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Title: Killer's Kraal
Author: James Anson Buck
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Language: English
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Date first posted: July 2006
Date most recently updated: October 2007

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Sheena:
Killer's Kraal
by
James Anson Buck



I.

SHEENA dropped from the branches of a gigantic, spreading baobab and
started to climb the rocky krantz, leaping lightly from boulder to
boulder. She was so well balanced that she appeared to flow, without
particularized motion, in whatever direction her energy proposed; and
she moved with incredible swiftness, her bronzed limbs flashing in the
sun, her golden hair streaming behind.

On the top of the hill she unslung her bow and quiver, looking around
for a place to rest. She selected a spot where a mimosa grew out of a
grassy cleft and, with feline grace, stretched out flat on her belly
in the black pool of its shadow. With her chin cupped in her hand she
looked toward the first bend in the river.

The jungle was the same, standing dark and endless across the river.
The river was the same, sweeping its mass of reddish waters westward
toward Sao Vincente and its final tryst with the Father-of-all-Rivers,
as her people, the Abamas, called the Congo. Beyond the green expanse
of the jungle Tula Mbogo, the Buffalo Mountain, lifted its horned
peaks, and a cushion of white clouds made of it a seat for a lazy god.
Truly, the jungle and the river were as they must have been for a
thousand years. Only people changed, outwardly and inwardly, and these
subtle changes made them see things differently, even act foolishly.

It must be so. If it were otherwise she would not be here, daydreaming
beside the river. Why, when the drums had told her that Rick Thorne
was on the river, had she come so far to meet him? Why had she not
remained in her forest sanctuary and sent Ekoti, the Abama chief, to
turn him back? Such had been her first impulse but she had not obeyed
it. Why not?

Frowning, she communed with herself and soon found an answer less
disturbing in its implications. She was here because she knew that he
would not turn back at Ekoti's bidding. He was a reckless fool. He
might even venture to set foot on the forbidden trail to her
sanctuary, and pursue his folly to his death. Oh yes, it was because
she felt sorry for him. It was a great pity that one so young and
brave should waste his manhood in searching and straining for fruit
beyond his reach. Somehow he had to be made to understand that,
though her skin was white, she belonged to the jungle and the Abamas;
while he belonged to the mysterious world of white men which she had
never seen, and had no wish to see. He must be made to understand that
she was not for him. Her kiss was the kiss of death for any man who
dared to defy the strong taboo of her foster-mother, Ebid Ela--a taboo
made inviolate by a bristling boma of Abama spears.

So, here she was, listening to the drums--a pulsing now near and now
far, but always articulate, incredibly accurate. But nothing new, just
the gossip of the jungle. She let her mind idle. Her mood changed
again, and her thoughts became less definite and merged with the blue
haze. Across her line of vision birds flew with tails like a burst of
flame; others, over-balanced by huge red beaks, flapped awkwardly from
tree to tree. A tall, grey heron stood in the shallows and, when
gorged, rose heavily to light on a bough above her head--only to rise
again with a squawk of panic as Chim, her pet ape, sleeping on the
bough, suddenly awoke to scold the intruder.

As the blue-toned view faded, and the sun melted into the clouds and
brought them to a glow, the distance became more intimate, more
revealing. She was vaguely aware of the tension building up within
her.

It stirred up memories of her last meeting with Rick and suddenly she
was reliving it all again, every word, every gesture as if it had
happened yesterday. And with the vision came poignant yearnings which
half expressed themselves to her awareness, and then were overwhelmed
by the strong excitement which had been the core and magic of that
hour.

And suddenly she was afraid. For her there was danger in this meeting.
He would not listen to her. No! He would look at her with that
disconcerting gleam in his eyes. He would smile that slow slow smile,
and he would dare--. She would not stay! She would send Ekoti. She
sprang to her feet.

And just then the booming notes of a drum broke the silence--"Boom-
tack-tack-boom! Tack-tack-boom-tack--"

The Jungle Queen stood tense, listening, her expression changing
rapidly from concentrated interest to annoyance, and finally to settle
into one of profound puzzlement. She never failed to locate a drum by
its tone, but the voice of this one was as elusive as the code was
strange to her ears.

"Boom-tack-boom-tack-boom-tack--" The indecipherable message came from
everywhere at once--far off, diffused, a rippling cascade of sound
seeming to spill out of the clouds immediately above her head, and yet
each note distinct.

And then silence, with not a twig or a leaf in motion. For at sundown
the wind dies and a moment of absolute quiet comes to the jungle. The
reed-buck stands spellbound beside a pool. The cruel claws of the
leopard are sheathed, its spring arrested as if by magic. The song of
the birds is hushed, and the melody of running water swells like an
organ in fortissimo, and a paean rises to the high mountain-seats of
pagan gods.

No village drum answered the mysterious call. It was as if the booming
notes had filled the jungle with evil tidings, shocking all to awful
silence. The effect of all this was so strong that the Jungle Queen
stood utterly motionless, her gaze fixed upon the Buffalo Mountain,
her sudden impulse to flight forgotten.

Slowly the sky lost its blood-red glow. A thunder-mutter rolled behind
the mountains. A cool breeze came sliding down their slopes, and the
tall reeds along the river banks whispered and quivered in sudden
trepidation.. And it seemed to Sheena, as the area of shadows
deepened, that the mountains became phantom shapes whose aspect took
on something of aloof secretiveness, and something of menace.

A whimper from Chim broke the spell. She looked up and spoke softly to
him, as was her habit:

"So, you do not like this strange voice in the jungle, little one?"
Chim grimaced at her, and swung to a higher branch. But she clapped
her hands, calling him down. "Come!" she called. "We must cross the
river before dark."

A short distance below the krantz the river entered a gorge, roared
for a mile between rocky pinnacles, and came out to spill, feather-
white, over steep terraces of rock. A native tie-tie bridge, as
delicate-looking as a spider's web, spanned the gorge at its narrowest
point. Sheena knew that Rick would camp below the rapids. Also she
knew that he would abandon his heavy dugout there and push on to the
first Abama village above the gorge to trade for another canoe. It
occurred to her that she could block his further progress into Abama
country by simply telling the villagers not to trade with him. And the
more she thought of this new idea the better she liked it. She could
avoid meeting him face to face, and yet, if he attempted to force a
path through the jungle on foot, she could put all manner of obstacles
in his way. Truly, she thought with an amused smile, such a trek would
test the strength of his desire. Oh yes, he would soon come to cursing
the day that he had set eyes upon Sheena, Golden Goddess of all the
Jungles.

As sure-footed as an ape she started across the lagging bridge. She
was swaying fifty feet above the rapids, when, faintly above the roar
of the water, she heard a shot, then another, and another. The echos
were still bouncing from one side of the gorge to the other, when she
reached the opposite shore, and went flashing down the steep trail
like a golden streak.

Around the first limit of sight she saw the peak of a tent, gleaming
white amid the low bush of a small clearing. Without pausing in her
stride she leaped for the low branch of a tree. Then, with the
effortless ease of a monkey, she went through the close-packed foliage
which surrounded the clearing, sometimes leaping from the branch of
one tree to another, sometimes swinging through the air on vines as
thick as her wrist and as tough as a wire cable. She heard shouts as
she came to stand on the gnarled limb of an ajap tree. Her lofty perch
gave her a clear view of the camp, and her eyes took in the scene
below in one swift, all-inclusive glance. Rick Thorne was fighting for
his life, beating off the attack of a half-dozen natives who kept
circling around him and rushing at him, now one, now another, to
thrust with a spear, or to strike with a heavy knobkerry. He was armed
only with a club, which he evidently had wrested from one of his
attackers, and he was fighting with the last-ditch ferocity of a
wounded leopard. But they were slowly forcing him back to the high
river bank. There were three tents in the clearing, but none of his
servants were there to help him. Soon he would be driven over the bank
to plunge to his death on the rocks below.

The Jungle Queen unslung her bow. But even as she notched the arrow
she saw Rick go down under a terrific blow from a club that smashed
through his pith-helmet with a dull, sickening sound. The striker, a
squat, powerful-looking fellow with a queer headdress of toucan
feathers, uttered a yell of triumph, and whirled his club around his
head to strike again. And then Sheena's bow twanged, and the strange
warrior fell across Rick's body with the arrow between his shoulders
up to the feather. His companions, yelping and rushing in for the kill
like wild dogs of the veldt, were suddenly silent and motionless, like
wooden men holding weapons poised to strike. There was a moment of
gaping wonderment, then the deadly twang of the bow again, and another
of their number gasped, clutched at the shaft in his breast, staggered
back and fell over the bank with a long-drawn-out shriek.

For a short time the others stood, half crouched, looking around with
their mouths agape, their eyes roiling like white balls in their
sockets. They could see no enemy; and, as winged death out of nowhere
struck a third man, they made a frantic rush for the cover of the
bush.

Wise in the ways of the forest people, Sheena did not come down at
once. Long ago she had learned that when danger stalks in the jungle
no creature is ever caught off guard twice. She waited until she saw a
dugout shoot out from the river bank and go lurching dangerously
downstream to the uneven paddle strokes of its panic-stricken
occupants. Then she dropped to the ground and ran across the clearing
to Rick. She dragged the dead native from his back with an amazing
display of strength, then rolled Rick over and fell to her knees
beside him.



II

HIS DARK curls were matted with blood, his breathing so faint that at
first she was sure that he could not live for more than a few minutes.
But when she put her ear to his breast and heard the strong beat of
his heart, she knew that his helmet had absorbed the shock of the
blow, and that his skull was not broken. She deemed it safe to move
him, and soon had him under the mosquito netting on his canvas cot.

Leaving Chim to watch Rick she went to gather the leaves of the
baobab, the root of the mebila and other herbs. Back in the camp, she
made a paste of these as Ebid Ela had taught her to do, omitting only
the incantations the old woman had been wont to mutter over her
bubbling pots. Rick did not open his eyes as she cleansed and
poulticed his wound. When she had finished it was dark, and she went
out to look around the deserted camp.

The half-cooked food in the pots, and the fact that everything had
been left behind, told her that Rick's servants had left in a great
hurry, probably at the first sight of trouble; and, since they were
sure to be men from one of the coast villages, that did not surprise
her. She shared the Abamas' contempt for the cowardly coast people.
Uppermost in her mind was the question: Who were these warriors who
had dared to attack a safari on her side of the Kwango? Whence had
they come? Certainly they were not neighbors of the Abamas. They had
looked like Kalundas, a once powerful people who lived beyond the
mountains, but whose stock was now debased by cross-breeding with the
dwarf-people who ranged the jungles between the Kwango and the Buffalo
Mountain. But she could not be sure of this, because only once had she
ventured into the Kalunda and seen one of their villages, and that
from a great distance. Their huts, she remembered, were not placed in
a circle as was the style among the Bantu-speaking people, but in
long, straight aisles, and it was said that they were man-eaters,
sometimes even eating their own dead. For this reason the Abamas would
have nothing to do with them.

