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   Chapter 2 BUSY TIMES AT THE CATARACT. THE ALARMING NEWS

The Wonder Island Boys: Conquest of the Savages By Roger Thompson Finlay Characters: 16291

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


The flag incident, and Uraso's interpretation of it, amused the boys immensely.

"Do you know why Uraso thought so?" asked John.

"No; I can't understand why he ever had such an idea," replied Tom.

"You forget it has been our custom, ever since I can remember, to go to Observation Hill, each day, to watch the sea, in the hope that a vessel might be sighted. Uraso thought that was intended as a tribute to the flag."

"After all," said Ralph, on reflecting, "they are not so much out of the way, and the flag is really our talisman, isn't it?"

"Yes; because it is a real protection, and not a fancied one. It is a symbol, behind which lies all the power of a material kind, which is able to help us everywhere, and among all people. The charm which the savage wears, is a symbol to him, and that typifies protection from some unknown power. To us that is a reality, and we know where the power is."

The dear old Cataract home. How the boys roamed over every part of it, and went down where the cattle were still ranging around. The place was a study for the warriors.

"Now, boys, for the first day entertain your visip. 25tors, show them everything, and amuse them in every way possible; and after to-morrow we must commence work in earnest," was John's injunction to the boys.

What could be more natural than to start the water wheel in motion? The warriors stood on the bank, watched them push it in place, and then the sawmill was started. The process of turning out lumber with the saw was marvelous. Every part of the shop was filled, as the boys set the grindstone, the lathe, and the gristmill into motion.

When a log was finally secured to be cut into shafts for spears, and they saw the wood-turning lathe make the shaft round and true, their enthusiasm knew no bounds.

"Tell them, Muro, that is what we want them to do," said John, and they opened their eyes at the possibilities.

There was still quite an amount of barley which had not been ground, and the willing warriors helped the boys bring a lot to the mill and the production of the flour before their eyes was such an amazing thing that they could not even give vent to their expressions.

Early in the day one of the bullocks had been killed by John's order, and a roasting pit dug out, and this was now being prepared for the principal meal of the day, and many of them were interested in this new way of roasting an entire carcass.

A quantity of vegetables had also been gathered by the parties detailed for the purpose, and Georgep. 26 was the busiest of the lot, as he personally attended to the cooking of the various dishes. He had most willing helpers, each one trying to lend a hand, so that he did little more than direct.

Fig. 2. George's Old Dutch Oven.

But he was determined to have bread, and it did not take long to improvise an old Dutch oven with the firebrick, and in this a fire was built, so that the bricks were heated up intensely, and the fire then withdrawn, and a cover put over the chimney. The heated brick, therefore, did the baking. Loaf after loaf was put in, and while the dough had not risen as it should have done, owing to lack of time, still the bread produced was something so unlike anything the natives had ever seen, that the making of it in their presence was a joy, to say nothing of the eating of it when the meal was served.

It was not only a picnic; it was a feast. None there, excepting Uraso and Stut, had ever tasted such things before. They knew what honey was, but sugar was a novelty, and this was suppliedp. 27 without stint. George had no opportunity to make any delicacies in the form of cakes, but he made a barley pudding in which was a bountiful supply of sago.

After the meal, John called the boys together and said: "Before dismantling the place here it has occurred to me that there are some things which we ought to make, because it will take some time to set up the parts, even after we get them in the new locality. I believe we still have quite a quantity of the cast-steel bars, from which we intended making gun barrels."

"In looking over the stock to-day," said Harry, "I find we have sufficient to make at least fifty barrels, and I have prepared the lathe to do just what you have suggested."

"Good boy," responded John. "You and Tom keep at that, and don't mind about anything else. If we can once get the barrels bored out, and the fittings made, we can put them together without having the shop in running order."

"In talking with Harry yesterday," said Tom, "we made up the scheme of putting a small bench in the wagon, with the vise, so that we can put together some of the guns on our way."

"All that is in the right direction. And now, another thing. The wagon we have is not at all adequate for what we have to take with us, but we have plenty of people to carry things, and they will be glad to do it, but some things are very inconvenient to carry, so that it will be of material assistance if we build another wagon."

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The boys looked at John, merrily laughing at the suggestion.

"Just the thing," said Ralph, "and it is easily done. We still have the old wheels that were used before we built the last set."

"Quite true; I had entirely forgotten about that. Uraso will help, and will be just the fellow to direct his men. Now let us start at this with vigor. We must return as early as possible. The hostiles may attack the Professor at any time, and the weapons are necessary articles."

As they were about to separate, Harry remarked: "We have a quantity of the iron which we made, and instead of carrying it along in the wagon, it occurred to me that we ought to forge out some spears and bolos."

"I had counted on doing that myself, but many thanks for the suggestion," answered John.

There was one thing noticeable in all the warriors, and that was the universal tattoo. This was something practiced by all. Referring to the custom, Ralph asked: "What is the cause of the tattooing habit?"

John looked at him with a smile, as he answered: "People who wear few clothes want something with which to decorate themselves. The idea always was and always will be, to improve on nature. That is one of the reasons. The other is, that it was an original way of distinguishing one individual from another. You will notice among these people, that the chiefs have a different tattoo from the others in the tribe."

"Do you mean that the name of each manp. 29 was tattooed so he would be known in that way?"

Fig. 3. The Tattooed arm. Antelope.

"Yes; and also to designate his rank. The names of great warriors and wise men of the tribe are generally descriptive. The North American Indian adopted that course, and it was a very sensible thing to do. You have heard of Sitting Bull, Rain in the Face (that is, a pock-marked individual), Antelope, and others of like character, could be drawn, and thus convey the name without difficulty. Uraso and Muro mean some particular things or objects which can be depicted, and thus one tribe can communicate with the other, even though they do not understand each other's language."

"Then clothing is also another way of showing rank or title?"

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"In countries where people are compelled to wear covering as a matter of comfort, the clothing was adopted as a means of expressing the person's position in life."

After John and his party left the Brabos' village, the Professor called Blakely into consultation, and advised him to organize the remaining warriors into some cohesive form, and provide a definite and orderly plan of carrying out the scouting and picketing tactics necessary to keep them advised of the movements of the hostiles.

Blakely had already acquired a fairly good knowledge of the rudiments of the native tongue, so that he was able to get along well in giving his orders and disposing of the warriors. He was ably seconded by Ralsea and Sutoto; and especially, the latter, became one of the most important factors in the organization of the tribes in making a strong and intelligent fighting force.

Two days after John le

ft, it was announced that the old Chief Suros was on his way from the southern part of the island, and the Professor headed a party of thirty picked men, accompanied by Sutoto, to welcome him. The warriors were taken from the four tribes.

They met the litter, bearing the Chief, fully five miles from the village, and Suros was visibly affected at the honor shown him. The Professor extended every act of courtesy, and when they arrived at the village, the Professor was quick to give him the full details of all the happenings since their last interview.

"We have talked over the plans to make youp. 31 and all of your people happy and strong. I have sent a number of the warriors to my village, and they will bring all our things with them, so that we may put them up in your country, and teach your people how to build and to make useful articles, and beautiful ornaments."

"I have heard the wonderful things which you have done, and what you have promised, and we will try and follow your words," he answered.

"I have told the people that you must be here, as we value your wisdom. We would go to you, but we still have powerful enemies to the north, and they are waiting to attack us. Until we are safe from them we cannot go to you; but when my people return we will be better prepared to resist."

The chief was visibly affected at this consideration for him, and he thanked the Professor for sending the messengers.

The boys, Jim and Will, were interested observers in all that was taking place, and the Professor had them about him at all times, and to them he communicated his orders. Their ready understanding of the native tongue was a great help to the Professor.

It was for this reason that the Professor was glad the two boys were content to remain with him. Speaking about the savages, to the Professor, Jim remarked: "There is always one thing which seems singular about these fellows. They are awfully quick at learning. Now, what I can't understand is, that, quick as they are, theyp. 32 do not seem to advance very much, but stay in the same rut right along."

The Professor smiled at the observation, as he replied: "Sir John Lubbock, a noted English naturalist, sums up his estimate of the savage mind in the following statement: 'Savages unite the character of childhood with the passions and strength of men.' Their utter simplicity is their weakness. When that is aroused, if properly done, they become men."

"But what is the great difficulty in the way of their advance?"

