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Title: Bosambo Of The River (1914)
Author: Edgar Wallace
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Language: English
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------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: Bosambo Of The River (1914)
Author: Edgar Wallace



CONTENTS

   I.--ARACHI THE BORROWER
  II.--THE TAX RESISTERS
 III.--THE RISE OF THE EMPEROR
  IV.--THE FALL OF THE EMPEROR
   V.--THE KILLING OF OLANDI
  VI.--THE PEDOMETER
 VII.--THE BROTHER OF BOSAMBO
VIII.--THE CHAIR OF THE N'GOMBI
  IX.--THE KI-CHU
   X.--THE CHILD OF SACRIFICE
  XI.--"THEY"
 XII.--THE AMBASSADORS
XIII.--GUNS IN THE AKASAVA.



CHAPTER I


ARACHI THE BORROWER


Many years ago the Monrovian Government sent one Bosambo, a native of the
Kroo coast and consequently a thief, to penal servitude for the term of
his natural life. Bosambo, who had other views on the matter, was given
an axe and a saw in the penal settlement--which was a patch of wild
forest in the back country--and told to cut down and trim certain
mahogany trees in company with other unfortunate men similarly
circumstanced.

To assure themselves of Bosambo's obedience, the Government of Liberia
set over him a number of compatriots, armed with weapons which had
rendered good service at Gettysburg, and had been presented to the
President of Liberia by President Grant. They were picturesque weapons,
but they were somewhat deficient in accuracy, especially when handled by
the inexpert soldiers of the Monrovian coast. Bosambo, who put his axe to
an ignoble use, no less than the slaying of Captain Peter Cole--who was
as black as the ten of clubs, but a gentleman by the Liberian code--left
the penal settlement with passionate haste. The Gettysburg relics made
fairly good practice up to two hundred yards, but Bosambo was a mile away
before the guards, searching the body of their dead commander for the key
of the ammunition store, had secured food for their lethal weapons.

The government offered a reward of two hundred and fifty dollars for
Bosambo, dead or alive. But, although the reward, was claimed and paid to
the half-brother of the Secretary of War, it is  a fact that Bosambo was
never caught. On the contrary, he made his way to a far land, and became,
by virtue of his attainments, chief of the Ochori.

Bosambo was too good a sportsman to leave his persecutors at peace. There
can be little doubt that the Kroo insurrection, which cost the Liberian
Government eight hundred and twenty-one pounds sixteen shillings to
suppress, was due to the instigation and assistance of Bosambo. Of this
insurrection, and the part that Bosambo played, it may be necessary to
speak again.

The second rebellion was a more serious and expensive affair; and it was
at the conclusion of this that the Liberian Government made
representations to Britain. Sanders, who conducted an independent inquiry
into the question of Bosambo's complicity, reported that there was no
evidence whatever that Bosambo was directly or indirectly responsible.
And with that the Liberian Government was forced to be content; but they
expressed their feelings by offering a reward of two thousand dollars for
Bosambo alive or dead--preferably alive. They added, for the benefit of
minor government officials and their neighbours, that they would, in the
language of the advertisement, reject all substitutes. The news of this
price went up and down the coast and very far into the interior, yet
strangely enough Arachi of the Isisi did not learn of it until many years
afterward.

Arachi was of the Isisi people, and a great borrower. Up and down the
river all men knew him for such, so that his name passed into the
legendary vocabulary of the people whilst he yet lived; and did the wife
of Yoka beg from the wife of O'taki the service of a cooking-pot, be sure
that O'taki's wife would agree, but with heavy pleasantry scream after
the retiring pot: "O thou shameless Arachi!" whereupon all the village
folk who heard the jest would rock with laughter,

Arachi was the son of a chief, but in a country where chieftainship was
not hereditary, and where, moreover, many chiefs' sons dwelt without
distinction, his parentage was of little advantage. Certainly it did not
serve him as, in his heart, he thought he should be served.

He was tall and thin, and his knees were curiously knobbly. He carried
his head on one side importantly, and was profoundly contemptuous of his
fellows.

Once he came to Sanders.

"Lord," he said, "I am a chief's son, as you know, and I am very wise.
Men who look upon me say, 'Behold, this young man is full of craft,'
because of my looks. Also I am a great talker."

"There are many in this land who are great talkers, Arachi," said
Sanders, unpleasantly, "yet they do not travel for two days downstream to
tell me so."

"Master," said Arachi impressively, "I came to you because I desire
advancement. Many of your little chiefs are fools, and, moreover,
unworthy. Now I am the son of a chief, and it is my wish to sit down in
the place of my father. Also, lord, remember this, that I have dwelt
among foreign people, the Angola folk, and speak their tongue."

Sanders sighed wearily.

"Seven times you have asked me, Arachi," he said, "and seven times I have
told you you are no chief for me. Now I tell you this--that I am tired of
seeing you, and if you come to me again I will throw you to the monkeys.
[Colloquial: 'Make you look foolish.'--E.W.] As for your Angola palaver,
I tell you this--that if it happen--which may all gods forbid!--that a
tribe of Angola folk sit down with me, you shall be chief."

Unabashed, Arachi returned to his village, for he thought in his heart
that Sandi was jealous of his great powers. He built a large hut at the
end of the village, borrowing his friends' labour; this he furnished with
skins and the like, and laid in stores of salt and corn, all of which he
had secured from neighbouring villages by judicious promises of payment.

It was like a king's hut, so glorious were the hangings of skin and the
stretched bed of hide, and the people of his village said "Ko!" believing
that Arachi had dug up those hidden treasures which every chief is
popularly supposed to possess in secret places to which his sons may well
be privy.

Even those who had helped to supply the magnificence were impressed and
comforted.

"I have lent Arachi two bags of salt," said Pidini, the, Chief of
Kolombolo, the fishing village, "and my stomach was full of doubt, though
he swore by Death, that he would repay me three days after the rains. Now
I see that he is indeed very rich, as he told me he was, and if my salt
does not return to me I may seize his fine bed."

In another village across the River Ombili, a headman of the Isisi
confided to his wife:

"Woman, you have seen the hut of Arachi, now I think you will cease your
foolish talk. For you have reproached me bitterly because I lent Arachi
my fine bed,"

"Lord, I was wrong," said the woman meekly; "but I feared he would not
pay you the salt he promised; now I know that I was foolish, for I saw
many bags of salt in his hut."

The story of Arachi's state spread up and down the river, and when the
borrower demanded the hand of Koran, the daughter of the chief of the
Putani ("The Fishers of the River"), she came to him without much
palaver, though she was rather young.

A straight and winsome girl well worth the thousand rods and the twenty
bags of salt which the munificent Arachi promised, by Death, devils, and
a variety of gods, should be delivered to her father when the moon and
the river stood in certain relative positions.

Now Arachi did no manner of work whatever, save to walk through the
village street at certain hours clad in a robe of monkey tails which he
had borrowed from the brother of the king of the Isisi. He neither fished
nor hunted nor dug in the fields.

He talked to Korari his wife, and explained why this was so. He talked to
her from sunset until the early hours of the morning, for he was a great
talker, and when he was on his favourite subject--which was Arachi--he
was very eloquent. He talked to her till the poor child's head rocked
from side to side, and from front to back, in her desperate sleepiness.

He was a great man, beloved and trusted of Sandi. He had immense thoughts
and plans--plans that would ensure him a life of ease without the
distressing effects of labour. Also, Sanders would make him chief--in
good time.

She should be as a queen--she would much rather have been in her bed and
asleep....

Though no Christian, Arachi was a believer in miracles. He pinned his
faith to the supreme miracle of living without work, and was near to
seeing the fulfilment of that wonder. But the miracle which steadfastly
refused to happen was the miracle which would bring him relief at the
moment when his numerous creditors were clamouring for the repayment of
the many and various articles which they had placed in his care.

It is an axiom that the hour brings its man--most assuredly it brings its
creditor.

There was a tumultuous and stormy day when the wrathful benefactors of
Arachi gathered in full strength, and took from him all that was takable,
and this in the face of the village, to Korari's great shame. Arachi, on
the contrary, because of his high spirit, was neither ashamed nor
distressed, even though many men spoke harshly.

"O thief and rat!" said the exasperated owner of a magnificent stool of
ceremony, the base of which Arachi had contrived to burn. "Is it not
enough that you should steal the wear of these things? Must you light
your fires by my beautiful stool?"

Arachi replied philosophically and without passion: they might take his
grand furnishings--which they did; they might revile him in tones and in
language the most provocative--this also they did; but they could not
take the noble hut which their labours had built, because that was
against the law of the tribe; nor could they rob him of his faith in
himself, because that was contrary to the laws of nature--Arachi's
nature.

"My wife," he said to the weeping girl, "these things happen. Now I think
I am the victim of Fate, therefore I propose changing all my gods. Such
as I have do not serve me, and, if you remember, I spent many hours in
the forest with my bete."

Arachi had thought of many possible contingencies--as, for instance:

Sandi might relent, and appoint him to a great chieftainship.

Or he might dig from the riverbed some such treasure as U'fabi, the
N'gombi man, did once upon a time.

Arachi entranced with this latter idea, went one morning before sunrise
to a place by the shore and dug. He turned two spadefuls of earth before
an infinite weariness fell upon him, and he gave up the search.

"For," he argued, "if treasure is buried in the riverbed, it might as
well be there as elsewhere. And if it be not there, where may it be?"

Arachi bore his misfortune with philosophy. He sat in the bare and bleak
interior of his hut, and explained to his wife that the men who had
robbed him--as he said--hated him, and were jealous of him because of his
great powers, and that one day, when he was a great chief, he would
borrow an army from his friends the N'gombi, and put fire to their
houses.

Yes, indeed, he said "borrow," because it was his nature to think in
loans.

His father-in-law came on the day following the deporting, expecting to
save something from the wreckage on account of Koran's dowry. But he was
very late.

"O son of shame!" he said bitterly. "Is it thus you repay for my
priceless daughter? By Death! but you are a wicked man."

"Have no fear, fisherman," said Arachi loftily, "for I am a friend of
Sandi, and be sure that he will do that for me which will place me high
above common men. Even now I go to make a long palaver with him, and,
when I return, you shall hear news of strange happenings."

Arachi was a most convincing man, possessing the powers of all great
borrowers, and he convinced his father-in-law--a relation who, from the
beginning of time, has always been the least open to conviction.

He left his wife, and she, poor woman, glad to be relieved of the
presence of her loquacious husband, probably went to sleep.

At any rate, Arachi came to headquarters at a propitious moment for him.
Headquarters at that moment was an armed camp at the junction of the
Isisi and Ikeli rivers.

On the top of all his other troubles, Sanders had the problem of a
stranger who had arrived unbidden. His orderly came to him and told him
that a man desired speech of him.

"What manner of man?" asked Sanders, wearily.

"Master," said the orderly, "I have not seen a man like him before."

Sanders went out to inspect his visitor. The stranger rose and saluted,
raising both hands, and the Commissioner looked him over. He was not of
any of the tribes he knew, being without the face-cuts laterally
descending either cheek which mark the Bomongo. Neither was he tattooed
on the forehead, like the people of the Little River.

"Where do you come from?" asked Sanders, in Swahili--which is the lingua
franca of the continent--but the man shook his head.

So Sanders tried him again, this time in Bomongo, thinking, from his
face-marks, that he must be a man of the Bokeri people. But he answered
in a strange tongue.

"Quel nom avez vous?" Sanders asked, and repeated the question in
Portuguese. To this latter he responded, saying that he was a small chief
of the Congo Angola, and that he had left his land to avoid slavery.

"Take him to the men's camp and feed him," said Sanders, and dismissed
him from his mind.

Sanders had little time to bother about stray natives who might wander
into his camp. He was engaged in searching for a gentleman who was known
as Abdul Hazim, a great rascal, trading guns and powder contrary to the
law,

"And," said Sanders to the captain of the Houssas, "if I catch him he'll
be sorry."

Abdul Hazim shared this view, so kept out of Sanders's way to such
purpose that, after a week's further wanderings, Sanders returned to his
headquarters.

Just about then he was dispirited, physically low from the after-effects
of fever, and mentally disturbed.

Nothing went right with the Commissioner. There had been a begging letter
from headquarters concerning this same Abdul Hazim. He was in no need of
Houssa palavers, yet there must needs come a free fight amongst these
valiant soldier-men, and, to crown all, two hours afterwards, the Houssa
skipper had gone to bed with a temperature of 104.6,

"Bring the swine here," said Sanders inelegantly, when the sergeant of
Houssas reported the fight. And there were marched before him the strange
man, who had come to him from the back-lands, and a pugnacious soldier
named Kano.

"Lord," said the Houssa, "by my god, who is, I submit, greater than most
gods, I am not to blame. This Kaffir dog would not speak to me when I
spoke; also, he put his hands to my meat, so I struck him."

"Is that all?" asked Sanders.

"That is all, lord."

"And did the stranger do no more than, in his ignorance, touch your meat,
and keep silence when you spoke?"

"No more, lord."

Sanders leant back in his seat of justice and scowled horribly at the
Houssa.

"If there is one thing more evident to me than another," he said slowly,
"it is that a Houssa is a mighty person, a lord, a king. Now I sit here
in justice, respecting neither kings, such as you be, nor slaves, such as
this silent one. And I judge so, regarding the dignity of none, according
to the law of the book. Is that so?"

"That is so, lord."

"And it would seem that it is against the law to raise hand against any
man, however much he offends you, the proper course being to make
complaint according to the regulations of the service. Is that so?"

"That is so, lord."

"Therefore you have broken the law. Is that truth?"

"That is truth, lord."

"Go back to your lines, admitting this truth to your comrades, and let
the Kaffir rest. For on the next occasion, for him that breaks the law,
there will be breaking of skin. The palaver is finished."

The Houssa retired.

"And," said. Sanders, retailing the matter to the convalescent officer
next morning, "I consider that I showed more than ordinary self-restraint
in not kicking both of them to the devil."

"You're a great man," said the Houssa officer. "You'll become a
colonial-made gentleman one of these days, unless you're jolly careful."

Sanders passed in silence the Houssa's gibe at the Companionship of St.
Michael and St. George, and, moreover, C.M.G.'s were not likely to come
his way whilst Abdul Hazim was still at large.

He was in an unpleasant frame of mind when Arachi came swiftly in a
borrowed canoe, paddled by four men whom he had engaged at an Isisi
village, on a promise of payment which it was very unlikely he would ever
be able to fulfil.

"Master," said Arachi solemnly, "I come desiring to serve your lordship,
for I am too great a man for my village, and, if no chief, behold, I have
a chief's thoughts."

"And a chief's hut," said Sanders dryly, "if all they tell me is true."

Arachi winced.

"Lord," he said humbly, "all things are known to you, and your eye goes
forth like a chameleon's tongue to see round the corners."

Sanders passed over the unpleasant picture Arachi suggested.

"Arachi," he said, "it happens that you have come at a moment when you
can serve me, for there is in my camp a strange man from a faraway land,
who knows not this country, yet desires to cross it. Now, since you know
the Angola tongue, you shall take him in your canoe to the edge of the
Frenchi land, and there you shall put him on his way. And for this I will
pay your paddlers. And as for you, I will remember you in the day of your
need."

It was not as Arachi could have wished, but it was something. The next
day he departed importantly.

Before he left, Sanders gave him a word of advice.

"Go you, Arachi," he said, "by the Little Kusu River."

"Lord," said Arachi, 'there is a shorter way by the creek of Still
Waters. This goes to the Frenchi land, and is deep enough for our
purpose."

"It is a short way and a long way," said Sanders grimly. "For there sits
a certain Abdul Hazim who is a great buyer of men, and, because the
Angola folk are wonderful gardeners, behold, the Arab is anxious to come
by them. Go in peace."

"On my head," said Arachi, and took his leave.

It was rank bad luck that he should meet on his way two of his principal
creditors. These, having some grievance in the matter of foodstuff,
advanced, desiring to do him an injury, but, on his earnest entreaties,
postponed the performance of their solemn vows.

"It seems," said one of them, "that you are now Sandi's man, for though
I do not believe anything you have told me, yet these paddlers do not
lie."

"Nor this silent one," said Arachi, pointing to his charge proudly. "And
because I alone in all the land can make palaver with him, Sandi has sent
me on a mission to certain kings. These will give me presents, and on my
return I will pay you what I owe, and much more for love." They let him
pass.

It may be said that Arachi, who lent to none and believed no man, had no
faith whatever in his lord's story. Who the silent Angola was, what was
his mission, and why he had been chosen to guard the stranger, Arachi did
not guess. He would have found an easy way to understanding if he had
believed all that Sanders had told him, but that was not Arachi's way.

On a night when the canoe was beached on an island, and the paddlers
prepared the noble Arachi's food, the borrower questioned his charge.

"How does it happen, foreigner," he asked, "that my friend and neighbour,
Sandi, asks me of my kindness to guide you to the French land?"

"Patron," said the Angola man, "I am a stranger, and desire to escape
from slavery. Also, there is a small Angola-Balulu tribe, which are of my
people and faith, who dwell by the Frenchi tribe."

"What is your faith?" asked Arachi.

"I believe in devils and ju-jus," said the Angola man simply, "especially
one called Billimi, who has ten eyes and spits at snakes. Also, I hate
the Arabi, that being part of my faith."

This gave Arachi food for thought, and some reason for astonishment that
Sandi should have spoken the truth to him.

"What of this Abdul Arabi?" he asked. "Now I think that Sandi lied to me
when he said such an one buys men, for, if this be so, why does he not
raid the Isisi?"

But the Angola man shook his head. "These are matters too high for my
understanding," he said. "Yet I know that he takes the Angola because
they are great gardeners, and cunning in the pruning of trees."

Again Arachi had reason for thinking profoundly. This Abdul, as he saw,
must come to the Upper River for the people of the Lesser Akasava, who
were also great gardeners. He would take no Isisi, because they were
notoriously lazy, and moreover, died with exasperating readiness when
transplanted to a foreign soil.

He continued his journey till he came to the place where he would have
turned off had he taken a short cut to the French territory. Here he left
his paddlers and his guest, and made his way up the creek of Still
Waters.

Half-a-day's paddling brought him to the camp of Abdul. The slaver's
silent runners on the bank had kept pace with him, and when Arachi landed
he was seized by men who sprang apparently from nowhere.

"Lead me to your master, O common men," said Arachi, "for I am a chief of
the Isisi, and desire a secret palaver."

"If you are Isisi, and by your thinness and your boasting I see that you
are," said his captor, "my lord Abdul will make easy work of you."

Abdul Hazim was short and stout, and a lover of happiness. Therefore he
kept his camp in that condition of readiness which enabled him to leave
quickly at the first sight of a white helmet or a Houssa's tarboosh. For
it would have brought no happiness to Abdul had Sanders come upon him.

Now, seated on a soft-hued carpet of silk before the door of his little
tent, he eyed Arachi dubiously, and listened in silence while the man
spoke of himself.

"Kaffir," he said, when the borrower had finished, "how do I know that
you do not lie, or that you are not one of Sandi's spies? I think I
should be very clever if I cut your throat."

Arachi explained at length why Abdul Hazim should not cut his throat.

"If you say this Angola man is near by, why should I not take him without
payment?" asked the slaver.

"Because," said Arachi, "this foreigner is not the only man in the
country, and because I have great influence with Sandi, and am beloved by
all manner of people who trust me. I may bring many other men to your
lordship."

Arachi returned to the camp, towing a small canoe with which the slaver
had provided him. He woke the Angola stranger from his sleep.

"Brother," he said, "here is a canoe with food. Now I tell you to paddle
one day up this creek of Still Waters and there await my coming, for
there are evil men about, and I fear for your safety."

The Angolan, simple man that he was, obeyed. Half a day's journey up the
creek Abdul's men were waiting.

Arachi set off for his own village that night, and in his canoe was such
a store of cloth, of salt and of brass rods as would delight any man's
heart. Arachi came to his village singing a little song about himself.

In a year he had grown rich, for there were many ways of supplying the
bleeds of an Arab slaver, and Abdul paid promptly.

Arachi worked single-handed, or, if he engaged paddlers, found them in
obscure corners of the territories. He brought to Abdul many marketable
properties, mostly young N'gombi women, who are fearful and easily cowed,
and Sanders, scouring the country for the stout man with the fez, found
him not.

* * * * *

"Lord Abdul," said Arachi, who met the slaver secretly one night near the
Ikusi River, "Sandi and his soldiers have gone down to the Akasava for a
killing palaver. Now I think we will do what you wish."

They were discussing an aspect of an adventure--the grandest adventure
which Abdul had ever planned.

"Arachi," said Abdul, "I have made you a rich man. Now, I tell you that I
can make you richer than any chief in this land."

"I shall be glad to hear of this," said Arachi. "For though I am rich,
yet I have borrowed many things, and, it seems, I have so wonderful a
mind that I must live always in tomorrow."

"So I have heard," said the Arab. "For they say of you that if you had
the whole world you would borrow the moon."

"That is my mystery," said Arachi modestly. "For this reason I am a very
notable man."

Then he sat down to listen in patience to the great plan of Abdul Hazim.
And it was a very high plan, for there were two thousand Liberian dollars
at the back of it, and, for Arachi, payment in kind.

At the moment of the conference, Sanders was housed in the Ochori city
making palaver with Bosambo, the chief.

"Bosambo," said Sanders, "I have given you these upper streams to your
care. Yet Abdul Hazim walks through the land without hurt, and I think it
is shame to you and to me."

"Master," said Bosambo, "it is a shameful thing. Yet the streams
hereabouts are so many, and Abdul is a cunning man, and has spies. Also,
my people are afraid to offend him lest he 'chop' them, or sell them into
the interior."

Sanders nodded and rose to join the Zaire. "Bosambo," he said, "this
government put a price upon this Abdul, even as a certain government put
a price upon you."

"What is his price, lord?" asked Bosambo, with an awakening of interest.

"One hundred pounds in silver," said Sanders.

"Lord," said Bosambo, "that is a good price."

Two days afterwards, when Arachi came to Bosambo, this chief was engaged
in the purely domestic occupation of nursing his one small son.

"Greeting, Bosambo," said Arachi, "to you and to your beautiful son, who
is noble in appearance and very quiet."

"Peace be to you, Arachi. I have nothing to lend you," said Bosambo.

"Lord," said Arachi loftily, "I am now a rich man--richer than
chiefs--and I do not borrow."

"Ko, ko!" said Bosambo, with polite incredulity.

"Bosambo," Arachi went on, "I came to you because I love you, and you are
not a talking man, but rather a wise and silent one."

"All this I know, Arachi," said Bosambo cautiously. "And again I say to
you that I lend no man anything."

The exasperated Arachi raised his patient eyes to heaven.

"Lord Bosambo," he said, in the tone of one hurt, "I came to tell you of
that which I have found, and to ask your lordship to help me secure it.
For in a certain place I have come across a great stock of ivory, such as
the old kings buried against their need."

"Arachi," said Bosambo, of a sudden, "you tell me that you are rich. Now
you are a little man and I am a chief, yet I am not rich."

"I have many friends," said Arachi, trembling with pride, "and they give
me rods and salt."

"That is nothing," said Bosambo. "Now I understand richness, for I have
lived amongst white folk who laugh at rods and throw salt to dogs."

"Lord Bosambo," said the other eagerly, "I am rich also by white men's
rule. Behold!"

From his waist pouch he took a handful of silver, and offered it in both
hands for the chief's inspection.

Bosambo examined the money respectfully, turning each coin over gingerly.

"That is good riches," he said, and he breathed a little faster than was
his wont. "And it is new, being bright. Also the devil marks, which you
do not understand, are as they should be."

The gratified Arachi shoved his money back into his pouch. Bosambo sat in
meditative silence, his face impassive.

"And you will take me, Arachi, to the place of buried treasure?" he asked
slowly. "Ko! you are a generous man, for I do not know why you should
share with me, knowing that I once beat you."

Bosambo put the child down gently. These kings' stores were traditional.
Many had been found, and it was the dream of every properly constituted
man to unearth such. Yet Bosambo was not impressed, being in his heart
sceptical.

"Arachi," he said, "I believe that you are a liar! Yet I would see this
store, and, if it be near by, will see with my own eyes."

It was one day's journey, according to Arachi.

"You shall tell me where this place is," said Bosambo.

Arachi hesitated. "Lord, how do I not know that you will not go and take
this store?" he asked.

Bosambo regarded him sternly. "Am I not an honest man?" he asked. "Do not
the people from one end of the world to the other swear by the name of
Bosambo?"

"No," said Arachi truthfully. Yet he told of the place. It was by the River
of Shadows, near the Crocodile Pool where-the-Floods-Had-Changed-The-Land.

Bosambo went to his hut to make preparations for the journey. Behind his
house, in a big grass cage, were many little pigeons. He laboriously
wrote in his vile Arabic a laconic message, and attached it to the leg of
a pigeon. To make absolutely sure, for Bosambo left nothing to chance, he
sent away a canoe secretly that night for a certain destination.

"And this you shall say to Sandi," said the chief to his trusted
messenger, "that Arachi is rich with the richness of silver, and that
silver has the devil marks of Zanzibar--being the home of all traders, as
your lordship knows."

Next day, at dawn, Bosambo and his guide departed. They paddled
throughout the day, taking the smaller stream that drained the eastern
side of the river, and at night they camped at a place called Bolulu,
which means 'the changed land'.

They rose with the daylight to resume their journey. But it was
unnecessary, for, in the darkness before the dawn, Abdul Hazim had
surrounded the camp, and, at the persuasive muzzle of a Snider rifle,
Bosambo accompanied his captors ten minutes' journey into the wood where
Abdul awaited him.

The slaver, sitting before the door of his tent on his silken carpet,
greeted his captive in the Ochori dialect. Bosambo replied in Arabic.

"Ho, Bosambo!" said Abdul. "Do you know me?"

"Sheik," said Bosambo, "I would know you in hell, for you are the man
whose head my master desires."

"Bosambo," said Abdul calmly, "your head is more valuable, so they say,
for the Liberians will put it upon a pole, and pay me riches for my
enterprise."

Bosambo laughed softly. "Let the palaver finish," he said, "I am ready to
go."

They brought him to the river again, tied him to a pole, and laid him in
the bottom of a canoe, Arachi guarding him.

Bosambo, looking up, saw the borrower squatting on guard.

"Arachi," he said, "if you untie my hands, it shall go easy with you."

"If I untie your hands," said Arachi frankly, "I am both a fool and a
dead man, and neither of these conditions is desirable."

"To every man," quoth Bosambo, "there is an easy kill somewhere, and, if
he misses this, all kills are difficult." [The native equivalent for
"opportunity knocks," etc.--E.W.]

Four big canoes composed the water-way caravan. Abdul was in the largest
with his soldiers, and led the van. They moved quickly down the tiny
stream, which broadened as it neared the river. Then Abdul's headman
suddenly gasped. "Look!" he whispered.

The slaver turned his head. Behind them, paddling leisurely, came four
canoes, and each was filled with armed men.

"Quickly," said Abdul, and the paddlers stroked furiously, then stopped.
Ahead was the Zaire, a trim, white steamer, alive with Houssas.

"It is God's will," said Abdul. "These things are ordained."

He said no more until he stood before Sanders, and the Commissioner was
not especially communicative.

"What will you do with me?" asked Abdul.

"I will tell you when I have seen your stores," said Sanders. "If I find
rifles such as the foolish Lobolo people buy, I shall hang you according
to law."

The Arab looked at the shaking Arachi. The borrower's knees wobbled
fearfully. "I see," said Abdul thoughtfully, "that this man whom I made
rich has betrayed me."

If he had hurried or moved jerkily Sanders would have prevented the act;
but the Arab searched calmly in the fold of his bournous as though
seeking a cigarette. His hand came out, and with it a curved knife. Then
he struck quickly, and Arachi went blubbering to the deck, a dying man.

"Borrower," said the Arab, and he spoke from the centre of six Houssas
who were chaining him, so that he was hidden from the sobbing figure on
the floor, "I think you have borrowed that which you can at last repay.
For it is written in the Sura of the Djinn that from him who takes a
life, let his life be taken, that he may make full repayment."



CHAPTER II


THE TAX RESISTERS


Sanders took nothing for granted when he accounted for native
peoples. These tribes of his possessed an infinite capacity for
unexpectedness--therein lay at once their danger and their charm. For one
could neither despair at their sin nor grow too confidently elated at
their virtue, knowing that the sun which went down on the naughtiness of
the one and the dovelike placidity of the other, might rise on the
smouldering sacrificial fires in the streets of the blessed village, and
reveal the folk of the incorrigible sitting at the doors of their huts,
dust on head, hands outspread in an agony of penitence.

Yet it seemed that the people of Kiko were models of deportment, thrift,
and intelligence, and that the gods had given them beautiful natures.

Kiko, a district of the Lower Isisi, is separated from all other tribes
and people by the Kiko on the one side, the Isisi River on the other, and
on the third by clumps of forest land set at irregular intervals in the
Great Marsh. Kiko proper stretches from the marsh to the tongue of land
at the confluence of the Kiko and Isisi, in the shape of an irregular
triangle.

To the eastward, across the Kiko River, are the unruly N'gombi tribes; to
the westward, on the farther bank of the big river, are the Akasava; and
the Kiko people enjoy an immunity from sudden attack, which is due in
part to its geographical position, and in part to the remorseless
activities of Mr. Commissioner Sanders.

Once upon a time a king of the N'gombi called his headmen and chiefs
together to a great palaver. "It seems to me," he said, "that we are
children. For our crops have failed because of the floods, and the
thieving Ochori have driven the game into their own country. Now, across
the river are the Kiko people, and they have reaped an oat harvest; also,
there is game in plenty. Must we sit and starve whilst the Kiko swell
with food?"

A fair question, though the facts were not exactly stated, for the
N'gombi were lazy, and had sown late; also the game was in their forest
for the searching, but, as the saying is, "The N'gombi hunts from his bed
and seeks only cooked meats."

One night the N'gombi stole across the river and fell upon Kiko city,
establishing themselves masters of the country. There was a great
palaver, which was attended by the chief and headman of the Kiko.

"Henceforward," said the N'gombi king--Tigilini was his name--"you are as
slaves to my people, and if you are gentle and good and work in the
fields you shall have one-half of all you produce, for I am a just man,
and very merciful. But if you rebel, I will take you for my sport."

Lest any misunderstanding should exist, he took the first malcontent, who
was a petty chief of a border village, and performed his programme. This
man had refused tribute, and was led, with roped hands, before the king,
all headmen having been summoned to witness the happening. The rebel was
bound with his hands behind him, and was ordered to kneel. A young
sapling was bent over, and one end of a native rope was fixed to its
topmost branches, and the other about his neck. The tree was slowly
released till the head of the offender was held taut.

"Now!" said the king, and his executioner struck off the head, which was
flung fifty yards by the released sapling.

It fell at the feet of Mr. Commissioner Sanders, who, with twenty-five
Houssas and a machine gun, had just landed from the Zaire.

Sanders was annoyed; he had travelled three days and four nights with
little sleep, and he had a touch of fever, which made him irritable. He
walked into the village and interrupted an eloquent address on the
obligations of the conquered, which the N'gombi thief thought it
opportune to deliver.

He stopped half-way through, his speech, and lost a great deal of
interest in the proceedings as the crowd divided to allow of Sanders's
approach.

"Lord," said Tigilini, that quick and subtle man, "you have come at a
proper time, for these people were in rebellion against your lordship,
and I have subdued them. Therefore, master, give me rewards as you gave
to Bosambo of the Ochori."

Sanders gave nothing save a brief order, and his Houssas formed a half
circle about the hut of the king--Tigilini watching the manoeuvre with
some apprehension.

"If," he said graciously, "I have done anything which your lordship
thinks I should not have done, or taken that which I should not have
taken, I will undo and restore."

Sanders, hands on hips, regarded him dispassionately. "There is a body."
He pointed to the stained and huddled thing on the ground. "There, by the
path, is a head. Now, you shall put the head to that body and restore
life."

"That I cannot do," said the king nervously, "for I am no ju-ju."

Sanders spoke two words in Arabic, and Tigilini was seized. They carried
the king away, and no man ever saw his face again, and it is a legend
that Tigilini, the king, is everlastingly chained to the hind leg of
M'shimba M'shamba, the green devil of the Akasava. If the truth be told,
Tigilini went no nearer to perdition than the convict prison at Sierra
Leone, but the legend is not without its value as a deterrent to
ambitious chiefs.

Sanders superintended the evacuation of the Kiko, watched the crestfallen
N'gombi retire to their own lands, and set up a new king without fuss or
ceremony. And the smooth life of the Kiko people ran pleasantly as
before.

They tilled the ground and bred goats and caught fish. From the marsh
forest, which was their backland, they gathered rubber and copal, and
this they carried by canoe to the mouth of the river and sold.

So they came to be rich, and even the common people could afford three
wives.

Sanders was very wise in the psychology of native wealth. He knew that
people who grew rich in corn were dangerous, because corn is an
irresponsible form of property, and had no ramifications to hold in check
the warlike spirit of its possessors.

He knew, too, that wealth in goats, in cloth, in brass rods, and in land
was a factor for peace, because possessions which cannot be eaten are
ever a steadying influence in communal life.

Sanders was a wise man. He was governed by certain hard and fast rules,
and though he was well aware that failure in any respect to grapple with
a situation would bring him a reprimand, either because he had not acted
according to the strict letter of the law, or because he 'had not used
his discretion' in going outside that same inflexible code, he took
responsibility without fear.

It was left to his discretion as to what part of the burden of taxation
individual tribes should bear, and on behalf of his government he took
his full share of the Kiko surplus, adjusting his demands according to
the measure of the tribe's prosperity.

Three years after the enterprising incursion of the N'gombi, he came to
the Kiko country on his half-yearly visit. In the palaver house of the
city he listened to complaints, as was his custom. He sat from dawn till
eight o'clock in the morning, and after the tenth complaint he turned to
the chief of the Kiko, who sat at his side.

"Chief," he said, with that air of bland innocence which would have made
men used to his ways shake in their tracks, "I observe that all men say
one thing to me--that they are poor. Now this is not the truth."

"I am in your hands," said the chief diplomatically; "also my people, and
they will pay taxation though they starve."

Sanders saw things in a new light. "It seems," he said, addressing the
serried ranks of people who squatted about, "that there is discontent in
your stomachs because I ask you for your taxes. We will have a palaver on
this."

He sat down, and a grey old headman, a notorious litigant and a
league-long speaker, rose up.

"Lord," he said dramatically, "justice!"

"Kwai!" cried the people in chorus.

The murmur, deep-chested and unanimous, made a low, rumbling sound like
the roll of a drum.

"Justice!" said the headman. "For you, Sandi, are very cruel and harsh.
You take and take and give us nothing, and the people cry out in pain."

He paused, and Sanders nodded.

"Go on," he said.

