"Positive," briefly responded the Spaniard.
Jim who was seated on a rock digging his heel into the soft earth, looked up as a sudden idea struck him,—but without knocking him out.
"How far is it from here to the sea, Senor?" he asked.
"Not over five miles."
"Can we not get around that way?" Jim inquired eagerly.
"Why, yes," replied the Spaniard slowly, "if the tide is not coming in. In that case we should be drowned." Jim glanced hastily at his watch.
"We can try for it and make it, if we do not waste any time," he said. "The horses have had a good rest."
"Very well, Senor," said the Spaniard resignedly. He regarded Jim as an amiable hurricane whom it was not worth while battering to resist. Jim hastily swallowed his coffee and a hunk of bread and in five minutes the three musketeers were in the saddle again.
RACE WITH THE TIDE
In spite of the rough going, they made good time for the five miles, spurred on by the constant anxiety lest they should not reach the beach before the tide began coming in. There were several gathered to see them off when they left the mouth of the Pass, but not to give them a send off.
A short explanation will prove this. It is not to be supposed that the hunchbacked Mexican and the bandits did not know that the three horsemen were coming over the plain of the mustard growth. Indeed, their scout, the Mexican dwarf, saw Jim, Jo and the Spaniard when they first landed in the entrance to the canyon.
He had gone back to report to the bandits their coming, and after Jim had returned, they had prepared the nicest trap imaginable near where Jim had been hiding. They had had numerous experiences in that line and were perfectly qualified experts. The spider and the fly was nothing to the arrangements they had made to receive their supposably unsuspicious guests.
You can imagine the surprise and disgust of the bandits and their scout when they saw the three horsemen ride in an entirely different direction than that they had looked for. Talk about convulsions, you should have seen these desperadoes express their disappointment. It was terrific. Not a saint in the long calendar was left unscathed.
How Jim would have enjoyed the performance. But entirely oblivious to this, Jo, Jim and the Spaniard were riding rapidly towards the sea. Before an hour had passed, they had ridden between the rounded sand dunes and then out upon the hard, smooth sand of the beach.
"This is splendid going, Senor Sebastian," exclaimed Jim.
"It is all right," he replied, "if the sea does not get hungry too soon." But the sea appeared to be in a very pleasant mood and the white breakers had withdrawn as far out as it was possible to get. It was such a smooth smiling sea with the laugh of its little sparkling waves that it seemed that there could be no possible harm in it.
"I never saw a road that was better than this!" exclaimed Jo in delight. "It is perfectly springy and no dust or mud."
It deserved all of Jo's praises, this broad, firm California beach. The brown sand, that had been pounded down by the force of the great rollers some hours before, showed scarcely a sign of the shoes of the horses.
There was plenty of width and the three horses pressed on abreast, the powerful sweep of the gray Caliente and the chestnut Don Fernando, and the snappy, nervous leaps of the little bay that Jo was riding. With the bracing sea air and the exhilarating speed, the three musketeers were invigorated.
The Spaniard hummed a gay ballad, while at times Jim's heavy bass and Jo's lighter treble were joined in a rollicking American song. They laughed without reason, for the simple joy of being alive and on the move; but as pride sometimes goes before destruction, so happiness often goes before disaster.
It was a small matter too, but it made for trouble. The Spaniard's horse stepped between two small rocks that were close together and wrenched one of his hind shoes nearly off. Jim and Senor Sebastian hastily dismounted. Of course they carried with them the necessary things to fix the shoe on again, but even then it was a question of a number of minutes.
"You had better ride ahead, Jo," urged Jim. "Your horse is beginning to tire and we will overtake you, when we once get started."
"It is a good idea," joined in the Spaniard.
"All right," acquiesced Jo readily enough, and he gave his bay the rein, riding slowly down the beach.
Then the two began operations on Don Fernando's hind foot. Here they found their first real delay. At the point where the accident happened, the mountains came down quite close to the sea, so that they were crowded in much closer than they had been. The nearness of the water made the big chestnut restless and hard to handle.
The Spaniard had great difficulty in getting near enough to his horse to get hold of his hind foot. When he did succeed in doing this, and was just starting to peg the shoe on, an extra big wave slapped down upon the beach, though at a safe distance and caused the big chestnut to jump and hurl his master to a distance of a dozen feet.
"This won't do," cried Jim. "I'll take my horse around to the sea side of yours and close up. Perhaps that will give your animal confidence."
It worked like a charm, for though Caliente was high-spirited, he was not flighty and he steadied his comrade so that the two workers were able to fasten the shoe.
"We have lost a good half hour," said Jim, looking at his watch with a grave face.
"Perhaps we shall have to turn back," remarked the Spaniard with gravity. "We may not escape the incoming tide if we go on."
"Don't you believe it," cried Jim, impetuously. "I've got business ahead and must go."
"Have it your way," said the Spaniard with a peculiar smile. He knew what dangers lay ahead with a rising tide and Jim did not or he probably would not have been so insistent.
"I see no sign of Jo," remarked Jim, as they swung into the saddles.
"Ah, we will not catch him. He is safe," replied the Spaniard.
Then with tremendous speed, they swept down the beach, the splendid horses responding to the crisis. It was their fleetness against the steadily rising rush of the inexorable sea. They actually gained ten minutes on the first two miles and a half. Then Jim saw ahead the dark form of a headland thrusting out towards the sea.
Already the rush of a long wave would send the water lapping around their horses' feet. Jim recognized the danger. They must get around that promontory or give up beaten. Then he gave Caliente a touch with a spur, the first that day. With a snort, the spirited animal sprang forward faster than before and at his shoulder was the chestnut with flaming nostril.
None too soon had they reached the headland, for the recurrent waves were beginning to surge against it, with full force and gnawing foam. In the fierce fury of their charge, they sent their horses against the sea. It was at the long withdrawal that made bare the scattered black rocks, that they rounded the headland.
But too soon a great thundering wave with the force of the Pacific behind it came roaring in and swelled to the horses' throats, almost submerging the riders. But the animals held against its withdrawing power and before the ocean could return to the attack, they had got beyond the headland to a safe place on the beach.
The horses were trembling and quivering with their exertions and with the fear of the sea which is the most terrible and paralyzing of all fears. Jim drew a long breath of relief and looked ahead to see if there was any sign of Jo. Then to his consternation he saw that the beach curved inland and at the further end of the curve was another frowning headland thrusting itself out somewhat further than the one they had but just rounded.
THE ENCHANTED ISLE
Let us now return to the Sea Eagle, and find out what is happening there.
You recollect that Juarez had just discovered two islands lying on the South-eastern horizon, the one, long and low, the other comparatively short and dumpy. He had been conversing with the tall shepherd of the island, who seemed to take an interest in Juarez. But because of his isolated life during a greater part of the year, he would have taken an interest in a stone idol, if he had chanced to discover one.
"Which of these islands are we making for?" inquired Juarez.
"The one where we land," replied the sheep farmer oracularly. "I might ask the Cap'n, only I never pester him with questions. You aren't a Yankee, are you?"
"No," replied Juarez, "I'm not. My folks live in Western Kansas."
"I'm glad to hear it, son. But what are you doing here?" he asked.
"You aren't a Yankee, are you?" inquired Juarez, quizzically. The man laughed softly to himself.
"You've got me there, lad," he said. "It looks to me," he continued, "that the old man is going to steer for the further island."
"Then you will have to swim for your home," remarked Juarez.
"I can wade," he replied whimsically, looking down at his long legs.
"You are a humorist," said Juarez.
"No, you can put me down for a philosopher, that is to say, a man who has much time to think and nothing to do."
"I should like to be one," said Juarez. "Suppose you holy-stone these decks while I try it."
"No, my friend," replied the shepherd, "I am too much of a philosopher to make any such swap."
"Is Captain Broom one?" asked Juarez.
"Well, he is a sort of a philosopher till he gets mad, then he becomes a living active volcano, belching out a lava of hot language and scorching things generally. I guess that I had better be moving along. I see that he is eyeing me from the Bridge, and he is likely to get active any moment if I keep you from working." With this the lanky shepherd strolled forward and seating himself upon the top of the boys' sleeping place in the bow, smoked his pipe in meditative comfort.
His estimate in regard to the destination of the Sea Eagle proved to be correct. For in the early afternoon the ship passed under the lee of the long island and was steaming up the channel between it and the mainland, which was distant some thirty-five miles.
The fog had cleared by noon, and there was that complete transition to brilliant, sunny weather. There was a sort of a white haze along the distant coast and beyond far inland, rose the faint summits of the high mountains.
