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   Chapter 8 THE BULL FIGHT

The Wonder Island Boys: Exploring the Island By Roger Thompson Finlay Characters: 17122

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

As the boys grew more and more familiar with the island the greater was its store of abundance shown to them. Each journey to the interior brought some surprise in the way of fruit, flower or vegetable. Some were of species well known to them; others unknown, and most of such came to them under names of chemicals only.

"There is one plant, at any rate," said Harry, "that makes this seem like home, and that is the thistle."

"Yes, and it is the one common enemy of man in every part of the world. It is the most successful business plant, in this particular, that it is equipped to resist attacks from other plants and from animals as well."

"But donkeys and some cattle will eat them."

"For the reason that nature has given such animals the proper coating and linings of mouth and stomach that the thorns do not affect them. There is hardly a plant which is as nutritious as the thistle. In England, the thistle leaves, in early days, were used as salads."

Harry was an ardent admirer of flowers, and was constantly bringing in some specimen for examination. "Here is a very pretty flower which is differently colored from any that I have seen before. It looks like the wood sorrel."

"It is the sorrel, but if you should be in Ireland, the people there would call it the shamrock. St. Patrick taught the people that it typifies the trinity with its three leaves. The plant has some very peculiar qualities. It actually goes to sleep at night. It folds up its leaves. It is so sensitive to light that it has at least four different methods by which it can adjust itself with the greatest nicety to the amount of light which it receives."

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Fig. 21. Fruit and Flower of Vanilla.

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"I think I have found vanilla; or it is something that smells like it, but I did not know that the vanilla was a climber."

"You have found the wild vanilla, the flowers of which have, as you see, disappeared and the bean is the product."

"I have often wondered why it is that we are able to smell or to recognize different odors."

"Smell, like everything else in nature, is produced by vibrations. So is sound, and light, and taste. Each odor has its particular rate of vibration. They resemble very much the notes of a musical instrument, and, as in music, odors can be harmonized, or they may be so mixed together as to produce discord. Some perfumes, when used on the handkerchief, and are about to fade away, have a sickly and disagreeable odor. This is due to the admixture of the wrong or discordant tones. Thus, heliotrope, vanilla, orange blossom and almond blend together; citron, lemon, vervain and orange peel belong together, but they produce a stronger impression on the sense of smell, and are of a higher octave; and so with a still higher class, as patchouly, sandal-wood and vitavert."

"But what is it in the flowers or essences which make them smell as they do?"

"Carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. It is one of the most remarkable things in nature that many of the odors in plants are formed by the combination of only carbon and hydrogen, and the wonderful thing about it is, that while turpentine is composed of 88 parts of carbon and 12 parts of hydrogen, the odors of oils of lemon, orange and juniper and rosemary have the exact proportions of those elements."

It was one of the duties of the colony to preserve the seeds of different vegetables and grain, because the Professor intended to put out for their use, as soon as spring came, a garden, which would avoid the necessity of constantly putting them on the alert to hunt the different foods. Sometimes it was necessary to go considerable distances to get the various foods. As long as they were on the island it was the part of prudence to act like sensible business men, and prepare for the future.

"We haven't a very big variety of vegetables, and I wish we could find some real good sweet potatoes and peas; and tomatoes would come in handy."

"Of course, variety, or the wish for different kinds, is largely a matter of desire. It is not a necessity."

"But does not the desire for different kinds grow out of the need of man to get the different substances which vegetables have?"

"To a certain extent, yes; but it is a singular thing that the world over there seems to be a natural instinct to combine two or three vegetables, and those vegetables, although they may be different in different countries, make chemical combinations, when eaten, which are almost identically similar. Thus, the Irishman mixes cabbages with his potatoes; the Englishman bacon with his beans, and the Italian rich cheese with macaroni."

One morning the boys were surprised to find a startling increase in their herd of yaks. When the Professor arose and went out for his regular morning stroll he noticed the unusual number, and was not slow in informing the boys.

"I suppose," said the Professor, "that they are coming to board with us for the season."

"Well, I am going to inform them, in a not very polite way, that we don't need company."

He was off with a club, Harry following.

"Look at that immense fellow. Wouldn't he make good sole leather? What is that on his side; that funny patch?"

Harry called to the Professor. "Did you see the peculiar mark on the side of the big bull?"

The Professor was on hand at once. "That is certainly a mark of some kind. See if you can get near enough to ascertain just what it is."

