mend the boat." He showed them how to start on the job, then he and Tulagi went off.

Luckily the boat was a solid affair and the people who had tried to destroy it had had nothing to do it with except chunks of wood. So though there were two nasty holes in the bottom the damage was not so bad as they had first thought it to be. Another bit of luck was that Kinny was a first-rate carpenter. It was the trade he had learned while in the police. A third bit of good fortune was that the bottom boards of the boat had been hidden separately and were still there. This saved the awful toil of cutting out planks with an axe from a tree trunk. Even so, the job was a long and difficult one, and was not finished by dark.

Miley was not back and Peter and Bruce were anxious about him. But they did not say so. Paul Bassett was not so silent. He kept on asking the others when Miley would return and whether it were safe, until Peter grew cross and told him for goodness sake to shut up. Paul turned sulky and said no more.

They lit a fire and cooked a scanty supper, and still no sign of Miley. It was a moonlight night and after supper Peter went down to the river. Presently he found Bruce beside him.

"Can't expect him before morning," said Bruce. But Peter held up his hand.

"Paddles—do you hear?" he whispered. Peter's ears were sharper than Bruce's, but in a few moments Bruce, too, heard.

"Better get our guns," muttered Peter. "May be niggers." They slipped back to the camp, got their guns and warned Kinny. As they crept back to the water the paddles sounded clearly and next moment a canoe shot into sight.

"Miley—it's Miley," cried Peter.

"Who did yer think it was," grinned Miley as he drove the canoe to the bank—"the dago? But it's jest as well to be on the safe side," he added with a glance at their guns. He got out, and Tulagi pulled up the canoe. It was a small one, but laden with foodstuff. Bread-fruit, taro, bananas and yams.

"My word, Miley, you've done yourself proud," Bruce exclaimed. "I don't know how you managed it."

"Ask Peter. He knows," chuckled Miley. "How abaht the boat?"

"Nearly ready," said Peter. "Got any news?" he added in a lower tone. Miley nodded.

"Them two has gone down the river. They bought a canoe and grub off the chief. Paid him in buttons." He chuckled. "They can't hardly have enough left ter hold their trousies up."

"Then they're waiting for us," said Peter.

"Sure thing, son. I wouldn't mind them alone, but they got Oroko's crowd. You kin sweat to that Suarez talks the lingo, and he'll have got round them."

"Then how on earth are we going to through?" asked Peter in dismay.

"Watch out. Dodge 'em. And when we gets lower down travel by night. Ain't no other way." Peter nodded. He remembered that Oroko and his precious crew were not fond of night work. Many of the New Guinea tribes are like that. They fear the spirits which they think are abroad in the darkness.

"And now I could do with a mug o' cawfee," Miley said. "My throat's like dust with playin' that there mouth-organ."

They gave him coffee, they got the fruit up to the camp and roasted some yams in the hot ashes to make up for their slim supper. The canoe Miley had bought was only big enough for two and it was decided that they should take it with them and use it for scouting.

Next morning they finished the boat, cut some fresh paddles and by midday were off. Eight of them in the big boat, Kinny and Tulagi in the canoe. The canoe went first, and Kinny could be trusted to keep his eyes well open. It was easier running down-stream with the current than it had been rowing up, and they would all have enjoyed it had it not been for the haunting fear of Oroko's men. Yet that afternoon passed and nothing happened, and next day with equal quiet. Even Paul, who had been in a horrid funk ever since he had heard that Suarez was still alive, began to look a bit happier.

"Begins to look as if they'd missed fire," said Peter aside to Miley.

"Don't flatter yerself," returned Miley. "We ain't hardly come to Oroko's country yet." By Miley's advice they stopped early in the afternoon and fed and rested. Then at midnight they were off again. The moon was bright, yet even so, much of the river was so bushed that it lay in shadow and they had to go very carefully. Kinny scouted ahead. Dawn came and still all was quiet, and they were many miles nearer home.

"One more day, and we ought to be all right," said Peter cheerfully, and the words were hardly out of his mouth before a savage war-cry broke the silence and out of a backwater drove two big canoes laden with dusky warriors.

