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´╗┐Title: The Adventures of Dick Maitland - A Tale of Unknown Africa
Author: Collingwood, Harry, 1851-1922
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Adventures of Dick Maitland - A Tale of Unknown Africa" ***

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Dick Maitland
A Tale of Unknown Africa

By Harry Collingwood
________________________________________________________________________
Dick Maitland is working as a doctor's apprentice in the East End of
London, at that time a place of great poverty.  The doctor with whom he
is studying is rather a philanthropist for, instead of setting up trade
for the wealthy, in Harley Street, he is curing the poor for practically
nothing.

Dick's family circumstances take a turn for the worse, and he goes down
to the docks to work his passage to South Africa.  He has no idea how he
will proceed when he gets there, having no money, but he meets a rich
young man called Grosvenor on the ship, and, striking up a friendship,
they decide upon going together on a voyage of exploration.

After meeting a tribe whom this author, Collingwood, had written about
in a previous book, and sorting out various problems there, they proceed
on their way.  They had heard rumours of a mysterious white race living
not too far away, and they decide to investigate.  These turn out to be
one of the lost tribes of Israel.  They are eventually accepted there as
friends, after initially being taken prisoners.  Here again they are
able to sort out various problems.  Grosvenor marries the Queen, and
Dick, who in the course of these travels has managed to find some very
valuable jewels, eventually returns home with them.  He converts them
to cash, and is able to provide his poor old mother, whom he had left in
abject poverty, with a luxurious style of life.  He also puts lots of
money in the account of the doctor with whom he had been working before
these adventures began.
________________________________________________________________________
DICK MAITLAND
A TALE OF UNKNOWN AFRICA

BY HARRY COLLINGWOOD



CHAPTER ONE.

THE CATASTROPHE.

Doctor Julian Humphreys was spoken of by those who believed that they
knew him best as an eccentric; because, being a physician and surgeon of
quite unusual ability, he chose--possessing a small independence
amounting to a bare three hundred pounds per annum--to establish himself
in the East-End of London, and there devote himself with zeal and
enthusiasm to the amelioration of the sufferings of the very poor,
instead of capitalising his income and setting up in Harley Street,
where his exceptional qualifications would speedily and inevitably have
brought him a handsome fortune.

An income of three hundred pounds per annum--out of which one has to
feed, clothe, and house oneself--does not afford very much scope for the
practice of philanthropy, as Dr Humphreys very well knew; his
establishment, therefore, was of very modest dimensions, consisting
merely of three rooms with the usual domestic offices, one room--the
front and largest one--being fitted up as surgery, dispensary, and
consulting room, while, of the other two, one served as a sleeping
apartment for himself and his pupil, Mr Richard Maitland, the third
being sacred to Polly Nevis, a sturdy and willing, but somewhat untidy
person, who discharged the united functions of parlour maid, housemaid,
chamber maid, cook, and scullery maid to the establishment.

The large red lamp which shone over Dr Humphreys' door at night was the
one and only picturesque feature of Paradise Street--surely so named by
an individual of singularly caustic and sardonic humour, for anything
less suggestive of the delights of Paradise than the squalid and
malodorous street so named it would indeed be difficult to conceive--and
in the course of the four years during which it had been in position
that lamp had become a familiar object to every man, woman, and child
within a radius of at least a mile; for the Doctor's fame had soon
spread, and his clientele comprised practically everybody within that
radius.

The apparently insignificant event that initiated the extraordinary
series of adventures, of which this is the narrative, occurred about the
hour of 8 a.m. on a certain day of September in the year of our Lord
19--; and it consisted in the delivery by the postman of a letter
addressed to Mr Richard Maitland, care of Dr J.  Humphreys, 19
Paradise Street, Whitechapel, E.  The letter was addressed in the well-
known handwriting of Dick's mother; but the recipient did not
immediately open it, for he was at the moment engaged in assisting the
Doctor to dress and bind up the wounds of Mrs William Taylor, whose
husband, having returned home furiously drunk upon the closing of the
public houses on the previous night, had proceeded to vent his spleen
upon his long-suffering wife, because, having no money and nothing that
she could pawn, she had failed to have a hot supper ready for him upon
his arrival.

When, however, Mrs Taylor, scarcely recognisable because of the
voluminous bandages that swathed her head and face, and carrying with
her a powerful odour of iodoform, was bowed out of the surgery by Dr
Humphreys, with a reminder--in reply to a murmur that she had no money
just then--that she was one of his free patients, and a message from the
Doctor to Mr William Taylor, which the poor woman had not the remotest
intention to deliver, Dick drew his mother's letter from his pocket and
opened it.  As he mastered its contents he went white to the lips, as
well he might; for this is what he read:

                                                             The Cedars,
                                                14 South Hill, Sydenham.
                                                 _September 10th, 19--_.

  "My dear Dick,--

  "I am sorry to be obliged to call you away from your work, but I must
  ask you to please come home to me as soon as you can possibly get
  away, for I have just received news of so disastrous a character that
  I dare not put it upon paper.  Besides, I am so distracted that I
  scarcely know what I am writing, as you will no doubt understand when
  I tell you that we are ruined--absolutely and irretrievably ruined!
  Come as soon as you can, my dear, for I feel as though I shall go out
  of my senses if I cannot soon have someone to counsel me as to what is
  the best thing to be done under these dreadful circumstances.

  "Your loving but distracted mother,--

  "Edith Maitland."

"Hillo, Dick! what's the matter?" exclaimed the Doctor, catching a
glimpse of his assistant's drawn face and pallid lips as Maitland stared
incredulously at the letter in his hand.  "Nothing wrong, I hope.  You
look as though you had just seen a ghost!"

"So I have; the ghosts of--many things," answered Dick.  "Unless this
letter is--but no, it is the dear Mater's own handwriting beyond a
doubt.  Read it, Doctor; there are no secrets in it."  And Dick passed
the letter over to Humphreys.

"Phew!" whistled the Doctor, when he had read the letter twice--from the
date to the signature; "that sounds pretty bad.  You had better be off
at once, and get at the rights of the thing.  And when you have done
so-- By the way, have you any friends with whom you can consult, should
you need help or advice of any sort?"

"Not a soul in the world, so far as I know, unless I may call you a
friend, Doctor," answered Dick.  "Of course there is Cuthbertson, the
family solicitor and the sole executor of my father's will; but the
suggestion conveyed by this letter from my mother is that something has
somehow gone wrong with him, and he may not be available."

"Quite so; he may not, as you say," agreed the Doctor.  "In that case,
my dear Dick, come back to me after you have become acquainted with all
the facts, and we will discuss the matter together.  That you may call
me your friend goes without saying, as you ought to know by this time;
and although I am only an obscure East-End practitioner I am not wholly
without friends able and willing to do me, or any friend of mine, a good
turn, if necessary.  So come back here when you have threshed out the
matter, and we will see what--if anything--can be done."

"Right!  I will.  And a thousand thanks to you for this fresh evidence
of your kindly feeling toward me," exclaimed Dick, grasping the doctor's
hand.  "Are you quite sure that you will be able to get along without me
for a few hours?"

"Absolutely certain," was the cheery reply.  "You are a very clever
young fellow, Dick, and have proved a marvellously apt pupil since you
have been with me, but I managed this practice single-handed before you
came to me, and I have no doubt I can do it again, if needs be.  So be
off with you at once, my lad; for your mother seems to be in sore need
of you."

Five minutes later Dick Maitland had boarded a tramcar, on his way to
London Bridge railway station, from whence he took train for the Crystal
Palace, the nearest station to his mother's home, which he reached
within two hours of his departure from Number 19 Paradise Street.

Now, as Dick Maitland happens to be the hero of this story it is
necessary he should be properly introduced to the reader, and this seems
as appropriate a moment as any.

To begin with, then, when we caught our first glimpse of him, assisting
Dr Humphreys to dress and bind up those tokens of affection which Mr
William Taylor had bestowed upon his wife, Dick Maitland was within
three months of his eighteenth birthday, a fine, tall, fairly good-
looking, and athletic specimen of the young public-school twentieth-
century Englishman.  He was an only son; and his mother was a widow, her
husband having died when Dick was a sturdy little toddler a trifle over
three years of age.  Mrs Maitland had been left quite comfortably off,
her husband having accumulated a sufficient sum to bring her in an
income of close upon seven hundred pounds per annum.  The provisions of
Mr Maitland's will stipulated that the income arising from his
carefully chosen investments was to be enjoyed by his widow during her
lifetime, subject to the proper maintenance and education of their only
son, Dick; and upon the demise of Mrs Maitland the capital was to go to
Dick, to be employed by the latter as he might deem fit.  But a clause
in the will stipulated that at the close of his school career Dick was
to be put to such business or profession as the lad might choose, Mr
Maitland pithily remarking that he did not believe in drones.  But since
Mrs Maitland, although a most excellent woman in every respect, had no
head for business, her husband appointed honest old John Cuthbertson,
his own and his father's solicitor, sole executor of his will; and so
died happily, in the full conviction that he had done everything that
was humanly possible to assure the future welfare of his widow and
infant son.  And faithfully had John Cuthbertson discharged his trust,
until in the fullness of years he had laid down the burden of life, and
his son Jonas had come to reign in the office in his father's stead.
This event had occurred some three years previously, about the time when
Dick, having completed his school life, had elected to take up the study
of medicine and surgery.

This important step had involved many interviews between Mrs Maitland
and "Mr Jonas", as the clerks in his father's office had learned to
call him; for the said Mr Jonas had succeeded to the executorship of
many wills--Mr Maitland's among them--as well as the other portions of
his father's business; and so great had been the zeal and interest that
he had displayed during the necessary negotiations, that Mrs Maitland
had been most favourably impressed.  Indeed Jonas Cuthbertson had
honestly earned the very high opinion that Mrs Maitland had formed of
him, displaying not only interest and zeal but also a considerable
amount of acumen in the matter of Dick's placing.  For, when Mrs
Maitland, perhaps very naturally, expressed the wish that Dick should
begin his studies under the guidance of some eminent Harley Street
specialist, the solicitor strenuously opposed the idea, not only upon
the score of expense, but also because, as he argued, Dick would
certainly acquire a wider knowledge of diseases and their cure--and
acquire it much more quickly--under some hard-working practitioner among
the East-End poor of London; and that, as he very truly pointed out, was
the great desideratum in such a case as Dick's, far outweighing the
extra hard work and the sordid surroundings to which Mrs Maitland had
at first so strenuously objected.  Moreover, Dick agreed with the
solicitor; and in the end the maternal objections were overcome, careful
enquiries were instituted, and finally Dick found himself installed as a
pupil in the somewhat Bohemian establishment of Doctor Julian Humphreys,
M.D., M.R.C.P., M.R.C.S., and several other letters of the alphabet.
And, queer though the arrangement was in many respects, it proved
eminently satisfactory to Dick; for Dr Humphreys was not only an
extraordinarily able physician and surgeon, but also marvellously clever
and learned outside the bounds of his profession, gentle and tender-
hearted as a woman, and a thoroughly good fellow all round, in the best
and highest sense of the term.  As for Dick, he displayed from the
outset a quite exceptional aptitude for the noble profession which he
had chosen; study, instead of being irksome, was a pleasure--almost a
passion--with him; his nerves were steel, he never for a moment lost his
head even when assisting at the most sickening operation; his touch was
light and sure; and knowledge seemed to come to him intuitively.  No
wonder that Doctor Humphreys persistently predicted a brilliant and
successful career for his pupil.

Upon his arrival home Dick found his mother in such an acute state of
distress that for the first few moments of their interview she seemed to
be quite incapable of making any intelligible statement: she could do
nothing but weep copiously upon her stalwart son's shoulder and gasp
that they were ruined--utterly and irretrievably ruined!  At length,
however, the lad managed to extract from Mrs Maitland the statement
that she had seen, in the previous morning's papers, an account of the
suicide of Mr Jonas Cuthbertson, a solicitor; and, judging from the
name and other particulars given in the published account, that it must
be their Mr Cuthbertson, she had hurried up to town and called at
Cuthbertson's chambers, where her worst apprehensions had received
complete and terrible confirmation.  From the particulars supplied by
Mr Herbert, Cuthbertson's chief clerk, it appeared that "Mr Jonas",
after walking worthily in his father's footsteps for two years, had
become infected with the gambling craze, and, first losing all his own
money, had finally laid hands upon as much of his clients' property as
he could obtain access to, until, his ill luck still pursuing him, he
had lost that also, and then had sought to evade the consequences of his
misdeeds by blowing out his brains with two shots from a revolver.  This
final act of folly had been perpetrated two days before the account of
it in the papers had fallen under Mrs Maitland's notice, and in the
interim there had, of course, been time only to make a very cursory
examination into the affairs of the suicide, but that examination had
sufficed to reveal the appalling fact that every available security,
both of his own and of his clients, had disappeared, while sufficient
evidence had been discovered to show pretty clearly what had led to
their disappearance.

This was the sum and substance of Mrs Maitland's somewhat incoherently
told story, and when Dick had heard it through to the end he had no
reason to doubt its truth; but manifestly it was not at all the sort of
story to be taken upon trust, it must be fully and completely
investigated, if only for the purpose of ascertaining whether or not
anything, however small, was to be saved from the wreck; accordingly,
after partaking of a hasty lunch, young Maitland wended his way to the
City, and there had a most discouraging interview with Mr Herbert, who
was by this time busily engaged upon the preparation of a detailed
statement of the position of affairs, for the information of his late
employer's clients and creditors.  This, Mr Herbert explained, was
proving a task of much less difficulty than he had anticipated, since
Cuthbertson had apparently kept an accurate account of all his gambling
transactions--some of which had, latterly, been upon a gigantic scale--
with the evidently desperate resolution of recovering his former losses,
or ruining himself in the attempt, while he had not destroyed any of his
papers, as so many suicides do before perpetrating the final act of
folly.  The position of affairs, as outlined by Mr Herbert, was gloomy
enough, but he made it clear to Dick that for the moment he was speaking
with reserve, as it was impossible for him to say anything of an
absolutely definite character until the investigation--which was being
conducted with the aid of a firm of chartered accountants of high
standing--should be complete.

Having now ascertained all in connection with the deplorable business
that was for the moment possible, Dick returned to his mother and did
his best to comfort and encourage her; but, as might have been expected,
his efforts met with no very great measure of success, seeing that there
was practically nothing of a comforting or encouraging character in the
story told him by Jonas Cuthbertson's chief clerk.

The next morning Dick Maitland returned to Number 19 Paradise Street,
where he found his friend Humphreys as busily engaged as ever in his
work of healing the sick and comforting the sorrowing poor, and received
a welcome from the cheery, genial medico that seemed to ease his
shoulders of at least half their load of anxiety.  But it was not until
well on towards evening that the claims upon the Doctor's time and
attention slackened sufficiently to afford an opportunity for Dick to
tell his story, which, after all, was only an amplified edition of the
story originally told in Mrs Maitland's letter.

When at length the tale was fully told, and Humphreys had, by dint of
much cross-questioning, fully mastered all its miserable details, he sat
for half an hour or more, smoking diligently and silently as he
considered in what way he could best help his young friend.  At length,
however, an idea seemed to occur to him, for he looked up and said:

"Well, Dick, my friend, it sounds about as bad as anything that I have
heard of for many a long day!  Why in the world did that fool of a
lawyer want to meddle with gambling?  Why could he not have been content
to devote his energies to the conduct of the business--a first-class
one, according to his chief clerk's account--which his father left him,
and which would have provided him with a very comfortable living all his
days and, probably, a snug competency to retire upon when he found
himself getting too old for work?  I tell you what it is, my boy: this
mad craving to get rich quickly is one of the great curses of these
latter days.  When it once gets a firm grip upon its victim it quickly
converts the honest, upright man into a conscienceless rogue, who soon
becomes the centre of a widespread circle of ruin and untold misery!
Look at this fellow Cuthbertson.  He had an honest and honourable
father; and, as I understand you, was, to start with, himself perfectly
honest and honourable; yet look at him now!  What is he?  Why, simply a
dishonoured corpse, hastily huddled away into a suicide's grave; a man
who, having utterly spoiled his life, has presumptuously and prematurely
hurried into the presence of his Maker, burdened not only with the heavy
load of his own sin but also with the responsibility for all the ruin
and misery which he has left behind him!  Moralising, however, will not
help you, my boy; for if I know anything at all about you it is that you
are not the sort of character to make such a horrible mess of your life
as that poor wretch has done.  But now, the question is: What can I do
to help you and your respected mother out of this slough into which
another man's weakness and sin have plunged you both?  Not very much, I
am afraid; for I cannot restore to you the property of which you are
robbed.  That appears to be gone beyond recall.  But I can do this for
you--and it may possibly help you a little--I can give you a letter of
introduction to a man who is under very heavy obligations to me, and
who--being a thoroughly good fellow--will be more than glad to discharge
those obligations if I will only afford him the opportunity to do so.
You shall go to him and give him full and complete particulars of this
terrible misfortune that has befallen you; and if there is anything at
all to be saved out of the wreckage, he will save it for you, without
fee and without reward--for my sake.  He, too, is a solicitor, but an
honest one, as many still are, thank God; and it is a solicitor whose
aid will be most useful to you in the unravelling of this tangled
skein."

"I say, Doctor, that is awfully good of you," exclaimed Dick, struggling
to conceal his emotion of gratitude, after the manner of the Englishman,
but not altogether succeeding.  "If the matter concerned myself alone,"
he continued, "I would not let you do this thing for me; but I must
think of my poor mother, and for her sake must humble my pride and
suppress the assertion of my independence so far as to accept your help,
so kindly and generously offered.  And here let me say that there is no
man on earth whose help I would so willingly accept as yours," he
blundered on, dimly conscious that there had been something of
ungraciousness in his speech; and so stopped dead, overcome with shame
and confusion.

"That is all right, my dear boy," returned Humphreys, smilingly laying
his hand on Dick's shoulder; "I know exactly how you feel, and very
heartily respect your sense of sturdy independence, which is very
estimable in its way, so long as it is not carried too far.  But, as a
matter of fact, Dick, none of us is absolutely independent in this
world, for almost every moment of our lives we are dependent upon
somebody for assistance, in one shape or another, and it is not until
that assistance is withheld that we are brought to realise the extent to
which we are individually dependent upon our fellow creatures.  But I am
moralising again--a habit which seems to be growing upon me since I came
among these poor folk down here, and have been brought face to face with
such a vast amount of misery that can be directly traced to ignorance
and crime.  Just pass me over that stationery cabinet, will you?
Thanks!  Now I will write to my friend Graham at once, and you had
better call upon him at his chambers in Lincoln's Inn to-morrow morning
at ten o'clock sharp, which is about the only hour of the day when you
can be reasonably certain of finding him."

When Dick called upon Humphreys' friend Graham, upon the following
morning, and sent in his letter of introduction, he soon had abundant
evidence that the rising young solicitor was quite as busy a man as the
Doctor had represented him to be; yet he was not too busy to respond
promptly to his friend's claim upon him, actually leaving an important-
looking client waiting in his outer office while he interviewed Dick and
listened with the utmost patience to the story which the latter had to
tell, questioning him occasionally, and making notes of his answers upon
a writing pad.  At length, after an interview of over half an hour's
duration, Graham closed the pad sharply and, rising, extended his hand
to Dick, saying:

"Thank you, Mr Maitland.  I believe I have now all the essential facts;
and you may assure my friend Humphreys that I will take up the case with
the utmost pleasure, and without loss of time; also that I will do my
best for you and your mother.  From what you tell me I am inclined to
imagine that the wreck of Cuthbertson's affairs will prove to be pretty
complete, therefore I very strongly advise you not to reckon upon my
being able to save anything for you out of the wreckage; but if there
should by any chance be anything, you shall have it.  And now, good
morning!  I am very pleased to have made your acquaintance; and as soon
as I have anything definite to communicate I will write to you.
Remember me very kindly to Humphreys.  Good morning!"

The interview was certainly not very encouraging; but on the other hand
it was by no means disappointing; for Dick had already quite made up his
mind that every penny of his mother's money was lost.  It was,
therefore, a very pleasant surprise to him when, about a fortnight
later, a letter came from Graham announcing that he had succeeded in
rescuing close upon five hundred pounds for Mrs Maitland from the ruins
of Cuthbertson's estate, and that the good lady could have the money by
presenting herself at the writer's office and going through certain
formalities.



CHAPTER TWO.

DICK MAKES UP HIS MIND.

It was late in the evening of the day upon which Mrs Maitland, having
fulfilled the formalities required of her by Graham, had received from
him a cheque for the sum of four hundred and eighty-seven pounds,
seventeen shillings, and eightpence, which, apart from the house in
which she lived, represented all that remained to her of the very
comfortable fortune left to her by her late husband.  Dick had escorted
his mother up to town, and, upon the conclusion of the transaction, had
taken her back to The Cedars; after which he had made the best of his
way to 19 Paradise Street; for the moment had now arrived when he must
come to an understanding with his friend Dr Julian Humphreys, and
consult with him respecting the future.  Ten o'clock had struck a few
minutes ago, a belated patient had been attended to and dismissed, the
surgery had been closed by the simple process of drawing down the blind
and locking the outer door, and now the two friends were sitting
opposite each other in that same drug-scented apartment, conversing
earnestly together, as Humphreys pulled contemplatively, yet somewhat
vexedly, at a brier pipe which had seen so much service that it was now
charred down to about half its original size.

"The fact is," remarked Dick, in continuance of their conversation,
"that there is no other course open to me; for I am resolved that I will
not touch a farthing of the money that your friend Graham has so
cleverly rescued from the ruins of Cuthbertson's estate; every stiver of
it will be required for the maintenance of the poor Mater while I am
away.  And I must go away, because, as you yourself have admitted, there
is no employment or occupation of any kind here at home to which, in my
present condition of unpreparedness, I could turn my hand with any hope
of earning a sufficient income to maintain her and myself, though ever
so modestly; even if posts were to be had for the asking, which--in this
country, at all events--they are not.  You know that to be the plain,
unvarnished truth, do you not?"

"Yes," Humphreys answered unhesitatingly, "it is true--unfortunately."

"Very well, then," Dick resumed; "that being the case, the next question
is: Where am I to go, and what am I to do, in order to earn enough money
to maintain myself and my mother in the meantime, and eventually to
restore her to that position of security of which she was robbed by that
rascal Cuthbertson?"

"_De mortuis nil nisi bonum_!" reproved Humphreys gravely.  "The poor
chap has gone to answer for his sins, whatever they may have been, and
there is an end of him, so far as you are concerned.  To rail at him
now, and speak of him disparagingly, will not hurt him, or do you any
good, Dick, my friend, so do not unnecessarily bespatter his memory.
This by the way.  And now to return to our muttons.  The problem that
you propound is indeed a hard one to solve; to many it would probably
appear an impossibility.  But, although I am by no means an old man, I
have been long enough in this world to have recognised that what many
people deem impossibilities are nothing of the sort, if only one has the
grit to face and tackle them.  It is grit, my boy, that makes
impossibilities possible, and I believe you possess that quality in
sufficient measure to enable you to accomplish great things.  The
question is: What is the particular great thing which will meet your
case?  What is the work which you are best fitted to do?  You are
already very well up in the profession which you have chosen.  There is
many a man in successful practice to-day who knows less about it than
you do; but, unfortunately, you are not yet `qualified', therefore you
cannot set up for yourself, even if you could afford the time to create
a practice--which you cannot.  And as to becoming an unqualified
assistant, that of course is out of the question; the pay is altogether
too poor to justify the entertainment of that idea.  But there are
countries where the restrictions are not nearly so great as they are in
England; and there are others--beyond the pale of civilisation--where no
restrictions at all exist, and where a clever man, with plenty of grit
to back him up, might perhaps do remarkably well.  Still, to penetrate
to such countries a man must take his life in his hands, and, even then,
all his courage may prove insufficient to save him from an unspeakable,
horrible death.  Now, what can you do besides doctoring?"

"Nothing that will help me in my present strait," answered Maitland.  "I
can sail a boat, swim, ride, or drive a horse, and I can shoot straight;
consequently if I possessed sufficient influence I might be able to get
a job as groom, stableman, or even under-gamekeeper.  But none of those
things is good enough for me; I am capable of better things than
grooming horses, cleaning harness, or looking after pheasants; I want
employment that will bring me in good money, and I mean to have it too."

"That's right, Dick; that's the way to talk," returned Humphreys
approvingly.  "Modesty is all right, a very desirable and admirable
quality in every young man's character, and one which is seen far too
seldom nowadays.  Modesty, however, is one thing, and self-depreciation
quite another.  It is a mistake for anyone to underrate his own value,
and, as you very truly say, you are capable of doing much better work
than that needed in either of the occupations that you have named;
therefore you are justified in insisting upon having it.  A man has a
perfect right to the very best and most profitable work he is capable of
doing; but he must get it for himself; it is no use for him to sit down
supinely and demand that Providence shall put it into his hands.  The
man who is worth his salt will get up and `hustle'--as the Americans
tersely express it--and not rest until he has secured what he wants.
Now, you, my boy, are very heavily handicapped.  You have neither money
nor influence to help you to what you want, therefore you will have to
depend upon `hustle' and grit alone; also you have no time to waste in
looking about in this country for the kind of thing you want, which,
even with all the `hustle' and grit imaginable, may take you months, or
even years, to find.  No, as you said at the beginning of this
conversation, you must go somewhere abroad to get what you want; and in
a foreign land you may find even such despised accomplishments as
riding, swimming, and straight shooting of the utmost value to you.  But
in my opinion your mainstay must be the medical and surgical knowledge
which you have acquired.  Now, whereabout on the face of this old globe
of ours are you likely to be able to employ your knowledge to the best
and most profitable account?  It should be where wealth is abundant, and
where medical and surgical skill is pretty frequently in demand, also
where there is plenty of scope for a young fellow who, like yourself, is
imbued with the spirit of adventure.  Now, let me consider for a
moment--where is the country which most nearly answers to these
conditions?  What do you say to South Africa?  It is the land of gold
and diamonds; it is not, I believe, overrun with medical men; and as to
adventure--" Humphreys shrugged his shoulders and spread his hands
abroad expressively.

Dick's eyes sparkled and his face lit up with enthusiasm.

"South Africa is the place for me, without a doubt," he exclaimed with
animation.  "It is, as you say, rich; it is also a land of unbounded
possibilities; and-- But how am I to get there?  The passage money
amounts to something considerable, and I have no money to spare for that
sort of thing; also, as I have said, I will not take a penny from the
Mater."

"What about borrowing?" suggested Humphreys.  "As you know, Dick, I am
not a rich man, but I have no doubt I could manage to--"

"No!" interrupted Dick emphatically; "a thousand times no.  It is like
you, Doctor, to offer to help me out of your own exceedingly limited
means, and I am more grateful to you than I have words to express; but I
simply will not avail myself of your kindness, or that of anybody else
indeed, for I should be starting with a millstone of debt hanging round
my neck.  No, I have thought of a better way than that; I will work my
passage out."

"Work your passage out!" ejaculated the Doctor, staggered, in spite of
his whole-hearted belief in the virtues of self-help, at this bold
suggestion on Dick's part.  "In what capacity, pray?"

"Oh, as anything!" returned Dick buoyantly; "as ordinary seaman, cook's
mate, stoker--what does it matter?  I will find a way, never fear.  I'll
take a trot round the docks to-morrow, and it will be strange indeed if
I cannot somewhere find a market for my labour.  Why, even the
elementary knowledge of nautical matters that I have acquired in sailing
my little single-handed cutter during holiday time will be of service to
me.  I can steer, I can box the compass, I know the name of every sail
on a full-rigged ship; and I will guarantee that before I have been
forty-eight hours out I will know the function of every bit of running
rigging, and where to lay my hand upon it in the dark."

"Ay, I'll bet that you will, Dick," answered Humphreys, with enthusiasm
as great as Dick's own.  "And I have not much doubt as to your being
able to get a berth as ordinary seaman; for you are a big strong fellow,
and for mere pulling and hauling purposes any skipper ought to be glad
to get hold of you.  Yes, I think we may consider that part of your
problem solved.  But what about after your arrival in South Africa?  How
do you propose to proceed at the end of the voyage when you have safely
landed?  For you must remember that in all probability you will have no
wages to draw; people who work their passages are usually shipped at the
princely rate of pay of one shilling per month."

"Yes, I know," said Dick.  "Still, I shall have reached the scene of my
great endeavour without cost, and that is the important thing.  After
that I shall of course be obliged to trust to my own push and `hustle',
as you call it, for it is impossible to make any definite plans at this
distance from the scene of operations."

"Quite so," agreed Humphreys.  "And you must also remember that there is
always the element of luck, or chance, or whatever you please to call
it, in the background, and to be watched for.  Opportunity often
presents itself literally at a moment's notice and in the most
unexpected fashion, and the one who profits by it is he who is alert
enough to seize it as it passes.  But there is one thing you must do,
Dick; you must take with you a well-stocked chest of drugs, as well as
your case of surgical instruments; and, since you will not let me lend
you any money to help you on your way, you must allow me to make you a
present of that medicine chest just as a token of my appreciation of the
way in which you have conducted yourself as my pupil-- Nay, boy, you
must not refuse me, for if you do I shall be deeply hurt as well as
seriously offended."

"Very well, then," acquiesced Dick, "since you put it in that way, and
so very strongly, I will accept your generous gift with a thousand most
hearty thanks, not only for the gift itself, but also for the kindly
feeling that prompts it."

"My dear Dick," protested Humphreys, "there is really no reason at all
why you should feel so extraordinarily grateful, for in doing what I
propose to do I shall only be very inadequately repaying you for much
valuable assistance rendered, and much very pleasant companionship
during the time of your pupilage with me.  And do not think that because
I have not expressed much voluble regret at this abrupt severance of our
connection I do not feel it, for I do very keenly, I assure you; but I
see quite clearly that the thing is inevitable, therefore to complain
about it would be both useless and foolish.

"Now, there is one other way in which I can help you; and when I have
explained to you how tremendous is the power which I propose to place in
your hands you will understand, more clearly than I could show you in
any other way, the absolute trust that I repose in you.  For I tell you
this, Dick, in all sincerity, there is not another person in the whole
circle of my acquaintance--and it is pretty wide--whom I feel I could
safely trust with this power, so potent is it for evil as well as good.
But I am convinced that I can trust you; and that is why I have
determined to endow you with the ability to perform deeds which to many
people will seem positively miraculous.

"You have often expressed amazement at the uniform success which attends
my treatment of even my most difficult cases, both medical and surgical,
but especially the surgical; and I know, from the remarks you have made,
that you attribute those successes purely to the extent of my knowledge.
Well, of course, knowledge has something to do with it; but the true
secret of my success lies in the free use which I make of hypnotism.
Yes, no doubt you are surprised; for you have never seen me employ any
of the well-known methods of the ordinary hypnotist.  Very true.  But my
method is not the ordinary method at all; it is one which I claim as my
own exclusive discovery, and it is as far in advance of ordinary
hypnotism as that is in advance of the methods of the stage hypnotist.

"Almost at the outset of my professional career I directed my attention
to the investigation of hypnotism, determined to ascertain whether or
not there was anything in the claims set up by its exponents; and I soon
discovered that there was something in it, despite the disrepute cast
upon it by the grotesque performances of certain so-called entertainers.
There is no need for me to detail to you the successive steps by which
I at length attained my present knowledge of the marvellous powers of
the science.  Let it suffice me to say that by diligent study of it I
eventually acquired such a mastery of it that it has enabled me to--
well, to put it mildly--succeed where but for it I must have failed.
And a large measure of this success is due to the fact that I have
discovered an infallible method of instantly hypnotising a patient
without that patient's knowledge.  They are hypnotised, but they don't
know it; haven't the remotest suspicion of it.  Then I convey to them a
powerful suggestion that my treatment of them is going to be absolutely
successful, and--there you have the whole secret."

Humphreys paused for a moment, as if considering whether or not he
should say more; then he gazed abstractedly at his carefully kept finger
nails, and his right hand wandered to his waistcoat pocket.  Then,
looking up, he extended the hand toward Dick, saying:

"Just lend me your penknife a moment, will you?"

Dick produced the knife and held it out to Humphreys, who looked at it,
then shrank back.

"Good heavens, man," he exclaimed, "I asked for a penknife, not for an
adder!  Where did you get that brute from?"

With an inarticulate cry, and an expression of unutterable disgust and
loathing, Maitland dropped the penknife to the floor, and then stamped
on it savagely, grinding the heel of his boot on it as though grinding
the head of a snake into the ground.

"Why, Dick!" exclaimed Humphreys, looking his assistant square in the
eye; "what are you doing?  What has that good knife been doing to you
that you should treat it in that barbarous manner?"

Maitland stared back blankly into the Doctor's smiling eyes for a
moment, then looked long at the penknife on the floor, and finally
stooped and cautiously took it between his forefinger and thumb, eyeing
it doubtfully the while.  Then he suddenly sat down, pulled out his
pocket handkerchief, and mopped off the perspiration that freely bedewed
his face.

"Well, I'll be shot!" he ejaculated.  "What an extraordinary experience!
Will you believe me, Doctor, when I tell you that as I drew this
penknife out of my waistcoat pocket it actually seemed to change into an
adder in my hand?  There was the flat, wicked-looking head, the
malevolent eyes, the characteristic markings of the body, and, above
all, there was the feeling of it writhing strongly in my grasp, as
though it were trying to get enough of its length clear to turn and
strike me!  Talk about Aaron's rod and those of the old Egyptian
necromancers turning into serpents!  Why, I could have sworn that this
knife of mine did precisely the same thing!  Now, there is a problem for
you, Doctor: What sort of mental aberration was it that caused me to
imagine such an extraordinary thing as that, eh?"

"Simply, my dear boy, that I hypnotised you `unbeknownst', so to speak,
in illustration of what I have been telling you," answered the Doctor,
laying his hand upon Dick's shoulder.  "Hope I didn't scare you very
severely, eh?"

"N-o," answered Dick slowly, "you did not actually scare me, Doctor; but
you managed to give me such a thrill of horror and disgust as I have not
experienced for many a long day.  But, I say, do you really mean to tell
me, in sober earnest, that that abominable experience was due to
hypnotic suggestion on your part?"

"Yes, I do," answered Humphreys.  "I wanted to bring home to you in a
very convincing manner the power which the hypnotist exercises over his
subject.  I could have done it even more convincingly, perhaps, by
commanding you to take that perfectly cold poker in your hand, and then
suggesting to you that it was red hot, when--despite the fact of the
poker being cold--your hand would have been most painfully blistered.
But probably the `adder' experiment was convincing enough, eh?"

"It was indeed," assented Dick with a little reminiscent shudder.  "But
look here, Doctor, you say that you hypnotised me.  When did you do it?
I didn't see you do anything peculiar."

"No, my boy, of course you didn't, because I adopted my own especial
method, which is instantaneous and undetectable, and which I will teach
you if you care to learn it; for I seem to foresee that there may be
occasions, by and by, when you get out to South Africa, when you may
find the power extremely useful to you, particularly if you should get
any medical or surgical work to do.  In such a case just hypnotise your
patient in the way that I will teach you, then powerfully suggest to him
that your treatment is going to cure him--and it will do so.  As to when
I got you under my influence, it was done while I asked you to lend me
your penknife."

"By Jove!" exclaimed Dick; "it is marvellous, perfectly marvellous; and
if I did not know you to be an absolutely truthful man I do not think I
could bring myself to believe it.  Now I can understand what you meant
when you spoke of the potency of hypnotism for good or for evil, and
why, as I understand, you have never yet dared to pass on the secret of
your power to anyone else.  But I swear to you, Doctor, that, if you
will entrust it to me, I will never, under any circumstances whatsoever,
use it except for a good purpose, nor will I ever pass on the secret to
anyone else except with your express permission.  And now that you have
given me an idea of its capabilities I simply long to know the secret,
for it seems to me that a chap with your powers could come very near to
working miracles."

"Yes," assented Humphreys quietly, "that is so; indeed, even with my
imperfect knowledge--for I have not yet nearly mastered all the
possibilities of the science--I have done things that without its aid
would have been impossible.  And now, if you like, I will initiate you
into the secret of my power, which is very simple after all, and which,
once known, will enable you to do everything that I can do.  First of
all, however, I propose to throw you into a cataleptic sleep, in order
that, while you are in that condition, I may imbue you with an absolute
faith in yourself, without which everything that I can teach you would
be practically useless, at least until you had acquired faith in
yourself by the somewhat slow and laborious process which I had to
pursue.  I had to acquire faith in myself and my powers by repeated
experiments extending over a period of several months; but you have not
time for that, so I must imbue you with it by the process of suggestion
while you are in a state of trance.  Now, are you ready?"

"Yes, quite," answered Dick, with a quick indrawing of the breath; for
now that it came to the point he suddenly found that to submit himself
unreservedly to the hands of even his friend Humphreys, for the purposes
of an experiment that smacked rather strongly of the uncanny, was
something of a nerve-trying experience.  Humphreys evidently noted his
momentary hesitation, for he said:

"You need not have the least fear; you will be profoundly unconscious
during the period of sleep, and will awake without the slightest trace
of any unpleasant feeling.  Now, stretch yourself out comfortably on
that sofa, and do exactly as I tell you."

------------------------------------------------------------------------

When Dick descended to the surgery, a few minutes late, the next
morning, he found his friend Humphreys, with his coat off, his shirt
sleeves rolled up, and his clothes protected by a white apron extending
from his throat to the tops of his boots, busily engaged in dusting his
bottles and the shelves whereon they stood.

As Dick entered, the Doctor, mounted upon a step ladder, looked down at
him with a smile and nod of welcome, and said:

"Well, my boy, how did you sleep, and how do you feel after your ordeal
of last night?"

Dick laughed joyously.  "My `ordeal'!" he exclaimed.  "I hope I may
never have to undergo a more trying ordeal than that.  I slept like a
top, thank you, and feel as fit as a fiddle this morning, indeed I don't
know that I ever felt so fit in all my life before.  But that is not
all: I have not the remotest idea what mysterious thing you did to me
last night, but this I know, that you have imparted to me a something
that I have never hitherto possessed.  I feel this morning a buoyancy of
spirit that it seems to me no amount of disappointment could damp or
lessen for a moment, and I have a belief in myself so complete, so
boundless, that I feel I cannot help but be successful in this new
venture of mine upon which I am about to embark."

"Yes," said Humphreys, nodding his head in a manner which very clearly
expressed his satisfaction, "that is the result of your `ordeal', and it
will be quite permanent.  Mind you, I don't say that you will always
feel quite so buoyant and confident as you do at this moment, for it is
beyond the power of any man to make another absolutely immune to
circumstances; but in spite of circumstances, however adverse, you will
always retain some at least of your present buoyancy and confidence.  I
do not think you will ever sink into that condition of utter and abject
despair which overwhelms some people and drives them to suicide.  To
change the subject.  Are you still minded to go to the docks this
morning in quest of a shipmaster benevolently enough inclined to allow
you to work your passage out to South Africa?"

"Rather!" answered Dick.  "That is to say, if you think you can spare me
for a few hours."

"Of course I can spare you," answered Humphreys.  "And I would advise
you to go immediately after breakfast, for, as you know, `it is the
early bird that catches the worm.'  But how do you propose to set about
your quest?  Not quite haphazard, I suppose?"

"No," answered Dick.  "I thought of getting the _Shipping Gazette_, and
perhaps the _Telegraphy_ and consulting their advertisement pages, with
the view of learning what ships are on the berth for South African
ports, where they are lying, and their date of sailing."

"An excellent idea," declared the Doctor.  "As soon as Polly has put
breakfast upon the table we will send her out to get the papers, and you
can consult them and prepare a list of likely vessels before you go
out."

This was done; and by nine o'clock, Dick, having breakfasted, was ready
to sally forth on the first stage of his journey in quest of fortune,
duly armed with a slip of paper containing a list of some half-dozen
ships loading for South Africa, "with quick dispatch."

And two hours later he returned to the surgery, his visage beaming with
satisfaction.

"Hurrah, Doctor!" he exclaimed, as he dashed in through the open
doorway.  "I've done the trick; got the skipper of the _Concordia_ to
allow me to work my passage out to Port Natal as ordinary seaman at a
shilling a month.  I `sign on' at the shipping office the day after to-
morrow, and have to be on board by eight o'clock the same evening in
readiness to haul out of dock at daylight on the following morning."



CHAPTER THREE.

BEFORE THE MAST.

The remainder of Dick Maitland's time in England was pretty fully
occupied in comforting and encouraging his mother, in view of the
pending separation, and in getting his somewhat slender wardrobe ready
and packed for the voyage.  The first-mentioned part of his task proved
very much more difficult than the other, for Mrs Maitland was rather a
helpless kind of person, and had already come to look to Dick for advice
and help in every sort of difficulty, whether great or small; the
prospect, therefore, of being henceforth obliged to look after herself
and manage her affairs unaided filled her at first with dismay.
Besides, there was the separation from her son, the feeling that she
knew not whether she would ever again set eyes on him in this world, and
the terrible uncertainty generally of the future, to further distract
her; but at length the buoyancy and unquenchable hopefulness of Dick's
spirit had its effect upon her; and, finally, when the moment of parting
came, she had been brought to a frame of mind that enabled her to say
the last words of farewell almost with calmness.  As for Dick, he had
already received Humphreys' assurance that he would keep in touch with
Mrs Maitland, and see, in conjunction with his friend Graham, the
solicitor, that she came to no harm; therefore he had few fears for her
immediate future; while, for the rest, he was confident that before his
mother's little capital became exhausted he would have found means to
replenish it.  He spent with her the remainder of the day upon which he
had interviewed the skipper of the _Concordia_, and practically the
whole of that which succeeded it, finally bidding her farewell about six
o'clock in the evening, in order that he might spend the remainder of
the day with Humphreys, with whom he had still much of importance to
discuss.

Upon Dick's return to Number 19 Paradise Street he found the genial
Doctor so busily engaged in dispensing drugs and advice that the two had
time for little more than a mutual nod of greeting; but later on, when
the last patient had departed and business had been brought to a close
for the night, they sat down together for a chat over a cup of coffee
and--so far as Humphreys was concerned--a pipe.  Dick had not yet taken
to tobacco, and Humphreys, although an inveterate smoker himself, so far
from urging his young friend to adopt the habit, had strongly dissuaded
him from having anything to do with the weed, at least until he had
reached his twenty-first birthday, learnedly descanting upon the
injurious effects of nicotine upon the immature constitution, and
incidentally warning him to eschew narcotics generally, which, he
insisted, were always injurious, and only to be resorted to, even
medically, when it became a choice between a narcotic and some greater
evil.

"Well, my boy," remarked the Doctor, when they were at length
comfortably settled in their respective chairs, "so you have parted with
your mother.  I hope you were able to cheer the poor lady and reconcile
her to the separation.  It is of course very hard upon her that at her
time of life she should be left absolutely alone, but necessity is a
pitiless jade, exacting her tribute of sorrow and suffering from all
alike, from the monarch to the pauper, and when she lays her hand upon
us there is no escape.  But do not allow anxiety on behalf of your dear
mother to worry you for a moment, lad, for I have promised to keep an
eye upon her, and, as you know, I am a man of my word, and no harm shall
befall her so long as I have the power to avert it.  No, don't thank me,
Dick, there is no need; the satisfaction and pleasure that I shall
derive from helping your dear mother will be reward enough for me, for I
regard her as a personal friend, and shall consider it a privilege to be
allowed to do all that I can for her."

"And now, to pass on to another topic, let me show you the medicine
chest which I intend shall be my parting gift to you.  Here it is,"--
producing a stout case measuring about eighteen inches long by fourteen
inches wide and twelve inches high.  "It is not inconveniently bulky or
heavy, but it contains a practically complete assortment of drugs,
sufficient in quantity to enable you to fight successfully about half a
dozen cases of almost every known disease.  More than that it would be
inconvenient to carry about with you; and when any particular drug shows
signs of exhaustion you must take timely steps to replenish your supply.
And, with reference to that same replenishment, you will find a little
manuscript book, written by myself, containing full instructions in the
art of preparing several of the drugs from their parent plants, which I
believe you will find exceedingly useful."  Here Humphreys' talk became
professional and his speech surcharged with technicalities--for he was
an enthusiast in everything relating to the combating and cure of
disease, and far into the small hours he descanted learnedly upon his
beloved science, confiding to and instructing Dick in many valuable
secrets that, by dint of laborious research and much consumption of
midnight oil, he had wrung from Dame Nature.  And on many an occasion in
the not-far-distant future Dick Maitland had ample cause to look back
with gratitude upon that long midnight conversation.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

With exemplary punctuality young Maitland presented himself at the
shipping office at ten o'clock in the morning, and duly "signed on" as
ordinary seaman in the good ship _Concordia_, bound for Natal; Mr
Sutcliffe, the chief mate, privately congratulating Captain Roberts, the
skipper of the ship, immediately afterwards, upon his good fortune in
securing so "likely" a hand for the small sum of one shilling per month,
and expressing his fixed determination to "make a man of him" before
they reached the Line.  At the private suggestion of the said chief
mate, Dick lost no time in conveying his belongings to the ship and
depositing his bedding in the best-sheltered bunk in the forecastle;
after which he returned to Number 19 Paradise Street, where he spent the
few hours of freedom remaining to him in assisting his friend the
Doctor, and absorbing further knowledge from him.  Finally, as the
clocks in the immediate neighbourhood were striking the hour of eight in
the evening, Dick stepped over the rail of the _Concordia_ and formally
reported himself to the chief mate, thereafter repairing to the
forecastle and making his preparations for the night.  He was the first
hand to join the ship, notwithstanding the fact that the entire crew had
been ordered to be on board not later than eight o'clock that evening;
and it was not until close upon midnight that the remainder found their
way down from the neighbouring public houses, all of them as surly and
quarrelsome as bears at the termination of their short period of
liberty.  Fortunately for Dick, all hands were too far gone in drink to
admit of their quarrelsomeness going further than words, and eventually,
by about one o'clock in the morning, he was able to compose himself to
sleep, to the accompaniment of the snores and mutterings of his
companions--thirteen in number.

Many lads in Dick Maitland's position, and brought up amid refined
surroundings, as he had been, would have regarded with horror and
loathing such a situation as that in which he now found himself, and
would have been overwhelmed with self-pity at the cruelly hard luck
which forced them to herd with such uncongenial companions in such a pig
sty of a place as the _Concordia's_ forecastle just then presented; but
Dick was something of a philosopher, and was, moreover, full of "grit".
He held the doctrine that a man can make what he chooses of his
surroundings, and always find in them something of amusement or
interest, if he cares to look for it; and now he consoled himself with
the reminder that life in that forecastle, and among those men, whose
highest ideal of happiness seemed to be helpless intoxication, would
after all be but a brief experience, out of which it would be hard
indeed if he could not learn some useful lesson.  With this philosophic
reflection, he curled himself up in his blankets and dropped into a
sound, dreamless sleep.

At six o'clock next morning the mate came thundering upon the fore
scuttle with a handspike, following up the resounding blows with a yell
of:

"All hands ahoy! tumble up there, you sleepers, and don't wait to curl
your hair.  Hurry up, now, and give me a chance to see who are the
`smarties' among you!"

With low growls of disgust at such rude and untimely disturbance of
their slumbers the fourteen occupants of the forecastle rolled
unwillingly out of their bunks and proceeded to scramble into their
garments, most of them anathematising the sea life generally, and their
present ship in particular.  For forecastle Jack is a curious creature,
and, if you are to believe him, "last voyage" is invariably the supreme
period of his life, wherein has been crowded the utmost comfort and
pleasure and the most remarkable adventures, while the ship on board
which he happens to be at the moment is, as invariably, the slowest,
ugliest, most uncomfortable, and most rotten tub that he ever had the
ill luck to ship in.  And all this, mind you, as likely as not before
the much-maligned craft has passed out through the dock gates, or Jack
has done a hand's turn of work on board her.  Dick listened with a good-
tempered grin to the chorus of grumbling that was proceeding around him,
interjected a merry jest or two which caused the growlers to stop in
mid-career in amazement at his audacity, and then, having slipped nimbly
into his clothes, he sprang up through the hatchway and presented
himself first on deck of the forecastle hands, to be greeted by the mate
with a cheery:

"Well done, youngster!  First to answer the call.  That comes of joining
your ship with an unmuddled brain.  I think you and I are going to get
on well together."

"I sincerely hope so, sir," answered Dick.  "If we don't it shall not be
my fault.  And although I am rather an ignoramus at present in respect
of a sailor's work generally, you will find me both willing and eager to
learn."

The mate stared at Dick for a moment with compressed eyebrows, rather
taken aback at the lad's refined tone and manner of speech; then he
nodded, and remarked gruffly:

"That's all right; if you are willing to learn I'll take care that you
have the chance.  And, as a starter, you may get a broom and sweep up
all this litter.  But don't heave it overboard, or you'll have the dock
people after you.  Sweep it all together and put it into that empty
barrel until we get out of dock and can heave it over the side."

