Sunday, 16 November 2014
Part 9 of 12 of Castaways; Captain Justice in Unexplored
To Part 1
From The Modern Boy magazine, 8 September 1934, No.344, Vol. 14
Digitized by Doug Frizzle, November 2014 for Stillwoods.Blogspot.Com
Giants at War!
“OH, bcgorralt! By St. Pathrick, ’tis the very worst day of my life! Justice, is there any way we can rescue young Midge and Len Connor from that blackguard of a witch-doctor?”
Too horrified to bottle-up his harrowing distress, Dr. O’Mally gasped out the question. But for the moment Captain Justice did not reply.
Breathing hard after a breakneck scramble down the eastern cliffs, the famous gentleman adventurer stumbled on through the turmoil and torchlit darkness that filled the village of giants. Justice and his four companions had wandered there since, weaponless, and clad only in their pyjamas, they had been dumped from an aeroplane into this part of unexplored
by a scoundrelly Greek named Kuponos.
Everywhere, golden-brown goliaths were rushing about, armed with bows or heavy tridents, while the night resounded to shouts and yells, and the hoarse blaring of horns. Arrows zipped ceaselessly through the air, threatening death every second.
It was a strange and terribly dangerous position in which the white castaways found themselves. All Justice wanted just then was to get under cover and there cudgel his wits as he had never done before. Collaring O’Mally and Professor Flaznagel by the shoulders, he hustled them neck and crop into the shelter of a deserted hut.
“Now take it easy!” he panted. “Get your wind back first. By James, we’re in too tight a corner to go at it like a bull at a gate!”
“But—but Midge! And Len!” wailed O’Mally, his fat face drawn with anxiety. “We can’t stay here! We must do something to save ’em! Faith, the poor lads may have been killed!”
Professor Flaznagel, in scarcely better plight than the stout Irishman, clawed nervously at his straggly white beard.
“I maintain,” he said, in a quavery voice, “that that human fiend is not the type to mete out a swift and merciful death to any victims who fall into his hands! Confound it, it is barely half an hour since Midge and Connor were captured! There may still be a chance of saving them if—”
“If we act promptly!” snapped Justice. ‘'Pull yourself together, O’Mally! I’ve told you we’re going to get the boys back. And, by James, we’ll get the hound who stole them, too!”
Cold wrath glinted in Justice’s steel-grey eyes as he spoke. His lean face, bedewed with sweat, was granite-hard.
"It’s civil war among the giants now—a straight scrap between our friend Buktu and his comrades of the warrior-caste, and that witch-doctor snake with his mob of painted demons!” he snapped. “What caused the feud in the first place, we don’t know or care. Probably the witch-doctor became a bit too keen on human sacrifices or some such brutality for Buktu’s liking. Anyway, it’s clear enough that the two factions have been at loggerheads for some time and our coming here has brought matters to a head. Twice that demon has tried to capture some of us. This time he’s succeeded.
“ But I don’t give two hoots for their tribal squabbles!” he snarled. "By James, no vile savage can monkey about with my friends and get away with it! So now dry up, O'Mally. I want to think!”
Motionless, absorbed in plans of vengeance, the captain stood beside the hut; studying every detail of the witch-doctor’s domain, weighing up all the possibilities of getting inside that grisly lair.
Gaunt and rugged, a gnarled mound of porous rock pitted with blow-holes through which the fumes of sulphur everlastingly streamed, the witch-doctor’s lair loomed black against the stars. An oil-laden stream that wound through the village flowed sluggishly into the heart of the ugly mass, entering it by way of a huge cave that yawned at its base. A boulder-strewn valley, some two hundred yards long, separated the hill from the village, and across this bands of furious warriors were trying to creep through the rocks and conic to grips with their foes.
JUSTICE scowled. His allies, brave as they were, could make little headway against the steady fire down from the dark heights. More warriors were striving to force their way in from the other side of the hill. But they, too, were expending life and energy in vain.
“Useless! They haven’t a chance of breaking through, armed only with spears and bows,” the captain gritted, and took stock of his own weapons.
Which did not take long. He had only one—the flare-pistol that had belonged to an Italian flyer who had crashed months ago, all alone, in this back o’ beyond. The discovery of the wrecked plane on the top of the cliffs had astonished Justice & Co. It had also led indirectly to the capture of Midge and Len by their terrible foes.
With the pistol, Justice still had seven flares left. Also a box of shotgun cartridges, but no shotgun. His teeth met with a sharp click. What chance had he of assaulting such an impregnable fortress with that slender store of ammunition?
“It’s strategy we need now, not brute force,” he muttered. And then, as a sudden inspiration came, he wheeled on the startled professor.
“That incendiary liquid you’ve invented, Flaznagel,” he jerked. “The stuff you set alight to-day, scaring the stuffing out of Buktu’s men—what is it, again?”
“A concoction of sulphur and naphtha, distilled from the crude petroleum skimmed from the stream,” explained Flaznagel. “I simply powdered the—”
“Gosh! Never mind the process!” Justice cut in sharply. “All I know is that the stuff is more inflammable than petrol, and that it terrified these big fellows. Tell me quickly—have you brewed much of it? You have? Good! Then I want it all, now! Hurry!”
Puzzled but obedient, Flaznagel rose, and swiftly, hugging cover all the way, the three adventurers hurried to the native guard-hut which the old inventor had appropriated. Within stood a collection of earthenware jars, pots, and other cooking utensils, all commandeered in the same high-handed manner. The Wizard of Science lifted the covers off two large jars, revealing a quantity of pale amber liquid that gave forth acrid, suffocating fumes.
Justice’s face wore a fierce smile as he stared at the dangerous stuff, and he astonished his comrades by shooing them out into the clamorous night once more.
“Fine! Well done, professor! There’s enough there to help scupper every demon in the hill yonder!” he exclaimed. “Now all we want is a canoe!”
Flaznagel and O’Mally gaped at him, thunderstruck.
“A—a what did ye say? Begorrah, have ye gone crazy, Justice?”
“Not at all! But that witch-doctor soon will be—crazy with fright!” Justice snapped grimly. “I tell you I want a canoe—and there are plenty tied up to the river-bank below us. Lively now! Come on, help me haul one up here, and I’ll explain the plan as we—”
But before Justice could outline the daring scheme that had occurred to him, his words were lost in a sudden increase of noise from the village.
Suddenly the yelling and shouting were swamped, blotted out by such a rousing, tremendous fanfare of horns that the castaways rocked back on their heels, dazed and deafened by the ear-splitting din.
What that nerve-shattering interruption meant, Justice & Co. could not guess. They shrank back against the hut, waiting and watching.
Again the discordant instruments brayed hoarsely, swelling out in harsh waves of sound from the torchlit compound in front of the chief’s hut. And—as by magic—all fighting ceased at once.
Both the warring factions obeyed that peremptory summons in a flash. A truce had been called—one that neither side cared to ignore. No more arrows whistled down from the witchdoctor’s lair. The demoniac shrieks and yells gave place to utter stillness.
And that silence, eerie as it was inexplicable to the white men, lasted until:
“By the powers!” breathed O’Mally suddenly. “Look—look, Justice! Bedad, if the old chief himself isn’t buttin’ in at last!” and he raised a shaking hand, pointing across the village.
It was true! Out of the great hut, pacing slowly towards the sulphur-crowned hill, came a small procession of heavily armed bodyguards and older men in long loose gowns. At their head, the oldest yet most impressive of them all, shuffled the Lord of the Giants.
So bowed and shrivelled was the venerable chief that he seemed scarce able to support the weight of his flowing leopard-skin robe. But in his sunken eyes a fiery sparkle of authority glittered, as Justice saw when the torchlight played on the old man’s haggard face. His mouth was compressed to a thin, tight gash beneath a hooked and masterful nose. The sharp tap, tap of his staff on hard ground was the only sound to break the hush.
Fight to the Finish!
REACHING the stream at last the chief halted, with his guards around him. His once-powerful frame stiffened, his back grew straighter. A strangely dominating figure he made, standing there in a pool of ruby light. Slowly he raised his left arm, beckoning imperiously to the defenders of the hill.
Then suddenly his voice rang out, deep and surprisingly strong for one of his years. At first his speech sounded crisp and cold; the speech of a ruler who issues orders and expects immediate obedience. But when no reply, either by word or act, issued from the silent hill, his tones changed swiftly to a menacing snarl.
It was a dramatic scene that Justice watched—an entirely unexpected break in the hostilities. But still the meaning of it all was obscure. Though the chieftain’s talk was Dutch to him, there was something in the patriarch’s forbidding manner and tone that sent an odd thrill through the captain’s heart. And gradually, very gradually, a faint hope stirred within him.
Could it be possible that the incensed chief was demanding the instant release of Midge and Len? The old ruler, if Justice knew anything about natives, looked upon himself as the one master of life and death in that tribe, and such a ruler would react pretty strenuously to any interference with his royal rights! A council of war had been held in the great hut, that was clear enough. Had the witch-doctor, by his turbulence, cruelty, and arrogance, roused his chieftain to action at last?
“By James, I believe the old buffer’s decided to back us up after all!”
Justice’s face was twitching with excitement. Unable to endure the suspense any longer, he nodded abruptly to his comrades and began to sidle forward. But any hopes he entertained of getting closer and trying to read the old chief’s intentions from his expression were speedily dashed. For as he moved, tall Buktu, the warrior-captain, seemed to spring from nowhere and gripped him by the shoulder.
And Buktu obviously was a man torn by strong emotions.
Bitter fury against the sorcerer who had outwitted him, and grief at the loss of the white boys, which he clearly regarded as a blot on his own honour, showed starkly in the Giant’s hotly glowing eyes. That he had been in the thick of the fighting was obvious, too. His muscular body glistened with oily water from the stream. Blood was welling from a ragged furrow across his breast.
