“Are you awake?” whispered Doc.
“Did you hear that?”
“It’s a lion.”
“Do you suppose he’s in the village?”
“He sounds awful close.”
Numa was not in the village; he roared with his nose close to the palisade, voicing his anger at the stout barrier that kept him from the tender flesh within.
“Golly,” said Dick; “it wouldn’t do us much good if we did escape. It would be like jumping from the frying pan into the fire.”
“Do you mean you’d rather stay here and be eaten by cannibals than try to escape?” demanded Doc.
“No, I don’t mean anything of the kind—I just think we haven’t much chance of getting out of this mess, one way or the other—but I sure would rather try to get out of it than just sit still and wait to be eaten, like Bulala and Ukundo are doing. Have you any scheme, Doc, for getting away?”
“Not yet. From what I could understand of Bulala’s gibberish I guess they won’t eat us for a while. He seems to think that they will wait until we are fattened up a bit; but from something else he said, it is just possible that they are saving us for a big feast that they have invited a lot of other villages to attend. Anyway, if we can have a few days to get a line on the habits and customs of the village, we will be in a better position to pick out the best plan and the best time for making our getaway. Gee, but it’s cold!”
“I didn’t know anyone could be so cold and hungry, and live,” said Dick.
“Neither did I. It’s no use trying to get to sleep again. I’m going to get up and move around. Maybe that will make us warm.”
But all it did was to awaken Bulala and Ukundo, who were not angry at all at being awakened and only laughed when the boys told them how cold they were. Bulala assured them that one was always cold at night and as he and Ukundo were practically naked the twins felt a bit ashamed of their grumbling.
Daylight came at last and with the rising sun came warmth and renewed vitality. The boys felt almost cheerful and now they were so hungry that they knew they would eat whatever their captors set before them, however vile it might appear. But nothing was brought them. In fact it was almost noon before any attention was paid them and then a warrior came and ordered all four of them out of the hut. With their guards they were herded toward the chief’s hut in the center of the village.
Here they found many warriors lined up before the blear-eyed old cannibal. The chief looked them all over; then addressed the twins.
“He wants to know what you were doing in his country,” interpreted Bulala.
“Tell him we were passing through on the train and that we wandered into the jungle and got lost,” said Dick. “Tell him we want to go back to the railway and that if he will take us, our fathers will pay him a big reward.”
Bulala explained all this to the chief and there followed a lengthy discussion between the chief and his warriors, at the end of which Bulala again interpreted.
“Chief Galla Galla says he will take you back after a while. He wants you to stay here a few days. Then he will take you back. Also he wants all your clothes. He says you must take them off and give them to him as presents, if you want him to take you back to your people.”
“But we’ll freeze,” expostulated Doc.
“You had better give them to him, for he will take them anyway,” advised Bulala.
Doc turned and looked at Dick. “What are we going to do about it?” he asked.
“Tell him we’ll freeze at night without our clothes, Bulala,” cried Dick.
Bulala and Galla Galla held a lengthy discourse at the end of which the former announced that the chief insisted upon having their clothes, but would furnish them with other apparel to take its place.
“Well, tell him to trot it out,” snapped Doc.
Again there was much haggling, but finally the chief sent one of his warriors to bring a handful of filthy calico rags, which he threw at the feet of the two boys. Doc started to argue the question, but Bulala’s council, combined with the menacing attitude of Galla Galla, convinced the twins that they could do nothing but comply with the commands of their captor.
“I’m going to take the things out of my pockets,” said Doc
“They’ll probably swipe everything we’ve got, but if possible we ought to try to save our knives,” suggested Dick.
And sure enough, the first thing that came out of Dick’s pocket, which happened to be a fountain pen, Galla Galla held out his hand to receive.
“A lot of good it’ll do the old robber,” growled Dick.
“He wants to know what it is,” said Bulala.
“Tell him it’s a bottle with something good to drink in it,” snapped Doc. “Here, I’ll show him how to get it out—looky, old tar-baby,” and Doc stepped forward and removed the cap from the pen point. “Tell him,” he explained to Bulala, “to put the shiny end in his mouth and then pull this little lever here—that’ll squirt the nice drink into his tummy.”
