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Title: The Crystal Sceptre
Author: Philip Verill Mighels
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Language: English
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The Crystal Sceptre
Philip Verrill Mighels



CHAPTER I. THE END OF THE VOYAGE

WE had lost all control of the wild balloon. It was driven ahead of
the wind like a shred of rags, the car trailing behind at a fearful
angle, for many of the ropes were broken and all the others were
twisted in a hopeless tangle. Nearly all our ballast had fallen into
the angry sea beneath us an hour after the storm first caught us in
its whirl.

I could hear the ocean roaring and swashing, where its gigantic waves
toppled over each other below. The sound must have been tremendous,
for the wind blew such a howling gale that neither Ford nor I could
make each other hear what we shouted two feet away.

Our hats were gone; Ford's face was haggard, whenever the lightning
revealed him in the gloom. So intense was the darkness that I could
not even see the vast bag above us. When a great flash illuminated the
heavens, directly ahead, I noted the monster globe full of gas,
silhouetted blackly against the glare, and knew it was slightly
leaking. A small three-cornered dent was in its side already. I also
observed that the sea was hardly more than fifty feet below, churning
milk-white foam in its fury out of liquid ebon waves of mountainous
size. The sky seemed like a solid bank of black. The darkness that
followed the flash absorbed even Ford. Yet I knew that while he clung
to the basket with his right hand, as I had done for above an hour, he
was nevertheless attempting with his left to heave out the bag of
provisions and the blankets. I helped him at this and we rose
perceptibly.

Where we were it was absolutely impossible even to guess. That the
balloon was driving ahead at more than sixty miles an hour we had long
been convinced. This had been the state of affairs throughout the
night. I had lost all confidence in Ford's calculations at the end of
the seventeenth hour out from Burma, for the twist which the storm had
given us then threw out or broke every reliable instrument we had,
leaving not so much as a compass. I was not an aeronaut like Ford, yet
I knew we were doomed, unless some change should occur, and that
quickly.

Ford, by the light of a flash, had seen a rope which was sawing open a
seam in the silk, as it slashed and writhed in the tornado. When
another blinding illumination came, I saw him climbing up in the ring
to cut this rope away. The car tilted more than before; I fully
expected to go hurtling out at every jerk. Suddenly two ropes, worn to
a thread, on the ring, parted without the slightest warning. The car
gave a lurch and all but turned bottom-side up. I heard a cry, as I
swung out full length, suspended by my arms, and was even slightly
struck on the foot, as Ford went plunging down. The balloon shot
upward, relieved of his weight, and I was alone.

How long I clung there, swinging far out behind the wounded machine,
is more than I would dare to say. My arms finally ached so intensely I
could scarcely endure the pain. Dangling ropes beat me like knouts,
for a time, and then wrapped and twisted about me like coils of a
snake. Obviously these must have supported my weight at the last, for
in a spell of dizziness and weakness I lost my grip and then was
conscious only a second, when I thought, with the utmost unconcern, my
end had come. Like a dummy on the tail of a kite, I dragged below the
wreck of the car and was whirled thus unconsciously on, above the
hungry sea.

It might have been hours, it might have been days after this last
moment of despair, when my brain began again to work. I can only
describe the sensations which followed as a species of dream. I
thought I was dead; it seemed as if my soul, or something, was at
perfect rest in a region of loveliness. Whereas I had been chilled
through and through by the storm, I was warm now and filled with
comfort. Music, which might have been the rustling of leaves or the
songs of birds, made itself heard. I could not see for my eyes
remained closed; but a sense of delicious odours pervaded my being; I
seemed also to float, as if on the air.

At length I opened my eyes. The dream continuing on me still, I lay
perfectly quiet, gazing aloft into a sky of matchless beauty.
Doubtless I remained in this position for more than half an hour. Then
a bright bird flitted across my range of vision, and brought me back
to things of earth. I was still bound about by a piece of rope.
Everything came back to me sharply,--Ford, my friend, the scientist
and daring balloonist, our start, the storm, his hurtling down to
death, my own desperation, and then oblivion.

I was whole and sound, apparently. Removing the rope and attempting to
sit erect, I found myself floundering for a second, in the top of a
tree. The branch I was on let me drop. I fell toward the earth, made a
grab for a limb, which somewhat broke my fall, and landed plump on the
ground, in the midst of a circle of extraordinary beings.



CHAPTER II. A STRANGE ALLIANCE

NEITHER men nor apes, yet clearly creatures which were nearly the one
and on the verge of being the other, these inhabitants of the place
had evidently been observing my form, in a spirit of cautious
curiosity, for a number now came swinging down from trees adjacent to
the one I had occupied, and the ones upon the ground set up a series
of singular cries.

Having landed on my feet, hatless, but otherwise stoutly clad, I threw
my hand to my belt, instinctively, desiring to arm myself against
possible aggression. I found only my knife remaining. This weapon I
merely hauled around by sliding the belt, to bring the dagger directly
beneath my hand. The creatures about me were a score or so in number,
standing erect, apparently much excited, yet threatening no attack.
Their movements were restless; their roundish, near-together eyes were
constantly moving, like those of a monkey; they circled about me,
uttering guttural monosyllables, with many inflections. Every one of
them gripped in a powerful hand the haft of a rude sort of club,
fashioned out of a rock, lashed firmly to the end of a stout piece of
wood.

The mutual inspection between us lasted several minutes. I could
detect but little difference between any two of the beings. They were
nearly as tall as I, averaging about five feet six inches; they were
thin, wiry, entirely naked, long-armed, flat-nosed, big-jawed and
covered, on their legs and arms, with a thin and somewhat straggling
growth of hair. Their skin was a reddish light-brown in colour; their
feet were large, but much like hands, having the great toe set back
like a thumb; their legs were slender and poorly shaped, but
exceedingly muscular; their shoulders and backs were round.

One of the first to drop from a tree was a giant among them, a
creature more than six feet tall, active as a panther, commanding in
aspect, and possessing arms that reached fully to his knees. He
carried a remarkable club which was made of a great chunk of rock-
crystal, secured at the end of a polished bone, large and straight.
This crystal still had its gleaming points and facets preserved; it
therefore inspired me with a dread of the jagged hole it could smash
in the skull of the largest animal.

Amazed as I was by what I saw, my astonishment was instantly increased
when I observed the only female creature I had yet beheld. She issued
from a copse and took her place beside the giant, who stood leaning on
his club, eyeing myself nervously. She was a pure albino. Her hair,
which was long and coarse, was as white as foam, her eyes were as pink
as a rabbit's; her complexion was florid red on white. With a
rudimentary modesty, she stood partially concealed behind the giant,
although she was "clothed" in a patch of skin from a pure white gull,
in addition to a sort of rude necklace of claws.

What were they? Where was I? What would they do? These questions I
asked myself rapidly a hundred times, as the creatures continued to
edge about me and to chatter obvious comments. I could only answer
what they were, and my premature conclusion may have been wide of the
truth, yet I dubbed them Missing Links without the slightest
hesitation.

For a space of at least ten minutes I was subjected to the closest
scrutiny, during which time I kept the keenest possible watch on every
movement, behind as well as before me. Resistance, however, would have
been madness, had they closed in for a battle. There was evident
indecision among these Links as to what they should do, and I was
equally at a loss to determine what I most desired with regard to
themselves. I now underwent another sensation. Pushing his way through
the circle came a fat, waddling "fellow," who afforded as great a
contrast to the ordinary Links as did the female albino. He was
entirely black. As if to render him quite grotesque, his legs were
thick and bowed, his stomach was large and glistening, and his head
was crowned with a skull, securely tied in place with thongs which
passed beneath his chin. But his face was so irresistibly comical,
with its broad, good-natured grin, that I smiled in actual
forgetfulness of where I was.

At this he approached, holding forth in his hand a luscious fruit, the
like of which I had never seen. A murmur--plainly of dissent, or
warning--went up from his companions. Two or three made as if to drag
him roughly back by the leg. I fancied I understood him to be an
emissary of peace, and therefore deciding instantly that I preferred
to be friendly, I took a step forward and held out my hand. With a
look of gratitude, mingled with one of suspicious uncertainty, the fat
chap gave me the fruit and capered clumsily away, out of possible
reach.

Grunts of wonder and perhaps also of relief, greeted my acceptance of
this overture of hospitality. The Links settled in their tracks, to
see what would happen next, many of them standing with arms akimbo and
glancing from me to the giant, rapidly, by which I concluded that he
was a chieftain to whom they looked for a final decision of the case.
Trusting that the action might create a salutary impression on the
audience, I drew my knife from its scabbard and proceeded to cut away
the thick, hard rind of the fruit, paying not the slightest attention
to the exclamations which followed this exhibition of the sharpness
and use of the gleaming blade. When the fruit was peeled, I put the
knife away and ate as delicious and juicy a thing as ever a man has
known, provoking thereby a feeling of undisguised pleasure in the
Links and of apparent ecstasy in the breast of the fat one who had
provided the breakfast.

"Now," said I, when the thing was gone, "who are you fellows, and what
do you want?" I was surprised at myself for thus addressing this half-
ape gathering, but they were smitten temporarily dumb at the sound of
my voice. I made a gesture of cordiality and turned completely around
in the circle, finally holding both my hands extended to the giant.

The chatter was instantly resumed. One of their "words," in a language
which seemed to me to be exceedingly limited and primitive, was, as
nearly as pen can write it.

"Tzheck."

Having caught this I attempted to repeat it, pointing to myself
meantime with my thumb, for it occurred to my mind that they called
not only myself but also their species by the name, and I desired to
assure them I was "one of themselves," for at least they were better
than no companions in this unknown land.

My action evidently met with approval. They advanced, retreated,
pushed each other near and otherwise exhibited a desire to know what I
was. But still they had a fear of my presence, although they were now
in a mood of timid friendliness. Up to this the chief of the Links had
not "spoken" a word. He now gave a command, or something of the sort,
when each of the others raised his club to rest it on his shoulder, as
if in readiness to beat me to death in case a necessity should arise.
The giant then came boldly up and extending a finger, touched my
clothing. The feeling of the cloth caused him to tell something to his
followers, all of whom were breathless with attention.

Thinking I understood his perplexity, I quickly unfastened my coat and
shirt, exhibiting the whiter portion of my neck, for the part exposed
was tanned very much the colour of his own. This action begot a great
enthusiasm, responding to which I pulled my coat off entirely, when
the amazement of all was complete. I repeated their word "Tzheck"
again, whereupon they set up a clamorous conversation in
monosyllables, among themselves, and came yet closer, the better to
place their hands upon me. The impression was borne in upon me that
they knew somewhat of what I was, but were puzzled by the clothing I
wore.

All this preface to a mutual friendship and understanding, which I
much desired as a guarantee of my personal safety, was progressing
well when a sudden scream threw all into a state of violent alarm. No
sooner did I turn than I beheld the appalling sight of thirty or forty
huge, genuine ourang-outangs, descending upon us from the near-by
jungle. Two of these had swooped upon the albino female and were
struggling to carry her off. I saw the giant nearly smash the head
from the shoulders of one, with his irridescent club, and rescue his
mate in a second. Then a fierce engagement commenced about me on every
side.

It was a horrible conflict. The monster ourangs, half erect, appeared
like so many fiends, as they launched themselves in overwhelming
numbers on the Links, their mouths drooling, and bristling with fangs,
their hatred of the more human creatures expressed by the fury with
which they attempted to mangle and murder all the band. The Links,
screaming out a word which thrilled me as a battle cry of a courageous
few whose fight was all but hopeless, smote lustily with their clubs,
sinking the rock-end in many a skull, breaking arms, legs and ribs,
yet wasting superlative effort from lack of skill and discipline.
Although they fought their foe with more acumen than as many undrilled
men could have done, I thought they must fly or all be killed, for the
odds were too heavy by far.

In the midst of the uproar and turmoil, of which I had been the centre
for a time, a singular snarl, as of triumph, issued from one of the
attacking brutes. He had discovered myself. Immediately half a dozen
would have rushed upon me, had I not been still somewhat surrounded by
the Links. As it was, two ourangs rushed in, headlong, to do me
violence.

I had been about to fight for my "friends," and therefore held my
dagger in my hand. I plunged it quickly in the throat of the beast
that gripped my shoulder, nearly severing the creature's head from its
body. As he fell I stabbed the other to the heart, but felt so great a
rib that I knew I had reached his life by the merest good fortune.

That I then grew hot and eager for blood, I admit. I received the next
that came with a lunge which ripped him open entirely across the
abdomen. My knowledge of boxing and fencing stood me well. I attacked
a monster who was all but killing my fat, good-natured Link, and
crashed the steel fairly through the spinal column at the base of his
brain. The smell of blood and the flash of that gory knife seemed to
affect the attacking brutes with horror. Yet the next ones that came
would have killed me outright had not the fat Link beaten out the
brains of one and broken the arm of the other, which then was readily
despatched.

Seeing the advantage of a club, I clutched up one which an
overmastered Link had dropped, and swung it madly. With this and the
knife, I not only defended myself but became a champion of the Links
as well. The fight, with its din of thuds and animal shrieks and
screams of agony, began to concentrate about three Links and myself. A
long, hairy arm, with an iron-like hand, was thrust across my shoulder
and my throat was in a deadly grip. I dropped the club and slashed my
blade across the wrist, severing the stiff, white cords. Then I swung
in a blow that buried the steel to the hilt. The brute fell heavily,
dragging the knife from my hand. Instantly two more great animals were
upon me and over I went, already scratched and slightly bitten. For a
moment I struggled in desperation; then a horrible black face came
down toward my own, the jaws awide for a fastening on my neck.

Down swept a gleaming streak. The rock-crystal club knocked the face,
head and all, away, as if it had been a potato on a stick. Another
blow killed my second assailant like a fly might be killed on a
window. I bounded up with a club in my hand. The giant Link was
beating his way through the foe like a doomsman. With a cry of hatred
and fear, the remaining ourang-outangs, and many of the wounded,
suddenly turned and fled. The battle had been brief and bloody; it had
demonstrated a fierceness and power incredible in the Links, a power
which, if concentrated and properly employed, would excel that of
twice the number of human savages.

I found my knife and pulled it forth from its sheath of flesh.
Collecting his following about him with a word, the giant leader
touched me on the arm and pointed toward the jungle. The wounded of
"our" force limped from the scene; our dead, who were three in number,
were carried by those who were still unhurt. With the albino mate of
the chief I walked away, surrounded by the chattering Links, whose
conduct toward me, I was sure, was that of a friendly "people." The
fat fellow was next to idiotic in his gratitude for the stroke which
had saved his life.

I had fought with them, bled with them, eaten of their food and
endeavoured to show them my good intentions and wishes toward
themselves. They were manifestly aware of all. I felt strongly drawn
to the singular beings, alone with them and dependent upon them; I
felt that for weal or woe I was at least a temporary companion to, if
not an integral part of, a band of Missing Links.



CHAPTER III. THE HOME OF THE LINKS

FILLED with strange sensations, thus to find myself in the midst of a
company so extraordinary, I kept my appointed place in the march,
looking about me in an effort to discover what manner of country it
was into which I had dropped. I wondered what I should do to get back
to civilisation, and how this could be accomplished, and when.

About us the jungle closed in thickly. Huge trees, gigantic flowers
and creepers, hanging like intertwisted serpents, and with others like
the cables of incompleted suspension-bridges, convinced me at once of
the tropical nature of the land. We were walking in a rude sort of
trail, which I concluded had been formed by some ponderous animal, for
the growth had been smashed down or beaten and trampled aside.

This trail became uncertain, in the gloom, for soon the light was
almost entirely obscured by the super-abundant verdure. Had any of the
Links meditated treachery, or to take advantage of me while
unprepared, this jungle darkness would have afforded an exceptional
opportunity; but on the contrary my fat friend waddled actively before
me, clearing the way of branches, and the "person" next behind me was
the albino female herself. Nevertheless I was grateful for a glimpse
of light, now and again, which gave a promise that beyond we should
find something less forbidding. During this march I noted how silently
the Links glided onward, how lightly they stepped and how alert they
were at every sound, in that silent region of growing and prowling
things.

Thus we finally emerged from the forest, into an opening of limited
extent. Here I noted fruit-trees and evidence of former occupation on
the part, I thought, of the Links, but they left the place behind, to
plunge again through the jungle. A shorter trudge brought us out of
the trees once more, at the foot of a hill of no considerable height.
This hill we commenced to ascend.

At last I could see for a distance about me. The prospect was
disappointing, almost bewildering. Instead of a glimpse of the ocean,
which I had thoroughly expected to get, I saw nothing but hills and
valleys, clothed endlessly with the dense, luxuriant growth peculiar
to the equatorial zone, all of it seeming to breathe of heavy
blossoms, heat and the moisture from the universal green. The solitary
exception to this condition of verdure was a bare hill, not half a
mile away, green in spots, but evidently volcanic in origin.

At the edge of the forest we had quitted, a thousand monkeys appeared
to swing from the branches, into existence and then to sway back again
and disappear. A snake glided off in the rank grass; a flock of birds,
decked in brilliant raiment, arose with a great confusion of flapping
wings and inharmonious cries. I believed myself to be on an island,
perhaps of the greater Sunda group, but there was nothing in the
visible world, either to confirm or to deny my theory. I felt that the
sea, which had swallowed Ford and which had so nearly been a grave for
myself, was in reality my best friend, but lost completely, and in
which direction--who should say?

Soon I observed that the hill we were climbing was a sort of terraced
mountain, low and broad. As we neared its summit it widened out,
revealing endless features of beauty and natural provision. It was
wooded with trees in great variety, many of them over-laden with
fruits and nuts; springs of water bubbled forth from bowers of vines
and ferns; birds and game abounded on every side; and its surface
"rolled" sufficiently to comprise not only hummocks and swales but
also ravines and walls of rock as well.

As we reached the edge of the largest clearing I had seen, a chorus of
cries arose from the further side. Immediately the woods disgorged a
great collection of Links, young, old, male, female, and babies. All
were similar to those about me, save that the children were more like
little chimpanzees, running about frequently on "all fours," swinging
upward to the branches of the trees and otherwise exhibiting animal
spirits.

More than a hundred of these "inhabitants" came running and walking
toward us. Many of the males bore clubs, of the usual pattern, while
the youths were to be distinguished not only by their looks of
immaturity, but also by the undersized weapons in their hands, not a
few of which were like toys. Of the whole population, none wore the
slightest suggestion of clothing, excepting the female albino,
mentioned before. What a lot of terra-cotta gorilla men and women they
were, as they dashed out to meet us!

I found it difficult to be calm as they bore down upon us, yet I was
forced to note what magnificent action was shown in their movements. A
tremendous excitement arose among them when they had me surrounded.
Evidently emboldened by what they were told of my nature, by my
"captors," yet timid and suspicious of what I might do if aroused,
they presented a singular study of primitive curiosity and caution.
The "women" were bolder than the "men," a condition of fearlessness
which I attribute to the fact that, like the animals, the males never
fought with the females nor struck them for what they did. These
females, however, although to be classified with animals because of
this immunity from punishment by the "men," presently exhibited the
rudimentary modesty noted before in the conduct of the chief's mate,
which was distinctly a human thing. But this diffidence was not so
great as their natural desire to investigate, and they plucked at my
coat and trousers before many of the newly met males among the number
dared to come so near.

The chief having continued to stalk ahead, we all made more or less
progress toward the place whence the Links had come. In all the
chatter I could occasionally distinguish the word "Tzheck," and this I
again repeated, smiling and nodding as I walked. The creatures amused
me, for I now began to note certain characteristics that made a
distinction between one and another. Thus, one of the females carried
a large baby. She was a sharp-featured "person," who employed one of
her hands to brush a straggling wisp of hair from her eye, and the
baby as constantly dragged this wisp again from behind her ear.
Another was an "old woman," obviously deaf, for she placed her hand
behind her ear to listen, and she nodded and grinned in the way of
people who catch but fragments of a conversation. With this
chattering, scampering escort I came to what was evidently the camp of
the tribe. This was marked, principally by the trampled condition of
the earth and the number of lively babies about, on the ground and in
the lower branches of the trees. There was a large cave in a wall or
terrace of rock. This was apparently used for purposes of sleeping
under cover, or of other protection when needed. Into this place, the
dead of the band were carried. There was no exhibition of grief,
however, and indeed no one seemed to take any special interest in the
corpses. There were no constructed shelters about, no signs of
permanency nor of provision for the morrow. Except for one thing I
might now have hesitated to place the creatures above the highest
order of animals, but this one thing was conclusive. They made fire.

Animals may live together in a colony, and even inhabit caves or
burrows of their own digging, but the animal will always be animal
until he starts a blaze and cooks his food.

Their fire at that moment was merely a smouldering heap of ashes and
charred ends of wood; there were no utensils about, no suggestions of
a meal in process of cooking. Presently, however, an old female who
muttered to herself and who paid no attention to me nor to any of the
excitement, threw fuel on the embers and blew up a flame, after which
several Links borrowed a burning brand with which to start other fires
in various places. Soon thereafter a desultory cooking-bee commenced,
each cook providing for himself.

Their process was crude; it consisted merely in spitting a raw piece
of meat on a stick and thrusting it into the blaze, or the coals,
according to the fancy of the chef in question. When this meat began
to burn, the hungry Link blew it, to cool it a trifle, bit out the
smoked and barely heated spot, and ate it greedily, the while he or
she thrust the remaining piece in the heat for another bit of
roasting.

The interest in myself had in no wise abated. The majority of the
Links who had not been of the discovering party, having thrown aside
their clubs, surrounded me still and placed their inquisitive hands on
my shoes and clothing. My knife was a source of awe and wonder. Its
bloody handle only was visible, yet scores of those who had not been
present at the fight listened with manifest amazement to what I knew
to be primitive tales of my prowess, and to explanations of the uses
to which I put the weapon. Even the children, the greater part of whom
were as shy as little foxes, gave over their play to stand behind the
trees and behind their elders, from which places of safety they peered
at me with shifty, bright eyes. One little monkey-like chap gave no
heed to anything but a noise he was making by clattering several small
empty sea-shells together with all his power and possible speed.

I missed my comical Link, whom I had mentally nicknamed "Fatty." He
now appeared with an armful of fruits, and laid them down at my feet.
There were cocoa-nuts, a melon (papaw), mangoes and other things of
which I never learned the names. Being exceedingly hungry I assailed
these refreshments with vigour, to the intense delight of all. Fatty
disappeared again, returning soon with a bird, half plucked, ungutted
and warm. He stabbed it on a stick, borrowed some fire and gave me the
morsel to cook to my liking.

Without thinking, I glanced about for a pot or a skillet. In a second
I realized the hopelessness of the situation. The incident served to
set me thinking. I was lost in a land of which I knew nothing; I was
safe, apparently, in the company of a tribe of Missing Links; I might
not be able to escape from the place very soon and therefore I must
rely upon myself, if I were to have anything like comforts, either of
food or shelter. It was a situation to be pondered, carefully. It
would certainly be folly to attempt to leave these creatures, with
whom perhaps I might be able to exist for a time, without first
acquiring a knowledge as to where lay the sea-coast. I should not only
be lost in the jungle at once, if I started away, but I should
doubtless be an immediate prey to prowling brutes. Yet already I began
to feel as if I had stayed there too long and as if I ought to be
starting for "home," or back to a land peopled by human beings. I
could not imagine myself accepting the company of these creatures
seriously, nor of remaining long where they were.

The present moment, however, was the most immediately important. I was
too hungry to be appeased by fruits alone, but I felt no desire to eat
scorched bird. As I looked about, a novel idea was suggested to my
brain. Striding forward I picked up a fine large shell--which had
doubtless once been occupied by something like a giant escallop--near
the small ones with which the baby Link was playing. This I washed out
at a near-by spring, and filled with water. Then I placed it on the
ground and propping it up with stones, conveyed some fire beneath it,
to heat the water. The bird was speedily prepared, and cut into bits,
after which I held out my hand for more.

The Links had all abandoned their several pursuits to crowd about.
They were eager to see what would happen. Fatty was inordinately
tickled. He ran clumsily off, with others, and brought me three more
birds and the meat of some small animal, already in the larder. I was
not at all sure that my shell would do for a kettle, as I feared the
heat would make it crack or scale off in pieces. It did crackle, as if
about to split, but the water soon began to sizzle at the edges and
was nicely boiling by the time I was ready. All my meat went in, and
then I longed for a few potatoes and a bit of salt. However, I was
gratified exceedingly by the whiffs of steam which floated away, and I
thought of numerous things which I must soon devise.

Before my dinner was sufficiently done, I speared out pieces and found
them good, especially the birds. Then to Fatty and also to the chief--
who with his albino mate had watched proceedings with flattering
attention--I gave pieces of the meat to try. The exclamations had been
numerous when the water boiled; the Links were silent now until the
leader had tasted and uttered a doubtful verdict, when grunts, eager
questions and sounds of peculiar laughter ensued. Bits of boiled
dinner were sought by many of the bolder fellows, after which I was
obliged to laugh myself, for a dozen new fires were started and over
each a Link or two prepared a piece of meat in their usual manner.
Evidently stew was not to their taste.



CHAPTER IV. A RECONNOITRE

WHETHER the fruit I had eaten produced a soporific effect, or whether
I was physically exhausted by my recent experience in the balloon and
the subsequent events, is more than I know, but in the heat of that
day, in the camp of the Links, I grew so drowsy that sleep was not to
be resisted. For at least forty-eight hours and perhaps for sixty, or
more, I had not so much as taken off my shoes. Feeling confident of
the friendly attitude of the tribe of creatures, I finally removed
nearly all of my clothing, made a bed in the shade of a tree and sank
at once into dreamless slumber. The last thing I remembered was that
Fatty had taken up a position near by, much as a faithful dog might
do, to watch against intrusion. Necessarily my every movement had been
observed by a large and appreciative audience of Links.

In the late afternoon I awoke, amazingly refreshed. Such a chattering
and game of chase was in progress that I sat up abruptly. Every stitch
of the clothing with which I had covered myself, had disappeared. In a
moment I beheld it, then, in fragments. The male Links--all but
Fatty--had gone off on some expedition, but the females were there in
force and these had appropriated coat, vest, trousers and shoes. My
trousers were occupied by two different "ladies," one of whom had a
half, pulled wrong side out. She wore it jauntily on her arm, while
the other had both her feet inside the other portion, and was
consequently falling down at every movement, thereby furnishing no end
of enthusiasm in her efforts at marching on dress-parade. My vest had
become a breech-clout, ripped up the back. Evidently instinct suggests
robing the legs, for my coat was employed in this manner by a female
of peculiarly thin proportions. Her inordinate vanity, begotten of the
attention she attracted, was quite human, as also was the savage
jealousy of other females who made ineffectual efforts to rip the
article off for themselves.

The fate of my shoes concerned me more than anything else, for my feet
were too tender for tramping about without protection, not to speak of
the risk incurred from the presence of poisonous snakes.

"Here," I shouted, "bring me those things, you critters!"

They started in alarm at my voice, but none made a move to restore my
property. I then discovered one of my shoes suspended on the breast of
the tall albino "woman," hung about her neck by the laces. The other
had fallen to the lot of perfidious Fatty, who, having put it on his
foot, heel foremost, was hopping about on one leg only, while he held
the other, more precious, booted leg as high as possible, and pounded
on his great glistening stomach as if executing an eccentric dance to
his own music.

I strode over the ground gingerly, clad in a shirt, and the belt with
the knife about my waist, going first to the dancer, whom I bowled on
his back and divested of the shoe, literally before he could say Jack
Robinson. After that I jerked the other shoe from the neck of the
female so quickly that she ran away in alarm to the cave. This latter
action incited a show of incipient resentment on the part of the old
female who muttered to herself. But inasmuch as she beheld some of the
other guilty creatures divest themselves of sundry pieces of my
wardrobe and flee, leaving them on the ground, she conceived an idea
of the respect my knife had engendered in the tribe. She therefore
stood sullenly watching me as I made shift to put on my shoes, a pair
of leggings and a loin cloth, which I hastily constructed of the
pieces left of my pantaloons.

The "lady" with my coat had quickly climbed a tree to avoid being
obliged to deliver the garment. Fatty, bearing no resentment and being
obviously devoted to my interests, gave chase. Although the female
proved the more agile of the two, she fell into the clutches of
another of her sex and between them they tore the coat all in shreds
many of which Fatty finally brought to my feet with excessive
demonstrations of pride.

By the time my toilet was complete, nearly all the females were up in
the trees, looking down upon me with nervous, questioning eyes. I
reflected how fortunate it was that they were at least partially
human, for their strength was enormous and had they been unreasoning
animals, and therefore ferocious, they might easily have rended me to
pieces for less exasperation than I had already given.

I felt ill at ease as it was; I began to be restless, worried, eager
to be gone. Where had the wind-driven balloon landed me, I wondered?
What course had I best pursue? What would these Links do, or attempt
to do if I sought to leave? I could not remain here, under any
circumstances, I said to myself. Think how absurd it would be to live
with a lot of Missing Links!

From where I stood I could see the peak of the volcanic mountain, less
than half an hour's journey away. Instantly I made up my mind to visit
this eminence and get my bearings. I might be able to see the ocean
itself; if I could, then the sooner I made a bee-line for the coast
the better for me.

There was considerable excitement among the "women" when I started
away. They had doubtless been instructed to keep me there in safety
till the return of the males. Fatty made an eloquent verbal protest,
singularly plain to comprehend, although the words were the merest
gibberish, but seeing that I intended to be master of my actions, he
followed anxiously at my heels. Fortunately there was open country
between the camp and the volcanic pile. Nevertheless the way was not
all of grass and flowers, for we were obliged to fight our way through
narrow belts of trees and vines and to scale the sides of several
chasms, all but one of which had been formed, apparently, by
earthquakes of the greatest violence. In the one exception, which was
the bed of an ancient river, I saw much evidence of mineral deposits,
chiefly iron. Strewn along here, in the sand, were bright, crystalline
formations which I recognised presently as being pyrites of iron.
Afterward I thought of these, having remembered that with this stuff
and flint, a spark of fire may be procured quite readily. None of the
mineral features held my attention above a moment, however, the peak
being the objective point of my march.

It is difficult for me to express the feverish anxiety I felt to mount
the summit of that hill. It seemed as if everything depended on what I
should see from the elevation. Half way up the slope, which was not at
all steep, my weight broke away the top of a ledge of crumbling stuff,
which proved to be sulphur of great purity. I had never seen a deposit
of natural sulphur before, although I had read of mines of the mineral
on volcanoes of Mexico, notably Popocatapetl. I merely placed a bit in
the pocket of my shirt and went on. Further up, my attention was
attracted by innumerable fragments of glass-like substance, with dark,
smoky lines woven through, in the form of a rude feather. Such stuff
had often come to my notice on the mountains of Nevada, where, as
boys, we called it flint, erroneously, I was afterward informed. A few
pieces of this I likewise placed in my pocket, but my main desire was
to hurry upward.

We reached the summit, from which all traces of the crater had
disappeared, through lapse of time since the last eruption, and there
my heart sank within me. There was no sight nor sign of the sea on all
the wide horizon. Far and away below me lay the dark, undulating
cloth-of-green, jungle after jungle and range after range of densely
wooded hills. In one direction, about forty miles away, were mountains
of greater height than the one I was on. These tempted me to hurry
onward toward their peaks, but I knew how vain was such a desire. To
the eastward I caught a glimpse of a shimmering lake, hedged about
with forest which I knew to be practically impenetrable.

All this panorama was marvellously beautiful, but for me beauty was
mockery. I stood as good a chance to fly over the hills and trees to
the sea as I did of reaching the coast by tramping across the country.
I realized that without a guide and a force of resolute, hard-working
men, loyal, and afraid of nothing, escape was a dream--a hope as fatal
as a will-o'-the-wisp.

Nevertheless I determined that I would regain the world I had left in
such an amazing manner. Wild dreams of enslaving the tribe of Missing
Links, whom I should make my warriors, and who would then escort me to
the coast, danced through my brain. Prodigious schemes for
accomplishing some superhuman feat--which was wholly vague and
constructed of air--made me twitch with nervous energy. It seemed as
if I ought to be able to grasp something big--to force the marvellous
to come to my aid. Then the reaction of despair succeeded; all my
intangible ideas mocked me with their silliness. I felt inconceivably
helpless. The enormity of the tropical hedge by which I was completely
surrounded--a hedge alive with venomous snakes, doubtless with tigers,
with droves of savage beasts, and with perhaps more savage men,--this
arose in my brain as a picture which made me ill with dread.

"Great Scott!" I finally said aloud, to myself, "are you such a
miserable coward, then? By gracious--no! There must be some way--there
has to be a way! Hang it, at the worst a man can merely die!"

This speech, which startled Fatty not a little, gave me a new sort of
courage. I began to think of things I must do to live, and of plans I
must formulate to explore the country. I nearly forgot that my lot had
been cast with the singular man-gorillas, but this was presently
thrust upon my notice by Fatty, who made a noise very like to whining,
to indicate his uneasiness and desire to return to the camp. The sun
was nearly set. I fancied I saw something move, in a tangle far below,
but concluded this something was merely a shadow.

"All right, Fatty," said I, and we started down the hill.



CHAPTER V. HOSTILE NEIGHBOURS

DOUBTLESS I grew absorbed in thinking, as we made our way to the base
of the hill, for I was startled by a singular cry from the Link.

What I saw confused me for a moment. Three Links, taller than any
except the chief of the tribe I had joined, were darting toward us
with the wildest of gestures,--three Links as black as tar. Inasmuch
as Fatty was nearly as dark as they, and considering the treatment I
had already received, I felt no alarm and failed to comprehend what
the situation meant.

Like a leopard for quickness, Fatty darted away, uttering sounds of
fright. Instantly one of the Links approaching started on his trail in
hot pursuit, a club in his hand which was glinting with colour in the
rays of the setting sun. I was surprised and somewhat amused as I saw
the clever Fatty elude the larger creature and gain the trees. Once in
the cover he swung himself upward and out of sight with all the
agility of a monkey.

Suddenly the two I had failed to watch were upon me. I was thrown
down, pinioned to the ground a second and then dragged up, hastily.
Then the pair began to hustle me off with astonishing force and with
method in their frenzy, for they attempted to get me away as nearly
unharmed as possible.

"Here!" I cried in a moment, endeavouring to check my progress, "let
go of me--you devil!"

I had hardly noted their faces, but now, as I struggled, I saw that
the two were tremendously like a pair of burly Negroes. That they were
Links, as much as the others were, that indeed they belonged to the
very same species and genus, there could be no doubt, but they were as
widely differentiated from "my" Links as a black ant is from one that
is red.

I jerked myself loose from the grip of one, by losing a part of my
shirt, and struck him a blow on the point of his jaw that laid him
flat on his back, stunned and helpless. I was annoyed by the liberties
they were taking, more than angered or rendered desperate. I therefore
kicked the other in the stomach and beheld him double like a hinge. A
chorus of cries arose at this and I looked about to discover ten or a
dozen more of the fellows, all black, swarming up the slope to assist
their friends.

At that moment the third one, who had ceased pursuing Fatty and
returned, launched himself upon me from the rear and bore me down.
Fight as I would, he was the equal in strength of three of my build
and easily kept me on the ground till four of the others, quickly
followed by their companions, rushed to the scene and secured my arms
and legs.

There was no resentment, as far as I could determine, for the blows I
had given the two. The pair, in fact, soon regained their senses and
breath, respectively, and joined their kind, in a dazed and half-
hearted manner. I was aware that I was being considerately handled,
though roughly, to be sure, and was quite unable to think of a reason,
until the fellows began again to convey me away. I realised then that
they were actually abducting me and proceeding straight away from the
camp I had left. Had I been a thing of rare value and highly prized by
the creatures, they could not have acted with more care to avoid
inflicting an injury on my body, nor with more resolution in their
obvious plan to carry me away to their own retreat.

In the midst of the Babel of tongues and confusion of getting me
across a chasm, to which we came with surprising promptness, a cry
resounded through the cleft, and instantly a force of the red Links
leaped down on top of the Blacks and commenced a furious attack. I was
dropped as if I had been a cumbersome rock, but landing on my feet and
clearing myself of the scrambling fellows, who shot forward to meet
the onslaught of the Reds, I whipped out my knife, prepared to defend
myself at any cost and to fight for my friends, if I mingled at all in
the fray.

The battle with the huge ourangs had been hot enough, but this present
combat exceeded all bounds, in the rage of the creatures pitted
against each other. I could see at once that Reds and Blacks were old-
time foes, as sure to fight on contact as are the different coloured
ants. They smote at one another with the wildest ferocity. Club
crashed on stone, and rock thudded fearfully on skull and ribs, till
blood splashed widely about the place and heads were pulp.

It had all occurred with surprising abruptness. The contending bands
were inextricably mixed; they surged together and swayed from wall to
wall of the chasm, yelling defiance, snarling in wrath, groaning with
agony. The crunch of bones and the thuds of those terrible clubs
against naked flesh were awful to hear, yet the fight was such a
whirlwind of action that no one thing could hold the attention a
second, where deaths and mighty actions, and the crude but deadly
club-play made a picture of such close-knit battle.

One second I noted the great chief of the Reds mow down two of the
Blacks at a single swing of his blood-painted, light-flashing club of
crystal; the next I noted how like the writhing of a snake was the
death contraction of one of my friendly Links. Then the flash of a
club swinging quickly to its living cushion of ribs and flesh made a
brilliant streak against the background of dusky forms. I saw that the
head of this weapon was a massive nugget of gold. In that second I
also detected a movement from the corner of my eye where a black
creature, wounded and desperate, was rising up, club in hand, to
strike me down. It flashed upon me instantly that the Blacks, if they
could not possess me themselves, would rather I were dead than allied
with their enemies.

I was standing with my back to the wall, willing to see fair play, but
too wise to become entangled in that medley of physical giants. The
treachery now revealed made me angry in a second. The smell of fight
in my nostrils had been working on my animal nature; a pin-prick would
have been sufficient to arouse all my human frenzy for slaying. I
turned about, burning with wrath, and had no more than struck down the
wounded monster than three others leaped to perform the office in
which he had failed. A reeking club was swinging in toward my head
like a shot from a cannon. I dived below its line of motion and drove
home my knife with all the lust of vengeance. My falling antagonist
tripped and overtoppled the second, destroyed the blow he was about
to aim and made him an easy mark for the dripping rock-crystal that
crushed his shoulder and part of his neck to a boneless mass. The
third met another of my friends and beat him down, only to be killed
himself a second later.

Shrieks of agony had rent the air and screams of rage and yells of
triumph made discord as a number of the black Links now fled abruptly
down the chasm to escape. And the fellow with the nugget club turned
to hurl his defiance and to shake his reddened fist at me, as I stood
on a rock in a circle of my friends: The cause of the Reds I had made
my cause; I had slain a Black. The feud between these warring tribes
included myself. I had created deadly enemies in the land of Missing
Links.



CHAPTER VI. LANGUAGE AND WEAPONS

THE darkness had begun to descend before we reached the camp, plainly
causing anxiety to the Links, who were hindered on the march by the
burden of several dead members of the tribe. Various sounds issued
from the jungle, where brutes that eat flesh in the night were
beginning to prowl. Doubtless no few of these smelled the blood that
laded the wind which was sweeping down through the chasm.

I thought of all this and meditated much also on my peculiar
situation. Why these two opposing bands of Missing Links should so
desire myself as a prize as to fight with such fatal results, was a
puzzle too deep for solution, considering that I had been treated by
both parties in a manner far from being inimical to my safety. Were
they cannibals, I asked myself, did they desire me for a dinner?
Manifestly such was not the case, inasmuch as no man-eating creatures
should be expected to be so moderate as to permit me to live in
freedom as long as I had lived already in their settlement. No, their
purpose involved something more permanent.

There was no end to the chatter as we hastened "home." Though I failed
to understand this, yet the gestures were easy to interpret. Reason
also made it plain that Fatty, when he fled from my side and escaped
the Blacks, had darted toward the camp to give the alarm, meeting on
the way the Links who had come to the rescue, they having started
beforehand on information furnished by the females, who had watched us
start toward the peak.

I recapitulated the results of my exploration. I was hopelessly lost,
as far as any human beings were concerned. I was in the hands of
friendly creatures, more primitive than the lowest mortal. My only
chance of escape lay in cultivating the friendly feelings and in
endeavouring to understand my companions, with a view to inducing a
force, later on, to accompany myself on a march across the country to
the sea. Incidentally I had much to do to keep myself partially
civilised. I must fashion tools, in the use of which the Links must be
instructed. We were surrounded by dangerous animals, and we had a
powerful enemy, the force of whose numbers might be greater than our
own. This would mean that I must make our tribe superior, and arm them
with a better class of weapons. Fortunately the country promised to be
one of great resources. Yet the only tool I had with which to start
was my knife.

I thought of the endless array of implements of war and peace to be
had in the poorest modern community. Such meditation being idle, I
reflected how glad I would be to hammer out my own requisites from the
crude iron, but this was equally vain. In short my thoughts came
tumbling down the age of iron and the age of bronze, as if I had
fallen back through time and history, to land at the very age of stone
itself. Here I must work with stone for hammers, axes, drills and even
for an anvil, supposing I had my white-hot metal ready to forge into
shape, for there was nothing else to be had.

All this made me excited, eager to be at work. I was forgetful of all
that it meant, as my brain pictured stage after stage of this new
development, but when a cool night wind blew across my half-clothed
body, I was aroused from my reverie and confronted by a pitiless array
of facts. I then foresaw personal suffering, mayhap a miserable death,
and toil and disappointment, before I could wrest even something small
from the list of Nature, while I should have about me a tribe of semi-
animal beings, fighting constantly for a bare existence. My hope and
fate were rapidly being entangled with the lives and fates of these
extraordinary creatures.

Before we reached the camp, the glow of fires shone brightly through
the trees. The Links had learned the use of a lively blaze in keeping
off the beasts of prey. I wondered how they had first started their
fire, admitting that I should doubtless find no end of trouble if I
were obliged to kindle one myself, without a match.

We were met by a large and enthusiastic band of the males, with Fatty
in their midst. His capers, at seeing me whole and hearty, were enough
to shake an ordinary individual to pieces. He made me ponder on
another peculiar thing. How did it happen that he, being black, was
not only living among the Reds, but was also at feud with the fellows
of his colour? I made up my mind that he was either a freak, like the
albino, born in the tribe, or else that he had been captured when a
baby, and reared away from his kind. It was certain the black Links
recognised a foe in the fellow, whatever his pedigree and blood.

Having conceived an idea, I was glancing about at the trees revealed
by the glow of the fires, when I discovered a growth of stuff wherein
there was a large portion dead and dry. Going to this, amid evident
protest and questionings on the part of many Links, I took out my
knife and cut away some likely-looking branches. The wood I found to
be exceedingly tough. It was hard work to get what I wanted. On
bending it over, in an effort to break it off, where my cut had been
made, I found it to be exceptionally elastic and stubborn, although I
could see it had been dead and seasoned for many months. Getting out a
long straight shaft, half as large as my wrist, and several other
straight pieces a trifle larger than a pencil, I brought it all to the
circle about the fire.

The Links, who were much excited over recent events, watched my every
movement with the gravest concern. I faced them and attempted to
convey, by signs and pantomime that I intended to make a bow and
several arrows with which I could kill six of the number in the
briefest time. They understood enough to be highly amused and
delighted. There were an incredible number of things they did and said
of which the meaning was clear, and with comparative ease I made Fatty
understand that I wished him to boil me a dinner in the way he had
seen me do already.

Fatty, I believe, was one of the most intelligent of all the Links. He
made blunders enough in doing what I wished, while I tried to keep at
work on my bow, yet he was insanely anxious to do me any favour and
crazy with delight at being considered worthy of employment. Dinner
cooking went forward again in the same desultory manner I had noted
before, but a large majority of the Links sat or stood about me in the
semi-darkness, seeming more than ever like apes as they glanced about
with their nervous, round eyes, chattered their monkey-like language,
and released the muscles of their long, uncanny arms. The glow that
was tossed from the fire, making silhouettes of many an astounding red
statue, painted a weird picture that night beneath the trees.

As I looked in their faces, many of them drawn with the first vague
efforts of thinking, I beheld strange, fleeting promise of things to
be, dim lights, as it were, of ambitions--desire to grasp a something
just beyond their mental capacity. Many seemed awed by the simple
sight of that knife, cutting away the stubborn wood in thin, smooth
shavings, as it flashed in the light.

I put my finger on the blade. "Knife," I said, "knife."

A few, including Fatty, attempted to repeat the word. A chorus of
peculiar laughter followed and the spell of awe was gone. As I worked,
then, I pointed to various things and gave the name in English. There
was not even one of the Links who failed to comprehend that I was
making an effort to establish a means of communication between us, but
a very few only tried my easy lessons. Fatty, however, was quite
willing to "make a fool of himself," for he essayed everything,
manfully. But better than this, the fellow attempted to reciprocate
the favour. Thus when I had given a name to the blazing pieces of wood
he waited a moment and then pointing to it earnestly said, distinctly:

"Ouch."