Fortunately Juarez and Tom had a chance to observe their new surroundings for they had been set to work sewing on a small sail that was to be used in one of the boats. They sat upon the top of one of the hatches, under the watchful eyes of old Pete and the philosophic gaze of the shepherd. Sewing was one of the accomplishments of the Frontier Boys. They had been obliged to learn.
"What is that particular bronze looking weed, floating in these waters?" asked Tom. It was as Tom phrased it, bronze and a most beautiful color.
It was indeed a giant among weeds; just such as the garden of the ocean would grow. The stems were fifty to eighty feet long, with peculiar colored leaves eight to ten inches in length, growing on little boughs from the parent stem. The whole structure was held up by small bronze buoys, of a round shape.
"Well as ye seem likely boys and want to learn, I'll tell you about this plant," said the shepherd. "The scientific fellows call it Algae. When the world was first made this algae covered the whole surface of the ocean."
"How did you learn this?" asked Juarez.
"You know that the Captain is quite a collector, and in his travels has gotten together among many other things some interesting books. He gives them to me when convenient." The face of the lanky shepherd was perfectly grave when he spoke of Captain Broom as a collector.
"What makes the water so clear around here?" asked Juarez. "I never saw anything like it."
"Well, you see," replied their mentor, "this island is placed peculiarly, I mean this side of it. You see how quiet the water is?"
"It is certainly smooth and blue," said Juarez. "More like a lake than the ocean."
"That's only true of this side," resumed the shepherd, "the other is rough enough, but you see the prevailing winds are from the Northwest and this shore is never disturbed. So on the beaches you will find not sand, but smooth round pebbles, because there is no action of the water, no breakers or waves to grind them into sand."
About four o'clock the Sea Eagle came into a perfectly beautiful little harbor, at the South-eastern end of the island. There was a small level plot back from the beach and on all sides rose steep hills and back of them the mountains. It was the most picturesque scene the boys had ever beheld in all their travels.
What would they not have given to have been free to roam that island, hunting inland, or fishing or bathing along those quiet, enchanted shores. But this was no pleasure excursion. Far from it. Captain Broom had his own ideas, and he did not intend to make a landing at all.
"Get the whale boat ready, lads!" he ordered. "And put her over, we've got no time to lose."
They lost no time either, under Captain Broom's commanding eye.
What was necessary for the cruise was already in the boat. Two casks of water, several guns, and a lot of provisions. Then the boat was hove overboard into the quiet bay. The captain was ready with a much battered satchel in his hand. Not for one second did he entrust it to any one else.
"Now over with you, you two lads," he commanded and Juarez and Tom, with a sinking of the heart, got into the boat. This was the last leg of their mysterious journey, and it boded them no good they felt sure of that. The mate they noticed stayed aboard in charge of the ship.
They were put in the stern where old Pete had the steering oar. Near them sat the shepherd on one of the casks of water, his long legs getting uncertain accommodation. The captain had his position in the bow and two powerful sailors were at the oars, one on either side. They did not sit down, but stood up to their work.
Without any loss of time the boat got under way proceeding seaward from the shelter of the beautiful little harbor. In spite of their depression, the two boys could not help being interested in the absolutely clear water in which they could look down for eighty feet.
They could see the straight slender columns of the Algae rising to the surface, starting from where they were rooted in the bottom of the bay and swaying to the slow pulsation of the tide. These strange plants of this marine garden were marvels indeed. Between their stalks and among the encrusted rocks swam in absolute unconsciousness of being watched, many beautiful, and strange fishes.
Some were small of golden hue, with little spots of a marvelous blue (poetry) that flashed like keen electric dew, (that will do). Others were like gold fishes, a foot in length and of corresponding breadth. There were long mackerel, and innumerable minnows, and over the rocks a peculiar little fish crawled or rather walked on thin rat-like feet.
Before they had time to observe further the boat had got out of the harbor where the water sunk away to blue unfathomed depth. When clear of the harbor, they turned to the South, passing near a cove with a symmetrical pebbly beach, built up for five feet, above the level of the water. The ocean was perfectly smooth, with not a ripple upon its surface. They were evidently making to round the Southern extremity of the Island.
IN THE WHITE BOAT
Ahead of them was a rock rising fifty or sixty feet out of the water. It was evident that the rock was inhabited for there could be seen dark forms moving around upon it. Nothing had been said since they started, for the Captain was not in a talkative mood. Jeems Howell, the shepherd, had sat silently smoking his pipe in philosophic contentment.
"What are those things on that rock?" inquired Tom, his curiosity getting the best of his reserve.
"Two yankees in this boat," commented the shepherd. "Those are seals, son. Didn't you ever see any before?"
"No!" admitted Tom.
"You didn't know that seals, next to humans, are the smartest animals, in the world."
"Is that so?" inquired Juarez. "They certainly are sleek."
"They have got the most brain room, that's a fact."
The boys regarded the seals with peculiar interest as the boat passed near the rock. They were moving about awkwardly by means of their flippers, moving their sinuous necks this way and that and regarding the strange boat with their soft brown eyes. Then they dived headlong into the sea, swimming about with a peculiar grace.
"Queer animals," remarked Tom, "belong half to the sea and half to the land."
"Something like sailors," remarked the shepherd.
"What's the Captain going to do with us?" asked Juarez in a low voice. The shepherd's face took on a solemn expression, but before he could reply the Captain's voice roared.
"None of that, you'll find out soon enough. You can talk about the flory and fauny, with long shanks, but don't let me hear anything else out of you," such was the Captain's ultimatum.
But soon matters grew so interesting that they lost all inclination for talking. When they got near the Southern end of the island they began to notice white caps to the Southward, dotting the darkness of the sea.
"You lads will have to hold tight now in a few minutes," remarked Howell. "Do you get seasick?"
"No," replied the boys.
"Well, you will have a chance soon, and if it don't fetch you, nothing will."
So far they had been rowing under the sheltering lee of the island whose huge rocky bulk had shouldered off the charge of the wind-driven seas. Now before they had fairly rounded the island the character of the water began to change. The boat began to toss on the great rollers. Then as they cleared the land for good and were in the channel, a fresh gust of wind struck them, drenching the occupants of the boat with spray.
The Captain stood up in the bow of the boat and steadying himself took in the conditions of the sea and wind. There was nothing in his grim weatherbeaten face to show what he felt. The men at the oars now made hard work of it against the headwind and the running sea.
They would climb up a steep wave and then with a sickening slide, go down into the hollow, then with a lusty pull the sailors would bring the heavy boat over the toppling crest of wave to find another rushing to meet them. No rest, this was what made it such heart breaking work.
The early fog had come, covering the sea with gloom, and the waves did not go down perceptibly. At times, they shipped a good deal of water and Tom and Juarez were kept busy bailing out. After an hour's hard struggle the sailors were about all in and seemed hardly able to hold their own against the sea and wind. The Captain was quick to notice this.
"Can you row, lad?" he inquired of Juarez. Now the latter's experience had been confined to his work going down the Grand Canyon of Colorado, on the raft-boat that the Frontier Boys had built.
Even the old ocean itself could not show anything worse than some of the rapids that the boys had run. As for rocks, nothing could beat the canyon for them.
"I'll try, sir," he replied, "I've never rowed on the ocean."
"Humph!" grunted the Captain, "take the starboard. And you, you lazy long shanks, you take the other oar."
"All right, sir," replied cheerfully, the one addressed.
"Get out of here, Pete," he cried, giving that worthy a lift with his foot that landed him on top of Tom, "I'll do the steering. You boys will only have to pull, that's all. I'll keep her headed up right."
Fortunately Juarez was in fine condition, or he could never have stood the gruelling work ahead. He weighed one hundred and sixty pounds and there was not an ounce of fat on him. Likewise he had had a sound night's sleep and three square meals so that he was fortified for what was ahead.
Juarez buckled to the task with all his strength, and he was glad of the chance to get his blood in circulation for he was chilled to the bone by the flying spray, and then too, anything was better than thinking of the fate ahead. He was surprised to find out that the shepherd who appeared rather frail in physique was able to keep up the pace.
But he had that sinewy length of muscles that counts for more than mere bunchy thickness. Juarez was crafty enough not to spend all of his strength in the first fifteen minutes of work. He liked this, fighting the sea and standing on his feet he was able to put the whole leverage of his body into the stroke.
The change in speed was noticeable right away, and the boat began to pull ahead steadily. The two sailors who had been laid off from exhaustion, had watched Juarez with a sneering grin as he took the oar. They were sure that the first wave that came along would wrench the oar out of his hand. Great was their surprise when they saw him buckle to the oar, rising and pulling at the right time to meet the toppling, rustling seas.
