Gordon Stables.

Courage, True Hearts: Sailing in Search of Fortune



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Jeannie, as she was called, sprang trembling into Frank's arms, but he gently soothed her, and after having a cup of coffee he told his marvellous story.66
  This is no sailor's yarn, but founded on fact.


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It was briefly as follows: -

He had been captured by the awful gorillas, having been first stunned by a blow from a club. Then carried deep into the forest and up into a very high tree. There he found a shelter, quite a hut in fact, and far from being unkind to him, the gorillas fed and tended him every day, only guarding him at night.

"And this is my little pupil," he added. "Jeannie was given me to educate, I suppose; but early this morning the gorillas went off to do battle with some neighbouring tribe, and Jeannie and I slipped down the tree and ran for it.

"So here I am!"

"Heaven be praised!" cried Duncan with tears in his eyes. "You come to us as one risen from the dead."

"And what are you going to do with Jeannie?" asked Conal.

"Oh!" said Frank, "Jeannie is a sweet child. She shall go with us wherever we go."

"I hope," said Conal, "her parents won't come for her. It might be rather inconvenient."

Two long months passed away, and our heroes were almost weary of this lonesome and wild land.

But they had not been idle all the time of their sojourn here. On the contrary, they had commenced to dig in the fort itself for buried treasure.

There was plenty of excitement about this, but for many a weary week no luck attended their excavations.

The excitement, however, was somewhat like that of gambling, and once begun they felt they could not give it up until they came to something.

So they dug and dug.

But all in vain.

They still spent much of their time in fishing and shooting, however. These were necessary sports. Food they must have.

A rather gloomy time arrived later on, when they had finally abandoned all hopes of finding any buried treasure. Tremendously heavy banks of clouds had rolled up from the horizon and overspread the heavens.

Then with terrible thundering and vivid lightning a short rainy season was ushered in. The stream became flooded, so that fishing was now out of the question.

But Conal's little Lilywhite visited the fort every day, and-though I cannot say where she found them-never came without a fish, while just as often as not she brought the boys a present of delightful fruit.

The rain-clouds were scattered at last, and soon the country all around was greener and more lovely than ever the wanderers had seen it, while the most gorgeous of flowers seemed to spring into existence in the short space of twenty-four hours.

Sport began again once more.

They still paid visits to the king, but these were not so welcome now to his sable majesty, for the goo-goo was all finished, and he cared for little else-with, of course, the exception of human flesh.

Conal was exceedingly well developed, and under certain conditions he would not have objected being reminded of this.

But when the king one day felt his arm and said something which Carrambo translated: "Ah, num-num! you plenty good to eat," Conal hardly relished the verdict.

But the great elephants became a source of much pleasure to everyone.

They were so perfectly tractable and manageable that the boys often went across country with them.

This was practice, and Duncan had a meaning for it.

Well, one day as Frank was entering the living-room of the fort, his eyes fell upon a curious mark upon a stone, which proved to be an arrow bent partly upwards. He followed its direction with his eye and on another stone found another arrow, then two or three more, and finally there was a square stone above the window with a cross over it, thus (cross symbol).

There were no more arrows.

Frank rushed out half frantic with joy.

"Duncan! Conal!" he shouted.

They were coming quietly up the hill.

"Come quick, boys, I've made a discovery!"

Then he led them in and pointed the arrows, and the stone marked with the (cross symbol).

"The diamonds are there," he said excitedly.

The stone, however, was so firmly cemented in that it defied any ordinary methods to get it out.

So they determined to dine first, and go to work on it afterwards.

But no one could think or speak of anything else except their hopes of finding the treasure.

The boys had made cocoa-nut-oil lamps, and by the little flicker of light these gave, they now set about attacking the flint-hard cement in earnest. They chipped it out bit by bit, and hard, tedious work they found it.

But they succeeded at last, and stood silent and with a kind of awesome delight. For there before them was the glad sparkle of diamonds-a sparkle that seemed to dim the light of their poor oil lamp.

"Boys," cried Duncan, "our fortune is made!"

The diamonds, however, were but few-eight in all-but of great size, and apparently of high value, although the boys were no judges.

The hole where they had lain was carefully cemented all round, and besides the diamonds they found here two or three nuggets of gold, and a tiny brick of cement about six inches by four by three.

Just one word was engraved thereon.

That word was evidently Spanish, though partly obliterated-ABRIR-

They hoped to find diamonds inside.

They did not, however; only a piece of parchment, on which many words were written which they could not understand.

