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Chapter XIV

Describing the Religious Ceremonies of the Mandanyah, Also a Sanguinary Naval Engagement.

AND the reason? She was madly in love with Hardwicke. She watched his every movement with a tenderness inexpressible, and whenever he chanced to address a stray word to her she trembled, grew confused, and made a most elaborate attempt to blush violently; and that she failed in her endeavour I would not swear, for to my eyes her dusky face changed to a warm red. Her eyes never left him, no matter where he moved. It was a most pitiable case of devotion; fawning, and as humble as the love of a dog. What the young maiden's inner thoughts were is beyond me to define; but I suppose the heart of a savage beats, especially when love is the motive power, much like the heart of any other woman.

To say that Hardwicke was unconscious of the passion he had awakened in Lusota's bosom would be equivalent to writing him down an ass, which he was not. On the contrary, he was as shrewd as he was brave, and saw that the native woman was “dying for him,” as the saying is; but being unsmitten by her charms, he gave her no encouragement whatever, which, as is the manner of these things, increased her passion but the more. A kind look from


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him was construed into something totally different from what he meant, and if a few words accompanied the look, the acme of Lusota's happiness was reached.

Dick was a man whom any woman might have loved. Not more than twenty-nine, he was the ideal model of manly strength. Tall, so close to six feet that he was not certain of being under or above it; he had a splendid face, and a head so gracefully set upon his shoulders as to remind one of the cut of a thorough-bred greyhound. Indeed, he told me once that the boys at school used to call him by that name, but he thought it was on account of his swiftness of foot. Perhaps it was both. Some people would have thought his face hard, and so it was, but only in anger, then it could grow as rigid as iron; but in his lighter moods it was as open and lovable as a child's. As I close my eyes and let my mind wander back to the old times, I see him in all the glow of youthful strength; I look into his clear, truthful eyes again; I hear his kind old voice; I feel the warm clasp of his hand in mine, and I think that had I been a woman I should, like Desdemona, have prayed heaven to send me such a man. I could not wonder at the great love the native woman bore him.

I sat out on the sand as long as I dared, and then, for fear of taking cold, retraced my steps to the hut, leaning as before on Dick and Ada. The touch of her sweet figure against my own acted electrically upon my nerves, and I felt my weakened form tingle with a strange new life. The walk from the beach to the hut was all too short, and I selfishly wished the few yards could have been transformed into so many miles.

By degrees my strength came back; slowly at first, but when once the returning vitality got the upper hand, it drove the remaining weakness away with astonishing velocity. It was splendid to feel strong and well once more, to inhale the life-giving breeze, to bathe every morning in the clear blue waters of the lake, and then return to the hut and eat a hearty breakfast. I verily believe I was a much better man after my illness than I had ever been


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before. And my delight at my recovery was intensified by the great pleasure I derived from beholding the joy which was depicted upon every lineament of Ada's face. How good, how tender she was! Dick, old friend, I loved you none the less, but life was different now. Many and many a time had she paddled me over the lake, because it would do me good, she said; and when I grew stronger she taught me how to use the paddle, and her delight at my success was of childlike intensity. They were happy times, more happy than dreams of dreams; and I grew to love my fair companion, love her as I thought only an angel could be loved. She was the very essence of my being, this bright wild, baby thing; my purer soul against which my other nature stood out dark and defiled. So guilty a creature I seemed in her presence, so unworthy her trusting, pure affection, that I shrank from whispering to her my passion as one would shrink from doing a sinful thing.

We passed the long, bright days together paddling, shooting (I tried to teach her the use of the revolver, but she had no love for such uncouth weapons), fishing, and in short excursions about the mountains, Dick sometimes with us, but oftener away with Jimmy “fossicking.” It was during one of these rambles that she pointed out to me the path which led over the mountains to the desert on the other side; the path we were destined so soon to take amid such incidents as none of us are likely ever to forget.

One day we told her of our project to take her with us if she would consent to trust her welfare in our hands. She was overjoyed at the proposition. She had lately begun to think of the time that was coming when we should leave the village, and her thoughts of our departure had been the bitterest. Great tears welled up in her eyes as she declared she would go with us if it were to certain death. The journey had no terrors for her, and the probability of fatigue, always fatigue, was as nothing, she declared, to what her life would be should we depart without her. I quite believed her when she said that we should find her as good a


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traveller as any of us, for her figure was most strongly and beautifully made—as I think I said before—while her step was wonderfully agile and elastic. We impressed upon her the necessity for keeping the project a secret, as we foresaw no little difficulty in getting her away.

