Real Gold: A Story of Adventure, Page 2George Manville Fenn
Dinner was over at Captain Norton's. Mrs Norton had left thedining-room, after begging her son and his visitor not to go out in thebroiling heat. The boy had promised that he would not, and after he hadsat listening to Colonel Campion's--a keen grey-haired man, thin, wiryin the extreme, and giving promise of being extremely active--talk tohis father about the preparations for his trip up into the mountains,Cyril gave Perry a kick under the table, and rose.
Taking the sharp jar upon his shin to mean telegraphy and the sign,"Come on," Perry rose as well, and the two boys, forgetful of alladvice, went and sat in the dry garden, where every shrub and plantseemed to be crying out for water, and looked as if it were beingprepared for a _hortus siccus_ beloved of botanists, and where the suncame down almost hot enough to fry.
Here the boys had a long discussion about the promise Perry had made inthe boat; after which they waited for an opportunity.
Meanwhile, as the two gentlemen sat chatting over their cigarettes,Captain Norton, a frank, genial, soldierly-looking man, said:
"So you mean to take all the risks?"
"Risks!" said the colonel, turning his keen eyes upon the speaker, as helet the smoke from his cigarette curl up toward the ceiling. "You anold soldier, and ask that?"
"Yes," said Captain Norton. "I have been here a long time now, and knowsomething of the country."
"Are the risks so very great, then?"
"To an ordinary traveller--no: to a man going with some special objector search--yes."
"I did nut say that I was going on a special search," said ColonelCampion quickly.
"No, but everything points to it; and as you came to me with letters ofintroduction from an old friend and brother-officer, I receive you as myfriend, and treat you as I would a brother."
"And as the man whom you treat as a brother, I am very reticent, eh?"
"Very," said Cyril Norton's father; "and if I try to know why you aregoing upon so perilous a journey, it is not from curiosity, but becauseI am eager to save you from running into danger."
Colonel Campion held out his hand, which was taken, and the two men satfor a few moments gazing in each other's eyes.
"If I spoke out, Norton, you would immediately do everything you couldto prevent me from going, instead of helping me; so I am silent, for Ihave made up my mind to go, and no persuasion would stop me."
"Then you are going on an insane quest of the treasures of gold said tohave been buried by the Incas' followers to preserve them from theSpaniards."
"Am I?" said the colonel quietly.
"I take it for granted that you are; so now, listen. It will be a verydangerous search. That the gold exists, I do not doubt; and I feelpretty sure that the Indians have had it handed down from father to son.Where this gold is hidden in the mountains is a sacred trust, whichthey in their superstitious natures dare not betray. It means death toany one who discovers one of these hoards."
"If found out," said the colonel, smoking, with his eyes half shut.
"He would certainly be found out," said the captain, "and if you persistin going, you must run the risk; but I beg of you not to take that boyPerry with you, to expose him to these dangers."
"What am I to do with him, then?"
"Leave him with us. He will be happy enough with my boy Cyril; and mywife and I will take every care of him."
"Thank you, Norton," cried the colonel warmly; "I am most grateful. Butyou are wrong: he would not be happy if he stayed here and I went alone;I believe he would prefer running all risks with me. How odd!" addedthe colonel, smiling; "here he is, to speak for himself."
For at that moment the door was softly opened, and Perry stood there,looking startled.
"Come in, boy, come in," cried the colonel.
"I--I beg; our pardon; I thought Captain Norton had gone."
"No, and we were just talking about you."
"About me, father?"
"Yes; Captain Norton thinks it would be too risky and arduous a journeyfor you up into the mountains, and he says you are to stay here and makeyourself happy with Cyril till I come back."
The lad looked delighted.
"Oh father!" he cried. Then, quick as thought, his manner changed.
"It is very good of Captain Norton," he said gravely, "but I could notstop here and let you go alone."
"Don't be hasty, Perry, lad," said the captain kindly. "There, I'mgoing down to the wharf; you and your father chat it over, and we'lltalk about it when I return."
He left the room, passing out through the veranda.
"Well," said the colonel, looking away at the window, "I think he'sright, and you had better stay, Perry."
"I don't think you do, father," replied the boy. "Besides, you promisedto take me."
"Um! Yes, I did, my lad; but circumstances have altered since then.They say it's dangerous up there among the Indians."
