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AN OCTAVE OF SHORT STORIES] BY FAMOUS NOVELISTS. No. 7. THROUGH THE CAP: AN ADVENTURE. ♦ BY HUME NISBET, Author of "Bail Up." "A Colonial Tramp," Eight Bells," The Blaok Drop," &c. h tiLL RIGHTS RESERVED. -NO W FIRST PUBLISHED. CHAPTER I. JACK FLEMING'S YARN. AIN'T much chucks at spinning a yarn, mates, being, as ye all know, much easier with my fists or my colt in a shindy than with my tongue, at the telling of it; but if ye want to hear how I got out of that blessed over that Mewed German wall, here goes to do my best to amuse ye all." They were resting on one of the steep ridges of the Owen Stanley chain of moun- tains, three white men and five naked, shivering savages, who rolled themselves about as well as they could manage with their numerous wounds, in order to get at their blazmg logs as it was possible for them to do without being roasted. Three white men, two of them passably covered with flannel shirts, well-patched pants, and high boots, and the third with a few shreds still hanging about his legs that had once been trousers, and the rest of his sun-tanned body as bare as were the savages wlfo lay beside him this tattered specimen of civilisa- tion was the speaker to whom the others listened gravely as they smoked their pipes. Heavily-bearded and long-haired men were the whites, presenting the appearance of having roughed it for months amongst the forests and ridges, tall and lank the two of them were, with the skin drawn tightly over their cheek-bones, at least what could be seen of it from the tangled masses of uncombed hair, with strong, sinewy, and knuckly bands, that held on to their wood pipes firmly, as if they were treasures which they had to guard with force. The speaker was a medium-sized, square- built man of about thirty-eight, with glitter- ing black eyes under heavy eyebrows, broad- shouldered and hairy-chested, and ai he spoke he sawed the air with his powerful left arm, the right one remaining bandaged against his knee. Like the savages, he appeared to have had a stiff time of it lately, for his body bore many marks of reoent and old wounds upon it, while the bandages had stiffened and were stained with the red blood which had saturated through them, and become dried since they were first put on. At the feet of the two listeners lay fowling pieces and Winchester rifles, while in their belts were stuck long revolvers andjaok-knives, and even as they listened their eyes were ever on the move, as if on the look-out for sudden surprises. It was a ridge high above where the trees grew, and bare to the -piercing night wind which breathed damp and icy upon them they had fixed their camp here as the safest, if not the most comfortable position, with a 8teep wall of rock on the one side, dropping sheer down thousands of feet before the tops of the great forest trees could be reached, and on the other side sloping steeply down towards other forests, at an acute angle, some parts grass covered, and other portions bare and rocky. A very circumscribed plateau it was upon which they squatted on this chilly night, with about half a dozen feet comparatively fiat and grass covered, then a few yards of easy incline, terminated by some broken boulders before that abrupt hill began to fall away. Being upon the highest point from where they camped, they were able without moving to overlook this decline, and as the tropic moon was shining full upon it, it was impos- sible for even the most wily enemy to steal upon them unperoeived, at least not while the moon remained unclouded, while from their barren vantage point they could easily have pushed any number of foemen over these boulders and sent them rolhng for at least three-quarters of a mile before they could be stopped. This was the advantage of their present petition, a great advantage to strangers ig & country like New Guinea, where it was im- possible to cover their traok in the forests or do without fires on the heights. Each man knew that he was safe so long as the sky re- mained clear, and also that there was no need to attempt to hide their oamp fires from eyes which may have been upon them for weeks. They trusted in their position and their superior weapons, also in luck, for with adventurers who traverse this land, luok is everything. The great full moon cast down upon them its white flames, striking the yellow flames from the dead wood branches and changing to wreaths of silver the thick wood-smoke; it beat upon the glistening native grass until it shone like snow under their feet, losing its radiance in the dense banks of mist which hung over the gorges and forests, until they appeared to be camped on the top of a cone- like island in the middle of a boundless ocean, three white men and five wounded and dis- spirited savages. There was not much humour expressed in the faoes of the two listeners, nor even much appearance of interest in what the narrator was telling them. They listened apathetically and sucked at their pipes slowly, as men do who are limited in their stook of tobacco, and who wish to take the most out of each pipe- ful. Under the two were spread blankets, which, as they were the only ones provided with such comforts, they did not roll round themselves, although the heavy dews were drenching them like rain. They lay on them to keep the blankets dry against the rolling up the next morning, and with that unostentatious oourtesy which the roughest bushman naturally acquires, were content to suffer the same discomforts that the other sharers of their mountain oamp were en- during. Things hadn't been going well with ma on the south coast for some months past, for you know, mates, that