A snarl and a sudden flurry of sound out in the bush sent a tingle
down her spine. Jackals, with the smell of the dead in their nostrils.
She did not want them howling around the camp all night, and went to
roll the bodies over the bank and into the river. She was moving back
to Rick's tent when her eye was caught by the glint of steel amid the
grass. She bent to pick up a knife which evidently had been dropped by
one of the men who had attacked the camp. The blade was double-edged,
curved, and twice the span of her hand in length. It had an ivory
handle, most cunningly carved, and she took it over to the fire to
examine it more closely.

Figures were carved on the handle, men dressed like Rick, but with
funny, thin legs. And there was a strange, prancing buck, with a beard
like a goat and a single horn sticking straight out from between its
eyes. And something that looked like a canoe with tall trees growing
out of it--strange trees, because all the branches grew across the
trunks without a twist or a downward bend. She thought it was strange
that one who could carve men with such skill should make such a poor
likeness of a tree. Any child could do better. But it was a good
knife.

She was sliding it into the band of leopard skin about her waist when
Rick called her by name. But when she ran into the tent and bent over
him, he did not know her. He kept shouting her name, and then tried to
get up, and it took all her strength to hold him down. She spoke
softly to him. Her voice seemed to reach into the darkened chambers of
his mind; for he ceased to struggle and lay quiet again.

She did not know what else she could do to help him, and she rose and
looked down on his handsome face with troubled eyes. Her foster-mother
would have said that he was possessed of a devil, and she would have
made a magic to cast it out. But long ago something deep in Sheena's
nature had rebelled against the darker practices of her people. She
had faith in their simple remedies, because she had seen them heal;
but she had no faith in witchcraft, because too often she had seen it
fail. And besides, Ebid Ela had taught her many a fraudulent trick.

On the following day at sundown, as before, she heard the drum again;
but she was too concerned over Rick to be more than vaguely aware of
it. It spoke again on the third day, and again the Abama villages gave
ear in silence. No answering call, no clue to the message the great
drum cried out to the rim of the horizon. And it flashed into her mind
that the drummer must be using some fetish-code, known only to the
witchdoctors.

Minutes later when she went into the tent it was to look deeply into
the gray eyes of Rick. They were very bright, and it was not only the
effects of his fever that made them so; for he lifted himself on his
elbow, and the slow smile came to his lips.

"It's been a long trek--mbali sana, sana!" he said in Swahili. "But I
did fight my way through all those black devils. I did get through to
you."

"Truly," she said softly. "It was a hard fight, and now you must
rest."

He passed his hand over his eyes. "A little dizzy yet," he muttered;
then: "You did not send your Abamas against me, Sheena?"

"No--no!" She was startled into a too vehement denial.

"Ah." His eyes probed her. "But you knew I was coming, the drums would
tell you that. You came to meet me, Sheena!"

"I have not said so! And you must go back to the coast when you are
well again."

He made as if to rise, then fell back with a sharp intake of breath.
In a moment she was on her knees beside him. "Be still! Be still!" she
pleaded. His hand wound her hair into a golden twist, and drew her
lips down to his. His weakness was his strength. She dared not pull
away for fear of hurting him, and it was neither unpleasant, nor
dangerous to yield just for a moment when there was no strength in
him.

"I came a long way for this," he said at last, and sank back on his
pillow. She stayed with him until he fell asleep, a smile still on his
lips, his breathing deep and regular.

On the following morning he ate all that she gave him, and begged for
more. When he had eaten enough for two men, he sat up on the cot,
pressing his head between the palms of his hands.

"No pain," he announced with a grin. "Good solid bone clean through."

"You remember what happened now?"

He was silent for a moment, frowning slightly; then: "Yes," he said.
"My boys, six Lobitos, were cooking the evening meal. I was on this
cot, and a drum--a big drum--was talking somewhere back in the jungle.
I was nearly asleep, and it was some time later when I became aware of
the quiet. The boys were not jabbering as usual. I went out, and there
was not a man in sight. I shouted. Got no answer, and so I fired a few
shots into the air. And then those fellows jumped me from behind. My
gun was knocked from my hand, and they were all around me. The next
thing I remember is seeing you, and I thought--"

"They were Kalundas, I think," she interposed. "One of them left this
behind him." She drew the knife from her waist band and handed it to
him with an unflattering comment on the artist's ability to carve
trees.

"They are not trees," he said, after turning the ivory handle in his
hand for some time. "It is a very big canoe, perhaps big enough to
hold all the warriors Ekoti could muster. And from these poles many
dotis of cloth were hung so that when the wind was blowing it would
move through the water. See, one of the men wears a crown, and this
buck is called "unicorn" in the speech of my people. And it tells us
that this ivory was not carved by a Bantu craftsman. The knife is old,
three times as old as I am, I think."

"Then the man must have traded for it at the coast," she said with
quick comprehension, "and it can tell us nothing about them."

"True," he agreed. Then he leaned toward her and asked: "What brought
you here, so far from Ekoti's village, Sheena?"

She saw the tell-tale gleam in his eyes, and quickly stepped out of
his reach. "I came," she told him coldly. "That is enough for you to
know. And as I have said, you must go back to the coast."

"I like it here," he said.

The Jungle Queen was not used to defiance, and she sensed that there
was much of that behind his slow smile, and a hint at something else,
too. Doubtless, he was remembering the moment when she had yielded to
his weakness--thinking, perhaps, that the weakness was hers, and that
he could have his way with her again.

"There must be an end to this folly," she said angrily. "If you will
not go willingly, then Ekoti will take you downriver. I have spoken!"
And with that, she left him.

Rick let her go without a word of protest. He was a wiser man than
when he had first come up the Kwango, nearly eight months ago. And
most of that time he'd spent searching the old records at Benguela in
a vain attempt to lift the veil of mystery which shrouded this lovely
girl whose intelligence was of the highest order, but whose knowledge
of the world outside her jungles would scarcely equal that of a five-
year-old white child. But, though his researches had yielded no clue
as to Sheena's identity, he had uncovered much concerning the Abamas
that had given him food for thought.

According to record, the Abamas had fled the terrors of Chaka's bloody
rule nearly seventy years ago, and had trekked north under the
leadership of Yamo Galagi. Unlike the Zulu, Dingaan, Moselekatse and
other generals, this chief was accustomed to lead his impis in person,
and his march along the higher reaches of the Zambesi had been an
Odyssey of battles, privations and sudden changes of fortune.
Nevertheless, he had finally succeeded in overcoming all opposition,
and the capture of countless herds of cattle had enabled his people to
resume their pastoral life on the lush veldt between the watershed of
the Zambesi and the Congo.

Then, Yamo Galagi, a born leader of men and one of the strongest
personalities in African history, turned his attention to the
organization of his kingdom, and ultimately pushed its boundaries
across the north-flowing tributaries of the Congo as far as the
Cuanza.

His government had been despotic, ruthless and cruel, but strong and
efficient. From his capital, Massumba, the Great Encampment, his
caravans had worked their way down to the Portuguese port of Benguela.
At the height of his power he had commanded no less than three
thousand warriors armed with flint-lock muskets, and three times as
many bowmen. Once he had visited the court of the Portuguese king at
Lisbon; and, thereafter, the chronicles styled him, Dom Joao da Silva,
Count of Lunda. But some obscure quarrel had brought the black
nobleman to rebellion against his overlord. He swore that he would
drive the Portuguese into the sea, and he might well have succeeded
had not a bullet put an end to his bloody career before the wall of
Sao Salvador.

Upon the death of its strong man the Lunda kingdom, essentially feudal
in character, had quickly broken up into warring fractions. But Yamo
Galagi had inaugurated a Golden Age, and the Bantu had not forgotten
him. His name lived in tradition and fable. He was a truly admirable
man, they said. A man so brave and of such infallible cruelty that a
command beaten out on his great drum was speedily fulfilled. But the
drum spoke no more now--for who should beat the drum of so great a
man? Surely his hand would shrivel and become the hand of a dead man.
And at the voice of the drum so many would remember and grieve. Or,
perchance, their hearts would grow strong again, for did not the Old
Ones whisper among themselves that when the drum was heard again it
would be the ghost-voice of the Galagi calling his warriors to battle
and the Bantu to greatness?

And to this day Portuguese governors kept their ears tuned to such
talk. More than one of them had spent much treasure and not a little
blood in vain attempts to get possession of Yamo Galagi's drum. Ever
present in their minds was the fear that some aspiring chieftain, less
superstitious than his fellows, might unearth the fabulous drum, or a
working facsimile thereof, and fill the jungles with its seditious
clamor.

And there was a feature of the constitution of the old, Lunda kingdom
that held peculiar interest for Rick. It was the queen-consort, the
Mateyenda. The odd part about this female ruler was that she was not
the king's wife, but a member of the royal line possessing her own
court and her own income. Moreover she had the power of deciding the
election of a new Galagi, as the petty chiefs who now held all that
was left of the Lunda kingdom were now called. It appeared that she
was allowed to marry, but her husbands were called "wives," and,
generally speaking, had no influence at all. Thus the kingdom had had
two heads in existence at one time which had been neither mutually
exclusive, nor in mutual hostility.

From what Sheena had told him of her past, Rick reasoned that Ebid Ela
had at one time been Mateyenda of the Lunda kingdom, and that the old
woman had bequeathed her high office to the white foster-child she had
cared for from infancy. This would account for the extraordinary
influence Sheena had over the Abama clans.

Thinking about it all, Rick had come to a better understanding of what
he was up against in the lovely person of Sheena. But it had not had
the effect of cooling his ardour, or of weakening his determination to
take the girl back to the coast with him someday. He was merely
willing to concede that it would take longer than he had anticipated
when the idea had first occurred to him. Though usually he walked where
the angels feared to tread, he could be as timid as a dik-dik when
caution was indicated, and he had lived among Africans long enough to
know that it was wise to speak softly in the presence of their gods.

"Take it slow and easy, young feller," he counseled himself. "She is
as wild as a cage full of cheetahs, and twice as dangerous. Just let
her get used to seeing you around. It might take ten years but it'll
be worth it."

There was no fresh meat in the camp, and before sunrise Sheena was
ghosting along the game trails that threaded the forest, and by sunup
she was back in the camp with a fat bush-buck. The morning air was
bland with the odor of roasting meat when Rick came out of the tent to
sit on his heels on the other side of the fire. She gave him a
sidelong look and asked:

"Your head is better now?"

"As good as new. And now it is in my heart to say--"

"What is in your heart does not trouble me," she checked him quickly.
"What is in your head does. Tomorrow I leave this place. When do you
start downriver?"

"Too much for one man to carry," he said. "I have no porters."

