Chapter XV

In Which is Given a Description of the Corroboree, Or Native Dance.

WE returned to the village a diminished though jubilant procession. They who had remained behind met us at the water's edge, and loud and long were the congratulations showered upon one another. They had watched the fight from the shore, and also heard the report of our rifles, and guessing we had been the means of saving them all would have given way, in their impulsive manner, to salvos of delight, had they not, as by instinct, become aware that such displays of feeling were not in request just then.

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We were sickened with their want of gratitude, and marched hurriedly through the excited throngs to the seclusion of our hut. Ada accompanied us in all her regal splendour, and while Jimmy was busily occupied preparing dinner, we held a cabinet council on the situation of affairs. She was the first to speak.

“I said a while ago I was not safe,” she began, as soon as we had seated ourselves, “but if I am not safe, you are in positive danger. How they intend to strike you I do not know, but that they mean you mischief I guess too well.”

“Then we must be prepared for them,” said Hardwicke. “The odds are against us, but they shall find we don't go down without a struggle.”

“That is well said, Dick,” she replied. It was delightful to hear her use the word, and I fancy, though it may be only fancy, that my cousin blushed. “And spoken like the brave man that you are; but what, after all, are two against so many?”

“Three, Missy,” said Jimmy, correcting her. “Me no belong the same stuff as Mass'r Dick and Mass'r Archie, but me cut the nose off any dam black fellow in the camp.”

“Yes, three, Ada. You must count Jimmy as one. He is a good one, too, an absolutely indispensable one,” said Hardwicke.

“You must forgive me, Jimmy,” she replied, smiling.

“It's nothen', Missy,” he said. “I suppose I'm gettin' old, now, and don't count for much; but there was a time when I could brain any black on the Murrumbidgee plains, cut his dam throat and eat 'um, too, if it comes to that!”—and, muttering sundry threats against the Mandanyahs, he continued his work, and we our conversation.

“Counting us as three armed men,” went on Dick, “and, knowing the power of our arms, do you not think they will be afraid to attack us?”

“Suppose they get those arms from you?” she answered.

“Would they dare?”

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“Wanjula will dare anything,” she replied, “and Kalua, too, for the matter of that, when his own interests are at stake. The people think your guns are supernatural, and so did Wanjula at first; but Kalua, whose father was a white man, learnt from his mother all the wonderful ways of our people. Therefore is it known to him that every white man uses the gun; that it is not supernatural, or only useful to the whites, but that it is a weapon manufactured by the white man and easily destroyed. That which was long forgotten is suddenly remembered again. The old people talk of Morton and the strange, death-dealing tube he carried, and Wanjula and many of the warriors are convinced that you are but mortal like themselves. Consequently your position has weakened, for you must understand that position was only safe while they thought you something more than human.”

“Then,” said Dick, “the only thing we can do is to make a bolt for it—escape,” he added, seing she did not comprehend him.

“Yes, that is all.”

“And your plan?” I asked, for I had implicit faith in her sagacity. Indeed, her mind was of the very brightest, the most wonderful, considering the limited opportunities which had been hers of improving it.

“You remember the path on the mountains?” She turned to me as she spoke. “The one I pointed out to you that day? It leads right over them to their base on the other side. It was by that road both Morton and I were first brought to the village. Far on the other side of it stretches a desert which many of our people have penetrated to great distances, but have then grown frightened and returned, saying that it was limitless and that no drop of water was to be found on its great wide face. Now this statement must be wrong, for have not I, Morton, my poor father, and, lastly, Kalua, have we not all crossed it? and could we accomplish such a feat without water?”

We were bound to reply that they could not.

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“Then,” she continued, “there must be water somewhere, and we must find it.”

“Bravo!” said Dick, “you are a brave girl.”

She was indeed, and my heart beat rapturously as I surveyed her.

“Then,” she still continued, her face flushing at the warmth of our praise, “one day before we intend to put our design into execution, I will despatch with skins of water and provisions half-a-dozen carriers whom I well know I can trust. They at least will keep us company for many miles in the desert, and bear the necessaries of life. After that we must depend upon ourselves.”

