Chapter 21

Two thoughts flickered in Torres' mind as he was sucked down. The first was of the great white hound which had leaped after him. The second was that the Mirror of the World told lies. That this was his end he was certain, yet the little he had dared permit himself to glimpse in the Mirror had given no hint of an end anything like this.

A good swimmer, as he was engulfed and sucked on in rapid, fluid darkness, he knew fear that he might have his brains knocked out by the stone walls or roof of the subterranean passage Chapter 21 through which he was being swept. But the freak of the currents was such that not once did he collide with any part of his anatomy. Sometimes he was aware of being banked against water-cushions that tokened the imminence of a wall or boulder, at which times he shrank as it were into smaller compass, like a sea- turtle drawing in its head before the onslaught of sharks.

Less than a minute, as he measured the passage of time by the holding of his breath, elapsed, ere, in an easier-flowing stream, his head emerged above the Chapter 21 surface and he refreshed his lungs with great inhalations of cool air. Instead of swimming, he contented himself with keeping afloat, and with wondering what had happened to the hound and with what next excitement would vex his underground adventure. Soon he glimpsed light ahead, the dim but unmistakable light of day; and, as the way grew brighter, he turned his face back and saw what made him proceed to swim with a speed-stroke. What he saw was the hound, swimming high, with the teeth of its huge jaws gleaming in the increasing light. Under the source of Chapter 21 the light, he saw a shelving bank and climbed out. His first thought, which he half carried out, was to reach into his pocket for the gems he had stolen from the Queen's chest. But a reverberant barking that grew to thunder in the cavern reminded him of his fanged pursuer, and he drew forth the Queen's dagger instead.

Again two thoughts divided his judgment for action. Should he try to kill the swimming brute ere it landed? Or should he retreat up the rocks toward the light on the chance that the stream might carry the hound past Chapter 21 him? His judgment settled on the second course of action, and he fled upw r ard along a narrow ledge. But the dog landed and followed with such four-footed certainty of speed that it swiftly overtook him. Torres turned at bay on the cramped footing, crouched, and brandished the dagger against the brute's leap.

But the hound did not leap. Instead, playfully, with jaws widespread of laughter, it sat down and extended its right paw in greeting. As he took the paw in his hand and shook it, Torres almost collapsed in the revulsion of relief. He Chapter 21 laughed with exuberant shrilliness that advertised semihysteria, and continued to pump the hound's leg up and down, while the hound, with wide jaws and gentle eyes, laughed as exuberantly back.

Pursuing the shelf, the hound contentedly at heel and occasionally sniffing his calves, Torres found that the narrow track, paralleling the river, after an ascent descended to it again. And then Torres saw two things, one that made him pause and shudder, and one that made his heart beat high with hope. The first was the underground river. Rushing straight at the wall of rock, it plunged into Chapter 21 it in a chaos of foam and turbulence, with stiffly serrated and spitefully spitting waves that advertised its' swiftness and momentum. The second was an opening to one side, through which streamed white daylight. Possibly fifteen feet in diameter was this opening, but across it was stretched a spider web more monstrous than any product of a madman's fancy. Most ominous of all was the debris of bones that lay beneath. The threads of the web were of silver and of the thickness of a lead pencil. He shuddered as he touched a thread with his Chapter 21 hand. It clung to his flesh like glue, and only by an effort that agitated the entire web did he succeed in freeing his hand. Upon his clothes and upon the coat of the dog he rubbed off the stickiness from his skin.

Between two of the lower guys of the great web he saw that there was space for him to crawl through the opening to the day; but, ere he attempted it, caution led him to test the opening by helping and shoving the hound ahead of him. The white beast crawled and scrambled out of Chapter 21 sight, and Torres was about to follow when it returned. Such was the panic haste of its return that it collided with him and both fell. But the man managed to save himself by clinging with his hands to the rocks, while the four-footed brute, not able so to check itself, fell into the churning water. Even as Torres reached a hand out to try to save it, the dog was carried under the rock.

