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Title: The Adventures of Piang the Moro Jungle Boy - A Book for Young and Old
Author: Stuart, Florence Partello
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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The Adventures of Piang
The Moro Jungle Boy

A Book for Young and Old


By Florence Partello Stuart

Illustrated By Ellsworth Young


New York
The Century Co.
1917



Copyright, 1917, by The Century Co.

Copyright, 1916, by David C. Cook Publishing Company Copyright, 1917,
Boys' Life The Boy Scouts Magazine

Published September, 1917



To "Buddy"



CONTENTS


    I         The Charm Boy   6
    II        The Floating Island   32
    III       The Hermit of Ganassi Peak   51
    IV        The Fire Tree   78
    V         Riding the Cataract   108
    VI        The Jungle Menace   129
    VII       The Secret of the Source   157
    VIII      The Juramentado Gunboat   193
    IX        The Bichara   223
    X         Piang's Triumph   251



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS



    Slowly he swam downward, conscious of a large body moving near
    him   _Frontispiece_
    Rising to his feet, spear poised, he waited   17
    His hands closed over something   36
    On its neck it supported a weird creature   70
    "The boom! We must cut it!"   87
    With hands outstretched above his head, he waited for the great
    moment   122
    Piang reached up on tiptoe to pluck a ripe mango   139
    Gracefully the little slave-girl eluded Piang and Sicto   149
    Over and over they rolled, splashing and fighting   167
    A shrill whistle echoed through the forest   210
    "Juramentado! Gobernado!" faintly whispered Piang   227
    The water spout caught the eggshell praus in its toils   261



                "Do you know the fragrant stillness of the orchid
                        scented glade,
                Where the blazoned, bird-winged butterflies
                        flap through?"



THE ADVENTURES OF PIANG
THE MORO JUNGLE BOY


Piang is a real boy. Dato Kali Pandapatan is a real Moro chief. The
Moro is not a Filipino.

When I returned from my life among the natives of the lower
Philippines, I was appalled to find that America was not only ignorant
of, but entirely indifferent to our colonies across the seas. The
general impression seemed to be that Manila was a delightful Spanish
city, and that Manila was the Philippines. That there are several
thousand little islands in the Philippine group, each harboring its
distinct tribe, each with its own dialect and religion, was entirely
unknown. Impressed by the nobility of the Moro in contrast to the
other tribes of the archipelago, by his unfortunate treatment and his
possibilities for development, I found myself taking up his cause,
and was repaid by intense interest wherever I launched forth on my
pet subject. I was so successful that gradually I began to idealize
the Moro, weaving around him, not the "might have beens," but the
"might be's." Hence, "The Adventures of Piang."

Many of our military heros of other days share the honors with Piang;
their exploits and privations are a romance in themselves, and among
these pages the army and navy will recognize stories that have long
since become history. I am indebted to Dean Worcester for statistics
and a great deal of information on the origin and development of the
Moro. Indeed some of Piang's adventures are actual incidents of Dean
Worcester's travels. Robinson and Foreman have given me much material,
and I find their books authentic and true chronicles of the Malay
people. But most of all I am indebted to that great and wise man,
Colonel John P. Finley, United States Army, who during his term as
civil governor of the Moro provinces, did more to help a down-trodden
people than any Christian who has ever attempted to bring them to
the true light.

Anticipating carping criticisms from geographic purists, the author
is ready to admit taking liberties with longitudes and latitudes,
juggling lakes and mountains to the envy of Atlas, in order to serve
the picturesque and romantic purposes of Piang.

Some of the stories in this volume appeared in the juvenile magazines,
"St. Nicholas," "What To Do," and "Boys' World," and are reprinted
through the courtesy of the editors.



FIRST ADVENTURE

THE CHARM BOY


In the warm Celebes Sea, four hundred miles south of Manila, lies the
romantic, semi-mysterious island of Mindanao, home of the Moro. For
three centuries Spain struggled to subjugate this fierce people,
with little or no success, and she turned them over to America with
a sigh of relief. Perpetual warfare is the pastime of the Moro; it
is his sport, his vocation; and the Mother Jungle hurls a livelihood
at his feet. Food, clothing, shelter are his birthright.

One of the most powerful tribes of Moroland is ruled by Dato (chief)
Kali Pandapatan. Far up in the hills dwells this powerful clan,
arrogant and superior in its power. Piang, the chosen of Allah,
dwells among them; haughtily the boy accepts their homage as his due,
for he is destined to become their ruler some day. His prowess and
bravery are the boast of his people, and the name of Piang is known
from one end of Mindanao to the other.

The tribe was assembled for the ceremony. Within the hollow square
stood Dato (chief) Kali Pandapatan and old Pandita (priest) Asin. There
was a rustle of expectancy among the onlookers; their interest was
divided between the two solitary figures, silently waiting, and a
hut, much bedecked with gaudy trappings and greens. On all sides the
silent jungle closed in around the brilliant throng, seeming to bear
witness against mankind; men might force a tiny clearing in its very
heart after years of struggle and work, but the virgin forest sang on,
undisturbed, watchful.

The grass flaps, forming the door of the hut, moved. Like a soft wind
caressing the palm-trees, a murmur rustled through the crowd:

"It is he!"

Children scrambled away from restraining parents to get a better view;
dogs, filled with uneasiness by this strange silence, whined. The
stillness was unnatural. Distant cries of a mina-bird floated to this
strained audience; the river, muttering its plaints to the listening
rushes, sounded like a cataract in their ears.

Into the midst of this crowd walked a stately, graceful youth. The
dusky goldenness of his skin was enhanced by his rainbow-hued
garments. From waist to ankle he was encased in breeches as tight as
any gymnast's pantaloons; they were striped in greens and scarlets
and had small gold filigree buttons down the sides. A tight jacket,
buttoned to the throat, was fastened with another row of buttons,
and around his waist was gracefully tied a crimson sash, the fringed
ends heavy with glass beads and seed-pearls. A campilan (two-handled
knife, double-edged), and a pearl-handled creese (dagger) were thrust
into the sash. With arrogant tread he advanced, the ranks dividing
like a wave before an aggressive war-prau. His piercing black eyes
expressed utter indifference, and he ignored those gathered to witness
his triumph. Only once he seemed to smile when the little slave girl,
Papita, timidly touched his arm. The rebuke that fell upon her from the
others, brought a frown to the boy's face, but he continued to advance
until he stood beside Dato Kali Pandapatan and Pandita Asin. Here,
like a sentinel giant, bereft of his nearest kin, one monster tree
remained standing. It seemed to whisper to its distant mates, who
nodded answer from their ranks at the edge of the clearing. Under
this tree Piang paused, gazing fixedly at his beloved chief.

"Piang," said Kali, "the time has come for you to prove that you are
the chosen of Allah."

A perceptible rustle followed this.

"On the night of your birth, the panditas announced that the charm
boy, who was to lead the tribe to victory, would be born before
the stars dimmed. Your cry came first, but there was another, also,
fated to come to us that night. The mestizo (half-breed) boy, Sicto,
opened his eyes before that same dawn, and you are destined to prove
which is the chosen Allah." Anxiously the Moro men and women gazed
at their idol, Piang. His manly little head was held high, and the
powerful shoulders squared as he listened.

The sun, but lately risen, bathed the multitude in its early light
and chased the light filigree of moisture from the foliage. Through
the branches of the solitary tree, wavy sunbeams made their way to
flicker and play around Piang, and one bold dart seemed to hesitate
and caress the mass of glossy, black hair.

"Sicto!" called Kali. There was another murmur, but very different
from the one that had preceded Piang's coming. From the same hut
came forth another boy. A little taller than Piang, was Sicto, lean
and lank of limb. His skin was a dirty cream color, more like that
of the Mongolian than the warm tinted Mohammedan. His costume was
much like Piang's, but it was not carried with the royal dignity of
the other boy's. Sicto's head was held a little down; the murky eyes
avoided meeting those of his tribesmen, and his whole attitude gave
the impression of slinking. The high cheek-bones and slightly tilted
eyes bore evidence of the Chinese blood that flowed in his veins,
and the tribe shuddered at the thought of Sicto as charm boy. He
advanced with a shambling gait.

"Sicto, it is given that you shall have your chance." Kali Pandapatan
spoke loudly, a frown on his brow. "Piang is of our own blood, and
we, one and all, wish him to be our charm boy, but there shall be no
injustice done. Born under the same star, within the same hour, it is
not for me to decide whether you or Piang is the Heaven-sent." Turning
to the pandita, Kali whispered something. The old man nodded and
advanced a few steps, saying:

"My people, I shall leave it to you, whether or not I have made a wise
decision. There is no way for us to prove the claim of either of these
boys, so I am sending them to seek the answer for themselves." Asin
paused, and the crowd moved. "On yonder mountain dwells the wise
hermit, Ganassi. He has lived there for many years, apart from man,
alone in the jungle with beast and reptile.

There are no trails to his haunt; no man has seen Ganassi for a
generation, but that he still lives we know, for he answers our signal
fires each year and replies to our questions." Turning to the two boys,
he addressed them directly: "The mountain where he dwells has been
named after him, Ganassi Peak, and friends through the hills will
direct you toward it. You shall both start at the same time, but by
different routes. One leads through the jungle, over the hills; the
other follows the river to its head-water, the lake. Old Ganassi will
guide the real charm boy to him; he is great; he is ubiquitous. Have
no fear of the jungle or its creatures, for he will be with you."

Amazement and joy were written on Piang's face. He was to penetrate
the jungle at last, alone! His heart thrilled at the thought of the
adventures waiting for him there, and with radiant face he turned
toward the inviting forest.

"Piang! Piang!" resounded through the stillness, as the excited Moros
watched him.

Sicto stood, head down, wriggling his toes in the sand. He did not
like the idea of the lonely jungle, or the thought of the long hard
days between him and Ganassi Peak, but he did not speak.

With solemn ceremony the pandita prepared to anoint the boys according
to the rites of the tribe. A slave boy ran lightly forward and sank
on his knees before the pandita. On his head he bore a basket covered
with cool, green leaves. Praying and chanting, the priest uncovered
the basket, revealing two beautiful dazzlingly white flowers.

"The champakas!" cried Papita in amazement as the rare flowers
were exposed. An admonishing hand was placed over her lips. Slowly
Asin raised the flowers, heavy with dew, above the two boys, and the
clear, crystal drops fell upon their heads. Across the sky trailed a
flock of white rice-birds; as they flitted across the clearing, their
shadows leaped from one picturesque Moro to another; a twig snapped,
startling a baby, who cried out. The spell was broken.

The chant was taken up by the entire tribe, and slowly at first, they
began to revolve around the central figures. As their excitement
grew, the pace quickened, until they were whirling and gyrating
at a reckless rate. Like a pistol-shot came the command to cease,
and quietly all returned to their original places. Kali Pandapatan
raised his hand for silence.

"I shall throw my creese into the air. Sicto, you may have first
choice. Do you choose the point, or the flat fall?"

Sicto considered:

"If the creese falls without sticking into the ground, I shall choose
my route first."

The crowd instinctively pushed a little closer as Kali tossed the
shining blade into the air. A gasp, forced from between some anxious
lip, broke the stillness. Every eye followed the course described by
the knife, and when it fell, clean as an arrow, the blade piercing
the earth, there was a sigh of relief. Piang was to have first choice.

"Piang, it is given that you shall choose. Will you proceed by the
river or take your chances with the jungle? One route is as safe as
another, and only the real charm boy can reach Ganassi."

"I will go by the river," Piang answered quietly, with great dignity.



It was a beautiful day. To us, the heat would have been stifling,
the humidity distressing, but Piang loved it all and joyfully looked
forward to the trip up the river.

The trying ceremony over, the two candidates had hurried off to prepare
for the long journey. Cumbersome garments were discarded, and Piang
was clothed in the easy costume of the jungle traveler; breech-clout,
head-cloth, a sarong, flung carelessly over one shoulder, and a
_pañuelo_ (handkerchief) with a few necessary articles tied securely
in it. His weapons were a bolo, a creese, and a bow and arrow. Piang's
bare limbs, bronze and powerful, glistened in the brilliant sunshine,
and he was very picturesque as he paddled along the stream, dipping
his slim hands into the current, arresting objects that floated by. He
had made his _banco_ (canoe) himself; had even felled the palma brava
alone, and had spent days burning and chopping the center away, until
at last he was the proud possessor of one of the swiftest canoes on
the river. As on ice-boats, long outriggers of slender poles extended
across the banco, and the ends were joined by other bamboo poles, so
that the canoe looked like a giant dragon-fly as it skimmed lightly
over the water.

Piang stopped at a lily-pad to gather some of the inviting blossoms,
but regretted it instantly, as a swarm of mosquitos rose and enveloped
him. He thought to escape their vicious attacks by paddling faster,
but it was no use; they had come to stay. Trailing after him a long
uneven stream, they seemed to take turns in tormenting him, and as the
leaders became satiated, they fell back, allowing the rear rankers to
buzz forward and renew the attack. Piang longed for a certain kind
of moss that grows at the roots of trees, but his keen eyes could
not discover any.

It was almost all he could do, to paddle his banco and fight the pests;
his sarong was wrapped tightly around him, but it was no protection
against the savage mosquitos, and he was about to drop in the water
despite the crocodiles, when he spied some of the moss. With a cry
of relief, he headed toward the bank and managed to pull some into
the boat. Taking from his bundle a queerly shaped, wooden object,
he spun it like a top, rapidly, backward and forward in a pan until
smoke appeared at the point of the rod. Powdering some bark, he threw
it into the pan, and when it began to blaze, he added some of the
damp moss. Gradually a thick, pungent smoke arose. It curled upward,
enveloping him and almost choking him with its overwhelming aroma,
but it dispelled the mosquitos immediately, and Piang continued his
journey unmolested.

He was very happy that morning, for was he not free, honored by his
tribe, and engaged in the dearest of pastimes, adventure? The poor
little girls have no choice in their occupations, for as soon as they
are large enough, their tasks are allotted to them; they must sit all
day and weave, or wear out their little backs pounding rice in the big
wooden bowls. But the man child is free. The jungle is his task. He
must learn to trap game, to find where the fruits abound, and to avoid
the many dangers that wait for him. Piang broke into a native chant:

"Ee-ung pee-ang, unk ah-wang!" As it resounded through the forest in
his high-pitched, nasal tones, he was answered from the trees, and
little, gray monkeys came swinging along to see who their visitor might
be. Piang mischievously tossed a piece of the smoking moss to the bank
and paused to see the fun. Their almost human coughs, as the smoke
was wafted their way, made him laugh. They scampered down, tumbling
over each other in their anxiety to be first, and one little fellow,
who succeeded in out-distancing the others, stuck its hand into the
smoldering embers. Astonished, at first, it nursed the injured member,
but gradually becoming infuriated, it finally shrieked and jumped up
and down. It began to pelt the smudge madly with stones, chattering
excitedly to its companions, as if describing the tragedy. The others
had climbed back into the trees, paying no attention to Piang, but
keeping a watchful eye on the danger that had been hurled among them.

Piang lazily plied his paddle, laughing to himself at the foolishness
of monkeys. He tried to peer through the dense trees that crowded
toward the river, hiding the secrets of the jungle. He wanted to know
those secrets, wanted to match his strength against the numberless
dangers that are always veiled by that twilight, which the sun strives
in vain to penetrate, year after year, turning away discouraged. Piang
listlessly examined the river, little knowing the perilous adventure
that waited for him just beyond the bend.

One lone log, majestic in its solitude, floated down the river,
resisting the efforts of tenacious creepers to bind and hold it
prisoner. Piang poked it with his paddle. Another was floating in
its wake, and he idly tapped this, also. It stirred, turned over,
and disappeared under the boat.

"_Boia!_" ("Crocodile!") breathed the startled boy. He had disturbed
one of the sleeping monsters! Piang's heart beat very fast, and a
shudder passed through him as he felt something bump the bottom of
the boat. The crocodile was just beneath him and if it rose suddenly,
it would upset him. One, two, three seconds he waited, but they were
the longest seconds Piang had ever known. There was a slight movement
astern; the boat tipped forward, swerved, and before Piang could right
himself, a vicious snort startled him. The crocodile was lashing the
water with its tail, and the light shell was pitching and rolling
dangerously. Piang scrambled to his knees.

There are only two vulnerable spots on a full-grown crocodile;
under the left fore leg, where the heart can be pierced, and the
jugular vein, easily reached through the opened jaws. Piang, in
the bow of the boat, paused, arm raised, waiting for a favorable
opportunity. The canoe was being swept backward, stern first, and
the crocodile swam close, nosing it, making it careen perilously. Any
moment the merciless jaws might close over the brittle wood, crushing
it to splinters. The small, bleary eyes seemed to devour Piang as
they tortured him with suspense, but he patiently waited for his
chance, knowing that he would only have one. The banco gave a jerk
as it bumped into an obstruction, and the impact forced it outward
a few feet. The moment had come. As the crocodile plunged forward,
Piang thrust his spear into its breast. There was a gurgling sound,
a swishing of the water, and the Ugly thing rolled over on its back.

Piang never could remember just how he escaped. From every sheltered
cove, from behind innocent-looking snags, appeared the heads of hungry
crocodiles, awakened by the fight. Luckily they were attracted by the
blood of Piang's victim, and he skilfully avoided the clumsy animals
as they rushed after the fast disappearing meal. One powerful monster
succeeded in dragging the body into the rushes, and the noise of the
dispute, as they fought over their unfortunate mate, nauseated the
boy. His arms were tired and stiff and his head was reeling, but he
bravely worked at the paddle until he reached a bend of the river. It
had been a narrow escape, and Piang had learned a lesson. Never again
would he idly thump logs in a stream!

The boat suddenly came to a standstill. It was turning as if on
a pivot. It had been caught in one of the numerous eddies at the
mouth of a small tributary stream. Vigorously he strove to gain
the channel. He hugged the bank, hoping to free himself from the
whirlpool, but his outrigger became entangled in some weeds, and
the boat slowly began to tip. Frantically he reached toward the
tall nipa-palms, nodding over his head, but their flimsy stalks gave
easily, and he was almost thrown out of the boat. The sparkling water,
as if laughing at his predicament, caressed the helpless craft,
drawing it closer and closer to its bosom. The banco gave a lurch;
it was tipping; it shipped a quantity of water. All Piang's weight
thrown against the upturned outrigger had no effect. Helplessly,
he looked into the green, whirling depths.

There was only one thing to be done. Taking a long breath, he grabbed
his creese and dived. Down, down; the current pulled and tugged at
him; the rush of sand and mud blinded him, and he was almost swept out
into the river. But he managed to catch hold of the roots that were
twined about the boat and finally cut the banco free. With a bound it
started down the river. The empty shell, at the mercy of the waves,
danced and frolicked like a crazy thing, and Piang was almost stunned
by a blow from the outrigger as it passed him.

The boat was rushing right back into the midst of the crocodiles,
but he bravely struck out after it. There was no chance for him if he
failed to reach it. The whispering rushes and feathery palms at the
water's edge hid evil-smelling mud, festering with fever, the home
of reptiles and crocodiles. Desperately the boy strove to overtake
the boat, and just as he was giving up hope, a friendly snag tempted
the runaway to pause, and Piang's strong, young hand closed over the
outrigger. Then began the task of climbing back. A sudden movement
might release the banco, and it would continue its mad flight, which he
would be powerless to stop. Keeping his eye on the frail-looking snag,
he threw himself on his back in the water and worked his way along the
outrigger as he would climb a tree. Finally his hand touched the body
of the boat, and, cautiously turning over, he sat straddling the bamboo
frame. It was all he could do to keep from jumping into the boat,
but he restrained his impatience and started worming over the side.

Half-way in his heart gave a leap! He could hear the swish-swish of
the water on the other side of the banco as something made its way
toward him. The eddy was the only thing that saved him, for he could
see the dread thing twirling round and round as it tried to reach
him. The boy was almost paralyzed with fear. As long as the crocodile
was on the other side of the boat, he was safe, but now--the snag
creaked, stirred.

Piang made one heroic effort, lifted himself clear of the water,
and fell exhausted into the boat. He was not a moment too soon. The
crunching sound, as the support began to give under the strain, was a
fit accompaniment to the snarling and snapping of the crocodile, which,
deprived of its prey, was lashing the water, trying to reach the frail
outriggers. Piang thought he had never been swept through the water
so rapidly, and that he would never gain control of his boat. Louder
and clearer came the sounds of the fighting monsters beyond the bend,
and there between him and safety lurked his latest enemy.

An impertinent, ridiculous twitter came from a tiny scarlet-crowned
songster, as if it were trying to advise and direct the hard-pressed
boy. Its solemn, round eyes stared at him, reproving and admonishing
him for his foolhardiness. Piang, on his knees, struggling with the
current, was unaware of his audience. Gradually he worked the boat
around and headed up-stream, straight for the crocodile. Surprised by
this sudden change in tactics, it snorted and opened its repulsive
jaws. Piang had hoped to catch it in this position, so, pressing
forward as rapidly as possible, he took careful aim and hurled his
knife into its mouth. Rising to his feet, spear poised, he waited
to see if the knife would be effective. The creature floundered and
slashed the water, gave a blood-curdling bellow, and rolled over on
its back, dead. A crocodile fights with its last breath to remain on
its belly, for if not dead, it drowns as soon as it turns over.

Piang wanted his weapon. The body of the animal was caught by the
current and shot rapidly past him down-stream, but the boy, warned
by the commotion further down, hesitated to follow it. He realized,
however, that his knife was very valuable to him, and that he was
sure to have urgent need of it again, so he started after the ugly
body. The sparkling wavelets sported and capered with their grewsome
burden, sometimes dashing it against some stray log, again bearing it
far across the river as if purposely assisting it to elude its pursuer.

Piang skilfully guided his banco in its wake, and finally succeeded in
thrusting his spear into its side, and pulled it toward the bank. The
knife was embedded far down in the terrible jaws, and Piang wondered
if he dared reach into them. He looked at the tusk-like teeth, the
first he had ever seen at close quarters, but he remembered with a
shudder the wounds that he had helped care for--wounds made by such
poisonous tusks.

Mustering his courage, he slowly extended his hand into its mouth. The
big, wet tongue flopped against his hand; the powerful jaws quivered
spasmodically, and the hot, fetid steam from the throat sickened
him. His knife! He must get it! Desperately he tugged at the handle;
it would not loosen its hold. Cold sweat broke out all over Piang. A
new sound arrested him. The crocodiles below had already smelled the
blood of the second victim and were plunging up-stream to find it. The
boy thought the knife would never come out. He worked and twisted,
and finally it gave so suddenly, that he lost his balance, and by a
quick turn of his body just saved himself from another ducking. It
was lucky for Piang that he finished when he did, for around the
curve in the river, headed directly toward him, came the crowding,
vicious scavengers.

Gathering his wits quickly, he pushed forward. The snorting and
fighting grew more and more distant; the peaceful river stretched
out before him like a silver road beckoning him to safety, and he
offered a prayer of thanksgiving to Allah, the Merciful, that he had
been spared that awful death.



It was nearly evening when Piang beached his banco and took up the
trail to the village where he was to spend his first night. Confidently
he trotted through the jungle, picking his way easily among the
gathering shadows. Soon voices became distinguishable, and he heard
tom-toms beating the evening serenade. Dogs howled in  response,
women chattered, boys quarreled. To Piang this represented the usual
day's peaceful ending.

As he trotted into the clearing and paused before the hut of the dato,
the curious crowded around him: mothers to see if the stranger's
muscles could compare with their lads'; girls to flaunt their charms;
boys to measure him with their eyes. Piang had no interest in anything
but the boys, and as soon as the dato condescended to greet him with
the customary salutation for guests, he was left in peace to join
them at their interrupted game of pelota.

Twilight comes quickly in the tropics. When darkness had fallen,
each family was squatting beside its rice pot, and as the night
silence deepened, the village slept. Piang had asked for no shelter,
and no invitation had been extended, but he silently accepted the
hospitality, according to the strange Moro codes.

Slumber claimed the inhabitants of the barrio, but all around the
jungle woke to the night. Noxious blooms raised their heads to drink
in the deadly moisture; hungry pythons took up their silent vigil
at water holes; night prowlers slunk in the gloom to spring on the
more defenseless creatures, and over it all the inscrutable jungle
kept watch, passing silent judgment on man and beast, in this great
scheme of life.



SECOND ADVENTURE

THE FLOATING ISLAND


Like a mirror framed in soft velvet green, the lake broke upon
Piang. In the still noon heat the motionless water scintillated
and sparkled and the powerful rays of the sun seemed to penetrate
to the very bottom. Dragon-flies and spiders skated merrily about,
eluding the ever-watchful fishes lying in wait amid forests of lacy
seaweeds and coral. Tall, stately palms, towering above their mates,
scorned to seek their reflections in the clear depths, but frivolous
bamboo and nipa-palms swayed gently out over the water, rustling and
chattering with delight at their mirrored images.

Piang slipped through the mouth of the creek and gazed in amazement at
the vast sheet of water. Stories of the lake and its wonderful floating
islands had lured him from the more direct route to Ganassi Peak, and
he eagerly searched for one of the curiosities. His eyes focused on a
dot of green far in the distance. It was moving, turning, and suddenly
a whole fleet of dancing, playful islands became distinct. Joyfully
Piang started in pursuit. He wanted to see one, to touch it. Swiftly
he flew through the water. As if detecting his purpose, the nomad
islands eluded him. As soon as he chose one to pursue, it flaunted
its charms the more and capered and dodged behind its fellows. Like a
giant may-pole, the largest island held several smaller ones in leash,
permitting them to revolve around it, interlacing vines and creepers
that were rooted on the mother isle. Monkeys and jungle creatures
crept fearlessly along these natural ropes, sporting from one island
to another. Hablar-birds and aigrets squabbled over bits of rice
and wild fruits. Piang caught sight of a civet-cat crouching in a
tree on one island. It had probably gone to sleep in that tree while
the island was nosing the mainland and had awakened to find itself
adrift. Sometimes these floating islands would be held to the shore
for years, intertwining liana (climbing plants of tropical forests)
and _bajuca_ (jungle rope), but sooner or later some wild storm is
sure to set them wandering again.

There were weird tales of early Dyak settlers. These Borneo pirates had
fled to Mindanao to escape justice, bringing many cruel and terrible
customs that were to take root and bear fruit among the tribes of the
sultan. A favorite pastime of the Dyaks had been to bind captives to
a stray island and lead it slowly and tantalizingly to the mammoth
waterfalls, shouting and dancing with glee as it plunged into the
abyss.

The lake was like a fairy-land. Purple lotus flowers surrounded the
boat. Piang dipped his hands into the cool water, and pulled them
up by long slender roots; lily-pads offered their beauties and soon
the banco was a bower of fragrant and brilliant flowers. Playfully
Piang caught at a vine, floating in the wake of an island. The
natural boat led him gently about, twisting and circling back and
forth. He laughed merrily. The islands were too funny! They seemed
almost human in their antics. Some had regular routes, and, like mail
boats touched the same spot again and again, only to be hurried on
as the current caught them. Others with malicious intent strayed in
the path of their more systematic brothers, bumping and jarring them
with obstinate regularity.

The joy of freedom thrilled Piang; the intimacy with nature and its
mysteries stirred within him a desire to know more, feel more, and
he gazed at the distant peak where his fortune awaited him, wondering
if the old hermit, Ganassi, was in reality watching for his coming.

