Uraso told John what they had talked about, and that the Chief was interested in his story of Wonder Island.
"Our Great Chief will welcome you to Wonder Island," said John.
The Chief looked at John for a moment, and then his eyes wandered to Uraso, as he answered: "Is there still a greater Chief? Is there a man more powerful than this Chief?"
Uraso laughed, as did John. "Tell him," said John, "that our Chief is powerful, because he is wise."
He did not seem to understand this, and asked for more information. Uraso told him that the white man did not regard the strong man as the greatest, but that the wisest man was always the Chief.
Here was certainly a new philosophy. "But," he inquired, "then how can he rule his people, if he is not strong?"
"The people willingly submit to his will because they know what he says is best for them."
"But does not the Chief sometimes tell them lies, and does he not often deceive them?"
"Yes; but when they do so then the people choose another Chief in his place."
"And after they have killed the first Chief, and have taken another, and he lies, do they also kill him?"
"No; they do not kill the Chiefs, but they only put others in their places."
"Then they are not wise Chiefs?"
"No; they are wise only when they do what is right."
"Do what is right! What do you mean by that? How can the Chief do anything but right?"
"Do you think," asked Uraso, "that the Chief has a right to lie or deceive?"
"Yes, he can do that, but not his people. It is wrong for them to do so."
"But the white man believes that it is just as wrong for the Chief to lie and to deceive, as for the people to do so."
The Chief was silent for a long time, and John purposely permitted him to reflect on the new dispensation. While thus musing on the new theory, a woman carrying a child appeared at the door. John saw her, and, stepping out, took the child from her arms. She permitted it, and when the Chief appeared she fell down and explained that the White Chief had been very kind to her.
John took some medicine from a small vial, and administered it, the Chief meanwhile looking on in astonishment. Here was a great White Chief, looking out for the comfort of one of the poorest of his people.
Uraso knew his thoughts. This woman was the poorest and the lowest in the tribe, and John, without stopping to make any inquiries as to her condition, or position in life, had aided her and her old mother.
Evidently the new doctrine was something so extraordinary, that it was worth investigating. Uraso saw the embarrassment in the mind of the Chief, and after speaking a few words, withdrew.
As they left the Chief's quarters the boys roamed through the village. The stories of the sufferers which John had aided, the scrupulous care with which the men guarded the homes of the villagers while they were absent, had a most telling effect.
The warriors from Wonder Island mingled with the villagers. It was singular that there was not an expression of hatred. They fraternized, and related stories of Wonder Island, and the people told them about their own island.
The boys met many of their own ages, and to them they showed the revolvers, and the marine glasses, and then astounded them by exhibiting the watches which they carried.
RETURN OF THE NATIVES
Several of the packages left at the landing place, contained numerous trinkets, and articles of personal adornment, such as the natives adored. Brightly-colored fabrics, made at the factory on Wonder Island were also among the many articles, which had been intended to be used as presents.
John was gratified to learn, an hour or two after the Chief returned, that the latter had given orders to the villagers to prepare a feast for the visitors.
"But where are the Korinos?" asked George.
True, they had disappeared.
"Let us see John about that," responded Harry.
They had some time in finding him, but later on learned that he was attending to the wounded, and caring for the late prisoners.
"It would not be wise to speak to the Chief about that now," responded John. "The leaven is working well in his mind. Besides, I fear that he will wreak vengeance on them, and we must prevent him from killing them."
As the boys were leaving John they saw fifty of the warriors leave the Chief's home, marching out of the village to the east. Muro entered the hut where John was staying, and announced that the Chief wished to see him.
John continued with his work, after informing Muro that he would soon visit the Chief. The boys later saw John and Muro on their way to the "Palace," as Harry called the royal residence, and begged John's permission to accompany them.
The Chief received them with special marks of attention, and John thanked him for the invitation.
"This is the day which the Wise Men have appointed for the sacrifices, and the people are preparing the feast, in accordance with our custom. It is my wish that you shall be my guests, and take part in our ceremonies," remarked the Chief.
Muro, in behalf of John, thanked him for the invitation, and assured him that they would gladly join in the rites. Then, he continued: "I wish to inform you that we left at the seashore, on the other side of the island, some gifts which I am desirous of presenting to you. If you will order some of your men to accompany my guides they will bring them back."
The Chief's eyes lighted up with pleasure. Immediately, a detail of men were designated, and a half dozen of John's warriors, under the leadership of Muro, were requested to proceed to the landing.
The people saw the company depart with the greatest wonder and curiosity. Muro was instructed to leave a message at the landing, and return with the packages as soon as possible. They reached the landing place within two hours, and were rejoiced to see the Pioneer anchored not far from the shore.
Stut was recognized at once, but Sutoto had remained at Wonder Island. The packages were taken to the Pioneer, and Muro informed Stut that they would sail around the island and land near the village. The men from the village were awe stricken at the sight of the vessel, and it was difficult to get their consent to embarking but were soon persuaded, when presented with some of the gifts, which Muro knew would be acceptable.
* * * * *
An hour after the last interview in the Chief's home, the boys saw the warriors, who had formerly left the Chief's home, marching down the street of the village, and guarding the Korinos who had formed part of the Chief's escort earlier in the day.
They were quite different now in demeanor, and the boys thought they looked crestfallen. They were ushered into the Chief's presence without any ceremony.
They stood there like criminals, and felt that their doom was sealed. "I have sent for you," he said, "because this is the day you have selected for the ceremonies. Where are the prisoners to be sacrificed?"
They were silent. The Chief continued: "You have told us that the Great Spirit asks for the sacrifices each year when the sun is leaving us, and when the moon is hiding behind the vail. Bring the captives so they may be offered up."
Instantly the Korinos brightened up, and muttered a few words. The Chief gave an order, and they were marched out of the building. Out of curiosity, the boys followed. Their steps were directed to the stockade where the prisoners had been confined.
To their dismay they saw only the ashes, and were staggered at the sight. They stood there with wondering eyes. The boys could see that this was a condition wholly unexpected by them, and it must be said that there was pity in the hearts of Harry and George, as the leader gave the order for them to return to the "Palace."
As they entered John and the Chief were engaged in an animated conversation, and when the latter saw the Korinos, he stood up and asked for the victims.
"They are not there!" was the only response.
The Chief, not affecting to believe, told them that they were lying to him. They fell to their knees, but were mute.
"But the Great Spirit must not be deceived. Great evil will fall upon us if he is not appeased. If you cannot find the victims I will do so."
The Chief's voice was terrible in its anger. Outside of their dark homes the Korinos were subject to the Chief's will. Within the caves they knew no fear. The boys looked at Uraso and John. A slight smile could be seen on Uraso's face, as he returned the gaze of the boys; but John's face was immobile, and did not in the least appear to portray any concern.
"It is my order that you shall be the victims, and must be offered up as the sacrifices to prevent the anger of the Great Spirit."
This doom was pronounced in a voice so full of anger that its significance was instantly divined by the boys, although they could not understand all of the words which he uttered.
They were instantly seized and bound, and being now in a helpless condition, were carried out of the building, and, with the most brutal force conveyed by the guard to a hut not far from the Palace, and literally thrust into the small opening which formed the entrance.
"Do you suppose they will kill them?" asked Harry, as he moved to the side of Uraso.
"I think the Chief means what he says," and Uraso gave a little smile that somewhat assured them.
"No; I don't think John will let the Chief kill them," responded George.
After the removal of the Korinos John asked whether it would be possible to defer the ceremonies until the following day, for the reason that he desired to distribute the gifts which the men were bringing from the landing.
"If the White Chief so desires it shall be done."
John manifested his pleasure at the consent thus obtained.
George and Harry now wandered into every part of the village. For the first time they noticed that it was located at the western edge of a beautiful grove, thickly wooded, with tall trees.
Through this they walked, and before they emerged were delighted at the sight of the great ocean beyond. "I wonder if John knows we are so near?"
They ran to the beach, delighted to have an opportunity for a bath, but were surprised to see many along the shore with small bags.
"They are searching for something," remarked Harry. "I wonder what it can be?"
"Possibly clams. Don't you remember the first week when we lived on clams, after we reached Wonder Island? What delightful days we had; and how afraid we were of every noise, and used to start up at every new sound."
"And wasn't it a joy to make the new things, and see every day bring new wonders to us after we moved to the Cataract?"
"I have a love for that old home. We were so happy there. I know I am not happier now when we own all the treasures of the caves, than when we were building the water wheel, and the little shop, and tending the yaks," answered George, as he gazed across the sea, and thought of the glorious times and of their wonderful adventures.
When they saw the streams of people coming from the shore they recalled that the people were preparing for the feast. It was remarkable that clams were an article of food with these people when those on the island they had just left, despised all fish and sea food.
They wandered along the beach, fully a mile south of the village, and quite out of reach of the people, and were soon in the mild surf. After a half hour of this enjoyment they dressed, and ascended a slight elevation from which could be seen the character of the land along the sea.
To the north and south of their position the land was much higher, the northern portion having the appearance of very high hills, if not mountains.