"Corn and fish, gum and rubber, we give you," said the spokesman; "and
when we ask whither goes this money, you point to the puc-a-puc and your
soldiers, and behold we are mocked. For your puc-a-puc comes only to take
our taxes, and your soldiers to force us to pay."

Again the applauding murmur rolled.

"So we have had a palaver," said the headman, "and this we have said
among ourselves: 'Let Sandi remit one-half our taxes; these we will bring
in our canoes to the Village-by-the-Big-Water, for we are honest men, and
let Sandi keep his soldiers and his puc-a-puc [steamer--E.W.] for the
folk of the Isisi and the Akasava and the N'gombi, for these are
turbulent and wicked people.'"

"Kwai!"

It was evidently a popular movement, and Sanders smiled behind his hand.

"As for us," said the headman, "we are peaceable folk, and live
comfortably with all nations, and if any demand of us that we shall pay
tribute, behold it will be better to give freely than to pay these
taxes."

Sanders listened in silence, then he turned to the chief.

"It shall be as you wish," he said, "and I will remit one half of your
taxation--the palaver is finished."

He went on board the Zaire that night and lay awake listening to the
castanets of the dancing women--the Kiko made merry to celebrate the
triumph of their diplomacy.

Sanders left next day for the Isisi, having no doubt in his mind that the
news of his concession had preceded him. So it proved, for at Lukalili no
sooner had he taken his place in the speech-house than the chief opened
the proceedings.

"Lord Sandi," he began, "we are poor men, and our people cry out against
taxation. Now, lord, we have thought largely on this matter, and this say
the people: 'If your lordship would remit one-half our taxes we should be
happy, for this puc-a-puc--'"

Sanders waved him down.

"Chiefs and people," he said, "I am patient, because I love you. But talk
to me more about taxation and about puc-a-pucs, and I will find a new
chief for me, and you will wish that you had never been born."

After that Sanders had no further trouble.

He came to the Ochori, and found Bosambo, wholly engrossed with his new
baby, but ripe for action.

"Bosambo," said the Commissioner, after he had gingerly held the
new-comer and bestowed his natal present, "I have a story to tell you."
He told his story, and Bosambo found it vastly entertaining.

Five days later, when Sanders was on his way home, Bosambo with ten
picked men for paddlers, came sweeping up the river, and beached at Kiko
city. He was greeted effusively; a feast was prepared for him, the
chief's best hut was swept clean.

"Lord Bosambo," said the Kiko chief, when the meal was finished, "I shall
have a sore heart this night when you are gone."

"I am a kind man," said Bosambo, "so I will not go tonight, for the
thought of your sorrow would keep sleep from my eyes."

"Lord," said the chief hastily, "I am not used to sorrow, and, moreover,
I shall sleep heavily, and it would be shameful if I kept you from your
people, who sigh like hungry men for your return."

"That is true," said Bosambo, "yet I will stay this night because my
heart is full of pleasant thoughts for you."

"If you left to-night," said the embarrassed chief, "I would give you a
present of two goats."

"Goats," said Bosambo, "I do not eat, being of a certain religious
faith--"

"Salt I will give you also," said the chief.

"I stay to-night," said Bosambo emphatically; "tomorrow I will consider
the matter."

The next morning Bosambo went to bathe in the river, and returned to see
the chief of the Kiko squatting before the door of his hut, vastly glum.

"Ho, Cetomati!" greeted Bosambo, "I have news which will gladden your
heart."

A gleam of hope shone in the chief's eye. "Does my brother go so soon?"
he asked pointedly.

"Chief," said Bosambo acidly, "if that be good news to you, I go. And woe
to you and your people, for I am a proud man, and my people are also
proud. Likewise, they are notoriously vengeful."

The Kiko king rose in agitation. "Lord," he said humbly, "my words are
twisted, for, behold, all this night I have spent mourning in fear of
losing your lordship. Now, tell me your good news that I may rejoice with
you."

But Bosambo was frowning terribly, and was not appeased for some time.

"This is my news, O king!" he said. "Whilst I bathed I beheld, far away,
certain Ochori canoes, and I think they bring my councillors. If this be
so, I may stay with you for a long time--rejoice!"

The Kiko chief groaned. He groaned more when the canoes arrived bringing
reinforcements to Bosambo--ten lusty fighting men, terribly tall and
muscular.  He groaned undisguisedly when the morrow brought another ten,
and the evening some twenty more.

There are sayings on the river which are uncomplimentary to the appetites
of the Ochori.

Thus: "Men eat to live fat, but the Ochori live to eat."

And: "One field of corn will feed a village for a year, ten goats for a
month, and an Ochori for a day."

Certainly Bosambo's followers were excellent trenchermen. They ate and
they ate and they ate; from dawn till star time they alternated between
the preparation of meals and their disposal.

The simple folk of the Kiko stood in a wondering circle about them and
watched in amazement as their good food vanished. "I see we shall starve
when the rains come," said the chief in despair.

He sent an urgent canoe to Sanders, but Sanders was without sympathy. "Go
to your master," he said to the envoy, "telling him that all these things
are his palaver. If he does not desire the guests of his house, let him
turn them away, for the land is his, and he is chief."

Gold comfort for Cetomati this, for the Ochori sat in the best huts,
eating the best foods, finding the best places at the dance-fires.

The king called a secret palaver of his headmen. "These miserable Ochori
thieves ruin us," he said. "Are we men or dogs? Now, I tell you, my
people and councillors, that to-morrow I send Bosambo and his robbers
away, though I die for it!"

"Kwai!" said the councillors in unison.

"Lord," said one, "in the times of cala-cala the Kiko folk were very
fierce and bloody; perchance if we rouse the people with our eloquence
they are still fierce and bloody."

The king looked dubious. "I do not think," he said, "that the Kiko people
are as fierce and bloody as at one time, for we have had many fat years.
What I know, O friend, is that the Ochori are very fierce indeed, and
Bosambo has killed many men."

He screwed up his courage through the night, and in the morning put it to
the test. Bosambo, in his most lordly way, had ordered a big hunting, and
he and his men were assembling in the village street when the king and
his councillors approached.

"Lord," said the king mildly, "I have that within me which I must tell."

"Say on," said Bosambo.

"Now, I love you, Bosambo," said the chief, "and the thought that I must
speed you on your way with presents--is very sad to me."

"More sad to me," said Bosambo ominously.

"Yet, lord," said the desperate chief, "I must, for my people are very
fierce with me that I keep you so long within our borders. Likewise,
there is much sickness, and I fear lest you and your beautiful men also
become sick, and die."

"Only one man in all the world, chief," said Bosambo, speaking with
deliberation, "has ever put such shame upon me--and, king, that
man--where is he?"

The king of the Kiko did not say, because he did not know. He could
guess--oh, very well he could guess!--and Bosambo's next words justified
his guesswork.

"He is dead," said Bosambo solemnly. "I will not say how he died, lest
you think I am a boastful one, or whose hand struck him down, for fear
you think vainly--nor as to the manner of his dying, for that would give
you sorrow!"

"Bosambo," said the agitated chief of the Kiko, "these are evil words--"

"I say no evil words," said Bosambo, "for I am, as you know, the
brother-in-law of Sandi, and it would give him great grief. I say
nothing, O little king!"

With a lofty wave of his hand he strode away, and, gathering his men
together, he marched them, to the beach.

It was in vain that the chief of the Kiko had stored food in enormous
quantities and presents in each canoe, that bags of salt were evenly
distributed amongst the paddlers.

Bosambo, it is true, did not throw them back upon the shore, but he
openly and visibly scorned them. The king,  standing first on one foot
and then on the other, in his anxiety and embarrassment, strove to give
the parting something of a genial character, but Bosambo was silent,
forbidding, and immensely gloomy.

"Lord," said the chief, "when shall my heart again be gladdened at the
sight of your pretty face?"

"Who knows?" said Bosambo mysteriously. "Who can tell when I come, or my
friends! For many men love me--Isisi, N'gombi, Akasava, Bongindi, and the
Bush people."

He stepped daintily into his canoe.

"I tell you," he said, wagging a solemn forefinger, "that whatever comes
to you, it is no palaver of mine; whoever steals quietly upon you in the
night, it will not be Bosambo--I call all men to witness this saying."

And with this he went.

There was a palaver that night, where all men spoke at once, and the Kiko
king did no more than bite his nails nervously. It was certain that
attack would come. "Let us meet them boldly," said the one who had
beforetime rendered such advice. "For in times of cala-cala the Kiko folk
were fierce and bloody people."

Whatever they might have been once, there was no spirit of adventure
abroad then, and many voices united to call the genius who had suggested
defiance a fool and worse.

All night long the Kiko stood a nation in arms. Once the hooting of a
bird sent them scampering to their huts with howls of fear; once a
wandering buffalo came upon a quaking picket and scattered it. Night
after night the fearful Kiko kept guard, sleeping as they could by day.

They saw no enemy; the suspense was worse than the vision of armed
warriors. A messenger went to Sanders about the fears and apprehensions
of the people, but Sanders was callous.

"If any people attack you, I will come with my soldiers, and for every
man of you who dies, I will kill one of your enemies."

"Lord," said the messenger, none other than the king's son, "if we are
dead, we care little who lives or dies. Now, I ask you, master, to send
your soldiers with me, for our people are tired and timid."

"Be content," said Sanders, "that I have remitted your taxation--the
palaver is finished."

The messenger returned to his dismal nation--Sanders at the time was
never more than a day's journey from the Kiko--and a sick and weary
people sat down in despair to await the realisation of their fears.

They might have waited throughout all eternity, for Bosambo was back in
his own city, and had almost forgotten them, and Isisi and the Akasava,
regarding them for some reason as Sanders's urglebes, would have no more
thought of attacking them than they would have considered the possibility
of attacking Sanders; and as for the N'gombi they had had their lesson.

Thus matters stood when the Lulungo people, who live three days beyond
the Akasava, came down the river looking for loot and trouble. The
Lulungo people are an unlovable race; "a crabbed, bitter, and a beastly
people," Sanders once described them in his wrath. For two years the
Lulungo folk had lain quiet, then, like foraging and hungry dogs, they
took the river trail--six canoes daubed with mud and rushes. They found
hospitality of a kind in the fishing villages, for the peaceable souls
who lived therein fled at the first news of the visitation.

They came past the Ochori warily keeping to midstream. Time was when the
Ochori would have supplied them with all their requirements, but nowadays
these men of Bosambo's snapped viciously. "None the less," said Gomora,
titular chief of the Lulungo, to his headmen, "since we be so strong the
Ochori will not oppose us--let two canoes paddle to land."

The long boats were detached from the fleet and headed for the beach. A
shower of arrows fell short of them, and they turned back.

The Isisi country they passed, the Akasava they gave the widest of berths
to, for the Lulungo folk are rather cruel than brave, better assassins
than fighting men, more willing to kill coldly than in hot blood.

They went lurching down the river, seizing such loot as the unprotected
villages gave them. It was a profitless expedition.

"Now we will go to Kiko," said Gomora; "for these people are very rich,
and, moreover, they are fearful. Speak to my people, and say that there
shall be no killing, for that devil Sandi hates us, and he will incite
the tribes against us, as he did in the days of my father."

They waited till night had fallen, and then, under the shadow of the
river bank, they moved silently upon their prey.

"We will frighten them," confided Gomora; "and they will give us what we
ask; then we will make them swear by Iwa that they will not speak to
Sandi--it will be simple." The Lulungo knew the Kiko folk too well, and
they landed at a convenient place, making their way through the strip of
forest without the display of caution which such a manoeuvre would have
necessitated had it been employed against a more warlike nation.

* * * * *

Sanders, hurrying down stream, his guns swung out and shotted for action,
his armed Houssas sitting in the bow of the steamer, met two canoes,
unmistakably Lulungo.

He circled and captured them. In one was Gomora, a little weak from loss
of blood, but more bewildered.

"Lord," he said bitterly, "all this world is changed since you have come;
once the Ochori were meat for me and my people, being very timorous. Then
by certain magic they became fierce fighters. And now, lord, the Kiko
folk, who, up and down the river, are known for their gentleness, have
become like devils."

Sanders waited, and the chief went on:

"Last night we came to the Kiko, desiring to rest with them, and in the
dark of the forest they fell upon us, with great screaming; and, behold!
of ten canoes these men are all I have left, for the Kiko were waiting
for our coming."

He looked earnestly at Sanders.

"Tell me, lord," he said, "what magic do white men use to make warriors
from cowards?"

"That is not for your knowing," said Sanders diplomatically; "yet you
should put this amongst the sayings of your people, 'Every rat fights in
his hole, and fear is more fierce than hate.'"

He went on to Kiko city, arriving in rime to check an expedition, for the
Kiko, filled with arrogance at their own powers, were assembling an army
to attack the Ochori.

"Often have I told," said the chief, trembling with pride, "that the Kiko
were terrible and bloody--now, lord, behold! In the night we slew our
oppressors, for the spirit of our fathers returned to us, and our enemies
could not check us."

"Excellent!" said Sanders in the vernacular. "Now I see an end to all
taxation palaver, for, truly, you do not desire my soldiers nor the
puc-a-puc. Yet, lest the Lulungo folk return--for they are as many as the
sands of the river--I will send fighting men to help you."

"Lord, you are as our father and mother," said the gratified chief.

"Therefore I will prevail upon Bosambo, whose heart is now sore against
you, to come with his fighting tribes to sit awhile at your city."

The chief's face worked convulsively: he was as one swallowing a noxious
draught. "Lord," he said, speaking under stress of emotion, "we are a
poor people, yet we may pay your lordship full taxes, for in the end I
think it would be cheaper than Bosambo and his hungry devils."

"So I think!" said Sanders.



CHAPTER III


THE RISE OF THE EMPEROR


Tobolaka, the king of the Isisi, was appointed for his virtues, being a
Christian and a Bachelor of Arts.

For a time he ruled his country wisely and might have died full of
honour, but his enthusiasm got the better of him.

For Tobolaka had been taken to America when a boy by an enthusiastic
Baptist, had been educated at a college and had lectured in America and
England. He wrote passable Latin verse, so I am told; was a fluent
exponent of the Free Silver Policy of Mr. Bryan, and wore patent leather
shoes with broad silk laces.

In London he attracted the attention of a callow Undersecretary of State
for the Colonies, and this Under-Secretary was a nephew of the Prime
Minister, cousin of the Minister of War, and son-in-law of the Lord
Chancellor, so he had a pull which most Under-Secretaries do not
ordinarily possess.

"Mr. Tobolaka," said the Under-Secretary, "what are your plans?"

Mr. Tobolaka was a little restrained.

"I feel, Mr. Cardow," he said, "that my duties lie in my land--no, I do
not mean that I have any call to missionary work, but rather to
administration. I am, as you know of the Isisi people--we are a pure
Bantu stock, as far as legend supports that contention--and I have often
thought, remembering that the Isisi are the dominant race, that there are
exceptional opportunities for an agglomeration of interests; in fact--"

"A splendid idea--a great idea!" said the enthusiastic Under-Secretary.
Now it happened that this young Mr. Cardow had sought for years for some
scheme which he might further to his advantage. He greatly desired, after
the fashion of all budding Parliamentarians, to be associated with a
movement which would bring kudos and advertisement in its train, and
which would earn for him the approval or the condemnation of the Press,
according to the shade of opinion which the particular newspapers
represented.

So in the silence of his room in Whitehall Court, he evolved a grand plan
which he submitted to his chief. That great man promised to read it on a
given day, and was dismayed when he found himself confronted with forty
folios of typewritten matter at the very moment when he was hurrying to
catch the 10.35 to the Cotswold Golf Links.

"I will read it in the train," he said.

He crammed the manuscript into his bag and forgot all about it; on his
return to town he discovered that by some mischance he had left the great
scheme behind.

Nevertheless, being a politician and resourceful, he wrote to his
subordinate.

"DEAR CARDOW,--I have read your valuable document with more than ordinary
interest. I think it is an excellent idea,"--he knew it was an idea
because Cardow had told him so--"but I see many difficulties. Mail me
another copy. I should like to send it to a friend of mine who would give
roe an expert opinion."

It was a wily letter, but indiscreet, for on the strength of that letter
the Under-Secretary enlisted the sympathies and practical help of his
chief's colleagues.

"Here we have a native and an educated native," he said impressively,
"who is patriotic, intelligent, resourceful. It is a unique
opportunity--a splendid opportunity. Let him go back to his country and
get the threads together."

The conversation occurred in the Prime Minister's room, and there were
present three Ministers of the Crown, including a Home Secretary, who was
frankly bored, because he had a scheme of his own, and would much rather
have discussed his Artisans' Tenement (19--) Bill.

"Isn't there a Commissioner Sanders in that part of the world?" he asked
languidly. "I seem to remember some such name. And isn't there likely to
be trouble with the minor chiefs if you set up a sort of Central African
Emperor?"

"That can be overcome," said the sanguine Cardow. "As for Sanders, I
expect him to help. A dynasty established on the Isisi River might end
all the troubles we have had there."

"It might end other things," said the impatient Home Secretary. "Now
about this Tenement Bill. I think we ought to accept Cronk's
amendment--er--"

A few weeks later Mr. Tobolaka was summoned to Whitehall Court.

"I think, Mr. Tobolaka," said Cardow complacently, "I have arranged for a
trial of our plan. The Government has agreed--after a tough fight with
the permanent officials, I admit--to establish you on the Isisi as King
and Overlord of the Isisi, Ochori, N'gombi, and Akasava. They will vote
you a yearly allowance, and will build a house in Isisi city for you. You
will find Mr. Sanders--er--difficult, but you must have a great deal of
patience."

"Sir," said Mr. Tobolaka, speaking under stress of profound emotion, "I'm
e-eternally obliged. You've been real good to me, and I guess I'll make
good."

Between the date of Tobolaka's sailing and his arrival Sanders ordered a
palaver of all chiefs, and they came to meet him in the city of the
Isisi.

"Chiefs and headmen," said Sanders, "you know that many moons ago the
Isisi people rose in an evil moment and made sacrifice contrary to the
law. So I came with my soldiers and took away the king to the Village of
Irons, where he now sits. Because the Isisi are foolish people my
Government sets up a new king, who is Tobolaka, son of Yoka'n'kkema, son
of Ichulomo, the son of Tibilino."

"Lord," gasped an Isisi headman, "this Tobolaka I remember. The God-folk
took him away to their own land, where he learnt to be white."

"Yet I promise you that he is black," said Sanders dryly, "and will be
blacker. Also, chiefs of the Ochori, N'gombi, and Akasava, this new king
will rule you, being paramount king of these parts, and you shall bring
him presents and tribute according to custom."

There was an ominous silence. Then O'kara, the chief of the Akasava, an
old and arrogant man spoke:

"Lord," he said, "many things have I learnt, such as mysteries and devil
magic, yet I have not learnt in my life that the Akasava pay tribute to
the Isisi, for, lord, in the year of the Floods, the Akasava fought with
the Isisi and made them run; also, in the year of the Elephants, we
defeated the Isisi on land and water, and would have sat down in their
city if your lordship had not come with guns and soldiers and tempted us
to go home." The Akasava headmen murmured their approval.

"Alas," said the chief of the N'gombi, "we people of the N'gombi are
fierce men, and often have we made the Isisi tremble by our mighty
shouts. Now I should be ashamed to bring tribute to Tobolaka."

The palaver waited for Bosambo of the Ochori to speak, but he was silent,
for he had not grasped the bias of the Commissioner's mind. Other men
spoke at length, taking their cue from their chiefs, but the men of the
Ochori said nothing. "For how was I to speak?" said Bosambo, after the
palaver. "No man knows how your lordship thinks."

"You have ears," said Sanders, a little irritated.

"They are large," admitted Bosambo, "so large that they hear your
beautiful voice, but not so long that they hear your lordship's loving
thoughts."

Sanders's thoughts were by no means loving, and they diminished in beauty
day by day as the ship which carried Tobolaka to his empire drew nearer.

Sanders did not go down to the beach to meet him; he awaited his coming
on the verandah of the residency, and when Tobolaka arrived, clad from
head to foot in spotless white, with a helmet of exact colonial pattern
on his head, Sanders swore fluently at all interfering and experimenting
Governments.

"Mr. Sanders, I presume?" said Tobolaka in English, and extended his
hand.

"Chief," said Sanders in the Isisi tongue, "you know that I am Sandi, so
do not talk like a monkey; speak rather in the language of your people,
and I will understand you better--also you will understand me."

It so happened that Tobolaka had prepared a dignified little speech, in
the course of which he intended congratulating Sanders on the prosperity
of the country, assuring him of whole-hearted co-operation, and winding
up with an expression of his wishes that harmonious relations should
exist between himself and the State.

It was founded on a similar speech delivered by King Peter of Servia on
his assuming the crown. But, unfortunately, it was in English, and the
nearest Isisi equivalent for congratulation is an idiomatic phrase which
literally means, "High-man-look-kindly-on-dog-slave-who-lies-at-feet."
And this, thought Tobolaka, would never do at all, for he had come to put
the Commissioner in his place.

Sanders condescended to talk English later when Tobolaka was discussing
Cabinet Ministers.

"I shall--at the Premier's request--endeavour to establish district
councils," he said. "I think it is possible to bring the native to a
realisation of his responsibility. As Cicero said--"

"Do not bother about Cicero," said Sanders coldly. "It is not what Cicero
said, but what Bosambo will say: there are philosophers on this river who
could lose the ancients."

Tobolaka, in a canoe sent for him by the Isisi folk, went to his new
home. He hinted broadly that a state entrance in the Zaire would be more
in keeping with the occasion.

"And a ten-gun salute, I suppose!" snarled Sanders in Isisi. "Get to your
land, chief, before I lose my patience, for I am in no mood to palaver
with you."

Tobolaka stopped long enough at headquarters to write privately to the
admirable Mr. Cardow, complaining that he had received 'scant courtesy'
at the hands of the Commissioner. He had shown 'deplorable antagonism.'
The letter concluded with respectful wishes regarding Mr. Cardow's
health, and there was a postscript, significant and ominous to the effect
that the writer hoped to cement the good feeling which already existed
between Great Britain and the United States of America by means which he
did not disclose.

The excellent Mr. Cardow was frankly puzzled by the cryptic postscript,
but was too much occupied with a successful vote of censure on the
Government which had turned him into the cold shades of Opposition to
trouble to reply.

Tobolaka came to his city and was accorded a rapturous welcome by a
people who were prepared at any given hour of the day or night to
jubilate over anything which meant dances and feasts.

He sat in the palaver house in his white duck suit and his white helmet,
with a cavalry sword (this Sanders had not seen) between his knees, his
white-gloved hands resting on the hilt.

And he spoke to the people in Isisi, which they understood, and in
English, which they did not understand, but thought wonderful. He also
recited as much of the "Iliad" as he could remember, and then, triumphant
and a little hoarse, he was led to the big hut of chieftainship, and was
waited upon by young girls who danced for his amusement.

Sanders heard of these things and more. He learnt that the Isisi were to
be ruled in European fashion. To Tobolaka came Gala, a sycophantic old
headman from the village of Toroli, with soft and oily words. Him the
king promoted to be Minister of Justice, though he was a notorious thief,
Mijilini, the fisher chief, Tobolaka made his Minister of War; he had a
Home Secretary, a Minister of Agriculture, and a Fishery Commissioner,

Sanders, steaming up-river, was met by the canoe of Limibolo, the Akasava
man, and his canoe was decorated with clothes and spears as for a
wedding. "Lord," said the dignified Limibolo, "I go to my village to hold
a palaver, for my lord the king has called me by a certain name which I
do not understand, but it has to do with the hanging of evil men, and, by
Iwa! I know two men in my village who owe me salt, and they shall hang at
once, by Death!"

"Then will I come and you shall hang also!", said Sanders cheerlessly.
"Be sure of that."

It transpired that the light-hearted Limibolo had been created sheriff.

Tobolaka was on the point of raising an army for his dignity, when
Sanders came upon the scene.

He arrived without warning, and Tobolaka had no opportunity for receiving
him in the state which the king felt was due equally to himself and to
the representative of Government. But he had ample time to come to the
beach to greet the Commissioner according to custom. Instead, he remained
before his hut and sent his minister in attendance, the ignoble Cala.

"O Cala!" said Sanders as he stepped ashore across the Zaire's narrow
gangway, "what are you in this land?"

"Lord," said Cala, "I am a great catcher of thieves by order of our lord;
also, I check evil in every place."

"O Ko!" said Sanders offensively, "now since you are the biggest thief of
all, I think you had best catch yourself before I catch you."

He walked through Isisi city. The king had been busy. Rough boards had
been erected at every street corner. There was a "Downing Street," a
"Fifth Avenue," a "Sacramento Street," a "Piccadilly," and a "Broadway."

"These," explained Cala, "are certain devil marks which my king has put
up to warn witches and spirits, and they have much virtue, for, lord, my
son, who was troubled with pains in his stomach, was there"--he indicated
"Broadway"--"and the pain left him."

"It would," said Sanders.

Tobolaka rose from his throne and offered his hand.

"I am sorry, Mr. Sanders," he began, "you did not give us notice of your
coming."

"When I come again, Tobolaka," said Sanders, staring with his passionate
grey eyes at the white clad figure, "you shall come to the beach to meet
me, for that is the custom."

"But not the law," smiled the king.

"My custom is the law," said Sanders. He dropped his voice till it was so
soft as to be little above a whisper.

"Tobolaka," he said, "I hanged your father and, I believe, his father.
Now I tell you this--that you shall play this king game just so long as
it amuses your people, but you play it without soldiers. And if you
gather an army for whatever purpose, I shall come and burn your city and
send you the way of your ancestors, for there is but one king in this
land, and I am his chief minister."

The face of the king twitched and his eyes fell.

"Lord," he said, using the conventional "Iwa" of his people, "I meant no
harm. I desired only to do honour to my wife."

"You shall honour her best," said Sanders, "by honouring me."

"Cicero says--" began Tobolaka in English.

"Damn Cicero!" snapped Sanders in the same language.

He stayed the day, and Tobolaka did his best to make reparation for his
discourtesy. Towards evening Sanders found himself listening to
complaints. Tobolaka had his troubles,

"I called a palaver of all chiefs," he explained, "desiring to inaugurate
a system analogous to county councils. Therefore I sent to the Akasava,
the N'gombi, and the Ochori, their chiefs. Now, sir," said the injured
Tobolaka, relapsing into English, "none of these discourteous fellows--"

"Speak in the language of the land, Tobolaka," said Sanders wearily.

"Lord, no man came," said the king; "nor have they sent tribute. And I
desired to bring them to my marriage feast that my wife should be
impressed; and, since I am to be married in the Christian style, it would
be well that these little chiefs should see with their eyes the practice
of God-men."

"Yet I cannot force these chiefs to your palaver, Tobolaka," said
Sanders.

"Also, lord," continued the chief, "one of these men is a Mohammedan and
an evil talker, and when I sent to him to do homage to me he replied with
terrible words, such as I would not say again."

"You must humour your chiefs, king," said Sanders, and gave the
discomfited monarch no warmer cheer.

Sanders left next day for headquarters, and in his hurry forgot to
inquire further into the forthcoming wedding feast,

"And the sooner he marries the better," he said to the Houssa captain.
"Nothing tires me quite so much as a Europeanised--Americanised native.
It is as indecent a spectacle as a niggerised white man."

"He'll settle down; there's no stake in a country like a wife," said the
Houssa. "I shouldn't wonder if he doesn't forget old man Cicero. Which
chief's daughter is to be honoured?"

Sanders shook his head.

"I don't know, and I'm not interested. He might make a good chief--I'm
prejudiced against him, I admit. As likely as not he'll chuck his job
after a year if they don't 'chop' him--they're uncertain devils, these
Akasavas. Civilisation has a big call for him; he's always getting
letters from England and America."

The Houssa captain bit off the end of a cigar. "I hope he doesn't try
Cicero on Bosambo," he said, significantly.

The next day brought the mail--an event. Usually Sanders was down on the
beach to meet the surf-boat that carries the post, but on this occasion
he was interviewing two spies who had arrived with urgent news. Therefore
he did not see the passenger whom the Castle Queen landed till she stood
on the stoep before the open door of the residency.

Sanders, glancing up as a shadow fell across the wooden stoep, rose and
temporarily dismissed the two men with a gesture. Then he walked slowly
to meet the girl. She was small and pretty in a way, rather flushed by
the exertion of walking from the beach to the house. Her features were
regular, her mouth was small, her chin a little weak. She seemed ill at
ease.

"How do you do?" said Sanders, bewildered by the unexpectedness of the
vision. He drew a chair for her, and she sank into it with a grateful
little smile, which she instantly checked, as though she had set herself
an unpleasant task and was not to be conciliated or turned aside by any
act of courtesy on his part.

"And exactly what brings you to this unlikely place?" he asked.

"I'm Millie Tavish" she said. "I suppose you've heard about me?"

She spoke with a curious accent. When she told him her name he recognised
it as Scottish, on which American was imposed.

"I haven't heard about you," he said. "I presume you are going up-country
to a missionary station. I'm sorry--I do not like lady missionaries in
the country."

She laughed a shrill, not unmusical laugh. "Oh, I guess I'm not a
missionary," she said complacently. "I'm the queen."

Sanders looked at her anxiously. To women in his country he had
conscientious objections; mad women he barred.

"I'm the queen," she repeated, evidently pleased with the sensation she
had created. "My! I never thought I should be a queen. My grandfather
used to be a gardener of Queen Victoria's before he came to N'York--"

"But--" said the staggered Commissioner.

"It was like this," she rattled on. "When Toby was in Philadelphia at the
theological seminary I was a help at Miss Van Houten's--that's the
boarding house--an' Toby paid a lot of attention to me. I thought he was
joshin' when he told me he was going to be a king, but he's made good all
right. And I've written to him every week, and he's sent me the money to
come along--"

"Toby?" said Sanders slowly. "Who is Toby?"

"Mr. Tobolaka--King Tobolaka," she said.

A look of horror, which he did not attempt to disguise, swept over the
face of the Commissioner. "You've come out to marry him--a black man?" he
gasped.

The girl flushed a deep red. "That's my business," she said stiffly. "I'm
not asking advice from you. Say, I've heard about you--your name is mud
along this old coast, but I'm not afraid of you. I've got a permit to go
up the Isisi, and I'm going."

She was on her feet, her arms akimbo, her eyes blazing with anger, for,
womanlike, she felt the man's unspoken antagonism.

"My name may be mud," said Sanders quietly, "and what people say about me
doesn't disturb my sleep. What they would say about me if I'd allowed you
to go up-country and marry a black man would give me bad nights. Miss
Tavish, the mail-boat leaves in an hour for Sierra Leone. There you will
find a steamer to take you to England. I will arrange for your passage
and see that you are met at Southampton and your passage provided for New
York."

"I'll not go," she stormed; "you don't put that kind of bluff on me. I'm
an American citizeness and no dud British official is going to boss
me--so there!"

Sanders smiled. He was prepared to precipitate matters now, to violate
treaties, to create crises, but he was not prepared to permit what he
regarded as an outrage. In turn she bullied and pleaded; she even wept,
and Sanders's hair stood on end from sheer fright.

To make the situation more difficult, a luxurious Isisi canoe with twenty
paddlers had arrived to carry her to the city, and the headman in charge
had brought a letter from her future lord welcoming her in copper-plate
English. This letter Sanders allowed the man to deliver. In the end,
after a hasty arrangement, concluded by letter with the captain of the
boat, he escorted Millie Tavish to the beach.

She called down on his head all the unhappiness her vocabulary could
verbalise; she threw with charming impartiality the battle of Bannockburn
and Bunker's Hill at his stolid British head. She invoked the shades of
Washington and William Wallace.

"You shall hear of this," she said as she stepped into the surf-boat.
"I'm going to tell the story to every paper."

"Thank you!" said Sanders, his helmet in his hand. "I feel I deserve it."

He watched the boat making a slow progress to the ship and returned to
his bungalow.



CHAPTER IV


THE FALL OF THE EMPEROR


"My poor soul!" said the Houssa captain. He looked down into the
long-seated chair where Sanders sprawled limply. "And is the owdacious
female gone?" asked the soldier.

"She's gone," said Sanders.

The Houssa clapped his hands, not in applause but to summon his orderly.

"Ahmet," he said gravely, speaking in Arabic, "mix for the lord Sandi the
juice of lemons with certain cunning ingredients such as you know well;
let it be as cool as the hand of Azrael, as sweet as the waters of Nir,
and as refreshing as the kisses of houris--go with God."

"I wish you wouldn't fool," said Sanders, irritated.

"This is a crisis of our affairs," said Hamilton the Houssa. "You need a
tonic. As for myself, if this had happened to me, I should have been in
bed with a temperature. Was she very angry?"

Sanders nodded.

"She called, me a British loafer and a Jew in the same breath. She flung
in my face every British aristocrat who had ever married an American
heiress; she talked like the New York correspondent of an Irish paper for
five minutes. She threatened me with the whole diplomatic armoury of
America and the entire strength of Scottish opinion; if she could have
made up her mind whether she was Scot or just Philadelphia I could have
answered her, but when she goaded me into a retort about American
institutions she opened her kailyard batteries and silenced me."

The Houssa walked up and down the long bungalow.

"It was impossible, of course," he said seriously, "absolutely
impossible. She'll land at Sierra Leone and interview Tullerton--he's the
U.S. Consul. I think she'll be surprised when she hears Tullerton's point
of view."

Sanders stayed to tiffin, and the discussion of Millie Tavish continued
intermittently throughout the meal.

"If I hadn't given Yoka permission to overhaul the engines of the Zaire,"
said Sanders, "I'd start right away for the Isisi and interview Tobolaka.
But by this time he'll have her cylinders open. By the way, I've
remembered something," he said, suddenly.

He clapped his hands, and Hamilton's orderly came.

"Ahmet," said Sanders, "go quickly to Sergeant Abiboo and tell him to
give food to the Isisi boatmen who came this morning. Also that he shall
tell them to stay with us, for I have a 'book' to write to the king."

"On my life," said Ahmet conventionally, and went out.

"I will say what I have to say by letter," said the Commissioner, when
the man had gone at a jog-trot across the compound; "and, since he has a
swift canoe, he will receive evidence of my displeasure earlier than it
would otherwise reach him."

Ahmet came back in five minutes, and with him Abiboo.

"Lord," said the latter, "I could not do as you wish, for the Isisi have
gone."

"Gone!"

"Lord, that is so, for when the lady came back from the ship she went
straight away to the canoe and--"

Sanders was on his feet, his face white.

"When the lady came back from the ship," he repeated slowly; "Did she
come back?"

"Master, an hour since, I did not see her, for she came by the short way
from the beach, to the river-landing. But many saw her."

Sanders nodded. "Go to Yoka and let him have steam against my coming,"

The sergeant's face was blank. "Lord, Yoka has done many things," he
said, "such as removing the shh-shh of the engine"--Sanders groaned--"yet
will I go to him and speak with him for steam."