The winter was now approaching, it being the sixth moon of the summer months, and the village showed unusual signs of activity. One of their great feast days was drawing near. These days, or more properly “times,” for they often lasted a week, were two in number, and were celebrated at intervals of six months, their division of winter and summer. When the sixth moon reached its zenith the festivities began, and lasted on for days, according to the inclination of the people. General dissoluteness prevailed. The villagers danced, sang, and literally stuffed themselves with fine things. The chief priest was general master of the ceremonies, and by his outrageous example so demoralised the people that neither life nor property was sacred for a month after.

These things I learnt from Ada, who seemed to dread the approaching festival, so many horrors and excesses had it to answer for. What those horrors and excesses were she did not say, so I was left to my own conjectures. Nevertheless, I was anxious to behold the revels, anticipating no harm. Jimmy was stolidly indifferent, or if he showed feeling at all, it was more of nervousness than anything else. This was so strange that I was forced to question him, but he only answered he wished we were going away before the riot began. He preferred the desert, even in drought, to the people about him; and wound up by repeating again that he did not understand one black fellow who gave another black fellow all his grub. For him to be the least concerned at anything, was so new a feature in his composition, that both Dick and I were inclined to laugh him out of it, but we restrained our merriment, for though we failed to comprehend the reason of his taciturn manner, we came to the conclusion that there might be some effect for the cause.




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We were suddenly awakened one morning shortly after this by hearing a dreadful hum of discordant noises, and on arising and stepping out we found that the whole of the village was astir and evidently ripe for the approaching festival. Such a babel and din I had not thought the quiet place capable of producing. The people laughed and sang, beat rude tom-toms, and blew shrill music from reed pipes, ear-splitting to a superlative degree. Each person was dressed in what might be called his Sunday clothes. He had some extra hideous daubs of paint on face and body; while a few gaudy feathers, stuck here and there promiscuously, gave tone to the animal and displayed the variety of its costume. Some, however, had cloaks of a very gorgeous description, being entirely composed of many varieties of beautiful feathers worked together in most artistic patterns. These were the “aristocrats” of the place, and wore round their necks ruby ornaments, denoting their proud position. On the lake were many canoes, all gaily decorated, one in particular being of great size and having a platform in one end with an awning of woven grasses above it. This we eyed with no little curiosity, for we knew it was the king's, and in it Ada, accompanied by Kalua and Wanjula, would make the journey to the Great Cave. She was to ask permission for us to go with them, and we awaited anxiously her approach, for be it remembered, Morton had spoken of a water journey when he was led blindfolded into the Golden Chamber, and we imagined this visit might offer a substantial clue as to the whereabouts of the treasure. The journey to the cave was the religious portion of the festival, and Ada being a kind of priestess, would naturally be one of the chief personages of the carnival.

We spent fully two hours upon the beach, awaiting the arrival of the royal party before it showed any appearance of turning up. The people had become less boisterous, and a gradual abandonment of interest ensued, when, just as their spirits were at a very low ebb, there was a great beating of tom-toms in the chief's palatial hut, the barricade


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swung slowly back, and forth stepped twenty or thirty armed warriors looking dreadfully savage and wild in their outlandish rig and daubs of red, white, and blue paint. A buzz of admiration arose from the populace at the brave show the men presented, though each man and woman who composed that populace knew that at a signal from their tyrannical king those well-armed warriors would sweep them from their path like reeds. And yet they applauded. But I have seen the same thing done in civilised countries. After the warriors came the medicine man, Wanjula, swinging a vessel which contained some smoking substance, and as he walked slowly along he repeated some uncanny incantation. He was also received well by the crowd, though in their heart of hearts he was detested; but he was a great power in the little place and the people bowed low before him. Ada next appeared, very pale and very lovely, and yet withal a heartsick look in her face. Her dress was savage but beautiful, being much like the other feathered cloaks I have mentioned, but of much greater beauty and length. A collar of gold was made fast round her throat, in which there were rubies of inestimable value, whilst on her head she wore a cap of white feathers ornamented with more of the bright red stones. A suppressed murmur of admiration greeted her appearance; but when Kalua, who came next, appeared, dressed to death and literally blazing with jewels, he was greeted by the crowd, which hated him even more than the priest, with a great burst of loyal enthusiasm. He distorted his face into a smile of acknowledgment and then marched on with all the dignity of a true monarch.

