Wednesday, 29 October 2014
Part 5 of 12
From The Modern Boy magazine, 4 August 1934, No. 339, Vol. 14
In a blazing gulch among the mountains in unexplored Africa the Cooking Pots are got ready for CAPTAIN JUSTICE & CO!. . . Complete ... By
“I MUST confess, my friends,” announced Professor Flaznagel, in his weightiest manner, “that there are several points concerning this mysterious native—this man whom we rescued last night from those appalling black cannibals— that completely baffle me!”
The celebrated old scientist backed up his statement by making an emphatic gesture with the half-roasted bone he had been chewing distastefully, and flung it away.
Then he pushed back his large, horn-rimmed spectacles, irritably patted the dirty bandage covering his unkempt thatch of white hair, and blinked solemnly at his comrades in the smoky cave, as if expecting them to register frank amazement that anything on earth should baffle Professor Flaznagel!
Captain Justice & Co. merely went on eating. Much as they respected the professor’s undoubted brilliance in all things pertaining to science, they were at present too tired, too hungry, and too absorbed in their own grim reflections to pay more than passing heed to his remarks.
Hopelessly lost in the unknown African mountains into which they had penetrated the previous evening, the famous Gentleman Adventurer and his comrades had taken refuge in this gloomy cave, high up on the rugged slopes. Once inside, all five had slumped at once into the sleep of utter exhaustion.
Thus the night and its perils had passed unnoticed—and without incident, fortunately for the castaways. For not even Justice had had sufficient energy left to sleep “with one eye open,” as was his custom. They had awakened at last, stiff with cold and starving hungry, to find the first grey streaks of dawn smearing the skies. And immediately their thoughts had turned to warmth and food.
Midge, the red-haired, lively junior member of the party, had started to light a fire, using the primitive method of chipping sparks from two flinty stones. But having chipped his hands instead, the diminutive youngster resigned in favour of Dr. O’Mally—who, after one clumsy “chip,” also gave up, and silent the next ten minutes furiously sucking a bruised thumb and mumbling strange words in his rich Irish brogue.
Len Connor had also tried his hand.
In the end it had been left to Captain Justice himself to discover the light knack, and now the fire of dampish twigs sputtered sullenly, filling the cave with smoke. But it served its purpose—warming the half-frozen five and partially cooking the eggs and the flamingo that Justice had captured on the bank of the jungle river that wound along at the foot of the mountains.
Bird and eggs, alas! had proved tough eating; but hunger is a fine sauce. And from the moment the meal began scarcely a word had been uttered until Professor Flaznagel, having blunted the edge of his appetite, leaned back and announced that he was baffled.
"Truly that native was a most magnificent specimen of humanity,” he continued, quite undisturbed by his comrades’ apathy. “But from what unknown race does he spring, Justice? For I am positive that he is a member of no known tribe. For instance, the peculiar golden tint of his skin is unique, so far as I know, among African tribes, and there was not the slightest trace of the negro about him.
“His features, indeed, were distinctly handsome—regular and refined. And his manner, particularly when he thanked us for our efforts on his behalf, was most dignified and, impressive!
"Again,” he went on, “the man’s stature was positively herculean! I am aware of course, that most African native are men of fine physique, but this man stood fully six feet six inches in his bare feet, and weighed, I judged, something like sixteen stone. Last, and most curious of all, was his weapon—a trident, Justice: a elastic weapon of ancient
and Rome! Bless
my soul, it is all very interesting indeed!”
“So was the way he used the weapon on one of those three blacks,” replied Justice dryly. “By James, I shouldn’t like to quarrel with such a giant unless I had a gun! Still, he seemed pretty friendly towards us after we’d rescued him and O’Mally had tended his wounds—though where he found strength to run. away like he did afterwards, goodness knows!” Justice glanced at his old friend's face and uttered a short laugh.
“Anyway, cheer up, professor! I’ve a feeling you’ll he able to study him at close quarters yet. In fact,” he added grimly, “we’re likely to hit across a whole bunch of strange natives before we’re out of these wilds—particularly as one of those black cannibals got away!”
“I sincerely trust so!” cried Flaznagel, whose curiosity always overcame discretion. “The discovery of a new race might well compensate us for the trials and hardships we are undergoing. All, well,” he quoted pompously, “ ‘Ex. Africa semper aliquid novi’—which means, my dear Midge, there is always something new out of
"You’re telling me!” Midge grunted, squirming uncomfortably on the hard, rocky floor of the cave. “Well, the answer’s a lemon to you! There may be some things new out of this rotten country, but that don’t apply to this ancient flamingo or the eggs, take it from me! Suffering cats"—the youngster closed his eyes dreamily—“what wouldn’t I give to be having breakfast on
Island or in
now, with grapefruit, kidneys, bacon, coffee—” Titanic Tower
Dr. O’Mally sat up. He mopped his bald pate and scorched Midge with a sulphurous glare.
"Arrah, hould your whisht, ye infuriating insect!” he wailed. “Must ye torment us with such thoughts, ye tantalising tadpole? Bedad, for two pins I’d—”
“Shush!” Captain Justice held up his hand, then he rose from beside the smouldering fire. He was a sad wreck of his old spruce self, in stained, ragged pyjamas and shooting boots, with a hat made of rushes tilted rakishly over one ear.
His companions were dressed in similar manner, except that the professor was wearing sandals made from the harness of one of the parachutes in which they had floated down to this desolate region from the aeroplane of the man who had marooned them there, and Midge wore a ragged jacket.
“Personally,” he said, with some bitterness, “I’d give all I possess just now for a hot bath and my shaving tackle. But here we are, cut off from friends and any chance of rescue, so we must make the best of it! Add it to the debt we already owe Mr. Xavier Kuponos, my lads! We’ll pay him in full one day!”
For a moment the captain’s Iean, tanned face darkened with fierce anger at mention of the vicious Greek gun-runner and slaver, whose fiendish plan of vengeance had plunged them into this unmapped, tropical wilderness, without proper clothing and with no food or gear or weapons, save an old single-bladed knife.
Then, pulling himself together sternly, the indomitable adventurer proceeded to issue orders for the day.
“Now, no more grousing!” he said briskly. “We’ve another stage in our eastward trek before us, so the more miles we cover in the cool of the day the better. Douse the fire, Midge, and let’s set about cleaning up this cave, for we don’t want to leave too many traces behind us. And while we’re doing so, Len, just step outside and take a careful peek around the landscape!”
Justice’s comrades set about their tasks willingly. And Len Connor, ducking his head and broad shoulders through the narrow entrance to the cave, stepped cautiously out into the dawn.
“Ah! Smells good!” Gratefully Len expanded his chest, filling his lungs with the cool, strong mountain air, refreshing as wine after the fuggy atmosphere of the cave. That done, he prowled forward another, few yards, and fetched up beside one of the many huge boulders that were strewn upon the slope, like monstrous marbles thrown down by a careless giant.
Above him bulked the shadowy cliffs and crags of the mountains, rising darkly up and up until their crests became lost in the cloudbanks of dawn, and spreading north and south in pile after magnificent pile of serried peaks, split by yawning valleys.
The grandeur, the magnitude of the range, seen in the shifting light, took Len’s breath away—made him feel like some helpless dwarf. After a few awed moments he was glad to rest his eyes on objects closer at hand.
From where he crouched the mountain-spur sloped sharply, a colossal wedge of stone, with its point thrusting towards the bank of the river they had crossed the previous day. White dawn-mists, faintly tinged with pink, covered the ledge below on which the castaways had rescued the golden-brown giant the evening before; and the smiling, flower-decked valley into which he had vanished afterwards lay hidden under the same clinging shroud.