"If he's got the cylinder dismantled," said Sanders in despair, "it will
be hours before the Zaire is ready, and I haven't a canoe that can
overtake them."

A Houssa came to the door.

"A telegram for you," said Hamilton, taking the envelope from the man.
Sanders tore it open and read. It was from London:

"Washington wires: 'We learn American girl gone to Isisi, West Africa, to
marry native king. Government request you advise authorities turn her
back at all costs; we indemnify you: against any act of arrest to prevent
her carrying plan into execution. Use your discretion and act. Have
advised all magistrates. Girl's name Tavish.--Colonial Office.'"

He had finished reading when Abiboo returned. "To-morrow, two hours
before the sun, there will be steam, master," so said Yoka."

"It can't be helped," said Sanders; "we'll have to try another way."

By swift canoe the Isisi is three days' journey from headquarters. From
the Isisi to Ochori city is one day. Tobolaka had time to make a last
effort to secure magnificence for his wedding feast. He sent for his
councillor, Cala, that he might carry to Bosambo fine words and presents.

"If he refuses to come for my honour," said Tobolaka, "you shall say to
him that I am a man who does not forgive, and that one day I will come to
him with an army and there will be war."

"Lord king," said the old man, "you are like an elephant, and the world
shakes under your feet."

"That is so," said the king; "also I would have you know that this new
wife of mine is white and a great person in her own country."

"Have no fear, lord," said Cala sagely; "I will lie to him."

"If you tell me I lie, I will beat you to death, old monkey," said the
wrathful Tobolaka. "This is true that I tell you."

The old man was dazed.

"A white woman," he said, incredulously. "Lord, that is shame." Tobolaka
gasped. For here was a sycophant of sycophants surprised to an expression
of opinion opposed to his master's. "Lord," stammered Cala, throwing a
lifetime's discretion to the winds, "Sandi would not have this--nor we,
your people. If you be black and she be white, what of the children of
your lordship? By Death! they would be neither black nor white, but
people apart!"

Tobolaka's fine philosophy went by the board. He was speechless with
rage. He, a Bachelor of Arts, the favoured of Ministers, the Latinist,
the wearer of white man's clothing, to be openly criticised by a
barbarian, a savage, a wearer of no clothes, and, moreover, a worshipper
of devils.

At a word, Cala was seized and flogged. He was flogged with strips of raw
hide, and, being an old man, he died. Tobolaka, who had never seen a man
die of violence, found an extraordinary pleasure in the sight. There
stirred within his heart sharp exultation, fierce joys which he had never
experienced before. Dormant weeds of unreasoning hate and cruelty
germinated in a second to life. He found himself loosening the collar of
his white drill jacket as the bleeding figure pegged to the ground
writhed and moaned.

Then, obeying some inner command, he stripped first the coat and then the
silk vest beneath from his body. He tugged and tore at them, and threw
them, a ragged little bundle, into the hut behind him. Thus he stood,
bareheaded, naked to the waist.

His headmen were eyeing him fearfully. Tobolaka felt his heart leap with
the happiness of a new-found power. Never before had they looked at him
thus. He beckoned a man to him.

"Go you," he said haughtily, "to Bosambo of the Ochori and bid him, on
his life, come to me. Take him presents, but give them proudly."

"I am your dog," said the man, and knelt at his feet.

Tobolaka kicked him away and went into the hut of his women to flog a
girl of the Akasava, who, in the mastery of a moment, had mocked him that
morning because of his white man's ways.

Bosambo was delivering judgment when the messenger of the king was
announced.

"Lord, there comes an Isisi canoe full of arrogance," said the messenger.

"Bring me the headman," said Bosambo.

They escorted the messenger, and Bosambo saw, by the magnificence of his
garb, by the four red feathers which stood out of his hair at varying
angles, that the matter was important.

"I come from the king of all this land," said the messenger; "from
Tobolaka, the unquenchable drinker of rivers, the destroyer of the evil
and the undutiful."

"Man," said Bosambo, "you tire my ears."

"Thus says my king," the messenger went on: "Let Bosambo come to me by
sundown that he may do homage to me and to the woman I take to wife, for
I am not to be thwarted, nor am I to be mocked. And those who thwart me
and mock me I will come up against with fire and spear."

Bosambo was amused.

"Look around, Kilimini," he said, "and see my soldiers, and this city of
the Ochori, and beyond by those little hills the fields where all things
grow well; especially do you look well at those fields by the little
hills."

"Lord, I see these," said the messenger.

"Go back to Tobolaka, the black man, and tell him you saw those fields
which are more abundant than any fields in the world--and for a reason."

He smiled at the messenger, who was a little out of his depth.

"This is the reason, Kilimini," said Bosambo. "In those fields we buried
many hundreds of the Isisi who came against my city in their folly--this
was in the year of the Elephants. Tell your king this: that I have other
fields to manure. The palaver is finished."

Then out of the sky in wide circles dropped a bird, all blue and white.

Raising his eyes, Bosambo saw it narrowing the orbit of its flight till
it dropped wearily upon a ledge that fronted a roughly-made dovecote
behind Bosambo's house.

"Let this man have food," said Bosambo, and hastened to examine the bird.

It was drinking greedily from a little trough of baked clay. Bosambo
disturbed his tiny servant only long enough to take from its red legs a
paper that was twice the size, but of the same substance, as a
cigarette-paper.

He was no great Arabic scholar, but he read this readily, because Sanders
wrote beautiful characters.

"To the servant of God, Bosambo.

"Peace be upon your home. Take canoe and go quickly downriver. Here is to
be met the canoe of Tobolaka, the King of Isisi, and a white woman
travels therein. You shall take the white woman, though she will not go
with you; nevertheless you shall take her, and hold her for me and my
king. Let none harm her, on your head. Sanders, of the River and the
People, your friends, writes this. Obey in the name of God."

Bosambo came back to the king's messenger. "Tell me, Kilimini," he said,
"what palaver is this that the king your master has?"

"Lord, it is a marrying palaver," said the man, "and he sends you
presents."

"These I accept," said Bosambo; "but tell me, who is this woman he
marries?"

The man hesitated. "Lord," he said reluctantly, "they speak of a white
woman whom my lord loved when he was learning white men's ways."

"May he roast in hell!" said Bosambo, shocked to profanity. "But what
manner of dog is your master that he does so shameful a thing? For
between night and day is twilight, and twilight is the light of evil,
being neither one thing nor the other; and between men there is this
same. Black is black and white is white, and all that is between is foul
and horrible; for if the moon mated with the sun we should have neither
day nor night, but a day that was too dark for Work and a night that was
too light for sleep."

Here there was a subject which touched the Monrovian deeply, pierced his
armour of superficial cynicism, overset his pinnacle of self-interest.

"I tell you, Kilimini," he said, "I know white folk, having once been on
ship to go to the edge of the world. Also, I have seen nations where
white and black are mingled, and these people are without shame, with no
pride, for the half of them that is proud is swallowed by the half of
them that is shameful, and there is nothing of them but white man's
clothing and black man's thoughts."

"Lord," said Kilimini timidly, "this I know though I fear to say such
things, for my king is lately very terrible. Now we Isisi have great
sorrow because he is foolish."

Bosambo turned abruptly.

"Go now, Kilimini," he said. "Later I shall see you." He waved the
messenger out of his thoughts. Into his hut, through this to his inner
hut, he went. His wife sat on the carpeted floor of Bosambo's harem, her
brown baby on her knees.  "Heart of gold," said Bosambo, "I go to a war
palaver, obeying Sandi. All gods be with you and my fine son."

"And with you, Bosambo, husband and lord," she said calmly; "for if this
is Sandi's palaver it is good."

He left her, and sent for his fighting headman, the One-eyed Tembidini,
strong in loyalty. "I shall take one war canoe to the lower river," said
Bosambo. "See to this: fifty fighting men follow me, and you shall raise
the country and bring me an army to the place where the Isisi River turns
twice like a dying snake."

"Lord, this is war," said his headman.

"That we shall see," said Bosambo.

"Lord, it is against the Isisi?"

"Against the king. As to the people, we shall know in good time."

* * * * *

Miss Millie Tavish, seated luxuriously upon soft cushions under the
thatched roof of a deck-house, dreamt dreams of royalty and of an urbane
negro who had raised his hat to her. She watched the sweating paddlers as
they dug the water rhythmically singing a little song, and already she
tasted the joys of dominion.

She had the haziest notion of the new position she was to occupy. If she
had been told that she would share her husband with half-a-dozen other
women--and those interchangeable from time to time--she would have been
horrified.

Sanders had not explained that arrangement to her, partly because he was
a man with a delicate mind, and partly because he thought he had solved
the problem without such explanation.

She smiled a triumphant little smile every time she thought of him and
her method of outwitting him. It had been easier than she had
anticipated.

She had watched the Commissioner out of sight and had ordered the boat to
return to shore, for standing an impassive witness to her embarkation had
been the headman Tobolaka had sent. Moreover, in the letter of the king
had been a few simple words of Isisi and the English equivalent.

She thought of many things--of the busy city she had left, of the dreary
boarding-house, of the relations who had opposed her leaving, of the
little legacy which had come to her just before she sailed, and which had
caused her to hesitate, for with that she could have lived in fair
comfort.

But the glamour of a throne--even a Central African throne--was upon
her--she--Miss Tavish--Millie Tavish--a hired help--

And here was the actuality. A broad river, tree-fringed banks, high
rushes at the water edge, the feather-headed palms of her dreams showing
at intervals, and the royal paddlers with their plaintive song.

She came to earth as the paddlers ceased, not together as at a word of
command but one by one as they saw the obstruction.

There were two canoes ahead, and the locked shields that were turned to
the king's canoe were bright with red n'gola--and red n'gola means war.

The king's headman reached for his spear half-heartedly. The girl's heart
beat faster.

"Ho, Soka!" Bosambo, standing in the stern of the canoe, spoke: "Let no
man touch his spear, or he dies!" said Bosambo.

"Lord, this is the king's canoe," spluttered Soka, wiping his streaming
brow, "and you do a shameful thing, for there is peace in the land."

"So men say," said Bosambo evasively. He brought his craft round so that
it lay alongside the other. "Lady," he said in his best coast-English,
"you lib for go with me one time; I be good feller; I be big chap--no
hurt 'um--no fight 'um."

The girl was sick with terror. For all she knew, and for all she could
gather, this man was a cruel and wicked monster. She shrank back and
screamed.

"I no hurt 'um," said Bosambo. "I be dam good chap; I be Christian,
Marki, Luki, Johni; you savee dem fellers? I be same like."

She fainted, sinking in a heap to the bottom of the canoe. In an instant
Bosambo's arm was around her. He lifted her into his canoe as lightly as
though she was a child. Then from the rushes came a third canoe with a
full force of paddlers and, remarkable of a savage man's delicacy, two
women of the Ochori.

She was in the canoe when she recovered consciousness, a woman bathing
her forehead from the river. Bosambo, from another boat, watched the
operation with interest.

"Go now," he said to the chief of the paddlers, "taking this woman to
Sandi, and if ill comes to her, behold, I will take your wives and your
children and burn them alive--go swiftly." Swiftly enough they went, for
the river was high, and at the river head the floods were out.

"As for you," said Bosambo to the king's headman, "you may carry word to
your master, saying thus have I done because it was my pleasure."

"Lord," said the head of the paddlers, "we men have spoken together and
fear for our lives; yet we will go to our king and tell him, and if he
ill treats us we will come back to you." Which arrangement Bosambo
confirmed.

King Tobolaka had made preparations worthy of Independence Day to greet
his bride. He had improvised flags at the expense of his people's scanty
wardrobe. Strings of tattered garments crossed the streets, but beneath
those same strings people stood in little groups, their arms folded,
their faces lowering, and they said things behind their hands which
Tobolaka did not hear.

For he had outraged their most sacred tradition--outraged it in the face
of all protest. A rent garment, fluttering in the wind--that was the sign
of death and of graves. Wherever a little graveyard lies, there will be
found the poor wisps of cloth napping sadly to keep away devils. This
Tobolaka did not know or, if he did know, scorned. On another such
occasion he had told his councillors that he had no respect for the
'superstitions of the indigenous native', and had quoted a wise saying of
Cicero, which was to the effect that precedents and traditions were made
only to be broken.

Now he stood, ultra-magnificent, for a lokali sounding in the night had
brought him news of his bride's progress.

It is true that there was a fly in the ointment of his self-esteem. His
invitation, couched in the choicest American, to the missionaries had
been rejected. Neither Baptist nor Church of England nor Jesuit would be
party to what they, usually divergent in their views, were unanimous in
regarding as a crime.

But the fact did not weigh on Tobolaka. He was a resplendent figure in
speckless white. Across his dress he wore the broad blue ribbon of an
Order to which he was-in no sense entitled. In places of vantage,
look-out men had been stationed, and Tobolaka waited with growing
impatience for news of the canoe.

He sprang up from his throne as one of the watchers came pelting up the
street. "Lord," said the man, gasping for breath, "two war canoes have
passed."

"Fool!" said Tobolaka. "What do I care for war canoes?"

"But, lord," persisted the man, "they are of the Ochori and with them
goes Bosambo, very terrible in his war dress; and the Ochori have
reddened their shields."

"Which way did he come?" asked Tobolaka impressed in spite of himself.

"Lord," said the man, "they came from below to above."

"And what of my canoe?" asked Tobolaka.

"That we have not seen," replied the man.

"Go and watch."

Tobolaka was not as perturbed as his councillors, for he had never looked
upon reddened shields or their consequences. He waited for half an hour,
and then the news came that the canoe was rounding the point, but no
woman was there.

Half mad with rage and chagrin, Tobolaka struck down the man who brought
the intelligence. He was at the beach to meet the crestfallen headman,
and heard, his story in silence.

"Take this man," said Tobolaka, "and all the men who were with him, and
bind them with ropes. By Death! we will have a feast and a dance and some
blood!"

That night the war drums of the Isisi beat from one end of the land to
the other, and canoes filled with armed men shot out of little creeks and
paddled to the city. Tobolaka, naked save for his skin robe and his
anklets of feathers, danced the dance of quick killing, and the paddlers
of the royal canoe were publicly executed--with elaborate attention to
detail.

In the dark hours before the dawn the Isisi went out against the Ochori.
At the first flash of daylight they landed, twelve thousand strong, in
Ochori territory. Bosambo was strongly placed, and his chosen regiments
fell on the Isisi right and crumpled it up. Then he turned sharply and
struck into the Isisi main body. It was a desperate venture, but it
succeeded. Raging like a veritable devil, Tobolaka sought to rally his
personal guard, but the men of the Isisi city who formed it had no heart
for the business. They broke back to the river.

Whirling his long-handed axe (he had been a famous club swinger in the
Philadelphia seminary) Tobolaka cut a way into the heart of the Ochori
vanguard.

"Ho, Bosambo!" he called, and his voice was thick with hate. "You have
stolen my wife; first I will take your head, then I will kill Sandi, your
master."

Bosambo's answer was short, to the point, and in English: "Dam nigger!"
he said.

It needed but this. With a yelp like the howl of a wolf, Tobolaka, B.A.,
sprang at him, his axe swirling. But Bosambo moved as only a Krooman can
move. There was the flash of a brown body, the thud of an impact, and
Tobolaka was down with a steel grip at his throat and a knee like a
battering-ram in his stomach.

The Zaire came fussing up, her decks black with Houssas, the polished
barrels of her guns swung out. Sanders interviewed King Tobolaka the
First--and last.

The latter would have carried the affair off with a high hand. "Fortune
of war, Mr. Sanders," he said airily. "I'm afraid you precipitated this
conduct by your unwarrantable and provocative conduct. As Cicero says
somewhere--"

"Cut it out," said Sanders. "I want you, primarily for the killing of
Cala. You have behaved badly."

"I am a king and above criticism," said Tobolaka philosophically.

"I am sending you to the Coast for trial," said Sanders promptly.
"Afterwards, if you are lucky, you will probably be sent home--whither
Miss Tavish has already gone."



CHAPTER V


THE KILLING OF OLANDI


Chief of Sanders's spies in the wild country was Kambara, the N'gombi
man, resolute, fearless, and very zealous for his lord. He lived in the
deep of the N'gombi forest, in one of those unexpected towns perched upon
a little hill with a meandering tributary to the great river, half
ringing its base.

His people knew him for a wise and silent chief, who dispensed justice
evenhandedly, and wore about his neck the chain and medal of his office
(a wonder-working medal with a bearded face in relief and certain devil
marks).

He made long journeys, leaving his village without warning and returning
without notice. At night he would be sitting before his fire, brooding
and voiceless; in the morning he would be missing. Some of his people
said that he was a witch-doctor, practising his magic in hidden places of
the forest; others that he changed himself into a leopard by his magic
and went hunting men. Figuratively speaking, the latter was near the
truth, for Kambara was a great tracker of criminals, and there was none
so wily as could escape his relentless search.

Thus, when Bolobo, the chief, plotted a rising, it was Kambara's word
which brought Sanders and his soldiers, to the unbounded dismay of
Bolobo, who thought his secret known only to himself and his two
brothers.

It was Kambara who accomplished the undoing of Sesikmi, the great king;
it was Kambara who held the vaguely-defined border line of the N'gombi
country more effectively than a brigade of infantry against the raider
and the Arab trader.

Sanders left him to his devices, sending such rewards as his services
merited, and receiving in exchange information of a particularly valuable
character.

Kambara was a man of discretion. When Olandi of the Akasava came into the
N'gombi forest, Kambara lodged him regally, although Olandi was breaking
the law in crossing the border. But Olandi was a powerful chief and,
ordinarily, a law-abiding man, and there are crimes which Kambara
preferred to shut his eyes upon.

So he entertained Olandi for two days--not knowing that somewhere down
the little river, in Olandi's camp,  was a stolen woman who moaned and
wrung her hands and greatly desired death.

For Olandi's benefit the little village made merry, and Tisini, the wife
of Kambara, danced the dance of the two buffaloes--an exhibition which
would have been sufficient to close the doors of any London music-hall
and send its manager to hard labour.

At the same time that Olandi departed, Kambara disappeared, for there
were rumours of raiding on the frontier, and he was curious in the
interests of government.

Three weeks afterwards a man whose face none saw came swiftly and
secretly to the frontiers of the Akasava country, and with him came such
of his kindred as were closely enough related to feel the shame which
Olandi had put upon them. For Olandi of the Akasava had carried off the
favourite wife of the man, though not against her will.

This Olandi was a fine animal, tall and broad of shoulder, muscled like
an ox, arrogant and pitiless. They called him the native name for leopard
because he wore robes of that beast's skin, two so cunningly joined that
a grinning head lay over each broad shoulder.

He was a hunter and a fighting man. His shield was of wicker, delicately
patterned and polished with copal; his spears were made by the greatest
of the N'gombi craftsmen, and were burnished till they shone like silver;
and about his head he wore a ring of silver. A fine man in every way.
Some say that he aspired to the kingship of the Akasava, and that
Tombili's death might with justice be laid at his door; but as to that we
have no means of knowing the truth, for Tombili was dead when they found
him in the forest.

Men might tolerate his tyrannies, sit meekly under his drastic judgments,
might uncomplainingly accept death at his hands; but no man is so weak
that he would take the loss of his favourite wife without fighting, and
thus it came about that these men came paddling furiously through the
black night. Save for the "flip-flap" of the paddles, as they struck the
water, and the little groan which accompanied each stroke, there was no
sound.

They came to the village where Olandi lorded it just as the moon cleared
the feathery tops of the N'gombi woods. Bondondo lay white and silent
under the moon, two rows of roofs yellow thatched, and in the centre the
big rambling hut of the chief, with its verandah propped with twisted
saplings.

The secret man and his brothers made fast their two canoes and leapt
lightly to land. They made no sound, and their leader guiding them, they
went through the street like ghostly shadows.

Before the chief's hut the embers of a dull fire glowed. He hesitated
before the doors. Three huts built to form a triangle composed the
chief's habitation. To the right and left was an entrance with a hanging
curtain of skins. Likely as not Olandi slept in the third hut, which
opened from either of these.

He hesitated a moment, then he: drew aside the curtains of the right-hand
door and went in, his brother, his uncle, and his two cousins following.

A sleepy voice asked who was there,

"I come to see the lord Olandi," said the intruder.

He heard a rustle at the farthermost end of the room and the creaking of
a skin bed.

"What seek you?" said a voice, and it was that of a man used to command.

"Is that my lord?" demanded the visitor.

He had a broad-bladed elephant sword gripped fast, so keen of edge that a
man might shave the hair from the back of his hand therewith.

"I am Olandi," said the man in the darkness, and came forward.

There was absolute stillness. They who waited could hear the steady
breathing of the sleepers; they heard, too, a "whish!" such as a
civilised man hears when his womenfolk thrust a hatpin through a soft
straw shape.

Another tense silence, then: "It is as it should be," said the murderer
calmly, and softly called a name. Somebody came blundering from the inner
room sobbing with chokes and gulps. "Come," said the man, then: "Is the
foreign woman there also? Let her also go with us."

The girl called another in a low voice, and a woman joined them. Olandi
was catholic in his tastes and raided indiscriminately.

The first girl shrank back as her husband laid his hand on her arm.
"Where is my lord?" she whimpered.

"I am your lord," said the secret man dryly; "as for the other, he has no
need of women, unless there be women in hell, which is very likely."

None attempted to stop the party as it went through the street and back
to the canoes, though there were wails and meanings in Olandi's hut and
uneasy stirrings in the village.

Men hailed them sharply as they passed, saying, "Oilo?" which means, "Who
walks?" But they made no reply. Then with the river and safety before
them, there arose the village watchman who challenged the party.

He had heard the faint death-cry from Olandi's hut, and advanced his
terrible cutting-spear to emphasise his challenge. The leader leapt at
him, but the watchman parried the blow skilfully and brought the blade of
his spear down as a man of olden times might sweep his battle-axe.

The other's sword had been struck from his hold, and he put up his
defenceless arm to ward off the blow. Twice the sharp edge of the spear
slashed his hand, for in the uncertain light of the moon the watchman
misjudged his distance. Then, as he recovered for a decisive stroke, one
of the kinsmen drove at his throat, and the watchman went down, his limbs
jerking feebly. The injured man stopped long enough roughly to dress his
bleeding palm, then led his wife, shivering and talking to herself like a
thing demented, to the canoe, the second wife following.

In the early hours before the dawn four swift paddlers brought the news
to Sanders, who was sleeping aboard the Zaire, made fast to the beach of
Akasava city.

Sanders sat on the edge of his tiny bed, dangling his pyjama'd legs over
the side, and listened thoroughly--which is a kind of listening which
absorbs not only the story, but takes into account the inflexion of the
teller's voice, the sympathy--or lack of it--the rage, the despair, or
the resignation of the story-teller.

"So I see," said Sanders when the man had finished, for all four were hot
with the news and eager to supply the deficiencies of the others, "this
Olandi was killed by one whose wife he had stolen, also the watchman was
killed, but none other was injured."

"None, lord," said one of the men, "for we were greatly afraid because of
the man's brethren. Yet if they had sought to stop him, many others would
have been killed."

"If the sun were to set in the river, the waters would boil fish," quoted
Sanders. "I will find this man, whoever he be, and he shall answer for
his crime."

He reached the scene of the killing and made prompt inquiry. None had
seen the face of the secret man save the watchman--and he was dead. As
for the women--the villagers flapped their arms hopelessly. Who could say
from what nation, from what tribes, Olandi stole his women?

One, so other inmates of Olandi's house said, was undoubtedly Ochori; as
to the other, none knew her, and she had not spoken, for, so they said,
she loved the dead man and was a willing captive.

This Olandi had hunted far afield, and was a hurricane lover and a tamer
of women; how perfect a tamer Sanders discovered, for, as the Isisi
saying goes, "The man who can bribe a woman's tongue could teach a snake
to grind corn."

In a civilised country he would have found written evidence in the
chief's hut, but barbarous man establishes no clues for the prying
detective, and he must needs match primitive cunning with such powers of
reason and instinct as his civilisation had given to him.

A diligent search of the river revealed nothing. The river had washed
away the marks where the canoes had been beached. Sanders saw the bodies
of both men who had fallen without being very much the wiser. It was just
before he left the village that Abiboo the sergeant made a discovery.

There is a certain tree on the river with leaves which are credited with
extraordinary curative powers. A few paces from where the watchman fell
such a tree grew.

Abiboo found beneath its low branches a number of leaves that had been
newly plucked. Some were stained with blood, and one bore the clear
impression of a palm.

Sanders examined it carefully. The lines of the hand were clearly to be
seen on the glossy surface of the leaf, and in the centre of the palm was
an irregular cut, shaped like a roughly-drawn St. Andrew's Cross. He
carefully put the leaf away in his safe and went on to pursue his
inquiries.

Now, of all crimes difficult to detect, none offers such obstacles as the
blood feud which is based on a woman palaver. Men will speak openly of
other crimes, tell all there is to be told, be-willing--nay, eager--to
put their sometime comrade's head in the noose, if the murder be murder
according to accepted native standards. But when murder is justice, a man
does not speak; for, in the near future, might not he stand in similar
case, dependent upon the silence of his friends for very life?

Sanders searched diligently for the murderers, but none had seen them
pass. What direction they took none knew. Indeed, as soon as the motive
for the crime became evident, all the people of the river became blind.
Then it was that Sanders thought of Kambara and sent for him, but Kambara
was on the border, importantly engaged.

Sanders pursued a course to the Ochori country.

"One of these women was of your people," he said to Bosambo the chief.
"Now I desire that you shall find her husband."

Bosambo shifted his feet uneasily.

"Lord," he said, "it was no man of my people who did this. As to the
woman, many women are stolen from faraway villages, and I know nothing.
And in all these women palavers my people are as dumb beasts."

Bosambo had a wife who ruled him absolutely, and when Sanders had
departed, he writhed helplessly under her keen tongue.

"Lord and chief," she said, "why did you speak falsely to Sandi, for you
know the woman of the Ochori who was stolen was the girl Michimi of
Tasali by the river? And, behold, you yourself were in search of her when
the news of Olandi's killing came."

"These things are not for women," said Bosambo: "therefore, joy of my
life, let us talk of other things."

"Father of my child," persisted the girl, "has Michimi no lover who did
this killing, nor a husband? Will you summon the headman of Tasali by the
river and question him?"

She was interested--more interested than Bosambo.

"God is all-seeing and beneficent," he said devoutly, "Leave me now, for
I have holy thoughts and certain magical ideas for finding this killer of
Olandi, though I wish him no harm."

* * * * *

Sanders had a trick of accepting alarming statements with a disconcerting
calm. People who essayed the task of making his flesh creep had no reward
for their labours; his politely incredulous "O, ko!" which, uttered in
certain tones, means, "Oh, indeed!" made his informant curl up inwardly.

Komo, pompous to a degree, anxious to impress his lord with the fact that
he, Komo, was no ordinary chief, but a watchful, zealous, and
conscientious regent, came fussing down the river in a glad sweat to
speak of happenings on the edge of his territory.

Sanders granted the man an immediate audience though he arrived in the
dark hours of the night.

If you will visualise the scene, you have Sanders sitting up in bed in
his pyjamas, and two Houssas splashed with rain--for a thunderstorm was
raging--one of whom holds a lantern, all the light necessary to reveal a
reeking Komo, shiny and wet, who, squatting on the floor, is voluble and
ominous.

"As is my practice, lord," said Komo, "I watch men and things for your
honour's comfort, being filled with a desire to serve you. And thus it is
that I have learnt of certain things, dances and spells of evil, which
are practised by the Ochori."

"The Ochori?" Sanders was puzzled.

"By the Ochori--the trusted." There was no mistaking the arch turn to his
speech; the two words were charged with gentle irony.

"Is Bosambo dead that these things should be?" asked Sanders dryly. "Or
has he perchance joined with the dancers?"

"Lord," said Komo impressively, "Bosambo dances with his people. For,
being chief, he is the first to stamp his foot and say 'Ho!' He, too,
assists at sacrifices and is ripe for abominable treachery."

"Oh, indeed!" said Sanders, with an inward sigh of relief. "Now I tell
you this, Komo; there was once a great lord who trusted no man, nor did
he trust his household, his wives, nor his slaves, and he walked ever
with his back to the sun so that his shadow should run before him, for he
did not trust his shadow. And one day he came to a river in flood, and
behold! his shadow lay before him. And because he feared to turn his back
upon his shadow, he plunged in and was drowned."

"Lord, I have heard the story. He was a king, and a great one," said
Komo.

Sanders nodded. "Therefore, Komo, heed this: I trust all men--a little. I
trust Bosambo much, for he has been my man in fair weather and foul." He
turned to the silent Houssas. "Let this man be lodged according to his
dignity and give him a present of cloth. The palaver is finished."

And Sanders, drawing the bedclothes up to his neck, the night being cold,
turned over and was asleep before the chief and his escort had cleared
the verandah.

"A busybody," was Sanders's verdict on Komo; yet, since there is no smoke
without fire, he deemed it advisable to investigate at first hand.

Two days after the crestfallen chief had started on his way home the
Zaire passed his canoe in midstream, going the same way, and the sight of
her white hull and twin smokestacks brought consolation to Komo.

"My lord has considered my words," said he to his headman; "for at his
village they said that the puc-a-puc did not leave till the new moon
came, and here he comes, though the old moon is still sowing his rind."

"Chief," said the headman, "you are great in council, and even Sandi
hearkens and obeys. You are wiser than an owl, swift and terrible as a
hawk, and your voice is like the winds of a storm."

"You speak truly," said Komo, who had no false sense of modesty. "I am
also very cunning, as you shall see."

Sanders was indeed beating up to the Ochori country. He was perturbed,
not by reason of Komo's sinister suggestion, but because his spies had
been silent. If there were dances in the Ochori country he should have
been told, however innocent those dances were.

Pigeons had gone ahead of him to tell of his journey, and he found the
first of his agents awaiting him at the junction of the Ikeli with the
Isisi.

"Lord, it is true that the Ochori dance," said the man, "yet, knowing
your lordship trusted Bosambo, I did not make report."

"There you did wrong," said Sanders; "for I tell you that if a hawk kills
a parrot, or the crocodiles find new breeding places, I wish to know what
there is to know."

He gleaned more of these mysterious revels which Bosambo held in the
forest as he grew nearer to the Ochori country, and was more puzzled than
ever.

"Master," said the chief of the N'gombi village, "many folk go to the
Ochori dance, for Bosambo the chief has a great magic."

"What manner of magic?"

"Lord, it is a magic with whiteness," and he exhibited his hand proudly.
Straight across the reddish-brown palm was an irregular streak of white
paint. "This the lord Bosambo did," he said, "and, behold, every day this
remains will be fortunate for me."

Sanders regarded the sign with every evidence of strong emotion. Two
months before Sanders had sent many tins of white paint with instructions
to the Ochori chief that his men should seek out the boundary posts of
his kingdom--and particularly those that impinged upon foreign
territories--and restore them to startling freshness.

"Many people of the Isisi, N'gombi, and Akasava go to Bosambo," the
little chief continued; "for behold, this magic of Bosambo's wipes away
all soil. And if a man has been guilty of wickedness he is released of
punishment. I," he added proudly, "once killed my wife's father cala
cala, and frequently I have sorrowed because of this and because my wife
often reminds me. Now, lord, I am a clean man, so clean that when the
woman spoke to me this morning about my faraway sin, I hit her with my
spear, knowing that I am now innocent."

Sanders thought rapidly. "And what do you pay Bosambo for this?" he
asked.

"Nothing, lord," said the man.

"Nothing!" repeated Sanders incredulously.

"Lord, Bosambo gives his magic freely, saying he has made a vow to
strange gods to do this; and because it is free, many men go to his dance
for purification. The lord Kambara, the Silent One, he himself passed at
sunrise to-day."

Sanders smiled to himself. Kambara would have an interest in stray
confessions of guilt--That was it! The meaning of Bosambo's practice came
to him in a flash. The painting of hands--the lure of purification;
Bosambo was waiting for the man with the scarred hand.

Sanders continued his journey, tied up five miles short of the Ochori
city, and went on foot through the forest to the place of meeting. It was
dark by the time he had covered half the journey, but there was no need
of compass to guide him, even had the path been more difficult to follow.
Ahead was a dull red glow in the sky where Bosambo's fires burnt.

Four fires there were, set at the points of an imaginary square. In the
centre a round circle of stones, and in the centre again three spears
with red hafts. Bosambo had evidently witnessed, or been participant in,
an initiation ceremony of a Monrovian secret society.

Within the circle moved Bosambo, and without it, two or three deep, the
moving figures of those who sought his merciful services. Slowly he
moved. In one hand a bright tin of Government paint, in the other a
Government brush.

Sanders, from his place of observation, grinned approvingly at the
solemnity in which Bosambo clothed the ceremony.

One by one he daubed the men--a flick of the brush, a muttered
incantation, and the magic was performed.

Sanders saw Kambara in the front rank and was puzzled, for the man was in
earnest. If he had come to scoff he remained to pray. Big beads of
perspiration glistened on his forehead, the out-stretched hands were
shaking.

Bosambo approached him, lifted his brush, peered down, then with a sweep
of his arm he drew the N'gombi chief to him.

"Brother," he said pleasantly, "I have need of you."

Sanders saw what it meant, and went crashing through the undergrowth to
Bosambo's side, and the yelling throng that had closed round the
struggling pair drew back.

"Lord, here is your man!" said Bosambo, and forcibly pulled forward
Kambara's palm.

Sanders took his prisoner back to the Zaire, and from thenceforward, so
far as the crime was concerned, there was no difficulty, for Kambara told
the truth.

"Lord," he said, "my hand alone is in fault; for, though my people were
with me, none struck Olandi but I. Now do with me what you will, for my
wife hates me and I am sick for sleep."

"This is a bad palaver," said Sanders gravely, "for I trusted you."

"Lord, you may trust no man," said Kambara, "when his woman is the
palaver. I shall be glad to die, for I was her dog. And Olandi came and
stayed one night in my village, and all that I was to her and all that I
have given her was as nothing. And now she weeps all day for him, as does
the Ochori woman I took with her. And, lord, if women worship only the
dead, make an end, for I am sick of her scorn."

Sanders, with his head sunk, his hands clasped behind, his eyes examining
the floor of his cabin--they were on board the Zaire--whistled a tune, a
trick of his when he was worried.

"Go back to your village," he said. "You shall pay the family of Olandi
thirty goats and ten bags of salt for his blood."

* * * * *

"Master," said Bosambo. "I have great joy in my heart that you did not
hang this man, for it seems that Olandi did not die too soon. As for the
Ochori girl," he went on, "I would have killed Olandi on her
account--only Kambara was there first. This," he added, "I tell you,
lord, for your secret hearing, for I knew this girl."

Sanders looked at Bosambo keenly.

"They tell me that you have but one wife, Bosambo," he said.