"Do you think John was thinking about the caves when the guards brought in the Korinos?" remarked George, as they were descending the ridge.
"I thought of it," answered Harry. "But I learned from Muro that he knew where they made their homes!"
"Then he must have watched them, as John suggested!"
"No; one of the men told him just before he left."
"What did he say?"
"That they should follow the trail to the north of the grove until they reached the sea."
"Then Muro must know that the sea is near?"
"I think he does."
During the descent from the hill the ocean was visible directly to the east. Both, at the same instant, caught sight of a sail. They gasped in surprise, as they gazed at the unusual spectacle.
"I would like to know who that can be," queried Harry. "Let us tell John and then get something so we can signal it."
They rushed down the hill, and ran hurriedly through the streets of the village, to the surprise of the inhabitants. First going to the Chief's house, without finding him, they went to the improvised hospital where the wounded Korinos were being cared for.
There John was found, together with Uraso and the Chief. "We have seen a sail," shouted George. "We want something to use as a signal." John bounded up, and Uraso rushed out and soon fished out a white cloth, and ran down through the grove after the boys.
Three hundred feet to the right was a slight elevation, which the boys had noticed, and as it was devoid of trees offered the most available place for the signal flag. They scurried around for some pole which would answer, and to this the white cloth was quickly attached.
John was the last to reach the signaling point. He was laughing immoderately, as he noticed the frantic signaling. "Where are your field glasses, George?"
"They are in the village. I forgot about them."
"If you had used them you would not be surprised at the visitor."
The boys stopped signaling for a moment, and then looked at the ship.
"It isn't possible that is the Pioneer?"
"Look again, for yourself; don't you know your own work?"
The ship had seen the signal, and now turned. Then they recognized the grand little vessel, that was almost a part of themselves, for they had worked many months to complete her, and had tried to put good luck and best wishes into every plank and spar and sail.
The Chief, too, was coming. The whole village joined to welcome the ship, for when Uraso told the Chief that their own ship was coming, he could not resist the temptation to witness the arrival.
Was it possible that Muro reached the landing place before the ship left? John thought so, but the boys doubted it. Muro left before noon, and it was now past five in the evening.
As the vessel neared the shore the people lined up and the boys crowded close to the shore. They were the first to recognize Muro, to their great delight. He waved his hand to them, and Stut was by his side.
"Good old Stut!" shouted George. "Where is Sutoto?"
"In Wonder Island!" was the response.
They were disappointed at this, but there was too much for them to think about, as the anchor was being swung, and as soon as it dropped, a boat was lowered from each side, and the men began to descend from the short ladder, while the village people watched the proceeding with silent wonderment.
Muro was the first to touch the shore, and then came the villagers who were on the mission with Muro. They were the heroes to their friends. They knew their duty to their Chief, however, and the latter had a most animated conversation with them, and particularly so after he had noticed the array of trinkets which Muro had bestowed on them.
While this was going on the boats returned and bundles and packages were brought out of the ship and deposited in the boats. After they had been taken from the boats, John said: "With your permission I will take these things to your house."
The Chief assented, and on his orders the men in the village gathered up the assortment of gifts and the procession filed along the path to the village.
The feast that evening reminded them of the welcome which the Chief Beralsea extended to them the second night after their arrival at Venture Island. Besides the clams referred to there was an abundance of fish, several varieties, besides game and meats, and the only thing which they seemed to lack, or which was rather meager in quantity, was fruit.
Like all natives of these islands, they were experts at spitting the meats. The most delicious was a species of ground hog, that the boys frequently caught on Wonder Island. The boys had watched the method of roasting these animals.
A strong green tapering stick, about four feet long was selected, and the bark was peeled off, so as to give it a smooth surface. The small end of this was sharpened, and driven through the animal, from end to end, so that it was held firmly on the stick, midway between its ends.
Two forked posts were then driven into the ground, about three feet apart, and the stick laid in the forks. A fire of wood, previously built between the posts was permitted to accumulate a quantity of coal, and when a hot fire was thus generated, one of the natives would continuously rotate the stick, so that the heat affected all sides evenly, and the result would be the most tempting roast imaginable. This is a practice common with savages all over the world, varying only in the details of the preparations.
All the vegetables were roasted, in hot coals. In this respect their custom was different from the practice followed in Venture Island, for there they knew how to make stews. Here they knew nothing about pottery, but like all islanders in the South Seas, the wrecks would, occasionally cast cooking utensils, like pots, or pans, ashore, and these highly-prized articles were sure to be taken by the Chiefs, or by the Krishnos themselves, where they could get them by stealth.
Unlike the natives of Wonder Island, they had potatoes, the wild variety which the boys found the second day after they were cast ashore. The Taro root, that vegetable which grows in the greatest abundance in every section south of the Equator, to the lower border of the south temperate zone, was the chief dish, and was also roasted in like manner.
What surprised them most was a drink that pleased John, who at once recognized its origin. They called it Arialad, and George declared it was a fine quality of Sarsaparilla.
"You are correct," said John. "Its real botanical name is Arialace. It belongs to the same family as spikenard and ginseng. Very few natives know of its value. It is both a medicine and a refreshing drink."
"If it grows in abundance here it would be a good thing to gather for export," observed Harry.
"A boat load of the roots would be worth a fortune," rejoined John.
There was the utmost good fellowship among all present. In accordance with the custom among most of these people the women did not partake of the food in the presence of the men. They acted as the servants in serving the food, but the men prepared the meal, a sort of well-balanced family arrangement, as George observed.
"But who washes the dishes?" asked Harry with a laugh, in which all joined.
THE SAVAGE CEREMONIALS
The next day was the one appointed for the ceremonies. The boys were expectant, because during all their experiences in the islands, this was the first time they had an opportunity to witness one of these spectacles.
It was noticed that no preparations were made for a morning meal by the natives. All were specially garbed for the occasion, if the colored decorations counted for anything in the way of additional clothing.
They were adept in the art of weaving cloth, which was made in small sections, and sewn together, similar to the practice in most of these primitive countries. They were not altogether devoid of knowledge pertaining to dyes, the most frequent being blue, which John soon ascertained came from some copper deposits.
The Madder plant was the most common on the island, and this afforded a red color, the most lasting of all dyes, and the most generally in use throughout the civilized world, until the aniline dyes took its place.
For black they resorted to the common method of using carbon which is the stock material in our own country. This was produced by them from burnt wood, and not from any of the coal products.
Their faces were painted a hideous red and blue, principally in the nature of great zig-zag stripes, and the exposed parts, of the bodies were of diverse figures, some of them really artistic. The preparation of these personal decorations consumed the greater portion of the night, as the boys afterwards learned.
When they emerged from their hut in the morning, and saw the grotesque figures all about the village, they could hardly repress a smile; but as every one was smiling and happy, they did not have to make any pretentions, but smiled and laughed as the men and women circled about, because they couldn't help themselves.
The women were not so gaudily attired as the men. Their decorations were expended on clothing, as it was not considered good form to decorate their bodies.
All the men carried spears, and many of them were wicked-looking instruments. What surprised them was the fact that all the spear-points were now covered over, or bound up by colored material, forming a sort of sphere, to which three colored streamers were attached, one white, one red and the other blue.
"My, but they are patriotic!" remarked George, as he saw the design and the streamers.
John smiled, as he observed them. "But do you notice that the point of the spear is covered?"
"I was about to ask the meaning of that," said Harry.
"This is the day of feasting and of sacrifices. The covered point indicates that there is peace; and that no one can commit an injury. I imagine the points will be uncovered quickly enough the moment they are ready for the sacrifices."
"I am more interested in the fact that they use the American colors. I wish we had one of the flags here. That idea has just struck me as being the proper thing." And George danced about at the scheme.
Harry was just as much affected now. "Why not consult Uraso and Muro, and bring over the big flag from the ship?"
John laughed at the idea. "A brilliant idea. The flag will be a big attraction, but I warn you that if you get it I shall have to insist that you must head the procession with it."
"Are we going to have a procession?"
"I believe that is the first thing on the list."
"But where is the procession going? Is it the custom to march along the principal streets and out along the boulevards?"
This idea was so laughable to Harry and Uraso and Muro, that they had a fit of laughter. The two Chiefs were just like boys, and entered in to the spirit of the undertaking with a vim that pleased the boys.
They fairly flew to the landing, and manned the boat. "We have come for the flag," announced George, as Stut was looking on the excitable boys.
"Why not take both of them?" responded Stut.
"Certainly," answered Harry. "I had forgotten about the other. And while we are about it, why not have the band come along?"
This was answered by a shout. One of the new acquirements of the natives of Wonder Island, was music, and when the boys returned from the States they brought along several fine sets of band instruments, one set of which was always on the vessel, and was used for evening concerts.
"Where is Mano?" asked Harry.
Mano was the leader of the ship's band, but he was not to be found.
"John sent for Mano an hour ago, and he is now in the village."
"Then send for him at once. Tell him he must be here as soon as John is through with him," said George.
While the flags were being wrapped up one of the small boats came from the shore, and Mano stepped out.
