CHAPTER 9. On the War-Trail Once More.
Further Expedition Planned - Thank-offerings of Notu Chiefs - The Voyage - A Gigantic Flatfish - Negotiating a Difficult Bar - Moat Unhealthy Spot in New Guinea - Hostility of Natives - Precautions at Night - Catching Ground Sharks and a "Groper" - Shark-flesh a Delicacy to the Natives - Wakened by a War Cry - A False Alarm - A Hairbreadth Escape - Between "Devil and Deep Sea" - Dangers of the Goldfield - Two Miners Eaten Alive - Unexpected Visit from a White Man - "Where's that Razor?" - Crime of Cutting Down a Coconut Tree - Walsh's Camp - Torres Straits Pigeons - My Boy an ex-Cannibal - A Probable Trap - Relapse into Cannibalism of our Own Allies - Narrow Escape from a New Guinea Mantrap - Attack on a Village - Second Visit to Dobodura - Toku's Exploit - Interview with our Prisoners - Reasons for Cannibalism - The Night Attack on our Camp and Enemies' Fear of our Rifles described by our Prisoners - Bravery of one of our Carriers - Treatment of a Prisoner.
"Yes," said Monckton on our return to the coast, "we have got to punish those Doboduras at all costs. They are the worst brutes I've come across in New Guinea." And Monckton knew what he was talking about, as he had been a resident magistrate in British New Guinea for many years and had travelled all over the country, and had a wider experience of the cannibals than any man living.
This tribe (as has already been mentioned), when they capture a prisoner, tie him to a post, keep him alive for days, and meanwhile feed on him slowly by cutting out pieces of flesh, and prevent his bleeding to death with a special preparation of their own concoction, and finally, when he is nearly dead, they make a hole in the side of the head and feed on the hot fresh brains.
Both Acland and I myself fully agreed with Monckton, as we were not by any means grateful to the Doboduras for giving us the worst fright of our lives. We had, it is true, killed a good many of them, but we recognised the fact that our force was insufficient to hold its own, much less to punish these brutal tribesmen. So we determined to journey up north and get help from the magistrate of the Northern Division on the Mambare River, before returning to the Dobodura country.
That evening four Notu chiefs came into camp to thank us for killing their enemies, and they brought with them presents of dogs' teeth and shell necklaces, and seemed greatly excited, all talking at once, each trying to out-talk his fellows, and wagged their heads at us in turn. We left very early the next morning in our whaleboat for the Kumusi River, but left all our carriers and stores with most of the police behind in one of the Notu villages to await our return, as we now felt sure that we could trust the Notu tribe.
It was a hot and uneventful voyage. A fish which looked like an enormous sole, but which was larger than the whaleboat, jumped high in the air not many yards away. Toward evening we arrived opposite the bar of the Kumusi River, and we had a very uncomfortable few minutes getting through the breakers into the river, for if we had been upset we should soon have become food for the sharks and crocodiles, which literally swarmed here. We got through the worst part safely, but then stuck fast on a small sand-bank, and one or two good-sized breakers half-filled the boat; but we all jumped out and hauled her off the sand into the deep, calm waters beyond.
After rowing up the river a short distance, we landed at a spot where there was a trader's store, looked after by an Australian named Owen. From here miners go up the river to the gold fields in the Yodda Valley, and cutters are constantly putting in at this store with miners and provisions.
This district has the reputation of being one of the most unhealthy spots in New Guinea, and the natives round here are none too friendly, and hate the government and their police, so that during the last three years, three or four resident magistrates in the locality have either been murdered or have died of fever.
We arranged to have our meals with Owen at the store, and we slept in a rough palm-thatched shed with a raised flooring of split palm-trunks, which was very hard and rough to sleep on, and gave me a sleepless night. We got two of our police to sleep in front of the doorway, as it was more than likely that the natives might attempt to murder us. These precautions may have been justified as, in the middle of the night both Acland and I myself saw two natives peering into the hut.
The next day we sent off a messenger to the northern station for more police, and it was fully a week before they arrived. Meanwhile we spent our time dynamiting and catching fish. We caught some large ground sharks fully four hundred pounds in weight, and also a "gorupa" ("groper"), a very large fish of about three hundred and fifty pounds. This fish is the terror of divers in these parts they fear it more than any shark. Both shark and fish proved most acceptable to our police; they are especially fond of shark.
One morning about five o'clock I was aroused by hearing a shrill war-cry close by. The police rushed up with their rifles and told us we were attacked. It can be imagined it did not take us long to buckle on our revolvers and seize our rifles and run, half-asleep as we were, in the direction of the noise, which was repeated from time to time in a very ferocious manner. On turning a sharp corner by the river, instead of warlike warriors, we beheld about a dozen natives hauling in the sharkline we had left baited in the water the previous evening, with a very large shark at the end of it. Being greatly excited they had from time to time yelled out their war-cry. We felt very foolish at being roused from our slumbers for nothing, but still there was some slight consolation in knowing that even the police were deceived.