No sound disturbed the solemn stillness, save once the harsh scream of an eagle as it winged its invisible way through the skies. In the east a blood-red stain across the horizon showed where the sun was rapidly breaking through.
An eerie region: wild, fantastically beautiful—and sinister! Captain Justice fancied that Kuponos had dumped them down somewhere in the stark backblocks of the
Congo, but that
was merely a guess, as he himself admitted. All that the comrades knew for
certain was that they were stranded in one of the world’s most desolate
Len shivered suddenly.
He felt chilled—not only by the raw coolness of the mountain breeze, but by a sharp, uncanny feeling of danger that swept over him for no apparent cause.
It was a feeling to which, unfortunately, he was no stranger now. Throughout the past forty-eight hours peril had lurked in the very air he breathed, the ground he trod upon. Len thrust out his stubborn jaw, taking a firm grip on himself, and although he scrutinised every yard of the slopes below him, keenly and methodically, not a trace of any enemy could he see.
Yet so strong at last became the sensation that something—some deadly menace—threatened the camp that involuntarily the youngster wheeled suddenly to dart back into the cave.
As he did so his heart gave one violent leap, and then almost stopped beating.
For seconds that seemed to drag into infinity he stood paralysed by the numbing shock that burst upon him. Horror robbed him of the power of movement or speech.
White to the lips, Len could only stand and stare with bulging eyes—into other eyes! Black, beady eyes, glistening with savage triumph, that peered down at him from a clutter of rocks higher up the slope above the cave-mouth.
There and then—but just a fraction too late—Len understood why his nerves had suddenly quivered like overstrung wires. The castaways were trapped!
“Torture—and the Stewpot!”
“THE blacks! The cannibals!” The dread words drummed in Len’s ears. But no sound, no hoarse cry of warning, issued from his parched throat. As in a nightmare he watched the owners of the eyes rising silently from cover—a dozen squat, powerful demons, coal-black from woolly heads to splayed-out feet.
They grinned at him, twisting their thick, loose lips into hideous grimaces as they stole down upon the lad with the same phantom-like stealth with which they had surrounded the cave.
Patiently, cunningly, the black fiends had woven their net around the worn-out castaways!
Len shouted at last. In the nick of time the invisible bands of terror, that had gripped him snapped and released his muscles and tongue.
“Look out! The blacks—the blacks!” he yelled at the full pitch of his lungs. Next instant he was fighting like a wildcat against the black avalanche that hurtled down to overwhelm him.
“Captain! Look out—run!”
Len hit out right and left. To the sound of an uncouth roar, lithe, ebony bodies seemed to materialise on all sides at once. Spear-heads, adorned with dyed tufts of hair, clashed and flicked around him. A burly brute, with sharpened, betel-reddened teeth bared in a snarl, sprang at the youngster’s throat.
Len side-stepped with a boxer's instinct, ducked under the slashing spear-shaft, then drove both fists to his antagonist’s midriff. But hitting that muscle-padded body was like punching a chunk of
Len’s fists bounced off. Howling madly, the black bored in, utterly indifferent to the punishing blows. Len hacked the man’s shins fiercely. He fought clear somehow, then fell, buckling up as another spear came swish across his shoulders.
“Gosh!” That gasp of agony was torn from him. So venomous was the blow that for a second Len felt as though the weapon had cut him in two. He rolled over, striking out feebly. Simultaneously the yells of the blacks increased a hundredfold as harsh, familiar voices added themselves to the din.
Dazed, half-blinded by mists of pain, Len staggered up gallantly, caught a sudden glimpse of Captain Justice and O’Mally kicking, punching, smashing with all their strength into the foes swarming round the cave-mouth. More by luck than judgment, he dodged another onslaught. Then, uttering a low sob of rage, the lad made a blind, heroic dive at a pair of sinewy legs.
But that valiant tackle failed. As Len lurched in, a terrific blow crashed down on his skull from behind. The ground, the savages—everything dissolved in a maddening whirl of fiery lights and pain. All the noises ever created seemed to explode above him, wrenching his eardrums.
Then abruptly the din faded away, the lights snapped out. And after that—darkness and silence!
Len Connor suddenly found himself dreaming. Oddly enough, he knew that the Terror was but a dream, for his plight was too ghastly to be real. Yet it persisted—so vividly as to defy his frantic efforts to wake up, to escape from the horrors pursuing him.
He saw himself running—fleeing wildly through the blistering heat of a tropic day, up an interminable slope that grew steeper with every leaden stride he took. And close to his heels howled a pack of ravenous wolves, led by a grinning monster whose face was the face of Xavier Kuponos!
Somewhere, too, he could hear Midge’s shrill voice raised imploringly, but though, in his dream, Len gazed around, he could see nothing of his chum. Then suddenly he stumbled, and as he pitched forward into nothingness the pack surged down upon him, sweeping him along. Stabs of pain darted through him as the monster’s talons dug into his back. And all the while he threshed and struggled. Midge continued to call him, till Midge’s voice rose to a quavery yell:
“Len! Len, old man, chuck it—lie still! You’re only hurting yourself more, you ass! Wake up—wake up!”
Louder, more insistently, the red-haired youngster shouted in his chum’s ears, till suddenly the ghostly pack vanished, and only the heat and the pains in his back remained.
And Len awoke at last, aroused from the grisly nightmare of sleep to the even uglier nightmare of reality. His heavy lidded eyes fluttered open as he tossed and rolled about on bare ground under a blazing sun.
For many minutes after the first shock of returning consciousness had abated a little, Len could only tremble and gasp. The torrid air, untempered by the slightest breeze, stifled him. He had to screw up his eyes against the fierce, white glare of the sun, and a dull weight seemed to have settled for keeps on the back of his head. The spear-weal across his shoulders throbbed and burned like fire.
Len groaned—less with pain than with misery—as memory returned suddenly. On its heels came the sick realisation that he had let his comrades down.
Vaguely he became aware that his wrists had been lashed together; that Midge, similarly bound, lay close beside him, with Captain Justice, O’Mally, and the professor.
“Thank the stars you’ve wakened up! We thought you were having a fit, or something! Are you hurt much, old son?” Midge muttered.
Len made no reply. His sun-scorched eyes, travelling on slowly, had focused themselves on the circle of black raiders who squatted on the ground, surrounding the luckless five.
There were more than a dozen of the black raiders now, he noticed. Ebony brutes, they sat around chewing betel-nut, gloating with primitive delight over their captives. One of them pointed his spear at Len, and the others laughed uproariously as he made some remark in a guttural tongue. Len shuddered at sight of the filed teeth they displayed when they flung back their heads and roared. He had to fight to keep himself from falling into a stupor again.
“So they got us! The black brutes, I'll—”
Overcome by a sudden gust of rage and despair, Len strained at his bonds, striving to rise and hurl himself at the chuckling savages. But his fruitless efforts merely sent them into fresh paroxysms of mirth, and increased the pain in his back, until he fell back and lay still once more.
"Och, now, take it easy, me dear lad!” Dr. O’Mally muttered. “Don’t give the blackguards the satisfaction of laughing at ye any more! They’ve got us, bad cess to ’em—the first white men they’ve ever seen, I’ll bet, and they’re making a show of us! I’m afraid we can do nothing—yet!”
Blinking the sweat from his eyes, O’Mally tried to hump himself nearer to Len. A brawny black jumped up, motioning him to lie down again, but a defiant snort was all the reply the Irishman made. Instantly a spear-blade flashed, poised aloft for a murderous thrust.
Another moment, however, just as O’Mally braced himself for the stroke, the savage changed his mind, twirled the weapon dexterously, and dealt him a jab with the butt that made the stout doctor writhe.
“Ye cowardly black imp!” he gasped, forgetful of his own advice to Len, as the rest of the blacks roared with laughter. “By th’ beard o’ St. Patrick, if I could only meet ye wid me bare hands I’d twist the ugly head off ye, so I would!”