And equally plain was it that the bronzed giant had some news for the white men—some message which he tried to convey to them with all his strength and intelligence.
Thus, while the chief continued to shout wrathfully at the still-silent hill, Buktu’s expressive eyes, hands, and shoulders were busy, striving to overcome the barrier of language. He pointed to his chief and to the hill; he whispered vehemently and stamped about, beating his wounded chest when the adventurers only stared and shook their heads uncomprehendingly. In the end, a last effort to drive his meaning home, he whipped out his heavy sword.
Then, with the point, he drew in the dust a crude but perfectly recognisable sketch of five white men in curious garb standing together, of whom one was very short and stocky, and another tall and straight. Justice Sc Co: tumbled to it at last.
St. Patrick be praised!”
O’Mally nearly broke down with relief and hope then, as he pumped away at Buktu’s hand.
“Sure, I’ve got it, Justice—all five of us are to be together again!” he crowed. “It must mean that Midge and Len are still alive! That darling old scarecrow yonder is orderin’ the scouts to send ’em back at once, bless his ugly old mug! Wirroo!”
“Wait! Haul your wind a moment, doc!”
Justice, delighted as he was to find that his optimism had not proved groundless, nevertheless held up a warning hand.
“We’d better wait till the boys are out of trouble before waving any banners!” he said quietly. “You’re right—the old chief seems to be doing his best to get them back. But, even so, he himself may slaughter the whole lot of us afterwards for being the cause of so much trouble! And in. any case those mutinous clogs on the hill don’t answer. Ha! Now what the dickens is going to happen?”
The captain broke off sharply. He went forward a stride or two, and some instinct made him reach quickly for the flare-pistol tucked into the waistcord of his ragged pyjamas. Still no reply came from the rebellious fanatics—nor were there any signs of Midge and Len. And the Lord of the Giants had suddenly lost all patience.
Goaded into a white-hot passion by the disobedience of the witch-doctor and his crew, the old chief shook his staff viciously at the hill. Then he wheeled, shouting an order. Instantly his guards doubled back, returning with rough-hewn planks which they laid across the stream. Out of the corner of his eye, Justice saw Buktu make a quick gesture of warning and protest.
“Great Scott! The old gamecock’s risking something now!” the captain muttered uneasily, and with that he broke into a run. Buktu sprinted beside him. Before either could interfere, however, the leopard-robed old chief brandished his staff, growling like some thwarted old bear.
Then, all alone, royally confident that no man there dare harm him, the lord of the tribe, he stalked threateningly towards the rebel domain, and simultaneously the witch-doctor’s answer whistled venomously through the air.
“Oh, great heavens! The cowardly scum!” Justice shouted, leaping forward. He and Buktu raced for the bridge together—in vain. They were too late! The damage was done!
From what part of the dark hill that fatal arrow was fired none could tell, but a gleaming shaft zipped into the blaze of torchlight, speeding straight to the mark. Helplessly the gallant old chief threw up his arms, reeling' back on the edge of the planks as the captain and Buktu dashed to his aid. Then, dropping his staff, lie buckled at waist and knees, and fell.
And the new-found hopes of Justice & Co. fell with him.
The witch-doctor had answered; the truce was over. For what seemed an age then a stunned silence reigned—an anguished pause, during which white men and brown stood rooted to the ground. Half incredulously they stared at the empty “bridge,” at ripples spreading sluggishly across the stream. And then:
"Come on! Give it to ’em, lads— hot and strong!” Justice yelled.
Swift as light the pistol in Justice’s hand jerked up. A hissing flare tore through the air, struck the hillside, and exploded in a crimson blaze. Shrieks of pain went up, and in the glare painted figures were revealed, writhing on the slopes or scampering pell-mell to cover. At the same time such a mighty roar of wrath arose as seemed to shake the skies.
For both sides, then, it was a fight to the finish. The cowardly assassination of the old chief did it. The witch-doctor’s men, their backs to the wall, rallied desperately. Buktu and his fighting-men went crazy.
Burning to get their hands on the foe, guards and warriors charged shoulder to shoulder across the stream, only to be met at once by a storm of arrows from their foes. Men stumbled, went down in heaps, or ducked involuntarily under a withering fire that lasted until Justice fired another flare into the hill. Again the crimson blaze burst, creating havoc and confusion among the fanatics. Then, and only then, were Buktu and the valiant O’Mally able to plunge into the water on a grim errand of mercy.
“Hurry! Get him behind the hut!” snapped Justice, and raised his gun again as Giant and Irishman scrambled out with their limp burden, the old chief. To cover the retreat he fired a third flare, while all along the bank of the stream bowstrings twanged and thrummed. Ten seconds later O’Mally and Buktu were safe under shelter. Gently they laid the old man down as Justice came sprinting back.
“O’Mally! Is he—”
“Ay! The treacherous jackals got him through the heart!” he muttered. “The poor brave, crazy old fellah, bedad, he took on too big a contract that time! Justice, that witch-doctor is going all out to make himself master o’ the tribe this night, I’m thinking. And Midge and Len are still prisoners!”
“But not for long!” Justice’s voice was like a steel blade that pricked the others to action once more. O’Mally nodded, thrusting out his heavy jaw. Buktu, crouching silently beside his dead chief, suddenly grasped the captain’s hand in a grip of understanding loyalty, and faith.
Justice returned the grip with interest. Then he glanced at the wild scene ahead, where the warriors were still striving doggedly but fruitlessly to carry the hill by assault.
“We'll get ’em all right, Buktu! We'll get our boys back, then wipe out that gang of traitors for good!” he rasped. “But we’ll do it our way now, and without wasting any more precious time. Your chief is dead, your men can’t make headway, so it’s up to us to carry on with our plan of attack. Where’s Flaznagel?”
“Here, Justice!” The professor spoke from the darkness behind the hut, and Justice strode across to him immediately.
For several minutes he whispered in his friend’s ear, outlining a plan that made Flaznagel purse his lips and shake his head protestingly. But Justice, in his present mood, was like dynamite. He blew the old scientist’s objections away in a single speech.
“Professor, you’ll do as I say, please, and do your best! Hurry, man! There are lives at stake!” he snapped. And Flaznagel, after blinking his eyes rapidly, gave an apologetic grunt and scurried off down the line of huts.
“Now, O’Mally!” Justice wheeled on the hard-breathing Irishman and pointed towards the hill. “There’s only one way into that dump, and that’s along the stream and into that thundering great cave yonder. So I want a canoe, and this time I’ll get it. Come on!”
And, ducking his bald head, the stout Irishman ran, his eyes glued to Justice’s dim, wiry figure. Behind them Buktu hesitated, looked towards the firing-line, and raised his spear in a last salute to his old chieftain.
And then, because to him Captain Justice was the most inspiring leader he had ever known, the great warrior growled an order to two of the guards and dashed away, following the white men to the village parapet.
In the act of clambering over the natural rock-ribbed barrier that guarded the western flank of the village, Captain Justice smiled keenly as the three huge and tawny men loomed up behind him. There was little danger now. All the firing from the hill was concentrated on the stream and the boulders beyond. Together the five slipped over the parapet, running cautiously down the outer slope to the edge of the river below.
TEN minutes later they were back again, with Buktu’s men carrying a light and slender fishing canoe between them. The captain led them right through the village to a point where the oily stream flowed out from the foot of the eastern cliffs.
Dr. O’Mally started and raised his eyebrows as he saw the professor there already. And the old scientist, squatting alone in the semi-gloom, was mighty busy.
At his elbow stood the two jars that contained the highly inflammable liquid he had concocted. With Midge’s old knife he was methodically slicing open the shot-gun cartridges, and dribbling the black powder into another smaller jar.
“Bejabbers! An’ what game is this?” began O’Mally, only to be interrupted briskly by Justice.
“Good work, professor! Everything shipshape?”
“I am carrying out your instructions, Justice,” replied Flaznagel calmly. “If that is what you mean.”
“It is!” Justice chuckled shortly, and touched O’Mally’s arm. “All right, doc—just a little surprise for our friends yonder. A fireship! Now give me a hand here!”
They took the canoe from the native bearers and laid it on the water, O'Mally steadying it against the bank. Then, watched by three pairs of dark brown apprehensive eyes, the jars were placed carefully in the bows, and their weight balanced by stones and small chunks of rock in the stern. Then, whilst Justice and O’Mally held on to the gunwale, Professor Flaznagel stepped gingerly into the canoe, the smaller jar cuddled under one arm.
Along the bottom of the craft he then laid a thin trail of gunpowder, heaping up what was left in a small mound between the jars. His work finished, O'Mally helped him ashore. And Captain Justice, making a sudden dash towards the hut, returned speedily with a torch spluttering and smoking in his hand.
The famous gentleman adventurer was smiling now. It was a fighting grin, too—one that went straight to the hearts of the native warriors.
“We’re ready!” Justice spoke quietly. “So now listen, doc—orders for battle! As I said before, there’s only one quick road into the hill, and that’s along the stream and into the cave. But first we’ve got to panic the infernal defenders—scatter them, and give Buktu’s mob a chance to ram their charge home without being shot down before reaching the cave!
“And that’s what we’re going to do—or rather, I am. I’m a fireship, a battering-ram, and a bombshell—all rolled into one!” Justice laughed harshly. “And your job is to wait with the warriors and then charge! Burst your way in for the sake of Midge and Connor the instant you see the opening! Understand?”
“I—I—yes!” O’Mally nodded dubiously and licked his lips as if meditating some further remark. But Captain Justice waited for no more.
Deftly he wedged his torch upright between the stones in the stern of the canoe, then gave the craft a shove-off. It was built to carry two Giant fishermen, and so, making light of its present cargo, it glided away, bobbing slightly as the sluggish current took charge. Justice let it go. Then coolly he dropped into the water, pausing for a last word before setting forth on one of the most audacious ventures of his career.
