Prospecting in New Guinea
NEW GUINEA, or Papua, as the largest island in the world is variously called, promises to be the Klondike of the future. New finds of gold are being made daily in its vast, mysterious interior, and at present men from all parts of the world are converging on Port Moresby and Samarai, its chief ports, whence they will proceed up the rivers to the scenes of the latest discoveries. Yet gold has been found in New Guinea for the past thirty years, and prospectors dared its fierce cannibalistic tribes and pierced the mighty mountain ranges in its heart before the news of the great wealth of the Alaskan fields startled the world. But prospectors, then as now, did not care to develop mines; the early pioneers merely washed out the precious metal from the river beds and passed on, ever hoping to find deposits from which they might snatch a fortune in a day. And sometimes they nearly accomplished this feat; for on the famous Yodda Valley fields each man made over fifty ounces per day, and only the unreasoning hostility of the natives and deadly fevers made it impossible for them to continue working until their dreams were realized.
The Queensland Government, which administered the British part of the island, did not by any means encourage the adventurous gold-seeker. There were reasons for this attitude, some not easily understood but some prompted by the highest motives. Chief of the latter was the desire to govern the country for its own people’s good and, if possible, to allow the natives to develop it themselves, aided by such civilizing influences as education, trade, and missionary enterprise. But this influence did not extend beyond the coast and it was left to the prospector who — despite warnings and very often strenuous opposition — forced his way inland, to teach the savage tribes to respect the white man. In time those inland tribes did learn to respect the white man and showed that fact on every possible occasion by eating him so as to inherit his virtues!
New Guinea is a land of enormous possibilities. It is well watered by rivers, is blessed with rich soil, and contains, indigenous to the country, most natural tropical growths that are of value. The science of man has almost conquered the fevers which hang round the coastal belt and over the inland marshes, and the natives are becoming more tractable. Miningcamps are expanding into townships, roads and telegraph lines are being made, and possibly there may soon be railways. Samarai, on an island at the extreme southeast of the mainland, has already eclipsed Port Moresby as the chief port of the Possession, and it is fast becoming, in nature, a second Port Said or Thursday Island. From its busy wharves coasting steamers run regularly to the mouths of the Mambare, Kumusi, and Gira rivers on the east coast. On the upper reaches and headwaters of those rivers are the great gold deposits now attracting the world’s attention. The origin of the gold there baffles all explanation, as yet, but those who go to that region do not usually trouble themselves about that matter. Newcomers can always earn all their requirements easily around any existing camp, while those more daring and experienced can still find all the sensations they want in the more remote gorges and unknown creeks. The township of Tamata is the largest gold-fields town, but the old Yodda Valley camp still rivals it closely in extent of population, and probably the camps on the scenes of the new rushes, among the Albert Edward Ranges and further north in the old German territory, will soon outclass both. The prospector in those regions still trusts to his rifle for protection, quinine for health, and his luck for fortune; and if the first two do not fail, the third will not desert him.
Not very long ago a party of us set out from Tamata to prospect the foothills of the Owen Stanley Ranges. Most of us had had experience on all the chief fields of the world and we thought we could at least look after ourselves, although the news had just reached Tamata of the massacre of Macrae’s party by the natives. We totaled seven and employed a dozen carrier ‘ boys ‘ belonging to a timid coastal tribe which had been half civilized by the missionaries. Our first week’s journey was through country already known, but when we crossed the Ope River and the pestilential marshes left by its periodical overflows we broke fresh ground. We were now on the divide between the Ope and the Kumusi and were heading to hit the last-named river’s headwaters farther up among the foothills. Birds of paradise of gorgeous plumage and noisy parrots of all description flitted about everywhere. Wild pigs were abundant and fish were plentiful in all the streams. Native bees and leeches made life very unpleasant during the day, and at night mosquitoes and jigger fleas paid us unwelcome attention. The bee and the jigger were the worst, however; the former does not sting, but in its craving for salt it sucks deep into the perspiring skin, and raises painful blisters thereon. The latter playfully burrows under the toe nails, when it gets a chance, and deposits eggs which hatch as if by magic. Very drastic measures have to be taken when the jigger flea finds a home. But despite everything, and by making detours to avoid native villages, we forced our way ahead, and one day found ourselves on the bank of a swiftly flowing stream which, doubtless, joined the Kumusi somewhere.