“Stow it, doc! Save your breath!”
Captain Justice spoke for the first time, in a strained, husky voice. He looked across at Len, forcing a wry grin to his cut lips, and muttered:
“Keep, smiling, old chap! We’re not dead yet, by thunder!”
“But how did we get here? And where are we, skipper?” mumbled Len, while the blacks stopped laughing and leaned closer. So long as their captives did not stir they made few attempts to molest them. They seemed, indeed, too interested and amused by the strange language of the prisoner and whenever any of the castaways spoke the savages rolled their beady eyes, chuckling and whispering among themselves.
“As though we were a lot of chattering squirrels in a cage!” snorted Midge, staring at the biggest black and screwing up his freckled face in a grimace of contempt and wrath.
“We’re at the bottom of that gully we came across yesterday, Len—the one that opens out on to the ledge where we rescued the big fellow,” Justice said quietly. “The blacks carried you down from the cave, but they made us march at the point of the spear—after knocking the tar out of us! Sorry, boy—you’ve been unconscious for some hours now. But we hadn’t a Chinaman’s chance of rescuing you!”
Len gulped, and strove to ease his aching back.
“I know. It—it was all my fault!” he whispered miserably. “But, honest, I thought the slopes were clear—I never even smelt the cunning brutes! That screeching beggar who got away from us last night gave ’em the tip, I suppose, and this is their way of squaring up. What are they going to do with us—d’you know?”
A bleak look frosted the captain’s eyes as he gazed stonily at the ring of malevolent black faces. For a moment he failed to answer. Then:
“They’re cannibals, Len—and they’ve captured us alive,” he pointed out significantly. “They’re keeping us—for something! It isn’t hard to guess what the something is! Torture—and then the stewpot!”
Midge shuddered. But, courageous as ever, he made a desperate attempt to keep his pecker up by adding :
"I wish ’em luck, though, when they get their teeth into old Flip-doodle and Fatty O’Mally! Bet you’ll be tougher than that blinkin’ flamingo, doc!”
O’Mally breathed hard. For once, however, the portly doctor, suffering torments from the heat and flies, was too dispirited to reply. Midge’s grim jest, indeed, was the last remark uttered for some considerable time. Lack of water, combined with the buffeting they had received, and the grilling they were undergoing, sealed the prisoners’ lips more effectually than any threat or blow.
With his lanky form spreadeagled on the ground, Professor Flaznagel lay in a state of semi-coma. O’Mally and Midge dozed fitfully under the broiling sun, and Len, too, closed his eyes, steeling himself to suffer in silence.
Occasionally one of the black demons prodded them with his spear-handle, to the delight of the others, but after a convulsive start and a growl the captives gradually relapsed into torpor again.
“Good-bye, My Lads!”
CAPTAIN JUSTICE alone remained alert. Although it was only too horribly clear that he and his friends were in a fearfully tight jam, the famous adventurer stubbornly refused to give way to despair.
He was a fighter born; firm in his belief that no obstacle was too big to surmount, no battle lost until it was won!
Then, again, Captain Justice always held one priceless advantage over the others—toughness! Lean and wiry, his great stamina and the reserves of strength stored away in his steel-muscled body enabled him to endure extremes of heat and cold that prostrated less hardy men.
So, outwardly submissive, but actually dangerous as a cornered lynx, he lay watching the savages—watching and thinking till his brain whirled. His eyes, under down-drawn brows, darted around the camp, keen as razor-blades.
The rock-ribbed floor of the gulch was, he judged, roughly fifty yards wide. A long, straggling ravine, it was walled in by rugged bluffs of reddish rock that sparkled and glowed in the sunshine like the incandescent sides of a furnace, making an oven of the space between.
No shade existed anywhere, save at the far western end, where clumps of trees and rushes bordered a small tributary of the oily river that flowed through the jungle. And, above, the eye quailed before the menace of burnished mountain-crags that seemed to float and rock in the dancing heat-waves.
Captain Justice sighed. He certainly needed all his tenacious pluck, for his furtive observations of the enemy camp merely served to rub in the utter hopelessness of the castaways’ position.
The gulch was a natural stronghold—vulnerable to attack only from the river end. And not only had the cannibals placed three sentries down there, but more and more members of the tribe were arriving as time dragged by.
In parties of twos and threes the black warriors stalked in, to be greeted by strident yells and a clashing of spears. Each newcomer promptly took his place in the tittering circle around the white men, amusing himself by jabbing them into wakefulness as he listened eagerly to the tale of their capture and transport to the gulch.
But still no serious harm was done to the prisoners, for some reason. Though Justice noted that the cannibals’ sinister air of expectancy deepened every time a fresh arrival swaggered past the sentries into the gulch.
He dug his nails deep into the palms of his hands, forcing himself to lie quiet. The torture of suspense, of grim speculations concerning the fate in store for him, began to fray even his strong nerve.
“By James, I wish the hounds would get it over and done with!” he thought. “The beggars who nailed us were a raiding-party, I suppose, and all these other dogs who keep drifting up are scouts and hunters come to join in the fun.
“Now they’re all waiting for someone special to arrive—the chief, I’ll bet my boots, judging by their looks! And when the grand, panjandrum trails in we’ll be scuppered!”
His broad chest swelled as he gazed sadly at Midge, Flaznagel; O’Mally, and Len, lying crumpled up like so many bundles of untidy rags. The rays of the sun flayed them. O’Mally was gasping for breath. Midge feverishly licked his parched lips.
Loyal comrades all—the best and truest, of friends through thick and thin—and now they were to die in this blazing gulch! Justice had witnessed the aftermath of the cannibal feast once before, in the
South Sudan. The
memory set icy fingers plucking at his spine.
Goaded into making some attempt to escape, however futile, he strained quietly at his bonds. But the keen-eyed demons spotted the move almost at once, and jabbed him viciously, howling threats and abuse. So Justice, having vented his feelings in a few brisk and sailor-like remarks, fell back on his dreary thoughts again, praying fervently that death, when it did come, would be swift.
“Looks as if Xavier Kuponos is going to get all the revenge he hoped for!” the captain mused bitterly. “I’d like to have the mongrel here!” His thoughts began to ramble. “Wonder if the Flying Cloud’s out searching for us—wonder where that golden-brown giant we saved yesterday lives? Not that it matters—we’re done! Rot this cannibal chief, or whoever he is. I wish the brute would not—”
And then, as suddenly as if he had been douched with cold water, Captain Justice snapped into full wakefulness. For the discordant blare of a horn echoed through the gulch, and, to the accompaniment of gleeful yells, every black there sprang to his feet with spear upflung!
Another and larger mob of negroes had entered the gulch from the western end.
In disorderly array they shambled clumsily towards the camp; broad-shouldered, thick-legged men, with gaudy feathers prancing above their woolly heads. Grotesque designs, tattooed in flaunting colours, adorned their black, heavily muscled figures from neck to ankle! The tufts at their spearheads were longer, more flamboyant, than those of the common warriors.
In their midst, perched upon a litter made of carved and stained bamboo, they carried one of the fattest, most hideous ogres Justice & Co. had ever had the misfortune to set eyes on.
It hardly needed the barbaric screeches of the cannibals, the sparkle and clatter of waving spears, the sudden, deep rolling salute that boomed out, to tell the castaways that here at last was the supreme ruler of the fearful tribe. One glance at the brute who squatted there like some jet-black idol was sufficient for that.
Authority—cruel, tyrannical, purposeful—radiated from the man, though he neither spoke nor made the slightest gesture.
He sat there motionless, as if carved out of ebony, with his bullet head sunk forward between mighty shoulders and shapeless hands folded over his vast paunch.
