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CHAPTER XXIV.


THE DRUG IN THE WATER.


I really felt sorry for Mrs. Lola, and as soon as I had made certain that her worthless husband was nowhere in the vicinity, I did what I could to calm her down, and bade her return to the hut.

Here Oliver and Dan told their tales. After I had left them they had remained quiet for the best part of an hour, when, of a sudden, they were attacked by Lola and Delverez, and after a hard fight were made prisoners and taken to the hut. Delverez had abused them shamefully and had gone off, saying that he now knew the secret which had brought us to the islands and intended to profit by it. He had left them in Lola's custody with instructions to keep them close prisoners until the Kanaka should hear from him again.

"The woman has been kind to us," said Dan. "I believe she would have let us go had she not feared the wrath of her good-for-nothing husband."

"Do you think Delverez will really be back?" I questioned.

"Perhaps," returned Oliver. "But I don't think it will pay us to wait for him. You must remember that, so far, Caleb Merkin is ahead in this game."

I turned to Mrs. Lola. "Where is your husband?" I demanded. But she spoke very little English, and all I could make out was that he had run away.

"He won't show himself until we have gone," said Dan. "The best thing we can do, in my opinion, is to get back to Hilo just as fast as we can."

"I must have something to eat first," I answered, and going again to the woman I motioned for her to prepare us some dinner.

At first she wanted to do nothing, but when urged by Dan and Oliver she set about the task, and prepared a very respectable meal, setting the food on a cloth spread out on the hut floor. As we fell to eating she stepped outside, motioning that she would get us something to drink. We did not know it then, nor suspect it, but she had seen her husband motioning to her from the brush and had hastened to join him.

"Why doesn't that woman come back?" demanded Dan, after fully ten minutes had passed. "Do you suppose she has gone off for good?"

"Perhaps she got scared and is hunting for her husband," answered Oliver. "But never mind, I don't think we have much more to fear. That native will know better than to attack the three of us."

"He may bring some of his fellows here. If Delverez promised him any reward he'll do his best to recapture us."

"Perhaps, Mark. But we'll keep our eyes open, eh?"

"Of course."

I had just uttered the above words, when I saw the Kanaka woman coming toward the hut again. She carried a jug of water and smiled in her own peculiar fashion as she passed around some drinking cups.

The meal she had prepared had been somewhat salty and each of us was thirsty. All drank freely, therefore, of the water. It was rather flat and had a peculiar herbish odor.

"That's not very good," observed Oliver, as he spit out the last mouthful. "That must come from some dead vegetable spring."

"It's not as good as what I had from a pool this noon," I put in. "But come, it's time we were on our way," I continued, and sprang up. Dan and Oliver followed, and, after securing our weapons, which we found on a shelf in the hut, we set off for the river, intending to re-embark on board of the rowboat, if it was where it had been left.

My head had felt rather tired from the adventure of the night before, but now, when I reached the outer air, it felt heavier than ever, and inside of a few minutes I could scarcely keep my eyes open.

"I want a night's sleep the worst way," I said to Dan, when I was horrified to see him reel and pitch straight forward on his face, just like a dead man.

"What's the matter with Dan?" cried Oliver, and then he added, "Oh, my; my head is in a whirl!"

"We've been drugged, Oliver," I gasped. "That water did it. It's another trick of those wily Kanakas," and I drew my pistol.

"Drugged? You must be right. I—I wonder if it—will—kill—us! " Oliver mumbled, but I scarcely heard him. There was a strange roar in my ears and my heart seemed to be on fire. I could keep my eyes open no longer, and clutching blindly at my chum I fell to the ground, and he with me.

Dan and Oliver lost consciousness completely, but not so myself. Yet what happened immediately afterward was to me more like a dream than reality. I saw the burly Lola come forth from the bushes, a long rope of twisted vines trailing behind him. Cutting this vine into sections, he proceeded to bind each of us, hands and feet, after which he disarmed us. I tried to fight him off, to cry out, but I could do neither.

When I fully recovered I found myself back in the hut and staked to the floor, with Dan on one side of me and Oliver on the other. Lola and his spouse had disappeared, and night was once more coming on.

"Dan!" I called softly, but there was no reply. "Oliver!"

"Is that you speaking, Mark?"

"Yes. We are prisoners again."

"My throat seems to be on fire!" groaned Oliver. "Those Kanakas ought to be hung." And he gave a heavy cough.

"I feel awfully queer myself, Oliver. But I reckon Dan is worse off than any of us."

"He drank more than you or I, Mark. I hope he isn't—isn't——" Oliver couldn't finish, but I understood him.

"No, he is still alive, for he is breathing heavily." I turned my head. "Dan! Dan! wake up!"

No answer came back, and it was fully an hour before Dan opened his eyes, to stare at us wildly. "Let go of me!" he yelled. "Let go, or I will fling the pearls overboard!"

"It's all right, Dan; you are safe," I said soothingly.

"It's not all right; let go, or I'll turn the boat
Off for Hawaii p195.jpg

"I WAS HORRIFIED TO SEE HIM REEL AND PITCH FORWARD ON HIS FACE LIKE A DEAD MAN."

over. Oh, my head! Take it out of that monkey-wrench, do you hear? I can't stand the strain! Take that trip-hammer away!"

"Poor Dan is out of his mind!" burst from Oliver. "Dan! Dan! don't talk so," he went on. "You are safe, at least for the present. That water was drugged."

"That water was fire! I am burning up! Take me away, or I will choke you with pearls!" and poor Dan continued to go on in this strain for fully five minutes, when he relapsed again into unconsciousness.

"He's in a bad way," I murmured soberly. "That drug may have been so powerful that his mind may be affected forever!"

"Gracious, Mark, don't say that," came from Oliver, in scared tones. "Anything but to have poor Dan turn crazy!"

"I wish we could do something for him, Oliver. But even if I was free I wouldn't know what was best."

"The best thing to do would be to put him under a doctor's care. I'll never forgive myself for coming in search of the treasure if Dan loses his mind because of it."

"Well, we must remember that we are not yet out of the scrape," I concluded, and then we both fell into silent and bitter speculation as to the outcome of the adventure.

Slowly the time dragged by until morning. With the first streak of dawn Mrs. Lola came back, followed by her husband, who had been drinking and who was abusing her furiously in their native language. Once he struck her, but she pointed to us and to a knife she carried, and he did not touch her again. Evidently, if he had hit her a second time, she would have liberated us and got us to defend her.

For breakfast the two dined on a dish of poi. The woman offered some to us as we lay flat on our backs, but neither Oliver nor I touched a mouthful. But we partook of some rice cakes, and also of some water, after we had been assured that it was not drugged.

"How long are you going to keep us here?" I demanded of Lola.

"Stay here till udder man come," grunted the Kanaka. "He got to pay me for what I do."

"I don't think he will be back," said Oliver.

"He must come back. Now be still," and Lola kicked Oliver in the side and left the hut.

"He's a cheerful rascal," muttered my friend. "He's the kind of native that they will never civilize."

"I believe he's half Malay," I answered. "He doesn't look like a pure-blood by any means."

An hour went by. In the meantime Mrs. Lola had gone off, taking a bundle of fancy baskets with her; to sell, I presume, to the tourists at Hilo, for tourists are coming constantly to see the great volcano.

"Somebody is coming," said Oliver, as we heard a crashing through the brush. A minute later Lola appeared, followed by Ramon Delverez.