The rest of the forecastle hands now came stumbling up on deck, and were
set by the mate to various tasks, pending the opening of the dock gates
and the arrival of the tug which was to tow the _Concordia_ down the
river.  At length the order was given to unmoor ship, the dock gates
swung open, the vessel was warped through the opening to where the tug
awaited her, the towrope was passed, and presently the _Concordia_ was
heading down the river toward Gravesend, from whence, having first
shipped her passengers, she was to take her final departure for the
southern hemisphere.

The _Concordia_ was a steel barque of eight hundred and seventy-four
tons register, Clyde built, and modelled upon lines that combined a very
fair cargo-carrying capacity with high speed possibilities.  She was a
very handsome vessel to look at, and Captain William Roberts, who had
commanded her since she left the stocks some two years prior to the date
at which we make his and her acquaintance, was inordinately proud of
her, sparing no pains either to himself or his ship's crew--and
especially, his boatswain--to keep her as trim and neat as a man-o'-war.
The decks were regularly holystoned every morning when the ship was at
sea--to the intense disgust of the crew--the brasswork was as regularly
polished, not with the usual rottenstone and oil, but with special metal
polish provided out of the skipper's private purse; and there was no
more certain way of "putting the Old Man's back up" than for a man to
allow himself to be seen knocking the ashes of his pipe out against any
portion of the ship's painted work.  It was even asserted of Captain
Roberts that, so anxious was he to maintain the smart appearance of the
ship, he would, whenever she ran into a calm, have the quarterboat
lowered and manned, in order that he might pull round his vessel and
assure himself that her masts were all accurately stayed to precisely
the same angle of rake; and woe betide the unhappy boatswain if there
seemed to be the slightest occasion for fault-finding.

The _Concordia_ was a beamy ship in proportion to her length, and she
carried a full poop extending forward to within about twenty feet of her
mainmast, underneath which was a handsome saloon, or cuddy, fitted with
berth accommodation for twenty passengers; for although the steam liners
have, for all practical purposes, absorbed the passenger traffic, there
still remains a small residue of the travelling public who, either for
health or economy's sake, choose a well-found, well-built sailing
clipper when they desire to make a sea voyage.

Such was the vessel in which young Dick Maitland was to make his first,
and, as he hoped, his only, essay as a seaman before the mast, and after
the slight sketch which has been given of her and her skipper, it will
be readily seen that he could scarcely have hit upon a craft where he
would be likely to have more hard work, or better opportunities for the
acquirement of a large measure of seafaring knowledge in a very short
time.

Mr Sutcliffe, the chief mate, had been favourably impressed by Dick
from the moment when the two had encountered each other at the shipping
office, and Mr Sutcliffe's method of showing his favour was to provide
his favourites with an ample sufficiency of work to do.  The ship had,
therefore, not been out of dock half an hour when Dick was sent aloft
with an able seaman named Barrett to get the fore and main royal-yards
across; and so eager was the lad to learn as much as he could that
Barrett very willingly permitted him to do all the work, merely
directing him what to do and how to do it, and at the same time
instructing him as to the nomenclature and purposes of the various parts
of the gear which were manipulated during the operation.  Naturally,
Dick, being a novice, took about twice as long as his companion would
have taken over the job; but so eager was he to learn and such aptitude
did he exhibit that he won the unqualified approval of Barrett, as well
as of Mr Sutcliffe, who had been keeping a sharp eye upon what was
going on aloft.  As for Dick, although it was the first time that he had
ever been aloft in anything deserving the name of a ship, and although
the hull upon which he looked down seemed ridiculously inadequate to
support the lofty spar upon which he was working--suggesting the idea
that unless he exercised the utmost caution in the disposition of his
weight he must inevitably capsize the entire complicated structure--he
felt neither giddy nor nervous, but went about his work with all the
coolness and confidence of a thoroughly seasoned hand.

Arrived off Gravesend, the anchor was let go, and the ship swung to the
now fast ebbing tide, the quarterboat was lowered, and the skipper was
rowed ashore, while Mr Sutcliffe went the rounds of the decks and
satisfied himself that everything had been done to make the _Concordia_
perfectly ready to get under way at a moment's notice; the yards were
accurately squared by the lifts and braces, the running gear hauled taut
and neatly coiled down, the decks once more swept; and then the worthy
mate found himself compelled to admit, with a sigh, that nothing more
could be done, at least to advantage, until the passengers should have
come off and the ship be once more under way.  These two events happened
late in the afternoon, and meanwhile the occupants of the forecastle
were sent below to snatch a few hours' rest in preparation for the
coming night, during which Dick Maitland had an opportunity to become
better acquainted with his messmates.  For a wonder these proved to be
without exception British, consisting of two Irishmen, five Scotchmen,
and one Welshman, while the rest were English.  There was nothing very
remarkable about any of them, they were all just ordinary average
sailormen, but it did not take Dick very long to make up his mind that,
with the possible exception of the carpenter, and Barrett, the A.B. who
had been his companion and instructor aloft during the morning, the five
Scotchmen were the pick of the bunch.  But all hands seemed to be very
decent fellows in their own rough way, now that they had had time to
recover from their previous day's debauch, and manifested a distinct
disposition to be friendly toward the young greenhorn whom they found in
their midst, especially as they had already had an opportunity to see
that the greenhorn's greenness was not of such a character as to entail
upon them very much extra work.

The afternoon was well advanced when at length the passengers, seventeen
in number, came off to the ship; and the moment that they and their
baggage were embarked the anchor was hove up, the tug once more came
alongside and took the towrope, and the _Concordia_ proceeded upon her
voyage, the hope being freely expressed, both fore and aft, that there
would be no more anchoring until the ship should have arrived under the
shadow, so to speak, of Natal Bluff.  As soon as the ship was fairly
under way, and the anchor at the cathead, the chief and second mates
picked the watches, and Dick, to his satisfaction, found himself picked
by Mr Sutcliffe as a member of that officer's watch.

As the ship drew down toward the lower reaches of the river she met a
slight breeze breathing out from the north-east, to which she spread,
first, her fore-and-aft canvas, and, later on, her square sails, so that
by the time of her arrival off Deal, near midnight, she was practically
independent of the tug, which at that point cast her off.  Here also the
pilot left her, taking with him a goodly packet of letters from the
passengers to their friends ashore; and the _Concordia_, spreading her
studding-sails, swept on into the broadening waters of the English
Channel.  With the other letters went one from Dick to his mother and
another to Dr Humphreys, written during his watch below.

The fair wind which the _Concordia_ fell in with at the mouth of the
Thames lasted long enough to carry the ship, not only clear of the
Channel, but also well to the westward of Ushant, Captain Roberts having
availed himself to the utmost of the opportunity to make as much westing
as possible, as his experience had taught him that at that season of the
year the prevailing winds which he might expect to meet with to the
northward of Madeira would most probably be strong from the south-
westward.  And the event proved the correctness of that mariner's
surmise, for on his seventh day out from Gravesend he fell in with the
expected shift of wind, and four hours later the _Concordia_ was
fighting her way to the southward, under double-reefed topsails, against
a heavy and fast-rising sea.

Those seven days had made a vast amount of difference to Dick Maitland,
so far as his usefulness as a seaman was concerned.  In that
comparatively brief period he had contrived not only to learn the name
and function of every bit of running rigging in the ship, but also to
lay his hand unerringly upon any required halyard, brace, sheet,
downhaul, clewline, or other item of gear in the darkest night; he was
as active and almost as handy aloft as the smartest A.B. in the ship;
and he proved to be a born helmsman, standing his "trick" at the wheel
from the very first, and leaving a straighter wake behind him than any
of the other men, even when the ship was scudding before a heavy
following sea.  Mr Sutcliffe, the chief mate, was delighted with his
young _protege_, and declared, in unnecessarily picturesque language,
that he would qualify the boy to perform the duties of an able seaman
before Natal Bluff should heave in sight.

But Dick was to prove his mettle in quite another fashion before long;
for the strong south-westerly breeze which the _Concordia_ encountered
on her seventh day out rapidly developed into so furious a gale that,
after battling with it for some fourteen hours, Captain Roberts decided
to heave-to under close-reefed fore and main topsails, and at eight
bells--noon--the order was accordingly given to clew up and furl the
already reefed courses, and to haul down and stow the fore-topmast
staysail.  This, under the weather conditions of the moment, was a task
requiring the services of all hands, and by the orders of the chief
mate, who was conducting the operations, Dick was stationed at the
weather fore clew-garnet, with three other hands.  The men, having gone
to their stations, were waiting for the word of command when suddenly
the chain main-tack carried away, and the part attached to the sail,
acting like a whip, struck one of the men who was standing by to ease it
away, smashed the poor fellow's right arm above the elbow, shattered his
jaw, and laid open his right cheek from the turn of the jaw to the right
ear, which was all but torn away from the man's head; the force of the
blow also was such as to dash the unfortunate fellow against the
bulwarks so violently that he instantly fell to the deck senseless.

The accident, naturally, at once occasioned the utmost confusion, in the
midst of which the mainsail promptly threshed itself to rags, the mate
sprang down the poop ladder and rushed to the spot, yelling a whole
string of orders, to which nobody paid the slightest attention, and
Dick, with two or three others, abandoned their posts and ran to the
injured man's assistance.

"Back to your stations, you skowbanks," roared the mate.  "What d'ye
mean by rushing about like a flock of frightened sheep?  D'ye want to
see the ship dismasted?  Here you, Dick, and Joe, pick him up and carry
him below to his bunk until the skipper can attend to him."

"I beg your pardon, sir," spoke Dick, "but I am afraid we may do the
poor fellow some further injury if we attempt to carry him below.  I
understand that there is a spare bunk in the deckhouse where the
boatswain and carpenter are quartered.  May we not take him in there?
And, if you will give me leave, I will attend to his hurts.  I have
studied both medicine and surgery, and feel sure that I can do better
for him than anyone else, excepting, of course, a qualified surgeon."

"The dickens!  You don't say so?" ejaculated the mate, staring at Dick
in amazement.  "Very well, then, in that case you had better take charge
of him.  And--yes, of course, take him into the deckhouse.  Now, lads,
clew up that fore-course, and be lively with it; haul taut your clew-
garnets, ease up your tack and sheet; man your buntlines and leach-
lines; that's your sort, up with it; away aloft, some of you, and make a
good, snug furl of it!"

Quickly, yet with the utmost care, the injured seaman was lifted up and
carried into the deckhouse, where, in accordance with Dick's
instructions, he was laid upon the table, a mattress having first been
hurriedly dragged from one of the bunks and placed to receive him.
Then, leaving the patient for the moment in charge of the other man,
Dick hurried to the forecastle and brought up the medicine chest which
had been Humphrey's parting gift to him, and his case of surgical
instruments, which he opened and placed upon the carpenter's chest, to
the undisguised admiration and horror of his assistant, who gazed as
though fascinated at the array of highly polished saws, knives,
scissors, and other instruments of queer and horribly suggestive shape.
Then, dexterously removing the man's jacket and shirt while he still
remained unconscious, Dick rapidly proceeded to give his patient a
systematic overhaul, with the object of ascertaining the precise nature
and extent of his injuries.

He had just completed this examination when the injured man showed signs
of returning consciousness, at the same moment that the skipper, having
heard from the mate the particulars of the accident, came bustling into
the deckhouse with a bottle of brandy in one hand and a tumbler in the
other, intent upon doing something, though he scarcely knew what, for
the relief of the sufferer.  The brandy arrived in the nick of time,
and, seizing the bottle and tumbler unceremoniously, Maitland poured out
a small quantity and held the tumbler to the patient's lips.  With
difficulty the man contrived to swallow about a teaspoonful, which
considerably revived him, and then, with a groan of anguish, strove to
mumble a few words in spite of his broken jaw.  Now, if ever, was the
moment when Humphreys' doctrine of the efficacy of hypnotism might be
effectively tested, and fixing the man's upturned gaze with his own, in
the peculiar manner which Humphreys had described and illustrated, Dick
said to his patient, in a quiet, yet firm and confident tone of voice:

"Now, Tom, don't attempt to say anything or ask any questions, but
listen to me.  You have met with an accident, but it is not at all
serious; and I am going to put you right and make you quite comfortable.
I shall be obliged to pull you about a bit, but understand this, you
will suffer no pain whatever, and when I have finished with you you will
fall into a quiet and refreshing sleep, from which you will awake
without fever or complication of any sort.  Now, turn over on your left
side, and let me begin by attending to the injuries of your face."

To the utter amazement of the skipper and Joe--the man who had assisted
Dick to carry the injured man into the deckhouse--the patient turned
quietly over on his left side as directed, without a groan or any other
sign of suffering, and resigned himself quite contentedly to Dick's
ministrations.  The latter, to all outward appearance perfectly calm and
self-possessed, but inwardly full of astonishment at the complete
success of his first experiment, at once proceeded with quick and deft
hands to arrange in position the shattered fragments of the jaw,
strapping them firmly in place with bandage and sticking plaster; then
he deftly drew together the edges of the gashed cheek, stitched up the
wound, applied an antiseptic dressing, and bound up the injured face in
such a manner that the patient might be enabled to take liquid
nourishment without disturbance of the dressings.  Lastly, he placed the
broken bone of the arm in position, and firmly secured it there with
splints and bandages.  As Dick inserted the last pin in the bandage and
arranged the arm in a comfortable position the patient closed his eyes,
and a minute later his quiet and regular breathing showed that he was
fast asleep!



CHAPTER FOUR.

PHIL GROSVENOR'S PROPOSITION.

"Well, dash my wig," exclaimed the skipper, his face the picture of
blank astonishment, "that beats the record!  Why, the man's fast asleep,
in spite of all your handling of him!  How in the name of all that's
wonderful did you manage to work that miracle, youngster?"

"Oh, easily enough!" laughed Dick.  "Everything is easy, you know, sir,
when you understand how to do it.  I learned how to do that, and a great
many other very useful things, under one of the cleverest men in London,
a man who would be famous but for the fact that he prefers to work in
the obscurity of the East-End, and let the poor enjoy the benefit of his
wonderful skill, instead of becoming a fashionable Harley Street
practitioner.  With your permission, sir, I will look after our friend
Tom, here; and I guarantee to have him up and about again, as well as
ever, before we reach the latitude of the Cape."

"You do?" ejaculated the skipper.  "Then by George, sir, you shall have
the opportunity.  But, look here, why didn't you tell me that you were a
doctor, when you came and asked me to allow you to work your passage out
to South Africa?"

"Well, you see," answered Dick, "I was rather down on my luck just then;
I--or rather, my mother--had learned, only a few days before, that she
had been robbed of all her money; and it was imperative that I should at
once go out into the world and earn more for her, hence my anxiety to go
to South Africa.  But I was so badly off that I couldn't even afford to
pay my fare out there; I therefore determined to work my passage.  And,
as I considered that the fact of my being a doctor would be no
recommendation to you, I decided not to mention it."

"Ah!" remarked the skipper; "that is just where you made a big mistake;
your services as a medical man would have been far more valuable to me
than as an ordinary seaman.  Besides, you can do better work than mere
pulling and hauling and dipping your hands into the tar bucket.  You are
a gentleman in manner and speech, and will look like one when you get
into another suit of clothes.  Now, I tell you what it is; I am not
going to waste you by allowing you to remain in the forecastle any
longer, so just turn to and get the tar stains off your hands, shift
into a white shirt and a shore-going suit of clothes, and come aft into
the cuddy as ship's surgeon.  There is, very fortunately, a vacant cabin
that you can have; and you may earn the rest of your passage by looking
after the health of the passengers and crew--there are three or four
ladies who are pretty nearly dead with seasickness, and if you can
relieve 'em they'll bless me for discovering you."

"Oh yes," answered Dick cheerfully, "I have no doubt I can relieve them
all right!  But there is one thing with regard to this arrangement that
perhaps you have not thought of, Captain.  Perhaps your passengers will
not approve of your bringing me aft out of the forecastle to associate
with them upon terms of equality."

"Don't you trouble your head about that, my son," returned the skipper.
"That is my affair.  But I'm quite sure that they won't object when I
tell 'em the facts of the case.  Besides, they've already noticed you
while you've been at the wheel, and have remarked what a well-spoken,
gentlemanly young fellow you are.  No, no; that'll be all right, never
fear.  Now, if you've finished with this poor chap for a while, you had
better cut away and make yourself fit for the cuddy, and then shift aft,
bag and baggage."

"Very well, sir, I will, and many thanks to you for the promotion,"
answered Dick.  "But we cannot leave Tom here on the table, comfortable
as he is.  Therefore, with your permission, sir, I will call in a couple
of hands, who, with Joe and myself, will be able to put him into the
spare bunk, where he will be out of everybody's way, and where I can
attend to him quite conveniently."

To this proposal the worthy skipper at once consented; and half an hour
later Dick, having discarded his working clothes for a suit of blue
serge, and otherwise made himself presentable, moved aft and established
himself in the spare cabin which Captain Roberts placed at his disposal,
the skipper having meanwhile ensured a cordial reception for him from
the passengers by telling them such particulars of Dick's history as he
was acquainted with, and also describing, with much picturesque detail,
the masterly manner in which the lad had patched up the injured seaman.

Dick had no reason to complain of the manner in which the passengers
received him among them; on the contrary, his reception was cordial in
the extreme, especially by the women, to whose sense of romance the
lad's story, as told by the skipper, appealed very strongly.  The
introduction took place just as the passengers--or at least those of
them who were not too ill--were about to sit down to tiffin, and Dick
was assigned a place at the long table halfway between the head and the
foot, where Captain Roberts and Mr Sutcliffe respectively presided; but
the young man declined to sit down until he had visited and relieved his
new patients, consisting of five ladies and three men.

His method of dealing with these unfortunates was simplicity itself.
Relying wholly upon the wonderful power of hypnotism with which his
friend Humphreys had endowed him, he prepared for each patient a draught
consisting of sugar and water only, slightly flavoured with an aromatic
bitter; and, as he presented this, he got the patient under his
influence in the instantaneous manner which Humphreys had taught him, at
the same time saying, in a quietly confident tone of voice:

"Now, I want you to drink this, please.  It is an absolutely unfailing
and instantaneous remedy for the distressing complaint from which you
are suffering, and the moment that you have swallowed it every trace of
discomfort will disappear, to return no more.  You will feel so
thoroughly well that very probably you will wish to rise and dress; but
I do not advise that.  On the contrary, I recommend you to remain where
you are until you have had a few hours' refreshing sleep, after which
you can get up to dinner.  That is right,"--as the patient swallowed the
draught.  "Now you feel quite all right, don't you?  Yes.  You will feel
very sleepy presently; just let yourself go; and when you awake you will
find yourself as well as you ever were in your life."

And, incredible though it may appear, that is precisely what happened.
What was perhaps at least equally remarkable was that, although these
good people had all suffered more or less from seasickness every day
since leaving Gravesend, from that moment they were entirely free from
it for the remainder of the voyage.

Among the passengers who were thus suddenly and completely cured was a
Mr Philip Grosvenor, who, having been crossed in love, and, moreover,
possessing far more money than he knew what to do with, while he had no
disposition to dissipate it on the racecourse or at the gambling tables,
was going out to South Africa to shoot big game; and this young man--he
was only a month or two over twenty-six years of age--at once struck up
a warm friendship with Dick, originating, possibly, in a feeling of
gratitude for his prompt relief from those sufferings which had hitherto
made his life a burden to him, from the moment when the South Foreland
light had sunk beneath the horizon astern of the _Concordia_.

He made his first advances after dinner on the evening of the day which
had witnessed his cure.  As Dick had foretold, he fell asleep
immediately after swallowing the draught which the young medico had
administered, had awakened, feeling absolutely well, just in time to
rise and dress for dinner, had partaken of a very hearty meal, and
thereafter had made his way up on the poop to gaze upon the stirring
spectacle of the ship battling with and gallantly holding her own
against the raging wind and sea--and possibly also to revel in his new-
found immunity from the horrors of _mal de mer_.  Here he had found
Dick, a born sailor, walking the heaving and plunging deck and chatting
animatedly with Mr Sutcliffe, who, honest man, felt somewhat at a loss
to determine precisely the manner of his behaviour toward the youngster
whom he had so recently patronised and ordered about, but who was now
translated aft to the quarterdeck upon an equal footing with himself.
Dick had just about succeeded in putting to flight the worthy chief
mate's feeling of awkwardness and embarrassment when Grosvenor appeared
and joined the pair, whereupon Sutcliffe, who was rather shy with the
passengers, sheered off, upon the pretence of attending to his duty, and
left the two together.

"By Jove, Doctor, but this is a grand sight, isn't it?" exclaimed Dick's
recent patient.  "Never saw the like of it before, and shouldn't be in
form to see it now, but for you.  'Pon my word, you know, you are a
wonder--a perfect wonder!  Give me your arm and let's walk about a bit,
shall we?  That's right.  D'you know I don't think I ever felt more fit
in my life than I do at this moment; and to reflect that only this
morning I was--ugh!  Tell you what it is, Doctor, you should patent that
prescription of yours, have it made up, and sell it at five shillings
the bottle.  You would soon make your fortune.  And I'll write a
testimonial for you.  `Took one dose and never needed another!' eh?  No,
hang it all, that wouldn't do, either, rather too ambiguous, eh? sort of
double meaning in that kind of statement--what?  But, joking apart, old
man, I'd very strongly advise you to patent the thing and advertise it
extensively.  I'm certain that there's money in it."

"Possibly," agreed Dick, who had no intention of taking this young man
into his confidence to the extent of explaining the actual character of
the draught.  "Unfortunately, however, to do as you suggest needs the
preliminary expenditure of a good deal of money, which is a singularly
scarce commodity with me.  No, I am afraid that plan of yours will
scarcely do; it is true that I am particularly anxious to make my
fortune, and that, too, without a moment's loss of time, but I am afraid
I shall have to hit upon some other way of doing it."

"Ah!  Well, what is your plan, if it is a fair question?  Excuse me, old
chap, I'm not asking out of mere vulgar, impertinent curiosity, but at
the dinner table to-night somebody mentioned that you are working your
passage out to South Africa.  What do you propose to do when you arrive
there?"

"Heaven only knows; certainly I do not," answered Dick with a lugubrious
smile.  "When I step ashore on the wharf at Port Natal I shall not know
in what direction to turn my steps, or where to look for a meal or a
night's lodging.  Also the whole of my available capital will consist in
the wages which I shall take up when Captain Roberts gives me my
discharge, amounting, probably, to a couple of shillings."

"What?" ejaculated Grosvenor incredulously.  "Oh, I say, my dear chap,
you are not in earnest, surely?"

"Indeed I am, then, in deadly earnest," answered Dick.  "But I am not
worrying.  I am strong and more than willing to work, and I mean to take
the very first job that comes to hand, let it be what it will.  I
believe that if a chap is willing to work he can always get something to
do, though it may not be precisely the kind of work that he would like.
And when once I have secured the means of providing myself with board
and lodging I shall be able to look round for something better."

"Yes--yes, of course you will," responded Grosvenor, a little dubiously.
"I say, old chap," he continued admiringly, "you are a `gritty' beggar,
and no mistake!  I wonder if you would mind telling me your story?"

"No, not at all," answered Dick; "there is nothing in it that I need be
ashamed of."  And forthwith he proceeded to give his new-found friend a
brief yet clear account of the circumstances which had resulted in his
being reduced to his present plight.

"By Jove, Maitland, I admire you!" exclaimed Grosvenor when Dick had
come to the end of his story.  "There is not one man in a hundred who,
under similar circumstances, would have tackled the situation with the
indomitable pluck and whole-hearted belief in himself that you have
shown; and I feel sure that such courage will meet with its just reward.
You are the kind of fellow that always comes out on top, simply because
you will not allow yourself to be kept down.  Now, look here, I am going
to make a proposition to you--and, understand me, it is on purely
selfish grounds that I am going to make it.  I am going out to South
Africa because I want to forget a--well, a very bitter disappointment
that I have recently sustained, and the particulars of which I will
perhaps tell you some day if you fall in with my proposition, as I hope
you will.  The way in which I propose to conquer this disappointment of
mine is to go in for a life of adventure--exploration of the interior,
big-game shooting, and that sort of thing, you understand.  I have heard
some most thrilling stories of the wonderful things and people that are
to be found in the interior of Africa, and, while many of them are
doubtless lies, there is evidence enough of a perfectly reliable
character to prove that there is at least a certain amount of truth in
others; and it is my purpose to ascertain at firsthand the exact measure
of that truth.  Take, for example, the contention of certain
antiquarians that the ruins of Ophir must exist somewhere upon the east
coast.  I have read pretty nearly everything that has been written upon
that subject, and I am convinced of the soundness of the contention, as
I am also of the contention that Zimbabwe is not ancient Ophir.  Then,
again, there is the statement of the existence of a mysterious white
race in the far interior, which persistently crops up at intervals.  It
would be interesting in the extreme to be able to settle that matter
beyond a doubt, wouldn't it?  Very well, then; my idea is to attempt to
find ancient Ophir, and also the mysterious white race, if possible.

"Of course I know that what I propose is scarcely in the nature of a
picnic; it no doubt means a good deal of hardship, privation, and
danger; in fact, my friends without exception pronounced me a fool for
thinking of engaging in such an undertaking, while at least half of them
confidently prophesy that if I make the attempt I shall never return.
Well, that is as may be; plenty of better fellows than I have gone under
in such excursions, but, on the other hand, as big duffers as I am have
done great things and turned up again all right, so there is no
particular reason that I can see why I should not do the same.  And so
far as money is concerned I have more than enough to enable me to equip
the expedition in such a manner as to ensure the minimum of discomfort
with the maximum of everything necessary to success.  The only item that
I have had any doubt as to my ability to obtain is--a suitable
companion; for of course in my maddest moments I have never been ass
enough to contemplate going into so big a thing single-handed.  But the
precise kind of man that I want was not to be found either among my
friends or elsewhere at home, so I came away without him, trusting that
I should be lucky enough to pick him up somewhere on the way; and, by
Jove, Maitland, the event has justified my trust; for I have found in
you exactly the kind of man I have had in my mind all along--or, rather,
somebody better, for in addition to your other qualifications you have
very considerable skill as a physician and surgeon, which is what I
never hoped to secure, even in my most sanguine moments."

"Do you wish me to infer, then, that you are proposing to take me as a
hired assistant--or what?" demanded Dick.

"Well, yes--and no," answered Grosvenor, with a somewhat embarrassed
laugh.  "As a hired assistant, certainly, because the services of a
fellow like yourself would be of incalculable value to me, especially
when the inevitable sickness comes along.  But I want particularly to
secure you because--well, to be perfectly plain and blunt, because I
have taken a great fancy to you, and because I recognise in you exactly
the qualities that would make of you not only an invaluable assistant
but also a perfectly ideal partner, friend, and companion.  Therefore,
in your capacity as medical attendant to the expedition I propose to
offer you a regular fixed salary of, let us say, two guineas a day, or,
taking one month with another, sixty-five pounds a month--the first six
months to be paid in advance--and, in your capacity of partner, all the
ivory, skins, and other matters which we may accumulate during the
progress of the expedition, except what I may desire to appropriate as
trophies wherewith to adorn the ancestral halls."

Dick laughed.  "Thank you very much," he said, "but I couldn't possibly
accede to your terms; they are altogether too glaringly unfair.  The
salaried part I don't at all object to, because of course if you desire
to include a medical man in your retinue you must pay him a fair salary,
and two guineas a day is not too much, in my opinion.  But when you come
to talk about my share of the spoils, in my capacity of your partner, it
becomes a different matter altogether, since I cannot contribute a
farthing to the expenses of the expedition, therefore I cannot by any
process of reasoning be entitled to any share of its possible profits.
No; if you care to engage me as doctor, at the salary that you have
named, I will accept the post with pleasure and my most hearty thanks,
because the pay will suffice to keep the dear old Mater going; and when
we return to civilisation--if we ever do--I shall be able to set about
the task in earnest of `making my fortune.'"

"But, look here my dear fellow," remonstrated Grosvenor, "it is just
nonsense in you--if you will excuse my saying so--to refuse the second
part of my proposal, for this reason.  I am not undertaking this
expedition as a speculation, or with any idea of making it pay.  I have
already a much larger income than I know what to do with, and for that
and other reasons money does not come into the question at all.  Like
other fellows who go hunting, I shall naturally desire to have a few
trophies to exhibit as tokens of my prowess; but, beyond those, I shall
have no use at all for ivory, skins, horns, and such other matters as we
may acquire; therefore you may as well have them as anyone else,
especially as you are avowedly out fortune-hunting.  Besides, two
guineas a day is an altogether inadequate rate of remuneration for a
young fellow of your exceptional ability--why, before you had been
practising a month you would be earning four or five times that amount,
and you will be sacrificing that possibility for an indefinite period if
you elect to join forces with me.  Therefore I contend that if any
profits of any kind accrue to the expedition, you are justly entitled to
them, and I shall not be content unless you consent to take them; indeed
if you refuse I shall be obliged to withdraw my offer altogether, much
as I shall regret having to do so."

Under those circumstances there was of course nothing more to be said;
and finally Dick agreed to Grosvenor's proposal in its entirety, the
more readily that, after all, when he came to reflect upon it, there was
much truth in what Grosvenor had said with regard to the possible loss
which Dick might sustain by attaching himself to the expedition and
burying himself in the wilds for a more or less indefinite period.

As time went on there could be no doubt as to the fact that Grosvenor
was genuinely pleased with the arrangement by which he had secured Dick
as his companion in the projected expedition, nor did he make any secret
of the fact that he regarded the terms of the agreement as eminently
satisfactory from his own point of view; while Dick, for his part, felt
that he had done not at all badly in securing a post at a salary of
sixty-five pounds a month, to be enjoyed the moment that he set foot on
shore.  Moreover, that salary was a sure thing for at least six months,
and since Grosvenor insisted upon paying in advance for that period Dick
would be in a position to remit quite a nice little sum home to his
mother, immediately upon his arrival on South African soil.  Both
parties to the agreement were thus equally satisfied, and thenceforward
devoted much of their time to elaborating their plans, in order that no
time should be lost upon their arrival.

Grosvenor, with the confidence of the inexperienced, was quite prepared
unhesitatingly to plunge into the very heart of darkest Africa with no
other companions than Dick, and a few Kafir or Hottentot "boys" as
servants; but Dick, although the younger of the two, had discretion
enough to understand that this would be a very unwise thing to do, and
that it would be altogether more prudent in every way to secure the
services of some white man, well acquainted with the country, and the
ways and language of the natives, to act as a sort of general overseer
and factotum, and this view Grosvenor at length somewhat unwillingly
accepted.

Meanwhile, Tom, the injured man, made the most extraordinarily rapid
progress toward recovery, under Dick's skilled treatment, much to the
enhancement of that young gentleman's reputation; and some appreciable
time before the period that Dick had named he was out again and on duty,
very little the worse for his accident save that his right cheek bore a
scar which he would carry with him to his grave.

At length a day arrived when Captain Roberts, having worked out his
observations for the determination of the ship's latitude and longitude,
made the welcome announcement that, if the wind held and all went well,
the passengers, by this time thoroughly weary of the--to most of them--
changeless monotony of sea and sky, might hope to feast their eyes upon
the glowing picture of a South African landscape within the ensuing
twenty-four hours; and at once everybody became cheerfully busy upon the
task of packing up in preparation for the joyous moment when they might
exchange the eternal movement of the rocking deck for terra firma, and
rejoice once more in the sight of trees and grass and flowers, of busy
streets, and of the much-talked-of beauties of suburban Berea.  Dick
Maitland's possessions were so few that they needed very little packing
to prepare them for transit from ship to shore, and when he had finished
he adjourned to Grosvenor's cabin to assist that gentleman, who, since
dispensing with the services of a valet, seemed quite incapable of
replacing his possessions in the receptacles from which he had taken
them upon the beginning of the voyage.  The remainder of the day was
passed in the animated discussion of future plans and arrangements,
while one effect of the imminent termination of the long ocean voyage
was the sudden development of an amazing access of cordiality between
people who had hitherto manifested but little interest in each other,
accompanied by pressing invitations to "come and stay a few days at my
place whenever you happen to be in the neighbourhood".  Also a few of
the more enthusiastic occupants of the cuddy remained on deck until
midnight, in the hope of catching a glimpse of the Bluff light before
turning in, only to retire to their cabins, discontented and grumbling,
because at eight bells the gleam still obstinately refused to appear on
the horizon over the port bow, where Mr Sutcliffe, the chief mate, had
been anxiously watching for it.

But full compensation came to the disappointed ones when, awakened on
the following morning about six o'clock by the voice of the mate issuing
certain sharp orders from the poop, followed by the flinging down of
ropes upon the deck and the cheery "yo ho's" of the sailors, as they
threw their weight upon various portions of the ship's running gear, the
said disappointed ones leaped from their bunks and hastened out on deck
clad only in pyjamas and overcoats; for they found the ship hove-to on
the starboard tack with her head to the eastward, while stretching away
astern of them, from the starboard to the port quarter, was the
dominating eminence of the Bluff, bush-clad from base to crest, crowned
with its lighthouse and signal staff--from the latter of which was
fluttering the answering pennant, acknowledging the deciphering of the
_Concordia's_ number--with the long breakwater jutting out into the sea
from its foot, while, nearer at hand, there stretched across the scene
the low outline of the Point, also bush-crowned, with the roofs of a few
houses and a flagstaff or two showing above the verdure, the sandy
beach, with the eternal surf thundering upon it in long lines of rainbow
spray, reaching for mile after mile athwart the ship's stern, and for
background the far-stretching ridge of the bush-clad, villa-studded
range of the Berea, the windows of its houses already ablaze with the
ardent beams of the newly risen sun.  The prospect is a charming one at
any time, but never more so perhaps than when it is suddenly presented,
fresh, green, and beautiful, in the clear atmosphere and the light of
early morning, to the vision of those whose eyes, after seventy days of
gazing upon sky and sea, are yearning to behold once more the beauties
of the solid earth.

For a full hour the ship remained hove-to with her head to seaward,
during which an early breakfast was served to the occupants of the
cuddy; then, upon the appearance of the tug coming out over the bar, the
_Concordia_ wore round and headed inshore, the light sails were rapidly
clewed up or hauled down, the towline was got ready for passing, and in
a moment everything was bustle and apparent confusion upon the ship's
decks, barefooted seamen rushing hither and thither, flinging down coils
of rope on deck, casting off halyards and sheets, and dragging
vociferously upon clew-garnets, clewlines, downhauls, and the other
complicated paraphernalia of a ship's furniture, with the captain
shouting orders from the poop, and the mate in charge of a gang of men
on the forecastle getting the anchor a-cockbill ready for letting go,
and preparing for the arrival of the tug alongside.  Then up came the
little steamer, rolling and pitching heavily upon the long ground swell,
sweeping round in a long curve that brought her all but alongside the
wallowing ship; a brief interchange of hails between her bridge and the
_Concordia's_ poop, the sudden snaking out of a whirling heaving-line
from the forecastle of the latter, followed by the thin but tremendously
strong steel towing hawser; and as the few remaining sheets of the
ship's canvas shrivelled in to the masts and yards the tug passed ahead,
the towrope rose dripping out of the water, tautened to the semblance of
a metal rod, and away went the two craft, heading for the middle of the
space of water that divided the two breakwaters.  Half an hour later the
_Concordia_ came to an anchor in the spacious but shallow inner harbour
opposite the railway station, and the long voyage was at an end.

But the eager passengers were not yet at liberty to go on shore.
Although the _Concordia_ carried a clean bill of health, certain
formalities had yet to be gone through; the medical officer had still to
satisfy himself that there was no sickness of any infectious kind on
board before pratique was granted.  And, as the medical officer happened
to be a thoroughly conscientious man, the determination of this fact
consumed a full hour.  But at length the tedious examination came to an
end, the ship was pronounced perfectly healthy, and the boats which had
been hovering round her were permitted to come alongside.  Then ensued a
few minutes of strenuous bargaining between passengers and boatmen, at
the end of which time Dick and Grosvenor, having said goodbye to the
captain and officers--Dick also included the crew in his farewell--found
themselves being pulled across the few yards of water which intervened
between ship and shore, and presently they stood upon the sun-blistered
wharf fighting their way through an odoriferous crowd of shouting,
laughing, gesticulating, and more than half-naked Kafir rickshaw-men who
clamoured for the honour of dragging them the mile or so that separated
the Point from Durban.  But the Custom House officers had first to be
placated, and Grosvenor disgustedly found himself obliged to disburse a
goodly sum as duty upon his firearms and ammunition before he was
permitted to retain possession of them.  At length, however, the Customs
barrier was successfully negotiated; and then Dick in one rickshaw,
Grosvenor in another, and their baggage in a third, the two friends
proceeded in triumph along the bush-bordered road, over the level
crossing of the railway, and so up Smith Street to the Royal Hotel,
where they purposed to put up for a day or two, and where, upon their
arrival, they joined their fellow passengers at a hilarious second
breakfast in accordance with an arrangement made at the cabin table a
few hours earlier.



CHAPTER FIVE.

THE BEGINNING OF THE ADVENTURE.

The second breakfast over, farewells were spoken--with, in some cases,
the promise to meet again speedily--and the voyagers separated, some to
make their way home to their sugar or coffee estates in the
neighbourhood, others to take train to more distant localities, some
three or four being bound as far afield as Johannesburg or Pretoria--and
Dick, with his friend Grosvenor, set out to wander about the town of
Durban, inspect the shops, pass through the aristocratic quarter of the
Berea, per tram, and finally, on a couple of horses hired from the hotel
stable, to ride out to the River Umgeni, and thence to Sea Cow Lake, in
the vain hope of getting a sight of a few of the hippopotami that were
said to still haunt that piece of water; finally returning to the hotel
in time for dinner, hot, tired, but supremely happy, and delighted with
everything that they had seen.

During the progress of the meal they made the acquaintance of a Mr
Gerald Muspratt, a coffee planter, whose estate was situate some twelve
miles distant, in the adjoining county of Victoria; and, the
acquaintance ripening over the after-dinner coffee, with that breathless
celerity which is one of the most charming characteristics of the
Colonies, before retiring for the night the two friends had accepted
Muspratt's very pressing invitation to ride out with him to his place
next morning, and spend a couple of days there with him to look round
the estate and be introduced to Muspratt's two or three neighbours.
This they did in due course, the two days' visit lengthening itself into
four, and ending by the acceptance of another invitation, this time from
a sugar planter whose estate, Mount Pleasant, was situate some fourteen
miles farther up the coast, on the other side of the Umhloti River.
This invitation Dick would fain have declined, for he was impatient to
begin the real business that lay before them; but Grosvenor was so
charmed with the country and everything that he saw in it, and
especially with the spontaneous kindness, friendliness, and hospitality
of its people, that he seemed in no hurry to rush away from it all and
bury himself in the wilderness.  As it happened, neither of the young
men had any reason to regret the time thus spent, for their host, an
old-time transport rider, named Mitchell, had penetrated far beyond the
Zambezi in his younger days, was an experienced hunter, knew the
interior, its inhabitants, and their peculiarities as well as, if not
better than, any other man living, and was brimful of information and
hints absolutely invaluable to the new arrivals, which he freely
imparted.  When told of the nature and scope of the young men's
projected adventure, however, he shook his head dubiously, and strongly
urged them to abandon the idea of attempting more than just a few
months' big-game shooting.

"Mind you," he said, "I strongly sympathise with you in your very
ambitious aims, ridiculous as many men would pronounce them, for I was
animated by precisely the same desire myself when I was a youngster of
about your age," turning to Grosvenor.

"By Jove! you don't say so?" ejaculated Grosvenor, surprised and
delighted to meet a man of such wide experience as Mitchell who did not
pronounce his plans chimerical; for it must be stated that thus far the
enunciation of those plans had been almost invariably received with
either covert or open ridicule.  "Then," he continued, "do I understand
that you believe in the possibility of finding the site of ancient
Ophir?"

"Well--yes--you may understand me to mean that--in a general way," was
Mitchell's somewhat guarded admission.  "But," he continued, "if you ask
whether I think it probable that you will discover either Ophir or the
mysterious white race which rumour has asserted to exist somewhere in
the far interior, I answer: Certainly not."

"The dickens!" exclaimed Grosvenor.  "But why, my dear sir, why?"

"Well--if you will not be offended by my exceeding candour--chiefly
because I think you both much too young and too inexperienced to have
any chance of succeeding in so very formidable an undertaking," was the
somewhat discouraging reply.

"Yes, of course," admitted Grosvenor, "it is true that we are both quite
inexperienced; but our youth is surely in our favour rather than against
us, for we are strong and healthy, and no doubt will soon become inured
to fatigue, hardship, and even privation.  We both have splendid
constitutions; and, moreover, my friend Maitland here is a doctor and
surgeon of quite remarkable ability, which fact I regard as of the
utmost importance.  Then, as to the matter of experience, I imagine that
we are bound to acquire that as we go on; we are not going to be
transported into the heart of the wilds in a few hours by express train,
you know."

"No," answered Mitchell, with a somewhat grim smile, "that is quite
true, as is also your contention that you will acquire some experience
as you go on.  Then, of course, the fact that Mr Maitland is a doctor
and surgeon--of which I was unaware--is a great point in your favour.
But, when all is said, I still think that you will find the undertaking
too much for you.  Why-- By the way, did you ever hear of a certain
Charles Menzies?"

"The explorer, you mean?  Yes, I have heard of him; in fact I believe it
was an account of his travels that first put this idea into my head,"
answered Grosvenor.

"Ah!" remarked Mitchell cryptically; "I wonder just how much you have
heard respecting his travels?"

"Well, not very much, I must confess," acknowledged Grosvenor.  "So far
as I can remember, it amounted simply to the statement that after one of
his long absences from civilisation he returned with the story that he
had actually discovered the site of ancient Ophir; and that he had
gathered reliable information concerning the existence of the mysterious
white race, which is to be one of the objects of my quest."

"Just so," commented Mitchell, relapsing into a pregnant silence.  It
was evident that he was intently considering some difficult question.
Presently he looked up and said:

"I knew Menzies very well in my younger days.  As a matter of fact I
saved his life; for had I not happened to have fallen in with him and
picked him up he must have inevitably perished; and in that case the
public would never have heard any of the extraordinary rumours
respecting his discoveries that afterwards leaked out.  I was away up-
country elephant hunting at the time, and I found him, some seventy
miles this side of the Zambezi, in the last stages of exhaustion from
starvation.  He was then returning from the journey that made him
famous, and had lost everything he possessed, even to his rifle; it is
therefore nothing short of marvellous that he had contrived to make his
way as far back as he did when I found him.  He was too ill to talk much
when I first picked him up, but afterwards, when he grew stronger, he
told me the whole astounding story of his journey and his adventures.
He talked of publishing the narrative, but I very strongly dissuaded him
from doing so; for, as I pointed out to him, there were portions of that
narrative which were of so absolutely incredible a character that nobody
would believe them, and the story would lose all value from the fact
that it would be regarded as merely a fantastic fabrication, and he
would gain the reputation of an unblushing romancer.  To tell you the
truth, I was firmly persuaded at the time that what he had gone through
had affected his brain, and that he was the victim of a series of the
most weird and horrible illusions.  But I had reason to modify my
opinion in that respect a few years afterward, although I am still
unable to make up my mind definitely as to just how much of his story
was true and how much was due to an imagination that had become warped
and distorted by peril and suffering."

"By Jove!" exclaimed Grosvenor, with a sort of thrill in his voice.  "I
say, you know, all this is intensely interesting.  Eh, what?  I wonder
if you would mind repeating to us a few of those statements that you
found it so difficult to believe at the time, and with regard to which
you were afterwards inclined to modify your opinion?"

"Well," answered Mitchell, "I am afraid I must ask you to excuse me from
doing that.  You see, Menzies was my friend, and one of the finest
fellows that ever lived.  He is dead now, poor chap, and I would not
willingly say a single word that might cause you or anyone else to think
lightly of him, or picture him in your mind as other than the very soul
of truth and honour.  Yet if I were to repeat to you some of the
statements that I have in my mind, I know that you two hard-headed,
matter-of-fact Englishmen would at once set them down as the veriest
fairy tales, their author a second Munchausen, and myself a credulous
old fool for attaching the slightest weight to them.  And yet, let me
tell you, Africa is a very queer country--as you will discover if you
persist in attempting to carry out your plan--and queer things happen in
it, things that strain a man's credulity to the breaking-point, until he
has had personal experience of them.  That remark of Shakespeare's, that
`there are more things in heaven and earth than are reckoned in our
philosophy' is nowhere more forcefully confirmed than in this continent
of Africa, and especially in those parts of it which are practically
unknown to the white man.  Why, even here, close at hand, among our
neighbours the Zulus, there have been happenings--well authenticated,
mind you--that are absolutely unexplainable by any knowledge that we
whites possess.  But I think I have prosed enough for one sitting, and
it is growing late--one o'clock, as I am a living sinner!--and you must
be growing tired.  Do you wonder why I have told you all these things?
Well, it is because I should like to dissuade you from this mad scheme
of yours, which my experience tells me can only end in disaster, and
induce you to content yourselves with a two-months' hunting trip in the
company of some good man who knows the country, and can be trusted to
see that you come to no harm.  Now, good night, both of you! think over
what I have said; sleep well, and don't dream of fantastic horrors such
as my talk may have suggested."

If Mr Joseph Mitchell, sugar planter, and thoroughly honest, well-
meaning man, flattered himself that the foregoing conversation would
have any other effect than to stimulate the curiosity of his guests and
confirm them in their determination to carry out their plans in their
entirety, he very greatly over-estimated his persuasive powers, and
completely misread the characters of those to whom he had been talking.
For both Grosvenor and Maitland were of a highly adventurous
disposition, and what Mitchell had told them had simply whetted their
curiosity to a keen edge, and had strongly suggested to them that the
adventure promised to be of an even more alluring and thrilling
character than they had ever ventured to hope, even in their most
sanguine moments.  So much, indeed, they made clear to their host when
they met him the next morning at the breakfast table; and, when he would
have made a further attempt at dissuasion, laughingly assured him that
their minds were finally made up, and that the kindest thing he could
now do for them would be to give them as much information and as many
hints and wrinkles as he could think of to help them to a satisfactory
conclusion of the adventure.  This Mitchell proceeded to do, when at
length the conviction had been borne in upon him that all his efforts at
dissuasion were worse than useless; and when, two days later, they took
leave of the genial planter, Dick carried away with him a notebook
crowded from cover to cover with information that was destined to prove
of incalculable value to him and his companion, as well as a sketch map
showing the best route to follow, and certain localities that were to be
most carefully avoided if they desired to return sane and sound to
civilisation.

Arrived in Durban once more, after a most delightful jaunt, they at once
set about making their preparations in earnest, one of the first things
which Grosvenor insisted upon doing being the payment to Dick of six
months' salary in advance, from the date of their landing upon South
African soil.  Practically the whole of this Dick was able to remit home
to his mother, since Grosvenor would not hear of his contributing so
much as a single penny toward the expenses of the expedition, therefore
the junior member of the partnership had no need to spend anything,
except for a few curios which he thought his mother might like to
display to her friends; but he laid in a few additional drugs, and also
added a spare instrument or two to his surgical case, to cover the
possibility of loss or accident.

Three days later they started for Johannesburg, by way of Delagoa Bay
and Pretoria, Grosvenor being very anxious to get a glimpse of life on
the Rand and to gain some knowledge of diamonds and diamond mining
before he finally bade farewell to civilisation.  Since Johannesburg lay
on the direct line of their route, and the knowledge sought might
possibly prove useful in the future, Dick raised no objection to the
proposal, especially as they went armed with letters of introduction
from Mitchell to some of the most influential of the Rand magnates and
others whose advice and assistance would be exceedingly helpful.  A busy
three weeks spent in the city and at Witwatersrand enriched them with
much very valuable information, both particular and general, and also
enabled them to acquire four excellent horses and an Indian coolie groom
named Ramoo Samee, who not only bore a most admirable character, but
also raised no objection when informed of the nature and scope of the
adventure upon which his employers were bound.  Here, too, and also at
Pretoria, the partners endeavoured to secure the services of a hunter as
guide and general superintendent, but were unable to meet with one who
conformed in all respects to their requirements; they therefore
ultimately decided to defer their further quest until their arrival in
Bulawayo, which was to be the point from which they would finally bid
farewell to civilisation.

But upon their arrival at Bulawayo, although they met with no difficulty
in providing themselves with a brand-new wagon and a team of twenty
"salted" oxen, together with a Hottentot driver named Jantje, and a
Kafir boy named 'Nkuku as voorlouper, no suitable candidate for the post
of guide offered himself or could be found; and finally, after devoting
a full week to fruitless search and enquiry, Dick and Grosvenor agreed
to start without one, and trust to luck and their own good sense.
Everybody, with one solitary exception, declared that it was a most
risky thing to do; but the solitary exception, in the shape of an old
Boer farmer named Van Zyl, applauded their pluck, and declared that they
were far more likely to succeed by learning the lesson of the wild for
themselves, and depending upon their own courage and adaptiveness, than
if they set out under the guidance of another, and remained more or less
in leading strings throughout the journey.