Slowly the procession made its way down to the canoes, we accompanying. A glance from Ada assured us that we might visit the Temple of the Great Spirit, the name by which the cave was known, so we jumped into the great canoe without awaiting the ceremony of an invitation. Kalua appeared to be greatly annoyed at our intrusion, and though he had not seen me since the day of our arrival, he showed no signs of recognition. My nod and pleasant smile were entirely wasted on the rascal, and I felt as though I could


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have kicked him for his incivility. The priest, on the contrary, welcomed us with a smile, than which a more cunning and unsavoury one the world has never known. However, we pretended to notice these things but little. The paddles gave way, and keeping time to a strange, soft song the rowers sang, we shot out on to the bright waters, the rest of the people following in a long procession.

We steered straight across the lake to the great coneshaped hill I had observed on my arrival. The dozens of gaily dressed canoes and the people in their grandest attire must have created quite an attractive scene. Above the great sun shone in a cloudless blue sky, which seemed to reflect itself in the listless waters, so still and blue were they. All was laughter and gaiety, the sound of many voices coming across the waters—an incessant hum. The tom-toms were heartily slapped, and the shrill reed pipes fiercely blown, making as merry a discord as one could wish to hear.

Ada alone seemed melancholy. She was pale and nervous, her timidity increasing as we neared the big hill. I begged her to tell me what ailed her, so that I might do something to alleviate the pain I knew she was suffering. But she only whispered that she suffered no pain, and that I could not help her.

“You do not like this business?” asked Dick.

“I hate it! It is so dreadfully cruel.”

“Then why do it?”

“I must.”

“Must!” We both spoke this time.

“Yes, yes. If I did not they would kill me.”

“The devils!” I muttered.

“Ah! you do not know all. The people are bad, heartless. They hate me truly, but are afraid of the king.”

“But why should they hate you?” I asked.

“It grew with the women first. They envied me my white skin and yellow hair; my power over the old king and the men of the village. Now they hate me because Kalua seeks me for his wife.” She shuddered as she spoke


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the word. “Nor will they believe I hate him, for that dog Wanjula has told many lies about me.”

“I know I shall wring his neck before I have finished with him,” said Dick.

“And has Kalua been good to you then?” I asked.

“He has not harmed me,” she replied ambiguously, “because he knows the consequence.”

“And the consequence?”

“Many people sleep soundly at the bottom of the lake. Rather than be defiled by the touch of such a beast——” and she broke suddenly off, shivering with excitement. I had never seen her agitated before and had no conception of such fire in her nature. Her eyes blazed, and she put her teeth fast together.

“Do not agitate yourself,” said Hardwicke softly. “We are with you now, and will protect you with the last breath of our bodies. Never forget that we have weapons here that kill instantaneously. If Kalua, or the priest, or people offer to harm you, they shall reckon first with us. In the mean-time, try and do as you have always done, so that you shall arouse no suspicion of our intentions. In a few days now we shall have left this cursed village far behind and all its barbarous nonsense.”

“Ay, nonsense you may well say,” she replied, “but such nonsense as will freeze the blood with its very horror.”

“What is the ceremony, then?” I asked.

“I dare not tell you,” and she cast a furtive glance towards the chief and his priest. “But,” and her voice dropped to a whisper, “on no account let the face of the god affect you.”

This communication we received with all soberness, though of its meaning we were entirely in the dark.

Kalua, who had watched us all through this conversation with evil eyes, beckoned Jimmy and spoke to us through him.

“The Laughing Hair has soon acquired the tongue of the white man?” he said.




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“Is she not of the white race, oh, Kalua?” Dick answered. “It is but natural that the language of her infancy should come back to her again.”

“But I comprehend not one word of your strange tongue, and yet I, too, am of your race.”

“God forbid!” ejaculated Hardwicke. “But,” he said in answer to the chief, “your infancy was not passed with the white men. Had it been, oh king, thou couldst have spoken with the most mighty. As the king is great above all men in rank, so is his intellect starlike as compared with the camp fire intellects of other men; his language is the essence of the beautiful.”

