I glanced at the woman who had kidnapped me in this strange fashion seemingly with the object of enticing me to my doom. Her face was set and stern; with both hands she grasped a steering paddle, with which she guided the canoe into the rushing stream. The girls had ceased rowing, and were crouched together in the frail craft, which now, caught by the hand of Nature, was carried with incredible speed into the darkness of the unknown.
How long we were in the tunnel I cannot say. It seemed an eternity, but it could not actually have been very long. The speed at which we travelled was so great as to make the drawing of the breath difficult, and a strange humming sound—very loud-made it impossible to speak or even to cry out. I had abandoned hope and resigned myself to death when suddenly we emerged from the tunnel into a blinding sunshine, which dazzled the eyes after the darkness. Once more we had come to the open sea.
The girls resumed their paddles, and now began to urge the canoe toward one of two islands visible on the horizon about thirty miles apart.
THE MALE AND FEMALE ISLANDS
I was now able to demand an explanation for the cause of my abduction, which I did with some warmth.
“In what way have I offended,” I asked of the woman who had enticed me on board the canoe, “that you should repay the trust I placed in you with treachery? We came among you as friends, desiring nothing so much as your goodwill. But you have treated me as an enemy, carried me away from my ship, and separated me from my friends Take, heed, I am a man, and have some strength. You are but women. Why, then, should I not overpower you and return the way I came?”
“That is impossible,” answered my captor. “None could make their way back through the tunnel against the stream.”
“At least, tell me then,” I continued, “your name, for what purpose I am brought here, and whither you are taking me.”
“My name is Sylvia Cervantes,” replied my captor, proudly. “As to why you are brought here, ask the wise-ones whom you shall presently see. Yonder islands are the Islands of Engano.”
In the surprise which her words occasioned I almost forgot the anger which had begun to burn within me when I thought of how basely I had been betrayed. Before me were the wonderful Male and Female Islands, fabled by Marco Polo. I had come upon this voyage with Dirk Hartog in quest of adventure. Well, here was an adventure awaiting me that was likely to prove the most remarkable I had yet encountered.
As we drew near, to one of the islands, I was impressed by the extreme beauty of the scene. The cliffs rose to great heights, forming a dark, clear-cut line against the sky, while between the lofty walls, verdant valleys stretched down to the white, sandy beaches, upon which the waves broke in glistening spume. Toward a beach, somewhere about the centre of the island, our course was laid, and upon coming to the shallows, the girls shipped their paddles and sprang into the water, when, with others helping them, they ran the canoe on to the beach, making no more of my weight than if I had been a child.