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THE CRYSTAL SCEPTRE ***




Produced by Tim Lindell, Stephen Hutcheson, and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net (This
book was produced from images made available by the
HathiTrust Digital Library.)









_The_ CRYSTAL SCEPTRE
_A Story of Adventure_


By PHILIP VERRILL MIGHELS
_Author of “Nella, the Heart of the Army,” etc._

[Illustration: Decorative glyph]

R. F. FENNO & COMPANY
9 and 11 East Sixteenth Street, New York
1901


Copyright 1901
by
Philip Verrill Mighels




Contents


CHAPTER PAGE
I. The end of the voyage 9
II. A strange alliance 14
III. The home of the Links 25
IV. A reconnoitre 36
V. Hostile neighbours 44
VI. Language and weapons 50
VII. Important discoveries 60
VIII. Attacked and besieged 67
IX. The cauldron of gold 76
X. Daylight at last 86
XI. A camp on the hill 91
XII. A deadly foe 97
XIII. The night in the jungle 108
XIV. An old roué 115
XV. A gleam of hope 120
XVI. Treachery and a battle 127
XVII. Saurians as foes 141
XVIII. The enemy near 151
XIX. Adoration scorned 155
XX. The chief is pleased 159
XXI. War with the Blacks 165
XXII. Home joys and troubles 172
XXIII. Needed munitions gathered 183
XXIV. Experimental gunpowder 188
XXV. The tribe frightened 197
XXVI. Sport at the lake 203
XXVII. An exploration 211
XXVIII. Amazing discoveries 218
XXIX. A sacred disguise 229
XXX. Again besieged 240
XXXI. Lost in the jungle 247
XXXII. The bamboo bombs 261
XXXIII. King at last 271
XXXIV. A moment of rest 276
XXXV. A fellow human 282
XXXVI. Surprise and suspense 293
XXXVII. The goddess 306
XXXVIII. A prospect of wealth 313
XXXIX. Stealing the enemy’s fire 324
XL. Coveted gold 334
XLI. Farewell to the camp 344
XLII. Golden gleams 358
XLIII. Surrounded by the Blacks 365
XLIV. Vale faithful Fatty 380
XLV. No longer a king 387




The Crystal Sceptre




CHAPTER I
THE END OF THE VOYAGE


We had lost all control of the wild balloon. It was driven ahead of the
wind like a shred of rags, the car trailing behind at a fearful angle,
for many of the ropes were broken and all the others were twisted in a
hopeless tangle. Nearly all our ballast had fallen into the angry sea
beneath us an hour after the storm first caught us in its whirl.

I could hear the ocean roaring and swashing, where its gigantic waves
toppled over each other below. The sound must have been tremendous, for
the wind blew such a howling gale that neither Ford nor I could make
each other hear what we shouted two feet away.

Our hats were gone; Ford’s face was haggard, whenever the lightning
revealed him in the gloom. So intense was the darkness that I could not
even see the vast bag above us. When a great flash illuminated the
heavens, directly ahead, I noted the monster globe full of gas,
silhouetted blackly against the glare, and knew it was slightly leaking.
A small three-cornered dent was in its side already. I also observed
that the sea was hardly more than fifty feet below, churning milk-white
foam in its fury out of liquid ebon waves of mountainous size. The sky
seemed like a solid bank of black. The darkness that followed the flash
absorbed even Ford. Yet I knew that while he clung to the basket with
his right hand, as I had done for above an hour, he was nevertheless
attempting with his left to heave out the bag of provisions and the
blankets. I helped him at this and we rose perceptibly.

Where we were it was absolutely impossible even to guess. That the
balloon was driving ahead at more than sixty miles an hour we had long
been convinced. This had been the state of affairs throughout the night.
I had lost all confidence in Ford’s calculations at the end of the
seventeenth hour out from Burma, for the twist which the storm had given
us then threw out or broke every reliable instrument we had, leaving not
so much as a compass. I was not an aeronaut like Ford, yet I knew we
were doomed, unless some change should occur, and that quickly.