Galla Galla did as Bulala directed. A peculiar expression over-spread his evil face and then he commenced to spit, to the great astonishment not only of himself but of the assembled warriors, for Galla Galla was undeniably spitting blue. The effect upon him was astonishing and rather terrifying. He leaped about like a mad man, emitting strange noises which were interspersed with remarks that the boys were positive were not at all nice; but the remarkable part of the performance was that he vented all his rage upon Bulala, striking and kicking the poor fellow unmercifully.
“Tell him it won’t hurt him,” yelled Dick, fearful now of the results of Doc’s joke. “Tell him white men drink it to make them strong,” and when Bulala had succeeded in transmitting this information to Galla Galla the chief immediately calmed down but for a long time thereafter, he continued to spit blue.
The boys had now emptied their pockets, but each clung to his knife, attempting to hide it from the eyes of the greedy Galla Galla. The attempt was vain; a filthy, pinkish palm was extended toward Doc who needed no one to interpret the cannibal’s demands into gimme, gimme, gimme! It was then that an idea came to Doc that was little short of inspiration. His eyes snapped and sparkled.
“Why not?” he demanded aloud.
“Why not what?” asked Dick.
“Watch me!” cried Doc.
Galla Galla was becoming insistent—he was demanding in peremptory tones that Doc deliver the knife forthwith. But Doc did nothing of the kind. Instead, he held up his left palm outstretched for silence, then he opened his right hand, exposing to the view of all the coveted knife.
“Tell them,” he said to Bulala, “to watch me closely and I will show them a trick they never saw before.”
“Big medicine?” asked Bulala.
Doc seized upon the words. “Big medicine!” he cried. “That’s the idea, Bulala! Tell ’em I’m going to make some big medicine with a capital B.”
Even Galla Galla seemed impressed as the white boy covered the knife with his left palm. Doc clasped his hands and blew upon them. Then he raised them above his head. “Abacadabra!” he shouted. “Allo, presto, change cars and begone! Now you see it, now you don’t.” He opened his hands and held them palms up. The knife had vanished! The chief was greatly puzzled. He looked all about for the knife and when he came close to Doc the latter reached suddenly toward him and apparently extracted the missing article from Galla Galla’s left ear. This was evidently too much for the savage old cannibal. He leaped backward so quickly that he stumbled and fell sprawling over the stool upon which he had been sitting. The blow to his dignity had a bad effect upon his temper,—none too good at best. He came to his feet fairly bubbling with rage and angrily demanded that the boys remove their clothing and don the rags that had been brought them.
“Hang on to your knife as long as you can,” admonished Doc. “I think I can save ’em both when I get my new minus-fours wrapped around me. How do you put this stuff on, anyway?”
“Ask Bulala,” advised Dick. And that worthy showed the boys how to wrap the cloth about their hips and carry the end between their legs so that a little apron fell down in front and another behind.
All this time the two boys had managed to conceal their knives, but, at last, Galla Calla again demanded them. Doc was desperate. “We mustn’t give them up, Dick,” he said, “they’re the only useful things we have. By Jimminy crickets! I won’t give ’em up!” He turned to Bulala. “Tell that fat boy that if anyone takes this medicine away from us, it will kill him; but that if he doesn’t want us to keep them, we will send them away. Watch!” He exposed his own knife and repeated the mystic signs and words that he had used before—and the knife was gone. Then he took Dick’s knife and did the same things. Galla Galla shook his head.
“He wants to know where they are,” said Bulala.
Doc looked about in an effort to gain time, while he conjured some reply that would put an end to Galla Galla’s search for the knives. His eyes fell upon the same youth who had attempted to brain him the previous day, while Zopinga had been escorting them into the village. Doc never could account for the idea that popped into his head as he beheld again the hideous features of the young imp who had come so near killing him, but he always admitted that it was a good idea—for him and Dick, if not for the black youth. He stepped suddenly close to the youth and pointed into his ear.
“Tell Galla Galla,” he said to Bulala, “that our big medicine has hidden itself inside this fellow’s head and that it won’t come out until we are with our own people.”