"That little shrimp will last about ten minutes," said one of them to his mate.
"Sure, Bill," replied the other.
Juarez choked back a hot reply, for he knew that it would not be good for him to say anything to them. They were in the majority and would get him if he did, besides making it bad for Tom. The ten minutes passed and Juarez was just beginning to warm to his work. This took the wind out of their sails completely.
The powerful hand of the Skipper at the steering oar was a great help, for now all that the two men at the oars had to do was to pull and not to worry about keeping her headed right. Juarez kept steadily at it for an hour and then darkness began to fall over the channel but not until the island that they were approaching had begun to loom up, dead ahead.
They were now getting in the lee of the strange island and the sea was moderating perceptibly. At this juncture the two sailors who had become thoroughly rested took the oars from Juarez and his co-worker and pulled steadily through the gathering gloom. In a short time the bulk of the island loomed above them in the darkness.
Not a word was said, only the swish of the sea was heard and the groaning of the oars in the locks. Tom and Juarez were deeply depressed and gloomy. They felt exactly as though they were being taken to prison and could sympathize with sailors who had been marooned on lonely and desolate islands.
"Easy now, lads," called the Captain, as he brought the boat's head squarely around towards the shore.
"Two strokes," he yelled, "and let her run."
With great force they pulled the oars in succession, then they shipped them in a hurry. Juarez could see the dashing of foam on either side of the boat where the waves smote the rocks. There was a roar in his ears as the boat rushed toward seeming sure destruction. It was going with great speed from the impetus of the sailors' strokes.
The Captain was standing taut at the steering oars, his eyes piercing the darkness ahead, then the foam of the breakers dashed in their faces, there was a quick sliding past of dark rocks and before they could draw breath again the boat was in quiet water, under some black cliffs. At last they had reached the mysterious goal of their mysterious journey.
We must now go back in our narrative to where we left Jim Darlington and the Spaniard, Senor Sebastian, in a position of extreme peril, between the cliffs and the deep sea, with the white-fanged tide coming in like a devouring monster eager for its prey.
"Is there a chance, Senor?" cried Jim as soon as his horse gained his footing.
"It is the fatal day, I fear," replied the Spaniard with resigned hopelessness. "The sea is hungry."
"As for that, so am I," declared Jim coolly. "So let us try to get around the headland and after that, supper."
"As you please," acquiesced the Spaniard quietly.
Then Jim turned Caliente's head and with a quick touch of the spur sent him full stride along the curving beach, followed closely by the Spaniard. Already the heavy waves were licking far up the slant of the sand. Even the veteran Caliente seemed nervous at its approach, while Don Fernando would jump and shy as the hissing water crept around his feet.
In about two minutes the two horsemen reached the base of the rocky headland that barred their way. It was a desperate moment, there was but one thing to do and that was to take the chance.
"Better be drowned quick, Caliente, old boy," cried Jim, "than slowly, but we'll beat you yet," and he shook his clenched fist at the ocean, and whirled his horse to meet a wave that struck Caliente breast high. So for a moment, the two, boy and horse, stood facing their powerful enemy, The Sea, that came with the recurring charge, its evenly separated files robed in blue with white crests. Thus they stood getting a full free breath before they leaped into the ranks of the foe.
Jim's strained, keen gaze took in every detail of the situation, noting the position of the rocks that a receding wave left bare, so that he might find a clear path or trail in his dash for life. Nor did his gaze flinch as he saw the advancing wave break against the front of the cliff.
"Now, Caliente," yelled Jim, with a sense of fierce determination and exultation that communicated itself to his horse, and lifting his feet free from the stirrups so that he would not be entangled, if Caliente should fall, he headed him seaward, galloping fast down the beach upon the heels of the withdrawing wave.
Meeting a smaller inrush of water and dashing through its foaming crest, his gallant horse swam until he got a foothold upon the rocks at the base of the cliff. Now was the crucial moment. With absolute recklessness, Jim urged his powerful horse over the foam-covered rocks, striving to get around the prow of the headland before the charge of the next wave. Not one look did Jim give seaward, all his energies were bent upon using every precious second, and Caliente was filled with his rider's indomitable spirit.
Then above them towered the fatal wave, and with a confused roar, it broke over them in sweltering foam and they were swept towards the black front of the cliff. Then came the impact against the rock and the next moment, stunned and bruised, Jim holding to the pommel of the saddle, with a death-grip, was carried out to sea with Caliente in the grasp of the retreating wave.
It was all over, as like pieces of drift, horse and rider were swept away, but fortune does sometime favor the brave and, being caught in a powerful current, Caliente was carried South of the headland and his progress towards the sea was stayed by a rock that rose high, an outer-guard of the headland. So then the next great wave bore them toward the beach, and once Caliente got his feet upon the sandy bottom he braced himself against the fierce pull of the retreating sea, striving to drag him back again.
Though almost unconscious, Jim clung to the saddle with his body half-drooping over the pommel. Then Caliente plunged blindly forward until he stood with head bent down and nose almost touching the sand, his great sides heaving, but safe at last.
In the distance, a horseman could be seen coming at full gallop along the straight line of the beach. It was Jo, who finally had become frightened by the non-appearance of his two comrades and had turned back. His fright had been increased by seeing a horse and rider coming apparently out of the sea.
When he came up, he found his brother Jim sitting on the sand still half dazed but slowly coming to himself.
"Where's the Senor, Jim?" cried Jo. This question served to bring Jim completely to himself. He got up, looking pale, with one side of his face bruised to a real blackness, and the flesh of his left hand badly torn, where it had struck the cliff, but he was not thinking of these matters.
"Why, Jo, the Senor came after me. Where is he?" Then it came over him all at once, that his companion was even now caught between the jaws of the black cliff.
"We must get to him, Jo," he cried.
"But how did you ever get around that cliff?" asked Jo.
Already it was an awesome sight as the waves crashed in foam against its front and rushed shoreward along its black sides. It seemed impossible that only fifteen minutes before Jim had actually come around that foaming headland.
In reply to Jo's question, Jim threw his arms around Caliente's neck with warm affection.
"This is the old fellow that pulled me through," he cried. "But we must go to the help of our Spanish friend."
"How can we?" inquired Jo. "We can't get around the headland unless we become fishes."
Jim considered the problem carefully. One thing he was determined on and that was not to leave the Spaniard who had been so hospitable and helpful to them.
"No, we can't go around by the headland," he determined, "but we might be able to find a way over the rocks and down on the other side."
"All right, I'm ready."
"Let's find a place for Caliente first," advised his owner. Back a short distance from the beach there were some trees on a lower spur of the mountain. Here Jim brought Caliente and took off the saddle and bridle.
"Now make yourself comfortable," said Jim.
Caliente, in seeming recognition of what was said, took immediate advantage of the invitation and rolled heartily in a dry and dusty spot.
"Get your lasso, Jo," urged Jim, "and we will start."
So together they made for the steep rock and soon reached the base of it, and now began a hard climb, but no more difficult than they had encountered before in their travels.
"Do you recollect, Jim," inquired Jo, "that day you got stalled in our first canyon in Colorado, when you tried to imitate an eagle and fly up a precipitous cliff and we had to get you down?"
"Oh, yes, I remember," replied Jim, "and how I scared you and Tom by pretending that an Injun was after me, when I went down to the creek for water."
"Poor Tom," said Jo sadly, "I wonder when we will see him again."
"In a couple of days," stoutly declared the optimistic Jim.
They were now going up the face of the cliff, the lariats over their shoulders, and searching with careful feet for a foothold, while their hands clutched some piece of projecting rock.
"Lucky this rock isn't rotten," cried Jo, "or we would find ourselves stuck headfirst in the sand below."
"Like an ostrich," said Jim. "We couldn't do much in a place like this without our moccasins, that's certain."
The moccasins did make them nimble as goats, and they not only made possible a secure hold, but they protected as well the feet. At first they were not in any grave danger of a fall because the drifted sand at the bottom of the cliff would have made a soft landing. But after a while they were forced to work their way out over the rushing water, then if they had slipped and fallen it would have been all up with them.
It seemed as if the sea, furious at having lost Jim a short while ago, was making fierce efforts to get at them now. The great waves foamed against the cliff and the spray dashed over the boys, making the surface of the rock treacherous and slippery.
"I can't bear to look down," said Jo. "It makes me dizzy."
"Look up, then," Jim called back.
"That's almost as bad," replied Jo.
"Keep 'em shut then," was Jim's command.