Ford, by the light of a flash, had seen a rope which was sawing open a
seam in the silk, as it slashed and writhed in the tornado. When another
blinding illumination came, I saw him climbing up in the ring to cut
this rope away. The car tilted more than before; I fully expected to go
hurtling out at every jerk. Suddenly two ropes, worn to a thread, on the
ring, parted without the slightest warning. The car gave a lurch and all
but turned bottom-side up. I heard a cry, as I swung out full length,
suspended by my arms, and was even slightly struck on the foot, as Ford
went plunging down. The balloon shot upward, relieved of his weight, and
I was alone.

How long I clung there, swinging far out behind the wounded machine, is
more than I would dare to say. My arms finally ached so intensely I
could scarcely endure the pain. Dangling ropes beat me like knouts, for
a time, and then wrapped and twisted about me like coils of a snake.
Obviously these must have supported my weight at the last, for in a
spell of dizziness and weakness I lost my grip and then was conscious
only a second, when I thought, with the utmost unconcern, my end had
come. Like a dummy on the tail of a kite, I dragged below the wreck of
the car and was whirled thus unconsciously on, above the hungry sea.

It might have been hours, it might have been days after this last moment
of despair, when my brain began again to work. I can only describe the
sensations which followed as a species of dream. I thought I was dead;
it seemed as if my soul, or something, was at perfect rest in a region
of loveliness. Whereas I had been chilled through and through by the
storm, I was warm now and filled with comfort. Music, which might have
been the rustling of leaves or the songs of birds, made itself heard. I
could not see for my eyes remained closed; but a sense of delicious
odours pervaded my being; I seemed also to float, as if on the air.

At length I opened my eyes. The dream continuing on me still, I lay
perfectly quiet, gazing aloft into a sky of matchless beauty. Doubtless
I remained in this position for more than half an hour. Then a bright
bird flitted across my range of vision, and brought me back to things of
earth. I was still bound about by a piece of rope. Everything came back
to me sharply,—Ford, my friend, the scientist and daring balloonist, our
start, the storm, his hurtling down to death, my own desperation, and
then oblivion.

I was whole and sound, apparently. Removing the rope and attempting to
sit erect, I found myself floundering for a second, in the top of a
tree. The branch I was on let me drop. I fell toward the earth, made a
grab for a limb, which somewhat broke my fall, and landed plump on the
ground, in the midst of a circle of extraordinary beings.




CHAPTER II
A STRANGE ALLIANCE


Neither men nor apes, yet clearly creatures which were nearly the one
and on the verge of being the other, these inhabitants of the place had
evidently been observing my form, in a spirit of cautious curiosity, for
a number now came swinging down from trees adjacent to the one I had
occupied, and the ones upon the ground set up a series of singular
cries.

Having landed on my feet, hatless, but otherwise stoutly clad, I threw
my hand to my belt, instinctively, desiring to arm myself against
possible aggression. I found only my knife remaining. This weapon I
merely hauled around by sliding the belt, to bring the dagger directly
beneath my hand. The creatures about me were a score or so in number,
standing erect, apparently much excited, yet threatening no attack.
Their movements were restless; their roundish, near-together eyes were
constantly moving, like those of a monkey; they circled about me,
uttering guttural monosyllables, with many inflections. Every one of
them gripped in a powerful hand the haft of a rude sort of club,
fashioned out of a rock, lashed firmly to the end of a stout piece of
wood.

The mutual inspection between us lasted several minutes. I could detect
but little difference between any two of the beings. They were nearly as
tall as I, averaging about five feet six inches; they were thin, wiry,
entirely naked, long-armed, flat-nosed, big-jawed and covered, on their
legs and arms, with a thin and somewhat straggling growth of hair. Their
skin was a reddish light-brown in colour; their feet were large, but
much like hands, having the great toe set back like a thumb; their legs
were slender and poorly shaped, but exceedingly muscular; their
shoulders and backs were round.