We sat that night in the smoke of our camp-fire so as to escape the ravages of the night pests, and to discuss matters, We had crossed a native pad during the afternoon and knew that a village could not be far away, but we had also struck ‘good’ gold in the bed of the waterway beside us, and we hoped to prove its value before we passed on.
’I fancy we are in the heart of the Papangi country now,’ said Big Sam, as he kicked a centipede into the fire. ‘It was reported they were seeing red when we left Tamata.’
‘ I suppose it is useless trying to make friends with them?’ the Professor suggested.
Boston Bob laughed. ‘A Papangi likes the white man,’ he said, ‘but he likes him best roasted.’
‘It was up about here that Macrae’s party was wiped out,’ Sydney Charlie put in cheerfully.
‘That is one reason why I am here,’ I said. ‘Mac was my dearest friend.’
‘Mac was everyone’s friend,’ the Doctor added, slowly, ‘The Papangis have got to give me ten of their best — for him.'
None of us had ever known the Doctor to be of a revengeful nature and his words surprised us.
We were certainly an odd combination. The Professor was a New Zealander, highly cultured and of scientific training. He was as gentle-looking and as tough as Boston Bob and Big Sam were tough-looking but gentle. Boston Bob and Big Sam had been with me in Alaska and elsewhere. Sydney Charlie was a famous New Guinean pioneer, and Silent Ted was a man of mystery who very rarely spoke but who was always a sheet anchor in any emergency. While we were thinking, each deep in his own thoughts, our chief carrier came forward from the boys’ fire and signified he wished to speak.
‘Fire away,’ someone told him, and he began.
‘Me, John Livingstone Stanley Chalmers, mighty big chief down among Koitapu people in Port Moresby. Me Christian an’ got good educate. Me no’ eat. white fellow nor any fellow — ‘
‘Yes, John Livingstone Stanley Chalmers, we know all that,’ Sydney Charlie interrupted. ‘Cut out your family history and tell us what is troubling you.’
‘ Well, me smell Papangi fellow now. Me know him’s smell. Me been up here before, chief carrier with other goldhunting fellows. They all gets heads stuck on poles by Papangi an’ only me get away. Big village near here an’ your heads will be on poles round the tabu dubu (sacred house) before mornin’, if you no’ get away.’
‘I don’t seem to fancy my handsome head gracing the top end of a bamboo pole,’ Boston Bob commented. ‘ But I know you don’t mean to be funny, John L. S. Chalmers, although your words are.’
‘We had better set about building a stockade,’ suggested Big Sam. ‘They could surround us among the trees and spear us without showing themselves.’
‘No!’ Silent. Ted ejaculated. ‘Papangis are water fighters; they’ll come in their war-canoes. We ‘ll go to them —’
‘Nonsense, Ted; we are not looking for trouble,’ the Professor broke in — much to our regret, for Ted had never before been known to speak so much at a time.
After some discussion, however, we saw that Ted’s advice was good. We could leave our camp, with logs inside our mosquito nets, and fires burning to show its position. The natives, as was their custom, would spear the camp from the water while we were nearer their village than they dreamed, and, with luck, we might be able to get hold of one of their tabu priests, if any stayed behind the raiding party. He would be a hostage whose presence with us would mean a lot, for well we knew the strange tabu law of the natives: He who touches anything tabu becomes tabu himself, and this is often extremely awkward. Of course we did not doubt that the people of the village were well aware of our proximity. Very soon we decided upon our plan of action, and, leaving our fire heaped high with logs, we made toward the village, keeping in the thick of the dense vegetation and about a hundred feet away from the river. Our carriers — excepting the chief — were paralyzed with fear and ready to run at the first sign of danger.
