Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Trial by Combat

 Trial By Combat!
The Castaways, Part 8 of 12
For Part 1 HERE
By Murray Roberts
From The Modern Boy magazine, #342, Vol. 14, 25 August 1934.
Digitized by Doug Frizzle, November 2014,

Who is the best Fighting Man in Unexplored Africa? On the answer to that depend the lives of CAPTAIN JUSTICE and his Comrades—castaways in the village of the Golden Giants!

A Council of War!
“WEEPIN’ willows, this is an absolute thriller! Go it! Go it, ye cripples! Go it, both sides—and I’ll challenge the winner!”
Young Midge’s freckled face was aglow beneath the limp rush-hat he wore jammed down on his fiery head. His eyes shone, his snub nose twitched, his shrill voice sounded even shriller than usual. He squirmed and wriggled, and made such a first-class nuisance of himself that Dr. O’Mally, Captain Justice’s second-in-command, raised a large and podgy hand and clapped it over the excited youngster's mouth.
“Och, put a sock in it, ye pest! ’Tis wrestling we’re watchin’, not listening to your footlin’ gab! Ye’ll challenge the winner, indeed! What at—eating?”
“Stow it, the pair of you!” exclaimed Len Connor, all his attention centred on the stirring scene before him. “Trust you two to wrangle when—Ah, now you’ve got him!” he exclaimed, elbowing Midge aside in his enthusiasm. “Go on—into him—you’ve got him. Oh, well done!"
Len shouted, and Midge and O’Mally joined in. Next instant their cheers were drowned by a sudden roar of deeper voices that wakened the echoes among the surrounding cliffs.
Jammed shoulder to shoulder, the three members of that adventurous band known as Captain Justice & Co. formed part of a large and noisy throng of copper-hued spectators, drawn up in a circle in the village of the Golden Giants, as Midge called them—strange, stalwart men of an unknown race who inhabited the wild African mountains into which the castaway five had wandered. And within the circle, two superbly built wrestlers were making the dust fly in a friendly but gruelling bout.
Lithe, quick-footed, and strong as panthers, the two splendid athletes had been wrestling without pause for the past fifteen minutes, while their huge fellow-tribesmen shouted themselves hoarse. Wrestling, obviously, was the favourite sport among these strapping fighting-men—all-in wrestling, with no holds barred!
Six days Justice & Co., who had been dumped into this unexplored part of wild Africa, out of an aeroplane, without food or weapons, and clad only in their pyjamas, by a scoundrelly Greek named Kuponos, had now spent in the Giants’ village; and every morning, soon after sun-up, they had watched the young warriors of the tribe do their best to tear each other apart, bout following bout, until the heat put a stop to such strenuous exercise.
From the very first, Captain Justice & Co. had taken a keen interest in the lusty proceedings. Only Professor Flaznagel, the celebrated scientist and inventor, the fifth member of the party, preferred to amuse himself in other ways, for the professor’s mind soared above such affairs as wrestling. At the moment he was carrying out experiments in one of the huts—experiments likely to bode ill for their enemies!
“Best bout of the week so far,” muttered Len, a sound judge of any form of athletics. “Pity the skipper’s missed this one,” the youngster added, for on this particular morning Captain Justice had absented himself from the bouts for some reason. “Wonder where he is?”
Then, carried away by a fresh surge of excitement, Len promptly forgot his leader as one of the wrestlers, after a narrow escape from a fall, wriggled loose and skipped out of range.
For a moment or two both the antagonists paused, hands held low, fingers curling and uncurling. They eyed each other grimly, the early Sunlight gilding their shining, golden-brown figures as they swayed and sidestepped, sparring for an opening. Then, quick as thought, the taller, with an old knife scar seaming his brow, dived in again, his long arms coiling themselves round the other’s loins.
Thud: There sounded the dull impact of muscular bodies; a whirl of iron-hard limbs—a sudden sharp shout. By a terrific wrench, the scarred wrestler heaved his opponent bodily into the air, held him there for an instant, then threw him to the ground with vim and enthusiasm. Over and over rolled the fallen man, recovering at last and striving gallantly to rise. But he was beaten. Even as he struggled to his knees, a spasm of pain puckered his aquiline face. He clutched suddenly at his right elbow, and sank down, again, shaking his head in token of surrender.