“Now, don’t forget, O'Mally!” he cried. “The moment the balloon goes up—charge for the cave! And remember this! Those beggars can't escape once we’re in, because there’s another band of Giants besieging the other side of the hill. So smash your way into that dump somehow, then keep on smashing. Good luck!”
"But, Justice—” The Irishman found his tongue at last. “By the beard o’ St. Patrick, ye can’t take that canoe right up to the cave- mouth alone! Man, ye’ll be under fire the whole way! Those demons will shoot—”
“Good!—Then we’ll give ’em enough light to shoot by!”
That was all. O’Mally fell back, silenced by that typically calm reply. And Captain Justice, kicking off from the bank, turned in the water and struck out after the swaying “fireship.”
“Oh, bedad! Hasn’t that beggar any nerves at all? Faith, I’ve seen Justice do some desperate deeds, but this—”
Dr. O'Mally gulped. Dismay, anxiety, and admiration struggled for expression on his big face as he watched Justice catch up with the canoe and send it on faster with a lusty shove.
Then, because he was in charge of the “shore-gang” now, the doctor snapped his fingers and began running cautiously along the bank, with Flaznagel, Buktu, and the others at his heels.
Silently the canoe glided along the winding stream, propelled partly by the current, partly by Justice’s arms and shoulders. Its progress became a series of jerky spurts; once or twice it struck the bank on a bend, but each time the lone swimmer thrust it clear, and on it sailed, with the torch fluttering redly above the stern. The warriors among the boulders stopped shooting, uttering guttural grunts of amazement as the craft with its dangerous load lobbed past them.
But if Buktu’s men were astonished, that was nothing to the consternation and alarm that seized their foes as the canoe turned into the straight stretch at last, and headed directly for the cave-mouth. Captain Justice had to swim mighty close to the vessel then. From above him, and from both flanks, streaked whistling arrows, accompanied by yells of rage. Faced by this strange new menace, the defenders of the hill shot fast.
Whee-ee! Plunk! Feathered shafts hissed through the air, thudding into the thin sides of the canoe, skimming into or across the water. But Justice, swimming slowly against the protecting stern, smiled coldly and carried on. Nearer—nearer!
He could see right into the yawning cave-mouth now—and, better still, he could see frantic figures skipping down the rocks or swarming out of the dimly lit tunnel beyond, gathering at the entrance to greet him with point-blank volleys. That was all he wanted. As an arrow whipped past his partially exposed shoulders, he ducked a little, gave the canoe another shove, and grinned again.
“The reception committee!” he jeered, risking his life to take a good long look at the crowd of yelling fiends manning the cave-mouth.
“All right! Stay there, my hearties, and enjoy the fireworks! The more the merrier! Ha!”
Hastily Justice swerved behind the stern again, as a bunch of hideously painted figures suddenly darted from cover, making for the water’s edge with upraised spears. But he need not have worried. Buktu’s archers were right on their toes now! Suddenly, to the long-drawn whee-ee-ee! of arrows, the band of fanatics crumpled in their tracks, while a second storm of shafts drove their comrades back from the cave-mouth in disorder.
Fast and furious then grew the fire from the village, covering Justice’s advance, sending the defenders cowering into their holes. The canoe crept on; the alarm spread. And at long last the iron-nerved captain braced himself for the final effort—the critical move in his breathless attempt to save Midge and Len.
Coolly he reached up, braving death as he gripped the gunwale of the canoe. Coolly he drew in a long, deep breath, filling his lungs to bursting point. Then, swiftly, strongly, he heaved himself out of the water.
One lightning sweep of his free hand sent the blazing torch flying on to the gunpowder-strewn bottom of the canoe. But before it landed, Captain Justice was back in the water again, diving down to the bed of the stream for dear life!
Victims for Sacrifice!
LEN CONNOR sighed wearily and groaned. He could stifle the painful outburst no longer. For a brief moment pride and pluck forsook him, and the low groan of anguish forced itself from his parched lips. His head drooped.
As if ashamed of betraying such weakness, the stout-hearted youngster gritted his teeth next instant, and, spurred by desperation, strained at the rawhide bonds that cut into his wrists. But the. struggle was as futile as it was feeble, for Len was nearly all-in. His brain reeled under the excruciating stabs of pain that tortured every inch of him.
He hung limply between the sloping arms of a triangular wooden frame. His wrists were tied to the apex of the triangle, and in this plight his merciless captors had left him to dangle, with unbound feet barely touching the rocky ground. And that had been over an hour ago—though it seemed more like a hundred years!
Now, as he swayed slackly in his bonds, his arms felt as if they were being drawn from their sockets. Try as he would, he could not get sufficient purchase with his feet to ease the strain on his wrists. He groaned again, and turned bleary eyes on the dark stream flowing past him, not twenty feet away. But the sight and sound of the gurgling water only added to his torments, for his tongue was swollen, his throat drier than a lime-kiln.
“Cheese it, you ass! Don’t struggle!”
Faintly, as from a distance, the familiar voice came to him, hoarse and jerky. But the warning sank in. Len turned his head the other way, fighting to summon up a gallant grin. Close beside him, suspended from a smaller triangle, hung young Midge, sweat streaming down his white face.
"No use struggling!” repeated the diminutive, red-haired youngster, licking his lips. "Only hurts you and makes these painted sons o’ mud laugh. Cheer up, old boss—looks as if they’re waitin’ to—to make themselves bosses of the Giants first before polishin’ us off! Victims for sacrifice—that’s us! Only they’re all makin’ one big bloomer!”
Attacked by a spasm of nausea, Midge reeled, sagging towards one of the supports. But he shook off the dizziness somehow, and snorted, blowing back the damp forelock that flopped over his eyes.
Groggily Len lifted his heavy head again and gazed at the witch-doctor’s lair.
Of its exact or even approximate dimensions, neither Len nor Midge had the foggiest idea. It was too gloomy, too immense; so lofty and expansive as to dwarf the stalwart defenders and muffle their incessant yells. At some time in ages past an earthquake had scooped this mighty amphitheatre out of the solid heart of the rock.
Parts of it were uninhabitable. For there, between massive boulders, deep fissures criss-crossed the ground, and from these issued evil-smelling fumes of sulphur, curling slowly up out of the bed-rock. Darkness, velvety-black, shrouded the nethermost regions. The stream cut the cave roughly in two, before plunging, with a noise as of distant thunder, into a bottomless sink.
High up in the gnarled, sloping walls gaped the mouths of smaller caves, and in and out of these men crawled like bees in a monstrous hive.
It was a dungeon of haunting gloom and terror—citadel and
combined, for to Nature’s handiwork generations of savage priests had added
their own. There were gruesome idols and altars everywhere. The largest, most
hideous of all, half man, half brute, loomed high above thc heads of the
luckless youngsters, seeming to grin down upon them out of the dimness with its
Beneath it, on a grotesquely carved throne, set between the outstretched paws of the idol, tlic Giants’ witchdoctor sat in state.
Chin in hand, elbow propped on a stout, bare thigh, he sat motionless as the carven monster above him. The glow from a ring of torches and braziers cast a reddish sheen over his powerful shoulders and face, heightening the man’s terrifying aspect. One mighty hand was clenched tightly on the stock of the rhinoceros-hide whip that lay across his knees. Only his small, unwinking eyes moved, taking in all that happened as he squatted there, a menacing lord of the underworld.
Now and then, other men—lieutenants or councillors, apparently—came towards the leader, dropping on their knees before him. They spoke. Their chief answered them briefly in a deep, cold voice, and dismissed them with a gesture. But though the captives watched closely, neither word nor action gave them any clue as to what was going on outside.
At last one man, evidently the bearer of ill news, was rewarded with a sudden vicious stroke of the whip that sent him running, howling as he fled. Midge and Len perked up a little at that—the more so as the clamour at the cave-mouth increased at the same moment. Something was up! Then, with a snarl that showed all his betel-reddened teeth, the witch-doctor turned his head slowly, raking the lads with a look that made them shiver.
“Gummy, what’s this mean?”
Midge, never subdued for long, recovered his nerve quickly and returned the threatening glare with one of defiance.
“Sufferin' cats, Len—looks as if the Big Baboon heard something then that he didn’t like!” the exhausted youngster gasped. “Yes, by ginger, that last messenger gave him a shock. He’s got the wind up. He—”
“Listen, you ass!”
LEN, whose mind was growing hazy with pain, pulled himself together by sheer will-power and raised his head. Gosh, how tired he was! And how his arms and stomach muscles ached with the intolerable strain!
“Listen!” he repeated urgently. “Something is happening outside! Or am I imagining things? No, by thunder, I can hear it! The noise outside—it’s getting louder, Midge! And coming nearer! Oh, my hat, listen!”
Len’s words grew more coherent. Again his head jerked up more alertly. Two spots of colour, born of sudden excitement, burned on his pallid cheeks. His eyes held a wild gleam as he glanced at his quivering chum.
“It’s a raid!” he shouted. “Midge —Midge, old son, stand by! A charge —the big attack, and —Gosh, look at the brutes now—look at that hog on the throne!”
With hearts pounding against their ribs, the youthful prisoners strove to ease themselves in their bonds, craning their necks as, for some reason, the denizens of the cave were swept by a violent wave of panic and dismay. Painted figures were racing towards the cave mouth from all parts, horns began blowing, summoning reinforcements down from the heights.
Soon a whole mob of archers were jammed together on both banks of the stream, firing rapidly, and a few moments later they fell back with screams and groans under a storm of arrows that drove in suddenly from the outside. Their gigantic chief leant from his throne, and rushed forward to rally the shaken men with thunderous roars and strokes of his terrible whip. As for Midge and Len, they dangled in the triangles, almost suffocating with anxiety.
