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´╗┐Title: Sanders of the River
Author: Wallace, Edgar, 1875-1932
Language: English
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  SANDERS OF THE RIVER

  BY

  EDGAR WALLACE

  Author of "Four Just Men," "The Council of Justice," "The Duke in the
  Suburbs," etc.

  WARD, LOCK & CO., LIMITED
  LONDON AND MELBOURNE



  POPULAR NOVELS
  BY
  EDGAR WALLACE

  Published by
  Ward, Lock & Co., Limited.

  _In Various Editions._


  SANDERS OF THE RIVER
  BONES
  BOSAMBO OF THE RIVER
  BONES IN LONDON
  THE KEEPERS OF THE KING'S PEACE
  THE COUNCIL OF JUSTICE
  THE DUKE IN THE SUBURBS
  THE PEOPLE OF THE RIVER
  DOWN UNDER DONOVAN
  PRIVATE SELBY
  THE ADMIRABLE CARFEW
  THE MAN WHO BOUGHT LONDON
  THE JUST MEN OF CORDOVA
  THE SECRET HOUSE
  KATE, PLUS TEN
  LIEUTENANT BONES
  THE ADVENTURES OF HEINE
  JACK O' JUDGMENT
  THE DAFFODIL MYSTERY
  THE NINE BEARS
  THE BOOK OF ALL POWER
  MR. JUSTICE MAXELL
  THE BOOKS OF BART
  THE DARK EYES OF LONDON
  CHICK
  SANDI, THE KING-MAKER
  THE THREE OAK MYSTERY
  THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE FROG
  BLUE HAND
  GREY TIMOTHY
  A DEBT DISCHARGED
  THOSE FOLK OF BULBORO
  THE MAN WHO WAS NOBODY
  THE GREEN RUST


  _Made and Printed in Great Britain by_
  Ward, Lock & Co., Limited, London.



  CONTENTS.


   CHAPTER                                PAGE

         I.--THE EDUCATION OF THE KING       5

        II.--KEEPERS OF THE STONE           29

       III.--BOSAMBO OF MONROVIA            47

        IV.--THE DROWSY ONE                 61

         V.--THE SPECIAL COMMISSIONER       78

        VI.--THE DANCING STONES             98

       VII.--THE FOREST OF HAPPY DREAMS    117

      VIII.--THE AKASAVAS                  131

        IX.--THE WOOD OF DEVILS            151

         X.--THE LOVES OF M'LINO           169

        XI.--THE WITCH-DOCTOR              189

       XII.--THE LONELY ONE                208

      XIII.--THE SEER                      224

  THE LAST.--DOGS OF WAR                   243



  SANDERS OF THE RIVER.


  CHAPTER I.

  THE EDUCATION OF THE KING.


Mr. Commissioner Sanders had graduated to West Central Africa by such
easy stages that he did not realise when his acquaintance with the back
lands began. Long before he was called upon by the British Government to
keep a watchful eye upon some quarter of a million cannibal folk, who
ten years before had regarded white men as we regard the unicorn; he had
met the Basuto, the Zulu, the Fingo, the Pondo, Matabele, Mashona,
Barotse, Hottentot, and Bechuana. Then curiosity and interest took him
westward and northward, and he met the Angola folk, then northward to
the Congo, westward to the Masai, and finally, by way of the Pigmy
people, he came to his own land.

Now, there is a subtle difference between all these races, a difference
that only such men as Sanders know.

It is not necessarily a variety of colour, though some are brown and
some yellow, and some--a very few--jet black. The difference is in
character. By Sanders' code you trusted all natives up to the same
point, as you trust children, with a few notable exceptions. The Zulu
were men, the Basuto were men, yet childlike in their grave faith. The
black men who wore the fez were subtle, but trustworthy; but the browny
men of the Gold Coast, who talked English, wore European clothing, and
called one another "Mr.," were Sanders' pet abomination.

Living so long with children of a larger growth, it follows that he
absorbed many of their childlike qualities. Once, on furlough in London,
a confidence trick was played on him, and only his natural honesty
pulled him out of a ridiculous scrape. For, when the gold-brick man
produced his dull metal ingot, all Sanders' moral nerves stood endways,
and he ran the confiding "bunco steerer" to the nearest station,
charging him, to the astonishment of a sorely-puzzled policeman, with
"I.G.B.," which means illicit gold buying. Sanders did not doubt that
the ingot was gold, but he was equally certain that the gold was not
honestly come by. His surprise when he found that the "gold" was
gold-leaf imposed upon the lead of commerce was pathetic.

You may say of Sanders that he was a statesman, which means that he had
no exaggerated opinion of the value of individual human life. When he
saw a dead leaf on the plant of civilisation, he plucked it off, or a
weed growing with his "flowers" he pulled it up, not stopping to
consider the weed's equal right to life. When a man, whether he was
_capita_ or slave, by his bad example endangered the peace of his
country, Sanders fell upon him. In their unregenerate days, the Isisi
called him "Ogani Isisi," which means "The Little Butcher Bird," and
certainly in that time Sanders was prompt to hang. He governed a people
three hundred miles beyond the fringe of civilisation. Hesitation to
act, delay in awarding punishment, either of these two things would have
been mistaken for weakness amongst a people who had neither power to
reason, nor will to excuse, nor any large charity.

In the land which curves along the borders of Togo the people understand
punishment to mean pain and death, and nothing else counts. There was a
foolish Commissioner who was a great humanitarian, and he went up to
Akasava--which is the name of this land--and tried moral suasion.

It was a raiding palaver. Some of the people of Akasava had crossed the
river to Ochori and stolen women and goats, and I believe there was a
man or two killed, but that is unimportant. The goats and the women were
alive, and cried aloud for vengeance. They cried so loud that down at
headquarters they were heard and Mr. Commissioner Niceman--that was not
his name, but it will serve--went up to see what all the noise was
about. He found the Ochori people very angry, but more frightened.

"If," said their spokesman, "they will return our goats, they may keep
the women, because the goats are very valuable."

So Mr. Commissioner Niceman had a long, long palaver that lasted days
and days, with the chief of the Akasava people and his councillors, and
in the end moral suasion triumphed, and the people promised on a certain
day, at a certain hour, when the moon was in such a quarter and the tide
at such a height, the women should be returned and the goats also.

So Mr. Niceman returned to headquarters, swelling with admiration for
himself and wrote a long report about his genius and his administrative
abilities, and his knowledge of the native, which was afterwards
published in Blue Book (Africa) 7943-96.

It so happened that Mr. Niceman immediately afterwards went home to
England on furlough, so that he did not hear the laments and woeful
wailings of the Ochori folk when they did not get their women or their
goats.

Sanders, working round the Isisi River, with ten Houssas and an attack
of malaria, got a helio message:

    "Go Akasava and settle that infernal woman
    palaver.--Administration."

So Sanders girded up his loins, took 25 grains of quinine, and leaving
his good work--he was searching for M'Beli, the witch-doctor, who had
poisoned a friend--trekked across country for the Akasava.

In the course of time he came to the city and was met by the chief.

"What about these women?" he asked.

"We will have a palaver," said the chief. "I will summon my headmen and
my councillors."

"Summon nothing," said Sanders shortly. "Send back the women and the
goats you stole from the Ochori."

"Master," said the chief, "at full moon, which is our custom, when the
tide is so, and all signs of gods and devils are propitious, I will do
as you bid."

"Chief," said Sanders, tapping the ebony chest of the other with the thin
end of his walking-stick, "moon and river, gods or devils, those women
and the goats go back to the Ochori folk by sunset, or I tie you to a
tree and flog you till you bleed."

"Master," said the chief, "the women shall be returned."

"And the goats," said Sanders.

"As to the goats," said the chief airily, "they are dead, having been
killed for a feast."

"You will bring them back to life," said Sanders.

"Master, do you think I am a magician?" asked the chief of the Akasava.

"I think you are a liar," said Sanders impartially, and there the
palaver finished.

That night goats and women returned to the Ochori, and Sanders prepared
to depart.

He took aside the chief, not desiring to put shame upon him or to weaken
his authority.

"Chief," he said, "it is a long journey to Akasava, and I am a man
fulfilling many tasks. I desire that you do not cause me any further
journey to this territory."

"Master," said the chief truthfully, "I never wish to see you again."

Sanders smiled aside, collected his ten Houssas, and went back to the
Isisi River to continue his search for M'Beli.

It was not a nice search for many causes, and there was every reason to
believe, too, that the king of Isisi himself was the murderer's
protector. Confirmation of this view came one morning when Sanders,
encamped by the Big River, was taking a breakfast of tinned milk and
toast. There arrived hurriedly Sato-Koto, the brother of the king, in
great distress of mind, for he was a fugitive from the king's wrath. He
babbled forth all manner of news, in much of which Sanders took no
interest whatever. But what he said of the witch-doctor who lived in the
king's shadow was very interesting indeed, and Sanders sent a messenger
to headquarters, and, as it transpired, headquarters despatched in the
course of time Mr. Niceman--who by this time had returned from
furlough--to morally "suade" the king of the Isisi.

From such evidence as we have been able to collect it is evident that
the king was not in a melting mood. It is an indisputable fact that poor
Niceman's head, stuck on a pole before the king's hut, proclaimed the
king's high spirits.

H.M.S. _St. George_, H.M.S. _Thrush_, H.M.S. _Philomel_, H.M.S. _Phoebe_
sailed from Simonstown, and H.M.S. _Dwarf_ came down from Sierra Leone
_hec dum_, and in less than a month after the king killed his guest he
wished he hadn't.

Headquarters sent Sanders to clear up the political side of the mess.

He was shown round what was left of the king's city by the
flag-lieutenant of the _St. George_.

"I am afraid," said that gentleman, apologetically, "I am afraid that
you will have to dig out a new king; we've rather killed the old one."

Sanders nodded.

"I shall not go into mourning," he said.

There was no difficulty in finding candidates for the vacant post.
Sato-Koto, the dead king's brother, expressed his willingness to assume
the cares of office with commendable promptitude.

"What do you say?" asked the admiral, commanding the expedition.

"I say no, sir," said Sanders, without hesitation. "The king has a son,
a boy of nine; the kingship must be his. As for Sato-Koto, he shall be
regent at pleasure."

And so it was arranged, Sato-Koto sulkily assenting.

They found the new king hidden in the woods with the women folk, and he
tried to bolt, but Sanders caught him and led him back to the city by
the ear.

"My boy," he said kindly, "how do people call you?"

"Peter, master," whimpered the wriggling lad; "in the fashion of the
white people."

"Very well," said Sanders, "you shall be King Peter, and rule this
country wisely and justly according to custom and the law. And you shall
do hurt to none, and put shame on none nor shall you kill or raid or do
any of the things that make life worth living, and if you break loose,
may the Lord help you!"

Thus was King Peter appointed monarch of the Isisi people, and Sanders
went back to head-quarters with the little army of bluejackets and
Houssas, for M'Beli, the witch-doctor, had been slain at the taking of
the city, and Sanders' work was finished.

The story of the taking of Isisi village, and the crowning of the young
king, was told in the London newspapers, and lost nothing in the
telling. It was so described by the special correspondents, who
accompanied the expedition, that many dear old ladies of Bayswater wept,
and many dear young ladies of Mayfair said: "How sweet!" and the outcome
of the many emotions which the description evoked was the sending out
from England of Miss Clinton Calbraith, who was an M.A., and
unaccountably pretty.

She came out to "mother" the orphan king, to be a mentor and a friend.
She paid her own passage, but the books which she brought and the school
paraphernalia that filled two large packing cases were subscribed for
by the tender readers of _Tiny Toddlers_, a magazine for infants.
Sanders met her on the landing-stage, being curious to see what a white
woman looked like.

He put a hut at her disposal and sent the wife of his coast clerk to
look after her.

"And now, Miss Calbraith," he said, at dinner that night, "what do you
expect to do with Peter?"

She tilted her pretty chin in the air reflectively.

"We shall start with the most elementary of lessons--the merest
kindergarten, and gradually work up. I shall teach him calisthenics, a
little botany--Mr. Sanders, you're laughing."

"No, I wasn't," he hastened to assure her; "I always make a face like
that--er--in the evening. But tell me this--do you speak the
language--Swaheli, Bomongo, Fingi?"

"That will be a difficulty," she said thoughtfully.

"Will you take my advice?" he asked.

"Why, yes."

"Well, learn the language." She nodded. "Go home and learn it." She
frowned. "It will take you about twenty-five years."

"Mr. Sanders," she said, not without dignity, "you are pulling--you are
making fun of me."

"Heaven forbid!" said Sanders piously, "that I should do anything so
wicked."

The end of the story, so far as Miss Clinton Calbraith was concerned,
was that she went to Isisi, stayed three days, and came back
incoherent.

"He is not a child!" she said wildly; "he is--a--a little devil!"

"So I should say," said Sanders philosophically.

"A king? It is disgraceful! He lives in a mud hut and wears no clothes.
If I'd known!"

"A child of nature," said Sanders blandly. "You didn't expect a sort of
Louis Quinze, did you?"

"I don't know what I expected," she said desperately; "but it was
impossible to stay--quite impossible."

"Obviously," murmured Sanders.

"Of course, I knew he would be black," she went on; "and I knew
that--oh, it was too horrid!"

"The fact of it is, my dear young lady," said Sanders, "Peter wasn't as
picturesque as you imagined him; he wasn't the gentle child with
pleading eyes; and he lives messy--is that it?"