Harry ran up and said: "Get the boys and the instruments ready. You must play for us to-day during the ceremonies."
Mano smiled as he answered: "John told me about it last night, and I went over merely to find out what music I should take."
"So John tried to steal a march on us?" remarked Harry. "How soon will you be ready?"
"We are all ready now. I was told at the Chief's house that the procession would start in a half hour."
When the flags were brought out it was Mano's time to stare. "I think," he said, "that will surprise John, but the idea is a proper one."
The band comprised nine musicians and the two drummers. The moment they landed the band formed four abreast, and directly behind were the two boys with the Stars and Stripes. To the tune of "Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean," they marched straight to the home of the Chief.
The crashing music, and the magnificent flags brought pandemonium to that savage village. Nothing like it had ever been known before. Long before the band reached the Palace all the inhabitants of the town had rushed down, and at Uraso's and Muro's suggestion the people followed behind, and thus made a procession which was the most unique that it was possible to describe.
"That scheme will make a success of the ceremonies," remarked George, almost too full for utterance. "Why the thing wouldn't be a success without the flags and the music."
"I wonder how the thing will fit in when it comes to the sacrifices this afternoon? I imagine the Korinos ought to feel like dying when they are to have such an unusual funeral procession?" Harry said this with a bit of irony, as he turned to George and grinned at the idea.
John knew what was coming, but the Chief didn't. He and John came out together, when they heard the music. The boys, behind the band could not see the great sights that were taking place in the rear, but John stood there beside the big Chief, and was simply convulsed with laughter.
The natives were not walking. They were dancing, and the Chief, at first astounded at the music, and at the waving flags, soon joined John in laughter as they witnessed this remarkable scene.
Uraso had taken part in numerous celebrations at Unity, and knew what disposition to make of the people when they arrived. The band marched past, and John raised his hand in the form of a salutation, and the Chief noticing this imitated him.
"The old fellow is learning rapidly how to do the correct thing," suggested Harry.
"Yes; John will have him in a swallow-tail coat before night."
The band marched past, and then turned around and came back, and as fast as the people came up Uraso and Muro directed them where to stand, so that when the band stopped they formed a large semi-circle facing the Chief and John.
The boys walked forward so they stood with the flags midway between the band and the Chief. The latter motioned for the band to continue. John understood, and a new tune was struck up. The Chief was fascinated. When that tune was concluded, the Chief wanted another, quite forgetting the importance of the ceremonial rites.
While the last tune was being played the boys saw a tall man, with a huge spear, and a face most hideously painted. His body had characteristic stripes, entirely unlike those of the other people. Behind him marched the Korinos, without a sign or mark on them different from the costumes worn by them on the preceding day.
As they filed along behind the leader, the boys noticed that the first one carried a thong-like rope: the second a knife; the third a sort of vessel, and the fourth a pair of short sticks.
The people paid no attention to them, while the band was playing, but when it ceased, it was evident that they shrunk back from these dreaded men.
John beckoned Uraso and Muro to come forward, and the Chief welcomed them. "As chiefs of your tribes you should be here with us. The White Chief tells me that in his country the band and the flag always go first, and I have asked him to tell us how we should march to the forest."
John then told those present how the procession should form. The band was marched to the front, and George, who had the small flag, was placed directly behind the band. Then the Chief, with Uraso and Muro on either side, and directly behind them Harry took position with the large flag.
After the flag the Korinos, without their tall leader, however, were placed in line. John then motioned to the people to take their places following the Korinos, and the moment the column was thus formed the band struck up a lively marching tune, and John accompanied by the tall fantastic leader, went ahead of the band.
The leader knew, of course, where the procession must go, and he thus wisely made the arrangement for the occasion. The procession wended its way directly to the north, along a well-beaten path, and after ascending a hill, turned to the left, and entered a sort of grove.
The boys were delighted to notice the magnificent Magnolia trees in full bloom, the flowers of which surpassed anything they had ever seen, and the perfume was almost overpowering in its intensity.
To the boys this peculiar procession had something mysterious about it. Neither John, nor the two Chiefs had any idea of its significance. John directed a questioning look toward the articles which the Korinos carried.
When the crest of the hill was reached they made one complete circle, and the head of the column stopped before the most magnificent magnolia tree in the grove. The leader marched along the line and the people soon formed themselves into a circle with the tree in the center.
All chatter had stopped. While ascending the hill, and up to this time, there was a never ending clatter of voices; but now all were quiet, and gazed to the top of the tree. The tall leader, at the nod of the Chief came forward and approached the tree, and with the long spear struck it three times, and then turned to the Korinos, who had now followed him.
Then, he turned again, and struck the tree three times more, and this was repeated the third time. After stepping back he raised the spear, and held it over the head of the Korino who carried the rope. The latter stepped to the tree and with a dextrous throw sent a coil of rope over the first limb and caught the other end of it.
The spear was then laid over the head of the man with the knife, and he sprang forward grasping the rope, and when the spear was poised on high, he gracefully crept hand over hand up the rope.
The instant the man's hand seized the rope the people fell to the ground and covered their faces. The boys did not want to lose this part of the ceremony, you may be sure, but they tried to observe the rites.
A side glance was sufficient to assure them that the Chief did not kneel, nor did either John, Uraso or Muro; but they were privileged characters, so the boys went through the ceremony by peering through their fingers, and at the same time trying to find out whether there were not others trying to do the same.
The man went up and up, and soon emerged from the last spare branches at the top, until his face was near the great white flower which grew on the tip.
"I think that is the flower all the people were looking at," said George in a whisper.
The man raised the knife, and with one slash severed the stem. Then, raising himself up to his full height, so his body could be plainly seen, he waved the flower about his head three times, and the leader at the base of the tree again struck the trunk three times.
Immediately the people arose and placed their hands before them exactly like a bather on a perch about to dive, and with the palms of the hands thus placed against each other, the arms were raised to a vertical position, and lowered three times.
With hands still in their lowered position, and eyes cast on the ground, the Korino in the tree slowly descended, and the one who threw the rope quickly detached it from the tree.
The spear was then placed over the head of the man with the sticks. He crossed his legs and sat down, and with an exceedingly rapid motion, soon caused smoke to arise, and then a tiny flame appeared.
"Why didn't they tell us about it, and we could have let them use some of our matches," said George dryly, as Harry made a great show of indignation at the irrelevant remark.
A fire was quickly kindled, and the man with the bowl knelt down, after fixing two stones on opposite sides of the fire. From a small receptacle he took a powder, and dropped it into the bowl, and after holding the flower aloft, the man who took it from the tree, dropped it into the smoking bowl.
Instantly the people resumed their natural poses, and began to dance. The Chief spoke a word to Uraso, and the band struck up a lively tune. Then, to the ringing blare of the band, and the shrieks and shouts of the people the dance began. It was one continuous whirl, and many of them became frenzied.
The Chief himself participated in this part of the ceremony, and swung himself around and around in a giddy whirl. During all this time each fellow was for himself. They did not have partners as in the civilized dances.
The tangoing was an individual effort, and each enjoyed it in his own way, but they all kept step to the music, showing the savage characteristic of being able to observe rhythmic effects.
The boys caught the spirit of the occasion, and joined in the wild swirl. Uraso and Muro were at it, and the sole spectator was John, who said that he felt too old to learn the new steps.
When the band stopped the people rested, but there was no disposition to break up the merry party, and when the music again struck up the whole scene was acted over again. It was noon before the grand ball ceased.
Then, at a sign from the Chief the procession reformed, and went back over the trail, the people dancing all the way, and, apparently, without exhibiting any signs of weariness, although it must be stated that the band was nearing collapse, when the people dispersed.
SIGNIFICANCE OF NATIVE RITES
As heretofore stated, there had been no morning meal, and the dancing must have been a trying task, under those conditions.
"It would have been much better if we had something to eat before this part of the ceremony. I am so hungry I could eat anything," remarked George, as they neared the village.
"The natives do not think so. That is part of the ceremony. It must be carried out before a meal is taken," answered John, "or it will not have the proper effect."
Uraso overheard the remark, and he added: "The Chief said they had never known such a scene as took place to-day, and that it was not a part of the regular ceremony to have the dancing at that time, but that the wonderful music seemed to win every one."
"I heard him say it was the first time in years that he had danced. How he enjoyed it," remarked Muro. "I admit that it was the best dance I had since the boys got back. That was a big time at Unity when you returned."
"I think," said Harry, "that was the queerest performance I ever heard of. What a foolish thing to cut a flower from the top of a tree, and go through all that ceremony, using Old Fantastic with his flourishing spear to conduct the ridiculous rites."
"Do you think it is any more foolish than many things which civilized people do?" asked John.
Harry mused a while, and then continued: "Probably not, when I think of it, but with us the ceremonies really mean something; at least, it seems to me that they are intended to."
"Yes, and that is generally so with the native rites. Sometimes the origin is rather obscure, but everything of this character comes from something in the past, of which it is symbolic. Spencer, in his work on 'Evolutions of Ceremonial Forms of Government,' recites a curious instance of this, where he shows that the habit of stroking the mustache is a survival of scalping."
