Friday, 30 November 2012
I wanted a place to store this great little article on Paiwari making and the science behind it. My appologies to the author for copying it without permission, but it is an obscure article and hard to locate. (The author may write me if he wants it removed.)/drf
The Science Behind Paiwari Making by Indians
From Earliest Recorded Use of Biotechnology Procedures in Guyana by Seelochan Beharry PhD. http://www.pantribalconfederacy.com/ and specifically, http://www.pantribalconfederacy.com/confederacy/News/pdf/Earliest_Recorded_Biotechnology.pdf
The late Sir Everard F. im Thurn (MA. Oxon, b1852 - d1932) published (1883) a work entitled: “Among the Indians of Guiana: Being Sketches Chiefly Anthropologic from the Interior of British Guiana.” I have in my possession a copy of the Dover Publications Inc, New York, 1967 (Library of congress #66-30384). This Dover edition first published in 1967 is an unabridged and unaltered republication of the work originally published by Kegan, Paul, and Trenton Co, 1883.
There are detailed descriptions of how Cassava bread is made, with variations under different conditions when the cassava is scarce. However, we want to focus on the earliest recorded incidence of ‘Biotechnology’ procedures in British Guiana. (This is from my contemporary readings of our national historical documentation – I am of course subject to correction by evidence to the contrary by the experts in this field.)
On Page 263 of the abovementioned work (over a century ago), we read: “Much cassava, after being made into bread, is further transformed into paiwari, the chief Indian beverage. Astounding quantities of this are consumed at special drinking bouts, of which we shall hear more presently. But paiwari is also largely used at other times; and indeed as long as there is any cassava to be had, a stock of this liquor is always kept ready. Whenever the men return from hunting, and whenever a stranger comes into the house, it is drunk. And women and children – even the youngest babies – drink it.”
“Cassava bread which is to be transformed into paiwari, is made as that for other purposes; but it is thicker, and is baked, or rather burned, until it is quite black. It is then broken into smaller fragments, and is mixed with water in a large jar or pot. The larger fragments are picked out and chewed by the women, who do this while moving about and performing their usual household work; and the masses are again replaced in the jar. As soon as this jar is sufficiently filled, its contents, after being well stirred, are slightly boiled, and are then poured into the trough. More and more is added to the liquor in the trough. More and more is added to the liquor in the trough until it is full.”
“The mixture is then allowed to stand for some days, until it is sufficiently fermented – a process which is said to be much accelerated by the mastication of the bread. Sometimes a little juice of sugarcane is added to sweeten the liquor. The result is a brownish liquor –looking like coffee with a great deal of milk in it - with a sub-acid, but not unpleasant taste. Some of the True Caribs, it is said, and some of the Brazilian tribes, manage to prepare paiwari, and to procure a proper degree of fermentation, by simply boiling, without resorting to the very disagreeable but more orthodox chewing process; but paiwari produced in this way is said to be of very inferior flavour.”
“In some parts of the country, instead of paiwari, both for festivals and for ordinary occasions, a much pleasanter drink is used. This is casiri, which is made of sweetpotatoes and sugar-cane. A little cassava is sometimes added. Generally, though not always, it is prepared simply by boiling the ingredients, and allowing them to ferment. It has a pretty pink colour, due to the sweet potatoes; and when well made it tastes not unlike thin claret. ……”
For those who love to eat and have done some science, we would remember that digestion of food begins in the mouth – i.e. chewing breaks down the size of the food particles to smaller and smaller-sized ones. This chewing is necessary so that we can have the maximum surface area of the food exposed to the saliva – produced by the salivary glands in the mouth. This chewing therefore also maximises the efficiency of the catalytic process that occurs in the presence of saliva. The saliva produced in the mouth contains an enzyme called human salivary amylase also called ptyalin (among other chemicals) which is mainly called alpha amylase that breaks down a complex carbohydrate such as starch (polymer of glucose) into simple sugars (monosaccharide, disaccharide or trisaccharide e.g. such as glucose, maltose, maltotriose, respectively, and “limited dextrin”). The alpha amylase enzyme is present in very small amounts in the saliva. Usually, in any biological enzymatic process only a small amount of the catalyst is needed. The alpha amylase enzyme (like other enzymes) here works best at a particular pH (i.e. a measure of acidity or alkalinity) range (in this case slightly alkaline, 7.4). (Incidentally, the saliva also contains another enzyme called lysozyme that lyses (breaks down) bacteria, in addition to other anti-bacterial compounds.)
This saliva helps to sterilise any bacteria that would remain on any improperly washed or handled cassava. Hence the saliva destroys any bacteria present as well as breaking down starch to form glucose, maltose, maltotriose and “limited dextrin”- done by alpha amylase and lysozyme, respectively.
The stirring mentioned above also allows for maximum exposure to the enzymatic processes – thereby maximising the efficiency of the catalytic breakdown of starch into maltose. The heating to a slight boiling denatures (kills) the enzymes - thereby stopping the catalytic action of the enzyme (alpha amylase). This phase of the production process is over. The heating to a boiling also acts as sterilization step – since heat kills bacteria, viruses, and other living micro-organisms that may also be present.
The sterilised maltose is now ready for the next step - fermentation of simple sugar i.e. maltose into alcohol. (Incidentally, from cane sugar we extract the sucrose (a disaccharide) which is then fermented to give alcohol.). Unfortunately, I found no detailed record of how the fermentation process was/is initiated, controlled, and stopped. Maybe those with this knowledge or experience can kindly let us know.
We see from the above that the old making of paiwari is indeed complex science - and the participants involved intuitively must have some understanding of the biological chemistry or biochemistry involved. Today such a complex process would be in the realm of applied science i.e. biotechnology, since it involved the use of biological materials in a complex production process.
Next time, we see Amerindians I hope that we have more respect for their immense knowledge. If we look carefully without prejudice, we can learn a lot from them. They do have a lot to teach us – we just have to be open-minded.
I taught biochemistry at UG, regrettably I was not aware at time that there was a good local example of the application of early biotechnology in Guyana. I never learnt about this until I was doing some research about the ‘Rupununi Uprising.’ Who knows what other gems are there to be discovered and record before they are lost.
These liqueurs (paiwari and casiri) can probably be produced for commercial exploitation using alpha-amylase. Besides the use sweet potatoes in casiri, fruits such as ‘jamoon,’ goose-berry, tamarind, and/or other local fruits can be used to make flavoured liqueurs. This would provide an additional market for cassava–based products. This would be a good enterprise for DDL or some adventurous group of young entrepreneurs.
Hope that next time we can all celebrate Amerindian Heritage month with a new found respect for their contribution and knowledge – in addition to their knowledge in forestry, botany, zoology, and their environmental awareness.
