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AN OCTAVE OF SHORT STORIES…

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AN OCTAVE OF SHORT STORIES BY FAMOUS NOVELISTS. No. 7.—Concluded. THROUGH THE GAP: A NEW GUINEA INCIDENT. BY HUME NISBET, Author of "Bail Up." "A Colonial Tramp," Eight Bells," The Black Drop," &o. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NOW FIRST PUBLISHED. CHAPTER III.—GATLING GUXS BY SAUL! E had finished our woik for the day and were just taking it easy, when the village was set into com- motion by the sudden appearance of a native, who came running at full speed, covered with dust and foot- sore, to tell us that his tribe had been driven off their land by the enemy, and asking us to go and help them. Laloka wall up. and roused into action in a moment The tribe of whom the native spoke lived nearly forty miles away to the east, and had always been their firm allies, so that there was no question now about what was to be done, still, as is cus- tomary with all nations, the chief instantly called his council together to hear the story of the man and talk the matter over. When we were together in front of the Dubo House, the native got up and told us all about it. How a strange race of men, wear- ing trousers and having skins like mine, had come into the country in great numbers, with fire-stioks and big slumps, which also vomited fire and killed wholesale, and had driven back the natives, whole tribes at a time, mowing I all down who did not yield up their lands and run off at once, abusing their women/and killing their children. The news bad reached them only when they were ordered back, for the tribes which lived between them and the invaders bad not been friendly, so that they had not fallen back on them for protection, but had fled amongst their own allies to the south. "One day the white chief came, with plenty of men with him, and stood up in the village reading a paper, which told us in our own language that the land was his, and that we were to go away from it at once, with our wives and children. He gave us four hours to pack up and go, and told us that if we were not away before the sua went down so far, that he would kill U3 all. We had forty lighting men, while they were two hundred, in our village, and while they waited they swarmed into the houses, taking our spears away and driving us out to the open with our wives and children, so that *e could neither hold a council nor defend ourselves when the time came foi U3 to go. There were big bearded men like him there, but different in colour, who spoke gruffly in a strange language and laughed at our women as they dragged them about. Then we drew off, and talked to each other without being able to understand what they wanted, until the time passed, and at the word of their chief they suddenly fell upon us, stabbing atand shooting us down without wait- ing for us to fight. "They seized some of our women and dragged them back to the but, while they hunted us out, killing all they could catch, the little children and the old men and women first, while our wives and sisters were shrieking out from the huts. Thus we fled with all we could carry with us, while the village was fired, and before we could bide ourselves in the forest it was all over and only ashes left." The native sat down after he had finished his acconnt of the massacre, and fixed his burning eyes, as did the rest of the tribe, upon me, while Laloka rose up and striding over to where I sat seized me by the arm, and forcing me upon my feet said, as he faced me squarely, with hia steady eyes on mine. 11 13rother, do you know these men who have killed our friends P I felt uncomfortable, you bet, mates, as I stood before my brother-in-law, for, as you are aware, these natives think every white skin to be a cousin or something of that sort, but feeling as innocent of this and as mad as they were over it, I up and told them all I knew, and how the cusses" had treated me when' I visited them. As I spoke I saw their faces clear up and knew they weren't going to blame me for it. Laloka waited quietly until I had finished my yarn, and then he gave me a big breath and said — It is well, brother, now you will help us to punish these thieves." Of course I said Yes" to that, for al- though L knew that we were going to butt our beads against a dead wall, and that it would only bring our own punishment the sooner upon ourselves, still my blood boiled at the wav the poor natives bad been treated, and I Was as eager as they were to have a slap at the sausage-eaters for their dirty treatment of me the day before 1 was wrecked. We were not long after this over the war council or in making our preparations. Laloka. said a few words to his tribe and then asked for my advice. I told them about the fire- stioks, and how we coald do no good unless we got hold of them, and then it was decided that we should creep down upon them Ger- mans and catch them if possible sleeping, when, if we were lucky, we might get some of their weapons, I wanted to have a Colt or a rifle in my hands while fighting, for I was r 1 11 mighty awkward with the spear compared to the natives. Oviro, with