HOLT leaned forward slightly in his veranda chair. “Desert outfit,” he said.
The man on the other side of the table, with its bottles of lager and glasses, looked along the sun-baked street. “Sure. Right out of the nevernever.” He continued to watch the string of camels with their black riders; but a frown was gathering on Holt’s squarish brow.
“Not so far out, I guess. Look at the way that boy’s dressetl,” he disapproved. “His grandfather wore nothing but red and white ochre stripes, when he wore anything at all. Oh, and a nosebone nine inches long!”
Doctor Burgoyne smiled. He was tall and thinni8h, with blond, rumpled hair and younger slightly than Holt, who was stocky and heavyjowled with irritable eyes behind t hick lenses. They both wore open-necked shirts, khaki pants and sun
helmets, which were not unusual headgear about the town t hese days. But they were strangers there, on scientific work for a museum.
“After all, if the native’s going to wear clothes, he might as well wear decent ones,” Burgoyne said.
“Gaudy,” said Holt. He put his glass of lager on the flat wooden arm of the veranda chair and shook out a cigarette. He looked through the smoke .at the camels’ riders a native family two generations removed from the Stone Age. “A black boy with too much money. Probably never handles a boomerang or a stone axe—not unless they’re the kind mass-produced for tourists. I’d prefer his grandfather.”
“And the stone axe?”
“And the stone axe. I’m sufficiently atavistic— Do you know, Doctor, that glance I got from the buck almost makes me tolerate him. It was quite paleolithic!”
Ulapa hated the white man. He looked at him with eyes that felt hot. Into the stillness of the
afternoon heat had drifted clearly the -remark? about his clothes and the nine-inch nosebone of his grandfather. To him his clothes—his sky-blue shirt and wide hat and spotted neckerchief, moleskins and light riding boots—were correct, and the nosebone of his grandfather was something that need not be remembered.
“What does the white man mean' about stone axes?” asked Mituna, Ulapa’s wife. “He uses a word I do not understand.”
“All his words are unpleasant,” said Ulapa. “I choose to forget them.”
They rode on, the camels swaying along the street with supercilious heads well up. Time was when they had knelt in hundreds here where the buildings were; today they came to*a place that stank of gasoline. They still had the red dust of a bedourie clinging to their coats, but the dark faces of Ulapa, of Mituna and the two children were clean and shining. They had washed at a tank at the edge of the town, Mituna putting on her best clothes, a
Stone Axe of Ulapa
They called him a white man's tame boy. But when death crept out of the night, he met it with Stone Age weapons
white dress with a red belt that matched her bandanna, and turning the children out also in clean white.
For although her grandfather, like Ulapa’s, was a Stone Age primitive, sitting naked by a cook fire, she was civilized like her husband.
Now they were come in out of the near camps to the dusty, sun-bleached stores of Australia’s most central town—Alice Springs, walled in by the rock of ancient hills at the edge of a plain that sprawled for a thousand miles info the unknown beyond the arid range of the Luritcha and WaiIngurras.
Ulapa was not a son of those desert nomads. He was an Arunta, and the Arunta had been in contact with whites for two generations.
You will buy what you want and then we will go, he said to Mituna. “The children will have ice cream and chocolate. I will buy a shirt and have my hair cut. First I must get our money.”
He was a man of property, Ulapa. Six camels
of his own, trail and camp gear as good as any, and a bank account, supervised by the Protector.
At the store where the camels halted and knelt to his reiterated hooshtas, he bought for himself a maroon silk shirt and a felt hat of a sombrero type, and as his watch stopped frequently and had to be shaken before its works were audible again to his anxious ear, he gave it to his elder child and bought another one with a shining metal wristband. Then, fascinated by a life-sized picture of a while man in white ducks, he got a pair of these to replace, at least in town, his moleskins.
Then he saw one of the white men from the hotel veranda—the one with glasses, who had mentioned the nosebone. As he stood the light struck his lenses so that Ulapa couldn’t see his eyes but merely two shining ovals. Ulapa, who had more than once desired the final dressed-up effect of a pair of glasses, now decided he would never care to wear them.
