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The Wonder Island Boys: Exploring the Island By Roger Thompson Finlay Characters: 12254

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

"I wonder why the yaks are so wild and difficult to handle this morning?" said George, as he stopped the wagon and tried to calm them by soothing words.

At that moment Harry, who was in the lead, sprang back with a cry of alarm, and quietly, but with-evident excitement, whispered: "There are some big animals over to the right!"

The Professor was out of the wagon in an instant and moved forward with Harry. "You would better remain with the team, George," was the Professor's suggestion.

George Mayfield and Harry Crandall, two American boys, attached to a ship training school, had been shipwrecked, in company with an aged professor, on an unknown island, somewhere in the Pacific, over four months prior to the opening of this chapter; and, after a series of adventures, had been able, by ingenious means, to devise many of the necessaries of life from the crude materials which nature furnished them; and they were now on their third voyage of discovery into the unknown land.

For your information, a brief outline is given of a few of the things they had discovered, of some of their adventures, and of what they had made, and why they were now far out in the wilderness.

When they landed they had absolutely nothing, in the way of tools or implements. Neither possessed even a knife, so they had to get food and clothing and prepare shelter with the crudest sort of appliances.

By degrees they began to make various articles, found copper, iron and various ores, as well as lime-rock and grindstone formations. With these, and the knowledge of the Professor, they finally succeeded in making iron and copper tools and implements, built a water wheel, erected a sawmill, and eventually turned out a primitive pistol or gun.

During this time, however, they were interested in discovering what the island contained. The first voyage was on foot through a forest, where they saw an exciting combat between bears for the possession of a honey tree, and witnessed the death of one of them. By the accidental discovery of the honey tree they were supplied with an excellent substitute for sugar.

In the next voyage a large river was discovered to the south, which they named the South River. The second voyage was along that stream, until they reached a falls, where they were compelled to leave the crude boat which was made before starting on this voyage, and they proceeded on foot.

After a week's adventure in the forest they found a fire plot, which was the first indication that the island was inhabited. As up to this time they had no weapons but bows and arrows, which they had made, they returned home hurriedly. On the journey they had the fortune to capture a yak and her calf, and subsequently became possessors of a small herd, two of which they trained. A wagon was built and a store of provisions gathered in. A crude machine was constructed to weave the ramie fiber, the plant of which they found growing on the banks; in addition they had success in making felt cloth from the hair of the yak.

After providing many of the things which were necessaries, and several samples of firearms, as stated, they determined to go on their third voyage of discovery. During the various trips several mysterious and inexplainable things occurred. First, the fire on the banks of the Cataract River, about fifty miles from their home. Second, the disappearance of their boat, which had been left below the falls in South River; and, third, the removal of their flag and pole at Observation Hill, a half mile from their home, during the time they were absent on the third voyage.

They were now on their fourth voyage, and the incident mentioned on the opening page of this chapter related to the first large animal they had discovered.

In a short time Harry and the Professor returned from the search. "We have lost them, but shall undoubtedly find them later on," was all he said.

The forest was still to the south of them, and to the north the sea was now distant fully three or four miles, as the coast seemed to trend to the northwest, after passing the wild barley fields. The ground appeared to be more open and level, so a more southerly course was taken in that direction. Before night they emerged from the dense forest, which still continued to the right.

No stirring incidents occurred during the day, until night was approaching, when, on entering a straggling forest of detached trees and thick underbrush, George, who was in the lead, and acting the part of the scout, rushed back and held up a warning hand. The team stopped while Harry and the Professor quickly moved toward George.

"I have seen some orang-outans; come quickly."

Moving forwardly they could hear a plaintive cry, not unlike the wail of an infant. All stopped in surprise. The Professor was the first to speak: "That is a young orang. See if you can locate him."

As they moved still nearer the sound, there was a scampering of several orangs, and not fifty feet away was a pair of babies, struggling to reach the most convenient tree.

Harry pounced on the pair and caught one of them, which set up a vigorous shriek. The other, in the excitement, got too far beyond the reach of George, who, in his eagerness, was too busy watching Harry's captive to notice the other animal, and before he could reach the tree one of the grown orangs had reached the ground, gathered up the infant and again sprang up the tree.

"Give it some honey," said the Professor, laughing.

"What are the things good for, anyway?" asked Harry.

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Fig 1. The Orang-outan

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"Of course, you are not compelled to keep it, but while you have it feed and treat it well."

"What does it eat?"

"Principally nuts and fruit, as well as vegetables. If properly prepared they will eat almost everything man eats, except meats."

At first, as a matter of curiosity, they restrained him, and as it was near camping time for the night, the Professor suggested that it would be well to make camp close to the tree which had harbored the orang family.

