“I’m awful glad you came along, Frank,” he said, seizing the other by the sleeve; “I was at your house and they told me you had gone downtown somewhere. Then, as the mail was in, I remembered Colonel Josiah was expecting one of his letters from London, and so I dropped over. But there was nothing for him. Mr. Guthrie handed me out this and said he guessed it was for me. Oh, look where it is from, Frank! Do you think—can it be possible that it means some news, after all this time, from my father?”
Frank saw it was rather a bulky letter and that the postmark showed a station in South America. Remembering all that had passed between them in connection with this country he understood the cause of Andy’s great emotion.
“I was almost afraid to open it, Frank,” said the other, brokenly.
“Well, do it now,” remarked Frank, and Andy tore the end off hurriedly.
He appeared to read hungrily for a minute, and then gave a cry of amazement.
“Oh!” he said, taking in a big breath, “how strange! how wonderful!”
Frank Bird could restrain his curiosity no longer.
“What is it, Andy?” he asked, as he laid an affectionate arm across the shoulders of his cousin.
The other turned his eyes upon Frank, and there was something in their depths that stirred the other tremendously.
“Is it about your father, Andy?” he demanded, eagerness plainly showing in his whole manner; for he understood what a hold the subject had on his chum.
Andy nodded, and as soon as he could command his quivering voice, said:
“Yes, nothing more than a letter from the grave, I fear! See, Frank, written in his own dear hand. Oh! to think of it, that at least three months ago he was alive, even though a prisoner, the sport of fate.”
“A prisoner!” echoed Frank, astonished. “Whatever can you mean? Did he fall into the hands of some of those strange Indians we have been reading about, who have their homes around the headwaters of the Orinoco River in Venezuela?”
This time Andy shook his head in the negative.
“It is stranger than that—almost beyond belief!” he replied. “My poor father has for months been imprisoned in a great valley, surrounded by impassable cliffs. Don’t you remember something of the sort occurred in one of Captain Mayne Reid’s books, where the young plant hunters found themselves prisoners in that way? But here, Frank, look for yourself.”
“Where does the letter come from, in the beginning?” asked the other, quietly, wishing to advance by slow degrees, so that he could understand everything.
“A town in Columbia, called Barranquila,” replied Andy, readily enough. “I’m not sure, but I think it lies at the mouth of the big Magdalena River, and is upon the coast. You know I’ve just devoured the map of that region for months, and every name is familiar to me.”