CHAPTER 6. A Chapter of Accidents.
A Severe Bout of Malaria in the Wilds - The "Seamy Side" of Exploration - Unfortunate Shooting of the Chief's Dog - Filipino Credulity - Stories of the Buquils and their Bearded Women - Expedition Planned - Succession of CONTRETEMPS - Start for the Buquil Country - Scenes on the Way - A Negrito Mother's Method of Giving Drink to Her Baby - Exhausting Marches Amid Striking Scenery - The Worst Over - A Bolt from the Blue - Negritos in a Fury - Violent Scenes at a Negrito Council of War - They Decide on Reprisals - Further Progress Barred in Consequence - Return to Florida Blanca.
As I mentioned before, this was the unhealthy season in the Philippines, and Vic assured me that these lower mountains were even more unhealthy than the flat country. I myself soon arrived at a similar conclusion, as a regular epidemic of malaria now set in among my pigmy friends, the Negritos, and the old chief told us that his favourite son was dying with it; next my neighbour and his wife were prostrated with it, and when they had slightly recovered, they left their hut and returned to Florida Blanca. Vic himself was next laid up with it, and seemed to think he was going to die. When I was at work in the evening he would shiver and groan under a blanket by my side; this, coming night after night, was rather depressing for me, all alone as I was. At other times he would imagine we were hunting the wary and elusive PITTA, and would start up crying, "AH! EL TINKALU, it is there! POR DEOS, shoot, my English, shoot!" or he would imagine we were after butterflies, and would cry out, "CARAMBA, MARIPOSA AZUL MUY GRANDE, MUY BUENO, BUENO!" I was forced to do all the cooking for both of us, though it was quite pathetic to see poor Vic's efforts to come to my assistance, and his indignation that his "English" should do such work for him. At one time I half expected that he would die, but with careful nursing and doctoring I gradually brought him round.
During all the time that he was ill. I did but little collecting, and no sooner was Vic on the road to recovery than I myself was seized with it, and Vic repaid the compliment by nursing me in turn. It was a most depressing illness, especially as I was living on the poorest fare in a close and dirty hut. When you are ill in civilization, with nurses and doctors and a good bed, you feel that you are in good hands, and confidence does much to help recovery. But it is a different matter being sick in the wilds, without any of these luxuries, and you wonder what will happen if it gets serious. Then you long for home and its luxuries, with a very great longing, and cordially detest the spot you are in, with all those wretched birds and butterflies! It is Eke a long nightmare, but as you get better you forget all this, and the jaundiced feeling soon wears off, and you start off collecting again as keen as ever. One day a small skinny brown dog somehow managed to climb up the bamboo step into my hut during Vic's temporary absence, and I suddenly awoke to find it helping itself to the contents of a plate that Vic had placed by my side. I was far too ill to do more than frighten it away. This happened a second time before I was strong enough to move, but the third time I was well enough to seize my small collecting gun (which was loaded with very small cartridges), and when it was about thirty yards away I fired at it, simply intending to frighten it, as at that distance these small cartridges would hardly have killed a small bird. It stopped suddenly and, after spinning round a few times yelping, it turned over on its back. Even then I thought it was shamming, but on going up to it I found it was dead, with only one No. 8 shot in its spleen. On Vic's return he was much alarmed, as he said the dog belonged to the Negrito chief, who was very fond of it, and would be very angry with me if he knew. So we hid the body in the middle of a clump of bamboo about a quarter of a mile away from the hut. But the following day the sky was thick with a kind of turkey buzzard, which had evidently smelt the dog's corpse from some distance, and they were soon quarrelling over the remains. Vic worked himself up into a state of panic, saying that it would be discovered by the Negritos, but a few days later I sent him over to the Negrito chief's hut to get me some rice, and the chief mentioned that his chief wife had lost her dog, which she was very fond of, and that he thought that I must have killed it. Vic in reply said that that could never be, as in the country that I came from the people were so fond of dogs that they were very kind to them, and treated them like their own fathers. The chief then said that a pig must have killed it, and so the incident ended.