"I have one," said Bosambo evasively, "but in my lifetime I have many
perils, of which the woman my wife knows nothing, for it is written in
the Sura of the Djinn, 'Men know best who know most, but a woman's
happiness lies in her delusions.'"



CHAPTER VI


THE PEDOMETER


Bosambo, the chief of the Ochori, was wont to style himself in moments of
magnificent conceit King of the Ochori, Lord Chief of the Elebi River,
High Herd of Untamable Buffaloes and of all Goats.

There were other titles which I forget, but I merely mention his claims
in order that I may remark that he no longer refers to the goats of his
land. There is a reason.

Hikilari, the wise old chief of the Akasava, went hunting in strange
territories. That was the year when game went unaccountably westward,
some say through the spell of M'shimba M'shamba; but, as Sanders knew,
because of the floods.

Hikilari went by river for three days and across a swamp, he and his
hunters, before they found elephant. Then they had a good kill, and his
bearers came rollicking back to Akasava city, laden with good teeth, some
weighing as much as two hundred kilos.

It was good fortune, but he paid for it tremendously, for when he yearned
to return he was troubled with extraordinary drowsiness, and had strange
pains in his head. For this he employed the native remedy, which was
binding a wire tightly round his head. None the less he grew no better,
and there came a time when Hikilari, the Wise One, rose in the middle of
the night and, going out into the main street of the village, danced and
sang foolishly, snapping his fingers.

His sons, with his nephews and his brothers, held a palaver, and the
elder of his sons, M'Kovo, an evil man, spoke thuswise:

"It seems that my father is sick with the sickness mongo, for he is now
foolish, and will soon be dead. Yet I desire that no word of this shall
go to Sandi. Let us therefore put my father away safely, saying he has
gone a long journey; and, whilst he is absent, there are many things we
may do and many enemies of whom we may rid ourselves. And if Sandi comes
with the soldiers and says, 'Why did you these things?' we shall say,
'Lord, who is chief here? A madman. We did as he bid; let it be on his
head.'"

The brother of the sick king thought it would be best to kill him
privily, but against this the king's son set his face.

"Whilst he is alive he is chief," he said significantly; "if he be dead,
be sure Sandi will find somebody to punish, and it may well be me."

For three days they kept the king to his hut, whilst witch-doctors
smeared him with red clay and ingola and chanted and put wet clay on his
eyes. At the end of that time they removed him by night to a hastily
thatched hut in the forest, and there he was left to M'Kovo's creatures.

Sanders, who knew many things of which he was supposed to be ignorant,
did not know this. He knew that Hikilari was a wise man; that he had been
on a journey; and there were no reasons why he (Sanders) should not make
a tour to investigate affairs in the Akasava.

He was collecting hut tax in the N'gombi country from a simple pastoral
people who objected on principle to pay anything, when the news came to
him that a party of Akasava folk had crossed the Ochori border, raided a
village, and, having killed the men, had expeditiously carried away the
women and goats.

Sanders was in the midst of an interminable palaver when the news came,
and the N'gombi people who squatted at his feet regarded him with
expectant hope, a hope which was expressed by a small chief who at the
moment had the ear of the assembly.

"Lord, this is bad news," he said in the friendly manner of his kind,
"and we will not trouble your lordship any farther with our grievances,
which, are very small. So, therefore, if on account of our bad crops you
remit a half of our taxation, we will go peaceably to our villages saying
good words about your honour's justice."

"You shall pay all your taxation," said Sanders brusquely. "I waste my
time talking with you."

"Remit one-third," murmured the melancholy speaker. "We are poor men, and
there has been no fish in the river--"

Sanders rose from his seat of state wearily.  "I will return with the
moon," he said, "and if all taxes be not paid, there will be sad hearts
in this village and sore backs, believe me. The palaver is finished."

He sent one messenger to the chief of the Akasava, and he himself went by
a short cut through the forest to the Ochori city, for at the
psychological moment a cylinder head on the Zaire had blown out.

He reached the Ochori by way of Elebi River, through Tunberi--which was
swamp, owing to unexpected, unseasonable, and most atrocious rains. Three
days he waded, from knee-deep to waist-high, till his arms ached
maddeningly from holding his rifle above the black ooze and mud.

And he came upon hippo and water-snake, and once the "boy" who walked
ahead yelled shrilly and went down, and Sanders himself was nearly
knocked off his feet by the quick rush of the crocodile bearing his
victim to the near-by river. At the end of three days Sanders came to the
higher land, where a man might sleep elsewhere than in trees, and where,
too, it was possible to bathe in spring water, unpack shirts from
headborne loads and count noses.

He was now a day's march from the Ochori, but considerably less than a
day's march from the Ochori army, for two hours after he had resumed his
journey he came upon the chief Bosambo and with him a thousand spears.

And Bosambo was naked, save for his kilt of monkey-tails, and in the
crook of the arm which carried his wicker shield, he carried his five
fighting spears.

He halted his army at the sight of Sanders, and came out to meet him.

"Bosambo," said Sanders quietly, "you do me honour that you bring the
pick of your fighting men to guard me."

"Lord," said Bosambo with commendable frankness, "this is no honour to
you, for I go to settle an account with the King of the Akasava."

Sanders stood before him, his head perched on one side like a bird's, and
he slapped his leg absent-mindedly with his pliant cane. "Behold," he
said, "I am he who settles all accounts as between kings and kings and
men and men, and I tell you that you go back to your city and sit in
patience whilst I do the work for which my lord the King appointed me."

Bosambo hesitated. He was pardonably annoyed.

"Go back to your city, Bosambo," said Sanders gently.

The chief squared his broad shoulders. "I am your man," he said, and
turned without another word.

Sanders stopped him before he had taken half a dozen paces. "Give me
twenty fighting men," he said, "and two canoes. You shall hold your men
in check whilst I go about the King's business."

An hour later he was going downstream as fast as a five-knot current and
his swift paddlers could take him.

He came to the Akasava city at noon of the following day, and found it
peaceable enough. M'Kovo, the king's son, came to the beach to meet him.

"Lord Sandi," he said with an extravagant gesture of surprise, "I see
that the summer comes twice in one season, for you--"

Sanders was in no mood for compliments. "Where is the old chief, your
father?" he asked.

"Master," said M'Kovo earnestly, "I will not lie to you. My father has
taken his warriors into the forest, and I fear that he will do evil."

And he told a story which was long and circumstantial, of the sudden
flaming up of an old man's rages and animosities.

Sanders listened patiently. An unwavering instinct, which he had
developed to a point where it rose superior to reason, told him that the
man was lying. Nor was his faith in his own judgment shaken when M'Kovo
produced his elder men and witnesses to his sire's sudden fit of
depravity.

But Sanders was a cunning man and full of guile. He dropped his hand of a
sudden upon the other's shoulder. "M'Kovo," he said mildly, "it seems
that your chief and father is no longer worthy. Therefore you shall dwell
in the chief's hut. Yet first you shall bring me the chief Hikilari, and
you shall bring him unhurt and he shall have his eyes. Bring him quickly,
M'Kovo."

"Lord," said M'Kovo sullenly, "he will not come, and how may I force him,
for he has many warriors with him?"

Sanders thought the matter out. "Go now," he said after a while, "and
speak with him, telling him that I await him."

"Lord, that I will do," said M'Kovo, "but I cannot go till night because
I fear your men will follow me, and my father, seeing them, will put me
to death." Sanders nodded.

That night, M'Kovo came to him ready for his journey, and Sanders took
from his pocket a round silver box.

"This you shall hang about your neck," he said, "that your father may
know you come from me."

M'Kovo hung the round box by a piece of string and walked quickly toward
the forest. Two miles on the forest path he met his cousins and brothers,
an apprehensive assembly. "My stomach is sick with fear," said his elder
cousin Tangiri, "for Sandi has an eye that sees through trees."

"You are a fool," snarled M'Kovo; "for Sandi is a bat who sees nothing.
What of Hikilari, my father?"

His younger brother extended the point of his spear and M'Kovo saw that
it was caked brown with blood.

"That was best," he said. "Now we will all go to sleep, and in the
morning I will go back to Sandi and tell him a tale."

In the morning his relatives scratched his legs with thorns and threw
dust over him, and an hour later, artificially exhausted, he staggered to
the hut before which Mr. Commissioner Sanders sat at breakfast.

Sanders glanced keenly at the travel-worn figure. "My friend," he said
softly, "you have come a long way?"

"Lord," said M'Kovo, weak of voice, "since I left you I have not rested
save before my father, who sent me away with evil words concerning your
honour."

And the exact and unabridged text of those 'evil words' he delivered with
relish.

Sanders reached down and took the little silver box that lay upon the
heaving chest.

"And this you showed to your father?" he asked.

"Lord, I showed him this," repeated the man.

"And you travelled through the night--many miles?"

"Master, I did as I have told," M'Kovo replied.

Sanders touched a spring, and the case of the box flew open. There was
revealed a dial like that of a watch save that it contained many little
hands. M'Kovo watched curiously as Sanders examined the instrument.

"Look well at this, M'Kovo," said Sanders dryly; "for it is a small devil
which talks truly--and it tells me that you have travelled no farther
than a man may walk in the time that the full moon climbs a tree."

The Zaire had arrived during the night, and a Houssa guard stood waiting.
Sanders slipped the pedometer into his pocket, gave a characteristic jerk
of his head, and Sergeant Abiboo seized his prisoner.

"Let him sit in irons," said Sanders in Arabic, "and take six men along
the forest road and bring me any man you may find."

Abiboo returned in an hour with four prisoners, and they were very
voluble--too voluble for the safety of M'Kovo and his younger brother,
for by night Sanders had discovered a forest grave where Hikilari the
wise chief lay. It was under a tree with wide-spreading branches, and was
eminently suitable for the sequel to that tragedy.

* * * * *

Bosambo was not to blame for every crime laid at his door. He had a feud
with the Akasava, not without reason. The death of M'Kovo his enemy was
not sufficient to extinguish the obligation, for the Akasava had spilt
blood, and that rankled for many months. He was by nature a thief, being
a Krooman from the Liberian coast before he came to be king over the
simple and fearful Ochori.

So when all the trouble between the Akasava and Ochori seemed at rest,
Sanders had occasion to come to the Ochori country in a hurry--and the
river was low.

There is no chart of the big river worth two cents in the dry season,
because unexpected sand banks come barking up in the fairway, and there
are whole stretches of river wherein less than a fathom of water runs.
Sometimes the boy sitting on the bow of the Zaire, thrusting a pliant rod
into the stream, would cry through his nose that there were two fathoms
of water when there was but one.

He was, as I have beforetime said, of the Kano folk, and somewhat
religious, dreaming of a pilgrimage to Mecca, and a green band round his
tarboosh.

"I declare to you the glory of God and a fathom and a little."

Bump!

"Get overboard, you talkative devil!" said Sanders, who was more annoyed
because this was the fourteenth bank he had struck since he left
headquarters. So the whole crew jumped waist deep into the water, and
singing a little song as they toiled, pushed the boat clear.

Sanders struck his thirty-ninth bank just before he came to the village
of Ochori, and he landed in a most unamiable mood.

"Bosambo," he said, "I have two minds about you--the one is to hang you
for your many wickednesses, the other is to whip you."

"Master," said Bosambo with grave piety, "all things shall be as
ordained."

"Have no fear but that it will be one or the other," warned the
Commissioner. "I am no dog that I should run from one end of the state to
the other because a thieving black man raids in forbidden territory."

Bosambo, whose guilty conscience suggested many reasons for the
unexpected visit of the Commissioner, seemed less genuinely astonished.
"Master, I am no nigger," he said, "being related by birth and previous
marriages to several kings, also--"

"You are a liar," said Sanders, fuming, "and related by birth and
marriage to the father of liars; and I did not come to talk about your
uninteresting family, but rather to discuss a matter of night raiding."

"As to night raiding," said Bosambo frankly, "I know nothing about that.
I went with my councillors to the Akasava, being anxious to see the new
chief and tell him of my love; also," he said piously, "to say certain
Christian prayers by the grave of my enemy, for, as you know, lord, our
faith teaches this."

"By night you went," said Sanders, ignoring the challenge of 'our faith',
"and Akasava city may easily be gained in broad daylight; also, when the
Akasava fell upon you, you had many goats tied up in your canoes."

"They were my goats," said Bosambo with dignity. "These I brought with me
as a present to the new chief."

In his exasperation Sanders swore long and fluently. "Blood has paid for
blood," he said wrathfully, "and there shall be no more raidings. More
than this, you shall stay in this city and shall not move therefrom till
you have my word."

"Lord Sandi," said Bosambo, "I hear to obey."

A light of unholy joy came momentarily into the eyes of the Commissioner,
flickered a moment, and was gone, leaving his face impassive. "You know,
Bosambo," he said mildly--for him, "that I have great faith in you;
therefore I leave you a powerful fetish, who shall be as me in my
absence."

He took from the pocket of his uniform jacket a certain round box of
silver, very pleasant to the touch, being somewhat like a flattened egg.
Sanders had set his pedometer that morning.

"Take this and wear it for my sake," he said. Bosambo threaded a chain
through its loop of silver and hung it about his neck.

"Lord," he said gratefully, "you have done this thing before the eyes of
my people, and now they will believe all I tell them regarding your love
for me."

Sanders left the Ochori city next morning. "Remember," he warned, "you do
not go beyond the borders of your city."

"Master," said Bosambo, "I sit fasting and without movement until your
lordship returns."

He watched the Zaire until she was a white speck on the placid face of
the water; then he went to his hut. Very carefully he removed the silver
case from his neck and laid it in the palm of his hand.

"Now, little devil," he addressed it, "who watches the coming and going
of men, I think I will learn all about you. O hanger of M'Kovo!"

He pressed the knob--he had once possessed a watch, and was wise in the
way of stem springs--the case flew open, and showed him the little dials.
He shook the instrument violently, and heard a faint clicking. He saw a
large hand move across the second of a circle. Bearing the pedometer in
his hand, he paced the length of the village street, and at every pace
the instrument clicked and the hand moved. When he was still it did not
move.

"Praise be to all gods!" said Bosambo. "Now I know you, O Talker! For I
have seen your wicked tongue wagging, and I know the manner of your
speech."

He made his way slowly back to his hut. Before the door his new baby, the
light of his eyes, sprawled upon a skin rug, clutching frantically at the
family goat, a staid veteran, tolerant of the indignities which a small
brown man-child might put upon him.

Bosambo stopped to rub the child's little brown head and pat the goat's
sleek neck.

Then he went into the hut, carefully removed the tell-tale instrument
from the chain at his neck, and hid it with other household treasures in
a hole beneath his bed. At sundown his lokali brought the fighting men
together.

"We go to the Akasava," he said, addressing them briefly, "for I know a
village that is fat with corn and the stolen goats of the Ochori. Also
the blood of our brothers calls us, though not so loudly as the goats."

He marched away, and was gone three days, at the end of which time he
returned minus three men--for the Akasava village had resisted his
attentions strenuously--but bringing with him some notable loot.

News travels fast on the river, especially bad news, and this reached
Sanders, who, continuing his quest for hut tax, had reached the Isisi.

On the top of this arrived a messenger from the Akasava chief, and
Sanders went as fast as the Zaire could carry him to the Ochori city.
Bosambo heard of his coming.

"Bring me, O my life and pride," he said to his wife, "a certain silver
box which is under my bed; it is so large and of such a shape."

"Lord," said his wife, "I know the box well."

He slipped the loop of the string that held it over his head, and in all
calmness awaited his master's coming.

Sanders was very angry indeed, so angry that he was almost polite to his
erring chief.

"Lord," said Bosambo, when the question was put to him, "I have not left
my city by day or by night. As you, find me, so have I been--sitting
before my hut thinking of holy things and your lordship's goodness."

"Give me that box," said Sanders. He took it in his hand and snapped it
open. He looked at the dials for a long time; then he looked at Bosambo,
and that worthy man returned his glance without embarrassment.

"Bosambo," said Sanders, "my little devil tells me that you have
travelled for many miles--"

"Lord," said the bewildered chief, "if it says that it lies,"

"It is true enough for me," said Sanders. "Now I tell you that you have
gone too far, and therefore I fine you and your people fifty goats, also
I increase your taxation, revoke your hunting privileges in the Isisi
forest, and order you to find me fifty workmen every day to labour in the
Government service."

"Oh, ko!" groaned Bosambo, standing on one leg in his anguish. "That is
just, but hard, for I tell you. Lord Sandi, that I did raid the Akasava,
yet how your devil box should know this I cannot tell, for I wrapped it
in cloth and hid it under my bed."

"You did not carry it?" asked Sanders incredulously.

"I speak the truth, and my wife shall testify," said Bosambo. He called
her by name, and the graceful Kano girl who domineered him came to the
door of his hut.

"Lord, it is true," she said, "for I have seen it, and all the people
have seen it, even while my lord Bosambo was absent." She stooped down
and lifted her fat baby from the dust. "This one also saw it," she said,
the light of pride in her eyes, "and to please my Lord Bosambo's son, I
hung it round the neck of Neta the goat. Did I wrong?"

"Bright eyes," said Bosambo, "you can do no wrong, yet tell me, did Neta
the goat go far from the city?"

The woman nodded. "Once only," she said. "She was gone for a day and a
night, and I feared for your box, for this is the season when goats are
very restless."

Bosambo turned to his overlord.

"You have heard, O Sandi," he said. "I am in fault, and will pay the
price."

"That you will," said Sanders, "for the other goat has done no wrong."



CHAPTER VII


THE BROTHER OF BOSAMBO


Bosambo was a Monrovian. Therefore he was a thief. For just as most
Swedes are born fair and with blue eyes, and most Spaniards come into
this world with swarthy skins, so all Monrovians come into this life
constitutionally dishonest.

In another place I have told the story of the chief's arrival in
Sanders's territory, of the audacious methods by which he usurped the
throne, of that crazy stool of chieftainship, and I hinted at the sudden
and unexpected ends, discreditable to Bosambo, which befell the rightful
heirs to the chieftainship.

Bosambo was a good man by many standards--Christian and pagan. He ruled
his people wisely, and extracted more revenue in one year than any
previous chief had taken from the lazy Ochori in ten years.

Incidentally he made an excellent commission, for it was Bosambo's way to
collect one for the Government and two for himself. He had in those
far-off days, if I remember rightly, been an unruly subject of the
President of Liberia. Before a solemn tribunal he had been convicted of
having stolen a buoy-bell which had been placed in the fairway to warn
navigators of a wreck, and had converted the same to his own use. He had
escaped from captivity and, after months of weary travelling, had arrived
in the Ochori country.

Sanders had found him a loyal man, and trusted him in all matters
affecting good government. There were others who did not trust Bosambo at
all--notably certain chiefs of the Isisi, of the Akasava, and of the
N'gombi.

These men had measured their wits with the foreigner, the ruler of the
Ochori, and been worsted. And because of certain courageous acts
performed in the defence of his country it was well known from one end of
the territories to the other that Bosambo was "well loved by Sandi," who
rumour said--in no complimentary manner--was related to the chief.

As how this rumour arose Bosambo knows best. It is an elementary fact
that travelling news accumulates material in its transit. Thus it came
about that in Monrovia, and in Liberia itself, the fame of the ex-convict
grew apace, and he was exalted to a position which he never pretended to
occupy. I believe a Liberian journal, published by a black man, or men,
so far forgot the heinous offence of which Bosambo stood convicted as to
refer to him as "our worthy fellow-citizen, Mr. Bosambo, High
Commissioner for the Ochori."

He was a wealthy prince; he was a king. He was above Commissioner Sanders
in point of importance. He was even credited with exercising an influence
over the Home Government which was without parallel in the history of the
Coast.

Bosambo had relatives along the Coast, and these discovered themselves in
ratio with his greatness. He had a brother named Siskolo, a tall, bony,
and important man. Siskolo was first in importance by reason of the fact
that he had served on one of his Majesty's ships as a Krooman, that he
had a smattering of English, and that he had, by strict attention to
business during the period of his contact with white men, stolen
sufficient to set him up in Liberia as a native storekeeper. He was
called Mr. Siskolo, and had ambitions at some future period to become a
member of the Legislative Council.

It cannot be said with truth that the possession of a brother such as
Bosambo was gave him any cause for pride or exaltation during the time
when Bosambo's name in Liberia was synonymous with mud. It is even on
record that after having denied the relationship he referred to
Bosambo--when the relationship was a certainty beyond dispute--as a "low
nigger."

When the Liberian Government, in its munificence, offered an adequate
reward for the arrest of this lawbreaker, Mr. Siskolo, in the most
public-spirited way, through the columns of the Press, offered to add a
personal reward of his own.

Then the public attitude of Liberia changed towards Bosambo, and with
this change Siskolo's views upon his brother also underwent a change.
Then came a time when Bosambo was honoured in his own land, and men spoke
of him proudly, and, as I have indicated, even the public Press wrote of
him in terms of pride.

Now Mr. Siskolo, as is recounted, gathered around him all people who were
nearly or distantly related to him, and they ranged from the pure
aboriginal grandfather to the frock-coated son-in-law, who ran a boot
factory in Liberia.

"My friends and my comrades," said Mr. Siskolo oracularly, "you all know
that my dear brother Bosambo has now a large territory, and is honoured
beyond any other coloured man upon this coast. Now I have loved Bosambo
for many years, and often in the night I have wrestled in prayer for his
safety. Also, I have spoken well about him to all the white men I have
met, and I have on many occasions sent him large sums of money by
messenger. If this money has not been received," continued Mr. Siskolo
stoutly, "it is because the messengers were thieves, or robbers may have
set upon them by the wayside. But all my clerks and the people who love
me know that I sent this money, also I have sent him letters praising
him, and giving him great riches."

He paused, did Mr. Siskolo, and thrust a bony hand into the pockets of
the dress trousers he had acquired from the valet of the French Consul.
"I have called you together," he said slowly "because I am going to make
a journey into the country, and I am going to speak face to face with my
beloved brother. For I hear that he has many treasures in his land, and
it is not good that he should be so rich, and we, all of us who are
related to him in blood, and have loved him and prayed for him for so
many years, should be poor."

None of the relations who squatted or sat about the room denied this.
Indeed, there was a murmur of applause, not unmixed, however, with
suspicion, which was voiced by one Lakiro, popularly supposed to be
learned in the law.

"All this is fine talk, Siskolo," he said; "yet how shall we know in what
proportion our dear relation Bosambo will desire to distribute his wealth
amongst those of us who love him?"

This time the applause was unmistakable.

Mr. Siskolo said haughtily: "After I have received treasure from my dear
brother Bosambo--my own brother, related to me in blood, as you will all
understand, and no cousin, as you are--after this brother of mine, whom I
have loved so dearly and for so long, has given me of his treasure, I
will take my half, and the other half I will distribute evenly among
you."

Lakiro assumed his most judicial air. "It seems to me," he said, "that as
we are all blood relations, and have brought money for this journey which
you make, Siskolo, and you yourself, so far as I know, are not finding so
much as a dollar, our dear friend and relative Bosambo would be better
pleased if his great gifts were distributed equally, though perhaps"--and
he eyed the back-country brethren who had assembled, and who were
listening uncomprehendingly to a conversation which was half in English
and half in Monrovian--"it would be better to give less to those who have
no need of money, or less need than we who have acquired by our high
education, expensive and luxurious tastes, such as champagne, wine and
other noble foods."

For two days and the greater part of two nights the relations of Bosambo
argued over the distribution of the booty which they so confidently
anticipated. At the end of a fortnight Siskolo departed from Liberia on a
coasting steamer, and in the course of time he arrived at Sanders's
headquarters.

Now it may be said that the civilised native--the native of the frock
coat and the top hat--was Mr. Commissioner Sanders's pet abomination. He
also loathed all native men who spoke English--however badly they spake
it--with the sole exception of Bosambo himself, whose stock was exhausted
within fifty words. Yet he listened patiently as Siskolo unfolded his
plan, and with the development of the scheme something like a holy joy
took its place in Sanders's soul. He even smiled graciously upon this
black man.

"Go you, Siskolo," he said gently. "I will send a canoe to carry you to
your brother. It is true, as you say, that he is a great chief, though
how rich he may be I have no means of knowing. I have not your wonderful
eyes."

Siskolo passed over the insult without a word. "Lord Sandi," he said,
dropping into the vernacular, for he received little encouragement to
proceed in the language which was Sanders's own. "Lord Sandi, I am glad
in my heart that I go to see my brother Bosambo, that I may take him by
the hand. As to his treasure, I do not doubt that he has more than most
men, for Bosambo is a very cunning man, as I know. I am taking him rich
presents, amongst them a clock, which goes by machinery, from my own
store, which could not be bought at any Coast port under three dollars,
and also lengths and pieces of cloth."

Mr. Siskolo was up early in a morning of July. Mr. Siskolo in a tall
hat--his frock coat carefully folded and deposited in the little
deckhouse on the canoe, and even his trousers protected against the
elements by a piece of cardboard box--set out on the long journey which
separated him from his beloved brother.

In a country where time does not count, and where imagination plays a
very small part, travelling is a pleasant though lengthy business. It was
a month and three days before Siskolo came to the border of his brother's
territory. He was two miles from Ochori city when he arrayed himself in
the hat, the frock coat, and the trousers of civilisation that he might
make an entry in a manner befitting one who was of kin to a great and
wealthy prince.

Bosambo received the news of his brother's arrival with something akin to
perturbation. "If this man is indeed my brother," he said, "I am a happy
man, for he owes me four dollars he borrowed cala-cala and has never
repaid."

Yet he was uneasy. Relations have a trick of producing curious disorder
in their hosts. This is hot peculiar to any race or colour, and it was
with a feeling of apprehension that Bosambo in his state dress went
solemnly in procession to meet his brother.

In his eagerness Siskolo stepped out of the canoe before it was grounded,
and waded ashore to greet his brother, "You are indeed my brother--my own
brother Bosambo," he said, and embraced him tenderly. "This is a glorious
day to me."

"To me," said Bosambo, "the sun shines twice as bright and the little
birds sing very loudly, and I feel so glad, that I could dance. Now tell
me, Siskolo," he went on, striking a more practical note, "why did you
come all this way to see me? For I am a poor man, and have nothing to
give you."

"Bosambo," said Siskolo reproachfully, "I bring you presents of great
value. I do not desire so much as a dollar. All I wish is to see your
beautiful face and to hear your wise words which men speak about from one
end of the country to the other."

Siskolo took Bosambo's hands again. There was a brief halt whilst Siskolo
removed the soaked trousers--"for," he explained, "these cost me three
dollars."

Thus they went into the city of the Ochori--arm in arm, in the white
man's fashion--and all the city gazed spellbound at the spectacle of a
tall, slim man in a frock coat and top hat with a wisp of white shirt
fluttering about his legs walking in an attitude of such affectionate
regard with Bosambo their chief.

Bosambo placed at the disposal of his brother his finest hut. For his
amusement he brought along girls of six different tribes to dance before
this interested member of the Ethiopian Church. Nothing that he could
devise, nothing that the unrewarded labours of his people could perform,
was left undone to make the stay of his brother a happy and a memorable
time.

Yet Siskolo was not happy. Despite the enjoyment he had in all the happy
days which Bosambo provided of evidence of his power, of his popularity,
there still remained a very important proof which Siskolo required of
Bosambo's wealth.

He broached the subject one night at a feast given in his honour by the
chief, and furnished, it may be remarked in parenthesis, by those who sat
about and watched the disposal of their most precious goods with some
resentment.

"Bosambo, my brother," said Siskolo, "though I love you, I envy you. You
are a rich man, and I am a very poor man and I know that you have many
beautiful treasures hidden away from view."

"Do not envy me, Siskolo," said Bosambo sadly, "for though I am a chief
and beloved by Sandi, I have no wealth. Yet you, my brother, and my
friend, have more dollars than the grains of the sand. Now you know I
love you," Bosambo went on breathlessly, for the protest was breaking
from the other's lips, "and I do these things without desire of reward. I
should feel great pain in my heart if I thought you should offer me
little pieces of silver. Yet, if you do so desire, knowing how humble I
am before your face, I would take what you gave me not because I wish for
riches at your hands, but because I am a poor man."

Siskolo's face was lengthening.

"Bosambo," he said, and there was less geniality in his tone, "I am also
a poor man, having a large family and many relations who are also your
relations, and I think it would be a good thing if you would offer me
some fine present that I might take back to the Coast, and, calling all
the people together, say 'Behold, this was given to me in a far country
by Bosambo, my brother, who is a great chief and very rich.'"

Bosambo's face showed no signs of enthusiasm. "That is true," he said
softly, "it would be a beautiful thing to do, and I am sick in my heart
that I cannot do this because I am so poor."

This was a type of the conversation which occupied the attention of the
two brothers whenever the round of entertainments allowed talking space.
Bosambo was a weary man at the end of ten days, and cast forth hints
which any but Bosambo's brother would have taken.

It was:

"Brother," he said, "I had a dream, last night that your family were sick
and that your business was ruined. Now I think that if you go swiftly to
your home--"

Or:

"Brother, I am filled with Sorrow, for the season approaches in our land
when all strangers suffer from boils."

But Siskolo countered with neatness and resolution, for was he not
Bosambo's brother?

The chief was filled with gloom and foreboding. As the weeks passed and
his brother showed no signs of departing, Bosambo took his swiftest canoe
and ten paddlers and made his way to the I'kan where Sanders was
collecting taxes. "Master," said Bosambo, squatting on the deck before
the weary Commissioner, "I have a tale to tell you."

"Let it be such a tale," said Sanders, "as may be told between the
settling of a mosquito and the sting of her."

"Lord, this is a short tale," said Bosambo sadly, "but it is a very bad
tale--for me."

And he told the story of the unwelcome brother.

"Lord," he went on, "I have done all that a man can do, for I have given
him food that was not quite good; and one night my young men played a
game, pretending, in their love of me, that they were certain fierce men
of the Isisi, though your lordship knows that they are not fierce, but--"

"Get on! Get on!" snarled Sanders, for the day had been hot, and the
taxpayers more than a little trying.

"Now I come to you, my master and lord," said Bosambo, "knowing that you
are very wise and cunning, and also that you have the powers of gods.
Send my brother away from me, for I love him so much that I fear I will
do him an injury."

Sanders was a man who counted nothing too small for his
consideration--always excepting the quarrels of women. For he had seen
the beginnings of wars in pin-point differences, and had watched an
expedition of eight thousand men march into the bush to settle a palaver
concerning a cooking-pot.

He thought deeply for a while, then: "Two moons ago," he said, "there
came to me a hunting man of the Akasava, who told me that in the forest
of the Ochori, on the very border of the Isisi, was a place where five
trees grew in the form of a crescent--"

"Praise be to God and to His prophet Mohammed," said the pious Bosambo,
and crossed himself with some inconsequence.

"In the form of a crescent," Sanders went on, "and beneath the centre
tree, so said this young man of the Akasava, is a great store of dead
ivory" (i.e, old ivory which has been buried or stored.)

He stopped and Bosambo looked at him. "Such stories are often told," he
said.

"Let it be told again," said Sanders significantly.

Intelligence dawned on Bosambo's eyes. Two days later he was again in his
own city, and at night he called his brother to a secret palaver.

"Brother," he said, "for many days have I thought about you and how I
might serve you best. As you know, I am a poor man."

"A king is a poor man and a beggar is poorer," quoted Siskolo, insolently
incredulous.

Bosambo drew a long breath. "Now I will tell you something," he said,
lowering his voice. "Against my old age and the treachery of a disloyal
people I have stored great stores of ivory. I have taken this ivory from
my people. I have won it in bloody battles. I have hunted many elephants.
Siskolo, my brother," he went on, speaking under stress of emotion, "all
this I give you because I love you and my beautiful relations. Go now in
peace, but do not return, for when my people learn that you are seeking
the treasures of the nation they will not forgive you and, though I am
their chief, I cannot hold them."

All through the night they sat, Bosambo mournful but informative, Siskolo
a-quiver with excitement, At dawn the brother left by water for the
border-line of the Isisi, where five trees grew in the form of a
crescent.

* * * * *

"Lord," said Bosambo, a bitter and an injured man, "I have been a
Christian, a worshipper of devils, a fetish man and now I am of the true
faith--though as to whether it is true I have reason to doubt." He stood
before Sanders at headquarters. Away down by the little quay on the river
his sweating paddlers were lying exhausted, for Bosambo had come by the
river day and night.

Sanders did not speak. There was a twinkle in his eye, and a smile
hovered at the corners of his mouth.

"And it seems to me," said Bosambo tragically, "that none of the gods
loves me."

"That is your palaver," said Sanders, "and remember your brother loves
you more than ever."

"Master," said Bosambo, throwing out his arms in despair, "did I know
that beneath the middle tree of five was buried ten tusks of ivory? Lord,
am I mad that I should give this dog such blessed treasure? I thought--"

"I also thought it was an old man's story," said Sanders gently.

"Lord, may I look?"

Sanders nodded, and Bosambo walked to the end of the verandah and looked
across the sea.

There was a smudge of smoke on the horizon. It was the smoke of the
departing mail-boat which carried Siskolo and his wonderful ivory back to
Monrovia.

Bosambo raised a solemn fist and cursed the disappearing vessel.

"O brother!" he wailed. "O devil! O snake! Nigger Nigger! Dam' nigger!"

Bosambo wept.



CHAPTER VIII


THE CHAIR OF THE N'GOMBI


The N'gombi people prized a certain chair beyond all other treasures. For
it was made of ivory and native silver, in which the N'gombi are clever
workers. Upon this chair sat kings, great warriors, and chiefs of people;
also favoured guests of the land.

Bosambo of the Ochori went to a friendly palaver with the king of the
N'gombi, and sat upon the chair and admired it. After he had gone away,
four men came to the village by night and carried off the treasure, and
though the King of N'gombi and his councillors searched the land from one
end to the other the chair was never found.

It might never have been found but for a Mr. Wooling, a trader and man of
parts. He was known from one end of the coast to the other as a wonderful
seller of things, and was by all accounts rich. One day he decided to
conquer new worlds and came into Sanders's territory with complete faith
in his mission, a cargo of junk, and an intense curiosity.

Hitherto, his trading had been confined to the most civilised stretches
of the country--to places where the educated aboriginal studied the rates
of exchange and sold their crops forward. He had long desired to tread a
country where heathenism reigned and where white men were regarded as
gods and were allowed to swindle on magnificent scale.

Wooling had many shocks, not the least of which was the discovery that
gin, even when it was German gin in square bottles, gaudily labelled and
enclosed in straw packets, was not regarded as a marketable commodity by
Sanders.

"You can take anything you like," said Sanders, waving his fly-whisk
lazily, "but the bar is up against alcohol and firearms, both of which,
in the hands of an enthusiastic and experimental people, are peculiarly
deadly."

"But, Mr. Sanders!" protested the woolgatherer, with the confident little
smile which represented seventy-five per cent of his stock-in-trade. "I
am not one of these new chums straight out from home! Damn it! I know the
people, I speak all their lingo, from Coast talk to Swahili."