Long Torres debated. That farther subterranean plunge of the river was dreadful to contemplate. Above was the open way to the day, and the Chapter 21 life of him yearned towards the day as a bee or a flower toward the sun. Yet what had the hound encountered to drive it back in such precipitate retreat? As he pondered, he became aware that his hand was resting on a rounded surface. He picked the object up, and gazed into the eyeless, noseless features of a human skull. His frightened glances played over the carpet of bones, and, beyond all idoubt, he made out the ribs and spinal columns and thigh bones of what had once been men. This inclined him toward the water as the Chapter 21 way out, but at sight of the foaming madness of it plunging through solid rock he recoiled.

Drawing the Queen's dagger, he crawled up between the web-guys with infinite carefulness, saw what the hound had seen, and came back in such vertigo of retreat that he, too, fell into the water, and, with but time to fill his lungs with air, was drawn into the opening and into darkness.

In the meanwhile, back at the lake dwelling of the Queen, events no less portentous were occurring with no less equal rapidity. Just returned from the ceremony Chapter 21 at the Long House, the wedding party was in the action of seating itself for what might be called the wedding breakfast, when an arrow, penetrating an interstice in the bamboo wall, flashed between the Queen and Francis and transfixed the opposite wall, where its feathered shaft vibrated from the violence of its suddenly arrested flight. A rush to the windows looking out upon the narrow bridge, showed Henry and Francis the gravity of the situation. Even as they looked, they saw the Queen's spearman who guarded the approach to the bridge, midway across it in flight, falling into Chapter 21 the water with the shaft of an arrow vibrating out of his back in similar fashion to the one in the wall of the room. Beyond the bridge, on the shore, headed by their priest and backed by their women and children, all the male Lost Souls were arching the air full with feathered bolts from their bows.

A spearman of the Queen tottered into the apartment, his limbs spreading vainly to support him, his eyes glazing, his lips beating a soundless message which his fading life could not utter, as he fell prone, his back bristling with arrow shafts Chapter 21 like a porcupine. Henry sprang to the door that gave entrance from the bridge, and, with his automatic, swept it clear of the charging Lost Souls who- could advance only in single file and who fell as they advanced before his fire.

The siege of the frail house was brief. Though Francis, protected by Henry's automatic, destroyed the bridge, by no method could the besieged put out the blazing thatch of roof ignited in a score of places by the fire-arrows discharged under the Sun Priest's directions.

"There is but one way to escape," the Queen Chapter 21 panted, on the platform overlooking the whirl of waters, as she clasped one hand of Francis in hers and threatened to precipitate herself clingingly into his arms. "It wins to the world." She pointed to the sucking heart of the whirlpool. "No one has ever returned from that. In my Mirror I have beheld them pass, dead always, and out to the wider world. Except for Torres, I have never seen the living go. Only the dead. And they never returned.. Nor has Torres returned."

All eyes looked to all eyes at sight of the dreadfumess of the Chapter 21 way.

"There is no other way?" Henry demanded, as he drew Leoncia close to him.

The Queen shook her head. About them already burning portions of the thatch were falling, while their ears were deafened by the blood-lust chantings of the Lost Souls on the lake-shore. The Queen disengaged her hand from Francis', with the evident intention of dashing into her sleeping room, then caught his hand and led him in. As he stood wonderingly beside her, she slammed down the lid on the chest of jewels and fastened it. Next, she kicked aside the floor Chapter 21 matting and lifted a trap door that opened down to the water. At her indication, Francis dragged over the chest and dropped it through.

"Even the Sun Priest does not know that hiding place," she whispered, ere she caught his hand again, and, running, led him back to the others on the platform.

"It is now time to depart from this place," she announced.

"Hold me in your arms, good Francis, husband of mine, and lift me and leap with me," she commanded. "We will lead the way."

And so they leapt. As the roof was crashing down in a wrath of Chapter 21 fire and flying embers, Henry caught Leoncia to him, and sprang after into the whirl of waters wherein Francis and the Queen had already disappeared.

Like Torres, the four fugitives escaped injury against the rocks and were borne onward by the underground river to the daylight opening where the great spider-web guarded the way. Henry had an easier time of it, for Leoncia knew how to swim. But Francis' swimming prowess enabled him to keep the Queen up. She obeyed him implicitly, floating low in the water, nor clutched at his arms nor acted as a drag on Chapter 21 him in any way. At the ledge, all four drew out of the water and rested. The two women devoted themselves to wringing out their hair, which had been flung adrift all about them by the swirling currents.

