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Title: Terry - A Tale of the Hill People
Author: Thomson, Charles Goff
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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public domain works from the University of Michigan Digital
Libraries.)



[Transcriber's Note: Every effort has been made to replicate this text as
faithfully as possible, including obsolete and variant spellings and other
inconsistencies. Text that has been changed to correct an obvious error by
the publisher is noted at the end of this ebook.]


  TERRY

  A TALE OF THE HILL PEOPLE

  BY
  CHARLES GOFF THOMSON


  Late Lieut.-Colonel, U. S. Army.
  Formerly Assistant Director of Prisons
  for Philippine Government



  New York

  THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

  1921

  _All rights reserved_


  COPYRIGHT, 1921,
  BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

  Set up and electrotyped. Published April, 1921



  DEDICATED TO

  MR. E. J. B.

  WHO HAS GIVEN OF HIS
  COUNSEL, SPIRIT AND SUBSTANCE
  TO NEEDY YOUNG MEN



AUTHOR'S NOTE


The poem "Casey" used in Chapter IX was written by the late Arthur W.
Ferguson, formerly Executive Secretary for the Philippine Government.
It has been edited and amplified but is substantially as written by
him. A man of unusual facility, Mr. Ferguson composed the verses under
circumstances somewhat similar to those set down herein, and with like
spontaneity.



CONTENTS

  CHAPTER                                                 PAGE

      I THE FOX                                              1
     II TERRY DECIDES                                       18
    III MINDANAO                                            33
     IV THE FANATIC                                         52
      V NEW FRIENDS, AND AN ENEMY                           66
     VI THE LAND OF HEMP                                    80
    VII THE PYTHON                                          98
   VIII THE STRICKEN VILLAGE                               111
     IX MALABANAN STRIKES                                  126
      X MALABANAN                                          141
     XI INTO THE FORBIDDEN HILLS                           157
    XII THE MAJOR FOLLOWS                                  175
   XIII THE HILL PEOPLE                                    198
    XIV AHMA                                               211
     XV THE SIGN                                           220
    XVI CIVILIZATION DAWNS IN THE HILLS                    239
   XVII "SUS-MARIE-HOSEP!"                                 250
  XVIII THE FOX SKIN                                       262



TERRY



CHAPTER I

THE FOX


The frosty silence of the snow-mantled hills was rent by the vicious
crack of a high-powered, small-calibered rifle. The hunter sprang from
the thicket in which he had lain concealed and crossed the gully to a
knoll where a black furry bundle had dropped to the snow after one
convulsive leap.

Exultant, Terry bent down to examine the silky black coat.

"Right through the ear. Well, Mister Fox, you're mine--though you did
lead me a merry chase for twelve days! You laughed at me till the snow
came--knew I wouldn't bring you out of your hole with formalin, that
it was a square game we played. But to-day everything broke against
you, boy,--sun and wind and snow. And perhaps hunger."

The twinge of pain that stabs every true sportsman as he realizes that
he has extinguished a spark of life shadowed Terry's thin, sensitive
face. It was a face of singular appeal, dominated by a queer twist of
upper lip that stamped his mouth with a permanent wistfulness. Even in
the bracing cold of the winter morning his skin was white, but the
clear pallor was belied by the swift energy with which he moved and
the eager sparkle of his dark gray eyes. He picked up the fluffy
bundle and stroked the sleek fur.

"Hard luck, old boy! But now you'll never be hungry again, or cold.
And I haven't hunted you all this time just for the sake of the
sport." His face lighted. "You're going to be a proud little fox. If
foxes have souls--and I don't see why we should deny you what we lay
selfish claims to for ourselves--yours will rejoice in the purpose of
your end. Every night and every morning you--"

He broke off as the distant pealing of church bells came to his ears,
carried faintly but clearly by the light wind that whispered over the
snowy stretches of rolling meadowlands. For a long time Terry stood
facing toward the invisible village, his face moody and inscrutable.
As the sound of the bells died away he shook off the spell with
conscious, humorous effort and picking up his rifle and the fox he
went into the thicket to secure and adjust his snowshoes.

Ignoring paths and sleighroads he made his way toward the town. The
crisp pine-laden air charged his muscles with exuberant excess of the
fine energy of youth and he made his way swiftly across the sparkling
snow that blanketed the gentle landscape, through the thickets of
evergreens and across the tiny, ice-edged creeks that flowed in swift
escape from winter's frozen grip.

Keen-eyed, he stopped a moment in study of a group of pheasants that
huddled in a clump of underbrush. They played possum till he passed
on. A rabbit, reared up in nervous-nosed inquiry, watched him
furtively as he approached the rock behind which it had vainly sought
concealment. Terry laughed at its ridiculous plight.

"You'd better improve your strategy, you young scamp, or you'll wind
up in the pot of some one who hunts rabbits!"

He watched its jumpy flight into a distant copse of young pines, then
went on swiftly. In an hour he paused at the top of a last steep
grade. Lake Champlain stretched her flat-frozen bosom to the north and
south of him. The more level timbered areas of the opposite shore were
broken here and there by clearings in which white farm houses and red
barns nestled like doll houses.

At the foot of the slope directly beneath him a village lay primly
along the lake shore. It was a square-built town, its limits almost
rectangular, its breadth and width checkered into exact squares by
wide, straight streets. It was an old town: a score of its flat-roofed
structures had been built while the Mohawks still guarded the Western
Gate of the Long House, and many of the great, old-fashioned homes had
stood when Ethan Allen strutted through its streets.

It was not a snug little town, there was no air of hospitality to
encourage strangers to tarry within its gates, but seemed to promise
"value received" for any who came, paid their way and attended
strictly to their own affairs.

Thus Terry saw the town in which he had been born and had spent all
of his twenty-six years except the four at Princeton. He tarried, his
eyes fixed upon the cemetery which limited the eastern edge of the
town, to which his father and mother had been carried when he was a
boy of eleven.

He faced about in lingering appreciation of the blue-vaulted expanse,
then descended toward the village. Whipping off his snowshoes at the
border of the village he entered the main street, which ran straight
through town to the lake front. No one was in sight on the broad
thoroughfare and he found a measure of relief in its emptiness, for
though he did not adhere to the rigid New England doctrine that
governed his neighbors, he found no pleasure in wanton violation of
their stiff code. Realizing that with snowshoes, gun and fox he jarred
heavily upon the atmosphere of the quiet Sunday morning, he hurried
down the street.

He encountered no one, but as he passed by the ice-incrusted watering
trough at the central square and approached the block made up by
Crampville's three churches, the big doors of his own church were
flung open and the congregation emerged. As the decorous crowd filed
out Terry hesitated a moment, then kept on his way.

The progress of the lone figure along the opposite side of the street
was the topic of conversation at nearly every dinner table in
Crampville that Sunday. It became a sort of small-town epic, so that
they still tell how stern the elders looked, and how white Terry's
face against the background of black fur which he had thrown across
his shoulder in order to free his right hand that he might gravely
raise his crimson hunting cap in respectful salutation of families he
had known from childhood. And they still tell, too, how Deane Hunter,
flushed with mortification at her father's frigid refusal to recognize
Terry's greeting, checked the nudges and whisperings by calling out a
cheerful "Good Morning, Dick." Her courageous voice still rang in his
ears as he entered the iron-fenced yard that surrounded the home of
his fathers.

Inside the great, high-ceilinged house Terry stood a while in somber
reflection, then shrugged his trim shoulders and passed through the
shadowy rooms out into the barn. In five minutes he had cleaned and
oiled his rifle, but an hour passed while he carefully removed the
pelt and tacked it taut upon a stretching board.

He was in the library, reading, when his sister and brother-in-law
came downstairs in response to the dinner bell. Susan and her husband,
Ellis Crofts, had lived in the old mansion since their marriage two
years previously, rather against Ellis' desires. He had wished to set
up an establishment of his own, but had yielded to Susan's pleadings
and Terry's sincere letter from college asking him not to be
instrumental in closing up a house that had been lived in continuously
by the Terrys of four generations.

They had been among the last to emerge from church, but had come out
in time to see Terry as he opened the gate, and had heard enough of
the murmured comment to understand its significance. It had been
difficult for them to control their emotions as they kept slow step
with the throng down the broad sidewalk. Susan, mortified but loyal to
the core, had set her face in defiant smile lest she burst into tears:
Ellis, devoted to Terry but tickled by the situation, had smothered
his snickers in protracted fits of coughing.

Terry threw aside a handbook on the curing of pelts and rose at their
entrance, smiling:

"Well, do you good folks think you are safe in sitting at the same
table with an unrepentant sinner?"

Susan had been crying. "Oh, Dick! Why did you do it? How do you do
such things?"

He waved his hand in humorous deprecation. "Easy. It's the simplest
thing I do. It isn't difficult if you have a knack for it."

"But, Dick, it's no joke. I saw the three elders of our
church--Ballard, Remington and Van Slyke--talking about it, and they
were very bitter. And you know they can expel any church member."

Terry made no answer save to put his arm around each and lead them
into the dining room. But Susan was not content.

"Dick, I wish you would explain it to Ballard or Van Slyke. They are
influential men and both are very religious."

Ellis took a hand: "Their religion is all right, so far as it
goes--but they mix it up with their dyspepsia too much to suit me!"

As his wife turned rebuking eyes upon him he pursued doggedly: "Not
that their dyspepsia and religion are always mixed; they have their
dyspepsia seven days in the week!"

She joined in their laughter over Ellis' exaggerated defense, then
turned again to her brother.

"What are you going to do with that nasty thing you shot, Dick?"

"Nasty?" broke in Ellis in quick alarm. "You didn't shoot a skunk, did
you?"

She ignored her husband and persisted: "Tell me why you shot that fox,
Dick. You have been out hunting nearly every day for two weeks and
have shot nothing else, so I know you have a reason."

"I'm not going to help eat it!" Ellis broke in. "I've heard they are
stringy--and a bit smelly."

"Ellis, will you stop being ridiculous? Dick, why have you hunted that
fox so long?"

Ellis had seen that Terry was not to be pumped, that this was another
of his queer quests. He tried again to shunt Susan away.

"Maybe it was a personal matter between him and the fox, Sue."

She turned on him a look she endeavored to make disdainful, but only
succeeded in raising another laugh from both. But she was not to be
deterred. Her eyes lit with sudden inspiration.

"I'll bet--I'll bet anything--" she began.

"Susan Terry Crofts! Even Dick would not bet on Sunday!"

"I will bet anything," she insisted, "that it is something for
Deane--for Christmas!"

In the slight flush that rose in her brother's face Susan learned
that she had hit the mark. But she was instantly sorry that she had
pressed the issue, as she had learned long before to respect what was
to her his queer reticence.

Ellis hurried into the breach: "Wonder what Bruce will give Deane this
Christmas? He is about due to present her with something really worth
while--like a patent mop!"

Even Terry laughed. The struggle for Deane's favor between Bruce
Ballard and Terry had been in progress nearly ten years and had become
one of the town's institutions. The first formal offerings tendered by
the two boys on the occasion of her graduation from high school
typified the contrasting characters of the rivals: Terry, idealistic,
impressionable, reserved, had sent her a beautiful copy of the "Love
Letters of a Musician," while Bruce, sincere, obvious and practical,
had given her a hat-pin.

On her succeeding birthday Terry, after a six-hour climb, had won for
her a box of trailing arbutus from Mount Defiance's cool top; Bruce
had sent her candy. From his medical college at Baltimore Bruce had
sent, as succeeding Christmas gifts, an ivory toilet set, a thermos
bottle, a reading lamp and a chafing dish.

Terry's offerings on those occasions had been a Japanese kimono
embroidered with her favorite flower--a wondrous thing secured by
correspondence with the American consul at Kobe: a pair of Siamese
kittens which he named Cat-Nip and Cat-Nap: a sandal-wood fan out of
India; and a little, triple-chinned, ebony god of Mirth, its impish
eyes rolled back in merriment, mouth wrinkled with utter joy of the
world.

The rivalry had divided the town into two camps. The pro-Bruce
faction, composed largely of men folk, claimed for their protégé a
splendid common sense in selection of his gifts: but the women and
girls, who made up the other group, envied Deane not only the gifts
Terry gave her, but also--and more so--the rarefied romantic spirit of
the youth who conceived and offered them.

Deane realized that both Bruce and Terry stayed on in the dull old
town principally to be near her. This was true of Bruce particularly,
as he was a young surgeon of such promise that he had twice been
invited into junior association with Albany's greatest specialist. She
had strongly urged him to embrace the increased opportunity for
service and profit which the city afforded.

But Terry was only six months out of college, a six months spent in
futile effort to adjust himself to the theme of the village, to find
appropriate outlet for that urgent desire to be of use in the world
which dominated his character. As the Terrys were of those families
termed "comfortable" in Crampville, he felt no need of devoting
himself to adding to an already ample estate. At his sister's request,
he had undertaken to manage a shoe store that represented one of their
holdings but at the end of a couple of months had given it up--also in
accord with her wishes. Higgins, their old clerk, had come to her with
tearful warnings that Terry's unwillingness to refuse credit to any
one who came in with a tale of hard-luck was ruining the business:
and Terry had lost the custom of several good families by declining to
humor their crotchety unreasonableness.

But Higgins did not know how they came to lose the trade of the Hunter
family. At the end of a trying day of insistent demand for smaller
shoes than feminine feet could accommodate, of viewing bunions and
flat arches and wry-jointed toes, he had written Deane:

     DEANE DEAR:--

     I used to think that the true glory of Trilby rested in the
     wondrous mesmeric voice--but after a month in the shoe
     business I know better. Between perfect vocal cords and
     perfect feet, give me the feet.

     The word "shoe" used to bring to my mind thoughts of
     calfskin, kid, patent leather. But no more! Now I think
     of--well, many things.

     I am glad that your family is not among those who favor this
     establishment with its patronage. I am very happy in this,
     as it is good to think that your dear shoes are but a part
     of you, are incidental to your being, and not a consequence
     of drear barter and "fitting."

     I will not be over to-night. But I will be thinking of you.

                                                  DICK.

A bit puzzled, she had shown the note to her father. Irate, he had
issued a mandate that produced the effect Terry had asked. Mr. Hunter
was acutely sensitive about twin corns which had been a part of his
toes so long that he honestly thought them congenital.

After quitting the store Terry had turned his attention to their farm
properties but, as a careful investigation covering three months had
demonstrated them to be in capable hands, he had returned them to the
full management of the old tenants at the end of the harvest. He had
then studied the possibilities of enlarging their only other business,
a small pulp plant, but after satisfying himself that the meager water
power was being fully utilized and that the location of the mill at
Crampville precluded competition with those more favorably located
that were operated with steam power, he had abandoned the project. For
a month he had been seeking outlet for his restless energy.

Deane, anxiously watching his endeavor to fit himself into one of
Crampville's narrow grooves and vaguely understanding his unvoiced
craving for wider horizons, dreaded the break she knew would take him
away. Susan, studying him with the uneasy solicitude of an older
sister, saw in Deane an anchor which would hold him to the town. Ellis
had been less concerned, as he had recognized that Terry's intolerance
of the village was but the outcropping of a sane young spirit that
gauged the peaks and sought real service. He had been trying lately to
prepare his wife for Terry's departure to other fields, as he thought
it inevitable. It was a word to this effect that had precipitated the
tears with which she had greeted her brother before dinner.

Ellis plagued Susan throughout the leisurely meal, Terry adding an
occasional word whenever the flow of affectionate badgering lagged.
Fanny, who had served them since they were children, bustled in and
out, redfaced, wholesome, fruitlessly trying to press upon Terry an
excess of the over-ample dinner. It was a sort of unwritten law in
Crampville that the Sunday dinner should be sufficiently heavy to
drive the menfolk to a long digestive nap.

Ellis lingered at the table after Terry had excused himself and gone
out into the barn again. Susan helped Fanny clear the old mahogany
table, then sank into a chair beside her abstracted husband.

"Sue," he said finally, "Dick hasn't said anything lately about
accepting that position in the Philippines, has he?"

A worried look crept into her smooth face: "No. I supposed he had
decided against it."

He patted her hand consolingly: "Don't be too confident about his
staying home, Sue. He wants to see things--do things! There isn't much
in this town to hold one of his nature."

"There's--Deane," she said, hopefully.

"Sue, don't be so sure of that, either. You know that you and I hold
different theories about that. Don't bank too heavily on yours." He
drummed the polished table a moment before continuing: "He received
another telegram from Washington yesterday--I thought he might have
mentioned it to you."

"No," she quavered.

"Nor to me. Guess he doesn't want to worry you."

She was close to tears again: "I wish he had never met that young
Bronner in college--he gave Dick all these crazy ideas about going to
those horrid islands where his brother is!"

"Well, Sue, he made me feel the same way--and I'm a fat married man! I
enjoyed his stories of his brother's experiences with the wild people
over there. It must be an interesting life."

"You don't talk like that to Dick, do you?" she implored.

"Of course not. But I think you've been too sure that he would stay on
here indefinitely--I think it will take very little to tip the scales
the other way."

He yawned prodigiously, rousing Susan to an ire that stemmed the flow
of tears which had threatened to overflow her blue eyes. Then, content
with his tactics, he went upstairs for his traditional nap.

       *       *       *       *       *

Later, Terry came into the big living room and stood in front of the
fireplace a long time, his lean face grave and thoughtful. Decision
made, he wrote a note of sincere apology to Doctor Mather, his pastor.
He also wrote Deane that he would not be over in the evening but would
see her during the week, and made the delivery of the notes an excuse
to get the faithful Fanny out into the crisp December afternoon.

The light in the Terry library burned long after Crampville's other
lights had winked out. He had been picked up by Stevenson and carried
by that pathetic master into the far places of the earth.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next morning he was in the barn, his gay mood revealed by the
running talk addressed to the pelt on which he worked.

"Well, old boy, only four days to get you into shape for your
dedication, but the book says it can be done. So you might as well
soften up now--"he vigorously rubbed the dried bare side with some
oily preparation--"as later."

"What a destiny, old chap! Surely no other fox ever born to lady-fox
can be as happy as you're going to be!" He rubbed industriously.
"You're not for me, you know. No, sir! I wouldn't bring you out of the
hills into this burg--where they kill ambition by preaching content
with your lot, where the hoarders of pennies are venerated and the
pluggers canonized--I wouldn't bring you here just for me. For I'm not
worthy of you. No, sir-ree! Don't you know I'm no good--didn't you see
that yesterday? Why, Old Samuel Terwilliger said I'm an atheist
because I quoted Ingersoll's graveside oration--said no Christian
would repeat anything that man ever said, even if his watch is a
bargain at a dollar!... Samuel likes bargains."

Working rapidly, with no lost motions, he rambled on, congratulatory,
reproachful, whimsical. Having carried the curing to a point where a
twenty-four-hour time process was the next essential factor, he
carefully pegged the skin to the barn door.

       *       *       *       *       *

That evening Susan came running home excitedly, having learned that
one of the elders had asked that a meeting be called to consider
Dick's case, and that the young pastor had very promptly and very
emphatically vetoed the proceeding. It seemed that Bruce had heard of
the move and persuaded his father not to support it, after a stormy
scene in which he had threatened to resign his own membership if they
moved against Terry.

Ellis looked long at Terry: "Nothing small about Bruce, Dick. Some
fellows, under the circumstances--all the circumstances--might have
let you have it to the hilt."

Terry smiled gravely. "Good old Bruce," he said.

He left the room, slowly, and sat alone in the library. It had struck
deep, that even one God-fearing but not God-loving old man should
think him unfit to sit in the church in which his father and mother
had been married, from which they had been carried side by side for
their long rest. It was midnight when he went up the broad staircase
to his room.

The following afternoon he dropped in to see Father Jennings, the
gentle little priest who had been beloved by two generations of all
denominations--and those of none. Terry loved the old study, which in
forty years had taken on something of the priest's character. It was a
comfortable room; cheerful in its wide windows, warm with a bright
hearthfire, and well worn with long years of service.

Terry had found friendship and counsel here since his boyhood, had
been one of the procession that passed through the door in search of
wisdom and cheer. All the gossip of the town came to the priest: he
knew of Terry's hunting trip and of the climax which had scandalized
the sterner factions of the community. He was of those who knew Terry
best, and entertained no misgivings about the state of his immortal
soul.

They talked fitfully, as intimate friends do. The old man knew that it
was worry over the town's harsh reaction to the Sunday fox hunt that
had brought Terry to him. He broached the subject.

"Dick, I have wanted to see you since Sunday morning. I had a question
to ask you nobody else could answer."

As Terry turned to him with somber mien he concluded, his eyes
twinkling: "I wanted to know if it was the best fox ever!"

And that was all, though Terry stayed to sup with him. Till nine
o'clock they sat before the fire, the priest in a worn rocker drawn up
close to the hearth: the single log burning glorified his fine old
face as he placidly rocked and pondered.

He had spent the morning among his foreign parishioners, who lived in
the squalid section of the town, across the river. A frugal,
law-abiding lot, they furnished the brawn needed in the three pulp
factories and lived a life apart from the balance of the towns-people,
bitterly but voicelessly resenting the villagers' careless ostracism
of all who came under the easy classification of the term "wop." There
existed a tacit agreement among property owners that no house north of
the river should be sold or leased to a foreigner, and that no garlic
might taint the atmosphere their children breathed in school, they had
erected a small schoolhouse upon the southside. So, sequestered six
days in the week in a settlement that was entirely foreign,
communicating their thoughts in the tongues of the Mediterranean and
the Balkans, the southsiders mingled with Americans only during the
brief hours of Sunday worship.

In his morning visit Father Jennings had again met with several
evidences of Terry's curious influence over the foreigners. Terry
understood them instinctively, grasped their viewpoints and ideals,
and was the only layman on the northside in whom they confided, called
in to settle knotty problems and to partake of the hospitality they
lavished upon appropriate occasions of weddings, christenings and the
neverending procession of days of patron saints. Subtle, romantic,
circumscribed by alien environment, they recognized in him a kindred
spirit and opened their hearts wide to him. Terry, his ardent young
pastor--Dr. Mather--and Father Jennings were the only northsiders whom
they called friends. None of the three had been named on the town's
"Committee on Americanization." ...

The priest roused from his revery and for a long time contemplated the
quiet, thoughtful lad who sat beside him. Gradually a deep concern
spread across his comfortably aged features, a presentiment of
impending loss shadowed his pleasant eyes. He reached out to lay his
hand on Terry's forearm.

"Dick," he said, "there is plenty for you to do right here in
Crampville--what is this I hear about your going to the Philippines?"



CHAPTER II

TERRY DECIDES


Christmas Eve, the large snowflakes drifted slowly down out of a
windless sky. The dusk was cheerful with the sound of sleigh bells
that announced the arrival or departure of last-hour shoppers.

Terry, at his desk in the great living room, surveyed the finished
trophy happily. It was an unusually black and lustrous pelt. He buried
his face in the silky mat a moment, then drew out paper and pen, and
wrote:

     DEANE-DEAR:--

     Some three years ago a mother fox suffered that this one
     might be born: denied herself food that he might satisfy his
     urgent little appetite as he grew bigger and stronger. When
     he was big enough he left her and forgot her--she may have
     suffered then, too.

     He lived as foxes do. Things died that he might eat;
     rabbits, pheasants, chickens, field-mice. He stalked all
     things less strong and clever than himself. A cruel cycle,
     but it is the law of the wild, something that you and I
     cannot alter.

     He enjoyed the summers best, with their longer days, fuller
     larders, sweet wood odors, long naps in the cool shadows of
     the thicket. But winter came, with its hardships and its
     cold, a cold that little foxes feel the same as you and I.
     But it was this cold that stimulated and silkened his fur,
     made it this wondrous, prized thing.

     Then I came, and he ceased to be what he was--a hunter of
     smaller, weaker things--and became what you see here: a
     finer thing--a token. Your kind heart need find no cruelty
     in a merciful shot that spelled no pain and that by stopping
     him assured that gentler, weaker things will live on and on.

     _And he_ will be glad, too, as not _only_ is he forever
     freed from cold and hunger and stark fear, but his is to be
     a tender office.

     Will you lay it at your bedside, that each night it may
     cushion your last step at slumbertime, and each morning
     soften the first contact between the vistas of dreamland and
     the less yielding surfaces of life to which we wake.

     So even the things of the wild are made to serve. To
     serve--is that not the law of man?

     My part in it? But little: none other than I will have
     touched it till it reaches your dear hands. I shaped it,
     wrought to preserve its beauties that it might give you
     pleasure.

     To give pleasure--is that not the law of love?

     A very, very Merry Christmas!

                                                  DICK.

He sent his gift, at about nine o'clock. In gay mood, he wandered
about the great house: entered the kitchen where Fanny was singeing
the Christmas turkey: returned to the living room to throw a fresh log
in the wide fireplace. His mood was too expansive for indoors. He
donned short coat and thick cap, but as he passed out of the gate a
scared little lad, a foreigner, rushed up breathlessly and begged him
to come--trouble was brewing on the southside.

His questions elicited meager information. Excited, the lad relapsed
so often into his native tongue that Terry could make nothing of his
tale.

Hand in hand they hurried through the village, crossed the dark bridge
and approached a ramshackle house from which a babble of voices rose
in strident argument. The excited chorus abated at Terry's sharp knock
and the door was thrown open to disclose the belligerent figure of
Tony Ricorro, the leader of the Italian colony. Recognizing the
reefered figure that smiled up at him through the falling flakes,
Tony's dark scowl faded as he reached out his powerful hands and with
a joyous shout fairly lifted Terry into the house.

Terry laughed as the gaudily dressed occupants of the room crowded
around him, and greeted most of the score of swarthy men and women by
name. Tony masterfully stripped him of his overcoat and cap and placed
them in the kitchen from which emanated odors of strange things
cooking. The room was stifling with heat and with smells--beer,
garlic, tobacco, perfumes, kerosene.

Tony charged in from the kitchen with a bottle of beer but Terry shook
his head. Tony was hospitably insistent, "What! No beer?"

"No thanks, Tony."

"What's matt'? Bad stomach?"

"Yes," smiled Terry, "call it that."

He plunged into the business in hand. "Tony, what's the trouble here
to-night?"

Tony's first word of explanation was instantly submerged beneath a
chorus of voices; the excited crowd surged around Terry, as voluble of
gesture as of tongue. Pandemonium descended.

Terry finally silenced the din by standing on his chair and
pantomiming his desire to be heard. "Now, listen to me," he began,
after quiet was restored, "I'm going to ask you all to keep silent,
and to promise me that no one will speak except those I call by name."
They all promised--each one not once but in a series of lengthy
assurances which he had to raise his hand to cut short.

"Now, Tony, you first. What's the matter?"

Tony's face registered his utter disgust. "What'sa matt'? What'sa
matt'? Evra teeng 'sa matt'! Tommor' we christen our bab' and evra'
bod' want a name heem!" He glared at the restless circle which ringed
them.

The odd wistful twist at the corner of Terry's mouth disappeared for a
moment in his slow smile; this was so like these people, who bore big
troubles stoically and reacted powerfully to inconsequentials.

He called on several others. All were relatives of Tony or of his
wife; sisters, brothers, several "in-laws," Tony's father, two uncles.
Each had his or her name for the child, and sound reasons for the
choice.

"Tony, where is Felice?" he asked, noting that Tony's wife was not in
the crowded dining room.

Tony took him into a dimly lighted room, where his wife lay in bed;
the guiltless cause of all this dissension, obviously inured to
clamor, was asleep in her arm. She smiled up at Terry as he sat down
on the edge of the bed and took her hand.

Tony stood looking down at Felice and their first-born, his heart in
his eyes.

"Tony, what does Felice wish to name your son?" Terry asked suddenly.

Receiving no answer, he looked up at Tony and read in the agonized
contrition of Tony's dark face that she had not yet been consulted.
Tears glistened in the forgiving eyes Felice turned on Tony, and as he
flung himself down at the side of the bed and buried his face in her
pillow, Terry tiptoed out of the room and softly closed the door.

In a few minutes Tony flung the door open and strode into the room,
unashamed of the tears that shone on his rough cheeks.

"You all a go to hell-a with your a-names! Felice, she name-a our boy
and to-morrow we go Padre Jenneeng. She a name heem"--he paused with
true Latin sense of the value of suspense--"She a name heem--Reechar'
Terree--Ricorro!"

A moment of hesitation, of assimilation, and then a hubbub of
delighted acceptance and acclaim. Terry stayed but a few minutes,
realizing that much as they liked him, there would be more spontaneity
at the fiesta if there were none but their own people at the table.

He went in and thanked Felice gravely for the honor she had conferred
upon him, wished for them all a merry Christmas, and passed out amid a
medley of thanks and benedictions.

The snowfall had ceased. He crossed to the North Side and hastened up
Main Street, and though it lacked but an hour of midnight, he found
Judd's jewelry store still open. He went in and found young Judd about
to close up.

Judd, hollow eyed with the fatigue of the long day, studied his old
friend's beaming face: "Hello, Sir Galahad!" he said.

Terry eyed him scornfully: "Hello, Rut!" He drew himself up proudly.
"Behold in me a new dignity--I am now a god-father!"

Having in mind the parents' love for the elaborate, he gayly selected
an ornate silver cup for the infant.

"I'll engrave it for you after the holidays," Judd offered.

"Good old boy, Judd! The initials will be R--T--R."

He buttoned his coat and went to the door: Judd was musing over the
monogram: "Richard--Terry--what's the 'R' stand for, Dick?"

Terry grinned as he called back through the open door.

"Why,--Romance, of course!"

       *       *       *       *       *

He tramped far out the north road through the new fallen snow, his
whole being glowing. The stars sparkled through the clear cold air in
myriad chorus of the message of hope that one in the East had heralded
to a sadder world on another Christmas eve. The snow-flung star beams
illuminated the peaceful countryside: there was no moon, no light
save the great glow of the heavens, no shadows under gaunt oaks or
huddled evergreens.

He was in harmony with the night. He followed the sleigh-rutted
highway for several miles, then swung back to town along a
woodcutter's trail that edged the lakeshore, winding through the new
growths of pine and balsam whose night-black branches were outlined by
the white fall.

He loved the open: there was no loneliness here.... Magic-wrought,
Deane's phantom figure kept apace, matched step with step along the
shore trail through the hushed woods, across the white sheen of open
spaces. Ever, when summoned thus, she came to share the hours and the
places that he loved best.

Love surged hot through his veins: love of friends, of living, of
youth, love of a woman ... probably his gift lay at her bedside now,
as she slept....

Unconsciously he slowed his pace and lifted his fine, pale face
upward: his low, clear baritone flooded the broken woods, carried far
out across the silent frozen lake, unechoed; it was vibrant with the
very spirit of yuletide--love of man and woman.

    Love, to share again those winged scented days,
    Those starry skies:
    To see once more your joyous face,
    Your tender eyes:
    Just to know that years so fair might come again,
    Awhile:
    Oh! To thrill again to your dear voice--
    Your smile!

It was long past midnight when he reached town, his mood chilling
indefinably at sight of its dark houses.

"You're a queer old town," he muttered. "You go to bed on this night
of nights--yes, and you batten your windows tight against this
glorious air--and all of the other glorious things."

Passing the suspicious village constable, he penetrated even his
callous heart with the most gladsome Christmas greeting he had heard
in many a year.

Home, he stirred the dying logs into flame and sank into a deep
cushioned chair drawn up before the glowing embers. The long day had
taken no toll of his lithe frame: sleepless, he sat long in pleasant
retrospection of the day, which had brought him opportunities to
contribute to the sum of peace on earth and to give pleasure to those
whom he loved.

His gift to Deane had approached even his exacting criterion of what
was fit for her. He envied the skin its rapturous reception, the
sparkle of bright eyes its beauty would invoke. It was characteristic
that his vision did not carry him to the daily contact of pink toes he
had assigned as its function. And it was characteristic of him, too,
that he did not think of the gifts which had come for him.

He would see the elders, he mused, and apologize for what must have
seemed to them a deliberate flaunting of their standards ... he had
been a little careless, lately ... he would remedy that ... it was a
good town--his failure to settle down had been a fault ... he would
find something to do, worth doing--and do it.... Deane's friendship
might ripen into something mellower, and then....

He reached into an inner pocket and withdrew a telegram, bending
nearer the fireplace to read it.

                                                  Washington, D. C.

     Richard Terry, Crampville, Vermont.

     Wire will you accept commission second lieutenant Philippine
     Constabulary period immediate decision essential period if
     you accept wire date you will be able to sail from San
     Francisco

                                             Wilson Insular Bureau

The glow from the fire which ruddied his face revealed the struggle of
the minute before decision came. With an expression curiously mingled
of renunciation and relief he tossed the paper among the glowing
embers. He rose as the sheet took fire and in the brief flash of light
which marked the consumption of the telegram he saw a familiar-looking
package on the library table in the shadow cast by his big chair. He
carried it to the now fainter glow of the hearth and saw that it was
addressed to him in Deane's trim hand. He opened it eagerly, to see
what form her remembrance had taken.

It was the fox-skin, returned. Vague, trouble-eyed, he read the
inclosed note.

     DEAR DICK:--

     I am sending you back your present. Father insists, because
     you secured it on Sunday.

     It hurts me, Dick, dreadfully, but you know how he feels
     about such things.

     It is the loveliest present I ever received--and it makes me
     want to cry, sometimes, when I think of your doing such
     things for me and thinking about me as you do. I _AM_
     crying, now, Dick.

     Though I can not have it, your present will always be
     mine--I can never forget that you were good enough to wish
     me to have it.

     And will you accept my very best wishes that your Christmas
     may be a very merry one.

                                                  DEANE.

He sank back into the chair again, sickened.... "That your Christmas
may be a very merry one."

       *       *       *       *       *

Susan, first down in the morning, raised the curtains to the brilliant
Christmas morning, and turned to find him sitting in the chilled room
before the dead fire. Shocked by the haggard face, she hurried to him.

"Dick, are you sick?" As she sank by the side of his chair her hand
brushed against the rich fur which lay across his knees, and she
understood. She placed a pitying arm about his shoulders.

"I feared it, Dick--I feared it! You know how he is--her father. I'll
never speak to him again as long as--" She burst into tears.

Gently he withdrew her arm and took her hand in his.

"It's all right, Sue, it's--all--right."

Through her tears she read the pain that lurked in his eyes, the agony
that betrayed the patient smile. She sobbed convulsively, heartsick in
her helplessness to ease this young brother to whom she had been half
mother.

"That's what you always say--about everything: 'it will be all
right.' When you were a boy it was always the same--'it's all right.'"

He comforted her with quiet words till the storm abated. Then, "I'm
going to miss you, Sue-sister," he said.

She stood up, comprehension dawning in her wide eyes.

"You're going away!"

He nodded gravely.

Slowly, fearfully, she asked, "When?"

"To-night."

"Way off to--those--Philippines?"

He nodded, then unable to bear longer the hurt in her tremulous face,
he sought refuge in the ridiculous; he struck an attitude.

"I'm going in quest of adventure--riches--romance! I'm going to sail
the Spanish Main--seek golden doubloons--maids in distress--the
Fountain of Youth! I'm going to cross strange waters--travel
untraveled forest ... see unseen peoples ... know unknown hills...."

An odd light flickered in his eyes, as if he half believed what he
spoke. Fanny appeared at the kitchen door and with her cheery call of
"Merry Christmas," the light faded from his face as he turned in quick
response.

He turned to his sister in mock reproof: "Shure and it's ye that has
not yet wished me aven a dacent top o' the marnin', let alone the
gratin's of the sason! Shame on ye--ye heartless, thoughtless,
loveless--"

He broke off, laughing at her bewilderment: she never could keep apace
with his quick moods. Noting a tear still glistening he took her
cheeks between his hands and kissed the wet eyes, then asked her to
get word to Deane that he would be over some time during the evening.

Surprised and pleased that he should ask her to participate in his
affair with Deane, she hurried to the desk set in a deep bay window.

Ellis, sleepy-eyed, came down with his hearty greetings of the day,
and was surprised to find Sue bent earnestly over her writing.

"Say," he said, "can't you wait till after breakfast to thank
everybody for their presents? What's the rush? Say, Dick, did you hear
yet what Bruce gave to the lady of his heart? No? Well, he out-Bruced
Bruce this time! He gave her a patented, electric foot-warmer!"

Terry smiled his appreciation of Ellis' chuckling loyalty and escaped
upstairs to his room. Ellis wandered aimlessly over to the Christmas
table and noted the number of unopened packages marked with Terry's
name, then called up from the foot of the stairs:

"Come right down here, you ungrateful Non-christian, and see what
Santa Claus brought you! You got more than any of us and--"

He desisted as he suddenly became aware of his wife's frantic signals,
and reading the grievous trouble in her twitching face, he went to
her.

       *       *       *       *       *

Susan, entering Terry's room at dusk, found him standing at the window
staring out into the evening, watching the shadows paint out one by
one the landmarks he had known from boyhood. Two large leather bags,
packed but still open, stood at the side of the bed. The two frames
which had held the pictures of his father and mother lay upon the
table, empty, beside letters addressed to Father Jennings, Doctor
Mather, and Tony Ricorro.

He did not hear her but continued at the window, his relaxed shoulders
giving an unwonted aspect of frailty to his body. She tiptoed out of
the room, crept back again to look through brimming eyes at the lonely
figure silhouetted against the darkening window, then stumbled into
her own room and closed the door.

       *       *       *       *       *

Terry returned to Deane in the sitting room after bidding her father
and mother a courteously friendly farewell. Mr. Hunter, vaguely
disturbed, had followed his wife upstairs reluctantly; he was not
quite confident that his decision regarding the fox skin had been
justified, and would have been glad had Terry given him opportunity to
discuss it. In a moment his voice sounded down to them as he defended
himself against his irate spouse.

"I don't care what you say, Marthy, he's got to settle down and--"

Then their door closed.

For a long time Deane and Terry stood voiceless, each leaden with a
dull misery. The shock of his announcement had paled her and she
stared hopelessly at him out of wide blue eyes, her full red lips
aquiver at the hurt she read in the gray eyes and the queer wistful
mouth.

She broke the pulsing silence: "I never understand you, Dick,--quite.
Is it because of the fox skin?"

He shook his head uncertainly, barely conscious of her words in a last
rapt gaze at her, vaguely aware that this was the picture of her that
he would carry in his mind through the years to come. Rounded, long of
lines, apart from him she looked as tall as he, though there was a two
inch discrepancy; the wide eyes and generous, curved mouth indicated
her infinite capacity for affection. The shadow of a dimple flickered
high on her left cheek: the quickened beat of heart pulsed in the
white column of her throat.

"Is it because you hate the town, Dick?" she asked tremulously.

Again he shook his head slowly: "No, Deane, it is not that. The town
is all right--it is not that."

He paused, brooding, then went on: "Last night I did not
sleep--much--thinking about it. It's all my fault.... I do not fit. So
I am going away, going to try to find my own place, somehow."

Tortured by his patient smile, she followed him out into the dim hall,
half blinded by her burning tears. She sobbed unrestrainedly as he
slipped into his overcoat.

He came to her, his hand outstretched, his voice husky.

"Good-by, Deane-girl," he said.

Taking his hand she stepped close to him, misty-eyed, atremble.

"Good-by, Di--Oh, Dick! Don't go! Don't go way over to those awful
Islands!"

He steadied her with an arm about the shaking shoulders. She leaned
full against him and in the soft contact his pulses leaped. He fought
to resist the temptation to take advantage of her mood, knew that for
the moment she was his if he but pressed his claim.

Suddenly she looked up at him, glorious in her grief and surrender.

"Shall I--do you want me to--to--wait?"

For a few moments it seemed that he had not heard the low voice.

Then: "Don't wait, Deane-girl,--don't wait."

Then the arm was gone from about her shoulder.

"But I will, Dick, I will!" she sobbed, but as the words fell from her
lips she heard the door close and felt the gust of cold air that
chilled the hall.

       *       *       *       *       *

She was still awake when the midnight accommodation whistled its
impending arrival from the north. She listened, tense, as the train
came to a stop in the town. A brief halt, then it sounded its
underway, the pistons accelerated their chugging beat and it passed
out of Crampville into the south.

She stood, still-breathed, dry-eyed, till the last grinding rumble
died out of the frosty night, then as a full realization of her loss
came home, she dropped to the side of the bed and buried her face in
the coverlid.

The floor where she knelt seemed cold and hard.



CHAPTER III

MINDANAO


The old _Francesca_, directed by a nervous and none too competent
Tagalog captain, maneuvered in the six-mile tidal current which swept
west through the Straits making Zamboanga a nightmare to all the
native skippers who called at that port. Crab-like, she crawled
obliquely to within a few hundred feet of the low-lying town, then the
screw churned up a furious wake as the anxious Tagalog on the bridge
swung her back into the Straits to circle in a new attempt. Carried by
the tidal rush the old tub circled in a great ellipse.

Alone at the rail on the dingy promenade Terry stood enjoying his
first glimpse of Mindanao. Seven months in Luzon had brought him
countless tales of this uncertain southland--tales of pirates, of
insolent, murderous datos defiant behind their cotta fortresses, of
kris and barong wielded by fanatic Moros gone amok; of pearls as large
as robins' eggs, of nuggets tossed as playthings by naked children of
the forests, of mysterious tribes who inhabited the fastnesses of
inaccessible hills.

