The King of the Monkey Men
by A. Hyatt Verrill
Author of "Through the Crater's Rim," etc.
From Amazing Stories Quarterly, Spring 1928. Digital Capture by Doug Frizzle 2007.
Illustrated by Paul
MR. A. HYATT VERRILL has written a particularly interesting story in this issue. Having just returned from an exploring trip in South America, where he has discovered a new race of people and having been on many other similar journeys, his story becomes especially interesting, because much of what he writes is based upon fact.
From an anthropological viewpoint, there is little fault to be found with this story, for we are not at all certain that there are no such creatures living somewhere on our globe.
This is one of the most absorbing stories we have read in a long time, and the editor warmly recommends it to you.
"What things?" asked Blake. "What's the yarn that arouses your ire?"
"I can't agree with you, Walker," he remarked, as he dropped into a chair. "And no one has a right to say what is possible and what impossible," he added. "Moreover, even more remarkable coincidences than those in your story do happen. I've seen a lot of things which you would declare impossible if they were written as fiction. There was the case of Meredith, for example. Not one of you would credit the story if you read it in a magazine."
"We can judge better when we've heard it," said Thurston. "Go ahead; lot's have the yarn."
"I heard the story on my trip up from South America,"
"Gee!” ejaculated Peters, the wireless operator who stood beside me. “Did you ever see a female woman walk like that? Where the dickens do you suppose she dropped from, and what’s she doing in this God-forsaken hole with that old Robinson Crusoe?”
"I shook my head. 'I've seen women walk like that before,' I said. 'But they were all Indians. That girl’s no Indian and she doesn't look like any race of European I've ever met, either.'
" 'I'll soon find out who they are,' declared Peters, as he hurried off to find the purser.
"Presently he returned, a disappointed expression on his face, 'He doesn't know any more than we do,’ Peters announced, 'Says they've booked as 'Henry Meredith and Miss Meredith.' Thinks they're father and daughter and some sort of Creoles, although registered as Americans.’
"We saw nothing more of the two new passengers until dinner time, when they appeared at the captain's table. Without her hat, Miss Meredith was even more charming, and I saw Peters gazing at her with undisguised admiration.
"Meredith himself seemed a quiet, rather tacturn man, but a wonderful knowledge on a great variety of subjects, and he conversed in perfect English with captain and myself in just as perfect Spanish with the native passengers and waiters.
"I really don't know what language I had expected Miss Meredith to speak, but her first words were in English, uttered slowly and a bit painstakingly, as the language had been recently acquired, and yet no trace of any foreign accent.
"When addressed by one of the Spanish Americans, she appeared puzzled, smiled, and, turning to Meredith, in some odd, low-toned language utterly new to me. Instantly he replied in the same tongue, and then, to the others, translated her reply into Spanish, explaining that Miss Meredith did not understand that language.
“This unusual procedure increased my curiosity, and, as Meredith continued to act as interpreter for his lovely companion throughout the meal, I found myself marveling and speculating as to her origin and how it was that she seemed to prefer the odd lingo to English.
"After dinner the two sat together on the after-deck, apparently preferring to be alone; but the next morning they drew their chairs into the circle of passengers and joined in the general conversation. As soon as Meredith found that I had spent a great deal of time in
" 'It's not European,' laughed Meredith. 'It's Tucumari —an Indian dialect. Perhaps you never heard of it.'
" ‘No, I never did,' I admitted. 'But then,' I added, 'I know very few of the Indian dialects. But if it's not too personal a question, may I ask how Miss Meredith happens to be so familiar with an Indian tongue? I suppose her nurse—'
" 'No,' he interrupted, ‘I do not think any Tucumari has ever visited the most remote outposts of civilization. To all intents and purposes they are an unknown tribe. It's a long story. By the way, did you ever hear of the Waupona Bird or the Monkey-Men?'
" 'I never heard of the bird,' I told him, 'at least not by that name. But I've heard stories of the Monkey-Men— purely imaginary and fantastic tales of the Indians, of course.'
"Meredith smiled. 'It's a dangerous thing to condemn anything as purely fantastic, unless we are sure, he remarked as he rose. 'Excuse me a moment,' he added. 'I'd like to show you a specimen I have in my room.'
"A moment later he returned with a long, slender package wrapped in bark-cloth. Unrolling this he disclosed a magnificent feather head-dress composed of the most remarkable and beautiful feathers I have ever seen. Attached to a band of dyed or stained bark-cloth were fully one hundred feathers varying in length from waving plumes over three feet long to short, curved, delicate feathers a few inches in length, and each and every one a brilliant, gleaming royal-purple color that changed to mauve, violet and magenta shades as they swayed gently in the breeze. In size, texture and form the feathers were like those from the sacred Quetzal bird of Central America, but a thousand times more beautiful than the emerald green plumes of that famed trogan.
"I fairly gaped with astonishment and admiration at the sight. 'Where in the world did you run across that?' I cried, 'And from what marvelous bird were those feathers obtained?'
" 'The feathers,’ replied Meredith, 'are from the Waupona Bird, and the head-dress is the crown of the King of the Monkey-Men. I may add that I took it from the king's head with my own hands, so there's nothing either imaginary or fantastic about it. It’s a long story, as I said, but if you'd like to hear it, very well.'
"As he spoke, Meredith reached over and placed the feather crown on the girl's head and said something in Tucumari. Crowned with the marvelous purple diadem, she seemed transformed into some Incan or Aztec princess, and as Meredith related the story of their adventures, I listened spell-bound, for the tale was more wonderful than any fiction.
" 'Do you remember the wreck of the river steamer
" 'Among the passengers,' continued Meredith, ‘was my motherless two year-old daughter Ruth, in charge of a trusted nurse. The shocking news reached me at Caura, and I at once led a searching party to the scene of the disaster. But not a survivor could be found, not even a body could be recovered. The perai fish and alligators destroyed all evidences of the victims' fate. In an effort to forget my awful loss, I resumed my former profession of field naturalist, and for the next fifteen years I spent my life in the bush. Often, of course, I penetrated to unknown and unexplored districts, and on my last trip I found myself in a remote region upon one of the forest rivers fully three hundred miles from the coast and from all traces of civilization. My only companions were my two boatmen; Pépe, a pure blooded Indian, and José, a mestizo. Everything had gone smoothly and without any unusual incident, and as the river narrowed and the current quickened, we realized that we were approaching the highlands and the limits of navigable water. Suddenly Pépe, in the bow, stopped paddling and held up his hand for silence. Then, as we floated motionless, we caught the faint sounds of human voices from beyond a wooded point.
" 'Slowly and cautiously we moved forward to the screen of branches and peered through the foliage. Beyond the point, the stream swept in a half-circle along a narrow beach under a bank crowned with huge trees. Upon the beach were a number of dug-outs, and upon the bank were a dozen or more thatched huts. Here and there the naked forms of Indians were visible, and beside the nearest canoe were two men, one braiding a bark rope; the other daubing pitch on the craft. It was their voices we had heard, but the dialect was strange to me. Presently Pépe turned. "It is well, Señor," he whispered. "They speak the Metaki and are my people."
" ‘As he finished, he shouted words in his own tongue, and we paddled into view. As we emerged from our hiding place, each of the Indians on the beach grasped his blowgun and stood ready to use his poisoned darts if necessity arose. But a few words from Pépe reassured them; the weapons were laid aside, and as our canoe touched the shore, the two savages grasped the gunwales and rushed it up the beach.
" 'Instantly all was commotion in the village, and as we stepped ashore, we were surrounded by a crowd of chattering, wondering Indians of both sexes and all ages, for it was the first time they had ever seen civilized men. To their innumerable comments and questions, Pépe replied in his own language. Presently José, too, was talking, using a distinct dialect, which the Metakis seemed to understand.
" 'Now and then I could catch a word, but most was unintelligible to me, and, addressing Pépe and José, I asked them if none of the Indians could speak dialect I knew. At my words, scowls and black looks spread over the faces of some of the men, and I realized that they had understood my words and were suspicions when they heard Spanish. But presently, as Pépe spoke with them, their faces cleared. ' "Si, Señor,"’ he said, turning to me. ' "Several speak Atami and some understand Spanish. They say all Spaniards are bad and are to be killed. I tell them you are from another land and of a race who fought with the Spaniards and that you are a friend and have presents."'
" 'The distribution of a few gifts cemented the friendship of the Metakis; a new palm hut was built for me, and we soon felt quite at home. I had already decided to remain at the village for some time, as it was an excellent spot for collecting, and Melanga, the cacique, who spoke Atami, was a friendly old chap and appeared much interested in my work.
" 'I had lived among the Metakis for some time and had secured many fine things, when I made a notable discovery. I was visiting Melanga and noticed a number of feather crowns and girdles hanging on the rear wall of his hut. Stepping nearer to examine them—for quite frequently rare or new birds may be found among the Indians' ornaments, I saw, among the ordinary toucan, parrot and macaw feathers, a bunch of plumes of wonderful purple. They were unlike anything I had ever seen, and I knew instantly that they were from some undescribed species of bird. Turning to the cacique, I asked from what bird they were taken.
" ‘ "They are from Waupona,"' he replied, ‘ "the king of birds and are to be worn only by chiefs in time of war or at great ceremonies."’
"'The Waupona?' I asked. ‘I have never heard the name. Tell me, where lives this king of birds? Why have your hunters never taken one for me?'
" ‘ "Listen and I will tell you,"' replied Melanga. " 'Many days travel to the south is a great valley. Within this valley are trees not like other trees, for their leaves are red. And through this valley runs a river that sings. This valley is the home of the Waupona, the king of birds. But also within this valley dwell savage men, men who climb like monkeys in the trees and who kill all who enter their valley. These monkey-men worship the Waupona as their god, and the Waupona warns them of the approach of strangers. Many of the Metakis have gone forth to brave the dangers of the valley and to secure the feathers of the Waupona, but few have ever returned.
"' "We Metakis do not hold sacred the Waupona as do the monkey-men, but rather prize him as a token of great bravery and prowess, for he who comes back from that valley with the Waupona plumes may become a chief of his tribe. For many years now, none have sought the prize. I alone of the Metakis have the feathers of the king of birds, and those I took while still a young man."'
" 'Undoubtedly, I thought, the old cacique was romancing. There was no question that the feathers were real, that they were highly prized, and like as not the bird was confined to some restricted area in a district inhabited by a hostile tribe. But Melanga's yarn of red trees, monkey-men, and a singing river was, I mentally decided, merely the Indian's love for adding imaginary frills to a story and perhaps mixed with a little superstition. At any rate, I had already decided to go after the Waupona, and I told Melanga of my intention.'
" 'The old fellow looked really sad. He declared I would lose my life and he assured me that no Indians would accompany me. At last, however, he admitted that a white man might succeed, for he had a wholesome and almost superstitious regard for my gun, and he also admitted that one of his men knew the way to the Waupona's valley, having once travelled that far with the idea of securing the coveted plumes, although his courage had failed him at the last. Both he and Melanga agreed that the trip was long and arduous, mainly through the forest, until a large river was reached, which was to be followed for three days. I suggested that a raft might be built and the trip shortened and made easier by floating down this stream and the Metakis agreed that this might easily be done, with a party of six, although the idea had never occurred to them before.
" 'It did not take long to make all preparations for the trip. But the following morning all was in readiness, and at daybreak we set out, our scanty luggage on our shoulders, led by Tinana, our guide, and two other Metakis. For four days we tramped steadily through the forest, throughout that time gradually ascended towards the interior highlands. On the morning of the fifth day we entered a thicker jungle, and in the afternoon heard the sound of running water. Presently we came out upon the banks of a good sized river. It was a swift flowing stream without rapids as far as could be seen, and excellent for our purpose. There was abundant material for a raft at hand, and as soon as camp was made we began preparations.
" 'The next two days were occupied in building a raft, in doing which we used the light, cork-like balsa trees, bound together with lianas and floored with bamboo. And on the third day we embarked. The craft floated high and buoyantly and sped down-stream with gratifying speed. For six days we floated along swiftly and easily, and on the seventh day Tinana assured me that in two days more we could go ashore and in four days we could reach the valley of the Waupona birds. Fortunately we met no bad rapids, and at the allotted time we ran the raft ashore and resumed our tramp through the forest. The first day the way led across rocky ridges and through deep cañons filled with a mass of tangled vines, sawgrass, thorn-trees and cactus, where we had to cut a trail as we proceeded. The next day was even worse; the ascent became constantly sharper, the jungles more impenetrable, while we frequently waded streams of ice cold mountain water. By nightfall, we had reached an altitude so great that we shivered with cold despite a roaring fire in the small cavern where we camped. But the worst of the trip was over, and Tinana told me that only two more days remained between us and the valley. Early the next morning we crossed the highest ridge of the mountains, with several snow-capped peaks in sight, and rapidly descended the farther slope. The jungle soon replaced the scanty vegetation of the higher altitudes; the air became warmer, and by night we were again in open forest and a tropical climate.
" 'Soon after noon the next day, Tinana showed signs of uneasiness and stopped now and then to peer ahead and about, searching the earth with his keen eyes, and listening intently to every sound. He was evidently nervous. The Metakis kept their blowguns in readiness for instant use, and I felt a tingle of excitement, for I realized we were in hostile country and nearing the haunts of the Waupona and Melanga's mythical monkey-men. But it was mid-afternoon when Tinana crouched low, and with a gesture for silence, beckoned to me. Crawling to his side, where he squatted behind a dense cluster of vines, I peered out through the foliage in the direction he indicated.
" 'At our feet the earth ended in a sheer precipice, and at its foot, fully a thousand feet below, and stretching for miles into the distance, was a great sunlit valley that gleamed like a sea of blood. A vast expanse of vivid scarlet broken by the silver thread of a ribbon through its centre, and by little patches of green; a marvelous sight. We had reached our goal. Melanga had not exaggerated the wonder of this valley. Now that we had reached the haunt of the Waupona, I was almost prepared to believe in the monkey-men.' "
“ ‘FOR a long time I gazed fascinated at the great red valley, and could scarcely credit my own senses. It seemed so incredible. It seemed like some weird dream, or such a scene as one might expect to see on Mars. At last Tinana touched my arm and suggested that we delay no longer, but attempt to descend to the valley right away. This task appeared impossible. The spot where we stood was the verge of a precipice, obviously impassable. Crawling back a few yards, Tinana led us by a circuitous route until we came to the edge of a large lake surrounded by forest. The upper end of the lake was lost among the trees, but near us, the lower end washed against a rocky ledge. There seemed no outlet to the lake, but dim and faint in the distance, I heard the roar of falling water.
" 'Through a thick tangle, Tinana led the way to a rough steep gorge, and as we slipped and picked our way along the declevity, I now and then caught brief glimpses of the red valley through the intervening foliage. Constantly, too, the roar of the waterfall became louder, and presently, as we rounded a turn in the trail, I saw the cataract. Before us, and towering for hundreds of feet above the valley, rose a sheer rock wall, and half way up its face, a great white column of water rushed outward through a tunnel-like opening in the solid cliff.
" 'Straight into the air it spouted for nearly a hundred feet, to spread and fall in a great fan-shaped dazzling mass to the valley far below. It was an awe-inspiring sight—this great scimitar of water bathed in a veil of mist, and forced with irresistible power through a fissure in the precipice. But I could not see that we were any nearer a solution of the problem of reaching the valley, except that we were now within a few hundred feet of the red trees instead of the thousand feet that had separated us when we had first viewed the weird spot. But we had not yet reached the end of our descent. Directly under that roaring, terrific mass of outflung water, Tinana led on, until at last, he halted on a broad terrace or ledge covered with jungle and barely one hundred feet above the valley with its scarlet-leaved trees. Here, screened from possible observation from below, Tinana explained that it would be necessary to make a ladder of vines in order to descend. No doubt a single tough liana dropped over the cliff would have served him and his fellows, but the Indians knew that it was beyond the powers of any white man to slide down or clamber up a trailing vine for a hundred feet, and all started at work to fashion a rude though serviceable rope ladder of the strong lianas that everywhere draped the trees.
" 'It was slow work, and as the Indians busied themselves, I crept to the cliff edge and studied the valley. I could see no signs of human beings; no huts, no smoke that bespoke inhabitants. No animals appeared upon the open swales of green among the trees, and I felt convinced that Melanga had drawn upon his imagination when he had spoken of the 'monkey-men.' It seemed impossible that any human begins had once occupied the place and had moved away or died off since he made his last journey to the Waupona country. But Tinana did not share my views. He and the other Metakis were nervous, frightened, and insisted that some terrible hostile beings inhabited the valley. No fire was permitted that night, and despite all efforts, I began to feel nervous and on a tension myself, starting at every sound, sleeping badly, and having nightmarish dreams. But the bright morning sun dispelled my unwonted fears, and after a careful scrutiny of the valley, Tinana and his fellows cautiously dropped the frail ladder over the verge of the cliff. Then, half fearfully, Tinana commenced to descend. He reached the valley in safety, looked up, and signalled for us to follow. Backing over the edge of the precipice I, too, went down the ladder. Despite the fact that Tinana had secured the lower end, the thing swayed horribly, and I marvelled that he could ever have reached the bottom with the thing hanging loose. But a hundred feet is not far, and within a few minutes we all stood together at the base of the cliff, gazing about us at the strange and bizarre trees with their immense banner-like leaves of red. They were huge, gnarled and twisted, with innumerable pendent roots like those of mangroves or banyans, and their broad-spreading crowns were so interlaced and tangled that they formed an impenetrable roof above our heads. From above, the place had seemed almost impossible, a weirdly strange and unnatural spot; but now that I stood beneath the trees, I realized that, after all, there was nothing so very strange or remarkable about it. The trees, I saw, were some species of giant croton, very similar in form and color of leaves to the ornamental crotons grown in gardens, and hence in no way more remarkable or unnatural than those red-leaved plants.