Then he pantomimed burning his finger, and jerked it back, saying
"Ouch" again. He made it plain that the fire would hurt if touched,
that a Link would cry "ouch" at the smart, and that therefore a fire
was named for this cry. When I proved that this much Link language was
mine beyond a doubt, the ecstasy of my fat friend was most
extravagant. Gratified with his effort, he soon made me acquainted
with the names of a number of articles. These names were invariably
chosen in a manner analogous to the one by which they had arrived at
"ouch" for fire. For instance, a gurgle, impossible to set down in
letters, was the name for water; a sound like a thud meant a club; an
audible breath through the lips, (wind), signified a tree. Manifestly
such "words" as these defy all efforts at spelling. I found them
difficult to imitate, for the throat was largely employed to make the
noises and my tongue seemed to be very much in the way. I tried my
best, as I worked out my first crude bow, and when I had finished my
dinner I felt that no little progress had been made toward a better
understanding all around.

Inasmuch as there was more need for haste than there was for finish on
my weapon, I made short work of tapering off the ends of my bow and
cutting the notches. I then prepared several arrows, somewhat clumsy,
but still fairly straight, after which I feathered them all, roughly,
and attempted to break some of the glass-like "flints," I had found
that day, into shapes that would pass for arrow-heads. This was a most
unsuccessful business. An accident formed the only piece which by any
stretch of the imagination could be conceived as what I desired. This
I bound at the tip of a shaft, with cord similar to that which the
Links employed on their clubs, but it was hopelessly awkward. Being
then provided with more of their string, I bent my bow and had the
satisfaction of seeing that it was fairly symmetrical in form and
amazingly stout. Indeed, it broke the string, and I feared it had
split at the sudden release, but this was not the case. In excitement
and admiration, the Links now furnished me with a stouter cord, a
cleverly twisted deer-gut, or tendon, which was nearly perfection for
the purpose.

Fitting my pointed arrow on the string and bidding the Links stand
aside, I drew it as far as I could and let it drive at the nearest
tree. The twang that followed gave me a thrill of delight, as always
it had done in the days of my youth, and I felt a gush of pride in my
veins when the shaft stood quivering in the bark, its head so deeply
buried that the greatest effort to drag it out merely broke it short
off in the hands of the giant chief.

The Links knew not whether to be alarmed or delighted. Again I placed
a shaft on the string. This time I signed for silence and turned the
arrow straight up toward the star-dappled sky, to give my friends a
rough idea of the height to which the wooden messenger would climb. In
the absolute silence I drew even further than before. With a swish the
arrow sprang from the humming string and disappeared like a bullet as
it cleaved the upper darkness, near the trees.

I threw up my hand for continued silence. In eager expectation we
waited. Beat, beat, beat, went my heart as the seconds were
multiplied, the long stillness proclaiming the distance to which the
arrow had sped. Longer became the time; I was thrilled with pleasure
and surprise myself; it seemed as if the shaft never would return. How
still was the night for that minute; not a breath was stirring.

Suddenly there was a swish--a plunk! as the leaf of a palm was
punctured, and then a quick, incisive plith! as the shaft was driven
forcibly home in the earth. It had come down about ten good strides
away!

We hastened in a body to find it. There it was, standing straight as a
line, stabbed six inches deep in the sod and roots of grasses, and--
marvel of accidental things!--impaled upon it, half way up its length,
was a bat, transfixed in action, still holding in its mouth an
unswallowed moth.

Circumstance had completely eclipsed my humble skill, for this miracle
of chance made me at once a species of god and devil, in the eyes of
my wonder-smitten companions.



CHAPTER VII. IMPORTANT DISCOVERIES

IN the morning I witnessed a primitive ceremony, the burial of the
dead, killed in our latest battle.

The ones who had been despatched by the savage ourang-outangs had been
buried the day before, while I lay asleep beneath the trees.

The males proceeded, this morning, to a rocky gulch, not far from the
camp, where the soil was largely of gravel and bits of stuff which I
thought indicated a chalk formation below. Here they began to dig as
if their lives depended on their speed, all of them scratching out the
dirt with powerful, claw-like hands and sending it flying behind them,
between their legs. In fact, they dug like so many dogs.

It was surprising how soon they had excavated a great hole, but they
kept at it, hard and fast, taking turns, as if they had learned that
depth was the only virtue of any vault for the dead. Chunks of rock
flew out, with lesser debris, and some of the pebbles being smooth and
round, I gathered half a dozen as large as a mango and pushed off the
dampish soil adhering about them. This revealed their colour, which
was chalkish white. I could not rely upon my limited knowledge of
geological formations, yet I thought the pebbles looked very like
chalcedony.

On a large rock, with another for a hammer, I struck one of my
pebbles, when it split most neatly in twain. The inside had a moist
appearance the like of which I had never noted before, but it was
decidedly like flint, and I was therefore confirmed in my
classification. Well satisfied with myself, I struck a half again,
when I succeeded in splitting off a thin, flat section. Astonished at
the manner in which this substance broke, I selected a neater "hammer"
from among the rocks and began to knock off chips from my fragment,
and almost before I could believe it myself, I had a crude arrow-head
of which I felt I need not be ashamed. I was thoroughly amazed. Had I
discovered a stone which lent itself peculiarly to chipping, or had I
stumbled upon some flint in a natural condition for being worked? I
remembered to have heard of rock which certain savages--notably those
of Alaska--take from the earth while moist, in which condition they
carve it with ease, and which subsequently grows as hard as glass. I
wondered if this were not a similar material. Also I reasoned that
savages must always have had some flint which was capable of being
worked with the poorest of tools and by persons of no intellectual
attainments, for all had made arrow-heads from the year of one.

In my zeal, I split the original pebble into six thin slabs, nearly
all of them as regular as if I had cut them with a knife. These I
wrought at with feverish eagerness. Too much haste soon ruined one for
any purpose, but out of the others I got several heads, which should
have been better, but which made me ready to dance with joy, for they
suggested such wonderful possibilities, when care and patience and
better tools should be employed.

I had quite forgotten the burial, but looked up from my hammer-hunting
in time to see the stiffened bodies of the Links, who had given their
lives in the fray, go rolling down to the bottom of the grave where
they lay, looking terribly human. Then without even a moment's pause,
for regret or touch of reverent feeling, the Links above turned their
backs upon the bodies and began to scratch the dirt once more into
place. A pang of sympathy welled up in my breast, for the brave
fellows so lightly considered. I breathed a little hope that their
rest might be that of peace.

Before the hole was full I had gathered together a lot of the pebbles.
Later we all piled rocks on the grave till no animal of the jungle
could have dug out the bodies in a week. I signified then that I
wished my geological collection carried to camp, and this was
accordingly done.

On arriving at the cave, I selected a rock for an anvil and others for
tools, for a fit of work was on me. Fruits gave me breakfast enough. I
chipped away rapidly, with never-ending astonishment at the rapid
results achieved. It was easy even to indicate to Fatty and to one or
two others what they could do to promote the manufacture of needed
things. They were able to cleave the pebbles with reasonable accuracy
and skill. I then made them understand that I wished the smaller
pebbles split into thin slices and the larger ones into sections that
were thicker.

I make no pretence that my arrow-heads were as fine as many a
primitive man has fashioned in ages past, but at least they were sharp
and provided with shanks for binding them to arrows and, what is more
to the purpose, they accumulated fast. Of the longer pieces of flint I
formed a number of spear-heads and knives. Some of these latter would
doubtless have been as well named had I called them saws. With some
pieces I made what I mentally dubbed experimental hatchets. All these
things, as fast as made, were placed in the large sea-shell, which
answered well as a receptacle.

Without interrupting my labours I managed to convey to the marvelling
Links that I needed more of the wood for bows, arrows and handles. How
they would manage to cut this material was more than I knew, yet I
reasoned that inasmuch as they must have cut the handles of their
clubs, they could do the work by some means or other. Their method
surprised me. They built a fire near the place where I had cut the
branch for the bow, and getting a peculiar hard wood into a glowing
state, pressed the incandescent surface against the limbs desired, and
then by blowing, burned them off, not rapidly, but with great
neatness. The fiery brand passed through the wood much as a red-hot
iron might in the hands of a smith.

We were an enthusiastic lot that morning, I directing and working at
my flints, some preparing cords, many scraping handles with bits of
the glass-like material I had found, and with which they were already
familiar, while others bound my hatchets to hafts, rudely finished,
and knife blades to smaller odds and ends of wood. It was remarkable
how readily they grasped the meaning of various things. Their
exclamations of surprise and acknowledgment of the virtue of our
growing "arsenal" frequently suggested to me a something as if the
fellows were surprised at the real simplicity of all and were
wondering why they had never done the like before.

After three or four hours the heat of the sun became so great, on my
unprotected head, that I abandoned the pebbles long enough to
construct a makeshift for a hat. For this I employed some palm leaves,
excellently suited to the purpose. The chief eyed all our business
with something of a look of sullen disdain. Perhaps it was jealousy
beginning to work. He held to his precious club of rock-crystal--which
certainly gleamed with great beauty in the rays of sunlight piercing
through the leaves--as if it were the all in all that a warrior should
require. At his side was a fawning fellow whom I had marked before as
lazy, small-headed and much too fond of grinning, in a manner which
conveyed no idea of mirth nor good-nature, but which, on the contrary,
threw his teeth into disgusting prominence.

At about noon, when I was cramped and tired, from my close application
to the work, I was glad to see a small detachment of our number
returning from an excursion in quest of meat. It was not until a
subsequent time that I learned how they drove their game into pits, to
replenish the larder, but this day I inaugurated a new system of
cooking. It was too great a waste of time for each to cook for
himself, or herself, and the women being employed at nothing more
arduous than gathering fruits and suckling babes, I saw no reason why
they should not become the chefs for the tribe.

Accordingly I soon had two uprights driven in the ground and a lot of
meat spitted on the green branch of a sapling. With glowing embers
from two fires, collected between my uprights, and the wooden spit
resting upon them, I showed a female how to keep the roast turning.
Again the Links approved of the plan, for they were quick to see that
one person working in this manner, could cook for all as readily as
for one. They were restless to be at the meat as soon as the first bit
of brown appeared, but I kept them off, made them replenish the embers
from fires burned down, and then I cut off the places where the meat
was done with my knife, for general distribution.

Again at this meal I was mad for salt. What did these fellows do for
this requisite seasoning? I asked myself, for I had always understood
that even savages grow unhealthy, if they lack this mineral, and
become willing to barter off their souls for a small pinch. There was
no explanation of the riddle that day.



CHAPTER VIII. ATTACKED AND BESIEGED

WE set to work again in the afternoon, getting out a lot of material
to be finished later. The following morning I won the regard of all--
unless I except the fawning creature mentioned before---by giving
lessons in archery, another bow and several arrows having been hastily
completed. The Links proved themselves not only practicable, but most
excellent pupils. They were magnificently muscled, to begin with, and
therefore shot with force from the start, while all seemed to possess
a natural knack, as if the weapon had once been theirs and then for
long had been mysteriously lost.

In the midst of our "tournament" and while I was walking cautiously
about, to get a shot at a brilliant bird which had flown into a near-
by tree, a peculiar sound was uttered by many of the Links. The cause
of their exclamation was revealed a second later, for moving through a
clearing, not forty yards away, was a large black bear.

My heart leaped with excitement. I moved quickly to gain a point of
vantage, raising the bow for a shot, when a dozen of the Links leaped
in alarm between myself and the bear, raising their arms as if in
affright and plainly imploring me not to shoot at the creature. This I
thought absurd. I believed them to be a pack of cowards who feared the
arrow might only serve to irritate the brute and so bring down its
wrath upon us all. But in this I was mistaken. As I tried to wave them
away--for the bear would be gone in a minute--they became frantic in
their appeals. They indicated clearly that if I wished I might try the
shaft on any one of themselves, if only I would spare the beast which
had walked thus deliberately into camp.

There was nothing else for it; the creature disappeared before I could
argue the question. Thereupon a score of males, foremost of whom was
the chief, hurried to the place where the bear had paused a moment and
there each placed his head on the ground with such a show of reverence
and primitive superstition, that even I could comprehend they attached
some great significance to this peculiar visit. When I reasoned how
easily two or three with their terrible clubs could have despatched
the animal, I concluded that they all regarded bruin's visit as an
omen of particular good fortune.

I was speculating upon this occurrence when suddenly another cry--this
time of alarm---startled us all. The males came dashing back from
their adoration of the bear tracks, making a shrill sound of warning
and waving their arms wildly. The females and scores of others ran
pell-mell for the cave. Children came swinging down from trees as if
the sky were raining little Links. Mothers fled with babes in their
arms. There was sudden arming of the fighters.

Somewhat amazed I stood where I was, bow still in hand. Then the
reason for the visit of the bear was speedily furnished. I was
clutched and hustled off with the others, while with screams of savage
vengeance--which mingled with a war-note, easy to understand,--
innumerable black monsters swarmed from the woods and charged upon us.

The whole fighting tribe of black Missing Links, it appeared, had
surrounded the camp. They were armed and ferocious, thirsting for
revenge for the defeat of two days before, and seemed equal to the
task of annihilating all our force. They had frightened the bear there
before them.

In a time incredibly short, the Reds were in the cave. I was dragged
and pushed in among the last. Then I saw my precious new weapons,
twenty feet away--arrow-heads, spear-heads, knives, hatchets, handles,
bows and all. Tearing away I dashed out to these and brought the sea-
shell, with its contents back to safety. Fatty darted out in my
tracks, saving a number of unfinished bows, but the foremost Blacks
were almost upon him. The chief himself--who thereby testified his
high appreciation of the collection--leaped from the cave, to get all
he could of what we had missed. I turned about in time to see him fill
his arms and hands. A great black Link bounded swiftly up with
brandished club, to smash his rival's skull. My whole being thrilled,
thus to behold the bravery of our great red fellow who, leaping like a
panther, refused to drop anything, in such a moment of peril. Cries of
warning and of terror went up from the cave. I jerked up my bow, with
a pointed arrow, strung. Lustily I drew against that powerful deer-
gut. There was only a foot in which to miss the chief and hit the
pursuing Black. The arrow sped like a streak. It struck the murderous
creature fairly at the base of the throat, crashed clean through his
neck and protruded on both sides at once.

He plunged forward, striking such a blow on his face that the arrow
was driven to the feathers in the hole it had made. A chorus of howls
resulted. The Links immediately on the heels of their fallen
companion, halted abruptly, in dread and horror, yet on came a hundred
behind them, mad for blood.

A blunt arrow, shot too high, but which nevertheless struck another
black Link in the forehead, smashed its way through his skull before
it shattered and split into pieces. Then the crystal club caved in the
chest of the only assailant who had reached the cave, for the chief
had recovered his fighting position like an elastic spring, and was
ready to deal a fearful death to any who should dare attempt to enter
the frowning mouth of the cave. Reinforced by another fighter, the
chief could almost have stayed the rush of an army, coming in singles
and pairs through the open door.

This fact the attacking creatures realised quickly. Another of the
arrows, which missed the mark for which it had been intended, broke
the arm of a powerful Black and compelled him to drop his club. His
cry was a signal for all to halt and draw back, to consider what had
best be done. They had us trapped, but how should they now proceed to
beat out our brains?

The last of my arrows was gone too soon, but the visible effect of
these silent messengers of death was that of terror on the part of the
mystified Blacks. Had we possessed a score of bows, with a quiver full
of arrows for each, in the hands of skillful archers, we should have
won a bloody battle and driven the foe away, hopelessly routed, but
they had surprised us completely, in our unprepared condition, and the
situation was decidedly theirs in point of advantage.

Behind me, in the cave, the females and young ones were being sent to
the rear. There was much excited chatter and much uneasiness of
movement among all the huddled creatures. What the Blacks would do was
evidently a matter of great concern.

Our besiegers decided soon on aggressive measures. They gathered all
the loose rocks, which were practical as missiles, and rushing
forward, hurled them into the cave with tremendous violence. Not a few
of our party received bruises from the first volley, but many stones
missed the cave entirely and many merely struck the rock walls and so
fell harmlessly down. All that came to hand were immediately gathered,
so that when the second company advanced to supplement the first
fusilade, they were met by a fierce return shower of rocks, which
stretched two Blacks on the ground.

This business proving unprofitable was not long continued. The Blacks
retired again for consultation the result of which was that more than
a dozen soon lighted brands at our smouldering fires and threw these
in upon us as they darted by the opening of the cavern. No serious
injury came from this. Our fellows would have flung these fiery spears
back again, had I not restrained the action. The branches, it occurred
to me, made torches too good to sacrifice for nothing. I therefore
extinguished a number and kept several lighted. These latter we passed
to the rear, in order that our positions might not be revealed to the
foe.

This throwing in of fire was concluded abruptly when the giant chief,
watching his opportunity, sprang out, as one of the Blacks was running
by, and battered in his head with the gleaming club. The rage of the
assailants increased momentarily. They saw themselves baffled by a
force inferior to their own, although they had us cornered.

With no little anxiety, we watched them detach a company of powerful
fighters and send them off out of sight. This could not indicate
retreat, I knew, for the ones who were left were too expectant.
Perhaps, I thought, this was a blind to make us believe the force was
now so reduced that we could charge them from the cave in safety and
drive the invaders from the camp. There were, indeed, a few in our
party, as I could see, who desired to attempt such a sortie, but
fortunately the chief and other wise fellows overruled the suggestion.

While we were waiting, restless and worried, the plan of the Blacks
was suddenly revealed. Amid yells of triumph and hatred, there came a
thundering shower of rocks and boulders from directly above the cave,
falling down across its mouth, heaping rapidly up, filling the place
with a stifling dust and obliterating much of the light of day. The
party detached had gone around and climbed on top of the terrace in
which the cave was hollowed out. It would simply have been to court a
sudden death had any of us attempted to dash from the place. Startled,
undecided as to what we ought to do, we stood there paralysed, while
the bewildering Niagara of sand and stone kept rumbling and crashing
down. Before we realised what was occurring, the barrier had grown to
a heap that was midway up across the opening of the hole.

There were strange cries, roars and howlings, from those behind us.
Above the din rose the piercing screams of delight from the horde
without. All of them now rushed to the spot in a body and began to
heap up all the stones they could gather. Blinded, confused and
frightened, my friendly Links began to jostle about, in the dread and
anguish of the doomed.

In less than five minutes the last rays of light were being blotted
out. The sounds of the army still building the barrier higher and
thicker came dully in. The cave was sealed; we were buried alive in an
unknown tomb!



CHAPTER IX. THE CAULDRON OF GOLD

THROUGHOUT the mass of Links in the cavern, the news of the unforeseen
calamity spread with great rapidity. Some of the females set up a
wailing; the "men" all chattered at once; baby Links caught the
infection of fear and began to cry. A more demoralised collection of
beings it would be hard to conceive.

The tremendous advantage gained by the Blacks was readily comprehended
by all the older males. They knew, as well as I, that did they attempt
to dig out, the Links in waiting on top of the heap could kill them as
fast as a head appeared; they also seemed to know that their enemies
would wait outside, long enough to be sure that all of us had starved
to death, before they finally decamped.

So desperate seemed the prospect that I got in a fever myself. We
should all have been in absolute darkness had not the torches been
lifted up, and these cast so feeble an illumination that the crowded-
in mass of Links appeared like a great serpent, along the body of
which weird muscular contractions were flitting. The place was
stifling, for the day was hot, and here we appeared to get no air. I
began to think we should never live long enough to starve.

To all my attempted questions, by signs and otherwise, concerning the
further end of the cave, the chief and others gave answers which were
decidedly in the negative. They seemed even fearful of the chamber,
now that we were trapped and unable longer to go out into the light
and air. Nevertheless I did not propose to remain there motionless
till death should bring me to a finish. I therefore made my way
through the moving crowd, toward the torches. Fatty followed closely.
His face was positively ludicrous in its solemnity, which was oddly
mocked by the skull he wore on his head, for this ghastly thing had
slipped rakishly down on one side.

So helpless and dependent had the Links become, in the face of our
danger, that it seemed as if they could not bear to let me out of
their sight. In consequence of this all tried to follow where I went,
but so densely were we packed very soon that this became impossible.
The chief, however, thrust himself along in our wake, apparently
bidding the others be still and remain where they were. Taking one of
the torches I worked my way past the last of the females and
youngsters---the latter like frightened little monkeys, unable to
escape me and dreading to be touched--when I soon came to what seemed
to be the wall at the end of the cavern.

The light was so poor that for a moment I failed to discover a small
hole to the right. Into this I thrust the lighted brand. To my great
delight it cast a glow on the walls of a cavern beyond, quite as wide
as the one we were in and the end of which was not in view. Believing
that anything was better than stagnation in such a tomb as ours, I
attempted to kick off the edges of the hole, to render it large enough
for a man to pass. I succeeded in breaking away one small fragment
only. My knife came out and I should have sacrificed its point and
edge to widen the aperture, had not the chief pushed me gently aside.
With his magnificent club he smote the rock a score of giant blows,
knocking chunk after chunk into the gloom beyond.

"That's good--that's enough!" I cried finally, and climbing through
with Fatty almost on my back, I beckoned to the chief to follow with
all his people. I reasoned that nothing could be worse than to remain
where we were, no matter where this passage might lead--or end.

Misgivings were rife, but the chief was evidently in undisputed
command. Some of the Links followed eagerly, others with moans of
doubt and fear. Nothing so much resembles the sound they made as the
uneasy whining of a dog that is driven or dragged to a place of which
it has a terror, but this sound was magnified till it filled the
place.

"Ouch," I said to them, pointing to the torch, "ouch."

They understood and lighted more of the brands from the one just
behind. The added light gave them added courage. The tunnel we were
now in was spacious, and cooler. The floor was rough with rocks, yet I
think we made excellent time. The passage wound and its grade was
uneven, up for a space, then down, then level.

In half an hour I came to a halt, for the rock hall-way divided; a
branch led off to the right and another went off to the left. In order
to save time, should the wrong one be selected first--if there was a
wrong one,--I determined to go up the left-hand passage alone. If I
came to an exit I could hurry back and bid the Links to follow. If, on
the contrary, I discovered any barrier which compelled retreat, it
would certainly be better for one only to be obliged to return,
instead of all, and then we could make a trial of the second tunnel.
Enough of this I was able to convey to the chief to make him content
to wait. He instructed the Links to sit down on the floor, setting the
good example of patience himself.

Fatty felt privileged to dog my heels. As a matter of fact I was glad
enough to have him go along, for the place was none too cheerful at
the best. We came upon difficult walking presently, and also the
corridor narrowed down. I believed it would end in a mere fissure, yet
I could not afford to condemn it, nor to decide where it went, without
a thorough trial.

After plodding a mile in this stuffy place, we climbed a jagged heap
of fragments and paused abruptly, for the sound of a roaring and
rumbling came from the darkness in a manner most disagreeably
impressive. It continued a brief time only and then the ringing
silence of a sepulchre ensued. We resumed the onward march. Passing
down an incline, where the rocks slid under foot, I fell heavily and
rolled toward the bottom. Unable to stop, I dropped the torch and
underwent an instantaneous sensation of fear, as I continued downward
toward the abyss of night. Then Fatty clutched me by the ankle; we
slid together a second longer, and stopped. He lifted the torch. I was
on the brink of a yawning precipice.

A chill flashed down my spine. Most cautiously I arose and took the
light. There appeared to be no bottom to the pit.

"Gee whizz!" I muttered.

"Gee wizz!" said Fatty, with remarkable distinctness.

I looked at the creature in a sort of wonder. Animal or man, my heart
sent a great gush of feeling all through my being toward him, as I saw
him smiling fondly in my face. He should always have my friendship
after this. I could almost fancy the old fellow was wagging a tail all
to pieces, such a light was in his restless eyes; and yet his face was
almost that of a fat, good-natured Negro.

Being careful where I stepped, I moved along the edge of a great well,
came to a place where the shelf widened, and found myself facing a
short hall, at the end of which there was light, dim and diffused. We
were soon at the limit of our journey in this direction, for here also
the precipice terminated the passage.

As I looked below I saw that vapour was rising, as if from heated
rocks. Then I made out fissures in the floor, fifty feet below us; and
this floor was covered with peculiar excrescences, half-hidden by the
steam. When revealed, these resembled stalagmites, melted and slumped
down like great nodules, "double-chinned," I am tempted to write, but
"double" would not express the multiplicity of "chins." These nodules
appeared to be of the brightest yellow colour, but so often were they
veiled in the mist that I could not be sure of anything concerning
their appearance and formation.

Presently, while I was trying to study the odd features of the place,
as well as to determine the source of the light, the rumbling and
roaring we had heard before recommenced. It was louder, more awe-
compelling, for it came from the fissures directly beneath us. It
seemed to go booming upward and through the cavern as if the god of
the under world were grumbling out a huge complaint. This noise
increased, in wave-like volumes; the rock gave a tremor, and then with
a seething and hissing, with a tumble of sound which issued from the
depths of the earth-creature, as if it were growling at having to
work, a great geyser of boiling water and steam shot upward and
toppled back to its bed. I reeled away, with an involuntary movement.
Below, the water swashed about and foamed in mighty agitation. The
cauldron heaved up swirling tides and the drowned murmur burst forth
through bubbles. The giant below gathered anew a mighty strength and
blew up a fountain as high as where I was standing.

I saw a falling blob of the water strike on a small projection near my
foot. Then the demonstration ceased, the roar became subdued, as if
the grumbler withdrew to his realm of molten substance, and only great
clouds of the vapour arose as before. The projection where the water
had struck caught my glance, for assuredly it possessed a remarkable
gleam. Stooping I looked at it closely. It was a nodule of something
metallic, shaped somewhat like a small pear. I touched it, finding it
barely warm; then I grasped it firmly and gave it a wrench. It came
away from the rock in my hand.

By its remarkable weight, its colour and its lustre, I knew it
instantly for gold. It was solid gold, Nature's own deposit--a nugget
most peculiarly constructed. I knew in that moment that all those
massive nodules below had a right to gleam with yellow colour, for all
were gold--the purest gold, from the great inscrutable laboratory of
earth itself!

I recalled what I had read and learned of the waters and acids mingled
with the molten interior of the planet; how they dissolve the precious
metals, hold them in solution and come with them bubbling to the
surface, spouting through the fissures in the crust; how through the
centuries they deposit atom by atom of their rich freightage on the
rocks, permeating the very tissue of stones and porous substances, to
leave them at last all streaked and flaked with gleaming yellow; and
then how the fluids retire, the earth cools down, and man--ages
after--comes wandering by and delves day and night to rob the fissures
of their hoardings.

I knew that below us a monster treasure-house was being filled by this
wonderful process, slowly, surely, regularly, hour after hour, while
generation after generation of men came and strove and went to their
graves, willing to bargain off souls to know where to get but a little
of this cold, glinting metal of the earth. We had come upon the hoary
alchemist and caught him at his work.

But the pit might as well have been a mile in depth, as far as
reaching the wealth, or the outside world with which I believe it
connected, was concerned, for we had no means of getting down in the
place and its heat would have made this impossible, even if we had
possessed the best of ladders or ropes. All the gold in the world,
moreover, was worth no more than so much dross to me; the dream of
emerging again to the light was vastly more to be coveted. Reluctantly
acknowledging that the diffused light which was here probably came
from the outside world through a cave which I could not by any
possibility reach, I placed the small nugget in my pocket, and making
sure that the passage through which we had come was of no value to me
or to the party of Links, I retraced my steps, with Fatty following
noiselessly behind.



CHAPTER X. DAYLIGHT AT LAST

THERE were many expressions of relief on the part of our waiting
friends when again the forward movement was commenced, in the right-
hand tunnel. Those at the rear had become particularly anxious; the
darkness was evidently a source of much vague alarm.

The passage we were now in was inclined downward. It wound in a
general direction at right angles to the one which led to the cauldron
of gold. In places it became so low that we were obliged to creep on
hands and knees. This condition finally prevailed, so that I began to
believe we were wedging ourselves into a crack. If this were true,
then the case would be worse than hopeless--it would be most horrible.
The death, one by one, of all the Links, in such a place as this,
would be appalling to the last degree.

I went steadily on, my knees growing tender from contact with the
rocks. Presently Fatty and the chief, directly behind me, gave a low
exclamation of affright. I halted, but heard nothing.

Perhaps they were able to smell some enemy, for certainly their
monosyllables gave a warning, easy to interpret.

"What is it?" I said, as if they could understand and let me know.
"What's the matter?"

Those behind made low sounds of worry. It made me desperate. If
anything confronted us now, it was too late to pause; there was no
such thing as turning back. I drew my knife and advanced, feeling cold
creepers go down my back. It might be the den of a tiger I thought,
but surely such a beast would prefer to run out rather than to face so
weird a foe as we would have seemed to be, proceeding through the
cave, for we made a strange sound, moving, breathing and expressing
our various emotions.

Fatty was halting, whining, coming on and halting again in a most
disquieting manner. The chief seemed to realise that we might as well
die in one way as another, yet I noted a look of dread on his face,
such as one often sees in the eyes of a startled horse, when
approaching dangers which he feels by instinct. It occurred to me now
that if anything were in the cave, then the end must be near--an
opening to the outside world!

"Come on, you fellows," I said at this, and holding my torch before
me, rounded a corner. Immediately a glimmer of light, through down-
hanging foliage and vines, revealed the exit we were seeking. Made
careless for the second, I was suddenly startled most loathsomely. I
had placed my hand on a cold, moving body--a snake which was crawling
toward the light.

Electrified into galvanic action, I plunged my knife into the body of
the serpent half a dozen times, as fast as I could strike, feeling my
hair "crawling" as I did it. The head of the reptile came backward--a
great flat head with bulges of poison-glands making it hideous. I knew
he was deadly. The knife stabbed clean through his neck and ground on
the rocks beneath; his jaws stretched open fearfully; his lip receded
from the two great fangs, but he was killed, though the body writhed
and twisted belly upward in powerful muscular contractions.

"Ugh!" I had said, as I struck.

"Ugh!" repeated Fatty and the chief.

"Ugh! Ugh! Ugh!" went echoing back through the cave, as the Links
repeated the utterance, in dread. I had stumbled on their word for
snake, or any reptile.

I thought we should encounter more of the snakes, but not until I had
come, most cautiously, to the growth which formed a door to the
cavern, did I see anything move. In the vines a few inches of tail
were intertwined, but before I could deliver a good stab, this serpent
escaped. I now slashed away tendrils and creepers in a sort of frenzy,
for the darkness and closeness of the cave had oppressed me with a
feeling which developed into horror. We in the lead were soon out, on
a small bluff, overlooking a dense wood; indeed there was jungle all
about. I heard not a few sounds of crashing branches, where heavy-
weight animals made away from the neighbourhood and sound of our
voices.

What a strange sight it was to see the cave pouring forth that
collection of ape-like Links. Nearly all were chattering--not
talking--like so many monkeys, frightened to the point of being crazy.
On getting out into the light, not a few ran about as if they would
leave us altogether and hide in the trees. The fighters, however,
huddled the females and young ones together, and glanced about and at
me, with their round, restless eyes, as if to know what to do next.
Left to themselves they would doubtless have soon been self-reliant
and capable of thinking and acting for themselves, but having followed
me blindly, through an ordeal totally foreign to any previous
experience, they were hopelessly dependent upon me now. This I knew,
for even the fawning creature was humbled.

I knew also that our old "home" would have to be abandoned and a new
one made. I was likewise aware of the necessity of selecting a place
which could be more easily defended--a point of vantage. This base we
must secure as speedily as possible, for already the sun was nearly
down. Studying the faces of the calmer Links, as they looked about, I
was not encouraged to believe they knew where we were, with regard to
the abandoned camp. To get my bearings I went up the hill we were on,
to the edge of the jungle. From there I was able to see a portion of
the lake which I had seen from the volcanic peak. Above this water, on
the summit of a hill, was a clear space, discernible, with rock
formations and indications of springs. If it had fruit-bearing trees
it would be nearly right for our needs and purposes.

Fatty and several others, including the chief and his albino mate,
having followed me up the hill, I indicated the spot to which I
desired them to lead the way. They comprehended and conveyed the whole
plan to the tribe in about three separate monosyllables, whereupon we
made a start.



CHAPTER XI. A CAMP ON THE HILL

WE found signs of wild animals in great number and variety, as we
forced our trail through the jungle, but so considerable a concourse
of creatures as ours was sure to frighten anything and everything from
the line of march. It seemed to me to be a place in which company was
exceedingly desirable.

A feeling of relief came over me when at length we reached the
clearing we had selected from afar, and made our way to the rounded
summit of the hill. No sooner had I signed for a halt than half a
dozen of the fighters advanced and laid at my feet the sea-shell
receptacle, filled with our flints, and everything else which had been
saved when we fled into the cave, all of which had been carried at
great pains through the tunnel. These things I had quite forgotten in
our stress of cares.

The place we had reached proved to be ideal for a settlement. Not only
were fruit- and nut-trees abundant, but the forest contained countless
woods of value, while huge bamboos were flourishing not far away, at a
marshy spot, and the hills and ravines about us were teeming with
birds and game. We held a commanding position, the rock-formations of
which made a natural fortification nearly complete. Through the trees,
in one direction, I could see the lake, a thing which gave me the
greatest delight, for I thought it might mean almost anything to me,
later on.

Although we got the benefit of a cooling breeze, the end of the day
was intensely hot. While we had been out of the tunnels probably no
longer than about an hour and a half, yet the whole adventure made the
day seem very long. Thirsting for water, I hastened down the side of
our hill to where I saw signs of a spring. Clear water, sure enough,
was gushing out of a fissure, and I hastened to drink. The first
mouthful fetched me up standing, bitterly disappointed. The water was
salt. For a second I was ready to curse the living fountain, and then
I fairly danced with delight.

Salt! The only thing I really needed, and the rocks and banks of this
little stream were white with the precious incrustation! I lost no
time in scraping some off the pebbles at the edge, after which I got
some pure, cold water for drinking at another spring a hundred yards
away. I had known of hot springs and cold springs, almost side by
side, in Nevada, and of sulphur springs and iron springs and countless
other varieties, but it had never before been my fortune to drink from
a spring of brine. This elated me beyond anything yet discovered.

Before I could rejoin the main body of my fellows, a few were striking
off haphazard, for rations. Some vigorous sign-language, which I
found I could make more forcible if I also talked out what I wanted to
convey, in Anglo-Saxon, begot a show of order. Twenty fellows went
after fruit and nuts for all; as many crept into the woods to dig some
pits and attempt to drive in some game; others fetched wood for the
fires, as well as for more of the bows and arrows. I had a lot of the
females gather a species of tough reed, much resembling osiers, and
although I knew little of weaving, I succeeded in making a small,
clumsy basket, which at least served to initiate the scheme, but it
took some time before we achieved any results worth mentioning in this
needed line of utensils.

At the head of a gang I began to supplement our natural ridges of rock
with a wall made of piled-up stones. It would never do to be
defenceless again. During all our work and hustling about, the chief
stood leaning on his rock-crystal club, his albino mate at his side,
and the fawning-fellow--whom I named Grin--smiling maliciously at all
I did. The chief saw a certain amount of usurpation in my ordering the
work. The new mode of things amazed him, for the Links not only had a
keen comprehension of what I wanted, but they actually vied with one
another in the zeal with which they laboured to perform my bidding.

Darkness came on before we had accomplished much in any direction. The
old female who muttered had preserved a glowing coal from the torches,
a trick made the easier by the wood she employed, for it possessed the
property of retaining fire for a time incredibly long.

"Here, Granny," I said to her, as if by habit, "make ouch here, ouch
over there, and ouch against the rock."

By the light of the flames, I constructed a rude shelter for myself.
The Links had a way of massing up in bunches on the ground, to sleep,
a system which hardly appealed to my fancy. Already two or three dozen
of the youngsters were curled on the ground and were doubtless deep in
dreams.

We ate no meat that evening, for the hunters came back empty-handed,
as soon as the light began to fail in the woods. An hour after night
had settled down, they were all at rest, save Fatty and myself. I sat
before a glowing fire, thinking, wondering what would come out of
this strange caper of my frolicsome fate. I planned out work, with
escape for my motive, and builded strange structures in the air, as I
looked vacantly into the embers. Fatty watched me eagerly, his nervous
eyes as lively as quicksilver. The light shone on half of his face and
illuminated the skull tied on top of his head, with a changeful glow.
He tried his best to remain awake and help me to think it all out, but
his head would nod, and his eye-lids insisted on drooping, till at
length he slumped, rather than curled down, fast asleep.

How long I sat there, getting drowsy myself and intending all the
while to go to my shelter, is more than I know. A scream woke me
suddenly at last. The moon had nearly set, but still was casting a
mellow light on the world. A mass of the Links made a singular
picture, as they scrambled about in a great confusion. Then out of
their midst leaped a monster beast--a long, thin tiger, with a female
Link, now flung upward, now dragged, now half across his shoulder,
held in his mouth, and she fairly splitting the air with her cries, as
he ran away with her bodily.

I saw the brute clear the ridge of rock and bound down the slope to
the region of shadows, like a thing of evil; I heard a Babel of
affrighted chattering; I heard roars and howls and death-songs, out in
the jungle where the creatures held carnival of blood. I saw the fear
of my men-children, huddling about me; and I felt a longing to hover
them all from harm.

They were badly demoralised, but we built up the fires anew, and made
more, to enclose all the tribe. Then for hour after hour I walked
about the camp, keeping the fires from dying away, while out in the
savage world beyond, the prowlers ate, and growled at the "kill."



CHAPTER XII. A DEADLY FOE

AT sunrise, when all the Links were actively awake, there appeared to
be a strong inclination, on the part of many, to leave this new
settlement and flee to the woods. The visit of the tiger had terrified
the females and not a few of the fighters. The fawning creature, Grin,
was the moving spirit in this scheme of flight, but the chief could
not be readily persuaded to leave when he saw that I was strongly
opposed to any such measure of retreat.

I knew the tribe to be more or less nomadic, and I believed them
capable of finding a clearing wherein we could live, by constantly
fighting the jungle brutes, yet I was convinced that the welfare, not
only of myself, but of all concerned, would be better served by
remaining where we were. Attempting to show them how we could guard
ourselves against future enemies by adopting various measures, I set
them the example of working on the wall and of building sheltered dug-
outs, succeeding at last in quieting many fears and convincing the
chief that we were the safest on the hill.

All day long we toiled at sundry occupations, but the work to
accomplish was great and the efforts of my workmen, though the fellows
were strong and willing, were so crude that progress was slow. We
needed weapons, more than anything else, unless I except the shelters.
I worked continuously at making bows and arrows. In this labour I was
considerably assisted by three Links whom I finally selected as the
most ingenious and teachable fellows of the tribe. To my great delight
I found that my flints had already become exceedingly hard from being
exposed to the air. This rendered the hatchets and knives remarkably
efficient as tools.

The fighters dug seven or eight large, shallow holes in the earth,
during the day, and a few were covered with branches of trees and
thatched with enormous leaves before evening. What with helping to
carry stones for the wall and wood for various purposes, the females
accomplished but little on the baskets which I had hoped they would
make. They were not as practical as the males, having never been
obliged to construct so much as a blanket or a string of beads.

As a relaxation from my other employment, I busied myself with weaving
a basket, that night by the fire. The material was none of the best,
and I could only guess how the work should be done, nevertheless I
succeeded in finishing an awkward affair which would hold above a
bushel of fruits and which required two men to carry it home when
filled.

For two more days we swarmed that hill-top like a colony of ants. At
the end of that time we had three good fire-places, builded of stone,
thirty-odd bows, more than eighty arrows, four baskets, nine tolerably
decent dug-outs, and a wall nearly completed about our city. Also we
had plenty of meat, for the hunters had driven some goat-like deer
into their pits, after their primitive fashion, not to mention a
number of birds cleverly captured. In this latter business they
utilised a sticky substance procured from a weed-like tree, the stuff
being plastered on the branches of trees much frequented by the birds,
which, alighting, got their feet, feathers and wings quickly gummed,
so completely that escape was impossible. I was anxious to have the
fighters begin practise with the bows, but as yet we had been too
busily engaged with work for any such diversion.

Just before evening that day I strolled to the edge of the jungle,
with the faithful Fatty at my heels, to try for a shot with some of
our latest arrows. The chief being away, at the head of a hunting
company, I waved back all others who would have followed. We found
nothing to shoot at but a squirrel, and this lively little animal
evaded me time after time, as I stepped quietly about.

I was just on the point of raising the bow at last when from almost
under my feet a fine turtle started to run toward a heap of rocks. He
was almost round and his back was unusually high, so much like half a
sphere was his shell. Immediately I thought what an excellent bowl or
basin this would make, and thereupon abandoned the squirrel and
started after the tortoise.

He moved much faster than one might have supposed possible.
Nevertheless I lifted him plump on his back with a movement of my
foot, and then I jumped violently away. I had almost trodden on a
hooded snake, which struck at my foot most viciously and then
attempted to escape.

Fatty lost no time in getting too far away to be of any help. I tried
a shot at the reptile with the bow, but missed. The creature would
have escaped in a moment. I dropped everything to gather up some
rocks, and a large one of these I succeeded in smashing upon the
creature so hard that it broke his back and pinned him down, close
behind the head. Despatching my turtle then I hastened back to camp.

In the great sea-shell I boiled the turtle, not without the greatest
trouble. The Links ate the meat, for I felt no hankering after this
species after one trial. The shell was all I had expected, when at
last it was clean, for I had felt the need of a basin in which to
wash.

Well satisfied with the work of the day, and having impressed a trio
of Links into service as guard for the night, I turned in early and
soon dropped off into the heaviest sort of slumber. Sometime in the
night a hideous noise and a violent jerking at my foot brought me
suddenly to my senses. I rushed out, bowling over Fatty in my haste,
to find the Links again verging on insanity from fright.

The man-eating tiger had crept upon us again and borne off one of the
very guards themselves, who had gone to sleep promptly, upon my
retiring.

I believe I cursed the wretches who had slept at the post of duty, for
I had much to do to restore the slightest resemblance to calm among
the excited creatures. Then in the morning, as I thoroughly expected,
the tribe was unanimous for deserting the works at once, to go
anywhere---whither they cared nothing at all,--so long as they put the
deepest jungle between themselves and this dreaded foe. A tiger such
as this, I could see, created a terror as great as the Links could
contain. There was no suggestion of a courage sufficient to battle
with the brute; there was one adequate scheme only, in their minds and
this was flight.

Situated as we were with that lake below us, on which I had builded a
vague sort of hope, I was determined to go the utmost bounds before I
would consent to move a yard. I pantomimed in desperation and jabbered
fairly good English and added my few words of bad Linkish (or Lingo),
to make them understand that I would undertake to kill the man-eater
myself, that coming night. Even this "announcement" appeared to be in
vain, for a time, especially as I had to work against the wretched
influence of Grin, the fawning coward, who had an unmistakable power
in "getting around" the chief. At length, however, my counsel
prevailed. But I could see that failure to execute my boasted
vengeance on the brute of the jungle would mean the total overthrow of
"my city" and my hold upon the primitive imaginations of the Links.

Feeling that if they did leave all behind and plunge anywhere through
the forest I should be obliged to go along, regardless of the fact
that this would make my escape even more than ever hopeless, and
realising also that I had assumed a large contract under any
circumstances, I was decidedly anxious, the moment after they finally
consented to my rash suggestion. Indeed, though I kept at the work, as
I strove to devise a plan of attack on the tiger, throughout the
morning, I became nervous and doubtful of my ability to perform the
vital deed. My brain seemed capable of only the wildest schemes, all
of which were as utterly impracticable as flying to London for a gun.
Having never killed a tiger I knew nothing of his habits, beyond the
fact that he was almost always sure to return to his "kill," if
undisturbed, on the second night, and even on the third, if there
still remained undevoured portions of his victim sufficient for a
meal. I could fancy this brute treading silently up to the ghastly
remains; I could picture him, bloody of muzzle, fierce-eyed, alert and
terrible, as he dined in his dread loneliness. How I wished that a
snake, more silent than himself, might glide upon him and strike him
deep with its venomous fangs!

A snake!--Why a snake to be sure! It suggested just the plan! I had no
weapon reliably stout enough to give him a mortal wound, but I could,
perhaps, bury a poisoned arrow in his blood---a shaft that need but
scratch to do its deadly work. The snake I had killed the day before
might still be fresh enough to furnish the fatal juice, and then--if I
could find the mangled body in the jungle, perhaps--perhaps--

I was more excited and nervous now than before. Three times I was on
the point of crying quits. Once I was nerved anew by the contemplation
of the lake and our settlement, which meant that I was working out a
plan of escape, already nicely started. Again, I was hardened to the
task by the thought that, surrounded as I was in this unknown region,
with death so easy on every hand, I was childish to wish to avoid this
one particular danger, perhaps only to plunge into others far more
awful. The third time I was steeled by observing the sneering smile on
the face of Grin, which seemed to mock my show of manhood. This was
the thing which made me put all doubt and hesitation away.

