Jack North's Treasure Hunt
Part 2 out of 3
its right side, carrying its rider with it and pinning him under its body.
The savage beast had not lost its hold, and as Jack lay there within its
deadly reach he saw for the first time that it was the most dreaded of the
wild beasts of South America, the jaguar.
He had barely taken a swift glance at the furious brute before a warning
growl above him broke the momentary silence and then a second form, the
mate of that beside him, plunged down from the top of the cliff, landing
beside the first, that uttered a fierce growl at the same time.
Jack's heart fairly stopped its beating, and finding himself unable to
move his right limb, he felt that it was all over with him.
The pony had apparently been killed by its fall, together with the attack
of the jaguar, as it did not move after it fell over on its side.
The ferocious beasts, with a succession of sharp growls and snarls, began
to feast upon the still warm carcass of the poor horse.
It was fortunate, and showed Jack's remarkable presence of mind as well,
that at that critical moment he remembered that old hunters had said if
one feigned death he might escape the attack of a wild beast under
ordinary circumstances, the story of Dr. Livingstone lying under the
lion's paw coming vividly into his mind. But his left leg lay on top of
the pony's body and close to where the two jaguars were exercising their
teeth and claws on the flesh.
That morning before starting from Resaca he had put on a pair of boots
with stout tops as a means of protection from the bushes and brambles he
might encounter on his long ride. But he could not hope these would
protect him long, if at all, from the attacks of the voracious brutes.
Words cannot describe his feelings as he lay there listening to the
ominous growls and crunching of the hungry animals, expecting every moment
to feel their sharp teeth in his own flesh.
Two or three times he felt one or the other of the jaguars push savagely
against his foot, which was lifted and carried forward upon the pony's
neck in their eagerness to get at the warm meat.
All of that horrible scene Jack heard and felt rather than saw, for he did
not dare to open his eyes--dare to draw a full breath.
After awhile he heard one of the pair move away a short distance, and he
could hear it licking its dripping chops after its feast.
Its mate continued its voracious attacks upon the carcass, the grinding of
its jaws and the crackling of the pony's bones making horrible sounds for
the helpless boy.
When this had continued for several minutes longer, the second jaguar
stopped eating and began to lick Jack's boots.
Nothing so far had equaled the horror of that sensation.
It seemed to Jack that he must go mad if it continued long!
After what seemed a long time to him in his intense agony, the dull,
rasping sound ceased; the jaguar had ended its licking, but, as if loath
to leave the spot, it allowed its head to fall forward on the half eaten
body, with its nostrils lying on Jack's foot. Its slow and regular
breathing finally told that it had fallen asleep after eating its dinner.
Jack a little later heard the cat-like steps of its mate leaving the
place, until the pitter-patter died away in the distance.
Then, for the first time, he dared to open his eyes, though he did not
venture to move his head or hand a particle.
He could see the sleeping jaguar's head and that was all that was in sight
of the creature, that still remained motionless but likely to start up at
his first movement.
As Jack's gaze followed his narrow orbit of vision he soon saw his
firearm, which had slipped from him in his ride over the precipice and
fallen near where he lay in that terrible situation.
He had no sooner seen the weapon than a wild desire to get possession of
it filled his mind. If he only had that in his hands he believed he could
shoot the jaguar before it could do him harm.
The longer he pondered upon this the stronger became the desire to make
the attempt. Failure could not be any worse than that awful suspense,
which in all probability must end in death.
Then, as he realized that the jaguar's mate might return at any moment, he
resolved to make the bold venture without more delay.
He was first careful to make himself sure that the brute was still asleep,
when he slowly and cautiously raised his hand enough to reach for the
carbine, which fortunately lay stock toward him.
Not a sound broke the deathlike stillness of the lonely scene, save the
labored breathing of the sleeping jaguar.
Never allowing his gaze to leave the creature, he continued to reach for
the firearm until he felt his hand touch the stock.
As complete control as he had maintained over himself so far in the trying
ordeal, at this critical moment he so far forgot himself as to draw a long
breath--a breath of relief to think that he had something with which to
That breath was instantly answered by a terrific growl!
It had awakened the light-sleeping beast, which quickly raised its head,
and its whole appearance immediately changed, as it glared furiously
It seemed to realize at once that it had been fooled by this human
creature within its clutch, and with another growl, louder, fiercer and
more startling than any yet, it prepared to spring on its new victim.
But it was no quicker of action than Jack, who knew that his life hung on
prompt work. At the same time he lifted the carbine from the ground, he
cocked the weapon. At that moment the open jaws of the aroused jaguar were
thrust into his face, and the hot breath of the wild creature fanned his
cheek. The next instant he ran the muzzle of the firearm into the maddened
brute's throat and pulled the trigger.
A dull report followed, the jaguar's head was blown into fragments, and
Jack knew that his life was saved.
Put to the Test
Though he had no more to fear from this jaguar, Jack knew that its mate
was likely to return at any moment, and as soon as he had recovered
somewhat from the effect of the ordeal through which he had passed, he
freed himself from the weight of the pony's body.
He was glad to find that his limb had not received any serious injury,
though it was so paralyzed from lying under the pressure that it was a few
minutes before he could stand alone.
But he lost no more time than he could avoid before he left the place,
feeling that his situation even then was not pleasant to contemplate. He
was not only afoot in the heart of a trackless wilderness, but many miles
from the nearest point of civilization.
Half an hour after leaving the scene of the jaguar's attack, he made a
discovery which caused him no little concern.
He had lost his compass.
Realizing the risk of returning to the fatal spot, as well as the
uncertainty of finding the lost instrument, he kept on without it,
endeavoring to pursue as direct a course as possible.
In this he was unsuccessful, and two days later he was wandering at random
through the intricate labyrinths of a Peruvian forest, nearly worn out and
Hoping that his shots might be heard by some one who would come to his
rescue, he had fired all but the last load of ammunition he had with him,
and that charge was in his carbine.
"I might as well discharge that," he said to himself. "It is my last
chance and I might as well take it now as later. It is useless for me to
try to find my way out of this wilderness."
In his desperation he cocked the weapon, and pointing it skyward pulled
Loud and long rang out the report on the deep silence of the forest, the
distant foothills taking up the sound and flinging it back to the valleys
in echoes that repeated the detonation far and wide. As the last sullen
sound died away in the distance he leaned against one of the trees, saying
"I might as well meet the worst here as anywhere."
Five, ten, fifteen minutes passed away, and satisfied that his last shot
had been fired in vain, Jack started to resume his aimless wanderings,
when the sound of footsteps fell upon his ears.
At first he thought it might be some wild beast prowling through the
woods, but it was not long before a human figure burst into sight.
There was little of beauty in the youthful stranger who had thus
unceremoniously appeared, but Jack had never been so glad to see any one
in his life.
At sight of his woebegone countenance the newcomer came to a sudden halt
in his impetuous advance, exclaiming in a voice with a peculiar and
characteristic nasal twang:
"Consarn ye! who air yeou scrouched down there in that way? Aair yeou the
feller who has been wasting ammunition so like a scart peon?"
The speaker's tone was not unfriendly, and Jack was nearly overjoyed to
find that the new-comer was not a Peruvian.
Springing from his seat on a fallen tree, where he had sunk in his
respair, he cried in genuine gladness:
"You're an American!"
"No more'n yeou air!" replied the other, brushing back his long blonde
hair from his forehead as he spoke, and looking straight into our hero's
countenance with a pair of deep blue eyes.
Then, when the two had stared upon each other for fully a minute, both
burst into a fit of laughter.
"Shoo neow!" exclaimed the Yankee boy, "who air yeou and what air yeou
"I might ask the same question of you," replied Jack. "My name is John
North and I come from Banton, Connecticut.
"Bet yeou air called Jack every time. My name is Plummer Plucky, but I'm
called Plum for short, though that is all they can make short about me. I
hail from New England too, and I'll bet my dad is hoeing taters in
sight of Plymouth Rock."
"I am lost in this wilderness," went on Jack. "I hope you can show me the
"Bet your boots on that. I live, leastways stop, not three hours' tramp
from here, though if yeou had come to-morrer yeou wouldn't found me here.
I have been working on the estancia of Don de Estuaray, the dirtiest,
meanest, miserliest, yellowest old Spaniard that ever drew the breath o'
this beautiful country."
"Evidently you love the Don," said Jack, with a smile.