Hardwicke was now coming it so strongly that I was afraid he would overstep the bounds of modesty. I even thought Kalua had doubts of his genuineness, for he watched him from out the corners of his bloodshot eyes with a deep, searching gaze. But Dick's face lost not its imperturbability. He looked so unconscious of the effect he had produced, that a more cultivated physiognomist than Kalua might easily have been deceived.

“Speaks the Laughing Hair much?” the chief asked abruptly.

“No, chief.”

“Strange,” he replied. “A woman who speaks not much.”

It was curious to see him. I know he did not believe a word Dick said, and yet my cousin lied so gravely to him that he was forced to doubt his own sharp senses. Look, and look again he would, but never by a flutter of the eyelid did Dick betray himself.

“Laughing Hair is the daughter of a great race,” replied Hardwicke. “None but words of wisdom fall from her lips. He who speaks much, speaks to little purpose.”

Kalua might have told Dick it was a pity he did not keep that precept in mind, but his thoughts were running in another channel.

“Spoke she not of the Temple of the Great Spirit?” he asked.




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“No, chief. Many were the questions we put to her, but she refused an answer.”

“Then you sought to know the reason of this gathering?”

“Yes.”

“And she told you not?”

“No.”

“It is well.” And he looked towards where she sat, with an expression upon his face of the most extraordinary cunning. But she saw him not, for her face was buried in her hands, and she appeared in absolute dejection. I have often wondered since what would have happened had not Dick lied so consistently.

The canoe had in the meantime reached the foot of the big mountain, where we disembarked, following the king and his medicine man, the rabble bringing up the rear. Our way lay along a narrow valley, which we gradually mounted by the aid of rough steps cut deeply in the rock, till we came to the entrance of a cave. Here the procession stopped for a moment while Wanjula uttered a short speech; then half-a-dozen fellows advanced and lit some torches, and the cavalcade entered the gloomy jaws of the cavern. There was nothing exceptional in the structure of this passage beyond the fact that it seemed both natural and artificial; natural, inasmuch as some mighty force must have driven the great aperture through the rock which the art of man had carved to suit man's purpose.

We travelled at little better than a snail's pace for about two hundred yards, when the passage suddenly opened, and by the way the torchbearers stood still I guessed we had reached the end of our journey. Then Wanjula spoke some words, the echo of which lingered long above our heads, and I knew that we had entered some vast subterranean chamber. Nor was I left long doubting. His order had been for more light, and in a moment the whole of the great cavern was flooded with the glare of many torches.

This cavern seemed to be fully a hundred feet broad, and nearly twice as long. There could be no doubt that


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the same agency which had forced the passage had also formed this chamber, for beside and above me the rock was torn away in great masses, which nothing but powder, or some agency far more powerful, could have accomplished. I could well see the roof, though it was of great height, which later on surprised me much, for I saw no opening there, and I wondered how the smoke of the torches escaped from the chamber. As you may be sure, Dick and I were all eyes, but nothing in the shape of treasure or a secret cavern met our vision.

In the meantime Ada and her two evil deities, as I knew Kalua and the priest to be, had traversed to the far end of the cavern. I kept my eyes fixed on her and followed with Dick, wondering what was coming next. And just then I thought of her warning, “On no account let the face of the god affect you,” and I whispered it to my two companions.

I had scarcely finished speaking the words when Dick seized me violently by the arm.

“Good heavens, look!” he whispered hoarsely.

And I looked and saw the fac-simile of the monstrously hideous idol we had seen in the cave of the White Mountains.

I could scarcely believe my senses. It was so very strange, so unaccountable. Yet there the idol was, complete in all its horror, that horror intensified by the intense glare of so many torches. There were the same scaly legs, the breast and body of a woman, and the head half human and half beast with its jaws distended in a horrible blood-curdling grin. I could not repress the shudder that crept over me as I looked up into the great red glaring eyes of the brute. It seemed so instinct with life, so like the living emblem of a hideous nightmare. The dreadful grin almost fascinated me, and I ceased to wonder why the benighted savages approached it with such humility and awe. Upon their faces, distinctly defined by the uncanny glare of the torches, was stamped their horror of the strange god they worshipped. They stood quite still, scarcely daring to


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breathe, and the silence of death reigned in the gloomy chamber. With eyes fascinated, riveted to the hideous face of the image, which the more it was stared at seemed to grin the more, they stood, till some of them, overcome by the terror of their emotions, fell shrieking to the earth. They were at once pounced upon by the bodyguard of the king and immediately secured with thongs. There were six altogether, five women and one man.

