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"Look!" cried Mr. Alcando. He would have said more—have uttered some of the expressions of fear and terror that raced through his mind, but he could not speak the words. He could only look and point.
But Blake, as well as the Spaniard, had seen what had happened, and with Blake to see was to act.
"Quick!" he cried. "We've got to get him out before he smothers! Pack up this stuff!"
As he spoke he folded the tripod legs of his camera, and laid it on top of a big rock, that seemed firmly enough imbedded in the soil not to slip from its place. Then, placing beside it the spare boxes of film, and throwing over them a rubber covering he had brought, Blake began to run across the side of the hill toward the place where Joe had last been seen.
"Come on!" cried Blake to Mr. Alcando, but the Spaniard needed no urging. He had laid with Blake's the boxes of film he carried, and the two were now speeding to the rescue.
"Go get help!" cried Joe to an Indian worker from the tug, who had followed to help carry things if needed. "Go quick! Bring men—shovels! We may have to dig him out," he added to Mr. Alcando.
"If—if we can find him," replied the other in low tones.
"Go on—run!" cried Joe, for the Indian did not seem to understand. Then the meaning and need of haste occurred to him.
"Si, seņor, I go—pronto!" he exclaimed, and he was off on a run.
Fortunately for Blake and Mr. Alcando, the worst of the slide seemed to be over. A big mass of the hill below them, and off to their right, had slid down into the Canal. It was the outer edge of this that had engulfed Joe and his camera. Had he been directly in the path of the avalanche, nothing could have saved him. As it was, Blake felt a deadly fear gripping at his heart that, after all, it might be impossible to rescue his chum.
"But I'll get him! I'll get him!" he said fiercely to himself, over and over again. "I'll get him!"
Slipping, sliding, now being buried up to their knees in the soft mud and sand, again finding some harder ground, or shelf of shale, that offered good footing, Blake and the Spaniard struggled on through the rain. It was still coming down, but not as hard as before.
"Here's the place!" cried Blake, coming to a halt in front of where several stones formed a rough circle. "He's under here."
"No, farther on, I think," said the Spaniard.
Blake looked about him. His mind was in a turmoil. He could not be certain as to the exact spot where Joe had been engulfed in the slide, and yet he must know to a certainty. There was no time to dig in many places, one after the other, to find his chum. Every second was vital.
"Don't you think it's here?" Blake asked, "Try to think!"
"I am!" the Spaniard replied. "And it seems to me that it was farther on. If there was only some way we could tell—"
The sentence trailed off into nothingness. There was really no way of telling. All about them was a dreary waste of mud, sand, boulders, smaller stones, gravel and more mud—mud was over everything. And more mud was constantly being made, for the rain had not ceased.
"I'm going to dig here!" decided Blake in desperation, as with his bare hands he began throwing aside the dirt and stones. Mr. Alcando watched him for a moment, and then, as though giving up his idea as to where Joe lay beneath the dirt, he, too, started throwing on either side the clay and soil.
Blake glanced down the hill. The Indian messenger had disappeared, and, presumably, had reached the tug, and was giving the message for help. Then Blake bent to his Herculean task again. When next he looked up, having scooped a slight hole in the side of the hill, he saw a procession of men running up—men with picks and shovels over their shoulders. He saw, too, a big slice of the hill in the Canal. The wonderful waterway was blocked at Culebra Cut.
Blake thought little of that then. His one idea and frantic desire was to get Joe out.
"They'll never get here in time," said Mr. Alcando in a low voice. "We'll never get him out in time."
"We—we must!" cried Blake, as again he began digging.
Mr. Alcando had spoken the truth. The men could not get there in time—Joe could not be dug out in time—if it had depended on human agencies. For not only was Blake unaware of the exact spot where his chum lay buried, but, at least so it seemed, there had been such a mass of earth precipitated over him that it would mean hours before he could be gotten out.
However, fate, luck, Providence, or whatever you choose to call it, had not altogether deserted the moving picture boys. The very nature of the slide, and the hill on which it had occurred, was in Joe's favor. For as Blake, after a despairing glance at the approaching column of men, bent again to his hopeless task, there was a movement of the earth.
