Chapter XXI. Chunky Gets a Turkish Bath
 

"Put it to your lips. You don't have to smoke it," whispered Dad. "It won't do to refuse."

Stacy placed the stem to his lips, then, to the amazement of his fellows, drew heavily twice, forcing the smoke right down into his lungs.

Stacy's face grew fiery red, his cheeks puffed out. Smoke seemed to be coming out all over him. Ned declared afterwards that Stacy must be porous, for the smoke came out of his pockets. Then all of a sudden the fat boy coughed violently, and tumbled over backwards, choking, strangling, howling, while the Professor hammered him between the shoulders with the flat of his hand.

"You little idiot, why did you draw any of the stuff in?" whispered Professor Zepplin.

"Da---Da---Dad to---to---told me to! Ackerchew! Oh, wow!"

More choking, more sneezing and more strangling. The Professor laid the boy on the grass a little distance from the table, where not a smile had appeared on a single face. The Indians were grave and solemn, the Pony Rider Boys likewise, although almost at the explosive point. The others had merely passed the Pipe of peace across their lips and handed it on to the next. In this manner it had gone around the circle.

Then all hands began dipping into the meat with their fingers. This was too much for the red-faced boy lying on the grass. He sat up, uttered a volley of sneezes then unsteadily made his way back to the blanket table and sat down in his place. The Indians paid no attention to him, though sly glances were cast in his direction by his companions. For once, Ned Rector was discreet enough not to make any remarks. He knew that any such would call forth unpleasant words from Stacy.

The fat boy helped himself liberally to the meat. He tasted of it gingerly at first, then went at it greedily.

"That is the finest beef I ever ate," he said enthusiastically.

"You shouldn't make remarks about the food," whispered Tad. "They may not like it."

"I hope they don't like it. There'll be all the more left for me."

"I don't mean the food, I mean your remarks about it."

"Oh!"

"How many persons are there in your tribe, chief?" asked the Professor politely.

The chief looked at Dad.

"Two hundred and fifty, Professor," the guide made answer for their host. "They are a fine lot of Indians, too."

"Including the squaws, two hundred and fifty?"

"Yes."

"Do they not sit down with us?" asked Professor Zepplin, glancing up at Chi-i-wa and some of her sisters, who were standing muffled in their blankets, despite the heat of the day, gazing listlessly at the diners.

"Certainly not in the presence of the white man or heads of other tribes," answered Jim.

"Say, what is this meat?" whispered Chunky again, helping himself to another slice.

"Don't you know what that is?" answered Ned Rector.

"No. If I did, I shouldn't have asked."

"Why, that's lion meat."

"Li---li---lion meat?" gasped the boy.

"Sure thing."

Stacy appeared to suffer a sudden loss of appetite. He grew pale about the lips, his head whirled dizzily. Whether it were from the pipe of peace or the meat, he never knew. He did know that he was a sick boy almost on the instant. With a moan he toppled over on his back.

"I'm going to die," moaned the fat boy. "Carry me off somewhere. I don't want to die here," he begged weakly.

They placed him under the shade of a tree but instead of getting better the boy got worse: The Professor was disturbed.

"Put pale-face boy in to-hol-woh," grunted the chief. "To-hol-woh!" he exclaimed sharply.

Three squaws ran to a low structure of branches that were stuck into the ground, bent in and secured at the middle until it resembled an Esquimo hut in shape. The frame made by the branches was uncovered, but the women quickly threw some brightly colored blankets over the frame, the boys watching the proceeding with keen interest. They then hauled some hot rocks from a fire near by, thrusting these under the blankets into the enclosure, after which a pail of water also was put inside.

"Put fat boy in," commanded the Kohot. "Take um clothes off."

Chunky demurred feebly at this. The Professor glanced at Dad inquiringly. Dad nodded, grinning from ear to ear.

"It's a sort of Russo-Turkish bath. It'll do him good. Wouldn't mind one myself right now," said Nance.

"All right, boys, fix him up and get him in."

"Dress him down, you mean," chuckled Ned.

