Too Long; Didn't ReadOn finding that Cousin Benedict did not return to his quarters at the proper hour, Mrs. Weldon began to feel uneasy. She could not imagine what had become of him; his tin box with its contents were safe in his hut, and even if a chance of escape had been offered him, she knew that nothing would have induced him voluntarily to abandon his treasures. She enlisted the services of Halima, and spent the remainder of the day in searching for him, until at last she felt herself driven to the conviction that he must have been confined by the orders of Alvez himself; for what reason she could not divine, as Benedict had undoubtedly been included in the number of prisoners to be delivered to Mr. Weldon for the stipulated ransom.
But the rage of the trader when he heard of the escape of the captive was an ample proof that he had had no hand in his disappearance. A rigorous search was instituted in every direction, which resulted in the discovery of the mole-track. Here beyond a question was the passage through which the fly-catcher had found his way.
"Idiot! fool! rascal!" muttered Alvez, full of rage at the prospect of losing a portion of the redemption-money; "if ever I get hold of him, he shall pay dearly for this freak."
The opening was at once blocked up, the woods were scoured all round for a considerable distance, but no trace of Benedict was to be found. Mrs. Weldon was bitterly grieved and much overcome, but she had no alternative except to resign herself as best she could to the loss of her unfortunate relation; there was a tinge of bitterness in her anxiety, for she could not help being irritated at the recklessness with which he had withdrawn himself from the reach of her protection.
Meanwhile the weather for the time of year underwent a very unusual change. Although the rainy season is ordinarily reckoned to terminate about the end of April, the sky had suddenly become overcast in the middle of June, rain had recommenced falling, and the downpour had been so heavy and continuous that all the ground was thoroughly sodden. To Mrs. Weldon personally this incessant rainfall brought no other inconvenience beyond depriving her of her daily exercise, but to the natives in general it was a very serious calamity.