"Look out!" cried Mr. Alcando.
He would have spoken too late had what happened been of greater magnitude. As it was Blake felt the earth slipping from beneath his feet, and jumped back instinctively. But there was no need.
Beyond him another big slide had occurred, and between him and Mr. Alcando, and this last shift of the soil, was a ridge of rocks that held them to their places.
Down in a mass of mud went another portion of the hill, and when it had ceased moving Blake gave a cry of joy. For there, lying in a mass of red sand, was Joe himself, and beside him was the camera, the tripod legs sticking out at grotesque angles.
"Joe! Joe!" yelled Blake, preparing to leap toward his chum.
"Be careful!" warned Mr. Alcando. "There may be danger—"
But no known danger could have held Blake back.
"He is there!" Blake cried. "We were digging in the wrong place."
"I thought so," said the Spaniard. But Blake did not stay to listen to him. Now he was at Joe's side. The slide had laid bare a ledge of rock which seemed firm enough to remain solid for some time.
"Joe! Joe!" cried Blake, bending over his chum. And then he saw what it was that had probably saved Joe's life. The boy's big rubber coat had been turned up and wound around his head and face in such a manner as to keep the sand and dirt out of his eyes, nose and mouth. And, also wrapped up in the folds of the garment, was the camera.
Rapidly Blake pulled the coat aside. Joe's pale face looked up at him. There was a little blood on the forehead, from a small cut. The boy was unconscious.
"Joe! Joe!" begged Blake. "Speak to me! Are you all right?"
He bared his chum's face to the pelting rain—the best thing he could have done, for it brought Joe back to consciousness—slowly at first, but with the returning tide of blood the fainting spell passed.
"We must get him to the boat," said Mr. Alcando, coming up now.
"Are you hurt? Can you walk?" asked Blake.
Joe found his voice—though a faint voice it was.
"Yes—yes," he said, slowly. "I—I guess I'm all right."
There seemed to be no broken bones. Mr. Alcando took charge of the camera. It was not damaged except as to the tripod.
"What happened?" asked Joe, his voice stronger now.
"You were caught in the slide," Blake informed him. "Don't think about it now. We'll have you taken care of."
"I—I guess I'm all right," Joe said, standing upright. "That coat got wound around my face, and kept the dirt away. I got a bad whack on the head, though, and then I seemed to go to sleep. Did I get any pictures?"
"I don't know. Don't worry about them now."
"We—we missed the best part of the slide, I guess," Joe went on. "Too bad."
"It's all right!" his chum insisted. "I was filming away up to the time you went under. Now, let's get back."
By this time the crowd of men, including Captain Wiltsey, had arrived. But there was nothing for them to do. The slide had buried Joe, and another slide had uncovered him, leaving him little the worse, save for a much-muddied suit of clothes, and a bad headache, to say nothing of several minor cuts and bruises. It was a lucky escape.
Back to the tug they went, taking the cameras with them. Joe was given such rough and ready surgery and medical treatment as was available, and Captain Wiltsey said he would leave at once for Gatun, where a doctor could be obtained.
Fortunately the blockading of the Canal by the slide did not stop the Bohio from continuing her journey. The slide was north of her position.
"I do hope we got some good films," said Joe, when he had been made as comfortable as possible in his berth.
"I think we did," Blake said. "Your camera was protected by the rubber coat, and mine wasn't hurt at all."
Later the boys learned that though they had missed the very best, or rather the biggest, part of the slide, still they had on their films enough of it to make a most interesting series of views.
Late that afternoon Joe was in the care of a physician, who ordered him to stay in bed a couple of days. Which Joe was very willing to do. For, after the first excitement wore off, he found himself much more sore and stiff than he had realized.
They were at Gatun now, and there Blake planned to get some views of the big dam from the lower, or spillway side.
"But first I'm going back to the slide," he said. "I want to get some views of the dredgers getting rid of the dirt."
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