“And can you really do all this?” I asked.

She smiled and said she could.

“Then we are as good as saved!” I cried.

“Name but the time of starting, and I will guarantee to do all I have said,” she replied.

“Why should it not be at once?” I asked. We are not in love with the village nor its occupants. Neither are they devotedly attached to us. The Golden Lake would be an excellent place if we had twenty well-armed men at our back; but as we have not, the sooner we get out of it the better.”

“You are right, Archie,” broke in my cousin. “By Jove! it shall be at once. It touches me to the heart to think of flight before we have discovered the gold, but I shall live in expectation. A dead millionaire is no better than a dead pauper. Avarice must bend to self-preservation, though it's mighty hard, old fellow.”

“I'm afraid your chances of discovering that cave, even though it exists, are very remote,” said Ada; “particularly as the secret is one known only to Kalua and the priest.”

“But don't you think you could worm it out of Kalua?” asked Dick.

She flushed and trembled, and a pained expression came in her eyes.

“I beg your pardon, Ada,” he said, “a thousand, thousand times.”

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“And you really think there will be no difficulty in getting the people to do as you wish?” I asked, foreseeing that I had better cut in with some remark.

“None whatever,” she replied with such conviction, adroitly taking up my hint, that I could no longer doubt her capable of carrying out her part of the programme. Why should I? So sweet a creature must possess unlimited sway over the hearts of civilised or uncivilised mankind.

These thoughts flashed through me as I sat looking at her beautiful face, which, with the sun's bronze upon it, only seemed to make it more wholesome and lovely, and set off to greater advantage her wonderful eyes, those eyes so earnest, bright and piercing that they seemed to penetrate your very brain, and read the thoughts you could not even whisper. As she sat there in all the flush and glory of young womanhood, her sunny hair gleaming like golden gossamer, the red blood tingeing her cheeks, and a brightness and animation about her whole being which made her irresistible, I thought her the divine embodiment of all that was most glorious in woman, and I loved her with the ardour of a giant, and I vowed a silent oath to God that I would guard her more tenderly than my own soul.

Dick spoke. “Can you get these people ready in a day?”

“I can.”

“And they will keep your secret?”

“Ah, Dick; you are afraid to trust me?”

“No, Ada; you are a brave, wise girl, a girl in a million; but I am naturally anxious.”

“And so am I. Every hour is fraught with horror to me now. I shall know no peace, no rest, till I am far away from the power of those two dreadful men. Welcome a thousand times the extreme horrors of the desert to the life of terror I am leading now.”

“Then the sooner we have said good-bye to the Golden Lake, the better,” I remarked.

“Yes, indeed, indeed! Oh, if I had only the wings of the great black swan; if we all had them,” she added quickly.

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“It would be more than pleasant,” Hardwicke replied; “but as we have them not, Ada, we must do without. Now for business. Can you get your carriers away by to-morrow night?”

“Yes.” And a very decided yes it was.

“Good. Then on the night following we will make the attempt.”

Jimmy now brought in the smoking dinner, and though we begged the pleasure of her company at our primitive meal, she refused, saying that she had work to do, and that she intended to show us how well she would do it. We were loth to let her out of our sight; but saying we should see plenty of each other by-and-by, she made us a pretty little bow and departed.

“Well,” said Dick, after she had gone, “that girl is the essence of all that is brave and beautiful. I never saw, never imagined anything like her, and if we don't get her safely out of this place, old man, it won't be for the want of trying, will it?”

“It will not, Dick. Poor thing! she has little knowledge of what she is undertaking.”

“No,” he answered; “but she has a brave heart, and that is worth many a pound of muscle.”

With all of which I was inclined to agree.