" 'Suddenly, from seemingly near at hand, came an odd musical sound, a note that rose and fell like the strumming of a guitar, and apparently issuing from the stream that flowed near. The Indians started, drew together, lifted their weapons, and cast frightened glances about. But there was no sign of human beings within sight. It was the 'singing river’ of Melanga, and as I realized this, I laughed. Strange I had not thought of it sooner. It was a perfectly natural and not uncommon phenomenon, a sound produced by loose pebbles and stones tinkling against one another as they were moved by the current, and magnified by the water. I tried to explain this to the Indians, but I could see that they were convinced the music was of supernatural origin. My mestizo, José, was the most nervous of all.
" 'Suddenly my words were interrupted by a harsh, metallic cry from the tree tops, and instantly everyone wheeled and stared in the direction whence the sound came. Among the branches there was a flash of dazzling purple, and upon a dead limb, in plain view, alighted the most gorgeously beautiful bird I had ever seen. Instantly I knew it for a trogan, but a trogan three times as large and a thousand times more vivid and wonderful in color than even the famed Resplendent Trogan or Quetzal. From its head a great curved crest fell forward over its beak and down its neck while, from above its tail, long, graceful fern-like plumes extended for several feet. From head to tail the creature was intense purple, gleaming with hues of gold and violet as the light played upon its plumage, while from shoulder to shoulder across the breast was a broad white band edged with crimson. It was the Waupona, truly the king of birds. All these details I took in at a glance. Cautiously I cocked my gun, but before I could raise the weapon to my shoulder, Tanina had placed his blowgun to his lips; with a puff of breath the tiny dart sped on its way and with fluttering wings the magnificent bird came tumbling to the earth.
" 'Eagerly I dashed forward and picked up the wonderful creature which I knew no other white man had ever seen. As I examined the priceless specimen, mentally gloating over my good fortune, the discordant scream of another Waupona issued from the tree tops, and as I wheeled about, I caught a glimpse of a second purple bird flashing away on whirring wings.
" 'Almost at the same instant there was a movement among the scarlet leaves, and some large dark body showed through the foliage. Almost involuntarily I raised my gun and blazed away. At the report, the branches bent and thrashed about, and a huge, black, ape-like creature came hurtling, crashing to the ground. Instantly pandemonium broke loose above our heads, and screams, cries and yells resounded from the tree-tops, while the branches swayed and trembled as unseen, invisible beings leaped and rushed among them. Swift across my mind came remembrance of Melanga's words—his tale of ‘monkey-men who lived in the trees.’ He had been right after all. Whatever the things— whether human beings or apes, we were surrounded by them. And yet I was not terror-stricken. We were armed, superior beings, and that any ape-like creatures would dare attack us, after seeing and hearing the effects of my gun, never entered my head. Then, as we hesitated, not knowing which way to turn, a dart whizzed by my face and struck quivering in the arm of the Metaki beside me. I gasped. The things were human. They used blowguns. Now I was terrified. With a quick motion and a sharp cry of anger and despair, the Indian plucked the tiny arrow from his flesh and raised his blowgun to his lips. Glancing upward, I saw a black, demoniacal face glaring at us from between the branches. It was but a momentary glimpse, but the brief instant of its appearance was enough for the Metaki. His messenger of death sped unerringly and found its mark, and as the sinister, horrible face drew back among the branches, I saw the little shaft of palm stem imbedded in a black cheek, while a fierce cry of terror issued from the swollen lips. As the blow-gun dropped from the hands of the stricken Metaki, a huge black form tumbled from the branches, hung for a moment by one limb, and then plunged to earth just as the Indian, with a last convulsive gasp, slumped like an empty bag to the ground before me.
" 'Terror now gripped all of us, and spurred us to mad flight. We dashed from the red forest. We were close to its verge. Not a hundred yards separated us from an open green vale, with the river just beyond. I ran as I had never run before, heading blindly towards the cliff and the rope ladder, intent only on escaping from those terrible savages in the tree tops. Once I heard a faint cry, and, glancing back, I saw Tinana rolling over and over at the forest’s edge. Another Metaki lay stretched lifeless within a few feet of him, while ahead of me, racing towards the cliff, were Pépe and José. They had been the first to take flight, and already they were close to the ladder and safety. The next moment they reached it, and madly, insane with fear, the two struggled and fought for first place. Then, fairly leaping, they started up, while the frail affair swung and rocked to their frantic efforts. In vain I shouted. They paid no attention to me. I had almost reached the cliff and the two were now half way up its face. I was spent, winded, but safety was at hand. Suddenly, from above, came a cry of mortal terror; there was a rending, snapping sound, and horrified, I stopped in my tracks and gazed fascinated. The combined weight, the mad struggles of the two men had been too much. The lianas had parted, and clinging desperately to the remaining strands the two hung, screaming, mid-way up the cliff, with certain death staring them in the face. Their agonized cries were terrible, but their awful suspense lasted but a moment. With a last tearing sound the lianas gave way, and the two men plunged to their death upon the jagged rocks below. I was alone; alone in this awful valley that swarmed with half-human, monstrous foes; alone with all hope of escape cut off. But I would die fighting, if die I must. In the open, across the river, I might yet find escape, might be able to stand off the creatures who, I noticed, had not left the shelter of the forest to pursue us.
" 'It was my only hope, and turning, I dashed across the smooth green glade, spurred on by the unearthly cries of rage from the red forest in my rear. A moment later and the river was before me, and, without a second's hesitation, I plunged headlong into the stream.
" 'Scarcely had the water closed upon me when I realized my efforts had been in vain. I had expected to find a shoal stream through which I could wallow or swim to the opposite shore. Instead, I sank into a deep, swirling, eddying current that swept me irresistibly along, sucking me under the surface and spinning me about like a bit of chaff. I dropped my gun, which up to then I had retained, and wildly struck out in an effort to reach the surface and fill my bursting lungs with air. At last my face broke through the water into the air and I gasped a half-breath before the whirlpools again drew me under. I felt that all was over, that I was doomed to death in the river; but even that was preferable to the poisoned darts of the savages. Then, just as I was losing consciousness, I felt my feet touch bottom. I kicked and thrashed convulsively, and struggling from the stream, dropped senseless upon a sand bar.
" 'How long I lay there dead to the world I will never know. Slowly I became aware of the sounds of voices apparently far away. Strange, gutteral discordant they sounded, and instantly memory returned; filled with stark terror, I sat up. As I did so, a cry of horror burst from my lips. Crouching within a few feet of me, his repulsive, ugly, black face peering into mine, was one of the monstrous ape-like beings. With all my exhausted strength, I struck madly at the face. A loud shout followed the resounding whack with which my hand struck the savage features, and for the first time I was aware that I was completely surrounded by fully two dozen of the strangest beings any man has ever seen.
" 'There was no doubt that they were human. But they were the most repulsively hideous men that the wildest fancy could conceive. Black as coal, with bowed legs and enormous ape-like feet, stooping shoulders and long gorilla arms, they appeared like a troop of Calibans. Their faces were broad, flat and brutal, with high cheek bones, enormously developed jaws, small turned-up noses, and little restless, roving eyes like those of an elephant. Their chins were covered with thick matted beards, and a mop of tangled hair overhung their foreheads and extended down their necks and shoulders in a sort of mane. Despite their hideousness, there was a certain expression of intelligence in their faces and eyes, and their high foreheads bespoke a large brain capacity very different from what one would expect in such low primitive types of man. Every one, too, was a giant, with great corded, rippling muscles under his black skin. Mostly they were nude, but a few wore strips of bark about their loins, and one or two had spindles of wood or bone through their ears and noses. And nearly every one grasped a short blowgun scarcely three feet in length. And I sat there trembling with fear and exhaustion on the gravel bar awaiting the death that I felt sure would be meted out to me.
" ‘And yet, somehow, there appeared to be nothing antagonistic or hostile in their attitudes or expressions. The fellow I had struck had drawn out of reach, but showed no resentment; instead, all were regarding me with intense curiosity and were conversing in low, gutteral tones among themselves.
" ‘Then it dawned upon me that I was undoubtedly as strange and amazing a being to them as they were to me. They had never seen a white man, had never seen clothing, and altogether I was a very different sort of being from the Indians whom they had killed.
" 'Slowly, with a great effort, I struggled to my feet I was weak and reeled. Instantly two of the terrible creatures sprang forward and not ungently supported me and half-carried me across the bar to the shore. I recoiled at their touch, but was far too weak to resist. Then, as I sank upon the soft turf, the things gathered about, clucking, gesticulating, jabbering, and now and again very gingerly reaching out and with half fearful fingers, touching my garments, peeking up my sleeves, rubbing their hands across my boots and obviously filled with wonder. Presently a newcomer arrived carrying my hat, and the gutteral words rose high in excitement. Evidently the fellows knew the hat belonged to me, for they held it towards me, and when I placed it on my head they leaped away as if I had performed some awe-inspiring feat of magic.
" 'I began to feel somewhat reassured. Perhaps, after all, I would not be killed out of hand—I was too valuable a curiosity to be wasted, and even if I were kept a prisoner, there was a chance that I might eventually escape. But I had little time to speculate on my ultimate fate. One of the creatures, who seemed to be in charge of the party, approached me, and by gestures and signs indicated that I was to follow him. I had now regained a good bit of my strength, and surrounded by the beings, I followed the leader towards the forest. As we reached the first trees, one of the creatures sprang into the branches with the agility of a monkey, running up the hanging roots and swinging from limb to limb with his blowgun grasped in his teeth, to run off through the tree tops like a gigantic ape. One after another followed him, while several squatted among the branches and peered down at the others and myself as if expecting me to climb up. Indeed, their leader urged me on, and presently, losing his temper, jabbered at me in anything but friendly tones. Even at my best I could not have ascended the trees, but my captors had very different ideas on the subject. Forgetting their fears, they pushed me against the tree trunk and even tried to boost me up. Feeling that I should humor them, I tried my best to climb the smooth, slippery trunk, and my useless efforts brought chuckles of amusement from the savages. As I slipped back, the monkey-men examined my shoes, gabbled volubly, and called to their companions in the tree-tops. Although their lingo was unintelligible, their tones were so expressive that I felt sure they were explaining that my feet were minus toes and hence not adapted for climbing. But they had made up their minds that regardless of all obstacles or defects, their captive was going aloft.
" 'Before I fully realized what they were doing, one of the giants had seized me and lifted me above his head as easily as though I had been a child. The next second one of the fellows above reached down, grasped me by the waist, heaved me up like a sack of meal, and actually tossed me like a ball to another savage still higher up. Too astounded and frightened to cry out, and breathless from my rough handling, I merely gasped as I was tossed about like a handball. A moment later, one of the creatures sprang forward, seized me in his arms, and leaped off among the branches, carrying me with no apparent effort.
" 'Never had any other mortal such a ride. The being travelled with the speed and agility of a squirrel. He leaped from branch to branch, sometimes catching by his free hand and his feet, sometimes grasping a branch with one hand and swinging forward for a dozen feet or so to a neighboring tree; and again running upright along some projecting limb and leaping off through space or through foliage, but invariably landing as softly, as easily as a bird, never missing a foothold or colliding with a branch or twig. At first I was terrified, nauseated and I felt dizzy and in constant fear of being dropped or torn from my captor's grasp by some branch. But presently I began to enjoy the strange sensation. The gigantic being traveled as surely and easily as though he bore no burden, and I was not even scratched by the limbs or branches, as he raced along. Mile after mile I was carried in this strange way, shifted from one creature to another from time to time, until at last the monkey-men slackened their mad pace and broke the silence they had maintained up till then. Their cries were answered from ahead, and a moment later, the tree-tops vanished and I felt my carrier spring from an outflung branch. For what seemed an endless time, we sailed through space until, with a soft thud of his thick-soled feet, my captor landed on some solid material and released his grasp of my body.
" 'Dazed, I gazed about to find myself on a narrow shelf of rock with a precipice above and below. Before me, the red-leaved forest stretched into the distance, and a little above the ledge where I sat, a great tree spread its branches towards me. Even as I tried to collect my senses, several of the monkey-men ran out upon a branch of this tree, leaped into the air, and like gigantic flying-squirrels, sailed through the intervening space and landed lightly upon the rock beside me. It was more than marvelous; it was actually incredible that any human being could be so sure-footed, so agile as to accomplish this feat,
" 'Yet I had actually witnessed it. I knew that I myself had reached the shelf of rock by the same method, borne through twenty feet of air in the grasp of one of the creatures. Glancing down at the perpendicular wall with the jagged debris fully one hundred feet below, I drew back shuddering at thought of what might have happened had my captor missed his footing, miscalculated his distance or released his grip of his human freight. Then I noticed that the number of beings on the ledge had greatly increased. There were not more than twenty who had come through the trees, yet now the ledge was fairly crowded with the strange creatures. All were chattering excitedly, and it was evident that those who had brought me were telling their friends of the trip. Presently there was a chorus of loud cries, and a monkey-man leaped from the tree to the ledge. He was, I saw, carrying the dead Waupona bird, and at sight of it every monkey-man bowed his forehead to the rock and uttered low, moaning sounds.
" ‘Then they arose and listened, while the newcomer apparently told of the bird's death, and, as I judged from his tones and gestures, related how I had brought down one of the creatures with my gun. The expressions of wonder and fear that filled their faces as they listened convinced me that, with my gun, I could always have cowed the beings and been safe. But my weapon was irretrievably lost at the bottom of the river. Even the few matches in my pockets were wet and useless for performing impressive miracles. I did not have a single article which could be used for the purpose. My sole possessions were my pipe and some tobacco, my notebook and pencil, a pocket knife and handkerchief, and a handful of now useless cartridges. Somewhere my watch had been lost—probably in my mad flight from the forest —and I never carried a compass, flint, steel and tinder, or the various other articles which story tellers are so fond of utilizing in their tales, when the hero desires to work seeming miracles to impress savages.
" ‘I had little time for such thoughts, however. The leader of the crowd was signalling me to follow him, and with no choice in the matter I trudged along the ledge. The path ascended rapidly, rounded an angle on the mountain side, and, turning abruptly, entered a narrow fissure in the face of the cliff.
" 'The sudden transition from bright sunshine to almost Stygian darkness blinded me temporarily, and I proceeded for fully one hundred feet through the tunnel-like passage before I was able to distinguish my surroundings. Then, ahead, I caught a glimmer of ruddy light, and a moment later, we emerged in an immense, lofty chamber; a huge cavern formed by nature, its vaulted roof hung with stalactites, among which was an aperture which admitted daylight and illuminated the cave with a faint radiance.
" 'In the centre of the rock floor a large fire burned brightly, casting a lurid glare upon the walls, which glistened with minute crystals that gleamed and scintillated like myriads of gems. Everywhere in the walls I could see the yawning, black entrances to smaller caves or passages while, squatted around the walls, seated by the fire and peering from the holes, were scores of the monkey-men with their women and children. All this I saw as we crossed the few yards of space between the passageway and the fire.
" 'Then my captors halted and threw themselves upon the floor and uttered wailing cries. Before us, seated upon a rude bench, formed by knocking a cluster of stalagmites to pieces, was an enormous monkey-man. His tangled beard fell to his bulging middle, his stiff hair stood out about his sinister face like a lion's mane, and on his head was a crown of the purple plumes of the Waupona bird. Instantly I recognized him as the King of the Monkey-men, and equally instantly I took a violent and deep-seated dislike for the savage, glowering, old potentate.
" 'He was by far the ugliest being I had ever seen. The most hideous of his subjects was a beauty by comparison, and his expression was indescribably cruel, bestial and crafty. Yet, despite his ugliness and repulsiveness, his matted filthy hair and beard, and his black fat body, there was something regal In his appearance, as with a frown on his forehead and his reddened eyes gleaming, he surveyed me with a haughty contemptuous stare.
" 'And I could not help admiring his self-control. Although I felt sure that he was consumed with curiosity at my appearance, yet he gave no sign of wonder or surprise, he merely stared at me with his wicked eyes. Though his gaze was most disconcerting and malignant, I managed to stare back without flinching. This evidently was not at all pleasing to His Majesty and I could see that his ill temper was rising. Doubtless he was accustomed to having all bow before him, and he had no liking for a being who looked him boldly in the eye and failed to kow-tow to his regal presence. He seemed about to speak, but the next second the fellow with the dead Waupona came cringingly to the throne and reverently placed the dead bird on the floor beside the king. Instantly the monarch flew into a towering rage. His mane and hair fairly bristled, his eyes blazed, and he roared out a tirade of words, pointing first at me and then at the bird and in his excitement rising from his throne and crouching like a jaguar ready to spring. Obviously he possessed a most violent temper and a nasty disposition, and I had a hunch that we would not get on at all well together. It was equally clear that the killing of the Waupona was an unpardonable offense and a terrible crime, and that the king held me accountable for it. But as the fellow who had brought the bird strove to explain, and with graphic gestures showed how the creature had been killed by a blowgun in an Indian's hands, the royal temper cooled a bit and the king listened intently. I had expected that I would be brought to trial for shooting the monkey-man whom we had first seen, but he had apparently been quite forgotten in the greater offense of destroying the sacred bird. As far as I could judge, no reference was made to him, but I soon found I was mistaken. The fellow was now telling the king of my part in the affairs of the day. His actions were unmistakable, and his imitation of the report of my gun, while it would have been ludicrous at another time, was realistic enough for me. Evidently, however, this was a bit too miraculous a yarn for the king to swallow. He had to be shown. Uttering a sharp command, he pointed to the dead bird and then at me. One of the men lifted the dead bird tenderly, and carrying it across the cave, placed it upon a jutting point of rock. Then, to my amazement, they indicated by signs and gestures that I was to repeat my miracle of the gun and bring down the dead Waupona from its resting place. I was helpless, absolutely at a loss. The monkey-men had quite overlooked the fact that the chief accessory, my gun, was missing; if indeed they had ever seen it. There I stood, racking my brains for some escape from my dilemma while, as proof of the earnestness of the king's intentions, two of the beings held blowguns to their lips and pointed at my body. If I failed to obey the king's orders, I was as good as dead. In all probability, I thought my life would be forfeited anyway. Then, suddenly, an inspiration came to me. My hands, nervously fumbling in my pockets, had come in contact with my cartridges. Holding one of these hidden in my left hand, I stepped nearer the fire, and dramatically raising my right arm, I pointed at the dead bird and gave a sharp cry, at the same instant tossing the shell into the flames. Instantly all faces were turned towards the Waupona bird. All eyes were rivetted on the creature or on my outstretched arm. There was a tense moment of suspense and then, with a deafening report, the coals and firebrands flew into the air, there was a puff of dense white smoke and the roar of the exploding shell reverberated through the cavern with the noise of thunder.