"It is not the first mountain I have been in the heart of with you two, "Leoncia laughed to the Morgans, although more than for them was her speech intended for the Queen.

"It is the first time I have been in the heart of 9. mountain with my husband," the Queen laughed back, and the barb of her dart sank deep Chapter 21 into Leoncia.

"Seems as though your wife, Francis, and my wife-to-be, aren't going to hit it off too well together," Henry said, with the sharpness of censure that man is wont to employ to conceal the embarrassment caused by his womankind.

And. as inevitable result of such male men's ways, all that Henry gained was a silence more awkward and more embarrassing. The two women almost enjoyed the situation. Francis cudgeled his brains vainly for some remark that wquld ameliorate matters; while Henry, in desperation, arose suddenly with the observation that he was going Chapter 21 to "explore a bit," and invited, by his hand out to help her to her feet, the Queen to accompany him. Francis and Leoncia sat on for a moment in stubborn silence. He was the first to break it.

"For two cents I'd give you a thorough shaking, Leoncia."

"And what have I done now?" she countered.

"As if you didn't know. You've been behaving abominably." "It is you who have behaved abominably," she halfsobbed, in spite of her determination to betray no such feminine signs of weakness. "Who asked you to marry her? You did not Chapter 21 draw the short straw. Yet you must volunteer, must rush in where even angels would fear to tread? Did I ask you to? Almost did my heart stop beating when I heard you tell Henry you would marry her. I thought I was going to faint. You had not even consulted me; yet it was on my suggestion, in order to save you from her, that the straws were drawn yes, and I am not too little shameless to admit that it was because I wanted to save you for myself . Henry does not love me as you Chapter 21 led me to believe you loved me. I never loved Henry as I loved you, as I do love you even now, God forgive me."

Francis was swept beyond himself. He caught her and pressed her to him in a crushing embrace.

And on your very wedding day," she gasped reproachfully in the midmost of his embrace.

His arm died away from about her.

"And this from you, Leoncia, at such a moment," he murmured sadly.

And why not?" she flared. "You loved me. You gave me to understand, beyond all chance of misunderstanding, that you loved me; yet Chapter 21 here, to-day, you went out of your way, went eagerly and gladly, and married yourself to the first woman with a white skin who presented herself."

"You are jealous," he charged, and knew a heart-throb of joy as she nodded. "And I grant you are jealous; but at the same time, exercising the woman's prerogative of lying, you are lying now. What I did, was not done eagerly nor gladly. I did it for your sake and my sake or for Henry's sake, rather. Thank God, I have a man's honor still left to me Chapter 21!"

"Man's honour does not always satisfy woman," she replied.

"Would you prefer me dishonorable?" he was swift on the uptake.

"I am only a woman who loves," she pleaded.

"You are a stinging, female wasp," he raged, "and you are not fair."

"Is any woman fair when she loves?" she made the great confession and acknowledgment. "Men may succeed in living in their heads of honor; but know, and as a humble woman I humbly state my womanhood, that woman lives only in her heart of love."

"Perhaps you are right. Honor, like arithmetic, can Chapter 21 be reasoned and calculated. Which leaves a woman no morality, but only… "

"Only moods," Leoncia completed abjectly for him.

Calls from Henry and the Queen put an end to the conversation, for Leoncia and Francis quickly joined the others in gazing at the great web.

"Did you ever see so monstrous a web!" Leoncia exclaimed.

"I'd like to see the monster that made it," said Henry.

"And I'd rather see than be it," Francis paraphrased from the "Purple Cow."

"It is our good fortune that we do not have to go that way," the Queen said.

All looked inquiry at Chapter 21 her, and she pointed down to the stream.

"That is the way," she said. "I know it. Often and often, in my Mirror of the World, have I seen the way. When my mother died and was buried in the whirlpool, I followed her body in the Mirror, and I saw it come to this place and go by this place still in the water." But she was dead," Leoncia objected quickly.

The rivalry between them fanned instantly.

"One of my spearmen," the Queen went on quietly, "a handsome youth, alas, dared to look at me Chapter 21 as a lover. He was flung in alive. I watched him, too, in the Mirror. When he came to this place he climbed out. I saw him crawl under the web to the day, and I saw him retreat backward from the day and throw himself into the stream."

"Another dead one," Henry commented grimly.

