Изображения страниц

ing the whole of the night, so that the players are totally deprived of rest-a very bad preparation, as one would think, for the severe exertion. of the ensuing day. All the bets are made on this night, the article staked, such as knives, blankets, guns, cooking utensils, tobacco, and even horses and dogs, being placed in the custody of the stakeholders, who sit by them and watch them all night.

The Exciting Contest Begins.

About nine o'clock on the next morning the play begins. The four medicine men, with the ball in their custody, seat themselves as before, midway between the goals, while the players arrange themselves for the attack and defence. At a given signal the ball is flung high in the air, and as it falls, the two opposing sets of players converge upon it. As there are often several hundred players on each side, it may be imagined that the scene is a most animated one.

In these desperate struggles for the ball, where hundreds are running together, and leaping actually over each other's heads, and darting between their adversaries' legs, tripping, and throwing, and foiling each other in every possible manner, and every voice raised to its highest key, in shrill yelps and barks, there are rapid successions of feats and incidents that astonish and amuse far beyond the conception of any one who has not had the singular good luck to witness them.

In these struggles, every mode is used that can be devised to oppose the progress of the foremost, who is likely to get the ball; and these obstructions often meet desperate individual resistance, which terminates in a violent scuffle, and sometimes in fisticuffs. Then their sticks are dropped, and the parties are unmolested, whilst they are settling it between themselves, except by a general stampede to which those are subject who are down, if the ball happen to pass in their direction. Every weapon, by a rule of all ball players, is laid by in the respective encampments, and no man is allowed to go for one; so that the sudden broils that take place on the ground are presumed to be as suddenly settled without any probability of personal injury, and no one is allowed to interfere in any way with the contentious individuals.

A Very Lively Scrimmage.

There are times when the ball gets to the ground, and such a confused mass is rushing together around it, and knocking their sticks together! without a possibility of anyone getting or seeing it for the dust that they raise, that the spectator loses his strength, and everything but his senses; when the condensed mass of ball sticks and shins and bloody noses is carried around the different parts of the ground, for a quarter of an hour at a

time, without any one of the masses being able to see the ball, which they are often scuffling for several minutes after it has been thrown off and played over another part of the ground.

For each time that the ball was passed between the goals of either party, one was counted for their game, and they halted for about one minute when the ball was again started by the judges of the play, and a similar struggle ensued; and so on until the successful party arrived at

[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]


100, which was the limit of the play, when they took the stakes. In this game the players are not allowed to strike the ball with their sticks, or catch it in their hands; though to do so between the netted ends of the sticks, and then to run away with it, is a feat which each player tries his best to accomplish.

Sometimes the men are kind enough to indulge the women with a ballplay, and to present a quantity of goods as prizes, hanging them across a a horizontal pole, in order to stimulate the players by the sight. Such

inferior beings as women are not, however, allowed to use the ball and racquet of their superiors, the men, but play with a couple of small bags filled with sand, and attached to each other by means of a string about eighteen inches in length. Each of the players is furnished with two slight sticks, about two feet in length, and with these sticks they dexterously catch the sand bags, and fling them toward the goals. The women play with quite as much enthusiasm as the men, and the game often assumes the appearance of a general battle rather than of a pastime.

A Remarkable Old Hunter.

The strength and agility which characterize the savage tribes extend in many instances into advanced age, so that at a period of life when civilized races would expect only feebleness and bodily decay, we find those races which live nearest to a state of nature exhibiting surprising bodily vigor. Baker, in his animated narrative of his travels through Africa, gives a picturesque description of an old native engaged in the dangerous pursuit of hunting the hippopotamus.