“It is an awful thing,” he presently remarked, in such solemn tones that I thought something dreadful was coming, “that we shall have to leave this place so soon, especially with that secret undiscovered. But after all, our life and the life of that dear girl are of more consequence to us than the wealth of the universe. And yet if I had only myself to consider, I would find that treasure if I stayed here for years. I came here to find it, and it goes against the grain to give it up.”

“Then why do so?”

“I admit my avarice, old boy, but I'm not altogether selfish. Besides I'm not going back empty-handed. You see this has been a long, tiresome journey of ours, and if we received no compensation for the trials

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we have undergone, do you not think it would be very hard?”

“What are you driving at?”

“I never thought I should come to robbing a church, Archie, but that's what it resolves itself into.”

“But where is the church?”

“There is no church, my boy, but a temple—which distinction is my excuse for robbing it. A church sticks in one's throat, but a temple can be swallowed. In that temple there is an idol with a dozen little idols in attendance, and all those idols have ruby eyes.”

“And you mean to say——”

“I do.”

“Then heaven help us if they discover——”

“But they won't. You see, old fellow, rubies are of great value—ladies are very fond of them, you know—and they are so much easier to carry than gold. Think what a benefactor to the fair sex I shall be. Besides, Archie, the Temple of the Great Spirit can be the only place that holds the secret we are so anxious to gain.”

“Perhaps you are right,” I said. “And we'll have one more good hunt in there before we go.”

After dinner we had a smoke and sat talking over our prospects, thinking it best to keep within doors, or inside, to be more correct, till Jimmy, whom we had sent out to reconnoitre, as it were, should return. When he did do so he had nothing to report but that there was going to be a corroboree (native dance) that night, and by the preparations being made it was to be on a grand scale. This rather aroused my curiosity, as I had never seen one of these wild dances though I had heard much of them, and we were debating it when one of Kalua's bodyguard entered our tent and informed us that we were invited by the king and his priest to be present at the ceremony that night. We sent our respects back to the king and his Chief Rascal telling them that it would give us great pleasure to avail ourselves of their invitation.

Twice I saw Ada that afternoon and on one occasion I

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asked her if she was going to the corroboree, to which she gave a shuddering negative.

“I saw it once,” she added. “It was not so bad when the last Wanjula was priest, but now it is horrible.”

“The last Wanjula?” I asked.

“All priests are called Wanjula,” she replied, “after the great chief priest, the carver of the statue.”

Here then was a piece of history which interested me greatly. It was a fact after all, though few people seemed to imagine it, that the Australian black had not always been the demoralised brute he appears to us in these later times. Heaven only knows what he might not have been in the far-off ages when most of the now civilised world was a howling waste. China was civilised when Europe was overrun with savages, and who can say what these people might not have been in the days which knew no records?

Jimmy, my cousin, and myself set out for the scene of the coming festivity about eight in the evening, though not before our dusky friend had prevailed upon his master to take with him the little jewelled axe which all this time had remained bound up in his swag. Dick was inclined not to burden himself with it, but Jimmy pleaded so earnestly that he complied with his request simply to humour him. We carried our rifles and revolvers, for ever since we had known of the enmity which was directed against us we never left them out of our sight, fearing that they might be stolen from us and destroyed. With them we knew we could command attention, for there is nothing a man respects more than that which can harm him.

At the southern end of the village, on an open space that led right down to the edge of the lake, the scene of the corroboree was pitched. Allured by the glare of the torches, the shouts of the people, the beating of tom-toms, and the universal shrieks of delight which fell from the lips of the swarms of dusky savages, we found that our arrival was well timed, the proceedings being about to commence, as the king and his priest had just then come.

Everything was in semi-gloom, the number of torches

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not being sufficient to dispel the darkness that hung in the air, but we easily perceived Kalua and his right-hand man sitting on a rude elevation about five feet from the ground. To them we went, and mounting the platform beside them, were received by the two scoundrels with apparent courtesy; with, in fact, too much effusiveness. Then Wanjula clapped his hands and spoke aloud; the torches were applied to a great pile of wood round which the savage squatted, and in a few minutes there was a roaring flame.