"What I would advise," he said, "is that you should look out for a good
`nigger'; he will be far more helpful to you than any white man, and
will be content to be a good servant to you--if you are careful to keep
him in his proper place--instead of trying to be your master."

This sounded like good, sensible advice, coming as it did from a man who
had been born, brought up, and had spent a long life on the borderline
separating civilisation from savagedom, and it finally confirmed them in
the determination, to which they had already practically come, to do
without a white guide.

According to Mitchell, their route from Bulawayo lay generally in a
north-easterly direction, and accordingly, after transacting all their
business, making every possible preparation for the long journey before
them, and writing their final letters home, announcing the fact that
they were about to plunge into the wilderness, and that, therefore, no
further news must be expected of them for an indefinite period, they set
out about ten o'clock on a certain glorious morning, boldly striking
straight out across the veldt, and directing their course by compass.
Their wagon was already fully loaded, the load consisting of several
air-tight cases of ammunition, six barrels of flour, a cask of sugar, a
bag of coffee, a chest of tea, a small keg of brandy--to be used only in
cases of the utmost emergency--a case containing pickles, condiments,
preserves, salt, and other articles of a similar character, to be
regarded as luxuries and used accordingly; their own personal belongings
including clothes and firearms, a small tent made of waterproof material
for sleeping in, two net hammocks with portable supports, a full set of
cooking utensils, four sacks of mealie meal, and, finally, two large
boxes of beads of various kinds, a quantity of brass wire, and a case of
cheap mechanical and other toys, small mirrors, etcetera which Grosvenor
had had the foresight to bring out from England with him, the last three
items being destined to be employed in bartering with the natives.  All
this constituted quite as heavy a load as it was at all desirable to put
upon the wagon, although the full team of twenty oxen made light of it,
especially as it was now the dry season, and the ground was firm and
hard for travelling.  As for Dick and Grosvenor, they travelled on
horseback, changing their steeds at every outspan, in order to accustom
the animals to them, and gradually to get them into good, hard condition
by working them to a certain extent every day.  They rode armed each
with a good, serviceable sporting rifle, capable of dealing with
practically any game except elephant, a formidable hunting knife, and a
revolver; and, in addition, each of them carried a pair of the finest
and most powerful binocular glasses that Grosvenor had been able to
procure in London.  He had had the foresight to provide two pairs in
case of accident, which was fortunate, for now each rider was
independent of the other.  Acting upon the advice of their friend Van
Zyl, they confined themselves strictly to short treks, averaging about
five miles each, and three treks per day, for the first four days, in
order to keep the oxen in good condition as long as possible.

Those first four days of their march were quite uneventful, the going
was good, the grass still rich and abundant, water plentiful, and there
was just enough game to keep the party well supplied with meat, while
the animals worked well and improved in condition rather than otherwise,
especially the horses, which proved to be even more promising than their
owners had hoped for when they purchased them.

It was on the morning of the fifth day that the party encountered what
might be spoken of as their first exciting incident, and it occurred, or
rather began, as they were nearing the end of their first trek, about
nine o'clock in the morning.  Dick and Grosvenor, mounted as usual, with
the half-dozen dogs that constituted their pack quartering the ground
ahead of them, were nearly a mile ahead of the wagon, looking out for a
suitable spot for the first outspan, when a sudden clamour on the part
of the dogs, who had just disappeared over a low rise in the ground,
caused the two riders to put spurs to their horses, in order to see what
was the cause of the outcry.  A short gallop sufficed to carry them to
the crest of the ridge, when they beheld the dogs baying and snarling
round a fine, well-set-up native "boy", who, armed with assagais and
knobkerrie, constituted one of a party of some thirty in number who
appeared to be guarding a herd of about three hundred grazing cattle,
while about half a mile farther on was a native village of some fifty
Kafir huts of the usual beehived shape, built in the midst of a number
of mealie fields occupying an area of, roughly, about half a square
mile, situated near the banks of a small stream.

Dick Maitland, who had early developed a rather remarkable aptitude for
picking up the language of the natives, at once cantered forward, and,
calling off the dogs, demanded to know the name of the village, and
where would be the best place at which to outspan.  But the native whom
he addressed, and who seemed to be labouring under considerable
excitement, replied with such a rapid flow of words that his speech was
utterly unintelligible, save that his communication had something to do
with lions, the boy pointing first to a big clump of bush about a mile
distant, and then to the village itself.  Dick made several attempts to
arrive at a better understanding of the nature of the communication, but
without any very marked success, and at length suggested that Grosvenor
should ride back to the wagon and hurry it forward, in order that
Jantje, the Hottentot driver, might act as interpreter.  This was done,
and about twenty minutes later the wagon arrived, and the situation was
explained to Jantje, who forthwith poured out a flood of eloquence upon
the little band of natives, who by this time had gathered round Dick and
were earnestly endeavouring to make him understand something that they
evidently regarded as of very great importance.  A brief but animated
conversation at once ensued, at the end of which Jantje turned to his
employers and explained:

"Dhese people say, sars, dat dhere is four, five lion in de bush yander
and dhey won' go 'way, and dhey wan' to know if white gent'men be so
kind as to kill dhem lion; because if dhey not be killed dhey kill de
poor Kafirs' cattle.  Two day ago dhem lion kill two oxen and mos'
horrible maul de boy dat was herding dhem."

"Phew! lions, eh?" exclaimed Grosvenor.  "I say, Maitland, this is good
news, eh, what?  I am longing for the chance to have a pot at a lion.
All right, Jantje; you tell them that we will kill the lions for them
with the greatest of pleasure.  We'll outspan at once and set about the
business forthwith.  That will be the right thing to do, I suppose,
Dick, won't it?"

"Yes, certainly," answered Dick, "by all means.  But before we think of
tackling those lions I must see that poor beggar who was mauled.  Two
days ago!  By Jove, I dread to think of what the state of his wounds
must be in this hot weather, that is, if he is still alive.  Just ask
them, Jantje, whether the boy who was mauled is still living, or whether
the lions killed him?"

The question was put, and Jantje duly interpreted the reply.

"Yes, sar, de boy he still alive, but most drefful sick, dhese people
say."

"Good!" exclaimed Dick, dismounting from his horse.  "Then say to them
that I am a great doctor, and that I intend to save the poor fellow's
life if I can.  I want one of them to carry my medicine chest for me,
and to take me to the injured man's hut.  Then you had better take the
wagon down and outspan near the river, where the grass is good, but
where our oxen are not likely to get among the mealies, and then come to
me, for I shall probably need you to interpret for me."

The first part of this speech being interpreted to the little crowd of
natives, one of them at once stepped forward, expressing himself as
willing to carry the medicine chest and act as guide, while another
volunteered to point out a suitable and convenient spot upon which to
outspan, the others forthwith breaking into a song of thanksgiving in
which they announced to all and sundry that this was their lucky day,
inasmuch as that the white _'mlungus_ were not only going to make well
again their brother who was nigh unto death, but were also going to
utterly root out and destroy those cunning beasts who refused to come
out into the open and face their assagais.  Grosvenor announced his
intention of accompanying Dick, and five minutes later the pair, with
their sable guide leading the way and carrying the medicine chest, were
_en route_ for the village, Dick carrying his case of surgical
instruments under his arm.  Their rifles they left with the wagon,
deeming it unnecessary to cumber themselves with superfluous weapons in
face of the fact that the villagers were obviously quite friendly
disposed to white men, indeed they were still too close to civilisation
to anticipate anything else.

As they neared the village the "boy" who preceded them began to shout
the great news that the white men were coming to make whole the injured
man, and the occupants of the huts, to the number of about two hundred
men, women, and children, swarmed out to gaze upon the strangers.  The
guide, who was inclined to put on airs, upon the strength of being the
bearer of the white men's _muti_, would fain have made the most of the
occasion by pausing in the centre of the village and haranguing his
fellows, but Dick nipped the intention ruthlessly in the bud by
repeating several times, in an imperative tone of voice, the word
_hamba_ (go), and presently the procession--for every occupant of the
village formed up and followed the trio--came to a halt in front of one
of the huts.

As the bearer of the medicine chest pushed his burden in through the
low, narrow entrance of the hut, and dropped on hands and knees in order
to follow it, Dick turned and, perceiving a disposition on the part of
the crowd to gather close about the entrance, and so exclude what little
light and air might otherwise make its way in, took an assagai from the
hand of an astonished native, and, holding it by the blade, waved the
press back with the butt end of the weapon.  Then, still waving the butt
end, he described on the ground the arc of a circle of some twelve feet
radius from the hut entrance, and, returning the weapon to its owner,
pointed to the mark on the ground, and, addressing the curiosity-ridden
mob, said impressively in English:

"Now, good people, please have the goodness to keep carefully outside
that line, and oblige yours truly!"

There was not one of those odoriferous, dark-skinned Kafirs who
comprehended a word of English, but Dick's actions and the tones of his
voice were so expressive that his meaning was almost as distinctly
understood as though he had spoken in the language of the tribe.  He saw
at once that this was so, and that his wishes would be obeyed, and
signing to Grosvenor to precede him, forthwith passed into the hut.

Entering the windowless structure straight from the dazzling sunshine
that flooded the outside world, the two Englishmen found themselves
plunged for the moment in a darkness so profound that they could see
nothing, and were fain to stand just where they rose to their feet after
creeping through the low doorway, lest, moving, they should stumble over
something--possibly the patient.  But in addition to the hot, close
odour of the interior of the hut there was another taint that assailed
their nostrils, the taint of festering wounds, with which Dick was
already familiar, and he shook his head doubtfully as he turned to the
figure of Grosvenor, just beginning to reveal itself in the midst of the
enveloping obscurity, and said:

"I don't like this at all.  I can't see my patient as yet, but there is
a certain something in the atmosphere of this hut which tells me that if
the poor beggar's life is to be saved we have no time to waste.  Where
is he, I wonder?  Oh, I think I see him, there on the ground at the far
side from the doorway!  Yes, there he is.  Another minute and I shall be
able to see him clearly.  Meanwhile, perhaps his pulse will tell us
something."

And, crossing to the far side of the hut, he knelt down by the side of
the indistinctly seen man, felt for his hand, and, having found it, laid
his fingers upon the wrist.



CHAPTER SIX.

AN ENCOUNTER WITH LIONS.

"Um!" murmured Dick, as the feeble throbbing of the man's pulse met his
finger tips; "quite as I expected.  Very low and weak.  Evidently
sinking from exhaustion.  I must have him out of this into a better
light, although I am almost afraid to run the risk of moving him.
Still, it must be done.  I can see nothing here."

He went to the door of the hut and looked out, the crowd still grouped
on the outside of the curve he had described on the ground respectfully
making way before him.  There was a small but densely foliaged tree
growing at no great distance from the hut, and casting a strong shadow
upon the ground; that, Dick decided, would be as good a place as any for
his purpose.  As he was about to re-enter the hut there arose a slight
commotion upon the outskirts of the crowd, and presently Jantje, the
Hottentot driver, appeared, endeavouring to force his way through to his
master.  The sight was a welcome one, for Dick felt very much at a loss
with no one to interpret for him, and in tones of unmistakable relief he
lifted up his voice and shouted:

"Come along, Jantje; you are just the man I wanted."  Then, as the
Hottentot joined him, he continued: "See here, Jantje, I want the
wounded man very carefully removed from the hut, and carried over yonder
into the shadow of that tree.  Just explain to these fellows, will you,
and ask them to help me."

No sooner said than done; with the passing of the last word through
Jantje's lips half a dozen stalwart Kafirs dived into the hut and in
another moment reappeared, bearing between them the unhappy patient,
stretched upon an eland's skin.  It was an exceedingly awkward job to
get the poor fellow out through the low, narrow doorway of the hut, but
they managed it somehow, and in another minute had him satisfactorily
disposed beneath the shadow of the tree.  Then Dick approached and
proceeded to examine his hurts.

They had been severe enough to start with; but now, after nearly forty-
eight hours of neglect, their condition was so indescribably loathsome
that even Dick, seasoned hand though he was, nearly vomited at the sight
of them, while as for Grosvenor, he was compelled to beat a precipitate
retreat, but returned gamely, some five minutes later, to see if he
could be of any assistance.  Dick, however, although he had never in his
life before beheld anything approaching such a dreadful sight, quickly
pulled himself together and, his professional instinct promptly
asserting itself, ordered some hot water to be brought to him, and,
while it was being prepared, opened his medicine chest and his case of
surgical instruments, the rest of the inhabitants of the village
gathering round in a wide, silent, awestruck circle.  They had often
before seen similar sights, and were therefore in a measure accustomed
to them; they knew what the patient's condition meant, and there was not
one among them who did not regard the injured man as already as good as
dead.  Nevertheless their curiosity was powerfully aroused; for they had
heard many wonderful stories of the white men who had lately come into
the country toward the south, and were eager to see whether or not it
was true that they could perform miracles, as had been asserted.

As for Dick, he found himself confronted at the outset by a very serious
difficulty.  His patient's condition was such that he could not possibly
do what was necessary without inflicting upon the unfortunate man an
amount of suffering that in his low and exhausted condition threatened
to result in collapse and death.  The man was too far gone, indeed, to
justify the use of anaesthetics, yet without them Dick feared to
proceed.  What was he to do?  Suddenly he bethought himself of
hypnotism.  Yet, how hypnotise a man whose language he could not speak?
Then he remembered a very remarkable statement which Humphreys had made
when discussing this same subject of hypnotism.  "It is not the actual
words which you address to a patient," Humphreys had asserted, "but the
commands which your will imposes on him that produce the desired effect,
which can be obtained without the employment of words at all, if your
will be strong enough.  And remember, also, that no abnormal strength of
will is needed if your patient be passive, unresisting."  "Surely,"
thought Dick, "that ought to meet the present case, and at all events it
is well worth trying; so here goes."  Therewith he bent over his patient
and, fixing the man's gaze in the peculiar manner which Humphreys had
taught him, silently willed him to sink into so deep a sleep that he
should feel nothing of what was about to be done to him.  Almost
immediately the man's eyelids fluttered, closed, and he sank into a
profound sleep, breathing slowly and deeply, as could be seen by the
regular rise and fall of his bare, brawny chest.

"_Wao! 'mtagati_--_'mkulu 'mtagati_ (a wizard--a great wizard)!"
murmured the astonished crowd of onlookers behind their hands, gazing
wonderingly in each other's eyes.

Again Dick laid his fingers on his patient's pulse; already it was
stronger and more steady.  Very gently he raised one of the man's
eyelids and lightly laid his finger upon the eyeball; the patient might
have been dead for all the effect that the touch had upon him.  Then,
the warm water opportunely arriving, the young doctor got to work
without further delay.  Strongly impregnating the water with an
antiseptic, he proceeded rapidly to cleanse the wounds, taking a pair of
scissors or a knife from time to time and removing the already
putrefying flesh; then he proceeded to dress the wounds, one after the
other, with healing ointments, drawing the edges together, where
necessary, with a few stitches; and when at length, after more than an
hour's diligent, careful work, his labours came to an end, he ordered
the wagon cartel to be brought to the village, the door of the man's hut
to be enlarged, and a window opening to be made; and finally, when all
these things had been done to his satisfaction, he caused a comfortable
bed to be arranged upon the cartel, with skins borrowed from other huts,
and the man to be laid thereon and taken back to his hut.  And all this
time the patient had been sleeping as calmly as an infant!  The time had
now, however, arrived when he must be aroused, in order that an anti-
febrifuge might be administered; Dick therefore once more bent over the
man, strongly willing him to awake, which he instantly did, when,
through Jantje as interpreter, the question was put to him how he felt.
He immediately replied, in a wonderfully strong voice, considering his
condition, that he felt much better, and that his wounds were no longer
so painful as they had been; whereupon Dick administered the draught,
telling him, still through Jantje, that immediately after taking it he
would again fall asleep and so remain until the evening, when he would
awake much refreshed and stronger.  And while the words were being
spoken Dick strongly willed that they should be fulfilled.  The man
obediently gulped down the draught, Dick gently lowered the patient's
head to the pillow, and again deep sleep fell upon the poor fellow.

"Now," ordered Dick, "I want two women to come and watch by this man.
They must constantly fan him with leaves, to keep him cool and prevent
the flies from troubling him; and when he wakes someone must immediately
fetch me.  I shall be in my tent by the wagon, yonder."  Then, turning
to Grosvenor, who had remained at his elbow all the time, he said:

"No more trekking for us to-day, Phil, or for the next week, I expect.
I must stay, and pull this poor chap through, if I can, now that I have
taken him in hand."

"Oh yes! rather; of course; that goes without saying," cheerfully
assented Grosvenor.  "But, I say, Dick, old chap," he continued, "you
have astonished me to-day, fairly taken my breath away; I hadn't the
slightest notion that you were such a swell at your profession as you
have just proved yourself to be.  Never saw anything like it in my life
before, y'know, and couldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it.  Why,
I wouldn't have given three ha'pence for that Kafir's life when I first
set eyes upon him; but now, dash it all, I believe you're going to set
him on his feet again.  If you do, your fame will spread far and wide
through the country, and do us a lot of good.  But, I say, it was a
jolly lucky thing for you that the poor chap dropped off into that sound
sleep just when he did, eh?  Because it enabled you to do several things
that, it seems to me, you couldn't possibly have done had he remained
awake.  What puzzles me is that he continued to sleep all through it.
And I noticed that you didn't seem to worry in the least about whether
you awoke him or not.  I suppose it was sleep, was it not?"

"Oh yes!" answered Dick airily; "it was sleep, right enough; nothing in
the nature of swoon about it, if that is what you mean.  But now, what
about those lions?  My patient will sleep for several hours to come, and
I can quite well leave him.  It is now,"--consulting his watch--"only a
few minutes past eleven o'clock, and we ought to be able to organise the
hunt and bag the beasts comfortably before tiffin.  Are you game?"

"You bet I am, rather!" responded Grosvenor.  "It is just what I was
itching to suggest, but I thought it would seem callous to propose that
you should leave your patient, and it would not have been sporting to
have proposed to go off alone, leaving you behind."

"Oh, that is all right!" returned Dick confidently; "my patient will not
need me for hours yet, so let us see about it at once.  Where is
Jantje?"

Jantje was close at their elbows, and already "putting on side" among
the villagers upon the strength of being in the service of an _'mkulu
'mtagati_.  He stepped forward at the question and answered, with an air
of proud humility:

"I'se here, sar.  What you please to want?"

"Mr Grosvenor and I are going to have a try for those lions, Jantje, if
they are still lurking in the neighbourhood," observed Dick.  "I believe
you said that these people report the beasts to be somewhere in yonder
clump of bush?  Very well.  Now, I want a party to enter the bush on the
windward side and carefully beat down-wind in order to drive the brutes
into the open.  Mr Grosvenor and I will place ourselves on the down-
wind side of the bush, and if the lions can be induced to break cover we
will do our best to bowl them over.  We shall also require two steady,
reliable men to come with us to carry our spare rifles; but, understand
this, they must be men of courage, who will not be scared out of their
seven senses and bolt, carrying our rifles off with them, if the lions
should show in the open."

"Yes, sar," answered Jantje, "I understan' you puffekly.  You leave
everyt'ing to me, sar; I arrange it all, jus' as you wish.  An' I will
come wid you myself, sar, to carry gun.  I am a brabe man, sar; no
pusson in dhis worl' more brabe as me; you shall see, sar."

"Very well," answered Dick, suppressing a smile at the Hottentot's
vainglorious boast; "you, being so exceedingly brave and reliable shall
go with Mr Grosvenor; but you must pick me out a good man to come with
me.  Just see about it, will you, and bring the whole party to the
wagon, where we are now going to get our rifles."

Puffed up with the honour of having so important a matter confided to
him, the Hottentot saluted, and turned to address the crowd that still
hung about the white men awaiting possible further developments,
explaining to them what was required.  A few words sufficed, and the
moment that the white man's intentions and wishes were understood the
crowd dissolved, as if by magic, the men hurrying away to their huts to
procure their weapons, while Dick and Grosvenor sauntered away toward
the wagon, noting, as they went, that their team of oxen had been driven
to a spot where the grass was especially good, close to the banks of the
river, and that it was being zealously watched and guarded by a dozen
well-grown lads armed with hunting assagais and knobkerries.

Arrived at the wagon, the two friends proceeded to bring forth and don
their bandoliers, having first satisfied themselves that the belts were
filled with the kind of cartridge required for the particular pattern of
weapon which they were about to employ; and then, having taken down and
loaded the four rifles which they intended to use, they awaited the
arrival of the beating party, conscious now, for the first time, of a
peculiar and not altogether pleasant feeling compounded of excitement
and--was it "funk"?  No, certainly not, for neither of them would have
backed out of the adventure on any account; yet, if the sensation was
not "funk", it bore some sort of family resemblance to it, something
perhaps, in the nature of stage fright.  The fact is that each realised,
at nearly the same moment, that they were about to embark upon a
perfectly new experience, an adventure in which they were as yet
untried, in which courage and the most perfect _sangfroid_ were of the
utmost importance, and they were by no means certain how they would
emerge from the ordeal.  To put it plainly, they were just a little
afraid that at the critical moment they might fail to exhibit that
superlative coolness and aplomb, the slightest lack of which would cause
each to feel for ever humiliated and disgraced in the eyes of the other.
Besides, there were the natives, keen of eye, and quick to observe the
smallest sign of anything approaching to perturbation; it would be awful
beyond words to fail before them!  By a curious coincidence the mind of
each had been following precisely the same line of thought, and as they
saw Jantje approaching, followed by some forty beaters and every mongrel
cur belonging to the village, the same resolution came to each--they
simply would not disgrace themselves and their colour by displaying the
slightest sign of nervousness or trepidation in the eyes of those
savages; so, drawing a deep breath, they pulled themselves together and,
resolutely dismissing their apprehensions, prepared to do or die.

Proudly leading his party of beaters, the Hottentot approached and,
giving a sort of semi-military salute, announced that the villagers but
awaited the orders of the white chiefs to proceed.  Then, leading
forward a tall savage of some thirty-five years of age, of magnificent
physique, he introduced the man as Mafuta, the half-brother of the
injured man, and informed Dick that he, Mafuta, had specially requested
the honour of being allowed to act as gunbearer to his brother's
benefactor on this occasion.  Dick ran his eye over the man, noted the
splendid development of his thews and sinews, marked several ugly scars
on his body and limbs bearing mute testimony to the fact that he had
already proved himself a warrior, met his unflinching glance, proud and
resolute, yet respectful, and instantly decided that here was a man who
might be absolutely trusted.  Without hesitation he placed his spare
rifle in Mafuta's hands, explaining to him, through Jantje, exactly what
he wished him to do with it; and then issued his final instructions to
the beaters, who at once moved off to work round to the windward side of
the clump of bush in which the lions were said to be hiding, while
Grosvenor and he, followed respectively by Jantje and Mafuta, took their
leisurely way toward the points where they intended to station
themselves.  For a considerable part of the distance they walked
together; and when at length they separated, Dick, who somehow seemed to
have assumed the direction of affairs as a matter of course, with
Grosvenor's tacit consent and approval, said:

"Now, Phil, anything that may break cover to the right of that baobab,
as we stand facing it, belongs to you, while anything that emerges to
the left belongs to me, neither of us to interfere with the other's
chances unless the brutes seem likely to get away and make good their
escape.  And, just one caution, old chap: don't fire until your quarry
has passed out clear of the line of bush, or you may quite
unintentionally shoot one of the beaters.  Ah! there are the dogs giving
tongue; the beaters are putting them into the bush.  To your station,
old man, and good luck to you!"

"Thanks! same to you, old chap," cheerily responded Grosvenor, as he
wheeled and strode away to the spot fixed upon as his station.

The clump of bush in which the lions were said to have secreted
themselves was an isolated one, with nothing in particular to
distinguish it from the thousands of other clumps that dotted the
visible country, except that one extremity of it abutted upon the edge
of a small shallow ravine, through which trickled a tiny rivulet
discharging itself into the larger stream which flows through the long
valley that intersected the landscape.  Close to the spot where the
clump of bush touched the edge of the ravine the rivulet flowed into and
through a shallow basin of rock, which formed an ideal drinking place
for animals; and it was possibly this circumstance that had caused the
lions to take up their temporary abode in that particular clump.  There
was the possibility that the lions, when breaking cover, might attempt
to escape by bolting into and up the ravine; and accordingly, when this
fact had been pointed out and explained to Dick, he had very unselfishly
placed his friend Grosvenor on that side in order that the latter might
have the benefit of the most likely chances.

The barking and yelping of the dogs grew steadily louder and more
insistent, and to it was presently added the shouts and shrill
whistlings of the Kafirs as they forced their way through the thick
undergrowth.  A few birds flew out with startled cries, but for about a
quarter of an hour there was no further result.  Then suddenly the dogs
burst into a chorus of sharp, savage barks, entirely different in
character from their former utterances, and quite sufficient in itself
to inform even the veriest novice that game of some sort was afoot; the
Kafirs' cries of encouragement were redoubled; an occasional rustling
and crackling of branches became audible to the intent watchers.
Presently there arose a terrific outburst of furious snarlings, growls,
and yappings, intermingled with the violent swishing and crackling of
dry leaves and twigs, evidence conclusive that a fight was proceeding in
the heart of the bush.  Then the sudden, sharp, agonised pow-wow of a
dog in pain rang out, accompanied by a horrible sound of worrying; a
still further increase of the hubbub followed, then a heavy crashing of
bushes, and out sprang a magnificent tawny-maned lion into the open.  He
broke into view immediately opposite to Dick, and not more than twenty
yards distant, stopping dead as he sighted the lad standing rifle in
hand, with Mafuta like a bronze statue behind him.  As the splendid
beast stood at gaze, with blazing eyes, and his tail switching in short,
angry jerks from side to side, the feeling of anxiety and nervousness
that had been oppressing Dick seemed to drop from him like a garment.
In an instant he became absolutely cool, steady, and self-possessed, and
lifting his rifle to his shoulder with a lightning-like movement, while
the sights of the weapon seemed to line themselves of their own volition
upon the centre of the beast's broad forehead, right between the eyes,
he pressed the trigger.  There was a flash, a sharp, whip-like report, a
faint puff of smoke, and the lion dropped stone dead where he stood.

Meanwhile the hubbub in the bush was raging even more fiercely than
ever, showing that the beast which had just fallen to Dick's rifle had
not been the cause of it, and that the sport was by no means over.
Dick's weapon was a magazine rifle, and with a quick movement he jerked
another cartridge into position, just as the uproar grew so loud and
near at hand that it became evident another break was imminent.

The next instant it occurred.  A splendid lioness, carrying a small cub
in her mouth, crashed into the open, with a dozen or more yapping and
snarling curs at her heels.  She broke cover well on Grosvenor's side of
the baobab; and, like the lion, came to an abrupt halt as soon as she
saw Grosvenor, straight toward whom she was charging.  In an instant the
white man's rifle leapt to his shoulder, and the next instant he fired.
But even as he pressed the trigger, a dog, more valiant or more
foolhardy than the rest, dashed in upon her, and with the rapidity of
lightning she turned to meet his rush, dropping her cub, and nearly
tearing the miserable cur's head from his shoulders with a single stroke
of her powerful fore paw.  At the same instant Grosvenor's bullet, aimed
at her head, crashed into her flank, passing right through it and
utterly paralysing her hind quarters.  With a whining, snarling roar the
poor beast rolled over on her side, but instantly recovered herself so
far as to raise herself on her fore legs--between which the cub, but a
trifle bigger than a well-grown cat, took refuge--her jaws champing and
foaming, and her eyes blazing lightnings at the dogs, which, recognising
her helplessness, closed in round her.

"Save the cub!" shouted Dick; "don't let the dogs worry it; I want to
keep the little beast alive."  And, leaving his position, he hurried
forward, regardless of danger, to beat off the dogs.  Grosvenor and
Jantje also rushed forward at his shouts, and were quickly joined by
Mafuta, who seemed to divine what Dick required.  Dashing fearlessly in
among the snarling and snapping dogs, the Kafir and the Hottentot at
length succeeded in beating them off, upon which Grosvenor stepped close
up to the lioness and gave her the _coup de grace_ by sending a bullet
through her brain.  As she rolled over dead, Mafuta sprang in and
grabbed the cub by the skin of the neck, despite the fact that it
snarled and spat like an angry cat and struck out viciously with its
claws, which were already strong enough to inflict quite a painful
scratch, and carried it off to the wagon, tying it to a wheel by a stout
reim.

Having ensured the safety of the cub, Dick, carrying his own and the
spare rifle which he had snatched from Mafuta, hurried back to the point
which he had so hurriedly deserted; for the commotion in the heart of
the bush clearly evidenced the fact that the remaining members of the
troop of lions still clung to cover, and that the beaters and dogs were
doing their utmost to dislodge them.  Laying the spare rifle at his
feet, Dick stood facing the great clump, with the rifle in his hand at
the ready, prepared for any emergency.  The noise and confusion,
however, seemed to indicate that the next event would occur in the area
under Grosvenor's jurisdiction, and, sure enough, about a minute later
another lion and lioness broke cover together, followed by the remainder
of the dogs.  The noble beasts, both of which were apparently young
animals, and but barely full-grown, evidently intended to make for fresh
cover in the ravine, but, finding Grosvenor blocking the way, came to a
sudden halt, upon which the dogs instantly gathered round them, yapping
and snarling furiously, while individual members made sudden feints of
dashing in, only to retreat precipitately with their tails between their
legs as the infuriated beasts turned this way and that to meet the rush.

The crowding, clamouring dogs, with their quick rushes, and the
incessant twists and turns of the regal pair to meet those rushes, were
anything but conducive to good shooting, and Grosvenor, with rifle to
shoulder, held his fire, watching for a favourable opportunity.
Suddenly it came: a dog more venturesome than the rest sprang at the
lion, and was caught by him.  Planting both his front paws on the body
of the unhappy cur, the lion stood for a moment glaring at his foes, and
in that moment Grosvenor pulled trigger, the bullet striking the great
beast full in his massive chest.  For perhaps a quarter of a minute the
lion stood absolutely motionless, his eyes blazing defiance; then he
suddenly collapsed, and, with a half-whine, half-roar, slowly rolled
over on his side, his great head sank to earth, his limbs stretched
themselves stiffly out, and with a violent shudder he yielded up his
life.

Grosvenor chose this moment to inject a fresh cartridge into the chamber
of his rifle.  But something went wrong with the weapon, and while he
was still fidgeting with it, forgetful of the fact that Jantje was
standing behind him with a second rifle, fully charged, in his hand, the
lioness, with a mighty, snarling roar that sent the dogs scuttling in
all directions, crouched with the evident intention of springing upon
the slayer of her lord.  For a moment Dick, who was interestedly
watching the scene, took no action, for, according to the arrangement
come to between them, the lioness belonged of right to Grosvenor.  Then,
realising that his friend was in peril, he shouted excitedly:

"Shoot, Phil, shoot, or the brute will be upon you!" at the same time
lifting his own weapon to his shoulder.

"Can't," returned Grosvenor, still struggling with his rifle; "the
beastly thing's--"

Crack!  Dick instantly pressed the trigger; and as he did so the lioness
rose into the air with a curious writhing movement, falling short of the
spot where Grosvenor stood by about a foot.  As she fell she rolled
headlong, but instantly recovered herself, standing upon three legs,
with the fourth broken close to the shoulder, while Grosvenor, stepping
back hurriedly in the long grass to avoid her, was tripped up and fell
flat upon his back.  Fearing that, despite her broken leg, the lioness
might spring upon his prostrate friend and badly maul him, Dick
impetuously sprang forward, injecting a new cartridge as he ran, but
stopped short, convulsed with laughter, at the sight of his friend, his
long legs flourishing in the air, rolling with frantic energy out of the
reach of the lioness.  Then, as Grosvenor finally scrambled to his feet,
minus his rifle, which he had dropped during his hurried retreat--while
Jantje had incontinently bolted, carrying Grosvenor's second rifle with
him, as the lioness sprang--Dick again levelled his piece and bowled the
great tawny brute over with a bullet behind the ear, which penetrated
the brain.

Thus satisfactorily terminated the adventurers' first experience with
big game, each of the sportsmen bagging a lion and lioness, while the
cub might be regarded as the joint property of the two.  A very
satisfactory feature of the day's sport was that nobody had received so
much as a scratch, the actual casualties amounting to two Kafir dogs
slain.  As for the Kafirs, they fell upon the carcasses and with
incredible rapidity and skill stripped off the hides and pegged them out
preparatory to treating them in the native fashion, afterwards removing
the heads and carefully depositing each in the near vicinity of an ants'
nest, in order that the insects might remove--as they very speedily
would--every atom of flesh from the bones.  Then, having rendered this
service to the champions who had delivered them from their formidable
enemies, they departed, dancing, to the village, singing a triumphant
song to the glory of the white men, in which each incident of the recent
hunt was graphically described with appropriate gesture.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

THE MAKOLO COUNTRY.

A full week was spent by the travellers among those friendly villagers,
during which Dick Maitland assiduously tended the wounded man, who by
the end of that time, thanks in part to his own healthy flesh and blood,
the result of simple, frugal living, and, more largely, to the young
doctor's skilful treatment, had advanced so far toward recovery that
nature might safely be left to complete the cure.  The week had been not
altogether unprofitably spent in other respects, the two white men
assiduously devoting themselves, with Mafuta's assistance, to the study
of the native language, varied occasionally, on Dick's part, by a little
botanising--during which he discovered some half a dozen plants that
seemed to possess valuable properties--and the taming of the lion cub,
which, after the first two or three days of captivity, responded with
ever-growing alacrity to his young master's advances, until by the end
of six weeks he had learned to answer to the name of Leo, to come at
Dick's call or whistle, and, in short, had become as tame as a dog.
This result, and the gentleness of disposition which Leo manifested,
Dick attributed largely to the fact that the animal was never allowed to
taste blood, or raw flesh of any kind, his food--after a milk diet for
the first three weeks of his captivity--consisting entirely of well-
roasted flesh.

The natives witnessed the preparations for the departure of their white
friends with every manifestation of sincere regret, assisting to drive
up and inspan the oxen, presenting a fine milch cow for Leo's especial
benefit, as well as quantities of mealies, bananas, and other garden
produce, warning the travellers of various difficulties and dangers that
lurked on the next hundred miles or so of their route, and carefully
instructing them how they might best be avoided, and in many other ways
making plain the sorrow with which they bade them farewell.  Finally,
when the oxen were inspanned and the wagon was on the very point of
moving off, Mafuta, who had hitherto been missing, presented himself in
full marching order, armed with shield, assagais, and knobkerrie, with
plumed head-dress, and cows' tails bound about his legs below the knees,
and curtly informed Dick that it was his fixed intention to join the
party!  Although both Dick and Grosvenor did their utmost to dissuade
him, by representing to him the great length and exceeding danger of the
journey upon which they were bound, and the possibility that they might
never return, it was all of no avail, he alternately insisted and
entreated, declaring that he wanted no wages or reward of any kind.
Dick had pulled his brother back out of the grave, and he felt it to be
his duty, as well as his pleasure, to devote himself henceforward to the
service of the white man who had done this wonderful thing; and finally,
when Dick, loath to take the man away from his kith and kin, definitely
refused to take him, the Kafir countered by saying, in effect: "Very
well; the veldt is free to all, and if you will not permit me to join
your party, I can at least follow you at a distance, and be at hand
whenever you require my services."  After which, of course, there was no
more to be said, and Mafuta was allowed to have his own way, to the
great joy of his brethren of the village.

Nor was it very long before the travellers had abundant reason to
congratulate themselves upon their decision in this respect, for Mafuta
not only proved to be a most intelligent and devoted servant, but also a
splendid guide, knowing the exact localities of the various streams and
waterholes on their route, as far as the Zambezi, also the most
favourable crossing places, where the best grass and the most game were
to be found, and, most important of all, perhaps, the exact boundaries
of the fly country.  Indeed but for this last knowledge it is almost
certain that in their anxiety to take the shortest possible cuts they
would probably have lost practically all their cattle, and thus have
been obliged to bring their adventure to a premature end.

On their ninth day out from Mafuta's village they struck the Hanyani
River, without meeting with any adventure worthy of record, and
following its right bank for a couple of days, bore away in an easterly
direction, skirting the northern slope of Mount Inyota, where they
struck another small stream flowing to the northward and eastward; and
as this was, broadly speaking, the direction in which they wished to
travel, and as Mafuta assured them that it discharged into the Zambezi,
they decided to follow it, and did so, finding eventually that it united
its flow with another stream, which they followed, still without any
particular adventure save such as daily occurred while hunting; and
three weeks from the day on which Mafuta joined them the travellers
found themselves gazing with delight upon the broad bosom of the
Zambezi, its waters sparkling in the golden light of the westering sun.

Here again Mafuta's knowledge proved to be of the utmost value, for he
was able to guide the party to a spot where the river was fordable, and
where they succeeded in effecting a crossing that same evening before
sunset.  Once safely arrived on the left bank of the river, Grosvenor
and Dick decided to camp for a few days, in order to give the oxen a
rest, the grass being good.  Also there was a small native village a few
miles higher upstream, where canoes and their crews might be hired, and
within easy paddling distance of which there was a spot where
hippopotami still abounded, affording a prospect of good sport, of which
Grosvenor was particularly anxious to avail himself.  Accordingly, while
the Hottentot Jantje, and 'Nkuku, the Kafir voorlouper, remained in
charge of the wagon and oxen, Ramoo Samee, the groom, accompanied his
masters to the native village, to look after the horses and attend to
the cooking while his employers shot hippopotami and crocodiles from the
two canoes which they chartered; Mafuta, meanwhile, taking four days'
rations, and going off upon a prospecting expedition in search of
elephant and buffalo.  Three days at this village sufficed to provide
the hunters with more trophies than they cared to encumber themselves
with, while the natives enjoyed a record feast of hippopotamus flesh;
and on the fourth morning Dick and Grosvenor returned on horseback to
the wagon, while Ramoo Samee, in charge of the spoils, was conveyed down
the river to the same spot in a canoe manned by the grateful natives.
They found the cattle all right, and visibly improved by their three
days' rest, while Leo, the lion cub, welcomed Dick's return with almost
embarrassing demonstrations of affection.  Late that same evening Mafuta
also returned, with the intelligence that although he had not actually
seen either elephants or buffaloes, he had obtained, from natives whom
he had encountered, intelligence of a large herd of the former at a
distance of four days' trek from the river.  He also reported the
natives to be quite friendly disposed and willing to allow the white men
to traverse their particular section of country.  Everything thus
appearing favourable, on the following morning the oxen were once more
inspanned, and the journey resumed.

Then ensued a long trek extending over a period of more than two months,
including a day's halt here and there to rest the oxen, or to indulge in
a little hunting, during which they enjoyed excellent sport among
elephants, buffaloes, lions, leopards, giraffe, veldebeeste, zebra,
ostriches, and the various species of buck to be found in the southern
portion of the great African Continent; so rapidly, indeed, did their
spoils accumulate that at length they could no longer find room for them
in the wagon, and were glad to avail themselves of the opportunity
afforded by their arrival at a particularly friendly village to leave
everything of the kind, including some eighteen hundred pounds of ivory,
in charge of the villagers.

Of the last three weeks of this long trek, nine days were consumed in
forced marches through sterile country, bordering a wide and--according
to Mafuta--utterly impassable desert, during which both water and grass
were so exceedingly scarce that the entire party suffered terrible
privation, no game of any kind being seen, where more than half the oxen
died, while the remainder were reduced to such a miserable condition
that they were scarcely able to drag the now more than half-empty wagon.
Presently the character of the country gradually changed, a water-hole
or two were found, with small patches of fairly nutritious grass growing
round them, and as soon as a favourable spot was reached the wagon was
outspanned and the oxen allowed a couple of days' holiday in which to
rest and recuperate.  Then Grosvenor and Dick, mounting their horses,
which had been spared as much as possible during the preceding ten days,
set off with their rifles in search of game, and eventually succeeded in
finding and shooting a pair of bush buck wherewith to replenish their
larder.

At the end of the second day's rest Mafuta--who had by this time
completely won the confidence of the two leaders of the expedition, and
had attained rather to the position of a humble comrade than a mere
follower--gave it as his opinion that the oxen had now sufficiently
recovered to justify the party in resuming their journey; and
accordingly on the following morning the animals were once more
inspanned.  Dick and Grosvenor had already seen enough of the
surrounding country during their two days' foraging expedition to have
come to the conclusion that conditions would now improve with every mile
of progress, and this conclusion was fully borne out by their first
day's experiences, the country gradually becoming more hilly and broken,
with small watercourses occurring at steadily decreasing intervals, with
more and richer grass at every mile of their progress, until by the end
of the day they once more found themselves in a district that might
fairly be termed fertile, while a few head of game--bucks and a brace of
paow (a kind of bustard)--had been seen.  All this was exceedingly
encouraging to the two explorers, for their experiences thus far--with
one very important exception--had been in strict accordance with
Menzies' story, as repeated to them by their friend Mitchell, and
confirmed them in the conviction that at length they had arrived within
measurable distance of the spot where, according to the account given by
the former, the ruins of ancient Ophir still existed in recognisable
form.  The exception referred to consisted in the fact that whereas,
according to Menzies, the Makolo nation, upon whose territory they had
now entered, were exceedingly jealous of all intrusion--Menzies himself
having escaped a frightful death at their hands by the very skin of his
teeth--they had thus far met with no molestation whatever; which,
however, might possibly be accounted for by the fact that thus far they
had seen no natives.

But this state of affairs was not to last much longer; for on the third
day of their resumed trek, by which time they had reached a somewhat
rugged, well-wooded stretch of country, watered by numerous streams,
upon surmounting a ridge they sighted a native village, some three miles
ahead, surrounded by well-cultivated fields which, upon their nearer
approach, the travellers found to consist chiefly of maize and tobacco,
with here and there a patch of sugar cane, or a small fruit orchard.
Soon afterwards they encountered a large herd of cattle in charge of
about a dozen native lads, one of whom, upon sighting the strangers,
took to his heels and ran, as though for his life, to an eminence at no
great distance, where, placing his hands funnelwise to his mouth, he
began to shout, in a peculiar, high-pitched tone of voice, a brief
communication of some sort to some unseen person or persons.  At the
same time one of the other lads, after intently scrutinising the
newcomers for several minutes, advanced cautiously toward them and
finally halted--evidently holding himself ready to bolt at the slightest
suspicious sign--and, raising his sheaf of assagais in his right hand by
way of salute, shouted the single word:

"_Bietu_!"

The word was evidently a variant of the Zulu _Biete_, the form of
salutation addressed to a great chief, and, so construing it, Mafuta at
once placed his shield and weapons in the wagon and, advancing rapidly,
proceeded to address the lad in good Zulu.  The stranger, however,
although it was evident that he caught the meaning of a word here and
there, seemed unable to grasp the sense of Mafuta's communication in its
entirety, whereupon the latter made a second attempt, this time using a
sort of dialect or corruption of the true Zulu tongue; and was now more
successful, quite a long interchange of conversation ensuing, at the
termination of which the stranger turned and ran to the before-mentioned
eminence, from the summit of which he shouted, in the same high-pitched
voice as his predecessor, a communication of very considerable length,
while Mafuta returned to the wagon.

"Well, Mafuta, what is the news?" demanded Dick, as the Kaffir
approached.

"The news, Chief, is good," answered Mafuta, saluting.  "We have arrived
within the borders of the Makolo country; and the word of the _'mfana_
who spoke with me is that it will be wise of my fathers to outspan at
the first suitable halting place until the will of the king regarding
them be made known.  The Makolo do not approve of strangers entering
their country, it would appear; but their objection no longer applies to
white men, to whom the Spirits of the Winds have commanded that all
kindness be shown, should such ever visit the Makolo country.  News of
our arrival has already been sent forward to Lobelalatutu, the king; and
his will concerning us will be made known as soon as it comes; but,
meanwhile, Matemba, the _'mfana_ who spoke with me, advises that we
outspan until that will be made known."

"Um!" remarked Dick; "that does not sound altogether promising, eh,
Phil?  Seems to indicate that there may possibly be difficulties put in
the way of our penetrating the country, doesn't it?  What did you say to
the _'mfana_ Mafuta?"

"I said," answered Mafuta, "that the two white men, my chiefs, had come
from afar across the Great Water to visit Lobelalatutu, the King of the
great Makolo nation, to offer presents, and to request his permission to
examine the ruins of the great city of which they had heard."

"Yes, of course; I suppose that was the correct diplomatic way in which
to put the matter," remarked Dick.  "And what said Matemba in reply?"

"He said," answered Mafuta, "that doubtless the king, remembering the
commands laid upon him by the Spirits of the Winds, upon the occasion of
their last visit to the country in their great glittering ship which
flies through the air, would gladly permit my chiefs to visit the ruins,
even as the Spirits themselves had done."

"Ah!" exclaimed Dick; "that sounds better.  But,"--turning to
Grosvenor--"I wonder what the fellow means by the `glittering ship which
flies through the air'--and the `Spirits of the Winds'?  Can it be
possible that an airship has ever penetrated so far as this?  Stop a
minute--let me think.  `Spirits of the Winds--glittering ship which
flies'--by Jove! can it be possible?  I thought, when I heard the
expression `Spirits of the Winds' that it sounded not altogether
unfamiliar, that I had met with it before, in fact; and now that I come
to overhaul my memory I very distinctly remember reading a yarn
describing the adventures of some people who possessed a wonderful
airship in which they made the most extraordinary voyages and met with
some astounding experiences--"

"Yes," interrupted Grosvenor; "I know the book you mean.  I, too, read
it.  But I took it to be fiction, pure and simple; a somewhat daring
flight of a novelist's imagination.  And now that you have reminded me
of the yarn I distinctly remember that the four fellows in the story
were described as having visited these same ruins of Ophir that we are
hunting for--"

"Yes," cut in Dick, "that is so.  And, if I remember aright, they met
with some rather exciting adventures among these Makolo, didn't they?"

"Rather!" assented Grosvenor.  "Were taken prisoners, or something of
that sort, and only escaped by the skin of their teeth."

"That's it," agreed Dick.  "Yes; the man who was then king wanted to
steal their airship, didn't he?"

"He did--and got banished for his pains," answered Grosvenor.  "But that
was not the end of the story.  He--the king, I mean--returned from his
banishment, killed the king who was reigning in his stead, and--yes, was
found practising his old dodges of cruelty and murder when the `Spirits'
paid a second visit to his country."

"Precisely," agreed Dick.  "But that part of the story was given in a
second book recounting the further voyagings of the wonderful _Flying-
Fish_--that was the name of the airship, you will remember.  By Jove!
How vividly those yarns recur to one's memory when anything special--
like this adventure of ours--occurs to recall them.  Do you know, Phil,
it now seems to me that, quite unconsciously to ourselves, those two
books have had a distinct influence upon us in undertaking and carrying
through this journey?"

"Possibly," agreed Grosvenor; "though I am obliged to admit that I have
been, and am still, quite unconscious of it.  The point that is of real
importance to us is this.  Had the narratives in those two books the
slightest foundation of fact?  Because, if so, our recollection of them
might stand us in good stead should difficulties arise between us and
these people.  Take, for example, the matter of the four Spirits of the
Winds.  If we were to judiciously exhibit some knowledge of them and
their doings, this king might be inclined to be a great deal more
complaisant than he otherwise would be.  Don't you think so?"

"Perhaps," conceded Dick; "it is impossible to say.  But what knowledge
do we possess, or can we exhibit?  Absolutely none, except what we can
remember through the perusal of those two books.  And, for my own part,
I am inclined to believe that the alleged adventures of the four persons
therein referred to were purely fictitious, or at least had no more than
the slenderest connection with actual fact."

"Yet," contended Grosvenor, "it is remarkable, to say the least of it,
that in our very first communication with these Makolo--which, now I
come to think of it, was the actual name of the nation given in those
books--the four Spirits of the Winds should be mentioned.  Isn't it?"

"Yes, it certainly is," agreed Dick, somewhat reluctantly.  "And of
course," he continued, "if it should happen that those two yarns are a
record of actual occurrences presented in the guise of fiction, it will
not be by any means the first time that such a thing has occurred.
Anyhow," he concluded, "I do not see that we can possibly do any harm by
acting, as you suggest, upon the assumption that the yarns, however
extravagant they may have appeared to us when we read them, are records
of actual fact, and using our recollection of them in any manner that
may seem advantageous to us.  Is that agreed?"

"Yes, certainly," assented Grosvenor.  "We can but try it, and see how
it works.  And now, to change the subject, what say you about
outspanning?  This seems to be a good spot, eh?"