it ain't all fair with a freetrader, now that the Government war- sloop has got to know her way inside the reefs." We know it, Zach Fleming, for that's what sent us up here bird-catching instead of taking our ease amongst the friendly natives, worse luck," growled one of the listeners, taking his pipe for a moment from his lips and then putting it back again, while the toher silently nodded. That's so," continued Zaoh Fleming in a plaintive tone, as one might use if speaking about a onoe prosperous business which had gone to the dogs through the dishonesty of customers. Our kind of trading aint what it use to be in no quarter of the world, and there's no ohance now left for a man unless he can get the soft side of these blessed mis- sionaries in New Guinea, which, as with your- selves, my card aint quite clean enough for me to present it at Port Monshy." It was at Cooktown, last trip I made there, that I heard the Government was after me for a little bit of a shindy that happened off East Cape, and that there was no use in my landing anywhere west of that, which same I was might sorry to hear, for 1 had some pretty cargoes booked at two or tliret, places, However, there was no good crying over spilt milk, and as I couldn't stop any longer where I was, with my boys eating their heads off on board, I just thought I'd take a ru to-the Gejrnw^siue tgad see.it' anything p So 1 tip anchor an3 started straight arcoss for the Louisiades, keeping a wide berth of the mainland, intending to take them in my line round. But I saw no ohance there, for the sloop had been afore me and set the islanders dead against me, so I slid in by Fergusson Island and through Ward Hunt Strait to Colling- wood Bay, where I thought of putting in for a spell, but had no ohance there either, for the natives of them parts are about the most un- civil savages you could wish to meet, although in the main they are tall, fine fellows to look at. I expect that they don't chivey on to a white fellow all kindly now as they may have done at one time, for they lie too close to the German settlements and know more about the neighbours which they have got for masters. They wouldn't let us land, but followed us along the bay, showing battle front each time I tried it on. After this I left that part in disgust and beat round to the settlement on the Augusta river. Lor! mates, that is a place if you like, talk about Melbourne springing up like a mushroom, it ain't in it with the way these Germans go to work. I sailed along mile after mile of land all under cultivation, plan- tations, gardens, far.ns, terrace?, and town- ships; why, the whole country seemed to b. building houseøl digging and trenching and road-making, and never a blessed native to interfere with them in tbeir work, I saw crowds of them at work in the fields and gar- i dens, fat Fritzes with their broad-beamed "Fraus" helping them, and their little kids rolling about in the dust, while for scare- rows they had a naked savage hanging up here and there on the branches of the ringed cotton trees, but never a sight of a living one I about, either man, woman, or child. 1 guess that they set to work and cleared them off first before they cut down the treei, at least, that's the only way that I could account for it. j'¡ Then T got round to the main settlement, with its harbour crammed full of ships un- loading fresh emigrants with their tools and stock and baggage—for they take everything out with them—or else filling up with cargoes of native produce. It was a lively scene, and no mistake, and looked as if they meant busi- ness. As I was sailing in, for I wanted a squint at the town, I was met by one of the Custom House boats and boarded. Not a man amongst them could speak English, but as soon as they saw that I was a stranger the officer took possession of my smack and made signals to shore for an interpreter, who when he came aboard asked me all about my busi- ness, and told me that I'd have to anchor out- side until he could get instructions from the commander as to what was to be done with me. Thinks I to myself, this is as bad as quarantine, and different to the fashion we use them in Australia; but every oountry to its own customs, so I yielded and anshored where he told me, while he left me (to go ashore to report, I expect) in th-i oharge of half a dozen marines. After an hoar or two waiting, with the sun going down behind us, I saw a boat once more pnt off with my interpreter in it along with another regimental-looking cove anu two or three soldiers sitting with their muskets ready, besides the boatmen who were pulling. They came aboard, and I showed them into the oabin, when a regular court martial of me-what right I bad to put into their port, was I sent by my G overnment to spy upon them, or had I come for pleasure only ? I tried to answer all their questions as best I could, and not wishing to make myself ap- pear too small afore them, I told them that 1 | held an office in Port Moresby as missionary pilot, and that I was then on my way from one of the stations north, and had put in for provisions, which I was willing to buy from them if they would'sell to me. The interpreter toÍd this back again to the offioer, who said that he would let me know in the morning, but meanwhile I was on no account to leave my ship, or else they would treat me as an English spy. 1 found out also that I had made a mistake by saying I belonged to the missionaries. I bad heard that the Germans were a praying lot, and I thought that they'd treat me better for telling them this, but they told me pretty square that missionaries were the last kind they j wanted there, so that I was vexed at my own crass