"Do I? Do you know what he pays me fer work thet's enought to kill a man?"
"I haven't the slightest idea."
"No more you have. He pays me three dollars and sixty cents a month--think
of it--if you can!"
"That's a small fortune" went on Jack. He rather liked the fellow before
him. "I suppose you've got a pile saved up in the bank out of it."
"Think so? Consarn ye, yer ain't got no right to think so!" And now the
other really looked somewhat angry.
"No, I don't think so," answered Jack, promptly. "I was only fooling. They
don't pay big wages down here--I've found that out--down near the coast,
where I worked at starvation wages myself."
"Wall, I aint jest starved," said the other youth, somewhat mollified. "I
git feed enough--leas'-wise, I take what I want. But it ain't enough
money--no it ain't--nohow, consarn him anyway!"
Jack had too much at stake to desire a quarrel with his new-found
acquaintance, so he hastened to say:
"I hope you will forgive me if I have said anything to offend. I trust we
shall be friends."
Whatever of anger Plum had shown quickly left his honest countenance, and
frankly holding out a hand, he said:
"I never pick a quarrel with any one, but I won't let any one tread on my
toes. I reckon we shall be friends."
The clasp of the hands which followed cemented the firmest friendship of
Jack North's life, an acquaintance which, notwithstanding its inauspicious
beginning, was destined to ripen into a heart-felt intimacy.
The hand-shaking over, the twain, Plum leading the way, started in the
direction whence the latter had come at the sound of Jack's carbine. On
the way toward the estancia where the former had been working, our hero
learned the complete story of his past life; how he had left home to win a
fortune and drifted over the world until he was now employed by this Don
de Estuaray at the princely sum which had been the crumb of argument
between them a few minutes before.
Jack in turn told the other his story, except that part bearing upon the
island of treasure, and long before they had reached signs of civilization
they had become fast friends.
So favorably impressed was Jack with the appearance of his new-found chum
that he proposed that Plum should apply for the position of fireman on the
St. Resa railroad, a proposition which met the other boy's hearty approval
the moment he learned the wages he was likely to get His first question
"Do yeou s'pose they will have me?"
"Gladly. It isn't a question of that, but whether you have the sand to
stand up in a spot where you are likely to lose your life any minute."
"Reckon I can stand up where you can, and if I do lay down it will be to
stay there. Give me your hand, old feller. I like yeou."
They were now approaching the estancia of Don de Estuaray, who lived in a
pleasant valley several miles from any settlement, and as they advanced
Jack could not help noticing the tall growth of a patch of vegetation on
their right hand, as they were entering the spacious grounds.
To his wonder he saw cotton plants that reached far above his head and
sugar cane which stood like forest trees. Plum Plucky, standing on his
shoulders, with Fret Offut, had he been living then and there, on his
shoulders, could not have reached the top of the lowest plants!
He saw indigo plants that amazed him for their size, and altogether it was
such a sight as he had never seen.
A short distance away he saw a field of oats which reared their heads into
the air to a height of more than fifteen feet.
Plum Plucky seeing the look of surprise on his countenance, said:
"Can't guess what made that stuff grow so? I can tell you. I just brought
down some of that funny dirt found in the barren spots on the hills yonder
and put a good lot round the roots. It beats all creation how it sends the
stuff into the air. The don said I'd kill it all, but I knowed better, for
I had seen the wild stuff growing like fun all round the edges of sich
places. But it don't seem to hitch on in the spots themselves. S'pect it's
too stout there."
Jack at once recalled the accounts he had heard of the nitrate beds on the
Peruvian hills, though he did not dream then of the importance of this
discovery to him.
Our hero was anxious to get back to Resaca, knowing that his prolonged
absence might have already cost him his situation as engineer on the
railroad, and as Plum Plucky had fully decided to go with him, they lost
no further time in starting for that place.
They found the railroad officials in a fever of excitement.
Believing that Jack had left them and finding no one to take his place,
the bush-raiders having grown bolder in their depredations, in their
despair, the managers were offering double their previous pay for a man
who would dare to undertake the work of getting a train through from St.
Resa to de la Pama.
Jack felt unbounded delight upon finding that the pay had been raised to
over a hundred dollars a trip, and without any explanation he offered
himself for the situation a second time.
He was gladly accepted, with no questions asked while Plum was given the
position of fireman at a salary which caused him to look with amazement.
"Well!" he exclaimed, "it's too good to last."
"Wait till you meet the bush-raiders," said Jack.
"I reckon I can take any medicine that you can," was the answer, and the
boy engineer realized that he had filled Fret Offut's place with a
companion of altogether different make-up.
Somewhat to their surprise three trips were made without any molestation
from the outlaw band, when the young couple were put to a test few would
have the courage to meet.
A party of Peruvian soldiers had been sent out to protect, as far as
possible, the road, but upon this run Jack learned at a small station
before coming to the stream where the bridge had been repaired, that this
squad had been completely routed by the outlaws of the forest, and the
victorious raiders were lying in wait for the train.
In this dangerous prospect every passenger left the cars at this place,
but the order came for the train to go on if a suitable escort could be
In twenty minutes as many armed men were waiting a start, though, as Jack
looked over the motley party, he realized that not one of them would be
worth a fig in a fight with the bush-raiders. Worse than that, he felt
confident that the majority, if not all, were in league with the outlaws,
and when the proper time came would openly join with them in trying to
capture the train.
But the station agent, blind to this fact, priding himself upon having
done his duty, pompously ordered Jack to proceed on his way.
As if not to be outdone, the conductor who remained with one brakeman,
reiterated the command.
"It looks so we were in for it," said Jack, as he took his post at the
lever. "What do you say, Plum, have you the grit to try it?"
"I am with you, Jack, let come what may. See! I have got on a smashing
head of steam."
Without another word Jack pulled the bell-cord, and, throwing the valves
wide open, sent the train thundering out of the station along the gleaming
track into dangers which the bravest would not have cared to anticipate.
The little crowd at the station waved their hands and gave expression to
prolonged cries, as the train thundered away on its perilous run.
Soon beyond the hearing of these outcries the two youths, standing so
bravely at their posts, heard no sound save the deep rumbling of the
engine and cars, as they sped swiftly on their way through the wilderness.
Jack was the first to speak.
"Fix the fire so you can leave it for a short time if necessary, Plum."
"Leave it any time, Jack. I wasn't so green firing as they thought me.
Reckon my firing Joe Staples' old saw-mill didn't hurt me any for this
"Did you burn it down, Plum, or was it sav--"
"Scat! you know what I mean. But do yeou begin to see anything ahead?"
"I could hardly expect to so soon, for they will be pretty sure to keep
out of sight until we are into their trap."
"Do yeou think they will have a rock on the track?"
"Perhaps some obstruction. I can't just imagine how they will take us this
"Say, Jack, what do yeou think of 'em fellers on the train?"
The words seemed so much like an echo of his own thoughts that the boy
engineer started with surprise at the question.
"I'll bet yeou," continued Plum, "they'll make us more trouble than the
fellers in the bushes."
"Plum Plucky, you just speak my mind. I was thinking how we could best get
rid of them."
"Bully for yeou, Jack North! Tell me what to do and I'm with yeou tooth
"In one respect we are fortunate," said Jack, in a tone which showed that
he had been pondering carefully over the matter. "The car they are in is
to the extreme rear."
"You intend to take the freight through if possible?"
"At any cost."
"Well, then, what does their being in the rear car have to do with our
getting the rest through? Looks so they air fixed to help the raiders best
"Why simply--look yonder!" said Jack, pointing suddenly a little to their
right in the distance ahead.
Plum Plucky did as he was told.
"What is it, Jack, a big rock?"
"Rock? No! Look over those tree-tops; don't you see that thin column of
smoke rising high into the air and as straight as a church spire?"
"Gosh! yes. What of it? There can't be much wind."
"It is a signal of the bush-raiders."
"S'pose it is?"
The train was now winding through the valley of the Rio Tasma, and the
sullen roar of the mountain stream was beginning to be heard above the
thunder of the cars, which were rushing along at a rapid rate.
"I am sure of it," replied Jack, as he continued to watch the ascending
smoke, though without neglecting his survey ahead. "What else can it
"Do you think we have a brakeman we can count on in case of an attack?"
Plum hesitated a moment before replying.
"Not unless it is little Pedro."
"Just my mind. See! the smoke is dying out. Whatever message they had to
make has been made."