"I have not forgotten that when a white Bwana treks he must have his
servants to cut a path for him," she said with gentle derision. "You
will have porters, never doubt it. And they will see to it that their
Bwana does not mistake his direction."

"Sheena must he obeyed," he said with a faint smile. And she gave him
a sharp look. Quiet submission was not what she had expected. It was
not in his nature, and she felt uneasy. Then it flashed into her mind
that he might not be as well as he said he was. She smiled and said:

"You would do well to rest here until the moon changes."

"Six day's grace, eh?" said he.



III

SHE FROWNED over the saying. There were many words in Swahili speech
that had no meaning for her, because the Abama dialect had no words to
match them. "What is 'grace'?" she asked.

He was silent, balancing an answer in his mind. "It is ze minga," he
decided. "A thing given, as when the Abama sacrifice for rain, and the
rain comes."

"So? But I have given you nothing."

He gave her a long, steady look, then: "I think so. I am thinking of a
certain night in the garden of Sleman bin Ali."

"I gave you a knife wound also!" she reminded him sharply. But under
his steady gaze she felt the blood rise to her head and pulse in her
ears. To hide her confusion she got to her feet, and as she did so a
deep-toned voice shouted her name. She turned quickly to see Ekoti
come running across the clearing, the tails of his leopard-skin kroos
whipping about his black, muscular legs. He came to a stand before
her, his great chest heaving as he fetched his breath. As Rick got to
his feet, the young chief's keen eyes came to focus on him. Stern
disapproval was written on his face, and his greeting was coldly
formal:

"I know you, Bwana!"

"I know you, Chieftain!" Rick returned.

"I did not think to find you still here," Ekoti said, but looked to
Sheena for an answer.

"Kalundas attacked his camp," the Jungle Queen told him. "He was
wounded in the fight and could not trek."

"Ah--so!" Ekot looked relieved, then: "I sent Leta to your dwelling
place in the forest. She could not find you, and when she came back
she said she was sure that the young Bwana had taken--"

"Your wives chatter like parrots!" the Jungle Queen interposed
sharply. "And if you wanted me why are your drums silent?"

Ekoti's eyes became uneasy. He looked up at the sky and then down at
the ground. "I came to speak of this thing," he said at last. "Our
drums are silent because the witchdoctors say that no drum must talk
after sundown now."

"What witchdoctors? Who dares to silence my drums?" Sheena was
furious, and Ekoti looked as if he expected the earth to open and
swallow him.

"All the witchdoctors say so, Sheena," he rumbled. "Surely you have
heard the drum?"

"I have heard it. What more?"

Ekoti looked grave. "There is much more and it is all bad, Sheena.
When the drum first spoke the witchdoctors went to a secret meeting
place, and when they came to their villages they told the people that
the drum was the ghost-voice of Yamo Galagi. It was a great magic,
they said, and that all the young warriors must make ready to trek
into the Kalunda country."

"So? But you did not let the young men go, Ekoti?"

The chief took his time about answering, and that the worst had yet to
come was made plain by his hesitation and the way he shifted from one
foot to the other. "I tried to stop them," he said at last. "I called
the Elders to council, and it was made taboo for any man to go more
than a day's trek beyond his village. But the call of the drum was
stronger than our taboo. When it spoke again a few young men stole
away when all were sleeping. On the next night a few more. And so it
has been every night. Aie truly, it was as if a ghost walked into the
villages, touched each man on the shoulder as he lay on his bed, and
said: 'Follow me!' Soon there will be no young men left to hunt and
watch our cattle, and I have come to ask you what I should do about
this thing."

"The witchdoctors lie!" the Jungle Queen flashed at him. "It cannot be
the Galagi's drum. It was buried with him and no man knows where."

"It may be that they speak the truth, Sheena." Rick, who had been
listening with keen attention, held out his hand.

"So!" she said caustically. "The white Bwana believes in ghosts also!"

"Let me see that knife again," he said quietly. She gave it to him,
and he examined the ivory haft with a frown between his eyes. Then he
nodded his head with a grunt of satisfaction and said: "Now I know the
meaning of these carvings. They tell a story of bygone days. Listen--"

And then be gave her a full account of all he had learned of the
Abamas at Benguela. At first Sheena could not understand how he could
know so much about her people, never having lived among them. But as
he got deeper into the story she was remembering certain things Ebid
Ela had told her, so long ago that she had forgotten them until this
moment. And once Ekoti, his eyes big with wonderment, broke in: "True,
true I have heard the old ones speak of such days. It is said--"

Sheena silenced him with a quick gesture and Rick went on: "See, the
carvings tell the story of Yamo Galagi's visit to the Portuguese king.
It may be that the man who dropped it got it in trade," he concluded.
"But I do not think so. No, the drum calls the Abama warriors to
Massumba, I think."

Sheena was silent for a moment, turning it all over in her mind. Her
keen brain was quick to grasp the significance of what Rick had told
her.

"If this be so," she summed up, "the drum speaks of much evil that is
brewing at Massumba. It must be silenced, Ekoti," she added, turning
to the chief.

Ekoti looked down at his feet; then: "The Abamas will not help you,
Sheena. The witchdoctors have frightened them, and I fear--"

"Have I asked for their help, Ekoti? If you are not afraid of ghosts,
we two will go to Massumba--"

"We three," Rick put in quietly. And she turned to look him up and
down with an amused smile.

"It will be a hard trek for you," she told him. "There will be no
servants to carry Bwana's tent, to fetch his water and to cook his
food." She saw a muscle tighten in his jaw; but in a moment his slow
smile had relaxed the tension, and he said:

"Anywhere you go, I can follow."

Now, it flashed into her mind that, with the Abamas worked up, excited
by the fetish-call of the big drum, she would not be able to get
porters to take him to the coast. And there was a meaner thought--it
might be well for him to learn that to trek with a safari was one
thing, and to trek with Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, quite another
thing. Truly, such a trek would put an end, once and for all, to any
notion he might have of living in the jungle with her. She laughed
softly and said:

"So be it, Bwana. Follow me, then!" She picked up her bow and quiver,
gave him a dazzling smile, and then sped across the clearing without a
backward glance.

Rick's lips rounded to an oath, and he would have started to run after
her had not Ekoti caught his arm.

"You could not catch her, Bwana," the chief told him. "No man could.
Always she will be in the trees ahead of us. You and I, we will follow
on the ground, as real people must."

Rick looked up the game trail, into the misty green of which Sheena
had already vanished, rubbing the nape of his neck with his hand. He
muttered something under his breath which would have made the Jungle
Queen's ears burn had she heard it, then he turned to Ekoti and said
gravely:

"It will be good to trek with the chief of the Abamas."

"It will be good to trek with the slayer of the Bearded One," Ekoti
returned with a flash of white teeth. Then he looked down at Rick's
empty holster and asked: "But where is the Father-of-Six?"

"Must be around somewhere," said Rick and started to look around the
clearing for his Colt. Ekoti soon spotted it, gleaming in the
grass where it had been knocked from Rick's hand. He picked it up and
gave it to Rick.

"If I had such a gun, and could shoot as quickly and as straight as
you do, I would fear no man," he said.

"There is such another in my tent," Rick told him. "When I was at the
coast I thought of my friend Ekoti, and I bought the gun for him. I
will teach him to shoot with it."

"Truly?" the young chief's eyes bulged.

"Truly," said Rick, and went to his tent to get the gun. But when he
came back the Abama chief's face was set in stern lines. He said:

"There is a thing in my mind, Bwana. It will be good to speak of it
before I take your gift I know what is in your heart. Sheena's skin is
white, your skin is white. It would be good for you to mate with her,
you think. It may be so. But I tell you now that if you try to take
her to the coast with you, this spear will drink your blood!"

For a time black and white, both perfect specimens of their race,
looked deeply each into the other's eyes. Rick said:

"The Abama chief speaks plainly as a warrior should. I will speak as
plainly. I will take Sheena to the coast with me, but only when she
asks me to do so. Meanwhile, I wish to be your friend. Freely, I give
you this gun, and I will teach you to shoot with it, even though the
first bullet you fire finds my heart."

"Aie!" exclaimed the chief and his dark eyes came alight with a gleam
of appreciation. "You are a man, Bwana, a fit mate for Sheena!" Then
he added with a deep chuckle, "But if you wait for her to do the
asking, as you say you will, I think we will be friends for a long
time. Oh yes, we will be too old to fight then!"

"Maybe you're not far out at that!" Rick muttered with a wry grin, and
then went to make up his pack.



IV

FROM a projecting point of rock which dominated a broad expanse of
tumbled uplands that had known the rack and twist of volcanic
convulsion, Sheena watched Rick and Ekoti weaving their way between
huge boulders and clumps of thorny mimosa bush. They were deep in the
Kalunda country now, but far off still the head of the Buffalo
Mountain stood against the sky in lines of vapory blue. In the middle
distance there were strange formations of crumbling sandstone, banded
with the spectral white of quartz, queer piles designed by the gods in
sardonic mood. To the north there was a great fault through which the
river wiggled, its banks lined with thickets of thorny bamboo more
impenetrable than any barbed-wire entanglement. Beyond rose the banks
of the ever-green jungle, tall resin trees linked by fantastic
creepers or spiky rattans.

Only once before had Sheena ventured into this country. In this
valley, she knew, lived the dwarf-people, the Kobi, wooly-haired and
entirely naked. But they were meat-eaters, man-eaters, who hunted with
tiny, poison-tipped arrows. She judged that the young men of the Abama
clans, trekking for Massumba would swing wide of this stretch of jungle
on that account, and this meant that, by following the river, she
could be at Massumba at least two marches ahead of them. But it would
be necessary for Rick and Ekoti to camp here and build a light raft.

With this settled in her mind, the Jungle Queen's attention was drawn
to Rick's battered topee bobbing above a patch of bush, and her eyes
were clouded by a troubled look. Though, for the past two days, she
had set a hard pace, her attempt to discourage him seemed to hold
forth little hope of success. On the contrary, he had clung to her
heels with the tenacity of a cheetah on the trail of a wounded buck,
showing powers of endurance and a jungle-craft not inferior to her
own. His persistence annoyed her, and yet she was not insensible to
the high tribute this determined pursuit paid to her womanhood, nor to
the faint stirring of pleasure that came with the thought.

"It was cruel to taunt him, little one," she murmured to Chim as he
bounded to the rock beside her. "And it was foolish, because I cannot
send him back alone now."

As the pair came into plain view, she waved to them, indicating the
trail she would take down to the river, and then made her way steeply
through the pale green of the stunted mimosa. Following a game trail
she came to an open sandy patch, glistening with mica in the sun. Here
the river rippled over a pebbly bed and curved into the bank to form a
large water-hole. Bamboo grew everywhere, their white-ringed, green
stems protected by great shields of bark around the base. They arched
gracefully over the pool, their leaves quivering in the air and
veiling the light. Two elephants stood on the far side, a mother and
her calf, flapping their ears and waving trunks and tails to keep off
the flies. Here and there great, solid marula trees rose above the
tangled mass of greenery, and some of their trunks, at her own height
above the ground, were all scratched and furrowed with cruel rents;
for these were the trees used by the big jungle cats to stretch their
paws and to sharpen their merciless claws after their long sleep
through the heat of the day.