Finally they came to a place that stopped Jo entirely. Jim was able to get over it, because of his superior height and reach, and he attained a point of safety above Jo.
"What am I going to do now?" cried Jo. "I can't go any higher and it is impossible for me to go back."
"You wait," urged Jim, "till I get a secure foothold above here."
"Oh, I'll wait," said Jo grimly, "you don't observe any anxiety on my part to move, do you?"
Finally Jim reached a broad ledge, that gave him an excellent foothold, and he got his lariat ready and dangled the loop under Jo's nose.
"What are you going to hang me for?" inquired Jo.
"For a horse thief, I reckon," replied Jim, "that bay don't belong to you does it, Mister?"
"Meaning this ocean bay?" queried Jo.
"I certainly will hang you for that," retorted Jim, "Now get the loop under your armpits."
"All ready," cried Jo.
Then Jim, bracing himself, kept a taut line on his brother, and with this help he was able quite easily to get over the slippery, bare belt of rock, and in a few moments was safe with Jim on the ledge.
"It won't take us long now," said Jo, "to get to the other side."
"Let's give him a yell," suggested Jim, "to let him know that we are coming."
Then Jim put his hands to his lips and cried:
"Senor, ahoy." They listened breathlessly and in a few moments came a faint reply. This put renewed energy into the boys and as the way was now easier, they leaped ahead, agile as goats, and had soon reached the top of the cliff. They looked eagerly down.
There was the deep short semi-circle of the little bay with the waves heaving in against the cliffs and at the point midway between the two head-lands, where the beach was highest, they saw the Spaniard on Don Fernando. Already the encroaching waves were gnawing at them.
It was only a question of minutes now, and horse and rider would be carried out to sea. The Spaniard sat like a statute. It was seemingly possible for him to have made his escape up the cliffs, which were not overly precipitous, like those Jim and Jo had just scaled, but he was a fatalist and believed that his day had come. Perhaps he did not want to abandon his horse, in which his pride was centered.
"Cheer up, Senor, we'll be there," yelled Jim.
Then followed by Jo, he sprang forward, leaping from rock to rock, and from jutting point to opportune foothold. It was dangerous and daring work, but the life of their friend was at stake and the boys were not the kind to consider their own safety at such a time.
It was only their sure-footedness and varied experience in climbing that saved them from broken limbs or possible death. In a remarkably short time, they stood upon a ledge above the Spaniard.
"Here, Senor," yelled Jim, "catch the rope."
He did as ordered but called up, "Is there no way to save my horse?"
Jim considered a moment, then shouted: "All right, yes, we will save your horse, too. Tie the ends of the lasso to the iron rings at the ends of the front cinch." This was a broad, strong band, which would furnish a good purchase, when Jim tossed down the lariat. The Spaniard caught it and made it fast as ordered.
"Now, fasten this under your arms," ordered Jim, as he cast down the second lariat, which belonged to Jo. They then drew up the Spaniard to safety and he appeared to be pleased in a quiet way but not at all enthusiastic.
"I am your eternal debtor, Senors," he said with a courteous bow.
"How was it you did not follow me, Senor?" questioned Jim, "when I sailed around the headland?"
"Don Fernando balked," replied the Senor. "I thought, too, that you had been drowned."
"Came near it," replied Jim. "I would, too, if it had not been for Caliente."
"But my poor Fernando, he will be drowned," cried the Spaniard, now much more excited about the safety of his steed than he had been for his own. It did look rather bad for the big chestnut, as a large wave swelling in, almost took him off his feet. He began to neigh wildly.
"Don't worry, Don, old boy," cried Jim to the frightened horse. "If you will help yourself." There was something in his voice that seemed to reassure the animal.
"Now, Jo, we will let you down by the lariat and get the bridle reins over his head and help him get a foothold on that ledge below us. He will be safe enough there, even if he does get somewhat damp."
"Let me go. It is my risk for my horse," urged the Spaniard.
"It is no risk, Senor," replied Jim. "You are heavier than my brother and stronger and can do more good on this ledge with me."
"The commands of the General!" said the Spaniard with a low bow. "I see your plan is good."
"We will tie this end of the lasso to the tree," said Jim, "so you will feel perfectly safe, Jo."
The tree referred to was a sturdy, gnarled cedar, growing on the ledge. Then Jim swung his brother off and with every confidence in the strength of the lariat to hold, Jo made his way quickly and safely down, while if he had been without the rope he would have doubtless fallen into the water below.
A wave surged in, submerging him, and then started triumphantly to carry him out to sea, but when the lariat pulled taut Jo struggled safely back on the rock, while the wave went grumbling back.
"Catch the bridle now, Jo," urged Jim. "Don't waste any more time swimming."
Thus adjured, Jo grabbed the bridle reins and pulled them over Don Fernando's head, and braced himself on the rock above. All was ready now, and the two above held the loop of the lasso that had been tied at the cinch, with both hands, and they pulled together. Again a big wave swelled in towards the cliff, which gave the frightened horse a big boost.
Then, with Jim and the Spaniard pulling mightily from the ledge above, and Jo giving the big chestnut a purchase by a steady pull upon his bridle, the horse scrambled with a mighty clatter and all his frightened energy up the sloping rock. The lariat and Jo's work helped a whole lot. Without the three, he would never have made it.
Before the next wave swept in, Don Fernando stood, trembling and dripping, but safe, upon the lower ledge. He seemed above the danger point now, though an unusually big wave welled up around the horse's fetlocks and the spray was continually dashing upwards.
"He is all right now," cried Jim, "better come up, Jo, where it is dryer."
"Haul in then," replied Jo, and then he was landed safely on the ledge.
"Caught a speckled trout," exclaimed Jim in happy humor again.
"Referring to my freckles, I suppose," grinned Jo. "If I'm a fish, I reckon Don Fernando is a whale."
"Do you suppose he is safe?" inquired the Spaniard anxiously.
"Ah, no," said the Spaniard smilingly. "I mean the Don. The water seems to be rising."
"You may rest assured that he is safe," replied Jim. "It is the turn of the tide now, and it is only a westerly wind that makes it appear higher. All we will have to do now is to wait."
"It is a great pity, this delay," said the Spaniard warmly. "You are anxious to be on to the rescue of your brother and his friend. Anyway, I hope you will succeed as well in their case as you did in mine."
"In another hour we will be able to start," said Jim, "the tide will then commence to run out."
"Where shall we stop tonight?" inquired Jo.
"Camp in the open as usual," replied Jim.
"I hope we will get up above the sea so high that it won't come within a mile of us," said Jo, fervently.
"As to a place to stop, I will see to that," said the Spaniard. "Do not give yourselves any uneasiness on that score."
"It's getting kind of chilly roosting up here," remarked Jo, plaintively, "especially as the fog is coming in."
"I'll warm you," said Jim. "Put up your Dukes."
"You'll take the counts if I put up my Dukes," said Jo, who was an inveterate punnist.
"Shut up," yelled Jim, giving his brother a hearty chug in the chest. Then they went at it hammer and tongs, giving and receiving good hard blows, and after ten minutes of whaling at each other, both were plenty warm. The Spaniard looked on in mild wonder.
"You Americans love the hard exercise," he said. "I should think you would have great pleasure in resting awhile."
"I got the best of the bout," declared Jo. "See how black and blue your face is on this side."
"You didn't do that," protested Jim. "That was a wallop that old Neptune handed me when he bumped my head against yonder cliff."
"Neptune! Yonder cliff!" jeered Jo. "You ought to be a story writer and use fine words."
"Me a story writer!" growled Jim. "I ain't got so low as that, not so long as I have got two hands to steal chickens with."
"Do you not think, Senor Darlington, that it is now safe to start?" inquired the Spaniard, who was fearful of bloodshed, not quite understanding the boys.
"Certainly," responded Jim, "we will get Don Fernando down from his perch and proceed."
This proved to be an easier task than getting him up. His master lowered by the rope to his side, one scrambling leap and the horse was on the firm wet sand of the beach, almost knocking his master over in his eagerness to be on safe footing again. Don Sebastian now showed the gay side of his nature, as he vaulted into the saddle.
He swung his hat wildly, the blood mounting to his face, and the horse seemed to feel the sting and excitement of his master's mood, as he pranced, danced and caracoled upon the sand and ended up by bowing in unison with his master to the two American lads, who were looking on with interest and amusement.
Then the party made their way quickly along the curve of the beach and went around the fateful headland with perfect safety, while quite a distance out among the hidden rocks snarled the defeated ocean. Then Caliente heard them coming and he quickly raised his head, neighing in welcome to Jim and his comrade, Don Fernando.