Toward afternoon Piang became conscious of a heavy steam-like
vapor rising from the undergrowth at the edge of the jungle; the
atmosphere grew suddenly sticky and sultry. Almost within a moment
the brilliant sunshine was blotted out, and a gray twilight settled
over the lake. Frightened birds, squawking and screaming, hurried by;
a fawn, drinking at the water's edge, darted off through the jungle. A
slight frown rippled across the water; the breeze chilled Piang. Trees
in the distance seemed to bend nearly double with no apparent cause,
but the rush of wind finally swept the whole valley, and the jungle
shuddered and swayed before it. The storm seemed an animate thing,
seemed to come upon the peacefulness of the lake like an evil genius,
hurling its fury upon nature and her creatures.

Piang had never been alone in a typhoon. In bewilderment he looked
about, wondering where he could find shelter. He watched the birds,
the animals; his boat brought up against something with a thud. An
island had bumped into him, and he realized in dismay what a menace the
pretty toys might become in a typhoon. Struggling with the tempest,
Piang fought past the islands, reached the shore, turned his banco
bottom side up, and crept underneath.

The violent wind began to dash loose objects about, tearing limbs
off trees and hurling them aloft as if they were mere splinters. A
cocoanut crashed down, striking the ground near Piang; another fell,
and yet another. Then the rain came in torrents. It fell unevenly
as if poured by mighty giants from huge buckets. The ground beneath
Piang was swaying, undulating. A tree crashed to the ground, tearing
away vines and ferns. As he began to experience the motion of a boat,
Piang became thoroughly alarmed and, dashing aside the banco, sprang
to his feet.

Terror flashed into his heart. What was happening? He had landed on
the mainland and put his banco under a big tree, and now this tree
was pitching and swaying, its branches sweeping the ground. The tree
was being uprooted, and the earth at Piang's feet was plowed up as
roots tore through the surface. The next tree was being felled in the
same manner, and as his eyes darted about, he beheld everywhere the
same terrifying picture. These mighty monuments of time, trees older
than man, were being torn from their beds and thrown to the ground
or left standing against each other for support. It seemed to be
only the trees in Piang's vicinity that were doomed to destruction,
and, although it was a dangerous thing to attempt, Piang decided to
seek another shelter. He took a few difficult steps forward and was
almost stunned by the immense fall of water. It dashed into his face,
beat upon his head in a stinging, hissing mass; it ran in streams
down his arms and legs, making him heavy and clumsy. As he caught at
a tree for support, it groaned under his weight and crashed to earth;
the ground was giving way, and he felt himself sinking. With a scream,
he freed himself, and, jumping to a fallen tree, clung desperately,
hoping to escape flying missiles. Just as he gathered himself for
another advance his heart gave a jump. Through the mad rage of the
typhoon, he could hear quick breathing! The ground tipped and swayed
alarmingly, tossing trees about like masts on a ship in distress.

"_Linug!_" ("Earthquake!") moaned Piang. Bravely the boy crept forward,
knife in hand. Whatever it was, hiding under that log, Piang must
take his chances; if he remained where he was he would certainly be
killed by falling trees. His feet made a sucking sound; a vivid flash
of lightning blinded him, and it was all he could do to force his
way through the wall of water that was pounding down upon him. With
a desperate effort, he pulled himself along by vines, hoping to pass
the unknown animal before it could leap; but the branches stirred,
and he sprang back with a cry.

"_Babui!_" ("Wild boar!") he gasped. The creature's head shook
with fury; its teeth were bared, and the tiny red eyes flamed
with anger. The babui had the largest tusks Piang had ever seen,
and he grasped his bolo firmly to meet the rush. One second, two
seconds--the suspense was fearful, and Piang wondered why the boar
did not attack. Strained almost beyond his endurance, he stood, rigid
and cold, waiting. The wind sucked at his breath; the torrents of
water, dashing in his face, kept him blinking and gasping, and still
that wild thing pawed and snorted. Fascinated, Piang gazed into the
vicious, bleary eyes, and finally he realized that they were losing
some of their fury; the tusks sank into the spongy earth; the head
fell lower. The babui was a prisoner, pinioned to the ground by a
fallen tree! Relief was Piang's first sensation, but pity for the
animal and fear for himself, roused him to the realization of new
dangers yet to be faced. He must plunge into the dense jungle; it was
only a short distance now. He glanced back to be sure that the babui
could not free itself; it was swaying and moaning, unable to move.

As Piang paused to get his directions, the earth gave a tremendous
jerk, which threw him on his face. He lay stunned for a few minutes and
when he rose to his knees, he had the sensation of floating gently,
softly. The jerking and trembling had ceased, and the ground swayed
soothingly. Piang turned toward the jungle, to the spot where he
had been about to step. Could he believe his eyes? Almost numb with
terror, he gazed stupidly into the receding jungle. He was on land,
but he was floating. He was sailing away from the jungle! Piang had
taken refuge on a floating island.

In despair he gazed about him, trying to penetrate the thickly driving
rain. He was on the very edge of the island and he wondered why he had
not been swept into the lake. The mass of vegetation, wrenched from
its bed, trailed along in the water as the nomad island whirled and
danced on the angry waves. A tree, the branches of which were hanging
in the water, was pulled from its bed, dragging part of the island
with it. One long vine struggled to right itself against the current,
to gain the shelter of the island again. It seemed most lifelike, and
suddenly Piang realized with a shudder that it was alive. A python had
been knocked from the falling tree and was being dragged along. Only
the end of its tail was twined about a log; desperately it strove
to work its way back, and Piang watched with dread. Its struggles
grew weaker and weaker, and finally its head sank below the waves,
and it joined the unresisting creepers that were being dragged along
to destruction.

Piang leaned wearily against the only tree that remained standing;
the fall of water, tearing down the trunk, cascaded over the jungle
boy, and he raised his hand to shield his eyes. What had saved the
solitary tree, Piang could not imagine, until he discovered a small
diamond-shaped cut in the bark. He drew back with a shudder. Two
crossed arrows were carved within the diamond. This was another Dyak
custom so hateful to the Mohammedan; the tree was the sarcophagus of
some Borneo chief. A century must have passed since the burial, for
the incision was almost obliterated, but Piang knew that the mummy
of his enemy reposed in savage dignity within the heart of the tree,
and that the Dyak belief was that the tree could not fall or decay. He
fought his way to the other side of the island. On it sped. Cries of
frightened animals came faintly from the mainland; screams of birds,
beaten to earth, pierced the din.

A tremor ran through the island. There was a tearing sound as if
strong timbers were being forced apart; the whole mass stood still,
then came a tremendous crash. It had collided with the fleet that
Piang had been sporting with only an hour before. Surely the stray
bits of jungle would crush each other to bits. A gray streak flew
past Piang, and a frightened monkey, thinking to save itself from
the other derelict, nearly landed on the babui. Paying no attention
to either the boy or the babui, the monkey shrank against a log and
hid its head, whining piteously.

A pale light broke through the gloom, and the rain ceased as suddenly
as it had come. Piang's heart gave a bound as he watched the tempest
abate. Suddenly he straightened himself and strained his ears to catch
a new sound. What was that deep, distant rumbling? A cry so piteous
broke from him, that even the dying babui started. The falls! He could
hear them distinctly and realized that he was rushing toward them
at a mad pace. Louder and clearer grew the thunder of those falls,
and Piang's staunch little heart rebelled. He would not stand there
like a Dyak prisoner! He would do something. He would save himself! A
blazing flash rent the heavens and Piang caught sight of Ganassi Peak
frowning and lowering in the clouds. Ganassi! If he only knew! No,
it was too late. The falls roared hungrily, and nothing could keep
the island from plunging to destruction.

Slowly Piang rose to his full height, and, folding his arms, determined
to die bravely. He could see the upper falls now, high above his
head, and he pictured the greater falls below him--the falls that
were waiting to swallow his island. He tried to remember the prayer
for such an occasion, but none came to him.

"There is no God but Allah!" muttered the terrified boy.

The island was pitching again as obstacles caught at it, spinning it
around and around. Each thing that it struck on its reckless journey
tore portions from it; gradually it became smaller. The light grew
steadily clearer, and Piang could see what awaited him. Massive rocks
loomed up at the head of the falls, and he calmly wondered if he would
be killed before the plunge. The side of the island where he stood
began to give way, and, although he was to die in a few minutes,
instinct made him move to the other side. He tried to walk, but
the ground gave at each step. He crawled along the trunk of a tree
and unexpectedly came upon the monkey. The little creature was still
huddled against the log and showed no fear of Piang; it whined louder,
seeming to sense the rapidly approaching danger.

Suddenly the monkey jumped into the tree, and Piang followed it with
his eyes. It seemed to be gathering itself for a greater leap. As
Bruce watched the spider, so Piang, fascinated, kept his eyes on
the little wild thing. Gradually it dawned on him that the monkey
had discovered an avenue of escape! The island had veered off and
was fast approaching a monster boulder that would surely break it in
two. Growing on it were vines and trees hanging far out over the water.

Piang stumbled along and somehow made his way to the burial tree. A
moment he paused, awed by a superstitious fear of the dead, but a
violent clap of thunder terrified him into forgetting all but his
immediate danger. There were only a few moments left; if he could
reach the top of the tree before the island dashed past the vines, he
might save himself. His hands tremblingly sought the notches sacred
to the dead; he scrambled upward. Thorns pierced his tired limbs;
vines and creepers took vicious delight in fastening themselves upon
him. The tree shook as the monkey jumped farther out on a limb, and
the movement seemed to put new strength in Piang. As he struggled up,
a calmness came to him. He carefully watched the monkey, and when
it crouched for the spring, Piang searched the approaching vines for
one strong enough to hold him.

In a moment it would all be over. What if he jumped too soon or too
late? What if the vine proved too frail? The monkey was crouching
for the leap. The branch that Piang was clinging to bent under
his weight. The monkey flashed through the air, made a desperate
grab, and swung out of sight. In a daze, Piang prepared to follow;
breathlessly he watched for his chance. With a prayer on his lips and
with a mighty effort, he sprang straight out into space. His hands
closed over something small and round. A dizziness came over him.

In dismay he felt the vine give, as if uncoiling itself from a
windlass. Down, down he fell until his feet touched the soggy earth
of the island. Still the vine uncoiled; the island crashed into the
boulder. Desperately Piang tried to climb the vine, but its slackness
offered no resistance. Slowly the island began to tip, to slide
over the falls, and Piang made one more effort to save himself. As
he grasped the vine more firmly, it brought up with a quick jerk,
almost breaking his hold.

He felt the vine tighten, heard it creak and groan under his weight,
and finally it lifted him clear of the island, swinging him far out
over the abyss like a weight at the end of a pendulum.

His island slid from under him, leaving him suspended in mid air;
in the second that he hung there, he could see the cruel rocks below,
the seething, steaming water. The stately funeral tree gently inclined
to the fall, and, with stern dignity, took the plunge. The dying
babui, flung far out into space, added its diminutive death-wail to
the din. The vine trembled over the chasm. Piang felt a quick rush
of air, a sickening feeling, as if he were rapidly falling; with a
tremendous impetus the vine swung back, crashed into a tree, and,
with the agility of the monkey, Piang climbed to safety.

"There is no God but Allah!" came from the strained lips, and the
boy turned his eyes toward the setting sun as it struggled to pierce
the gloom.

"_Bulutu!_" ("Rainbow!") he cried, and a faint smile flitted across
his bruised and bleeding face.

Startled by a movement at his side, Piang found the frightened monkey
trying to thrust its head under his arm. Taking the trembling little
creature up, Piang pillowed it against his breast. And so these
strange companions, the timid, wild monkey and the gentle, savage boy
crouched in the tree together, watching the typhoon beat out its fury
on the helpless things of nature, and ever clearer grew the _bulutu_
as it wreathed and crowned Piang's goal, Ganassi Peak.



THIRD ADVENTURE

THE HERMIT OF GANASSI PEAK


The silence was oppressive. Piang stumbled along through the tangle of
vines and weeds, tired and foot-sore. Would he never find the path to
the peak? And was there really a mysterious old man who had lived up
there for over a hundred years? Sicto was somewhere on that mountain,
striving to reach the summit too, and the pandita had said that the
boy who arrived first, was the real charm boy. They had both started
from the _barrio_ (village) the same day; Sicto had plunged into the
jungle, while Piang had chosen the river and lake. He shuddered at
the recollection of his many narrow escapes during the journey. Where
was his enemy, Sicto, now? Had he found an easier route, and was he
already with old Ganassi, receiving the rites of charm boy?

Unfamiliar with the vegetation on the mountain, Piang was afraid
to touch the many strange fruits, so he contented himself with
bananas and cocoanuts, and for water he drank dew from the enormous
pitcher-plants. The jungle was thick, and it was difficult to decide
in what direction to go, so Piang had to climb trees to get his
bearings. One day just as he was starting up a tall tree, he was
startled by a sound. Something was crashing through the bushes below
him. Visions of terrible mountain animals flashed through his head,
and he hastily scrambled up the tree. On came the creature, now pausing
a moment, now plunging into the mesh of vines, tearing them asunder,
always following the path Piang had made. Preparing himself for some
strange beast, the boy drew bow and waited. Suddenly he started. A cold
chill gripped him. That sound! It was a voice--Sicto's! Crouching
against the tree, Piang hoped to escape detection, but just as
Sicto passed beneath the tree, Piang's bow slipped and fell to the
ground. Sicto jumped aside and looked up:

"Oh, ho, my pretty Piang! So I've got you, have I?" The bully started
up the tree.

Like a flash Piang was away. As easily as any monkey he swung himself
into the next tree, and before Sicto realized it, Piang was taunting
him from the very top of a far-off tree. More agile and much smaller
than Sicto, Piang could easily travel in this way, and after a few
unsuccessful attempts to follow, Sicto jumped to the ground. Slyly
making his way along on foot, Sicto watched his rival. When Piang
thought he had outdistanced his pursuer, he slipped to the ground
and started off.

"Leeeeee lèlèlèlè ouiiiit!" The war-cry rang through the jungle,
and Piang knew that his life depended on his fleet-footedness. Over
fallen tree trunks, through dense cogon grass, Piang fled. His feet
were pierced by wicked thorns, and everything he touched seemed to
throw out a defense against him. Bamboo caught at his clothing and
held him prisoner; _bajuca_ vines clutched his weapons, hurling him
to the ground. Sicto was gaining on him. After poor Piang had made
the path through the jungle, it was easy enough for Sicto to follow.

On, up, fled the boy. He came to a clearing through which a mountain
stream was bubbling. The sun beat down; the stifling heat rising
from rotting vegetation took his breath away, but Piang ran on. What
was that black hole yawning in the mountain side? With a gasp, Piang
realized he was at the mouth of the haunted cave.

The brook, flowing swiftly down the mountain, plunged into the cave
and disappeared, to come to the surface about two miles away. It was
the home of the most terrible reptiles and animals, and the souls of
wicked people waited there for Judgment Day.

Piang scanned the precipitous cliffs, the impenetrable jungle, in
search of an avenue of escape. He was trapped. A gloating cry from
Sicto decided him. Sicto was a coward and would be afraid to follow
him, so Piang ran toward the cave. Had not the pandita said that
Ganassi would be with the real charm boy, and was not Piang sure of
that protection? Who but Piang was the charm boy?

Piang's courage began to flag, however, as he caught the cold, damp
odor from the cave, but he bravely plunged into the forbidding-looking
cavern. Man had probably never set foot in that place before. Creeping
along, he peered into the increasing darkness, but could see nothing. A
shriek startled him, and the sight that met his eyes made his blood
run cold. Sicto had started to follow Piang, but just as he came
to the opening, a huge python slipped across the mouth of the cave,
waving its enormous head from side to side. Sicto, trembling with fear,
retreated into the jungle, and as Piang saw him disappear, he longed
to be out again, fighting Sicto, anything, rather than penned up in
the cave with that frightful snake and the unknown horrors. There
was no turning back, however, for that sentinel continued to slip and
slide across the opening, and Piang bravely faced the two miles that
lay between him and the other end of the underground passage.

The air was heavy and moldy; the sides of the cave wet and
slippery. Once his hand touched something that moved, and he almost
fainted.

"I am the real charm boy," he whispered, "and nothing will hurt
me. Ganassi, the wonder man, is with me. Forward!"

Courageous and determined, the boy pressed on. A muffled cry resounded
through the passage. Flattening himself against the slimy wall,
Piang listened. He could not imagine what had made the sound, and he
unsheathed his knife. At times he followed the bed of the stream,
wading ankle-deep in the water, but the slippery stones turned or
tripped him, and when he stepped on something that moved, he groaned
and jumped to the narrow shelf-like ledge that overhung the water.

A faint light stole through the gloom. Was it the end? But surely
not, he had not gone more than a few hundred yards. He hurried
forward. Brighter, clearer, it grew. Suddenly the brook made a sharp
turn, and he found himself in a high, vaulted chamber, sparkling and
shimmering in the light from above. Piang was so glad to see daylight
again, faint as it was, that he did not stop to consider new dangers,
and eagerly ran forward. He searched the sides for support on which
to climb to the crevices, but the rotting vines and moss that lined
the walls gave at his touch, and he fell back discouraged. Something
crumbled under his body, and he discovered to his horror that he had
fallen on a skeleton. A man had been here before him, then? But closer
examination proved the bones to be those of a _packda_ (ape). Snakes
and worms wriggled out of the skeleton, and Piang shrank back in
fear. The dread hamadryad leered at him; poisonous toads and lizards
scurried for cover. How many more of these creatures would he encounter
before escaping from this dungeon? Would Ganassi protect him and lead
him safely through? Something seemed to tell the boy that he was safe
and with renewed faith, he prepared to continue the journey.

Everywhere the beauty of nature asserted itself. Pale green ferns
seemed to hold out beseeching arms toward the light; moss crept upward
hopefully, softening the rough ledges with its velvet touch. Great
stalagmites and stalactites, smothered in the embrace of lichen and
creepers, accepted the homage of the plant life indifferently. Piang
was blind to the sublimity of his surroundings, as he hurried
on. Carefully he stepped on the ledge; warily he held out his bolo
to ward off surprises. A sudden hiss made him leap into the stream,
and shuddering, he plunged on, down the black path. Would the stream
lead him to the sunlight again? Or was he burrowing into the depths
of the earth, never again to breathe the air of life?

Finally, after almost giving up hope, he heard the distant call of
a mina-bird. The jungle! Frantically he worked his way forward,
wondering if the mate to the sentinel at the other opening would
bar his passage. Daylight! Faintly, at the end of the long tunnel,
he could see the blessed green of the forest, but his cry of joy was
stilled; his hope of safety vanished. Again that mournful cry echoed
through the cavern, and he gave himself up for lost. The souls of
the wicked were pursuing him, would capture him, and make him pay
for intruding upon them! Piang reeled as he heard a splash in the
water behind him; he caught at something for support; it writhed out
of his hand. Paralyzed with fear, the boy scarcely breathed. On came
the pursuer, stealthily, warily. Reaching the end of his endurance,
Piang wheeled, and faced the cave. Something paused, whined, and a
streak flew past him. The fetid odor of a living creature brought
him to his senses, and his anxious eyes discerned the outline of a
civet-cat making its way to the opening.

As he struggled through those last few rods, Piang thought he had
never worked so hard in his life, but finally he lay in the sunshine,
safe, free, and unafraid.



For two days Piang struggled upward. Everything was strange to him;
the growths and trees were different from those of the lowlands. Scrub
palms, covered with small buds, on which the dread packda feeds,
began to appear, and Piang anxiously scanned the trees. There is no
creature in the jungle that has the strength of the packda. Only the
crocodile and the python are foolish enough to attack it, but the
crocodile's jaws are torn asunder, and the python is clawed to pieces.

"Piang!" The name echoed and vibrated through the forest. Who had
called him? Trembling with fear, filled with apprehension, Piang
took refuge in a tree. From the branches he scanned the surrounding
forest. Was a spirit following him from the haunted cave, or was it
the hated Sicto?

"Piang!" It came softly this time, as if from a greater distance. The
underbrush moved, and Piang prayed that it might not be a spirit come
to destroy him. The bush rustled, cracked, and parted as a dazzling
white head made its appearance. Piang shut his eyes, dreading what
was to come. Almost swooning, he slipped, lost his hold, and went
crashing through the branches. Stunned by the fall, it was sometime
before he regained consciousness, but the first thing he was aware of,
was a hot breath on his face. Slowly he opened his eyes, wondering if
he was dreaming. There, bending over him, was a marvelous white fawn.

Startled and ashamed, Piang looked at the lovely thing. He put out
his hand and the animal laid her soft muzzle in his palm, allowing
him to caress her. What did she want? Were some of her babies in
trouble? With his arm about the fawn's neck, Piang allowed himself
to be led along a well defined path, trodden by many feet.

"Piang!" Again his name was called, but for some reason fear had been
banished from his heart, and he advanced without a qualm. Presently
they came to one of the numerous jungle clearings. The sun did not
burn at this altitude, and Piang took a deep breath of the fresh,
crisp air. A flapping of wings startled him, and before he could
prevent, a brilliant mina-bird circled his head and gently lighted
on his shoulder. A soft white mist was floating around and below
him. The clouds! He was in them, "the breath of the wind," and he
thought that this must be fairyland.

"Piang!" This time the voice was near at hand. Both creatures responded
to the call, and Piang suffered himself to be led onward. The fawn
stopped near a gigantic banian-tree. It was the only tree in the
clearing and spread over more than an acre of ground, enticing the
surrounding creepers and orchids to its shelter. Piang had seen these
trees before, but never such a large one. The banian is like a huge
tent; each branch sends shoots to the ground, which take root and
become additional trunks, and year after year the tree increases its
acreage; hundreds of men can find shelter under these jungle temples.

"Piang!" The voice came from within the tree. Astonished, Piang
watched the mina-bird flit through the sunlight and disappear into
the banya. The fawn paused, looked gravely into the boy's eyes,
and with stately mien, walked into the tree.

"Thank you, my little friends, for bringing Piang to Ganassi," said
the voice from within.

Ganassi! So this was the haunt! This lovely natural dwelling, the
dread Ganassi's home! Expectantly, Piang waited. Was Ganassi a man,
or was he only a voice, the heart of this banian-tree? While he stood
gazing at the tree, waiting for the spirit to address him, or the man
to appear, he was startled by a black, shiny head, and the loathsome
coils of a python, writhing in the branches. The serpent! Piang
had heard that it could fascinate animals, keeping them prisoner by
its mystic powers, until ready to devour them. Ganassi was, then,
an evil spirit in the form of a serpent! Piang uttered a low cry.

"So, my little pet, you have frightened Piang, the charm boy! You
must not do that."

The snake, responding to the voice, stuck its head through the foliage
and slipped from sight.

The voice! The voice! It had called him the charm boy! Piang's fear
abated, and he said tremblingly:

"O great Ganassi, will you not show yourself to me,
Piang?" Breathlessly the boy listened. The branches swayed, parted,
and the mina-bird floated through. The python, head erect, followed,
and next came the graceful white form of his first friend. On its
neck it supported a weird creature. Bent and wrinkled, was the
little old man; a few strands of white hair flowed from his chin,
and his eyebrows and lashes had almost disappeared. Toothless, almost
hairless as he was, there was that about Ganassi that precluded horror,
for his sparkling eyes were kind, and his mouth gently curved into
a smile. Piang fell on his knees. The hermit surrounded by his pets,
advanced and raised the boy.

"My little Piang! So you have come to Ganassi at last. He has known
for many years that you would come. Long before you were born he knew,
and his heart is glad to welcome you."

"Is it true, O wise man, that I am the real charm boy, and that I
shall lead Kali Pandapatan's tribe to victory?"

"You have spoken, my son. It was over you, not the impostor, Sicto,
that the mystic star hovered on the night of your birth."

At the mention of his enemy's name, Piang quickly scanned the
surrounding jungle, but Ganassi's soft chuckle reassured him.

"Have no fear, child. Sicto can never harm you, nor will he ever reach
Ganassi. The python would smother him; the mina-bird would peck out
his eyes; the gentle fawn would lead him astray."

"How do you know all this, O Ganassi?"

"The question shall be answered, Piang, because you are charm boy,
but should other lips utter it, they should never speak again. Enter."

Ganassi held back the slender trunk-roots of the banian. Curiously,
the boy looked about. All the wonder of the jungle seemed centered
in this sacred spot. A forest of stems and aerial roots greeted his
eyes; from overhead the graceful and rare Vanda lowii sent inquisitive
blooms to caress his cheek; they mingled with his dark hair, scenting
the air with their strange fragrance. From tree-ferns, nestling in
the branches, tiny heads peeped out, and little feathered creatures
chirruped a welcome. A civet-cat was lazily stroking its face with one
paw. Something large and hairy stirred on a nest of dried grass, and
sleepily a full-grown packda stretched himself and gazed at Piang. The
python approached it, and a hairy paw was extended; his snakeship
coiled up beside the ape, and the mina-bird flew to the ape's shoulder.

Piang could scarcely believe his eyes. Here all was at peace, and
natural enemies forgot to fight and kill.

"Piang, all these creatures are going to be your friends."

Piang seated himself on the soft turf opposite Ganassi; the fawn
nosed her head under Piang's arm and sank by his side.

"The charm that I am about to give you will protect you from tempest,
danger, and deceit: no storm can destroy you; no animal can creep upon
you unaware, and no man can lie to you. You will become the wise man
of Mindanao, the guide of your people, the heart of the island."

Solemnly the boy followed the words of the old man.

"You shall be taught all the truths of the nation, and you shall pass
them along to the generations."

Piang's face brightened. At last he was to know the answers to many
puzzling questions.

"Ask what you will, boy. I will answer you truthfully and justly,
telling you the things as they are, as they have been since the day
of creation."

"Why, O Ganassi, must Mohammedans never eat the flesh of the wild
boar? It is forbidden that we touch pork, yet the Christians find it
good." Ganassi's brow clouded:

"Have you never heard of the Christian's God? Do you not know that we
hate Christians because they believe a Son of God could be killed by
man? They call him Christ, but we know that the Almighty is Toohan,
omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient. Their prophet Isa [Jesus]
once visited the great Mahomet, and when Mahomet demanded that he
divine what was in the room beyond, Isa refused, saying that he had
no wish to show power.

"'Answer correctly, or you pay for it with your life!' thundered
Mahomet. Isa then replied that he had two strange animals in the room.

"'Wrong!' cried Mahomet. 'You shall now be killed. My two beloved
grandchildren are behind those doors!' but when they were flung
open, two filthy boars ran out; Isa had changed the children into
pigs! And so, Piang, no true Mohammedan will eat the flesh of the
wild boar. Beware, lest you ever let a Christian hear this story;
it is not for us to acknowledge that Isa is greater than Mahomet."

Piang was shocked. No wonder his people abstained from the flesh of
the boar.

"Can you tell me what makes the sea rise and fall, and why the tides
rush in and flow out again?" asked Piang.

A smile broke over Ganassi's leathery features.

"In a far distant sea lives a giant crab; when he goes into his
hole, the water is pushed out, and when he comes forth for food, the
water rushes in." It was so simple that Piang laughed heartily. The
mina-bird, startled, squawked an admonition and fluttered to Piang's
lap.

"Where do we go when we die," asked the inquisitive boy.

Ganassi scouted the Christian's belief that heaven is in the
clouds. Were they not in the clouds now?

