Monday, 2 December 2013

Incas Treasure House -Pt 5, Conclusion

The Open Road for Boys, 1932 March
The Incas' Treasure House -Part 5, Conclusion
By A. Hyatt Verrill
Illustrated by Heman Fay, Jr,
From The Open Road for Boys magazine, March, 1932. Digitized by Doug Frizzle, December 2013.

The Story So Far
Bob Stillwell and Pancho McLean become lost in the Andes on their way to La Raya, a mining camp in Peru where Bob's father is manager. While lost they save the life of an Indian chief, disabled by a jaguar. Because of this they are well treated by the Indians of the chief's village. The boys find these Indians different from all others and they conclude that they are a lost tribe, living as did the Indians under the Incas before the time of Pizarro. They discover a temple with amazing golden ornaments and relics of the Spanish conquest.
Having recovered, Tonak starts with the boys and two young Indians, Kespi and Kenko, for La Raya, but first, because Bob and Pancho saved his life, Tonak shows them a fabulous treasure which the ancestors of his people kept from Pizarro's clutches, and tells them that they may take with them as much of it as they can carry.
The Indians suddenly desert the boys, just as they come in sight of a large exploring party under Mr. Stillwell, who has left La Raya before the news that the boys were lost had arrived. He is astounded to find Bob and Pancho in the midst of the desert, and amazed at the precious stones and gold they carry. Haskins, the foreman, and "Red" Masden, who are the only other white men in the party (except Larañaga, a Peruvian surveyor) are told the secret of the treasure. Arrangements are made to guard it, but the boys' suspicions become aroused and they feel that Haskins is worried and fears violence.

MR. STILLWELL laughed when the boys told him of their suspicions. "Of course Haskins isn't worried, he said. "But he's responsible for everything and it's no light matter to keep an expedition of this sort running right."
"He told us Red didn't know anything about what we had," said Pancho. "Don't you think Red does know, or has guessed?"
Mr. Stillwell looked at Pancho with a peculiar expression in his half-closed eyes. "How should I know what Red thinks?" he said. "I haven't told him anything."
Had the two boys known what Red had told Haskins in the whispered conference Pancho had witnessed, and which Haskins in turn had reported to Mr. Stillwell, they would have understood several matters that puzzled them. They would have known why the miner carried his revolver, why he made the rounds of the camp in the middle of the night, and why—although they were not aware of the fact—Red slept on a most uncomfortable bed of blankets spread over the loads of the pack-mules, instead of upon his comfortable camp cot. Also, Bob would have known why his father had evaded Pancho's question and had looked so queerly at him.
There was not in fact anything definite to worry about. Red had strolled over to the boys' camp while they had been talking with Mr. Stillwell and Haskins inside the tent on the morning of their astonishing appearance, and had surprised two of the Cholos poking about the packs left by Tonak and his Indians. Whether or not they had discovered that they contained gold Red did not know.
"Even if those Cholos saw the gold, I don't think there is need for worry," Mr. Stillwell had declared. "These two have worked for me for several years. They are so accustomed to seeing and even handling bullion at La Raya that I don't think it would occur to them that they could steal this gold or that it was unusual for the boys' packs to contain it."
"Sure, if they don't talk, there's nothin' to it," agreed Haskins. "Trouble is, a Cholo can't keep his mouth shut. The men have been talkin' quite a bit 'bout them boys bobbin' up. Like as not they'll get arguin' where they come from an' how, an' then them Cholos'll up an' tell what they know. Now I ain't sayin' as how there's danger from these here men. Them two Rotos is the only ones as has got backbone enough for anythin'. It'd be dead easy for 'em to lift a few bars or bags or plates an' hide 'em in the sand or amongst the rocks an' come back an' get 'em when they was ready. So I reckon the bes' thing is to have Red keep them there packs alongside him at night an' for all of us to kind of be watchin' out. I'm goin' heeled from now on an' if any of that bunch tries any funny business it'll be an unlucky day for him."
"Yes, I think it wise to be on the safe side," agreed Mr. Stillwell. "I'm thankful none of the men know about the stones."
"It's lucky we're in Peru," declared Haskins, "an' not some place where they's bandits. Howsomever, I'm goin' for to keep my eyes on them there Rotos— they're jus' nat'ral born pizen, even if they can shoot a vein to beat all get out."