“I would not work for that white man,” he said to Mituna, who was examining a pair of brown shoes into which she hoped to squeeze her widetoed feet. In her early twenties, her features strikingly attractive for her race, she was brighteyed with excitement now she had the run of a wellstocked store. But she took time out to make a sympathetic murmur.
Walsh, the storekeeper, who knew the tongue well enough to get by, said: “Well, he’s only one of ’em. Maybe you’d like the other. They’re looking for myall camps and they want a camel boy. They pay well,” he emphasized, knowing the requirements of a boy as civilized as Ulapa.
“No,” Ulapa said. He could be stubborn when he chose, as all his kind could when somet hing deep in them was offended. And there was something deep to be offended, though on the surface they could take the pillar-to-post kicking as though they had no pride.
“As you like,” Walsh shrugged. He was a little man, thin, lame, sharp-nosed. “Only don’t waste your money unless you’ve got, a job to get more from.”
A recklessness came up in Ulapa then on a wave of anger. Defiance of all white men was at this moment in his heart. “I will buy as I please. I am not poor. Mituna will buy more clothes, and new clothes for the children too. And colored blankets. Let them have what they wish in the store. I am going to have my hair cut and my face shaved.”
He enjoyed it enough to forget his anger—lying in the chair with the fragrant lather foaming on his face, the sallow countenance of a half-caste barber above him. The talcum powder made a fragrant dust in his wide nostrils. The cool contact of the clippers on his neck was delightful. With his shortened hair strongly scented, he got out of the chair and in a back room changed into the new shirt and white trousers.
In the street he failed to move with sufficient nimbleness from the path of an Afghan cameleer, arrogant, though aged and defeated by truck transport, who spat at him: “Black dog! Shed the bright clothes and smear your bare hide with charcoal and ochre!”
Ulapa would have struck him, hut the Afghan was old. Ulapa had the tribal respect for the aged.
Repassing the hotel veranda, he saw that the man with the glasses had come back and rejoined the other.
“Quite deli ibalized, Doctor! I’d rather the red ochre than that red shirt. His grandfather had a better use for hair, too, than to leave it on a barber’s floor.”
By this remark, Ulapa had the surprised conviction that the white man was acquainted with the myall, or wild camps. The acquaintance was unaccountable because, as it seemed to Ulapa, the white man had never been in the wild-tribe country. Still, he knew that human hair was cherished in the tribal tmaras, that out of it was made string that, plaited, became necklets, armlets, headbands and even objects t hat were churinga, or sacred. Yet, he, Ulapa, had left his on a half-caste barber’s floor. It disturbed him so much that lie forgot to be mad at the white man.
“Will you be our camel boy?” the other one asked.
“Yes,” Ulapa answered. There! He had done it, without thinking. He certainly would not have chosen to work for the man with glasses, but it was the tall, pale man with light, rumpled hair who asked. He had narrow, rest less hands. He looked at Ulapa meditatively.
“We will need you as u guide in the myall count ry.”
“Yes,” agreed Ulapa.
“If he knows the count ry if he’s ever seen naked tribesmen!” the man with glasses sneered.
It was a big outfit for two white men, packing nothing for the mines nor even driving stock before them. Ulapa had added six hired Afghan camels to the string. They travelled west and south, out of the bill country into the desert, and always the white men looked at stones and plants and lingered long at native camp sites and ceremonial grounds. And constantly they asked Ulapa to make some sign for tribesmen to come in and visit them. But none answered.
“They know my smoke,” said Ulapa, “is that of a civilized one.”
“The myalls are sulky,” agreed Mituna. “Besides, there is t he law we broke.”
Ulapa had not forgotten it, but it had dimmed with the passing of the years since Mituna, at 15, had become his wife, Continued on page 24
Continued from page 11
despite the fact she was not of a totem into which, with tribal consent, he could marry. So they had kept away from the primitives except when they moved behind the shield of security that went with a white man’s outfit.