her sister Dwia and the rest of the women, were outside the ring while we spoke, so that they did not need to be told what was to be done. Each wife took her husband indoors for a few minutes without saying anything, and then the men came out again ready for the trail while women stayed inside.. Oviro went with me into our house, and when were alone she put her beautiful arms round my neck and pressed me closely to her heart, while I kissed her times without num- ber, but she did not sob and cry like white women do over their husbands when they go away. She fixed her eyes upon mine like a tigeress, and said Go Taoha, and kill these white faces, so that I maj forget that you are also white. Bring us back plenty of white heads to hacg up over our doors, so that we may laugh at the robbers. Bring back plenty of white flesh for us to cook for you, and white cap- tives for us to torture, for I am already hungry to taste them." Then she glued her red lips to mine for a moment and pushed me out, laughing and crying stoutly: II Be brave, Tacha, my husband, and don't let me hunger in vain." As I turned to look back before jumping down the ladder, I saw my lass lying on the bamboo bed, with her face hidden in her arms and her coal black hair falling over her body like a cloak, for I wouldn't let her cut it off as the other married women do. The stars were out as we began our march, and we walked all that night in single file, without speaking a word or halting. Laloka led the way with his war shield at his back and his club in his hand, a terrible heavy weapon it was, although he carried it on his shoulder easy, while a young boy carried his sp"ars and bows and arrows behind. Each man had a young lad with him who carried the spare weapons. At daybreak we came to a village where they were waiting for us, but, although I was hungry and would like some breakfast, I knew it was dangerous.to ask for this, as they always fast when on the war trail, so as to be ready, I expect, for the cannibal feast after- wards. This tribe joined us, and during the fore part of the day, three other tribes which we picked up. We were now about two hundred and eighty strong, all hardy fighting men, with nearly the same number of spear carriers. About two o'clock or thereabonts we were met by the few fighting men who had managed to escape from the burnt-down vil- lage. twelve men in all-the rest men were either killed or too badly wounded to join us- and then we sat down in the forest to rest and wait for the coming of night. While we sat and rested, some of the boys crept away as scouts to find out what they could about the enemy, for we were then within five miles of their camp. The soldiers and sappers had come first, and they would wait until the surveyors and immigrants arrived before they moved on to take posses- sion of another village, for that was the way these masters worked, leisurely and surely. The poor fellows who had lost their all did not say much, for their chief had been killed, and they were willing to be guided by their friends, but one rage filled every heart in that crowd, to kill as many as they could possibly kill and eat them afterwards. As night drew on our scouts came back to tell us that the Germans were easy in their camp, although by no means careless, for they had posted their pickets closely round. I told Laloka that we must first get these pickets settled, and he said he would see to that. Karlv morning being: generally the time which savages fix on to attack, I proposed that we'd begin an hour before midnight, so as to catch them in their first sleep, and after a little trouble this plan was agreed to. It was close on ten o'clock that we started once more, and in an hour's time we had reached the clearing of the forest, and were ready to make the rush, I could see the camp fires and some of the sentinels walking about, but I felt sure that there would be some also planted in the dark; but this Laloka and the others knew as well as I did, for while the main body halted and sank down quietly amongst the bushes, about a couple of dozen figures stole away, with their man-traps and spears, to settle the pickets, I could not see the figures as they orawled towards the guards, but I could make out the Germans standing- upright at their posts, and as I watched I could teU when the natives had reached them, for suddenly I would miss the upright figure, and then 1 knew it was all up with him. In about quarter of an hour there wasn't a man left on guard; they had all been trapped by these wily savages. I knew that they would be changing the pickets before very long, so I waited anxiously for the return of Laloka, for he had gone with the other scouts to capture the rifles and revolvers. While I still lay trying to listen, I felt a hand placed lightly on my 1, shoulder, and, starting up, could just make out the big figure of Laloka stooping over me, as he wispered, "Conie." I rose and followed him into the woods until we came to a part where there was a clearing, and here, under the starlight, 1 could just make out a couple of large mounds lying close together. Brother Tacha, you wanted the fire-sticks. There they are." 