In the late afternoon, having selected five of the straightest and
truest of the arrows tipped with flint, and having seen that the bow-
string was stout and reliable, I walked off boldly, alone, and went to
where the hooded snake lay crushed beneath the rock. Until I was out
of sight the Links watched me, narrowly, all of them standing together
on the hill. The body of the snake was where I had left it, the tail
partially eaten by something, which must have been desperately hungry.
Cutting off the head I pried open the jaws with a stick and my knife,
finding the poison-glands of great size.

The venom flowed thickly out when I tore the sacks open with the point
of an arrow, and although the whole revolting operation made me nearly
ill, I fairly bathed the flints in the viscid substance. Holding the
arrows carefully from me, to let them dry, I concealed the serpent's
head beneath a rock, for I did not wish the Links to know what I had
done, and so to learn the use of so deadly a creature.

Skirting the edge of the woods, I came opposite our settlement, at
about the point where I judged I had seen the tiger disappear, in the
jungle, the night when he carried away the female from our midst. Here
I had not far to search before I found trampled grass, vines ripped
aside and even the tracks of the brute's massive paws. With a fast-
beating heart and also with a tremendous desire to turn and run, I
stepped noiselessly along in this suggestive trail.

The stillness, save for the note of a far-away bird, or the quick
start of some porcupine or sloth, frightened from its haunt, was
terribly oppressive. I confess to have had a constant feeling as if my
hair were standing upright on my head, as I slowly made my way into
that tangle of greenery. The day seemed suddenly to have grown old and
dark. I felt horribly near to the lair of the man-eater, knowing that
he had actually been in the place such a short time before.

Presently I came upon a clearing which was hardly thirty feet across
in either direction. Approaching the centre of this I started
violently, for I nearly stumbled across the mangled body of my
sentinel Link of the night before. I had not believed it could be so
near the edge of our own clearing. The tiger, I thought, had grown
thus insufferably impudent, not to say indifferent to our nearness to
his feast, because he had never been hunted, nor even threatened with
retaliation.

The body was a ghastly sight, so human-looking, so fearfully fresh! I
turned away my head and somewhat retreated. How much I desired to dash
madly away--out to the sunlight--I can never convey to another mind. I
had no feeling of bravery left; it seemed to me as if the jungle were
filled with deadly creatures, prowling about me as I stood in the
place.

What should I do, now that I had found the spot I had dreaded to find?
Would the tiger come back that night? I felt only too sure that he
would. Looking about me I saw that a great tree held out a branch
which was easy to climb. It was such a relief to think of getting off
the ground, up out of reach of the creatures which might come creeping
or prowling along, that I waited only long enough to tie the end of a
long, cord-like creeper about my bow and arrows, when I scrambled up
in the tree as if all the fiends of Hades had been upon my track. I
make no excuse for the lack of courage I felt, for absolutely I could
not help it, strive as I might.

Once up on the branch, however, I felt better. Moving along to a bend,
where a lot of creepers were thickly interlaced, I found a sort of
natural seat, not quite directly above the terrible "kill," below in
the trodden and red-painted grass. In this seat I could rest my
weight, my position then being one of half erectness, my feet on the
great branch, my body leaning against the supporting vines. Drawing up
my weapons, I so disposed four of the arrows that I could easily and
safely find them in the dark--which I tried by closing my eyes. Then I
fitted the fifth one to the bow-string and prepared myself for a
lengthy wait.



CHAPTER XIII. THE NIGHT IN THE JUNGLE

IT SEEMED as if I had been in the tree for an age when the sun finally
sank behind the hill. For long the twilight had been dim in the
jungle, and creepers and shadows made a picture of grotesque forms,
wrapped about and hung as if with serpents, like a weird conception by
Dore. There was rarely a sound. It seemed like the hour when the day-
creatures crept stealthily home to caves and covers, afraid they were
already too late and sure to be overtaken by the prowlers of the
darkness.

Once I had a fearful up-welling of excitement suddenly flood my being
and make my heart to thump heavily. An armadillo came trotting quietly
into the open space below me. The movement was what caught my glance,
and for the second I thought only of the tiger. Then the little animal
sniffed that gory object and darted instantly away.

The darkness increased. Some early complainer howled out a dismal
note. Now and then there came a rustling sound from the trees or
vines. An hour after the darkness became complete, I heard a pounce, a
struggle, the quiet moan-cry of something which gave up its life, and
it made a chill go down my back and spread through my nerves. Sounds
of birds in the air and forest---inhabitants hiding in the trees, came
occasionally, now, with surprising distinctness. All of this kept me
in a high state of tension. I wished myself anywhere on earth other
than where I was. I confess the woods at night, where merely bears and
owls were at large, had awed me earlier in life, and this jungle,
alive with poisonous reptiles and blood-hungry animals, terrified me
beyond expression. If I had only had a companion, if there had even
been another man awaiting my return---somebody to talk to, somebody to
think about rejoining, or even a soul who would dare to hunt for my
body if I never returned,--it would have been a little comforting at
least.

I managed, with an effort, to pull myself together a trifle, by
thinking that it was now too late to meditate retreat. I would not
have climbed down from my tree and attempted to find my way out of the
darksome forest--taking the chances of starting wrong and getting
lost--for the price of a mine of diamonds. Thus the hours went by and
a score of things kept me startled constantly. I feared the tiger
would fail to come; then I feared he would arrive at any second.

It seemed to me that midnight must have come and gone ages since.
Suddenly my breath came fast, my whole body was rigid with attention
as I noted a dim form, apparently standing in the tangle, directly
across the clearing. I knew I had become pale; I knew I trembled with
agitation. I was cold and my teeth did their best to chatter, as I
watched to see if the form moved.

There were ample sounds about me, some slight, some heavy, but I think
I paid little heed to anything except that dim, uncertain form. Then I
was sure it moved. While I was still at the height of my excitement I
noted a leaf, which became clearly defined. I knew immediately that
the form was merely a patch of half light, cast through the foliage by
the moon.

The excitement subsided as if I had pulled out a plug and let it run
away. And while it was going, I heard a wet lapping and chewing,
beneath me, which told me instantly that the man-eater was below and
dining at his cold and ghastly feast. He had come--unseen and
unheard,--while I was being frightened at a patch of light!

I looked, but so dark was the place that until the monster moved
around I thought his body was exactly on the opposite side of his
victim, to which it really was. The excitement had flushed upward in
my veins again, but not so strongly as before. I was angered, as I
have often been to hear a cat lapping at the meat in a cupboard.

Moving cautiously on the branch, I half stood, half leaned against my
seat and slowly brought my bow into position. I was stiff in my hands
and joints, from sitting so long in one position. Having made a slight
slip and noise, the flood of nervousness leaped upward in me at once; I
perspired coldly; my heart beat a violent measure; in my mouth the
saliva became like gluey cotton. But the beast below kept on chewing,
with a horrible noise of drooling chops. I dared not try at him yet,
both because my hands were too unsteady and because the brute was too
undefined an object to be seen.

I underwent a trying ordeal for half an hour. While I was watching
below, straining my eyes to pierce the gloom, slightly bending the bow
and holding the poisoned arrow in readiness, the tiger shifted about
in his feeding. Abruptly I saw a patch of his hide, a small irregular
target, full in the light of the moon, where a ray shone down through
some open shaft between leaves and branches. I could see a dark stripe
across the dusty-looking hide. Even the play of a muscle was visible.

Doubtless the thrill and ardour of the hunter came to my rescue in
that vital second. I only know that I was eager, steadied, released
from all that had made me nerveless and cold. I even forgot what a
deadly brute he was and what he might be capable of doing, if only
slightly wounded.

The bow became vertical in my fist, at the end of my arm, now as rigid
as oak. I drew the arrow backward to my ear with a strong, confident
pull. Then the point came down, toward the lighted patch. I aimed as
one aims at the head of a nail with a hammer--with no need to see my
shaft. Then it sprang away like a flash, the twang resounded in my
ear, and I saw a streak stab straight in the middle of the target.

Instantly a furious lunge and a roar that all but shook me down made
the place terrible. I clutched another of the arrows, and fumbled it,
so that it fell. Another then I got upon the string. All the while a
most awful uproar was continued below. The arrow that had dropped
betrayed my presence. The tiger leaped toward the branch, fell short,
leaped again, thrashed in the grass with frantic force and bellowed a
doom-song that made my flesh creep on my bones.

In his madness the brute was in the patch of light and out again,
constantly. Once, as he oscilated there for a whole second, making
ready to jump toward me, I fired another arrow with all the power of
fear and hatred. It struck him, I could not determine where, and a
moment later he reached my branch with his two great paws, and hung
there by his claws, bending the limb so low and shaking all so
tremendously that I clung on for very life. I felt his paw against my
foot and stamped upon it viciously. He lifted that one; the bark gave
way from beneath the other and down he thudded.

Again and again he leaped in his wrath. It sounded as if all the
beasts of the jungle were there in mortal combat. I tried with another
poisoned arrow, though I was sick, from my dread that he was proof
against the venom. This shot I missed. It served to make the brute
more furious, however, but finally I thought his ravings began to lose
in force.

Once more he crouched in the light. This time my last arrow met him
just as he rose in his spring. I failed to notice where it was planted
in his body, for so tremendous was his leap that his whole head, chest
and paws were up on the tree. The shock knocked me off; I fell,
grasping a creeper, that stopped me with a jerk and a painful wrench.

The tiger dropped, striking me down the leg with one of his out-thrown
paws; I thought my time had come. With a superhuman effort I chinned
myself on the creeper, clutched the limb again, got an arm about it,
reached a twig higher up and threw my leg fairly over. I was quickly
in my old position again, blown, dizzy and wholly unable to believe
the tiger had been evaded by such a clumsy scrambling. He was beating
about in the trampled grass below, but his roar had grown hoarse and
guttural; it seemed no longer so savage. Then I heard his breath
blowing froth and bubbles-of-blood through his nostrils. My heart
leaped exultantly--I knew an arrow had reached his lungs!



CHAPTER XIV. AN OLD ROUE

IN A TIME incredibly short I heard sounds growing fainter where the
great brute stiffened out in the grass. The poison, I knew, had gotten
in its work at last. When the final convulsion had shivered itself
out, what a death-silence settled on the jungle! It seemed as if for
miles about, the lesser beasts had held their breath and fled from
that theatre of throes and roars of the master-murderer.

The hush affected me deeply. I felt so alone with the dead, and yet
not confident of my safety. My imagination pictured a ring of
leopards, cats and other creatures stealing silently up, like the
curious women who enjoy to look upon a corpse, these all half afraid
that the king was not really lifeless after all. Probably no creature
was then within half a mile of the spot, for the noise had been
sufficient to frighten away even the snakes, it seemed to me, yet I
never for a moment entertained a thought of climbing down from where I
was.

The wait, through the midnight and the long chilly hours of morning
was the harder to bear because of the weakness I felt, after all the
overwrought emotions I had undergone. It was difficult, moreover, to
cast off the dread of the still brute below me, not to mention the
sounds which recommenced in the animal-haunted jungle. I was
exhausted, for the strain had been as hard to bear as severe physical
labour. In addition to this, I had performed a good day's work, before
I came to my tryst with the tiger. How long seemed the time since I
left the friendly Links, on my quest of vengeance and retribution!

I may have dozed, as I half lay against the woven creepers, and
although it could not have been for long, dawn had come when I started
awake. In the forest the shadows were still too deep to be fathomed,
yet at last I made out the rigid form on the ground. My enemy was
almost directly under the place where I was sitting. I could see no
arrows at all; and my mind had pictured him bristling with the shafts.

Slowly the light increased. What a gaunt, unhandsome form it was in
the grass! Then the sunlight struck on the tree-tops and bird-notes,
not particularly musical, began to make more cheerful that dark abode.
With a new impulse of courage, I dropped myself down, laid hold of my
bow and a leg of the tiger, and dragged with all my strength to get
him out of the place.

Then I got a good look at the carcass. He was old, wretchedly thin,
scarred about his bleary, dead eyes, nearly toothless and as worn-
looking as an old hearth-rug. I saw where my first shot had struck him
above the shoulder. The arrow, which was broken off in the wound, had
jabbed in and plowed along under the skin for six or eight inches. The
second had ripped through the flesh of his right fore leg, leaving a
gash which the brute had widened when he broke the shaft out,
sidewise, in his thrashing. The last shot had sent the envenomed flint
tearing into his breast, an inch below the throat, where it had
penetrated to a considerable depth. It also was broken, but a tough
shred of the wood still held the feathered portion dangling from the
wound.

As I looked on the thin, old reprobate I was silly enough to feel a
little pity, so tragic seemed the "poverty" which he had known, as
testified by his miserable condition. My fears too had been wholly
dissipated by the sun; I wondered why I had been in such a plight of
dread throughout the night.

A final tug brought the roue of the jungle clear of the undergrowth.
The second I emerged to the edge of the hill clearing, a chorus of
cries came down from the camp. I turned to see the whole drove of
Links coming madly down the slope from which they had been watching
for more than an hour.

Such a commotion the simple creatures made, as, crazy with joy and
awe, and still dreading the foe they knew so well, they pressed about
me and chattered and made me a hero and struck at the ground all about
the tiger with their clubs! Fatty went through a sort of blubbering
welcome and got down and licked at my shoes until I felt obliged to
give him a trifle of a kick. The chief made no effort to conceal his
admiration for my feat, but he was dignified, after the manner of a
great Newfoundland dog among the lesser canines. His albino mate,
however, gazed upon me from her round, pink eyes with a look of
worshipping to which I very much objected. At her side the carping
Grin was doing his best to belittle the tiger and to sneer through his
expression of amazement. On the whole, one would have thought the
tiger a monster and a prince among his kind. I began to feel my glory
to be somewhat tawdry.

After half an hour of tribute, both to the brute and myself, on the
part of the tribe, I rolled the beast over to look for a decent bit of
hide. He was not worth the skinning, and that is the truth.

However, I had my plan and therefore I whipped out my knife and
skinned a part of the shoulders and back. After this I took off the
head, for I meant to have the skull for a trophy. Then I directed the
Links to dig a grave.



CHAPTER XV. A GLEAM OF HOPE

WHEN I finally fastened the tiger's skull above my shelter, and girded
my loins about with the skin, I was conscious of having attained a
great respect among my primitive friends. Not a few, I soon became
aware, would have followed me readily in any measure, not requiring
too vast a courage, even to the point of seceding from the semi-
command of the chief. They attested this feeling, which resembled that
evinced from the first by Fatty, in all the work and in various
smaller matters, from daylight till dark.

I might have been more flattered than I was at my exaltation among
these half-human creatures, had I not easily detected the jealousy of
the chief, which feeling Grin continued constantly to feed. Indeed in
spite of all I could do, a division of parties was growing every day.
Unfortunately the females were more fierce in their partisanship than
were the males. Moreover a majority of these "ladies" evinced a strong
desire to ally themselves to the side of which I was becoming the
unwilling leader. Prominent among them was the chief's albino mate,
who was far too persistent to give me any peace of mind. I foresaw
trouble to come from this unhappy complication.

Had all the Links united in considering myself a leader and governor
of the tribe, I should have enjoyed very much the "recognition of my
talents," especially as such an outcome would have furthered the
scheme I had, to make them fit as warriors and then persuade them to
march as my escort to the coast. Indeed I was planning and working
deliberately to become commander-in-chief. But this division was not
at all assuring, for although all had a wholesome fear of the Tartar
they had caught, yet any one of the creatures, turning treacherous,
could have killed me outright with a single blow.

I made no end of attempts to procure the confidence of the chief, and
frequently thought I was winning him over, but always Grin got in a
stroke which set my endeavours at naught. I could have killed the
beast with great satisfaction to myself and with profit all around.
The albino female I ignored pointedly at every opportunity afforded.
This gave some degree of satisfaction to the chief, but like Othello,
he grew insufferably suspicious.

Our work of providing weapons and utensils, and also of securing a
better state of existence and defence, proceeded daily. I worked like
an engine, myself, to employ all my thoughts, which began to be
disquieting. Although I strove to avert what was slowly coming, the
conviction was borne in upon me more and more that if things continued
as they were going, I should either be obliged to fight a pitched
battle, backed by my voluntary adherents, against the chief and his
party, or else abandon my scheme of escape altogether.

But if I brought about the internecine strife and even won the battle,
my force would be utterly inadequate for an escort, (provided I could
get them to leave the wilds to which they were all accustomed), for
the whole tribe did not muster half the number of fighters which the
black Links had assembled against us that day at the cave. If we
started through the jungle, who should say we might not walk
straightway into the settlement of our hostile neighbours? Besides
this natural enemy, the woods were sure to be filled with ourang-
outangs, snakes, tigers and no end of other animals that would snip
off man after man, if they did not annihilate the party entirely.

The situation was trying. If I discontinued the archery practice and
the teaching of "civilized arts," my Links would never be fit for my
"army;" if, on the contrary, I proceeded to place the fellows on a
fighting equality with myself, they would all be the worse as enemies,
if ever a genuine rebellion should occur. Having thought and thought
till my brain was weary, I decided to take my chances on having them
understand the bow, trusting that something might happen which would
make us all united. I reasoned that if our foe, the Blacks, should
swoop upon us again, we might all be killed, if they found us
unprepared, and then all schemes of escape would be equally vain.

Our programme of armament therefore proceeded with all reasonable
haste. We had frequent practice with the weapons, many of the Links
soon giving promise of great proficiency with this natural weapon of
early man. During this time the strained relations were in no wise
improved, thanks to the ceaseless efforts of Grin and to the idiocy of
Madame Albino, who became the more zealous as I treated her with
greater contempt. I grew desperate, for matters were tending toward
disruption too plainly for any concealment.

For this business I should require a boat. Perhaps this would be no
better than a raft, in the end, if nothing better could be
constructed, but something floatable would be necessary before I could
move a mile down or about the sheet of water, for the jungle grew to
the very edge of this shimmering gem, rendering its circum-exploration
on the shore as good as a physical impossibility.

It was easy enough to induce the Links to help me force a path to the
water's edge, but I soon discovered that without exception they held
the place in awe and superstitious dread. It did prove to be
generously inhabited, but this was quite to be expected. For the
matter of that, the whole country was crawling with deadly reptiles
and brutes, so that choosing the lesser evil was not too decidedly
easy.

One would have said that material was plentiful, even had I
contemplated building a fleet, but the growth was so dense that I knew
it would be a gigantic task to cut down any timber. The Links were
anxious to leave the shore for the safer hill, but I kept them with me
and communicated to several the fact that I was searching for a log.
This was an excellent move, for Fatty soon underwent a paroxysm of
delight at his cleverness, and at my open satisfaction, when he jerked
away a snarl of vines, already concealing the trunk of a tree which
apparently had succumbed to a violent gale.

We soon had the log laid bare for more than twenty feet of its length.
It was twined about by creepers, but it had no low branches to give us
trouble, while its size was entirely satisfactory. With our tools of
flint we started to cut the thing off in two places, the root end
being in no wise fit to form the prow or the stern of a boat, but our
efforts seemed so feeble and childish that apparently it was next to
an insurmountable difficulty to perform even this primary office. I
felt so discouraged that I nearly gave it up then and there.

However, one of my admirers was willing to run to camp for a brand of
fire, for I had resolved to burn the log in two. This was a task which
opened up large possibilities for the expenditure of time and
patience, although we constantly removed the fire, as soon as its
flames had eaten inward, charring the wood, when we chopped away this
softened portion and began again. At the end of the first day we had
accomplished so little that the task, merely of getting the log cut
off, seemed hopeless. I determined that if we did get the log free at
last I would have it rolled into the water and content myself with its
plain, unvarnished bulk for a craft, for digging it out to form a boat
I feared would be more of a job than my patience could endure.



CHAPTER XVI. TREACHERY AND A BATTLE

THE labour at the lake-shore, day after day, somewhat reduced the
party-feeling brewing between the chief and our respective followers.
He was with us often, but quite as frequently went hunting in the
jungle at the head of a dozen fighters.

Our practice with the bows had proceeded so well that we bagged a good
deal of our game with the weapons, squirrels, various birds and hogs
proving to be the most abundant and easy victims. Of the skin of one
of the hogs so secured, I made myself a clumsy sort of quiver, which
held my arrows to perfection. Of another I fashioned some thick but
serviceable leggings, which afforded me a much-needed protection.

What with sundry interruptions, for needed labours about the camp, it
was more than a week before we finally completed the burning and
hacking off of the log by the lake. Then we began to roll it and push
it toward the water, a task requiring more patience than ingenuity,
for we had an abundance of muscle although I found it not always easy
to direct this crude force to the best advantage. I set my fellows to
work getting out rollers, so that if necessary, later on, I could use
a lever and get the log in the water alone.

Having brought it near the edge, I was tempted to proceed with my
original plan of digging it out to form a canoe, trusting that the
trouble which threatened between our divided forces would merely
smoulder, at the worst, for a time and that before it broke out
dangerously I might be better prepared to make my explorations and my
attempt to escape. Deciding to try this plan, I had the log lifted up
on two rocks, one under each end, after which I had my Links dig me a
quantity of stiff red clay, which we worked up with water and
plastered thickly over the sides and ends of the log, leaving a wide
place uncovered on the under side. We then made fire all along
underneath, and by constantly digging away the portions that were
charred, and then by burning and digging again, we made considerable
progress with the work. The clay, of course, protected the parts of
the boat so covered from being consumed. By plastering more of the
clay inside of the sides and ends, as soon as the boat began to be
hollowed out, we protected them also, and thereby directed the flames
in such a manner that they burned deeper into the wood all the time,
without endangering the portions which I desired to leave stout and
thick.

It was hot work and hard, to get in under that boat and dig out ash
and charcoal, but several of my loyal workers conceived a tireless
enthusiasm for the task, although none could have guessed what I was
fashioning, to save his life. Their industry and tractability reminded
me always of the faithful work which dogs will perform for a master.

While the burning-out was being done, I hacked and worked away to make
the bow and stern of the craft a bit more shapely than they, were
after our crude log-cutting process. Also I formed a clumsy keel, of
straight, slender saplings, which we fastened firmly in place by
boring several holes straight through them and then hammering plugs
into these and into corresponding holes made, at the cost of infinite
pains, along what would be the bottom of the boat when we turned her
over for launching.

This keel was finally finished, and by that time all along underneath
we had burned and dug away a foot in depth of the wood, which meant
that after the log--which was about three feet in diameter--was
squared off to form the open top of the hull, the inside hollowing-out
was only three or four inches deep, and we had still to dig it out
fully eighteen inches more. Altogether I began to feel no little
amount of pride in the general appearance and promise of the craft,
hence I worked at it with feverish impetuosity.

My affairs were still at this stage when, one afternoon, I headed a
large party of the Links on a hunt in the jungle to the east of the
camp. It was a sultry day, peculiarly still, for we nearly always had
a cooling breeze. Doubtless our usual quarry had crawled away to
various places of concealment. Certainly we found nothing stirring,
and after we had tramped unavailingly for more than an hour, I fancied
I detected signs of uneasiness among our fellows.

The chief was along, closely followed by Grin, whose malicious face
seemed particularly wicked in the shadows of the forest. When a cloud
rolled sullenly across the face of the sun, the Links came to a halt,
as if undecided what to do. The chief gave a sign and uttered a word
conveying his intention of returning to the camp. At that moment we
started a hog from his wallow near a small marsh, and calling out
eagerly to all to follow and surround the animal, I darted ahead, bow
in hand, excited by the prospect of a shot. My enthusiasm carried the
main body of the Links, who joined me readily enough.

I noted as I went that the chief brought up the rear, in a sulky mood,
while the fawning Grin pointed a finger at myself and laughed in a
manner fit to make a fiend of a saint, such ridicule did he heap upon
all who would suffer themselves to be led by this power-usurping
stranger.

The hog eluded our vigilance completely. We arrived at the base of a
mass of rock which towered up like a heap of ruined masonry. Thinking
I could command a wider view from its top, while my fellows thrashed
the undergrowth about its neighbourhood, to drive the hog from cover,
I climbed laboriously up, intent on having a shot if possible.

No sooner was I fairly on the peak and moving about to get in sight of
all the Links below, than I noted Grin come dashing out of a jungle,
making a noise for all the world like the trumpeting of an elephant.
Undoubtedly this sound must have been their name for the huge
pachyderm, and it was equally certain that the cry was a warning which
inspired the greatest terror, for without delaying a second for
anything, the whole force ran madly away from the place, back along
the way we had come.

I bawled out lustily, to halt them, and then to try to make them wait,
but again Grin sounded the startling trumpet and not a Link--not even
Fatty---turned or paused for all my shouting. I scrambled along the
rocks to descend as rapidly as possible. It was not an easy task to
regain the lower level; I was occupied several minutes by the task. I
fell the last five feet and the vines wherein I landed held me back a
time which became exasperatingly long.

At length I started away in pursuit of my friends, but not a sign of
one could I see, not a sound of one could I hear. Soon I began to
doubt if I were on their trail. However, I felt that I knew my way as
well without as with them, and therefore made what speed I could to
overtake the band.

Presently I paused to see if they had gone through the vines in the
path I was attempting to follow. A low sound came from the distance;
with amazing suddenness the forest began to grow dark and oppressive.
I fancied for a second the sound was made by the elephant. This theory
was abandoned a moment later, for an echo of the rumble proclaimed the
noise as thunder. Like a flash, the thought came in my brain that
there was no elephant--that Grin had purposely given his cry, knowing
well what a terror and consequent flight would ensue, with the
deliberate purpose of leaving me abandoned in the jungle. I remembered
the uneasy feeling which had been manifested by all the Links; they
had doubtless been aware that a storm was approaching.

Intent upon defeating this scheme of treachery, and reviling the whole
Link nation for cowards of the most consummate type, I stumbled on,
through the gathering gloom and through the vines that tripped my
feet, growing a trifle anxious about the approaching shower.

Almost before I had gone a hundred yards, the sky was a sea of tempest
and driving clouds of the blackest hue. Gusts of heavy, hot wind shook
the tops of the trees and crashed through the creepers, swaying them
roughly where they hung. The darkness of night descended like a mist
of ink. I floundered forward and fell. A flash of lightning and a
crash of thunder seemed to rip the very firmament in twain. I was
blinded and utterly confused. I ran ahead, only to find myself
confronted by an impenetrable fabric of vines and creepers. This I
strove to go around, but it seemed to hedge me nearly all about. In
desperation I hastened through the only opening I could find. This
appeared to lead me into a trail, along which I ran.

Again a brain-scorching glare of lightning threw everything into weird
relief, the trees like living creatures which struggled in the mesh of
creepers, writhing like snakes, in the bluster of wind. Then a lesser
illumination, when I had torn my way along for some distance, cut out
of the ebon depths the great mass of rock I had climbed such a short
time before. I reeled backward--it seemed preposterous--some enormity
of fate--it could not mean that I was lost--no, no---I would turn
about--I knew the way--I should reach the camp in an hour. What a
child I was to be so confused and alarmed by a storm!

Again I started. The flashes and the deafening peals of thunder
increased. In five more minutes I stood still, confused, for the
fearsome play of lightning illuminated the jungle clearly and it
looked all wrong--all unfamiliar about me---and all deadly thick. I
must hasten back to the pile of rocks, I thought, in a sort of
despair. I could wait there--wait till the storm had passed, and then,
when the sky became clear again of clouds, I could easily find my way
to the camp.

For fifteen minutes I fought my way through the vines and plants. The
flashes were more intense, and nearer than before, but of rocks or of
anything familiar I saw not so much as a shadow.

"I'm lost!" I cried at last, "I'm lost!"

The confession burst from my lips as if to mock me. The stupendous
meaning of the truth burst in upon me ruthlessly. I was lost--alone in
this terrible jungle and night coming on apace! Every horror of my
night in the tree, above that ghastly banquet of the tiger, came
vividly back. Every thought of the snakes and the prowling beasts, in
search of blood and meat, seemed to burn deeper into my brain with the
blinding shimmer of lightning. I fled in one direction, then in
another---then anywhere, at random.

It was foolish and weak to race hither and yon as I did in my semi-
madness, but the dark jungle created an unspeakable dread in my brain;
its terrors were magnified by my contemplation of one danger after
another. I foresaw nothing but a dreadful death, which might come soon
or late. To find the camp of my Links I felt would be quite
impossible, for I knew absolutely nothing, by this, of one direction
from another.

Wildly and thoughtlessly I kept on going. A crash of thunder now split
open the clouds and let down a deluge of rain. It made no difference
to me, any more than did the darkness. But while I was pushing
senselessly ahead, I slipped on a patch of wetted clay and slid to an
unseen edge, over which I shot, going down below like a sack of bolts.
I struck on my feet, landing on something half soft. Instantly a
furious growl of pain and rage made me leap away forward. A brilliant
dance of lightning made the spot as bright as day--and I beheld two
hideous ourang-outangs, which had just been in the act of crawling
into a cave, and on the legs of one of which I had landed. They came
quickly toward me, in a frenzy of anger.

I dashed away, along a well-beaten path that was made through the
growth, the two brutes hotly pursuing. The darkness that followed the
glare of light was of only a second's duration, so continuous had the
electric display in the heavens become. The beasts were gaining upon
me. Across a leaf-hidden log I pitched headlong. The ourangs were
nearly upon me when I sprang again to my feet and raced away. Still
they gained; and the noises they made chilled the blood in my veins,
so diabolical was the sound. My breath grew short, my bow, which I had
continued to hold in my hand, got caught for a second, yet I dared not
let it drop, though it caused me the greatest of trouble.

Behind me now I could almost feel my infuriated foes. I dared to dart
a glance across my shoulder. What a snap-shot picture it was, of awful
forms--half erect and fearfully active,--a picture of monsters,
suggestive of most inhuman humans, with fiery eyes, with hideous
muzzles, massive, prognathous jaws,--with terrible open mouths which
were filled with drooling fangs, and with black, leather-and-iron
hands, now on the ground, now up and reaching, as if to clutch and
drag me down!

I knew they would certainly overtake me unless I could do something
desperate at once. I jerked out my knife--recently whetted on a stone.
By the continuously fluttering lightning-shimmer, I chose a spot,
ahead, which was comparatively clear. Then while my flesh fairly crept
for my dread of being reached, I slacked off my speed a trifle and let
the nearest ourang gain a yard.

Suddenly leaping aside, when I bounded to the selected clearing, I
swung around with my arm extended, the knife gripped hard, and quickly
aiming at the monster's throat, stabbed him with all my might. So
great was the impact of the blow, increased by the brute's momentum,
that his head was nearly slashed from his body. I saw it lop limberly
over on his shoulder. Then the larger brute behind struck the falling
body and both were toppled together in a heap.

Again like a madman I darted away.--In a few seconds on came the now
doubly raging creature, behind. My breathing had become so painful
that it seemed as if I could taste my own blood in my mouth. I dared
not stop and I dared not attempt my trick a second time. A fearful
note of wrath was in the sound which the gaining monster now began to
utter. I knew he was sure he should catch me soon. Before me,
abruptly, the growth was as thick as a hedge. I saw that I must change
my course. Baffled, not knowing what else I could do, I pulled an
arrow from my quiver and notched it on my bow-string as I ran. Then
stopping I turned, drew it quickly and let it drive point blank at my
on-rushing foe. It flew too low, for the string was wet and in no fit
condition, and struck the beast in the fleshy part of the thigh.

Emitting a scream of agony, the brute snapped the shaft short off in
the wound, with his hand. I took advantage of the opportunity, nearly
winded as I was, and plunged desperately through a maze of vines. It
caught me, but I tore away a long wire-like creeper that dragged
behind for twenty feet. And the gnashing ourang, limping on an almost
useless leg, came after me, relentlessly. It seemed like a nightmare--
endless, although, like a terrible dream, it had not been of more than
a few minutes duration from the start.

My bow-string had apparently stretched, and this effect I had
increased when I shot; the weapon was therefore temporarily useless.
Had I now been fresh, I believe I could have beaten the wounded brute
in the race, but I was ready to sink from exhaustion. He got nearer
and nearer. What to do next was more than I could tell.

Panting and fetching my breath by the most painful of efforts, I
blundered heavily through a net-work of branches--and got my second
sudden fall over a bank. This time I struck sitting down in a stream
of water which, swollen by the rain, was a roaring torrent. It swept
me downward, gasping and battling to keep my head above the surface.

Then with a splash the ourang-outang landed headlong in the flood. He
also came rolling and tumbling along with the turbulent volume of
water. But he clutched an overhanging limb and hauled himself out and
up on the bank, as if he found the plunge exceedingly hateful. Whether
he lost the scent, or whether he was convinced that I also had
scrambled out of the stream, would be hard to determine. Busy as I was
to keep from being drowned, or dashed to death on the rocks, I yet had
a flash of relief and thankfulness to find myself freed of the
terrible pursuer.

My bow, to which I had clung with such a desperation, was lost from my
hand when I fell into the torrent. As I righted myself, a trifle, on
my downward sweep, and tried to mark out a branch or a creeper to
clutch, a terrific bolt of lightning struck a tree not a hundred feet
below. As if a thousand cannon had burst, the din and crash of thunder
fairly stunned me for a second where I was. I got a mental photograph
of the tree flying apart in monster splinters, as if a charge of
dynamite had rended it asunder; and then followed a total annihilation
of all light and a downpour of rain which was simply overwhelming.

I was bowled downward helplessly, tossed through a drag of vines that
were growing over the bed of the stream, and then, before I had half
collected my senses--scattered as they were by the stroke of
lightning,--I was shot through an agitated run-way and plunged below
my depth in what I thought to be a large pool of water.

Almost immediately, as I began to swim, on arising to the surface, I
pushed against a great piece of timber on the top of which I climbed
without a moment's hesitation. Then came a flicker of lightning a mile
away, illuminating all the scene, when I discovered that I was
crouching on a large section of the very tree which the fearful
lightning blast had shattered, and which was floating on the surface
of the sheet of water which I had previously dubbed "My Lake."



CHAPTER XVII. SAURIANS AS FOES

AS if the culmination of the electric discharge in that particular
quarter had come with the bolt which struck so near myself, there was
almost a complete cessation of pyrotechnics which would have been
visible from the rain-pelted lake. Distant thunder grumbled
incessantly, but the gloom which descended over water and jungle was
only rendered more intense by the fitful glow of light which trembled
upward so far away.

Inasmuch as my log was steady, I sat down as comfortably as possible.
Soaked through as I was, I paid no attention to the drenching shower
which continued. It was warm enough, and while it could hardly be
pleasant, when thus continued such a time, I felt as if it were less
than trifling, after all I had recently undergone. Naturally enough
the shore had no immediate attractions which would tend to make me
wish to paddle in. From the sound of my stream, tumbling noisily into
the lake, I concluded the log could not be drifting to any
considerable extent. I would wait for the light to come before I
moved.

One usually feels entitled to suppose that a thunder-shower is
fleeting, here one minute and gone the next, but I was in for a
disappointment. Though the wind had ceased to blow, the lowering
clouds continued rank with rain and apparently as dense as lead. The
darkness of the storm continued till the margin between day and night
was passed. I realised at last that there would be no light till dawn.

"What shall I do?" I muttered aloud, but I knew as I spoke that I
would sit all night on that floating log, wet, somewhat chilled and
ravenously hungry, to say no word of being alone and lost.

The prospect was not exactly bright, but I felt so grateful for my
miraculous escape, and so much more content to be on the water than
alone again for a night in the jungle, that I entertained no fears for
present or future. I tried to think of any duties I owed to myself,
which I ought in-reason to perform, and then the obvious impossibility
of doing anything at all made me smile.

It was still early evening when the rain ceased to fall. I laid out
full length on the log, to see if I thought it safe as a position in
which to sleep. It served to ease my joints directly, though I found
it as a bed rather hard and lumpy. Sleep being about the last thing
possible, I remained on my side, gazing absently at nothing, engaged
in reviewing my own mental panorama of events. From time to time I
dabbled my hand in the water, as I always had done when in a boat as a
child. I was not so peaceful as this apparent mood of dalliance might
imply, for my brain was painfully alert, both on the things already
done since my memorable ballooning trip with Ford, and concerning what
would happen on the morrow and the days, weeks and months to come.

In the midst of this business something gently "nosed" my fingers in
the water. I jerked them away quickly enough to have startled anything
alive out of all its wits, but nothing dived or swam away in alarm, so
that after a minute I put my hand downward again and felt it come in
contact with something which was touching against the log. Exultantly
then I grasped this something and pulled it aboard.

It was simply my bow, which had floated down the stream, when I lost
it by striking in the water, and which had drifted in the only current
there was. In this current, of course, the log was also drifting,
hence the coming together.

A feeling as if an old comrade had rejoined me made me joyous, as I
held the weapon up to let it drip. Its return to my hand made me think
of and feel for the arrows. Five were still in my quiver, and having
been protected as they hung on my back, they were as good as ever,
except for the wetness of the feathers. The string of the bow was
flabby and useless. I held this friend in my hand for more than an
hour, rubbing the wood with my palm till it felt as dry as an idol in
a temple.

The night advanced. I sat down, lay down and then got up on my feet a
dozen times. Once I fancied the log was drifting in toward the shore.
With my hands I paddled it slowly away. The stars shone brilliantly at
last, for the final cloud had disappeared from the sky. From the
jungle issued sounds in plenty, repetitions of what I had heard
before, but I thought myself secure and tried to catch a bit of sleep.

A night more long than that one on the lake I have never passed. It
was made more interminable by the five-minute slumbers which came to
my senses after midnight. I grew uncomfortably chilly. Two things
happened before the morning finally dawned. The first was that weary
nature asserted herself and I became lost in dreams of that horrible
pair of ourang-outangs; the second was that a breeze sprang up and
drifted my log where it listed.

I awoke with a start, for something struck the log such a blow that it
lurched heavily and all but pitched me end-ways in the water. I sprang
up, on my tossing craft, beholding myself less than quarter of a mile
from the nearest shore and surrounded by the rings of a great ripple
which something had evidently caused on the lake's surface.

It was morning and already warm. My bow-string was not only dry, but
it had shrunk to nearly its old condition. The stream of water down
which I had tumbled was neither in sight nor hearing. I began slowly
to realise the truth; I had drifted almost entirely across the lake. I
scanned the scenery on every side. There were jungle-covered hills in
front, the same, but more distant, behind me, and again the same
toward the North, where the shore was two miles away. To the South I
saw familiar slopes and features of the mountains. This meant that I
was looking on the lake as I had when at work on the boat. Plainly my
boat and "home" then, were northward a goodly distance.

Suddenly, while I was looking about, the maker of all the recent
disturbance appeared--an alligator. He was not very large, but black,
hideous and actively concerned about the log. He must have overlooked
me entirely to have struck such a blow, and then doubtless he had
dived for safety. Now as he jutted up darkly, dividing the waters
which rolled off his revolting head, his two little eyes gleamed with
a look which made me think of my weapons in a hurry.

He came toward me cautiously, circling slowly about. There was nothing
to do but to get an arrow in readiness, and then to wait, but I
shuddered to think of a fight with such a powerful monster. The
creature, I am convinced, thought me a larger one of the monkeys on
which his kind were fond of dining. He presently headed straight for
the log. Knowing he would dive in a moment I shot at him quickly. The
arrow struck him just beneath the eye. It broke and glanced from the
tough wet skin, but a splinter actually struck in his eye-ball and
ruined his sight on that side of his head. He sank like a thing of
iron. A second later the end of the log went heaving up and I was
thrown violently off into the lake.

The log came down with a force that beat up a fountain of spray. I was
struck on the foot by the half-blinded reptile as I struggled to get
back to my place and out of his way. He began furiously to lash the
water as he rammed about in a circle. Rising to the surface like a
small living island, he turned upon me again and came ahead with all
his speed, making me think of a deadly torpedo.

There was no time for arrow or bow, and the latter was gone again in
the bargain, but it took me only half a second to rip out that ever-
needed knife. Over we went, more abruptly than before, the water
churning and boiling up in foam about my ears. He had calculated
poorly and now he closed his awful jaws upon the jagged end of the
log, not a foot from my shoulder. I jabbed at him frantically--
stabbing at his other eye which suddenly popped fairly out of its
socket as I pried and gouged with the end of the blade.

The beast raised a snorting noise at this, which made me ill with
fear. With the power of a whale and the ferocity of a shark he whipped
the water into froth and snapped his jaws in every direction. He was
head on, side on and tail on, alternately, feeling for me and grinding
pieces out of the log whenever he found it. He clawed me once and
knocked me clean over the log with his tail a moment later. I stabbed
at him wildly, but with no effect, a dozen times. I was nearly drowned
and the creature seemed to be everywhere at once.

Had he been able to see me, my life could not have been saved by any
chance, in such a whirlpool of wrathful attacking. I was nearly
blinded by the spray which flew from the waves. The log, which was
pitching madly, with a force only second to the creature's own, arose
abruptly from a plunge and, like a lever, pried the alligator fairly
over on his back and threw me almost upon him.

I stabbed him twice in the belly, the last blow tearing a deep, wide
hole, as he rolled to right himself, and then to my great astonishment
he dived like a porpoise. I lost not a second in getting on top of the
log. But the water grew calm and a deep red dye came floating up, to
weave a strange device in the ripples.

Breathlessly I waited, for a time that seemed endless. Cautiously I
drew in my bow, which was floating near. At last there came a small
commotion fifteen feet away. The alligator rose, fought a second with
the foe which is Death, and sank again from sight. I believed then
that my knife had reached his heart.

Up to this moment I had taken not so much as a glance toward the
shore. I did so now and discovered myself to be something like fifty
yards off. The breeze had drifted me rapidly while the fight was being
waged. Looking hurriedly about, I saw a rude sort of path, leading
into the jungle from the shore, made through the growth, which all
along was so thick that I could see no beach in either direction. At
the same moment I beheld another huge alligator some distance away, up
toward a jutting point of land.

It took me about an instant to decide that I had experienced all the
alligator tactics I needed. Quietly pushing my bow downward, to sound
the water's depth, I was surprised and glad to have it strike bottom
at three feet only. Using it then to pole myself and the log forward,
I headed for the trail on shore.

The alligator saw me before I had gone ten feet. He started, full
steam ahead, to overhaul my craft. I worked like a maniac; the monster
was closing up the gap between us with alarming rapidity. My raft was
heavy and deep in the water. Nearer, nearer I drew to the shore, and
terribly nearer came the fierce and hungry saurian.

I had twenty yards, fifteen, ten to make; the creature was hardly more
than five away. In a second he would strike the log. Leaping madly
into the water I dashed to the bank and bounded up a slippery way,
less than six good feet from the creature's snout.

Knowing I could beat him on the land, I dashed along full speed. Forty
feet up--Lord save me!---it seemed as if the woods were full of the
monsters, several of which moved sluggishly as they heard me coming.
These got no chance to be dangerous, for I ran the gauntlet between
them almost before they were awake. In five minutes more I was clear
of the marshy border of the lake and up on higher ground. Here a large
tree, twined in a thousand folds of the creepers, offered an easy
retreat. I climbed up among its branches and finding a natural seat,
where my back was supported by the extra growth, sat down, weak and
winded.



CHAPTER XVIII. THE ENEMY NEAR

IN fifteen minutes after I settled myself in the tree, in a position
of comparative ease, I fell into a deep and dreamless slumber. I had
not intended to give up in any such manner, but the warmth, the relief
to my mind and my weariness, combined to send me off before I realised
what I was doing.

It might have been a noise and it could have been pangs of hunger that
awakened me finally. The hour was certainly that of noon, if not
later. I felt hazy in my notions; it required no little blinking to
get the webs from my eyes and brain. Then I heard voices. What was
being said sounded to me like Link language.

I nearly cried out, thinking some of the tribe were near at hand, but
fortunately I was still too lazy and exhausted to make such an effort.
Then a movement attracted my gaze and I saw several Links, sure
enough.

But they were black!

I was wide enough awake in a second. I crouched low and got a mass of
leaves between these vengeful creatures and myself, for I knew it
would be death, or worse, if once they clapped eyes upon my form.
Peering furtively down, I saw that all of them were standing perfectly
still, just as if they might have halted abruptly and remained in
various poses of action. There were eight in all, every one of whom
was looking intently at something across the little clearing.

Without moving my body I turned my head and discovered a small black
bear, which was sleepily smelling about and moving through the grass
and giant ferns. Wondering if presently the Links would dart upon the
inoffensive animal and beat it to death with their clubs, I looked
them over carefully. Except that they stood erect, they did certainly
look like close relations of the savage ourangs. Their ears were
large, foreheads low and receding, and jaws tremendously heavy and
protuberant. Their noses were flat and broad, while their eyes, like
those of my friendly Reds, were small, round, near together and
nervously watchful. I was not at all gratified to see them here; I
wondered if, being so near, they had discovered our settlement on the
hill. Our settlement! Would I ever get back to my barbarous company
and that "city" again, I wondered.

