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CHAPTER XXIX.


ON THE ROAD TO THE VOLCANO.


It was drawing toward morning when we reached the spot where we had gone ashore on our first trip up the river, after Ramon Delverez. We located the place with ease, and it was no task to trace the trail through the cocoanut grove to the hut which was Lola's home.

As we came up we found that all was quiet, with not a soul in sight.

"Perhaps they have removed poor Dan," murmured Oliver. "I'd give a good deal to see him safe."

"And in his right mind," I put in. "Softly now, or if that native is around he will slip through our fingers."

We came up to the hut with caution, and leaving the policemen and Oliver outside I rushed in impetuously.

"Who is that?" called a voice in the darkness—Dan's voice,—and I felt instinctively that our chum was again in his right mind.

"Dan, it is I—Mark," I answered. "Where are you?"

"Mark! Thank God, you have come! I am here, where they first put me, on the floor."

"And Lola?"

"He went away last night. I believe he was going to leave me here to starve."

By this time I had struck a match and now I lit a torch which had been used by the Kanaka, and stuck it in a crack in the floor. With my knife I liberated Dan and at the same time called upon Oliver and the others to come in.

It was a joyous re-union for us three chums, especially so since Dan was now once more himself. But he was hungry and thirsty, and it was found necessary to assist him down to the boat. He had little to tell that we did not know, excepting that Lola had let drop during a talk that he expected Dan's parents to pay handsomely for the youth's liberty. "He was going to do the brigand act, you see," said Dan, with a faint smile. "But it didn't work," and he squeezed my hand and that of Oliver.

Upon reaching Hilo we went directly to the hotel, and a doctor was summoned, to give us all a tonic to counteract the ill effects of the drug which had been administered. "I know that drug well," said the physician. "The natives call it kokomana, and they have a story to the effect that whosoever drinks kokomana seven times, each time when the moon is full, will never fall in war."

"Excuse me, but once was enough for me," shuddered Dan.

"And enough for me," murmured Oliver. "I don't want to go to the lunatic asylum just yet."

As anxious as all of us were to follow up Delverez, Caleb Merkin, and Joe Koloa, it was deemed both advisable and necessary to remain in Hilo several days, to rest up and to settle matters with the authorities concerning Captain Marcale.

The Spaniard broke down utterly on an examination in court, but said the whole fault was Ramon Delverez's, that his relative had totally misrepresented matters to him. He was given his option of going to prison or paying a fine of three hundred dollars for kidnaping, and he chose to pay the fine. When the Viscount sailed, Sam Gumbert was not on board, having reshipped on an English vessel bound for Hong Kong, China, after Oliver and I had presented him with twenty dollars in gold. Gumbert thus escaped a terrible fate, for the Viscount, while yet three days out from Sydney, took fire, and neither captain nor crew were ever heard of afterward.

While we were in Hilo we tried to learn something about Dr. Barton, and were informed that he had gone on to the Volcano House, a large hostelry standing upon the very brink of the volcano Kilauea. It may seem strange to some of my readers that the hotel should stand in such a dangerous position, but they must recollect that the crater of the volcano is nearly three miles in diameter, and that only a comparatively small portion of the whole is in a state of eruption, the remainder being crumbling lava, varying in thickness from ten to hundreds of feet.

It was a bright day when we at last set off for the volcano. To tell the truth, we hardly knew how to turn, not knowing what direction Delverez had taken, nor what had become of Caleb Merkin and Joe Koloa.

"We'll have to trust to luck to run across some of them in the vicinity of the volcano," said Oliver. "We can't do anything else."

We were on horseback, having procured first-class animals in Hilo. The journey to the volcano can be made in one day by good traveling, but as we were in no condition to rush matters, we decided to stop at the Half Way House, a well-known inn, situated midway between the town we had left and the end of our proposed journey.

For some distance after leaving Hilo our course was through a well-wooded section of country. Palms were everywhere in evidence, and the plantains and smaller trees grew so close to the roadway that their branches continually swept our heads. Occasionally we came upon cleared patches where coffee plantations had been started.

"These people seem to grow but three things: rice, sugar, and coffee," remarked Dan, as we moved along at an easy gait. "In all of our travels I haven't seen but four vegetable gardens."

"The islanders are coffee and sugar mad, so I was told in Honolulu," returned Oliver. "They could raise all sorts of green stuff here, and yet they import thousands of dollars' worth of canned goods annually from the United States!"

"I think things will change after the United States authorities get to work," I ventured. "I understand that at present a small farmer hasn't hardly any show. He can't even get a footing on Kauai, for the whole of the island is owned by six or seven big land-holders. And the same is true of all of the other islands but the one we are on."

As we had resolved to take it easy, we stopped, about ten o'clock, at the home of a Japanese farmer, who owned one of the prettiest plantations on the volcano road. His garden was filled with truck of all sorts, and in his cow-yard wandered half a dozen choice Dutch belted cattle. Here we procured three ice-cold glasses of milk rich with cream, for which we paid thirty cents.

While we were drinking the milk we questioned the Japanese closely to learn if he had seen any of the men we were after. He said he remembered seeing a sailor and a native ride by two or three days before, and he was fairly certain that the sailor had had but one arm.

"They quarrel—talk very loud," he added. "De Kanaka he want to go back, but de sailor say no."

"And they went on?" questioned Oliver.

"Yes, da go on, but native t'row arms up in air and werry mad."

"We are on the right trail," said Dan; and we proceeded on our journey without further delay. We talked of pushing straight ahead to the Volcano House, but when the Half Way House was gained, about three o'clock in the afternoon, we were glad enough to dismount from our horses, order our dinners, and take it easy in some grass hammocks under the trees while the meal was being prepared.

"The climate makes one lazy in spite of one's self," said Dan, and before dinner was announced he fell asleep. We concluded not to arouse him, and he slept until sundown, feeling much improved because of his unexpected nap.

At the Half Way House we asked again about Delverez, Merkin, and Joe Koloa. Here nothing was known of the Kanaka or the sailor. But one of the attendants remembered Delverez.

"He stopped for lunch and to water his horse," said the fellow. "He appeared to be in a great hurry to go on."

"When did he stop?" asked Oliver.

"It must have been about eleven o'clock yesterday morning."

"Was he alone?"

"No; he had a native with him."

"A native!" I cried.

"Did you hear what his name was?"

"The Spaniard called him Lopa, or something like that."

"It was Lola!" ejaculated Dan. "Boys, our enemies are bunching up."

"So much the better—if we can corral them," said Oliver. "But we will have to have our wits about us, or they may get the best of us."