This was not the only attempt ever made to educate Peter. Months
afterwards, when Miss Calbraith had gone home and was busily writing her
famous book, "Alone in Africa: by an English Gentlewoman," Sanders heard
of another educative raid. Two members of an Ethiopian mission came into
Isisi by the back way. The Ethiopian mission is made up of Christian
black men, who, very properly, basing their creed upon Holy Writ, preach
the gospel of Equality. A black man is as good as a white man any day of
the week, and infinitely better on Sundays if he happens to be a member
of the Reformed Ethiopian Church.

They came to Isisi and achieved instant popularity, for the kind of talk
they provided was very much to the liking of Sato-Koto and the king's
councillors.

Sanders sent for the missioners. The first summons they refused to obey,
but they came on the second occasion, because the message Sanders sent
was at once peremptory and ominous.

They came to headquarters, two cultured American negroes of good address
and refined conversation. They spoke English faultlessly, and were in
every sense perfect gentlemen.

"We cannot understand the character of your command," said one, "which
savours somewhat of interference with the liberty of the subject."

"You'll understand me better," said Sanders, who knew his men, "when I
tell you that I cannot allow you to preach sedition to my people."

"Sedition, Mr. Sanders!" said the negro in shocked tones. "That is a
grave charge."

Sanders took a paper from a pigeon-hole in his desk; the interview took
place in his office.

"On such a date," he said, "you said this, and this, and that."

In other words he accused them of overstepping the creed of Equality and
encroaching upon the borderland of political agitation.

"Lies!" said the elder of the two, without hesitation.

"Truth or lies," he said, "you go no more to Isisi."

"Would you have the heathen remain in darkness?" asked the man, in
reproach. "Is the light we kindle too bright, master?"

"No," said Sanders, "but a bit too warm."

So he committed the outrage of removing the Ethiopians from the scene of
their earnest labours, in consequence of which questions were asked in
Parliament.

Then the chief of the Akasava people--an old friend--took a hand in the
education of King Peter. Akasava adjoins that king's territory, and the
chief came to give hints in military affairs.

He came with drums a-beating, with presents of fish and bananas and
salt.

"You are a great king!" he said to the sleepy-eyed boy who sat on a
stool of state, regarding him with open-mouthed interest. "When you walk
the world shakes at your tread; the mighty river that goes flowing down
to the big water parts asunder at your word, the trees of the forest
shiver, and the beasts go slinking to cover when your mightiness goes
abroad."

"Oh, ko, ko!" giggled the king, pleasantly tickled.

"The white men fear you," continued the chief of the Akasava; "they
tremble and hide at your roar."

Sato-Koto, standing at the king's elbow, was a practical man.

"What seek ye, chief?" he asked, cutting short the compliments.

So the chief told him of a land peopled by cowards, rich with the
treasures of the earth, goats, and women.

"Why do you not take them yourself?" demanded the regent.

"Because I am a slave," said the chief; "the slave of Sandi, who would
beat me. But you, lord, are of the great; being king's headman, Sandi
would not beat you because of your greatness."

There followed a palaver, which lasted two days.

"I shall have to do something with Peter," wrote Sanders despairingly to
the Administrator; "the little beggar has gone on the war-path against
those unfortunate Ochori. I should be glad if you would send me a
hundred men, a Maxim, and a bundle of rattan canes; I'm afraid I must
attend to Peter's education myself."

       *     *     *     *     *

"Lord, did I not speak the truth?" said the Akasava chief in triumph.
"Sandi has done nothing! Behold, we have wasted the city of the Ochori,
and taken their treasure, and the white man is dumb because of your
greatness! Let us wait till the moon comes again, and I will show you
another city."

"You are a great man," bleated the king, "and some day you shall build
your hut in the shadow of my palace."

"On that day," said the chief, with splendid resignation, "I shall die
of joy."

When the moon had waxed and waned and come again, a pencilled silver
hoop of light in the eastern sky, the Isisi warriors gathered with spear
and broad-bladed sword, with _ingola_ on their bodies, and clay in their
hair.

They danced a great dance by the light of a huge fire, and all the women
stood round, clapping their hands rhythmically.

In the midst of this there arrived a messenger in a canoe, who
prostrated himself before the king, saying:

"Master, one day's march from here is Sandi; he has with him five score
of soldiers and the brass gun which says: 'Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!'"

A silence reigned in court circles, which was broken by the voice of the
Akasava chief.

"I think I will go home," he said. "I have a feeling of sickness; also,
it is the season when my goats have their young."

"Do not be afraid," said Sato-Koto brutally. "The king's shadow is over
you, and he is so mighty that the earth shakes at his tread, and the
waters of the big river part at his footfall; also, the white men fear
him."

"Nevertheless," said the chief, with some agitation, "I must go, for my
youngest son is sickening with fever, and calls all the time for me."

"Stay!" said the regent, and there was no mistaking his tone.

Sanders did not come the next day, nor the next. He was moving
leisurely, traversing a country where many misunderstandings existed
that wanted clearing up. When he arrived, having sent a messenger ahead
to carry the news of his arrival, he found the city peaceably engaged.

The women were crushing corn, the men smoking, the little children
playing and sprawling about the streets.

He halted at the outskirts of the city, on a hillock that commanded the
main street, and sent for the regent.

"Why must I send for you?" he asked. "Why does the king remain in his
city when I come? This is shame."

"Master," said Sato-Koto, "it is not fitting that a great king should so
humble himself."

Sanders was neither amused nor angry. He was dealing with a rebellious
people, and his own fine feelings were as nothing to the peace of the
land.

"It would seem that the king has had bad advisers," he reflected aloud,
and Sato-Koto shuffled uneasily.

"Go, now, and tell the king to come--for I am his friend."

The regent departed, but returned again alone.

"Lord, he will not come," he said sullenly.

"Then I will go to him," said Sanders.

King Peter, sitting before his hut, greeted Mr. Commissioner with
downcast eyes.

Sanders' soldiers, spread in a semi-circle before the hut, kept the
rabble at bay.

"King," said Sanders--he carried in his hand a rattan cane of familiar
shape, and as he spoke he whiffled it in the air, making a little
humming noise--"stand up!"

"Wherefore?" said Sato-Koto.

"That you shall see," said Sanders.

The king rose reluctantly, and Sanders grabbed him by the scruff of his
neck.

Swish!

The cane caught him most undesirably, and he sprang into the air with a
yell.

Swish, swish, swish!

Yelling and dancing, throwing out wild hands to ward off the punishment,
King Peter blubbered for mercy.

"Master!" Sato-Koto, his face distorted with rage, reached for his
spear.

"Shoot that man if he interferes," said Sanders, without releasing the
king.

The regent saw the levelled rifles and stepped back hastily.

"Now," said Sanders, throwing down the cane, "now we will play a little
game."

"Wow-wow--oh, ko!" sobbed his majesty.

"I go back to the forest," said Sanders. "By and by a messenger shall
come to you, saying that the Commissioner is on his way. Do you
understand?"

"Yi-hi!" sobbed the king.

"Then will you go out with your councillors and your old men and await
my coming according to custom. Is that clear?"

"Ye-es, master," whimpered the boy.

"Very good," said Sanders, and withdrew his troops.

In half an hour came a grave messenger to the king, and the court went
out to the little hill to welcome the white man.

This was the beginning of King Peter's education, for thus was he taught
obedience.

Sanders went into residence in the town of Isisi, and held court.

"Sato-Koto," he said on the second day, "do you know the village of
Ikan?"

"Yes, master; it is two days' journey into the bush."

Sanders nodded.

"You will take your wives, your children, your servants, and your
possessions to the village of Ikan, there to stay until I give you leave
to return. The palaver is finished."

Next came the chief of the Akasava, very ill at ease.

"Lord, if any man says I did you wrong, he lies," said the chief.

"Then I am a liar!" said Sanders. "For I say that you are an evil man,
full of cunning."

"If it should be," said the chief, "that you order me to go to my
village as you have ordered Sato-Koto, I will go, since he who is my
father is not pleased with me."

"That I order," said Sanders; "also, twenty strokes with a stick, for
the good of your soul. Furthermore, I would have you remember that down
by Tembeli on the great river there is a village where men labour in
chains because they have been unfaithful to the Government and have
practised abominations."

So the chief of the Akasava people went out to punishment.

There were other matters requiring adjustment, but they were of a minor
character, and when these were all settled to the satisfaction of
Sanders, but by no means to the satisfaction of the subjects, the
Commissioner turned his attention to the further education of the king.

"Peter," he said, "to-morrow when the sun comes up I go back to my own
village, leaving you without councillors."

"Master, how may I do without councillors, since I am a young boy?"
asked the king, crestfallen and chastened.

"By saying to yourself when a man calls for justice: 'If I were this man
how should I desire the king's justice?'"

The boy looked unhappy.

"I am very young," he repeated; "and to-day there come many from
outlying villages seeking redress against their enemies."

"Very good," said Sanders. "To-day I will sit at the king's right hand
and learn of his wisdom."

The boy stood on one leg in his embarrassment, and eyed Sanders askance.

There is a hillock behind the town. A worn path leads up to it, and
a-top is a thatched hut without sides. From this hillock you see the
broad river with its sandy shoals, where the crocodiles sleep with open
mouth; you see the rising ground toward Akasava, hills that rise one on
top of the other, covered with a tangle of vivid green. In this house
sits the king in judgment, beckoning the litigants forward. Sato-Koto
was wont to stand by the king, bartering justice.

To-day Sato-Koto was preparing to depart and Sanders sat by the king's
side.

There were indeed many litigants.

There was a man who had bought a wife, giving no less than a thousand
rods and two bags of salt for her. He had lived for three months with
her, when she departed from his house.

"Because," said the man philosophically, "she had a lover. Therefore,
Mighty Sun of Wisdom, I desire the return of my rods and my salt."

"What say you?" said Sanders.

The king wriggled uncomfortably.

"What says the father?" he said hesitatingly, and Sanders nodded.

"That is a wise question," he approved, and called the father, a
voluble and an eager old man.

"Now, king," he said hurriedly, "I sold this woman, my daughter; how
might I know her mind? Surely I fulfil my contract when the woman goes
to the man. How shall a father control when a husband fails?"

Sanders looked at the king again, and the boy drew a long breath.

"It would seem, M'bleni, that the woman, your daughter, lived many years
in your hut, and if you do not know her mind you are either a great fool
or she is a cunning one. Therefore, I judge that you sold this woman
knowing her faults. Yet the husband might accept some risk also. You
shall take back your daughter and return 500 rods and a bag of salt, and
if it should be that your daughter marries again, you shall pay one-half
of her dowry to this man."

Very, very slowly he gave judgment, hesitatingly, anxiously, glancing
now and again to the white man for his approval.

"That was good," said Sanders, and called forward another pleader.

"Lord king," said the new plaintiff, "a man has put an evil curse on me
and my family, so that they sicken."

Here was a little poser for the little judge, and he puzzled the matter
out in silence, Sanders offering no help.

"How does he curse you?" at last asked the king.

"With the curse of death," said the complainant in a hushed voice.

"Then you shall curse him also," said the king, "and it shall be a
question of whose curse is the stronger."

Sanders grinned behind his hand, and the king, seeing the smile, smiled
also.

From here onward Peter's progress was a rapid one, and there came to
headquarters from time to time stories of a young king who was a Solomon
in judgment.

So wise he was (who knew of the formula he applied to each case?), so
beneficent, so peaceable, that the chief of the Akasava, from whom was
periodically due, took advantage of the gentle administration, and sent
neither corn nor fish nor grain. He did this after a journey to far-away
Ikan, where he met the king's uncle, Sato-Koto, and agreed upon common
action. Since the crops were good, the king passed the first fault, but
the second tribute became due, and neither Akasava nor Ikan sent, and
the people of Isisi, angry at the insolence, murmured, and the king sat
down in the loneliness of his hut to think upon a course which was just
and effective.

       *     *     *     *     *

"I really am sorry to bother you," wrote Sanders to the Administrator
again, "but I shall have to borrow your Houssas for the Isisi country.
There has been a tribute palaver, and Peter went down to Ikan and wiped
up his uncle; he filled in his spare time by giving the Akasava the
worst licking they have ever had. I thoroughly approve of all that Peter
has done, because I feel that he is actuated only by the keenest sense
of justice and a desire to do the right thing at the right time--and it
was time Sato-Koto was killed--though I shall have to reprimand Peter
for the sake of appearances. The Akasava chief is in the bush, hiding."

Peter came back to his capital after his brief but strenuous campaign,
leaving behind him two territories that were all the better for his
visit, though somewhat sore.

The young king brought together his old men, his witch-doctors, and
other notabilities.

"By all the laws of white men," he said, "I have done wrong to Sandi,
because he has told me I must not fight, and, behold, I have destroyed
my uncle, who was a dog, and I have driven the chief of the Akasava into
the forest. But Sandi told me also that I must do what was just, and
that I have done according to my lights, for I have destroyed a man who
put my people to shame. Now, it seems to me that there is only one thing
to do, and that is to go to Sandi, telling the truth and asking him to
judge."

"Lord king," said the oldest of his councillors, "what if Sandi puts you
to the chain-gang?"

"That is with to-morrow," quoth the king, and gave orders for
preparations to be made for departure.

Half-way to headquarters the two met; King Peter going down and Sanders
coming up. And here befell the great incident.