He wore the service uniform of the Constabulary, the field uniform of
khaki blouse and breeches, tan shoes and leggings, and stiff-brimmed
cavalry Stetson. The smart uniform set his erect figure off trimly
and added to the impression of alertness conveyed by his steady gray
eyes.

In the two wide swings back into midstream that ensued before the
steamer approached near enough land to get ropes to the little brown
stevedores who waited on the dock, Terry had ample opportunity for
study of the tropic panorama. The sea was dotted with Moro vintas,
swiftest of all Malayan sailing craft; tide and wind borne, some
scurried at tremendous pace toward the fishing grounds of the Sulu
Sea, others tacked painfully into the Celebes. A Government launch,
its starred and striped flag brilliant against the green sea in the
morning light, left its jetty and headed south toward the dim
coastline of Basilan. A score of gulls, that had followed the ship
down from Sorsogon, fattening on the waste thrown overboard after each
meal, circled around the ship aimlessly, uttering unpleasant cries.
The young sun mounted swiftly in a cloudless sky, hot on the trail of
the cool morning breezes, white in its threat of blistering punishment
of all who dared its shafts.

The hawser snubbed, the drum of the rusty winch rattled and banged on
worn bearings to a tune of escaping steam, laboriously warping the
smelly hull alongside the dock. Terry watched the sturdy little Moros
spring into agile life as the vessel slowly neared the pier, then he
turned to look over the town which was built flush with the edge of
the narrow beach, extending each way from the shore end of the pier.
The galvanized-iron roofs of the taller buildings--church, convent,
club, a few more pretentious dwellings,--were visible above the low
foliage and between the tall acacias and firetrees which jagged the
skyline. A heavily laden breeze identified unmistakably several long
buildings as copra warehouses.

It seemed a busy town, as towns near the equator go. In the street
into which the pier opened a thin stream of pedestrians passed by in
brief review before the watcher: Moros, a few Filipinos, a Chino
staggering under a heavy balanced pinga, two white-clad Americans,
while several rickshaws, Moro drawn, jogged by with patrons concealed
under raised tops. Then a big foreign touring car turned the corner
and drew up in front of the government building to deposit a middle
aged American, immaculate in fresh pongee.

Terry, observing him idly from where he stood at the rail, saw a
larger, uniformed American swing the corner with vigorous stride and
after saluting the older man accompany him respectfully to the
entrance to the big building, where they stood a moment in
conversation. Terry's interest quickened as he recognized the big
American as a member of his own service; he watched him approach the
ship through the crowd of half-nude sweating Moros who now swarmed the
dock.

Terry, hastening down the ship's ladder, met the tall officer as he
reached the end of the pier.

He was a loosely knit, raw-boned man of about thirty-five, of serious
but pleasant mien. As he stepped to meet Terry, Terry saw that he wore
the leaves of a Major.

"Lieutenant Terry?" he asked, responding with friendly informality to
Terry's stiff salute.

"Yes, sir."

"I'm Bronner. Mighty glad to know you. We've been looking for you ever
since receiving a copy of the Headquarters Bulletin ordering you down
here. Have a good trip?"

"Well, Major, the _Francesca_ is no Empress liner but we got along all
right. I am very glad to know you, Major. Your brother and I were
roommates at college--he used to tell me of your experiences with the
head hunters--"

"Huh!" the Major interrupted. "Guess he stretched things some. Fine
boy. Wants to come over when he graduates this June, but his mother
says one son over here is enough. And she's right."

Terry liked the big irregular features. In the steady eyes he saw
something that forced instant credence to the stories told of the
Major's resourceful bravery under difficult situations, a bravery
which had made the name of Bronner famous in a service made up of
intrepid men.

"Welcome to Moroland," the Major continued. "I hope you like it down
here--I think you will. If I didn't I wouldn't have requested your
transfer. You are assigned to the most interesting of the Moro
provinces,--Davao. You go there to command a Macabebe company. Your
baggage still aboard?"

"Yes, sir."

"Forget the 'sir'! Leave your stuff on board--the _Francesca_ sails at
daylight to-morrow, and you go on to Davao with her. Had breakfast? I
thought not. Pack a bag with what you will need for a day ashore--put
on a white uniform for to-night. My orderly will take you to my
quarters where you can get a shower and some breakfast. Join me at the
Service Club for lunch."

Throughout the abrupt discourse Terry had endured the frank appraisal
of the shrewd black eyes. He experienced a pleasant reaction when the
Major again extended his broad hand.

"Lieutenant, I said a minute ago that I was glad to know you. Let me
repeat it--I mean it. Adios, till lunch time."

He pushed his way good-naturedly through the throng of Moros who were
handling the bales and boxes unloaded from the roach-ridden hull and
walked off the pier, disappearing into the government building. Terry
boarded the vessel, warmed by the friendliness of his new chief, and
by the time the orderly arrived had thrown a few things into his bag
and was ready to go ashore.

He followed the soldier down the main street, a dusty thoroughfare
lined with the usual assortment of structures which adorn Philippine
provincial towns: adobe, tile-roofed business houses honeycombed with
little box-like shops in which the Chinese merchants displayed their
wares: square wooden houses set high on stone understructures: scores
of bamboo shacks stilted on crooked timbers, unkempt, wry, powdered
with the dust risen since the last rains.

Though it was not yet nine o'clock, they sought the shaded side of the
street with the habit which becomes instinctive near the equator, and
welcomed the coolness of Bronner's low house.

The cook and the houseboy looked after him with the unobtrusive
perfection of service found only in the East. A good breakfast cheered
a stomach outraged by the greasy mess perpetrated upon native boats in
the name of Spanish cookery, and a cool shower bath eliminated the
stench of stale copra which had clung to his nostrils if not to his
clothing. An hour before noon he left the house and strolled about the
scorching town, regardless of where he went so long as he found shaded
walks on which to tread.

       *       *       *       *       *

Most Philippine towns are coast towns, and most coast towns are flat
and uninteresting unless you are interested in their peoples--and you
are not interested in them unless they are of a different tribe than
you have known previously.

Take a couple of dusty--or muddy--streets, unroll them along some
freshwater stream just above a line of palmed beach: place an immense,
deserted-looking softstone church in an unkept square flanked with a
few straggled acacias and a big convent in which a native priest lives
in weary and squalid detachment from a world he knows nothing about:
line the two streets with an assortment of rusty bamboo and
mixed-material houses which impress one as never having been built but
as always having stood there: sprinkle a few naked, pot-bellied, brown
children staring at each other in pathetic, Malay ignorance of the
manner and spirit of play: set a few brown manikins in the open
windows--women who let life fly by in dull wonder of what it is all
about: add a few carabaos lying in neck-deep content in mudwallows,
and a score of emaciated curs which snarl at each other in habitual,
gnawing hunger and which greet their masters with terrified whines:
spread over it all a pall of still moist heat and a sky arched by a
molten sun. Contrive all this, then imbue every object--human and
creature, animate and inanimate,--with an air of hopelessness, of the
futility of effort, and you will have a typical Malay town as the
Americans found them.

But not so where the American has set his impious foot--impious of the
dogma that you can not change the East, nor hurry it. He enjoyed the
finesse of the phrase, quoted it, then jumped in to hustle the East.
The old timers,--Spaniards and Britishers for the greater
part--shrugged at each other over their heavy tiffins and nine o'clock
dinners; these crazy Americans would soon learn! But the crazy,
enthusiastic Americans, engineers, health officers, executives, school
teachers, Constabulary, labored on in the glory of service: eradicated
cholera, built roads and bridges, brought six hundred thousand
children into school that two score tribes might find a common tongue,
fought the devastating cattle plagues, wiped out brigandage and
piracy, brought order and first semblance of prosperity to eight
millions of people.

Young men did it all. The old-timers suddenly found that they were
living in new times, in clean, healthful towns: found that business
was increasing by leaps and bounds as the natives fell in behind the
young Americans with a quicker stride than Orientals had ever known.
And they are the reasons--those few thousands of smooth-faced
Americans who laughingly threw themselves at the wall of immemorial
sloth and apathy--why Kipling's phrase is seldom quoted east of India,
and now not often there. And they are the reasons, those carefully
chosen, confident young men of whom too many are buried over there,
that we have so much of which to be proud in what has been done in our
name for a backward, unfortunate people.

But we, you and I, do not know very much about it all: it is so far
away and we are so busy with our affairs, our politics, our--

... You know ... we are just too busy to bother about those Tagalogs
and headhunters who live over there where Dewey licked Cervera, and
Aguinaldo was king of the Igorotes or something, and Pershing rose
from a captain to a general: why, I heard one of those Filipinos make
a speech about independence and he was so smart and bright--he had
been sent to our congress or something and was handsome and polished
and....

Yes, he doubtless was. That is why he was sent: but he bore about the
same mental relation to the race he is supposed to represent as a
Supreme Court Justice bears to a Georgia cracker!

       *       *       *       *       *

Terry had thoroughly assimilated the atmosphere of the Luzon provinces
in his seven months in the Islands, so he found a real pleasure in
studying a Moro town which had been under the energizing influence of
the Army for nearly two decades. He wandered slowly through the native
quarter, cutting down clean cross streets lined with neat nipa huts
inclosed behind latticed bamboo fences, enjoying the novelty of a
community different from any he had known. Every detail of the well
kept streets testified to the strictness of the standards set by the
white men who governed the town. The few Moros whom he encountered on
the noon-deserted streets passed him silently and with averted eyes,
wary, secretive, entirely alien. One looked him square in the eye,
leaving him uncomfortable with the antipathy unveiled, the cold,
everlasting contempt of the Mohammedan for the unbeliever whom he does
not know.

He walked with lids half-closed against the white glare and the heat
waves which danced above the tortured roads and roofs: by the hour set
for his luncheon engagement he had covered the town thoroughly,
including the beautiful post which had been turned over to Scouts when
the Army at last finished its tedious Moro project.

He found the Major waiting him at the Club, a large, single-story
building set in a grove of tall palms at the edge of the beach and
cooled by the breezes from the Straits. He followed him out on the
wide veranda built over the water's edge, passing through a friendly,
incurious group of young Americans who sat at little round tables in
groups of three and four. Major Bronner responded to a dozen greetings
as they crossed to a table set for two at the edge of the veranda. In
a moment the deft tableboy had their service under way.

"Well," began the Major, "you will have a busy time of it during the
rest of your stay--I wish it were to be longer. This afternoon I want
you to come to the office with me--there are lots of things to talk
over about your work down there. The Governor will see you about five
o'clock. How do you like Zamboanga?"

"It's clean, and interesting, Major."

"'Clean and interesting!' That is a boost! Though we can't take much
credit for the 'interesting'--the Moros furnish that!"

The white-smocked servants moved noiselessly about the cool veranda,
serving the score of Americans with that perfect impersonal care found
nowhere except among Oriental servitors: the subdued clatter of silver
against dish and the tinkle of iced drinks was often drowned in
outbursts of merriment from one or other of the little tables. Most of
the Americans were mere youths, though two were evidently in their
forties. Bronner noted Terry's study of a group of three who sat
nearby, heavily tanned men evidently not quite at home in the club.

"Davao planters," he explained. "Hemp planters: you will know them.
Three good men: they're going down on your boat."

Lunch finished, coffee and cigars furnished excuse for the white-clad
crowd to linger on the darkened porch: scraps of shop talk reached
Terry's ears, a jargon of strangely twisted English and Spanish words.
Bridges, appropriations, rinderpest, lack of labor, artesian wells,
cholera--such was their table talk, as such was their life.

The breeze freshened, gently stirring the potted plants which flanked
each row of tables; the hot stillness of the noon gave way to the
sibilant murmur of the cocoanut palms whose bases were lapped by the
quickening ripples. The breaking of the withering calm was the signal
for departure to office and field. The veranda cleared rapidly.
Bronner, watching the three planters, interrupted their departure.

"Lindsey--just a minute."

He took Terry to their table and introduced him.

"Lieutenant Terry, gentlemen: Mr. Lindsey, Mr. Cochran, Mr. Casey.
Lieutenant Terry goes to Davao to-morrow as Senior Inspector. You will
be able to help him, till he learns his way down there--and later he
may be able to help you."

Terry shook hands with the three in turn. All were out-doors men,
bronzed, diffident with the social shyness of men who live their lives
alone or among none but alien people. Lindsey and Cochran were
square-set, serious young men: Casey, older, but of eager,
enthusiastic mien.

The Major discussed them as he and Terry left the club.

"They're three of the best planters in the Gulf. You'll have no
trouble with them. But you may with some others, those who have a
fancied grievance against the government just now. I had better start
at the beginning.

"You know the best hemp in the world grows down there--soil, climate,
rainfall all combine wonderfully to make it the one ideal spot for
hemp production. In another twenty years it will probably rate as the
richest single agricultural area on the globe--that's why those little
fellows over there"--he indicated a pair of Japanese passing on the
opposite side of the street--"are piling into Davao so fast these
days.

"The world needs hemp--and areas where it can be cultivated are rare.
Three years ago a little stampede occurred into Davao; the pioneers
are a mixed lot--about sixty Americans, a few Britishers, a scattering
of Moros and Filipinos and nearly two hundred Japs. The Japs are
quiet--you will seldom see them: they stay on their places and 'saw
wood'; they're backed by some syndicate--probably their government.
But the others are lone handers, working on their own 'shoe-strings'
or financed by the contributions of optimistic shareholders in Manila.

"They are good men, these planters. You will like them. They went into
the fastnesses of Mindanao, braved the wild tribes, cleared their
land, planted hemp, working largely with their own hands--and in a
climate where they say the white man shall labor only with his head.
You will hear all about their troubles and difficulties--you won't
hear much else down there but hemp--hemp and wild tribes! Hemp and
wildmen--that's Davao!

"About their grievance. They cleared and planted rapidly and have
raised fabulous crops, but when it came time to strip the hemp for
market they found that the wildmen upon whom they had banked as
potential labor would not work. A few came and stayed, but most of
them quit after earning a few pesos. So the hemp rotted in the field.
Desperate, facing ruin, some of the planters went after labor too
strongly, frightened and browbeat the Bogobos into working. The scheme
worked, so a condition approximating peonage was developed upon
several of the plantations.

"We ordered it stopped. Those planters are very sore, looking for
trouble. That's the story--and the condition you must face, and
overcome. You've got to hold down that class of planter, but at the
same time encourage the Bogobos to work for them. It means prosperity
for the planters, and money and comfort for the Bogobos--and it will
keep them out of the hills: we want the Bogobos near the coast, under
civilizing influences. They are newly won to us and apt to fade away
into the foothills on the least provocation."

       *       *       *       *       *

Crossing the acacia-shaded lawns of the beautiful plaza he stopped in
front of the artistic concrete bandstand, jerking a big thumb at the
dedication inscribed upon the ivy-covered façade.

"Pershing Plaza," he read aloud. "He was the last military Governor,
you remember. I knew him: a good man. No genius--just a good man, hard
worker: has two traits that will carry him a long way if he gets the
chance--common sense and industry. Wants to know everything about
everything, and never quits working. Surrounds himself with workers:
gives his men their jobs and doesn't bother them while they do
them--just wants results.

"'Make good or make way!' Some slogan! Pershing, Wood, Scott,
Carpenter,--America has sent some of her best into Mindanao. I'm glad
to be here--aren't you?"

At the sudden question Terry turned to him.

"Yes," he said. "I hope to be--useful."

They had reached the entrance to the government building: the Major
paused at the foot of the mahogany staircase to conclude earnestly:
"It is fashionable just now in Manila to decry this effort to
institute civil government among the Moros--but I know you are not of
the type to be influenced. Governor Mason is making good: you will
see that after you have been here a month. He is a wonder,
Terry,--probably the only man who could handle this situation with a
few Constabulary. Study, patience, and square-dealing, backed by
occasional use of troops, prepared the Moros for this experiment, and
Governor Mason is carrying it forward almost alone--opposing the
backward tendencies of Sululand with little else save personality,
inspiration and a wonderful knowledge of Malay character.

"You're going to like it down here," he wound up suddenly, confused by
his own unaccustomed oratory.

Mounting the polished stairway, they passed down the tall concrete
corridors and into the Major's office. He drew up a chair for Terry
and seated himself behind a desk whose orderly array of accessories
bespoke his methodical bachelor habits. The walls were covered with
large-scale maps of Moroland showing location of various tribes,
scattered settlements and district boundaries, with great blank areas
eloquent of the unknown character of unexplored fastnesses. The
crosses which indicated the distribution of Constabulary forces
controlled from his office dotted every sizable island: pins bearing
the names of government agents showed into what remote regions our
trail-breakers had penetrated. One purple-flagged pin showed a
veterinarian warring against a cattle plague in Jolo: a blue flag
thrust into one of the blank spaces of Mindanao indicated the
whereabouts of a fearless ethnologist from the Field Museum: a red
sticker bore the name of an engineer who had been out of touch for six
weeks, running the line of a new trail across the great bulk of
Mindanao. The map was symbolic of the Constabulary, whose duty it is
to know all, to protect all.

Leaving Terry to his study of the maps the Major spent an unapologetic
fifteen minutes clearing the mass of papers that had accumulated
during the lunch hour, then turned to him. For an hour he outlined the
salient problems which would confront the young officer in his new
assignment. He was all business, curt, concise, definite. He touched
upon the ordinary service activities of drill, patrol, secret service,
supply and report, then took up those phases which required delicate
and original handling.

"Now, Lieutenant, we did not pull you down here to handle an ordinary
job--you know it means something these days to get a Mindanao
assignment."

Terry did know it. Only men who had demonstrated unusual ability in
their line had been sent to Moroland under Governor Mason. As the
months went by the northern provinces were being stripped of their
crack men for assignment to the southern experiment, so that detail
there had become a mark of distinction. He had been as surprised as
pleased at his summons from Sorsogon, a poor, colorless province
where he had spent seven months in uneventful, and as he thought,
inconspicuous service.

The Major detected something of what was passing in his mind: "You
were selected because of your understanding of native character, your
sympathy with them: that, and your faculty for learning dialects. By
the way, what is your method of studying these languages--your record
of three dialects in half a year is remarkable."

"There was little else to do--and I like to study them."

The Major noted the slight flush of embarrassment. He reached into a
drawer and pulled out a card, scanning it carefully before continuing:

"Your qualification card indicates that you are an unusual pistol
shot: it reads 'Pistol rating--two-handed expert, extraordinary in
accuracy and rapidity.'"

Disregarding Terry's increased embarrassment he pushed the question:
"How did you acquire such skill?"

"Well, as I had to carry a sidearm, I thought to make it useful--it is
not much of an ornament. After I became really interested it cost me
about fifty dollars a month for ammunition."

"Well, things happen down here! Some day you may be glad you spent the
money--your skill may come in handy!"

"On--men?" It was the one aspect of the service from which Terry
shrank.

"Well, I hope not. It seldom comes to that. But a number of hard
characters have been concentrating recently in the Davao Gulf, a batch
of discharged convicts who served long terms for brigandage and
murder. We have been watching them, but nothing significant transpired
till last month."

The muscles of his heavy jaw tightened as he went on: "You have heard
of Malabanan, haven't you?"

"The ladrone leader?"

"Yes, he. He was released from Bilibid prison last summer and came
through here last month. One of our operatives uncovered him on the
boat--traveling as an ordinary steerage passenger. He went to Davao,
and I fear it means trouble. I think he gathered that tough crew
together to operate in Davao, thinking to test us out now that the
Army is gone."

His face was grim as he snapped: "Terry, watch him! And if he makes a
single move--smash him! Make no false starts, do not arrest him unless
you are sure that your evidence will convict in the courts. Give him
plenty of rope--but if he breaks loose ... smash him hard!
Understand?"

Terry nodded quietly, but something in his competent face contented
his chief. He repeated his warning against premature action:

"Be sure you can get him before you move--he is slippery and has
friends in high native circles. We do not want to be turned down in
the courts at this stage of the game, and it may be he intends to play
the game square--plant hemp, for instance. But if he wants a
showdown--smash him good and plenty!"

He briefly reviewed the substance of his instructions: "You can see
that your work is going to call for a good deal of tact and patience:
patience with the angry planters, with the wild people. Everybody is
scared and jumpy down there just now, and we want to restore their
confidence."

Terry had listened attentively throughout the interview, speaking only
to answer questions. He broke the silence which followed:

"Major, I have heard a great deal about the Hill People of Davao: will
I be near them?"

The Major eyed him queerly for a moment before answering: "About
thirty miles as the bird flies," he said, "but about a million to all
intents and purposes! No living man has been among them--those who
have tried have left their bones rotting in the dark forest. They kill
all who attempt to reach them, expeditions in force find nothing as
the Hillmen simply fade away before their approach.

"I don't want you to attempt to go among them--in fact I expressly
forbid it, as it means certain death. But some day we hope to open the
Hills up, to win among them: it is one of the Governor's cherished
ambitions. So learn what you can about them from the old Bogobos who
live in the foothills, and report any interesting traditions you may
hear. Pieced together, the tales may make a helpful contribution--may
help solve the riddle of how to get to them peaceably. Not that you or
I are likely to live long enough to see it done--they are too
confounded wild, too inaccessible behind their jungled hills."

He shrugged his broad shoulders in eloquent dismissal of a vain hope,
and rose: "I want you to meet the Governor. I'll see if we can get to
him yet."

He strode out of the office, returning immediately to inform Terry
that the Governor was closeted with the two Moro datos whom he had
fetched to the capitol by launch.

"They haven't promised to be good boys yet," he chuckled, "but they
will before he finishes with them! His Secretary says that he expects
you and me to go down to San Ramon with him to-night at seven sharp,
to dine with Wade, the prison superintendent. You're in luck,
Lieutenant. It will be an evening you won't soon forget."

So it proved to be.



CHAPTER IV

THE FANATIC


Terry, refreshed by a shower and change to formal white uniform, was
listening to the Major's grave summing up of the Moro problem when the
arrival of the governor's car took them both down to join him. As
Governor Mason alighted to meet him Terry felt the magnetism of the
man who had been selected to attempt the difficult Moro venture.
Governor Mason had grown up in the island service, had been identified
with the inner government circle since the days of the First
Commission, and had been retained and promoted by each succeeding
administration. Far-sighted, patient, wary, suave, he was the most
consummate master of Island policy developed under the American
regime. A press bitterly hostile to the idea of giving the Moros civil
government had attested to his proven capacity by moderating its
criticism following the announcement that he would head the new
government.

Terry was welcomed with a graceful simplicity that made him feel at
home. Immediately he fell under the spell of this man whose spirit
enthused the small band of whites who were redeeming a people from
their prehistoric lethargy. He was fit to lead; the sweep of line from
temple through jaw bespoke an uncompromising force of character, but
was gentled by the deep cleft of chin: something in the poise of head
gave him the manner best described as aristocratic but it was toned
down by the mischievous gleam which flickered, often without obvious
reason, in the thoughtful eyes.

The big car bore them swiftly through the cooling evening over smooth
coral roads which were laid down like ribbons on the green tableland
over which they sped: they shot under groves of tall cocoanut trees,
past clumps of feathery bamboo which flanked the highway. Dusk was
near when they entered the reservation and drew up in front of a
red-roofed bungalow set on a great lawn facing the prison inclosure.

Superintendent Wade rose from the wide veranda and came down to meet
them, a tall, smooth-faced man of young middle-age, evidently on most
intimate terms with the Governor and the Major. While expressing his
pleasure in being privileged to entertain Terry, he bent upon him the
searching look of appraisal which is instinctive in the Orient, where
the masses are controlled by the white man's prestige, a prestige
which may suffer through attitude or actions of each newcomer.

Terry halted a moment at the curb, rapt in appreciation of the spot.
Acres of lawn, splashed with flaming red and yellow canna beds, swept
from roadway to edge of sea: wide shell roads, smooth as planks, wound
in great curves into the dark groves of cocoanut palms which
surrounded the inclosure on three sides and extended back a thousand
acres in symmetrical rows of towering trunks which created endless
shaded glades: turning slowly, he saw the immaculately policed prison
inclosure showing through the steel grillwork which an intelligent
mind had substituted for grim and stuffy prison walls. It seemed less
prison than sanctuary.

The development of the prison farm, the development of its Moro
inmates, was Wade's life. "Lieutenant, I am glad you like it," he said
simply. "It is home to me."

The Governor had strolled out on the lawn for a lingering look around
him. Returning to the veranda he eyed Wade and Bronner quizzically.

"Each of you has too fine an establishment for the barren needs of
bachelors. I wish you had more confidence in the blissful state of
matrimony!"

Wade shook his head decisively. The Major snorted.

"Huh! No petticoats for mine!"

A stolid Moro servant padded up with a tray bearing four cocktails: in
a moment carried them kitchen-ward, rejected.

The Governor laughed: "Not one in four! An unusual showing, Wade." He
turned to Terry: "You never drink?"

"I--I don't care for it, Governor."

A pause, and he added, flushing slightly: "That was not quite honest,
sir. I have never tried it."

As they moved to the table the Governor exchanged a glance of
delighted approval with the Major over the nice amend.

The steady breeze off the Straits that blew across the veranda where
they sat at dinner roused the sea into a little confusion of beach
sounds. They ate leisurely, talking of the strange things of Sululand,
talked as men do who find surpassing interest in the little and the
big things of their work; and Terry listened as they deliberately drew
him within their circle.

It was a dinner deserving of the time given up to it. Following a
vegetable soup the Moro bore in a great lapu-lapu, fresh from the
Straits: if you have never tasted the flaky substance of a
lapu-lapu,--don't! For once you do, you will be forever impatient of
the quality of all other fish. Roast duck followed, with sweet corn,
camotes, tart roselle sauce, a papaya salad, an ice, and pili nuts;
all perfectly prepared, and flawlessly served by the expressionless
Moro boy who moved noiselessly about the snowy table.

"I want to brag a little, Governor," Wade said as he and the Major
lighted cigars over a second cup of black coffee. "Everything we ate
to-night--with the exception of such things as salt and pepper and
cream,--was the product of this farm. You will be able to report at
the end of the year that we are eighty per cent self-supporting."

Pressed by the Governor, Wade explained to Terry his system of
handling the six hundred Moro inmates. He stopped midway in a graphic
account of three prisoners whom he had sent out with instructions to
fetch in a runaway convict dead or alive.

"I didn't ask you down here to talk you to death!" he apologized.

"But what happened?" insisted the Major. "Did the three skip too?"

Wade glared at him. "Skip? My trusties? I guess not! They came in last
night after dark, after being gone in the interior for three weeks,
carrying a gunnysack. I was sitting out here, so they came right up
and without a word emptied the sack on the veranda floor. They had
stayed out till they got him--his head rolled out of the sack and
landed right under where you're sitting, Major. Then the three walked
over to the prison gate and reported in."

A moment later the Major moved his chair.

The Governor had been quietly studying Terry. "How did the Philippines
first impress you?" he asked. "About as you anticipated?"

Terry hesitated, then responded to the authority of the kindly eyes:
"No, sir. I had read enough typical stories of the tropics to absorb
an atmosphere, but I did not find it. You know what I mean, sir: all
that stuff about _dulce far niente_, manana, gin-soaked
beach-combers,--that sort of thing. But I don't find it, sir. I find a
spirit of hustle, of getting things done despite obstacles, a spirit
which the natives seem to be absorbing,--though rather slowly."

The Governor was frankly interested: "You doubtless have formed some
opinion regarding the Filipinos--their fitness for independence?"

Terry felt the three pairs of eyes drilling him as he answered: "It
seems to me, sir, that--disregarding such baffling obstacles to
independence as their absolute defenselessness as a nation, the
profound ignorance of the masses, lack of a common tongue, and all
that,--I think that in view of the fact that under our guidance they
have advanced further than under four hundred years of Spanish rule,
it would be kinder if we waited decision until we see what a second or
third generation of English-speaking natives are like."

He reflected a moment, serious, then added: "In short, sir, I think
that it would be a great injustice to them to mistake our own driving
force for their capacity."

"Sus-marie-hosep!" exclaimed the delighted Major, who had fidgeted
while his protégé was undergoing the Governor's test, "Don't mistake
our driving force for--I'd like to hear the native demagogues argue on
that thesis!"

The Governor surveyed Terry with added interest, but was
non-committal.

They fell silent, listening to the dark sea, in its gentlest mood,
caressing the beach: the wind flowed past them steadily, like a soft
current, stirring the long fronds into purring contact. A sharp
challenge from an alert native sentry rang clear, followed by the
crunching sound of a heavy iron gate opening and closing with grating
finality. The hourly call was sounded by a guard, who, unseen by them,
paced the main entrance to the inclosure: "All's Well." It sounded six
times from invisible lips. Terry pondered its ironic message to those
who heard it from within those steel and concrete dormitories: "All's
Well," sounding to those who had crime on their souls, and had left,
somewhere, mothers, wives, children ... sweethearts.... It oppressed
him heavily.

Then a roar of laughter rose from within the prison, the free and
joyous expression of mirth from hundreds of throats, from men who
found life good. Terry looked up to see Wade observing him closely,
smiling.

"They're having 'movies' to-night," he explained. "They're crazy about
Charlie Chaplin."

Then Terry understood better the spirit of the institution, and of its
inmates. This was no dungeon, it was a school where men were being
taught how to live at peace with their kind, how to work,--and how to
laugh.

Vaguely conscious of being the object of intent scrutiny by some one
stationed behind his chair, Terry turned, restlessly, to face the Moro
servant, who stood just within the circle of light cast by the lamp,
his smoldering eyes fixed upon him. Unabashed, inscrutable, he studied
the white youth unblinkingly: then, as if decision had ripened, he
entered the full glare of the lamp and faced Wade, his master.

Astounded at the extraordinary intrusion, Wade questioned him curtly
in his dialect. The Moro responded at length, in a listless monotone
that contrasted strangely with the determined gleam of his black eyes.
Surprise flooded Wade's face, heightened to astonishment as the Moro
continued; and as he concluded his story with an expressive gesture
toward Terry, Wade struck his knee.

"Well, I'll be everlastingly consumed!" he prophesied. He searched
Terry's thin face intently, then turned to the Governor.

"This boy, Matak," he pointed to the passive Moro, "adopted me over a
year ago: just dropped in and said he was going to work for me. I
didn't need him--you know I draw on the trusties for servants--but he
would not accept refusal: he just stayed on. He is a fine servant, but
a queer fish--I let him stay for both reasons! I've tried to persuade
him to go to different friends who needed servants, but he looked them
over and then refused. I don't know where he came from, don't know
anything about his history: I only know that he is a very faithful
boy, with some grievance against life that leaves him morose and
silent.

"Now he coolly announces," he paused to again study Terry's
countenance queerly, "now he says he is going with Lieutenant Terry!"

The small but powerfully built Moro calmly returned the stare of the
four white men, his face passionless, his inert hands and thick bare
feet curiously expressive of a primitiveness beyond conception.
Evidently he had decided upon a course of action from which nothing
would sway him, and he waited until the white men should adjust
themselves to the fact. The Governor's face expressed his sympathy
with the Moro as he turned to Wade and asked permission to address his
servant.

"Matak, why do you wish to go with Lieutenant Terry?"

The Moro shifted his brooding eyes to Terry, then back to the Governor
before he answered.

"Because I like him, sir."

"Why do you like him?"

"Because he understands, sir."

"Understands what, Matak?"

"He understands us, sir,--the unfortunate. Because he is lonely too,
sir."

The Governor had been trying all evening to solve the strange appeal
of Terry's countenance: the primitive Moro had understood. Gazing at
the white youth, the Governor saw that Matak was right. The tone in
which he addressed Terry was gentle, fatherly.

"Lieutenant, do you need a boy?"

The Major's quick sympathy had been enlisted: "Lieutenant, you will
run your own mess down there," he interposed.

Meeting the black eyes turned upon him in confident expectation, Terry
found their dull appeal irresistible.

"He may come with me," he said. "I will look after him."

Matak stood motionless a moment, then stepped to Wade and slipping to
one knee pressed Wade's hand against his lips in token of gratitude
and farewell. Then he rose and went silently into the house.

The Governor, the Major and Wade were busy men with large
responsibilities: Terry found ample material for reverie in
contemplation of what was opening up before him. The incident served
to stifle further conversation. The four settled comfortably into the
long rattan chairs drawn up near the railing, each content in the mere
association with friends and occupied with his own problems.

The quiet intimacy of the group was jarred by the sudden jangle of a
telephone. Wade jumped up with a muttered excuse but before he had
crossed to the open door it rang again, insistent. They heard his
murmured "hello," then an incredulous "What!" in higher pitch. He
appeared at the door, pale, excited.

"Governor Mason," he exclaimed, "Captain Hornbecker reports that there
is a _juramentado_ loose between here and Zamboanga!"

At the startling intelligence the Governor's feet rapped to the floor:
the Major jumped to his feet, astounded.

"Why," he protested, "who ever heard of a Moro running amuck at this
time of night!"

"Hornbecker insists that it is true, nevertheless. He has sent a
detachment out after him but was worried because the Governor and you
might have started before he got word for you to wait."

The Governor shook his head decidedly: "We will not wait. Please call
my car."

The Major's protest against the Executive's endangering himself died
in his throat at a quiet look from the Governor. They hurried to the
car, Wade delaying them a few seconds while he secured three heavy
pistols, handing one to each of the two officers. They found Matak
waiting in the seat beside the driver.

A sharp order from the Governor and the chauffeur shot them out of the
reservation and into the provincial road. The big Renault roared
through the night, the kilometer posts flitting by like specters, the
headlights tunneling the cocoanut groves through which the white
highway spun.

The four Americans crouched low in the tonneau to escape the blinding
rush of air that eddied over the windshield. They shot over a bridge,
tore through a dark village, rounded a corner at top speed and took
the grassed shoulder of the road as the little chauffeur twisted the
wheel to avoid a bewildered carabao which blocked the middle of the
highway. A sickening skid, and they were back in the road. At the end
of a roaring flight down a long straightaway they rounded a sharp
curve into a short stretch terminating in a nipa village which seemed
to leap toward the rushing car. As the powerful lights swung upon the
widened road which formed the village street the alert driver saw that
which brought foot and hand to the brakes in a frantic effort that
brought the car to a grinding, sliding stop and tumbled the Americans
to the floor of the tonneau.

Crouched in the middle of the road a Moro, gone amuck, darted fanatic
glances in search of the Christians he had vowed to die killing, his
eyes bloodshot with the self-inflicted torture of the juramentado
rite. He balanced a great two-handed kris that gleamed like a row of
stars where the headlight struck its polished corrugations.

A Filipino, unaware of the terrific figure behind him, had sauntered
from the shadows into the path of light, curious, half-blinded by the
glare he faced. As he reached the middle of the road the most
terrifying of all cries issued from one of the dark windows.

"_Juramentado!! Juramentado!!!_"

At the cry his face turned sickly green in the glare. He wheeled,
uncertain, then ran blindly toward the frenzied Moro who was creeping
toward him.

It happened with the swiftness of nightmare. By the time the
Americans had picked themselves up from the bottom of the car the
Filipino's frantic burst had brought him within twenty feet of the
black-clad fanatic. His flying feet lagged to a halt, he stood stock
still in sheer horror till the Moro bounded toward him, then turned
back toward the car--too late!

The four white men leaped out just as the Filipino turned back toward
them with fear-leaden feet, and in the moment of discovery of the
Mohammedan who leaped in his shadow, they saw the glistening blade
rise above the Filipino's head and fall in a terrific sweep that
seemed to end at the point where neck and shoulder join. Before their
eyes the body opened like a book.

It seemed inconceivable, but the crazed face of the Moro showed
through the cleft which widened as the victim fell.

"God!" sobbed the Governor.

Sighting the group of Americans the blood-crazed Mohammedan bounded
toward them triumphantly, swinging a kris which no longer gleamed.
Bronner had reached the road first and stood in front. His heavy
pistol roared six times and at the last shot the leaping Moro spun
clear around and fell heavily.

He staggered to his feet and with the same implacable hatred gleaming
in his eyes came on toward them, still grasping the awful weapon.
Then, as Matak stepped out to meet him, armed only with a hub wrench,
Terry's right hand extended in swift gesture as he shot once. The Moro
collapsed to the road, limply, like a wet stocking off a line.

His race was run, but he had taken one unbeliever with him to justify
his claim to a choice seat in the Mohammedan heavens. There is a
certain impressive earnestness about the followers of Mohammed.

The dismayed villagers poured out into the street, venting their
frenzied fear by kicking the dead fanatic. Captain Hornbecker, a
round-faced officer, arrived with his soldiers. As the chauffeur had
emerged from his hiding place in the brush, the Governor turned
matters over to the captain and the four drove on into Zamboanga. All
had been sickened by the horror of the swift tragedy.

They stopped at Bronner's house to get Terry's bag, then drove him to
the wharf. The _Francesca_ was about to cast off, her dim-lit decks
loud with the confusion of misdirected effort.

Terry sent Matak aboard, thanked the three warmly for their kindness
to him; after a moment of hesitation he added something that was
drowned in a sudden rumble of winch. Two waiting sailors threw off the
hawser in response to a shouted signal from the bridge. The three
Americans remained at the end of the pier till after Terry had mounted
to the deck and the boat swung out into the current.

As they walked along the dark pier the Governor asked: "What was that
he was saying? I did not quite catch it."

"I heard only part of it," answered Bronner. "It was something about
how queer religions may be--he was thinking of the juramentado."

Wade spoke: "Did you notice how hard the affair got him? Of course it
was a pretty stiff sight."

"It wasn't that," said the Major, slowly. "From something he said to
me to-day I know that he has had a horror of some day being compelled
to kill a man--and the day came. I'm very sorry I didn't stop that
Moro devil--yet I hit him three times."

The Governor walked the short distance to his residence. Wade dropped
the Major at his bungalow, and sat oblivious to the Major's
outstretched hand, musing.

"Major," he said finally, "Matak's selecting Terry for his
master--queer, isn't it?"

"Huh!" growled the Major, "I would go with him myself--anywhere!"



CHAPTER V

NEW FRIENDS, AND AN ENEMY


The _Francesca_, no slower and no dirtier than most of the other
steamers which ply the inter-island trade routes, had waddled all
night and all day through the Celebes Sea. Afternoon found her
laboring over a becalmed mirror of sea, past rippled reefs, through
clusters of little coral islands from which straggle-plumed palms
raised wry fronds in anemic defiance of inhospitable, root resisting
soil. Mindanao lay to the west and south, vast, mysterious.

Terry stood alone at the forward end of the small promenade deck
watching the third class passengers, who, though still manifesting the
uneasiness of the Malay landsman at sea, were comfortably sprawled
upon the dirty hatch covers enjoying the seven-mile breeze created by
the movement of the vessel through the still atmosphere. Upon the
cooler side of the upper deck the first class passengers had disposed
themselves under the once-white awning. Two natives, a Tagalog planter
named Ledesma and his big-eyed, full-bosomed daughter, had withdrawn
themselves from the whites and were seated in conscious dignity near
the aft rail. Four Americans were grouped up forward, stretched out in
full length steamer chairs in the complete physical comfort born of a
cooling evening after a blistering day.

Lindsey reached out to pull up an extra chair, beckoned Terry to join
them and introduced him to the fourth member of the group, naming him
as Sears.

He was a big man, heavy-set, a bit untidy of dress and beard: his face
was flushed, and he answered Terry's pleasant salutation with a
mattered growl. Lindsey moved in his chair, uneasily.

"Lieutenant," he said, "we want to get acquainted with you. We shall
see much of each other in Davao."

Before Terry could respond a harsh voice broke in: "Yes, none of us
are stuck on ourselves down here!"

The words fell cold. Sensing the purpose to offend, Terry straightened
in his chair to face Sears. He met his surly stare squarely: their
eyes battled, but under the level gaze Sears' bloodshot eyes wavered
and lowered, the flush deepening angrily with his confusion.

Lindsey hastily summoned the deckboy to take their orders and by the
time he returned with the drinks the constraint had abated. Sears, the
only one who had ordered whiskey, settled back in his chair in sullen
relief from a situation not quite to his liking. Lindsey raised his
glass to Terry.

"To your arrival among us," he offered, pleasantly.

"To you all, sir," Terry responded.

"More hemp!" suggested Cochran.

Little Casey attested to his passion: "To breeds and breeders and
breeding!" he grinned: it was his never-failing toast at the Davao
Club.

They waited a moment for Sears, but he had gulped his drink.

It was the enthusiastic Casey who first spoke: "Lieutenant, and when
do you think you can come down to my place? I want you to see my
Berkshire boar and my two American mares!"

Cochran smiled at him, affectionately: everybody liked Casey for his
wild enthusiasms. His latest hobby was the importation of blooded
animals to cross with native stock.

"Casey," said Cochran, "if you would pay half as much attention to
your plantation as you do to your mares and that old grunter, you'd
get somewhere!"

Casey snorted: "Sure, and in about three months I'll have a colt to
show you--then you'll sing another tune! And wait till I get some
half-breed pigs--instead of the hollow-backed scrawny things we've got
now--then you'll admit that Casey was the boy!"

Casey was more or less of a character in the Gulf. His words flew so
fast they overran each other in effort to keep abreast of his racing
ideas. Thoroughly respected for his sterling character, he was made
the target of much good-natured hilarity because of his constant
hobby-riding and the rushing speech that made him almost incoherent.
His mares and boar had cost him money that could better have gone into
plantation improvements.