Seelochan Beharry PhD.
also another article
Tuesday, 30 October 2012
A Postscript for the autobiography of A. Hyatt Verrill, from the manuscript Archives of the Museum of the American Indian. Digitized by Doug Frizzle. (This document was not included in the NADM manuscript provided by University of British Columbia a number of years ago.)
There were to have been two more chapters, but Death stilled the great mentality of A. Hyatt Verrill before he had dictated them to me. He had underestimated his ability and strength to stave off the inevitable. Time ran out before he had done.
He had, some years ago, written a fine chapter on his interest in the Mormon Church in his younger days and why he had never found a faith that answered his requirements as he saw them, until he was over seventy years of age and asked, along with me, Ruth, to be taken into the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints in February, 1945. (The "Mormon Church.") He felt that he had not done justice to this important subject and had torn up the work that he had done, planning to re-do it and much better than he thought he had at his first attempt.
The other chapter that never was written was about his last expedition, the trip to Mexico to collect shells, animals, birds, and to do some ethnological work in which he had become interested. The most important result of this expedition was the acquirement of a live supposedly extinct "sun-dog" of the Nahuas and early Mayas, and known to the pre-Incas and Incas as the "Wari Wilka." A creature of indescribable ferocity and utterly unpredictable temperment. This specimen was caught in Chiapas and brought up to Old Ixtepec, Oaxaca, Mexico, by an aged Indian who was employed by a large hacienda in southern Chiapas and was given special leave by his employer that he might bring the creature to us.
Thursday, 9 August 2012
This article was found tucked in a copy of Isles of Spice and Palm that I recently purchased. We are considering island hopping down the Caribbean Isles from Puerto Rico for our next Winter trip./drf
Traveling Through Tropical Isles
Through the Lesser Antilles (Fifth Article)
JOURNAL OF EDUCATION September 24, 1928
By L. H. PUTNEY Boston
ANOTHER day will soon be behind us, for the shades of night are falling with that swiftness which is so characteristic of the tropics —at one moment it is broad daylight and at the next full night with nothing in between that resembles the twilight of the more northerly latitudes. In front of us stretches the Savannah which serves the people of Port of Spain, the capital of the little British colony of Trinidad, both as a broad grassy park and as a field for their sports and horse races. A half mile or so away we can glimpse the outline of Government House, which is made doubly impressive with its rich setting of tropical foliage, and far beyond rise the densely forested slopes of the Northern Mountains.
Since our last letter we have slowly threaded our way through that long chain of islands to which the ancient geographers gave the name Lesser Antilles from the mythical land "Antilla," located on the pre-Columbian maps somewhere in the unknown West. Starting with the Virgin Islands, just to the east of Porto Rico, it stretches southward for almost five hundred miles to the very delta of the Orinoco. So close are these islands to one another that only once or twice on the entire trip was the steamship Dominica out of sight of land. By the old Spanish sailors the more southerly of the Lesser Antilles were known as the "Windward Islands" because they were in the path of the prevailing northeasterly winds, and those farther north as the "Leeward Islands" on account of their more sheltered position. The hundreds of islands comprising the group vary in size from Trinidad, which is slightly larger than our own Long Island, to tiny islets of only a few acres.
Although many of these islands are near neighbors to the Virgin Islands of the United States, few Americans even know the names of the largest and fewer still have looked upon them. This is true even of those whose business calls them periodically to Porto Rico and St. Thomas. Although St. John's on Antigua, the capital of the confederation of northern islands to which is now given the name Leeward Islands, is only a night's run from St. Croix, and Roadtown, the seat of government of the British Virgin Islands, is distant only a dozen miles or so from St. Thomas, for all practical purposes they might as well be hundreds of miles away, for were it not for the monthly inter-island steamers from New York, the only means of communication would be an occasional sloop.
So different are these islands that it is extremely hard to generalize. Most of them are under British sovereignty, but two of the largest—Guadeloupe and Martinique—belong to France, while St. Eustatius, St. Martin, and Saba with her precipitous walls rising to such perilous heights, owe allegiance to the Netherlands, being attached for administrative purposes to Curacao, which is hundreds of miles away, off the Venezuelan coast. All excepting Barbados are of volcanic origin and from time to time are subject to eruptions and other titanic disturbances. On practically all of them may be seen numerous old craters, living reminders of their igneous origin. The farther south you go the more abundant becomes the rainfall; and the greener and more tropical the islands. As a result, while the Virgin Islands and even St. Kitts may be suffering for water, Dominica and St. Lucia, and the islands beyond, will be contending with torrential rains. Although Barbados is only the sixth in size, it the most densely populated of all the Lesser Antilles, having 942 persons to the square mile; this means that few regions anywhere may be compared with it for density of population. Except for one small corner it is wholly of coral formation, to which it owes its peculiarly low appearance as seen from the sea. It is unusually fertile, due to the fact that much of the soil is dust which has settled over the island after eruptions of Mt. Soufriere, a live volcano over on St. Vincent.
For all practical purposes all of the islands are "black" lands, although in both St. Vincent and Dominica there are still a few remnants of the original Carib inhabitants living in remote villages far back in the mountains. That these natives have survived, while none of the Arawaks of Porto Rico and the other Larger Antilles have done so, is explained on the ground that they were a much more warlike people than the latter. In all the islands there is a small pure white element, but no census figures are available to show the exact number, due to the fact, we were told, that many who would be classified mulattoes in the United States or England here are considered whites. However, the largest percentage is undoubtedly found in Barbados, and the French and Dutch Islands. In the first-named island estimates vary from ten to twenty-five per cent, of the total population (156,312), and judging by what we have seen on the streets of Bridgetown on our several visits, we would say that they are not unreasonable. While the pure whites, nearly everywhere except in the French islands, draw rigid social lines, officially no such ostracism is practiced as exists in the Virgin Islands of the United States. As a result the blacks seem well satisfied with their situation and you hear no grumbling against the government or any demands for independence.
In Trinidad at least one-third of the population is East Indian, principally Hindus, with a small sprinkling of Moslems. Nowhere else in this part of the world, except in Demerara or British Guiana, over on the mainland of South America, two hundred fifty miles to the south, are these people found in any number. One result of this large East Indian population is a monthly line of steamships between Port of Spain and Georgetown, the capital of Demerara, and Calcutta, with a large passing to and fro, although to do it involves traveling more than half-way around the world. It seems that after Britain abolished slavery in the West Indian islands in 1834, there was a great shortage of labor. To alleviate this an act was passed by Parliament authorizing the importation of East Indians as indentured servants. Although provision was made for their return to India when the term of service was up, most of them seem to have preferred to stay. Many of those one meets today belong to the second or even third generation, in spite of the fact that the importation did not cease until about ten years ago.