"When a child is born, the soul enters the body through the
opening left in the skull. This hole soon closes, confining the
spirit within. When death comes to a household in Moroland, have
you not seen the master of the house mount to the roof and remain
there through the night? Well, that is to prevent the evil spirit,
Bal-Bal, from entering. This dread creature sails through the air
like a flying Lemur (monkey), tears the thatch from the roof with
his terrible curved nails, scatters the defenders, and licks up the
body with his forked tongue of fire. The soul of this deceased never
reaches heaven. Your charm, Piang, will ward him off." The boy sat,
mouth open, eyes staring. "A soul is guided to a cave that leads deep
down in the earth, and there, between two gigantic trees, stands
Taliakoo, a giant, who tends the eternal fires. Taliakoo inquires
of the newcomer what he has to say for himself, and to the surprise
of the soul, something within it answers. Conscience, the witness,
replies, and according to the decree of this strange arbiter, the fate
of the soul is decided. If nothing but ill can be said for it, it is
pitched into the fire; if it has been good, it is allowed to pass on
to the abode of the blessed. The soul that meets with neither fate,
is punished according to its sins: if it has lied, its mouth pains;
if it has been a thief, its hands itch and burn, and eventually,
after the period of punishment is over, it precedes to heaven,
cleansed of its sins."

The big ape, sleeping soundly, emitted a snore so human, that Piang
laughed.

"Why does the packda look so like a man, Ganassi?"

"Because he once _was_ a man," was the startling reply. "He
was lazy and, instead of working, climbed trees and hunted minas
(monkey-nuts). A companion, becoming vexed, uttered a curse on him
and threw a stick at him. These things clung to the lazy man: the
stick became a tail, and the curse deprived him of speech. Ashamed
of himself, he and his family took to the trees, never to return."

Many questions were put to the wise old hermit, and his ready answers
astonished, but satisfied, Piang. Night came on, and the strange
company lay down together under the shelter of the banian and slept.

Piang was very happy. He had reached Ganassi, was proclaimed the
real charm boy, and was at last to receive the glorious charm. Some
said it was a star tossed to Moroland by the Creator, that it was the
emblem of power, and that he who wore it would be filled with a divine
understanding. Others believed it to be the great diamond of Borneo,
captured many years before from the pirates of that fierce land. Piang
did not care which it proved to be, as long as it shone and sparkled
with beauty. All agreed that its brilliance dazzled the eye, that its
magnificence was unrivaled. Ganassi had waited a hundred years for
the charm boy who was destined to wear it, and at last the star had
proclaimed Piang to be the lucky boy. Through Piang's dreams flitted
the visions of shimmering jewels of gold, and the happy smile on the
boy's lips made old Ganassi's heart glad.



"Up, up with you, sleepyhead!" called Ganassi. "The sun will catch
you napping if you do not hurry."

Piang sleepily rubbed his eyes and sat up. Horror and fright seized
him as he beheld the body of the python curled up beside him and the
packda contemplating him with indifference. From the doorway Ganassi
smilingly watched him.

"Come, my subjects are assembling; they will all assist in the ceremony
of the sacred charm." The charm! Piang remembered and jumped to his
feet. Creatures from all over the mountain were answering Ganassi's
weird call; the air was full of fluttering birds, and monkeys came
swinging toward them. Ganassi gave to each a sweet or a fruit.

"Piang, no dato can boast of a grander court than Ganassi,
eh?" chuckled the old man.

It was indeed marvelous. Ganassi seemed to reign among the jungle folk
as royally as any king. He chastised, praised, petted, and scolded;
and one and all the beasts loved their wizened little master. Solemnly
Ganassi went about his task. From his bosom he took a small object,
smoothed, and caressed it. Piang trembled with excitement. Ganassi
called each animal, and they responded to the beloved voice.

"Piang, my creatures approve my action. This is the sacred charm. One
and all the animals have blessed it, and through your life, if you
have faith, nothing will harm you." Piang's eyes darted around the
strange circle, and, indeed, the animals accepted him as naturally
as they did Ganassi.

"The time has come, Piang. The heavens have watched over you from
babyhood, and you have proved your worth and bravery many times. I
am ready to reward you. Come!"

Trembling, the boy advanced. Kneeling before the hermit, Piang clasped
his hands and prayed that he might be worthy of the great honor about
to be bestowed upon him. Gently the wise man laid his hands on Piang's
head; softly he muttered a few words; then something dropped around
the boy's neck.

"You may rise, Piang. You are now invincible!"

Bounding to his feet, Piang clasped the charm.

"I cannot see it, Ganassi. May I unclasp it to behold its beauty
and splendor?" Keenly the old man looked into the face of the boy,
measuring him, studying him.

"And if it is not beautiful, shiny, and bright, boy, what then?"

"Oh, but it must be, Ganassi! It is the most valuable thing in
the world!"

"You may unclasp it, Piang."

Clumsily the boy fumbled with the fastenings; eagerly his eyes sought
the charm. His face went blank; tears sprang to his eyes. He was
holding a tiny gourd, no larger than a monkey-nut, suspended from
a necklace of polished crocodile teeth. His disappointed eyes met
Ganassi's, still studying him.

"Are you not satisfied, Piang? Are you then unworthy of the great
honor bestowed upon you? Do you think that to be of value a thing must
sparkle and shine?" Piang gathered himself, hid his disappointment,
and bravely answered:

"I am satisfied."

"Shake the gourd, Piang."

A hollow rattle came from the immature growth, and Piang's face
brightened.

"Its worth may be inside. Who knows? Only Ganassi, the wonder man,
and he will tell no one." The keen old eyes twinkled as they watched
Piang's face.

The mystery! It was again established, and Piang was happy. Maybe
the precious stones were inside and some day would be revealed to
him! As if reading his thoughts, Ganassi said:

"The charm must remain intact to wield its spell; if the gourd should
ever be broken or stolen, both you and the charm lose the mystic power
lately bestowed upon it. Piang, the source of power is faith! Believe,
be honest, be true, and the world holds naught but joy for you and
Kala Pandapatan's people."

A silence fell upon them all. The solemn words had sobered Piang,
and he gazed into the eyes of the wise man.

"Begone, boy. The sun rises, and you have many miles to go. To-night
I will light the signal fires and tell your tribe that you have come
and gone, that Piang is charm boy of Kali Pandapatan's people forever."



FOURTH ADVENTURE

THE FIRE TREE


The velvety dusk of the jungle was pierced here and there by the
brilliant, crimson buds of the fire-tree. For weeks all Moroland had
waited for their coming, the heralds of the combat season. During
the harvest time there is a truce in these turbulent islands, but
when the crops have been gathered, the natives become restless and
long to sally forth to conquer. The myth that victory comes only
to the tribe whose fire-tree has bloomed is implicitly believed,
and impatiently the Moros await this announcement of the combat
season. Paying no heed to their capital city, Manila, these merry
little isles revel in intrigue, and there is no sport in Moroland that
can compare with the combat. Tribes go forth to conquer and enslave
others; the men look forward to it as an opportunity to prove their
prowess; the women thrill at the possibility of capture. True, they
may become the slaves of some unscrupulous dato, but there is always
the romantic chance that they may fall into the hands of the hero of
their dreams and become the favorite of his seraglio.

"Where is Piang?" Dato Kali Pandapatan addressed a copper-colored
slave who salaamed and replied:

"In the jungle, O most high one, searching for the blooming fire
branch."

"It is well." Kali Pandapatan, with folded arms, paused in the
doorway of his hut, watching expectantly the only opening into the
frowning jungle.

"He comes! He comes!" rippled through the barrio.

The eager inhabitants gathered to learn if the time was yet ripe. Into
their midst ran a slim, bronze lad, waving above his head a branch,
almost bare of green, but aflame with crimson blossoms. There was
a hush. Women gathered their children to them; men grasped their
weapons more firmly, and the young boys looked with longing eyes at
the fortunate Piang.

"_Ooola!_" exclaimed Piang. Every lip repeated the word; every knee was
bent, and the tribe lay prostrate at his feet; only old Kali Pandapatan
remained standing, eyeing Piang with satisfaction. For a full two
minutes the crowd remained motionless. The palm-trees whispered and
crackled above them, and the river sent a soft accompaniment to the
jungle music. To and fro above their heads Piang majestically waved
the branch, until finally one bold voice demanded:

"_Anting-anting!_" ("The charm, the charm!") Piang defiantly bared
his breast, exposing the sacred charm suspended from his necklace of
crocodile teeth. There was moaning in the crowd, sobs of excitement,
and protests of impatience, but every head remained lowered until
the august relic was again covered. Piang began to chant in a high,
nasal voice, and the others rose and joined in creating a weird,
monotonous drawl. Like a statue stood the boy, holding the branch
high above his head while they circled round and round him. Faster,
faster they whirled; in a frenzy they shrieked; some fell and others
tramped them in their excitement. Suddenly the boy stamped his feet,
uttering a sharp cry. Every eye turned toward him.

"To the river!" he cried and lead the way. Two boys hurried forward
and were on their knees in a twinkling, hollowing out a place in the
sand, dog fashion. With many incantations and prayers, the branch was
planted in the hole, the damp sand laid carefully around the base,
and the two proud boys left to watch. If the flowers of the fire
tree faded before the scorching sun set, it was destined that the
tribe would be unsuccessful in its ventures for the season; should
the blooms defy the rays of the sun until the dews of evening rested
on its petals, old Kali Pandapatan could sally forth unafraid to meet
his fierce brothers of the jungle.

Patiently they waited through the long, hot day; many eyes were
anxiously turned toward the sacred emblem, but none dared approach. The
little Moro boys, in whose care the branch had been left, squatted in
silent patience. No butterfly was suffered to light on the delicate
petals, no droning bee allowed to gather the honey of its cups. On
dragged the sweltering afternoon. Piang and the dato were the only
ones allowed to know that the branch was still fresh, but only Piang
knew that its flowers had been dipped into a cool stream before it
came to the tribe to foretell its victories or defeats.

"Allah, il Allah!" the call rang through the village. Sunset, the
hour of prayer! Now, now they would know. Solemnly old Pandita Asin
led the chant while the Moros prostrated themselves in supplication,
and the dying sun slipped over the mountains, touching every tree
and flower with its gold.

There was great feasting and celebration in the barrio that
night. Women donned their most brilliant sarongs, tinted their
silver-tipped finger nails with henna, and streaked their brows
with splotches of white rice paste. The men twisted their hair up in
gorgeous head-cloths, and the knot bristled with creeses. Suspended
from their many-colored sashes were barongs, campilans or bolos, and
tiny bells were fastened into the lobes of their ears. The brilliantly
striped breeches seemed likely to burst, so tightly were they drawn
over shapely limbs.

The branch had not withered. It had withstood the scorching rays of
the sun. Kali Pandapatan was invincible.



"Piang!" called Kali Pandapatan.

The noises of the barrio were hushed. Their dato had spoken. The
name was repeated, and gradually the call reached the charm boy,
idly dangling his feet in a clear brook, attracting and scattering
the curious fish. He sprang to his feet, listened, and darted off. His
sleek, well fashioned limbs glistened in the sunlight, and the sarong
that was gracefully flung over one shoulder floated out behind like a
flame fanned by the wind. Twined in his long black hair was a wreath
of scarlet fire flowers; every face brightened as he fled past.

"You have again brought the sign, Piang. When do we fight?" asked
Kali Pandapatan.

"Not until we have delivered the _siwaka_ (tribute) to the sultan at
Cotabato. The fire-tree has not yet bloomed in the enemy's country,
and we may yet pass through safely," Piang replied.

"You have spoken," said the dato and laid his palms on the youth's
head.

Though the latent passion of battle stirred in the Moros' breasts,
they were compelled to heed. Piang had proved a wise charm boy, and
the tribe must obey him. Each season the siwaka must be carried over
the steep, treacherous trail down to the coast, and those detailed
to accompany the slaves who carried the bags of rice and _comoties_
(sweet-potatoes), dreaded the trip. Added to the pitfalls of the
obscure trail, were hostile territories to be traversed, and if the
enemies' fire-tree had bloomed, they would surely be attacked and
probably despoiled of their cargo.

"We will need warriors to guard the siwaka, chief," Piang reminded
Kali, and the chief nodded and gave a quiet order. Every man
disappeared from the streets. When they returned, in place of the
gaudy, tight trousers, they were wearing loose, black pantaloons,
the garb of battle. The women, true to the feminine nature, wailed and
cried aloud, but in their hearts they, too, were glad that the quiet,
monotonous days were over, and that before nightfall they might sleep
in some strange cota (fort), slave or wife of the victorious dato.

"Piang," murmured a soft voice at the charm boy's elbow, and he turned
to find the little slave girl, Papita, timidly looking up at him.

"_Chiquita?_" ("Little one?") he questioned.

"Sicto goes with you. Beware of him, for he would kill you!"

"I am not afraid," proudly answered Piang, "but why would Sicto
kill me?"

Solemnly the little girl touched Piang's breast where lay hidden the
sacred charm.

"He would kill you so that he might be charm boy of the tribe,"
whispered the girl. Piang laughed gaily, patted his little friend on
the arm, and bounded to the head of the forming column. Nevertheless
he noticed Sicto's sly, surly glance as the slaves and warriors bent
before him.

Amid beating of tom-toms, wails of women, and howls of dogs, the
column, single file, dipped into the jungle and was lost to sight.

Anxiously Piang watched for signs of the fire-tree as they slipped
along through the enemies' country, but as yet the buds had not
stirred, and he was thankful that the warm rains had not come to coax
them into glow. That whole day the party toiled silently through the
dense cogon grass that covered the mesa. High above their heads waved
the wiry, straw-colored spines. Its sharp edges cut into the flesh,
tore through cloths, stinging and paining old wounds. Not a breath of
air reached them through the impenetrable mass, and the sun beat down
on them mercilessly. For long stretches the path tunneled through the
grass, boring deeper into the tangle, and they were almost suffocated
by the choking dust that stung their nostrils.

"_Iki!_" ("Beware!") called Sicto. Every bolo was out, every savage
ready, but the word was passed along the line that the leader,
Sicto, had stepped on a snake. Entirely surrounded by the cruel
grass the column paused. The heat, increased by the oven-like
tunnel grew steadily worse, and those in the rear gasped and fought
for breath. They could hear the scuffle as the leaders fought the
reptile, and the fetid odor of the dread creature added to their
discomfort. Sicto had been swinging along ahead, stepping lightly on
the mattress-like turf, when he felt something move under his foot. It
was well under the matted grass, but it was wise to despatch the
creature if possible. Piang came to his assistance, and the snake,
probably gorged with rotting meat, exuded a terrible odor as it was
stabbed to death. Kicking the wriggling remains out of the path the
column pushed on, wondering if they would ever come to the end of
the stifling tunnel.

"Will it rain soon, Piang?" panted Tooloowee, as he toiled along
behind the charm boy.

"I cannot tell yet, but by sunset we shall know."

Toward evening the grass thinned perceptibly, and the steaming,
aching bodies felt the cool air rustling through the stalks.

"We are near the jungle; soon we shall be cool," sighed Kali
Pandapatan. Yes, it was growing cooler; they could breathe again,
but Piang knew that before morning they would be shivering with cold,
that the rain would come in the night. He smelled it, the rain that
would not come to help them through the arduous day.

When it came, there was a shout of joy. Kali looked anxiously at his
sweating tribesmen. After the terrific heat of the day, this rain would
chill them, and fever would surely follow; he must keep them on the
move. There was a murmur of protest as the order was given to move;
they had rested a scant two hours. By nine o'clock they were under
way again, struggling with the jungle as they had fought the mesa. The
downpour was straight and steady. It burrowed through the thick foliage
and ran down the tree trunks in torrents. The footing became uncertain,
and Piang warned Kali to look out for broken limbs. For many yards the
path lay along fallen tree trunks, slippery with moss and mold. The
footing became so treacherous that the order was given to crawl on all
fours, and the progress was painfully slow and tedious. Frequently
they strayed from the path and were forced to halt. The torches at
the head of the column twinkled and flickered fitfully, but they only
seemed to make the darkness more visible; they sputtered and flared,
but the flames resisted the rain, and to the weary Moros they seemed
like good spirits sent to guide them through the terrible jungle night.

Palm leaves, strewn in the path, had long clusters of needle-like
spines at their bases that pierced their feet, and the cry "_tinick!_"
("thorns!") rang out frequently through the night. Finally it became
necessary to march close up, in solid line, each man with his hand on
the shoulder of the man in front. When the leader warned "_Cajui!_"
("Log!"), each repeated it as he stumbled over the obstacle, and if
one fell, half the line would be bowled over.

"_Tubig Malakee!_" cried Piang. ("The big water!") Yes, the dull
murmur of the river was plainly heard through the dripping rain,
and they all quickened their pace in the desire to rid themselves of
the jungle. Piang attempted to guide them across, but he walked into
the water and sank from sight, and there was a cry of horror, for it
seemed that one of the many crocodiles had dragged him under. When
he came up sputtering and splashing, none the worse for his dip,
he chided them for their little faith and pointed significantly to
his charm. He had miscalculated in the blackness of the night and
could not locate the ford. A drizzling rain was still falling; great
hairy-legged spiders skated over the water, making things grewsome;
the large lily-pad leaves moved suspiciously, so Kali gave the orders
to camp for the rest of the night.

Silently the Moros prepared their camp. Deftly the ends of low-lying
branches were pinioned to the ground with forked sticks; over these
supports hemp and banana leaves were strewn to shield the sleepers
from the heavy dew and rain. After many attempts a fire was coaxed
into life, much to the dismay of the jungle folk. A beautiful golden
fly-catcher, probably mistaking the glare of the fire for dawn, awoke
and began to sing at the top of its tiny voice; a parrot screamed
lustily. A venerable old monkey, sleepily rubbing its eyes, shook
its fist, muttering profanely. Sicto, exasperated at the persistent
maledictions, raised his bow.

"Do not kill the monkey, Sicto," warned Piang. "It is not good to
kill in the jungle except for food or self-protection!"

A scowl was the only reply, but the big mestizo lowered his bow and
turned over on his bed of leaves.

"Kali, we are no longer safe," Piang whispered as he crouched over
the improvised bed of his chief.

"Sssshhhh," he warned, finger on lip. "Do not wake the others." Then
he pointed toward a spot where hoards of fireflies clustered around
one tree, twinkling and swerving to and fro. It was a beautiful sight,
but far from a novel one to these two.

"The fire-tree!" muttered Kali.

"Yes," answered Piang. "The rain has brought the blooms to the valley,
and we will be attacked to-morrow!" Silently they gazed at the strange
tree. Fireflies abandon every tree and shrub for the fire-tree the
moment it puts forth its buds, and nothing can coax them away until
the ominous scarlet blossoms have drooped and fallen to the ground.

"We dare not cross the river now, Kali," said Piang, "but we can
build rafts and float down to Cotabato."

And so it was decided. Early in the muggy dawn the warriors set to
work constructing rafts out of bamboo and ratan (palm), and soon the
siwaka was loaded and the journey continued by water.

Arrogantly Piang rode at the head of the procession, his proud little
head crowned with a wreath of fire-tree blooms, the corners of his
raft decorated with sprigs of the flaming buds. Cautiously they
poled down the swift stream, avoiding treacherous logs and snapping
crocodiles. Piang chuckled with delight as they stole along, for the
enemy would not discover the ruse until they were far away.

It was some time before Sicto was missed. His name was passed from
raft to raft, but none had seen him that morning. At first it was
feared that one of the crocodiles had pulled him from a raft, but
something seemed to tell Piang that the wily half-breed had stolen
away to warn the enemy of Kali's strategy. Once the news of the rich
booty to be captured and the prisoners to be taken had reached the
valley people, nothing could keep them from pursuing, now that their
fire-tree had bloomed. A solemn conclave was held.

The river is almost inaccessible from the jungle except at one point,
the Big Bend. This is a favorite camping-ground of the valley people
during the combat season; here their sacrifices are offered, their
victims thrown to the crocodiles; they exercise full control of the
river. If Sicto succeeded in warning the enemy before Kali reached
that point there would be little hope of escape. Another force would
surely be posted where he had embarked, cutting Kali off from his
reinforcements at home. It was too late to attempt a retreat, however,
hampered as they were with the cumbersome siwaka. Reach that bend
first, they must.

"The charm, Piang," whispered Kali. Springing to his feet, the boy
uttered a fierce "Oola." Every head bowed, and the sacred talisman
was exposed.

"Forward, brothers!" he cried. "Forward with all your strength!"

The sun came out, and the dripping jungle began to steam. Palm leaves
were constructed into hats to guard against sunstroke. Toward sunset
they drew near the danger point. What was that monotonous sound dully
vibrating through the jungle? Anxiously all eyes turned toward Piang.

"It is well, brothers," bravely comforted the boy. "Yes, that is the
tom-tom of your enemy. Sicto has betrayed us, but have no fear. Piang,
the charm boy leads you; take courage, and Allah, the Merciful, will
give you victory." Piang commenced a murmur of prayer, and the Moros,
joining in, filled the fast-settling night with whispered invocations
which drifted off through the jungle.

Another council of war was held.

"Piang, if they have had time to lay the boom, what shall we do?"

"Go forward, Kali. Fight your way through the blockade," answered the
charm boy. "I will remain here with a few men to guard to siwaka. Do
you hide at the first bend until the moon gives you light, then
strike!"

The astonished warriors looked with misgiving from one to the other,
but Kali answered firmly:

"It shall be so, Piang."

The Moros were quickly assembled for the advance, and Kali paused by
the side of Piang's raft:

"If we are driven back, Piang, I will give three calls of the
mina-bird. Answer likewise and retreat as quickly as possible."

"Forward, Kali Pandapatan," answered Piang with great dignity. "We
will not retreat."

Like ghosts in the night the little handful of men parted from their
fellows and courageously faced the river and its dangers. The stream,
swerving to the left, flows on to the apex of the Big Bend. As
if regretting its departure from the true course, it doubles back
and returns to take up its original direction at a point separated
from its first departure by only a few rods. Between the two points
is a waste of murky soil and sand, covered by dense growths of the
jungle's choicest variety of obstacles. Gloomily Piang contemplated
the morass that lay between him and freedom. Long he sat, looking into
the distance where he could almost see the river as it completed the
curve and swept on to the ocean. What would he not give to be safely
on the other side? Suddenly he sat up very straight. Why not? The
sand was soft, the current swift. If he could only make a narrow ditch
across the flats. Pulling his raft up to the right side of the river,
he jumped to the bank, but when he sank ankle-deep in the soft, sticky
earth, he climbed hastily back. Poling along he searched for a solid
footing, but everywhere the marshy soil gave, and he abandoned his
attempts to land. The night grew deeper, blacker.

"Why not, why not?" he whispered again. The others came scurrying up
in response to his excited call.

"My brothers, Allah has sent me wisdom," he announced. "It is your
duty to obey me!" Eagerly they listened, glad of any distraction,
but when Piang explained that he wanted them to abandon their safe
bamboo floats for the treacherous flats, home of crocodiles and vermin,
there was a murmuring protest. Anger blazed in Piang's eyes.

"Am I not charm boy?" he demanded. "Any one who refuses to obey me
will be thrown to the crocodiles!" Gradually the dominant nature
overruled their timidities, and the protests subsided. Following
Piang's directions, strips of bamboo were cut, and the charm boy
constructed light frames for his feet. They looked like snow-shoes,
and when he bound one securely to each foot and jumped lightly to the
bank, there was a cry of surprise. Piang, the wonderful, was indeed
sent by Allah to guide them!

In a twinkling each Moro was supplied with similar mud-shoes, and
like giant land-crabs, they flitted off across the marsh. Too wise
to begin before reconnoitering, Piang led his men to the banks of
the stream below to Big Bend. After hasty calculations he set them
to work digging toward the head waters, following a line of ratan
which he stretched to guide them.

Faster, faster flew the scoops and broad knives; deeper, wider grew
the ditch that was to form a new river-bed. Piang was everywhere. He
flew about on his light frames as lightly as a faun, directing the
construction of new tools, calculating and measuring for the ditch.

Once he heard a call from the man guarding the rafts. A troop of wild
hogs, attracted by the comoties, was trying to reach the rafts. Piang
lighted a torch and hurled it among them. Crocodiles lurked near,
and he ordered torches kept burning to frighten them also.

New difficulties confronted Piang. Would the water not at first rush
through the ditch with such force that the rafts would be dashed
to pieces? He held a branch in the current; it was torn from his
grasp. With great foresight, he ordered all the floats to be taken
up the river and securely moored. Back to the ditch he flew. Yes,
yes, it was going to be successful! Before the attack was made by
Kali Pandapatan, Piang would have the rafts through the cut-off,
safely on their journey to the estuary. How surprised the dato would
be when Piang advanced against the enemy from the other side of the
Big Bend! He laughed softly, hugging himself in boyish delight.

Away he pattered toward some men who were apparently in difficulty.

"_Halamantek!_" ("Leeches!") they called. They were pulling the
slothful creatures off each other, but as soon as they freed themselves
from the pests, more fell from above or crept up from the mud. Piang
had foreseen this difficulty and had supplied himself with a small
gourd filled with cocoanut oil, strongly saturated with cinchona
(quinine). Offering some of his small store to the men, they gratefully
rubbed the mixture into their flesh and bent to their task again. Piang
exhorted them to work, warning them if the ditch was not completed
before moonrise, all would be lost, and off he danced blending in with
the night and its secrets like a picturesque _pampahilep_ (jungle imp).

Only Moros could have accomplished so difficult a task in the
dark. With a will they sturdily plied the crude tools and before
the blackness of the night had been lifted by the rising moon, the
excited little party was crowding around Piang as he examined the few
remaining feet to be accomplished. Like a general meeting a crisis,
Piang sharply gave his orders:

"Tooloowee, take your pole and stand on the far side of the ditch. When
I give the signal, push the dyke with all your might." He stationed
another powerful Moro opposite Tooloowee.

"Bungao, do you hasten to the rafts and prepare to resist the first
flood that will sweep through the ditch."

When all was ready Piang raised his hand and the struggle began. Little
by little the soft mud was worked away, and the current, feeling
the banks weaken, seemed to lose interest in its natural bed. At
first the stream only caressed its new-found outlet, but gradually
it concentrated its forces, and, with a mighty rush, attacked the
slight remaining resistance and went thundering off into the ditch. A
smothered cry went up from the Moros:

"Piang! Piang!" How they loved their wise little charm boy!

But the work was not yet completed. Piang let go his anchorage and
headed for the mouth of the ditch. The water was rapidly widening
the work of their hands, but in places the cut-off was barely wide
enough to let the long slender floats by, and the water was rushing
through with terrific force. The moon trembled on the brink of the
jungle. Would they reach the other side in time to aid Kali? Suppose
he was driven back before Piang and his men could attack from the
other side?

"_Ala! ala!_" ("Quickly! quickly!") Piang called softly. His raft
came up with a sudden jerk, almost throwing him into the seething,
muddy torrent. Other rafts bumped into his, and soon a blockade was
forming as the swift current bore them down upon him. Piang cut and
slashed at the banks, tearing away protruding vines and accumulating
driftwood. The moon, the moon, would it wait? Frantically he toiled
while Tooloowee held off the other rafts with his long pole. When
Piang's float was finally released, it bounded joyously along, nosing
first one bank, then the other. The river! He could see it! Only a
few rods more!

At the mouth of the ditch there was more trouble. Mud and debris had
collected along the sides, but these were quickly worked through and
they passed into the main river. Little short of a miracle had been
performed. The ditch was growing wider and deeper every moment and
judging from the enormous flow of water, it would not be long before
the river deserted its circuitous route in favor of this direct one.

"Quick! quick!" whispered Piang. "Bungao, bind the siwaka rafts
together and head for Cotabato. We will overtake you before
sunrise." A faint cry reached them. Kali had begun the attack. In
an agony of suspense the brave Moros worked their way up toward the
Big Bend. Suddenly Piang grasped Tooloowee's arm and pointed toward
a streak that ran across the river.