WHAT was happening? What was the meaning of this new and frantic uproar?
Faster and straighter the arrows of the giant warriors drove through the opening, hurling the stricken enemy back. The entrance, for a fatal moment, was left unguarded. Even the raging witch-doctor dived for shelter. And in that moment Len Connor uttered a gasp!
For something—some black and oddly sinister shape—came gliding into the cave-mouth.
A long, slender canoe it was, with a blazing torch fluttering in the stern. Len watched it, spellbound. On it came, steadily, silently, until suddenly the torch seemed to leap up of its own accord and fall to the bottom of the craft. And then—
Len shut his eyes tight. Midge wilted. The terrific concussion scattered his wits. Vivid flashes of light, of blue and crimson flame lit up the entrance, a smashing roar, heavy yet vibrant, seemed to shake the ground. Echoes like the thunder of guns filled the mammoth cave, and then left behind a stunned silence. Then a wounded man cried out in a thin, high wail, and Len, opening his eyes as the tension snapped, cheered hoarsely.
The canoe, Justice’s “fireship,” had vanished—blown to splinters by the explosion of its deadly cargo. And the ranks of the witch-doctor’s fanatics were shattered, too. Men, scalded by flying oil or struck by whizzing fragments of rock, lay on the banks or in the water; others were staggering about aimlessly, helplessly. A delirium of terror seized the survivors, who scattered like fear-crazed sheep.
And then, at the height of the hopeless panic, Captain Justice, O’Mally, Buktu, and his herculean warriors rushed the cave.
Into their enemies’ lair they charged, tridents glittering, broadswords rising and falling like flails. As in a dream, Len and Midge saw their captain’s dark, hawk-like face in the van; saw the burly, baldheaded O'Mally laying about him lustily with the shaft of a broken spear. From the cowed and demoralised defenders rose a long wail of terror—from the triumphant attackers a war-cry that swelled up to the heights. Then the work of vengeance began!
For a minute or so the towering witch-doctor fought like a gorilla to stem the tide, only to be hurled back with the rest. Captain Justice struck at him, and, missing, fell to his knees. The witch-doctor snarled, whirled about, and made a dash straight for Len and Midge, swinging his whip as he came.
That he meant to take instant revenge on his prisoners was plain! Not even Midge for all his hardihood, could face up to the howling madman then. Involuntarily the youngster quailed as the maniac whooped, heaving up his weapon for a slashing stroke. But that blow never fell.
It was checked—parried in midair. And:—"Buktu!” wheezed Len.
Buktu seemed to spring out of the very ground behind the witch-doctor. Laughing terribly, he yanked his bitter rival round by the hair, and for a tense moment the fighting giants glared deep into each other’s blazing eyes. Then Buktu laughed again, and his sword-arm shot out, straight from the shoulder.
That was the end!
Ten minutes later, in a half-fainting condition, Midge and Len were borne away triumphantly out of the dreadful cave, back to the joyful village. With them went Captain Justice and O’Mally, weary, dripping wet, but exultant!
With the downfall of the Witch-doctor, the Road to Freedom is opening up for Justice and his Comrades. But it's a hard road to travel, as they discover in Next Saturday's Thriller!
Friday, 14 November 2014
By W. LaceyAmy (aka Luke Allan—author)
From The Wide World Magazine, Vol. xxv, No. 148. July 1910
Digitized by Doug Frizzle, Nov. 2014 for Stillwoods.Blogspot.Com
“The town that was born lucky” was the striking title applied by Rudyard Kipling to
Medicine Hat, a little city in Western
Canada that—to continue the great author’s forceful
description—possesses “all Hades for a basement.” Medicine Hat, to be explicit,
lies in the centre of a vast natural-gas area, with the result that every wheel
that spins, every light and furnace, derives its energy from gas that is always
ready at the turn of a tap, and which costs so little that the people leave
their lights burning all day. Mr. Amy tells the romantic story of the first
finding of gas, and describes the wonders of this fortunate city.
OUT on the prairie of
Western Canada, with no town nearer
than a hundred miles and only two within two hundred, and with not even a
hamlet north or south for a hundred leagues, a small city of six thousand
people lives its life, independent of the great world around it. Owning the
whole of its public services, it possesses within itself the means of operation
and a source of revenue that takes all the worry from municipal financing.
In that fortunate city of
every machine-wheel that spins, every light, every stove and furnace and
heater, derives its energy from a six-inch pipe that is always ready at the
turn of a tap. It is the only supply of power and light and heat that is
independent of workmen, of strikes, of weather, of laws, of trusts; that is as
simple of operation to a child as to a man; that carries with it no danger from
inattention or carelessness; and that is under perfect control every instant of
The discovery of natural gas in
is an interesting story. As far back as 1883 the Canadian Pacific Railway,
while boring for water at Carlstadt, a point about forty miles west of the
city, came across the first gas, but no practical use was made of the small
supply met with, other than to light and heat the section-house in the
vicinity. Early in 1891 Sir William Van Horne, then president of the railway,
lent to the city of Medicine Hat
a drilling outfit for the purpose of ascertaining whether there was coal within
reach. When the drill had reached six hundred and sixty feet gas was struck,
but the moisture in it necessitated more trouble in the matter of interception
tanks than was profitable. In 1905, however, the city determined to dig deeper
in the hope of securing a larger, drier flow.
A by-law was passed to raise the necessary money.
Hat was then only a town of a couple of thousand
people, and the expenditure was a terrible drain upon its finances. As the well
sank deeper and deeper the fund grew smaller and smaller. The citizens and the
members of the council gathered by the little pipe day by day and watched, with
eagerness and foreboding, the drill drop—drop—drop within the pipe. But nothing
came except a few little puffs of gas that promised nothing. Lower the drill sank;
fewer grew the dollars. Finally the money was all gone, and the town was face
to face with bankruptcy or a serious tax-rate. The councillors went home sadly,
amid the mutterings of the people.
That night a special secret session of the city officials was convened. The treasurer held up an empty purse, and they knew well that not another cent could be drawn from the people. Into the earth had been sunk thousands of dollars that would return nothing, and the citizens threw the blame for the non-success of the venture on the officials. The well-driller begged for a few more feet. The mayor considered. Then, with the inspiration of a prophet, he turned his back on the legal technicalities and ordered the well-boring to proceed. Already it was down a thousand feet; it was a terrible risk to spend more money, and illegal to boot, but he took the risk.
Next morning the miracle happened. To this day they tell of it. At nine o’clock the citizens were electrified at the sight of the mayor, coatless and hatless, rushing from his harness-store up the centre of the road, vainly striving to overtake a workman in better training a hundred yards ahead. The citizens, scenting something unusual, joined in the chase. At the well everything was going up in the air. At just one thousand and ten feet a terrific flow of dry gas had been struck—a flow that registered when they got it under control a hundred pounds pressure in eighteen seconds, a hundred and fifty pounds in forty seconds, two hundred and fifty pounds in one minute and twelve seconds. Their eyes began to bulge as the register ran up three hundred, four hundred, five hundred, and finally stopped at six hundred pounds to the square inch. That mayor is living yet; but he smiles when you ask him what would have been his chances of escape from the infuriated citizens, with one train a day out of
Medicine Hat, if the gas had not come. That
is merely one of the chances they take in the Canadian West.
Now there are eighteen wells in all, of which ten are too shallow to escape the moisture and are simply held in reserve. Five are in the hands of private owners, while the city draws its supplies from three deep wells. Another is being sunk by the authorities with the intention of striking the terrific flow that is known to exist at about two thousand feet. Of the private wells, one is owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway, three by brick-yards on the outskirts of the city, and a shallow well belongs to a man who derives revenue by supplying all the houses in one block. The city will not allow him to cross the streets with his pipes, which would interfere with the civic monopoly.
Gas has been obtained every time a well has been sunk, proving that it does not lie in “pockets,” as is the case in the only other Canadian and all the
United States areas. Four miles away
the Canadian Pacific Railway in the search for oil, met a pressure which their
machines could not stem. With improved machinery they drilled thirty miles to
the southwest, and there, at a depth of nineteen hundred feet, tapped an area
that is producing no fewer than eight million cubic feet a day, at eight
hundred pounds pressure. Inspired by Medicine
Hat’s good fortune, every village and town within two
hundred miles has jumped to the conclusion that it is located within the
gas-fields, but no results worth mentioning have been met with in boring. Lethbridge sank a lot of
money and obtained nothing. Calgary
spent thousands of dollars and was rewarded with just enough gas to keep the
men warm while they worked. Maple Creek is trying; but Medicine Hat stands by, warming its hands,
working its machines, and chuckling at the vain efforts of its neighbours.
From the wells within the city there can be drawn nine million feet every twenty-four hours, the capacities of the different wells varying from two hundred thousand to three million cubic feet. In round figures this is equal to four hundred and fifty tons of anthracite coal per day. But nobody values coal there. Within a mile of the city it lies exposed along the river banks in seams ten feet wide, ready to be pulled out with pick and shovel. Mines that were started before the gas came closed down, and have reopened only lately, when the profits of shipping presented themselves. At the mines the rancher and farmer buy their coal for one dollar seventy-five cents a ton.
The gas is supplied to the ordinary consumer at thirteen and a half cents a thousand feet, and to manufacturers a by-law provides that it must be sold for five cents. As a matter of fact, a manufacturer can secure it free. One large sewer-pipe plant which is being erected is having a well sunk for it at the city’s expense—a gift of about seven thousand dollars in the sinking alone.