The presence of so many East Indians lends to life in Trinidad a very different color to that found in the other islands. Not only does one meet on the streets old negro women, with long skirts trailing in the dust and gaudy-colored turbans on their heads to serve as supports for huge baskets filled with live chickens or fruits, or for trays of home-made candies, but also many Indian women, dressed in loose flowing white robes and with their arms, feet, and heads bedecked with gold and silver jewelry according to their wealth. Indeed, it is not unusual to meet one of the latter with as many as twenty or thirty heavy silver bracelets on each arm, a headpiece and perchance a necklace of beautiful workmanship frequently studded with gems, and handsome gold rings in both the nose and ears—a veritable exposition of the Indian silver and goldsmith's art. We understand that many of the poorer coolies keep all their wealth in this form, with this advantage, at least, that they know where it is.
In general, it may be said that the Lesser Antilles possess local autonomy. Omitting the Dutch islands, which, as we have already seen, are attached to Curacao for administrative purposes, all of them have representative assemblies, or at least councils including a number of elected members. In this connection it is interesting to learn that, excepting the House of Assembly in Bermuda, the Barbados House of Assembly is the oldest legislative body in the British Empire outside of the Houses of Parliament themselves.
Trinidad and Barbados are practically self-governing colonies, although the governor and the higher officials receive their appointments from the British crown. Since 1871 St. Kitts, Antigua, including Anquilla, Dominica and Nevis, Montserrat, and the Virgin Islands have constituted the federation of the Leeward Islands, the capital of which is located at St. John's on Antigua. There is a federal council presided over by the governor to legislate on matters affecting the entire federation, and in addition each of the five "presidencies" has its own administrator, also appointed by the crown, and a local council, which is partly elective. It is interesting to find that there are two sets of postage stamps in current use in the Leeward Islands—one, a set of federal stamps; the other, a local series sold only in the particular presidency. Because the latter are rather large, most of the local residents are said to prefer to sacrifice advertising their own island for convenience, and employ the Leeward Islands stamps. Grenada, St. Vincent, and St. Lucia are united under a single governor, who bears the title "Governor of the Windward Islands," but they are not federated.
Neither the Windward nor the Leeward Islands enjoy the autonomy possessed by Barbados and Trinidad, for before any work of consequence can be started by their local governments permission must be secured from the Colonial Office in London. With such a millstone around the neck, it is not surprising that the material development found in the southern islands is entirely lacking here. For example, it was only a few weeks ago that Basseterre, the capital of St. Kitts, reached the dignity of electric lights. Everywhere we found considerable discontent voiced by the better classes, especially the big planters and business men, because the crown insists on sending out as governors old army officers, who are about ready to be retired. Not only do they usually know nothing about administering civil affairs, but since they reach the age for retirement while serving the islands, according to English law their pensions must be paid by them.
In only one respect is there anything resembling union in the British portion of the Lesser Antilles. They do have a single supreme court, which consists of the chief justices of the Leeward Islands, Windward Islands, Barbados, and Trinidad, together with the chief justice of British Guiana. This is said to be a very able court; certainly law and order prevail wherever you go, although there is not the disposition to meddle with private matters so apparent of late in our own country.
[To be continued.]
Monday, 9 July 2012
A Table of Contents for Never a Dull Moment submitted to NMAI about 1960
NEVER A DULL MOMENT By A. Hyatt Verrill, List of Chapters
Chapter I- When I was a Boy
Chapter II- Vacationing in Maine
Chapter III- Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia
Chapter IV- Summer Vacation in Gloucester
Chapter V- Portland Character
Chapter VI- Winter Sports in New England. Ice Cutting
Chapter VII- Boyhood Memories. Hobbies and Inventions
Chapter VIII- Uncle “Wash” an Inventor
Chapter IX- Youthful Ambitions and Interests
Chapter X- Interesting Pets
Chapter XI- Bows, Arrows and Quarter-Staffs
Chapter XII- Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and Indians
Chapter XIII- Impersonating an Indian
Chapter XIV- Dangerous Pastimes
Chapter XV- Summer Vacation at Woods Hole, Massachusetts
Chapter XVI- The Good Old School Days
Chapter XVII- Summer Camping in the White Mountains
Chapter XVIII- We Didn’t Believe in Ghosts—But
Chapter XIX- Youthful Memories
Chapter XX- A Cracked Skull and Love for Boats
Chapter XXI- To Dominica. My First Expedition
Chapter XXII- Dominican Hardships and Adventures
Chapter XXIII- Hazardous Tide Observations. Freak’s Boarding House. Fancy Shooting
Chapter XXIV- Honeymoon in Colorful Costa Rica
Chapter XXV- Costa Rican Characters
Chapter XXVI- Drawing. Taxidermy. Commercial Photography & “Autochrome” Process. Trip to Bermuda and Dominica
Chapter XXVII- 1902-1906 Mining Sulphur in Dominica. A Steward on Ship
Chapter XXVIII- I Discover the Supposedly Extinct Solendon Paradoxus
Chapter XXIX- Writing Books and Doing Ethnological Work
Chapter XXX- Great Snakes. Ethnological Work. Carlos is “Buried”
Chapter XXXI- A Voyage In The Wake Of The Buccaneers
Chapter XXXII- Exploration and Ethnological Work in Central America
Chapter XXXIII- I Visit and Study the Boorabees
Chapter XXXIV- An Expedition into Guaymi Country
Chapter XXXV- I Attend a Guaymi Ceremonial Dance and Become a Member of the Tribe
Chapter XXXVI- An Expedition into Cocle Indian Country
Chapter XXXVII- Peru and Politics
Chapter XXXVIII- An Expedition into the Interior of Peru
Chapter XXXIX- Back in Panama to Excavate the Cocle Site. Tick Poisoning.
Chapter XL- An Interesting Trip to England. I Meet Royalty. I Return to South America for Archaeological and Ethnological Work. Back to England
Chapter XLI- Search for the Golden Book of the Mayas
Chapter XLII- Galleon Salvaging Expedition to Silver Shoals
Chapter XLIII- Modelling Sea Creatures. Working with Williamson. Book Writing. Back to Silver Shoals Under Difficulties. Ruth. Suwanee River Treasure Hunt was Exciting
Chapter XLIV- My last years in Florida and Two More Trips
Chapter XLV- Coincidence was an Important Factor in My Life. Why?
Friday, 6 July 2012
This story is perhaps the rarest acquisition of this year. It is a fictional work based in Guyana, British Guiana formerly. The story was published in Britain, and never seems to have been available in a North American publication. Verrill was in British Guiana researching the Indian tribes; that work was for the Museum of the American Indian./drf
By A. H. Verrill
From Hutchinson's Adventure Story Magazine, November 1922; provided kindly by Mike Ashley. Digitized by Doug Frizzle, July 2012.
A stirring story of a native vendetta through the little known country on the upper waters of the Amazon.