Then the tom-toms began to beat, and about a hundred nearly naked savages, forming a circle round the great fire, began to dance and sing in a grotesque and horrible manner. They shouted, raved, waved their spears and waddies with intense simulated fury, while to add a more startling horror to the scene, each savage was painted in streaks with some white substance, looking, as he danced about, like a hideous, living skeleton.

I see it all so plainly now; the dark sky above, the great red fire below in the glare of which danced and shrieked a hundred furious skeletons, a hundred fiends incarnate, while round about them sat hundreds more, looking, in the weird red light which fell upon them from that distance, a multitude of evil, grinning spirits. I shall never forget the brutal faces, the wild, beast-like laughter. All sense seemed to have suddenly left them. They were animals—savage, growling, laughing, fighting animals. A universal madness seemed to have seized them. All constraint, all control was gone. Like a pack of infuriated brutes they roared and kicked till their strength left them, and they fell exhausted and foaming at the mouth like men with epilepsy.

Still the fun waxed furious, for when the men could dance no more, there uprose a body of women, painted in the same hideous fashion, and equally as naked, and the dance grew faster and faster, and the shrieks and laughter more fiendish and horrible. Their dreadful faces seemed ablaze with fury, their eyes shone like great clots of illuminated blood; they gnashed their teeth till the foam flew

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in great flakes from their mouth, and their tongues wagged to and fro as do the tongues of dogs when they are dying of thirst. It was a shocking, a sickening sight, enough to make one wonder if the same God made us all.

“Do you think,” said Hardwicke, “that our ancestors used to carry on in this manner?”


“What a rare time they must have had of it. But joking apart, did you ever see such a thing? They are not human beings at all, but wild beasts. I have seen the corroboree three times before, but it has never been like this. What are they going to do now?”

The she-fiends had ceased their infernal gyrations only through sheer exhaustion, and were led or dragged back to the circle; more wood was heaped upon the fire, and the flames springing higher and higher, lit the surrounding scene with an unholy wildness. Then when the flame abated and the fire gleamed a mass of living embers, half-a-dozen men advanced towards it, bearing between them some long, dark objects, which they jerked unceremoniously upon the glowing mass of fire. In a few moments a strong smell of burning flesh assailed our nostrils.

My God, they're cannibals!

It was Dick's voice, and he bounded like a rocket from his seat beside Kalua, while with horror depicted upon his countenance he surveyed the unnatural sight.

“Who and what are they, I wonder?” asked he.

“Him belong Wyhuma savage,” said Jimmy, who, seeing Dick suddenly spring up, bounded to our side. “This fellow savage bring 'em ashore—now make plenty eat.”

“Come, let us go,” I said. “It is impossible that we can look on at such a scene.”

“Better not, Mass'r Archie,” said Jimmy. “Black man make 'um corroboree, finish 'um corroboree. He get dam wild.”

“What,” said I, “do you mean that if we were to leave in the midst of their ceremony, they might look upon it as an insult?”

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“Don't try 'em, Mass'r Archie. Corroboree always make the black man's blood burn. This fellow belong man-eater. White man dam nice flesh. You sabbee?”

“Good heavens!”

“You are right, Jimmy,” broke in Hardwicke; “we will see it through. Stand by, my boy, in case of a row.”

“Me ready, Mass'r Dick. You sabbee now why Jimmy no like one black fellow who give another black fellow all him grub?”

“Yes, blind fool that I was,” answered his master. “But have you heard anything? Do you think they intend to attack us?”

“I've heard nothen', seen nothen'; black fellow jabber me nothen'. All the same, Mass'r Dick, watch them two,” pointing to Kalua and the priest. “That priest belong big rascal. I wring him dam neck yet.”

“We are in an awkward fix, old fellow,” said my cousin to me. “What they intend doing I have a notion, and if it comes to that it can't be helped, but we'll give them a taste of our quality before we go under. In the meantime keep a watchful eye on the priest, I'll look after Kalua. Remember, they go to glory with us.”

