Chapter XV. Investigations
 

Harry was relieved when, a few minutes later, Bertie's head appeared above the edge, and directly afterwards he crawled over. "My arms have strengthened ever so much with our work. I could have done it before, but it would have been hard work."

"Well, so far so good, Bertie. There is no doubt that it is one of the best hiding-places in the world, and I am not a bit surprised that the Spaniards never found it. Now we will go back to the edge of the ravine and have a good look from that side."

As they went along he said, "Let us have a look at these bushes, Bertie. The soil is very thin about here, and I wonder that the trees grew."

"These are pines," Bertie said, "and in the mountains we often saw pines growing among rocks where there did not seem a handful of soil for them."

On examining they found several old stumps, and thrusting a ramrod down Harry found, to his surprise, that the soil was from three to four feet deep. He tried again a little farther off, and found that it was two feet; further still, it was only one.

"The tree must have stood in a hole in the rock," he said. "Try another one, Bertie." The same results were obtained. "That explains it, Bert. Evidently when they planted the trees to prevent this place from being seen from the hills, they cut away the rock in circles about twelve feet across and made cup-shaped holes, which they filled up with earth. When they planted the young trees I dare say at first they watered them. They could easily enough fetch water up from the stream. When the trees got fairly rooted they would be able to leave them alone, perhaps giving them a good watering once every two or three months. Whenever the rains came they would be able to give up watering altogether, for in these basins the earth would keep moist for a very long time. It would be a big job, but no doubt the king who built the place had all his tribe at work on it. It is probable that the Incas had established themselves at Cuzco for many years before they came down to this place, and the trees may not have been planted till their coming was first heard of. In that case there would be plenty of time to hide the place before they came down and searched the shore. We know that the Chimoos resisted them for a considerable time before they were finally conquered. Well, for whatever purpose this place was built it is one in which either the Chimoos or the Incas, if they ever found the place, would be likely to hide treasure, which is satisfactory. Now we will sit down here for a short time and watch both windows. You look at the two top lines, Bertie, and I will look at the two lower lines. I certainly do not see any signs of life. That is how the water gets out," and he pointed to a roughly-shaped arch about twelve feet wide and as many high. Through this the little stream disappeared. "I expect there is a similar passage at the other end."

"There may have been," Bertie said. "I was hanging so close to the wall that there may very well have been one without my being able to see it. But it looks pitch-dark in there. If there were much of an opening we ought to see the light, for, as we agreed, it can't be more than a hundred feet long."

[Illustration: HARRY DROPPED THE BARREL OF HIS RIFLE INTO THE PALM OF HIS LEFT HAND.]

"That is the first place we will investigate, Bertie. The question of how we are to get into the house wants some thinking over. That lowest window is a good twenty-five feet above the ground."

"Of course if we had a grapnel we could fasten it to the end of a rope and chuck it in."

"We shall have to make something of that sort. If the window had been on the other side instead of this it would have been easy enough, because I could have lowered you and slipped down the rope afterwards, but that arch sticking out so far on this side makes it impossible. All that we can do now is, as far as I can see, to lower ourselves down on to the top of that wall in the ravine, then go and examine the tunnel. We have got plenty of rope to lower ourselves from here on to the wall."

They watched the building for another twenty minutes. "I am convinced that no one is there," Harry said. "I have not seen as much as a shadow pass any of the windows since. If people did live in it they would naturally be on this side of the house, because the rooms here are better lighted and more cheerful, and no doubt they are the principal rooms, as the house narrows so much at the other end."

"Well, let us try it," Bertie said. "If there is a strong force here we should only have to make a bolt back to that narrow staircase. We could hold that against a whole tribe."

They rose and walked along the edge of the ravine till they were above the wall, then, fastening the rope to a stump, they slid down on to it.

"So far so good," Harry said, as, holding their rifles in their hands, they went down the steps. Then he suddenly stopped. "Hullo," he exclaimed, "here are two skeletons!"

They were not quite skeletons, for the bones were covered by a parchment- like skin, and there were still remains of the short skirt each had worn in life. A spear lay beside each. With difficulty the brothers passed down without treading upon them.

"They must have been here a long time, Harry," Bertie said when they got to the bottom.

"Any time," the other said. "In the dry air of these low lands there is scarce any decay. You remember those mummies we saw. I believe iron or steel will lie here for years without rusting. They may have been here for a couple of hundred years or more."

"I wonder what killed them, Harry?"