THAT night the expedition camped in a deep, fertile ravine, and before they dropped off to sleep, Bob and Pancho determined to go out on a hunt at dawn the next day. They arranged to join the expedition again at about noon, farther down the ravine.
It was still quite dark when they awoke and crept out of their tent. Tiptoeing through the silent camp they met Haskins, who wished them good luck in a hoarse whisper. After eating the sandwiches which old Chin Foo had thoughtfully provided, they hurried up the canyon.
By the time the sun rose, they had traveled a mile and more from camp, Bob taking the right side of the canyon and Pancho the left. Often they were within sight of each other, but at times the ravine widened, and fallen rock masses and miniature jungles intervened.
In one such spot, Pancho heard the sound of a gunshot from the opposite side of the canyon. "Well, Bob's found something anyway," he said to himself. "I wonder what he got." Almost at the same instant a deer sprang into view and Pancho threw his rifle to his shoulder and fired. "Missed!" he exclaimed, as he saw the creature vanishing like a fleeting shadow. "Guess I'll go over and see what luck Bob had."
Just ahead the canyon narrowed abruptly. As he reached this point Pancho shouted and listened for Bob's reply. But all was silent. Pancho felt suddenly panic-stricken. Why didn't Bob answer? Taking a long breath, he opened his mouth to call again, but no sound issued from his lips. A slight noise caused him to turn and he stood transfixed, gazing into the muzzle of a gun along the barrel of which squinted a dark, villainous face!
Along the barrel of the gun...
Pancho felt his last moment had come. The thought raced through his mind that Bob already had been killed by the shot which he had heard. Incapable of moving, unable to utter a sound, he awaited the blinding flash that would end his life. Suddenly he heard the man say in Spanish, "Drop your gun!"
Pancho's fingers relaxed and his rifle fell clattering to the ground. Instantly a second figure sprang from behind a rock, seized the rifle, cocked it, and jamming the muzzle against Pancho's back ordered him to move along.
Faint with fear, yet vastly relieved to be still alive. Pancho stumbled forward. He had recognized the man who had seized his rifle as one of the Roto "powder-men" belonging to Haskin's gang, and he now recalled the other as one of the burly Slav miners. Somehow they must have discovered the secret of the treasure, and must have learned that he and Bob were going on this early morning hunt. With guns in their possession, they were doubtless planning to hold up the party and seize the gold and jewels. An ambush could easily be arranged among the rocks, from the shelter of which the villains could pick off the three white men, and as many of the others as they chose. And Bob! A lump rose in Pancho's throat as he thought of what must have been Bob's fate.

THE three soon came out on a bare slope below almost sheer cliffs. The fellow behind Pancho ordered him to turn to the right where a narrow shelf led up the canyon wall. Presently the narrow pathway ended behind a pillar of rock where a dark cavern opened in the cliff. With a kick and a curse the Roto ordered Pancho into the cave. As, with an involuntary cry of pain, he stumbled forward on hands and knees, he was thrown on his face and his wrists and ankles were quickly lashed together. In the dim light of the cavern he recognized the fellow who was manhandling him as the other Roto. Like a sack of meal he was dragged across the floor and flung into a corner.
"Pancho!" came a muffled cry from the blackness.
"Bob!" gasped Pancho, "Where are you?"
"Here!" came the whispered response.
"Over beyond me," came a new voice almost in Pancho's ear. "Ouch! You're lying on my wrists. Roll over!"
"Wh-who's that?" whispered Pancho. "Me—Larañaga!" came the reply. "They got me, too. They need me to guide them, but they plan to kill Mr. Stillwell and the others!"
"Shut up in there!" ordered the Roto from the outer cavern. Larañaga lowered his voice to a whisper. "There's only one chance for them," he said. "Haskins is no fool. He'll miss these fellows sooner or later and know something is wrong. The fools! With good wages due them, to kill and rob for the sake of a few horses and the camp outfit!"
Larañaga evidently did not know about the treasure, did not realize that the Rotos and the big Slav were playing for high stakes. Pancho pondered whether he should let his fellow prisoner remain in ignorance or tell him about the gold and precious stones. He was about to speak up, when an exclamation from Bob stopped him.
"Listen!" Bob hissed. "They forgot to search my pockets! I've a knife. If we can get it open we can cut each other free!"
"Caramba, it is true!" agreed the Peruvian. Perhaps I can reach the knife."
It was slow and painful work, trying to secure the knife with his lashed hands, but at last Larañaga drew it out and got it open. It took only a short time to cut Bob free, and the rest was easy. With sighs of relief the three rubbed their numbed, swollen hands and wrists.
"It's more comfortable," said Bob, "but I don't see as we're any better off."
"We'll be a lot worse off if they come in and find us free," Pancho remarked.
"No fear—for the present," declared Larañaga. "They're expecting our party at any moment and won't give us a thought until the fight is over."
The sharp report of a rifle suddenly rang through the canyon!