“Yah! The big black chief and his blighted bodyguard!" sneered Midge, and was promptly hauled upright and silenced by a swift backhander across the mouth.
The rest of the castaways suffered the same brisk treatment. They were kicked to their feet, clouted callously, then hustled into line.
And now it was clear that, after hours of hot and weary waiting, their final ordeal was about to commence.
Within the gulch frenzied activity had taken the place of idleness and boredom. The horn blared again, the chief’s litter was carefully set down, and the tattoed guards, linking arms, began to sway and shuffle in a slow, weird dance that sent clouds of stinging dust into the still air.
As if by magic, two great bonfires sprang into life with a hiss and crackle of dry faggots, while other savages hastened back from the river, tottering under the weight of huge cauldrons filled with water.
With such desperate earnestness were all these dread preparations made that Midge felt a sudden wild desire to yell with hysterical laughter. Just in time he glanced at his companions, and was steadied at once by the glint in his leader’s hard, grey eyes.
Justice’s voice scarcely had power to penetrate the cries and the harsh, guttural chant of the dancers. The muscles of his jaw stood out in white ridges under the suntanned skin.
“I’m afraid we’re on the lee shore, lads!” he muttered. “The only thing I can say now is: Go all out for a quick finish when the dirty work starts! And good luck!”
“Good luck, captain!”
There was nothing more to say. It looked like the end of adventuring, comradeship, everything! By an effort that taxed their flagging energies to the utmost, Justice & Co. stiffened, squaring their shoulders, shoving their chins out. Then the chief of the cannibals came waddling towards them.
Slowly the ogreish figure approached, while his guards stood silent behind the litter, and the rest of the band, all except the fire-tenders, formed up in a wide semicircle.
The only sounds were the rustle of flames and the heavy breathing of the stout colossus who glared at his captives with deep-set piggy eyes, hot with hatred and ferocity.
Unwieldy, a mountain of black flabbiness, the chief moved sluggishly down the line, his shiny features distorted into a pitiless mask until his gaze rested on the truculent face of Captain Justice. Then, uttering a malevolent chuckle, he raised a ham-like fist and snatched at the captain’s beard.
Captain Justice booted him!
Thankful at least that only his wrists had been tied, the celebrated Gentleman Adventurer swayed back, then planted one lusty drive squarely into the curve of the cannibal’s corpulent stomach. There was a soggy thud as his toecap landed—followed by a strangled howl and a heavier thump. The next, his black majesty lay squirming and wheezing on the ground.
Midge gave a riotous whoop, and the blacks went crazy!
“Good shot, skipper! Goal!” roared the defiant Midge. But his shout was drowned, blotted out by the fiendish screams of infuriated savages.
For the first moment or two, Justice's audacity staggered the onlookers. The blacks grunted, screwed up their eyes, then exploded into action. Bursting from the ranks, the guards swarmed around their groaning lord, jabbering, frothing at the mouth as they strove to raise him. The others, warriors and hunters, sprang towards the captives like demented tigers.
And Justice laughed in their faces.
“It’s coming, boys—the quick finish we want!” he had time to shout before the avengers got their hands on him. “Good-bye, my lads—and come on!”
With that, Captain Justice staggered forward, fiery-eyed, to fight his last battle. His comrades followed.
But the desperate attempt to win speedy deliverance from torture failed. The black fanatics, mad though they were, still intended that their captives should suffer to the full. Although whistling spear-shafts thrashed the castaways, and iron fists battered them as they kicked and struggled valiantly, their lives were spared—for the present.
Len and Professor Flaznagel were knocked down, Midge was trampled upon, and only O’Mally’s ponderous strength and Justice’s fierce agility stemmed the tide. Somehow the lion-hearted pair managed to keep their feet, but that was all. They were hemmed in ruthlessly, jammed between solid masses of men.
And Justice was being dragged straight for the fires when the burly Irishman, glaring over the heads of his assailants, suddenly saw a sight that spurred him to one more effort.
Throwing back his head, O’Mally put all his heart and soul into a bull-like bellow that, for a moment, rose above the din.
“Justice! We’re saved!” he roared. “Look, man, ’tis the giants—the big fellows! By th’ Harp of
Then a broad black hand came smack across his mouth. And the rest of his incoherent splutterings were lost as the savages whirled with yells of rage and terror.
The Retreat to the River!
THE Golden Giants, as Midge had christened them, were coming! Through the open end of the gulch they rushed, shoulder to shoulder—superb, golden-brown athletes, each man brandishing a short, three-pronged spear in one hand, and what looked like a small fishing-net in the other. A few wore leopard-skins slung from their herculean shoulders, but the rest ran nude save for crimson loincloths, from which hung broad-bladed dirks.
Steam arose in clouds from their shining wet bodies, the reeds near the stream threshed and parted as more and more warriors heaved themselves out of the water up on to the bank. It was a surprise raid, wily, clean-cut, and efficient. It succeeded!
Already the unwary cannibal sentries had been speared and swept aside by the vanguard of the Giants, who had swum noiselessly downstream close to the bank. Now, with a clear road, the main body charged in, silently, swiftly, plunging their tribal enemies into confusion and panic.
But the blacks rallied furiously.
In a flash Justice & Co. were forgotten. They were thrown down, rolled in the dust, and trodden on as their captors raced to meet the foe. There sounded a caterwauling yell; a heavy, deep-chested war-cry from the Giants.
Then the rival tribes were at it, and bedlam broke loose as black and tawny fighters met face to face in the centre of the gulch.
The scene that followed, the indescribable din and unleashed fury of the battle, left the castaways dazed and deafened.
Men grappled with each other and fell to earth, locked in mortal combat. Throwing-spears flickered and hissed, leaf-bladed spears clashed against stabbing tridents, screeches, thunderous shouts, and the cries of the wounded all blended into a nerve-shattering uproar. And then the “fishing-nets” came into play!
To Justice & Co. the deadliness of these limp, apparently-fragile weapons came as the greatest shock of all. For they were both shields and snares. Cannibal spears were deftly caught and torn from the wielders’ hands, black warriors panted and strove in vain to free themselves from the entangling meshes.
Bunched together in a solid, disciplined mass, the Giants split the opposing band in twain, smashing their way through by sheer weight and strength.
“Begob, they've got ’em now!” O’Mally roared, sitting up and cheering like a maniac. “Go it, me darlin’ boys, tread on ’em, me beautiful buekos! Och, if only my hands were free! If only I had a blackthorn now!”
But the Giants required no help from the fire-eating doctor or anyone else. Coolly, methodically, they drove the blacks before them, and though the latter rallied again, fighting with the blind courage of despair, nothing could withstand the skill, the crushing onslaught of those tall, smooth-limbed warriors.
The cannibals broke up into leaderless parties, and the wave of Giants rolled over them—and the hopes of the castaways were soaring high when suddenly Midge let out a shrill yell of alarm.
“Captain! Behind yon—look out!”
Justice, rolling over hastily, drew in a sharp, hissing breath as he beheld the chief of the cannibals crawling painfully towards him.
The tables were turned again now, with a vengeance!
The chief’s face, flabbier than ever, was mottled with fear; the hand that grasped a heavy spear trembled as with ague. Yet a brutish determination glittered in his sunken eyes as he dragged himself along to settle with the daring man who had laid him low.
Furiously he raised the weapon, and Justice rolled again as it darted down, missing by a hairsbreadth.
Another lightning thrust—closer this time! The blade grazed Justice’s leg, and a sudden glancing blow from the savage’s fist made his head swim. With a growl, the chief struggled to his knees, swinging his arm upwards and backwards for the final drive.
But that terrific stroke was never delivered.
Instead, something whizzed through the air, and Justice gasped as he doubled himself up. A second later, the castaways were caught in the whirl of a raging melee.