“And that’s that!” breathed Len, as the spectators shouted, and the winner threw out his mighty chest and laughed. “Unscientific, but dashed effective. Hallo, though! Come on, doc—that johnny’s hurt!”
“An’ faith, so would you be if someone dumped you like a sack o’ coals!” grunted O’Mally, as, followed by wondering glances, the stout, baldheaded Irishman shoved his way into the ring and knelt beside the loser. “Ah, dislocated elbow, is it? Bad luck, me boy, but ye fought well! Be aisy, now, I’ll soon set ye to rights!”     .
A mist of pain blurred the beaten Giant’s eyes, but with the patient fortitude so typical of his breed, he submitted to the doctor’s ministrations. O’Mally grasped his thick wrist and slid the other hand up the young man’s crooked arm. Then, with a deft jerk and twist, he clicked the dislocated joint back into its socket, and clapped the injured warrior jovially on the shoulder.
“There ye are, my son! But no more wrestlin’ for you this week.” The Irishman chuckled, and a deep grunt of approval burst from the on-looking Giants as the wrestler rose, massaging the elbow and twiddling his fingers. He smiled gravely at O’Mally; returned the doctor’s genial pat with a force that made O’Mally buckle at the knees, then stalked off out of the ring towards his hut. Instantly two more young fire-eaters stepped forth to combat. Dr. O’Mally returned hastily to his place.
“Good old sawbones! ’Nother patient for the panel,” grinned Midge, as the doctor wedged in beside him. “That’s the third joker you’ve patched up so far. You'll be building up quite a practice among the Giants if you—Hallo! Here’s the skipper back at last!”
Captain Justice, with the huge form of Buktu, the chief of the Giant warriors, towering behind him, had suddenly appeared among the natives on the other side of the ring. Without a word, the captain jerked a thumb sideways and strode away again.
In response to the signal, Midge, Len, and O’Mally quitted the circle and hastened, full of curiosity, to join their leader.
“Sorry to drag you away from the fun, lads! But I want to talk to you—Council of War! Come on over to our hut.”
Justice snapped out the words briskly when the others halted around him. There was a frown on the famous Gentleman Adventurer’s shrewd, tanned face as, with tall Buktu bringing up the rear, he led the way to the mud-and-wattle hut which the castaways occupied under the western rampart of the village.

Justice’s Challenge!
“ANYTHING wrong, sir?” asked Len anxiously, as soon as the party had settled themselves down in the shade.
Justice shook his head slowly.
“Nothing very wrong — nothing exactly right!” was the reply; and for a time the captain remained silent, gazing at the scene with pensive eyes.
From where he sat, the kraal of the Golden Giants, nestling in its upland hollow, was spread out before him; a natural fortress—fit background for its warlike inhabitants.
To his right stood the guard-huts, extending the length of the rocky rampart which overlooked the hill that ran down to the turbulent river. On the parapet itself, sentries, armed with bows and three-pronged spears, kept watch over the tumbled country beyond, ever on the look-out for their terrible tribal foes, the cannibal blacks.
Still another line of sentries paced the nearer bank of the narrow, oily brook that cut the village in twain. But these guards kept their eyes glued to the lofty, reddish-brown hill that blocked the southern end of the hollow—a gnarled mass of rock, pitted by yawning caves and holes, whence spiralled the filmy spurts of sulphur fumes. Captain Justice’s lips tightened as he stared at the “burning” hill.
For within its tunnelled depths lurked the fanatical witch-doctor of the Giants and his savage myrmidons, bitter enemies of the castaways and of Buktu and his fellow-warriors.
Four nights ago the tyrannical sorcerer and his clan—a tribe within a tribe—had made a vicious attempt to slay Midge and seize the other white strangers. They had met with crushing defeat, thanks chiefly to Captain Justice and Professor Flaznagel, and since then none had dared venture out of the cave-riddled fastness. Nevertheless, Buktu and his fighting-men were taking no more chances against such a wily and treacherous foe, who had long threatened to plunge the tribe into civil war.