"What do you think it could be?"
"I will tell you what I think. Just before that column appeared we must
have been in sight of whoever was on that height, and they gave that as a
signal that we were coming."
"Jack you are nobody's fool; but couldn't they hear the sound of the
"Not above the roar of the river if they are on the other side."
"I didn't think of that. But what about little Pedro?"
"Only this: In case those chaps in the rear car show signs of being
against us we must get rid of them as soon as possible. Do you think you
can go back to Pedro?"
"Well, do so at once and return as soon as you can, for every moment is
precious now. Tell Pedro the moment he hears the bell ring to uncouple the
rear car. Mind you, only that. He must be there ready at all times until
we have passed through the woods. Get back as soon as you can."
"You can count on that," and with these words Plum began to climb over the
tender toward the line of cars behind.
The bridge of the Rio Tasma was now in plain sight, and Jack's whole
attention was fixed upon the new structure that spanned the rapid stream.
Everything seemed all right there, so he allowed the train to rush on at
There was a wild fascination about this perilous trip that Jack could not
shake off. Every moment he expected to run into some unknown danger, and
he would not have been surprised to find the bridge suddenly collapsing
beneath the train.
But nothing of the kind occurred, and the engine was speedily across the
He was approaching the place where he had so narrowly escaped death from
the falling bowlder, and he could not help glancing toward the top of the
cliff, as he was carried around the curve.
At that moment the report of a gun rang out sharply on the air, the sound
coming from the rear of the train.
Then an answering report came from the depths of the forest ahead!
"The men in the car are signaling to the raiders!" flashed through Jack's
mind, and, simultaneously with the thought, he gave the bell cord a quick
"If Plum has only got there," he thought, as he turned his gaze upon the
He knew that Plum nor Pedro could not uncouple the car as long as they
were climbing the upgrade, but immediately beyond the bend a descent was
made into the valley.
He was rapidly approaching the summit, when he made a discovery which sent
a thrill of horror through his frame.
Not a hundred yards ahead lay on the right hand rail a huge bowlder!
That the bush-raiders had put it there to wreck the train he had no doubt.
Just then the train gave a sharp lurch, and the reports of firearms pealed
above the din of the moving train.
Instantly the bell cord was pulled vigorously three or four times.
Plum Plucky was in trouble.
The Attack on the Train
The firing from the rear increased, but Jack had enough to attend to
without giving it a second thought.
Out from the depths of the forest overhanging the track ahead had sprung a
score or more of armed men.
Expecting the terrible collision they had planned, they had leaped upon
the track in front of the oncoming train, flourishing their weapons and
uttering wild yells of triumph.
It was a moment to Jack North which meant all to him. To stop the train
was to throw it into the hands of his enemies; to keep on was like rushing
into the very jaws of destruction. The commotion still raging at the rear
of the train, the exulting fiends in the pathway ahead, and not less the
silent but ominous bowlder on the gleaming track foretold the end, let him
act as he might.
With that unerring precision of gaze which never failed him, Jack saw that
the stone lay at such a place and in such a position that the engine would
not strike it squarely, but sidewise, as it swept around the curve. To
make it more favorable the obstruction, as has been said, lay on the
right, or outside rail.
Had it been on the opposite one all would have been changed to a terrible
There was no cowcatcher in front, similar to those seen on the engines in
this country, but there was a heavy iron fender in its stead, which
presented a square defense. This bar would strike the rock below
midweight, and in such an oblique manner that he believed the barrier
would be hurled from the track without derailing the engine.
Jack understood that he was taking a fearful risk, but with all these
favoring circumstances it could not be more disastrous than to stop and to
fall easy victims to the bush-raiders and their allies.
These thoughts flashed through his mind and he resolved to keep on at all
hazards. Thus he let on all the steam in reserve and stood grimly at his
The engine obeyed like a living creature. It gave a mighty plunge forward
and dashed upon the ponderous barrier disputing its advance.
The suspense was of brief duration, but Jack's thoughts flew fast and far.
He realized that if the engine failed to clear the track it would be all
over with him in a moment.
He was thinking of Jenny when the shock came with a force which fairly
lifted the heavy engine! A crash and another shock threw him face downward
on the floor of the cab.
He felt that the crisis had been passed and the train was still rushing
on. Furious yells--yells that made the wildwoods ring with their
intonations--filed his ears, and a volley of bullets whistled around his
He looked up and saw the trees rushing past him at a terrific speed.
A backward glance showed him some of the outlaws beside the track, while
others were scattered on both side of the rails, where the engine had
flung them in heaps.
At the bottom of the valley lay the big bowlder, which had been dislodged
and hurled into the depths.
The front of the engine showed the marks of its fearful blow, and he began
to realize more fully the awful risk he had taken.
The firing from the rear car had ceased, and wondering what had become of
Plum Plucky, he pulled the bell cord once.
A prompt response was given by two violent jerks on the rope, when he knew
that Plum was alive and on the train.
He did not have long to wait before he heard some one crawling over the
tender, and a moment later his fireman dropped beside him.
"Golly, Jack!" exclaimed Plum, "wasn't that a squeezer?"
"What have you done?" asked Jack.
"We've got 'em!" beginning to execute a dance on the footboard.
"What do you mean? Have you lost your senses?"
"I mean we've got the traitors as tight as a squirrel in a box-trap. Some
of 'em jumped off and were killed, but we've got the most of 'em, and
Pedro is holding 'em there fast."
The train had slowed so the two could talk as they continued on.
"I don't understand you, Plum," said Jack, ready to believe almost
anything after what he had passed through.
"Well, yeou see I just played a Yankee trick on 'em. Just as I had got
back to Pedro, and before I could tell him what to do, some of the men
come out of the car, and I see they were going to uncouple it just as you
had told me to! By that I knew some trick was up, and before they could
tell what had struck 'em I pushed the sinners back into the car and shut
the door. No sooner had I done that than I covered 'em with my gun and
asked Pedro to help me. In the midst of it there came that awful chuck,
when I thought for a minute we'd all gone together. But it was soon over,
and Perdo is standing guard over our prisoners. As I said some of 'em
jumped off, but I guess they won't jump ag'in. Do yeou s'pose the trouble
At first Jack could scarcely believe the other's story, but he saw that
his excited companion was in earnest.
"It was a fearful moment, Plum, and we should be thankful that we came out
alive. I think we have learned the raiders a lesson they won't forget. It
will be best to try and get your prisoners to Resaca."
It would not do to stop the train or even check its speed, as the
prisoners would be sure to take advantage of the situation. Thus Jack was
obliged to keep a sharp lookout and crowd the old engine on as fast as he
could with any degree of safety.
No further adventure befalling them, Jack and Plum at last had the
satisfaction of reaching Resaca. Never was there greater surprise in town
than when this train came into the station and the true situation became
Officers were called to take charge of the prisoners in the car, but as
nothing could be proved against them, except what Jack and Plum stated,
and as their evidence was immediately discredited, the whole party went
free, vowing vengeance against their captors.
Jack saw that, on account of their being foreigners, they had really lost
favor by the capture, and he was glad to get clear so easily. After this
they ran a week without interference, not a solitary bush-raider having
been seen. Evidently the survivors had learned a lesson not to be quickly
Of course our hero and Plum received a few praises for their success in
getting the train through as they had, but it was evident to both that
they could not get full credit for whatever they might do. In fact it was
difficult for them to get acknowledgment for doing an ordinary duty.
This was due to the fact that they were foreigners and looked upon with
suspicion, no matter what they did.
Jack was not therefore much surprised when one day, as he was stepping
upon his engine at St. Resa, to have a bright-buttoned official stop him
and motion for another man to take charge of the locomotive.
This new arrival was a Peruvian, and the boy engineer was not long in
learning that he was willing to work for twelve pistoles a month. Though
smarting under this unfair treatment, Jack offered no objections as he
stepped aside. The war with Chili was assuming more alarming proportions,
and he foresaw that troublesome times were near at hand.
Plum Plucky, upon finding that he was going to have a new master, jumped
down from the cab, exclaiming:
"You can't have my valuable services if you turn off Jack North!"
This was a turn in affairs the officials had not looked for, but the boys
did not stop to listen to their protestations.
Later they learned that the train did not make a run that day.
The Treasure Island
"Now," said Plum, as soon as he joined his friend, "I call that about the
meanest trick I ever see played on a feller. Of course I wasn't going to
stay to fire for that weazen-faced son of old Piz-arro."