The conversation, drifting fitfully, touched upon a new stripping
machine which Lindsey had purchased in Manila: he was bringing it down
in the hold of the _Francesca_.

"I watched them load it," he declared. "I took no chances in being shy
a necessary bolt or belt. I'll have it set up in a couple of weeks and
if it works as well in the field as it did in the agent's
warehouse--no more labor troubles for me--no more hemp rotting in the
ground for lack of strippers!"

Cochran was mildly pessimistic. He had seen too many other heralded
inventions which worked well experimentally but failed in the hemp
fields. Of course Casey was hopeful--it was his nature.

Sears broke his long silence: "Labor troubles, labor shortage!
Hell!--there's plenty of labor in the Gulf--if only the Government
wasn't always hornin' in on us!"

Terry knew the remark was aimed at him but refrained from comment.
Sears mistook his silence.

"But no meddlin' government is goin' to interfere with me! I'm goin'
to run my own place from now on--and get my labor where I please--and
how I please!"

As this elicited no response from the patient officer he continued
despite Lindsey's distressed signals. Emboldened, he turned directly
to Terry.

"I suppose," he snarled, "that you were sent down to be the little
fairy god-father to the Bogobos--to protect the poor heathen from the
awful planters who want to make them work. No?"

Terry stirred. "Mr. Sears, I am instructed to protect the Bogobos from
any oppression--and to aid the planters in every legitimate way. I
hope to do both."

Sears' passion seemed fed by the conciliatory tone. Terry studied the
convulsed face and through the thick veil of rage saw the lines of
worry that had aged him prematurely: the black hair was streaked with
gray and his hands were thickened and stained with toil. Moved by a
quick sympathy Terry spoke again:

"Mr. Sears, this is no time to discuss the matter. In a week or so I
will come to see you and--"

Sears interrupted in a voice hoarse with anger: "Terry, if any
government man comes--snoopin' round my place--I'll--I'll--he will
never snoop again!"

In the tense silence that followed the challenge Lindsey bit clean
through his cigar. Terry's answer was so long in coming that the trio
of Americans who listened experienced something of the faint qualm
which sickens a man when he witnesses another's backing-down. Finally
he spoke, slowly, his measured words scarcely audible above the
muffled beat of the propeller.

"Sears, I am coming to your place first. I will come within a week."

Sears jumped to his feet, shaking with the hatred he had conceived for
the young officer. Terry rose easily, looking frail in comparison with
the burly figure opposing him, but he surveyed Sears steadily,
unafraid, and not unfriendly.

Cochran coughed loudly, and again. Casey nervously undid a shoelace,
retieing it with meticulous care. Lindsey rose with studied
leisureliness and stood at the rail near Sears, ready.

But the ship's bell rang out the dinner hour, a waiting Visayan
steward stepped out on the deck hammering a Chinese dinner gong, and
in the strident din the crisis passed. Lindsey lingered to speak with
Terry after the others had passed below.

"I'm very sorry, Lieutenant. Sears is a rough fellow, but he is
half-crazed with worry. He's really not a bad _hombre_."

Terry nodded: "I can see that he is worried about something."

"It's his plantation. He has invested what little money he had in it,
has worked hard for three years, and now that he has his first big
crop he can't harvest it--the Bogobos won't work for him. He is pretty
rough with them, I guess--but if he doesn't harvest this crop he's
ruined. He's in debt--and pretty desperate."

He paused, a deeper concern crept into his face: "Lieutenant," he said
earnestly, "can't you stay away from his place--a while--till he gets
his hemp cut and stripped? He is really desperate--and always packs a
gun."

Terry smiled his gratitude. "Lindsey, I am much obliged to you. You
need not worry about it."

       *       *       *       *       *

Neither Sears nor Lindsey were of the group which assembled on deck
after dinner to enjoy the brilliancy of the swift sunset. The ship had
swung through Sarangani Channel and was paralleling the west coast due
north toward Davao. The red glory of the dying sun tinted the waters
of the Gulf to the line of palm-fringed beach which edged the distant
shoreline. From the shore the land sloped gently to the west and
north, mile after mile of primeval jungle broken here and there where
brush and thorn and creeper had yielded to man's demand for more and
more hemp. Far inland the steady rise persisted, grew more abrupt and
more heavily timbered, terminating in the far interior in a dim and
mighty mountain whose dark-wooded slopes and misted crest dominated
the Gulf: the red orb of the sun had dropped behind this towering
summit.

Cochran pointed up at the distant mountain: "Mount Apo."

Terry nodded: "Where the Hill People live?"

"Yes,--where they are supposed to live: no one really knows ... you
will hear all sorts of stories."

The shadows which lurked upon Mount Apo descended over the lower
slopes, then enfolded the Gulf. The lights on the steamer shone
murkily. The three lay back watching the stars brighten overhead. For
a long time nothing was heard but the querulous mutterings of the old
boat as she waddled on her way.

Terry broke the silence: "Where is Lindsey?"

Cochran answered quickly to head off the more explicit Casey: "Oh,
he's busy--busy with Sears."

Terry understood. Cochran sparred for an opening in the silence his
friendship for Sears made embarrassing.

"Lieutenant, you are likely to have work for your soldiers pretty
soon. There's a rough outfit gathering down here in the Gulf--though
I imagine Bronner told you all about it."

"He told me something of it, but I would like to hear more."

"Well, I don't know much about it, excepting that a score or more of
tough characters have come down in the past two months. They settled
on a mangy plantation up the coast, north of Davao, but they aren't
working: just loafing around all day. They seem to be waiting for
something--or somebody. The natives are scared, and the whites don't
feel any too good about it either! You know we are scattered all over
the Gulf--everybody a mile or more away from his neighbors--and that
means a mile of jungle."

Casey flared up: "We ought to run 'em out--they're no good, probably
carabao thieves or worse--"

"How worse?" grinned Cochran. "Horse thieves--or pig thieves?"

Casey did not mind being ragged by his friends. He persisted:
"Lieutenant, you ought to run 'em out as undesirables or under the
vagabond law! They're no good--they won't work--and they're the
toughest lookin' lot I ever did see! Sure and if I had my way I'd toss
the lot into Sears' crocodile hole--the dirty, low-lived, shiftless
lot of 'em!"

Terry was interested: "Sears' crocodile hole?" he asked.

Cochran laughingly explained: "It's more or less of a joke between
Sears and Lindsey: each has a hoodoo on his place that makes it harder
to get laborers. The Bogobos fear a great snake they swear haunts
Lindsey's woods, and none of them wants to go near a pool on Sears'
places just below the ford--they claim it is the home of a monstrous
crocodile, thirty feet long. No white man has ever seen either; it's a
big joke in a way--but a costly one for them as it makes the wild men
give their places a wide berth."

"What have they done about it?"

"Everything. Got up hunting parties--stalked the places for hours and
days, tried to convince the natives that it is all bosh. But they
insist it's all true, and stay away--and loss of man power means loss
of money they both need this year. Both of them think the stories are
just the usual Bogobo exaggerations."

Terry thought Cochran not quite convinced: "What do you think?"

"I? Oh, I don't know. It's hard to swallow the stories--man-eating
snakes and crocodiles sound all right on the lips of the old Spaniards
but where our flag flies things seem to sober down. Yet I've usually
found that back of all these Bogobo tales there is an element of
truth: and two years ago when I was clearing my place I shot an
eighteen-foot python. Stumbled on it sleeping--glad it was!"

The evening monsoon had set in, rippling the surface of the sea and
humming its cooling refrain through the rigging. Casey yawned heavily
and went below to seek the planter's early sleep. Cochran remained
with Terry for a half-hour, enlightening him with a running talk of
the problems confronting the planters. He was well educated,
progressive, and backed by ample family means had developed the best
holding in the Gulf. He told Terry that on this trip he had succeeded
in persuading thirty timid Visayan families to settle upon his
plantation despite their native fear of all things Mindanaoan, and
that his profits for the year would return him sixty per cent of the
capital he had invested in his place.

"You will soon understand conditions, Lieutenant," he declared as he
rose to go below. "Most of the planters need labor, and they need
capital." He threw his cigar butt over the rail, debating the ethics
of uttering what might be thought a criticism of his associates. "And
they need farming intelligence most--too many of them were army men or
government men before coming down here, yet they tackle a highly
specialized form of tropical agriculture with utter confidence! They
aren't farmers--they're just heroes!"

He half-turned to go, hesitated: "Lieutenant, you're going to like it
down here--because we're going to like you. Now, of course it's none
of my business, but if I were you I would keep away from Sears'
place--he will make his threat good. He has it in him to become a
pretty bad man--but as I say, it's none of my business. Goodnight,
sir."

After Cochran had gone, Terry, sleepless, slowly walked the gently
rolling deck. Ledesma stood at the rail near the forward lifeboat
gazing into the soft shadows which shrouded the muttering ship. At
Terry's quiet approach he turned to address him abstractedly in the
liquid Spanish of cultured Filipinos.

"Buenas Noches, Señor Teniente."

Terry answered in the same tongue: "Good Evening, Señor Ledesma. A
fine night."

The natives' vague fear of the dark--wrought into instinct by a
thousand generations of ancestors who crouched at night around
flickering campfires in jungles through which crept hostile men and
marauding beasts--had fastened upon him, stripping him of the thin
veneer of civilization the Spaniards had laid but lightly over the
Malayan barbarism. He shifted uneasily, looked out over the starlit
sea.

"Teniente," he murmured, "I like not the night. The dead rise ... some
sing ... some complain ... drift through the black mists searching for
those they have long lost ... the vampires seek for unprotected
children.... I like not the night...."

Lost in the ghastly realms of native ghostlore, he ignored the
American. Terry rounded the deck once and when he came again to where
Ledesma had stood he found him gone to seek the cheer of lighted
cabin. Terry stopped at the forward rail, his face upturned to the big
stars which burned in the soft depths of the warm sky: the Southern
Cross poised just over the crest of Apo. Below, on the black sea, the
thrust of the vessel threw up a great welt which bordered the wedge of
disturbed waters: phosphorescence gleamed like great wet stars. The
tips of cigarettes glowed on the forward deck where members of the
crew lay prone, exchanging occasional words in the hushed voices races
not far from nature use in the still hours of the night.

The morning would find him in a strange place, among strangers ... he
leaned upon the rail in a sudden excess of yearning for those whom he
loved, summoned the spirits of those who loved him. They came to him
through the night--Susan fretting, Ellis affectionately gruff, Enrico
boisterously cheerful, Father Jennings wise, patient, watchful.
Another, fairer, unutterably dear, hovered near him: he strove, as of
old, to bridge the gap--and was baffled, as of old.

The eight bells of midnight roused him from his dejected reverie: he
straightened from the rail. The Cross had dipped into the clouded
crest: miles to the west a shorefire bit into the black mantle that
draped the Gulf. The low wailing of an infant and the guttural
endeavors of the mother to soothe it came up from the forward deck
where the native passengers lay sprawled in the profound slumber of
the Malay: pacified, it slept again, then the night was still but for
the soft sounds of displaced waters and the creakings of the ship's
old joints.

       *       *       *       *       *

As he passed along the narrow, ill-lighted passage toward his cabin he
heard a voice raised in ugly imprecation:

"I'll get him if he comes, the ---- upstart! Just let him show his
face on my place, by ----, I'll fix him!"

It was Sears' voice. As he felt his way down the dark corridor, he
heard Lindsey's low tones, reproachful, conciliatory.

A few steps further brought him near Sears' door. Suddenly he
distinguished a figure outlined against the door, listening. As a
match flared in Terry's fingers, the native whirled.

It was Matak. He followed Terry to his cabin, unabashed.

"Master," he said simply, "he talk about you. He make fight talk--kill
talk--so I listen."

The seed of his loyalty fell on ground furrowed by the lonely hours on
deck. Shame at having given way to a great depression swept over
Terry--friends were in the making, this splendid friend already made
... and he had come to serve, not to seek.... He smiled into the
worshiping black eyes.

"It's all right, Matak. You do not understand. You go to your quarters
and get some sleep."

The Moro lingered. "Anything more, master?"

"Yes, Matak. Don't call me 'master': call me 'lieutenant.'

"Yes, master." He left the cabin.

Terry, always a light sleeper, was awakened toward morning by a slight
sound outside his door. Looking out into the dim corridor he saw that
Matak was standing guard over his slumbers, armed with a big bolo
whose naked length gleamed viciously in the semi-darkness.

Touched by the devotion and realizing the futility of trying to drive
him from his vigil, Terry lay back on the pillow, the rhythmic beat of
the propeller in his ears. Asleep, he dreamed, and the chug of the
screw became the beat of an engine bearing him away from the home of
his fathers.

The Moro heard the restless tossing and stepped silently into the
little stateroom, his young-old eyes fastened upon the wistful lines
that marked the competent young face. While he stood brooding over his
young master the dawn streaked through the open porthole, and a soft
splash sounded from up forward as the ship dropped her roped anchor.
They were off Davao.

Terry had come into port.



CHAPTER VI

THE LAND OF HEMP


In three months the Gulf had laid its spell upon Terry. He had come to
love the great slopes, from the sandy coastline to the last swift
grades to Apo's distant top, the loveliness of the wind-tossed palms
which fringed the water's edge, the sparkle of the ocean's blue
expanse and its quick response to moods of sun and wind.

During the noontime hours the sun was blazing hot but he could order
his work so as to avoid exposure. Out at daybreak, he usually
accomplished the duties of the day during the cool morning hours,
reading through the siesta hours in the coolness of his great open
house.

Seldom did the routine of his work--the drill, the sifting of patrol
reports, the minutiae of the service--overreach into the afternoon
hours: then he was free to range the country, to learn its trails and
towns, its people and its spirit. His big gray pony had become a
familiar sight in every village, on nearly every plantation. Sometimes
he was gone upon two-day trips up or down the coast, or riding the
narrow trails through the deep green shade of the woods, his Stetson
seldom touched by direct sunlight.

There was a never-ending pleasure in the hemp fields, great sweeps of
tall abaca plants glinting in the sun: and in the sluggish, useful
river which drained the levels, its turbid bosom bearing a few silent
native craft, its oily depths suggesting a basis for the legends of
huge crocodiles which no white man had ever seen.

He worked hard, but it was not all work. Many an early evening found
him out on the broad Gulf in an outrigger canoe he had learned to
handle with native skill, sometimes with Matak, oftener with Mercado,
the first sergeant of his Macabebe company. Sometimes, when the
surface was calm, he spent wonderful hours in studying the cool depths
of the waters, the lee-shore coral ledges which bore fairy gardens of
oceanic flora, brilliant-hued, weird-shaped, swaying gently in the
tidal current: strange forms of sea-life moved among the marine
growths,--some beautiful in form and color, others hideous. Once,
while he watched a school of smaller fish playing around a huge
sea-turtle, they disappeared as if by signal and the tortoise drew in
his scaled head and sank to rest on the bottom as a swordfish swam
majestically over the spot, then darted into deeper waters. There were
clams as large as washtubs.

Often, while Mercado--or Matak--paddled, he trolled a flashing bait to
lure the gamefish which swarmed in the depths. Rarely did such an
evening pass without a long fight with a leaping pampano or a sea
bass: with thirty or forty pounds of desperate muscle at the other end
of a hundred-yard line, the song of reel was sweet. One night he
brought in an eighty-pound barracuda but usually the larger fish cost
him line, leader or spoon.

At times the surface of the Gulf was alive with schools of leaping
fish: one evening he saw a great fish, a tanguingi, rise into the air
with nose pointed upward, till, at a height of twenty-five feet, it
reversed for a downward rush to plunge in the exact center of the
ripples its great leap had created. Once, far out on the Gulf with
Matak, he came upon a forty-foot whale asleep on the surface, rolling
dreamily from side to side: the Moro, unafraid of man or devil, turned
Malay-green with terror as Terry prodded the huge black surface with
his paddle. Awakened, it upended in a sluggish dive, the heavy flirt
of its great glistening tail smashing the left outrigger and drenching
them to the skin.

Terry had attended strictly to the affairs which properly came under
his control and in doing this and doing it well, had won the respect
of natives and whites, a respect which had warmed into admiration
among those who knew him better, into affection with those who knew
him best. The loyal Macabebes would have followed him against any foe,
and, better than that, they drilled hard and worked faithfully that
they might be a credit to their leader.

The natives knew him as "_El Solitario_," "The Solitary," partly
because he played his game alone in a quiet competent way, to all
appearances equally friendly to all, regardless of color or condition,
partly because he seemed unconscious of the lures of all those brown
maidens known to be as shady of character as of color.

He had often stopped to spend an hour or two with Ledesma on his
prospering plantation. He liked Ledesma's sincere, old-school
courtesy, and he liked him because Ledesma was known as an
Americanista, looked upon the Americans as God-sent to guide his
people out of their sloth and abysmal ignorance. But he gave up these
visits following a day when he found the dark-eyed, ripe-bosomed
daughter alone in the house and learned, in her flaming passion for
him, that she had misunderstood the reason for his calls.

The frequency of his trips to the outlying plantations had increased
as the weeks went by, especially to the pitiful holdings of some of
the poor natives. Malabanan's coming had been broadcasted across the
land, and an uneasiness had settled over the Gulf, a vague fear Terry
sought to allay. But Malabanan's record, a dark and dismal history of
hideous crime for which he had been but half punished, was known
throughout the country, and was the nightly subject of fearful
conversation in every hut on every isolated plantation.

Terry had ridden, alone, to the neglected settlement up the coast
where the gang of roughs had rendezvous, but Malabanan was away. A
dozen hard-looking natives had sullenly responded to his curt
questions. None were working, though he had arrived during the cool of
the afternoon and the fields cried for attention.

In Davao, the town, he found consuming interest. Sleepy six days in
the week it woke each Wednesday during the couple of hours the weekly
steamer anchored offshore to discharge cargo into a lighter, drop a
passenger or two, and send ashore the exiles' greatest balm--home
mail. He came to know everybody: first the other government
people--Lieutenant-Governor; Scout officers; Dr. Merchant, the
district health officer; school teachers, native postmaster. Seldom a
week passed that he failed to saunter into each of the Chinese
tiendas, making the purchase of matches or other small articles the
excuse for a half-hour's visit. Oftenest he went into Lan Yek's smelly
little shop, for there the Bogobos brought their mountain hemp to
trade for small agongs: tired from their heavy packing, they would
squat down on the floor along the wall, one of them occasionally
stepping to an agong to test it with deft contact of finger, all
joining him in rapt study of its tone, measuring the duration of the
lingering waves of sound. Terry learned, in time, that they found
greatest merit in those agongs which rang longest to lightest stroke.

Even those timid Bogobos who never left the wooded foothills knew him.
He went among them, studying their language, learning their customs
and hopes and fears, listening to their picturesque traditions.
Always, when he met a file of the beaded, braceleted folk upon the
trail, he dismounted to exchange a few words with them. Unbelievably
shy at first, in time they came to know him as word passed through the
foothills of the young white man who understood: so they brought their
problems to him, some pathetic, some ridiculous--recently he had
ridden twenty miles to settle a dispute regarding the ownership of
some yet unborn puppies.

As their confidence increased, they unsealed their tight lips in
relation of strange tales of the Hill People, unbelievable stories of
the wild tribe who lived in the forbidden mountain beyond the Dark
Forest: stories told usually by old men and old women, who shivered as
they whispered their legends to the white man by the campfire. They
told him the dread stories because they liked his quietness, his
slightly twisted, friendly smile, and because, as they told each
other, he listened as one who sees not with the eyes alone.

When he saw that the fear of Malabanan had spread among these widely
scattered, defenseless wildmen, Terry grew grimmer. But as the weeks
passed peacefully by, hope grew within him that Malabanan's presence
in the lovely, fertile Gulf boded no ill.

       *       *       *       *       *

Major Bronner, arriving unexpectedly, found that Terry had been away
all day on a mission among the Bogobos. Learning from Matak that his
master would return within a few hours the Major left his bag and
crossed over to the Davao Club for dinner. Entering the club, a roomy
house furnished by the planters to provide a comfortable place in
which to put up when forced to town by business or the monotony of
their isolation, he passed straight to the dining room, discovering
Lindsey, Cochran and a dozen others he knew. As he paused in the
doorway Lindsey spied him and called him to the table he shared with
Cochran and two others. After the Major had responded to the greeting
called from all four tables, Lindsey took up the thread of a story the
Major's entrance had interrupted.

"Major, I was just telling of my experiences with the hemp machine I
brought down three months ago. As I was saying, I set the machine up
in my biggest field and tried it out in private--and Man! How she did
strip hemp! Convinced that I had the world by the tail I sent word out
to all the Bogobos in the neighborhood to come in next day to see the
machine work, and sent a special bid to the old chief who lords it
over that section.

"Well, they came all right--ready to see the crazy Americans' newest
devilment--and all set for the feast they knew I'd give! The chief
came, with the bunch who act as a staff for him, and I lined them up
right in front of the machine in the center of a crowd of two hundred
wild men--all about as scared by the machine's appearance as they
could be. I was pretty proud, and pretty happy: I gave them a good
spiel through my interpreter, telling them that from now on all who
worked for me would be free from the hard toil of stripping--nothing
to do but field work--and all that. I thought that they would admire
this new evidence of the American genius, would pile over each other
in their desire to work for me.

"I nodded to the mechanic: he cranked the engine and it got off to a
fine start and before throwing in the clutch that hooked it up with
the stripper I looked out over the silent, brown-faced crowd. I had to
grin at their expectant, half-scared attitude: the old chief stood
right in front of the big machine--he was uncertain about it all, but
game. I threw her in and waved to the feeders, who tossed in the great
stalks as the big iron arms started to revolve in the air. It did make
an infernal racket--but it did strip hemp. The fiber came out of one
end, the juice ran into a trough--oh, it worked great.

"I spent a minute or two seeing that everything worked right, then I
turned triumphantly to the crowd. But, Lord--there wasn't any crowd--I
saw the last of their brown backs disappearing into the brush!

"All but the old chief. He stood right there; stiff with fright, I
guess! I stopped the machine and went over to him to ask him to tell
his young men to work for me as he could see how easy it would be for
them, now that I had this machine."

He paused, laughing ruefully. "But I didn't get a chance to say a
word. He took one last look at the now quiet iron monster, clucked
that peculiar 'Tuk!' in which they express the maximum of emotion,
uttered two words--'_Americano devils!_'--then stalked away as rapidly
as his bent old legs would carry him. He disappeared into the
woods--and hasn't been seen since!

"And worst of all, all of my Bogobos quit me, so that instead of
cornering the labor market in Davao I lost most of what I had! I'm
punching the bag every day now, getting in shape to greet the next
_hombre_ that tries to sell me a machine!"

He joined goodnaturedly in the laugh which filled the room and when it
subsided turned to the Major gratefully.

"Major, my hemp lay rotting in my fields: it meant serious loss to
me--it would have wiped me out. But Lieutenant Terry heard about it
and without saying anything to me, went among the Bogobos and
persuaded sixty of them to work for me--the most I ever had was
thirty-one. He has a wonderful hold upon them--they will do anything
he says: and I'm not the only one he has helped out; am I, boys?"

A dozen planters supported him, enthusiastic, vehement.

Cochran knew the Major intimately, his hobbies and aversions. He
turned to him solemnly.

"Married yet, Major?"

"Who--me? I guess not! No petticoats for mine!"

In the laugh which rose over Cochran's elicitation of the bachelor's
invariable formula, several of the planters moved their chairs near
the Major's table. All of these quiet, efficient Constabulary were
well liked, and the Major had been known to many of these Davao
pioneers since the days when they had fought together against
insurrectos, cholera, torturing sun, treachery; the days when capture
had meant the agony of dissection piecemeal, hamstringing, the ant
hill.

The Major's face had relapsed into gravity: "Lieutenant Terry is well
liked, then?" he suggested.

Lindsey replied, earnestly: "Major, he owns this whole Gulf. He hasn't
an enemy--not counting that gang of Malabanan's up the coast."

Burns, a gruff old planter, interposed: "He had one enemy, once."

Cochran understood that the uncommunicative Burns would go no further
and thought the Major should be enlightened.

"As I was the only witness," he began, "I guess I must tell the story.
One of our planters, Sears, took a dislike to Terry on the way down
from Zamboanga: no reason for it--he was grouchy and sore, had been
drinking too hard trying to forget his troubles.

"You know Sears, Major. His inability to get labor was ruining him and
he went too far in 'persuading' the Bogobos to work for him. Well, he
went after Terry on the boat, and it wound up with Sears threatening
to do Terry up if he came near his plantation: and Terry quietly
assured him that he would go there first of all.

"We were all worried about it for a week, as Sears is a bad man when
aroused and never goes back on his word, and we knew Terry would
go--he was all business, though quiet and white. Well, when Sears got
back to his place all of his Bogobos had left him, the fields were
deserted. It meant the loss of his crop, complete ruin, so he got to
drinking harder and finally, desperate, brought in some Bogobos at the
point of a pistol and put them to work.

"It was pretty raw, of course. Everybody knew of it that night. The
next morning I rode over to offer him some of my men and as I came in
sight of the house I saw Terry, riding his gray pony, enter Sears'
clearing from the east trail.

"I was pretty scared. I knew he was there on business--that he would
be the first one to hear of Sears' coup. I spurred up to see if I
couldn't prevent serious trouble, but when I drew near I pulled up:
there was something in his face that made me keep out, made me
understand that I was an outsider in this affair.

"Well, Sears rushed out just as Terry dismounted, his eyes inflamed
with rage--and with a whiskey hangover, I guess, though he seemed
perfectly sober. He stood at the top of the steps looking at Terry,
his face purple, trembling all over: he had his 45 in his hand. Terry
tied the reins to the lower railing, then stood looking up at Sears
with that queer expression which I couldn't fathom. Sears spoke first,
his voice husky.

"'So you've come, Terry,' he said.

"'Yes, I have come, Sears.' He looked sort of small and white compared
with Sears up there, but somehow I could not worry about him. I
thought Sears would choke for a minute, then he said:

"'If you put a foot on those steps I'll--I'll--'

"Terry didn't give him a chance to finish the threat, but stepped
forward. I noticed that his gray pony sort of nipped at him,
affectionately, as he passed his head and made the first step up.
Sears must have gone clean crazy. He raised the big pistol and fired
pointblank!

"They weren't fifteen feet apart, but he missed, and that shot passed
over Terry's shoulder and tore a great chunk out of the cantle of his
saddle. The pony tore loose and ran away. I just sat there, scared to
death!

"Terry never took his eyes off Sears and he still wore that same
expression I mentioned before: he was white as a sheet but he was not
scared. No, sir! Sears kept the pistol pointed at him and as Terry
came up another step I saw the hammer lift again, but it eased back
and the pistol wavered as Sears fell under the spell of Terry's
upturned eyes. His face changed queerly as Terry kept coming, he
stepped back uncertainly, the pistol dropped to his side. He
understood why Terry had come, and I did also, at the same time.

"Terry was SORRY for him!"

Cochran paused a moment to conquer a little catch that had crept into
his voice, and then concluded his story: "Well, Major, Sears realized
suddenly what he had tried to do and looked down at the gun in his
hands as in a dream, then offered it to Terry. But Terry shook his
head, said something in a low tone I didn't hear, and they went
inside, leaving me to cool my heels in the yard like the rank outsider
I was! They came out in half an hour, arm in arm, and Terry stepped to
the rail and sounded the Bogobo call. In about a minute a big gang of
half-naked Bogobos filed out of the woods into the clearing and
gathered around him at the foot of the steps.

"Terry talked to them awhile in their own lingo, then asked Sears if
he had living accommodations for the whole bunch. Before coming to
Sears' place he had spent the night in the foothills and persuaded
seventy Bogobos to come in and work for Sears--Bogobos, mind you, who
have always feared Sears and refused to approach his place!

"That's the story, Major,--except that Sears harvested his full crop,
is on his feet again, has cut booze and treats his men as well as any
planter in the Gulf. And he sure does worship this young lieutenant
of yours!"

The Major studied the end of his cigar. "He never reports anything
like that," he admitted. "I'm glad you told me."

"You'll hear plenty more such--" Cochran began, but was interrupted by
the loud entrance of little Casey. He tore into the room, breezy,
voluble, greeting every one with short, jerky sentences. He reached
the Major last.

"Hello, Major! How's everything? I passed Lieutenant Terry on the
trail--three miles out--he was leading his pony--said it was lame
though it hardly limped at all! Tried to get him to mount and ride in
with me--but he wouldn't--sure and he's the merciful man to beasts!"

He rambled on till the Major interrupted him with: "How are the
breeding experiments coming on, Casey? Any foals yet--or pigs?"

The little man disregarded the amused grin of the planters, pouring
forth in long eulogy of American mares and boar. "You come down to my
place in about two weeks," he wound up at last, "and I'll show you!
I'll have some cross-bred colts and pigs worth the seeing--and I'm
going to name the first one after Terry!"

"First pig?" Cochran seemed serious.

"No--first colt--the first pig I'll name for you!"

Soon the Major left Casey capably sparring with the plaguing Cochran,
and seated himself on a broad window ledge above the dark plaza,
smoking thoughtfully. He had made no mistake in sending Terry here.
Three phonographs strove against each other from different houses
along the plaza. It is characteristic of the Americans in the
Philippines that most of them take unto their bosoms these mechanical
comforts, instead of the animated talking machines which the Spaniards
affected. The sky was black with the threat of rain, low thunder
rumbled in the west, above Apo.

A few minutes, and the Major distinguished two forms making their way
along the north side of the dark plaza and as they passed under one of
the oil park-lamps he recognized Terry, leading a weary pony which
limped slightly. As the Major secured his cap and waved a cheery
goodnight to the gathering, Lindsey hurried to the door to intercept
him.

"Major, Lieutenant Terry promised to come over to my place to-morrow
afternoon. We were going to have a drive against the wild
pigs--they've been raising the devil with my young plants. You will
come along with him, won't you?"

"You bet! I haven't had any shooting in months. But you won't let that
big snake get me, will you?"

Chuckling, he left the club and crossed the plaza to Terry's quarters.
Entering, he heard Terry splashing under the shower. Terry emerged
soon, kimono clad, his face lighted hospitably when he spied the Major
sitting by the lamp-lit table.

Dressed, Terry ate and listened while the Major smoked and talked.

"Lieutenant," he finally remarked, "there is no more trouble among the
Bogobos?"

"No, sir. It has stopped--as I reported to you."

The Major regarded him closely: "What stopped it?"

"I just talked to some of the planters, and they understood."

Looking up, he flushed under the Major's quizzical gaze.

"Major, those planters at the club have been stuffing you!" he
complained.

The Major gravely discussed Malabanan. "Terry, you may not have to
move against him--I hope not, anyway. But I want you to be in a
position to finish anything he starts. Do you want me to send you an
additional company?"

"No--I can handle anything in reason with the Macabebes."

"What did you do with the secret service man I sent down?"

"I planted him up the coast where he can watch that gang."

Terry unfolded his plans for handling the situation should the
ladrones break loose upon the Gulf, and the Major was satisfied.

"It hardly seems possible," he said, "that they will try it--but with
only one company here to cover the whole Gulf--and in so remote a
settlement--it may look like easy pickings. But if Malabanan
dares--you smash him!"

The threatened rainstorm had passed to the north, leaving the night
clear and cool: a strong breeze fluttered the lamp. Matak entered to
clear the table and Terry, who had not eaten the fried chicken, pushed
it toward the Moro with goodnatured impatience.

"Matak, this chicken is only half cooked: I've warned the cook several
times--tell him to eat it."

Matak, silent and grim as ever, bore the offending dish out, while
Terry turned to the Major to discuss the morrow's sport. In a moment
their voices were drowned by the crash of dishes falling in the
kitchen, then a fearsome shriek reached the startled pair, a moaning
cry terminating abruptly in a choking gurgle. They sprang up and into
the kitchen.

Matak was astride the prostrate Visayan in the midst of the broken
crockery and bent tinware spilled from the upset table. He had the
cook's mouth pried open in determined endeavor to ram what looked like
half a chicken down the Visayan's gullet. Half-strangled and crazed
with fear the cook rolled his eyes beseechingly.

Bronner raised Matak bodily and Terry helped the trembling Filipino to
his feet. He turned to Matak sternly.

"What does this mean?"

"He would not eat it, master."

The cook broke in, almost hysterical: "Matak say I must eat cheecken,
that you say so. I say 'all right, eat to-morrow.' He say 'eat now.' I
say 'no, to-morrow.' Then he fight. I no eat to-day--notheeng--to-day
church fast day!"

As recollection came of his joking instructions to the ever serious
Matak, Terry turned to the Major but he had run from the kitchen,
choking. Having patched up a truce between them, Terry followed the
Major into the sala.

At sight of his rueful face the Major burst into fresh laughter. "His
fast day!" he chuckled. "These Moros are sure literal-minded--they
follow your words exactly. I've had some queer examples in the past
year."

They sat through the cool evening talking of their multi-phased
service, Bronner earnest and unwittingly eloquent in his summing up of
its ideals, its hopes for the future, Terry silent and thoughtful as
the big man talked about plans for Mindanao, for the Gulf.

"And some day, Terry," he concluded, after a stirring account of what
two officers, Case and Gallman, had done among the Luzon headhunters,
"some day we will get to the Hill People: the right man will come
along, and the right combination of circumstances. It is an unusual
combination--the right man plus the right place plus the right time.
Carnegie would probably have been just a tight-fisted Scot had he
lived in Napoleon's time, and Napoleon if born in this generation
might never get a headline.

"I would like to be the man who first wins to the Hills. Think of the
glory of such a life work--opening the doors for a benighted people
and leading them out of savagery into the decencies and comforts and
safety of civilization!"

The steady evening breeze had stiffened, swinging the great airplants
which hung in the big windows. The far howl of a dog sounded through
the dark: the sleepy crowing of scores of gamecocks accurately gauged
the passing of another hour. The Major suggested sleep.

Terry, in pajamas and slippers, came in to see if his guest were
comfortable for the night: assured, he crossed the sala, blew out the
light and entered his own room, closing the door behind him. Shortly,
while the Major lay watching, he threw open the door and the Major
heard him climb into bed and adjust his mosquito net.

The Major mused: "That's queer--I wonder what he does behind the
closed door?"

He fell asleep puzzling over it.



CHAPTER VII

THE PYTHON


Nothing could be more impersonal than the manner in which the Major
inspected the company. He was very curt and official: no detail eluded
his attention, no fault of equipment, quarters, drill or training
escaped comment and correction. The command was in fine shape but it
is a service in which there is but one standard--perfection, and
perfection may never be attained. The inspection consumed the morning,
but when they sat at lunch in Terry's quarters, rank had perished
again.

At two o'clock they set off leisurely for Lindsey's, Terry quiet, the
Major jovial at the prospect of a drive at the wild boar. They jogged
through the hot afternoon over a trail winding under a canopy of
foliage shrill with the plaint of myriad insect life. An hour out and
the Major was nearly unseated as his pony shied violently from a
three-foot iguana that scurried across their path in furious haste.
Farther into the woods, and they drew rein, listening to the mystic
tone of a Bogobo agong rung at minute intervals: Terry judged the gong
to be six miles distant westward, the Major contended for half a mile,
north of them. Such is the weird quality of the agong in the forest.

At four o'clock they drew up at Lindsey's roomy, thatched house set in
the middle of his clearing and in a few minutes Lindsey, soaked with
perspiration, hurried out of the tall growth of hemp ripening in his
south field.

"I feared you might not be able to make it," he smiled. "You can never
tell what the next day may bring you Constabulary fellows!"

He called his head native, a stocky Visayan, and ordered him to start
the beaters out, explaining to his guests that they would take their
places in an hour. The three then strolled through the streets of the
little village Lindsey had built for his laborers and their families,
a double row of neat bamboo huts, grass roofed, of which he was very
proud. Returning, they passed a huge machine rusting under a rough
shed, Lindsey's ill-fated hemp machine, introduced a little too early
to an ignorant people.

Lindsey unlocked a trunk and brought out three high-powered rifles,
two of them borrowed, contrary to the law of a land where firearms
must be zealously protected against falling into hostile hands. He led
the way through the long rows of abaca which drooped listless fronds
in the quivering heat, and into the cool woods which surrounded his
fields. They went on for a half-hour into deeper jungle, emerging into
a strip of natural clearing from which they could hear the beaters
converging toward them. Lindsey stationed Terry at the left end of the
break, Bronner in the center where the shooting should be best,
himself taking the right end.

As the beaters approached, crashing the underbrush and shouting
lustily, the three stood motionless, guns ready: the suspense grew
tense and the beaters grew silent as they hurried, unseen, from the
line of fire. A moment of dead silence, then Lindsey heard to his
right a dry twig snap and turning saw a big boar slip out from the
brush and pause, its ugly tusks foam-flecked. His heavy gun crashed,
the boar leaped convulsively across the clearing, falling at a second
shot. As it dropped he whirled to cover a big buck which sped across
his field of fire: as it fell he heard the cracking of a lighter
weapon to his right and thought, as he shot again and again, that his
guests were not being disappointed in their sport.

It was fast work while it lasted. Lindsey inspected with keen
satisfaction the bag of two pigs and one deer that had fallen to his
gun: he had missed one boar and another, which he had wounded, had
escaped down the trail which led to his house. He turned to see how
his friends had fared.

The Major was known as a crack shot but no game lay before him.
Approaching him, surprised, Lindsey saw that he was absent-mindedly
putting his rifle at safe the while he stared at Terry.

"Major, I'm sorry you had no chances--" Lindsey began but the Major
interrupted him.

"Chances! Chances? Sus-marie-hosep! Some of those pigs almost ran up
my breeches!" He was as nearly excited as Lindsey had ever seen him,
and they had served together in a Kansas regiment.

"Lindsey, I'm sure glad you asked me to come--I've seen something
worth seeing. I've seen him shoot!"

He pointed to Terry. His borrowed rifle stood nearby against a tree
and he was busy clipping fresh ammunition into his pistol magazines.
Five wild pigs lay in front of him near the opposite side of the
clearing. Lindsey looked his unbelief.

"Yes, he did!" asserted the Major. "I watched him do it--that's why I
drew a blank. Five pigs, five shots,--and after each shot he holstered
the gun till the next pig hove in sight! I've seen good shooting, but
such drawing--such certainty--

"Sus-marie-hosep!" he wound up, lamely.

Terry, having replenished his magazine, clipped it into the big
automatic with a deft snap, and turned round toward them. Noting their
attitude, he colored boyishly.

"Pretty lucky, wasn't I?" he said.

"Yes," agreed the Major, drily, "you were pretty lucky!"

The beaters had come up. Lindsey ordered them to carry the game for
distribution among his villagers. The sun was dipping behind the hills
as the three started back the trail through the dense woods, Lindsey
leading the way and searching for signs of the wounded boar. Every few
rods he found a pool of blood where it had paused in flight.

They entered the deep shadow cast by the spread of a great banyan tree
from whose thick branches a score of accessory trunks were sent down
to seek root in the soil. Rooting, they grew into smooth, heavy
supports for the wide-spread limbs which towered above the surrounding
forest. Terry paused a moment in the twilight of the tree, studying
appreciatively the miniature forest of trunks parented by the one
ancient growth. Suddenly a warning cry escaped his lips as he saw one
of the long dark trunks, a foot in diameter, loosen from a branch
where it hung suspended high over the Major's head.

"LOOK OUT, MAJOR!"

He leaped forward, expecting to find the Major crushed, but
involuntarily halted midway in his stride as the heavy trunk, landing
at the Major's feet with a slithering thud, writhed a terrible length
into massive folds. No eye could follow the inconceivably swift
contortions that wrapped the Major in a triple fold.

Two heavy coils prisoned his legs, a third passed round his back up
over his right shoulder to curve to the trail in front of him and rear
again in a length which terminated in a massive head poised six feet
from the Major's blanched face. Demon-eyed, unwinking, its thin lips
bisected the thick-boned jaws in frightful, moist grimace.

Lindsey, horror-stricken, stood helpless while the hammer head
catapulted at the sickened face of its victim. The Major's free left
arm, raised instinctively to blot out the sight of the living horror,
took the terrific impact, then dropped to his side, paralyzed. Still
bearing that hideous grin the flat head drew back for another blow at
the exposed face. The Major, faint with the terror of his helplessness
and the crushing weight of the quivering masses of muscle about him,
would have fallen but for their dread support. His consciousness fast
deserting him, fascinated, he watched the monstrous leer as the head
drew farther back, poised. He felt the agonizing pressure as the
great muscles steeled for the blow, and in the moment before his
senses departed, heard two crashing shots that sounded from behind
him. With the smashing reports the poised head thudded to the ground,
the folds fell from about him and he slid down among the great
quivering coils.

Recovering consciousness, the horror crept back into his face but
receded when he saw Terry standing by him. Still faint and sick he
struggled to his feet, leaning against the trunk of the banyan and
stamping his feet weakly to restore the still numb legs. Terry helped
him hobble over to where the Bogobos, who had come up at the shots,
were grouped about the dead monster. Lindsey, kneeling to examine the
head of the great reptile, struck a match to point out the jagged
wounds that had shattered the base of the head.