DAN HAZEN stepped from the palm-roofed shelter and lazily stretched himself. Back of the hut, the vast, unknown Guiana bush swept unbroken to the upper waters of the Amazon and Orinoco. Before him swirled the brown waters of the Coyoni, and to one side a tranquil creek cut its serpentine way between high gravel banks into the jungle. From where Dan stood he could see the rude dam, the sluices and the sieve-hoppers, which daily, and with much back-breaking toil on his part, were adding their quota of gold and diamonds to his little hoard.
From the Indians logi beside the river a slender thread of blue smoke rose straight upward in the still morning air, and Dan could hear the subdued, guttural voices of his men as they busied themselves about their breakfast.
Suddenly one of the bronze-skinned Arekunas stepped from his shelter and peered intently down the river. The next instant a big ten-paddle bateau dashed around the bend and into sight, and its crew of huge black Dutch negroes swung their craft about and headed for the shore.
Thinking it some gold boat bound upstream, Dan stepped forward to the bank as the heavy, bull-necked white man in the stern rose and leaped ashore.
“Hello!” he growled, in response to Dan’s cheery greeting “See you’ve got a claim here. I suppose you don’t mind if a fellow stops a while. Rotten trip up!”
“Certainly not,” Dan assured him. "Make yourself at home, Mr. —”
“Wilcox.” Supplied the other, “Yes I will. Got any grub?”
“Sure thing.” Laughed Dan, ignoring the other’s rudeness. “Come back to the shack."
Followed by the surly Wilcox, Dan led the way and inviting the other to be seated, he summoned his Arekuna camp-boy and breakfast was served.
Throughout the meal Wilcox said little and vouchsafed no information in regard to himself, while with furtive eyes he took in everything about the place as Dan rattled on, telling of his hopes and fears, of his success and work, and finding, even in the company of the rough Wilcox, a deal of pleasure, for it had been many months since he had talked to or had seen a fellow white man.
The meal over, Dan showed his visitor his sluice and hoppers; he panned out some of the rich gravel to show its value, and enthusiastically expatiated upon the richness of his claim.
With scarcely a comment Wilcox followed him, and when all had been shown, remarked that he'd better be getting on, and with never a word of thanks, but with a curt nod, stepped into his craft and was soon out of sight.
"Beastly rude chap!" murmured Dan half to himself, as he turned away, and thereupon dismissed the matter from his mind.
* * * * *
It was long after midnight when Dan awoke from a sound sleep with a feeling of impending danger.
Cautiously raising himself from his hammock, he peered into the moonlit night, and instantly two enormous arms were flung about him, a cloth was roughly forced into his mouth, and in an instant he was bound, gagged and helpless, and was flung unceremoniously upon the earth outside his hut. Inwardly raging but impotent Dan glared about, and to his amazement saw four huge negroes squatted near and looking at him with self-satisfied grins on their repulsive faces. Instantly Dan realized that they were the Surinam blacks of Wilcox, and he knew the reason for his seizure. The stranger had decided to have him put out of the way so he could jump his claim in safety, and no doubt he was waiting only until his men should report the deed done before taking possession.
Where, wondered Dan, were his Arekunas? Had they too been seized or killed? It was hardly likely, for the Indians were not men to submit without a struggle. Perhaps, he thought, they were still sleeping, totally unaware of what was taking place; but this too, seamed unreasonable, for the Arekunas were born and bred in the jungle, and Dan knew that they would awaken at the lightest footfall or unusual sound.
And even as he wondered, a frenzied scream of agony and fear reverberated through the forest, as one of the squatting negroes clutched wildly at his neck, writhing and screaming, while his fellows leaped to their feet and dashed first one way and then another, chattering and yelling as though beset with awful terror.One darted towards the river and the boat, but before he had taken a dozen stops he threw up his hands, stumbled forward, and fell shrieking into the stream. At the sight the others turned and rushed back towards the forest, but again one uttered that awful cry, and rolled upon the earth. The two remaining now cowered trembling for an instant, and than a slender, tufted object appeared to spring as by magic from the chest of one, and at his scream the other fled madly to the canoe, stumbling across the bodies of his comrades as he ran. Casting loose the painter, he leaped in and shoved the canoe from the shore, only to fall back in his death-throes as another dart buried itself in his back.
It was all so sudden, so amazing, so unexpected, that Dan was thunderstuck. Within as many minutes his four assailants had been wiped out of existence, and he knew now that his Arekunas had not failed him, for he realized that the negroes had fallen victims to the awful woorali-tipped darts of an Indian blow-gun; but not a sound betrayed the presence of the Indians, and where the Arekunas might be he could not imagine.
Suddenly from the silence of the forest came the clear, querulous of a goatsucker, the tribal call of the Arekunas, and from the shadows stepped his five naked Indians, their long blow-guns in hand and their quivers of poisoned arrows slung over their shoulders.
Tersely and rapidly in their "talky-talky” lingo, the Arekunas explained what had occurred as they swiftly released Dan from his bonds. Aroused by the sound of the negroes’ stealthily approaching boat, they had instinctively realized that some deviltry was afoot, and seizing their primitive weapons, they had slipped into the jungle to await developments. Then, as soon as the negroes had withdrawn sufficiently from their captive to allow them to use their darts without endangering Dan, they had blown the silent messengers of death with unerring accuracy. But while the four negroes had been disposed of and Dan's liberty obtained, there was still Wilcox and six more of his bushmen to be reckoned with. If he were waiting to hear from his four men before descending on the claim, he would, no doubt, soon tire of waiting and come himself to investigate, and Dan realized that at any instant his enemy might appear. Unquestionably he and the Arekunas might conceal themselves in the forest and pick off Wilcox and his men; but while this might satisfy the savage instinct of the Arekunas, Dan's mind revolted at the idea of cold-blooded murder, even to protect his property. On the other hand, to attempt to hold off Wilcox and his negroes openly would be suicidal, for he realized the ruthless character of those with whom he had to deal, and his only weapon was a shot-gun. Even if he did succeed in holding his claim for the present, he knew that Wilcox would only await another opportunity to surprise him, and rapidly weighing these matters in his mind, Dan decided his only course was to travel as rapidly down river as possible, reach the nearest outlying Government post, and call upon the bush police to overpower Wilcox and recover his claim.
Hastily gathering a few supplies and belongings and his little store of gold and diamonds, Dan hurried his Indians to the boat, and a moment later was speeding swiftly down the great river through the night.
In the meantime, hidden in a creek half a mile above Dan's claim, Wilcox sat in the stern of his bateau, with his six bush negroes resting on their paddles, while he waited for the signal which would tell him that Dan was safely secured and his Indians put out of the way. Slowly the time dragged on, and Wilcox, impatient, fumed and growled. Half an hour, he had decided, would be ample time, and now over three-quarters of an hour had passed and still no sign. "Hang those lazy niggers!" he muttered. "What in blazes is keeping them?" Then, as a new thought entered his head, he cursed loudly and fluently, for he suddenly remembered Dan's store of gold and precious stones, and it dawned upon him that perchance his men had seized these and in Dan's canoe had started down the river. This thought spurred him to instant activity, and urging his men to their utmost, he swept from his hiding-place and down the stream. Not a sound or sign of life showed at Dan's place as he passed it, and now, fully convinced that his men had played him false, he was fairly beside himself with rage, and intent only on overtaking the negroes and recovering the booty that he was convinced they had taken.