The boys laughed. "That must be pretty well far-fetched," responded George.
"Do you think so?" answered John. "He reasons it in this way. It was, formerly the custom, among most savage tribes, to take the hair of victims, to be used as personal adornment, or to indicate the valor of the warrior. Among some tribes in the Philippines and also in the interior of Africa, the custom is to take the head of an enemy."
"Do you mean the Head hunters?"
"Yes; you have probably heard a great deal about them since we acquired the Philippines. When men began to get a little higher in the scale of civilization, the victor required some token of submission from the conquered, so the latter plucked a wisp of hair from his head and presented it to indicate defeat. During the seventeenth century it was the rule of the Spanish Court that all inferiors, in addressing superiors, must stroke the mustache, and this came from the old idea of the hair token."
"Do you suppose that the taking of the flower has any particular significance?"
"Most assuredly! There must be a flower before there can be fruit. This is the beginning of the season or the beginning of the year, to these people, and the largest-flower, at the top of the greatest tree is the one taken while it is at full bloom, and incinerated."
"Is that what they did in that bowl-shaped vessel?"
"Yes, and I imagine they will use the ashes in some part of their rites."
"Did you ever know of other tribes that do anything like that?"
"Yes; very many; in fact most savage tribes have some sort of rites which they scrupulously follow out as a religious duty. Ancient history records many such practices in detail. Thus, the Druids, a peculiar class, or order of priests, which existed among the Celtic races, attributed a sacred or mystic character to plants, and venerated the oak tree."
"I have read that they offered up human sacrifices," said Harry.
"Yes; I was coming to that. But do you know that they regarded the mistletoe as an antidote for all poisons and a cure for all diseases? At certain seasons in the year it would be gathered, and with the greatest ceremonies one of the priests would ascend the tree on which it was found, and cut it off with a golden knife."
"But is the mistletoe found on the Oak?"
"Yes; but it grows more frequently on the Apple tree. The seeds are distributed by birds, and owing to the fact that it is found so infrequently on the oak, the Druids considered it peculiarly sacred on that account."
* * * * *
The delicious odor of the roasted food, which met the people on their return, was a compensation for the lack of the morning breakfast. The Chief had invited John, Uraso, Muro, the two boys, and Stut, to accompany him to his home.
There in the open court, if it might so be called, were the viands in the greatest profusion. They were surprised to see that at each place was a couch, and before every visitor was laid a bountiful supply of food. In all their wanderings George and Harry never ate with a greater relish than on the present occasion.
The meal the previous day, was not at all comparable to this. It would have vied with many a meal set before our civilized gastronomies. The table implements, it is true, were not found in profusion, but the wooden forks, or prongs were good substitutes for the more refined articles, and for plates hollowed bark sections were found serviceable.
The Sarsaparilla drink was the most favored liquid. "I wish we had some ice for it," suggested Harry. "It will be a good thing to bring over some ice for the Chief. I think he would enjoy it."
"By the way, Harry, did you see what they did with the Korinos?"
"Shut them up in that dark hole back of the house."
"I wonder if they have given them anything to eat?"
"Oh, no!" said Muro. "They are to be sacrificed this afternoon, and it wouldn't do to feed them."
"Poor fellows!" remarked George, as he gazed vacantly before him, lost in contemplation.
"Well, they have been found out, and will now be dealt with in accordance with their law."
"Was that tall fellow one of them?"
"Yes; he is the principal chief of the Korinos. Do you know they tried to escape last night?" exclaimed Uraso.
"Is that so? Where could they go in safety on this island?"
"To their caves, of course," remarked Harry.
"Yes," added Uraso, "the Chief has no authority under ground."
The people gorged; so did the Chief. The meal was a course dinner, at least so far as the time it took to get through with all the dishes, and the boys smiled as they saw the Chief slowly sink down, and pass off into oblivion.
John sat there, gazing on him, and slowly nodding his head at the spectacle. He did not evince disgust, and when George spoke to him about this peculiar savage trait, he remarked: "Is he any worse than many people in our own country, who do the same thing? This is not gluttony with the savage; he knows no better. This is one of the great enjoyments of life which the savage knows. Teach him something better and he will respond."
"When you stop to think of it," replied George, "I really don't see why it is such an awful thing to eat until you are stuffed to sleepiness?"
"The real argument against it is on sanitary grounds," suggested John. "We regard gluttony as bad because it is a selfish exhibition of taste and habits, and in this I quite agree; but among savages the custom of regularity in habits is not one of their understood laws. I have known North American Indians who could each devour from six to eight pounds of beef, and drink two quarts of coffee at one sitting. But those men would not eat another meal for three days."
During the meal hour there was a continual round of merriment, and every one was enjoying himself to the fullest extent. But now the hum of voices ended. The boys were surprised.
"They are taking their noon-day siestas," said John, laughing.
The boys arose and passed out. It was true, indeed. The men, and women too, were taking naps everywhere, the grotesque figures lying where they had eaten their food.
They made a tour. No one appeared to take any notice of them, as they passed through the open places between the huts, because all of the food was eaten in the open, and not within the huts. The village looked like one immense picnic ground.
As they were returning toward the Chief's house they caught sight of the hut in which the Korinos were confined. To their astonishment two of them were crawling out the enclosure, and the leader was particularly noticeable, peering from the side of the hut.
"Shall we give the alarm?" asked Harry.
"No, no! See John; he will know what to do."
As they passed the hut the guards lay in blissful sleep, and seeing this the boys rushed in and excitedly told John of the jail delivery and the advisability of giving the alarm.
He held up his hand, in caution, as he smiled at the announcement. "Do you want the poor fellows to be sacrificed?"
"By no means."
"Then let them go. Possibly the Chief may find some way to get them back."
Two hours later the village took on another aspect. It was now about five o'clock in the afternoon, but in the meantime boy-like they had investigated every part of the surrounding scenery, being particularly interested in the monkeys which were seen in the trees everywhere.
The most amusing to the boys was a small animal that had a "beard all around his face," as George expressed it. It was small, hardly exceeding a foot in height, a sort of olive-gray color, and a round tail twice the length of the body.
"I think I know what you have reference to," suggested John, when appealed to. "It is the Jacchus, and is related to the Marmozets and the Tamarins. They are very active, like squirrels, and live on nuts, seeds, roots and fruit."
The Chief awakened as the boys entered, and within the next half hour was ready for the continuance of the festival.
"I should like to know what the next thing is on the programme? This is a little inconvenient, not knowing just what is going to take place," was George's observation.
"John will know if any one does, but I suppose he is too busy now with his Royal Highness," answered Harry with a laugh.
But the boys were not kept long in suspense. The natives understood, as it appeared, for they were soon congregated around the Palace, and now for the first time the boys noticed a large, imposing-looking native, who carried an immense knotted club. To satisfy the reader's curiosity, it may be well to describe him. He wore a loin cloth, made of the skins of the small animals which were found all over the island, and, to all appearances, at least a half dozen different kinds of pelts were used to make up the garment, the ends, or corners of which hung down in points to form a fringe.
At his ankles were two huge bands, made of cloth, and plentifully decorated with spangles of shells, and rows of nuts, strung on cords, like beads. Around his neck and trailing down the back was a collar of interwoven leaves, very artistically arranged, if judged from the viewpoint of savage decorations.
The head dress was unique, being made up of a band of coarsely-woven cloth, literally covered with large fish scales, and a pyramidal structure was fastened to this band, and extended up beyond the crown for a foot, or more. At its apex was a mass of streamers, which fluttered around as the breeze floated by.
The weapon was fully five feet long, the head of the club, for such it was, terminated in a gnarled knot, bristling with small points. This the boys recognized to be somewhat similar to the wicked thing that was carried by the Korino when he sought to slay Tarra.
The Chief was also differently attired. He was literally covered with clothing, the different parts being dyed with various colors without any regard to harmony, or design. Like all the others he wore no foot covering, but had bare feet.
The crown was also a cloth band, but this was surrounded by vertically-arranged thorns, huge things that showed their bristling points, and wound, or rather braided around them, were garlands of human hair, of different hues.
The Royal wand was an immense black staff, fully two inches thick, and six feet long, one end of which was pointed, the other end terminating within a large calabash. This wand he held with the pointed end upward.
When he appeared at the doorway the people fell down on their faces, and after a few words all arose, and the man with the club turned toward the hut where the Korinos were confined. Four of the largest warriors accompanied him, while the people looked on in expectancy.
"The fun will now begin," whispered Harry, and it surely did. The club bearer returned with a troubled look, and addressed the Chief.
The people soon learned of what had taken place, and the commotion was evident. They speedily lost all semblance of order, and began to run to and fro. The scowl on the face of the Chief was terrible, nor did he in the least attempt to conceal his anger.
With a vehemence that caused the crowd to shiver, he gave a command, and in a moment three men were brought forward, almost in a state of collapse with terror written in their countenances. They were the unfortunate guards, as the boys quickly saw.
They were unable to answer the indictment of the Chief, because the escape had been as much of a surprise to them as to the Chief. Uraso and Muro were quick to recognize the situation, and they informed John of the progress of the conversation.