" 'Not a monkey-man ever saw what happened to the Waupona bird. A mighty cry of abject terror arose from the crowd of savages and, as the smoke cleared away, I looked about to find every occupant of the cave, even the king himself, prone on the floor, while a weird, moaning, chant-like wail arose from the awe-struck beings. I glanced towards the Waupona bird and could scarcely believe my eyes. It had completely vanished! Whether the jar of the explosion had knocked it from the rock and it had dropped into some fissure, or what had become of it, I never knew. But luck or fate had played into my hands.
" ‘The king was the first to recover, and cautiously raising his head he looked about. As he, too, saw that the bird had disappeared, he kow-towed again, wailing louder than any of his subjects. Then he again glanced fearfully about, and seeing me, standing unhurt and erect among his prostrate tribesmen, he fairly grovelled on the floor. My trick had more than fulfilled all my hopes, and it was fully ten minutes before the monkey-men and their ruler regained enough confidence to raise their heads. Then, since nothing more happened, the king rose tremblingly to his feet and seated himself a bit shakingly on his throne. One by one his subjects also rose. But the king's expression had completely altered. His savage glare had given place to a look of awe, and there was no hint of anger or enmity in his tones when he spoke again. For the time being, at least, I felt I was safe, and as I still had nearly a dozen cartridges in my pocket, I felt sure that as long as a fire was available, I could keep both king and subjects in mortal fear of my powers.
" ‘The fellow who had brought the Waupona was now bowing before me and signing for me to follow him. As I stepped forward, he rose, and passing the fire—at which he shied a bit—he led the way across the cave towards one of the openings in the opposite wall.
" 'For some distance we passed along a narrow tunnel, until my guide turned to one side and I found myself in a fairly large cavern with a rude couch of palm leaves on one side and a smouldering fire in the centre, the whole dimly lit by a crevice high in the wall. Evidently this was my quarters or my prison, and with a final obeisance, the monkey-man withdrew.
" 'I threw myself upon the pile of leaves, utterly tired and spent. Whatever might be in store for me could be met as it occurred. For the present, rest and sleep meant far more to me than the future. I mentally thanked God that I had the cartridges, and my last conscious thought was that I only wished they were sticks of dynamite.
“ ‘I had no means of knowing how long I slept, but as no glimmer of light showed on the walls I felt sure it was still night. I felt much refreshed, but terribly hungry and thirsty, and I wondered if my captors intended to let me die of thirst or starvation. Then as I glanced about, I saw by the light of the smouldering fire, a calabash of water on the floor. I drained this and again slept. I was aroused by someone moving about, and opened my eyes to see the giant fellow who had led me to my cave. He was fanning the fire into a blaze, and beside him was a plantain leaf on which were several strange fruits and a piece of meat. Evidently he was about to serve my breakfast, and all fears of being starved were cast aside.
" ‘When the fellow heard me move, he turned, grinned amiably and bobbed his head reassuringly. Despite his ugliness he seemed a rather good-natured brute, and the fact that he had brought food rather won my liking for him. But I was handicapped and prevented from making any friendly overtures because I could not understand a word he said nor could I make him understand a word of any dialect I knew. However, we managed to get along on sign language, and he soon served the half-cooked meat, meanwhile grimacing and kow-towing, twisting his broad black face into ludicrous grins, and reminding me of an overgrown puppy trying to make friends with a stranger. While I ate, he squatted before me, gazing fixedly up at me with an expression of such wonder and curiosity in his little eyes that I could not help laughing. He looked for all the world like some country lad watching the animals fed at a managerie. Apparently my laughter delighted him, and he was quite happy to think that such a remarkable being as myself should take any notice of him. The most important thing, it seemed to me, was to try to learn a smattering of his dialect. Pointing to a fruit I said, 'Fruit.' For a space he looked puzzled. Then he caught the idea, grinned delightedly and muttered ‘Poot.’ Then, reaching out his, paw, he touched the fruit with his finger and said 'Imtah.’
" 'There was nothing stupid about him, and once he had grasped the idea of learning my language and teaching me his, we got along famously. He leaped about, pointing to one object after another, pronouncing or rather trying to pronounce the English names as I uttered them, and very carefully enunciating the equivalents in his own lingo. Before I had finished my light meal, I had learned the names of fruit, rock, fire, water, meat, calabash, feet, hands and a number of other things. But I realized it would be far slower work acquiring a knowledge of verbs, adjectives and grammar. However, there was no time like the present and, rather doubtful as to whether his intellect would carry him far enough to understand what I desired, I rose and leaped up and down repeating the word 'jump.' Instantly the fellow imitated my actions and cried 'Ik, Ik.' He even went farther, and leaping clear across the floor, shouted ‘Ikarak' and after a short hop exclaimed ‘Taik.' I was more than pleased at the being's intelligence, and I knew that I could find my time fully occupied in learning the monkey-men's jargon. My next attempt was to learn his name. It was some time before I could make my meaning clear on this point, but at last, striking his breast, he said proudly ‘Mumba!’ repeating the word several times.
" 'All right, Mumba,' I laughed, and striking my own breast, repeated my name; 'Henry’. That was quite beyond the powers of his vocal cords, however, and a gutteral 'Geny' was the best he could do. At last Mumba gathered up the remains of breakfast and went hopping away down the passage, and I gave myself up to thinking over my predicament and my future. I felt sure that I was a prisoner. I knew it was out of the question to attempt any escape. To be sure, no one was on guard as far as I could see, and when I peered into the passageway, not a living being was in sight. To reach the open air, however, I would be forced to pass through the main cavern with its hordes of occupants, and even if I did succeed in stealing out unnoticed, how was I to gain the valley, let alone escape from it? For you will remember that I had been brought to the ledge of rock by air line in the grasp of a monkey-man.
“ 'But I was curious to know just how much of a captive I was; also I had no desire to remain cooped up in my cavern, if I was free to go elsewhere. Quite boldly, therefore, I left the room and wandered down the passage towards the main cave. Without hindrance, I gained the throne-room, as I might call it. A few women and children and one or two men were there and at my appearance the adults threw themselves on the floor, while the youngsters scuttled like frightened rats into their black holes. I was received more like a god than a prisoner, and no one made any attempt to interfere with my movements. Unfortunately I had not the least idea from which of the holes I had entered the cavern. But one was as good as another and I remembered I had faced the fire with the king's throne at my right when I had arrived. I chose the largest opening on that side and walked cautiously along the dark tunnel. Either luck was with me or else several entrances led to the open air, for presently I saw light ahead, and a moment later came out upon the rock shelf above the scarlet valley. No one was in sight on the ledge, and I began to wonder if I was a prisoner after all.
" 'As far as I could see, I was free to walk away— provided I could reach the earth below, yet I was as securely imprisoned as though I were behind bolts and bars. The pleasure of being in the air and sunshine again was sufficient for the time being, and seating myself upon a rock, I scrutinized the valley, trying to locate the spot where I had entered it and had first met the monkey-men.
" 'There was little difficulty in finding the place. About two miles away the silvery flash of the column of water could be seen, and from there I could follow the river's course to the spot where Tinana had killed the Waupona.
“ ‘Still following the course of the stream with my eyes, I was surprised to find that it apparently ended in a second towering cliff at the further end of the valley, while, on the side opposite to where I sat, a rock wall rose sheer for fully a thousand feet.
" ‘The valley was completely surrounded by insurmountable barriers and its inhabitants were effectually cut off from the rest of the world. No wonder, I thought, that they had remained so primitive, so distinct from all other races and had developed such unique characteristics. For all I knew, the beings might have been isolated here since their ancestors evolved from apes. But my speculations on such matters soon gave way to more practical things. I noted that the ledge descended towards the valley, becoming narrower and narrower and forming a mere trail or fissure in its course. As I studied it, I became certain that it would be possible to follow along it to the earth far beneath me. I determined to try it. It was a precarious pathway, and I picked my way cautiously and gingerly. Several times I found small gulleys or fissures which seemed to lead to the valley, but each turned out to be a blind lead or were too steep for human feet to descend. Still keeping to the main ledge I continued downwards, until at last I came to a spot where I could go no farther. Then, for the first time, I noticed something which had escaped me before. The tree from which the monkey-men had leaped to the ledge was several feet higher than the spot on which they had landed. They might leap from the tree to the ledge, but even the ape-like beings could not, I felt certain, leap up and across twenty feet of space. There must be another means of reaching the valley, and as I realized this, I heard voices from beneath me. Very cautiously I peered over the cliff. Almost directly beneath the spot where I stood, a monkey-woman was moving about, picking up fruits from beneath a low tree.
" 'As I watched her, she half turned towards the cliff and uttered a shout as if calling to someone. In answer there was a low cry, and the next instant a monkey-man issued from a fissure in the rock, scrambled down a few yards of broken stone and joined the woman. After him followed another and another, until half a dozen of the beings stood under the tree. As I watched them, they wrapped the fruits in leaves, secured the bundles with vines, and began clamboring up the rock-strewn slope to vanish at last in the fissure. My suspicions were confirmed; there was another exit, and I determined to find it. My plan was simple. No doubt, I thought, the fruits would be carried to the main cabin, and, provided I could reach there first, I could see by which passage the fruit-gatherers entered. Hurrying back up the ledge as rapidly as possible I reached the tunnel, dashed along this, and emerged in the main cave just in time. Two men were crossing the floor carrying leaf-wrapped burdens, and a moment later, a woman and several men appeared from a small opening in the wall. There was no doubt about the exit, but the cave was well filled with people and I hesitated about attempting to make my way out. Better leave it until tomorrow when there are few about, I decided. However, I was afraid that I might forget which hole led to the valley, and the idea of making a rough sketch of the cavern with the location of the various openings occurred to me. Seating myself on a fallen piece of stalactite, I drew out my note-book and pencil and began to draw a rough plan of the cave. At first the savages cast frightened sidelong glances at me, as if fearing I was about to produce some magic, but as nothing happened, they regained confidence, and drawn by the savage's insatiable curiosity, came closer and closer to me. Having completed my hurried sketch of the cavern, I commenced sketching the men and women, and had just completed a drawing of a woman roasting a piece of meat over the fire, when one of the men glanced over my shoulder and caught sight of what I was doing. Instantly he uttered a shrill cry, leaped back and poured out a perfect torrent of excited words. Everyone rushed to him, and jabbering and gesticulating, they crowded about me, craning their necks, peering at the page of my book. All were tremendously excited. I had worked another miracle.
" 'Tearing out the leaf with the drawing, I handed it to the nearest monkey-man. Never had artist a more appreciative or enthusiastic audience, and the cries of admiration and wonder mingled with roars of laughter as the paper was passed from hand to hand. The noise evidently attracted the attention of those in the nearby caves, for men and women appeared from every side and from each dark hole in the cavern walls. Then, in the midst of the hubbub, I glanced up to see the king himself approaching. So thoroughly engrossed were the people that they gave no heed to their monarch. They did not even bother to kow-tow before him. For an instant he glowered, as if about to pronounce dire punishment on all, and then, as one of the men handed him the sketch, his expression underwent a most remarkable change, and incredulity and amazement spread over his hideous face.
" 'For a time he studied it intently, and then, approaching me, he made it quite clear by signs that he wished me to make a picture of himself.
" 'Quite willingly, and smiling at the thought of attempting to reproduce his ugliness adequately, I commenced sketching, while an awed silence fell upon the assembled throng. No doubt it was a very inferior likeness and of no artistic merit, for I lay no claims to being a portrait artist. Still, if not flattering, it was unmistakably the king—long beard, bristling hair, feather crown and all. As I completed the rapid sketch, I tore the page from my note book and handed it to the monarch. The expression upon his face, when he saw the likeness, was so ludicrous that I shook with laughter despite my efforts to control my amusement.
" 'The king examined the sketch carefully, lifted his hand and touched his crown, felt his hair, stroked his beard and seemed mightily puzzled to find them all in their proper places. For a moment he thought that they had been transferred bodily to the paper. Then he turned the sheet over, looked on the blank side and, utterly unable to solve the mystery, his grim, awed features broke into a smile of self-satisfaction. He ran to his throne and placed the paper upright on the seat. Then, squatting before it, he gave himself up to admiring his own portrait. It was the first time he had ever seen himself as others saw him.
" 'That I had risen tremendously in the estimation of the monkey-men was evident, for my ability as an artist apparently, seemed fully as wonderful and supernatural to these beings, as the exploding cartridge had been, though it lacked its terrifying qualities. So, from being feared and regarded with a rather awed respect, I found I had been transformed to a popular idol. My popularity, however, had its drawbacks, for wherever I went the monkey-people crowded at my heels and followed me about like a throng of small boys in the wake of a famous baseball player. I was convinced, however, that I had no further cause to fear death or ill treatment, for as long as I could perform such miraculous feats and could please the crusty old king, or could impress him and his subjects by transferring their likenesses to paper, I was perfectly safe. I felt very much as Mark Twain's Yankee hero must have felt at King Arthur's Court, except that the king of the monkey-men was several thousand years behind King Arthur.
" 'I was amazed to find how exceedingly primitive these beings were, because the fact that they used blowguns had at first conveyed the idea that they were not much behind other South American tribes. But I had seen no signs of stone implements, no pottery, not a weapon of any sort—not even bows and arrows—and the people had not learned to trace even the crudest of pictures with a burnt stick. Here were men and women who were practically in the same condition as the ape-like ancestors of man who dwelt in the rude caves of
" 'As I thought of this and walked idly about, I entered a room where a man was skinning and cutting up a cavy by means of a jaggard sliver of stone, which served more after the fashion of a dull saw than a knife. For a time I watched, wondering what he would say if I showed him my pocket knife, and I was on the point of taking it from my pocket when I thought better of it. Unquestionably the fellow would be terribly impressed, but also unquestionably the king would be told of it and would demand the knife for his own use. I had no intention of losing the sole edged tool I possessed. But the sight of the savage laboring with his bit of stone gave me another idea. I desired to show the monkey-men how to make really decent stone implements. The only trouble was, of course, that I had never made any myself, but I had a vague idea of how they were formed. I had seen Indians make arrow heads by both the chipping and fire flaking methods, and I decided to try my hand at this primitive art.
" 'Moreover, my idea of showing the people bows and arrows had made me realize suddenly that I might need such weapons myself, if I ever got away from the valley, and a knowledge of making stone arrow heads would serve my own purposes as well.
" 'Also, the sight of the fellow dressing his game had reminded me that I was hungry, and, wondering a bit if I would be provided with food or would be expected to forage for myself, I retraced my way to the main cave and thence to my own cave. There was no food there, but in a few moments Mumba appeared with a meal of fruit, some roasted roots and a piece of scorched, half-raw meat.
" 'He was in high spirits and chatted and gesticulated excitedly, but it was some time before I grasped the fact that he was trying to tell me that he had heard of my drawing. Come to think of it, I had not seen him in the crowd, and I realized that the fellow felt a bit slighted at not having seen his master working miracles. Anxious to make him a firm friend and alley, I drew out my note book and sketched the big chap as he squatted before me. He fairly danced with delight when I handed him the paper with the drawing, and he fawned upon me like a grateful puppy. To him, of course, the sketch was wealth untold, and to receive such a gift from the superior being whom he served was an honor equal to that bestowed upon the king. He could scarcely wait for me to finish my meal before scampering off to exhibit his prize to his fellows, and if the mind of a monkey-man could hold such a thing as gratitude I felt sure that Mumba would now be my firm friend for life.
" 'Presently he came running back and by gestures made me understand that I was to follow him. Wondering what was up, I obeyed and, as I had surmised, I found I had been summoned by His Majesty, who was seated on his throne, surrounded by a crowd of men and women. It was soon clear that the king desired me to repeat my drawing exhibition, and for the next hour or more I was kept busy sketching monkey-people, birds, animals, insects, trees and anything and everything that came to my mind. Each time a sketch was finished, it was handed first to the king and then passed around. Their wonder increased as they studied each new and familiar thing depicted, until they were almost ready to worship me. But I soon realized that this sort of entertainment could not go on indefinitely. My supply of paper was getting perilously low and would soon be exhausted, and I knew that once I had used the last sheet and failed to produce the pictures, my status would be at an end and, in all probability I would be at an end also. So, closing my note book, I slipped it within my pocket and started to leave the cavern. This did not at all suit the king. He wanted to be entertained, and in peremptory tones, he made it quite clear that I was to continue drawing. I was in a serious position. If I obeyed, the monarch would realize that I felt I was in his power and would no doubt insist on frequent and prolonged drawing exhibitions. Moreover, if I showed fear of His Majesty, I would lose my prestige in the eyes of the people, perhaps with dire results. On the other hand, if I defied the king, his anger might be aroused and without stopping to consider the consequences, he or his people might fall upon me and destroy me at once.