During the foregoing conversation the two speakers had been walking on
ahead of the wagon, with their rifles in the hollow of their arms, the
dogs and Leo, the lion cub, trotting amicably at their heels.  They had
arrived at a spot about a mile from the village, and were now traversing
an open "flat" with plenty of grass, close to the margin of a small
stream.  As Grosvenor had suggested, it was an excellent spot upon which
to outspan, for there were grass and water for the cattle, and it was
sufficiently far away from the village to prevent any of those
annoyances that a nearer approach might have subjected them to; they
therefore halted, and when the wagon came up the order to outspan was
given.  A few minutes later, while Jantje and 'Nkuku were superintending
the watering of the oxen, some half-dozen women, carrying baskets poised
upon their heads, were seen approaching from the village.  When,
somewhat later, these women arrived at the wagon, the leader of them
announced that the contents of the baskets, consisting of green mealie
cobs, sugar cane, eggs, sweet potatoes, half a dozen shockingly skinny
chickens, milk, and _joala_ (a kind of native beer) were a present from
the headman of the village to the strangers.  (Six months earlier the
travellers would have laughed incredulously at the idea of liquids being
conveyed in baskets; but now they took it quite as a matter of course,
for they had by this time grown quite familiar with the native basket,
so exquisitely woven out of grass as to be quite impervious to leakage).
They accepted the gift with a few words--but not too many--of thanks,
and then, desirous of creating a good impression upon the Makolo as
early as might be, they directed the women to wait, and, going to the
wagon, took from their store of "notions" a few yards of gaudily printed
cotton stuff, two or three yards of brass wire, half a dozen empty two-
ounce tobacco tins decorated with gilt and coloured lettering, in the
style familiar to all devotees of the weed, a small wooden box
containing about a pint of mixed beads, and to each of the smiling and
expectant basket-bearers a special present for herself, consisting of a
necklet of large particoloured beads, the remaining gifts being of
course for the headman in return for his present.  The necklets Dick and
Grosvenor personally clasped round the shapely, bronze-tinted throats of
the recipients, to the intense delight of the latter, and then the
damsels took their departure, smiling to such an extent as to display
every tooth in their heads.  Presently, when they were a few yards from
the wagon, they burst into song, the burden of their lay being the
magnificent generosity, enormous wealth, and splendid personality of the
visitors.

About an hour before sunset that same day another party made its
appearance, approaching from the village.  On this occasion it consisted
of men only, some twenty in number, which, upon their arrival at the
wagon, proved to be the headman of the village and his retinue, all
unarmed.

The party halted at a distance of some ten paces from the spot where
Dick and Grosvenor sat before their open tent, and as they did so, with
the precision of trained soldiers, every man's right hand was flung
aloft, and in deep, sonorous tones the salute was given:

"_Bietu_!"

Then the headman stepped forward and said, Mafuta standing by to act as
interpreter:

"I, Insimbi, headman of the village of M'gama, in the country of the
Makolo, bear the greetings of the great King Lobelalatutu to the unknown
white men who have crossed the Great Water to visit him, to offer him
gifts, and to request his permission to visit the ruins of the great
city that are situate near the king's village.  He bids you welcome to
the country of the Makolo, and his word is that you are to be conducted
forthwith in all honour to his presence.  You are his guests, to be
treated by all men as such, and by them to be supplied with all things
necessary to your comfort and wellbeing.  Your oxen are poor in
condition and few in number, therefore shall they be cared for here
until they are again fit for work; meanwhile a fresh team shall be
supplied from the herd belonging to this village for the conveyance of
your wagon to the ruins you desire to visit.  And if there be any other
thing that you desire, my orders are to furnish it to you.  I have said.
Is it well, O white men?"

"It is very well, O Insimbi," answered Grosvenor.  "It is well for the
Makolo and for your king that he keeps fresh in his memory the commands
laid upon him by the four Spirits of the Winds, and we are satisfied.
When can we be supplied with the fresh team of oxen?"

"At sunrise to-morrow shall the herd be driven hither, when my lords
shall choose for themselves as many as they will," answered the headman.

"Let it be so," answered Grosvenor; "for to-morrow at sunrise will we
resume our journey to the king's village and the ruins.  By the way, ask
him, Mafuta, how far the ruins are from here."

"With a full team of fourteen fresh oxen it may be done in seven days,"
Mafuta translated Insimbi's answer to the question.

"Seven days!" ejaculated Grosvenor, glancing in astonishment at Dick.
"Then how the dickens has this fellow Insimbi contrived in the course of
a single day to communicate with the king and get a reply from him?"

"Why, easily enough," answered Dick.  "Don't you remember the wonderful
system of voice-telegraphy mentioned in those two books that we were
discussing to-day?  That, of course, is how it has been accomplished.
And, now that I come to think of it, we had an illustration of that
system this morning when those two boys ran to the top of yonder hill
and started shouting in that queer, high-pitched tone of voice.  They
were telegraphing to the king the news of our arrival without a doubt."

"Yes," assented Grosvenor, a little doubtfully, "I suppose that was it.
But seven days' trek with fresh oxen!  That means a hundred and forty
miles, or thereabout--it is wonderful!"

"You are right; it is," agreed Dick; "but not more wonderful, to my
mind, than that we, destined, as one may say, to make this trip
together, should have both been fortunate enough to stumble across and
read those two books, which I am now beginning to understand were
records of sober fact instead of extravagant fiction, as we both thought
them to be.  We must certainly polish up our recollection of what we
read, for it is not at all difficult to imagine circumstances in which
the knowledge may be of vital import to us.  By the way, Mafuta, tell
those fellows that they are dismissed, and that all we shall require of
them to-morrow, in addition to the oxen, will be a guide."

Oxen and guide were both duly forthcoming on the morrow: the journey
toward what may be called the capital was resumed, and continued day
after day without adventure, the guide supplied on the first day
continuing with the party for the whole of that day, and then turning
them over to another, who in like manner piloted them a day's trek, in
turn to pass them on to another, and so on, day after day; each guide
returning to his starting-point on the following day.



CHAPTER EIGHT.

KING LOBELALATUTU.

The one thing that, after the spreading, well-tilled fields surrounding
every village, the great herds of cattle, and the general aspect of
prosperity everywhere met with, most impressed the two travellers during
their progress through the Makolo country, was the extraordinary
courtesy and deference uniformly extended to them by the natives.  These
people were savages, pure and unadulterated, a fierce and warlike race,
who had been obliged to fight for their very existence throughout
countless ages, ignorant and superstitious to a degree, with all the
virtues and most of the vices of the primeval savage, unspeakably cruel
and relentless as enemies, absolutely fearless in battle, and, above
all, intensely suspicious of strangers; yet, although white men were
practically unknown to them as a people, they never annoyed the
travellers by any display of undue curiosity, every man deferentially
saluted them, and all were willing, even eager, to do them service.

The character of the country, although it could not by any stretch of
the imagination be described as mountainous, maintained its rugged
character almost to the end of the journey, consisting of a constant
succession of low hills, or ridges, mostly of granite formation, divided
from each other by broad, fertile, well-watered valleys, dotted here and
there with villages which, as the travellers advanced, gradually drew
closer together and increased in importance.

It was as the travellers surmounted a certain ridge, about an hour and a
half before the time of their midday halt, that they caught their first
glimpse of the sea since losing sight of it on their departure from
Lourenco Marques.  It stretched away to right and left and in front of
them, a narrow, faint, grey streak, softly shimmering under the beams of
the noontide sun; and between it and the observers lay a wide-
stretching, level, grassy plain, in the midst of which appeared
numberless irregularities that, viewed through their powerful glasses,
assumed the aspect of architectural ruins of enormous massiveness and
strength.  But they were some ten miles distant, and through the highly
rarefied atmosphere that intervened it was impossible to obtain any very
clear conception of their character, except that they were undoubtedly
of human origin and of quite unexpected extent.  One thing, however, was
certain, in the light of Menzies' story, as recounted to them by his and
their friend Mitchell, those enormous ruins could be none other than the
remains of the ancient Ophir mentioned in Holy Writ; and the two friends
sent up a shout of irrepressible exultation at the thought that they had
advanced thus far upon their difficult journey without mishap of any
kind.  They were now all eagerness and impatience to reach those
wonderful ruins; but the oxen were tired and hungry, having already been
trekking for more than two hours; moreover, they took no interest in
archaeology, and preferred an acre of rich grass to the finest ruins in
the world, therefore it became imperative to outspan as soon as the
wagon had plunged down into the plain far enough to reach the first
watercourse.  But Grosvenor and Maitland were not long in arriving at
the decision to saddle up and ride forward as soon as they had partaken
of a hasty tiffin.

This resolution they duly carried into effect, observing the precaution
to slip their loaded revolvers into their belts and to sling their
loaded rifles and fully charged bandoliers over their shoulders, to
guard against the possibility of accident, although they had thus far
seen nothing to justify the slightest suspicion that either the king or
his people meditated treachery.  As they rode they had ample opportunity
to observe--as indeed had been the case ever since they entered the
Makolo country--the operation of the curious voice-telegraph system
practised by the natives in their communications with each other, the
high-pitched messages--doubtless reporting their progress-breaching
their ears at frequent intervals.

They advanced at an easy canter, heading straight for the ruins, for
there was no semblance of a road, or even of a footpath, and scarcely
any people were to be seen, except in and about the villages which they
occasionally passed.  But when they had arrived within about three miles
of the ruins they observed, approaching them round the spur of a low
hill, a troop of about fifty horsemen, which their field glasses enabled
them to perceive were splendidly mounted, and garbed in the full panoply
of war, consisting of shield, war axe, sheaf of broad-bladed spears,
plumed head-dress, and--in the case of the leader--leopard-skin mantle,
and necklace of leopards' claws.  It was a distinctly formidable
cavalcade for two men only to meet, even although the latter were armed
with weapons of such deadly precision as the rifle and revolver; and for
a minute or two the travellers were just a little uncertain as to how to
meet the situation.  Finally they reined in and came to a halt,
whereupon the leader of the troop threw up his right hand, as though
giving an order, upon which his followers, who had been advancing at a
gallop, reined their horses back upon their haunches, coming to an
abrupt halt, while he, reducing his pace to a hand-gallop, continued his
advance alone.

"All right, old chap, come along," exclaimed Grosvenor; "those fellows
mean us no harm, I am sure.  I expect it is a detachment sent out by the
king to bid us welcome on our approach to his village."

"Very possibly," assented Dick.  "But, having halted, we must now remain
where we are until that fellow approaches and delivers his message.  To
resume our journey at this moment would be tantamount to an admission of
distrust on our part, which would never do.  No, no; let the man come to
us, not we go to him.  Among savages, you know, first impressions count
for a good deal, and it would never do to let those fellow think that we
halted because we were nervous."

"No, of course; you are quite right, it would not," agreed Grosvenor;
and sitting straight up in their saddles, and assuming an air of
absolute confidence which somewhat belied their inward feelings, they
patiently awaited the arrival of the solitary horseman.

In less than a minute he had arrived--a fine, stalwart man, of about
middle age, clean-limbed, broad chested, upright as a dart, of dauntless
aspect; his limbs and body showing many scars of battle.  As he reached
a point some ten feet from where the two white travellers awaited him he
abruptly reined his horse to a standstill, and threw up his right hand
in salute.

"_'Nkosi_," he cried, in a full, deep, resonant tone of voice,
"Lobelalatutu, the King of the Makolo, salutes you by the mouth of me,
'Mpandula, and bids you welcome to his royal village.  Behold a squadron
of his royal guard, which he has dispatched, under my command, to
conduct you in all honour to his presence.  He awaits you now in his
palace.  Does it please my lords that the squadron, approach to give
them the salute?"

Now, this speech was only very imperfectly understood by those to whom
it was addressed; a word or two here and there they comprehended because
of their similarity to those in the language spoken by Mafuta; the name
of the king also they recognised; and 'Mpandula's gestures and the tones
of his voice also told them a little.  Thus in one way and another they
contrived to gain a sort of hazy general notion of the gist of the
chiefs speech.  But how were they to reply to it, and what were they to
say?  So early a summons to the king's presence was rather unexpected,
and, in the absence of Mafuta, who was behind, with the wagon, would be
rather embarrassing; for how were they to converse with the king without
the assistance of an interpreter?  There was but one thing to be done,
and that was to reply to the best of their ability, which Dick undertook
to do in the only native tongue with which he was familiar, explaining
as well as he could the difficulty in which the pair found themselves.

It was evident at once, by the puzzled expression on the chiefs face,
that he understood Dick as little as Dick understood him; and for a
moment there seemed to be the possibility of a deadlock.  But suddenly
'Mpandula's brow cleared, he turned on his horse and shouted a name, in
response to which one of the guards drove his heels into his horse's
flanks, and dashed forward to his chiefs assistance.  The latter
appeared to explain the position in a few terse words, and when he had
finished, the newcomer, at 'Mpandula's dictation, repeated the message
of the king, word for wood, in the language with which Dick was
familiar.

"What do you say, Phil," questioned Dick, when the message was
concluded; "shall we go?  Or shall we excuse ourselves for the present,
upon the plea that we would prefer to wait until the wagon comes up, in
order that we may take with us the gifts that we have brought for His
Majesty?  I am not quite sure that I altogether like this escort
business.  It may be all right, of course.  The king's message sounds
all right; but if the chap means treachery it will be exceedingly
awkward for us, will it not?"

"It certainly will," agreed Grosvenor.  "But," he continued, "I fancy it
is altogether too late to think of that now.  When we determined to
enter this country we tacitly decided to take all the risks of so doing;
and in any case we cannot now escape, do what we will, therefore I think
our best policy will be to take everything for granted, and go willingly
with these fellows, since if we refused they have the power to compel
us.  What has so suddenly put the idea of treachery into your head?"

"Upon my word I don't know," answered Dick.  "Unless it is the sight of
these armed men.  But, as you say, it is too late to hesitate now, and,
after all, their presence may merely signify the desire of the king to
do us honour.  Yes, I suppose we had better go."  And, turning to
'Mpandula, he said:

"We are ready to go with you into the presence of the king, therefore
let the squadron approach.  But our followers are behind, with the
wagon, and it is desirable that they should know what has become of us;
therefore I pray you let a message be transmitted to them, informing
them of our whereabouts, and also directing them where to outspan at
their final halt."

"The will of my lords shall be done," answered the chief, through the
interpreter.  And, raising his right hand, he shouted an order,
whereupon the squadron of native cavalry, which had remained motionless
as so many statues, at once awakened into life, and, starting forward at
a gallop, advanced in as close formation and as perfect line as the
finest civilised troops, halting a horse's length in rear of their
commander.  Then, at a signal from the chief, every man tossed his right
hand aloft in salute and thundered out the word _'Nkosi_!  This salute
Dick and Grosvenor acknowledged by placing their hands to their hat-
brims, in military fashion, to the evident satisfaction of 'Mpandula and
his followers; and then, as the two whites touched their horse's flanks
with the spur and moved forward at a canter, the escort formed up,
completely encircling them; one man at the same moment detaching himself
and galloping away in the direction of the wagon, in response to an
order from his commander.

Some twenty minutes later the party reached the outskirts of the ruined
city, and found themselves confronted by enormous masses of masonry,
consisting of walls, some of which still remained erect, although for
the most part they had sunk into shapeless, overgrown masses of ruin,
arches, columns, erect and prostrate, fragmentary pediments, shattered
entablatures, dislodged capitals, crumbling pedestals, and mutilated
statues of men and animals, all of colossal proportions; the buildings
and portions of buildings all being of an immensely massive yet ornate
and imposing style of architecture quite unknown to the travellers.
Even the cursory glimpses which were all that Dick and Grosvenor were
for the moment able to obtain, convinced them both that they were face
to face with the remains of a city that must, thousands of years ago,
have been of enormous extent and of almost unimaginable opulence and
splendour.

But they had little time, just then, in which to indulge their
curiosity, for they almost immediately struck into a sort of bridle path
that presently turned away from the ruins and led toward an extensive
village, which now swept into view as they rounded the spur of a hill.
The village consisted of some five hundred huts surrounding a central
stockade, which enclosed a small group of buildings of considerably more
pretentious character than the ordinary huts, and which Dick and
Grosvenor at once conjectured must be the royal palace and its
dependencies.  This conjecture was confirmed upon their arrival at the
village, for at the gateway of the stockade the cavalcade halted, and
'Mpandula, dismounting, requested his charges to do the same, intimating
that he was about to conduct them forthwith into the presence of the
king.

Of course there was nothing to be done but to obey with a good grace,
and the travellers, therefore, swung out of their saddles, and, handing
over their horses to a couple of natives who stepped forward to take
charge of them, followed their guide, or custodian, whichever he might
happen to be, through the gateway, not without certain qualms of
apprehension as to the wisdom of placing themselves thus unreservedly in
the power of a savage king, who, if he should so choose, could send them
to a death of unspeakable torment and horror, without the slightest fear
of ever being brought to book.  But now, more than ever, was it too late
to hesitate; therefore resolutely stifling their apprehensions, and
assuming a bearing of the most perfect confidence, they advanced toward
a group of several persons whom they now saw arranged in front of the
principal building within the enclosure.

Unquestionably the most important personage in this group was a splendid
figure of a savage, attired in a sort of petticoat of leopard-skin
reaching to just above the knee, a mantle of lion-skin thrown over his
shoulders, gold bangles on his arms and ankles, a beautifully worked
coronet of gold adorned with crimson feathers of the flamingo, two
necklaces--one composed of lions' teeth and claws, and the other, and
larger, of unpolished stones that seemed to emit a faint glint of ruddy
fire--round his neck.  He was armed with a sheaf of short, broad-bladed
stabbing spears, and was seated on a sort of throne entirely covered
with an immense kaross of lions' skin.  Behind him stood eight savages,
as finely built men as himself, whose dress and adornments at once
proclaimed them to be chiefs, and persons of very great importance in
the Makolo nation.  The individual upon the throne was of course none
other than the king himself.

Boldly advancing to within about ten paces of the seated monarch,
Grosvenor and Dick halted, and, according to pre-arrangement, gave His
Majesty a military salute.  Then Dick, addressing the king in his best
Kafir, remarked:

"Hail!  Lobelalatutu, King of the Makolo, we salute you."  Which the
interpreter, who had followed them, promptly interpreted.

"I see you, white men," answered the king, slightly raising his right
hand in acknowledgement of the salute.  "You are welcome to the country
of the Makolo.  When I was informed of your approach I gave certain
orders to my people concerning your comfort and welfare.  I trust that
those orders have been obeyed to your satisfaction."

"Your words, O King! have been most implicitly obeyed, and we thank you
for them, as also for the welcome that you have extended to us,"
returned Dick.  "The four Spirits of the Winds will be pleased to learn,
when we return, that you have not forgotten the injunctions that they
laid upon you."

"The four Spirits of the Winds!" ejaculated the king, in great surprise,
not wholly untinged with trepidation--which emotions were even more
strongly displayed by the chiefs who stood about him.  "Know ye then
those terrible beings?"  [Note 1.]

"Even so," answered Dick composedly.  "We know that they twice visited
the Makolo country; and we also know,"--he added with emphasis--"what
happened upon each of those occasions.  We know what happened to
M'Bongwele, the former king of the Makolo; and we know why Lobelalatutu
was chosen king in his place."

"_Wau_!" murmured the assembled chiefs behind their hands, in
awestricken tones; "it is wonderful!" while Lobelalatutu shifted
uneasily in his seat as he gazed apprehensively in the faces of his two
visitors.  For nearly a minute he remained silent, apparently debating
within himself some very puzzling question.  Then he said:

"I would that I knew, O white men, all the reasons that have led you to
visit the Makolo country.  They must be many and great to have induced
you to cross the Great Water, and to take so long, so wearisome, and so
dangerous a journey afterwards."

"Listen then, O King Lobelalatutu, and you shall be told," answered
Dick.  "My friend here is a great hunter; he loves the excitement of the
chase, even as do your own young men.  But in our own country the people
are so many that there is little room for game, which is consequently
very scarce.  Therefore my friend said: `Lo, I will go to Africa, where
the people are few and game is abundant, and there will I hunt the lion,
the leopard, the elephant, the rhinoceros, the buffalo, and all those
other animals that afford good sport, and are not to be found in
England; also I am desirous of seeing the wonderful ruins of that great
and ancient city whereof the four Spirits of the Winds have spoken;
therefore will I go to the Makolo country, wherein those ruins are to be
found, and become the friend, if I may, of the king, and his people.'
And, as for me, I am a healer of all kinds of sickness; I am also a
seeker of gold, and the stones that glitter.  Therefore said my friend
to me: `Come, let us go together, for the journey shall be to our mutual
advantage; we will hunt together, and if sickness overtake me you shall
be my healer, while such gold, or stones, or ivory as we may obtain
shall be yours.'  Those, O Lobelalatutu! are our sole reasons for coming
hither.  Are they not good and sufficient?"

"They may be sufficient in your own eyes; but as for me, I know not,"
answered the king.  "The thing that I would know is this: Come ye as
friends, or as secret enemies, of me and my people?"

"Have I not said?" returned Dick.  "My friend would be the friend of you
and your people; and his friends will also be my friends; his enemies my
enemies.  If ye should need such help as it is in our power to give, it
shall be yours, freely; and all we ask in return is that we may be
allowed to examine the ruins at our leisure, and to take away with us
such gold or stones as we may find."

"It is well," answered the king.  "If that be all ye ask, it is granted.
Ye may examine the ruins at your pleasure; ye may remain in my country
as long as ye will, and no man shall molest you; and whatsoever ye may
find that is valuable in your eyes, that shall ye take with you when ye
leave my country.  That is my word, the word of the king.  Say now, is
it good?"

"It is very good, and the Spirits will be well pleased when they learn
that you have granted our request," answered Dick.

The king gave vent to a sigh of evident relief; it was clear that he
wished to stand well with these two friends of the great and terrible
Spirits of the Winds, who by the potency of their magic had been able to
punish his predecessor M'Bongwele for his evil-doing, and to place
himself upon the vacant throne.  Yet it was apparent that there was
still something at the back of the king's mind, something that he keenly
desired yet hesitated to speak of.  For two or three minutes he sat
plunged in deep and painful meditation; then he looked up and said:

"It is well; I am glad that ye have come hither, O white men! for when
ye return to your own country ye will be able to tell the Spirits that I
have faithfully obeyed all the injunctions that they laid upon me.  Ha!
There is one thing more that I would ask.  Ye speak not the tongue of
the Makolo, yet ye were able to communicate with my people as soon as ye
entered my borders.  By what means did ye so?"

"Oh, quite easily!" answered Dick--who, being the better linguist of the
two, naturally assumed the part of spokesman.  "We have with us a man
who speaks the Makolo tongue, and whose language we speak; therefore we
communicate with your people through him."

"Good!" exclaimed the king, in accents of extraordinary satisfaction;
"it is very good.  Go now in peace, O white men!  Ye are my friends, and
no harm shall befall ye while ye stay in the country of the Makolo; I
the king say it.  And it may be, O healer of sicknesses! that I can help
you in the matter of the shining stones that ye crave to possess.  See
ye these?"  And he pointed to the necklace of ruddy, unpolished stones
that he wore.

Dick stepped forward to look closer at the stones, and finally took the
loop of the necklace into his hands.  At first sight the stones appeared
to be no more than ordinary red pebbles, about the size of a plover's
egg, or perhaps a little larger, the only peculiarity being that they
were exactly alike in colour, and that they all emitted a rich, ruddy
light.  For a minute or two Dick stood carefully examining the stones;
and as he did so a faint, elusive memory came to him in connection with
them.  Then suddenly the memory became clear and, carefully suppressing
his excitement, he turned to Grosvenor and said, in quite an ordinary
tone of voice:

"Just come and have a look at these stones, Phil, but be careful not to
betray anything in the nature of astonishment or admiration.  Do you
remember reading that those four chaps in the _Flying-Fish_ accidentally
stumbled upon, first, the king's ruby necklace, and then, through it, a
ruby mine?  Well, this is undoubtedly the necklace; and our friend here
seems to hint that he is willing to show us the spot where similar
stones may be found."

"Looks like it, certainly," answered Grosvenor in carefully modulated,
matter-of-fact tones.  "Jolly fine stones, aren't they?  If you can
contrive to take home a sackful of those stones, old man, you need no
longer fear money troubles, eh?  What?"

"A sackful!" ejaculated Dick, with a laugh.  "A peck of them will
completely satisfy me, my boy."  Then, turning to Lobelalatutu, who was
keenly watching them both, he said:

"These stones, O King! are very good and of some value in my country,
though worthless here.  Know you where they are to be found?"

"I know," answered the king; "and it may be that I will show you the
place; I cannot yet say, but I will consider the matter.  I have given
instructions as to the place where your wagon shall outspan; it is near
at hand, between the village and the ruins; and if ye need anything,
send word by your servant to me, and I will see to it."

"We thank you, O Lobelalatutu!" answered Dick.  "We go now; but to-
morrow we will come again, bearing with us the gifts that we have
brought for thee from England.  Until then, farewell!"

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Shortly after nine o'clock that night, while the two friends, having
dined, were sitting under the raised front flap of their tent, enjoying
the wonderful view of the ruins, rising gaunt and black in the midst of
the landscape, flooded by the rays of the newly risen moon, and chatting
in desultory fashion over the events of the day, as Grosvenor pulled
contemplatively at his well-charred brier pipe, Mafuta appeared before
them and, giving the usual salute, said:

"There is one from the village yonder who would speak with my lords, if
they be willing."

"Who is it, Mafuta--a man, or a woman?" demanded Dick.

"It is a man, _'mlungu_" answered Mafuta.  Then, drawing still nearer,
and lowering his voice almost to a whisper, he added: "He says he is
named Lobelalatutu!"

"The king!" exclaimed Dick, starting to his feet in amazement.  "What
the dickens is up now, I wonder?  Is he armed, Mafuta?"

"Nay, lord, he is weaponless," answered Mafuta.

"Bring him hither," commanded Dick; "we will speak with him."

Saluting again, Mafuta disappeared, and presently returned escorting a
tall savage, unarmed save for a light switch, such as every native
habitually carries, in order to defend himself against the attacks of
snakes.  He wore the _keshla_, or head ring, and was naked save for the
usual _moucha_ or apron of deerskin.  As he stepped within range of the
rays of the lamp, which Dick had hastily lighted, his eyes rolled and
gleamed with something of apprehension in their expression; but despite
his change of garb the white men had no difficulty in recognising the
king.

"We see you, O Lobelalatutu!" said Dick, adopting the ordinary form of
salutation among the natives, for there was an air of secrecy about this
visit that seemed to suggest a desire on the part of the king that he
should be regarded as to some extent incognito.  "Enter, I pray you, and
be seated,"--pointing to the chair which he had just vacated, and
drawing forward his medicine chest as a seat for himself, thus placing
the king between himself and Grosvenor.

With a sigh, whether of weariness or of relief was not quite clear, the
king sank into the chair indicated, and when Mafuta would have
discreetly withdrawn, stopped him.

"Is this the man through whom you have hitherto communicated with my
people?" the king demanded, and Mafuta duly translated the question.

Dick answered in the affirmative, adding: "Tell him, Mafuta, that we
know you to be faithful, and are ready to trust you even with our
lives."

This speech also Mafuta translated, with an air of mingled hauteur and
humility which was amusing enough to Dick and Grosvenor.

For answer the king stood up and, laying his hand upon Mafuta's
shoulder, looked piercingly into the man's eyes for the space of a full
minute or more.  On his part, Mafuta returned the gaze as steadfastly as
it was given; and it was an interesting sight to the onlookers to see
those two savages, both of them splendid specimens of their respective
races, endeavouring to read each other's character.  At length
Lobelalatutu removed his hand from the other's shoulder and said:

"It is well!  Tell your chiefs that I say you are a true man, and that
I, too, am willing to put my life into your hands.  Stay you here and
interpret for me, for I have a matter of moment to discuss with the
white men."

"Tell the king to say on," commanded Dick, when this speech had been
translated to them; and Lobelalatutu, turning to Dick, said:

"I am in a great strait, O _'mlungus_, and know not what to do.  I would
that the four Spirits of the Winds, who made me king over the Makolo,
were here, for I have faithfully obeyed their injunctions, and they
would help me.  But you are friends of the Spirits, and it may be that
your wisdom will find a way for me.  May I speak?"

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note.  The author is here referring to events which occurred in two of
his previous books: _The Log of the "Flying-Fish"_, and _With Airship
and Submarine_ (both published by Messrs Blackie and Son, Limited).



CHAPTER NINE.

THE CHIEF WITCH DOCTOR'S PLOT.

"Speak freely and without fear, O Lobelalatutu!" answered Dick.  "Tell
us your trouble; and it may be that we shall, as you say, be able to
point the way to deliverance."

"Then--but first let the light be extinguished," said the king, pointing
to the hurricane lamp suspended from the pole of the tent.  "It may be
that some of my people, standing yonder in the shadow, hoping to behold
some wonder, may see me with you, and, though they might not recognise
me, disguised as I am, I would rather that no man should know that you
have been secretly visited this night."

"Right!" answered Dick in English.  "I see your point, old chap, and out
goes the `glim'."  And so saying he took down the lamp, opened, and
extinguished it.

"It is well," approved the king, with a sigh of relief.  "Now can I talk
without fear of discovery."  He paused for a moment, considering how he
should begin, then said: "As we talked to-day, O Healer of
Sicknesses!"--the native word for this expression (soon abbreviated to
"Healer") forthwith became Dick's name among the Makolo from that
moment--"you said that you knew what happened to M'Bongwele, the king
who ruled before me, and also how I came to be made king in his stead.
Know you also the story of Seketulo, whom the Four Spirits made king in
M'Bongwele's stead when they first came among the Makolo?"

"Yes, we know," answered Dick.  "We know that M'Bongwele was dethroned
and banished by the four Spirits because of his barbarous and iniquitous
rule, and that Seketulo was made king in his stead.  We know also that,
after a time, M'Bongwele secretly returned from exile, and, aided by
certain powerful chiefs, slew Seketulo and reinstated himself as King of
the Makolo.  And, finally, we know that when the four Spirits revisited
this country in their great glittering ship that flies through the air,
they again deposed M'Bongwele and hanged him and his chief witch doctor
from the bough of a tree, because, despite their previous warning, they
persisted in their evil-doing.  And in M'Bongwele's place they made you,
Lobelalatutu, King of the Makolo."

"It is even so, O Healer!" assented the king.  "The tale, as you tell
it, is the truth; and now I know of a verity that, possessing this
knowledge, you are like unto the Spirits themselves, to be trusted, even
as they were; therefore will I, without fear, unfold to you the tale of
my present trouble.  It was the dissatisfaction of certain chiefs with
Seketulo's system of government, as prescribed to him by the four
Spirits, that made M'Bongwele's secret return and his resumption of the
throne possible.  Seketulo was instructed to govern the Makolo justly
and humanely, to put a stop to the oppression of the people by the
chiefs, and, above all, not to make war upon the neighbouring nations
save in self-defence.  It was this last restriction that occasioned the
greatest discontent among certain of the chiefs; because, the Makolo
being a powerful and warlike nation, we were generally victorious when
we went to war, and the greater part of the spoils went to the chiefs,
who thus increased their riches as often as we made raids upon our
neighbours.  But under Seketulo's rule all this was altered, and we were
obliged to be content with such wealth as we already possessed; hence
the discontent and all that followed upon it.  Now, since I became king,
I have endeavoured to govern my people even as Seketulo did; and for a
long time things have gone very well with us; the number of the Makolo,
no longer kept down by war, has greatly increased, as also has our
prosperity; for now that war is no longer part of its policy the nation
has devoted itself to agriculture and the breeding of cattle, our herds
have greatly multiplied, new villages have sprung up, fresh land has
every year been brought under cultivation, and all have enough, and more
than enough, to satisfy their wants.  But of late I have suspected that,
despite our steadily increasing prosperity, all is not well with us.  I
have detected signs of discontent not only among the chiefs, but among
the people themselves; there have been murmurs that the long peace which
we have enjoyed is converting the Makolo into a nation of women who will
soon lose the capacity for fighting; our neighbours are growing insolent
and aggressive; and--worst sign of all--those chiefs who most boldly
support me in my determination to continue to rule in accordance with
the tenets laid down by the four Spirits, are rapidly dying off, one
after the other, by some mysterious disease."

"Phew!  I say, that looks very fishy, doesn't it, Dick?" exclaimed
Grosvenor, when the king had concluded his story.  "Smacks of conspiracy
and secret murder--eh, what?"

"Yes," agreed Dick; "I must confess that it undoubtedly has a look of
that kind of thing about it."  Then, turning to Lobelalatutu, he asked:

"How long is it since the chiefs who support you began to sicken and
die; and how many have already passed along the Dark Path?"

"It is now nearly three moons since 'Mtatu, my most trustworthy chief,
died; and since then five others have travelled along the same Dark
Road," answered the king.  "And now a seventh, 'Nkuni, lies sick in his
hut with the same symptoms as the others.  Three nights and two days has
he thus lain."

"And how long does the sickness usually last?" asked Dick, his
professional instincts being at once aroused.

"They usually die on the seventh day after the sickness declares
itself," answered the king.

"Good!" responded Dick.  "Then your friend is in no immediate danger;
and to-morrow, when we present ourselves before you with our gifts, I
will see him, and it may be that I shall be able to save his life.  Have
you aught further to tell us?"

"No," answered the king.  "I have now told all.  But I fear that all
these things portend evil to me, and, perchance, the end of my reign and
life.  It is for this reason that I have visited you to-night in secret;
for I hoped that if a conspiracy is growing up against me you might be
able to name the conpirators to me.  That is all the help I ask," he
finished grimly.

"Yes," answered Dick; "I have no doubt that if we could ascertain the
identity of the conspirators--if any--you could be safely trusted to do
the rest.  Well, we will see what can be done to help you.  Must you
really go?  Well, good night!  Take care of yourself; or, in other
words, _hamba gahli_."

As the tall, dark figure of Lobelalatutu strode away down the slight
slope, upon the summit of which the tent was pitched, and melted into
the shadows, Grosvenor turned to his companion, who had now re-seated
himself, and said:

"It seems to me, friend Dick, that we have arrived upon the scene at the
psychological moment--eh, what?  If our friend Lobelalatutu's suspicions
have any better foundation than his own imagination, it strikes me that
we are on the eve of exciting times.  What say you?"

"I say yes to that, most emphatically," responded Dick.  "For, don't
make any mistake, Phil, the king's imagination is not running away with
him; the death of six chiefs in quick succession, followed by the
serious illness of a seventh, is something more than mere coincidence;
it means conspiracy, followed by ghastly, blood-curdling tragedy--unless
we can contrive by some means to discover the identity of the
conspirators in time.  As for those unfortunate chiefs, I have not the
slightest doubt that they have been removed by poison--some secret and
comparatively slow but deadly poison, and I intend to make it my first
business to discover what that poison is, and its antidote--if I can.
The chances are, however, that I shall fail, for almost all the savage
peoples possess a great deal more knowledge of drugs, and especially of
poisons, than we civilised folk are aware of, or are inclined to credit
them with; and if poison is really being employed, it will almost
certainly be something of which I have no knowledge.  Still, we shall
see.  And you may be sure that I shall use my very best efforts to
succeed, and also to discover the details of the conspiracy which
Lobelalatutu suspects; for, should it succeed, we shall find ourselves
in an exceedingly awkward predicament."

"Why--how do you mean?" demanded Grosvenor.

"How do I mean?" repeated Dick.  "Why, in a few words, I mean this, that
so long as Lobelalatutu lives and continues to govern this people we are
reasonably safe.  But if he should happen to be deposed, and murdered,
the new king will most probably sacrifice us both to his fetish as a
sort of thank-offering for his success.  Twig?"

"Of course I do," answered Grosvenor.  "I had never thought of that; but
it seems likely enough, now that you come to mention it.  It appears to
me that our first business must be to straighten out matters, for our
own sakes as well as for that of Lobelalatutu.  Poor chap!  Here is he,
a despot, with absolute power over the life of every one of his
subjects; you would naturally suppose that such a man would have nothing
to fear, wouldn't you?  Yet, like other monarchs, he seems liable at any
moment to become the victim of secret intrigue, and lose his crown and
his life together.  I thought the poor chap looked worried when we
called upon him to-day.  The Bard was right--`Uneasy lies the head that
wears a crown', be the head that of a civilised monarch or a savage."

"True for you, my boy," answered Dick.  "But are you not beginning to
feel tired?  Because, if you are, pray don't stand on ceremony, but turn
in as soon as you like.  As for me, I think I will sit up a bit longer
and see if I cannot think this matter out and find a streak of daylight
somewhere."

"Which, I suppose, is a hint that you don't need my company any longer,"
retorted Grosvenor.  "All right, old chap, pray don't apologise.  I know
I'm a bit of a duffer in such matters as this, so I'll leave you to
thresh it out alone, and turn in for a good night's sleep--eh, what?"

Left to himself, Dick Maitland sat far into the night, considering the
situation unfolded to him by the king; and at length an inspiration came
to him, by following which he thought it possible that he might be able
to clear up the mystery connected with the deaths of Lobelalatutu's most
trusted chiefs, and perhaps discover whether or not there really existed
a conspiracy to overthrow that monarch and restore the barbarous
practices that had made the rule of the last king literally a reign of
terror.  Then he turned into his hammock and slept soundly until Mafuta
aroused him at sunrise with the early cup of chocolate which was the
invariable prelude to the business of the day.

The first thing after breakfast the two friends walked to the wagon,
which was outspanned close at hand, and opened the boxes and bales which
contained the various articles which they had brought with them to serve
as presents and media of barter, and from the contents of these they
selected a liberal assortment of gifts for the king, his wives, and the
most important chiefs in His Majesty's immediate entourage.  These they
handed over to the care of Mafuta, Jantje, and 'Nkuku the voorlouper;
then, directing the trio to follow them, Dick and Grosvenor mounted
their horses and rode at a foot-pace to the king's village.

The distribution of the gifts proved to be a somewhat lengthy function,
for the articles presented included a considerable number of mechanical
toys, the working of each of which had to be carefully explained to the
recipient; but at length it came to an end, to the apparent satisfaction
of everybody concerned, and then Dick said to the king:

"Your Majesty is aware that I am a healer of sickness; is there any
member of your family, or anyone in whom you are interested, lying sick
at the present moment?  Because, if so, I shall be very glad to do what
I can to restore the patient to health."

The king looked doubtfully at Dick for a moment or two, as though not
quite comprehending the drift of the question; then something in the
expression of Maitland's face led to his understanding, and he replied:

"There is no one of my household at present sick, O Healer! but one of
my chiefs--a man named 'Nkuni, who is my friend, lies nigh unto death;
and if you can heal him I shall be grateful to you, for he is very dear
to me.  His sickness is the same as that which has already sent six
other chiefs along the Dark Path; and it is of so strange and deadly a
nature that Sekosini, the head witch doctor, can find no cure for it."

As the king thus spoke Dick was keenly watching the faces of the various
persons present, and he noted with something of a thrill that four or
five of the chiefs seemed to exchange stealthy glances of meaning with
each other, and also, despite their assumption of indifference, to
exhibit signs of inward perturbation.  But it was no part of his policy
to show that he had observed these things; he therefore responded to the
king:

"Ah, it may be that the sickness from which 'Nkuni is suffering is a
sickness new to this country; and if it should prove to be so it is not
surprising that Sekosini is unable to conquer it.  It may be, however,
that it is akin to some of the diseases with which I am acquainted, and
in that case I can save the chief's life.  We will go to his hut and see
him even now, if the king will direct someone to conduct us thither."

Lobelalatutu at once turned to one of the chiefs present, and said:

"Ingona, you are 'Nkuni's friend; take these white men to his hut, that
the Healer may see him, and perchance restore to him his health and
strength."

Two minutes later Dick stood in the hut of 'Nkuni, and saw, lying
stretched upon the pallet before him, a man somewhat past the prime of
life who, when in health, must have been a very fine specimen of
manhood.  Now, however, he was thin and wasted, his skin was cold yet
dry, his pulse was exceedingly feeble and erratic, and he was in a
terribly exhausted condition, having suffered a severe paroxysm of
abdominal pain shortly after swallowing a draught of milk which had been
administered to him by Sekosini's order.  This last fact, together with
several other details respecting the progress of the disease, were
communicated by the man's chief wife, who appeared to be greatly
concerned about him, as was naturally to be expected.

"Where is the vessel from which the milk was drunk?" demanded Dick, when
the woman had told all that she had to tell.

A calabash bowl capable of containing about a quart was produced for his
inspection, and he saw with satisfaction that it had not yet been
washed.  The film of milk still clinging to its interior showed that it
had been about half full when offered to the patient, and about a
teaspoonful of milk still remained in the bowl.  Of this vessel Dick
instantly took possession, handing it over to Grosvenor, with
instructions not to spill a single drop of its contents on any account.
Then he asked if any medicine had been administered in the milk, and was
answered in the affirmative, a very small calabash bottle being shown
which had contained the drug.  Of this also Dick took possession.  Next,
having brought his medicine chest with him, in accordance with the plans
which he had made overnight, the young doctor administered a powerful
emetic, then he locked the chest, slipped the key into his pocket, and,
leaving the chest in the hut to obviate the inconvenience of carrying it
to and fro, he gave certain instructions to the chief's wife, and then
requested Ingona to conduct him to the hut of Sekosini, the chief witch
doctor.

This request appeared to fill Ingona with alarm, which he made no
attempt to conceal.  He informed Dick that Sekosini was a very great man
indeed, second in power and influence only to Lobelalatutu himself; that
it was not his custom to receive visitors unless permission had first
been asked, the request being invariably accompanied by a present; that
evil invariably befell those who were foolhardy enough to offend him;
and that if he--Ingona--might presume to advise, he would strongly
recommend the white man not to go near him, as Sekosini had always
manifested a peculiarly strong aversion to strangers, and especially to
white men since the two visits of the Spirits of the Winds to the Makolo
country.

All this, however, only tended to strengthen certain suspicions which
Dick had already formed; but he did not express them to Ingona; he
blandly explained to that chief that, having been requested by the king
to use his best endeavours to cure 'Nkuni, he wished to see Sekosini and
consult with him, in order that he might learn as many particulars as
possible respecting the ailment from which 'Nkuni was suffering.  This
explanation appeared at least partially to satisfy Ingona, who made no
further attempt to dissuade Dick from his purpose, but, on the contrary,
offered to go forward and prepare Sekosini for the proposed visit.  To
this proposal, since it could scarcely interfere with his plans, Dick
cheerfully assented, whereupon Ingona, pointing out the witch doctor's
hut, which stood a good quarter of a mile apart from all others,
hastened toward it at the long, swinging trot which enables the South
African savage to get over the ground so quickly and which he can
maintain for such an incredible length of time.

Dick, meanwhile, accompanied only by Mafuta to act as interpreter,
sauntered slowly on his way, for the double purpose of arranging
mentally the plan of his impending interview with Sekosini, and giving
Ingona time to say whatever he might wish to say to the witch doctor.

It was about a quarter of an hour later that, as Dick and his henchman
approached the witch doctor's hut, Ingona emerged from it with the
gratifying intimation that he had succeeded in inducing Sekosini
graciously to accord the white man an audience.  Whereupon the white
man, having suitably expressed the satisfaction which was his at so
great an honour, stooped and passed into the hut, preceded by Ingona and
followed by Mafuta, whose original wholesome fear of wizards had by this
time become completely swamped by his belief in the power of his master
to circumvent the most powerful wizard that ever lived.

The hut of Sekosini afforded no indication of the importance of its
owner, for it was of the same size as, and in all other respects similar
to, the other huts of the ordinary natives, that is, as regarded its
external appearance.  Inside, however, there was a very marked
difference; for whereas the ordinary native is content to sleep on the
bare floor, Sekosini was satisfied with nothing less than a bed,
consisting of a quadrangular framework of hardwood supported, at the
height of a foot above the floor, by four stout posts driven firmly into
the ground, the skeleton framework being strapped across and lengthways
by a great number of tightly strained raw-hide thongs upon which were
piled several very valuable karosses, or skin rugs.  Also the interior
of the hut was thickly hung with bunches of dried herbs and other
objects, the precise nature of which Dick was at first unable to
determine in the comparative obscurity of the interior, passing at once,
as he did, from the blazing sunshine of the open direct into an interior
which was unilluminated save by such light as penetrated through the
low, narrow entrance.

For a full minute he stood, mute and motionless, waiting for his eyes to
accustom themselves to the change; then the various objects of the
interior gradually began to reveal themselves to him with increasing
distinctness, and he found himself face to face with a thin, wizened,
shrunken creature of apparently incredible age, without a particle of
hair on head or face, but with a pair of eyes that glowed like
carbuncles within their cavernous sockets.  He was seated cross-legged
upon the floor, was absolutely naked, save for a necklace of snake skin,
and was toying with an enormous green _mamba_--one of the most deadly of
South African snakes--that lay coiled between his legs with its cruel,
vindictive eyes fixed immovably upon the visitor.  Beside Sekosini stood
Ingona, apparently impassive, but his quick, irregular breathing
betrayed the fact that he was labouring under a considerable amount of
excitement.  As for the witch doctor, his face wore a smile of
concentrated malice, as though he anticipated something in the nature of
a conflict with this audacious white _mfana_ and was already exulting in
the prospect of a quick and overwhelming victory.

Suddenly he fixed his eyes intently upon Dick's, and said, in soft,
sibilant tones:

"Well, _'mlungu_, what want ye with Sekosini?"

It was the moment and the opportunity for which Dick had been waiting.
Gazing intently into the eyes of the savage, in the peculiar manner that
he had learned from Humphreys, the young doctor suddenly concentrated
his will upon the effort to bring his foe--for as such he intuitively
recognised Sekosini--under subjugation.  For a moment the strangely
contrasted pair gazed at each other, and then some strange sensation
experienced by the witch doctor seemed to warn him of what was
happening.  But it was too late; Dick had caught him unawares, and so
absolutely instantaneous was the hypnotic method which Humphreys had
taught his pupil that before Sekosini could offer any effective
resistance his will had completely succumbed to Dick's, and he was in
the latter's power.  In response to Dick's unspoken thought he said:

"Ask what you will, and I will answer."

"You hear?" demanded Dick, turning his gaze for a moment upon Ingona.

"I hear," answered Ingona, unsuspectingly meeting Dick's gaze as he
replied, and in that moment he, too, was brought under the young
doctor's influence.  For a few seconds longer Dick kept his unwinking
gaze steadfastly fixed upon the chief, mentally commanding him to forget
everything that he might see and hear during the interview; and then he
again turned his attention to the witch doctor.  He recalled to mind a
declaration of Humphreys' upon which the latter had laid great stress:
"The spoken word, where you can use it, is always more potent than the
unspoken, but whether it is understood or not is really a minor matter;
it is the emphasis, the insistence which is conveyed by speech, added to
the will power employed, that renders the operator absolutely
irresistible."  As it was of the utmost importance that Sekosini should
remain completely under his influence until the whole affair was brought
to an end, he now once more sent his compelling gaze into the unblinking
eyes of the ancient savage, and finally said to him, in English:

"Henceforth, until I release you, your will is mine; you will think and
act only as I direct.  You understand?"

"I understand, and will obey," answered Sekosini.

"Good!" returned Dick.  "Now I command you to tell me the absolute
truth.  Know you anything relative to the sickness from which the chief
'Nkuni is suffering, or the sickness from which 'Mtatu and the other
five chiefs died?"

"Yes," answered Sekosini--and the answer in nowise surprised Dick; "I
know all.  'Nkuni is slowly dying of poison administered by me, the same
poison that sent 'Mtatu and the other five chiefs along the Dark Path.
The destruction of these men is preliminary to the destruction of the
king, of whose method of government I and others disapprove.  I might
have destroyed Lobelalatutu alone; but if the chiefs whom I have
destroyed had been allowed to live it would assuredly have led to
trouble, therefore have I destroyed them first.  When 'Nkuni dies the
chiefs who think as I do will be strong enough to act without fear of
opposition, and we shall be able to destroy Lobelalatutu and restore the
system which prevailed when M'Bongwele reigned, the system by which the
chiefs and the witch doctors were able to acquire much wealth instead of
living, as we do now, in comparative poverty."

"Then," demanded Dick, "do I understand that under Lobelalatutu's rule
you have not a sufficiency to meet all your wants?"

"I have a sufficiency, yes," answered Sekosini; "but I would have much
more than that.  I would have wealth, great wealth, and, above all,
power, the power that the witch doctors wielded in M'Bongwele's time.
True, I have much power even now; but it is as nothing to the power that
was wielded by Mtusa, the chief witch doctor whom the accursed Spirits
of the Winds sent along the Dark Path with M'Bongwele, the king."

"I see," said Dick meditatively.  "And are there any others concerned
with you in this precious scheme of yours to remove Lobelalatutu?"

"Yes," answered Sekosini, "there are Ingona, Lambati, Mapela, Moroosi,
Amakosa, N'Ampata, and Sekukuni, all chiefs."

"Quite a formidable little crowd," mused Dick, as he drew forth his
pocket book to make a few notes.  "Just repeat those names again--
slowly, if you please," he commanded.

Sekosini did so, and Dick noted down the names very carefully, so that
there should be no mistake, for some of the native names are quite
embarrassingly similar in sound.

