A FLIGHT UNDERGROUND.





That sudden appearance and flight of another man took Ixtli even

more by surprise than it did Bruno, for he never even suspected

such a possibility, knowing Prince Hua so well. Still, the young

brave was swift to rally, swift to pursue, sending a menace of

certain death in case the fleeing cur should not yield himself.



Just then Bruno had eyes and thoughts for the Sun Children alone,

who quite naturally shrunk back in mingled surprise and alarm at

his unceremonious entrance. He forgot his disguise, forgot

everything save that before him stood the fair beings whom he had

vowed to save at all hazards from what appeared to him worse by

far than actual death.



Gillespie never knew just what words crossed his lips during

those first few seconds, but he saw that the women, in place of

eagerly accepting his aid, were visibly shrinking, apparently

more alarmed than delighted with the opportunity thus offered.



Doubtless this was caused mainly by that odd blending of Aztec

and paleface, the colour and garb of the one joined to the tongue

of the other; but the result might have been even worse, had not

Ixtli hastened back to clear up more matters than one.



In spite of his utmost efforts, the second Indian had escaped

with life, although he received a glancing wound from an arrow,

as he plunged down towards the lower level; and nothing seemed

more certain than that an alarm would right speedily spread

throughout the town, if only for the purpose of hurrying succour

to the Lord Hua.



All this rolled in swift words over Ixtli's lips, his warning

finding completion before either of the women could fairly

interrupt the young brave. But then the one whom Ixtli termed

Victo spoke rapidly in his musical tongue, one strong white hand

waving towards the now somewhat embarrassed Gillespie.



"He friend; come save you, like save Ixtli," the Aztec hurriedly

made reply, with generous tact speaking so that Bruno could

comprehend as well as the women. "He good; all good! Paba bad;

'Tzin more bad; be worse bad if stay here, Victo--Glady."



Thus given the proper cue, Bruno took fresh courage and, in as

few words as might be, explained his mission. He spoke the name

of Cooper Edgecombe, and for the first time that queenly woman

showed signs of weakness, staggering back with a faint, choking

gasp, one hand clasped spasmodically above her madly throbbing

heart, the other rising to her temples as though in fear of

coming insanity.



"He is well; he is safe and longing for his loved ones," Bruno

swiftly added, producing the brief note which the exiled aeronaut

had pressed into his hand at almost the last moment. "He wrote

you that--here it is, and--"



"Make hurry, quick!" sharply interposed Ixtli, as ominous sounds

began to arise without the Temple of the Sun God. "Dog git 'way,

howl for more. Come here--kill like gods be glad."



With an evident effort Victo rallied, tones far from steady as

she begged both young men to save themselves without thought of

them.



"I thank you; heaven alone knows how overjoyed I am to hear from

my dear husband,--my poor child's own father! And he is near,

to--But go, go! Guide and protect him, Ixtli, for--Go, I implore

you, sir!"



"But how--we haven't arranged how you are to be rescued, and I

must understand--"



"Later, then; another time, through Ixtli," interrupted Mrs.

Edgecombe, since there could no longer be a doubt as to her

identity. "If found here 'twill be our ruin as well as your own.

Go, and at once I fear that Lord Hua may--"



"He 'live yet," pronounced Ixtli, rising from a hasty examination

o f the fallen chieftain. "Dat bad; much more worse bad! He

dog; all over dog!"



"And I greatly fear he must have recognised you as one of a

foreign race, in spite of your disguise," added the elder woman,

trouble in her face even as it showed in her voice. "He will be

wild for revenge, and I fear--Go, and directly, Ixtli!"



Bruno Gillespie was only too well assured that this latest fear

had foundation on truth. Swiftly though he had wielded the

awkward (to him) hand-wood, Huatzin had sufficient time to sight

his assailant, and almost certainly had divined at least a

portion of the truth.



Doubtless it would have been the more prudent course to repeat

that blow with greater precision; but Bruno could not bring

himself to do just that, even though the ugly cries were growing

in volume on the ground level; and he felt that capture would be

but the initial step to death, in all likelihood upon the great

stone of sacrifice.



Imminent though their peril surely was, Bruno could not betake

himself to flight without at least partially performing the duty

for which he had volunteered; and so he took time to hurriedly

utter:



"Watch from the top of the tower for the air-ship, and be ready

to leave at any moment, I implore you--both!"



For even now his admiring gaze could with difficulty be torn away

from yonder younger, even more lovely, visage; although as yet

the maiden had spoken no word, even shrinking away from this

strangely speaking Aztec as though in affright.