“I have had a dream lately,” Mituna said. “It is of my grandfather and a young man. And in the dream I know they are coming for me.”
“What is the young man’s name? Or is he a stranger?”
Ulapa remembered the tribesman — an Arunta boy who had l>een adopted by the far-off Wai-lngurras and raised wild. Once he had seen Lanitcha as far east as Alice Springs a gangling, staring youth, a bush hoy bewildered by the things of the white man’s world. Lanitcha had remained a primitive who cut himself with stones and howled to the moon like a dog.
“He is strong and brave in the dream,” said Mituna. “He has many scars from the fights he has been in. He wears the inkulta in his hair, and carries fighting spears and boomerangs.”
The inkulta were flaked sticks worn by warriors. Ulapa thought it quite possible that Lanitcha was setting forth to kill him, for it had long been his brag that he would do so. Mituna’s grandfather, who had always hated the white men’s tame boy Mituna had run away to marry, wouldn’t lose an opportunity to stiffen Lanitcha’s resolve.
“I carry a gun,” said Ulapa, who had a police i>ermit for such a weapon.
Mituna was reassured. It seemed rather incredible that Ulapa, who looked so splendid in hi« fine clothes, could be harmed by anybody so ignorant and naked as Lanitcha.
LAPA squatted now at sundown in tho elongated shade of a mulga and watched his wife cook the evening meal while his two young children played in the red gibber dust.
“It is pleasant to be in such a camp,” Baid Ulapa, “even if I do not like one of the white men. We camp long and travel slowly.” He took a cigarette from a silver case, a gift from his wife, which he had recognized with the return gift of the gold bangle she wore. To please him, she didn’t wear tribal hairstring arm bands now when they went to Alice Springs.
“There,” said Mituna, “the white men are wanting you. One has come in from the perta yonder toward the sun. He has shown the other something, and they are excited.”
The white men had a stone axe.
“How long is it since this was used, Ulapa?” demanded the one with glasses. “We found it in a cave, an old pertalchera. Is it a common axe, or a churinga axe?”
Ulapa said he could not know how long it was since the axe had been used unless he saw the pertalchera, which was a sacred cave he was not supposed to be neer. But since it came from such a place it probably was a churinga or sacred axe.
The spectacled man snarled: “You’re a hell of a lot of help! You’ve been away so long from myall camps, I doubt you’ve ever seen a stone axe. No use asking if you could fit another handle to this one.”
It was but the stone head to which adhered some of the resin that had helped secure the handle. Ulapa, stung to anger as always by this curt, sneering white man, replied: “I could make a
whole stone axe!”
The white man jerked up his head and fixed Ulapa with derisive eyes.
“You could! You wouldn’t even know how to begin.”
Ulapa stiffened. He repeated firmly, with his rage held down: “I could make a whole stone axe.”
The white man laughed in his face. “There are faked ones sold in tourist shops. You could learn that trade, maybe. But stone-axe making by the tmara fire is a lost art!”
Mituna had heard the words. Mituna was sympathetic when he returned, sitting down by the cook fire and saying nothing, burying his anger in silence.
“Let the white man make scornful talk,” soothed Mituna. “It means nothing. Why should he want a stone axe? Our people threw them away long ago. Only the old people remember when they were used.”
But Ulapa remained unhappy. The white man’s taunts had gone into him like a spear point. It was not only that the white man thought he should be able to make a stone axe that mattered. It was that Ulapa’s children also thought he should be able to make one.
“Make one for us,” pleaded Luka, his son. “We wait for you.”
It was true. They waited for him to show the white man with glasses he was wrong.
And then there was somebody else who waited. He came and sat by the campfire that night, a wraith in the night’s shadows, and in a thin remote voice he called upon Ulapa to prove his right to a woman of the tribe.