"You don't speak gin to them, anyway," said Sanders; "and the palaver may
be regarded as finished."

And all the persuasive eloquence of Mr. Wooling did not shift the
adamantine Commissioner; and the trader left with a polite reference to
the weather, and an unspoken condemnation of an officious swine of a
British jack-in-office which Sanders would have given money to have
heard.

Wooling went up-country and traded to the best of his ability without the
alluring stock, which had been the long suit in his campaign, and if the
truth be told--and there is no pressing reason why it should not--he did
very well till he tied up one morning at Ochori city and interviewed a
chief whose name was Bosambo.

Wooling landed at midday, and in an hour he had arrayed his beautiful
stores on the beach. They included Manchester cotton goods from Belgium,
genuine Indian junk from Birmingham, salt which contained a sensible
proportion of good river sand, and similar attractive bargains.

His visit to the chief was something of an event. He found Bosambo
sitting before his tent in a robe of leopard skins. "Chief," he said in
the flowery manner of his kind, "I, have come many weary days through the
forest and against the current of the river, that I may see the greatness
of all kings, and I bring you a present from the King of England, who is
my personal friend and is distantly related to me."

And with some ceremony he handed to his host a small ikon representing a
yellow St. Sebastian perforated with purple arrows--such as may be
purchased from any manufacturer on the Baltic for three cents wholesale.

Bosambo received the gift gravely.

"Lord," he said, "I will put this with other presents which the King has
sent me, some of which are of great value, such as a fine bedstead of
gold, a clock of silver, and a crown so full of diamonds that no man has
ever counted them."

He said this easily; and the staggered Mr. Wooling caught his breath.

"As to this beautiful present," said Bosambo, handling the ikon
carelessly, and apparently repenting of his decision to add it to his
collection, "behold, to show how much I love you--as I love all white
lords--I give it to you, but since it is a bad palaver that a present
should be returned, you shall give me ten silver dollars: in this way
none of us shall meet with misfortune."

"Chief," said Mr. Wooling, recovering himself with a great effort, "that
is a very beautiful present, and the King will be angry when he hears
that you have returned it, for there is a saying, 'Give nothing which has
been given,' and that is the picture of a very holy man.'"

Bosambo looked at the ikon. "It is a very holy man," he agreed, "for I
see that it is a picture of the blessed Judas--therefore you shall have
this by my head and by my soul."

In the end Mr. Wooling compromised reluctantly on a five-dollar basis,
throwing in the ikon as a sort of ecclesiastical makeweight.

More than this, Bosambo bought exactly ten dollars' worth of merchandise,
including a length of chiffon, and paid for them with money. Mr. Wooling
went away comforted.

It was many days before he discovered amongst his cash ten separate and
distinct dollar pieces that were unmistakably bad and of the type which
unscrupulous Coast houses sell at a dollar a dozen to the traders who
deal with the unsophisticated heathen.

Wooling got back to the Coast with a profit which was fairly elusive
unless it was possible to include experience on the credit side of the
ledger. Six months later, he made another trip into the interior,
carrying a special line of talking-machines, which were chiefly
remarkable for the fact that the sample machine which he exhibited was a
more effective instrument than the one he sold.

Here again he found himself in Ochori city. He had, in his big trading
canoe, one phonograph and twenty-four things that looked like
phonographs, and were in point of fact phonographs with this difference,
that they had no workable interiors, and phonographs without mechanism
are a drug upon the African market.

Nevertheless, Bosambo purchased at the ridiculously low price offered,
and the chief viewed with a pained and reproachful mien the exhaustive
tests which Mr. Wooling applied to the purchase money.

"Lord," said Bosambo, gently, "this money is good money, for it was sent
to me by my half-brother Sandi."

"Blow your half-brother Sandi," said Wooling, in energetic English, and
to his amazement the chief replied in the same language:

"You make um swear--you lib for hell, one time--you say damn words you
not fit for make angel."

Wooling, arriving at the next city--which was N'gombi--was certainly no
angel, for he had discovered that in some mysterious fashion he had sold
Bosambo the genuine phonograph, and had none wherewith to beguile his new
client.

He made a forced journey back to Ochori city and discovered Bosambo
entertaining a large audience with a throaty presentment of the "Holy
City."

As the enraged trader stamped his way through the long, straggling
street, there floated to him on the evening breeze the voice of the
far-away tenor:

"Jer-u-salem! Jer-u-salem! Sing for the night is o'er!"

"Chief!" said Mr. Wooling hotly, "this is a bad palaver, for you have
taken my best devil box, which I did not sell you."

"Last night I lay a sleeping, There came a dream so fair," sang the
phonograph soulfully.

"Lord," said Bosambo, "this devil box I bought--paying you with dollars
which your lordship ate fearing they were evil dollars."

"By your head, you thief!" swore Wooling, "I sold you this." And he
produced from under his arm the excellent substitute.

"Lord," said Bosambo, humbly enough, "I am sorry."

He switched off the phonograph. He dismounted the tin horn with reluctant
fingers; with his own hands he wrapped it in a piece of the native
matting and handed it to the trader, and Wooling, who had expected
trouble, 'dashed' his courteous host a whole dollar.

"Thus I reward those who are honest," he said magnificently.

"Master," said Bosambo, "that we may remember one another kindly, you
shall keep one half of this and I the other." And with no effort he broke
the coin in half, for it was made of metal considerably inferior to
silver.

Wooling was a man not easily abashed, yet it is on record that in his
agitation he handed over a genuine dollar and was half way back to
Akasava city before he realised his folly. Then he laughed to himself,
for the phonograph was worth all the trouble, and the money.

That night he assembled the Akasava to hear the "Holy City"--only to
discover that he had again brought away from Ochori city the
unsatisfactory instrument he had taken.

In the city of the Ochori all the night a wheezy voice acclaimed
Jerusalem to the admiration and awe of the Ochori people.

"It is partly your own fault," said Sanders, when the trader complained.
"Bosambo was educated in a civilised community, and naturally has a way
with his fingers which less gifted people do not possess."

"Mr. Sanders," said the woolgatherer earnestly, "I've traded this coast,
man and boy, for sixteen years, and there never was and there never will
be," he spoke with painful emphasis, "an eternally condemned native
nigger in this inevitably-doomed-by-Providence world who can get the
better of Bill Wooling."

All this he said, employing in his pardonable exasperation certain lurid
similes which need not be reproduced.

"I don't like your language," said Sanders. "but I admire your
determination."

Such was the determination of Mr. Wooling, in fact, that a month later he
returned with a third cargo, this time a particularly fascinating one,
for it consisted in the main of golden chains of surprising thickness
which were studded at intervals with very rare and precious pieces of
coloured glass.

"And this time," he said to the unmoved Commissioner, who for want of
something better to do, had come down to the landing-stage to see the
trader depart, "this time this Bosambo is going to get it abaft the
collar."

"Keep away from the N'gombi people," said Sanders, "they are
fidgety--that territory is barred to you."

Mr. Wooling made a resentful noise, for he had laid down an itinerary
through the N'gombi country, which is very rich in gum and rubber. He
made a pleasant way through the territories, for he was a glib man and
had a ready explanation for those who complained bitterly about the
failing properties of their previous purchases.

He went straight to the Ochori district. There lay the challenge to his
astuteness and especial gifts. He so far forgot the decencies of his
calling as to come straight to the point. "Bosambo," he said, "I have
brought you very rare and wonderful things. Now I swear to you by," he
produced a bunch of variegated deities and holy things with
characteristic glibness, "that these chains," he spread one of particular
beauty for the other's admiration, "are more to me than my very life. Yet
for one tusk of ivory this chain shall be yours."

"Lord," said Bosambo, handling the jewel reverently, "what virtue has
this chain?"

"It is a great killer of enemies," said Wooling enthusiastically; "it
protects from danger and gives courage to the wearer; it is worth two
teeth, but because I love you and because Sandi loves you I will give you
this for one."

Bosambo pondered. "I cannot give you teeth," he said, "yet I will give
you a stool of ivory which is very wonderful." And he produced the marvel
from a secret place in his hut. It was indeed a lovely thing and worth
many chains.

"This," said Bosambo, with much friendliness, "you will sell to the
N'gombi, who are lovers of such things, and they will pay you well."

Wooling came to the N'gombi territory with the happy sense of having
purchased fifty pounds for fourpence, and entered it, for he regarded
official warnings as the expression of a poor form of humour.

He found the N'gombi (as he expected) in a mild and benevolent mood. They
purchased by public subscription one of his beautiful chains to adorn the
neck of their chief, and they feted him, and brought dancing women from
the villages about, to do him honour. They expressed their love and
admiration for Sandi volubly, until, discovering that their enthusiasm
awoke no responsive thrill in the heart or the voice of their hearer,
they tactfully volunteered the opinion that Sandi was a cruel and
oppressive master.

Whereupon Wooling cursed them fluently, calling them eaters of fish and
friends of dogs; for it is against the severe and inborn creed of the
Coast to allow a nigger to speak disrespectfully of a white man--even
though he is a Government officer.

"Now listen all people," said Wooling; "I have a great and beautiful
object to sell you--"

* * * * *

Over the tree-tops there rolled a thick yellow cloud which twisted and
twirled into fantastic shapes.

Sanders walked to the bow of the Zaire to examine the steel hawser. His
light-hearted crew had a trick of "tying up" to the first dead and rotten
stump which presented itself to their eyes.

For once they had found a firm anchorage. The hawser was clamped about
the trunk of a strong young copal which grew near the water's edge. An
inspection of the stern hawser was as satisfactory.

"Let her rip," said Sanders, and the elements answered instanter. A
jagged blue streak of flame leapt from the yellow skies, a deafening
crack-crash of thunder broke overhead, and suddenly a great wind smote
the little steamer at her shelter, and set the tops of the trees bowing
with grave unanimity.

Sanders reached his cabin, slid back the door, and pulled it back to its
place after him. In the stuffy calm of his cabin he surveyed the storm
through his window, for his cabin was on the top deck and he could
command as extensive a view of the scene as it was possible to see from
the little bay.

He saw the placid waters of the big river lashed to waves; saw tree after
tree sway and snap as M'shimba M'shamba stalked terribly through the
forest; heard the high piercing howl of the tempest punctuated by the
ripping crack of the thunder, and was glad in the manner of the
Philistine that he was not where other men were.

Night came with alarming swiftness. Half an hour before, at the first
sign of the cyclone, he had steered for the first likely mooring. In the
last rays of a blood-red sun he had brought his boat to land. Now it was
pitch dark--almost as he stood watching the mad passion of the storm it
faded first into grey, then into inky blue--then night obliterated the
view.

He groped for the switch and turned it, and the cabin was filled with
soft light. There was a small telephone connecting the cabin with the
Houssa guard, and he pressed the button and called the attention of
Sergeant Abiboo to his need.

"Get men to watch the hawsers," he instructed, and a guttural response
answered him.

Sanders was on the upper reaches of the Tesai, in terra incognita. The
tribes around were frankly hostile, but they would not venture about on a
night like this.

Outside, the thunder cracked and rolled and the lightning flashed
incessantly. Sanders found a cheroot in a drawer and lighted it, and soon
the cabin was blue with smoke, for it had been necessary to close the
ventilator. Dinner was impossible under the conditions. The galley fire
would be out. The rain which was now beating fiercely on the cabin
windows would have long since extinguished the range.

Sanders walked to the window and peered out. He switched off the light,
the better to observe the condition outside. The wind still howled, the
lightning nickered over the tree-tops, and above the sound of wind and
rushing water came the sulky grumble of thunder.

But the clouds had broken, and fitful beams of moonlight showed on the
white-crested waves. Suddenly Sanders stepped to the door and slid it
open. He sprang out upon the deck. The waning forces of the hurricane
caught him and flung him back against the cabin, but he grasped a
convenient rail and pulled himself to the side of the boat.

Out in mid-stream he had seen a canoe and had caught a glimpse of a white
face.

"Noka! Abiboo!" he roared. But the wind drowned his voice. His hand went
to his hip--a revolver cracked, men came along the deck, hand over hand,
grasping the rails.

In dumb show he indicated the boat. A line was flung, and out of the
swift control current of the stream they drew all that was left of Mr.
Wooling.

He gained enough breath to whisper a word--it was a word that set the
Zaire humming with life. There was steam in the boiler--Sanders would not
draw fires in a storm which might snap the moorings and leave the boat at
the mercy of the elements.

"...they chased me down river...I shot a few...but they came on...then
the storm struck us...they're not far away." Wrapped in a big overcoat
and shivering in spite of the closeness of the night, he sat by Sanders,
as he steered away into the seething waters of the river.

"What's the trouble?"

The wind blew his words to shreds, but the huddled figure crouching at
his side heard him and answered.

"What's that?" asked Sanders, bending his head.

Wooling shouted again.

Sanders shook his head.

The two words he caught were "chair" and "Bosambo."

They explained nothing to Sanders at the moment.



CHAPTER IX


THE KI-GHU


The messenger from Sakola, the chief of the little folk who live in the
bush, stood up. He was an ugly little man, four feet in height and burly,
and he wore little save a small kilt of grass. Sanders eyed him
thoughtfully, for the Commissioner knew the bush people very well.

"You will tell your master that I, who govern this land for the King,
have sent him lord's pleasure in such shape as rice and salt and cloth,
and that he has sworn by death to keep the peace of the forest. Now I
will give him no further present--"

"Lord," interrupted the little bushman outrageously, "he asks of your
lordship only this cloth to make him a fine robe, also ten thousand beads
for his wives, and he will be your man for ever."

Sanders showed his teeth in a smile in which could be discovered no
amusement. "He shall be my man," he said significantly.

The little bushman shuffled his uneasy feet. "Lord, it will be death to
me to carry your proud message to our city, for we ourselves are very
proud people, and Sakola is a man of greater pride than any."

"The palaver is finished," said Sanders, and the little man descended the
wooden steps to the sandy garden path. He turned, shading his eyes from.
the strong sun in the way that bushmen have, for these folk live in the
solemn half-lights of the woods and do not love the brazen glow of the
heavens.

"Lord," he said timidly, "Sakola is a terrible man, and I fear that he
will carry his spears to a killing."

Sanders sighed wearily and thrust his hands into the deep pockets of his
white jacket. "Also I will carry my spears to a killing," he said. "O ko!
Am I a man of the Ochori that I should fear the chattering of a bushman?"

Still the man hesitated. He stood balancing a light spear on the palm of
his hand as a man occupied with his thoughts will play with that which is
in reach. First he set it twirling, then he spun it deftly with his
finger and thumb. "I am the servant of Sakola," he said simply.

Like a flash of light his thin brown arm swung out, the spear held
stiffly. Sanders fired three times with his automatic Colt, and the
messenger of the proud chief Sakola went down sideways like a drunken
man. Sergeant Abiboo, revolver in hand, leapt through a window of the
bungalow to find his master removing a smouldering uniform jacket--you
cannot fire through your pocket with impunity--and eyeing the huddled
form of the fallen bushman with a thoughtful frown.

"Carry him to the hospital," said Sanders. "I do not think he is dead."

He picked up the spear and examined the point. There was lock-jaw in the
slightest scratch of it, for these men are skilled in the use of tetanus.

The compound was aroused. Men had come racing over from the Houssa lines,
and a rough stretcher was formed to carry away the debris. Thus occupied
with his affairs Sanders had no time to observe the arrival of the
mail-boat, and the landing of Mr. Hold.

The big American filled the only comfortable seat in the surf-boat, but
called upon his familiar gods to witness the perilous character of his
sitting. He was dressed in white, white irregularly splashed with dull
grey patches of sea-water, for the Kroomen who manipulated the sweeps had
not the finesse, nor the feather stroke, of a Harvard eight, and they
worked independently.

He was tall and broad and thick--the other way. His face was
clean-shaven, and he wore a cigar two points south-west. Yet, withal, he
was a genial man, or the lines about his face lied cruelly.

Nearing the long yellow beach where the waters were engaged everlastingly
in a futile attempt to create a permanent sea-wall, his references to
home ceased, and he confined himself to apprehensive "huh's!"

"Huh!" he grunted, as the boat was kicked into the air on the heels of a
playful roller. "Huh!" he said, as the big surfer dropped from the ninth
floor to a watery basement. "Huh--oh!" he exclaimed--but there was no
accident; the boat was gripped by wading landsmen and slid to safety. Big
Ben Hold rolled ashore and stood on the firm beach looking resentfully
across the two miles of water which separated him from the ship.

"Orter build a dock," he grumbled.

He watched, with a jealous eye, the unloading of his kit, checking the
packing cases with a piece of green chalk he dug up from his waistcoat
pocket and found at least one package missing. The only important one,
too. Is this it? No! Is that it? No! Is that--ah, yes, that was it.

He was sitting on it.

"Suh," said a polite Krooman, "you lib for dem k'miss'ner?"

"Hey?"

"Dem Sandi--you find um?"

"Say," said Mr. Hold, "I don't quite get you--I want the
Commissioner--the Englishman--savee."

Later, he crossed the neat and spotless compound of the big, cool
bungalow, where, on the shaded verandah, Mr. Commissioner Sanders watched
the progress of the newcomer without enthusiasm. For Sanders had a horror
of white strangers; they upset things; had fads; desired escorts for
passing through territories where the natural desire for war and an
unnatural fear of Government reprisal were always delicately balanced.

"Glad to see you. Boy, push that chair along; sit down, won't you?"

Mr. Hold seated himself gingerly.

"When a man turns the scale at two hundred and thirty-eight pounds,"
grumbled Big Ben pleasantly, "he sits mit circumspection, as a Dutch
friend of mine says." He breathed a long, deep sigh of relief as he
settled himself in the chair and discovered that it accepted the strain
without so much as a creak.

Sanders waited with an amused glint in his eyes.

"You'd like a drink?"

Mr. Hold held up a solemn hand. "Tempt me not," he adjured. "I'm on a
diet--I don't look like a food crank, do I?" He searched the inside
pocket of his coat with some labour. Sanders had an insane desire to
assist him. It seemed that the tailor had taken a grossly unfair
advantage of Mr. Hold in building the pocket so far outside the radius of
his short arm.

"Here it is!"

Big Ben handed a letter to the Commissioner, and Sanders opened it. He
read the letter very carefully, then handed it back to its owner. And as
he did so he smiled with a rare smile, for Sanders was not easily amused.

"You expect to find the ki-chu here?" he asked.

Mr. Hold nodded.

"I have never seen it," said Sanders; "I have heard of it; I have read
about it, and I have listened to people who have passed through my
territories and who have told me that they have seen it with, I am
afraid, disrespect."

Big Ben leant forward, and laid his large and earnest hand on the other's
knee.

"Sah, Mr. Sanders," he said, "you've probably heard of me--I'm Big Ben
Hold--everybody knows me, from the Pacific to the Atlantic. I am the
biggest thing in circuses and wild beast expositions the world has ever
seen. Mr. Sanders, I have made money, and I am out of the show business
for a million years, but I want to see that monkey ki-chu--"

"But--"

"Hold hard." Big Ben's hand arrested the other. "Mr. Sanders, I have made
money out of the ki-chu. Barnum made it out of the mermaid, but my fake
has been the tailless, ki-chu, the monkey that is so like a man that no
alderman dare go near the cage for fear people think the ki-chu has
escaped. I've run the ki-chu from Seattle to Portland, from Buffalo to
Arizona City. I've had a company of militia to regulate the crowds to see
the ki-chu. I have had a whole police squad to protect me from the
in-fu-ri-ated populace when the ki-chu hasn't been up to sample. I have
had ki-chus of every make and build. There are old ki-chus of mine that
are now raising families an' mortgages in the Middlewest; there are
ki-chus who are running East-side saloons with profit to themselves and
their dude sons, there--"

"Yes, yes!" Sanders smiled again. "But why?"

"Let me tell you, sir," again Big Ben held up his beringed hand, "I am
out of the business--good! But, Mr. Sanders, sir, I have a conscience."
He laid his big hand over his heart and lowered his voice. "Lately I have
been worrying over this old ki-chu. I have built myself a magnificent
dwelling in Boston; I have surrounded myself with the evidences and
services of luxury; but there is a still small voice which penetrates the
soundproof walls of my bedroom, that intrudes upon the silences of my
Turkish bath--and the voice says, 'Big Ben Hold--there aren't any ki-chu;
you're a fake; you're a swindler; you're a green goods man; you're
rollin' in riches secured by fraud.' Mr. Sanders, I must see a ki-chu; I
must have a real ki-chu if I spend the whole of my fortune in getting
it--" he dropped his voice again, "--if I lose my life in the attempt."

He stared with gloom, but earnestness, at Sanders, and the Commissioner
looked at him thoughtfully. And from Mr. Hold his eyes wandered to the
gravelled path outside, and the big American, following his eyes, saw a
discoloured patch. "Somebody been spillin' paint?" he suggested. "I
had--"

Sanders shook his head. "That's blood," he said simply, and Mr. Hold
jerked.  "I've just shot a native," said Sanders, in a conversational
tone. "He was rather keen on spearing me, and I was rather keen on not
being speared. So I shot him."

"Dead?"

"Not very!" replied the Commissioner. "As a matter of fact I think I just
missed putting him out--there's an Eurasian doctor looking him over just
now, and if you're interested, I'll let you know how he gets along."

The showman drew a long breath. "This is a nice country," he said.

Sanders nodded. He called his servants and gave directions for the
visitor's comfortable housing.

A week later, Mr. Hold embarked for the upper river with considerable
misgiving, for the canoe which Sanders had placed at his disposal seemed,
to say the least, inadequate.

It was at this time that the Ochori were in some disfavour with the
neighbouring tribes, and a small epidemic of rebellion and warfare had
sustained the interest of the Commissioner in his wayward peoples. First,
the N'gombi people fought the Ochori, then the Isisi folk went to war
with the Akasava over a question of women, and the Ochori went to war
with the Isisi, and between whiles, the little bush folk warred
indiscriminately with everybody, relying on the fact that they lived in
the forest and used poisoned arrows.

They were a shy, yet haughty people, and they poisoned their arrows with
tetanus, so that all who were wounded by them died of lock-jaw after many
miserable hours.

They were engaged in harrying the Ochori people, when Mr. Commissioner
Sanders, who was not unnaturally annoyed, came upon the scene with fifty
Houssas and a Maxim gun, and although the little people were quick, they
did not travel as fast as a well-sprayed congregation of .303 bullets,
and they sustained a few losses.

Then Timbani, the little chief of the Lesser Isisi, spoke to his people
assembled. "Let us fight the Ochori, for they are insolent, and their
chief is a foreigner and of no consequence."

And the fighting men of the tribe raised their hands and cried, "Wa!"

Timbani led a thousand spears into the Ochori country, and wished he had
chosen another method of spending a sultry morning, for whilst he was
burning the village of Kisi, Sanders came with vicious unexpectedness
upon his flank, from the bush country. Two companies of Houssas shot with
considerable accuracy at two hundred yards, and when the spears were
stacked and the prisoners squatted, resigned but curious, in a circle of
armed guards, Timbani realised that it was a black day in his history.

"I only saw this, lord," he said, "that Bosambo has made me a sorrowful
man, for if it were not for his prosperity, I should never have led my
men against him, and I should not be here before your lordship, wondering
which of my wives would mourn me most."

"As to that, Timbani," said Sanders, "I have no means of knowing. Later,
when you work in the Village of Irons, men will come and tell you."

Timbani drew a deep breath. "Then my lord does not hang me?" he asked.

"I do not hang you because you are a fool," said Sanders. "I hang wicked
men, but fools I send to hard labour."

The chief pondered. "It is in my mind, Lord Sandi," he said, "that I
would as soon hang for villainy as live for folly."

"Hang him!" said Sanders, who was in an obliging mood.

But when the rope was deftly thrown across the limb of a tree, Timbani
altered his point of view, electing to drag out an ignominious existence.
Wherein he was wise, for whilst there is life there is scope, if you will
pardon the perversion.

To the Village of Irons went Timbani, titular chief of the Lesser Isisi,
and found agreeable company there, and, moreover, many predecessors, for
the Isisi folk are notoriously improvident in the matter of chiefs.

They formed a little community of their own, they and their wives, and at
evening time they would sit round a smouldering log of gum wood, their
red blankets about their shoulders, and tell stories of their former
grandeur, and as they moved the loose shackles about their feet would
jingle musically.

On a night when the Houssa sentries, walking along raised platforms,
which commanded all views of the prisoners' compound, were unusually lax,
Timbani effected his escape, and made the best of his way across country
to the bush lands. The journey occupied two months in time, but native
folk are patient workers, and there came a spring morning, when Timbani,
lean and muscular, stood in the presence of Sakola, the bush king.

"Lord," said he, though he despised all bushmen, "I have journeyed many
days to see you, knowing that you are the greatest of all kings."

Sakola sat on a stool carved crudely to represent snakes. He was under
four feet in height, and was ill-favoured by bush standards--and the bush
standard is very charitable. His big head, his little eyes, the tuft of
wiry whisker under his chin, the high cheek bones, all contributed to the
unhappy total of ugliness. He was fat in an obvious way, and had a trick
of scratching the calf of his leg as he spoke.

He blinked up at the intruder--for intruder he was, and the guard at each
elbow was eloquent of the fact.

"Why do you come here?" croaked Sakola.

He said it in two short words, which literally mean, "Here--why?"

"Master of the forest," explained Timbani glibly, "I come because I
desire your happiness. The Ochori are very rich, for Sandi loves them. If
you go to them Sandi will be sorry."

The bushman sniffed. "I went to them and I was sorry," he said,
significantly.

"I have a ju-ju," said the eager Timbani, alarmed at the lack of
enthusiasm. "He will help you; and will give you signs."

Sakola eyed him with a cold and calculating eye. In the silence of the
forest they stared at one another, the escaped prisoner with his breast
filled with hatred of his overlord, and the squat figure on the stool.

Then Sakola spoke. "I believe in devils," he said, "and I will try your
ju-ju. For I will cut you a little and tie you to the top of my tree of
sacrifice. And if you are alive when the sun sets, behold I will think
that is a good sign, and go once again into the Ochori land. But if you
are dead, that shall be a bad sign, and I will not fight."

When the sun set behind the golden green of the tree tops, the stolid
crowd of bushmen who stood with their necks craning and their faces
upturned, saw the poor wreck of a man twist slowly.

"That is a good sign," said Sakola, and sent messengers through the
forest to assemble his fighting men. Twice he flung a cloud of warriors
into the Ochori territory. Twice the chiefs of the Ochori hurled back the
invader, slaying many and taking prisoners.

About these prisoners, Sanders, who knew something of the gentle Ochori,
had sent definite instructions. When news of the third raid came, Bosambo
gave certain orders. "You march with food for five days," he said to the
heads of his army, "and behold you shall feed all the prisoners you take
from the grain you carry, giving two hands to each prisoner and one to
yourself."

"But, lord," protested the chief, "this is madness, for if we take many
prisoners we shall starve."

Bosambo waved him away. "M'bilini," he said, with dignity, "once I was a
Christian--just as my brother Sandi, was once a Christian--and we
Christians are kind to prisoners."

"But, lord Bosambo," persisted the other, "if we kill our prisoners and
do not bring them back it will be better for us."

"These things are with the gods," said the pious Bosambo vaguely.

So M'bilini went out against the bushmen and defeated them. He brought
back an army well fed, but without prisoners.

Thus matters stood when Big Ben Hold came leisurely up the river, his
canoe paddled close in shore, for here the stream does not run so
swiftly. It had been a long journey, and the big man in the soiled white
ducks showed relief as he stepped ashore on the Ochori beach and
stretched his legs.

He had no need to inquire which of the party approaching him was Bosambo.
For the chief wore his red plush robe, his opera hat, his glass
bracelets, and all the other appurtenances of his office.

Big Ben had come up the river in his own good time and was now used to
the way of the little chiefs. His interpreter began a conversational
oration, but Bosambo cut him short. "Nigger," he said, in English, "you
no speak 'um--I speak 'um fine English. I know Luki, Marki, John,
Judas--all fine fellers. You, sah," he addressed the impressed Mr. Hold,
"you lib for me? Sixpence--four dollar, goodnight, I love you, mister!"

He delivered his stock breathlessly. "Fine!" said Mr. Hold, awestricken
and dazed.

He felt at home in the procession which marched in stately manner towards
the chief's hut; it was as near a circus parade as made no difference.

Over dinner of fish he outlined the object of his search and the reason
for his presence. It was a laborious business, necessitating the
employment of the despised and frightened interpreter until the words
"ki-chu" were mentioned, whereupon Bosambo brightened up.

"Sah," interrupted Bosambo, "I savee al dem talk; I make 'um English one
time good."

"Fine," said Mr. Hold gratefully, "I get you, Steve."

"You lookum ki-chu," continued Bosambo, "you no find 'um; I see 'um; I am
God-man--Christian; I savee Johnny Baptist; Peter cut 'um head off--dam'
bad man; I savee Hell an' all dem fine fellers."

"Tell him--" began Big Ben.

"I spik English same like white man!" said the indignant Bosambo. "You no
lib for make dem feller talky talk--I savee dem ki-chu."

Big Ben sighed helplessly. All along the river the legend of the ki-chu
was common property. Everybody knew of the ki-chu--some had seen those
who had seen it. He was not elated that Bosambo should be counted amongst
the faithful.

For the retired showman had by this time almost salved his conscience. It
was enough, perhaps, that evidence of the ki-chu's being should be
afforded--still he would dearly have loved to carry one of the alleged
fabulous creatures back to America with him. He had visions of a tame
ki-chu chained to a stake on his Boston lawn; of a ki-chu sitting behind
gilded bars in a private menagerie annexe.

"I suppose," said Mr. Hold, "you haven't seen a ki-chu--you savee--you no
look 'um?"

Bosambo was on the point of protesting that the ki-chu was a familiar
object of the landscape when a thought occurred to him.

"S'pose I find um ki-chu, you dash me plenty dollar?" he asked.

"If you find me that ki-chu," said Mr. Hold slowly, and with immense
gravity, "I will pay you a thousand dollars."

Bosambo rose to his feet, frankly agitated. "Thousan' dollar?" he
repeated.

"A thousand dollars," said Big Ben with the comfortable air of one to
whom a thousand dollars was a piece of bad luck.

Bosambo put out his hand and steadied himself against the straw-plaited
wall of his hut. "You make 'um hundred dollar ten time?" he asked,
huskily, "you make 'um book?"

"I make 'um book," said Ben, and in a moment of inspiration drew a
note-book from his pocket and carefully wrote down the substance of his
offer. He handed the note to the chief, and Bosambo stared at it
uncomprehendingly. "And," said Big Ben, confidentially leaning across and
tapping the knee of the standing chief with the golden head of his cane,
"if you--"

Bosambo raised his hand, and his big face was solemn. "Master," he said,
relapsing into the vernacular in his excitement, "though this ki-chu
lives in a village of devils, and ghosts walk about his hut, I will bring
him."

The next morning Bosambo disappeared, taking with him three hunters of
skill, and to those who met him and said, "Ho! Bosambo; where do you
walk?" he answered no word, but men who saw his face were shocked, for
Bosambo had been a Christian and knew the value of money.

Eight days he was absent, and Big Ben Hold found life very pleasant, for
he was treated with all the ceremony which is usually the privilege of
kings.

On the evening of the eighth day Bosambo returned, and he brought with
him the ki-chu.

Looking at this wonder Big Ben Hold found his heart beating faster. "My
God!" he said, and his profanity was almost excusable. For the ki-chu
exceeded his wildest dreams. It was like a man, yet unlike. Its head was
almost bald, the stick tied bit-wise between his teeth had been painted
green and added to the sinister appearance of the brute. Its long arms
reaching nearly to its knees were almost human, and the big splayed feet
dancing a never-ceasing tattoo of rage were less than animal.

"Lord," said Bosambo proudly, "I have found the ki-chu!" The chief's face
bore signs of a fierce encounter. It was gashed and lacerated. His arms,
too, bore signs of rough surgical dressing. "Three hunters I took with
me," said Bosambo, "and one have I brought back, for I took the ki-chu as
he sat on a tree, and he was very fierce."

"My God!" said Big Ben again, and breathed heavily.

They built a cage for the ki-chu, a cage of heavy wooden bars, and the
rare animal was screened from the vulgar gaze by curtains of native
cloth. It did not take kindly to its imprisonment. It howled and gibbered
and flung itself against the bars, and Bosambo viewed its transports with
interest. "Lord," he said, "this only I ask you: that you take this
ki-chu shortly from here. Also, you shall not show it to Sandi lest he be
jealous that we send away from our country so rare a thing."

"But," protested Mr. Hold to the interpreter, "you tell the chief that
Mr. Sanders just wants me to catch the ki-chu--say, Bosambo, you savee,
Sandi wantee see dem ki-chu?"

They were sitting before the chief's hut on the ninth day of the
American's visit. The calm of evening lay on the city, and save for the
unhappy noises of the captive no sound broke the Sabbath stillness of the
closing day.

Bosambo was sitting at his ease, a bundle of English banknotes suspended
by a cord about his neck, and the peace of heaven in his heart.  He had
opened his mouth to explain the idiosyncrasies of the Commissioner when--

"Whiff--snick!"

Something flicked past Big Ben's nose--something that buried its head in
the straw of the hut with a soft swish! He saw the quivering arrow, heard
the shrill call of alarm and the dribbling roll of a skin-covered drum.
Then a hand like steel grasped his arm and flung him headlong into the
hut, for Sakola's headman had come in person to avenge certain
indignities and the city of the Ochori was surrounded by twenty thousand
bushmen.

Night was falling and the position was desperate. Bosambo had no doubt as
to that. A wounded bushman fell into his hands--a mad little man, who
howled and spat and bit like a vicious little animal. "Burn him till he
talks," said Bosambo:--but at the very sight of fire the little man told
all--and Bosambo knew that he spoke the truth.

The lokali on the high watch tower of the city beat its staccato call for
help and some of the villagers about answered. Bosambo stood at the foot
of the rough ladder leading to the tower, listening. From east and south
and north came the replies--from the westward--nothing. The bushmen had
swept into the country from the west, and the lokalis were silent where
the invader had passed.

Big Ben Hold, an automatic pistol in his hand, took his part in the
defence of the city. All through that night charge after charge broke
before the defences, and at intervals the one firearm of the defending
force spat noisily out into the darkness.

With the dawn came an unshaven Sanders. He swept round the bend of the
river, two Hotchkiss guns banging destructively, and the end of the bush
war came when the rallied villagers of the Ochori fell on the left flank
of the attackers and drove them towards the guns of the Zaire.

Then it was that Bosambo threw the whole fighting force of the city upon
the enemy. Sanders landed his Houssas to complete the disaster; he made
his way straight to the city and drew a whistling breath of relief to
find Big Ben Hold alive, for Big Ben was a white man, and, moreover, a
citizen of another land.

The big man held out an enormous hand of welcome. "Glad to see you," he
said.