Kalua, the priest, and Ada now mounted a platform right in front of the great statue and beneath its outstretched arm. This arm was raised as though in the act of striking, but I paid little or no attention to it then, for Wanjula had arisen and spoken some words to the people, at which they all fell flat on their faces muttering and moaning in a most deplorable manner. After a good ten minutes' groaning they were bidden to arise, and the priest once more addressed them, although not before he had paid homage to the idol in the following strain, as translated to me afterwards by Ada, who knew his speeches by heart.

“O Great Spirit! King of the people who dwell by the shores of the Blue Lake, of the tribe of the great Mandanyah, of the children of the mighty Wanjula, the priest of the sun; he who traversed the burning sands of the fierce desert with the chosen of his glorious people, the people who dwelt in the sacred White Mountains ever since the birth of Time, hail! Thy voice shakes the earth as does the wind the breast of the water; thy anger is as the fire that lights the face of the great sky when the trees upon the mountains are aglow with flame; thy frown is black and angry as the smoke thereof; thou art the one great Spirit of the Universe, mighty and everlasting—hail!”

And the people flung themselves upon the earth and shouted, “Hail!”

He continued to harangue the assemblage in the same far-fetched vein, exhorting the people to glorify the Great Spirit who watched over their welfare with such unceasing devotion, and that he would intercede with the same Great


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Spirit on their behalf, so that all their doings might be prosperous and general blessings fall on them like the rain from heaven. And the ignorant crowd murmured words of approbation. He also exhorted them not to forget their allegiance to the king, for in the king was the perfect ideal, or himself, for through himself alone could their petitions reach the ears of the spirit.

Then followed that which rather puzzled me at the time, but which I saw through shortly after. He spoke as follows:—

“It had been the hope of the Priest of the Great Spirit, that they who entered here with the white skin upon their faces would have acknowledged the power of the Supreme Master. But their heart is as white as their face; the blood stands still in their bodies! they are under the care of the Evil One. So be it till the time shall come.”

All eyes were turned upon Dick and me, but no one made a move. The same mocking smile overspread Kalua's features as he watched us from beneath his brows. But he looked in vain for the qualm of terror. We listened to Jimmy's translation with the most apparent indifference. Ada sat pale and trembling. Wanjula continued—

“But there be many who acknowledge the power of the Deity. Great and glorious are the blessings that shall be conferred upon them. Their names shall be handed down from generation to generation, and men and women unborn shall sing the praises of the brave who gave their all to glorify the god. Let them approach.”

In a moment there was a hideous din set up, the five women and the man shrieking with terror. Poor things! what could it mean? I saw the warriors drag them one by one over to the platform, I saw Ada's face grow terribly scared and white, and then, as at a given signal, every torch was extinguished, and we were in utter and complete darkness.

The shrieking continued. The piteous accents of despair were truly heartrending. They filled the cavern with a thousand dreadful echoes, turning one's blood to ice. I


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shall never forget it. The gloom seemed to heighten the horror a thousandfold. Shriek followed shriek, and groan followed groan, till I felt my brain surge to and fro. I could conceive no hell more dreadful. I held my revolver tightly and tried to keep my brain clear, for I fully expected we should all be assaulted under this cover of darkness. The suspense was awful, the horror unendurable. My blood now burned like fire, and I felt a mad desire to rush forward, to do something. Then I thought I heard a thud, then another and another, till the noise grew less and less and then ceased. And while the stillness of most dreadful death hung in the air it was startled by a heavy groan, a gurgling, dying groan. Then everything was still again, and a moment after Wanjula spoke; the torches were relit, and I saw a sight that made me gasp for breath.

The six people who but a moment before had stood up in all the flush of life, were now stretched dead upon the platform, with a stream of blood traced over the face of each. Being so close to the bodies, to look was to examine them, and I found that the left temple of each had been pierced by some sharp-pointed instrument. That Wanjula was the executioner I had no doubt, but with what he had wrought the terrible outrage I could not guess.