“You ran away with Mituna,” he said, “and kept her to live with you in the camps of white men, whose tame dog you are. Meanwhile, one who remained faithful to the ways of his people, went womanless. Soon he will come for her who should be his wife.” The form of the man, unreal in the shadows, went with his voice. Out from his black body stood the bands of pipe clay and bloodstuck birds’ down that signified his connection with the inner circle of inkatas, and Mituna, who had gone shopping in Alice Springs like a white woman and wore a gold bangle, shuddered under her clothes.
“Go away, my grandfather,” she begged, “and leave my man alone.” “Your man is Lanitcha, with the war sticks in his hair,” the old man retorted, “not this headshorn follower of white men. Kven they are not pleased with
him. I have overheard the scornful talk of one, and they were true words. I knew it as I listened in the bulwaddy. Ulapa could not make a stone axe. There are things made out of the blood and the bone and the sinews of a race, but Ulapa never learned the making.” The children, still awake, clung to their mother in fear of the man who was their great-grandfather, an ordinary and kindly mortal in the light of day, but in the night, in his paint and feathers, a being from another world.
“Make the stone axe, father,” said Luka, the boy, “so there will be no more talk and shivering in the night.” The old man got up and merged with the dark, the white of his totem stripes visible longest. The children felt better, but Mituna and Ulapa just about the same.
“Lanitcha comes for me,” she said, when the children slept. “I can feel him coming with the cold wind on my cheek.”
ULAPA was silent for a long time.
His thoughts moved slowly, for despite the clothes and the years in the white camps, his mind was of the Stone Age still and his thoughts were sluggish. But one thing was as plain as plain. What he had thought mattered no more—the making of a tribal implement when better could be bought in a store—was now the core of his trouble. A white man had jeered at him because he couldn’t make a stone axe. His wife’s grandfather had jeered that he couldn’t make a stone axe. His children had been hurt and disillusioned because he had failed to make a stone axe.
And Lanitcha, the wilderness one with the hairstring armlets and a headband dyed with human blood, was coming for Mituna out of the forlorn savagery of his Stone Age tmara— coming in confidence, Ulapa found himself believing, because he the soft one, spoiled by easy living in white camps, couldn’t make a stone axe. With that lost knowledge, he had lost the right—at least in Lanitcha’s mind—to the granddaughter of a great inkata.
Ulapa was increasingly troubled about it.
“The bright plumage seems to be not So bright,” sneered Holt, “and even the scent of hair oil now L? not so pronounced. The boy seems to have some.
thing on his mind besides that barbered hair.”
“He’s certainly worried,” Doctor Burgoyne agreed. “Could it be anything you said about a stone axe? I hate to say it, Holt, but suppose you quit goading the boy for a while. He does a faithful job with the camels and packs, and that’s what we pay him for —not to make stone axes. You’ll come on Stone Age tribesmen soon enough now.”
The one called Lanitcha was Stone Age enough as he travelled the long trail across the gibber plain. His hair knew nothing but war sticks and his blood-dyed headband, and he wore nothing but a white-ochred breechclout suspended from a hairstring belt. He had nothing on his feet except callouses, and there were scars from his ankles up. Scars of fights. Scars of the witch doctor’s knife. Around his short neck was a hairstring necklet of great value, handed down from his ancestors and endued with useful magic. On his chest dangled a lonka-lonka, a shell plate that had been traded down to the tribe from the far coast. This would help him catch the wife of Ulapa, for it was a powerful charm. Lanitcha had traded half a dozen sacks of pituri, the native narcotic, for it and thereby foregone several visions of ecstasy.
But even without the lonka-lonka he would be capable of securing Mituna, for Ulapa couldn’t survive his spears and boomerangs, charmed by a witch doctor. Ulapa, living so much in white camps, would be an easy victim. Mituna’s grandfather had said so.