No word was spoken of Peter's fault before sunset; but when blue smoke
arose from the fires of Houssa and warrior, and the little camp in the
forest clearing was all a-chatter, Sanders took the king's arm and led
him along the forest path.

Peter told his tale and Sanders listened.

"And what of the chief of the Akasava?" he asked.

"Master," said the king, "he fled to the forest cursing me, and with him
went many bad men."

Sanders nodded again gravely.

They talked of many things till the sun threw long shadows, and then
they turned to retrace their footsteps. They were within half a mile of
the camp and the faint noise of men laughing, and the faint scent of
fires burning came to them, when the chief of the Akasava stepped out
from behind a tree and stood directly in their path. With him were some
eight fighting men fully armed.

"Lord king," said the chief of the Akasava, "I have been waiting for
you."

The king made neither movement nor reply, but Sanders reached for his
revolver.

His hand closed on the butt, when something struck him and he went down
like a log.

"Now we will kill the king of the Isisi, and the white man also." The
voice was the chief's, but Sanders was not taking any particular
interest in the conversation, because there was a hive of wild bees
buzzing in his head, and a maze of pain; he felt sick.

"If you kill me it is little matter," said the king's voice, "because
there are many men who can take my place; but if you slay Sandi, you
slay the father of the people, and none can replace him."

"He whipped you, little king," said the chief of the Akasava mockingly.

"I would throw him into the river," said a strange voice after a long
interval; "thus shall no trace be found of him, and no man will lay his
death to our door."

"What of the king?" said another. Then came a crackling of twigs and the
voices of men.

"They are searching," whispered a voice. "King, if you speak I will kill
you now."

"Kill!" said the young king's even voice, and shouted, "Oh, M'sabo!
Beteli! Sandi is here!"

That was all Sandi heard.

       *     *     *     *     *

Two days later he sat up in bed and demanded information. There was a
young doctor with him when he woke, who had providentially arrived from
headquarters.

"The king?" he hesitated. "Well, they finished the king, but he saved
your life. I suppose you know that?"

Sanders said "Yes" without emotion.

"A plucky little beggar," suggested the doctor.

"Very," said Sanders. Then: "Did they catch the chief of the Akasava?"

"Yes; he was so keen on finishing you that he delayed his bolting. The
king threw himself on you and covered your body."

"That will do."

Sanders' voice was harsh and his manner brusque at the best of times,
but now his rudeness was brutal.

"Just go out of the hut, doctor--I want to sleep."

He heard the doctor move, heard the rattle of the "chick" at the hut
door, then he turned his face to the wall and wept.



  CHAPTER II.

  KEEPERS OF THE STONE.


There is a people who live at Ochori in the big African forest on the
Ikeli River, who are called in the native tongue "The Keepers of the
Stone."

There is a legend that years and years ago, _cala-cala_, there was a
strange, flat stone, "inscribed with the marks of the devils" (so the
grave native story-teller puts it), which was greatly worshipped and
prized, partly for its magic powers, and partly because of the two
ghosts who guarded it.

It was a fetish of peculiar value to the mild people who lived in the
big forest, but the Akasava, who are neither mild nor reverential, and
being, moreover, in need of gods, swooped down upon the Ochori one red
morning and came away with this wonderful stone and other movables.
Presumably, the "ghosts of brass" went also. It was a great business,
securing the stone, for it was set in a grey slab in the solid rock, and
many spear-heads were broken before it could be wrenched from its place.
But in the end it was taken away, and for several years it was the boast
of the Akasava that they derived much benefit from this sacred
possession. Then of a sudden the stone disappeared, and with it all the
good fortune of its owners. For the vanishing of the stone coincided
with the arrival of British rule, and it was a bad thing for the
Akasava.

There came in these far-off days ('95?) a ridiculous person in white
with an escort of six soldiers. He brought a message of peace and good
fellowship, and talked of a new king and a new law. The Akasava listened
in dazed wonderment, but when they recovered they cut off his head, also
the heads of the escort. It seemed to be the only thing to do under the
circumstances.

Then one morning the Akasava people woke to find the city full of
strange white folk, who had come swiftly up the river in steamboats.
There were too many to quarrel with, so the people sat quiet, a little
frightened and very curious, whilst two black soldiers strapped the
hands and feet of the Akasava chief prior to hanging him by the neck
till he was dead.

Nor did the bad luck of the people end here; there came a lean year,
when the manioc[1] root was bad and full of death-water, when goats
died, and crops were spoilt by an unexpected hurricane. There was always
a remedy at hand for a setback of this kind. If you have not the thing
you require, go and take it. So, following precedents innumerable, the
Akasava visited the Ochori, taking away much grain, and leaving behind
dead men and men who prayed for death. In the course of time the white
men came with their steamboats, their little brass guns, and the
identical block and tackle, which they fastened to the identical tree
and utilised in the inevitable manner.

"It appears," said the new chief--who was afterwards hanged for the
killing of the king of the Isisi--"that the white man's law is made to
allow weak men to triumph at the expense of the strong. This seems
foolish, but it will be well to humour them."

His first act was to cut down the hanging-tree--it was too conspicuous
and too significant. Then he set himself to discover the cause of all
the trouble which had come upon the Akasava. The cause required little
appreciation. The great stone had been stolen, as he well knew, and the
remedy resolved itself into a question of discovering the thief. The
wretched Ochori were suspect.

"If we go to them," said the chief of the Akasava thoughtfully, "killing
them very little, but rather burning them, so that they told where this
godstone was hidden, perhaps the Great Ones would forgive us."

"In my young days," said an aged councillor, "when evil men would not
tell where stolen things were buried, we put hot embers in their hands
and bound them tightly."

"That is a good way," approved another old man, wagging his head
applaudingly; "also to tie men in the path of the soldier-ants has been
known to make them talkative."

"Yet we may not go up against the Ochori for many reasons," said the
chief; "the principal of which is that if the stone be with them we
shall not overcome them owing to the two ghosts--though I do not
remember that the ghosts were very potent in the days when the stone was
with us," he added, not without hope.

The little raid which followed and the search for the stone are told
briefly in official records. The search was fruitless, and the Akasava
folk must needs content themselves with such picking as came to hand.

Of how Mr. Niceman, the deputy commissioner, and then Sanders himself,
came up, I have already told. That was long ago, as the natives say,
_cala-cala_, and many things happened subsequently that put from the
minds of the people all thought of the stone.

In course of time the chief of the Akasava died the death for various
misdoings, and peace came to the land that fringes Togo.

       *     *     *     *     *

Sanders has been surprised twice in his life. Once was at Ikeli, which
in the native tongue means "little river." It is not a little river at
all, but, on the contrary, a broad, strong, sullen stream that swirls
and eddies and foams as it swings the corner of its tortuous course
seaward. Sanders sat on a deck-chair placed under the awning of his tiny
steamer, and watched the river go rushing past. He was a contented man,
for the land was quiet and the crops were good. Nor was there any crime.

There was sleeping sickness at Bofabi, and beri-beri at Akasava, and in
the Isisi country somebody had discovered a new god, and, by all
accounts that came down river, they worshipped him night and day.

He was not bothering about new gods, because gods of any kind were a
beneficent asset. Milini, the new king of the Isisi, had sent him word:

"Master," said his mouthpiece, the messenger, "this new god lives in a
box which is borne upon the shoulders of priests. It is so long and so
wide, and there are four sockets in which the poles fit, and the god
inside is a very strong one, and full of pride."

"Ko, ko!" said Sanders, with polite interest, "tell the lord king, your
master, that so long as this god obeys the law, he may live in the Isisi
country, paying no tax. But if he tells the young men to go fighting, I
shall come with a much stronger god, who will eat your god up. The
palaver is finished."

Sanders, with his feet stretched out on the rail of the boat, thought of
the new god idly. When was it that the last had come? There was one in
the N'Gombi country years ago, a sad god who lived in a hut which no man
dare approach; there was another god who came with thunder demanding
sacrifice--human sacrifice. This was an exceptionally bad god, and had
cost the British Government six hundred thousand pounds, because there
was fighting in the bush and a country unsettled. But, in the main, the
gods were good, doing harm to none, for it is customary for new gods to
make their appearance after the crops are gathered, and before the rainy
season sets in.

So Sanders thought, sitting in the shade of a striped awning on the
foredeck of the little _Zaire_.

The next day, before the sun came up, he turned the nose of the steamer
up-stream, being curious as to the welfare of the shy Ochori folk, who
lived too near the Akasava for comfort, and, moreover, needed nursing.
Very slow was the tiny steamer's progress, for the current was strong
against her. After two days' travel Sanders got into Lukati, where young
Carter had a station.

The deputy commissioner came down to the beach in his pyjamas, with a
big pith helmet on the back of his head, and greeted his chief
boisterously.

"Well?" said Sanders; and Carter told him all the news. There was a land
palaver at Ebibi; Otabo, of Bofabi, had died of the sickness; there were
two leopards worrying the outlying villages, and----

"Heard about the Isisi god?" he asked suddenly; and Sanders said that he
had.

"It's an old friend of yours," said Carter. "My people tell me that this
old god-box contains the stone of the Ochori."

"Oh!" said Sanders, with sudden interest.

He breakfasted with his subordinate, inspected his little garrison of
thirty, visited his farm, admired his sweet potatoes, and patronised his
tomatoes.

Then he went back to the boat and wrote a short dispatch in the tiniest
of handwriting on the flimsiest of paper slips. "In case!" said Sanders.

"Bring me 14," he said to his servant, and Abiboo came back to him soon
with a pigeon in his hand.

"Now, little bird," said Sanders, carefully rolling his letter round the
red leg of the tiny courier and fastening it with a rubber band, "you've
got two hundred miles to fly before sunrise to-morrow--and 'ware hawks!"

Then he gathered the pigeon in his hand, walked with it to the stern of
the boat, and threw it into the air.

His crew of twelve men were sitting about their cooking-pot--that pot
which everlastingly boils.

"Yoka!" he called, and his half-naked engineer came bounding down the
slope.

"Steam," said Sanders; "get your wood aboard; I am for Isisi."

       *     *     *     *     *

There was no doubt at all that this new god was an extremely powerful
one. Three hours from the city the _Zaire_ came up to a long canoe with
four men standing at their paddles singing dolefully. Sanders remembered
that he had passed a village where women, their bodies decked with green
leaves, wailed by the river's edge.

He slowed down till he came abreast of the canoe, and saw a dead man
lying stark in the bottom.

"Where go you with this body?" he asked.

"To Isisi, lord," was the answer.

"The middle river and the little islands are places for the dead," said
Sanders brusquely. "It is folly to take the dead to the living."

"Lord," said the man who spoke, "at Isisi lives a god who breathes life;
this man"--he pointed downwards--"is my brother, and he died very
suddenly because of a leopard. So quickly he died that he could not tell
us where he had hidden his rods and his salt. Therefore we take him to
Isisi, that the new god may give him just enough life to make his
relations comfortable."

"The middle river," said Sanders quietly, and pointed to such a lone
island, all green with tangled vegetation, as might make a burying
ground. "What is your name?"

"Master, my name is N'Kema," said the man sullenly.

"Go, then, N'Kema," he said, and kept the steamer slow ahead whilst he
watched the canoe turn its blunt nose to the island and disembark its
cargo.

Then he rang the engines full ahead, steered clear of a sandbank, and
regained the fairway.

He was genuinely concerned.

The stone was something exceptional in fetishes, needing delicate
handling. That the stone existed, he knew. There were legends
innumerable about it; and an explorer had, in the early days, seen it
through his glasses. Also the "ghosts clad in brass" he had heard
about--these fantastic and warlike shades who made peaceable men go out
to battle--all except the Ochori, who were never warlike, and whom no
number of ghosts could incite to deeds of violence.

You will have remarked that Sanders took native people seriously, and
that, I remark in passing, is the secret of good government. To him,
ghosts were factors, and fetishes potent possibilities. A man who knew
less would have been amused, but Sanders was not amused, because he had
a great responsibility. He arrived at the city of Isisi in the
afternoon, and observed, even at a distance, that something unusual was
occurring. The crowd of women and children that the arrival of the
Commissioner usually attracted did not gather as he swung in from
mid-stream and followed the water-path that leads to shoal.

Only the king and a handful of old men awaited him, and the king was
nervous and in trouble.

"Lord," he blurted, "I am no king in this city because of the new god;
the people are assembled on the far side of the hill, and there they sit
night and day watching the god in the box."

Sanders bit his lip thoughtfully, and said nothing.

"Last night," said the king, "'The Keepers of the Stone' appeared
walking through the village."

He shivered, and the sweat stood in big beads on his forehead, for a
ghost is a terrible thing.

"All this talk of keepers of stones is folly," said Sanders calmly;
"they have been seen by your women and your unblooded boys."

"Lord, I saw them myself," said the king simply; and Sanders was
staggered, for the king was a sane man.

"The devil you have!" said Sanders in English; then, "What manner of
ghost were these?"

"Lord," said the king, "they were white of face, like your greatness.
They wore brass upon their heads and brass upon their breasts. Their
legs were bare, but upon the lower legs was brass again."

"Any kind of ghost is hard enough to believe," said Sanders irritably,
"but a brass ghost I will not have at any price." He spoke English
again, as was his practice when he talked to himself, and the king
stood silent, not understanding him.

"What else?" said Sanders.