"I have no idea. You see, one was lying almost on the other with his arms round his body, as if he had died trying to lift him up. If they had been shot by arrows they would still be sticking into them; if they had been killed by people pursuing them they would probably be lying upon their backs, for they would naturally have faced round at the last moment to resist their pursuers, whereas there are no signs of injury. This settles the point that there is no one in the house. Had it been inhabited, the bodies would have been removed from the path, for it is by this that people would go out and return. There may have been a ladder down from the wall; the only other way they could have got out would have been through that passage to the sea. A boat may have been kept there; but even if that had been so, we should scarcely have found those bodies on the steps. Well, we shall have plenty of time to talk over that."

They walked across the open space until they approached the building. For a height of twenty feet it was constructed of stone, above that it appeared to be made of the great adobe bricks which had been so largely used at Pachacamac, and in others of the old ruins they had seen.

"There is no question that it must have been built by the Chimoos or some race before them," Harry said; "the Incas could have had no possible reason for erecting such a place. Well, now for the tunnel."

The little stream only occupied two feet of the passage. They were therefore enabled to walk down dry-foot.

"We ought to have brought a torch with us," Bertie said.

"I don't think we shall want that; there is a sort of thin blue light, the reflection of the light upon the water outside, though I don't know why it should be so blue."

The reason was soon manifest. The passage sloped downwards, and when they had gone some fifty feet their progress was arrested by water which appeared of a deep-blue colour.

"That is it," Harry said. "You see the roof comes down into the water twenty feet off, and the light has come up under it. They sloped this passage to make the water flow out below the surface of the sea, so that the opening could not be seen from without. By the light I should not say that the opening is more than six inches under the water. I don't know how the tides are, but if it is high tide now, the top of the opening would be eighteen inches out of water at low tide, for, as you know, the tide only rises about two feet on this coast. In that case a boat would be able to come in and out at low tide, but of course a man wanting to come in or go out could easily dive under at any time. Well, that settles that point for the present. It was a clever plan; any amount of water could flow out in flood time, and yet no one who took the trouble to come behind that ledge of rocks we saw would have any idea that there was an opening. I think now that we had better go back, Bertie; in the first place because we can do nothing until we have manufactured a grapnel of some sort, and in the next place because every moment we delay will add to the anxiety of our friends in camp. We must have been away three hours, I should say."

They ascended the steps, fastened the short rope round a block at the top of the wall across the ravine, and lowered themselves down. They had to proceed with great care while making their way down the slope composed of rough and jagged rocks, Once at the bottom of the ravine, however, they walked briskly on. They had scarcely issued from the entrance when they saw a stir in the camp in the distance and heard a shout of delight, and then Dias dashed off to meet them at the top of his speed.

"Thanks to all the saints, senor, that you are safe! You do not know how we have suffered. We have prayed ever since you started, all of us. Once or twice I threw myself down in despair, but Maria chided me for having so little faith in God to keep you from evil, and cheered me by saying that had harm come to you we should assuredly have heard the sound of your guns. Have you been in the castle?"

"No, Dias, we have not been in--for the good reason that we could not get in, because the only entrance is fully twenty-five feet from the ground. We cannot enter until we have made some contrivance by which a rope can be fixed there, or manufactured a ladder, which would be the best way and save a lot of trouble, if we could get a couple of poles long enough. We thought that we would come back when we had seen all there was to be seen outside the place."

The Indian's face fell. "Then you do not know what is in the house, senor?"

"No; but we are certain that there is no one there, and that probably no one has been there for the past two hundred years, and perhaps a good deal longer."

"And the demons have not interfered with you?"

"The demons knew better," Bertie laughed.

"They may not be powerful in the daytime," Dias said in an awed tone. "It is at night that they would be terrible."

"Well, Dias," Bertie said, "everyone knows that the demons cannot withstand the sign of the cross. All you have to do is to make a small cross, hold it up in front of you and say, 'Vade retro, Satanas!' and they will fly howling away."

"Seriously," Harry said, "you know it is all bosh about demons, Dias."

"But the church exorcises evil spirits. I have seen a priest go with candles and incense to a haunted house, and drive out the evil spirits there."

"That is to say, Dias, no spirits were ever seen there afterwards, and we may be very certain that no spirits were ever seen there before, though cowardly people might have fancied they saw them. However, to-morrow we shall get inside, and Bertie and I will stop there all night, and if we neither see nor hear anything of them you may be quite sure that there are none there."

"But the traditions say they have strangled many and torn them, senor; their bodies have been found in the daytime and carried off."

