Read CHAPTER XII - THE PERILOUS TRIP OF THE WAGON of The Wonder Island Boys: Conquest of the Savages , free online book, by Roger Thompson Finlay, on ReadCentral.com.

Affairs at Unity were moving along at marvelous speed.  Suros, chief of the Berees, announced to the Professor that he did not intend to return to his country, but would send for his family and the families of all his chiefs.  This was, indeed, a pleasant surprise for the Professor.

Oma, of the Brabos, was the next to fall into line, and we have already stated that such was Muro’s intention.  The bringing together of all these interests, to form one common family, was really the intention of the Professor, and it was now being carried out without any suggestion on his part.

Each day brought to the village accessions from some of the tribes, mainly the women and children of those who were employed, or who were with John’s forces.

Four days after John’s departure the Professor saw one of the Tuolos approaching, carrying an infant, with his wife and two other children.  The Professor went out to meet them, calling Will, as he saw they were in a famished condition.  It was the native referred to previously, who had begged permission to bring his family to Unity.

Several of the little cottages had been completed, and the surprise of the Tuolo and his wife was complete when he led them to one of these homes, and installed them in it.

Food was brought, and the native cooks ordered to prepare it for them at once.  The act so astonished the Tuolo chief, Marmo, that he could not express himself.  For a day he sat pondering.  The Professor noticed the act, but he said nothing.  The next morning Marmo called, and said: 

“I can see why the White Chief told me it was well to act so the people would not want another chief.”

“But I am not acting in this way so that the people will want to keep me as their chief.”

This reply puzzled him.

“But why do you treat my people in this way?”

“Because he is a man just like myself.  I have no right to treat him in any other way.”

“But he is only a ravoo (common) man.”

“Why is he only a common man?”

“Because he is not a warrior, nor were his people warriors before him.”

“But he is a man, the same as you and I are.  Because he is not a warrior, or was not born of some one who was a warrior, or if he does not belong to the family of a chief, makes no difference to the white man.  His children may become chiefs, or great men, and if we show them that they may become like we are, it will make all of them better, and it will not injure us.”

This philosophy was too deep for the chieftain.  He could not comprehend it, nor could he find words to express his opinions of the new light which it gave him.

“Is that why you teach the people to make so many things?”

“No; that is for an entirely different reason.  We teach people to make these things so they may be able to help themselves and make their wives and children happy.  We try to teach them that it is wrong to be idle.  To let them know that there is a better way to live than by fighting each other or injuring their neighbors.”

“But why do you act so kindly to one of my people when we tried to kill you?”

“That makes no difference to us now.  You acted that way because you did not know any better.  You would not try to injure us now, would you?  Do you think that man would be my enemy?  When he tells his friends what I have done, will they be my enemy?”

“These things are all so new to me.  There will be no more Tuolos, or Osagas, or Berees.”

“Yes; there will be the same tribes always.  In the white man’s country there are still the same tribes in the different countries.  They love to think of their own country and their own people, even though they may live with the other tribes, and when a man goes from one tribe to live with another, the people protect him just the same as though he was one of them.”

The Professor was not yet through with his lesson, and suggested that Marmo should accompany him.  They wandered through the town, and called at the cottage of the newly arrived Tuolo.  The children were playing about, and the wife was supremely happy, but awed when the Professor and chief appeared.

The Professor took up the little one and affectionately caressed it, to the astonishment of the mother.  She knew the Chief Marmo would not condescend to such an act; but to think that the Great White Chief should do such a thing was something beyond her comprehension.

Marmo looked on in amazement.  It was another thing which was unlike any teaching or belief that he had ever known, that it made a powerful impression on him.

This is but one incident in the history of the village which tended to instill in the minds of the people, the cardinal duty of man to man.  It was a practical example, and the knowledge of it went from family to family.  It became one of the topics of conversation among the men.  Equal and exact justice was meted out to each, irrespective of what their tribal relations might be.

In the absence of Harry and George, Ralph and Jim had charge of the factory, and were busy each day turning out plows and other agricultural implements.  At the suggestion of the Professor, eight more of the steers had been trained to work, and he gathered together a dozen of the best men, and gave instructions to secure as many of the yaks as could be found.

He offered certain sums for this purpose.  It was known that, to the west, and north of the great forest, were large herds running wild.  The proposal stirred them to activity.  The party prepared for the hunt, and in this were assisted by Blakely, who gave them many timely hints as to the best method to lasso them.

The first expedition started the day after John left, and within a week the first installment of ten animals arrived, and they had returned for more.  These were tamed and broken to work.  The scenes about the town were assuming the proportions of a vast beehive of the most earnest and enthusiastic workers that it was possible to imagine.

Fields were now laid out, and certain money offers made for the production of seeds of various kinds.  Coffee-tree shoots, nutmeg plants, cocoa cuttings, and many other like species of vegetation were apportioned to the newly plowed fields.

Every kind of vegetable known to the island, and which now grew in a wild, but scattered, state, was sought for, and distributed in small patches over the plowed area.  Fruit trees were set out, and these latter, with a view to make them the home sites which were to be the next lines to be developed.