" 'All this flashed through my mind in a moment as I hesitated. Then I decided upon a piece of bluff to establish my status-quo forever. Stepping towards the fire, I drew myself up, faced the king and slowly raising my arm pointed towards the spot where the Waupona had been placed. Instantly a wild howl of fear rose from the assembled throng; many threw themselves face down on the floor, and the king, leaping from his throne, cried out in alarm and by gestures and tones besought me not to produce a second explosion in the fire.
" 'I had won my point. The monkey-men had no desire for another demonstration of my terrifying magic, and without hindrance, I left the cavern and reached my own room. I was quite tired, and throwing myself upon my pile of palm leaves, I did not awaken until Mumba arrived with my evening meal. I slept well that night and, after a good breakfast and another lesson in the monkey-man tongue with Mumba, I started out, determined to explore the passage to the valley.
" 'Few people were in the main cavern and those greeted me in rather friendly fashion. I crossed the huge room without trouble and entered the dark tunnel, whence I had seen the people come with their loads of fruit from the valley.
" 'It was narrow and inky black, and in many places sloped steeply down, but there were no side passages to confuse me. At last I saw light ahead and in a moment more looked from the outlet of the passageway across the sunlit valley. Before me was a steep pile of broken debris that sloped for fifty feet or more to the brush below, and scrambling down this, I stood at the base of the lofty cliff and under the nearest of the scarlet trees. Elated at being out of the caves and in the open once more, and feeling sure I was not a prisoner under restraint, I stepped forward to explore the valley.
" 'But before I had gone a dozen yards there was a rustle in the foliage above me, and glancing up, I saw a black face peering at me. The next moment a huge monkey-man dropped to the ground before me, barring my way and signed that I was to go no farther. Anxious to see if he was determined to stop me, I turned and started in another direction, but instantly the savage again halted me. It was no use. I was a prisoner after all and would not be permitted to wander more than a dozen yards from the tunnel opening.
" 'Discouraged, I turned back, and I noticed that the brute appeared satisfied and once more leaped into the tree to resume his vigil. But even the restricted liberty allowed me was most welcome. Throwing myself upon the grass under the trees, I gave myself up to enjoyment of the fresh air and soft breeze, listening to the chirping of insects and the notes of birds, and striving to be as cheerful and contented as I could under the circumstances. I had only been in the valley two days, yet it seemed like weeks or months, and I realized that it behooved me to keep some sort of record of time.
" 'I could, of course, have written down each day in my note book, but the paper was far too valuable for sketching to permit me to do that and I busied my brain in an endeavor to think out some sort of calendar that would serve my purpose. At last I decided upon knotted strings. Each day I could tie a knot in a bit of fibre and at the end of seven days tie a knot twice the size of the others. Then, as long as I remembered that I had arrived on Wednesday the sixteenth, I could keep track of time without trouble. Having started my tally with a strip of flexible bark fibre by tying two knots in it, I decided to hunt for stone suitable for experimenting at arrowhead making.
" 'Searching among the fallen rocks soon convinced me that the material was not to be found there, as it was mainly soft limestone, or in some places a granitic rock. A little to one side, however, I found some pieces of a jasper-like material, which I judged would serve my purpose, and with these in my pocket, I started back for my quarters, anxious to keep mind and hands busy. Selecting a good sized piece of the rock, I placed it in the fire, turning it over and over with a stick until it was evenly heated. Then, raking the rock from the coals, I dipped a stick in my calabash of water and carefully let a drop fall upon one edge of the hot stone. Instantly there was a sharp click and a tiny flake of stone flew off. Drop after drop was placed along the edges of the rock and as each touched the hot surface and flakes snapped off, the pebble began to assume definite form. Over and over again I heated the stone and dropped water upon it, until at last I had the intense satisfaction of having fashioned a crude trowel-shaped object which might have served as a spear-head. The edges, however, were irregular and dull, but this was soon remedied by flaking first from one side and then the other until a keen cutting edge resulted. And then, when I was congratulating myself upon my success, a drop of water fell too far from the edge and with a sharp snap the stone broke squarely in two. It was a depressing accident. Then suddenly I broke into laughter to think how seriously I had taken the whole matter. Had my life depended upon it, I could not have lost myself more completely in the task.
" 'Practice, however, made me almost perfect in this art. My second attempt was a great improvement over my first; my third was even better, and by the time I had made a dozen, I felt that I was an accomplished master of arrowhead making. To be sure, no self respecting Indian of the stone age would have regarded the rough irregular things I had made as worthy of the name of either weapons or tools, but they were far superior to anything possessed by the monkey-men, and I had no need to feel ashamed of my prehistoric art. I was still admiring my handiwork, when Mumba arrived with my evening meal.
" 'Curious to test the efficiency of my stone implements, I selected the largest and sharpest of the lot and commenced carving one of the fruits. Instantly Mumba was all attention. To me the jagged thing was a poor makeshift for a knife, even for fruit, but to Mumba, who had never seen any edged tool except a natural sliver of rock, the implement was simply marvelous. I laughed heartily when I saw the fixed stare of wonder and awe upon his face, and handing him the flaked stone, I signalled for him to try it.
" 'As he half-fearfully took the bit of stone and tested its edge, he yelled with delight. He was like a small boy with his first jack-knife, and he leaped about trying it upon everything cuttable that he could find. He severed a bit of palm leaf with it, half-whittled and half-cut a stick of firewood, and when, accidentally, he cut his own finger and the blood flowed freely, he pranced and danced about with inexpressible joy. A moment before he had held only a tool, a wonderfully useful implement to be sure—but merely useful for peaceful purposes. But now he held a weapon, something far more valuable and his own injury was completely forgotten in his subsequent discovery.
" ‘I had gone back several thousand years and was watching the reactions of the first human being to discover the use of stone weapons. Mumba was busy trying his wonderful gift for some time, and presently, anxious to exhibit it to his friends, he started for the door. But I was anxious to witness the reception it would receive from the populace, so, signing to him to slow down, I hurried with him to the main cavern.
" 'The king was nowhere about, but Mumba soon realized I wished to see him and hurried off, returning in a few moments with his ruler.
" ‘I had taken along the rest of my crude implements, and their demonstration was received with gratifying interest and surprise on the king's part. I presented him with several of the things, and his delight was boundless as he hacked and whittled at sticks and gloated over the results, as pleased as a child with a new toy.
" 'Anxious to show the king and his subjects how useful the new tools would prove for skinning and cutting up game, I drew a rude sketch of an agouti, and summoning Mumba, tried to convey the idea that I wanted one of the creatures brought to me. At first he merely grinned and repeated the word "Ikki," evidently thinking I wanted to learn the agouti's name. But presently, as I pointed first at my sketch and then at the stone tools, he grasped the idea and dashed off. When he reappeared, he was carrying a dead agouti and as the king and his subjects looked on in wonder, I proceeded to skin the beast with a stone knife. It was hard, slow work, but to the monkey-men it seemed nothing short of a miracle. After I had partly skinned the creature, I beckoned to the king to try his hand. To me, accustomed to steel implements, the stone seemed hopelessly dull and almost useless. But to the black monarch, who had never known any sort of real edged tool, the blunt stone affair was a marvel, and with astonishing rapidity, he skinned and cut up the animal. So interested and delighted were the people, that I then and there started to show them how they could make stone tools and weapons for themselves. As I heated pebbles and chipped them into form, the people squatted about absolutely fascinated.
" 'But when, chuckling, I passed the calabash of water, the stick and the hot stones to the king, I roared with laughter at the expression on his face. No doubt he feared my magic might injure him, but he was no coward at heart and with a look of grim determination to do or die, he took the proffered stick, dipped it gingerly into the water and allowed a drop to fall on the stone. Then, as the chip flew off, he leaped to his feet and yelled with glee. And I soon discovered that stone implement making was primarily and most distinctly a savage art. The very first efforts of the monkey-men gave better results than anything I had achieved, and I had to concede that when it came to a matter of stone working, the primitive cave dwellers were far superior to civilized man. I had pushed the monkey-men ahead for several centuries on the road to civilization and I decided that before I left them—unless my freedom was far nearer than I had reason to believe, I would push them along for several thousand years further towards a savage culture.
“ ‘HENCE, as the days passed and drew into weeks, and I still remained a virtual prisoner of the monkey-men I devoted much of my time to teaching my captors new arts and accomplishments.
" 'Impatient and anxious as I was to escape from the Valley, I found that I was unconsciously becoming accustomed to my life among the monkey-men, and was finding a real interest in teaching the primitive race. I had long ago given up all hopes of escape, until the savages saw fit to let me go, for every time I descended from the caves, I was kept within a restricted area. Once, in fact, when I decided to test the matter, and disregarded the guard's warning to turn back, the fellow picked me up bodily and carried me back to the tunnel, where he released me.
" 'Very soon, too, I found it impossible to go even a few steps into the valley. A heavy rain began to fall steadily, the lake at the top of the cliff rose and poured into the valley in a roaring cataract, and the whole valley was transformed into a shallow lake with the scarlet trees rising above the surface of the water. This solved the puzzle as to why the savages had developed their strange habit of traveling through the tree-tops. The valley, for several months of the year, was utterly impassable on foot, but the tree tops always afforded a safe and easy route. Undoubtedly, through countless centuries, the people had developed their arboreal habits through sheer necessity of going about at all times of the year. Very often I became quite down-hearted at the thought of passing the remainder of my days among the monkey-men, but I always forced myself to give up such morbid thoughts. And my lot, after all, was not so bad. I was healthy, unharmed, with plenty to eat, and as long as I was alive and well there was always hope.
" 'So, making the best of my plight, I busied myself, as I have said, in trying to improve the lives and conditions of the tribe, and to mastering their language.
" 'Already I had acquired a sufficient knowledge of the dialect to make my simple wants known and to understand an ordinary conversation. The monkey-men had also made rapid strides since they had first learned to make stone implements, for with the acquisition of fairly sharp edged tools and weapons, a wonderful vista of possibilities had opened to them, and things they had never dreamed of were now readily accomplished. Wooden slabs had replaced the leaves for dishes; the skins of animals, which formerly had been torn or hacked to pieces in removing them from the flesh, could now be removed entire and were used for many purposes. Sticks and limbs from trees could now be cut and shaped, whereas formerly, fire had been the only means the savages possessed for cutting wood. Partly to amuse myself and partly to become expert in their use, I had patiently worked at making myself a bow and several arrows. In doing this, I used my knife, of course, but I was careful not to let the monkey-men see the instrument, always pretending to scrape and whittle with a stone tool whenever Mumba appeared. Excellent mimics that they were, the monkey-men had no sooner seen my weapons in use than they too, began making bows and arrows. With these, they found, they could secure larger and more wary game than with their blow guns; the aptitude they showed in using the weapons was remarkable. In fact, they were very much my masters in archery, despite the fact that I had practised constantly long before the first monkey-man's bow was completed. Also, I had taught them to make wooden handles for their stone tools, and fearing I would exhaust my supply of paper, I had taught them to draw rude figures with charred sticks on the walls of the caves. Several times, however, serious trouble had been narrowly averted. Although the people still regarded me with superstitious awe and respect, yet the king was madly jealous of my prestige. At first the mere threat of a second explosion was enough to bring him to terms, but after a time he had overcome his dread of this, and, on one occasion he demanded that I should give him my note book. And when I refused and threatened to produce the terrifying magic of the fire, the king had flown into a rage and had ordered one of his men to take the book from me by force. For the fraction of a second, the fellow hesitated to obey and in that second I had tossed three of my cartridges into the fire. The series of explosions that followed and thundered through the cavern had caused a perfect panic and had won the day.
" 'But my supply of cartridges was even more limited than my stock of paper, and realizing I must eventually rely upon other means for impressing the king and his subjects, I kept my brains busy trying to think of some new stunt. Then one day I had an inspiration and I marveled that the idea had not occurred to me sooner. I ran across a useless water-ruined match in one of my pockets, and instantly I thought of making fire by means of flint and steel. The only trouble was I had neither flint nor steel. My only steel available was my precious knife, which I dared not injure by such use, and the nearest approach to flint was the jasper-like rock used for making stone implements.
" 'However, if I was to work this new magic, I must take some risks, and I felt sure that somewhere I could find a stone that would serve in place of flint. Picking up several of the discarded stone implements, I tested each in turn by striking them with the back of the larger blade of my knife. Some gave no sparks whatever, one or two produced sparks which I knew were far too small to ignite any tinder, but at last I found a bit of quartz which gave rise to a shower of bright hot sparks from steel. The next and most important matter was to secure some tinder which could be ignited by means of my sparks. I racked my brains trying to think of some highly inflammable material. I had often seen flint and steel used both by Indians and Latin Americans, but for the life of me I could not remember what tinder had been employed. Then I kicked myself for a stupid ass, as I remembered the every-day flint and steel affairs used throughout
" 'To ravel out some of the threads and to braid these into a loosely stranded cord or wick was a simple matter. But to my utter disappointment, the cotton could not be ignited by the sparks. I was about to give up in despair and decided that the cotton was either the wrong kind or else that the natives treated theirs with some chemical, when I bethought myself of testing whether my cotton wick would actually burn. I touched it to the flames of my fire and it blazed up quite brightly. I extinguished it by placing my heel upon it, and sat pondering upon the reason for my failure. Possibly, I thought, the cotton had been slightly damp, too damp to ignite by means of sparks, though dry enough to burn with the flame. In that case, perhaps the heat of its blaze had dried it and it would be well to have another try.
" 'Holding the bit of charred cotton under the quartz, I struck the stone with the knife and the next moment gave vent to an involuntary shout of triumph. The cotton was glowing like a live coal, and by blowing upon it and placing some shreds of palm leaves against it, I soon had a blaze going. Over and over again I ignited the cotton, wondering why I had failed at first, until I discovered that while charred cotton could be ignited, the unburned fibre could not. I wondered what I would have done, or what any man would do, if no fire was available for charring the tinder. But that was a contingency that did not interest me at the time, and I was fully satisfied at having discovered how to produce fire by flint and steel. In fact, I was quite pleased to know that ordinary cotton could not be ignited, for it would make my magic all the more marvelous if, at any time, the king or one of his subjects should get hold of my fire-making apparatus by force.
" 'I was very anxious, of course, to test the effect of my discovery upon the king and the others, but I decided that the wise course was to keep it up my sleeve, so to speak, for use in case of an emergency. And little did I dream how soon that emergency would arise.
" 'That same night I was awakened by some slight and unusual sound, and opening my eyes without moving—a habit that had become second nature during long years in the bush—I glanced about, expecting to see Mumba. The next instant some one leaped upon me. I was seized and bound, and although I struggled frantically, I was utterly helpless in the grip of my assailant. Then a stick was thrust into the fire and as its blaze illuminated the room, I saw two monkey-men and the hideous old king gloating over me.
“ 'The monarch had decided to do away with me in secret. Why he had not killed me out of hand while I slept, instead of having me trussed up like a fowl, was a puzzle. But the next moment the question was answered. Holding the blazing firebrand for a torch, the king began searching the pockets of my clothing. Chuckling to himself, he drew out the cartridges and my note book, tossed the burning stick into the fire, and with a derisive laugh rushed off with his fellows, leaving me helpless and raging at my loss. I understood it all. He had repeatedly seen me reach into my pocket for the book; he must have been keen enough to notice that I took something from my pocket when I caused the explosions, and he had reasoned that by possessing himself of my magic-making device, he could perform the same miracles himself. That he had not also secured my knife was merely accident for it had been in my watch-pocket, and the king had only searched those pockets wherein he had seen me place my hands. He had overlooked one cartridge as well, but there was small comfort in this. No doubt, I thought, as soon as he had impressed his subjects with his own power, he would have me done away with, and it was the thought of how he might do it, rather than my death, that troubled me. Suddenly, my disquieting thoughts were interrupted by the muffled roar of an explosion from the direction of the main cavern. The king certainly was not losing any time. Then I heard running footsteps and knew my execution was close at hand.
" 'The next instant Mumba leaped into the room, and muttering incoherently, quickly loosed my bonds. Hardly waiting to thank him, I seized my bow and arrows and dashed down the passage after Mumba, thoroughly enraged and determined to have a shot at the king before I was again overpowered. As I neared the cave, a low, moaning wail came from within, and as I reached the entrance I halted in my tracks. The place was thick with dense smoke and reeked with the odor of gunpowder, while every occupant was prone upon the floor. The king was nowhere to be seen, and I glanced about in an effort to locate the old thief. Mumba was tugging at my sleeve, jabbering excitedly and urging me forward. Unable to understand what he wanted, I stepped forward among the prostrate savages. The next instant, a cry of amazement burst from my lips.
" 'Sprawled upon the floor, with arms outstretched lay the king, his ugly features ghastly with blood while from what had once been his right eye, the ragged fragments of a brass cartridge shell protruded.
" 'He was dead. Killed by his own act. One of the shells had been hurled from the fire by the explosion and had buried itself in his brain. No doubt he had bent close to the fire, as he tossed the cartridges into the flames, and, the exploding gunpowder had done the rest.