With the end of our conversation was also completed the burning of the bodies. The brutes in attendance jerked them all covered with red-hot coals out of the fire, and disjointing their several parts flung them in the midst of the people as one would fling a bone to a dog.

In a moment there was a perfect uproar, the savages scrambling for the meat like so many half-starved tigers. They kicked, scratched, thumped, and howled till the night air rang with this battle of the demons. Men, women, and children all fought with terrific fury, all made “night hideous” with their shrieks and execrations.

Kalua now turned and addressed us for the first time.

“What think the white men of the corroboree?”

There was the same bitter, cynical smile upon his ugly face, and he laughed his soft, hissing, spluttering laugh through the hole in his teeth.

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“We think it is in keeping with the customs of your people.” It was Dick who spoke.

“Then the customs of my people are not like those of yours?”

“No, thank God!” Dick replied.

“The white man likes not the feast?” and he laughed his hissing laugh a little louder.

“No, chief. My people would rather die than eat the flesh of one another.”

“Then your people are fools. But perhaps the white man is not sweet.”

“He is not, chief. So bitter is he that none but worms will tackle him.”

“We shall see,” and he laughed his snaky laugh again, in which Wanjula joined, much to our united horror and disgust.

“What mean you by that, oh, Kalua?” asked Hardwicke. He replied not, but smiled his own dreadful smile and looked significantly at his confederate. I saw Dick's hand go suddenly to his revolver, but he restrained himself.

“Listen, oh, Kalua,” he said. “I am not a man of many words, and speak for the last time. Thou hast seen our prowess, thou hast known of our endurance. The Wyhumas shall tell of one as they sit round their camp fires when the nights are cold; of the other, the burning desert, could it speak, would tell thee such marvels as thine ears could scarcely credit. Therefore listen well, and take heed of what I say, thou Kalua, and thou, too, oh, priest. The moment thou dost seek us harm, that moment thou shalt die,” and he turned his head from them with a haughty flourish, which meant that he would speak no more. They scrutinised him with a most malicious scrutiny, but made no reply.

In the meantime the fire had been replenished, and the great blaze shot once more into the sky, filling the gloom with a lurid glare. Then the wild dances began again, but this time men and women joined promiscuously in the mad revels, giving a fiercer zest to the proceedings. They

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shouted, screamed, and laughed with redoubled fury; the women's sharp, shrill, hyæna-like voices rising clear and distinct above the general tumult. Some exhausted fell gasping upon the earth, where they lay rolling their skeleton-like bodies in the dust, and keeping time with their hands and feet to the uncanny chant of the dancers, gasping out the while their mad, wild cries in a hoarse, throat-cracking voice.

Then the dancing ceased; more wood was heaped upon the fire, and silence horrible in its stillness ensued.

Presently the quiet was broken by a low, moaning sound, and two of Kalua's warriors were seen advancing towards us, dragging between them a poor, old, white-haired woman who groaned and moaned most fearfully at every step. They released her as soon as she was before the platform, and the miserable-looking old creature immediately fell in a heap to the earth, which caused a smile to illumine the features of Kalua and his worthy priest. She, however, managed with some difficulty to get upon her knees, and raising her thin, ghastly hands, while the tears streamed in torrents from her eyes and her white hair flew wildly over her withered neck and shoulders, she pleaded in a husky, sobbing voice for them to spare her few remaining days, for by a barbarous custom in use among these people, one person of the female sex had to be sacrificed to the god every year, and she was to be the oldest and most useless. Sometimes the god demanded two females, but that was generally when some young woman had offended the Wanjula.

A mocking laugh from the priest followed her heart rending appeal. “Old woman,” he said, in his savagest tones, “what would you? The god demands the sacrifice, and we dare not disobey. Evil shall fall upon her in the world of spirits who renders not cheerfully up her life at the bidding of the god.”

She, poor thing, only moaned the louder, entreating with wilder accents, with more appalling wails and sobs, that they would spare her life.