It will thus be seen that there was enough to tax the energies of Blakely and the Professor, to keep the laborers employed, and prevent any drones from getting into the hive.

When the captive Illyas which John had sent with the ultimatum did not return, nor did the enemy show any symptoms of complying when the sun neared midday, it was concluded that the only plan to pursue would be a quick and a sharp assault.

The moment the sun reached its height, John ordered Muro to take one hundred of the men by a detour to the right, and Uraso with a like number to the left.

“Cross the stream and close up behind them in the woods.  I will make the attack, and you remain at a distance.  If they should attempt to retreat I will follow them up rapidly.  We must, if possible, force their surrender.”

The two forces were off promptly, and within a half hour John judged that they must be in position.  The Illyas were still on the hill in force, apparently not suspecting that two flanking columns were in their rear.

As John gave the order to march forward there was the crack of a half dozen guns to their right, in the position occupied by Muro’s force.  This startled the Illyas, as it did John.  The latter interpreted this at once.  It was, undoubtedly, a reinforcing band which Muro had intercepted.

This was indeed the case.  The knowledge of this force coming to their assistance, was probably the reason why the Illyas were so defiant.  Muro, at the head of fifty of his men, charged the band, to prevent them from uniting, but at the same time it brought down on him a large portion of the Illyas.  Uraso, suspecting the truth, and knowing that the excited movement of the Illyas indicated a rush to assist, broke through the woods and thus struck them on their left flank, which so surprised them that they broke in confusion and, fled before John and the main body could come up.

The entire Illyas force was now in confusion.  John was in possession of their camp, and Uraso’s warriors were hurrying through the dense woods, so that between the three forces, a number were captured in the effort to escape to the east and south.

Within an hour, not an Illyas was in sight, except those captured, but the main force, unfortunately, escaped.  The wagons were brought up, and now came the problem, how to get them through the forest, without making too much of a detour.

Uraso suggested that Stut should take a sufficient number of warriors to afford protection, and descend the stream to a point below where the country was clearer, and then trail to the east and meet the main column five miles west of the main village.

The pursuers, under the leadership of John, followed the trails of the disorganized Illyas, in the hope that they would be able to be close on their heels when they emerged from the forest four miles beyond.

They found this forest maze the most remarkable of any wooded area on the island.  The trees were not only immense, but the undergrowth exceedingly dense.  It is not often the case that the two growths are found together, and it would have been impossible to get the wagons through the mass.

This forest was in reality the great barrier, which kept the Illyas in such a protected position against the inroads of the other tribes, even though they should have combined, and they counted on this bulwark to protect them in the present case.

It took the pursuing force over three hours to push its way through, and they had the satisfaction of seeing the main body of the Illyas beyond, and brought together in a compact organization.  As soon as the opening was reached, they halted for the noon meal, and instructions were given to follow up as hurriedly as possible.

“We should move our force to the south, and attack them from that side,” said John, “for the reason that their only hope of reinforcements is from that quarter.”

The villages were lying along the base of the mountain range, the general altitude of the great plain being fully two hundred feet higher than the other level portions of the island.  The mountains to the east, while not high as mountains go, were by far the greatest of any on the island, and John was anxious to know their character, for reasons heretofore explained.

In two hours more they would reach the vicinity of the main village, and the great struggle for the mastery would begin.  In the distance could be seen the main portion of the town, and it was far more imposing than any other in the island.  There was more or less a mystery about the place.

Uraso said:  “The place we are now going to is the oldest village in the country.  Many, many years ago it was a great village, and had big houses.  They were built by some people that no one knows, but they were not built to live in.”

“Do you know what they are like?” asked John.

“Nobody can tell, because they do not keep captives there, and only take them to that place for the sacrifices.”

“How do you know that the place has the wonderful buildings you speak of?”

“This was learned from the only captive who ever escaped from them at the place.  I was kept at the village to the north, and it was from that place I escaped.”

As the village was neared the sight of the buildings astonished John.  While not massive, they were of a type entirely distinct from the native huts.  It was built on an elevated plateau and amidst most magnificent trees, the most prominent of which were the great redwoods.

Some little indications of ground cultivation were found, as they passed the deserted huts on their way.  Small patches of yam and cassava were the principal vegetables noticed.

It was nearly four o’clock before they crossed a stream of water, flowing to the south, and beyond which a good glimpse of the village could be seen.  John surveyed the scene and was astonished at the character of the spot, since it had evidently been chosen by design, and for some particular reason.

Its location at an altitude which commanded a view to the north and south, and also afforded a view to the west, betokened some reason not compatible with the savage idea of a town.  All villages thus far found were close to streams, and were located apparently by chance, but here was a town which was more like a civilized place, since it was so located that it afforded the finest opportunity for drainage.

But another surprise was in store for John.  “What are those peculiarly formed hills which run to the right and left?” he asked.

Muro had noticed them, but was unable to answer.