1 made a grab at one of the mounds, and then slatted back with a nasty sensation, for I had just disturbed a very neatly piled up mound of human heads. "The other one," whispered Laloka softly; and then I went to the other mound and found under my fingers a choice assortment of weapons—sabrdfr, revolvers, and rifles. "Have you got them all, Lakola P" I asked, astonished at the number of articles. Not all. Some of the thieves were awake; but we have killed nearly half of them and taken, most of their fire-sticks. Now, brothers, pick out what you want and lot us kill the rest, and then we will go home with our food to our wives." It is a carious thing, but up to that moment I bad been all for Laloka and his friends with their wrongs, yet when I saw that hillock of heads with the piled-up heap of weapons so easily taken, I wasn't so sure that I didn't want to take sides with the weaker party, our enemies, and, like myself, the whiteskins. 1 suppose there muat be something cousinly in our bloods—German, Frenchmen, and lnglish-and something strange between us and brownskins. Whatever it was, I'd have liked, if I could, to have left the battle as it was and gone back to Oviro without any more blood-letting. but it wasn't to be. I bad pledged myself to my friends, and the others had used them cruelly, so I quickly crushed down these ourious feeliugs and prepared for action. Laloka, with the other chiefs, went out different ways with their men so as to attack the camp from four sides. They had arranged this with signals, which they were to use when they bad reached the open. 1 followed my big brother-in-law until we once more reached the edge of the forest, and waited looking over the tents and camp fires of the Germans. Some of them still sat up round the tires smoking, while others lay either sleeping or headless inside their tents. They felt easy with the sentries, which they supposed were round about them—much more easy than I felt as I watched them and strained mv ears for the different cries from the distant woods which would let us know our allies were ready for the charge beoause 1 knew that at any moment some of the officers might go round and discover how unguarded they were, and I could also make out that there were enough of them, and to spare fur that matter, to play the mischief with our first hundred odd men and boys, unless we could get near enough to use the spears before they were startled. At last I heard the oalls of four different night birds, not common in that part of the country, one ofter the other, and then, without waiting a moment, we made the rush after Laloka, every man for himself, helter-skelter, all yelling like fiends, for that's the way with the savages when they are charging; they can't keep quiet. We hadn't over three hundred yards to run before we came to close quarters, but I will lay one thing for these Germans, they are solemn and slow when they are II boozing, but it don't take them Ion,, to fall into order when fighting is the game. Before we were half-way across the open they had olustered together, back to back in the centre, while their bugler trumpeted out the alarm, and they sent out amongst us a rattling volley of musketry that made many a brave claw the ground; then, as we were still advancing at full speed, a bright white glare shot out all at once from the top of a high pole round which they gathered, making broad day-light of the whole plain and showing us up to them quite distinctly, while, as they stood under a shade placed near the light, they were buried in deep darkness. That awful blue-white sun, throwing out its fierce rays, blinded and put the fear of death into Laloka and the rest of the allies. There they were on all sides, about fifty yards only from their unseen enemies, standing blinking with open mouths and upturned faces at that electric light, as if it were witchcraft, without attempting either to advance or retreat, for they had stopped .dead at the sight of it, while the soldiers were potting them at their leisure like a covey of wild ducks. Run, Laloka, like mad, back to the woods, or we shall be murdered," I shouted to my brother-in-law as I set the example, after a single look at the light, and then the stampede began and we made tracks, while volley after volley were sent after us without hardly a stop. They are using Gatling guns, by Sanl I yelled as I noticed whole lanes dropping at a time. Scatter out, boys, and scud." That was when I got this broken arm, mates, a bullet splintered the bone as I raised it to catoh hold of a boy who was falling behind, while my arm dropped he fell dead, and next moment I got behind a big tree and felt safe. They did not follow us into the woods that night, but kept blattering away for an hour without ceasing fire, and 'when at last we all gathered together in the glade, where the heads and weapons lay, we might have num- bered some two hundred loft alone, and hardly one without a bullet in some part of his body. Then we began our march home again, pretty miserable. Laloka and the others took each their fair share of the heads and one or two of the bodies which they had picked up, while I got some of the young men to help me with the weapons. They hadn't an ounoe of pluck left amongst them, for that electric light had finished them up. CHAPTER IV.