It looked like a scene of enchantment indeed, the wonderful cavern illumined by the flood of crimson light, which was on every hand, while the radiating point was invisible.
Ariel stood silent and waited for her companion to recover from his astonishment. She had viewed all this before and had witnessed so many similar scenes that they produced less effect upon her imagination than upon his.
By and by he looked around, and she smilingly nodded her head. He began picking his way along the ledge, carefully feeling his way, for a misstep or a treacherous support was liable to precipitate him to the fathomless depths below with the inevitable certainty of instant death.
It was while the young American was working forward in this guarded manner, that he particularly noticed that the roof overhead, and all parts of the walls were dotted with what seemed points of living fire. While some were small, others were larger and gave out a light that was dazzling to the point of blindness.
He supposed they were composed of a species of quartz or mineral, but observing one of them within reach at his side, he reached upward with his knife and extracted it from the shale in which it was imbedded.
Taking it in his hand he turned it over several times with increasing curiosity. It appeared to be a rough pebble, from which he brushed away a portion of the dirt, so as to permit it to shine with a splendor that would have been tenfold greater in the full light of the sun.
“Don’t you know what it is?” asked Ariel with another smile at his perplexed expression.
“I do not; can you tell me?”
“It is a diamond!”
“And,” he asked, with a sweep of his arm, “are all those diamonds?”
“Great heavens!” gasped the astounded Ashman; “we have entered a cavern of diamonds.”
“There can be no doubt of that,” she calmly replied; “there are plenty of them among the rocks along other portions of the lake, for that is where the king has obtained them for years. There is gold there too. You know now the reason why he guards the approaches of the lake so jealously. I have seen our men digging for diamonds and they looked just like what these seem around us.”
Ashman had paused again and his eyes roved around the magnificent scene, whose splendors were enough to turn the head of Solomon himself. Thousands of the points were gleaming from all portions of the roof, walls, and even on the ledge along which they were walking. There was enough wealth within his gaze to pay the national debt of his country and to effect a revolution in any nation.
“I would be a fool,” he reflected, “not to gather some of these while the chance is mine, even though I may never live to carry them away.”
PURSUERS AND PURSUED.
It may be doubted whether the most cool-headed of men could find himself in such a situation as that of Fred Ashman, without being overwhelmed by the bewildering wealth surrounding him. He forgot for the time that the lives of himself and lovely companion were at stake, and that, despite her assurance that they were the first persons who had ever entered the wonderful cavern of diamonds, its existence might be known or discovered by their vengeful pursuers.