They were just putting in the stone again, after carefully storing away the diamonds and parchment, when Viking sprang up fiercely barking, and with his hair erect all along his spine.

At the same moment they perceived a terrible face at the open window.

It was that of a savage in his war-paint-the lips were painted red, great red rings were around each eye, and cheeks and brow were daubed with spots of white.

"Idle curiosity, I suppose," said Duncan, "or a trick to frighten us. For now that the goo-goo is all exhausted, I believe the king would like to see the very last of us."

When Carrambo came next day they told him about the terrible face at the window.

Carrambo considered for a moment, then shook his head.

"Dat no good," he said. "You close all de debbil pit?"

"Yes," said Duncan.

"Dat bad sabage see somefing, sah! He go tell de king. King make bobbery soon. Plaps cut all you troats, like he kill pore leetle Lilywhite to-mollow."

"What!" cried Conal, "kill Lilywhite! If he dares, I'll put a bullet through his fat and ugly phiz."

"Poh Lilywhite!" continued Carrambo, as if speaking to himself. "But," he added, "s'pose you come to-night, I take you to de hut. Lily come back heah; den not die."

Conal at once agreed, and Carrambo came for him some hours after sunset.

The butchering hut was at a considerable distance from the main village, and, strange to say, unguarded. But they crept in and found Lily bound hand and foot.

She was speedily rescued, and in an hour's time they were all back at the fort.

But Conal had seen something that night which seriously alarmed both him and his companions.

The savages were squatted out-of-doors around fires, and all in war-paint.

They looked fierce and terrible.

Very busy, too, were they, sharpening horrid knives and spears.

This was fearful intelligence to bring back, and Carrambo, being asked what it all meant, did not hesitate a moment in replying.

"It mean dis," he said; "dey tink dat you open de debbil hole again. To-mollow dey come plenty twick and cut all you troats, foh shuah."

"Carrambo," said Duncan after a pause, "can you guide us towards Lamoo?"

"Ees, sah, I guide you foh tlue!"

"Without having to go through that gorilla-haunted forest?"

"Ees, sah, ees," was the quick reply. "I myse'f not go t'loo de folast."

"Well, Carrambo, send for the men who attend to the elephants, and we shall start this very night."

The two elephant attendants were very sincere, and when Duncan promised them clothes and beads and many fine gifts, they readily consented to go with them to the coast.

So packing was commenced without a moment's delay.

And none too soon, as things turned out.

CHAPTER VIII. – THE BATTLE AT THE FORD

Even Viking seemed to understand the seriousness of the situation, for while he watched with great earnestness, not to say joy, the hurried preparations for departure, he never once barked.

All was ready at last, and just a little before midnight a start was made.

Nothing had been forgotten, and luckily the two men who had charge of the elephants knew how to load these. On the first, a very large animal, was a low but strong howdah, in which were packed the instruments, spare arms, and ammunition, food, cooking utensils, rugs and wraps, &c. It was built low and of wattle, not only for lightness' sake, but that it might not catch against any trees they might have to get under, during their long and dangerous march towards the coast.

But a strange and curious band they formed, had anyone been there to behold them. Let us count and see how many souls they numbered. Six men in all, Lilywhite and Jeannie, Viking, and the two elephants. Eleven all told.

Why, I do believe I have given a soul to each. But just listen, boys, while I, the author of this book, make a confession. The generality of us poor upstarts have an idea we are immensely superior to the beings we are all so fond of calling "the lower animals". We imagine-the majority of us, I mean-that these were all made for our use, and they are badly used accordingly. What utter rot, and what a shame! There is no great gulf fixed between us and them. Their minds differ but in degree, not in kind, from our own, and if we have a future existence, be sure and certain that your pet dog or cat that died not long ago-and whom you cannot forget-will live again also. Nothing good ever dies-only sin!

So I certainly should not think of withholding a soul from those two marvellously-wise elephants, and of course Viking was more wise and far higher in the scale of intellect than many and many a drink-besotted Englishman or Scotsman, whom I see making heavy weather and steering badly as he marches homewards of a Saturday night.

Well, Lilywhite and Jeannie occupied the other howdah, and I'm sure I should not be mean enough to deny the possession of a soul to either.

Pray, love the lower animals, boys, for, mind you, the same God who made you made them.

 
"Oh happy living things! no tongue
Their beauty may declare;
If springs of love gush from your heart
You bless them unaware."
 