Low as is the price of the gas, the city is reaping an annual revenue of over forty-two thousand dollars, of which thirty-three thousand dollars is clear profit. Only three men are required to attend to the controllers and street lights and to read the meters, the remainder of the expense going to repairs. This revenue is placed to public account, with the result that the tax-rate is the lowest in
The cheapness of the gas leads to extravagances that make gas-users in less-favoured parts raise their hands in horror. In the streets the gas burns day and night, as the city authorities do not see the necessity of paying the wages of a man to turn off and on taps that consume what costs nothing. It is of little use to reason thus with men who live in districts across the border which have been depleted of gas by sheer waste. But there is more in it than that. The greatest expense of up-keep is the cost of mantles, which are necessary to bring the best light from the gas-flame. The expansion and contraction of mantles caused by the turning off of the street lights during the day would greatly increase the cost from breakages. So it is that they are kept burning continually; and when the tourist steps out on the railway platform in broad daylight and faces a row of lamps along the quarter-mile platform he wonders who forgot to turn them off.
This waste has been the cause of much consideration on the part of the city, the Provincial Government, and the owners of private wells. Influenced by the warnings of travellers, the Western Superintendent of the Canadian Pacific Railway got down from his special train one day and ordered the station lights to be extinguished every morning. The railway owns its own gas well, and the innovation was to be an example to the city. The City Fathers only grinned. Three days later the railway official, who had been in and out of the station several times during that period, boarded his train, leaving orders with the local superintendent to do as he pleased. There had been no noticeable improvement in the local train service because a score fewer lights were burning, and the local expense had increased.
Dunmore, four miles east of the city, where the railway
bored for oil and struck a flow of gas too strong to combat, the escaping
millions were lighted to prevent accident. For months the country-side for miles
around was never in darkness. The Board of Trade pretended to get excited over
the waste of gas, and made several attempts to secure the interference of the
Provincial authorities, who were not in session at the time. Before any
coercion could be applied the railway cut off the fifty-foot flame by capping
the well. They then drilled a well thirty miles away, came across an eight-million-foot
flow, and allowed it to throw an eighty-foot flame for several weeks. In the
light of it a snap-exposure photograph of a barn half a mile distant was quite
successful. Thousands of feet of gas hiss every day from faulty joints in the
gas mains, many of which, in the outlying districts, are laid along the surface
of the ground. In the houses it is easier to throw up a window than to turn off
the tap, and lights burn over the entire house, many continuing through the day
under the belief that mantles cost more than gas.
The cost of heating and lighting an eight-roomed house, even with all this private waste, is less than fifty dollars a year. With ordinary care it could be reduced to almost half that amount. A large hotel burns less than one dollars’ worth of gas a day in the coldest weather, whereas the same hotel consumed six dollar’s worth of coal in the same time when something interfered with the gas flow. There is no handling of coal or ashes; a woman can manage the heating as well as a man. In many houses thermostats control the gas-tap so that from November to April nobody needs to approach the furnace. Families leave the city for a month’s vocation in mid-winter, with the gas blazing in the furnace, certain that nothing will have suffered when they return. The convenience of it all must be experienced to be appreciated.
Of the use of gas the Canadian Pacific Railway has made a close study. Every piece of work in the large car-shops is carried on by gas —heating, lighting, riveting, power, smelting, welding, and so on. The engine fires are prepared with gas in a quarter of the time required for oil-firing. For this purpose a large U-shaped pipe, with many perforations, is thrown into the fireplace and the gas turned on, the blaze making a live bed of coals in a few minutes, and starting the steam at the same time. Thousands of dollars have been spent in experimenting. Sand has been burned into glass in record time. The best-known engineers in the service have visited the
for the purpose of
making the best use of the gas. With a view to experimenting for gas-run yard
engines, an old engine was placed on a platform of revolving wheels, and for two
weeks a prominent engineer tested the value of natural gas as a propelling
power in the ordinary locomotive. The results were so satisfactory that it may
not be long before the yard engines are fitted with gas-tanks. Alberta
The most important use to which the gas has been put outside of the shops is in the train which runs down the Crow’s Nest branch from
Medicine Hat to Kootenay Landing, a distance
of four hundred miles. The ordinary Pintsch gas-tanks are charged with natural
gas at Medicine Hat,
and for the return run—eight hundred miles, occupying a day and two nights—the
supply is amply sufficient, and the light a great improvement on any other in
use on the system. Were there points of
replenishment even a thousand miles apart the entire railway system would be
lighted by natural gas, with saving to the company and greater comfort to the
passengers. The railway saves in its shops, by the use of natural gas, more
than sixty thousand dollars a year. Valves and machinery are used in the works
to regulate the pressure from five hundred and fifty-seven pounds at the well,
when everything is running, to eight ounces, as it is used in lighting and for
various other purposes.
The city itself has taken advantage of its opportunities. As has been said, every engine, every stove and furnace, every light, is gas-operated. Power costs through a gas-engine the ridiculous sum (at the five-cent rate) of only two dollars and ten cents per horse-power per year, and in powerful engines the cost is less. The wells in the city have a capacity equal to almost forty thousand horse-power. The waterworks system is operated by two large English gas-engines, which require the employment of only two men for night and day service. A small engine is maintained in the office of the Publicity Commissioner, and power can be turned on in a moment. Around the top of the stand-pipe, one hundred and twenty-five feet above the lower town, a row of lights provides a beacon for forty miles around. Tourists are entertained by exhibitions of the use of gas. One of the illustrations shows a new gas-well lighted for the edification of a party of visitors—a blaze that shot up sixty feet into the air and consumed more than two thousand two hundred feet every minute it was permitted to burn. Experiments have been undertaken to test the value of natural gas in replacing gasolene for automobiles. With only an ordinary tap as controller on the tank in the front of a car a speed of twelve miles an hour was obtained, at the trifling cost of a twentieth of a cent a mile.
Several brick-yards around the city have their own wells, and irrigation schemes for market gardening on surrounding land are made possible by small gas-engines. When the Government undertook to push to completion in the winter time an eleven-hundred-foot steel bridge over the river, the city piped gas to the workmen, kept them warm, heated the rivets, and generally made work comfortable in terrible weather.
The growth of the city has been slow, in spite of the presence of the greatest convenience and money-saver any city could possess. The reason for this is that the rancher has, until the past two years, held the surrounding lands for the wide ranges necessary for his herds. His persistent “knocking” of the district as farming land has retained for him miles of free ranch land, which the terms of his lease from the Government throw open for the homesteader at a couple of years’ notice. But the rancher has seen his day pass. Gradually he has been driven out by the cultivated quarter sections, until he has discovered the money he is losing by missing his opportunities. He is now making the best of conditions by buying up section after section—not enough for ranging, but sufficient to sell to the settler at a profit that makes him a “booster” rather than a “knocker”; but Medicine Hat is now beginning to come into its own as the country settles. Villages are springing up in the surrounding districts, for the manufacturers are beginning to realize that in power alone they can save sufficient on a small plant to pay for a migration to this wonderful gas city —“the town that was born lucky.”
The Demons of Burning Hill!
From The Modern Boy magazine, 1 September 1934, No.343 Vol. 14.
Digitized by Doug Frizzle, November 2014.
Bottled up in an African death-trap, wanted by the savage Witch-Doctor as sacrifices to his gods, CAPTAIN JUSTICE & CO. fight for the road to Freedom. And their Wits are their only weapons!
The Wizard of Science!
“BUT, Justice! An aeroplane! My dear fellow, this—this is incredible! In these unexplored wilds of
Professor Flaznagel hunched himself forward, tugging vigorously at his long, unkempt white beard. Excitement whipped a touch of unwonted colour into his thin, sallow cheeks. His lanky frame, garbed in the remnants of what had once been a gaudily striped suit of silk pyjamas, stiffened as though an electric current had tautened his muscles. The varying emotions that flitted across his cadaverous face ranged from utter amazement to sheer disbelief.
With bony fingers that trembled the celebrated inventor-scientist fiddled impatiently with his heavy horn-rimmed spectacles. Having adjusted them to his satisfaction, he then peered earnestly in turn at Captain Justice, the stout, bald-headed Dr. O'Mally, Len Connor, and young Midge, of the snub nose and flaming locks. They sat on the ground beside him in the shade of the mud-and-wattle hut which their strange hosts had handed over to them.
Then Professor Flaznagel blinked across the sunlit hollow to the rugged cliffs that formed the eastern wall of the
huge but friendly natives who inhabited this region among the wild unknown
African mountains. Captain Justice & Co. had been marooned there, in their
pyjamas and without weapons, by their enemy, Xavier Kuponos, slaver and gun-runner. village
of Golden Giants
From below these cliffs an oily brook flowed, its surface mottled with crude petroleum, washed out from the oil sands deep down under the rock. It disappeared into a cave at the foot of a lofty hill, the face of which was riddled with other caves and sulphur-fuming blow-holes.
Deep within this hill dwelt the savage witch-doctor of the Giants and his fanatical satellites—bitter enemies of Captain Justice & Co. But although the mass of smouldering rock stood out as the most noticeable feature of the landscape, and Professor Flaznagel had good reason to keep a wary eye open for the vicious, cunning fiends whose domain it was, the old wizard of science scarcely glanced in that direction.
Instead, he stared fixedly up at the ragged, crest of the eastern cliffs and shook his head, like one who has been told a yarn too steep to be swallowed.
“Incredible!” he repeated. “You assure me, Justice, that on the farther slope of those cliffs lies the wreckage of an Italian aeroplane?”
“Professor,” said the famous gentleman adventurer, “there is an Italian aeroplane up there—a total loss, unfortunately. We have also established the identity of the luckless flyer, whom the Giants have buried under a cairn on the cliff top. None of the natives—warriors or witch-doctor’s men—will go near the wreck now. In fact, I had the very deuce of a job to persuade Buktu to let us go up the cliffs at all.”
From the ground beside him Justice picked up a leather-covered notebook, a pair of cracked binoculars, a flare-pistol, and a bulky box stuffed with shot-gun cartridges and flares.
“We found these in the plane’s wreckage,” he said, “and they may come in mighty useful!” He fell silent, a thoughtful look on his face.