WITH no suspicion of danger, Mr. Stillwell led his party up the canyon toward the spot where the three desperadoes crouched behind the rocks, their rifles cocked and ready. They could not have found a place more perfectly designed for an ambuscade. In front of the cavern erosion had formed a groove or gutter with its outer edge nearly two feet above its floor. Lying with their bodies in the hollow, with rifles resting in crevices of the rock, the men could be seen only from above, by some one looking down from the top of the canyon, or by the condors sailing in great circles in the cloudless sky.
Mr. Stillwell did not expect to meet the boys for another hour, and not until the expedition was actually within range of the plotters' guns did he have any inkling that something was wrong. Then the alert Haskins rode up, scowling darkly.
"Them two Rotos has skipped!" he announced.
"Skipped!" repeated Mr. Stillwell, "you mean—"
"Gone. An' that ain't the whole of it neither. That big Slav, Peter, has cleared out with 'em, an' Larañaga's mis-sin'. Now what do you make out of that?"
"Larañaga—I can't believe he would associate with those Rotos," cried Mr. Stillwell. "Is any of the gold missing?"
"Not a chance!" declared Haskins. "An' I ain't sayin' as Larañaga j'ined them pizen Rotos. Maybe they're aimin' on makin' us ransom him."
"I believe you're right!" exclaimed Mr. Stillwell, pulling his horse to a stop. They've taken him prisoner. And the boys! Do you suppose they've got them too, and will demand the gold as ransom? Good Heavens, Haskins, the boys have guns! Those villains would stop at nothing if they know about the treasure. They may already have killed Bob and Pancho to get their rifles! Quick! Call Red and a few men you can trust. We must plan a rescue if it's not already too late!"
In response to Haskins' summons, Red rode up hastily. Suddenly there came the sharp report of a rifle, and Red's sombrero flew from his head! With a single motion he threw himself behind his horse, whipped out his revolver and fired at the tiny puff of smoke that had spurted from the face of the cliff.
The detonations of his forty-five drowned the sound of a second rifle shot; but a Cholo, frantically striving to control a terrified mule, spun like a top and sank limply to the ground.
"Back!" roared Haskins, wheeling his mount. "Back to them rocks!"

INSTANTLY all was confusion. The Slav laborers took to their heels like stampeded cattle. The arrieros, shouting, cursing, cracking their whips, strove to check and turn their mules and burros. The frightened animals snorted, reared, and kicked. Only the Indians and the llamas remained calm.
Back to them rocks!
Unmindful of their danger, the three white men herded men and animals back to the partial protection of boulders and trees. A mule uttered a piercing scream and plunged to its knees to roll over kicking spasmodically. Burros squealed with fear or fell dead or wounded. A lumbering Slav uttered a bellow of mingled pain and rage as a bullet clipped his shoulder.
One Cholo lay dead beside the trail and a second crawled, dragging a shattered leg, into a crevice of the rocks. Haskins' face was covered with blood from a furrow cut by a bullet across his forehead. Red's mount had been killed under him, and Mr. Stillwell's saddle-horn had been broken by a rifle ball. But by far the greater number of shots spattered harmlessly against the rocks or thudded into the earth. Not until the last man and all the animals were comparatively safe in the shelter of the natural barrier did the three Americans turn their attention to their enemies.
"Those scoundrels have the boys' guns!" cried Mr. Stillwell as the trio crouched with poised weapons. Haskins' heavy revolver roared as he fired at a momentary glimpse of a moving body on the cliff side. "How many shells did them boys have?" he asked.
"I'm not sure," said Mr. Stillwell. "I think Bob had at least fifty and Pancho about half as many."
Red and Haskins fired together.
"Mebbe the Rotos loaded up with more before they vamoosed," remarked Red.
"Dumb fools!" growled Haskins. "Lessen they kill us three they can't never get away with it. Hullo! Who's them up there atop the cliff?"
On the summit of the canyon wall, above the spot where the bandits lay concealed, three figures had appeared, stooping, gazing down over the edge.
"Injuns!" exclaimed Red. "Reckon they heard the shootin' an' come along to see what's up."
"Injuns they be," agreed Haskins. "But what be they up to? Looks like—By thunder, they're throwin' somethin' down sure's I'm a settin' here. An' them villains up there have quit shootin'. Now what the dickens can that—"
Mr. Stillwell had leaped to his feet.
"The boys! Thank Heaven!" he shouted, springing over the rocks and dashing across the canyon.
At the spot from which the bandits' rifles had blazed, Larañaga and the two boys had suddenly popped into sight, waving their arms and shouting.

