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CHAPTER XVIII.


A STORM IN THE VALLEY.


In less than half an hour after entering the house we had exchanged our wet coats for dry ones and were seated at a breakfast table loaded with all of the good things which the plantation of Mr. Henry Soule afforded.

A native servant waited on us, and while we ate we conversed with the girl who had first greeted us. We soon learned that her name was Cora and that she was Mr. Soule's only child, and that her mother had been dead for several years.

"Papa says I am the mistress of the house," she said, with a musical laugh. "And we run matters to suit ourselves—he and I."

"You are Americans, of course," I ventured.

"I am, but papa was born in Germany. We came here ten years ago, from Indiana."

"And do you stay on the plantation all the time?" put in Dan. "I should think that would be lonely."

"No, I attend a female college in Honolulu and board there during the college term," replied Cora Soule. "But I don't find it so dull here as you may imagine. I have my pony and my dog cart—and I get lots of newspapers through the Wailuku mail—besides letters from my college friends. And then the natives are very kind."

"I must say I haven't found the natives so kind," returned Oliver. "We've had pretty rough times."

"Perhaps you didn't know just how to treat the Kanakas," went on the girl. "You mustn't make fun of them, you know—they can't stand that."

"We got into a row by interfering with some of their fire-worshiping," I put in. "We did it quite by accident."

"And then some of them wanted to lock us up for that fire last evening," added Dan. "We were placed in a hut, but managed to escape."

Cora Soule was immediately interested, and asked us to relate our adventures in detail, which we did while disposing of the viands spread before us. Then we asked about the village that had been consumed, and were told that some of the natives living there worked upon the Soule plantation.

"Buowa is the strong man there," said the girl. "He is a great trainer of wild horses. He is a good man too, for once when my pony ran away he caught the animal and saved me from a nasty tumble."

We had our doubts about Buowa being such a good fellow as she supposed, but thought it best to say nothing on the point. Presently Oliver leaned over toward me and, when the girl's back was turned for an instant, whispered: "Shall I ask her if she knows Koloa?"

"Yes, but don't say too much," I whispered in return.

"By the way, you haven't said why you are out here," said Cora Soule, as she ordered in some extra coffee for Dan, who had already had two cups—but then that coffee tasted immense after that night in the rain.

"Oh, we came out partly to see the sights," said Oliver carelessly. "We also wanted to meet a fellow named Joe Koloa, but we didn't find him."

"Joe Koloa! I know him," returned the girl. "He worked for papa a short time."

"Is that true?" cried Oliver. "If you won't mind I would like to know what sort of a man he is."

"He's a very strange sort of a creature," was the answer. "He has had some education, but it seems to have turned his head. Sometimes he goes around in the wildest sort of fashion, swinging his arms like a windmill and saying he is going to be rich—that he is going to own the biggest pearls in the world."

"We heard about some of his doings," put in Dan, "and we thought we would like to have a chat with him. Where does he expect to get his pearls from?"

"Oh, he never tells that. But once, when he was sick, he cried out, 'The fire! the fire! Poor Joe can't get the pearls! They will be burnt up!' So I guess his pearls are all in his mind."

"Perhaps they are," answered Oliver, and his face became very sober, while Dan's looks also fell.

Cora Soule might have asked some awkward questions, but at that moment some shouting outside was heard, and running to a window she announced that her father had returned with his friends.

"Why, there are Mr. Carson and Mr. Palmer!" ejaculated Dan. "I never expected to meet them here."

"I guess none of us did," I returned. "I'm mighty glad to learn they are here, too."

"Any particular reason, Mark?"

"Yes. If there is trouble ahead for us on account of that fire, I feel certain they will help us out of our difficulty."

"That's so!"

Cora Soule had gone out to meet her father and the other gentlemen. Presently the whole party came in, after exchanging their wet garments for dry ones.

"Well! well! " exclaimed Mr. Palmer, striding up and shaking hands. "This is an unexpected pleasure. Mr. Soule, we have met these young men before."

"Then you had better introduce me," laughed the plantation owner, and the introduction was promptly forthcoming. Then the fire was mentioned by Cora, and we were called upon to tell our tale a second time. Feeling that the two capitalists would champion us if trouble came, we related all that had occurred without hesitation.

"You've had a rough time of it truly," said Mr. Soule, when we had finished. "But you have nothing more to fear. They have found out how the village was set on fire."

"And how was it?" asked Dan curiously, and Oliver and I were just as eager to learn the truth of the matter.

"A native from another place brought in a sailor, and the two had some drinks and then got into a fight and upset a lamp right on top of an oil barrel. The sailor was an American, and that is how it became reported that some Americans were the firebrands."

"A sailor and a native!" cried Dan, and then, as I gave him a sudden warning glance, he checked himself.

"Yes, a sailor," repeated Mr. Soule. "He was a fellow with one arm."

"And who was the native, papa?" put in Cora Soule. "Anybody we know?"

"Yes, that good-for-nothing Joe Koloa I once had working for me," was the plantation master's answer, and we three boys could not help but exchange knowing glances.

"We're hot on the trail," murmured Oliver.

"Why, you were asking about Joe Ko——" began Cora Soule, turning to us, when a loud clap of thunder cut her short and made her give a gasp of terror. "Oh, my, is the—the house struck!" she panted.

The lightning had filled the room, and all of us were more or less frightened. Down came a fresh deluge of rain, and for the time being nobody could make himself heard, and Joe Koloa was forgotten. Mr. Soule ran to the rear of the dwelling and pointed to a tall palm that had been split in two from top to bottom.

"It came close enough," he said grimly.

"I wouldn't want it any closer," I answered. "Do you get such storms often?"

"Two or three times a year. They make up for the long dry spells we have."

As is often the case, the heavy thunderbolt proved the last of the storm, and in less than half an hour the clouds blew away and the sun came out strong and hot. By that time our coats were dry, having hung close to the fire, and we put them on and then prepared to return at once to Wailuku.

"We don't want to miss the road," said Oliver.

"Take this highway right through and you can't miss it," laughed Mr. Soule. "It runs directly into the town."

"If you will wait until to-night we'll go with you," put in Mr. Palmer.

"No, we want to get back to the seacoast as soon as possible," answered Oliver, and then, before any more questions could be asked, he continued: "We expected to be back last night, you know."

"Well, good-by to you, and good luck!" said the capitalist, and a shake of the hand followed. Soon we had bidden adieu to all and were off on our horses. We had offered pay for the entertainment provided, but it had been refused.

"And now for Wailuku, with all speed," cried Oliver, when we were out of hearing. "I'll wager anything that that is where Merkin and Koloa have gone."