"It seems too bad you should lose your job on my account, Plum.
Particularly when I am more than half glad to lose mine, while you have
made a real sacrifice."
"Oh, carrots! I ain't any worse off than I was before. But what are you
going to do, Jack?"
"I am going to speculating."
"What!" in amazement.
"Speculating, Plum. I have been thinking several days of a scheme in which
I believe there is more money than in running an engine for bush-raiders
to run down."
"I'll bet you're going to speculate in that dirt I put round the don's
"You got it right the first time, Plum. I--"
"Ginger! going to raise coffee? 'Cause of you air I can give you a
"No; you are on the wrong track now. But I have no objection to telling
you. Ever since I saw the result of your experiment I have been thinking
that the stuff would sell like hot cakes in our own country, in places
where the land is worn out and needs some such a stimulant. At any rate I
am going to send home a cargo and see what comes of it."
"Hooray! I see it all now. It may pay, but I doubt it. How air you going
to get the stuff there?"
"In the first place I have got to get possession of the article itself,
though I do not believe this will be a very expensive undertaking. I have
a few dollars I have saved up from my wages, and I think I can borrow some
somewhere. I am going to buy one of the nitrate tracts as soon as I can
"You can buy a big mine for a hundred dollars, 'cause they're looked on
with disfavor. But after you've bought one, what then?"
"I am going to team a cargo to the nearest port and then charter a ship to
take it home."
"You're smart enough to be a general, Jack North," and having paid him the
highest compliment that he could, according to his estimate, Plum added:
"Say, Jack, I want to drive the team for you."
"You shall. But, as I am anxious to begin operations, I am going to look
for my first purchase."
"Don de Estuaray is the man you want to see. There is a big bed on his
"It seems to me your experiment may have opened his eyes.
"He may catch onto my scheme quicker than some one who has seen nothing of
what this nitrate will do."
"Of course you're right and I'm a blockhead, as usual. But go ahead and
I'll tag at your heels like a dog."
Jack's first move was to get a couple of ponies for himself and Plum to
ride. Then the pair, with provisions enough to last several days, set out
on their quest.
Taking the direction of what he believed to be the heart of the nitrate
region, Jack in a couple of days found several beds which he felt would
prove rich fields of speculation.
His prime object was to find a bed which should not be too far removed
from the railroad, or at least where its product could be the easiest
It was during his search one day that he got separated from his companion,
in his desire to explore a wider stretch of country, when he quite
unexpectedly found himself in the vicinity of his adventure with the
The memory of that encounter brought back to his mind the lonely pimento
he had seen in the valley on the opposite side of the hilly range, and the
story of the hidden treasure filled his thoughts.
"If I could only find that now how it would help me to carry on my
Determined to look again on the spot, he climbed the ascent, until for a
second time he stood on the height.
Before he had reached this elevated position he had heard a deep rumbling
sound in the distance--a sound which seemed like the whirl and rush of
angry waters, as if he was approaching a high cataract.
Ere he had gained the extreme top of the elevation, however, this noise
suddenly died away, and the calmness of the primeval wilderness lay on the
scene as he paused on the summit to gaze into the valley.
Naturally his gaze had turned in that direction, and an exclamation of
astonishment left his lips, as he saw that the valley was gone!
The great basin was filled with water, the high hills and mountains
forming a mighty rim with a piece of the huge bowl broken away where the
gap existed in the elevated range on the north. But another feature of
this inland lake had greater interest for him.
Near its centre was a small, barren island, entirely destitute of growth
except for a solitary tree standing on its highest point.
The lonely monarch stood stark and stern in all its solitude, with one
branch lifted like a skeleton arm pointing toward the north.
"The pimento--the treasure island!" exclaimed Jack with suppressed
The longer he looked upon the little island and its surroundings the more
fully convinced he became that it was the spot described in the paper he
had found so singularly on Robinson Crusoe's island.
When he had recovered somewhat from his glad surprise he urged the pony
down the rough descent until the shore of the lake was reached.
"Oh, Don!" he said to the faithful pony, "you must take me to the island,"
never dreaming of the effort it would cost.
As he spoke a commotion began in the water at the north end, though that
in front of him was still as unruffled as ever. But the pony had barely
plunged into the tide before a deep, guttural sound came up from the
depths and long lines of foam appeared on the surface.
Nothing daunted by this, Jack continued to urge the animal ahead in spite
of its desire to turn back, until they were about midway between the bank
which they had left and the island.
The strange noise had increased so that now it completely filled Jack's
ears, while the water was in a fearful state of agitation. It had taken on
a peculiar greenish hue, with big flecks of white foam, and here and there
were fountains spouting up bright yellow liquid, which rose to the height
of from ten to twenty feet.
The youth felt a strong undercurrent, and, finding that he could not reach
the island, he tried to get back to the shore he had left.
By this time the pony was struggling helplessly in the mysterious power
sucking it downward.
Then, before Jack could clear his feet from the stirrups, so as to look
out for himself, he was drawn under the seething waters with his horse!
At the Boiling Lake
As Jack felt the swirling waters closing over him, he made greater effort
to keep on the surface.
His gallant pony was struggling furiously for the same purpose, but the
power pulling them down was irresistible.
A continual roaring filled his ears, and it seemed as if he was being
drawn into some infernal region.
In spite of all he could do he was carried downward, until suddenly he
felt a terrible shock, as if he had been hurled against some stony
surface, and the next he knew he was floating on the water near the north
end of the lake, which was then quite tranquil. He had no difficulty in
swimming to the nearest point of land.
Scrambling up the precipitous bank he was glad to sink upon the ground for
He was wondering if his pony had perished, when he was gladdened by the
sight of the animal on the opposite side of the lake.
Before going to the horse Jack resolved to try to swim out to the island,
and as the water had now assumed the calmness which had prevailed at the
time he had first seen it, he did not think of further trouble. He had
received some bruises from his recent experience, but beyond them he felt
little the worse for his adventure.
Removing his outer garments, so as to give greater freedom to his
movements, he stepped down to the edge of the dark flood, which was filled
with the fine particles of earth it had swallowed.
As calm as the water was then, he had barely touched it with one foot
before a shriek, which rang in his ears for a long time afterwards, rang
high and far, cut short in its midst by a fearful rush of the aroused
flood, and a column was suddenly thrown into the air to the height of a
It was such a terrific, appalling outburst that he hastily clambered back
upon the bank, to watch the strange sight. For fully two minutes the
waterspout quivered and vibrated in the air, when it collapsed as abruptly
as it had appeared.
The water of the lake continued to boil for five minutes, when it began to
subside, though bearing traces of agitation for five minutes longer,
during which Jack watched it with intense interest.
Still undaunted by this marvelous display, Jack resolved to try a third
time to reach the island, selecting a more favorable place for his descent
into the water this time.
As no outbreak had immediately followed his entrance into the lake this
time, he was beginning to think that the strange phenomenon was over. But
he was soon to be undeceived.
All at once, without warning, a dozen columns of water sprang upward,
threatening for a moment to drain the lake dry, and among these rushing,
writhing pillars Jack was borne into the air.
When the powers subsided he fell back with such a force as to render him
almost senseless. The lake was still churned and convulsed by the mighty
agency controlling it, and he had a hard fight to reach the shore, where
he lay completely exhausted.
Slowly recovering his strength he finally sat up and began to wring the
water out of his clothes, deciding to leave the place as soon as he felt
able. The water was calm then; though a short time before it had been
tossed and whipped into fury by the mysterious element controlling it.
"Were the whole Incas treasure buried on that island it would be safe from
the hand of the despoiler," he said, speaking aloud his thoughts. "But I
do not understand it. I am willing to wager that this is the same valley I
saw when I was this way before, though it was as dry as a palm leaf then.
How calm it is now, but I suppose if I should dare to enter its sacred
precinct it would begin again its fearful convulsions."
As he finished speaking, Jack picked up a small stone and tossed it into
the lake. No sooner had it disappeared beneath its dark surface than
another column of water shot upward with a sort of hissing that was
terrific, and in a moment the whole body was once more undergoing a series
of spasms frightful to behold.