"Now," resumed Dick, when he had done this, "to return to 'Nkuni.  What
is the poison that you have been administering to him?"

"It is a decoction of the leaves of the plant that hangs immediately
over your head," answered Sekosini.

Dick reached up and touched a thick branch depending from the roof of
the hut.  "This?" he asked.

Sekosini assented, and Dick took down the branch and examined it.  It
seemed quite an ordinary shrub to all appearance.  He handed it over to
Mafuta for safekeeping.

"Next question," said Dick.  "Is there an antidote to this particular
poison?"

"Oh yes!" answered the witch doctor cheerfully; "I never use a poison
that has no antidote, because it is sometimes desirable to alter one's
plans at the last moment."

"Quite so," assented Dick; "and I am going to alter your plans with
regard to 'Nkuni straight away.  Where is your antidote, and how is it
prepared?"

"It is contained in those roots," answered Sekosini, pointing to a
bundle of bulb-like objects also suspended from the roof.  "The method
of preparation is simple.  A root is taken, cleaned from the adhering
soil, and boiled in water until it is soft enough to crush between the
fingers.  Then the liquid is allowed to cool and strained through cloth.
This liquid is of a dark colour, almost black.  To administer it, add
enough water to stain it very pale yellow, and let the patient drink as
he will; the more he drinks the quicker will be his cure."

"Excellent!  I shall easily remember that," murmured Dick.  Then,
addressing the witch doctor, he said:

"That is all I want to know at present.  Now, remain here until I summon
you to the presence of the king.  Mafuta, take these roots, and we will
be going."

Two hours later he had prepared a sufficient quantity of the antidote to
fill an eight-ounce medicine bottle; and as the stuff was exceedingly
strong, he believed that this ought to be nearly, or quite, sufficient
to effect a complete cure.  Armed with this, he made his way to 'Nkuni's
hut, and was gratified to find that the emetic had been productive of
very satisfactory results, the pain being greatly eased, while the
temperature of the body had become almost normal.  He now administered a
good stiff dose of the antidote, and left the bottle containing it in
charge of the patient's wife, giving her the most minute instructions
respecting its administration.  This done, he proceeded to the enclosed
part of the village containing the king's house and its dependencies,
and informed the sentries at the gate of the palisade that he desired to
report personally to the king the state of the chief 'Nkuni, from whose
hut he had just come.  The sentries had already received orders to admit
the white men whenever they should present themselves, and in a few
minutes Dick found himself standing in the presence of Lobelalatutu.



CHAPTER TEN.

DICK'S "MAGIC".

The king was reclining upon a sort of sofa, with two or three of his
wives fanning him to drive away the flies, when The Healer was
announced; but a word caused the women to scuttle off to their own
quarters like frightened rabbits, while Lobelalatutu rose to a sitting
position as Dick entered, followed by Mafuta.

"I see you, O Healer!" exclaimed the king with cordiality, before Dick
could say a word.  "Draw near and sit beside me.  It is said that you
have news of 'Nkuni for me.  Have you seen him?"

"Twice this day have I seen him," answered Dick; "once when I went forth
from your presence this morning, and again but a short time since.  I
came hither directly from his hut."

"And has your skill enabled you to find out what is wrong with him?"
demanded the king.

"It has," answered Dick.  "Your friend 'Nkuni was slowly dying from the
effects of the same poison that slew the others.  But I can save him,
and he shall live, it may be to serve you better than some of those
chiefs who, professing to be loyal to you, are secretly planning your
overthrow and death."

"_Au_!" ejaculated Lobelalatutu; "is it so?  Then my suspicions were not
ill-founded.  But, tell me, how came you to learn this?"

"When I first visited the hut of 'Nkuni this morning, conducted thither
by the chief Ingona, whom you thought to be 'Nkuni's friend," answered
Dick, "I found that Sekosini, the chief witch doctor, had been
administering to the sick man certain medicines with the alleged purpose
of healing him of his sickness.  When I entered his hut 'Nkuni seemed to
be nigh unto death, having endured much pain after swallowing a draught
of milk containing medicine supplied by Sekosini.  The symptoms were
those of poisoning; I, therefore, took possession of the unwashed vessel
which had contained the milk, and also the remainder of the medicine
supplied by Sekosini, with the object of examining both.  I have not yet
done that, for the examination would take time, and 'Nkuni's case seemed
urgent; therefore I went to Sekosini's hut to talk with him about it.
And when at length I stood face to face with the witch doctor I laid my
magic upon him, so that he was perforce obliged to tell me all the truth
of the matter; and he confessed that 'Nkuni's illness was part of a
conspiracy to remove your friends from you, that you might be deposed
and slain, and the iniquitous system of government practised by
M'Bongwele restored."

"_Au_, it is well!" exclaimed the king in a low stern voice; "it is very
well.  The vile, treacherous witch doctor shall be brought hither and
placed before a slow fire until he gives up the names of those who are
conspiring with him, and then--"

"Nay," interrupted Dick, "there is no need; Sekosini has already
voluntarily given me the names of those chiefs who are his partners in
the conspiracy against you.  They are,"--Dick drew out his pocket book
and read--"Ingona, Lambati, Mapela, Moroosi, Amakosa, N'Ampata, and
Sekukuni--nay, do nothing rashly, I pray you, but sit still and hear
what I have to say."  For at the mention of those seven names the king
had sprung to his feet in an access of fury, and seemed about to summon
his guard.  But at Dick's persuasion he seated himself again, though he
was much too excited for the moment to listen to his white visitor,
muttering over to himself the names of the conspirators.

"Ingona--Ingona," he hissed through his clenched teeth, "the man whom I
believed to be the most loyal of all my chiefs, the man who evidently
feigned friendship with 'Nkuni only to betray him to his death!  But I
will make a terrible example of these rebels; they shall die such deaths
that--"

"Stop!" commanded Dick.  "Is this how the Four Spirits who placed you on
the throne of the Makolo taught you to administer justice?"

"Nay," answered the king.  "But this is no ordinary crime; it is as
vile, in intention at least, as that of those who conspired against
Seketulo and restored M'Bongwele.  Those chiefs were not only
responsible for the death of Seketulo, but also for the horrors that
followed; they were--"

"Just so," interrupted Dick; "they were all that and more.  But even
that does not justify you in torturing these men to death.  Destroy
them, by all means, if you will, so that they may never again have the
opportunity to do perhaps irreparable mischief; and let their death be
so ignominious that it shall be a warning to all others; but let it be
humane.  In a word, hang them, even as M'Bongwele and M'Pusa, his chief
witch doctor, were hanged.  That surely ought to suffice for all
practical purposes, should it not?"

"Possibly," assented the king unwillingly.  "The death by hanging and
the disgrace of it are greatly feared, and it may be that--"

"Yes," interrupted Dick soothingly, "of course it will.  Then that is
settled, eh?  Because I want you to understand that unless you
definitely promise me that there shall be no torture I shall be obliged
to withdraw from this business altogether; moreover, I will take my
magic off Sekosini, and then nothing that you can do will make him
confess or incriminate the others.  You know that, don't you?"

"Yes, it is true," admitted the king reluctantly; "Sekosini is very
obstinate; and if he were so minded he would refuse to confess, even
were he staked out on an ant's nest."

"Of course he would," agreed Dick.  "Therefore you see for yourself how
futile anything of that kind would be.  It would only make of him a
martyr, and of you a cruel, revengeful, suspicious brute in the eyes of
your people.  But if he and his fellow conspirators can be brought to
admit their guilt publicly, you at once become the righteous judge, and
score accordingly.  And I can make them confess if they are really
guilty, as Sekosini asserts."

"Then tell me, O Healer! what do you advise?" asked the king.

"This," answered Dick.  "I advise that you summon the whole of your
chiefs to present themselves before you, and when they are assembled,
Sekosini shall be called into your presence and commanded to tell his
version of the story of the conspiracy in the hearing of all the chiefs.
Then, if the chiefs implicated have any excuse to offer, let them offer
it; if they have not, let them be hanged as plotters against the
authority and person of the king."

"It is well said; the advice is good, and shall be followed," exclaimed
the king.  "It shall be done forthwith.  I will send forth a messenger
commanding all chiefs to present themselves before me in the Great
Place, in connection with a matter of import; and when they have
assembled, Sekosini also shall be brought hither."

"There is no need for you to trouble about Sekosini," answered Dick.
"When you require his presence I will bring him to you by the power of
my magic."

About an hour later Lobelalatutu, having summoned his chiefs, sat upon
his throne in the centre of the Great Place before his palace, with Dick
beside him, and his bodyguard of some five hundred warriors, fully
armed, arranged in a wide circle round him.  Then the chiefs began to
arrive, singly, or in twos or threes, until all were present; and as
each arrived he was admitted to the interior of the circle of guards,
where he squatted on his haunches before the king, the entire assemblage
of chiefs, some thirty in number, forming themselves into an arc of a
circle at a distance of about twenty feet from the throne.  When at
length it had been ascertained that every chief except the sick 'Nkuni
was present, the king turned to Dick and said:

"Now, O Healer! by the power of your magic, cause Sekosini, the chief
witch doctor, to come hither, I pray you."

At the king's words there occurred an uneasy movement among the
assembled chiefs, some of whom exchanged quick, furtive glances of
apprehension, which were duly noted by Dick and the king.  The latter
smiled somewhat sardonically and, beckoning the chief of his bodyguard
toward him, murmured certain instructions in his ear.  Meanwhile Dick,
concentrating his thoughts upon Sekosini, mentally commanded him at once
to present himself before the king in the Great Place.  A quarter of an
hour of somewhat painful tension followed, during which no word was
spoken by any one of those who were hemmed in by the circle of armed
guards, and then the chief witch doctor was seen approaching.  He
entered the circle of the guards, through a gap which was opened to give
him passage--and which instantly closed again behind him--did _bonga_
(homage) to the king, and then stood, silent and serene, about midway
between the king and the line of sitting chiefs.  His aspect of perfect
serenity, due to the fact that he was still completely under Dick's
hypnotic influence, seemed to reassure certain of the assembled chiefs,
whose faces had shown signs of anxiety; but the fact that The Healer,
sitting there silent and impassive beside the king, had been able to
summon Sekosini from a distance, and compel his presence, had been duly
noted, and hands were placed over mouths, and low murmurs of "_Au!
'mtagati; 'mkulu 'mtagati_" (a wizard; a great wizard) ran round the
assembly.

The king himself was by no means unimpressed by this evidence of Dick's
wonderful power.  He decided that it was a thing to be remembered; but
it in nowise troubled him, for it was being exercised in his behalf.
He, however, allowed time for the effect to sink into and take good hold
of the minds of the spectators, for he was shrewd enough to recognise
that the possession of such an ally must materially strengthen his own
position; and at length, when he believed that the incident had produced
its full effect, he sprang a new surprise upon his audience by saying,
in a loud voice:

"Stand forth, O Sekosini! and tell us what you know concerning the
sickness of the chief, 'Nkuni, and the deaths of those other six who
have recently travelled along the Dark Path!"

Then, to the unutterable confusion and dismay of his fellow
conspirators, the chief witch doctor, speaking in a loud, clear voice,
proceeded clearly and succinctly to unfold detail after detail of the
plot for the overthrow of the king, and the means whereby it had been
hoped to accomplish it, including the murder of the six chiefs who, it
was believed, were powerful enough to render the scheme abortive.  As
the full, cold-blooded atrocity of the conspiracy became revealed,
murmurs of anger and detestation, low at first, but louder as the story
proceeded, began to run round the line of chiefs, while those who sat
next the parties implicated edged away from them on either side as far
as possible, until they crouched, isolated, crestfallen, and self-
condemned by their guilty countenances, a target for all eyes.  At
length Sekosini's story came to an end, and for a few tense moments a
profound silence ensued.  There was not an individual present who did
not realise the vital importance to the entire nation of the issues that
had been raised by the witch doctor's confession, and the manner in
which those issues would be dealt with by the king.  Disaffection,
secretly fomented and carefully nurtured, had grown so strong that it
now threatened to disintegrate the whole nation, and unless it were
firmly dealt with would probably split up the Makolo into a number of
petty tribes, at enmity with each other, and an easy prey to those other
nations who surrounded them.  Would the king have the courage boldly to
seize the hydra-headed menace and choke the life out of it, or would he
resort to a policy of temporising and concession?  Everybody present
awaited the king's action in breathless suspense, while some were
already grimly counting the number of spears upon which they might
reckon to back them.  But the anxious broodings of the assemblage were
suddenly broken in upon by the voice of the king, who, lifting his head,
cried in a loud voice:

"Ingona, trusted friend and counsellor of the king, induna of the
Makolosi regiment, the very flower and backbone of my army, you have
heard the tale told by Sekosini.  Say now, is that tale false, or is it
true?"

Ingona, a war-scarred veteran of perhaps fifty years of age, tall,
straight as a spear shaft, and of commanding presence, rose to his feet
and answered in a clear, deep voice:

"It is true, O Mighty One! true in every detail."

"It is true," repeated the king, in a tone of deep sorrow; "yes,
unhappily there is no room to doubt it; every word carried conviction of
its truthfulness to my mind.  It is true; and the meaning of that is
that the chiefs of the Makolo are divided into two factions, one of
which would leave the government of the nation in my hands, while the
other would entrust it to--whom?"

"Nay, O Great One! who can say?  We had not agreed as to that," answered
Ingona.

"Then--after my death--how was the matter to have been decided?"
demanded the king.

"Who can say?" again answered Ingona.  "We should probably have fought
it out, and the victor would have seized the throne."

"And ye would have set the Makolo at each other's throats for--what?"
demanded Lobelalatutu.

"Truly, I know not," answered Ingona, "unless it were to satisfy the
ambition of Sekosini.  He has already confessed that he was the
originator of the conspiracy, and therein he spoke no more than the
truth.  He is guileful as a snake; he has the gift of persuasive speech,
and knowing that some of us were chafing under prolonged inaction, he
used his cunning and the power of his tongue to stir our discontent into
indignation, and finally into hatred and a fierce determination to
effect a change.  By the power of his magic he turned our hearts from
thee, O Great One! and made us long, even as he did, for a return of
such days as those when M'Bongwele reigned, when we were ever at war,
when our young men became warriors instead of husbandmen, and when we
enriched ourselves with the spoils of the vanquished.  It was a dazzling
dream that he brought before our eyes, and for a time it blinded me to
the evils that lay behind it, and it is only now, when it is too late,
that I perceive that evil, and understand that Sekosini befooled and
bewitched me to the end that he might be raised to such power as M'Pusa
enjoyed during the reign of M'Bongwele, when he and not M'Bongwele
actually ruled the Makolo people.  It is enough; I have said!"

"Take him away to his hut; set a guard over him; and see that he escape
not," ordered the king.  "If he be not forthcoming when wanted, the
officer and guard who have him in charge shall be crucified.  Lambati,
you too are implicated in this conspiracy.  Have you aught to say in
your defence?"

"Nay, O Great One!" answered Lambati; "I could but repeat the words of
Ingona; and what would that avail me?  Nothing!  I, too, have said!"

"Let him also be taken away, and watched as carefully as Ingona,"
ordered the king.  "Mapela, have you aught to say in justification of
your conspiracy against me?"

"Ay, that have I," answered Mapela, springing to his feet and speaking
in a defiant tone of voice.  "My justification, O Lobelalatutu! is that
under your governance the Makolo, formerly the most powerful and warlike
nation in the world, is fast becoming a nation of women, and the
contempt and laughing-stock of our neighbours.  Soon shall we forget the
art of war, our young men will sicken at the sight and smell of blood,
and we shall become the prey of the first nation that dares attack us.
Are not these sufficient reasons for our desire to see thee removed, and
a man placed upon the throne in thy stead?"

A low murmur, whether of approval or the reverse it was difficult to
say, ran round the line of assembled chiefs at this defiant speech from
the mouth of one of the most powerful chiefs of the nation, but it
subsided again instantly.

"Have you aught further to say, O Mapela?" demanded the king.

"Nay," answered Mapela, still in the same defiant tone of voice.  "What
I have already said should surely be sufficient."

"It is," answered the king dryly, as he signed the guards to remove the
rebel.  "Is there anyone present who thinks and feels as does Mapela?"

"Yea!" answered two of the implicated chiefs, named respectively Amakosa
and N'Ampata, as they simultaneously sprang to their feet.

"And have you, Amakosa, anything to add to, or take from, what Mapela
has said?" demanded the king.

"Nothing!" briefly answered Amakosa.

"Or you, N'Ampata?" pressed the king.

"Only this, O Great One! that I think it would have been better had we
approached thee and opened our minds to thee before conspiring against
thee.  But the plan was Sekosini's, and he would listen to no such
proposal; while I, who had been sworn to secrecy, dared not break my
oath," answered N'Ampata.

"Why not?" demanded Lobelalatutu.  "When I was placed upon the throne,
did not you, N'Ampata, with all the other chiefs, swear allegiance and
loyalty to me?  Yet you have dared to break that oath.  Why, then,
should you not dare to break your oath to Sekosini?  Was he greater than
I, or his power more than mine?"

"He persuaded me that it was; and also that, since in the opinion of
many you were misgoverning the nation, I should be justified in breaking
my oath of allegiance," was the answer.

"Take them away!" commanded the king.  And when they had gone he called
upon the two remaining chiefs, Moroosi and Sekukuni, to justify
themselves, if they could.

"I have naught to say, O Great One!" answered Moroosi, "save that, as it
was with Ingona so was it with me."

"And you, Sekukuni?" demanded the king.

"I also am the victim of Sekosini's wiles and his serpent tongue,"
answered the chief.  "I should never have joined the conspiracy had he
not led me secretly to believe that when thou wert gone I should be made
king in thy stead.  And the prospect dazzled me, for I believed that I
could govern better than thou."

Again the king waved his hand, and the last two of the conspirators were
led away, amid an intense, breathless, almost ominous silence.  For a
few minutes Lobelalatutu sat, with his chin resting upon his chest,
apparently reviewing the situation; then, lifting his head, he spoke.

"Chiefs of the Makolo," he said, "ye have to-day heard how Sekosini, the
chief witch doctor, and seven of the most powerful and influential among
you secretly plotted together to destroy me, and, by so doing, to set
you at each other's throats like wolves fighting over a carcass, and ye
have also heard what means were adopted to render the plot successful;
how six of your number were sent along the Dark Path by the witchcraft
of Sekosini, and how another would have taken the same journey but for
the superior witchcraft of him who sits here at my side.  It was his
power that compelled Sekosini to come hither to-day and tell the truth;
and it is to his power that 'Nkuni will owe his life, for the Healer has
promised to save him and make him whole again.  Think ye that it was
mere chance that brought the Healer and his friend the Mighty Hunter
into the land of the Makolo at the moment when, but for them, Sekosini's
plot must have been crowned with success?  I tell you, nay; it is
because it has been ordained that I, whom the Four Spirits of the Winds
set upon the throne, should continue to rule over you!  It is useless to
plot against me, who am under the protection of the Spirits; for, as ye
have seen, it can but lead to the detection and overthrow of the
plotters.  Yet the eight who have to-day confessed their guilt before
you are not all equally guilty, and therefore their punishment shall not
be equally severe.  Had such a thing as this happened in the days of
M'Bongwele they had all died lingering and painful deaths; but I have
been taught to temper justice with mercy; therefore, while all must be
punished for conspiring against me, their lawful king, their punishment
shall be in strict proportion to their guilt.  And this is a matter that
requires careful consideration; for while, on the one hand, I am
determined that the punishment shall not be too severe, I am equally
determined that it shall not be weakly lenient.  Go, therefore, now; and
to-morrow I will summon you again to hear sentence pronounced upon the
guilty ones.  You are dismissed."

Five minutes later the Great Place was empty, Dick having followed the
king, by the invitation of the latter, into his house.  For several
minutes Lobelalatutu remained sunk in a profound reverie, evidently
pondering upon some question of exceeding difficulty; at length,
however, he raised his head and said:

"I give you hearty thanks, O Healer, for the help which you have
afforded me in the discovery of those who are concerned in the
conspiracy that has this day been revealed.  I have for some time
suspected that something of the kind existed, but I dreamed not that it
was so serious, or that so many of my chiefs were involved in it; nor
could I devise a means by which to discover the truth.  It is your
wisdom, O Healer, that found a way; and now I again desire the help of
that wisdom to enable me to apportion to each offender a punishment
proportionate to his crime.  You heard what each culprit had to say in
his defence, and I doubt not that you saw, as I did, that all were not
equally guilty.  I am not troubled about Sekosini, Mapela, and Amakosa;
their guilt is indisputable, and they die the death; if they were
permitted to live they would but plot against me again.  N'Ampata also
is a dangerous man; he, too, is opposed to my system of government, and
is not to be trusted; it were better that he should die, than that he
should live and perchance stir up another conspiracy against me, to be
suppressed only at the cost of many more lives.  A chief is not like
ordinary men; he wields power, influence, authority; as he thinks, so do
his followers; and if he were to call his people to arms against even
me, they would obey him, and the country would thus be involved in a
civil war, resulting in much slaughter.  For the sake of my people I
must prevent this; and the only way to do this is to remove the
disaffected.  Is not this the truth, O Healer?"

"Undoubtedly," answered Dick.  "It is better that a few should die than
many; and those who foment rebellion, stir up strife, and incite to acts
of violence and murder are even more guilty than the misguided
individuals who listen to them and act upon their suggestions."

The king nodded his agreement with this expression of opinion.

"Therefore," said he, "in order to prevent the stirring up of strife and
the incitement to bloodshed, Sekosini, Mapela, Amakosa, and N'Ampata
must die.  But as to the others I am not so sure.  They have conspired
against me, it is true; they consented to the slaying of seven of my
most trusted chiefs and counsellors; and they would have brought anarchy
upon the people; therefore must they also be punished.  Yet Ingona,
Lambati, Moroosi, and Sekukuni have all been my friends; they have aided
me with valuable counsel when I have been confronted with problems of
great difficulty and danger; and never until now have they shown the
least sign of disloyalty.  They are valuable servants whom it would be
most difficult if not altogether impossible to replace; and, above all,
I feel almost certain that in their hearts they are not disloyal, but
that, as Ingona said, they have been bewitched and led astray by the
craft of Sekosini.  I think that, the head Witch Doctor and his evil
influence removed, they would henceforward be, as they were aforetime,
true, loyal subjects; and I would not destroy them if they may otherwise
be safely dealt with.  What does your wisdom advise in their case, O
Healer?"

It was a very difficult and delicate question upon which to advise, and
Dick never, perhaps, felt more heavily handicapped by his youth and
inexperience than he did at that moment; yet it was evident that this
savage king, himself at a loss how to deal with the problem, was
practically leaving the decision as to the fate of those four men in his
hands, and that, whatever his advice might be, it would be followed.
For several minutes he anxiously pondered upon the situation, and then
light and inspiration suddenly came to him.  Why should he not again
employ his marvellous hypnotic powers to solve the problem?  He had
already done so with perfect success in the case of Sekosini; why not in
that of these others?  He could place them under his influence and then
compel them to disclose the innermost secrets of their hearts, thus
determining beyond a doubt exactly how deep their feeling of disloyalty
went and whether it went too deep to be capable of being uprooted and
replaced by one of absolute fidelity in the future.  This point
determined, he would be able to advise with absolute confidence, or,
better still, enable the king to decide for himself.  Yes, that was
undoubtedly the best thing to be done, and he turned to Lobelalatutu
with a sigh of relief.

"Listen, O Great One!" he said.  "You ask for my advice, and now I am
ready to give it.  Let the four chiefs, Ingona, Lambati, Moroosi, and
Sekukuni, be brought hither in charge of the guards which you have
placed over them; then will I lay my magic upon them so that they shall
speak only the plain, simple truth, even as Sekosini spoke it just now
to his own condemnation; and thus shall ye be able to judge exactly how
far each man may be trusted in the future.  Is my advice good and
acceptable?"

"It is very good, and we will act upon it forthwith," answered
Lobelalatutu; and, clapping his hands to summon a messenger, he gave
instructions that the four chiefs should be at once brought into his
presence.  A few minutes later they stood before him, each in charge of
two fully armed guards; and Dick, after allowing them to stand for a
full minute in the oppressive silence that prevailed, in order that
their minds might be suitably attuned to the ordeal which they were to
undergo, suddenly rose to his feet, and, walking up to each man, gazed
steadfastly at him in the peculiar manner which he had already found so
marvellously effective, and at once brought him under hypnotic control.
Then, retiring to the seat which he had just quitted, he powerfully
willed that each man should reply with absolute truth and candour to all
questions asked him, concealing nothing, and laying bare the inmost
secrets of his heart.  As he thus concentrated his will upon theirs he
watched each man narrowly, and presently, seeing that they were all
absolutely under his control, he raised his hand, and said, in a low,
impressive voice:

"Listen, O Ingona, Lambati, Moroosi, and Sekukuni!  Lobelatatutu, the
king, the Great One, is about to question you further concerning the
conspiracy in which ye have been engaged with Sekosini, and it is my
will that ye shall answer his every question truthfully and without
reservation or concealment of any kind.  Ye hear?"

"We hear, O Healer, and we will obey," answered the four, as with one
voice.

"It is well," said Dick.  "Now, O Great One! proceed with your
questions, and be assured that ye shall learn the whole truth."

"Listen, O Ingona," said the king.  "A while ago ye attempted to explain
to me why ye had joined this conspiracy fomented by Sekosini.  Is there
aught more that ye would say in extenuation of your crime?"

"Nothing, O Great One," answered Ingona sadly.  "Our crime is too rank
to admit of extenuation.  It is true that there are those among us who
think that even peace may be bought at too high a price, if that price
includes the forgetting by our warriors of the art of war, and the
impossibility of training our young men to fight.  Never since the death
of M'Bongwele have we been allowed to wash our spears in the blood of
our enemies; and, in the opinion of many, those enemies are consequently
growing overbold and insolent.  But who are we that we should presume to
judge the king's actions, or to say to him: `Ye shall do this,' or `Ye
shall not do that'?  To do so is a crime; and the king who tamely
suffers it is too weak to govern so powerful a nation as the Makolo.
Yet I committed that crime; and now, when it is too late, when that has
been done which may never be undone, my greatest shame and grief are
that I was ever weak enough to open my ears to the beguilings of that
serpent Sekosini, that I ever permitted him to turn my eyes from the
straight path and hide from them, until too late, the dreadful
consequences that must have ensued had Sekosini's plot succeeded."

"Tis pity that ye saw not all this in time, Ingona," said the king
reproachfully.  "Tell me, now--If this conspiracy had ripened to
fruition, would you, O Ingona, have taken the field and led your
warriors against me?"

"Nay," answered Ingona, "that would I not.  The time was when, blinded
and misled by Sekosini's plausible arguments and misrepresentations, I
might have done so.  But that time is past; even before the arrival of
the Healer I had begun dimly to foresee the evil that must come to the
nation through the plot; and it was in my mind to take steps for its
frustration, but he forestalled me."

"And you, Lambati?" demanded the king.

"Nay, O Great One," answered the chief.  "That I conspired against you,
and joined your enemies, is true; but I know now that my madness was but
momentary, and that, had the time come, I should have arrayed myself on
your side, and against your enemies."

"And you, Moroosi?" questioned the king.

"As I answered you a while ago, O Great One, as it was with Ingona, so
was it and is it with me.  I have no gift of fluent speech, but I pray
you to recall what he said, and to believe that I agree with every word,
and would fain say them all again."

"And you, Sekukuni?" reiterated Lobelalatutu.

"I spoke falsely, O King, when I said that I was the victim of
Sekosini's wiles," answered Sekukuni.  "I think as he thinks, and
answered as I did only in the hope that my punishment might be
mitigated.  But I tell you, Lobelalatutu, that if yonder white man had
not interfered and saved you by his magic, I would have fought against
you, even to the last man; for I was to have been king in your stead;
and I know that under my rule the Makolo nation would have recovered all
its lost greatness."

The king for a moment looked astounded at this bold and defiant speech,
for he had hitherto regarded Sekukuni as one of his most trustworthy
chiefs; but he quickly recovered from his astonishment, and signed the
guards to lead away their prisoners.



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

THE PLACE OF RED STONES.

The day was well advanced when at length Dick Maitland, weary and
hungry, returned to his tent, where he found Grosvenor indulging in a
bath and a change of clothing after a preliminary exploration of the
ruins.  "You seemed to be engaged busily upon affairs of state, and not
likely to need me, so I trotted off to take a general look round," he
explained.

"Well," demanded Dick, "and what do you think of them?"

"Awfully interesting!" answered Grosvenor.  "Wonderful people they must
have been who were responsible for the building of the city.  People of
refinement, don't you know; fond of luxury, intensely artistic, and all
that sort of thing.  Some of the carvings--floreated capitals and, and
what-d'ye-call-ems of that sort--are really splendid.  And everything's
on such a grand scale, too; must have been immensely wealthy--those old
johnnies.  I'm only sorry now that I'm not an archaeologist; for if I
were I might write a book about the place and become famous.  But no,
that wouldn't do either, for Professor von Schalckenberg has already
done that, so my book would only be a drug on the market.  But I've
taken some rattlin' good photographs of the place, and I ought to be
able to do something with them later on--eh, what?"

"Yes," said Dick, "I dare say you will--if they come out right.  Have
you developed them yet?"

"No, not yet," answered Grosvenor.  "Waiting until it gets dark before I
attempt anything of that sort.  But I know that they'll come out all
right.  Good light, correct exposure, isochromatic screen and films;
bound to come out right, y'know.  Found the place where the Professor
and his pals had been digging.  Must have done a lot of work, those
johnnies; no end of soil turned over where they dug for pavements and--
and--things.  And, pray, what have you been about all day, old chap?"

Dick told him, pretty well _in extenso_, how he had passed the day, even
going so far as to describe his hypnotic experiments--of which he had
said nothing to Grosvenor thus far--with the result that the Mighty
Hunter was rendered almost speechless with astonishment.

"Hypnotised 'em, eh?" he ejaculated.  "Well, I'll be shot!  Thought
hypnotism was all humbug and tommy rot, y'know.  Collusion, and that
sort of thing."

"Yes," agreed Dick, "there is no doubt that much of it is.  But,
nevertheless, hypnotism is a perfectly genuine science, and a
tremendously powerful agent for good, if properly used.  There is the
well-known institution at Nancy, for instance, where several almost
miraculous cures have been effected solely by the employment of
hypnotism.  Oh yes, hypnotism is genuine enough, make no mistake about
that; and the hypnotic practitioner can do many wonderful things by its
employment.  For instance, do you suppose that old villain, Sekosini,
would have revealed all the details of his precious plot to-day had I
not hypnotised him?"

"No, I don't suppose he would," acknowledged Grosvenor.  "But--er--I
say, old chap, I'm just wondering whether it was quite playing the
game--doin' the square thing by the wizard and the other johnnies to
make them give themselves away under the influence of hypnotism--eh,
what?"

"Ah, now," said Dick, "you raise a question of an exceedingly
controversial character.  I admit, of course, that at the first blush,
and regarding the matter superficially--if I may say so--it certainly
would seem that I had taken an unfair advantage of those fellows by
compelling them to speak the truth, and so `give themselves away', as
you expressively put it.  Yet why, I ask you, should they not be made to
do so?  Are evildoers to be permitted to shelter themselves from the
consequences of their misdeeds behind a protective screen of lies?  Is
right to be handicapped in its battle with wrong by what, after all,
seems to me an overstrained if not altogether false sense of justice?
There can be little doubt that skilful criminals have escaped the just
punishment of their crimes simply because they have refused to
incriminate themselves.  This, of course, is all right from the
criminars point of view; but is it right from the point of view of the
community, who look to the law to protect them from him?  My own view--
which I give for whatever it may be worth--is that the criminal has no
right to be protected from himself.  It is the interests of the
community and not of the criminal that have to be considered.  If by
speaking the truth he furthers the ends of justice he ought to be
allowed to do so, ay, or even compelled, where compulsion is possible,
as in the case of these conspirators.  Here we have certain men who, for
their own selfish ends, deliberately planned to plunge this Makolo
nation into all the horrors of civil war, and deluge it with the blood
of its own people; also, in pursuance of their plans they foully and
treacherously took the lives of six of the most important chiefs and
endangered that of a seventh.  Were they `playing the game', or, in
other words, were they acting openly and above-board?  On the contrary,
their acts were wrapped in secrecy, and were characterised by the vilest
treachery; and they would have been successful but for my intervention.
For it is certain that the facts could never have been brought to light,
had I not compelled Sekosini to speak the truth.  That being the case,
how could their nefarious scheme have been defeated by our side playing
the game, if by `playing the game' you mean that we were not to compel,
or even permit them to incriminate themselves?  To me it seems to
resolve itself into this--that if one side insists on playing the game
while the other side refuses to do so, the first must always suffer
defeat while the other triumphs; and where the side which insists on
playing the game represents right and justice, law and order, and the
other side represents evil and criminality, the result must be the
triumph of the lawless over the lawabiding, which, as Euclid observes,
is absurd.  Q.E.D."

"Yes," agreed Grosvenor, "I suppose you are right, Dick.  Put as you put
it, it certainly does seem an absurd and fantastic distortion of our
sense of fairness that in the ceaseless struggle between good and evil
the latter should be helped and the former handicapped as much as
possible; and at all events in the present case I think you have
successfully demonstrated your right to act as you did.  Now, having
settled that point, I propose that we have dinner, which seems to be
ready, if one may judge by the looks and actions of Ramoo Samee."

------------------------------------------------------------------------

The sun had barely risen on the following morning when Dick and
Grosvenor received an invitation from the king to present themselves
forthwith in the Great Place, where the conspirators were to be brought
up for judgment to be pronounced upon them; and as such an invitation
was tantamount to a command they hastily finished the breakfast upon
which they were engaged when the message reached them, ordered their
horses, and rode away toward the appointed spot.

Upon their arrival they found the chiefs who had been summoned, like
themselves, to hear sentence pronounced, already assembling, while the
king's bodyguard, motionless as statues, were ranged in a semicircle
round the throne that had been placed in position for the accommodation
of the king.  A stool stood on either side of the throne, and upon their
arrival Dick and Grosvenor were at once conducted to these.  Almost
immediately afterward the king made his appearance, and approaching the
throne seated himself thereon, while those present accorded him the
royal salute, Dick and Grosvenor standing and saluting in military
fashion.  Then, at a sign from His Majesty, all who were entitled to sit
did so, and the order was given to lead forward the prisoners.

Conducted by their guards, the eight prisoners, their faces set and
expressionless as masks, ranged themselves in line before the king;
then, for a full minute, there ensued a profound and impressive silence,
which was at length broken by Lobelalatutu, who commanded, in a calm,
stern voice:

"Sekosini, chief Witch Doctor, and you Mapela, Amakosa, N'Ampata, and
Sekukuni, chiefs of the Makolo, stand forward and listen to your doom.
Out of your own mouths have ye been convicted of conspiracy against me
and the peace of the nation.  You, Sekosini, Mapela, N'Ampata, and
Amakosa, yesterday boldly and defiantly acknowledged your guilt, and had
nothing to plead in extenuation of it; but you, Sekukuni, in addition to
being a conspirator, have proved yourself liar [and] coward; for at your
public trial, in the presence of those now assembled, you declared
yourself to be, like Ingona, Lambati, and Moroosi, the victim of
Sekosini's wiles and serpent tongue; whereas afterward, when you were
brought before me privately, and compelled by the Healer's magic to
speak the truth, you acknowledged that your former statement was false,
made only in the hope of mitigation of your punishment, and that in your
foul, guilty heart you thought as Sekosini, and would have fought
against me to your last man in the attempt to overthrow and destroy me.
To satisfy your unlawful ambition and greed of gain, you five men, all
holding positions of high authority and trust, would have set callously
tribe against tribe, regiment against regiment, and man against man,
until the people had fallen and strewed the ground like leaves of autumn
and the land was drenched in their blood.  It is enough; you are a
menace and danger to the nation, and you must die.  In the old days of
the reign of M'Bongwele--those days which you were so anxious to
restore--your dying would have been a lingering, long-drawn-out,
excruciating torment; but under the teaching of those who put me on this
throne I have learned to be merciful, and my sentence is that you be led
forth and hanged by the neck from the bough of the tree that ended
M'Bongwele's cruel and iniquitous life, and there left as an example and
a warning to all who think such evil thoughts as yours.  Bind them and
take them away."

In an instant the guards who had charge of the doomed men seized them,
and proceeded to bind their hands behind them with thongs of hide, prior
to leading them away to the place of execution.  With one exception they
submitted silently and without protest; Sekosini, however, the Witch
Doctor, seemed determined not to go without firing a Parthian shot, for,
fixing his eyes on Dick, he shouted in a high, piercing voice:

"Listen, O _'mlungu_!  It is through you and your accursed magic that I
go forth this day to die the death of shame and ignominy; for, but for
you, we should have kept our secret, our plans would have succeeded, and
ours would have been the triumph.  But though your magic triumphs now,
it shall not always be so.  I too have a potent magic, by means of which
mine eyes can pierce the veil of the future and see many things that are
to be.  I see you and the other _'mlungu_ going hence through many
dangers to a far country, where other dangers await you; and, mark you
this, though both go, only one of you shall return!  It is enough; I
have said, and I am ready."

So heavily charged with bitter hate and malignity were the tones of the
witch doctors voice and the expression of his burning eyes that, despite
his sober common sense, Dick could scarcely repress a shudder at the
veiled threat conveyed by the man's parting words; but his attention was
quickly diverted by the voice of the king commanding Ingona, Lambati,
and Moroosi to listen to him while he announced his decision concerning
them.

"Attend to my words, O chiefs of the Makolo nation!" said Lobelalatutu,
raising his voice so that all present might distinctly hear.  "Ye were
present yesterday when I summoned the eight conspirators before me to
defend themselves; and ye heard Ingona, Lambati, Moroosi, and Sekukuni
declare that there was no treason in their hearts, but that they had
been bewitched and led astray by Sekosini.  I was inclined to believe
them, as doubtless ye all were, and it grieved me that I should be
obliged to condemn to death those who had served me well in the past,
and might perchance, if they spoke the truth, serve me well again in the
future.  Yet how was I to know that their words were in very deed the
truth?  I was perplexed and troubled, and in my perplexity I sought
counsel from my friend the Healer.  And the counsel that he gave me was
good.  He said: `Behold now, O Great One, thou shalt summon those men
again before thee, and by the power of my magic I will cause them to
speak the very truth to thee; thou shalt read the inmost secrets of
their hearts, and thus shalt thou gauge the exact measure of their guilt
in this matter.'  And as the Healer spoke, so was it; the three who
stand before us had indeed been beguiled and led astray for a time from
their fidelity by the wiles of Sekosini, but there was no treachery in
their hearts; and they confessed that, had the conspiracy ripened, they
would have arrayed themselves on my side, while Sekukuni confessed that
he was indeed guilty of all that he had been charged with.  Therefore,
although they have sinned in conspiring against me, and must
consequently be punished, yet their punishment shall not be death.  My
sentence upon you, O Ingona, Lambati, and Moroosi! is that ye be
banished hence to the farthest confines of my kingdom, and be stationed
at those points where the neighbouring nations are most aggressive.
There ye shall be placed in command of the troops who guard the land;
there ye shall find ample outlet for your warlike propensities; and
there, if ye will, ye may atone for your fault by rendering me as good
service in the future as ye have rendered in the past.  I have said!"

As the last words passed the king's lips a shout of irrepressible
triumph and rejoicing went up from those present; for the three chiefs
most intimately concerned had many friends, and were regarded by all
with esteem and respect almost amounting to veneration.  There is little
doubt, therefore, that the king's clemency in punishing their crime by
banishment to points where their duties would not only be arduous, but
also honourable, did much to strengthen his position and increase his
popularity.

For several days following the conspiracy trial nothing of moment
happened; the excitement which had been aroused by the somewhat
sensational discovery of the plot and its sequel gradually subsided,
until at length everybody was once more going about his business as
calmly and quietly as though nothing abnormal had ever happened.
Meanwhile Dick and Grosvenor diligently applied themselves to a
systematic exploration of the ruins and the taking of many photographs;
they were both highly skilled amateur photographers, and were also
endowed with a considerable amount of artistic taste.  Moreover,
Grosvenor had devoted a considerable amount of time to the perfecting of
himself in the science of photography in natural colours, and had
provided himself with all the requisite apparatus needed.  Consequently,
by the time that they had completed their labours, they found themselves
possessors not only of a large number of negatives of the highest value
from the archaeologist's point of view, but also of several exquisitely
beautiful pictures in natural colours of the ruins as seen under various
atmospheric effects, such as early morning, sunrise, and sunset, the
latter being exceptionally fine because of the gorgeous hues of the
sunsets which were characteristic of the place.

It was about a week after the trial of the conspirators, and the
execution of the sentences passed upon them, that King Lobelalatutu sent
for them both, and tendered his hearty thanks for the important service
which Dick had rendered him in unravelling the details of the plot and
bringing the plotters to trial, as well as for saving the life of the
chief, 'Nkuni, who, under the Healer's sedulous ministrations, was
already up and about again.  The king took some pains to make it
perfectly clear that his gratitude was both deep and absolutely sincere,
even going to the length of proposing that they should take up their
permanent residence in the country, and promising that if they would do
so he would make them chiefs.  The offer was made in perfect good faith,
and had of course to be treated with the utmost--apparent--seriousness;
but Dick explained that, highly as they both appreciated His Majesty's
generosity, it was impossible for them to avail themselves of it for the
simple reason that they had long ago made other arrangements to which
they must adhere.

"Then," said the king, "if ye will not remain with me and help me by
your wisdom to govern this great people, say now in what way I may
reward you for the great service that ye have done me."

"There is a way," answered Dick.  "Ye may remember, O Great One, that on
the day when we first came to you I said that I was a seeker of gold and
the stones that glitter and shine, even such stones as those that shine
red in the necklace which you wear; and you said that maybe you could
help me in my search.  If you will cause to be shown us the place where
such stones are to be found, and will give us leave to take as many as
we may desire, it will be reward enough."

"Surely if that will content ye it is easily done," answered the king.
"I will give orders that men shall go to the place and dig up as many of
the stones as ye desire, and ye shall take them away with you whither ye
will.  But that is a small thing, and it pleases me not that ye shall
take so little; therefore, since your journey hence is to be a far one,
I will give you out of mine own herd forty picked oxen, young and
strong, to draw your wagon and to make good such loss as may happen
through sickness or the attack of savage beasts; and I will also give
orders that so long as your way lies within my borders ye shall be
supplied with all that ye may require.  Is it enough?"

"It is enough, O King, and we thank you," answered Dick.  "And now,
behold, our work here is done; give us therefore a guide to the place of
red stones, and send the diggers after us that we may be gone, for, as
you have said, our journey is long, and we must hasten."

"It shall be even as ye have said," agreed the king.  "When desire ye to
leave me?"

"As soon as ye shall be able to provide us with a guide," answered Dick.

"Then that is even now," answered Lobelalatutu.  "I grieve that ye are
leaving me; but since I cannot persuade you to stay, I say: `Go in
peace, and may the Spirits watch over you that your journey be
prosperous.  The Place of Red Stones is distant one day's ox trek from
here, therefore send forward your wagon at once with the guide whom I
will give you, and ye shall follow on your horses.  I know not whether
we shall meet again, O Healer of Sickness and Mighty Hunter! but if ye
return, the whole Makolo nation shall give you welcome.  Farewell!'"

An hour later Dick and Grosvenor, having dispatched the wagon on ahead,
and then gone round to bid farewell to the various chiefs, swung
themselves into the saddle and, turning their backs regretfully upon the
village and the ruins of Ophir, cantered off upon two magnificent horses
which the king had, at the last moment, added to his gift of oxen.  The
animals were superb specimens of their kind, jet black without a white
hair upon them, standing about fifteen-two in height, perfectly shaped,
with fine, clean, sinewy legs not too long, splendid shoulders and
haunches, skins like satin, perfect in temper, courageous as lions,
speedy, easy-paced.  They jumped like cats, and were tough as whipcord,
as they found to their great satisfaction before many days were past;
they were, in fact, perfect specimens of the exceptionally fine breed of
horses peculiar to the Makolo country.  Mounted on these magnificent
animals, which seemed to carry them absolutely without effort, although
neither of them was a light weight, the two riders soon overtook the
slow-moving wagon, and then, carefully noting the instructions of the
guide who was piloting the vehicle, passed on toward the sea that
gleamed softly in the extreme distance.

A quiet, steady canter of some three hours' duration, which left their
new mounts apparently as fresh as they had been at the start, brought
the horsemen out upon a long stretch of sandy beach upon which the swell
of the Indian Ocean broke in long lines of diamond spray, with a never-
ceasing roar of deep-toned thunder; and, with a sigh of relief at the
grateful coolness of the sea breeze after the stifling heat of the plain
which they had just crossed, they gladly swung themselves out of the
saddle and, passing their arms through their bridles, proceeded to look
about them.

The beach upon which they found themselves was a very ordinary,
unpicturesque-looking stretch of brown sand running practically
straight, and also practically north and south, as far as the eye could
see in both directions.  It averaged about one hundred and twenty yards
in width, was very flat, and on its landward side was bounded by a bank
of red earth ranging from ten to about fifty feet in height, cut into
here and there by "dongas", through one of which they had descended from
the plain to the level of the sand.  The ordinary high-water mark seemed
nowhere to reach within less than thirty yards of the toe of the bank,
but there were indications--in the shape of little patches of dry and
crumbling seaweed and other ocean debris--that in stormy weather the
breakers occasionally reached to the foot of the bank and in some places
actually undermined it.  At a distance of about half a mile to seaward a
long line of white water betrayed the position of a reef.

"Um!" exclaimed Grosvenor, after he had allowed his gaze to travel over
the prospect for several minutes; "this is a pretty desolate-looking
spot, and no mistake; not at all the sort of place where you would
expect to find precious stones, is it?"

"Why not?" retorted Dick, laughingly.  "Gems are sometimes found in the
most unlikely looking places.  I did not expect the landscape to be
distinguished by any unusual characteristics; did you?"

"'Pon my word I don't know," replied Grosvenor; "but somehow I expected
it to look very different from this.  After all, however, what does the
beauty or otherwise of the landscape matter, so long as the rubies are
really here?  And I suppose they are here, somewhere, eh?  We haven't
made a mistake and come out at the wrong spot, do you think?"

"Well," admitted Dick, "we may not have hit the precise spot perhaps,
but I think we cannot be more than half a mile from it.  Perhaps the
quickest way of finding it will be to search for it.  Now, just let me
think for a moment.  Those _Flying-Fish_ people started by searching the
beach.  The Professor, possessing superior knowledge to the others,
searched the face of the cliff; and finally, when the precise locality
of the mine had been discovered, they went to work with pickaxe and
shovel and dug their way down to the level of the `pocket'.  I think our
best plan would be to search for that hole, which must still be
conspicuous enough to admit of identification.  Let us return, by way of
the donga, to the top of the cliff, and, starting from there, ride along
close to the cliff edge, you taking one direction and I the other.  We
ought to come across it within half a mile, or a mile at most."

"Right you are, old chappie, come along," answered Grosvenor, preparing
to mount.  As, however, he placed his left foot in the stirrup, and was
about to spring into the saddle, Dick checked him.

"Hold on a moment, Phil," he exclaimed, his eyes intently searching a
certain part of the cliff about a quarter of a mile distant.  "Do you
see that notch in the line of the cliff, over there?  From here it looks
something like a `breakdown', but it may be the very spot we want to
find.  Anyhow it is quite worth examining; and if it should prove not to
be the mine we can at all events reach the top of the cliff by means of
it, and can start our search from there.  Come along."  The next moment
the pair were up and cantering toward the spot.

At the point toward which they were riding the cliff was quite low, its
crest being not more than some fifteen feet above the level of the
beach; therefore, although the notch or gap was of but insignificant
width, it reached from top to bottom of the cliff face, and offered a
way, of sorts, from the beach to the level of the plain above; but as
the horsemen drew near they saw that although it was a `breakdown' or
collapse of the cliff face, it was undoubtedly caused by an artificial
excavation which had had its origin a few yards inland from the line of
the crest.  They rode right into it, and found themselves in a sort of
basin-shaped pit, one side of which having broken away had left the gap
through which they had entered.  A single glance around sufficed to
assure them that they had reached the place of which they were in
search, and dismounting they flung their bridles over their horses'
heads to the ground, leaving them to stand, as they had been trained to
do, while they proceeded at once to search the place for its precious
contents.