"They had swords," continued the chief, "such as the elephant-hunters of
the N'Gombi people carry. Broad and short, and on their arms were
shields."

Sanders was nonplussed.

"And they cry 'war,'" said the chief. "This is the greatest shame of
all, for my young men dance the death dance and streak their bodies with
paint and talk boastfully."

"Go to your hut," said Sanders; "presently I will come and join you."

He thought and thought, smoking one black cigar after another, then he
sent for Abiboo, his servant.

"Abiboo," he said, "by my way of thinking, I have been a good master to
you."

"That is so, lord," said Abiboo.

"Now I will trust you to go amongst my crew discovering their gods. If I
ask them myself, they will lie to me out of politeness, inventing this
god and that, thinking they please me."

Abiboo chose the meal hour, when the sun had gone out and the world was
grey and the trees motionless. He came back with the information as
Sanders was drinking his second cup of coffee in the loneliness of the
tiny deck-house.

"Master," he reported, "three men worship no god whatever, three more
have especial family fetishes, and two are Christians more or less, and
the four Houssas are with me in faith."

"And you?"

Abiboo, the Kano boy, smiled at Sanders' assumption of innocence.

"Lord," he said, "I follow the Prophet, believing only in the one God,
beneficent and merciful."

"That is good," said Sanders. "Now let the men load wood, and Yoka shall
have steam against moonrise, and all shall be ready for slipping."

At ten o'clock by his watch he fell-in his four Houssas, serving out to
each a short carbine and a bandoleer. Then the party went ashore.

The king in his patience sat in his hut, and Sanders found him.

"You will stay here, Milini," he commanded, "and no blame shall come to
you for anything that may happen this night."

"What will happen, master?"

"Who knows!" said Sanders, philosophically.

The streets were in pitch darkness, but Abiboo, carrying a lantern, led
the way. Only occasionally did the party pass a tenanted hut. Generally
they saw by the dull glow of the log that smouldered in every habitation
that it was empty. Once a sick woman called to them in passing. It was
near her time, she said, and there was none to help her in the supreme
moment of her agony.

"God help you, sister!" said Sanders, ever in awe of the mysteries of
birth. "I will send women to you. What is your name?"

"They will not come," said the plaintive voice. "To-night the men go out
to war, and the women wait for the great dance."

"To-night?"

"To-night, master--so the ghosts of brass decree."

Sanders made a clicking noise with his mouth.

"That we shall see," he said, and went on.

The party reached the outskirts of the city. Before them, outlined
against a bronze sky, was the dark bulk of a little hill, and this they
skirted.

The bronze became red, and rose, and dull bronze again, as the fires
that gave it colour leapt or fell. Turning the shoulder of the hill,
Sanders had a full view of the scene.

Between the edge of the forest and slope of the hill was a broad strip
of level land. On the left was the river, on the right was swamp and
forest again.

In the very centre of the plain a huge fire burnt. Before it, supported
by its poles, on two high trestles, a square box.

But the people!

A huge circle, squatting on its haunches, motionless, silent; men,
women, children, tiny babies, at their mothers' hips they stretched; a
solid wheel of humanity, with the box and the fire as a hub.

There was a lane through which a man might reach the box--a lane along
which passed a procession of naked men, going and returning. These were
they who replenished the fire, and Sanders saw them dragging fuel for
that purpose. Keeping to the edge of the crowd, he worked his way to the
opening. Then he looked round at his men.

"It is written," he said, in the curious Arabic of the Kano people,
"that we shall carry away this false god. As to which of us shall live
or die through this adventure, that is with Allah, who knows all
things."

Then he stepped boldly along the lane. He had changed his white ducks
for a dark blue uniform suit, and he was not observed by the majority
until he came with his Houssas to the box. The heat from the fire was
terrific, overpowering. Close at hand he saw that the fierceness of the
blaze had warped the rough-hewn boards of the box, and through the
opening he saw in the light a slab of stone.

"Take up the box quickly," he commanded, and the Houssas lifted the
poles to their shoulders. Until then the great assembly had sat in
silent wonder, but as the soldiers lifted their burden, a yell of rage
burst from five thousand throats, and men leapt to their feet.

Sanders stood before the fire, one hand raised, and silence fell,
curiosity dominating resentment.

"People of the Isisi," said Sanders, "let no man move until the
god-stone has passed, for death comes quickly to those who cross the
path of gods."

He had an automatic pistol in each hand, and the particular deity he was
thinking of at the moment was not the one in the box.

The people hesitated, surging and swaying, as a mob will sway in its
uncertainty.

With quick steps the bearers carried their burden through the lane; they
had almost passed unmolested when an old woman shuffled forward and
clutched at Sanders' arm.

"Lord, lord!" she quavered, "what will you do with our god?"

"Take him to the proper place," said Sanders, "being by Government
appointed his keeper."

"Give me a sign," she croaked, and the people in her vicinity repeated,
"A sign, master!"

"This is a sign," said Sanders, remembering the woman in labour. "By the
god's favour there shall be born to Ifabi, wife of Adako, a male child."

He heard the babble of talk; he heard his message repeated over the
heads of the crowd; he saw a party of women go scurrying back to the
village; then he gave the order to march. There were murmurings, and
once he heard a deep-voiced man begin the war-chant, but nobody joined
him. Somebody--probably the same man--clashed his spear against his
wicker shield, but his warlike example was not followed. Sanders gained
the village street. Around him was such a press of people that he
followed the swaying box with difficulty. The river was in sight; the
moon, rising a dull, golden ball over the trees, laced the water with
silver, and then there came a scream of rage.

"He lies! He lies! Ifabi, the wife of Adako, has a female child."

Sanders turned swiftly like a dog at bay; his lips upcurled in a snarl,
his white, regular teeth showing.

"Now," said Sanders, speaking very quickly, "let any man raise his
spear, and he dies."

Again they stood irresolute, and Sanders, over his shoulder, gave an
order.

For a moment only the people hesitated; then, as the soldiers gripped
the poles of the god-box, with one fierce yell they sprang forward.

A voice screamed something; and, as if by magic, the tumult ceased, and
the crowd darted backward and outward, falling over one another in their
frantic desire to escape.

Sanders, his pistol still loaded, stood in open-mouthed astonishment at
the stampede.

Save for his men he was alone; and then he saw.

Along the centre of the street two men were walking. They were clad
alike in short crimson kilts that left their knees bare; great brass
helmets topped their heads, and brass cuirasses covered their breasts.

Sanders watched them as they came nearer, then: "If this is not fever,
it is madness," he muttered, for what he saw were two Roman centurions,
their heavy swords girt about their waists.

He stood still, and they passed him, so close that he saw on the boss of
one shield the rough-moulded letters:--

  "AUGUSTUS CAE."

"Fever" said Sanders emphatically, and followed the box to the ship.

       *     *     *     *     *

When the steamer reached Lukati, Sanders was still in a condition of
doubt, for his temperature was normal, and neither fever nor sun could
be held accountable for the vision. Added to which, his men had seen the
same thing.

He found the reinforcements his pigeon had brought, but they were
unnecessary now.

"It beats me," he confessed to Carter, telling the story; "but we'll get
out the stone; it might furnish an explanation. Centurions--bah!"

The stone, exposed in the light of day, was of greyish granite, such as
Sanders did not remember having seen before.

"Here are the 'devil marks,'" he said, as he turned it over.
"Possibly--whew!"

No wonder he whistled, for closely set were a number of printed
characters; and Carter, blowing the dust, saw--

  "MARIUS ET AUGUSTUS
  CENT . . . . . . . . . NERO
  IMPERAT . . . . . IN DEUS
  . . . . . DULCE."

That night, with great labour, Sanders, furbishing his rusty Latin, and
filling in gaps, made a translation:

  "Marius and Augustus,
  Centurions of Nero, Csar and
  Emperor,
  Sleep sweetly with the gods."

    "We are they who came beyond the wild lands which Hanno, the
    Carthaginian, found . . .

    "Marcus Septimus went up into Egypt, and with him Decimus
    Superbus, but by the will of Csar, and the favour of the gods,
    we sailed to the black seas beyond. . . . . Here we lived, our
    ships suffering wreck, being worshipped by the barbarians,
    teaching them warlike practices.

    . . . "You who come after . . . bear greetings to Rome to Cato
    Hippocritus, who dwells by the gate . . ."

Sanders shook his head when he had finished reading, and said it was
"rum."

[Footnote 1: There is a tremendous amount of free hydrocyanic acid
(prussic acid) in manioc.]



  CHAPTER III.

  BOSAMBO OF MONROVIA.


For many years have the Ochori people formed a sort of grim comic relief
to the tragedy of African colonisation. Now it may well be that we shall
laugh at the Ochori no more. Nor, in the small hours of the night, when
conversation flags in the little circle about the fires in fishing
camps, shall the sleepy-eyed be roused to merriment by stories of Ochori
meekness. All this has come about by favour of the Liberian Government,
though at present the Liberian Government is not aware of the fact.

With all due respect to the Republic of Liberia, I say that the
Monrovians are naturally liars and thieves.

Once upon a time, that dignity might be added to the State, a warship
was acquired--if I remember aright it was presented by a disinterested
shipowner. The Government appointed three admirals, fourteen captains,
and as many officers as the ship would hold, and they all wore gorgeous
but ill-fitting uniforms. The Government would have appointed a crew
also, but for the fact that the ship was not big enough to hold any
larger number of people than its officers totalled.

This tiny man-of-war of the black republic went to sea once, the
admirals and captains taking it in turn to stoke and steer--a very
pleasing and novel sensation, this latter.

Coming back into the harbour, one of the admirals said--

"It is my turn to steer now," and took the wheel.

The ship struck a rock at the entrance of the harbour and went down. The
officers escaped easily enough, for your Monrovian swims like a fish,
but their uniforms were spoilt by the sea water. To the suggestion that
salvage operations should be attempted to refloat the warship, the
Government very wisely said no, they thought not.

"We know where she is," said the President--he was sitting on the edge
of his desk at Government House, eating sardines with his fingers--"and
if we ever want her, it will be comforting to know she is so close to
us."

Nothing more would have been done in the matter but for the fact that
the British Admiralty decided that the wreck was a danger to shipping,
and issued orders forthwith for the place where it lay to be buoyed.

The Liberian Government demurred on account of expense, but on pressure
being applied (I suspect the captain of H.M.S. _Dwarf_, who was a man
with a bitter tongue) they agreed, and the bell-buoy was anchored to the
submerged steamer.

It made a nice rowdy, clanging noise, did that bell, and the people of
Monrovia felt they were getting their money's worth.

But all Monrovia is not made up of the freed American slaves who were
settled there in 1821. There are people who are described in a lordly
fashion by the true Monrovians as "indigenous natives," and the chief
of these are the Kroomen, who pay no taxes, defy the Government, and at
intervals tweak the official nose of the Republic.

The second day after the bell was in place, Monrovia awoke to find a
complete silence reigning in the bay, and that in spite of a heavy
swell. The bell was still, and two ex-admirals, who were selling fish on
the foreshore, borrowed a boat and rowed out to investigate. The
explanation was simple--the bell had been stolen.

"Now!" said the President of the Liberian Republic in despair, "may
Beelzebub, who is the father and author of all sin, descend upon these
thieving Kroomen!"

Another bell was attached. The same night it was stolen. Yet another
bell was put to the buoy, and a boat-load of admirals kept watch.
Throughout the night they sat, rising and falling with the swell, and
the monotonous "clang-jangle-clong" was music in their ears. All night
it sounded, but in the early morning, at the dark hour before the sun
comes up, it seemed that the bell, still tolling, grew fainter and
fainter.

"Brothers," said an admiral, "we are drifting away from the bell."

But the explanation was that the bell had drifted away from them, for,
tired of half measures, the Kroomen had come and taken the buoy, bell
and all, and to this day there is no mark to show where a sometime
man-of-war rots in the harbour of Monrovia.

The ingenious soul who planned and carried out this theft was one
Bosambo, who had three wives, one of whom, being by birth Congolaise,
and untrustworthy, informed the police, and with some ceremony Bosambo
was arrested and tried at the Supreme Court, where he was found guilty
of "theft and high treason" and sentenced to ten years' penal servitude.

They took Bosambo back to prison, and Bosambo interviewed the black
gaoler.

"My friend," he said, "I have a big ju-ju in the forest, and if you do
not release me at once you and your wife shall die in great torment."

"Of your ju-ju I know nothing," said the gaoler philosophically, "but I
receive two dollars a week for guarding prisoners, and if I let you
escape I shall lose my job."

"I know a place where there is much silver hidden," said Bosambo with
promptitude. "You and I will go to this place, and we shall be rich."

"If you knew where there was silver, why did you steal bells, which are
of brass and of no particular value?" asked his unimaginative guard.

"I see that you have a heart of stone," said Bosambo, and went away to
the forest settlement to chop down trees for the good of the State.

Four months after this, Sanders, Chief Commissioner for the Isisi,
Ikeli, and Akasava countries, received, _inter alia_, a communication of
a stereotyped description--

    TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN.

    Wanted,--on a warrant issued by H.E. the President of Liberia,
    Bosambo Krooboy, who escaped from the penal settlement near
    Monrovia, after killing a guard. He is believed to be making for
    your country.

A description followed.

Sanders put the document away with other such notices--they were not
infrequent in their occurrence--and gave his mind to the eternal problem
of the Ochori.

