Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/250

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sees is not a man but an animated extinguisher, a gigantic copy in reeds and grass of the tin cones with which a generation that had not yet struck oil was wont to put out its tallow dips. Ten feet high, this extinguisher prances through the village, rushing furiously at every house as though intent upon extinguishing all who might be within, stopping short at sight of the armed householder only to whirl high in air and dart away to the next house, followed by the armed man from every house he has visited. It is a mad dance, this speechless prancing of a rushy cone followed by a constantly lengthening queue of silent warriors grimly brandishing clubs and poising spears. From house to house it goes until every house has been visited. If the Duk-duk chance upon a man away from the shelter of his roof-tree, meet him crossing the village green, or lurking in one of the narrow alleys, he charges down upon him, and destruction seems imminent. The man thus met lifts his arms with certain symbolic movements of the hands and fingers; his sign is recognized, the cone dances back, the threatening clubs are lowered, and the stroller falls in at the end of the procession. If man, woman, or child thus met out of doors failed to give the proper sign the clubs of the warriors would fall and the extinguisher would dance upon the prostrate form, dyeing his feet and ankles and staining the long grasses of his disguise with the blood of the profaner of the mysteries. Sometimes it happens that some man not deemed worthy of initiation is caught unawares before he can gain a place of refuge, and in every such case the full penalty of death by clubbing is exacted.

Sometimes a man met out of cover gives the proper sign, but the Duk-duk still dances before him, and the warriors still threaten but do not strike. Two others then leave the line and stand by the side of the man thus menaced, always one of the boys just growing into manhood; together they all three give the sign, the disguised fugleman and his tail dance away in search of other victims, and the two sponsors lead the lad away to an inclosure near the woods on the outskirts of the village.

The dance is done with a final nourish before the house of the chief, who would be chief no longer if he incurred the enmity of the Duk-duk; the stragglers have given the proper sign and have joined the dancing queue, or been led away by their sponsors, or else they have not hailed the mysterious visitor in the due and ancient form, and lie bloody where they stood, mere dead things. There is a flourish before the chief's house, and then the dancers, still strangely silent, follow their leader by the most direct route to the inclosure of high palisades where await them all such as they have met who have required sponsors; there is always one such, frequently more; for it is generally for the purpose of initiating these candidatas into the mysteries that the Duk-duk