Sanders smiled. "Found that ki-chu?" he asked derisively, and his eyes
rose incredulously at the other's nod.

"Here!" said Mr. Hold triumphantly, and he drew aside the curtains of the
cage.

It was empty.

"Hell!" bellowed Big Ben Hold, and threw his helmet on the ground
naughtily. "There it is!" He pointed across the open stretch of country
which separated the city from the forest. A little form was running
swiftly towards the woods. Suddenly it stopped, lifted something from the
ground, and turned towards the group. As its hands came up, Sergeant
Abiboo of the Houssas raised his rifle and fired; and the figure crumpled
up.

"My ki-chu!" wailed the showman, as he looked down at the silent figure.

Sanders said nothing. He looked first at the dead Sakola, outrageously
kidnapped in the very midst of his people, then he looked round for
Bosambo, but Bosambo had disappeared.

At that precise moment the latter was feverishly scraping a hole in the
floor of his hut wherein to bank his ill-gotten reward.



CHAPTER X


THE CHILD OF SACRIFICE


Out of the waste came a long, low wail of infinite weariness. It was like
the cry of a little child in pain. The Government steamer was drifting at
the moment. Her engine had stopped whilst the engineer repaired a float
which had been smashed through coming in contact with a floating log.

Assistant-Commissioner Sanders, a young man in those days, bent his head,
listening. Again the wail arose; this time there was a sob at the end of
it. It came from a little patch of tall, coarse elephant grass near the
shore. Sanders turned to his orderly.

"Take a canoe, man," he said in Arabic, "and go with your rifle." He
pointed. "There you will find a monkey that is wounded. Shoot him, that
he may suffer no more, for it is written, 'Blessed is he that giveth
sleep from pain.'" Obedient to his master's order, Abiboo leapt into a
little canoe, which the Zaire carried by her side, and went paddling into
the grass.

He disappeared, and they heard the rustle of elephant grass; but no shot
came. They waited until the grass rattled again, and Abiboo reappeared
with a baby boy in the crook of his arm, naked and tearful.

This child was a first-born, and had been-left on a sandy spit so that a
crocodile might come and complete the sacrifice.

This happened nearly twenty years ago, and the memory of the drastic
punishment meted out to the father of that first-born is scarcely a
memory. "We will call this child 'N'mika,' Sanders had said, which means
'the child of sacrifice.'"

N'mika was brought up in the hut of a good man, and came to maturity.

* * * * *

When the monkeys suddenly changed their abiding-place from the little
woods near by Bonganga, on the Isisi, to the forest which lies at the
back of the Akasava, all the wise men said with one accord that bad
fortune was coming to the people of Isisi. N'mika laughed at these
warnings, for he was in Sanders's employ, and knew all things that
happened in his district. Boy and man he served the Government
faithfully; loyalty was his high fetish, and Sanders knew this.

The Commissioner might have taken this man and made him a great chief;
and had N'mika raised the finger of desire, Sanders would have placed him
above all others of his people; but the man knew where he might serve
best, and at nineteen he had scotched three wars, saved the life of
Sanders twice, and had sent three petty chiefs of enterprising character
to the gallows. Then love came to N'mika.

He loved a woman of the Lesser Isisi--a fine, straight girl, and very
beautiful by certain standards. He married her, and took her to his hut,
making her his principal wife, and investing her with all the privileges
and dignity of that office.

Kira, as the woman was called, was, in many ways, a desirable woman, and
N'mika loved her as only a man of intelligence could love her; and she
had ornaments of brass and of beads exceeding in richness the possessions
of any other woman in the village. Now, there are ways of treating a
woman the world over, and they differ in very little degree whether they
are black or white, cannibal or vegetarian, rich or poor. N'mika treated
this woman too well. He looked in the forest for her wishes, as the
saying goes, and so insistent was this good husband on serving his wife,
that she was, hard put to it to invent requirements.

"Bright star reflected in the pool of the world," he said to her one
morning, "what is your need this day? Tell me, so that I may go and seek
fulfilment."

She smiled. "Lord," she said, "I desire the tail of a white antelope."

"I will find this tail," he said stoutly, and went forth to his hunting,
discouraged by the knowledge that the white antelope is seen once in the
year, and then by chance.

Now this woman, although counted cold by many former suitors, and
indubitably discovered so by her husband, had one lover who was of her
people, and when the seeker of white antelope tails had departed she sent
a message to the young man.

That evening Sanders was 'tied up' five miles from the village, and was
watching the sun sinking in the swamp which lay south and west of the
anchorage, when N'mika came down river in his canoe, intent on his quest,
but not so intent that he could pass his lord without giving him due
obeisance.

"Ho, N'mika!" said Sanders, leaning over the rail of the boat, and
looking down kindly at the solemn figure in the canoe, "men up and down
the river speak of you as the wonderful lover."

"That is true, lord," said N'mika simply; "for, although I paid two
thousand matakos for this woman, I think she is worth more rods than have
ever been counted."

Sanders nodded, eyeing him thoughtfully, for he suspected the unusual
whenever women came into the picture, and was open to the conviction that
the man was mad.

"I go now, lord, to serve her," N'mika said, and he played with one of
the paddles with some embarrassment; "for my wife desires a tail of a
white antelope, and there is no antelope nearer than the N'gombi
country--and white antelopes are very little seen."

Sanders's eyebrows rose.

"For many months," continued N'mika, "I must seek my beautiful white
swish; but I am pleased, finding happiness in weariness because I serve
her."

Sanders made a sign, and the man clambered on deck; "You have a powerful
ju-ju," he said, when N'mika stood before him, "for I will save you all
weariness arid privation. Three days since I shot a white antelope on the
edge of the Mourning Pools, and you shall be given its tail."

Into the hands of the waiting man he placed the precious trophy, and
N'mika sighed happily. "Lord," he said simply, "you are as a god to
me--and have been for all time; for you found me, and named me the 'Child
of Sacrifice,' and I hope, my fine master, to give my life in your
service. This would be a good end for me."

"This is a little thing, N'mika," said Sanders gently; "but I give you
now a greater thing, which is a word of wisdom. Do not give all your
heart to one woman, lest she squeeze it till you are dead."

"That also would be a great end," said N'mika and went his way. It was a
sad way, for it led to knowledge.

Sanders was coming up the river at his leisure. Two days ahead of him had
gone a canoe, swiftly paddled, to summon to the place of snakes, near the
elephants' ground where three small rivers meet (it was necessary to be
very explicit in a country which abounded in elephants' playgrounds and
haunts of snakes, and was, moreover, watered by innumerable rivers), a
palaver of the chiefs of his land.

To the palaver in the snake-place came the chiefs, high and puisne, the
headmen, great and small, in their various states. Some arrived in war
canoes, with lokali shrilling, announcing the dignity and pride of the
lazy figure in the stern. Some came in patched canoes that leaked
continually. Some tramped long journeys through the forest--Isisi,
Ochori, Akasava, Little N'gombi and Greater Isisi. Even the shy bushmen
came sneaking down the river, giving a wide berth to, all other peoples,
and grasping in their delicate hands spears and arrows which, as a
precautionary measure, had been poisoned with tetanus.

Egili of the Akasava, Tombolo of the Isisi, N'rambara of the N'gombi,
and, last but not least, Bosambo of the Ochori, came, the last named
being splendid to behold; for he had a robe of green velvet, sent to him
from the Coast, and about his neck, suspended by a chain, jewelled at
intervals with Parisian diamonds, was a large gold-plated watch, with a
blue enamel dial, which he consulted from time to time with marked
insolence.

They sat upon their carved stools about the Commissioner, and he told
them many things which they knew, and some which they had hoped he did
not know. "Now, I tell you," said Sanders, "I call you together because
there is peace in the land, and no man's hand is against his brother's,
and thus it has been for nearly twelve moons, and behold! you all grow
rich and fat."

"Kwai!" murmured the chiefs approvingly.

"Therefore," said Sanders, "I have spoken a good word to Government for
you, and Government is pleased; also my King and yours has sent you a
token of his love, which he has made with great mystery and intelligence,
that you may see him always with you, watching you." He had brought half
a hundred oleographs of His Majesty from the headquarters, and these he
had solemnly distributed. It was a head-and-shoulder photograph of the
King lighting a cigarette, and had been distributed gratis with an
English Christmas number.

"Now all people see! For peace is a beautiful thing, and men may lie down
in their huts and fear nothing of their using. Also, they may go out to
their hunting and fear nothing as to their return, for their wives will
be waiting with food in their hands."

"Lord," said a little chief of the N'gombi, "even I, a blind and ignorant
man see all this. Now, I swear by death that I will hold the King's peace
in my two hands, offending none; for though my village is a small one, I
have influence, owing to my wife's own brother, by the same father and of
the same mother, being the high chief of the N'gombi-by-the-River."

"Lord Sandi," said Bosambo, and all eyes were fixed upon a chief so brave
and so gallantly arrayed, who was, moreover, by all understanding,
related too nearly to Sandi for the Commissioner's ease. "Lord Sandi,"
said Bosambo, "that I am your faithful slave all men know. Some have
spoken evilly of me, but, lo! where are they? They are in hell, as your
lordship knows, for we were both Christians before I learnt the true way
and worshipped God and the Prophet. Nevertheless, lord, Mussulman and
Christian are one alike in this, that they have a very terrible hell to
which their enemies go--"

"Bosambo," said Sanders interrupting, "your voice is pleasant, and like
the falling of rain after drought, yet I am a busy man, and there are
many to speak."

Bosambo inclined his head gravely. The conference looked at him now in
awe, for he had earned an admonition from Sandi, and still lived--nay!
still preserved his dignity.

"Lord," said Bosambo. "I speak no more now, for, as you say, we have many
private palavers, where much is said which no man knows; therefore it is
unseemly to stand between other great speakers and your honour." He sat
down.

"You speak truly, Bosambo," said Sanders calmly. "Often we speak in
private, you and I, for when I speak harshly to chiefs it is thus--in the
secrecy of their huts that I talk, lest I put shame upon them in the eyes
of their people."

"O, ko!" said the dismayed Bosambo under his breath, for he saw the good
impression his cryptic utterance had wrought wearing off with some
rapidity.

After the palaver had dispersed, a weary Sanders made his way to the
Zaire. A bath freshened him, and he came out to a wire-screened patch of
deck to his dinner with some zest. A chicken of microscopic proportions
had been the main dish every night for months. He ate his meal in
solitude, a book propped up against a bottle before him, a steaming cup
of tea at one elbow, and a little electric hand-lamp at the other.

He was worried. For nine months he had kept a regiment of the Ochori on
the Isisi border prepared for any eventualities. This regiment had been
withdrawn. Sanders had an uncomfortable feeling that he had made a bad
mistake. It would take three weeks to police the border again.

Long after the meal had been cleared away he sat thinking, and then a
familiar voice, speaking with Abiboo on the lower deck, aroused him. He
turned to the immobile Houssa orderly who squatted outside the fly wire.
"If that voice is the voice of the chief Bosambo, bring him to me."

A minute later Bosambo came, standing before the meshed door of the
fly-proof enclosure.

"Enter, Bosambo," said Sanders, and when he had done so: "Bosambo," he
said, "you are a wise man, though somewhat boastful. Yet I have some
faith in your judgment. Now you have heard all manner of people speaking
before me, and you know that there is peace in this land. Tell me, by
your head and your love, what things are there which may split this
friendship between man and man?"

"Lord," said Bosambo, preparing to orate at length, "I know of two things
which may bring war, and the one is land and such high matters as fishing
rights and hunting grounds, and the other is women. And, lord, since
women live and are born to this world every hour of the day, faster--as
it seems to me--than they die, there will always be voices to call spears
from the roof."

Sander nodded. "And now?" he asked.

Bosambo looked at him swiftly. "Lord," he said suavely, "all men live in
peace, as your lordship has said this day, and we love one another too
well to break the King's peace. Yet we keep a regiment of my Ochori on
the Akasava border to keep the peace."

"And now?" said Sanders again, more softly.

Bosambo shifted uncomfortably. "I am your man," he said, "I have eaten
your salt, and have shown you by various heroic deeds, and by terrible
fighting, how much I love you, lord-Sandi."

"Yet," said Sanders, speaking rather to the swaying electric bulb hanging
from the awning, "and yet I did not see the chief of the little Isisi at
my palaver."

Bosambo was silent for a moment. Then he heaved a deep sigh. "Lord," he
said, with reluctant admiration, "you have eyes all over your body. You
can see the words of men before they are uttered, and are very quick to
read thoughts. You are all eyes," he went on extravagantly, "you have
eyes on the top of your head and behind your ears. You have eyes--"

"That will do," said Sanders quietly. "I think that will do, Bosambo."

There was another long pause.

"And I tell you this, because there are no secrets between you and me. It
was I who persuaded the little chief not to come."

Sanders nodded. "That I know," he said.

"For, lord, I desired that this should be a very pleasant day for your
lordship, and that you should go away with your heart filled with
gladness, singing great songs; also, as your lordship knows, the Ochori
guard has left the Akasava border."

There was no mistaking the significance.

"Why should Bimebibi make me otherwise?" asked Sanders, ignoring the
addition.

"Lord," said Bosambo loftily, "I am, as you know, of the true faith,
believing neither in devils nor spells, save those which are prescribed
by the blessed Prophet. It is well known that Bimebibi is a friend of
ghosts, and has the eye which withers and kills. Therefore, lord, he is
an evil man, and all the chiefs and peoples of this land are for chopping
him--all save the people of the Lesser Isisi, who greatly love him."

Again Sanders nodded. The Lesser Isisi were the fighting Isisi; they held
the land between the Ochori and the Akasava, and were fierce men in some
moments, though gentle enough in others. Yet he had had no word from
N'mika that trouble was brewing. This was strange. Sanders sat in thought
for the greater part of ten minutes. Then he spoke. "War is very
terrible," he said, "for if one mad man comes up against five men who are
not mad, behold! they become all mad together. I tell you this, Bosambo,
if you do well for me in this matter, I will pay you beyond your dreams."

"How can a man do well?" asked Bosambo.

"He shall hold this war," said Sanders.

Bosambo raised his right arm stiffly. "This I would do, lord," he said
gravely; "but it is not for me, for Bimebibi will cross with the Akasava
just as soon as he knows that the Ochori do not hold the border."

"He must never know until I bring my soldiers," said Sanders; "and none
can tell him." He looked up quietly, and met the chief's eye. "And none
can tell him?" he challenged.

Bosambo shook his head. "N'mika sits in his village, lord," said he; "and
N'mika is a great lover of his wife by all accounts."

Sanders smiled. "If N'mika betrays me," he said, "there is no man in the
world I will ever trust."

N'mika faced his wife. He wore neither frown nor smile, but upon her face
was the terror of death. On a stool in the centre of the hut was the tail
of the white antelope, but to this she gave no attention, for her mind
was busy with the thoughts of terrible reprisals.

They sat in silence; the fire in the centre of the big hut spluttered and
burnt, throwing weird shadows upon the wattle walls.

When N'mika spoke his voice was even and calm. "Kira, my wife," he said,
"you have taken my heart out of me, and left a stone, for you do not love
me."

She licked her dry lips and said nothing,

"Now, I may put you away," he went on, "for the shame you have brought,
and the sorrow, and the loneliness."

She opened her mouth to speak. Twice she tried, but her tongue refused.
Then, again: "Kill me," she whispered, and kept her staring eyes on his.

N'mika, the Wonderful Lover, shook his head. "You are a woman, and you
have not my strength," he said, half to himself, "and you are young. I
have trusted you, and I am afraid."

She was silent. If the man, her lover, did what she had told him to do in
the frantic moment when she had been warned of her husband's return, she
might have saved her life--and more.

He read her thoughts in part. "You shall take no harm from me," he said;
"for I love you beyond understanding; and though I stand on the edge of
death for my kindness, I will do no ill to you."

She sprang up. The fear in her eyes was gone; hate shone there banefully.
He saw the look, and it scorched his very soul--and he heard. It was the
soft pad-pad of the king's guard, and he turned to greet Bimebibi's head
chief. His wife would have run to the guard, but N'mika's hand shot out
and held her.

"Take him--take him!" she cried hoarsely. "He will kill me--also he plots
against the king, for he is Sandi's man!"

Chekolana, the king's headman, watched her curiously, but no more
dispassionate was the face her husband turned upon her. "Kira," he said,
"though you hate me, I love you. Though I die for this at the hands of
the king, I love you."

She laughed aloud. She was safe--and N'mika was afraid. Her outstretched
finger almost touched his face. "Tell this to the king," she cried,
"N'mika is Sandi's man, and know his heart--"

The headman, Chekolana, made a step forward and peered into N'mika's
face. "If this is true," he said, "you shall tell Bimebibi all he desires
to know. Say, N'mika, how many men of the Ochori hold the border?"

N'mika laughed. "Ask Sandi that," he said.

"Lord! lord!"--it was the woman, her eyes blazing--"this I will tell you,
if you put my man away. On the border there is--"

She gasped once and sighed like one grown weary, then she slid down to
the floor of the hut--dead, for N'mika was a quick killer, and his
hunting-knife very sharp.

"Take me to the king," he said, his eyes upon the figure at his feet,
"saying N'mika has slain the woman he loved; N'mika, the Wonderful Lover;
N'mika, the Child of Sacrifice, who loved his wife well, and loved his
high duty best."

No other word spoke N'mika. They crucified him on a stake before the
chief's hut, and there Sanders found him three days later. Bimebibi
explained the circumstances.

"Lord, this man murdered a woman, so I killed him," he said.

He might have saved his breath, for he had need of it.



CHAPTER XI


"THEY"


In the Akarti country they worshipped many devils, and feared none, save
one strange devil, who was called "Wu," which in our language means
"They."

"Remember this," said Sanders of the River, as he grasped the hand of
Grayson Smith, his assistant.

"I will not forget," said that bright young man; "and, by the way, if
anything happens to me, you might find out how it all came about, and
drop a note to my people--suppressing the beastly, details."

Sanders nodded. "I will make it a pretty story," he said, "and, whatever
happens, your death will be as instantaneous and as painless as my
fountain-pen can make it."

"You're a brick!" said Grayson Smith, and turned to swear volubly in
Swahili at his headman--for Smith, albeit young, was a great linguist.

Sanders watched the big canoe as it swung into the yellow waters of the
Fasai; watched it until it disappeared round a bank, then sent his
steamer round to the current, and set his course homeward.

To appreciate the full value of the Akartis' independence, and their
immunity from all attack, it must be remembered that the territory ranged
from the Forest-by-the-Waters to the Forest-by-the-Mountains. It was a
stretch of broad, pastoral lands, enclosed by natural defences. Forest
and swamp on the westward kept back the rapacious people of the Great
King, mountain and forest on the south held the Ochori, the Akasava, and
the Isisi. The boldest of the N'gombi never ventured across the
saw-shaped peaks of the big mountains, even though loot and women were
there for the taking.

The king of the Akarti was undisputed lord of vast territories, and he
had ten regiments of a thousand men, and one regiment of women, whom he
called his "Angry Maidens," who drank strong juices, and wrestled like
men. Since he was king from the Forest-by-the-Mountains to the
Forest-by-the-Waters he was powerful and merciless, and none said "nay"
to N'raki's "yea," for he was too fierce, and too terrible a man to
cross.

Culuka of the Wet Lands once came down into N'raki's territory, and
brought a thousand spears. Now the Wet Lands are many miles from the city
of the king, and the raid that Culuka planned injured none, for the
raided territories were poor and stony. But N'raki, the killer, was hurt
in his tenderest spot, and he led his thousands across the swamps to the
city of Culuka, and he fought him up to the stockades and beyond. The
city he burnt. The men and children he slew out of hand. Culuka he
crucified before his flaming hut, and, thereafter, the borders of the
killer were immune from attack.

This was a lesson peculiarly poignant, and when the French
Government--for Culuka dwelt in a territory which was nominally under the
tricolour--sent a mission to inquire into the wherefores of the
happening, N'raki cut off the head of the leader, and sent it back with
unprintable messages intended primarily for the governor of French West
Africa, and eventually for the Quai d'Orsay. N'raki lived, therefore,
undisturbed, for the outrage coincided with the findings of the
Demarcation Commission which had been sitting for two years to settle
certain borderline questions. By the finding of the Commission all the
Akarti country became, in the twinkling of an eye, British territory, and
N'raki a vassal of the King of England--though he was sublimely
unconscious of the honour.

N'raki was an autocrat of autocrats, and of his many battalions of
skilled fighting men, all very young and strong, with shining limbs and
feathered heads, he was proudest of his first regiment. These were the
tallest, the strongest, the fleetest, and the fiercest of fighters, and
he forbade them to marry, for all men know that women have an evil effect
upon warriors; and no married man is brave until he has children to
defend, and by that time he is fat also.

So this austere regiment knew none of the comforts or languor of love,
and they were proud that their lord, the king, had set them apart from
all other men, and had so distinguished them. At the games they excelled,
because they were stronger and faster, knowing nothing of women's
influence; and the old king saw their excellence, and said "Wa!"

There was a man of the regiment whose name was Taga'ka, who was a fine
man of twenty. There was also in the king's city a woman of fifteen,
named Lapai, who was a straight, comely girl, and a great dancer. She was
a haughty woman, because her uncle was the chief witch-doctor, and such
was her power that she had put away two husbands.

One day, at the wells, she saw Taga'ka, and loved him; and meeting him
alone in the forest, she fell down before him and clasped his feet. "Lord
Taga'ka," said she, "you are the one man in the world I desire."

"I am beyond desire," said Taga'ka, in his arrogant pride; "for I am of
the king's regiment and women are grass for our feet." And not all her
allurements could tempt him to so much as stroke her face; and the heart
of the woman was wild with grief.

Then the king fell sick, and daily grew worse. The witch-doctors made
seven sacrifices, and learnt from grisly portents, which need not be
described in detail, that the king should take a long journey to the far
end of his kingdom, where he should meet a man with one eye, who would
live in the shadow of the royal hut. This he did, journeying for three
months, till he came to the appointed place, where he met a man afflicted
in accordance with the prediction. And the man sat in the shadow of the
king's hut,

Now, it is a fact, which none will care to deny, that the niece of the
chief witch-doctor had planned the treatment of the king. She had planned
it with great cleverness, and she it was who saw to it that the deformed
man waited at the king's hut.

For she loved Taga'ka with all the passion other soul, and when the long
months passed, and the king remained far away, and Lapai whispered into
the young man's ear, he took her to wife, though death would be his
penalty for his wrongdoing.

The other men of the royal regiment, who held Taga'ka a model in all
things austere, seeing this happen, said: "Behold! Taga'ka, the favourite
of the king, has taken a woman to himself. Now, if we all do this, it
would be better for Taga'ka, and better for us. The king, the old man,
will forgive him, and not punish us."

It might have been that N'raki, the king, would have ended his days in
the place to which his medicine-man had sent him, but there arose in that
district a greater magician than any--a certain wild alien of the Wet
Lands, who possessed magical powers, and cured pains in the king's legs
by a no more painful process than the laying on of hands, and whom the
king appointed his chief magician. And this was the end of the uncle of
Lapai; for, if no two kings can rule in one land, most certainly no two
witchdoctors can hold power. And they killed the deposed uncle of Lapai,
and used the blood for making spells.

One morning the new witch-doctor stood in the presence of N'raki the
king. "Lord king," he said, "I have had a dream, and it says that your
lordship shall go back to your city, and that you shall travel secretly,
so that the devils who guard the way shall not lay hands upon you."

N'raki, the king, went back to his city unattended, save by his personal
guard, and unheralded, to the discomfort of the royal regiment. And when
he learnt what he learnt, he administered justice swiftly. He carried the
forbidden wives to the top of a high mountain and cast them over a cliff,
one by one, to the number of six hundred. And that mountain is to this
day called "The Mountain of Sorrowful Women."

One alone he spared--Lapai. Before the assembled people in judgment he
spared her.

"Behold this woman, people of the Akarti!" he said; "she that has brought
sorrow and death to my regiment. To-day she shall watch her man, Taga'ka,
burn; and from henceforth she shall live amongst you to remind you that I
am a very jealous king, and terrible in my anger."

The news of the massacre filtered slowly through the territories. It came
to the British Government, but the British Government is a cautious
Government where primitive natives are concerned.

Sanders, sitting between Downing Street and the District Commissioners of
many far-away and isolated spots, realised the futility of an expedition.
He sent two special messages, one of which was to a young man named
Farquharson, who, at the moment, was shooting snipe on the big swamp
south of the Ambalina Mountains. And this young man swore like a Scotsman
because his sport had been interrupted, but girded up his loins, and,
with half a company of the King's African Rifles, trekked for the city.
On his way he ran into an ambush, and swore still more, for he realised
that death had overtaken him before he had had his annual holiday.

He called for his orderly. "Hafiz," he said in Arabic, "if you should
escape, cross the country to the Ochori land by the big river. There you
will find Sandi; give him my dear love, and say that Fagozoni sent a
cheerful word, also that the Slayer of Regiments is killing his people."

An hour later Farquharson, or Fagozoni, as they called him, was lying
before the king, his unseeing eyes staring at the hard, blue heavens, his
lips parted in the very ghost of a smile.

"This is a bad palaver," said the king, looking at the dead man. "Now
they will come, and I know not what will happen." In his perturbation he
omitted to take into his calculations the fact that he had in his city a
thousand men sick with grief at the loss of their wives.

N'raki, the king, was no coward. There was a prompt smelling out of all
suspicious characters. Even the councillors about his person were not
exempt, for the new witchdoctor found traces of disloyalty in every one.
With the aid of his regiment of virgins, he held his city, and ruthlessly
disposed of secret critics. These included men who stood at his very
elbow, and there came a time when he found none to whom he might transmit
his thoughts with any feeling of security.

News came to him that there was an Arab caravan traversing his western
border, trading with his people, and the report he received was
flattering to the intelligence and genius of the man in charge of the
party.

N'raki sent messengers with gifts and kind words to the intruder, and on
a certain day there was brought before him the slim Arab, Ussuf. "O
Ussuf," said the king, "I have heard of you, and of your wisdom. Often
you have journeyed through my territories, and no man has done you hurt."

"Lord king," said the Arab, "that is true."

The king looked at him thoughtfully. N'raki, in those days, had reached
his maturity; he was a wise, cunning man, and had no illusions. "Arabi,"
he said, "this is in my mind: that you shall stay here with me, living in
the shadow of my hut, and be my chief man, for you are very clever, and
know the ways of foreign people. You shall have treasures beyond your
dreams, for in this land there is much dead ivory hidden by the people of
my fathers."

"Lord king," said Ussuf, "this is a very great honour, and I am too mean
and small a man to serve you. Yet it is true I know the ways of foreign
people, and I am wise in the government of men."

"This also I say to you," the king went on slowly, "that I do not fear
men or devils, yet I fear 'They,' because of their terrible cruelty. Now
if you will serve me, so that I avert the wrath of these, you shall sit
down here in peace and happiness."

Thus it came about that Ussuf, the Arab, became Prime Minister to the
King of Akarti, and two days after his arrival the new witch-doctor was
put away with promptitude and dispatch by a king who had no further use
for him.

All the news that came from the territories to Sanders was that the
country was being ruled with some wisdom. The fear of "They" was an
ever-present fear with the king. The long evenings he sat with his Arab
counsellor, thinking of that mysterious force which lay beyond the
saw-back.

"I tell you this, Ussuf," he said, "that my heart is like water within me
when I think of 'They,' for it is a terrible devil, and I make sacrifices
at every new moon to appease its anger."

"Lord king," said Ussuf, "I am skilled in the way of 'They,' and I tell
you that they do not love sacrifices."

The king shifted on his stool irritably. "That is strange," he said, "For
the gods told me in a dream that I must sacrifice Lapai."

He shot a swift glance at the Arab, for this Ussuf was the only man in
the city who did not deal scornfully with the lonely, outcast woman,
whose every day was a hell. It was-the king's order that she should walk
through the city twice between sunrise and sunset, and it was the king's
pleasure that every man she met should execrate her; and although the
native memory is short, and the recollection of the tragedy had died, men
feared the king too much to allow her to pass without a formal curse.
Ussuf alone had walked with her, and men had gasped to see the kindly
Arab at her side,

"You may have this woman," said the king suddenly, "and take her into
your house."

The Arab turned his calm eyes upon the wizened face of the other. "Lord,"
he said, "she is not of my faith, being an unbeliever and an infidel,
and, according to my gods, unworthy."

He was wise to the danger his undiplomatic friendship had brought him. He
knew the reigns of Prime Ministers were invariably short. He had become
less indispensable than he had been, for the king had regained some of
his lost confidence in the loyalty of his people; moreover, he had
aroused suspicion in the Akarti's mind, and that was fatal.

The king dismissed him, and Ussuf went back to his hut, where his six
Arab followers were. "Ahmed," he said to one of these, "it is written in
the blessed Word that the life of man is very short. Now I particularly
desire that it shall be no shorter than the days our God has given to me.
Be prepared to-morrow, therefore, to leave this city, for I see an end to
my power."

He rose early in the morning, and went to the palaver which began the
day. He was not perturbed to discover the seat usually reserved on the
right of the king occupied by a lesser chief, and his own stool placed
four seats down on the left.

"I have spoken with my wise counsellors," said the king, "also with
witch-doctors, and these wise men have seen that the crops are bad, and
that there is no fortune in this land, and because of this we will make a
great sacrifice."

Ussuf bowed his head. "Now, I think," said King N'raki slowly, "because I
love my people very dearly, and I will not take any young maidens, as is
the custom, for the fire, and for the killing, that it would be good for
all people if I took the woman Lapai."

All eyes were fixed on Ussuf. His face was calm and motionless.

"Also," the king went on, "I hear terrible things, which fill my stomach
with sorrow."

"Lord, I hear many things also," said Ussuf calmly; "but I am neither
sorry nor glad, for such stories belong to the women at their
cooking-pots and to men who are mad because of sickness."

N'raki made a little face. "Women or madmen," he said shortly, "they say
that you are under the spell of this woman, and that you are plotting
against this land, and have also sent secret messengers to 'They,' and
that you will bring great armies against my warriors, eating up my
country as Sandi ate up the Akasava and the lands of the Great King."

Ussuf said nothing. He would not deny this for many reasons.

"When the moon comes up," said the king, and he addressed the assembly
generally, "you shall tie Lapai to a stake before my royal house, and all
the young maidens shall dance and sing songs, for good fortune will come
to us, as it came in the days of my father, when a bad woman died."

Ussuf made no secret of his movements that day. First he went to his hut
at the far end of the village, and spoke to the six Arabs who had come
with him into the kingdom.

To the headman he said: "Ahmed, this is a time when death is very near us
all, be ready at moonrise to die, if needs be. But since life is precious
to us all, be at the little plantation at the edge of the city at sunset,
as soon as darkness falls and the people come in to sacrifice."

He left them and walked through the broad, palm-fringed street of the
Akarti city till he came to the lonely hut, where the outcast woman
dwelt. It was such a hut as the people of Akarti built for those who are
about to die, so that no dwelling-place might be polluted with the
mustiness of death.

The girl was starting on her daily penance--a tall, fine woman. She
watched the approach of the king's minister without expressing in her
face any of the torments which raged in her bosom.

"Lapai," said Ussuf, "this night the king makes a sacrifice." He made no
further explanation, nor did the girl require one.

"If he had made this sacrifice earlier, he would have been kind," she
said quietly, "for I am a very sorrowful woman."

"That I know, Lapai," said the Arab gently.

"That you do not know," she corrected. "I had sorrow because I loved a
man and destroyed him, because I love my people and they hate me, and now
because I love you, Ussuf, with a love which is greater than any."

He looked at her; there was a strange pity in his eyes, and his thin,
brown hands went out till they reached to her shoulders. "All things are
with the gods," he said. "Now, I cannot love you, Lapai, although I am
full of pity for you, for you are not of my race, and there are other
reasons. But because you are a woman, and because of certain teachings
which I received in my youth, I will take you out of this city, and, if
needs be, die for you."

He watched her as she walked slowly down towards where the people of the
Akarti waited for her, drawn by morbid curiosity, since the king's
intention was no secret. Then he shrugged his shoulders helplessly.

At nine o'clock, when the virgin guards and the old king went to find her
for the killing, she had gone. So also had Ussuf and his six Arabi. The
king's lokali beat furiously, summoning all the country to deliver into
his hands the woman and the man.

Sanders, at that moment, was hunting for the Long Man, whose name was
O'Fasa. O'Fasa was twelve months gone in sleeping-sickness, and had
turned from being a gentle husband and a kindly father into a brute
beast. He had speared his wife, cut down the Houssa guard left by Sanders
to keep the peace of his village, and had made for the forest.

Now, a madman is a king, holding his subjects in the thrall of fear, and
since there was no room in the territory for two kings and Sanders, the
Commissioner came full tilt up the river, landed half a company of black
infantry, and followed on the ravaging trace of the madman.

At the end of eight days he came upon O'Fasa, the Long Man. He was
sitting with his back against a gum-tree, his well-polished spears close
at hand, and he was singing the death song of the Isisi, a long low,
wailing, sorrowful song, which may be so translated into doggerel
English:

"Life is a thing so small
That you cannot see it at all
Death is a thing so wise
That you see it in every guise
Death is the son of life,
Pain is his favourite wife."

Sanders went slowly across the clearing, his automatic pistol in his
hand. O'Fasa looked at him and laughed. "O'Fasa," said Sanders gently, "I
have come to see you, because my King heard you were sick."

"O ko!" laughed the other. "I am a great man when kings send their
messengers to me."

Sanders, his eye upon the spears, advanced warily. "Come with me,
O'Fasa," he said.

The man rose to his feet. He made no attempt to reach his spears. Of a
sudden he ducked, and turned, running swiftly towards the black heart of
the forest. Sanders raised his pistol, and hesitated a second--just too
long. He could not kill the man, though by letting him live he might
endanger the lives of his fellows and the peace of the land.

The Commissioner was in an awkward predicament. Ten miles beyond was the
narrow gap which led into the territory of N'raki. To lead an armed
expedition through that gap would bring about complications which it was
his duty and desire to avoid. The only hope was that O'Fasa would double
back, for the trail they followed left little doubt as to where he had
gone. Unerringly, with the instinct of the hunted beast, he had made for
the gap.

They came to the gorge, palm-fringed, and damp with the running waters,
at sunset, and camped. They found the spoor of the hunted man, lost it,
and picked it up again. At daybreak Sanders, with two men, pushed through
the narrow pass and came into the forbidden territory. There was no sign
of the fugitive.

Sanders's lokali beat out four urgent messages. They were addressed to a
Mr. Grayson Smith, who might possibly be in that neighbourhood, but if he
received them, he sent no reply.

Now, madmen and children have a rooted dislike for strange places, and
Sanders, backing on this, fixed his ambush in the narrow end of the
gorge. Sooner or later O'Fasa would return. At any rate, he decided to
give him four days.