"It is quite possible that they were strangled and torn there, but you may be sure that it was the work not of demons, but of the men who were set to guard the place from intruders. Well, those men have gone. We found two skeletons, which must have been there at least a hundred years, perhaps a great deal more. They were lying on the stairs, the only way of getting into the place, and they would have been removed long ago if anyone had been passing in or out."

By this time they had arrived at the camp. "I knew you would come back all safe, senors," Donna Maria said triumphantly; "I told Dias so over and over again. But what have you seen?"

"I see something now--or rather I don't see something now that I should like to see," Bertie laughed. "I thought you would have got a good dinner ready for me, but I do not see any signs of its being even begun."

The woman laughed. "I have been too busy praying, senor, and have been keeping up Dias's spirits. I never knew him faint-hearted before, and it really almost frightened me; but I will set about getting dinner at once."

"No, no," Harry said; "we are really not hungry. We had a good meal before we started. So do you three sit down and I will tell you all we have seen."

The three natives listened with intense interest. When he had done, Maria clapped her hands. "It must be a wonderful place," she said. "I wish I had gone with you, I will go to-morrow if you will take me."

"Certainly we will take you, Maria; and I have no doubt that Dias will go too."

"I will go as far as the place," said Dias, "but I will not promise to go in."

"I won't press you, Dias. When we have slept there a night I have no doubt you will become convinced that it is quite safe. And now about the ladder. We shall really want two to be comfortable--one for getting up to the window, that must be made of wood; the other, which will be used for getting up and down the wall in the ravine, may be made of ropes. But I think that that had best be hung from the top of the ravine above it, so as to avoid having to climb over those rough stones at the foot, which are really very awkward. One might very well twist one's ankle among them."

"I will go at once, senor, and get the poles," Dias said. "You may as well come with me, Jose. We passed a wood in the valley about five miles off; there we can cut down a couple of young trees. If we put the saddles on two of the riding mules, when we have got the poles clear we can fasten the ends to ropes and trail them behind us."

"We shall also want some of the branches you cut off, Dias. You had better say thirty lengths of about two feet long, so that we may place the rungs nine inches apart. You had better get poles thirty feet long, for we may not have just the height by a couple of feet."

The two natives at once rode off, and the brothers set to work to collect sticks for the fire.

"It is too bad, senors, that this should not have been done while you were away, but we thought of nothing but your danger."

"You were perfectly right, Maria; if we were in peril, you did the best thing of all to obtain help for us. As to the dinner, there is no hurry whatever for it. What have you got to eat?"

"There is nothing, senor, but a few of the fish we fried two days ago, and the ham that we smoked of that bear."

"I will take the line, then, and go down and try to catch some fresh fish," Bertie said. "There is a good-sized pool about half-way between here and the ravine. I might get some fish there."

"I will take my gun, Bertie, and go up to the bushes by the ravine, and see if I can get a bird or two. There is no other shelter anywhere about here."

In half an hour the lad brought a dozen fish into the camp. None of them were above half a pound, but they were nearly of a size.

"These will be very nice," the woman said with a smile as he handed them to her. "I have thrown away the others. I do not think we dried them enough; they were certainly going bad. I have heard your brother fire several times, and as he does not often miss, I have no doubt he will bring us something."

Twenty minutes later Harry was seen coming along. When he arrived he threw down a large bunch of wild pigeons.

"There are ten brace," he said. "That will give us four apiece. I found nothing in the bushes, but I suddenly remembered that when we went across from the ravine to the house, lots of wild pigeons rose from the sides of the rocks. We did not give them a thought at the time, our attention being fixed upon the building. But when I got nothing above, I suddenly remembered them, and concluded that they had their nests in the crannies of the rocks. So I walked along to the top, and as I did so numbers of them flew up. I shot a couple; most of the others soon settled again, but some kept flying round and round, and in ten minutes I got as many as I wanted. Then of course I had to go down into the ravine by the rope and the steps to gather them up. I returned the way we did, by the rope we had left hanging from the top of the wall."

Maria was already at work on the birds. Taking them by the legs, she dipped them for a minute into a pot of boiling water, and as she took them out Bertie pulled off the feathers. Then she cut off the heads and feet, cleaned them, and spitted them on Jose's ramrod, and, raking out a line of embers from the fire, laid the ends of the ramrod on two forked twigs while she attended to the fish.

"But they will be done before the others arrive," Bertie said.

"No, senor; there they come! They will be here in a quarter of an hour. The cakes are ready and hot, so we will lay the pigeons on them, and they will be nicely flavoured by the time that we have eaten the fish and are ready for them."