—THE ESCAPE. After we got back in the village they had their feast, while they mourned over their slain, cooking, eating, and lamenting by turns. Oviro, with her sister Iwia, went to it with the other women, but I was not native enough to join in so I got away out to the forest by The second one Iyot in gond time, and he xcent down like a nine pin under my club. myself, and sat down with my native pipe out of their road, to think over it, and consider what .was best to be done for the future. My honeymoon was over now, and things n looked black enough for us all, for although several days bad gone by since our retreat, we knew that the Germans were coming on solidly, from the remainder of our allies, who kept dropping in upon us with what they had left, village by village. Our turn would come any day, and then we might look out for squalls. I had spoken to Laloka and told him that the only thing left for us was to clear out while we had time, and tight our way through the hostile tribes which lay between us and the mountains, which we might get over and enter British New Guinea, where we would be safer; but that seemed to be jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Laloka. could not bear to leave the lands on which he had been born without another struggle, even although I told him, and I think he saw for himself how hopeless a game it would be to stand up against such an enemy. Oviro also was obstinate when I urged her to leave her tribe, and risk it with me alone, through the bush. Better to die with our friends than live with strangers," the brave girl answered me, and 1 thought perhaps she 11 wasn't wrong, and as I couldn't live without, her, I just made up mv mind to stay where I was and see the game out. Poor Laloka, when he had taken the rifles and revolvers, hadn't considered cartridges, so that barring the charges that were in the weapons when nabbed," I bad no ammuni- tion to carry on the war; still I had those, which I hoarded up, and determined to do my level best for the tribe when the end came. I I sorted up the Dnbo House, as being the largest in the village, for my arsenal and final retreat, and here I arranged with the chief that our women should take shelter on the first appearance of the enemy so I waited patiently while our scouts went about the country and picked up news. One morning we heard that they had camped about six miles distant, and were on the move towards us. Then while I got the women together Laloka and all who could oarry a spear went out to meet them. There was no use in ti ying peaceful measures, for their orders were always Clear out, or be killed;" and not a native there but wouldn't sooner be killed than give up a single foot of his property. I waited with the women in the upper story of the I)ubo House, looking out at the forest, with the rifles and pistols handy beside me for use; and I'had not long to wait. First the distant shots rolled out, which told us that the fighting had begun amongst the trees; and now I felt sure that the natives would give a good account of themselves. Then nearer they came, while thejnromen sat quiet round me, Oviro resting her pretty head on my kuee, and all the village outside de- serted, and baking under the blazing sun. Then 1 saw them coming, about a score of dark figures first breaking from the forest and rushing over towards us, Laloka at their t head, in his hurry to get to his wife, and holding his weaponless hands against his side as he ran, to stop the bleeding of the wound ) which was under them. Then the white oaps and linen jackets of the Germans shone out, giving me good marks as they marched steadily on, which I took advantage of by emptying rifle after rifle as fast as I oould lift them up and aim. It stopped them a bit, beoause they didn't expeot this reception, and allowed our friends to reach us. Poor Laloka had got his billet I could see as he flung himself down on the floor gasping, while Dwia tried to top the gush of blood that kept pumping out of his wound; the other women were busy over their own men, while the new-made widows rolled about and moaned in their grief and despair. I had emptied the rifles by this time, and now gathered the revolvers together for close quarters. I meant to let them come up near enough and then shoot as many as I could get a head on, while the rest were getting out the back way and into the woods only a few yards behind, for the Dubo House stood by itself at the end of the village. Now, be off as fast as you can," I said to them, as I saw the Germans enter the village four deep and about eighty strong, while I shoot you clear." I didn't look round after this, but kept at my work, getting a good few down before the sausage-eaters woke up to it and made for the shelter of the houses; it was a lively five minutes while I blazed away, and they did the same, filling the village with white smoke. Now, Oviro, get up and let us make tracks," I said, when 1 had flung down the last pistol all smoking on the boards, and tried to lift up her bead. God