Thus matters stood when the sometime minister, Ussuf, with a woman and
five Arabi, made for the gap, with the swift and tireless guards of the
king at their heels. Three times the Arab had halted to fight off his
pursuers, and in one of these engagements he had sustained his only
casualty, and had left a dead Arab follower on the ground of his stand.

The gap was in sight, when a regiment of the north, summoned by lokali,
swept down on his left and effectively blocked his retreat. Ussuf took up
his position on a little rocky hill. His right was protected by swamp
land, and his left and rear were open.

"Lapai," he said, when he had surveyed the position, "it seems to me that
the death you desire is very close at hand. Now, I am very sorry for you,
but God knows my sorrow can do little to save you."

The woman looked at him steadily. "Lord," she said, "I am very glad if
you and I go down to hell together, for in some new, strange world you
might love me, and I should be satisfied,"

Ussuf laughed, showing his straight rows of white teeth in genuine
amusement. "That we shall see," he said.

The attack came almost at once, but the rifles of the six shot back the
assault. At the end of two hours the little party stood intact. A second
attack followed; one man of the Arab guard went down with an arrow
through his throat, but Ussuf's shooting was effective, and again the
northern regiment drew off.

Before the hill, and in the direction of Akarti city, was the king's
legion. It was from this point that Ussuf expected the last destroying
assault.

"Lapai," he said, turning round, "I--"

The woman had gone! In the fury of the defence he had not noticed her
slip away from him. Suddenly she appeared half-way down the hill and
turned to him.

"Come back!" he called.

She framed her mouth with two hands that her words might carry better. In
the still evening air every word came distinctly. "Lord," she said, "this
is best, for if they have me, they will let you go, and death will come
some day to you, and I shall be waiting."

She turned and ran quickly down the hill towards the stiff lines of
warriors below. Then suddenly appeared out of the ground, as it seemed, a
tall, lank figure right in her path. She stopped a moment, and the man
sprang at her and lifted her without an effort. Ussuf raised his rifle
and covered them, but he dare not shoot.

There was another interested spectator. King N'raki, a vengeful man, and
agile despite his years, had followed as eagerly as the youngest of his
warriors, and now stood in the midst of his counsellors, watching the
scene upon the hill.

"What man is that?" he asked. "For I see he is not of our people."

Before the messengers he would have dispatched could be instructed, the
tall man, running lightly with his burden, came towards him, and laid a
dead woman almost at the king's feet.

"Man," he said insolently, "I bring you this woman, whom I have killed,
because a devil put it into my heart to do so."

"Who are you?" asked N'raki. "For I see you are a stranger."

"I am a king," said O'Fasa, the Long Man; "greater than all kings, for I
have behind me the armies of white men." The humour of this twisted truth
struck him of a sudden, for he burst into a fit of uncontrollable
laughter.

"You have the armies of the white men behind you?" repeated N'raki
slowly, and looked nervously from side to side.

"Behold!" said O'Fasa, stretching out his hand. The king's eyes followed
the direction of the hand. Far away across the bare plain he saw black
specks of men advancing at regular intervals. The sinking sun set the
bayonets of Sanders's little force aglitter. The Commissioner had heard
the firing, and had guessed much.

"It is 'They,'" said King N'raki, and blinked furiously at the Long Man,
O'Fasa. He turned swiftly to his guard. "Kill that man!" he said.

* * * * *

Sanders brought his half-company of Houssas to the hill and was met
half-way by Ussuf.

"I heard your rifles," he said. "Have you seen anything of a long chap,
of wild and aggressive mien?"

He spoke in English, and Ussuf replied in the same language. "A tall
man?" he asked, and Sanders wondered a little that a man so unemotional
as was Grayson Smith, of the Colonial Intelligence, should speak so
shakily. "I think he is here," said the Englishman in Arab attire, and he
led the way down the hill.

N'raki's armies had moved off swiftly. The fear of 'They' had been
greater in its effect than all its legions.

The Englishmen made their way to where two figures lay in a calm sleep of
death.

"Who is the woman?" asked Sanders.

"A native woman, who loved me," said Grayson Smith simply, and he bent
down and closed the eyes of the girl who had loved him so well.



CHAPTER XII


THE AMBASSADORS


There is a saying amongst the Akasava: "The Isisi sees with his eyes, the
N'gombi with his ears, but the Ochori sees nothing but his meat."

This is translated badly, but in its original form it is immensely
subtle. In the old days before Bosambo became chief, king, headman, or
what you will, of his people, the Ochori were quite prepared to accept
the insulting description of their sleepiness without resentment.

But this was cala-cala, and now the Ochori are a proud people, and it is
not good to throw insulting proverbs in their direction, lest they throw
them back with something good and heavy at the end of them.

The native mind works slowly, and it was not until every tribe within
three hundred miles had received some significant indication of the
change which had come about in the spirit and character of this timorous
people, that they realised the Ochori were no longer a race which might
serve as butts for the shafts of wisdom.

There was a petty chief of the Isisi who governed a great district, for,
although "Isisi" means 'small' the name must not be taken literally. He
had power under his king to call palavers on all great national
questions, such as the failure of crops, the shifting of fishing-grounds,
and the infidelities of highly-placed women.

One day he called his people together--his counsellors, his headmen, and
all sons of chiefs--and he laid before them a remarkable proposition.

"In the days of my father," said Emberi, "the Ochori were a weak and
cowardly people; now they have become strong and powerful. Last week they
came down upon our brothers of the Akasava and stole their goats and laid
shame upon them, and behold! the Akasava, who are great warriors, did
nothing more than send to Sandi the story of their sorrow. Now it seems
to me that this is because Bosambo, the chief, has a devil of great
potency, and I have sent to my king to ask him to entreat the lord
Bosambo to tell us why these things should be."

The gathered counsellors nodded their heads wisely. There was no doubt at
all that Bosambo had the advantage of communication with a devil; or if
this were not so, he was blessed to a minor degree with a nodding
acquaintance with one of those ghosts in which the forest of the Ochori
abounded.

"And thus says my lord, the king of the Akasava, and of all the
territories and the rivers and the unknown lands beyond the forest as far
as the eye can see," the chief went on. "He sends me his message by his
counsellor, saying: 'It is true Bosambo has a devil, and for the sake of
my people I will send to him, asking him to put his strength in our
hands, that we may be wise and bold.'"

Now this was a conclusion which had been arrived at simultaneously by the
six nations, and, although the thoughts of their rulers were not
communicated in such a public fashion, the faith in Bosambo's inspiration
was universal, and the idea that Bosambo should be thus approached was a
violent and shameless plagiarism on the part of the chief Emberi.

One morning in the late spring the ambassadors of the powers came
paddling up to Ochori city in twelve canoes with their headmen, their
warriors, their beaters of drums and their carriers. Bosambo, who had no
faith whatever in humanity, was warned of their approach and threw the
city into a condition of defence. He himself received the deputation on
the foreshore, and the spokesman was Emberi.

"Lord Bosambo," said the chief, "we come in peace, and from the chief and
the kings and all the peoples of these lands."

"That may be so," said Bosambo, "and my heart is full of joy to see you.
But I beg of you that you land your spearmen and your warriors and your
beaters of drums on the other side of the river, for I am a timorous man,
and I fear that I cannot in this city show you the love and honour which
Sandi has asked me to give even to common people."

"But, lord," protested the chief, who, to do him credit, had no warlike
or injurious ideas concerning his host, "on the other side of the water
there is only sand and water and evil spirits,"

"That may be so," said Bosambo; "but on this side of the river there are
me and my people, and we desire to live happily for many years. I tell
you, that it is better that you should all die because of the sand and
the water and the evil spirits, than that I should be slain by those who
do not love me."

"My master," said Emberi pompously, "is a great king and a great lover of
you."

"Your master," said Bosambo, "is a great liar."

"He loves you," protested Emberi.

"He is still a great liar," said Bosambo; "for the last time I met him he
not only said that he would come with his legions and eat me up, but he
also called me evil names, such as 'fish-eater' and 'chicken,' and 'fat
dog.'"

Bosambo spoke without fear of consequences because he had a hundred of
his picked men behind him, and all the advantage of the sloping beach. He
would have turned the delegates back to their homes, but that the
persistent and alarmed Emberi succeeded in interesting him in his
announcements, and, more important, there were landed from one of the
canoes, rich presents, including goats and rice and a looking-glass,
which latter was, explained Emberi, the very core of his master's soul.

In the end Bosambo left his hundred men to hold the beach, and Emberi
persuaded his reluctant followers to make their home on the sandy shore
across the river. Then, and only then, did Bosambo unbend, and had
prepared one of his famous feasts, to which all the chiefs of the land
contributed in the shape of meat and drink--all the chiefs, that is,
except Bosambo, who made a point of giving nothing away to anybody in any
circumstances.

The palaver that followed was very interesting, indeed, to the chief of
the Ochori. One by one, from nine in the morning to four in the following
morning, the delegates spoke.

Much of their speeches dealt with the superlative qualities which
distinguished Bosambo's rule--his magnificent courage, his noble
generosity--Bosambo glanced quickly round to see the faces of the
counsellors who had reluctantly provided the feast--and to the future
which awaited all nations which imitated all his virtues.

"Lord, I speak the truth," said Emberi, "and thus it runs that all people
from the sea where the river ends, to the leopard's mouth from whence it
has its source, know that you are familiar with devils that give you
courage and cunning and tell you magic, so that you can make men from
rats."

Bosambo nodded his head gravely. "All this is true," he said. "I have
several devils, although I do not always use them. For, as you know, I am
a follower of a particular faith, and was for one lifetime a Christian,
believing in all manners of mysteries of which you know nothing--Marki,
Luki, and Johnny Baptist, who are not for you."

He looked round at the awed men and shook his head.

"Nor do you know of the wonders they worked, such as curing burns, and
striking dead, and cutting ears. Now I know these things," he continued
impressively. "Therefore Sandi loves me, for he also is a God-man, and
often comes to me to speak with him concerning these white men."

"Lord, what are devils?" asked an impatient delegate.

"Of the devils," repeated Bosambo, "I have many."

He half closed his eyes and was silent for the space of two minutes. He
gave the impression that he was counting his staff--and, indeed, this was
the idea precisely that he wished to convey.

"O ko!" said Emberi in a hushed voice. "If it is true, as you say it is,
then our master desires that you shall send us one devil or two that we
might be taught the peculiar manner of these wonderful ghosts."

Bosambo coughed, and glanced round at the sober faces of his advisers.

"I have many devils who serve me," he began. "There is one I know who is
very small and has two noses--one before him and one behind--so that he
may smell his enemy who stalks him. Also there is one who is so tall that
the highest trees are grass to his feet. And another one who is green and
walks upside down."

For an hour Bosambo orated at length on demonology, even though he might
never have known the word. He drew on the misty depths of his
imagination. He availed himself of every recollection dealing with
science. He spoke of ghosts who were familiar friends, and came to his
bidding much in the same way that the civilised dog comes to his master's
whistle.

The delegates retired to their huts for the night in a condition of panic
when Bosambo informed them that he had duly appointed a particular brand
of devil to serve their individual needs, and protect them against the
ills which the flesh is heir to.

Now Ochori city and the Ochori nation had indeed awakened from the spell
of lethargy under the beneficent and drastic government of Bosambo, and
it is known in the history of nations, however primitive or however
advanced they may be, that no matter how excellent may be the changes
effected there will be a small but compact party who regard the reformer
as one who encumbers the earth. Bosambo had of his own people a small but
powerful section who regarded all changes with horror, and who saw in the
new spirit which the chief had infused into the Ochori, the beginning of
the end. This is a view which is not peculiar to the Ochori.

There were old chiefs and headmen who remembered the fat and idle days
which preceded the upraising of Bosambo, who remembered how easy it was
to secure slave service, and, remembering, spoke of Bosambo with
unkindness. The chief might have settled the matter of devils out of hand
in his own way, and would, I doubt not, have sent away the delegation
happily enough with such messages of the Koran as he could remember
written on the paper Sanders had supplied him for official messages.

But it was not Bosambo's way, nor was it the way with the men with whom
he had to deal to expedite important palavers. Normally, such a
conference as was now assembled, would last at least three days and three
nights It seemed that it would last much longer, for Bosambo had troubles
of his own.

At dawn on the morning following the arrival of the delegation, a
dust-stained messenger, naked as he was born, came at a jog-trot and
panting heavily from the bush road which leads to the Elivi, and without
ceremony stood at the door of the royal hut.

"Lord Bosambo," said the messenger, "Ikifari, the chief of Elivi, brings
his soldiers and headmen to the number of a thousand, for a palaver."

"What is in his heart?" said Bosambo.

"Master," said the man, "this is in his heart: there shall be no roads in
the Ochori, for the men of Elivi are crying out against the work. They
desire to live in peace and comfort."

Bosambo had instituted a law of his own--with the full approval of
Sanders--and it was that each district should provide a straight and
well-made forest road from one city to another, and a great road which
should lead from one district to its neighbour. Unfortunately, every
little tribe did not approach the idea with the enthusiasm which Bosambo
himself felt, nor regard it with the approval which was offered to this
most excellent plan by the King's Government.

For road-making is a bad business. It brings men out early in the
morning, and keeps them working with the sweat running off their bare
backs in the hot hours of the day. Also there were fines and levies which
Bosambo the chief took an unholy joy in extracting whenever default was
made.

Of all the reluctant tribes, the Elivi were the most frankly so. Whilst
all the others were covered with a network of rough roads--slovenly made,
but roads none the less--Elivi stood a virgin patch of land two hundred
miles square in the very heart of makeshift civilisation. Bosambo might
deal drastically with the enemy who stood outside his gate. It was a more
delicate matter when he had to deal with a district tacitly rebellious,
and this question of roads threatened to develop, unhappily.

He had sent spies into the land of the Elivi and this was the first man
back.

"Now it seems to me," said Bosambo, half to himself, "that I have need of
all my devils, for Ikifari is a bitter man, and his sons and his
counsellors are of a mind with him."

He sent his headman to his guests with a message that for the whole day
he would be deep in counsel with himself over this matter of ghosts; and
when late in the evening the van of the Elivi force was sighted on the
east of the village, Bosambo, seated in state in his magnificent
palaver-house, adorned with such Christmas plates as came his way,
awaited their arrival.

Limberi, the headman, went out to meet the disgruntled force. "Chief," he
said, "it is our lord's wish that you leave your spears outside the
city."

"Limberi," said Ikifari, a hard man of forty, all wiry muscle-and
leanness, "we are people of your race and your brothers. Why should we
leave our spears--we who are of the Ochori?"

"You do not come otherwise," said Limberi decisively. "For across the
river are many enemies of our lord, and he loves you so much, that for
his own protection, he desired your armed men--your spearmen and your
swordsmen--to sit outside. Thus he will be confident and happy."

There was no more to be done than to obey. Ikifari with his counsellors
followed the headman to the palaver, and his insolence was notable.

"I speak for all Elivi," he said, without any ceremonious preliminaries.
"We are an oppressed people, lord Bosambo, and our young men cry out with
great voices against your cruelty."

"They shall cry louder," said Bosambo, and Ikifari, the chief, scowled.

"Lord," he said sullenly, "if it is true that Sandi loves you, he also
loves us, and no man is so great in this land that he may stir a people
to rebellion."

Bosambo knew this was true--knew it without the muttered approval of
Ikifari's headmen. He ran his eye over the little party. They were all
there--the malcontents. Tinif'si, the stout headman, M'kera and Calasari,
the lesser chiefs; and there was in their minds a certain defiance which
particularly exasperated Bosambo. He might punish one or two who set
themselves up against his authority, but here was an organised rebellion.
Punishment would mean fighting, and fighting would weaken his position
with Sanders. It was the moment to temporise.

Fortunately the devil deputation was not present. It was considered to be
against all etiquette for men of another nation to be present at the
domestic councils of their neighbours. Otherwise some doubt might have
been born in the bosom of Emberi as to the efficacy of Bosambo's devils
at this particular moment.

"And this I would say to you, lord," said Ikifari, and Bosambo knew that
the crux of the situation would be revealed. "We Elivi are your dogs. You
do not send for us to come to your great feasts, nor do you honour us in
any way. But when there is fighting you call up our spears and our young
men, and you send us abroad to be eaten up by your terrible enemies.
Also," he went on, "when you choose your chiefs and counsellors to go
pleasant journeys to such places where they are honoured and feasted, you
send only men of the Ochori city."

It may be said here that from whatever source Bosambo derived his
inspiration, he had certainly acquired royal habits which were foreign to
his primitive people. Thus he would dispatch envoys and ambassadors on
ceremonious visits bearing gifts and presents which they themselves
provided and returning with richer presents which Bosambo acquired. It
was, if the truth be told, a novel and pleasant method of extracting
blackmail--pleasant because it gave Bosambo little trouble, and afforded
his subordinates titillation of importance, and no one had arisen to
complain save these unfortunate cities of Akasava, Isisi and N'gombi
which entertained his representatives.

"It is true I have never sent you," said Bosambo, "and my heart is sore
at the thought that you should think evil of me because I have saved you
all this trouble. For my heart is like water within me. Yet a moon since
I sent Kili, my headman, bearing gifts to the king of the bush people,
and they chopped him so that he died, and now I fear to send other
messengers."

There was an unmistakable sneer on Ikifari's face. "Lord," he said, with
asperity, "Kili was a foolish man and you hated him, for he had spoken
evilly against you, stirring up your people. Therefore you sent him to
the bushmen and he did not come back." He added significantly: "Now I
tell you that if you send me to the bushmen I do not go."

Bosambo thought a moment. "Now, I see," he said, almost jovially, "that
Ikifari, whom I love better than my own brother"--this was true--"is
angry with me because I have not sent him on a journey. Now I shall show
how much I love you, for I will send you all--each of you--as guests of
my house, bearing my word to such great nations as the Akasava, the
Isisi, the N'gombi; also to the people beyond the river, who are great
and give large presents." He saw the faces brighten, and seized the
psychological moment.

"The palaver is finished," said Bosambo magnificently.

He ordered a feast to be made outside the city for his unwelcome guests,
and summoned the devil delegates to his presence. "My friends," he said,
"I have given the matter of devils great thought, and since I desire to
stand well with you and with your master, I have spent this night in
Company with six great devils, who are my best friends and who help me in
all matters. Now I tell you this--which is known only to myself and to
you, whom I trust--that to-day I send to your master six great spirits
which inspire me."

There was a hush. The sense of responsibility, which comes to the nervous
who are suddenly entrusted with the delivery of a ferocious bull, fell
upon the men of the delegation.

"Lord, this is a great honour," said Emberi, "and our masters will send
many more presents than your lordship has ever seen. But how may we take
these devils with us, for we are fearful and are not used to their ways?"

Bosambo bowed his head graciously. "That also filled my thoughts," he
said, "and thus I have ordered it. I shall take six of my people--six
counsellors and chiefs, who are to me as the sun and the flowers--and by
magic I will place inside the heart of each chief and headman one great
devil. You shall take these men with you, and you shall listen to all
they say save this." He paused. "These devils love me, and they will
greatly desire to return to my city and to my land, where they have been
so long. Now I tell you that you must treat them kindly. Yet you must
hold them, putting a guard about them, and keeping them in a secret
place, so that Sandi may not find them and hear of them. And they will
bring you fortune and prosperity and the courage of lions."

* * * * *

Sanders was coming up river to settle a woman palaver, when he came slap
into a flotilla of such pretension and warlike appearance that he did not
hesitate for one moment.

At a word, the canvas jackets were slipped from the Hotchkiss guns, and
they were swung over the side. But there was no need for such
preparations, as he discovered when Emberi's canoe came alongside.

"Tell me, Emberi," said Sanders, "what is this wonderful thing I
see--that the Akasavas and the Isisi, and the N'gombi and the people of
the lower forest sail together in love and harmony?"

"Lord," said Emberi proudly, "this is Bosambo's doing."

Sanders was all suspicion. "Now I know that Bosambo is a clever man," be
said, "yet I did not know that he was so great a character that he could
bring together all men in peace, but rather the contrary."

"He has done this because of devils," said Emberi importantly. "Behold,
there are certain things about which I must not speak to you, and this is
one of them. So, Sandi, ask me no more, for I have sworn an oath."

Leaning over the steamer Sanders surveyed the flotilla. His keen eyes
ranged the boat from stem to stern. He noted with interest the presence
of one Ikifari, who was known to him. And Ikifari in a scarlet coat was a
happy and satisfied man. "O Ikifari," bantered Sanders, "what of my
roads?"

The chief looked up. "Lord, they shall be made," he said, "though my
young men die in the making. I go now to make a grand palaver for my
friend and father Bosambo, for he trusts me above all men and has sent me
to the Isisi."

Sanders knew something of Bosambo's idiosyncrasies, and nodded. "When you
come back," he said, "I will speak on the matter of these roads. Tell me
now, my friend, how long do you stay with the Isisi?"

"Lord," said Ikifari, "I stay for the time of a moon. Afterwards I go
back to the Ochori, bearing rich presents which my lord Bosambo has made
me swear I will keep for myself."

"The space of a moon," repeated Sanders.

He turned to ring the engines "Ahead" and did not see Emberi's hand go up
to cover a smile.



CHAPTER XIII


GUNS IN THE. AKASAVA


"Thank God!" said the Houssa captain fervently, "there is no war in this
country."

"Touch wood!" said Sanders, and the two men simultaneously reached out
and laid solemn hands upon the handle of the coffee-pot, which was
vulcanite. If they had touched wood who knows what might have happened in
the first place to Ofesi the chief of Mc-Canti?

Who knows what might have happened to the two smugglers of gold from the
French territory?

The wife of Bikilini might have gone off with her lover, and Bikilini
resigned and patient taken another to wife, and the death men of the
Ofesi might never have gone forth upon their unamiable missions, or going
forth have been drowned, or grown faint-hearted. Anyway it is an
indisputable fact that neither Sanders nor Captain Hamilton touched wood
on the occasion.

And as to Bannister Fish--?

That singular man was a trader in questionable commodities, for he had
not the nice sentiments which usually go with the composition of a white
man. Some say that he ran slaves from Angola to places where a black man
or a black woman is worth a certain price; that he did this openly with
the connivance of the Government of Portugal and made a tolerable
fortune. He certainly bought more poached ivory than any man in Africa,
and his crowning infamy up to date was the arming of a South Soudanese
Mahdi--arms for employment against his fellow-countrymen.

There are certain manufacturers of small arms in the Midlands who will
execute orders to any capacity, produce weapons modern or antiquated at a
cost varying with the delicacy or mechanism of the weapon. They have no
conscience, but have a hard struggle to pay dividends because there are
other firms in Liege who run the same line of business, but produce at
from 10 per cent to 25 per cent lower cost.

Mr. Bannister Fish, a thin, wiry man of thirty-four, as yellow as a
guinea and with the temper of a fiend, was not popular on the coast,
especially with officials. Fortunately Africa has many coasts, and since
Africa in mass was Mr. Fish's hunting-ground, rather than any particular
section, the coast men--as we know the coast--saw little of him.

It was Mr. Fish's boast that there was not twenty miles of coast line
from Dakka to Capetown, and from Lourenco Marques to Suez, that had not
contributed something of beauty to his lordly mansion on the top of
Highgate Hill.

You will observe that he omits reference to the coast which encloses Cape
Colony, and there is a reason. Cape Colony is immensely civilised, has
stipendiary magistrates and a horrible breakwater where yellow-jacketed
convicts labour for their sins, and Mr. Fish's sins were many. He tackled
Sanders's territory in the same spirit as a racehorse breeder-will start
raising Pekingese poodles--not for the money hie could make out of it,
but as an amusing sideline.

He worked ruin on the edge of the Akasava country, operating from the
adjoining foreign territories, and found an unholy joy in worrying
Sanders, whom he had met once and most cordially disliked. His dislike
was intensified on the next occasion of their meeting, for Sanders,
making a forced march across the Akasava, seized the caravan of Mr.
Bannister Fish, burnt his stores out of hand, and submitted the plutocrat
of Highgate Hill to the indignity of marching handcuffed to headquarters.
Mr. Fish was tried by a divisional court and fined 500, or, as an
alternative, awarded twelve months' imprisonment with hard labour.

The fine was paid, and Mr. Fish went home saying horrible things about
Mr. Commissioner Sanders, which I will not sully these fair pages by
repeating.

Highgate Hill is a prosaic neighbourhood served by prosaic motor-buses,
and not the place where one would imagine wholesale murder might be
planned, yet from his domain in Highgate Mr. Fish issued certain
instructions by telephone and cablegram, and at his word men went
secretly into Sanders's territory looking for the likely man. They found
Ofesi, and Highgate spoke to the Akasava to some purpose.

In the month of February in a certain year Mr. Fish drove resplendently
in his electric landau from Highgate to Waterloo. He arrived on the
Akasava border seven weeks later no less angry with Sanders than he had
ever been, and of a cheerful countenance because, being a millionaire, he
could indulge in his hobbies, and his hobby was the annoyance of a
far-away Commissioner who, at that precise moment was touching vulcanite
and thinking it wood.

Ofesi, the son of Malaka, the son of G'nani, was predestined. Thus it was
predicted by the famous witch-doctor Komonobologo, of the Akasava. For it
would appear that on the night that Ofesi came squealing into the world,
there were certain solar manifestations such as an eclipse of the moon
and prodigious shooting of stars, which Komonobologo translated
favourably to the clucking, sobbing and shrill whimpering morsel of
whitey-brown humanity.

Thus Ofesi was to rule all peoples as far as the sun shone (some three
hundred miles in all directions according to local calculations), and he
should not suffer ignominious death at the hand of any man. Ofesi
(literally 'the Born-Lucky') should be mighty in counsel and in war;
should shake the earth with the tread of his legions; might risk and
gain, never risk and lose; was the favoured of ju-jus and ghosts; and
would have many sons.

The hollow-eyed woman stretched on the floor of the hut spoke faintly of
her happiness, the baby with greedy mouth satisfying the beast in him
said nothing, being too much occupied with his natural and instinctive
desires.

Such prophecies are common, and some come to nothing. Some, for no
apparent reason, stick fast to the recipient. Ofesi--his destiny--was of
the sticking kind. When Sanders took up his duties on the river, Ofesi
was a lank and awkward youth of whom his fellows stood in awe.

Sanders was in awe of nobody. He listened quietly to the recital of
portents, omens, and the like, and when it was finished, he delivered a
little homily on the fallibility of human things and the extraordinarily
high death-rate which existed amongst those misguided people who walked
outside the rigid circle of the land.

Ofesi had neighbours more hearty than Sanders, and by these he was
accepted as something on account of the total wonder which the years
would produce. So Ofesi grew and flourished, doing much mischief in his
way, which was neither innocent nor boyish, and the friendly hand which
is upraised to small boys all the world over never fell sharply upon his
well-covered nerves, because Ofesi was predestined and immune. In course
of time he was appointed by the then king of the Akasava to the
chieftainship of the village of Mi-lanti, and the city of the Akasava
breathed a sigh of relief to see his canoe go round the bend of the river
out of sight.

No report of the chief's minor misdoings came to Sanders because this
legend of destiny carried to all the nations save and except one.

It is said that Ofesi received more homage and held a more regal court in
his tiny principality than did the king his master; that N'gombi, Isisi,
and the tribes about sent him presents doubly precious, and that he had a
household of sixty wives, all contributed by his devotees. It was also
said that he made the intoxicating distributions of Mr. Fish possible,
but Sanders had no proof of this. He raided his friends impartially, did
all manner of unpleasant things, terrorised the river from the Lesser
Isisi to the edge of the Ochori, and the fishermen watching his war
canoes creeping stealthily through the night would say: "Let no man see
the lord Ofesi; lest in the days to come he remember and blind us."

Whether from sheer cunning or from the intuitive faculty which is a part
of genius, Ofesi grew to stout manhood without once violating the border
line of the Ochori. Until upon a day--

Sanders came in great haste one wet April night when the clouds hung so
low over the river that you might have touched them with a fishing-rod.
It was a night of billowing mists, of drenching cloud bursts, of loud
cracking thunders and the flicker-flacker of lightning so incessant that
only the darkness counted as interval. Yet, against the swollen stream,
drenched to the skin, his wet face set to the stinging rain and the white
rod of his searchlight piercing such gloom as there was, Sanders came as
fast as stern wheel could revolve for the Akasava land.

He came up to the village of Mi-lanti in the wild grey of a stormy dawn,
and such of the huts as the flooding waters of the heavens had spared
stood isolated sentinels amidst smoking ruins. He landed tired and
immensely angry, and found many dead men and one or two who thought they
were dead. They told him a doleful story of rapine and murder, of an
innocent village set upon by the Ochori and taken in its defencelessness.

"That is a lie," said Sanders promptly, "for you have stockades, built to
the west of the village and your dead are all painted as men paint
themselves who prepare long for war. Also the Ochori--such as I have
seen--are not so painted, which tells me that they came in haste against
a warring people."

The wounded man turned his tired face to Sanders. "It is my faith," he
said, in the conventional terminology of his tribe, "that you have eyes
like a big cat."

Sanders attended to his injuries and left him and his pitiful fellows in
a dry hut. Then he went to look for Bosambo, and found him sitting
patiently ten miles up the river. He sat before a steep hill of rock and
undergrowth. At the top of the hill was the chief of the village of
Mi-lanti, and with him were such of his fighting men as were not at the
moment in a happier world.

"Lord, this is true," said Bosambo, "that this dog attacked my river
villages and put my men to death and my women to service. So I came down
against him, for it is written in the Sura of the Djinn that no man shall
live to laugh at his own evil."

"There will be a palaver," said Sanders briefly, and bade the crestfallen
chief, Ofesi, to come down and stack his spears. Since it is not in the
nature of the native man to speak the truth when his skin is in peril, it
goes without saying that both sides lied fearfully, and Sanders, sifting
the truth, knew which side lied the least.

"Ofesi," he said, at the end of much weariness of listening, "what do you
say that I shall not hang you?"

Ofesi, a short, thick man with a faint beard, looked up and down, left
and right for inspiration.

"Lord," he said after a while, "this you know, that all my life I have
been a good man--and it is said that I have a high destiny, and shall not
die by cruelty."

"Man is eternal whilst he lives," quoted Sanders, "yet man dies sooner
or later."

Ofesi stared round at Bosambo, and Bosambo was guilty of an
indiscretion--possibly the greatest indiscretion of his life. In the
presence of his master, and filled with the exultation and virtuous
righteousness which come to the palpably innocent in the face of trial,
he said in English, shaking his head the while reprovingly: "Oh, you dam'
naughty devil!"

Sanders had condemned the man to death in his heart; had mentally chosen
the tree on which the marauding chief should swing when Bosambo spoke.
Sanders had an immense idea as to the sanctity of life in one sense. He
had killed many by rope with seeming indifference, and, indeed, he never
allowed the question of a man's life or death to influence him one way or
the other when an end was in view. He would watch with unwavering eyes
the breath choke out of a swaying body, yet there must be a certain
ritual of decency, of fitness, of decorum in such matters, or his
delicate sense of justice was outraged.

Bosambo's words, grotesque, uncalled for, wholly absurd, saved the life
of Ofesi the chief.

For a moment Sanders's lips twitched irresponsibly, then he turned with a
snarl upon the discomfited chief of the Ochori. "Back to your land, you
monkey man!" he snapped; "this man has offended against the land--yet he
shall live, for he is a fool. I know a greater one!"

He sent Ofesi back to his village to build up what his folly had
overthrown.

"Remember, Ofesi," he said, "I give you back your life, though you
deserve death: and I do this because it comes to me suddenly that you
are a child as Bosambo is a child. Now, I will come back to you with the
early spring, and if you have deserved well of me you shall be rewarded
with your liberty; and if you have done ill to me, you shall go to the
Village of Irons or to a worse place."

Back at headquarters Sanders told a sympathetic captain of Houssas the
story. "It was horribly weak of course," he said; "but, somehow, when
that ass Bosambo let rip his infernal English I couldn't hang a sparrow."

"Might have brought this Ofesi person down to the village," said the
captain thoughtfully, "He's got an extraordinary reputation."

Sanders sat on the edge of the table, his hands thrust into his breeches
pockets. "I thought of that, too, and it affected me. You see, there was
just a fear in my mind that I was being influenced on the wrong side by
this fellow's talk of destiny--that I was being, in fact, a little
malicious."

The Houssa skipper snapped his cigarette case and looked thoughtful.
"I'll get another company down from headquarters," he said.

"You might ask for a machine-gun section also," said Sanders. "I've got
it in my bones that there's going to be trouble."

A week later the upper river saw many strange faces. Isolated fishermen
came from nowhere in particular to pursue their mild calling in strange
waters. They built their huts in unfrequented patches of forest, and you
might pass up and down a stretch of the beach without knowing that hut
was modestly concealed in the thick bush at the back. Also they went
about their business at night with fishing spear and light canoe tacking
across river and up river, moving without sound in the shadows of the
bank, approaching villages and cities with remarkable circumspection.
They were strange fishermen indeed, for they fished with pigeons. In
every canoe the birds drowsed in a wicker-work cage, little red labels
about their legs on which even an untutored spy might make a rude but
significant mark with the aid of an indelible pencil. Sanders took no
risks.

He summoned Ahmed Ali, the chief of his secret men. "Go to the Akasava
country, and there you will find Ofesi, a chief of the village Mi-lanti.
Watch him, for he is an evil man. On the day that he moves against me and
my people you shall judge whether I can come in time with my soldiers. If
there is time send for me: but if he moves swiftly you shall shoot him
dead and you shall not be blamed. Go with God."

"Master," said Ahmed, "Ofesi is already in hell."

If all reports worked out, and they certainly tallied, Ofesi, the
predestined chief, gave no offence. He rebuilt his city, choosing higher
ground and following a long and unexpected hunting trip, which took him
to the edge of the Akasava country, and he projected a visit of love and
harmony to Bosambo.

He even sent swift couriers to Sanders to ask permission for the
ceremonial, though such permission was wholly unnecessary. Sanders
granted the request, delaying the deputation until he had sent his own
messengers to Bosambo. So on a bright June morning Ofesi set forth on his
mission, his two and twenty canoes painted red, and even the paddles
newly burnt to fantastic and complimentary designs; and he came to the
Ochori and was met by Bosambo, a profound sceptic but outwardly pleasant.

"I see you," said Ofesi, "I see you, lord Bosambo, also your brave and
beautiful people; yet I come in peace and it grieves me that you should
meet me with so many spears."

For in truth the beach bristled a steel welcome and three fighting
regiments of the Ochori, gallantly arrayed, were ranked in hollow square,
the fourth side of which was the river.

"Lord Ofesi," said Bosambo suavely, "this is the white man's way of doing
honour and, as you know, I have much white blood in my veins, being
related to the English Prime Minister."

He surveyed the two-and-twenty canoes with their twenty paddlers to each,
and duly noted that each paddler carried his fighting spears as a matter
of course.

