Nat the Naturalist - A Boy's Adventures in the Eastern Seas
by G. Manville Fenn
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He smiled as he knelt down and carefully smoothed the feathers of the great pigeon, thrusting a little cotton-wool into its beak to soak up any moisture that might escape and damage the feathers.

"We shall, I believe, find plenty of magnificent pigeons out here, Nat," he said, as I eagerly watched his acts, so as to know what to do next time.

"But I never expected to find pigeons, uncle, with gold and violet reflections on their feathers."

"Why not, Nat," he replied laughing, "when in dull, foggy old England, where there is so little sunshine, the pigeons and doves have beautiful iris-like reflections on their necks and breasts? Now for the thrush. There, Nat, that is a beauty. I should have felt that I had done a good day's work if I had only secured that dainty prize with its delicately harmonious coat of soft grey and blue."

"And it is a thrush, uncle?"

"Certainly. Look at the beak. This is one of the Pittas or ground-thrushes, Nat, of which there are a good many out in these islands. Some of them are, I believe, much more brightly coloured than this; but bright plumage is not all we want, my boy; it is new specimens, Nat. We must be discoverers as well as collectors."

By this time the lovely thrush was hung with the two pigeons carefully by the beaks to a long bamboo, and after we had explained to our black companion, by means of a little dumb-show, that he must carry the bamboo carefully, a task which, after a few skips and bounds to show his delight, he undertook to perform. We went on again, trusting to him to find the way back through the wilderness of great tree trunks, some of which rose, without a branch, to a vast height above our heads, but only to make up for it afterwards, for the branches then clustered so thickly that all the sunshine was shut out, and we walked in the deep shadow, save where here and there we found an opening which looked quite dazzling by contrast. Here it was that we found flowers growing, and saw traces enough of insects to make us determine to bring collecting-boxes another time, on purpose to obtain the glorious beetles and butterflies that we saw here and there.

"Look, uncle," I cried; "there's another, and another. Oh, if I had my butterfly-net!"

For I kept seeing beetles of dazzling lustre, and butterflies marked with such brilliant colours, that I was ready to throw down my gun and rush off in chase.

"Yes, this is a better collecting ground than Clapham Common, Nat," said my uncle. "We ought to have plenty of pinning out to do to-morrow night. To-day I hope to be busy enough making skins. Hist! Look at the black."

I had just time to save the bamboo with the birds from being thrown down upon the ground by our companion, who went upon hands and knees, and crawled forward a short distance to the shelter of some bushes at the edge of a bright opening, where the sun poured down like showers of silver light.

"He has found something," I whispered.

"Then you run forward, Nat, and see. Be cool, and take a good quick aim. I'll mind the birds."

He took the bamboo, and I ran forward to where the black was waving me on; but went more cautiously as I drew nearer, and a few moments later I was crouching in the shadow of the bushes at the edge of the opening, watching the objects at which the black was pointing.

I knew by means of my ears what birds he had found, before I caught sight of them, for every now and then a harsh shrill scream was uttered, and before long I could see across the opening quite a little flock of beautiful scarlet lories busily feeding on the clustering fruit of a tall forest tree, which, being close to the sunny opening, was covered with leaves and twigs, from the top to the very ground.

I was so utterly taken up by the beauty of the sight that I forgot all about my gun, but knelt there watching the lovely little long-tailed birds, climbing by the help of their beaks, in and out amongst the branches, sometimes hanging by their strong curved bills, sometimes head downwards by one or both legs, and always busily hunting for food.

I had seen stuffed specimens before, but they seemed so poor and common-looking beside the velvety softness and brilliant colouring of these smooth-feathered, lively, rounded birds, and I kept on enjoying the sight to so great an extent that I am sure the flock would have escaped had not my black companion shook my arm violently, and pointed to my gun, when, recalling the object of my journey, I raised it, took careful aim, and fired.

There was a shrill cry from the birds, and the flock took flight, but not until I had managed to get another shot, the result being that I secured three very beautiful specimens to take back to my uncle, showing them to him with a glow of pride.

"I want to be of some use, uncle," I said, for I had been afraid that he would think I could not shoot.

"Use, Nat! why, you shot one of those pigeons this morning."

"Did I, uncle?" I said.

"To be sure, my boy. At all events I did not, so it must have been you."

He was delighted with the three specimens I had secured, and saying that these would be as many as he could comfortably preserve that day, we went on exploring more than collecting, in what was to me quite a fairyland of wonders.

Perhaps long confinement on shipboard had something to do with it; but all the same, every place we came to had its beauties of some kind or another. Now it was a noisy stream leaping from the rocks in a feathery cascade; at another time, a grove full of curious orchids. Every now and then some lovely butterfly would start from flower or damp spot in the openings, but it was of no use to chase them then, my uncle said, for we had no means of preserving them.

"Let's collect, Nat," he said, "and make a splendid set of cases of birds and insects; but let's have no wanton destruction. I hate to see birds shot except for a purpose."

"We shall have to look out, uncle," I said, laughing, "for it is hard enough work to walk on this ground; I don't know how we shall run."

In fact, when we got back to our hut, after shooting a couple more pigeons, our shoes were showing already how sharp the rocks were that formed a great part of the ground over which we tramped.

I almost wondered at my uncle shooting two more pigeons, as we had already a couple, but I found out the reason when we reached home, as we called it, to find that everything was in its place; no one apparently having entered the hut, from which our black guide now took his spear, and without another word hurried away.



"I hope Master Ebony is not offended," said my uncle, wiping his face. "Perhaps it is only his way. Now, Nat, get some sticks and make a good fire, while I lay the cloth and cook. That's the evil of being alone, we have to prepare and cook for ourselves; but we'll have a treat to-day."

I soon had a fire burning, and then watched Uncle Dick as with sharp knife and clever fingers he quickly skinned the four pigeons, placing their skins where they would not dry, and then busying himself over the birds.

"Won't you have some dinner first, uncle?" I said, for I was terribly hungry.

"First? No, my boy, not till we have cooked it. You don't want to eat your birds raw, do you?"

"What! are you going to eat those—those—"

"Pigeons?" he said, as I hesitated. "To be sure, Nat; why not? Do you suppose that because birds have bright feathers they are not good to eat?"

"Well, no, uncle," I replied, as I thought of pheasants, and that at one time people used to eat the peacock; "but these birds have green feathers." It was a very stupid remark, but it seemed the only thing I could then say.

"Ah! they'll be none the worse for that, my boy," he said, laughing, as he removed the birds' crops on to a great leaf which I held for him. "We'll examine those after dinner, Nat, so as to see on what the birds feed. If I'm not mistaken they eat the large fruit of the nutmeg for one thing."

"Then they ought to taste of spice, uncle," I said, laughing.

"Wait a bit, Nat, and you'll see how good these fruit-pigeons are. Now, cut with that great jack-knife of yours a good sharp pair of bamboo skewers, or spits, and we'll soon have the rascals roasting. We can't eat the insects, but we can the birds, and a great treat they will be after so much shipboard food."

"That they will be, uncle," I said, as the pigeons, each quite double or three times the size of one of our home birds, were stuck before the fire, and began to send out a nice appetising smell.

"Then you won't be too prejudiced to eat them?" he said, laughing.

"Oh, uncle!" I said, "I'm so hungry I could eat anything now."

"Well done, Nat. Well, my boy, as long as we get plenty of specimens to skin we sha'n't starve. Turn that skewer round. That's right; stick it tightly into the sand, and now let's have on a little more wood. Pick up those old cocoa-nut shells and husks, and put on, Nat."

"Will they burn well?" I said. "I was afraid of putting out the fire."

"Splendidly, my boy. The shells are full of oil, and will send out a capital heat."

We were obliged to nibble a biscuit while we waited, and anxiously watched the frizzling and browning birds, for we were terribly hungry.

"I hope they won't be long, uncle," I said.

"So do I, Nat," he replied; "but what a splendid dining-room we have got out here! Isn't it lovely, my boy, under this blue sky and shading trees?"

"Hundreds of times better than going to a picnic at Bushey Park, uncle," I said. "But you talked of eating the birds we shot. Thrushes would be good, wouldn't they?"

"Delicious, Nat, only so very small."

"But you wouldn't eat parrots, uncle, lories, and paroquets, and these sort of birds?"

"Why not?" he replied, turning his skewer, while I imitated him, it seeming to be settled that we were each to have a couple of pigeons for our dinner.

"I don't know why not, uncle," I said thoughtfully, "only it seems so queer to eat a Poll parrot;" and as I spoke I could not help thinking of poor Humpty Dumpty, and all the trouble I had had. "It seems queer," I said again.

"But why does it seem queer, Nat?" he said, smiling. "Come, my boy, you must throw aside prejudices."

"Well, you see, uncle, they have got such hooked beaks," I said, in a helpless sort of way.

"Ha! ha! ha!" he laughed. "Why, what a reason, Nat! I might as well say I would not eat snipe, or woodcock, because it has such a long straight beak. Turn your skewer, Nat. They are beginning to smell maddeningly nice. They're as fat as butter. Nothing like a walk such as ours to give you an appetite. There, take the big tin and go and fill it with Adam's ale."

I ran to the rock pool and filled the tin with the cool clear water, and came back to the fire.

"They'll soon be done, Nat," said my uncle. "Yes, my boy, I should eat parrots, and shall eat a good many, I hope. Why, look here, Nat, what do parrots eat?"

"Sop and seed and sugar," I said.

"Yes, when they are shut up in a cage at home, Nat; but fruit, my boy, in their native state. There, you may take that as a rule, that all birds that live on seed or fruit are good for food."

"And those that live on prey, uncle, are bad," I said.