Now, as ever, the Ochori people were in sad trouble. There is no other
tribe in the whole of Africa that is as defenceless as the poor Ochori.
The Fingoes, slaves as they are by name and tradition, were ferocious as
the Masai, compared with the Ochori.

Sanders was a little impatient, and a deputation of three, who had
journeyed down to headquarters to lay the grievances of the people
before him, found him unsympathetic.

He interviewed them on his verandah.

"Master, no man leaves us in peace," said one. "Isisi folk, N'Gombi
people from far-away countries, they come to us demanding this and that,
and we give, being afraid."

"Afraid of what?" asked Sanders wearily.

"We fear death and pain, also burning and the taking of our women," said
the other.

"Who is chief of you?" asked Sanders, wilfully ignorant.

"I am chief lord," said an elderly man, clad in a leopard skin.

"Go back to your people, chief, if indeed chief you are, and not some
old woman without shame; go back and bear with you a fetish--a most
powerful fetish--which shall be, as me, watching your interest and
protecting you. This fetish you shall plant on the edge of your village
that faces the sun at noon. You shall mark the place where it shall be
planted, and at midnight, with proper ceremony, and the sacrifice of a
young goat, you shall set my fetish in its place. And after that
whosoever ill-treats you or robs you shall do so at some risk."

Sanders said this very solemnly, and the men of the deputation were duly
impressed. More impressed were they when, before starting on their
homeward journey, Sanders placed in their hands a stout pole, to the end
of which was attached a flat board inscribed with certain marks.

They carried their trophy six days' journey through the forest, then
four days' journey by canoe along the Little River, until they came to
Ochori. There, by the light of the moon, with the sacrifice of two goats
(to make sure), the pole was planted so that the board inscribed with
mystic characters would face the sun at noon.

News travels fast in the back lands, and it came to the villages
throughout the Isisi and the Akasava country that the Ochori were
particularly protected by white magic. Protected they had always been,
and many men had died at the white man's hand because the temptation to
kill the Ochori folk had proved irresistible.

"I do not believe that Sandi has done this thing," said the chief of the
Akasava. "Let us go across the river and see with our own eyes, and if
they have lied we shall beat them with sticks, though let no man kill,
because of Sandi and his cruelty."

So across the water they went, and marched until they came within sight
of the Ochori city, and the Ochori people, hearing that the Akasava
people were coming, ran away into the woods and hid, in accordance with
their custom.

The Akasava advanced until they came to the pole stuck in the ground and
the board with the devil marks.

Before this they stood in silence and in awe, and having made obeisance
to it and sacrificed a chicken (which was the lawful property of the
Ochori) they turned back.

After this came a party from Isisi, and they must needs come through the
Akasava country.

They brought presents with them and lodged with the Akasava for one
night.

"What story is this of the Ochori?" asked the Isisi chief in command; so
the chief of the Akasava told him.

"You may save yourself the journey, for we have seen it."

"That," said the Isisi chief, "I will believe when I have seen."

"That is bad talk," said the Akasava people, who were gathered at the
palaver; "these dogs of Isisi call us liars."

Nevertheless there was no bloodshed, and in the morning the Isisi went
on their way.

The Ochori saw them coming, and hid in the woods, but the precaution was
unnecessary, for the Isisi departed as they came.

Other folk made a pilgrimage to the Ochori, N'Gombi, Bokeli, and the
Little People of the Forest, who were so shy that they came by night,
and the Ochori people began to realise a sense of their importance.

Then Bosambo, a Krooman and an adventurer at large, appeared on the
scene, having crossed eight hundred miles of wild land in the earnest
hope that time would dull the memory of the Liberian Government and
incidentally bring him to a land of milk and honey.

Now Bosambo had in his life been many things. He had been steward on an
Elder Dempster boat, he had been scholar at a mission school--he was the
proud possessor of a bound copy of _The Lives of the Saints_, a reward
of industry--and among his accomplishments was a knowledge of English.

The hospitable Ochori received him kindly, fed him with sweet manioc
and sugar-cane, and told him about Sandi's magic. After he had eaten,
Bosambo walked down to the post and read the inscription--

  TRESPASSERS BEWARE.

He was not impressed, and strolled back again thinking deeply.

"This magic," he said to the chief, "is good magic. I know, because I
have white man's blood in my veins."

In support of this statement he proceeded to libel a perfectly innocent
British official at Sierra Leone.

The Ochori were profoundly moved. They poured forth the story of their
persecutions, a story which began in remote ages, when Tiganobeni, the
great king, came down from the north and wasted the country as far south
as the Isisi.

Bosambo listened--it took two nights and the greater part of a day to
tell the story, because the official story-teller of the Ochori had only
one method of telling--and when it was finished Bosambo said to
himself--

"This is the people I have long sought. I will stay here."

Aloud he asked:

"How often does Sandi come to you?"

"Once every year, master," said the chief, "on the twelfth moon, and a
little after."

"When came he last?"

"When this present moon is at full, three moons since; he comes after
the big rains."

"Then," said Bosambo, again to himself, "for nine months I am safe."

They built him a hut and planted for him a banana grove and gave him
seed. Then he demanded for wife the daughter of the chief, and although
he offered nothing in payment the girl came to him. That a stranger
lived in the chief village of the Ochori was remarked by the other
tribes, for news of this kind spreads, but since he was married, and
into the chief's family at that, it was accepted that the man must be of
the Ochori folk, and such was the story that came to headquarters. Then
the chief of the Ochori died. He died suddenly in some pain; but such
deaths are common, and his son ruled in his place. Then the son died
after the briefest reign, and Bosambo called the people together, the
elders, the wise men, and the headmen of the country.

"It appears," he said, "that the many gods of the Ochori are displeased
with you, and it has been revealed to me in a dream that I shall be
chief of the Ochori. Therefore, O chiefs and wise men and headmen, bow
before me, as is the custom, and I will make you a great people."

It is characteristic of the Ochori that no man said "nay" to him, even
though in the assembly were three men who by custom might claim the
chieftainship.

Sanders heard of the new chief and was puzzled.

"Etabo?" he repeated--this was how Bosambo called himself--"I do not
remember the man--yet if he can put backbone into the people I do not
care who he is."

Backbone or cunning, or both, Bosambo was certainly installed.

"He has many strange practices," reported a native agent to Sanders.
"Every day he assembles the men of the village and causes them to walk
past a _pelebi_ (table) on which are many eggs. And it is his command
that each man as he passes shall take an egg so swiftly that no eye may
see him take it. And if the man bungle or break the egg, or be slow,
this new chief puts shame upon him, whipping him."

"It is a game," said Sanders; but for the life of him he could not see
what game it was. Report after report reached him of the new chief's
madness. Sometimes he would take the unfortunate Ochori out by night,
teaching them such things as they had never known before. Thus he
instructed them in what manner they might seize upon a goat so that the
goat could not cry. Also how to crawl on their bellies inch by inch so
that they made no sound or sign. All these things the Ochori did,
groaning aloud at the injustice and the labour of it.

"I'm dashed if I can understand it!" said Sanders, knitting his brows,
when the last report came in. "With anybody but the Ochori this would
mean war. But the Ochori!"

Notwithstanding his contempt for their fighting qualities, he kept his
Police Houssas ready.

But there was no war. Instead, there came complaint from the Akasava
that "many leopards were in the woods."

Leopards will keep, thought Sanders, and, anyway, the Akasava were good
enough hunters to settle that palaver without outside help. The next
report was alarming. In two weeks these leopards had carried off three
score of goats, twenty bags of salt, and much ivory.

Leopards eat goats; there might conceivably be fastidious leopards that
cannot eat goats without salt; but a leopard does not take ivory tusks
even to pick his teeth with. So Sanders made haste to journey up the
river, because little things were considerable in a country where people
strain at gnats and swallow whole caravans.

"Lord, it is true," said the chief of the Akasava, with some emotion,
"these goats disappear night by night, though we watch them; also the
salt and ivory, because that we did not watch."

"But no leopard could take these things," said Sanders irritably. "These
are thieves."

The chief's gesture was comprehensive.

"Who could thieve?" he said. "The N'Gombi people live very far away;
also the Isisi. The Ochori are fools, and, moreover, afraid."

Then Sanders remembered the egg games, and the midnight manoeuvres of
the Ochori.

"I will call on this new chief," he said; and crossed the river that
day.

Sending a messenger to herald his coming, he waited two miles out of the
city, and the councillors and wise men came out to him with offerings of
fish and fruit.

"Where is your chief?" he asked.

"Lord, he is ill," they said gravely. "This day there came to him a
feeling of sickness, and he fell down moaning. We have carried him to
his hut."

Sanders nodded.

"I will see him," he said grimly.

They led him to the door of the chief's hut, and Sanders went in. It was
very dark, and in the darkest corner lay a prostrate man. Sanders bent
over him, touched his pulse lightly, felt gingerly for the swelling on
the neck behind the ears for a sign of sleeping sickness. No symptom
could he find; but on the bare shoulder, as his fingers passed over the
man's flesh, he felt a scar of singular regularity; then he found
another, and traced their direction. The convict brand of the Monrovian
Government was familiar to him.

"I thought so," said Sanders, and gave the moaning man a vigorous kick.

"Come out into the light, Bosambo of Monrovia," he said; and Bosambo
rose obediently and followed the Commissioner into the light.

They stood looking at one another for several minutes; then Sanders,
speaking in the dialect of the Pepper Coast, said--

"I have a mind to hang you, Bosambo."

"That is as your Excellency wishes," said Bosambo.

Sanders said nothing, tapping his boot with his walking-stick and gazing
thoughtfully downward.

"Having made thieves, could you make men of these people?" he said,
after a while.

"I think they could fight now, for they are puffed with pride because
they have robbed the Akasava," said Bosambo.

Sanders bit the end of his stick like a man in doubt.

"There shall be neither theft nor murder," he said. "No more chiefs or
chiefs' sons shall die suddenly," he added significantly.

"Master, it shall be as you desire."

"As for the goats you have stolen, them you may keep, and the teeth
(ivory) and the salt also. For if you hand them back to Akasava you will
fill their stomachs with rage, and that would mean war."

Bosambo nodded slowly.

"Then you shall remain, for I see you are a clever man, and the Ochori
need such as you. But if----"

"Master, by the fat of my heart I will do as you wish," said Bosambo;
"for I have always desired to be a chief under the British."

Sanders was half-way back to headquarters before he missed his
field-glasses, and wondered where he could have dropped them. At that
identical moment Bosambo was exhibiting the binoculars to his admiring
people.

"From this day forth," said Bosambo, "there shall be no lifting of goats
nor stealing of any kind. This much I told the great Sandi, and as a
sign of his love, behold, he gave me these things of magic that eat up
space."

"Lord," said a councillor in awe, "did you know the Great One?"

"I have cause to know him," said Bosambo modestly, "for I am his son."

Fortunately Sanders knew nothing of this interesting disclosure.



  CHAPTER IV.

  THE DROWSY ONE.


There were occasions when Sanders came up against the outer world, when
he learnt, with something like bewilderment, that beyond the farthermost
forests, beyond the lazy, swelling, blue sea, there were men and women
who lived in houses and carefully tabooed such subjects as violent death
and such horrid happenings as were daily features of his life.

He had to treat with folk who, in the main, were illogical and who
believed in spirits. When you deal in the abstract with government of
races so influenced, a knowledge of constitutional law and economics is
fairly valueless.

There is one type of man that can rule native provinces wisely, and that
type is best represented by Sanders.

There are other types, as, for instance:

Once upon a time a young man came from England with a reputation. He was
sent by the Colonial Office to hold a district under Sanders as Deputy
Commissioner. He was a Bachelor of Law, had read Science, and had
acquired in a methodical fashion a working acquaintance with Swaheli,
bacteriology, and medicines. He was a very grave young man, and the
first night of his arrival he kept Sanders (furtively yawning) out of
his bed whilst he demonstrated a system whereby the aboriginal could be
converted--not converted spiritually, but from unproductive vagrancy to
a condition of good citizenship.

Sanders said nothing beyond using the conventional expressions of polite
interest, and despatched the young man and his tremendous baggage to an
up-country station, with his official blessing.

Torrington--this was the grave young man's name--established himself at
Entoli, and started forth to instil into the heathen mind the elementary
principles of applied mechanics. In other words he taught them, through
the medium of Swaheli--which they imperfectly understood--and a tin
kettle, the lesson of steam. They understood the kettle part, but could
not quite comprehend what meat he was cooking, and when he explained for
the fortieth time that he was only cooking water, they glanced
significantly one at the other and agreed that he was not quite right in
his head.

They did not tell him this much to his face, for cannibals have very
good manners--though their table code leaves much to be desired.

Mr. Torrington tried them with chemical experiments, showing them how
sulphuric acid applied to sugar produced Su^{2}, Su^{4}, or words to
that effect. He gained a reputation as a magician as a result, and in
more huts than one he was regarded and worshipped as a Great and Clever
Devil--which in a sense he was. But the first time he came up against
the spirit of the people, his science, his law, and his cut-and-dried
theories went _phutt_! And that is where Sanders came in--Sanders who
had forgotten all the chemistry he ever knew, and who, as a student of
Constitutional Law, was the rankest of failures.

It came about in this way.

There was a young man in Isisi who prophesied that on such a day, at
such an hour, the river would rise and drown the people. When Mr.
Torrington heard of this prophecy he was amused, and at first took no
notice of it. But it occurred to him that here might be a splendid
opportunity for revealing to the barbarian a little of that science with
which he was so plentifully endowed.