The negligent guards had been condemned to take the places of the Korinos, as sacrifices. The rites demanded some victims, and the boys now saw that the escape of the Korinos would not avoid the carrying out of the bloody rites.
The new, victims-to-be were firmly bound, and placed in the center of the crowd, and, strangely enough, it was now noticed that the people expressed the same degree of hatred to the poor unfortunates that they had manifested toward the Korinos an hour before.
The Chief was now at the head of the procession, which, instead of going to the north, passed alongside the slight elevation that led north of the grove, and toward the high elevation which the boys had noticed the day before.
The march was but a short one, and when the upper level was reached the boys were astounded to see that beyond, and next to the hill, on the north, was an open space, the floor of which was of solid rock. This space covered nearly an acre, and near the center was a flat rocky table, fully ten feet in diameter and about four feet high, with a huge boulder in the center of the table.
The Chief and the victims marched directly to the stone table, the executioner tramping with a measured tread immediately ahead of the victims. The people did not go near the rocky shelf, but circled about at a respectful distance.
HYPNOTISM ON SAVAGES
All those with the Chief's party, approached the table, upon which the executioner mounted the rock, and stood there, as though inviting the admiration of the crowd.
John spoke a few words to Uraso, and the latter addressed the Chief as follows: "The White Chief says that to offer these men as a sacrifice will be against the wishes of the Great Spirit, if they are destroyed by the weapon which is now in the hands of the one on the rock."
The Chief quickly turned. "What would the White Chief have me do? I cannot free these culprits, because it is the law that they shall die in place of those who are appointed to be the victims."
"The White Chief does not ask for their lives, but only that the manner of their death shall be changed."
"That shall be done. What is the White Chief's wish?"
"He will be the executioner."
The Chief threw his arms around Uraso's neck, in raptures of joy, and turning to the man on the table, ordered him to descend. John quietly conferred with Uraso, and the latter mounted the table, and the prisoners were led up until they faced him.
Uraso, addressing them, said: "You have been condemned by your Chief to die because you have deceived his people and brought sorrow on all. The Great White Chief has seen the misery you have caused by allowing the Korinos to escape, and you must now take their places as the victims to appease the Great Spirit.
"The White Chief has asked to be permitted to offer you up as sacrifices to his God, as well, and the White Man's death is a terrible one. When you die it will not cause you to go out of the world forgetting all that you may suffer, but you will always know and suffer through all time, and you will never know a day that is free from misery.
"Your dying will be like a thousand deaths, and your living hours will be like fire that always burns and never consumes."
Thus Uraso went on, and as he spoke the poor victims' eyes grew greater and greater, and the terror more pronounced. He ceased for a moment and John slowly walked to the table, and mounting it, said quietly to Uraso: "Tell them that when I raise my hands over my head the ends of their living death will begin."
When this was imparted, the agony on their faces was pitiful to see. John advanced, and spread out his palms toward them, and quickly drew his hands toward him, and this was repeated three times.
It is a curious thing that most savages believe in the mysticism of some particular number. In Africa some tribes, if they hear an animal cry four times, will brave any danger, as it is a sign that the bird has knowledge of safety to his person.
Others watch with great care the repetition of an insect's call, and particularly the number of times an unusual noise occurs, and the belief is somewhat analogous to the views which white people have about the cricket. Milton, Byron, Southey, and Dickens have written stories about them, so it is not to be wondered at that the poor benighted savages should have some belief about such things.
After the rites at the tree in the forest, it was evident that three was the cryptic, or mysterious number, and John used it on this occasion, for in all the peculiar signs that he had previously employed, three was the number that impressed itself on the minds of the people, and it doubtless had its effect on the condemned.
Slowly John moved from side to side, and he now saw the intense expression, as their eyes followed his every motion. His motions grew less and less rapid; he moved toward them, and then suddenly retreated, and through all these evolutions the three men's faces became more and more tense, and finally the muscles of their faces relaxed, their eyes stared with a blank expression, and the motions of John almost ceased.
The boys looked about them. They, too, had a spell woven about them which they could not understand. It was the most remarkable feeling they had ever experienced. The multitude did not stir a limb. The Chief was rigid, his face colorless, lips parted, and eyes fixed at what he saw before him.
Suddenly, John sprang forward, and raised both arms high above his head, and instantly the three men fell back and lay rigid, full length on the rock. John turned, but while there were forms before him, there was no sound. Hundreds of eyes gazed, but they stared mutely.
"I feel awfully funny," said Harry.
"Do you know what John has been doing?" asked George.
"I know; he has hypnotized the men!"
"Yes; and everybody else!"
When John turned, he waved his hand, the audience relaxed its tension, and witnessed the death (?) of the three men, an act performed by the White Chief without having touched them. The Chief slowly walked forward, and Uraso led him to the platform, while John pointed to the mute victims.
John motioned to Uraso to raise the first man by lifting his feet while he grasped the shoulders, and when the body was lifted up it was perfectly rigid. The same exhibition was performed with the two others. That they were dead, was apparent to the Chief and the people.
The people surged to and fro. John was a Korino now, in the eyes of the people. When the people pressed forward John spoke to Uraso, and he turned to the people.
"The White Chief says that there will be no more sacrifices, because the Great Spirit wills it otherwise. The Korinos must be brought from the caves—"
Uraso could get no further. The people were aroused. Their voices could be heard uttering threats against the witch doctors.
John saw that they were determined to wreak vengeance upon them, but he counseled them to be wise and obey their Chief, and that the Korinos would acknowledge their own error.
The wives and children of the three guards were present, as they were compelled to be, and, as may well be imagined, their grief was terrible to behold.
Uraso again spoke to the people, and said: "The White Chief intends to show that the Great Spirit does not wish sacrifices, and will give back the guards to their families."
When he ceased speaking John stooped forward, and waved his hands three times, the motion being formed by throwing his hands forward, palms downward, and then slowly raising them up, and with an upward and an outward swing, bringing them down again.
Then he advanced forward a few feet and held out his arms horizontally, with the palms uppermost, and speaking a few words, the arms were impressively raised. As he did so the three men slightly turned, and then almost simultaneously raised themselves to a sitting posture, and glanced about wildly.
The consternation on the part of the natives at this sight was beyond all description. They were awe stricken, and dumbfounded. Not the slightest sound could be heard, as the men arose to their feet.
The only ones who were joyously affected were the wives of the men who, at the words of Uraso, sprang forward and were about to ascend the rock, but at the command of John they leaped from the table, and the children gathered about them.
The Chief did not utter a word of protest. He remained there utterly speechless. When John asked him what was the next thing to be done to carry out the rites, he remained standing for some time without answering.
When he had gathered together his faculties he turned to the people and said: "The Great White Chief has shown his power, and proven to us that our Korinos have lied to us. They must be destroyed. Let the people return to the village, and proceed with the feast. We shall be guided by the White Chief."
This was, indeed, the effect that John wished to produce, but he did not also anticipate that the Chief would insist upon the destruction of the Korinos.
The feast that afternoon was a repetition on a larger scale, of the feast of the day before. Indeed, this was now the third day of feasting.
"I don't know whether I can eat any more for a few days," said Harry, as they neared the village, and saw the preparations going on.
George laughed, as he responded: "We shall have to go through with this thing, whatever the cost. Have you forgotten that they believe in three for everything? Didn't John make three passes to kill them; and three more to bring them to life again? We have had two feasts, and must now have one more. I don't know what the result will be if I eat half as much even, as I did yesterday."
John laughed heartily, as he added: "That is correct, too, about the feasts. Notice from this time on that about everything they do will be measured by threes."
As the boys afterwards remarked, they never knew how they got through the feast that day, but they tried to imitate John in partaking of the good things in moderation.
It was late in the night when the natives ceased the dancing, which was the signal for the end of the festival, although in many respects it was entirely different from the previous ceremonies, as Uraso and Muro learned in talking with the natives.
The next day was ushered in with a rainstorm, the first that was experienced on the island, and there was no opportunity to make any excursions. It had been John's intention to settle the fate of the Korinos, as he felt that this was a matter that should have his attention before they left on the further explorations of the island.
Since it was impossible to venture out far from the village, John spent the most of the day attending to the wounded and the sick, although they had not been neglected in the meantime, not even during the ceremonies of the past three days.
The first visit was made to the quarters of the white man who was found in the stockade when they took possession of the village. It was evident from the greeting that he and John had had several conversations previous to this visit, but of this the latter did not advise the boys.
When they came into the room he was sitting up, and he greeted John and the boys. He could speak, but it was with a weak voice, and the boys ranged themselves on one side while John seated himself on the other.
"You told me yesterday," began John, "that when you were shipwrecked you were cast ashore on another island. How many companions had you?"
"Three," he answered. "One of them was a large man, with brown hair and piercing eyes, who was formerly an officer in the navy, and was at that time engaged in an exploring capacity, and on his way to Australia."
"Did he walk with a limp?" asked John.
The old man, as well as the boys, looked at John in surprise. He quickly answered: "Yes; did you know him?"