"The boom! We must cut it!" They made a dash toward the obstacle that
stood in Kali's path, but an arrow whizzed by their heads.

"Tooloowee, we have been discovered. I go to cut the way!" and before
the astonished Tooloowee could prevent, Piang had dived into the
water and disappeared.

"Piang, the crocodiles, the crocodiles!" wailed Tooloowee, but the
charm boy could not hear as he slipped up the muddy river, swimming
easily under water. Just as Kali was preparing to retreat, driven back
by the fierce storm of arrows, he gave the signal that had been agreed
upon. Three loud calls in imitation of the mina-bird went wailing
through the night. What was Kali's surprise to hear the answer a few
yards in front of him! And what was that dark shape bobbing up and
down on the boom?

While he watched, amazed, the big clumsy logs divided, and swung slowly
out, leaving the channel clear. Piang had severed the ratan thongs.

"Lééééé lelele ouiiiiii!" crashed through the night, and Kali
recognized his tribal war-cry.

"Piang! Piang!" he cried. The dark shape, clinging to the drifting
boom answered, and Kali rushed toward it. Before the enemy could
gather their scattered wits, the whole party was sweeping by, on
toward freedom. As Kali bore down on Piang, the boy raised himself
to meet the raft. It was coming at a terrific rate, and he feared it
would knock him off the boom; measuring the distance, he prepared to
leap. On came the raft, Kali leaning far over the side, arms extended
to grab the boy. When Kali was only a few yards off, Piang screamed:

"_Boia! boia!_" ("Crocodile! crocodile!") The men on the raft saw the
water stir and hurled spear and arrow, but they glanced off the scaly
hide. It was a race with death, and what a miserable death for Piang,
their idol! The boy grew cold and sick as he waited. Suddenly the raft
paused, held in check by Kali's pole. Piang almost fainted. What was
his chief doing? In a moment he realized that the quick action had
saved his life. The raft swerved, bumped against the crocodile, and
came between it and Piang. The next moment Piang was in Kali's arms.

In the light of the gray dawn, Sicto watched these two as they gazed
into each other's eyes; they swept triumphantly by, heedless of
flying arrows. The radiant fire-tree blooms still clustered around
Piang's head, and his sacred charm gleamed in the early light. Firmly
believing that spirits had aided Piang in his remarkable feat, Sicto
trembled with fear, and, with a last glance at the victorious charm
boy, he turned and fled into the jungle.

Wonderingly, Kali Pandapatan and his followers viewed the new cut-off
as they floated by. Amazed, they listened to the marvelous tale. Old
Dato Kali Pandapatan laid his hands once again on his favorite's head:

"Little brother," he said, "this shall be known as Piang's
Cut-off. Some day you will be the greatest dato in Mindanao."



FIFTH ADVENTURE

RIDING THE CATARACT


News that a strange craft had put into Cotabato reached Piang in his
mountain home. Hurriedly he gathered his few weapons together and
started down the trail. He passed many traders and venders, who had
also heard of the boat, and he hastened his steps in his desire to
be there early.

"_Un-di?_" ("Whither?") called Sicto as Piang trotted past him.

"To the barrio," replied Piang. Sicto hurried to keep up with him,
but Piang had no wish to be in company with the ne'er-do-well Moro
boy, and he did not try to conceal his feelings. The natural dignity
of the Oriental kept Sicto from displaying his anger at the repulse,
but he sullenly slackened his pace and registered a black mark against
this haughty Piang.

Piang loved to be alone; his playmates were too noisy, too talkative;
he, too, loved to chatter and play games at times, but now in the
jungle, as the morning light slowly broke through the damp foliage,
he wished to be alone and watch nature unfold to the coming day. It
seemed to him that the huge elephant ears lifted their dew-weighted
leaves and shook themselves in the gentle wind. The monkeys peeped out
at him and continued to make their toilet undisturbed. Other travelers
startled the little creatures into watchfulness, but Piang came upon
them so silently, so peacefully, that they scarcely noticed him.

There was one spot, half-way down the trail which he wanted to reach
alone; there the jungle seemed to part, as if to grant a glimpse of
the harbor below. He quickened his stride, and as he passed a party
of men one of them called to him, "You will be first to-day, little
fleet one." So there was none before him. He was glad, and when he
came within sight of the clearing, he rejoiced in his solitude. He
wondered if the boat was a vinta from Borneo, or if it was loaded
with copra for Japan. There now, when that mist lifted, he would know.

As the beautiful harbor broke upon his sight, Piang paused, holding
his breath, for out of the boat, the only one in view, smoke was
pouring. It was on fire! But why were the people not trying to save
the cargo? A huge black stick standing in the middle of the hull was
belching smoke. While he was regretting that he would be too late
to assist at the rescue, he was startled by a thin white stream
spurting out of the mast-head. Gradually he connected it with the
shrill whistle that pierced his ears.

Piang wanted to run back, to warn the others that some strange monster
had sailed into their midst; but he saw that his brothers in the barrio
were calmly watching the thing, and as it did not seem to hurt them,
he took courage and dashed on down the trail into the jungle. All the
rest of the journey he strained his ears to catch that shrill voice,
which he was now sure came from the boat. As he flew through the silent
forest he recalled the tales of the demons that the wise men talked
about, and he decided to approach the thing with caution. Finally he
stood on the shore, and there before his eyes was a boat that seemed
to be alive. It was breathing. But where were its sails? How did it
move? Clusters of natives, their fear stilled by curiosity, watched
the approach. Breathlessly they waited. It was coming toward the tiny
wharf, and just as it settled alongside, a piercing screech from it
sent them tumbling over each other in a mad attempt to get away. From
the safety of trees and huts they waited. Big men, pale and straight,
walked from the boat and beckoned them to descend. Cautiously the
more daring ones responded, and soon the whole population was gathered
around the visitors.

Curious to see what the strangers were showing the dato, Piang slipped
quietly up behind and caught sight of the most beautiful colored
cloth he had ever seen. "Bandana," the pale man called it. Piang
longed to possess it for his mother; how she would love to wear it
for her gala head-dress! The sailor then produced a tiny object that
glistened and sparkled in the sun; it was about as large as the palm
of Piang's hand and very thin. The Moros were very much excited over
it, and when Piang reached up on tip-toes to peer through the crowd,
he cried aloud, for there, staring back at him was a boy he had
seen somewhere. The little brown face and the piercing black eyes,
the long hair twisted in a knot with the ends flying loose, were all
strangely familiar. It was--Piang! "Mir-ro," he repeated after the
white man when his scattered wits permitted, and the crowd had ceased
its merriment at his expense. The Moros were more interested in the
knives, tobacco, and strange food that the strangers had brought than
in the red bandana handkerchief and the toy mirror; but Piang longed
to carry the two things that had caught his eye back to his mother,
and he was silently gazing at them when Sicto, attracted by Piang's
admiration, picked the mirror up to look at it.

Before Piang realized it, Sicto was negotiating with the owner,
offering in trade his brass buyo, or betel-box, used for containing a
preparation of the betel pepper, extensively chewed in the East. Why
had Piang not brought his brass? He would run and fetch it; but the man
would not wait. Just as he saw the things about to pass into the hands
of his rival, he remembered his ring. Attracting the attention of the
trader, he quickly unscrewed the tiny center and proudly displayed a
few glittering flakes; Piang did not know that they were gold dust;
but the trader whistled a low note of surprise and called one of
his shipmates aside. The Moro boy had seen the Japanese trade whole
shiploads of copra for the shiny stuff, so, when he had found some
in the sand one day, he had gathered it.

When the trader made it clear to Piang that he could have the
treasures for more of the flakes, he was delighted, and without a
moment's delay started off up the trail, not deigning to glance at
the disappointed Sicto.



Up, up, he climbed. Heat, thirst, nothing slackened his pace. Arriving
at his home, he flew to the lake, and, without a word to any one,
jumped into his banco and pushed out into the water. Sweat poured
down his face; mosquitos buzzed around his head: but he had no time
to build a smudge. He must hurry, or the strange boat would leave
the island and take forever the treasures Piang so coveted.

Soon he struck the current, and when he felt the boat settle into
it he dropped over the side, holding on to the outriggers, and let
the boat pull him through the cool water. He noticed another banco
in the distance and wondered what brought another person out on the
lake in the heat, but the mosquitos occupied all his attention, and
he dived and swam under the water to avoid them, soon forgetting the
other boatman.

Which stream had he paddled up before, when he had found the bright
sand? He examined the shore carefully as he climbed into the boat. It
must be there. Yes, he remembered the orchids in that tree. Cautiously
he guided the banco to the mouth of the creek, and he shuddered as he
caught sight of a shiny black object slipping into the water. It was
a harmless snake, but Piang did not like snakes and he hurried past
the spot. Gradually he lost sight of the lake and the sun; overhanging
vegetation and fallen trees engulfed him. At times he could not use
his paddle, and cautiously avoiding the thorns and poisoned things,
he pulled the boat along from above. Soon this little stream would
take him into the big river where he had found the pretty sand.

Piang was startled by a sound behind him. Surely he had heard a
paddle. But all was silence when he paused to listen. When he came
to the river he shouted with delight, for his journey was half over,
and there in the sun sparkled his treasure. Taking his gourd from
the boat, he filled it with sand and then started the long process
of washing it away. Always in the bottom would be left a few of
the bright grains. These he poured on a leaf, but he discovered in
dismay that they stuck there, and when he tried to brush them off,
they sank into the leaf.

While he was pondering on his predicament he heard the chatter of a
hablar-bird, and he chuckled to himself. He searched his banco for
his bow and arrows, but was astonished to find only the bow. What a
misfortune! He must have lost the arrows on the trail. Nothing daunted,
little Piang set about his task in another manner. Scattering a handful
of parched corn in a clearing, he laid the noose of his rope around
it, and taking the end of it in his hand, silently withdrew into the
thicket and waited.

Soon the big bird discovered the handy meal and, loudly proclaiming
its rights to possession, flapped its way to the earth and lighted
right in Piang's noose. The hablar-bird fluttered and chattered as it
settled to the task of filling its craw with the good food. Cautiously
Piang watched his chance and, with a deft twitch of the rope, secured
the noose around the bird's foot. Such screaming and flapping! "Now
you be good bird, and I no hurt you," Piang admonished. Catching hold
of the creature behind the head, Piang held it firmly and quickly
plucked three large feathers from its brilliant plumage. He then set
it free and laughed to see it searching for its lost glories.

Piang would have enjoyed watching it, as it scolded him from a high
limb, but he could not delay and he set about his task quickly. Cutting
off the end of each quill, he scraped it clean inside and washed the
pithy part out. He had seen his father prepare a quill in this way
for packing tobacco-powder.

When these receptacles were ready to receive the gold-dust, he
began washing the sand again; and when he had secured enough to
fill all three quills he stuck a piece of green banana on the ends
for a stopper. Now he would have the treasures for his mother--that
beautiful cloth and the funny, thin thing that played pranks on you
when you looked into it.

What was that sound? Surely some one was spying on him. In a
flash he remembered the banco on the lake, the other sounds he had
heard. Also he remembered that Sicto wanted the same treasures that
he coveted. He had been followed by the bully, and now, without his
bow and arrows, he was helpless. To gain the lake again, he must
pass through that treacherous creek, and he knew that Sicto would
think nothing of robbing him and hastening to the village to buy
the treasures with Piang's hard-earned bright sand. Somewhere those
wicked eyes were watching him from the foliage, but Piang bravely
covered his misgivings.

There were two trails to the village; one lay to the west through
the lake that he had crossed; the other was straight ahead, down the
river. But there were cataracts on this river, and Piang wondered if
he could make his way on foot from the head of the first one to the
right trail. He decided to take the risk and quickly headed his banco
in that direction. As he started down the river, he heard a howl of
rage, and glancing back, saw Sicto preparing to follow.

So! It was to be a race! Piang had foiled the bully, and his little
heart beat faster as he realized the consequences if Sicto should
catch him. Piang had a good start, but the river was so treacherous,
the eddies so powerful, that sometimes his boat seemed to stand still
or almost turn around when it was caught by the counter-current. How
he loved his slim little craft! Whenever possible, it obeyed his wish,
and he chuckled to see Sicto struggling with his heavy boat. If he
could only reach the first head-water and land on the opposite shore,
he would not fear defeat. For who was more fleet-footed than Piang,
who more able to ferret his way through the almost impenetrable jungle?

Cautiously he watched the shore; he had been this way only once before,
and wondered if he could remember where the trail began at the water's
edge. The current was so swift here that it was hardly necessary to
paddle at all; so he rested to examine the shore.

But what was the matter with Sicto? Why had he stopped paddling? In a
flash it came over Piang that the cataract was near, and he started to
back water with all his might. To his horror he found that he could not
control the boat; fight as he would, it paid no heed to his struggle,
but dashed on toward the waterfall. At first Piang thought he would
swim, but realized that he would be swept over just the same. There
was only one thing to be done--he must ride the cataract. Sicto was
left far behind, clinging to the bank, watching with a sneer the boy
going as he thought, to his death. He wondered why Piang was standing
up in the banco; surely it would be best to lie flat in the boat and
cling to the bottom.

Gracefully Piang poised his body for the dive. The feathers were safely
thrust into his long hair, and his bolo secured in his belt. With hands
outstretched above his head, he waited for the great moment. He knew
that if he was skilful he could clear the dangerous waters below the
falls and either swim to the shore or reach his banco. Faster, faster
went the boat, and his little heart thumped so that he feared it would
burst. He tried to remember that this was not such a dangerous feat;
others had accomplished it, and he could, if he was careful. The drop
was only a few yards, but the danger lay in the shoals at the foot of
the falls. What a beautiful sight Piang was, poised on the brink of
that foaming cataract, the black jungle for a background! As he felt
the banco quiver and twist he prepared for the dive. Finally the boat
reached the crest and, with a lurch, shot from under the boy as he
sprang far out into space. It seemed an eternity to Piang before he
plunged into the waters below; then he sank down, down. The roaring
and thundering deafened him, and he wondered if he should ever stop
tumbling over in the water. It tossed him, tore from his hands any
support he was able to grasp, and finally, after almost depriving
him of breath, left him floating on the surface of a calm pool. How
delicious the rest seemed! How tired he was! As he lay there on his
back, he watched the water pour over the rocks above his head, and
marveled that he had accomplished it all so easily.

Gradually Piang regained his composure, and his first thought was for
the quills. Yes, they were still safe, and he must hurry. Not fearing
Sicto's interference any more, he began to wonder how he should
find the trail. Searching the river for his banco, he discovered
it caught by some reeds near the shore. It was easy to swim on that
side of the river; so he slowly made his way to the overturned canoe,
deftly righting it, and in a moment was over the side, searching for
the extra paddle he always kept tied in the bottom. Fortunately it
had not been torn away, and avoiding the rapids, he hugged the shore
and finally resumed his journey down the river.

What a wonderful experience Piang had had! How he would boast of his
bravery, Moro fashion, and maybe the wise men would praise him. As
he paddled down the river he kept his eyes open for trails; and when
he heard the next cataract thundering its menace in the distance, he
decided to land and search the jungle for a path. Beaching his banco,
he hid it in the undergrowth, and, carefully avoiding the stinging
vines, crept into the shadow of the jungle.

The great silence was everywhere, and Piang wondered if he could
trust his instinct to lead him aright. The heavy vines obstructed his
passage, and he was forced to cut and hew his way through the edge of
the forest. Nature does her best to protect the jungle, for always, on
the edges, bamboo, and _bajuca_ (pronounced bah-hoo-kah) vie with each
other in forming an impenetrable wall; but after the first few yards
the obstinacy of the vines seems to relax, their sentinel duty over.

Luckily for Piang, the jungle was well supplied with paths here, and
he soon found the one leading down to the barrio. His heart was light,
now, and he threw back his head and shouted with glee as he remembered
Sicto, pale with terror, lest he too be swept over the cataract. Very
quickly his exultation subsided, however, when he realized that Sicto
could easily be on this same trail, and he redoubled his efforts as
he imagined he heard twigs snapping behind him. What if the boat had
already gone. What if its coveted treasures were lost forever?

From his customary trot Piang broke into a run, and, panting and
sweating, pushed forward. Soon the trail joined the one he had
taken that morning, and in a moment he would come to the clearing
where he had first seen the strange boat. Yes, there it was;
ugly, cross-looking, without one of those bright-patched sails that
decorated all the boats Piang had ever seen. But--was it moving? With
a cry, Piang started forward as the white smoke appeared, and the
shriek echoed and reëchoed through the jungle. Fury, resentment, and
determination flashed across his face; with a howl he darted down the
trail. There was only a little way to go now, and he would run like the
wind. Friends and strangers tried to speak to him as he approached them
on the trail, but he brushed them aside impatiently and rushed onward.

With his last bit of breath he stumbled through the barrio, but the
boat was steadily moving out to sea. He threw himself on his face and
beat the wharf with his clenched fists. All was lost--the beautiful
"ban-da-na" for his mother, the "mir-ro," too! An exclamation from
one of the men arrested his attention, and he sprang to his feet in
an instant. The boat had stopped; and--could he believe his eyes?--the
man with the treasures was getting into a small skiff and was beckoning
to Piang!

Quickly the boy responded. Making sure that the precious quills were
safe, he dived into the sea and struck out toward the approaching
boat. When they pulled him over the side, a cheer went up from
the Moros on the bank and was answered by another from the strange
boat. Eagerly Piang searched the boat for the two objects so dear to
his heart, but the trader silently tapped the ring and waited. Slyly
the boy considered. Finally he drew forth one quill and offered
it to the man. He handed Piang the red calico handkerchief, saying
"ban-da-na." Eagerly the boy grabbed it. Guardedly the two contemplated
each other. The trader reached into his pocket and produced the
toy mirror, surrounded by colored pins; Piang offered to trade for
another quill, but the man shook his head. Piang resolutely shook
his, and the owner intimated that the trade was over by slipping
the mirror back into his pocket. Piang could not stand the suspense,
despite his passion for making a good trade, so he thrust the other
quill into the stranger's hand, grasped the treasure, and, saluting
them in his dignified fashion, slipped over the side and was off.



When Sicto slunk into the hill barrio that night he was anxious to
avoid Piang, but our hero was not concerned about him at all. Around
the great fire in the center of the village were seated all the
important members of the tribe, and Sicto's envy was complete when he
saw that Piang's mother was the object of adoration. There she sat,
the coveted "ban-da-na" crowning her stately head, and around her neck
was suspended the funny thing that laughed back at you. Silently she
offered each member of the circle one of the colored pins, and when
all were supplied, they fell to the task of picking their teeth,
at intervals reverently examining the instrument. When the allotted
period had elapsed, Piang's mother again extended the mirror, and
when each one had gazed into the depth, the pin was replaced, later
to be handed on to a new comer.

Sicto had joined the less fortunate persons who were watching the
ceremony from a distance. Only the elect were permitted to approach
the circle. From his place of honor Piang glanced loftily in their
direction, and as his eyes met Sicto's, his triumph was complete. Under
Piang's steady gaze, the bully quailed and, dropping his eyes,
shambled off into the darkness.



SIXTH ADVENTURE

THE JUNGLE MENACE


Dato Kali Pandapatan had declared a three days' holiday in honor of
Piang's safe return from his long journey to the haunt of Ganassi,
the wonder man. That one so young had accomplished the difficult task
proved to the tribe conclusively that Piang was indeed the chosen of
Allah, the charm boy by divine right. Kali was glad of the opportunity
to plunge his people into gaieties, for a mysterious shadow had hovered
over the barrio for a week, and he hoped to dispel the effects of a
recent disaster by merriment and fiesta. In the night an infant had
disappeared from its hammock under the mango-tree and no trace of it
had ever been found. The mother, who had been sleeping on the ground
near her babe, told a strange story of being awakened by a suffocating
pressure on her chest; as she stretched out her hand in the dark,
she encountered a cold, clammy mass that moved under her touch. She
must have fainted, for when she was able to scream for assistance,
her baby was gone, and there were no tracks in the sand. The river
was searched, but the crocodile pickets were intact; no monster from
the river had broken through the barriers.

The ominous whisper, "Bal-Bal," passed from lip to lip. Only that
supernatural jinn could have whisked the infant from their midst;
only Bal-Bal, with his demon body, sailing through the air on
enormous wings, could have descended upon them so silently, so
stealthily. Fearfully the wise men kept watch for the return of
Bal-Bal, whose fateful visits were believed to come in pairs.

At first the news of the fiesta failed to rouse the people from the
lethargy into which they had sunk, but gradually their pleasure-loving
natures responded, and preparations were begun for the three days'
play.

"Goody-goody!" exclaimed Papita, the little slave girl, dancing about,
clapping her hands. "We are to have the macasla fiesta, Piang. Just
think, we are to go to the ocean to-morrow!" Piang's newly acquired
dignity would not permit him to respond to Papita's levity, but he
secretly rejoiced, too, over the prospects of fun and excitement at
the macasla.

Runners were sent into the jungle to procure the all-important
macasla herb, and that night the mixture was prepared. Macasla,
chilli-peppers, carot, and tobah shrub were pounded together in an
old dug-out canoe. Wood-ashes, earth, alcohol, and water were added,
and the mixture was allowed to ferment. Early the next morning nearly
all the inhabitants embarked upon the short journey to Parang-Parang,
their seaport barrio. Every available boat was filled with the merry
throng, and the river sang a soft accompaniment to their chatter;
pet monkeys, parrots, and mongoosen joined in the hubbub, and the
din echoed through the forest, to be taken up by nature's wild
children. Bal-Bal was forgotten, for the moment, by all except the
bereaved parents, who had remained behind with the aged, to mourn
their loss.

"I see the ocean! Oh, I saw it first!" cried Papita, nearly upsetting
the banco in her glee. "Piang, do stop being so solemn and look--over
there--through the trees!"

"I saw the ocean long ago, Papita," answered the boy with exaggerated
dignity.

With a sigh the girl turned away, despairing of drawing him into
sociability. Piang, the playfellow, had vanished, and Piang, the
charm boy, was so superior, so awe-inspiring. Out of the corner of
his eye Piang watched her. He longed to frolic and play, as of old,
but the weight of the tribe was on his young shoulders, and he must
put aside childish things. With folded arms he watched the revelers;
his heart beat violently, but, to the envy and admiration of all,
he retained his dignity and rigidity.

The travelers gave a shout as they rounded a bend and came upon the
sea. The curving coast line seemed to be ever smiling as the waves
wooed it with cajoling and caressing whispers.

The tide was on the turn; not a moment was to be lost. Men, women,
and children assembled about the dug-out, carrying wicker baskets
which they filled with the macasla mixture. Scattering quickly along
the extensive shoals, they ran into the water, waist deep, immersing
the baskets, jerking them about until the macasla was all washed out;
slowly they retreated to the shore. Impatiently they waited five,
ten minutes; then things began to happen. Crabs abandoned their holes
and scurried about aimlessly; children, wild with delight, pursued
and captured the bewildered creatures, tossing them into a brass pot
of water over the fire. Small fish came gasping to the top; finally
large ones began to show signs of distress. Screaming and laughing
at the top of their voices, the Moros pursued; the men harpooning
the largest fish, the women skilfully dipping up the smaller ones
with nets. Helplessly the beautiful, rainbow-tinted creatures floated
about, their opalescent hues fading soon after the Moros took them from
the water. Monsters over a yard long fought for their freedom; giant
crabs and shrimp struggled in the nets. A _liendoeng_ (water-snake),
brilliantly striped with red and black, made the women scream with
fright. Dashing among them, laughing and yelling as merrily as the
other boys, Piang pursued the offending reptile, here, there, and
finally grabbed the wriggling creature and ran to the beach.

"Ah là là là lélé!" he cried, dancing and jumping about, waving the
snake above his head.

"Oh, goody! Piang has come back to us," cried the delighted
Papita. "You will not frown and scowl again, will you, Piang?"

A shadow fell upon the manly young brow of Piang. He had transgressed;
he had forgotten his responsibility for the moment and had allowed
his glee to banish the dignity of his calling: Throwing the snake
into the basket, he quietly walked away from the merry-makers.

Crowds of friendly natives swarmed along the beach, hoping the
kill would be great enough to supply food for all. At other times
the Moros would have preserved any surplus fish, but those caught
under the influence of macasla cannot be cured or dried, as they
soon putrify. The macasla only blinds them temporarily, however,
and those fortunate enough to escape soon recover, suffering no ill
effects. Ten canoes, full of splendid fish, were the reward of the
macasla fiesta. A huge fire was built on the beach, and the small
fish, stuffed into green bamboo joints, were thrown in the ashes;
larger ones were sprinkled with _lombak_ dust (seasoning) and wrapped
in pisang leaves. Weird instruments made their appearance: drums of
bell-metal, jew's-harps of bamboo. The _gansas_, a flute that the
performer plays from one nostril, would have distracted an American's
attention from the music, holding him in suspense, anticipating the
dire consequences of a sneeze.

Gradually the monotonous music stirred the savages to action. Solemnly
they formed a circle around the fire, arms extended, lightly touching
each other's finger-tips. To and fro they swayed in time to the
crude music, and when the drums thundered out a sonorous crescendo,
they crouched to the earth, springing up in unison, uttering fearful
yells. When the individual dancing commenced, exhausted members began
to fall out, leaving the youth and vigor of the tribe to compete
for the honors. A maiden must prevent a youth from confronting
her; the youth, while attempting to gain his position, must beware
lest the maiden present her back to him. Fast and furiously they
whirled and dodged, and a shout went up from the bystanders as each
unfortunate dancer was compelled to retire. Finally there were only
three contestants left; Papita, Piang, and Sicto. Gracefully the
little slave girl eluded the boys; slyly she circumvented their
attacks. Her little bare feet twinkled daintily about on the sand;
her brass anklets jingled merrily; and the fireflies, confined in
her hair, glowed contentedly.

Now the hands must be held behind the back at all times during
the dance, and when Sicto, exasperated at the girl's nimbleness,
attempted to grab her, Piang protested loudly. A surly growl was
Sicto's response, and during the hot dispute that followed, as
the dancers swayed and dodged, Papita caught Sicto off his guard,
and to his mortification he found himself contemplating the comely
back of the girl. Over her shoulder she taunted the astonished boy,
and thunderous applause greeted his defeat. Sicto slunk off into the
shadow, muttering maledictions against Piang, whom he blamed primarily
for his downfall. Papita, Piang, which would win? Breathlessly the
audience followed the agile movements of the two; eagerly they claimed
the honors for their favorite.

The music ceased abruptly. With fear in their hearts and bated breath,
the tribe waited again for the sound that had disturbed their revelry:

"_Le le, li li._" The tribal call rang through the forest faintly.

"_Blako ampoen_, Allah," ("I beg for mercy, Allah,") whispered Kali
Pandapatan, supplicatingly.

The call was repeated, came steadily nearer. Finally from the gloom
of the river shot a banco, a very old man working at the paddle. It
was Pandita Asin from the barrio.

"_Un-di?_" ("Whither?") called Kali Pandapatan.

"The barrio--Bal-Bal!" gasped the exhausted old man.

The night pressed upon them. Up the river darted Asin's slender banco
with Kali Pandapatan and a few picked warriors.

"Asin, we shall need you, and you, Piang," the chief had said, and
the boy jumped into the boat. Far behind they left the terrified,
confused throng, preparing to embark, and soon the night swallowed
up the little advance party, as it hurried toward the stricken barrio.