One of the first to drop from a tree was a giant among them, a creature
more than six feet tall, active as a panther, commanding in aspect, and
possessing arms that reached fully to his knees. He carried a remarkable
club which was made of a great chunk of rock-crystal, secured at the end
of a polished bone, large and straight. This crystal still had its
gleaming points and facets preserved; it therefore inspired me with a
dread of the jagged hole it could smash in the skull of the largest
animal.

Amazed as I was by what I saw, my astonishment was instantly increased
when I observed the only female creature I had yet beheld. She issued
from a copse and took her place beside the giant, who stood leaning on
his club, eyeing myself nervously. She was a pure albino. Her hair,
which was long and coarse, was as white as foam, her eyes were as pink
as a rabbit’s; her complexion was florid red on white. With a
rudimentary modesty, she stood partially concealed behind the giant,
although she was “clothed” in a patch of skin from a pure white gull, in
addition to a sort of rude necklace of claws.

What were they? Where was I? What would they do? These questions I asked
myself rapidly a hundred times, as the creatures continued to edge about
me and to chatter obvious comments. I could only answer what they were,
and my premature conclusion may have been wide of the truth, yet I
dubbed them Missing Links without the slightest hesitation.

For a space of at least ten minutes I was subjected to the closest
scrutiny, during which time I kept the keenest possible watch on every
movement, behind as well as before me. Resistance, however, would have
been madness, had they closed in for a battle. There was evident
indecision among these Links as to what they should do, and I was
equally at a loss to determine what I most desired with regard to
themselves. I now underwent another sensation. Pushing his way through
the circle came a fat, waddling “fellow,” who afforded as great a
contrast to the ordinary Links as did the female albino. He was entirely
black. As if to render him quite grotesque, his legs were thick and
bowed, his stomach was large and glistening, and his head was crowned
with a skull, securely tied in place with thongs which passed beneath
his chin. But his face was so irresistibly comical, with its broad,
good-natured grin, that I smiled in actual forgetfulness of where I was.

At this he approached, holding forth in his hand a luscious fruit, the
like of which I had never seen. A murmur—plainly of dissent, or
warning—went up from his companions. Two or three made as if to drag him
roughly back by the leg. I fancied I understood him to be an emissary of
peace, and therefore deciding instantly that I preferred to be friendly,
I took a step forward and held out my hand. With a look of gratitude,
mingled with one of suspicious uncertainty, the fat chap gave me the
fruit and capered clumsily away, out of possible reach.

Grunts of wonder and perhaps also of relief, greeted my acceptance of
this overture of hospitality. The Links settled in their tracks, to see
what would happen next, many of them standing with arms akimbo and
glancing from me to the giant, rapidly, by which I concluded that he was
a chieftain to whom they looked for a final decision of the case.
Trusting that the action might create a salutary impression on the
audience, I drew my knife from its scabbard and proceeded to cut away
the thick, hard rind of the fruit, paying not the slightest attention to
the exclamations which followed this exhibition of the sharpness and use
of the gleaming blade. When the fruit was peeled, I put the knife away
and ate as delicious and juicy a thing as ever a man has known,
provoking thereby a feeling of undisguised pleasure in the Links and of
apparent ecstasy in the breast of the fat one who had provided the
breakfast.

“Now,” said I, when the thing was gone, “who are you fellows, and what
do you want?”

I was surprised at myself for thus addressing this half-ape gathering,
but they were smitten temporarily dumb at the sound of my voice. I made
a gesture of cordiality and turned completely around in the circle,
finally holding both my hands extended to the giant.

The chatter was instantly resumed. One of their “words,” in a language
which seemed to me to be exceedingly limited and primitive, was, as
nearly as pen can write it.

“Tzheck.”

