Chapter XVIII. Out of a Clear Sky

It happened so quickly that the two girls had no time to jump back out of the way; they were caught in the deluge of water that shot out from the Punch Bowl on every side. When they got their eyes open again the luckless flying machine lay before them in the water, a mass of wreckage. Oh-Pshaw gave a little muffled shriek and sat down on a log, hiding her face in her hands. Sahwah shook her roughly by the shoulder.

"Oh-Pshaw! The man's under the machine, in the water!"

Oh-Pshaw shuddered and did not look up.

"Oh-Pshaw! Oh-Pshaw! He'll drown!"

Oh-Pshaw looked up, still shuddering, and gazed in fascinated horror at the thing in front of her. "Isn't he--dead?" she asked in a hoarse whisper.

"No, he isn't, he's struggling. Don't you see the water moving? I'm going out and help him," Sahwah exclaimed with sudden resolution.

She waded swiftly out into the water until it became too deep for her to stand and then swam out to the wrecked machine, in the clutches of which the unfortunate flyer was held fast. As she reached it, the man's head came up above the surface for a moment and then immediately disappeared again. Sahwah held on to the machine with one hand and with the other reached down and brought his head up out of the water again. His eyes were closed and he was quite limp. He had fainted. Try as she might she could not free him from the wreck of the machine entirely; he was securely pinioned. All she could do was hold his head out of the water.

"Run! Get help!" she called out sharply to Oh-Pshaw. "I can't get him out." Oh-Pshaw sprang up and hobbled off as fast as she could go.

Sahwah pulled herself up on top of the machine, which was partly above the surface of the water, and sat there in a tolerably secure position holding the unconscious man up. A red stream flowing from the side of his head began to spread in the water and lengthen out in the flowing cataract of the Punch Bowl. It gave Sahwah the shivers, that ever lengthening red stream; she averted her eyes and held on grimly, trying to calculate how long it would take Oh-Pshaw to bring help. Then a new danger arose. The wrecked machine began to tilt and settle and finally with a sickening lurch went down under Sahwah, dragging her and her unconscious burden into the depths of the Devil's Punch Bowl. When she came up and struck out for the bank she found she was still clutching the collar of the unconscious man, for by some lucky chance the tipping of the machine had released him. She brought him to shore and worked over him to expel the water from his lungs and soon was relieved to see that he was breathing again. She took off the great goggles that covered half his face and opened the coat that was so tightly buttoned around his neck, which it seemed must be choking him. There was something hauntingly familiar about the face; it came over Sahwah that she had seen it before, where, she could not remember. It was a young face; the aviator looked little more than a boy.

Although breathing, the man remained unconscious, and Sahwah thought about Sherry and his injury and wondered if this man's skull were fractured. She rolled the collar still farther back from his throat to give him more air. Then she noticed a slender gold chain around his neck, and pulling at it brought up a gold locket. It was a girl's locket, heart-shaped, with a monogram engraved on the outside. Impulsively Sahwah opened it. Then she uttered an exclamation of surprise and gazed in round-eyed wonder at the picture inside. It was her own picture! The little snapshot she had given Hinpoha to wear in her locket! Why, it was Hinpoha's locket! There were her initials, D.M.B., entwined in Old English letters on the outside. It was the locket Hinpoha had lost on the train coming to Nyoda's. How came it in the possession of this strange aviator? It was a puzzle Sahwah could not solve. She was still lost in wonder over it when she heard footsteps and looked around to see Oh-Pshaw appear between the trees, limping painfully and weeping.

"I couldn't make it," sobbed Oh-Pshaw. "My knee--I don't know what's the matter with it, I can't walk on it, it keeps doubling up under me. I fell down on it every other step and each time it hurt worse. I only got a little way and then I knew it would take me hours to get back to town, so I came back to tell you. H-how did you get the m-man loose and up on shore?"

Sahwah explained briefly.

"You run and get help, I'll stay here with him," said Oh-Pshaw, looking fearfully around her at the shadows which were lengthening in the gully. There were no lingering sunsets in the Devil's Punch Bowl; night fell swiftly as the dropping of a curtain when the sun got behind the great cliff on the western side. Little did Sahwah dream what an ordeal Oh-Pshaw was committing herself to when she bravely turned around and returned to the Devil's Punch Bowl when she realized that her slow progress was likely to endanger the life of the injured man. To sit beside the Devil's Punch Bowl in the dark, and listen to the terrible gurgling of the water through the basin! The blood curdled in her veins at the mere thought of it, and yet she choked back her terror with a stern hand and said no word as Sahwah rose from beside the unconscious man, called "All right!" over her shoulder and disappeared between the trees like an arrow shot from a bow.

Inside of five minutes after Sahwah left it was dark as midnight in the Punch Bowl, dark with an inky blackness that clutched at Oh-Pshaw as with hands while the hideous gurgling filled her ears and turned her blood to water. She was going to faint, she knew it; the strength went out of her limbs; icy drops gathered on her forehead. Then she remembered. She dared not faint. She must keep her hand pressed tightly over the wound in the man's head to keep the blood from flowing. Sahwah had said so. Sahwah said he would bleed to death if she did not. Sahwah had just started to do it, when she had come back and reported her failure to bring help. Now she had to do it. She pressed her hands tightly over the wound as Sahwah had showed her, and tried to close her ears to the gurgling. But the old terror had her by the throat, suffocating her, paralyzing her hands. They dropped uselessly at her sides; she crouched limp and panting and nerveless beside the helpless man. Then, for the first time in her life Oh-Pshaw began to fight the fear. She forced her clammy hands back over the wound, she cast desperately around for something to think about beside the murmuring horror at her feet. She began to sing, in a scarcely audible voice, and through chattering teeth:

  "L-lay m-me to sl-leep in sh-sheltering flame,
  O M-master of the Hidden F-fire!
  W-w-ash pure my heart, and c-cleanse f-for me
  M-my Soul's D-desire!"

Over and over she sang it, through chattering teeth, keeping in her mind the picture of a warm, glowing fire and herself sitting beside it, cozy and comfortable, and finally the picture became so real that she forgot about the gurgling water and gave herself up to pleasant fire dreams. Oh-Pshaw herself was master, not of the Hidden Fire, but of the Hidden Fear! She was still sitting beside her imaginary fire when footsteps startled her and in another minute the place was ablaze with searchlights and swarming over with people.