Jim gave him a vigorous hug for more than ever he was fond of his faithful horse. In a few minutes he had him saddled and away the three horsemen thudded in a swift gallop down the beach. The horses fairly flew, the wind of their speed tossing their manes back. It was cool beneath the fog laden sky and the refreshing sea air seemed to give the horses tireless endurance.
Soon three miles had spun backwards under their hoofs and the boys were filled with the joyous excitement of the run. It seemed now that every stride of the horses was bringing them nearer to the hoped-for rescue of Tom and Juarez. And this was an incentive to their energy.
"Here, friends, is where we branch off from the beach," cried the Spaniard.
Then he turned his horse to the left and headed straight for a wooded spur that extended from the range to the shore. In a short time the three came to a well-traveled trail and were soon riding through the semi-dusk of the woods. For two miles they went up a steady grade.
Then they rounded the summit of the wooded ridge and saw stretching far below them in the indistinct dusk, a wide plain bounded on the West by the blue darkness of the level sea with its rim of yellow sand.
"We will soon be at the home of my friend, Senor Valdez," said the Spaniard, "where we will spend the night."
"I'm a lovely looking object to present itself in a civilized home," protested Jim, "I look like a tough who has been in a bar-room rush."
"You are my brave friend," said Senor Sebastian, quietly, "and will be welcome."
Jim blushed, at least one side of his face did, the other was already too deeply colored to show any emotion, and he grinned sheepishly. Before he had time to reply they swept into an open driveway, carefully sanded, and drew rein in front of a long, low white adobe house, that from its mountain terrace looked over Plain and Sea.
Out came Senor Valdez to receive them, a stately Spaniard, who furnished the boys with an ideal of perfect courtesy ever after. To the end of their days they remembered their first visit to the home of Senor Valdez. How they did enjoy their dinner that evening in the long, pleasantly lighted dining-room.
It was an excellent meal, with delicious soup, a salad garnished with peppers of the Spanish style, and garlic. Jim and Jo had never tasted anything equal to it. Besides there were frijoles and lamb, while the dessert was some slight and delicate confection of jelly and cream, made by the hands of the Senora Valdez.
"I feel wicked sitting here and eating this fine meal," said Jo, addressing Jim in a low voice, "when Tom and Juarez are being ill used and probably starved."
"Well," replied Jim, who was always practical, "I think it is better to eat, and to keep my strength up."
"I guess it won't fail," commented Jo slyly.
The boys bore themselves well, and without any diffidence though Jim had a whimsical recollection of his bruised side face and blackened eye, and he tried to keep it turned from the Senora Valdez, the fragile little woman who sat at the end of the table opposite her husband. She had snow white hair, parted low over her ears and the pallid face was lined with years. Very gentle was the Senora Valdez, but she had in her time beheld scenes of carnage and terror, so Jim need not have worried about his bruised face. But the wise old lady noticed his solicitude and understanding, was the more gracious to the young Americano because of it.
That evening they sat on the piazza, that looked out towards the sea, the Spaniards smoking and Jim and Jo enjoying the music of a guitar played by a Mexican in a dim corner of the verandah and the boys heard a bit of important news.
"There was a mysterious ship put into shore several miles South of here, late last night, Senor," said their host, "one of my shepherds brought me word."
"The first scent of the trail," cried Jim eagerly. Then the Senor Sebastian explained to his friend more fully the objects of their search. Immediately the listener was deeply interested. Then he sent for an Indian, one of his trusted men, to come to him, and gave him minute instructions about some matters. Without a word the Indian turned and disappeared in the darkness, and in a short time there came the sound of a horse galloping full speed down the road.
"Tomorrow, Senor Darlington, this Indian will meet you at a point near the Puebla de los Angeles, which my friend knows and he will have all the information there is obtainable as to the location of this ship and its crew," thus spoke the Senor Valdez. Jim thanked him with deep fervor for his unusual kindness, but the Spaniard made light of it.
A TALE OF YORE
As they sat there in the dusk of the verandah, Jim would have liked to ask his host to relate some of his experiences in southern California for he felt sure that the Senor Valdez had known something of adventure not only because those early days were full of marvels of interest, but there was something in the bearing of the old Spaniard that spoke of former days of romance and of stirring incidents.
Then, too, there was something in the after-dinner content and quiet, following the perilous adventure which they had been through that predisposed the boys to listen to a good story of adventure. Their friend, the Senor Sebastian, seemed to divine what was passing through Jim's mind, for he suddenly spoke, breaking the meditative spell that had fallen upon the group on the piazza.
"It just occurred to me, Senor Valdez, that our friends here might like to hear something of the early days in this part of the country, for you of all men know it thoroughly and I am sure it would interest them."
"Indeed, it would, Senor," cried Jim enthusiastically, "it was in my mind to ask Senor Valdez to tell us of the early days but I was afraid to impose upon him."
"I feel greatly honored to think that you young men would care to hear anything my poor tongue could relate. It would hardly be worth your distinguished attention." Jim made due allowance for the courteous exaggeration characteristic of the Spaniard.
"Try us, Senor," he said briefly, "we would want nothing better."
"I will have the coffee brought first," replied the Senor, "that may serve to stimulate my dull imagination."
In a short time a softly moving servant brought out a tray of coffee cups, and placed one before each guest on a small wicker table. Jim noticed these cups with immediate interest. They were certainly beautiful and he had never seen anything like them before. They were of a wonderful blue, each one, and had a coat of arms in gold with raised figures on it; a scroll above with a Latin motto, and beneath the representation of a wild animal couchant. The Senor Valdez was quick to see Jim's interest and respond to it. "That is the coat of arms of my family," he explained.
"I am not a scholar, Senor," said Jim, "and all I can make of the motto is that it has something to do with a lion."
"You are quite right," the ghost of a smile hovered around the white-fringed lips of the Spaniard, at Jim's innate boyishness.
"That figure does not look exactly like a lion," remarked Jo frankly.
"Not like an African lion certainly," replied the Spaniard, "but a lion nevertheless, such as one finds yet in the mountain fastnesses of Spain, something like a panther only larger and much more fierce."
"The lion seems to have a rope or chain around his neck," commented Jim, "and fastened to a collar."
"Quite so," responded the Spaniard, "likewise the motto translated reads, 'Gentle as a Lion.'"
"Rather strange way of putting it," said Jim curiously.
"I will explain, for you would naturally be puzzled by the phrase, 'Gentle as a Lion,' as it seems to contradict common knowledge," said Senor Valdez. "You see my family has the distinction, if such it can be called, in these modern days, the distinction of being old. This coat-of-arms dates back to the eleventh century."
Jo was about to give a prolonged whistle of surprise when Jim gripped his knee to enforce silence, for though Jo might mean all right, the Spaniard might not understand.
"The founder of the family who flourished at that time was a rather rugged character, and I am afraid would regard the family representatives of this day as very puny and unworthy specimens. This Rodriquez de Valdez had his castle in a rugged mountainous part of Spain, where there were plenty of wild animals and of wilder and fiercer men, bandits and free-booters without number.
"His castle was a very powerful one, not only in construction but likewise in location, as it was built on a shelf of rock above a deep chasm, with precipitous cliffs behind it. However, Rodriquez de Valdez spent but very little time behind the protection of its powerful walls. It would take the forces of some strong Duke from the lowland to cause him to seek the shelter of his castle and to raise his war banner of crimson with a blue cross upon it, above the turret.
"He spent his days hunting among the mountains for wild beasts or for marauding bands of lawless men. Rodriquez was a man of wonderful strength, even for those days, when there were giants in the land. In stature six feet five and powerful in proportion and likewise very fleet of foot. If I should tell you of some of the legends of his strength and swiftness, you would probably laugh.
"But the one that has to do with the coat-of-arms of my family I will tell you. It chanced one day that he was out in the wilds of the mountains and quite alone. Intent upon the trail of a deer that he was following along a shelving mountain side, he did not see a lion half grown, but nevertheless very dangerous, which was crouching on the branch of a tree ready to spring upon him when he got beneath it.
"When he had passed by under the tree a pace or two, the lion sprang with distended claws. Some instinct of danger made Rodriquez turn and he was just in time to grapple with the brute, clutching it by the throat. The lion had some advantage in weight but not a great deal, for my brave ancestor was probably three hundred pounds of sinew, bone and muscle. So that the struggle was not such an unequal one, but it was terrific while it did last. Finally, though torn and bleeding, the man subdued the beast, and had it in abject fear of him.