stupidity. However, I promised them that I'd obey orders, so the two went off after a glass all round, leaving me in charge of the soldiers and the water police. It was a fine dark night after they bad left, so I bad nothing to do except look over at the lights of the beer-shops ashore, and listen to their bands. I grew regular melancholy, and at last made up my mind for a swim. Where we lay was about two miles off shore, but I could easily do that and back again, and as for sharks, I oare no more about them than I do about herring when I'm in the water; so seeing that my keepers were paying no sort of attention to me, I just slipped down to my cabin, and, putting some loose change in my pockets, walked along to the bows and dropped gently overboard. I struck out leisurely, without being missed, and got ashore all right, and was just giving myself a shake on the strand, when a couple of policemen collared me and marched me off to quod," when, after the Governor had seen me, and whom I noticed was the military cove, he clapped me into a cell and left me to think over it until the next morning. It wasn't pleasant, nor friendly, as we treat them when they come over to our country, but it was something like what I might ex- peot if I landed at Tort Moresby;* so I con- tented myself that they didn't know who I was, which was a comfort, and also that I wasn't likely to meet anyone who did know me here. The next day they had me up afore the governor and all his officers, a regular court- house full, making such a fuss over me as if I had been a conspirator threatening the downfall of Germany. You never saw such a suspicious lot as they are. They examined me and put me through my facings, entering all that I told them in several books, asking me what we were doing on our side of the Owen Stanleys, and badgering me until I was And at last she motioned to me to rise and drink ou of her jar, which she lifted f rom her head and held out to my moulh. like to drop with hunger and thirst, without even offering me a bite or a sup, and at last gave me my choice, either to be shot as a political spy or else clear out of the land with- out looking back. I at once fixed on the running game, on which, after blindfolding me and dapping me in irons, they carried me back to the smack, which they had overhauled for secret papers. After this they warned me that if they sighted ml\ again near their coast they would sinkm e Ptvaight away. You take your oath, mates, that I wasn't sorry to put to sea away from this jealous settlement, even although the weather outside was rough and looked like a storm coming on. And so it was, for I had hardly got our, to sea and clear of the reefs than it came on, a regular south-easter tornado, which took me all my time to keep her nose to the wind afore night came and swallowed up the land. What a night that was after the daylight went, thunder and lightning overhead, like a regular bombardment of artillery with fire- works, while the flaming waves curled up, aud the blast bent my masts like cane whips. L was in strange waters and didn't know my way about, like as I do round the south coast, and my Malay boys were no sort of good to me at all, -1 just fixed myself to the wheel and hung on to that like grim death, while they flung themselves down the hatches and howled with a panic all the while that the wind whistled round, and the thunder broke, clap on clap, over my head, nigh deafening tne, and the forked [lightning slashed about, here, there, and everywhere, so that at one moment it was thundering black- ness like a hundred quartz crushing mill at work, and the next as if the sky had opened and the infernal regions were blazing above the waves. As for the rain, it fell in sheets, and looked like sheets of glass being broken up when the zig-zag streaks went through it. So we drove along, I keeping her head as well as I could to sea, with my ignorance of headlands, and the waves boiling up and near us all blue and grim, like a lucifer matoh afore it begins to blaze up. I wasn't scared, of course, for I never felt that way at no time, but expecting every minute to be our last. The blast was driving me in I knew, in spite of all 1 could do, so that I was in no sense prised when at last I heard the roar of breakers above the infernal din. I looked steadily ahead, and saw them at last, like high clouds of blue flames. I ran for them and towards a black gap which I though t T. could make out, and next moment we were through it and amongst the I hammocks, driving like mad. 'All at once there was an awfal annab, and I was spun overboard amongst the waves like a teetotum, and the next thing I felt was a mass of floating sea-tangle, at whiob I olutohed and hung on with all my strength, while the surf flew over me and nearly choked the life out of me, CHAPTER II.—A FINE HOLIDAY. I was in luck that night and no mistake about it, for the waves must have washed me far past where the ship had struck and driven me right "on to the mainland, for never a splinter did I see of her afterwards, or of my Malay boys either. She must have struck a reef of some sort, and gone down plump-irith the howling cravens aboard down the hatches gone down, after tho hole had been gnawed out of her hull, to waters past the sounding, What I expects is that we got through an outer fringe only to be wreoked against an iuner wall half a mile oloser to the shore, and that when I was sent spinning overboard the billow drew me on right over the reef and through the shallow waters to the land; at any rate, that sea-tangle was the saving of my life. I made a grab for it, and catching a firm bold I hung on to it until I coold get a chanoe of something