All the same, a gun was a gun. Lanitcha had fired more than one gun himself, and he admitted its superiority over the spear and boomerang. But he had no gun now. The old inkata had told him he would do better without one. The spirits of his ancestors, proud of tribal ways, would help him more. Lanitcha hoped so. It was to placate those spirits that he wore a nosebone. It hurt him a little because he was not used to it. He—even he—-had been slipping from the tribal path, till the jealous old inkatas had pulled him back.
Now that he was marching to kill a man and take a woman, he felt glad that he had listened to the aged voices. The thought of killing Ulapa pleased him as much as the thought of taking the woman. The tribal elders hadn’t made him a kaditcha man—a killer of tribal lawbreakers, a Stone Age executioner—without taking into consideration the convenient fact of his homicidal tendencies.
But it was a long way to go, and the bone in his nose hurt. His greased body now had a clinging layer of dust on it, for the plain was dry and winds frequent. The rim of the plain before his deep-set desert man’s eyes eternally drew on before him, but he knew that in time he would cross it, and then some sandstone ridges, and come into the country where the strange white men’s camp was, and Ulapa who would die, and the woman Mituna who would live in his embrace before she too died for her offense against the tribal gods in marrying out of her totem group.
“I am strong,” Lanitcha told himself confidently. “My life is charmed. The witch doctor has told me. All will be as the old wise men say.”
Ulapa was looking for a stone. It had to be the right kind of stone. He could not have told you how he recognized the stone when he finally came upon it, but he did. That in him which came as an instinct, from a hundred thousand Stone Age ancestors who had sought the right kind of stone, helped him, and all that he did from that moment on came largely from them, and from memory of the talk of old men still living.
He had gone away from the tribe, but he was of a Stone Age people still. That was where Professor Holt was wrong. That was where Ulapa’s children were right. “You can make an axe like the old broken one,” they said. “Make it,” they pleaded.
“It will show my grandfather, the great inkata, that you are still one of his people,” said Mituna. “So am I hoping that you can do it.”
“I am tired,” said Ulapa, “of being made fun of because I wear a silk shirt and have been to a barber and have scent on my hair. If 1 prefer the barber’s oil to the lizard’s fat of my people, is it any disgrace?”
He went to work carefully and patiently, spending all his leisure time at the task. First, with a piece of hard quartzite, he chipped the stone axehead away to a roughly formed blade. With a smaller hammer stone he chipped on till the surface was levelled down. This took him three days, working nearly constantly while the white men camped and searched about for museum specimens.
Then he began the tedious task of grinding the axehead. He used pieces of sandstone for this, sprinkling sand on the axe, then water, and then rubbing away with the sandstone, hour in and hour out while Mituna kept her eyes on the grazing camels, and at the sky line beyond where any day the ochred figure of Lanitcha might come up.
The axehead formed, Ulapa then worked on the handle. He cut a piece of mulga wood about three feet long, split it from end to end, and placed the centre of one half over a slow fire until it bent freely. He bent it right round the axehead, bringing the two flat surfaces together till the wood formed its original round. The handle was bound with kangaroo sinew and the stone fixed in position with resin.
There, at long last, was the stone axe. But still it was not complete. Tradition required the handle to be bound with human hairstring, but Ulapa’s head had been barbered. So Mituna gave of hers, and the handle was bound in the tribal way, the hair bands being ochred white and red and yellow.
Ulapa’s children were delighted. They felt the keen edge and squealed. Mituna laughed with a strange pride -strange because her pride in Ulapa had risen formerly from his accomplishments in the white men’s world. But now that Ulapa had made a stone axe it seemed to her more wonderful than anything else he had done.
“Show it to the white man who sneers,” she urged.
Holt turned it over in his hands. “So that’s what you’ve been doing! Seemed to be working secretly on something. You did well to hide it!”
The tall pale man, Doctor Burgoyne, seemed pleased. He grinned. He said: “He delivered the goods after all, Holt. The art is not lost.”
“The art—the true, ancient art—is lost,” said Holt shortly. “I said he did well to hide it. I would have told him he was wasting his time—that he couldn’t deceive me with this. I could buy ’em by the gross from the bunch that mass-produce them for the tourist trade. The colors are wrong. The axehead shouldn’t be bound in with sinew, but simply with hairstring. And the withe for the handle was split with a pocketknife—I can see where a dirty blade made the initial opening.