"No," he replied; "but we found him less than a month ago."
The old man leaned forward in his eagerness. "Where is he?" he asked.
"He is dead," answered John, gravely.
"Dead!" he exclaimed. "Dead! and do you know his name?"
"No, but we found his remains, together with the boat to which he had been tied, on the shore of an island south of this."
"Then it is true, after all!" he muttered.
"Did you know about it?" asked John, who was the interested one now.
"No, this is sad news to me. His name was Clifford,—Ralph S. Clifford, and when he and Walter undertook,—"
The boys were all impatience now, as George cried out: "Walter! did you know Walter?"
"Yes; he was my companion for a time. He and I were making explorations on the island on which we were wrecked, and when the two undertook to go on a search, to ascertain what the island was like, I was too ill to go with them. Walter returned, and told me of meeting with a band of savages on the western side of the mountain, and of the capture of Clifford by the natives."
"Did you know a man by the name of Wright?"
"No, I never heard of any one by that name in this section of the globe."
"Do you know what became of Walter?"
"I was about to say, that we went north along the shore, and camped near the beach, and there found a boat, rather crudely made, with which we proposed sailing around the island. Before we could complete our arrangements, Walter disappeared."
"Did he take the boat with him?"
"No; the boat and all his effects were still with me. I was still very ill, and I concluded to remain there until my strength returned, but four days afterwards, when I was able to move about, I found that the boat had disappeared."
The strain of the conversation appeared to affect him, and the three visitors stated they would call on him later for further information.
When the boys returned to their huts, with John, the latter was quiet and very much reserved. The boys were so much interested in the story of the old man, that they could not wait until they were seated before they began to question him.
"What do you think of his story?" asked Harry.
John did not answer promptly, as was his habit. Instead, he reflected for some time, and at last said slowly: "The story may be true. Clifford was, in my opinion, tied to the boat and set adrift, and his death was due to that, unquestionably."
"Do you think this man had anything to do with it?" asked George.
"So far, I have no direct reason for thinking so, but there are several very curious things about the story."
"What in particular do you have in mind?"
"He said the boat was found on the seashore, and that Walter left without taking it with him, but that when he recovered the boat was gone."
"Is it an unreasonable story?"
"That is not at all improbable. The tide might have washed it away, but, if it was our boat, and it was provided with the peculiar rope and the strange oars, that were found in it when it was recovered by you, it would be interesting to know whether he or Walter put them there."
"Why is that so interesting to know?"
"Because the rope found in that boat, is the same as the rope we took from Clifford's body, which you discovered on Venture Island."
"If we could only find Walter now it would solve that mystery," said Harry. "I don't like to think that this man was instrumental in the Clifford tragedy."
"Nor do I," responded John. "It is evident there is some connection between that boat and the skeleton, and that our boat played a part in it." This ended the conversation on this point.
It will be remembered that two of the men rescued from the prison stockade, were natives of another tribe, who had been captured some weeks before. Upon inquiry John found that they had disappeared the day before.
The two others, in a very emaciated condition, were still under John's care, and rapidly improving. No attempts had been made to question them, and as it was the intention of the boys to commence the trip to the north, as soon as John had settled the matter with the Korinos, they were anxious to get some information from them concerning their tribe.
Accompanying Uraso, and through him, they first learned that the people they were now living with were called Malosos, and that the Chief was named Ta Babeda, which meant the strong man. He was not so large as Beralsea, the Chief of Venture Island, but his muscles were more active, thus the boys could see that he rightly acquired the sceptre of chief ruler, as did Beralsea, because of the strength he possessed, and there was no one on the island to question his king-ship.
While rambling about the boys and Uraso were informed that John wished to see them at the Chief's house, and they went over without delay. Entering the house, they were surprised to see that the different packages containing the presents had been opened, and were about to be distributed.
The Chief and his household were first provided for. The articles consisted of coats, and different articles of wear for the Chief, together with a watch, a revolver, and a camera.
"This will give both of you boys an opportunity to give the Chief some lessons in these instruments," said John.
The articles for the women were received with screams of delight that pleased the Chief beyond measure. Bits of lace, the like of which had never been seen on the island, cotton fabric, beads, articles of ornamentation, and finally full-fledged dresses, were only parts of the gifts which went to the women and children.
"With your permission," said John, to the Chief, "I will offer gifts to your people, and you may state that during the afternoon the articles will be arranged in packages so that all will receive presents of like value."
The boys, as well as Uraso and Muro, were busy making up the gifts for distribution. During the remaining portion of the day they were busily engaged in this work, which brought the greatest joy and happiness to the natives.
It may well be imagined that Uraso and Muro were not slow in imparting the news of Wonder Island to the natives. John had a long conference with the Chief on the same subject.
"But how can we get these articles?" he asked, as John told him how they made the wonderful things.
"You can make them here," he answered.
"But we cannot make them if we do not have the tools."
"Then you can buy them," responded John.
"But what have we that you want?" he asked, as he eagerly scanned John's face.
"Your land is full of things that the people in Wonder Island want, and the whole world will buy them of you."
"Will you tell me what they want and how we shall get them ready for you?"
"It will give us pleasure to send our people over who can tell you what spices, and nuts, and coffee, and other things which you have in abundance, can be prepared, and what they are worth, and it will be the means of giving the people work, and peace and contentment."
"But if we do not have any more fighting with our enemy there will be no need of a strong Chief," he remarked, thinking of his new relation to the scheme as outlined.
"There will be a much greater need of a strong man like you, who can mete out equal justice to the people," remarked John.
THE REMARKABLE CAVE EXPLORATIONS
But the time was now at hand, when it became necessary for the exploring expedition to the north. The rescued prisoners stated that their people, while not so numerous, were very warlike, and by degrees, John learned that they were the cannibals of whom they had heard.
The tribe was known as the Umbolos, and the Chief was a frightful man, unlike any other in the tribe, or, at any rate, from the description, he was not formed like them. He was known as Rumisses, which in their tongue meant thunder.
It was remarkable that Uraso and Muro understood most of the words of the language used by the natives here and also on Venture Island. On Wonder Island, there were only two tongues, or dialects, and the people on this island, as well as on Venture Island, spoke the dialect belonging to the Illyas, Kurabus and the Tuolos, the tribes that were the fiercest and the most difficult to subdue.
It was hoped that the escape of the two Umbolos, and the return to their people would be sufficient to give them the entree to that part of the country, but after the questionings of John on this point, it was very doubtful whether this would impress itself on their minds.
The natives had been accustomed for so long a period to regard every other people as an enemy, and consequently absolutely removed from any possibility of friendship, that it was questionable whether the messengers could persuade the Chief to receive them.
Arrangements for the departure were decided upon, and they planned to start early in the morning. John visited the Chief, and suggested that he should consider it a favor if the Chief would permit him to take the Korinos with him.
The Chief opened his eyes in astonishment. "Why do you wish to be burdened with men who will live by deceiving?" he inquired.
"But they have lived to the best of their knowledge. They do not know any better. They believe what they have been taught, and think it is a duty to carry out and practice their rites. They do not wish to deceive you."
The Chief pondered for a long time, and then replied: "What will you do with them?"
"I want to teach them the white man's ways, and tell them to come back and teach your children the things which we believe are right and for the good of the people."
The lessons which John imparted were sources of wonder and amazement to the ruler, who, five days before, thought he was the only one appointed to make and to execute laws.
When he finally gave his consent, he said: "You must take it upon yourself to get the Korinos, because they will not come out of their caves."
"But how can they find food there? If you prevent them from getting food they will be compelled to come out or starve."
"They will starve before they will permit themselves to be taken."
"Then," answered John, "why do you not order your warriors to enter the cave and take them by force?"
"But who dares to go in?"
"I dare to go in, but you must order me to do so," answered John.
The Chief jumped up in an instant. "And will you go?" he asked in the greatest delight.
"By all means. You must go with me to the cave, and there command me to enter and bring them forth."
The Chief's eyes danced with delight, and he could hardly await the hour for starting on the mission.
The boys and the two companion chiefs, were in their glory upon hearing of the decision to get the Korinos. Before leaving the Chief John questioned him very closely on the location of the cave, and whether there were not other caves on the island to the north.
"I have heard that there is another one to the north, that was used in olden times by the Korinos who lived when my father was Chief. I also know that far to the north where the false and treacherous Umbolos live, are great caves which no man may enter."
"Do they have Korinos in the Umbolo tribe?"
"No; they do not believe in a Great Spirit."
"Then, if they have no Korinos, why do they not dare to enter the caverns?"
"Because they have been told that it is death to go into the dark."
"Do you know why they think so?"
"Because, a long time ago, the only man who ever returned from the dark caves, brought out the bones of men who had died there."
"But it did not kill that man who brought them out?"
"Yes; he died. And now no one dares enter those places."
It may be imagined how this intelligence stirred up the boys. It was impossible to keep them from talking about it. To John it was like a magic wand; it seemed to wave before his eyes and to talk to him. What if they had really found the great cave on which John's heart was so keenly bent?