Well, this good Somali, Carrambo, was to be depended upon. That was evident. He was indeed a strange being in many ways, and held every life but his own very cheap indeed, but he was going to be faithful to his employers. He had a certain code of morality which he considered binding on him, else he could have robbed our heroes and delivered them into Goo-goo's hands very easily indeed. But he had no such thought.

He now walked in front, as the elephants felt their way with cautious steps adown the hill towards a ford in the stream, an attendant close by the head of each.

Carrambo did not mean to take his party through that demon-haunted forest, but by a more circuitous and safer route.

Well was it for all that they had abandoned the fort and the hill at the time they did; for the savages had worked themselves up into a kind of murderous frenzy, and determined to attack and slay the whites long before daybreak.

On looking behind them while still some distance from the ford, our boys could hear their bloodthirsty and maniacal howls, and knew they had reached the fort and found it empty.

And then they knew they were being pursued!

The full moon had now arisen, and its pure silvery light was bathing hill and glen and forest. Even the distant snow-clad mountain-peaks could be seen sparkling like koh-i-noors in its radiance.

But here is the ford, and it is quickly negotiated. None too quickly, however, for hardly are they on the other bank ere the savages had reached the stream.

A battle was now unavoidable.

So all wheeled.

Spears were thrown in a cloud from the other side, but each one missed its mark.

"Steady now, men!" cried Duncan. "Be cautious! Fire!"

It was a rattling and a most destructive volley they poured into that savage mob. The terrible shrieking increased, but it was now mingled with howls of pain and impotent rage.

Five more volleys were fired, and as the natives were crowded close together the effect was fearful.

They reeled, they turned, and were about to seek safety in flight when one painted wretch, more brave than his fellows, waving his spear aloft, dashed into the river and commenced to cross.

More than one were following, and had they succeeded in getting over, the fight would doubtless have had a sad and speedy ending.

But now something happened that at once turned the tide of battle.

Vike had hitherto been only a very interested spectator of the fight, but now, seeing that savage half-way across, with a howl and a roar he leapt into the river, and quickly ploughed his way towards him.

All the courage that the cannibal possessed deserted him at once, when he saw what he thought was an evil spirit coming towards him. With a yell that quite demoralized his companions behind, he dropped his spear and tried to rush back.

A man cannot walk in deepish water so quickly as a dog can swim, and so Viking seized him before he had gone many yards.

Do savages faint, I wonder? I never have seen one "go off", as old wives call it, and require smelling-salts and burned feathers. Nevertheless this fellow became insensible when Vike proceeded to shake him out of his skin.

So the dog towed him in.

Carrambo drew his knife, and would have killed him at once but for Duncan's interference.

"No, no," he shouted, "spare his life, Carrambo!"

Firing had never slackened, and now as the enemy gave way it was more rapid and deadly than ever. But in a few minutes' time there was not a savage left on the opposite bank. Only the dead, only the wounded tossing and writhing in agony in the moonlight.

There was still a chance, however, of the attack being renewed. For this reason: King Goo-goo had adopted a plan of his own for punishing those who were defeated in battle, and invariably the first half-dozen men who returned were clubbed to death. Goo-goo was rather partial to brain fritters, and cared very little whose brains contributed to this littleentr?e.

And now the march was resumed.

Sometimes the little band was so close to the forest that they could hear the howling and din of the gorillas, at other times they were stretching over arid tracts of a kind of prairie land. Nor were these silent and uninhabited. Beasts of the desert were leopards and even lions.

The former fled on sight, the latter did not dare to attack.

Yet when one leapt up almost close to the foremost elephants, and began slowly to retreat with head and tail erect and growling like loudest thunder, bold Carrambo levelled and fired. The bullet must have pierced the splendid beast's heart, for he at once dropped dead in his tracks.

Carrambo was indeed a proud man now, and although the boys knew the shot was only a fluke, he was patted on the back and permitted to wear the laurels he had won.

Yes, but Carrambo had the skin as well as the laurels. And this, after rubbing the inside well with a kind of earth he found near by, and which is often used as a preservative, he stowed it away in one of the howdahs.

On and on they marched all that night, often having to cross small rivers and streams, or journey long distances by the banks of larger ones, which proved unfordable, till at daylight they found themselves on a tree-covered little hill, and here Duncan called a halt for refreshment and for rest.

All were tired, except little Lilywhite. For with the child-gorilla in her arms she had slept most of the way.

She was helped down. Both the shes in fact, and Jeannie soon jumped into Frank's arms, caressing him in the most affectionate manner.

"Behold how she loves her father!" said the boy laughing.