“Nevertheless—” began the tall, pale doctor. But Ulapa didn’t wait to hear his defense of him. He took the axe and walked away in silence, torn between tears and anger.
Mituna indeed wept. “You were so patient, working so hard But the children and I know it is a good axe.”
“They can play with it,” Ulapa said indifferently.
At first the man was only a part of the darkness, scarcely tangible, moving as silently as a scouting dingo. Then, contemptuously, he came in upon the sleeping camp. Did any but the tame dogs of white men sleep so heavily? Ulapa and the children motionless in their soft, warm blanket beds under the tent fly that protected them from the dew. Mituna, close to the entrance, a ready victim. Lanitcha recognized her less by sight than by the sound of her breathing—that of a woman whose bronchial tubes had not been irritated by tobacco smoke. Ulapa had almost the sleep noises of a white man.
Lanitcha’s hand moved swiftly, deftly as he knelt by the woman, who woke now in still terror.
Mituna screamed, but the sound was lost against the fur-string gag. She started to struggle, but two sharp points against her eyelids warned her that a forked stick, pointed with snakes’ fangs, would drive in to blind her. A hairstring loop tightened around her throat and she yielded to Lanitcha’s pulling hand.
A RIND of moon was in the sky like a boomerang. The light of it fell upon the lonka-lonka on Lanitcha’s chest. At the white man’s tmara of Alice Springs she would have felt immune from this primitive ladykiller’s charm, but here it was easy to believe in the potency of such things. Lanitcha chuckled, noticing her submission. Yet she might have had another thought in her mind. He had come to make good his old brag. He was to kill Ulapa—on his feet preferably, but in his sleep if it seemed most wise. But, anyway, to kill him. The farther Mituna went with Lanitcha from the camp, the better chance Ulapa would have to wake and save himself.
Lanitcha decided no woman could fool him. He tied Mituna to a tree and turned back. He carried his best spear, a true Stone Age spear of straightened wood and stone head with an ugly barb of skilfully hardened wood. He moved with much stealth now, as tensely as any wild creature about to kill. In his hair were his war sticks, which he was careful not to let strike a branch of the stunted desert scrub. But despite his care the sticks rattled once with startling distinctness.
Ulapa heard that rattle, and though he was a tame boy who left his hair on a barber’s floor, he knew what that sound meant . Lanitcha, who had taken his wife, was coming now to kill him.
It was hardly five seconds ago that Ulapa had discovered his loss. He had put his hand over for Mituna, hearing no breathing beyond that of his children, and he had felt nothing but cooling blanket. The first impulse of his stricken mind was to get up and rush out in search of her; but Lanitcha would be waiting for that. Lanitcha would want to get him as far from the whites’ camp as possible. If he did not follow, Lanitcha would come back, almost certainly.
Lanitcha would get a surprise. He would get a bullet right through his thief’s heart. Ulapa got his rifle from the head of his bed and made sure that it was loaded. It was a single-shot rifle, as ancient almost as the first tomahawk that had found it’s way into the tribal camps. Ulapa knew the weapon’s shortcomings in worn rifling and rust and slack mechanism, but the Protector did not like blacks having guns and it was hard to get a new one. He had faith in the weapon, however. It made a hole in a kangaroo at short range.
This time, when it was to save his life, it entirely failed him. Against the sky, lightened by the boomerang moon and bright desert stars, he saw, soon after he heard their rattle in the foliage, the war sticks of Lanitcha. There they were, nodding against the sky, with the greased head of Lanitcha coming up beneath them.
He saw the arm rise and the spear balance. He squeezed his worn trigger.
'I'llere was no thrust against his shoulder. The bullet didn’t fly out. He cocked and squeezed again ar.d it was the same way. Fear bit into him till it brought the sweat out. He had relied so on his firearm that now he felt trapped.