Suddenly one of his men uttered a cry and swung the bateau sharply to one side, for his eyes had detected Dan's canoe floating, apparently empty and deserted, ahead. An instant later they were alongside; the bowman reached forward to secure the canoe's painter, and the next second tumbled backward with a cry of terror. Face down upon the bottom of the boat was the form of a negro, with a poisoned dart between his shoulder blades. Wilcox reached into the drifting canoe and turned the dead man over. It was the body of Wilcox's boat captain, and with a curse he let the corpse drop back, and casting loose the canoe, ordered his men to turn back to the claim. Running the bateau upon the bank, Wilcox leaped ashore, closely followed by his men. Stumbling over the bodies of the negroes, they dashed to the hut, only to find it empty, deserted, and the bags of treasure gone, and to see the bodies of the negroes sprawled in grotesque, awful attitudes where they had fallen.
Wilcox was furious, mad with rage; he had planned to secure the claim and Dan's hoardings, to put the owner and the Indians where they could tell no tales, and now Dan and his Indians had escaped to carry their story to the police; his bush negroes had been killed by the Arekunas' darts, and the diamonds and gold were gone. He could not hope to stay and work the claim; he knew that within a week the hand of the British law would be upon him; he could not escape down river without passing the gold station with its police; he could not wander for long in the unbroken wilderness above the claim. His only hope lay in overtaking Dan and his Indians, in destroying them and all evidence of his deeds, and cursing and swearing, he ordered his men to the boat and drove them with threats and vile epithets to strain every muscle in their mad rush after Dan's canoe.
Already Dan and his Arekunas were miles below the claim. They realized that Wilcox might follow, but speeding down stream they felt fairly safe. Nevertheless, when day dawned they took no chances and hugged the shores, while constantly keeping a sharp lookout astern. There were no signs of pursuers, however. Nothing disturbed their camp that night and the second day passed safely by. Little effort was required to make good time, for the stream flowed swiftly; they flashed through rapids which fairly took Dan's breath away, and only when taking short cuts through hidden creeks known only to the Arekunas were the men obliged to exert themselves at the paddles.
At last the broad Essequibo was reached, the unknown wilderness was astern, no pursuing boat had been sighted, and Dan and his Indians felt that Wilcox had decided not to follow and that danger was over.
That night, camp was made within the shelter of a small creek, and at sunrise the canoe crept forth to resume its way towards the gold station fifty miles beyond. Scarcely had the bow issued from the screen of foliage when the Arekuna bowman hissed a low cry of warning; within two hundred yards and rapidly approaching them was the big bateau with Wilcox in the stern!
To retreat within the creek was useless; a shout from the negroes told that they had been seen. Their hope lay in speeding down the river and outdistancing the heavier boat, and without an instant's hesitation the Indians dug their paddles into the water and dashed away.
Leaping to his feet, Wilcox raised his rifle to fire at the fleeing canoe; but the craft was dancing crazily upon the river, his own boat was lurching forward at every stroke of the big paddles; it was impossible to secure a steady aim and, confident that he could overtake Dan's boat, he contented himself with waiting and cursing his men to redoubled efforts.
In speed the two boats were nearly equal, for Wilcox's bateau, although heavier than Dan's canoe, was handled by more and stronger men, while the superior knowledge of channels, rocks and currents possessed by the Indians enabled them to follow a shorter and more direct course and to take advantage of the river's swiftest currents to aid them.
It was a mad, wild race, and much as Dan feared the result—for he knew that Wilcox would not stop at murder to save himself from the law and to secure the gems and gold—yet he thrilled with the excitement, and grasping a paddle did his utmost to add a little to the canoe's speed. Now and again he glanced furtively back, and each time he realized that the space between the two craft was rapidly decreasing.
Onward they swept; now they rounded a sharp bend, anon they dashed diagonally across the stream, the Indians taking advantage of every current, every eddy to aid them in their flight, while close in their wake hung the big bateau following their every turn and ever creeping closer and closer.
Each second Dan expected to hear the roar of Wilcox's gun, to feel the sting of the bullet, and then it dawned upon him that his pursuer could not fire without endangering his own men, that as long as he was compelled to follow bow on, the Indians and himself were safe, and that if Wilcox swung his boat to one side in order to cripple the fugitives it would mean such a loss of time that there would be no hope of overtaking the Arekunas, to say nothing of the danger of striking rocks.
But despite this, Dan knew that the end must soon come—even now the distance between his canoe and the bateau had been lessened by half, and in another half hour Wilcox's boat would be alongside and resistance would be hopeless. And as these thoughts came to him, he heard the roar of falls ahead; the canoe leaped forth like a frightened bird at the drag of the current, and an instant later they were tearing madly, furiously through the rapids, grazing jagged rocks, leaping over miniature cataracts, grinding over submerged reefs and escaping annihilation by a miracle, while all about the water was churned to foam that dashed high in showers of spray. The boat jumped, rocked, swung dizzily, whirled like a teetotum, and water poured over the gunwale; but unflinchingly, steadily the Indians kept on, the bowman standing aloft on the sweeping, swaying stem, and the others plying paddles furiously to add to the canoe's terrific speed.
Dan strove to glance back, and in the seething torrent behind he caught a glimpse of Wilcox's boat, gleaming black amid the white water and leaping after them like a thing of life.
The next moment they swept through a narrow channel between two islets, and the bowman shouted to Dan to hold fast, that they were about to try a final and perilous expedient to escape. Hardly were his words uttered when the frail canoe swept past the islands and into an area of smooth, open water from which two channels led. Into the left of these dashed the Arekunas, and Dan's heart seemed to cease beating as he saw that the canoe was headed for the brink of a cataract. The roar of the falling water filled his ears, clouds of spray rose above the spot where the river appeared to drop into space, and Dan knew that their chances of life after plunging over the falls was not one in ten thousand.
But he felt perfect confidence in his Indians. If they could take the risk so could he, and he gripped the sides of the canoe, crouched low and with compressed lips awaited the sickening drop.
Now the verge of the cataract was close at hand, the smooth, green crest seemed almost within arm's reach, and then, with all their power, the men backed water furiously, the bowman strained at his big paddle, the canoe spun about as on a pivot, and darted to one side so close to the verge that Dan could see the tumbling, churning waters and the jagged rocks fully fifty feet below. Then, as he grasped what had occurred, the canoe was swept in safety to a quiet backwater to the right of the cataract.