But the presence of those guards along the brook gave Captain Justice small satisfaction.
“My lads, we’ve got to get out of here!” he said. “If the chance comes along, I’d like to wring that confounded witch-doctor’s neck before we go. But what we must concentrate on is getting out of this country with all speed. We want to get back to civilisation—or where we can get in touch with our friends. And, also, there is Xavier Kuponos, the scoundrel who caused all our troubles. I mean to square up with that Greek slaver one day, if I have to comb all Africa for him!"
Thus Captain Justice spoke at last, his voice grim and determined. The others, however, exchanged dubious glances.
“Gummy, that’s some programme, skipper!” retorted Midge, with a wry grin. “Here we are lost in the wilds of unknown Africa. We don’t know the road in or the way out. We haven’t any weapons or two-penn’orth of gear. And old Buck sitting there seems so dashed fond of us he won’t let us out of his sight!”
“No, it isn’t easy, Midge,” Captain Justice agreed. “All the same, it’s got to be done. As for being lost—well, for all we know, we may be reasonably near some outpost of civilisation. It’s improbable, but not impossible. Anything is possible in Africa. And that’s what I want to talk about now!
“I haven’t the foggiest idea of the location of these mountains," he went on. “I’ve travelled and flown over most of Africa, but I’m quite positive I’ve never been near this region before. We’ve seen no traces of any other white men, and it’s clear that we’re the first whites the Giants have ever met.
“As against that, we’ve had precious few chances to explore; and the Giants keep themselves severely to themselves. So what it all comes to is this: How can we be sure that no white settlements exist on, say, the other side of these mountains?
“From the climate, and so on, I’m hazarding the guess that we’re somewhere in or pretty near the Congo. And the professor agrees with me. Well, the Congo is a mighty big stretch of land, but plenty of white men are interested in it. The Belgians, French, Portuguese, and our own people, for instance—any one of them might have a trading-post much closer to us right now than we imagine.”
“My hat, I never thought of that, sir!" Len admitted. “You’re right— this land is so well guarded by jungle and mountain, so bally steep and rugged, that we’ve just sort of sat down and assumed we’re lost! By jingo,” exclaimed the youngster hopefully, “do you honestly think we might be within reasonable reach of some white man’s post?”
“How can I honestly think that?” Justice replied. “No, lad; I merely say that the slim chance exists—that we might possibly find a post, if only we could explore for one. And that,” he added, in sudden exasperation, “is the snag! We can’t explore. Buktu won’t let us!”
Irritably he snapped his fingers towards the frowning cliffs that formed the eastern wall of the hollow.
“On top there—that’s the best and highest point for a good look-see around this country!” he continued. “But will Buktu let me climb? Not he! This morning I pointed to the crest and made signs that I’d like to clamber up there, but he simply shook his head. It’s not that he’s afraid we’ll escape—he just doesn’t want me to go up!”
Justice flicked a quick, searching glance at the great chief warrior, who sat watching the castaways with quiet, intelligent eyes.
‘‘If you ask me, friend Buktu’s a trifle uneasy about those cliffs,” the captain said slowly. “There’s something up there that’s put the wind up him and the rest of the tribe!”
The comrades stared at the cliff-tops, the haunt of small brown goats, and wondered what on earth a warrior like Buktu could be nervous of up there.
“Jumpin’ jam-jars, this sounds a bit queer, skipper! Can’t you think of some way to persuade old Buck to let us go?” ventured Midge, and quivered with fresh excitement as Captain Justice nodded thought-fully.
“Ay, I’ve thought of something,” he replied, his gaze travelling on to the centre of the village, where the wrestling bouts were still in full swing. “It may not work, but I’ve got to take the risk, for I shan’t rest until I’ve seen what’s on the other side of those cliffs! So what I’m going to do,” he said, turning to his mystified companions again, “is to astonish the natives first!
“D’you remember what I said the other night—that it’s up to us, as white men, to boss these fellows, big as they are? Well, that’s what I’m aiming at still.
“We’ve already shown this tribe, warriors and witch-doctors, that we’re not quite the helpless castaways they took us for. The old professor, for one, has got them all scared with his 'magic,’ and now Buktu and the rest regard him as a bigger and more dreadful magician than the local witch-doctor. As for myself—well, you saw how the warriors answered when I called on ’em to charge and chase those painted demons back to their dens the other night.