Just then I felt something wet fall upon the hand I had placed on Hardwicke's shoulder. It was warm, quite warm, and on closely examining it, I discovered it was red in colour, while a still closer inspection told me it was blood. I started like one suddenly smitten an undreamt-of blow. Instinctively my eyes wandered aloft. We were standing right under the outstretched arm of the idol. I pulled Dick back with an expression of horror; the thing looked so like preparing to strike us down. The malignant grin upon its horrid face became intensified, and I thought a more keen expression of hate shone from its blood-red eyes.

Dick seized a torch from an attendant bearer, and held it close up to the arm of the image. A partly-suppressed cry of astonishment escaped him. “By heaven, Archie, look at that axe!”




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It was a wonderful thing, but the hand of the idol held a small axe, similar in all respects to the one he had found in the cave in the White Mountains. Blood was dripping from it, and as we watched we saw drop after drop fall. It, then, had been the weapon employed in the killing of the unfortunates. But how came the people to allow such unwilling sacrifices?

Wanjula spoke. “Behold, O worshippers of the Great Spirit, the bodies of them that owned the power of the God with the Terrific Face. The great hand was loosened, and the Sacred Axe descended; the sacrifice is made, and the god appeased.”

I guessed the situation in a moment. They who had shrieked aloud at the terrifying appearance of the monster had owned his power, thereby proving, according to their awful form of worship, that they were the people the god wished to take unto himself. I was horror-stricken at the thought. If by any chance we had been led into a display of feeling, neither Ada nor Kalua could have saved us from the clutches of the priest and the people. It was a law as unalterable as those of the Medes and Persians that whoever owned the influence of the god should be rendered as a sacrifice to him. Luckily, it took more than an idol to frighten us, though how great our astonishment would have been at the sudden appearance of such a similar form it would have been hard to say, had we not remembered Ada's warning, “On no account let the face of the god affect you.” I understood the priest's utterance now of not “acknowledging the power of the Supreme Master.” Had we done so, we too should have swelled the list of those who have been “lost in the bush.”

“What a couple of cold-blooded scoundrels!” said Dick to me. “For two pins I'd put a ball into each of them, and end their hideous business. That devil, Wanjula, has done all this, the fiend incarnate,” and he worked himself into such a passion that I was in mortal terror lest he should spring forward and wreak instantaneous vengeance on the two villains.




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“For God's sake, keep quiet!”

I was all anxiety to see what part Ada would be called upon to play in this grim farce, and my curiosity was about to be satisfied, for at a word from Wanjula she uncovered her hands from her face, and arose, pale as a lily, and broken-hearted with woe, and in a sweet, musical voice, chanted the following strange words, standing with arms stretched over the dead:—

“They are gone, and the fire of life is burnt low within them,

Cold and white is its ash; they are senseless and void of all motion.

They are gone, for ever gone, in the realms of the great unknown;

The realms of the unreturnable, wonderful realms of the mystic.

They are gone in the flush of their youth, in the glory and pride of their life,

Gone to the kingdoms of him who is greater and vaster than all things;

Whose voice is more loud than the voice of a thousand great thunders,

And whose words are as keen as the flame of the prongs of wild lightning.

Called he to them, and they cried aloud in their agony,

Thick and more fast fell their tears than the fierce rains in summer.

But their cries and their wails shall be changed into songs of rejoicing,

And their salt tears transformed to the cool, sparkling drops of the morning,

Which gild with the dazzle of crystal the shrubs and the grass on the mountain.”

Hers was then the task to deliver what might be called the funeral oration. Sometimes it was of great length; it depended entirely on her mood. On this occasion she was far from at her best; indeed, she told me after that she could not have said more, even had her life depended upon it.

But her portion of the ceremony was not yet accomplished. She was to place her finger on the wound of each corpse, and with the blood that adhered to it moisten the great lips of the idol. How she would have gone through such a dreadful ceremony I know not. Luckily, the whole proceedings came to a sudden and wild conclusion.


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A voice rang with startling effect throughout the great, weird chamber—

“The Wyhumas! The Wyhumas!”