of Heaven mates, what did I see but my poor wife stone dead, with a stray bullet through her heart, still resting her young head, as she had done for the last hour, on my knee, with her cheek against my broken arm. She had died, without me noticing it, while I had been busy shooting left-handed at those cussed beasts, who had come to make a hell out of paradise. Her eyes were still open, and her lips wore a soft smile as I lifted up her head. They were beginning to grow dim, but they were brown enough yet to break my heart almost as I looked into them. Gone without a word, and our unborn baby with her, and I was left without another shot in the locker to settle either my own bash or polish off another of her murderers. Lord, mates, if I could only have had another brace of loaded barkers at that moment it would have eased my mind a bit. I would have let them cut me in pieces if they liked as I ran amongst them, but I'd have sent another dozen of their black souls to glory first. I looked about me, dazed-like. Laloka lay on his back dead, with Dwia's arms round his neck and their blood mixing together, for she had run a bone knife into her heart when she saw him die. The others had flitted, as 1 told them. How long I sat there with my poor young wife On my arm I can hardly tell you. Some minutes must have gone by, for I could see that the gunpowder smoke had lifted from the ground, and that .the Germans were once more beginning to show themselves in the middle of the street, and how long I might have sat I can't say-I suppose until they had caught me, or burnt me out; but at last I was roused by the appearanoe of one of the young scouts, who climbed the ladder, and poking his head in whispered "Come, Taoha No good you wait here any longer. Laloka dead, Dwia dead we want you and Oviro, over there." They didn't know any more than I had done that my wife had left me and that what lay against me was only a dead weight. I rose up, and seizing a rifle in my fist, used it to hoist the warm body into my left arm, and to hold it there. Then I followed the boy down the back ladder and made off after him towards t,he woods. I knew that they had seen me before I could reach the cover, for I heard them shouting; and as I slid behind a tree saw the bullets breaking the branches and splinters from the bark. So I only ran for a little way, and then laying down Oviro on the gra3B, I turned to wait for them, determined to have one more life at least before I turned I tail on them. The bov would not leave me. plucky little I beggar that he was, but stood with a couple of spears in his hand ready for the fling. Four chaps had set running after me with revolvers at the cock, and I could bear the dead branches smashing as they trampled them down with their feet, then the first one dashed by me snorting before I could brin g my clubbed rifle down on his skull, but he did not run many steps before the boy had sent a spear through his back and settled him. The second one I got in good time, and he went down like a nine-pin under my olub, while the third tripped over his body and was pinned to earth by the boy before he could roll round. The fourth man I oaught by the wind-pipe fairly while he was trying to stop himself, and once I have a man right there with this claw he ain't got much prospect of another meal. Two or three minutes we rolled and twisted about on the ground, and then be, too, was a goner." No more came on, and I could bear the bugle sounding the re-call for the poor unfortunates who had left the ranks forever then 1 took their barkers and stuck them in my belt, and, lifting up all that was left of Oviro, struck out for our stragglers, while the lad out off the four heads ,and reaving them on one of the spears hoisted them over his shoulder, and, with the four sword-bayonets in his other hand, came after me. I found the last of the tribe a mile or so ahead, fifteen men and three boys with a dozen of women old and young. Where are the rest of the girls and the I kiddy ? I asked, as I looked round on the miserable-looking crowd, and they then told me that they had been seen crossing and chased into the woods, and that was all that had managed to esoape; one of the soldiers bad chucked the kid up against a tree and knocked its brains out, while they took back what girls they could catch and a couple of the boys. Then I felt gladder than ever that I'd punished these last four sausage- eaters. They had got the dead body of my little nephew, and Lord, mates, when I saw the little innocent lying limp before me, with all his perky "sass" out of him, I fairly gave way and blubbered like a blessed woman. We dug a grave and buried them both here before we quitted that spot, my murdered dear, and the kiddy on that breast where her own might have lain in a few more months bad all gone right. Then, while I still sat staring on the fresh earth, one of the boys who bad been captured came on us as we rested. They bad recognised me, it seems, as the man who had been driven out of their settle- ment, and made cocksure now that 1 was an English spy sent out to report their cruelties, and they had offered the lad his liberty if he would take