The elephants went rumbling into the forest as soon as they got her
wind, and black monkeys went running up the opposite bank with their
tails straight up in the air as Chim came bounding into the glade,
grimacing ferociously and snarling a challenge to all.

"Quiet, little one!" she chided. "You are very brave, I know. But it
is bad to frighten such little folk."

She had a fire started, and the shadows were deepening when Rick and
Ekoti came into the glade. Rick's face under his black beard, she
noted as he came down the steep bank, was blotchy and swollen with
mosquito bites. His knees, exposed by his shorts, were like lumps of
raw meat where he had scratched them. His shirt was torn and showed
many scars, some fresh and bleeding, where the thorns had cruelly
torn his flesh. She was conscious of a sudden twinge of remorse. What
had made her treat him so badly? Truly, she must be possesed by
Nakoloshi, as the Abamas called the mischievous spirit who crept into
the beds of their women and turned them into shrews overnight.

He rested his rifle against a tree, unslung his heavy pack, and turned
to face her. Impulsive words, warm and full of contrition shaped
themselves in her mind--and there it was again, that slow smile,
tormenting, always challenging, always hinting at things that were
best forgotten. She swallowed the words with a gulp of air, and merely
nodded her head in return to his greeting.

Ekoti was moving down to the water-hole to drink. She turned to speak
to him, and just as he dropped to his knees she saw what had looked
like a black stick suddenly coil and transform itself into hissing
death. Even as her warning cry rang out, the snake struck and plopped
back.

Rick's Colt roared as Ekoti jumped to his feet. The heavy bullet
slapped into the snake's coils, but did not kill it. Ekoti's eyes
rolled, following the serpent's swift, slithering retreat into the
bush, and then he looked down at his leg, and when he lifted his head
to look at Sheena his face was that of a man doomed. There was a
pleading look in his eyes, and she knew that he was thinking that she
had the power, the magic to heal. She stared at him dumbly, her mind
refusing to accept what she had seen. It could not happen--not to
Ekoti who had been her playmate, her friend for as far back as she
could remember. A queer sound came from her constricted throat. And
then the Abama chief remembered his manhood. His back stiffened and
his jaw snapped shut. Then he said:

"It is good for a warrior to die of a spear thrust. But it does not
matter when or how he dies if he dies well." Then he moved to a tree
and sat with his back to it, to await the inevitable with the calm
dignity and fatalism of his breed.

With a cry of anguish on her lips Sheena snatched up a burning brand,
ran across to him, and dropped to her knees. But before she could
apply her lips to the two deadly little punctures in Ekoti's leg
Rick's hand forced her head back. Anger welled up in her, and she
would have struck at him, but he thrust the haft of a knife into her
hand and said coolly:

"Heat the blade until it is red."

Then she saw that while she had been standing, helpless, he had
unstrapped his pack, and that the box of medicine he always carried
was open on the ground beside him. And then she remembered that it was
his skill that had saved Aku, Ekoti's uncle, from a gunshot wound.

"Save him," she cried impulsively, "and then ask what you want of me!"

Rick nodded his head absently while he tightened a tourniquet above
the affected part. That was a sheep-killer, one of the colubrines, he
was thinking. Poison affecting the nerve centers and giving rise to
paralysis. Antidote? Antitoxin and adrenalin to stimulate heart action
and prevent collapse. Incise to promote bleeding, cauterize--yes it
was all clear in his mind. One hundred percent effective in most
cases. Further proof of the value of that course he'd taken at
Benguela. Damn it, if he had to choose between a loaded rifle and a
hypodermic loaded with antitoxin, it would be the hypodermic every
time! The minor terrors of the jungle were the most deadly, a man
never got a chance to draw a bead on them. Now, a little anesthetic--

While he worked Sheena watched his every move with keen concentration
in her blue eyes. Ekoti braced himself as the red-hot knife blade came
down on his flesh, and then his jaw sagged open, and he gasped:

"Bwana, my leg is already dead! I feel no more than the prick of a
thorn."

"Soon you will wish you did not have a leg, warrior," Rick told him as
he finished. "But when it starts to hurt, I will make it sleep again."

"Truly, all white people are magicians!" said Ekoti, his voice
dropping to the deep tones of absolute conviction.

Sheena followed Rick to the fire. She watched him carefully cleanse
his instruments, and refill the hypodermic from one of the many little
bottles in his leather case.

"He will live?" she asked suddenly.

"Never doubt it," he assured her, and sat on his heels to strap his
case. "His leg will swell, but in two days he will be able to walk."

There was a long pause, and then she asked almost inaudibly: "What do
you want of me?"

Rick looked up at her, and his eyes clung to her superb figure. Slow
and easy--remember? He cautioned himself, and became absorbed in the
lashings of his pack. He put his knee to it and jerked the straps
tight before he answered: "Nothing--nothing at all."

"So?" murmured the Jungle Queen, and fell silent, a frown on her face.

Night came and the stars burned through the leafy roof overhead. Under
his tree Ekoti was sleeping soundly, and Rick was flung out on the
ground beside him. The Jungle Queen was more used to spending her
nights in the trees, and she felt strangely uneasy, sitting over the
fire, listening to the lascivious gruntings and snortings that came
out of the forest. In the aisles, between the trees the fireflies wove
fantastic patterns until the moon rose and dimmed their dancing, and
spread a gauze of silver over the sandy glade. The shadows were in
rhythm with the swaying bamboos, and the noise of the river was as
insinuating as sleep, shutting out all other sounds. Sheena's golden
head sank down to her arms folded across her knees.

She awoke with a start, every sense instantly alert. From the branches
of a nearby tree came soft, persistent clucking sounds, and she knew
that Chim had seen or sensed some danger. With the fluid, noiseless
ease of an animal, she rose and began to circle the fire; and like an
animal she stood without moving at all, sniffing at the wind. Above
the gurgling of the river she could hear no sound; but, borne on a
sudden puff of wind, the unctuous scent of sweating bodies was very
strong, and she had a fleeting mental picture of little men moving
through the darkness all around her.

Her first impulse was to spring for the nearest branch. At any other
time she would have been out of danger in an instant high in the
protecting arms of the trees. But instead she hesitated, then moved
swiftly to Rick's side. He awoke at the first touch of her hand, and
she whispered:

"The Kobi attack us. Do not stand up. Crawl down to the river. We can
cross before they rush upon us."

Rick rolled over onto his belly with a low word of assent. She stepped
over his prone body, and just as she bent to touch Ekoti's shoulder a
man dropped on her back from out of a tree. The sudden, overwhelming
weight of him flattened her out on the ground, and the impact of his
bony knee in the small of her back drove the air from her lungs in a
gasping cry. Rick's gun exploded close to her ear, and for a moment
she was utterly without strength.

She caught her breath in a painful gasp, and then her lithe body
writhed and twisted as if in a convulsion, and like a jungle cat she
fought with tooth and claw.

The man was on his knees, straddling her body, trying to pin her arms
down. He was grunting with exertion, and he was very strong. No dwarf-
man. She arched her back, lifting him, and then with a quick twist
broke his grip upon her wrists.

He yelped and jerked his body backwards as her crooked fingers raked
his face, and in the next moment he was on his back. Instantly steel
flashed in the Jungle Queen's hand, and he died without a cry as her
knife was driven downward under his left armpit.

She was on her feet in a flash. The glade was full of shouts, and
moonbeams winked on brandished weapons. Shadowy figures, locked in
combat swayed through a pool of moonlight, Rick was fighting there.
And then she saw Ekoti, standing with his back to a tree, beating off
the attack of four men with his long, leaf-bladed spear. He saw her
and roared out the Abama war cry. She bounded toward him, but even as
her knife flashed up in a deadly arc a thrown war-club struck her on
the base of the skull. She fell, rolled over onto her back, saw a
patch of starlit sky whirl and become a dazzling wheel of light, and
nothing more.



V

SHE AWOKE with sunlight in her eyes. It came through a mesh of boughs
and palm leaves which had been woven into a flimsy shelter without
sides. No bounds restricted her first tentative movements, and she sat
up. A man stood looking down at her, but the sieved sunlight stabbed
at her eyes like knife points. She could see nothing clearly, and felt
dizzy. There was the sound of voices and movement all around her; and,
as her vision cleared, her eyes came to focus on the man.

He was a squat, flat-featured warrior, certainly not a Kobi. His spine
was as straight as the spear he held in his hand. He wore a headdress
of egrets' feathers and beaded bands crossed his deep chest to support
a kind of kilt and a belt with a knife with a long, curved blade
thrust into it. Muscles rippled under his black skin as he lifted his
hand in salute, and she thought that his eyes held a worried look.

"I know you, Sheena!" he said in a voice that gave a queer, purring
sound to the Bantu words.

She did not answer at once, but looked around the camp. At a glance
she saw that she was in the same glade where they had camped the night
before. Twenty, or more, black, oval shields lay on the grass, long
spears thrust into the ground beside them. In the shadows there was
the glint of light on copper bangles where their owners--all squat,
heavily muscled warriors--squatted and talked in voices over their
morning meal. Rick and Ekoti sat by the tree, hemmed in by a half-
dozen warriors with spears held at the ready. Her eyes came to rest on
Rick, lingered on his face until he looked up and grinned, and then
came back to the man before her. The worried look had become more
pronounced during her long silence, and he said:

"I am Sibitane, induna of the Black Shields. And I ask pardon for the
violence that has been done to you. The man who struck the blow will
strike no more."

"Who is your chief?" she asked coldly.

The induna's expression became puzzled.

"Yamo Galagi," he told her.

"What does he want with me?"

Sibitane's puzzlement deepened, and he answered with a question: "Have
you not heard my master's drum, Mateyenda?"

"Truly, I have heard it."

"Then it must be known to you, Daughter of Ebid Ela, that Yamo Galagi
is reborn, and that the day of his election to the seat of his
fathers is at hand. Also, it must be known to you that all hear and
obey his drum. All the young men of the Abamas gather at Massumba.
Soon their numbers will be as many--"

"This I know," the Jungle Queen interposed with a faint smile. "But I
do not know this man who calls himself Yamo Galagi reborn. And I do
not believe that the dead are reborn. I think that your master is a
great liar, Captain of the Black Shields!"