At that cry the women set up a horrible shrieking, one half of the torches were extinguished, while the men rushed wildly about, groping here and there for their arms, or for any weapons they could lay their hands on. All was consternation and confusion. At a sign from Wanjula, the warriors who had protected the platform rushed to the entrance of the cave, with most ear-splitting yells, and spears and axes uplifted. Their advance seemed to inspire many of the others with bravery. They laid hold of the first object that came to their hand, and, shouting in a most barbarous fashion, rushed pell-mell in the tracks of their fellows.

We were attacked by the Wyhumas, the great enemies of the Mandanyah tribe. As a consequence, terror reigned supreme. Men and women wailed in a most shocking manner. Kalua crouched trembling on his seat. His sickly, yellow face had turned to a livid blue; his limbs shook like an aspen. All the supercilious bounce and swagger had flown; he looked mean enough to be pitied. Wanjula, on the contrary, was all ablaze with excitement and fury. He exhorted the people with burning words to fight, fight till not a single Wyhuma was left to pollute the face of the earth. Then would he curse the men for dogs and cowards; then implore them, with cajoling accents, to rush forth, like the great warriors they were, and annihilate the enemy.

But from him my attention was riveted to Ada. The women crowded round her, clinging to whatever portion of her clothing they could touch, and crying in piteous accents for her to save them. She, poor thing, looked as bewildered and terrified as the rest. Her eyes met mine, straining, anxious, and full of entreaty.

I was by her side in a moment. “What is it, Ada?”

She answered rapidly, “These people think I have more than human power; that I can make the Great Spirit do my will; that I, in fact, am a sorceress, and can destroy


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the Wyhumas if I choose. Wanjula first told them the lie, and he has just again repeated it, and urged them to use force if I refuse. He has told them that I would betray the tribe—the tribe that has protected me all these years—and go over to the camp of the Wyhumas with the white men. He hates me, and would like to see them tear me to pieces; and they have grown so fierce at my seeming ingratitude that I fear them.”

“The devil!” and I shook my fist at his ugly face.

“Listen,” she continued in the same hurried manner. “The Wyhumas think I am a witch, that I have wrought their race all the misery it knows, and that I have caused a plague to carry off many of their people. They demanded me of the old king—he who died twelve moons before you came, who was more kind than a father—and of the old white-haired priest who was slain by Wanjula when Kalua came to be chief; but they loved me, and would not give me up.”

“Why did they demand you?”

“I was to suffer death to save their race.”

“Horrible!”

“When Kalua was made king, they sent once more, but he would not surrender me either. He wanted me for his wife. Now the Wyhumas have attacked us, and unless I prove my loyalty to the tribe by saving it, they will kill me.”

“Tell them, then,” said I, “that you will save them. You hear her, Dick? Pray God we may be able to drive them off,” and, giving her a look of encouragement, I flew towards the entrance of the cave, my two companions following hard in my tracks.

I guessed our rifles would cause a mighty dread in the ranks of the besiegers, for they could never have seen or heard the like before. This was the thought that bade me tell Ada to let the people know that she would save them, for I felt sure that the unknown agency of gunpowder would have a most surprising effect upon the uncivilised denizens of these wild places. I had never read of it failing


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to terrify those who knew it not; and if our brush with the natives, recorded in a preceding chapter, was an indicator of triumphs to come, I felt that victory would be as sudden to us as surprising to them.

On reaching the entrance of the cave a curious sight presented itself. The water was alive with canoes, all jumbled together in the most perplexing manner. The wild cries that filled the air were like the shrieks of a legion of maddened demons. Spears were hurled, axes and waddies used indiscriminately. Boats were driven into one another, which, sinking, left their wretched occupants struggling in the water, when they were immediately speared, or had their brains knocked out by the great clubs which some of the more powerful savages wielded like straws.

It was difficult to determine who was getting the best of the engagement, for the combatants were so hopelessly mixed that at first I scarcely knew one from the other. But I was not left long in wonder, for I saw that, whereas our canoes were all black, the hulls of those belonging to the enemy had a broad white border round them from stem to stern, if such nautical designation will answer the description of a boat whose ends are similar.

We three stood watching the battle, the fury of which, becoming contagious, entered our veins, and made us long to have a hand in the slaughter. Jimmy was like a madman. He danced up and down the sands, waving his hands, and shouting at the top of his voice. At one time I thought he would have plunged into the water, and swum over to the combatants; but, if he for a moment entertained such an intention, he did not attempt to put it into practice. His master was not much cooler.