Watching it until the outbreak was over, Jack lost no further time in
seeking the pony. Then he began to climb the hillside leading from the
Upon the crest he paused for a last look, saying:
"It is calm enough now. Sometime I will come again, for I will know its
secret if I die for it. There is and must be a natural explanation for all
Finding Plum Plucky waiting anxiously for him at the expected place of
meeting, Jack led the way toward civilization, having come to the
conclusion to close the trade on one of the nitrate beds he had seen and
begin operations as soon as possible.
He said nothing to his companion of his experience in the valley of
mystery, partly because the stirring scenes immediately following caused
him to put it in the background of his memory for a while.
He was the more anxious to get his first cargo of nitrate off as the war
cloud was deepening fast, and not only was Peru and Chili at a state of
bitter antagonism, but Bolivia was threatening to mix in the trouble. A
three-cornered war, with Southern Peru for its battleground, was anything
but what he desired to see.
The next day he bought his first nitrate bed, paying for it forty
pistoles, which was considerably more than he had expected, but it was
large, and if his plans only worked he believed there was a small fortune
He then hired oxen enough to make two six-ox teams, with suitable wagons
to draw the nitrate on, and he engaged the services of half a dozen
Peruvians to help in the work of getting out the first loads.
As the bed lay remote from the few beaten paths of the thinly populated
country, it would involve considerable hard work and time to get passable
roads cut through, so as to be able to draw loads of any size.
"By gosh!" drawled Plum Plucky, as they set out on their work, "I'm going
to stand by yeou; but yeou may hang my hat on a scare-crow if I don't
think yeou'll blow yerself dry."
"By that I suppose you mean that I shall lose all I am putting into my
venture," said Jack, good-naturedly.
"That's just what I mean. I'll bet yeou have got about every dollar yeou
have into it now."
"I have figured up that I shall have about twenty pounds left when I have
paid off my help."
"Say, Jack! I'd like to be there when you get in with yer first load of
dirt and see 'em laugh. Don't s'pose yeou have any dirt in the teown yeou
"Not dirt that is pure nitrate of soda, and possessing the highest
qualities for fertilization of any known compound. Hello! what is up now?"
In the Nitrate Fields
The last exclamation was called from Jack by the fact that the teams had
suddenly stopped, and the native drivers were shouting excitedly over
something which had happened.
They were at the time trying to make a roadway to the nitrate bed through
a trackless wilderness, and had thus far progressed with greater ease than
the young speculator had calculated.
But upon reaching the spot where the teamsters and workmen were holding an
excited controversy, Jack found that the cause of the excitement was the
fact that the way had been stopped by a sharp, rocky ridge, which extended
for miles in both directions.
"We can't go any further, senor," declared the head driver. "No team can
find its way through these rocks and up and down the hill."
Jack had seen this place when making his survey and had calculated upon
the difficulty in passing it, having the route most feasible at this
"Let two men come forward with axes to clear away the stunted growth, and
the rest get their levers. I will show you by to-morrow it can be passed."
Lively work followed, the men taking hold with a vim, so that by noon the
next day a path had been cleared, so the teams could cross the rocky
The balance of the distance to the mine was very favorable and at last
Jack had the satisfaction of finding himself at his destination, when the
men were set to work loading the carts, the oxen getting a chance to rest
while it was being done.
While superintending the work Jack had time to realize more fully than
before the gigantic undertaking he had upon hand. It is true the worst
seemed over, now that the path was cleared, but he knew with the rude
implements he had to work with that this had been poorly done, and that
the loaded teams would have difficult work to reach the open country. Even
then he would be many miles from the nearest seaport, where he was likely
to meet with another obstacle in finding a ship to transport his cargo to
the United States. Then, after he had reached home, how would he be
treated? A failure to sell his nitrate meant the loss of every penny of
money he had worked so hard to earn. But these anxious thoughts did not
rob him of his confidence in his ultimate success. Now he had put his
shoulder to the wheel, he was not one to look back.
When the hour came for him to give the order to hitch up the cattle and
prepare for the return journey, he gave his orders in a cheery tone.
"I tell you, Jack," said Plum, speaking with less drawl than common, "I'm
mighty glad to do this. I don't see how you can be so chipper, for I'm
dead sure we're going to have loads of trouble before we get out of this."
"No great thing was ever done without having more or less trouble at the
outset," replied Jack. "As soon as we get started we shall find it easier.
Hi, there, Pedro!" addressing one of the Peruvian drivers, "you have those
oxen yoked wrong. You ought to know better by this time."
"Who knows best, senor, you or I?" demanded the Peruvian, showing anger at
what he deemed an unwarranted interference.
Jack said nothing further, feeling that he had spoken too sharply perhaps,
though he knew he was in the right. He had found the natives anything but
pleasant men to deal with, and the quarrel of one was sure to be taken up
by his companions.
Five minutes later the foremost team was leaving the nitrate bed, starting
on its long journey at the slow pace of oxen, while the other soon
Vague reports had reached Jack before he had left on his trip, of the
uprising of the people, and of the guerrilla warfare being carried on by
the straggling armies of the North and South. Still he did not think he
would be molested, and he felt in good spirits, as they followed the rough
To be on his guard as much as possible, however, he had thought best to
keep a short distance ahead of the teams, while Plum Plucky followed about
the same distance behind, the two thus maintaining a continual watch over
Nothing occurred to delay their progress, until Jack found himself
climbing the steep upgrade, which the Peruvians had declared impassable
before they had done so much work in clearing it. The course was uneven
now, and considerable of the way it was little more than a scratch on the
mountain side, with a sheer descent on one side of hundreds of feet.
He had got about half way toward the top when the loud cries of the
teamsters caused him to look back.
A glance showed him that the foremost team was "hung up" at a particularly
The drivers were belaboring the patient oxen unmercifully, but not another
inch could they make the animals pull the load.
Shouting to the men to stop their useless goading of the oxen, our hero
ran back to the spot, finding that the second team had stopped a short
distance below, where it was comfortably waiting for the other to move
ahead so it could resume its tedious journey.
As there was no chance to get the oxen on the lower team past the upper
one, so as to be hitched on to help, on account of the narrowness of the
road, Jack quickly dismissed such an idea from his thoughts.
Not wishing to throw off a part of the load, which must be lost by so
doing, he stepped alongside the cattle and began to stroke them and to
speak gently to them.
"Both teams couldn't pull the load up this path, senor," said one of the
"I am sorry I did not think to double up at the foot of the ascent, but it
is too late to complain now. Come, boys! all together."
Jack had taken the long, slender pole, with its ten feet of lash, with
which the drivers urged on their patient teams, and swinging the unwieldly
instrument over their heads as he uttered the words, he hoped to make them
The result was most unexpected.
Putting their shoulders to the work with renewed life, the obedient oxen
fairly touched the ground with their bodies as they tugged ahead with
The cart creaked and the axles groaned, while the heavy wheels began to
"Hooray! it is mov--"
Plum Plucky gave expression to the exultant cry, but he did not have time
to finish before a loud snap was heard, and the oxen were seen to suddenly
plunge up the grade, leaving the cart!
"The pull pin has broken!" cried one of the Peruvians, terrified.
"The clevis has broke--look out!" yelled Plum, turning pale. "The other
team will be smashed!"
The heavily loaded wagon, freed suddenly from the power which had pulled
it to this precarious position, stood for a moment as if balanced on the
Of course Jack had seen what was taking place with a quicker eye than any
of his companions, and as he saw the wagon trembling in the balance for a
moment before it started on its downward course to destruction, and
realizing that a timely action could yet save it, he rushed forward to
seize hold of one of the wheels, shouting to his assistants:
"Quick--put your shoulder to the wheel and we may save it!"
Plum did spring forward to help his friend, but even he was too late to be
of any avail, while the Peruvians stood idle, without offering to move.
While the united strength of all might have stopped the wagon, Jack's
resistance was futile, and in a moment the loaded vehicle started on its
downward course, soon gaining a momentum that nothing could stop.
Faster and faster it moved, the wheels creaking and groaning unanimously,
as it gained in speed.
The drivers of the other team in the pathway below uttered wild cries of
terror, as they saw their danger, and began to scramble helter-skelter up
the mountain side.
The runaway was going directly upon them, but they were likely to escape.
Not so with the oxen and wagon, which seemed surely doomed.
Jack saw at a glance his whole work going to naught in a moment's time.
Then his presence of mind returned to him and he thought he saw a way to
avert a part of the loss.