There sounded the flying patter of bare feet, as lithe, tawny figures raced up out of nowhere to surround and protect them. A cloud of grey cords swirled open, enveloping the chief’s head, arms, and shoulders, dragging him backwards. He went down, fighting and roaring like a wild boar, only to be buried in a twinkling beneath a pile of vengeful foes.
Again the tridents clashed, the throwing-pets whirred as a remnant of the bodyguard attempted to rescue their lord and were hurled back. Then the retreat to the river began!
Captain Justice’s impressions of the hectic events that followed became blurred. He never did remember exactly what happened after that.
But suddenly, sinewy arms whisked him up as though he was a child, the slash of a dirk freed his wrists, and he was dumped into the black chief’s litter. It rose giddily into the air, then swayed again as a harsh order rang out.
Captain Justice, clinging to the side, found himself being rushed helter-skelter down the gulch, with grim-visaged guards loping along warily on either side.
Feebly he knuckled his eyes and blinked. But there was little to see, for dense swirling clouds of dust cast a merciful screen over the last stand of the beaten blacks.
Once the litter-bearers swerved sharply, and the escort dived back into the murk with a roar and clatter of spears. Then suddenly the narrow Y-shaped mouth of the gulch loomed up dimly, and a grateful coolness from the river fanned the adventurer’s overheated limbs. Faintly, too, he heard a familiar boyish voice raised in a piping cheer.
And that, for Captain Justice, was the finish of the retreat from the fatal ravine!
His comrades were safe—Midge’s joyful yell told him that. Overwhelmed by relief, weakened by hunger and thirst, the Gentleman Adventurer rolled limply out of the litter when it was set down, and, for a space, his senses left him.
When Justice recovered consciousness, twenty minutes later, he was lying at the bottom of a long, slender canoe.
The speedy craft was gliding along smoothly upstream, propelled by muscular paddlers whose golden-brown shoulders gleamed in the green shadows of overarching trees. All sound of battle had died away.
Instinctively the captain tried to sit up, but a hand pressed him down again, and water sluiced suddenly over his head and face. The shock of the water revived him. He turned slightly on his side—and gazed up into the battered, rubicund, dust-grimed countenance of Dr. O’Mally.
Beyond the Irishman, their heads pillowed on native mats, huddled Ben Connor and the old professor. Len was sleeping the sleep of the exhausted, but Flaznagel stirred uneasily. And between them sat the freckled and fiery-haired Midge—and Midge was eating!
On one knee the weary youth balanced a bowl of mealie-porridge, on the other a bunch of bananas, one of which he was chewing happily, washing down the bites with some cool, milky liquid. As Justice struggled up the lad grinned at him, and O’Mally chuckled breathlessly.
“Well, and here we all are, Jitstice, praise be to St. Patrick—and our good friend yonder!” Then, seeing the perplexity gathering on Justice’s brow, the Irishman chuckled again and pointed.
“Arrah, now, don’t ye recognise the lovely fellah who netted that black spalpeen of a chief and carried ye off?” he cried. “Talk about one good turn deserves another, why, he must have brought most of his fellow fighting men to track us down and save us!
"Look, man, there he sits—the broth of a boy we rescued and patched up yesterday! ’Tis to him we owe our lives, and no one else!”
Justice stared, following the direction of O’Mally’s outstretched finger. Then the corners of his eyes crinkled in a smile of recognition.
In the stern of the long canoe, proud and dignified as before, sat the stalwart, handsome native whom the castaways had saved from the blacks. A splendid leopard skin hung from a clasp on his right shoulder, but the left was swathed in bandages made of coarse tapa cloth.
Catching Justice’s eye, the young Hercules made a little gesture, as though bidding his white friend lie still, then raised the head of his trident in salute. Captain Justice, feeling distinctly like a tired swimmer who feels firm ground beneath his feet at last, returned the greeting and fell back. The canoe sped on.
“We appear to have been rescued from those black scoundrels,” muttered the professor, peering up at the paddlers, “yet it seems to me, Justice, that we are still prisoners! I trust these men have not saved us from the blacks simply for their own ends. And I wonder where we are going now?”
Midge sniffed reprovingly.
“What do you care so long as you’re not going into a cannibal’s casserole?” grinned the boy. “These chaps are the goods, and old Gold Flake up behind is a pal of mine already—he gave me this food! Anyway, Whiskers, you’ve got your chance now to study a new tribe at close quarters, the blinkin’ blacks got it in the neck, and I—”
Midge patted the bunch of bananas affectionately, and peeled one for Captain Justice.
“And I’ve got some grub!” he went on, startling the gigantic canoemen with a rousing cheer. “So row, brothers, row, and let the blinkin’ world roll on! ’Cos old Kuponos hasn’t got his giddy revenge yet!”
Rescued from the cooking-pots for—what? That’s Next Friday’s amazing story—a Thriller that you are going to award Top Marks! ! !
Wednesday, 22 October 2014
By Lacey Amy
From The Wide World magazine, Vol. XL, November 1917. Digitized by Doug Frizzle, October 2014.
When men set out to drive a railway through virgin territory they find themselves confronted with all sorts of difficulties and dangers, and almost every mile of the steel pays a toll of human life. In these absorbing articles Mr. Amy describes the construction of the Grand Trunk Pacific, the second great transcontinental line to pierce the Canadian Rockies. The road had to be carried across practically unknown country, through hundreds of miles of mountains that had never been named, never even been seen save by a few daring explorers and Indian hunters. The Author gives us a vivid idea of the human side of this great achievement, and the countless perils that swelled the casualty lists before the work was finally accomplished.
FROM Fitzhugh we slowly and laboriously climbed the
Pass along the .
Ours was the first train of passenger cars to cross the summit of the Miette River Rockies on the new transcontinental railway, the Grand
Trunk Pacific, then under construction. In front were three cars of “bohunks,”
and at the rear three private cars, one belonging to the Government, one to the
superintendent of the division, the third—an overlong affair for such an
untried railway—contained a canoe, supplies for a month, and the fishing and
hunting outfit of my own little party of three.
That night, after the engineers and officials had departed on the motor-boat down the Fraser to inspect an engineering difficulty that was the reason for their presence, I crept back two miles from the construction camp to the engineers' camp pitched close to the end-of-steel village for that section of line—Mile 51, as it was termed officially; Sand Creek, as it was called by the citizens and “bohunks.”
Soon after darkness fell, in company with an engineer, I clambered down the gravel bank to the village in search of new experiences. I was not disappointed!
The night life of the place was only just commencing. “Bohunks” were wandering in by scores from the end of the street nearest the construction camp, and the “merchants” were busy hanging out their lamps and extending the word of greeting that would entice their prey within. As we approached a brightly-lighted “restaurant,” a small crowd was leisurely gathering before the door. Just as we reached its edge two madly-fighting men came plunging and staggering out, biting, tearing, and kicking, in wilderness fighting the vanquished stands a good chance of never being able to fight again.
There was no interference from the crowd, and no undue excitement, although it was composed of the mates of one of the combatants, a “bohunk,” while the other—the owner of the restaurant—was one of the human vultures who preyed on them all. For a couple of minutes the pair struggled on the steps of the store, panting, cursing, trying by every means, fair and foul, to disable one another. Suddenly the restaurant proprietor heaved his opponent aside, reached swiftly inside the door, and drew out a piece of wood resembling a rough chair-leg. The “bohunk” saw his peril too late. With a crash that seemed to be the expression of every ounce of strength in the wielder’s arms, the heavy club descended on the “bohunk’s” head, and he sank to the ground without a murmur. The victor merely shook his disturbed clothing into place, and stepped calmly back into his store, while the unconscious “bohunk’s” friends carried him silently and dispassionately across the street to a foul-looking shack with a sign reading, “Free Bunk House.”