Sibitane gasped, and shock and horror were stamped on his flat
features. He edged back from the Jungle Queen as if he expected to see
her blasted on the spot. But as nothing happened he made a slow
recovery, gulped and said:

"Aie, it must be that you wish to test my loyalty. Yes, yes, I see
that it must be so!" he reassured himself. "The Mateyenda knows that
none but those in whose veins the blood-royal flows dare beat Yamo
Galagi's drum, or surely their hands would shrivel and become like a
dead monkey's hands. But the spirit of Yamo Galagi has taken
possession of my master's body. He makes the drum talk and no harm has
come to him, as you will soon see, Mateyenda."

Sheena's smile was dangerous. "So," she said, "you have come to take
me to Massumba. Perhaps it is in your mind to bind me also, Sibitane?"

"No, no!" protested the induna, and looked shocked again. "It is my
master's will that you be treated with all the honor due to the
Mateyenda of Lunda."

"To send his servants to attack my camp is a strange way to show
honor, Sibitane?"

Inward distress showed on the induna's face. "The fault is mine,
Mateyenda. I thought to take you without a fight. But that fool--"

"Why did you come as an enemy in the night?" Sheena demanded.

He spread his hands in a despairing gesture. "Mateyenda," he said, "I
am a simple captain of an impi. The Great Ones speak, I obey. I cannot
tell what was in my master's mind. I only know that he sent men into
your country to bring you to Massumba. But you slew three of them, and
when he heard of it he was very angry. Then he sent me." He shook his
head. "I hope that you will not make trouble for me because of what
that fool--"

And just then the rumble of Yamo Galagi's great drum came quivering
over the tree tops. It had been silent for two days, and at its first
booming notes the Jungle Queen's poise became tense. Her head was
lifted and turned toward the mountains, her hands were tightly
clenched at her sides and her blue eyes took fire as her pulse beat
quickened to the challenge of the drum. It would not be easy to deal
with this man who called himself the Galagi reborn. It was a powerful
hand that had reached out from those mountains to pluck her out of her
own jungles, and it was a cunning brain that had so cleverly combined
the traditions of her people and their deep-rooted superstitions. By
merely beating a drum he had broken Ekoti's authority, and had given
it to the witchdoctors who would now prey upon the fears of her
people, like the spiritual buzzards they were! Worse, she herself was
now entangled in his subtle web of lies. She must go to Massumba;
because as the Abamas saw it, she was the Mateyenda and it was her
right and her duty to affirm or deny this new-born Galagi's claim to
the kingship of all the Abama clans.

And what did he want of her? Did he see in her, the foster-daughter of
Ebid Ela, who had once possessed the king-making power, a useful tool?
Oh yes doubtless he thought that he could bend her to his will. Ah,
but he would soon learn that between them it was war to the knife and
the knife to the hilt!

A sharp command from Sibitane broke in on her racing thoughts. One of the
Kalunda warriors ran to a small drum which stood near her shelter. As
the voice of the big drum died in quivering echos, the induna spoke to
the drummer in a dialect unknown to Sheena. And then the hollow voice
of the slotted log repeated his words under the measured beat of the
drummer's sticks.

When silence came to the glade again Sibitane said: "My master grows
impatient, Mateyenda. If it pleases you, I will give the order to
march."

Sheena's eyes came to rest on Rick and were clouded with thought. "I
am eager to look upon the face of your master," she said, after a long
pause, "but I do not think that it will please him if a white man sees
so many warriors gathered at Massumba. What the young Bwana does not
see he cannot tell the Portuguesa."

The induna's eyes jumped, and his hand tightened on the shaft of his
spear. "True!" he breathed.

Sheena gave him a dazzling smile. "I have forgotten what happened last
night, Sibitane," she said.

A look of infinite relief came to the induna's face. "Mateyenda," he
said warmly, "I am your true and faithful servant!"

Again Sheena's eyes came to rest on Rick, and she said: "The Abama
chief has been bitten by a snake, and it will be good for him to
return to his own village. Make a litter for him, Sibitane, and let
six of your warriors go with him. The white Bwana knows nothing, so
let him go with Ekoti. But it may be," she added, and a gleam of humor
changed her eyes, "that the Bwana will not want to go. If you do not
want trouble, seize him quickly and bind him."

"I hear and obey!" Sibitane turned and shouted guttural orders at the
men guarding Rick and Ekoti. There was a moment of hesitation then, as
one man, they dropped their spears and flung themselves upon Rick.

The attack was so swift and unexpected that Rick was flat on his back
and pinned down before he had a chance to strike a blow. Ekoti let out
a bellow of surprise and rage and made a grab at a spear one of the
guards had dropped. But a sharp word from Sheena checked him, and he
flopped back against the tree, his face almost comical in its
expression of complete bewilderment. In a matter of minutes Rick was
utterly helpless, bound hand and foot. Sheena glided over and stood
looking down into his angry eyes.

"You have nothing to fear," she told him. "There is much that you
cannot understand. I do this, because I know that you would follow me
to your death. So, do not be angry."

"You--you--" His rage choked him, and his face became charged with
blood as he strained at his bonds. Then words came crackling from
between his white lips. They were strange, harsh-sounding words, but
his blazing eyes and vehemence made her feel the sting of them. She
knew that she had hurt him deeply, slashed his pride, and was suddenly
ashamed. She did not want him to think so badly of her; and, thinking
to sooth him, she favored him with the sweetest of her smiles and said
softly:

"Perchance we will meet again at the Abama village soon." But her
words did not have the desired effect, indeed it only served to
increase his rage.

"We'll meet again," he gasped. "And when we do you'll pay for this,
and it won't be in peanuts, you--you she-devil!"

"She-devil!" she echoed. She felt her own anger rising to match his.
"Did I ask you to come back?" she cried passionately. "No, I did not.
But I see how it is with you. I am she-devil because you cannot have
your way with me. Now, I tell you, if you wait for me at the Abama
village, in very truth it will be a she-devil who'll come to meet you
there!" And with that she turned and ran swiftly across the glade to
where Sibitane was marshalling his men. She went flashing past the
induna. He stared after her for a time, then shouted an order and, a
moment later, the impi moved out of the glade in compact formation on
the heels of the Jungle Queen.

The jungle was windless, sunless and vociferous, its stridence
compounded of the rasping of minute insects, the low moan of the meat-
hunters and the queer monkey-whinings which came out of the steaming
green. This stretch of jungle was the strongest Sheena ever had seen.
It would have taken the impi many days to cut a path through it, but
for the fact that a herd of elephants was moving in the same general
direction. The herd was headed for the mountains where the young
bamboo shoots were now succulent and green, and their going was
irresistible, the path they trampled through the tangled mass of
bamboos and spikey vines as broad and as firm underfoot as a village
road.

On the second day of the trek they came out into a scorching glare
that was dazzling after the semi-dark of the forest, searing after its
coolness. The country they traversed now was flat, but with walls of
shattered rock picturing the chaos as it was left after the rending of
some bygone upheaval. The land did not heave and roll itself up into
foothills as they approached the Buffalo Mountain, for in this weird
upland country the mountains grew out of the veldt like gigantic
anthills. Soon they were marching through native fields, neglected and
irregular gardens with the flowering vine of the calabash trailing
everywhere.

Impatient of delay, Sibitane swung his impi wide of a meager-looking
village--the only one they had seen so far--but the people came
running out with offerings of milk and food. There was much shouting
and laughter. And yapping dogs and naked children eager for another
glimpse of the strange golden-haired woman and her ape still raced on
their flanks long after the village was hidden by the cloud of dust
rising from under the feet of the fast-moving impi.

They were marching in the shadow of the cone-shaped mountains before
sundown, and Massumba loomed black against the skyline. One of the
cones looked as if it had been sheared off close to the base to form
the foundation of the old Lunda stronghold which huddled on top of
it. The caravan road swept around it, but it was overgrown with grass
and vines and no longer resounded to the tramp of marching feet. Yet
the citadel seemed to be watching for the caravans richly laden with
tribute and the spoils of successful war, not knowing that they were
no more. The crumbling walls looked grim, lifeless--or living only in
the mind of the false Yamo Galagi who dreamed of power and glory amid
vine-covered ruins.

A spiral path, which slaves had crudely torn from the mass of
sandstone, with rocks dropping away in huge, broken steps led steeply
up to the walled plateau. At one point there was a refuse dump, and
here the rock ledges were white with the guana of carrion birds, and
lank, half-starved dogs snarled and fought over the offal of an
unclean people and their animals.

And Sheena thought that if there was a place in Africa where stench
reached its highest magnitude, the distinction must belong to
Massumba, the once proud capital of Lunda.

A broken-down gate gave into a narrow lane between square, thatched
houses. People came to stare in the doorways, shouting and pointing.
The tumult grew and died in passing, and as they went Sibitane's impi
melted into the cross lanes, each man making his way to his own house.
Sheena and the induna were alone when they came out into an open
square.

Houses enclosed it, and their flat, contiguous roofs supported
crumbling ramparts of sun-baked mud and wattle. At one time the whole
extensive area had been covered by a roof, but fire had destroyed it; for
the stumps of charred pillars made an aisle across to a broad flight
of steps which led up to a wide terrace of stone and a squat, square
tower. This Sheena guessed was the high seat of the Galagi, and, as
seen from across the compound as the light changed with the angle of
the sun and shadowed out its sharp, square lines, its windows looked
like eye-sockets, its square doorway like a black maw, and the whole
became strongly suggestive of a human skull.

In silence Sibitane led her across the compound and up the steep
flight of steps. The cavernous mouth yawned before them, and they
stepped into the half-light of the tower's interior. A few paces
beyond the entrance Sibitane stopped outside a doorway curtained by a
mat of woven grass.

"Wait," he said in a hushed voice, and then, bending almost double,
ducked through the curtain. Time passed while from within came the low
mutter of voices. At long last Sibitane's arm swept aside the curtain,
and Sheena stepped into a chamber fragrant with the scent of burning
incense.

A shaft of sunlight streamed in through a high, round window and,
bathed in its golden glare, the Galagi sat cross-legged on a kind of
dais under the symbol of African royalty--a big umbrella of striped
cloth fringed with red and yellow tassels.



VI

HE WORE a tight-fitting cap of leopard skin, with a long stem attached
to it which sprouted a spray of white feathers like the papyrus reed.
His robes, encrusted with bead-work, were voluminous, completely
covering his person, but his heavy jowls, loose mouth, and the pudgy
hand he raised to check her closer approach suggested a bulky man of
middle age. At his feet sat a woman, a very old woman. Her withered
features showed darkly under the veil of gauzy white which covered her
from head to foot, and her eyes seemed to burn through it as she
leaned forward to peer into the Jungle Queen's face. The Galagi was
the first to speak:

"By the gods, Sibitane, you did not lie!" he exclaimed in a high-
pitched, sibilant voice. And the greedy vitality of his stare made
Sheena feel as if something were crawling all over her. His loose
mouth twisted into a repulsive smile as he went on: "Mateyenda, when I
was first told of your beauty I could not believe the eyes of my
servants. Now I cannot believe my own!"