At a word from the chief the squaws stumped listlessly to their ha-was and were seen no more for some time. About this time the Medicine man, a tall, angular, eagle-eyed Havasu, appeared on the scene, examining the to-hol-woh critically.

"What shall we do with him now?" called Tad, after they had stripped off all of Chunky's clothes except his underwear.

"Chuck him in," ordered the guide.

The Pony Rider Boys were filled with unholy glee at the prospect. They picked up the limp form of their companion, Stacy being too sick to offer more than faint, feeble protests. They tumbled him into what Ned called "The Hole In The Wall."

By this time the hot stones in the enclosure had raised the temperature of the to-hol-woh considerably. Stacy did not realize how hot it was at first, but he was destined to learn more about it a few minutes later.

Now the Medicine Man began to chant weirdly, calling upon the Havasupai gods, Hoko-ma-ta and To-cho-pa, which translated by the guide was:

"Let the heat come and enter within us, reach head, face and lungs, Go deep down in stomach, through arms, body, thighs. Thus shall we be purified, made well from all ill, Thus shall we be strengthened to keep back all that can harm, For heat alone gives life and force."

"Let heat enter our heads, Let heat enter our eyes, Let heat enter our ears, Let heat enter our nostrils---"

Up to this time no sounds had come from the interior of the to-hol-woh. But now the fat boy half rolled out, gasping for breath. Ned, having picked up a paddle that lay near this impromptu Turkish bath, administered a resounding slap on Stacy's anatomy, while Tad and Walter threw him back roughly into the to-hol-woh.

Chunky moaned dismally.

"I'm being burned alive," he groaned. "They're torturing me to death."

"Let heat enter the feet, Let heat enter the knees, Let heat enter the legs---"

"Lemme out of here!" yelled the sick boy, thrusting a tousled head through between the blankets covering the opening.

They pushed him back.

"It's the paddle for yours, and hard, if you come out before we tell you," cried Ned.

"Stay in as long as you can, Stacy. I am satisfied the treatment will benefit you," advised the Professor.

"I'm cooking," wailed Chunky.

"That's what you need. You've been underdone all your life," jeered Rector.

Throughout all of this the Havasus had sat about apparently taking no particular interest in the performance. They had all seen it before so many, many times. But Jim Nance's sides were shaking with laughter, and the Pony Rider Boys were dancing about in high glee. They did not get such a chance at Stacy Brown every day in the year, and were not going to miss a single second of this sort of fun.

"A brave lion tamer ought not to be afraid of a little heat," suggested Walt.

"That's so," agreed Ned.

"For heat alone gives life and force," crooned the Medicine Man.

He repeated the words of his chant twice over, naming pretty much every member in the body. It was a long process, but no one save Stacy Brown himself wearied of it.

At the conclusion of the second round of the chant, the Medicine Man, stooping over, sprinkled water upon the hot stones, reaching in under the blankets to do so.

Instantly the to-hol-woh was filled with a cloud of fierce, biting steam, that made each breath seem a breath of fire.

The Pony Rider Boys, understanding what this meant to the boy inside, unable to restrain themselves longer, gave vent to ear-splitting shouts of glee. Even the Indians turned to gaze at them in mild surprise.

"Take me out! I'm on fire!" yelled the fat boy lustily.

The Medicine Man thrust half a dozen other hot stones in, then sprinkled more water upon them.

"There's one more steaming for Chunky," sang Tad.

"There's one more roast for him," chanted Ned.

"We'll roast him till he's done," added Walter.

The Medicine Man sprinkled on more water.

"Ow, wow! Yeow, wow-wow!"

Anguished howls burst from the interior of the to-hol-woh. Then something else burst. The peak of the bath house seemed to rise right into the air. The sides burst out, flinging the blankets in all directions. Then a red-faced boy leaped out, and with a yell, fled on hot feet to the silvery Havasu River, where he plunged into a deep pool, the water choking down his howls of rage and pain.

The fat boy's Russo-Turkish bath had succeeded beyond the fondest expectations of his torturers.