That war-cry was a mistake, for it gave the white men warning and in a flash up went Miley's double barrel, and two charges of small shot spattered the paddlers in the leading canoe.

"Now shout!" roared Miley. "Only yer will shout t'other side o' yer dirty mouths. Let 'em have it, boys." Bruce and Peter fired hastily and the shot tore through the men in the second canoe, stinging them badly and checking their way. Before they could get into stroke again the boat was flying down the centre of the stream, the four brawny natives paddling like fury. Well fed and well treated, these men were Bruce and Peter's devoted slaves, and besides that they were scared stiff of Suarez and Salter.

Suarez himself was in the first canoe, and they heard him shouting orders to his men.

"Telling 'em to keep out o' range," explained Miley, "and cussing 'em fer shouting."

"What about Kinny?" asked Peter anxiously. "Did they get him?"

"No fear," said Miley. "They weren't worrying abaht him. It's the gold they wants."

"They won't get it now," returned Peter.

"Don't yer be too sure, young feller-me-lad," Miley warned him.

"How can they? We've got a good start?"

"Aye, we've got a start, but wot price them rapids? We ain't mor'n three or four miles off 'em." Peter groaned.

"I'd forgotten—clean forgotten about the rapids. What on earth can we do? They'll catch us at the portage and simply swamp us."

"There's only one thing ter do," Miley answered. "Run 'em."


"RUN 'em—run the Soda Water Rapids! You're crazy," exclaimed Bruce. "We should all be drowned."

"Better be drowned than kai-kaied," replied Miley with a grin.

"We won't be either," cried Peter. "Even the Soda Water isn't as bad as Gloom Gorge in a flood." Bruce shrugged. "I'm game," was all he said, and picking up a paddle helped to drive the boat forward. Their pursuers could travel faster than they, but dared not close in for fear of the guns which Miley and Peter held on them. So they kept about one hundred yards behind.

"They reckon ter get us at the portage," said Miley to Peter.

"Do you think they'll follow us down the rapids?" Peter asked. Miley shook his head.

"Too fond o' their bloomin' skins," he answered. "Hear, hear!" he added. A low dull roar came dimly through the forest, and a queer shiver ran through Peter as the sound grew steadily louder. Already the stream was swifter and the pace of the boat increasing. Miley picked up a paddle to act as steering oar. He stationed Bruce in the bow with a pole. "You watch fer rocks, son," he ordered. Then he gave directions to the men in their own language. They were scared. You could see it in their goggling eyes. But if they were frightened of the rapids, they were a great deal more scared of their pursuers and Miley felt he could depend on them to do their best.

"The canoes are still coming," said Peter to Miley, and Miley glanced back.

"If they comes much further they'll be sorry," he remarked, and Peter took comfort from his cool courage. The low thunder ahead rose to a terrifying roar, the surface of the river was covered with long streaks of foam, then all of a sudden the bow of the boat tipped downwards and they were flying at frightful speed down a broad slope of white water.

The din was deafening, spray rose in great coils, and waves broke clean over the boat. She tossed and writhed like a live thing. Paul Bassett sat like a statue. His face was a mask of terror. As for Peter, he had nothing to do but watch the others. Miley's face he saw set like a rock. Miley's eyes were on the river ahead and now and then he moved his paddle slightly. The water was high and this was all to the good for the rocks were covered. Now and then Miley yelled an order to the natives and first one pair, then the other would dip their paddles.

"We'll do it. We're going to do it," Peter found himself saying, and just then there was a slight shock, and he saw a jet of water spurt through a hole cut by a sharp rock in the side of the boat. Snatching up a tin he set to baling furiously, but the water drove in a steady stream.

"Stop the hole if yer can," he heard Miley cry, and seizing a sack he jammed it into the hole. Still the water poured in, and the boat began to settle.

"Hang on. We're past the worst," he heard Miley cry. The speed was slackening, but the boat was fast sinking. Miley shouted again to his men He was ordering them to paddle for the bank, and they did so with a will. It was too late. They were still thirty yards from the beach of the big pool at the foot of the rapids when the boat began to sink.