George, who had been so anxious to get rid of them, was now just as eager to hold them. The bull was a magnificent specimen. Like all this species he was a dark red, and had immense horns. All yaks, male and female, have horns, and the Texas steer has no horns to compare with the yaks in size and gracefulness of curve.

As George advanced there was no action on the part of the herd to scatter. Their own stock took no notice as he walked among them, and this, in all probability, gave the wild herd confidence. The bull paid no attention, until George was within twenty-five feet, when, with a deep-voiced roar and an ominous lowering and shaking of his shaggy head, made a beeline for him. The Professor called out, and he and Harry both sprang forward to aid him, but the bull's rush was a fierce one, and as we have previously stated, they are very active creatures. George saw his peril, and now realized that he could not possibly reach a place of safety, so he sprang behind one of the cows, and from that point sought to find a way through the herd. The warning voice of the bull, and his mad rush, excited the entire herd, which started a stampede.

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"George saw his peril and now realized that he could not possibly reach a place of safety"

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In the meantime they had not noticed the presence of their own bull, which was a fine animal, and was now thoroughly domesticated. The Professor was the first to notice the appearance of their bull, who, it seems, had been relegated to the background when their neighbors came to town for their holiday.

Apollo was Harry's name for the bull, and when George got mixed up in the herd, the strange bull made his charge and emitted the challenging bellow, the scene was a truly terrific one. George was carried along with the rush, and his only danger now was to escape being trampled under foot.

Harry stopped suddenly: "Look at Apollo!" He was making a charge down into the herd, and headed straight for the big bull.

"I thought it strange that we didn't hear our herd give them a welcome during the night."

"Welcome! what do you mean?"

"It is singular that Apollo didn't dispute the governorship of the herd when the new arrivals came, as that is one of the customs. One of them must be master."

"Just look at him! Good old Apollo!"

At that moment Apollo was within ten feet of the wild bull. He did not cease his onslaught. The wild animal saw his enemy attacking him from the right quarter, but his rush had been so impetuous that when Apollo struck him he rolled over, one of his large horns striking the earth and serving as a fulcrumed lever to turn him around in his path. He was up in an instant, and now began the battle for mastery.

"Get the guns, Harry; get the guns," and this was a sufficient reminder that neither of them had a weapon.

Harry bounded over to the house, and within a minute was back with them. In the meantime, where was George? He did not need to be told that he must run for his life, and was wise enough to seek the security among the cows, but he could not foresee a st

ampede. It was fortunate that the big bull was behind the herd when the stampede began, and it was lucky that there was plenty of room for the animals, or he surely would have been trampled to death. Naturally, the noise of the rushing animals drowned the roar of the fighting bulls, but the stampeded yaks gradually checked themselves, and George was the most surprised individual imaginable when he found the bull was not behind them.

And now another curious thing happened. They had run fully a quarter of a mile, and when the running stopped, the yaks leisurely turned around and slowly walked back. The movement seemed to be a concerted one. George accompanied them. He didn't know what else to do.

When Apollo and the bull locked horns, after the latter had again gained his feet, his tremendous bulk pushed Apollo back, at the first onset; but they noticed a peculiar tactic on the part of Apollo. The latter at each forward plunge twisted his head, first to the right, and then to the left, as though he was boring his way in. This was an astonishing thing to the stranger. This was done by Apollo over and over again, and now, every time they met, and the twisting motion was repeated, his enemy would be thrown back on his haunches.

For a period of twenty minutes the combat continued. Back and forth they ranged. Harry, although intensely excited, wanted to give the bull a shot, but the Professor restrained him. He felt that the youth of Apollo was enough to overbalance the strength of his enemy.

"No, Harry, when they get through with this battle the big fellow will not cause us any more trouble, and we need him."

The herd of cows came up and remained standing at a respectable distance. They seemed instinctively to know that the question of kingship was being decided. It was entirely immaterial to them who won. George did not wait with the herd. He saw the combat, and beyond the Professor and Harry.

"Well, you did kick up a fuss, didn't you?" said Harry.

"Apollo's got him; he'll lick him sure. See that lunge? My, what a shaking he gave him that time!" George was a dancing Dervish by this time. Then noticing the guns for the first time, seized one of them. "I'll finish him."

"No, no, George," was Harry's reply, as he grasped the gun. "The Professor is right; Apollo will finish him."

There was now no question of the fighting ability of Apollo, and of his youth and vigor, and he knew it. His antagonist did not rush any more. Apollo did that; the bull's main business now was to keep out of Apollo's way.

He had been whipped, and he knew it. He turned and fled. Did he go toward the cows? Not at all; but in the opposite direction. Instinct told him that if he had gone toward the cows it would have meant another fight. To leave them was the bovine manner of saying, "Well, then, take them."