"Well," he added, "I would rather have one little hairy gorilla who loved me, than a thousand hairless bipeds of men who didn't give shucks for me."

To a stream close by ran Lily, and in a surprisingly quick time returned with fish enough for all hands.

And these, one of the men having lit a fire, she speedily cooked.

Lily was, indeed, a jewel in her own way-though a black one.

After a hearty breakfast, of which fruit formed a not unimportant portion, rugs were spread in the shade, and leaving Carrambo on guard-his time for rest would come afterwards-all lay down to snatch a few hours' sleep.

Lily squatted at Conal's head, fanning him with a broad leaf, till finally he slept.

Jeannie curled up beside Frank, and Viking with Duncan. So everyone was contented and happy.

I do not think the boys ever slept more soundly than they did under the cool green shadow of those trees, and when the sun had gone a certain distance round, and Carrambo, acting on his instructions, awoke them, they felt as fresh as meadow larks, and quite fit to resume the journey.

"I hope we won't have any more fighting, boys," said Duncan.

"Why not?" said Frank the Cockney. "I think fighting is good fun.

"Especially," he added, "when you win."

"That's just it, Frank; but the bother is, that if we are hard pressed, the other fellows will win next time, because our cartridges would soon be all expended."

"Let us hope for the best," said Conal. "We have plenty of ammunition for our revolvers."

"True, Conal; but when you are near enough to shoot a savage with a revolver, he is near enough to scupper you with his spear."

They encamped that night close to the banks of a sandy-bottomed river, which Duncan said looked as if it contained gold. And once more Lilywhite assumed the responsibility of cooking.

Then, keeping the fire still alight to keep wild beasts at bay, the boys left Vike on watch and curled up.

In spite of the warm attentions of scores of very musical mosquitoes they slept long and soundly, and daylight was almost breaking before they awoke.

On and on they journeyed day by day, and many and strange were their adventures among wild beasts and wilder men. But although our heroes always showed a bold front when trouble seemed rising, they found it safest and best, if possible, to make friends with the different tribes they came into contact with.

The beads they still possessed went a long way to cement friendship.

They had been on the road for over a month, for they did not hurry, knowing the advantage of harbouring their strength in case of having to fight for dear life itself.

One day about this time, after crossing a high and desert upland, they descended a hill and found themselves among a very strange people indeed, and in a strangely beautiful country.

As the inhabitants were friendly, Duncan resolved to stay with them for a time, that all might recruit their health, and that Conal might regain his.

The poor lad, in a skirmish with some savages that had taken place farther inland, had been wounded by a poisoned arrow, and although he appeared to have recovered, the wound had broken out afresh, and he was now in so low a condition, that he had to be carried on a bed of grass made for him in one of the howdahs.

A cool grass hut was set apart for the poor white boy, as the natives called him, and Lily was a most attentive nurse to him. But indeed all the people near by were unremitting in their attentions, not only to Conal, but to everyone in the camp.

This was a country of villages, scattered here and there wherever the water was most plentiful for themselves and the cattle they owned. But scattered though these were, and but sparsely inhabited, yet if the tocsin of war sounded, they speedily flocked to one standard to repel an invading foe. It was a real republic, owning no king or chief, and placing the law in the hands of their elders in virtue of their age and wisdom.

As there was perfect peace and good understanding between these simple pastoral natives and Duncan's little band, the latter were very happy indeed.

Conal got slowly well, but all hands had to remain in this happy land for nearly six weeks before the journey could be renewed.

And poor little Lilywhite stayed here for better or for worse.

Here is how it happened. Shortly before Duncan was about to resume the march towards the big river and city of Lamoo, Carrambo one day came forward, leading a tall and rather ungainly young savage, and addressed Conal as follows: -

"Dis dam young rascal he say you all de same's one fadder to Lily. He want to mally Lily. He gib tree goat foh Lily."

Here he struck the suitor under the chin.

"Hol' you head up, Choo-ka!" he cried. "De white man no eat de likes ob you!"

Choo-ka would have blushed if he hadn't been black.

"Is Lily willing?" said Conal, laughing.

"Oh ees, sah, she plenty willin' 'nuff."

"Well, consider it all arranged."

So Conal lost his nurse, and Choo-ka gained a bride. As, however, the girl had taken a great fancy for Jeannie, Frank gave the gorilla to her as a wedding gift, and Duncan presented her with a string of beautiful beads.

And so they were married, and no doubt lived, or will live, for my story does not date back any very extraordinary number of years, happy ever after.



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