"Jump!" roared Miley, and as the boat sank Peter jumped and swam for the shore. He heard a gurgle close by, saw a head disappearing, grabbed, caught an arm and struggled on through a swirling current. It was Paul he had hold of but he would never have got him ashore if Bruce had not come to his help. As it was he was nearly done before he felt gravel under his feet and crawled up out of the water.

"Thanks, Bruce," he gasped.

"It's Bassett ought to thank you," returned Bruce. "I never knew he couldn't swim. But here's Miley. We're all safe."

"Safe!" Peter said bitterly. "I like your notion of safety. Boat gone, guns gone, gold gone, grub gone, and Suarez will be on top of us in two twos."

"He's on top of us already," said Bruce quietly and pointed. Peter looked, and there at the end of the rapid a big canoe floated upside down. Even as he watched the second followed, and it, too, was upset and empty. Peter made a queer sound in his throat.

"They—they're drowned?" he managed to say.

"Don't worry yerself, Peter," said Miley, and he spoke in an oddly gentle tone. "It ain't your fault—nor mine." Peter only nodded. Somehow he could not speak. The whole thing had been so sudden and terrible. Not only Suarez and Salter, but two canoe-loads of natives had been wiped out in a moment. Suddenly a fresh thought came to him.

"Kinny—where's Kinny?" he cried.

"Kinny's all right," Miley told him. "He and Tulagi landed at the top of the rapid. They're coming now, carrying the canoe."

"I'm glad," said Peter. "But the gold. It's pretty sickening to lose it just at the last minute like this." Bruce spoke up.

"There's plenty more where it came from. We'll go home, get a new outfit and start all over again. There won't be anyone to worry us this time."

"Good for you, Bruce. That's just exactly what we will do."

"And I'll come along," declared Miley.

"You won't. You can't." All three turned and stared at Paul Bassett, who had scrambled to his feet. His face was white, his eyes were glaring.

"You don't need to go back up those horrible cliffs." The words simply bubbled out. "It's all my fault. I stole your first lot of gold. It's me you ought to shoot."

"Plumb crazy," said Miley, but Bruce held up his hand.

"No, let's hear what he's got to say. Go on, Paul." Paul went on and by degrees they got his story clear—how he had written that lying letter, how he had handed their gold to Salter, how he himself had been kidnapped.

"So Uncle Ralph is not dead after all? said Peter at last.

"He's not dead, and he's a very rich man. He'll pay for you both to go to school or anything else," said Paul earnestly. "You don't need to dig any more gold." Miley looked at Paul.

"Seems ter me you're a dirty dog, Paul Bassett," he said.

"I am. You can't say anything too bad about me, and you can't think worse of me than I do myself." Peter looked at him.

"You've done the straight thing now anyhow, Paul," he said. "And I think you've paid for what you did wrong." Bruce nodded.

"So do I," he added. "But we can't go taking money from Uncle Ralph. We'll get some more gold."

"You talk as if you was standing on your own front porch, 'stead o' there being thirty mile o' bush between us and it," said Miley. "How do ye reckon ter git home?"

"There's the canoe," said Bruce. "Two of us can go in that and the rest camp here till the others come back with a boat."

"We can do better than that," exclaimed Peter suddenly. "Look, one of those native canoes is drifting in." He plunged into the pool and swam to it, and Bruce followed. Between them they towed it ashore. It was quite sound and when baled out floated perfectly. Just then Kinny and Tulagi came up. Kinny was amazingly cheerful.

"Them bad fellows altogether drowned," were his first words. "Now we orait, Marster."

"Right as fellers can be as have lost everything they got," replied Miley rather bitterly. "Well, let's get on with it." They all bundled into the big canoe, and taking the food and paddles from the little one, left it behind and started. Bruce and Peter were so deeply relieved at getting rid of their pursuers that at first they did not think much of the loss of the gold, but as the long afternoon wore on their spirits sank, and they became very silent.

It was dark before they reached their landing place close to Lanok, and they spent the night in Kinny's little house, where he fed them well. Early next morning they left him and the two brothers with Miley and Paul set sail for home.

The wind was just right and they made good time.