"No; for I followed him on in the Mirror, and though all was darkness for a time and I could see nothing, in the end, and shortly, under the sun he emerged into the bosom of a large river, and swam to the shore, and climbed the Chapter 21 bank it was the left hand bank as I remember well and disappeared among large trees such as do not grow in the Valley of the Lost Souls."

But, like Torres, the rest of them recoiled from thought of the dark plunge through the living rock.

"These are the bones of animals and of men," the Queen warned, "who were daunted by the way of the water and who strove to gain the sun. Men there are there behold! Or at least what remains of them for a space, the bones, ere, in time, the bones, too Chapter 21, pass into nothingness."

"Even so," said Francis, "I suddenly discover a pressing need to look into the eye of the sun. Do the rest of you remain here while I investigate."

Drawing his automatic, the water-tightness of the cartridges a guarantee, he crawled under the web. The moment he had disappeared from view beyond the web, they heard him begin to shoot. Next, they saw him retreating backward, still shooting. And, next, falling upon him, two yards across from black-haired leg-tip to black-haired leg-tip, the denizen of the web, a monstrous spider, still wriggling with departing Chapter 21 life, shot through and through again and again. The solid center of its body, from which the legs radiated, was the size of a normal waste-basket, and the substantial density of it crunched audibly as it struck on Francis' shoulders and back, rebounded, the hairy legs still helplessly quivering, and pitched down into the wave-crisping water. All four pair of eyes watched the corpse of it plunge against the wall of rock, suck down, and disappear.

"Where there's one, there are two," said Henry, looking dubiously up toward the daylight.

"It is the Chapter 21 only way," said the Queen. "Come, my husband, each in the other's arms let us win through the darkness to the sun-bright world. Kemember, I have never seen it, and soon, with you, shall I for the first time see it."

Her arms open in invitation, Francis could not decline. "It is a hole in the sheer wall of a precipice a thousand feet deep," he explained to the others the glimpse he had caught from beyond the spider web, as he clasped the Queen in his arms and leaped off.

Henry had gathered Leoncia to him and was Chapter 21 about to leap, when she stopped him.

Why did you accept Francis' sacrifice?" she demanded. Because… He paused and looked at her wonderingly.

"Because I wanted you," he completed. "Because I was engaged to you as well, while Francis was unattached. Besides, if I'm not greatly mistaken, Francis appears to be a pretty well satisfied bridegroom."

"No," she shook her head emphatically. "He has a chivalrous spirit, and he is acting his part in order not to hurt her feelings."

Oh, I don't know. Remember, before the altar, at the Long House, when I said I was going Chapter 21 to ask the Queen to marry me, that he bragged she wouldn't marry me if I did ask? Well, the conclusion's pretty obvious that he wanted her himself. And why shouldn't he? He's a bachelor. And she's some nice woman herself."

But Leoncia scarcely heard. With a quick movement, leaning back in his arms away from him so that she could look him squarely in the eyes, she demanded:

"How do you love me? Do you love me madly? Do you love me badly madly? Do I mean that to you, and Chapter 21 more, and more, and more?"

He could only look his bewilderment.

"Do you? do you?" she urged passionately.

"Of course I do," he made slow answer, "but it would never have entered my head to describe it that way. Why, you're the one woman for me. Bather would I describe it as loving you deeply, and greatly, and enduringly. W 7 hy, you seem so much a part of me that I feel almost as if I had always, known you. It was that way from the first."

"She is an abominable woman!" Leoncia broke forth irrelevantly. "I hated her from Chapter 21 the first."

"My! What a spitfire! I hate to think how much you would have hated her had I married her instead of Francis."

"We'd better follow them," she put an end to the discussion.

And Henry, very much bepuzzled, clasped her tightly and leaped off into the white turmoil of water.

On the bank of the Gualaca Kiver sat two Indian girls fishing. Just up-stream from them arose the precipitous cliff of one of the buttresses of the lofty mountains. The main stream flowed past in chocolate-colored spate; but, directly beneath them, where Chapter 21 they fished, was a quiet eddy. No less quiet was the fishing. No bites jerked their rods in token that the bait was enticing. One of them, Nicoya, yawned, ate ja banana, yawned again, and held the skin she was about to cast aside suspended in her hand.