" 'For a brief moment I hesitated. Then, stooping quickly, I snatched the crown of Waupona feathers from the dead man's head, and placing it on my own, stepped to the throne. An instant later the prostrate people timidly raised their eyes and looked about. When they saw me seated upon the throne, with the royal crown upon my head, a mighty shout arose. Then they caught sight of their dead monarch, and with one impulse, they knocked their foreheads upon the floor. Here indeed was magic; something most awful. They had seen their king throw the cartridges into the fire. The terrible noise and the flying embers had followed, and now the monarch was dead and the white man, materializing from nowhere, was seated upon the throne wearing the royal crown. Truly the magic of such things was not to be trifled with, and cautiously raising their heads, the monkey-men gazed upon me as though I were an apparition born of the explosions —as they no doubt believed me to be. For a moment I sat motionless, gazing severely upon the people. Then, taking out my flint and knife and tinder, I struck a shower of sparks from the quartz and as the cotton glowed and the bits of palm leaf burst into a blaze, I waved them impressively before my face. It was the finishing touch to a most dramatic scene, and once more the wailing moan arose and the terrified, awe-stricken people prostrated themselves again.
" 'The king was dead, long live the king!
" 'With savage callousness the monkey-men paid little heed to their late monarch, whose body remained sprawled where it had fallen. But at an order from me, two of the fellows half-carried and half-dragged it into one of the dark holes in the wall. Mumba, meanwhile, was squatted beside my throne, gazing at me with absolute adoration on his good-natured but ugly face. He was a faithful fellow and had proved himself my true friend, and I decided it was time he was rewarded.
" 'So by signs and what I knew of the language, I told Mumba to rise and made it clear to him and to the others that he was second in position to myself—my Prime Minister, in fact. For a time he did not seem able to grasp the idea, but when it finally dawned upon him, he fell at my feet, and then, rising, went strutting about and gabbling to his fellows in such an exalted supercilious manner that I fairly roared with laughter, despite my supposed dignity as a king.
" 'A moment later, he seized two men, and dragging the evidently terrified fellows with him, approached me and by signs and words informed me that they had aided and abetted the late ruler in his attack upon me. Apparently Mumba felt that his position as Prime Minister carried with it the duties of Chief of Police. It was evident that his two prisoners expected to receive prompt and terrible punishment. After all, I thought, they were very likely blameless, for the king's word was law, and to refuse would have meant death. Moreover, if they had been brave enough to help seize and bind me, even at their king's orders, they would, no doubt, prove brave and loyal to me. So, using Mumba as an interpreter, I pardoned the fellows and set them free. The crowd received the verdict with shouts of approval and the two fellows fairly grovelled at my feet.
" 'It was now past midnight, so I dismissed the crowd and returned to my own quarters, followed by Mumba. Tired out with the exciting events of the night I threw myself upon my rude bed, and feeling perfectly secure, with Mumba curled up like a watchful dog in the doorway, I fell off to sleep.
" 'The whole affair seemed dream-like and unreal when I awoke the next day. But there was the royal crown, and somehow I felt happier and more free from worry than at any time since I had been taken prisoner. I no longer had the king to fear, and, being king myself, I felt sure I would not be under any restraint. In fact, I could leave the valley at any time—provided I could find a means of doing so, as soon as the rains ceased and the place became passable again.
" 'All during my breakfast, my thoughts were concentrated on the chances of escaping. To scale the cliffs was, I knew, impossible. Moreover, to tramp alone through the jungle, wandering aimlessly in the forest in the hopes of eventually finding friendly Indians or natives, would be suicidal. I had no firearms; no white man can subsist on the game or products found in the tropical bush, and I could not hope to carry enough food to keep me any length of time. No, if I was to escape, it must be via the river. Somewhere the stream must flow out of the valley, and if I could construct a canoe or raft I might be able to float to civilization; perhaps over to the coast. But there was the ever-present danger of rapids and falls; I had no tools for boat-building, and even to construct a raft by means of my pocket knife and stone tools would be a Herculean task.
" 'Moreover, long before I could dream of setting out—assuming I did manage to rig up some makeshift craft, I would have to provide an equipment and a supply of food that would last for a considerable period. And before I attempted anything at all, it behooved me to learn more of the river and its outlet. But that was simple now, for I could go about as I chose, and as the rains were now decreasing and the valley was drying, my explorations need not be delayed much longer.
" 'For the immediate present I decided to thoroughly explore the caves, and with Mumba at my side, I started off. He seemed to know every turn and twist of the passages and every room or cavern in the whole labyrinthine place, and he guided me everywhere.
" ‘In one large chamber, I came upon the ex-king's family and harem. They did not appear in the least sorrowful over the demise of their lord and master, and all bowed down and prostrated themselves before their new ruler. It was apparently the custom of the monkey-men for a new king to assume all the duties and obligations of his predecessor, and Mumba explained that I was expected to take over the entire family and the dead king's lady friends.
" 'At this I demurred, much to the amazement of both Mumba and the bereaved household; but since there was no thought of questioning a king's decision and since they could not understand such a superior being as myself, they said nothing; still the innumerable widows and their progeny set up a doleful wail as I left them, apparently deeply grieved and disappointed because they were condemned to remain without a royal head to the family.
" 'Having thoroughly toured the caves, I wandered through the tunnel to the valley. The water had receded rapidly, and I managed to walk a considerable distance by choosing the higher ground. Almost unconsciously my steps took me towards the spot where we had first entered the valley. And very fortunate it proved that Fate led me that way. Searching about, I soon found the whitened skeletons of my Indian friends. Evidently their bodies had been left where they fell, and while some bones were missing and I could not find one skull—they had been washed away or had been carried off by some beast or bird—I could identify each skeleton, as in my mind I reconstructed the tragedy that had taken place so long before. I would have liked to bury the remains, but that was impossible, and the best I could do was to gather the bones together, place them in one pile and cover them with stones from the nearby river bed. Wondering, no doubt, what it was all about, Mumba aided me. Then I remembered the two who had fallen from the ladder and decided to add their bones to the little mound. The bones, badly broken, were there at the foot of the precipice, and as I stooped to pick them up, an involuntary exclamation of delight escaped me. Lying beneath Josh's skeleton, rusty and corroded but still serviceable, was the poor fellow's prized machete. To me it was more precious than gold or diamonds. A thousand things not possible before would now be easy. With the keen-bladed, heavy, implement I could hew down trees, could build a raft, might even essay the construction of a canoe. With it in my hand I felt like a new man. Whirling it about, I shouted and laughed until Mumba, thinking I had gone mad, hurried off to a safe distance and squatted ready to spring into a tree at any instant. But, when to try its corroded edge, I hacked with it at a shrub and the steel, dull as it was, sheared through the stout stems, Mumba looked on with wide-eyed wonder and gave vent to strange animal-like grunts of absolute amazement.
" 'I felt more confident, more hopeful than at any time since I had been in the valley. Even my gun, had I been able to find it, would not have been so welcome as the rusty machete, for with but one remaining cartridge, my gun was a useless thing, whereas with a machete I felt equal to any emergency.
“ ‘IT was a few days after my discovery of the machete that I started out to make as thorough an exploration of the valley as possible. The rains had now ceased, the sun shone brightly, and with the exception of a pool here and there, the valley was again dry land. The river, however, still flowed in a turgid flood, and I knew that the rains in the higher lands about the valley were still falling. Accompanied by Mumba, as always, I wandered down the valley, following the general course of the river and expecting to find a narrow canyon or rift in the walls through which the stream flowed. Such an exit would have been as good a barrier as a precipice, as far as the monkey-men were concerned, for of course they had no knowledge of boats and hence could not have issued from their restricted habitat via the river. But I was doomed to bitter disappointment. When I at last came within sight of the rock cliffs that formed the lower end of the valley, I saw that the river flowed directly against the surface of the precipice and vanished within a yawning black hole that pierced the base of the cliff. That seemed to settle it. I was as much a prisoner as though I had been surrounded by steel and concrete walls, and sick at heart, I felt that I was doomed to spend the rest of my life in the valley of the monkey-men. There was but one ray of hope left. On the opposite side of the valley there might be some spot where it would be possible to scale the walls. But to reach the further side I soon found was impossible. I must cross the river, and the current was far too swift, too treacherous and too dangerous for me to attempt to swim it. My previous experience in the river had been quite enough. Moreover, I discovered that not a monkey-man knew how to swim, and hence none of the tribe had ever been beyond the river. This encouraged me in a way, for I reasoned that if the stream barred them effectually, as it did, there might be an easy means of escape on the further side of the valley. The more I thought of it the more determined I became to find out what lay beyond the river, and the idea of bridging it occurred to me. It may sound like a very simple matter to speak of building a bridge across a narrow river, where plenty of large trees are available. And under ordinary circumstances it would not have been a difficult feat. But if you consider that my only serviceable tool was a much worn machete, and that the savages had never learned to cut down trees, had never seen or heard of a bridge, and were filled with unreasoning, superstitious dread of crossing the river, the difficulties before me may be somewhat appreciated.
" 'Weeks elapsed before the crude bridge was in place. I was forced to make numerous stone axes to supplement my machete, to teach the savages how to fell trees, how to use rollers and levers, and in fact instruct them in the simplest and most elementary principles of mechanics, before any real work was attempted. I soon found it easier to burn down the trees than to cut them, and after incalculable labor I was rewarded with several long, strong, tree trunks ready for use on the river bank at the narrowest portion of the stream. The next question was to place the logs across from shore to shore. To solve this problem cost me many hours of anxious thought and an immense amount of labor.
" 'At last we erected a pair of 'shears' of strong logs bound together with vines, which were raised above the logs at the very brink of the river. A crude sheave, made by slinging a roller of wood in two loops of liana rope, served as a pulley, and by passing a stout liana over this, and by the gigantic ape-like men hauling on it, one end of the largest log was raised high in air. The rope was then made fast, the crowd of willing and powerful blacks lifted and pushed the butt end forward, and at last the log stood almost erect. So delighted were the savages when they saw this seemingly impossible feat accomplished, that they almost ruined everything by releasing their holds on the lines in order to dance and shout with triumph. But I managed to save the day by getting a quick turn around one of the shear-legs in the nick of time.
" ‘When the hilarious monkey-men were once more under control, I directed them to lift the butt-end of the suspended log and push it forward until at last it stood erect with one end resting on the nearest bank and the other towering twenty feet or more above the shears. Stout stakes were then driven into the earth behind the log to prevent its slipping back; it was lashed loosely to these so it could not kick up, and while my subjects looked on in wonder, I cut the rope. With a tremendous crash it fell, with its top resting on the further bank of the river. The delight of the savages at sight of the log bridge was wonderful. They yelled and shouted, pranced and leaped about, rolled on the grass and roared with glee. Then, like a crowd of school children on a holiday, they raced across the bridge which, to their feet, formed a safe and easy roadway. Never in the history of their race had any member of the tribe crossed the river, and now that the stream was spanned, they frolicked on the farther shore, entirely forgetting their former superstitious fears of the place.
" 'The monkey-men might be perfectly satisfied with a single round log for a bridge, but it was far from satisfactory for my purpose, although I managed, with considerable difficulty to crawl across. I forced the savages to abandon their merrymaking and place a second log along side the first. By nightfall, a good substantial bridge had been completed and the opposite side of the valley was opened to me.
" 'On the following day I crossed with Mumba, several of the monkey-men trailing behind, and started on my explorations. This side of the valley was far richer in natural resources than the other, for its wild life, fruits and vegetables had never been touched by man. Deer, tapir, peccaries and other creatures were abundant; curassows and pheasants abounded, and several times I saw the royal purple Wauponas, at sight of which Mumba and his fellows always prostrated themselves. It was such a pleasant, interesting district that I did not feel greatly depressed even when I found that there was no chance of ascending the cliffs. And it was while I was examining the rocky walls, searching for a possible slope up which I might climb, that I made a very interesting discovery. I had come upon a new rock, almost as clear as glass, which I felt sure would lend itself to making very superior stone implements, and I was gathering up a number of the best pieces, when I noticed a bit of stone of a semi-transparent green color. It was so much like a bit of a broken bottle that at first I mistook it for a fragment of glass and my heart gave an extra beat at thought that some white man had visited the valley before me. But as I picked the fragment up and examined it, I realized that it was a natural formation, a splinter from a regular crystal. Then suddenly it dawned upon me. It was an emerald, a bit of gem worth several hundred dollars in the markets of the world, but to me, a prisoner in the valley of the monkey-men, worth less than the flakes of common quartz. I laughed derisively as I thought of it, and was on the point of hurling the precious bit of green against the cliff, when common sense returned to me. Suppose I should escape from the valley? For, despite the apparent hopelessness of my plight, I had not given up hope. If I did get away, the emerald would go far towards making my way easier; it might even stand between me and starvation, for until I could reach civilization and draw upon my resources, I would be penniless, absolutely destitute. But throughout the land, even in the most remote villages, the green gem would be negotiable. Thus thinking, I pocketed the emerald, and with renewed interest began searching for more. I was well rewarded. Among the debris, crystals and portions of crystals were everywhere, and rapidly I scratched and dug among the fallen rock and gathered the green mineral, while Mumba, seeing what I was after, fell to and secured twice as many as I found myself. But the supply was limited. The emeralds had obviously been brought down by a landslide from some pocket or vein far up on the precipice, and longingly I gazed up, trying to locate the spot and wondering what incalculable fortunes might still lie in the cliffside. Even the gems I had were enough to keep me in comfort for a long time—provided I ever escaped, and I found no little pleasure and amusement in speculating on how I would spend my fortune, if ever I did reach civilization.
" 'For several days thereafter I roamed the valley, hoping against hope to discover some exit I had overlooked before. Each day, too, the river fell and its current decreased, and I noticed that the stream no longer filled its tunnel through the cliff at the lower end of the valley. Above the water there now showed an opening several feet in height and fifty feet or more in width, and it was this aperture which finally gave me the idea that seemed the only possible solution to my dilemma. Would it not be feasible to escape through this tunnel? To be sure, such a venture would be perilous in the extreme. I would be entering an unknown Stygian passage, which might very well prove a trap.
" 'For all I knew the tunnel might narrow or decrease in height so as to be filled with the racing-water. At one or a hundred spots jagged rocks might bar the way. Somewhere within the cliff there might be falls or rapids, or even if none of these menaces existed within the rocky wall, the stream might dash over a precipice or flow in terrific rapids where it emerged on the farther side. And I had no means of knowing how long the tunnel might be. The river might flow under ground for miles, or again the passage might be less than fifty feet in length. All of this I pondered upon and I knew that to go blindly at it would be worse than suicidal. But gradually, as I gave thought to the idea and it grew in my mind, I began to formulate plans to learn something definite regarding the tunnel and the stream before thinking seriously of attempting to escape by river. It was a very simple matter, once it came to my mind, and without delay I set about putting it into practice. With this end in view, I constructed a miniature raft, and attaching a long coil of vine rope to this, I allowed it to float into the tunnel. Rapidly the line paid out as the raft vanished within the aperture in the rock until nearly two hundred feet had slipped smoothly and without jerk or interruption through my fingers. Evidently there were no rapids, falls nor reefs for that distance within the passage.
" 'But I wanted also to be sure if the space between water and roof remained constant, and whether or not the tunnel widened or grew more narrow. I soon hit upon a plan for determining these points. Cutting a number of stocks, I fastened them upright, like masts, in my little raft and cut them at varying lengths, the longest nearly five feet in length, the shortest barely a foot in length. Then, across the affair, I lightly bound slender sticks of varying lengths and again allowed my test raft to float into the passage, knowing that when I drew it out again the condition of the sticks would be a fairly accurate record of the conditions of the passage. And to my delight, when the raft was withdrawn, I found only one of the upright sticks broken, and that the longest, while not one of the horizontal sticks was injured or missing. Assured that the cavern roof was at least four feet above the water for fully two hundred feet from the entrance, and that it was nowhere less than ten feet in width, I decided to make a personal inspection of the place. To do this would necessitate building a raft large enough to float me, and several days were consumed in this work and in gathering a tremendous amount of lianas for rope, for I intended to penetrate far beyond the two hundred foot limit on my explorations.
" 'Fortunately there were plenty of the light balsa or trumpet-trees in the valley, and building a raft was a comparatively easy feat. But to the monkey-men it savored of magic and witchcraft. And when they saw the crude affair bobbing on the water, and saw their king step aboard and drift down stream, they became absolutely terrified and beat their breasts and wailed, evidently thinking their white monarch was about to leave them forever.
" 'It was with great difficulty that I reassured them, and, running the raft ashore, disembarked. But it was still more difficult to force them to permit me to board, the raft once more, and I knew that I would have my hands more than full if I attempted to enter the tunnel. In that case, they would assuredly feel I was deserting them, and despite my impatience, I knew that I would have to postpone my investigations until they became accoustomed to seeing me navigate the river. Hence, for the next day or two, I made daily trips down stream upon my raft, each day approaching nearer and nearer my goal, and as the novelty wore off and the savages learned by experience that I always came ashore again, they began to look upon my inexplicable occupation as a regular thing and quite to be expected. But try as I might, I could not induce one of them—not even Mumba himself, to set foot aboard the raft. It was on one of these short voyages that I made another discovery which, had I been other than a virtual prisoner, would have filled me or any other man with excitement and delight. The raft had grounded upon a sand bar, and in order to get it free, I was forced to move several good sized cobbles. In doing this I caught an unmistakable yellow gleam among the fine black sand in the recess left by the stone. Forgetting everything, forgetting my state, my surroundings, even plans for my escape, I dropped to my knees and dug feverishly with fast beating heart in the gravel. The next moment, with almost bated breath, I was gloating over an immense gold nugget, weighing fully ten pounds. Rapidly, with machete and hands, I dug away the sand, stopping every few moments to secure a rough yellow nodule, until my first excitement was exhausted and common sense returned. I sat back and roared with delirious laughter. I was still a prisoner of the monkey-men's valley and all the gold in the world was of no slightest value to me until I could be sure of escaping. But, like the emeralds, the gold, if I ever left the place, would be riches, and I determined that before I made any attempt to get away, I would lay in a good supply of the precious metal.