In the meantime, Wilcox's men, intent upon the chase, had not noticed their danger until too late; they did not know the eddy which allowed the Indians to check their mad rush and swing aside, and as Dan's canoe reached the backwater the pursuers were swept onward to destruction. Although the Arekunas' ruse had succeeded, yet they did not escape unscathed, for as the negroes flung themselves from their boat and strove vainly to save themselves by swimming, Wilcox levelled his rifle and fired. At the report the Arekuna bowman threw up his hands, and staggering back, plunged lifeless into the river, while his murderer, with a shout of triumph and a curse, shot over the brink of the cataract and into the maelstrom beneath.
Wilcox escaped death by a veritable miracle. His bateau shot far beyond the tumbling mass of water and landed right side up between the rocks and was swept unhurt down the river below the falls. But he had not escaped unseen, for the Arekunas had leaped ashore and, hurrying to the brink of the cataract, peered into the abyss to learn the fate of their pursuers.
From the hunted, the Indians had been instantly transformed to the hunters by the death of their leader, for tribal law demanded that he must be avenged. If Wilcox came to his death in the falls all was well—Tumaki the Great Spirit had taken the matter into his own hands—but if by chance he survived he must be followed, tracked down, and blood vengeance obtained in full.
No court of justice would be resorted to; no white men's laws invoked. By the methods established through untold centuries of tribal custom, by tradition sacred to their minds, there was but one way in which the debt could be paid—death at the hands of Kenaima, the Avenger of Blood.
And when, from the turmoil and spray, the Arekunas saw the black form of the boat emerge with Wilcox, white-faced, terror-stricken and half stunned, crouched upon the bottom, a subdued cry of joy and exultation sprang from the Indians' throats.
For a moment Wilcox's boat gyrated wildly in dizzying circles within the grip of the whirlpools below the cataract, and then, seized by the current, it was swept clear and darted out of sight beyond a bend in the stream.
Satisfied that Wilcox still lived, the Arekunas returned to their boat, covered the body of their slain comrade with broad leaves, and bearing their dead, paddled from the scene of the tragedy. By swift-flowing channels between the rocks the canoe slipped down the river, and ever and anon, as the Arekunas talked together in low tones, Dan caught the word "Kenaima."
So great had been their peril, so swiftly had death come to both enemies and friends, that Dan had sat silent, awed and dumbfounded. But now he spoke, inquiring of his men if Wilcox had been killed, lamenting the death of the bowman and praising the Indians for the success of their daring trick which had won their escape.
But when he learned that Wilcox had survived, that he was unhurt and had been carried down the river ahead of his canoe, he felt that all danger was not over, that the rascal might lie in wait upon the bank and pick them off as they slipped by.
The Indians, however, laughed at his expressed fears; and in positive tones one of them declared: "Me tellum him all same dead like so. Kenaima must for killum. No can makeum walk from Kenaima. Mebbe long time, mebbe same day, all same Kenaima catchum."
Dan could not understand. “What do you mean Kenaima?" he asked.
The Indian spoke rapidly with his companions and then, addressing Dan, replied: "You good fella, good friend, all same Buckman—all same brother. Me tellum how makeum Kenaima for killum." Then, as he plied his paddle and the canoe shot swiftly down the river, he told Dan of the Arekunas' code of vengeance.
He explained how blood must be paid by blood; how Arekuna law demanded an eye for an eye, a life for a life—yes, more, for not only must he who has slain another be killed, but all his relations must also pay the penalty of his act. He related tales of whole families wiped out through this law, and of tribes decimated by the feud of blood vengeance. In his crude "talky-talky" jargon he described the Kenaima—the one selected to wreak vengeance for the slain—how there were various kinds of Kenaimas, the commonest of which were the "Camudi Kenaima" and the "Tiger Kenaima," and how they killed their victims; the first by strangling like his namesake, the great boa or camudi, the other striking them down like a tiger by a short wooden club. He dilated upon the impossibility of anyone escaping from the Avenger, and the patient, unceasing, unremitting determination with which the Kenaima trailed the doomed man for weeks, months or years, if need be, until the execution was accomplished.
"But why in blazes don't the Kenaimas get killed?" asked Dan, to whom all this was absolutely new and almost incredible.
"Mebbe some time make for killum," replied the Arekuna " 'Spose killum one Kenaima, other Kenaima make for catchum same way. Me tellum no good try for run from Kenaima; Kenaima all same like devil."
"So a Kenaima's going after Wilcox, eh?" muttered Dan. "Glad I'm not in his shoes. He'd better have been killed in the falls!"
The Indian grinned. "When gettum Arekuna camp, makeum Kenaima," he stated grimly, and relapsed into silence.
While they had been talking the canoe had been sweeping past wooded shores, but no sign of Wilcox or his craft were seen, for the river forked below the falls, and the Arekunas had descended the right-hand stream while Wilcox had been carried to the left.
By midday the Indians' canoe had passed the rapids; it floated upon a broad, tranquil, lake-like expanse of river, and paddling rapidly across this, the Arekunas entered a small creek. For several miles the stream wound through the forest, and then a small clearing was reached with an Indian logi, or hut, upon the bank. Here the canoe was run ashore, and one of the tribesmen uttered a long, mournful, wailing cry. An instant later a score of Indians came hurrying towards the boat, and in excited tones held converse with the new arrivals. Then, lifting the body of the slain Indian, they moved up the narrow trail with Dan, feeling out of place, bringing up the rear.
Everyone was too busy, too excited and too angry to give any heed to the white man, and Dan sat alone in a hammock in a benab, watching the Arekunas, who buzzed and swarmed about the hut containing the body like so many angry hornets.
At last order was restored, the Indians quieted down and the dead Indian was carried to a sandy spot outside the village, where a grave was scooped and the body buried. One of Dan's men now approached and explained that a Kenaima was being selected, for, as the dead man had no male relatives, the duty of avenging him fell upon the tribe as a whole, and a Kenaima would be chosen by drawing lots.
Much as Dan would have liked to witness the ceremony, the Arekuna declared it impossible, as no white man could be permitted to look upon the ceremonies connected with choosing and sending forth the Avenger.
Suddenly a low, chanting song issued from the hut where the ceremony was being held, and glancing up, Dan beheld a strange and striking figure stepping forth. His bronze skin was hideously daubed with white, black and scarlet in imitation of the jaguar; about his shoulders was a mantle of coal-black feathers, a belt of bright beads was about his waist, a necklet of tiger teeth was draped across his chest, strings of toucan beaks and breasts hung down his back, and upon his blue-black hair was a magnificent crown of macaw feathers. In one hand he grasped a bow and arrows, in the other he carried a short, heavy club of carved wood, and as he stalked majestically from his hut he chanted the low song in which all the other Indians joined.
As the Kenaima reached the edge of the clearing the chant ceased instantly, and the Avenger halted and faced the setting sun. Dropping his bow and arrows he drew his knife, cut his arm until the blood flowed freely, and plucking a broad leaf, rubbed the charm into the wound. Then, removing his feather crown and placing it upon his bow and arrows, he swung his club high in air, uttered the blood-curdling scream of the jaguar, and with a bound disappeared in the jungle. The Kenaima was on Wilcox's trail!
