Read CHAPTER IV - RESCUING A WHITE CAPTIVE of The Wonder Island Boys: Treasures of the Island , free online book, by Roger Thompson Finlay, on ReadCentral.com.

“Did you deliver the message at the landing place?” asked George, after Tarra was freed.

“No; they captured me late last night.  I tried for hours to get through, but they were within a mile of the landing,” answered Tarra.

“But where have you been all this time?”

“They took me north to another village.”

But more interesting things were now happening.  The witch doctor who was about to go to his fallen companion, hesitated.  He turned to the Chief.  The latter merely stretched out his hand, and with an impatient gesture appeared to order him on.

“I warn you!” said Uraso.  “It will be death to touch him.”

If there is one thing, more than another, that is liable to add terror to a low order of human beings, it is noise.  It may be said that the most intelligent are not entirely devoid of the feeling of fear at inexplainable noises.

As an example, take the sensations produced by thunder and lightning, one which affects the ear, and the other the eye.  During a thunderstorm, the feeling of fear becomes acute only when the roar is heard.

In this case we know what it is that produces the reverberations; but even under those circumstances many people are seriously affected by it.  A terrific explosion, of which we do not know the cause, is often the source of great terror.

This is particularly true with all savage people.  The drums referred to, evidence this particular feeling of awe, and the louder and more violent, the more intense is it to the untutored mind.  It is with this idea in their minds that they exercise the bad spirits by driving them away by making great noises, a practice true of most savage tribes.

When John returned to Wonder Island from the United States he had taken with him several of the well-known Silencers, which, when attached to the muzzle of a gun, will so deaden the sound that no explosion is heard.

For general use, John knew that the unmuffled gun would be far more effective than those equipped with the new invention.  Smokeless powder was also used in the guns which John and his company carried.  The absence of smoke thus centers the mind of the native on the sound alone, and he sees the effect on the victim.

To the savage the sound and the effect of the shot produce the sensation that there is something more than human in the discharge.  It is hard for them to form an idea of the connection between the report and the mission of the bullet.  It is some monster which speaks in a loud voice.

But it was more than that to the islanders when they saw the witch doctor fall.  There was a white Korino who spoke with a voice of thunder.  They were not aware that he held something in his hand like a weapon, and the noise and the result of that noise stunned them.

John also carried a revolver with one of the silencers.  When the Korino turned to the Chief, and the latter, determined not to be swayed by the power of the white man, there was but one thing for him to do.  He must obey.  He knew that if he shrunk from the task it would be a confession that his power was gone.

The man approached the prostrate form.  “Stop!” again cried Uraso.  “The white Korino will not again speak, but if he touches the body you will die!”

He stood there for a moment, irresolute, and then slowly stooped down, and with hesitation at every motion, finally touched the figure.  In the meantime John had leveled the revolver with the silencer, and as the man again rose to an erect position, and glanced at John defiantly, he quickly threw up his hands and fell forward across his former companion with a shot through his arm, as it was not John’s intention to kill him if it could by any possibility be avoided.

The white Korino had not spoken, as Uraso predicted, but the results were the same.  The savages who were lined up on both sides of the Chief, began to waver.  They were moving to the rear.  The Korinos around the Chief, finally broke and fled, and when the people saw this evidence of fear on the part of their Wise Men, they could not be restrained.

The Chief followed them hurriedly.  “Now, quickly, boys, fire two rounds.  No; not at the natives, but up in the air.”

The boys could not understand what John could mean by such an order, but they did not have an opportunity to ask the reason for it.

After the volleys John turned to Muro and Uraso, and remarked:  “As soon as the men come up you and Muro must contrive in some way to find out the direction that the Korinos have taken.”

They now saw the object of the volleys.  It would bring up those of their party who had remained at the rocky cove.  The watch for the Korinos was equally plain.  The experience on Wonder Island showed that the witch doctors inhabited the caves.

In the excitement they had entirely forgotten this part of their enterprise.  They thought of the treasure.  John had the treasure of the records in his mind.  The hills all about; the limestone formations of the elevations were ample assurance to his mind that some caverns would be found; and while they might, eventually, be able to locate the entrances, it would be better to find out where they were by watching and charting the direction they took on their way to the dark places where they hoped to rest in fancied security.

Within fifteen minutes their rear guard came into sight, rushing over the hills, all expectant to find an enemy in their front.  Great was their surprise to see the village beyond, and John and his party bending over the two bodies, one of them moving and the other inert.  Apparently, he and his force were unconcerned, although many savages were in the village, and in plain sight.

An examination of the fallen men made John happy, because he feared that his aim had been untrue.  Both had been severely wounded, and when an hour afterwards both men were able to move, thanks to the knowledge and care of John, they were carried into the village.