He clubbed the weapon and rose, dodging, and the rifle went flying, struck by Lanitcha’s spear. Now Lanitcha, a primitive fighting man unafraid of flesh-to-flesh combat, came in with a rush, stone knife ready. Ulapa felt it rip his shoulder through the maroon shirt he had slept in. It was a hot, long, bloody rip, but superficial to what followed. Lanitcha, in a clinch, reached over Ulapa’s shoulder and raked his back repeatedly, cutting in for the kidneys. So easy was it for Lanitcha, the Stone Age man, a man of the flesh, that he would do it slowly, deliberately, letting Ulapa get a foretaste of his bloody, screaming end. What was a white man’s tame boy to do without a gun! he jeered.
Ulapa had nothing but his bare hands. Until his naked toe kicked something. Ulapa had worn shoes for a long time, but even so his toes were more sensitive than a white’s. His forefathers had not bothered to stoop to pick up a spear or boomerang, using their toes almost as neatly as their fingers. Ulapa, who couldn’t break the clinch, co-operated in sustaining it
while he felt with his toes for that stone axe his children had played with. The despised axe.
He got it with his foot and lifted it to his hand. He twisted his right arm free. And Lanitcha, who was so sure a tame boy was helpless without a gun, died immediately with his skull split midway between his drooping war sticks.
It was easy for Ulapa to trail his wife to the tree where Lanitcha had tied her. She collapsed in his arms. “I did not hear your gun,” she said. “I was afraid Lanitcha had caught you asleep.”
Ulapa said: “I did not need my
gun.” And now in the dark, with his wife and children safe and himself still alive, lie felt unaccountably proud that this had been achieved not with the aid of a white man’s gun, but a Stone Axe, made by himself, guided only by the talk of old men and by something inherited from his ancestors.
Holt, squatting in stocky arrogance by the breakfast fire, was holding forth on the subject of stone axes.
“You’re wrong, Doctor. The tribal stone axe was never used as a weapon. Consider its clumsy ineffectiveness compared with a spear or boomerang, that most cunning of primitive weapons. Not only was the stone axe clumsy; it was unreliable because of a weakness in its make-up. You must admit that a stone axehead, stuck in between two surfaces of wood merely with resin could scarcely survive a solid blow. I venture to say that not -even the most skilled axe maker could so fix that axehead that the stone axe of the ancient Arunta achieved more importance than an ornament—’
Doctor Burgoyne was hardly listening to him. Doctor Burgoyne was looking at a figure in a tattered maroon shirt.
“You may be rather distressed by the fact,” said Doctor Burgoyne, “that that shirt is more hectic than ever nowj Why, the boy’s been cut to pieces— Come here, Ulapa. You want to tell us about it?”
Ulapa came forward. He was stiff and sore but erect. Behind him were his children. Farther back Mituna.
“I do not have much to say,” Ulapa began. He looked firmly at the white man with glasses. “It is this: I made a stone axe. Last night I killed a man with it. I want you now, before my children, to admit that it is a good axe.”
The white men looked at one another. The tall pale one with sandy hair said, “The scufflings we heard over at their camp . . . Really, a very primitive thing has happened close by . . . Why did you kill the man, Ulapa?”
“He tried to steal my wife.” Ulapa told his story.
He felt the blade of his axe. “So now—” he said, looking at the white man with glasses.
Holt rose, still a little red in the face. But he was not small.
“Why, certainly I’ll admit it’s a good axe. I’ll pay you well for it, Ulapa. Your children will see how well I pay you for a—a first-class indubitably genuine stone axe!”
Ulapa was satisfied. His children were proud of him. Mituna was proud of him. In the stores at Alice Springs when finally he returned there, dark faces swung toward him with respect, and white men looked and muttered together. Not because he wore a new silk shirt or white trousers with a fresh crease or an expensive wrist watch. Simply because he had made a stone axe. Or maybe because he had used it. He was never quite sure. ★