They had not to look far.  It was evident that time and weather had
wrought some slight changes in the place since it had last been worked,
the changes consisting chiefly of falls of earth from the sides, here
and there; but pebbles, singly and in little groups of half a dozen or
so, were plentifully strewed about the surface of the soil, and the very
first one examined proved to be exactly similar in character to those of
which the king's necklace was composed.  Such, however, was not
invariably the case, many of the stones which the searchers picked up
turning out to be quite worthless; nevertheless ten minutes sufficed to
satisfy the prospectors that the source of boundless wealth lay
practically within reach of their hands, for during that short period
each of them had secured a dozen rubies of varying size, from that of a
pea up to pebbles as large as a pigeon's egg, while Grosvenor had been
lucky enough to find a specimen as large as a duck's egg.  By the end of
an hour they had more than doubled the amount of their find, and had
filled their jacket pockets as full as it was prudent to load them; but
it was evident that, profitable as this desultory, haphazard method of
search had proved to be, much better results might be hoped for from
systematic pick-and-shovel work; accordingly they agreed to suspend
further operations until the arrival of the wagon, and the party of
labourers which had been placed at their disposal by Lobelalatutu; they,
therefore, scrambled out of the pit and set about searching for a
suitable site for their camp, eventually pitching upon a spot about a
quarter of a mile distant from the mine.

By the time that the wagon arrived and the tent had been pitched the day
was too far advanced to make it worth while for work to be started.  It
was, therefore, decided to give the workers a good long night's rest
after their wearisome tramp from the king's village, and an hour after
sunset saw the entire party wrapped in profound sleep.

But with the appearance of the sun above the sea's rim, on the following
morning, everybody was once more astir; and after an early breakfast a
general adjournment was made to the mine, where, under Dick Maitland's
superintendence, a dozen parties of the Makolo were soon actively
engaged with their native mattocks and shovels in excavating the soil in
search of the precious stones, one-half of each party being employed
upon the work of digging, while the other half turned over the excavated
soil and extracted from it all the stones which it happened to contain,
Dick and Grosvenor employing themselves meanwhile in passing from party
to party and sorting out the rubies from the worthless stones upturned.
In this way considerable progress was made, and by midday a very
handsome pile of rubies had been accumulated, consisting, however, for
the most part of relatively small stones.

It was not, however, until late in the afternoon that their real good
luck came to them, and then it came all in a moment.  A party of the
natives who had for some time been left to themselves had excavated
quite a little cavern in the side of the pit, and, as might have been
expected, this mode of working ultimately resulted in a "cave-in".
Fortunately for them, the workers who were responsible for it detected
the signs of the approaching fall in time to avoid being buried by it;
and when the dust-cloud occasioned by it presently subsided, and the new
face thus laid bare came to be examined, it was discovered that a
veritable "pocket" of rubies had been exposed, the stones--every one of
them of large size and especially fine fire and colour--being so
numerous that almost every shovelful of earth turned over contained one
or more!  They were all, without exception, so very much finer than the
finest that had hitherto been found that the latter were there and then
incontinently discarded, and a fresh collection was at once begun, the
whole body of natives being concentrated upon this one spot.  So
enormously rich did this "pocket" prove to be that when at length the
declining sun gave warning that the moment to cease work had arrived,
Dick and Grosvenor were fain to acknowledge to each other that, eager as
the former was to make his fortune, they had now collected sufficient
rubies to constitute not one but two exceedingly handsome fortunes, and
that in any case the quantity acquired was as great as it would be at
all prudent to cumber themselves with in view of the long and arduous
journey that still lay before them.



CHAPTER TWELVE.

LIFE IN THE WILD.

Dawn of the following morning, which in that latitude preceded the
rising of the sun by but a bare quarter of an hour, witnessed the
awakening of the white men's camp to a scene of brisk activity; for the
after-dinner conversation of the previous evening between Dick and
Grosvenor had resulted in their arrival at a decision to make an
immediate start on the long trek which they hoped would end in their
discovery of the mysterious white race, which rumour persistently
asserted to exist somewhere in the far interior of the great Dark
Continent, and the approximate situation of which they had gleaned from
their friend Mitchell, the Natal sugar planter.

Breakfast was soon over; and while Jantje and 'Nkuku were away,
rounding-up the cattle and driving them in, preparatory to inspanning,
Dick and Grosvenor opened a case and proceeded to reward munificently
the gang of Makolo labourers who had helped them in the acquisition of
the rubies, with a generous distribution of beads, brass wire, empty
tobacco tins, lengths of coloured print, and toys, finally dismissing
them happy in the possession of what, to these simple savages, was
wealth beyond anything that they had ever ventured to dream of.  Then,
the cattle being inspanned, the little party headed away inland, in a
north-westerly direction, striking a small stream by which they
outspanned, three hours later.  On that day week they struck a river of
some importance flowing through an exceedingly fertile country abounding
in game, and the upward course of this river they followed for the next
eight days, although it led them somewhat out of their way; for they
found, upon scouting in the direction which they wished to pursue, that
their direct course would soon carry them into an arid, waterless
district, infested, moreover, by tsetse fly, to enter which would
infallibly result in a serious loss of cattle.  And the preservation of
their cattle was now, or very soon would be, a matter of vital
importance to them.

At length the two leaders of the expedition, industriously scouting
daily toward the direction in which they wished to travel, found that
they had reached a point where it would be safe for them to leave the
river and strike away toward the west and north-west, and they
immediately did so, the country in that direction being free from fly,
and consisting of wide-rolling plateaux, rising one beyond another,
somewhat like broad, shallow steps, with a solitary, lofty hill rising
in the extreme distance.  This district was well watered by a number of
tiny rivulets, and was clothed with rich young grass thickly dotted with
clumps of mimosa, palmetto, and other tropical growth, amid which game
of various kinds could be seen moving, including a small herd of
giraffes.

This was much too good an opportunity to be missed.  The friends
therefore, after taking careful note of the spot where the immense
animals were feeding, returned to the wagon and, having provided
themselves with an abundant supply of ammunition, changed their saddles
from the horses that they had hitherto been riding to the two which had
been presented to them by King Lobelalatutu, and cantered off, after
giving Mafuta--whom they left in charge of the wagon and stock--strict
injunctions to make for a certain indicated spot, and there outspan and
await them.

The light breeze which was blowing happened to be favourable to their
approach, and they had arrived within a hundred yards of the large clump
of mimosa in which they had last seen the giraffes feeding, when a heavy
swishing and crashing of branches caused them to draw rein; and the next
moment an enormous elephant emerged from the thicket, and stood looking
about him as he flourished a great branch of foliage in his trunk, with
which he seemed to be keeping the flies at bay.  For a few seconds he
seemed to be unaware of the presence of the hunters, and stood angrily
switching the branch about his head and back, grunting and grumbling to
himself, as though he was not in precisely the best of tempers.  He was
an immense tusker, by far the biggest that the travellers had thus far
encountered, and that he was the hero of many battles seemed evident,
for both his tusks were broken off short, leaving only about a foot of
jagged ivory protruding from each jaw.  The first impulse of the two
hunters was to swing themselves gently out of their saddles and take a
shot at him, for the huge beast was standing in a very favourable
position, nearly broadside on; but Grosvenor, happening to notice the
broken tusks, settled back into his seat again, murmuring, as he did so:

"Let's leave the poor beggar alone, Dick; he's not worth shooting.  See
his tusks?"

It was practically impossible for the animal to have heard Grosvenor's
voice, for he purposely spoke in low tones, in order to avoid attracting
the elephant's attention; yet as the words were spoken the huge brute
faced sharply round toward the two horsemen, and stood attentively
regarding them for a moment.  Then, tossing aside the branch with which
he had been whisking himself, he threw up his trunk, and, trumpeting
savagely, charged straight toward them.

"No use waiting; let's scatter!" shouted Grosvenor, and, obedient to a
touch of the heel and bridle, the two magnificent horses which the
friends bestrode swerved round as though upon pivots, and dashed off in
a direction at right angles to each other.  For an instant the great
beast seemed disconcerted at this manoeuvre, and appeared unable to make
up his mind which enemy he would pursue, first following one of them for
a yard or two, and then turning in pursuit of the other; but presently
it seemed to dawn upon him that he could not possibly hope to overtake
both, and his final choice was Grosvenor, whom he settled down to chase
in grim earnest, his long trunk outstretched to its utmost limit, his
immense ears flapping furiously, and his small eyes sombre with
concentrated hatred.  As soon as Dick saw that the brute had definitely
marked down Grosvenor as his prey he turned his bridle and rode in a
direction parallel with that which was being followed by pursued and
pursuer, and began to shout loudly, in the hope of again causing the
elephant to hesitate, even if he could not altogether divert him from
his pursuit of Grosvenor; but the ruse was vain, the monster glanced
viciously once in Dick's direction, but refused to be diverted from his
fell purpose.

At the beginning of this singular race there had not been the slightest
doubt in Dick's mind as to its ultimate result; he felt absolutely
confident that, suberbly mounted as they were, they would be able to
gallop away from their pursuer and elude him with the utmost ease; but
now, to his consternation, he began to realise that, so far at least as
Grosvenor was concerned, escape was distinctly doubtful, unless
something could be done toward altering the existing conditions.  For,
strong and speedy as were the horses, they were frightfully handicapped
in the race by the grass, which at this particular spot happened to be
unusually long--reaching as high as the horses' shoulders--tough, and
tangled, rendering it exceedingly difficult for them to force a passage
through it, while to the huge bulk and momentum of the elephant it
seemed to offer no obstacle at all.  The great beast was rapidly gaining
upon Grosvenor, and as rapidly forging ahead of Dick, upon whom it began
to dawn that, unless something were speedily done to prevent it, a
tragedy must inevitably ensue.

He looked anxiously about him, and saw that, at a distance of about a
mile, the patch of long rank grass came to an end and was succeeded by
short smooth turf, over which the going would be everything that could
be desired; but it was much too distant to be of any service in the
present emergency.  For the elephant was gaining at every stride and
must inevitably overtake the fugitive long before he could reach it,
while the horses were already beginning to show signs of distress as
they plunged panting through the obstructing tangle, in the midst of
which they were constantly stumbling as their outflung feet encountered,
and were caught in, some especially tough patch of the knotted
vegetation.

What was to be done?  Something; and that right quickly if-- As the
thought was flashing through Dick's brain he saw his friend's horse
stumble heavily, make a desperate effort to recover himself, and finally
roll over and disappear completely with his rider in the dense ocean of
greenish-grey vegetation, while the elephant, a bare fifty yards in the
rear, threw up his outstretched trunk and trumpeted a loud blast of
savage exultation.  There was now but one thing to be done, and the only
question in Dick's mind was whether there was time enough left and,
excited as he was, whether he had the necessary steadiness of hand to do
it.  But it must be attempted, at any rate, so, unslinging his rifle, he
set it at full cock as he galloped, held it pistol-wise in his hand,
pointed it full at the huge bulk of the elephant, and pulled the
trigger.  The jar of the recoil nearly dislocated his elbow, and for a
fraction of a second he feared that all was lost.  But even as the fear
gripped his heart, turning him sick and faint, the enormous beast
suddenly halted, swayed unsteadily for a moment on his great pillar-like
legs, and then collapsed in a heap.  As he did so Dick, to his intense
relief, saw the prostrate horse and rider scramble to their feet almost
within arm's length of the fallen monster.

"Mount and ride, you duffer!" shrieked Dick, as he saw Grosvenor stand,
apparently stupefied, staring at the prostrate beast; "he may be only
stunned; and if he gets up again nothing can save you.  Or, better
still, empty your magazine into his skull as he lies."

"There is no need, my dear chap," answered Grosvenor calmly; "it would
only be a sinful waste of valuable cartridges.  The brute is as dead as
mutton; your bullet caught him behind the ear all right, and is no doubt
deeply embedded in his brain.  It was a splendid shot, especially
considering that it was fired from the saddle, and at full gallop too.
I congratulate you on it, old man.  And, before I forget it, let me
thank you for saving my life.  If you had not fired as promptly as you
did he would have had me, sure as fate, and I should have been a goner--
eh, what?"

Although Grosvenor spoke in a tone of light raillery it but thinly
disguised the depth of feeling that stirred him, as Dick fully realised
when he pulled up alongside his friend and they exchanged hand-grips.
Lightly as he spoke of the incident, Phil knew right well that he was on
the very edge of disaster at the moment that Dick pulled trigger, and
though he would fain have treated the whole adventure as a joke he was
none the less grateful to Dick for his timely intervention, and the
pressure of his hand was quite as eloquent as much outpouring of words.

"By Jove," exclaimed Dick, as he swung out of his saddle and loosened
the girths, to enable his horse the more readily to recover his wind,
"what a monster!  He is far and away the biggest elephant that I have
ever seen; and if his tusks had been unbroken they would have been a
prize worth having, if only as curiosities.  As it is, I don't think it
will be worth while to waste time in cutting out the stumps; do you?
Poor beggar, he must have been suffering pretty badly from toothache;
see how tremendously that left gum is swollen.  That means an abscess at
the root of the tusk that must have been dreadfully painful.  No wonder
that he was in such a dickens of a bad temper!  Well, he is of no value
to us, except as a contribution to our larder, so we may as well be
going.  We will mark the spot where he lies, and send Mafuta and Jantje
for one of his feet, which will furnish us with an epicurean dinner to-
night.  And now I suppose we may as well go and look for the wagon, for
of course the giraffes cleared out directly the rumpus began."

They camped that night in the midst of a wide plateau dotted here and
there with low _kopjes_ of outcropping granite, and clothed for the most
part with _melkboom_ interspersed with patches of low thornbush and sun-
dried grass; and, from the fact that they had met with no water since
noon, they greeted with much satisfaction the discovery of a shallow
water-hole of some two acres in extent, within about half a mile of
which they outspanned for the night, an hour before sunset.  They did
not care to approach nearer to the water than this, for upon inspecting
the place they became aware, from the spoor in the mud all round the
margin, that it was the favourite if not the only drinking place for all
the animals in the neighbourhood, and past experienced had taught them
that the nocturnal sounds emanating from such a spot were the reverse of
favourable to sleep.  Moreover, they had detected among the most recent
spoor that of lions; and for the sake of their cattle they preferred to
keep at a respectful distance from a place frequented by such formidable
animals.

At one spot this miniature lake was bordered by a patch of reeds of
considerable extent, which looked as though it might harbour a few wild
duck; therefore, as soon as the wagon was outspanned, the two friends
took their shot guns and a couple of dogs which had manifested some
talent at retrieving, and made their way toward the reeds, warning
Jantje to be careful to water the cattle as far as possible from the
spot toward which they were making.  Leo, the lion cub, by this time
very nearly half-grown, would fain have accompanied the sportsmen, for
he had developed an extraordinary attachment to both of his white
masters.  He loved nothing better than to accompany them on their
rambles, and was as obedient as any of the dogs, with whom he was on the
best of terms; but it was deemed best on this occasion that he should be
taken to water on a leash, with the cattle, and return with them to the
wagon.  He was therefore left behind, much to his disgust.

Choosing what seemed to be advantageous positions, the two sportsmen,
each accompanied by a dog, carefully ambushed themselves among the reeds
at a distance of about a hundred yards from each other and, crouching
low, patiently awaited the course of events.  They had not long to wait
for proof of the soundness of their judgment, for they had not been in
position more than half an hour--by which time the sun, magnified to
twice his size by the evening vapours through which he glowed,
palpitating like a ball of white-hot steel, hung upon the very edge of
the horizon--when a whirring of wings warned them to be on the alert,
and a moment later a flock of some fifty teal, which must have been
feeding on some far-off marsh during the day, settled down upon the
surface of the water, with much splashing and loud quacks of
satisfaction at having once more reached what they doubtless believed to
be a haven of safety.  But if they really entertained any such belief
they were most deplorably mistaken, for that fate which rules the
destiny of wild duck ordained that they should settle on the precise
patch of water that was fully commanded by both sportsmen, and some
three seconds later both guns spoke practically at the same instant, and
up went the teal again with a great whir of wings and loud cries of
consternation, leaving behind them a round dozen or more of dead and
wounded floating upon the rippled surface of the water.

By the time that the whole of the "bag" had been retrieved the dusk was
deepening into darkness, and star after star was twinkling into view
from the vast, cloudless, purple dome above.  The two friends,
therefore, scrambled forth from their hiding places and, perfectly
satisfied with themselves and all things else, prepared to make their
way back to the wagon.

They had not progressed above two dozen paces beyond the margin of the
reeds, however, when Grosvenor, who was leading the way along a narrow
track through the coarse grass, uttered a sharp ejaculation, and halted
suddenly in his tracks, the next moment stamping violently on something
just before him.

"What is the matter, old chap?" demanded Dick, stepping quickly to his
friend's side.

"Snake!" replied Grosvenor briefly, and in a rather tremulous tone of
voice; "trod on him--unintentionally of course--and the beggar turned
sand bit me.  Take that--and that--and that, you brute--"

"Where is the thing?" demanded Dick anxiously.

"There," responded Grosvenor, pointing to a writhing, twisting something
that squirmed on the grass as he ground the heel of his heavy boot on
it.

"Take your foot away, man, and let me have a look at it," commanded
Dick; and as the other did as he was ordered Maitland bent down and
directed a quick, keen glance at the reptile, about six inches of whose
body was crushed almost to a jelly.  Then, quickly pinning the flat,
heart-shaped head to the ground with the muzzle of his gun, he pulled
the trigger, and thus effectually put an end to the creature's
existence.  With the barrel of his weapon he deftly whisked the still
writhing body half a dozen yards away into the long grass, and then
turned sharply to his friend.

"Sit down, old chap, quick," he said, "and show me where you were
bitten."

Somewhat startled by his companion's abrupt manner, Grosvenor seated
himself on the ground and drew up his left trouser leg, pulled down his
sock, and revealed two small punctures close together in the lower part
of the calf of the leg, barely visible in the fast-decreasing light.

"I see," ejaculated Dick, fumbling in his waistcoat pocket as he spoke.
"Take your pocket handkerchief, quick; tie it round your leg below the
knee, and with the barrel of your revolver twist it as tight as you
possibly can, tourniquet fashion, so as to stop the passage of the blood
into your body.  Now," as he drew forth and opened a penknife, the blade
of which he made a point of always keeping razor-keen, "I am going to
hurt you a little bit, so set your teeth and bear it, old man."

"All right; go ahead," responded Grosvenor.  "Was the brute venomous,
then?"

"Can't say," responded Dick evasively, as he quickly slashed the flesh
across and across over the two punctures; "but we are not taking any
more chances to-day, my boy."

The blood, instead of spurting from the knife wounds, oozed forth thick
and sluggishly; whereupon Dick, without a second's hesitation, applied
his lips to the gashes, which were close together, and sucked strongly
for about a quarter of an hour, spitting out the blood which gradually
began to flow a little more freely.  Finally, when the flow had ceased,
he groped in his pocket and produced a small case containing a stick of
lunar caustic; then from another pocket he drew forth a box of matches,
which he handed to Grosvenor.

"I'll relieve you of this," he said, laying his hand upon the revolver,
the barrel of which Phil had twisted in the handkerchief and had been
holding in place all this while, "and you can start striking matches, so
that I may see what I am doing."  Then, giving the revolver an extra
twist or two, he pulled out his own handkerchief and deftly secured the
weapon in place, after which he proceeded, by the light of the matches
which Grosvenor struck, one after the other, carefully and thoroughly to
cauterize the wounds.

"There," he remarked cheerfully, with a sigh of relief as he finished
his task, "that is as much as we can do here.  The next thing is to get
you back to the camp as soon as possible."

"All right," assented Grosvenor.  "But," he added, as he attempted to
rise, "I'm afraid I shall have to get you to help me, old chap; I
couldn't possibly--"

"Of course you couldn't," responded Dick, "and I don't mean that you
shall try.  Just sit where you are for a little while longer, and leave
me to arrange things."  Therewith he drew a whistle from the pocket of
his hunting shirt, and upon it blew three piercing blasts in quick
succession that, in the breathless stillness of the night, might have
been heard at least a mile away.  He repeated the signal at brief
intervals for about ten minutes, when answering shouts were heard,
whereupon he drew three or four matches from the box, bunched them
together, ignited them, and held the tiny torch aloft to guide Mafuta
and Jantje, whose voices he recognised.  A minute later they both
arrived upon the scene, anxious to know what was amiss, and received
Dick's hurried explanation with many _Au's_! of surprise and
apprehension.  Then, in obedience to his brief but concise instruction,
they hurried away again at a run, to return with very commendable
celerity, bearing Grosvenor's hammock and a long pole, hacked from the
nearest tree they could find.  The hammock having been spread upon the
ground, the patient was, under Dick's anxious supervision, laid very
carefully upon it, so that there might be as little movement of his body
as possible; and finally, the hammock having been securely lashed to the
pole, the whole was raised upon the shoulders of the two blacks and by
them borne to the camp.  Arrived there, the hammock was, still with the
utmost gentleness and care, slung inside the tent, the lamp was lighted,
and Dick proceeded to examine his patient afresh.

By this time the wounded limb had become terribly swollen, and Grosvenor
complained of severe pain about the injured region.  This, of course,
was not to be wondered at, considering the rather heroic treatment to
which the leg had been subjected, and Dick was not very greatly
concerned about it.  But what caused him to look very grave was the fact
that his patient also complained of feeling cold, and manifested
symptoms of approaching delirium, while his whole body was now beginning
to be convulsed, at rapidly shortening intervals, by spasms of violent
and uncontrollable twitching.  Without wasting a moment Dick now had
recourse to alcohol, freely dosing his patient with neat brandy, in the
hope of inducing a condition of intoxication--for he knew that if he
could succeed in this the excess of alcohol in the system would
neutralise the venom, and his patient would be saved.  But it was not
until he had administered nearly a quart of the spirit that the desired
symptoms began to appear; and it was long past midnight before the
twitching convulsions entirely ceased and the patient sank into a
deathlike sleep; by this time also the swelling of the limb was
perceptibly subsiding; and when at length Dick turned down the lamp and
disposed himself to take such rest as he might be able to snatch in a
folding chair by the side of his friend's hammock, he had the
satisfaction of knowing that the crisis was past and Phil would live.

Up to this moment the young doctor had been far too busy and altogether
too deeply preoccupied in attending upon his patient to give any
attention to, or indeed be more than vaguely aware of, what was
happening outside the tent, although there certainly had been moments
when sounds of a more than usually alarming character had reached his
ears so distinctly and obtrusively as partially to distract his
attention for the fraction of a second or so; but now that Grosvenor was
asleep and safe, and Dick began to feel that he also would be the better
for a little rest, outside sounds began to obtrude themselves upon him
with a force and persistency that would not be denied, and he awoke to a
consciousness of the fact that something quite out of his ordinary
experience was happening.

At first he was disposed to attribute the babel of sound that reached
his ears to the fact that the party were outspanned in close--almost too
close--proximity to the only water that, so far as he knew, existed for
many miles round, and which was consequently the regular drinking place
for every living creature in the neighbourhood, as he and his chum had
already ascertained.  Indeed the incessant bellowing, snorting,
trumpeting, roaring, splashing, and squealing that, slightly mellowed by
distance, penetrated to the interior of the tent, was quite enough to
justify such an idea.  But he had scarcely settled himself in his chair
beside Grosvenor's hammock, and closed his eyes in the hope of wooing
sleep to them, than he became aware of other and nearer sounds,
dominating the first, the sound of crackling flames, frequent low,
muttered ejaculations, the occasional soft thud and swish of feet
running through long grass, followed by a shout or two which was almost
invariably responded to by a low, angry snarl, while the clashing of
horns, the rattling of the trek chain, the almost continuous lowing and
moaning of the oxen, the stamping of the horses tethered to the wagon,
and the whining of the dogs, indicated the extreme restlessness and
uneasiness of the animals.  The disturbance was so much greater than
usual that Dick finally felt called upon to investigate.  So, rising
from his chair, he cast a quick glance at his patient which assured him
that all was well there, and then, raising the flap of the tent, stepped
forth into the open air.

The first sight that greeted him was that of about a dozen fires
arranged in a circle round about the tiny camp, in the ruddy-yellow,
flickering glare of which he saw Mafuta, Jantje, and 'Nkuku flitting
hither and thither, tending the fires and feeding them from an enormous
stack of thorns and branches piled up near the wagon, while Ramoo Samee,
the Indian groom, stood with the horses, talking to them, caressing
them, and soothing their excitement by every means in his power.  Most
of the oxen, instead of lying down, were on their feet, their tails
swishing agitatedly from side to side, their heads turning quickly this
way and that, their ears twitching, their nostrils distended, sniffing
the air, their hoofs stamping the earth impatiently, while their eyes
glowed and shone in the light of the fires, and ever and anon one or
another of them would throw up his head and give vent to a low, moaning
bellow, which told, as eloquently as words, their state of terror.  As
for the dogs, they were all huddled together beneath the wagon,
shivering with fear, their tails between their legs, and their lips
drawn back, revealing their fangs, in a sort of snarling grin.  Leo was
the only animal who did not seem very greatly perturbed, but even he was
awake, and lay crouching at the extreme end of his tether, his eyes
lambently aglow, and his tail softly beating the earth now and then.

"Ho there, Mafuta!" called Dick, as he stood taking in the scene and
admiring the generally romantic effect of it all--the glowing fires, the
wavering columns of smoke, the uneasy animals, the flitting figures, the
great bulk of the wagon with its white canvas tent aglow with the
firelight, and the mellow stars raining down their soft radiance; "what
is all the disturbance about?"

"Lions, baas," answered the Kafir as he paused for a moment, his arms
filled with a great bundle of branches which he was carrying to the
fires, and his great bronze body shining with perspiration; "we are
beset by them; and if the fires were allowed to die down they would rush
in upon us, and kill or stampede the whole of the oxen and horses.  See
there--and there--and there," he added, pointing into the darkness
beyond the glow of the fires.

Dick looked, but could at first see nothing, his eyes as yet being
dazzled by the light of the flames, but presently, looking in the
direction toward which Mafuta pointed, he caught sight of first one pair
of greenishyellow orbs, and then another, and another, gleaming out of
the darkness, until finally he counted no less than seven pairs of eyes,
all intently staring inward.  By the flitting to and fro of some of
these pairs of eyes Dick perceived that certain of the lions were
regularly making the circuit of the camp, some in one direction, some in
the other, apparently searching for an unguarded spot at which they
might venture to make a dash; but there were three pairs of eyes that
remained stationary, as though their owners were patiently awaiting a
signal of some sort.  These, Dick decided, were the most dangerous of
their foes, and at the same time the most easy to deal with, because of
their immovability; so, returning to the tent he first cast a quick
glance at the still soundly sleeping form of Grosvenor.  Then he took up
his bandolier, threw it over his shoulder and adjusted it in position,
seized his rifle and satisfied himself that it was fully loaded, and
again made his way outside.

It took a minute or two for his eyes again to adjust themselves to the
peculiar conditions of the light, but presently he again caught sight of
one of the motionless pairs of eyes, and, sinking upon one knee, he
raised his rifle to his shoulder, carefully brought its two sights
accurately in line with a point midway between the two glowing orbs, and
pressed the trigger.  The sharp, whip-like crack of the weapon was
answered by several low, snarling growls, and a swishing of the grass
suggestive of several heavy bodies bounding away through it, while the
stationary and moving pairs of eyes vanished, as if by magic; and a
minute or two later some four or five of the oxen lay down where they
were tethered to the trek chain, with a sigh of obvious relief.

"They are gone, baas," remarked Mafuta, as he again passed with more
fuel; "but we must keep up the fires; for they are almost certain to
come back again.  They are young lions who have been driven away from
the pool, and not allowed to hunt there by the old ones, and they are
hungry.  Yes, they will come back again; and you will perhaps have to
kill two or three more before they will go away and leave us alone."

"Do you think, then, that I got the fellow I fired at?" demanded Dick.

"Yes, baas," answered Mafuta with confidence.  "I heard the bullet
strike.  You will find the beast, dead, out there, when the day breaks.
But see, yonder, baas, they are slinking back; there is one pair of eyes
over there, and I saw another in that direction--yes, there they are
again.  Ah! now they are gone--but, look there, baas, see you those two
pairs?  No, no, do not shoot yet; wait until they come quite close;
then--shoot and kill.  Where is that _schelm_, Jantje, and why is he not
feeding the fires?  If they are not kept up we shall yet lose half our
oxen!"



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

THE MYSTERIOUS WHITE RACE.

Two more lions fell to Dick's rifle that night, before the brutes were
finally scared out of their projected attack upon the camp; but it was
not until the first signs of dawn were paling the eastern sky, and all
the multitudinous sounds in the neighbourhood of the water-hole had long
subsided into complete silence, that the watchers felt at liberty to
cease their vigil and snatch an hour or two of much-needed rest.
Meanwhile, Grosvenor remained completely sunk in the lethargic sleep
which had resulted from the saturation of his system with alcohol.

Although the blacks had been up and working hard all night, they were
astir again very soon after sunrise; and the first thing they did was to
go out and bring into camp the carcasses of the three dead lions, in
order that Dick's eyes might be gladdened by the sight of them upon his
emergence from the tent.  Then, while Jantje and 'Nkuku loosed the oxen
and drove them to the water-hole, Ramoo Samee prepared a couple of cups
of strong black coffee, which Mafuta carried into the tent; and as the
Kafir looped back the flaps of the entrance, giving admission to a flood
of brilliant sunlight and a brisk gush of cool, invigorating air, Dick
stirred uneasily in his hammock, sat up, rubbed his eyes, and exclaimed,
sleepily:

"Hillo, Mafuta, surely it is not yet time to turn out, is it?  I don't
seem to have been asleep more than half a minute."  Then his glance fell
upon Grosvenor's hammock, and memory instantly returned to him; he
sprang to his feet and laid his finger upon his patient's pulse, and as
he did so Grosvenor uttered a low groan and, opening his eyes, looked
dazedly up into the eyes of the friend who bent over him.

"Hullo, Dick," he murmured, "that you?  I say, old chap," endeavouring
to rise, "what the dickens is the matter with me?  I feel like a--a--
boiled owl; my head is aching as though it would split, and my mouth is
as dry as a limekiln.  And--look here, old man, why are you holding me
down in my hammock like this?  Am I not to get up to-day, eh, or--"

"Certainly not, at least not just yet," answered Dick firmly.  "And
never mind about your head, or your mouth; what does your leg feel like?
Here, just let me have a look at it."  And, gently lifting the limb and
pushing up the leg of the trousers, in which Grosvenor had lain all
night, he laid bare the injury.  The swelling, although it had not quite
disappeared, had subsided so greatly that the limb had once more come to
bear some semblance to a human leg, and the livid purple tint had almost
faded out, while the cauterised wounds were perfectly dry and healthy in
appearance.  But when Dick began to gently pinch and prod the injured
member, and to ask: "Does that hurt at all?" it became evident that
there was a distinct numbness in the limb, as far up as the knee.  But
this did not very greatly distress Dick; all the signs were indicative
of the fact that the venom in the blood had been effectually
neutralised; and as for the numbness, that would probably pass off in
the course of the day.

"Well, Doctor," said Grosvenor whimsically, "what is your verdict--
favourable, or otherwise?  I remember now that I was bitten by a beastly
snake, last night, and that you did several things to me that made me
feel horribly queer, but I don't quite remember how I got to the tent.
Was the brute venomous?"

"About as venomous as it could well be," answered Dick.  "But you need
have no fear," he added, seeing a look of anxiety spring into his
patient's eyes; "the danger is quite over; now all that we have to think
about is how to cure that headache of yours.  And here, just in the nick
of time, Mafuta has brought us our coffee.  Take your cup and drink it
at once; and if in the course of the next half-hour you feel no better,
I will mix you a draught.  Stop a moment; just look me straight in the
eye; yes, that is right; now drink your coffee; it will completely cure
your headache, and you will immediately fall asleep, waking again in
time for breakfast."

Grosvenor obediently took the cup, drained it, and lay back on his
pillow.

"Thanks, old chap," he murmured; "that's good; I--I--feel--" and was
asleep.

"That's all right," murmured Dick meditatively, as his eyes rested upon
the other's placid countenance.  "Why did not I remember to try that
kind of thing last night!  It might have helped matters a good deal.  Ah
well!  I'll not forget next time.  Now, Mafuta," he continued, turning
to the Kafir; "what about the lions?  How many did I kill last night?"

"Three, baas," answered Mafuta; "that is to say, two lions and one
lioness, all full-grown, but quite young, and in grand condition, their
teeth and claws quite perfect."

"Is that so?" queried Dick.  "Then I suppose you have been out to have a
look at them?"

"Yes, baas," answered the black; "we went out and brought them in.  They
are now just outside the tent."

"Very well," said Dick, draining his coffee.  "I will have a look at
them.  And--what about my bath?  I suppose there is no chance of one
this morning, eh?"

"Ramoo Samee and I have each brought two buckets of water from the hole,
and the _Inkose's_ bath is ready for him when he will," answered Mafuta.

Grosvenor's sleep appeared to have been extraordinarily beneficial, for
when he awoke to the rattle of crockery as Mafuta busied himself in the
arrangement of the breakfast table, not only was he absolutely free from
headache, and all the other unpleasant symptoms of which he had
complained two hours earlier, but his general condition was also greatly
improved, the swelling of the injured limb had subsided, the flesh had
recovered its natural colour, the numb feeling had almost disappeared,
and now all that remained to remind him of his disagreeable and perilous
adventure of the previous night was the smarting and burning sensation
of the cauterised wound itself, which he endured with stoical composure,
and indeed laughed at as a trifle not worth wasting words about.  But he
was fully alive to the frightful nature of the peril from which he had
so narrowly escaped, and was so earnest and profuse in his thanks to
Dick for having twice saved his life in the course of a few hours that
at length the young medico laughingly threatened to gag him if he did
not instantly change the topic of conversation.  One of the best signs
of his progress towards complete recovery, perhaps, was the voracious
appetite which he developed when breakfast was placed upon the table.
But it was not until late in the afternoon that Dick allowed him to rise
from his hammock; then it was only permitted in order that the camp
might be moved somewhat farther from the water-hole, with the object of
avoiding a recurrence of the annoyances of the preceding night.

By the following morning Grosvenor was practically well again, and, with
his injured leg well protected by a bandage, was once more able to mount
a horse; the march was therefore resumed, and came to an unadventurous
end in a small valley, watered by a tiny brook, as the sun was sinking
beneath the western horizon.  Thenceforward their progress was steady,
averaging about twenty miles a day, for six days a week, Sunday being
always observed as a rest day, whenever possible, primarily for the sake
of the cattle, it must be confessed, which it was found required at
least one day's rest in every seven upon such a prolonged journey as
that upon which they were now engaged.  The journey was not altogether
devoid of adventure, by any means; for upon one occasion they killed no
less than five of their oxen through overwork during a hurried flight
from the neighbourhood of a devastating grass fire; they lost three more
at one fell swoop while crossing a flooded river; six succumbed to snake
bites; four fell a prey to lions; and seven died of sickness believed to
have been induced by the eating of some poisonous plant.  But, after
all, these were merely the ordinary accidents incidental to travel in
the African wilderness, and would need too much space to be recorded in
detail.  The natives whom they encountered from time to time during
their progress were by no means uniformly friendly, but tact and
firmness, coupled with an occasional demonstration of the terribly
destructive qualities of their firearms, and a judicious distribution of
presents among the chiefs, secured them from actual molestation, though
there were times when it seemed to be, figuratively speaking, a toss-up,
whether they would or would not have to choose between being turned back
or "wiped out."

Indeed now, when they had been continuously journeying for nearly three
months since they had turned their backs upon the friendly Makolo
nation, and were daily receiving fresh evidence that they were drawing
very near to the goal of their long pilgrimage, it was by the merest
chance, the most extraordinary caprice of the king into whose country
they had penetrated, that they were permitted to live and accorded
freedom to pursue their journey unmolested.  For the savages among whom
they now found themselves seemed to be possessed of an extraordinarily
virulent animus, or prejudice--call it which you will--against
whiteskins, due, as the travellers eventually discovered, to the fact
that a nation of whites inhabited the adjacent territory, between whom
and the blacks, who surrounded them on all sides, an implacable enmity
had existed as far back as history or even legend extended.  From whence
those white people had come, or how long they had inhabited the land of
which they held such stubborn possession, there was no record to tell;
but the grievance of the blacks seemed to consist in the fact that the
interlopers--as they chose to regard them--occupied the whole of a
peculiarly rich and fertile tract of country from which, though they
were relatively few in number, they resolutely refused to be dislodged;
while the surrounding territory, occupied by the blacks, was
comparatively poor, sterile, and ill-watered, affording an ever more
scanty subsistence to the steadily growing population.  Also there was a
widespread belief, amounting to conviction among the blacks, that their
white neighbours were wont to punish such attempts as were made from
time to time to drive them out, by putting all prisoners to death in a
variety of peculiarly hideous forms--although it was by no means clear
how this belief arose, since no prisoners ever returned to throw any
light upon the subject.

It is not, perhaps, greatly to be wondered at if, under such
circumstances, the blacks had gradually come to regard the possessor of
a white skin as the incarnation of everything that was superlatively
detestable, and a person to be destroyed promptly with as little
hesitation or compunction as one would destroy a particularly venomous
snake; and such was the feeling which Grosvenor and Dick inspired in the
breasts of those natives in whose hands they found themselves upon a
certain memorable day.  It was at first proposed to put them to the
torture _sans ceremonie_; but a certain petty chief, anxious to curry
favour with the king, intervened in the nick of time, and, having made
prisoners of the entire party, sent the whole of them, including the
wagon, oxen, horses, and animals generally, to the king's village, in
order that His Majesty might have his full share of such sport as the
torture of the white men might furnish.  This journey, however, occupied
five days, during the progress of which the two white men proved to be
so different in every respect from the only other white men whom the
blacks had ever encountered, to be possessed of such strange powers, and
to be, generally, such "kittle cattle" to deal with, that the king,
learning that these strangers were bent upon entering the territory of
his white neighbours, ultimately came to the somewhat cynical conclusion
that he could kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, by allowing
the formidable strangers to go their way and inflict the maximum amount
of annoyance and damage upon his especial enemies before those enemies
in their turn destroyed the unwelcome visitors.

Thus it came to pass that, after spending close upon a fortnight in
momentary expectation of a hideously protracted death by torture, Dick
Maitland and Philip Grosvenor one day found themselves most unexpectedly
released, their belongings returned to them, and permission accorded
them to proceed upon their journey as soon as they would.  They
instantly availed themselves of this permission, lest peradventure it
should be retracted; the result being that for five days they travelled
under the protection of an armed escort until they arrived at the
frontier, where the escort hurriedly left them, after jeeringly warning
them of the many evil things that awaited them in the immediate future.

Scarcely ten minutes had elapsed after the departure of the guard before
the travellers perceived a man intently watching them from the summit of
a low kopje about a quarter of a mile ahead of them.  For perhaps a
minute he stood, motionless as a statue, gazing steadfastly at them
under the shade of his hand, then he turned suddenly and disappeared.
But during that minute Dick and Grosvenor had brought their powerful
field glasses to bear upon him, and had distinctly seen that his skin
was white, excepting in so far as it had become browned by the sun, that
his hair was thick, black, and arranged in long, straight curls that
reached to his shoulders, that he was naked save for a breech clout
about his loins and a pair of sandals upon his feet, and that he was
armed with a long, slender spear and a circular shield or target about
two and a half feet in diameter.  Three minutes later they saw him
running with incredible speed toward another low elevation, distant
about a mile from his starting-point, and which, as the travellers
discovered, when they brought their glasses to bear upon it, was crowned
by a low structure, so roughly constructed that it might easily have
passed for a mere heap of stones and turf, but which, later on, proved
to be a sort of blockhouse accommodating an outpost consisting of an
officer and ten men.  Two minutes later the man whom they had first
seen, or another so exceedingly like him that it was impossible to
distinguish any difference at a distance of two or three hundred yards,
left the blockhouse--which they now perceived was only one of many in
sight arranged in a somewhat irregularly curved line which probably
conformed to the line of the frontier--and set off, at the same
astonishing speed that the first had displayed, heading inward from the
frontier line.  They watched him for about five minutes, and then lost
sight of him over the brow of a slight undulation.  Beyond the roughly
constructed blockhouses there was not a sign of inhabitants in any
direction; the land was rough and uncultivated, there were neither
cattle nor sheep to be seen; and if, as they strongly suspected, the
blockhouses in sight accommodated a few men, none of their occupants
revealed their presence nor made the slightest attempt to interfere with
the uninvited visitors.  It was a moot point between Dick and Grosvenor
whether they should not take the bull by the horns, as it were, by
riding up to the nearest blockhouse and attempting to get into
communication with its occupants at once; but Grosvenor was very
strongly opposed to any such step, upon the ground that, if they did so,
they might be summarily turned back and ordered to quit the country
forthwith, which, as Phil pointed out with some emphasis, would be an
exceedingly tame and ignominious ending of their long and arduous
journey.  His policy was to let well enough alone, to get as far into
the country as possible before attempting to open up communication with
its inhabitants, and, meanwhile, to show in every possible manner by
their sober behaviour that their mission was a peaceable one.

But if the borderland of this mysterious country presented a somewhat
wild and uninviting appearance, it was not long before the travellers
perceived that this state of things prevailed only over a very narrow
belt of territory.  For as they pressed on toward the interior they
first sighted another line of blockhouses, considerably larger and more
substantially constructed than the first, each perched upon a commanding
knoll and completely surrounded by a stout, lofty, and practically
unclimbable stockade; then they saw a few cattle dotted about, grazing,
under the protection of quite a strong force of armed men, similar in
all respects to the individual whom they had first sighted.  These
people took no notice of the strangers beyond removing themselves and
their charges well out of the route which was being pursued by the
wagon; it was evident that they had no desire to come into touch in any
way whatever with their uninvited visitors.  Then, a mile or so farther
on, the herds became larger and their attendants more numerous; and,
next, the intruders reached what seemed to be a belt of farms, each
containing its own fortified farmhouse, a lofty and, apparently,
immensely strong and solid structure of hewn stone, surrounded in many
cases by a moat, either wet or dry, with a single narrow entrance high
up in the wall and only accessible by means of a ladder; the unglazed
window openings few in number and too narrow to permit the passage of a
human being through them; the roof flat, and protected by a breast-high
parapet; the structure, as a whole, constituting a very efficient
miniature stronghold.  The crops appeared to be of the most varied
character, starting with sugar cane on the outside margin of what may be
called the agricultural belt, and then gradually changing to various
kinds of grain, which in its turn was succeeded by fruit orchards and
vineyards.  These last, however, were not met with until the detached
farms had been left far behind, and had been succeeded in turn, first by
tiny hamlets of half a dozen houses huddled together as if for mutual
protection, and then by villages of ever-increasing importance, each
dominated by a castle-like structure that looked as though it might
serve the purpose of a keep or refuge for the inhabitants to retire to
in times of stress or danger.  These, however, were not reached by the
travellers until quite late in the following day, and are only referred
to now, in order that some idea may be conveyed of the manner in which
the mysterious white race who inhabited the country met the problem of
carrying on their agricultural pursuits, and at the same time affording
protection to the farmers against sudden raids by their savage
neighbours.

The region or belt of small hamlets still lay some two miles ahead of
the travellers when, about half an hour before sunset, the word was
given to outspan in the midst of a patch of rich pasture watered by a
small, shallow stream of crystal-clear water.  By the time that the sun
was sinking behind a range of hills that rose gradually from the plain,
and the summits of which were apparently about twenty miles distant, the
oxen and other animals had been watered, the tent pitched, and the two
leaders of the little expedition, having found a passable bathing place
a short distance up the stream and taken their evening dip, were
impatiently awaiting the last meal of the day, which by courtesy they
named dinner, although it very inadequately represented the usual
conception of what that meal ought to be.

Presently the viands made their appearance--a haunch of venison, cut
from a buck that Grosvenor had shot early that morning, served sparingly
with red currant jelly, the last pot of which had been opened for the
occasion, sweet potatoes, purchased from the savages a few days earlier,
"flap-jacks"--so called because they could find no other name for them--
made by Ramoo Samee of flour, mealie meal, and water, and baked over the
embers of the cooking fire, a few wild guavas, and as much water from
the stream as they cared to drink, followed by a very small cup of
coffee each, for both coffee and sugar were now becoming exceedingly
scarce commodities with them.

As they ate they talked, the burden of Dick's conversation being the
remarkable behaviour of the inhabitants of this mysterious country in
leaving them so severely alone, a course of action which was in direct
opposition to all their past experiences of the African peoples, and
which Dick regarded as sinister in the extreme.  His settled policy in
dealing with the savages had always been to approach them promptly, as
soon as met with, and lose no time in making friendly overtures, his
leading idea being that if one can but succeed in convincing a savage
that no harm of any kind is intended him, he is just as likely to be
amiable as the reverse.  Up to now Grosvenor had held a similar opinion,
and had always most ably seconded Dick's endeavours to create a friendly
impression upon the natives encountered; but in the present case he was
utterly opposed to their usual methods, the fact being that the idea of
penetrating to the heart of the country inhabited by the mysterious
white race had gradually come to be an obsession with him, and he would
hear of nothing being done that might by any chance interfere with this
project; his conviction being that if they adopted their usual methods
they would inevitably be stopped and sent to the rightabout.  Had he but
known what was impending, his anxiety would probably have taken quite a
different direction.

The two friends were seated in their tent, partaking of breakfast, on
the following morning, when Mafuta hurriedly appeared, in a state of
considerable perturbation, with the information that a strong body of
armed men were approaching the camp; and upon turning out to
investigate, they saw that this was indeed the case, the new arrivals
being in number about a hundred, and apparently a party of soldiery, all
being attired alike in a sort of uniform consisting of a sleeveless
white tunic girt about the waist with a belt, and buskins reaching
halfway to the knee; their heads were bare, save for a thick mop of
black hair, arranged in curls which reached to the shoulders; and each
man was armed with a long lance, or spear, and a shield, or target,
similar to those seen on the previous day.  They advanced in single file
and close order, and appeared to be under the command of a man who wore
a feather head-dress, whose tunic was adorned with a pattern round the
hem and armholes, worked in what looked like crimson braid, upon which
were sewn close together a large number of small circular disks of
polished yellow metal which had the appearance of being made of brass,
or, maybe, gold.

"Ah," ejaculated Grosvenor, as he stood watching their approach, "my
fears have materialised, you see, Dick!  Those fellows have undoubtedly
been dispatched to conduct us back to the frontier and see us safely out
of the country; and here ends my longcherished hope of making the
acquaintance of this mysterious white race.  It is horribly
exasperating, especially after we have actually reached their country,
and seen for ourselves that such a people really exists."

"Um!" retorted Dick.  "Yes, it is undoubtedly provoking, as you say.
But I hope nothing worse is going to happen than what you anticipate.  I
must confess that I do not altogether like the appearance of things in
general, and the expression upon the countenances of those fellows in
particular.  I seem to detect indications of a cold-blooded, relentless
ferocity that would cause them to convert our bodies into pincushions
for those spears of theirs with as little compunction as you would
impale a rare moth upon a cork with a pin.  But whatever may be their
intentions with regard to us, we must rigidly adhere to our usual
principle of showing no fear and offering no resistance.  Probably if we
follow this plan they will not kill us on the spot; and while there is
life there is hope and the possibility that chance may turn in our
favour.  Anyway, whatever may happen to us, I hope that they will spare
the blacks.  Possibly they may make slaves of us all.  Well, we shall
soon know the worst, for here they come--confound those dogs!--call them
off, Phil; if they fly at any of those chaps and hurt them, there will
be trouble at once!  Here, Pincher, Juno, Pat, Kafoula, 'Mfan, come in,
you silly duffers!  Come in, I say!  D'you hear me?  Come in and lie
down!  And you too, Leo; how dare you, sir!"

Dick and Grosvenor rushed out, and with the aid of sjamboks soon quelled
the disturbance and brought their motley pack into subjection, the
animals having made a general dash at the intruders, when the latter
arrived within some fifty yards of the wagon, while Leo, the lion cub,
excited by the disturbance, had broken the rein which usually confined
him to the wagon at nighttime, and had participated in the general
onslaught.

At the charge of the snapping, snarling dogs the approaching body of
soldiery had promptly levelled their spears, and the interference of
Dick and Grosvenor had only just been in the nick of time to save the
animals' lives.  The little episode left the troops and their commander
absolutely expressionless, save that the latter seemed just a trifle
astonished when he saw Dick coolly seize the snarling lion cub by his
incipient mane and rate him roundly for his insubordinate behaviour,
before he ordered the brute to retire with the dogs to the wagon.  The
next moment, in obedience to a sign from the officer, six couples
detached themselves from the main body of the soldiery; and in a trice
the two young Englishmen and their four dark-skinned followers, Mafuta,
Ramoo Samee, Jantje, and 'Nkuku--the latter absolutely shivering with
fear--found themselves prisoners, with their arms tightly bound behind
them with stout raw-hide thongs.

"Ah," ejaculated Dick, "this is just what I feared might happen!  Still,
it is perhaps better than being killed outright, and--"

"Hush!" interrupted Grosvenor, sharply.  "Listen to that fellow giving
orders to his men: I'll be shot if he isn't speaking Hebrew--or
something that sounds uncommonly like it!"

"Hebrew?" echoed Dick.  "Nonsense!  Surely you don't mean it?"