He says: One of the old Hamran hunters, named Abou Do—an abbreviated version of a very long string of names-was celebrated as a howarti, or hippopotamus hunter. This fine old man, some seventy years of age, was one of the finest conceivable specimens of humanity. In spite of his great age, his tall form, six feet two in height, was as straight as in early youth, his gray locks hung in thick curls over his shoulders, and his bronze features were those of an ancient statue. Despising all encumbrances of dress, he stepped from rock to rock as lightly as a goat, and, dripping with water, and bearing his spear in his hand, he looked a very Neptune. The hunters came upon a herd of hippopotami in a pool, but found that they were too much awake to be safely attacked.

The Veteran Plunges into the Torrents.

About half a mile below this spot, as we clambered over the intervening rocks through a gorge which formed a powerful rapid, I observed, in a small pool just below the rapid, an immense head of a hippopotamus close to a perpendicular rock that formed a wall to the river, about six feet above the surface. I pointed out the hippo to old Abou Do, who had not seen it. At once the gravity of the old Arab disappeared, and the energy of the hunter was exhibited as he motioned us to remain, while he ran nimbly behind the thick screer of bushes for about a hundred and fifty yards below the spot where the hippo was unconsciouslybasking, with his head above the surface. Plunging into the rapid torrent, the veteran hunter was carried some distance down the stream, but, breasting the powerful current, he landed upon the rocks on the opposite

side, and, retiring to some distance from the river, he quickly advanced toward the spot beneath which the hippopotamus was lying. I had a fine view of the scene, as I was lying concealed exactly opposite the hippo, who had disappeared beneath the water.

Abou Do now stealthily approached the ledge of rock beneath which he had expected to see the head of the animal; his long, sinewy arm was

[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors]



raised, with the harpoon ready to strike as he carefully advanced. length he reached the edge of the perpendicular rock, the hippo had vanished, but, far from exhibiting surprise, the old Arab remained standing on the sharp ledge, unchanged in attitude.

No figure of bronze could have been more rigid than that of the old river-king, as he stood erect upon the rock with the left foot advanced,

and the harpɔɔn poised in his ready right hand above his head, while in the left he held the loose coils of rope attached to the ambatch buoy. For about three minutes he stood like a statue, gazing intently into the clear and deep water beneath his feet.

I watched eagerly for the reappearance of the hippo; the surface of the water was still barren, when suddenly the right arm of the statue descended like lightning, and the harpoon shot perpendicularly into the pool with the speed of an arrow. What river-fiend answered to the summons? In an instant an enormous pair of open jaws appeared, followed by the ungainly head and form of the furious hippopotamus, who, springing half out of the water, lashed the river into a foam, and, disdaining the concealment of the deep pool, he charged straight up the violent rapids. With extraordinary power he breasted the descending stream; gaining a footing in the rapids, about five feet deep, he ploughed his way against the broken waves, sending them in showers of spray upon all sides, and upon gaining broader shallows he tore along through the water, with the buoyant float hopping behind him along the surface, until he landed from the river, started at full gallop along the dry shingly bed, and at length disappeared in the thorny jungle.

The Maddened Beast Charging at His Foes.

During one of these flights, the hippopotamus took it into his head, that the ambatch float was the enemy that was damaging him, and attacked it furiously. Taking advantage of his pre-occupation, two hunters swam across the river, carrying with them a very long and tough rope, and holding one end on each bank and "sweeping," as the sailors say, they soon caught the float in the centre of the rope and brought it ashore. The hippopotamus then made a charge, and the slackened line was immediately coiled round a rock, while two hunters fixed additional harpoons in the animal; and though he made six charges at his foes, bit one of the ropes asunder, and crushed the lance-shafts between his teeth like straws, the hardy hunters got the better of him, and his death was only a matter of time.

In the water, the crocodile is even a more dangerous antagonist than the hippopotamus, and yet the Hamrans attack it with their harpoons, boldly entering the water, and caring no more for crocodiles than for so many frogs.

The great agility of some savage tribes is wonderfully displayed in their various dances, many of which, while being wild and grotesque, are yet such as to astonish the beholder. A traveller gives us a vivid picture of a scene witnessed once among the Dyaks. Two warriors had been

[ocr errors]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »