Read CHAPTER VI - THE SAVAGE CEREMONIALS of The Wonder Island Boys: Treasures of the Island , free online book, by Roger Thompson Finlay, on ReadCentral.com.

The next day was the one appointed for the ceremonies.  The boys were expectant, because during all their experiences in the islands, this was the first time they had an opportunity to witness one of these spectacles.

It was noticed that no preparations were made for a morning meal by the natives.  All were specially garbed for the occasion, if the colored decorations counted for anything in the way of additional clothing.

They were adept in the art of weaving cloth, which was made in small sections, and sewn together, similar to the practice in most of these primitive countries.  They were not altogether devoid of knowledge pertaining to dyes, the most frequent being blue, which John soon ascertained came from some copper deposits.

The Madder plant was the most common on the island, and this afforded a red color, the most lasting of all dyes, and the most generally in use throughout the civilized world, until the aniline dyes took its place.

For black they resorted to the common method of using carbon which is the stock material in our own country.  This was produced by them from burnt wood, and not from any of the coal products.

Their faces were painted a hideous red and blue, principally in the nature of great zig-zag stripes, and the exposed parts, of the bodies were of diverse figures, some of them really artistic.  The preparation of these personal decorations consumed the greater portion of the night, as the boys afterwards learned.

When they emerged from their hut in the morning, and saw the grotesque figures all about the village, they could hardly repress a smile; but as every one was smiling and happy, they did not have to make any prétentions, but smiled and laughed as the men and women circled about, because they couldn’t help themselves.

The women were not so gaudily attired as the men.  Their decorations were expended on clothing, as it was not considered good form to decorate their bodies.

All the men carried spears, and many of them were wicked-looking instruments.  What surprised them was the fact that all the spear-points were now covered over, or bound up by colored material, forming a sort of sphere, to which three colored streamers were attached, one white, one red and the other blue.

“My, but they are patriotic!” remarked George, as he saw the design and the streamers.

John smiled, as he observed them.  “But do you notice that the point of the spear is covered?”

“I was about to ask the meaning of that,” said Harry.

“This is the day of feasting and of sacrifices.  The covered point indicates that there is peace; and that no one can commit an injury.  I imagine the points will be uncovered quickly enough the moment they are ready for the sacrifices.”

“I am more interested in the fact that they use the American colors.  I wish we had one of the flags here.  That idea has just struck me as being the proper thing.”  And George danced about at the scheme.

Harry was just as much affected now.  “Why not consult Uraso and Muro, and bring over the big flag from the ship?”

John laughed at the idea.  “A brilliant idea.  The flag will be a big attraction, but I warn you that if you get it I shall have to insist that you must head the procession with it.”

“Are we going to have a procession?”

“I believe that is the first thing on the list.”

“But where is the procession going?  Is it the custom to march along the principal streets and out along the boulevards?”

This idea was so laughable to Harry and Uraso and Muro, that they had a fit of laughter.  The two Chiefs were just like boys, and entered in to the spirit of the undertaking with a vim that pleased the boys.

They fairly flew to the landing, and manned the boat.  “We have come for the flag,” announced George, as Stut was looking on the excitable boys.

“Why not take both of them?” responded Stut.

“Certainly,” answered Harry.  “I had forgotten about the other.  And while we are about it, why not have the band come along?”

This was answered by a shout.  One of the new acquirements of the natives of Wonder Island, was music, and when the boys returned from the States they brought along several fine sets of band instruments, one set of which was always on the vessel, and was used for evening concerts.

“Where is Mano?” asked Harry.

Mano was the leader of the ship’s band, but he was not to be found.

“John sent for Mano an hour ago, and he is now in the village.”

“Then send for him at once.  Tell him he must be here as soon as John is through with him,” said George.

While the flags were being wrapped up one of the small boats came from the shore, and Mano stepped out.

Harry ran up and said:  “Get the boys and the instruments ready.  You must play for us to-day during the ceremonies.”