But the Korinos must be freed. That afternoon, just before starting, the boys were surprised to see the band coming up the street. How they laughed, as they scented John's little ruse. It would, indeed, be a treat to bring the Korinos out of their dark resorts to some good old marching tune.
The band struck up a familiar air, and to its lively tones the procession, with the three Chiefs and John at the head, marched across the open, and up the hill past the grove, on its way to the cave on the eastern slope of the high hill which rose from the shore of the ocean.
There was jest and laughter, the Chief enjoying the treat that would be the greatest pleasure of his life, namely, the bringing of the Korinos out of the cave.
After ascending the great hill, so that they overlooked the ocean, the Chief informed John that the entrance was a third of the way down the hill, and the narrow path was followed which led around to the north, shutting out the sight of the sea.
After a few hundred feet, the path led to a cleft portion of the rocks, where the light of the sun was completely hidden. The walls of the rocks, at the entrance of the cleft portion, were fully fifty feet high, and were at least twenty feet apart, but as they went on the walls drew nearer together and the path ascended a slight incline.
A sharp turn was reached, and they found themselves in a little cove, to the left of which was a dark entrance, toward which the Chief nodded, as he shrank back.
John motioned to the Chief, and the latter sternly commanded John to bring forth the Korinos. John said a few words to Uraso and Muro, and also invited the boys to accompany them.
"I suppose you are all armed?" said John.
The boys and the chiefs had come well prepared, so this point was taken care of.
"But where are the lights?" asked George.
"I have them," said John, "but we shall not use them now, for reasons which will be explained later." Together they entered the cave, the darkness of which was appalling. After going in fully a hundred and fifty feet, John stopped and said: "It would have been a sign of weakness to go in with a light. When we have gone far enough to be free from the mouth of the cave, we can use our flash lights. For the present we shall move on to ascertain whether the Korinos are provided with lights, which will show where they are, and we may thus be guided to them."
The distance traveled must have been fully a thousand feet, when John again spoke: "I shall now throw the light directly ahead, and you must keep your eyes open to detect anything moving."
The light flashed, and was then moved slowly to the left, until it reached a cove at the extreme eastern side, where there was an evident assemblage of articles, not a hundred feet in advance of them, but there was not a sign of living beings within the scope of the light beams.
The company moved over to the spot indicated. A moment's examination satisfied them that it was really the abode of the Korinos, but they had disappeared.
The debris, the half eaten portions of food, some still warm, were sufficient to indicate that they had fled, but where? Uraso, Muro and John, all three, flashed their lights, and, after examining the walls critically, Muro was the first to find the opening from the chamber in which they were standing.
The outlet from the chamber was to the north, and toward it the explorers ran hurriedly, and passed along the contracted path, which soon turned to the left. After following its many windings, and scrambling over the broken and rocky floor, they saw ahead a streak of daylight, which gladdened the hearts of the boys.
"Ah! they have gone," exclaimed John, as he emerged, and glanced across the ravine, and along the walls which extended up from the shore of a little stream below. "They have gone to the north, and have, probably, tried to seek safety in the other cave."
"How are we going to get back?" asked George.
"Do you think there will be any trouble in that?" asked John.
"We shall have to go clear over the mountain for that, I'm afraid."
"We are not far from the entrance," said John, "and if we intend to catch up with the Korinos, we must not delay for a moment."
The party made a hurried trip around the hill, and the Chief was surprised to learn that there was another entrance, or an outlet to the cave on the northern side. None of his warriors was aware of this, however.
John was now in a quandary. He was exceedingly anxious to secure the Korinos, but at the same time there was some things in the appearance of the cave that he wished to investigate. This was confided to Uraso and Muro, and the latter suggested that he and Uraso would undertake to follow the fleeing men, and return to the village, while John and the boys made the desired investigation.
This was readily assented to, and they at once made their way across the hill, while John informed the Chief of the action which they had decided to take. One of the principal men of the village, in whom the Chief had confidence, and who knew the location of the upper caves, accompanied Uraso and Muro.
The Chief, and those with him returned to the village, while John remained behind under the pretense that he wished to stay at the cave entrance until they returned from the pursuit after the Korinos.
The boys first secured the flash lights which the two chiefs had brought, and when all had departed the boys and John entered the cave and marched directly to the location of their interior home.
Every part of the habitation was well investigated. Almost every kind of tool and implement was found here in profusion, but singularly, none of them appeared to be used. Several flint lock guns, all rusted, and with decayed stocks, were among the articles discovered, but the Korinos had not used them.
The inevitable copper vessels, entirely unlike those of modern manufacture, were the first things to claim the attention of the boys, as they recalled similar articles found in the caves thitherto investigated by them.
"This begins to look as though we are to have the same experience we had at the cave at the Cataract," said George. "These vessels, no doubt, were brought here by the buccaneers, and I'll be surprised if we don't find a few more of their belongings somewhere in this place."
After all the recesses in this vicinity had been investigated they scanned the side walls to the right, carefully going into the little recesses which were found all along the jagged sides.
A hundred feet south of the living part of the cave they came, unexpectedly upon a large extension, not noticed before in their pursuit of the Korinos. The chamber extended in a southerly direction, and narrowed at the extreme opposite end.
"This has the appearance of leading to another outlet, which would take us to the southern side of the hill. It would be remarkable, indeed, if such should be the case," said John, as he eagerly pressed forward, until they had passed four chambers.
The walls were coming closer and closer, until there was now barely room for them to pass through, but they went in unhesitatingly, John in the lead. The passage was not straight, so that the light did not aid much in looking ahead, but suddenly the flash threw a beam ahead, which showed that they were at the entrance of a chamber.
John stopped and directed the search light to all parts of the cavern. It appeared to be nearly round, with a perfectly smooth floor. It was unoccupied, but in the exact center of the chamber was a raised object, like a mound.
Throughout the entire cave could be found the calcareous deposit so common in caves formed in limestone rocks, and the stalactite hangings on the ceilings and walls, and the stalagmites on the floors made the scene a weird one.
John glanced upwardly to view the ceiling, above the mound, and said: "That does not seem to be a natural formation. Let us examine it first."
With the small pick which John always carried, and by means of which he was always careful to examine rocks and geological formations, while on these tours, the top parts of the stalagmites were chipped off. This was an exceedingly simple matter, since they are generally soft.
After the top layer was removed, the part beneath readily yielded, but before they had an opportunity to dig into it very deeply the pick struck something which gave forth a metallic sound. John stopped as though paralyzed.
The pick was again driven in. Again the plain contact with some hard substance. The digging was now feverish, and when the broken parts were cleared away, a small metallic box, about twelve inches square across the top, and about ten inches deep, was exposed to view.
The dent made by the pick was clearly visible, and the fresh mark showed that the metal was red.
"It is copper!" said John.
Every part of the material around the box was removed, and this enabled them to remove it from its resting place. John grasped it and securing a good hold, finally raised it.
"No, it is not any heavier than I thought it would he," he remarked as he lay it down.
"Did you expect to find this?" asked George in amazement.
"No; this is a surprise to me as it is to you."
"Then why did you make that remark?"
"Because I believe that this box contains treasure of untold value. I should have been surprised if it weighed very much."
"Could it not have contained treasure if it had been heavy?" asked Harry.
John laughed, a peculiar exultant chuckle, as he responded: "Not the kind of treasure I have had in contemplation."
The box was turned over and over. There was not the sign of any lid, or crack which showed the cover or means of opening it. "We must take this out and open it at our leisure," remarked John, "but before doing so it would be well to examine the other outlets to this chamber, if it has any."
The chamber was found, on measurement, to be thirty feet in diameter, and the vaulted ceiling fully thirty feet high, singularly uniform in the domed formation, and not rough or jagged like the ceiling of the other chamber which they had just left.
The walls were absolutely solid on all sides, the only entrance being by way of the narrow little passageway through which they had come. Harry picked up the box, and swung it up to his shoulder, and, John leading the way, they filed out and passed through the chamber, quickly making their way to the opening through which they first entered the cave.
Within an hour they were back in the village, and found Muro there awaiting their arrival. "We have found their trail, and they have not gone to the upper cave. They are heading straight for the tribe in the northern end of the island."
"I am surprised at that," said John. "We must consult the Chief about this," and without another word, he hurriedly went over to the Chief, who was as much astounded as John could be at the peculiar significance of their actions.
THE TRIBE TO THE NORTH
Instead of conveying the copper box to the village it was carried to the landing place and taken to the vessel, where it could be examined later, when they had more time. It was now of more importance to keep in touch with Muro and Uraso, the former of whom had gone to the north as soon as he had given the report mentioned in the last chapter.
On the return to the village they discussed the affairs of the previous day, which John had abstained from mentioning.
"What is it that really makes the people act that way when they are hypnotized!" asked George. "I have heard it said that there isn't any truth in mesmerism."
"Mesmerism is the old term used to designate certain phenomena, which, originally, was supposed to be a force that emanated from the mesmerist. It is now known that hypnotism may be regarded as artificial catalepsy."
"But what is catalepsy?"
"It is an affection produced by hysteria, during which the patient's body becomes rigid. It is claimed by some that somnambulism is one phase of the hypnotic condition."