* * *
Wilcox was in a terrible plight. For a few moments after he shot over the falls he had been too dazed to think of guiding his boat, and sat, clutching at the gunwales, unable to believe that he actually had survived the terrible plunge.
Then realization came to him, and seizing a paddle he guided his craft down the stream. But while life had been spared he was in a most precarious position. All his men had perished; he was alone in the wilderness, and to seek his fellow men meant arrest and imprisonment, for Colonial law he knew was swift and severe, and he had attempted the most despicable of bush crimes—to jump another's claim, and he had killed an Indian, one of the Government's wards. To attempt to force his way out of the jungle up the river was impossible. He must either go down and through the settlements or take to the bush and strive to seek safety beyond the borders of Venezuela or Surinam—a task he knew to be well nigh impossible. Luckily for him he still retained his gun and a limited supply of cartridges, and he would not starve for the present. Then, realizing that he was hungry, he ran his boat ashore and stepped into the jungle in search of game. At the end of an hour's hunt he secured a peccary, and having cooked and eaten a hearty meal, he suspended the balance of the carcass over a smoky fire to cure or "bucan" after the method of the Indians.
With all his faults, and they were legion, Wilcox had a supreme confidence in himself, and he at once commenced planning for the future. If he could win his way eastward to the Corantyne, all would be well, and he had little doubt that in time he could do this. But it would mean long delays and tremendous hardships, and despite this and his ill luck, he did not despair of accomplishing his escape even though he knew that police, Indians and bushmen throughout the colony would be on the lookout for him. He was far too old and experienced a hand in the bush to underrate the difficulties and dangers that threatened him, but these seemed of little consequence at the time, for he was still furious at Dan's escape with the gold and diamonds and at the Arekunas for having outwitted and nearly destroyed him, and he cursed Dan and his men as loudly and vociferously as though they had been present to hear him.
But he had squared accounts with one Buck at all events, he had seen the man plunge forward at the report of his rifle, and this knowledge did much to cheer him. Little did he dream that, only a few miles away, plans were already made to avenge his victim, and that the dread Kenaima was already upon his trail.
For several days he proceeded down river, camping wherever he found a dry spot, killing game as he needed it, and maintaining a keen watch for waterways leading eastward, and for possible camps or settlements. Then one morning he reached the mouth of a large creek which seemed to promise well, and abandoning the main stream he paddled into it. His supply of meat was getting low and game seemed scarce; but early in the afternoon of the next day he saw a large capybara which he secured by a lucky shot.
Had he but known that the report of his gun served to betray his presence to a grim figure paddling down a near-by creek, the capybara would have been left in peace and Wilcox might have met a very different fate.
But any such thought never crossed his mind, and reaching a good spot, Wilcox drew his boat ashore, built a large fire and prepared to spend the night. He dined well, hung the rest of his meat to smoke and lounged beside his fire, but as darkness fell he commenced to feel uneasy and nervous. Never in his life of crime had he been troubled with nerves; he had never acknowledged that he was afraid of man or beast, and he scoffed at the supernatural. But here, in the solitude of the jungle, a vague, unreasoning fear crept over him. He felt as though watched by unseen eyes, as if some sinister thing were near, threatening his life, and yet he knew, or tried to reason, that it was impossible. In vain he tried to shake off the feeling, to laugh at his sensations, to reason with himself. Then it occurred to him that he had been without liquor for several days, that he had undergone an experience which would have unstrung most men, and that no doubt his unusual nervousness was due to these causes.
Relieved somewhat by these thoughts, he threw himself down to sleep, but each time he dozed he awoke with a start to find himself staring into the blackness of the forest, listening with straining ears and trembling with nameless dread.
He cursed himself for his foolishness, wondered if by any chance he had an attack of fever, and then, finding sleep impossible, piled fuel on the dying fire and, crouching beside it with gun within reach, he spent the hours till dawn in abject misery.
With the coming of daylight much of his nervousness left him and, having eaten, he again pushed his boat into the stream and paddled, onward through the forest.
Presently, however, the same unaccountable, tingling sensations again assailed him; he found himself furtively glancing to right and left, turning often to look behind and unconsciously hurrying forward and paddling furiously. His senses told him nothing more dangerous than the ordinary wild beasts could be near; he knew that he had nothing to fear from them, and yet somehow he could not rid himself of the idea that he was being watched, that some danger lurked near, that something was following him.
So strong did this feeling become that twice he ran his boat into a hiding-place among the foliage and waited with cocked gun for his pursuers to appear. But he saw nothing, no unusual sight or sound broke the silence of the wilderness, and he again continued on his way.
By mid-afternoon he was trembling, shaking with terror of an intangible something, and when the cry of a jaguar came from the forest in the rear he shrieked aloud with fright. The sound of his own voice somewhat calmed him, however, and he even felt relieved at the tiger's scream, for here at least was something real, and to keep up his courage he commenced to shout and sing.
He longed to escape from the creek—it seemed interminably long, and each moment he expected to see open water ahead and to find himself upon the river, but the sinking sun found him still upon the jungle creek, and he realized that he must spend another awful night in the forest.
There was a tiny island in the stream, and here he made his camp, first examining every inch of the ground, every clump of brush and each tree, to assure himself that nothing was there to disturb him or cause him fear. Despite all this, he was still haunted by the feeling that danger menaced him, that watchful eyes were peering at him from the darkness and, when an unsuspecting owl winged softly to a branch above his head and uttered its mournful call, Wilcox was so startled that he involuntarily discharged his gun. As if in answer to the echoes of the explosion, the jaguar's scream reverberated through the forest, seemingly close at hand. Swearing at his carelessness, Wilcox reloaded his rifle, for he now had no ammunition to waste, and at last, weary and overwrought, he dropped into a fitful, troubled sleep. Several times the tiger's cry disturbed him, but he was only semi-conscious of the sound, and not until the sunlight streamed through the treetops did he really awake.
He felt much better—a great deal of his nervousness was gone, and he ate a hearty breakfast. Then, rising, he started towards the boat, but the next moment sprang back, trembling and shaking at what met his eyes. Upon the soft brown earth were the imprints of human feet!
Wilcox was dumbfounded, paralysed with nameless terror. The night before the earth had been smooth, unmarked by footprint of man or beast, and now, everywhere about his camping place, were the impressions of naked feet, forming a complete circle around the spot where he had slept.
Who could have been there during the night? No boat, no canoe, not even a wood-skin was drawn upon the shores; there was no sign of a camp fire other than his own, and as he searched more closely his terror increased, for no trail led downward to the only landing place upon the islet.