“Well, Buktu’s lot were afraid of that tricky witch-doctor, weren’t they? But when we proved that we were men worth following they forgot to be afraid—and followed. Now they’re afraid of something on those cliff-tops. So I’m going to seize another opportunity to prove again that we’re worth following, and this time, by James, they’re going to follow me up the cliffs!
“It’s simply a question of playing on the minds of native fighting-men,” the captain went on, with a whimsical grin. “And the only way I know to impress a crowd of fighting-men, brown, white, or red, is to prove to ’em that you’re the best fighter of the lot! And that’s what I’m going to try to do now!”
In silence, Midge, O’Mally, and Len gazed at their famous leader, noting the little smile that hovered about his lips, the twinkle in his eyes. These were signs that the comrades knew of old—harbingers of some reckless, breath-taking feat to be tackled regardless of odds. Midge regarded his leader earnestly.
“But, captain,” cried the anxious youngster, “what are you going to do?”
“Come and see!” said Captain Justice calmly, and rose to his feet.
With the aid of native razors and the soap the clean-shaven Giants used, Justice had regained some of his former spruceness, which not even the patched and stained garments he wore could mar. His eyes were clear, the hollows of his tanned cheeks had filled out. There was a buoyant spring in his step as he strode across the village towards the throng of wrestlers.
His comrades trailed after him with the stately Buktu beside them.
“Bedad, I don’t like this!” O’Mally grumbled. “When Justice is on the warpath, as he is now, St. Patrick alone knows what’ll happen! ’Tis all very well tryin’ to impress a bunch o’ natives, but how on earth is he going to prove himself a better fighting-man than all those copper-coloured Carneras?”
Without a look to right or left, the captain joined the crowd of onlookers around the wrestlers, and, as it happened, a bout ended just as he arrived. Ere the next pair could sally forth, Captain Justice strode into the ring.
Silence descended immediately. The Giants frowned, laid their fingertips across their mouths, and stared, obviously wondering what the strange white man meant to do. Justice’s comrades, suddenly realising their leader’s intentions, stood petrified with horror and amazement.
“Oh, begorrah, the crazy spalpeen!” O’Mally gasped. “Bedad, I do believe he’s going to—” But before the doctor could finish, Captain Justice carried on.
With keen, cool eyes, he had sized up the Giants around him. And now, calm as ever, he strolled across to the biggest man, smiled up at him cheerfully, then slapped the warrior on his swelling chest. A startled shout arose. For that, among the Giants, was the customary challenge to combat!

Bossing the Show!
INTO the ring darted the captain’s companions, with Buktu in the lead. The chief warrior grasped Justice's arm, shaking him excitedly as, in his own guttural tongue, he uttered what was plainly meant as a warning not to be a reckless fool. It was quite apparent that the massive Hercules that Justice had challenged was the most powerful wrestler in the tribe.
“Justice! You’re demented!” O’Mally spluttered. “Ye can’t wrestle against that big horse! Begorrah, he’ll snap your neck in the first—”
With a quick movement, Captain Justice freed his arm from Buktu’s grasp and turned to the Irishman and gave him a dig in the ribs.
“Don’t worry, doc. You know I’ve handled tougher specimens than this!” he whispered. “And remember, it’s all part of the programme. We’re out to astonish the natives!” In that, Captain Justice had succeeded already. The Giants were more than astonished—they were torn between speechless amazement and admiration for the bold white man who dared tackle, their finest wrestler.
Dazed, trembling with anxiety on their leader’s behalf, O’Mally, Midge, and Len allowed themselves to be ushered back to their places. The ring was cleared. Justice stepped back, smiling; his smiling opponent swaggered in after him.
The trial by combat—Justice’s new and daring attempt to prove himself the best fighting-man there—was on!
For a few moments, amid breathless silence, both wrestlers circled warily, each weighing the other up.
Justice had stripped off his thin pyjama jacket, revealing muscles and sinews strong and supple as steel coils, as he swung his arms to and fro, and crouched slightly. Bareheaded, barefooted, he looked the picture of an athlete—a man toughened by years of adventure and hardship.