His leer whetted Sheena's hostility. Her smile was frankly
contemptuous. "When I first heard that the Galagi was reborn," she
retorted, "I did not believe my ears. And now my eyes are witness to
the greatness of the lie."

His teeth came together with a sharp click, and his heavy-lidded eyes
opened wide to fasten on her face in a cold glare. "Speak such words
once again," he said with soft menace, "and I will have the tongue
torn from your mouth!"

The Jungle Queen's laugh was soft, taunting. She said: "Soon all the
Abama clans will be gathered here, and I wonder what they will do when
they call upon their Mateyenda for counsel--and find that she has no
tongue to counsel them with."

"They will do nothing!" his voice rose to a bellow. "My drum will
counsel them, and they will obey!" But his bluster was a little
uncertain, his eyes uneasy. And Sheena, seeing the fear in him, was
quick to take advantage of it.

"If you dare to harm me," she said calmly, "the war-cry of the Abamas
will shout down your drum. It will shake this ruin, and bring the
walls down upon your head. Do you think that I would have come here
alone, if I did not know this?"

The question, brought a scowl to his face, but before he could answer
a black, claw-like hand came from under the bundle of gauze at his
feet to touch his knee. He bent his head, and the pair consulted in
whispers for some time. Then the old woman spoke, and the sound of her
voice was like the crackling of dry leaves underfoot.

"Why do you provoke my son's anger, Mateyenda?" she asked "Why do you
deny his birthright?"

The Jungle Queen stood calm and serene, balancing an answer in her
mind; then: "Because I see nothing but evil and war in his heart. He
would make slaves of the Abamas to rebuild these old walls. He would
be a great king, but neither his heart nor his mind is strong enough
to rule wisely."

The Galagi's mouth was ugly, his eyes blazing. But before he could
give vent to the rage that was in him, the old woman's hand touched his
knee again, and she said sharply:

"Peace, my son! Leave us--you too, Sibitane."

The son got to his feet, and Sheena saw that his bigness was not the
bigness of fat but of strength. He stood glaring at her for a moment,
a tic jerking at one corner of his mouth, then without a word he left
the chamber by a door behind the dais. Sibitane salaamed with cupped
hands first to the old woman, then to Sheena, and quickly effaced
himself.

As they vanished from sight the old woman uttered a cackling laugh.
"Men are fools," she said, "always pawing the dust and bellowing like
young bulls when there are women about!" She removed the veil from her
head, revealing, a death's head with skin like ripples of mud in a dry
stream bed. Only her eyes seemed to be alive--strange black eyes,
bright with intelligence. Looking into them Sheena felt that somewhere
she had seen this old hag before.

"Come closer, Mateyenda," the other invited. "We can talk without
anger." Then as Sheena came to sit beside her on the dais the old
woman lifted a knotted stick which was close at hand and struck the
floor with it.

"The earth and I--we are very old!" she said. And Sheena's eyes opened
wide with astonishment. The old woman chuckled, well pleased with the
effect of her words, then:

"You wonder how I know the favorite saying of Ebid Ela, Mateyenda?
Well, it was our mother's before we were born. Oh yes, we were
sisters, Ebid Ela and I. Our mother was Mateyenda in the old days, and
she lived in this tower and she had many children. But of all who were
with us then, dancing up and down in the moonlight or the sunlight, I
alone remain. The others long since lie sleeping. Truly, I am Neda,
once chief wife of Yamo Galagi, and my son is his son. What do you say
now, Foster-daughter-of-Ebid Ela?"

Sheena's smile was frankly unbelieving. She said: "Any Kalunda mother
might claim the same for her son."

"True!" the old woman admitted with a toothless grimace that was only
remotely related to a smile. "But would such a woman know the secret
burial place of Yamo Galagi? Would her son dare to beat my husband's
drum? Would he know the fetish-code which even Ebid Ela did not teach
you? Who, I say, but the chief wife of Yamo Galagi would know these
things?"

Sheena was silent. There was much food for thought here. Who, indeed
would know these things but one born of the royal house of Lunda? The
old woman's claims could not be silenced by a simple denial. Not while
Galagi's drum shouted them into the ears of all the Abamas. But why
had the drum been silent for so long?

"If this thing be so," she asked, "why did you not make it known to
the Abamas long since?"

Old Neda spat on the floor, and her eyes came alight with a sudden
flame of anger. "Ask that of the Portuguesa!" she hissed. "My son was
a mere stripling when his father fell at Sao Salvador. But they feared
the blood in his veins, and they hunted us down like wild dogs. For a
long time they could not catch us, but in the end they captured him and
sent him to the coast to work in the mines. I lived in a hut near that
place. I was not an old woman then, but when they let my son go I was
as you see me now."

"But Galagi had many sons," Sheena said dubiously.

"Ah, true! But they were bad times then. Brother slew brother in the
struggle for their father's seat. As I have said, of the royal house
of Lunda only my son and I are left. We have been so long away that we
come back to our own country as strangers. Few there are who know us
for what we are. But when all the Abamas are gathered here my son will
show his face to them, the Galagi's drum will speak for him, and they
will know him as the Yamo Galagi reborn. Now, I ask you again, why do
you deny my son's right? Is there no pity in your heart for the sister
of Ebid Ela?"

Again, the Jungle Queen was silent for a long time. Her clear mind had
already grasped the fact that the so-called Galagi was a mere tool in
his mother's grasping hands, so like vultures' talons. She saw all
the covetous dreams, and all the hate and lust for vengeance hidden
behind Neda's cunning appeal to her woman's instincts, and she was
undeceived. She said coldly:

"I will not deny your son's birth, and when the Abama clans are
gathered I will not counsel them to join his impi. I will not do so
because I think you will make slave-hunters of them. Also, I know that
the Portuguesa will soon hear of your plans. They will send soldiers--
"

The old woman's stick struck the floor sharply, and she thrust her
face close to Sheena's and hissed: "How will the Portuguesa know? Who
will tell--ah, the young white Bwana--he is a spy for the Portuguesa!"

"No!" The Jungle Queen jumped to her feet, swiftly apprehensive. Then
realizing that she had betrayed herself, she tried to hide her concern
for Rick behind a depreciative smile. But it was transparent, and the
old hag demanded:

"What is he then? What is he to you?"

"He is nothing," Sheena shrugged. "I have sent him away--"

"Ah, you think nothing of him then? Ho, ho, but when my son's men
attacked him you slew three of them? How is this?"

"He is a hunter," Sheena countered, quickly. "We gave him permission
to hunt ivory in our country. Besides, the Abamas are at peace and
will not allow strangers to make war in their country."

"So-o-o!" Her strange eyes seemed to punch into Sheena's brain, and on
clean through the back of her skull. And then a gleam of satisfaction
came into them, and her cackling laughter filled the chamber.

"You lie, Foster-daughter-of-Ebid Ela!" she said, as soon as she had
caught her breath. "I see the young Bwana's image in your heart--ho,
ho, it is a good thing to know!" Then she struck the floor with her
stick, shouting for Sibitane at the same time. When the induna came in
and salaamed, she folded her hands on her stick, rested her chin on
them, and considered Sheena with a malevolent glint in her eyes.

"The Mateyenda has traveled far, Sibitane," she said at length, "and
she wants to sleep. Conduct her to her chamber." Then as Sheena turned
to follow the induna she added: "You will have company to your liking
soon, Mateyenda."

As the grass curtain fell rustling behind them, the Galagi came from
behind the dais. He threw a look full of hate at the still moving
curtains and said:

"A knife in the heart, or a little calabar bean in her food would rid
us of all this trouble quickly, my mother."

Neda's stick tapped the stone floor impatiently. "She has power over
the Abamas, my son. They will obey her and--"

"Obey her!" He spat on the ground, and then struck his chest with his
fist. "I am the Galagi. It is I they should obey!"

"True! And you will be a great man soon, my son," she told him
soothingly. "But you are a small man now, a king without slaves, and
with but one impi to do his bidding. The Abamas were your father's
strength and shield, and they will be yours if you are patient and
listen to me. We need this white Mateyenda's power to win over the
Abama clans, and when that is done they will salute you as their
king."

His eyes came aglow, and he seemed to swell visibly. In his mind's eye
he saw all the Abama warriors marshalled in the great square--Black
Shields and White Shields, white and black plumes tossing in the wind;
saw the sun flash on a forest of spears, and heard their thunderous
shout of acclaim, the old royal salute. "Bayete! Bayete!" swell and
roll across the veldt. For a time he stood transported, and then his
face lost its rapt expression and settled into a scowl.

"But she will not do it!" he growled. "She says--"

"No matter what she says," the mother interposed with her dry laugh,
"she will do it! Her white skin will betray her. Oh yes, I learned
much about white people on the coast. They are like the monkeys, they
take only one mate. Let her see the young Bwana. Let her feel the
strength of his arms about her, and she will be like wet clay in our
hands."

"You are very wise, my mother. And it may be as you say," he conceded
dubiously. "But while she lives the power will be hers, and she is
young."

"Did I not say that her white skin would betray her? Have you
forgotten the taboo of Ebid Ela, my son? In her heart she carries a
seed that will grow until it destroys her. She will give up everything
for this white Bwana. Beat your drum, my son. Bring him here. Soon she
will want to go away with him, and then we will whisper in the ears of
the witchdoctors and--"

"Aie, aie!" The light of understanding dawned in his eyes. "Truly, you
are wise! It might be well to let them run away together, then we
would have no fear of the witchdoctors--"

"Fool!" hissed old Neda. "Let them go and they will run to the
Portuguesa and tell all they know! I am old, my son, only the wish to
lift you to your father's seat has kept me alive. Be guided by me and
all will be well. But enough now. All this talk has wearied me. I
would rest now, and there is much to be thought of."

"There is not much time," he said frowning. "It wants but three days
to the change of moon."

"That is time enough. Beat your drum, my son."



VII

THE CHAMBER into which Sibitane conducted Sheena was at the back of the
tower. Round air-holes, no bigger than her clenched fist, pierced the
thick stone walls. The air was dead and musty. The last of the
sunlight filtered through the matting-chinks which screened off an
alcove where there was a skin-covered bed. Small rat voices squeaked.
A snake hissed in the shadows, and then darted across the floor, a
flash of black and orange in the sifted sunlight, and vanished into a
gap between the crudely-fitted, stone blocks of the wall.

After Sibitane had gone the Jungle Queen stood in the center of the
floor, her attitude tense, expectant. For some time she stood thus,
and then the great drum boomed. Crashes of sound flooded into all the
empty spaces. The old tower shook to the pulsing rhythm, so that dust
and flaked mud fell from the roof above. Sheena stood with her hands
tightly pressed to her ears while the drum hurled its message far into
the deep silence of the jungle.