Bounding down the pathway after the runaway, he soon managed to catch hold
of the tongue, which was dodging swiftly from one side to the other of the
path, according as it was swung to and fro by the motion of the forward
Grasping this forearm with all the strength he possessed, Jack swung it
toward the near side, until locking the forward wheel on that side against
the sill of the cart.
He had seen that the only chance to save the rear wagon was at the
sacrifice of the other, and no sooner had he begun to hold the pole in
that position that the wagon began to turn toward the gulf yawning on that
side of the track.
It was a fearful alternative, but the best he could do, and Jack breathed
a sigh of relief as he found the hind wheels going over the brink of the
For a moment the big load stood quivering on the edge of the precipice,
and then, with a crash which sounded far up and down the rugged valley,
the wagon went headlong to its doom.
An Alarm of Fire
Breathless and exhausted by his almost superhuman effort, Jack sank down
upon the hard rocks, where he had stood at the fateful moment.
Plum Plucky, further up the broken pathway, stood in silent awe, while the
Peruvians looked on from their perches on the mountain side with bulging
eyes and chattering teeth.
The only creatures which seemed unconcerned were the oxen which had been
so narrowly threatened, as they quietly chewed their cuds, while they
blinked their big, soft-lighted eyes. Plum was the first to speak.
"Jiminey whack, Jack! but you've done it."
"It was my only chance to save the oxen and the other load," said Jack,
rising to feet. "Better save half a loaf than to lose it all, you know.
Simply couldn't turn it into the rocks."
"But I don't see how you could think of it. I was scart, I ain't ashamed
to own. I'll bet that other is smashed into kindling wood."
Jack was already looking over the precipice after the lost wagon, saying
in a minute or so:
"It has come out better than I should have expected, though it will do us
no further good. It has lodged among some trees and rocks, and I do not
believe a wheel has been broken."
"That's so, Jack, though I reckon it don't make any difference to us. But
if 'em rocks don't start to grow it's 'cause the nitrate ain't any good,
for the stuff is sowed all over the Andes."
"It is pretty well scattered, that is a fact. But come, boys, we must
hitch on the other oxen, and see if the double team can pull this load to
Though the loss of one of his wagons and a portion of his nitrate, which
had cost him so much to get so far, was felt keenly by Jack, he showed his
indomitable will by immediately giving his attention toward carrying out
the work of crossing the ridge.
The remaining load proved an easy burden for the united teams, and in a
few minutes the heavy wagon was moving slowly up the path, the loud
commands of the Peruvian drivers echoing up and down the valley with
somewhat startling effect.
"As soon as we get to the summit," said Jack to Plum, "you and I will go
back and see if there is not some way to save the other wagon, even at the
sacrifice of its load."
"I s'pose we might throw off what nitrate there is left on it, and by
hitching together all the chains and ropes we have--"
"I wonder what is wrong now," exclaimed Jack, for the team had again
stopped, though the wagon was not more than its length from the summit. To
the drivers he shouted:
"Drive up a little further, so the wagon will stand without--"
Loud, angry cries stopped him in the midst of his speech.
Anxious to know what had caused another interruption in the advance, he
hurried forward, to meet a most unexpected sight.
Drawn up in front of the team in the narrow path was a squad of Chilian
soldiers, or bushwhackers, more properly speaking, for he knew they did
not belong to the regular army.
The Peruvians were cowering by the side of the wagon and cattle, muttering
over something in their native tongue which our hero did not understand.
"Ho, there, soldiers!" he called out, in his best Spanish, "what does this
"It means if you don't get out of our path, Americanos, we will hew you
"Don't be too fast, senor captain," Jack made bold to say, "this path is
one of my own making, though if you will allow me to get my team to the--"
"Pitiful dog!" cried the Chilian, "Captain de Costa commands you to clear
his way without any insulting words."
Jack saw that it would be worse than useless to have any words with this
imperious Chilian, who in his petty command felt more arrogant than a king
on this throne. Accordingly he began in a respectful tone:
"If Captain de Costa will kindly allow us to drive to the summit we shall
"Americano dog! will you surrender?"
By this time the Peruvians had taken to their heels, and Jack and Plum
stood alone in front of the pompous captain and legion.
Jack's first thought was to boldly refuse the demand, knowing the other
had no business to interfere with him, and to make such a resistance as he
and his companion could. But single-handed, against such odds, he knew it
would be folly.
"If you please, Captain de Costa, we two are but peaceful American boys,
both of us engaged--"
"Will you surrender?" thundered the Chilian, advancing with uplifted
sword, as if he would carry out his threat of hewing him down.
"We are offering no resistance to you, senor captain. If you will allow us
At a motion from the Chilian leader his soldiers leaped forward, and Jack
and Plum were quickly made prisoners.
The order was then given for the lads to be intrusted to a portion of
troops under the command of a sergeant, and then the march down the
pathway toward the nearest town was begun.
The last Jack saw of his team it was still standing just over the brow of
the height, the patient oxen chewing their cuds as unconcerned as if the
fortunes and the lives of their owners were not in the least endangered.
"What is going to be the end of this?" asked Plum, as they were marched
along side by side.
"It is impossible to tell. I do not think it will be best for us to have
much to say to each other if we wish to keep together. We must keep our
eyes open for a chance to escape."
Plum taking the hint, the friends walked along in silence until the
journey seemed without end.
The soldiers kept up a continual run of conversation, Jack catching enough
to know that the Chilian forces were gaining successes wherever they met
the Peruvians. He also learned that the army of Bolivia was now their
greatest concern, and that the latter was then on a march over the Andes
to meet them.
At nightfall a halt was made under a spur of the mountains, but before the
sun had tipped with gold the crest of the distant Andes the weary journey
That day about noon they came in sight of a little up-country town, which
the prisoners soon learned was known as Santa Rosilla. Its long, narrow
streets bore a deserted appearance, save for the motley-coated soldiers
passing to and fro, as if on guard.
The town bore every sign of a recent siege, while the indications were as
strong that the inhabitants had been completely routed and killed or
driven back into the mountains by their conquerors.
Straight down the grand plaza marched the soldiers with their captives,
making their way toward the casa consistorial, or town house, above which
flapped in the sleepy breeze the flag of Chili.
The door of the town house, which bore the marks of many bullets, was off
its hinges, but the rooms within were secure enough for all prisoners of
war that might fall into their hands in that isolated district, and
thither our twain were marched.
To their delight, which they were careful to conceal, they were put into a
room together, though under a strong guard.
"Looks so we were in for it," said Plum, after they had been left by
themselves for an hour or more.
"It was a hard set-back to my plans," said Jack.
"I wonder what they will do with us," ventured Plum, expressing the
thought uppermost in our hero's mind.
"From what I have overheard I should judge we were likely to be shot at
the first opportunity."
"'Pears to me you're mighty cool about it. Will they dare to shoot us? We
are not mixed up in their war, and it might make trouble for them in in
the end, if I know anything."
"They don't stop to consider that. It is my opinion they would dare to do
anything but meet an equal number of the enemy. It looks bad for us,
"I wonder if we can't dig out of here somehow? These walls don't seem so
"Of course we must try and get out of this. The first thing to do will be
to free our limbs. Can you loosen your bonds any?"
For the next ten minutes the boys were busy trying to free their hands
from the ligatures which had been fastened in no uncertain way.
"It's no use," acknowledged Plum at last. "I believe mine grow tighter and
tighter. Hark! I should think that soldier on guard in the hall would get
tired of that everlasting tramping back and forth. I've a mind to tell him
"Better not do it. I wonder if by standing on my shoulder you could look
out of that window up there?"
"I have been thinking that same thing. Let's try it."
Naturally their attention had been attracted to a small window, which
afforded light and ventilation for the room, but which was about ten feet
from the floor.
Tied hands and feet, as they were, the boys tried many times to carry out
their plan without avail, until it must have been near midnight when Plum
"It's mighty aggravating. There must be lights on the streets, for I've
seen their flash."
"Let's try once more. If I lie down perhaps you can get on my neck, after
which I believe I can raise you to the window."
This proved a most difficult feat, but after repeated attempts Plum
succeeded in gaining the desired position, when Jack slowly straightened
up, until he had brought his companion's head on a level with the window,
where by leaning against the wall he was enabled to hold him for a hasty
look over the scene without.
Plum had barely gained his unsteady perch before he exclaimed in a tone of
"Oh, Jack! the town is on fire! Everything is burning up!"
At that moment the dull boom of a cannon reached their ears.
