Read CHAPTER IX - THE REMARKABLE CAVE EXPLORATIONS of The Wonder Island Boys: Treasures of the Island , free online book, by Roger Thompson Finlay, on ReadCentral.com.

But the time was now at hand, when it became necessary for the exploring expedition to the north.  The rescued prisoners stated that their people, while not so numerous, were very warlike, and by degrees, John learned that they were the cannibals of whom they had heard.

The tribe was known as the Umbolos, and the Chief was a frightful man, unlike any other in the tribe, or, at any rate, from the description, he was not formed like them.  He was known as Rumisses, which in their tongue meant thunder.

It was remarkable that Uraso and Muro understood most of the words of the language used by the natives here and also on Venture Island.  On Wonder Island, there were only two tongues, or dialects, and the people on this island, as well as on Venture Island, spoke the dialect belonging to the Illyas, Kurabus and the Tuolos, the tribes that were the fiercest and the most difficult to subdue.

It was hoped that the escape of the two Umbolos, and the return to their people would be sufficient to give them the entree to that part of the country, but after the questionings of John on this point, it was very doubtful whether this would impress itself on their minds.

The natives had been accustomed for so long a period to regard every other people as an enemy, and consequently absolutely removed from any possibility of friendship, that it was questionable whether the messengers could persuade the Chief to receive them.

Arrangements for the departure were decided upon, and they planned to start early in the morning.  John visited the Chief, and suggested that he should consider it a favor if the Chief would permit him to take the Korinos with him.

The Chief opened his eyes in astonishment.  “Why do you wish to be burdened with men who will live by deceiving?” he inquired.

“But they have lived to the best of their knowledge.  They do not know any better.  They believe what they have been taught, and think it is a duty to carry out and practice their rites.  They do not wish to deceive you.”

The Chief pondered for a long time, and then replied:  “What will you do with them?”

“I want to teach them the white man’s ways, and tell them to come back and teach your children the things which we believe are right and for the good of the people.”

The lessons which John imparted were sources of wonder and amazement to the ruler, who, five days before, thought he was the only one appointed to make and to execute laws.

When he finally gave his consent, he said:  “You must take it upon yourself to get the Korinos, because they will not come out of their caves.”

“But how can they find food there?  If you prevent them from getting food they will be compelled to come out or starve.”

“They will starve before they will permit themselves to be taken.”

“Then,” answered John, “why do you not order your warriors to enter the cave and take them by force?”

“But who dares to go in?”

“I dare to go in, but you must order me to do so,” answered John.

The Chief jumped up in an instant.  “And will you go?” he asked in the greatest delight.

“By all means.  You must go with me to the cave, and there command me to enter and bring them forth.”

The Chief’s eyes danced with delight, and he could hardly await the hour for starting on the mission.

The boys and the two companion chiefs, were in their glory upon hearing of the decision to get the Korinos.  Before leaving the Chief John questioned him very closely on the location of the cave, and whether there were not other caves on the island to the north.

“I have heard that there is another one to the north, that was used in olden times by the Korinos who lived when my father was Chief.  I also know that far to the north where the false and treacherous Umbolos live, are great caves which no man may enter.”

“Do they have Korinos in the Umbolo tribe?”

“No; they do not believe in a Great Spirit.”

“Then, if they have no Korinos, why do they not dare to enter the caverns?”

“Because they have been told that it is death to go into the dark.”

“Do you know why they think so?”

“Because, a long time ago, the only man who ever returned from the dark caves, brought out the bones of men who had died there.”

“But it did not kill that man who brought them out?”

“Yes; he died.  And now no one dares enter those places.”

It may be imagined how this intelligence stirred up the boys.  It was impossible to keep them from talking about it.  To John it was like a magic wand; it seemed to wave before his eyes and to talk to him.  What if they had really found the great cave on which John’s heart was so keenly bent?

But the Korinos must be freed.  That afternoon, just before starting, the boys were surprised to see the band coming up the street.  How they laughed, as they scented John’s little ruse.  It would, indeed, be a treat to bring the Korinos out of their dark resorts to some good old marching tune.