“ 'It was two days after this strike that I decided to attempt my long deferred exploration of the subterranean stream. It was with the utmost difficulty that I made the monkey-men understand what I wished them to do. In fact, Mumba, who by constant association with me could grasp my meaning more quickly than the others, and who, by the way, was far more intelligent than his fellows, was the only one who really understood my desires. I had not over much confidence in him, and yet, in a way, my life depended upon his and his companions’ carrying out my orders. I quite fully appreciated the fact that I was taking a tremendous risk, but my mind was made up. I would penetrate the tunnel to the limit of my vine ropes, unless forced to give up before then, and I hoped at that distance to be able to see the further outlet to the place. I had already prepared torches of resinous gum, and equipped with several of these, I moored the raft close to the tunnel entrance and repeated my instructions to Mumba for the last time. A strong line had been made fast to the raft and to a stout stake driven into the earth, and fully five hundred feet of this lay coiled neatly on the bank. In addition, I had provided a light line to be used as a signal cord, and my great danger lay in the possibility that the primitive, ape-like beings might confuse my signals or become panic-stricken and desert me, once I had vanished in the tunnel. However, I consoled myself with the thought that if worst came to worst, I could probably haul myself back to daylight, for the river's current was now very slight. By words and gestures and by a demonstration, I impressed my signals upon Mumba. One pull at the light line and heavy line was to be held fast; two pulls and more was to be let out, while three pulls meant to haul in. A bit fearful of what might lay before me, I lit my torch, stepped upon the raft, pushed it from shore, and ordered Mumba to pay out the line. The next instant, I floated in inky darkness, illuminated only by the ruddy glow from my torch. Steadily I drifted on, holding my torch aloft, moving it about, and peering into the shadows. But I found nothing that would impede my progress. The current remained constant, the roof and walls varied little in height or width, there were no jutting rocks or reefs, and the tunnel was nearly as straight as if it had been drilled by man. At last I reached the limits of my ropes, and still no glimmer of light ahead. The passage might continue so for miles for all I knew; yet the fact that it was navigable for such a considerable distance gave me much encouragement. Finding nothing to discover, I jerked three times on the signal line, and presently felt myself being hauled back whence I had come.
" ‘I have never seen more curious expressions on the faces of any human beings than those of the monkey-men, when I reappeared. They showed fear, awe, wonder and sadness combined, and all these gave way to triumphant, hilarious shouts when they realized that I had not vanished forever. It really affected me deeply to see how much my subjects thought of me, and I experienced a pang of regret and felt something of a scoundrel at the idea of deserting them. However, my mind was now firmly made up. I would steal down to the place before dawn, and taking my life in my hands, would attempt the passage of the tunnel as soon as I could complete necessary preparations. With the finding of the emeralds and the gold, and the thoughts of civilization and its comforts which would follow, longer imprisonment in the valley became intolerable. Better death in the subterranean stream than life in the valley among the ape-like people.
" 'But my preparations could not be made in a day. In the first place, I decided that a raft would not serve my purpose. It was a cumbersome thing, ill adapted to running possible rapids, too heavy for one man to handle in swift water or to dislodge from a reef or bar, and, if I succeeded in passing through the mountain in safety, its progress would be very slow upon any stream I might descend. To build a boat would, I knew, be far too great an undertaking to consider, and even a dugout would be beyond me and my monkey-men laborers. But to construct a woodskin, such as I had often used and had frequently helped make in the forests of Guiana and
" 'But fortune favored me. Trees very similar to the purple-heart grew here and there in the red-leaved forest, and a test proved that their bark was perfectly adapted to my requirements. Work was at once begun, and in due time I had a large tree felled, and by dint of painstaking work and with the aid of my priceless machete, I managed to wedge off a splendid section of the tough thick bark. The rest was comparatively simple. Spreaders of hard wood were easily cut and having nicked and bent the ends of the bark together, and having secured them in place with strips of a rattan-like vine, the spreaders were forced between the gunwales and my canoe was complete. Many a time two Indians and myself had constructed such a wood-skin in a few hours, but here in the valley many days of laborious work had been required. The canoe, however, was a complete success. It floated buoyantly on the water, was steady and easily handled, and the monkey-men regarded it as another miracle. By now, however, they had become so accustomed to miracles that they gave them little heed; in fact, they were by this time so occupied with their own affairs, that it was often difficult for me to induce them to work for me. I had taught them many arts and crafts, and they had become most enthusiastic and interested in their new accomplishments. I had shown them how to spin and weave, for these purposes using the inner bark of the "Seda Virgin" or lace-bark tree which was as soft, tough and strong as silk.
" 'They had already used the material for the bits of scanty loin-cloths they wore, but they had never discovered that it could be twisted or spun into thread and woven into coarse cloth or made into hammocks. The monkey-men took to the latter as ducks take to water, and everywhere the comfortable swinging beds had supplanted the piles of dried palm leaves in the savages' apartments. Fish hooks of bone and fishing lines of bark, had also been introduced and were in constant use, and I had taught the people to till the earth and raise vegetables instead of grubbing for them here and there. I had even succeeded in twisting or spinning the wild cotton and weaving it by hand and had spent many hours trying to devise and construct some sort of loom; this, however, I found beyond me. I had far greater success in making baskets, and once the monkey-men had learned the principle, they became adept basket makers. Pottery had followed the baskets, and every member of the tribe was well supplied with earthenware dishes, basket and high finished and well made stone tools, implements and weapons. Indeed, in practically all savage arts and industries, the monkey-men were now fully the equals of the ordinary primitive Indians of the country and were rapidly developing a culture of their own, for all I had to do was to start them on anything and they progressed rapidly, evolving and introducing many ideas and innovations themselves.
" 'I have told all this as if it required little time, and I confess that time passed far more rapidly than I would have thought possible. I was really surprised, when I counted over my time strings, on the day my canoe was completed, to discover that I had been with the monkey-men for more than a year and that the second rainy season was rapidly approaching. If I was to escape by way of the river I must act promptly, because with the first heavy rains, the tunnel would be impassable for months. Fortunately I had few preparations to make. Ever since I had decided to attempt the passage, I had been gathering a supply of provisions in the shape of dried meat, tubers, roots and vegetables, and I now had enough to last me several weeks. My hammock, a bundle of dry sticks and leaves, my flint and tinder, my machete, my bow and arrows and several torches, completed my equipment. I was ready to set out at a moment's notice, but I was determined to secure more gold from my rich placer for, I reasoned, if I did reach civilization, it would be most welcome; if I failed, I would be no worse off with the gold than without it. And it was this determination that very nearly cost me my life.
" 'When it actually came to the point of leaving, I felt not a little sad and depressed, for though I would never have believed it possible, I had become attached to the monkey-men and felt as if they were old friends and my own people. I was particularly sorry to desert Mumba, and for a time I even considered taking him with me. But I realized that even if I could persuade him to embark in my canoe and attempt the tunnel passage—which I very much doubted—he would probably pine away and die of loneliness and homesickness, away from his people and among strangers.
" 'And I found myself strangely excited and nervous as the hour for my secret departure approached. I slept little the night before and was up before dawn; and long before the sun rose I had my belongings stowed in my woodskin or bark canoe and was drifting down the river towards the bar where I had discovered the gold.
" 'By the time I reached the spot, it was almost light, and drawing the bow of my craft on the bar, I set to work with my machete and a wooden hoe I had made. The place was far richer than I had imagined, and in nearly every handful of gravel and sand, which I washed and sifted in a basketwork tray and "panned" out in an earthenware basin, I found nuggets. No doubt the finer flakes and dust were even more abundant, but I could not spare the time to secure these, and contented myself with the larger lumps and nuggets of metal. So interested did I become in my labors that I did not realize how time was passing, until my attention was attracted by the loud rumbling of distant thunder. I was rather startled, for according to my calculations, the first heavy rains were not due for several days and thunder was most unusual except as an accompaniment to these first torrential downpours. Dawn, I noticed, was rapidly approaching; the eastern sky was already light, and I saw that the sky was overcast and that a bank of heavy black clouds hung low over the summit of the cliff at the opposite end of the valley. All this I noticed, and stopped to gather a last basketful of gravel, thinking to myself that with a few more nuggets I would be satisfied, for civilized man's greed at sight of gold is irresistible. Then another terrific crash of thunder echoed over the valley, reverberating from cliff to cliff. Startled, realizing that I must hurry if I was to get away before the storm broke, I shoved my canoe free from the bar, grasped my paddle, and headed down stream. It was fully two miles by the river from the bar to the tunnel, and before I had covered half the distance it was broad daylight. I noticed, too, that I seemed to be moving very swiftly, while the clouds had now spread until they covered half the sky, and peals of thunder and vivid flashes of lightning were frequent. Still I did not realize my peril, did not dream that the cloud-burst-like deluge would break for many hours, perhaps for several days.
" 'Not until I was close to the yawning black hole was I aware that the rains must be falling with tropical violence in my rear, that on the highlands beyond the walls of the valley the storm was raging, and that the lake which fed the river had been flooded and was pouring its surplus water into the valley.
" 'But as I saw the entrance to the tunnel before me I realized this and was panic stricken. But too late. Feverishly I plied my paddle and tried to guide my craft to shore, but all my efforts were futile. The river was rushing me forward, straight for the hole in the cliff, and its current held my frail canoe in the centre of the channel despite my utmost endeavors to swing it aside. My heart seemed to stand still; I felt sick and faint with terror as I saw that already the water filled the tunnel to within a yard of the arched roof. Certain death faced me, I felt sure. Long before I could traverse the passage the water would have risen until it filled the subterranean channel, and vainly I cursed myself and my insane cupidity which had delayed me.
" 'All this happened in the fraction of a second. The next instant the black arch was above the dancing bow of my canoe. Scarcely aware of my action, I threw myself flat in the bottom of the woodskin, shot into the tunnel, and was enveloped in absolute darkness.
“ ‘TREMBLING, shaking, expecting at any moment to feel the water pouring over the gunwales of my canoe, to hear its sides grinding against the rock roof as the water rose, I lay there. Ages seemed to pass. There was not a glimmer of light; only the roar of rushing water filling the awful underground tunnel. Gradually, as the minutes passed and the canoe still dashed onward unharmed, I grew calmer. Perhaps the passage was higher inside than at the entrance. There was a chance that I might yet win through, borne on the first crest of the flood, and cautiously, I raised my paddle, expecting to feel it strike the roof above. But it met with no resistance, and encouraged, with new hope, I managed to light a torch and held it aloft. Barely discernible in the glow, I could see the walls of the tunnel, sparkling and glinting as the light was reflected from the crystalline rock, and fully ten feet above my head I saw the water-worn roof with its pendant stalactites. I breathed more easily. For the present I was in no real danger, and it seemed to me that the current was not as swift now.
" 'But my canoe was gyrating wildly, swinging around and in imminent peril of capsizing or dashing against a wall or some submerged rock. Fixing my torch in the bow, I grasped my paddle and guided the canoe along the centre of the stream. Onward, ever onward I went. Often the river swept around sharp bends, and had the craft been left to itself, most certainly would have been wrecked. Often, too, the tunnel became very narrow, but always there was ample space between my head and the roof, and gradually full confidence returned to me. Then, suddenly, swinging around a sharp curve, my greatest dread was realized. The roof lowered abruptly, and before me the foaming torrent seemed to completely fill the channel. Before I could cry out, the flaring torch struck the low-hung rock and was knocked overboard, and barely in time I ducked and threw myself prone in my canoe. This, I knew was the end. I would be drowned like a rat in a trap, and deeply, bitterly I regretted ever having left the valley of the monkey-men.
" 'Again and again I felt the gunwales of my canoe bump against the roof above. Each time, as it grated against the rock and momentarily hesitated in its onward rush, my heart seemed to stop beating and I felt that all was over. Often, too, as the craft grated slowly along, water slopped over the sides and I lay there, sick, terrified, half-submerged in icy water, helpless, unable to rise, awaiting death. It was torture indescribable, agony beyond words, and then, just as I felt the canoe stopping, as the friction against the roof was too great for the current to overcome, the darkness suddenly vanished and the tunnel was filled with light The next instant the canoe shot forward, and with dazed eyes I gazed up at a vast stretch of clear blue sky. I was saved; saved by the narrowest margin, for as I sat up, blinking and shaking, and glanced back, I saw the last few inches of the tunnel's mouth vanish in a mass of bubbling seething water.
" 'With a mighty sigh of thankfulness and relief I looked about. I was floating on the surface of a broad stream into which the river from the valley emptied. On every side stretched the dark, dim aisles of heavy forests, rich, green and cool, and I shouted aloud and cried at the welcome sight of so much greenery, of vine-draped trees with never a red leaf visible.
" 'For hours I paddled and drifted down the stream, headed I knew not where, but content to know that I had escaped; that somewhere ahead lay the coast and civilization, and that before me—with good fortune and reasonable care—lay life and freedom among my fellow men. So anxious was I to put all possible distance between me and the valley I had left, that I did not even stop to eat ashore, but munched dried meat and fruit until well into the afternoon.
" 'Then, overcome with weariness from my exertions and my excitement, I ran the woodskin ashore in a little cove sheltered by vines and brush, and making it fast, stepped into the forest. Within a dozen yards of shore I routed a small herd of peccaries, and with a lucky shot, brought down one of the beasts with my arrow. Soon a fire was blazing and I dined well on broiled pork and roast yams. Then, refreshed and sleepy, I threw myself in my hammock and instantly lost consciousness.
" 'It was dark when I again awoke, and feeling thirsty, I stepped towards the river to secure a drink. As I reached the bank and stooped to secure a calabash from my canoe, my eyes caught sight of a faint glow far down the stream. For a brief moment I stared at it, puzzled. Then my somewhat sleep-befuddled mind cleared and I realized that it was the light from a fire. Some one was near, some sort of human beings were camped within a mile of where I stood. Were they friends or foes, Indians or white men? I had no idea where I was, how far from civilization, whether in an Indian country or in a district frequented by rubber gatherers or other natives. Those whose camp fire cast a ruddy glare upon the river might be white, black or red, and if the latter, they might be either friendly or hostile. Anxious as I was to meet a fellow human being, I knew I must be cautious. I must not run blindly into a camp of savages, who would kill me out of hand and perhaps feast on my body afterwards. But I was a skilled bushman; I felt confident that I could approach the fire unseen and unheard, and if the campers were civilized or semi-civilized, I would land; if they appeared to be hostile Indians, I could drift on down stream, out of their way. Accordingly I silently unfastened my canoe, as silently stepped into it and grasped the paddle, and as noiselessly as one of the shadows along shore, I floated down towards the fire.
" 'Keeping close to the opposite shore and in the heavy shadows of the jungle, I rapidly approached the light, until I dared go no further. Then, running my canoe close under the bank, I stepped ashore. Taking advantage of every tree trunk and clump of bamboos, I picked my way along until I was opposite the fire. As I came within sight of it, I gasped and stopped in my tracks, almost unable to believe my eyes. In a small opening in the forest blazed a large fire and gathered about it were four, naked, painted Indians armed with powerful bows and long arrows. But it was not these savages who had rivetted my attention, but a fifth figure. Bound to a small tree near the fire was a woman, a girl whose scantily-clad body and face, clearly visible by the fire light, were unmistakably white!
" 'Who was she? What was she doing here, a captive of those fierce-visaged Indians? Even from the distance I could see that she was very beautiful and that her face showed no signs of fear, nothing but a resigned, hopeless expression, as she watched the Indians about the fire. That they were hostiles was obvious, and it was probable that they were also cannibals. My heart sickened as I realized that their lovely captive might soon furnish food to form a cannibal feast. My blood boiled while I gazed helplessly at the bound white girl and her painted captors. But what could I do to aid her? I was powerless against four armed savages. With a gun, even with a revolver, I might be foolhardy enough to attack them, counting on the surprise and the terror of firearms to win the day. But unarmed, except for an inferior bow and arrows, what chance had I? And then, suddenly, as I thought of fire-arms, I had an inspiration. Back to my mind flashed the memory of the consternation caused by my exploding cartridges among the monkey-men. I still had the one cartridge the king had overlooked when he had robbed me. If I could only approach closely enough to the fire to throw the shell into the flames, I might frighten the Indians into flight, and in the confusion, rescue the girl. Of course, it was a wild, hair-brained scheme with every chance against its success. Even if by craft and good luck I managed to come within reach of the fire, the odds were all against me. I might fail to throw the cartridge into the flames; it might not explode; the Indians might not be terrified, or they might recover from their fright before I could release the captive, or, even if they ran and I secured the girl, they might, and probably would, pursue us in canoes. But had they canoes? I had not noticed any, and I peered into every shadow and searched every hiding place along the shore without seeing a craft of any kind. No, I was convinced that I had nothing to fear on that score, and great as the risks were, I determined to take them.
" 'Better far to lose my life in an effort to save the girl than to leave her in her sad plight and be haunted for the rest of my life with memory of her there. Quickly my plans were formed. Retracing my steps, I shoved my canoe from shore, paddled it silently up stream beyond range of the fire light, crossed quickly to the opposite shore, and allowed the woodskin to float down stream. Just above the fire, a small point of land jutted into the water, and here I moored my craft, fastening it to a paddle thrust into the soft mud, which could be withdrawn instantly. I was now so close that I could hear the voices of the Indians, and though they spoke in such low gutteral tones that I could not understand them, I recognized their speech as a dialect of the Myankos—the fiercest, most implacable cannibals of the South American jungles. But the discovery, although it confirmed my fears for the girl's fate, encouraged me. The Myankos were primitive, aloof, hostile, and were never in touch with civilized man. Hence the chances that the exploding cartridge would terrify them were greater. But in order to use the shell, I must reach the fire, and it seemed an impossible feat to do this, unseen and unheard. From across the river, however, I had taken note of every detail of the vicinity, and my long bush training served me well. At one side of the fire, and with its limbs extending almost over it, was a large mora tree, its squat trunk, wide spreading roots and tangled vines affording an easy means of ascent. If I could gain the shelter of the branches and worm my way out on a limb, I could almost drop the cartridge into the flames below. But to climb that tree without noise and without attracting the attention of the Indians, was, I knew, impossible.