My engineer friend took me by the arm with a short, nervous laugh and led me away.
“You’ll have to get used to it,” he warned me, “if you’re going to make the acquaintance of the end-of-steel village. I’ve seen uglier things than that many a time. To interfere would be your death, and not a man of the crowd but would say it served you right.”
Next morning I wandered down into the village with my camera. Never was there a quieter, more respectable hamlet. Scarcely a sign of life showed in the streets, and most of the windows were covered with heavy cloths to exclude the light. Sand Creek, by day, was asleep—getting ready for the night’s operations. The “bohunks” were somewhere miles away, yawning over their picks and shovels, but looking forward to the coming night’s revelry.
A cowboy cantered up the almost trackless street—a strange sight in the mountains, hundreds of miles from the nearest ranch. He pulled up beside me, and I learned that he was one of the cattle contractor’s men, occupied with the care of a herd of five hundred cattle, which he and his mates had driven in over four hundred miles of prairie trail and mountain “tote road” to feed the railway workers.
That night I determined to obtain a closer acquaintance with the village life. At its farther end stood one of the usual restaurants, a mere blind for what went on inside. Mingling in the darkness with a group of “bohunks,” I entered a side door and found myself in a large room filled with men seated at card-tables. As inconspicuously as possible, I slid into a chair near the door and looked about me. For a minute I seemed to be unnoticed. There were a dozen tables in the room, and the air was already thick with smoke, the abrupt words of men who must play together though ignorant of one another’s language, harsh laughter, and the clinking of bottles. The tables were home-made, the cards inconceivably filthy, and before most of the men stood bottles or tin cups.
A silence had fallen on the table nearest me, but it was the entrance of the proprietor with a tray of bottles that seemed to direct general attention to me. I recalled immediately that whisky was forbidden in the Pass, and no one had yet given me a passport to the confidence of these men. Low murmurs began to cut off the loud talk and laughter, and, looking about as carelessly as I could, I noted that every eye was on me. The proprietor was standing with the loaded tray, staring at me malignantly. Abruptly he turned and passed back to the unseen regions whence he had come. Instantly voices were raised in a dozen languages. Not a man was playing. I began to feel the barometer falling ominously, and mentally calculated the distance to the door.
From a distant table a burly “bohunk” rose impetuously and ploughed angrily towards me, upsetting a couple of chairs on the way. Somehow, even in the menace of the moment, his movements seemed theatrical, exaggerated. Then I saw that he was a Pole whose wounded leg I had the day before bound up. With violent gesticulation and thunderous talk—not a word of which I understood, of course—he towered over me. The others in the room were adding to the hubbub. In the midst of it the Pole managed to mutter anxiously, “You go! you go!” Dropping his hand heavily on my shoulder, he pushed me with seeming roughness to the door, and a moment later I was out in the dark, only the lights farther up the street reminding me that I was in uncongenial surroundings.
The next day I discovered a different atmosphere greeting me throughout the village. Someone—I suspect the engineer, subtly assisted by the Pole—had spread the word that I was safe, and the first merchant I met revealed that my mission in the
was known and understood. After
that I came and went almost as I wished, every door open to me, everyone eager
to put himself out of the way to furnish me with information. Yellowhead Pass
The end-of-steel village is, I suppose, known nowhere else in the world except
America, and nowhere else in America except where
a railway is cutting its way through untracked wilds. The real end-of-steel
village in all its glory cropped up only along the grade of the Grand Trunk
Pacific. Its predecessor, the Canadian Pacific Railway, was constructed at a
different period in Canadian history, and in the time of the Canadian Northern,
which closely followed the Grand Trunk Pacific, the law had had sufficient
experience to cope with the evil.
As its name intimates, the end-of-steel village is built at, or near, the “end of steel,” the phase of railway construction where the rails end for the time being until the grade ahead is prepared for a further extension. The grade which precedes the laying of steel advances much more slowly, of course, than the rails themselves. A stretch of twenty to twenty-five miles of grade may occupy thousands of men six months—I refer to the work through the Rocky Mountains—while the steel, when the time comes, will overtake it by modern methods in a fortnight.
The rails are laid by a mechanical tracklayer known as the “pioneer.” This consists of a train that lays its own rails as is advances, sometimes at the rate of three miles a day.
The “pioneer” is a crude-looking but really wonderful mechanical invention. The car which does the major part of the work is at the front of a train on which is carried every piece of material necessary, from the sleepers to the “shims” that temporarily level the rails and the spikes that fasten them in place.
With a sufficient stretch of completed grade ahead of it to justify its operations, the “pioneer” takes up its work, and when it has overtaken the labouring gang ahead it lies up for five or six months until another stretch of grade calls it again into action. Where the “pioneer” rests there springs up the end-of-steel village.
Somewhere within a few miles is the construction camp that houses the thousands of “bohunks” working on the grade—the source of patronage for the village. Canadian law dictates that the head contractors shall have complete jurisdiction in wild lands over everything within a mile radius of their camps, and the end-of-steel village, therefore, establishes itself somewhere as close to the limits of that area as conditions of water and other surroundings permit.
Ostensibly made up of stores or legitimate amusements only, the sales of merchandise are trifling to the amount of money expended in the village. Three or four general stores may make a very good living from the sale of boots and clothing, cheap confectionery, and tobacco, always at extortionate prices; but the score of other places of business are almost always ‘‘restaurants.” I put the word in quotation marks because the sale of food is but an advertisement for the front eighth of the space within. Behind a rough, oil-clothed counter is a limited array of leathery pies and a few cups for recklessly brewed tea, but the real business is done farther back.
Sand Creek, for instance, boasted of three general stores, half-a-dozen announcing the sale of tobaccos, candies, and “soft” drinks, and twelve “restaurants.” There was also a bath house—“Larson’s Bath House, Price 50c.,” and later reduced to twenty-five—but bathing does not figure extensively in the life of the “bohunk,” and the bath house finally closed through lack of patronage. Larson must have been an optimist.
The small area of the shacks devoted to the restaurant business was always backed by a pool or card room, sometimes by both. In Sand Creek there were eight “pool halls,” the total number of tables in the village being something like forty. Six of the restaurants were merely entrances to pool halls, three to card rooms, the other three were careful to offer no opportunities for examination.
There was one common offering of every building in an end-of-steel village. Anyone known to the proprietor, or obviously a “bohunk,” could poison himself with the vilest alcoholic beverage human ingenuity ever concocted. It was prepared not so much for deception—the “bohunk” was too experienced to be deceived— but to provide in the least amount of liquid all the sensations of a glorious “spree.” After results were immaterial. The “bohunk ” entered the shop, threw down a handful of money on the counter, and proceeded to incapacitate himself and ruin his constitution. After a very few glasses, before the stock in hand was seriously depleted, he was beyond the worries of this life.
At this stage began the usefulness of the only other structures in the village—the “Free Bunk Houses." These were Samaritan efforts on the part of the contractors to sustain the “bohunk” for further work on the grade. There were two in Sand Creek—mere piles of logs roofed with earth, and fitted inside with straw-covered bunks. Into these, when the “bohunk" became incapable of imbibing or paying for more liquor, he was carried by his less helpless mates. Usually he was in condition to imitate a labourer in the morning, for his interior had been calloused by a life of such risks. The contractors acknowledged their inability to deal with the situation in any other way, and the “bohunk” saw no reason for a change. There was nothing else in all the wide world of his experience but to spend his money on that which gave him momentary sensations that seemed pleasant, and nobody was to blame if these sensations were certain to make a physical wreck of him in a few years.
