The Spike or Victoria University College Review 1935
Red fire blazed in the jungle's heart—dark against its ruddy light were rows of savage huts—and naked savage figures danced round and round amid the leaping flames. Humans these; but more fearsome. Rather like the fiends of hell they were—black forms moving quick against the leaping redness.
Tom-toms beat the midnight air—Tom-toms beat high festival tonight. Watch the dancing figure in his mask! See him lead the dancing throng! Hear the throbbing air again, as round and round they go.
To-night is great for the little ones of the jungle, for to-morrow, a score of the tribal braves will go to the villages of the Yemen and fight for the ashes of the sacred crocodile. To-night the little ones will fete and make sacrifice to the hundred forest demons, that the warriors may find victory in their quest.
Have not their fathers, and their fathers' fathers, too, told of the great battles of the past—of the day when the conquering Neelin made sacrifice of a crocodile to the demon of the thundering mountain, and placed its ashes in a carven gourd, to remind them forever of that great day?
Have not the tribes since fought against each other for the treasure, believing that they who hold it shall not be wanting in prowess in the fields of war?
And so the night goes on—there is feasting, too. The tribe has much meat to-night, and vessels of the magic drink that makes men feel like gods—and makes them see visions. Let all drink deep, for the gods are pleased!
Amid the feasting, an ancient man rose to speak. He was a wise one of the tribe, and his counsel was such that all might listen to it. He was not heard, however, for the shouts arose:—
"Take down the old one! We do not want him at our feast.
"Raise, warriors, the cup of courage to your lips. Drink deep, for to-morrow you must pit the blood of youth in battle against the warriors of another tribe!"
Tom-toms beat loud again—and round and round the fire the savage figures passed. This is a mighty night, and the jungle rings to the echoes!
But soon there is a lull, and the old man speaks again. This time the revellers pause, and his words are heard.
"My friends," he said, "to-morrow you send your braves to battle, and to-night you feast. I have come among you, as I have come many times before, to tell you of the wisdom of the trees and the flowers and the mountains—but you do not listen to me. Your thoughts are filled with battle, and wisdom finds no place in them. I wish you well for the sacrifice you shall make to the god of the thundering mountain—may it be a worthy one.
"And those of you whose ears are deaf to me perhaps will hear the tale of Oonub, the warrior king, who, when his courtiers were filled too much with the lust for war, and thought not of the arts of peace, chided them. And to-night the spirit of a former king chides you, too.
"To you, my very dear friends, who, alas! are so few, I thank you for your patience in hearing me. Perhaps this is the last time I shall speak to you amongst these huts. If so, I bid you farewell!"
Red fire blazed in the jungle's heart—dark against its ruddy light were rows of savage huts—and naked savage figures danced round and round amid the leaping flames. Humans, these, but more fearsome. Rather like the fiends of hell they were—black forms moving quick against the leaping redness.
—E.F.H.page break page break
The Art Room. Hughan.