So he drew a large sectional plan, showing--

  (_a_) the bed of the river;
  (_b_) the height of the banks;
  (_c_) the maximum rise of the river;
  (_d_) the height of the surrounding country; and demonstrated as
          plainly as possible the utter absurdity of the prophecy.

Yet the people were unconvinced, and were preparing to abandon the
village when Sanders arrived on the scene. He sent for the prophet, who
was a young man of neurotic tendencies, and had a wooden prison cage
built on the bank of the river, into which the youth was introduced.

"You will stay here," said Sanders, "and when the river rises you must
prophesy that it will fall again, else assuredly you will be drowned."

Whereupon the people settled down again in their homes and waited for
the river to drown the prophet and prove his words. But the river at
this season of the year was steadily falling, and the prophet, like many
another, was without honour in his own country.

Sanders went away; and, although somewhat discouraged, Mr. Torrington
resumed his experiments. First of all, he took up sleeping sickness, and
put in three months' futile work, impressing nobody save a gentleman of
whom more must be written in a further chapter. Then he dropped that
study suddenly and went to another.

He had ideas concerning vaccination, but the first baby he vaccinated
died of croup, and Torrington came flying down the river telling Sanders
a rambling story of a populace infuriated and demanding his blood. Then
Torrington went home.

"The country is now quiet," wrote Sanders to the Administrator, with
sardonic humour. "There are numerous palavers pending, but none of any
particular moment. The Isisi people are unusually quiet, and Bosambo,
the Monrovian, of whom I have written your Excellency, makes a model
chief for the Ochori. No thefts have been traced to him for three
months. I should be grateful if full information could be supplied to me
concerning an expedition which at the moment is traversing this country
under the style of the Isisi Exploitation Syndicate."

Curiously enough, Torrington had forgotten the fact that a member of
this expedition had been one of the most interested students of his
sleeping sickness clinics.

The Isisi Exploitation Syndicate, Limited, was born between the entre
and the sweet at the house of a gentleman whose Christian name was
Isidore, and who lived in Maida Vale. At dinner one night with a dear
friend--who called himself McPherson every day of the year except on Yum
Kippur, when he frankly admitted that he had been born Isaacs--the
question of good company titles came up, and Mr. McPherson said he had
had the "Isisi Exploitation" in his mind for many years. With the aid of
an atlas the Isisi country was discovered. It was one of those atlases
on which are inscribed the staple products of the lands, and across the
Isisi was writ fair "Rubber," "Kola-nut," "Mahogany," and "Tobacco."

I would ask the reader to particularly remember "Tobacco."

"There's a chief I've had some correspondence with," said Mr. McPherson,
chewing his cigar meditatively; "we could get a sort of concession from
him. It would have to be done on the quiet, because the country is a
British Protectorate. Now, if we could get a man who'd put up the stuff,
and send him out to fix the concession, we'd have a company floated
before you could say knife."

Judicious inquiry discovered the man in Claude Hyall Cuthbert, a
plutocratic young gentleman, who, on the strength of once having nearly
shot a lion in Uganda, was accepted by a large circle of acquaintances
as an authority on Africa.

Cuthbert, who dabbled in stocks and shares, was an acquisition to any
syndicate, and on the understanding that part of his duty would be the
obtaining of the concession, he gladly financed the syndicate to the
extent of seven thousand pounds, four thousand of which Messrs. Isidore
and McPherson very kindly returned to him to cover the cost of his
expedition.

The other three thousand were earmarked for office expenses.

As Mr. McPherson truly said:

"Whatever happens, we're on velvet, my boy," which was perfectly true.

Before Cuthbert sailed, McPherson offered him a little advice.

"Whatever you do," he said, "steer clear of that dam' Commissioner
Sanders. He's one of those pryin', interferin'----"

"I know the breed," said Cuthbert wisely. "This is not my first visit to
Africa. Did I ever tell you about the lion I shot in Uganda?"

A week later he sailed.

       *     *     *     *     *

In course of time came a strange white man through Sanders' domain. This
white man, who was Cuthbert, was following the green path to death--but
this he did not know. He threw his face to the forest, as the natives
say, and laughed, and the people of the village of O'Tembi, standing
before their wattle huts, watched him in silent wonder.

It was a wide path between huge trees, and the green of the undergrowth
was flecked with sunlight, and, indeed, the green path was beautiful to
the eye, being not unlike a parkland avenue.

N'Beki, chief of this village of the O'Tembi, a very good old man, went
out to the path when the white man began his journey.

"White man," he said solemnly, "this is the road to hell, where all
manner of devils live. Night brings remorse, and dawn brings
self-hatred, which is worse than death."

Cuthbert, whose Swaheli was faulty, and whose Bomongo talk was nil,
grinned impatiently as his coastboy translated unpicturesquely.

"Dam nigger done say, this be bad place, no good; he say bimeby you libe
for die."

"Tell him to go to blazes!" said Cuthbert noisily; "and, look here,
Flagstaff, ask him where the rubber is, see? Tell him we know all about
the forest, and ask him about the elephants, where their playground is?"

Cuthbert was broad-shouldered and heavily built, and under his broad
sun-helmet his face was very hot and moist.

"Tell the white man," said the chief quietly, "there is no rubber within
seven days' journey, and that we do not know ivory; elephants there were
_cala cala_--but not now."

"He's a liar!" was Cuthbert's only comment. "Get these beggars moving,
Flagstaff. Hi, _alapa', avanti, trek_!"

"These beggars," a straggling line of them, resumed their loads
uncomplainingly. They were good carriers, as carriers go, and only two
had died since the march began.

Cuthbert stood and watched them pass, using his stick dispassionately
upon the laggards. Then he turned to go.

"Ask him," he said finally, "why he calls this the road to
what-d'ye-call-it?"

The old man shook his head.

"Because of the devils," he said simply.

"Tell him he's a silly ass!" bellowed Cuthbert and followed his
carriers.

This natural path the caravan took extended in almost a straight line
through the forest. It was a strange path because of its very
smoothness, and the only drawback lay in the fact that it seemed to be
the breeding-place of flies--little black flies, as big as the house-fly
of familiar shape, if anything a little bigger.

They terrified the natives for many reasons, but principally because
they stung. They did not terrify Cuthbert, because he was dressed in
tapai cloth; none the less, there were times when these black flies
found joints in his armour and roused him to anger. This path extended
ten miles and made pleasant travelling. Then the explorer struck off
into the forest, following another path, well beaten, but more
difficult.

By devious routes Mr. Cuthbert came into the heart of Sanders'
territories, and he was successful in this, that he avoided Sanders. He
had with him a caravan of sixty men and an interpreter, and in due
course he reached his objective, which was the village of a great chief
ruling a remarkable province--Bosambo, of the Ochori, no less; sometime
Krooman, steward of the Elder Dempster line, chief on sufferance, but
none the less an interesting person. Bosambo, you may be sure, came out
to greet his visitor.

"Say to him," said Cuthbert to his interpreter, "that I am proud to meet
the great chief."

"Lord chief," said the interpreter in the vernacular, "this white man is
a fool, and has much money."

"So I see," said Bosambo.

"Tell him," said Cuthbert, with all the dignity of an ambassador, "that
I have come to bring him wonderful presents."

"The white man says," said the interpreter, "that if he is sure you are
a good man he will give you presents. Now," said the interpreter
carefully, "as I am the only man who can speak for you, let us make
arrangements. You shall give me one-third of all he offers. Then will I
persuade him to continue giving, since he is the father of mad people."

"And you," said Bosambo briefly, "are the father of liars."

He made a sign to his guard, and they seized upon the unfortunate
interpreter and led him forth. Cuthbert, in a sweat of fear, pulled a
revolver.

"Master," said Bosambo loftily, "you no make um fuss. Dis dam' nigger,
he no good; he make you speak bad t'ings. I speak um English proper. You
sit down, we talk um."

So Cuthbert sat down in the village of Ochori, and for three days there
was a great giving of presents, and signing of concessions. Bosambo
conceded the Ochori country--that was a small thing. He granted forest
rights of the Isisi, he sold the Akasava, he bartered away the Lulungo
territories and the "native products thereof"--I quote from the written
document now preserved at the Colonial Office and bearing the scrawled
signature of Bosambo--and he added, as a lordly afterthought, the Ikeli
district.

"What about river rights?" asked the delighted Cuthbert.

"What will you give um?" demanded Bosambo cautiously.

"Forty English pounds?" suggested Cuthbert.

"I take um," said Bosambo.

It was a remarkably simple business; a more knowledgeable man than
Cuthbert would have been scared by the easiness of his success, but
Cuthbert was too satisfied with himself to be scared at anything.

It is said that his leave-taking with Bosambo was of an affecting
character, that Bosambo wept and embraced his benefactor's feet.

Be that as it may, his "concessions" in his pocket, Cuthbert began his
coastward journey, still avoiding Sanders.

He came to Etebi and found a deputy-commissioner, who received him with
open arms. Here Cuthbert stayed a week.

Mr. Torrington at the time was tremendously busy with a scheme for
stamping out sleeping sickness. Until then, Cuthbert was under the
impression that it was a pleasant disease, the principal symptom of
which was a painless coma. Fascinated, he extended his stay to a
fortnight, seeing many dreadful sights, for Torrington had established a
sort of amateur clinic, and a hundred cases a day came to him for
treatment.

"And it comes from the bite of a tsetse fly?" said Cuthbert. "Show me a
tsetse."

Torrington obliged him, and when the other saw the little black insect
he went white to the lips.

"My God!" he whispered, "I've been bitten by that!"

"It doesn't follow----" began Torrington; but Cuthbert was blundering
and stumbling in wild fear to his carriers' camp.

"Get your loads!" he yelled. "Out of this cursed country we get as quick
as we can!"

Torrington, with philosophical calm, endeavoured to reassure him, but he
was not to be appeased.

He left Etebi that night and camped in the forest. Three days later he
reached a mission station, where he complained of headaches and pains in
the neck (he had not attended Torrington's clinics in vain). The
missionary, judging from the man's haggard appearance and general
incoherence that he had an attack of malaria, advised him to rest for a
few days; but Cuthbert was all a-fret to reach the coast. Twenty miles
from the mission, Cuthbert sent his carriers back, and said he would
cover the last hundred miles of the journey alone.

To this extraordinary proposition the natives agree--from that day
Cuthbert disappeared from the sight of man.

       *     *     *     *     *

Sanders was taking a short cut through the forest to avoid the
interminable twists and bends of the river, when he came suddenly upon a
village of death--four sad little huts, built hastily amidst a tangle of
underwood. He called, but nobody answered him. He was too wary to enter
any of the crazy habitations.

He knew these little villages in the forest. It was the native custom to
take the aged and the dying--especially those who died sleepily--to
far-away places, beyond the reach of man, and leave them there with a
week's food and a fire, to die in decent solitude.

He called again, but only the forest answered him. The chattering, noisy
forest, all a-crackle with the movements of hidden things. Yet there was
a fire burning which told of life.

Sanders resumed his journey, first causing a quantity of food to be laid
in a conspicuous place for the man who made the fire.

He was on his way to take evidence concerning the disappearance of
Cuthbert. It was the fourth journey of its kind he had attempted. There
had been palavers innumerable.

Bosambo, chief of the Ochori, had sorrowfully disgorged the presents he
had received, and admitted his fault.

"Lord!" he confessed, "when I was with the white man on the coast I
learnt the trick of writing--it is a cursed gift--else all this trouble
would not have come about. For, desiring to show my people how great a
man I was, I wrote a letter in the English fashion, and sent it by
messenger to the coast and thence to friends in Sierra Leone, telling
them of my fortune. Thus the people in London came to know of the
treasure of this land."

Sanders, in a few illuminative sentences, conveyed his impression of
Bosambo's genius.

"You slave and son of a slave," he said, "whom I took from a prison to
rule the Ochori, why did you deceive this white man, selling him lands
that were not yours?"

"Lord!" said Bosambo simply, "there was nothing else I could sell."

But there was no clue here as to Cuthbert's whereabouts, nor at the
mission station, nor amongst the carriers detained on suspicion. One man
might have thrown light upon the situation, but Torrington was at home
fulfilling the post of assistant examiner in mechanics at South
Kensington (more in his element there) and filling in his spare time
with lecturing on "The Migration of the Bantu Races."

So that the end of Sanders' fourth quest was no more successful than the
third, or the second, or the first, and he retraced his steps to
headquarters, feeling somewhat depressed.

He took the path he had previously traversed, and came upon the Death
Camp late in the afternoon. The fire still burnt, but the food he had
placed had disappeared. He hailed the hut in the native tongue, but no
one answered him. He waited for a little while, and then gave orders for
more food to be placed on the ground.

"Poor devil!" said Sanders, and gave the order to march. He himself had
taken half a dozen steps, when he stopped. At his feet something
glittered in the fading light. He stooped and picked it up. It was an
exploded cartridge. He examined it carefully, smelt it--it had been
recently fired. Then he found another. They were Lee-Metford, and bore
the mark "'07," which meant that they were less than a year old.

He was still standing with the little brass cylinders in his hand, when
Abiboo came to him.

"Master," said the Houssa, "who ties monkeys to trees with ropes?"

"Is that a riddle?" asked Sanders testily, for his mind was busy on this
matter of cartridges.