"'But I had a scheme, which I prayed and hoped might serve me. Grasping two of my yams I crept into the shelter of the mora tree, and with a long breath and with all my strength, I hurled one of the yams into the black shadows of the jungle beyond the fire. Instantly, as the tuber crashed into the brush, the savages leaped to their feet, listened a moment, and then, grasping their ready weapons, three of them dashed towards the sound. Even the girl turned and stared towards the spot, while the fourth savage remained tense and expectant near the fire. The next instant the second yam crashed through the foliage and dropped with a splash into the water down stream. With a sharp cry, the fourth Indian rushed away, while the other three shouted and hurried in the same direction. Scarcely had the second yam left my hand when I was breathlessly scrambling up the tree trunk. Quickly I gained the lowest branches, and heedless of bits of falling bark and the rustle of twigs and leaves, I wormed myself along the limb until I lay hidden and panting within ten feet of the fire. I had no time to spare. Already the Indians were returning, muttering, puzzled; wondering what had caused the noises, and evidently nervous. They were superstitious, and no doubt constantly feared an attack from enemies, and the mysterious crashing of my yams had put their nerves on edge. The stage was set, the most hazardous part of my undertaking had been safely accomplished, and I felt that good fortune and a benign
" 'I had no time to lose. Already the Indians were recovering. I could hear their shouts coming nearer, and I was obliged to pass through the light of the remnants of the scattered fire and in plain view, if they returned to the scene.
" 'Frantically I plied my paddle, keeping as far towards the opposite shore as possible, and aided by the current of the stream, I shot past the danger point. As my canoe vanished into the darkness beyond, a savage yell echoed from the rear, and a long poison-tipped arrow sang through the air and splashed into the water within a yard of us. But the next missile fell far astern, the shouts grew fainter, and presently, feeling all danger over, I ceased my mad efforts, and panting for breath, let the canoe slip silently down the river.
" 'The girl was now stirring, and presently she sat up and stared about. Seeing me in the stern of the canoe, she peered at me intently for a space, and then spoke in a strange dialect. I had expected to hear her utter words in Spanish. I should not have been unduly amazed had she spoken in French or English, but it was a surprise to hear her use a tongue that was evidently Indian. But undoubtedly she thought me an Indian. I spoke to her in English and in Spanish and even managed a few words in Patois French, but evidently they were as unintelligible to her as her jargon was to me. Then I tried Portuguese and the few Dutch words I knew, but without result. Again she spoke, and this time I understood, for she was speaking in the dialect of the Tucumaris, which I knew.
"' "Who are you. Bearded One?" she asked, "and why have you taken me from the Myankos? And by what magic was the fire made to leap into the air and make much noise to frighten the Myankos. Is it to eat me yourself that you have made me your prisoner?"
" 'I reassured her, told her I was a friend, that I was no Indian, but of her own race, that I was taking her to restore her to her people, and that I had caused the explosion which had frightened off the Myankos. She listened and appeared incredulous. Evidently she either did not fully understand my Tucamari or else could not grasp the meaning of what I said.
"' "My people," she declared, as I ceased speaking, "are the Patoradi, and you. Bearded One, are not one of them, and yet you say you are of my race and are taking me to my people."
" 'I was amazed. This lovely, fair-skinned girl was calmly and very sincerely informing me that she was an Indian, a Patoradi, a tribe of which I had never heard. Was I dreaming or had I taken leave of my senses? Then I thought of the many tales I had heard of so-called "white Indians"; tales I had always considered pure fiction, based perhaps on Albino Indians who are common enough. Was it possible that there were White Indians after all, and that this girl was a member of such a tribe?
" 'Are all the Patoradis white-skinned like yourself?' I asked her.
"' "No, Bearded One," she replied, "not like myself, but of the color of your skin, Bearded One."
" 'That did away with the White Indian theory, for I well knew that I must be the color of mahogany and fully as dark as many an Indian. It must be then that she was an Albino. But every Albino Indian I had ever seen had been a repulsive-looking, colorless-eyed, pimply-faced freak, and this girl was beautiful. Her hair was lustrous and golden-brown, her eyes full and a true blue, and her skin, although slightly olive, was tinted with pink and was not at all that of Albino. Nevertheless, I decided she must be a freak, for she could not be white—no white person, I felt sure, had ever been near the Patoradis, and she spoke only the Indian dialects. I questioned her further. "Who is your father?" I asked, "and how do you speak the Tucumari if you are of the Patoradis? And how came it you were a captive of the savage Myankos?"
"' "My father, Bearded One, was Nakadi, chief of the Patoradis, and I am Merima his daughter," she replied proudly. "Much we trade with the Tucumaris, who are our friends, and so their tongue is known to us. Always have the Myankos been our enemies, and they destroyed my village and killed my father and took many prisoners. All were eaten but myself, who was saved to be taken to the Myanko chief to be eaten, for those of chief's blood may only be devoured by chiefs. I have no people left, Bearded One, and you cannot take me to my people as you say. But if you are a friend as your tongue says, and have no desires to eat me, then I thank you for your bravery in saving me from the Myankos. But you have great magic and I am your slave."
" 'Curling herself up in the canoe, with a gesture of finality, she fell asleep as calmly and peacefully as though, a few moments before, she had not been destined for a cannibal feast or was not a homeless, fatherless waif in the woodskin of a strange being in the heart of the jungle.
" 'As I drifted on, hour after hour, and looked upon the girl lying unconscious before me, a great longing filled my heart and tears welled to my eyes, as I thought back through the years to the time when my daughter was lost to me. Now Fate brought this fatherless girl to me. I determined that if ever we reached civilization, I would adopt her as my daughter to fill the place of my long dead child.
" 'What if she were an Indian, a partial Albino, as I knew she must be? She was as fair as many a white woman, she was beautiful, her eyes and her every expression and act bespoke high intelligence. Training and education would fit her to hold her place and be a credit to me. And if we won through, she would be rich, for did I not have a fortune in emeralds and gold? Comforted by such thoughts, breathing wordless thanks to the God who had guided me, I drifted on until the raucous notes of parrots and toucans and the calls of countless birds warned me that dawn was approaching, and the velvet black sky grew blue and the stars were snuffed out and the shadowy forest was clear and sharp in the light of sunrise.’ "
“ ‘MERIMA awoke as the first rays of the sun shot athwart the river and dispelled the mists of night. For a moment she looked puzzled, and then her face cleared and she smiled and spoke the morning greeting of the Tucumaris:
"' "Manuaida (may the day bring happiness), 0, Bearded One."
"' "And to you, also, Manuaida," I responded.
" 'Running the canoe ashore, I soon had a fire going, and Merima's looks of wonder and surprise, as I struck a light by flint and steel, was as great as had been those of the monkey-men, the first time they had witnessed the seeming miracle.
" 'But she would have none of my preparing the meal. That was her work, she insisted; the work of a woman and not of a great chief, and, she added, I was a mighty chief indeed, for had I not alone rescued her from the Myankos? Had I not brought thunder from the sky to destroy and frighten them? And did I not have the chief's crown of purple feathers?
" 'She was as gay and light-hearted as a child, and I marvelled that she could have recovered so quickly from her recent trying experience and her bereavement. But the Indians, as you doubtless know, take their sorrows and troubles lightly and do not make their lives miserable by thinking of the past as do white men; and theirs is a very sensible habit, too. As she busied herself over the fire, I got out the largest piece of bark-cloth I had, and after washing it well, I hung it in the sun to dry, for I intended to have Merima use it for some sort of clothing. Oddly enough, although I had long been accustomed to seeing Indian women nude or nearly nude, yet the sight of Merima, with only a very small portion of her lovely body and fair skin covered by a scanty skirt-like strip of bark-cloth, troubled me and struck me as immodest.
" 'She was highly amused when I handed her the piece of cloth and explained my wishes, but she was ready to obey me in anything and draped it about her shoulders with a feminine cleverness which was amazing. As we slipped down the river that day, Merima told me much about her tribe, her life, and the habits and customs of the Petoradis. The more she told me the more I marveled that I had never before heard of the tribe. But, after all, it was not so very surprising, for while I was familiar with much of the country and many of its Indian denizens, still I knew that there were countless tribes dwelling in the remote vastnesses of the unexplored jungles, whose existence was unknown even to other aborigines. And I realized that I had been and still was in a very remote portion of the land. The village of the Metakis, where I had first run across the Waupona, was far from the coast and settlements; from there I had travelled countless miles further into the interior to the valley of the monkey-men, and for all I knew I was now farther inland than when I was in the valley. I tried to learn from Merima where the Patoradis dwelt, but her knowledge was very vague and she had not the least idea of the direction in which she had been carried by her savage captors. All she knew was that her home had been within sight of large snow-capped mountains and beside a river, but from what she told me of the people and their habits and food I knew that they must have dwelt at a comparatively high altitude on one of the great inland plateaus. She was, of course, very curious about me and my people, but she was quite unable to grasp the idea of any race of men other than Indians or of any land other than that to which she was accustomed.
" ‘When we stopped at noonday for lunch, I succeeded in killing a curassow or wild turkey, and while Merima was preparing this, I searched about and soon found a good sized Seda Virgin tree. From this I obtained a large sheet of the cloth-like inner bark, and by roping the ends of this by means of strong cord made of twisted strips of the same bark, I fashioned a rough and ready, but quite serviceable and comfortable hammock, for I had no intention of letting the girl sleep in the canoe or on the ground exposed to the attacks of ants and other insect pests, and she had positively refused to let me give up my hammock for her. Merima laughed gaily at my bag-shaped makeshift, and, after our meal, she hurried about and gathered a great bundle of the silkgrass that grew abundantly close to the water. Throughout the afternoon she worked diligently, shredding the grass and twisting the fibre into cord, and by night she had a number of balls of strong, soft twine with which she informed me she planned to weave a real hammock. But a good hammock cannot be made in a day, and it was more than a week later that she at last swung her new hammock between the trees. She was a most self-reliant creature and had a far greater knowledge of bush resources and native handicraft than I possessed, and I often wondered how any white girl would have fared if left to her own devices in a jungle, where Merima could have lived quite comfortably if she had found herself alone.
" 'Constantly, too, as we drifted along from dawn until dark, I was planning for her future. Barring accidents or the remote chance of running afoul of hostile Indians, we would eventually reach the settlements, and at the first outpost of civilization I would take steps to legally adopt Merima as my daughter. I realized that there might be obstacles to this if the swarthy officials saw her and cast covetous eyes upon her, for after all she was an Indian, and, in the minds of the natives, Indians are all fair prey. But the chances were that the first place we reached would be some tiny village with a ragged, barefooted "corregidor" or "alcalde" who would be quite willing to do anything within or without the law in return for one of my nuggets or a small emerald. Even if we came to a large town and I had difficulties with the legal matters I had enough wealth to buy any Latin American official who ever lived. Moreover, where there was a settlement there also would be a church and a padre, and my first step would be to have Merima baptized and have a priest act as her godfather, after which her status in the community would be entirely altered. Merima, however, was of course an utter pagan, and in order to carry out my plans she would have to possess some knowledge of the Christian religion and a desire to join the Church. With this in mind I decided to devote my time to instructing her. I told her of my religion and attempted to teach her English. But that was easier said than done. Although I could readily speak and understand the Tucumari dialect, yet Indian tongues have their limits, and while they are very complex and rich, yet they possess no equivalents for many of our commonest words and no means of expressing many of our civilized ideas and thoughts. Merima listened intently, the while busily working at a supply of lace-bark which she was deftly transforming into a wrapper-like dress—for once she understood I wished her clothed, she was anxious to please me. I could see she regarded my words as some sort of a fairy tale or legend. I tried my hardest to explain my beliefs and to impress her. She was a very intelligent young woman and quick to guess at my meaning and to supply words where I failed, and she soon began to understand and to take a real interest and to ask questions. I must confess that many of her queries would have baffled a far more advanced theologian than myself, and many of her interrogations set me to thinking along lines which had never before occurred to me. Why, she asked, was the Christian God superior to the gods of the Patoradis? All her life she had been given health, food, shelter, friends and everything she desired. Could my God give her anything more? But, I pointed out, the Indians' gods had failed them when the Myankos attacked them.
'" "And does the Bearded One's God never fail His people?" she demanded. "Do the people of my Bearded One never have wars, and are they never killed?"
" 'I flushed and hesitated, but I was forced to confess that the Christian God apparently allowed His worshippers to meet with disaster as frequently as did the gods of the Indians. Merima, nevertheless, was quite willing to embrace Christianity, not because she believed in it or had been converted by my words, but because she felt that it was my wish and since it was my religion she should make it hers. However, while such a convert might not be all that a strict churchman might desire, my purpose would be served. She could, I knew, understand any ordinary questions that might be asked her by a priest, and she had a fairly good idea of the underlying basis of Christianity. Later on she could be properly instructed. From all this it might be assumed that I am a deeply religious man; but I am not. I do not belong to any particular sect or church, and I firmly believe that every man and woman has a right to worship any deity or deities he or she prefers. I have dwelt among many races with many beliefs, and it seems to me one religion is as good as another, provided a person has true faith and lives up to the teachings of that religion. In fact I have never had any patience whatever with those misguided individuals or sects who are forever striving to force their own personal beliefs and religions down the throats of others who do not agree with them. As far as I personally was concerned, Merima might have remained a pagan forever, or rather, I should say, she might forever have adhered to the beliefs of her tribe. But I knew in a Catholic country where the Church possesses vast power and influence, it would be both to her advantage and my own to have her a Christian—outwardly at least. I was not at all sure, as a matter of fact, that I could legally adopt her until she had been baptized.
'"Hard as it proved to make her understand my outline of Christianity, I found it still harder to teach her my language. She was anxious enough to learn and took a far greater interest in my efforts to teach her English than in my attempts to convert her to my faith. But her tongue, lips and vocal cords, accustomed only to producing the gutteral, peculiar sounds of her native dialect, were ill adapted for pronouncing English words. Often her attempts to repeat a word after me were highly amusing, and we both laughed heartily as she pursed her lips, screwed up her face and slowly and painstakingly tried to pronounce some word, only to fail utterly. But she was a persevering little thing and enthusiastically desirous of succeeding, and gradually, as the days passed, she learned to utter the words. And to my amazement, when she did master the sounds, she spoke the words without the least accent. She was most particular in this respect, and would not speak a word which she could not pronounce perfectly. This made her progress rather slow and I foresaw that it would be a long time before she could express herself readily or even thoroughly understand English, for so highly developed was her sense of sound—the slightest varying shade of accent or pronunciation of an Indian word changes its meaning— that a word carelessly spoken or mispronounced was entirely unintelligible to her.
" 'But if my attempts to instruct Merima accomplished little in some ways, yet they served to pass the time, and the days sped swiftly. At first, I had forgotten to keep my string calendar, but I soon rectified this, and on the third day after finding Merima I again resumed my daily knot-tying. Hence I knew it was on the eighteenth day after emerging from the tunnel that we struck the first rapids. To be sure, we had several times passed through swift, broken water, but nothing that was dangerous or difficult, and the canoe had behaved wonderfully. But now, ahead, stretched a long series of foaming, rock-filled rapids stretched ahead. Alone, I should not have hesitated to have run boldly through them, but with the added weight and the responsibility of Merima I was rather fearful of attempting it in my frail craft. Mooring the woodskin at the head of the rapids, I stepped ashore, and with Merima by my side, I walked down stream examining the rushing water, locating the rocks and speculating on my chances of running the gauntlet safely. They were not bad as rapids go in the bush, and luckily there were no true falls or cataracts. Had the stretch of broken water been shorter, however, I would have laboriously portaged the canoe around rather than take the risk. But it was an impossible task to portage the craft for over a mile through the forest, and Merima laughed at my hesitation, declaring that there was no danger and that many a time she had run far worse rapids by herself.
" 'Moreover, she could, I knew, swim like an otter, for she regularly took her morning dip and appeared as much at home in water as on land. With some misgivings therefore, I shoved the canoe from shore and into the racing current.
" 'Merima had grasped the extra paddle I had provided, and standing in the bow, wielded the paddle and swung the bobbing, racing craft from jagged black rocks with all the consummate skill of an Indian boatman. As she stood there, her long hair flying, swaying and undulating in perfect rhythm to the wildly gyrating motions of the frail canoe, plying her paddle first on one side and then the other, shouting back a direction or a warning to me, and with her face flushed with excitement, I gazed at her in admiration and thought what a wonderful specimen of perfect womanhood she was.
"Without her aid, I doubt if I would have come through the rapids in safety. As it was, we never grazed a rock, never shipped a pint of water, and in almost no time shot from the last broken water into the tranquil river beyond.
" 'Throughout that day and the next we traversed rapid after rapid, and thus I knew that hitherto we must have been traveling across the fairly level plateau of the far interior and that now we were descending the slope towards the lowlands and the sea. This was encouraging, but I was aware that many miles and many days of travel might still lie before us. There might be even worse rapids and falls ahead; but each hour that we sped on we drew nearer and nearer to the haunts of civilized men. Also, there might be settlements or even good-sized towns far up this river. Often, too, we had passed the mouths of other streams; some mere creeks, other good-sized rivers, which made me feel sure that the stream we were following was a main river or the tributary of some great river. So far, too, we had met no Indians, and this also convinced me that we were on a major stream, for the Indians seldom dwell upon such large rivers; they prefer the smaller streams and creeks. Still we had maintained a sharp lookout for chance canoes drawn upon the banks or for signs of savages, for we never knew, but that, when rounding some bend or turn, we might suddenly find ourselves face to face with a boat load of hostiles or a village of enemy Indiana. More than once we had found unmistakable proofs of the presence of savages in the neighborhood.