"Cut the spinal cord," he explained quietly. He was as pale as the
Major. "Any other wound, even fatal,--it's death struggles would
have--I hate to think of it, Major."

At the Major's questioning look he pointed toward Terry: "He shot it.
Pistol."

The Major surveyed Terry steadfastly, striving for appropriate
expression of what was in his heart.

Then, "Terry, I am much obliged. If I ever--if ever you--I'm much
obliged!"

It was dark when they reached the house. Later they heard the
triumphant shouts which announced the arrival in the village of the
men bearing the carcass of the snake, which had haunted the
neighborhood for a generation. The celebration of its passing lasted
far into the night. After dinner Lindsey and Terry strolled to the
village to measure the python, and Lindsey ordered it skinned
immediately.

You may still see the trophy in the Davao Club, its scaly length
stretched along the molding on two sides of the library, where the
Major asked Lindsey to place it with this legend:

     This python attacked Major John Bronner, P.C.,
     on the Lindsey Plantation.

          Length................24 feet, 9 inches
          Greatest diameter.............14 inches

     Major Bronner owes his life to the wonderful
     pistol marksmanship of his friend,

     Lieut. Richard Terry, P.C.

The ride home through the dewy night stiffened the Major's sore
muscles and strained joints intolerably. Terry called in the Health
Officer, fat Doctor Merchant, who looked him over and pronounced him
uninjured, leaving some vile-smelling liniment. The Major winced under
Matak's too efficient rubbing of bruised areas.

"Horse dope!" he snorted.

Later, dozing, he waked to see Terry's door close and open again after
a few minutes. Puzzled as on the preceding night, he fell asleep over
the problem.

       *       *       *       *       *

Governor Mason had dropped the Major at Davao while he went on to
Mati, planning to return for a short stop at Davao in forty-eight
hours, but as they finished their leisurely breakfast they heard the
whistle of his cutter approaching Davao from the south.

"Wonder what's up," said the Major. "He's twelve hours ahead of his
schedule."

They walked slowly to the dock, the Major still stiff-legged, arriving
just as the launch was lowered over the side of the trim white boat
which lay anchored a half-mile offshore. As the launch neared shore
they saw the Governor standing on the stern seat.

He stepped up on to the little dock and greeted the Major, then turned
his smile upon Terry, apologizing:

"I planned to spend a day here with you all, but have been recalled.
As usual my departure from the capitol was the signal for a dato to
start a row!"

A group of officials and more prominent natives had gathered at the
pier. He shook hands with each, calling each by name, then gathered
the officials about him in a brief conference which disclosed his
grasp of conditions in the Gulf. At the end of the short discussion he
drew Terry aside.

"No trouble yet with that gang of roughs--with Malabanan?"

"No, sir."

The Governor's face bore a look Terry had not seen in it, an
unrelenting determination, a grimness: "Major Bronner has told you how
I want this matter handled?"

"Yes, sir. Wait, let him make the first move, then move against
them."

"Exactly! I want to demonstrate for all time that this province is as
unhealthy now for criminals as during Army days!"

For a moment he studied Terry keenly, then his gaze traveled over the
splendid vista of the Gulf appreciatively, mounting higher and higher
till it rested on Apo's dim crest. A moment and he turned to Terry
again, to find that he, too, was lost in a rapt contemplation of the
Hills.

"Lieutenant, some day ... somehow...."

"Yes, Governor."

The Major fidgeted uncomfortably in the presence of the two dreamers.
Two short blasts of the cutter's whistle restored the Governor's urban
manner. In a minute he and the Major had said their good-bys and were
bobbing over the little seas toward the ship.

The group of Americans and natives split up as they returned toward
the town but Terry lingered at the dock watching the cutter as it got
under way and raced toward the horizon, leaving a white ribbon of wake
on the blue gulf waters. Three large bancas were approaching the
shore, belated fishermen returning with the night's catch: a fleet
vinta, bearing Moro traders, bore toward Samal, its little sail
glaring white in the actinic sunlight: the morning air was hot and
filled with the heavy odors of sea and shore. It was a fair spot,
Davao, productive, peaceful.... He looked up the coast toward the
north where Malababan had settled with his unsavory crew.

       *       *       *       *       *

He spent the day at the _cuartel_, correcting all the little defects
the Major's stiff inspection had uncovered. The Macabebes responded
eagerly--they, too, wanted to be perfect. They felt trouble in the
air, scented impending combat, and Macabebes thrive on combat.
Sergeant Mercado, veteran of seven campaigns in Samar and Cavite,
drilled them tirelessly, his eyes afire with the old fighting glint.
And that night he donned his starchiest uniform, pinned on his bright
service medals, and made the round of the tiendas, throwing chests at
the black-haired girls behind the counters. Great fighting blood is
usually great loving blood.

       *       *       *       *       *

Terry ate dinner alone. The house seemed too big without the Major.
Restless, reading failed of its usual absorption. After a while he
took up a letter the last mail had brought from Deane and reread it.

     DEAR DICK:--

     Your letter telling of transfer to the Moro Province has
     just come. I had to study the map to find out where it is!
     If it means advancement I am glad--though we had all hoped
     that when you left Sorsogon it would be to come home.

     Your letters are so funny, so interesting. You write such
     nice things about the natives that I am becoming fond of
     them too. But the other day I read an article written by a
     cynical woman who has lived in the Islands only a few
     months. I read part of it to father, the part which says
     that "the Filipinos are a worthless, shiftless, lazy people;
     improvident, untrustworthy and immoral!" After I had read
     that he thought a moment and then said:

     "Well, Deane, people are just about the same as that around
     here!"

     Everything is going about as usual around Crampville. They
     are tearing down the old watering trough in the square--it
     is a nuisance to automobiles. They had some trouble over on
     the South Side last week among the foreigners but Father
     Jennings smoothed things out. He told me that he has a
     harder time keeping them contented since you left. I learned
     from him that you used to spend a good deal of your time
     among them, that they idolized you.... Why did you never
     talk to me about such things, Dick?

     Bruce is earning a great reputation but insists on staying
     in Crampville. He has been called to Albany twice during the
     month to perform some special operation. He finds time to
     run in on us nearly every day.

     Susan and Ellis do not change: they are quite the happiest
     couple we have--though they both do miss you terribly.

     You never mention the native girls. Are they attractive,
     lovely? Do not let one of them fascinate you. We need you
     here, Dick,--Susan and Ellis, Father Jennings, the
     foreigners--all of us.

                                                  DEANE.

His deft fingers fumbled as he folded the letter and locked it in the
drawer. Vainly smoothing at the lock of hair which always stuck out
from the crown of his head, he stared vacantly at the lamp shade,
oblivious to the entrance of the silent, morose Matak, who carried the
bottle of boiled drinking water into the bedroom and then went out for
the night.

A hoarse ghekko lizard croaked its raucous six-song from a rafter
overhead: a giant bat flapped through an open window, fluttered,
crazy-winged, thrice about the big room and blundered through another
window into the night: the low voweled voices of native passersby
floated up from the dark street.

But Terry heard nothing, nor felt the scent-laden breezes which roused
the heat-soaked town to life.... He was walking up Main Street again,
with rifle and snowshoes and fox, of a Sunday morning just as the
heavy church doors swung wide to the emerging congregation....

A strong gust flickered the lamp. He rose, slid shut the exposed
window and returned to his desk. In a few moments he took pen and
paper, and wrote.

     DEANE-DEAR:--

     Your letters come to me across the thousands of miles of
     land and sea, carried by sooty train and boat, buried in a
     dross of mail in prosy canvas sacks: I open them with the
     delight one feels when he brushes aside the mat of damp and
     frosty withered leaves to find the timid beauty of arbutus.

     You think, perhaps, you might grow fond of these people? I
     know that you would love this Gulf as I do. The humid heat
     of the day oppresses me but little: I love the sparkling
     hours of dawn, the cool of the evenings; the great tangled
     stretches of green which clothe the slopes from sea to the
     edge of the mountains that loom gray in the distance, like
     the rim of the world. And I like the courageous planters,
     toiling that the world may have its hemp: the young-old wild
     tribes, emerging from their primitive mental shallows, a bit
     bewildered, pathetic.

     Yes, I think that you would like it all, too,
     though--sometimes--I am not quite sure.

     The mountains are not like our Vermont hills: more rugged,
     wilder, more--what shall I say!--unsolved.... Thinking of
     the home hills I can almost conceive the vast significance
     of the word "eternity": but thoughts of these primeval hills
     sweeps my mind backward, to the infinity of creation.
     Untamed, untraveled, mysterious by day as by night, they
     threaten as they beckon.

     Nearly every evening, near sundown, I see a pair of wild
     pigeons homing toward the crest of Apo. "Limoçons," the
     Bogobos call them--"leem-o-sahns": the word falls limpid
     from their lips, unaccented. They say the limoçon never was
     heard to sing in the lowlands, and tell a strange legend
     that it is an oracle of the Hill People, its song a
     harbinger of good or evil tidings.

     An old Bogobo woman told me of this one night, in a little
     foothill village, when the spell of dusk had unlocked her
     lips: and she told, whisperingly, of twice having heard the
     Giant Agong of the Hill dwellers, once when she was a child,
     again when she was grandmother to nineteen. I wish you could
     have been there to watch and to listen: sitting near the
     fire in front of her hut, surrounded by a circle of almost
     naked wildmen who moved, uneasy, she told quaveringly of how
     the booming tones had rumbled down the forested slopes, and
     of how ill had befallen her people both times; when she
     ceased, they stood breathless, their whole beings strained
     to catch the dread sound none but she had ever heard. Yes,
     she moved me, queerly ... I scarce know why.

     I am lonely--a little--at times. But who is not? Yet I have
     my work to keep me busy, usually happy. Just now I am facing
     less pleasant duty--but it is, I fear, a work that must be
     done. It is good to know that one is needed, as I am
     here,--just now.

     But never a day is born or dies but that I miss you all, as
     I love you all ... Susan and Ellis, Father Jennings, the
     foreigners ... all of you.

                                                  DICK.



CHAPTER VIII

THE STRICKEN VILLAGE


A week later, Terry stood at the window looking down over the
blistering plaza. Davao was torpid under the noonday heat. Three
carabaos grazed undisturbed on the forbidden square: another of the
awkward powerful brutes dawdled up the dusty road, hauling a decrepit
two-wheeled cart on which a naked-backed, red-pantalooned native
dozed: Padre Velasco, the aged Spanish priest, waved a weary hand at
Terry from his window in the old adobe convento. As he watched he saw
the soldierly figure of Sergeant Mercado emerge from the _cuartel_ and
hurry toward him.

Entering the room the soldier saluted stiffly and reported that a
patrol had just come in from the foothills with the information that a
mysterious fever had attacked the Bogobos in the barrio of Dalag, that
a score were stricken and four already dead.

Terry hastened to the quarters of the Health Officer to apprise him of
the facts. He found him cursing the heat, sweating profusely, though
wearing nothing but a thin kimono. A very fat man, Doctor Merchant,
inclined to be fussy about little things but magnificent in big
things, and thoroughly imbued with the idea that his work of
protecting the natives against their own sloth and filth was the only
interesting problem in the universe. Alarmed at Terry's report, he
ordered his horse saddled and rose heavily to don his field clothes.

Terry expostulated. "Doctor, you ought to wait till it cools off."

"Lieutenant, disease spreads all the time--it takes no time off
duty--so why should I?"

He came out fuming over a missing button: "Confound it all! I never
have--how do you keep so immaculate, Terry? You always look as if you
were on your way to a dinner or dance!" Wiping the perspiration from
heavy jowl and neck he lumbered about the room collecting medicine
cases, saddle bags, two big canteens, finally answering Terry's
question.

"No, you can't go with me--if I need you I'll send for you."

Terry followed him downstairs and helped him mount the ridiculously
small pony, then watched the sweating, cussing, bighearted doctor ride
out into the sun on his errand of mercy. As the tough little pony bore
his heavy burden into the trail and out of sight in the brush, Terry
decided humorously that Casey was right--bigger ponies were needed.

During the afternoon the _Francesca_ had limped in and out of port.
Among his official mail Terry received a confidential memorandum from
Major Bronner that erased the softer lines about his mouth:

                                        Zamboanga, 12/18/191-.

     Memo for Lieut. Terry.

     Last night a notorious criminal, Ignacio Sakay, passed
     through Zamboanga enroute to Davao.

     Sakay was identified with Malabanan in some of the latter's
     most vicious undertakings, was convicted of brigandage and
     has been but recently released from Bilibid Prison.

     Sakay is not a leader but is bold and absolutely relentless.
     Among the natives he was known as "Malabanan's stiletto,"
     and was supposed to do all of the killing.

     You may look for immediate action from these men: Malabanan
     has doubtless been awaiting his arrival.

     Destroy this memorandum.

                                                  BRONNER.

Terry read the terse communication twice before lighting it with a
match and scattering the charred remnants over the polished mahogany
floor. He passed a grim afternoon with the Macabebes on the target
range, where the scorers wagged bull's eye after bull's eye, for
twenty-seven of the Macabebes were expert riflemen, forty-three were
marksmen.

He saw that Matak, serving dinner, was gripped in one of the
smoldering moods that often preyed upon him. Though his attentions to
his master were even more meticulous than usual, he moved with an air
of somber detachment. Terry had often pondered on the history of the
queer Moro and now he studied him as he cleared the dishes and lighted
the desk lamp.

"Matak," he said.

The Moro came to him, his melancholy eyes fixed steadfastly upon the
master of his choice.

"Matak, you know that I have never asked you anything about your past
life. I am not going to ask you now, unless there is something in
which I can be of help to you."

Matak faced his master, his brown features Moro-masked, inscrutable.
A moment he searched the concerned countenance, then before Terry
understood his purpose, the tight muscles of his face relaxed and he
slid forward to kneel on one knee and raise Terry's hand to his lips
in the Moros' final homage to an _apo_--a self-chosen master. Rising,
he exposed a face stripped of its mask of Oriental imperturbability.

"Master," he said, "I tell you. No other knows. When I am small
boy--twelve years old--my family live east coast Basilan. Very happy
family, master: father, mother, sister, me; three carabaos we have, a
little house, chickens, a little _vinta_ in which to fish--everything
Moro family want. We hurt nobody, just work.

"One night, very late," his face darkened, "men come. They steal
carabaos, everything. My father wake up, go out to see, and they
laugh--and kill him. I--a little boy--see them do it: see them kill my
father--with bolos. Then they kill my mother--the same man--the same
bolo. I see that, too: they say she too old, and they laugh." He spoke
slowly, hesitating before each short sentence, his black eyes dulled
with the terrible memories.

"My sister--she sixteen years old--they take her away. They take me,
too, because I soon be strong boy to work. My sister--they say she
pretty girl!" He raised his hand in unutterable execration.

"We sail all night, all day. Second night, I hear my sister scream,
see her fighting with same big Filipino who kill my father and mother.
Another Filipino hold me away, laughing ... always I know that laugh,
master!

"She Moro girl, he Filipino, so she fight hard--she rather die. She
hurt him, so he draw knife, kill her, and throw her in sea: then other
Filipino holding me hit me with bolo and throw me in too."

He whipped off his thin cotton camisa and exposed a deep scar which
furrowed his left shoulder. It had severed the clavicle, and
improperly knit, drew the left arm slightly forward.

"I swim ashore, two miles, to Lassak. Next morning I take boat, find
sister, bury her on beach. I, twelve years old, master."

He paused, a picture of implacable hatred and purpose.

"Master, I see Filipino who kill all three my family. He born with
left eye all white. I know him any time, any place. That nine years
ago. Nine years I no laugh, no sing, no play, no talk with Moro girls,
no marry--just listen--just look; listen for that laugh, look for big
Filipino with left white eye. Nine years I no tell anybody, just
listen, just look. I never find.

"But now I know I find him, soon. For I know you help Matak, master."

He had read the distressed white face correctly. Terry rose, placed
his hand upon the Moro's shoulder--the scarred shoulder--and looked
down into his now emotionless face:

"Yes, Matak, I will help," he said simply.

Content, the Moro turned silently on his bare heels and padded out
into the kitchen.

Usually Terry strolled the dark streets before going to bed, but
to-night a heavy downpour kept him indoors. Outside, the square was
loud with the drum-fire of the heavy fall on iron roofs, the rush of
water through shallow dirt gutters; inside, the big house roared, the
roof trembled overhead. He paced the floor, sleepless, worried with
thinking of Matak's terrible story, of the Doctor striving to succor
the stricken village, of Sakay's joining Malabanan.

There was another worry, too. Though there was nothing in the
eternally verdant land in which he was living to make the fact seem
real, the calendar indicated that Christmas was less than two weeks
distant, and for the first time since the days when she had first
intruded upon his boyish consciousness as something different,
something wondrously dear and fine and unattainable, he had sent Deane
nothing.

       *       *       *       *       *

He was awakened before daylight by the arrival of a spent Bogobo
runner bearing a note from Doctor Merchant:

     Dear Lieut:--

     Can you come to Dalag for a day? These people are
     panic-stricken, won't do a thing I order, won't take
     treatment, but are trying to exorcise the devils of disease
     by all sorts of queer rites.

     I hate to ask you to come but your influence among them is
     so great that it seems justifiable to ask it.

     If you do come, bring your mosquito net--don't fail to do
     this. The disease is mosquito-borne, and fatal if untreated.
     The temperature runs are terrific--highest I ever saw.

                                                  MERCHANT.

Terry rode out of Davao at seven o'clock, bound for Dalag. Within a
mile he overtook Lindsey, who had spent the night in town. They rode
together several miles to where the trail, soaked with the night's
rain, forked toward Lindsey's plantation: the sun shone white hot, the
earth steamed through its mat of decayed vegetation.

They drew rein at the fork, dismounted. Lindsey broke the silence in
which they had ridden following Terry's brief explanation of his
mission.

"Terry," he said, "you're too young for all this worry."

Terry's face relaxed into a slow grin: "Lindsey, how old are you?"

"But your work is different--and you are different, Terry."

Terry's bantering grin gave way to a smile of singular sweetness, the
queer smile which deepened the depression at the corner of his mouth.

"Lindsey, I know what you mean, I think.... All my friends--"

He paused, gently discouraging his pony from its persistent nibbling
at his arm. Lindsey waited, hoping he would continue, but Terry looked
away, idly studying the thickly planted hemp fields that extended from
the fork to Lindsey's house, a mile distant. The still wet leaves
flaunted on great stalks fifteen feet above the wonderfully fertile
soil.

"Lindsey, I wonder if you really appreciate what you are doing in
taming a soil that was wild in jungle ages before Pharaoh's time, and
making it useful to man."

He pointed to the huge plant nearest them; "The fibers in those
stalks--I can see them, woven into a rope that may warp a steamer to
dock in Tripoli or Hoboken or Archangel: or fashioned by happy
Japanese fingers into braided hats to cover lovely heads in Picadilly
or Valparaiso or Montreal: or woven into a cord which will fly a kite
for some tousle-headed boy in Michigan or for a slant-eyed urchin on
the banks of the Yang-Tse Kiang: or, somewhere, it may be looped into
ugliest knot by a grim figure standing on a scaffold--though I hope
not!"

Lindsey had listened in curious wonderment to this conception of his
work. He thought it over, laughed.

"Well, maybe that's what you see, Lieutenant,--but I see wild pigs
rooting up my immature plants, lack of labor, poor transportation,
fluctuations of price, typhoons undoing a whole year's work--take my
word for it, I see aplenty!"

Terry tightened the girth, tickling the knowing pony's nose till a
sneeze compelled contraction of the expanded chest. Mounted, he seemed
loath to go, and twisted in the saddle to look down at Lindsey.

"About what you said a moment back--that I was 'different.' All my
friends have always been like that--wanted to look after me, somehow,
though I can look after myself, pretty well. I never quite understood
why they felt like that ... about me. So, I know what you meant,
Lindsey. And I want you to know that--that I like it."

Lindsey gripped his outstretched hand, then stood at the fork watching
the slender rider thread through the maze of the trail out of sight.
Mounting, he started homeward along the edge of the field trying to
interpret the strange appeal this young officer had exerted over him,
this quiet lad whose very competence and cheerfulness he somehow found
pathetic. He involuntarily halted his pony as solution came to him.

"Why, curl my cowlick!" he exclaimed aloud. "That's it--he was BORN
lonely!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Terry rode into Dalag at noon and found the doctor even redder and
hotter than usual. The perspiration glistened on his hands and wrists,
dripped from his fat face and neck, and his once-starched clothes hung
limp from his rolypoly frame. Worn with loss of sleep and fruitless
efforts to bring the frightened Bogobos to reason, he welcomed Terry
weariedly to the little hut that had been sat aside for his use.

Terry took command, so quietly that the doctor did not realize it. A
few brief questions elicited the measures the doctor wished put into
effect, simple curative methods and preventive precautions.
Understanding, Terry started out, but was recalled by the doctor.

"Lieutenant, did you bring your mosquito net?" At Terry's affirmative
nod he continued: "It's a good thing you did--the village is swarming
with nightflyers, and every one of them is loaded to the hilt with
plasmodiae!"

The village, a mere scattering of crudest huts along the river front,
seemed deserted, but from nearly every hut came the low wailings of
the sick and the frightened. Noting that the lamentations had ceased a
few minutes after Terry went out, the doctor stepped to the door and
watched his progress from shack to shack, saw how the picturesque
little savages grouped about him. They knew him and listened to him
confidently, so that the parboiled doctor was as much disgusted as
pleased with the ease with which Terry secured the cooperation for
which he had begged and stormed in vain.

Under his direction they cut down all of the plant life whose upturned
leaves or fronds held stagnant, mosquito-breeding water, climbed tall
palms to brush out the rain water accumulated in the concave
depressions where frond joins trunk, even twisted off the cuplike
scarlet blossoms from hibiscus shrubs. They carried green brush to a
series of smudges he lit to cordon the village against the vicious
singing horde of germ carriers. Best of all, they ceased their
incantations over the sick, unwound the tight cords they had knotted
around the abdomens of the stricken to prevent the fever from "going
further down," opened the grass windows that gasping lungs might
obtain decent air, and swallowed the doctor's hitherto neglected
medicines.

There were no chickens in the village, no eggs. The doctor bemoaned
the lack of nourishment for his sick. So Terry summoned four of the
ablest hunters and disappeared into the woods for an hour, returning
with a young buck speared through the lungs and shot mercifully
through the head. In an hour a big pot was boiling in the middle of
the street that throughout the night the sufferers might receive hot
soup made up of venison, yams, eggplant and rice, all that the village
afforded.

Doctor Merchant, watching the transformation, marveled at the method
of persuasion. There was no attempt at exercise of authority, no
raising of voice, no gestures, only patient explanation, an assumption
of mutual friendliness, a sincere and ample sympathy.

Shortly after sundown the doctor, exhausted with the worry and stress
of the hours before Terry came, distributed his bulk as comfortably as
possible on the bamboo floor, tucked in his mosquito net very
carefully, and fell into a heavy sleep, too exhausted to await Terry's
return.

It was as well that the doctor did not await him, for Terry spent half
of the night by a fire kindled at the base of a big tree in front of
the chief's abode. Seated on a stump near the blaze, surrounded by a
ring of half-nude Bogobos whose timid eyes seldom wandered from his
face, he answered their questions and erased the last vestiges of the
panic into which the epidemic had precipitated the villagers.

Interrogation at an end, he still stayed on with them. The flickering
blaze lighted the circle of little brown folk, each flare gleaming on
an eye here, glinting there on beaded jacket or brass trinkets with
which both men and women were adorned. The first mad panic had abated,
but Death had stalked through the settlement six times in as many
days, and they listened superstitiously for the stark Tread through
the woods which hemmed them in. Each whispering wind that stirred the
leaves overhead brought a deeper silence, each wail from delirious
sufferers in nearby huts tightened the little circle.

The quavering gutturals of a half-blind old woman, wrinkled and
shrivelled with a number of years no man could estimate, jarred the
dumb circle.

"My years are as the scales of a fish. Each year has brought wisdom.
Listen."

It was the invariable preface of a Bogobo legend. Terry stirred: it
was the old woman who had told him of the Giant Agong.

"This sickness takes not many more of our people. The white men will
stop it. Trust them. These white men are Bogobo friends. These white
men are strong, wise, honest. White is better blood than brown blood.
Yes. The Hill People knew this."

At the mention of the dread folk the group of tribesmen moved
uneasily. A young hunter nervously stirred the flagging fire into
brighter blaze as the old woman went on:

"Yes. The Hill People knew. Have you forgotten how the Giant Agong
rang the night the Spaniards lost their girl-child?

"No. You have not forgotten. The Hill People took her--they wanted
white blood in the veins of future chiefs. They knew what white blood
means--the Hill People know!"

Curiously thrilled by the simple legend, Terry moved nearer to the old
woman.

"Grandmother, how many years ago was this?"

"Years? Years? I know naught of your white man's years, but this I
know--it happened during the rains before the dark-eyed white men
gave way to the blue-eyed white men."

Interpreting this as referring to the departure of the Spanish troops,
he gently pressed her for further details. But she was finished.

It was dawn when the doctor rose. Groaning in the agony of the fat man
who wakes stiff from the discomfort of an unaccustomed hard bed, he
sat up, then forgot his miseries in a new worry as he saw Terry asleep
under the open window, wrapped in his saddle blanket but without the
protection of a mosquito net. He cursed, stopping midway in his
vehement outburst to cock his head at the absurd angle in which men
think their ears function best. As he heard the ominous drone of the
insects his experience had taught him to fear more than wild beasts,
he scrambled to his feet with amazing celerity.

A light sleeper, Terry awakened and lay regarding him quizzically,
enthusiastically dissecting the stream of invective the doctor poured
upon him for sleeping without his net. Suddenly sensing the
responsibility the doctor felt in having summoned him to the village,
Terry explained his lack of a net.

"Doctor, I gave my net to the chief's wife: she--she is about to
become a mother, and she had none."

"Hell's bells! What Bogobo woman isn't about to become a mother?" he
stormed, refusing to concede the justice of the act. "'She had
none'--and probably didn't use yours!"

He was facing the window, past which the chief, arrayed in all his
half-naked splendor of beads and brass, sauntered with an air of
confidence quite different from his terror of the past week.

"There goes the chief, Terry, all fancied up like a bathroom on a
German liner! But he has no pants--why don't you give him yours? He
'has none'! You make me--"

He stormed on and on. Terry, still wrapped in his blanket, sat before
him looking up with an absurdly rapt air as of a student at his
master's feet. Merchant stopped to swab the thick perspiration from
his face, laughed at Terry's humbugging pose, and desisted. Terry
slipped on his shoes, buckled on the leather leggings he had used as a
pillow and picking up his saddlebags went out to clean up at the
river.

Finding on his return that the doctor was again genuinely disturbed
over his exposure to the disease, he sought to divert him. He sneezed
violently, and as the doctor listened with professional interest he
followed it with a series which mounted in volume and vigor. Merchant
eyed him solicitously.

"You've caught a bad cold, Lieutenant."

"Yes." Terry snuffled and drew his handkerchief. "It was awfully damp
in here last night."

"Damp? How could it be damp in an open shack this time of year?"

"Well, it was. A regular mist!" He sneezed explosively, then took a
few short turns about the little hut in search of the cause of his
malady.

The doctor watched him, interested. Bending suddenly, Terry held aloft
the perspiration-soaked nightshirt which the doctor affected.

"Eureka!" he exclaimed, dramatically, then dodged the shoe the hoaxed
doctor let drive at his head.

After an hour's investigation of conditions in the village the doctor
was convinced that he could now handle the situation alone and
insisted upon Terry's returning home. His parting injunctions were
worried.

"Now Lieutenant, you watch yourself closely for several days and if
you display fever symptoms, you send for me."

After Terry had ridden down the river bank and into the long homeward
trail, the doctor's overworked conscience smote him hard:

"Hell's bells! I never thanked him for coming!"



CHAPTER IX

MALABANAN STRIKES


Next morning Terry rose as the first sleepy cock challenged the
pink-streaked day. Shaving in the dim light, he watched the plaza
merge out of its darkness and fill with the natives passing listlessly
to field or waterfront. A few short minutes and the day arrived hot
and still: hens sauntered forth to begin their tireless, day-long,
scratching search: bony curs, sleepy after their instinctive vigils
through the night, made couches in the dusty road: across from where
Terry stood at his bedroom window, the four daughters of his Tagalog
neighbor sat in a little circle on a sunny bamboo porch structure,
each intently examining another's loosened hair in a community search
for--well, for whatever might be found.

By nine o'clock he had snapped the company through a sharp drill and
by noon had finished the weekly inspection. The afternoon passed in
preparation of monthly reports scheduled to go on the mailboat
expected in that evening. It is the function of the Constabulary to
know everything that transpires: health conditions, state of crops,
appearance of any strangers, activities of native demagogues,
movements of suspicious characters, morale of the people. Everything
is observed and reported, and summarized at headquarters to form the
basis for intelligent handling of a difficult problem.

Of the epidemic he wrote: "A disease identified as a particularly
virulent form of pernicious malaria appeared last week among the
Bogobos in the barrio of Dalag. The Health Officer is on the scene and
in conference with the undersigned decided that the use of our troops
for quarantine duty was not necessary. It appears that he has the
disease under control."

Under the heading "Recommendations" he set down: "Request that the old
provincial archives be searched to ascertain if a Spanish family
living in this Gulf during the last months of Spanish occupation
suffered the loss, by abduction, of a female infant. An interesting
story to this effect has been communicated to me by Bogobos, who
attribute the crime to the Hill People."

The mailboat limped in early in the afternoon, waking the torpid town
into semblance of interested activity during the brief duration of its
stay. But before she had disappeared over the horizon native Davao had
relapsed into stupid placidity, and the Chinos had stored the meager
cargoes dropped for them--print goods, cigarettes, matches, rice, a
few small agongs, and, probably, a little opium. The lethargy of the
tropics during the hot hours is entire and complete: the angel Gabriel
himself will fail of unanimous native response unless he toots his
cheerful summons during the cool hours between dusk to dawn.

Terry still sat in the cool orderly room at the cuartel, energetically
clearing his desk of the last accumulations of the paper work he found
a chore, when the dapper sergeant entered with his mail. Sorting
quickly through the dozen official envelopes in anxious search for one
addressed in the neat hand that always quickened his pulses, he
discovered, miserably, that there was none from her. Fighting off the
discouraged feeling that accompanied lapses in her correspondence with
him, he slowly opened a letter from Ellis. Ellis' letters, few in
number, had always been cheerful but brief statements of how matters
went on at home, usually business affairs. He put Ellis' letter in his
blouse pocket to read after dinner, then attacked the pile of official
mail: he wanted no unfinished office work to keep him in the morrow,
as he planned another quiet look at Malabanan's place. When the
Sergeant bore in the lighted lamp Terry ordered him to have the launch
ready at daylight.

Night had wrapped the town when he crossed the plaza to his quarters.
Matak, silent as ever but of more cheerful countenance, set the table.
At his second laconic announcement Terry rose and crossed to the
dinner table, and as he seated himself a white missile was tossed
through the open window by an unseen hand and landed with a thud on
the bare floor. Matak brought it to him, and unwrapping the paper from
about the pebble Terry read the note. It was from the secreto whom he
had planted near Malabanan's plantation.

     Sir:

     At eight o'clock last night Malabanan left here with a
     newcomer named Sakay and 22 of his "laborers."

     From my post I could not see if they were armed.

     They have not yet returned. (9 A.M.)

     I will follow in banca. They sailed south in a large lorcha.

     Will report further when I return.

                                                  "47"

Leaving his unfinished dinner, he paced the floor. The midnight
departure of Malabanan with his chief lieutenant and a majority of his
followers might mark the beginning of outlawry, or it might be a
legitimate excursion into the deepsea fisheries. Yet the secreto had
said nothing of nets, and a party of twenty-four men would be in each
others' way. Terry hastened over to the cuartel, checked up the patrol
chart, then called the Sergeant, who verified the position and route
of each of the two-man patrols who were covering the countryside.
Satisfied that his men would discover and report the landing of any
strangers within a few hours after they touched soil, Terry returned
to the house.

He sat on the wide ledge of the window, thinking. The night seemed
unusually warm despite the stiffening breeze which blew off the Gulf;
he opened the collar of his blouse.... Where was Malabanan--what was
he doing? He saw a man's form outlined against the bright Club window
and answered the arm waved at him: it looked like Lindsey, he
thought.... "Give 'em plenty of rope and if they make a break--Smash
'em!" He shivered at the thought of sighting a gun against a fellow
man, and again in sudden rush of memory of the night in Zamboanga....
He saw Lindsey appear again at the Club window to peer in his
direction, then turn abruptly. In a moment he saw him leave the Club
and cross the plaza, hatless.... Deane--why had no letter come--he had
expected one, wanted one....

He slid off the window ledge as Lindsey came in, sincere and direct as
usual.

"Terry," he began, "I saw you sitting here alone and came over to ask
you to join us at the Club."

"I can't, Lindsey."

Lindsey studied the unusually pallid skin: "Why not?" he demanded.
"You're working too hard, Terry, and worrying too hard. Let's forget
it all for an hour or two!"

"I'm much obliged, Lindsey, but I can't come to-night."

"The fellows asked me to get you, Terry. They think it is queer you
come so seldom."

Understanding something of Terry's weariness of spirit he strove hard
to persuade him to spend the evening in the pleasant Club, but was
unsuccessful. Desisting, he talked a few minutes with Terry and then
left, a little embarrassed, wholly disappointed.

Alone again, Terry slumped into a big cane chair drawn up by the
table. His cheeks burned; he thought, vaguely, that he must have
shaved too closely. Loosening his stiffly starched blouse, he crackled
the letter from Ellis, opened it without much interest: then his whole
being tensed.

                                        Crampville, Nov. 23, 191-.

     Dear Dick:

     Everything lovely here--and things are going to pick up with
     you when you read this!

     Yesterday Deane's father came in the bank and asked to see
     me confidentially. Thinking he had come on bank business I
     took him into my private office. Well, he just sat there
     facing me for several minutes, not knowing how to begin. You
     would have thought he had been robbing a train or something,
     he looked so absurdly guilty!

     I just sat there watching him, taking a most unchristian joy
     in his trouble, whatever it was: I have had it in for him
     ever since--since you know what. I liked the way his Adam's
     apple chased up and down his throat.

     Finally he swallowed hard and began: "Ellis, I came over
     to--to ask you to--to send over that fox skin that Terry
     gave Deane last Christmas."

     Just like that! It sure was a pill for the old boy to
     swallow but he went the whole hog like the old Puritan he
     is. Once started he kept going, though still phased. Said
     that he was glad that you had found something worth doing
     and were doing it well, that he took a lot of interest in
     your goings-on--as he called it--and that Deane always read
     your letters aloud. And the last thing he said before he
     went out was that he hoped you would soon get spunk enough
     to write her some letters she "wouldn't dast read out loud!"

     He said THAT about my brother-in-law! Great leaping frogs!
     What is the matter with you?

     Get busy! Write--and make 'em sizzle!

                                                  ELLIS.

     P.S.--I forgot to say that I am sure she made him come to
     see me. Also that Sue took the skin over last night. And
     also that Bruce is more than professionally interested in
     the nurse he imported from Albany to look after his office.
     It has been some time since he hung around Hunter's--and as
     to why, I do not know, but I sure am some little guesser!

Terry had never questioned the decision he thought she had made that
Christmas eve in returning the fox skin, had thought it hers, and
final. As the burden of a year fell from him he sat quietly, smoothing
at his stubborn, crown lock, the wistful twist of mouth ironed out by
a faint smile. He bent to read the letter again but after a few lines
the words were blurred out by a salty rush to his steady gray eyes.
Rising, he went into his bedroom and closed the door quietly behind
him, emerging in a few minutes. Perfect peace lay in his eyes and they
shone with the light that will never die in this world as long as men
live, and women.

Two days to Christmas, he thought, and he had sent her no remembrance.
He stood at the window, tasting the cool thickness of the evening,
breathing the fragrance of ylang-ylang: leaf and frond, stirred by the
monsoon, purred in gentle contact. In the starlight the old stone
church outlined its old-world, old-time architecture in friendly
shadows which veiled the pitiful scars and age-stains: the bamboo
shacks across the square--wry, flimsy, smutted by a hotly jealous
sun--had yielded to the magic of the night to become little golden
houses in which the fairies abode till the morning stars should fade.

A present for her ... he pondered long, the while he stifled his
desire to go outside and shout the joy that tugged at his restraint.
Suddenly he started, tightened as the idea fastened upon him, then
fairly ran to his desk. A hurried search for cable blanks and he wrote
in desperate haste that consumed four misused forms before he
accomplished an intelligible message:

     Miss Deane Hunter, Crampville, Vermont.

     Christmas greetings from palmed coast to snowy shore. Please
     cable will you accept so humble a Christmas offering as an
     equal share in the future of one

                                                  RICHARD TERRY.

Buttoning his blouse as he ran, he raced down out of the house and
over to his orderly room, where he typed the message and sent it out
by a soldier. The dozen Macabebes lounging in the _cuartel_, who had
sprung to attention when he passed, stared at him and then at each
other--this joyous, whistling boy was new to them! He crossed the dark
plaza: natives, looking out of raised windows, wondered who that
Americano was who walked in and out of the shadows of the great
acacias, singing:

    When in thy dreaming
    Moons like these shall shine again:

Being natives they did not understand the English words, but being
natives and instinctively attuned to the most ancient of emotions that
throbbed in the low baritone, they listened silently and stared out
into the night long after the singer had passed.

He reached the house, hesitated. Lindsey had said that the fellows
wanted him to come over to the Club ... he had neglected
opportunities to be with these good friends. He sailed his cap up
through an open window and crossing a corner of the square went up
into the gayly lighted building.

That night at the Club became a sort of tradition in the Gulf. They
still tell, wonderingly, of how he entered--a laughing, mischievous,
fun-loving boy, and of how the crowd welcomed this new Terry that none
of them had ever known before. They talk, still, of his deviltries,
the clean jests and keen wit he whetted--always at his own expense,
and as rough old Burns put it the next morning when they talked it
over: "And he niver took a drink and he niver cussed once, I'll be
---- if he did!" As the story of Terry's night at Club spread over the
Gulf all of the planters found excuses to bring them into town
afternoons in the hope of being present when he came again. They rode
in by pony or launch every night for two weeks, and then they ceased
coming.

For two hours he held them in the spell of his infectious deviltries.
Irrepressibly gay, impish, it seemed as if he vented all of the stored
up boyishness in him, spilled it in one heaping measure. Story
followed story, in quickly shifting brogues that rocked the building
with the sidesore laughter of the transported audience; they followed
him through a seemingly inexhaustible series of anecdote, through a
dozen ridiculous parodies he sang to a one-handed accompaniment
chorded on the battered piano the while he pantomimed with free hand
and roguish face.

"Why," whispered the astonished Cochran, "the--the--son of a gun!"

The uproar stilled suddenly as, seated at the old piano, he forgot
them for a moment, saw a vision on the white wall that was not visible
to the others. A few deep chords from knowing fingers, then his low
voice, rich with the depth of his happiness:

    Love, to share again those winged scented days,
    Those starry skies:
    To see once more your joyous face,
    Your tender eyes ...

The song, or something in the deep voice, pulled at the heart-strings
of those lonely men, who, womenless, never discussed women. Burns
sniffled, then glared belligerently at the others.

Cochran whispered to Lindsey: "Just what is there about--about that
boy? Is it because he's so pale?"

"Yes, that's it--you poor fish! But it's about time you quit pinching
my arm--it's getting numb!"

Flushing slightly in realization of his lapse, Terry had sprung
astraddle the corner of the billiard table, where, absurdly solemn, he
declaimed tragically, combing the classics for sepulchral passages,
plunging the intent listeners into deepest melancholy but concluding
with a droll extemporization that swept them from verge of tears to
convulsed mirth.

Lindsey, flinging a laughter-helpless arm across a call-bell, rang an
inadvertent summons to the steward that cost him the price of the
drinks and gave Terry a breathing spell. He sat astride the billiard
table under the acetylene lights, vainly trying to smooth down his
scalplock, his eyes dancing in eager enjoyment of the hour and of the
friends who crowded around him in affectionate amazement, laughing and
shouting at each other and at him.

Cochran's voice rose above the clamor of the room in a raucous whoop.
They all turned toward where he stood near the bulletin board reading
a message he had just torn down.

He waved the sheet joyously: "I saw the steward tacking it up a minute
ago--it just arrived--from Casey. He couldn't wait to tell us--the
long awaited day has come for Casey!"

He bent with laughter, then straightened and sobered to read it aloud.

"Casey talks like the Congressional Record but he sure minces his
written words. Listen.

     Davao Club, Davao.

     Horray! American mare had a filly colt last night. Also
     sixteen pigs by Berkshire boar.

                                                  CASEY.

A roar of merriment greeted the phraseology in which Casey had
hurriedly couched the double event of his day of days. The terse--too
terse--message passed from hand to hand till it reached Terry. He
studied it, his head cocked to one side like a puppy's and with
something of a puppy's quizzical expression. A moment and he slid
slowly from the billiard table and crossed to the corner of the room
where a typewriter had been placed for the convenience of club
members.