We were greatly surprised at the silence, for usually the sound of native drums, tom-toms, and bamboo flutelike contrivances made the presence of a village known a long way off We knew we were near, however, as pads were often interrupt ing our course, and we had to be very careful in avoiding sunken stake-traps. Suddenly we emerged from the forest and a glare of lights shone through a high bamboo stockade in front of us. We had arrived at the dreaded village. Our carriers were too frightened to wail but they refused to follow us farther, even their chief thinking it was up to the white men to do the rest themselves.
We peered through the stockade. Something was happening inside, but the silence was inexplicable. The village was much like any other native village but larger than any we had ever seen, its tabu house being a most imposing edifice, mounted on piles about ten feet off the ground, thatched artistically, and surmounted by a row of carved monstrosities fixed on the gable. Other houses also were large and formed a square, from which radiated lines of smaller dwellings surrounded by cultivated patches of yams, tobacco, and other growths we did not know. Some tree-houses could be seen in the distance, but the shadows cast by a row of fires in the square prevented us from seeing the distant side of the village.
The square was crowded with fiercelooking warriors silently performing some evolutions round a cluster of poles adorned with mummified human heads, which occupied its centre. A number of grotesquely masked beings evidently were in charge of the proceedings, and they seemed to be very efficient in giving silent directions. Their masks covered half of their bodies and were all of different designs, mostly tapering up to a point and giving them t he appearance of pantomime giants. Fibre kilts were the lower garments of leaders and men, and they wore long streamers, fastened in their bushy hair, and necklets of teeth. They were all armed with barbed spears, spiked clubs, and dart blowpipes. They certainly looked capable of making short work of any prospector.
‘I’ll sell you my mosquito net, cheap,’ said Boston Bob to me as we watched; but before I could reply Silent Ted touched me on the shoulder and whispered: ‘Watch that fellow — fourth in the centre row!’
‘That is the chief tabu priest,’I answered, but I obeyed Ted’s injunction.
The warriors were now marching into the darkness on the other side of the village and most of the priests went with them. Soon all had gone and only women — recognized as such because of the flowers in their well-dressed hair — and the four central wizards were left. All were silent, and presently the women departed.
‘Now’s our chance,’ Big Sam, who was always impetuously inclined, called out, climbing the stockade; but the Professor and the Doctor both signed to delay operations and he slid down again.
‘Surely my imagination is tricking me,’ muttered the Doctor. ‘ Do any of you fellows notice anything familiar?’
I started violently. The giant figure I had been watching was nervously scratching the back of his right leg. ‘That is Mac!’ I almost shouted. ‘I’d know him anywhere by that trick of his — ‘
The Doctor’s face was bathed in perspiration. ‘It is!’ he cried. ‘And look! There is proof!’
The masked man standing third had seemingly got into an argument with his neighbor and, as we were looking, the fourth man’s fists shot out left and right and the third went down like a log, his mask smashed to fragments by the terrific blows.
‘Come on, boys!’ yelled the Professor and we were over the stockade in less than a minute. If the three remaining priests saw us they made no sign, and the object of our interest strode after the warriors. As we approached, the first man suddenly turned on the second, tripped him up and sat upon him. Then he faced us. ‘Glad to see you boys,’ he drawled. ‘Excuse me not rising.’
‘Tommy Carstairs!’ we cried simultaneously. ‘We thought you had passed out — ‘
‘Well, I have n’t. I’m second tabu priest here and old Mac is first. Got a smoke about you? I don’t care much for the home-grown tobacco.’
We all crowded round our old friend with exclamations of joy, and Silent Ted pulled the enormous covering from his body.