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“Look you,” replied the fiendish priest, “the god demands it. We could not spare you even if we would. What right hast thou to ask for life, thou who canst neither bring warriors into the world nor gather thine own food? What are thou but a burden and a blot? We would not have our young women see how hideous they may grow. Strike!”

In a moment a burly savage had plunged his spear into the withered bosom of the old woman, who, after giving one long wailing cry, fell back dead.

We were horrified at this unnatural sight, that horror increasing a moment later when we saw the same burly brute who had struck the blow, take the body in his arms and cast it in the flames, where, for a moment, it rested clearly defined against the red-hot embers, and was then consumed like a piece of old cloth.

The people sat gazing moodily into the flames. Savages though they were, and heated by the dances and other horrible excesses, they saw clearly enough the horror of the crime that had just been perpetrated, and were silent; the women cowering close to each other, thinking of the terrible fate some of them were sure to suffer.

Then Wanjula delivered an address to the god; the people set up a mournful chant as melancholy and depressing as the one before had been hideously exciting; more wood was heaped upon the fire and we most anxiously awaited the next item on the programme.

We were not kept long in suspense. The two ruffians who had brought the old woman forward now appeared again, leading no less a person between them than Lusota, the girl who had lost her heart to my cousin Hardwicke, Her hands were bound, but she walked with a defiant attitude, her eyes literally blazing with anger. As she gazed upon us those angry eyes met Dick's. In a moment they were suffused with tears, but with an effort she shook off her temporary weakness, and they only shone the brighter.

“What are you going to do with her?” asked Hardwicke of the chief.

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“You will see,” was the ambiguous reply.

“Harm her, oh, Kalua,” he said, “and the consequences be upon your own head.”

The king lost his unruffled cynicism for a moment and answered hotly, “Thou talkest more than is good for thee. I have many warriors at my command. I could destroy thee as I would a fly.”

“I have no men at my command, chief,” Dick answered, showing an undaunted front, “but I have that,” tapping his rifle, “which will hurry thee to thy death long before one spear of thine shall touch me.”

Kalua hissed something disdainfully through his teeth and waved his hand as though he would speak no more, but he exchanged a look with Wanjula which spoke volumes of hate and pent-up revenge. Lusota tendered Dick a grateful, loving glance, which the two arch fiends observing, made them scowl more furiously than ever.

“Cheer up, my girl,” he said to her. “No harm shall come to you.” Though how he intended to stave off the coming danger I was at a loss to comprehend.

Kalua then arose and addressed the people, and the plot against Lusota was unfolded. Wanjula, it seems, had been commanded by the Great Spirit to make the extra sacrifice of a female, of which I have spoken, because the god was wroth with the women on account of the laxity of their morals, and as Lusota was the worst offender (which was a lie), the god had demanded that she should suffer.

The people received the speech with silence, but the girl Lusota fairly shook with fury.

“You dog! you dog! you dog!” she screamed at the priest, and would have flown at him, bound as she was, if the guards had not held her back. Then, cooling down a little, she turned to the throng and cried aloud: “O people of the Mandanyah, listen to me and I will tell you how great a liar is Wanjula, the chief priest. Many long moons has he sought me for his wife, but I hated him, the dog, and would sooner take to my bosom the black snake. ‘Be my wife and thou shalt trample upon every woman in the

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village,’ said he. ‘Be my wife and the Laughing Hair shall serve thee on her hands and knees; or thou shalt hand her over to the Wyhumas; or I will slay her in the sacrifice. Thou shalt have more power than the king himself. But refuse, and thou shalt burn with the old witch, for so I will say the Great Spirit hath commanded me.’ I speak the truth, I swear I speak the truth. O people of the Mandanyah, behold this is the man ye have made your priest—nay, ye made him not, for he stabbed to death the last Wanjula as Kalua the king can tell.”

“The woman lies,” roared the chief.

“The woman lies,” shouted the people, or at least that portion of them that stood near the platform, which was mostly composed of Kalua's bodyguard.