They watched him, glancing uncertainly at each other, as he inserted a
sheet of paper, spelled out a few hesitating words, then jerked it
out, crumpled it in his hand. Slipping in a fresh sheet he started
slowly, pausing, rapt, after each few works. As line followed line the
room became quiet save for the click of the machine, the planters
eyeing each other, waiting impatiently for disclosure of the new
deviltry his whole attitude betokened. Pausing after each few lines to
seek inspiration at the roots of his thick tumbled hair, he wrote for
about fifteen minutes.

Then, tearing out the sheet, he mounted the chair and with a face
owlish in its affectation of heavy wisdom, he thrust his hand in his
blouse in classic barnstorming attitude and read his creation.

    "CASEY"

    The palm-fringed gulf of fair Davao--
    The garden-spot of Mindanao--
    Has been the Theater where Surprise
    Has pried apart our mouth and eyes.
    But bounteous Nature, in her last,
    Has all her former deeds surpassed!

    What now are Burbank's grafting deeds
    Marconi's stunts, whose genius speeds
    A message on a wireless tack
    And makes of space a jumping-jack?
    Where now does Edison hold sway?
    Or radium's finder, Pierre Curié?

    Does not this deed alone suffice
    To render all that men or mice
    Have wrought since days of Tubal Cain
    Infinitesimal, and vain?

    No man before has seen a dam
    Provide the rudiments for a ham.
    And not content with razor-backs
    Produce a quota for the tracks.

    It seems like thistles yielding figs--
    A blooded mare with sixteen pigs!
    And Truth receives a serious jolt
    To find the seventeenth a colt!
    Can anything on earth compare
    With this performance of a mare?

    But hold! For while I eulogize,
    There is another claims a prize
    And puts to shame all gone before;
    I mean this humble Yankee boar!
    What lowly hog did yet aspire
    To ribboned fame as race-track sire?

    Consult the annals of all time,
    Great deeds extolled in prose and rhyme,
    Delve deep in Clio's treasured store,
    Exhaust encyclopedic lore--
    You will not find in one edition
    A hint of such high pig-ambition!

    Had he but lived in days gone by
    When Richard raised his voice on high
    And offered Kingdom for a Horse,
    To him he might have had recourse....
    Imagine bristly Berkshire swine
    Upon the throne of Coeur de Lion!!

    But, while we give our meed of praise
    To those who would these isles upraise,
    Forget not him who planned all that--
    For it was Casey at the bat!

    Forget not him whose Celtic head
    Outdid, when all is done or said,
    That classic stunt--the herculean
    Minerva sprung from Jovian bean!

    Where else but in the Philippines
    Amid these sunny tropic scenes
    That lull the senses into rest,
    Could come this genius of the West?
    For, not content with colt and swine,
    He must produce domestic kine--
    To heap the brimming measure full
    He perpetrates an Irish Bull!

Finished, he still stood on the chair, frankly happy in the uproarious
response to his effort to amuse them.

The clamor subsided in a sudden and almost incredulous appreciation of
his swift composing: and in the momentary silence during which they
gazed at the happy, laughing boy, a pair of heavy shod feet sounded on
the bare stairway--loud, hurried.

All eyes shifted from where Terry stood on the chair to the stern
visaged Macabebe sergeant who had stopped in the open doorway. He
hesitated a moment, then urgency overbore his instinct against
violation of the white man's domain, and he stepped toward his chief.

Terry met him in the center of the room. The Macabebe saluted, then
reported in a savage grating voice that carried clear to every
startled ear.

"Sir, Patrol Number Seven reports that ladrones raided Ledesma's
plantation at one o'clock last night: killed one servant, stole all of
Ledesma's carabaos and money, and stole his daughter."

Malabanan had dared! The ladrones had struck!



CHAPTER X

MALABANAN


Terry's pace across the plaza taxed Mercado's shorter legs. He was
surprised that Malabanan's move came almost as a relief after the
weeks of anxious waiting. Scoffing the Constabulary, they had sought
to test the strength of the new government ... "if they make a
break--Smash 'em!" He whirled, taut, as they reached his quarters, and
the battle-loving veteran thrilled with delight as he caught the hard
ring of voice.

"Sergeant, I'll be ready in ten minutes--you will go with me to
Ledesma's plantation--have the ponies saddled. Double every patrol
along the coast. Send the launch out at once to scour the gulf for
information about a fifty-foot lorcha--add four soldiers to the
regular crew: if they sight or learn of this lorcha they are to return
at once and report the facts--they are not to engage. Retain in the
post twenty of your very best men, under full field equipment ready to
move instantly. Issue extra ammunition. Understand?"

"Yes, sir!" He about-faced and hurried on his mission, eager, joyful.
This was the life!

Terry ran upstairs, turned up the light, ripped off his white clothes
and slipped into riding clothes and flannel shirt. As he buckled on
his belt and hooked in canteen and holster, he heard the Sergeant
galloping down the street with his led horse. A swift inspection of
the mechanism of his big automatic, four extra clips added to the
belt, and he ran downstairs as the Macabebe drew up.

Reaching the beach they turned south, riding fast through the chill
darkness, Mercado keeping his pony a length behind Terry's nervous
gray. They had covered several miles before the sun rose from behind
Samal, gray-pinked sky and sea for a brief bewitching moment, then
swept the low hanging mists from gulf and mountain, and smote,
full-powered, upon the sandy shore down which they rode. The tireless
ponies--crooked of leg but splendid of head and eye in true
indications of their heritage of coarse Chinese and fine Arabian
bloods--toiled steadily over the high-tide beach, sinking coronet deep
in the soaked sand, their footprints disappearing almost as they
lifted hoofs. Courageous, the little animals scrambled over the coral
formations that blocked their path, picked their way, delicately,
through sour mangrove swamps: once, unsaddled, they swam a wide
tide-deepened creek that the riders crossed, bridle reins in hand, in
a small dugout which they found on the bank.

Their sharp shadows had shortened a third when they swung up from the
beach and trotted down the unkempt street of Sabaga. A chorus of
howls, set up by bony, slinking curs of the type that infest all
native villages, announced their presence but there was no sign of
life in any of the shambling bamboo houses. The village seemed
deserted.

They pulled up, the Sergeant pointing significantly at the carabaos
tied up under the high perched huts. Terry understood: fear of the
ladrones had paralyzed the natives. As he studied the closed windows
and doors, sensed the terror of these defenseless, harmless people, a
cold hatred of the spoilers narrowed his steel-gray eyes. They were
about to press on when the quiet of the town was suddenly broken by a
cry sounded from a house behind them:

"_El Soltario! El Constabulario!_"

The exultant shout was taken up by other voices as windows were
cautiously raised: in a moment the doors were thrown wide and a crowd
of natives swarmed about the two riders. The men shrill-voiced, women
and children hysterical, they crowded around the pair in a confidence
that was pitiful.

Frightened beyond a white man's conception by the midnight visitation
of ladrones within a half-mile of their village, cowed, witless, they
were reassured merely by the uniforms the two riders wore--the
red-piped uniform of the small, scattered force of five thousand
Filipinos, who, ably officered, highly trained, intrepid, have never
tasted defeat: have wiped out every murderous band that raised
treacherous hand and then, outlawry scotched, have turned the power of
their discipline against the scourges of diseases, floods, cattle
plagues, typhoons. Unsung, unwept, they have carried on, their motto
Service and their goal Success.

Terry, patient, reassuring, lingered till he had overcome their
immediate fears, left them content with their faith in the protection
he promised them. Hurrying on, Terry and his Sergeant shortly came to
Ledesma's well kept plantation, and Terry turned his pony over to the
Sergeant and approached the big bamboo house.

Ledesma, gray-haired, distinguished looking, bearing his grief with
Tagalog stoicism, greeted him with the finished courtesy of the
Spanish tradition and led him up the precarious slatted steps into the
house. It was a house of desolation.

The mother lay moaning wretchedly upon the cane bottom of the carved
mahogany bed which, with four chairs, a round table and a talking
machine made up the furniture of the main room. Ledesma's son, a lad
of eight, sat big-eyed and solemn near an open window, not fully
understanding the blow that had fallen but vaguely frightened by his
mother's lamentations.

The Tagalog, dignified in his suffering, answered Terry's brief
interrogations intelligently but as he had been out on the gulf with
his fishermen during the raid he had little to offer. Terry turned to
the sobbing mother and in a few minutes she had quieted sufficiently
to tell her story. He grew paler and grimmer as she dramatized the
terror of the midnight entrance of the ominous shadows, the noiseless
gliding of bare feet, the vicious whispered threats, the cries of the
girl as they bore her away into the night and the long wait for
Ledesma's return. Finishing her story, she sank back upon the great
bed, moaning and muttering incoherently.

Ledesma elaborated her story with details she had told him. She had
recognized neither shadowed forms nor whispering voices of any of the
four who had entered the house while the others herded the stolen
carabaos toward the waterfront. One of them had warned her that this
was what would happen to all of the natives who made too good friends
with the Americanos: and the biggest of the four had bent over her to
whisper in the dark: "And the pale Constabulario won't be able to help
you with his celebrated pistol--soon we will visit him!"

Terry soon realized that he was wasting valuable time here--and time
was the big factor. He conferred with Mercado, who had been
questioning the scared laborers, but equally without result: no one
could identify any of the band, there was no evidence that would lead
to Malabanan's conviction, though all were certain that the biggest
figure had been his. Bidding Ledesma a hurried adieu he rode away.
Time was pressing ... Ledesma's daughter must be rescued ... soon. He
followed the trail of the stolen carabaos, the renewed lamentations of
the distracted mother ringing in his ears.

Fifteen minutes along the plain trail torn through the brush by the
driven carabaos brought them out on the beach. There the trail ended:
it was for this that Malabanan had brought the big lorcha that the
secreto had mentioned. A moment of thought and he swung northward
toward Davao, again following the glistening beach. At noon, and low
tide, they forded the creek and swung up off the beach to breathe the
sweating ponies in the deep shade of a mango tree that spread high
above the surrounding brush. Dismounting, they stood as in a huge
green bowl: its bottom the smooth waters of the gulf, iridescent under
a zenith sun and framed as far as the eye could reach with a slant of
parched beach; the sides of the vast concavity were formed by the
verdant mat of jungled slopes that rose with ever increasing
abruptness to the far, somber-edged mountains.

The doughty Macabebe gave not a glance at the great panorama, busying
himself in refolding the reeking saddle blankets and tightening
girths, then lighted a casual cigarette. Terry, impatient of the
necessary halt, paced the shadowed space restlessly after his first
appreciation of the sun-drenched Gulf. He turned to the Macabebe with
the first words they had passed since leaving Ledesma.

"Sergant, what is your opinion? Was it Malabanan?"

Mercado looked up quickly, pleased with this mark of confidence from
his uncommunicative chief. He was positive.

"Yes, sir. Malabanan."

"Of course--it could be no other. But--what would you do if you were
in my place--we have no legal proof."

"I would take a platoon of our best men, sir, and visit his
hacienda--and then there would be no Malabanan, sir--unless dead men
live!"

"But the courts, Sergeant: we could not convict him on the evidence we
have. And what you suggest would be mere murder."

"Courts, sir? Malabanan will never face a court--I know that, sir. I
FEEL that, sir!"

Terry studied the hard face of the little fighting man: "Sergeant,
you don't seem to fear man or devil."

Mercado's white teeth flashed as he shrugged pleased denial of claim
to such courage, then his roving gaze focussed upon a distant object
and the confident expression altered swiftly to uneasiness, awe,
superstitious terror. Terry, startled at the transformation, followed
the direction of his dread stare and saw that his eyes were fixed upon
the distant, mist-wreathed crest of Apo. He understood. Even this
sturdy little soldier cowered before the obscure menace of the hidden
Hill People. Terry resented, vaguely, that others did not respond to
the spell of the Hills as he did.

The five minutes had freshened the wonderful little steeds, so they
mounted and pushed on through the heat with eyes half shut against the
glare of sand and water. At four o'clock they pulled up in front of
Terry's quarters.

A note from the secreto lay on his table. He opened it and read that
Malabanan had not returned, that the place was deserted. He had
anticipated this, knowing that the band would now operate from some
secret rendezvous in the maze of the forests. His problem now was to
locate their meeting place: his patrols must search them out.
Information would be passed quickly to them by the inhabitants of the
gulf--every planter, laborer, trader and native now knew that the
ladrones were rampant: and now the Bogobos would be most valuable to
him, as in their wanderings they covered every inch of the woods to
the edge of the Hill Country, and news of strangers would be brought
to him by swift Bogobo runners.

A quick shower to rid himself of the intolerable stickiness of the
long hot ride, a change to fresh shirt and breeches, and he hastened
to the _cuartel_. Two patrols had come in during the afternoon,
reporting no intelligence of the bandits but bearing tidings of an
aroused American and frightened native population. The launch returned
an hour later after a fruitless search of the west coast for signs of
the lorcha. He manned it with fresh crew and detail and hurried it out
to cover every inch of the east coast.

He ordered out two additional patrols to help cover the back country;
detached four of the twenty men whom he had retained for pursuit and
sent them to guard the heedless doctor who labored with his sick at
Dalag. The four warriors marched off cursing picturesquely at the luck
which took them away from the combat group.

An air of expectancy hung over the _cuartel_. Terry, grave, smoothly
efficient, sat in the orderly room studying maps and keeping the
Sergeant and the clerk busy as he wove a net of patrols of gulf and
coast and foothills which would cover every inch of terrain within the
night. In the big squad room the fierce little Macabebes joked with
each other as they repolished stainless rifles and repacked field
equipment under a zealous corporal's eye. Outside, a knot of
frightened natives occluded each window facing the plaza, peering in
at the laughing soldiers, dully wondering at the makeup of these men
who grinned at the prospect of facing the dread ladrones.

Every loose string tightened, every loophole closed, Terry left the
_cuartel_ and crossed the plaza toward his quarters. Preoccupied, he
noted that for once all of the phonographs were silenced, the plaza
deserted; and already the town's doors and windows were closed against
the coming night. The impact of Malabanan's first blow, struck thirty
miles south, had been felt in native Davao. His face hardened.

He strove hard, under Matak's urgings, to do justice to the perfect
dinner. But a dull headache had fastened across his forehead, a
symptom he attributed to his long ride over the scorching beach and to
loss of sleep.

He had spread his net, the quarry could not escape capture, he had but
to wait as patiently as possible for information as to their
whereabouts: some time during the night word must come from launch or
patrol, from planter or Bogobo.

Another thought had pressed all day--the answer to his cable. He sent
Matak to the postoffice, hopeful, nervous. But nothing had come.
Rising, he found the room stifling, and he reached for his hat to go
out. Matak noticed that he had forgotten his sidearm and delayed him
long enough to lift it off the wallhook and fasten the belt about his
waist.

The sun had set. As he walked aimlessly across the town he noticed
that all of the little stores, whose main trade came during the
evening hours, were boarded tight. He wandered down to the little dock
and out to its end, looking over the rippled waters with eyes that
ached strangely. The light faded swiftly, taking with it the pall of
oppressive humidity and freeing the Gulf to the coolness of
approaching night. None of the fishing craft which usually dotted the
gulf at this hour had ventured out. Malabanan had indeed made himself
felt.

Terry stood near an upended pile, numb with disappointment over the
expected cablegram. The dusk yielded in the distance to a darkness
which crept toward him over the ever diminishing circle of water.

Suddenly his dulled faculties registered an insistent warning of
danger, he caught the slight creaking of a board behind him. Aroused,
he whirled to face two figures which had halted ten feet from him in
attitudes expressive of the stealth of their approach. In the dusk he
distinguished two unusually large natives dressed in coarse unstarched
crash, and wearing shoes. Each carried a bolo thrust in braided hemp
belts.

For a tense moment they maintained the pose in which he had surprised
them, then the shorter of the two, who was a pace in front, took a
slow step backward, uneasy in being the closer to the young American
whose eyes drilled him through the gloom.

Terry, idly fingering his pistol belt with his left hand, shifted his
gaze to the larger of the pair, then unconsciously took a step forward
to better see that queer face. In the shock of surprise he stopped
short and his right arm jerked back into a curious position that
brought the hand below and behind his holster. The left eye of the
big Tagalog glittered white in the night!

His impetuous, fearless step toward the pair had broken the spell
which held them motionless. The white-eyed native hesitated, glanced
uneasily at Terry's holster, then spoke in brief gutturals to his
companion. Lifting his hat in salutation he bade Terry a suave
"_Buenas Noches, Señor_," and turning, walked off the dock, his
consort close behind him.

Through the soft darkness Terry saw them mount two ponies which were
tethered to a tree near the end of the wharf, and heard the shrill,
mocking laugh aimed back at him by the smaller of the two as they
galloped away into the night.

As he made his way rapidly across the poorly lighted town he gave no
thought to the fact that the pair had evidently meant him harm,
speculating upon the peculiar birthmark in the eye of the larger
Tagalog and wondering if he could be the man for whom Matak had sought
so many years.

He found Matak sitting crosslegged upon the floor fastening brass
buttons into some uniforms which had just returned from the
_lavendera_. Terry stopped before him:

"Matak, I want to thank you for reminding me of my gun. As it
happened, it didn't do any harm."

Stepping to the window he blew a blast upon his whistle, an unusual
summons that brought Mercado running across the plaza in most
unsoldierly fashion. Entering, he cracked his heels in salute, his eye
agleam with hope that the break had come. Terry dismissed Matak from
the room before addressing him.

"Sergeant, do you know anybody in this Gulf who has an albino left
eye--an eye that is all white but the pupil?"

"No, sir."

"Who might know?"

"The Chino Lan Yek, sir. He knows everybody--everybody owes him money,
sir!"

"Fetch him here."

In a few minutes Lan Yek stood before Terry, his Mongolian
imperturbability shaken by this night summons from an officer of the
law. With the natives' love of ragging a Chinamen, Mercado had been
very stern and mysterious concerning his mission--and Lan Yek knew a
thing or two about opium smuggling that bothered him as he faced the
American.

Terry repeated his inquiry regarding the identity of the white-eyed
native, and Lan Yek's response was startlingly illuminating.

"Yes, me know him. Me know white-eyed fellah. His name Malabanan!"

Malabanan! This had been the "visit" they had told Ledesma's wife they
would pay Terry.

"Lan Yek, when did you see him last?"

"To-night he come, buy cigalet, no pay--talk 'Melican talk--tell me
'Go to Hell.'"

Terry gestured his dismissal and the nervous Celestial scurried away,
relieved that the interrogation had not been intimate.

Terry briefly recounted to Mercado what had occurred on the dock,
ordered him to send out a patrol at once to circle the town at a
distance of five miles to discover if possible upon what trail the
pair had ridden out, emphasizing that the patrol was to return and
report to him, regardless of the hour of arrival.

"And hold the men in instant readiness. I may need them at any moment
during the night."

There was at least one supremely happy man in the Gulf that night, for
the Sergeant's joy was a living thing as he departed to put the orders
into effect.

A moment later Terry heard the kitchen door open slowly, and looking
up he beheld the mottled face and burning eyes of the Moro. It was
manifest that Matak had overheard Lan Yek. He stood in the doorway
battling for his voice.

"Master," he said huskily, "I knew you would help me find him."

Gratitude suffused his face, then receded before the tide of
Mohammedan fanaticism and fury which welled up from his bitter heart.
Stepping backward, he kept his eyes fastened upon Terry till he had
passed through the door into the kitchen.

Terry was deeply disturbed by this unforeseen turn of events. He had
decided against informing Matak until he had lodged Malabanan safely
behind prison walls, then to confront him with the Moro and if he
proved to be Matak's long sought enemy, he would add the charge of
triple murder against the desperado. The day of private vengeance must
pass in Mindanao--vengeful killings were murder, punishable as murder.

He called to Matak, then again, but there was no answer. He hurried
into the kitchen, into Matak's room, then down into the double stable
back of the house. But Matak was gone, and so was Terry's spare pony.
Realizing the futility of searching for him in the night, he composed
himself as best he could. It added another phase to the
exigency--everything now rested with the patrols who were tirelessly
combing the Gulf to discover the new rendezvous.

He strove for patience, but waiting is hard. He picked up a volume of
poems, discarded it impatiently for a magazine, threw this back on the
table and withdrew from the glare of the lamp which added to his
insistent headache. Looking out on the dark town he saw that even the
Club was unlighted, the first time since his arrival in Davao. His jaw
tightened as he pictured the isolated planters sitting through the
night, rifles on knees, listening for hostile movements in the jungle
surrounding their hardwon acres.

Drawing up a big cane chair he sat in the shadow looking out into the
dark. The sky was like a vast black colander perforated haphazardly
with a myriad brilliant openings which paled and glowed. The crescent
of the young moon hung over the faintly outlined mountains: he watched
it slant slowly down till its lower point was absorbed in the heavy
mist which blanketed Apo.

Malabanan loose with his ravaging band ... Matak, alone, searching for
him in the night ... Ledesma's daughter, that gentle, big-eyed girl,
at the mercy of such beasts ... would the patrols never return? He
rose and paced the floor, frantic with the enforced inaction.
Schooling himself to a semblance of patience, he sat through another
long hour.

Why, he thought dully, should he have had the presumption to expect
an answer to his cable ... she was too kind to cable "no" ... her
letter of explanation would be a month in coming.... He watched as the
mists around Apo gathered, thickened, darkened: the banks were
flashlighted into white billows, then the soft rumble of thunder
rolled down the slopes, a vanguard of the rainstorm which rustled the
forest tops as it swept down nearer, louder, to expire as it touched
the edge of the town: a few drops splashed heavily on the tin roof of
the silent house, then the stars shone more brilliantly than before
and Apo loomed sharp against a cleared sky.

It was a long night. At last he rose wearily and seated himself at his
desk, shading his dulled eyes. A moment of indecision, and he wrote to
his sister.

     Dear Sue-sister:

     Sometimes your sweet letters breathe the fear that harm
     might befall me. You need not worry.

     I live in a lovely land, a land of sunny days and balmy
     nights, a land of courteous, friendly folk.

     I live in a land where pneumonia is unknown, or sunstroke:
     cholera perished in boiling water, and behind our mosquito
     nets we laugh at malaria.

     Should other dangers threaten, I have my company of loyal
     Macabebes: laughing fighters, stern lovers, they guard me
     while I sleep. They like me, I think.

     Nothing but Old Age can befall me here; and I think the
     Fountain of Youth lies not where old Ponce searched--but
     here, on Apo's towering crest. I am going there to search
     ... some day ... before I am too old.

     I have but one fear: that you and the others whom I love may
     some day cease  to--

His head ached intolerably. He dropped his pen in sudden listlessness,
crossed aimlessly to the window. Dawn wavered over Samal. The plaza
was dark save for the lights which blazed in the cuartel to show that
the Macabebes, too, had kept the long vigil.

Suddenly he saw four fagged little Macabebes emerge from the shadowed
street and enter the path of light which streamed from the wide
cuartel door. Shoulders drooping under heavy packs after the long
night's hike, they staggered into the building.

A moment, and a fiercely glad yell rose from the barracks, and the
Sergeant bounded out of the doorway to speed toward Terry's house.
Terry straightened his relaxed muscles as the Sergeant burst into the
room.

A patrol had succeeded! They had learned from Bogobos that during the
afternoon a number of unknown armed natives had gathered in the three
deserted shacks near Sears' ford. Malabanan and Sakay were riding
westward toward Sears' plantation. On the way in the patrol had
encountered Matak riding hard on Malabanan's trail!



CHAPTER XI

INTO THE FORBIDDEN HILLS


Terry's two black pistols, canteen and packed saddle bags lay on the
table. Without a word he snapped holster and canteen into his belt
holes and the Sergeant picked up the bags and extra gun. As he blew
out the light Terry first realized that dawn had come. They hurried
silently to the cuartel, in front of which the sixteen impatient
Macabebes were drawn up, each equipped for the field and holding
saddled ponies. As he drank the coffee that the thoughtful Mercado had
prepared for him Terry gestured questioningly toward the ponies.

"I knew you would want to travel fast, sir, so I borrowed these ponies
from planters. They are very angry about the ladrones, sir, and were
glad to help." He found ample reward for his foresight in Terry's
unspoken commendation.

Several brown heads appeared at windows to stare after the little
cavalcade that trotted down the side of the plaza at daylight and took
the west trail into the brush. It was not a smart outfit, it lacked
all of the flourish and the trappings of parade, but it did look eager
to use the carbines that flapped from pommel straps. Terry's compact
gray set the pace for the dauntless men who rode behind him, and the
Sergeant brought up the rear snapping sharp-voiced invectives that
withered three over-zealous riders.

A long trail lay before them. Terry maintained a steady trot that ate
up the miles. The day grew hot, the brush thicker. Twice he halted the
column to water the ponies at shallow fords: once he stopped to smooth
saddle blankets and resaddle.

He felt the heat intensely. His skin seemed dry and hot, and he
slanted his campaign hat low over his eyes to dim the glare of the sun
and relieve the strain on his eyeballs, which ached fiercely. His
pony, having worked off its excess of spirit, settled down into a
tireless pace that tested the picked mounts the planters had selected
as their best, and the miles passed in silence save for staccato
pounding of hoofs on hard packed earth and the swish of underbrush
that lined the narrow crooked trail.

At noon he drew up at Sears' plantation to freshen men and beasts.
Sears tore out to meet them, greeted Terry enthusiastically and ran
inside again to hurry his cook while Terry superintended the care of
the ponies. When Sears' foreman bore the soldiers into the cookshack
for a hot dinner of rice and fish Terry passed up the high stairway
and into the cool house, there to sink into a big chair, faint.

Sears was energetically speeding his boy in the laying of his
"company" linens and silver. He lumbered over to Terry and in his
enthusiasm shook hands again. Feeling the hand hot to his touch, he
glanced keenly down into the burning eyes.

"Man, you're sick! You shouldn't be out in the sun in this
condition!"

Terry mustered a weak laugh but Sears insisted: he poured out a stiff
drink of Scotch and when Terry refused this he half wrecked his
medicine chest in search of aspirin. He found only two tablets, and
these Terry swallowed obligingly, finding almost instant relief as the
perspiration cooled his parched skin.

Sears' anxious hospitality suffered during lunch as despite a brave
show of appetite Terry ate nothing, but briefly outlined the situation
that was taking him into the foothills.

"So they are coming this way?" Sears exclaimed. "I hadn't heard it yet
but I knew something was up. Last night some Bogobos--they are fine to
me since you--since I--" he floundered a moment, "I mean they're fine
to me. Well, anyway, last night they came to tell me that two strange
natives, both armed, had ridden past here toward the foothills: didn't
know who the pair were--you may, though, as they described one as
havin' a white eye."

Terry nodded: "That is Malabanan, Sears."

Sears whistled: "Pwhew! I am gettin' some likely neighbors--probably
the other was his side-kicker, that laughin' devil of a Sakay! Well,
anyway, that's not all, Lieutenant. About two hours ago my foreman saw
your Moro boy, Matak. He was ridin' that black pony of yours and
stopped to ask my foreman if he had seen two natives ridin' by,
describin' Malabanan. Then he beat it after 'em."

Terry was watching through the open window and when he saw his men
emerge from the shack he rose apologetically, listening attentively
while Sears told him the best trail to the three abandoned shacks
that Terry sought. Sears, distressed in the helpless way of physically
big men, detained him while he refilled his canteen with fresh water
and sought Terry's habits long enough to again try to press a Scotch
upon him.

"Sears, that aspirin fixed me up. I wish you would give me a couple
more of those tablets."

Further search proved fruitless, he had no more. He turned to Terry
with a sorrow out of all proportion to the situation.

"Lieutenant, I haven't got any more. But here's some quinine--take a
few grains every few hours--it may help you."

Terry thrust the vial of capsules into his shirt pocket and after
thanking Sears hastened outside to where his men were tightening
girths under the watchful Sergeant's eye. Sears hovered over Terry,
offering advice, expostulating, as Terry mounted and gathered rein.

"Lieutenant," he said, "you know the ford is just above the pool they
call the 'Crocodile Hole.' Cross the ford, come back along the bank,
and you'll find a trail leadin' to the three shacks in the woods."

"I know, Sears. Thanks. Good-by."

"_Adios_," Sears called. Then he stood watching the little band trot
through the gate and into the woods. His eyes moistened, he raised his
big fist against an invisible foe.

"If they get him--" he muttered through lips that trembled unashamed,
"if they get that boy--that sick boy, I'll--I'll--we'll ... and I
didn't have any medicine for him--the only thing he ever asked me
for--or ever asked anybody for!"

       *       *       *       *       *

For the first time Terry urged the gray. Matak over two hours ahead of
him and mounted on the next best pony in the Gulf ... Malabanan hours
ahead of Matak, riding toward the Ledesma girl held for him in one of
the three shacks.... He pushed the pony hard across the open
clearings, recklessly forced him through the underbrush that in
frequent areas obliterated the trail. They were now well inland and
mounting a perceptible grade toward the foothills: the sluggish stream
they had paralleled all day ran swift here. Once, where the trail
twisted near the bank, they heard the rush of rapids, and a mile
farther on they came in sight of a curiously soundless waterfull. They
had reached the Bogobo country but the afternoon quiet was unbroken by
the sound of agongs. Fear had reached the foothills.

His pony was too much for the courageous but smaller mounts of the
Macabebes and Terry gradually drew ahead. He must overtake Malabanan
before nightfall.... Ledesma had not put his confidence into words,
but he had looked it--had trusted him ... the pony's head and neck
dripped, a welt of lather fringed the saddle blanket over the withers
and down both shoulders. The Sergeant, seeing his men fall behind,
galloped up into the lead and cursed them on with graphic phrases
culled from the English, Spanish and Malay tongues. But it was
useless: the gray pony carried its desperately anxious rider faster
than their jaded mounts could travel. Terry drew out of sight, but
they rode on.

All through the afternoon Terry had been dimly conscious that the
headache had returned, that his face was flushed and hot, but the fast
pumping blood seemed to energize his faculties. Never had he felt so
keyed-up, so sinewy of nerve.

The hours flew with the miles. At five o'clock he crashed out of the
woods into an open spot where the trail bent down toward the river to
skirt a deep black pool--the Bogobos' Crocodile Hole, which none of
them would ever approach. It was a roughly circular depression
extending from bank to bank, a hundred feet in diameter; it lay just
below the ledge of rock that made a low-water ford but which, at high
water, was the brink of a falls which had worn a deep hole in the soft
river bottom.

Terry slowed his steaming pony as he rounded the pool. Stories that he
had overheard flashed across his mind, ghastly stories whispered by
tremulous native lips into credulous brown ears, of the size of the
Thing which dwelt here, of its age, its incredible scaly length and
girth, its patient devilish cunning; of the toll it had taken of three
generations, tales you would not care to hear--like that of the old
blind Bogobo who lost his way, and groping for the trail with naked
hands--no, you would not care to hear such appalling tales.

Riding the river ledge above the pool he glanced down into the deep,
quiet waters but his thoughts snapped back to the present as his pony
balked at the edge of the ford. The gray had never balked at water,
and attributing the display of vice to fatigue, he tried to gentle him
into the shallow water, then touched him with spur--minutes were
precious now. Driven by the steel, the gray stepped gingerly into the
stream, took several steps, then snorted as he wheeled back to the
bank. Terry swung him back sharply and sent the spur deep into the
flanks of the trembling beast: half wild with the unaccustomed
punishment he dashed into the water and splashed across in frightened
bounds that took him up the opposite bank into the brush.

Terry brought the pony round and stroked its neck soothingly to calm
the unaccountable terror apparent in the nervous tossing of head and
distension of red nostrils. As he guided him along the bank a sound of
disturbed water brought Terry's head up sharply: heavy ripples circled
away from a spot near the opposite shore just under the ford. As he
peered keenly he discerned the indistinct outline of something that
looked like a heavy log sink slowly into the dark depths. The pony
fretted until they left the river-bank to follow an old trail that led
into the woods.

Here Terry held him to a walk, riding cautiously, pausing at each turn
of the trail to scrutinize every inch of brush intently, ears alert to
faintest sound. He knew he was nearing the deserted huts. He advanced
several hundred yards thus, searching for the clearing, listening.
Discerning well ahead a space where the sky was open above a cleared
area he dismounted, hurriedly knotted the reins to a sapling, snatched
his extra pistol from the saddle holster, then crept forward through
the early forest twilight, wary, both pistols at full cock.

Creeping round the first bend in the trail he searched the near
thickets with penetrating keenness: he knew Malay treachery. His eyes,
flashing from side to side, focussed upon a dim, motionless figure
outlined in the shadow beneath the trunk of a large tree that stood on
the edge of the clearing. His back was to Terry and he seemed
engrossed in some silent drama that was being enacted in the clearing
out of Terry's field of vision.

Terry crept toward him soundlessly and when he had covered half of the
distance that separated them he was overjoyed to recognize him as
Matak. As Terry's lips parted in a low call, Matak glided from the
tree like a swift shadow just as a shriek of pain and terror rent the
silence of the woods, followed by a vowelled curse and the sound of a
heavy hand on naked flesh.

As Terry sprang forward to the edge of the clearing he heard behind
him the distant sound of ponies driven recklessly through the
underbrush, and knew that the Macabebes were coming up!

He halted at the edge of the clearing, unobserved by the crowd of
bandits who had sprung out of the three disused huts when Matak leaped
into the open: with ready rifles and bolos they awaited the command of
their white-eyed leader, who stood in front of them, startled, but
coolly confronting the Moro. Ledesma's daughter, who had fallen under
Malabanan's heavy blow, staggered to her feet and ran blindly into
the arms of a laughing rough whom Terry recognized as Malabanan's
companion at the dock--the sardonic Sakay.

For a moment the tableau held. Terry could not see Matak's face but he
heard the tense fury of the voice:

"Malabanan, you speak English?"

Malabanan looked him over insolently before answering: "Yes."

Moro met Tagalog in the Bogobo's country on the common ground of the
American-brought English tongue!

"Malabanan, you know me?"

"No."

"You remember one night--nine years now--on Basilan? You remember kill
old man, old woman, then girl on boat? You remember kill little boy,
too, and throw in sea?"

The Moro's voice dripped with the released passions of nine years of
brooding over terrible wrongs. As he saw the light of recollection
appear in the desperado's dark face, he struggled to speak the words
that had been dammed up so long:

"Malabanan, I am that boy.... Now you die!"

He snatched the long knife from the scarf knotted about his waist in
Moro fashion, his knees bending under him in a tigerish crouch as he
slowly circled toward his powerful enemy. Malabanan drew his great
bolo with a contemptuous sneer at the little Moro and before Terry
could have interfered had he wished, they leaped at each other. Matak
dodged down under the first awful sweep of the gleaming bolo and as
he came up he struck at Malabanan, not with the classic downward
stroke, but UP!

As the glittering blade went home, deep, Malabanan threw the Moro from
him with a convulsive heave that crashed him senseless against the
stump of a charred tree. His colorless left eye, lusterless in strange
contrast to the baleful fire that glowed in the right, Malabanan
gathered his fast ebbing strength in a last effort and staggered
toward the unconscious Moro, his glittering weapon upraised, heedless
of the pale American who stepped out with a rasping: "Halt!"

But he sank limp as Terry's heavy pistol roared a message he did
heed--though never heard--sagging down to sprawl across the Moro's
legs.

Terry leaped full into the clearing and covered the ladrones, who
stood paralyzed by the swiftness of the tragedy, stunned by the
dramatic appearance of the young American whose pistols were famed
throughout the Gulf, and as they hesitated the Macabebes smashed out
of the fringe of timber, threw themselves off their reeking ponies and
moved to surround the band.

Sakay, supporting the girl as a screen, drew back toward the nearest
of the huts and opened fire at Terry with a rifle. The ladrones
scattered for cover and in a minute the woods rang with their
fusillade and with the deadly volleys sent in answer by the Macabebes.

It was a brief combat. Though outnumbered nearly two to one the
soldiers were disciplined and highly trained marksmen. In a moment six
of the bandits were on the ground, nine threw up their hands in
surrender and the balance fled through the woods. The Sergeant, who
had been slugging away with his rifle with a calculating attention to
the details of marksmanship belied by the fierce joy in his brilliant
black eyes, ceased firing at Terry's shouted command and detached
eight of his man, who caught up some frightened ponies and raced
through the woods to head off the fleeing brigands.

Sakay, using the fear-crazed girl as a shield from behind which to
shoot at Terry, found his aim thwarted by her struggles. Seeing Terry
advancing straight upon him and fearful of exposing himself to the
fire of the two black pistols, he dropped his rifle and holding the
girl directly in front of him, called out in English:

"I surrender! I surrender! I surrender, Lieutenant!"

His deep anxiety subsiding when he realized that he would suffer no
immediate harm, Sakay threw the girl from him with a brutal force that
sent her prostrate and was promptly rewarded by the husky Mercado, who
had been under American tutelage long enough to understand the virtue
and the technique of what is vulgarly known as "a good swift kick."

The Sergeant escorted Sakay into the group of prisoners rounded up by
the four soldiers and set them to digging a grave for the six, who,
with Malabanan, would "never appear before the court." In a few
minutes the pursuit party rode into the clearing herding all but three
of the criminals who had fled: those three were carried in and placed
alongside the grave.

Terry worked over Matak, who had been merely stunned. In a few minutes
the Moro recovered fully and went back to secure Terry's pony, which
he had abandoned near the ford.

While the Sergeant attended to the duties of identification and burial
of the dead Terry led the girl into one of the huts and quietly
comforted her. She told him of the ordeal of her forced journey
through the greater part of a day and a night, of the captors who
leered at her but remained aloof because of fear of Malabanan, of
being waked from sleep at Malabanan's arrival just before Matak
appeared. Malabanan and Sakay, worn with the night's ride, had stopped
during the noon hours to rest in the woods.

When it came time to go, Terry placed the girl on his pony, declining
another mount, as his head now ached too fiercely to withstand jolting
in the saddle. He set off in the lead, afoot, followed by the
prisoners under escort, Mercado bringing up the rear with the girl.

As they neared the ford Terry heard a sharp out-cry from one of the
guards, followed by the sharp crack of a rifle. Whirling, he saw the
brush on his right agitated by the movements of a figure that crashed
unseen through the tangle of vegetation. Two soldiers flung themselves
off their ponies and leaped in pursuit, pausing fruitlessly for sight
of the fleeing form and dashing on with trailed rifles. The aggressive
Mercado galloped up, shouting an explanatory "Sakay!" as he charged
straight into the brush.

Terry sped down the trail toward the river, emerging on the bank just
as the lithe Sakay burst from the brush. Laughing derisively at Terry
Sakay leaped toward the stream, reached the bank in four great bounds
and leaped far out from the low edge. As the bandit's powerful body
curved in the air Terry's pistol barked twice before the supple form
straightened to strike the pool in a perfect dive.

Terry leaped down the bank to cover Sakay when he should rise. Leaning
over the ledge he distinguished the white-clad figure sliding
gracefully through the dark depths with the momentum of the dive: ten
feet, twenty, thirty, then it slowed, started to rise.

But as he watched, tense ... there was a rush of a massive armored
body through the shadowed depths, a great scaly thing swirled the
limpid pool, a flash of hideous teeth--and the white form was gone.

Spellbound with the unutterable horror of what he had seen, Terry
watched the waters become quiet again, but turned away, aghast, when
bubbles rose like tiny silver globes against the jet depths. When he
turned back there were no more bubbles.

He sank down on the bank, sickened. The Macabebes had come up with
their meek prisoners and waited at the ford, restless, their eyes
fixed on the oily pool. Even Mercado was anxious to be gone.
Unaffected by the terrible fate of the bandit he had hunted, he viewed
the approach of sunset with vague concern, for this was the nearest
that he had ever been to the edge of the Hill Country.

Terry strove to rise, and at last realized that he was ill. He sank
back, dazed with the sudden force of a fever that coursed through his
body achingly, that throbbed in his head with a tumultuous roar. He
tried again, but fell back, dizzy. He rested till his head cleared,
then sat up and called Mercado to him. His voice came weak.

"Sergeant," he explained, "I do not feel--like going in to-night. You
push on--rest at Sears' to-night. Keep the prisoners in his corral
under guard. He will look after Señorita Ledesma and the men. Tell him
that I request that he come here and dynamite this pool--thoroughly.
Push on to Davao next morning and send for Ledesma to get his
daughter; and if I am not there by that time, you send a brief report
of this affair to Zamboanga. Understand?"

"Yes, sir, but you look sick, sir!" A quick concern flooded the
Macabebe's heavy face.

"Yes--I do not feel--very well. I am going to cut across country to
get to Doctor Merchant tonight. It is only six miles straight through
the woods."

The Macabebe led his charges across the ford, then, worried, returned
to Terry's side. Reassured somewhat by the brave smile, he mounted
after receiving a final injunction to take Matak in with him if they
overtook him. As the Macabebes herded their cowed prisoners into the
woods across from where he lay, Terry lay prone in another of the
intermittent surges of mounting fever that robbed him of his strength
and faculties.