The bear shuffled off, with the utmost indifference to anything which
might be near. Then I beheld those black Links, one of whom possessed
the club with the nugget of gold on the end, do precisely what I had
seen my Reds do, the day we were driven into the cave. They crept up
to the tracks which bruin had left in the moist earth and kneeling, as
if in adoration, each placed his forehead down where the bear had
trod. Plainly the creature was held in great reverence and awe by all
the family of Links, whatever their colour. This seemed to me a
remarkable and wholly inexplicable thing.

Two of the fellows, I noted, had fruits and cocoa-nuts in their hands,
having probably gathered them recently for the dinner of the party.
They now parleyed a moment in monosyllables, with the others, the
result being that all of the food was deposited on the ground,
doubtless with the thought that the bear might return and be pleased
to find something to eat. It was doubtless a primitive "sacred"
offering. As silently as so many snakes, the fellows then withdrew, on
the side just opposite to that in which their adored one had
disappeared. I heard their voices die away in the jungle.

In order to be sure that I incurred no risk, I waited for fully
fifteen minutes. The forest was particularly still. Slipping quietly
down from my perch, at last, I possessed myself of those fruits in the
twinkling of an eye, and devouring a part then and there, I ascended
to my throne with all I could carry, and finished a meal, the relish
of which surpasses all human imagination.

When I had done at last and that craving, inward system was fully
gratified, I heaved a big sigh of content and gazed off listlessly
into the ocean of endless verdure. A soft wind fanned lazily by; there
was nothing to threaten my life; the tropics were at their loveliest.
As naturally as it comes to a tired animal, sleep again came creeping
across my senses. Without even moving into an easier position, I slept
away the whole balmy afternoon.

I waked at last and found it was night. How drowsy it was, how
blissful to sleep and sleep. My brain was too dull to receive an
impression of alarm at my being alone in the jungle; I felt that I did
not care what occurred. If anything wished to come and eat me up, it
was all right, but I did wish they might not make me awake while the
job was being done. Howls, death-screams, roars of the prowlers--all
made a lullaby that soothed me more. I turned the other way about,
heavily, and sank again into slumber.



CHAPTER XIX. ADORATION SCORNED

NOTHING was fresher nor keener than I when again the sun touched the
tips of the trees. Asleep one second as soundly as a hibernating
squirrel, I was as sharply awake the next as a ferret in a coop. I
shook myself and stretched.

"Great Scott!" I exclaimed, "that was a nap!"

Swinging down from my berth I ate of the food which was still on the
ground, where the bear had neglected it quite, and then taking my
bearings as best I could, from memory of my imaginary map of the lake,
I struck off through the jungle for "home."

Of the hours which it took me to force my way between tangles and
around a marsh and over hills and down dales, to accomplish what I
thought to be something like two miles on an air line, I have anything
but pleasant recollections. That I met with many creatures, flocks of
parrots and a troop of apes and monkeys; that I recoiled from a path
in which a huge boa-constrictor was gliding, and that I cursed my luck
repeatedly for ever having landed in such a place, is all a matter of
small account, compared to the fact that I stood at last on a hill and
saw our very camp. I came to it then in less than one more hour of
hottest work and travel.

An excited yell announced my approach before I had walked ten feet on
the slope of our hill. If the Links had been enthusiastic on the
morning after my night with the tiger, they were crazy and
flabbergasted all at once on this occasion. The whole population came
tumbling and running down the slope. They were worse than a pack of
great, rough dogs that nearly knock one endways with delight. They
made me fairly wild, the idiotic things, for my patience was gone to
the winds, after my struggle to win through the jungle, and besides,
it was they who had plunged me into all the trouble. I batted them off
with rare satisfaction and punched a couple of heads in the bargain,
but the fools were more tickled than ever, though I would wager that
some of them smarted.

They fell all over one another as they crowded me up the hill, but my
temper rather rose than lowered, for I began to pile my accumulated
grievances up against them. I wanted the whole outfit to understand
that I thought them cowards, for running from a noise, that day in the
woods, and that I now owed nothing to any one in the tribe for my
whole skin and presence once more in "My village."

When I arrived inside the walls I was made decidedly more angry to
find that Grin had stolen the tiger-skull off my shelter to fasten it
up on the one in which he slept at night, and also by the fact that
every blessed arrow we owned had been shot away by the fellows, as a
lot of inconsequent boys might have done, merely to see them fly and
to meddle with the bows. These bows, by the way, were strewn about on
the ground where everyone kicked them carelessly and walked on them
with utter unconcern.

It took me about one minute to exhibit a bit of temper that scared the
creatures so thoroughly that all but Fatty jumped smartly away and
stood at a distance, eyeing me painfully, ready to fall dead, if such
act could calm me down. Fatty had hastily and exultantly jerked the
tiger relic off from Grin's abode and fetched it over to mine, after
which the old idiot clung to me patiently through rain of blows and
kicks, content to receive any amount of punishment, but wholly
unwilling to leave the region of my feet. I believe he would have
smiled affectionately up in my face and refused to run away if I had
raised my knife to kill him on the spot.

"You Grin, there," I snorted in my wrath, "if ever I catch you in
another of your beastly, treacherous tricks, I'll rip you in two and
beat the pieces on a rock!"

The females, seeing in a moment that the fawner was the chief object
of my anger, and cordially hating the fellow in the bargain, pinched
him and struck him and bit him on the shoulders till he was
constrained to run away to preserve his miserable hide. Had they
killed him at once, I confess I should have been delighted to witness
the deed.

I moved about, with Fatty, in the fine large circle which the troubled
but respectful Links maintained, while I drank some water and ate up a
mango which was left in one of the baskets. This was evidently taken
as a favourable sign, for immediately old and young, male and female
made a great demonstration of procuring me anything and everything
that Link or Link-governor could possibly desire to eat, in hopes of
propitiating the demon of temper which they readily comprehended was
raging within me.



CHAPTER XX. THE CHIEF IS PLEASED

MY INDIGNATION having produced a wholesome effect, I decided not to be
placated readily by anything, and determined thereafter to maintain a
certain strictness which should compel a greater respect. It is not
entirely a human characteristic for a creature to grow too familiar
when treated with easy-going indulgence, for I have often seen dogs
and other animals impose on good nature with manners almost insolent.

For several days I treated the Links somewhat harshly, requiring much
work on the boat and on more of the arrows. I encouraged also a
species of fear which I found my conduct had created. It was high
time, I knew, to dominate the creatures, unless I was willing that
they should dominate me.

They were quick to see that I rarely even threatened physical
violence, however, and this soon tended to give them a confidence
about approaching my "sacred" person. I had been in hopes that my
gruffness and show of impatience had so discouraged the albino female
that she would keep her distance, for she did exhibit a becoming
timidity for a time, but this gradually wore away. I was exceedingly
annoyed to observe, not only that her disquieting symptoms were
returning, but also that she manifested greater ardour than ever
before. My efforts to appear disagreeable were producing an effect
exactly the opposite of what I desired.

That trouble would be brewed again I felt was inevitable. The chief
had somewhat manifested a spirit of doubt and alarm, in common with
the others, when he found me aroused, but this he was daily attempting
to overcome. I could see that the fire of jealousy, especially in
regard to the manoeuvres of his fickle and silly mate was getting more
assertive. It could only be a matter of time till his animal-rage
would burst all bounds, and then--one or the other of us would get
hurt, for I had early decided that my life was quite as important as
his, and I therefore watched him narrowly, always.

The work on the boat and weapons was progressing, but I was all
impatience to make things ready for my contemplated flight. In the
midst of this state of affairs, the albino increased her advances, by
bolder demonstrations. Exasperated beyond endurance, I seemed
powerless to perform anything which should end the matter decisively.
Upon coming from my shelter, one morning, after having been to the
spring, I saw her down the hill, adoring my tracks.

She was on "all fours," worshipping, by placing her forehead on the
ground where I had stepped, just as Reds and Blacks had done to the
tracks of the bear. She was obviously in a state of ecstasy which was
most insane. She had never before proceeded so far as this, to my
knowledge. It made me boil with wrath. I should have liked to box her
ears smartly. How alert and "secret" she was in her unseemly behaviour
was demonstrated by the activity with which she made off when her
chief appeared around the slope.

Two days later I was exceptionally provoked to find this female within
a rod of my dug-out, indulging in more of this madness. Moreover she
was being observed by the angry chief, although I was not aware of
this at the moment. So disgusted and desperate did I feel that I
stepped quickly to a rock, whereon my tortoise basin was standing,
filled with water in which I had washed, and grabbing it up I jumped
toward her and dashed the contents all over her head and body, while
she was still upon the ground, adoring.

She was simply wild. A wet cat could not begin to be half so
surprised, indignant and outraged as her ladyship became, instantly.
She leaped to her feet, gasping, dripping, shuddering at the contact
of all that water, her mouth wide open, her eyes afire with the light
of sudden hatred and fury. Not even a "woman scorned" could have been
so ready to shred my flesh from my bones. I thought for a second she
would fly at my throat, in her passion, and gouge out my eyes, but the
fiendish laughter of the chief and of ten or a dozen other females--
who, of course, had seen the whole performance--turned her attention.
This derision, however, made her face the more diabolical in its
expressions of wrath.

Fortunately what the lady said to myself was wholly unintelligible,
for I had mastered hardly as much as twenty of their "words" at the
time. But I was left no room for doubt that the language was as
"burning" as it was impetuous. I laughed with the others; indeed the
whole thing struck me as being so comical that I was fairly doubled
over with unrestrained merriment. This acted like oil on a blazing
fire, and being no longer able to control herself at all, the drenched
female dashed madly off to the edge of the woods, to vent her rage as
best she could. The chief was immensely pleased.

In the immunity from the female's attentions and the consequent
jealousy of her mate which I now enjoyed, I drove the work with hearty
zest. The boat was all but finished, yet it needed digging out at
least two inches more, and this I felt to be important, knowing how
heavy was the log of which it was made. I had even fashioned a pair of
oars, the blades of which were firmly lashed to the handles, but by
then our tools of flint were almost entirely useless. Many had been
lost and all had been more or less broken. The work actually ceased
for lack of these necessary implements. I set my fellows to digging up
the ground, in the hope of unearthing more of the pebbles which
furnished the flint. In the forest, where the soil was damp, we found
a white, efflorescent substance in great abundance, near the surface.
This, from its peculiar taste and general appearance, I knew to be
common saltpetre, doubtless of value to the commercial world, but of
no account to me when I wanted flint. We tried the hillsides and
various localities, but not one of the precious chalcedony pebbles
could we find.

The suggestion occurred to me at once that we could go to the old camp
and dig all we needed, but this presented difficulties which aroused
my impatience. I desired to get away before additional complications
could arise. As a matter of fact, I was watching Grin very closely for
evidence of further duplicity, which I thoroughly expected to detect,
soon or late. If once I could find the outlet of the lake, I thought,
I would say goodbye to these half-animal beings without the slightest
pang of regret, for they grated on me daily, more and more.

I determined to launch the boat as it was and begin my explorations.
This work we undertook one sultry morning. The clay which I had
plastered over the surface of the wood, where I had wished to protect
it from the fire, was baked hard. We broke it away in pieces, and when
it was off and the boat turned bottom downwards, I felt exceedingly
proud of the work and gratified to find the craft in much better shape
than I had thought to be possible.

It was placed on the rollers, after no little amount of pulling and
hauling, and we were all engrossed with the preparations to shove her
across the intervening beach to the water, when without the slightest
warning there was a sudden rush and yelling about us, and we were
almost instantly surrounded by a force of the savage black Links from
the jungle.



CHAPTER XXI. WAR WITH THE BLACKS

WHOLLY UNPREPARED as we were for this attack, and with the only clubs
we had lying about in the grass, it seemed as if we should be
overwhelmed in a moment and killed where we stood. My fellows,
however, were not only marvellously quick to regain their weapons, but
they also set up a series of cries which alarmed the camp on the
moment.

A score of fighters had been left in the settlement that morning, to
prepare the skins of animals recently taken, and to point some arrows
with what flints we had remaining. These now came running down the
hill, not with the bows and arrows, as I had hoped they might, but
with their usual weapons.

Before our reinforcements could arrive, the Blacks rushed in and
killed two of my workers as if they had been a pair of helpless worms.
We were in the midst of a mass of the black devils, about three to our
one, making terrible sounds of triumphant yelling and snarling.
Fortunately the chief was with us, and now his great crystal club
retaliated on one of the foremost enemies and cleared a space for a
moment, while I hurriedly pushed my fellows back to back in hollow-
square order, and tried to let them know we must move all we could
toward our hill, as we fought.

The Blacks were fiercely impetuous--mad to wipe us out. They dashed
upon us with total lack of order, and therefore we beat down many
before they killed one more of our number. Had my fellows not been
used to obeying what I ordered, I could not have kept them formed
together for a moment. It was only this condition of semi-order which
saved us from total annihilation, for our mad antagonists rushed the
fray with most inconsequent violence and force.

There was singular din of blows--clubs on flesh and clubs on clubs,--
cries of rage and agony and shouted words--both of Linkish and
English. It was a spectacle of wildest action, the quick, muscular
Blacks, inconceivably savage, dancing, leaping about and hurling
themselves upon us, their clubs fairly flaying the air, their faces
fiendish with animal ferocity, teeth revealed and eyes darting fire of
hatred, while we were equally wrought up, vicious and thirsty for
blood, smashing them down, waging war of defense and war of vindictive
aggression.

They were winning, crowding us too near together, beating our outside
fighters to death and dragging them feet first into a melee of
descending clubs, when our mates descended on the rear of the ones
between ourselves and camp, and broke the cordon completely. They
screamed with hideous delight as they bowled over a dozen of the foe,
but over-confidence would have cost us every life---and the Lord only
knows what after results---had my comrades not understood and obeyed
my commands to fly, for we were still outnumbered by heavy odds.
Pushing my Red fellows, guiding and endeavouring to retire them in
order, I suddenly saw a club coming straight for my neck. I dodged,
but got a scrape along the scalp and a thud on the shoulder, when I
drove home my knife for the first time during the fight, and ripped it
out from a three-cornered wound. Then we darted through the battered-
down opening in the ring and ran as hard as we could drive for the
camp.

Up the hill we surged with the Blacks swarming up behind us. We had
gained fifty yards, owing doubtless to our perfect familiarity with
the ground; nevertheless a pair of our wounded fell behind and were
overtaken and beaten to a pulp at once. Through the gate in our wall
we scrambled, and then I got my bow in hand at last and flew about
frantically, shouting and urging my fellows to arm themselves with the
others.

While only about twenty of us rushed back to the wall as archers, the
foremost Blacks, outstripping their comrades, bounded through the
opening, or over the wall, insane with the hoarded rage of former
defeats, and ignorant of what they should find. The chief had halted
just inside, with two of his mightiest fighters. They smashed down
Link after Link that attempted to rush the gate. Then we with the bows
arrived on the scene. The black demons in solid phalanx stormed the
wall and came climbing up over its top.

"Now! Now!" I cried, "Shoot the pigs!"

It made me thrill to see those powerful fellows making crescents of
the bows. My heart leaped exultantly to hear the twangs and to see the
small but deadly shower of arrows suddenly pierce the air and sink in
the scabbards of flesh. The very first flight toppled five of the
creatures endways.

"Shoot! Pigs!" I shouted again, for these two words my Links
comprehended.

More came running to join us with the bows. We spread out in something
of a line. The air became thick with the hurtling arrows. Some struck
the wall and some flew high, but we mowed down many a Black, dead or
wounded, till the fierce attacking devils were appalled to see us and
to see this mysterious work of slaughter.

They halted; the back-bone of their mad impulse was broken; they could
not endure to advance in the face of fatalities about them, much less
to carry the place, over the bodies of their fellows. Yet they were
still more than we in numbers, and had they known of and adopted the
bloody tactics which sacrifice many, in those heroic, irresistible
charges by which men win a fearful battle, they would still have swept
us off the hill to the forest beyond, for our meagre supply of arrows
was nearly exhausted already.

Below the wall they rallied. The fellow who was armed with the gold-
nugget club--which was dripping with gore--seemed to be in command. He
flourished his terrible weapon and fired the Blacks with courage anew.
They came for us, hot and eager to even up the score.

I saw the great ebon creature head their charge, and notching my last
remaining arrow on my bow-string, I waited for him, in great
excitement. They paid no attention to the gate, but crying out madly,
swarmed up over the wall again as if nothing on earth could check
their career. Those of my fighters who still had arrows shot with
vengeance in every vibrating muscle. The Black who led, presented a
splendid target, presently, though he was moving quickly. I let the
shaft drive straight for his breast, but he was leaping downward at
the second it arrived, and it struck him squarely in the top of the
left shoulder, near the neck and just inside the collar-bone. It
seemed for a second as if it had gone in half its length, but beyond
stumbling forward a trifle when he landed, the fellow appeared to have
received no harm.

I heard a cry of despair go up from the Blacks when they saw their
leader struck, but I gave no heed to anything, so intent had I become
on watching this active creature. I was so absorbed, indeed, that
before I realised what was occurring, the fellow had bounded near
enough to swing his club to slay me where I stood. Half falling
backward to escape, I lost my footing. The club came swiftly through
the air, my arm was knocked aside and the nugget thumped ponderously
on my ribs and bowled me end over end.

It had all happened in a second. I was down and knew I was badly hurt
before I could have winked. I thought the furious Black would rush
upon me and batter in my head, for I could not have risen to save
myself from anything. But the savage creature fell dead in his tracks
for my arrow had found his heart and he had died even as he struck
that powerful blow. Had he not been fatally hit, his blow would have
slain me outright.

In the meantime, my fellows, having brought down three of the foe with
arrows, had grabbed up their clubs again to beat in the heads of the
Blacks who dared jump down in the field of death. Seeing their chief
as he sank, without so much as the nicker of a movement, the remaining
besiegers gave a yell of dismay and fled in a panic.

Our forces--savage and aggressive the moment the tables were turned--
became the hunters instead of the hunted. They descended upon the
flying Blacks, slaying all the wounded who hobbled in the rear of the
wild retreat and all whom they overtook before the jungle received its
defeated children back.



CHAPTER XXII. HOME JOYS AND TROUBLES

I MUST have swooned, for I knew no more of anything until I awoke, in
a dazed condition, and found old Fatty bending down above me, while
near at hand nearly all the beings of the tribe stood gazing on my
prostrate form with expressions of grave concern.

Upon trying to arise I was so shot through with pain in my side and
chest, that I felt things go dizzy directly. Then after a little I
attempted to move to a more comfortable position. This was
accomplished only at the cost of great agony. I found that my left arm
was badly injured while all the upper portion of my body seemed
quivering with pain. Never had I been so wounded in my life.

I asked for water, for the Links were but little better than so many
faithful dogs, who could whine over my helpless carcass, but who had
not the slightest idea of what to do to relieve my suffering. Never
had muscular action caused me such pangs as I underwent upon trying to
swallow.

The thump I had received, slightly back of the region of the heart,
had come so near to being my pass to the world beyond that I believe
another volt of power in the blow would have done the work. As it was,
I refrained from crying out only by exerting my utmost will, when the
chief and Fatty carried me bodily and laid me down on the skins in my
shelter.

My consciousness went again as soon as my body touched the couch; yet
I rallied soon and attempted to nod my recognition as the chief came
back again, bearing the great gold-nugget club, which he leaned
against the wall.

It became manifest early that if I survived the shock to my system and
the fracture of at least one rib, which I felt sure had resulted from
the blow, it must be through sheer good luck, backed by a hardy
constitution, for of lotions, or bandages or skillful attendance there
could be absolutely none.

That night I experienced the most excruciating torture it has ever
been my lot to endure. Every beat of my heart was like the stab of a
dagger, in feeling. Concussion, even that inflicted by a fist, has
proved too much for the great throbbing organ of man full many a time.
I thought of this afterward, but during that first twenty-four hours,
I was utterly incapable of doing anything except living through the
ordeal of pain.

All through the day that followed I lay there, feverish, yet too badly
hurt to move on my bed. I ate nothing and drank water only, in single
swallows. Fatty remained at my side as a mother might have done. Fifty
times that day he ran to the spring for the fresh, cool water, as that
which stood about in a shell for half an hour became too warm to be
fit to drink. After a time he licked one of my burning hands, timidly,
as if uncertain of how this ministration would be received. It felt
cool and not at all disagreeable; I therefore made no motion to draw
the member away. Presently the worried creature repeated the favour;
and after he had done this humble office for both hands and wrists, I
felt so soothed and refreshed that I fell asleep at last, and got a
natural rest.

Day after day went by and I was still on my back, though I could see
that improvement continued steadily. It was fully a week before I was
able to move without suffering agonies, and for some time after that
the pain in my ribs was exceedingly sharp. During all this time I was
amply supplied by Fatty with fruits and with abominably cooked meats,
for the females were neglecting all my former instructions, concerning
the fire and the roasting and boiling of game.

As soon as I was able to sit up, propped against a rock, I worked a
little every day at making arrows, and urged my most skillful
assistants to do the same. These shafts could not be pointed, owing to
our lack of flints, but we finished several hundred, as to all but the
requisite heads. I was visited daily by all the tribe, except two
individuals, Grin and the unforgiving Lady Albino. The little Links
who had fled in uncertainty before, even up to the last, now began to
make me more of a regular companion. They were near me, more or less,
from dawn till dusk, capering about, sitting in groups in the
sunlight, to watch me with ever-nervous eyes, and rolling over one
another in rough, good-natured play.

The very smallest of these "children" were hairy little scamps most
astoundingly like baby chimpanzees, except for their lighter colour.
By the hour I watched them at their play and listened to their funny
little words of talk. It was not an ordinary baby prattle, to be sure,
but it made me think that all babies are very much alike. Their chief
amusement consisted in making a noise, by striking any two objects
together. The rarest things they did were crying and laughing.

There was one little chap who never rolled on his back with the
others, never made a noise and rarely spoke. He was the only one that
looked in my face with eyes that were human-like and steady. I fancied
his quaint little face was wistful; it was certainly serious and
therein widely different from those of all his companions. This little
creature approached me most timidly and yet with a certain persistency
that finally made me look about, in the morning, to see if he had
come.

For several days he sat near my feet, over which, finally, he laid his
little arm. Gradually then he worked nearer and nearer to my head, as
I sat against the rock until at last he cuddled unobtrusively up
against me and permitted my arm to close loosely about his little
form. Thereafter this was his one particular place. Hour after hour he
would nestle close in this, his nook, turning his questioning eyes to
mine, now and again, and blinking as if he tried to think out the
great inscrutable problem of what we are and why we came to partake of
the mystery of life. How foolishly fond of this little creature I
became, I shall not attempt to say.

This was a time of laziness for all the tribe. The Links were sun-
lovers of the most ardent description. Secure on our hill, undriven by
any task-master, provided with food in plenty, they basked for hours,
lying flat on the back, and played exaggerated pranks, sometimes in a
languid spirit of ease and sometimes with the greatest activity of
movement. They appeared to know nothing of family ties, nor of sorrow
for those whom they had been obliged to bury. They had no remorse, nor
"pricks of conscience" for any acts ever performed, nor did they seem
to have conceived of anything superior to themselves, except in a
purely physical manner. Thus they realised nothing of an occult,
spiritual power of control and nothing of mystery, either in life or
death. They therefore had not the slightest fundamental suggestion of
a religion, and worshipped nothing and feared nothing, save that which
they could see and which they had discovered, in their animal
capacity, to be dangerous to life or limb. They could be made to feel
a certain sort of awe, but this was one slight degree only above that
emotion which in an animal would excite the expression "the creature
is cowed."

I had ample opportunity to become acquainted with the various traits
of my friends, for I was something of an invalid for more than two
weeks. I came to the conclusion that the Links were keener than I in
every natural sense; that is, they could see things more quickly; they
could hear that which escaped my duller ears; they could smell odours
which failed to convey themselves to me; and they could "feel" dangers
by a sort of unknown sense, or instinct, of which I would always
remain in complete ignorance. They were highly organised in the
natural attributes; they were powerful and active above any animal of
their size I have ever seen; but when thought of as humans, they
ranked with children who just fail to clutch the ideas of older people
and whose efforts in manufacturing are crude and worthless.

When at last I began to walk about again, performing small labours, I
still had an occasional dart of pain through my side, which made a
feeling of illness spread all through my system. However, the weather
was beautiful, the food simple and wholesome and the work soon began
to limber me up.

Before I was quite myself again, I commenced to be exceedingly annoyed
by the actions of Grin. Although I had been the recognised superior,
if not the governor, of the tribe at the moment when I laid low the
chief of the Blacks and completed our victory, yet my wound and
subsequent weakness had rendered nearly everything nugatory. Inasmuch
as my nearness to death had robbed me of the power by which I kept the
Links in awe, many had assumed an irreverent air which became positive
insolence on the part of the fawner.

Having allied himself with the resentful female albino, this creature
was never neglectful of an opportunity to perform some sneaking bit of
meanness. For a time I was too weak to resent these impositions, and
therefore the creature grew bolder in the liberties which he dared to
take. Thus my tiger skull had again disappeared, and I knew he had
stolen it, although I had no means of proving the theft. One morning,
however, I caught the scoundrel in the act of smashing my turtle-shell
basin with a rock. His reason for doing this was two-fold. First, it
had contained the water with which I had dampened the ardour of Madame
Albino, and second, it was regarded by all as something uncanny out of
which I drew a certain power as I washed my face and hands--an
operation of which none of the tribe was ever guilty. Grin may have
thought to deprive me of my source of strength.

This wanton destruction of my property made me exceedingly angry.
Before he could leave the scene of his labour I rushed up and gave him
a kick which was decidedly swift. It assisted him to rise with great
alacrity. He turned with a snarl and threw himself upon me. A fight
was on in less than a second. I had feared this collision for several
weeks. It had come at a bad time for me, inasmuch as the creature was
twice as strong as I, even when in my normal state, and now I was far
from being restored to my former condition. We wrestled for a moment,
the beast attempting to bite, scratch and choke me and to bear me down
to the ground. I threw him off for a moment and Fatty would have
jumped him instantly--and killed him, no doubt, with his club--had I
not waved him off abruptly. I was gratified to know that a friend was
near, but I desired to show the Links, who assembled at once, that I
was master when it came to a battle. This decision nearly cost me my
life, for the brute gave me a wrench that brought back agonies which
were well nigh insupportable, while I was knocking his hideous head
aside from an attempted bite at my cheek.

For a second I regretted that Fatty had not batted off his head, for I
felt as if I should drop from weakness. But when he dug his nails in
my arm the smart aroused such a rage that my strength came flooding
upward, like a gush of something hot in my blood. I had warded off
many of his lunges and was waiting for an opening as if I had been
engaged in boxing. The chance presented itself now. He was leaping
toward me viciously when I "slugged" him with all my might, fairly in
the pit of the stomach. My fist actually seemed to sink into the
fellow's body. He was lifted off his feet, but before he could fall I
fetched him a right-hander under the chin that jolted his head
backward abruptly.

He fell like an effigy, arms outstretched, so that the back of his
skull was the first thing to strike the ground. There he lay, limp as
a snake and motionless as a stone, while a referee could have "counted
him out" for the next twenty minutes. A great howl of satisfaction
greeted this performance, which placed me again on my pedestal of
incomprehensible power. The truth of the matter was, however, that I
was ready to fall over, myself, so severe had been the strain and the
injury done to my weakened frame. By the greatest of efforts I walked
away and washed myself at the spring.

Grin, when at last he again assumed a perpendicular, was dizzy on his
legs, ill and altogether a sorrowful object. I knew his head was
aching and that his stomach would be morbidly sensitive for several
days. He was hooted and picked upon also, having been utterly
defeated, so that he was glad to retire from active service, muttering
no end of what I supposed were threats and maledictions.

I was of precious little account to myself, or to any of the tribe,
that day, but on the morrow I was mending rapidly again, and beginning
to pick up various threads of the plans I had fashioned before our
fateful day of battle with the Blacks.

It was long since anyone from the camp had visited the boat, but my
thoughts had been there much of the time. I had feared, daily, another
invasion by the enemy, whom I knew to be revengeful and who now
understood the nature of our fortifications and means of defense. This
feeling of alarm increased. Should they come, with a force still
greater than the last, and find us armed with blunt arrows only, our
resistance would be short indeed. I dared not contemplate undertaking
my exploration of the lake, much less my escape, while we were
possibly threatened with another attack and while I was weaponless
myself, excepting for my trusty knife.

Being almost wholly fit again I determined to make an immediate
excursion to our old cave-camp for the purpose of securing a supply of
chalcedony pebbles.



CHAPTER XXIII. NEEDED MUNITIONS GATHERED

MY PREPARATIONS consisted merely of acquainting a score of the Links
with my desire and of selecting six of the most suitable of our
baskets for use in bringing the flints to our village. More of the
fighters than I wanted were eager to be of the party, but I deemed it
advisable to leave a number at home with the females and children.

We got an early start and headed in what I had calculated to be the
right direction. In this calculation I had been guided solely by my
memory of our camp and its position, relatively to the lake, as seen
that day from the top of the old volcanic peak. Pushing ahead as
rapidly as possible, and spending no time on the game which we
naturally encountered in the jungle, we traversed several miles
without coming upon anything with which my friends were familiar, so
that I soon gave up hoping that they would be of much assistance in
finding the former dwelling place. From what I knew of them now, I was
convinced that none ever proceeded far from camp in any direction.
Their longest marches were accomplished when they felt obliged to
abandon a settlement, and I believe that even then they rarely
travelled more than five or six miles at the furthest.

After another hour of pushing along we emerged from the forest into a
small, low valley which was nearly all a swamp and at the head of
which was a mountain of considerable height. This place discouraged me
deeply for I had believed I should really discover some guiding
landmark, on clearing the woods. That we had gone somewhat in the
wrong direction there could be no doubt, for I was sure we had
travelled far enough, by this time, to have passed the old cave, had it
been on our line of march.

The day was excessively hot and I was weary and sleepy, being still a
bit soft after my troubles, but I was annoyed at the thought of being
baffled. I determined to climb the mountain, for the sake of the
enlarged prospect to be had from its summit, and therefore we toiled
up, slowly, through a dense growth that covered the lower part of the
slope.

Upon reaching the summit, I gave a cry of delight. I had recognised
the elevation as being the very same volcanic peak which Fatty and I
had ascended together, and which the party of us now had approached
from the opposite side. This gave me my bearings at once. I could all
but see the old camp below, when we had crossed the ancient, filled-in
crater. I pointed out the lake, and I made out the true direction of
our fortified settlement far away on its miniature hill. We started
down in a hurry, for even the Links knew the way after this. I might
have thought of nothing but the flints we were after had I not fairly
stumbled against the out-jutting ledge of sulphur which I had
discovered on the previous visit.

"Why here," I said aloud, unthinkingly, "I believe I'll take a load of
this to camp. By jingo, boys, I'll make a lot of gunpowder!"

Sulphur here, saltpetre at home, charcoal to be had for the burning,
my thoughts ran like lightning over the possibilities thrust into my
unwitting hand. Powder? To be sure I could make powder! I would make a
ton of it--all we wanted and more! I would provide myself with a keg
or two and take it along with me when I left in my boat to escape. But
how I would use it, what I could do with the dangerous stuff, when
once I had it--having no guns and no cannon---this was more than I
could tell. Indeed this part of the proposition floored me at once,
but with a ready refuge in postponing the working out of this trifling
problem, I dismissed it from my brain completely and had my fellows
assist me in breaking off enough of the purest of the mineral to fill
two baskets heaping full.

Two Links were required to each basket, when it came to bearing this
cargo away, but I meditated that some wholesome labour was precisely
what they needed. We reached the old camp shortly. There were the
rocks thrown up to cover the mouth of the cave, which had threatened
to be our tomb, but the grass and ferns had overgrown the spot and
much of the rock heaps, to such an extent that no one could have
guessed that a camp or a fire had ever been located in or about the
clearing.

The ravine, where the tribe had buried its dead, presented its former
appearance. We set to work without delay and in less than thirty
minutes the pebbles were accumulating with gratifying rapidity. I was
careful to select the ones best suited to our sundry requirements.
Those in some of the baskets I covered with soil, in order to keep
their moisture from departing before we should have the time necessary
to split them and chip out the arrow-heads, axes and knives.

It was something of a giant task to convey our baskets away, when I
finally had them loaded to my satisfaction, but the Links were
tremendously strong, and all were willing to make the greatest
possible exertion, that day, to gratify my wishes.

We ate a lunch of fruits and some cold meat which I had carried along,
after which we made a "bee-line" for home. But I fear that any self-
respecting bee would have been much ashamed of such a line as ours
became before we issued forth from the trees, at last, in sight of the
hill.

When we arrived, a great surprise was in store for all. Grin, the
fawner, had disappeared--run away. The news was received with
indifference by the chief, and with evident gladness by not a few of
the others. When at last it was made intelligible to me, I knew not
whether to rejoice or to be concerned and suspicious of something
impending.



CHAPTER XXIV. EXPERIMENTAL GUNPOWDER

OUR WORK of creating things of flint began that same day, although the
afternoon was far advanced when we arrived. I was in a fever to
complete our preparations against any future aggressions on the part
of the enemy, particularly as I had a growing conviction that Grin,
the deserter and treacherous devil, had gone straight away to hunt for
the Blacks. I believed his sole intention was that of betraying his
kind and thereby of wreaking a vengeance for all the punishments which
he had rightfully undergone.

All the questions I could ask about the fellow, through the medium of
my few words in Linkish and my signs, which were supplemented by my
native language, failed to elicit any satisfactory information. Having
too much to do to spend my time in thinking of the beast, I set my
selected assistants to work at splitting out slabs of flint.

The greater part of the pebbles, I had my fellows bury in a moist,
shady place, for, labour as diligently as we might, we could not
complete the work on a third of the stone, as I knew, before the hot
air would begin to render the stuff as hard as glass and quite
unworkable.

During all next day we were at it, hammering, chipping and forming.
Four fellows, clever at binding were heading the arrows already
provided, and lashing hatchets and knives to handles. That night, by
way of a pleasant diversion, I secured some fragments of charcoal, and
reducing this and some of my sulphur and nitre to a flour, mixed the
three together and ground the grayish substance for a time, between
two stones. Such a dust arose that I was obliged to sprinkle the stuff
with a few drops of water. This seemed to help it in combining, but do
my best, I could not make the mixture resemble gunpowder in the
slightest degree. Having just about decided to give the task over, as
one presenting difficulties too great for me to cope with
successfully, I took a palm-full of my material and, by way of
experiment, threw it on the fire.

Instantly the well-known hiss resulted and a dense cloud of pungent
smoke arose with such a quickness that I stumbled backward from the
place, involuntarily. Only Fatty and one or two others of the Links
beheld this exhibition, the others being already asleep. The fright
depicted on the faces of this small but select audience was a
wonderful thing to see. I determined at once to set about burning a
quantity of charcoal, for already I had conceived an idea that it
might be possible to utilise the explosive to advantage, and I
intended at least to give my scheme a trial.

On the day that followed, the first thing I did was to have the Links
collect a lot of wood, the softest and driest I could find. This I
heaped up in a conical pile and walled in snugly with turf and a
little of the clay, which was everywhere about us. When it was lighted
and smoking slightly through various small chinks, I banked it up
around the bottom and returned to the work on the flints.

Before we got through with those pebbles we had rough but serviceable
arrow-heads by the hundreds, knives in plenty, hatchets for all, with
some to spare, and sixty or eighty spear-heads, which were bound to
long, stout hafts, in the regular course of finishing up. I reserved
for my own personal arsenal two axes, two knives and fifty of the
finest arrows in the lot. Also I assumed a general command, as
custodian, over all the weapons and utensils in the tribe's
possession.

No sooner were the armaments complete than I went to my powder-making
with indefatigable vigour, thankful for every day that passed without
bringing the foe, which I dreaded and thoroughly expected to see come
swarming up the slope from the woods. I made my fellows pound up
charcoal till some were nearly as black as the enemy for whom we were
preparing. The powdered stuff we placed in the baskets, several of
which I plastered inside with clay, which dried hard and firm. The
saltpetre, which we dug and brought up the hill, was treated in a
similar manner, as was also the sulphur. Anyone to have seen me
directing this business would have thought I intended to supply an
old-fashioned navy with explosives.

During these days I in nowise neglected the archery practice, which
alone could make my warriors capable of using the weapons to
advantage. We shot at a target the size of a man, which I fashioned
out of skins and heavy palm leaves. This being backed by a sort of
hedge, constructed of bamboo and more of the leaves, we lost but few
of the arrows employed. And the arrows used were not from our pointed
stock, though they were whittled sharp on the end, so that many
pierced the target as neatly as a bullet. Thirty of my force grew
decidedly efficient, being accurate, strong shots who could be relied
upon to perform good work on any attacking party. We also used the
spears, in the throwing of which the Links took great delight. I was
sure that come what might, the fellows would never again be so
primitive as they were when first I met them in the jungle. Whether I
left them or not, they would hereafter possess weapons which would
place them far above the Blacks in point of capacity to kill.

One of the greatest difficulties with which I had to contend, while
making my powder, was the frequent coming of rain. This threatened to
make it all too wet to be of any use. There were also many days when a
thick, damp fog rolled upward from the lower levels, slowly evolving
into a ponderous cloud which covered all the jungle-world. The baskets
containing the pulverized materials were doubly protected, however, by
skins, and the roofs of the special dug-outs which we made, but the
roofs were never entirely water-tight.

Being unacquainted with the recognised formulae for mixing various
powders, I simply took about three parts charcoal to one each of nitre
and sulphur, and set the Links to grinding these substances together,
slightly dampening the whole as before. The grayish stuff, which I
regarded finally as the best product of which we were capable, I
stored away, next to my own shelter. There must have been two hundred
pounds of this powder, the making of all of which had only occupied us
for a short time, after the several ingredients in their rough state
had been assembled.

In order to impress the tribe with the urgent necessity of keeping all
fire away from the baskets, I dropped a glowing coal into a handful as
it lay on a rock. The vivid flash did so much to accomplish my purpose
that I could hardly get the Links to approach the dangerous mixture
under any circumstances whatsoever.

My next step now was to visit the swamp where the thicket of bamboo
flourished. In this place, as I had expected, there were all sizes of
this peculiar tree-reed, but the largest ones appealed to me most
strongly. I carried off what I thought I should need, and selecting
the driest of my stock, cut off a large section behind the joint, on
one end, and in front of the next joint on the other. The piece then
resembled quite a cannon, without further ado.

This thing I was aware was much too brittle to stand an explosion, but
I meant to try it, nevertheless. To begin with I bored a vent through
the hard, thick shell, near the end that was naturally plugged. Then I
reinforced that plug by lashing a stone across the end firmly. Next I
split some more bamboo and laid the strips lengthwise along the
barrel, thus doubling the thickness, after which I had the whole thing
stoutly wound about with tough, slender creepers, till I was sure it
would resist a powerful tendency to burst.

What to do for a fuse, when at length my piece of mountain artillery
was loaded--with powder and rocks--puzzled me no little.

The thing was "mounted" half way down the hill, pointed toward an
imaginary foe, and was amply weighted with rocks at the sides and on
the top. At length I hit upon a plan for the fuse. It was simply to
split a creeper, the outside of which we frequently employed, and to
pull out the smooth, wire-like core inside, and then to fill the space
so left hollow, with powder. In the sun this shell of the creeper
dried out rapidly, rolling up so tightly in the process that it
squirmed itself into several twists. This "habit" of the thing was
exactly what was required, for when the powder was laid along inside,
the chances for it to trickle out were exceedingly meagre.

About thirty feet of this fuse I laid to the "gun," with stones along
its length to keep it properly in place. Then, with a thumping heart
under my shirt, I proceeded down the hill, alone, with a fire-brand
glowing hotly in my fist. I looked all about, when I came to the
match, and selected my path back up to the camp. Then I touched the
end of the creeper--and jerked my fire away, quickly.

There was no alarming sputter after all. I tried again. The creeper
smoked, giving forth a pungent odour, but the powder must have fallen
out for a short distance. I cut off six or seven inches and had the
satisfaction of seeing powder in plenty. This time it lighted and
began to spit in a hurry. I darted off, stopped, looked back, saw a
tiny smoke-snake running down the hill, and again I ran as hard as I
could, momentarily expecting something tremendous to happen behind my
back.

To my surprise I reached the camp and nothing had occurred. I turned
about and looked, panting and yet attempting to hold my breath. There
was nothing to be seen, save the heap of rocks where my "battery" was
planted. I waited and waited. The seconds slipped by; the Links behind
me were as silent as the grave. My heart ceased its violent jumping;
the thing was going to prove a failure; the Links would think me a
fool.

"I'll have to go down and see what's the matter," I grumbled. "That
fuse is no good."

I had taken two steps when suddenly a great flare of fire leaped
upward, the side of the hill appeared to fly into fragments and a
roaring detonation split the silence into a thousand ringing
reverberations. A cushion of air gave us all a push, and a huge geyser
of smoke went upward in rolling, billowy gushes. I wondered in that
second, how many pounds of that powder I had put in the "piece" in my
natural anxiety to give it a good, square trial.

Something screamed weirdly in the air, while we stood speechless, and
presently it came whirring down, a rod below the wall, striking the
ground with a sounding thud.

Yelling in dismay, the second they recovered power to do anything, the
Links fell over each other helter-skelter, in their great confusion,
and desire to take to the woods. As for myself, I laughed and laughed
like a veritable maniac, and threw my arms about myself and jumped in
the air repeatedly, as tickled with my exploit as a boy. Then I ran
outside and found my cannon, the thing which had whistled as it
hurtled back to earth.

It was a "goner" and no mistake. Black as a hat, ripped from muzzle to
breach, blown to pieces at the plugged-up end, it certainly gave the
appearance of having "gone through the war," but it pleased me not a
whit the less.

"Why that's all right," I assured the surrounding stillness, "I'll go
to work and make a lot of bamboo bombs."



CHAPTER XXV. THE TRIBE FRIGHTENED

THE SPOT with the pile of rocks, where my cannon had been planted,
bore ample testimony to the high explosive quality of my powder, for
nothing was left in place and everything which had been in contact
with the piece was beautifully blackened.

My frightened Links seemed to be anything but confident that I was not
likely to burst myself, with a loud report, and scatter devastation
everywhere. They stood off a distance that was more than merely
respectful and were not to be induced to return to my side by any
persuasion or assurances for more than an hour. I had no doubt they
thought me a bit of a devil, for even Fatty and the children were
afraid to return to my side. The single exception to this unanimity of
feeling was furnished by my little favourite chap who seemed so human.

This tot of a Link had been much neglected of late, so busy had I been
with work. Now when he came and clung to my leg, as I stood in the
camp eating a mango and thinking busily, I looked down in his tiny
face and felt happy to see him so near. Sitting down against my rock,
in the sunlight, I let him cuddle down in his usual place, and
together we enjoyed a time of peace. It became one of those natural
spells of rest. I felt like easing off on the pressure of work for a
time, having accomplished really all that seemed to be needful by way
of making ready to receive any invaders of our village who might
choose to come.

The attitude of Tike--as I called my little friend---did much to re-
convince the Links of my normal, pacific intentions. Fatty was the
first to return, doubtless actuated by a trifling touch of jealousy.
After him the others came edging back, one by one, every individual
inordinately curious to see if I were in any manner altered by the
extraordinary disturbance which I had so recently created. All that
day they evinced alarm and a readiness to run whenever I stirred
about. For the powder, carefully stored away, they possessed a
profound distrust and respect.

During the next few days I sat around for much of the time, always
with wistful little Tike nestled up under my arm. The tiny chap seemed
more quiet than before, if possible, and somewhat thinner. All the
other little Links were as fat, roily, bright-eyed and lively as so
many Pah Ute Indian papooses, and equally red and naked, but Tike was
almost a sad little fellow. He leaned his head against me by the hour,
sighing now and again, and patting my big, brown hand with his wee,
red one, as if there could be no greater content and happiness in the
world.

The attack I had daily expected and against the advent of which I had
laboured with such unremitting zeal, had failed to materialise. Day
after day went by, with such a stillness and peace over all the world,
that I began to forget the malignant Grin, who had kept the troubles
simmering constantly, and to forget my fears of the savage Blacks.
Without the slightest stir or bother, I kept my fellows in training
with the bows, accompanied the parties on the hunt, kept the baskets
and other essential properties of the camp in good condition and still
found time leisurely to work at making my deadly bombs.

This labour I made simple and easy by selecting sections of bamboo
which, when cut off to form cylinders open at one end only, telescoped
together. That is the smaller cylinder, containing a large charge of
powder, slipped inside the larger, and each being provided with a
stone reinforcement, where naturally plugged, I bound the two shells
together firmly. Five of these bombs were enormous, containing
probably twenty-five pounds of powder. Some of the others were only
about a foot in length and three inches or less in diameter. These
smaller ones I intended to take with me in my boat, if ever I started
on my voyage of escape. I thought I could throw them at any foe which
might approach too near. Each was provided with a tube-like fuse,
stopped with clay, to prevent the powder from running out, and which
could be broken off at a moment's notice to form a connection with the
powder in a longer fuse, which could then be bound upon it. I also
provided several coils of the match, made of creepers, each coil at
least thirty feet in length. This became dry so that I determined that
if occasion should ever arise I would make a fresh supply, keeping
this other ready for emergencies.