"Then you had better not go, father," said Perry quickly.
"I have undertaken to go, and I am going," said the colonel firmly. "Igave my word."
"And you can't break it, father?"
"No, my boy, not honourably."
Perry laughed softly.
"Hullo! What does that mean, sir?" cried the colonel. "Glad I am goinginto danger?"
"Of course not, father," said Perry. "I was only laughing because youpromised to take me, and you can't break your word."
The colonel leaned back and laughed.
"And I've come with a petition, father," said Perry.
"Yes; you said that it would be nice for me to be with Cyril Norton."
"Yes, I rather like the lad. He's a rackety, wild young dog, butthere's a good deal of the gentleman about him. But what do you mean!You said you did not want to stay here."
"Yes, father, but he wants to stay with us."
"Stay with us? We're not going to stay here."
"I mean, go with us. He is wild to go. Take him with us, father. Ishould like it so much."
"Why, Perry, my boy, you're mad," said the colonel. "If the journey isso risky that Captain Norton wishes me to leave you here, do you thinkit likely that he will let his son go?"
"Perhaps he would with you, father. He trusts you."
"Not to that extent."
"Try him, father. It would be so nice to have Cil with us."
"Nice for you, sir--double responsibility for me."
"You wouldn't mind that, father, and we would help you so."
"Yes, nice lot of help I should get from you."
"You don't know, father; but, I say, you will ask him?"
"Ask him yourself, sir," said the colonel firmly; "here he is."
For at that moment steps were heard in the veranda, and Captain Nortonappeared.
"Don't let me disturb you," he said; "I came back for some bills oflading.--Well, Perry, you're going to stop and keep Cil company, eh?I'll have the big boat out and newly rigged for you boys. You can fish,and sail, and--"
"But I'm not going to stay, sir," said Perry quietly.
"Not going to stay! I'm very sorry. But you must think better of it.Sleep on it, my lad. That journey in the mountains will be too arduousfor a lad like you."
"Oh no, sir. I'm light and strong, and--"
"Yes? And what? You are afraid of outstaying your welcome? Nonsense,boy; you'll be conferring a favour upon us. I shall be glad for Cil tohave your company. He likes you."
Perry exchanged glances with his father, who nodded, and his eyes seemedto say, "Now's your time."
"Yes, sir, and I like Cil. We get on together, and--and he wants to gowith us!"
Perry uttered the last words hurriedly, and then wished that he had notsaid them, for the captain looked at him quite fiercely.
"What!" he exclaimed.
"Cil said he would give anything to go with us, sir, and I promised toask my father if he would take him."
"Well," said Captain N
orton sternly, "and have you asked him?"
"What does he say?"
"He says no," said the colonel firmly. "There is no doubt, I suppose,that I am going to run some risks, and I begin to feel now that I amhardly warranted in exposing my own son to these dangers. I shouldcertainly not be right in exposing the son of a friend to them, even ifthat friend consented, which he would not. Am I right, Norton?"
"Quite right," said the gentleman addressed.
"Then we need say no more about it," cried the colonel. "Pray, my boy,help us by dissuading your new friend from thinking about so mad aproject. We must not make Captain and Mrs Norton regret their kindnessto us."
"No, father. I understand," said Perry.
"Then there is an end of the matter," said the colonel.
"Not quite," said their host, smiling, "I am still hoping that you willstay with us, Perry."
"No, sir," said the boy, very firmly now, "I am going with my father. Iwish, though, you would let Cil come too."
"Impossible, my lad," said the captain.
"Then now let's change the subject," said the colonel. "I do not startyet for a week, and plenty of things may occur to alter all our opinionsand determinations."
"They will not alter mine," said the captain firmly. "If you both alteryours, I shall be very glad. There, I must go now."
Captain Norton gave Perry a friendly nod, and left them once more.
"There, Perry, you hear?"
"Yes, father, but he may alter his mind."
"Don't expect it, my lad; Captain Norton is firm as a rock in all hedecides upon."
"So is Cyril, father."
"Not quite," said the colonel, smiling; "the stuff is soft yet, and willhave to yield. There, go and tell him you have failed."
"Yes, father," said Perry sadly.
"And you mean to go with me?"
"Of course, father."
"Very well," said the colonel, and Perry left the room.