“Oh, Lord,” he cried, “if we only had a boat.”

But we had not. The look-out had warned our people in time, and they were able to get afloat before the enemy could do any damage to their ships.

It was a dreadful engagement while it lasted. The combatants stabbed and cut without intermission till that


  ― 197 ―
portion of the lake on which the canoes floated seemed to be literally covered with bodies, broken canoes, spears, waddies, and all other instruments of savage warfare. The din grew louder, the yells more fierce, and I saw to my horror that our men were getting gradually driven back upon the coast.

At last things reached a climax. Two of our biggest boats, well filled with men, suddenly turned tail, and made for that part of the shore on which we were standing.

“What are they doing, the curs?” yelled Hardwicke. “If they don't show fight, the battle's lost.”

It was too true; but the fellows had no intention of showing fight. They bent over their paddles with the determination of men who are going to get out of a hot corner if they can. But what added to their consternation, and also caused us considerable alarm, was the fact that two great canoes, crowded with Wyhuma warriors, had observed the retreat of our men, and had given chase.

“Those fellows must be checked,” said Hardwicke, pointing to the Wyhumas.

We understood his meaning. I shouldered my repeater, and Jimmy his shot-gun. We waited till the largest of the enemy's boats was within fifty yards of us and about twenty from our cowardly crowd, when Dick gave the word, “Fire!”

Such a strange, wild roar those hills had never known since the birth of Time. Before the bewildered savages had even guessed that some supernatural agency was at work, we had emptied our magazines into their first canoe, much, I could see, to the discomfort of its occupants. Crack, whiz, crack, whiz, whiz! Like dogs our rifles barked. Dismay overwhelmed the enemy; in a moment all fighting ceased. Every eye was turned to the shore, where the smoke from our guns lay like a little cloud upon the air, while away among the distant hills the echoes pealed like the cracked whisperings of some hoarse-throated fiend.

Then a great cry of terror arose from the ranks of the Wyhumas. They became suddenly impressed with the


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belief that they had been attacked by a band of spirits. Some, standing bolt upright in the canoes, extended their arms to heaven, and uttering dreadful cries, flung themselves into the water and were drowned; others crouched low in their boats, and moaned and groaned over the bodies of the fallen; while those who still retained their wits, seeing two white men standing, as it were, in a cloud of smoke, cried out that we were supernatural, and called upon their companions to fly, to do which they required no second bidding. Ten minutes after, there was not a single live Wyhuma seen. The broken canoes and dead bodies were the sole mementoes of the sanguinary battle.

I fully expected that Dick and I would come in for a fair share of applause in consideration of our services, and I was not disappointed. The people crowded round us with exclamations of wonder and admiration, and I know not how far their enthusiasm would have carried them had not Kalua and the priest at that moment advanced from the cave, the former looking as large and brave as the ideal king should look, while the latter cried aloud to the people that he had invoked the god on their behalf, and that consequently victory had crowned their actions. The people studied us curiously, as though trying to think for themselves, but the effort was too much for them. They ended in believing that our great powers of annihilation had been given us by the god through Wanjula's intercession. Thus were we done out of that glory by which we had hoped to profit.

“Well,” said Dick, glancing furiously at the priest, “if I am not even with you yet, I don't deserve to prosper. And look at that cur Kalua. One would think he had just won a second Waterloo. But here comes Ada.”

She was very pale and more than very lovely.

“What should I have done without your aid?” she cried. “I have nearly died of fright.”

“Who has dared——?” I was beginning.

“That man held me,” she gasped, looking at Kalua, who surveyed us with the same tantalising smile upon his


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evil face, “while Wanjula seized the sacred axe. At the first news of defeat I should have been slain and my body handed over to the Wyhumas. My life is no longer safe, nor yours. Take care, take care.”

My blood rose so hotly at this recital of her wrongs that I know I should have killed both those villains on the spot had she not restrained me by pointing out the probable consequences of such an action.

“We must escape,” she said. “Several of my people will follow us. Till then, as you value your lives, be calm and watchful. Let them never take you by surprise. They are as cunning and revengeful as serpents. Sleep with one eye open.”

We knew her advice was good, and unhesitatingly accepted it, though inwardly my cousin and I harboured up thoughts of Kalua and his priest which, if disclosed, might shock the fastidious sense.

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