Wednesday, 17 August 2011

He Cured a Savage's Stomach-ache

This story about AHV was written by another SF writer who wrote in Amazing Stories. I had been looking for this article for some time, although the story is also told in Never A Dull Moment, Verrill's autobiography.

He Cured a Savage's Stomach-ache and Became a Cannibal Chief

From The American Magazine for April 1931, provided by Alan Schenker, digitized by Doug Frizzle, August 2011.

HAVE you ever met Cuviboranandi, chief of the Guaymi cannibals? You may have, if you live in New York. Perhaps you've seen him in the subway, or strolling through Central Park. You may have read some of the more than sixty books he's written on exploration, travel, ethnology, archeology, and heaven knows what. Or you may have seen some of the exhibits of his paintings. For he's a busy author and artist, and dwells in the big city when he isn't penetrating distant jungles, wallowing through tropical swamps, or climbing perilous peaks. And his name, apart from being Chief Cuviboranandi, is A. Hyatt Verrill.

In addition to being a chief of a wild Panama Indian tribe, Verrill is the discoverer of the tremendous and long-extinct "Coclé" civilization in Panama. In 1924 he found, and partly excavated, remains of that amazing and forgotten culture. Then, too, he claims to be the only white man who has seen the fabulously rich gold mine of Tisingal, in Costa Rica, since the Indians butchered the Spanish miners there, long ago, and who has lived to tell of it.

Scores, perhaps hundreds, of white men have paid with their lives for rash attempts to reach this fabulous El Dorado. The long-lost mine lies far up in a savage, unmapped region within the fastnesses of mighty, forest-covered mountain ranges. Its history reeks with romance, blood, torture, death. There, centuries ago, the mailclad Dons from Spain ruthlessly murdered and enslaved the Indians, worked them to death, annihilated them, in their mad lust for gold.

Those Dons hewed their way indomitably through jungles, struggled over mountains, and with superhuman labor and cruelty wrung a flood of gold out of this, the richest mine ever known.

At length came the day of retribution, on which the Indians massacred their oppressors to the last man, swearing death to any white-skin who should ever again seek to lay eyes on Tisingal, Yet Chief Cuviboranandi, alias A. Hyatt Verrill, has laid eyes on it; and he still lives. For, on one of his explorations, after incredible hardships, he happened to reach the dwelling of King Polu, cacique, or king, of the Shayshan Indians, guardians of the secret of the lost mine.

And there Fate intervened, to disclose the perilous secret. For the King's daughter, aged eight, was stricken with an agonizing attack of colic. Verrill cured her. "Come with me!" bade the King. Endless hours Verrill followed him up a pathway of tremendous difficulty, across unknown mountains. At last the King showed him a rough, paved road, the remains of a stockade, moss-covered cannons lying in the jungle. Those cannons bore the date 1515. Talk about your thrills!

"Near by, hidden in rank growth," says Verrill, "lay wealth beyond one's wildest dreams. Gold and the white man's lust for wealth have always been the curse of the Indians, and I am thankful that the secret of this lost treasure-place, the world's richest gold mine, is so effectively guarded."

The Guaymis, Verrill explains, are an exceptionally fine people. They deny being cannibals—now; but they once were, and the way they sharpen their teeth looks mighty suspicious. That sort of sharpening invariably goes with cannibalism.

Never yet conquered, the Guaymis live among mountains that are still for the most part unexplored. Verrill was warned not to go among them, but, in spite of all that, he went. For many days he dwelt as a guest in the house of their Chief Neonandi. He learned that these people are descendants of the Aztecs. And their supreme king—rarely seen by any white man—still bears the ancient title of "Montezuma."

After Verrill had been some time with Chief Neonandi, a huge dance-festival was organized for him, on a remote mountain-top. But just before the festivities the "dance-chief," or medicine man, fell sick.

"I diagnosed his trouble as only colic, and gave him some medicine," said Verrill. "The others gathered about me and watched me reverently, for word had spread that I was doctoring the dance-chief, a most sacred personage. If he sought my help, I must be great indeed!"

Well, the witch doctor recovered, and Verrill's fame grew swiftly. When Montezuma himself arrived for the dance, Verrill found himself a prime favorite. After the dance Verrill was led into a temple, where he witnessed a colorful feast.

At its conclusion, Montezuma stepped forward, arrayed in all his gorgeous regalia, and delivered an eloquent harangue. Then Montezuma and Neonandi grasped Verrill's arms and led him to the altar.

"Was I about to be sacrificed?—This I wondered as they were leading me," said Verrill. "But I was soon reassured, for Neonandi explained that I had been adopted as a member of the tribe. After this, the real show began."

THE dance-chief produced a bead collar and a gorget, which he put around Verrill's neck. Then came a string of jaguar's teeth and a fillet of scalp locks. A painted drum was hung over Verrill's shoulder. Finally, Montezuma deftly drew the tribal marks of the Guaymis across the white man's cheeks, added two round spots below them, and traced a line down his nose; after which the dance-chief set a crown of hair, from the giant ant bear, on his head. "I was absolutely dumfounded," says Verrill, "for I realized I was also being made a 'medicine chief.' Then, when I had swallowed a calabash of chocolate, the ceremony was ended, and I was a full-fledged Guaymi chief, honored as no white man had ever been—and all because I had cured an old Indian's stomach-ache!"


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As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.