Continuing the adventure that began here.
CHAPTER XVIII: Cave of the Bandits.
We were surrounded by men with primitive but effective weapons, and our tiger had been neutralized. Under the circumstances, we had no choice but to go where we were directed to go. We were marched along a path that led down into a picturesque ravine with a cascading stream fed by melting snow. The bandits had tied a rope around Kitty’s neck, and he floated about five feet off the ground like a tethered balloon, still thoroughly enjoying his catnip.
I leaned over to Weyland and said in a low whisper, “I assume you have a plan.”
“Pyrenean mountain bandits,” he replied quietly, “are intensely operatic. I rely on their innate musicality.”
I was not at all sure what he meant by that, but I was reassured that Weyland must already have matters well in hand, and his giant brain must already have seized upon the one weakness that we could exploit to free ourselves from the grip of the bandits.
After some distance, the ravine opened out into a small valley, and the bandits led us toward the steep hill on our left. I wondered whether we were going to have to climb the uninviting slope, but instead we slipped behind a thick copse of evergreens, the branches of which completely hid the entrance to a cave.
“Actually,” said the bandit chieftain, “I think I was supposed to blindfold you before we brought you here. But if you could just consider yourselves honor-bond not to reveal the location of our treasure cave, we’ll say no more about it.”
“Oh, of course,” said Weyland. “We understand perfectly.”
We therefore entered the cave—the bandit leading Kitty had to reel him in a bit to get him under the top of the low irregular hole in the rock—and found ourselves in a treasure-house of wonders. Torches along the walls illuminated great piles of treasure; although, as I gave the piles a closer look, I noticed a peculiar absence of gold and silver.
“Impressive, isn’t it?” said the bandit chieftain. “Without a doubt the most lavishly stocked treasure cave in the Pyrenees. And we are very selective about our treasure.”
“For example,” said Weyland, “this appears to be a stopped electric wall clock with the minute hand missing.”
“Pure Bakelite frame,” said the bandit chieftain.
“And a perpetual desk calendar,” Weyland added, picking something else out of the pile.
“Made of Bakelite,” the bandit chieftain pointed out.
“And this daylight film-developing tank is—”
“One hundred per cent pure Bakelite,” said the bandit chieftain. “We believe this to be the largest single accumulation of Bakelite objects on the European continent.”
“So you are saying that you collect only Bakelite treasures?”
“Well, no. We also collect money and valuables if they can be readily exchanged for more Bakelite.”
“So your treasure cave,” said Weyland, “is filled with Bakelite.”
“Exactly. As I said, we are very selective.”
“But why Bakelite?”
“Ah!” The bandit chieftain made a gesture and was immediately surrounded by musicians with guitars, mandolins, violins, rustic flutes, and a C-melody saxophone. “Well may you ask!” he said as the orchestra played a two-bar introduction.
“A merry band of bandits we:
A merrier band you’ll never see.
What is it makes our spirits light?
What else but Bakelite?
“When others seek for treasures old,
For tarnished silver, hefty gold,
What glimmers in our torches’ light?
What else but Bakelite?”
A chorus of Pyrenean maidens suddenly made their way to the front of the orchestra and sang in perfect harmony:
“From darkest night
To noonday light
What sets us right
There is no sight
That matches quite
The sheer delight
Weyland leaned toward me and remarked, “I told you they were operatic.”
“Is this where we escape?” I asked.
“Not quite yet. But be ready.”
“And now,” the bandit chieftain announced, “in honor of our beloved Bandit Queen, the Bakelite Dance!”
The orchestra played a brisk polka, and the bandits and maidens began to link arms and swirl around the piles of treasures, picking their legs up as they went. More than one of the Bakelite treasures was accidentally kicked that way, but it seemed to be a price the bandits were willing to pay for a good Bakelite dance.
“Let’s join them,” said Weyland.
He linked arms with Tluxapeketl, and she linked arms with me, and we swirled and kicked our way around and between the piles of treasure. With many evolutions and figure-eight patterns, we were slowly coming closer and closer to the cave entrance. Weyland took hold of the rope attached to Kitty, who was still floating in the air at about eye level thoroughly enjoying the effects of a very strong dose of catnip, and brought him with us in our turns and figures. We had just reached the cave entrance when Weyland announced, “Now!”
He slipped out of the cave, taking Kitty with him, and we slipped out right behind him.
Immediately on the other side of the concealing evergreens we were confronted by a semicircle of well-armed bandits. And in the middle was Miss Kun, the Devil Princess.
“Ah!” said the voice of the bandit chieftain behind us, how delightful! My honored guests, it is my privilege to introduce you to our beloved Bandit Queen.”
Immediately the bandits in front of us began to sing in chorus:
“Our bandit queen! What bandit heart
Does not beat somewhat faster
When merely walking past her?
Our bandit queen! We do our part
“Will you please cut that out?” said Miss Kun impatiently.
Don’t miss tomorrow’s thrilling episode: