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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/252

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

arrives at the age of puberty he is told that he can not take his rank as a warrior and a man of property, but must always remain a communal slave, unless he is hardy enough to sue for entrance to the light of the great mystery. The distinction is one that is plain to him, and he probably does not hesitate in making his choice, but applies to his chief to be prepared for that which is to come. If his prayer be granted, and that is discretionary with the chief, two men skilled in the mystery are detailed, under the title of "brothers of the wood and sea" to educate the postulant. They conduct him away from his home and to a secluded spot in the wilderness of jungle. Here the postulant is made to build a house and hunt a supply of food. At first he is examined in his bodily exercises and in his. proficiency in the few arts of his savage life. From these material considerations his tutors pass to more recondite matters. They instruct him in the secrets of the sea and the forest, each according to his title. When the candidate can pass a satisfactory examination in this branch of his education, his tutors acquaint him with the history of his race and the list of its hereditary friends and immemorial foes. Last of all he is taught to fear the spirit of the hidden fire which from time to time boils up in the craters and rushes down the slopes, marking its path by hot ruin and stony destruction. This power he is taught to fear as one that can not be averted, and that he must always be mindful of if he will save himself alive. All this has consumed a month or more, according to the ability of the postulant to master the lessons set for him to learn. When he finally succeeds in satisfying his masters, the brethren of the wood and sea, they take leave of him.

"We have taught you now," they say, when the time has come for their departure, "much of that which you must know in order to become a man and share our mysteries, and all that it is our duty to convey. That which remains will be taught you by another who will come to you when he is ready, and until that time you must not leave this place, nor speak to any man, nor sleep nor eat. To-day you may have to eat anything you please, but remember that whatever you eat to-day you must never taste again, nor must you so much as speak its name. Choose, then, that which you will now eat for the last time, and eat well, for days may pass before he comes who shall teach you the rest." When the postulant has eaten, the hut is cleared of all that it contains, and the brothers of the wood and sea sew mats over the doorway before they go.

His meal over—the last of that particular food which he shall taste on earth—the postulant composes himself to await the coming of his new master. The day passes, and night comes upon him left alone in a dark hut, in the heart of the dismal wood, and