firmer, while the waves washed over me and dashed me against the rooks, from which the soft dnlss saved me from getting my bones smashed or my brains knocked out; then, again, I would be sucked outwards with one, and dance along with the wave, to be landed back again by a fresh wave, until I was almost dazed. Still I kept my hold, and my head as well out of the water as I could, and that saved me. I think I must have been over a couple of hours in the sea, struggling hard, when dawn began to break, and I was able to see things a little more plainly. I could twig the land in front of me, against which I was getting knocked, a gathering of rocks all tumbled about under the cliffs, which looked easy to climb, if one had the strength to do so, they were so seamed and ledgy. I could see, too, that as-the light came on the storm was going off. A big, black bank of cloud was scurrying off towards the nor'- west, all charged with forked lightning, which zig-zagged about, while to the sou'.east the sky was getting rosy-like and clear, something like what an oyster-shell looks with the light on it. I now made a pull as the next coming wave drove me on, and letting go my tangle stay I laid hold of a ledge above it, and hunor on there while the water left me in its backward suck. It was a strain for a moment, for the weeds bad got twisted about me like ropes, and they hauled away like mad to drag me back again before they slipped from me or broke short Then I found myself dangling above the boil, and before the next wave could reach me 1 bad hauled myself over the ledge and could take a rest. There wasn't a trace of the smaok to be seen—not even a floating keg—the ocean was tumbling about dark under that oyster- pearl sky to the sou'-east, with the lightning- charged thunder cloud now almost gone from the west. My property had sunk to Davy Jones's looker with all my crew and every- thing belonging to me, while here Ilat on -iiiibmi a U2--j idOLAI to a WIM- CR" a shirt on, and not even a jaok-knife to defend myself if attacked by the natives. I tell you what it is, mates, I never felt »o dioky in all my life before, as when I sat on that ledge, or more inclined to drop back again into the waves and so finish it up, only I'm not one of the sort to drown easi ly. After a bit 1 felt better and started climb- ing up the cliffs and very soon reaohed the top, where I found myself in a level oountry well covered with bush and showing isigns of natives about, but no trace of white men. I struck upon a native track, and followed it up for a mile or two, until I came to a spring of water, which from the footprints in the mud I could see was the well of some village close by, so as I knew the girls would soon be about with their oans, and that it would be 3afest for me to get at their soft side first, before the men got b^i of me, I laid dowu behind a bush near toe spring and waited. It was now bright day, although the sun had not yet got out of the mist, and all the forest about me lay solemn and quiet, with the creepers twisting around the high, thick trunks and dropping down again from the branches like knotted rope-work. As I lay quietly looking up through all the leaves and twistings and wishing that I had a pipe, I began to think that I could be quite oontent to stay here for ever, and never look at blue water any more it was so quiet-like and peaceful, that it seemed as if it must be Sunday-at least the Sundays I used to know when I was a little shaver in the old oountry; in faot, mates, I began to wish that I bad done better with my life than I had done, although I never was so bad as some of them—that is, I never ill-used a woman, old or young, black or white, although, may be, I've brought unbappiness to them when I had to leave them. I had got to this lonely, uncomfortable state of mind when I heard the voices of women laughing and chattering as they came along, and, looking out from my hiding-plaoe, I soon saw about a dozen of them coming to the well, with their waterpots on their heads, swinging along easy, all mostly tall, young, and well- made, without a suspicion of any stranger watching them. It was a pretty sight, mates, for a fellow to look upon after a night of battling with the tempest. You know the women on our side are mostly under-sized and not to be likened to the men for good look. but this bevy which gathered round the spring wera dif- ferent from that. They were all tall and handsome, and light coloured, with big brown eyes, straight noses, and red lips, while as they laughed and chattered they showed teeth like coral for whiteness. The prettiest amongst them was a girl about sixteen, who, being full grown, stood half a head above the rest. There wasn't a married woman amongst them, for their hair was worn long and free; but for hair the topped them all. It floated about her like a black stallion's mane, all crimpy and shining blue-like when the light fell on it as it covered her back right down almost to her knees. Such a dewy piece of freshness I never before had clapt my eyes upon, and the sight of it made my heart stand still and grow faint-like. From what they were saying to each other, although their language was a bit strange in some words, yet I knew that I could make myself understood; so watohing my ohanoe, when they had filled their pots and were just preparing to hoist them up to their heads, I crawled out, and lay before them, right in their track, with my hands open to show