Then silence, and the faint tack-tack of a drum answering the call, or
relaying the Galagi's commands, she could not tell. And it did not
matter. She knew that the message would reach the Kalundas Sibitane
had left with Rick and Ekoti. Also she knew that if the Kalunda party
trekked night and day Rick would be at Massumba before the moon was
full. And all this because, in an unguarded moment, the prying, shrewd
eyes of the old hag Neda had divined a truth that she had tried to
hide, even from herself.

Far into the night she paced the floor of her chamber like a caged
lioness, At one moment she was telling herself that she was not
answerable for whatever might happen to Rick. There was no end to his
folly, and this was the fruit of it. And in the next old Neda's voice
echoed hollowly in her ears; "--spy for the Portuguesa!" And the fear
that was in her came up into her throat and made her gulp for air.

At last, utterly worn out, she flung herself on the slatted bed, and
slept until a bright-eyed Kalunda girl awakened her.

Sunlight was striking through the vent-holes of the tower room and lay
on the floor like bright discs of copper. Sheena threw aside her skin
coverings and stood up, sweeping the golden veil of her hair from her
face. The Kalunda girl, a mere child, stared for a moment in
breathless amazement, and then took to her heels in sudden panic as the
Jungle Queen smiled and took a step toward her.

The girl had placed a gourd of milk and some bananas on a mat in the
outer room. As Sheena sat on her heels, Chim came begging for his share
of the meal. She was drinking the milk when Sibitane appeared in the
doorway and salaamed.

"If it pleases you," he said diffidently, "Neda, the Queen-Mother,
will speak with you now, Mateyenda."

"It pleases me," said Sheena with a faint smile, and rose to follow
him. In all these high-sounding titles, in all this outward show of
respect, there was hollow mockery, she thought. And yet something
strange and sad was brought to life. Something that was loathsome and
evil too. Something belonging to the dead, like Neda.

She followed the induna along a dark passage which ended in a narrow
flight of steps.

"They lead to the top of the tower," Sibitane told her, stepping aside
to allow her to pass. "I will tell the Queen-Mother that you await her
there."

Sheena went up, and the first thing she saw, as her head came above
the level of the stone floor, was the great drum of Yamo Galagi. The
tower-top was open to the glare of the sun. A low wall of stone
enclosed the square space in the center of which stood the drum under
a peaked thatch roof supported by four poles. It captured the Jungle
Queen's attention at first sight, and she glided across the flat roof
to examine it more closely.

It was a hollow log, trimmed to an oval shape, its ends plugged with
softer wood. The slot measured about the span of a hand at the wide
end, and tapered to a mere slit at the narrow end. It was the
difference in the thickness of lips of the cleft along the length of
the drum which gave the drummer his two notes--the thick lip which was
the man-voice and the thin lip which was the woman-voice. Except for
size and the weird carvings that covered its cracked surfaces, it was
not unlike the big wardrums she had seen in the Abama villages.

Idly she wondered what the witchdoctors would think if she made it
speak her nadan, her drum name, and then sent a message booming and
crashing over the jungle. On a sudden impulse she put her hand into
the slot, feeling for the drumsticks, but only to drop them back
quickly at the sound of Neda's cackling laugh. She turned to see the
old woman hobbling toward her, supported by Sibitane and her stick.

"Beware, Mateyenda!" Neda warned her. "Only those of the blood-royal
may beat Galagi's drum, and there is not a drop of that under your
white skin!"

There was a challenge in the old woman's eyes, and Sheena's expression
became thoughtful. Did the old hag really believe that her hand would
shrivel if she, a white woman, took up the sticks?

It might be so. Despite their frauds most witch doctors believed in
their own magical powers. And then an idea flashed into her mind, and
her eyes narrowed as she let her thought fondle it.

Sibitane retired to a respectful distance, and old Neda sat on the
stool he had placed in the shade of the thatch for her.

"Beat the drum if you dare, Foster-daughter-of-Ebid Ela!" Neda
challenged her.

"It is not in my mind to beat it," said Sheena absently.

"That is well for you!" the old woman said with her dry chuckle. "But
I have come to speak of another thing. We have caught the Portuguesa
spy. The drums say that he will be here on the morning of the full
moon."

Sheena shrugged and said: "It is foolish to bring him here. He has
many friends at the coast, and if harm comes to him they will soon
know it. It is nothing to me, but you make much trouble for yourself,
I think."

Neda kept her strange eyes fastened on the Jungle Queen's face, and
went on as if she had not heard Sheena's words: "When I was young the
enemies of my husband were brought up to this tower after the witchdoctors had smelt them out. See--yonder?" She pointed with her stick.
And Sheena, looking in the direction indicated, saw a long tree trunk,
freshly trimmed, balanced on the stone parapet Its butt-end was lashed
to rusty, iron staples sunk into the stone roof, and there was a long
coil of rattan rope beside it.

"In the old days," Neda went on with her eyes still fastened on
Sheena's face, "those who dared to disobey Yamo Galagi were lowered
down to the wild dogs from a pole like that. I saw many die that way.
But never one of them quickly, because the rope held them at half
their own height above the rocks, and the dogs must leap up to tear at
their flesh. Oh yes, at sunrise many still lived, but with little
flesh on their legs."

The color had left the Jungle Queen's face. The old woman laughed and
went on: "The young Bwana is very strong, Sibitane says. He will live
for a long time, I think. Yet, he will die of old age--if the
Mateyenda sees in my son a true Galagi."

Sheena experienced the faint sense of nausea that always comes with
the sudden fulfillment of fear, however much expected. Her leg muscles
tensed as her impulsive energy prompted her to spring and sink her
knife into her tormentor's throat. But killing Neda would not save
Rick's life, nor the Abamas from slavery. And there was another way.
There was always a way.

"What do you say now, Mateyenda?" the old woman's voice broke in on
her thoughts.

"When the moon is full we will speak of this thing again," Sheena
answered with deceptive calm.

The old woman's eyes struck at her venomously, but she only nodded her
head and said: "Good! Talk to the Bwana about it when he comes. We
would be your friends. We do not deny your right, and if harm come to
your white Bwana it will be by your own hand. Think of this,
Mateyenda. There is no hope for him if you speak against my son."

Sheena's smile was enigmatical. "Never say of the ajap tree in fruit
that it bears nothing but leaves," she murmured, and then turned away
and went down the steps.

Down on the terrace Sheena paused to look over the veldt. One group of
Abama warriors was already camped in the shadow of Massumba. There was
no wind, and the smoke of their cooking-fires rose straight up in the
air, spoiling the view of the caravan road. But through the haze she
could see the flash of sunlight on metal, and that told her that
another band would soon swell the numbers in the camp below the walls.

Frowning, she went to her chamber and sat on the bed to think out the
details of the daring plan that had flashed into her mind up on the
tower roof. As it came clearer, she contemplated it with a kind of
shudder of the mind. She wondered what Rick would think of it, and
instantly decided that she would tell him nothing. He would know soon
enough, and have good reason to call her she-devil after moonrise
tomorrow night.

It was late afternoon, and the ghost of a full moon hung over the
veldt, when Sibitane came to tell Sheena that Rick and Ekoti had
arrived at Massumba.

"If it please you, I will take you to them now, Mateyenda," he said in
his diffident way.

She followed him out onto the terrace. At her first look around she
saw that the big drum had been carried down from the tower, and now
stood on a platform of logs a short distance back from the head of the
steps where it would be in plain view of the Abamas when they
assembled in the great square. A faint smile of satisfaction came to
the Jungle Queen's lips as she followed the induna across the terrace
to the opposite side of the tower. Two of the Black Shields leaned on
their spears before an open doorway. Sibitane stepped aside, salaamed,
and Sheena walked into a chamber exactly like her own.

Ekoti was hunkered over the remains of a meal, and Rick came through
the curtained alcove as the Abama chief spoke her name. He greeted her
with a quizzical smile and said:

"We were to meet at the Abama village but it would seem that you
changed your mind."

"I did not change my mind," she told coldly. "And speak Swahili. These
walls have ears."

His left eyebrow quirked up. "We're in some kind of trouble, eh?" But
he did not seem to be very worried about it, and that annoyed her and
she said sharply:

"If you stay in this country you will always make trouble for
yourself--and your friends."

"Well, I can handle my own trouble," he retorted.

"Ah, you think so?" Her tone was caustic, and she went on: "That is
good, and I must tell you about this trouble so that you can deal with
it quickly." Then she sat on her heels and gave him a clear and
concise account of all that had happened, omitting only the details of
her last talk with Neda. It left him only partly aware of his danger,
but she could not tell him more of herself than she deemed it good for
him to know. When she had finished he looked up at the roof, whistled
softly, and then fumbled in his pockets for his pipe and tobacco.
Ekoti's face was set in a black scowl, and presently he gave tongue to
the question uppermost in his mind:

"Will you do as this witch-woman says, Sheena? Will you make this dog
of a Kalunda chief of all the Abamas?"

"I will not betray the Abamas," Sheena answered and gave Rick a keen
look. But if he felt fear, it did not show on his face. He merely
nodded his head in approval, and went on stuffing tobacco into the
bowl of his pipe. She liked his calmness, and thought that his beard,
black and curling now, improved his looks, gave him a graver aspect
and emphasized his virility. She smiled and added as an afterthought:
"And I will not betray my friend."

He glanced up quickly, frowned, then: "You did your best to keep me
out of this mess. I'll have to take my chances from now on. I'll have
a talk with the Galagi. Maybe I can convince him--"

"If you do so, you will make trouble for me," Sheena interposed
hastily. "I ask you to talk with no one, and not to leave this room
before moonrise. Promise that you will do this--for me."

His slow smile came and went. "Lady,"' he said, "you'll never have to
ask me for anything twice. But you have something on your mind. What
is it?"

She threw a significant glance at the open door, and shook her head.
Then she held out her hand and said: "Give me a little of your
tobacco."

Perplexity was on his face as she transferred some of the tobacco from
the pouch to the bag attached to her leopard skin shorts. She ignored
the question in his eyes and turned to the Abama chief.

"The swelling has gone from your leg," she observed.

Ekoti grinned, stretched out his leg and flexed powerful calf muscles.
"There is great magic in Bwana's little bottles, Sheena," he said.
"Always when our people are bitten by the sheep-killer they die. It
would be a good thing if Bwana lived at my village for awhile and
taught you his magic."

She darted a sidelong look in Rick's direction. So, she thought, he
has won Ekoti over to his way of thinking. His face showed only
impassive innocence, but, behind his beard, she knew that he was
smiling smugly, very pleased with his cleverness. She ignored Ekoti's
suggestion and said:

"At moonrise the Galagi will beat his drum, and show himself to the
Abamas. Remember, until then, you have promised to talk with no one. I
go now."

"One moment!" Rick stepped into her path quickly. "I don't know what
is in your mind, Sheena," he went on gravely. "But whatever it is, it
may not work out as you think. Back on the trail I called you she-
devil, and before you go it is in my heart to say that I am sorry for
it."