When the wave of fever subsided he rose weakly, took his bearings by
the low sun and crossing the ford struck straight into the woods in
the direction he knew Dalag to lie. Entrance into the deep woods
brought instant twilight. He had covered a mile when a resurgent tide
of fever brought him down on the thick carpet of dead leaves that
covered the darkening forest floor, and for several minutes he lay
gripped in the sickening spasm that rioted through his veins and
robbed him of all reason. When it passed he rose dizzily to stumble on
under the trees, which reached up toward a sky glorious with the
flaming reds and deep pinks that mark the passing of a hot day over
the Celebes Sea.

He staggered on, conscious only of the necessity of getting to the
doctor and of the agonizing explosions in his head which threatened to
rend his skull asunder at each jarring footfall. The sky grayed,
darkened. Dusk found him a short quarter-mile further on, where
another surge of raging temperature brought him low. Another followed
swiftly. When he rose at last, night had wrapped the thick woods in
its black mantle, and he was no longer conscious of direction, or of
purpose, or of self. He stumbled along dazedly, trying to recall the
purpose that had taken him into the woods.

The paroxysms passed. The fever had reached a consistent high level,
lending him a singular buoyancy of body and of spirit, but his reason
was gone. He walked faster and faster, his vision keen under the dark
canopy, his mind racing with disordered ideas, a kaleidoscope of long
displaced memories. Often he stopped short, puzzled, vainly striving
to stem the fugitive currents of conceits in his efforts to remember
what purpose had brought him here. His head throbbed. He kept step
with each pulsing ache--it seemed to help. He hurried on through the
night.

The way grew steeper, always he traveled up the ascent. Flooded with
the hot energy that swept through his arteries, each passing hour
seemed to add to the fires that fed his strength.

The gray beams of early dawn, filtering through a now taller vault of
forest, found him far up the slope and mounting still steeper grades.
He could not quite remember what his mission was ... something that
the Governor wanted, he thought, something he, too, wanted to do ...
or was it a Christmas present for Deane....

He climbed higher, laughing, singing, talking loudly. Stumbling over a
log his burning eyes had not seen, he turned in grotesque humor to
offer curtsy and abject apology, then hastened on upward. Later,
carroming from a huge tree he had hit head on, he addressed it in
grave good humor: "Please keep to the right." His flushed face purple
in the green light of the deep woods, he hurried on, again worrying
over the nature of his forgotten mission and hysterically impressed
with its importance.

The sun rose high overhead but it was twilight in the deep forest
through which he clambered, over decayed logs, through rank
overgrowth, past little streams of filthy water flowing in sullen
silence through channels overgrown with moss. No sounds of forest life
challenged the vast silence of the damp and cheerless vault of green,
no song of bird or shrill thrumming of insects that makes the tropical
forest a palpitant discordance during the hot hours of the day.

His laughter rang mockingly through the shadowed silence, the loud
vagaries of his delirium carried far tinder the overhang of tunneled
foliage.

"It's all right, Sears ... poor little fox, you won't ... you need not
worry about me, Doctor ... on Sunday, too--snowshoes and all.... LOOK
OUT MAJOR!... and we need you here, Dick,--Ellis and Susan, Father
Jennings, the foreigners--all of us...."

Always he kept his face turned toward the heights, and climbed. The
afternoon, waning, found him groping slowly upward, the furious energy
of his fever wearing off. His voice was weaker but he babbled
unceasingly, through dry lips parted in set fever-grin.

"I hope I did not miss, Sakay. I hope I did not miss.... 'Imagine
bristly Berkshire swine upon the throne of Coeur de Lion!'--and if
they make a break, SMASH 'EM!... Don't wait, Deane, don't wait."

Unaware of the ill omened forms which, surrounding him while still the
sun was high overhead, had kept apace all afternoon with his
slackening gait, he halted under a huge tree, leaning against the
trunk in sudden weariness. His voice, weak, tremulous, carried to an
audience he could not see:

    Just to know that years so fair might come again,
    Awhile ...

    Oh! To thrill again to your dear voice--
    Your smile....

At the end of the song his hoarse laughter rasped through, the woods.
He sank down, tried to rise, then lay where he had fallen beneath the
great tree. He lay still while the last white rays of the dying sun
faded from the topmost leaves far overhead, heedless of the narrowing
circle of eyes which flashed in the dusk.

Then, as he weakly pressed a hot hand against his scalding eyes in a
gesture of pain that was infinitely pathetic, the Hill People closed
in.



CHAPTER XII

THE MAJOR FOLLOWS


The big wall fan, a new symbol of the progress of the American
undertaking, oscillated in jumpy turns that rustled the papers on the
polished desk. Major Bronner sat staring at the maps which covered the
walls of his office. His heavily tanned face bore new lines, worry and
grief and there was a new set to the heavy jaw.

Rising with sudden determination he hurried down the corridor into the
Governor's office and faced Governor Mason with the strained aspect of
a strong man sorely beset. The Governor gravely studied the eyes that
bored beseechingly into his own, then reached into one of his desk
baskets and lifted a stiff paper.

"Major," he said slowly, "here is Lieutenant Terry's promotion. They
forwarded it immediately after receipt of my telegraphed report of his
prompt action against Malabanan's brigands." As the Major did not take
it but continued to regard him steadily out of brooding eyes, the
Governor returned the commission to the basket and fell to drumming
his desk.

He broke the long silence: "Major, you really think you should go?" It
was hardly a question.

"Governor, I must go!"

The older man studied his inkwell: "Major, it was over three weeks ago
that Sergeant Mercado sent you his report: it seems rather--rather--"
he was loath, to say it--"rather hopeless."

He remained in contemplation of his uninspiring inkwell for a long
minute then delved into his basket for a letter received that morning
from the Lieutenant Governor of Davao, a letter he had read many
times. He scanned it again.

"Major, Terry has been missing over three weeks, was ill when he was
last seen. It seems certain that he either succumbed to fever or
else--you know he entered the woods right at the edge of the Hill
Country, and if he strayed off his course he is almost certainly--"

Bronner broke in upon him, frantically unwilling to hear the word
spoken. He was furious in his grief.

"Yes, they wait three weeks before reporting his disappearance--the
best officer in the Service--sick--alone in the woods!--no rations,
no--nothing, except a canteen and a pistol! If I were governor I'd
fire the whole damned crew down there!"

The Governor regarded him with wise patience till he choked into
silence. "No, Major. There was no fault. The Sergeant reported in
Davao that Terry had gone to Dalag to see the doctor, so it was not
until Merchant finished his work there that they learned from him that
Terry had not reached him. It was no fault of any one, Major; just
hard, hard luck. Now, I have been thinking over your request to go in
search of Terry's--in search of Terry, and I have decided. The
despatch boat is now at the wharf subject to your orders. She makes
something over twenty knots."

"Governor, I'm--I appreciate your--Governor, it means a good deal to
me!"

"I will not detain you, Major. You do as you find best when you reach
Davao. Pacify the planters first--this report says that they are wild
with grief and rage. Of course you will take temporary command of
Terry's Macabebes. The entire company is there now and with them you
could doubtless smash your way up into the Hills. I had other hopes,
hopes of winning them peaceably--hopes in which Terry figured....
Well, I know you are anxious--so run along."

He rose and came around the big desk to take the Major's hand in a
fatherly farewell. After the Major had torn out of the room the
Governor closed the door and stood at the window looking out over the
busy Straits, his face older, stripped of the optimism with which he
invariably confronted all of these young men who were associated with
him in the Moro task. Sometimes it all seemed so hopeless, so futile.

For a long time the Governor stood at the window. He was facing
westward toward India, that mystic ever-ever land that had been the
goal of all the nations since before Columbus and was finally won by
the steady strength and genius of a meager island people. But its
cost--its cost in fair-haired, ruddy-cheeked youth! As in other
matters of government we had learned colonization at Mother England's
knee, had sought to apply her precepts, to avoid her mistakes: but
there was no avoiding that penalty, that expenditure of young men.
Quotations from the interpreter of the white man's burden came to his
lips: "'_The deaths ye have died I have watched beside._'" He
whispered the line over and over again.

He was still gazing somberly over the wide waters when Bronner rushed
down the pier below him and leaped into the cockpit of the power boat.
An orderly followed on the run and dumped the Major's luggage into the
boat. A Moro cast off the restraining hauser and the snowy hull leaped
forward, nose high in the air. When it reached a point opposite where
the Governor stood its stern was buried deep by the terrific thrash of
the screw, and borne on the swift ebb tide it streaked out of sight
into the west, like a thing alive. The Major was off--the Constabulary
guards its own. When one falls, others search, and bury, and avenge.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Major settled on the stern seat for the long ride. He had his
thoughts, thoughts that set his jaws till they ached. The motors
roared as they coursed through a shifting panorama of islands, little
heavens of cool verdure as seen from the power boat which rode low,
rising and falling gently in the smooth swells which ribbed the
Celebes from horizon to horizon. From the low seaboard they looked
back upon a thin trail of white dashes which marked the wake their
speed had traced upon the tops of the oily undulations. Adams, the
mechanician, a slim, clean-cut young fellow, scarce glanced at Bronner
through the passing hours but hovered over his engines, absorbed in
their operation.

The night passed, and the day was nearly done as they shot up to the
little wooden dock at Davao with a grinding of gears in reverse.
Adams silenced the motors, then turned in stiff fatigue to the Major
with an expression that transfigured his greasy features.

"Major, I've broken the record for this run by four hours. Now it's up
to you!"

"You know, then, why I'm--"

"Yes, I know. And I knew Terry--in Sorsogon Province. I was down and
out, a beachcomber,--booze. And he was kind to me, when I needed
kindness.... It's up to you, Bronner."

The Major stepped up on the dock, unsteady of limb after the night and
day, his ears roaring from the long punishment. Stamping the length of
the dock to regain his land legs, he returned to meet Doctor Merchant,
who had hastened down to the dock. His heavy hurry had glittered him
with a profuse perspiration that coursed down over his exposed skin
areas, and he wiped his hands and wrists with a big bandana before
shaking hands with the Major. His entire mien bespoke anxiety.

"We expected you, Major--though not so soon. You know all about--about
it?"

The Major nodded: "The Governor showed me Whipple's letter."

"Well, that's about all we know here. Terry was sick when he went
after Malabanan's outfit--he never should have gone. And after doing
that job--and it was SOME job, believe me!--he started cross country
to see me--knew he was sick. It was over two weeks later that I
finished and came in--and when I arrived without him there was a
regular riot!"

He wiped his face and neck: "Major, I'll never forgive myself for
exposing him to that fever--but I couldn't do a thing till he
came--they would do nothing I told them. Do you know how it was he
caught it?" He was at once mournful and enraged. "Gave his mosquito
net to the chief's wife because she was 'soon to become a mother,' as
he put it: and right after he rode away I found she had cut the net
into four big pieces and was using them for _towels_! Yes, sir! For
towels!"

He wiped away with the bandana, thinking that thus he concealed his
emotions.

"Major, you've got your work cut out--a bunch of the planters are in
town this afternoon, planning a raid into the Hills. Lindsey and Sears
are the wildest--the whole bunch will get wiped out if they set foot
in the Hills! You had better see them right away--and you'll have your
hands full--they're mighty determined."

He paused, fretting, then turned his big bulk with surprising
swiftness: "Well--say something! What are you going to do about this?
Going to clean out the Hills? Or are you going to let--" he stormed on
and on, checking the flow at last to press his hospitality upon the
Major.

"Thanks, Medico, but I'll just sling my bag in Terry's house and sleep
there to-night: and I can eat at the Club."

The doctor accompanied him as far as Terry's old quarters and passed
on to his own house farther down the street. Matak, gloomy and
wordless, relieved the Major of his bag at the door. The house was
silent, and darkened by drawn pearl-shell shutters. The Major stood a
moment at the doorway, half sickened by the unused appearance of the
familiar cane chairs, table, desk, and bookcases, then he followed
Matak into the bedroom he had used before. He cleaned up and changed
to whites, and when he came out Matak had thrown the windows wide to
the afternoon sun. But the house was thick with the uncomfortable
silence that pervades unused, furnished habitations and unable to
endure the room he hurried out and over to the _cuartel_.

The fiery little Macabebes seemed subdued. Mercado blamed himself for
leaving his officer under the circumstances, was bitterly
self-reproachful for not having sent a soldier with him. He went over
the ground carefully but could add nothing but immaterial detail to
what the Major already knew, but the Major remained in the little
office until dark, listening with grim satisfaction to Mercado's
account of the swift retribution that had followed Malabanan's testing
of Constabulary strength.

He excused the Sergeant and sifted through the pile of official and
personal mail which lay in the basket marked "unfinished." Sorting it,
he came across a cablegram addressed to Terry and dated the morning
that Terry had left in pursuit of the brigands.

"From the States, too," he muttered. Moved by an impulse and hardly
conscious of what he did, he folded it twice and placed it in his
purse.

In half an hour he had finished the few reports that must be executed,
and rose to go. Mercado was waiting for him at the door.

"Sir," he said, standing stiffly at attention and watched by a score
of Macabebes who knew his intention to draw the Major out, "we
Macabebes are soldiers, sir--we never question. But if the Major comes
to lead troops up--there, sir, to bury our Lieutenant, it is a
Macabebe task! We loved him, sir."

The big Major looked down at the earnest veteran, touched by the
dramatic simplicity of his appeal.

"Sergeant," he said, "if I do lead a force up there your Macabebes
will be where they belong--at the front of the column!"

He took the grateful salute and passing out between two rigid lines of
the stalwart little men he crossed the plaza to the Club.

Entering, he noted the unusual number of Stetsons that hung on the
hatrack, and passing inside, saw that the steward was guarding a score
of rifles and revolvers. For a moment he stood unnoticed by the groups
of determined men who occupied the round dining tables in parties of
four and five. Selecting the table occupied by Lindsey, he went in.

He felt the tension of the room increase as he entered. All looked up
with friendly word or nod, but from the manner in which they eyed him
and each other he knew that his coming and his purpose had been the
subject of their conversations. He sat down with Lindsey and his two
companions. One of these, O'Rourke, had been the pioneer hemp planter
and now enjoyed a big income; the other, a nervous, hasty young fellow
named Boynton, had borne a reputation as a squawman that had deprived
him of intimacy with his own kind, but had recently put his house in
order and rehabilitated himself with those who found decency in clean
living.

In an effort to relieve the atmosphere of constraint the three
planters attempted conversation, but it fell dead, and each applied
himself to his dinner. The Major's eyes roved over the crowded room,
then bored Lindsey's.

"This is the biggest crowd I ever saw in the Club," he suggested,
tentatively.

All understood the question in his words, but none answered. Suddenly
Boynton flushed with the hot rush of temper to which he was subject.

"Yes," he exclaimed defiantly, "and it's a good crowd, too! A crowd
that's got guts! We're going to have a look at those Hills!"

Lindsey had tried to stop him, but nothing could halt the impetuous
Boynton. O'Rourke snorted disgustedly: "Lave it to Bhoynton to shpill
the banes!"

With Boynton's outburst the Major tightened. These determined men were
hard to handle. He glanced around the room into the faces turned
toward him: Boynton's tense voice had carried throughout the room and
all of the planters had twisted about in their chairs to face him.
They knew the showdown was at hand, were ready to support Boynton's
declaration of their purpose.

The Major turned to Boynton: "You aim to leave forty or fifty more
good Americans to rot in the Hills?"

Boynton fully realizing that the Major was addressing the crowd
through him, and feeling their support, spoke more coolly: "Well,
Major, we're ready to chance that!"

The Major continued, more slowly: "What could fifty men--even such
good men as this fifty would be--do against the Hill People? And how
would they find their way to them? And how would they overcome enemies
they could not find or see, enemies who blow darts that just prick the
skin but bring almost instant death? And if you did reach them, and
kill a large number of them--what would it avail Terry?"

Pausing long enough for this to sink into their minds, he continued
more sternly: "And furthermore and more important, how could such a
force, organized out of worthy motives but nevertheless engaged in an
unlawful enterprise, hope to even reach the Hill Country--knowing that
they would have to first fight their way through a hundred of the best
Macabebe riflemen in the Islands ... with me leading the Macabebes."

No one stirred. They knew the Major. This was no threat, no boast, he
had merely stated a fixed purpose. This was Constabulary business,
would be handled by Constabulary.

"Snap" Hoffman, a husky, keen-eyed youth who enjoyed the unique
reputation of being the best poker player and the hardest worker in
the Gulf, spoke coldly from an adjoining table.

"Bronner, maybe your Macabebes wouldn't fight against people going up
to square things for the officer they lost--I guess you don't know
what they thought of him! But forgetting that part of it--what we
want to know is, what are you going to do about reaching out for him,
or for those who 'got' him?"

The hissing of the acetylene burners sounded loud in the room during
the pause in which the sunburned planters waited the Major's answer.
He spoke to Hoffman, without resentment.

"'Snap,' I had plenty of time to think it all out, on the way down
here. There is just one way to find out about Terry: I am starting
into the Hills to-morrow at daylight."

"With the Macabebes?" Hoffman retained the spokesmanship.

The Major slowly shook his head. The powerful lights glinted upon the
brass buttons of his uniform and etched the deep lines in the heavily
tanned face.

"No," he said. "The Governor has given me a free hand in this, as it
is a Constabulary job--we look after our own. You all know, as well as
I, what it would mean to force our way in. We would get in eventually,
but in addition to leaving too many good men in the everlasting shade
of the forest, we would defeat our own ends. For if he is still living
they would surely finish him if we undertook a punitive expedition.

"I have laid my plans on my absolute confidence that he is living. I
know he is, somehow. So I am starting up after him in the morning ...
alone."

Consternation was written upon every face excepting Lindsey's, who had
understood the Major's purpose from the moment he curbed Boynton.
Amazement altered to admiration, then to uneasy forebodings. The Major
watched them as they whispered to each other and as he read their
acceptance of his plans he turned to his cold dinner.

The planters found relief in following suit. The stewards returned to
the care of the tables. Cigars, the best from Luzon's northern fields,
followed Benguet coffee and when champagne glasses appeared at each
plate in indication of some diner's birthday or other happy occasion,
the planters searched each others' faces to identify the celebrant. As
the Chino withdrew after filling the glasses Lindsey rose, glass in
hand, speaking with his characteristic sincerity and with an easy
grace that belied his rough planter's garb.

"Gentlemen, I propose an absent friend ... a friend of all of us. One
who has meant much to all of us, has done much for many of us, has
harmed none by careless deed or word or thought: one who knows the
high places but realizes that life is lived on level planes.
Gentlemen"--he lifted his glass high--"to the--HEALTH--of Lieutenant
Richard Terry, P. C."

A swift scraping of feet and of chairs pushed back and they all stood
in mute acclaim of Lindsey's sentiments, subscribed with him to the
Major's refusal to believe that ill had befallen him whom they had
assembled to avenge. Seated again they watched Lindsey, who remained
standing while the Chino refilled the glasses. Lindsey spoke again.

"I ask you now to pledge the only man I know whose bravery, sincerity
and friendship are of a quality to fit him to be the chief of him to
whom it was just now our honor to do honor.

"Gentlemen ... Major John Bronner, P. C.!"

The response was a thrilling tribute to the flushed officer who
remained seated until the clamor had subsided, then bowed his
embarrassed gratitude.

They crowded around him as he rose to go, each offering advice and
warnings, wringing his big hand. Boynton drew him a little aside.

"Major," he said earnestly, "I hope you find him--all right--not--not
hurt. He was fine to me--I came near making an awful mistake--about a
native woman. But he came to me and talked me out of it--spent the
night with me, talking about his mother ... she died when he was a
little shaver ... and he talked about clean living, and the duty of
carrying on your white blood unpolluted. He didn't preach--just talked
sense, and was awfully--friendly. I quit the dame cold!"

Gripping Bronner's hand, Boynton left the room. Lindsey accompanied
the Major to the door and into the reading room, pointing to the
placard tacked up under the skin of the python.

"You remember the wording of the first sign? 'Major Bronner owes his
life to the wonderful pistol marksmanship of his friend, Lieut.
Richard Terry, P. C.' He was here the night that Malabanan broke
loose--you will hear about that night of his in the Club--and the next
day we found that he had changed the placard. Look."

He pulled the Major over and they read:

     This python, the largest but one measured since American
     occupation, was killed on the plantation of Mr. Eric
     Lindsey.

         Length...................24 ft., 9 inches
         Diameter, thickest..............14 inches

"We didn't see him do it, but we knew he must have been the one who
changed it. As that's the way he wanted it, we can't change it--now."

Grief shadowed his earnest countenance again as he faced the Major:
"Don't you think that in view of my friendship for him--and for
you--that I am entitled to go up with you?"

"No, that's all settled, Lindsey."

The Major passed out, but pausing on the dark walk in front of the
building to relight his cigar, he heard Lindsey outlining plans for
the campaign the planters would undertake if the Major had not
returned at the end of two weeks.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the early morning he made a light pack of rations and the beads,
matches and red calico he had secured to use as presents in case he
won through to the Hill People. He dressed for the field in khaki,
filled an extra canteen and after breakfast mounted Terry's big gray
pony and rode off with Mercado, whom he took to guide him to the spot
where Terry was last seen. The Macabebe took the lead and pressed by
the urgent white man lathered his pony in the rapid pace he set
through the winding trail. They dismounted at the ford shortly before
sunset.

While the Major was transferring his pack from saddle to shoulders the
Macabebe explored the pool with distrustful eyes. But Sears had done
his work thoroughly: two cases of dynamite had blown in the banks and
created a new channel through which the water flowed swiftly. The pool
had been narrowed by half and shallowed to a depth of ten feet in the
series of explosions Sears had detonated until the river gave up the
rent carcass of the monstrous reptile.

The Major adjusted the pack to his liking, waved farewell to the
Macabebe and moved toward the fringe of woods with a swinging stride.
The soldier watched the receding figure with mingled admiration and
awe. The Malay stood irresolute as the white man's head and shoulders
passed from view under the low hanging branches, watched the pendulous
khaki legs swing rhythmically into the shadows of the forest and out
of vision, then cast one long look up over the dense roof of the
forest which swept far up to end at Apo's summit, and atremble with
the appalling memories of the lonely spot he mounted the gray and led
his own exhausted pony along the edge of the pool. Once he glanced
back apprehensively as a small Bogobo agong sounded somewhere to the
north and filled the woods with its deep and mournful tones, then
hurried on homewards.

The Major had headed due west, straight toward the summit of the
mountain. He walked on through the last hour of the afternoon and as
the woods became denser and darker he used the slope of the forest
floor as his point, always facing in the direction of the rising
ascent. He made good time, as here the going was little obstructed by
creepers or thorned "wait-a-minute." Alert, he studied every sound of
the forest life, for though he had placed his life on the knees of the
gods he valued it too highly to neglect any slightest precaution.
Inside his shirt there bulged a heavy 45 slung from a leather
breast-holster. This lone attempt of the Hills was no sudden
inspiration; he had planned it logically. There was no other way. Up
there, somewhere, lay or lived his friend. Friendship was the call,
friendship and ... The Service.

The sun, glinting fitfully through openings in the thatching of
sparkling green leaves, dropped lower and sank from sight, and before
the brief twilight faded he selected a spot beneath a great mango tree
as his first camping place. Gathering some dry twigs and dead boughs
he built a fire at the edge of a little stream and ate sparingly of
his store of beans, chocolate and tinned sausages. In his collapsible
pan he heated water and dissolved his coffee crystals, and the coffee
finished, he boiled more water with which he filled his canteens and
hung them on a branch after dipping the woolen jackets into the creek
to secure the coolness of evaporation.

Night fell black in the forest. He threw more brush on the fire to
enlarge the circle of light, and made himself a comfortable couch by
patiently stripping the small branches of their most leafy twigs, and
wrapped himself in his blanket, vainly hoping that sleep would come.

From time to time he rose to add fuel to the fire, as he wanted the
light to be visible from the Gulf, where troubled friends would be
searching the night hills with worried eyes. And he wished the flame
to be seen in the Hills by those who lurked in the dark shadows so
that they might know that no element of stealth entered into the
approach of this white man who invaded a territory forbidden to
strangers since the earliest dawn of Philippine history. This
idea--the thorough advertisement of fearless confidence--was the basis
of his plan. He knew wild men.

Desperately he fought off the forebodings which assailed him in the
deep silence of the forest night, for hours he tossed in the distress
of apprehension over the friend of whom he came in search. Toward dawn
he fell asleep puzzling over the problem of Terry's reason for closing
the door of his bedroom before going to bed and then opening it for
ventilation. He waked from a dream in which he had slyly peered into
the room in time to see Terry withdrawing a hypodermic needle from his
arm, and lay worrying about the vivid nightmare until he noticed that
the fire was dimming before the coming of dawn.

He breakfasted, drowned the embers of his fire with water from the
stream, then reslung his pack and started up the slope. The way grew
steeper with the hours, the forest thicker. The green roof of foliage
was now so thick that the sun seldom penetrated and where it did
strike through the sunlit spots were dazzling in contrast with the
somber shadow of the forest. The undergrowth grew denser, so that he
climbed with greater toil through the maze of thorned bush and snaky
creepers that twined in enormous lengths across the forest floor.

The never-ending gloom of the weird twilight grew on his nerves. He
tried to whistle to cheer himself but forebore when the uncanny
echoes rocketed in the dismal cathedral of towering trunks.

It was rough and cheerless going. There were no trails. Once, toward
noon, while he was munching chocolate to appease his empty stomach, he
suddenly came upon a sort of runway, a beaten trail. He stepped into
this easier path but had taken but a few steps when he was startled by
the vicious rush of a swift object that whizzed up through the air and
tore through a fold of his loose riding breeches, then swung back
before his eyes to vibrate into stillness. It was a bamboo dagger,
sharpened to a keen edge and point, hardened by charring in a slow
fire. Fastened to a young sapling, it had been bent down over the
trail and secured by a trigger his foot had released in passing. Level
with his thigh, it had been designed to pierce the abdomen of the
Hillmen's natural foes. He bent to examine the glutinous material with
which the dagger was poisoned, and paled as he considered his close
escape. Such a death--in such a place....

After assuring himself that his skin had not been broken by the
_balatak_, he stepped gingerly off the trail and made his way upward,
carefully avoiding every inch of ground that appeared suspicious. With
each mile of ascent the way grew steeper, the forest deeper and
darker, the green ceiling reared higher on more massive trunks.

In mid afternoon he noticed that he was passing through a zone of
utter forest silence. There were no relieving sounds of voice or wing
or padded foot. It was appalling. Nothing in his vivid experiences
had approached the menace of these silent trees.

Pausing to rest in an area where an unusual amount of indirect light
filtered down through the lofty screen of leaves he looked about him,
found no tree he could identify, and felt the hostility that strange
growths radiate. His thoughts flew back to the security and
friendliness of the elms and maples of his boyhood haunts. As he
peered through the endless avenues of trunks that rose from the dark
slope, he learned what fear is. But he went on, faster.

An hour later, clambering over the trunk of a huge windfall that
blocked his path, he jumped down upon something that half pierced the
heel of his heavy shoe. Leaning back upon the big log he tugged till
the foot was released. He had landed upon a carpet of leaves which
concealed a number of sharpened bamboo stakes bedded deep in the
ground, point upward. Raking out the leaves with a stick, he uncovered
a nest of sixteen spearheads smeared with the brown venom.

Forced to study his every footfall, he made slower progress. He was
far up the great slope when he noticed that the tangled underbrush had
given way to a smooth carpet of leaves. Night was near, so he halted
when he came to an open spot, a place where volcanic rock precluded
vegetable growth. Water, steaming hot, poured from a fissure.

It was the first time he had sighted the sky since morning, and here
he saw the only sign of life the day had afforded. Two gray pigeons
flew side by side across the opening in the trees, winging toward the
crest of the mountain.

Sleep did not come to him. All through the night he sat by the fire,
staring out into the ruddy circle of vision illumined by the blaze,
peering into the shadows cast by the great trunks. Once a dead limb
fell from a towering tree that stood just at the edge of the circle of
light: he started violently, his hand darting into his shirt front to
his gun. He relaxed, slowly. Big drops of moisture dripped from the
invisible treetops. Thinking it nearly dawn he consulted his watch. It
was eleven o'clock.

Suddenly he sensed that he was no longer alone, felt the presence of
stealthy forms in the surrounding darkness, heard a twig snap in the
still forest behind him. He waited, tense, the hair at the back of his
neck stiffening as he thought of blowpipes and of darts poisoned by
steeping in the putrid entrails of wild hogs.

He felt the scrutiny of hostile eyes. Certain that he detected the
movement of an indistinct figure on the rim of the firelight, he threw
on a handful of dry twigs hoping to uncover the prowlers, but the
flareup revealed only an enlarged circle of great trees and emphasized
their shadows. He sat motionless, his eyes focussed sharply upon the
spot, and as the fire died down he saw the flicker of a dark form as
it darted from the shadow of the tree and dissolved into the bordering
gloom.

He gritted his teeth in an agony of suspense and enforced inaction. As
the long minutes crawled by he writhed inwardly in the horror of
waiting for the stinging impact of the feathered messengers of death,
marshalled every resource of his will in his effort to appear casual,
unafraid, confident of friendly reception.

Suddenly the silence of the night hills was broken by a weird sound
that rolled down from the heights. He listened, rigid, and realized
that some one was striking a small agong. It came from the crest.
Three times the faint resonance was carried down, the last note
humming long in the tunnel of forest and fading out in slow-dying
vibrations.

Listening, he noted a change in the forest about him. Minutes passed,
and at last he realized that he was alone, the lurking figures had
been recalled. In the reaction fatigue came, and he wrapped himself in
the blanket and fell asleep.

At sunrise he was off again, climbing the mountain side, confident
that the recall of his midnight visitors had ended all dangers. The
night would see him at the summit.... APO!

But with the sense of personal security there came a deep apprehension
of what he would find at the end of his strange quest. His worry over
the fate of the friend for whom he had made this venture increased
with every hour. As the day wore on he fell into a panic of
foreboding, scarce noting that the forest had lost its sinister
aspects, had opened into a lovely wood of sun-splashed vistas broken
here and there by great rugs of thick grass which tempered the beat of
the afternoon sun striking through the openings above the frequent
clearings.

Suddenly he stopped, sniffing to identify the odor that had rapped at
his heedless nostrils for an hour. Disbelieving the testimony of his
sense of smell he scanned the woods for visual evidence, for the first
time taking in the quiet beauty of the scene. Finding the objects for
which he searched he exclaimed aloud in his wonder.

"Pines! Pines! Sus-marie-hosep!"

He drank in the bracing spice of the rare atmosphere, glorying in the
clear coolness of the altitude after the months of oppressive heat in
the lowlands.

"Real, honest-to-heaven pines--that puts me a clean mile above sea
level!"

Worry came again, and he turned to continue his ascent, but halted in
midstride as he discovered a form that stood, motionless, upon a
grassy plot a few rods above him. A Hillman confronted him!

Evidently a young fighting man, of small stature but wonderfully
developed of shoulder and limb, full chested and round of barrel, his
brown skin covered only with a red G-string, spear in hand, he
returned the Major's stare with a steady gaze of appraisal. For a long
minute he remained poised, then beckoned to the Major to follow him
and whirling with a flirt of his long black hair he led the way up the
acclivity, bearing to the right of the course the Major had taken.

The Major turned his back to the savage while he reached into his
shirt to put his pistol at full cock and safe, then followed him. The
ascent stiffened abruptly, then ended, so that they came out on a
wooded plateau a half-mile square in the center of which the crest of
the mountain reared in a last upheave of perfect cone several hundred
feet high. Skirting the edge of the cone they emerged from the woods
and came to the border of a village.

The Major paused at the edge of the clearing, congratulating himself
upon the wonderful good fortune that had brought him safely among the
Hill People, and studying the village. A large number of crude
thatched huts had been erected scatteringly at the bases of the trees
surrounding the level clearing. Not a soul was in sight except the
young warrior who had acted as his guide, who stood in front of a
shack somewhat larger and better built than its neighbors.

As the Major stepped into the clearing he saw a figure appear at the
door, and his sturdy heart lodged in his throat as he leaped forward.

It was Terry.

They met in the center of the clearing near the smoldering cooking
fire, their hands gripping hard. Their eyes were moist with the relief
each found in the other's safety. Both struggled for apt expression of
their pentup emotions.

The Major found his tongue first.

"Well, it's fine air up here," he offered.

"Ayeh." Terry's grin was uncertain. "And there's so much of it!"

And they shook hands on it, complacently.



CHAPTER XIII

THE HILL PEOPLE


Occasionally one passes a stranger on the street whose face bears the
unmistakable imprint of recent pain, a patient line of mouth and
haunting glow of eyes that have looked close into the eternal shadows.
Terry bore this look.

He unbuckled the Major's pack straps and relieving him of the load led
him into the shack he occupied. It was a small hut, roofed and sided
with grass woven into a bamboo lattice work; stilted six feet above
the ground it trembled under the Major's heavy tread. A woven bamboo
partition divided it into two small halves, and each room was bare
save for a slatted cot that served as chair by day and couch by night.
The breeze blew up through the strips of bamboo flooring.

Exhausted the Major sank down upon the hard cot but rose to sitting
posture to study Terry with bloodshot eyes.

"Terry," he said, "you're looking a little--what the folks back home
call 'peaked'."

Terry's face was a little haggard, his body a little slimmer, the
steady gray eyes were deeper set.

"Oh, I'm all right." He seated himself on the ledge of the window near
the Major. "You had a tight go of it last night. Did you hear the
little agong ring?"

"Yes."

"The young Hillmen wanted to wipe you out. I had to work pretty hard
with Ohto--the old chief--to persuade him to let you come in
unharmed." His face clouded. "I have been worried ever since you
started into the Hills."

"How did you know that I was coming?"

"Major, that's why I have been so worried about not being able to
start back--I knew that you would come as soon as you heard."

The Major flushed in quick pleasure at the unconscious tribute to his
friendship and his courage. He filled his pipe and smoked contentedly.
It was the biggest hour that he had ever known. Terry unharmed, well;
his own hazards surmounted; and the Hill Country penetrated at
last--the impossible again achieved by the Constabulary. He settled
back comfortably, using his pack as a pillow.

"Tell me all about it," he said.

"There is not much to tell, Major. You must already know all about the
way in which the Macabebes finished what Malabanan started, and of
Sakay's leap into the pool--did Sears dynamite that pool?"

Horror shadowed the steady eyes till the Major assured him that the
pool and its dweller were of the past.

"Major, that Sakay affair was pretty--bad: I keep wondering if I
missed him--I would hate to think that.... Well, I had not felt well
all day. I must have been exposed to that fever at Dalag and--"

"Yes, I guess you had! Merchant told me about that!"

Terry flushed and went on. "I started through the brush to get to the
doctor, but I must have been sicker than I thought, for I don't
remember anything after entering the woods. It's all a dream to me.
Something pulled me up this way--I've always hoped to be the one to
open up the Hills--and I kept coming. I remember lying down at dusk
and being picked up and carried through the night. I must have been
delirious for about ten days, but had conscious periods every day.
Every time I had a clear spell I swallowed several tablets of the
quinine Sears gave me. I guess that quinine saved me--I would like to
have Sears know about it.

"Those ten days are rather confused, of course, but I remember the
care the women gave me and some of their rough remedies. I came out of
the delirium two weeks ago but was pretty weak, so did not try to get
up, but lay there listening to their talk. Their dialect is quite like
the Bogobo--I think they're just a tribe of Bogobos separated from the
others by those infernal woods. I soon learned that they had spared me
and cared for me because they thought that I was daft. You know that
these primitive tribes never molest lunatics--they think that they are
possessed of devils which, if disturbed, will enter the heads of
whoever harms their present host. Probably I raved a good bit on the
way up, when they were following me.

"When they realized that I was sane the tribe split into two
factions--one wanted to finish me but the other insisted that my
coming was a good augury. It was rather queer to lie here and listen
to the arguments pro and con--I pulled pretty hard for the negative
contenders! The question was finally decided by the old chief, Ohto,
who announced that my fate would be determined when next the limoçons
sang. That settled the immediate question.

"The limoçon is a big species of pigeon that nests in the Hills. It
seldom sings, and then only at nightfall. It is reverenced by these
people, who believe that it sings prophecies of good or evil, the
character of the omen being determined by the point of the compass in
which it lights to offer its rare evening song. Direction is gauged
from where the Tribal Agong hangs--I will show you that after supper.
It is a queer superstition, Major: they think that a song in the west
means greatest harm--death by famine or disease or intra-tribal wars,
from the north the omen is ill but to a lesser degree, south is good,
but a song from the east augurs greatest happiness to their people."

The Major was pulling on a dead pipe, absorbed in Terry's story but
building into it all of the suffering and loneliness and suspense
which the lad ignored in the telling.

"They say that the limoçon has sung in the east but once since it
heralded the birth of Ohto, who is the greatest chief they ever had.
But it has sung in the west eight times--and each time it was followed
by the death of one of Ohto's family. Now the old man is the last of
his line. These things may have been mere coincidences but you can see
why they believe implicitly in their feathered oracles.

"A week ago, while I was still kept prisoned in this hut, the bird
sang in the south, an omen of sufficient favor to cause my release.
Since then I have been free to wander about--and if it had not sung,
my influence would have amounted to nothing when I pled for you. And I
might not have been here to plead.

"That's about all, Major, except as to what manner of folk these
Hillmen are, and that you will learn better for yourself."

The Major rose and stepped to the door where they could survey the
village, unseen by the brown people who now swarmed the hard-packed
clearing. They were a squat race. The men, G-stringed, displayed the
same powerful physique that had marked the warrior who had conducted
the Major, the women were clad in a single width of homespun cotton
which draped from waist to knee and passed up over breast and back to
knot at the right shoulder. Men, women and children were all long
haired, and marked alike with broad, high cheek-boned faces flattened
across the bridge of the nose. Their slightly thickened lips and
widened nostrils were offset by large, intelligent eyes. They were
grouped about the fires which burned in the center of the village, the
women tending the pots which steamed over the coals. The fresh hide of
a buck lay in the center of the ring of fires amid heaps of yams and
unthreshed rice.

"Community cooking," explained Terry. "The young men hunt, the older
ones farm, the girls weave and the old women cook. The scheme works
out well in such a simple manner of living. Such government as they
have is a blending of a little democracy with strong patriarchism. The
old chief, Ohto, lets them have their own way about the little
things, but when he speaks it is the law."

"How numerous are they?"

"Six or eight thousand. This is the largest of nine villages scattered
around the crown of the mountain. Ohto rules them all."

He pointed to a wide lane leading through the fringe of woods into
another and smaller clearing a few hundred feet south.

"That is where Ohto lives. No one approaches his house unless sent
for. You--we--are to have an audience with him to-night. He set the
time at moonrise."

"A husky lot," commented the Major. "They're bigger than the Bogobos,
and lighter skinned--but they sure don't get much chance to tan in
these woods!"

"They're a wild lot, Major, but you'll like them."

They saw a woman leave the circle of fires and approach their hut
bearing two crude dishes. She hesitated near the door, nervously
searching the newcomer with timid black eyes, but reassured by Terry's
low word she climbed the bamboo steps and laid before them a supper of
venison, yams and boiled rice, then scampered out with a twinkle of
brown legs.

While they ate the Major outlined the news of Davao. Terry, tired of
the monotonous fare, finished quickly and sat on the threshold,
looking out upon the savages who squatted at supper about the fires.

"Major," he said, "we arrived here at a strange time. These people are
all worked up over the question as to who shall succeed Ohto as chief
of the tribe. You remember I told you that he has no relatives, that
they have all died off. His last grandson died three years ago. He was
to have married--"

He broke off and turned to face the Major. "You may remember my
reporting a Bogobo tale to the effect that a Spanish baby had been
abducted?"

"Yes, we looked it up, Terry. It was true."

"It's true all right. She is here! A wonderful girl, Major, beautiful,
wildly reared but--well, you may see her to-night for yourself. She
was stolen by these people when she was an infant and Ohto's grandson
was three years old, stolen to become his bride when both came of age.
That is the way they keep their chieftain strain fresh--by stealing
children from outside tribes and mating them when they grow up.
Ahma--that is her name--is the only white child they ever abducted.

"But Ohto's grandson died a year before the marrying age. She has
grown up in Ohto's household, has been taught their beliefs, dresses
like them except that as his adopted daughter she is entitled to finer
things. She is one of them except for the whiteness of her skin. One
of them, yet ... different."

His voice trailed off into a silence in which the subdued murmurings
of the Hill People sounded loud.

The Major stirred where he lay stretched on the hard couch: "Who will
succeed this Ohto, then?"

Terry roused himself. "The tribe is wrought up over this problem, as
well as the problem of our presence here. They gather every night and
discuss the matter. Some want to select a new chief among the young
men and train him so that he will be ready when Ohto dies, others
insist that Ahma--this girl--shall select a husband from among them
and thus raise him automatically to chieftainship. But she laughs at
them all, though there are plenty of aspirants for the honor. The old
chief has said nothing--he just sits and thinks.

"He loves Ahma with all of the wild love of a savage for the young he
has cared for since infancy. He seems to consider her happiness even
above the wishes and welfare of the tribe."

"Terry, you said this girl is 'different.' How different?"

Terry shrugged his shoulders, rose and secured their hats before
answering.

"You will probably see her to-night, Major. Come, I want to show you
the Tribal Agong."