‘ Carry those beggars into the priests’ house and tie them to the sacrificing posts, while I do my best to spread knowledge around,’ laughed Carstairs. ‘ But say, Boston, you’ve lost that bet with old Murphy about the size of the biggest crocodile. He was n’t lying, for there are some sacred ones in a pool here more than twenty feet — ‘
Tommy Carstairs informed us that Mac and he were survivors of Macrae’s party and that they had been kept for a special feast. In the interval another tribe from down the river had attacked the village, and Mac had saved the chief from being carried off. The chief had no love for the white men but, realizing the value of their presence, had made Mac and Carstairs priests, out of gratitude. They had since been able to work magic in curing a lot of the leading warriors by the use of pills made of soap which they had recovered from their packs, and now were somewhat popular.
The natives had gone out that night to settle some old feud with a village upstream, and the silence which had surprised us was part of their usual ceremonies before undertaking such a venture.
‘We are free to clear out when we like — maybe! — but two white men could never get down to the Yodda alive,’ Carstairs added; ‘and anyhow we ‘ve struck a patch of gold not far away, worth a lot of fortunes, and you fellows will come in very handy to help to work it.’
‘But where has Mac gone now?’ I asked. ‘And what about those two fellows tied over there?’
‘Oh, Mac has gone after the warriors to throw curses — with his rifle — at any deserters; and those two priests were jealous of our power and were getting nasty. They ‘ll run for their lives down to the next village when we kick them out. We’ve made them break something about their tabu law by touching them, and they’ll be the centrepieces of a big grill if they are ever caught.’
After a lengthy discussion it was decided that we should return to our camp and wait there until Mac and Carstairs came for us, in state, and took us to the village as their friends; then fresh plans could be arranged. We set the two priests free and they at once ran to the river and tumbling into a canoe, pushed off downstream. We followed in a larger craft, and our carriers ran alongside through the forest. The blazing camp-fire soon shone through the trees, and we beached our cleverly designed dugout and found that we had been raided, after all. Our nets were transfixed with dozens of spears, all thrown from the land side, and John L. S. Chalmers proclaimed them to be the weapons of some other tribe, lower down.
‘ Evidently it is a bit exciting round about here at times,’ the Professor commented, and we all agreed, and set about preparing breakfast.
With the coming of the sun the spirits of our carriers revived and, to make amends for their conduct during the night, they helped to work the goldsand patch we had struck. Their methods were amusing to us, at first: they stretched themselves on the sand and, thanks to marvelous eyesight, ‘ specked’ the minute points of gold and picked them up with their tongues. At the end of an hour they had collected more than we had with our pans, and the Professor checked the amount to their credit so as to give them a good reason to stay with us. But their system had disadvantages. Lying prostrate on the sand, they could not ‘get a move on’ very quickly, and when an enormous saurian suddenly rushed out of the water and seized one, those disadvantages became apparent. Silent Ted and Sydney Charlie had seen the creature, however, and a moment before its great, jaws had actually exerted full pressure through the native’s fibre kilt they had each sent a bullet through its eyes into its brain. Paralyzed, but not yet dead, the monster relaxed its hold, and Boston Bob and I pulled the man free. Another fusillade of bullets finished the creature, and the Doctor attended to the carrier, who was more frightened than hurt. This incident put an end to the gold-extracting work of the carriers.
While we were still talking over the matter, a fleet of war canoes swept down the river toward us, the occupants shouting ‘ Begga-be-begga’ — ‘friends, we are friends.’ Mac and Carstairs were in the first canoe, unadorned, and with them was a powerfully built warrior with a ring in his nose and saucer-like appendages to his ears, whose hair-streamers and necklet of teeth proclaimed him as the great War Chief.
Our carriers disappeared at once.
‘Hullo, you bold bad gold-hunters!’ cried Mac, as the first boat grounded. ‘Let me introduce you to my friend Pickhimsbones, the mighty War Chief. He does n’t know a word of English, so listen carefully to what I am saying, for I am sure he has already settled on which of you he ‘ll have for dinner tonight. Don’t trust him, but make a big show of being impressed by the ugly old sinner.’ Mac rubbed the back of his right thigh as he spoke, and we nearly spoiled the impressiveness of the introduction by laughing.