And yet the captain seemed little more than a stripling against his huge opponent.
Six feet eight in height, the Giant towered a full head and shoulders above Captain Justice, outweighing him by several stones. Midge closed his eyes as the native wrestler grinned, hunched his shoulders forward, and advanced upon the captain like a bull-mastiff about to flatten a cheeky terrier. But an instant later the boy’s eyes popped open again and remained fixed. For Captain Justice was the first to attack.
Which was surprise number one for the Giants!
Justice suddenly ducked in under the great arms extended to crush him, and hurtled on—diving low in a flying tackle that brought the Giant down with a rousing thump. There was a gasp, a shout, a yell as the white man pounced again fiercely, forcing his opponent’s head down in a snappy shoulder-lock. With a desperate heave, however, the Giant bucked him off, shooting him head over heels into the dust. Both gladiators rolled over, then sprang, cat-like, to their feet and faced each other, with chests heaving, hands held low and ready.
But Justice had secured the first fall—and the Giant had lost his smile already. He looked shocked, bewildered, angry. The strength of Justice’s grip, the white man’s tigerish speed, had blunted his self-confidence badly. Scowling, he lashed out vigorously, his massive fist sweeping through the air in a blow that should have knocked the captain senseless. Missing by a foot or more, the native snorted and bored in, seeking to squeeze his elusive foe in a bear-like hug.
But Captain Justice was not there. Again he swayed one way and sidestepped the other, catching his ponderous attacker off balance. And then, since blows as well as wrestling-holds seemed permissible among the Giants, he ducked like lightning and planted his elbow with force and precision deep in the man’s solar plexus.
A sharp grunt forced itself from the native’s lips. Then the captain gave him the other elbow, and, skipping out of reach, left his antagonist gasping, wobbling at the knees.
This was no time for love-taps or orthodox wrestling. Justice had to prove to these warlike Goliaths that he was better than their best—and it had to be done quickly! The Giant opposed to him was powerful and clever, and Justice could not afford to risk a long bout against a man of such strength.
So, giving his groggy opponent no chance to recover from those jabs in the wind, in he dived once more, banging the native wrestler down a second time with his devastating low-tackle and body-slam. Dust swirled, brawny men shouted their amazement. Midge cheered himself hoarse. The entire ring closed in, watching spellbound, while the two champions writhed, twisted, and rolled on the ground.
Again Justice tried for the crippling shoulder-lock—again he was tossed into the air. The antagonists leapt up together, dodging, ducking, clutching at each other’s arms. But the battered and bewildered Giant was all at sea now. He grew wilder, more reckless, and clumsy every minute. Casting caution to the winds, he suddenly uttered a growl of wrath, sprang forward in a terrific heap—and hurled himself at Justice like a madman.
“Gosh!” Len caught his breath. In a flash, just as the plunging Giant landed on top of him. Justice twisted his body round, low and to the right. His arms streaked up: his hands locked themselves round the native’s neck; he arched his back and heaved. Then he fell abruptly to his knees—and the champion of the Giants sailed on.
Full-tilt, the Giant was hurled into the air, shooting high over Justice’s shoulders. And his own wild rush lent him added impetus. There was a swirl of golden-brown arms and legs—a heavy thwack. Landing head-first on the ground, the Giant rolled over, relaxed, and sprawled limply—victim of one of the most shattering ju-jutsu throws ever practised.
The trial by combat was ended! Such an uproar arose then in the village of the Giants as to put all previous outbursts in the shade. After the first few seconds of stunned silence, Buktu and his henchmen gave a long-drawn yell that deafened the lean white conqueror, making him start back with narrowed, apprehensive eyes.
Just for that moment, the captain feared that he had gone too far—that, by defeating their champion so easily, he had aroused the Giants to wrath. In another moment, however, he saw that his fears were groundless. It was admiration, not anger, that blazed in the dark eyes of those tall warriors as they closed in on him.
In that heart-throbbing second of triumph Justice knew that his plan to establish himself as a worthy leader among the Giants had succeeded.
