“I’ve got it!” he shouted, stooping to peer intently ahead. “Von Blitz’s powder kegs did all this. The secret passage runs along here. One of the discharges blew this hole through the roof of the passage. Here are the walls of the passage. By heaven, the way is open to the sea!”
“My God, Chase!” cried Deppingham, staggering toward the opening. “These footprints are—God! They’ve murdered her! They’ve come in here and surprised——”
“Go easy, old man! We need to be cool now. It’s all as plain as day to me. Rasula and his men were exploring the passage after the discovery of the treasure chests. They came upon this new-made hole and then crawled into the cavern. They surprised Browne and—Yes, here are the prints of a woman’s shoe—and a man’s, too. They’re gone, God help ’em!”
He climbed out of the hole and rushed about “the Cathedral” in search of further evidence. Deppingham dropped suddenly to his knees and buried his face in his hands, sobbing like a child.
It was all made plain to the searchers. Signs of a fierce struggle were found near the entrance to the Cathedral. Bobby Browne had made a gallant fight. Blood stains marked the smooth floor and walls, and there was evidence that a body had been dragged across the chamber.
Britt put his hand over his eyes and shuddered. “They’ve settled this contest, Chase, forever!” he groaned.
Deppingham sprang to his feet with a fierce oath on his lips. His usually lustreless eyes were gleaming with something more than despair; there was the wild light of unmistakable relief in them. It was as if a horrid doubt had been scaled from the soul of Lady Deppingham’s husband.
“We must follow!” shouted his lordship, preparing to lower himself into the jagged opening. “We may be in time!”
“Stop, Deppingham!” cried Chase, leaping to his side. “Don’t rush blindly into a trap like that. Let’s consider for a moment.”
They had it back and forth for many minutes, the united efforts of the three men being required to keep the half-frantic Englishman from rushing alone into the passage. Reason at last prevailed.
“They’ve got an hour or more start of us,” argued Chase. “Nothing will be accomplished by rushing into an ambush. They’d kill us like rats. Rasula is a sagacious scoundrel. He’ll not take the entire responsibility. There will be a council of all the head men. It will be of no advantage to them to kill the heirs unless they are sure that we won’t live to tell the tale. They will go slow, now that they have the chief obstacles to victory in their hands.”
“If they will give her up to me, I will guarantee that Lady Agnes shall relinquish all claim to the estate,” announced the harassed husband.