Abiboo for answer beckoned him.

Fifty yards from the hut was a tree, at the foot of which, whimpering
and chattering and in a condition of abject terror, were two small black
monkeys tethered by ropes.

They spat and grinned ferociously as Sanders approached them. He looked
from the cartridges to the monkeys and back to the cartridges again,
then he began searching the grass. He found two more empty shells and a
rusting lancet, such as may be found in the pocket-case of any explorer.


Then he walked back to the hut before which the fire burnt, and called
softly--

"Mr. Cuthbert!"

There was no answer, and Sanders called again--

"Mr. Cuthbert!"

From the interior of the hut came a groan.

"Leave me alone. I have come here to die!" said a muffled voice.

"Come out and be civil," said Sanders coolly; "you can die afterwards."

After a few moments' delay there issued from the door of the hut the
wreck of a man, with long hair and a month-old beard, who stood sulkily
before the Commissioner.

"Might I ask," said Sanders, "what your little game is?"

The other shook his head wearily. He was a pitiable sight. His clothes
were in tatters; he was unwashed and grimy.

"Sleeping sickness," he said wearily. "Felt it coming on--seen what
horrible thing it was--didn't want to be a burden. Oh, my God! What a
fool I've been to come to this filthy country!"

"That's very likely," said Sanders. "But who told you that you had
sleeping sickness?"

"Know it--know it," said the listless man.

"Sit down," said Sanders. The other obeyed, and Sanders applied the
superficial tests.

"If you've got sleeping sickness," said Sanders, after the examination,
"I'm suffering from religious mania--man, you're crazy!"

Yet there was something in Cuthbert's expression that was puzzling. He
was dull, heavy, and stupid. His movements were slow and lethargic.

Sanders watched him as he pulled a black wooden pipe from his ragged
pocket, and with painful slowness charged it from a skin pouch.

"It's got me, I tell you," muttered Cuthbert, and lit the pipe with a
blazing twig from the fire. "I knew it (puff) as soon as that fellow
Torrington (puff) described the symptoms (puff);--felt dull and
sleepy--got a couple of monkeys and injected my blood (puff)--_they_
went drowsy, too--sure sign----"

"Where did you get that tobacco from?" demanded Sanders quickly.

Cuthbert took time to consider his answer.

"Fellow gave it me--chief fellow, Bosambo. Native tobacco, but not
bad--he gave me a devil of a lot."

"So I should say," said Sanders, and reaching over took the pouch and
put it in his pocket.

       *     *     *     *     *

When Sanders had seen Mr. Cuthbert safe on board a homeward-bound
steamer, he took his twenty Houssas to the Ochori country to arrest
Bosambo, and expected Bosambo would fly; but the imperturbable chief
awaited his coming, and offered him the customary honours.

"I admit I gave the white man the hemp," he said. "I myself smoke it,
suffering no ill. How was I to know that it would make him sleep?"

"Why did you give it to him?" demanded Sanders.

Bosambo looked the Commissioner full in the face.

"Last moon you came, lord, asking why I gave him the Isisi country and
the rights of the little river, because these were not mine to give. Now
you come to me saying why did I give the white man native tobacco--Lord,
that was the only thing I gave him that was mine."



  CHAPTER V.

  THE SPECIAL COMMISSIONER.


The Hon. George Tackle had the good fortune to be the son of his father;
otherwise I am free to confess he had no claim to distinction. But his
father, being the proprietor of the _Courier and Echo_ (with which are
incorporated I don't know how many dead and gone stars of the Fleet
Street firmament), George had a "pull" which no amount of competitive
merit could hope to contend with, and when the stories of atrocities in
the district of Lukati began to leak out and questions were asked in
Parliament, George opened his expensively-bound Gazetteer, discovered
that the district of Lukati was in British territory, and instantly
demanded that he should be sent out to investigate these crimes, which
were a blot upon our boasted civilisation.

His father agreed, having altogether a false appreciation of his son's
genius, and suggested that George should go to the office and "get all
the facts" regarding the atrocities. George, with a good-natured smile
of amusement at the bare thought of anybody instructing him in a subject
on which he was so thoroughly conversant, promised; but the _Courier and
Echo_ office did not see him, and the librarian of the newspaper, who
had prepared a really valuable dossier of newspaper cuttings, pamphlets,
maps, and health hints for the young man's guidance, was dismayed to
learn that the confident youth had sailed without any further
instruction in the question than a man might secure from the hurried
perusal of the scraps which from day to day appeared in the morning
press.

As a special correspondent, I adduce, with ill-suppressed triumph, the
case of the Hon. George Tackle as an awful warning to all newspaper
proprietors who allow their parental affections to overcome their good
judgment.

All that the Hon. George knew was that at Lukati there had been four
well-authenticated cases of barbarous acts of cruelty against natives,
and that the Commissioner of the district was responsible for the
whippings and the torture. He thought, did the Hon. George, that this
was all that it was necessary to know. But this is where he made his big
mistake.

Up at Lukati all sorts of things happened, as Commissioner Sanders
knows, to his cost. Once he visited the district and left it tranquil,
and for Carter, his deputy, whom he left behind, the natives built a
most beautiful hut, planting gardens about, all off their own bat.

One day, when Carter had just finished writing an enthusiastic report on
the industry of his people, and the whole-hearted way they were taking
up and supporting the new rgime, the chief of the village, whom Carter
had facetiously named O'Leary (his born name was indeed Olari), came to
him.

Carter at the moment was walking through the well-swept street of the
village with his hands in his coat pockets and his big white helmet
tipped on the back of his head because the sun was setting at his back.

"Father," said the Chief Olari, "I have brought these people to see
you."

He indicated with a wave of his hand six strange warriors carrying their
shields and spears, who looked at him dispassionately.

Carter nodded.

"They desire," said Olari, "to see the wonderful little black fetish
that my father carries in his pocket that they may tell their people of
its powers."

"Tell your people," said Carter good-humouredly, "that I have not got
the fetish with me--if they will come to my hut I will show them its
wonders."

Whereupon Olari lifted his spear and struck at Carter, and the six
warriors sprang forward together. Carter fought gamely, but he was
unarmed.

When Sanders heard the news of his subordinate's death he did not faint
or fall into a fit of insane cursing. He was sitting on his broad
verandah at headquarters when the dusty messenger came. He rose with
pursed lips and frowning eyes, fingering the letter--this came from
Tollemache, inspector of police at Bokari--and paced the verandah.

"Poor chap, poor chap!" was all that he said.

He sent no message to Olari; he made no preparations for a punitive
raid; he went on signing documents, inspecting Houssas, attending dinner
parties, as though Carter had never lived or died. All these things the
spies of Olari reported, and the chief was thankful.

Lukati being two hundred miles from headquarters, through a savage and
mountainous country, an expedition was no light undertaking, and the
British Government, rich as it is, cannot afford to spend a hundred
thousand pounds to avenge the death of a subordinate official. Of this
fact Sanders was well aware, so he employed his time in collecting and
authenticating the names of Carter's assassins. When he had completed
them he went a journey seventy miles into the bush to the great
witch-doctor Kelebi, whose name was known throughout the coast country
from Dakka to the Eastern borders of Togoland.

"Here are the names of men who have put shame upon me," he said; "but
principally Olari, chief of the Lukati people."

"I will put a spell upon Olari," said the witch-doctor; "a very bad
spell, and upon these men. The charge will be six English pounds."

Sanders paid the money, and "dashed" two bottles of square-face and a
piece of proper cloth. Then he went back to headquarters.

One night through the village of Lukati ran a whisper, and the men
muttered the news with fearful shivers and backward glances.

"Olari, the chief, is cursed!"

Olari heard the tidings from his women, and came out of his hut into the
moonlight, raving horribly.

The next day he sickened, and on the fifth day he was near to dead and
suffering terrible pains, as also were six men who helped in the slaying
of Carter. That they did not die was no fault of the witch-doctor, who
excused his failure on account of the great distance between himself and
his subjects.

As for Sanders, he was satisfied, saying that even the pains were cheap
at the price, and that it would give him great satisfaction to write
"finis" to Olari with his own hand.

A week after this, Abiboo, Sanders' favourite servant, was taken ill.
There was no evidence of fever or disease, only the man began to fade
as it were.

Making inquiries, Sanders discovered that Abiboo had offended the
witch-doctor Kelebi, and that the doctor had sent him the death message.

Sanders took fifty Houssas into the bush and interviewed the
witch-doctor.

"I have reason," he said, "for believing you to be a failure as a slayer
of men."

"Master," said Kelebi in extenuation, "my magic cannot cross mountains,
otherwise Olari and his friends would have died."

"That is as it may be," said Sanders. "I am now concerned with magic
nearer at hand, and I must tell you that the day after Abiboo dies I
will hang you."

"Father," said Kelebi emphatically, "under those circumstances Abiboo
shall live."

Sanders gave him a sovereign, and rode back to headquarters, to find his
servant on the high road to recovery.

I give you this fragment of Sanders' history, because it will enable you
to grasp the peculiar environment in which Sanders spent the greater
part of his life, and because you will appreciate all the better the
irony of the situation created by the coming of the Hon. George Tackle.

Sanders was taking breakfast on the verandah of his house. From where he
sat he commanded across the flaming beauties of his garden a view of a
broad, rolling, oily sea, a golden blaze of light under the hot sun.
There was a steamer lying three miles out (only in five fathoms of
water at that), and Sanders, through his glasses, recognised her as the
Elder Dempster boat that brought the monthly mail. Since there were no
letters on his table, and the boat had been "in" for two hours, he
gathered that there was no mail for him, and was thankful, for he had
outlived the sentimental period of life when letters were pleasant
possibilities.

Having no letters, he expected no callers, and the spectacle of the Hon.
George being carried in a hammock into his garden was astonishing.

The Hon. George carefully alighted, adjusted his white pith helmet,
smoothed the creases from his immaculate ducks, and mounted the steps
that led to the stoep.

"How do?" said the visitor. "My name is Tackle--George Tackle." He
smiled, as though to say more was an insult to his hearer's
intelligence.

Sanders bowed, a little ceremoniously for him. He felt that his visitor
expected this.

"I'm out on a commission," the Hon. George went on. "As you've doubtless
heard, my governor is the proprietor of the _Courier and Echo_, and so
he thought I'd better go out and see the thing for myself. I've no doubt
the whole thing is exaggerated----"

"Hold hard," said Sanders, a light dawning on him. "I gather that you
are a sort of correspondent of a newspaper?"

"Exactly."

"That you have come to inquire into----"

"Treatment of natives, and all that," said the Hon. George easily.

"And what is wrong with the treatment of the native?" asked Sanders
sweetly.

The hon. gentleman made an indefinite gesture.

"You know--things in newspapers--missionaries," he said rapidly, being
somewhat embarrassed by the realisation that the man, if any,
responsible for the outrages was standing before him.

"I never read the newspapers," said Sanders, "and----"

"Of course," interrupted the Hon. George eagerly, "we can make it all
right as far as you are concerned."

"Oh, thank you!" Sanders' gratitude was a little overdone, but he held
out his hand. "Well, I wish you luck--let me know how you get on."

The Hon. George Tackle was frankly nonplussed.

"But excuse me," he said, "where--how----Hang it all, where am I to put
up?"

"Here?"

"Yes -- dash it, my kit is on shore! I thought----"

"You thought I'd put you up?"

"Well, I did think----"

"That I'd fall on your neck and welcome you?"

"Not exactly, but----"

"Well," said Sanders, carefully folding his napkin, "I'm not so glad to
see you as all that."

"I suppose not," said the Hon. George, bridling.

"Because you're a responsibility--I hate extra responsibility. You can
pitch your tent just wherever you like--but I cannot offer you the
hospitality you desire."

"I shall report this matter to the Administrator," said the Hon. George
ominously.

"You may report it to my grandmother's maiden aunt," said Sanders
politely.

Half an hour later he saw the Hon. George rejoin the ship that brought
him to Isisi Bassam, and chuckled. George would go straight to the
Administrator, and would receive a reception beside which a Sahara storm
would be zephyrs of Araby.

At the same time Sanders was a little puzzled, and not a little hurt.
There never had been a question of atrocities in his district, and he
was puzzled to account for the rumours that had brought the
"commissioner" on his tour of investigation--could it be a distorted
account of Olari's punishment?

"Go quickly to the ship, taking a book to the lord who has just gone
from here," was his command to a servant, and proceeded to scribble a
note:--

    "I am afraid," he wrote, "I was rather rude to you--not
    understanding what the devil you were driving at. An
    overwhelming curiosity directs me to invite you to share my
    bungalow until such time as you are ready to conduct your
    investigation."

The Hon. George read this with a self-satisfied smirk.

"The way to treat these fellows," he said to the Elder Dempster captain,
"is to show 'em you'll stand no nonsense. I thought he'd climb down."

The Elder Dempster captain, who knew Sanders by repute, smiled
discreetly, but said nothing. Once more the special correspondent's
mountain of baggage was embarked in the surf boat, and the Hon. George
waved a farewell to his friends on the steamer.

The Elder Dempster skipper, leaning over the side of his bridge, watched
the surf boat rising and falling in the swell.

"There goes a man who's looking for trouble," he said, "and I wouldn't
take a half-share of the trouble he's going to find for five hundred of
the best. Is that blessed anchor up yet, Mr. Simmons? Half ahead--set
her due west, Mr. What's-your-name."