Having caught this I attempted to repeat it, pointing to myself meantime
with my thumb, for it occurred to my mind that they called not only
myself but also their species by the name, and I desired to assure them
I was “one of themselves,” for at least they were better than no
companions in this unknown land.

My action evidently met with approval. They advanced, retreated, pushed
each other near and otherwise exhibited a desire to know what I was. But
still they had a fear of my presence, although they were now in a mood
of timid friendliness. Up to this the chief of the Links had not
“spoken” a word. He now gave a command, or something of the sort, when
each of the others raised his club to rest it on his shoulder, as if in
readiness to beat me to death in case a necessity should arise. The
giant then came boldly up and extending a finger, touched my clothing.
The feeling of the cloth caused him to tell something to his followers,
all of whom were breathless with attention.

Thinking I understood his perplexity, I quickly unfastened my coat and
shirt, exhibiting the whiter portion of my neck, for the part exposed
was tanned very much the colour of his own. This action begot a great
enthusiasm, responding to which I pulled my coat off entirely, when the
amazement of all was complete. I repeated their word “Tzheck” again,
whereupon they set up a clamorous conversation in monosyllables, among
themselves, and came yet closer, the better to place their hands upon
me. The impression was borne in upon me that they knew somewhat of what
I was, but were puzzled by the clothing I wore.

All this preface to a mutual friendship and understanding, which I much
desired as a guarantee of my personal safety, was progressing well when
a sudden scream threw all into a state of violent alarm. No sooner did I
turn than I beheld the appalling sight of thirty or forty huge, genuine
ourang-outangs, descending upon us from the near-by jungle. Two of these
had swooped upon the albino female and were struggling to carry her off.
I saw the giant nearly smash the head from the shoulders of one, with
his iridescent club, and rescue his mate in a second. Then a fierce
engagement commenced about me on every side.

It was a horrible conflict. The monster ourangs, half erect, appeared
like so many fiends, as they launched themselves in overwhelming numbers
on the Links, their mouths drooling, and bristling with fangs, their
hatred of the more human creatures expressed by the fury with which they
attempted to mangle and murder all the band. The Links, screaming out a
word which thrilled me as a battle cry of a courageous few whose fight
was all but hopeless, smote lustily with their clubs, sinking the
rock-end in many a skull, breaking arms, legs and ribs, yet wasting
superlative effort from lack of skill and discipline. Although they
fought their foe with more acumen than as many undrilled men could have
done, I thought they must fly or all be killed, for the odds were too
heavy by far.

In the midst of the uproar and turmoil, of which I had been the centre
for a time, a singular snarl, as of triumph, issued from one of the
attacking brutes. He had discovered myself. Immediately half a dozen
would have rushed upon me, had I not been still somewhat surrounded by
the Links. As it was, two ourangs rushed in, headlong, to do me
violence.

I had been about to fight for my “friends,” and therefore held my dagger
in my hand. I plunged it quickly in the throat of the beast that gripped
my shoulder, nearly severing the creature’s head from its body. As he
fell I stabbed the other to the heart, but felt so great a rib that I
knew I had reached his life by the merest good fortune.

That I then grew hot and eager for blood, I admit. I received the next
that came with a lunge which ripped him open entirely across the
abdomen. My knowledge of boxing and fencing stood me well. I attacked a
monster who was all but killing my fat, good-natured Link, and crashed
the steel fairly through the spinal column at the base of his brain. The
smell of blood and the flash of that gory knife seemed to affect the
attacking brutes with horror. Yet the next ones that came would have
killed me outright had not the fat Link beaten out the brains of one and
broken the arm of the other, which then was readily despatched.