Summoning up every atom of his self-control, Wilcox tried to reason it out, but it was inexplicable, incomprehensible. No human being could have landed and approached his camp without leaving a trail upon the soft earth, for fully fifty feet of bare muddy ground lay between the little knoll on which he had camped and the only spot at which a boat could land. And yet the fact remained that it had been done, that some man had been there, had walked, not once but many times, about his sleeping place, and had disappeared as mysteriously as he came.
But was it a human being after all? He called to mind weird tales he had heard of strange, half-human beings who inhabited the forests; tales told by the half-breed balata gatherers around many a camp fire. Perhaps, after all, he thought, some of these tales might be true—perhaps such things did dwell in the jungle and tracked down and destroyed the solitary wanderer. Such a thing might account for his fears, for the instinctive feeling that he was being followed, and each moment, as his mind dwelt upon the matter, his terror increased by leaps and bounds.
He had never been superstitious, but now that superstition had gripped him, fear of the supernatural drove every atom of reason from his brain.
He strove to recall each detail of the stories he had heard, what the weird beings were like, how they sought and killed their victims, by what signs they were known, and then, amid the confused jumble of memories that filled his terrorized mind, came the thought of Kenaima.
Instantly the vague idea became a certainty; he had killed an Indian, and the dreaded avenger of blood was on his trail. Fool that he was not to have thought of it before! Yes, that was it beyond a shadow of a doubt. He had been followed, unseen eyes had watched him, deadly peril lurked in every tree, bush and thicket; even now the Kenaima might be ready to strike; and dashing to his boat he leaped in, shoved it far from shore, and paddled furiously away from the accursed spot. As he went, the scream of the jaguar sounded from the jungle, and at the sound his "blood seemed to freeze within his veins, cold chills ran up and down his back, and like a madman he strove to make better speed, for now he knew the wailing cry issued from no cat's throat but was the mocking yell of triumph that sealed his doom—the Tiger Kenaima was sure of his prey!
With the white man's contempt for the brown-skinned aborigines with whom he had come in contact, Wilcox had never paid any heed to the beliefs or customs of the Indians. Only by chance had he heard of the Kenaima, and he knew nothing whatever about the methods, the character, or the real identity of the blood avengers. Surrounding it with the mystery and imagery of which the aboriginal mind is so fond, the Indians always spoke of the Kenaima as a semi-supernatural being; and, while they knew full well that any one of their number might be called upon to fill the role of the avenger, and while every man owned a Kenaima club, yet they firmly believed that, through the ceremonies enacted when a Kenaima set forth on his mission, he became endowed with superhuman powers and acquired something of the real character of the serpent or the jaguar. Thus, to Wilcox, the Kenaima had been represented as a mysterious being, a man who assumed the form of the boa or the tiger at will, an embodied spirit of vengeance who was invulnerable and immortal and against which no human power and no weapon could avail.
At the time, Wilcox had laughed in the face of him who told the tale, had cursed him for a superstitious, heathen savage, had declared such stuff utter bosh and nonsense, and then had dismissed it from his thoughts. But now, alone in the forest on this dark and dismal creek, knowing himself a murderer and terrorized with his fear of the unknown, haunted by the mysterious footsteps about his camp, and with the cry of the jaguar still ringing in his ears, the story of Kenaima came back to him in its every detail.
Onward he sped; his only thought was to escape the vengeance he knew followed. His boat grated upon sunken logs; it plunged through overhanging vines and drooping limbs. The poisonous spines of palms and tree-ferns pierced his shoulders and his hands, the great recurved hooks of armed creepers raked the hat from his head and tore his clothes to ribbons, and razor-grass left bleeding welts across forehead and cheeks.
But he never paused; unheeding pain, oblivious to all save the terror of the unknown, awful thing behind him, he dashed on; his one desire to win away from the terrible jungle, his one hope that by some miracle he might yet escape the Kenaima.
No longer was he a rational human being; his flesh was insensible to pain, his mind a blank, save for the mortal terror that consumed him. He was scarce more than an automaton driven onward by the relentless power of fear.
Suddenly, through the foliage ahead, the maddened man saw the silvery glint of sunlit water. He shouted deliriously; the river was ahead, the forest would soon be left behind, and recklessly he drove his craft towards his goal. Then, just as the mouth of the creek was gained, when another stroke of his paddle would have carried him free, his bateau struck upon a submerged log, the craft careened, water poured over the gunwale, and in the twinkling of an eye Wilcox was struggling in the river.
The sudden shock cleared his brain, the cool water soothed his aching head and lacerated skin; it was wonderfully pleasant, marvellously refreshing.
From the soft blue sky the sun shone bright and warm, and free from the depressing effect of the dark jungle, his insane terror in a measure left him, and he swam slowly towards the capsized boat which drifted just beyond.
Suddenly he uttered a piercing howl of pain, and turning, struck frantically for the shore, for the terrible perai fish—savage as wolves and attracted by the scent of blood from Wilcox's thorn-torn hands—were swarming about him and snapping at his flesh with knife-like jaws. Instantly he realized that here he faced a death more awful than he had feared from the Kenaima. In a few moments he would be devoured alive—the living, palpitating flesh stripped from his bones, and madly he strove to regain the land.
Weakly he crawled upon the bank at last, and bleeding from a score of wounds he drew himself among the trees. Human flesh and endurance could withstand no more; he was beaten, trapped, done. Either within the water or upon the land lay certain death; there was no escape, and little caring what happened, he threw his suffering, wearied body upon the ground to await his fate.
As he sank back among the dank leaves a mottled, root-like object writhed to one side; swiftly it coiled, and a flat, diamond-shaped head darted forward with the speed of light. But Wilcox's eyes were closed, his dulled ears failed to hear the light rustle or the angry hiss; his swollen, lacerated arms scarce twitched at the sharp prick of the fangs.
Rapidly an overpowering drowsiness possessed him; the fear of the Kenaima fled from his mind, and peacefully, painlessly, he drifted into everlasting sleep.
As the sinking sun gilded the tranquil waters of the Essequibo a strange figure crept from the forest near the mouth of a little creek. Across its chest hung a necklet of jaguar teeth; about its shoulders was a cape of black feathers.
Painted with black, white and red, it resembled a jaguar more than a human being, and in one hand it grasped a heavy club of peculiar form. Stealthily as a great cat it stole forward; black piercing eyes glancing first here, now there, until among the tangled shrubbery it spied a prostrate man.
A grim smile of satisfaction flitted across the figure's face and, inch by inch, it drew itself towards the unconscious white man. Without a sound it reached his side, and, crouching by a clump of coarse lilies, it raised the deadly club to strike.
But the blow never fell. Slowly the upraised arm was lowered; silently as it had come, the sinister form crept away and disappeared.
Coiled upon Wilcox's breast was a great Bushmaster; upon the lifeless arms were the marks of its deadly fangs. The Kenaima had arrived too late. The Great Spirit had seen that vengeance was done.
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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.