She gave him a long, steady look, then: "If you did know what was in
my mind you would not be sorry, I think. You do not know me well yet,
Rick Thorne." And with that and a faint smile she left him.

Back in her own chamber the Jungle Queen took the tobacco from the
dacca bag, and with a wry mouth chewed it into a moist wad. Then she
took some of the milk she had saved in the gourd and placed it close
to the gap between the stones into which she had seen the orange-
colored snake disappear. Then she moved back several feet and sat on
her heels, to wait. Chim bounced from the bed to her side. He pulled
her hair and ran to the door; but when she did not follow he jumped up
and down, scolding her.

"Quiet, little one!" she told him. "I know you do not like this place.
We will go soon. Quiet now!"

Chim grimaced at her, and went to sulk on the bed. Minutes passed, and
then the snake came out of its hole and slid slowly toward the milk.
Sheena pursed her lips and began to whistle softly--three, high-
pitched notes repeated again and again. Presently, the snake lifted
its arrow-shaped head, its forked and quivering tongue darting in and
out of its mouth. Soon it was swaying like a reed in the wind to the
rhythm of the peculiar notes and Sheena cautiously approached it. Then
with feline efficiency her hand shot out to grasp the serpent by the
back of the neck, and as quick as a flash she spat tobacco-juice into
its hissing mouth.

It was an old trick that Ebid Ela had taught her, and one which, when
performed by a skilled witchdoctor, never failed to fill his audience
with awe; for the effect of the nicotine was almost instantaneous, the
snake's muscles knotted into lumps and the creature became rigid.
Whereupon the witchdoctor declared that he had changed it into a
stick. And then after a time, to the complete and utter amazement of
the spectators, he would rub the snake between the palms of his hands,
restoring it to a state of infuriated and deadly animation.

There was a cold light in the Jungle Queen's blue eyes as she carried
the paralyzed snake to her bed and covered it with one of the skins.
Truly she was a she-devil, she thought. But guile must be matched by
guile, and evil fought with evil.

For the rest of the day she sat on the bed in moody silence. She did
not speak when the Kalunda girl brought in her evening meal, and she
did not touch the food.

Once she got up to squeeze a little more tobacco juice into the
snake's mouth when it showed signs of recovering from its topor.

When Sibitane came for her she lifted the skin from the bed and threw
it about her shoulders like a native kroos. No sign of the inward
tension she felt showed on her face as she followed the induna out
onto the terrace.

A big, cold moon had climbed out of the veldt. It flooded the great
square with an abundance of light and winked on the spear heads of the
Black Shields, who stood shield to shield, rank above rank, on the
stairway before the tower. Their spears made a bristling barrier
holding back the excited Abamas crowded into the compound, and
pressing forward to get a better view of the king-making ceremony.

A great shout went up as Sheena glided across the terrace and came to
a stand close to the drum. Soon Rick and Ekoti came out, escorted by
Sibitane and a half-dozen Kalunda guards. The induna halted them on
the opposite side of the terrace, and then stood, as straight and
stiff as a spear shaft, looking toward the main entrance of the tower.

Silence came as the Galagi stepped out into the moonlight, a splendid
figure in his feathered headdress and beaded robes. He was closely
followed by Neda, looking like a ghost in her gauzy, white veil. Her
eyes sought and found Sheena, and she came bobbling over to the drum.
Leaning on her stick she looked up into the Jungle Queen's face, and
said in a sibilant whisper:

"The time has come, Mateyenda, for you to say whether the young Bwana
lives or dies. Look upon him, Foster-daughter-of-Ebid Ela! Aie, aie,
he is tall and handsome. Kill him and his face will haunt you
forever!"

Looking down into the old hag's eyes, Sheena thought that she never
had seen a face more evil, or ever had set herself against a spirit
more unyielding. The strange eyes seemed to be possessed of a quality
of resistance that made it useless to oppose, and for the first time
doubt struck at her resolution. She shivered as if chilled by the
night air, and under her skin cloak she appeared to rub her arms.
Watching her closely, old Neda said with her dry chuckle:

"In the arms of the one who stands yonder you would not be cold,
Mateyenda."

The Jungle Queen's eyes caught and reflected the moonlight in a cold,
blue flame.

"You smell of death, old witch!" she flashed. "Stand back from me!"
She made a quick movement as if to strike, and the old woman stepped
back with amazing agility.

And just then the Galagi raised both hands above his head. His
commanding figure held the attention of all, and when silence came he
sent his voice far over the heads of the crowd in the square:



VIII

"MY CHILDREN, I have called you to Massumba at this holy time so that
you might look upon the face of your king. I am the Galagi, the son of
the Elephant, the Earth-Shaker. The son of Yamo Galagi who made you
great in war and rich in cattle and slaves. His spirit is mine. His
voice is in this drum. You have heard it, and the witchdoctors have
told you that these things are so. Yet among you there may be those
who cannot believe their ears. But no man is so foolish as not to
believe his own eyes. So tonight, in the presence of all, I will make
the drum speak the fetish-code of the Galagi." He paused to give his
words time to sink in, and then went on:

"It is well known that the Galagi put a curse upon his drum. Also it
is well known that only he in whose body dwells the spirit of Yamo
Galagi may beat this drum and live. If there be one among you who
doubts this, let him come forward and beat the drum!"

A murmur like the wind in tall reeds arose from the massed Abamas. But
no man moved or lifted his voice to answer the old challenge of the
Lunda king. And then Sheena threw her cloak across the drum and glided
to the Galagi's side. Her voice rang out, clear and distinct:

"Abama warriors, he speaks the truth! It is as he says, no one but one
worthy to command you may beat this drum. I have travelled far to
counsel you about this thing. Hear my counsel, then: If this man who
stands before you beats the drum and no harm comes to him, salute him
as your king. Now, let the Galagi beat his drum!"

Old Neda sidled up to her son. "Ho, ho!" she cackled. "Did I not say
she would do it! This is your hour, my son. Beat the drum--beat it, I
say!"

Sheena kept moving back in the direction of Rick and Ekoti. She
paused, and her lips tightened, as the Galagi threw aside her cloak
and reached into the drum for the sticks. In the next instant he let
out a shriek, and staggered back staring at the back of his hand.

All eyes were fastened upon him, and in awe-struck silence all watched
him sink to his knees, moaning in his fear. Sibitane, the guards, Rick
and Ekoti--all stood like men suddenly turned to stone. And then
Neda's scream rang out, shrill and piercing. The square was filled
with a sudden commotion, and calamity was on the loose.

Sheena was close to Rick now, and like a flash of light she hurled
herself at Sibitane. The unexpectedness of her attack sent the induna
reeling back to collide with one of his men, and then Rick and Ekoti
awoke from their trance. Rick felled one of the guards with a terrific
punch. Ekoti smashed down another and, snatching the spear from the
man's hand as he fell, gave tongue to the Abama war-cry and plunged it
into the breast of a third. And now old Neda was pointing to the
ground and shrieking:

"It was a snake--see, see! A trick! Kill her--kill!"

Sibitane and two of his men rushed upon Sheena.

She leaped backwards to avoid the thrust of their spears, tripped over
the body of one of the fallen guards, and fell sprawling on her back.
She saw Sibitane's spear flash up, and then Rick came charging to hit
the induna in the stomach with his lowered head. He recovered quickly,
and with the light of battle in his eyes, stood between her and the
Kalundas' spears. Barehanded he beat off their first rush, giving her
time to regain her feet. As she straightened up Ekoti came roaring
into the fray, and the two Kalundas went down under his flashing spear
thrusts.

In these moments of shock and confusion the success of the Jungle
Queen's carefully worked out plan hung in the balance. None knew
better than she the power of imagination working on superstitious
fears. At any moment now, panic would scatter the Abamas, leaving Rick
and Ekoti to the mercy of Neda and Sibitane's Black Shields.

For an instant she stood irresolute, and then went flashing across the
terrace to the drum. An instant later its great voice boomed out her
nadan. The effect upon the Abamas was like magic. They saw their
golden Mateyenda, knew her danger, and heard the Galagi's drum speak
her commands. They answered her call with the Abama war-cry, and then
charged the steps. The Black Shields broke under the fury of their
onslaught, and the Abamas came roaring up the stairway in a black
wave, driving all before them. Neda and her son stood directly in the
path of the now panic-stricken Black Shields, and when the tide of
battle swept on across the terrace, it left their trampled and broken
bodies in its wake.

Driven into a corner with their backs to the tower, the Black Shields
threw down their spears and begged for mercy. Ekoti came striding back
to where Sheena and Rick stood beside the big drum.

"What is your will with these Kalunda dogs, Sheena?" he asked.

"Let them live," said the Jungle Queen. "We came only to silence this
drum, Ekoti. Let a fire be built under it, and then assemble your
warriors in the square. I have words for them."

As he went to carry out her orders, her eyes became fixed on some
distant object and she said softly:

"It is well for me that you came on this trek, Rick Thorne. But for
you, Sibitane's spear would have sent me to the Black Kloof." They
moved off as two Abamas came to set fire to the drum, and he did not
answer until they stood in the shadow of the tower. Then:

"I had some speech with Sibitane after you left us," he said
carefully. "I think that, but for you, I would be food for the dogs
before long."

Dismay widened the Jungle Queen's eyes, and put a slight stammer into
her speech. "You promised--you--what more did he tell you?"

He folded his arms across his chest and looked up at the moon.
"Nothing," he said. "Nothing at all." But the smile was there,
provocative, challenging. She asked:

"You will go back to the coast now."

"That is not in my mind," he said complacently. "I will go back to the
Abama village with Ekoti and his people."

She looked at him sharply, wondering how much Sibitane had told him.
But his face was blank and told her nothing, and before she could pry
deeper Ekoti came to tell her that the Abamas were now waiting to hear
her words.

The Galagi's drum was burning brightly, crackling and spitting sparks.
Sheena came to stand in the light of the flames, and in respectful
silence the Abamas waited for her to make her will known.

"Abama warriors," she told them, "you have done well. A great evil
grew here at Massumba, but you have rooted it up with your spears.
Now, you will go back to your villages in peace. If you be wise, you
will tell your women to drive the witchdoctors who deceived you from
your villages with sticks. Go now, my people, and may the gods who
watch over the river-crossing make the homeward trek swift and easy
for you. I have spoken!"

There was a moment of absolute quiet, and then the royal salute burst
spontaneously from the Abamas:

"Bayete! Bayete!"

Spears flashed upward, and again the thunderous shout of acclaim shook
the old walls of Massumba.

The elegant Jungle Queen stood bathed in the ruddy glow of the burning
drum, her head lifted her blue eyes alight--a golden Goddess wrapped
in a flame of pride.

And seeing her thus, Rick stared and wondered what it was that made
him think that this superb creature, who had a thousand spears at her
command, would ever stoop from her high place to follow a poor, white
hunter to the coast.



THE END




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