Chilians on Both Sides
"Looks as if the old town was being raided by some enemy," declared Plum,
after a short pause, during which another peal of the distant cannon awoke
far and wide the dismal night.
Loud cries were now heard outside the town house, making the youths'
situation one of excitement. In the hall adjoining their prison the steady
tramp of the sentry's feet had suddenly ceased.
"How about the fire?" asked Jack, bracing himself more firmly against the
wall under the weight of his companion.
Boom! boom! boom! rang sullenly on the scene before Plum could reply, and
then the rattle of musketry succeeded and the hoarse shouts of men giving
orders such as no one could understand in the wild confusion.
"The fire lifts higher and higher," said Plum, as soon as a lull in the
tumult allowed him to be heard by his companion. "It seems to be burning
on the northeast corner of the town, and the wind is driving it down this
way like a race horse. The plaza is full of soldiers."
The cannonade soon became almost continual, and was fairly deafening.
"What will become of us?" asked Plum, showing his first sign of
"Is the window large enough to let us crawl out if our hands were free?"
"It may be; but it is crossed with bars of iron no man could break with
"Take your last look and then come down."
Plum took a hurried survey of the scene which he realized he might never
look upon again, but his narrow orbit allowed of nothing more than what he
The cannons were still thundering forth their loud-voiced peals of war,
half drowned by the incessant rattle of the smaller arms in the hands of
the town's defenders.
In a moment Plum descended to the floor in a heap.
"Get on your feet if you can," said Jack a moment later.
By resting against the wall, as his companion was doing, Plum Plucky soon
stood beside him.
"I should like to know what we are to do in this condition. We are sure to
"Hark! do you hear anything of the sentry now?"
"No; he went out to join the soldiers. I see him."
"Then our way is clear. Now, Plum, I want you to brace yourself as best
you can, and when I give the word throw all your weight against the door
"Going to try and break it down?"
"Now then, together!"
The old door shook and creaked beneath their combined efforts, but it
withstood the shock.
This time the whole building trembled, and the door creaked and groaned,
but still defied them.
But the third attempt, nor yet the fourth nor fifth cleared their pathway,
though when both the boys were bruised from head to feet the rusty hinges
suddenly gave away and they went headlong into the narrow hallway.
Jack struck upon top, and he was the first to gain his knees, as near an
erect position as he could easily gain, and he began to crawl toward the
open air, saying:
"Follow me, Plum."
On the outer threshold they paused to take a hasty survey of the
surroundings, soon satisfying themselves that a terrific battle was being
waged at the upper end of the town.
"The quicker we get away the better," said Jack, begining to move
laboriously toward the grand plaza, with Plum close behind him.
In that slow, tedious way the two crossed the yard in front of the town
house, and then steering for the cover of a line of shrubbery bordering on
the west side of the plaza, they crawled as fast as they could in that
The sound of the cannon was not heard so constant now, but the storm of
the musketry had not seemed to cease to any extent.
What meant infinitely more to them, the firing was rapidly drawing nearer.
The fire, too, of the burning town was growing brighter and brighter, even
the plaza showing plainly under its vivid glare.
Upon reaching the shrubbery they stopped for a brief respite.
"Look, Jack!" exclaimed Plum, in a shrill whisper, "our prison is on fire!
We didn't get out any too soon."
Jack had made the same discovery. He made no reply, his thoughts being
busy in another direction.
An incendiary had kindled a fire at one end of the building and so fast
did the flames increase and spread that while they watched them they
sprang up and enveloped one whole side in a crimson sheet.
"We must get away from this place," said Jack. "The two factions of war
are coming this way on a run. It must be the captors of the town have met
more than their match this time."
Again the escaping couple began their slow retreat, now under cover of a
dense growth reaching they knew not how far. Nor did that matter so long
as it afford them shelter from their enemies.
Once, having gained a little summit from which they could look down on the
exciting scene, they stopped to gaze back, their curiosity aroused by the
wild medley of cries.
The town house was now all ablaze, the lurid fire feeding upon its walls
lighting far the night scene, while throwing a weird glamor over the
contending factions of war-crazed men, who had now both reached the
further side of the plaza and temporally suspended hostilities.
There was a reason for this last, too, as explained by Jack's words, as he
analyzed the situation:
"They are Chilians on both sides, Plum!"
"Do you mean, Jack, that this attack on the Chilians of the town has been
made by some of their own countrymen?"
"Yes; there has been some mistake made, which has cost many needless
lives. What a painful surprise it must be to them!"
Jack afterwards learned that he had been right in his conjectures, and
that through some unexplainable blunder one division of the Chilian army
had been sent to capture the town already in possession of another
Santa Rosilla was in the possession of the Chilians sure enough now!
But Jack and Plum dared not stop to see the outcome of this singular
meeting between the armed forces, but improved every moment to get away
from the ill-fated town.
Preparations for Departure
Three days later, having actually worn off the bonds on their lower limbs
by their long, painful journey on their hands and knees through the dense
growth, until a friendly Peruvian lad finished their liberation, Jack and
Plum entered de la Pama, two sorry-looking youths but still full of
courage. Almost the first news they learned was that the St. Resa railroad
was again without the men to run the train, which had been stalled for
weeks. In fact, the engineer and his helper who had succeeded them, had
not made one complete trip, the fireman having blown out the boiler soon
after leaving De la Pama.
In this dilemma the officials hailed the appearance of the boys with
unfeigned delight. But Jack was sorry to learn that it had been decided
not to pay over thirty pistoles a month for his services.
"We might as well let the cars stand idle as to pay out all we can get for
help. Then, too, the business is not going to be very good while this war
The pay was still big for that country, and Jack resolved to accept,
though before doing so he asked: "What will you pay my fireman?"
"Twenty pistoles, senor. That is the best we can do. We can get plenty of
men for that price." "It doesn't look so. But what do you say, Plum? That
will bring you seventy-two dollars a month, if I reckon right. I will try
it for awhile if you will go with me."
"I'm with you."
Most unexpected to them at the time they began, the "awhile" proved for a
year. Jack had not dreamed he should stay so long, but his previous
experience had left him penniless, and with his fixed determination to try
again, he knew he would not be able to find so good an opportunity to earn
the needed money to begin renewed operations. During those days Jack sent
several letters to his folks and to Jenny. In return he received a letter
from his father, stating that all was now going fairly well with the
family and if he wanted to stay in South America he could do so. Mr. North
also sent the information that Fowler & Company had gone into the hands of
a receiver and there was no telling whether the business would be
continued or not, and Jack need not expect any back pay from the concern.
From Jenny Jack heard not a word, much to his anxiety and dismay. The fact
was that Jenny's folks had moved to another town and she had not received
Jack's letters, and consequently did not know exactly where he was.
"I suppose she has forgotten all about me," he thought, with a sigh.
"Well, I suppose I ought to go back, but I hate to do it before I've
managed to get some money together. There's a fortune in that nitrate and
I know it, and some day I'll get hold of it."
Very much to Jack's surprise they were not molested very much by the
bush-raiders, whose power seemed to have been checked by the advance of
the opposing armies, for the war was still carried on, though in a sort of
desultory manner, as if each side was afraid of the others. Jack could
foresee that the Chilians were pretty sure to secure that portion of the
country before they got through. Plum Plucky had stood by his friend all
of this time, and they had met with some thrilling experiences, but come
out of them safely.
Jack saved his money like a miser, and with undimmed faith in his ultimate
success bought five more nitrate beds, to be laughed at by his friend.
"Should think you would want to look after 'em loads you have got over on
the Andes," Plum would frequently say.
Each time Jack remained silent.
"Say, Jack," Plum would then invariably say, "don't yeou s'pose 'em oxen
are getting hungry by this time?"
Still the other held his peace.
Jack had not forgotten the mysterious island in the equally mysterious
lake amid the Andes, and twice during the year his memory had been
refreshed by startling accounts given of the place by different parties
that had visited the valley. These men had given it the name of the
"Devil's Waters," not very inappropriately.
At the end of the year, it now being certain that the Peruvians were
losing their hold on the province which comprised the territory in which
they were located, Jack said to his companion:
"I am almost sorry to say that I shall make my last trip to-morrow, Plum."
"Going back to nitrates?" asked the other, showing but little surprise.
"Yes. I must get a cargo to America as soon as possible."
