By eleven in the morning the expedition arrived at Binu, a cluster of twenty houses on the river bank. And from here thirty odd Binu men accompanied them, armed with spears and arrows, chattering and grimacing with delight at the warlike array. The long quiet stretches of river gave way to swifter water, and progress was slower and more dogged. The Balesuna grew shallow as well, and oftener were the loaded boats bumped along and half-lifted over the bottom. In places timber-falls blocked the passage of the narrow stream, and the boats and canoes were portaged around. Night brought them to Carli, and they had the satisfaction of knowing that they had accomplished in one day what had required two days for Tudor’s expedition.
Here at Carli, next morning, half-way through the grass-lands, the boat’s-crews were left, and with them the horde of Binu men, the boldest of which held on for a bare mile and then ran scampering back. Binu Charley, however, was at the fore, and led the way onward into the rolling foothills, following the trail made by Tudor and his men weeks before. That night they camped well into the hills and deep in the tropic jungle. The third day found them on the run-ways of the bushmen—narrow paths that compelled single file and that turned and twisted with endless convolutions through the dense undergrowth. For the most part it was a silent forest, lush and dank, where only occasionally a wood-pigeon cooed or snow-white cockatoos laughed harshly in laborious flight.
Here, in the mid-morning, the first casualty occurred. Binu Charley had dropped behind for a time, and Koogoo, the Poonga-Poonga man who had boasted that he would eat the bushmen, was in the lead. Joan and Sheldon heard the twanging thrum and saw Koogoo throw out his arms, at the same time dropping his rifle, stumble forward, and sink down on his hands and knees. Between his naked shoulders, low down and to the left, appeared the bone-barbed head of an arrow. He had been shot through and through. Cocked rifles swept the bush with nervous apprehension. But there was no rustle, no movement; nothing but the humid oppressive silence.
“Bushmen he no stop,” Binu Charley called out, the sound of his voice startling more than one of them. “Allee same damn funny business. That fella Koogoo no look ’m eye belong him. He no savvee little bit.”
Koogoo’s arms had crumpled under him, and he lay quivering where he had fallen. Even as Binu Charley came to the front the stricken black’s breath passed from him, and with a final convulsive stir he lay still.
“Right through the heart,” Sheldon said, straightening up from the stooping examination. “It must have been a trap of some sort.”
He noticed Joan’s white, tense face, and the wide eyes with which she stared at the wreck of what had been a man the minute before.
“I recruited that boy myself,” she said in a whisper. “He came down out of the bush at Poonga-Poonga and right on board the Martha and offered himself. And I was proud. He was my very first recruit—”