"Well, no; that won't do, Nat. Parrots are delicious. I've eaten dozens. And so are some birds that live on small prey—ducks and geese, for instance, eat a great many live things; and the birds that live on insects are, some of them, very good. I think we may say birds of light diet are all good, and draw the line at all carrion or raptorial birds. I should not like to eat hawk, owl, or anything of the crow family; but there is no knowing, Nat, what we might do if half-starved, and that's what I am now. Nat, my boy, the birds are done. Now for a glorious feast! I'm sure I shall pick the bones of my two."

"And I'm sure I shall, uncle. I was never so hungry in my life."

"Then now to begin, my boy; give me that tin plate and say grace, if we are in the wilds. What's become of all the savages?"

"Oh, uncle!" I cried, "here comes our guide. He wasn't offended."

"Thunder!" cried Uncle Dick, with a comical look of disgust; "he has come back to dinner."

"Yes, uncle," I groaned, as I looked at the pigeons; "and he has brought two great hungry fellows with him."

"Fetch the guns, Nat," cried my uncle in comical wrath; "let's fight in defence of our prey. No, don't; we must bribe them with biscuits to go."

Uncle Dick looked at me in a miserably resigned way, and it all seemed so droll that these blacks should come up just as we were preparing for such a feast, that I leaned back against the cocoa-nut tree by the fire and laughed till I cried.



I was wiping the tears from my eyes as Mr Ebony, as uncle called him, came up, carrying something in a great palm leaf, while his companions had something else in a basket.

Mr Ebony was grinning tremendously. Then he said something, and the two others went away, while our black guest, for that he evidently meant to be, sniffed at the pigeons, rubbed himself, and danced with delight.

But we had wronged him, for he was not going to behave shabbily, for, taking the basket, he rolled out of it a dozen great fruit, half being cocoa-nuts, the other something nearly as large that I had never seen before.

Then he nodded and grinned, and had another bit of a dance before unrolling the huge palm leaf, and showing us four good-looking fishes, each twice as big as a large mackerel, and so fresh that one was hardly now dead.

Mr Ebony grinned and danced again, nodding at us both, and saying something in his tongue which sounded to me like, "Now we'll have such a jolly tuck-out;" but of course it was not that, though it evidently meant as much.

The next minute with wonderful skill our visitor had cut some bamboos with a kind of adze he had in the cord round his waist, slit open and cleaned the fish with a sharp-pointed piece of wood, and then got each one stuck on a piece of bamboo to roast before the fire.

He was like a man on springs; he did things so jerkily and quick, jumping up and rushing off, to come back laden with wood for the fire, some of which he carefully put on, and then nodded and grinned and rubbed himself.

"Well, Mr Ebony," said my uncle, smiling, "you are really not a bad fellow after all; and as you have come to dinner in full dress I am very glad to see you, and let's fall to. By all the rules of etiquette, my dear sir, soup comes first, sir. We have no soup. Fish follows next, but, my dear carbonaceous-looking friend, the fish is not done, while the pigeons are, so sit down. Nat, my boy, give our honoured guest a tin plate and a biscuit. Monsieur Ebony—pigeon?"

As my uncle spoke he pulled up his bamboo spit, and, taking hold of the sandy end, he presented the other to our visitor, who took hold tightly, watching my uncle the while as he drew his hunting-knife, and, with a dexterous chop, divided the bamboo in two, leaving each with a pigeon.

"Come, Nat, boy, fall to. That other pigeon will have to be divided."

Then there was silence as I helped myself to the great pigeon, and we began to eat with such a sense of enjoyment as I never felt before; but when my uncle and I were half through our pigeons Mr Ebony had finished his, and was casting furtive glances at the one still frizzling and browning before the fire in company with the fishes, which our guest carefully turned.

"Give him the other pigeon, Nat," said my uncle, "and we will make up with fish;" so I offered it to our visitor, but he shook his head, and began chattering, pointing to the fish, which he kept turning; and as soon as one was done, looked with a good deal of natural politeness to see if we were ready; but as we were not, he threw his bones over his head—of course I do not mean his own bones, but the bones of the pigeon, which he had crunched up with his white teeth, like a dog, and began at once upon his fish.

Leaving the fourth pigeon stuck upon the spit, we now in our turn each tried a fish, which Uncle Dick said were a kind of perch, and very delicious they were, especially with the addition of a little pepper, of which, after the first taste, our visitor showed himself to be very fond; and taken altogether, we made a most delicious repast, without thinking of the dessert which had yet to come.

This our visitor commenced after he had eaten a second fish, chattering away to us, and opening the nuts with great skill, giving one to each of us, so that for the first time I tasted what cocoa-nut really was like. Not a hard, indigestible, sweet, oily kind of woody kernel fast round the shell, so that it was hard to get it off; but a sweet, soft pulp that we cut and scraped out like cream-cheese, while it had a refreshing slightly acid flavour that was most delicious.

I never saw anyone before like our black friend, for no sooner did he see by our looks that we enjoyed his cocoa-nuts than he jumped up and danced, laughing with pleasure, but stopping every now and then to have a taste himself, till we had finished, when he took one of the other great nuts, which I saw were thorny, and marked down the sides with seams, as if ready for opening by means of a knife.

"That is not cocoa-nut, is it, uncle?" I said, looking curiously at the great wooden fruit, as the black proceeded to split it open with his hatchet, inserting the blade very cleverly so as to get it open, with the result that a very unpleasant odour arose.

"It don't seem to be good, whatever it is," said my uncle. "Why, it must be the durian, Nat," he said eagerly. "I wanted to see that fruit."

"But it does not seem good to eat, uncle," I said, as I looked at the portion given to me, which appeared to be full of a kind of custard with big seeds inside, about as large as a chestnut.

"They say it is delicious," he replied, helping himself to a little with the blade of his knife. "Taste away."

I tasted, and he tasted, the black watching us attentively; and no sooner did he see the face I made than he became tremendously excited, jumping about, making smacking sounds with his lips, and rubbing himself to show how good it was. Then, still seeing that we did not get on, he opened another, and taking half began to eat rapidly, dancing about with delight and rolling his eyes, to explain to us that he was having a most delicious feast.

"Perhaps this is a better one," said my uncle, stretching out his hand for the untouched half, but upon tasting it he did not find it so satisfactory as that which we had, and we made a very poor dessert, as far as the durian was concerned, greatly to our friend's chagrin.

The meal being at an end, we each took a hearty draught of the pure water, and offered the tin to our guest, but he shook his head and kept on making signs as he cried out:


"What does he mean, uncle?" I said. "Look, he is pretending to pour something into the water. He means arrack."

"Yes, and he will not get any, Nat—neither arrack nor brandy. Those are for medicines, my boy; but go and get one of those small bottles of raspberry vinegar, and I'll give him some of that."

The black watched me intently as I fetched the little bottle of rich red syrup, and kept his eyes upon his host, when, after emptying all but about half a pint of water out of the tin, my uncle poured out a table-spoonful of the syrup into the clear water and stirred it up, offering it afterwards to the black, who took it, smelt it suspiciously, and then handed it to me.

I drank a portion, and found it so good that I finished it, to our guest's amazement and disgust; but the cup was soon replenished, and now he tasted eagerly, drinking it up, and then indulging in a fresh dance.

"Now for work," said my uncle. "Let's clear away, Nat;" and the remains of the dinner having been carried into the tent, the box of requisites was brought out, and with the black squatting down upon his heels to watch us attentively, I helped Uncle Dick prepare his first skins.



The process was very simple, for he took the thrush and the lories, inserted a sharp-pointed penknife just through the skin, and then with clever fingers turned the delicate skin back, taking care not to injure the feathers either by the moisture of the bird's flesh or by handling and roughening the plumage, the result being that he skilfully turned the skin inside out after cutting through the legs and wings, cleaning the bones of flesh, and leaving in the skull, after stripping the bird right to the beak.

It was surprising how beautifully clean everything came away, so that when the fleshy side of the skin had been brushed over with moistened arsenical soap, the wing-bones tied together, the hollow of the skull and orbits of the eyes filled up with cotton-wool, and a ball of the same placed for the body, the skin being turned back over all and slightly shaken, a stranger would hardly have known that the flesh of the bird had been removed.

There was no odour except the aromatic scent of the preserving soap; and when a little sugar-paper had been twisted up into which to thrust the bird's head and shoulders to keep the neck short, and the bird had lain in the sun for a few hours, it became quite stiff and dry, exactly like the skins with which I was familiar.

Uncle Dick insisted upon my doing the thrush and one of the lories, while he did the pigeons, whose skins were so tender, and so covered with oily fat, that they required a great deal of care to keep the feathers unsullied.

I set to work then, skinning my birds pretty readily from old practice, and after a little bungling I managed to make of them respectable-looking skins.

"You'll soon improve, Nat," said my uncle, as we laid our specimens all together in the sun, the black nodding his approval at all we did; but the skins had not been lying there long, and our hands washed previous to putting on the kettle for tea, before our new friend jumped up in a great state of excitement, pointing to a reddish-brown streak that seemed to run from the wood nearly to where our specimens lay.

"Ants!" exclaimed my uncle, darting to the skins, and shaking off a few of the enemies that had come to the attack; and it was not until we had contrived to make a little channel all round one of our boxes upon which the skins were laid, and connected it with the little spring of water, so that our treasure was surrounded by a tiny moat, that we could keep the insects away.

Our black friend, who was evidently a great chief among his people, made no scruple about stopping to have some tea with us, watching the boiling of the kettle and our preparations with the greatest of curiosity, but always in a calm, composed way.

"It is rather a nuisance always having him here, Nat," said my uncle; "but we should be bothered with a good many more if he were to go, and really he does not seem a bad sort of fellow."

He certainly was not, for though he ate heartily of anything we gave him, he was as generous as could be, going off to return with men laden with fruit, fish, and a kind of sago, which was not at all bad boiled up and sweetened.

I missed a good many things such as I had been used to, but so far it all seemed to be glorious fun, and that night I lay down to rest looking through the open doorway at the stars, breathing the soft warm air, and dropping off into a delicious sleep, to dream of home, and Uncle Joe in his garden, smoking his long clay pipe.

I was awakened at daybreak by some one touching me, and on opening my eyes I started with dread as I saw a black face close to my own, and a grinning set of white teeth.

I knew directly who it was, though, and getting up I saw that my uncle was still peacefully sleeping off the previous day's fatigue.

I was going to rouse him, but Mr Ebony pulled me by the arm to come without waking him.

My next movement was to get my gun; but again our black friend objected, pulling at me half angrily, and I accompanied him outside into the cool grey morning.

I hesitated to follow him for a minute, thinking that I ought not to leave my uncle; but I could not help thinking that we were quite helpless amongst these savages if they chose to turn against us, and therefore all we could do was to cultivate their good-will.

Mr Ebony, whose black mop of hair stood out more fiercely than ever, was watching me attentively, scowling fiercely, as I thought; but as soon as I prepared to follow him he began to grin and chatter away to me, keeping on repeating the word "Ikan-Ikan," till we were down in the half darkness by where the waves lapped the sand; and now I saw a good-sized canoe with half a dozen men waiting, all looking, with their paddles in their hands, like so many fierce black executioners, prepared to make an end of me.

Mr Ebony signed to me to get into the boat, and feeling that perhaps they might be going to make a prisoner of me and take me to another island, I asked myself whether I ought not to resist; but seeing how useless it would be, I resigned myself to my fate, jumped into the canoe, Mr Ebony followed; and with no singing and splashing now, but in utter silence, we pushed off over the grey sea.

"Where are we going, I wonder?" I said to myself.

"Ikan, Ikan," said Mr Ebony, shaking something in the bottom of the canoe.

"Ikan! where's that, I wonder?" I said to myself. "Why, these are fishing-lines. Ikan, fish," I exclaimed, pointing to the lines and then to the sea, making as if to throw in one of the lines.

"Ikan, Ikan," cried Mr Ebony, grinning with delight, and then he touched my hands and the lines, and patted my back—dancing about afterwards till he nearly danced overboard, after which he became a little more calm, but kept on smiling in the most satisfied way, and shouting "Ikan, Ikan;" all the others saying it after him, as if highly satisfied, and when to please them I said "Ikan, Ikan," they uttered a shout, and I felt quite at home, and delighted at having come.

I don't know how it was, but as soon as I felt satisfied that they were not going to do me any harm I began to learn how much they were all like a set of schoolboys of my own age, for big, strong, well-made men as they were, they seemed to be full of fun, and as young as they could be.

They paddled swiftly out and away from the land, working hard to send the great canoe well along over the long rollers that we seemed to climb, to glide down the other side; and, with the exception of the heaving, slow rolling motion of the sea, all being deliciously calm, I thoroughly enjoyed my ride, especially as Mr Ebony, who was evidently a very big man amongst his people, had taken a great liking to me and kept on drawing my attention to every splash on the surface of the water, and then to the busy way in which he was preparing his coarse fishing-lines.

I suppose there are some boys who never cared for fishing; but however cruel it may be as a sport, I must confess that I was always passionately fond of it, and now to be out on this tropic sea before sunrise, with the stars seen faintly here and there, the blacks keeping up a rhythmical motion of the paddles, and the water lapping up against the bow of the canoe, I felt an indescribable kind of delight that no words of mine will put on paper.

I should think we paddled about a couple of miles, and then at a word from Mr Ebony the paddles were all laid in, and a line, with its great coarsely-made hooks formed out of well-sharpened pieces of brass wire, was handed to me, my guide showing me how to throw it over the side; not that I needed showing, for it seemed to come quite natural; and I began to think, as I passed the line over, of the sticklebacks on Clapham Common, and the occasional carp that we schoolboys used to catch.

Mr Ebony grinned with satisfaction, and threw his own line over the side just as a splash behind me made me turn in time to see a rope running out rapidly, evidently attached to some kind of anchor.

This checked the canoe, which was floating along so fast that it had begun to ride over our lines, which now, however, floated away upon the swift current.

There was no noise or chattering now, but all the blacks sat or stood very quietly in the canoe, and I saw that three of them had long spears, barbed like hooks, and looking as if they were meant for catching fish.

There was a good length of line in my hands, which I kept on paying out, as the sailors call it, just as Mr Ebony was letting out his till it was nearly all gone, and I saw that the end was tied to the edge of the canoe. But still there was no sign of any fish, and I was beginning to stare about me, for just then a patch of golden light seemed to start out into view, and I could see that the tops of the mountains in the island were just catching the first rays of the sun, while the stars that had been looking so pale seemed to go out quickly one after another.

"I wonder whether Uncle Dick is awake yet," I thought to myself, "and what he will say to my being away, and—"

An exclamation from my black companion brought me back from my dreamy thoughts; not that it was necessary, for something else had roused me, and that was a sharp jerk at the line, which snatched it quite out of my hands, and had it not been fastened to the side of the boat I should have lost it.

Mr Ebony was coming to my help, but seeing me dart at it again and, catching hold, begin to haul in and struggle hard with my fish, he rubbed himself and grinned, especially when he saw that I had to hang on with all my might to keep from being dragged out of the canoe.

The next moment he had enough to do to manage a fish that had taken his bait, and to keep it from crossing my line so as to get them into a tangle.

It was quite startling for the moment to have hold of so strong a fish, one which darted here, there, and everywhere; now diving straight down, now running away out to sea, and then when I thought the line must snap, for it made tugs that cut my hands and jerked my shoulders, I uttered a cry of disappointment, for the line came in slack, and the fish was gone.

It puzzled me to see how coolly the others took it, but I supposed that they were used to losing fish from the badness of their tackle, and besides, there was evidently a big one on Mr Ebony's line to take their attention.

"I wonder whether he has taken the hook," I thought to myself as I carefully drew in the line, coiling it neatly down between my legs, yard after yard, till I had pulled in at least fifty yards of the coarse cord, when, to my utter astonishment, there was a sudden check or rush, and the line began to run rapidly out again, my fish being still there, and I saw now that it had made a rush in towards the canoe, and then lain quite still close to the bottom till I had disturbed it by jerking the line as I hauled it in.

The rest that it had had seemed to have made it stronger than ever, for it darted about at a tremendous pace, and I was still playing it, letting it run when it made fierce dashes, and hauling in the line whenever it grew a little slack, when there was a bit of a bustle by my side as Mr Ebony drew his fish close up to the side of the canoe, and one of the blacks darted a barbed spear into it and lifted it into the canoe.

It was a beautifully-marked fish about three feet long, and as I glanced at it I wondered whether mine would be as big; and then I thought it must be bigger, it pulled with such tremendous force; but at last its struggles grew less and less powerful, and twice over I was able to draw it nearly to the surface, but only for it to dart away again, and I thought it was lost.

It seemed to excite a good deal of interest amongst the savages, two of whom stood, one on either side of me, ready with their spears to make a thrust at the fish, and one of them stretched out his hand to take the line from me, but Mr Ebony uttered such a fierce exclamation, and caught so angrily at a paddle, that the man drew back, and after a long and gallant fight I at last drew my fish so close in that, just as it was in the act of dashing off again, a couple of spears transfixed it, and it was drawn over the side amidst a shout of triumph.

Mr Ebony, who was the most excited of all, patting me on the shoulders and shaking hands most eagerly with one of the savages, took out the hook, the line was thrown over again, and I had time to examine my prize, a splendid fish, flashing with glorious colours in the morning light. It was over a yard long, and very thick and round, while its glistening scales were as big as shillings at the very least; in fact I don't think I should exaggerate if I said that some in the centre rows were as large as two-shilling pieces, fluted and gilded, and some tinged with orange and glistening scarlet and green.

So great was the delight of all on board that they began to dance and sing with such vigour that the canoe rocked about, and one man went head over heels out into the sea.

I was horrified as I saw him disappear, but he was up again, grinning hugely, and slipped in over the side of the canoe like a great black eel, giving himself a shake to send the water out of his mop of hair, and then sitting down to watch us fish.

For quite half an hour now we caught nothing, but it did not seem to matter, for there was so much to look at as the glorious sun rose over the sea, turning it into orange and gold; while, when I was tired of that, the beauty of the trees and mountains on the island, with the endless changes of light and shade, made my heart beat with pleasure as I thought of what a lovely home these savages possessed, and it seemed to explain to me why it was that they were all so childlike and happy.

I caught another fish then of seven or eight pounds weight, different to the others, and Mr Ebony caught seven or eight quickly one after the other, I suppose out of a shoal, and then, laughing and chattering once again, the anchor, which proved to be a curious elbow, evidently the root of a tree, sharped at its points and weighted with a lump of coral, was hauled up, placed in the stern of the canoe, and we turned for the shore.

"What a morning for a bathe!" I thought, as we drew nearer; and starting up in the canoe when we were about a quarter of a mile from the land, I began to take off my things, meaning to swim ashore, where we were within a couple of hundred yards; but Mr Ebony stopped me, saying something I could not understand of course.

"I'm going to swim ashore," I said, making believe to leap overboard, and then striking out with my arms; but my companions all chattered angrily, and Mr Ebony, to my horror, came at me, snapping at my arms and legs with his great white teeth, and looking terribly fierce, while, as I shrunk away, one of the blacks touched me on the back, and as I turned sharply, with Mr Ebony holding on to my trouser leg and apparently trying to tear out a piece, the black behind me pointed down into the clear water, now brightly lit-up by the sun, and I saw two long grey fish gliding slowly amongst the coral rocks, and I wanted no telling that they were sharks.

I pointed to the sharks in my turn, shuddering as I thought of what an escape I had had; and not being able to express myself in language, I did what Mr Ebony had done to me, made a dash at his leg and pretended to bite it, not doing so, however, for I did not care to touch his great black limb with my teeth.

He understood me, though, and chattered with delight, getting up and relieving his feelings by a short dance before settling down again and shaking hands.

In another minute the canoe was run up on the beautiful soft sand, the savages leaping out into the shallow water and carrying it beyond reach of the waves, when I stepped out with Mr Ebony, who made one of the men pick up my fish and carry it before us in triumph to our hut, the others taking the rest of the fish towards the village.



"Why, Nat," cried my uncle, "I was beginning to be alarmed. Been fishing, eh?" he said, as he shook hands with our black friend, who had evidently made up his mind to stay breakfast; for, seizing the big fish, he snapped off a couple of great banana leaves upon which to lay it, and the man who had carried it went away; but not until I had made him show his teeth by giving him a couple of biscuits and a handful of sugar.

I explained to my uncle how I had been carried off that morning, and my feeling of alarm, and he nodded.

"I don't think there is anything to be alarmed about, Nat," he replied, "so long as we do not in any way touch upon their prejudices; but what a splendid fish, Nat, my boy! It must be a kind of mullet, I should say, by its soft mouth and the long barbs hanging from the corners of its chubby lips. Yes, that's what it must be; but I'm sorry to say that I am very ignorant about fish."

My uncle had not been idle, for he had made a good fire, the kettle was boiling, and we should have begun breakfast at once if it had not been for Mr Ebony's preparations. He had lost no time, but had slit off some great chunks of solid fish, placing them on great bamboo skewers to roast, washing his hands afterwards with great nicety, and then scooping up the dry warm sand and letting it trickle over his fingers, palms, and wrists, until they were dry.

"I have not been idle, you see, Nat," said my uncle, pointing to a newly made skin, that of a very lovely little green lory with a delicate peach-coloured head, the separation from the green feathers being marked by a deep black collar which gave the bird a neatness and beauty that was very attractive to the eye.

But Mr Ebony was not satisfied with his contribution to the breakfast, for, striking me on the breast, pointing to the fire, and saying, "Ikan, Ikan, youf, youf," several times over, I repeated them to his satisfaction, understanding that he meant I was to mind the fish, and then he went off quickly.

"Ikan," said my uncle, "that's the Malay word for fish, so I suppose they use some Malay words though their language is quite different."

"Then he said, 'youf, youf,' uncle."

"Yes: youf must mean cooking or fire, which is api in the Malay tongue. But this fresh morning air gives me an appetite, Nat. I hope he won't be long; turn the fish, my lad, it's burning."

"No, uncle, it's only brown," I replied, altering the position of the great collops; "but how beautiful it smells!"

"Yes, Nat, we want no fish sauces out here, my boy."

"Where did you shoot that beautiful lory, uncle?" I asked.

"It was in that palm-tree close to us, Nat," he replied; "and now, while we are waiting, I'll put together a few boxes and the butterfly-nets and the cyanide bottle, ready for a start directly after breakfast."

"Shall you take the guns, uncle?"

"Only one, Nat, and we'll carry it in turn," he replied. "This is to be a butterfly and beetle day, so we will not go far in any direction, but keep within reach of the camp so as to come back for food and rest. It will save us from having to carry provisions."

Just then we saw Mr Ebony coming towards us loaded with a basket of fruit, which he placed on the sand, and then after a dance round us he plumped down by the fire and picked out the skewers where the fish was most done, handing one to each, and our breakfast began.

Mr Ebony thoroughly enjoyed his coffee with plenty of sugar, for he had no distrust now, but ate and drank as we did, laughing and talking all the while, and stopping every now and then to point to butterfly or bird that went by, eating a prodigious breakfast, but mostly of fish and fruit.

Breakfast over, as soon as he saw us ready for a start he stuck his spear down again in front of the door, excited and eager to be off, and ready to draw our attention to the fact that one of us had no gun.

We pointed, however, to the butterfly-nets and that satisfied him, and when we were ready to start I suggested to my uncle that we should put the uncooked remains of the fish and the fruit inside the hut so as to have them when we came back.

"To be sure, Nat," he said, "I had forgotten them."

But at the first attempt to remove them Mr Ebony stopped me, and uttered a loud, ringing cry, whose effect was to bring about a couple of dozen little naked black boys out of the jungle, where they must have been watching us, safely hidden all the time.

To these comical-looking little objects the chief said a few words, when there was a rush, and the remains from our breakfast were carried off like magic, Mr Ebony pointing to the sea and to the trees as much as to say, "There is plenty more when we want it."

We were not long in getting to work, for no sooner were we in the denser part of the island where the foliage grew thick and moist, than we were astounded at the number of little lizards that swarmed about, darting here and there and puzzling me at first as to what colour they were. One moment they seemed to be bright green, the next like a wriggling line of the most beautiful blue.

I found out their colour, though, as soon as I had one in the butterfly-net, for while their bodies were of a brilliant green, their tails were a blue as pure as the sky.

A couple of them were consigned to the spirit bottle for preservation, and then we tramped on, growing more and more delighted with the country the farther we went.

For some time butterflies were absent, so we had to take to collecting birds, but hardly had we shot three different kinds of parrots, all of a most lovely colour, than we seemed to tumble upon the butterflies, and in the course of that one day we captured some of the most lovely specimens I had ever seen out of a museum. Blue, yellow, black, crimson, no tint was wanting to make them attractive, and we went on for hour after hour, forgetting all about our dinner in the excitement of the chase, and filling our boxes before we thought of leaving off.

Not only butterflies had been captured, but beetles of many kinds, most of them clad in armour that seemed to have been burnished, so brilliant were they in their green, purple, and violet when held up in the sun.



It was with feelings full of regret that we said good-bye to our black friend at the end of a month; for by that time the want of fresh specimens made my uncle say that it was time to be on the move. We could have gone on shooting scarlet lories, nutmeg pigeons, and pittas as long as we liked, but that would have been wanton work, and uncle discovered that the neighbouring islands would, wherever we went, give us fresh supplies and present to us birds and insects such as we had never seen before, so at last we prepared to start, and with some little difficulty made Mr Ebony understand that we wanted a good supply of sago, fruit, and fish for our voyage.

At first he could not understand that we were going right away, but as soon as he did comprehend our signs the poor fellow looked miserable, for he had regularly attached himself to us all the time of our stay, and he was inconsolable at the idea of our going.

He helped us, however, to load our boat, and would have given us fish enough for twenty people would we have taken it; and at last, just after an early breakfast, we bade farewell to the beautiful island, and waving an adieu to the people, of whom we had seen very little, we turned to shake hands with our black friend, both my uncle and I having ready a present for him; mine being a handy little hatchet, my uncle's a large two-bladed knife.

To our surprise, though, as we stood down on the sands he refused to shake hands with us, looking very serious and glum, and when we gave him our presents, thinking that they would bring a smile to his face, he took them quickly and threw them into the bottom of the boat.

"It is a pity," said my uncle, "for I do not like the idea of parting bad friends, Nat, my boy. I'd give something if I could speak to the poor fellow in his own language and tell him that we are not ungrateful for all his kindness."

"I often wish we could speak in their own tongue, uncle," I said.

"Yes, Nat, but it is next to impossible, for there are fifty or sixty different dialects spoken. There, offer to shake hands with him again. You two were always such good friends."

I offered my hand to the black chief, but he put his own behind him and pointed to the boat, as much, it seemed to me, as to say, "There, you've got all you want now; go away."

My uncle tried with no better success, and as the natives were gathering about us we reluctantly got in where the beautiful canoe lay heaving on the sands as the great rollers came in.

Everything was in readiness, our boxes snugly stowed, our provisions ready, our guns in their waterproof cases, the sail lay ready for hoisting, and all that was wanted now was to wait until a good wave came in and then shove off and ride out on it as it retired.

The canoe was so large that I wondered whether we should be able to manage it ourselves; but I had full confidence in my uncle's skill, and it seemed to me that my help now ought to be of some use. So I seized the pole that lay ready, and prepared to use it; but Mr Ebony, as we had somehow got into the habit of calling him now, said something to the little crowd on the sands, when, as he took the lead, eight or nine ran into the water, seized the boat by the sides, and ran her right out forty or fifty yards to where the water was up to their breasts, when, giving us a final thrust, away we went upon the top of a roller, my uncle hoisting the sail at the right moment, and we glided on.

I had seized a great paddle used for steering and taken care to keep the boat's head right, laughing to myself the while, and wondering what my uncle would say when he turned round, for he was hauling up the sail and too busy to notice anything but his work.

When at last he did turn round, just as we had glided lightly a good five hundred yards from the shore, he cried out: "Hallo!"

For there, just in front of me, squatting down upon his heels and with all his white teeth displayed, was Mr Ebony, apparently quite at home, and without the slightest intention of going back.

"Why, what does this mean?" said my uncle, and he pointed to the shore.

But Mr Ebony had no intention of going, and if we had not learned much of his language, he had picked up something of ours, for he began to shout, "No, no, no, no, no," till he was out of breath, and laying himself down he took tight hold of one of the thwarts of the canoe, as if to say that he meant to cling to that if we tried to throw him over.

"This is why he wouldn't shake hands, Nat," said my uncle. "He couldn't swim ashore now, for the sharks, so I suppose he means to come with us. Let's see."

My uncle pointed to the shore, but Mr Ebony shook his head, so Uncle Dick pointed right ahead eastward, in the direction we were going, and our black friend nodded, and jumping up danced about, grinning and muttering excitedly the while.

"Well, Nat," said my uncle, "what's to be done? He wants to go with us."

"Can't we take him, uncle?" I replied.

"Oh yes, Nat, we can take him," he replied; "and he would be very useful. Only it comes upon me like a surprise. It is, of course, a good thing to have a black with us, for it will teach the people we come across that we are friendly, even if we cannot make them understand, though, I dare say, Ebony here will be able sometimes to act as interpreter."