We greeted Mac with a dignity that hid our real feelings and responded to the Chief’s grunt of salutation in a manner suggestive of a meeting of potentates. Pickhimsbones then rattled out a long jargon of words and made signs that he welcomed us as friends of his white priests. His warriors cheered lustily when he had finished, and Mac explained that he had been boasting of the fight during the night and of the number of slaves he would have in the spirit world, — those slain in personal combat become the slaves of the victor in the after world, — and that we had been invited to make his village our home while we were in the country.
We made suitable response and, at the same time, contrived to tell Mac that our camp had been attacked, that we had plenty of ammunition, and had found gold.
‘ You can never work here,’ Mac said, when we had told everything and Carstairs was telling the Chief some tale supposed to be an interpretation of what we were saying, and some of the warriors were investigating our packs with doubtful intent. ‘ You are between two of the most bloodthirsty tribes in New Guinea and I think the Chief is about to act treacherously now. Watch the warriors nearest you, carefully, and be ready to shoot if need be; I am going to spring a risky trick.’ Mac turned to the Chief and apparently saw the dead crocodile for the first time. A look of horror came into his eyes and he ran over to the motionless monster and bent over it. The Chief eyed him strangely and followed. It seemed to me that he was thinking Mac was becoming too popular and that the seven extra white men would be better with their heads on poles. But he got a shock. By some accident, apparently, Silent Ted, rightly interpreting Mac’s signal, got in his way and tripped him. He fell on the dead body.
‘ Tabu! Tabu! ‘ screamed Mac, pointing to a symbol burned into the crocodile’s scales.
The words acted like magic and, after a moment’s awed silence, the warriors took them up.
‘Tabu! Tabu!’ they yelled and rushed to the war canoes.
The Chief picked himself up and hesitated, as if he would like to risk the awful fate in store for those who had been in contact, unlawfully, with anything tabu; but his men were leaving him, so, wit h a sudden bound, he joined one of the boats. Mac still cont inued to shriek out the word and the Chief deliberately hurled a spear at him from the water. It missed, and while he was aiming a second, Sydney Charlie shattered his wrist with a bullet from his Winchester. With frenzied shouts the warriors paddled up stream and Mac, rubbing his right leg, remarked: ‘That was a piece of luck, boys. This crocodile really is tabu. It must have got tired of the sacred pools in the village, or of the old men on which it was fed. It probably is the tomb of a lot of Papangis’ ancestors.’
Boston Bob measured the creature in paces and observed, ‘I think old Murphy has won that bottle of fruit salts, after all.’
‘ l think that, for a quiet peaceful life, prospecting in New Guinea is ideal,’ I ventured. ‘ But the law of tabu is a big factor in it.’
‘And the butterflies and the orchids are very beautiful — ‘ began the Professor.
‘We have no time to waste, boys,’ interrupted Mac, as Big Sam came back with our carriers. ‘Lead on, Tommy. Cross the river and hit the pass leading through the divide.’
Mac’s tireless energy and enthusiasm were infectious, and, hastily collecting our stores and gold, we negotiated the river and cut through the dense undergrowth of the forest until we struck a well-defined pad leading into the ranges. At nightfall we were among towering mountains, clad to their summits with dense flowering vegetation, but our compasses were useless, and we had to climb trees to view the stars before we could determine which way we were heading.
‘I believe this pad leads through to a west-coast river,’ said Mac. ‘That peak on our right is Mount Albert Edward, and the Papangis are afraid of the spirits that dwell beyond it.’
‘But we came here for gold,’ Big Sam said. ‘We’re not afraid of spirits.’
‘This afternoon you have been passing through the biggest gold-formation that I know of in the world,’ Mac replied; ‘but we cannot work quartz reefs without plant, so we’ll just have to be content with panning out sordid wealth in the gully just ahead of us.’
We pushed on in the moonlight and presently, under Carstairs’ leadership, swung off to our right through a closegrown mass of scrubby entanglements and found ourselves in a ravine completely shut off by the vegetation which grew across the entrance.