Dias and Jose soon arrived at a gallop, with the long poles trailing behind them and a fagot of short sticks fastened to each saddle.

"Those are capital poles, Dias," Harry said as he examined them--"strong enough for anything. We will chop notches in them for the rungs to lie in. There will be no fear then of their shifting, which they might do if the lashings stretched. Now, we have got a capital dinner just done to a turn, so you see we have not been lazy while you were away.

"You see," he said, after they had finished breakfast, "my shooting has quite settled the point that no Indians are in the castle. If there had been they would certainly have come to the windows to see who was firing. I kept an eye on the castle between each shot, and saw no signs of any movement. It is a capital thing that so many pigeons live among the rocks. If we content ourselves with say five brace a day, they will last us a long time, and will be a change from salt and dried meat, which we should otherwise have to depend upon, for we cannot be sending away for fresh meat two or three times a week. We can get fish, though I don't suppose that will last very long, for the pool will soon be fished out, and I don't think that there is water enough in other places for fish of that size."

"We can get them from the sea, Harry. We have got plenty of large hooks and lines, which we used on the other side of the mountains. If any of the window openings on that side are large enough, we can let down the lines from there. If not, we can do it from the top where I went down."

"I should not like that," Harry said. "One might slip on that short grass."

"Well, one could dive out through the passage and sit on that ledge of rocks, and fish either inside them or in the sea outside."

"Yes, we might do that, Bertie, and certainly it would be a first-rate thing if we could get plenty of fish. It would keep us in good health and make a nice change. I think to-morrow morning, Dias, we had better fix our camp close up to the mouth of the ravine. Out here in the open valley we can be seen from the hills, and if anyone caught sight of the animals, it would very soon get talked about, and we should have a party down here to see who we were and what we were about."

"Yes, senor, that would be much better. I should not have liked to go nearer this morning; but now that you have been there twice, and have returned safely, I am ready to move."

"It would certainly be better; besides, it would save us a couple of miles' walk each time we wanted a meal. However, when we once set to work I have no doubt we shall establish ourselves in the castle. Of course one of us will come down morning and evening to see to the animals."

As soon as the meal was finished they set to work to make the ladder. A short stick was cut as a guide to the space that was to be left between the rungs. Bertie and Jose marked off the distances on the two poles, and Dias and Harry with their axes cut the grooves in which the sticks were to lie. Then the poles were laid a foot apart, and the work of pressing the sticks into their places began. They agreed that the ropes should not be cut up, as they would be wanted for fastening on the loads whenever the mules went to fetch food or powder. Two of the head-ropes were used on each side, and a firm job was made.

"When you go, Dias, for the powder and so on, you must get another supply of rope. We shall want a longer ladder than this in the ravine, and also a rope to lift powder and firewood and so on into the castle, and perhaps for other things that one does not think of at present. Tomorrow we will unfasten the cord by which we descended to the wall, as we shall not want to use that in future. I think to-morrow, when we go to the castle, as you and Jose do not mean to accompany us, you might take your axes and cut down a lot of those stumps among the brushwood, split them up, and pitch them into the courtyard of the castle. It would be well to lay in a good stock of firewood. We shall want it for cooking and lighting of an evening. We have only one or two torches left, and we shall want a cheerful fire."

"I may go with you to-morrow, may I not?" Maria said.

"Certainly you may, if you wish."

"I should like to," she said. "In your company I sha'n't be a bit afraid of demons; and I want to see the place."

"That is right, Maria, and it shows at any rate that your curiosity is stronger than your superstition."

"If Maria goes I will go," Dias said. "I don't like it; but if she went and I didn't I should never hear the last of it."

"Very well," Harry said with a laugh, "I do think she would have the better of you in the future if you didn't. So you see you will be both conquering your superstitions--she, because her curiosity is greater; you, because you are more afraid of her tongue than you are of the demons."

"A woman never forgets, senor; if she once has something to throw up in a man's teeth it comes out whenever she is angry."

"I suppose so, Dias. Bertie and I have had no experience that way, but we will take your word for it."

The next morning they moved the mules and all their belongings to the extreme end of the valley. Then they had an early breakfast. Jose took up his axe and the others their arms; the former turned back for the point where he could climb the hill. Dias and Harry took the heavy end of the ladder, Bertie the light one, and they started up the ravine. Maria followed with a store of bread that she had baked the day before. It was hard work carrying the ladder up the rocks at the foot of the wall. When it was securely fastened there, they mounted and dragged it up to them.