A white mist rose from the water, obscuring the view; a damp breeze
chilled the travelers, and they anxiously scanned the heavens for
Bal-Bal, the terrible. Obstructions in the river were numerous and
dangerous. Once they grazed the side of a floating log; it immediately
turned upon them, emitting blood-curdling bellows through gaping
jaws. Piang's spear silenced the menacing crocodile, and the party
hurried on. A _taloetook_ (owl) wailed his melancholy koekh-koekh,
and the mournful sound seemed to draw the handful of men closer
together. Through the jungle the river wound its serpentine way; dense
growths crowded the bank and leaned far out over the stream. Trailing
vines and hanging ferns brushed the occupants of the canoe, and in
fear they avoided contact with them, so often did their velvety green
conceal wicked thorns and poisonous spines. Fiery eyes dotted the
jungle, stealthily watching for a chance to pounce upon the intruders;
rustling of the rushes warned them of invisible dangers.

"_Karangan!_" ("Sand-bar!") cried Piang, and just in time the banco
swerved, avoiding the slimy mud that might have held them prisoners,
at the mercy of prowling night terrors.

A light twinkled in the distance; confused sounds reached the rescuers,
and they pushed forward with renewed energy.

"Ooooh, Mihing!" called Asin, in his cracked, wavering voice.

"Ooooh!" came the answer from the barrio.

"Piang, we look to you to protect us from Bal-Bal, to you and your
sacred anting-anting." Solemnly Kali Pandapatan made this announcement.

The boy was the first to land. The lame and the halt crowded around
him, imploring him to save them. Confused, Piang wondered what was
expected of him but suddenly he remembered what the great Ganassi
had said:

"The source of power is faith!"

His proud little head went up; his brave eyes smiled:

"Have no fear, my people. Piang, the charm boy, will protect you."

A startling phenomenon had terrified the barrio. Just at dusk,
old Asin had been squatting in the doorway of his hut, dreamily
watching Papita's little white fawn munching mangos under the fatal
tree, when suddenly he saw it rise, struggle, suspended in the air,
then disappear. Its pathetic cry was heard once, high above their
heads. Then there was silence. The aged populace had been too
frightened to investigate and had hovered around the fire, afraid
to venture beyond its circle of light. Asin had been despatched to
notify the head of the tribe that Bal-Bal was hovering near.

All eyes turned toward the charm boy.

"La ilaha illa llahoe," softly prayed Piang, scrutinizing the frowning
jungle, as it closed in on all sides.

"Kali Pandapatan," finally announced the boy, "it is given that we
act as brave men. If it is Bal-Bal who has been swooping upon us,
have no fear; he can come no more with Piang, the charm boy, prepared
to meet him. If it is something else that is hovering near, we must
go boldly forth and slay our enemy."

A relieved sigh from the listeners greeted this speech.

"Bravely spoken, little brother," said Kali Pandapatan.

Another boat load arrived from the sea, and when the nature of
the calamity had been explained, all volunteered to aid in the
search. Each man bearing a torch, they went in pairs, scattering
through the jungle. At given intervals, Piang who remained in the
barrio at the entreaty of the aged, was to respond to the clan call.

"Le le li li!" echoed through the somber night, giving courage to the
faint of heart and keeping the searching party's spirits up. Stealthily
the charm boy crept around the edge of the clearing, examining every
possible opening; cautiously he peered into nooks and crannies.

The mango-tree! What was there about that old jungle veteran that
drew the boy toward it? The babe had disappeared from under its
shelter; the fawn had been whisked from its protection. A cry from
the circle around the fire arrested him as he approached the tree, but
he reassured them, exposing the charm, and bravely went forward. Dew
on the heavy, dark foliage glistened in the firelight, and the golden
fruit peeped forth temptingly. Piang reached up on tiptoe to pluck a
ripe mango, supporting his body against a large vine that hung from the
tree. The vine stirred, trembled, and disappeared. With a low cry the
boy recoiled. The tree was bewitched, was alive. Would its huge limbs
enfold him in its embrace as it had done the other two victims? Piang
was unable to move. Fascinated, he stared wide-eyed at the tree
with its wealth of parasite life sapping its vitality. Trailing
orchids and tree-ferns festooned its limbs; _liana_ and _bajuca_
vines smothered it in death-like embrace. Coil upon coil of these
serpent-like jungle creepers, ignoring or circumventing the smudge
platform halfway up the trunk, ascended to the tree's very crest,
only to return, dangling and swinging like the ragged draperies of
a slattern, reaching out tenacious arms in search of new support.

At any moment Piang expected to be seized by this supernatural
monster, and yet he could not cry out or move. Where did it hide
its victims? Did it inhale life or suck it into its trunk? Scarcely
realizing what he was doing, the boy focused his gaze upon two dazzling
points of light that gradually came nearer, nearer. A peacefulness
came over him, and he wondered why he had been so terrified a moment
before. Slowly a numbness crept up his limbs; a giddiness attacked
him. On came the hypnotic, icy lights, until they were within a few
feet of his face.

"Le le li li!" crashed through the stillness. With the dim past Piang
connected the disturbing sounds. The gleaming lights were beautiful,
compelling.

"Le le li li!" A memory of some duty faintly stirred Piang's
subconsciousness, and his senses tried to respond to the call. Bright
and intense grew the twin fires. One instant they seemed as minute
as fireflies, the next as large as moons. Yes, the tree was alive;
it was moving. A giant creeper was swaying toward him, would grasp
him in its toils.

"Le le li li!" persistently the call was repeated. "Le le li li!" A
duty! What was it? Charm boy? Who was charm boy? Involuntarily Piang's
hand sought the charm on his breast and grasped it. He was saved! With
a shriek he darted back just in time. The vine lunged out, quivered,
and recoiled.

Asin, who had been curiously watching Piang for some time, rushed
toward him and caught the fainting boy in his arms.



Quietly Piang gave his orders; unquestioningly he was obeyed. After his
mishap he had not regained consciousness for two days, and during his
illness he had prated senselessly about trees that were alive and vines
that had eyes, much to the disturbance of Kali Pandapatan and Asin. But
when he whispered his suspicions to his chief, Kali gave a low whistle.

Asin and Tooloowee were taken into the secret, and they set to work
to develop Piang's plan. A wild boar, which had been captured for
crocodile bait, was fastened to a pole in the middle of the _campong_
(clearing). Around it was built a bamboo pen, opened at one end, from
which extended a low, fenced-in lane about forty feet long. Arranged
in this lane, at intervals, were slip nooses of ratan, which, rising
above the structure, looked like skeleton arches.

Impatiently the Moros waited for night; fearfully they watched the
mango-tree. There was no tom-tom serenade such as usually heralds
the coming of night; no fires were lighted; the evening meal was
forgotten. An ominous silence pervaded the barrio.

Night came--soft, fragrant night, with its thousand wonders. The
inquisitive moon peeped over the palm fronds, peeped again, and
decided to remain. Papita, her anklets and bangles clinking dully,
moved listlessly about, sorrowing for her lost pet; Sicto followed
her persistently, annoying her with his attentions. The sulky mestizo
took pleasure in provoking the little girl, for was she not Piang's
favorite, and was not Piang his enemy? He moodily contemplated the
charm boy at work on the silly-looking structure that he was not
allowed to approach.

When it was finished, Kali Pandapatan ordered every one to go to
their homes, to lock and bar the doors, and, under pain of his
displeasure, to make no sound. The death-like stillness was fraught
with tension. From the window in the nearest house, Piang kept
watch with Kali, Asin, and Tooloowee; in his hand he held the ratan
cable that controlled the nooses in the narrow lane. Minutes, hours
trailed by, and still the barrio watched. A gentle wind awakened the
forest whispers and gathered its freight of seed and pollen to scatter
abroad. The prisoner in the deserted campong protested and struggled,
its ugly grunts disturbing the jungle peace. Dull clouds obscured the
moon, and for a long time the barrio was in darkness. When the light
burst suddenly upon them, the Moros started from their drowsiness
and gazed with awe on the swaying, shuddering mango-tree. Not a leaf
was stirring on the surrounding trees, but the mango rustled and
trembled ominously.

"See, Kali! I was right!" whispered Piang. No superstitious horror
pervaded the hut where the four men watched, but in every other house
Moros fell upon their faces, beseeching Allah to protect them from
Bal-Bal. The capricious moon plunged into a shadowy cloud again. The
next flood of light disclosed a vision so horrible that even Kali and
his brave followers stiffened with fear. Out of the mango-tree a black,
writhing mass crept toward the terrified squealing boar. Unfolding
length after length, the thing advanced, until nearly thirty feet
of sinuous, undulating life stretched between the mango tree and
the boar's cage. Papita, sickened with fear, buried her face in her
mother's bosom, weeping hysterically; Sicto, pale and trembling,
grasped the window for support.

"_Ular-Sawa!_" ("Giant python!") he gasped, hastily closing the
window. A little captive monkey whined pitifully.

The massive creature, distracted by the sound, paused, head up,
forked tongue darting in and out of the open jaws, for the Regal
Python has no ears, but hears with its tongue. That delicate nerve
center registers sounds by vibration, and when a python is eager to
listen, it extends its black, forked tongue.

"Oh, will it go into the trap?" breathed Piang. The boar, watching
its fate, squealed, and the python advanced. Missing the easy lane,
it approached the cage from the side, and tried to batter it down
with its powerful head. Failing in this, it attempted to slip over
the fence, but the pickets had been sharpened to prevent this, and
finally it discovered the opening.

Seeming to disapprove of the symmetrical structure, it hesitated to
thrust its enormous length into the strange-looking thing. The Moros
were fearful lest the creature escape and continue to overshadow their
barrio. Once the python seemed about to retreat, but at that moment
the boar struggled so desperately that the python's natural instinct
prevailed, and without a moment's hesitation, it writhed into the lane,
past the first loop, past the second, until it reached the cage.

"Now, Piang, now!" softly whispered Kali. Calculating the distance,
Piang jerked the ratan cable, and the noose tightened around the
snake's throat.

In a moment the fence was lashed to pieces, and the pickets were flying
about like so many chips, as the serpent fought and struggled. Piang
and his helpers secured the cable to a post and rushed into the
campong. Catching hold of the other cables, they pulled them tighter
and tighter until the snake was unable to move.

The clouds were heavy and the moon shone fitfully.

"Torches!" yelled Kali, and the women scurried about in search
of them. Piang and Tooloowee cautiously approached the monster's
head, holding on a stick some cotton soaked with poison. Savagely
the python bit at the extended stick, and the cotton caught on the
long recurved teeth. Try as it would, it could not get rid of its
mouthful. The Moros congratulated themselves, thinking the danger
past, little knowing what the fatal consequences would be. Under the
stimulus of the poison the python began to expand, until the loops
of ratan creaked and snapped. The snake did not plunge or struggle,
but quietly, steadily pulled. That python broke green ratan thongs
half an inch in diameter, and soon twisted out of all its fastenings
except the one about its neck. Catching hold of the mango-tree with its
tail, it pulled until its eyes bulged from the sockets, but the ratan
held. Releasing its hold on the tree, it flopped about the campong,
pulling and straining at the cable.

Finally it lay perfectly still, its dull, lidless eyes rolling
upward. Without any warning, its lithe tail shot outward, swept the
crowd of bystanders, and those fatal, living rings closed around Sicto,
compressing the unfortunate boy with such force that he gasped for
breath. Without a thought for the helpless boy, the women dropped
the torches and fled screaming through the night, leaving the campong
in darkness.

Only Piang came to the none too popular mestizo's assistance. He hurled
himself at the reptile's head, campilan raised to strike, but instead
of falling upon the mark, his knife severed the one remaining cable
and set the monster free. Perceiving its new antagonist, and feeling
its freedom, the snake rapidly unwound its tail from Sicto, who fell to
the ground with a dull thud. Darting forward with lightening rapidity,
it caught Piang in its circular embrace, and, coiling its tail around
the tree, flattened the boy against it, as if in a mill. Tighter,
closer hugged those massive, chilling rings, but Piang fought bravely.

"A light! a light!" screamed Tooloowee, as he dragged the insensible
Sicto away, and, out of a nearby hut dashed a slender, graceful figure
in response to the call, a fresh torch streaming its smoke and sparks
around her head.

"Quick, Papita," urged Tooloowee, and the girl came fearlessly to
the aid of Piang.

"Piang!" she wailed. "Why didn't you let it have Sicto!" Her
voice seemed to put new life into the suffocating boy. With one
supreme effort Piang managed to loosen his arm and struck once,
twice. The python, now bleeding profusely, hissed and writhed, still
tightening around the boy. Once again Piang thrust, at last reaching
the creature's heart. The rings loosened, relaxed, and Tooloowee's
well-aimed blow severed the awful head, which bounced and rolled to
Papita's feet.



When they carried the limp, lacerated body of Piang to his hut,
there was lamenting and weeping in the barrio. Piang, their beloved
charm boy was dead. A mournful _tilick_ (death signal) was sounded
on the tom-toms, and the wail soon gathered volume until the jungle
and river seemed to take up the plaint.

Dead? Could Piang, the invincible, be killed? Papita crouched in the
doorway. Kali Pandapatan bent over the still little form. Anxiously
he watched the eyelids quiver, the lips part. A sigh of relief broke
from the chief, and he murmured softly:

"Little brother, you have the strength of a packda; the cunning of
the civet-cat, and the wisdom of the mina-bird. May your days be long."

A knowing smile flitted across Kali's face as he caught the irrelevant
reply:

"Papita--is she safe?"



SEVENTH ADVENTURE

THE SECRET OF THE SOURCE


There had been a great drought. Plague was sure to follow such
weather, and the Moros were already dying of starvation. "Rice,
rice!" was the cry, but everywhere the crop had failed, and the
natives were desperate.

Piang had been more successful in foraging than the other lads had,
and his mother was safe for a time, but there seemed to be no hope,
and he sorrowed as he pictured her dying for want of the food that
it was his business to provide for her.

In the stifling heat of midday, the village was startled by the
appearance of several white men on the biggest animals they had ever
seen. Tiny ponies, straying about the village, fled to cover at sight
of the strange creatures, and most of the women hid themselves in
fright. The Moro men sullenly watched the strangers advance, making
no attempt to stop them, but there was no mistaking their hostile
attitude.

"Where is the dato?" asked the interpreter, who rode in ahead of the
men. There was no answer.

"Come, where is the chief? The white men bring good news; they
bring food."

Instantly there was a change. Kali Pandapatan stepped in front of
the others and said in his musical patois:

"I am Dato Kali Pandapatan. Speak. Do not deceive us."

A lengthy conversation followed, and while the two men were arguing
and gesticulating, the strangers gradually coaxed some of the children
toward them. Finally the women sidled nearer, and soon the entire
population had hedged the little company in, and were gazing with
awe at the huge American horses with their odd trappings. One mare
stamped her foot and neighed loudly, scattering the spectators in
every direction, greatly to the amusement of the white men.

It was all very hard for the dato to understand. He explained to his
people that some great power had sent the white men to save them from
starvation. The interpreter had told him that the Moros all belonged
now to some nation called the United States. A fierce murmur rippled
through the crowd at this piece of news. The dato raised his hand
for quiet.

"Let us hear them through. We are hungry; let them feed us. We will
fight for our freedom later, if necessary."

Haughtily Dato Kali Pandapatan faced the newcomers and bade them
speak. The interpreter explained that the men were United States
soldiers, and that their chief had commanded them to search the
islands for starving Moros and to relieve their suffering. The crafty
dato pondered long before he accepted their offer, all the while
watching for an attack. It was impossible for him to believe their
generosity could be genuine, so used was he to the treachery of Spanish
strangers. When the pack-train loaded with supplies appeared at the
head of the steep mountain pass, a cry went up from the hungry people,
and a rush was made toward it. When the supplies had been portioned
out to each family, and suspicion banished from the minds of the
natives, the "Americanos" were hailed as their saviors. Lieutenant
Lewis, in charge of the expedition, was offered every courtesy, and
the soldiers were showered with gifts of brass and trinkets. Dato
Kali Pandapatan vowed his allegiance to the soldiers and offered the
services of his tribe.

"Ask the dato if he has heard of the mysterious rice that has been
found on Lake Lanao, Ricardo," said Lieutenant Lewis.

The interpreter addressed the dato and learned that it was a well
known fact that rice had appeared on the surface of the lake from
no apparent source. As it had never been grown in that district,
the authorities were puzzled over the persistent rumors. If it could
be cultivated there, it might be possible to supply the tribes with
enough to avoid these frequent famines.

"He says he is not sure, sir, but travelers from that section all
bring the same tales of gathering rice in an eddy at one corner of the
lake. The tribes are very fierce around there, and as they will not
tolerate interference from strangers, no one has dared to investigate."

"I can easily believe it. General Bushing's expedition through that
country met with fearful opposition. It's a wonder to me that so
many of them came out alive." The lieutenant was silent for a time,
then said:

"Ask him if he has a swift runner, some one that he can trust."

Ricardo questioned the chief.

"Yes, sir, he says there is a boy named Piang, who is fleeter than
the wind, surer than the sun."

"Ask him if he will send this boy for me to the lake to search out
the truth about this rice. Offer him fifty bushels of corn for the
lad's family and tell him I will send him twenty-five bushels whether
he is successful or not."

"Piang! Piang!" the name was on every one's lips. From out the crowd
stepped a slender faun of a youth, slim and supple as a reed. The
gaily-colored breech-cloth wound about his loins supported his bolo
and small knives, and in his tightly knotted long hair, glistened
a creese. With silent dignity he awaited his orders. No curiosity
manifested itself in his face; no question was on his lips; he simply
waited. Lieutenant Lewis marveled at the boy's indifference, but
when the mission was explained to Piang, the light that sparkled in
his eyes and the expressions of excitement and joy that chased each
other across his face removed all doubt from the lieutenant's mind.

Piang was chosen! Piang was to ferret out the secret of the lake! Piang
was to bring honor to his tribe! When it was explained to him that
his mother would be provided for, he abruptly turned from the dato
and dashed off to his hut to procure weapons and scanty provisions. A
silence held the natives as they waited for Piang to reappear. They
all seemed to sense the dangers that were confronting the boy so
eager to undertake the task. Hardly ten minutes had elapsed before
he was in their midst again. He salaamed before the dato and, without
a glance at the others, bounded up the trail, away into the jungle.

"But," protested the lieutenant, "no one has given him any orders,
any directions." The interpreter conveyed the American's misgivings
to the dato. A smile broke over his face.

"Piang needs no directions, no advice. No jungle is too thick for him
to penetrate, no water deep enough to hide its secrets from him. Piang
will bring you news of the rice. I have spoken."

"And to think of the fuss it takes to get a few dough-boys ready for
a hike!" exclaimed the amazed lieutenant.



The jungle was terrible. Everywhere Piang came across victims of
the drought. Little monkeys, huddled together, cried like babies;
big birds, perched on the sun-scorched trees, were motionless. He
stumbled over something soft. Always on the alert, his bolo was ready
in an instant, but there was no need for it. He looked down into the
dying eyes of a little musk-deer. Pity and misgiving filled his heart,
and he wondered if he would be able to reach the Big Pass before he
starved. Surely, up there it would be different; they always had rain,
and if he could only hold out.... A snuff-like dust constantly rose
from the decayed vegetation; it pained his nostrils, and he muffled
his face in his head-cloth as he penetrated deeper into the jungle. He
must reach a clearing before night; it would mean almost certain death
to sleep in the jungle's poisonous atmosphere. There was a good spot
further up, and he worked his way toward it, determined to reach it
for his first night. The liana-vine that he cut for water was dry. He
listened for the trickle of a brook. The jungle is usually full of
little streams, but no sound rewarded his vigilance. Stumbling along,
he began to think his journey would end there, when he was startled by
loud chattering. A monkey settlement was evidently near, and he knew
by their liveliness that they were not famishing for water. Spurred
on by hope, he redoubled his efforts and was rewarded by the sight
of a cocoanut grove in a clearing.

There was a general protest from the inhabitants as he made his
appearance, but he paid no attention to the monkey insults hurled at
him and gratefully picked up the cocoanuts with which they bombarded
him. Shaking each one, he tossed it from him. They were all dry. The
monkeys were too clever to waste any nuts that had milk in them. Piang
tied his feet together loosely with his head-cloth, and, using it as
a brace, hopped up one of the trees as easily as a monkey. Sitting
in the branches, he drained one cocoanut after another, and when his
thirst was slaked, he amused himself by returning the bombardment. He
was surrounded by monkey snipers and he laughingly rubbed his head
where one of their shots had struck home. With careful aim he showered
the trees, and gradually the monkeys began to disperse. He had won;
the fun was over. He watched them scold and fuss as they retreated
into the jungle, regretting that he had not kept them with him a
little longer for company.

The big sun was dipping into the trees now, and he descended to gather
material for his bed. High up in the cocoanut-tree Piang built his
couch. He selected two trees that were close together, and, cutting
strips of ratan, bound stalks of bamboo together making a platform
which he lashed to the trees, far out of reach of night prowlers. He
dipped into his scanty provisions, and then, scrambling to his nest,
covered himself with palm branches, which afford warmth as well
as protection from the unhealthy dew. Quickly Piang sank into an
untroubled slumber. All night long creatures fought below him for the
few remaining drops of moisture in the discarded shells, but he knew
that he was safe, and their snarls and bickerings did not alarm him.



Piang started guiltily. He must have overslept. The sun was high, but
for some reason the heat had not awakened him. Sitting up, he rubbed
his eyes, sniffed the air, and uttered a shout of joy. A gentle rain
was trickling through the foliage; the spell was broken; the jungle
would live again. After hastily gathering a few nuts he climbed down
the tree and prepared for his journey, thankful that the drought
was to be broken by the gentle "liquid sunshine," as it is called,
instead of by a violent typhoon. Eating what he wanted of the soft,
green cocoanut meat, he tied two nuts to the ends of a ratan strip,
and, slinging them across his shoulder, was off again, darting here
and there to avoid the stinging vines and treacherous pitfalls.

How many days was he from Lake Lanao? He counted the suns that must
rise and set before he should arrive. There were four, if he should be
fortunate enough to find the Ganassi trail. Piang had not lost time by
returning to the coast to pick up the trail, but had trusted to his
instinct to lead him aright. Surely, if he followed the sun by day,
and the big bright evening star by night, he would come upon the
trail the second day. He must avoid the lake people at all costs;
they were not to be trusted, and his life would pay the penalty if
they caught him spying. Silently the jungle child sped along. Nothing
escaped his watchful eye; no sound eluded his trained ear. Once he
darted aside just in time to escape the toils of the dread python as
it swooped from above to claim its victim. Another time his bolo saved
him, and a wild civet-cat lay at his feet. Chuckling at his prowess,
Piang drew his knife across the animal's belly, and slipped off the
skin, almost whole. It would be useful to him, and maybe he could
find the herb that is used to cure pelts.

It was very difficult traveling. The sun was not visible during the
afternoon, and Piang lost his direction. Blundering here and there,
he often came back to the same place. It was no use; he could not find
the trail without the assistance of sun or stars. Sometimes it was
days before either could penetrate the dense mist that accompanies
the tropical rains. Discouraged, he threw himself on the ground.

An unusual sound made him jerk his head up to listen. It came again,
and the boy rose quietly to his feet, focusing his senses on the
sound. Cautiously he advanced toward it. In the jungle it is always
wiser to be the one to attack. The sound was repeated, and Piang
breathed easier. It was made by an animal, not by his dread lake
enemies. Gradually he crept nearer and when he parted the bushes and
peeped through, he almost shouted in his excitement. He had reached
the Big Pass. A broad river swept rapidly by, and along the banks
wild carabao rolled and splashed, making queer diminutive sounds, not
in keeping with their ungainly size. Piang was careful to keep out
of sight, as they are apt to be dangerous when their very uncertain
nerves are startled.

For more than two days Piang fought his way through the entanglement
of cogon grass and vicious vines, cutting and hewing his way,
afraid to cross the river and follow the Ganassi trail. Finally,
one rosy dawn, he came upon the lake as it sparkled and shimmered in
the early light. The boy held his breath, delighted with the beauty
of the view. Far in the distance mountains rose in a blue and purple
haze. The lake was nestled in the heart of them, fed by many clear
brooks and springs. Its bed had once been the crater of an active
volcano, but Piang did not know this.

From his retreat, built high among the dense trees, Piang watched
the lake people ply their way to and fro across the water. Somewhere
on that lake was the secret of the floating rice, and the boy was
determined to discover the truth. He hid before dawn at the water's
edge near a spot that he had noticed was much frequented. As usual,
a swarm of natives visited it about noon. Piang watched them dip
up gourds and cocoanut-shell cups full of water. They strained it
through cloths, repeating and repeating the action. He was sure it was
the coveted rice that they were gathering and he impatiently waited
for them to go; no sooner had they departed, however, than others
arrived to take up the task. There was nothing to do, but wait again
for dawn, and Piang wriggled himself back to his grove and mounted
his platform home.

He was very restless all night and hardly slept at all, so anxious
was he for the first streaks of light. As he lay with eyes upturned,
he watched the stars grow dim: before they had entirely disappeared,
Piang was standing by the water ready for the dive. His bolo was slung
at his side, and in his mouth he carried a smaller knife. One never
knows what one may meet at the bottom of an unknown lake, and Piang
was prepared for any emergency.

At last it was light, at last he could see into the clear
lake. Climbing out on the rocks as far as he could, he let himself
down into the cool water. How he rejoiced at the feel of it and how
easily he slipped along toward the spot where he had watched the
natives the day before!

He looked for signs of rice. Seaweed tricked him; bubbles vanished
and he reached to grasp them. Round and round he swam, and finally
his hands closed over something small and slippery. Breathlessly he
fingered it, and opening his hand as he trod water, he beheld the
mushy rice grains.

Taking a long survey, he assured himself that there was no one in
sight. Yesterday the Moros had not come before noon; and if he worked
quickly, he might discover the secret to-day. Taking a long breath,
Piang dived straight down and, swimming along the bottom, examined
the rocks carefully; but he came back to the surface none the wiser
for his plunge. A puzzled look puckered his face. Tilting his head
to one side, he considered. That was surely rice; it did not grow
here, so it must come from under the water. Again he dived, but this
time he swam nearer the surface and he saw that there was more rice
floating by than he had imagined. It was not coming from the bottom,
it was drifting from the center of the lake!

Excitedly he headed in that direction, swimming under water whenever
he lost the trail of the rice. It was not strange that it only came
to the top in that one spot. There was a strong current that bore it
upward, whirling it in an eddy before it sank to the bottom. Farther,
farther he went, always swimming toward the center of the lake;
and as he went, the rice grew thicker. Eagerly he plunged forward,
keeping his eyes open, watching the rice.

He stopped. What was that dark object resting on the bottom? He
did not know how exhausted he was until he paused for breath; then,
knowing that his next dive would take him far down, he rolled over on
his back and floated quietly. Burning with curiosity, he could hardly
wait to see what was there. Slowly he swam downward. Something warned
him to be more careful, and afterward he was grateful for his caution,
for had he plunged recklessly to the bottom, in all probability in
would have been his last dive.

He was aware of a large body moving near him and he dodged just in time
to avoid a collision, striking out for the surface. Lying flat on the
water, he peered into the depth and discovered several dark things
swimming about. Frightened at first, he remembered that sharks and
crocodiles do not live in mountain lakes. Bravely he descended, but
this time he swam with his bolo in his hand. Down, down, and again he
saw the queer, square things flopping about. They were huge tortoises,
clustered around a darker object at the very bottom of the lake. Once
more Piang came to the top. He was not afraid now; tortoises do not
fight unless attacked, and the boy could easily outswim any of the
clumsy creatures. But what were they doing out there in the middle of
the lake? Tortoises live near shoals and feed on fungi and roots. As
he plunged down once more, he was met by a strong up-current and had to
fight his way through. Tiny particles stung him as they rushed by, and
it seemed to him that millions of fish were darting here and there,
snapping at something. It was rice. Gradually it dawned on Piang
that he had reached his goal; the tortoise had reached it first,
and the secret lay hidden in that dark thing at the bottom.