The appearance of an end-of-steel village is illuminating as to its character. Simplicity is the keynote—simplicity meaning neglect of every convenience that it is possible to do without. Trees grew everywhere in the
and the construction of a shack merely meant the felling of a few spruce trees
and their preparation with an axe. When a village was abandoned the most
important parts for the next village, the canvas roofs, were lifted off, rolled
up, and carried to the new site. In the Yellowhead Pass Rockies
there were three end-of-steel villages of the lawless type—one at Mile 5, five
miles beyond the summit, the next at Mile 29, and the one I knew in its prime,
at Mile 51. Each deserted one stood as it was left, save for the canvas roofs.
Of course there were end-of-steel villages before the summit was reached, but the mounted police of the
saw to it that the law was decently observed. At the summit, the boundary of British Columbia, the
jurisdiction of the mounted police ended, and thereafter the end-of-steel
village flourished and grew fat.
The one at Mile 29 is reputed to have been the worst of the lot. When I was in the Pass it was still operating, but the business had passed along to Sand Creek, and Mile 29 was dying a slow death. What reason there was for its continued existence was not apparent its only open trade was with a near-by engineers’ camp, and with the wandering “bohunk” on his way in or out. Its real trade was underground, and it died hard. I visited it first on a Sunday afternoon. A number of young fellows lounged before a store, and a few were tossing a baseball about the street. A quarter of a mile from its outskirts a lonely police hut edged the path, an indolent policeman yawning in the doorway as a memory of days when life was swifter and more exciting.
There was, however, another village that sprang from a combination of conditions. It was not, strictly speaking, an end-of-steel village, for it did not owe its origin to the “pioneer.” But it included every other characteristic to its worst form, and was sufficiently near to the main construction camp at Mile 53 to provide counter-attractions to Sand Creek. Indeed, on Saturday nights Sand Creek almost closed up to move over to Tête Jaune Cache to join in the fun.
Tête Jaune Cache—pronounced locally “T. John”—was an offspring of the old Indian village of that name which had been located in the
between the Rockies and the Selkirks, long
before the coming of the white man. The collection of tepees invited the
advances of the early white man looking for a location whence he could prey on
the “bohunk," and there arose a new village bordering the Indian one. It
was practically a one-night-a-week place. Its “mayoress”—self-appointed, of
course—was a stalwart negress. The village was more than a mile from grade, but
its location on the tote road brought it custom long before the steel arrived,
and the promised coming of the next transcontinental, the Canadian Northern,
close by its doors, gave it reason for continuing in active operation even when
the best trade from the Grand Trunk Pacific had passed.
The weekly event that drew every “bohunk" almost every human being within ten miles who could secure the means of getting there—was the Saturday night dance. For this every conveyance in the camps was called into service, and those who could not ride started early on foot. The fare by wagon from Sand Creek, only two miles away, was two dollars, a sum willingly paid by many times the number who could be accommodated. The female portion of the gathering consisted of the dance-hall girls and the few other women of the surrounding camps and villages. There was no class distinction there; now and then even the engineers went. The affair lasted from eight at night until weariness came with daylight, something like six o’clock the next morning.
The mistress of ceremonies was the negress, and her income for the night must have run into hundreds of dollars from the dancing alone. In addition she ran an open bar and other things that give such a village its reputation. Usually she was capable of handling the uproar and riot without more than the consequences to be expected, but sometimes her art failed.
I heard from a variety of sources the story of a fight that must have been a record even in the
One day I was attracted by a huge
figure of a man swinging down the railway towards me, six feet four, square-shouldered
and heavy-jawed, handsome and clear-eyed. He wore no coat, and his khaki
trousers were thrust into high prospector’s boots. In every movement was
tremendous strength and agility. We met on the bridge spanning the Yellowhead Pass. , then under construction, and I
learned to know much of him in the days that followed. This man, a bridge
foreman, was the hero of the story. McLellan River
One Saturday night he secured a seat in the Sand Creek rigs and joined the crowd at the Tête Jaune Cache dance. I suppose his handsome face and easy manner won him any partner he wished; at any rate, the “bohunks,” egged on by the negress, began to feel the pangs of jealousy. He was the man to revel in it, recklessly, laughingly, and revenge came swiftly. Someone sneaked up behind him and banged him over the head with a weapon too thick for his skull, and he went down unconscious. In that condition they kicked him out.
The following Saturday he was on hand again, this time with a powerful engineer friend as companion. The row commenced early. Then, back to back, the only two “white men” in the room faced the mob of murderous “bohunks.” Their salvation, counted on beforehand, was that the very density of the crowd prevented the use of guns, and they were prepared for anything else. One after another they laid out the attacking “bohunks” with their fists, both being experienced boxers and possessed of enough muscle and weight to make one blow sufficient for each opponent. Against the one or two knives that appeared they used their feet, but some sense of fair play held back weapons of that kind.
Seeing her business interfered with, the negress with a scream of rage hurled herself against the bridge foreman. It seemed that he was waiting for that. He caught her round the waist, threw his muscles into the heave, and slammed her up against the board partition at the side of the room. With a crash the whole wall fell, and in a minute the room was empty save for the two victors and the groaning negress. The two men trudged home satisfied. The “bohunk” requires his lesson periodically.
Spite of the hideous nature of the life they led, the citizens of the end-of-steel village retained for it a peculiar affection and loyalty, as well as a frank pride in the notoriety they assisted in winning for it. That it shifted its location every six months did not lessen the feeling. The proprietor of the largest store in Sand Creek grew sentimental when recalling past glories and the imminent completion of the railway. For two years he had been reaping the inordinate profits of his trade among the “bohunks,” and his little family had grown and increased since he had come up from a western American town. The big sign that fronted his store—painted away back in civilization for a store of more pretentious proportions—was a matter of personal pride to him. Neglecting no opportunity for augmenting his earnings, he had attached in conspicuous places about the doorway additional evidences of varied aptitude and offerings, the laborious products of his own uneducated hand: “Cider,” “Shooting Gallary,” “Resturant,” “Shoes Repared Here." With kindly pride he begged me to call upon him for anything I wanted. The limit of his fraternity came when his little boy brought to the engineers’ camp for me a specially baked blueberry pie, with the scrawled dedication,
“Four the nu man. John S—.” But these things happened in the light of day, when the end-of-steel village was just like any other hamlet of such modest pretensions.
There will never be another end-of-steel village in
Canada worthy of the name. The
smuggling of liquor is now more difficult in a country that has “gone dry”
almost from coast to coast, and Governments have learned that something more
than law enforcement by trust or proxy is necessary where thousands of the most
undisciplined races of the world are shut off from the subduing influence of
civilization and thrown on their own resources. And soon the most lurid
chapters in Canadian development will be but a memory to those well-intentioned
officials who were forced to accept conditions as they found them, as well as
to those few of us from the “outside” who unofficially looked on in the
feverish days that started and ended with one of the greatest works of railway
construction in history.
Friday, 17 October 2014
By El Comancho
Illustrations by H. T. Denison
From The American Boy magazine, October 1916. Digitized by Doug Frizzle, October 2014.
WHEN I was “growing up,” I lived west of the
The country was very new then and white boys were few and far between, so most
of my playmates were Indian boys. Many times I have entered into their sports
and games and been one of them as nearly as it is possible for white to turn
These games were of two sorts, the outdoor, athletic game, which was mostly based on animals and their ways; and the indoor game, which usually was some guessing game based on combinations of numbers, something like dice throwing or dominoes.
The outdoor games were the favorites and by far the more popular and as these can be played by white boys as well. I will describe several of them, telling in detail how we played them.
The Deer and Wolves
“THE DEER AND WOLVES” was a great favorite and we played it always in the winter when there was snow on the ground. For the “deer” we picked the fastest runner we could get among all the boys and gave him an hour’s start ahead of the “wolves.”
