Chapter XXIX. The Village on the Mountain
 

"Tom is wounded!" shouted Sam. He ran to his brother, to find the blood flowing freely over Tom's shoulder. "Is it bad?" he asked.

"I -- I guess not," answered Tom with a gasp of pain. Then, as full of pluck as usual, Tom raised his pistol and fired, hitting one of the Bumwos in the breast and sending him to the rear, seriously wounded.

It was evident that Cujo had been mistaken and that there were far more of their enemies around the mountain than they had anticipated. From behind the Rover expedition a cry arose, telling that more of the natives were coming from that direction.

"We are being hemmed in," said Dick Chester nervously. "Perhaps we had better retreat."

"No, let us make a stand," came from Rand. "I think a concerted volley from our pistols and guns will check their movements."

"Dat's de talk!" cried Aleck. "Give it to 'em hot!"

It was decided to await the closer approach of the Bumwos, and each of the party improved the next minute in seeing to it that his weapon was ready for use.

Suddenly a blood-curdling yell arose on the sultry air, and the Bumwos were seen to be approaching from two directions, at right angles to each other.

"Now then, stand firm!" cried Dick Rover, and began to fire at one of the approaching forces.

The fight that followed was, however, short and full of consternation to the Africans. One of the parties was led by King Susko himself, and the chief had covered less than half the distance to where the Americans stood when a bullet from Tom Rover's pistol reached him, wounding him in the thigh and causing him to pitch headlong on the grass.

The fall of the leader made the Africans set up a howl of dismay, and instead of keeping up the fight they gathered around their leader. Then, as the Americans continued to fire, they picked King Susko up and ran off with him. A few spears were hurled at our friends, but the whole battle, to use Sam's way of summing up afterward, was a regular "two-for-a-cent affair." Soon the Bumwos were out of sight down the mountain side.

The first work of our friends after they had made certain that the Africans had really retreated, was to attend to Tom's wound and the bruise Randolph Rover had received from the stone. Fortunately neither man nor boy was seriously hurt, although Tom carries the mark of the spear's thrust to this day.

"But I don't care," said Tom. "I hit old King Susko, and that was worth a good deal, for it stopped the battle. If the fight had kept on there is no telling how many of us might have been killed."

While the party was deliberating about what to do next, Cujo reappeared.

"I go deep into de cabe when foah Bumwos come on me from behind," he explained.

"Da fight an' fight an' knock me down an' tie me wid vines, an' den run away. But I broke loose from de vines an' cum just as quick as could run. Werry big cabe dat, an' strange waterfall in de back."

"Let us explore the cave," said Dick. "Somebody can remain on guard outside."

Some demurred to this, but the Rover boys could, not be held back, and on they went, with Aleck with them. Soon Randolph Rover hobbled after them, leaving Cujo and the college students to remain on the watch.

The cave proved to be a large affair, running all of half a mile under the mountain. There were numerous holes in the roof, through which the sun shone down, making the use of torches unnecessary. To one side was a deep and swiftly flowing stream, coming from the waterfall Cujo had mentioned, and disappearing under the rocks near the entrance to the cavern.

"Gold, true enough!" shouted Dick, as he gazed on the walls of the cave. "Am I not right, Uncle Randolph?"

"You are, Dick; this is a regular cave of gold, and no mistake. No wonder King Susko wanted to keep us away!"

Soon the waterfall was gained. It was a fascinating scene to watch the sparkling sheet as it thundered downward a distance of fully a hundred feet. At the bottom was a pool where the water was lashed into a milky foam which went swirling round and round.

"Look! Look! The ghost!" suddenly cried Sam, and pointed into the falling water. "Oh, Uncle Randolph, did you ever see anything like it?" and he gave a shiver.

"There are no such things as ghosts, Sam," replied his uncle. "I see nothing."

"Stand here and look," answered Sam, and his uncle did as requested. Presently from out of the mist came the form of a man - the likeness of Randolph Rover himself!

"It is nothing but an optical illusion, Sam, such as are produced by some magicians on the theater stage. The sun comes down through yonder hole and reflects your image on the wet rock, which in turn reflects the form on the sheet of water."

"Gracious! And that must be the ghost the natives believe in," answered Sam. "I'm glad you explained it. I can tell you I was startled."

"Here is a path leading up past the waterfall," said Dick, who had been making an investigation. "Let us see what is beyond."

"Take care of where you go," warned Randolph Rover. "There may be some nasty pitfall there."

"I'll keep my eyes open," responded Dick.

He ascended the rocks, followed by Sam, while the others brought up in the rear. Up over the waterfall was another cave, long and narrow. There was now but little light from overhead, but far in the distance could be seen a long, narrow opening, as if the mountain top had been, by some convulsion of nature, split in half.

"We are coming into the outer world again!" cried Dick, and ran forward. "Well, I never!" he ejaculated.

For beyond the opening was a small plain, covered with short grass and surrounded on every side by jagged rocks which arose to the height of fifty or sixty feet. In the center of the plain were a number of native huts, of logs thatched with palm.