"Then instead of killing the lion as one would naturally expect, Rodriquez took a strange humorous notion into his head. He would make a pet of this same lion and it should be his dog to follow obediently at its master's heels wherever he went. This idea he carried out and he even had a heavy brass collar placed upon its neck, and it followed him on all his trips, slouching with padded tread at his heel, or behind his war horse as he rode abroad, like a powerful yellow dog.
"I do not imagine that the beast ever had any great amount of affection for his master, but he no doubt was in great fear of him, which seemed to answer the purpose quite as well. So, my friends, you have a full and complete explanation of the coat-of-arms of my family. My only fear is that I have wearied you with what could not have the same interest for you as it does for me."
"Indeed, you have not wearied us, Senor," exclaimed Jo enthusiastically.
"That is one of the most interesting accounts that I have ever listened to," said Jim. "I only wish I could have lived in those days when there was plenty of adventure."
"I do not think that you have any reason to complain," remarked the Spaniard laughingly. "Perhaps your descendants in future years will be pointing out your daring deeds as emblazoned on their coat-of-arms."
"No danger of that, I guess," laughed Jim, "though they might have a picture of Jo and me tied to a mule. That was the way old Captain Broom treated us." The Spaniard joined in the merriment at this unheroic representation of Jo and Jim.
"Now, Senor Valdez, you have told us a tale of old Spain, tell us something of new Spain here in California," urged Jo.
"It seems to me that it is now someone else's turn," said the Senor. "I would not do all the talking. A host should sometimes listen. Perhaps Senor Darlington will tell us of some of his experiences. They will be much more stirring than any musty tales of mine." But Jim shook his head firmly, not to say obstinately.
"I would not think of telling our adventures," he replied. "Perhaps after we have travelled more, we will have something worth while relating."
"That's right," said Jo, "we would much rather listen to you, Senor."
The Senor Valdez sipped slowly at his coffee, looking out into the semi-darkness beyond the verandah, where over the plain below stretched the gray blanket of the fog-clouds. Then he rolled another cigarette, lit it and took a few meditative puffs. The Senor now began his next story at a peculiar angle, and did not commence with the stereotyped form of "once upon a time," so dear to the days of one's childhood.
"I see you do not take cream in your coffee," he said addressing Jim.
"No, but I like some sugar, not too much."
"It has seemed to me," said the Spaniard, "that the seasoning of coffee is in a way an indication of character."
"Where the party uses milk in his coffee that indicates weakness, does it not, Senor?" inquired Jim with a sly look at Jo, but the subtle Spaniard was not to be trapped.
"Not necessarily," he replied, "only mildness."
"And when it is taken straight and black that means a strong character," remarked Jo.
"You have stated it," replied the Spaniard.
"But I would like to know how I would be sized up?" questioned Jim, "you see I use a little sugar."
"My friend," said the Spaniard with playful earnestness, putting his hand lightly on Jim's knee, "that shows a character of great strength, tempered with mercy and human kindness. All of which leads one to speak of a man who was once famous in this part of the country, but not popular. He always had the reputation for taking a strong liquor in his coffee, Fernet, if I remember right. His name was Alverado, but I judge that you are not acquainted with it."
"No," replied Jim, "but I should say that he was a very fierce character."
"He was. He was a bandit."
"I thought so," agreed Jim.
"This Don Alverado came from a well known Spanish family, of ancient lineage, but impoverished fortune. He was such a wild and unruly blade that his family were decidedly relieved when he left Spain and came to the new world to mend his fortune, if not his ways. He landed first in Mexico, and after a series of more or less remarkable adventures, he came to this part of California. I knew him, or rather I knew of his family in Spain, and for their sake I made him welcome here at my home.
"He was really a charming fellow in manner and appearance, tall, slight, with dark eyes and hair, a typical cavalier. But the graces of his manner did not reach down to his heart, and after a disagreeable episode which I need not revive here, he left my rancho never to return except as an enemy. I heard nothing further of him after his departure for some six months. My next introduction to him was an unpleasant one.
"It consisted in the loss of a band of horses and a herd of cattle which were driven off by a gang of raiders, thirteen in number, at the head of which was this fellow Alverado. His depredations went on for years among the ranchmen in this part of California. So resourceful and crafty was this desperado that he evaded trap after trap laid for his capture.
"He had several very close calls and there were numerous battles between the outlaws and the ranch owners, but though some of his men were shot, he seemed to bear a charmed life. I remember one running fight over the plain yonder, when, believing me to be absent from home, as I had been, but returned unexpectedly from the north, this Alverado and his gang made a bold dash to capture some horses from a field directly below the house.
"It did not take long to get my men together and I gave the bandits a surprise indeed. Nothing but the speed of Alverado's horse, a splendid black stallion, saved him from capture. We got several of his men however. At last there came the turning of the lane. Through the treachery of one of the band we found that their rendezvous was at the head of a small canyon in a range of foot-hills several miles south of here.
"You will go through it tomorrow on your way south, if you carry out your speed schedule, which with your remarkable horses you ought to be able to. We came upon the gang about noon, where they were resting after a long chase. In a corral near by were a number of stolen stock. They were not expecting trouble of any kind. Some were playing cards, a few cooking, most, however, were enjoying the siesta, their leader among the number lay under the shadow of a tree, his head resting on a saddle, sound asleep.
"There were fifty of us, and we had them surrounded, so that there was no chance of escape. Alverado himself made a desperate dash, but the cordon was too strong. The rest surrendered. That afternoon we took the bunch to the lower end of the canyon, where there was a giant sycamore tree. There we hanged the whole thirteen, and by them no more were troubled not even by their ghosts."
Jim and Jo expressed their appreciation of their host's kindness in entertaining them as he truly had done in relating his tales. Then they said good night and went to their room.
That night the boys slept in a comfortable bed in a quaint old bedroom with roses nodding in at the half open casement windows. By the light of the candles they could see the strange old and carved furniture and tired as they were how they did sleep.
The next morning they started hours before daylight. "I will be prepared to welcome more of you in a few days," said the Senor Valdez, and the boys thanked him heartily. Promising to return soon they galloped away through the darkness.
All day they rode, hardly drawing rein at all. At first through the foot-hills and then over the wide plains. Jo had a fresh horse, a powerful black, as his other mount could not stand the strain of the long trip that meant three score and ten of miles before evening.
Early in the afternoon they left the plain and rode into the deep and rugged gorges of a mountain chain, running East and West. Thence into a broad valley leading South-easterly, and about four P. M. they turned directly South entering a Pass in the Southern side of the valley, from which they emerged on a plain. Where the trail left the Pass stood a large sycamore tree, when they reached it, the Indian messenger rose from its shelter.
A WONDERFUL LEAP
Now without hesitation we must take up the fortunes or rather misfortunes of Tom and Juarez as they landed in the darkness upon the mysterious island, for our narrative presses to its conclusion. Never did they feel more hopeless than on this occasion, when they were going to a dubious and uncertain fate.
"You boys come with me," called the Captain gruffly.
"How about me, Cap'n?" asked Jeems Howell, the lanky shepherd.
"What's your business?" inquired Captain Broom briefly.
"Looking after the sheeps."
"Then attend to it," said the Captain grimly.
"Certainly, Cap'n," replied the shepherd, who was incapable of taking offense.
"You come, Jake," called the Captain, to one of the sailors, "and be quick about it, we haven't much time." Tom shivered, for in the gloom and tired as he was he felt that his time too was short.
Then with the Captain in the lead, carrying a lantern, which was muffled in his great coat, they started, the sailor bringing up the rear.
"Look out sharp, that these lads don't spring something on you, Jake. They are a bad lot."
"Aye, aye, sir," replied the sailor, "they'll have to be quick to get the jump on me, sir."
"It's the Injun one's the worst. Don't let him scalp you," warned the Captain jocosely.
"I'm no Indian," said Juarez, hoarsely and utterly reckless of his fate, "I'm an American, and was proud of it, till I found you were one, you cursed yankee barnacle."
"Ho, ho, lad!" roared the Captain, "you won't talk so tall in a few minutes. Nothing like a slow fire for stewing the nonsense out of a fresh kid."
"How far is this cave of yours, you are taking us to, old salt horse?" said Juarez insolently, and utterly unwise.
This was too much for Captain Broom, and with an imprecation he turned to strike Juarez. This was what Juarez was looking for and as the furious Skipper whirled facing him, Juarez dodged his huge fist, and sent a fierce hook to the Captain's jaw. There was anger, desperation and strength behind that blow and the Captain fell, striking his head on a rock. That time the Frontier Boys scored.