When they came out into the open space there was a pause. "It is, as you said, a strange place, senor."

"It is, Dias, an extraordinary place; and if the people who built it wanted, as I suppose they did, to avoid observation, they could not have chosen a better. When those trees were growing it would have been impossible to catch eight of them without coming down the ravine."

"It looks very still," Dias said in a doubtful voice.

"That is generally the case when a place is empty, Dias, Now let us go on at once and get the ladder up."

As soon as the ladder was in position Harry mounted, closely followed by Bertie. Dias hesitated; but a merry laugh from his wife settled the point, and he followed with an expression of grave determination on his face. As soon as he was on the ladder his wife followed him with a light step.

As Harry reached the top, he found that the sill of the window was two feet and a half above the floor of the apartment. He stepped down and then looked round. The room occupied the whole width of the house, and was some twenty feet wide. Four rows of pillars ran across it, supporting the roof above. The ends of the room were in semi-darkness. It was not above ten feet in height. There were rude carvings on the pillars and the walls.

By the time he had made these observations the others had joined him. "I see people there," Dias said, in an awed voice, pointing to one end of the room. Harry dropped the barrel of his rifle into the palm of his left hand. After gazing two seconds he placed it on his shoulder, saying, "There are people, Dias, but they won't do us any harm;" and he walked in that direction. Two figures lay on the ground; four others were in a sitting position, close to each other, against the end wall. Some bows and arrows and spears lay near them. All were dressed in a garment of rough cloth. Harry walked up to one and touched it on the head with the muzzle of his gun. As he did so it crumbled away; the bones rattled on the stone floor as they fell. Donna Maria gave a little cry.

"They are dead!" she exclaimed. "They must have been dead years and years ago."

"Two or three hundred, I should think. Your legends are evidently true, Dias. There was a party left here to keep strangers from entering this place. Now, before we go farther, let us think this out. We will sit down on the ledge of the window. But before we do so, take a good look at their arms and skulls, Dias. You have often been with travellers to the ruins; let us hear what you say."

Dias, who was now assured that he had only to deal with human beings, examined them carefully, looking at the ornaments that still hung round their necks, and then said: "They are not the old people, senor; these were Incas."

"That is an important point; now let us see how this is to be explained. Now," he said, as they sat down, "it is clear that the Incas did know this building. They may have discovered treasures here or they may not; but it would certainly seem that they were as anxious as the Chimoos had been to keep its existence a secret, and it is certain that they must have had some interest in doing so. We have reason to believe that the Spaniards at least did not know of it. There is no doubt whatever that these men were not killed in fight; on the contrary, their sitting position proves that they died quietly, and probably at the same time. We see no signs of food; we may find some as we search the place. If we do not, we must take it that they either died from an outbreak of some epidemic or from hunger. And it is quite probable that the two skeletons on the steps were two of their companions who were going out to seek for food, and that they fell from weakness; one clearly died in the act of trying to lift the other. What do you think of that, Dias?"

"I think that what you say is likely. But why should they have died from hunger?"

"It is probable that others were in the secret, and were in the habit of bringing provisions to them, and perhaps of relieving them at certain periods. We know that there were fierce battles in the early times of the Spaniards. In one of these battles the whole of those who were acquainted with the secret may have fallen. Or it may have been earlier after the conquest had been completed, when the Spaniards drove tens of thousands of men to work as slaves in the mines. The people here may have remained at their post, hoping for relief until it was too late. Two of the strongest may have started at last, but have been too weak to climb the steps, and died there. Their comrades may have never known their fate, but have sat down to die here, as you see. I should think it probable that the second of my suggestions is likely to be the right one, and that this did not take place until perhaps a hundred years after the arrival of the Spaniards, otherwise those legends of men who came near this place being killed would never have been handed down. If all this is as I suggest, either the Incas knew that the Chimoos had buried treasure here, or they themselves buried some, although, as you say, there is no tradition of treasure having been taken here. But it is possible that that treasure ship, which undoubtedly sailed from some place along the coast and was never again heard of, really came here; that her treasure was landed, and the vessel then destroyed. In either case, there is strong reason for hope that there is treasure somewhere in this castle if we can but find it."

"We will find it," Bertie said confidently. "What you say must be true. These Indians would never have been fools enough to sit here and die without some good reason for it. Well, I vote that before we do anything else we clear these bones out."

"We can do that the first thing to-morrow morning, Bertie. We can't just throw them out of the window. The bones are of men who died doing their duty to their country. We will leave them as they are to-day, and to- morrow we will bring up one of the big leather bags, place the bones in it, and take them down into the valley and bury them."