Natural athletes, worshippers of physical prowess, the fighting-men clustered round him, raising their right arms in salute, deafening him again with their deep-chested laughter and shouts of homage. A garland of dark green wax-like leaves was suddenly thrown over his shoulders, by Buktu himself. The next instant Dr. O’Mally forced his way through the press, with Midge and Lon wriggling after him.
“Captain Justice, ’tis a broth of a boy ye are, entirely!” roared the delighted Irishman, squeezing his leader’s hand numb. “By the beard of St. Patrick, ye threw that big elephant around as though he was a bag o’ feathers!”
“And you’ve got ’em now, skipper,” Midge whispered. “Look at ’em! Hark at ’em! Snakes and ladders, you’re IT as far as old Buck is concerned! Strike while the iron’s hot if you want to shin up those cliffs.” Midge was right. The Giants, after this latest display, were ready to follow him as they had followed him four nights ago when, by sheer force of personality, he had changed them from a rabble into a squad of dashing fighters. But he had to strike while the iron was hot if he wanted the chance to explore beyond the confines of the village.
Having wiped the dust and perspiration from his eyes, the captain strode across to his fallen antagonist. That humbled Giant was sitting up, shaking his head dazedly. But he summoned up a faint smile as Justice stooped and smacked him genially on the back.
That done, the shrewd white leader turned, darted a significant glance at his comrades, and walked off without another word, heading for the eastern cliffs.
At once, O’Mally, Len, and Midge hurried after him. It was a move that stilled all tumult in a second.
Giant figures grew taut; feathered heads were raised; dark brown eyes widened. Buktu stretched out a hand, but Justice, looking him straight in the face, pointed to the cliffs. The tall warrior fell back, dismay in every line of his handsome countenance. Yet he made no further attempt to check them. And Captain Justice & Co. walked on.
“Don’t look back! Take it for granted that we’re bossing the show—expecting them to follow! This is the crucial moment, lads! Either our bluff succeeds now, or it fails!”
Captain Justice whispered his orders after fifty yards had been covered in dead silence. But curiosity gained the upper hand of Midge. He had to look back, or burst! He looked back at last—and hugged himself with glee.
The Giants were following. The castaways’ bluff was a winner!

A Staggering Discovery!
LED by Buktu, a party of sombre-faced warriors were slouching forth from the village, slowly, reluctantly, like men drawn into some venture against their will. Buktu’s face was dark with worry: his feet dragged. Clearly he guessed the captain’s object, and disliked it with all his heart. But equally clear was it that the chief warrior felt too ashamed to desert such a masterful leader.
Head erect, shoulders square, the Gentleman Adventurer marched on unfalteringly to the base of the cliffs. Then he turned, eyeing the uneasy Giants coolly. Suddenly, he snapped his fingers in a single commanding gesture.
It was enough!
From every man there came a deep grunt of submission. They shed their unwillingness, and ran towards Justice like hounds at the call of the huntsman. Buktu, once having made up his mind, acted with characteristic promptness. Of his own accord he sent a score of picked men racing back for their weapons, and by the time these returned he had guided Justice & Co. to the most accessible part of the cliffs.
It was, as Midge declared, “a triumph of bluff over beef.” A few minutes later the difficult ascent commenced.
To Len and Midge, however, that climb proved far easier than it looked. For no sooner had Buktu given the word than bronzed arms whisked both youngsters off their feet. Seated astride the shoulders of their “porters,” they were carried aloft, with nothing to do save hold on tightly while the natives clambered actively up the rugged walls and along precarious goat-tracks that wound across the higher levels.
Similar assistance was offered to Captain Justice. But, with a smile, he waved the outstretched hands aside and went up alone.
Dr. O’Mally, not to be outdone, doggedly followed, sweating copiously, but putting his tremendous strength to good account. The best part of a long, hot hour it took them to reach the summit by easy stages. But for Justice & Co., at least, the effort was worth while.
All safe, they gained the flattened crest at last, and the whole party flung themselves down to rest in the shade of some rocks. When Justice regained his breath and rose eagerly to his feet again, a smile of keen satisfaction flitted across his face.
From that lofty eminence, the wilder land beyond the Land of Giants stretched out before him like a wonderful panorama.