Leaving the shack they threaded through the tiers of huts and crossed
through the fringe of trees that surrounded the village, coming out at
the foot of the cone. The huge monolith rose some eight hundred feet
above the tableland on which the village was built. Its symmetrical
slopes were smooth and steep. A goat could not have found footing
anywhere upon its precipitous sides.

A winding shelf had been cut out of the rock to serve as a trail. It
wound round the cone a dozen times in an ascent of several hundred
feet where it terminated, high above where they stood, in a niche
twenty feet square. Niche and trail had been chipped out of solid rock
and were worn smooth by the rains of many years. Here and there the
smooth surface was checkered with fissures, marks of erosion and
earthquake.

The Major, head bent far back, breathed deeply:

"Sus-marie-hosep!" he exclaimed.

High above the spot where they stood a granite arm had been carved
over the rock platform in which the winding trail ended, and from this
arm a mammoth bronze agong hung suspended over them.

"Why, I always thought those stories of the Giant Agong were
just--why, how in thunder did they get it up there? And how did they
cast it? Why--Sus-marie-hosep!"

The Major gazed up till the muscles at the back of his neck ached:
"Why, it must be fifteen feet in diameter--that striking knob is--why,
the thing must weigh six or seven tons!"

With this last thought the Major moved uneasily to one side. Terry
grinned at him.

"I felt that same way when I first stood under it, but I've been up
there. That flimsy-looking arm on which it hangs is two feet thick and
chiseled out of solid granite to form a bracket. I think you are right
about its size--the striking knob in the center is about six inches
wide."

The Major shook his head, still bewildered: "Terry, I feel as if this
is all a dream--being up here on Apo, this cold air, the smell of the
pines, and now this thing here--Sus-marie-hosep!"

"The old Bogobo woman who told me of hearing the Agong insisted that
she would live to hear it rung again. It is never rung except at the
marriage of a chieftain or the birth of his heir. These Hillmen
fairly worship it. They have the most absurd legends as to how it was
cast and hung up there, and of the reasons for the wonderful tone they
say it sounds. They believe that the souls of all the dead limoçons
live on in it forever and that when it is sounded they all burst forth
in song."

The sun exhausted its last white rays and sank below the low hills
beneath them. Terry moved forward into the narrow trail and indicated
to the Major that he should follow. They ascended slowly, the shelf
narrowing so that by the time they had mounted twice about the base of
the crag they were forced to advance by careful side steps, their
backs against the cliff. Terry stopped at the fourth spiral, his hands
gripping the jagged projections, his back tight against the cliff, and
when the Major reached his side he nodded significantly toward the
horizon.

The Major slowly withdrew his eyes from the dizzying abruptness of the
fall beneath them, and followed Terry's rapt gaze. The great panorama
of the Gulf lay unfolded beneath their aerie.

The sun, glowing pink against the crag, cast its huge shadow over the
now tiny huts beneath them. Dusk was already falling over the great
sloping forest that stretched from beneath their feet far into the
Mindanao fastnesses and ended in a dim horizon where pink-blue of sky
melted into the misted billows of distant hills. Far southward the
Celebes was faintly outlined, a frosted mirror framed by primeval
verdure, and to the east the slopes extended down mile upon mile,
flattened, then leveled to edge the great sweep of the gulf.

They stood tight against the clear crest while the swift shadows
gathered the Gulf into its fold. The little valleys faded, and
blackened, and the lower hills disappeared. The gulf narrowed,
shortened, and dissolved into the night. The dark crept swiftly up the
slopes as if envious of the ruby crown set on Apo's forehead by the
abdicating sun.

A steady wind, cool and fragrant with the odorous pines, streamed
against them, forced their bodies hard against the crag. The Major,
enraptured of the vast grandeur, voiced his exaltation.

"Jiminy!" he said. "The top of the world! An empire!--an empire of
hemp! And our flag covers it all!"

Receiving no answer, he carefully pivoted his head so as to face
Terry, and was humbled by what he saw. Terry's face, white in the fast
fading light, was exalted, glowed like that of an esthetic of the
Middle Ages, his eyes shone with a vision wider than that disclosed
from the mountain top.

"Terry, what do you see--in all this?" the Major asked.

The wind whipped his words into space. He repeated, louder.

Terry stirred slightly, answered vaguely, his gaze still fixed upon
the tremendous shadowed expanse below them: "I was thinking of a ...
dozen words ... spoken upon another mountain, words that seem very
real ... and make one feel very small ... in such a place as this."

The Major puzzled, gave it up. He was on the point of asking
explanation when Terry spoke.

"We had best get down from here, Major. It is getting darker."

It took them but a few minutes to work their way down, but the crag
reared black against ten thousand stars when they reached the base. In
the regions near the equator the sun courses in hot hurry.

Returned to the hut, the Major sat on the window ledge and Terry at
the threshold. The night was chill with the clear crispness of
altitude. The Major sniffed the pine-laden breeze gratefully.

"We have found a new Baguio," he said.

Terry assented, absentmindedly.

The Major nursed his empty pipe, studying the savages who grouped
around the fires to warm their almost naked bodies. Occasionally one
or two would detach themselves from the groups and approach near where
the two white men sat illumined by the flames, staring at these
strangers in frank curiosity, silent, inscrutable, unafraid. Noticing
the glint of fire upon a nearby row of long-shafted spears which
reared their vicious barbs eight feet above the ground into which they
had been thrust, the Major spoke to Terry.

"Your pistol?"

Terry motioned toward his room; "In there. They never bothered me
about it--probably don't know what a pistol is."

The Major, thinking of the sensation the opening of the Hill Country
would create, of the Governor's joy when he should hear the news, of
the added prestige for his Service, turned to Terry to express
something of his thoughts. But he desisted when he saw by Terry's
flame-illumined countenance that he had forgotten his presence, for
there was something about the lean wistful face that made his
detachment inviolable.

Soon the moon rose above the level of the plateau and flooded the
village with a filtered glow. Terry rose.

"Ohto ordered me to bring you at moonrise." He waited until the Major
had secured the gifts he had packed up, then led the way through the
lane into the smaller clearing.



CHAPTER XIV

AHMA


In the center of the moonlit clearing there stood a larger house than
any in the village. The soft beams of light reflected from the bamboo
sides of the structure and the heavy dew on the thatched roof
glistened like a myriad of fireflies. A wide path led to the porch,
and near this there was set a tripod, fashioned of saplings, from
which was suspended the little agong the Major had heard during the
night.

As they neared the foot of the ladder that served as stairway the
Major started violently as two brown forms appeared at their elbows;
at a word from Terry they stepped aside to let the two white men pass,
one calling softly to a guard stationed at the top of the ladder. The
door was thrown open and they mounted the bamboo rungs and entered the
house of Ohto.

Pine torches illuminated the room, which was some twenty feet square,
roughly sided and floored with bamboo slats; there was no ceiling, so
that a quarter of the high-pitched thatching of the house showed
overhead. A dozen middle-aged Hillmen stood along the wall, evidently
the influential men of the village. Across from them an aged Hillman
sat in a rough-hewed, high-backed chair.

Terry advanced and addressed the old man, his whole manner bespeaking
a sincere regard and respect; then he beckoned to the Major.

"This is Ohto," he said. "I will interpret for you if he does not
understand your dialect."

The Major faced the fine, austere old patriarch. The brown face had
been wrinkled bewilderingly by the heavy-handed years, but his eyes
still glowed with something of the pride and spirit of his youth.
Wrapped in a thick blanket of hand woven _kapok_, he confronted them
with that air of dignity and distinction common to those who from
early life have dominated the councils of a community.

The Major silently tendered his gifts. Ohto motioned to one of his
retainers and in a few monosyllables ordered their distribution among
the people, the red cloth to the women, the beads to the children and
the matches to be divided among the young men. As he retained nothing
for himself the Major produced a new pocket knife he carried, and bade
Terry make Ohto understand that it was for himself. The savage bent
his hoary locks over the treasure, examining the mysterious blades
that opened and closed at his will, and accepted it as his own.

The Major attempted to address the chief in his scanty Bogobo,
stumbled, and turned to Terry beseechingly.

"You tell him, Terry. You know what we've got to say better than I
do!"

So Terry spoke, and though the Major did not know it, he continually
referred to him as his chief, put all of the fine phrases in his name.
The warriors along the wall weighed every word.

Terry told Ohto of their great pleasure in having entered the Hills,
and of their appreciation of their reception. He extended the
greetings of the White Chief across the waters at Zamboanga, tried to
impress him with the interest the White Chief took in the Hill People
and of his good will toward them: told of the advantages that would
follow intercourse with the lowlands, of the good that would come to
his people from contact with others. Finally he dwelt upon the folly
of isolation, of the benefits of commerce and schools and other
elements of civilization.

The flare of the pitch torches brought out the sincerity of his face.
The old chief listened, inscrutably, his unwavering gaze fixed upon
the earnest speaker. Before the aged infirmity of Ohto Terry stood in
apt symbol of lithe youth.

It was apparent that Ohto did not grasp much of what Terry strove to
impart, for the primitive imagination was powerless to understand
institutions he could not conceive. He listened gravely but gave no
inkling of what went on behind the mask of his wise old eyes.

Terry finished, awaited expression of his decision. For a long time
the patriarch remained silent, idly opening and closing the blades of
his knife. The Hillmen ranged along the wall, who had listened
attentively to Terry's arguments for opening up their country to the
outlanders, waited their chief's pronouncement with set faces and
gleaming eyes, their brown bodies still as bronze figures.

At last the patriarch raised his head high, so that the snow white
hair fell back across his blanketed shoulders. He spoke so slowly
that Terry was able to follow him with whispered interpretations into
the anxious Major's ear.

"Many rainy seasons have washed my hair white. I live to see strange
things--I never thought to see a white man's face within my
walls--except, perhaps, upon a spear, grinning.

"When I was born--and no other man or woman of my tribe lives who saw
the sun of that far day--they said, the wise men, that much good would
come to my people before I died.

"They read it in the stars, they said. No great ill has come, except
to my own blood. All gone--wife, sons, grandsons. Never again will the
Agong ring for one of Ohto's blood!"

They felt the greater pity because the proud old chieftain demanded no
sympathy, but merely stated the pathetic fact with a simple dignity.

He was silent for a time, lost in an old man's memories. Then he
turned to one of the four retainers who flanked his chair.

"I am lonely," he said. "I would that Ahma would sit by me."

As the swart Hillman crossed the springy floor and rapped gently upon
a closed door, the Major saw that every black eye focussed upon it
with eager expectancy. For a moment the room was palpitant with
suspense. He looked to Terry for explanation, but turned back at the
grinding crunch of the hingeless door which opened to frame a fairer
vision than the Major had ever dreamed, asleep or awake.

A white girl had stepped out of the other room and paused a moment
against the dark background of the door to sweep the room with big
black eyes.

A single piece of white cloth, fringed with bat fur, was draped about
her waist and fell below her knee, the ends passing up in front and
back of her round body to fasten loosely at the right shoulder. This,
with a little sleeveless garment fashioned, bolero-like, out of the
delicate bat skins, and a pair of sandals contrived in such a way as
to bring the hair of the deer skin against the little feet, was all
she wore.

Bronner scarcely realized the symmetry of the slender form, so lost
was he in the spell of the dark eyes that plumbed his for one long
second, leaving him tingling with a curious conviction that his soul
had been bared. Vivid of white skin, of jet eyes, of a mass of
midnight hair that hung loose to her waist, she radiated the fire and
spirit of vibrant youth.

"God! Such a girl--up here--all these years!" he breathed.

She left the doorway and crossing the room with the light grace of
slender, untrammeled limbs, sank down on a bench drawn up at Ohto's
side. He set his withered hand contentedly upon the mass of her hair,
and in a moment he spoke again.

"If the prophecies of the wise men are to be fulfilled, it must be
soon. The good fortune of which they spoke has not come to my
people--and Ohto cannot tarry long in wait.... Death calls an old man.

"It may be that the prophecy had to do with the coming of these white
men. It may be that it would be better to no longer guard the Hills
with balatak and stake and spear and poisoned dart. It may be that our
people would be stronger--happier."

Again he halted his slow monosyllables, searching the faces of the
Hillmen who waited upon his words: utter devotion and loyalty were
apparent in every brown face. Proudly conscious of their fidelity, he
regarded them kindly, then his thoughts reverted to the girl at his
side, and he gently stroked the lustrous black hair. She sat quiet
under the caress, her head bent down in an attitude that revealed the
white line from shoulder to throat, her eyes sheltered behind long
lashes. At last Ohto raised his head again and when he spoke he gazed
straight at Terry.

"Ever since we ... found ... her, this lovely flower has flourished.
She now blooms in full blossom in my house--a white orchid on a
gnarled old root.

"Before Ohto leaves the Hills he would like to see Ahma safe,--guarded
and cherished by one who loves ... and knows. Though not of Ohto's
blood, she is of Ohto's heart. I will that when she finds a stronger
tree upon which to fasten--the Tribal Agong shall be rung for her."

Astonished out of their racial imperturbability, the Hillmen eyed each
other at this departure from the ancient custom of ringing the Giant
Agong only for those of chieftain blood. The girl's wide eyes raised
to Terry, shifted momentarily to the Major, and lowered.

The old man concluded: "You both speak fair, but I do not know what
is best for my people. I do not know.

"We must await a sign to guide us. The Spirit will speak to us through
limoçon or nature, will solve the problem that you have brought to us
... and will decide your fate.

"Until the Spirit speaks, you are safe with us, white men.

"I am weary now."

       *       *       *       *       *

The venerable savage gathered the blanket more closely about his thin
shoulders and closed his eyes as if exhausted. One of the four who
stood behind him pointed to the door to indicate that their audience
was at an end. As they passed out, the Major turned for a last look at
Ahma, who was leading the old man into his room.

In the middle of the clearing he stopped short.

"Say, you forgot to translate what Ohto said after she came into the
room!"

Terry smiled whimsically up into the chagrined face: "That's right, I
did! But you seemed to lose interest in his words!"

As they made their way through the village Terry explained Ohto's
decision, concluding with: "And so he awaits one of their 'signs,' the
appearance of the limoçons, or some freak of weather or natural
phenomenon like an earthquake--they read prophecies in everything."

The Major sat down heavily upon the bench. He was genuinely disturbed
at this new phase, as he had thought their hazards passed.

"Why," he exclaimed, "that puts us square in the Lap o' Luck! Think of
just waiting around for an earthquake or something--or for some darned
bird to sing! With the opening up of this country as the stake--yes
and our own hides. Sus-marie-hosep!"

Terry had taken his usual seat on the threshold, chin in hand, his
face bathed in the light of the moon that now hung high overhead and
flooded the mountain top with a friendly glow. The cool night breezes
came in strong gusts which rustled the foliage about them.

Calmed by Terry's attitude of quiet confidence and strength, the Major
faced their problem coolly, sought a way out. For a while his mind
raced with plans, but each died in the minute of inception. He could
not influence winds, or induce wild birds to sing in given quarters of
the compass, or devise earthquakes. He fell to thinking of Ahma.

Later, observing Terry closely, he asked: "And what are you dreaming
about now?"

Terry stirred as though awakened: "Oh, home--mostly."

The Major wanted to talk, but the patient distress in the voice
deterred him from what seemed intrusion.

Later he suggested sleep. Terry lighted a torch and stuck it into the
doorway, so that while lighting both rooms its fumes carried into the
open. The Major discarded shoes and leggings, and wrapping himself in
his blanket lay down with his pack as pillow. Terry waited till the
Major had disposed himself as comfortably as possible, then
extinguished the torch and went into his own room, closing the door
behind him.

The Major stared through the dark at the closed door, wondering, as
usual, what was going on behind it. Then as a gust of cold wind blew
in through the window he snugged down into his blanket.

Another and stronger gust, and he heard the door into Terry's room
creak as it swung to the breeze. Looking up, he learned at last.

In the rectangular patch of moonlight which entered Terry's room
through a raised window he saw him by the side of the rough slatted
cot, kneeling in that most ancient of attitudes, in which the children
of all the ages have bowed to supplicate and render homage to the
Keeper of the Great Secret.

The Major's eyes moistened. As the last clear phrase reached him he
again stood flattened against the wind swept crag--"on the top of the
world," and he now understood the "dozen words spoken on another
mountain." They came from Terry's lips low, simple, majestic:

"--is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory.... Forever...."



CHAPTER XV

THE SIGN


The sun striking on his face through the open window waked the Major
to the cool clear morning. Sitting up, he saw Terry sunning himself on
the threshold, wrapped in a scant blanket such as Ohto had worn, his
hair wet from his bath in the creek which emptied the big spring at
the foot of the crag. Even in the stupor in which he woke from his
heavy sleep the Major noted the ruddy glow of the skin which covered
Terry's bare arm and leg, was surprised at the development of the
muscles which played into being at each slight movement. His face was
as evenly pallid as ever.

The Major stopped yawning. "Terry, I always thought of you as
being--sort of skinny, but you're as hard as nails."

He wrapped closer in the cotton cloth. "I've always taken good care of
myself, Major. From the time when I was a boy I have thought a good
deal about--all sorts of things--and I realized early that one thing
was certain--that this is the only body I'm ever going to have."

Learning from Terry where he could wash up, the Major made his way to
the creek and after disrobing waded into the deepest spot and soaped
himself liberally. For a moment he enjoyed the bath, but as the
spring was the source of water supply for the village and as the young
women were allotted the task of carrying it, his exhilaration was
short lived. The water came but to his knees, so most of the half hour
he spent in the pool he lay submerged to his chin, his agonized
bachelor face exposed to the maidens who observed him from the spring
three rods away. He would have taken no comfort from the thought--if
it had come to him--that to them comparative nakedness was the normal
state.

Mountain springs are usually clear and chill, and this was no
exception. He was numb with cold when, hearing a snort of
irrepressible joy behind him, he twisted his head about to discover
Terry enjoying his discomfiture. After Terry drove the girls away the
Major jumped out of the creek and hurried into his clothes, blue
lipped, shivering.

"T-Terry, you'd better q-q-quit laughing! M-Millions have been
m-m-murdered on less p-p-provocation!"

After breakfast Terry, intent upon discovery of some way out of their
predicament, left for a long walk. Alone in the little house, the
Major brooded half the morning over the plight in which the old
chief's dictum had placed them, then dismissed the profitless
forebodings and went out to the village to study the natives.

The clearing was empty of men. A score of the older women were
fetching wood to the fires, another group were washing camotes and
threshing rice with hand flails. Upward of a hundred naked children,
pot-bellied, straightbacked, stared at the big white stranger as he
passed, then ceased their pathetically futile efforts at play and
trooped along behind him, their eyes as old as Ohto's. He looked in at
the young women weaving kapok thread into cloth for blankets and the
garments the women wore, but recognizing in the third house he entered
three of the girls who had watched him in the creek, he fled in
confusion.

He ate dinner alone, as Terry had not returned. In the afternoon he
continued his study of tribal customs. He had known the Luzon head
hunters intimately, so had a basis of comparison. He went among the
older women freely and sat with them about the fires, practicing his
Bogobo, questioning, enlarging his vocabulary, winning their
friendliness.

As the afternoon waned he left the clearing, feeling in need of
exercise. He strode rapidly about the circumference of the plateau and
as he threaded the fringe of woods that separated the main clearing
from Ohto's reservation, he halted suddenly as he saw Ahma tripping
toward him on her way to Ohto's house.

His first wild impulse was to dodge among the trees and avoid her, but
as she had seen him he stood still until she should pass. But she
swerved toward him and approaching with light, swift tread of free
limbs she stopped a few feet before him, smiling.

Embarrassed by the creamy curves of shoulder and limbs, he sought
diversion in the treetops. She spoke, and at the sound of the clear
little voice he looked at her, and in looking forgot the eccentricity
of her frank costume. Her dark eyes held him: he knew that he was
gazing at the only wholly ingenuous being he had ever seen. He
swallowed convulsively.

"Hello," he said.

Bronner was subtle to a fault!

Puzzled at the word, she wrinkled her nose in delicious groping for
understanding, then laughed up at him. And with the laugh something
popped within his sturdy chest.

He hastily substituted the Hillmen's word of greeting, which he had
learned during the morning, and joined loudly in her merriment. Elated
with this success, he marshalled his resources of dialect to further
impress her but with a last bewildering glance from her dark eyes she
flitted homeward.

He watched the white figure out of sight in the woods, vaguely aware
that some new emotion had come to him. He stood among the trees some
minutes after she had disappeared, then turned toward the village.

"Sus-marie-hosep!" he exploded.

       *       *       *       *       *

At supper time the clearing was again crowded with the entire
population of the village, the men having returned from their pursuits
of hunting, gardening and patrolling the great slope. Terry and
Bronner talked little, each taking his usual seat at window and door
to idly watch the crowd outside.

Most of the Hillmen ignored their presence, but one, a squat, powerful
fellow, swaggered by the door where Terry sat. Twice he passed, and
each time he leered derisively at the white man.

"Who's your friend, Terry?" queried the Major.

"Oh, that's Pud-Pud. He's the town bully--and never has liked me. He
led the crowd that opposed my--staying. He has bothered Ahma a good
deal, too: wants to marry her. She laughs at him, of course. What have
you been doing all day, Major?"

The Major told him of everything but the meeting with Ahma, spoke
enthusiastically of the tribe.

"They're straight Malay, Terry," he wound up. "A pure strain,
something you seldom see in the lowlands where the Spanish and Chinese
have addled the blood. They ought to develop rapidly under proper
guidance--they are a single-minded, sincere, fearless people."

Terry nodded agreement: "Nor are they the terrible people that the
Bogobos think them. Their fear of them must have been based on dread
of that sinister belt of forest. A good road will end all that."

They waited till Pud-Pud made a third mocking trip past their hut, gay
in a G-string contrived of a length of the cloth the Major had brought
up: it flamed against the naked brownness of back and legs.

"He's a lady-killer all right!" Terry said. "Ahma told me that he had
coaxed the calico away from one of the girls."

The Major stirred. "You saw Ahma to-day?"

But he had hesitated so long over the question that Terry, sunk in
deep thought, did not hear him, and somehow he did not feel like
repeating. He turned in on the hard bed with new things on his mind.
Measles is not the only affection that "takes harder" near maturity.

Several days passed without incident. Each morning the clearing
emptied after breakfast as all but the cooks left for the day's work.
Usually Terry wandered out alone, returning at evening to sit in the
doorway, lost in study.

Daily the Major loitered about the village till late afternoon, then
took up his stand in the woods near Ohto's domicile, waiting: and Ahma
never failed him. Bashfully distressed at first in the close proximity
to the wealth of charm revealed by her scant costume, he soon became
unconscious of it, her garb was so entirely congruous to her free,
unschooled nature. He practiced his sketchy dialect upon her,
delighted in each successful transmission of thought, more delighted
in the naïve bewilderment that many of his linguistic efforts wrought
in her frank features.

The fifth day she failed to appear. He waited long, restless, till
certain that she would not come and then set off through the woods,
his big heart yearning for an unattainable something he could not
define or classify.

Regardless of where he went the Major crossed the tableland and
started down the incline of the slope. A mile, and he came across some
young hunters beating deer into a fenced runway that converged to a
narrow opening where two warriors stood ready, armed with great
spears. He turned to the left, crossing a little burnt clearing which
still bore the stubble of the season's harvest. Another half-mile and
he suddenly came upon a grass lean-to behind which two old Hillmen
grimly stirred a simmering pot from which arose an overpowering
stench: he fled the spot, knowing the sinister character of the
venomous brew.

The sun was low when he returned to the hut, still unhappy over
Ahma's failure to appear. In a few minutes Terry entered the shack. He
had come from the direction of Ohto's house, and his face was cleared
of the perplexity of the last few days.

During supper Terry studied the moody face of his friend, but forebore
comment. At the hour of sunset--the hour when the superstitious
Hillmen looked for their "signs"--the savages thronged the clearing in
mute expectancy. It was apparent that Ohto's injunction had been
communicated throughout the Hills, as each night the crowd who waited
the sign was augmented by contingents from other villages. The
hundreds stood, silent, as the sun sank slowly into a horizon of white
clouds which flushed pink, brightened into shades of rose and crimson.
For a brief moment the upturned faces of the brown host were ruddied;
they stood motionless, mute, while dusk settled. Then night fell
almost at a stroke.

Again there had been no revelation. As the heaped fires illuminated
the clearing, five mature Hillmen stalked past the white men's hut and
into the forest. Terry identified them to the Major as the sub-chiefs
who ruled the five adjacent villages.

The Major sat in the window a while, watching the Hillmen, who
squatted around the fires smoking their ridiculously tiny pipes and
conversing in low gutturals. He fidgeted, then left Terry
unceremoniously and skirting the village through the woods unseen by
the crowd, he waited an hour near Ohto's house in the hope of seeing
Ahma. Disappointed, he returned and threw himself on the cot.

Terry sat in his accustomed place in the doorway, watching the fleecy
clouds that a high wind drove across the sky, vast sliding shutters
which opened and closed over the cool glow of the moon. The cold
breeze chilled the Major, and he drew his blanket tight about him.
Terry's voice roused him from his dejected reverie.

"Major, I notice that you didn't carry your gun to-day. Don't go
without it again."

The Major half rose: "Why--you don't think--I haven't seen any
indication of--"

"I guess you've forgotten that we are in the Hill Country. If they
find a 'sign' that is unfavorable to us--there won't be any delay. And
we don't want to sell out cheaply."

The grave judicial tones startled the Major. In his absorption in the
white girl he had lost sight of their precarious situation.

Terry went on: "The tide of sentiment is turning against us. They seem
more antagonistic, more sullen. So please be careful."

Terry lapsed silent and sat in the door, chin in hand. Soon the
increasing wind drove the Major under his blanket again, and overcome
by a curious feeling of comfort and security in the mere presence of
the slight figure huddled at the door, he soon fell asleep.

Terry, unmindful of the chill breeze, remained in the doorway, deep in
thought. Suddenly he brought his hand to his knee in quick decision,
and after tip-toeing over to the Major to be sure that he slept, he
silently departed the hut and skirting the edge of the moonlit
clearing, disappeared into the lane that led to the house where Ahma
lived.

       *       *       *       *       *

Toward morning the Major woke with a start, bewildered by an unearthly
sound that smote his ears. The wind had risen to a gale, tearing the
fleece from the sky, so that the moon peered down upon a sea of
treetops turbulent with the buffets of rushing air.

He sat up straight to relieve the thunderous humming in his head, then
comprehending that the amazing sound was a reality, he strove to solve
the source of the bewildering tones. A deep, low murmuring filled the
air, swelling in volume with each heavier gust which drove over the
mountain: the sound deepened and strengthened, mounting to a sustained
musical rumble that almost stupefied him.

"Ooooommmmmm-ah-oooommmmmmmm-ah-oooooo-ommmmmmm." The muffled volume
diminished, increased again with fresh burst of fleeting wind, and as
the wind subsided suddenly, the vibrant note fluttered, died away.

The Major had lived too long and too much to believe in the
supernatural but in the dark he found relief in the sound of his own
voice.

"Sus-marie-hosep!" he breathed. "Some ghost! No wonder they believe in
signs up here!"

He saw that the wind had blown shut the door into Terry's room.
Knowing his habit of ventilation he rose to open it, and as it swung
ajar he saw that Terry was not there.

He stood in the dim room a moment, staring out of the window at the
triple rows of huts which the moonlight had transformed into elfin
playhouses. Perplexity as to Terry's whereabouts gave way to deep
anxiety. Then his eyes caught the flicker of something white in the
shadowy grove that fronted Ohto's house. Looking closely, he watched
it flutter away among the trees, then a darker figure emerged from the
spot.

It was Terry.

The Major's big hands closed hard upon the bamboo sill. Ahma! Terry!
For the first time in his passionless life he felt the fangs of the
green-eyed monster.

An impulse to deceive, unusual with him, hurried the Major into the
folds of his blanket before Terry entered, but by the time Terry had
thrown himself upon his couch the Major was ashamed of the duplicity
and spoke to uncover the deceit.

"Terry, what was that infernal sound that waked me up a while ago?"

"The gale playing on the Agong, Major."

The Major said no more but tossed on the hard couch until daylight
shot through the trees. He rose at once and in a few minutes Terry
joined him, a little hollow-eyed with fatigue. The Major pointed at
his soiled shirt and breeches, then at the soaked leggings and shoes.

"Man, you're a sight! Fall in the creek?"

Terry grinned contentedly. "No. This waiting was getting
monotonous--so I fixed up a sign for them!"

"That infernal noise, you mean?"

"No. The wind always does that."

"Well, what did you do?"

Terry's grin broadened. "I'm not going to spoil it for you by telling,
but if you stick around you'll see a sizeable 'natural' phenomenon
within a day or so. In the east, too, the most favorable quarter!"

The Major could extract nothing further from him, so desisted after an
irate: "Well, you let me in on these stunts after this. You're all
in--and here I lay sleeping all night!"

Terry sobered. "Major, we did not need you--we got along all right."

"We?" Heartsick, the Major sought to plunge the iron deeper. But Terry
had slipped out to clean up at the creek before the girls should come.

That morning they noted that for the first time a number of warriors
hung around the village, watching the hut where the white men lived
with a studied insolence that proved their hostility. Pud-Pud was of
them, and loudest in his talk. At noon a large crowd had gathered,
composed of those most inimical to the strangers.

While the two stood near the entrance to their shack watching the
eddying currents of almost naked humanity they saw Pud-Pud detach
himself from his companions and swagger toward them, spear in hand.

The crowd watched him eagerly as he advanced to test the mettle of the
pale outlanders: Pud-Pud had boasted that he would end this suspense.

The insolent savage advanced, stopped ten feet from them and
brandished his weapon, his attitude one of utter contempt. He spat at
them.

Rage suffused the Major's face and his hand crept into his shirt
front, but before he could withdraw the gun Terry whispered a
restraining caution.

"I know him, Major,--a grandstander."

Terry stepped in front of the Major and returned the savage's stare. A
moment they battled, then the Hillman saw something in the white face
that disconcerted him, so that his offensive black eyes lost their
hint of insult, wavered, fell. As Terry moved toward him slowly,
Pud-Pud hesitated, then gave way before the stern visage of the
approaching American.

Terry, boring him with cold gray eyes, came faster: retreating rapidly
to maintain his distance from the white man, Pud-Pud hurried his
backward pace toward the ring of silent Hillmen who watched them.
Heedless of his steps, conscious only of an overwhelming desire to
maintain a safe distance from this purposeful white man whom he had
affronted, Pud-Pud backed away, eyes fastened upon the pale avenger.

Moving suddenly to the right, Terry forced him to alter the direction
of his hurrying footsteps. The rapid heels hit a bowlder and Pud-Pud
fell backward into one of the cooking places, his spear flying
aimlessly into the air as the sitting portions of his anatomy came
into contact with the red hot stones.

One howl and one swift contortion of outraged flesh lifted him from
the spot and he escaped through the crowd, followed by the mocking
laughter of the Hillmen. Terry picked up the spear and crossed the
circle of savages to hand it to the largest and loudest savage in the
group to which the braggart had belonged. He looked him full in the
eye with a significance fully understood by the onlookers, then
turned his back upon him and returned to the Major.

The Major was convulsed: "I saw what you--had in mind--when you
circled him toward it," he laughed. "It must have been hot with
nothing but a red G-string between his rump and those coals!"

But the incident was significant of the attitude of many of the
Hillmen. Inside the hut they examined their pistols carefully, Terry
insisting that the Major take two of his extra magazines.

The Major, in grim mood, left for a long walk. In crossing the
clearing he purposely cut straight toward a group of warriors who at
the last moment stepped sullenly aside to let him pass. Surlily
pleased with his little victory, he crossed the broad plateau and
struck down the slope, unconscious of his direction in the worried
fumbling of his problems and his hurt. He started down the first great
incline, distrait, sorely troubled. He crossed a green expanse where
grass had sprung up over the site of an abandoned clearing, and as he
reached the trees which marked its edge he was startled by the sudden
appearance of two Hillmen who stepped out to confront him, pointing
their spears toward the village in unmistakable gesture.

As he angrily struck another course he realized for the first time how
complete his absorption in Ahma had become. He had forgotten that he
and Terry were prisoners, had lost sight of the mission that had
brought him into the Hills.

Chastened, he slowly retraced his way to the edge of the woods and sat
down upon a windfall to think it all out. He blamed only himself. Her
interest in him, he thought dully, had been but a friendship natural
toward the friend of the one for whom she cared. Little things came
back to him: her expression when she watched Terry approach, the
sympathy that existed between them, little understandings which he had
attributed to nothing more than longer acquaintance. It suddenly
occurred to him that she had helped nurse him when he was ill. And it
came to him that he had given little thought to the days when Terry
had fought off death, had been heedless of what those days must have
been when Terry looked from the mountain deep into the valley of the
shadow, he groaned aloud.

He shook his head, miserably: "Here I've been, mooning around like
a--like a--and left him to do all the worrying--all the planning! Last
night I slept while he--" He cursed himself for a fatuous fool.

When he rose, the bitterness of spirit had left him, and his sacrifice
had been made, but his lips were white with suffering.

As he neared the village his course took him about the base of the
crag, and as he rounded the western side he heard the murmur of
subdued voices. He slowed and approached cautiously. A jutting
buttress of rock masked the talkers until he was almost upon them, and
as he turned this corner he halted in a wretched pang of the jealousy
he thought he had subdued.

Terry and Ahma sat on a bench of rock, their backs to him, unaware of
his presence. Terry's trim head was bent forward as if he studied the
western horizon; she leaned against him in gentle contact of firm
white shoulder.

For a moment the Major's heart thumped painfully, then the confusion
of the unwitting eavesdropper compelled him to make his presence
known. He did so with that fine discrimination and artful delicacy he
summoned in times of emotional stress.

"Hello," he said.

Both turned, and rose, unembarrassed. Terry's welcome shone in his
face, and Ahma was radiant with a quick emotion which, true to the
traditions of those among whom she had been reared, she made no effort
to dissemble or restrain. The Major dropped his eyes before the gaze,
noting, dully, how wind and sun had faintly tanned the neck and
shoulders and limbs. Sun and wind were patent, too, in the vigor and
elasticity of the slim, loose clad form.

"I'm teaching her English, Major," Terry said.

For a moment she maintained her searching of the Major's averted eyes,
then spoke a word to Terry and turned to go. A few steps took her to
the buttress, where she stopped and turned her eyes full upon the
Major, and spoke in English, teasingly:

"Hello, sir."

The Major answered in a voice that sounded harsh in his own ears and
watched her disappear around the corner. Then he spoke to Terry
without facing him.

"She does speak English!"

"Not much, yet. She really meant 'good-by.'"

They started toward the village slowly, each wrapped in his own
meditations. Passing round the eastern side of the cone, Terry halted
to gaze searchingly at the Great Agong hung over the stone platform
far overhead. Anxiety was evident in his manner as he hastened to
catch up with the Major, who had walked on.

The throng had gathered earlier than usual, the clearing was packed
more densely than upon any previous afternoon. The two Americans
avoided the clearing, passing to their shack directly through the
woods.

The Major dropped down on his bench and pillowed his head on what
remained of his pack, staring up at the grass roofing. Shortly the
serving woman appeared with their suppers, but neither moved, so she
placed the two bowls on the floor mat near where Terry sat and
withdrew noiselessly.

As the sun sank below the trees, the Major stirred out of his
melancholy and twisting over on the hard cot sought the reason for
Terry's long silence. Terry sat, as always, at the top of the crude
steps, gazing over the trees. The Major was shocked at the utter
dejection of the slumped figure, the pain that showed in the set
muscles of the thin face.

The Major sat up. "What is the matter, Terry? You aren't sick?"

"No, Major. I'm all right." His tone was weary.

"What is the matter! Is this suspense--"

Terry shook his head. "No, Major. It's something else--something home.
I expected--I hoped for some news before I came up--news I did not
receive."

A flash of memory, and the Major asked: "A cable?"

At the bare nod of head he jumped upright and reaching into his hip
pocket brought out his purse to extract the cablegram he had brought
up but forgotten. Crossing the little room, he dropped it on Terry's
knees.

Terry ripped open the envelope, hesitated, then unfolded the message.
And as the Major looked on, every vestige of care and patient
suffering left the white face, the wistful line was ironed from the
corner of his mouth and Terry stood up a joyous, vibrant youth.

He had read:

     Lieut. Richard Terry, P.C.

                                        Davao, Mindanao, P. I.

     At last the perfect Christmas gift. Am sailing immediately
     to claim it. Arriving Zamboanga January twenty-sixth with
     Susan and Ellis.

                                                  DEANE.

He carefully refolded the sheet and placed it in his shirt pocket,
then turned to the Major, his eyes darkened with such a joy as the
Major had never seen.

"This message will cost you a wedding present, Major!"

"What now?" asked the Major. Things were moving too fast since he
reached the Hills.

"It is from ... a girl. I left home--oh, foolishly. But she is on her
way over here, with my sister and brother-in-law. That's where the
present comes in!"

"But--but--what about Ahma?"

"Ahma?" Terry asked, in his turn astounded. In Terry's bewilderment
the Major understood that his own unhappiness had been unfounded. At
his shout of delight the Hillmen all turned toward the white men's
hut, wondering at the joyous antics of the strange pair.

In a few minutes the Major had calmed sufficiently to discuss their
affairs.

"But, Major," Terry asked him, "why did you think that we--Ahma and
I--that we--you know?"

"Why, everything. I saw you leave her early this morning over there in
the woods. Then, this afternoon--the way you sat together, and--and
everything!"

"Last night--why, she helped me fix up that 'sign' I told you about:
and to-day we were talking about you--she has asked me a million
questions about you--and about white girls. She has a jealous streak
in her--as you will learn!"

More explanations, and Terry suddenly reverted to their plight.

"Now everything depends upon that sign I fabricated. If it fails--or
if an unfavorable natural sign comes first.... You know I must be in
Zamboanga on the twenty-sixth, some way."

He lapsed into reverie. The Major fidgeted, reached for his hat and
stepped to the door, a bit shamefaced.

"Terry," he said, awkwardly, "if you don't mind I think I'll run over
toward Ahma's house. There is a lot to talk over with her now and I
guess I--"

His words were drowned in a resounding crash that blotted out all
other sounds. The village shook with the jarring impact of some vast
missile striking near, the air filled with the roar of shattering
rock and heavy rumble of sliding earth.

The Hillmen bounded upright at the first terrific crash and stood
transfixed, witless, superstitious fear written upon every brown face.

A dead silence followed the dying out of the last thunderous echoes,
then a child whimpered, another, and the women took up the whining
note. A warrior, one of the sub-chiefs from a neighboring village,
raised a braceleted arm in astounded gesture toward the crag.

"The SIGN! The SIGN!" he shouted.

The thousand heads raised as one, and taking up the cry, surged toward
the great cone, sifting through the timber like brown seeds through a
screen.



CHAPTER XVI

CIVILIZATION DAWNS IN THE HILLS


When the tumult had subsided, the amazed Major wheeled to face Terry's
quizzical grin.

"Well, Major," he said, "there is their merry little 'sign'! The darn
thing worked!"

The Major pulled him toward the door. "Come on," he exclaimed. "Let's
see what happened."

He hurried down the short ladder ahead of Terry and raced through the
strip of woods to where the mob was packed about the base of the cone.
The Major smashed an unceremonious pathway through the brown jam and
in a moment they stood at the foot of the crest.

A large segment of the huge pillar of rock had broken off and in
falling had carried thousands of tons of shale and eroded stone. The
immense rock, whose fracture and fall had precipitated the slide, lay
directly under the Tribal Agong, at which the Hillmen were staring up,
dumfounded.

Following their upward gaze the Major saw that the fallen stone had
formed the platform beneath the Agong, which now pivoted on its
granite bracket over a cliff which fell sheer for hundreds of feet
before curving into the stiff slope where crag fused into tableland.
The great black gong hung directly over them. Looking closely,
Bronner saw that it swung slowly in the evening breeze, and moved by
the same impulse that had impelled him the first time he stood beneath
it, he shouldered their way through the crowd to a safer position.

"You need not worry about its falling, Major. It will hang there for a
thousand years."

"I know it, but it gets me just the--what's that they're yelling?" he
exclaimed, as a swelling chorus of guttural shouts rose from the
excited throng.

"They are saying that the Tribal Agong can never be sounded
again--without the platform they can't reach it." As a new phrase was
caught up and repeated by hundreds of voices he added: "And now they
are calling for Ohto to interpret the sign!"

Several of the older savages tore out of the densely packed throng and
sped toward Ohto's house. In a few moments one of them returned and
announced that the chieftain would arrive shortly. The two white men,
absorbed in the drama, did not notice that four of the warriors who
had summoned Ohto had returned by another path and taken up their
position behind the captives, spears in hand, grim.

Ohto advanced slowly through the trees and emerged into the open space
about the crag. The Hillmen gave way respectfully and he walked to the
base of the cone through a wide lane opened up for his passage. Age
slowed his steps but he walked erect, his head held high in simple
dignity and gratitude for the silent homage his people offered.

Pausing near the base he surveyed the evidences of cleavage of the
ancient rock, the tribe's historic rallying point. Then he raised his
eyes to the Agong.

The dense circle of Hillmen bated their breath while the beloved
patriarch communed with the spirits of the long line who had heard the
happy song of the bronze-lipped gong. A deep hush pervaded the
plateau, now lighted with the last white rays of the dipping sun.

