CHAPTER 10. The Return From Dobodura.
Horrible Fate of one of our Enemies - Collecting in Cannibal - Haunted Forest - I Shoot a new Kingfisher, and a Bird of Paradise - Natives' Interest in Bird-Stuffing - Return Journey begun - Tree-house in a Notu Village - Peacemaking Ceremonies - Notu Village described - Our Allies sentenced for Cannibalism - Parting with Walsh and Clark.
We decided to return, and sent off a strong body of police in advance to surprise some of the surrounding villages. On the way back we found the man who was brained by one of our carriers still breathing. He was a ghastly sight, with his brains projecting out, and he was being eaten alive by swarms of red ants, which almost hid his body and found their way into his eyes, ears and nose. By the convulsions that from time to time shook the man's body, he was evidently still conscious, but could not possibly have lived for more than a few hours at most, after our thus finding him. New Guinea, like most tropical countries, had its full share of these pests (ants), some species of which actually make webs, and, by way of supplementing the web itself, work leaves in.
Acland, who had been suffering all day long from bad fever, now collapsed and could walk no further, but had to be carried in a hammock. When we got back to our old camping ground, I took an armed guard of police and went in search of birds for my collection, in the adjoining forest, and shot a new kingfisher (TANYSIPTERA) and a bird of paradise (PARADISEA INTERMEDIA). It was rather exciting work, as one went warily through the thick growth, from whence might issue a spear any minute, and I held on to my rifle all the time, except, of course, when I saw a bird, and then I made a quick change to my shotgun, lest I should prove a case of the hunter hunted.
On my return I had a large crowd of carriers around me watching me skin my birds, while Arigita explained everything to them in lordly fashion, only too pleased to get the chance of being listened to, while he expounded to them his superior knowledge. What he told them I, of course, could not tell, but he informed me that when I put the final stitch in the nostrils of the birds, my audience declared that I did this to prevent the birds from breathing and so one day coming to life again. When the wise Arigita asked them how this could be, since they had seen me take out the body and brains, they scoffed at him and said that spirits would come inside the skins so that they could sing again.
Monckton, meanwhile, had made a raid on the native gardens and brought in quite a lot of taro. The police had killed several more Doboduras, and in one place they had quite a fight. Our old man prisoner escaped in the night, although he was handcuffed.
We returned to the coast the next day, as there seemed no chance of our coming to terms with these Doboduras. Our only chance would have been to defeat them in a big engagement. They seemed too frightened of us to stand up for a big fight, but hid themselves in the bush, and were thus hard to get at. We left ten police behind to trap the natives, and, thinking we had left, a few of them returned to the village, and the police shot four more of them and soon caught up with us, bringing in the shields, stone clubs and spears of the slain.
During both these expeditions we had killed a good many of these people, and it ought to be a lesson to them to leave the Notus alone in future, although there is little doubt that the Notus themselves make cannibalistic raids on some of their weaker neighbours. I did not like the looks of the Notus, and they, as well as the Doboduras, have a most repellent type of features, and look capable of any kind of cruelty and treachery. They are very different from the gentle-looking Kaili-kailis.
The sea was very rough, and it was exciting work launching the canoes. One was thrown clean out of the water by a breaker. The majority of the carriers and half the police went round by the beach, but we in the two whaleboats had some exciting moments in the rough sea, though with the sails up we made good progress. We passed two of the canoes partially wrecked, and apparently in great difficulties.
We eventually landed long after dark in Eoro Bay, some distance the other side of the large Notu village, near which we had previously camped. We landed opposite a good-sized village belonging to the Notu tribe, from which all the inhabitants fled on our approach. We wandered about the village with flaming torches, looking out for huts to pass the night in, as it was too late to pitch camp. But unhappily the huts were full of lice, and it was impossible to get any sleep.
I saw here for the first time one of the curious native tree houses. It was high up in a tall pandanus tree, and had a very odd appearance. We spent the whole of the next day in this village, while our carriers brought in and mended their canoes. They, too, had a very rough time of it, but no lives were lost.