The days of peace became weeks. So free from trouble had we become in
the camp, since the disappearance of Grin, that my feverish desire to
flee had somewhat abated. Moreover the albino female had partaken of
such a thorough fright, on the day when my ordnance exploded, that she
left me severely alone. Yet I did think constantly of the boat and
should have busied myself more with my half-formed project of getting
away, had I not been bound more closely than I realised to the links
by little Tike, who seemed to me to be fading away.

He came every morning to my shelter, often before I was awake, and
when at last I stirred and turned over, there he would be, sitting
quietly by the side of my couch, looking yearningly into my face with
his steady, thoughtful eyes, and holding his tiny hands together in
his "lap." Always he greeted my look with a strange, quiet smile,
which made his wee, homely face the very next thing to divine. I got
to carrying the little chap about, as I went from place to place. I
found that I missed him, when resting out in the jungle, after a hunt
with my fellows. It also gave me a most unreasonable pleasure to talk
to the tiny mite, who would answer with a faint, half-crooning sound
of pleasure. I called him frequently my "Little Man." At intervals,
sometimes of days, he would repeat the word "Man" in a way that caused
me to feel a peculiar thrill whenever it came from his lips.

As before, my attitude of comparative passivity begot more or less of
the symptoms of familiarity on the part of several Links. This did no
little in the way of deciding me anew to quit the place, if possible.
I was doubtful in my mind as to which method would be preferable, that
of attempting to find and utilise the outlet of the lake in my boat,
or to endeavour to induce about fifty of the fighters to escort me
across the country to the sea. But one day which we spent in the
jungle decided me without further mental debate.

We were stalking a pair of hogs, which were unusually clever at
evading the flanking Links and at penetrating far into the jungle,
when suddenly the great, dark form of a genuine elephant loomed up, as
he smashed his way through a thicket. Instantly every Link in the
party screamed out an imitation "trumpet" of alarm and fled
incontinently, as they had on the former occasion. This time I had no
intention of being left behind, nor of giving battle to the brute with
my fists and knife. I joined the running fellows, endeavouring to make
them halt and retire in at least decent order, but this effort was
utterly futile; their panic was complete and not to be overcome.

Thankful thus to be reminded of the former incident, which I had been
too near to forgetting, I decided, even as we hastened away from the
monarch of the jungle, that the attempt to perform any long and
hazardous march with such a cowardly "army" as this at my heels would
be madness. I must launch the boat and proceed alone.



CHAPTER XXVI. SPORT AT THE LAKE

IT WAS NOT a difficult operation to bore some holes in the gunwale of
my boat and to hammer in four stout pegs for row-locks, and then I put
in a seat, constructed of thin bamboo strips, and all was ready. The
craft was more than sixteen feet long, three feet in the beam and
hollowed out to a depth of about eighteen inches. The launch was not
effected until after I had secured a long, stout painter to the bow,
the rope being made of creeper-fibre, twisted and braided. This was
pliable and quite as enduring as hemp.

Although the Links were manifestly afraid of the lake, they were
intensely interested when the craft upon which we had worked so hard
and long, went splashing into the water. She righted herself in a
second and floated high above the surface. But when I hauled her in
with the rope and jumped inside, sat down and got out my sweeps, to
row, the astonishment of the fellows was unbounded. They were
frightened for my safety, uneasy to the verge of whining, as they ran
up and down the beach, and still were all so fascinated that not one
could look at anything else. Old Fatty acted precisely like one of
those dogs who is crazy to join his master and yet dreads the water so
greatly as to fear even wetting his feet. He lifted either foot, and
half squatted and gave little jumps, as if about to plunge in and make
a bold swim for the boat, till he appeared too ridiculous for words.
Then he ran down the shore and back again and stood with his comical
head on one side making me laugh uproariously.

The boat was great! She was inclined to roll a trifle, owing to the
fact that she was the same size from stem to stern, and therefore
minus the broad beam which makes a craft steady, but she was
remarkably light to row and easily steered. Moreover I found, by
throwing my weight to either side, that she had a powerful tendency to
return to an even keel, which rendered her almost impossible to turn
bottom upward. This I attributed to the fact that while her sides were
comparatively thin, the bottom was at least eight inches thick, which
made her light on top and heavy below, an excellent arrangement when
to give her a larger belly was out of the question. I am bound to
admit that she had no "lines," that indeed she looked like the log she
was, clumsy and quite ungraceful. Nevertheless I was prouder as I sat
in her hold than is any captain of the noblest ship afloat.

I rowed her this way and that, across to a nearby point and then
straight away down the middle of the lake for half a mile. When I
turned I made out a floating thing a score of yards from the shore on
the left--one of my alligator acquaintances, swimming about. I was not
afraid of any attack in so large a boat, especially as my nature could
not have been so readily surmised by the hungry saurians, while I was
rowing. I should not have minded a race anyway, for I felt secure on
my own stamping ground and as saucy as a boy with a toy pistol.

Before starting back, I noted particularly the outline against the sky
which our hill and its neighbours formed, thinking I might be much in
need of some such guide when I came to go further from home. Then I
drove my craft with all the speed I could force. Her prow was slightly
above the glass-like surface and the water swashed backward from her
keel with a sound that stirred me to immoderate delight in this my
supreme achievement.

The oars were heavy and the row-locks a trifle awkward; we rolled a
bit to one side and I was obliged to keep fetching her nose about to
port at every dozen strokes, but I made satisfactory time and just
before she shot across the last fifty feet of water and rammed up high
on the shore, a startled fish of some description, leaped bodily out
of the water and darted off in affright.

My friends gave forth various notes of alarm and fell back quickly to
the shelter of the trees. I was not at all certain whether they were
most afraid of the fish or of me and the magic which they seemed to
think I possessed. Fatty, however, was too glad to get me back to care
for anything else. He fell headlong over the boat in his crazy
endeavour to get his paws upon me and to roll on top of my feet.

Inasmuch as the day was too far advanced to permit of any extended
explorations, I decided to try for a bit of sport.

"Boys," said I, remembering an old-time joke, "which would you rather
do or go fishing?"

I got them to fetch me a long line, made of thongs tied firmly
together, while Fatty got a bird for bait and I cut a tough hard hook
out of wood. For this I chose a V-shaped crutch, one leg of which
became the shank, while the other was cut off shorter, sharpened and
formed like a barb. With the line tied to this, a rock for a sinker
and a piece of the bird spitted on my hook, I got out at the end of
the boat and heaved the tackle out as far as the cord would permit.

I pulled it back with no result, save for a nibble when I had taken it
almost in. I thought the fish must be small and near the shore.
However, I tried again. The result was the same, only that I got two
nibbles instead of one. The third cast was an aggravation, for some
miserable sprat got my bait. We put on a fresh piece and tied it in
place.

"Now," I grunted, as I threw the line again, "we'll see if you young
sardines will--"

A sudden, hard jerk on the line nearly dragged me overboard, neck and
crop. I had a bite which felt big enough to indicate a whale.

Bracing, I stopped the line abruptly from running through my hands;
and then began a tug-o'-war. It was not a scientific fight, for I
dared not permit Mr. Fish to take his head for a second, well knowing
that when he turned and slacked the line, the hook would slip from its
hold at once and let him escape. I therefore hauled at him hard and
stubbornly, panting soon and leaning backward, for he felt as heavy as
the bottom of the lake and quite as unwilling to be led as a mule. The
strain came on the line and on the hook. If these held--what would we
see?

I worked backward, inch by inch in the boat, till at last I was out on
the shore. By that time the craft had been hauled off the bank and was
all but ready to float.

"Fatty,--come here--and help,'" I panted.

Fatty understood and while he was filled with misgivings that made him
actually tremble, he laid hold of the line and together we drew it in,
hand over hand. Presently with a mad whirl our catch came floundering
and slashing upward till it splashed the surface, in violent action,
when it disappeared like a piece of lead. A minute later--we hauled
the thrashing denizen to shallow water and then clean out on the bank.
It was a good-sized tortoise, fairly hooked, dripping, fierce-looking
and struggling with all its might to get away. Fortunately the Links
knew something of turtles. Three plucked up courage sufficient to
despatch our prize at my third shout of, "Shoot him! Pig!"

"Shoot" meant to slay, in any style or form, and "pig" signified
anything in the way of game or a foe. The catch made my friends so
enthusiastic that they wanted no end of fishing. It also provided a
food of which they were fond, and it gave me a nice new basin. Deep-
lake angling having proved to be hot, hard work, I bethought me of
trying for something more quiet. Additional line was soon forthcoming,
and a run up to camp provided a bamboo rod, after which I cut a
smaller hook and baited as before.

At the second cast from the boat, I got a good sharp strike, and
without the slightest ceremony jerked out a silvery fish a foot in
length, of a species wholly unknown in my limited category of the
finny tribe. In fifteen minutes I had seven of these, ranging in
weight from one to four pounds, I judged, and all of firmer flesh than
I had expected to find in water so warm. The enjoyable part of all
this play was to hear the exclamations of wonder on the part of the
Links, at every successive catch. Had I remained there a day,
performing this feat every two minutes, I believe those child-like
creatures would have stayed at my side, marvelling no less at the very
last catch than they did at the first.

I created an incredible excitement, finally by making Fatty take the
rod in his hand for a cast. He got a bite so quickly that it made him
jump inside his skin, from toes to crown. The fellow would have fallen
down and rolled away had I not held him fast and compelled him to land
his flopping shiner. At this the Links behind us nearly had a fit.
Amusement, curiosity, timidity and desire to come and do likewise made
them the most excited and entertaining group in the world. One by one
they worked themselves up to the frenzy of courage necessary to try
their luck, but the ticklish, unique sensation of catching a fish so
quickly dispelled their fears that before we finished they were fairly
scrambling for the chance to be the next to try.

Beholding the immense satisfaction with which males and females, young
and old, cooked and devoured our catch, I wondered that the Links had
never progressed sufficiently to fish for themselves. The only
explanation I was able to give was that owing to their dread of the
lake, about the borders of which were innumerable snakes and
alligators, they had never discovered this food and therefore knew
nothing of the ease of taking all they could wish, by various
primitive methods.

A small quantity of tortoise and one of the smaller shiners satisfied
my craving for a change of diet, for neither was cooked to my liking,
nor was the flesh of a flavour to give me any particular delight.
However, I thought the Links deserved the play which the nearness of
the lake afforded, and therefore I cut them a score of hooks, that
night by the light of the fire, and had them prepare a lot of lines to
tie at the end of some bamboo rods which they fetched before the
darkness descended.

For myself, I laid out a bit of roasted meat and some fruit, got my
bow and arrows together, and otherwise made ready for an early start
on my tour of exploration.



CHAPTER XXVII. AN EXPLORATION

THE LAKE was a shimmering mirror, dashed with endless splashes of
colour, when my boat glided swiftly away in the sunshine of the early
morning. From the jungles that fringed the shores came many sounds of
birds, singing, screaming and calling out. The noise made by my oars
in the crude locks seemed to travel far and to echo back from every
side.

Believing in systematic investigation, I chose the shore off to the
right, along which I intended to cruise that day. I would try the
left-hand side the following day, if necessary, and then, if the
outlet I was seeking were still undiscovered, I might be obliged to
undertake a much longer trip than either of these would become.

The alligators had apparently not begun to stir about on the shady
side of the lake. I skimmed along within fifty yards of the shore,
constantly watching for any indication of a stream flowing outward
through the trees. The first hour brought no results; in the second I
came to "my" creek, the stream down which I had plunged that evening
of the storm, with the savage ourang behind me. Its volume was normal
now, and therefore much less than when it had bowled me into the lake,
nevertheless it tumbled over its last rocky leap with a pleasant
murmur which sounded familiar enough, and bubbles of silver floated
away on the placid surface of the water. It was good to recognise this
old "friend," for it gave me another guide and cleared up my mental
map of the lake and surrounding country.

Beyond this point there were miniature bays and tedious windings of
the shore, many of which I felt inclined to ignore, but any one of
which might have hidden the outlet I felt so eager to discover. In not
a few of the trees, which often overhung the water, I discerned troops
of curious monkeys. Of these there seemed to be almost endless
variety, but all were particularly shy upon beholding the strange
creature out on the lake, though I had no means of determining whether
or not they classed my boat and me among the 'gators.

From one rather narrow inlet I escaped as quickly as I could turn my
craft and drive her back to the main body of water, for I nearly
pushed my oar against a huge boa-constrictor, half hanging from a tree
with its body partially submerged beneath the surface. Although I saw
this reptile before approaching so near, I readily mistook it for a
portion of the branch from which it depended. What it might have done,
had I rudely disturbed the sleep in which it was quietly indulging, I
did not pretend to know; it was quite enough for me that the creature
was there, and that for all the snake family I have a great aversion.

The morning sped away. The heat of the day increased, so that rowing
the boat became an irksome task, particularly as I found nothing but
inconsiderable brooks, all of which flowed into the lake. Floating
quietly, with the oars shipped, I ate my lunch and felt somewhat
refreshed. A full hour of rest was spent in idly dabbling my feet in
the water. Later in the afternoon I had a swim, but in this the
pleasure was marred by a too persistent feeling of uneasiness about
the monsters which the place might contain.

It must have been as late as four o'clock when at length I rounded a
point and found a long, irregular estuary, not more than seventy feet
in width, rank with grass and giving evidence of being the slack-water
of a large stream. From its juncture with the lake, I was quite unable
to determine its nature; it could have been either an inlet or an
outlet, as far as I could see. Proceeding up the centre of this, I was
not particularly gladdened to observe that my boat and oars were
frightening three medium-sized alligators to the cover afforded by the
growth on either side. Also there were great swarms of pestiferous
insects, dancing above the water in the sunlight. However, if this did
mark the outlet, I had to know it; the gauntlet would have to be run.
It would be comparatively safe, I thought, as long as it was I who
continued to frighten the alligators, instead of having them perform
the office for me.

The place seemed literally alive with these monsters. I think it must
have been a breeding ground, for there were little ones by the score.
They all continued to be shy, but I confess I was not inspired with
confidence in any of the creatures, nor yet with a large pressure of
courage in myself. The insects settled upon me by hundreds. I slapped
at them constantly, but in a few minutes I was bitten in no fewer than
fifty places upon my hands, face and body and many of these spots had
a drop or more of blood oozing out to mark their location.

Made desperate, I rowed as fast as caution would permit, being afraid
every moment of incurring the wrath or exciting the hunger of some
huge mother 'gator. The estuary wound away tortuously, into a realm
weirdly luxuriant with creepers, giant exotics and trees overhung with
parasitic vines. It narrowed down, also, which brought me nearer the
banks, with their crawling life. I presently noted a number of water-
snakes escaping in all directions, some of them near enough for me to
strike them with the oars.

The sun was down toward the far horizon so that this place was in a
dense shade, amounting to gloom. It was just as much as I could do to
get my own consent to going further. It almost seemed as if I would
prefer to live with the Links forever than to have the nightmarish
features of this place increase or be nearer to me. I do not claim to
be a man of bravery and this estuary, I confess, gave me the creeps. I
was enormously relieved, in a moment, to hear a sound like rippling
water. Then I rounded a point on which a brood of alligators had just
made a landing, and saw where the water was in motion.

It was flowing into the lake, not out toward the sea. My investigation
of the place had been time and energy wasted, not to mention nerves.
In haste I swung my craft about and started back. As it stopped for a
space, to turn, a water-snake crawled up, near the stern and glided
across. The reptile was large, glistening and altogether as
repulsively headed as Nature ever constructs.

I hit at it viciously, and it dodged and plunged into the slimy water
like a shot. By that time my prow had drifted against the tail of an
alligator which must have been lying asleep, concealed in the grass.
He waked and gave the boat a bat with his great caudal extremity that
made her quiver, as he scrambled to shore. There was such a chorus of
dreadful sounds then that the creeps chased from my feet to the hair
on my head. Added to the maddening torture inflicted by the stinging
insects--some of which seemed large enough to be classed with
vampires--the place gave forth an animal stench comparable only to
that of a den of serpents. I grew "rattled," in my frantic endeavour
to get out of the place, and rowed against the shore, in one place,
and into a tangle of reeds and vines at another. All of this added to
my own confusion as well as to the sounds of hissing, squirming away
and floundering in the water produced by the creatures whose home I
had rudely invaded. Had the beasts turned upon me in that maze of
horrors, I should have been wild enough to jump out of the boat and
try to dash to shore and away through the swampy tangle and the
jungle.

As I neared the exit, I did have the misfortune to strike not only the
edge of a sort of grass island, but also the head of a baby 'gator,
therein hiding. The mother gave forth an angry snort and started to
overtake the boat. An oar got caught for a second but I jerked it
loose and plunged it deep for a stroke that shot me away toward the
lake. The furious reptile gained for a moment, but then I got down to
boat-race work and slid away in a desperate mood. Paying too little
attention to where I was steering, I forgot the tendency of the craft
to yaw about to starboard, and therefore sent it fairly through a mass
of green drapery hanging from a tree on the right-hand bank; and the
tail of a snake which was climbing hurriedly up in the branches,
dragged slimily across my neck.

I shuddered and nearly fell forward, but the boat had gained such
headway that it pushed through everything and was floating free on the
lake in a second. I bent to the oars anew, but Mrs. Alligator had
turned back, defeated. Without waiting for more experiences I headed
for home and commenced a steady pull.



CHAPTER XXVIII. AMAZING DISCOVERIES

IT WAS nearly dark when at length I beached the boat and made the
painter fast to a tree. The Links were in a state of great anxiety,
fearing the dread lake had swallowed me down. They had fished, during
my absence, with such success that they had lost every hook, snarled
all the lines, broken several rods and procured about a hundred pounds
of shiners for dinner.

A few of the fellows were attempting to fashion new hooks with the
knives of flint. There was promise, in the work of some, indicating
that in this direction at least there was chance for progress. Old
Fatty, who had whined on the shore when I left in the morning, romped
about me insanely, as usual. He and little Tike had occupied my
shelter throughout the day, awaiting my return. My "Little Man" was
asleep there when I entered, a troubled look on his serious little
face. I carried him off to his mother, but he did not awake, so weary
had he grown at his vigil that warm, long day.

He was crooning "Man, man" beside me in the morning, happily, yet so
wistfully that it played upon every cord in my breast. How thin the
little fellow looked as he gazed in my eyes with that dumb
affectionate expression; how different he appeared from all the other
Links, with the golden sunlight streaming in on his quaint, childish
countenance. When I had taken my morning bath, I washed the tiny chap.
He caught his breath in funny little gasps, but I think he liked it
immensely. Then we ate my breakfast. He ate so small a portion that I
shook my head and pushed the fruits aside before I had taken half my
usual quantity.

Having vaguely thought of my exploration business as a duty to be
continued faithfully, I had half intended to leave, later in the day,
for a shorter trip. When the wee youngster nestled up to be comforted,
the plan faded away. We would have a quiet day of rest and peace. The
elders of the tribe, discovering my mood, gave up to the laziest of
lounging and rolling about, playing at indolent games and wrestling,
throwing bits of twigs and pulling at each other's feet and toes. The
chief and his white mate sat about in a somewhat superior style, the
latter eyeing me sullenly from time to time, while her husband gazed
by the hour into the half-clear depths of the great rock-crystal at
the end of his club. The fellow seemed to adore this stone, as well he
might, for by its weight and his own overtowering height he had made
himself chief of his fellows.

His chieftainship continued, although I had long believed I could
overthrow the fellow and usurp his power to add to my own, did I wish
to create a disturbance. But inasmuch as I was in no way hampered, and
was obeyed, my position amounted to that of a ruler, while I gave this
giant Link no offense. As long as he continued to feel himself the
master of the family, my own sway could never be complete, but for
this I cared nothing as long as I was enabled to proceed with my
plans. More than once I might have taken advantage of the awe created
by natural means to bring the chief under my rule, but I was waiting
to see what he would do of his own accord. The day when my cannon
exploded he had been so ready to acknowledge my leadership that a look
would have brought him cowering to my feet, but I had turned my back
upon him and he had refrained from doing anything impulsive.

In order to provide entertainment for little Tike, this day of rest, I
selected a slender section of bamboo rod and cut him a whistle. By
placing a second piece inside of this and sliding it up and down, I
had a primitive trombone, which begot a craze of delight among all
the Links. I played this instrument about an hour during which time
the fellows all came crawling up on all fours, to squat about in a
circle where they remained, nodding, blinking and holding their heads
on one side, with the greatest attention and pleasure.

I bethought me then of a drum and procuring a section of bamboo six
inches or more in diameter, stretched: a wetted fish-skin across the
end and let it dry there. This thing produced a fine resonant tone
that made the creatures jump with astonishment at first and dance with
excitement later. In point of popularity this instrument eclipsed the
whistle totally. The Links took to it as naturally as a cat takes to
mice.

Having pleased little Tike and having rested myself, while providing a
holiday of amusement for the tribe, I decided to go at my navigation
again in the morning. Agreeable as some of these moments appear to
have been, I was fretting constantly to be away from the unclean,
semi-animal beings, and once more restored to my kind and to
civilisation, where I could lie on a decent bed, eat a decent meal and
listen to something besides barbarous language. So desperate did I
frequently become to hear my native tongue, that I spouted every
quotation and sang every song I could conjure from my memory. This
performance was always attended by a demonstration of surprise and
unrest on the part of all the Links who were close enough to hear.

The following morning was the cool, still forerunner of another sultry
day. Fatty waddled behind me to the boat, where he whined again and
started convulsively every time I bade him "come along," but to master
his fear of the lake sufficiently to enter the boat and trust himself
away from the shore, was quite beyond his power. He wanted to go, but
had he been thrust in by force, he would have scrambled wildly back to
the bank, to run up and down and dance, like an unwilling dog who has
been thrown in the water whether he would or no. I left him, sad and
anxious, on the beach.

According to my previously formulated scheme, I directed the prow
toward the left shore this morning, and rowed as before, about fifty
yards out from the wall of foliage which marked the boundary of lake
and jungle. In half an hour I passed the place where I had fought the
battle with the alligator, while I was floating on the log. On this
present occasion not a saurian could I see, but I knew the place where
I was sure there were half a dozen.

The day was practically a repetition of the other, except that this
western shore had a greater number of small streams, and none that
were large, contributing to the body of the lake. I dipped into bays
and inlets without number, many of which were of exceeding beauty.
These were frequently so large that I travelled many miles without
being more than three or four from camp, by air line. In the late
afternoon, when I had worked perhaps two miles further away in actual
distance--or about eight as I skirted the edge--I approached what
appeared to be a deeper and narrower bay than any before discovered.

This arm of the lake presently curved about a point, which made me
think it might perhaps be another tributary stream, or river, like the
one in which I had passed a desperate fifteen minutes. I felt not
entirely fond of such experiences and therefore regarded this place
with suspicion. It was freer of insects than the other had been,
although there were some I could have spared; while the alligator
population was not numerously represented. There was the grass which I
thought indicated flowing water, however, and the trees on the banks
were like those of the other place which I dreaded.

When I had penetrated several hundred yards into the jungle on the
bosom of this winding stream, the shadows from the overhanging trees
were again exceedingly dense. I confess I had a poor stomach for doing
much of this sort of thing at the end of day. My brain began to invent
excuses for proceeding home and coming again when the light was
better. A number of scares, to which I had been subjected during the
day, had contributed largely to this lack of proper enthusiasm. Soon I
conceived a brilliant scheme for determining whether this stream were
inlet or outlet to the lake. In either case there would be a slight
current. I would stop the boat and let it drift. If it went on "up" I
could be sure I had found the outlet which in all reason should flow
eventually to the sea; if I drifted back toward the lake, I must
continue my search on the morrow.

Pulling slowly to the next turning, I brought the craft to a
standstill and awaited results. For a long time I failed to detect any
movement in either direction, so sluggish was the current. I became
absorbed in studying a number of stakes, which stood in the water,
near the bank. "Surely," I thought at last, "we are moving slightly--
down the stream." Was it then actually the outlet for which I was
seeking?

I grew excited as I watched the stakes. Then I began to comprehend
something. These stakes suggested order. Could it be possible they had
been planted? I could not see how they could get there at such semi-
regular intervals, in any natural manner. How far did they extend?
Where was the first one I had noticed? I looked back. Then I was
convinced, abruptly, that the boat was drifting down the stream much
more rapidly that I had suspected.

It was the outlet!

This truth flashed upon me with all the power of instantaneous
conviction. I forgot the stakes and all the line of speculation which
their mysterious presence had engendered. I looked toward that green
gate of deliverance. Mentally I saw myself rowing and drifting down
this gentle, winding current, hastening away from this extraordinary
land--away from this jungle fastness to the great open sea. A thousand
suggestions came tumbling in upon me, as to how to provision my boat,
how to leave the Links, how to sleep at night on "Outlet" river, how
to search for a village when I should find myself at last free, and
how then to take a steamer and hasten back to the world which was
really a world!

"The outlet!" I muttered in fervent thankfulness. "Freedom--Life--
Home!"

I was wrought to a fever in my excitement of hope; I was all but
transported, thus to find the gate that let me out of my prison of
greenery, when suddenly I nearly froze from chills and paralysis of
all my senses and blood-circulation.

A voice rose clear in the silence of ended day---a human voice, in
that wilderness of jungle and jungle-creatures,--a voice pronouncing
words in English--a singular mixture of words with no reason. Then
presently they settled into the musical order of poetry:

"There was a sound of revelry by night.

And Belgium's capital had gathered then

Her beauty and her chivalry, and bright

The lamps shone o'er fair women and brave men.

And when music arose with its voluptuous--"

I arose to cry out at the top of my voice. A human being--a man, no
doubt, was in reach of my voice--a friend, companion, perhaps, to
share my fate and solitude! I filled my lungs for a mighty halloo--a
cry to this partner in exile---when out from the trees on the bank,
not a spear's throw distant, issued a black, ungainly form---and then
another.

Links! They were black Missing Links!

Those stakes were theirs! I had found their camp. The voice--this
human being--was he then a prisoner? What did it mean--and what should
I do?

To cry out meant instant detection--perhaps immediate death. The two
had failed to see me--they might go back. But I was drifting--drifting
toward them. One of them turned about.

A yell went up immediately. I was known. The alarm spread like
prairie-fire, up through the wood. I swung the boat about like mad and
headed for the lake. A club came whizzing through the air, struck in
the water beside the boat and splashed me with spray. A score of the
villainous looking devils came running to join their companions. Along
the bank they dashed in pursuit, crying out and making crazy
gesticulations. The water foamed where it left the oars and it rippled
and swashed from the prow of my craft. Club after club came hurtling
toward me, end over end. One of these struck the stern a resounding
thump; the demons cried out savagely and showered more. A small one
would have dashed out my brains had I not been quick to duck to the
bottom of the boat.

I shot across the river to the opposite side, but a curve gave my
infuriated pursuers a slight advantage. It seemed as if the thickets
and trees were simply bridges over which the creatures hurried the
faster. Making as if to sweep along below them, I back-watered one of
my oars and pulled with the other, at the turn, spinning the boat
clean about to hard-a-port, and sent her ahead so swiftly that all the
clubs, which the devils threw at point-blank range, plunged stone-head
first into the ripples behind.

"Never touched me!" I bawled out in derision.

They screamed in impotent rage. I rounded the curve and sped away with
all the advantage mine. They gave up the chase. Ten minutes more saw
me out on the lake and well away.



CHAPTER XXIX. A SACRED DISGUISE

BEFORE I got home I had ample time in which to think. What a strange
concatenation of events! The outlet discovered, deliverance almost
assured me, and then to find the camp of my bitterest enemy on the
very bank of my gateway to freedom! But that human voice--what could
it mean?

I began to speculate and to reason from deduction. Inasmuch as I had
lost myself and been found by the red Missing Links, it was evident
that another man could have met with some accident which would have
thrown him in contact with the Blacks of the same family or species.
The Reds had treated me with marked consideration from the first,
therefore the Blacks might do the same for another of my kind. More
than this, the Blacks had manifested not only an extraordinary
interest in myself, that day when first I met them at the volcanic
peak, but they had also attempted to abduct me without injury to my
body or feelings. I had made them my foes by allying myself
offensively and defensively with the Reds, but they might not be
savage to one who had not so given them cause. Undoubtedly, I
reasoned, they knew man and what he is and had recognised me at once.
They had desired also to possess me, an inclination, I reasoned, which
had resulted from association with this other, mysterious man. What
manner of person was it they held as prisoner in their camp? How long
had they held him captive? To this latter question I mentally answered
that they had kept him several months at the least, since I had been a
considerable time with the Reds, myself, and they had apparently
become acquainted with my species before my arrival in the country.
Then about his capacity as a man, my thought ran quickly to the
conclusion that he must be weak or at least a man of no inventiveness
and of no particular inward resources. I arrived at this from two
sources of argument. First, he had obviously done nothing to arm his
fellows, even with primitive spears, or bows and arrows, to say
nothing of never having headed their hunting or fighting expeditions;
and, second, he had done nothing to escape, although he must have
known that he was living on the very edge of that great outflowing
river, which should suggest to his mind the sea beyond, as it had done
to me.

Almost without--considering anything, my first conclusion had been
that I must meet this partner-in-exile, enlist his services and make
him my comrade in escaping. Indeed I had been conscious of a great
elation of spirits, to think of such an encouraging piece of good
fortune. Now, however, when I was sure that he was neither bold, nor
alert, nor superior to circumstances, I doubted the wisdom of
burdening myself with such a companion, in the midst of my accumulated
adversities. This last selfish thought was hardly complete, however,
before I banished it with scorn, as utterly unworthy of any man in my
position.

Perhaps the poor fellow had been shipwrecked, under conditions that
shattered his nerves; perhaps he was crippled, or otherwise disabled;
perhaps he had undergone severe illness; he might even have been an
invalid when captured; and it was always possible that the Blacks kept
him bound or so closely attended that action was rendered impossible.
I recalled then that his voice had not sounded strong. His recitation
of verses and conning over of words, I could understand precisely, for
I had done the same myself on many occasions. Whatever it was that
made him helpless, he was a fellow-being and certainly in more or less
distress. I felt my heart expanding toward him--my unknown partner! I
would see him, help him and take him with me--or die at his side,
fighting like a devil!

My plans, which had been nearly complete for my own escape, became
immediately most uncertain and scattered. It was not a matter now
merely of stocking the boat, securing my weapons and then proceeding
down the outflowing river, but of bearding the Blacks in their
stronghold, seeing this man and getting him away. Then would come the
running of the gauntlet past their camp on the river. The first
proposition, that of entering this village of the hostile Links and
interviewing my "partner," loomed up, unsolved, for careful
consideration. That the fellows were keenly on the lookout, I had
demonstrated fully; they had seen me and sounded the alarm in a style
truly masterful if not admirable. That they thirsted somewhat for my
unwilling gore, I had precious small reason to doubt. If I got away
with their captive and the demons discovered who it was that
engineered the feat, there would be a warm jungle-region all about the
lake.

How much could I count on the man I meant to assist? Not a great deal,
I feared, for he was probably incapacitated in some important manner.
However, he had doubtless superintended the hammering down of those
stakes I had seen in the river, which evidently meant some sort of
fishing operations, so that perhaps, after all, he was more inventive
than I had previously supposed. All the way up the lake, I racked my
brain for a suitable plan for invading the enemy's camp. There were
wild ideas in plenty, but no one of these was practical or even worthy
of a moment's consideration.

I gave up thinking, when at last the boat was secured on the beach,
knowing how far away my thoughts would be driven by the welcome of the
Links. All through my dinner, however, even with little Tike in my
arms and Fatty languishing about my feet, I was lost in pondering over
the doings of the day. That night, although I was weary, I tossed and
rolled uneasily, catching but snatches of sleep between the spells of
being vividly awake over my new discoveries and their attendant
problems. Time after time I awoke with a start, thinking I had solved
the difficulty, only to realise that my brain was indulging in the
most fantastic of workings. My whole being was dominated and occupied
by this scheme of uniting with that human prisoner on the river.

Sometime in the earliest hours of morning I sat up abruptly, having
been tortured by a sort of nightmare in which there was an
inextricable tangle of Links, alligators and bears. As before, this
was intimately connected with the man whom I intended to rescue from
the Blacks, but this time I got an idea out of the chaos and it fairly
made me twitch, so galvanically did it grip my whole nervous system.

I would visit the hostile camp in safety, because I would go as a
bear.

A bear--yes, a sacred black bear! Those superstitious creatures should
worship my tracks and make themselves fools over my visit, while I
spied upon them, planned against them and robbed them of their
captive! I should be more than safe, more than free to come and go as
I liked, more respected than the general of the world's greatest army.

Before attempting to get my plans in operation, I must kill a bear,
skin him and cure the hide. This preliminary business presented no
inconsiderable sum of difficulties, as I was thoroughly aware. "First
find your bear," said the funny fellow in my brain. This part I
thought I could manage, for I had seen a bear in the neighbourhood of
the place where the one had appeared that morning after my fight with
the alligator. I thought him the same identical animal, which might
therefore abide in or about that quarter. But having secured my
bruin's pelt, there remained the task of curing it,--a work which I
must conduct alone and away from camp, inasmuch as the Links would be
horrified to know that I had committed the deed on so sacred a beast.

There was no more sleep for me after thinking of this. At the first
suggestion of dawn I crept out, silently, avoided old Fatty, who was
curled down beside my door, and glided noiselessly down the hill,
armed with a club, my knife, bow and quiver of arrows. When I arrived
at the edge of the lake I went a little into the forest and dug some
fresh saltpetre. With this substance I intended to preserve the skin,
for not only are its properties well suited to the business, but I was
denied the use of our spring of brine by the presence of my bear-
adoring friends.

With my cargo of stuff thrown down in the end of the boat, I pushed
away from the bank and rowed slowly off toward a point around which I
meant to be concealed by the time the Links would begin to stir. The
dawn was breaking as I neared my destination, but I waited for full
day-break before attempting to go ashore. When at length the boat ran
up on the beach I was a mile from the swampy region in which the
alligators had proved themselves so numerous and hungry. A small
clearing afforded an adequate retreat, where I felt that I could
operate without interruption or likelihood of being observed.

With the club and quiver on my back, and the well-poisoned arrow, but
the time being inopportune for regrets, I silently fitted my choicest
shaft on the bow-string and stepped aside for a better chance to
shoot.

The bear rose partially up on its haunches, to investigate the tree,
presenting an open front, with a bit of white fur at the throat. With
this white for a target, I raised my weapon and drew the arrow to the
head. It leaped across the meagre distance like a flash of light and
quivered a second, buried deep in that snowy fur, which was dyed with
red before the creature could drop to a normal position on its feet.

I expected to hear a roar of rage, and then to be attacked forthwith
by the infuriated animal, but instead the bear made a sound almost
human in its vivid expression of agony. It staggered slightly and
brushing at the shaft with its paw, started away toward a thicket. Not
to be cheated of my pelt, I threw down the bow and dashed after the
creature, club in hand.

In a second or two I was almost on his back. He half turned about--and
met the descending club with his head. Simply moaning, this singular
animal shuddered down in its tracks, breathed heavily a moment and was
dead.

If I hunt till I kill a thousand creatures I shall never feel so
guilty of murder as I did to see this harmless bear lying motionless
there in the jungle. If only it had fought me, threatened my life, or
shown itself malignant, I could have done the deed cheerfully. If only
the creature had growled, or even torn up the grass, I should have
felt a bit of relief; but to see it die as I knew it had lived,
unaggressive, good-natured and retiring--this made me feel that I was
the brute and the wanton destroyer of life. Even dead, the animal
accused me of lust for blood.

"No," I finally said to the body, aloud, "I would never have done this
merely for fun. I needed your skin,--hang it! there's a human life at
stake and you ought to be glad!"

Fortunately I was easily consoled. I came to my senses in a business-
like manner. The skinning did much to remove the last vestige of my
sentimentality, for it was a tough, hot job. My knife was none too
sharp, despite its recent honing on a rock, and the bear was heavy to
turn. When at last I had the hide removed, with the feet and head left
on, I rolled the whole mass up and got it on my shoulder. It was heavy
and wet; I felt the need of haste, and therefore with my weapons duly
gathered together and so disposed as to cause me the least possible
inconvenience, I strode away.



CHAPTER XXX. AGAIN BESIEGED

THE SUN was ready to disappear by the time I reached the boat.
Embarking as soon as I had cut a large quantity of leaves, I rowed
until I was some distance out on the lake before completing my day's
work, This labour consisted of skinning the head of my bear and then
of wetting the whole hide thoroughly. With a generous hand I spread
the saltpetre upon the fleshy side, after which I rolled the skin up
in a bundle and stowed it away in the stern, where I covered it over
thickly with the leaves, in order that my fellows might not see the
beloved black fur.

Knowing the beach would be deserted as soon as darkness began to
descend, I pulled homeward leisurely, reaching the landing after the
stars had begun to twinkle. There I got a lot of clay and placed it on
top of the leaves which covered the pelt. This I knew would serve the
double purpose of hiding my treasure from sharp, inquisitive eyes, and
of keeping the moisture in the skin till the saltpetre could permeate
the whole mass and convert the perishable and evil-smelling hide into
leather. In order further to insure the skin against anything which
might be tempted to meddle, I tied a big rock to my painter and
dropping it overboard anchored the boat about forty feet from the
shore. After this I swam and waded to the bank.

As I had left in the morning before any of the Links were awake, I
thoroughly expected a nattering demonstration on my return to the top
of the hill. I was totally unprepared, however, to hear the wildest
imaginable beating of our drum, the moment I shouted to let them know
I had come. And when I came through the gate and loomed up in the glow
of the fire, there was more than enthusiasm--there was madness rife in
the tribe.

The fellows were nervous, wild-eyed, starting at every sound,
chattering crazily in their few poor monosyllables, and they showed a
readiness to bury me in a heap of their prostrate bodies, so eager was
their supplication for something which they much desired. Males,
females and children had evidently been huddled together in a
trembling mass, at my arrival, but now the whole population was about
me, mad to tell me news of some calamity, I thought, but rendered
wholly unintelligible by their haste and fear. I pushed them away
vigorously, convinced that something more than merely my unaccountable
absence and safe return had wrought this excitement.

"Fatty," I demanded of my half-blubbering slave, "what's the matter?
Stand still and tell me--like a man. What's eating all these idiots?
What has happened?"

He made an effort that was truly heroic.

"Peegs," he said. "Gee wizz!"

The rascal knew I never exclaimed "Gee whizz!" till something
extraordinary occurred. So poignant did the silly words become in this
connection that I jumped at what he meant to convey at a single mental
bound.

He meant that we were again invaded. The black Links had marched upon
the village in force. I was almost carried to the further side of our
wall, from which place I could see the camp-fires of the enemy,
fitfully gleaming through the trees, below. The creatures were
intrenched at the edge of the jungle, just at the base of our hill.
But they had not yet attacked our position, that was evident. I was
amazed at this and also at the fact that they dared to remain all
night so near the haunts of the savage prowlers.

I worked for an hour endeavouring to calm my fellows sufficiently to
get some sort of a "statement" of what had really occurred. The words
I knew of their language and the little they tried to comprehend of
mine served only to aggravate our confusion. By means of signs and
various pantomimes I was able to make some guesses. The most important
of these was that the foe had come there late in the afternoon,
whereupon my friends had retreated inside the walls and waited, armed
with their clubs, while Fatty made a hideous noise on the drum.

Attributing little virtue to the power of our musical instrument, and
groping about for the reason why the invaders had not attacked the
camp, I concluded that something in the way of a deeply laid "plot"
was being formulated by the Blacks, who were perhaps intent upon our
total destruction, in payment for all the defeats inflicted upon them
by us in the past. Whether only a portion of their force had come up,
or whether they reckoned on our disinclination to leave our stronghold
and charge upon them and so intended to surround and starve us out,
was a matter which time alone could determine. I thought of Grin,
however, and wondered if the wretch were with them. Also I mentally
nodded my recognition of the fact that my "visit" to their camp had
been largely instrumental in bringing about this warlike advance. I
thought it likely that the creatures concluded I had been spying upon
them, with a possible attack for my object, and that then they had
determined to be the first to strike. Doubtless, I meditated, they had
long contemplated this war of retaliation, and my presence in their
river had precipitated matters, which had been delayed for various
reasons of state.

Inasmuch as their reasons and plans could never be known by any man, I
gave up pondering about them and devoted my thoughts to planning my
own campaign. On the whole I was not exceedingly sorry to have a
chance to try my bamboo bombs. I entertained no doubt of the dire
effect which these would produce on our foe. For that night, at least,
we were safe from attack; no Link would dare proceed a score of yards
from his fire in the darkness. If they crept up the hill and surprised
us in the morning, while we were still in bed--then so much the worse
for us, for being so extremely luxurious and confident in the noise of
our drum.

I signified my desire for something to eat and then devoured a hearty
meal, a proceeding which surprised and calmed the Links no little.
They had been too much alarmed before to do anything but huddle
together, like so many animals in a corner, ready to fight if pressed
another inch, but more likely to be furious and savage through fear
than through any sort of courage. They were not wholly cowardly, but
they were mortally afraid of the Blacks (who came back so persistently
for more punishment), especially while here on our isolated hill, with
neither cave nor near-by jungle into which to run. They were awed by
this implacable foe, and having depended on me to defeat the Black
army, had become less confident of their own powers than they were
when I first came into the tribe. However, they had always evinced the
greatest readiness to attack a force smaller than their own, which
fact, coupled with their present behaviour, was now as good as an
accurate report to convince me that the fellows were sure the number
of Blacks below was much in excess of our own.

Gratified to find that our supply of arrows had not been wasted again
in my absence--an indication of sense in my fellows which I attribute
to the wholesome dread they had of the powder magazine, in which the
weapons were stored--I laid out the shafts, with the bows, and
otherwise exhibited an assuring alertness and desire to be prepared.
The Links did me the honour of picking up a bit of courage, under my
influence, making me feel a half-affectionate regard and sympathy for
the poor child-like creatures, for it was plain that they strove hard
and constantly against their mental limitations. They wished to
understand, to enlarge the scope of their brains, to be like men.

I felt a certain pride in knowing that my sentries, when I set the
watch and bade the others go to bed, would remain awake and alive to
their own responsible position; I felt like something of a general, to
see my agitated fellows calmed down and proceeding to rest in an
ordinary manner. If I could only hold them together, organised as
warriors, shooting steadily in the face of a charge, I knew we could
repel those Blacks much more easily than ever before and inflict upon
them such a loss that they might be completely quelled for years to
come.

Every personal plan had been driven out of my head by this unexpected
advent of "war." I thought of nothing but what might occur in the
morning and what would be our most effective means of conducting the
hill-top part of the coming engagement. I was undecided, particularly
about the use to which I had best put the bombs, for I realised that
if I attempted to throw them, I might inflict half the injury on
ourselves, not to mention the panic sure to be produced within our
walls. Under the influence of such a feeling, my fellows might commit
the gravest indiscretions.

Dismissing the whole affair from my weary brain at last, I retired,
surrounded by my weapons, and was deep in dreamless sleep in a moment.



CHAPTER XXXI. LOST IN THE JUNGLE

WHEN I suddenly sat erect, with a feeling that the battle was on and I
too late to assume my part, it took me a second to realise what had
aroused me from sleep. It was only little Tike, who had come to my
side in the semi-light of dawn and laid his tiny hand upon my face.

Not one of all the babies I have known in my life ever made a sweeter
sound of crooning than did my Little Man that morning, as I held him
snugly cuddled in my arm. It seemed to me the wee chap told how he had
searched my deserted shelter all the day before, and all the other
days, since I had been away so much; it seemed as if he forgave me and
forgot this neglect and made himself a promise that I would not go
away and leave him any more. The light increased, chasing the shadows
away from his thin little face, but under his wistful eyes were
shadows far too deep to be dispelled by any light of earth. I noted
this and observed that his lip was inclined to tremble; his eye-lids
seemed to be heavy as lead. What a singular little face it was--such a
homely, tiny, monkey face, with phases of child-humanism coming and
going across its lineaments.

"Man," he said, "man," and he patted my hand and gave a little shiver
of joy.

I carried him out with me when I went to investigate the situation.
Below me, where I had seen the fires the night before, there was
nothing visible of any of the foe. I noted a thin wisp of smoke,
curling lazily upward above the lowest trees, and I presently detected
the shaking of a bush, denoting the presence of one of the black
fellows, who was spying upon us, unobserved. How I longed for a good
rifle to rest on top of our wall with its muzzle aimed down there at
the cover of the demons!

My fellows stirred about with commendable promptness, sixty of them
armed with the bows, all of them eagerly watching to see what I
intended to do. They commanded a certain thrill of admiration, for
they were impressively muscular, alert and active. I could almost
fancy them soldiers, some day, disciplined, efficient and worthy of
trust.