To the north and south, in far-flung array, rose the main chain of mountain-peaks, shining blue and gold in the sunshine, flinging up their spear-head crests as if to challenge the sky. The “burning” hill, the witchdoctor’s domain, reared its sulphur-clouded head on their left; and beyond that tumbled a high wasteland of riven rock, of steep gullies and fuming holes—a stark and sinister scar on the face of the country, left there by some titanic convulsion of Nature in ages past.
Two hundred yards from where the party stood, the narrow cliff-top ended in jagged palisades of rock, overlooking a deep ravine. But ahead the ground sloped gradually down into the mouth of a superb valley. For league upon league it ran northwards between mountains and wastelands, disappearing at length into the shimmering blue mists of distance. The river wound through it like an enormous silver-blue serpent, swollen by the rapid streams that babbled down the slopes.
At that moment, Captain Justice would have given all he possessed for a pair of binoculars or even an ancient telescope.
“By James, what a highway to the north that river makes! Wonder where the valley leads out to? Wish I’d made Flaznagel come up here,” he was murmuring to himself , when suddenly Len touched his arm.
“Look over there, skipper—what d’you make of that?” the youngster muttered. Justice, gazing in the direction to which he pointed, knitted his brows.
Between two of the gaunt palisades on the eastern brink of the cliffs towered a lofty cairn of loosely piled rocks—a rugged, strangely impressive monument. Obviously it was the work of human hands, and Justice guessed that it marked the last resting-place of some unfortunate who had met his end up here. Was this the reason for the Giants’ dislike of the uplands?
To test this theory, Justice took a few paces towards the cairn—an action that plunged his allies into fresh dismay at once. Buktu stepped in front of him, shaking his head vehemently; and then, as if to distract the captain’s attention, he jerked his trident savagely in the direction of the witchdoctor’s hill. Wheeling quickly. Justice saw a group of hideously painted figures standing motionless in the mouth of a high cave, watching the explorers intently.
Ignoring the sorcerer's men, but taking a last glance at the lonely cairn. Captain Justice led the way down the slope, picking his way carefully over the rough ground. The nearer the castaways approached to the valley entrance, the more perturbed became Buktu and company. They lagged behind, growling at each other, glaring at their distant enemies. Justice’s eyes were very alert as he changed direction suddenly.
“Steer farther over, lads—behind these rocks,” he said quietly. “There’s something mysterious up here, and I fancy we’re pretty near it, judging from Buktu’s face. In any case, we’re not risking an arrow from those jokers yonder, so—”
And then he stopped, and his voice trailed away in a hoarse, choked cry.
Captain Justice, staring blankly down the hillside, became rigid as a ramrod. O’Mally let out a wild howl and rubbed his eyes. Len’s jaw dropped, his arms slackened. Midge collapsed as suddenly as if his legs had given way.
In stricken silence, all four remained gazing down.
For at the base of the slope, a torn and twisted mass of steel, wood, and rotting fabric, sprawled the wreckage of a once-powerful aeroplane!
“A plane! By James, I—I just can’t believe it!” .
Barely had Captain Justice been so completely jolted out of his customary calm. Heedless of rocks or pitfalls, he raced down the slope. But the wreckage was there! It existed! Fighting for breath. Justice & Co. gathered round it, while Buktu and his men huddled in a bunch on the hilltop, watching their white friends with bulging eyes.
“A plane!” repeated Justice, and stepped closer to the shattered fuselage.
Originally the machine had been a large, single-seater monoplane, with a closed cockpit—a long-distance flyer, with twin auxiliary tanks installed in the tiny cabin. Now it was just a splintered wreck. The pilot, it seemed, had pancaked, tearing off the undercarriage, and after that the machine had struck a rock and turned over. The right wing jutted stiffly into the air; the left had been smashed to matchwood. Like a stricken bird, the plane lay on its side, every inch of it coated with layers of thick white dust.
“And the pilot?" whispered Midge.
Justice looked at the lad, then pointed silently to the strange cairn on the hill.
His comrades bowed their heads without a word.
Here, at last, the mystery of the uplands was solved. Len coughed, clearing his husky throat.