Before this was done, however, John ordered the force to march boldly into the village.  On the approach of the party the Chief and his followers, together with the women and children, hurriedly fled to the north.

Among the huts were found a dozen or more sick and injured men and women, and a number of old people who were unable to be carried away.  John went to each, and after carefully examining them, administered medicine.

In one place they found two warriors, who had been wounded in the battle four days previously.  These were given special attention, the villagers meanwhile looking on the proceeding with a feeling of awe, and wonder.  They could not comprehend the care and treatment which was being given them.

John’s companions were most eager to render aid, and spoke to the patients freely, telling them that they were friends, and not enemies.  During this investigation into every corner of the village, George and Harry were the most active.  They found many amusing things, but the care of the sick and the infirm was the first duty, and they had many willing helpers.

While thus engaged they reached a long, low thatched enclosure, so entirely different from the huts scattered about.  There was no visible opening.  They walked around the enclosure with more and more curiosity.  Some of their companions from Wonder Island then drew near.

“We have found it!” cried one of them.

“What is it?” asked Harry.

“This is the place where they keep the captives.”

“But how can we get into it?” asked George, then adding, “Get one of the hatchets, quickly.”

Several men ran back and opened the packages containing their equipment, and others followed to see the prisoners.  Uraso was one of the first to come up, and he was soon followed by John, all in excitement over the news.  George was the first one to get a hatchet.  He soon chopped a way through, and Uraso was the first to crawl into the enclosure, followed by George.

The latter staggered back, as he saw the scene before him.  The enclosure was fully fifteen feet high, and occupied a space, probably, twenty feet each way.  It was constructed of a species of bamboo, exceedingly hard, two rows of these paling being driven into the ground close together, so that it was impossible to see through the stockade at any point.

Within there was absolutely nothing but the bare ground, and a mass of indescribable filth, as may be imagined.  Here, lying on the earth, were five men, with little or no clothing, covered with dirt and vermin.  Two of them were in fairly good condition, an evidence that they had not long been prisoners.

The other three were emaciated, and what surprised the boys most was the long, matted and tangled beard of one of the three.  The moment John saw that form he turned to the boys and fairly shrieked:  “This is a white man.  Cut down that fence, so the men can be taken out, and the moment they are removed set fire to this place.”

The boys could not understand John’s vehement expression.

“Shall we burn the village?” asked Harry.

“Oh, no!  Burn only this enclosure, and don’t let a vestige of it remain.”

His orders were quickly carried out.  Meanwhile, not a quarter of a mile away, were the Chief and the owners of the village, who, upon seeing the smoke and the flames, appeared to be frantic.  No doubt they regarded it as a sign that the village was doomed, but they were soon reassured by the time the stockade was finally consumed, and the few watchers reported to the Chief that nothing but the prison had been destroyed.

“We have destroyed the Bastille,” remarked John, “and must now take care of the prisoners.”  They found that it was indeed a white man who had been rescued.  He was frightfully emaciated, and too weak to talk.

This was also the condition of the two natives.  The other two were soon restored, after receiving nourishment, and were ready to tell their story.  They had been taken two weeks previously in a battle with the tribe to the north.

Through these men they learned that there were only two tribes on the island, and that this was by far the largest, in point of numbers.  There had been continual war between the two people, and the only thing which saved his tribe from extermination was the fact that they lived in the mountain regions, and were thus protected.

This information was very welcome to John and the boys.  The mountains seemed to have a fascination for them,-and then, the caves, how could they forget them now?

For three hours the Chief and his people waited in the distance.  John did not pay any attention to them, apparently.  Shortly thereafter two of his men came in, dragging one of the former patients.

“We saw him trying to steal away,” said one of the men.

“Was he going toward his people?” asked John.

“Yes.”

“Then let him go, by all means, and tell him that we would be glad to have the Chief and his people return.”

The poor fellow was astonished to learn that he was free.  He was as much surprised at this as at the care which they had bestowed to cure him.  He passed through the village, looking about him with furtive glances, but, at the command of John, no one paid any attention to him.

When he reached the Chief there was a long consultation, and it was evident that a momentous change was taking place.  The Chief could be seen constantly glancing toward the village, and soon the self-imposed messenger returned and approached John.

“The Chief is willing to see you, and will come to you, if you wish it.”  This was imparted to John, and the latter responded: 

“I will go with you.”

He called the two chiefs Muro and Uraso, and the boys, and told them he would go with the messenger to the Chief, alone, and that they should have no fear for him.

Accompanied by the messenger, John walked boldly to the Chief, and going up, pressed his nose against him, in token of eternal friendship, and then motioned him to go back to the village.

The Chief was astounded, first, at the bravery of John in thus coming to him, and in then vowing eternal friendship.