Frantically, but steadily, he worked his way down, avoiding weeds and
driftwood. The water grew calmer as he neared the bottom, the rush of
the current less. His breath was almost gone; he could hardly stand
it a few seconds longer, but he must see what it was there. With one
supreme effort, he struggled and reached the hard sand of the lake
floor. A trifle dazed, he looked about, and there, towering above him,
was a ship.

Piang was almost unconscious when he reached the air. Had he
been dreaming? How could a ship be resting on the bottom of Lake
Lanao? Restraining his curiosity, he forced himself to rest. Lying on
his back again, he took long regular breaths until he was entirely
rested. Slowly he descended and, avoiding contact with the loggy
tortoise, circled around the dark thing. Yes, it was a boat. Piang
had seen only one other boat like it in his life. It was only about
thirty-five feet long, but to the boy it seemed to rise above him
like a mountain. Fascinated, he sank lower until he was standing on
the deck. The tortoises and fish paid no attention to him, and he
examined it carefully. The big tube, sticking up in its middle Piang
recognized as the thing that belches smoke, and along the sides,
covered with slime and weeds, were small black objects. He had heard
that these boats hurl "hot-spit" into the jungle when they are angry,
and he supposed it must come from these ugly things. All this occupied
only a few seconds, but to Piang it seemed like years. Making a hasty
ascent, he again filled his lungs and prepared to explore farther. As
he worked his way back, he crossed the current that was bearing the
rice to the surface and remembered his mission. Following the milky
trail, he arrived at the stern of the boat and shuddered to see the
mass of animal life clustered there. Worming his way alongside, he
frightened the swarming creatures, and they scattered, leaving him a
clear view of the boat. Only one old tortoise refused to be disturbed,
and Piang watched it pull and bite at something. He was very close
to it, when suddenly something blinded him. He put out his hands to
ward it off, but the rush increased, and when he found his way to the
top his hands were full of soggy rice. The old tortoise had torn the
end of a rice-sack, and the contents were being whirled upward.

As the boy lay on the water, reviewing his remarkable discovery,
his strength almost exhausted, he was startled into the realization
of a new danger. Quickly he dived, but not before a man in a vinta,
headed that way, had seen him. Piang was caught. In his excitement
he had failed to watch for the coming of his enemies, and now he
must fight. Swiftly the vinta approached. Piang could see it through
the water and he watched until it was over his head. With a lunge,
he struck at it with all his might, upsetting it and throwing the
occupant out. With a yell the man grabbed Piang, and the startled boy
recognized his old enemy, Sicto, the outcast, who drifted from tribe
to tribe, a parasite on all who would tolerate him. He was making
his home with the lake people just now and had discovered Piang's
hiding-place. Guessing that the boy was after the secret of the rice,
he had watched his chance and had pounced on him when he was least
able to protect himself.

Over and over they rolled, splashing and fighting. Piang was struggling
for breath, but luckily he still had his bolo in his hand. The big
bully was sure to win the fight unless Piang could escape soon, as
he was already winded and exhausted. A happy thought flashed through
Piang's mind. He watched for one of the tortoises to swim near the
surface, and then shrieking "Crocodile," he pointed toward it. When
the frightened Sicto shrank from the tortoise, Piang struck with all
his might, but he was so weak and his knife was so heavy that he only
stunned his adversary.

Then he was away like a flash. Before the bully could recover, Piang
had righted the vinta and was paddling off in the direction of the
river. Sicto tried to follow him, but Piang only laughed and paddled
faster. He was free again; he had a boat, and knew the secret of the
rice. Allah was indeed good to little Piang.

Rapidly he plied his paddle. The current was against him as he headed
for the mouth of the river, but he worked steadily and soon lost
sight of the infuriated Sicto.

He paused. Coming out of the river was a flotilla of boats. They were
the usual rice-fishers, and he must pass them to gain the outlet. What
if they called to him? He could not speak their dialect, and they
would surely recognize Sicto's boat. He did not think they had seen
him, so he changed his course to the east-ward and slowly paddled in
that direction. They soon passed behind him, paying no attention to
the solitary boatman, and he thankfully headed toward the river. As
soon as the men reached Sicto, he would tell them of the fight, and
they would give chase. Piang's chances of escape were indeed slim,
but he had a little start.

Stubbornly he fought the current; patiently he worked against the
swift water. At last he was in the river, but he knew that by this
time the Moros were in pursuit. That they did not appear in the river
behind him was no reason to feel safe. He was sure they would try to
head him off by land, as the river wound round and round through the
valleys. The odds were certainly against Piang. He was in a strange
country, unfamiliar with the trails and hunted by the swiftest tribe
of Moros. The Ganassi trail was out of the question. It would be
lined with the lake people watching for him. The jungle, which he
had worked his way through, would be searched, and his recent camping
site discovered. Every passable trail to his home would be watched.

Suddenly Piang remembered the "Americano" soldiers. They
lived somewhere off in the other direction, beyond the terrible
marshlands. Without a moment's hesitation, he headed toward the shore,
pulled up the vinta, and secured it. He then plunged into the stream
and swam to the opposite shore. When the lake people found the vinta,
they would search that side of the jungle. Piang was pleased at
his ruse.

Bravely the boy faced his only avenue of escape. The journey through
the marshlands and over the mountains was considered impossible,
but Piang was not discouraged. Searching the surrounding jungle, he
made sure that he had not been discovered, and, turning his back on
his home as well as on his enemies, headed toward the distant peaks,
the Dos Hermanas.



"Halt!" The sentry on Post No. 4 wheeled and took aim. There was
another rustle in the bushes. "Halt!" came the second warning. Luckily
the man was an old soldier, whose nerves were well seasoned. There
would be only one more warning; the bullet would come then. Tensely
the sentry listened. In the jungle one does not wait long out of
curiosity. Just as he was about to utter his ultimatum and emphasize
it with lead, a slender form tottered through the bushes and fell to
the ground.

"Sure, an' he 's a-playin' dead. None of that game for yer Uncle
Dudley." The Irishman, coming to port arms, sang out:

"Corporal of the guard. Number Four!" Never taking his eyes off the
still form, he waited.

"What's up?" called the corporal, as he came running up the trail
with his squad.

"Suspicious greaser!" The sentry pointed at the prostrate
form. Cautiously they approached it. Too many times their humane
sympathy had been rewarded by treachery. The native did not stir. One
of the guard poked him with his foot. There was no resistance.

"Guess he's all in, all right," announced the corporal. "Heave him
up. Never mind the leeches; they won't hurt you." The boy was lifted
to the top of a woodpile. He bore the marks of the jungle. His hands
and feet were scratched and torn by thorns, some of which still showed
in the flesh. His ribs showed plainly through the tightly pulled skin,
and leeches clung to him, sucking the blood from his tired body. The
long hair had been jerked from its customary chignon, and was hanging
loose around his head. His thin arms hung listlessly at his side.

"Gosh, he needs a wash bad enough. Must have been starving, too." With
his bayonet the corporal removed the black hair from the face. Uttering
an exclamation, he bent over the boy.

"Well, I'll be dinged! This is the kid Lieutenant Lewis sent up to the
lake! How in tarnation did he get to us from this direction?" The men
silently exchanged glances, all remembering their fruitless attempts
to make a trail over the Dos Hermanas. Forcing water between the
parched lips, the corporal gently shook Piang. The boy opened his
eyes and shuddered.

"You're all right now, little 'un," the corporal said, and although
Piang did not understand the language, he responded to the kind tone
with a weak smile. Slowly getting to his elbow, he motioned toward
the garrison:

"_Hombre!_" ("Man!") he muttered. It was the only Spanish word he knew,
and the soldiers guessed that he wanted Lieutenant Lewis.

"Give him a lift, boys," said the corporal and set the example by
helping Piang to stand.



"Why, the boy's story is incredible, Lewis. It is simply impossible
that a gunboat could be at the bottom of Lake Lanao," General
Beech protested as he walked to and fro in front of his desk in the
administration building.

"If you will search the records at headquarters, sir, I think you
will find mention of three gunboats that were shipped to this island
by the Spanish government and disappeared mysteriously on the eve of
our occupancy."

And so it turned out. Inquiries among the older natives of the barrio
brought confirmation of the report, and weird tales of transporting
the diminutive gunboats in sections over the mountain passes began
to float about. Finally General Beech was convinced and gave the
necessary orders to equip and send an investigating party to the
lake. Piang was to be the guide.

The transport _Seward_ carried the troops around to Iligan, and the
struggle up the mountain trail to Lake Lanao began.

Sicto was the first to give warning of the approach. He came upon the
party one morning as they were breaking camp near the Marie Christina
falls and immediately dashed off to Marahui.

"The white devils are coming," he shrieked. "Piang, the traitor,
is leading them to us!"

Dato Grande assembled his council, and they awaited the coming
of the soldiers with misgivings. They had good reason to fear the
Americans. General Bushing had swept that district in his marvelous
campaign, and there was many a cripple among the lake people to
testify to the accuracy of his marksmen. But they were relieved by
the appearance of Ricardo, the interpreter, who explained to the dato
that the troops were not hostile, but had come to make friends with
the Moros.

Proudly Piang swung along at the head of the column, guiding them
to his recent platform home. Camp was pitched on the shore, and the
engineers commenced work at once. The boy impatiently waited for
the divers to fix their cumbersome suits, and when all was ready,
he plunged into the water and disappeared from view. The grotesque
figures floating down with him made Piang want to laugh. They looked
like huge devil-fish, and he wondered how they could stand the clumsy
dress. After he had led the men to the boat he came to the top and
swam with eyes down. If there were more boats, he wanted to find them
first. The men on the bank were watching his agile movements with
interest. With a shout he disappeared again. Yes, yes, there was a
second boat. And as he circled the sunken craft he spied another near
it. Striking out for the shore, he swam to where the general and the
lieutenant were waiting.

"What is he chattering about, Ricardo?" asked the general.

"He says he has seen the other two boats, sir."

"This is certainly a fortunate discovery, Lewis. I shall make a
report to Washington on the matter, and you shall be commended for
your sagacity."

The young officer flushed with pleasure, but replied:

"Thank you, sir, but I think the boy Piang deserves all the credit."

It was many days before the task was completed. The rice had remained
a mystery to the last, and the officers puzzled over the fact that it
had not rotted entirely. The first report from the divers confirmed
the rumor that the boats had been scuttled, presumably to prevent
the Americans from capturing them. They had all been loaded with
rice packed in sacks, and secured in tin-lined boxes. Until recently
it had been protected from the water, but something heavy from above
had fallen on them, crushing the outside coverings. The tortoise had
done the rest.

Another surprise awaited the troops. A diver brought up a handful of
Krag cartridges.

"This _is_ a mystery," said Lieutenant Lewis. "The Spanish never used
Krags; we were the first to bring them to this part of the world,
weren't we?"

A shadow crossed General Beech's face. Quietly he ordered the divers to
search for more ammunition. Silently they waited, and Lewis wondered
what had brought the sad expression to his chief's face. When the
divers brought up a wooden box half filled with cartridges, the two
officers bent over it; on one side, branded in the wood, was plainly
visible:

"Depot Quartermaster, San Francisco, Cal."

"I thought so," murmured the general.

"Well, what do you know about that!" exclaimed Lewis. "The public
has been wondering for years what became of the thousands of rounds
of ammunition General Bushing took with him on his spectacular march
through Mindanao. Murder will out. It is here!" He rubbed his hands
together in glee, laughing softly.

"How do you suppose this ammunition got here, Lewis?" General Beech
asked gravely.

"Why, dumped here, of course. Don't you remember the Sunday editions
at home proclaiming Bushing a hero because he had used more ammunition
and apparently done more fighting, than any one on record? Why didn't
he come out with the truth?"

General Beech colored at this injustice to his colleague.

"The usual hasty conclusion characteristic of Young America!" said the
General, sharply. "Do you know, young man, that General Bushing is not
only one of our ablest soldiers, but one of the most finished diplomats
in the service?" Lewis had never seen General Beech so agitated.

"This discovery will be no news to the war department; they are
in possession of the detailed account of the accident." He paused,
his eyes sweeping the lake. "Lewis, this lake is the site of a most
unfortunate accident. Out there," General Beech pointed toward the
center of the lake, "dozens of our soldiers were lost, and the public
will never know the tragic story of their fall. General Bushing
was trying to transport six rafts of ammunition across the lake
to the troops stranded at Camp Vicars. During a wild night storm,
the handful of men set out on improvised rafts, but half-way across
they were attacked from all sides and nearly annihilated. Only the
wisdom and bravery of General Bushing saved the entire detachment
from death; he ordered the ammunition thrown overboard and rescued
his remaining men after a hard fight. That the survivors, one and
all, have kept faith, and never divulged the story of the lost Krags,
proves the remarkable influence General Bushing had over his command,
for had the Moros got wind of this handy arsenal--!"



The day finally came when the tiny flotilla was at last raised, and,
gay in its paint and polished metal, gallantly rode at anchor. All the
lake tribes were assembled to witness the celebration, and they gazed
with wonder at the strange craft. Many Americans had been attracted to
the lake by news of the discovery, and the camp had grown to almost
twice its original size. Some of the officers' wives had endured the
hardships of the journey to witness the novel sight.

The boats were pronounced seaworthy and were to be tested. The
largest boat, the flagship, was decorated from one end to the other
with its faded pennants, but in the stern, proudly proclaiming its
present nationality, flew the Stars and Stripes. Under the flag
at the bow stood a sturdy, nonchalant figure, arms folded, head
erect. Condescendingly Piang swept the crowd of wondering natives
with his haughty eye. He paid no more attention to Sicto than to the
others. In his supreme self-confidence Piang scorned to report Sicto
to the authorities. He was clothed in a new dignity that put him far
above considering such an unworthy opponent as Sicto and he silently
cherished the hope that other opportunities to outwit the mestizo
would be granted him.

An order was given. A shrill whistle startled the jungle folk. The
engines throbbed, and one after another the boats responded. A cheer
went up from the banks.

Piang had been given the honor of renaming the boats. The smallest
one bore the name of his mother, Minka. The next was dedicated to the
memory of his tribe's greatest hero, Dato Ali, and characteristically,
on the bow of the flagship, beneath the boy's feet, glittered the
bright gold letters, "P-I-A-N-G."



EIGHTH ADVENTURE

THE JURAMENTADO GUNBOAT


The transport _Seward_ was approaching Jolo. Far in the distance the
sunset tinged the coast with myriads of delicate tints, softening the
harsh outline of the jungle. A flock of wild pigeons hovering over
the town, suggested domestic peace, which was far from the actual
state of affairs in that hotbed of intrigue. Glasses were trained on
the isolated garrison, a mere speck of civilization, hurled at the
foot of the jungle, and the excited tourists covered themselves with
glory by their foolish questions.

Queer, dark-skinned people in dirty, many-colored garments, looking
like a rainbow fallen in disgrace, greeted the newcomers in sullen
silence, their disapproval very evident. A quarantine officer boarded
and asked for the young lieutenant who was to join the Siasi garrison.

"Hello, Lewis! There is some uprising in Basilan. Jekiri again,
I guess. They want you up at headquarters immediately."



The chug-chug of the engine was the only sound as the trim little
gunboat _Sabah_ slipped along. Lewis had been given command of a
squad of cavalry and ordered to proceed to Basilan to put down any
outbreak that might threaten. "Juramentado," was whispered, and his
orders were not to allow the troops to become involved but to quell
any trouble that was brewing.

"A pretty big order for a shave-tail (greenhorn) Lewis," General
Beech had said at parting, "but I bet you and that dark shadow of
yours will make good." The hearty handclasp and kind smile warmed the
young officer's heart. General Beech was unusually young for his post
as division commander, and he had endeared himself to his followers
by his kindly manner and dignified directness, and Lewis would have
faced death for him.

"Thank you, sir," was all that he said, and "the dark shadow" salaamed
according to his custom.

That night as the Americans swung along under the dome of brilliant
stars, a question arose as to the meaning of juramentado.

"Piang," Lieutenant Lewis said, "tell us about this custom of your
people, won't you?"

Bashfully the boy hung his head and wriggled his toes. He was ashamed
of his fierce people since the good American had taken him into his
home, but they prevailed upon him to explain, and among them they
gathered the following story from his funny, broken English:

When a Moro wearies of life and wishes to take a short cut to paradise,
he bathes in a holy spring, shaves his eyebrows, clothes himself
in white and is blessed by the pandita. The oath he takes is called
_juramentar_ (die killing Christians), and he arms himself with his
wicked knife and starts forth. Selecting a gathering, well sprinkled
with Christians, he begins his deadly work, and as long as he breathes,
he hews right and left. Piang told them that he had seen one strong
Moro juramentado pierced by a bayonet, drive the steel further into
himself, in order to reach the soldier at the other end of the gun,
whom he cut in two before he died.

The horror on the faces of his listeners made Piang pause, but they
urged him on.

"Since we are headed toward Jekiri's sanctum, I guess it behooves us
to get all the dope goin' about these fellows," interjected a recruit.

Piang's big, black eyes filled with mystery when he described how
the juramentado rides to the abode of the blessed on a shadowy,
white horse, taller than a carabao, just as dusk is falling. Indeed,
he assured them that he had seen this very phenomenon himself and
shivered at the recollection of the unnatural chill and damp that
crept through the jungle while the spirit was passing.

"Bosh, Piang, you mustn't believe those fairy tales now. You are a
good American."

"Sure, me good American, now," grinned the boy.



There is nothing to differentiate the island of Basilan from the many
others in the Sulu group. The natives seemed far from hostile, however,
and Lieutenant Lewis remarked upon their docility to Sergeant Greer.

"Don't let 'em fool you, sir; they're not to be trusted," he replied.

"Oh, Sergeant, I think we are all too scared of the dirty beggars. If
we ever stop dodging them, they will stop lying in wait for us."

The old man's face did not reveal his misgivings, but he wondered
where this young upstart would lead the men and inwardly cursed the
war department for sending troops into the jungle under the command
of a baby. He was soon to change his opinion of this particular "baby."

Camp was pitched near the water's edge in a tall cocoanut grove that
supplied them with food and water as well as shade. The chores over,
liberty was granted to explore the island. The sergeant shook his head;
he seemed to feel the inexperience of the new officer and overstepped
the bounds of discipline when he warned him again of the treachery
of the natives, advising him to keep the men in camp.

"That will do, Sergeant," replied the lieutenant. The old man stiffened
into a salute, wheeled, and disappeared down the company street.

At sunset retreat was sounded, and after all the men had been
accounted for, they gathered around the fires. Picturesque natives
mingled with the jolly soldiers, bartering and arguing over trifling
purchases. Through the warm fragrance, unfamiliar sounds kept
reminding Lewis that he was far from home. The twilight deepened
into night, and pipe in hand, he reviewed the strange scene. Folks at
home were celebrating Christmas Eve. Somewhere the snow was falling,
bells jingling, and a mother's prayers were being whispered for the
far-away boy in the Sulu jungle. Little Piang was squatting at his
feet, silently watching the scene, happy because he was near his
master. Suddenly the boy jumped up, dashed into the crowd, and yelled:

"Juramentado!"

A tall Moro, without any warning, had begun to shriek and whirl,
cutting to and fro with his terrible campilan, and before any one could
prevent, he had felled two troopers. With a howl, Lewis plunged into
their midst, pistol leveled, but before he could pull the trigger,
the Moro buried the sword in his own vitals and pitched forward, dead.

"See, another!" cried Piang.

Just in time a bullet from the lieutenant's revolver silenced another
deadly fanatic. They had slipped into the gathering, well concealed
beneath enshrouding green sarongs, but Piang's quick eye had detected
them before they had a good start.

"Piang has saved us from a terrible row, boys," said Sergeant Greer,
and when the wounded were cared for, the rough soldiers tossed the
graceful boy on their shoulders and paraded through the camp, much
to the delight of the hero.

"I go to find the sultan to-morrow, sir?" asked Piang. "Him at
Isabella, and I must give him Kali Pandapatan's message."

"Well, Piang, I am with you. I'm going to face that old codger and
tell him what I think of his fiendish tricks of killing us off by
this beastly juramentado, when he claims to be at peace with America."

Lewis learned many things during the trip, and Piang delighted in
guiding his friends through the jungle he loved so well, through the
grass eight feet high, under trees laden with strange fruits. Monkeys
were swinging in the trees chattering and scolding the intruders.

"You want monkey, sir?" asked Piang.

"Can you catch one without hurting it?"

"You watch Piang," chuckled the boy. The others hid, and Piang
struck a match. The tree, full of curious little people, shook as
they scampered about trying to see what Piang was doing. He paid no
attention to them, and as he struck match after match, they gradually
crept nearer. Shielding the flame from the inquisitive creatures,
he excited their curiosity until they were unable to resist, and
soon one hopped to the ground. Another came, and another. Piang paid
no attention to the visitors, continuing to hide the flame in his
hands. Lewis almost spoiled it all by laughing outright, for it was
indeed a ridiculous sight to see the little wild things consumed with
curiosity. Walking upright, their funny hands dangling from the stiff
elbows, they advanced. One venturesome little gray form clinging to
the branch overhead by its tail, timidly touched Piang's shoulder. It
paused, touched it again, and finally confidently hopped upon it,
all the while craning its neck, making absurd faces at the sulphur
fumes. Two little arms went around Piang's neck; a soft little body
cuddled up against him, and all the while the monkey twisted and
turned in its efforts to discover the mystery of the flame.

The click of a camera sounded like a gunshot in the intense stillness,
and up the trees went the little band in a flash, all but the prisoner
in Piang's arms.

"Great, Piang," called Lewis. "I hope the picture will be good,
for it was the strangest sight I ever saw in my life."

"Oh, me love monkeys," replied the boy, stroking and soothing the
frightened creature. "You want this one?"

"No, let the little beast off, I couldn't bear to cage it up." A banana
and some sugar repaid the monkey for the experiment and after he was
free, he followed the travelers, chattering and begging for sweets.

When they came to Isabella, capital of Basilan Island, Piang scurried
off in search of the sultan. The men amused themselves watching
the excitement they created. An American soldier is a wonderful and
dreadful thing to these wild folk.

"The sultan, he out in other barrio. Me catchim." This being
interpreted meant that Piang would guide them to his house.

When they finally came to a clearing, Lewis wondered why Piang stopped
in front of a filthy hut, half-way up two cocoanut-trees; he was
impatient to be off, as he wanted to reach the sultan's palace before
dark. Piang was arguing with a dirty woman cleaning fish in the river.

"Piang, what's the idea? Let's get on," impatiently said Lewis.

"This His Excellency Paduca Majasari Amiril Sultan Harun Narrasid's
house," replied Piang with awe.

"Gee, what a name!" exclaimed Lewis. "And to go with that dugout,
too. Say, Piang, I suppose we could call the old chap Pad for short?"

Piang grinned, but instantly went on his knees, head touching the
ground as a sullen, dark face, a white scar slashed across the cheek,
appeared at the opening.

"What does the beggar mean by that grunt, Sergeant?" asked Lewis.

"That's the old boy himself, sir, wanting to know why you have
disturbed his royal sleep."

Lewis was dumfounded! This dirty, insignificant creature the sultan! He
wanted to laugh, but the solemn little figure, prostrate before the
man, made him say quietly:

"Piang, get up, I want you to talk to him."

Timidly the boy raised his eyes to his august lord; another grunt
seemed to give Piang permission, for he rose and faced Lewis.

"What you want Piang to say? Be careful. He not like joke and might
chop off Americanos."

Lewis realized it was no trifling matter to meet this scoundrel alone
in the jungle, far from reinforcements. His message was simple, short,
and impressive:

"Ask him why the devil he allowed those juramentados to invade
my camp?"

With much ceremony Piang addressed the sultan, bowing and scraping
before him. The low, ugly growls in response made Lewis furious,
but he refrained from showing his anger. The sultan's reply amazed him.

He expressed his regrets indifferently, that the camp had been
disturbed. But (he threw up his hands to indicate his helplessness)
who could stop the sacred juramentado? Not he, powerful sultan that
he was. To-day was a feast of the Mohammedans. To-day was a most
holy day, and, of course, the sultan could not be held responsible
if some of his men had become excited. True, many good Americans had
met their death in this way; it was most unfortunate, but how could
it be stopped? Did the Christians not have their Christmas, and did
they not kill turkeys and cut trees? The Moros are a fierce people
and celebrate their feast days in a more violent manner.

Poor Lewis! Thoroughly exasperated, he tried to argue through Piang,
but finding it hopeless, he told the boy to finish Kali Pandapatan's
business with the sultan as quickly as possible.

Discouraged, he started back through the jungle, wondering how many
more fanatics had broken loose during his absence. The sultan was
deliberately picking the troops off, a few at a time, always insisting
that he was at peace with the Americans. The war department, many miles
away, was unable to understand the situation. Orders required that
the Moro receive humane treatment, and forbade any drastic measures
being taken against the juramentados, saying time would cure it. It
was outrageous, and intelligent men were being made fools of by the
sultan, who understood the state of affairs perfectly.

The jungle began to irritate Lewis; it was a constant fight. The
terrible heat, the tenacity of the vines and undergrowth seemed
directed toward him personally, as he stumbled and fought his way
along. How impossible to deal with the crafty sultan according to
Christian standards! He should be given treatment that would bring
him to terms quickly, and Lewis longed to get a chance at him.

Suddenly an idea flashed into his head. He hurried Piang, bidding
him find a shorter cut home, as night was gathering.

"Sergeant Greer, come to my tent immediately," ordered the lieutenant
when he had looked over the camp and found everything safe.

"Allow no one to enter, orderly," he said and closed the flaps.

"Sergeant, I have a plan and I need your experience and advice to
carry it out. That old sultan is a fiend, and I am going to get him!"

"That's been tried many times, sir, and he is still ahead of the game."

But after Lewis had talked rapidly for a few minutes, disclosing
the plan that was slated to best his majesty, a smile broke over the
weather-beaten features of the sergeant, and he slapped his thighs
in appreciation.

"Well, sir, we can try it, and if it does work, headquarters will
flood you with thanks; if it fails, and I warn you it might, you will
be cut into hash either by the sultan or the war department." This
was good advice from the old soldier.

"I know it, Sergeant, but I am going to take the risk if you are with
me." The enthusiastic young man dashed out of the tent to make the
necessary preparations for the great event.



Christmas morning dawned sultry and heavy. The mist lifted after
reveille and the troops were astonished that the _Sabah_ had
disappeared. Their surprise was greater to find a corporal in charge
of the camp. There was a positive order that no trooper should enter
the barrio, and an air of mystery hung over the whole camp. Where
was the gunboat, the lieutenant, the sergeant, and the interpreter,
Piang? The corporal shook his head to all these questions.

Suddenly rapid firing was heard in the direction of the barrio,
and every soldier seized his gun and ran into the company streets,
but the corporal, calm and undisturbed, dismissed them.

Nervously the men wandered about; the two wounded men became the center
of attraction and related for the hundredth time their sensations
when the juramentado had struck them down. They were not seriously
wounded, but the cruel cuts were displayed, and they did not prove
an antidote to the tenseness of the situation.