"Follow me, Tom," yelled Juarez, and he sprang away through the darkness. It seemed like a hopeless undertaking to make an escape with the sea on one side and the cliffs on the other, and a desperate enemy near at hand. But Juarez thought it was best to take a chance. Anything was better than captivity, that was seemingly just ahead of them.
One thing he was determined on and that was, that he would not be taken alive. He ran splashing through the water, leaping rocks, with the two sailors in fast pursuit. Not far ahead to the right was the white dash of the breakers that shut off escape in that direction, to the left was the cliffs.
Then before him rose a steep but not precipitous rock that had been divided from the main cliff by the action of the water. Instantly Juarez abandoned his desperate plan of plunging into the sea, and without lessening his speed, he sprang up the rock, in his moccasined feet.
The sailor who was following most closely, got up ten feet when he slipped and rolled violently to the bottom, knocking down the one who came after. Once Juarez came near falling but he caught himself, and kept going up, driven by a desperation that seemed to carry him over every obstacle.
"We've got yer, ye little shrimp," exultantly cried the sailors at the base of the rock, "Ye can't get away unless you fly."
"Shoot the blasted little varmint," roared the Captain, who, still dizzy, had struggled to his feet. In obedience to the order a flash punctured the darkness and there was a roar like artillery echoing among the hollow cliffs. A slug of lead whistled past Juarez's head.
The boy had now reached the top of the rock and was at the crisis of his fate, a distance of ten feet separated him from the main cliff, not an impossible jump but the foothold was precarious and uncertain, and fifty feet or more below were the jagged rocks, and enemies equally as hard, but Juarez did not hesitate.
He dodged down just as the sailors fired another shot, then he sprang to the narrow pinnacle of the rock and bending slightly forward with bent knees and swinging hand, poised for the leap.
"The condemned fool is going to jump," roared the Captain. "Shoot him on the wing."
But the sailors were not ready and the skipper ran between the rock and the cliff to be at hand to stamp the life out of Juarez when he should fall as he knew he would. Then he leaped, a dark object flying through space, his hands caught the edge of the cliff, the roots of a small bush held him for a moment, then he slipped. Below him was certain death.
Two strong hands caught his arms, and he was drawn in safety to the cliff above. The Captain and the two sailors watched in open mouthed wonder, all they could see was the dim figure of Juarez crawl in safety over the top of the cliff, but they could not determine the means of his escape.
It struck a superstitious chord in their natures and the skipper became moody and silent.
Juarez breathlessly followed the lanky figure of the shepherd through the darkness, for it was no other who had extended the rescuing hand. Hardly a word was spoken, and they started off. After going a considerable distance they came to a slab hut built at the foot of a high range of hills that formed the backbone of the island.
Two shepherd dogs rushed forth and gave their master a boisterous welcome, and were soon good friends with Juarez. Everything in the hut was neat; with Indian rugs on the floor which gave a warm touch of color to the interior and one side of the hut was lined with books.
"What am I thinking of," suddenly cried Juarez in dismay, "to leave Tom in the hands of that crew? My head is wrong." With that, he grew pale and slid unconscious to the floor. He had evidently not recovered from the blow that the Mexican had dealt him a few days before, and the strain he had been under brought on a relapse. The shepherd worked over him a long time before he finally brought him around.
Meanwhile what had become of Tom? He had not been quick enough to make his escape, and his fate was in the balance when the Skipper came up to him just after Juarez had disappeared over the cliff.
"You don't get away, I promise you that, lad," growled the Captain. Roughly seizing the boy by the shoulder he dragged him toward the cliff. Then the two disappeared into the entrance of a cave, the Captain still holding in one hand his battered leather satchel.
The sailor who stood on guard at the entrance, saw just then the lights of a steamer that was just entering the channel and he rushed into the cave, called to the Captain, and in a few minutes that worthy appeared. If he felt any alarm he showed none, but without any loss of time he assembled his crew, got his boat free of land and rowed silently out to sea. Whatever he had intended to do with Tom, evidently passed from his mind, now awakened to the solution of some other problem.
IN THE STRAIT
As Juarez and Tom were under the kindly escort of Captain Broom and his sailors in the whale boat on their cruise to the mysterious island, Jo, Jim and the Spaniard had stopped at an old sycamore tree, where, as had been promised, the Indian messenger was awaiting their coming.
"What news, Yaquis?" asked the Spaniard, who knew the Indian well.
"I saw the boat by my own eyes," he replied, "heading for the Big Island," pointing to the South. "By her smoke she stopped in the Bow Harbor near the lower end." So spoke the Indian, standing straight and tall. He was a picturesque sight with his coarse, black hair cut square and long.
"The trail is getting warm," exclaimed Jim eagerly. "Where can we get a boat?"
"There is a small boat at the Harbor of San Pedro," replied the Spaniard, "that is the property of a friend of mine. I doubt not we can have the use of it."
"It is now a little after six," said Jim. "How far is it to the Harbor?"
"A dozen miles," replied the Indian.
"Is your horse too tired, Senor Sebastian, to make it by eight?" The Spaniard's eyes flashed.
"Senor, Don Fernando is never tired. Let us start."
"We are ready," replied Jim. "Which is the shortest cut?"
"I will guide you," was the Indian's response.
"He knows this country like the foot does the shoe," assured the Spaniard.
Without more ado, the new guide took the lead and they rode at a rapid gait in single file. At first they went down a gentle grade for several miles until they came to a perfectly level plain that stretched in three directions to the sea. At the end of the land was a perfectly rounded rise like a huge long bolster.
The party of rescuers left the Puebla de los Angeles several miles to the East, taking the shortest way to the harbor. There was no let-up to the speed, if anything, they seemed to be going faster, with sweaty sides and shoulders, but with unaffected stamina. The going was fine, over a springy turf and sometimes they tore through wide belts of tall mustard.
Jo and Jim were in fine fettle as the end of the journey came in sight and there was promise of their coming to close quarters with the pirates and possibly rescuing their oppressed brothers from captivity. Then, too, the passage of the strait in an open boat appealed to their sense of adventure.
About eight o'clock, they came to a ranch two miles from the harbor, where Senor Sebastian had a short talk with a man who owned the small boat that had been referred to. He was perfectly willing to lend them the boat and also sent a Mexican servant to bring back their horses and put them up in his stables. Not forgetting to thank him for his great kindness to them, the boys turned their horses' heads for the harbor, the last lap of their long journey had begun.
In a half hour, they stood on the shore of a long, narrow inlet, at a point where a craft was moored. From a small boat-house, they got the oars, the mast and the sail to be used if the wind was right. Then they were ready to get aboard. Jim looked at his watch. "It lacks ten minutes of nine," he said.
Then they embarked. The boat was not a mere row-boat, but was found to be of good size and about equal to a whale boat. It was staunch, too, and sea worthy. The mooring was cast off. Jim was at the bow oar, and Jo at the one back of him on the other side, while the Indian, Yaquis, steered. The tide favored them as they glided quickly between the banks, and they were not long in reaching the channel.
At first, there was a slow, heavy swell, while in the lee of the land, that did not bother the boys but within a half hour they were in a choppy sea with breaking crests, and now the real work for Jo and Jim began. Fortunately, the Indian was a most skillful oar, and he kept them from being swamped. As yet there was no breeze to help them.
"This is almost as good as running the Rapids in the Grand Canyon," cried Jim joyously.
The boys were in fine fettle for their work, notwithstanding their long day in the saddle, and they buckled to it with a will, although wet through with flying spray. They had enjoyed a good rest the night before and after their long ride they were glad to get the kinks out of their muscles. They really made remarkably good headway against the sea and the stoical Indian grunted approval of their work. Ah, but it was fine, battling with the waves through the darkness, while the boat thrashed and beat its way ahead.
The boys stood to their oars and put all the strength of their lithe young bodies into the stroke and they seemed tireless. The Spaniard had made himself comfortable in the bow, where, sheltered by a short overhead deck, he was soon fast asleep.
"Wake me when it is time to be drowned," he said. "I know it is my fate." Jim remembered the Spaniard's melancholy of the day before, and laughed heartily, as he promised.
"There are the lights of a vessel," cried Yaquis, who, though silent, was ever on the watch. "Ahead of us to the Southwest."
"You are right," said Jim. The lights were like two faint, moving stars, one aloft and the other below.
"That isn't the Pirate ship," declared Jo. "She wouldn't be showing any light." After a while, the lights of the vessel were suddenly eclipsed, but by the dull light of the moon, now risen, the vessel's bulk could still be made out.
"She has gone into the further straits," said Yaquis, "between the two islands."