"But in what way do your motions act on the one who is being hypnotized?"
"The motions have nothing whatever to do with producing the condition. That is for effect, merely. Those who are able to bring about a mesmeric condition, try to concentrate the mind on some particular thing, and by making gentle motions, or passes, this is more forcibly impressed on them."
"What was the object of Uraso telling them that the White Man's death was a terrible one, and trying to frighten them?"
"Merely to make them concentrate their minds on one thing alone. Terror, or great fear, is one of the things which tends to a cataleptic condition. Great excitement, and sometimes excessive joy, have been known to do the same thing."
"Then the object is merely to bring the mind under the control of the operator?"
"Yes; what was originally considered as a power flowing from the hypnotist, is nothing more than his mental action or control which prevents the subject from exercising his own volition."
A few hours after they returned to the village Uraso and Muro returned, with the information that the Korinos were now within the territory of the tribe to the north, and they wisely concluded it would not be good policy to pursue them further, and their prudence was commended by John.
The natives were supremely happy in displaying their gifts, and the Chief, while much annoyed at the escape of the Korinos, was content to be relieved of their presence, when, after numerous conversations with John, he realized that they were of no use to him and his people.
John announced that he intended to visit the tribe to the north, and purposed starting the following day. The Chief advised him to take with him all the warriors in the village, because he felt sure they would have a hostile reception.
"It seems to me," replied John, "that would be the wrong thing to do. I do not wish him to think that my mission is a warlike one, and a large force will be in the nature of an invasion of his territory."
"Perhaps you are right; but we have found him a difficult Chief to deal with. He is not like a man. He cannot stand up straight, as we do, and he kills and eats all who fall into his hands."
This information was regarded by John as one of the imagination, purely, so it did not weigh heavily on his mind. What seemed to impress him most was the fate of the poor fellows who had voluntarily sought the protection of the cannibal Chief.
"I would like to have your opinion as to the course which the Chief will take when the Korinos fall into his hands?" asked John.
The Chief mused for a while, and then said: "They have no Korinos and do not believe in them, but they may tell the Chief that we tried to offer them as sacrifices, and he may use them with his people to stir up feelings of revenge against us."
"But," replied John, "the captives you took, and who have escaped may tell him of our treatment of them and this may work in our favor."
"I do not think so," he replied. "We have had many instances where they have refused to make friends with us, and for that reason we always had war."
"But have you not often sacrificed their people when you have taken them in your wars?"
"We have always done so."
"Have any of your captives ever returned to them?"
"And have they always killed and eaten your people when they captured them?"
"Yes; and none has ever returned to us. The Korinos would not let us keep the captives, but said that the Great Spirit told them they must be sacrificed."
The foregoing information was sufficient to convince John of one thing, namely, that it was really the spirit of the Korinos which kept up the tribal warfare, at least so far as one end of the conflict was concerned.
In spite of all the arguments advanced by the Chief, John was determined to make the trip with his own people, and thus avoid any feeling on the part of the tribe, against their present friend.
In the morning John called Stut, and advised him to wait until the following day, when he should pull up anchor and proceed to the north for a distance not exceeding twenty miles, and then, seeking a safe anchorage, to await news from him.
With forty of his own trusted men, together with Uraso and Muro, they set out on the march to the north, cheered by the people of the village, who came out to witness their departure. The old man who had been rescued, was still too weak to accompany them, so he was taken to the vessel, where he could receive the best of care and attention.
In order not to be out of touch with the sea, John decided to follow the hills along the eastern side of the island, and this course was selected because the people to which they were going, unlike those at the southern portion of the island, lived in the mountainous region, as heretofore stated, and the probability of meeting them would be much better than if they had followed the level plateau.
In the march the boys, as well as John, were ever on the alert to discover the possibilities of the island, so far as the natural products were concerned.
"Something smells awfully sweet around here," said George, as they were tramping along a beautifully-wooded crest.
"I think it must come from the trees that have the beautiful pale blue flowers. Wait until I get a branch."
One of the men was quick to carry out Harry's wish. John was immensely pleased at the interest which the boys exhibited. "What does it smell like?" he inquired.
"Something like cloves and cinnamon, both," answered George.
"Peel off the bark and taste it."
"It is just like cinnamon."
"That is correct. It is the real cinnamon tree. It is the cassia of the Bible, one of the spices so frequently referred to in Scripture. The bark only is used, but the species which have fruit, are gathered and oil expressed from them, which is called cinnamon suet."
Advancing, the surface became more rugged. They had to cross numerous gullies, and broken portions, and frequently jagged rocks would show themselves. Evidently when the island was raised up from the sea the rocks were forced through, and the climate in time disintegrated them, and formed a soil.
"Do you think we shall find any minerals here?" asked Harry.
"If we are to judge from our experiences on Wonder Island, where there is almost exactly the same formation, we may reasonably expect to find copper and also iron here."
"While Harry and I were over at the bluff with Uraso, we saw something like green drippings, from the walls."
"That is, undoubtedly, copper,—that is the sulphate form, in which it is usually found."
"I was amused at Laleo (the native guide), who told Uraso this morning that our mission would be successful, and when he was asked why, answered, that the first thing they saw was three black birds. How superstitious these people are."
"Do you think they are any more so than civilized people?" answered John. "It is curious how the number three runs through all their ideas. In certain parts of England they have a great many omens, and one of them is that if the traveler, starting on a journey, meets three magpies, it means success; if two appears, it is a sign of marriage; and four unexpected good news."
"I recall that it is considered lucky for sun to shine on a bride," added Harry.
"The other part of that couplet is 'rain on a corpse,'" remarked John.
"I never knew it was lucky for the corpse to be rained on," responded Harry, in a questioning tone.
John laughed immoderately, as he answered: "Well, it might not be lucky for the corpse. But there are numerous lucky and unlucky signs that no one can account for, prevalent in our own country, such as putting on stockings wrong side out, and finding a horseshoe."
"Of course, they are both fortunate signs," said George, smiling at the thought.
"In Scotland, among those who are the most matter of fact people in the world, signs are very common. It is a bad omen with them to stumble over a threshold, or to step over green or red, or to sneeze while making up a bed."
"After all, we are not so much ahead of the savages, are we?" mused George.
During the march that day there was nothing specially worthy of note. The animals they met were few and small, and it did not appear that there were any which merited mentioning, so the boys gave up the idea of meeting any adventure in that line.
Shortly after four in the afternoon they began to seek out some good camping place. Laleo informed Uraso that they had now passed into the territory claimed by the northern tribe, and the desirability of caution was necessary.
A rocky shelter, only a short distance above a running brook below, was found suitable, and there the halt was made for the night. Early in the morning they were awakened by Muro, with the welcome intelligence that the Pioneer was sighted several miles to the north, where she lay at anchor.
At the suggestion of John the boys went to the headland, a mile to the east, and there hoisted a signal flag, which was observed by the vessel, and the return signal given, this being indicated by four circular sweeps of the flag.
Waving the flag twice to the right, and twice to the left indicated that they were to remain there until further advised.
After a good breakfast the march was resumed, leading further to the west to avoid the rugged hills near the sea. Either Uraso or Muro was constantly in the lead, always accompanied by one of the men who, in case of necessity, might be sent back to furnish John the reports of his observations.
Before noon the messenger came in with the welcome information that the first of the natives had been noticed, not far to the north. Muro, who was in the lead, awaited the arrival of John and the boys.
Together they went forward, the men remaining in the camp. A few men could thus move through the brush with less likelihood of observation, than a large number, which was the principal reason for this mode of procedure.
After another mile of cautious movement, a runner was sent back with the order to bring all of them forward. Away in the distance the village was sighted, George's field glasses now being brought into play. The huts could be seen plainly along the mountain side, and scattered about in profusion amid a plentiful supply of trees.
In some respects, viewed from a distance, the scene did not look at all primitive, and were it not for the crude character of the houses it might have been taken for a typical modern town or village.
Only one hut had been passed, thus far. It was not at all crudely built, and while it had been left to decay, it showed that the owner had some ideas of comfort, and an eye to convenience, as it was located by the side of a spring. On one side of the cottage was a weed-grown garden, and some fine specimens of taro as well as wild potatoes were in evidence.
Earthenware cooking utensils were discovered, which added to the interest of the place, but no other furniture was found to show how the people lived. It might have been deserted for a year or more.
Ascending the second small hill, they were startled to find themselves face to face with a half dozen of the natives, who were frightfully alarmed at the appearance of the visitors, for they set up a shout and ran like deer toward the village.
John kept on at the head of his force, and while the commotion in the village, not a half mile distant, was plainly visible, he did not halt, until he saw a curious crowd surrounding a short individual, who stood apart from those around him.
"That is the Chief," said Laleo. "It is said he is a terrible man, and unlike all others," thus repeating what the Chief had told John.
As he made no attempt to come forward or indicate what his wishes were, John directed the men to follow him, fifty feet in his rear, and he went on until within two hundred feet of the motley crowd, the people in the meantime making no sign of resistance, nor did they object to the advance.