“No wonder Buktu’s crowd avoided this place!” he muttered. “Look at ’em now—windy as cats! I suppose they saw the crash, heard the awful din, too, and I’ll bet they’ve never been closer than they are now to the wreckage! Can’t blame ’em, either. They must have thought the end of the world had come when a great machine like this came smashing out of the sky! And then, I suppose, the poor chap who was in it managed to live long enough to drag himself up to the top, and the Giants buried him there. I wonder who he was?”
Justice stared at the right wing and fuselage. But weeks—possibly months—of tropic weather had rotted the fabric and paintwork, nearly obliterating the identification-marks.
“Well the poor beggar’s beyond our help now, I’m afraid!” he murmured grimly. “Come on! Let’s have a look round. Better hurry, too! This sun is getting too strong.”
GINGERLY the captain clambered on to the wreck, wincing every time he came into contact with hot metalwork. Midge followed, and succeeded in squeezing himself into the crumpled cockpit, half-suffocated by heat and dust. Meanwhile, Len, his hands protected by the sleeves of his pyjama-coat, took a look at what was left of the engine.
Captain Justice, crawling about under the debris, uttered an exclamation of satisfaction as suddenly his fingers closed on a leather-covered notebook. It was the luckless airman’s “log," and it was written in Italian. Hastily the captain backed out to decipher the faint, hastily scrawled notes, while Midge delved deeper into the cockpit.
The first thing the youngster found was a shotgun, the butt smashed and the breech mechanism ruined. A strong, padded box containing cartridges, however, had survived the crash, as had the flyer’s binoculars, except that a lens had been chipped. Midge seized them eagerly—they were a great find! And even better was the heavy flare-pistol, secured by clips to the side of the cockpit, and still intact.
With those prizes Midge wriggled out into the open again, to find Captain Justice and O’Mally poring over the airman's log. The captain’s face was grave as he nodded to Midge.
 “Discovered the flyer’s identity!” he announced briefly. “Solved another mystery, too! The poor chap was Captain Pagolo Leoni, of the Italian Air Force—one of the two picked flyers who set out to cross from Tripoli into Italian Somaliland about nine months back. They flew into a summer storm somewhere over Nigeria, and were separated. Leoni’s comrade, got through. Nothing was ever heard of the captain again until now.”
Thoughtfully he closed the notebook, his eyes resting on the desolate cairn again.
Then he turned and ducked under the wreckage again. For several minutes he was busy there, and when he reappeared some bulky object bulged under his jacket. The others looked at him inquiringly. He merely gestured towards the hill.
“We can’t stay here any longer; it’s time to get out of the sun,” the captain said.
Slowly the castaways toiled back up the slope again, to the great relief of Buktu and the other Giants. They tramped on until their steps brought them to the foot of the cairn.
Then, inspired by the same thought, they stood to attention and saluted— a last simple tribute to a brave man.
“A gallant flyer!” murmured Captain Justice.
He turned on his heel and walked away, the wonder-stricken Giants trailing dumbly behind him.
Justice’s chief desire at the moment was to consult professor Flaznagel with all speed, for the crowded events of the morning had raised his hopes of winning back to civilisation. His position among the Giants was assured. All that remained now was to strengthen his influence over them—to persuade them to guide the castaways out of the wilderness, or, at least, to supply them with food and a canoe.
As for the astounding discovery of Captain Leoni’s plane, that was the triumph of a successful morning. The flare-pistol Midge had found constituted a weapon at last—clumsy, perhaps, but highly effective in the right hands—while the binoculars were worth their weight in gold. There were other gadgets, too, that Justice had seen, and vowed to use when the time was ripe.
Last of all, a thorough examination of the brave Italian’s log might well supply the clue as to the castaways’ own whereabouts.
Thus, as he made his way across the cliffs, preparatory to descending into the village once more, Captain Justice had plenty to think about—and to wonder, incidentally, what sort of deep experiments Professor Flaznagel was carrying out in solitude!

The results of the old professor’s experiments are going to be absolutely devastating—red-hot and explosive! White Man’s Magic that knocks the Witch-doctor’s Magic into a cocked hat!!! A Captain Justice story that Murray Roberts has jolly good cause to be proud of!!!

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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.