The band struck up a familiar air, and to its lively tones the procession, with the three Chiefs and John at the head, marched across the open, and up the hill past the grove, on its way to the cave on the eastern slope of the high hill which rose from the shore of the ocean.

There was jest and laughter, the Chief enjoying the treat that would be the greatest pleasure of his life, namely, the bringing of the Korinos out of the cave.

After ascending the great hill, so that they overlooked the ocean, the Chief informed John that the entrance was a third of the way down the hill, and the narrow path was followed which led around to the north, shutting out the sight of the sea.

After a few hundred feet, the path led to a cleft portion of the rocks, where the light of the sun was completely hidden.  The walls of the rocks, at the entrance of the cleft portion, were fully fifty feet high, and were at least twenty feet apart, but as they went on the walls drew nearer together and the path ascended a slight incline.

A sharp turn was reached, and they found themselves in a little cove, to the left of which was a dark entrance, toward which the Chief nodded, as he shrank back.

John motioned to the Chief, and the latter sternly commanded John to bring forth the Korinos.  John said a few words to Uraso and Muro, and also invited the boys to accompany them.

“I suppose you are all armed?” said John.

The boys and the chiefs had come well prepared, so this point was taken care of.

“But where are the lights?” asked George.

“I have them,” said John, “but we shall not use them now, for reasons which will be explained later.”  Together they entered the cave, the darkness of which was appalling.  After going in fully a hundred and fifty feet, John stopped and said:  “It would have been a sign of weakness to go in with a light.  When we have gone far enough to be free from the mouth of the cave, we can use our flash lights.  For the present we shall move on to ascertain whether the Korinos are provided with lights, which will show where they are, and we may thus be guided to them.”

The distance traveled must have been fully a thousand feet, when John again spoke:  “I shall now throw the light directly ahead, and you must keep your eyes open to detect anything moving.”

The light flashed, and was then moved slowly to the left, until it reached a cove at the extreme eastern side, where there was an evident assemblage of articles, not a hundred feet in advance of them, but there was not a sign of living beings within the scope of the light beams.

The company moved over to the spot indicated.  A moment’s examination satisfied them that it was really the abode of the Korinos, but they had disappeared.

The debris, the half eaten portions of food, some still warm, were sufficient to indicate that they had fled, but where?  Uraso, Muro and John, all three, flashed their lights, and, after examining the walls critically, Muro was the first to find the opening from the chamber in which they were standing.

The outlet from the chamber was to the north, and toward it the explorers ran hurriedly, and passed along the contracted path, which soon turned to the left.  After following its many windings, and scrambling over the broken and rocky floor, they saw ahead a streak of daylight, which gladdened the hearts of the boys.

“Ah! they have gone,” exclaimed John, as he emerged, and glanced across the ravine, and along the walls which extended up from the shore of a little stream below.  “They have gone to the north, and have, probably, tried to seek safety in the other cave.”

“How are we going to get back?” asked George.

“Do you think there will be any trouble in that?” asked John.

“We shall have to go clear over the mountain for that, I’m afraid.”

“We are not far from the entrance,” said John, “and if we intend to catch up with the Korinos, we must not delay for a moment.”

The party made a hurried trip around the hill, and the Chief was surprised to learn that there was another entrance, or an outlet to the cave on the northern side.  None of his warriors was aware of this, however.

John was now in a quandary.  He was exceedingly anxious to secure the Korinos, but at the same time there was some things in the appearance of the cave that he wished to investigate.  This was confided to Uraso and Muro, and the latter suggested that he and Uraso would undertake to follow the fleeing men, and return to the village, while John and the boys made the desired investigation.

This was readily assented to, and they at once made their way across the hill, while John informed the Chief of the action which they had decided to take.  One of the principal men of the village, in whom the Chief had confidence, and who knew the location of the upper caves, accompanied Uraso and Muro.

The Chief, and those with him returned to the village, while John remained behind under the pretense that he wished to stay at the cave entrance until they returned from the pursuit after the Korinos.

The boys first secured the flash lights which the two chiefs had brought, and when all had departed the boys and John entered the cave and marched directly to the location of their interior home.