Mano smiled as he answered:  “John told me about it last night, and I went over merely to find out what music I should take.”

“So John tried to steal a march on us?” remarked Harry.  “How soon will you be ready?”

“We are all ready now.  I was told at the Chief’s house that the procession would start in a half hour.”

When the flags were brought out it was Mano’s time to stare.  “I think,” he said, “that will surprise John, but the idea is a proper one.”

The band comprised nine musicians and the two drummers.  The moment they landed the band formed four abreast, and directly behind were the two boys with the Stars and Stripes.  To the tune of “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean,” they marched straight to the home of the Chief.

The crashing music, and the magnificent flags brought pandemonium to that savage village.  Nothing like it had ever been known before.  Long before the band reached the Palace all the inhabitants of the town had rushed down, and at Uraso’s and Muro’s suggestion the people followed behind, and thus made a procession which was the most unique that it was possible to describe.

“That scheme will make a success of the ceremonies,” remarked George, almost too full for utterance.  “Why the thing wouldn’t be a success without the flags and the music.”

“I wonder how the thing will fit in when it comes to the sacrifices this afternoon?  I imagine the Korinos ought to feel like dying when they are to have such an unusual funeral procession?” Harry said this with a bit of irony, as he turned to George and grinned at the idea.

John knew what was coming, but the Chief didn’t.  He and John came out together, when they heard the music.  The boys, behind the band could not see the great sights that were taking place in the rear, but John stood there beside the big Chief, and was simply convulsed with laughter.

The natives were not walking.  They were dancing, and the Chief, at first astounded at the music, and at the waving flags, soon joined John in laughter as they witnessed this remarkable scene.

Uraso had taken part in numerous celebrations at Unity, and knew what disposition to make of the people when they arrived.  The band marched past, and John raised his hand in the form of a salutation, and the Chief noticing this imitated him.

“The old fellow is learning rapidly how to do the correct thing,” suggested Harry.

“Yes; John will have him in a swallow-tail coat before night.”

The band marched past, and then turned around and came back, and as fast as the people came up Uraso and Muro directed them where to stand, so that when the band stopped they formed a large semi-circle facing the Chief and John.

The boys walked forward so they stood with the flags midway between the band and the Chief.  The latter motioned for the band to continue.  John understood, and a new tune was struck up.  The Chief was fascinated.  When that tune was concluded, the Chief wanted another, quite forgetting the importance of the ceremonial rites.

While the last tune was being played the boys saw a tall man, with a huge spear, and a face most hideously painted.  His body had characteristic stripes, entirely unlike those of the other people.  Behind him marched the Korinos, without a sign or mark on them different from the costumes worn by them on the preceding day.

As they filed along behind the leader, the boys noticed that the first one carried a thong-like rope:  the second a knife; the third a sort of vessel, and the fourth a pair of short sticks.

The people paid no attention to them, while the band was playing, but when it ceased, it was evident that they shrunk back from these dreaded men.

John beckoned Uraso and Muro to come forward, and the Chief welcomed them.  “As chiefs of your tribes you should be here with us.  The White Chief tells me that in his country the band and the flag always go first, and I have asked him to tell us how we should march to the forest.”

John then told those present how the procession should form.  The band was marched to the front, and George, who had the small flag, was placed directly behind the band.  Then the Chief, with Uraso and Muro on either side, and directly behind them Harry took position with the large flag.

After the flag the Korinos, without their tall leader, however, were placed in line.  John then motioned to the people to take their places following the Korinos, and the moment the column was thus formed the band struck up a lively marching tune, and John accompanied by the tall fantastic leader, went ahead of the band.

The leader knew, of course, where the procession must go, and he thus wisely made the arrangement for the occasion.  The procession wended its way directly to the north, along a well-beaten path, and after ascending a hill, turned to the left, and entered a sort of grove.