“I have heard,” said Uraso, “that they have earth-houses to protect the town, but I do not know how they are made.”

This information was sufficient to inform John that the town was actually provided with a chain of defensive works, and this greatly added to his astonishment.

“We are certainly getting at the heart of this mystery,” he said, musingly, as Muro came up.  The latter informed him that they had captured two Illyas who were making their way to the village from the south, and within ten minutes they were brought before him.

John questioned them, but they refused to impart any information.  The direction from which they had come occasioned some uneasiness because the wagons were en route from that quarter, and they might be runners to the main village for the purpose of informing the chief of the fact, or, they might be from one of the villages announcing reinforcements.

As night approached, and no word was had from the force with the wagon, John directed Muro to take twenty-five of the best men, and go directly south in search of the convoy.

George and Harry accompanied the teams, and when they left the main column the forest was skirted in their trip southwardly.  It was known that the forest was less dense in that direction, and after traveling thus for nearly four hours, the men delegated to beat the forest to the east, announced that they might safely turn to the east, which meant two hours more of struggling through a country which, without the warriors to aid them, would have been impossible.

Most of the men were ahead of the team with their bolos, cutting down and dragging away the trees and bushes, and thus forming a trail which would allow the wagons to pass.  It was past six in the evening when the river was reached.

In order to gain as much time as possible, Stut and the boys concluded to push across, and move northwardly along the eastern bank, as it was evident the eastern shore afforded the best route.

Before the plan could be put into execution a body of Illyas appeared in force before them.  They hastily drew back, and after consulting, concluded to proceed north along the western bank.

They had not proceeded a quarter of a mile before they ran into an ambush of Illyas, and two men were struck by arrows.  Stut gave the order to fire, and the bush was cleared.  Immediately a force appeared in their rear, but Stut advised an advance, as such a course would bring them closer to relief.

Another mile was traversed, but the first lesson was heeded, and the enemy did not come close enough to enable the gunmen to get an opportunity to shoot.  But now an unforeseen obstacle presented itself.  They had been marching along the more or less elevated bank of the stream, and directly in their path was a stream flowing into the main one, with steep and rocky sides, so precipitous that it would be impossible for the wagons to cross them, heavily laden as they were.

The Illyas appeared in force behind them, and apparently none were to the front, thus indicating that they did not believe the wagons could cross, and in this they were right.  It was growing dark.  Harry suggested that they make camp and arrange for protection during the night.

This was done, the two wagons being placed thirty feet apart, and the fort sections were used to connect the rear ends of the wagons, so that a U-shaped fort was thus provided, the open end of the fort being toward the river, which was the side they had no fear of, so far as the savages were concerned.

While these preparations were going on no attempt was made to attack them.  “They are either waiting for morning, or for reinforcements,” was Stut’s comment.

“Do you think it would be possible to get a messenger through to John?” asked George.

“Yes; but it would be better to send two.”

“We can easily spare them,” responded Harry, “and you had better select them at once.”

Two intelligent warriors, one a Saboro, well known to Stut, and an Osaga, were delegated to run the risk, and they started to the north along the river.

The night was intensely dark, but notwithstanding this Muro pushed forward to the south, and the utmost speed, under those conditions, was not more than a mile or mile and a half an hour.

It was known that reinforcements were on the way from the south.  They might meet such a force, and the utmost caution was necessary.  It was fortunate that the two messengers from Stut heard Muro’s warriors, and for the purpose of determining who they were, approached closely, and made themselves known.

This intelligence was sufficient for Muro to act.  The scouts guided them back, and as it was beginning to grow light the cracks of several guns were sufficient to indicate the direction of the wagons, and the fact that the attack had begun.

Muro was a tactician.  The scouts stated the situation, with the impassible ravine to the north, and the attackers to the south of their position.  His force was on the eastern side of the river, and moving back a sufficient distance to prevent knowledge of his presence from reaching the Illyas, went to the south, and crossed the river in their rear.

The attack of the savages was in force against the wagon, and the spirited cracks of the guns showed Muro that he must make haste if he would have a part in it.

Harry and George were seasoned fighters, but in this case they were entirely in the dark as to the numbers which opposed them.  This lack of knowledge was the only thing which gave them any concern.  They knew that sooner or later John would rescue them in force.  The problem was to resist and gain time.

The Illyas had heretofore proven themselves wonderful fighters and remarkably tenacious.  This attack was a more determined one than they had ever witnessed.  There was no cessation in their forward advance, and they were most skillful in seeking cover.

The boys looked at each other, but neither spoke his fears, if he had any; to say the least, it was the most businesslike of anything which they had witnessed.

Suddenly, they heard the noise of a volley behind the Illyas, and the latter made a concerted rush for the underbrush to the west, as Muro, with his men, sprang forward through the clearing; and the boys, with Stut, sprang from the wagon and started the cheering, followed by the warriors.

Muro rushed up and embraced Stut and the boys.  A hurried breakfast was prepared, and the fort sections replaced.  There was no time to lose.  They must get back to John and be prepared to take part in the capture of the great village of the Illyas.