"Should think you would want to. Guess I will stick to the old gal here a
little longer. When I have got enough money to get out of this swamp in
the way I want to I shall go back to old New England.
"I tell you there is no place like the Old Bay State. Yeou won't think me
a sneak for deserting yeou now, Jack?" dropping back into his old-time
"Oh, no, of course not. In fact, I think you are doing just as I should if
I were in your place. I will speak a good word for you to get my position
as engineer. You can run the engine as well as I now."
"Good for you, Jack. Now, how do you think of getting that stuff to the
"About the same way I tried first, only I shall not try to go behind that
spur of the Andes, as I did before.
"I can see my mistake now, though I believe that is the richest deposit I
have, and I shall sometime make something out of it. I am going to get a
cargo from the bed nearest to the railroad and get the company to freight
it for me to the seaboard."
"Then I shall see you occasionally, Jack."
"Oh, yes. I shall not be far away."
Jack was as good as his word, and the following day Plum Plucky proudly
took his place as engineer, with a new fireman to help him.
Jack then began to carry out his scheme of getting a cargo of nitrate to
his native land.
This time he obtained his supply of nitrate from a bed less than ten miles
from the railroad, drawing it to the station with ox teams. With his
better knowledge of the country he met with success in this part of the
undertaking, and then the train carried it to the sea-coast for him at
Before this had been done he had bargained with a Peruvian captain of a
merchantman to carry the cargo to Philadelphia.
This had proved the most difficult part of his arrangements, for with the
existing war between the countries it was sometime before he could find a
man willing to do it.
But he found one at last and the nitrate was eventually loaded on the
It was a proud, and yet an anxious, moment for Jack when he found
everything in readiness to leave the harbor.
The captain had declared his intention of setting sail under cover of
darkness, so as to escape an attack from a Chilian ship should one offer
to dispute his passage.
That afternoon Jack saw Plum to bid him goodbye, feeling sorry to part
with his honest friend.
The latter actually cried.
"Hang it, Jack! I've a mind to go with you. Think of me in this heathenish
country and you among friends and rolling in wealth."
"All but the wealth, Plum. But I shall be glad to have you go with me."
"I thank you, Jack, but I mustn't. I must stay here long enough to get the
money to pay up the mortgage on dad's farm, when I shall skip by the light
of the moon. You may not find me here when you come back, Jack, but I wish
A little after sunset the Peruvian ship moved slowly out of the harbor of
San Maceo, Jack watching the land as it receded from sight with a peculiar
interest, and his mind ran swiftly back over the eventful time he had
passed in that faraway land.
He had given the captain the last pistole he possessed, as he had been
obliged to pay him in advance to get him to undertake the task, so he was
again penniless. But he had no doubt he would have money enough as soon as
he could get home and dispose of his cargo. Over and again he had figured
out his profit, if it should prove saleable at the moderate price he had
fixed upon it. Is it a wonder his thoughts were in a tumult? Is it strange
that he found it difficult to make himself believe that at last after that
long waiting, he was really homeward bound?
"How glad they will be to see me!" he thought. "And Jenny! She will not be
expecting me. It has been so long since I left. Some of them may be--"
He was interrupted in his meditations by the report of a gun in the
distance, and, glancing to the port, he discovered a ship coming up
That there was something wrong in the appearance of the stranger was
evident from the bustle and excitement which had suddenly sprung up among
officers and crew, not one of whom spoke anything but Spanish.
All sail had been crowded on that the ship could possibly carry; but
heavily loaded and at best a poor sailer, the new-comer continued to
overhaul them at a startling rate.
Coming alongside of Jack finally, the captain said:
"We are lost, senor! I ought to lose my head for undertaking such a mad
"It may not be as bad as you seem to think, senor capitan," replied Jack,
hoping to encourage the commander.
But all that he could say was in vain.
The Chilian warship, as the stranger really was, continued to keep up its
firing, though the Peruvian vessel had not fired a gun.
Jack anxiously watched the approach of their pursuer, feeling that his
fortune, if not his life, was at stake.
It is possible if the Peruvian had laid to and allowed the other to come
up without the show of running away, that it might have been permitted to
continue its course unmolested. And again it may not have been so.
At any rate the Peruvian captain held to his flight as his only hope of
salvation, until at last a shot, better directed than the random firing so
long kept up, struck the doomed merchantman fairly amidship.
The craft instantly lurched and trembled from bow to stern.
"She is sinking!" shrieked the captain. "Quick--to the boats!"
A Panic on Shipboard
A scene of the wildest description followed the frantic captain's
announcement and order. The sailors were panic stricken, and more than
half of them plunged headlong into the sea.
The captain was scarcely less distracted than his men, and he only added
to the helplessness of the situation by his words and actions.
Jack tried to pacify him by saying:
"Pardon me, senor capitan, but the ship will not sink at once if at all.
You have plenty of time in which to save your lives."
"But the Chilian! We shall be made prisoners of war. Heaven protect me! I
was a fool to listen to you, Senor North."
"It is too late to think of that now. It is your duty to see if something
cannot be done to stop the ship's leak."
It was useless to try to reason with the Peruvian captain. He was sure the
ship was going to sink, and seemed determined that she should.
Meanwhile the Chilian continued to draw nearer, though it had nearly
The trumpet-like tone of the commander rang over the water just as the
terrified Peruvians lowered a boat and leaped headlong into it, that is,
those who had not previously jumped into the sea.
Finding himself alone on the sinking vessel, which was going down fast,
Jack answered the Chilian's challenge:
"Ship ahoy! what do you want?"
"What ship is that?"
"The merchant ship, Santa Clara, Senor Captain, now sinking from
the effects of your shot."
"Lay to and I'll come aboard."
This command was not obeyed.
The doomed vessel was now lurching fearfully, and Jack knew that he could
not leave it any too soon for his own safety of life. Fortunately the
shore was not so far away but he believed he could reach it, and throwing
off his outer garments, he leaped into the water.
The Peruvians were struggling in every direction, the boat having been
upset by them in their mad endeavors to save themselves. Jack knew that
the farther he got away from them and the quicker he did it, the better it
would be for him. He left them in their furious, but futile, efforts to
escape or drown, as their attempts for life deserved.
After swimming a short distance he looked back to find that he was just in
season to witness the fate of the ship. He saw her make a sudden lurch
forward, and then she seemed to right herself for a moment, but it was her
death struggle, for with the next breath she went downward, quickly
disappearing from sight forever.
"Another plan gone wrong," thought Jack, "and again I am where I began."
A less courageous youth than Jack North must have given up then, but with
the stern determination of his nature not to give up, he resumed his
swimming, reaching the land half an hour later.
"This is worse than before," he said ruefully, as he viewed his drenched
figure, "for I did save my coat then. Yes, and my cargo of nitrate is
still on the mountain waiting for me. I think I will toss up a cent to see
what I shall do next. No! come to think of it, I haven't got the cent to
His first thought was to return to the machine shop in Tocopilla, but as
De la Pama was nearer he decided to go there in the morning. "It is
useless for me to remain here," he reasoned, "I wonder how many of the
Peruvians have escaped? They were a set of cowards anyway, and the captain
the biggest fool of them all. I hope he will make good use of my money."
Jack laid down supperless that night under the green blanket of a Peruvian
forest, and he went on toward De la Pama the next morning breakfastless,
"There is one thing certain, I will not take Plum's job from him. If he
has no fireman, and will accept me, I will go as his helper."
Though he did not seek immediately his friend, almost the first person he
saw in town was Plum. It would be difficult to say which was the more
"What! not gone to the States, Jack?"
"Something gone wrong, Jack, again?"
"About my usual luck, Plum. I am where I began--without a cent in my
pocket," and he quickly told the other what had befallen him since they
"It's too bad, Jack, but I'll tell you what I'll do. I have what amounts
to three hundred dollars that I've saved and every dollar of it is yours
till you can pay it back."
"I could not think of taking your hard earnings, Plum, for it is uncertain
if I should ever be able to pay it back.
"I thank you from the bottom of my heart, but must look for work again."
"Then you shall have my job, Jack. I had rather fire anyway; honest,
"Thank you again, Plum, and it's just like your generosity, but I cannot
rob you of your situation. How does your fireman do?"
"Tip-top, I am sorry to say. To tell the truth, Jack, he does so well I am
afraid he will get my job away from me. I wish you would take the lever
again, Jack, and let me fire. I never had so good a time in my life as I
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