"Indeed I do, then," retorted Grosvenor; "never was more serious in my
life.  Listen!  Yes, I feel sure I was not mistaken; it is a sort of
Hebrew patois that he is speaking, Hebrew, mixed up, it is true, with a
number of words that I can make nothing of.  Still, I can understand
enough of what he is saying to make out that he is giving his fellows
orders to drive in our oxen and yoke them to the wagon.  You know I went
in rather strongly for Hebrew when I was at Oxford, and did pretty well
at it.  And I don't know what you think about it, Dick, but when I come
to look at those men's faces it seems to me that they are all of quite a
distinct Jewish type--eh, what?"

"Well--yes--they certainly are," admitted Dick.  "But--Hebrews!  Where
the dickens can they have come from?"

"Goodness knows!" returned Grosvenor; "unless--and by Jove there may be
something in the idea--who is to say that they are not one or more of
the lost tribes--eh, what?"

"Well, of course they may be," agreed Dick.  "That is rather a brilliant
idea of yours, old chap, and may be worth following up--if they give us
the chance.  But not just now; there are more pressing matters claiming
our attention at this moment--these bonds of ours, for instance.  I
don't know how yours are, but mine have been drawn quite unnecessarily
tight; my fingers already feel as though they are about to burst.  Do
you think you could make that fellow understand that there is no need at
all to bind us, and that if he will release us we ask nothing better
than to accompany him whithersoever he may be pleased to take us?"

"Yes, I think I can," replied Grosvenor.  "At all events I'll try; my
lashings are quite as uncomfortable as yours can be, I fancy."

And forthwith he shouted to the officer a lengthy if somewhat halting
communication in the best Hebrew at his command, the result being that,
after a long colloquy, the amazed officer, after considerable
hesitation, somewhat reluctantly gave the order for the prisoners' bonds
to be loosed, after cautioning them that the slightest sign of any
attempt at escape would result in the instant death of the entire party.
Then, having scored one success, Grosvenor attempted another by
suggesting that Jantje and 'Nkuku should be entrusted with the
inspanning and driving of the wagon, which could be accomplished with
much greater facility if the oxen were handled by those to whom they
were accustomed.  This also the officer eventually conceded, after
carefully considering the matter for about a quarter of an hour,
meanwhile the oxen were driven very nearly mad by the vain efforts of
the soldiers to round them up and drive them towards the wagon.



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

PRISONERS.

At length, after a tremendous amount of unnecessary confusion and
trouble, the oxen were inspanned, and with the usual unearthly yells and
loud cracking of the long whip by Jantje, mounted upon the wagon box,
the creaking, lumbering vehicle was got under way, Ramoo Samee following
close behind and leading the horses, while the dogs and Leo came to heel
and trotted along close behind Grosvenor and Dick, as was their wont
when their masters chose to walk, which was not very often.  As for the
soldiers, they arranged themselves as a cordon round the entire cortege,
the officer in command leading the way.

This order was maintained until the noon outspan, when the officer,
after some pressing, laid aside his aloofness sufficiently to accept
Grosvenor's invitation to join him and Dick at luncheon.  This proved to
be the thin end of the wedge, so to speak; for the man could scarcely
sit at the same table with his two prisoners, partake of their fare, and
still preserve his original attitude of silence toward them; indeed it
soon became evident that he was consumed with curiosity concerning the
two people who had travelled such a distance with such few retainers;
who seemed to have absolutely no knowledge of what fear was; and who
apparently numbered lions as well as dogs among their domestic animals.
He began by making a few tentative remarks, to which Grosvenor responded
at some length, and then suddenly demanded, with an air of astonishment
that he made scarcely any effort to conceal, how it came about that he,
Grosvenor, a total stranger, was able to communicate with a native of
the country in what was practically his own language.  Then Grosvenor
entered into a long explanation, involving a brief history of the
principal seats of learning in England, with the methods and subjects of
study pursued therein, and including the interesting fact that Hebrew,
being commonly regarded as one of the most ancient tongues in the world,
was there regarded as especially worthy of attention.

This last statement seemed to be particularly gratifying to the young
officer's vanity, and had a distinctly mollifying effect upon his
original hauteur and coldness.  He thawed visibly, and even condescended
to laugh at some mild joke upon which Grosvenor ventured, and then
sought to further satisfy his curiosity by making a number of personal
enquiries as to where Phil and his friend came from, why they came, how
long they had been upon the journey, and so on.  To all these enquiries
Grosvenor replied pretty fully, but when in his turn he attempted to
elicit some information respecting their destination, and the treatment
that they might expect to receive upon their arrival, the man at once
shut up like a trap, and thenceforward for the remainder of the journey
refused to hold any communication whatever with his prisoners.

Their route lay in the direction of a range of distant hills, which they
judged it was the intention of their captor to cross; and as they went
they found the country gradually changing its character by subtle
gradations, growing ever more fertile and more highly cultivated with
every mile of progress, while the houses increased in number and
clustered more thickly together.  At length, after passing through one
of these hamlets, they emerged upon a narrow field path, which widened
somewhat when the next hamlet was passed, and so gradually became a more
prominent feature until ultimately it developed into a full-blown road,
which, rough and uneven at first, steadily improved in appearance and
quality until it became a very excellent and much-used thoroughfare,
shaded by trees on either hand.  In short the country, which on its
extreme frontier was a perfect wilderness, steadily improved with every
mile of progress toward its interior, as regarded the evidences of a
high state of civilisation.  One of the strangest things, however, which
came under the notice of the Englishmen was that, from the moment of
their arrest, the inhabitants--whom they encountered in ever-increasing
numbers as the day wore on--manifested the most absolute indifference
with regard to them, not even deigning to cast a second glance upon what
was clearly a most novel and unusual sight in that country.

At sunset the party encamped at the foot of the hills toward which they
had been journeying all day, and which proved to be much more lofty, and
at a much greater distance, than they had imagined them to be when they
were first sighted; and the whole of the next day was consumed in
climbing, by means of an excellent road, to the summit of a pass where,
having safely negotiated a short length of exceedingly narrow and
difficult roadway between two enormous vertical cliffs, they emerged
upon a small plateau of rich grassland that afforded good camping ground
for the night.

The spot where the travellers outspanned was the bottom of a miniature
basin of some five or six acres in extent, and was surrounded on all
sides by steep slopes terminating in a series of jagged peaks, some four
or five hundred feet high, that bounded the view in every direction and
limited it to a distance of about half a mile.  But when, after
inspanning on the following morning, they crossed the little plateau
upon which they had spent the night, and passed round a bluff at its
farther side, a wonderful prospect at once burst upon their astonished
gaze.  For they now found that the chain of hills, up the outer slope of
which they had been laboriously climbing during the whole of the
preceding day, formed an unbroken if somewhat irregular circle of
something like forty miles in diameter, measuring across from ridge to
ridge, the inner slopes of the encircling hills being from three to five
miles wide, with a plain of from five to ten miles in width at their
feet, this plain in turn encircling a lovely lake, measuring about
twenty miles across, the very centre of which was occupied by an island
of perhaps three or four miles in diameter, the whole rugged surface of
which appeared to be covered with buildings embowered in leafy gardens.

Now at last the travellers began to really understand the wealth and
importance of the people into whose country they had entered, uninvited;
for, as far as the eye could reach, even with the aid of their
exceedingly powerful field glasses, the mountain slopes and the plain
that lay circling at their feet consisted of nothing but a practically
unbroken sweep of highly cultivated land, dotted with snug farmhouses,
and bearing ripening crops of various kinds, interspersed here and there
with trim vineyards, or orchards of fruitbearing trees; while, at
distances of from three to eight or ten miles apart, there nestled among
groves of noble shade trees, villages which must have sheltered from a
hundred-and-fifty to, perhaps, four or five hundred inhabitants.  And
through all there ran a perfect network of roads, carrying, as could be
seen with the aid of their glasses, a considerable amount of traffic,
among which could be distinguished a number of wheeled vehicles, the
first they had seen since entering the country.

The officer, who was their custodian, was evidently intensely gratified
at the surprise and admiration freely expressed by his two principal
prisoners at the scene that lay spread out at their feet, and even
halted the cortege for a few minutes to enable Dick and Grosvenor to
take in its multudinous details conveniently, and examine them through
their field glasses.  It was noticed by the two Englishmen that he
regarded these instruments with the most acute curiosity, but either
pride or reserve deterred him from asking any question concerning them.
When, however, Dick offered him a peep through them, he was wholly
unable to resist the temptation, or to restrain his expressions of
amazement as, glancing through the tubes at the island, some twenty
miles distant, he was enabled to distinguish such details as the roofs,
windows, and doors of houses built thereon, while of course the details
of houses in the plain below, the character of the several vehicles on
the roads, the numbers of oxen in the teams which drew them, were quite
unmistakable.  But when Grosvenor, seeking to avail himself of this
temporary relaxation of manner, attempted once more to engage the man in
conversation, he instantly relapsed into his former attitude of
unresponsiveness; and his manner soon made it clear that he was
determined to risk no complications of any kind by allowing anything in
the nature of familiarity or friendliness between himself and his
prisoners.

The descent from the crest of the encircling hills to the circular belt
of plain below was of course quite an easy matter, compared with the
ascent of the outer slope on the previous day, the gradient of the road
being practically uniform all the way, and just steep enough to
necessitate a slight application of the brakebar to the rear wheels of
the wagon from the crest to the plain; and Dick noted with some surprise
that their taciturn friend, the officer in command, appeared to be
greatly interested in the working of this exceedingly simple piece of
apparatus, as though it was something with which he was quite
unfamiliar.  The party effected the descent and reached the level plain
in about an hour and a half from the moment of starting, and soon found
themselves travelling along a broad, level, well-kept road among a large
number of other people, most of whom looked at them with more or less
curiosity, but steadfastly refrained from addressing a word of remark to
any of the guard who had them in charge.

About half an hour after reaching the plain they debouched into another
and much broader road than that by which they had been previously
travelling, and it then became tolerably evident that their ultimate
destination must be the island in the centre of the lake; for the road
which they were now traversing was absolutely straight all the way to
the margin of the lake, and pointed accurately toward the island.

They had been travelling along this road for nearly an hour, and were
approaching a village of more importance than any which they had
hitherto passed, when there suddenly arose a considerable commotion
among the people on the road ahead of them, who were seen running
confusedly hither and thither amid a great cloud of dust, while shouts,
shrieks, and a sound of low, angry bellowing rose upon the stagnant air.
Mechanically the whole party came to a halt to see what was the matter,
while Jantje and 'Nkuku began shouting to each other in greatly excited
tones, and the oxen which were drawing the wagon began to low, snort,
sniff the air, stamp excitedly on the ground, and lunge at each other
with their long horns.  For perhaps a minute it was impossible to guess
what was happening; then the shouts suddenly grew much louder and more
excited, the crowd ahead parted right and left as though panic-stricken,
there arose a shriek of terror, or pain, or perhaps both, a man's body
was seen to go whirling some eight or ten feet into the air, and then a
bulky something, which presently resolved itself into a huge buffalo
bull, emerged from the dust-cloud and came charging along the road,
striking out with its immense, curved, sharp-pointed horns at everybody
in its way.  The brute was then only about two hundred yards off, and
was galloping straight toward the party, with tail high in the air, head
low, eyes aflame with fury, and great gouts of froth dripping from its
heavy muzzle.  For a moment the soldiers seemed paralysed with terror,
the next they all turned as with one accord, and, leaping an irrigation
ditch that ran alongside the road, sought safety in flight across a
field of young wheat.  The buffalo paused a moment in mid-career, as
though hesitating whether he should pursue them or charge the wagon and
its team of oxen; but the next moment the brute had made up its mind,
and, perhaps attracted by the crimson trimming and glittering ornaments
of the officer's tunic, leaped the ditch and deliberately selected that
unfortunate individual as the especial object of his pursuit.  The
position of the man at once became one of deadly peril, for, fast though
he ran, the buffalo had the advantage in the matter of speed, and was
rapidly gaining upon him when Dick and Grosvenor sprang to the wagon
and, hastily seizing their rifles, prepared to act.  Dick was the first
on the ground again with his weapon, and, sinking on one knee to secure
steadiness of aim, he brought the sights to bear exactly behind the
animal's left shoulder, and fired.  The spirt of flame and the little
jet of filmy blue smoke extorted a sharp ejaculation of astonishment
from those who were near enough to notice it, but it was as nothing
compared with the shout of mingled amazement, terror, and relief that
went up when the huge beast stumbled, fell forward on his head, turned a
complete somersault, and lay still, slain at the very instant when,
having overtaken the fugitive, he had lowered his head to impale the
shrieking man upon his horns.

With such startling abruptness did the huge beast collapse that the
pursued officer did not realise the fact until he had run a farther
distance of some thirty yards or so, and even then, when at length he
halted and looked back at the prostrate and motionless animal, he seemed
quite unable to understand that it was dead and harmless; for he shouted
an order to his men to close in round the buffalo and secure it with
cords before it recovered itself and resumed the aggressive.  It was not
until a few of the bolder spirits, having cautiously approached the
carcass, nearly enough to perceive the bullet hole and the blood flowing
from it, had satisfied themselves that the brute was in very truth dead,
and had borne emphatic testimony to the extraordinary fact, that he was
able to screw up his own courage to the point of personal investigation.
Then he calmly made his way back to the road and, approaching
Grosvenor, demanded an explanation of the seeming miracle; but even
after he had been told, and the rifle exhibited to him and its powers
laboriously explained, he seemed quite unable to understand, and was at
last fain to dismiss the mystery with an impatient shrug of the
shoulders, and an order for the march to be resumed.

But Dick had seen a man tossed by the buffalo, and had judged, by the
victim's shriek of agony, that he was badly hurt; he therefore kept his
eyes open as they passed along the road, and sharply directed Grosvenor
to call upon the officer to halt when presently they came upon a group
of about a dozen persons standing by the side of the road surrounding a
little group consisting of two persons, a man and a woman; the man
bleeding profusely from a ghastly wound in the thigh, and already grey
and sharp of feature under the shadow of death, while the woman crouched
helplessly in the dust, supporting the wounded man's head upon her
knees.

Without ceremony Dick forced his way through the little crowd of
onlookers, gave one keen glance at the prostrate man, and then, turning,
shouted to Grosvenor:

"This chap is bleeding to death, Phil--artery severed apparently.  Just
explain to our man, will you, and tell him that, with his permission, I
propose to save the poor fellow's life.  Mafuta, bring my medicine chest
here, quick!"

The little crowd, that was fast being augmented by new arrivals, scowled
ferociously at the, to them, uncouthly clad but stalwart figure of the
young doctor who had so unceremoniously forced his way in among them,
but remained passive, possibly gathering, from the tone of his speech,
that he proposed to succour the wounded man; nor did the officer in
charge of the party offer any objection, but obediently called a halt
when requested by Grosvenor to do so.  A few seconds later, therefore,
Dick, with Grosvenor as his assistant, was kneeling beside the wounded
man, deftly bathing his terrible injury with an antiseptic lotion, prior
to the more difficult and delicate task of searching for and securing
the ends of the severed artery, which had been spouting blood like a
fountain until Dick had applied the tourniquet.  The entire operation of
dressing, stitching, and binding up the wound occupied the best part of
half an hour, by which time the roadway was packed with people anxiously
enquiring what was amiss, and eager to get a glimpse of the benevolent
young barbarians who had so strangely come among them and at so
opportune a moment.  Those who were favourably enough placed actually to
see what was going on were filled with amazement and--despite their
unreasoning hatred of strangers--admiration at the deftness with which
Dick first stanched the flow of blood and then proceeded to dress the
injury; for, strangely enough, this people, highly civilised though they
were in some respects, possessed but the most rudimentary knowledge of
medicine and surgery, pinning their faith chiefly to the virtue of
charms and incantations, their knowledge being not nearly sufficient to
enable them successfully to grapple with so serious an injury as that
with which the young Englishman was so calmly and competently dealing.
As the operation proceeded, these people, usually so cold and self-
contained, reported progress to those who were less favourably situated
for observation than themselves, and in this way the entire crowd were
kept posted up in every step, until finally a great sigh of relief arose
from them as Dick concluded his task and rose to his feet.

But the young doctor had not yet finished with his patient, by any
means; he intended to see him safely into his own home before he left
him, and this he did, a half-dozen of the soldiers fetching the man's
bed from his house, carefully lifting him thereon, and carrying him in,
under Dick's watchful care, aided by Grosvenor as interpreter.  This
done, he administered a soothing and fever-allaying draught; after
which, upon being informed by the young officer that he would probably
have no opportunity of seeing his patient again, he hypnotised the man
and subjected him to a powerful mental suggestion that all danger was
now past, that no complications of any kind would arise, and that he
would rapidly get well without further attention.  This done, he and
Grosvenor rejoined the wagon and resumed their march.

The delay occasioned by this incident of the buffalo so retarded their
progress that it was close upon noon before they arrived at the margin
of the lake; and here they were curtly informed that they were about to
be conveyed to the island, and that as it was not proposed to take the
wagon or any of the animals with them, they must indicate what few
articles they thought they might require during the next few days, and
those articles would be conveyed across with them.  There was a certain
indefinable, sinister suggestiveness in the character of this
communication that seemed to imply a doubt in the mind of the official
who made it whether the individuals to whom it was made would require
anything at all after "the next few days"; but Dick and Grosvenor,
acting as usual upon the general principle of taking an optimistic view
of everything, gave no sign that they detected anything of a covert
character in the intimation, and calmly indicated the trunks containing
their clothing, the medicine chest, their rifles and revolvers, and a
case of ammunition for the same, all of which were duly placed in a
large craft, in shape something between a canoe and a lighter, which
they afterward discovered was propelled by sixty paddles.  At the last
moment it transpired that their black attendants, Mafuta, Jantje, and
'Nkuku were to be left behind on the mainland--which arrangement also
appeared to bear a certain sinister significance--whereupon Grosvenor
suggested the extreme importance of placing them in charge of the wagon
and its remaining contents, part of which--two cases of ammunition, to
wit--he explained, consisted of terribly powerful magic, any tampering
with which by unauthorised persons must inevitably have the most
appallingly disastrous results.  This suggestion, Grosvenor was
informed, would receive the most careful consideration of the
authorities; and he had the satisfaction of believing that not only
would this probably result in saving the lives of the blacks, at least
for a time, but he also perceived that his hint respecting the "magic"
had made a very distinct impression.

The preparations for the transport of the prisoners across the lake were
soon made, and in about half an hour from the moment of their arrival
upon the beach they were under way.  A circumstance which at once struck
Dick as peculiar was the fact that the craft in which they were making
the passage was unprovided with sails, in consequence of which they had
to depend entirely upon the exertions of the paddlers, although, as it
happened, there was a gentle breeze blowing that was dead fair for them.
Thus the boat, being large and of somewhat clumsy model, occupied fully
two hours in her passage, of about eight miles from the mainland to the
island, notwithstanding the fact that sixty stalwart men were toiling at
the paddles.

But this matter was soon banished from the minds of the two young
Englishmen by their growing interest in the mysterious island which they
were gradually approaching.  For mysterious it certainly was in several
respects.  In the first place its solitary situation, right in the
centre of that unknown lake, invested it with a certain aspect of
secrecy, and secrecy always suggests mystery.  Also there seemed to be
little or no traffic between the island and the mainland, for during the
two hours occupied by their crossing no other boat or craft of any kind
appeared upon any part of the lake.  Then, as they gradually drew nearer
to the island, and its various details revealed themselves, the two
young Englishmen became aware that the entire island, excepting perhaps
the actual soil of it, was artificial; that is to say, every square inch
of its surface had apparently been arranged or modified by the hand of
man, for either it bore a building, was traversed by a road, or formed
part of a garden every tree and plant in which owed its existence and
its precise position to human design and arrangement.  All the natural
features of the island seemed to have been ruthlessly swept away to make
room for something forming part of a complete, comprehensive plan.  And
that plan bore eloquent evidence in its every feature that it owed its
inception to intellects characterised by a very high degree of culture
and refinement, and its execution to hands exceptionally skilled in many
of those arts and sciences that are the heritage of ages of
civilisation.  The architecture was massive, almost heroic in its
proportions, and its ornamentation was severe yet graceful, with a very
strong and marked suggestion of Egyptian influence.  The gardens were
elaborately terraced, and consisted for the most part of wide, smooth,
grassy lawns thickly dotted with flower beds cut into graceful and
fanciful shapes, with trees growing only where they would afford a
grateful shade either to the wayfarer or to the gardens arranged upon
the flat-topped roofs of the houses.  The roads were so cunningly
planned that, by means of their serpentine windings, an easy gradient
was everywhere maintained; and, lastly, the entire island was
encompassed by a lofty and immensely solid wall, or quay, built of
enormous blocks of granite the face of which had been worked to so
smooth a surface as to render it absolutely unclimbable, the only means
of obtaining a landing seeming to be by way of a double flight of wide
stone steps leading up from the water to a wide platform which was shut
off from the interior of the island by an immensely strong gateway
flanked by two lofty towers.

By the time that Dick and Grosvenor had become imbued with a fairly
accurate general impression of the extraordinary characteristics of the
mysterious unknown island city to which they were bound, the craft that
bore them was close in under the frowning protective wall which
engirdled it, and a few minutes later the boat ranged up alongside one
of the two flights of landing steps, the paddles were laid in, and the
crew, springing to their feet, checked the vessel's way by grappling a
number of large bronze mooring rings the shanks of which were deeply
sunk into the face of the massive masonry.  Then the officer who had
arrested the prisoners, and still had them in charge, gave the word to
land, and the young Englishmen stepped ashore, closely followed by half
a dozen men bearing their several belongings, except their firearms,
which they insisted on carrying themselves.

Ascending the long, easy flight of steps, the little procession, led by
the officer, presently reached the broad platform on the top, and found
themselves confronting a pair of enormous bronze doors which completely
filled the gateway, and which swung slowly open, apparently by some
mechanical means, to admit them.  Passing through the gateway, and
noting, as they went, the extraordinary strength and solidity of the
doors, they found themselves in a kind of tunnel, or passage, some
twenty feet long, in the structure of the gateway, with a sunlit vista
of a paved street, bordered on either hand by lofty shade trees, with
houses behind them, and thronged with people.  Another minute and they
had emerged from the archway and were in the street itself, which they
now perceived to be one of the business streets of the island, for the
houses on either side of it were arranged as shops, the whole of the
lower part of each being open, affording a view of the various wares for
sale, displayed upon a gently sloping platform, at the rear end of which
sat the owner, cross-legged, Eastern fashion, arrayed in long flowing
robes of brilliant hues.  The fronts of the shops were unglazed, and
unprotected by screen or barrier of any kind, nor did the shopkeeper
make the slightest attempt to solicit custom; his property was simply
protected from the ardent rays of the sun by a gaily coloured blind, or
awning, and he sat silently and gravely awaiting the arrival of such
customers as might chance to require the particular kind of wares that
he had for disposal.  These wares, it soon appeared, consisted chiefly
of fruit; bread, in the form of small, fancifully shaped loaves; cakes;
sweetmeats; drinks of various kinds, mostly compounded of powders while
the customer waited--there seemed to be a brisk demand for these--fish,
presumably from the lake, alive and swimming about in a large tank from
which they were withdrawn as required by means of a hand net; light
flimsy muslins, white or dyed in a number of brilliant colours; lengths
of exquisite embroidery in gold, silver, or silk thread, and in some
cases studded with what looked very much like uncut gems; saddlery and
harness, some of it richly mounted or embroidered with gold; queershaped
household utensils made of copper or some other metal that had the
colour and sheen of gold; jewellery, necklaces, bracelets, armlets,
anklets, earrings, and finger rings of gold, and vari-coloured stones
that might or might not be gems; and articles of clothing, including
sandals of all kinds, from the perfectly plain piece of board, secured
by a single strap, to articles of the most elegant design and costly
workmanship.

The little party traversed this street for about a quarter of a mile,
attracting little or no notice from the passers-by as they went, and
then turned abruptly out of it into a wide road leading gradually
uphill.  The houses which bordered this road were all private
residences, detached from each other, and each embosomed in its own
spacious garden, aflame with flowers of the most brilliant hues and
exquisite perfume, several of the species being quite unknown to the
Englishmen.  The people who were encountered in this road, or were seen
passing in or out of the houses, or moving about in the gardens,
appeared to be of decidedly higher caste than any that the travellers
had thus far seen.  Their skins were not so swarthy, their features were
more refined, many of the women being exceedingly beautiful, although
the good looks of the men were to a considerable extent marred by an
expression which may best be described as latent, cold-blooded ferocity.
All these people wore garments of exceedingly fine material, mostly
white, richly trimmed with elaborate embroidery in colours or gold, the
women's dress being a long, sleeveless garment reaching from the throat
to the feet and confined at the waist by an ornamental belt, handsome
sandals, much jewellery, and the head bare, the heavy masses of dark
hair being wound upon the head very becomingly, and intertwined with
ribbon or strings of coloured beads.  The costumes of the men were of
two kinds: the elders wore for the most part a long, flowing _burnous_
kind of garment with enormous loose sleeves reaching to the wrists,
while the younger men wore a kind of tunic confined at the waist by a
belt and reaching just below the knee.  All wore either sandals or
buskins, and all were bareheaded, the hair of the men being exceedingly
thick, allowed to grow long enough to reach the shoulder, and mostly
dressed in thick clusters of tight, straight curls.  The general type of
countenance, as Grosvenor again took occasion to remark to Dick, was
distinctly Hebraic.

The road which the party now followed twisted and turned hither and
thither, apparently with the object of securing a uniform gradient, but
it led continuously upward, until at length it conducted them to an
enormous, massively constructed building of brown granite that towered,
tier after tier, for five tiers in height; the top tier consisting of a
comparatively small edifice with a metal roof which shone in the
afternoon sun like burnished gold.  This building somehow suggested the
idea of a temple, partly, perhaps, because of the fact that it was the
topmost portion of the building which occupied the extreme apex of the
island; but the newcomers had scant opportunity to take in its details,
for they were marched straight to a low doorway cut in the tremendously
thick wall of the lower story of the building, which gave them admission
to a long labyrinth of twisting passages, lighted only by the smoky
flare of half a dozen torches.  This network of passages they traversed
for a distance which both of them estimated at fully five hundred yards,
finally arriving at a small door which was flung open by a man who had
accompanied the party from the outer door.  The officer motioned his
prisoners to enter, and, there being no alternative, they did so, the
bearers following with their belongings.  These last being deposited on
the ground, the bearers retired, the door was slammed-to and barred on
the outside, and the two adventurous young Englishmen found themselves
alone in a cell or dungeon about eight feet square, devoid of every
suggestion of furniture, and lighted only by a small aperture, some six
inches square, pierced in an outer wall of the building which must have
been at least twelve feet thick.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

THE TRIAL AND VERDICT.

"Well, Dick," exclaimed Grosvenor, as the door was closed upon them and
they looked round them in the dim light percolating through the long,
narrow aperture in the wall which afforded their only supply of air and
illumination, "what is your present opinion of things in general?"

"Well," returned Dick reflectively, "the outstanding fact which
dominates all others is that we have actually penetrated to the very
heart of the mysterious country which our friend Mitchell predicted we
should never reach, and have therefore triumphantly accomplished the
chief object of our journey, despite all the difficulties that we have
encountered.  For the rest, this cell, although it is somewhat lacking
in comfort and convenience as a dwelling, is at least clean, dry, and
pleasantly cool compared with the temperature outside.  And--that is
about all I have to say on the matter at present, I think."

"Um!" retorted Grosvenor with a suspicion of peevishness in his voice;
"that is not very much.  What do you think they mean to do with us?
That is what I am trying to get at.  Of course I remember that the gist
of Mitchell's homily to us was: `Don't go, if you value your lives,
because those people don't like strangers.'  But if a fellow seriously
considered a little matter like that, exploration would soon be a thing
of the past, for I've noticed that many of the johnnies whose countries
we have passed through haven't liked strangers.  Yet we've contrived to
pull through all right thus far; and of course I have been hoping that
our luck would still hold good, and that when we arrived in this country
something would happen to enable us to create a favourable impression
upon the chappies, causing them to decide that we are the exceptions to
the general rule, and are worthy to be treated as honoured guests and
all that sort of thing--eh, what?  But when I look round me and take in
the details of this apartment it seems to me that things have somehow
gone wrong; I can't help thinking that they must have a more comfortable
guest chamber than this somewhere in this old caravanserai--eh?  What do
you think?"

"I have no doubt they have," returned Dick.  "Yet they may consider this
quite good enough for us.  But I am not going to worry very greatly just
yet, and I would recommend you not to do so either.  It is true that so
far these folk have displayed a most lamentable and disconcerting lack
of appreciation of our many excellent qualities, but you must remember
that we have not had much opportunity for a display of those qualities
as yet.  The opportunity will come no doubt, and when it does we will
just make our friends outside sit up--I don't quite know how, but we
will do it somehow.  So cheer up, old chap; the fact that they have put
us in here instead of killing us at sight, so to speak, seems to suggest
to my mind the belief that, if they are displeased at our presence in
their country, they at least intend to give us some sort of a trial
before passing us on to the executioner."

"Oh, dash it all, old man, don't talk about executioners--!" began
Grosvenor, when he was interrupted by the opening of the cell door and a
man entered, bearing in one hand a pitcher of water, and in the other a
loaf of bread of liberal proportions on a wooden platter.  These he
placed on the floor beside the prisoners, and was gone again before
Grosvenor could sufficiently pull his wits together to address him.

The food and drink were most acceptable, for the prisoners had taken no
refreshment since breakfast that morning, and the day was now drawing to
its close, as they could tell by the rapidly diminishing light that
percolated through their narrow window.  They fell to upon the viands
forthwith, availing themselves of the last departing daylight to find
the food; and finally, after a little further desultory chat, in which
each did his best to make light of the situation, they disposed
themselves as comfortably as they could upon the floor, and sought such
rest as might be possible under the circumstances.

The night that followed was certainly not a pleasant one, for the floor
was hard, and sleep was shy of coming to them.  With the first
glimmerings of daylight, therefore, the two prisoners arose, weary, sore
of body, and in a distinctly pessimistic frame of mind which found no
amelioration in the fact that hour after hour dragged its weary length
along, bringing neither visitors nor food, although the breakfast hour
had long passed.  Noon arrived, and still no footstep approached the
door of their cell; and when at length their watches marked the hour of
three in the afternoon without the arrival of food, without even so much
as a visit from their jailer to ascertain whether or not all was well
with them, they began to ask themselves seriously whether by any chance
they had been forgotten.

The answer came about half an hour later when the door of their cell was
suddenly thrown open by the man who had locked them in on the previous
night, and who now gruffly summoned them to follow him.

They emerged from their place of confinement gladly enough--for they had
reached that stage of discomfort when one welcomes any change, even
though there should be a possibility that it may prove to be for the
worse--and were at once taken into custody by a handsomely attired
officer in command of ten soldiers who, armed with short, broad-bladed
spears, and each carrying a flaring torch, at once closed round them.
The word to march was given, and the party moved away along the
labyrinth of passages, turning hither and thither in the most
bewildering fashion, until at length they reached a narrow flight of
stone steps that wound upward, corkscrew fashion, until they emerged
into another passage which, after a journey of some fifty yards,
conducted them into a spacious and lofty hall lighted at either end by a
large window glazed with what, from the cursory glance which they
obtained of it, they judged to be talc, or some similar substance.  A
number of passages led out of this hall, and down one of them the party
plunged, finally passing through a doorway into a spacious chamber,
lighted, like the hall, by large windows glazed with the talc-like
material already mentioned.  There was a peculiarity about this chamber
that at once attracted the attention of the two young Englishmen, and it
was this: the wall opposite the door by which they had entered was
divided horizontally into two unequal parts, the lower and smaller of
the two being occupied by a grille of exquisitely fine carved work
executed in a kind of Greek pattern, while the upper compartment was
filled in with a window reaching right across from side to side of the
chamber, that threw a strong light right down upon the precise spot
where they were halted.  As the two prisoners came to a standstill at
the word of command of the officer in charge of the party, the soldiers
formed themselves into a semicircle between their charges and the door,
and grounded their spears with a clank upon the black marble pavement,
while, although the room was apparently empty, save for themselves, the
officer advanced and, raising his spear in salute, exclaimed in a loud
voice, in the quasihebrew tongue which appeared to be the common
language of the people:

"Lords! the prisoners from afar are present."

"It is well," replied a deep, solemn voice from behind the grille, and
the two friends suddenly realised that they were about to be put upon
their trial for the offence of intruding where they were not wanted.
They both directed their gaze upon the grille with greatly enhanced
interest, striving to obtain a glimpse of the person or persons behind
it; but a space of at least twenty feet divided them from it, and at
that distance the interstices were too small to afford the faintest
glimpse of anyone on the other side.  There was a pause of perhaps half
a minute, then the voice that had last spoken said:

"Let Benoni, the officer who arrested the strangers upon their arrival
in Izreel, be summoned to give his evidence."

The officer in charge of the prisoners stepped to the door, opened it,
spoke a few words to someone on the other side, apparently giving an
order, then closed the door again and returned to his former position in
the hall.

"Did you hear that, Dick--Benoni--Izreel?  Don't those two names suggest
anything to you?" murmured Grosvenor behind his hand.

"N-o, I can't say that they do, except that they seem to be not
altogether unfamiliar to me," answered Dick in a like low murmur.

"Familiar!" ejaculated Grosvenor, incautiously raising his voice; "I
should think they are.  Why--"

"Silence!" interposed the officer sternly, at this moment.  Although
Grosvenor's eyes blazed at the insult, and he looked more than half-
inclined to forcibly resent it, he closed his lips with a fierce snap,
and obeyed the injunction, at the restraining touch of Dick's hand.  A
moment later the officer who had brought them to the island entered,
and, closing the door behind him, advanced, saluting as he faced the
grille.

"Benoni," said the deep voice from behind the screen, "say what you know
concerning the strangers from afar whom ye yesterday brought across the
water to Bethalia!"

Again Benoni saluted.  Then, facing toward the centre of the grille, he
proceeded to relate how, in consequence of intelligence brought to him
by runners from the frontier, he proceeded in search of the strangers,
and, having taken them, brought them to Bethalia, in accordance with the
general order providing for such a circumstance.  Then he proceeded to
describe in some detail the journey, making mention of the wonderful
tubes that brought distant objects near, so long as one continued to
gaze through them; and, from that, passed on to describe in full the
incident of the infuriated buffalo, the consternation it had created
among the wayfarers upon the road along which it had charged, its
persistent pursuit of himself, the wonderful magic whereby the strangers
had slain the animal, from a distance, at the precise moment when it had
been about to toss him into the air; and how, finally, the younger
stranger of the two had insisted upon interrupting the journey to
succour the man who had been grievously hurt by the animal; adding that,
in obedience to orders received, he had early that morning proceeded to
the mainland to enquire into the condition of the injured man, whom, to
his amazement, he found to be making favourable progress toward
recovery.  He spoke throughout in a clear, level voice, and seemed to be
concerned only to convey an absolutely truthful impression of everything
to his unseen audience behind the grille.

At the conclusion of Benoni's narrative a silence ensued, lasting for
nearly twenty minutes, broken only by a low sound suggestive of subdued
whispering behind the grille.  At length, however, even this ceased, and
the silence became almost oppressive for the space of about another
half-minute.  Then it was broken by the voice that had before spoken,
saying:

"White strangers, say now by what names are ye known?"

To which Grosvenor replied: "My name is Philip Eustace Meredith
Grosvenor; and that of my friend is Richard Maitland."

This statement was followed by another brief silence, when the unseen
speaker said:

"Philip Eustace Meredith Grosvenor and Richard Maitland," he boggled the
names a little, especially those of Grosvenor, "ye have entered the
country of the Izreelites uninvited, and without even asking permission
to do so.  Had ye sought permission before crossing our border, it would
have been refused you, and ye would have been turned back and permitted
to depart in peace.  But to enter this land uninvited, and without
obtaining permission, is against our law, and the punishment for the
offence is the Slow Death!"

Here the speaker made an impressive pause, as though to allow the
statement to be thoroughly absorbed by the understanding of those most
intimately concerned.  Then he resumed:

"But we learn from the officer Benoni, who brought you hither, that
since entering our country ye have saved the lives of two men; and since
men's lives are more valuable to the Izreelites than aught else, we have
decided to mitigate your punishment to this extent: ye shall live, if ye
will, upon condition that ye swear never to attempt to leave the country
without the royal assent, and to devote yourselves henceforth to the
service of Izreel in such manner as ye may be directed.  Say now,
therefore, will ye accept life, with the condition attached to the gift;
or will ye go forth from hence to die the Slow Death?"

This speech Grosvenor carefully translated to Dick, finishing up by
asking:

"What answer shall I give the Johnnie, Dick?  On the one hand, I have no
fancy for being marched out from here to die the Slow Death, whatever
that may be--something pretty horrible, I have no doubt, by the sound of
it--but, on the other hand, I have just as little inclination to bind
myself to end my days here, among these chappies--eh, what?"

"I fully agree with you, my dear fellow, on both points," answered Dick;
"but there is one broad principle upon which I invariably act, and that
is, where one is confronted by a choice between two evils, always to
choose the lesser of the two.  In this case I think there can be no
question as to which is the lesser of the two evils between which we
have to choose; because if we were foolish enough to choose death it
would mean the end of all things sublunary for us; whereas if we choose
life, even with the condition attached, there is always a sporting
chance of something happening to make matters better for us.  For
myself, I would rather live, even here, than die the death, whether slow
or quick.  My advice, therefore, is to take the life which is offered
us, and make the best of it."

"Very well, then; that's agreed," returned Grosvenor, who proceeded
forthwith to explain laboriously to the unseen judges that they accepted
the alternative of life offered them.

The decision was received with low murmurs of what sounded like
satisfaction on the part of those behind the grille.  A short silence
next ensued, which was followed by further mutterings among the unseen
judges, who seemed to be debating some important point.  Finally an
intimation came from those mysterious individuals that the strangers
were to be marched to the Great Hall, there to take the oath which
formed the condition upon which they accepted their lives; whereupon the
officer, Benoni, gave an order, and the prisoners were marched out of
the Judgment Hall through the door by which they had entered.

Making their way back along the passage which they had previously
traversed, the party presently found themselves in the central hall out
of which all the passages in the building seemed to radiate.  Traversing
this, they now entered another and much wider passage, which conducted
them into what was presumably the Great Hall; for it was a square
apartment measuring fully a hundred feet each way, lighted on two
adjacent sides by lofty windows glazed with the talc-like substance
which the two friends had before observed, only in the present case the
glazing glowed with rich colour, having been painted or dyed with
marvellous skill into representations of various apparently symbolical
subjects, as were also the lights in a great central dome which,
supported by massive columns, occupied about three-fourths of the roof
space of the apartment.  These columns as well as the walls and flat
portion of the roof of the hall, were also very elaborately decorated in
colour, while the floor was composed of white marble.  A long, thin rod,
which might be gold, judging from its sheen and colour, depended from
the great boss, or keystone, of the dome, supporting a group of seven
beautifully ornate, lighted lamps, at a height of about twenty feet
above the floor; and immediately beneath these there was a table covered
with a cloth, woven in a most intricate and elegant pattern, apparently
of very fine gold thread.  Upon this table there lay a large roll of
parchment manuscript, wound upon two golden rods, decorated with what
looked like pine cones wrought in gold at the ends; and behind the table
stood seven venerable men with long white moustaches, and beards
reaching to their waists, clad in a hooded garment of finest wool, dyed
black, reaching to their feet.  Their hoods were drawn so far over their
heads and faces that little of their features could be seen, save their
eyes, which glowed out of the sombre shadow cast by their hoods.

The young Englishmen, still in the custody of the guard, were marched up
to within about ten feet of the table, where they were halted; whereupon
the central and apparently oldest figure of the seven said, in a deep,
grave voice--which both at once recognised as that which had spoken from
behind the grille:

"Draw near, strangers, and take the oath which shall free you from the
ban of the law, and make you citizens of Izreel for the remainder of
your lives.  Lay your right hands upon this roll and, with your left
hands raised toward heaven, repeat after me:--

"I swear, by the Sun, Moon, and Stars, by Light and Darkness, by the
Powers of the Air, and by the Flame of the seven lamps which burn
forever, that I will never seek to leave Izreel without first obtaining
the royal assent, and that henceforth I will devote myself to its
service in such manner as I shall be directed!"

The oath sounded formidable enough, but after all it really meant little
to those who were called upon to take it, and they took it
unhesitatingly, with the full intention of keeping it both in letter and
in spirit--since an oath was an oath, whatever form its wording might
assume--and, this done, Benoni and his guard were dismissed, and the two
newly enrolled citizens of Izreel were left alone with the seven whom
they subsequently came to know as the Elders.

The stern attitude of these toward the two aliens was now considerably
relaxed; they invited Phil and Dick to accompany them into another and a
much smaller room, where, to the great satisfaction of the Englishmen,
they found a substantial meal awaiting them, and to this the entire
party forthwith sat down.  The appetite of the ex-prisoners was by this
time brought to a fine edge by their somewhat protracted fast, and they
did full justice to the fare placed before them, to the wonder and
admiration of their hosts, who, it appeared, were themselves but
indifferent trenchermen.  The meal over, and the attendants dismissed,
Malachi, the chief of the Elders, and the man who had delivered judgment
in the Judgment Hall, turned to Grosvenor and said:

"And now, O Philip! the moment has arrived when we, the Elders, must
decide in what manner you and he whom you call Dick may best serve
Izreel.  Tell me, therefore, I pray you, what ye can both best do, in
order that we may assign to each of you a useful vocation."

"That is all very well," remarked Grosvenor rather ruefully, when he had
translated this speech to Dick.  "So far as you are concerned the matter
is simple enough; you are a doctor, and when once these chappies have
had an example of your skill in that line I expect they'll find you
plenty to do.  But what can I do?  Absolutely nothing useful!  I can
ride, shoot, sail a yacht passably--"

"Stop!" cried Dick impulsively.  "Ask these ancients whether they know
what sails are.  If they don't--and I'll bet they do not, or they would
have used them yesterday--your vocation is cut out for you.  You can
teach them how to use sails, and also how to model their craft upon
better lines; and by the time that you have finished that job I have no
doubt another will turn up.  Just talk to the old gentlemen along those
lines, and see what comes of it."

And Grosvenor did, with the happiest results.  He ascertained that the
Izreelites knew nothing whatever about sails, or indeed how to use the
wind in any way as a labour-saver; and when he told his little audience
that boats could be propelled, corn ground, water pumped, and a number
of other useful things done by the power of wind alone, they were at
first very strongly inclined to suspect him of romancing.  But when he
further offered to demonstrate to them the truth of his assertion they
at once agreed to afford him every facility for so doing, and cheerfully
promised to place at his disposal such men and material as he might
require.

And when he came to speak of Dick's qualifications as a healer of all
manner of diseases and injury to the human anatomy, they were even more
greatly surprised and delighted, for, astonishing as it may appear in
the case of a people so highly civilised in many respects as were the
Izreelites, they knew practically nothing of either medicine or surgery,
and pinned their faith entirely to the efficacy of charms and
incantations.  Moreover, it soon transpired that they had a particular
as well as a general reason for rejoicing at the fact that a physician
of real and proved ability had come among them; for, after a
considerable amount of discussion among themselves, Grosvenor was
informed that the whole nation was racked with anxiety concerning the
health of the young Queen Myra, who seemed gradually becoming deranged;
the especial significance of their anxiety being explained by the fact--
stated with the utmost gravity--that an ancient prophecy, in which they
placed the most implicit faith, foretold that should ever a monarch die
without issue, the fall of the nation and its absorption by its savage
neighbours would immediately follow.  The point of it all lay in the
fact that the Queen was unwedded, and insisted on remaining so, while
the savages who surrounded Izreel on every side were daily becoming more
aggressive!

"Now, here is your chance, Dick," explained Grosvenor delightedly, when
he had translated the above particulars to his friend.  "You sail in
with your pills and potions, cure the Queen, marry her, make me your
Prime Minister, and we all live happily ever afterwards, like the people
in the fairy tales--eh, what?  Shall I tell these chappies that they
need not worry any further about their Queen, for that you are prepared
to cure her, whatever her malady may happen to be?"

"Of course not," answered Dick seriously.  "But you may say, if you
like, that I shall be very pleased to see Her Majesty and do what I can
for her.  And pray try to be serious, Phil, for once in a way; frivolity
is well enough at a proper time, and in its proper place, but it will
not improve these people's opinion of us if they see us laughing and
obviously joking over a matter that seems to be a serious enough one for
them, and may be sufficiently serious for us, too, in the long run."

"Yes--yes--of course," assented Grosvenor, completely sobered by his
friend's grave words; "I quite see what you mean, old chap, and I
promise you there shall be no further ill-timed attempts at jocularity
on my part.  The poor old chappies look a bit put out as it is; but I'll
soon make it all right with them."

Therewith he proceeded to explain to the Elders that, while his friend
could not promise anything definite without first seeing the Queen, he
was willing to have an interview with her at once, or at Her Majesty's
earliest convenience, and would do everything in his power to restore
her to perfect health.

This announcement at once banished the glum looks which Grosvenor's ill-
timed levity of demeanour had called up, and restored matters to the
favourable condition that had been momentarily endangered.  A brief
consultation was held, and at its conclusion Malachi, the chief Elder,
hurried away to seek an audience of the Queen with the object of
endeavouring to secure her consent to an interview with the wonderful
doctor from afar.  Meanwhile the two Englishmen were conducted up a
magnificently wide marble staircase to the building that formed the
second story, as it were, of the immense edifice in which they had been
brought to trial, and which they now learned was the Government building
in which the business of the nation generally was transacted, and the
chief officials of the Government had lodging, the topmost story of all
being a temple to which the Elders were wont to resort in times of
especial national stress and danger, and where they were supposed to
seek--and obtain--inspiration and guidance enabling them to successfully
grapple with the crisis.

The second story of this curious building, which was part legislative
palace and part temple, was the portion especially devoted to the
lodgment of the Government officials, and it was a gratifying indication
to the two friends of their future status in their new country that they
were now assigned apartments in this portion of the building.  These
apartments consisted of two large and exceedingly lofty rooms, one to
serve as a sleeping chamber, and the other as a sitting- and working-
room combined.  Each room was lighted by an exceptionally large window
that opened like a door and gave access to the projecting roof of the
story below, which was some sixty feet wider, each way, than the story
immediately above it.  This roof was flat, and was beautifully laid out
as a flower garden, with winding walks through a level lawn thickly
studded with beds of beautiful, sweet-scented flowers.  The garden was
protected all round by a breast-high parapet, and commanded a
magnificent view, not only of the entire island, but also of the lake
and the encircling hills.  The Elder who installed the newcomers in this
sumptuous suite of apartments having enquired whether their lodging was
to their liking, and received a reply in the affirmative, informed them
that, that being the case, the belongings which they had brought with
them to the island would at once be placed in their new lodging.  Then,
having asked whether he could do anything more for their immediate
comfort, and being answered in the negative, he indicated an immense
copper gong on the landing outside their door, informed them that a
single stroke upon it would at once bring the attendant who had been
appointed to wait upon them, and so bowed himself out.

Meanwhile, Malachi, the chief Elder, was having a rather difficult time
with the self-willed young Queen.  First of all she positively refused
to grant him an audience at all; and when at length he succeeded in
obtaining admission to her apartments by his persistent representations
that the matter upon which he desired to see her was of the most vital
importance, she at once angrily ordered him out again as soon as she
understood that he had found a new physician whom he desired her to see.
But if the Queen was self-willed, Malachi was the very incarnation of
pertinacity; he protested, wheedled, entreated, and was indignant by
turns, but all to no purpose until he happened to mention that the
physician in question was a stranger from a far country beyond the Great
Water; when, first commanding him to repeat his statement all over
again, she suddenly developed a sweet reasonableness, that caused the
astonished Malachi to doubt the evidence of his senses, by announcing
that she would see the stranger, who was to be brought into her presence
forthwith.



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

DICK AND PHIL PROSPER.

Determined to afford Her Majesty neither time nor opportunity to repent
of her sudden decision, Malachi hastened out of the palace as speedily
as his poor old limbs would carry him, and, making the best of his way
back to the enormous building in which the strangers were lodged,
presented himself in their apartment, which he found them in the act of
returning to by way of the window after a stroll round the roof garden
outside.  Almost incoherent from want of breath and his eagerness to
impress upon the pair the necessity to seize the present favourable
opportunity, the Elder hastily explained that his mission to the Queen
had been successful, and entreated Dick and Grosvenor to accompany him
to the palace forthwith; with which request they were of course
perfectly ready to comply.  The palace was but a bare hundred yards from
the larger building, both in fact being built on the same plot of
ground, and a few minutes sufficed the trio to pass from the one
building to the other, to traverse the noble entrance hall of the
palace, and to make their way to the Queen's private suite of
apartments, outside the door of which two soldiers armed with spear and
target stood on guard.  The next moment they were in the presence of the
Queen, who, surrounded by some half a dozen ladies, reclined listlessly
upon a couch of solid gold gorgeously upholstered in richly embroidered
silk.