After a good supper the Baby nestled up in th

e mattress, and was sound asleep in fifteen minutes. When the boys arranged the mattresses for the night, Baby did not seem at all disturbed, and he slept peacefully until morning.

After breakfast no effort was made to deprive the Baby of its liberty, but no attempt was made on his part to leave the wagon. He relished the honey and the other delicacies, all of which were undoubtedly, a surprise to him.

The parent orangs were in sight on the trees beyond, but made no demonstrations, although they saw the young one crawling and swinging on and around the wagon.

You may be sure that the petting Baby got was enough to spoil any infant. Probably, the parents saw the affection lavished on it, or knew that it was not curtailed of its liberty.

When they again set out on the march Baby kept a firm hold on the mattress, or lazily swung from the cross bars of the wagon top. It was having the time of its life.

Before noon of the next day, Baby began to act strangely. It would jump first to one side, then to the other. Harry, who was in the lead, was called up, and the wagon stopped. The antics of Baby looked like fear. Before Harry reached the wagon the Professor and George heard a shot, and the next moment something struck the canvas top and rolled to the ground. It was up in an instant and sprang to the back of one of the yaks, before the Professor, who was driving, could realize what was happening.

George was off the wagon in an instant, and seeing the strange animal on the back of the yak, drew his gun, and two shots rang out almost at the same instant.

When Harry turned back, at the call of the Professor, he saw the animal in the tree, which was then alongside of the wagon, and without waiting to give a warning, had shot at it, the bullet going through its forelegs. The result was it fell, striking the wagon, rolled over, and then sprang to the back of the yak. George's nimbleness in jumping from the wagon, and running around, enabled him to get in a shot at the same time the Professor fired. Both of their shots took effect, and it rolled to the ground.

"What is it?" asked George.

"A wildcat; no wonder the poor Baby was frightened!"

"How did Baby, inside of the wagon, know of the cat?"

"The wildcat is the mortal enemy of the orang-outan. While they fear to encounter the grown animals, they will attack the young, and the orangs seem to have the instinct of danger from that source born in them."

The Baby's nerves were unstrung with the din of the guns, and it was an hour before he could be calmed down. The wildcat was skinned, and it was days before the orang could be reconciled to the sight of the pelt or the smell of the animal.

"That is an instinct in certain animals. Nature has provided them with warnings of danger when their enemies are near."

"What a short tail the cat has," remarked George; "so unlike the tame cat."

"That, and the head, which is much larger and flatter than the common cat, as well as the shorter legs, show the distinguishing differences. Its color, as this one is, uniformly grayish-brown, with stripes running around the body, is a peculiarity found in the tame species, known as the 'tiger-cat,' to which they are the most closely allied."

Before nightfall fairly level ground was reached, and this being the third day, they judged their location was fully sixty miles due west of the Cataract. Far to the south and southeast the mountains could be distinctly seen, but the Professor did not think the ranges were very high.

In the far west the cloudy aspect of the sky prevented them from judging of the character of the land, but it had the appearance of mountains, as well.

"How far away are the mountains in the south, do you think?" asked the Professor.

"I estimate them at about five miles," was George's response.

"What is your idea, Harry?"

"I don't think George is far out of the way."

"Would you be surprised if I should put it at twenty-five miles, or more?"

"What makes you think so?"

"Appearances are always deceptive when you have nothing intervening to measure by."

"Is that the reason distances on water are always so deceptive?"

"Yes; have you ever noticed that you can judge distances better if the intervening landscape is rolling?"

"I think that is true in my case. But there is another thing I have noticed: When I am standing on the ground and looking up at an object, it never seems as far as when I am up there looking down: Why is that so?"

"That is simply the effect of habit, or familiarity. You are accustomed to look up at objects. The perspective, the altitude, and the appearance of the heights are natural things to you; but, when you are above, things below you have an entirely different perspective outline. Their arrangement is unfamiliar. Probably that is one of the reasons why we should always look upwardly in life, and not downwardly."

"But," inquired Harry, "is that the reason why some people, when at an elevation, like a tall building, or on a high precipice, say they feel like jumping down?"

"That is a species of paralysis, growing out of a sense of insecurity. It is purely an unnatural sensation, that temporarily disorganizes the nervous system. I knew a man who, whenever placed in such a position, could not speak."

They were now on what might be called the table land of the island. A broad plateau, with frequent groves, and any quantity of young trees scattered about everywhere, gave a most pleasing view. During the fourth day of the journey occasional little streams, flowing to the north, were crossed, and in the forenoon they had to halt for two hours and camp during the heaviest rainstorm which had fallen since they came to the island.

On the fifth day a broad river was sighted, flowing to the north, and before noon the banks were reached. Its width barred their further progress, unless a raft could be made large enough to take the team across. This was considered a hazardous task, and the distance from home was too great to take the risk. It was a larger stream than South River.

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