"Ebo-Nee, Ebo-Nee, Ebo-Nee," cried our passenger loudly; and he began to beat his chest to show that he comprehended whom we meant.

Then touching me on the chest he cried with great eagerness, "Nat, my boy—Nat, my boy," looking delighted when we laughed; and to give further example of his powers as a linguist, he next touched my uncle as he had touched me.

"Ung-go-Dit, Ung-go-Dit," he cried, finishing off by slapping his naked flesh, and shouting, "Ebo-Nee, Ebo-Nee."

"Very good, Master Ebo-Nee," said Uncle Dick; "since you are so apt at learning, you may as well go on and pick up our words, for I quite despair of learning yours."

The black was shrewd enough to see that we accepted his presence, and upon this he shook hands with us both twice over and then took the great paddle from my hand, steering and showing himself thoroughly skilful in the management of our canoe.

My uncle pointed east as the course he wanted to go; but our crew, as we called him, rose in mutiny directly, pointing south, and handing the paddle back to me he grew very excited, saying, "Bird, bird," flapping his arms like wings and uttering screeches, whistles, and cries, before lifting an imaginary gun to his shoulder and uttering the word "Bang!"

"That is plain enough to understand, Nat," said my uncle.

"Yes," I replied; "he means that there are plenty of parrots and other birds on some island where he will take us."

"Bird, bird," cried Ebo-Nee, as we called him henceforth, and he pointed south-west.

"It does not much matter where we go, Nat," said my uncle, "so long as we visit islands where naturalists have never been before, so I shall trust to our friend here. We can get to New Guinea at any time now, for it lies all along the north. All right, go on then," said my uncle to Ebo-Nee, and he nodded and smiled, pointing to what looked like a mist upon the water far away.

"Nat, ung, shoot," cried Ebo eagerly; "shoot, shoot, shoot."

"Why, we shall have quite an English scholar on board soon, Nat," said my uncle laughing; and then in turns we held the sheet as the swift canoe glided over the sunlit waves till the island we had left began to grow dim in the distance and its mountains to sink, as it were, beneath the wave, while the place to which we were going grew less misty and indistinct.

It was evidently very high land, and as we drew nearer we could see that right and left of it there were other islands apparently of goodly size.

Mid-day came and we made a hearty meal, the canoe, urged by the soft brisk breeze, still gliding onwards till towards evening, when we were sufficiently near the land we approached to make out that it was very bleak and bare and sterile. There was a ridge of mountains in the central portion, but as we examined the place with the glass it looked as blank and uninviting as could be.

"Not a sign of an inhabitant," said my uncle. "I'm afraid we have made a mistake, Nat; but perhaps one of the other islands may prove more inviting."

He continued his inspection and went on talking. "There are plenty of traces of sea-birds," he continued, "for the cliffs are covered with guano; but it is not their breeding season, and I cannot see a single bird. But he is not making straight for the sands. Why don't you try to land there?"

Ebo shook his head, and then laughed and said, "No," steering the canoe to the left of the island. And so we sailed on till it was so near sunset that it would be dark in half an hour, when our crew, who had evidently been here before, suddenly steered the canoe into a cove well sheltered from the rollers, and lowering the sail we ran her up on the soft sands quite clear of the sea, Ebo at once setting to work collecting dry drift-wood to make a fire.

He pointed out a sheltered spot among some heaped-up rocks where the sand had been blown up by tempests into a soft bed, and here, after a very hearty meal well cooked over the fire Ebo had made, we lay down to sleep; my uncle having climbed to the top of the rocks and swept the island with his glass, returning to say that there was not a trace of a human being.

We slept soundly and well out there in that little storm-swept island, but no storms disturbed us, and the first thing I heard after lying down was the crackling of wood as Ebo piled it up to make a good fire.

As soon as he saw me awake he beckoned me to go to the boat, and there, taking the fish we had brought out of the basket, he smelt it, made me do the same, and then threw all but one small silvery fellow into the sea.

"Hullo!" cried my uncle, "isn't that waste, Nat?" for he had advanced over the sands unheard.

"I think so, uncle, but he means to catch some fresh."

That was evidently Ebo's intentions, for he cut up the silvery fish into scraps for bait, and then signing to us to help him, we launched the canoe, paddled out half a mile, and then threw over a couple of lines, Ebo showing his teeth with delight as he drew in quickly a couple of good-sized mullet-looking fish, a couple more, and another soon coming to my line.

But Ebo was not satisfied till we had caught five or six times as many as seemed necessary. Then and then only did we paddle ashore.

It was soon evident why Ebo had wanted so many fish, for after cleaning and setting enough for our breakfasts to roast, he prepared the rest and put them to cook while we made a hearty meal.

This being ended my uncle rose.

"Well, Nat," he said, "this seems a terribly sterile place, but we may as well have a look round; one finds good specimens sometimes in unlikely spots. Let's get our guns."

Ebo was watching us intently all the time, evidently trying to comprehend us and directly after he, to our utter astonishment, shouted out: "no gun; no shoot; no gun; no bird. Boat, boat, boat, boat."

He pointed to the canoe, and then right to sea again, and seeing us laugh he burst into a hearty fit himself, ending by dancing about and putting the freshly cooked fish on board, where we followed him and once more launched upon the tropic sea.

It was plain enough that this was only a resting-place upon our way, for as soon as the sail was hoisted Ebo took the paddle and steered us south-west, leaving larger islands to right and left though nothing was visible ahead.

"I suppose we must trust him, Nat," said my uncle; "but it does look rather wild work cruising these seas in an open canoe, quite at the mercy of a savage whose language we cannot speak."

"But I think he must have been here before, uncle," I replied.

"No doubt about it, my boy."

"Nat, my boy," cried Ebo laughing, for he had caught part of my uncle's speech.

"Yes, he has been here before, and probably has touched at some place where he has seen, or thinks he has seen, plenty of birds. At any rate, if the weather holds fair it will not be such a very difficult thing to run for some island for shelter."

I had been thinking the same thing, that it seemed a very risky proceeding to sail right out to sea under the guidance of this savage; but there was so much romance and novelty in the idea of sailing away like Columbus in search of a new land, that I thoroughly enjoyed it, and the farther we sailed the more excited I grew.

It was now plain enough why Ebo had insisted upon a good supply of fish, for we dined off it and then made our evening meal of the same, no land being in sight, and when at last the lower edge of the sun seemed to touch the crimson water, sending a path of light right to our canoe, whose sail it seemed to turn to ruddy gold, there was still no land in sight.

My uncle stood up and used the glass, gazing straight before him in the direction that seemed to be our goal; but Ebo shook his head, and then closed his eyes and made believe to sleep, pointing to us in turn.

"He wants us to lie down and sleep, Nat," said my uncle, "but it is out of the question;" and he shook his head.

Ebo tried again and again to get us to lie down, but finding that we would not, he sat there laughing and looking as merry as could be, although there was no land in sight, and at last, when the sun was disappearing, he placed the paddle in my uncle's hand, pointing south-south-west as the course to be steered, after which he lay down and went off fast asleep.

I sat talking to my uncle and holding the sheet, though the breeze was so steady it seemed to be quite unnecessary, while he steered the canoe onward through the darkness, taking the stars for his compass, till the motion of the boat and the darkness combined to send me off into a deep sleep. I had closed my eyes and started up several times before, but this last time, when I opened my eyes again a was to see the black figure of Ebo seated there steering, with the sun just above the horizon, and my uncle stretched in the bottom of the canoe fast asleep.

Ebo grinned as I stared at him, and then as I looked about I found that far away to the west there was land that we must have passed in the night, but still we were sailing on as it were into space.

The water now was bright golden again, and the air felt delicious; but I began to wish that we were at our journey's end, and pointing ahead I tried to learn from our steersman how much farther he was going to take us.

His reply was to point straight ahead, and we were still speeding on, when, after five or six hours' sleep, my uncle jumped up into wakefulness, ready to partake of the waiting meal of cold fish, biscuits, and fruit; the coffee, which in a case like this I made by means of a spirit-lamp, being kept in abeyance for a time.

"Well, Nat," he said, "is our wild-goose chase nearly at an end? Is land in sight?"

"No, uncle," I said, after gazing carefully ahead. Just then Ebo pointed to the telescope, and made signs to my uncle to use it.

"Look through?" he said to the black. "All right, my friend, I will;" and placing it to his eye as he stood up in the boat he cried to me as I eagerly watched him, "Land ahead, Nat, and apparently a wooded shore!"



By the time we had made a hearty meal Ebo pointed with triumph to the faint hazy speck in the distance, now growing minute by minute plainer to our eyes.

Ebo watched our countenances very intently, and then suddenly broke out with:


"He seems to have brought us here under the impression that it is a good place, Nat, and I trust it will prove so," said my uncle. "I hope there will be no unpleasant savages to hinder our work."

As we drew nearer the glass was frequently brought to bear, but neither my uncle nor I could detect any sign of habitation, not even when we were within a quarter of a mile of the shore; but, to Uncle Dick's great delight, the place proved to be densely wooded in some parts, while the lofty hills looked green and park-like, with the large trees dotted here and there.

The beach was a soft white sand, upon which the waves curled gently over; and not twenty yards from the highest marks made by the tide, the tall palms, loaded with fruit, drooped their great feathery leaves.

As far as we could see the island was not large, but the interior was very mountainous, the green hills running up to a great height, for the most part well-clothed with wood; and to our great delight, as we ran the boat cautiously upon the sand, we could hear the screams of parrots and the whistling and twittering of innumerable birds.

"We may as well be prepared against danger," said Uncle Dick, loading his gun, and I followed suit; but Ebo began to chatter and expostulate with us for leaving the boat, and signed to us to help him run it up on the next wave well ashore, so that a rope could be made fast round the nearest palm stem.

This we did, and the black's next movement was to collect wood for a fire.

To humour him we waited about while he lit the fire, but kept making little incursions amongst the openings to see if we could spy out any signs of human habitation.

But look where we would we saw nothing, and it soon became evident that we were the only occupants of that part of the island.

Ebo seemed so satisfied and contented that it was very evident that there was nothing to fear; so we obeyed his signs after we had helped him to make a good fire, and followed him through an open park-like piece of the country till we were about half a mile from the sea, when his object in guiding us was plain enough, for he pointed out a little flock of half a dozen pigeons, as big, it seemed to me, as ordinary fowls, and getting within range we fired together, and shot four.

Ebo rushed forward in triumph, and I followed, to regret that I had not attended to Uncle Dick's instructions about reloading, for I could have obtained a specimen of a curious great black parrot or cockatoo, I could not quite see which, as it flew across an opening.

But we secured the birds we had shot, and going back my uncle and I set to and skinned them, handing over the bodies to Ebo to cook, while we carefully preserved the skins, admiring them all the while.

For they were of a rich warm slate colour, and each bird bore a delicate grey crest upon his head, which gave him a noble look, making each bird seem a very prince among pigeons.

Handsome as was the appearance of the birds, they were none the less delicious in the eating. No doubt our open-air life had a good deal to do with the keen enjoyment we had in eating the birds we shot; but feeding as these pigeons did on spices, nuts, and other sweet food, the flavour given to their flesh was very fine.

Dinner over, we were for an expedition; but Ebo protested loudly. Taking an axe and beckoning us to follow we accompanied him to a patch of bamboo, and helped him to cut down a good selection of stout pieces, and after them a number of lengths of rattan cane, which grew here in a wonderful way. I had seen it growing before, but never to such perfection; for it seemed to run up one tree and down another, running along over the bushes for a short distance and then ascending another, till Uncle Dick computed that some of these canes were quite a hundred yards long.

It was very evident what Ebo meant, and he was telling us all the time, though not a word could we understand, as we helped him.

"As we are to make a hut for shelter, Nat, I suppose he expects us to stay here for some time, which is a good sign, for he evidently knows that there are plenty of specimens to be had."

"Do you think any naturalist has been here before, uncle?" I said.

"I hardly dare think such a thing, Nat," he replied; "but I cannot help feeling hopeful. As I judge it this seems to be an island to which he and his fellows have sailed some time or another, and it is possible that European foot has never trodden here before."

"Let's hope it is so, uncle," I said; "and then, what a collection we shall get!"

"You will make me as sanguine as you are yourself, Nat," he said laughing; and then we began to be too hot and busy to talk much, for after carrying the bamboos and rattans to the edge of the forest, just beneath a widely spreading tree, in whose branches every now and then some beautiful lory came and perched, but only to fly off screaming, Ebo began to build. Sharpening four stout bamboos and forcing them into the soft sandy soil for the four corners of the hut, he very soon bound as many more to them horizontally about five feet from the ground, tying them in the cleverest way with the cane.

Then he tied a couple more across at each end, and laid a long stout bamboo in the forks they made for a ridge-pole, binding all as strongly as could be with an ingenious twist, and after that making rafters of smaller bamboos, so that in a couple of hours he had made the rough framework.

Towards the latter part of the time, in obedience to his instructions, which were given by word of mouth and wave of hand, Uncle Dick and I cut a great number of palm leaves of a very large size, with which Ebo rapidly thatched the hut, making by the time it was dark a very rough but very efficient shelter, where we lay down to sleep that night upon a pile of soft dry grass, of which there was any quantity naturally made into hay and close at hand.

We were so tired out that night that we did not trouble ourselves about there being no sides to the hut, being only too glad to have a roof to keep off the dew, and, trusting to there being no dangerous wild beasts, we followed Ebo's example, lying down and sleeping soundly till the sun was once more above the sea.



Ebo set to work earnestly to finish the hut, binding down the palm leaves of the thatch with more long canes, which he cleverly threaded in and out, and afterwards secured their ends. Then he cut off the long ends of the bamboos so as to leave all tidy before commencing the sides.

My uncle was as anxious as I was to go upon some expedition; but as there was no shelter to be obtained here, and it became more and more evident that we were upon an uninhabited island, he saw the necessity for having our boxes and stores under a roof.

So we set manfully to work helping the black, cutting bamboos, bringing large palm leaves, fetching long rattan canes, and handing them to him; while, saving when he left off for meals, Ebo toiled like a slave, working with an industry that we should not have expected to find in an inhabitant of one of these sleepy isles.

At last, though, he finished, and his childish delight seemed to know no bounds. He danced and shouted, ran in and out, walked round the hut, and then strutted up to us full of self-satisfaction, his tongue going all the while, and evidently feeling highly delighted at our smiles and words of praise.

No time was lost in transferring our boxes and stores beneath the roof; and then, as it wanted quite three hours to sunset, my uncle proposed, by way of recompense for all our drudgery, that we should take our guns and see if we could not obtain a few specimens.

Ebo looked delighted, and, without being told, obtained a short piece of bamboo ready for carrying the birds we shot.

Then, taking his spear out of the canoe, he smiled to show how ready he was; but Uncle Dick took him by the arm and led him up to the door of the hut.

"Put your spear there, as you did before, to keep off all visitors, Master Ebo," he said; and he accompanied his request with signs to express what he wished.

Ebo understood him at once, and made as if to stick the spear in the ground before the door, but he stopped short and shook his head, ran a few yards, and peered in amongst the trees; turned round and shook his head again; ran in another direction and peeped about, coming back shaking his head again.

Ebo's motions said as plainly as could be:

"There is nobody here but ourselves," and as if to satisfy us he led the way to a high hill about a mile away, from whence we had a splendid view all but in one direction, where there lay a clump of mountains. Look which way we would there was nothing but rich plain and dense jungle, with occasional patches of park-like land. Not a sign was there of huts, and once more Ebo looked at us and shook his head, counting us afterwards in his own way—one, two, three, and then tossing his arms in the air.

"We are in luck, Nat," said my uncle. "This island must swarm with natural history specimens, and he has brought us here because he thought it a good place; so now to make the best use of our time. Look out!"

As he spoke he raised his gun and fired at a bird darting down a narrow rift between two rocks that looked as if they had been riven asunder.

I thought he had missed it, but Ebo ran ahead and returned directly with a most lovely kingfisher in glorious plumage.

"If we get nothing more in this island, Nat, I shall be satisfied," said my uncle as we gazed at the lovely creature which Ebo had brought; and seeing the satisfaction in our faces he indulged in another dance.

"Yes," continued my uncle, patting Ebo's black shoulder, "you are a treasure, Ebo, and I see we shall be greatly in your debt. Now, Nat, we must not have a feather of that bird spoiled. I feel ready to go back on purpose to prepare it."

It was indeed a lovely creature; but as I gazed upon its delicately beautiful tints I felt puzzled. It was of rich purple on the back, with azure-blue shoulders dashed and speckled with a lighter blue, while all the under parts were of a pure white, which seemed to throw out the rich colours of the back. But the great beauty of the specimen was its tail, which was long and had the two centre feathers continued almost without any plumes till the end, where they spread out like a couple of racket bats, making the little bird in all about a foot and a half long.

I felt as if I should never tire of gazing at the beautiful specimen, and quite understood my uncle's feeling about wishing to make sure of it by preserving it at once.

Just then, though, a large bird flew across, at which I fired, but it was too far distant, and the shots did no more than rattle about its feathers.

"Did you see its great beak, uncle?" I said.

"Yes, Nat, a hornbill. I daresay we shall find plenty of them here. They take the places in the East of the toucans of the West. But now, Nat, there is an easy shot for you—look! Ebo is pointing to it. There, seated on that twig. Now see he darts off after a fly and is back again. No, he is off once more. We have scared him."

But by this time I had seen the bird, and taking quick aim as it hovered and snatched at a fly of some kind, I fired and brought it down, to find that I too had got a prize in the shape of a lovely little bee-eater, with plumage rich in green and blue, brown and black, while its tail was also rendered more beautiful by the extension of its central feathers in two long thin points.

My uncle's gun spoke out again the next moment, the second barrel following quickly, and Ebo ran and picked up another of the lovely kingfishers, and one of a different kind with a rich coral-red beak, short tail, and its back beautifully barred with blue and black like the ornamental feathers in the wings of a jay.

"That is a bee-eater you have shot, Nat, and a lovely thing too. Mine are all kingfishers."

"There must be a little stream down in that hollow between those rocks, uncle," I replied.

"No, Nat, I don't suppose there is," he said, smiling. "But why do you say that?"

"Because of those kingfishers, uncle. There must be a stream or pool somewhere near."

"I daresay there is, Nat; but not on account of these birds, my lad. They are dry kingfishers, Nat. They do not live upon fish, but upon beetles, butterflies, and moths, darting down and picking them off the ground without wetting a feather."

"Why, how curious!" I said. "They have beaks just like the kingfishers at home."

"Very much like them, Nat," he said; "but they catch no fish. But come, we must get back to the hut, or we shall never get our birds turned into skins before dark. Look out!"

We fired so closely together that it sounded like one shot, and three more of the great pigeons fell heavily to the ground—part of a little flock that was passing over our head.

Ebo seized them with a grin of delight, for he knew that these meant larder, and then hastening back we had just time to strip and prepare our skins before night fell, when, work being ended, the fire was relit, the kettle boiled, and a sort of tea-supper by moonlight, with the dark forest behind and the silvery sea before us, ended a very busy day.



That night as I lay in the dark, with the beach outside lit-up by the moon, and listened to the strange noises of the forest behind the hut, I felt over and over again ready to awaken my uncle or Ebo, so sure was I that I could hear wild beasts on the move.

Should there be tigers, or leopards, or even wild boars, what chance should we have if they attacked? Or it might be that one of the huge serpents of which I had read so much might creep in at the open door.

I wanted to be brave, but somehow that night I felt horribly afraid, even the humming buzz of some night-flying beetle making me start. Perhaps I was over-excited, or perhaps, as my uncle would have said, I had eaten too much. At all events, be it what it may, I could not go to sleep, but lay there turning hot and cold and wishing it was morning. The silence seemed so dreadful, and the idea of this being an uninhabited island, instead of being delightful as it had felt in the bright sunshine, now appeared horrible, and I lay thinking of our being far from all human help, and that if our boat happened to drift away we should be left to starve.

Of course this was all nonsense, for with such a clever savage as Ebo and our own ingenuity and tools we could have built another boat—not such a good one as we had arrived in, but quite strong enough to bear us over a calm sea to one or the other of the islands where trading vessels came.

Then I grew hot and seemed to be dripping with perspiration, and my horror increased. What would become of us when our food and powder and shot were gone? We should starve to death. And I began to tremble and wish I had not come, feeling as if I would give anything to be back at home in my old bedroom, with the gas outside in the road and the policeman's heavy foot to be heard now and then as he went along his beat on the look-out for burglars. I should have been ready to meet Aunt Sophia the next morning and receive the severest scolding I had ever had—anything to be away from where I was.

Then I tried to reason with myself and to think that even if our powder and shot were gone we could make bows and arrows, and set traps, and as food ran short we could always make fishing-lines and catch the scaly creatures that swarmed amongst the rocks all round the shore. Besides which there were cocoa-nuts in plenty, with abundance of other fruit.

I thought too of how when I was at home I should have revelled in the idea of being in such a place, to have an uninhabited island, and such a glorious one, far more beautiful and productive than that of Robinson Crusoe, than whom I should be far better off, for in addition to a man Friday I had my clever uncle for companion, guide, and protector.

At the thought of the last word I stretched out my hand to awaken him and tell him of my horrible feeling of dread; but I drew it back for very shame, for what was there to be afraid of?

I grew a little calmer then and lay gazing out of the open door at the brilliant moonlight, which made some leaves glisten as if they were of silver, and all beneath and amidst the thickets look dark and black and soft as velvet.

Then came a strange sighing noise from the forest behind us, which made my flesh creep as I wondered what it could be. Then there was a wild, strange cry, and soon after a heavy crash as of something falling.

After that, as I lay bathed in perspiration and oppressed by the terrible feeling of loneliness that seemed to increase, I fancied I heard the pat, pat, pat, pat of some animal running along the ground, followed by a hard breathing.

"That must be a wild beast," I said to myself; and I rose up on one elbow to listen, meaning to get hold of my gun and load it if the sound came nearer.

Then in a confused and troubled way I began to ask myself whether I ought to awaken Uncle Dick and at the same time kick Ebo to make him seize his spear and help in our defence.

But there are no big wild beasts in these islands, my uncle had said to me several times, even expressing his doubt as to there being anything very large in New Guinea.

"But there are great apes," I said to myself. "I know there are in Borneo, so why should there not be others in an island like this?" and in imagination I began to picture a hideous, great orang-outang cautiously advancing towards our cabin.

I knew they could be very fierce and that they were tremendously strong. Then, too, some travellers had described them as being quite giants of six, seven, and eight feet high, and supposing that there really were no other wild beasts in this island, undoubtedly there were these wild men of the woods, as the Malays called them, and it was one of these that was coming about the hut.

Of course; I knew now as well as if I had seen it. That crash I had heard was made by one of these monsters, and that was its hard breathing that I could hear now.

It was of no use that I tried to make myself believe that I was only listening to Ebo breathing, and every now and then indulging in a regular snore. No, I would not believe it, and lay with my feeling of horror increasing each moment till I lay so helpless now, that if I had wanted to get my gun I could not, I dared not move.

Then there was another horror in the shape of a curious lapping noise from the sea, with a splashing and wallowing as of some great beast; and I did know this, that horrible crocodiles came up the rivers and lived about their mouths, going out to sea and back, and though we had seen no river yet in this island, it was evident that this was one of the monsters crawling about on the shore, and I seemed to see it in the moonlight with its great coarse, scaly back, crooked legs, long stiff tail, and hideous head with sly cruel-looking eyes, and wide, long, teeth-armed jaws.

After a while I knew as well as could be that with its strange instinct it would scent us out and come nearer and nearer, crawling along over the soft sand and leaving a track that could easily be seen the next day. I even seemed to see its footprints with the wide-spread toes, and the long, wavy furrow ploughed by its tail.

It was all one terrible nightmare, growing worse and worse; the noise on the shore increased, the rustling and crashing in the woods; there was a strange humming and buzzing all around, and the breathing sounded closer and deeper.

At last when I felt as if I could bear it no longer, and that if I did not rouse my uncle and Ebo we should be destroyed, I tried to call out, but my voice sounded weak and faint; there was a terrible sense of oppression about me, and the humming and singing noise increased.

I contrived, however, to touch Ebo, and he muttered angrily and changed his position, the noise he made in doing so waking my uncle, who started up on one elbow as if to listen.

"He hears it all, then," I said to myself, and with a wonderful sense of relief I knew that we should be saved.

Why did I not spring up to help him? you will say.

Ah! that I could not do, for I lay there perfectly paralysed with fright and quite speechless, till to my horror I saw in the dim light of the reflected moonbeams my uncle lie down again, when I made a tremendous effort and gasped forth something or another, I cannot say what.

"Hallo!" he exclaimed. "Anything the matter, Nat?" and getting up quickly he struck a match and lit a little wax taper that he always carried in the brass match-box, part of which formed a stick.

He was kneeling by my side directly and had hold of my hand, when at his touch my senses seemed to come back to me.

"Quick!—the guns!" I panted; "wild beasts!—a crocodile, an ape, uncle. I have been hearing them come."

"Nonsense! my boy," he said, smiling.

"No, no; it is no nonsense, uncle. Quick!—the guns!"

"No, my dear boy, it is nonsense. There are no noxious or dangerous beasts here. You are quite safe from them. You have been dreaming, Nat."

"I've not been asleep," I said piteously.

"Haven't you, my lad?" he said, with one hand on my brow and the other on my wrist; "then you have been fancying all these troubles. Nat, my boy, you have got a touch of fever. I'm very glad you woke me when you did."

"Fever, uncle?" I gasped, as the horror of my situation increased, and like a flash came the idea of being ill out in that wilderness, away from all human help and comfort; and, ludicrous is it may sound, I forgot all about Uncle Dick, and began to think of Dr Portly, who had a big brass plate upon his door in the Clapham Road.

"Yes, my boy, a touch of fever, but we'll soon talk to him, Nat; we'll nip him in the bud. A stitch in time saves nine. Now you shall see what's in that little flat tin box I brought. I saw you stare at it when I packed up."

"I thought it was preserving things, uncle," I said.

"So it is, my boy, full of preserving things, one of which you shall soon have for a dose. I hope you like bitters, Nat?"

He laughed so pleasantly that he seemed to give me courage, but I glanced in a frightened way at the opening as I said that I did not much mind.

He saw my glance, and went outside with a cup in his hand, to come back in a few minutes with it full of water from a pool close by.

"No wild beasts about, Nat, my boy," he said merrily. "They were only fever phantoms."

"But I have not been to sleep, uncle," I protested.

"Sign that you are ill, Nat, because generally you drop off in an instant and sleep soundly for hours. There are no wild beasts, my boy, in these islands."

"But I'm sure I heard a great ape breathing hard, and it broke off a great branch in the forest."

"And I'm sure, Nat, that you heard Ebo snoring; and as to the branch breaking, you heard, I dare say, a dead one fall. They are always falling in these old forests. We don't notice the noise in the day, when the birds are singing, but in the night everything sounds wonderfully clear."

"But I'm certain I heard a crocodile crawling up out of the sea, and creeping towards the hut."

"And I'm certain you did not, my dear boy. We have no muddy tidal river here for them to frequent. It was all fever-born, Nat, my boy; believe me."

All the while he was talking I saw that he was busy getting something ready. First he put a little white powder in a glass, then he poured a few drops of something over it, and filled it up with water, stirring it with a little bit of glass rod before kneeling down by me.

"There, Nat," he said kindly, "drink that off."

"What is it, uncle?" I said, taking the glass with hot and trembling hand.

"A preserving thing, my boy. One of the greatest blessings ever discovered for a traveller. It is quinine, Nat, fever's deadliest enemy. Down with it at once."

The stuff was intensely bitter, but my mouth was so hot and parched, and the water with it so cool and pleasant, that I quite enjoyed it, and drew a deep breath.

"There, now, lie down again, my boy, and be off to sleep. Don't fill your head full of foolish imaginings, Nat. There is nothing to fear from wild beasts here."

"But am I going to be very ill, uncle?"

"No, certainly not. You will sleep after that till three or four hours past sunrise, and then you will waken, feeling a little weak, perhaps, but in other respects all right. Perhaps it will come back again, and if it does we will rout it out once more with some quinine. Why, Nat, I've had dozens of such attacks."

I lay back, feeling more at rest, and satisfied that uncle was right about the beasts, for there was no sound now to trouble me; only the lapping of the water, which seemed to be only the waves now beating softly upon the sand, while the heavy breathing was certainly Ebo's, that gentleman never having moved since I touched him.

Then I saw my uncle shut up his little tin case and replace it in the chest, put out the wax taper, and lie down upon his couch of dry grass, yawning slightly, and then lying gazing out of the open door, for I could see his eyes shine.

But by degrees the faintly lit-up hut, with its bamboos and roof, its chests, guns, and Ebo's spear, all seemed to grow indistinct, and then all was restful peace.



When I opened my eyes again the sea was dancing and sparkling, and the leaves waving gently in the soft warm breeze. I could see from where I lay that the water was rippling gently upon the sand, and not far from the hut door my uncle was busy skinning some bright-plumaged bird, while Ebo was cooking a couple of pigeons, and watching a little kettle stuck amongst the glowing ashes.

