Chapter 30 | A Determined Enemy | The Adventures of Don Lavington

Chapter Thirty.

Don drew a long breath and took a step forward to march out and give himself up, but Jem’s hands clasped him round, a pair of lips were placed to his ear, and the yard-man’s voice whispered,—

“Stand fast. All sham. He can’t see.”

Don paused, wondering, and watched the dark figure in the entrance to the cave, without dismay now, till, to his surprise, the man began to whistle softly.

“Likely place too,” he muttered. “Are you coming up here, sir?”

“What is it?”

“Likely looking cave, sir; runs right in; looks as if they might be hiding in here.”

There was a rattling and rustling of stones and growth, and then the man at the entrance stooped down and held out his hands to assist some one to ascend, the result being that the broad heavy figure of Bosun Jones came into view.

“Not likely to be here, my lad, even if they were in hiding; but this is a wild goose chase. They’re dead as dead.”

“P’r’aps so, sir; but I think they’re in hiding somewhere. Praps here.”

“Humph! No. Poor fellows, they were drowned.”

“No, sir, I don’t think it,” said Ramsden. “Those niggers looked as if they knew something, and that tattooed fellow who has run away from Norfolk Island has encouraged them to desert. As like as not they may be in here listening to all I say.”

“Well then, go in and fetch them out,” said the boatswain. “You can go in while I have a rest.”

Don’s heart beat fast at those words, for he heard a loud hissing sound beside him, caused by Jem drawing in his breath; and the next moment, as he held his arm, he felt a thrill, for it seemed as if Jem’s muscles had tightened up suddenly.

Then there was a hot breath upon his cheek, and a tickling sensation in his ear beyond; Jem’s lips seemed to settle themselves against it, and the tickling sensation was renewed, as Jem whispered,—

“I’ve cleared my decks for action, Mas’ Don. It was that beggar as told on us. You stand aside when he comes on.”

Don twisted his head round, caught Jem by the shoulder, and favoured him with the same buzzing sensation as he whispered,—

“What are you going to do?”

Jem re-applied his lips to Don’s ear.

“I’m going to make him very sorry he ever come to sea. Once I gets hold of him I’ll make him feel like a walnut in a door.”

“Don’t look a very cheerful place, Mr Jones,” came from the mouth of the cavern.

“Afraid to go in?”

“Afraid, sir? You never knew me afraid.”

“Well, in you go and fetch them out,” said the boatswain with a laugh. “If you don’t come back I shall know that the Maoris have got you, and are saving you for the pot.”

From where Don and Jem stood in the darkness they could see their spying sinister friend give quite a start; but he laughed off the impression the boatswain’s words had made, and began to come cautiously on, feeling his way as a man does who has just left the bright sunshine to enter a dark place.

Jem uttered a loud hiss as he drew his breath, and Ramsden heard it and stopped.

“Mr Jones,” he said sharply.


“Think there’s any big snakes here? I heard a hiss.”

“Only steam from a hot spring. No snakes in this country.”

“Oh!” ejaculated Ramsden: and he came cautiously on.

Don felt Jem’s arm begin to twitch, and discovery seemed imminent. For a few moments he was irresolute, but, knowing that if they were to escape they must remain unseen, he let his hand slide down to Jem’s wrist, caught it firmly, and began to back farther into the cave.

For a few moments he had to drag hard at his companion but, as if yielding to silently communicated superior orders Jem followed him slowly, step by step, with the greatest of caution, and in utter silence.

The floor of the cave was wonderfully smooth, the rock feeling as if it had been worn by the constant passage over it of water, and using their bare feet as guides, and feeling with them every step, they backed in as fast as Ramsden approached, being as it were between two dangers, that of recapture, and the hidden perils, whatever they might be, of the cave.

It was nerve-stirring work, for all beyond was intense darkness, out of which, as they backed farther and farther in, came strange whisperings, guttural gurglings, which sounded to Don as if the inhabitants of the place were retiring angrily before their disturbers, till, driven to bay in some corner, they turned and attacked.

But still Don held tightly by Jem’s wrist, and mastering his dread of the unknown, crept softly in, turning from time to time to watch Ramsden, who came on as if some instinct told him that those he sought for were there.

“Found ’em?” shouted the boatswain; and his voice taught the hiding pair that the cave went far in beyond them, for the sound went muttering by, and seemed to die away as if far down a long passage.

“Not yet, but I think I can hear ’em,” replied Ramsden.

“You can hear a self-satisfied fool talking,” said the boatswain, ill-humouredly.

“So can Mr Jones,” muttered the man. “Hear you. That’s what I can hear.”

“What are you muttering about?”

“I think I can hear ’em, sir. Now then, you two, give up. It’ll be the worse for you if you don’t.”

Don’s hand tightened on his companion’s wrist, and they stood fast, for Ramsden was stopping in a bent attitude, listening.

There was nothing to be heard but the whisperings and gurglings, and then they saw him draw his cutlass and come on.

Jem’s muscles gave another jerk, but he suffered himself to be drawn farther and farther into the cave, till they must have been quite two hundred yards from the mouth; and now, for the first time, the almost straight line which it had formed, changed, and they lost sight of the entrance, but could see the shadow of their enemy cast upon the glistening wall of the place, down which the water seemed to drip, giving it the look of glass.

All at once Don, as he crept back, felt his left foot, instead of encountering the smooth rock floor, go down, and as he quickly withdrew it and felt nearer to him, it was to touch the edge of what seemed a great crack crossing the floor diagonally.

As he paused, he felt that it might be a “fault” of a few inches in width or depth, or a vast chasm going right down into the bowels of the mountain!

“There’s a hole here,” he whispered to Jem. “Hold my hand.”

Jem gripped him firmly, and he reached out with one leg, and felt over the side outward and downward; and, just as he was coming to the conclusion that the place was terribly deep, and a shudder at the danger was running through him, he found that he could touch bottom.

He was in the act of recovering himself, so as to try how wide the crack or fault might be, when a peculiar strangling sensation attacked him, and he felt that he was falling.

The next thing he felt was Jem’s lips to his ear, and feeling his whisper,—

“Hold on, lad. What’s the matter?”

He panted and drew his breath in a catching way for a few minutes before whispering back,—

“Nothing. Only a sudden giddiness.”

Jem made no comment, but gripped his hand tightly, and they stood listening, for the shadow cast faintly on the walls was motionless, and it was evident that their enemy was listening.

“I’m going on, Ramsden,” said the boatswain. “Come along!”

“All right, sir. Join you as soon as I’ve got my prisoners.”

“Hold ’em tight,” shouted the boatswain, and then there was a loud rustling sound, followed by the words faintly heard, “Look sharp. It’s of no use fooling there.”

Don could hear Ramsden mutter something, but he did not seem to be coming on; and mastering the dull, sluggish feeling, accompanied by a throbbing headache, the lad stole cautiously back to where he could look round and see their approaching enemy between them and the light.

To his intense surprise he found the man had his back to them, and was retiring; but as he watched, Ramsden made an angry gesticulation, turned sharply and came on again, but seemed to catch his foot against a projecting piece of rock, stumble and fall forward, his cutlass flying two or three yards on before him with a loud jingling noise.

What followed riveted Don to the spot.