" 'Once we had found a dead deer floating in a backwater and with the broken shaft of an arrow protruding from his neck. At another time Merima's sharp eyes had detected bits of shredded silk grass floating from the mouth of a small creek. Twice we had seen the thin blue spirals of smoke from Indian camps rising above the forest in the distance, and on another occasion, as we passed by the half-concealed opening that marked a sluggish "Itabu" or side channel, Merima had raised her hand for silence, and from afar off in the jungle we had heard the yelping barks of Indians' dogs. Despite her recent experience with the Myankos, Merima seemed less fearful of meeting Indians than was I. Partly, she had a most gratifying and supreme confidence in my ability to overcome anything or to triumph over any savages, based, of course, on my lucky and successful rout of the Myankos. But such an act could not be repeated, and I was well aware that I would stand no chance with only my bow and arrows and my machete for weapons, if we should meet hostile Indians. Of course, the Indians we might meet might not be enemies, for by far the greater number of aborigines in the country are peaceable and friendly. Had I known where we were, I would have been more at ease, for I should then have known pretty well what tribes we were likely to meet. But there was no use worrying over it. So far fate, luck or
" 'We had camped as usual beside the river, but well hidden from any chance voyagers on the stream, and as always we had been careful to extinguish the last glowing spark of the fire which might serve to betray our presence, for I felt that the danger of savage men was far greater than the danger from the vampire bats, which are kept at a safe distance by the light from a fire.
" 'It seemed as if I had barely closed my eyes when I found myself awake, keyed up, listening intently as if through my subconsciousness some danger signal had penetrated. From her hammock beside me, I could hear Merima's regular breathing; not an unusual sound broke the silence, and yet I was filled with a strange sensation of dread, of imminent peril, and without moving I turned my eyes towards the forest with its black shadows, blacker by contrast with the pale light of the waning moon. Instantly my heart seemed to cease beating and I felt paralyzed with gripping fear. Within twenty yards of my hammock stood a naked, painted Indian, his low blow-gun resting across a small tree and pointed directly at me. Beyond him, like shadows creeping along the forest edge, were two more savages, each armed with a blowgun and a powerful bow and arrows, silently, stealthily approaching Merima and myself. I felt absolutely sick with terror. To move a muscle or utter a sound meant certain death for myself and death or worse for the girl. At my first word, at my first whisper to Merima, the Indians would spring upon us, and even before they reached our hammocks a poisoned dart would bury itself in my flesh. I was absolutely helpless, powerless even to warn my companion of her approaching doom. The flicker of an eyelid might bring the deadly missile from the blowgun, and I marveled that my fast throbbing heart and fear-shaken limbs had not already warned the savage that I was awake. Nearer and nearer to the hammocks crept the other two Indians. The seconds seemed like hours, and the sound of my heart beats seemed to echo through the silence of the night and to shake my hammock.
" 'Sweat poured from my skin, chills ran over me, and I had an insane desire to scream, to spring up, to at least warn Merima before the blow fell.
" 'Then a strange, an amazing thing happened. Suddenly the Indian with the leveled blowgun turned his head and glanced downward at his feet. The next instant, with a low cry of horror, he leaped back, dropping his weapon as he did so.
" 'At the sound, the other two halted and wheeled in time to see their companion dashing madly into the forest. Before he had covered a dozen yards, panic seized them and they, too, turned and fled. Scarcely had they started to run, when the first fellow stumbled and fell, uttering a fearful blood-curdling scream. The next moment he was up again, and in the moonlight I saw with terror that from feet to waist his yellow-brown skin was hidden by a moving, swarming, black mass. Instantly I understood the reason for the savages' mad terror, for their panic-stricken flight. The Indians were surrounded, attacked by the most terrible of jungle creatures—the irresistible swarming, millions of the all-devouring army-ants!
" 'Merima, aroused by the first yells of the savages, had started up and had cried out in alarm. At sound of her voice my senses had returned to me, and in a hoarse, terrified voice, I warned her not to stir from her hammock, and in rapid, terse words explained what had threatened and what was taking place.
" 'Brave, jungle-trained, obedient girl that she was, she remained motionless, half-sitting up in her hammock, her eyes like my own, staring, fascinated, at the tragedy taking place before us. Frantically but vainly the Indians were struggling against the hordes of biting, ravenous, hunger-mad ants which on every side, surrounded and overwhelmed them, covering the ground with a living, undulating carpet that pushed steadily onward like a living torrent, and relentlessly devouring every living thing in its path. Over the shrieking Indians the creatures swarmed, and from under our hammocks, from all about, from the trees near, came the sound of their moving bodies and hungry jaws, like the rustle of a wind among dry leaves. I shuddered and I saw Merima's eyes widen and her face blanch, as glancing about, we saw the black millions covering the earth, swarming up the trees, covering everything except our hammocks within which we were safe from attack, for the army-ants will not cross a rough rope. Meanwhile the Indians' yells were growing fainter. One of the three with blood pouring from thousands of bites, had broken through the ant-army, and shrieking like a maniac, had vanished in the jungle. Another was still fighting madly, brushing the swarming creatures from his eyes, uttering heart-rending cries of agony, blinded, beset on every side, and already doomed. The third, the last to take alarm, had been silenced; he had been overwhelmed and was now hidden under the swarming ants. In a moment more the other savage's cries turned to groans, he sank to the earth, and soon all that marked the presence of the two were formless, motionless mounds of ants. Trembling and nauseated, I watched the seemingly endless army of insects pass on its devastating way, apparently never stopping even to devour their human victims.
" 'For hour after hour we lay there with staring eyes, not daring to stir from our hammocks, until at last day dawned and by the welcome light we saw the last few stragglers of the ant-army scurrying over the ground and vanishing in the forest. A short distance away two piles of clean-picked white bones and two grinning skulls were all that remained of the fierce savages, from whom we had been so miraculously saved.
" 'Staggering from my hammock, I fell upon my knees and thanked God fervently for our deliverance. For a moment Merima watched me curiously, and then, dropping to her knees beside me, she, too, in her own way gave thanks to him who had guarded us through that terrible night.
" 'As I rose, Merima gazed at me fixedly for a moment, a peculiar expression in her eyes. "Yesterday, Bearded One, I had no faith in that God of yours," she announced. "I believed only in your magic and the gods of the Patoradis. But neither your magic nor the Patoradi gods could have sent the ants to kill our enemies, so it must have been your God, and henceforth shall I, too, worship Him."
“ ‘IT was four days after our miraculous deliverance from the Indians, that we came to a fork in the river. Directly in its centre it was split by a wooded point, and I had no possible way of determining which branch to follow. However, it made little difference, for eventually both streams must lead to the coast. I longed to reach the settlements by the shortest route and was therefore fearful of taking the longest. Deciding to trust to the Indians' instinct, and to woman's intuition, I left the choice to Merima, and without hesitation she took the left hand stream.
" 'Very soon, I knew, we must be approaching the lowlands, we had left all the ranges and cataracts astern. Yellow and blue macaws appeared in place of the red and green species of the interior. Water fowl and herons increased in numbers. Fan-palms and ivory-nut-palms appeared among the trees. The river flowed sluggishly, and along the banks were growths of broad-leaved water plants, rushes and giant lilies. All great danger of hostile Indians, I felt was over, there were no more rapids to run, and feeling more joyous and elated than I had felt for months, I paddled on with Merima helping, and now looking quite civilized in her loose single garment that fell from her shoulders to her ankles, and with her hair neatly braided and coiled. Each day the river widened and more and more indications of the low lands were apparent, until the current completely ceased and we found ourselves floating on the placid surface of a large lake. Everywhere were jungle-covered islands, and on every hand stretched the jungle-covered shores with no visible outlet. I was bitterly disappointed and could see nothing to do but paddle back up miles of river and descend the other branch. But before abandoning all hope, I decided to paddle around the shores in search of some stream that flowed from the lake. I found not one but a score. All were small, however, and one seemed as promising, or rather as little promising as another. But it was worth trying, and, if after a reasonable time, the stream I selected did not increase in size, or if I found it was not flowing in a general northerly direction, I could still retrace my way. So, pushing through the plants and low-hanging vines that almost concealed the entrance to one of the outlets, I followed the stream into the jungle. Very quickly the stream broadened, the current increased, and by nightfall we were again on a large river.
" 'Encouraged, we chatted and laughed as we ate our evening meal, and I told Merima my plans for the future. Somehow, up to then, I had never mentioned my idea of adopting her.
" 'But she was elated at the idea. In fact, more than elated, for she could not express her delight at thought of having found a new father, and it was with difficulty that I could prevent her from- grovelling before me as the monkey-men had done when I was their king.
" 'The next morning we started at dawn and, at any time now, I half expected to see a clearing, a village of friendly Indians or signs of man's presence.
" 'Scarcely two hours had passed after leaving our camp when, as we swung around a curve, a surprised exclamation burst from
" 'We attracted little attention as we ran the canoe ashore beside a dozen dugouts at the landing place below the village. The few ragged mulattos and mestizos, who lounged about, appeared to take little interest in the bearded stranger with garments as threadbare as their own who stepped from a canoe, accompanied by an Indian girl. They were far too accustomed to seeing travellers from the bush to show any curiosity, and to them, no doubt, I appeared merely another bush trader with a half-breed companion. But had Merima possessed wings, and had I worn horns, I doubt if the natives would have been roused from their inherent and chronic state of laziness and lethargy. As we passed up the hill, Merima staring about with wondering eyes at everything, a few unkempt women peered at us from their doorways, naked children scurried from the sunbaked littered street, and the few men we saw glanced at us in half-hearted fashion, as if rather wondering who we were and on what errand, and yet not possessing enough vitality to ask.
" 'In his humble adobe dwelling beside the ancient church, I found the padre, a white-haired,. lean-faced, kindly-eyed priest, who gravely, but smilingly welcomed us and asked in what manner he could serve me. And as I related my tale, or as much of it as had to do with Merima, and explained my plans and desires, he listened attentively, nodding now and then, and uttering half-suppressed exclamations of amazement at times, until I had ended.
"' "It is a strange, a most marvelous tale, my son," he exclaimed. "You have seen things which have been granted no other man, and through all you have been led and guarded by our Heavenly Father. In my youth, I, too, was filled with the spirit of adventure, and wandered far and among strange peoples, striving ever to spread the true Faith. Many Indian tribes did I know—and, Alas! I fear they proved barren ground for the word of God—and in my wanderings I have heard mentioned the name of the Patoradis though never did I reach within many leagues of their land. But the Tucumaris I knew well, and their language I understand and speak somewhat, though 'tis years since my ears heard words or my tongue tried to form the sounds of the dialect; hence it is well that the maiden speaks that tongue, for thus can I converse with her. Truly, my son," he continued, "it is a worthy deed you have in mind—to adopt the maiden as your daughter. And I doubt if you will find it a difficult matter, for Don Ramon, the alcalde, is a good fellow at heart—though he drinks over much and is not too attentive to his duties. And he is a good friend of mine. I misdoubt if he knows the law or if he has the papers necessary to be signed, but in such matters I can act for the State as well as the Church, and all Don Ramon need do is to sign his name and affix his seal. But as you thought, my son, first must the maiden be baptized and registered as a Christian and a communicant of my church, for under the law the pagan, the Indians are wards of the government and may not be treated like other citizens. And a most worthy deed have you done in teaching the child the truths of Christianity and in converting her to a belief in our true God. Now, my son, will I summon old Marta and give the maiden into her care to be properly clad. Then, when we have dined, conversed with,—Merima, is it not?—to assure myself of her desires, I will give her baptism and fill out the papers that will be signed by Don Ramon."
" 'Rising, he clapped his hands, and in response to his summons a stout, good-natured old Indian woman appeared, and in a few words Fray Benedicto gave her his orders. Merima, poor girl, looked thoroughly frightened and hung back, for of course she understood no word of what any of us had been saying, as the conversation had been all in Spanish. But when the kind-faced Padre spoke to her reassuringly in the familiar Tucumari, and I also added a few words, she smiled and followed old Marta willingly.
" 'Then Fray Benedicto thoughtfully suggested that I, too, needed proper garments, and calling a Mestizo boy, he ordered him to supply anything I might need. Soap, a shave and clean whole clothes, though they were no more than coarse native garments of cotton, transformed me into a new man, and as I entered the cool "sala" Fray Benedicto uttered a cry of amazement at my altered appearance. He had been pacing back and forth as I entered, a perplexed, troubled look upon his face. Then, having recovered quickly from his first surprise at my transformation, he came forward and laid a hand upon my shoulder.
" 'His manner and his expression gave me a premonition of something wrong, and my heart sank at thought that it must have to do with Merima. And his first words convinced me my fears were justified.
"' "My son," he said bravely, "I fear that it will not be possible for you to adopt the maiden—at least for the present. I have made—"
"' "Not possible?" I cried, "Why not? If it is a question of money, I have wealth and to spare—gold and emeralds. If your Don Ramon—"
" ‘He held up his hand and smiled. "Nay," he said, interrupting my words. "It is not a matter of money as you think. Merima, the Patoradi, you could have adopted in full compliance with the laws within the hour. But the maiden is no Indian."
"' "Not an Indian!" I gasped. "Nonsense! Of course she's Indian, an Albino, or partial Albino perhaps, but an Indian just the same."
" 'Fray Benedicto smiled and shook his gray head ' "So I, too, thought until a few moments ago," he said ' "But Indians—not even the Patoradis—do not vaccinate and the girl bears the mark of vaccination. Who she may be I know not, but that she is white and no Indian, I am certain."
" 'I sank back into a chair utterly overwhelmed, incredulous and unable to believe my ears.
"' "But, but," I stammered, "If she's not an Indian, if she is white how—what—"
"' "If you doubt it, here is further proof," announced Fray Benedicto.
"' "Old Marta found it among the savage ornaments the maiden wore!"
" 'As he spoke, he handed me a small golden trinket, a tiny, worn locket, an unmistakable example of civilized man's workmanship.
" 'For an instant I gazed dully at the thing and then an involuntary cry came from my lips, and I stared at the bit of jewelry with fascinated, unbelieving eyes. Trembling, torn between hopes and fears, I pressed a secret spring and the back of the locket came open. Tears filled my eyes. I felt suddenly weak as I gazed like one in a trance at what was revealed. It was impossible, utterly incredible, but true. Within the locket, faded and stained, was the portrait of a fair-haired blue-eyed child—the portrait of my long lost daughter, my baby Ruth!
" 'Overcome with emotion, unable to grasp the overwhelming truth, fearing to trust my senses, I sat there, my eyes fixed upon the miniature within the locket, tears coursing down my cheeks until I was aroused by the kindly priest who laid one hand gently upon my bowed head.
'" "Oh, God!" I groaned, "Can it be true? Can Merima be my own daughter? How can I ever be sure?"
"' "Perchance still another miracle has been wrought," said Fray Benedicto in reverential tones. "Had your daughter no marks of identification, no blemish, no mole, nothing by which you could recognize her beyond all question of a doubt?"
"'For a brief moment I gathered my scattered senses together and thought deeply. Then a cry of joy came from my lips, as I remembered.
"’ "Yes," I exclaimed, "a tiny birthmark like a pink crescent at the nape of the neck. Oh—"
" 'But Fray Benedicto was hurrying from the room before my sentence was completed.
" 'In a moment he reappeared, leading Merima by the hand. But not the Merima I had known. Instead, I saw a gloriously beautiful girl whose loveliness was enhanced rather than diminished by the cheap calico dress she wore. With twinkling eyes and a happy smile, the priest drew her towards me as Merima, failing to recognize me at first, held back half fearfully.
"' "My son, give thanks to God that another miracle has happened," cried Fray Benedicto, as he crossed himself. "The maiden is your own flesh and blood, your daughter, whom none may dispute. Look for yourself. The mark is there."
" 'Sobbing with joy, muttering incoherently, I clasped Merima in my arms and in broken words of English, Spanish and Tucumari—strove to tell her that she was my own, long lost daughter. She, poor child, could not grasp it and thought no doubt I had suddenly gone mad. But, as very patiently Fray Benedicto related the story of Ruth's supposed death and showed her the picture of herself in babyhood within the locket, she at last became convinced. But she could remember nothing of her babyhood, of course, nothing of her first few years among the Tucumari and to this day the true story of her salvation, of how she was found and adopted by the Indians, is but a vague conjecture. It mattered little, however. That she was alive and restored to me was enough, and never was there a more joyous party than we three as we breakfasted on that memorable morning in Fray Benedicto's home in little Santa Ysobel.
" 'It was all so wonderful, so incredible, and as I looked at Merima, or rather Ruth, in her stiff mestizo dress, a great wave of utter joy and contentment possessed me and I felt that great indeed had been my reward for all the sufferings and hardships I had undergone. I, who had entered the forest penniless and alone, had come forth a Croesus with the loveliest of daughters.'"
"And you actually believe that yarn?" demanded
"Most assuredly," replied the explorer. "Meredith had the Waupona feather crown; he had the emeralds and the gold, and he had his daughter. Why should anyone doubt his story?"
"Well, I'd have to be shown," declared Blake. "I'd like to see such convincing accessories—especially the girl."
"Same here," agreed Thurston.
"Well, I'll be hanged!" ejaculated
Mr. A. Hyatt Verrill has been connected with the Museum of the American Indian for many years. His Interest in Indians, however, is not confined to the American. Perhaps one reason he is so well able to inject a touch of realism to his stories about
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