"The greatest writers seem to agree that the primary want of the savage is a rigid, definite and concise law. The idea of order does not appeal to him, except to a limited extent. Like children, they do not go beyond the immediate thing. The reasoning faculties are not impaired, but are undeveloped."

But Jim's observation was true. Blakely early discovered this in treating with the natives, and it did not take long to make them understand that by working together for the common defense they could be made far more effective than by permitting each to do as his own impulse dictated.

Thus, by constant association with the head men in the different tribes, he early learned who were the best runners, and the most skillful scouts, and who were particularly reliable for the different branches of the service.

Sutoto, as stated, was the most valuable factor, and the Professor grew to love him. One day he came in great haste, and said: "I have news forp. 33 you. The tribes are directly north of us, and appear to be moving to the east."

"Do you know how large a force they have?"

"Fully three hundred."

"Have you any theory why they have not attacked us before?"

"I think they are sending for more warriors."

"How many more can they depend on from their tribes?"

"Not more than one hundred and fifty or two hundred."

"Do you think it is possible, Blakely, that they have learned of the force which we have sent to the Cataract?"

"This movement to the east seems to indicate it."

"In order to satisfy yourself it would be wise for you to ascertain their actions at once."

"I have selected a hundred picked men, and shall take the field this afternoon. I have suspicions that they are delaying on account of reinforcements, or waiting for reports from the runners which they have, no doubt, sent to the Cataract."

"I was rather stupid in that matter," exclaimed the Professor. "I had overlooked the fact that the Kurabus were the ones who attacked us at the Cataract, and as they know its locality it is but natural they should make an advance in that quarter."

Blakely and his men were on the way within a half hour after this conversation. This was now the fifth day after the departure of John.

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The Professor, and the chiefs, Oma and Suros, were in daily consultation, and together were developing a plan by which the different tribal interests could be welded together, and to establish a form of government which would be agreeable to all.

On the morning of the sixth day, after John's party left the Brabos' village, three of the hunters who were of the party delegated to bring in game, and one of whom had been instructed in the use of the gun, captured two Kurabus within a mile of the Cataract.

These were brought to John at once, and there was high glee at the success of the hunters. Harry was the first to see the captives and he rushed in to John with this information:

"The hunters have captured two Kurabus, and who do you suppose is one of them? He is the fellow we wounded and brought here with us. Don't you remember the one we carried out at the time I put an inscription on his litter?"

John smiled, as he recalled the litter. His association with the different ones made him fairly well acquainted with the language by this time; but Uraso and Muro were present. As they were brought in, John looked at them and his brow darkened, as he addressed them sternly.

"Why are you here?"

They cringed before his piercing look.

"Answer me! Do you want us to kill all of your people? Did you tell your chief when we let you go, that we did not want war, but peace?"

Neither of them answered, but shrank back.p. 35 John assumed a terrible anger, as he continued: "We healed you, and tried to show our friendship, but you tried to kill us. Is that what you people believe in?"

Tama, who was the warrior alluded to by Harry, soon recovered his speech, and after glancing around at the chiefs, said: "The chiefs would not believe what you said."

"What are you here for now?"

"I was sent here to see what you were doing."

"How many were sent?"

"No one but Reto and myself."

"Lock them up," said John, "and keep a good guard over them. So that is their game, is it? So much the more important for us to get the weapons ready."

The new wagon was now ready for the top, and this was completed in short work. John started on the bolos immediately, and also forged out a number of spears. The boys were set to work preparing the stocks for the barrels, and these were cut out in the rough at the sawmill, and several more knives prepared. The most skillful of the warriors were then instructed to dress them up and get them ready for the barrels.

The work was prosecuted not only during the day, but at night, as well. It was fortunate that during the time the yaks were lost, some months before, they had trained a pair to drive, and these were now again yoked up to give them experimental training for the coming journey.

Meantime John consulted Muro and Uraso, and the three picked out the most trustworthy scouts.p. 36 Giving them explicit instructions to proceed westward, and discover, if possible, whether their enemies were making any movement toward the Cataract, and if, on the other hand, the movement was toward the Professor and the Brabos' village, to send one runner to the village and the other back to the Cataract.

In less than ten days' time Harry had turned out thirty-two barrels, and John had given a great deal of attention to the preparation of the ammunition.

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