That Ofesi had any sinister design upon the stronghold of the Ochori may
be dismissed as unlikely. He was cast in no heroic mould, and abhorred
unnecessary risk, for destiny requires some assistance. He had brought
his spears for display rather than for employment. Willy-nilly he must
stack them now--an unpleasant operation, reminiscent of another stacking
under the cold eye of Sanders.

So it may be said that the rapprochement between the Ochori and the
Akasava chief began inauspiciously. Bosambo led the way to his
guest-house--new-thatched as is the custom. There was a great feast in
Ofesi's honour, and a dance of girls--every village contributing its
chief dancer for the event. Next day there was a palaver with sacrifices
of fowl and beast, and blood friendships were sworn fluently. Bosambo and
Ofesi embraced before all the people assembled, and ate salt from the
same dish.

"Now I will tell you all my business, my brother," said Ofesi that night.
"To-morrow I go back to my people with your good word, and I shall speak
of you by day and night because of your noble heart."

"I also will have no rest," said Bosambo, "till I have journeyed all over
this land, speaking about my wonderful brother Ofesi."

With a word Ofesi dismissed his counsellors, and Bosambo, accepting the
invitation, sent away his headmen.

"Now I will tell you," said Ofesi.

And what he said, what flood of ego-oratory, what promises, what covert
threats, provided Bosambo with reminiscences for long afterwards.

"Yet," he concluded, "though all things have moved to make me what I am,
yet there is much I have to learn, and from none can I learn so well as
from you, my brother."

"That is very true," said Bosambo, and meant it.

"Now," Ofesi went on to his peroration, "the king of the Akasava is dying
and all men are agreed that I shall be king in his place, therefore I
would learn to the utmost grain all the secrets of kingship. Therefore,
since I cannot sit with you, I ask you, lord Bosambo, to give a home to
Tolinobo, my headman, that he may sit for a year in the shadow of your
wisdom and tell me the many beautiful things you say."

Bosambo looked thoughtfully at Tolinobo, the headman, a shifty fisherman
promoted to that position, and somewhat deficient in sanity, as Bosambo
judged.

"He shall sit with me," said Bosambo at length, "and be as my own son,
sleeping in a hut by mine, and I will treat him as if he were my
brother."

There was a fleeting gleam, of satisfaction in Ofesi's eye as he rose to
embrace his blood-friend; but then he did not know how Bosambo treated
his brother.

The Akasava chief and his two and twenty canoes paddled homeward at
daybreak, and Bosambo saw them off. When they were gone, he turned to his
headman: "Tell me, Solonkinini," he said, "what have we done with this
Tolinobo who stays with us?"

"Lord, we build him a new hut this morning in your lordship's shadow."

Bosambo nodded. "First," he said, "you shall take him to the secret place
near the Crocodile Pool and stake him out. Presently I will come, and we
will ask him some questions."

"Lord, he will not answer," said the headman. "I myself have spoken with
him."

"He shall answer me," said Bosambo, significantly, "and you shall build a
fire and make very hot your spears, for I think this Tolinobo has
something he will be glad to tell."

Bosambo's prediction was justified by fact. Ofesi was not half-way home,
happy in his success, when a blubbering Tolinobo, stretched ignominiously
on the ground, spoke with a lamentable lack of reserve on all manner of
private matters, being urged thereto by a red hot spear-head which
Bosambo held much too near his face for comfort.

* * * * *

At about this time came Jim Greet, an American adventurer, and Francis E.
Coulson, a citizen of the world. They came into Sanders's territory
unwillingly, for they were bound, via the French river which skirted the
north of the N'gombi land, for German West Africa. There was in normal
times a bit of a stream which connected the great river with the Frenchi
river. It was, according to a facetious government surveyor, navigable
for balloons and paper boats, except once in a decade a mild spring in
the one thousand-miles distant mountains coincided with heavy rains in
the Isisi watershed. Given the coincidence the tiny dribble of
rush-choked water achieved the dignity of riverhood. It was bad luck that
Jim and Coulson hit an exceptional season. Keeping to the left bank, and
moving only by night--they had reason for this--the adventurers followed
the course of the stream which ordinarily was not on the map, and they
were pardonably and almost literally at sea.

Two long nights they worked their crazy little steamer through an unknown
territory without realising that it was unknown. They avoided such
villages as they passed, shutting off steam and dowsing all lights till
they drilled beyond sight and hearing.

At last they reached a stage in their enterprise where the maintenance of
secrecy was a matter of some personal danger, and they looked around in
the black night for assistance. "Looks like a village over there, Jim,"
said Coulson, and the steersman nodded,

"There's shoal water here," he said grimly, "and the freehold is up to
water-level."

"Leakin'?"

"Not exactly leakin'," said Jim carefully; "but there's no bottom to the
forepart of this tub."

Coulson swore softly at the African night. The velvet darkness had fallen
on them suddenly, and it was a case of tie-up or go on--Jim decided to go
on. They had struck a submerged log and ripped away the bottom of the
tiny compartment that was magniloquently called "No. 1 hold," the
bulkhead of Nos. 1 and 2 was of the thinnest steel and was bulging
perceptibly. Coulson did not know this, but Jim did. Now he turned the
prow of the ancient steamer to the dark shore, and the revolving
paddle-wheels made an expiring effort.

Somewhere on the river bank a voice called to them in the Akasava tongue,
they saw the fires of the village, and black shadows passing before them;
they heard women laughing. Jim turned his head and gave an order to one,
of his naked crew, and the man leapt overboard with a thin rope hawser.
Then the ripped keel of the little boat took the sand and she grounded.

Jim lit his pipe from a lantern that hung in the deck cabin behind him,
wiped his streaming forehead with the back of his hand, and spoke rapidly
in the Akasava tongue to the little crowd who had gathered on the beach.
He spoke mechanically, warning all and sundry for the safety of their
immortal souls not to slip his hawser: warning them that if he lost so
much as a deck rivet he would flay alive the thief, and ended by
commending his admiring audience to M'shimba M'shamba, Bimbi, O'kili, and
such local devils as he could call to his tongue.

"That's let me out," he said, and waded ashore through the shallow water
as one too much overcome by the big tragedies of life to care very much
one way or another whether he was wet or dry. He strode up the shelving
beach and was led by a straggling group of villagers to the headman's hut
to make inquiries, and came back to the boat with unpleasant news.
Coulson had brought her nose to the sand, and by a brushwood fire that
the men of the village had lit upon the beach, the damage was plainly to
be seen. The tiny hull had torn like brown paper, and part of the
cause--a stiff branch of gun-wood--still protruded from the hole.

"We're in Sanders's territory, if it's all the same to you," said Jim
gloomily. "The damnation old Frenchi river is in spruit and we've come
about eighty miles on the wrong track."

Coulson, kneeling by the side of the boat, a short, black briar clutched
between his even white teeth, looked up with a grin. "Sande catchee makee
hell," quoted he. "Do you remember the Chink slaver who used to run the
Angola women up to the old king for Bannister Fish?"

Jim said nothing. He took a roll of twist from his pocket, bit off a
section, and chewed philosophically. "There's no slavery outfit in this
packet," he said. "I guess even old man Fish wouldn't fool 'round in this
land--may the devil grind him for bone-meal!" There was no love lost
between the amiable adventurers and Mr. Bannister Fish. That gentleman
himself, sitting in close conference with Ofesi not fifty miles from
whence the Grasshopper lay, would have been extremely glad to know that
her owners were where they were.

"Fish is out in these territories for good," said Jim; "but it'll do us
no good--our not bein' Fish, I mean, if Sandi comes nosing round lookin'
for traders' licences--somehow I don't want anybody to inspect our
cargo."

Coulson nodded as he wielded a heavy hammer on the damaged plate.

"I guess he'll know all right," Jim went on. "You can't keep these old
lokalis quiet--listen to the joyous news bein', so to speak, flashed
forth to the expectant world."

Coulson suspended his operations. Clear and shrill came the rattle of the
lokali tapping its message: "Tom-te tom, tom-te tom, tommitty tommitty
tommitty-tom."

"There she goes," said the loquacious Jim, complacently. "Two white men
of suspicious appearance have arrived in town--Court papers please copy."

Coulson grinned again. He was working his hammer deftly, and already the
offending branch had disappeared. "A ha'porth of cement in the morning,"
he said, "and she's the Royal yacht."

Jim sniffed. "It'll take many ha'porths of cement to make her anything
but a big intake pipe," he said. He put his hand on the edge of the boat
and leapt aboard. Abaft the deck-house were two tiny cupboards of cabins,
the length of a man's body and twice his width. Into one of these he
dived, and returned shortly afterwards with a small, worn portmanteau,
patched and soiled. He jumped down over the bows to the beach, first
handing the piece of baggage down to the engineer of the little boat. It
was so heavy that the man nearly dropped it.

"What's the idea?" Coulson mopped the sweat from his forehead with a
pocket-handkerchief, and turned his astonished gaze to the other.

"'Tis the loot," said Jim significantly. "We make a cache of this
to-night lest a worse thing happen."

"Oh, God, this man!" prayed Coulson, appealing heavenward. "With the eyes
of the whole dam' barbarian rabble directed on him, he stalks through the
wilderness with his grip full of gold and his heart full of innocent
guile!"

Jim refilled his pipe leisurely from a big, leather pouch that hung at
his waist before he replied. "Coulson," he said between puffs, "in the
language of that ridiculous vaudeville artiste we saw before we quit
London, you may have brains in your head, but you've got rabbit's blood
in your feet. There's no occasion for getting scared, only I surmise that
one of your fellow-countrymen will be prowling around here long before
the bows of our stately craft take the water like a thing of life, and
since he is the Lord High Everything in this part of the world, and can
turn out a man's pocket without so much as a 'damn ye', I am for removing
all trace of the Frenchi Creed River diggings."

Coulson had paused in his work, and sat squatting on his heels, his eyes
fixed steadily on his partner's. He was a good-looking young man of
twenty-seven, a few years the junior of the other, whose tanned face was
long and thin, but by no means unpleasant. "What does it matter?" asked
Coulson after a while. "He can only ask where we got the dust, and we
needn't tell him; and if we do we've got enough here to keep us in
comfort all our days."

Jim smiled. "Suppose he holds this gold?" he asked quietly. "Suppose he
just sends his spies along to discover where the river digging is--and
suppose he finds it is in French territory and that there is a
prohibitive export duty from the French country. Oh! there's a hundred
suppositions, and they're all unpleasant."

Coulson rose stiffly. "I think we'll take the risk of the boat
foundering, Jim," he said. "Put the grip back."

Jim hesitated, then with a nod he swung the portmanteau aboard and
followed. A few minutes later he was doubled up in the perfectly
inadequate space of No. 1 hold, swabbing out the ooze of the river, and
singing in a high falsetto the love song of a mythical Bedouin.

It was past midnight when the two men, tired, aching, and cheerful,
sought their beds. "If Sanders turns up," shouted Jim as he arranged his
mosquito curtain (the shouting was necessary, since he was addressing his
companion through a matchboard partition between the two cabins), "you've
got to lie, Coulson."

"I hate lying," grumbled Coulson loudly; "but I suppose we shall have
to?"

"Betcher!" yawned the other, and said his prayers with lightning
rapidity.

Daylight brought dismay to the two voyagers. The hole in the hull was not
alone responsible for the flooded hold. There was a great gash in her
keel--the plate had been ripped away by some snag or snags unknown.
Coulson looked at Jim, and Jim returned the despairing gaze.

"A canoe for mine," said Jim after a while. "Me for the German river and
so home. That is the way I intended moving, and that is the way I go."

Coulson shook his head. "Flight!" he said briefly. "You can explain being
in Sanders's territory, but you can't explain the bolt--stick it out!"

All that morning the two men laboured in the hot sun to repair the
damage. Fortunately the cement was enough to stop up the bottom leak, and
there was enough over to make a paste with twigs and sun-dried sand to
stop the other. But there was no blinking the fact that the protection
afforded was of the frailest. The veriest twig embedded in a sandbank
would be sufficient to pierce the flimsy "plating." This much the two men
saw when the repairs were completed at the end of the day. The hole in
the bow could only be effectively dealt with by the removal of one plate
and the substitution of another, and that, said Jim, "can hardly happen."

The German river was eighty miles upstream and a flooded stream that ran
five knots an hour at that. Allow a normal speed of nine knots to the
tiny Grasshopper, and you have a twenty hours' run at best.

"The river's full of floatin' timber," said Jim wrathfully, eyeing the
swift sweep of the black waters, "an' we stand no better chance of
gettin' anywhere except to the bottom; it's a new plate or nothing."

Thus matters stood with a battered Grasshopper high and dry on the
shelving beach of the Akasava village, and two intrepid but unhappy gold
smugglers discussing ways and means, when complications occurred which
did much to make the life of Mr. Commissioner Sanders unbearable.

* * * * *

There was a woman of the Akasava who bore the name of Ufambi, which means
a "bad woman." She had a lover--indeed, she had many, but the principal
was a hunter named Logi. He was a tall, taciturn man, and his teeth were
sharpened to two points. He was broad-shouldered, his hair was plastered
with clay, and he wore a cloak that was made from the tails of monkeys.
For this reason he was named Logi N'kemi, that is to say, Logi the
Monkey. He had a hut far in the woods, three days' journey, and in this
wood were several devils; therefore he had few visitors. Ufambi loved
this man exceedingly, and as fervently hated her husband, who was a
creature of Ofesi. Also, he was not superior to the use of the stick.

One day Ufambi annoyed him and he beat her. She flew at him like a wild
cat and bit him, but he shook her off and beat her the more, till she ran
from the hut to the cool and solitary woods, for she was not afraid of
devils. Here her lover found her, sitting patiently by the side of the
forest path, her well-moulded arms hugging her knees, her chin sunk, a
watchful, brooding and an injured woman. They sat together and talked,
and the woman told him all there was to be told, and Logi the Monkey
listened in silence.

"Furthermore," she went on, "he has buried beneath the floor of the hut
certain treasures given to him by white men, which you may take." She
said this pleadingly, for he had shown no enthusiasm in the support of
her plan.

"Yet how can I kill your husband," said Logi, carefully, "and if I do
kill him and Sandi comes here, how may I escape his cruel vengeance? I
think it would be better if you gave him death in his chop, for then none
would think evilly of me."

She was not distressed at his patent selfishness. It was understandable
that a man should seek safety for himself, but she had no intention of
carrying out her lover's plan. She returned to her husband, and found him
so far amiable that she escaped a further beating. Moreover, he was
communicative. "Woman," he said, "to-morrow I go a long journey because
of certain things I have seen, and you go with me. In a secret place, as
you know, I have hidden my new canoe, and when it is dark you shall take
as much fish and and my two little dogs and sit in the canoe waiting for
me."

"I will do this thing, lord," she said meekly.

He looked at her for a long time. "Also," he said after a while, "you
shall tell no man that I am leaving, for I do not desire that Sandi shall
know, though," he added, "if all things be true that Ofesi says, he will
know nothing."

"I will do this as you tell me, lord," said the woman.

He rose from the floor of the hut where he had been squatting and went
out of the hut. "Come!" he said graciously, and she followed him to the
beach and joined the crowd of villagers who watched two white men
labouring under difficulties.

By and by she saw her husband detach himself from the group and make his
cautious way to where the white men were.

Now Bikilari--such was the husband's name--was a N'gombi man, and the
N'gombi folk are one of two things, and more often than not, both. They
are either workers in iron or thieves, and Jim, looking up at the man,
felt a little spasm of satisfaction at the sight of the lateral face
marks which betrayed his nationality.

"Ho, man!" said Jim in the vernacular, "what are you that you stand in my
sun?"

"I am a poor man, lord," said Bikilari, "and I am the slave of all white
men: now I can do things which ignorant men cannot, for I can take iron
and bend it by heat, also I can bend it without heat, as my fathers and
ray tribe have done since the world began."

Coulson watched the man keenly, for he was no lover of the N'gombi. "Try
him out, Jim," he said, so they gave Bikilari a hammer and some strips of
steel, and all the day he worked strengthening the rotten bow of the
Grasshopper.

In the evening, tired and hungry, he went back to his hut for food; but
his wife had watched him too faithfully for his comfort, and the
cooking-pot was cold and empty. Bikilari beat her with his stick, and for
two hours she sobbed and blew upon the embers of the fire alternately
whilst my lord's fish stewed and spluttered over her bent head.

Jim was a good sleeper but a light one. He woke on the very smell of
danger. Here was something more tangible than scent--a dog-like
scratching at his door. In the faint moonlight he saw a figure crouching
in the narrow alleyway, saw, too, by certain conformations, that it was a
woman, and drew an uncharitable conclusion. Yet, since she desired
secrecy, he was willing to observe her wishes. He slid back the gauze
door and flickered an electric lamp (most precious possession, to be used
with all reserve and economy). She shrank back at this evidence of magic
and breathed an entreaty.

"What do you want?" he asked in a low voice.

"Lord," she answered, her voice muffled, "if you desire your life, do not
stay here."

Jim thrust his face nearer to the woman's. "Say what you must say very
quickly," he said.

"Lord," she began again, "my husband is Bikilari, a worker in iron. He is
the man of Ofesi, and to-night Ofesi sends his killers to do his work
upon all white men and upon all chiefs who thwart him. Also upon you
because you are white and there is treasure in your ship."

"Wait," said Jim, and turned to tap on Coulson's door. There was no need.
Coulson was out of bed at the first sound of whispering and now stood in
the doorway, the moonlight reflected in a cold blue line on the revolver
he held in his hand.

"It may be a fake--but there's no reason why it should be," he said when
the story was told. "We'll chance the hole in the bow."

Jim ran forward and woke the sleeping engineer, and came back with the
first crackle of burning wood in the furnace. He found the woman waiting.
"What is your name?" he asked.

She stood with her back to the tiny rail, an easy mark for the man who
had followed her and now crouched in the shadow of the hull. He could
reach up and touch her. He slipped out his long N'gombi hunting knife and
felt the point.

"Lord," said the woman, "I am--"

Then she slipped down to the deck.

Coulson fired twice at the fleeing Bikilari, and missed him. Logi, the
lover, leapt at him from the beach but fell before a quick knife-thrust.
Bikilari reached the bushes in safety and plunged into the gloom--and
into the arms of Ahmed Ali, a swift, silent man, who caught the knife arm
in one hand and broke the neck of the murderer with the other--for Ahmed
Ali was a famous wrestler in the Kono country.

The city was aroused, naked feet pattered through the street. Jim and
Coulson, lying flat on the bow of the steamer, held the curious at bay.
Two hours they lay thus whilst the cold boilers generated energy. Then
the paddle wheel threshed desperately astern, and the Grasshopper dragged
herself to deep water.

A figure hailed them from the bank in Swahili. "Lord," it said, "go you
south and meet Sandi--northward is death, for the Isisi are up and the
Akasava villagers are in their canoes--also all white men in this land
are dead, save Sandi."

"Who are you?" megaphoned Jim, and the answer came faintly as the boat
drifted to midstream.

"I am Ahmed All, the servant of Sandi, whom may God preserve!"

"Come with us!" shouted Jim.

The figure on the bank, clear to be seen in his white jellab, made a
trumpet of his hands.

"I go to kill one Ofesi, according to orders--say this to Sandi."

Then the boat drifted beyond earshot.

"Up stream or down?" demanded Jim at the wheel. "Down we meet Sanders and
up we meet the heathen in his wrath."

"Up," said Coulson, and went aft to count noses.

That night died Iliki, the chief of the Isisi, and I'mini, his brother,
stabbed as they sat at meat, also Bosomo of the Little Isisi, and B'ramo
of the N'gomi, chiefs all; also the wives and sons of B'ramo and Bosomo;
Father O'Leary of the Jesuit Mission at Mosankuli, his lay minister, and
the Rev. George Calley, of the Wesleyan Mission at Bogori, and the Rev.
Septimus Keen and his wife, at the Baptist Mission at Michi. Bosambo did
not die, because he knew; also a certain headman of Ofesi knew--and died.

Ofesi had planned largely and well. War had come to the territories in
the most terrible form, yet Bosambo did not hesitate, though he was aware
of his inferiority, not only in point of numbers, but in the more
important matter of armament. For the most dreadful thing had happened,
and pigeons flying southward from a dozen points carried the news to
Sanders--for the first time in history the rebellious people of the
Akasava were armed with rifles--rifles smuggled across the border and
placed in the hands of Ofesi's warriors.

The war-drum of the Ochori sounded. At dawn Bosambo led forty war canoes
down the river, seized the first village that offered resistance and
burnt it. He was for Ofesi's stronghold, and was half-way there when he
met the tiny Grasshopper coming up stream. At first he mistook it for the
Zaire and made little effort to disclose the pacific intentions of his
forty canoes, but a whistling rifle bullet aimed precisely made him
realise the danger of taking things for granted. He paddled forward
alone, ostentatiously peaceable, and Jim received him.

"Rifles?" Coulson was incredulous. "O chief, you are mad."

"Lord," said Bosambo earnestly, "let Sandi say if I be mad--for Sandi is
my bro--is my master and friend," he corrected himself.

Jim knew of Bosambo--the chief enjoyed a reputation along the coast, and
trusted him now. He turned to his companion. "If all Bosambo says is true
there'll be hell in this country," he said quietly. "We can't cut and
run. Can you use a rifle?" he asked.

Bosambo drew himself up. "Suh," he said in plain English, "I make 'um
shoot plenty at Cape Coast Cassell--I shoot 'um two bulls' eyes out."

Coulson considered. "We'll cashee that gold," he said. "It would be
absurd to take that with us. O Bosambo, we have a great treasure, and
this we will leave in your city."

"Lord," said Bosambo quietly, "it shall be as my own treasure."

"That's exactly what I don't want it to be," said Coulson.

The fleet waited whilst Bosambo returned to Ochori city with the
smugglers; there, in Bosambo's hut, and in a cunningly-devised hole
beneath the floor, the portmanteau was hidden and the Grasshopper went
joyfully with the stream to whatever adventures awaited her.

* * * * *

The moonlight lay in streaks of sage and emerald green--such a green as
only the moon, beheld through the mists of the river, can show. Sage
green for shadow, bright emerald on the young spring verdure, looking
from light to dark or from dark to light, as the lazy breezes stirred the
undergrowth. In the gleam of the moonlight there was one bright, glowing
speck of red--it was the end of Mr. Commissioner Sanders's cigar. He sat
in the ink-black shadow cast by the awning on the foredeck of the Zaire.
His feet, encased in long, pliant mosquito boots that reached to his
knees, rested on the rail of the boat, and he was a picture of
contentment and cheerful idleness.

An idle man might be restless. You might expect to hear the creak of the
wicker chair as he changed his position ever so slightly, yet it is a
strange fact that no such sound broke the pleasant stillness of the
night. He sat in silence, motionless. Only the red tip of the cigar
glowed to fiery brightness and dulled to an ashen red as he drew
noiselessly at his cheroot.

A soft felt hat, pulled down over his eyes, would have concealed the
direction of his gaze, even had the awning been removed. His lightly
clasped hands rested over one knee, and but for the steady glow of the
cigar he might have been asleep.

Yet Sanders of the River was monstrously awake. His eyes were watching
the tousled bushes by the water's edge, roving from point to point,
searching every possible egress. There was somebody concealed in those
bushes--as to that Sanders had no doubt. But why did they wait--for it
was a case of 'they'--and why, if they were hostile, had they not
attacked him before?

Sanders had had his warnings. Some of the pigeons came before he had left
headquarters; awkwardly scrawled red labels had set the bugles ringing
through the Houssa quarters. But he had missed the worst of the messages.
Bosambo's all-Arabic exclamation had fallen into the talons of a watchful
hawk--poor winged messenger and all.

Sanders rose swiftly and silently. Behind him was the open door of his
cabin, and he stepped in, walked in the darkness to the telephone above
the head of his bunk and pressed a button. Abiboo dozing with his head
against the buzzer answered instantly. "Let all men be awakened," said
Sanders in a whisper. "Six rifles to cover the bush between the two dead
trees."

"On my head," whispered Abiboo, and settled his tarboosh more firmly upon
that section of his anatomy.

Sanders stood by the door of his cabin, a sporting Lee-Enfield in the
crook of his arm, waiting. Then from far away he heard a faint cry, a
melancholy, shrill whoo-wooing. It was the cry that set the men of the
villages shuddering, for it was such a cry as ghosts make. Men in the
secret service of Sanders, and the Government also, made it, and Sanders
nodded his head. Here came a-man in haste to tell him things.

A long pause and "Whoo-woo!" drearily, plaintively, and nearer. The man
was whooing then at a jog-trot, and they on the bank were waiting--

"Fire!" cried Sanders sharply.

Six rifles crashed like a thunderclap, there was a staccato nick-flack as
the bullets struck the leaves, and two screams of anguish. Out of the
bush blundered a dark figure, looked about dazed and uncertain, saw the
Zaire and raised his hand. "Bang!" A bullet smacked viciously past
Sanders's head.

"Guns!" said Sanders with a gasp, and as the man on the bank rattled back
the lever of his repeater, Sanders shot him.

"Bang! Bang!" This time from the bush, and the Houssas answered it. Forty
men fired independently at the patch of green from whence the flashes had
come. Forty men and more leapt into the water and waded ashore, Sanders
at their head.

The ambush had failed. Sanders found three dead men of the Isisi and one
slightly injured and quite prepared for surrender.

"Mannlichers!" said Sanders, examining the rifles, and he whistled.

"Lord," said the living of the four, "we did what we were told; for it is
an order that no man shall come to you with tidings; also, on a certain
night that we should shoot you."

"Whose order?" demanded Sanders.

"Our lord Ofesi's," said the man. "Also, it is an order from a certain
white lord who dwells with his people on the border of the land."

They were speaking when the whoo-ing messenger came up at a jog-trot, too
weary to be cautioned by the sound of guns. He was a tired man, dusty,
almost naked, and he carried a spear and a cleft-stick. Sanders read the
letter which was stuck therein. It was in ornamental Arabic, and was from
Ahmed Ali. He read it carefully; then he spoke.

"What do you know of this?" he asked.

"Lord," said the tired man, flat on the bare ground and breathing
heavily, "there is war in this land such as we have never seen, for Ofesi
has guns and has slain all chiefs by his cunning; also there is a white
man whom he visits secretly in the forest."

Sanders turned back to the Zaire, sick at heart. All these years he had
kept his territories free from an expeditionary force, building slowly
towards the civilisation which was every administrator's ideal. This
meant a punitive force, the introduction of a new regime. The coming of
armed white men against these children of his. Who supplied the arms? He
could not think. He had never dreamt of their importation. His people
were too poor, had too little to give.

"Lord," called the resting messenger, as Sanders turned, "there are two
white men in a puc-a-puc who rest by the Akasava city."

Sanders shook his head. These men--who knew them by name?--were smugglers
of gold, who had come through a swollen river by accident. (His spies
were very efficient, be it noted.) Whoever it was, the mischief was done.

"Steam," he said briefly to the waiting Abiboo.

"And this man, lord?" asked the Houssa, pointing to the last of the
would-be assassins.

Sanders walked to the man. "Tell me," he said, "how many were you who
waited to kill me?"

"Five, lord," said the man.

"Five?" said Sanders, "but I found only four bodies."

It was at that instant that the fifth man fired from the bank.

* * * * *

The Grasshopper, towing forty war canoes of the Ochori, came round a bend
of the great river and fell into an ambuscade. The Ochori were a brave
people, but unused to the demoralising effect of firearms, however badly
and wildly aimed. Bosambo from the stern of the little steamer yelled
directions to his panic-stricken fleet without effect. They turned and
fled, paddling for their lives the way they had come. Jim essayed a
turning movement in the literal sense, and struck a submerged log. The
ill-fated Grasshopper went down steadily by the bow, and in a last
desperate effort ran for the shore under a hail of bullets. They leapt to
land, four men--Bosambo's fighting headman was the fourth--and, shooting
down immediate opposition, made for the bush. But they were in the heart
of the enemy's land--within shooting distance of the Akasava city. Long
before they had crossed the league of wood, the lokali had brought
reinforcements to oppose them. They were borne down by sheer weight of
numbers at a place called Iffsimori, and that night came into, the
presence of the great King Ofesi, the Predestined.

They came, four wounded and battered men, bound tightly with cords of
grass, spared for the great king's sport.

"O brother," greeted Ofesi in the face of all his people, "look at me and
tell me what has become of Tobolono, my dear headman?"

Bosambo, his face streaked with dried blood, stared at him insolently.
"He is in hell," he said, "being majiki." (predestined)

"Also you will be in hell," said the king, "because men say that you are
Sandi's brother."

Bosambo was taken aback for a moment. "It is true," he said, "that I am
Sandi's brother; for it seems that this is not the time for a man to deny
him. Yet I am Sandi's brother only because all men are brothers,
according to certain white magic I learnt as a boy."

Ofesi sat before the door of his hut, and it was noticeable that no man
stood or sat nearer to him than twenty paces distant. Jim, glancing round
the mob, which surrounded the palaver, saw that every other man carried a
rifle, and had hitched across his naked shoulders a canvas
cartridge-belt. He noticed, too, now and then, the king would turn his
head and speak, as it were, to the dark interior of the hut.

Ofesi directed his gaze to the white prisoners. "O white men," he said,
"you see me now, a great lord, greater than any white man has ever been,
for all the little chiefs of this land are dead, and all people say 'Wah,
king,' to Ofesi."

"I daresay," said Coulson in English.

"To-night," the king went on, "we sacrifice you, for you are the last
white men in this land--Sandi being dead."

"Ofesi, you lie!" It was Bosambo, his face puckered with rage, his voice
shrill. "No man can kill Sandi," he cried, "for Sandi alone of all men is
beyond death, and he will come to you bringing terror and worse than
death!"

Ofesi made a gesture of contempt. He waved his hand to the right and as
at a signal the crowd moved back. Bosambo held himself tense, expecting
to see the lifeless form of his master. But it was something less
harrowing he saw--a prosaic stack of wooden boxes six feet high and eight
feet square.

"Ammunition," said Jim under his breath. "The devil had made pretty good
preparation."

"Behold" said Ofesi, "therein is Sanders's death--listen all people!"

He held up his hand for silence.

Bosambo heard it--that faint rattle of the lokali. From some far distant
place it was carrying the news. "Sanders dead!" it  rolled mournfully,
"distantly--moonlight--puc-a-puc--middle of river--man on bank--boat at
shore--Sandi dead on ground--many wounds." He pieced together the
tidings. Sandi had been shot from the bank and the boat had landed him
dead. The chief of the Ochori heard the news and wept.

"Now you shall smell death," said Ofesi.

He turned abruptly to the door of the hut and exchanged a dozen quick
words with the man inside. He spoke imperiously, sharply. "Alas! Mr.
Bannister Fish, guest of honour on the remarkable occasion, the Ofesi you
deal with now is not the meek Ofesi with whom you drove your one-sided
bargain in the deep of the Akasava forest! Camel-train and boat have
brought ammunition and rifles piecemeal to your enemy's undoing. Ofesi
owes his power to you, but the maker of tyrants was ever a builder of
his own prison-house."

Mr. Fish felt his danger keenly, pulled two long-barrelled automatic
pistols from his pocket and mentally chose his route for the border,
cursing his own stupidity that he had not brought his Arab bodyguard
along the final stages of the journey.

"Ofesi," he muttered, "there shall be no killing until I am gone."

"Fisi," replied the other louder, "you shall see all that I wish you to
see," and he made a signal.

They stripped the white men as naked as they were on the day they were
born, pegged them at equal distance on the ground spread-eagle fashion.
Heads to the white men's feet they laid Bosambo and his headman. When all
was finished Ofesi walked over to them.

"When the sun comes up," he said, "you will all be dead--but there is
half the night to go."

"Nigger!" said Bosambo in English, "yo' mother done be washerwomans!"

It was the most insulting expression in his vocabulary, and he reserved
it for the last.

* * * * *

Sanders saw the glow of the great fire long before he reached the
Akasava, his own lokali sounding forth the news of his premature
decease--Sanders with the red weal of a bullet across his cheek, and a
feeling of unfriendliness toward Ofesi in his heart. All the way up the
river through the night his lokali sent forth the joyless tidings.
Villagers heard it and shivered--but sent it on. A half-naked man
crouching in the bushes near Akasava city heard it and sobbed himself
sick, for Ahmed Ali saw in himself a murderer. He who had sworn by the
prophet to end the life of Ofesi had left the matter until it was too
late.

In a cold rage he crept nearer to the crowd which was gathered about the
king's hut--a neck-craning, tip-toeing crowd of vicious men-children. The
moment of torment had come. At Ofesi's feet crouched two half-witted
Akasava youths giggling at one another in pleasurable excitement, and
whetting the razor-keen edges of their skinning knives on their palms.

"Listen, now," said Ofesi in exultation. "I am he, the predestined, the
ruler of all men from the black waters to the white mountains. Thus you
see me, all people, your master, and master of white men. The skins of
these men shall be drums to call all other nations to the service of the
Akasava--begin, Ginin and M'quasa."

The youths rose and eyed the silent victims critically--and Mr. Bannister
Fish stepped out of the hut into the light of the fire, a pistol in each
hand. "Chief," said he, "this matter ends here. Release those men or you
die very soon."

Ofesi laughed.

"Too late, lord Fisi," he said, and nodded his head. One shot rang out
from the crowd--a man, skilled in the use of arms, had waited for the
gun-runner's appearance. Bannister Fish, of Highgate Hill, pitched
forward dead.

"Now," said Ofesi.

Ahmed Ali came through the crowd like a cyclone, but quicker far was the
two-pound shell of a Hotchkiss gun. Looking upward into the moonlit vault
of the sky, Jim saw a momentary flash of light, heard the "pang!" of the
gun and the whine of the shell as it curved downward; heard a roar louder
than any, and was struck senseless by the sharp edge of an exploded
cartridge-box.

* * * * *

"Ofesi," said Sanders, "I think this is your end."

"Lord, I think so too," said Ofesi.

Sanders let him hang for two hours before he cut him down.

"Mr. Sanders," said Jim, dressed in a suit of the Commissioner's clothes
which fitted none too well, "we ought to explain--"

"I understand," said Sanders with a smile. "Gold smuggling!" Jim nodded.
"And where is your gold--at the bottom of the river?"

It was in the American's heart to lie, but he shook his head. "The chief
Bosambo is holding it for me," he confessed.

"H'm!" said Sanders. "Do you know to an ounce how much you have?" Coulson
shook his head. "Where is Bosambo?" asked Sanders of his orderly.

"Lord, he has gone in haste to his city with twenty paddlers," said
Abiboo.

Sanders looked at Jim queerly.

"You had better go in haste, too," he said dryly. "Bosambo has views of
his own on portable property."

"We wept for you," said the indignant Jim, something of a sentimentalist.

"You'll be weeping for yourself if you don't hurry," said the practical
Sanders.



THE END



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