With a thrill of fear he glanced at the indicator. It was pointed properly, and he knew at once that something was wrong with the delicate mechanism that controlled it. Probably the pressure of the rope across its face, when he was bound, had put it out of order. There he was, seven feet in the air, but without the power to rise an inch farther.
This short flight, however, had greatly astonished the blacks, who, seeing his body suspended in mid-air, immediately hailed him as a god, and prostrated themselves upon the ground before him.
The fat chief had seen something of white men in his youth, and had learned to mistrust them. So, while he remained as prostrate as the rest, he peeped at Rob with one of his little black eyes and saw that the boy was ill at ease, and seemed both annoyed and frightened.
So he muttered some orders to the man next him, who wriggled along the ground until he had reached a position behind Rob, when he rose and pricked the suspended "god" with the point of his spear.
"Ouch!" yelled the boy; "stop that!"
He twisted his head around, and seeing the black again make a movement with the spear, Rob turned his electric tube upon him and keeled him over like a ten-pin.
The natives, who had looked up at his cry of pain, again prostrated themselves, kicking their toes against the ground in a terrified tattoo at this new evidence of the god's powers.
The situation was growing somewhat strained by this time, and Rob did not know what the savages would decide to do next; so he thought it best to move away from them, since he was unable to rise to a greater height. He turned the indicator towards the south, where a level space appeared between the trees; but instead of taking that direction he moved towards the northeast, a proof that his machine had now become absolutely unreliable. Moreover, he was slowly approaching the fire, which, although it had ceased blazing, was a mass of glowing red embers.
In his excitement he turned the indicator this way and that, trying to change the direction of his flight, but the only result of his endeavor was to carry him directly over the fire, where he came to a full stop.
"Murder! Help! Fire and blazes!" he cried, as he felt the glow of the coals beneath him. "I'll be roasted, after all! Here; help, Fatty, help!"
The fat chief sprang to his feet and came to the rescue. He reached up, caught Rob by the heels, and pulled him down to the ground, away from the fire. But the next moment, as he clung to the boy's feet, they both soared into the air again, and, although now far enough from the fire to escape its heat, the savage, finding himself lifted from the earth, uttered a scream of horror and let go of Rob, to fall head over heels upon the ground.
The other blacks had by this time regained their feet, and now they crowded around their chief and set him upright again.
Rob continued to float in the air, just above their heads, and now abandoned all thoughts of escaping by means of his wrecked traveling machine. But he resolved to regain a foothold upon the earth and take his chances of escape by running rather than flying. So he turned the indicator to the word "down," and very slowly it obeyed, allowing him, to his great relief, to sink gently to the ground.
6. The Buccaneers
Once more the blacks formed a circle around our adventurer, who coolly drew his tube and said to the chief:
"Tell your people I'm going to walk away through those trees, and if any one dares to interfere with me I'll paralyze him."
The chief understood enough English to catch his meaning, and repeated the message to his men. Having seen the terrible effect of the electric tube they wisely fell back and allowed the boy to pass.
He marched through their lines with a fine air of dignity, although he was fearful lest some of the blacks should stick a spear into him or bump his head with a war-club. But they were awed by the wonders they had seen and were still inclined to believe him a god, so he was not molested.