I was very comfortable, and did not feel disposed to move, for all seemed so calm and pleasant; and when I thought a little about my previous night's fancies I was ready to smile at them as being perfectly absurd.

I did not speak, but lay quite still, gazing at the lovely picture framed by the open door, and thinking how beautiful it all was, and how foolish I had been to go on fancying such dangers as I had in the night.

Then it was very pleasant, too, to watch Uncle Dick, and how very much quicker and cleverer he was at making a skin than I was. Still, I hoped by practice to get to be as quick.

He went on till he had dressed the interior of the skin with the soap preparation, and after filling certain parts with cotton-wool, and tying the wing-bones together, he turned it back, smoothed the plumage, and I saw that it was another of the short blue-barred kingfishers similar to that we had obtained before.

I could not help noticing as I lay there so quietly what great care and attention he gave to his task, seeming as if he thoroughly enjoyed his work, and felt it to be a duty to do it well.

At last, though, it was put away to dry, and after carefully washing his hands he came to the hut door very gently to see if I was awake.

"Ah, Nat," he said smiling, "how are you after your long sleep?"

"Long sleep, uncle!" I cried. "Is it very late?"

"Nearly noon, my boy. Well, how are you?"

"I—I think I'm quite well, thank you, uncle," I said, springing up, and feeling ashamed to be lying there, but turning so giddy that I should have fallen had Uncle Dick not caught my arm.

"Sit down," he said quietly. "There, that is better."

"Yes; I feel better now," I said.

"To be sure you do. Well, Nat, I think we have beaten the fever. You will feel weak for a day or two, but you will soon be all right."

And so it proved. For after two or three days of weakness, and a strange weary feeling that was quite new to me, I rapidly got better and felt no more dread of being alone at night; in fact I slept soundly as could be, and got up ready and fresh for any new work.

Uncle Dick was very kind, for until I was stronger he contented himself with shooting just about the hut, finding plenty of beautiful birds; but as soon as I was strong enough we prepared some cold provisions and started off for a longer exploration.

Ebo was delighted, and capered about in the excess of his joy, chattering in his own tongue and introducing every English word he had picked up, and these began now to be a good many; but he had very little idea of putting them to a proper use, muddling them up terribly, but keeping in the most perfect humour no matter how we laughed at him.

"It is my belief, Nat," said Uncle Dick, "that we shall find something better worthy of our notice yet if we make a good long expedition into the more wooded parts of the island."

"I thought we could not be better off, uncle," I said, "for we are getting some lovely birds."

"So we are, Nat; but one is never satisfied, and always wants more. I expect we shall find some birds of paradise, for it strikes me that the cry I have heard several times at daybreak comes from one of them."

"Birds of paradise! Here, uncle?" I cried.

"Why not, my boy? It is as likely a place as it is possible to imagine: an island near the equator, deeply wooded, and hardly ever visited by man. I should say that we must find some here."

"Oh, uncle!" I cried as my eyes glistened, and I felt my cheeks flush at the anticipation of seeing one of these noble birds before the muzzle of my gun.

"I shall be greatly disappointed if we do not find some, and I should have been in search of them before now, only I thought you would like to go, and there was plenty of work close home."

I did not say much, but I felt very grateful at his thoughtfulness, and the very next morning we were off before it was day, tramping through the thick herbage and mounting the rising ground towards the south.

"I purpose trying to get right across the island to-day, Nat," he said, "and if we are too tired to get back all the way we must contrive enough shelter and camp out for one night in the woods."

"I shall not mind, uncle," I said, and on we went.

This time we had provided ourselves with light small baskets, such as we could swing from a cord that passed over our right shoulders, and long and deep enough to hold a good many specimens. We all three bore these, Ebo's being double the size of ours, as he had no gun to use, but trotted easily by our side with his spear over his shoulder.

Before we had gone two miles several lovely birds had fallen to our guns, principally of the thrush family, for our way was amongst bushes on the rising ground.

It is impossible to describe properly the beauty of these lovely softly-feathered objects. Fancy a bird of the size of our thrush but with a shorter tail, and instead of being olive-green and speckled with brown, think of it as having a jetty head striped with blue and brown, and its body a blending of buff, pale greyish blue, crimson, and black.

We kept on, taking our prizes from the baskets, where they lay in cotton-wool, to examine and admire them again and again.

No sooner had we feasted our eyes upon these birds than something as bright of colour fell to our guns. Now it would be a golden oriole or some glittering sun-bird. Then a beautiful cuckoo with crimson breast and cinnamon-brown back. Then some beautifully painted paroquet with a delicate long taper tail; and we were in the act of examining one of these birds, when, as we paused on the edge of a forest of great trees by which we had been skirting, my uncle grasped my arm, for, sounding hollow, echoing, and strange, there rang out a loud harsh cry: "Quauk-quauk-quauk! Qwok-qwok-qwok!"

This was answered from a distance here and there, as if there were several of the birds, if they were birds, scattered about the forest.

"There, Nat," said my uncle; "do you hear that?"

"Yes," I said, laughing. "I could hear it plainly enough, uncle. What was it made by—some kind of crow?"

"Yes, Nat, some kind of crow."

"Are they worth trying to shoot, uncle?" I asked.

"Yes," he said with a peculiar smile; and then, as the cry rang out again, apparently nearer, he signified to Ebo that he should try and guide us in the direction of the sounds.

The black understood him well enough, and taking the lead he went on swiftly through the twilight of the forest, for it was easy walking here beneath the vast trees, where nothing grew but fungi and a few pallid-looking little plants.

And so we went on and on, with the trees seeming to get taller and taller, and of mightier girth. Now and then we caught a glimpse of the blue sky, but only seldom, the dense foliage forming a complete screen.

Every now and then we could hear the hoarse harsh cry; but though we went on and on for a tremendous distance, we seemed to get no nearer, till all at once Ebo stopped short, there was the hoarse cry just overhead, and I saw something sweep through the great branches a hundred and fifty feet away.

I had not time to fire, for my uncle's gun made the forest echo, though nothing fell.

"I missed it, Nat," he said, "for the branches were in my way; but I thought I would not let the slightest chance go by."

"What was it, uncle?" I said.

"One of your crows," he replied, laughing; and Ebo went on again.

Just then my uncle glanced at his compass, and saw that we were travelling in the right direction—due south—so it did not matter how far we went; but though we kept hearing the cries of the crow-birds, as I eventually called them, we saw no more, and felt disappointed for a time, but not for long; there were too many fresh objects for our notice.

At last daylight appeared ahead, and we came out from amongst the trunks, which had risen up on every side of us like pillars, into a beautiful open valley dotted with trees, some of which were green with luxuriant branches right to the ground.

We did not spend many moments gazing at the beautiful landscape, so lovely that I half expected to see houses there, and that it was the result of clever gardening; but it was nature's own work, and in every tree there were so many birds, and of such lovely kinds, that we seemed to have come to the very place of all in the world to make our collection.

"There, Nat, look!" said my uncle, pointing to where, in the full sunshine, a great bird with a train of soft amber plumage flew across the opening, to disappear amongst the trees; "there goes one of your crows."

"That lovely buff bird, uncle?" I said; "why, it looked like what I should think a bird of paradise would be."

"And that's what it was, undoubtedly, Nat," he said, "though I never before saw one on the wing."

"But you said crow, uncle," I said. "Oh! of course, you said the birds of paradise belonged to the crow family. I wish you could have shot it."

"It would have required a rifle to hit it at that distance, Nat; but wait a bit. We have learned one thing, and that is the fact that we have birds of paradise here, and that satisfies me that we cannot do better than keep to our present quarters. This place exceeds my highest hopes for a collecting ground. There, look at that bird by the great hollow-looking tree."

"I was looking at it, uncle. It is one of those great birds with the big bill and a thing upon it like a deck-house."

"Yes," said my uncle, "and there is something more. Look, Ebo has gone on. He seems to understand by our looks when he cannot make out our words."

For Ebo had trotted forward towards the tree that had taken our attention, where the great hornbill had flown to a dead trunk some ten-feet from the ground, and then flapped away.



As Ebo reached the tree he turned back to us laughing and pointing with his spear, and then signed to us to come, though even when we were close up to him I could see nothing but a tiny hole in the trunk of the great tree.

"It can't be a nest, uncle," I said, "because it is not big enough. Perhaps it is a wild bees' hive."

"I don't know yet," said my uncle. "I'm like you, Nat, a little bit puzzled. If it were not so small I should say it was a nest from the way that great hornbill keeps flapping about and screeching."

"Shall I shoot it, uncle?" I said eagerly.

"Well, no, Nat, I hardly like to do that. If it is as I think, it would be too cruel, for we should be starving the young, and it will be easy to get a specimen of a hornbill if we want one, though really it is such a common bird that it is hardly worth carriage as a skin."

Just then, to show us, Ebo began to poke at the hole with the point of his spear, and we saw the point of a bill suddenly pop out and dart in again, while the great hornbill shrieked and shouted, for I can call it nothing else, so queerly sounded its voice.

"Why, it can't be the hornbill's nest, uncle!" I said. "Look how small it is."

"Yes, it is small, but it is the hornbill's nest after all," said my uncle, as Ebo kept on poking at the hole and bringing down pieces of what seemed to be clay. Then, seeing how interested we were, he took off his basket, lay down his spear, and taking a hatchet from his waistband cut a few nicks for his toes, and began to climb up, the big hornbill screeching horribly the while, till Ebo was level with the hole, from out of which the end of a bill kept on peeping.

Then the hornbill flew off and Ebo began to chop away a large quantity of dry clay till quite a large hole was opened, showing the original way into the hollow tree; and now, after a great deal of hoarse shrieking the black got hold of the great bird that was inside, having quite a fight before he could drag it out by the legs, and then dropping with it, flapping its great wings, to the ground.

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