The Pathless TrailArthur O. Friel / Actions & Adventure
THE PATHLESS TRAIL
ARTHUR O. FRIEL
New YorkGrosset & DunlapPublishers
Made in the United States of America
THE PATHLESS TRAIL
Copyright, 1922, by Harper & BrothersPrinted in the United States of America
TO THE MEMORY OF MY FATHER GEORGE WILLIAM FRIEL
I. SONS OF THE NORTH
II. AT SUNDOWN
III. THE VOICE OF THE WILDS
IV. THE GERMAN
V. INTO THE BUSH
VI. IN THE NIGHT WATCH
VII. COLD STEEL
VII. THE DOUBLE-CROSS
IX. FIDDLERS THREE
X. BY THE LIGHT OF STORM
XI. OUT OF THE AIR
XII. THE ARROW
XIII. THE WAY OF THE JUNGLE
XIV. A DUEL WITH DEATH
XV. THE CANNIBALS
XIX. FRUIT OF THE TRAP
XIX. THE RED BONES
XX. THE RAPOSA
XXI. SHADOWS OF THE NIGHT
XXII. THE SIREN OF WAR
XXIV. THE BATTLE OF THE TRIBES
XXV. THE PASSING OF SCHWANDORF
THE PATHLESS TRAIL
SONS OF THE NORTH
Three men stood ankle deep in mud on the shore of a jungle river,silently watching a ribbon of smoke drift and dissolve above the sombermass of trees to the northwest.
Three men of widely different types they were, yet all cradled in thesame far-off northern land. The tallest, lean bodied but broadshouldered, black of hair and gray of eye, held himself in soldierlyfashion and gazed unmoved. His two mates--one stocky, red faced and redheaded; the other slender, bronzed and blond--betrayed their thoughts intheir blue eyes. The red man squinted quizzically at the smoke featheras if it mattered little to him where he was. The blond watched it withthe wistfulness of one who sees the last sign of his own world fade out.
Behind them, at a respectful distance, a number of swarthy individualsof both sexes in nondescript garments smoked and stared at the trio withthe interest always accorded strangers by the dwellers of the OutPlaces. They eyed the uncompromising back of the tall one, the easylounge of the red one, the thoughtful attitude of the light one. Thecopper-faced men peered at the rifles hanging in the right hands of thenewcomers, their knee boots, khaki clothing, and wide hats. The womenlet their eyes rove over the boxes and bundles reposing in the mudbeside the three.
_Ingles?_ hazarded a woman, speaking through the stem of the blackpipe clutched in her filed teeth.
_Notre-Americano_, asserted a man, nodding toward the broad hats.Englishmen would wear the round helmets of pith.
_Mercadores?_ Traders? suggested the woman, hopefully running an eyeagain over the bundles.
_Exploradores_, the man corrected. Explorers of the bush. Have you noeyes? Do you not see the guns and high boots?
The woman subsided. The others continued what seemed to be their onlyoccupation--smoking.
The smoke streamer in the north vanished. As if moved by the sameimpulse, the three strangers turned their heads and lookedsouth-westward, upriver. The red-haired man spoke.
So we've lit at last, as the feller said when him and his airyplanelanded in a sewer. Faith, I dunno but he was better off than us, atthat--he wasn't two thousand miles from nowheres like we are. Thesteamer's gone, and us three pore li'l' boys are left a long ways fromhome.
Then, assuming the tone of a showman, he went on:
Before ye, girls, ye see the well known Ja-va-ree River, which I neverseen before and comes from gosh-knows-where and ends in the Ammyzon.Over there on t'other side the water is Peru. Yer feet are in the mud ofBrazil. This other river to yer left is the Tickywahoo--
Tecuahy, the blond man corrected, grinning.
Yeah. And behind ye is the last town in the world and the place thatGod forgot. What d'ye call this here, now, city?
Remate de Males. Which means 'Culmination of Evils.'
Yeah. It looks it. Wonder if it's anything like Hell's Kitchen, up inli'l' old N'Yawk.
They turned and looked dubiously at the town--a row of perhaps seventyiron-walled and palm-roofed houses set on high palm-trunk poles, eachwith its ladder dropping from the doorway to the one muddy street. Thenspoke the tall man.