The "deer” then left camp and went where he pleased, usually in a big circle at least a mile away from camp. He was to imitate the traveling habits of the deer, to do as nearly like a deer as he could if the deer were roaming about.
He would therefore go to the roughest bit of near-by country he could find and there wind about from one deer feeding ground to another, going through thickets, possibly crossing or following streams, passing over hills and valleys, and wandering about just as would a deer as nearly as he could.
Of course, wherever he went he left a trail in the snow and it was fair and part of the game for him to do anything to break or hide this trail that he could, for the “wolves” must follow the trail to catch him.
The “deer” could double back on his trail, jump down off of a bank to rocks or bare ground, wade in a stream or do any like thing to lose his trail and thus throw the “wolves” off the scent and escape. But he must not come nearer to camp than a mile away until he was seen by the “wolves” who trailed him.
The “wolves” left camp about an hour later than the “deer” and they had to follow the “deer trail” until they saw the “deer,” then they chased him into camp or caught him before he reached camp if they could. When the “wolves” sighted him, the “deer” would run for camp as hard as he could go, to keep away from them.
If, on the way to camp, the “deer” could get out of sight, say in timber or under a high bank, etc., then he could dodge and double about and thus escape any way he could by throwing the “wolves” off the trail again. The "wolves” could run “by sight” only when they could see the “deer” and at all other times they must follow the trail.
This gave a fine chance for a clever boy to double and dodge and to use woodcraft knowledge to so confuse his trail that the “wolf pack” could not find it and would have to give up beaten sometimes. If any of the “wolf pack” could touch the “deer” before he could reach camp, they thereby killed the “deer” and so won the game, and if the “deer” could get to camp ahead of the “wolves” after they caught sight of him a mile or more from camp, then the “deer” won. It was a good hunting game and was always played with lots of vim and excitement, for it very closely duplicated an actual deer hunt and every Indian boy is a keen hunter.
and Wolves Buffalo
“THE BUFFALO AND WOLVES” game was another popular one that we played in camp and it called for about the same rough and tumble tactics that modern football does, only in a different way. This game was, like the other, based on animal habits. When wolves attack buffalo, the buffalo bunch thickly together, the calves and weaker animals being in the center of the herd, with the older, stronger buffalo forming a circle around them. The outer ring of buffalo all stand pressed back against the herd behind them, thus presenting a solid front of heads, horns and hoofs to the wolf pack and it is a wise wolf or a very strong or exceptionally quick one that can dodge through that circle and drag down a call' in the middle of the herd without being trampled or gored.
Our “Wolf and
Buffalo” game enacted
these animal habits in this way: All of the smaller boys who wanted to play
were bunched together in the center to represent the calves, then the older,
stronger ones who took the part of the buffalo formed a circle facing out
around the smaller boys.
Those taking the part of wolves circled around outside the “herd,” trying to get a chance to break through and grab a "calf” and pull him outside the circle.
The players representing the circle of buffalo prevented this by “bunting” at the “wolves,” either with their heads or shoulders. They could not, under the rules of the game, use their hands to take hold of a “wolf” but must defend by “bunting” just as the real buffalo did. They could also trample the wolves, using their feet to block the rush of a "wolf” or to trip him and tumble him over, but handholds were barred for the “buffalo,” although a wolf could use his hands for any purpose a real wolf would use his teeth for.
Sometimes we had pretty exciting times at one of these games, especially when some good smart boy led the "wolf pack” and planned his attacks so that he used the weight of numbers to rush the “buffalo” on one side of the circle while a few of the “wolf band” slipped around on the other side and by quick work broke through the circle and got a “calf” before the “herd” could rally and prevent them.
The Wolves and Badger Game
IN “The Wolves and Badger” game, one boy took the part of the badger and all the rest were “wolves.” The “badger” would back into an angle of a steep bank along the river, or he would back down feet first into an old coyote hole until only his head and shoulders were outside. The idea was to imitate the real badger, which always backs into his hole until only his head is outside, and there he stays to fight it out with any intruder.
In our game the “badger” followed the same tactics by taking a position where no one could get behind him. It was then up to the “wolves” to “pull him out of his hole,” which was a big job if the “badger” was a quick, strong boy in such a position that he could brace his knees against something to hold himself from being pulled out.
I know one boy who managed to hold his position in an old coyote hole for over three hours while at least twenty of us worked as hard as we could to get him out.
In “The Wolves and Porcupine” game, one boy sits down, clasps his arms tightly about his knees, puts his head down and “doubles up in a knot” just as tight as he can to represent the disturbed porcupine. The “wolves” then roll him about and pull at his arms and legs in an effort to break his hold and so “straighten him out.” If you think it is an easy task to do this, just let some strong athletic boy play the porcupine and a dozen or so of the rest of you try to get him straightened out and then keep him that way, for the "porcupine” can break your hold and “double up” again if he gets the chance.
To win, the “wolves” must put the “porcupine” flat on his back, with legs and arms extended flat, then hold him there long enough to show that he is beaten. If the “porcupine” can twist loose and double up again before he is "flattened out.” the wolves have their work all to do over again! It is a rough and tumble kind of a game that teaches speed and exercises every muscle in every player.
“THE WHEEL AND ARROW” game was played two ways, sometimes as a summer game, but oftener on hard snow for a winter game. If one or two persons play, it is a running game, and if “sides” play, it becomes a standing game. To play it, a hoop of wood is used. This hoop can be any size, though the smaller it is the more difficult the game. I have seen one of not more than six inches in diameter used; but a foot is about the usual measure.
The hoop is rolled along the ground and the player tries to throw an arrow (or small arrow-like stick) through the rolling-hoop without touching the hoop. If only one is playing, he must roll the hoop and then run up alongside and throw his arrow. If several players play at once, they form in two lines facing each other and about forty feet apart. The hoop is then rolled down between the lines, each player throwing his arrow as it passes him.
The arrows are thrown like a spear and a very quick player can throw as high as four arrows as the hoop passes him. If the arrow goes through clean, without touching, the player scores; if the arrow touches the hoop anywhere, the play counts a foul and takes off one from the player’s score. The score can be any number, though it is usually set at ten.
"The Snow-Snakes” game is a trial of strength and skill. It is played in the winter on smooth crusted snow, usually on a level place or on a very slight down grade. The “snow-snakes” are simply peeled willow or other straight growing shoots or saplings, bluntly pointed at the large end. They may be any size or length to suit the player and each player usually has a dozen of so of them.
The players stand in line and throw these sticks just as they would throw spears, except that the sticks should strike the snow as flat as it is possible to make them do so. They should never strike in such a manner as to bury the head or big end, because this stops them; or they may penetrate the snow, or slide along under it and become lost.
The whole idea of “The Snow-Snakes” game is to throw the stick so it will slide, heavy end first, along the top of the snow just as far as possible. The "snow-snake” that is the greatest distance from the throwing line when all players have thrown all their “snake” sticks is the winning throw.
FOR indoor games we threw bone or beaver tooth dice and counted on the combinations of marks or spots that were upward, just as white people throw dice. We also played “The Sing-Gamble” game without the gambling that went with it when the grown-ups played it. This was a simple guessing game wherein the player held a short stick in each hand and changed them from hand to hand swiftly in time with a chant. One stick had all the bark peeled off and the other was peeled except for a thin ring of bark in the center.
The game was to guess where the ringed stick was, a correct guess winning for the guesser and an incorrect guess losing a point. This game was played either as a ten point or as a one hundred point game. Sometimes only two players played at it, sometimes “sides” were engaged and it became exciting.
Of course, we had numerous ball games of one kind or another, but none of them at all like baseball. Ball games were usually of the pitch and catch order or based on throwing distance.
I do not remember of ever having seen a “bat” used in connection with Indian ball play anywhere, in the sense of our baseball usage.
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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.