‘Now, you sinners,’ spoke Mac, fondling his nether limb, ‘we have arrived. Eat well and sleep well to-night, for tomorrow the gold fever will be on. You ‘ll find gold wherever the sand is piled up against the hard quartz barriers which cross the bottom of this watercourse.’
We were too tired to ask questions, and anyhow, no one had any worry when Mac was in charge; so, after dining on wild pig, cooked in the ashes of our camp-fire, we stretched ourselves out for sleep in the smoke, each man taking an hour’s turn on guard. Next morning we proved Mac to be correct. Gold was everywhere, and we panned out about three hundred ounces before night.
‘How did the Papangis manage to catch you here?’ the Professor asked our two new members, as we again sat smoking round our fire.
‘They did n’t get us here,’ Carstairs answered. ‘We were going down to the river, homeward bound with our gold, when we ran into them. They’ve got our gold now —’
‘But they’ll track us here, this time,’ said Mac, ‘so always say your prayers at night.’
‘How did you find this place?’ I asked. ‘You could n’t tell such a place was here from the pad outside?’
‘We did not know the pad was there until the day before we left,’ Carstairs replied, while Mac, unconsciously, felt that his right leg was still where it should be. ‘We came in here over the top of the divide, from the Mambare watershed on the other side. We did not think we were going back by the Kumusi route when we left for home.’
‘I think we’ll go back by the Mambare,’ I said. ‘I prefer sailing down a river among the gentle crocodiles to cutting through the forest to avoid the Papangi and other villages.’
‘There is plenty of gold on the other side, too, among the Mount Scratchley foothills.’ Mac spoke thoughtfully.
‘You are a regular glutton on gold, Mac,’ laughed the Doctor as he turned in for the night. ‘One would think you enjoyed being a Papangi tabu priest.’
‘I did, Doctor,’ Mac replied seriously. ‘I meant to kill old Pickhimsbones some day and start growing rubber in his kingdom; labor would be cheap, and the fat priests would last as food for a long time — and just think how well a name like “The Papangi Rubber Company, Limited” would look on business paper —’ Mac may have rambled on, but all had fallen asleep.
Next day we repeated our first day’s performance, and that night the Professor gave us a learned discourse on orchids and butterflies; but it was the Doctor who put us to sleep with his story of the life of the beriberi fever microbe.
The third day our enthusiasm eased off somewhat; getting gold was now monotonous work, fit only for our carriers if they had not been so lazy. We constructed some crude labor-saving devices and, trusting to them to keep up the returns with lessened labor, went out hunting, and incidentally gained much knowledge of our surroundings. We were continually striking fresh deposits of auriferous sands and stumbling across rich quartz-reefs on those short trips, but we knew it was useless attempting to develop any of our finds, with the knowledge that sooner or later the natives would track us down.
By t he end of a week we had secured nearly two thousand ounces of gold and were thinking about going back to tell of our fortune and get reënforcements. We had piled up a mass of dry scrub around our camp and had laid several charges of gelignite in pop-holes underneath, that would be fired — with more noise than anything else — when we set fire to the barricade. The Papangis were on our nerves and two men now kept guard during the night.
One day some of us climbed up the slopes of the mountain which formed one side of our gully and, on reaching the summit, beyond the zone of dense vegetation, got a magnificent view of the entire country, which stretched away beneath until lost in the haze. We could easily trace the course of all t he rivers, and waterways feeding t hem, by the film of mist which hung over their channels in long serpentine lines, and we could even see the Papangi village, quite distinctly, about ten miles down on our right. The Professor sketched in the lines of the rivers and prominent features and on our descending journey collected some orchids which he said were unknown to the world. When we reached camp, Silent Ted and the Doctor had our evening meal ready and our boys had added more inflammable scrub to our surrounding wall. Silent Ted was a wonderful cook and his culminating efforts were in that never-to-be-forgotten dinner.