"Do you know we've been gone a month?" said Bruce.

"Seems more like a year to me," replied Peter as he steered the boat round the last headland.

"What's the mischief—" he gasped. "Look at that!"

"That" was a smart looking yacht which lay just off the landing, a motor-driven craft of about sixty tons.

"Looks like the Commissioner was a-calling on your dad," said Miley. Then he glanced at Paul. "Wot's the matter with you? Ye look as if yer'd seed a ghost."

"That—that's Mr. Carr's yacht, the Tern," Paul faltered.

"Let me out," begged Paul. "I mean, when we get to the landing. I—I couldn't meet him."

"Strikes me you'll have ter," said Miley dryly, "fer if I'm not mistook that's him on the beach."

"Oh!" groaned Paul, and sat down helplessly.

"Bruce," cried Mr. Carr as he hurried to meet them. "Peter. Is it really you?" The boys tumbled out and each seized one of his father's hands.

"We got there, dad," cried Peter, "and we got heaps of gold, but we lost it all in the rapids. But we're going up for more. There's any quantity there." His father interrupted.

"You shall tell us all about that presently, Peter. Now I must introduce you and Bruce to your Uncle Ralph. He isn't dead at all, but very much alive," he added with a smile. "And that's his yacht." Ralph Carr, a younger, plumper edition of his brother, shook hands cordially.

"I've heard the whole story from your father, boys, and I admire your pluck. But I don't want you to go up-country again for I mean to ask you to stay with me in Sydney. That's what I came for—that and to see if I could catch that young scoundrel, Paul Bassett, who was at the bottom of all this trouble." The boys looked at one another. Neither knew what to say. It was Paul himself who came to the rescue.

"Here I am, Mr. Carr," he said quietly, "and quite ready to take my punishment." Ralph Carr stared in amazement at the thin, brown-faced youth in the torn and ragged suit which had once been blue serge.

"You're not Paul Bassett."

"I was," said Paul rather bitterly. Peter broke in.

"Don't be hard on him, Uncle Ralph. He's had his punishment. Those brutes, Salter and Suarez, nearly killed him. And he's a very different chap now from what he was then."

"Thet's right, mister." It was Miley who had joined them. "He's got his guts back, so ter speak. Offered to walk into a nigger head hunters' village along with me the other day."

"And who are you?" questioned Uncle Ralph.

"He's Sam Miley," said Peter quickly. "The best pal we ever had, and has saved all our lives half a dozen times over."

"That's good enough for me," said Ralph Carr taking Miley's hand. "And the word of a man like that is pretty good guarantee for Bassett." He turned to Paul.

"You look as if you'd been through the mill," he said. "You need not fear that I shall prosecute. Now let us all go up to the house."

An hour later the boys and Miley and Paul had bathed and changed and were sitting down to a right good meal, and Peter was telling his father and uncle and Cosby Dane the whole story of their adventures.

"So you see," he ended, "it won't be much of a job to go up and get some more gold, and then, uncle, we'd love to come to Sydney, only we could pay for our school, ourselves." Ralph Carr frowned.

"I like your independence, but I don't think your father will let you go up to Gloom Gorge again."

"I shan't," said Tudor Carr with decision. "Not for some years anyhow." The boys looked blank, but Miley cut in.

"Ain't no need ter do nothing like that—not when there's more'n two hundred pounds' weight o' gold within thirty miles of this here house." Peter stared.

"But it's sunk," he exclaimed.

"In twenty foot of water in a calm pool. Gimme a divin' dress, and I'll hev the lot inside of three days."

"Do you really think so," cried Peter eagerly.

"I don't think. I knows," said the little man calmly.

"Hurray!" cried Peter.

"Let's go and get the dress. There's one I know of in Lanok."

"No need to go that far," said his uncle with a smile. "I have one in the yacht. Suppose we all go there to-morrow. We can take the yacht to the mouth of the Loma, and go up in the launch. Quite a nice picnic."

"Hurray!" cried Peter again. "And can Paul come, Uncle?" Ralph Carr glanced keenly at Paul Bassett whose thin face flushed under the look. "Yes," he said, "he can come."


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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