AS the first shot fired by their captors echoed through the cave, Larañaga, Bob and Pancho tensely listened for answering shots. Between the sharp cracks of the rifles close at hand, they could hear faint sounds and the occasional staccato, barking of pistols. Slowly the three prisoners drew nearer the entrance to the cavern, but they could see nothing of what was transpiring in the canyon even when they at last crouched just within the shelter of the cave. From their right came the crashing reports of rifles, and wisps of pungent smoke drifted to their nostrils. Now the shouting had ceased. Only the intermittent rifle fire and the answering reports of revolvers broke the silence.
"Caramba!" whispered Larañaga. "The fiends have not killed our comrades. They are still shooting. How many pistols can you distinguish?"
"Two fired then—almost together!" replied Panchito.
"There goes another!" said Bob. "Dad and Haskins and Red must be all right. They're the only ones who were armed."
"If they have plenty of cartridges they will win," declared Larañaga. "How many have these brigands?"
"I had twenty-three and used two—that leaves twenty-one," Pancho told him.
"I had fifty though," said Bob, "a full belt, and—"
A sharp, agonized cry from one of the bandits interrupted Bob's words.
"Gracias a Dios!" exclaimed Larañaga. "One of the scoundrels has been hit!"
"Give it to 'em!" shouted Pancho, in his excitement forgetting he was supposed to be a bound and helpless prisoner within the cave. But the Rotos and their companion were too occupied to notice, even if they heard his exultant shout.
"I've got to see what's going on!" cried Bob, stealthily creeping to the entrance of the cave and peering around an angle of the rock.
"Whew!" he exclaimed, drawing back. "They're right around the corner. But they're back to and won't see us. Come on, let's watch!"
"That big fellow is badly hurt," whispered Pancho as the three, emboldened by the men's position and their own excitement, darted from the cave and dropped behind a sheltering rock whence they had a clear view of the whole scene.
"Dead!" muttered Larañaga. "If it weren't for being shot by mistake by our friends we could now escape. These fellows could not see us until we reached the bottom of the canyon."
Bob grasped his arm. "Look!" he cried. "Where on earth did that come from?"
At his words the others turned toward the Rotos at whom Bob was gazing in puzzled amazement. From between the shoulders of the nearer man a slender shaft projected like a miniature flagstaff. Before the astonished three could speak, other shafts flashed downward to stand quivering, one in the sprawled body of the dead Slav, another within an inch of the surviving Roto, who, apparently oblivious of his companions' fate, was still firing at the men across the canyon. But at the impact of the missile he turned, uttered a startled cry, and twisting over on his back fired straight upward.
"Arrows!" gasped Larañaga. "Indians! From above! They—"
The words died on his lips as he stared at the Roto. Gazing toward the canyon rim with rolling, fear-filled eyes, he worked the rifle bolt frantically but only metallic clicks followed. The magazine was empty. With an oath he cast the useless weapon aside, half rose, then remembering the enemies across the canyon, he dropped back and like a gigantic reptile clawed and writhed his way toward the cavern's mouth. Never had the boys dreamed such awful fear could be written on a human face.
Scarcely had he moved forward his own length when a large stone whanged on the ledge before him. With a jerk and a cry of terror he flung himself back. Too late! With a sickening thud a rock struck his back. He screamed, and doubling up like a jackknife writhed horribly for a moment and then lay still. "Quick!" cried Larañaga, leaping to his feet. "It is over! We are saved!"
"Hold on! Wait!" yelled Pancho, grabbing the Peruvian and jerking him back. "They'll think you're a Roto and shoot at you. We'll show ourselves first. They'll recognize us. Come on, Bob! Jump up and yell like blazes!"
As they did so, Bob's father sprang from behind a rock and came dashing across the canyon, followed by Haskins and Red.