‘I have half an idea that a restaurant in New York, where all meals were cooked in hot wood-ashes, would be as good as a gold mine,’ Boston Bob remarked, as he helped himself to another portion of wild pig.
‘If you would throw in a camp-fire, a New Guinean atmosphere, and hungry prospectors as guests, I should n’t mind being your partner,’ said the Doctor. ‘ But I fear — ‘
What the Doctor feared was never known, for as he uttered the last word a burst of yells startled us almost out of our senses and a flight of poisoned spears stuck in our protecting barrier. The crashing of the undergrowth and the sound of bodies falling over the wild-vine-creeper rope guards we had fixed amid the outlying trees, told us we were attacked in force, and the shrieks of our own boys added to the awful din.
’I guess, Doctor, I’m not having any of your New Guinea atmosphere for my New York restaurant,’ said Boston Bob, flinging a lighted brand on our brushwood guard, ‘but I’ll have this bit of pig now, sure!’
‘Load up and run!’ Big Sam cried to the carriers. ‘Lead them, Charlie — we ‘ll follow.’
Sam’s words were the last heard in that camp; all other sounds were drowned in the roar of the flaming scrub, which crackled like thousands of whips, and next instant the gelignite charges went off like a battery of guns in action. A dense pall of smoke fell low and enveloped everything, and, seizing from the ashes what we could of our late meal, we picked up our rifles and departed toward the Mambare headwaters. What the savages thought, we never knew. Probably they made night hideous with their frenzied shouts, but we did not hear them, and I fancy they concluded that all the demons of the spirit world had been let loose on them. Looking back from the top of the divide, we could see that the forest had caught fire and were thankful that the slight breeze favored us.
‘The Paps are having a hot time,’ Sydney Charlie remarked as we turned away, ‘but we’ve left a lot of stuff behind —’
‘We’ll not need it,’ growled Mac. ‘We’ve got our gold and our rifles — and our lives.’
We stumbled on in the moonlight in the direction of the nearest waterway we had seen that day, and under the Professor’s leadership soon reached it. Following it down, we joined a larger stream and found an easier passage along its crocodile-infested shallows. Before sunrise we struck a large river and our carriers smelled a village on the opposite side, although it was still too dark to see it.
‘Our troubles are nearly over now,’ said Mac cheerily; ‘I know this village, and its people are quite decent. One of you come with me and the rest of you kindle all the fires you can, to attract the crocodiles.’ Mac waded out into deep water as he spoke and I followed, and presently we were swimming diagonally across toward a large structure dimly discernible on piles in the water. Lashed alongside were several canoes of various sizes, with paddles inside, and, cutting out two large ones we drifted down and back across the water in them. A few minutes later we had distributed ourselves, carriers, and gold between the boats and were heading down with the current.
Four days later, near sundown, we were astonished to hear a voice hail us in English from the bank. ‘This way, boys,’ the owner of the voice called. ‘ This way to the new Eldorado — Howling dingoes! It’s Mac!’
‘How far are we from Tamata, Murphy?’ Boston Bob cried. ‘You’ve won your bottle of fruit salts, but what are you doing there?’
‘Tamata is at present nearly deserted,’ Murphy answered. ‘ This is the latest, new find, discovered since you left; there are forty men here already, and more coming. We ‘ve got a second Yodda Valley and — but where on earth have you come from?’
We were now alongside. ‘From the land of gold, old man,’ Mac replied, gripping Murphy’s hand, ‘from over the mountains of the moon and from the land beyond the shadows. But we’re hungry. . . .’
Safe among forty brother-prospectors, in the latest gold-mining camp in New Guinea, we slept soundly that night and sent our gold on to Tamata by petrol launch, next day. With it went Boston Bob and the Doctor, the former down with fever and the latter to attend to him. We remained in the new camp, meaning to return to Papangi Land when they came back. But many things happened before we saw them again, and when we did meet it was in Queensland.
We returned the canoes with presents and apologies.