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CHAPTER XXV.


RAMON DELVEREZ TRIES TO MAKE TERMS.


For the instant after he appeared I did not recognize Ramon Delverez. When I had met him before he had been dressed as a high-toned Spanish gentleman; now his clothing was rough and shabby, and he had not had a shave for some time.

"Ha, so we meet again!" he said, in his grating tones. "It is a great pleasure," and he smiled sarcastically.

"You had better let us go, if you wish to keep out of more trouble, Delverez," said Oliver, as calmly as he could.

"Oh, I will let you go," smiled the Spaniard. "But not yet—oh, no; not yet."

"What do you intend to do with us?" I asked.

"That will be decided later. Bah! you I care nothing about," he went on; "but you, and you"—tapping Dan and Oliver with his foot—"you are the ones I will deal with."

"You thought it was a smart thing to ransack our baggage," I continued.

"I had a right to do it, boy—a right. You played me foul at Honolulu, and a Delverez does not forget. But I must not talk too much—time is precious." He turned to Oliver. "Tell me all you know about this pearl treasure you are after."

"I have nothing to say, Ramon Delverez," replied Oliver coldly.

"Ha! you refuse to answer!" burst out the Spaniard. "Do not forget that you are in my power."

"I do not know any more than you do—since you have stolen my map and that other paper from me."

"The original map—where is that? The map I have is but a mere toy—a rough drawing. I can make nothing of it."

"I'm glad of it," I said bluntly.

"But where is the original map—I must have that," blustered Delverez.

"We have no other map," said Oliver, and I think at that moment he was glad of it.

"The map!" The cry came from Dan, who had again opened his eyes. "Give me the map, Caleb Merkin, or I will have you shot by the Hilo soldiers. Give me that map you stole, so that we can get the pearls!" Dan glared at Delverez. "And you, too, eh? Did Caleb Merkin send you here? If he did, just wait till I get at the one-armed rascal and I'll fix him! Oh, my head, my head! it's on fire!" And Dan fell back again.

Ramon Delverez was dumfounded, and for a moment stared at Dan in amazement. Then he turned to Lola, who was gazing curiously on the scene.

"What's the matter with him?"

"He go out of his head," answered the Kanaka. "Witch-water too strong for him."

The Spaniard looked puzzled for a second, then he smiled wickedly. "I see, I see. If he is crazy for the rest of his life so much the better," he muttered. " 'Tis what he deserves, and so the others!"

"You heartless brute!" I cried. "You would wish him insane for the balance of his life? It would be more humane to kill him."

"Americano, be still!" came with a curse, and Delverez raised his foot as if to kick me in the head, but then drew back. "We will talk of the treasure. Who is this Caleb Merkin?"

"You'll have to find out for yourself."

"Is he a one-armed sailor, and has he a map?"

To this question I remained silent. In a rage Delverez let fly at my head, nearly stunning me. I tried to break my bonds, that I might get at him, but could do nothing. While I was struggling a long, loud whistle was heard outside.

"Watch them—be careful they do not escape," said the Spaniard quickly, to Lola, and the brawny Kanaka nodded and took up a war club standing near. Then Ramon Delverez hurried off.

We wondered what the whistle meant, and began to question the Kanaka, but if he knew he refused to impart any information, and told us to hold our tongues or he would finish us with the club. As he looked ready to do anything, we relapsed into silence and turned our attention to Dan, who from being red in the face had now grown deadly white.

"I wouldn't care so much if only Dan was himself," said Oliver, a little later. "But this is horrible!"

It was fully half an hour before Ramon Delverez returned. "Now I am ready to come to terms," said he, as he and his companion sat down. "You, Oliver Raymond, treated me shabbily at Manila, you and that Dan Holbrook, and you,"—he nodded toward me,—"you were in that affair at Honolulu whereby I was tricked out of several thousands of dollars."

"Never mind talking ancient history," broke in Oliver. "What are your terms, as you call them?"

"I see you are ready for business. Consequently, to proceed. You three are here to obtain a great pearl treasure said to be hidden somewhere near the great volcano Kilauea."

"Well?"

"Do you acknowledge it?"

"I haven't anything to say on that point."

"Not now—but you will have later," said the Spaniard, in a tone that made my blood run cold.

"You are not getting at your terms very fast," I put in.

"This business does not concern you," was the angry retort. "I will finish with you later. I am now addressing Oliver Raymond."

"Better get to the point and give me a chance to get up," said my friend.

"The point is this: You know where this treasure is. If I try to find it alone I may have a long search. To hasten matters, I will grant you your liberty if you will explain to me in detail just where the Cave of Pearls, as the document calls it, can be found."

"And supposing I can't tell you what you want to know?"

"You mean you will not tell me?" growled Ramon Delverez, his face growing darker.

"I mean that I can't tell you."

"If you will not speak you must suffer the consequences."

"Would you—you——" Oliver could not finish.

"You will take the consequence, I say!" hissed Delverez. "What do I care for you? The Americanos made war on my beloved country without cause. I hate you all!" And he clenched his fist. "Come what may I will have the treasure!"

Dan was stirring again, and now he tried to rise up. "The treasure!" he repeated. "Oliver, don't let Caleb Merkin take it. Oh, you one-armed villain, come back! And stop Joe Koloa! He has part of the treasure, too! And that map! Caleb Merkin, come back!"

Poor Dan continued to rave for several minutes, without it being possible for Oliver or me to stop or quiet him. To all that our chum said Ramon Delverez listened with interest.

"Who is Caleb Merkin, the one-armed sailor?" he asked. "And who is Joe Koloa?"

"You will have to find out for yourself," answered Oliver.

He had scarcely spoken when Delverez leaped forward in a rage and kicked him in the head. "If you will not answer, take that!" he cried. Oliver was knocked insensible. I, too, received a savage kick; and then the Spaniard went out, taking Lola with him.

My readers can well imagine how painful, physically and mentally, my situation was to me. I wanted to help myself and to assist my two chums, but I could do absolutely nothing. I wrenched at my bonds, but they held like bands of steel, cutting into my wrists and ankles until they drew blood. I was entirely at Ramon Delverez's mercy.

I was more sorry for Dan than for any of us. The thought that he might become permanently insane, on account of the strong drug administered to him, was heartrending.

It was fully a quarter of an hour later when Oliver began to moan and recover his senses. At first he could not realize his situation and I was afraid he, too, was about to lose his reason. I talked to him in a soothing tone, and at last he understood. But he was so weak and miserable he had little or nothing to say.

Hour after hour went by, until I became afraid that Ramon Delverez had left us to die of starvation in this lonely hut in the forest. But as the sun was setting we heard footsteps and voices approaching. Delverez was returning, accompanied by three other men, all Spaniards or Italians. As the party entered the hut, one of them carrying a lantern, I saw that the strangers were seafaring men.