THE boys and Larañaga raced down the narrow ledge and skirted the face of the cliff to the bottom of the canyon to meet the three men.
"Where's them blasted Rotos?" demanded Haskins, as the two groups converged. "What happened to 'em? Did we get 'em or was it them Injuns on the cliff?"
"Madre de Dios! Did you not know then?" panted Larañaga. "I thought you sent Indians to attack from above."
"Gosh it was awful!" exclaimed Bob.
"They killed one with an arrow and the other with rocks!" interrupted Pancho.
"Yes, and that big Peter was already shot," put in Larañaga.
"But who in time were them Injuns?" demanded Haskins. "I seen 'em up there, thro win' somethin' down. Let's go up an' have a look at them Rotos. We'll want the rifles, anyhow."
As the two boys, shuddering a bit, approached the dead men, Pancho uttered a surprised cry and darting forward seized the arrow-like shaft that had struck the rocks. "It—it's one of Kespi's throwing spears!" was his amazing declaration.
"It sure is!" gasped Bob. "But—"
"You mean—" began Mr. Stillwell, "you mean it's a weapon belonging to those Indian friends of yours?"
"How about this here pig-sticker?" asked Red who had withdrawn the spear from the body of the dead Roto.
"That's old Tonak's!" cried Bob excitedly. His spears always had this mushroom-shaped mark and a silver band. But Dad! how could they be here?"
"It sure beats me," commented Red. "Them Injuns made a mighty good job of it. Cleaned out the whole nest. That Peter wasn't shot by a bullet. There's a hole in his head, but not a bullet hole or I'm a liar."
"Yes, by hookey, an' I figger this is what made it," interrupted Haskins. As he spoke he exhibited a smoothly finished spherical object of grayish stone.
"That's a sling stone!" cried Bob, "just like those the Indians used."
"By Jove!" exclaimed Mr. Stillwell, who had taken the little ball from Haskins. "Did you notice it's weight, Haskins? It's tin—cassiterite—stream-tin! And as heavy as lead. No wonder it could kill a man."
" 'Pears to me," Haskins observed, "that them three Injuns must ha' been campin' on our trail ever since we met up with the boys."
"Gee, I'd like to see them again!" declared Bob.
"Me too!" chimed in Pancho. "Can't we find them and thank them for helping us?"
Red chuckled, "I reckon not," he said. "If they'd wanted to be met up with they'd have been here by now. Looks to me like their job's done and most likely they're hittin' the high spots on their way back to their hide-out."

BUT Red was mistaken. As the party crossed to where the rest of the expedition lay hidden behind the rocks, the boys halted and glanced back.
"Look! Look!" cried Bob excitedly. "There they are!"
Standing upon the verge of the canyon wall, motionless as statues, were three figures that the boys would have known anywhere. Wildly they shouted and waved their hats.
"Tonak! Kespi! Kenko!" they yelled at the tops of their lungs.
For a moment the Indians upon the cliff top remained silent, as quiet as if carved from stone. Then slowly they raised their arms, their right hands lifted toward the sky, their left hands resting over their hearts in the Incan gesture of farewell.
"Ayhualla! Ayhualla!" Faint and thin as the whisper of a breeze the words drifted across the canyon. The next instant the three figures vanished.
In silence the boys turned to the waiting horses. Silently they mounted and rode forward as with the cracking of whips, the shouts of Cholos and Indians, the clatter of hoofs and the tramp of the Slavs' hobnailed boots the cavalcade once again resumed its interrupted journey.
"Day after tomorrow we'll be in La Raya," muttered Bob with a note of regret in his voice. "But—well, I suppose it will be awfully tame after all the adventures we've had. Somehow I'd like to be going back to Tonak's village."
"So would I," declared Pancho. "I'd give a lot to be with those Incans again. They're mighty fine fellows."
Mr. Stillwell smiled. "Remember the old saying, boys," he reminded them. "Distance lends enchantment, you know."
"By gum, I don't know about that neither," exclaimed Haskins.
"Seems to me the nearer I be to my pay the better it looks. Danged if it don't."


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As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.