"We have been very quiet, Concordia," she observed to her companion, "and it has won us no fish. Now shall I make a noise and a splash. Since they say what goes up must come down,' why should not something come up after something has gone down? I am going to try Chapter 21. There!" She threw the banana peel into the water and lazily watched the point where it had struck.

"If anything comes up I hope it will be big," Concordia murmured with equal laziness.

And upon their astonished gaze, even as they looked, arose up out of the brown depths a great white hound. They jerked their poles up and behind them on the bank, threw their arms about each other, and watched the hound gain the shore at the lower end of the eddy, climb the sloping bank, pause to shake himself, and then disappear among the trees.

Nicoya Chapter 21 and Concordia giggled.

"Try it again," Concordia urged.

"No; you this time. And see what you can bring up."

Quite unbelieving, Concordia tossed in a clod of earth. And almost immediately a helmeted head arose on the flood. Clutching each other very tightly, they watched the man under the helmet gain the shore where the hound had landed and disappear into the forest.

Again the two Indian girls giggled ; but this time, urge as they would, neither could raise the courage to throw anything into the water.

Some time later, still giggling over the strange occurrences, they were espied Chapter 21 by two young Indian men, who were hugging the bank as they paddled their canoe up against the stream.

"What makes you laugh," one of them greeted.

"We have been seeing things," Nicoya gurgled down to them.

"Then have you been drinking pulque," the young man charged.

Both girls shook their heads, and Concordia said:

"We don't have to drink to see things. First, when Nicoya threw in a banana skin, we saw a dog come up out of the water a white dog that was as big as a tiger of the mountains—"

"And when Concordia Chapter 21 threw in a clod," the other girl took up the tale, "up came a man with a head of iron. It is magic. Concordia and I can work magic."

"Jose," one of the Indians addressed his mate, "this merits a drink."

And each, in turn, while the other with his paddle held the canoe in place, took a swig from a square-face Holland gin bottle part full of pulque.

"No," said Jose, when the girls had begged him for a drink. "One drink of pulque and you might see more white dogs as big as tigers or more Chapter 21 iron-headed men."

"All right," Nicoya accepted the rebuff. "Then do you throw in your pulque bottle and see what you will see. We drew a dog and a man. Your prize may be the devil."

"I should like to see the devil," said Jose, taking another drain at the bottle. "The pulque is a true fire of bravery. I should very much like to see the devil."

He passed the bottle to his companion with a gesture to finish it.

"Now throw it into the water," Jose commanded.

The empty bottle struck with a forceful splash, and the Chapter 21 evoking was realized with startling immediacy, for up to the surface floated the monstrous, hairy body of the slain spider. Which was too much for ordinary Indian flesh and blood. So suddenly did both young men recoil from the sight that they capsized the canoe. When their heads emerged from the water they struck out for the swift current, and were swiftly borne away down stream, followed more slowly by the swamped canoe.

Nicoya and Concordia had been too frightened to giggle. They held on to each other and waited, watching the magic water and out of the tails Chapter 21 of their eyes observing the frightened young men capture the canoe, tow it to shore, and run out and hide on the bank.

The afternoon sun was getting low in the sky ere the girls summoned courage again to evoke the magic water. Only after much discussion did they agree both to fling in clods of earth at the same time. And up arose a man and a woman—Francis and the Queen. The girls fell over backward into the bushes, and were themselves unobserved as they watched Francis swim with the Queen to shore.

"It may just have Chapter 21 happened all these things may just have happened at the very times we threw things into the water," Nicoya whispered to Concordia five minutes later.

"But when we threw one thing in, only one came up," Concordia argued. "And when we threw two, two came up."

"Very well," said Nicoya. "Let us now prove it. Let us try again, both of us. If nothing comes up, then have we no power of magic."

Together they threw in clods, and uprose another man and womaji But this pair, Henry and Leoncia, could swim, and they swam side by side to the Chapter 21 natural landing place, and, like the rest that had preceded them, passed on out of sight among the trees.

Long the two Indian girls lingered. For they had agreed to throw nothing, and, if something arose, then would coincidence be proved. But if nothing arose, because nothing further was by them evoked, they could only conclude that the magic was truly theirs. They lay hidden and w r atched the water until darkness hid it from their eyes; and, slowly and soberly, they took the trail back to their village, overcome by an awareness of having been Chapter 21 blessed by the gods.

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