The big bull did not go far. His head hung low, and the heaving flanks showed he was tired. But Apollo's head was high in the air. Dejection on one side and absolute mastery on the other were as plainly exhibited in the manners of the animals as though it had been written out and proclaimed.

"What will he do if I go up to him now?"

"The fight is all out of him."

This was true. He exhibited no alarm when they approached, and when they walked around to get a view of his other side, the mark plainly showed the following brand: "M-V."

"That is undoubtedly the brand of some person who captured the animal when young."

"How old do you suppose he is?"

"It is difficult to fix his age with any certainty, but I do not think he is over ten."

"What do you suppose the brand means!"

"It is some arbitrary term, the initials of a person, or it may be intended to designate something. Branding is a very common way of marking cattle, so as to indicate ownership; nearly all savage tribes have a habit of branding, or tattooing; and sailors also. Various civilized countries in the past have branded criminals as a means of identifying them."

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Fig. 22. The Mysterious Brand on the Yak.

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They now had an opportunity of taking an inventory of their stock. The original herd comprised Apollo, six cows and four calves, or half-grown cattle. The new acquisition brought the count up to twenty-six cows and twenty young animals. The vanquished bull was very meek from that time forward, and the surprising thing was that Apollo was thereafter the same quiet, unobtrusive animal he had been before.

But there was work to do in the factory. Harry was now engaged in building an iron lathe for their further work. A drilling machine was his next tool, and as the weeks passed the boys devoted much of their time to making such articles of machinery as could be used advantageously to turn out the simple products which future needs might demand.

The leather vats were examined and the skins found in excellent condition. These were then taken out, and grease and oil worked into them until they were pliable. The thick parts of the hides had been previously cut out, so that they could be used for the soles of contemplated boots and shoes, which they soon hoped to turn out.

Every morning the yaks would leave the enclosure and start out on trips to the feeding grounds, and sometimes Harry or George would follow them and hunt for game. On one occasion, while Harry was on the opposite hill, George saw the flash of Harry's gun, and almost immediately thereafter heard the report. This was the first time the difference between the flash and the noise attracted his attention.

"Will you tell me why I saw Harry's fire before the sound reached me?"

"Did you say 'sound' or 'noise'?"

George looked at the Professor quizzically. "Is there any difference between sound and noise?"

"Technically, there is a difference, although in common practice one word is used for the other without discriminating. Sound means a succession of vibrations produced in their regular order, like music, whereas noise is a disorganized vibration. For instance, falling water, like our cataract here, is sound, but the report of George's gun was a noise."

"I can see the difference. Would a wagon going rapidly over a pavement be a noise or a sound?"

"It would be a noise if the pavement should be irregular, but if the pavement is regular and the vibrations or beats are uniform, it is then called a sound. But you wanted to know why you saw the shot before you heard it. Simply because sound does not travel as fast as light. Sound moves 1,040 feet in a second, and light over 186,000 miles a second, which is about 850,000 times faster than sound."

"Do soft and light sounds travel at the same speed?"

"Theoretically, yes; but numerous experiments have been made, and many of them go to show that a loud noise really travels faster than a soft noise."

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Fig. 23. Measuring Sound Pitch.

* * *

"What is the cause of that?"

"It is attributed to the belief that a loud noise causes greater wave motions, although the sound waves may be the same lengths in both cases. Or, it might be said that loud noises have greater strength."

"When we were going to New York in the cars, a train was coming toward us, and the engineer on that train blew his whistle when he was off quite a distance, and kept it up until long after he had passed us. I noticed that when the whistle started the sound had a very low pitch, which kept increasing to a higher and higher pitch until the train passed; what was the cause of that?"

"As the sound waves are uniform movements, and are at regular intervals, the vibratory action of the whistle, in case the trains were at rest, would all be the same distance apart; but as the two trains were coming together two things happened. At each moment your ear came nearer the whistle, and the distance through which the sound had to travel decreased. This made increasingly shorter waves, and not long, regular waves, as when at rest. Short waves make a high pitch, and long waves low pitch. After you passed the train the waves began to get longer, but they increased in length more rapidly than when you were approaching each other, so that if the whistle kept on blowing the waves would finally get to be so long and so far below their original pitch that the sound would cease.

"A little sketch will show this. (Figure 23.) The line A is the pitch of the whistle; B its pitch when you first heard it; C shows the point where you passed the whistle, and D shows how low the pitch was when it died away."

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