"Then you won't sleep here to-night, Harry?"

"No; I have not a shadow of superstition, but I do not think it would be lively here with those things at the end of the room. Now, let us look about a bit.

"This was evidently the great hall of the place; do you not think so, Dias?"

"Yes, senor; the house gets narrower as it nears the sea. This is by far the best lighted room on this side. No doubt the rooms on this floor were the abode of the chief who built it, and his principal followers; the others would be above."

"Well, we will light the two torches. Yes, there is no doubt that this was the room. You see there are brackets against all the pillars for holding torches. Before we go farther we will see what they are made of."

He took his knife out of his pocket and went up to one of the brackets, which consisted of bars of metal an inch and a half square and eighteen inches long. They widened out at the end, and here was a round hole about two inches in diameter, evidently intended to put the torch in. The metal was black with age. He scraped a few inches off one of them with his knife. "Silver!" he exclaimed. "It would have been better if they had been gold. But as there are four on each pillar, and twelve pillars, they would make a tidy weight. That is a good beginning, Bertie. If they are the same in all the rooms there would be several tons of it."

There was but one door to the room; through this they passed. Dias, now that there was some explanation for what he considered the work of the demons, had a more assured air. One passage led straight on; two others ran parallel to the wall of the room they had left.

"We will examine these first," Harry said. "It is likely enough they lead to the stairs to the lower room. There must be two floors below us, one above the level of the top of the tunnel, the other below that must be divided in two by it."

As they advanced into the passage there was a strange and sudden clamour, a roaring sound mingled with sharp shrieks and strange little piping squeaks. Maria ran back with a shriek of alarm, and there was a strange rush overhead. The torches were both extinguished, and Harry and his brother discharged their rifles almost at the same moment. Dias burst into a shout of laughter as they both dropped their weapons and swung their double-barrelled guns forward. "What on earth is it, Dias?"

"It is bats and birds, senor. I have seen them come out of caves that way many times. I dare say the place is full of bats. The birds would only come into rooms where there is some light."

Turning round they saw quite a cloud of bats flying out through the door.

"Confound it!" Harry said. "They have given me the worst fright I ever had in my life."

They went back to the room, they had left. Both Hairy and Bertie had lost every tinge of colour from their faces.

"I am very glad, Harry," Bertie said, with an attempt at a laugh, "that you were frightened. I was scared almost out of my life."

Maria had thrown herself down on her face.

"Ah, senors," Dias said triumphantly, "you thought they were demons!"

"I did not think they were demons, Dias, but what they were I could not tell you. I never heard any such sound before. I am not ashamed to say that I did feel badly frightened. Now, see to your wife, Dias."

"There is nothing to be afraid of, Maria. What are you lying there for?"

The woman raised herself slightly. "Are you alive?" she said in a dazed way.

"Alive? of course I am! You don't suppose I am going to be frightened at a lot of bats? There, look at them, they are still streaming out."

"It is all right, Maria," Harry said. "You have had a fright; and so have Bertie and I, so you need not be ashamed of yourself. It is all very well for Dias to laugh, but he says he has seen such things before."

"If you were afraid, senor, I need not be ashamed that I was; I really did think it was the demons."

"There is no such thing, Maria; but it was as good an imitation of them as you are ever likely to see."

"I was in a horrible funk, Maria," Bertie said, "and I am only just getting over it; I feel I am quite as pale as you. What are you looking so pleased about, Dias?" he asked almost angrily.

"I am pleased, senor, now I have got even with Maria. The first time she says to me 'demons', I shall say to her 'bats'."

"Now, let us start again," Harry said as they all laughed. "But instead of going down, we will go upstairs. I have not pulled myself quite together yet, and I don't suppose you have."

"No, my knees are quite wobbling about, and if I saw anything, I certainly could not aim straight just at present. And it's rum; we had the main-mast struck by lightning off the Cape one voyage I made, and I did not feel a bit like this."

"I dare say not, Bertie. We all feel brave in dangers that we are accustomed to; it is what we don't know that frightens us. We will sit here on the window-sill for another five minutes before we move again. Jose, you have got some pulque in your gourd, I suppose?"

"Yes, senor."

"Then we will all take a drink of it. I don't like the stuff, but just at present I feel that it won't come amiss at all."

Some of the spirit was poured into a tin mug they had with them, and mixed with water, with which they had filled their water-bottles from the stream before starting.