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CHAPTER XIX.


HALF AN HOUR TOO LATE.


The highway we had now found was one of the best we had struck in the islands. It was broad, level, and well kept, and lined upon either side with stately palms and waving plantains, with here and there a stone wall supporting the native vines, which in some instances are fifty to a hundred feet in length.

"This is fine," exclaimed Dan, as he let his horse out on a swift gallop. "How balmy the air is!"

"And what beautiful scenery!" I returned. "I don't believe there is anything finer here than this Iao valley which we are leaving behind."

"Excepting it be the lofty mountain peaks, Mark." Dan turned to Oliver. "What are you so silent about?"

"I'm thinking of Caleb Merkin, Dan," was the sober reply. "We want to catch him if we can. He has that map, and now that he has found Joe Koloa——"

"To my way of thinking he will have a job getting anything out of Koloa," I put in. "I believe the creature is half-witted."

"The prospect of untold wealth may have turned his brain," said Dan. "The puzzle to me is, where has Merkin got his money from? He can't journey around on nothing."

"Perhaps he has committed another robbery," laughed Oliver. He said this in a jest, but I believe he was right.

On and on we went, up one hill and down another, until we had to slacken up for fear of exhausting our steeds in that hot sun. In several places we came to tiny streams which were now flowing swiftly and high from the storm, but the bridges were intact and safe and gave us no trouble to cross.

"Hurrah! there is Wailuku at last!" called out Oliver, who was slightly in advance. He pointed over the brow of the last hill, where a collection of buildings could be seen in the distance. Then there came to our ears the shrill whistle of a sugar mill engine and we looked at our timepieces, to discover that it was just one o'clock.

"Time to go to work," smiled Dan. "How these lazy Kanakas must hate the sound of that whistle!"

"Yes, time to go to work—to run down Caleb Merkin," put in Oliver, and again we went forward, and five minutes later saw us on the main street of Wailuku and looking at everybody we passed to see if we could catch sight of the onearmed sailor.

"I think the best thing we can do is to go to the dock first," said Oliver. "Merkin would sail away as fast as he could, especially if he suspected we were still in the town."

This we thought a good plan, and turned our faces toward the steamship offices without delay. At the dock, piled high with merchandise of all kinds, we met a large crowd of people turning back.

"What's the crowd for?" asked Dan, of a native.

"We see steamer off," was the answer. "Big time when steamer go off. We say aloha to everybody." Aloha is the Hawaiian word for welcome, good-by, and good-luck to you.

"How long since the steamer sailed?" asked Oliver quickly.

"Half an hour or so."

"Were there many passengers?"

" Twenty or thirty. I no count them all."

"Did you notice a one-armed man, a sailor?" went on Oliver, with increased interest.

"Oh, yes; I see sailor. He with a man I know," was the quick reply.

"And who was the man—Joe Koloa?" put in Dan.

"Yes, Joe Koloa. You know him, too?" and now the native became interested.

"We know of him," I replied. Then I looked at Oliver. "Half an hour too late!"

"Yes," he half groaned. "What's to do next?"

"You miss the steamer?" asked the native.

"That's what," said Dan. "Well, there is no use in crying over spilt milk, fellows. The onlything we can do is to take another steamer. Is there another to-day?"

"No more steamer to-day," returned the Kanaka. "No steamer till to-morrow afternoon."

"Worse luck. But we must make the best of it."

We thanked the Kanaka for his information, and turning, took our horses back to the place where they belonged. Then we went into the hotel and ordered dinner, although I must confess I was in no humor to eat.

"One thing is certain," observed Oliver, while we sat waiting to be served. "Caleb Merkin has got on the right side of Joe Koloa. If that wasn't so I don't believe the native would go with him."

"That depends, Oliver. Koloa may let Merkin pay his passage to the volcano and still not tell his secret," was my slow answer. "I wonder if the native knows of that map?"

"I was wondering the same thing," came from Dan.

"We can't tell a thing about it until we catch the pair," said Oliver, and here the talk came to an end as there seemed to be no further ideas worth advancing.

The rest of the day passed impatiently enough. There was but little to see in Wailuku, although it is the center of the sugar industry of the island of Maui. There was a single small railroad running ten miles into the sugar plantations, and on this we took a ride and visited one of the big sugar mills. The process of making this sweet article of commerce was not new to me, I having seen the whole thing done in Cuba, and I spent most of my time talking with the natives. At one plantation we met a crowd of girls, out for a picnic, and when we left them they presented us with some leis, garlands made of the sweet-smelling flowers of the country, some of which I still preserve in a scrap-book at home. It is a common custom to decorate a friend who is going away with leis, and down on the steamboat dock the fallen flowers lay scattered in all directions.

Nightfall found us back at the hotel and willing to turn in at an early hour. It is perhaps needless to state that all of us slept like "logs," to use an old-fashioned way of expressing it.

We were up at daybreak, and after breakfast strolled down to the steamship office and procured our tickets to Hilo, the principal seaport town of the island of Hawaii. There were but few passengers, and now the dock was given over to the labors of a lot of Chinese, who toiled manfully in the hot sun with the thousand and one casks, boxes, and bundles lying about.

"These Chinese know how to work," observed Dan. "I reckon they can do about twice as much as a Kanaka."

"They can do more than an American, for the matter of that," returned Oliver. "Who could stand it to work in this temperature? And yet it might be worse," he added, as a freshening breeze came bowling along.

The morning hours dragged painfully, and when at last a line of smoke on the horizon betokened the coming of the steamer we hailed the signal with a sigh of relief. Slowly the craft came to view, turning into Kahului Bay, and at last, at twelve o'clock, came to anchor, and we were permitted to go on board.

This was a different steamer from that which had brought us to Maui, and having inspected the deck, we went below to look over our stateroom.

It was in the best of order, and having stored away our baggage and looked around to our heart's content we went on deck and remained there while the craft pulled up anchor and started on the voyage to Hilo.

The scene was an inspiring one, and we remained on deck for the best part of the afternoon, gazing at the scenery on the eastern coast of Maui, from Wailuku to Kauiki Head. Here were deep meadows, high mountains, and magnificent gorges, some covered with tropical trees and brush and some laid out into immense coffee plantations, one said to be thousands of acres in extent.

"It seems to me that a fellow with money can get rich here," observed Dan. "But it's no place for a poor man."

"Not, at least, for an American poor man," I added. "For he would not want to work for the wages the Chinese, Japanese, and Kanakas accept. But a man might come here and take up a small plantation."

"Yes; but he would have to support himself until his crops came," said Oliver. "I take it that in any new country a newcomer ought to have some means, otherwise he had better stay where he is. Even the early American settlers nearly starved to death before they got a firm footing."

"I wonder if we'll run across Dr. Barton at Hilo," mused Dan. "He said he was going on, you know."

"I'll wager he hasn't had any such adventures as we have had," laughed Oliver. "Where are you going, Mark?"

"Down below for a handkerchief, that's all," I answered. "I'll be back in a few minutes." I arose from the easy-chair in which I had been sitting and made my way through the crowd to the lower deck and then to our stateroom. As I came up I saw that the door stood ajar, although when we had left it we had closed it tightly. Wondering if a porter had entered during our absence I went inside.

A cry of astonishment burst from my lips and not without reason, for every one of our satchels was burst or cut open, and our articles of wearing apparel flung in all directions.