Chapter 31 | Good for Evil | The Adventures of Don Lavington

Chapter Thirty One.

Ramsden struggled to his feet as if with an effort, and stood holding his hand to his head, evidently hurt. The next moment he stepped forward, staggering slightly, stooped to pick up his cutlass, and fell forward, uttered a groan, rose up again, and fell down once more, this time to lie without motion.

“Jem,” whispered Don, “look at that!”

“Was looking,” whispered back Jem. “Hit his head; sarve him right.”

Ramsden did not move, and the two fugitives stood anxiously watching.

“What shall we do?”

“Wait! He’ll soon come round and go. May as well sit down.”

Jem lowered himself to a sitting position, and was in the act of trying to rest on his elbow when he gasped quickly two or three times, and caught at Don, who helped him to a kneeling position, from which he struggled up.

“Hah!” he ejaculated; “just as if some one caught me by the throat. Oh, how poorly I do feel. Just you put your head down there, Mas’ Don.”

Don stood thinking and trying to grasp what it meant. Then, with some hazy recollection of dangers encountered in old wells, he bent down cautiously and started up again, for it gradually dawned upon both that for about two feet above the floor there was a heavy stratum of poisonous gas, so potent that it overcame them directly; and it was into this they had plunged as soon as they had stooped down.

“Why, Jem,” panted Don; “it stops your breath!”

“Stops your breath? It’s just as if a man got hold of you by the throat. Why, if I’d stopped in that a minute I should never have got up again.”

“But—but, that man?” whispered Don.

“What, old Ramsden? Phew! I’d forgot all about him. He’s quiet enough.”

“Jem, he must be dying.”

“I won’t say, ‘good job, too,’ ’cause it wouldn’t be nice,” said Jem, with a chuckle. “What shall us do?”

“Do?” cried Don. “We must help him.”

“What, get him out? If we do, he’ll be down on us.”

“We can’t help that, Jem. We must not leave a fellow-creature to die,” replied Don; and hurrying forward, he gave a glance toward the mouth of the cave, to satisfy himself that the good-natured boatswain was not there, and then, holding his breath, he stooped down and raised Ramsden into a sitting posture, Jem coming forward at once to help him.

“Goes ag’in the grain, Mas’ Don,” he muttered; “but I s’pose we must.”

“Must? Yes! Now, what shall we do?”

“Dunno,” said Jem; “s’pose fresh air’d be best for him.”

“Let’s get him to the mouth, then,” said Don.

“But the boatswain ’ll see us, and we shall be took.”

“I can’t help that, Jem; the man will die here.”

“Well, we don’t want him. He’s a hennymee.”


“Oh, all right, Mas’ Don. I’ll do as you say, but as I says, and I says it again, it goes ag’in the grain.”

They each took one hand and placed their arms beneath those of the prostrate man; and, little as they stooped, they inhaled sufficient of the powerful gas to make them wince and cough; but, rising upright, taking a full breath and starting off, they dragged Ramsden backwards as rapidly as they could to where the fresh air blew into the mouth of the cave, and there they laid the man down.

But before doing so, Don went upon his knees, and placing his face close to the rocky floor, inhaled the air several times.

“It seems all right here,” he said. “Try it, Jem.”

“Oh! I’ll try it,” said Jem, grumpily; “only I don’t see why we should take so much trouble about such a thing as this.”

“Yes; it’s all right,” he said, after puffing and blowing down by the ground. “Rum, arn’t it, that the air should be bad yonder and not close in here!”

“The cave goes downward,” said Don; “and the foul air lies in the bottom, just as it does in a well. Do you think he’s dead?”

“Him dead!” said Jem, contemptuously; “I don’t believe you could kill a thing like that. Here, let’s roll up one of these here blanket things and make him a pillow, and cover him up with the other, poor fellow, so as he may get better and go and tell ’em we’re here.”

“Don’t talk like that, Jem!” cried Don.

“Why not? Soon as he gets better he’ll try and do us all the harm he can.”

“Poor fellow! I’m afraid he’s dead,” whispered Don.

“Then he won’t want no more cutlashes and pistols,” said Jem, coolly appropriating the arms; “these here will be useful to us.”

“But they are the king’s property, Jem.”

“Ah! Well, I dessay if the king knew how bad we wanted ’em, he’d lend ’em to us. He shall have ’em again when we’ve done with them.”

As he spoke Jem helped himself to the ammunition, and then stood looking on as Don dragged Ramsden’s head round, so that the wind blew in his face.

“How I should like to jump on him!” growled Jem. “I hate him like poison, and I would if I’d got on a pair o’ boots. Shouldn’t hurt him a bit like this.”

“Don’t talk nonsense, Jem. Mr Jones might hear us. Let’s hail; he can’t be very far off.”

“I say, Mas’ Don, did our ugly swim last night send you half mad?”

“Mad? No!”

“Then, p’r’aps it’s because you had no sleep. Here’s a chap comes hunting of us down with a cutlash, ready to do anything; and now he’s floored and we’re all right, you want to make a pet on him. Why, it’s my belief that if you met a tiger with the toothache you’d want to take out his tusk.”

“Very likely, Jem,” said Don, laughing.

“Ah, and as soon as you’d done it, ‘thankye, my lad,’ says the tiger, ‘that tooth’s been so bad that I haven’t made a comf’table meal for days, so here goes.’”

“And then he’d eat me, Jem.”

“That’s so, my lad.”

“Ah, well, this isn’t a tiger, Jem.”

“Why, he’s wuss than a tiger, Mas’ Don; because he do know better, and tigers don’t.”

“Ramsden, ahoy!” came from below them in the ravine.

“Oh, crumpets!” exclaimed Jem. “Now we’re done for. All that long swim for nothing.”

“Back into the cave,” whispered Don. “Perhaps they have not seen us.”

He gave Jem a thrust, they backed in a few yards, and then stood watching and listening.