Chapter XXX. Finding the Long-Lost
 

"A village!" said Randolph Rover. "And not a soul in sight."

"There are several women and children," returned Tom, pointing to one of the huts. "I guess the men went away to fight us."

"Probably you are right, Tom. Let us investigate, but with caution."

As they advanced, the women and children set up a cry of alarm, which was quickly taken up in several of the other huts.

"Go away, white men; don't touch us!" cried one old woman.

"Have the white men come at last?" cried a voice in the purest English. "Thank God! Help me! Help!"

"It is my brother's voice!" gasped Randolph Rover. "Anderson! Anderson! We have come to save you!"

"Father!" came from the three Rover boys, and they rushed off in all haste toward the nut from which the welcome cry had proceeded.

Anderson Rover was found in the center of the hut, bound fast by a heavy iron chain to a post set deeply into the ground. His face was haggard and thin and his beard was all of a foot and a half long, while his hair fell thickly over his shoulders. He was dressed in the merest rags, and had evidently suffered much from starvation and from other cruel treatment.

"My sons!" he gasped, as the boys appeared. "Do I see aright, or is it only another of those wild dreams that have entered my brain lately?"

"Father; poor father!" burst out Dick, and hugged his parent around the neck.

"It's no dream, father; we are really here," put in Tom, as he caught one of the slender hands, while Sam caught the other.

"How thin you are!" said Sam. And then he added tenderly: "But we'll take good care of you, now we have found you."

"And Randolph!" murmured Anderson Rover, as the brother came up. "Oh, thank God! Thank God, for this!" and the tears began to flow down his cheeks. "How long I have waited! Many a time I thought to give up in despair!"

"We came as soon as we got that message you sent," answered Dick. "But that was long after you had sent it."

"And is the sailor, Converse, safe?"

"No; the sailor is dead."

"Too bad -- he was the one friend I had here."

"And King Susko has kept you a prisoner all this while?" asked Randolph Rover.

"Yes; and he has treated me shamefully in the bargain. He imagined I knew all of the secrets of this mountain, of a gold mine of great riches, and he would not let me go; but, instead, tried to wring the supposed secret from me by torture."

"We will settle accounts with him some day," muttered Dick. "It's a pity Tom didn't kill him."

The native women and children were looking in at the doorway curiously, not knowing what to say or do. Turning swiftly, Dick caught one by the arm.

"The key to the lock," he demanded, pointing to the lock on the iron chain which bound Anderson Rover. "Give it to me."

But the woman shook her head, and pointed off in the distance.

"King Susko has the key," explained Anderson Rover. "You will have to break the chain," And this was at last done, although not without great difficulty.

In the meantime the natives were ordered to prepare a meal for Anderson Rover and all of the others, and Cujo was called that he might question the Africans in their own language.

The meal was soon forthcoming, the Bumwo women fearing that they would be slaughtered if they did not comply with the demands of the whites. To make sure that the food had not been poisoned, Dick made several of the natives eat portions of each dish. This made Cujo grin. "Um know a good deal," he remarked.

"Cujo was goin' to tell Dick to do dat."

"I am glad the women and children are here," said Randolph Rover. "We can take them with us when we leave and warn King Susko that if he attacks us we will kill them. I think he will rather let us go than see all of the women and children slaughtered."

While they ate, Anderson Rover told his story, which is far too long to insert here. He had found a gold mine further up the country and also this mountain of gold, but had been unable to do anything since King Susko had made him and the sailor prisoners. During his captivity he had suffered untold cruelties, but all this was now forgotten in the joy of the reunion with his brother and his three sons.

It was decided that the party should leave the mountain without delay, and Cujo told the female natives to get ready to move. At this they set up a loud protest, but it availed them nothing, and they soon quieted down when assured that no harm would befall them if they behaved.