As the trio entered and bowed low before her, the young Queen glanced
listlessly at her visitors for a moment, and then a look of interest
crept into her eyes, such as Malachi had not seen there for months,
causing his heart to leap within him as he wondered whether this young
doctor had indeed the power to perform a miracle and effect the cure of
the lovely young creature upon whom the hopes of the whole nation
depended.

For lovely the Queen most certainly was, indeed it is the only word
which adequately expresses the perfection of her charms.  The Izreelite
women were, as the young Englishmen had already had opportunity to
observe, mostly of more than prepossessing appearance, tall, stately,
statuesque creatures of Juno-like proportions, with melting dark eyes,
and luxuriant tresses of dark, curly hair.  But Queen Myra's beauty was
of a totally different type, for she was _petite_ yet exquisitely
formed, fair as the dawn of a summer's day, with golden-brown locks, and
eyes as blue as the sapphire sky overhead.  So lovely indeed was she
that Grosvenor, surprised out of his manners, whistled softly, and
remarked to Dick, in quite audible tones:

"Phew!  Dick, my boy, did you ever see such a beauty in all your born
days?  No wonder that these old jossers the Elders are anxious to keep
the darling alive--eh, what?"

As he spoke the faintest suspicion of a smile seemed to flicker for a
moment in the eyes of the Queen, but Dick, who noticed it, thought it
must have been provoked by Malachi's genuflexions as he performed the
ceremony of introduction, pointing to Dick first as the physician, and
then to Grosvenor as the friend who had journeyed with him across the
Great Water, and who, happening in some mysterious way--which he,
Malachi, did not pretend to understand--to possess some slight knowledge
of the Izreelite tongue, would act as interpreter between Her Majesty
and the physician.

By the time that Malachi had finished his speech the terrible
listlessness and indifference of the Queen's manner, which had for so
many months been a source of anxiety to the nation in general and the
Elders and nobles in particular, had completely vanished, and she
electrified the chief Elder by raising herself upon her couch and
bidding him imperiously to be gone and to leave her alone with her
ladies and the two strangers.  The poor old gentleman, his head dizzy
with many conflicting emotions, hastily bowed himself out, and was
halfway back to his own quarters in the Legislature before he well knew
whether he was on his head or his heels.

The door had no sooner closed upon Malachi than an extraordinary change
took place in the appearance and demeanour of the Queen; the languor of
her attitude and the absolute listlessness and indifference with which
she had regarded her chief Elder vanished as if by magic.  Her eyes lit
up eagerly, a wave of colour suffused her hitherto marble-white cheeks
and brow, and, turning to her two visitors, she astounded them by
exclaiming in excellent English, with only a trace of accent, as she
stretched out her hands toward them:

"Gentlemen--gentlemen, are you indeed English, or has my poor brain at
last given way under the strain of my terrible trouble?"

For a moment the friends were literally smitten speechless by
astonishment; then Grosvenor, who was the first to recover full
possession of his faculties, sprang forward and, sinking upon one knee,
raised one of the little outstretched hands respectfully to his lips.

"Madam," he said, absent-mindedly retaining the Queen's hand in his own
as he still knelt before her, "we are indeed Englishmen, and entirely at
your service.  There are but two of us, as you see; but you have only to
command us, and whatever two Englishmen in the midst of thousands of
enemies can do, that will we do for you.  Isn't that so, Dick?"

"It is, indeed," answered Dick, smiling at the passionate fervour of his
friend's speech.  "Your Majesty has but to explain to us the nature of
your trouble, and it shall go hard indeed with us if we do not devise
some means to help you, especially as, unless I am entirely mistaken,
you are a countrywoman of our own.  Get up, Phil, and let Her Majesty
tell us her story.  And mind your `P's' and `Q's', old man," he added in
a low tone; "don't let your sympathy and enthusiasm run away with you,
or you will be apt to excite possibly awkward comment on the part of Her
Majesty's ladies.  You have made some of them open their eyes pretty
wide already, I can assure you."

With a muttered ejaculation Grosvenor hastily scrambled to his feet,
while the Queen, beckoning to two of her ladies, directed them to place
a couple of settees for her visitors close to her couch.  Upon these the
two Englishmen seated themselves, in obedience to a sign from Her
Majesty, who thereupon addressed them:

"I fear," said she, "that I shall find it quite impossible to make you
understand how astonished and how glad I am to see you both.  I am
astonished, because it is a law of this land that no aliens are ever
permitted to enter it--and live; and I am glad because you, like myself,
are English, and my dear mother taught me to believe that Englishmen are
always ready to help their countrywomen in distress under all
circumstances.  And I am in distress, the greatest distress that I
suppose it is possible for a woman to be in.  But let me tell you my
story--it will not take long--and then perhaps you will understand.

"I am twenty-three years of age, and of English parentage.  My father
was an officer in the Indian army, and for nearly four years my mother
resided with him at a little frontier post called Bipur.  Then trouble
arose; the hill tribes in the neighbourhood of Bipur committed certain
excesses, and an expedition was dispatched under my father's command.
Fighting ensued, and my father was killed in one of the earliest
engagements that took place.  There was now nothing to keep my mother in
India, therefore, as the climate did not suit her, she made immediate
arrangements to return to England, taking passage in a sailing ship that
was proceeding home by way of the Cape, a long sea voyage having been
prescribed for the benefit of her health.

"I do not know how it happened, nor did my mother, but the ship was
wrecked on the African coast, and many lives were lost.  My mother,
however, happened to be one of the saved; and she, with the rest of the
survivors, fell into the hands of certain natives who surprised their
camp on the beach in the dead of night.  The men of the party were all
slain; and what became of the few women who survived I do not know, for
my mother never told me; but she was brought by her captors to this
country and presented to King Geshuri, who made her his queen.  Two
months later I was born; and my mother never had any other children.

"Five years ago King Geshuri died; and my mother became the reigning
monarch of the country, in accordance with the Izreelite law.  But she
was never strong; and three years ago she, too, died, leaving me
absolutely alone to govern this fierce, headstrong people as best I
could."

Here the Queen's emotion overcame her for a moment, and she hid her face
in her hands, while the tears welled over and trickled through her
fingers.  Her distress moved the young Englishmen powerfully, and they
began to murmur expressions of sympathy and assurances of help.  But,
quickly recovering her composure, the Queen resumed her narrative.

"That, however, is not what is troubling me, for my mother, realising
that I must one day become a queen, devoted herself entirely to
educating me in such a manner as to prepare me, as well as she could,
for the discharge of my difficult duties.  Unfortunately, we had no
books, so my mother was compelled to rely entirely upon her own
knowledge and experience in the matter of my education and training; but
she not only taught me the English language, but also how to read and
write it, spending many hours in printing with her own hand long
passages containing maxims for my guidance, simply that I might have the
means of learning to read English books, should ever any such fall into
my hands.

"And now I come to the matter that is troubling me.  The Elders tell me
that the time has arrived when I must take to myself a husband; and they
have suggested--oh, I cannot tell you how many men!--Izreelite nobles,
of course--from whom I may make my choice.  But I do not like any of
them; there is not one among them all whom I do not thoroughly detest,
for they are all fierce, arrogant, overbearing men who do not even
pretend that they have any desire to make me happy.  All they want is to
be king, so that they may enjoy the absolute power and authority of a
monarch; for, if I marry, my husband will at once become the ruler of
the country, according to the Izreelite law, and I shall merely be his
wife.  Fortunately, I cannot be compelled to marry, and I won't--I
won't," with a passionate little stamp of the foot, "until I meet with a
man whom I can--can--love.  But I know I shall have no peace until I
consent to marry somebody; the Elders are wild with anxiety that I
should choose a husband; they worry me every day, ay, and almost every
hour of the day, about it, until I am driven very nearly out of my
senses by the thought that, sooner or later, I shall be constrained to
become the wife of some man whom I detest.  That is my trouble,
gentlemen; I wonder if you are clever enough to devise a means of
helping me."

"Yes, Your Majesty, we are," answered Dick confidently.  "I don't say
that we already have a plan; for that would be asserting far too much.
But you have told us the nature of your trouble, which of course is the
first thing that it is necessary for us to know; and now we will lose no
time in thinking out a remedy.  Trust to us, madam; we will not fail
you.  We have practically pledged ourselves to spend the remainder of
our lives in your country--your Elders compelled us to do that--and the
removal of your trouble and the securing of your happiness shall have
precedence of every other consideration with us."

The Queen's gratitude was so great that she seemed scarcely able to find
words in which to express herself adequately; it was almost painful to
witness, so eloquently did it testify to the desperation with which she
had been compelled to combat the suggestions of unwelcome alliances with
which she had been perpetually harassed; but she contrived to make it
quite clear that the arrival of the two Englishmen filled her with
renewed hope and a revived zest in life.  "I know," she said, "that it
must sound unkind of me to say so, but I cannot help being glad that you
are here; for now at last I feel that I have two friends who will stand
by me and help me to the utmost of their ability.  Besides," she added
delightedly, as the thought came to her, "you will be companions for me.
I have been utterly lonely and friendless since my mother died; but you
will come to see me often--every day--won't you?  And we can walk and
talk together, and I can again be happy."

"Of course," answered Grosvenor eagerly.  "You may absolutely depend
upon us both to do anything and everything that you may ask of us.  I
believe we are each to be assigned certain duties, which I suppose we
shall be expected to perform; but our first duty is to you, our first
care must be for your happiness, and, so far as we can prevent it, you
shall never again be worried by those old jossers the Elders, or anybody
else.  We have a few books among our baggage, and as soon as it is
delivered to us I will turn them out and bring them over to you; and as
to coming to see you, why of course we shall be delighted to do so; we
will come over every evening after our day's work is over.  Eh, Dick?"

"Certainly," answered Dick; "or at least as often as it may be prudent
to do so.  And now, madam," he continued, addressing the Queen, "I think
it will be well that we should retire, for above all things else we must
carefully avoid anything and everything that may excite suspicion or
jealousy, and I imagine that both might easily be aroused by a too-
sudden appearance of friendship between ourselves and Your Majesty.
Besides, Malachi the Elder will be anxiously awaiting our report.  But,
as my friend has said, you may absolutely rely upon our loyal friendship
and our best help at all times and seasons.  Possibly we may be able to
arrange another call before the day is over; meanwhile I crave Your
Majesty's permission for us to retire."

As Dick anticipated, they found the chief Elder anxiously awaiting their
return, eager to learn the young doctor's opinion relative to the mental
and physical condition of the Queen; and Dick, with Phil for his
interpreter, was not slow to give it.  Of course, to his practised eye
it had at once been evident that Queen Myra was simply being worried and
badgered and terrified out of her senses by these old men who, with that
idiotic prophecy dominating their minds, desired one thing and one only,
namely to see the Queen married as speedily as possible to somebody; but
to whom it seemed that they cared very little.  Dick intended to put a
stop to that at once; he therefore directed Grosvenor to inform the
Elder, Malachi, that the Queen was in a most critical condition, but
that he could cure her, provided that his instructions were all
implicitly obeyed, but not otherwise.  This last statement set the poor
old Elder absolutely quivering with apprehension; but Dick was not
worrying overmuch about him or anybody else save the Queen, and he
contrived to frighten the unhappy Elder so thoroughly that at length he
unreservedly promised, both for himself and everybody else, that the
word "marriage" should never again be spoken in Her Majesty's presence
until Dick gave permission; and he also agreed that Dick should have an
absolutely free hand with regard to the Queen's treatment, the visitors
she should receive, the exercise she should take, and so on; thus
providing for Dick's and Grosvenor's free admission to the palace and
the Queen's presence as often as they chose.

This important matter settled, the friends retired to their own quarters
to talk matters over.  They found that all their various belongings had
been brought from the cell in which they had passed the previous night,
and were now carefully arranged in their own private apartment.
Grosvenor at once went to his trunk, opened it, bundled its contents
upon the floor, and feverishly proceeded to sort out the half-dozen
books--novels, and two volumes of poems--which it contained, exhorting
Dick to do the same, in order that "that poor girl" might be provided
with a new form of amusement with the least possible delay.  It was easy
for Dick to perceive, from his companion's talk, that the latter had
been profoundly impressed by the charms and the lonely state of the
young Queen; and Maitland quietly chuckled, as he reflected that
Grosvenor would never have seen her had he not fled to South Africa for
distraction from the smart of a heart severely lacerated by some fickle
fair one, who, by the way, seemed now to be completely forgotten.  But
he shook his head with sudden gravity, as his thoughts travelled on into
the future and he foresaw the possibility of a mutual attachment
springing up between Phil and the Queen.  That would be a complication
with a vengeance, and he determined quietly to do everything in his
power to prevent it.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

The ensuing six months passed with the rapidity of a dream; for no
sooner had the two Englishmen arranged matters relating to the Queen
upon a satisfactory basis than they discovered that there was another
cause for anxiety of the gravest character in the behaviour of the
savage nations that hemmed in Izreel on every side.  Hitherto these had
been too busily engaged in fighting each other to do more than make
desultory war upon the Izreelites; but now news of an apparently
reliable character came to Bethalia, the island city, to the effect that
a certain king, named Mokatto--a very shrewd fellow by all accounts--had
entered into friendly communication with the rulers of the other nations
whose countries bordered on Izreel, and had pointed out the folly of
fighting each other for no particular reason, when, by uniting their
forces, they could attack the Izreelites, overwhelm them, and divide
their country equally among the victors.  This counsel, there was every
reason to believe, had been accepted; for reports were almost daily
coming to hand of preparations which pointed to nothing less than an
impending attack upon Izreel by the confederated kingdoms.

This was precisely what the Izreelites had always feared more than any
other earthly thing; and when authentic intelligence began to arrive,
pointing to the conclusion that the long-feared attack was about to be
made, the Izreelites grew almost crazy with panic, some of them
contending that their gods were angry at the admission of two aliens
into the country, and that the only way by which their anger could be
appeased was by offering the strangers as a sacrifice upon the great
altar of the temple which formed the top story of the Legislative
building.  This theory took a very strong hold upon certain of the most
influential of the nobles, who quickly developed extreme jealousy of the
two strangers, whom they vaguely suspected of being in some unexplained
way inimical to them and their interests; and for a time Dick and
Grosvenor undoubtedly went in danger of their lives.

At length, however, this peril became so imminent that the pair agreed
to take the bull by the horns and deal with it forthwith.  They
accordingly convened a meeting of the Seven Elders and all the nobility,
at which Dick delivered an address, graphically describing the danger in
which the nation stood, and boldly asserting that only he and Grosvenor
could possibly avert it.

This, of course, was rather a staggering statement, and one which the
Izreelites were not at all disposed to accept unquestioningly, or
without proof.  But Dick was equal to the occasion.  He and Grosvenor
had discussed the matter together, had decided upon their plan of
campaign, and the Opposition were silenced by his first question.

"What do you suppose would happen to your Queen," he demanded, "if you
were unwise enough to put us to death?  I will tell you.  She is now on
the highroad to recovery; but, deprived of our ministrations, she would
suffer an immediate relapse, and die!  Do you need to be reminded of
what would follow upon that?  If there is any truth in your ancient
prophecy the very thing that you most dread would immediately happen.
In other words, our destruction would immediately be followed by that of
the entire nation.

"But, apart from that, our destruction would be the gravest mistake that
you could possibly make; for we, who are natives of the greatest
fighting nation that the world has ever known, can teach you much in the
art of war, your knowledge of which is of the slightest.  Your weapons
are poor and inefficient, and you know nothing of strategy and
generalship; but we can instruct you in those important matters, and
also teach you how to make new and powerful weapons, by means of which
you will be able effectually to subjugate the nations which now threaten
you.  Say, then, will you destroy us, and so involve yourselves in
irretrievable ruin?  Or shall we teach you how to emerge victoriously
from the coming struggle with your enemies?"

There could be but one answer to such a question; the jealousy of the
nobles gave way to fear.  They no longer clamoured for the death of the
Englishmen, but, on the contrary, were as willing as the rest that the
strangers should be afforded every opportunity to make good their boast,
and from that moment Dick and Grosvenor became virtually the Dictators
of the nation.

Their victory was perhaps the easier from the fact that during the six
months of their sojourn they had already accomplished much.  The Queen,
for example, enlivened and encouraged by the intimate companionship of
her two fellow countrymen, had gradually thrown off the incubus of her
terror, and was now almost her former self again; while Grosvenor had
found congenial occupation in fitting the few craft upon the lake with
sails, and designing and building other craft of greatly improved model,
including half a dozen cutters of the racing-yacht type, which he
conceived would be exceedingly useful should the savages ever again
attempt, as they had done on several previous occasions, to attack the
island city.  As for Dick, the densely populated city alone provided him
with more patients than he could conveniently deal with; and he had
effected many remarkable cures.

One of the first things that particularly attracted the attention of the
two friends immediately upon their arrival in Izreel was the inadequacy
of the weapons--a spear, or sheaf of spears, and a small round shield or
target--with which the people were armed; and this they now proceeded to
rectify by the general introduction of bows and arrows as an auxiliary
to the spear and shield.  There was an abundance of suitable wood for
bows to be found in a forest on the inner slope of the mountains on the
mainland, while reeds suitable for the shafts of arrows grew in
inexhaustible quantities along the margin of the lake; and when once a
pattern bow and arrow had been made, and a sufficiency of wood and reeds
provided, the furnishing of every man with a good bow and quiverful of
arrows was speedily accomplished.  There had at first been a difficulty
in the matter of arrowheads, but this had been overcome by the discovery
of an enormous deposit of flints--in searching for which a rich mine of
diamonds had come to light.

The construction of his fleet and the training of their crews having
been accomplished, Grosvenor next took the army in hand and proceeded to
train it in the use of the bow, succeeding at length, by dint of
indefatigable perseverance, in converting the soldiers into an army of
really brilliant marksmen.

This achievement brought the time on to nearly nine months from the date
of the adventurers' arrival in Izreel, during the first eight months of
which information had come in from time to time which left no room to
doubt that the savages of the adjoining nations had combined together
and were making the most elaborate preparations for a simultaneous
attack upon Izreel from all sides.  Then the sources of information
seemed to suddenly dry up, and no news of any description relative to
the movements of the savages could be obtained.

The Izreelites were disposed to regard this as a favourable omen, many
even asserting their conviction that the savages had quarrelled among
themselves, and that attack from them was no longer to be feared; but
Dick and Grosvenor took quite another view of the matter.  They regarded
the cessation of news as ominous in the extreme, and dispatched
imperative orders to the frontier for the maintenance of the utmost
vigilance, night and day.  They also organised strong relays of swift
runners, radiating from various points along the shore of the lake to
those points where attack might first be expected, in order that
intelligence of an invasion might be brought to the capital with the
utmost promptitude.  The strength of the garrisons in the outlying
blockhouses was also doubled, which were put under the command of the
most resolute and intelligent captains that could be found, with
instructions that each post was to be stubbornly defended until the
enemy should threaten to surround it, when it was to be abandoned, and
the garrison--or what might remain of it--was to retire inward to the
next post, and so on; the various garrisons contesting every inch of
ground, cutting up the enemy as severely as possible, and gradually
retiring inward toward the lake and Bethalia if they could not maintain
their ground.  These preparations did not take long to make, since it
was merely a matter of marching supplementary troops to the frontier,
and the provisioning of the various blockhouses, fortified farms,
castles, and strongholds generally; and as the preparations had all been
made beforehand, a week sufficed to place the entire nation on the
defensive.

Still the task was accomplished none too soon, for on the very day
succeeding that upon which the preparations for defence were completed,
news arrived in Bethalia that large bodies of savages had been seen
massing upon various parts of the border, while the next day brought
intelligence of attacks upon almost every one of the outlying
blockhouses, and of the retirement of their respective garrisons after
severe fighting in which heavy loss had been sustained by both sides.
The invasion of Izreel had begun, and was being prosecuted with
relentless determination and energy.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

VICTORY, TRIUMPH, AND--THE END.

This grave news created the utmost consternation and dismay among the
Elders and nobles of Bethalia; for they had, almost with one accord,
persisted in believing that at the last moment the savages had shrunk
from the contest.  There was, however, one solitary crumb of comfort in
the news that now came almost hourly from the front, which was that,
severely as the Izreelites had suffered, the enemy had suffered ten
times more severely, having been kept completely at arm's length, so
long as the defenders' stock of arrows had lasted, and that it was only
when these had become exhausted that the savages had succeeded in
storming the blockhouses and driving out the defenders.  This contained
a lesson that Grosvenor and Dick were quick to profit by, and no sooner
did the news come to hand than every available person was set to work
manufacturing arrows, thousands of which were daily dispatched to the
front.

Thus far the two Englishmen had remained at Bethalia, receiving news and
directing operations from there, at the urgent request of the Elders;
but as intelligence continued to arrive from the front reporting the
presence of the enemy in overwhelming numbers, and the retirement of
garrison after garrison, with details of terrific fighting in every
direction, it was not to be supposed that Dick and Grosvenor would
consent to remain tamely pent up in the city, while the chance of their
lives was beckoning them from a distance that could now be covered on
horseback in a couple of days' smart riding.  They consequently induced
the armourers of the town to knock them out a couple of makeshift
sabres, which they intended to take with them in addition to their
revolvers and magazine rifles, and announced their intention of
proceeding forthwith to the front.

But had a bombshell exploded and blown to pieces the temple that formed
the top story of the House of Legislature, or unroofed the palace, it
could scarcely have produced a more tremendous effect, or created
greater consternation, than did this simple announcement.  The Elders
were convinced that if the guiding spirits of the campaign were ever
permitted to take the field they would inevitably be slain and the end
of all things would come.  The nobles were animated by pretty much the
same uncomfortable conviction; and as for the Queen, when, despite the
remonstrances and entreaties of the Elders and nobles, Dick and
Grosvenor presented themselves at the palace to bid Her Majesty
farewell, she promptly ordered the arrest of the pair, and gave them
their choice of being confined close prisoners, or pledging their word
of honour to abandon their intention!  It was in vain that the culprits
pleaded, argued, and drew the most harrowing pictures of what must
inevitably happen if they were not allowed to proceed to the front and
personally supervise operations.  The Queen turned a deaf ear to all
that they said; positively refused to give her consent; entreated and
upbraided in her turn; and, finally, bursting into a passion of tears,
declared that if anything were to happen to Phil she would die!  At
which statement Grosvenor incontinently took the young lady in his arms,
kissed her, soothed her back into self-possession again, and vowed with
ardour that if that was how she felt about it he was more than content
to remain behind and look after her, provided that she would allow Dick
to go.  To which compromise she at once smilingly assented.  For such is
the selfishness of lovers!

The murder was out at last, and the precise thing had happened which
Dick had foreseen, and had vowed to prevent, if possible, because of the
terrible complications which, as he believed, must inevitably ensue.
These two had fallen in love with each other, and the chances were that,
as soon as the news reached the ears of the already jealous nobles,
Grosvenor and Dick would be "removed", either openly or privately, while
the Queen would at once be ruthlessly forced into the kind of marriage
that she had all along regarded with such utter dread and detestation.

Here was a pretty kettle of fish! and occurring, too, at such a terribly
inopportune moment.  Yet, as Dick moodily reflected, while being ferried
across to the mainland in one of Grosvenor's new, fast-sailing cutters,
perhaps the moment might not be so very inopportune after all.  It was a
fact that, under the able leadership of Mokatto, the savages were
pressing Izreel as it had never before been pressed within its recorded
history.  Izreel was now literally fighting for its life, its very
existence; and if, through the help of the two Englishmen, the country
should by any chance win out and achieve a decisive victory over her
combined enemies, it was just possible that gratitude, that rarest of
human sentiments, might take the form of forgiveness, if nothing more;
in which case there was perhaps a bare possibility that Grosvenor and
Dick might be released from their oath and permitted to return to their
own country.  But it was doubtful, Dick decided, very doubtful; and his
meditations assumed a distinctly gloomy tone as, having arrived on the
mainland, he hunted up Mafuta and explained to that jubilant savage that
they were about to proceed to the front and take part in the fighting.

To attempt anything even remotely resembling a detailed account of Dick
Maitland's adventures during the ensuing three weeks would be
impossible, for they were numerous and exciting enough to demand an
entire volume to do justice to them.  It must suffice to say that during
that eventful period the youngster saw enough fighting to satisfy him
for the remainder of his life--desperate, ferocious, hand-to-hand
fighting, in which neither side ever dreamed of asking or giving
quarter, in which a disabling wound was immediately followed by death
upon the spear-points of the enemy, and the salient characteristics of
which were continuous ear-splitting yells, the shrill whistling of the
savages, the rumbling thunder of thousands of fiercely rushing feet,
blinding clouds of dust through which there appeared a phantasmagoria of
ferocious countenances, gnashing teeth, glaring eyeballs, the ruddy
flash of ensanguined spear-points, hurtling knobkerries and whirling
war-clubs, upthrown arms, clenched fists, reeling bodies, the shout of
triumph and the short, quick gasp that followed the home-thrust of the
stabbing spear.  This was the kind of thing that marked the end of each
day's fight when, the stock of the Izreelites, arrows being exhausted,
it became necessary at last to evacuate a stubbornly held position and
to retire before the overwhelming hordes of savages that, despite the
frightful losses sustained by them in the course of each day's fighting,
seemed daily to increase in numbers as the encircling cloud of them
contracted with the daily retirement of the defenders towards the lake.

As for Dick, he seemed to bear a charmed life; for although he
fearlessly exposed himself, day after day, wherever the fighting
happened to be fiercest and most stubborn, he had thus far received no
hurt more serious than a mere scratch or two, and a rather severe
contusion from the blow of a knobkerrie that had all but unhorsed him;
but this immunity may have been due, at least in part, to the fact that
Mafuta was always unobtrusively close at hand, ready to guard his
beloved young master, ay, and even to lay down his life for him, if
necessary.

Those were strenuous days indeed for all concerned, and especially for
the defenders; for the fighting usually began with the dawn, and
continued all through the day as long as there was light enough to
distinguish friend from foe; while, so far as the Izreelites were
concerned, they were obliged to maintain a watch all through the hours
of darkness, in order to be prepared for the surprise night attacks
which the savages sprang upon them from time to time, with the obvious
purpose of exhausting the defenders' strength.

But while Mokatto and the other savage kings who had thrown in their lot
with him for the purpose of "eating up" the Izreelites, and partitioning
their country, were solacing themselves with the assurance that, despite
their frightful daily losses in men, they were winning all along the
line, Dick was artfully drawing them after him into the heart of the
chain of mountains that encircled the lake and the island city of
Bethalia.  These mountains, or hills rather--for they were scarcely
lofty enough to be worthy of the more imposing appellation--were of an
exceptionally rugged and precipitous character, to such an extent,
indeed, that they were absolutely impassable except at four points,
where the natural features had been so far improved upon that passes of
a sort--narrow ledges for the most part, bounded on one side by a
vertical, unclimbable face of rock and upon the other by an appalling
chasm--had been painfully hewn out of the stubborn granite; and it was
in the direction of these four passes that young Maitland was now
retiring in excellent order, and enticing the enemy to follow him.  For
it was in these passes that he expected to win the victory which he
intended to convert finally into a complete, disastrous, panic-stricken
rout of the enemy.  To this end he had already made certain
preparations, for news of the completion of which he was anxiously
waiting.  And at length the news came; whereupon, having dispatched to
the commanders at the other three points identical sets of instructions,
of a sufficiently elastic character to leave plenty of scope for
initiative on the part of the leaders, he summoned the commanders of his
own division to his tent as soon as the day's fighting was over, and,
having carefully and fully explained his plans to them, gave them
explicit instructions regarding their conduct upon the following day,
and dismissed them.  Then, mounting his tired horse, Dick rode off up
the pass at a foot-pace, closely followed by the faithful Mafuta, who,
dog-tired though he was after many long days of strenuous fighting,
chuckled grimly as his young master unfolded his plan of campaign.

The fighting which began with dawn upon the following morning was of a
somewhat different character from that of the preceding days; for
hitherto the Izreelites had always begun the day behind the shelter of
stone walls of some sort, from which it had taken the best part of the
day to dislodge them, and from which, when dislodged, they had been wont
to retreat in more or less good order to the next stronghold in their
rear.  But now the last of these fortified positions had been abandoned
and the Izreelite armies had retired--or been driven back, as the enemy
firmly believed--into the mouths of the four passes which led across the
hills to the lake and Bethalia.  They had not only entered the mouths of
the passes, but had retired into them, until they had reached certain
spots where the natural configuration of the surrounding hills was of
such a character as to constitute the position a natural fortress
capable of being held and defended by a comparatively small body of men;
and here they halted and lighted their watch fires.  The enemy also
halted, about half a mile lower down the pass, and, as soon as it was
dark, sent out a number of scouts with instructions to search for a way
by which the savages might slip past during the night, and get round to
the rear of the Izreelites.  Some of those scouts never returned to
their camp; those who did reported that the task assigned to them had
proved an impossible one, for that, after climbing laboriously and at
the risk of their necks for varying distances, they had all, without
exception, arrived at a point where farther progress was impossible and
retreat scarcely less so.  Meanwhile, the Izreelite watch fires, the
foremost line of which happened to be at a turn of the pass, just where
they were well within sight of the enemy, were kept brilliantly burning
all through the night, evidencing an untiring vigilance on the part of
the Izreelite outposts, who could be seen, by the light of the fires,
moving about from time to time.

But when at length the first rays of the morning sun smote the topmost
ridges of the hills and came stealing down their sides, arousing the
combatants to another day of sanguinary strife, behold! there were no
Izreelites to be seen in the neighbourhood of the still briskly blazing
fires, nor could the fresh scouts which were promptly sent out find any
trace of them.  Then Mokatto, suspecting an ambush, sent forward other
scouts, in relays, with orders to advance up the pass--each relay
keeping the one next before it in sight--until the leading band should
regain touch with the enemy, when a single scout was to return with the
intelligence.  But, strange to say, the single scout did not return; and
when at length the fiery chief, losing patience at the absence of all
news, gave orders for a general advance up the pass, the impi who led
the way soon discovered the reason, for they came upon the bodies of
those scouts, one after the other, lying in the narrowing roadway, each
with an arrow through his heart, evidently shot from some spot near at
hand, but quite inaccessible from the roadway itself.

Yet still no enemy was to be seen, no sign of his presence to be
discovered, until Mokatto, leading his contingent and advancing with the
utmost caution, reached the summit of the pass, when he found that the
narrow roadway, at a point where it turned sharply round an elbow, had
been broken down for a distance of some fifty feet, until only space
enough was left for men to pass in single file.  And as the first man
essayed the passage of this perilous path and attempted to work his
precarious way round the perpendicular buttress of rock that formed the
elbow, a spear, wielded by an unseen hand, was observed to dart forward
and bury itself deep in his naked breast, and the next moment he went
hurtling downward off the narrow ledge into the ghastly abyss that
yawned beside him.  And as it was with the first man so was it with
those who followed him in the desperate attempt to round that fatal
elbow, until even Mokatto himself, fearless and resolute warrior as he
was, was fain reluctantly to admit that farther progress, by that way at
least, was impossible.

There was nothing for it but to call a halt, and consider what was the
next thing to be done.  To advance was impossible; to retreat was
equivalent to an acknowledgment of defeat, which, after the frightful
losses already sustained by the savages, would probably result in them
rising upon their leaders and slaying them in revenge for having
fomented so disastrous a war; while a very brief inspection of their
surroundings sufficed to convince them that nothing without wings could
possibly surmount that vertical rock on the one hand, or descend that
awful precipice on the other.  Yet, as they looked, the savage warriors
became aware that somewhere there must be a path to the top of the rock,
for they caught sight first of one, then of another, and then of many
Izreelites peering down upon them from above.  Then, suddenly, there
came hurtling down from the summit of the rock, some five hundred feet
above the heads of the savages, a shower of stones, not very big, yet
big enough, falling from that height, to dash a man's brains out, smash
an arm or a leg like a dried twig, or send him reeling off the narrow
pathway to the depths below.

The word was given to retire.  There was no other course open to the
invaders, for obviously it was worse than useless to stand huddled
helplessly together upon that narrow pathway and suffer themselves to be
destroyed without the ability to strike a blow in self-defence--and the
retreat down the pass began.  Then, with the first rearward movement,
the air, pent in between the rocky walls of that savage gorge, began to
vibrate with a most dreadful outcry of shrieks, shouts, and yells of
dismay and panic; for, as though at some preconcerted signal, a
devastating shower of great boulders came pouring over the crest of the
cliff above the pass, crushing men into unrecognisable fragments or
hurling them by hundreds over the edge of the narrow pathway.  Moreover
this state of affairs prevailed not at one isolated spot only, but all
along the road, as far as it was occupied by the battalions of the
savages.  There was a moment of helpless confusion, during which those
who were fortunate enough to have escaped the first effects of that
terrible shower stood, stricken motionless and dumb, gazing as in a
dream at the frightful, overwhelming destruction that had come upon them
in that awful gorge.  Then blind, raging panic seized upon the
survivors, who turned and fled shrieking down the pass, intent only upon
escaping from the ceaseless pounding of that merciless hail of boulders,
madly fighting for precedence with their equally panic-stricken
comrades, savagely grappling with those who happened to be in front of
them impeding their passage, and either hurling them, or being
themselves hurled, into the ravine that gaped to receive them.

The scene was appalling beyond all possibility of description; it was
not a defeat only, it was not even merely a disastrous rout, it was
practically annihilation; for of the thousands of savages who entered
that pass--that awful death-trap--on that fatal day, only hundreds
emerged from it again; and they were so utterly demoralised and unnerved
with terror that no thought of rallying or making a stand ever entered
their minds; they simply ran blindly ahead until they fell exhausted,
and there lay, absolutely heedless of what might befall them.  And as it
was with Mokatto and his legions in the one pass, so was it with the
chiefs and those who followed them in the other three passes; many of
the leaders--Mokatto himself among others--were numbered among the
slain; and there seemed to be nobody to take the lead or to assume
command.  The invading armies had been practically wiped out, and the
few survivors had degenerated into a flying, panic-stricken mob
dominated only by the one idea of escape into the comparative safety of
their own land.

As for the Izreelites, infuriated at the wanton invasion of their
country, and fully realising what would have been their own fate had the
savages chanced to have been the victors, they relentlessly pursued the
flying enemy during the whole of their retreat down the passes, and
would doubtless have destroyed them to the very last man had not Dick
personally, and by means of imperative messages persistently reiterated,
stayed the slaughter, by pointing out that the victory was too decisive
and complete for further aggression to ever again become a possibility;
and that a too relentless pursuit of already desperate men could but
result in a further loss of life among the Izreelites themselves.  Even
this representation, forcibly as it appealed to a people who regarded
the lives of their men-kind as the most precious possession of the
nation, scarcely sufficed to curb their lust for further slaughter, for
they had become, for the moment, human tigers who, having tasted blood,
abandoned their prey only with the utmost reluctance and with much
savage snarling of discontent and disappointment.  But at length the
obvious soundness of Dick's reasoning gained recognition and acceptance
by the Izreelite chiefs, who finally persuaded their followers to
content themselves with the mere ejectment of the insignificant remnants
of the enemy beyond the frontier.

Meanwhile Dick, having paid a flying visit to Bethalia, to satisfy
himself that all was well in that quarter, made arrangements for the
immediate reconstruction of those portions of the roads through the
passes that had been broken down, in order to check the advance of the
invaders.  This was temporarily accomplished by the building of rough
bridges across the gaps; but, fully recognising how important a part had
been played by those gaps, he sketched out a scheme whereby they should
be made permanent, spanned by substantial drawbridges, and defended at
the inner extremity by strongly fortified gateways.  This scheme he laid
before the Elders, who immediately approved of it, and ultimately the
work was carried out.

But long before that many things had happened.  In the first place the
victorious Izreelites, having shepherded the last of the fugitives over
the border, had returned in triumph, each to his own home, and had set
to work to repair the devastation wrought by the fighting on the lands
that lay outside the circle of the protecting hills.  This was
considerably less than had been anticipated; for, so certain had Mokatto
and his colleagues been of victory that they had issued the most
stringent orders against any wanton destruction of property, the result
being that such damage as had accrued had only amounted to what was
inevitable in the course of a stubbornly contested fight; and that did
not amount to very much where neither of the combatants possessed guns
or other battering paraphernalia of any description.

The return of the triumphant army to Bethalia was a pageant exceeding in
gorgeousness of display and general enthusiasm anything that had ever
before occurred within the memory of any living inhabitant of the city.
The regular troops were comparatively few in number, every male
Izreelite being armed and liable to be called upon for active service,
should occasion for such service arise; but the paucity of numbers was
an altogether insignificant detail; the one thing that was of
importance, and counted, was that they had fought and signally defeated
a force of overwhelming numerical superiority, and inflicted upon their
immemorial enemy a blow of such crushing severity that a lasting peace
was now assured.  Little wonder that the people so recently hag-ridden
with a perpetual fear, that often approached perilously close to panic,
scarcely knew how to give adequate expression to the feeling of joy and
relief that now possessed them, and were just a little inclined to
become extravagantly demonstrative.

The troops, conveyed across from the mainland in boats, and landed at
the one grand flight of steps which afforded the solitary means of
access to the island, were marched through the city to the palace and
the House of Legislature, where they received the thanks of the Queen
and the Elders for their gallantry; and at the last moment it was made
known to Dick--to his secret but profound annoyance and discomfiture--
that nothing would satisfy the populace but that he, as the one hero,
_par excellence_, of the brief but sanguinary war, must head the troops,
mounted on the horse that had carried him so gallantly and well in the
press of battle!  He would willingly have avoided the distinction if it
had been possible, and had indeed fully intended to absent himself from
all active participation in the pageant; but a note from Grosvenor,
informing him that the idea had really originated with Queen Myra, and
that Her Majesty would be intensely disappointed if he refused, caused
him good-naturedly to set his own feelings on one side for the nonce and
consent to become a puppet for once in a way.  Accordingly he was the
first warrior to pass through the gateway which gave access to the
interior of the town, and as he emerged from the shadow of the arch into
the dazzling sunshine that flooded the streets he was met by a choir of
some sixty young women arrayed in gala attire, crowned with roses, and
wearing garlands of flowers round their necks, who, forming up at the
head of the procession, led the way, some singing a hymn of triumph,
rejoicing, and glorification of the victors, while others accompanied
them on flutes, flageolets, and cymbals.  But this was not all.  As
Dick, blushing furiously and feeling more uncomfortable than he ever
before remembered, emerged from the gateway, two maidens stepped
forward, one from each side of the way, and while one deftly twined a
garland of roses round the horse's neck, the other, catching the lad's
hand, gently drew him down and caused him to bend in the saddle
sufficiently to permit her to cast a similar garland round his neck!

It was a distinctly embarrassing situation for a modest young Englishman
to find himself in, but as he heard the shouts of greeting and
acclamation that rang out from the throats of the jubilant crowd who
thronged the streets, and realised that all this was but the outward
expression of a very real and deep feeling of gratitude for important
services rendered, he put his embarrassment on one side, and bowed and
smiled his acknowledgments, to the frantic delight of the spectators.

In this fashion, then, the troops paraded the principal streets of the
city, while young girls and tiny children strewed flowers before them in
the roadway, and the populace cheered and applauded, until the spacious
park in which stood the palace and the House of Legislature was reached,
when a halt was called before the principal entrance of the palace,
where the Queen, once more in radiant health, came forth and, in a few
well-chosen words, expressed her fervent gratitude to all the brave men
who had borne themselves so nobly and gallantly in the defence of their
country, winding up with an expression of admiration and sorrow for the
fallen, and of sympathy for those whom the relentless cruelty of war had
bereaved of their nearest and dearest.

Then Malachi and his fellow Elders appeared and pronounced a long
oration of a very similar character, but going somewhat more into
detail.  He dwelt particularly upon the fierce, undying animosity with
which the savages of the surrounding nations had regarded the presence
of the Izreelites in the country from time immemorial, reminded his
hearers of the state of almost perpetual warfare in which the nation had
lived through the ages, and described the recent attack as the most
virulent and determined that they had ever experienced, being nothing
less than a carefully elaborated and well-ordered plan for their
complete extermination.  Then he touched upon the arrival of the two
young Englishmen in the country, spoke of the law prohibiting the
admission of strangers, and fully explained the reasons which had led to
an exception being made in their case, and congratulated himself and
everybody else upon the happy issue of that exception, going on to say
that but for the warlike knowledge and skill of the visitors, and the
superlative importance of the parts which they had played in planning
and carrying out the scheme of defence, that day of triumph and glory
for Izreel would never have dawned.  And he wound up by saying that, in
acknowledgment and recognition of the enormously important and valuable
services which these young men had rendered to the nation, he and his
fellow Elders had felt it to be their duty to recommend the Queen to
confer upon both the honour and distinction accompanying the title of
Princes.

A roar of delighted approval greeted this peroration; and if perchance
there happened to be here and there a noble or two who regarded with
disapprobation the bestowal of this unique honour upon aliens, they were
too prudent to permit that disapprobation to be suspected, in view of
the apparently universal popularity of the act.

The Queen, acutely conscious of the fact that she contemplated a step,
the effect of the announcement of which it was utterly impossible to
foresee, and quick to recognise that the popularity of Grosvenor and
Dick would probably never be greater than it was at that moment,
determined to make the utmost of the opportunity; and, upon the occasion
of the public investiture of the newly created princes, electrified
everybody present by calmly announcing--in a manner which seemed to
suggest that she was doing something which she was certain would meet
with the full and unanimous approval of her people--that it was her
intention to espouse Prince Philip as soon as the necessary preparations
for the ceremony could be made!

The announcement was followed by silence so tense that, to make use of a
much hackneyed expression, one might have heard a pin drop, and it
lasted so long that the Queen grew white to the lips, and her eyes began
to glitter ominously.  Was it possible that the nobles--who but for the
military genius of Phil and Dick would now in all probability have been,
with herself, captives in the hands of the savages--were going to show
themselves so selfishly ungrateful as to disapprove of her choice?  An
impatient stamp of her little foot on the dais, and a defiant upward
toss of her head seemed to threaten an outburst that would probably have
caused the ears of those present to tingle, when somebody--whose
identity was never established--began to applaud vociferously.  The
applause was almost instantly taken up by another, and another, and
others, until within a moment or two the vast chamber was ringing and
vibrant with the expressions of approval and rejoicing.  The verdict,
though delayed, perhaps, a second or two too long for Her Majesty's
entire liking, was decisive, unmistakable, and not to be gainsaid; and
if there were any present who recognised that it meant the final
collapse of certain cherished ambitions of their own, they were wise
enough to say nothing about it.

But although the Queen's choice of a husband was thus ratified by the
only section of her subjects who might possibly have raised objections
to it, a great deal of exceedingly delicate negotiation and arrangement
was found to be necessary, and a number of quite unexpected difficulties
and hitches arose, before the path to the hymeneal altar was made
perfectly smooth for the royal lovers; while, on the other hand, as the
negotiations and arrangements progressed, it grew increasingly clear
that a man possessed of Grosvenor's outside knowledge and experience was
infinitely preferable, from the point of view of the national advantage,
as a ruler, to even the most powerful and influential of the Izreelite
nobles.  By the time, therefore, that everything was settled, approval
had become intensified into delight, and there was every prospect that
Phil's reign would be a highly popular one.  Then, in due time, came the
marriage, which may be dismissed with the mere mention of the fact,
since this makes no pretence to being a love story.

But although even a royal wedding may possess little or no interest for
those for whose entertainment this story is written, it had a most
important effect upon the fortunes of those whose adventures are here
set forth.  For, by the Izreelite law, it not only made Philip Grosvenor
the Consort of the Queen, but it also put into his hands the actual
government of the nation; it made him, in fact, the King, an absolute
monarch, with power to shape and control the destinies of the nation as
seemed to him good; with nobody to say him nay, whatever the nature of
the decrees he might promulgate, and to whom even the Queen herself
became subject.  Then, with regard to Dick Maitland, it will be
remembered that he, as well as Grosvenor, had been compelled to take an
oath that he would never seek to leave the country without the royal
assent.  But, now that Phil was King, that assent was, of course, to be
obtained easily enough; and obtained it was, as soon as the wedding was
over and Grosvenor was securely installed in his new position.  For,
whatever inducements there might be for Phil to pass the remainder of
his life in the strange, scarcely-heard-of land of the Izreelites, no
such inducements existed in the case of Dick Maitland, who was now all
impatience to return to England and provide for the welfare of his
mother--if, haply, she still survived.

Accordingly, having in due form sought and obtained the royal assent to
his departure from Izreel, Dick lost no time in completing his
preparations for the long and perilous journey that lay before him.
And, first of all, he presented Leo--now nearly full-grown and, thanks
to careful and judicious training, a most amiable, docile, and
affectionate beast--to Queen Myra, as the most cherished possession it
was in his power to offer her.  Of the horses which they had brought
with them into the country he kept only the one which King Lobelalatutu
had given him, leaving the rest with Phil--there being no horses in
Izreel.  Ramoo Samee, being given his choice, elected to remain in
Izreel, in the capacity of stud groom; but Mafuta, Jantje, and 'Nkuku
returned with Dick, as a matter of course.  And, as a measure of
precaution, Grosvenor arranged for an escort of five hundred Izreelite
warriors to accompany the wagon through the country immediately on the
other side of the border; for although the savage inhabitants had
received such terrible chastisement that they were scarcely likely to
interfere with anyone coming from Izreel, it was deemed wisest to run no
risk of a possible hostile demonstration.

At length the day and hour of parting came, and Dick, fully equipped for
his journey, presented himself at the palace to say farewell.  The
moment was not without its emotions, for although it had already been
planned that at no very distant date Maitland should revisit Izreel,
bringing with him certain matters which Grosvenor felt it would be
highly desirable for him to possess as monarch of a people of such great
potential possibilities as the Izreelites, both remembered that the
journey from Bethalia to the nearest confines of civilisation was a long
and arduous one, bristling with perils of every imaginable kind, and who
could say that it would be accomplished in safety, or, if accomplished,
could be repeated?  For life is too full of chances for a man to make
plans for the future, with any certainty that he will be able to carry
them out.  Therefore, when these two adventurous sons of the most
adventurous nation on earth finally clasped hands and said their last
words of farewell, though those words were entirely cheery and
optimistic, the voices which spoke them were a little husky with
feeling, and the firm, strong hand-grip was lingering, and relaxed with
much reluctance.

Dick's ride from the palace through the town to the point of embarkation
for the mainland was one long, unbroken ovation; for there had now been
time for the people to recognise, and also to appreciate, the many fine
qualities of the young Englishman's character; realisation of the
enormous debt which they owed to him and to his friend, their new king,
had come to them, and they were as unfeignedly sorry to witness his
departure from among them as a naturally unemotional people could well
be.

As he stepped into the swift-sailing cutter which was to convey him
across to the mainland, where the wagon, already inspanned, was awaiting
him, a letter was handed to him by one of two men who had just carefully
deposited in the boat a well-filled leather portmanteau bearing
Grosvenor's initials.  The letter ran thus:

  "Dear old Chap,--

  "The portmanteau which accompanies this note contains Myra's and my
  own parting gift to you, in the shape of the finest diamonds which a
  gang of twenty men have been able to extract from the newly discovered
  mine during the last month.  They are quite valueless to us, it is
  true, but in the dear old country to which you are bound they ought,
  even apart from the rubies which you are taking back, to make you one
  of the most wealthy men in the world.  May God grant you health and
  long life to enjoy that wealth, and to employ it--as we know you
  will--in ameliorating the lot of those who are worse off than
  yourself!  We confidently look forward to your return to Izreel in the
  course of the next year or two; but should unkind fortune forbid that
  return, think of us occasionally, and remember that in the far
  interior of Africa there are two hearts in which your memory will be
  cherished so long as life shall last.

  "Yours, in undying friendship,--

  "Phil."

My story is told.  It only remains to add that, some six months later,
Dick Maitland arrived safely in England, with all his treasure intact,
just in time to rescue his mother from the grip of destitution that was
on the point of closing relentlessly upon her, and to place her in a
position of such absolute safety and luxury that it was months before
the dear old lady could persuade herself it was not all a tantalising
dream, from which she would sooner or later awake to again find herself
face to face with the ever-recurring, harassing, heart-breaking problem
of ways and means, and the even more painful state of anxiety and
uncertainty concerning the whereabouts of her son that had so worried
and distressed her during the past year.

As for Doctor Julian Humphreys, Dick nearly drove the good man crazy
with delight by placing to his credit at the bank a sum so stupendous
that he might have spent the rest of his days in riotous luxury, had he
so chosen.  But that was not Humphreys' way at all; his heart was set
upon the relief of those who suffered the keen pangs of poverty through
no fault of their own; and he thenceforth enjoyed the pleasure of doing
good to the top of his bent, retaining his modest establishment at 19
Paradise Street, but greatly enlarging his surgery, stocking it
abundantly with every drug, instrument, and appliance that could
possibly ameliorate pain or heal disease, and continuing
enthusiastically to practise medicine and surgery among the poor,
without fee or reward of any sort, save an occasional expression of
gratitude from some more than usually appreciative patient.





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