The boys were delighted to notice the magnificent Magnolia trees in full bloom, the flowers of which surpassed anything they had ever seen, and the perfume was almost overpowering in its intensity.

To the boys this peculiar procession had something mysterious about it.  Neither John, nor the two Chiefs had any idea of its significance.  John directed a questioning look toward the articles which the Korinos carried.

When the crest of the hill was reached they made one complete circle, and the head of the column stopped before the most magnificent magnolia tree in the grove.  The leader marched along the line and the people soon formed themselves into a circle with the tree in the center.

All chatter had stopped.  While ascending the hill, and up to this time, there was a never ending clatter of voices; but now all were quiet, and gazed to the top of the tree.  The tall leader, at the nod of the Chief came forward and approached the tree, and with the long spear struck it three times, and then turned to the Korinos, who had now followed him.

Then, he turned again, and struck the tree three times more, and this was repeated the third time.  After stepping back he raised the spear, and held it over the head of the Korino who carried the rope.  The latter stepped to the tree and with a dextrous throw sent a coil of rope over the first limb and caught the other end of it.

The spear was then laid over the head of the man with the knife, and he sprang forward grasping the rope, and when the spear was poised on high, he gracefully crept hand over hand up the rope.

The instant the man’s hand seized the rope the people fell to the ground and covered their faces.  The boys did not want to lose this part of the ceremony, you may be sure, but they tried to observe the rites.

A side glance was sufficient to assure them that the Chief did not kneel, nor did either John, Uraso or Muro; but they were privileged characters, so the boys went through the ceremony by peering through their fingers, and at the same time trying to find out whether there were not others trying to do the same.

The man went up and up, and soon emerged from the last spare branches at the top, until his face was near the great white flower which grew on the tip.

“I think that is the flower all the people were looking at,” said George in a whisper.

The man raised the knife, and with one slash severed the stem.  Then, raising himself up to his full height, so his body could be plainly seen, he waved the flower about his head three times, and the leader at the base of the tree again struck the trunk three times.

Immediately the people arose and placed their hands before them exactly like a bather on a perch about to dive, and with the palms of the hands thus placed against each other, the arms were raised to a vertical position, and lowered three times.

With hands still in their lowered position, and eyes cast on the ground, the Korino in the tree slowly descended, and the one who threw the rope quickly detached it from the tree.

The spear was then placed over the head of the man with the sticks.  He crossed his legs and sat down, and with an exceedingly rapid motion, soon caused smoke to arise, and then a tiny flame appeared.

“Why didn’t they tell us about it, and we could have let them use some of our matches,” said George dryly, as Harry made a great show of indignation at the irrelevant remark.

A fire was quickly kindled, and the man with the bowl knelt down, after fixing two stones on opposite sides of the fire.  From a small receptacle he took a powder, and dropped it into the bowl, and after holding the flower aloft, the man who took it from the tree, dropped it into the smoking bowl.

Instantly the people resumed their natural poses, and began to dance.  The Chief spoke a word to Uraso, and the band struck up a lively tune.  Then, to the ringing blare of the band, and the shrieks and shouts of the people the dance began.  It was one continuous whirl, and many of them became frenzied.

The Chief himself participated in this part of the ceremony, and swung himself around and around in a giddy whirl.  During all this time each fellow was for himself.  They did not have partners as in the civilized dances.

The tangoing was an individual effort, and each enjoyed it in his own way, but they all kept step to the music, showing the savage characteristic of being able to observe rhythmic effects.

The boys caught the spirit of the occasion, and joined in the wild swirl.  Uraso and Muro were at it, and the sole spectator was John, who said that he felt too old to learn the new steps.

When the band stopped the people rested, but there was no disposition to break up the merry party, and when the music again struck up the whole scene was acted over again.  It was noon before the grand ball ceased.

Then, at a sign from the Chief the procession reformed, and went back over the trail, the people dancing all the way, and, apparently, without exhibiting any signs of weariness, although it must be stated that the band was nearing collapse, when the people dispersed.