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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/251

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THE DUK-DUK CEREMONIES.

makes his visit. When the last dancer has entered the inclosure, a thickly woven hurdle of canes is tied at the gangway, the dancers prance in a constantly narrowing circle about the novitiates, threatening them with clubs and spears and sharp stone axes. At last the dance is finished; the chief seats himself at his appointed place, where a small mat lying on the ground marks the spot; the dancing extinguisher gives over his dancing for the first time since he burst in upon the village, and stands behind the chief; the others stand along the stockade except that side opposite the entrance; the novitiates stand in the center, and their sponsors form a little group a few feet away. When all have taken their places, the deeply masked figure moves toward the novitiates, no longer with a dancing step, but so crouched that his legs do not appear beneath the cone of reeds, which thus seems to possess the power of independent locomotion. The young men again make the signal which has met with a certain measure of success, but this time no sponsors aid them. Before each in turn the cone rests motionless, and the chief, then speaking for the first time, cries out, "Let him be put to the proof!"

Obedient to the royal command, the two sponsors lead the candidate to the vacant side of the yard where the battered wall gives evidence that it has been many times put to the same use. The masked figure also moves to a position close at hand, where he can easily inspect the bearing of the young man under the ordeal. The sponsors then draw back some space away and each lets fly his spear, which whizzes by the novitiate and sings as it sticks in the wall not an inch away from the flesh. If the novitiate wince as the deadly weapons hiss upon him, the keen eye of the Duk-duk would notice it, and at a signal every spear in the inclosure would on the instant be hurled with unerring aim upon the candidate who has been found unworthy. Having successfully passed this ordeal, the candidate is conducted before the chief, and the sponsors fall back a step or two. With a quick glance from one to the other to get the time, they swing their clubs and let them fall as one upon the young man who is toiling over this rocky path toward an insight into the mysteries. If he bear this trial without a show of pain, he has passed all the tests that will be required of him. At a sign from the chief, the hurdle will be cast off from the gate, and the procession reformed will take its way still farther into the half twilight of the jungle. Meanwhile in the village the women and the men who have not shared the great mystery creep out from their houses in fear and trembling and pick up the victims of the masked figure's mystic vengeance.

This ordeal of the spear and club is not the only preparation of the young man for the mystery of the Duk-duk. When he