Their return to civilisation was Captain Justice’s one aim at present.
Pensively he looked across the village, and his comrades, guessing what was in his mind, remained silent. Justice’s eyes were shadowed by worry as he gazed first at the largest hut—the “palace” of the venerable chief of the Giants—and then at the witch-doctor’s sinister lair.
Full well he knew that he and his companions’ plight might have been far worse than it was. Had the warrior, Buktu, and his fellows turned out to be fierce savages instead of brave, semi-cultured, and hospitable men, their end would have come long ago.
But, despite the good will of Buktu and the fighting caste, Justice & Co. felt as if they were chained to a cask of gunpowder that might explode at any minute. The brawny and ferocious witch-doctor hated them, wanted to sacrifice them to his gods, and twice had attempted to capture them. For this reason alone the tribe trembled on the brink of civil war—of terrible faction fights between hostile sorcerers and friendly warriors.
Then again, mused Justice, there was the old chief himself. Where did he stand? What were his feelings towards them.
“Buktu is with us solidly,” the captain said suddenly. “He’s grateful to us for saving him from his tribal enemies, the cannibal blacks. Also, we’ve shown that beastly witch-doctor that we can take care of ourselves, and lie’s lying low—for the moment. At the same time, we still have small hopes of escaping, or of finding a way out of this wilderness. And the only possible weapons we have are Midge’s knife and this flare-pistol.
“Well, perhaps the wreckage of that plane may help us now; perhaps not. There is at least plenty of steel up there that we could fashion into weapons of a kind, and we may find use for the gadgets on the dashboard. The compass and chronometer, for instance, we might be able to repair them. So now that it’s getting cooler I suggest paying another visit to the wreck right away.”
“I am indeed anxious to view the debris,” said the professor, taking the dead airman’s log-book and hastily turning the mildewed pages. But when Captain Justice opened and handed over the cartridge-box, the old scientist suddenly pounced upon them as if they were diamonds.
Eagerly he jerked out a handful, inspected them keenly, and gave a little chuckle of glee.
“Splendid—splendid! A valuable find indeed!” he murmured, beaming at his perplexed companions. “But surely some hours have elapsed since you found this aeroplane? Why on earth did you not inform me of the discovery before?”
Captain Justice smiled; Len and Midge grinned. But it was Dr. O’Mally who replied with sudden vigour.
“Inform ye, is it?” said the fat Irishman. “Faith, I’m glad ye asked that! And how could we inform ye of anything when all this time ye've been hidin’ yourself in that hut, messin’ about with experiments, and making smells that would shock a self-respectin’ skunk? Don’t ye know ye’ve scared the Giants stiff? And what experiments have ye been making? Tell me that.”
Professor Flaznagel chuckled again. The peppery old scientist seemed to be in high good humour all at once.
“It will be a privilege to satisfy your curiosity now, doctor,” he replied calmly. "The fact is, Justice, I, too, have considered the question of our lack of defensive or offensive weapons very closely. In view of the difficult, not to say precarious, circumstances, I deemed it advisable to manufacture something that we may well employ with good effect should the need arise. And the result is—Well, you shall see!”
The professor rose stiffly; took a pace forward, then halted again.
“Moreover, Justice,” he added dryly, “I fancy this invention of mine will help you considerably in another way. For you are, I believe, carrying out a deliberate programme to astonish the natives, are you not?”
“I’m trying to impress them with the fact that we’re not men to be trifled with, if that’s what you mean!” snapped Justice.
The professor stroked his beard, his eyes twinkling with a light that made the others look at him hard.
“Ha! Then we will astonish and impress them!” he purred. And with that distinctly thrilling remark, the old Wizard of Science turned his back on the bewildered company and ambled away.
A little way off stood one of the strong guard-huts which the Giants had built along the western rampart of the village—facing the quarter from which they had most reason to fear attack from the terrible black cannibals. But Professor Flaznagel cared nothing for that.
Calmly he had appropriated this hut for his own purposes—stocking it with a weird medley of native pots, jars, and other cooking utensils. And all these he had obtained in the same high-handed manner, for where his scientific interests were concerned, Professor Flaznagel was quite unscrupulous! What he needed, he took. Nothing short of violence on the part of the original owner could restrain him.
There was little danger of that, however. The Giants, from tall Buktu, the chief warrior, down to the humblest villager, stood in far too much awe of Professor Flaznagel to oppose him. Ever since that hectic night six days ago, when he had beaten the tricky witch-doctor at his own game and produced some white mail's magic, the superstitious, tawny-skinned warriors had looked upon the bearded scientist as a superior being. They respected Captain Justice as a fighting-man and a leader born. But they feared Professor Flaznagel as they had never feared anyone in their lives!
And now, as he stalked through them, Buktu’s guards edged aside nervously. Even the sentries on the rampart relaxed their vigilance for a second and eyed the formidable white man askance. Yet it was doubtful if the professor so much as noticed the impression he made on those strapping spearmen. Full of his own projects, he entered the hut, reappearing soon afterwards with a small, covered, earthenware jar in his hands.
This vessel he placed carefully on the ground beside Captain Justice, with strict orders that no one should touch it. Then, having stroked his beard and gazed thoughtfully around for a moment, the professor stalked up to mighty Buktu.
“Pray allow me the use of your dirk, my dear fellow. I assure you I shall not harm it," murmured the courteous but absent-minded scientist. Nor did it seem to dawn upon him, until Buktu stared and shook his handsome head, and Midge howled with laughter, that actions, not words, were needed to make his request plain.
“All—hum, of course! Pardon me—my mistake!” he apologised, thereby increasing the great warrior’s mental fog and Midge’s hilarity. Then he coolly drew forth the heavy, broad-bladed weapon that hung in its sheath at Buktu’s hip, and jammed its tip into the nearest charcoal-brazier.
“My hat, you have got a neck!” observed Len, watching the expression on Buktu’s face. “I reckon you’d pinch the poor beggar’s teeth if you needed ’em, professor.”
“Nonsense. I simply require that tool for my work!” snapped Flaznagel, picking up two of the shotgun-cartridges. With Midge’s knife he carefully cut through the stout cardboard cases and shook out the black powder into the palm of his hand.
Then, requesting Justice to fetch the earthenware jar along, Professor Flaznagel stalked to the parapet, clambered over, and took a few paces down the gently-sloping hill below.
In the Hands of the Raiders!
BY this time, warriors as well as sentries were peering furtively over the rocky rampart, and the professor was a target for all eyes. Oblivious to his wonderstruck audience, however, he piled up the powder in a neat little mound on the ground, and returned to the parapet.
“Now, my friends—an interesting demonstration!” he chuckled; taking the jar from Captain Justice he sent Len back to get Buktu’s blade from the brazier. When the youngster returned, Flaznagel uncovered his precious pot and carefully decanted a stream of pungent, pale amber liquid down the slope.
Rapidly the stuff soaked into the thirsty ground, sending forth acrid fumes that made Len and Midge sniff and snort disgustedly. Justice frowned, darting a sudden look of inquiry at his eccentric friend. But all the professor did was to toss back his lank white hair and flourish Buktu’s sword with the air of a conjurer about to perform.
Then, stretching his arm full length over the parapet, he gave the moist earth a touch with the red-hot tip of the blade—and ducked!
So did Captain Justice & Co.
So did Buktu and the Golden Giants!
Whoo-oosh! Out of the barren ground there sprang blue flames that leapt high into the air, giving forth blasts of heat that drove the onlookers back in a body. As by magic, the conflagration increased, dazzling all eyes by its glare. The hissing flames rose higher still; raced down the slope, lapping up the liquid, burning furiously into the bare earth itself. And then, as they licked at the little mound of cartridge powder confusion grew worse!
Down went Buktu and his men, flinging themselves flat beneath the parapet as there came another, more vivid flash of fire, and a sharp, breathtaking bang that made the eardrums tingle. Fragments of stone whined through the air, a dense cloud of thick, evil-smelling smoke belched upwards, and drifted down the hill towards the turbulent river.
Professor Flaznagel’s experiment had proved an even greater success than he had reckoned on! But he received few compliments from his deafened and startled comrades!
As for his native hosts, not a man remained on his feet.
Guards, warriors, and villagers sprawled in heaps on the ground, fingers jammed in their ears, faces hidden between their quivering arms. The Giants were brave men, none braver; but here was “magic” that numbed their superstitious minds, and played havoc with their nerves. In a matter of seconds, Professor Flaznagel had petrified a whole fighting tribe. And not another sound arose, until:
“Ow! Moanin’ moggies! You—you batty old pelican!” hooted Midge, hopping round on one leg and nursing a foot which O’Mally had trodden on with all his weight. “Oh, you footlin’ fatheaded firebug! Who the pink alligators d'you think you are—Guy Fawkes?”
"By James, that was a dangerous trick, professor,” Justice murmured gravely, glancing back at the prostrate Giants. “Phew! You certainly astonished the natives that time—and me, too! Why on earth didn’t you warn us first? And what the deuce is that infernal liquid composed of?”
Quite unperturbed by all the commotion, Professor Flaznagel chuckled and rubbed his hands together complacently.
"Merely a little experiment,” he answered, peering over at the blue flames that still writhed and danced down the hillside, leaving a trail of smouldering, blackened earth. “Really, Justice, it was simply a highly inflammable mixture of sulphur and naphtha—not very refined, perhaps, but the best I could achieve with the very primitive apparatus at my command. As you may possibly know, the naphtha constituents of petroleum vaporise at quite a low temperature, and so—”
But what threatened to be one of Professor Flaznagel's usual long-winded lectures came to an abrupt finish.
Before he could proceed further, another “highly inflammable mixture” of explosive and caustic remarks from Midge, Len, and O’Mally drowned the scientist’s explanations, while Buktu and his men seized the chance to beat a headlong retreat. Offended, the professor drew himself up haughtily and glared.
“You are exceedingly ignorant, unappreciative, and ungrateful people,” he barked. “Here I have been at great pains to supply you with an incendiary weapon which, I guarantee, will thwart and terrify every native, hostile or otherwise, in these parts! The cartridge powder was a last-minute inspiration, more than redoubling the power of my invention! And now this—this is my reward!”—bitterly. “Justice, I am hurt! I am annoyed! In future, I assure you that I shall—”
“Forgive us, like the good fellow you are, professor!” Captain Justice, ever tactful, smiled soothingly and clapped his indignant scientific adviser on the shoulder.
"Flaznagel, it’s great stuff!” he went on. “We congratulate you heartily!” he cried, with a warning frown at the others. “But now that the show is over, I am terribly anxious for you to inspect the wreckage of that plane—and to give us your valuable opinion as to how we can best use some of the debris. So, as the evening is cool enough now for some hard climbing, I suggest we gather a party of guards and start at once.”
The captain hesitated a moment, glancing doubtfully at the now silent village.
“That is, if we can gather a party of guards!” he added ruefully. “By James, it looks to me as if you’ve scared the poor beggars so much this time, professor, that we’ll have to climb the cliffs alone!”
As Captain Justice, carrying the binoculars and flare-pistol, led his companions through the village a few minutes later, not a living soul was to be seen save a few lean goats, dogs, and ruffled hens.
Every hut door was closed; and through chinks in the walls dark eyes timidly watched the approach of Professor Flaznagel, the magician who set the earth alight with water! But none of the trembling villagers dared venture out even when his figure had passed on, while not so much as a whisper disturbed the heavy stillness. It was not until the cliff walls were looming above them that Justice & Co. heard a sound that made them turn.
Buktu, that loyal and magnificent stalwart, with his feathered headdress, and leopard skin slung across his swelling chest, was striding slowly towards them.
The tall warrior’s face was a study in conflicting emotions. Humbly he saluted Justice and Flaznagel, with upraised trident, then, pointing to the cliffs, shook his head as if imploring them not to scale the heights again. But when Justice smiled and patted his muscular arm encouragingly, the Giant sighed and shrugged. Another moment of hesitation, then his hand moved in a little gesture of submission.
“I am afraid. But where you go, I go. I am your man!” his look said plainly, and then the chief warrior shouted to his men.
But the summons passed unheeded!
For once, Buktu’s followers were rebelling against his orders, dreading the very presence of Professor Flaznagel. Swift anger blazed in the young Giant’s eyes, his swarthy cheeks darkened as still no men appeared. Twirling his spear ominously, he made a sudden dash for the nearest hut, smashing the door in with a single thrust of his mighty shoulder.
“Bilious baboons!” exclaimed Midge. “Great pip, that’s the way to get orders obeyed!”
Out of the hut darted, three of the reluctant guards, squirming and grunting as Buktu bellowed furiously and lashed out right and left with his spear-shaft. For them, the brief spurt of rebellion was over. Their leader’s whistling strokes effectually conquered their fear of the white men. Whimpering like beaten hounds, the tremendously powerful fellows scurried meekly up to Midge, Len, and Professor Flaznagel. They bowed, they hoisted them on their backs, and then began a sullen ascent of the cliffs.
Buktu, however, still unappeased, still growling and bristling like an enraged lion, harried them sternly. With voice and spear he urged the bearers on to greater activity. It was, without doubt, a triumph for Justice & Co.—positive proof of their domination over the huge natives! Yet Captain Justice, as he, too, prepared to climb with the grinning O’Mally, pursed his lips grimly instead of looking pleased.
“I don’t like this, doc!” he growled. “I’m afraid old Flaznagel’s gone a bit too far this time and frightened the heart out of these good fellows. Buktu’s all right—a real hero! But, by James, I wish we had the same strong escort as we had earlier on, instead of three scared and unwilling men. Just take a squint at that confounded witchdoctor’s hill, and you’ll see why!”
HASTILY O’Mally obeyed, scowling at what he saw. For the sorcerer’s men had gathered in full force to watch the castaways’ movements. Every black cave mouth held its cluster of feathered heads and peering, painted faces. Sentinels, alert and armed, had appeared on the higher slopes, rigid as statues against the evening sky.
But—as far as O'Mally could observe—there were no signs of actual mischief brewing among the scarecrow denizens of the burning hill. The men he could see seemed curious rather than hostile. He sniffed, settled his rush-hat more firmly on his bald head, and reached up to dig his fingers into the first hand-hold.
“Och, don’t worry about those heathens!” grunted the courageous doctor. “They’ll not harm us—they’ve had their lesson! Best save your breath, Justice, and climb before Midge and Len get too far ahead. Ten to one the young limbs will run on and get into some trouble without waitin’ for their elders and superiors.”
It was good advice; and Captain Justice, knowing that Midge’s capacity for getting into trouble amounted to genius, was quick to act on it. But when, hot and breathless despite the cool breeze, he and O’Mally gained the crest of the cliffs after a long spell of difficult climbing, only the impatient professor and four restless Giants were there to greet them. As the doctor had prophesied, Midge and Len had carried on!
Eager to have a last good poke around into the ruins of the wrecked plane before the light failed, the youthful pair of adventurers were now completely out of sight, hidden by the folds in the sloping ground at the northern end of the cliff.
“Insubordinate young blighters!” Justice muttered. “Why didn’t you make them wait here, professor?”
Two pink spots dyed the professor’s cheekbones. “I tried to!" he snapped gruffly. “But, really, Justice, that scamp Midge grows more impertinent every day! I ask you, I put it to you, do I look like a—a fussy old bandersnatch? Because that is what Midge called me when I ordered him to wait. But the young imp was born to be hanged, so no danger is likely to befall him up here. I wash my hands of him entirely. What a truly marvellous view this is, Justice! It is indeed well worth the arduous climb!”
Pushing his spectacles up on to his forehead, then taking the binoculars from Captain Justice, the professor gazed enthusiastically at the wildly beautiful scene that had so entranced his comrades earlier on. The gaunt palisades on the eastern brink of the cliffs, the lofty cairn that marked the last resting-place of the gallant pilot of the wrecked plane, were dappled with ruby tints, while the enormous valley that cut a wide swathe through the mountains stretched away serenely into the north. The great river, rippling through tree-fringed meadows, twisted like a shining emerald-green ribbon.
To the professor’s left, four or five hundred yards from where he stood, the witch-doctor’s hill loomed up, its greasy plume of sulphur smoke stained red by the sunbeams. Beyond rolled the high waste land of torn and twisted rock, black gullies, and blow-holes—the result of some tremendous earthquake far back in the mists of time. A lone eagle winged its way towards the mountains. In the east, a thin line of clouds lay across the sky, heralds of advancing night.
“Amazing! A glorious spectacle after the confinement of the village!” declared Flaznagel at last; and unconsciously he repeated Captain Justice’s earlier remark: “By Jove, but that valley makes an easy highway into the north!”
Neither Justice nor O’Mally replied. Both were too anxious to press on and see what Midge and Len were doing. It was all very well for the professor to wash his hands of the cheerful pair. But with foes like the witch-doctor’s fanatics lurking in the vicinity, this was no place for a couple of daring youngsters to wander about!
Justice felt a strange alarm tug at his heartstrings as he shot another glance at the “burning ” hill. Hastily he took the binoculars from Flaznagel and focused them on a little group of savages moving furtively out of one of the caves.
“I don’t like this one little bit!” he repeated uneasily. “There's something queer going on over there! Confound those youngsters. Come on, O’Mally, give them a hail!” And Captain Justice cupped his hands to his mouth. As he filled his lungs for a lusty shout, pandemonium, fierce, ugly, and horrifying, arose, crashing through the evening stillness.
Captain Justice felt as if his blood had turned suddenly to ice.
So abrupt, so unexpected, was the sinister outburst that he reeled under the shock.
The triumphant clamour swelled out—a babel of uncouth howls and shrieks, the clatter of weapons, a faint cry for help, instantly stifled. The uproar was somewhere down the slopes—the danger zone into which Midge and Len had ventured alone. For one terrible moment the party on the cliff-top, white men and Giants, stood, unable to stir a muscle. Then, with a hoarse cry, Captain Justice sprang forward and ran!
With O’Mally and Flaznagel blundering at his heels, the famous adventurer tore ahead, his tanned face livid, eyes aflame with fear and rage. Buktu and his warriors followed, nervousness forgotten now that a stark crisis was at hand. Swiftly, recklessly, the seven men flung themselves across rough, rock-ribbed ground, united in a common purpose. But though they strained every nerve to reach the top of the slope, they ran a losing race right from the start.
Justice suddenly uttered a strangled cry. The veins swelled on his forehead as he stared downwards with bulging eyes. O’Mally, sobbing for breath, lurched against him; Professor Flaznagel tripped on a rock and fell sprawling. They were too late! Midge and Len were in the hands of the witch-doctor’s raiders!
Where the yelling demons had sprung from, Justice wasted no time in trying to guess. There were over a score of them—huge, grotesque figures, paint-daubed and tattooed. Already in full retreat towards their own lairs, they were screeching exultantly as they pelted away from the wrecked aeroplane. And with them went the two luckless youngsters who had paid so stiff a price for over-impulsiveness!
O’MALLY, trembling like an aspen-leaf, scrambled up, stretching out a quivering hand. He could see young Midge hanging over a brawny shoulder, with his red head bobbing limply, his legs and arms quite slack. Len, taller and sturdier, was being dragged along, still struggling desperately against his Herculean captors. And, as O’Mally pointed, a spear-handle flailed down from behind, knocking the gallant lad senseless.
“Come on! Come on, and tear those fiends apart!”
Captain Justice scarcely recognised that tortured voice as his own. But the blow that quietened Len seemed to snap the invisible bonds that had gripped him. Savagely he jerked the flare-pistol from the breast of his ragged pyjama jacket and bounded down the hill. Roaring their thunderous war-cry, Buktu and his Giants charged after him in a dash to the rescue.
Superstitious and panicky they might be in the face of Professor Flaznagel’s “magic,” but this was work they understood and delighted in. With lips drawn back, teeth bared, and tridents poised, they streaked down the slopes, four lithe and splendid warriors, indifferent to the odds against them.
But, alas! for Justice’s hopes. This was work that the witch-doctor’s henchmen also understood!
At the very first shout of alarm, the raiding party spurted up the opposite slope, while other fiends suddenly materialised from behind rocks and boulders. Bowmen they were, expert marksmen who had sneaked down through the gullies to cover the kidnappers’ retreat. With a yell of glee, they sprang from hiding. Their polished bow staves gleamed in the sun.
Ouly in the nick of time did Captain Justice spot the trap and swerve sharply in his stride.
“Down! Down for your lives!” he panted; and, swerving again, brought Flaznagel to earth with a flying tackle.
Something whistled past O’Mally’s ear; a second arrow grazed his cheek as he ducked and rolled over. There was a coughing grunt of pain from somewhere, then a dull thud. Helplessly the baffled rescuers lay close to the ground, while overhead the deadly barrage zipped ceaselessly through the air.
And higher up, half-way to the witch-doctor's caves, Midge and Len were carried on in triumph to their fate!
Captain Justice groaned aloud— not with fear or pain, but in sheer rage and dismay.
Midge and Len—lost! His youthful comrades, brave as they were cheerful, were fast in the merciless claws of a fiend!
For a sickening moment everything went black before him. But then, summoning up all his will power, the captain set himself to weigh up the ghastly situation as best he could.
By this time the cave-riddled hill was aswarm with prancing figures, pouring out of their holes like rats to greet the successful marauders. The air quivered to the raucous blare of horns, while never for an instant did the storm of arrows falter. One of Buktu’s Giants was down, lying limply across a rock, with a feathered shaft jutting out from between his ribs. Buktu himself was tearing back towards the village, twisting and dodging like a hunted hare, with arrows pattering all about him.
Justice dashed the cold sweat from his eyes and peered round the edge of a rock. No chance of aiming a shot at the archers, for the savages had cover in plenty.
“Heaven help those poor lads, for we can’t—yet!” he gritted. “It’s death to go forward! Keep your head down, professor! We’ll have to get back—if we can—before those hounds up there rush us!”
Flaznagel clawed at his hair in an agony of remorse.
“This is all my fault—all my fault, Justice!” he muttered brokenly. “I should have made those boys wait! I ought not to have let them go ahead!”
“You mean you oughtn’t to have scared the daylight out of Buktu’s men without warning them! Then we might have had a stronger escort!” Justice thought bitterly. But aloud he said:
“Come! Brace up, professor! No use you blaming yourself. That tricky fiend yonder saw his chance to strike, and seized it, that’s all! I’m the most to blame for this, and, by James, I’ll never forgive myself if we fail to get Midge and Connor back alive! The brute had oceans of time to post his men while we were sweating up the cliffs—he had the trap already laid for the boys to walk into! We shouldn’t have come! I should never have risked it without a strong guard! But, dash it, who ever dreamed that the brutes would venture so near the wrecked plane? Hang it, I thought they were as frightened of it as Buktu's lot!”
“Me, too!” O’Mally exclaimed huskily. “But where’s Buktu gone now?”
“For help, I hope! Yes—listen!”
Captain Justice stiffened suddenly, for, mingling with the riotous celebrations on the witch-doctor’s hill, came another fanfare of horns from the direction of the village. Faintly a roar of angry voices floated up to the captain’s ears. He guessed that Buktu, signalling from the cliffs, had set his fellow-warriors alight with the dread tidings.
Suddenly his voice rose to a warning shout—swamped instantly by the ferocious yells of the foe. The archers were advancing, bunching together and firing madly as they rushed. O’Mally grabbed a stone, preparing to sell his life dearly. The two remaining Giants gripped their tridents more tightly.
But Captain Justice suddenly smiled—a fierce and mirthless smile that showed all his strong white teeth, but left his grey eyes cold.
“Look out for the rush! Stick close to the ground!” he ordered, and then disobeyed his own commands! To the horror of his companions, the captain rose. He sprang up, cool as ever under fire, with the flare-pistol steady in his right hand, and right elbow jammed against his hip.
“Now, you screeching demons!” he snarled, and squeezed the trigger.
Plop! The pistol spoke—at short range. A burning streak of crimson fire flashed from the captain’s hip. Full into the thick of the storming attackers whizzed the flare, exploding with the devastating force and effect of a shell. Captain Justice had turned at bay!
Like a wave striking against a breakwater, the rush of the archers was shattered and flung back in confusion. Fire-shot smoke arose, with flames flickering below it, and through that smoke staggered frenzied figures, fighting each other to get clear of the Terror that sputtered in their midst. Panic- stricken, the surviving bowmen fled in all directions, flinging away their weapons as they scattered with arms upflung. And Captain Justice, turning a stony eye on the results of his shot, calmly reloaded.
“After ’em now! No quarter!” he snapped. And as he nipped round a boulder in pursuit of the fear-crazed archers he fired again, high above their heads. In a fiery arc the flare hissed through the air, struck a rock on the witch-doctor’s hill, and exploded. Another screen of smoke drifted up, sending the cowering defenders helter-skelter to cover. Suddenly, as a hoarse, deep-chested roar of exultation boomed out from behind, Justice and O’Mally halted.
They turned. Buktu and half of his fighting-men had arrived!
A GOLDEN-BROWN mass, the giant warriors poured down the slope from the cliffs, brandishing their weapons as they stormed the burning hill. Again the awe-inspiring war-cry thundered up to the heights. Instantly a hail of arrows shrilled down from the dark cave mouths about them, and a few men fell. But the rest carried on under Buktu’s fearless leadership, bowstrings twanging viciously as they advanced slowly, but doggedly, to the attack.
Yet that onslaught, as Justice could see with half an eye, was as futile as it was splendid. Faced by the withering fire from the caves, Buktu’s troops could make little headway, gallantly though they tried. Civil war had broken out among the Giants at last. The long-smouldering fires of rivalry had flared up! But the savage witch-doctor had already gained all the honours of that day.
He had hit first, and he had hit hard. His stronghold was almost invulnerable against besiegers armed only with spears and bows. Safe in his cave-riddled lair, he held the whip-hand over Justice & Co., Buktu, and all his valiant men. And what was worse—he still held Midge and Len Connor.
“Justice, we’re licked! And I thought we had the blackguards tamed!” Dr. O’Mally, watching the furious battle with lack-lustre eyes, sank heavily to the ground, hardly daring to think now of what would happen to the young captives. His chin sagged to his breast; his huge fists clenched and unclenched convulsively. Flaznagel’s hand descended suddenly on his shoulder. But the grief-stricken Irishman only shook his head miserably when the professor spoke.
“No, we are not beaten! I refuse to accept defeat like this!” There was a vibrant ring in the old scientist’s voice. “Confound it! Surely we can think of a way to turn the tables, between us? Are men like us to be outwitted by a pack of ignorant painted savages?”
“But young Midge—and Len—” O’Mally’s voice broke.
“Have no fear! I feel positive that both lads are still alive!” the professor encouraged him stoutly. “From what I have seen of that unspeakable ogre up there, he is not the man to give his captives a speedy death! Come, O'Mally! We must not despair! At all costs, we must rescue our young comrades!”
“Ay, we’ll rescue them! By James, we’ll get ’em both back, if we have to go in and pull that ghastly dump to bits with our bare hands!”
It was Captain Justice who spoke then, and his expression was not good to see. All the implacable fury—all the fierce recklessness in his nature—had risen to the surface. Captain Justice, in his present mood, was the deadliest enemy any man could have.
He looked back towards Burning Hill to where the battle had almost come to a standstill. Buktu and his giants had fought furiously and driven the painted demons back pell-mell into their holes. But beyond that, as Justice had foreseen, they could make no headway. Already they were falling back slowly into a position where, out of range of the defenders’ arrows, they were still near enough to stop any further attempts on the part of the witch-doctor’s men to leave their cave-ridden stronghold.
“They’ll never get the beggars out of there,” Justice murmured grimly. “The place is a natural fortress. I doubt if artillery could do it. It’s up to us to think of some other method. There must be some way of outwitting them.”
Neither O’Mally nor Flaznagel answered. O’Mally was still overcome with grief at the thought of the danger to which the gallant youngsters were exposed; and it was plain by his crestfallen demeanour that the old scientist could not easily forgive himself for letting them go on ahead. Justice's brow was furrowed in deep thought. With eyes that seemed to probe every rock, he scanned the landscape, photographing the scene before him on his mind. He realised now that he was up against a task as difficult as any he had ever set himself—a task in which every passing minute lessened the chances of success. Suddenly he straightened up.
“Sharp now—back to the village before darkness sets in! We want action now, not words! Midge and Len are coming out of that dump right away. And, professor, I need your help. I’ll have the swab who caught the boys, too—dead or alive!”
Without another word; Captain Justice turned his back on all the useless yelling and fighting, and strode away towards the cliff-top.
In silence, Flaznagel and O’Mally followed. Their leader, they saw, had a plan of campaign simmering in his shrewd brain. Though the Giants’ ambitious witch-doctor did not know it yet, he had twisted the tail of a sleeping tiger when he set out to make war on Captain Justice.
And that was a mistake he would have good cause to rue before long!
Captain Justice carries the war right into the enemy's camp in Next Saturday's thrilling story, and he hands the jolly old witch-doctor the Surprise of His Life!
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- As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.