There is something very peculiar in the characteristics of savages which forbids them from violating a peace pledge, or a treaty of friendship when entered into with the rites that they acknowledge.  The most formal of these rites, is that of rubbing noses together.

How the custom originated, is not known.  It is something like the kiss, in so far as it is a visible token of either love, friendship, or esteem.  It is seldom that the savage violates the pledge which is thus given.  John knew this, and felt assured the great Chief would respect it.

When the latter came into the village, the first sight that met his eyes, was the demolished stockade.  He looked at it for a moment, in silence.  Then some of the old men came forward, and began to tell him the wondrous tales of kindness.

The Chief went to his own home, and when he saw that everything was untouched, and that none of the people was harmed, he could not understand the actions of the White Chief, and so expressed his astonishment to Uraso and Muro.  When he was told that the latter were Chiefs of two tribes on Wonder Island, he was still more surprised.

“Do you not fight each other?” he asked.

Uraso smiled, as he answered:  “Why should we fight?  There is no pleasure in killing, or in causing suffering.  We used to think about those things as you do.”

“What made you think otherwise?”

“The White Chief told us it was wrong, and we have found that his words were true.”

“Where is this place where your tribe may be found?”

“It is on the other side of the sea, over there,” answered Uraso, pointing to the west.

“Will it take long to get there?”

“It takes only one sun, and the White Chief would be so happy to take you there and show you the great village, and to see the people and the Chiefs who live together in happiness, and to learn from the people themselves how they enjoy their homes, and make the many curious things that the White Chief has brought over for you.”

The Chief looked about him, and finally said:  “I want to see the White Chief.”

John had purposely refrained from going to the Chief’s home, but Uraso accompanied him at John’s request, because he was the more diplomatic, and wielded a stronger influence than Muro, owing to his remarkable personality.

John was glad of the opportunity, and the boys, as usual, were also present.  The Chief’s eyes followed the two boys, as they entered.  He smiled at them, as John came up and greeted him.

Uraso told John what they had talked about, and that the Chief was interested in his story of Wonder Island.

“Our Great Chief will welcome you to Wonder Island,” said John.

The Chief looked at John for a moment, and then his eyes wandered to Uraso, as he answered:  “Is there still a greater Chief?  Is there a man more powerful than this Chief?”

Uraso laughed, as did John.  “Tell him,” said John, “that our Chief is powerful, because he is wise.”

He did not seem to understand this, and asked for more information.  Uraso told him that the white man did not regard the strong man as the greatest, but that the wisest man was always the Chief.

Here was certainly a new philosophy.  “But,” he inquired, “then how can he rule his people, if he is not strong?”

“The people willingly submit to his will because they know what he says is best for them.”

“But does not the Chief sometimes tell them lies, and does he not often deceive them?”

“Yes; but when they do so then the people choose another Chief in his place.”

“And after they have killed the first Chief, and have taken another, and he lies, do they also kill him?”

“No; they do not kill the Chiefs, but they only put others in their places.”

“Then they are not wise Chiefs?”

“No; they are wise only when they do what is right.”

“Do what is right!  What do you mean by that?  How can the Chief do anything but right?”

“Do you think,” asked Uraso, “that the Chief has a right to lie or deceive?”

“Yes, he can do that, but not his people.  It is wrong for them to do so.”

“But the white man believes that it is just as wrong for the Chief to lie and to deceive, as for the people to do so.”

The Chief was silent for a long time, and John purposely permitted him to reflect on the new dispensation.  While thus musing on the new theory, a woman carrying a child appeared at the door.  John saw her, and, stepping out, took the child from her arms.  She permitted it, and when the Chief appeared she fell down and explained that the White Chief had been very kind to her.

John took some medicine from a small vial, and administered it, the Chief meanwhile looking on in astonishment.  Here was a great White Chief, looking out for the comfort of one of the poorest of his people.

Uraso knew his thoughts.  This woman was the poorest and the lowest in the tribe, and John, without stopping to make any inquiries as to her condition, or position in life, had aided her and her old mother.

Evidently the new doctrine was something so extraordinary, that it was worth investigating.  Uraso saw the embarrassment in the mind of the Chief, and after speaking a few words, withdrew.

As they left the Chief’s quarters the boys roamed through the village.  The stories of the sufferers which John had aided, the scrupulous care with which the men guarded the homes of the villagers while they were absent, had a most telling effect.

The warriors from Wonder Island mingled with the villagers.  It was singular that there was not an expression of hatred.  They fraternized, and related stories of Wonder Island, and the people told them about their own island.

The boys met many of their own ages, and to them they showed the revolvers, and the marine glasses, and then astounded them by exhibiting the watches which they carried.