“I do not lie” cried Lusota, her eyes flashing with fury. “It is the king who is the liar!”

“Strike her,” roared Kalua, his pale, corpse-like face appearing to turn green. “Strike her, strike her!”

The same ruffian who had smitten the old woman advanced with uplifted spear, but before he had time to strike, the report of Dick's pistol rang out, and he dropped dead with a bullet in his breast.

Then followed a death-like stillness, the people being for the moment awe-struck.

“Kill her, kill her!” shouted both Kalua and the priest as they danced and foamed like madmen.

Two warriors advanced with uplifted spears to execute the barbarous order; two reports rang out, and the two natives bit the dust.

Then the cry went up: “The white devils! the white devils! Kill them, kill them!” And the guards with spears raised, surged wildly before the platform.

“Collar Wanjula,” Dick cried to me, “and blow his brains out if he resists.”

In a moment I had the chief priest in a strong grasp, with my revolver in close proximity to his temple. My cousin had Kalua in a similar position.

“Listen, chief,” he said, and Jimmy glibly translated,

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“If those warriors advance one step nearer, you are a dead man.”

Kalua's face was ghastly white with fear, for he could feel the cold barrel against his forehead. He waved the men back, and for the moment we were safe, though by their threatening attitudes I knew that our safety would not be of long duration. What was to be done now? We could not keep Kalua and the priest in our clutches for ever. Once release them and a hundred furious savages would dip their spears in our blood. It was painfully evident that they would soon break through all restraint, and then their fury was too horrible to contemplate.

King Jimmy broke the ominous stillness.

“Where's the little axe, Mass'r Dick?”

“In my pocket.”

“That axe belong plenty sacred,” he almost screamed in his excitement. “Show 'em it and they no harm you. Black fellow jabber me plenty.”

I felt a sigh of relief escape me. What fools we were not to connect the two axes before. Dick let go his hold on Kalua, and, diving into the capacious pocket of his shooting jacket, brought forth the axe. This he held on high as though about to fling it into the crowd, while Jimmy roared out in stentorian tones in their own language—

“The Sacred Axe! the Sacred Axe!”

The people looked about them in wonder. The fire sprang up into a fierce flame, illuminating the weird scene with dazzling brilliancy. It fell upon the outstretched figure of Hardwicke and the axe he held aloft, making its ruby glow like a great red star. All eyes seemed to observe it at once. The people uttered cries of terror and prostrated themselves upon the earth. Kalua looked utterly dumb-founded; but Wanjula, who glared like a devil, sprang with the bound of a tiger towards Hardwicke with the intention of wresting the axe from his grasp.

“Look out!” I shouted.

But Dick saw him, and catching him on the bound, hurled him with such force from him that the priest,

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touching the edge of the platform, disappeared over the side with a sickening thud.

“O people of the Mandanyah,” cried Dick, through Jimmy, “we seek ye no harm. As peaceful travellers we came; as peaceful travellers we would depart. But woe betide ye should ye seek to harm us. The Sacred Axe is uplifted, and the Great Spirit alone can tell on whom it shall descend.”

At this the people groaned the more, and perceiving a good opportunity of escape, they being stretched out on their faces, he whispered, “Let us clear,” and we descended from the platform and hurriedly left the scene.

About twenty yards from our hut we met the girl Lusota. She rushed up to Hardwicke, and falling on her knees before him, clasped and kissed his legs till I thought she would have gone mad. He being somewhat embarrassed at this overwhelming exhibition of gratitude, gently raised her to her feet, when she threw her arms around him and, hiding her head on his breast, burst into a torrent of tears. Of course he tried to soothe her—he was kinder to her. A man does not like to see a woman in tears, be she white or black. Hardwicke was no exception to the rule. She was in his arms. She poured out her love and gratitude in one long flow of passionate utterances.

“This gin too much dam jabber-jabber,” remarked the Murrumbidgee king not over-delicately.

“Hold your row, you fool,” said Dick. “If you would jabber a little less yourself, it would be better for you.”