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CHAPTER VIII.


ON THE TRACK OF JOE KOLOA.


After an examination, Oliver called up to us that he thought the rope was about twelve feet too short.

"I think I can reach it by climbing," he announced. "But it will be rather dangerous work."

"Don't you run any more risks," I answered. "Just wait until we lengthen the rope."

"Have you anything with which to do it?"

"No; but we'll find something, even if we have to use all of the harness."

"I know how," cried the Kanaka. "You hold de rope and I show you."

I did as he requested, and running up the gully a short distance, he selected a slender but sturdy sapling, and bent it to the ground. Then out came his native knife, and a few deep cuts enabled him to wrench the young tree from its roots. As he came on with it he stripped it of its main branches.

"Now tie rope to one end and we hold udder end," he said, grinning over what he no doubt considered a triumph of engineering. Soon the reins were fast, and we let the sapling down until Oliver yelled to us to stop.

"Dan is coming first," he said. "Be careful how you haul him up."

"We'll do our best," I answered. It took Dan several minutes to prepare himself for the ascent. By Oliver's advice the rope was placed around his back and under his arms.

"Now then, haul away!" came the command, and we did so, slowly and gently, until the unfortunate appeared, when I caught him and pulled him to a place of safety. Then the rope was lowered a second time and Oliver came up.

"I don't think I'll try for yonder mountain top a second time," murmured Dan, while he rested. "I never took such a tumble before in my life. If I hadn't kept close to the gully's side and got my clothing caught here and there, I would have been killed."

"This no way to reach top of dat Pali," said the Kanaka. "Good place to go over down dere," and he pointed with his short, fat hand. "I show you."

"Thanks, but I have had enough of the Pali," answered Dan, with an attempt at a smile. "Oliver can go up if he wants to, and so can Mark. I'll take it easy under the trees," and he threw himself down in an inviting spot.

We talked the matter over, and allowed the Kanaka to point out the proper path. It was certainly a fairly easy way, and half an hour later found Oliver and myself on the summit of the Pali, enjoying the view through the glasses we had brought along. We could not remain long, the wind being so strong it seemed ready to lift us off of our feet.

When we returned to the carriage we found Dan feeling much better. Our chum was in earnest conversation with Naini.

"He says he thinks he knows this Joe Koloa we are in search of," he announced. "Both of the men used to drive carriages and native rigs at Hilo."

"That is the seaport town nearest to the volcano," cried Oliver. "Did you use to drive from Hilo to the crater?" he asked of Naini.

"We drive from Hilo to Volcano House," was the answer. "But too many go in business of carriage driving and it no pay any more, so I come back to Honolulu where I belong."

"And what became of Joe Koloa?" questioned Oliver, with increasing interest.

"Him go to Wailuku, on the island of Maui."

"Which is between here and the island of Hawaii," put in Dan. "I wonder if he is still there?"

"How long ago is this?"

The Kanaka contracted his brow for a minute.

"Four years, or maybe five. Can't remember so long back," and he grinned. To the average Kanaka life is too full of ease and primitive comfort to do any "hard" mental labor.

We were soon on the return to Honolulu, and as our carriage swept along the beautiful Nuuanu Avenue, lined with stately palms and rich with vines and flowers, into the city proper, we continued to question Naini concerning the native we desired so much to find.

"Why you want to see him?" asked the Kanaka at last.

"He used to know a friend of mine," answered Oliver. "A man named Gaston Brown."

"Oh!" and that was all the carriage-driver said, but it seemed to me that a queer look crossed his face, although I thought nothing of it at the time. I had left the Queen's Hospital and all of us were now stopping at the principal hotel of Honolulu, a spacious hostelry set in a garden which was full of gracious shade and beauty. In the garden was a bandstand, and here a local band gave a concert that evening, to which we boys listened with interest, for we all loved music, and what was furnished was certainly of a good order, even if it was more popular than classical.

"I am going to find out about the trip to Maui," said Oliver, when we arose on the following morning, and he left Dan and me to take it easy on one of the verandas.

"And how is it to-day? " I asked of Dan, when we were alone.

"Oh, I'm all right, excepting that I don't think I can do much climbing just yet," he answered. "And how is it with you?"

"I am ready to start off as soon as Oliver gives the word. I think we have done up the town pretty well, with our trips to the Pali, the beach at Waikiki, and the rambles around the Punchbowl back of here."

"I imagine that the air here is something like in dreamy Italy," went on Dan. "One could just lay back and take it easy forever."

"If one had the money," I laughed.

"Oh, well; never mind, Mark. When we get back from the volcano, we'll be rich enough."

"Providing our search pans out as it should."

"It will—I feel it in my bones. If Joe Koloa is found——"

Dan broke off short and frowned. A shadow had fallen across the veranda, and looking behind me I saw a man standing at a full-length window, eying us sharply. The man was a Spaniard and had a countenance that was far from reassuring. As soon as he saw that he was noticed the man disappeared.

"Come, we will take a walk," whispered Dan, and as he showed that he wanted to get me away from the spot, I readily consented. Soon we were at the back of the extensive gardens, and some distance from the hotel.

"Do you know who that man is?" cried my friend excitedly. "He is Ramon Delverez, the head of that Spanish land company that tried to swindle our firm out of our Manila possessions, at the time Oliver and I visited the Philippines."

"Are you certain it was the same, Dan? He looked like a regular villain."

"And he is a villain—one I wouldn't like to meet in the dark alone at any price. He ought to be in prison this minute."

"I suppose he had to flee from Manila when our troops took possession."

"That's it. Of course ordinary Spaniards were not touched, but he was known to be a rascal even by his own countrymen. I would like to know what he is doing in Honolulu."

"Perhaps he is trying to hatch out another swindle."

"He wouldn't be any too good for it." Dan's face clouded. "Do you suppose he overheard what we were talking about?"

"He heard something—how much I can't say."

"We'll have to be more guarded in our speech after this. If we are not we'll have half a dozen men dogging our footsteps when we go in search of the Cave of Pearls."

When we returned to the hotel we found Oliver had been to the steamship office and ascertained that we could get passage for Wailuku two days later.

"We might go to-morrow, but the steamer is already crowded, so I took the next day. We have not got to hurry, you know, even though we are anxious to find this Joe Koloa and the treasure cave."

"Ramon Delverez is here," announced Dan, and told of what had happened. He had scarcely finished when we heard several men approaching down the garden path. We looked up and saw they were the Spaniard and two Americans. The Spaniard was talking earnestly and did not see us as we stepped out of sight behind some bushes.

"Yes, put up ten thousand dollars and I will show you how to make a fortune out of the business," we heard Delverez say, as the three passed us.

"But it is risky, eh, Carson?" returned one of the Americans.

"That's true, Palmer. Still, if Señor Delverez is trustworthy, and I suppose he is, it's a big chance," was the reply from the man addressed as Carson.

"I can furnish the best of references," said the Spaniard. "It is a sure thing, too, as you Americans say it," and he smiled oilily. Then the three men passed out of hearing.

"What do you think of that?" said Oliver, looking at Dan keenly.

"I think he is going to try to swindle Messrs. Carson and Palmer out of ten thousand dollars!" burst out Dan. "And if that is true, I'm out to block his game."