Every part of the habitation was well investigated.  Almost every kind of tool and implement was found here in profusion, but singularly, none of them appeared to be used.  Several flint lock guns, all rusted, and with decayed stocks, were among the articles discovered, but the Korinos had not used them.

The inevitable copper vessels, entirely unlike those of modern manufacture, were the first things to claim the attention of the boys, as they recalled similar articles found in the caves thitherto investigated by them.

“This begins to look as though we are to have the same experience we had at the cave at the Cataract,” said George.  “These vessels, no doubt, were brought here by the buccaneers, and I’ll be surprised if we don’t find a few more of their belongings somewhere in this place.”

After all the recesses in this vicinity had been investigated they scanned the side walls to the right, carefully going into the little recesses which were found all along the jagged sides.

A hundred feet south of the living part of the cave they came, unexpectedly upon a large extension, not noticed before in their pursuit of the Korinos.  The chamber extended in a southerly direction, and narrowed at the extreme opposite end.

“This has the appearance of leading to another outlet, which would take us to the southern side of the hill.  It would be remarkable, indeed, if such should be the case,” said John, as he eagerly pressed forward, until they had passed four chambers.

The walls were coming closer and closer, until there was now barely room for them to pass through, but they went in unhesitatingly, John in the lead.  The passage was not straight, so that the light did not aid much in looking ahead, but suddenly the flash threw a beam ahead, which showed that they were at the entrance of a chamber.

John stopped and directed the search light to all parts of the cavern.  It appeared to be nearly round, with a perfectly smooth floor.  It was unoccupied, but in the exact center of the chamber was a raised object, like a mound.

Throughout the entire cave could be found the calcareous deposit so common in caves formed in limestone rocks, and the stalactite hangings on the ceilings and walls, and the stalagmites on the floors made the scene a weird one.

John glanced upwardly to view the ceiling, above the mound, and said:  “That does not seem to be a natural formation.  Let us examine it first.”

With the small pick which John always carried, and by means of which he was always careful to examine rocks and geological formations, while on these tours, the top parts of the stalagmites were chipped off.  This was an exceedingly simple matter, since they are generally soft.

After the top layer was removed, the part beneath readily yielded, but before they had an opportunity to dig into it very deeply the pick struck something which gave forth a metallic sound.  John stopped as though paralyzed.

The pick was again driven in.  Again the plain contact with some hard substance.  The digging was now feverish, and when the broken parts were cleared away, a small metallic box, about twelve inches square across the top, and about ten inches deep, was exposed to view.

The dent made by the pick was clearly visible, and the fresh mark showed that the metal was red.

“It is copper!” said John.

Every part of the material around the box was removed, and this enabled them to remove it from its resting place.  John grasped it and securing a good hold, finally raised it.

“No, it is not any heavier than I thought it would he,” he remarked as he lay it down.

“Did you expect to find this?” asked George in amazement.

“No; this is a surprise to me as it is to you.”

“Then why did you make that remark?”

“Because I believe that this box contains treasure of untold value.  I should have been surprised if it weighed very much.”

“Could it not have contained treasure if it had been heavy?” asked Harry.

John laughed, a peculiar exultant chuckle, as he responded:  “Not the kind of treasure I have had in contemplation.”

The box was turned over and over.  There was not the sign of any lid, or crack which showed the cover or means of opening it.  “We must take this out and open it at our leisure,” remarked John, “but before doing so it would be well to examine the other outlets to this chamber, if it has any.”

The chamber was found, on measurement, to be thirty feet in diameter, and the vaulted ceiling fully thirty feet high, singularly uniform in the domed formation, and not rough or jagged like the ceiling of the other chamber which they had just left.

The walls were absolutely solid on all sides, the only entrance being by way of the narrow little passageway through which they had come.  Harry picked up the box, and swung it up to his shoulder, and, John leading the way, they filed out and passed through the chamber, quickly making their way to the opening through which they first entered the cave.

Within an hour they were back in the village, and found Muro there awaiting their arrival.  “We have found their trail, and they have not gone to the upper cave.  They are heading straight for the tribe in the northern end of the island.”

“I am surprised at that,” said John.  “We must consult the Chief about this,” and without another word, he hurriedly went over to the Chief, who was as much astounded as John could be at the peculiar significance of their actions.