Before you see it again, Tim, you'll think it's quite a town. Abovehere is nothing but a few rubber estates, seven hundred miles of unknownriver, and empty jungle.
Empty, huh? Then they kidded us on the boat. From what they said it'sfair crawlin' with snakes and jaggers and lizards and bloody vampiresand spiders as big as yer fist. And the water is full o' man-eatin' fishand the bush full o' man-eatin' Injuns. If that's what ye call empty,Cap, don't take me no place where it's crowded.
A slight smile twitched the set lips of the tall cap.
They're all here, Tim, though maybe not so thick as you expect. Lots ofother things too. Who's this?
Through the knot of pipe-puffing idlers came a portly coppery man inuniform.
Well, I'll be--Say, he's the same chap who came onto the boat in apolice uniform. Now he's in army rig, the light-haired member of thetrio exclaimed. O Lordy! I've got it! He's the police force and thearmy! The whole blooming works! Ha!
Tim snickered and stepped forward.
Hullo, buddy! he greeted. What's on yer mind?
_Boa dia_, senhor, responded the official, affably. With the words hedeftly slipped an arm around Tim's waist and lifted the other handtoward his shoulder. But that hand stopped short, then flew wildly outinto the air.
Tim gave a grunt and a heave. The official went skidding and slitheringsix feet through the mud, clutching at nothing and contorting himself ina frantic effort to keep from sprawling in the muck. By a margin thin asan eyelash he succeeded in preserving his balance and stood where hestopped, amazement and anger in his face.
Lay off that stuff! growled Tim, head forward and jaw out. If ye wanttrouble come and git it like a man, not sneak up with a grin and thenclinch. Don't reach for no knife, now, or I'll drill ye--
Tim! barked the black-haired one. Ten-_shun_!
Automatically Tim's head snapped erect and his shoulders went back. Herelaxed again almost at once. But in the meantime the tall man hadstepped forward and faced the raging representative of the government ofBrazil.
Pardon, comrade, he said with an engaging smile. My friend is astranger to Brazil and not acquainted with your manner of welcome. Inour own country men never put the arm around one another except incombat. He has been a soldier. You are a soldier. So you can understandthat a fighting man may be a little abrupt when he does not understand.
The smile, the apology, and most of all the subtle flattery of beingtreated as an equal by a man whose manner betokened the North Americanarmy officer, mollified the aggrieved official at once. The hot gleamdied out of his eyes. Punctiliously he saluted. The salute was aspunctiliously returned.
It is forgotten, Capitao. As the capitao says, we soldiers aresometimes overquick. I come to give you welcome to Remate de Males. Myservices are at your disposal.
We thank you. Why do you call me capitao?
My eyes know a capitao when they see him.
But this is not a military expedition, my friend. Nor are any of ussoldiers now--though we all have been.
Once a capitao, always a capitao, the Brazilian insisted. Then hehinted: If the capitao and his friends wish to call upon thesuperintendente they will find him in the intendencia, the blue buildingbeyond the hotel. It will soon be closed for the day.
The tall American's keen gray eyes roved down the street to theweather-beaten house whose peeling walls once might have been blue. Henodded shortly.
Better go down there, he said. Come on, Merry. Tim, stick here andkeep an eye on the stuff. And don't start another war while we're gone.
Right, Cap. Tim deftly swung his rifle to his right shoulder. I'llwalk me post in a military manner, keepin' always on the alert andobservin' everything that takes place within sight or hearin', accordin'to Gin'ral Order Number Two. There won't be no war unless somebodystarts somethin'. Hey, there, buddy, would ye smoke a God's-countrycigarette if I give ye one?
_Si_, grinned the soldier-policeman, all animosity gone. And as theother two men tramped away through the mud they also grinned, lookingback at the North and the South American pacing side by side insentry-go, blowing smoke and conversing like brothers in arms.
Tim likes to remember his 'general orders,' but he's forgotten NumberFive, laughed the blond man.
Five? 'To talk to no one except in line of duty.' Don't need it here,Merry.
Nope. The _entente cordiale_ is the thing. Here's hoping nobody makesTim remember his 'Gin'ral Order Number Thirteen' while we're gone, Rod.
He of the black hair smiled again as his mate, mimicking Tim's gruffvoice, quoted:
'Gin'ral Order Number Thirteen: In case o' doubt, bust the other guyquick.'