The sage turned to his people, his furrowed face burdened with an
added melancholy. His voice came low and weak, so that the assemblage
bent forward in strained silence to hear his fateful words. Terry
gripped the Major's arm, whispering the translation.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Listen, my children. We asked for guidance, and a sign is sent to the
east of Ohto's lodge--a happy omen.

"The breaking of this age-old stone betokens the breaking of our
ancient custom ... no longer will we bar the stranger from the Hills
... and those who are with us now may go in peace, or stay in peace."

He paused, and a great sigh of relieved suspense rose from the throng.
The four armed men left their position behind the two white men and
melted into the dense circle.

Terry gave the Major's arm a last ecstatic squeeze. "It's working out
just as we planned! I'll be back soon."

He raced through the trees toward Ohto's house, returning in a couple
of minutes to find Ohto still standing with bowed head before his
people.

A rustle of whispers roused him, and he raised his silvered head to
behold the loveliness of his stolen foster-child. Summoned by Terry,
Ahma had come out of the shadows of the trees and stood at the forest
end of the lane made for Ohto's passage through the crowd.

The old man extended his hand toward her in compelling gesture and she
went to him with the agile swiftness of a half-wild thing. A moment he
lightly stroked the rippling mass of hair, then he turned to his
people again.

"Ohto said that the Tribal Agong would ring for the marriage of this
white daughter of our tribe--but now--"

They followed his sadly expressive gaze to where the gong hung far out
over the cliff, inaccessible to human touch.

"Daughter, it _will_ be rung for you ... somehow.... Ohto has said it.
I hope to live to hear it rung ... when you have found him who is to
share your house--and after that, I do not care."

He paused again--lost in a patriarch's vague memories of other years.
Retrieving his vagrant thoughts, he caught the frank message of the
upturned face, a message which startled as it pleased him.

"Ah! You have found him, then? Let him step forth."

Ohto searched every brown face in the hushed circle, but none stepped
forward.

Ahma slowly turned her head toward where the two white men stood
apart, her eyes fastened upon Major Bronner. Terry gently pushed him
forward. Trembling, his tanned face bloodless, the Major advanced and
took her outstretched hand.

Ohto studied the Major, then turned to Terry. For a long moment he
searched the lad's strong face, a deep disappointment in his own,
before he again faced the two before him.

"I had not thought of this. But it will do. It is as it should
be--white will be happier with white. But ... will she stay until Ohto
joins his fathers?"

The Major hesitated, then answered the sadly anxious question with a
nod. He had no voice.

"Then she is yours ... after you have found a way to ring the Tribal
Agong for her marriage. Ohto never spoke in vain. Ring the Agong
first."

The Major's glance swept from Ahma to the lofty gong. His triumphant
joy gave way to deepest dejection. He saw no way to fulfil the chief's
requirement, and he turned despairingly to Terry, who had shouldered
through the crowd and stood beside him.

The Hillmen had accepted Ohto's interpretation unquestioningly. Their
chief had spoken. The unexpectedness of the new phase, the avowal of
love by the tribe's adopted daughter for one of the outlanders, had
appealed to the keen sense of the dramatic that is shared by all
primitive peoples. Their brown skins coppered by the rosy glow of the
setting sun, they stood in strained suspense awaiting the climax.

All but Pud-Pud. He jostled an avenue through the innermost ring of
Hillmen and leaped out in front of Terry, brandishing a short blow
tube he carried and laughing in shrill derision.

"Ya, white men! Now ring the Agong! Ring the Agong and get your woman!
I saw! I watched! And I laughed because I knew the Agong would never
ring again! Yeah! Now ring it!"

The Major was in no mood for finesse: with a vicious shove he sent the
vindictive Pud-Pud sprawling, then turned to Terry, worriedly.

"What are we going to do?"

Terry shook his head, at a loss. This was a contingency he had not
foreseen. He glanced penitently at the melancholy girl, at the old man
who waited, swept the circle of tense faces, then resumed his hopeless
contemplation of the gong overhead.

Swiftly Ahma broke the tableau. Dropping the Major's hand she darted
forward to where Pud-Pud had risen to his knees, her white foot
flashing up to dash from his lips the blow tube he leveled at Terry.
The venomous dart sped aimlessly into the air and fell outside the
ring of Hillmen.

Pud-Pud's violation of the sanctity of council roused Ohto to a wrath
terrible to see. All of the savagery, all of the unbridled fury of a
primitive, passionate nature mounted to his wrinkled face as he
pointed to the culprit with a majestic gesture that summoned the four
armed men. At a word they hustled the terror-stricken savage away to
await Ohto's judgment.

Ahma calmly returned to the Major's side and together they resumed
their hopeless contemplation of the Agong. He peered up till his neck
ached.

"Terry," he whispered, "to ring it you have to strike that little knob
in the center, don't you?"

"Yes."

Then inspiration shone in the Major's face. He eyed Terry covertly.

"Wish we had a rifle," he suggested.

Terry caught his meaning. He fingered his holster but shook his head.
"It can't be done, Major."

"Sure it can--sure _you_ can! I've seen you shoot!"

Terry shook his head but the excited Major insisted: "Try it. Rest
your gun on my head. Sure you can do it--and think what it will
mean--the Hills opened up for all time--think what it will mean to the
Governor--and to the Service!"

The hushed crowd stiffened as they saw the two white men draw back a
hundred feet, wondered as to the character of the strange black thing
the smaller drew from his leather pocket. They watched intently,
thinking to see sorcery wrought before their eyes.

Terry cocked the weapon and resting his wrist upon the tall Major's
head, sighted carefully. A thousand pairs of eyes focussed upon him.
Could the slim white man ring the gong by pointing a magic finger?

The Major, braced for the shock of explosion, felt the iron wrist
tremble, grow limp and lift away. He wheeled around to find Terry
shaking his head, uncertain, faltering. He slowly holstered the gun.

"Major, I keep thinking how I have deceived--this fine old man," he
said.

The Major stared at him, then exploded: "By making this 'sign' that
saved your life--and mine? Sus-marie-hosep! I've heard of those New
England consciences but--Sus-marie-hosep!"

Disgust, dismay, affection swept in succession across the Major's
countenance: affection held. He laid his hand upon Terry's shoulder as
he played his ace:

"Terry, I thought you had a date in Zamboanga on the twenty-sixth!"

The crowd then saw the white youth stiffen with swift decision, saw
him whirl to face the crag. For a moment he stood with eyes riveted
upon the Agong till the little knob swung toward him, then he bent
slightly at the knees and his hand swept back with a swiftness that
seemed to bring the pistol leaping to meet the extended arm. It raised
to the darkening sky, and the Hills awoke to the resounding crash of
white man's weapons. Six times Terry shot, but only the first two
reports were heard, for the others were swallowed in the booming of
the Agong.

The sound beat down deafeningly, seemed to enfold them bodily in its
mighty volume, blotting out all else. From the sounding board of cliff
it smote upon their ears in thunderous, sustained, musical tone.
Slowly, the note lessened in volume, deepened, and tumbled down in
vibrant waves that rolled on and on. The sonorous reverberations died
out, then surged again and again in ever fainter, ever deeper tones.

At last the air quieted, and nothing but the roaring in his ears
remained to convince the Major that the vast sound had been reality.
"Jimmy!" he exploded. "What a noise--and what shooting!"

A whisper of awe rustled through the surrounding ranks. Ignorant of
firearms, they thought the young American wielded some uncanny power
with his black weapon. Already distinguished as the first white man to
set his foot upon Apo, he was now regarded with a feeling akin to
worship.

Ohto was silent, lost in a protracted, inscrutable study of Terry's
face. At last the old man turned on his heels to sweep the circle of
his people for confirmation of his surmise. Satisfied, he raised his
hand for silence.

"There has been worry ... doubt ... among you--who should take up
Ohto's burden when he lets it fall ... soon. You are entering new
times, will meet new and strange things. To Ohto it seems best that he
leave his people under the guidance of a young and strong and kind
chief who knows all these strange things ... one who can lead you
safely into the new life. What say you, my people? Who shall sit in
Ohto's chair when he is gone?"

For a moment the multitude was silent as the significance of Ohto's
query sank into their slow minds, then a murmur of approval rose among
them, swelled into a deafening shout of acclamation.

"The pale white man! The pale white man!"

Terry understood. Uncertain, he turned to the Major, but Ohto
interrupted by addressing him directly.

"You have heard. When Ohto leaves--and it can not be long--he leaves
his people in your hands. You will be patient, kindly, gentle, with
them. That Ohto knows ... it is written in your face."

As Terry slowly bowed his head slightly in acceptance of the trust,
the delighted Hillmen stirred, whispered to each other. The hum of
voices grew louder but was instantly hushed by the dramatic gesture
with which Ohto extended his arm toward a low cotton tree that stood
at the edge of the woods. The thousand eager heads turned almost as
one.

Upon a slender leafless branch which extended at right angles from the
trunk of a _kapok_ tree two large gray wood pigeons had perched side
by side in the close communion of mated birds, heedless of the host
below them. Unafraid, tired, content with what the day had brought
them in the lowlands, they were happy in safe return together to their
mountain home.

In the hush which followed recognition by the throng, the limoçons
moved closer to each other, wing brushed wing, sleepy lids lowered
over soft eyes to shut out the crimson glory of the dying sun. Then
the little throats throbbed as they voiced gratitude to their Creator
in gentle, low pitched notes, lilting with the joy of life, plaintive
with the brevity of its span.

The sweet song died with the day, and as dusk reached down in brief
embrace of tropic earth, the birds winged side by side into the
darkening forest.

Peace settled upon the face of the old man who had made decision
vitally affecting the welfare of the people over whom he had ruled for
two generations. The limoçons had sung in the East. His fathers were
pleased with him.

A shout of fierce joy burst from the Hillmen. Then the women
surrounded the dainty white girl and bore her off to prepare for the
long ceremony with which the Hill People give in marriage. And the two
friends walked through the woods, arm in arm, silent, profoundly
humble.



CHAPTER XVII

"SUS-MARIE-HOSEP!"


Terry was happily engaged in remaking the Major's old pack for his own
use when the Major entered the torchlit shack. It lacked an hour till
dawn. Outside, the main clearing was dark, but the big fires which
illuminated the surrounding trees revealed the excited natives still
celebrating Ahma's nuptials in the clearing around Ohto's house.

Terry straightened up from his task and studied the face of his
friend: fatigue and happiness had softened the serious lines that had
given the Major an appearance of age beyond his years.

"Major, isn't the ceremony finished yet?"

"No, it takes forty-eight hours to get married up here--and only two
hours to get buried! But a month ago I would have said that it was
about the correct ratio, at that."

Terry grinned as he finished the pack and threw it on the floor near
the door, then sat beside the Major on the cot.

"Major, I want to send up a gift for Ahma by the first runner the
postoffice people send through. It's hard to decide what to give her,
because she is entirely different from other girls, and the usual
bridal gifts would hardly do. Can't you help me out?"

For a minute the Major pondered heavily: "How about a mirror? She is
twenty years old and has never seen her own reflection."

"Just the thing! Enter the civilizing influence of vanity in the Hill
Country!"

Terry drew a notebook from his shirt pocket. "Major, I have jotted
down a list of things we are going to need for this work up here. I
thought it would be better if I had a definite program to submit to
the Governor, with estimate of appropriations necessary, and so on.
First I listed those things you will need in order to build and
furnish your house: cook stoves, lamps, dishes, window glass, and so
on. I think I have included everything, so just run over those things
you will need to begin this work."

For an hour earnestly they discussed the problems the Major would
confront pending Terry's return to take up the work. They listed a
wide variety of needs--pigs, chickens, medicines, books, tools, seeds:
contingent upon the Governor's approval, they outlined several months
of planting, trail making, establishment of regular communication with
the lowlands, selection of school teachers, of a health officer--all
of the varied instruments needed for the initial work of elevating the
tribesmen out of their barbarism.

Dawn had dimmed their torches when they finished. For a while they sat
silent, Terry happy in the outcome of this strange adventure in the
Hills, the Major thrilling with the joy that had come to him.

The Major broke the silence: "Terry, I AM a chump! All this time I've
forgotten to tell you that a captain's commission is waiting your
acceptance in Zamboanga!"

He went on, slowly: "Are you sure that you can come back here for a
year--after your honeymoon? Maybe she--your wife--won't wish to come."

"Yes, she will." Terry was confident. "It will be for only one year,
and then--"

"And then what?" the Major demanded after a while.

"Then--back home, among my own people. I left home foolishly, Major. I
was restless--looking for a dragon to slay. But I have had a year in
which to think--and I see things differently. During the time I was
sick up here I--I ... well, I know now that a man need not cross the
world to find service: he can be just as useful in preventing bunions
as in--as in such lucky ventures as this."

"Preventing bunions?" The Major was puzzled.

But Terry did not answer. He had risen to finish his preparations for
the journey down.

"Just one more thing, Terry. You promised to tell me how you started
that little avalanche--the 'sign.'"

Something of the serenity faded from Terry's face as he turned to
explain: "I had been up there several times, and had noticed a deep
crevice that split the platform from the parent rock. It would have
fallen within a few months. I carried up some softwood wedges, drove
them into the fault, poured in a lot of water and expansion did the
rest."

The Major visualized the toil and peril of lugging heavy logs up the
spiral trail at night. "Why didn't you let me help?" he demanded.

"Well, Ahma kept guard for me, and that was enough. If I had been
caught I could probably have talked myself out of the scrape, but it
might have gone harder with you. Luckily the timbers I used for wedges
were buried in the slide."

The Major's face clouded swiftly: "Say, Terry! That scoundrel Pud-Pud
said that he saw you that night--he can ruin the thing yet if he
talks!"

Terry shook his head, a little sorrowfully: "No, Pud-Pud will never
talk to anybody about anything again. I got to Ohto too late: they had
already executed sentence."

"What did they do with him?"

"Shot him full of darts and turned him loose in the Dark Forest. So I
confessed to Ohto that I contrived the 'sign.' Of course I made him
understand that you had nothing to do with the--trickery."

"What did he say--what is he going to do about it?" The Major was
anxious.

"He had known about it all the time--his men have trailed every step
we have taken, watched everything we have done."

A slow blush mounted the Major's rugged features as he thought of the
possibility that secret onlookers had witnessed his meeting with Ahma
just before the wedding ceremony when he had sought to teach her the
White Man's customs of caress. The flush persisted as he turned to
Terry.

"There's one thing I forgot to ask you to buy for me. I want a good
talking machine, with plenty of records." He paused, then continued
abstractedly: "She can keep it in her house."

Terry looked up in astonishment. "In _her_ house? Aren't you both
going to live in the same house?"

"No. Not till you send a missionary up here to marry us. I don't
figure that two days of savage rites constitutes a marriage--but I'm
going to have a deuce of a time trying to explain it to Ahma!"

Terry nodded sympathetically and walked the springy floor a dozen
times, nonplussed by the Major's dilemma. Pausing in his preoccupation
before the open window he noted vaguely that the nuptial fires were
yellowing before the approach of dawn: a moment and he started
violently as the solution struck him and he whirled upon the dejected
groom with beaming countenance.

"Say!" he shouted, "I'm certainly not going down with you two only
half-married--she a bride and you not a groom! You forget that as
Senior Inspector of Constabulary I am an ex-officio Justice of the
Peace! Come on!"

He lifted the Major by the arm and shot him through the doorway with
an exuberant shove that left him no alternative save a jarring leap to
the ground. Terry landed beside him as light as a cat, and catching
him by the elbow he hurried him on through the woods and into the
fading light of the big fires that burned before Ohto's house.

Terry, his eyes dancing joyously, broke up the dance with which a
hundred Hill People were keeping the ceremonial pot boiling, and
despatched two women to fetch the bride, who had sought a brief
respite from the interminable ritual. Shortly Ahma appeared before
them, her dark eyes shadowed with fatigue, but radiant with
exaltation.

Understanding from Terry's few words that the Major desired that they
be united also in accordance with the rites of his own people, she
stepped quietly before Terry and took the Major's outstretched hand.
The crowd of natives, who had crowded about them, waited the alien
ritual curiously.

Ahma was clad in the white costume in which the Major had first seen
her. A scarlet hibiscus blossom, the Hillmen's nuptial flower, was
thrust in her black hair, but there was no other addition to her scant
covering.

Possessed of a sudden spirit of banter Terry turned to the Major:
"Before I begin, Major, I wish to congratulate you upon having won to
the bliss of matrimony without violating that bachelor formula which
you so often boasted."

"What formula?"

Terry's voice deepened in mimicry: "'No petticoats for mine!'"

A moment he enjoyed the Major's embarrassment, then composed himself
to the business in hand, happy, confident.

But--the competent Terry fumbled. Swept away in the exuberance of
having found a way out for the Major, he had forgotten that, never
having exercised his legal privilege of joining in marriage in a
province where all of the natives were either Catholic or Mohammedan,
he was wanting in the phraseology the ceremony demanded.

Vainly he sought inspiration in a sky chill with the pale lights of
daybreak. He shuffled his feet nervously, scowled at the ring of
brown-skinned spectators, looked at his watch. As the sweat of worry
appeared upon his white forehead he drew his handkerchief and wiped
his face vigorously, then blew his nose resoundingly. This last device
seemed to serve.

He turned to the serene couple who waited patiently: "Do you, John
Bronner, take this woman, Ahma--Ahma of the Hills, to be your lawful
wedded wife, to love and cherish and to--er--provide for?"

"I do," said the Major. He was proud of Terry--trust the Constabulary
to see a thing through!

Terry was triumphant in his success. He unconsciously drew up his
slim, muscular figure as he turned to the bride, focussing his gaze
upon the blossom in the waves of jet locks that tumbled smoothly about
the downcast head.

"And do you, Ahma of the Hills, take this man, John Bronner, to be
your wedded lawful husband, to love and to--er--care for when
he--er--is sick?"

She caught the groom's whispered instructions and grasped the
wonderful import of the unknown words that Terry had spoken. Twice her
silent lips formed the two words of response in soundless practice,
then she looked up squarely into Terry's eyes and pronounced them.

"I do."

Either the clear voice was too rich with gladness, or else she should
not have turned the starry eyes so suddenly upon him. Lost for a long
moment in the splendor of the vision opened up to him, he forced
himself back to the duty of the minute. But he was off the track
again.

He floundered for an opening. Bits of biblical and legal phrases
raced through his tortured brain, but none seemed appropriate to this
situation. The haunt of the dark eyes obscured his vision, the limpid
"I do," filled his ears. "I do." The significance of the words brought
him back to the point of interruption, and he turned to them,
desperate, vague.

"You do? You do, eh--you both do ... well, ... join hands! I do say
and declare this twenty-third day of January that you are man and wife
in accord with the law of this land, and now--"

He glared at the grinning beneficiary of the service, and finished:
"And now--and now what I--what God and I have joined let no man put
asunder ... till death do us part ... so help me God, Amen!"

In an agony of torment he ripped through the crowd and raced to the
shack, where the Major joined him after taking Ahma into Ohto's house.
It was now broad daylight, and the huts were emptying of the crowd
waking to take up the burden of fiesta.

Terry buckled up his pack, joining in the Major's mirth.

"But you are married all right. I will send you up a certificate as
soon as I reach Zamboanga, all signed and sealed and everything."

They became serious in thought of imminent separation. Now that the
time had come Terry dreaded leaving his friend alone in the Hills.

"I will relieve you in three months, Major," he said.

"You needn't hurry--don't forget I'm on a honeymoon, too!"

Terry hesitated, then risked the question that had been bothering
him: "After we come--what are you going to do? Will Ahma be ready to
go below?"

"No, she will not. I am figuring on leaving her here a few
months--your wife can teach her to--to dress, and all that. And I
can't take her away so long as Ohto lives. After that, I want to take
her to the States. She learns fast, Terry,--and I want her to see
Europe--she will learn a lot there, too!"

The old woman brought them their breakfast. The Major hurried through
the meal and left to secure a guide to take Terry down, explaining
that he would join him in the woods. Terry ate under the sorrowing
eyes of the faithful woman, and when he finished he presented her with
the only gaud that remained to him, the gold medallion from his fob.
She scurried out to display it, the proudest woman, save one, in all
the Hills.

Slinging the pack across his shoulders he turned for a last look at
the little hut that had sheltered him. Within its cramped walls he had
suffered, had known grave peril, and great joy. A hint of the old
wistfulness flickered about the corner of his mouth, then he left the
hut and strode through the clearing into the woods, halting to wave
cheerfully at the Hillmen who somberly watched the departure of their
future chief.

He dipped over the edge of the plateau and found the Major awaiting
him with Ahma and the young warrior who was to guide him down. From
where they stood at the edge of a wide glade they could see far down
over the tops of the trees that matted the slope. In the clear morning
air the mists which gleamed over the distant Gulf shone white as
billowed snow. There lay Davao! Davao, then Zamboanga, then--! A
fiercely glad light blazed in Terry's gray eyes, then darkened in
anticipation of leaving the Major alone and with that melancholy with
which all men face the knowledge that even as Life turns the pages of
existence into its happiest chapter, she closes each finished page
forever.

The Major spoke first. "This guide knows the shortest route. He will
take you safe past all the man traps--you should sleep but one night
on the trail. Give my regards to Lindsey, Sears,--everybody."

Ahma looked from one to the other, not quite understanding what they
said, but understanding fully what they did not say. That showed in
the face of each.

"Major, I have never said anything about your--how I feel about your
risking the Hills to search for me, when it meant almost certain
death."

Death!... For an instant the Major again stood helpless in the dark
woods behind Lindsey's plantation embraced in coils of steel that
quivered, and heard the crash of delivering shots.... He searched the
white face, in which the lines of suffering from a chivalrously
contracted fever still lingered. An extraordinary warm cataract
suddenly obscured his vision.

"Sus-marie-hosep!" he spluttered. "Good-by."

Their hands gripped hard in an abiding friendship, then Terry turned
to Ahma doubtfully, at a loss as to how to bid adieu to this creature
of the Hills who knew so few of the white man's words or usages. He
found, too, a source of embarrassment in her new capacity of wife. As
she gazed up at him he looked away in boyish confusion.

The Major grasped the situation and addressed her very slowly in
English: "Ahma, say good-by to him."

As she nodded brightly, understanding, the Major turned to Terry as
proud as Punch: "You see--she is learning fast! Can't you imagine her,
all dressed up and everything, in Europe?"

Terry focussed his eyes safely upon the white line that marked the
part in her hair, and carefully pronounced each English word.

"Ahma, I am leaving for a while. Understand?"

She bobbed the dark head: "I do," she said.

The memories wrought by the limpid "I do" were a bit unsettling. He
addressed the jet locks again: "Good-by."

She looked at the capable hand he extended toward her, puzzled at the
gesture, then looked at the Major. He said a single word in dialect
and her small white teeth glistened in a smile of comprehension. She
approached close to Terry.

"I know. You say--good-night. I know how--to good-night."

Her concentration upon the unaccustomed pronunciations was bewitching.
To relieve the strain of embarrassment he felt in her closeness to
him, he turned to the grinning Major.

"As you say--she _does_ learn quickly," he offered, rather vaguely.

She came closer still. "Yes, I know--how to--good-night!" she trilled:
"Good-night is kiss!"

She called it "Keez" but Terry understood. If he did not then he did
an instant later when he felt the clasp of warm round arms, the
molding pressure of a soft form and the swift impress of full
sensitive lips.

Loosed, he straightened up. His blush was explosive. Bewildered, he
shrugged the light pack higher on his shoulders and gestured his
readiness to the warrior who had stood watching the inexplicable ways
of these strange white folk.

Following the Hillman, Terry set off across the glade. Midway down the
green sward he wheeled.

"I should say she DOES learn fast!" he called. "You won't need to take
HER to Europe!"

The two stood watching him as he followed the powerful little savage.
As the forest swallowed up the slim form the Major blinked rapidly,
and gripped the little hand he held.

"Sus-marie-hosep!" he exclaimed huskily. "But won't they be glad to
see him in Davao! And in Zamboanga!"



CHAPTER XVIII

THE FOX SKIN


Terry pushed the hardy Hillman to his limit, so that when night fell
they were far down among the foothills, the Dark Forest behind them.
At daylight the Hillman was proudly mounting homeward, Terry's belt
tightly buckled about his naked trunk. The white man's last
dispensable possession had gone as a reward for the service.

Terry's joyous urge carried him swiftly, so that in an hour he dropped
out of the foothills and into the heat of the jungled lowlands. At
noon he climbed Sears' steps and dropped into a porch chair, his
clothes wet with perspiration and torn by contact with brush and
thorn, for he had cut straight through the woods.

He had nearly emptied Sears' water bottle when he saw the big planter
coming out of a wonderful growth of hemp. Sears advanced slowly, deep
in thought, not looking up till he had mounted the last step. At sight
of Terry's grinning features he recoiled violently, then as the lad
rose, he jumped forward to wring his hand furiously. Incapable of
coherent speech for several minutes, he at last mastered his vocal
cords.

"Man! I thought you were a ghost!" he cried.

Terry sketched his journey into the Hills, and added a brief account
of the experiences he and the Major had undergone. Learning that the
Major was also safe, Sears called a Bogobo boy and issued instructions
that sent him scurrying into one of the Bogobo huts. In a few minutes
he returned bearing a small agong and striker.

Under Sears' directions he hung it upon a pole in front of the house
and struck it sharply, again and again. As the deep notes carried out
through the still, hot woods Sears motioned to him to desist and
turned to Terry.

"Listen!" he exclaimed, intent, his hand on Terry's shoulder.

In a moment another agong, somewhere close to the south, sounded
several times, then another further away, then another, another. Soon
the noon stillness of the brush pulsed with the mystic multi-tones of
scores of far agongs rung from plantations. Slowly the murmur grew as
hundreds of agongs rung by Bogobos in the foothills took up the
signal, flooding the hemplands with a glad, bronze chorus.

Sears gripped Terry's shoulder hard, his eyes brimming.

"That's the signal we fixed up," he said. "Welcome home!"

He hovered over Terry, questioning, commenting, incredulous over the
Major's marriage, overjoyed that the quinine he had given Terry had
been a factor in his recovery. After lunch Terry borrowed Sears' best
pony and rode away with the planter's profane benedictions in his
ears.

He rode hard, but each familiar landmark, each twist in trail, each
sight of river, each expanse of glistening hemp plants, thrilled him
with a sense of homecoming. Once, drawing up to cool and water his
pony, he caught the sparkle of the sunny Gulf, his nostrils sensed its
tang, and with the surge of thanksgiving for the wonderful good
fortune that had attended him, he first realized the strain of the
past weeks.

Great as was his hurry to reach Davao--an hour's tardiness might mean
the loss of the weekly steamer--he spent a half-hour with Lindsey, who
had ridden out to the trail in the hope of intercepting him. From
Lindsey he learned more of the suspense that had hung over the Gulf
since his disappearance, the deep anxiety that had spread among the
Bogobos and silenced every agong in the foothills.

"And Terry--the night the Giant Agong rang up there--we most went
crazy!"

"We wondered if you heard it, Lindsey."

"Heard it! Heard it? It reached clear over on the East Coast. Boynton
heard it over there."

Terry pressed on. Three miles below he found Casey was out to meet
him, and further on, Burns. At four o'clock he dismounted to greet
some Bogobos whom he overtook on the trail. Pushing Sears' little
brown hard, he rode into Davao at five o'clock.

The plaza was crowded. Warned of his coming by the agong chorus, the
whole town had turned out, Americans, Filipinos, Chinese, several
Spaniards and Moros. The sleepy, dusty square waked to their noisy
welcome.

"_El Solitario!! El Conquistador del Malabanan!_"

Laughing, misty eyed with the warmth of their greeting, he stood in
the center of the jostling crowd, shaking hands, calling each white,
native and Mongolian by name. Then the Macabebes claimed him and swept
him into the privacy of the cuartel.

The jealous Matak had waited till Terry entered the house that his
welcome might be unshared.

"Master, I know you come back. All time I know," he assured him
gravely, then looked him over and sent out for the barber. Solemn and
efficient as ever, he hustled his master under the shower, helped him
into the first starched clothes he had known in five weeks, then went
into the kitchen to frighten the cook into greater haste in
preparation of dinner.

Barber shears, soap and clean linens restored Terry to his usual
nattiness, and he delighted the cook with the zest with which he
approached a good dinner after the weeks of the crude and
undiversified fare of the Hillmen. Halfway through dinner he beckoned
to Matak who stood with folded arms near the kitchen door as matter of
fact as though the routine of the household had never been disturbed.

"Matak, when is the mail boat due?"

"She come this morning, go noontime."

And this was the twenty-fourth. Terry's keen disappointment was
apparent to the watchful Moro.

"Master, you want go to Zamboanga?" he said.

"Yes. I must go as soon as possible, Matak."

"Take little boat Major come in. She still here."

Terry jumped up from the dinner table and hurried to the dock and
found the speedboat tied up alongside. After a hurried conference with
Adams he raced back to the house, where the forehanded Matak was
already packing his bags. Terry added a steamer trunk which held his
civilian clothes, and as dusk fell master and man stepped aboard the
frail craft. Adams was ready. A sharp thrust of foot quickened the
engine into life, and they swung in a short circle. Straightening,
motors roaring, the stern sucked deep as they sped in swift flight
into the south.

From his seat in the stern Terry watched the light fade out of the
western sky. The stars invaded the deserted field and dimly outlined
the rim of the mountains, a smooth line save where Apo reared high in
the west. For a moment the dark peak seemed lonely to him, but he knew
that the Major was happy on the pine clad height.... After Ohto's
passing, his own responsibility, the guidance of a child-tribe, would
be a heavy one ... a year of that, perhaps, and then--but first ...
his heart throbbed in vivid realization of all that awaited him in
Zamboanga.

Adams hovered about his engines, happy in Terry's return and in this
opportunity to render him service. Matak stretched out on a cross
seat, unhappy in the deafening roar of the motors and the rhythmic
rise and fall of the speeding craft in the smooth landswells.

As they rounded Sarangani in the middle of the calm moonlit night
Adams left the cockpit long enough to cover Terry with a thick
blanket, for he had succumbed to the monotonous chorus of the motors
and the lull of the bewitching night at sea.

As the calm weather held, Adams steered straight for Zamboanga,
putting out to sea in the little motorboat. When Terry woke Basilan
was in sight, and at five o'clock they rushed down the tidal current
of the Straits and eased into the slip alongside the dock.

Adams, grimy, worn with his long vigil, grinned contentedly under
Terry's warm thanks. Leaving Matak to secure a bullcart to transport
his luggage to the Major's house Terry hurried down the dock and
entered the Government Building. The clerks had left for the day but
at Terry's knock the Governor himself threw wide the door.

Profound thankfulness lit Mason's intellectual face. Grasping Terry's
hand he led him into the office.

"And the Major?" he questioned.

"Well--and very happy, sir!"

Keen-eyed, observant, in the moment of welcome the Governor had sensed
the new Terry, read the new contentment and confidence manifest in his
face and bearing.

In a few minutes Terry had sketched his experiences to his eager
auditor. The Governor contented himself with a bare outline, though
his eyes glistened. The Hills opened!

"Captain Terry," he said, "come in to-morrow and tell me the
details--I will give you the entire morning. To-morrow I will try to
tell you how happy I am in your safe return, and in the service you
have rendered this Government."

He rose, beaming with the news it was his privilege to impart.

"You had best run along now, Captain. You will find three
anxious--friends--awaiting you at the Major's house. They expected to
arrive to-morrow but caught the transport and docked yesterday. They
will be relieved to see you, for I had to tell them something of the
uncertainty we felt regarding your--whereabouts. Take my car, and run
along!"

And Terry ran along! He flew down the steps and into the automobile
and in three minutes was leaping up the stairway into the Major's
house.

Ellis, fatter, somehow absurd in tropic whites, met him at the
entrance. Meeting halfway around the world from where they had parted,
choking with the end of the dread suspense into which the Governor's
guarded references to Terry's disappearance had plunged him, Ellis'
big heart thumped in glad relief, but true to the traditions of his
lifetime environment he strove to repress it, to appear as casual as
though they had been in daily association. Pumping Terry's hand
spasmodically, he measured the ecstatic lad with extravagant care,
studied him from crown to heel.

"Dick, how do you do it?" he asked.

"Do what, Ellis?" Terry's voice was unsteady, too.

"Keep so fit in this oven of a country--you're as hard as nails!"

Terry's unsteady laugh rang through the big bungalow: "Go on, you
fakir--you're crying right now!"

Ellis was. He turned away as Susan rushed out of an adjoining room.
Laughing, sobbing, she threw herself upon her brother, held him away
to study his appearance, hugged him tighter, pouring out a volume of
questions she offered him no opportunity to answer.

Five minutes, and she recovered sufficient reason to catch the
significance of Ellis' vehement gestures toward the second of the row
of four bedrooms that opened off the sala. Understanding, she left
Terry and followed Ellis into their room, closing the door with a bang
intended as a signal to another who listened.

Terry waited, idly stroking the long frond of an air plant that hung
in the wide window near where he stood. He wondered, vaguely, that he
should be so collected, almost unconcerned, in the face of what
awaited him. He saw the door open slowly, wider, then arrest as if the
hand on the knob had faltered, and in the instant his self-possession
deserted him.

His heart skipped a beat, then accelerated into a heavy thumping that
seemed to fill the room with pulsing muffled roar. He moistened his
lips as the door moved again, opened wide.

Deane stepped into the room, pale, her wide blue eyes fixed upon him.
Slender, rounded, white of arm and throat, she had fulfilled
gloriously all of the fair promise of her youth. The rich heritage of
womanhood had stamped the softly curved form and the sweetly pensive
face. Virginal, she was a mother of men.

He faced her from the window, powerless to move, to speak, but there
was that in his eyes that made words unnecessary. Scarce breathing,
atremble, she saw the steady gray eyes blaze with a light no other had
ever seen, ever would see.

To him she suddenly became unreal, and his mind reverted to another
hour when they had stood facing each other. Again she stood before
him in the dimlit hall, sobbing, and with the memory came a surging
realization of what he might have lost. Unconsciously his last words
to her, spoken that Christmas night, sprang brokenly to his lips as he
held out his arms:

"Don't wait, Deane-girl, don't wait."

With the sudden deepening of the wistful lines of his mouth she felt a
burning rush of tears, and at his words she crossed to him, starry
eyed, full red lips aquiver.

There never was a merrier party of four than theirs that night. The
questions flew back and forth, answers clipped short by new and more
pressing queries. Ellis and Susan were full of the newcomers' interest
in the country, its peoples and customs. Deane, quieter, was
interested most in Terry's work, in Davao, in the story of the Hills.
Terry learned of the home friends. Father Jennings, Doctor Mather, Mr.
Hunter, a score of others, had sent messages to him. Deane had brought
special greetings from his friends on the Southside, and a garish
picture of little Richard Terry Ricorro. Half of her larger trunk was
filled with silver and linens which had poured in when news of the
purpose of her journey had sifted through Crampville.

They were seated on the cool veranda at coffee when the Governor's car
drew up outside the gate, and the chauffeur entered with a note.

     Dear Captain Terry:

     This car is yours throughout the stay of your--will not the
     word "family" soon properly cover all three of them?

     Please use it freely. I have another entirely suited for my
     present needs.

     I am very happy to-night, happy in your safe return and in
     the achievement you have wrought in the name of the
     Government it is my unmerited privilege to head. And this
     happiness will be the greater for knowing that you are
     driving through this glorious evening by the side of her who
     came so far to join her life with yours.

                                                  MASON.

After Terry had read the note aloud Deane added her pleas to his that
Susan and Ellis should share the car with them. But they would have
none of it. When Susan wavered, Ellis became emphatic.

So the two rode through the tropic night alone, that night and during
the glorious evenings that followed for a week. They came to know
every village along the ribboned roads, each grove of tall palms, each
stretch of beach where smooth highways ran along the coast. She loved
the island empire.

They talked as such do talk. The third night, as they rolled through
the moonlight down the San Ramon road, he found courage to broach the
one subject he had hesitated to mention.

"The Governor wants me to stay a year," he faltered. "A year up in the
Hills."

She had expected it, was ready. She looked full up at him, and in the
soft light her lovely face shone with a strange beauty that humbled
him.

"Dick, 'and thy people shall be my people.'"

       *       *       *       *       *

They planned their house in the Hills, bought and stored picturesque
odds and ends of furniture and fittings; brasses, embroideries,
carved teak: and he outlined their honeymoon, which was to be a
three-months' ramble through Japan, the magic lover's land. They
arranged no exact itinerary, just a wandering through Miajima, Kyoto,
Nikko,--a score of out of the way places.

The mornings he spent with the enthusiastic Governor, planning,
discussing. Two tons of supplies went out to the Major the fourth day.

"I put in an assortment of presents for him to give to the Hillmen,"
the Governor told him. "And plenty of matches--you say they went wild
over those he packed up. They will be rich!"

"Governor, the Hillmen are the richest people I have ever seen."

The Governor was puzzled: "How?"

"They have everything they want. Land for the clearing, a spear,
cotton growing wild on trees for such clothes as they wear, meat in
the forest, bamboo to cut for shelter against wind and rain, upland
rice springing up from barely scratched soils. No social striving, no
politics, no taxes. All their wants are satisfied--was Croesus as
rich?"

"Then you do not believe in civilizing them--it means introducing new
wants--some of which they never will satisfy!"

"Yes, I do, Governor. Civilization means doctors, less suffering,
longer life: schools and books: agriculture and better diet: commerce
and clothes: churches, and morality--and soap!"

The day came when Terry and Deane drove down the San Ramon road where
the Governor had preceded them, with Ellis and Susan and a score of
the new friends they had made in Zamboanga. Wade had insisted that his
spacious bungalow be the scene of their wedding.

Even before he had wrought the house into a fairy-land of palm and
cadena and hibiscus the great flowered sweeps of lawn and grove set by
the sea had been an ideal setting. Ellis, given his choice of
functions, had elected to officiate as best man, so the Governor was
happy in giving the bride away. Susan cried, as matrons of honor
always do, as she stood with them in the fret-work of shadows under
the palms which stirred gently in the off-sea breeze.

None of those most concerned remembered many of the details of the
evening, excepting Matak, who met there a young Moro maid and found
her fair.

They returned to Zamboanga under enchanting stars, and at nine o'clock
they saw Ellis and Susan leave, for they were returning home at once
through the Suez, taking steamer first for Borneo and Java. Their own
boat left an hour later for Manila, Hong Kong and Nagasaki.

Bidding Ellis good-by, Terry woke from the dream in which he had moved
through the afternoon.

"Ellis, do not sell the shoe store. We may be home in a year, and I'll
want to pitch into something."

"But you'd never fool with that after--after all this over here!"

Terry laughed happily: "You never can tell, Ellis. I am learning
lessons every day!"

Later, Ellis sought to dry Susan's tears. "Dick, you're a fine lover!
After all these years of search for things for Deane you failed to
give her a wedding gift!"

Terry flushed miserably, for it was true. But Deane thrilled the more
happily for the utter absorption in her that had expelled all other
things from his mind: she knew that Susan had prompted him to both
engagement and wedding rings.

From the pier they watched Ellis and Susan at the rail till the
altering course of the brilliantly lighted steamer swept them from
sight.

An hour later their own liner carried them northward through the dark
Straits.

The deck was deserted, dark. They sat close, in long steamer chairs,
watching the mysterious coastline of Mindanao, the shadowy masses of
distant mountains that seemed less substance than opaque obstruction
of the warm, starry sky. Neither spoke. It was the hour of fullest
gratitude, of mutual dedication. The night about them was filled with
that humming heard only on a big ship plowing through a calm sea after
sundown, the drone of light winds through lofty rigging, the heavy
slipping of displaced water, the muffled roar of great engines
throbbing in the deep hold.

Eight bells rang the midnight hour. Deane rose, whispering that she
had a few things to unpack, bidding him come in ten minutes. Leaning
over him, she smoothed his hair lightly with her two hands, curling
about her fingers the obstinate scalp lock that always would stand
forth from his crown. Reaching up, he took her cool hands and held
them tightly against his cheeks. Releasing her, he watched the
progress of the buoyant form down the long deck, his soul lit with the
flame that warms all mankind.

The moon, in its last quarter, peered over the dark rim of the
mountains. When its lower tip cleared, he rose.

When he joined her in their stateroom, her eyes filled happily as she
watched the fine, white face.

The fox skin lay on the cabin floor before her berth.


PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

       *       *       *       *       *

[Transcriber's Notes:

Every effort has been made to replicate this text as faithfully as
possible, including obsolete and variant spellings and other
inconsistencies.  The transcriber made the following changes to the
text to correct obvious errors:

1. p.  70, "Sear interrupted" changed to "Sears interrupted"
2. p.  81, "wierd-shaped" changed to "weird-shaped"
3. p.  96, "guaged" changed to "gauged"
4. p. 189, "move toward the fringe" changed to "moved toward the fringe"
5. p. 200, "spit into two factions" changed to "split into two factions"
6. p. 207, "beneath their eerie" changed to "beneath their aerie"
7. p. 219, "the swind swept crag" changed to "the wind swept crag"

End of Transcriber's Notes]





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