Seeing the advantage of a club, I clutched up one which an overmastered
Link had dropped, and swung it madly. With this and the knife, I not
only defended myself but became a champion of the Links as well. The
fight, with its din of thuds and animal shrieks and screams of agony,
began to concentrate about three Links and myself. A long, hairy arm,
with an iron-like hand, was thrust across my shoulder and my throat was
in a deadly grip. I dropped the club and slashed my blade across the
wrist, severing the stiff, white cords. Then I swung in a blow that
buried the steel to the hilt. The brute fell heavily, dragging the knife
from my hand. Instantly two more great animals were upon me and over I
went, already scratched and slightly bitten. For a moment I struggled in
desperation; then a horrible black face came down toward my own, the
jaws awide for a fastening on my neck.

Down swept a gleaming streak. The rock-crystal club knocked the face,
head and all, away, as if it had been a potato on a stick. Another blow
killed my second assailant like a fly might be killed on a window. I
bounded up with a club in my hand. The giant Link was beating his way
through the foe like a doomsman. With a cry of hatred and fear, the
remaining ourang-outangs, and many of the wounded, suddenly turned and
fled. The battle had been brief and bloody; it had demonstrated a
fierceness and power incredible in the Links, a power which, if
concentrated and properly employed, would excel that of twice the number
of human savages.

I found my knife and pulled it forth from its sheath of flesh.
Collecting his following about him with a word, the giant leader touched
me on the arm and pointed toward the jungle. The wounded of “our” force
limped from the scene; our dead, who were three in number, were carried
by those who were still unhurt. With the albino mate of the chief I
walked away, surrounded by the chattering Links, whose conduct toward
me, I was sure, was that of a friendly “people.” The fat fellow was next
to idiotic in his gratitude for the stroke which had saved his life.

I had fought with them, bled with them, eaten of their food and
endeavoured to show them my good intentions and wishes toward
themselves. They were manifestly aware of all. I felt strongly drawn to
the singular beings, alone with them and dependent upon them; I felt
that for weal or woe I was at least a temporary companion to, if not an
integral part of, a band of Missing Links.




CHAPTER III
THE HOME OF THE LINKS


Filled with strange sensations, thus to find myself in the midst of a
company so extraordinary, I kept my appointed place in the march,
looking about me in an effort to discover what manner of country it was
into which I had dropped. I wondered what I should do to get back to
civilisation, and how this could be accomplished, and when.

About us the jungle closed in thickly. Huge trees, gigantic flowers and
creepers, hanging like intertwisted serpents, and with others like the
cables of incompleted suspension-bridges, convinced me at once of the
tropical nature of the land. We were walking in a rude sort of trail,
which I concluded had been formed by some ponderous animal, for the
growth had been smashed down or beaten and trampled aside.

This trail became uncertain, in the gloom, for soon the light was almost
entirely obscured by the super-abundant verdure. Had any of the Links
meditated treachery, or to take advantage of me while unprepared, this
jungle darkness would have afforded an exceptional opportunity; but on
the contrary my fat friend waddled actively before me, clearing the way
of branches, and the “person” next behind me was the albino female
herself. Nevertheless I was grateful for a glimpse of light, now and
again, which gave a promise that beyond we should find something less
forbidding. During this march I noted how silently the Links glided
onward, how lightly they stepped and how alert they were at every sound,
in that silent region of growing and prowling things.

Thus we finally emerged from the forest, into an opening of limited
extent. Here I noted fruit-trees and evidence of former occupation on
the part, I thought, of the Links, but they left the place behind, to
plunge again through the jungle. A shorter trudge brought us out of the
trees once more, at the foot of a hill of no considerable height. This
hill we commenced to ascend.

At last I could see for a distance about me. The prospect was
disappointing, almost bewildering. Instead of a glimpse of the ocean,
which I had thoroughly expected to get, I saw nothing but hills and
valleys, clothed endlessly with the dense, luxuriant growth peculiar to
the equatorial zone, all of it seeming to breathe of heavy blossoms,


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Online LibraryPhilip Verrill MighelsThe Crystal Sceptre: A Story of Adventure → online text (page 1 of 19)