As the sun began to warm the earth, the invaders below commenced to
move about more freely. Although they brandished their clubs toward us
and seemed to swarm all through that portion of the jungle, there was
no indication that the creatures intended to make an immediate attack.
I was soon convinced that they were there in great numbers. What their
plan would be I found myself unable to surmise, but it was plain the
fellows were being held in check for some extraordinary measure. I had
been obliged to admit before that these Blacks exhibited certain marks
of superiority over my Reds, in points of aggressiveness and
stratagem, but this game of waiting and deliberate planning surpassed
anything they had performed since I first made their honoured
acquaintance.

As far as anything could be deduced from the position now occupied by
the besiegers, I concluded they meant to surge up the slope, at this
point of advantage, where the grade was easy and unobstructed. I own I
should have felt relieved had the savages commenced the war at once.
There was something ominous about this deliberation which I in nowise
relished. While I was attempting to put myself in their place, for the
purpose of thinking what I would do, knowing what they did of the
reception they were likely to meet upon storming the summit, I heard
distant yelling in the jungle. This drew nearer, after which the
sounds receded again in the distance.

What might this incident portend? I inquired of myself, but I could
think of no satisfactory answer. In our larder we had a limited supply
of fruit and no meat fit to cook. I divided everything as equitably as
possible, but none of us had enough for a hearty breakfast. Old Fatty,
who observed me putting aside a portion of my share, put away the
whole of his, like a faithful dog who refuses to eat while his master
is in any way afflicted.

During our meal, and while I was concerning myself with the question
of how we should manage to supply the camp with more provisions, I
noted a distant tumble of mist, arising from the lowlands, like a
cloud of smoke from heavy artillery. This grew and spread with great
rapidity. I comprehended at once that a fog would soon envelop all
the world. At first I thought this solved the problem of the Blacks'
new game of war. I believed they had waited for this to occur, with a
knowledge that it came reliably often, intending to swoop upon us
under its cover and strike us down before we could realise the meaning
of the charge. A moment later, however, I knew they would never dare
attack in even semi-darkness. The fog was not a thing which a Link
would think of employing.

Suddenly I had an idea that fog was exactly a thing of which man would
take advantage. I would utilise this one to the fullest extent.
Watching its progress now in excitement, for fear it might be too
local to include our hill, I was aware of a repetition of the yelling
in chorus, which I had noted before, out in the forest. I could think
of no reason why a portion of the besieging army should thus be off in
the jungle, making such a racket, but the fellows about me began to
manifest the greatest alarm. The sounds again drew nearer and nearer;
the fog rolled in, apparently on the heels of this party in the
jungle. It seemed almost like a race between the mist and this
battalion of the invading force.

I heard the yelling creatures swerve off to the right. Their very
position was revealed by the rising of a large flock of parrots, all
of which made a considerable noise as they flashed brilliantly in the
sunlight a moment and swept down again, a hundred yards from where
they rose. Just as I began to have an indefinite anxiety about the
game being played below us, the fog enveloped that portion of the
jungle where the foe were conducting their mysterious operations. I
fancied a wail of disappointment finished their chorus of cries, after
which the fog seemed to blot out all sound as well as all the panorama
below our position.

Silently the great pall spread and travelled, till I saw it climbing
the slope between ourselves and the camp of the Blacks.

"Now we'll fix 'em," I cried to my warriors. "They have played their
game and now we'll play the joker."

Going to the magazine I hurriedly uncovered all my bombs and took out
all but the smallest three, together with a quantity of fuse. This
latter had become so dry that I felt the greatest confidence in the
dryness of all the powder. Bidding my most intelligent and obedient
fellows take these up with care, I lifted the two largest myself and
led the way through the gate and started down and around the hill,
toward the entrenchment of the Blacks.

At once my fighters halted, afraid of the fog and more afraid of the
enemy in waiting. I stormed and coaxed and threatened before I could
get them to follow, but Fatty came and then another, after which the
others felt ashamed to remain behind. Thus I got the small force a
little more than half way down the slope, where I directed them to
deposit the bombs on the ground and to dig a long, narrow trench
across the path up which I believed the Blacks intended to come when
at last they made their assault upon the summit.

In the bottom of this ditch, which was made two feet deep in a time
amazingly brief, I arranged my bombs, about a foot apart, hurriedly
attaching a fuse to each, making the matches as nearly of a length as
possible. The mines extended for so considerable a distance that I
determined to lay two series of main fuses. This I did by bringing
together the matches of all the bombs on the right, in one bunch, and
all on the left in another. At these junctions I cut each fuse off to
insure freshness and to guarantee ignition of the powder, after which
I weighted them down with rocks, placed the end of the main fuse in
contact with them and sprinkled powder plentifully about to unite them
all in one train. A similar arrangement being completed for the second
group, I had the whole mine covered carefully, with rocks and earth,
when I trailed my main matches up the hill, had them weighted down and
brought the ends together several rods below our wall.

The Links were willing enough to return inside our gate. I had them
remove a few of the stones from the wall at a point just opposite my
fuses, and then we conveyed some embers from the fire with which to
kindle a special blaze wherefrom I intended to snatch a lighted brand
when the moment should arrive for touching off the match.

All being in readiness I should have been gratified to see the fog
roll away and the enemy starting up the hill in a solid phalanx. We
stood on guard as an extra precaution, in case the Blacks should
summon a courage sufficient to attack us under cover of the mist, but
the world was silent and the objects about us were ghostly in the
vaporous shrouds. The hours wore on and the fog continued thick and
warm. We had all been hungry before the mist arose; we were now
growing restless and desperate to satisfy our cravings.

To add to my own discomforts I began to worry about the fuse absorbing
dampness. Should it be ruined by the fog the mines would be useless.
What might happen then was beyond conjecture, for we should have no
large bombs to use, and the small ones left in the magazine could not
be provided with fuse. In the midst of my troubles, little Tike came
stumbling against my leg. He fell down at my feet, but was up at once
and gazing in my face with his odd little smile playing lightly on his
lips. I took him on my arm and going to my shelter gave him all he
would take of the fruits. Fatty, on seeing this, fetched his hidden,
store and rolled about in ecstasy when he had placed it before me. I
ate a piece of his hoarded fruit to please the old fellow, after which
I endeavoured, vainly, to get him to eat what remained.

He was ravenously hungry, so much so that he could not keep his eyes
from the tempting mangoes and papaw, nor keep his tongue from lapping
at his chops, yet he still refused to eat when I signified that I
should take no more. He concealed the hoard again, returning to his
place with his stomach empty.

Only once, since my advent among the Links, had a fog remained all day
to obscure the hills and forest, but this one threatened to perform a
similar feat. From time to time it lifted for a moment from a local
area, only to descend again more quickly than before. I began to
believe that perhaps it might be possible for a party of us to deploy
on a foraging tour and visit the grove of fruit-bearing trees.
Unfortunately the Blacks had made their camp in the most accessible
"orchard," which gave them a great advantage. However, I knew of
several cocoa-nut palms, a little removed from the enemy's position,
which I thought I could find, even in the dark. I decided to make an
attempt to reach this grove.

It was well along in the afternoon by this time, and the fog still hung
heavily on the country. As before, I had considerable trouble in
getting a force of fellows to back me in the enterprise. But the
hungriest became the bravest and therefore with ten stout fellows, all
armed, I left the wall behind and went cautiously down the hill.

Very soon I found that everything appeared so altered in the mist that
piloting my party was not at all an easy matter. I disliked
exceedingly the prospect of finding myself in the enemy's lines, but
having started, I was too proud, or too stubborn, to do such a
sensible thing as retreat and own myself baffled. We therefore
proceeded uncertainly along, near the edge of the trees, getting
deeper and deeper, it seemed, into the maze of fog and unfamiliar
objects. The mist down here was much more dense than that which
floated about the camp above.

As we prowled stealthily ahead, looking aloft at the shadowy trees,
the curtain of vapour was rended about us, abruptly, leaving us bare--
as it were--and completely revealed. On the second a cry of alarm
broke from a Black, not fifteen yards away, and a chorus of yells made
answer, as a score of the demons rushed out from the cover of trees,
to give us battle.

My nimble fellows vanished like shadows, bounding swiftly up the slope
and into the kindly bank of fog, before the Blacks could so much as
count their heels. I also started to dash away toward the camp, but
tripped over a rolling stone and fell down heavily, my ankle sprained
and pain shooting all through my leg and body. Scrambling on hands and
knees in desperate haste, I made toward the fog, conscious that three
or four of the Blacks were dashing toward me. I breathed a great sigh
of relief and thankfulness to see the mist close in upon the place.

Turning instantly, when this veiling pall was about me, I moved at the
top of my speed toward the trees and undergrowth of vines. I heard the
cry of triumph which burst from the lips of the creatures who
thoroughly expected to leap upon me, and I heard even the quick, light
tread of their feet as they ran, but the turn had deceived them and
diving into the tangle of leaves and creepers, pushing my bow and
dragging my aching foot, I lay at full length, to pant, for a brief
time, when I crawled laboriously off in the direction which I believed
to be opposite the camp of the foe.

My pursuers raced about at random on the slope, chattering in disgust
and amazement, but they were soon confused by the fog. They searched
about for several minutes, one of them coming almost upon me, as I lay
beneath the vines, but at last all returned to their savage
companions. I could now guess the direction of the camp they had
formed by the sounds they made in retiring. This direction seemed
entirely contrary to what I had mentally determined to be right.
However, I crawled away from the vicinity which I now knew bordered on
their position, and turned to go toward the hill.

Doubtless the pain in my ankle distracted my attention, but at any
rate when I had crept a distance which I thought should have been
sufficient to place me out of the forest and on the slope, there was
no hill visible and the jungle seemed equally deep on every side.
Thinking I had probably made a mistake of a point or more, by my
mental compass, I started off again, in a slightly different
direction.

This soon became hopeless. I realised that the fog had confused me a
trifle, but it seemed too absurd that I should not find the clearing
and then be able to go to the top of the hill. In fifteen minutes I
had become so muddled that I dared not move another yard. It appears
ridiculous, but I was lost.

Jungle, I had found before this, was quite sufficiently difficult to
traverse toward a given point in the brightest light, but enveloped in
a fog it became the most bewildering and maddening maze. To make
matters worse, the day was nearly spent, my ankle pained me
exceedingly and my dread of snakes became a factor which contributed
much to my nervous excitement. I leaned against a tree, finally,
convinced of the inexpedience of blundering about in a hit-or-miss
effort to rectify my first mistake. If I got any deeper in the tangle,
I thought, I might not be able to find myself, even by the full light
of day.

To stand there in that inhabited place of horrors, knowing that the
sun was departing in its race toward the western horizon, feeling
anxious and uncourageous, aching from my foot to my thigh, and angry
with myself for being such a fool,--this was about as comfortless a
thing as I had ever undergone. I was sure the fog would lift from the
hill while it still surrounded me; I was certain the Blacks would
swarm up the slope, storm the place, murder half my Links and drive
the others pell-mell to the woods; and I was not at all convinced that
I should ever issue forth from that jungle alive.

I listened, expectantly, but not a sound could I catch, either of
prowling brutes, nor of attack on our village; the silence was
particularly oppressive. Darker and darker grew the forest. I knew at
last the sun had set on an ocean of fog. Perhaps the attack had been
rendered impossible, for that day at least, but wherein my condition
was bettered by this descent of night was more than I could discover.
My thoughts were hardly more cheerful when I pictured the breaking of
dawn, the hill-top clear and distinct in the light, and the blood-
hungry enemy sweeping the summit of every vestige of our work and
genius.

One hour, two, perhaps three elapsed--a time that seemed a century. I
had remained all the while at the foot of that tree, without
attempting to move about. I was doomed to remain there, helpless and
impotent, it seemed, for any time which might prove agreeable to the
gods of fortune. My thoughts had wandered afield, so that doubtless I
had forgotten to listen to anything but my own meditation. It is
certain that I was conscious for several moments, in an automatic
manner, of a dull, monotonous sound, before it reached my notice. At
last I seemed abruptly to recognise that a thud and thud was
penetrating the silence. Then I started so quickly toward the
direction whence this disturbance arose that I all but fell,
unsupported as I was by the injured foot. But I pulled myself together
and feeling my way, hastened forward as rapidly as possible, crazed
with a new delight. I had recognised the sound.

It was Fatty, beating on the drum to affright the Blacks.



CHAPTER XXXII. THE BAMBOO BOMBS

IN MY haste to reach the clearing before that electrifying tom-tom
melody should cease, I took no account of the distance between the
edge of the wood and the place where I had halted. It was not so far
as I had feared, however, though it was further than I had any
business to have been away from home.

Upon coming to the slope, I got upon my hands and knees to crawl, for
my ankle required rest. The fires were burning brightly in our
village, but the mist was still weaving thickly about the summit.

When I turned up again among my fellows, like the penny which cannot
be lost, they were nearly knocked dumb with astonishment. Hungry,
disgusted and weary, I limped off to bed as soon as I had indicated
the need of sentries throughout the night. Such a war as this made me
snort with contempt.

Sometime during the night the fog disappeared, as mysteriously as it
had come. I had rested badly, having been kept awake by the pain in my
foot, so that I arose before morning and sat by the fire. There, after
bathing the ankle in water from the spring of brine, I bound it up
with strips of squirrel skin, fastened on with cord made of divided
creepers. This treatment gave me much relief. The only luck I had in
the accident was that the sprain was not so serious as my facial
contortions (when alone) might have indicated to a keen observer.

The morning broke clear as glass; one could feel that the day meant to
be hot before it finished. In our settlement we were all somewhat
cross, from lack of food, myself in particular, because this game of
starving us out seemed so nonsensical, and also because my relief
expedition had fizzled out to such a miserable end. I began to be
anxious to try results with our cunning besiegers. If they delayed the
fight for the day again, I meant to carry the issue into their own
headquarters, for we had to eat!

Thinking I might enrage them to the point of starting the battle, I
carried the gold-nugget club from my shelter and planted it, nugget
end uppermost, on our ramparts, directly in line with their camp and
the mine of bombs below. Then I induced old Fatty to beat the drum,
while I got up on top of the wall and paraded, somewhat after the top-
loftical style of the American Indians, beating my breast with my
fist, shouting derisively and pointing with maniacal glee to the
gleaming club which we had taken, as a token of victory worthily won.

This bit of vanity produced an immediate effect, for a score of the
fellows down in the trees appeared from the cover, sufficiently
furious to suit the most exacting mind. They screamed shrilly to
express their wrath, they beat the unoffending earth with their clubs,
and they danced about as if the soil were hot. Nevertheless they
advanced hardly as much as a stone-toss up the slope, being evidently
under some powerful restraint. I executed the most aggravating
evolutions, limping about on the wall, but to no apparent purpose.
What was the game which the creatures played with such assurance that
they could wait with this remarkable patience? I was angry to think
they would not attack; I was annoyed to be obliged to admit that their
warfare threatened to be subtle and effective. I hated to be starved
into retreat, which would certainly be disastrous, or into a charge,
down hill, against an ambush, which charge would doubtless prove to be
an insupportable calamity.

"Come up, you cowards!" I bawled in a sneering tone of voice. "Lay on,
you black McDuffers--we can wipe you off the map!"

My only answer was an echo of the cries I had heard the morning
before, away in the jungle. This puzzled me again; it made me
impatient. My Links had surged about me, wrought to a fine frenzy of
excitement, eager to eat up the whole nation of Blacks--as splendid a
pack of starving wolves as one could find. They also heard the cries,
where the enemy appeared to be scouring through the forest, and I
noted that many grew silent and worried. They reminded me of animals
which have an instinct that warns them against the dangers which a
human being cannot see nor feel.

The chief stood a little away, aloof from the others, leaning as ever
on his club. What a brilliant, corruscating spot was made by the
great, deadly crystal which he wielded so terribly in the fight! His
mate, the indignant albino, stood beside him, eyeing myself with scorn
and hatred. Her round, pink eyes were as nervous as quicksilver; her
whole demeanour expressed the jealousy she nourished against me for
pushing aside the chief, and the undisguised desire she felt to avenge
herself for my former repudiation of her serene regard.

I gave her only a glance, and to the chief a nod of recognition. Below
me little Tike was looking up in my face; near him old Fatty was
standing, his quick, bright eyes upon me, his arms akimbo and the
battered old skull on his head pushed aside, revealing hairless spots
where, by rubbing, it had worn the growth off his leather-covered
pate.

"Animals or primitive men--what are you all?"' I muttered, and I shook
my head and gave it up.

Again came the concerted cries from the jungle. They were nearer;
there seemed to be a great commotion, not far from the edge of the
trees, and this appeared to increase with every second. I saw several
of my fellows begin to edge away, as if to make a run to a place of
safety from a foe most dread. All the Links were making uneasy sounds,
comparable only to the whimpering of a frightened dog.

"Here--come back here. Brace up, you fellows!" I cried to stop the
incipient panic. "Pigs coming--pigs to shoot--pigs to kill!"

I raised my bow and notched an arrow on the string. I jumped down and
stirred up the fire which must furnish me a brand for the fuses. Then
again I got on the wall and shouted our defiance to all the jungle-
world about us. Old Fatty began to beat the drum like a fury.

My warriors were inflamed; they crowded forward to see what was
happening below. By this time the cries of the enemy had become shrieks as
of madness. We saw fifty of the Blacks burst quickly from cover, run
to right and left and dash back in the woods, as if to flank an
approaching cavalcade. To my amazement I saw among the fellows the
traitor Grin--miserable coward! The Links observed him, too, and they
chattered their rage and their Link maledictions on his head.

Once more I got down, this time to arm myself with a glowing brand
from the flames. With this I shook out our only banner--a banner of
smoke. Suddenly the screen of trees, vines and creepers, seemed to
bulge toward us, then to break. Two massive dark chunks of the jungle
appeared to be bursting through. Then I saw what they were and
realised what the cries had meant, what the plan of the Blacks had
been from the first--and what a diabolical and clever scheme it was.

Two trumpeting elephants, goaded and maddened, smashed ponderously out
of the jungle and headed up the hill--surrounded and driven toward us
by hundreds of the yelling, dancing devils, with Grin in their midst,
all of them incredibly nimble, daring and wrought up to force their
irresistible allies over and through us.

The Links behind me, terrified beyond all control, were too stricken
with panic to know what to do. They fell headlong over and upon each
other; they ran in every direction. Females and children cried out in
fear; chief, fighters, all were seized in the maelstrom of fright, and
all went dashing away. Already we were as good as routed. Flight to
the jungle would mean separation, death of all who were lost and
murder of all who were overtaken by the terrible Blacks.

Confused for a moment, I attempted to call them back, to restore the
order. This was worse than useless.

The elephants came unwillingly up the hill; the din of voices and
trumpeting was appalling to hear. I jumped from my place, unconscious
of my wounded foot and dashed down the hill as if to meet this
oncoming tumult of death alone---racing toward my fuses. I had dropped
my bow. My only weapon was the smoking brand of fire.

Shrieks from the Reds, who could not but see me, and screams of
delight from the enemy, greeted the sight of a single crazy man,
running down to the jaws of this living Juggernaut from the wilds.

I reached my goal, I fell to my knees and fumbled the matches. The
monstrous battalion was nearly half way up to the trench of bombs. My
fuses failed to ignite. In desperation I broke off the ends and bore
them down upon my living coal. My thumb was burned, but I felt
nothing. A fierce hiss from the powder electrified my every fibre. I
leaped to my feet and darted part way back to the wall.

"Man," came the cry of a sweet small voice.

Turning, I saw that my little Tike had followed me down the slope to
the fuses. There he sat beside them--and the serpents of igniting
powder were racing down to the mines, and the thundering horde of foes
was racing upward, toward the little chap and me. Insanely I ran with
all my might to rescue my only loyal Link--the baby who sat in the
sunlight.

How far away he was! What a time it seemed to take me to reach him!
The elephants--how near and awful they looked! I could see their
white-showing eyes. The monsters began to gallop upward, mad to wreak
vengeance on something, for that goading behind their backs. The yells
became a din. Already the brutes must be past my trench. It would
fail--it would kill little Tike and myself--anything but the terrible
creatures pounding the earth as they came upon us!

I snatched the little fellow up and ran desperately away. Would
nothing ever happen? I fell--the ankle had gone at the critical
moment. I rolled and saw the dread spectacle crowding up and up the
sun-lit hill.

Then the earth was rent wide open--great castles of earth and
elephants rose toppling in the air, along with a glare of red-and-
yellow flames and a mighty volcano of smoke. The world belched forth a
detonation like the crack of doom.

Another and yet another fearful fan of fire leaped exultantly upward,
hurling Blacks and fragments of Blacks, and soil and rock that blew
through the bellies of the elephants and shot away in every direction
toward the tranquil sky.

I was deaf with the mighty roar and concussion. From the air the
debris came raining down. The smoke seemed a fountain of enveloping
fog. Shrieks--now of terror and dreadful pain---stabbed through the
confusion. Then a rock whirred down so close to my head that it puffed
me with its cushion of air. I heard a sound and looked for little
Tike, whom I had permitted to slip to the ground as I fell.

He was there beside me, his steady, wistful eyes looking up in my
face, his poor little legs fairly crushed into the earth, beneath that
fragment of adamant, torn from its bed and hurled upon him.

I was over him instantly heaving away the hunk of stone. But I did not
attempt to lift the little mangled body. I saw he was numbed by the
shock; I knew he was dying. He lay there and smiled, as I bent above
his tiny form. He made no motion with hand or head, but when I placed
my finger in his wee palm, he closed his baby-like grip upon it and
gave me the fondest look I have ever beheld.

The Blacks could have swooped upon me, the earth could have quivered
with agony and death, but I should have known nothing of it all, nor
have cared. All the pangs of wrenched affection darted through my
breast. I was smitten dumb to see that human look of love, gratitude
and hope. The homely little face became transfigured with a look of
inward beauty; the promise of a dawning, evolving human being was
there, glowing like the life in a spark. The wistful eyes burned with
that singular light which makes us hope for things supernal.

On my finger the tiny grip fluttered. I felt myself breaking down like
a woman.

The little chap's lip quivered a second; his fleeting breath came
forth lightly.

"Man," he whispered in the stillness, and smiling, closed his tired
little eyes--forever.



CHAPTER XXXIII. KING AT LAST

THERE WAS a cloud over my heart; there was a pall of smoke and fumes
drawing slowly off from the scene of devastation. It seemed as if the
chasm in the hill-side were a ghastly wound of colossal proportions,
for not only was the earth torn raggedly, but blood was about, and the
slope was strewn with mangled remains.

I felt no exultation; I was ill at the sight, and weak and quite
subdued. It was a pitiful, dreadful picture, with the two elephants
like mounds of butchery, looming large in the middle distance, while
down below were numerous wounded creatures creeping away toward the
jungle. And the dying made sounds of moaning.

Not far from where I had fallen, lay part of a long, red arm--Grin's.
The bombs had flung it nearly to the camp he had sought to betray. He
must have been among the foremost of the Links who drove the elephants
up the hill. I conjured back my vision of the charging force, at the
second when the explosion created its havoc. I remembered the huge
wild animals most distinctly, their trunks uplifted, their feet in
awkward, active motion, while to right and left and almost on their
heels, the Blacks surged up in their dance of death. I knew then that
the destruction among them must have been tremendous, for the whole
length of the trench had been covered thickly by their numbers, and
the lateral force of the bursting mines, especially down the hill, had
evidently swept the slope for rods.

I shook my head as I realised the narrowness of my own escape.

I believe I was saved only by a sort of half shoulder of the hill and
the fact that I fell and was flat on my side when the explosion
occurred.

In my brain a panorama of all the tragedy ran, time after time. It
seemed unbelievable that the Blacks had been able to drive the
elephants. I shall never cease to wonder at this remarkable
performance, for everything I know of the jungle's greatest brute
leads me always to suppose they would turn upon their pigmy tormentors
and drive them away in confusion, no matter how great their numbers.
But more incredible than even this was the sudden blotting out of all
that mad stampede. I felt like the last man left on earth.

It was quite impossible for me to go down that dread slope as yet. I
sat on the ground, dejected, weak from hunger and the strain of all
the excitement. I rested my chin in my hand and gazed off abstractedly
toward the endless sea of green. I lost all interest in the world
about me, for all my memories and all my dreams had conveyed me afar
from that island of singular fates. At length I was aroused from my
reverie by Fatty, who came furtively down from the village and crawled
in front of my feet, to gaze in my face, with his comical, quizzical
expression of deep anxiety spread thickly on his homely phiz.

"Hullo," said I, "did you come back at last to twist the enemy's
tail?"

Then I saw an amazing line of heads above the wall, where dozens of
our fellows were peering down upon the scene and upon myself. On their
faces I noted every conceivable look of awe and horror. That I sat
there, seemingly calm after all of that day's fatal work, impressed
them a thousand fold more than as if I had strutted and boasted of the
deed. Perhaps my face betrayed a certain look of grimness, which
events had compelled in my thoughts; howbeit the creatures were
stricken with an overpowering dread of my presence.

The hill-shaking explosion had been infinitely more terrific than my
first little celebration with a single bomb, and this had given them
all a fright, the memory of which could never be eradicated from their
minds. But if this had rendered them respectful toward me as the
actuating spirit of it all, the sight of the slope simply drowned them
in fathomless awe. The mightiest creatures of the jungle, torn apart
like things of paper, the hill split open and altered, a yelling army
scattered and blown to atoms--this sum of deeds appalled them so
thoroughly that the strongest might have died of shock had I jabbed
him in the ribs with my thumb.

Fatty, on seeing that I lived, began to grovel on his face and to push
his head against the soil where my feet had rested, as if he were
quite unfit to abide on the surface of my earth and would therefore
worm and bore his way down and out of sight without further ado.

One after another, then, the trembling fellows came crawling down the
hill, many on their stomachs, to adore my tracks, to wriggle about my
feet and otherwise to endeavour to calm me down and humble themselves
in my exalted shadow. Even the chief came toward me on hands and
knees, dragging his club and afraid to lift his head. His downfall was
complete; there were none more thoroughly overwhelmed than he. On the
ground before me the fellow laid his great crystal weapon--at once his
sceptre and his sword---and he, too, adored the turf where my feet had
trod. The women, with the albino among them, and even the children,
got on the ground, prostrate, abject and afraid.

"Ahem, really, fellow citizens," said I with a grin, "your attentions
quite overcome me. Pray excuse my unseemly emotion and blushes."

I had conducted a large experiment with some success, yet I felt that
my efforts had been far from superhuman, and not even carried out with
wholly unselfish motives. I felt in fact that the whole present
proposition bordered on the lines of comic opera, for I knew that by
the token of the chief's submission I stood there at last, the King of
the Missing Links!



CHAPTER XXXIV. A MOMENT OF REST

WE HELD a mighty funeral-carnival. The heat made it necessary to rush
this matter as much as possible. My Links took no little of the meat
of the slaughtered elephants, but as soon as all were fed again I set
them to work deepening the cavern which the mines had excavated in the
hill.

With creepers for ropes and with rollers to render the task more easy,
we dragged the huge carcasses into the graves by sheer force of
numbers. Collecting the Blacks was a most unpleasant labour, but it
had to be done thoroughly, and it was, although my subjects had never
before performed such an office for enemies of any description. Oddly
enough we were quite unable to discover the body of Grin.

In the pits I had several great fires ignited, to cremate as much as
possible of the flesh, after which the earth was thrown in and heaped
up until I was sure that the shallowest portion of the grave was
covered with at least ten feet of soil.

I could have rested with a very good grace after all this business of
war, but I remembered my former plans and the bear-skin waiting to be
tanned, in the boat. I feared the pelt might be ruined already, and
therefore I took the earliest opportunity of visiting my lake
possessions. When I came in sight of the boat, I had reason to be glad
that I had moored her away from the bank, for I found abundant
evidence that the Blacks had been there, undoubtedly intent on doing
mischief. Fortunately for me their dread of the water had proved
greater than their desire to destroy the boat, and their ingenuity had
shown itself deficient when they faced the problem of getting the
craft ashore without wetting their precious feet. But they had thrown
every available rock at the innocent craft, together with all the
loose pieces of burnt clay.

Thanks to the covering of clay and leaves, which permitted a slight
circulation of air, while it kept out investigative insects, the skin
was in excellent condition. Indeed I am inclined to believe the delay
had been actually beneficial in the curing process. The thing was
pliable and as sweet as a hide could possibly be--which, by the way,
is not extravagant praise. I had rowed away, out of sight of my loyal
subjects, before uncovering my treasure. Floating on the calm surface
of the lake I worked at the pelt most arduously. Nearly the whole of
that day I was rubbing it, scrubbing the parts together and otherwise
keeping it soft, while the sun and the air dried out the moisture
which made it heavy and "green."

When I was finally ready to call it finished, the hide was much like a
soft, thick robe, such as is commonly employed for a rug, a condition
which I knew would be permanent, although in a spot or two the thing
might be inclined to stiffen. I packed it again in leaves merely to
hide it from sight and proceeded back to our beach, where I anchored
the boat as before.

Inasmuch as I felt that my actual duties were now performed, I
determined to rest for a space and enjoy the peace which we had
compelled so abruptly. I therefore lay about the camp the following
morning, doing absolutely nothing to "earn my salt." Now and again I
caught myself feeling or looking about. There was no little Tike. When
I dozed I fancied I heard his voice, but on starting awake found
nothing beside me but faithful old Fatty, who always poked his
forehead on the ground as soon as he saw me looking upon him. Someway
the camp seemed not itself. I got no enjoyment from my streak of
laziness, and I got but little rest. It did me good to carve a bit of
a board, or section of bamboo, with the inscription:

"LITTLE MAN"

This I planted in the mound of rocks where the tiny chap was buried.

The settlement, I thought, would never be the same to me again,
especially now that I was king. My Links were far too conscious of my
regal attributes; there was less of the feeling of fellowship than we
had enjoyed before. I had failed to appreciate our previous social
equality, but now that all were rendered so timid and humbled in my
presence, I was bored and somewhat annoyed. The crystal club I kept in
my shelter, beside the one of the gleaming nugget. Though he seemed,
now and again, to eye me somewhat sullenly and to gaze on the weapon
with a hungering expression of countenance, the ex-chief made himself
an excellent new bludgeon, with a rock at the end, which was twice the
weight of any other similarly employed in the place.

The fellow accepted a bow and a lot of arrows readily enough. We
hunted as before, employing these excellent weapons. Some of the
creatures had learned by this time to shoot with great force and
precision. One sent an arrow entirely through the belly of a hog, on
one of our many excursions to the jungle.

In a leisurely manner I provided myself with cord and sundry
requisites for masquerading as a bear. Before my rest was two days old
I was weary of it and restless to be again actively engaged. Once more
the malady of dislike for all the Links and their camp had broken out
within me, wherefore I desired to hasten matters in regard to my
unknown friend, on whose rescue I was fully determined.

I began to wonder why I had delayed this important matter for a
moment. I was eager to see this man, grasp his hand and hear him speak
the language so long denied my ears. Why, if he were half a man, we
two could accomplish anything--everything! Why had I not hastened to
reach him and to get him away while the Blacks were still demoralised
by the recent extermination of more than half their number? I would
dally no longer; I would act at once.

In order to proceed with intelligence I had need to formulate my plan.
What should I do? Do?--I would simply row my boat to Outlet river,
dress myself in the bear-skin suit and waddle into the settlement to
make my observations. This sounded simple enough, but reason told me I
should blunder no little as a bear and appear none too real in the
role. I must practice, I thought as my first sane conclusion, but my
second was still more rational--I would work the trick in semi-
darkness only, when my features would be rendered somewhat indefinite
by the shadows. Should I go there in the early morning, or should I
try the game in the twilight of evening? In the morning, I meditated,
the light increases rapidly, and my man might be asleep; daylight
could readily overtake me while I was crawling about to get my
bearings. Clearly the evening would be the better time.

Well, then, the sooner the business began the sooner I should know
what was what. I decided to be present in the camp of the Blacks that
very day, when the sun should have disappeared behind the hills.



CHAPTER XXXV. A FELLOW HUMAN

GREATLY RELIEVED to have something to do---something which might be
about to furnish a turning point in all this unnatural existence of
mine in the wilds, I set off for the boat at an early hour of the
afternoon. Once started on the expedition, I was in a fever of haste
to be about it and to try my new conclusions with fortune.

The skull of the bear had been boiled free of everything suggesting
meat. When a mile away, down the lake I replaced this heavy thing in
the skin and sewed the hide roughly about it to give the head a
natural appearance. Then along the edges where I had been obliged to
cut the pelt to get it off, I made a series of holes, into which I
laced the cords, provided for the purpose, intending to draw them
tight when the costume was properly adjusted about me.

Having nothing more to prepare, I rowed leisurely for two hours, when
I went ashore, near the mouth of the outlet, and tried my disguise.

This business discouraged me greatly. I was able to get the neck
portion fastened about my head, in such a manner that I could see
easily, and the body of the skin about my chest and waist, but my arms
and legs were too long for the paws and legs of the bear, while the
body part was longer than my trunk. Altogether I was about the most
extraordinary looking freak to be found in the jungle, when I had done
my utmost to make the costume fit.

I should quite have appreciated the use of several mirrors at this
stage of my make-up, in order to see if sundry portions were on
straight, but was denied this pleasure, having failed to provide
myself with various articles of the toilet. It was only by crawling
and lolling about on the ground, on knees and elbows that I was
enabled to convince myself that I looked the slightest bit like the
creature whose part I had essayed to perform.

I have never felt more warm in my life than I did in that skin. The
day was hot, the hide was heavy, and I had laboured hard to get it on.
The perspiration threatened to make the pelt insupportable. But now
that I had myself fastened inside it, I dreaded the task of taking it
off and putting it on again later. As an outcome of much agitated
mental debate, I decided to be a bear until my work as a spy was
concluded. I therefore sat me down, in the shade, near my boat, and
waited for sunset.

The sun becomes very deliberate, I found, when it catches a man in a
tight, hot place. It seemed as if the fiery ball intended to hang in
the western sky for several centuries, for my particular delectation.
At last it got weary of the game and departed.

A bear can perform several feats with comfort and ease to himself and
with grace, perhaps, but rowing a boat is not among the number. I grew
hotter, in several ways, directly. I think I wished fervently that my
unknown friend, the prisoner, had never committed the indiscretion of
being captured by the Blacks. It being necessary to proceed with
caution, my torture was much prolonged. At length, however, I noted a
snug retreat in which my boat could remain, undetected, and which I
hoped would be readily accessible from the camp I was searching in the
jungle.

Already the shadows had begun to be deep, so that I walked erect, in
what I thought to be the right direction, moving with the greatest
care, and alert every second for the smallest sound. I had made my way
for a considerable distance in this manner, without being able to
detect any disturbance in the forest, when presently a low rumble, as
of something rolling over stones, beneath a muffling canopy, broke on
the air. This sound increased. It seemed to come from a source not far
away, and yet it was most uncertain and elusive. I was quite at a loss
to determine whence it proceeded. Growing stronger it made a great ado
of grumbling, reaching a sort of climax in less than a minute, after
which it slowly subsided and was gone.

Standing where I was, I listened attentively, for the noise had
puzzled me much. Then through the silence came another sound, which
anyone could have understood, anywhere on earth. It was a moan. A
second later I heard the rustle of leaves and saw a prowling form--one
of the ebon Links.

Falling upon my hands and knees, noiselessly, I waited for the fellow
to pass from sight and hearing, after which I crawled laboriously
forward, nearing the sound where something was voicing its pain. My
heart was beating so tumultuously that I felt obliged to halt
frequently, in order to calm myself as much as the perilous situation
would permit. Moving thus and keeping constantly in the cover of the
vines and grasses, I glanced about me keenly.

When I came upon the clearing in which the Blacks abided, it happened
so abruptly that I started, to find myself so near. Lying out full
length, I endeavoured to quiet the thumping of my heart and to moisten
my mouth, which had become dry and gluey. Then I looked about, through
the friendly screen of creepers.

The shadows lay thick enough for all purposes, yet there was light
enough to reveal several incongruous things. First I noted a dozen or
more of the black Links, some of them moving about, some squatting on
the ground, monkey-fashion, eating mangoes and melons, one lying flat
on his back in the agony of death. He it was that moaned; he had
received his mortal wounds in the great explosion. I saw that his arm
was gone, and then I knew him--Grin.

At the back of the clearing was a wall of rock. In front of this stood
a natural pillar of stone, and fastened up at the top was something
which for a time presented the greatest mystery. It looked like
portions of a skeleton, disconnected, but it gleamed, even in the
twilight. I studied it closely for the thing compelled my undivided
attention. Then I saw the skull and knew it had all been, upon a time,
the frame work of a living creature, but astonishing fact of all
things weird--it was plated all over with something precisely
resembling gold!

I forgot the Links; I forgot my mission to their village. That
skeleton centered my every thought. I studied it, patched it together
mentally, and attempted to picture it properly straightened out. This
process convinced me at once that the arms were shorter than those of
any Link, while the skull was finely formed on the human pattern. I
observed that the whole thing, if properly articulated would be taller
than I. The Links, I told myself, cared nothing for the bones of their
kind, and less for those of their foes. It must be--it had to be the
skeleton of a man!

But the gold--or whatever it was,--the plating, how came it on the
skull and on those ribs, those bones of the arms and thighs and all
the rest? Why was it here? Immediately my brain jumped to the
preposterous conclusion that my "friend," the man I had come to save,
had been killed since my former visit, his skeleton plated with
something and strung up here on the rock to please some strange whims
of these incomprehensible creatures. I knew, a second later, that this
was absurd. My mental process as quickly formed a saner theory. This
man had lived among the Blacks before; they had learned of him--which
accounted for many things,--like their superiority over my Reds,--they
had killed him, later, and by some singular accident this appearance
of plating had come to pass on the bones.

In the midst of my conjectures, that weird, low rumble commenced
again, nearer at hand, but still in some locality invisible from where
I was. Crouching, while its mighty tones increased, several Blacks
glanced upward at the skeleton and then put their heads upon the
ground in adoration before the pillar of stone.

I nearly cried out as I suddenly grasped at a wonderful thought. That
rumbling--it was certainly a sound I had heard before that day--it
certainly must be that marvellous cauldron of gold, where the geyser
shot upward and boiled in its cavern. The plated skeleton had received
its plating there; the nugget of gold at the end of the club which a
Black had wielded in war, had come from there; the cavern which I and
old Fatty had seen, on the day we fled in the subterranean passage,
was there; and these creatures owned it and evidently knew of an
opening leading to its wondrous interior from the outside world!

What was I about to discover? What was here, in and about this
remarkable camp? Would I see it all?--would I get a chance to
investigate the wonderful cave? Could I rob that cauldron of its
treasure? I was wild with excitement. I wished that I had an
overwhelming army behind me--a force sufficient to drive these
creatures anywhere, away in the jungle. I looked about, as if to see
my army. Great Scott! I had utterly forgotten how alone I was! The
wretches might discover me, know me and beat me to jelly in a second.
My breath came hard; I remembered my business in a manner painfully
vivid.

I must go ahead, for obviously there was nothing here for me, nothing
of that partner I had come to steal. He must be off, where a pair of
Blacks were walking as I looked. Still keeping in the cover, I edged
about the clearing and pushed ahead. A tangled isthmus of greenery
divided the small open space from another which was considerably
larger. In a brief time I came in sight of this and beheld another
remarkable sight.

At the foot of a towering cliff of rocks, surrounded by fruit trees on
the left, the river down in front, and the isthmus of trees and vines
in which I was lying on the right, was a fine flat space, commodious,
strategically situated and now alive with black Missing Links. Our
explosion had killed the fighters by the score, but the females and
children were exceedingly numerous, while of males there were still
almost as many as we had in all our tribe.

That once the creatures had been directed by a man was plain, for here
were a score of dugouts, such as we possessed, but the roofs were gone
from many, while those of the others showed every sign of neglect and
the rapid deterioration into which it seemed as if the creatures must
fall, and let everything fall, when abandoned to themselves. Of any
weapons which they might have possessed in the "age" of that man,
there was not the slightest sign. Looking carefully about, I saw but
one shelter on which the roof appeared to be intact. This one was near
the base of the cliff, on the left-hand side of the clearing, from me;
that is to say, the same side on which I was now concealed.

The light was growing dim. I peered about, in a vain endeavour to see
"my man." How I wished I might raise my voice and cry out a greeting--
a something which would tell this other human being of my nearness! It
is unbelievable how strong was the impulse to commit this
indiscretion. I curbed the desire, however, and waited to see if
anything would happen.

Here and there, on the campus, the evening fires of the Links were
being kindled, from a "mother" fire smouldering in a natural hollow
beneath the wall of rock. I could see what I thought were the ruins of
a more convenient fire-place, near the central fire. It looked as if
that former man had provided a means for a better culinary output, but
that the creatures had soon gone back to their own original methods,
when he was dead. Then I thought that things were peculiar, for why
were there no material evidences of the presence of the man I had come
to seek, about the camp? What was the matter with this unseen
individual? He must be weak indeed to do absolutely nothing!

I remembered his spouting of poetry, and I fear my estimation of a man
who would give himself over to such effeminate employment as that was
of precious little account. Poetry indeed! He was evidently a lady's
man for his voice had sounded soft and here was proof that he either
could not, or was not willing to, manufacture the very first thing,
either for cooking, living or fighting. Perhaps such a fellow was
hardly worth the risk; perhaps I should be wise to retreat, in good
order, and let him work out his own salvation.

My attention was caught, as I scanned the place in this critical frame
of mind, by a flutter of something, near the only decent shelter.

"Upon my word," I muttered in huge contempt, "I believe the fellow has
got out his washing on a line!"

About that moment a bird in the tree above me made a sound like a boy
whistling. This was my cue. If any man were anywhere about, he would
hear a whistle--and the Links would have no suspicion. I piped up on
the opening bar of "Yankee Doodle." This I repeated time after time.
It appeared as if the scheme would turn out worthless, as it produced
no apparent effect. Growing more bold, I started to whistle my lay a
trifle louder, but I chopped it off short in the middle, for I beheld
a figure emerge from the decent dugout and start slowly toward me,
walking and performing some singular weaving motions with the arms.

The dusk had gathered over the scene, yet I saw that this was a white
human being!



CHAPTER XXXVI. SURPRISE AND SUSPENSE

I HELD my breath, I shivered with sudden excitement.

The figure, slight, beautifully erect, clothed in a skirt-like garment
of skins, came nearer and nearer. I was so thoroughly intent on seeing
why the arms were moved in those singular gestures that I clean forgot
to scan the face.

The stranger came closer, followed now by scores of the Blacks, who
adored and worshipped in the tracks which were left by the feet. I
could see the heavy coils of some ornament about the neck and over the
slender shoulders of this human. Suddenly I knew what the hands were
doing; suddenly the most astounding intelligence broke on my brain.

The figure was that of a woman, young, beautiful, clad like Diana, and
the coils about her maidenly form were those of a monster serpent, the
head of which she held in her hand while with the other she gently
unwound the wrappings of the tail.

I whistled again, more softly, my excitement growing at every second.

On she came, uncertainly, down along the edge of that open cage in the
jungle, her head held finely in a listening poise, her face white, set
and smileless. She moved like a goddess in a dream. In her eyes burned
a half-wild light of anxiety; on her lips there was a tense look of
suppressed emotion. Her beautiful arms seemed marble-white, as they
moved in those snake-soothing gestures; her whole deportment was that
of one who questions, yearns eagerly for a sign on which to build a
hope, but dares not believe that a cruel fate could possibly relent.

She was almost opposite where I was lying. I knew I should speak to
her--do something instantly, before the moment should be gone, but my
tongue now cleaved fast to its sheath in my mouth, my teeth clenched
hard together and my muscles were all but paralysed at that fateful
moment.

She was just before me--passing me by--in reach of the slightest
sound.

"Who is it?" she said aloud, in a voice that trembled.

"It's me--a man," I whispered with ungrammatical suddenness, "Don't
stop--you'll betray me--Come to-night!"

Half prepared as she was, she still started violently. She loosened
her hold on the head of the snake. The horrible thing wrapped itself
about her arm and tightened all its coils. Hastily clutching the
serpent by the neck again, she twisted and choked it into submission.
Her eyes were ablaze with fear and a wild, unbelieving hope! How
luminous they were, even in the meagre light! What a wondering,
beseeching face she revealed, as she turned for a second in her
instinctive effort to see where I was!

As she had mastered the snake, so she mastered the womanly instinct to
cry out and dash to the spot where I lay. I saw her weave slightly, as
she recovered her poise, after which she resumed her singular march
toward the river.

The Blacks came to where she had paused, adoring the trail so near me
that I could hear them breathing. What hideous brutes they were, now
that I had seen a beautiful human being! They passed, and I longed to
leap upon their backs and strike them all to death.

All about that clearing the goddess-like prisoner led the creatures
who had made her captive. She was almost lost to sight in the darkness
which was now enveloping the wood. She was only the faint suggestion
of a form when at last I saw her pass again inside her shelter.