A gentle breeze sprang up, but blowing directly toward them, it lent no aid. Before midnight, the westerly breeze had died absolutely down, and in a not very long time, the sea followed suit, leaving a long swell and the rowing became much easier. Nothing occurred to break the monotony for a while. There was the steady grinding of the oars in the row-locks and the lapping of the waves in the gloom, for the moon was now obscured by clouds. Then, of a sudden, the Indian called a halt.
"Do you hear footsteps?" inquired Jim, jocosely.
"A steamer coming, I hear her, no lights. Pull hard." In a minute, even the boys could hear the beat of her engines and saw the occasional flare from her stacks, then a dark form took shape through the night. They pulled lustily for they knew their danger and who it was. How quickly they would be run down, if discovered, and left to drown in the wide strait, when Captain Broom found out their identity. No wonder they pulled.
"Stop now, draw in your oars. Lie down," warned the Indian.
Not a hundred yards to the Eastward came The Sea Eagle and she was on an even line with the boat that lay a black patch on the dark water. If Captain Broom was not on the Bridge they would be safe.
"Boat ahoy," boomed out his voice.
"Indian fishermen," cried Yaquis. "Stop, take me ashore."
With a growl, the Captain sent his ship ahead, paying no attention to the "Indian fisherman" in distress. There was a gleam of white teeth as the Indian smiled at the hearty congratulations of the boys and their glee at his stratagem. Then the Spaniard and Yaquis took the oars while Jim steered and Jo slept.
When morning came, they were but a few miles from the Northern end of the longer Island and the fog was over the whole sky. The sea was glassy with a sullen glaze. Nowhere was there sign of any steamer or ship. The Sea Eagle had made good her escape.
"I wish we had a stiff breeze to help us along," said the Spaniard, who loved not manual labor, as did the boys.
"It will come, the strong breeze, soon," said the Indian.
"When we make the Island, what are we to do?" asked Jo.
"Who can tell, maybe Tom and Juarez have been taken along with the Skipper, instead of being marooned."
"That's so," replied Jo, and gloom settled down upon his spirits, heavier than the fog upon the sea.
"We will keep after them," said the never despondent Jim, "even if we have to chase them around the world."
The boat seemed to crawl so slowly along, and the boys began to fret in their eagerness to find out whether their comrades were on the island or not, but they were not yet close enough to make out any object upon its surface. Then from the West there came a breeze rippling the glassy water.
"Up with the sail," cried Jim. "Here's where we fly."
As the breeze strengthened to a wind, they went towards the island at a clipping gait. When they got within a half mile of the shore, they began to look eagerly for some sign of a living being and they were disappointed at first, but they drove their boat along as near the shore as they dared.
"Say, did you hear that?" cried Jim in excitement. "That was a rifle shot, or my name is Dennis."
"Three men on the shore," said the Indian, imperturbably.
"I see them," cried Jo, "on that beach yonder. I believe it is Tom and Juarez. Hurrah for the Frontier Boys."
"It is they," declared Jim as they drew closer, "but how Tom has grown. He looks over six feet."
"That isn't Tom," said Jo. "It's some one else. The short one is Tom." Then he saw Jim grin and realized that he had been kidded.
"If this wasn't my busy day," said Jo, "I'd give you a punching for being so smart."
Five minutes later, the boat had grounded on the pebbly beach and The Frontier Boys were again united. There was a great jubilee for a while with the Spaniard, the Indian, and the lanky shepherd on the outskirts of the family celebration, but in a short time they were all good friends, each according to his different nature; the Spaniard, suave and courteous, the Indian stolid, but with his share in the general good-will, and Jeems Howell, the shepherd, lankily humorous.
"We met our old friend Captain Broom in the channel, boys," said Jim, "steaming along like the Devil was after him."
"I'll give him reason to think so," growled Juarez sullenly, "if I ever get on his trail."
The Indian, Yaquis, grunted approval, for there seemed to be a bond of sympathy between him and Juarez, as the reader can well understand.
"How far is that cave, Tom, where the old codger left you?" inquired Jo.
"Just around the bend," said Tom. "Here's the rock where Juarez made his famous jump."
"How did you ever get up there?" asked Jo in wonder, looking up at the pinnacle of rock.
"You'd a done the same if those fellows had been chasing you," replied Juarez, "but if it hadn't been for Jeems here catching me when I jumped they would have got me after all."
"I was afeard you might have fallen on the Skipper and a hurt him. He's a kind of a tender plant you know." The Shepherd made this remark with a perfectly sober face, in no wise disturbed by the hilarity of the boys, over the idea of the tenderness of the Skipper.
"Here's the cave," said Juarez, and he led the way through an arched opening in the wall of the cliff. Picking up a lantern, he went ahead as guide.
"This is certainly a dry cave," said Jim.
"It ought to be," said Jeems Howell. "It don't rain on this Island more than twice a year, but I feel it in my bones that it is coming on to storm today."
"I hope you don't feel it in all your bones," remarked Jim, quizzically, "because it is liable to be a long drawn out storm if you do."
The lanky Shepherd gave himself over to spasms of silent mirth at Jim's queer humor.
"Here's where we found Tom," said Juarez. "Just discovered him a couple of hours before you discovered us."
When the Captain had made his sudden change of plans, Tom made himself as comfortable as he could for the night, intending to search for Juarez in the morning.
"Sometime I hope that this wretched Captain will be captured and imprisoned right here," said the Spaniard with a cold, vindictiveness.
"If he comes snooping around here again, that is what will happen to him," remarked Jim quietly. "I suppose, Tom, that he hid some of the loot he took from us in this cave somewhere. I bet this is his safe deposit vault, all right."
"He went back in there with his small satchel," said Tom, indicating the depths of the cave as yet unexplored.
"It will keep," said Jim, "but before I leave this island for Hawaii, I am going to search every corner of this cave and see if I cannot find our property."
"We discovered it in a cave and perhaps we will lose our treasure in a cave," said Juarez, who was something of a fatalist.
"Don't you believe that we won't find it," declared Jim stoutly, "but no work for me for a while. I'm going to take a good rest."
"So say we all of us," chanted the boys.
"Gentlemen," said Jeems Howell oracularly, "If it pleases you, and Christopher Columbus," with a wave of his hand toward Jim, "who discovered this savage group, we will now adjourn to my castle on the distant hillside."
"We are with you," declared those assembled in unison, and in a short time they were making their way up the slope towards the "castle" on the hillside, where they made themselves at home.
All the new arrivals at the island were soon fast asleep.
Later after several hours of rest, they occupied themselves according to their different ideas of comfort.
The Spaniard amused himself thrumming on a guitar, that belonged to one of the Mexican herders on the island. Tom got a book, and stretched out on a rug forgetful of all his recent troubles, while Jim and Juarez borrowed a couple of guns and went for an hour's hunting, in the woods which at that time covered the mountain ridges of the island.
That evening they were all gathered in the cabin before the blazing fire on the stone hearth, while outside raged the Easterly storm that Jeems Howell had predicted, with rush of wind and sweep of rain. But the slab cabin was storm proof and comfortable. It is a good place to leave the boys after their days of trial and bitter hardship. In our next book we will meet "The Frontier Boys in Hawaii, or The mystery of The Hollow Mountain." There, I feel confident they will cope with adventures as unusual and as remarkable as they have heretofore encountered. I am sure that the Reader will be anxious to accompany them on their journey. But we must permit the Frontier Boys to have the last word, in this volume.
"Do you think that Captain Broom, will return here, before we get away for Hawaii, Jim?" inquired brother Jo.
"I certainly do," replied Jim, "and we will be right here, to give him a warm and hearty Welcome, you can rest assured of that."
* * * * *
Obvious punctuation errors repaired.
Page 9, "hearn" changed to "heard" (I heard the mate)
Page 136, "wierdly" changed to "weirdly" (almost weirdly beautiful)
Page 148, "ever" changed to "over" (hanging over the)
Page 158, "besiide" changed to "beside" (got ready beside)
Page 170, text was both missing and repeated in the original. The original read:
on even terms until in the last hundred yards Cal- iente forged ahead by half a length.
"Hold on boys," yelled Jo in warning. "Don't on even terms until in the last hundred yards Cal- horses up. There was Jo sitting quietly on his horse.
The words between the + were removed to try to improve readability.
Page 172, "supose" changed to "suppose" (I suppose you do)
Page 213, "aint" changed to "ain't" (I ain't got)
Page 231, "scycamore" changed to "sycamore" (sycamore tree, when)
Page 232, "hestitation" changed to "hestitation" (without hesitation we)