"Come, brother, or too late," urged Ixtli, almost sternly. "Save

you, or Glass-eyes call Ixtli dog-liar. Come; must run, no

fight; too big many for that."



And so it seemed, when the young men rushed away from the lighted

interior and gained the uncovered space beyond. Loud cries came

soaring through the night from different directions, and dim,

phantom-like shapes could be glimpsed in hurrying confusion.



Apparently the majority only knew that trouble of some

description was brewing, and that the centre of interest was

either in or near the Temple of the Sun God; yet that was more

than sufficient to place the white intruder in great peril,

despite the elaborate disguise he wore.



Then with awful abruptness there came a sound which could only be

likened to rolling thunder by one uninitiated, but which caused

Ixtli to shrink and almost cower, ere gasping:



"The great war-drum! Now MUST go! Sacrifice if caught; come,

white brother! See, dat more bad now!"



Those mighty throbs rolled and reverberated from the hills,

filling the night air with waves of thunder, none the less

awe-inspiring now that their true import was realised.



The entire population was aroused, and each building seemed to

cast forth an armed host, while, as through some magic touch, a

circle of fires sprung up on all sides, beginning to illumine

both valley and barrier.



Bruno stood like one appalled, really fascinated by this

transformation scene for which he had been so poorly prepared;

but Ixtli better comprehended their situation, and gripping an

arm he muttered, hastily:



"Come, brother; stop more, make too late. Must hide, now. Dat

stop go back way came. Come!"



Bruno roused himself with an effort, then yielded to the Aztec's

guidance, crouching low as the brief bit of clear moonlight had

to be traversed.



Instead of making for the steps which, as customary, reached from

terrace to terrace at each corner, Ixtli crept to the centre,

where the temple-side was cast into deepest shadow, then lowered

himself by his arms, to drop silently to the broad path below.



A whispered word urged Bruno to imitate this action, and those

friendly hands caught and steadied Gillespie as he took the drop.

And so, one after another, the mighty steps were passed, both

young men reaching the ground at the same instant, having

succeeded in leaving the Temple of the Sun God without being

glimpsed by an Indian of all those whom the sonorous drum-throbs

had brought forth In arms.



"Whither now?" asked Bruno, in guarded tones, as he looked forth

from shadow into moonlight, seeing scores upon scores of armed

shapes flitting to and fro, all looking for the enemy, yet none

able to precisely locate the trouble.



Just then a savage yell broke from the top of the temple,

followed by a few fierce-sounding sentences, which Ixtli declared

came from the Lord Hua, then adding:



"He say kill if catch, but dat--no! Come, white brother. Ixtli

show how play fool dat dog; yes!"



"All right, my hearty. Is it a break for the hills? I reckon I

can break through. If not--well, I'll leave some marks behind

me, anyway!"



"No, no, dat bad! Can't go to hills; must hide," positively

declared the young Aztec. "Come, now. Me show good place; all

dead but we."



Evidently trusting to pass undetected where so many others were

rushing back and forth in seeming confusion, Ixtli broke away

from the shadow of the temple, closely followed by Gillespie,

heading as directly as might be for the strange refuge which he

now had in mind.



That proved to be a low, unpretending structure which was of no

great extent, so far as Bruno's hasty look could ascertain.

Still, that was not the time for doubting the wisdom of his

guide, nor a moment in which to discuss either methods or means;

and as Ixtli passed through a massive entrance, the paleface

followed, giving a little shiver as the barrier swung to behind

them.



"What sort of a place is it, anyway, Ixtli?" he demanded, but the

Aztec was too hurried for words, just then, save enough to warn

his companion in peril that they must descend deeper into the

earth.



It was more of a scramble than a deliberate descent, for the

gloom was complete, and Bruno had no time in which to feel for

steps or stairs. Only for the aiding touch of his guide, he must

have taken more than one awkward tumble ere that lower level was

attained.



Then a breathing-spell was granted him, and, while Ixtli bent ear

in listening to discover if pursuit was being made, Bruno drew a

match from the liberal supply he had taken the precaution to

fetch along, and, striking it, held aloft the tiny torch to view

their present surroundings.



Only to give an involuntary start and cry as he caught indistinct

glimpses of fleshless bones and grinning skulls, those grim

relics of mortality showing upon every side as his wild eyes

roved around.



Then a hand struck down the match, and a swift voice breathed:



"Dey come dis way. See us hide--come hunt, now, to kill!"





A DUEL TO THE DEATH. A HORSE WHO WORE SNOW SHOES. facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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