I loosened a thousand tense muscles the second she disappeared, and
lay limber and all unstrung on the earth. I had not been seen by any
Links. It had perhaps been foolish and a waste of time to kill the
bear and adopt his hide after all. But it had given me the courage to
come--and great Heavens! what a find I had made!

A woman!--among these monsters! No wonder there were no new houses, no
ovens, no weapons of war of her making. I had been profoundly stupid.
I should have been able to guess it was not a man--that soft, clear
voice, the absence of mannish contrivances, and then that suggestive
little line of her washing--these should have been enough to tell me
the story. A woman---a helpless, beautiful woman--and I had almost
thought of giving up the effort to rescue this friend!--this fellow
human!

"Gee whizz!" said I to myself, for the thing was tremendous.

Then I wondered what would happen next. Would she come--return to the
place where she had heard my voice? Would she wait till all the Links
were safely asleep and then place her trust in a stranger? At what
time were these black beasts likely to retire? Would they wake and
catch her in the act? Could we find my boat in the dark? But
everything else was as nothing compared to the question, which I
repeated over and over, would she come?

I believed she would. I intended to wait, whatever might occur, and to
wait until morning, if she did not sooner appear. A thousand times I
wished we were already in my boat and away on the lake.

"All these days gone to waste for a bear-skin," I muttered, "and all
the time it was easy to sneak into their place under their very
noses."

I was glad now, however, of the warmth of the skin, for the ground was
moist. In the clearing the night had descended like a curtain, but
five or six fires somewhat illumined the place. The scene presented
was strange. About the centres of ruddy light were groups of these
weird, semi-human creatures, standing and squatting, eating like so
many apes. Their long, thin arms made their appearance most grotesque,
silhouetted as they were against the light. Here and there the red
glow lighted up a negro-gorilla countenance, flat-nosed, big-jawed and
large-eared, till it seemed like a region where the imps of darkness
breed. And back of all this, the play of the flames threw monster
shadows, on the background of trees and creepers, till it all had a
strange appearance of life, as if incredible snakes and incongruous
animals weaved an endless woof of mystery into the warp of night.

An hour passed and I had hardly moved. By groups the creatures slunk
away to their huddling places. The groans of many wounded, unnoted
before in the chatter, arose to chorus with the distant sounds of the
jungle. Regularly, like a marker of time, came the rumble and grumble
from the cauldron of gold.

Around the largest fire, a grim old warrior hovered for an
interminable time, after all the others had departed. I had no
patience with his pretence of cogitating over all the problems of the
universe; I wished him safely abed and snoring. He pothered about for
an age, and finally stretched himself near the embers and went to
sleep.

I waited and waited, expecting every moment to be rewarded by a vision
of the prisoner, gliding toward me. The moon arose above the trees
behind me and made the place altogether too bright for any good. To
allay my impatience I watched the matchless orb sailing above the
jungle. Turning at last from the brilliant picture, my heart leaped
wildly. The goddess was almost there!

Slipping quickly, but noiselessly forth, I emerged from the vines on
hands and knees and started to arise.

The girl gave a scream and fled like a startled doe.

"Don't be scared," I half shouted, guardedly, "it's only a skin," but
my assurance was then too late.

On the instant the Blacks bounded up, alert and alarmed. Club in hand,
the grim old fighter near the fire came running toward me. The shadows
were with us, by great good fortune. The girl, moreover, had the
presence of mind to disappear in the trees and emerge further up
toward her shelter.

Realising that now or never I must act my part, I fell on all fours
like a plummet. Browsing about unconcernedly, I moved a little in the
grass at the edge of the growth, and then, having made myself sure
that I had been seen by the Links who came dashing excitedly up, I
slowly rooted back into the thicket and disappeared.

It worked like magic. Chattering a lot of drivel which was plainly
eulogistic of all the bear family and congratulatory to all the black
Links in existence--who had thus been honoured in the night---the
savages kow-towed on the ground and otherwise wrote themselves down as
unmitigated asses for a longer period by far than they need have done
for my satisfaction. Indeed it began to look as if they had taken a
notion to spend the remainder of the night in adoration of the ground
I had condescended to spurn with my hands and knees. When at last I
heard them go, I crept silently back to the edge of the growth and
watched them stir up the fire and blunder off to bed.

"Confound the skin!" I muttered to myself. "Why didn't I tell her what
a beastly old bear I am?"

Such a time now went by that I began to fear the girl had missed my
hurried explanation, in her natural fright, when she ran. However, it
did not seem possible she would give up so easily and be afraid to
come. Yet I knew it all depended upon her condition of mind. She had
doubtless become more than usually timid while subjected to all that
she must have undergone here among the Links, all alone, and no human
being could entirely eliminate a feeling of dread for the jungle in
the dark.

Trusting that in all the medley of night-sounds, a whistle would not
awaken the Links, I set up my piping on the bar of our Yankee
acquaintance again, repeating it, as before, as often as I deemed it
prudent. More of the endless waiting, in my far from enviable
position, ensued. If the moon got another half hour in which to sail
before the prisoner came, she would drive every friendly shadow
squarely back to the forest.

I watched till my neck was stiff and my body cramped, "If the goddess
doesn't hurry," I muttered, "the game will be up for the night." Still
she lingered in her shelter. I began to grow cross; I vowed she must
be crimping her hair and putting on a new pair of gloves.

Suddenly she appeared again, coming out of the trees, not far away.
This time I whistled, ever so softly. She paused, came silently on a
rod, and halted as before. Another little whistle brought her almost
before me.

"Now please don't yell again," I whispered ungallantly. "Slip into the
woods as quietly as you can--we've got to hurry."

"Who is it?" she stopped to answer, below her breath, as I rose to my
feet.

"It's just John Nevers, a common, ordinary man--American. If we're
going to get away, I wish you wouldn't fool around another minute."

I saw that she stood undecided a second, with that evil-looking snake
about her shoulders; its eyes gleamed like beads in a ray of moonlight
which touched on its hateful head. For that brief space of time I felt
such a disgust for the serpent and such a growing impatience, that I
had a half impulse to trudge away alone. But she moved toward me; the
light which had fallen on the head of the snake silvered her pale,
beautiful face. The appeal which was there in her eyes, the trust
which was born on the moment, and the helplessness of a maiden, all
combined to shame me and to make me her champion against the terrors
of all the world.

"Come through here," I whispered, bending back a branch, and she
stepped toward me, confident and strong in the hope newly kindled in
her breast.

The branch slipped from my fingers and swished noisily back. I heard a
snort; the light-sleeping old devil of a Link was up on his feet in a
second. He ran toward us again, this time unaccompanied by any of the
others. We stood there as silent as statues. My knife was out, for I
had instantly determined to slay this watch-dog of the tribe, if he
came a foot into the brush.

He merely whined about, uneasily, a time, and then returned to his
post. Without waiting to let him lose himself in sleep, I led and
cleared the way, moving as slowly as a frozen tortoise, for a
considerable time, while the goddess followed, as silently as my
shadow.

Past the clearing, where the gilded skeleton hung in the moonlight we
glided. Here I saw the stiffened form of Grin, lying stark on the
earth. The deep, mysterious rumble of the gold-cauldron began anew.

"Now hurry, while this racket drowns out all the noise we can make," I
whispered.

We made no mean bit of progress while the noise continued, after which
I felt there was no more need of particular care. The jungle thickets
were fearfully dark, as soon as we got away from the clearings, and I
was obliged to forge ahead as best I could, guided only by my sense of
direction.

Half an hour went by and although we should have been at the river,
where the boat was on the bank, there was no immediate prospect of our
coming to the proper place. In the midst of my efforts, mental and
physical, to extricate myself and the girl from the maze, a peculiar
shriek went up in the distance behind us. I paused, inquiringly.

"Oh--that is the voice of the horrid old woman," said the goddess
anxiously. "I think she has found I have gone.'1'

"The deuce!" said I. "She has alarmed the whole works, the old
villain!"

Judging by the noise which was raised one would have thought she had
awakened the whole world. I was certain every Link in the camp was up
and dancing about that clearing in the wildest confusion.

"Come ahead," said I, calmly enough, "they are all afraid of the woods
at night; they will never catch us now--unless the morning overtakes
us before we reach the river."

I knew she shuddered, but like a brave, good girl she made no fuss. As
for the racket, it furnished me with a bearing, as it were. Knowing
where their settlement was, I knew the approximate direction in which
the boat should be found. Indeed before we had travelled another fifty
yards I caught a gleam of reflected moonlight from Outlet river and
knew my way directly.

"It's lucky that beastly old woman didn't make her discovery sooner,"
said I.

"Yes," replied the trembling voice of the goddess, "that was why I
kept you waiting so long; she wouldn't go to sleep."

"Um," was all I muttered. I was thinking about that crimping of her
hair, poor girl, and the putting on of tight, new gloves.

We reached the boat, to my intense relief. "Please get in and make
yourself as comfortable as possible," said I, and ripping off the
bear-skin, I flung it down to make her a seat.

Out into the limpid stream I shoved my clumsy but beloved craft, and
manning the oars I swung her about, headed her toward the lake and
made the liquid silver shiver from the prow.

The moonlight fell on the sweet, womanly face. The goddess looked at
me dumbly--almost with the divine expression I had seen on the face of
little Tike. Her eyes were eloquent of gratitude, relief and things
too great to be expressed. Slowly her head came forward on her breast,
away from which she held that ugly serpent, and she sobbed and sobbed
like a child.

Ah what a night it was! I felt a throb of triumph all through my
veins. Rowing steadily and stoutly I said nothing, but let her have
her cry. At last she looked upon my face again.

"Where--are we--going?" she faltered.

"Home," said I, "to the camp on top of the hill."

"Home?" she echoed softly. "To your--people, do you--mean?"

"Yep," I agreed. "For a while, at least. But they're not exactly my
people. They're a lot of Missing Links."

"Oh--what? Missing Links? You don't mean things like the horrible
creatures we have just escaped?"

"Same species," I assured her cheerfully, "but mine are red."

"Oh--oh," she moaned with a shudder, "but I'd rather not! Oh I hate
them so; they are all so horrid; they frighten me terribly, and I know
they will act exactly like the others--"

"No they won't," I interrupted, with a grin, "they'll get off the
earth, if I say the word, for they know that I am the King!"



CHAPTER XXXVII. THE GODDESS

THE PULL WAS a long one, even in the cool of the night. I knew my way,
by the stars, if necessary, but the moonlight made my steering easy.

For half an hour the goddess was silent, sighing now and again, and
crying a bit, as if deliverance had broken down some barrier to all
her emotions, letting floods of pent up feelings free at once.

"It doesn't seem possible," she told me finally.

"What doesn't?" said I, though I knew very well what she meant.

"This boat," she answered, "and you--a man---in this terrible place.
It doesn't seem really true that I have escaped from those awful
creatures; I didn't believe I should ever get away. Oh, how did you do
it?"

"Perhaps you'd better tell me first how you got there," I made answer.
"How long have you been in the place?"

"I--don't know," she faltered. "It must be months and months. I lost
all account, but it seems like an age. I didn't seem to care about the
dates, there have been such lots of awful things to think of all the
while. What month is it now?"

"Lord bless you, that's more than I know," I admitted shamelessly. "I
couldn't keep track; things have been too hot. I should say, though,
it's probably getting along toward summer."

Although she was deeply concerned with herself and all the troubles
which for long she had endured, she realised that I too had been lost
in this land of jungle. She made me tell my story first. I boiled it
down to the bones, being anxious to hear how it was she came to be
there. This she told me, brokenly, before we landed from the boat.

She was a cosmopolitan sort of a girl, born and raised in Australia,
educated partially in England and partially in Massachusetts. Her
father was an Englishman, a scientist, her mother American, of fine
old Puritan stock. This mother had died in Sydney. The father and
daughter having spent much of their time together, had grown to be
great companions. She had long been interested in all his work, in
which she had learned to be of great assistance. Thus it came about
that when he determined to visit certain of the smaller Banyac
Islands, for the purpose of collecting flora and fauna for
preservation, she accompanied him as a matter of course. From a
private steam yacht, placed at the professor's disposal, and also from
the coast settlements, the two had made daily excursions, in a ship's
yawl in which they could make a careful survey of all the shore.

Engaged in their work, one warm afternoon, they had moored the yawl
among a lot of weed-covered rocks. This--had been accomplished by
securing the painter to one of the oars and wedging this oar down
between a pair of boulders. The tide was ebbing when they landed.

In a short time her father had secured a medium-sized anaconda, which
having recently fed, was dull and half asleep. This serpent he had
given to his daughter, who carried it back to the boat and nailed it
in a box provided for any such emergency. Feeling slightly fatigued
and unenthusiastic she had then sat down in the yawl, raised her sun-
shade and taken out a book to read.

She described the soporific effect of the heat and the lapping of the
water about the boat, which had begun soon to affect her senses when
she had settled down to rest. Before she knew it she had gone fast
asleep. She believed that finally the tide had risen and floated the
oar from between the rocks. Then doubtless a breeze had sprung up and
the boat had been drifted away.

"Anyway I know I must have slept for hours." she said, "but when I did
wake up--oh dear! The sky was black, and I couldn't see any island, or
anything but water, and a terrible storm was coming, and the darkness
was all about me, and then---well, it was simply the awfullest wind in
the world that commenced to blow!"

The storm which she now described had probably been a regular monsoon.
It lasted for hours, she said, and the yawl was driven wildly about on
the angry sea. Like many a yawl, this craft had been broad of beam and
it was therefore as seaworthy as a life-belt. It had ridden like a
duck throughout the night.

When at last the light returned, the girl had found herself stranded
in a singular place. Not a sign could she see of the ocean, but the
yawl had been driven inland on what had appeared to be a great lagoon.
This water-way, the edges of which were bordered thickly with a dense,
jungle-like growth, had become as calm as a mill-pond.

While she still sat in the boat she had suddenly discovered a score of
"horrid black brutes" descending upon the place. She had found the
task of pushing off to be quite beyond her strength, in addition to
which she had been so bewildered as not to know in the least where she
had arrived. The creatures--the Black Missing Links--had appeared of
threatening aspect, yet she had soon been made to realise that they
were delighted to see her among them and that all regarded herself as
a prize belonging to the tribe.

With her snake, of which they had immediately manifested a fear, she
had followed where these monsters led, although unwillingly. They had
given her food, but they had appeared to have no thought or
consideration of her weakened condition, nor even of the fact that she
was a woman and therefore not as strong as themselves. In consequence
of this, she had been obliged to march through the jungle till nearly
ready to drop from sheer weariness of body. Her clothing had been torn
to tatters on the brush; her shoes had been all but ruined, and her
flesh had been scratched and bruised.

"That is all there is to tell,'" she concluded. "It has been a horrid,
desperate existence ever since. The monsters have never been cruel,
but I have been burned in the sun, and I have shivered in the rain and
chill of night. I have been trembling at the thought of some terrible
death, and then praying that I might really die and end all the
wretched horror. I couldn't tell where I was,---you say you don't even
know yourself,--and day and night I have been in a condition of dread
bordering on insanity. It has all been so terribly hopeless--so
loathsome. Oh how I have suffered! And that horrible old woman has
watched me like a hawk, and I couldn't have escaped if I had tried,
and I didn't know where to get a boat, and I couldn't make anything--
not even clothes,---and the horrid female creatures stole nearly all I
had left, and I didn't even have a needle, or a piece of soap, or a
toothbrush!"

"Perhaps I could make you a comb," I suggested, to drive away her
dreadful thoughts, if possible, but she appeared not to hear.

"Poor Papa," she resumed, "I don't know what he ever thought, or where
he is, or anything about anything.'"'

"Oh well," said I, "we'll soon be getting away from here now, and
perhaps the trip will turn out pretty well after all. You'll probably
be at home in a month, forgetting all about this expedition to the
land of Missing Links."

She shook her head, the wild look in her eyes came back. "That is too
good a dream to come true," she said. "It doesn't seem as if we can
ever get away,--but oh, Mr. Nevers--I do hope you will never let them
get me back,--oh if only you will take me away--if only you will!" and
again she broke down and sobbed, as if it had been a thousand times
too much to bear.

"I'll do it or bust!" I assured her with much enthusiasm. "I couldn't
say more than that if I tried. We'll come out all right, don't you
worry."



CHAPTER XXXVIII. A PROSPECT OF WEALTH

NONE OF my Links fell dead at the sight of the goddess and myself,
when at last we were "home," but that was merely because they were too
uncivilised to have any nerves. The poor creatures contracted headache
over the wonder of it all, however, for it utterly surpassed their
powers of speculation.

I think they were much more frightened of the captive snake than they
had been at my explosions. For this I blamed them not at all, having
been rendered somewhat creepy by the beastly reptile myself. It was
much too weird a pet. I was not so indelicate as to mention my
feelings on the subject to the goddess, but I did hope the abominable
thing would die, or get away.

Poor old Fatty was dizzy with concern. For two whole days he could not
have told whether he was afoot or horseback. He was even suspicious of
myself. All the child-like creatures seemed to regard me with added
awe, as if it were hopeless to attempt to solve the problem of the
magic by which I produced the snake-charming woman. They regarded the
boat and the lake with more suspicion than before. A strangeness grew
upon them; they stood away in groups, speaking a monosyllable now and
again; they stirred uneasily about, whenever the girl appeared.

Yet remarkably soon the females of the tribe began to note, with
curiosity, the costume worn by this stranger. Madame Albino assumed
sundry airs with small delay. She also attempted to clothe her
precious self with various skins; she eyed the interloper with comical
disdain; she likewise looked at me with unmistakable reproach in those
pink, nervous optics of hers, as if she meant to say that she might
have forgiven me before, but after this--never!

As for the girl herself, she was not exactly the same, when seen in
the daylight. She still had glorious eyes and her soft chestnut hair
would have been lovely, had it been combed or stabbed full of hardware
to build it up in a psyche knot, but her nose was somewhat freckled,
she was burned a lively red, as to face, neck, shoulders, arms and
ankles, and her great anxiety had made her a trifle thin. Yet she was
beautiful, I still maintain, for her features were fine, her poise
splendid and her hands and feet exquisitely moulded. What was more,
her countenance was lighted from within, by a charm as rare as it is
divine; she was lovely in her nature; she was womanly--and women, true
women, are beautiful forever! I nodded mentally and determined to
continue to call her "the goddess."

It being essential that we take some needed rest, before embarking for
worlds unknown, I made my shelter as comfortable as facilities would
permit, and abdicated in favour of the snake and the girl. However, my
subjects dug me a new palace in short order. This I occupied in my
customary regal state. I was obliged to construct a wicker bungalo for
his snakeship, for it seemed the goddess grew weary of holding the
monster at times, and yet wished to restrain him from his natural
desire to mingle with the creepers. Also I furnished the beast with
gastronomic delicacies of the season. He had a preference for
squirrels, not even the skins of which were left for me.

I made some quiet preparations for the reception of our friends the
Blacks, should they come in search of their former captive, but these
consisted only of restringing the bows and furbishing up the feathers
on our arrows. I knew the fighting force of the feudal foe to be
reduced and in no wise able to cope with ours, wherefore I deemed
extraordinary measures unnecessary. As a matter of fact, no Blacks
appeared, which led me to doubt if they even guessed that the goddess
could be harboured in our village.

Having recovered all my energies shortly, I thought the girl would be
ready and anxious to leave without further delay. In consequence I
began to lay in a stock of sun-dried meat, weapons and other things
needful for the cruise to the ocean. It soon became evident, however,
that the poor young woman had suffered so severe a depression of vital
forces, in the long-continued strain of worry and physical anguish,
that immediate departure was quite out of the question.

We had long, hopeful talks together, while I manufactured small
trifles for her greater comfort, or brought her foods to cook at a
small stone-and-clay stove which I managed to construct; and she often
related the history of her days of trouble. She had been too deeply
alarmed all the time to give much attention to studying her captors;
however, she thought from what I told her that they must have a
similar language to that employed by the Reds, and many similar
habits. Their attitude toward herself had led her to believe that they
actually had a great reverence for human beings.

Of the man who had evidently once been among them she knew but little.
She had seen the skeleton, but had only been able to make the merest
guesses as to how it came to be in such a place and in such a
remarkable condition. She had also seen a linen collar, preserved by
having fallen into a chink which kept it protected from the elements,
and this indicated, she thought, that the man had been a clergyman.
That he had produced certain effects upon the creatures, the results
of which would endure, she had no doubt. Though they had no other
weapons than their clubs, they appeared to be more fearless than my
fellows. Any fishing operations which they might once have conducted,
guided by the man, were now discontinued, she was sure, for she had
never seen a fish in the camp. The dug-outs were in ruins, as I had
thought, though some of the creatures employed them still for sleeping
purposes. She did not believe they utilised any caves. Without telling
her of my own theories of the gold cauldron, I questioned her
sufficiently to convince myself that she knew nothing of its existence
in the place. About the fights and hunting expeditions of the tribe,
she possessed only the most general information. She had not been able
to ascertain what manner of enemies they encountered, but once had
seen a wounded fellow striving to pull out of his leg a piece of wood
which she now knew must have been an arrow. Also she had been aware
that some tremendous calamity had befallen the fighters on their last
crusade, for barely half the force had returned to camp, and of these
many were shockingly wounded. Fully twenty, she said, had died and
been buried since the day of the trouble. Beyond these few facts, the
goddess told me very little which differed from the tale of the daily
routine of my own loyal subjects.

In the boat, my bear-skin was concealed by a cover of leaves as
before. I was thinking, one morning, of the various things I should
take, when the moment for leaving should finally arrive, when the two
great clubs--mine by right of conquest--thrust themselves upon my
notice. The one which was made of the nugget appealed to my human
spirit of acquisitiveness with great potency. Indeed the thing
awakened a train of thought which bordered somewhat on the wild and
not-too-wholesome. I found myself coveting my neighbour's cauldron of
gold.

Heretofore I had given the geyser cavern, where the precious metal was
being deposited, not the slightest consideration. I had known of only
one way to approach the place, namely, by the long passage, the end of
which I might not be able to find, and which at best could only lead
me to a point high above the place of treasure. I knew, also, that
snakes abided in the passage and that getting gold up to the point
where Fatty and I had been that day and then out through the tortuous
tunnel was simply impossible, as a task. Even the nugget on the club--
after the first inevitable thrill which I could not help feeling, to
see it and know its worth,--had been no more to me than any rock, for
what could it purchase in such a land as this?

But now--how things had altered! Not only did I feel the greatest
confidence in my ability to pilot my boat away from that open prison,
to a land where gold would be the "open sesame" to the whole world,
but I knew of an opening--or thought I did--to the cave where the
precious metal was lying ready to be had for the taking. It was a
magic thought--an intoxicating dream. The precious deposit belonged to
no one, for who were the Missing Links? I should do no injury to
anyone by taking all I needed. And why should I not have some
remuneration for all this exile, labour and suffering?

"Why," said I, and half seriously at that, "a king simply has to be
rich!"

The task seemed easy, as I dreamed of proceeding to the spot, taking
what I wanted and then escaping with it as I had with the goddess. The
idea expanded rapidly; it began to make me feverish. As usual, when I
gave myself over to anything new, I forgot everything else about me.

Even the goddess and her snake became of secondary importance; escape
itself was indefinitely postponed. The premier question was, "When
shall I do it?" I answered aloud:

"Why--to-day--to-night! What's the use of waiting?"

Then it became imperative that I should formulate a plan. The bear-
skin was the fundamental basis which gave me the courage to think of
attempting the task. I knew how to manage in regard to that, as well
as I knew how nicely it would work, if only the light were not too
searching. What more might the work require? Obviously I should need a
sack, in which to carry off the plunder; and I ought to have a pick or
a sledgehammer, or something in the way of a tool with which to detach
the solid chunks of metal. For the sack, I decided to sew together
some of the skins which were lying on the floor of my shelter. For
tools I would carry a couple of the stoutest clubs to be had in the
camp. In addition to these requisites, I could think of nothing I
should need, except my weapons.

I lost no time in setting about the preparations for this financial
venture. It seemed a pity to rob the goddess and her snake of the rugs
on which they reclined at various times, in my dug-out, but there was
nothing else to do. All the tribe-fellows' clubs having proved
themselves to be serviceable, I had no difficulty in selecting two
which I deemed worthy of the great occasion.

Old Fatty had resumed his faithful attendance on my every movement and
therefore he followed me down to the boat, carrying both of the clubs
and the skins. He stood on the bank and watched me embark, more crazy
than ever to go along, but still too frightened to trust himself
afloat on the lake. I had no wish to have company. Bidding him "be
good," I pushed away and started on the expedition.

By the time I had finished the work of fastening the skins together,
the afternoon was half gone. There was nothing to do, in the way of
work which would occupy my time, and I felt no desire to get into the
bear-skin prematurely, as I had done before, so that I was finally
obliged to pull in my oars and drift idly on the water. This was a
sleepy occupation. I nodded drowsily for half an hour, at the end of
which time I fell fast asleep.

The sun was just disappearing when at last I awoke. Disgusted with
myself, for having thus overdone the time-wasting business, I rowed
rapidly for Outlet river, to which I came duly. Standing up in the
boat I arrayed myself in my costume; then I worked slowly down the
river, as before, and beached the boat in the spot where I had landed
on the last successful venture.

Already the dusk made the forest gloomy, but as this was precisely
what I wanted, I struck off without delay, picking a path cautiously
through the growth. The neighbourhood seemed remarkably still, but
finally the rumble from the cauldron disturbed the quiet and gave me a
guide by which I corrected my course.

Laden as I was, with the necessary things for the labour, I should
have presented a most amazing aspect, had any of the Blacks discovered
my presence. I thought of that, and knew that even if I got down in
the normal position of a bear, the juxtaposition of my bag and the
clubs might easily arouse the most dangerous suspicions in the brain
of any Link beholding them and me. However, nothing happened.

"Why this is going to be a picnic," I muttered. "I couldn't ask for
anything nicer."

Indeed fortune seemed to be smiling upon me, for I came immediately
upon a continuation of the cliff of rock, which backed the camp of the
Blacks, and was soon confronted by a jagged heap of stone and quartz,
at the top of which appeared a dark, irregular cave. Before I could
clamber up the pile to this opening, the mighty roar came belching
forth. I knew I stood on the threshold of the cavern of wealth and
wonder.



CHAPTER XXXIX. STEALING THE ENEMY'S FIRE

NO SOONER had the demonstration ceased than I hastened up the rock-
heap to the cave. I found the mouth of the place somewhat choked and
hard to enter, but I forced my way over massed-in boulders to a
vestibule of the great treasure-house itself. Then suddenly my hopes
were blighted and failure loomed before me. It was as dark as tar and
I had clean forgotten to fetch a torch!

"But how could I have fetched a torch?" my brain demanded. I had no
civilised matches; I could not have carried a brand all day, for the
sake of having it now, and if I had, the smoke might have attracted
the attention of the Blacks. Had they caught a bear with a torch in
his hand they would unquestionably have desired an explanation. I
thought of my knife, which was steel, and the flints on my arrows.
Could I not produce a spark, ignite some tinder and then make some
faggots take fire? Yes, I could, but the arrows were all in the boat
and I had about as much tinder handy as a fellow could carry in his
eye.

In desperation I groped ahead for a rod and nearly broke my neck, by
jolting down an unseen step in the floor. It was useless to tackle the
cavern in this inky blackness; I might easily get boiled to death by
the fountain of scalding water. In bitter regret, I reproached myself
for having come away from camp without consulting the goddess and
without maturing my plans. But any ass should have known the place
would be dark! I acknowledged that I was a fool, and that after all
this bother I should have to give it up. Even if I did come again next
day, it would be no easy matter to fetch a torch, and I might try a
hundred times and not have the luck I had this evening in avoiding
those villains, the Blacks.

More than ready to swear at my folly, mad as a hornet to think of
abandoning all the gold, which was right there, almost within reach of
my hands, I pinched myself viciously and groped my way out to the heap
of rocks at the entrance.

Already a star was shining in the heavens. What good were stars, I
would have liked to know. It was fire I wanted--fire at the end of a
stick. A crazy idea of hunting for something highly inflammable, on
which to try my flint and steel, tried to get started in my brain. I
rejected the notion with scorn. I might as well begin a search for
glow-worms or incandescent electric globes.

"Those fools of Links have got plenty of fire," I grumbled,
spitefully. "For about two cents I'd kick them all out of their camp
and take all the torches I could carry."

This bit of pleasantry somewhat restored my humour. I started up from
where I was sitting on the rocks, abruptly, possessed of a great idea.
Why not make the trick worth the winning; why not steal their fire to
light myself in robbing their cave?

In my haste to clamber down from the pile, I fell forward and struck
my hand smartly on something which felt like a collected lot of wood.
I was ready to kick this thing, for bruising my fingers, when I
comprehended that wood was exactly what I required. Grasping one of
the branches I lifted a whole bundle of sticks, all dry, cut neatly of
an equal length, and tied about with some sort of cord. Instantly I
thought of the gilded skeleton--the man who had lived in this place. I
believed he had come to the cavern often, and that doubtless these
faggots had been gathered by himself for torches.

This discovery gave me new enthusiasm. I was calmer, also, and I
therefore resolved to proceed carefully, do nothing rash, and to wait
until the time was propitious before attempting to steal my fire.
Nevertheless I was determined not to give up the game until flatly
beaten. Much luck in the past had made me bolder than I was when I
arrived in the country.

During the half hour following, I crept through the woods, toward the
spot where I had waited for the goddess. I thought it would bring me
bad luck to try any other location. My clubs and the sack, I had left
at the cauldron, along with my bundle of wood. Thus I had nothing to
impede my progress; but the skin in which I was clothed hampered every
motion.

Throughout the jungle, various sounds had commenced, for the darkness
was rapidly becoming that of full-fledged night. Through the trees,
when I approached their clearing, I caught the gleam of the fires
about which the Links were cooking their dinner.

Knife in hand, I edged and pushed through the creepers and vines until
I dared go no further. From where I was, I could see very much the
same sort of groups about the fires which had made the picture weird
on the former occasion. But I was actually more excited and eager over
the present enterprise than I had been before, when a fellow-being was
in the game. Doubtless this arose from the greater risk I expected to
take.

Impatient as I was, the Links seemed to require an interminable time
to get ready for bed. I selected one and then another of the fires as
the one from which I would filch a brand, but was finally obliged to
wait and see which would be the most favourable to my task. I desired
to select the one furthest from the sleeping places, and yet not too
far from my cover. The one first abandoned by the Links would have
answered well. I watched it narrowly and kept an eye on the Blacks,
who were still lingering about. Long before the fellows had all
retired, the fire became hopeless, so few were the embers left aglow.
I was obliged to fix upon another.

I waited all of two hours, by the end of which time the Links were all
safely asleep, save that watchful old fiend whose acquaintance I had
made on my former visit. When at length he laid himself down for the
night, his position was such that my intended deed had been rendered
far more difficult than I had expected. It became necessary for me to
make a long detour, for I deemed it wise that I should be able to make
a bee-line for cover the second I procured my bit of fire.

In crawling and walking carefully about the tangle, I consumed a lot
of time. My position then was such that by creeping bear-like from the
vines and going straight for my original hiding place, I would pass
the remains of a fire, in which only one or two blazing pieces of wood
remained. Again I drew my knife. With a thumping heart, high up in my
neck, I began this desperate experiment.

A night-bird hooted before I had gone three paces. That alert old
wretch, the sentinel Black, stirred about and turned sleepily over.
For several minutes I remained motionless; then again I moved
cautiously forward. Although I expected the worst possible calamities
to happen every moment, and thought my own breathing would betray my
presence, I neared the fire without arousing the lightest sleeper.
Approaching the burned-out heap, I selected the brand I would take,
before I was there. In consequence of this, I lost no time, but passed
silently on, when I had the precious ember in my possession.
Transferring it quickly to my left hand, in order to conceal its
glowing end from any eyes which might by chance be open, I dragged it
on the ground beside me, and headed for the shelter, which to reach
would mean success.

A half chuckle escaped me, at the thought of the Links' stupidity and
my own adroitness, for the vines were now but a dozen feet away. Yet I
was horribly nervous, not daring to look behind me and fearing that
anything might be happening, now that my back was turned upon the
sleeping foe. I reached the cover in triumph, however, and even
crawled to a small open spot, when suddenly something gave me a
vigorous push with its foot.

Instantly then that monstrous old watch Link, recognised me, raised
his club and poised to fetch it down with a blow that should scatter
my brains. I saw him, knew he had caught me, realised that more
silently than I he had followed the singular bear that would steal a
brand of fire, and quick as a gun-spring I shot up against him, butted
him hard in the ribs and we closed in a duel to the death.

My only thought was--"Choke him off!" I knew that a single yell would
bring an army of foes upon me; I knew he had made no sound before
because of his commendable desire to determine my nature while I was
still unaware of his presence. Now I swiftly determined that not a
sound should he make, unless he did it over my dead body. I was thrice
as vicious as he, I verily believe, as I threw myself in against his
body and fastened my clutch on his throat. I was fierce as only a
frightened and desperate man can be; I was strong as three of my kind,
in that moment of terrible need.

His arms had been raised with the club; the weapon had even been
descending as I thumped him violently backward. Down came the great
rock, but the force of the blow was gone, and the aim was so ruined
that he struck us both on the leg. He dropped the thing as useless,
for he could not have raised it again had he tried. But with his long,
iron-like arms he fought like a fiend, to shove me off, to gouge out
my ribs and to grip my throat as I was gripping his, with all but two
of my fingers. The two fingers gripped the handle of my knife.

The length of his arms was for once against him. I was as close up as
flesh can freeze to flesh. His head was thrust far back; already his
breathing muscles were swelling and labouring beneath my thumbs. We
struggled about in the darkness hither and thither, wrestling,
flinging, treading on roots and branches and exerting the utmost of
our strength to win the battle.

The monster's muscles were something prodigious; his activity was
simply incredible. I have choked a man to submission in thirty
seconds, but it seemed as if I could never weaken this brute nor
reduce him to a state wherein I could use my knife. He fought me with
his feet, scratched me and kicked my shins. He got his bone-and-wire
arms against my stomach at last and clutched me and pushed me till I
thought I should shriek with pain. Had I not been protected by the
bear-skin, I think he would have killed me, in spite of the tremendous
advantage I had gained at the outset. All this time the only sound was
what I made in breathing and what we made with our scuffling about. It
was an ominously silent duel.

Over we toppled, tripped by a creeper, and rolled on the ground among
the vines. He had me under, like a cat with a squirrel, but I felt him
beginning to quiver all over. My grip had not been broken for a
moment, but now it nearly gave way; a weakness was stealing over me,
for he was crushing my ribs where I had received the blow with the
nugget club. This was the particular time when the bear-skin helped me
out.

Something smarted my leg then--the brand of fire. I had struck against
it. This made me furious. A gush of hot, new strength welled up in my
veins and along all my sinews. My finger-ends dug in about his wind-
pipe deeper and deeper. I heaved him over; his arms were becoming like
lead; his motions were powerless; all the force seemed slipping from
his body. Knowing my time had come, I gave the knife in my hand a
sudden turn and push against the jugular vein, swelling beneath my
pressure, and felt him shudder in death in a moment.

Until I was sure he would move no more, nor raise a sound, I remained
astride his chest. The stillness then was awful. Not a sound could I
hear but that of my own laboured breathing and the trickle and drip of
this creature's blood. I admit the dread of it all made me tremble. It
seemed such a ghastly end to my innocent escapade.

But having plunged so deeply into the business, for the sake of a bit
of fire, I did not intend to leave the work unfinished because of this
unavoidable incident. Therefore I caught up the glowing branch, which
had nearly been smothered out as we rolled it in the grass, and
blowing upon it to liven it up, I stole away from that gory arena.



CHAPTER XL. COVETED GOLD

STILL BREATHING hard, from the effects of the duel, I reached the heap
of stone, outside the cavern and hunted up my bundle of wood. I sat
down on a rock to get my torches lighted. This was not an easy matter,
for although my brand was a species of wood which retained fire
remarkably long, I was obliged to gather many small dry twigs and bits
of dead creeper, to which I added hair from the skin, before I could
make a blaze. Once having accomplished this feat, however, I found
that the torch-faggots burned with all the fierceness of pitch.

Acknowledging that the skeleton-man had succeeded in finding a wood
which surpassed for torches anything that I had yet discovered, I
threw my bag and clubs inside the cave and climbed in after, with all
the light I needed.

So far, the getting of treasure had not proved to be the "picnic" I
had previously been led to suppose was about to be enjoyed. Holding my
torch above my head and carrying both the clubs beneath my other arm,
I now went along in this wonder-house, waxing momentarily more and
more excited by the prospect of seeing what was there.

The passage was narrow and low, it was likewise crooked, and the floor
was rough and uneven. On the walls there was not the slightest
indication of anything precious. I have never seen stone more dull.
This made me doubt if I had come to the cauldron of gold, after all.
The trend of the tunnel was downward. Presently I came to a "jump off"
four feet high. The bottom of this secondary gallery sloped rapidly
downward. Then I emerged from the tunnel-like hall, into a larger
chamber. The first thing I saw was water, in a crevice. I jumped then
like a scared cat, for a drop of the liquid fell plump on my nose from
the ceiling, where steam had condensed.

A second after this I got a brilliant gleam of reflected light, from
an object on the floor, a rod away. It was gold. To right and left
flashed similar reflections. I hastened onward, and then halted, dizzy
with amazement, for below me, in a great basin was ebon water that
moved, and about it were nodules and drippings of gold, and stuffed
into crevices was gold on gold. I leaped a ditch, above which the mist
was rising, hot and damp. Beyond this, down in the very cauldron
itself, which was inaccessible and awe-inspiring, I beheld those
stalagmites of solid metal, those building nuggets and the seething
abyss of water and natural acid which before I had seen from above.

The ascending steam curtained off the mouth of the cave above which I
knew to be over this eerie place, but I was far too eager for what was
about me, to spend my time in looking upward. It was not a place of
dazzling beauty; on the contrary it was dull, dripping and misty, but
here, there, in unexpected places I caught that inimitable glitter.
Having seen one piece of the forming gold-hunks, it seemed as if I
were qualified to see a score. The heat of the place was tremendous,
the air humid and hard to breathe

So deep was the boiling water that I could see nothing of what was
below, yet I knew from seeing the shallows, golden on the bottom, that
the basin was doubtless plated throughout with the beautiful metal. I
was wild with enthusiasm; I wanted to knock off tons of nuggets; I
began to wonder if I could take it all. Quickly clambering over jagged
piles, I stepped on a boulder that stood above an apron of rock all
seamed with cracks in which the gold had been stuffed till the places
were full.

While I was standing there, the rumble of the mighty giant commenced
to resound in the cavern. Alarmed at the thought that the water might
surge up and engulf me where I stood, I started to flee to a safer
retreat. My heel got caught in a crevice. The harder I tugged, the
tighter it became wedged. Stooping I got my fingers in behind it and
slid it forward and out. The second it cleared, my thumb struck an
object full of something that felt like nails. Glancing once at the
place, I was astonished to see the heel of a boot, not unlike my own.

I leaped away to safety and the marvellous geyser burst upward. The
roaring noises thundered upon the air of the place with deafening
reverberations; the steam rolled away in tremendous volumes. Spray and
drops of the boiling liquid that splashed, fell all about, some on my
hand, burning me badly. The basin was all a-surge with its seething
brew; the waters gushed hungrily up, swirling about, filling the
cracks and tossing in extreme agitation.

Down came the massive column of the fountain, as if the source had
been cut off in an instant. A tidal wave of the boiling stuff swelled
up to the brink of the cauldron, inundating the golden nodules,
stalagmites and the radiating fissures.

I knew, then, as much as a man could ever know, who had not been
present, how that other man had lost his life, and how it came that
his skeleton was gilded. That heel told the story. He had probably
caught his foot just as I had done, but he had not been able to get
away. He had doubtless fallen headlong into the basin of boiling
liquid, where his life must have been forfeited instantly. Then time
after time the water had risen about him, until all the flesh had been
boiled away from the bones, and then the process of plating with gold
had commenced on the skeleton. Poor wretch. It had then been left, I
thought, for one of the braver spirits among the Links to rescue all
that remained and carry it forth from the dread cavern. I felt
somewhat chilly to think how near I had been to the same dreadful
fate.

The demonstration having ceased, the water subsided, the rocks and
nuggets dripped, and the steam arose, hotter than before. My zeal for
exploring the place had oozed away. It seemed to me that discretion
counselled me to complete my work and depart.

"I'll only stop for a few hundred pounds," I told myself with a
feeling of virtuous moderation. "A man should never be a pig."

The first thing to do was to strip off my bear-skin, in which I was now
perspiring like a porpoise. Then I selected a fine, large nodule of
gold, from the vicinity of which I could easily escape when the geyser
began to spout, and this I began to batter with one of the clubs. I
had conceived an idea that I would bend these formations over and
break them off with comparative ease. I was in for a large
disappointment.

Not only were the gold masses bended over at the expense of great
energy and perseverance, but they refused to break after quite a
number of such bendings. That first one having been once so bent,
refused to be knocked back in the opposite direction. Also the geyser
took its turn very soon and in the end I humbly abandoned nodule
number one and tackled one which was smaller.

It was at least an hour before my labours were awarded with any real
success whatsoever. But at last I had a chunk of metal of something
like five poundsí weight. Mopping my head, puffing and losing my
temper, I "picked on" the smaller pieces now with great sagacity. I
pounded and pried, grunted and wrenched, waited for the geyser to have
its say and then went at it again, till I lost all reckoning of time.
After several failures, however, I got the knack of this mining
business better, and what with smashing rocks away to facilitate the
work and contenting myself with modest chunks, I got loose and heaped
up something over a hundred weight of treasure, according to my
estimate by guessing.

"That's enough for any man of sense," I finally assured myself. "I'd
be ashamed to take any more."

Lighting a new torch, from the one I had planted in a chink, I went
out toward the entrance and secured my bag. To my amazement I
discovered that the day had broken. I had worked for hours that sped
like minutes. Somewhat concerned about any Links, who might be
stirring, I hastened back, threw my hoard into the skin pouch and
staggered with it to the jump-off, where I boosted it up hurriedly. On
emerging from the mouth of the cave, I was obliged to rest, so weary
had I become from my long-sustained labours. However, I dared not
pause, at so late an hour, and therefore I shouldered my load again
and started away, leaving bear-skin, torches and clubs behind. My only
idea now was to reach the boat in haste.

In spite of my stubbornness, I could walk not more than fifty yards at
a time with my burden, before putting it down to give myself "a blow."
It was such a dead weight, and I had used up my whole reserve of
force. Breathing my great relief, to find myself out at last, within
one more carry of the boat, I set the sack down in a thicket and
leaned against a tree to rest my muscles. As I turned about to resume
the load, a startling yell suddenly penetrated the forest.

Jump about as quickly as I could, I was not in time to avoid a furious
onslaught. A hideous female Link, as black as rubber and apparently as
old as the jungle, launched herself upon me and bit me on the shoulder
so severely that I cried out in pain and struck her with my knife
before I could stop to remember that a male should spare a female
creature. The steel went deep in her side. She wrenched with her jaws
where she was biting as she fell away, and injured a cord in my neck,
which made me all but collapse with sudden nausea and weakness.

Before I could shake her off, after pulling out the knife, the forest
echoed with the yells of countless demons rushing toward me from the
direction of the cave. Undone, incapable of showing fight with my
dagger, against so large and fierce a mob, I tore myself free from the
clutch of the female and ran as hard as possible toward the river.

That terrible female, stabbed only through the fleshy muscles under
her arm, made a dive for my feet and hauled me down. I slashed off two
of her fingers with a vicious lunge, and darted away again at the top
of my speed.

By this time many of the demons were hot on my trail, crying out in
fearful monosyllables, tearing through the brush, and attempting to
head me off. The foremost fellow threw his club and the handle of it
struck me on the leg. I snatched it up, well knowing the creature
would catch me before I could go another twenty strides, and leaping
behind a tree I waited half a moment. He rushed to the spot, headlong
and reckless. Down came his own weapon, and he fell like a dead bull.
But the motion of striking nearly killed me, so fearful was the wrench
where the female had bitten the sinew.

Once more I ran dizzily away, at the head of that screaming horde of
Links. Club after club was hurled to fetch me down, but all went wide.
I was beating them all--I knew it--I should reach the boat, for none
were aware of its presence. It was hardly more than a rod away.

Stumbling and pitching, ready to fall down in my agony, I dived
through a hedge of vines and was thrown headlong within reach of the
prow I knew so well. Up and shoving at the boat in a twinkling, I
heard the vines being ripped apart behind me. Having held on to the
club till I fell here, I turned and pounced upon it and swung it back
in time to crash it fairly in the pit of the black devil's stomach, as
he hurtled upon me.