The firing had ceased after about ten minutes, and new sounds took
its place: wails and shrieks, the crackling of bamboo, told the story
of the burning village. But who had attacked the town? The corporal
smiled to himself, quietly.

Cheerily a whistle rang out, sending the men running to the beach;
there was the _Sabah_, tripping jauntily through the water toward
her recent mooring-place, and on her deck, smiling and waving, were
the missing men.

"Merry Christmas," Lewis greeted the men, as he walked down the
company street. Stopping at the cook's tent, he inquired what there
was for dinner.

"Beans, bacon, and hardbread," was the reply.

"Tough menu for Christmas, eh, cook?"

Since their arrival, every turkey and duck had disappeared, and the
barrio offered nothing to enhance their limited ration. It was an
old trick; the natives objected to sharing their food with soldiers,
and as soon as any troops landed on the island, ever possible article
was spirited away into the jungle.

It was a bad day for every one. Most of the men were homesick, and
they all felt the shadow of impending disaster; only Lewis and his
confidants realized the seriousness of the situation, however.

"Corporal, take four men with bolos and cut six banana trees," called
Lewis. "Plant them in a row down the company street."

Curiosity and amusement were mingled with indifference as the men
started toward the thicket to execute the order. What had come
over the lieutenant? Obediently the trees were brought, and Lewis
superintended the planting. The squad was kept busy cutting ferns
and palms, and it began to dawn on the astonished men that they were
preparing for a holiday. The spirit was taken up generally, and the
gloom was gradually dispelled.

"Here, Jake, hang this mistletoe up over the folding doors," commanded
the corporal, handing him a bamboo shoot, and pointing to the tent
door. "Now when she comes asailin' in to dinner, all unaware of your
presence, smack her a good one, right on the bull's eye."

Laughter and shouts greeted this order, and when Kid Conner offered to
impersonate a lovely damsel and, with mincing step and bashful mien,
appeared at the opening, Jake was game, and a skuffle ensued. Shrieks
of merriment coming from the cook tent aroused Lewis's curiosity, and
even his weighty matters were forgotten when he beheld Irish cooky
on his knees before the incinerator arranging a row of well-worn
socks. Solemnly folding his hands he raised his eyes in supplication:

"Dear Santa, don't forget your children in this far-away jungle. We
are minus a chimney on this insinuator, but we are bettin' on you and
the reindeers just the same, to slip one over on us and come shinnin'
down a cocoanut-tree with your pack. Never mind the trimmin's and
holly, just bring plenty of cut plug and dry matches."

And so the day worn on. Toward noon the storm broke; runners announced
the approach of the sultan, and Lewis was far from calm when he gave
the order to admit him to camp.

"Piang," he said, "there is the deuce to pay, I know, but you stick
by your uncle, and we will pull through."

No insignificant nigger greeted Lewis this time. The sultan had come
in state. Where he had gathered his train, the men could not imagine,
but there he was, garbed in royal raiment, attended by slaves and
retainers. Solemnly the procession advanced. Advisers, wives, slaves,
and boys with buyo-boxes followed his majesty, who was arrayed in a red
silk sarong, grotesquely embroidered with glass beads, colored stones,
and real pearls. His hair was festooned with trinkets strung on wire,
and on his fingers were fastened tiny bells that jingled and tinkled
incessantly. They got on Lewis's nerves, and he quaked inwardly when
he realized why he was honored by this visit.

Finally when the members of the court had arranged themselves around
their master, he loftily signaled for his buyo; Lewis, nothing
daunted, motioned to his striker. Amid smothered laughter he produced
the lieutenant's pipe and tobacco, using a tin wash-basin for a
tray. Mimicking the actions of the royal slave the man salaamed before
Lewis and proffered the pipe. Lest the sultan should despise his barren
state, minus slaves, advisers, and wives, Lewis summoned Sergeant Greer
and directed him to remain beside him to share the honor of the visit.

When Lewis caught Irish cooky, arrayed in apron and undershirt, with
a basting spoon and a meat ax held at attention, making faces at his
old sergeant, the humor of the situation came over him, and he smiled
to himself as he looked at the scene before him: the banana-trees,
loosely flapping their wilted leaves, the socks idly waiting to
be the center of merriment again, the troop drawn up at attention,
regardless of the variety of uniform, and beyond, the _Sabah_, sole
reminder of civilization, bobbing at anchor.

Never removing his eyes from Lewis's face, the sultan completed
the ceremony of the buyo, and after deliberately rolling a quid of
betel-nut, lime-dust, and tobacco leaves, the august person stuffed
it into his mouth.

The trees rang with silence. Lewis thought his ears would burst as
he strained them to catch the first sound that was to decide his
fate. Faithfully Piang remained by his friend's side, despite the
angry glances directed toward him from the sultan's party; the lad
was fearful of the outcome of this tangle.

Finally the spell was broken. Women giggled, slaves flitted about,
administering to the wants of the party, and the interpreter rose to
deliver the complaint.

Had there not been a treaty of peace signed between Moroland and
America?

"Yes," replied Lewis. "And I am happy to serve a government that greets
the Moro as brother." The sultan stirred, perplexed by the reply.

"Then what right had that boat," asked the interpreter, pointing to
the _Sabah_, "to shell the barrio, destroying property and killing?"

This question was received by Lewis and the sergeant with grave
surprise. Solemnly they exchanged inquiring glances, then in
mock indignation glowered at the _Sabah_. The _Sabah_ disturb the
peace? When had that happened?

Insolently the interpreter related the story of the attack, and a
rustle of surprise and delight ran through the troop. Sorrowfully
Lewis and the sergeant shook their heads, and the sultan, puzzled
at first, began to realize that he was dealing with a new kind of
"Americano." The two men's heads bent lower and lower as they sorrowed
over the misdemeanor of their little boat. Weighed down with grief,
Lewis signaled Piang to prepare for his reply to the noble visitor.

How could he (Lewis) appease the powerful sultan for this mishap? What
amends could he make for the treachery of his little gunboat? Not
even he [his hands went up in imitation of the sultan's own gesture
of the day before] could help it, powerful officer though he was. It
was Christmas, a most holy day, and doubtless before dawn the truant
craft had slipped out of the harbor without permission and had gone
juramentadoing.

"Attention!" commanded Sergeant Greer, startling the troop into
rigidness. Their delight had almost expressed itself in a whoop.

With exaggerated gestures, Lewis continued.

Did the Moro not have similar customs? And did the sultan
not sympathize with him in his inability to stop this dreadful
practice in the Celebes Sea? American boats are dangerous on their
feast days, and no one can tell when they may go juramentadoing to
celebrate the occasion. That is the only custom they could celebrate
to-day. Look! [He pointed at the pitiful banana-trees.] There are no
gifts to adorn them with, no turkeys to kill; and the soldiers' hearts
are sad. But the _Sabah_ evidently appreciated her capabilities,
and doubtless before night she would again honor her country by
recklessly shelling the jungle.

At this moment from the _Sabah_ a shrill whistle echoed through the
forest, scattering the assembled guests in all directions. Some took
to trees, others threw themselves face down, on the ground.

The sultan was furious. He gruffly ordered his subjects back, and his
beady eyes glared at the impostor, but he was too much of a diplomat to
display his feelings further. The soldiers had been amused at first,
but they realized the danger of trifling with the sultan. Every tree
and corner of the jungle would respond with an armed savage, eager
to destroy them, should the order be given, and uneasy glances were
directed at the irate potentate. All the recent good humor and mirth
had vanished; only the sergeant and the lieutenant retained an air of
utter indifference. They quietly continued to smoke, gazing off into
the far horizon, oblivious of their surroundings. Were they pushing
that huge American bluff too far?

After long deliberation, the sultan apparently reached his
conclusion. He whispered an order, and several runners disappeared into
the jungle. Lewis heard the sergeant catch his breath, but the old
man preserved his dignity admirably. More silent waiting and smoking
followed. The sultan growled his displeasure as an adviser attempted to
give some piece of advice, displaying a far from lovely temper. Piang
valiantly stood his ground, ready to fight and die by his friend.

Finally sounds of the returning slaves reached the gathering. What was
coming? Armed savages? Or had he ordered his poison reptiles to be let
loose among the soldiers? The stillness was oppressive. No one moved,
and the sultan continued to study the averted face of the officer.

A sound floated to them, nearer, nearer. The men braced themselves
for a fight. But the sound? It was one they had all heard, a familiar,
homelike sound.

"Gobble-gobble!" It was answered from all directions. Gradually the
truth dawned on Lewis. He had won, and the warm blood rushed through
his tired limbs.

"Turkeys, by gosh!" shouted a recruit, and the cry was taken up by
the whole command, for slaves were pouring in with fowls of every
description. The sergeant vainly tried to establish order in the ranks,
but the reaction was too great. All the good humor and excitement of
the morning was restored, and the innate childishness of the soldier
began to assert itself.

"Here, Jake, hang this fellow up on that tree so he can salute his
majesty in true turkey fashion," shouted one man, and Jake, game as
usual, tossed a big gobbler up in one of the mock Christmas-trees. From
this point of vantage the bird made the jungle resound with its
protests, while the troop screamed with laughter as Jake undertook
to interpret the creature's address.

"Piang, what will we say to the old codger now?" asked Lewis.

"I ask for gift for _Sabah_; it keep her good," grinned the boy,
and when he delivered that message to his majesty, a smile nearly
destroyed the immobility of his features. A slave handed Lewis a
package done up in green leaves, and when he curiously loosened the
wrappings, a handful of seed-pearls, beautiful in luster and coloring
fell in his palm.

"Thank him for the _Sabah_, Piang. I guess this will ease her restless
spirit, all right. Tell him it will also serve as a balm for the
wounds of the men who were attacked by the juramentados."

Regally the old potentate rose to take leave. Lewis wanted to slap
him on the back in that "bully-for-you-old-top" manner, but the farce
must be completed. When the sultan paused opposite Lewis, measuring
him with those cruel, steely eyes, Lewis's only indiscretion was a
wavering of the eyelid, just one little waver, but it was very much
like a wink. There was undoubtedly a response in the other's eyes,
but that is between the sultan and Lewis.

As solemnly as they had come, the procession disappeared into the
jungle. The giant trees, smothered by vines and noxious growths,
swallowed the brilliant throng and seemed to symbolize the union
of the savage and the jungle. The sergeant's great, brawny hand was
extended and grasped by Lewis in appreciation of what they had been
through together.

Excitement reigned everywhere. The bedlam of fowls about to be
decapitated and the shrieks of the troopers vied with each other for
supremacy. Piang was being lionized by the men, toasted and praised
in high fashion.

When Lewis inspected the Christmas dinner, the old Irishman winked
a solemn wink, as he reminded the lieutenant of the discarded menu.

"You knew it all the time, sor; why didn't you put me on?" With a
noncommittal smile, Lewis proceeded on his usual inspection tour. After
he had returned to his tent and was settling himself to enjoy the
hard-earned meal, he was startled by an unusually loud outburst among
the men. It gradually dawned upon him what it was. "Three cheers
for the lieutenant! Three cheers for Piang!" was the cry that was
disturbing the jungle twilight.



NINTH ADVENTURE

THE BICHARA [1]


Piang was about to land for the first time at Zamboanga. His tribe
had looked with distrust upon the overtures made by Governor Findy,
and although they obeyed his command to appear at the _bichara_, they
were prepared to fight if necessary. Pagans, Mohammedans, Catholics,
and Protestants were ordered to assemble at Zamboanga to establish
peaceful trading relations, a thing that had never been dreamed
of in the belligerent Sulu Isles, and Americans as well as natives
were fearful of the outcome. The governor was severely criticized
for his experiment, but he had made a deep study of the Moros,
and was willing to run the risks of the present in his desire to
bring the light of freedom and peace to the misguided savages. After
centuries of oppression and outrages against them, the Moros had of
necessity become suspicious and cautious. Preyed upon by Jesuits,
Filipinos, and Spaniards, they had long ago found a ready bolo the
safest argument. Governor Findy had sent them word that they were
to be protected from their enemies, and that Americans were their
friends, but disturbing whispers of traps and bondage made the wild
folk hesitate to obey the summons.

Thus, a strange scene was being enacted at the Zamboanga wharf. From
all directions weird crafts made their way hesitatingly toward it. The
sentries were distrustfully scrutinized, but not a soldier was armed.

"See, Kali Pandapatan, I told you the new governor was good. He trusts
us and permits us to enter his barrio as friends." Proudly the tribe's
charm boy sprang from the war-prau, and, to the astonishment of the
soldiers, as well as the Moros, strutted up to the sergeant in charge
and offered his hand, American fashion.

"I'll be dinged, if it ain't Piang!" exclaimed Sergeant Greer. "Is
this your old man, Piang?" he asked genially, pointing to Kali
Pandapatan. The old chief stiffened at the apparent familiarity.

"Him big chief! Him Kali Pandapatan," hastily corrected Piang.

"Excuse me, sor; no hard feelings, I hope. Had a rough trip over,
I hear; how did you leave the missus?"

When the remark had been interpreted, a murmur rippled through
Kali's ranks, and hands flew to hips. No Moro permits his women to
be spoken of.

"What's all the fuss, kid?" asked the sergeant, innocently.

With an impish grin, Piang replied:

"Him no like talk about missus; him got twenty."

"The deuce he has!" laughed the sergeant. "Some old scout!"

The good-natured Irishman finally gained the confidence of the ruffled
potentate, and when Piang explained that he and the soldier were old
friends, Kali solemnly acknowledged the union with a stiff handshake.

"Ver' good," said the savage with a grin. Piang glowed with pride at
Kali's display of English.

"Now what do you know 'bout that?" commented Greer.

The savages were for all the world like packs of wild animals brought
to bay. Gaudy Bogobos from Davao brushed shoulders for the first time
with Sabanas and Kalibugans, and their snarls and bickerings boded
ill for the success of the bichara; but finally the natives huddled
together, linked by the common suspicion of their Christian enemy.

Before entering the town, every visitor was required to place
his weapons in the _lanceria_. Now a weaponless Moro is the most
embarrassed of men, with the possible exception of the dreamer who
finds himself at a party in pajamas. A Moro's idea of his costume,
arranged in order of its importance is: first, weapons; second, hat;
third, shirt, and, incidentally, trousers.

The timid creatures slunk along, looking suspiciously behind them, but
as the soldiers paid no attention to them, they gradually forgot their
enmity toward civilization and became engrossed in the new delights:
pink lemonade, pop-corn, toy balloons. They were beside themselves
with joy. When ice-cream was introduced, and they had been assured
that it would not burn them, their admiration was unbounded. Piang
surreptitiously slipped some of the heavenly sweet into his wallet
for future consumption and was dismayed a little later to find a thin
stream trickling down his leg and an empty wallet.

Governor Findy watched with interest the mingling of the many alien
people. Wily Chinamen behind their bamboo street-stalls ministered
to the wants of the throng, taking in trade bits of gold-dust and
trinkets of brass; Filipinos offered their wares, cooling drinks and
sweets. The Filipino's costume is very different from that of the
Moro. He wears stiff, white trousers, carefully creased and immaculate
shirts which hang outside the trousers. He wears no shoes, and his
short black hair is oiled and brushed very carefully.

"Now, it's many times I've been wonderin' what the advantage is in
wearin' your shirt outside your trousers," said Sergeant Greer to a
sentry. "That's what I call practical," and he pointed to an ice-cream
vender, industriously wiping a spoon on the tail of his shirt, before
offering it to a new customer.

There was great excitement over the coming _baile_ (ball). That night
savages and Christians were to enjoy the festivities side by side, and
marvelous tales of preparation were being circulated. Piang and Kali
Pandapatan wandered about the village, pausing here and there, filled
with awe at the novel sights. The value of garters as necklaces had
been discovered, and a brilliant crimson pair decorated the chief's
neck (he had gladly parted with five dollars' worth of gold-dust
for the treasure). Gilt collar buttons were forced into the holes
in his ears. Safety-pins and their surprises had to be investigated,
and an admiring throng crowded around, marveling at Kali's daring.

"Kali!" Piang exclaimed suddenly. "Look!"

Seated at a table in front of a Chino café, were three men in
earnest conversation: Alverez, a Filipino mestizo, who had acquired
by deception the Moro title, Dato Tamangung; his cousin Vincente; and
the Moro malcontent, Sicto. The two Filipinos were disloyal employees
of the government, already suspected of being the instigators of
unrest among the Moros. Sicto was a deserter from Kali's ranks and
was wanted by that august chief for many serious offenses. Dato Kali
Pandapatan scorned to report Sicto to the authorities. A Moro dato
is supreme and has the right to punish his subjects according to his
own lights. A woman, mingling with the gala bichara throng had a mere
stump for an arm; she was a thief and her hand had been severed to
prevent it from offending again. A man with face half covered showed
the savage justice dealt a liar; his mouth had been split from ear
to ear to permit easier passage of the truth. Sicto would be handled
according to Moro law, but not here.

Kali and Piang exchanged a knowing look, and Piang wandered off,
apparently seeking new pleasures, but furtively watching the three
men. He wormed his way through the crowd intent on a game of chess,
played by two venerable old Chinamen. A sudden "Sssshhh" from Sicto
interrupted Alverez's excited whisper, but not before Piang had caught
a few significant words:

"The baile--juramentado--Findy."

The little charm boy's heart beat violently, but his face never
changed expression. Juramentado! So some poor misguided fanatic
had been persuaded to assassinate the governor. He and Kali must
prevent the outrage, for had they not sworn allegiance to this new
chief? Piang feared that Sicto suspected the words had been overheard,
so he carefully avoided Kali and strolled on among the people. A
glance at his chief had warned Kali that trouble was in the air.

Sicto, Alverez, and Vincente moved off toward the dock.

"Sicto, did Piang hear what I said?" asked Alverez.

"Does the jungle hear the trumpeting of the elephant?" angrily
retorted Sicto.

"He hasn't spoken to any one yet," said Vincente, significantly. "We
had better get rid of him before--"

A whispered conversation followed, and Alverez finally exclaimed:

"I'll do it! Wait here. Watch Piang." Then he hurried off.

Without approaching Kali, or divulging the secret to any one, Piang
followed the men to the dock, and Sicto laughed softly as he watched
the unsuspecting boy walk into the trap. The little gunboat _Sabah_
was bobbing at her moorings, and Piang joined the crowd that was
gazing in wonder at the strange craft. A shrill whistle, signifying
the _Sabah's_ intention of immediate departure, so terrified the Moros
that some took to their heels while others sought the safety of tall
lamp-posts. Piang was laughing merrily when he was startled by a noise,
and turning, he saw Alverez and a soldier running toward him.

Instantly everything was confusion, and Piang realized that he was
the center of the excitement.

"Are you Piang?" asked the soldier, cautiously approaching him.

"Sure, me Piang."

"Hike! Beat it!" said the man, pointing to the _Sabah_.

What did he mean? Was Piang to be allowed to go aboard the boat?

The soldier made it very plain, finally, that such was the case, but
Piang insisted that he could not depart on a pleasure ride without
getting his chief's permission.

"_Sigi_, beat it, I tell you, _pronto_!" said the soldier impatiently,
emphasizing the command with a push. Almost before Piang realized it,
he found himself on the gunboat, which was slowly moving out toward
the channel. In his hand was a crumpled piece of paper which the
soldier had gingerly thrust into it.

"Here's your passport, kid," he had said with a grin. Piang carefully
unrolled the paper and stared at the queer American characters. A
sailor offered to translate it for him, but when he glanced over the
paper, he uttered a low whistle.

"Say, you go away back and sit down! Don't you come near me or any
one else, sabe?"

Piang recoiled before the look of disgust on the sailor's face. What
was the matter with every one? Why were they all afraid to come near
him, and where were they taking him? He summoned up enough courage to
ask who had written the letter, and when he was told that it was signed
by Governor Findy, he felt reassured. Surely if the good governor was
sending him somewhere, it would be all right. Disconsolately, Piang
crouched in a corner, watching sharks and dolphins sporting in the
foaming wake. He wondered how long the boat was going to be out, if
it would return in time for him to save the governor. When he started
toward a group of men to ask for information he was met with a shout.

"Get out of here, you!" they yelled, and poor Piang hurriedly retreated
to the stern. Much talk of the coming baile seemed to indicate that
the sailors expected to return before evening, so Piang patiently
squatted on a coil of rope, wondering when the mysteries of his errand
would be revealed to him.

The ocean is dotted with many lovely islands off Zamboanga. Somber,
lowering Basilan guards its secrets to this day; Sacol, home of Dato
Mandi, invites and then repels the intruder; tiny clumps of vivid
green rise out of the channel in the most unexpected places, as if
timidly wishing to investigate before adding their emerald mite to
crown the Celebes. The island toward which the _Sabah_ was making her
way seemed blacker and denser than its more frivolous neighbors. Two
staccato whistles warned the islanders of the _Sabah's_ approach,
and the beach was soon the scene of lively commotion. The engines
stopped, and the gunboat slid along easily. A boat was lowered. The
sailors were speaking in low voices; one looked toward Piang and
shook his head sadly.

"My task is not to be an easy one," thought the charm boy, but his
head went up proudly. These sailor men should see how a brave Moro
executed the commands of his superiors.

"Come on, kid," called a jacky, and just as Piang stepped over the
side a kindly sailor slipped a quarter in his hand. It was evidently
a gift, and the boy grinned appreciatively.

"Wastin' your coin, man," remarked another sailor with a harsh
laugh. "He's not likely to need _dinero_ (a silver coin) soon." Piang
wondered again at the pitying looks that were cast at him, but he only
held his head higher and climbed into the boat. The men seemed in a
great hurry; they landed far up the beach, and bags and provisions
were hastily dumped on the sand.

"Here you are, young 'un," said a sailor, and Piang looked up eagerly.

"Me, here?"

"Yep, this is your place," replied the man, looking away quickly from
the soft brown eyes.

Obediently the jungle boy jumped out, awaiting instructions. The
sailor in charge pointed to the paper in Piang's hand and waved toward
the barrio.

"For dato?" Piang asked, with a puzzled look.

"Sure, the dato," replied the man evasively, and Piang turned and
started off through the jungle, following a well defined path.

"Plucky kid, that," said the sailor who pushed off. "Wonder if he
knows what's up? Half the time they don't tell the poor devils. Row
over toward the patrol-boat, and I'll warn them to watch carefully
to-night in case he tries to escape. When they first land here they
kick up a terrible row and usually try to make a get-away or commit
their particular brand of hari-kari [suicide]."

Piang was in a great hurry. There was no time to be lost and whatever
the business in hand might be, it must be finished quickly. He wondered
why some of the sailors had not come with him. Americans are always
so curious and never lose an opportunity to visit a strange barrio. He
ran on swiftly.

Two sounds broke simultaneously on his ears. What was there in them
to strike a chill to his heart, to fill him with forebodings? That
shrill whistle! It was surely the _Sabah's_, and as Piang came to
a small clearing, he caught a glimpse of the harbor. A cry broke
from him. The _Sabah_ was sailing away. Before he could fully
realize the calamity, that other sound, ominous and terrible, came
again from the barrio. A low rumbling, punctuated with shrieks and
screams, came nearer, nearer. Suddenly from out the dense undergrowth
protruded a face, shoulders, and finally a woman, old and bent, crept
through. Spell-bound, Piang watched her. Wisps of unkempt gray hair
straggled around her head; filthy rags hung from her lean, stooping
shoulders; sunken eyes, sly and vicious, glared at Piang. Tremblingly
the boy watched her creep toward him. There was something about the old
hag that turned his blood cold. The distant rumble became individual
howls, and Piang suddenly realized that he was being hunted. But why,
and by whom? The innocent paper in his hand crackled. The old hag
was very near, was about to touch him. With a shriek, Piang jumped
back. Her hands were festered; her face and neck were covered with
white splotches.

"A leper!" cried the boy and suddenly he realized that he had been
trapped by that villain, Sicto. Not Sicto, but Alverez had filched
the order for the confinement of a leper, had erased the name, and
substituted Piang's. He flung the damning paper from him.

As the boy darted off through the jungle, the old woman yelled. The
cry brought the others, and when Piang caught sight of them, he
almost lost hope. Would he be able to escape the contamination
of this island? With mad shrieks, the lepers gave chase, eager to
lay hands on one so lately relegated to their colony. Was he not a
leper too? What right had he to scorn them, his brothers? Hotter,
fiercer grew the chase. The island was so small that it afforded
little refuge for the hunted boy. Sounds from all sides indicated
that the chase was almost over; it was only a matter of minutes now,
and never again could he leave the dread colony.

A rustle at his feet startled him, and some animal scurried off
into the bush. A dark hole from which it had evidently crawled
attracted Piang's attention, and without an instant's hesitation,
he flung himself on the ground and wormed his body into the welcoming
shelter. Pulling a fallen branch in front of the opening, he shrank
farther back into the cave. Cave? No, he had taken refuge in a fallen
tree trunk, hollowed out by the persistent ferreting of termites
(ants).

"He was here, here," screamed the old woman. The pursuers flocked to
the spot, and Piang listened as they beat the bush, clamoring for their
victim. They were so infuriated at the new arrival's unsociability
that they would probably kill him if they found him.

Piang crouched back in his cramped quarters. The tiny white ants
announced their disapproval of the intrusion by vicious stings, but
Piang did not move. A sudden jolt made his heart beat wildly. Some
one had jumped on the other end of the log, and the rotting wood had
caved in. He expected each moment to be his last. Over his head the
pattering of bare feet, running along the trunk, sounded like thunder.

When the lepers moved off into the jungle, Piang was not deceived. They
would lie in wait, and their revenge would be the more terrible for
the delay. Sweat poured down Piang's face; his body ached where the
ants had stung him. He tried to plan some means of escape, but none
came to his tired brain.

"There is no God but Allah," whispered the charm boy, and a peace
seemed to fall upon him.

Many weary hours went by before a squawk penetrated the death-like
stillness. Fruit-bats! It must be night. Very slowly he made his
way toward the opening. Unfortunately for Piang the full moon was
rising, making the soft, tropical night a wonder of beauty and
loveliness. Cautiously he thrust his head through the branches that
shielded his retreat. He was very near the ocean; the other end of the
fallen tree, in which he had found refuge, was lying in the water, and
the rising tide was gradually creeping up over it. The gentle swish
of the sea comforted Piang. It was his friend, the only friend that
could help him escape from this island of decay. His practised eyes
discerned the shadowy forms of watchers squatting along the beach;
beyond, the patrol-boat moved about restlessly, and in the distance
twinkled the lights of Zamboanga.

"If I could only get past the lepers and the boat, I could swim back,"
thought Piang, and he looked with longing at the oily smoothness of
the water. Nothing could slip past the boat on that sea of glass in
the bright moonlight. He remembered the schools of sharks he had seen
in the _Sabah's_ wake and shuddered; but even that was better than
being doomed to die here. He pillowed his head on his arms and leaned
against the trunk; his hand closed over a piece of dry bamboo. Lifting
it to his eye, he idly squinted through it; it was smooth and clean.

Piang fell to soliloquizing. How many times, surrounded by his
friends, he had swum in the moonlight. He remembered one night in
particular. How they had sported with bamboo sticks, blowing the
spray high in the air, laughing as it fell upon each other! Piang
could swim miles with arms folded, pushing through the water like a
fish, rolling over on his back or sides, when tired. He had fooled
the tribe by staying under water for three minutes, breathing easily
through his hollow, bamboo tube. Kali had given him a prize.

Piang's eyes widened, brightened. With the bamboo stick--could he? He
blew through it softly and laughed. But how to get into the water
without being detected? The approaching tide, lapping the other end
of the fallen log, seemed to be caressing it in pity. Piang examined
it closely. Dared he crawl along the trunk? His eyes fell upon the
hole just above the water where one of his pursuers had broken through.