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them that I bad no weapons, and meant no sort of barm. I heard afterwards that I was the first white man they had ever seen, and that the sight of my breeches and shirt gave them a terrible fright, and they showed it, for no sooner had the young things wheeled about to go back home with their filled water jarg on their heads, and their eyes feU on me, than with a shrill ohorus of shrieks they dropped their burdens, and scattered in all directions, excepting mine. All but Oviro, the prettiest and tallest; aha had come the closest to me before she saw me, and whether she was braver than the rest, or that my eye being fixed only on her held her steady, I don't know, but there the stood, as if turned into a statue, in front of me, with only a few paces betwesn us and the forest as if left to ourselves, still balancing her filled jar on her glossy black head, the whites of her eyes and teeth showing out as she stared at me with'all her might. I knew that I must make haste before the other girls brought along the men if I didn't want a spear through my back, so I spoke to her quickly and softly and told her that I was alone, tired, hungry, thirsty, and without the means of hurting anyone or even of taking my own part. I saw that she both under. stood and believed me after a bit, for the fear gradually left her face, and at last she motioned me to rise and drink out of her jar. which she lifted from her head and held out to my mouth. Then with that one act we were friends at once. It's natural for a man when he falls in love with a woman, I suppose, to talk soft and gentle to her, and I was in love with Oviro, for that was her name, from the first moment I olapped eyes upon her, not the kind of fancy we traders take to native wenohet when we are thrown amongst them, but a deep, respectful kind of love that made me grow shy and awkward before her, something like what the forest had filled me with before she oame along, so that I felt as if I was lift* ing up my eyes to something far above me, while her fineness and perfect beauty made me think more of my own coarseness and ugliness, and wish that I was younger and better looking for her sake, to that I might win all her heart to myself and be able to live and due wiihfeer. I expect it oomea to us all at )' an me in this lonely forest, just like a bad attack of the fever. She must have read something of how I felt in my face, for she took the upper hand of me at onoe, and told me to follow her and she'd see me right through with her tribe, and there I trudged along, she floating before me like a spirit, so lightly and charmingly did she walk, with her water jar on her head, sticking out her bare arms and her hands on her hips, while her long hair almost covered her from my eyes like a seal- skin cloak, and I coming after her like a mongrel dog, and feeling like one in my devo- tion and respect. I didn't care now whether I was walking to my death or not, so iong as I could follow her to it. Lor', mates, I never could have believed that a man could grow so helpless and spoony all at onoe for a stranger woman as I was over that girl. She drew me, regularly drew me alopg, as if each hair of her head was a magnet and 1 had become a needle. We were met by a crowd of fighting men, with the women behind them, afore we got to the village, who, when they saw her coming on unhurt and me behind, stood still and waited for her to explain. This she did to their satisfaction, and then she introduced me to her father and the rest of the warriors, who at once flung their weapons to the girls to carry home for them, while they made me welcome to their village with great hearti- ness, as if I had been < brother instead of ft stranger. Of course, they were cannibals, but you know, mates, that's how cannibals behave when they've no cause to it scoff" you, diffe- rent altogether to the treacherous, sneaking yam-eaters who turn up their noses at the flesh of an enemy, yet will murder him all the same, and leave him to rot afterwards; diffe- rent also to the mean, suspicious Germans, who sent me adrift, with a storm coming on. We were very soon at home with each other and great friends. They made me free to every house from the ohief's down, only as Oviro had found me first, and they saw that I could not live out of her sight hardly, for savages see these things mighty quieli, they let me go where my inclination took me, and settled me on her father as a lodger. The ohief of this tribe was a young man, and the tallett and finest looking fellow I ever met anywhere. He was nearly 7ft. high, and shapely all over. Laloka they oalled him, and his wife was the elder sister to Oviro, and by name Dwia. She was just turning twenty, and bad a little son two years old, who was one of the liveliest and most amusing little cusses that ever I played with, and taught to square up English fashion. The father of Oviro wasn't a very important man in the tribe, which was a good thing for me, and what was better, afore I come on the soene, Oviro hadn't fixed upon a sweetheartj 10 that I caused no jealousy amongst the young fellows when I oourted her, and it was all pretty fair sailing with me when I got over my first bashfulness. There were plenty of pretty girls in the tribe for the young men to pick and choose from, so that no one inter- fered with me; and as I was a novelty with my pants and shirt, Oviro took kindly to me in consequence, and before very long got to love me as much as I could have wanted, and a hundred times more than I deserved or even expected, It was a happy village that, if ever therq was one on earth. They had beaten off their enemies, and taught them a lesson not to come near them for a long time, so that they could go about their work or pleasures with light hearts, and sleep soundly at nights, while all round them for miles lay friendly tribes with