Dropping it instantly, I shoved off the boat with all the strength I
had, and leaped in, as three or four more of the fiends came dashing
madly down to the river's edge. This time when they threw their clubs
I was struck fairly on the fleshy portion of the back and knocked on
my face across the seat. Hurt by the blow, but strong in my instinct
for self-preservation, I got out the oars in jig-time and drove the
good old craft up the stream and away from the murderous brutes on the
bank, like a madman. Rowing almost straight for the further side, I
distanced all the clubs speedily. When they realised the utter
futility of pursuit, the enraged creatures merely yelled their
maledictions as I went.



CHAPTER XLI. FAREWELL TO THE CAMP

THE STRENGTH which had risen in my desperation, even against the shock
to my system which had been given by the bite of the female monster,
departed before I was out of the river. I trembled from head to foot;
I was ill all over and nearly as limp as a string.

How serious the bite might be I had no means of ascertaining. To my
hand, when I felt of the place, there seemed to be only a raw,
smarting wound, on the top of a great hot swelling. I felt sure that
no thews had been actually severed by the terrible teeth, for had any
been, I should not have been able to row the boat nor to use my arm in
any manner whatsoever. Nevertheless I knew I was wounded badly, and I
all but cried with the pain it cost me to move the craft.

Until I had reached the lake, the fear of the Blacks made me work,
despite my physical anguish. When I knew I was comparatively safe, I
sank forward and, I confess, fainted like a girl.

It was probably as much as an hour before I recovered my senses fully.
For the last fifteen minutes or so of this time I was semi-conscious,
but incapable of motion, while my brain merely whirled in a vortex
with that female Link, the boat and the nuggets of gold. When at last
I again acquired the power of moving, I filled my hand with water from
the lake repeatedly and dashed it on my face and on my bitten
shoulder. But I could not row; I needed further rest.

My head was beginning to ache. My brain insisted on revolving the
story of my greed for gold. Again I fought the battle of silence with
the watch-dog of the tribe; again I worked like a gnome in that
steaming, hot cauldron; again I staggered away with my plunder. Then I
saw that female Link, who, searching in the thicket, must have found
the body of the watch-dog, lying in his gore. He might have been her
mate. Crazed, she followed on the trail that led from the spot, with
the tribe at her heels. She reached the cauldron and then got again on
the tracks I was making to the river. At that I screamed and thought I
was crazy myself.

Aroused by this repeated nightmare, I struggled with the oars again.
It seemed as if I could not budge the boat; this made me work like a
fury. The heat of the sun grew intolerable; I could feel it baking the
blood in my head; it was all on the side of the Blacks. The lake was a
sheen of blinding light and heat; it mocked me and held me back. Again
and again came the lurid panorama of events. I could see through
everything, jungle, thicket and bag made of skin---see those pieces of
gold--mine! mine!--shining like the blazing sun, hot and baking. All
that gold on the ground was mine, but it mocked me and cooked my brain
with its heat and steam.

I lost all reckoning; I rowed to escape the nightmare and the lake
that held me back. The sun got up in mid-heaven, and still I was on
that shimmering water. I knew nothing, absolutely, of what I did,
except that I rowed to get away from that female Link, who seemed to
bite me times without number, and always in that same burning spot. I
must have fainted half a dozen times; I rowed toward home between
these spells by instinct only. The distance which I could ordinarily
compass in a little more than an hour, required no less than seven
hours, this fateful day. When I think of the heat, the weight of the
boat and my physical condition, I wonder I did not die, and drift to
the shore.

As it was, I have not the slightest recollection of having reached the
bank. I thought that for years and years I strove to get away from
that last terrible encounter. When at length my brain was clear and I
opened my eyes, in the slow, weak manner of one who has all but passed
to the further side of the dark river, I saw a beautiful, worried face
above my own--the face of the goddess.

"Thank God!" she whispered fervently, when she saw that I was mad no
longer, and the poor girl cried as she bathed my head and bade me go
to sleep.

I had nearly pegged out, and that is the truth. When I was strong
enough to hear my own story, I learned of things which will never
cease to fill me with wonder, and with many emotions too soft to
parade. It was good old Fatty who had seen me coming; and he it was
that finally carried me bodily up the hill. Then for a nurse I had
never lacked for a moment. The goddess and Fatty, he her slave, she my
guardian angel, had done the all that could be done, with the poor
facilities at hand, for a man in such desperate straits that he raves
night and day for a week. But the goddess really saved me, when all is
said, for she knew the properties of certain tropical plants and with
the crushed leaves of one she drew the poison from the bite, reduced
the swelling and made it possible for proper healing to commence. I
had done the worst possible thing, in rowing home through the heat and
with such a wound, but if I had not done exactly what I did, and when
I did, my doctor and nurse would never have had the opportunity of
proving their skill.

They were strange days that followed--strange for me, who had never
been down on my back with illness before since childhood, for the
fever left me thin, weak, and feeling so helpless that I had no desire
to move as much as one of my feet. My first poignant thought was about
the Blacks, and the danger of their swooping down upon us again. When
I knew that for a week there had been no sign of any foe, I thought
they had probably undergone too great a fright on the last occasion to
require any more for some considerable time.

For another week I lay like a baby, in the shelter, eating fruits and
bits of meat which the goddess prepared as best she could. How I
yearned to see her face, whenever she left me for a moment! Then came
the time when I began to mend, and desired to have back my strength
and my title of king.

When I stood up and wobbled about on my pins one day, I made a
discovery which did much to hasten a return to my old condition. The
crystal club, presented to me by the ex-chief, in token of my exalted
station and regal attainments, had been stolen. I learned that the ex-
chief had dared to carry this sceptre of power into the jungle; I
learned from Fatty that the jealous Madame Albino had been the one to
rob me of my trophy. She feared the goddess--who in truth was more of
a queen of the tribe than I had even been a king,---but the creature
had not feared a man who was crazy and likely to die.

So wroth did I wax over this outrage to my dignity that I became
unmanageable at once. Thin as a rail, but able to stagger about, next
day, I dug up one of my lesser bombs from the magazine, and waving it
wildly above my head, marched up to the guilty ex-chief, while he had
the club underneath him, as he sat on the ground, and scared him half
to death. He knew the bomb,--no trouble about that. I therefore took
the crystal club away from him, rudely, and slapped his face. He fell
down instantly and began to adore my tracks in the proper spirit of
humiliation, followed without delay by all the tribe. Madame Albino
fled to the woods, though what manner of personal violence the lady
expected I have never been able to guess. This fine, large bluff, of a
man as white as paper and thin as a hair-pin, had a most salutary
effect. It made all the fellows love me more than before, even the
chief, for all were much like dogs in disposition, and a dog is the
better for it when he learns that man is the master. I was more of a
monarch every day.

Yet I was slow in regaining my old weight, for the heat was increasing
steadily, and my system had been much depressed by the fever. In
consequence of this, I did more at playing than at work. With my
fellows I practiced archery in the cooler parts of the days, coaxing
back the strength to my arms, body and legs, but I made my excursions
to the jungle brief.

During this period of convalescence, the goddess reassumed the company
of her snake. But the dear girl followed me about with her gaze, which
I frequently felt drawing my own. When I would glance toward her, I
always saw her glorious eyes filled with longing and sympathy and a
tenderness which went straight to my heart. But she would blush and
look away, nearly always at the hideous snake.

With my returning strength came the recurrent desire to depart from
the place forever. Also, in spite of all I could do, the thought of my
gold---lying in the thicket, the treasure for which I had laboured so
hard--would persist in returning. I tried to banish the dream of
avarice, but it is a fearsome clutch which riches maintain on the
imagination of poor, weak man. I felt quite convinced that great as my
longing was for the world outside, that of the goddess was ten-fold
greater. Of this I spoke, one day, when my restored condition gave
promise that I should not fail for lack of strength in what I might
undertake. Into the eyes of that faithful girl came a burning light,
which would have made the heart of any man bound with feeling. She
spoke, however, with her usual control.

"I should like to leave this place," she said, "but I prefer to wait
until you are strong and masterful, as you were when I saw you first."

At this it was on my tongue to speak of the future, and of certain
hopes which had grown in my thoughts, of a home to be and of
happiness, but I curbed this desire as being untimely while she
depended so entirely upon myself for deliverance.

Having dwelt no little on the prospect of the future in this camp, in
which--unless we escaped---I could see my own skeleton hung up on a
stump, and with no fine plating of gold upon it, either, I had small
desire to remain in the land another day. Strangely enough, however, I
had no sooner begun to make our preparations for leaving, than memory
dragged in every happy day I had spent with my Links, every thrill of
triumph in my puny successes, every faithful or affectionate deed
which these simple, half-animal creatures had ever performed toward
myself. I own I was foolishly attached to a number of the poor forest-
children, who watched me always with such a dumb look of regard, and
wonder as to what I was.

It is not a boast to say that I had wrought an inerradicable effect
upon these less than merely primitive people. In turn they had been my
willing slaves, my companions--my everything of life. I thought of
Little Tike, and blessed his memory for the days of real enjoyment he
had given me when I was mending from a serious injury once before. But
after all--there was that gilded skeleton to think about and to dread.
What profit was it to a skeleton that sundry Missing Links still
adored the ground before it? I preferred to be a man of meat, unadored
for the rest of my life, rather than to be a gold-plated pile of
bones, worshipped madly throughout the centuries to come.

Thus, taking matters quietly, I made myself and the boat ready for the
long, uncertain cruise. I was quite aware that we might be leaving a
place of comparative safety, for waters and lands of which the dangers
might be innumerable and the chances for escape absolutely nill; I
agreed, mentally, that we might be making a terrible mistake which we
would recognise when too late for any retreat, but these were the
risks we were obliged to assume. I believed I could win, in this game
with fates unknown, and virtually I wagered both our lives on the
outcome of the play.

One of my chief concerns, in stocking the boat, was that of providing
water. As long as we floated on the river we should have this in
plenty, but if we did reach the sea, matters might be altered. The
best I could do was to take my tortoise shell, to hold a fair supply.
It was an easy matter to provision ourselves with meat, for strips
which I cut from various kinds of game, dried in the sun in a manner
most satisfactory, furnishing a palatable supply, which, with salt,
was not at all bad to chew upon by the hour.

For weapons I depended on the bow and arrows, a club and a number of
good flint hatchets, in addition to four small bombs, with complement
of fuse. In order to provide an ever-ready brand of fire for these,
should occasion to use them arise, I selected a goodly quantity of the
wood which retained the glow so long, after which I lined all the bow-
end of the boat with clay, so that I could build my blaze on the
bottom and yet do no harm to the hull by burning. I meant to carry my
fire along, for I had experienced all the "picnics" I wanted for the
lack of this useful thing. Among sundry other materials, I provided
myself with several coils of good, stout line, made by braiding
together the small, pliable creepers. At this work the goddess
assisted splendidly.

All the skins which had formed my gold bag, had been left behind, in
my flight from the Blacks, of course, but my Links having learned the
process of curing pelts in the brine, had worked up some very good
pieces. On these I levied a tax---the only one I imposed during my
reign--thereby fitting the craft out in some degree of comfort, for
the goddess had dressed herself in all the hides I had left in my
shelter. This seemed to be the concluding ceremony, except that I made
sure my oars and pole-pins were staunch, and I cut a long slender
pole, to be used for any purpose which might develop later on.

My decision was made to leave in the late afternoon, in order to pass
the camp of the Blacks after night had rendered them cowards. At the
very thought of their village, that bag of gold clamoured for another
fling at fortune. I was a poor man, in my own country, howsoever
wealthy I might consider myself in Linkland; the temptation was great.
But I shook my head decisively. I had an undoubted right to risk my
own neck, but I had not the slightest right to risk the personal
safety of a helpless woman. No, I must shut my eyes to the glitter,
and pass the treasure by--like a man!

Although I had made frequent excursions in my boat, many of which had
required preparation, the Links seemed to comprehend that on this
occasion the matter was one of much more importance, and gravity for
all concerned. When all was ready and the hour drawing near, I
attempted to convey to the assembled tribe my intention of going, with
the goddess, so far that I should never return. That they understood,
I am positive; the poor fellows were greatly affected. They regretted
the arrival of that day as plainly as if they had said so in a most
solemn chorus. Even the albino female, weak, inconsequent creature
that she was, and like a woman, would have forgiven everything and
promised to be good all the rest of her days, to have changed my
decision. She wept on the ground, sincerely. I felt saddened myself; I
admit it freely. These rude creatures had all seemed like my very own;
they were more than faithful animals, and yet they commanded a strange
sympathy, being less than men.

When ready to go, I carried the great rock-crystal club to the ex-
chief and placed it again in his hand, as he stood there and
wondered.

"Take it back," I said, as if he could understand every word, "you are
man enough to wield it well. Boys," I added to the others, "don't go
backward again; stick to the bows, and make new ones for yourselves,
to shoot the pigs. Try to be good, manly fellows. And--and I hope you
won't entirely forget me, when I'm gone."

Turning quickly away, I shouldered the gold-nugget club and started
for the boat, to which the goddess also repaired. Old Fatty was
whining, as he followed at my heels, and after him trooped every
creature in the tribe, till all stood together on the shore.

In the boat was everything we needed, so far as I could plan and
provide, including a lot of the freshest fruit to be obtained. The
goddess took her seat in the stern. Seized with an impulse, I turned
to my loyal fellows and held out my hand to the chief. He was wholly
at a loss to know what I meant, yet so natural is the gesture that he
placed his hand in mine without even knowing that this shake was the
symbol of friendship, greeting and farewell. The others followed his
example, in wonder, and with awkward motions, so that I bade good-bye
to all the "men."

Fatty, who was eyeing the boat and whining and giving little jumps of
indecision, knew not what to do. I stepped in the craft and pushed her
gently off.

"Come on then, Fatty," I said to my good, old fellow, and bounding
through the tepid water, he did actually leap into the boat and sit
there, shivering with awe and delight.

"Good-bye, old camp; good-bye, my friends," I said, as we drifted
slowly away. "God keep you, poor children of the jungle."

The chief and all the others got down on the ground, along the bank,
and paid me such a tribute of genuine esteem as I shall never know
again. This was their long farewell; this was their voluntary
expression of love and regret. At that moment, more than any other in
my life, I was a king.



CHAPTER XLII. GOLDEN GLEAMS

AS LONG as we could see them, the Links continued to watch the boat
departing. Even the goddess, who had conceived such a hatred and fear
of the Blacks, felt that these simpler fellows were not wholly savage
and bad; she even waved them good-bye till we passed around the point,
after which we were quiet for several minutes.

Old Fatty was thoroughly frightened. He crouched down and trembled,
raising his head timidly from time to time to look about, but always
ducked it back under his arm as if he thought that to shut out the
sight was to eliminate the imaginary danger. I pitied him, but felt a
greater affection for the old fellow than ever before, to think he
preferred to undergo this torture, rather than to remain behind when I
had gone. It was a wonderful compliment, and so I shall always think.
But I hoped his fears would soon depart, for I was sorry to see him
distressed.

When I turned from the last view of our friends, to smile at the
goddess, I noticed for the first time that she was minus the anaconda.

"Why--we've forgotten your darling, beastly old snake," said I. "If it
makes a lot of difference, why--of course--"

"I left it purposely," she interrupted, rosy red.

"The deuce!" I exclaimed. "I thought the critter was your pet--the one
thing on earth--"

"My pet! Oh, the horrible, crawling thing!" She shuddered at the
memory, to my great, but secret delight. "I hated the nasty thing--I
loathed it!" she expostulated fervently. "I hope I'll never see
another snake again!"

This was a huge surprise. "Gee whizz!" said I.

"Gee wizz!" echoed Fatty, and he ducked his head back with a snap.

"But--er--why, then," I resumed, "why did you lug it around?"

"I took it as my only protection," she replied with dignity. "I had to
be protected from the outrageous brutes!"

"That's so," I admitted, abashed. "I might have thought of that. Of
course--just as plain as day . . . You're right--I'm a donkey . . .
Yes . . . But--but why have you thrown him away, now?"

"Because," she murmured, looking at me timidly, while she blushed
again, "because I don't need him--any more."

"Well--bless my soul!" said I, and that was all.

Sending the boat along steadily, for the sun had set and darkness
would soon be coming, I thought of many things. My gaze rested on
Fatty, who was now beginning to look about him a trifle more boldly.
What should I do with the old fellow, provided we all got safely out
of the country and once more mingled with men? How astonished he would
be at the sights of steamers, railroad trains, cities, and the
hurrying crowds of people! I could fancy his comical face, as he
looked in my eyes, like a bewildered dog. Would it ever be possible to
put him in clothes and have him about me? I knew he could learn many
useful things, and even much of my speech, but whether a Missing Link
could really be kept, as a servant, or friend, was a question
requiring no little amount of thought. Of one thing I was certain, I
would never under any circumstances permit him to become a freak, nor
even an object of people's idle curiosity. Poor old, faithful Fatty.

By the time we arrived at Outlet river I felt that the darkness was
sufficient to make it possible and safe for me to run the gauntlet
past the camp of the Blacks. Cautiously I rowed the boat, bidding the
goddess say nothing till we should be past the clearing.

I could see that she had become pale and frightened, as we neared the
place in which for long she had been a prisoner, but also there was
ample evidence of her courage. Without a sound, we glided by the bank
where twice I had beached the boat, and my heart beat with excitement
as I thought of the gold, lying so short a carry away. "Get it---take
it!" prompted a thought in my brain, "it will only take a moment and
then you will be rich!" But I conquered; I crushed out the tempting
voice and rowed slowly on.

Proceeding across the river, to the side opposite the clearing of our
foe, I watched for the camp, eagerly. We came sooner than I had
expected to a point from which we could see the place. I looked, but
was struck dumb with surprise. Not a fire did I see. I rested on the
oars and listened; there was not a sound of the chattering Blacks.
Daring to approach a trifle nearer, so great is human curiosity, I was
still unable to discover a single sign of inhabitants on the flat
where I had formerly seen them by the hundred.

"I'm a fish," said I, "if they haven't deserted the camp!"

They had gone, for a fact. There was not a Link of them left. They had
fled, for what reason I could not even conjecture; and where they were
was a question which I did not care to propound. It seemed to me that
this lifted a great burden of worry from my shoulders. But as soon, as
I had made myself sure of the truth, my thoughts went flashing back to
the bag of gold. If the Links were gone, I should run no risk in
recovering the treasure. So potent did this idea become, that I
immediately turned the boat back up the steam and began to row with
vigour.

The goddess asked me at once where I was going. When I told her she
seemed deeply to regret my resolution, but she sat there, grimly, and
made no comment. Brave girl, I knew she was terribly agitated, but a
girl could not be expected to do or to know any better. I admired her
pluck in restraining her natural impulse to protest and coax and make
a fuss.

In the briefest time, the prow was grating on the bank. Fatty leaped
out, wild with delight to find himself again on solid earth.

"We'll only be gone a minute," I told the goddess, and led the way up
through the brush and the darkness.

To tell the truth I was more than half afraid that something might
happen, myself. Jungle noises had commenced and the place seemed to
breathe of my flight, struggles and pains of the time before.
Stumbling about, as silently as possible, I began to search for the
treasure.

I had pictured myself walking straight to where the gold was lying,
but I now began to realise that to re-discover the particular thicket
where I had dropped it would be a matter involving considerable luck.
A fruitless time elapsed while I plunged about. Fatty was of no
assistance, for he knew nothing of what I was seeking.

Presently the same old grumble and roar, from the mighty cauldron,
commenced to roll outward on the air. I knew at once I was off the
track, at least twenty yards. Changing my base rapidly, I began the
search anew. But it seemed utterly hopeless. A doubt came over me; was
the bag still there? Might not the Blacks have found it and carried it
away? It seemed as if this must be so. I was worried about the
goddess; if anything should happen to her, how terrible it would be!

On the point of giving up the gold, and persuading myself that I did
not care anyway, I turned to leave, and stumbled heavily over some
obstacle and into a tangle of creepers.

"Here it is, all the time!" I grumbled.

My excitement rose to fever pitch in a second. The bag, exactly as I
had dropped it down, was under my very hand. Lifting it out of the
embracing tendrils, I got it boosted up on my shoulder in a hurry.
Then back we plunged, through the growth.

If I live to be a thousand, I shall never see a face so expressive of
dread and fright as was that of the poor, trembling girl in the boat,
when at last we came to where she was waiting. I believe that hers had
been a more cruel ordeal to endure than had been my own on the former
occasion. I had not even thought to whistle a bit, by way of assurance
that all was well. She had to cry, dear little woman, when the strain
was over and the boat once more headed down the stream.

I spurned the gold with my foot, as it lay in the boat, and hated
myself for a miserly, greedy fool, yet in spite of myself I felt a
tremendous elation inside, to think of having all this wealth, after
all. It seemed too good for me to contain myself over. I wanted to
roar out in laughter, to sing, and to shout a mad defiance to all the
Blacks in kingdom.

Fatty had entered the boat again, with more alacrity than before,
desiring any fate with us rather than to be left alone in an unknown
jungle after dark. He made himself small in the bottom of the boat,
and we glided past the deserted camp of our defeated foe.



CHAPTER XLIII. SURROUNDED BY THE BLACKS

IT WAS A strange sensation to skim along that river through the dark,
irregular walls of trees, for the sounds of the jungle came to us
clearly and these were all we could hear. At times we could see but a
short distance ahead; at many a bend it appeared as if the great
silent water-way ended abruptly. Then again it would open out and
curve away, lighted only by its own reflections of the stars.

So much did this outlet wind that I lost all account of directions,
but I knew we were traversing miles to accomplish but little direct
advance. Our talking amounted to nothing. My mood was not for
conversation, white I am sure the goddess dreaded to speak a word.
From time to time some water creature splashed its way among the
grasses, next the bank. No matter how often this sound was repeated,
it made me start and breathe heavily till we were past the place.

The hours sped by, bringing no material change that could be noted.
The night was exceedingly dark, owing in part to the density of the
forest so near on either side. Pausing at length in my rowing, I
observed that we drifted more rapidly than I had thought the current
to be moving. Having become a trifle soft, while on my back, I found
that my arms had grown tired already from the work. Fatty had
succumbed to his habit of sleeping, acquired by going to bed at dark.
His fears, however, had kept him awake much later than usual. He was
curled down in the hold, where he twitched his feet and made little
noises, like a dog that dreams.

I whispered to the goddess that she had better try to follow Fatty's
example, but I was quite unable to ascertain whether she slept or not,
so still had she been for an hour. Deeming it wise to conserve my
strength for the daylight rowing, I now permitted the boat to float
down the river at its own speed, merely keeping her out toward the
centre of the stream by steering with one or the other of the oars.
She swung about, broadside on, but as this enabled me to watch ahead
easily, I made no effort to keep her pointed directly down the
current.

Drifting thus, I kept the lonely vigil, hour after hour. I think I
have never felt more depressed than I finally became in that heart of
the wilderness. Not that anything threatened, nor that the sounds
about me were more than usually weird, but simply because there seemed
to be no end in promise; there appeared to be no progress toward
anything different from that interminable jungle, in which the river
seemed merely to wind without purpose. I felt as if the stream were
like a figure 8, on which we could float forever and never get out of
the maze. I knew better than this, but everything contributed to make
me hopeless. Sleepy and weary, dully aching in the muscles and bones
made weak by the fever, I almost thought the whole business a failure
and the life, for which I had fought so persistently, a mockery
unworthy of the effort.

On and on, winding and curving, drifted the boat with its
extraordinary cargo. Now and again I stirred the embers of fire, which
were dully glowing in my furnace-like receptacle of clay. In this
place these burning sticks appeared like the eyes of some crouching
animal. I gave up all idea of ever seeing dawn. Nodding, jerking
myself awake, bathing my heavy lids with water, steering my crooked
course on this stream of mystery, I passed the time without a single
relieving incident to break the deadening monotony of sound, motion
and thought.

Even when the first yellow streaks of morning did make slits in the
clouds, above the horizon of trees, it seemed as if the process of
day-breaking ceased and that the actuator had forgotten the method.
About this time, a rain commenced to fall, light, but wet and not
desired. Fatty and the goddess awoke. I stumbled over the faithful
Link to arrange a protection for the fire, which might otherwise have
been extinguished. Then in my eagerness to get back to the oars and
head us off from the bank, toward which we were gliding, I forgot to
cover the bombs.

Grateful for the diversion, as well as for the company of my two
companions, I picked up my spirits rapidly, becoming actually
cheerful. This humour seemed to accelerate the coming of morning
amazingly. The river reflected the pale streaks of light, the trees
began to emerge in detail from the walls of gloom, and the dismal
sounds, of hooting and howling things, were abated. Before we knew it,
day was upon us, our winding course became a ceaseless invitation to
hasten on and round the next succeeding curve, and we were drifting
with a doubled speed.

Though the rain continued to fall, it was not annoying. I ate a bit of
fruit and manned the oars, soon having us going at an encouraging
speed. When the sun peered over the edge of the world, I felt like a
boy. I let out a shout and a roar to relieve the pressure of over
exhilaration. The echoes chased through the jungle madly.

Glancing ahead I now discovered that the river narrowed down abruptly
between rude stairways of rock. On either side were shelves of the
adamant, not more than a foot above the tide; the whole gateway was
barely more than six feet in width. As might have been expected the
current was fairly being sucked through this chasm, which explained
the extra speed of the current where we were.

Seeing nothing in or about the place which should make it difficult of
navigation, I merely kept the boat headed for the centre of the pass
and let her shoot along with the powerful sweep of waters. The place
was not long, nor were the rocks high nor difficult of access from the
banks below. I remember to have thought how easily a man could cross
the river at this peculiar place by simply jumping.

The boat was tossed on the turbulent surface, as we darted through,
but below was another broad, smooth expanse, and the ever-inevitable
curve of the river. This latter we reached soon. I was then somewhat
surprised to observe two things: First, that for several hundred feet
the stream was nearly straight, and second that it narrowed again
below us, between banks a yard in height on which the growth was dense
and which were so close together that several slender creepers hung
like the cables of a projected suspension bridge across the stream,
from branch to branch. I thought the wind must have blown the first
slight tendrils over and that later they had grown to their present
size. I also noted that again the placid river became rapids, which
tossed and foamed in their agitated plunge between these banks.

Absorbed in what I saw and watching my course narrowly, I gave no heed
to anything else. Therefore I started with galvanic quickness at a
sudden scream from the goddess. In answer, a chorus of yells,
triumphant, and diabolical enough to curdle the blood in one's veins,
went up instantly. Then the jungle below us appeared literally to
swarm with terrible forms.

The black Links, dancing like maniacs, screaming and racing toward the
rapids to intercept us, were surging from every possible space between
the trees, on the left-hand side of the river. They dashed ahead,
fully comprehending the situation and their own advantage. I thought I
could beat them to the rapids, but they were there by the score before
we could approach within a stone's throw of its top, a fierce and
terrible array, armed with their clubs with which they could not have
missed us by throwing.

To have attempted to run through the narrows would merely have been to
court a sudden death. I back-watered quickly and held the boat from
drifting. Fatty was whining; the goddess was white as paper. I thought
of the rapids above us, against the current of which I could not have
pulled the boat to save our souls. I looked about and noted the
densely wooded banks, which made escape in that direction impossible,
even if we could have landed on the side opposite the foe in the vain
hope that they could not get across as easily as we.

We were trapped!

The wild brutes, insane to get the goddess again in their clutches,
mad to tear Fatty in shreds, and crazy to beat me to a pulp, as their
arch-nemesis, simply writhed in eager anticipation of bagging us all,
in spite of all we could do.

It was maddening; it all but drove me out of my senses. I knew that to
wait for night would mean that when they were goaded sufficiently by
their own impatience, the monsters would reach us, even if they had to
swim, in addition to which I should certainly not dare to run the
rapids after dark. Escape was utterly impossible, turn where I might.

The greed for gold had done the trick! The time I had wasted to get it
would have saved us. Had I not delayed, we should have passed this
place before the light had become strong enough to reveal our
presence.

The demons never ceased for a moment to yell. That they knew we were
caught I could not doubt. Not only did the males all congregate to
smash us to atoms if we should attempt to shoot the rapids, but the
females also appeared like magic from the jungle and lined up along
the bank, a cruel looking mob with fingers that itched to tear poor
Fatty and me to strings of meat. I was alarmed, desperate, and enraged
by turns. Keeping off the boat and attempting to see a way out, I
suddenly thought of my bombs.

Immediately I conceived a plan by which I meant to scatter the fiends
in utter dismay. Dropping the boat down toward them I stopped it just
outside the range of their clubs and headed it back up the stream.
Before it had ceased to go forward, under the impulse of a powerful
stroke, I shipped the oars, grabbed up a bomb and darted over Fatty to
the fire. Snatching up an ember, I applied it to the fuse, meaning to
throw the deadly explosive into their midst and dart through the
rapids in the instantaneous confusion which would follow.

But the rain had dampened the powder! The fuse would not ignite! The
trick was worse than a failure!

With a curse on my lips, I sprang back to the oars and spun the boat
about, barely in time to save it from shooting the narrows broadside
on. A dozen clubs, whizzing and hurtling end over end, splashed the
water about us, as I drove the boat back to a safe position. In
despair I examined all the bombs, only to find them as useless and
harmless as so many hunks of cork. All my elaborate work to provide
myself with these weapons and with the fire to make them of use, had
been wholly undone in a moment of thoughtless neglect. I might have
protected these instruments of death, but I had failed at the critical
moment.

The weight of this calamity nearly overcame me. It seemed as if the
bombs had been our only hope, and that now we were certainly doomed.
The raging Blacks yelled more horribly than ever; they were more
assured of their prey. Nothing more ferocious can be imagined than
this mass of fiends, many of them foaming at the mouth, all excitedly
moving from place to place, and all showing fangs of teeth, as they
watched us with the nervous, near-together eyes which I knew so well.

I was rendered so thoroughly unfit by the failure of my bombs, that I
gave up trying to think of any other way of outwitting the monsters.
The rain re-commenced. With a bitter sniff of scorn at myself for the
action, I covered the bamboo explosives with a skin, to prevent them
from getting any wetter. As if powder could be any wetter when it has
become too damp to ignite!

"Oh what shall we do? what shall we do?" moaned the goddess.

I tried to answer cheerfully, but having no sensible reply was denied
even this negative pleasure. I tried to think, in order to make some
rejoinder.

"There is only one scheme and that is nearly hopeless," I told her at
last. "If I can make them believe we are about to land on the opposite
side, up above, perhaps they might abandon their present position and
then we could make a dash for it and beat them past that narrow
channel."

She made no comment, but in her eyes there was such an imploring light
that I deemed no effort too great to make. Somewhat inspirited by the
plan concocted on the spur of a moment, I strung my bow and laid an
arrow near and immediately turning the prow up stream began to row
away from the waiting Blacks, toward the furthest bank we could see.

At first they were undecided, or else they refused to believe we were
leaving. But their wits were keen only within narrow limits. Taking
the bait, in a moment, they seemed suddenly to remember the rock-
passage, over which they doubtless knew they could jump. By the score
they chased up the bank, swinging along in the trees with astonishing
agility and gaining on us every moment.

I was purposely rowing slowly, but with great show of exertion. As far
as I could determine, from that distance, every demon in the tribe
came chasing up the river, to be in at the death. Dozens of them
remained visible, marking the position of the main body as it moved up
the bank, but the great majority were soon hidden in the tangle of
verdure, through which they weaved like so many animated black
shuttles, playing in and out through the warp of green.

Steering now for the bank which was just below the upper rapids, and
appearing to row with all possible haste, I had the extreme
satisfaction of seeing our mad pursuers swarming toward the rocks
where the stream could be leaped at a bound. So eagerly did they push
and crowd, when they came to the place, that some, who paused
undecided at the brink, were shoved headlong into the angry current.
But no sooner was I sure that the ruse had succeeded than I swung the
boat, as if she had been on a pivot, and sent her shooting down the
stream with might and main.

Shrieks of rage and dismay burst from a hundred throats as the baffled
demons suddenly comprehended my game. With all their speed, and in a
frenzy of fury, they came running and climbing and swinging back. But
this time I had the double advantage of a shorter, straighter route
and the force of all the current to sweep me along. I rowed like an
engine; the race was a race for life or death. Every muscle was
strained, every volt of the superhuman dynamic, developed by the peril
of our position, surged upward to drive us onward, toward that narrow
gate of safety.

We neared it; we were far ahead of the mob; I saw victory smiling in
the sun-lit jungle beyond. Like a hideous black comet, then, athwart
my line of vision, a Link suddenly swung across the river, on one of
the creepers that spanned the space between the banks. He reached the
branches on the opposite side. Instantly another one followed. I
groaned, for evidently they had been left there to guard the pass.
Another and yet another swung across. They quickly formed a "monkey-
bridge" and hung suspended above the water like a sagging hammock--not
from the creepers, which would have broken, but each from the arms of
his neighbour. In less than half a minute their line was complete. We
were still driving toward them.

"Oh, the horrible old woman!" cried the girl, in affright.

I realised then that more than half the creatures in the bridge were
females; and out across them came swinging that she-devil who had
caught me with the gold, and whose fingers I had severed, and whose
ribs I had skinned--the harpy who had watched the goddess like a hawk.

She meant to lean down over the ones in the bridge and clutch the
girl, as we shot beneath their bodies. Then others quickly joined her
who intended to snatch for Fatty and myself. It was diabolically
clever. If ever they reached us with those powerful arms, they could
hold us against a team of pulling horses.

To turn now meant to abandon all hope; the Links who were tearing
after us behind, once fooled could be hoaxed no more; and all would be
more than ever infuriated and likely to swamp the boat. It looked like
a swift and awful death.

In a heat of uncontainable rage myself, I stood up, as we swept toward
the rapids, and grabbing my bow, strung an arrow in desperate haste
and drew for a shot, which fury made vicious and fierce. I had become
so angered that I seemed to care nothing for what could happen. The
arrow sprang away like a streak of light. Just at that second the line
of Links slipped down a foot. In the brief time before the shaft could
arrive, my heart sank with dread--the slip of the target had ruined my
shot.

But like the angered messenger of hate which it was, the arrow struck
where it had not been aimed--in the forearm of a Link who supported
the weight of all the line. It stabbed clean through, tearing the
muscles savagely as it plowed. Down swung the whole living bridge of
demons, with the shrieking "old woman" in the melee, for that
supporting arm let go as if it had been slashed in twain.

Instantly the dropping fiends struck the stream where the current
boiled like a mill-race. Splashing, battling, screaming in fright, the
intertwisted monsters went swiftly down, every one trying to climb out
on his neighbour, all of them fighting, rolling like rags of waste and
gurgling as they attempted still to yell, with mouths full of water.

The boat by this time had been caught in the tow of the torrent. We
swung down into the foam and tossing waves and drifted into the mass
of brutes as they fought and drowned in the irresistible flood. Two of
them flung an arm across our gunwale. Yelling as madly as themselves,
we beat them off with the clubs, Fatty fighting like a fury. The
hideous old female clutched in desperation and fastened her deadly
grip on the wrist of the goddess. What a scream of malice and triumph
she gave! I jumped across the seat and struck her arm a blow that
smashed the bone and flesh to a quivering pulp on the edge of the
boat. About her neck was flung the arm of a drowning beast at her
side; and down they went together.

Yells upon yells now arose from the other Blacks, who had come to the
narrows. We were slowly revolving in a whirlpool. The creatures could
still have dashed to positions above us and sunk the boat with their
clubs. I shot out the oars and drove the craft quickly ahead. A
monster came boiling to the surface; I slashed him hard with my right-
hand sweep and he sank like a rock. One, a rod away was swimming with
the inborn skill and instinct of all wild animals, but the others had
fought one another, fatally, in that vortex of swirling water, and
only this one got back to the bank.

Through the seething foam to where the turbulent river grew calmer, we
sped away, and at last these implacable demons were far behind.



CHAPTER XLIV. VALE, FAITHFUL FATTY

HAD THE Blacks known the country and human ways of cunning, they could
still have cut across the neck of a loop in the river, and so have
overtaken the boat, but this was beyond their sagacity. I feared they
might have forestalled us thus, so that when we came along to where
they should have been, in such an event, I was alert for trouble and
hugged the further side of the stream. Of course we passed the place
unmolested.

The sun was shining brightly now, as if in promise of fairer things to
come. We had been too horrified to speak, but at last we breathed our
relief, and shuddered as we reviewed the fearful hour which, thank
God, was now of the past. Then we ate of our food, for all were faint
from hunger, and I stirred up and fed the fire, and laid out the bombs
to dry in the tropical heat. Also I moored the boat from the branch of
an overhanging tree, by means of the rope I had taken along. I needed
rest as much as food.

There in the shade we floated quietly for more than an hour, during
which time I slept like a worn-out child, in a wretched position, but
yet dreamlessly and without the slightest inconvenience. I awoke much
refreshed. The goddess would have permitted me to slumber as long as I
listed, nevertheless she was anxious to be going ahead, seeing which I
cut us loose, and again we were hurrying down toward the sea.

It was a long and somewhat tedious day. We shot more rapids, a number
of which threatened various dangers, and we rowed through a broad,
shallow lagoon that was almost a lake and in which there were
alligators galore. Of these the goddess had a natural horror, only
exceeded by that of poor Fatty. However, the saurians were quite as
alarmed as we, having never before seen the like of our floating
terror, which the boat with extended oars seemed to represent, so that
we cleared this place without delay and without a battle.

Along the banks of the river, which presented itself in multitudinous
aspects, we beheld troops of monkeys and apes, vast flocks of parrots
and other noisy birds, which made the trees seem to quiver with life.
Tortoises were frequently started from a sun-bath, when they plunged
into the stream with clumsy haste. There were toads in great variety
and of snakes an ample representation. Of these latter reptiles some
were swimming in the water, while others lay upon the banks and others
again hung suspended from the trees, masquerading, it appeared to me,
in imitation of creepers. The insects were exceedingly pestiferous,
especially where the river became wide, sluggish and grown with rank
grasses.

The changing panorama of jungle, hills, grassy clearings and rocky
ravines, was one of unquestionable beauty, yet I felt no joy in
observing it stretch and unfold so endlessly before us. I waxed
impatient to be out of the maze. In spite of all I could do, I was
conscious always of the ominous stillness about us, and of a sub-
stratum of fear in myself, as I dwelt upon the thought of things which
might occur. I have said before, and I repeat frankly, I am not a
courageous man. The constant succession of events and the omnipresence
of menace to life and limb had wrought sad havoc with my nerves. When
I fought, it was nearly always because I felt so frightened and
nervous that I had to do something desperate to relieve my feelings.
At other times anger had made me reckless.

We had passed a number of tributary streams, so that the river was now
of much greater volume. Thinking of this, I was deeply puzzled, at
noon, to find that not only had the current ceased to assist me
forward, but that on the contrary it seemed abruptly to have reversed.
Attributing this "illusion" to my weakened condition of brain and
muscles, worked harder than before to drive the boat along. There was
no sense in blaming myself, however, for soon the up current became
actually visible, as well as strong. Then I was suddenly made glad,
and knew I had been once more a dunce.

The tide from the great sea itself was rising and driving everything
up, against the flow of the river. This glorious news I imparted at
once to the goddess. How she rejoiced! But even then, her feelings
were most expressed by her lustrous eyes, for she found it difficult
to speak of escape, and I think she dared not hope, for fear a jealous
fate would hear her wish and proceed to shatter every possibility of
deliverance from this wide-open prison.

It being a useless expenditure of energy to pull against this tide, I
secured the boat to a vine-covered log, which protruded above the
water, and let her swing as she would. We refreshed ourselves again
with the fruits and a bit of the jerked meat. Already many of the
mangoes and papaws were becoming soft, in the heat. Instructing the
goddess to wake me the moment the tide should turn, I snatched another
nap.

Before long we were slipping so swiftly downward on the ebb of the
current that I was quite content to steer the boat and let it make its
own pace. Thus we skimmed rapidly along until late in the day, the
smell of the life-giving sea wafting to our nostrils, till it filled
us with joy unspeakable. Building my plan as we rode on the bosom of
the river, I decided to make the camp in the stream, or on the bank,
within the mouth of the outlet, rather than to venture on the ocean
with night descending. After a needed period of rest, we could explore
the coast of the land for a village, in the morning.

The sky had become a trifle clouded before we resumed the drifting,
after my slumber; this condition now increased. Having been taught my
lesson before, I did not intend to be caught again. I spoke to the
goddess, asking her to steer us a bit, but the poor girl had fallen
asleep from exhaustion. Letting the craft take her course, I stretched
a protection over the fire and then turned about and performed a
similar service for the bombs, which had been dried thoroughly.

While I was fairly in the midst of this important business, Fatty gave
a sudden cry of alarm. The next instant the boat struck upon the end
of a spit of land which projected out into the stream. I was thrown on
my knees; the craft swung with her bow as a pivot on the sand.

Getting erect with the thought that no harm was done and that to push
off was only the work of a second, I was amazed to see a troop of
creatures darting toward us--my old enemies the hideous ourang-
outangs!

The goddess was jolted awake; she gasped in terror. Reaching for an
oar to push us off I found it caught in the skin that wrapped the
bombs. I jerked and wrenched; the delay was fatal. The monsters
descended the bank like an avalanche. Hampered as I was with the oar,
I became the easiest victim. Before I could drop the sweep to make a
fight, the brutes leaped across the beach which was between themselves
and the boat. Myself, the girl and Fatty were all but surrounded,--
hideous murder loomed before us in a second.

Then Fatty, the faithful, the frightened, the loving, hurled himself
upon the brutes, defending me from instant capture and death; and the
fierce creatures gathered him to them. They tore him, bit him, fell
upon him and mangled his body in a manner frightful to see. He was
done to death most horribly in less than half a minute.

The boat, relieved of his weight and shoved by the backward push of
his foot, as he leaped, swung off in the stream and began to drift
away. I sprang to where my bombs were lying, mad for vengeance, and
tore one out of the skin. Then scrambling to the fire, I snatched up a
flesh-searing coal and touched the fuse. It sputtered in swift anger.
I threw the deadly thing with all my force. While yet in the air, only
mid-way between those monsters and ourselves, the bomb exploded with
terrific violence. I saw a gigantic star of fire; I felt as if the
world had burst against my head. Then I fell forward in the boat and
was utterly blotted out.



CHAPTER XLV. NO LONGER A KING

THE FORCE of the bomb must have been tremendous. I believe it was
hours before I regained consciousness. When at last I did revive, I
was dizzy and deafened, the world about me was black, a storm was
raging in the heavens and the boat was heaving with a great commotion.
Everything was puzzling. Finally I remembered something of what had
happened and knew where I was.

"Dearest," I said, giving the goddess the name which I had only dared
to call her to myself, "dearest--are you there?" and I crawled toward
the stern.

"Here--John," said a faint, sweet voice, and then I found her hand and
knew that she too had been long unconscious, after that moment of
terrible things.

We were on the sea! Of that I was soon made sure. The wind was driving
us--the Lord only knew where; the waves were tossing the boat about as
if she had been but a thimble afloat; and the spray flung across us
and drenched us both repeatedly. This had doubtless fetched us around,
the goddess first, for she had been less injured than I by the
explosion, having been seated, while I was standing, at the fateful
moment. The tide had carried us straight out to the ocean, as we lay
helpless in the craft.

We crouched in the bottom of the boat and clung to the seat for an
age. The rain came driving down; the force of the gale appeared to
increase, and we scudded away into the black abyss which had for its
limits the ends of mighty ocean.

We were out of our prison, adrift on the boundless main. When morning
came, we raised our heads and searched that wilderness of water--in
vain. No island--no ship--nothing was there in sight, save tumbling
mountains of water. We were lost in that trackless jungle of billows.

Of the day and the night of physical and mental anguish that followed,
I have no desire to think. Two souls made one by sufferings long
endured, we sought and found our only consolation in the words of hope
and affection, which each could give to each.

What water remained, or had been collected from the downpour, in the
shell of the tortoise, got slopped out soon in the boat. It mingled
with the salt water, shipped from time to time, and swashing about,
ruined the meat and fruits, put out the fire and soaked the skins.
Then the sun and the scorching air played their tricks at parching and
burning us up. How useless and vain seemed the sack of gold, lying
there in the wash!

I cut and broke the pole I had taken along, and lashing the shorter
piece across the boat, to the oar-lock pins, made the other stand
upright, with a bit of skin flapping idly, for a signal of distress.

Toward the evening of the second day we sighted a steamer. As we were
low to the water and they were high, this boat was comparatively near
before we saw her loom above the horizon. She made us out, at last,
and we breathed our thanks, to see her put about and bear down toward
the good old boat which had served so nobly.

Then it was that a surge of feeling welled up within me, thoughts of
my long exile, the friendly Links--who had saved my life,--and of poor
old Fatty, who had sacrificed himself like a hero at the end--poor old
Fatty, my loving and beloved friend.

"What is it, John?" said the goddess tenderly.

"Oh nothing," I faltered, swallowing hard at the lump in my throttle,
"I--I was just thinking that now--that now I'm no longer King of the
Missing Links;--I'm just an ordinary man."



THE END




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