"Allah, I thank Thee," breathed the excited boy. He had found his
chance, had discovered a possible means of escape.

Crawling back into the log, he tested the heart of the tree and to
his joy, it crumbled under his touch. With a smothered cry, he began
to cut his way through the pithy, dust-like wood, and as he gradually
worked quantities of the soft fiber loose, he tossed it behind him. If
he could work his way through the rotted trunk before the tide turned,
it would be an easy matter to slip through the hole into the water.

It was suffocating in the damp inclosure, as the discarded pith
began to fill the opening. Tiny apertures let in just enough air,
but Piang was panting and dripping with sweat. As he struggled on
toward the hole, he could feel the water under him, as it swayed the
log gently. Only a little further!

The moonlight bathed Piang in its soft light; a cool breeze blew
across his face. One of the watching lepers stood up suddenly.

"There are many crocodiles to-night," he finally said, pointing toward
the log where a slight ripple, widening into vanishing rings, closed
over a dark form.



"That's a queer kind of fish!"

The sailors on the patrol-boat crowded around the speaker, glad of
any excitement to break the monotony of their vigil. A thin stream of
water had spurted up, disturbing the perfect calm of the surface, and
a small black object could plainly be seen, hurrying through the water.

"Now what the deuce?" said the captain. Two bells were loudly sounded,
and the boat bounded forward.

"Look out, don't run it down. Steer to one side."

The search-light, turned full upon the strange object, revealed to
the puzzled sailors a slim bamboo tube, sticking upright, propelled
by a strong force from below.

"Now, why don't that stick float, instead of sailing along like a
periscope?" pondered the captain.

As suddenly as the phenomenon had appeared, it sank from sight and
the chase ended abruptly.

"Look at our visitors," said a sailor, pointing over the side. Long
streaks of phosphorescence darted back and forth in the shadow of
the boat.

"That's a pretty bunch of shovel-nosed man-eaters, for you," remarked
the mate. "Gosh, wouldn't you hate to give the hungry devils a chance
at you, though?"



The baile was in full swing. The bichara was proving a great
success. Governor Findy graciously accepted the savages' allegiance
to the new government and their promises to make the trading system
a success. The small park in the center of the garrison was teeming
with life. On one side the American band gave the first notes of
civilized music that the Moros had ever heard; opposite, rows of brass
tom-toms responded mournfully. Gaudy lanterns festooned the tall trees
and swung between, describing graceful curves. Flickering moonlight
and fireflies added their bit. At one end of the park a platform had
been erected for the officers and their families. The savages crowded
around as the Americans swayed to the waltz, and their surprise was
no less than that of the Americans, when the tom-toms stirred the
Moros to the dance and they whirled and crouched in native fashion.

Governor Findy was surrounded by his personal guard; burly Irishmen
shared this honor with stalwart Moros, thus proving the governor's
trust in the wild people.

Dato Mandi, Dato Kali Pandapatan, and Governor Findy were conversing
on the steps of the dancing platform.

"Kali says that Piang mysteriously disappeared about noon to-day,"
explained Mandi in excellent English.

"Who is this Piang, Mandi?" asked the governor.

"Piang is the idol of the Buldoon tribe. He is Kali Pandapatan's
famous charm boy, friend of General Beech and Lieutenant Lewis,"
replied Mandi.

"Strange that one so well known should disappear. Yes, I have heard
much of this boy's loyalty and sagacity." The two Moros turned quickly,
warned by a startled look on the governor's face. Far down the smooth
shell road a figure was staggering, wavering toward them.

"Trouble, trouble," muttered Findy.

The music ceased with a discordant jar, there was a slight stir among
the spectators as Sicto and his companions attempted to retire, but to
their surprise, Kali's faithful men closed about them significantly. On
came the figure, lithe, slim, and brown.

"Piang!" cried Kali Pandapatan, and instantly his eyes sought out
the cowering Sicto.

The heavy, labored breathing became audible as the exhausted boy
stumbled through the crowd. A sentry started forward to seize him,
but the governor waved him aside. Dripping and panting, Piang staggered
toward his chief.

"Juramentado--gobernador!" faintly whispered Piang.

A wild shriek crashed through the intense stillness; a green sarong
was torn off, and the white-clad figure of a juramentado rushed at the
governor. But Kali Pandapatan was quicker, and just as the assassin
raised his barong, a slender kriss glistened in the moonlight and
descended. The juramentado lay bathed in his own blood.

Jumping up to the platform, Kali Pandapatan raised his hands.

"My brother chiefs," he cried, "did any of you know of this foul plot?"

"No, no!" came the quick response from every Moro, and although the
Americans could not understand his words, they began to realize that
Kali was exhorting his people to disclaim knowledge of the outrage.

"Viviz Gobernador!" came from the full, savage throats, and the cry
was taken up by the multitude.

The dazed governor looked down at the prostrate figure at his feet,
looked long, and sorrowed.

"But for the brave Piang I should have been lying there," he murmured.

Piang supported by Kali watched this new chief.

"Come here, Piang," said the governor. Fumbling with the collar of
his white uniform, he loosened something.

"My lad, I thank you for your bravery," he said, his voice shaking
slightly. "For your timely arrival, and your courage. Your name shall
be sent to the great chief at Washington."

The words were repeated to the jungle boy, and his manly little chest
swelled with pride.

"Piang, I am about to decorate you with the emblem of our government;
these infantry cross-guns I shall pin on your breast." The dignified
governor reached forward to make good his words, but he paused
in embarrassment, the noble speech dying on his lips. He gazed in
dismay at the naked little savage, standing straight and expectantly
before him.

"I shall _place_ this emblem." The officer began again. There was a
titter among the spectators.

Piang, eagerly eyeing the treasure, wondered why the governor
delayed. Suddenly a gleam of understanding broke over him, and he
grinned, broadly. With the tip of his finger he touched the shining
cross-guns, then his necklace of crocodile teeth. The situation
was saved.

Amid thunderous applause the smiling governor fastened the guns to
the indicated article of dress, and loud and clear rose the shout:

"Piang! Piang!"



TENTH ADVENTURE

PIANG'S TRIUMPH


Two years had passed since the bichara. Prosperity and honor had come
to Dato Kali Pandapatan and his people under the rule of General Beech
and Governor Findy, and Piang had been raised to the post of official
interpreter. Sicto, the disturber, had been seized in Zamboanga
on the charge of complicity in the plot on Governor Findy's life;
he had attempted to escape, and there were varying reports as to the
results. Some said that he had been killed by a crocodile, others that
he had escaped and swum to Basilan; but the tribe had not heard of him
since the bichara, and they were relieved to be rid of his bullying
presence. Especially the little slave girl, Papita, whom Sicto had
annoyed since infancy, was glad that he was gone. Sicto's father had
captured the little maid in a raid on the Bogobo country, and the
boy seemed to think it his special privilege to abuse and torment her.

Along the steep mountain trail, dividing the jungle as a river might,
crept a slow procession. A lumbering carabao swayed lazily forward,
and on each side walked four stalwart Moros, ever heedful of the
dignified figure astride the beast. Dato Kali Pandapatan rode in
silence. Occasionally he gazed down into the deep valleys or off in
the direction of Ganassi Peak, but the sorrowful, patient expression
never left his face.

Where was Piang? For three days the boy had been missing, and Kali
guessed only too easily what had taken him away in such haste. A
few days before little Papita had mysteriously disappeared. It was
whispered that the notorious Dato Ynoch (Ee-nock) had kidnapped her,
and Kali was already preparing an expedition against the marauder. He
felt the strain of civilization for the first time, for he had given
his word never to assemble his warriors without the permission of
the white chiefs at Zamboanga. But Piang, the impatient, the valiant,
could not brook the delay, and had in all probability started after
his little friend alone. Kali's messengers should return to-day,
and he had ridden far out to watch for their coming.

The procession reached the clearing that gave a full view of the
sea. In the distance the eye could discern the curving coast of tiny
Bongao; Kali was impervious to the summer beauty and youth of the
sparkling ocean, to the charm of the dainty island so gaily chatting
with the garrulous waves. He did not see the graceful, white rice-birds
or the regal aigrets flitting about among the trees; he saw only the
vast, restless ocean. There were no boats in sight.

Slowly the willing carabao was turned homeward, and the aged monarch
sorrowfully gave up hope of sending succor to Piang that night. The
recent storm had probably delayed his envoys, and he must wait the
_Sabah's_ monthly visit, which would come the next day.

At the door of his hut Kali Pandapatan was helped from the royal
beast's back and up the steep ladder entrance into the cool dusk of
the interior where industrious women squatted at their several tasks.

"I miss the child's lively chatter," Aioi was saying sadly.

"She was a trying pupil, I can tell you," remarked the woman at the
loom, "but a winning child." She leaned closer to Aioi and whispered:

"Did you know that Papita had been asked in marriage?" The surprised
look on Aioi's face made an answer unnecessary.

"Our chief is said to have spurned the offer. You know he has always
hoped to prove Papita's noble birth; he wanted Piang to have her,
so when the terrible Dato Ynoch's offer came--"

"Who speaks the name of our enemy in my house?" thundered Kali,
glowering at the chattering women. "Bend to your tasks and have done
with idle gossip."



What difference did it make to Piang if he was alone, if he had only
the barest clue to Papita's whereabouts? He was going to follow up
that clue, and something seemed to tell him that he was on the right
track. The jungle was dripping and steaming after a three days'
downpour; monkeys and birds were huddled in the trees, melancholy,
but patient, knowing that their friend, the burning tropic sun, would
come to them again, some day. Piang trudged on through the sticky,
slippery jungle. An occasional fresh track or recent camping site
made him push forward eagerly. What he should do when he did overtake
the kidnappers, he had no idea, but something always happened to help
Piang. He reverently touched his sacred charm.

The deluge through this lower jungle must have been terrific. Piang was
glad that he had been in his mountain barrio during the tempest. Strewn
everywhere were branches and enormous tree-ferns; a dead hablar-bird
lay in his path. Leeches, hiding on the backs of leaves and twigs,
caught at Piang as he brushed by, clinging and sucking their fill,
before he could discover them. He raised one foot quickly and yelled:

"_Tinick!_" ("Thorn!") While he was searching for the thorn his
other foot began to ache and pain. Piang was too wise to hesitate
a moment, so he swung up to a low branch and sat there nursing his
feet. He was puzzled; there was no thorns in them, and he could find
no cuts. Gradually the soles of the feet began to swell and take on a
purplish hue. Piang gave a low whistle and bent to examine the ground.

"_Badjanji!_" ("Bees!") he exclaimed. The ground was yellow with
the little bedraggled, stupified creatures. They had been beaten
down by the storm and would remain there until the sun came to coax
them into industry again. Swinging lightly from one tree to another,
Piang reached one of the numberless brooks that ramble aimlessly
about through the jungle, and, dropping to its banks, buried his
feet in the healing clay. After a short time the pain grew better,
and he continued his journey.

He was nearing Dato Ynoch's domain on the banks of Lake
Liguasan. The outlaw had chosen his lair well, for it was one of
the most inaccessible spots in Mindanao. On all sides treacherous
marsh lands reached out from the lake, and it was almost impossible
to tell when one might step from the solid jungle into a dangerous
morass. A few hidden trails led to the barrio, and by great good luck
Piang discovered one. Quietly he crept along into the ever-increasing
twilight, for the trail led deep into the jungle's very heart where
daylight and sunshine never penetrate. Sounds came faintly from the
barrio; tom-toms and many drums beat a monotonous serenade. A fiesta
must be in progress. A fiesta? Piang's face grew hot, and his black
eyes flamed. Could it be that the fiesta was poor Papita's wedding? He
broke into a run and, panting and sweating, pushed farther into the
darkening jungle; but the trail was evidently an abandoned one, for
it brought up suddenly against a wall of thorns and closely woven
vines. Throwing himself on the ground, Piang wriggled through the
offensive marsh weeds, and finally found himself almost on the edge
of Lake Liguasan. From his retreat he could plainly see the village
streets. The barrio was certainly preparing for a fiesta and no
ordinary one, either, for elaborate and barbaric decorations shrouded
huts and street. Raised on two posts at the entrance of the village,
was a carcass of a mammoth crocodile, in its opened jaws a human
skull. Piang shuddered. He had heard that Dato Ynoch's followers were
gathered from among the renegade Dyak pirate head-hunters, who fled
to Mindanao from Borneo justice. The human skull confirmed the rumor,
for there are no cannibal tribes among the Moros.

It was certainly a marriage feast that the women were preparing. A
raised platform in the middle of the campong (common), tastefully
decorated with skulls small, skulls large, and skulls medium,
formed the altar, and a large black bullock was already tied to the
_sapoendoes_ (sacrifice post). Piang flushed with excitement at an
unusually loud beating of tom-toms; the chief was coming. Piang had
long wished to see this terrible Ynoch. Weird stories of his terrible
personality, his disfigured countenance were widespread. That so
powerful a dato could have sprung up so suddenly puzzled the Moros,
and Ynoch's identity still remained a mystery.

Down the center of the street advanced a gaudy procession headed
by a barbaric priestess. From her head protruded massive horns
decorated with flaming red flowers. Around her loins was strapped a
crimson sarong; her body swayed and twisted to the savage rhythm of
the tom-toms. A tall, amazingly fat man stepped to the platform. His
back seemed oddly familiar to Piang, as well as the slinking gait, the
shambling step. Straining his eyes, Piang waited. Dato Ynoch raised
his hand for silence and turned toward the waiting populace. Piang
nearly cried out as he caught sight of the face.

Oily of hair, oily of eye was this Dato out-law. His shifting glance
wandered restlessly over the heads of the people, meeting no man's
eye. Beneath the pomp of his trappings, the fat, overfed body protruded
grotesquely, and his movements were slow and clumsy. One almond-shaped
eye had been partly torn from its socket, leaving a hideous, red
scar. An ear, which appeared to have slipped from the side of the
oily head and lodged on a fold of the fat neck, had in reality been
neatly carved from its proper place by an enraged slave and poorly
replaced by a crude surgeon. A bamboo tube had been inserted in the
original ear-drum.

"Sicto!" gasped Piang. The mysterious Dato Ynoch, was Sicto, the
mestizo.

That Papita had been dragged to the barrio, Piang now had no doubt,
and his nimble wits began to look about for a way of escape. He was
near the banks of a creek that led to the Cotabato River and thinking
that the most likely escape, he wormed his way toward it. Along the
bank were canoes of every description. The swift ones seemed to be all
four-oared, and he knew that he must have a fleet, light vinta to elude
the Dyaks. He spied a tiny white boat tied to a gilded post, and his
heart nearly stopped beating when he read the name "Papita" on the bow.

"Papita!" Piang scornfully whispered. "Papita, indeed!" His lip curled,
and he glared through the rushes at the hideous Sicto.

"Well, it shall be Papita's after all!" Piang said and he smiled. He
crept toward the little craft to see if there were paddles in it. There
were two, and Piang suddenly remembered that part of the Dyak betrothal
ceremony takes place upon the water.

Long Piang pondered as he watched the preparations for Papita's
betrothal. He examined the _cotta_, counted the praus, and his keen
eyes followed the creek to its sharp turn. He crawled past the bend
to make sure that the stream was navigable. Satisfied that he could
escape through its waters, Piang began to cut rushes, and, squatting
in the protecting undergrowth, busily worked while he indignantly
listened to the loquacious Sicto telling his followers that Papita
was no slave, but a maiden of royal Bogobo birth. He and his father
had kept it secret because they intended her for his wife, and at
last he had captured the girl from Kali Pandapatan. Faster and faster
flew Piang's fingers, and finally a basket began to shape itself out
of the rushes. Soon Piang had two perfect baskets, and he slung them
over his shoulder. While Sicto and his villains were celebrating the
coming wedding, Piang quietly slipped back through the jungle, back
to the brook where the medicinal clay had cured the bee stings. When
he returned later, he handled the baskets with great care and chuckled
softly to himself.

A second beating of tom-toms thundered through the barrio. The bride
was coming. Down an avenue made for her by hostile looking women,
crept a tiny, terrified figure. It was draped in the softest Eastern
stuffs; jeweled anklets and bangles tinkled merrily. A gauzy veil of
wondrous workmanship swathed the figure, but through it all Piang
recognized his beloved Papita. Slowly she approached the altar;
fearfully she raised her eyes to the man who awaited her there. Her
little feet faltered, and the priestess supported her. Papita leaned
heavily against the woman. Three soft notes of a mina-bird floated
over the barrio, and Papita became suddenly alive. Again the notes
stole through the jungle. The bride threw back her veil.

"The unwilling maid seems to have forgot her woe," said one scornful
woman to another. "Now that she is about to become our chief's first
wife, she does not weep and cry to be taken home."

The priestess commenced the ceremony that was to last all
night. Chants, prayers, admonitions, all, Papita responded to with
renewed vigor, and her eyes furtively glanced toward a spot near the
curve of the creek where a slender reed swayed unceasingly. After
many hours the priestess led the way to the water and Ynoch placed
Papita in her gala vinta and pushed her out into the stream. He got
into another, and the two boats nosed each other while the crowd
showered them with oils and perfumes. When the command came to part,
each boat shot off in an opposite direction. A maiden and a bridegroom
are each supposed to meditate for the last time on the advisability of
the union before the final ceremony; so reads the Dyak marriage laws.

As indifferently as a queen, Papita plied her paddle, paying no heed
to the unfriendly eyes and mutterings of the Dyaks; she seemed in no
haste and managed her vinta with amazing skill for one so small. Only
once she seemed to lose control; her vinta cut deep into the tall
rushes near the bend of the creek. Had the Dyaks been less intent on
exhibiting their scorn, they might have noticed that when the boat
drew back from the rushes it rode deeper in the water, and the little
figure labored harder at the paddle as the vinta turned the bend and
passed from sight.

"Piang! is it you?"

As Papita spoke, the form lying in the bottom of the vinta slowly
unfolded like a huge jack-knife. The merry eyes twinkled, the youthful,
firm mouth curved at the corners, and Piang, the adventurer, smiled
up at the astonished girl.

"But yes, Chiquita, did you think that Piang would suffer the outcast
Sicto to kidnap his little playmate?" Piang took up the paddle and
the vinta shot forward. Silently the two bent to the task, every
moment increasing the distance between them and their enemies.

"Will they catch us, Piang?"

"Of course not, my Papita. Piang, the charm boy comes to rescue
you." The proud head went up with arrogant superiority.

"But there are many hidden cut-offs and creeks between us and the
river, Piang; Sicto will surely trap us." The terrified expression
in the girl's soft eyes touched Piang's heart.

"Have no fear, Papita. Let Sicto overtake us and he will be sorry. Put
your ear to the baskets."

As the girl bent over the two baskets, lying in the bottom of the
vinta, a frown puckered her brow. A dull hum, like a caged wind
protesting in faint whispers, rose from them. Gradually a smile broke
over her face, and she laughed softly.

"Yes; Sicto will be sorry if he overtakes us," she whispered.

Through the deepening night, a roar came to the fugitives. A deep,
cruel howl; tom-toms beat a ragged and violent alarm; savage war-cries
rent the air, bounding back from one echo to another. Papita's hand
wavered at her paddle. Piang's stroke grew swifter, surer. The outraged
bridegroom had returned from his meditations to find himself brideless.

"How will they come, Piang?" Papita's voice trembled.

"Some by water, some by land. Work, Papita."

And so the deadly tropic night closed about them. The little
nut-shell sped down the river, past snags, skulking crocodiles,
and many unseen dangers. The jungle came far out over the water,
dangling her treacherous plant-life above them, ready to drag them
from the vinta: it crept beneath them, shooting up in massive trees
that obstructed their passage--trees loaded down with parasites,
intertwined, interlaced in hopeless confusion, each trying to crush
and climb over the other in the fight for supremacy.

Where the creek empties into the Cotabato River, Piang paused; there
were suspicious-looking shadows close to the bank, and he reached
for his precious baskets.

"Work slowly, Papita," he whispered, and the trembling girl kept
the vinta just moving. From its ominous silence, the jungle crashed
into chaos.

"Lè lè lè lè iiiiiio!" shrieked the echoes.

Piang was ready.

"Lè lè lè lè iiiiiio!" he tauntingly replied.

Kneeling in the bow of the vinta, he hastily lighted a green resinous
torch and stuck it upright. It gave forth the pungent, heavy perfume
of the jungle pitch. Waiting until his enemies were almost upon him,
Piang raised one basket above his head and opened the trap. A sudden
buzz and whirl filled the air; Piang reached for the second basket and
held it in the smoke of the torch, ready to open. For a few moments,
nothing happened, but the enemy slackened their pace, and the war
cries were silenced. Finally yells of rage and pain broke from them:

"Badjanji!" they screamed. The little insects, infuriated at the
treatment they had received, fairly pounced upon the defenseless
Dyaks. No jungle pest is so dreaded as the enraged honey-bee. Its
envenomed stings are poisonous, deadly, and often cause more painful
wounds than bolos. The men fought desperately. Tauntingly Piang
laughed, swiftly he and Papita paddled, and the smoke from the torch
enveloped them in its protecting waves. Coming abreast of the war-prau,
Piang loosed the other basket of bees.

On sped the vinta, and ever nearer came the great estuary that gave
upon the Celebes Sea. The sounds of the sufferers grew fainter,
and finally Papita and Piang were again alone in the great night.

"They will return and assemble the war fleet, Papita; they will
pursue us into the ocean. If the water is rough, we cannot cross the
bay to Parang-Parang in this vinta. We must hide near the coast and
make our way homeward on foot."

Morning fairly burst upon them. Twilight in the tropics is a name only,
for the sun rises and disappears abruptly, and it is day or night
in a few moments. The early light showed the ocean in the distance,
and at the same moment sounds behind made Piang listen anxiously.

"They are coming, Papita; we must hide."

As Piang headed for the bank, he noticed a thin stream of smoke
trembling above Bongao. He paused and trained his eye on the
blur. Suddenly he dug his paddle into the water.

"Papita, quick! The _Sabah_ is coming!"

Again the vinta shot forward, down through the shifting, treacherous
delta, out into the ocean. Louder grew the beating of paddles against
the Dyak war-praus, and Piang could hear the war chant. He knew that
Sicto cared little for ships; he had evaded too many of them. Only
the _Sabah_, Sicto feared, but he would probably take a chance on
this being the Chino mail boat or a Spanish tramp. That the Dyaks
would take the chance and follow, Piang was sure.

The sea was choppy and fretful. The little bride boat danced and
careened about recklessly. Between the _Sabah_ and Piang lay Bongao,
and straight for Bongao he headed, skilfully keeping the vinta
steady. A white mist rose, as if to hide the vinta from the pursuers,
but when the fleet reached the river's mouth a yell announced that
they had been discovered. The race was for life, for more than life,
and the boy seemed possessed of a supernatural strength. Nearer came
the smoke, and finally around the point of Bongao, burst the little
gunboat. At first the Dyaks did not heed the stranger, so used were
they to hurling contempt at island visitors, but when in answer to
Papita's signal, as she stood up waving her disheveled wedding veil,
there came a shrill whistle, they paused in dismay.

In a very short time Papita and Piang were raised over the side of the
_Sabah_, and General Beech and Governor Findy were questioning them.

"You say that Dato Ynoch is pursuing you?"

"Yes, yes, that is him in the first prau," excitedly replied Piang.

"Well, Piang, it is Ynoch that brings the _Sabah_ here to-day. We
thank you, my boy, for tempting him into the open."

When the Moro boy disclosed Ynoch's identity, a grim smile settled
over Governor Findy's face.

"Man the guns, Captain!" commanded General Beech in his dignified,
quiet way.

The Dyaks were scattering in the wildest confusion, making their
way back to the river with all speed, but the _Sabah_ relentlessly
pursued. A sudden darkening shadow startled the captain of the _Sabah_,
and he pointed toward the mountains.

"Something queer hatchin' over there, General."

A dense mist hid the hills; only old Ganassi Peak stood out, dignified
and stern. Like a dirty piece of canvas, one cloud balanced itself on
Ganassi's shoulder and rapidly spread itself around the peak. It seemed
to sap the very life from Ganassi, as it enveloped it in a chilling
embrace. Slowly the cloud loosed its hold and bounced along on the
lower hills. In its center it seemed to bear a restless, struggling
mass, and the passengers on the _Sabah_ watched it nervously. Strange
things happen very suddenly in the sunny Celebes. Fascinated, they
watched the odd cloud lumbering toward them, dipping and lifting its
burden. It sailed over the mountains, flitted past the jungle and
reached the ocean, where it hovered and waved as if undecided which
way to go. At times, like canvas, it would belly down in the middle,
almost burst, right itself, and come sailing on. Again and again the
heavy contents pulled the cloud to earth, but valiantly struggling
with its burden, it resisted. The cloud brought with it a death-like
mist, damp and choking, and the sunshine was abruptly put out. The
thing hesitated over the _Sabah_, dipping and sucking itself back,
as if made of elastic; it wandered about aimlessly and paused over
the fleeing Dyaks. Finally as if discouraged and strained beyond its
endurance, it gave up.

With shrieks and cries the Dyaks watched it. Tons and tons of water
burst from the cloud, striking the sea with a hiss that sent the
spray high in the air.

"Waterspout!" yelled the captain and ordered the _Sabah's_ engines
stopped. In horror they beheld the crazy column careen about, obeying
its master, the capricious wind, and following any stray current;
around and around the spiral, grinding mass of water veered and circled
aimlessly. It danced and capered about the ocean like some malignant
monster loosed from torment, and finally, as if by direct intent,
started for the river's mouth. The Dyaks saw it coming, and in their
puny efforts to escape, looked like ants before an elephant. The five
streams, flowing through the delta of the Cotabato River, seemed to
draw the vicious waterspout toward them, and on it went, directly
in the wake of the doomed Dyaks. Tensely the _Sabah's_ passengers
followed the course of the spout. The whirling Nemesis descended upon
the pirates; their cries of anguish came faintly through the roar and
hiss of water; crude Dyak prayers, shrieked by terrified worshipers,
smote upon their ears, and finally, like a whirlwind, the waterspout
pounced upon its victims. It caught at them with a thousand arms;
it tossed them up, bore them down, tore them from the light eggshell
praus, crushing them to bits.

Through the entire fleet stalked the monster, dealing out death and
destruction to all, and, when there remained naught to vent its wrath
upon, like an insatiate giant, it turned toward the jungle. Straight
up the river it marched, rooting up trees, tearing down banks, and
gradually vanished in the distance, leaving wreckage and disaster in
its path.

Silenced by the terrible spectacle, the Americans seemed to huddle
closer together for protection, or comfort. But two figures stood
out alone on the _Sabah's_ deck.

Papita's eyes were fastened on Piang, on the charm that dangled from
his necklace of crocodile teeth; Piang was lost in Ganassi Peak. His
eyes were filled with a divine awe as he silently faced his beloved
peak, where dwelt his wonder man, the Hermit Ganassi. Every element
of his being, his very attitude, proclaimed that his spirit was
pouring out a thanksgiving to his patron, whose prayers to Allah,
the Merciful, had sent the waterspout to destroy his enemies. The
Christians, boasting a greater God, were put to shame by this artless
exhibition of a faith that they could never feel, and their eyes were
filled with admiration as they looked upon this Moro boy, transfigured
in his faith, as he muttered softly:

"There is no God but Allah!"



THE END



NOTES

[1] _Bichara_ means meeting and corresponds to the East Indian word,
_durbar_.





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