them to me. They did not oare a cuss about the other natives, but they meant to keep me from getting out of the country by hook or crook. The young girls had been awfully mauled about before they had finished them, and my blood ran cold as I listened to that lad's yarn. They were ten thousand times worse brutal tnan any cannibals could have been, and after they were done with them they had set fire to the houses and burnt the village to the ground, so Laloka and his wife had found ai grave also, and were now resting amongst the cinders. The boy had made his escape while they were firing the huts, and got off amongst the smoke without being noticed. When I heard this I thought it about time to make a move. I was appointed leader now, so I struck out across the country for the hills, and for weeks we knocked about, for we had to go warily to keep clear of hostile tribes. That was a weary tramp, I can tell you, mates, through swamps and forests, over hills and into gulohes, hiding ourselves during the day and wandering abo4t at night, after having to turn back, or go round miles, and sometimes losing our way in spite of their savage cuteness. Often going for days without any grub, and even at the best of times having to content ourselves with roots and such like. And every day our numbers got less, and had to be buried and left behind. Whai with snake bites and fevers and odd tussles with the natives which we could not avoid, by the time i reached the mountains I had only seven scareorows left, and not a woman to comfort us. They bad all caved in. i One afternoon I saw the Owen Stanley rising far above us, swimming in golden clouds, and with their peaks rosy red in the sunset. And then we struggled up to t,9 the top of one ridge and lay down to rest amongst some rocks. We were all dead beat, and fell asleep almost as soon as we lay dowii, careless of what might happen next. The moon was up full, like as it shines to- night, when one of the men shook me awake, saying:— Tacha, what is it coming after ns ?" I harkened for a moment, and then the I truth broke on me like a flash. Bloodhounds, by Saul! They are deter- mined to take me before I can leave the country. Come on, boys, we must make tracks for some water." I could hear the sharp, short, bell-like whimpers of the hounds in the distance, for sounds carry a far way on the mountains on a clear moonlit night, and I knew that the Germans were behind them, for the natives had no dogs of this sort. So without more ado we set off full speed down the other side of the hill, hoping to find a creek of some sort in the gully. It had been an uncommon hot summer, and most of the streams which we had crossed had been dry; we thought this lucky at the time, but now I wasn't so sure about that. Down the gully we awarmed and tumbled in the dark, with the yelpings coming on. I looked back, and could see them rounding the hill top, a whole pack of hounds running in front of forty or fifty white coats with the moonbeams glistening on the barrels of their rifles. On we went, over the tangle and loose stones, without coming to a single pool of water, under great oliffs sometimes, and roll- ing over what would be waterfalls in the wet season then up again towards another ridge. For hours, I think, we ran and scrambled and climbed, getting the start of them when we were racing, but hearing them again when we stopped to draw a breath. At last I heard the sound of falling water as we got well over the second ridge, and not long after we came to a small stream that tumbled over a split cliff and ran along the valley to the east. I thought a moment and then made up my mind. We would all plunge into the pool and then find our way up the rock face to the higher stream. This we did without much difficulty, for fear made us all pretty reckless, and not a moment too soon, for as we got into shelter above the waterfall we heard them reach the pool, and knew from the loud barking of the whelps that they were at fault, for they couldn't get np that rook. We vraitsd a bit listening to them going down the valley, for they thought that we must have kept down the stream, and then, when the coast was once more clear, we kept on. Curious, mates, that stream must have been sent to us by Providence, for we wouid never have thought about olimbing it if we hadn't been so hard pressed, and yet I believe it was the only way through those mountains, for as we went on the split widened until it led us into other gullies and gaps straight through the chain. We wandered on day after day, always striking for the south as well as we could, sometimes coming to a dead precipice, when we had to turn back and try another track. I lost two more of my men in these gorges over a cliff that we came upon suddenly when least expecting it. Then we struck another half-dried river, treading the right direction, and I knew that we had left the Germans behind, and had got through the gap of the Owen Stanley. So we came on until it led us to yonr camp. That's my yarn, mates, and I hope you are amused. [THB END. J NEXT WEEK: The First Instalment of a New Story, BY JULIAN HAWTHORE, ENTITLED— A MODERN GIRL'S STORY.

COMMANDING THE AIR.