It was something of a triumph for the Hon. George. There were ten
uniformed policemen awaiting him on the smooth beach to handle his
baggage, and Sanders came down to his garden gate to meet him.

"The fact of it is----" began Sanders awkwardly; but the magnanimous
George raised his hand.

"Let bygones," he said, "be bygones."

Sanders was unaccountably annoyed by this generous display. Still more
so was he when the correspondent refused to reopen the question of
atrocities.

"As your guest," said George solemnly, "I feel that it would be better
for all concerned if I pursued an independent investigation. I shall
endeavour as far as possible, to put myself in your place, to consider
all extenuating circumstances----"

"Oh, have a gin-swizzle!" said Sanders rudely and impatiently; "you make
me tired."

"Look here," he said later, "I will only ask you two questions. Where
are these atrocities supposed to have taken place?"

"In the district of Lukati," said the Hon. George.

"Olari," thought Sanders. "Who was the victim?" he asked.

"There were several," said the correspondent, and produced his
note-book. "You understand that I'd really much rather not discuss the
matter with you, but, since you insist," he read, "Efembi of Wastambo."

"Oh!" said Sanders, and his eyebrows rose

"Kabindo of Machembi."

"Oh, lord!" said Sanders.

The Hon. George read six other cases, and with every one a line was
wiped from Sanders' forehead.

When the recital was finished the Commissioner said slowly--

"I can make a statement to you which will save you a great deal of
unnecessary trouble."

"I would rather you didn't," said George, in his best judicial manner.

"Very good," said Sanders; and went away whistling to order dinner.

Over the meal he put it to the correspondent:

"There are a number of people on this station who are friends of mine. I
won't disguise the fact from you--there is O'Neill, in charge of the
Houssas; the doctor, Kennedy, the chap in charge of the survey party;
and half a dozen more. Would you like to question them?"

"They are friends of yours?"

"Yes, personal friends."

"Then," said the Hon. George, gravely, "perhaps it would be better if I
did not see them."

"As you wish," said Sanders.

With an escort of four Houssas, and fifty carriers recruited from the
neighbouring villages, the Hon. George departed into the interior, and
Sanders saw him off.

"I cannot, of course, guarantee your life," he said, at parting, "and I
must warn you that the Government will not be responsible for any injury
that comes to you."

"I understand," said the Hon. George knowingly, "but I am not to be
deterred. I come from a stock----"

"I dare say," Sanders cut his genealogical reminiscences short; "but the
last traveller who was 'chopped' in the bush was a D'Arcy, and his
people came over with the Conqueror."

The correspondent took the straight path to Lukati, and at the end of
the third day's march came to the village of Mfabo, where lived the
great witch-doctor, Kelebi.

George pitched his camp outside the village, and, accompanied by his
four Houssas, paid a call upon the chief, which was one of the first
mistakes he made, for he should have sent for the chief to call upon
him; and if he called upon anybody, he should have made his visit to the
witch-doctor, who was a greater man than forty chiefs.

In course of time, however, he found himself squatting on the ground
outside the doctor's house, engaged, through the medium of the
interpreter he had brought from Sierra Leone, in an animated
conversation with the celebrated person.

"Tell him," said George to his interpreter, "that I am a great white
chief whose heart bleeds for the native."

"Is he a good man?" asked George.

The witch-doctor, with the recollection of Sanders' threat, said "No!"

"Why?" asked the Hon. George eagerly. "Does he beat the people?"

Not only did he beat the people, explained the witch-doctor with relish,
but there were times when he burnt them alive.

"This is a serious charge," said George, wagging his head warningly;
nevertheless he wrote with rapidity in his diary:--

    "Interviewed Kelebi, respected native doctor, who states:

    "'I have lived all my life in this district, and have never
    known so cruel a man as Sandi (Sanders). I remember once he
    caused a man to be drowned, the man's name I forget; on another
    occasion he burned a worthy native alive for refusing to guide
    him and his Houssas through the forest. I also remember the time
    when he put a village to the fire, causing the people great
    suffering.

    "'The people of the country groan under his oppressions, for
    from time to time he comes demanding money and crops, and if he
    does not receive all that he asks for he flogs the villagers
    until they cry aloud.'"

(I rather suspect that there is truth in the latter statement, for
Sanders finds no little difficulty in collecting the hut-tax, which is
the Government's due.)

George shook his head when he finished writing.

"This," he said, "looks very bad."

He shook hands with the witch-doctor, and that aged villain looked
surprised, and asked a question in the native tongue.

"You no be fit to dash him somet'ing," said the interpreter.

"Dash him?"

"Give 'um present--bottle gin."

"Certainly not," said George. "He may be satisfied with the knowledge
that he is rendering a service to humanity; that he is helping the cause
of a down-trodden people."

The witch-doctor said something in reply, which the interpreter very
wisely refrained from putting into English.

       *     *     *     *     *

"How go the investigations?" asked the captain of Houssas three weeks
later.

"As far as I can gather," said Sanders, "our friend is collecting a
death-roll by the side of which the records of the Great Plague will
read like an advertisement of a health resort."

"Where is he now?"

"He has got to Lukati--and I am worried"; and Sanders looked it.

The Houssa captain nodded, for all manner of reports had come down from
Lukati country. There had been good crops, and good crops mean idleness,
and idleness means mischief. Also there had been devil dances, and the
mild people of the Bokari district, which lies contiguous to Lukati, had
lost women.

"I've got a free hand to nip rebellion in the bud," Sanders reflected
moodily; "and the chances point to rebellion----What do you say? Shall
we make a report and wait for reinforcements, or shall we chance our
luck?"

"It's your funeral," said the Houssa captain, "and I hate to advise you.
If things go wrong you'll get the kicks; but if it were mine I'd go,
like a shot--naturally."

"A hundred and forty men," mused Sanders.

"And two Maxims," suggested the other.

"We'll go," said Sanders; and half an hour later a bugle blared through
the Houssas' lines, and Sanders was writing a report to his chief in
far-away Lagos.

The Hon. George, it may be said, had no idea that he was anything but
welcome in the village of Lukati.

Olari the chief had greeted him pleasantly, and told him stories of
Sanders' brutality--stories which, as George wrote, "if true, must of
necessity sound the death-knell of British integrity in our native
possessions."

Exactly what that meant, I am not disposed to guess.

George stayed a month as the guest of Lukati. He had intended to stay at
the most three days, but there was always a reason for postponing his
departure.

Once the carriers deserted, once the roads were not safe, once Olari
asked him to remain that he might see his young men dance. George did
not know that his escort of four Houssas were feeling uneasy, because
his interpreter--as big a fool as himself--could not interpret omens.
George knew nothing of the significance of a dance in which no less than
six witch-doctors took part, or the history of the tumble-down hut that
stood in solitude at one end of the village. Had he taken the trouble to
search that hut, he would have found a table, a chair, and a truckle
bed, and on the table a report, soiled with dust and rain, which began:

"I have the honour to inform your Excellency that the natives maintain
their industrious and peaceable attitude."

For in this hut in his lifetime lived Carter, Deputy Commissioner; and
the natives, with their superstitious regard for the dead, had moved
nothing.

It was approaching the end of the month, when the Hon. George thought he
detected in his host a certain scarcely-veiled insolence of tone, and in
the behaviour of the villagers something more threatening.

The dances were a nightly occurrence now, and the measured stamping of
feet, the clash of spear against cane shield, and the never-ending growl
of the song the dancers sang, kept him awake at nights. Messengers came
to Olari daily from long distances, and once he was awakened in the
middle of the night by screams. He jumped out of bed and pushed aside
the fly of his tent to see half a dozen naked women dragged through the
streets--the result of a raid upon the unoffending Bokari. He dressed,
in a sweat of indignation and fear, and went to the chief's hut,
fortunately without his interpreter, for what Olari said would have
paralysed him.

In the morning (after this entirely unsatisfactory interview) he paraded
his four Houssas and such of his carriers as he could find, and prepared
to depart.

"Master," said Olari, when the request was interpreted, "I would rather
you stayed. The land is full of bad people, and I have still much to
tell you of the devilishness of Sandi. Moreover," said the chief,
"to-night there is to be a great dance in your honour," and he pointed
to where three slaves were engaged in erecting a big post in the centre
of the village street.

"After this I will let you go," said Olari, "for you are my father and
my mother."

The Hon. George was hesitating, when, of a sudden, at each end of the
street there appeared, as if by magic, twenty travel-stained Houssas.
They stood at attention for a moment, then opened outwards, and in the
centre of each party gleamed the fat water-jacket of a Maxim gun.

The chief said nothing, only he looked first one way and then the other,
and his brown face went a dirty grey. Sanders strolled leisurely along
toward the group. He was unshaven, his clothes were torn with
bush-thorn, in his hand was a long-barrelled revolver.

"Olari," he said gently; and the chief stepped forward.

"I think, Olari," said Sanders, "you have been chief too long."

"Master, my father was chief before me, and his father," said Olari, his
face twitching.

"What of Tagondo, my friend?" asked Sanders, speaking of Carter by his
native name.

"Master, he died," said Olari; "he died of the sickness _mongo_--the
sickness itself."

"Surely," said Sanders, nodding his head, "surely you also shall die of
the same sickness."

Olari looked round for a way of escape.

He saw the Hon. George looking from one to the other in perplexity, and
he flung himself at the correspondent's feet.

"Master!" he cried, "save me from this man who hates me!"

George understood the gesture; his interpreter told him the rest; and,
as a Houssa servant reached out his hand to the chief, the son of the
house of Widnes, strong in the sense of his righteousness, struck it
back.

"Look here, Sanders," forgetting all his previous misgivings and fears
concerning the chief, "I should say that you have punished this poor
devil enough!"

"Take that man, sergeant," said Sanders sharply; and the Houssa gripped
Olari by the shoulder and flung him backward.

"You shall answer for this!" roared the Hon. George Tackle, in impotent
wrath. "What are you going to do with him? My God! No, no!--not without
a trial!"

He sprang forward, but the Houssas caught him and restrained him.

       *     *     *     *     *

"For what you have done," said the correspondent--this was a month
after, and he was going aboard the homeward steamer--"you shall suffer!"

"I only wish to point out to you," said Sanders, "that if I had not
arrived in the nick of time, you would have done all the suffering--they
were going to sacrifice you on the night I arrived. Didn't you see the
post?"

"That is a lie!" said the other. "I will make England ring with your
infamy. The condition of your district is a blot on civilisation!"

       *     *     *     *     *

"There is no doubt," said Mr. Justice Keneally, summing up in the libel
action, Sanders v. _The Courier and Echo_ and another, "that the
defendant Tackle did write a number of very libellous and damaging
statements, and, to my mind, the most appalling aspect of the case is
that, commissioned as he was to investigate the condition of affairs in
the district of Lukati, he did not even trouble to find out where Lukati
was. As you have been told, gentlemen of the jury, there are no less
than four Lukatis in West Africa, the one in Togoland being the
district in which it was intended the defendant should go. How he came
to mistake Lukati of British West Africa for the Lukati of German
Togoland, I do not know, but in order to bolster up his charges against
a perfectly-innocent British official he brought forward a number of
unsupported statements, each of which must be regarded as damaging to
the plaintiff, but more damaging still to the newspaper that in its
colossal ignorance published them."

The jury awarded Sanders nine thousand seven hundred and fifty pounds.



  CHAPTER VI.

  THE DANCING STONES.


Heroes should be tall and handsome, with flashing eyes; Sanders was not
so tall, was yellow of face, moreover had grey hair. Heroes should also
be of gentle address, full of soft phrases, for such tender women who
come over their horizon; Sanders was a dispassionate man who swore on
the slightest provocation, and had no use for women any way.

When you place a man upon a throne, even though that throne be a wooden
stool worth in the mart fourpence more or less, you assume a
responsibility which greatly outweighs all the satisfaction or personal
gratification you may derive from your achievement. There is a grave in
Toledo, a slab of brass, over a great king-maker who lived long enough
to realise his insignificance. The epitaph upon that brass tomb of his
is eloquent of his sum knowledge of life and human effort.

  PULVIS
   ET
  NIHIL

says the inscription, and Powder and Nothing is the ultimate destiny of
all king-makers.

Sanders was a maker of kings in the early days. He helped break a few,
so it was in obedience to the laws of compensation that he took his part
in reconstructive work.

He broke Esindini, Matabini, T'saki--to name three--and helped, in the
very old days, and in another country, to break Lobengula, the Great
Bull.

King-maker he was beyond question--you could see Republicanism written
legibly in the amused grin with which he made them--but the kings he
made were little ones--that is the custom of the British-African rule,
they break a big king and put many little kings in his place, because it
is much safer.

Somewhere about 12 north, and in longitude 0, is a land which is
peculiar for the fact that it is British, French, German, and
Italian--according to which map of Africa you judge it by.

At the time of which I write it was neither, but it was ruled by
Mensikilimbili for the Great King. He was the most powerful of monarchs,
and, for the matter of that, the most cruel. His dominion stretched
"from moonrise to sunset," said the natives, and he held undisputed
sway.

He had a court, and sat upon an ivory throne, and wore over the leopard
skins of his rank a mantle woven of gold thread and scarlet thread, and
he administered justice. He had three hundred wives and forty thousand
fighting men, and his acquaintance with white men began and ended with
the coming of a French Mission, who presented him with a tall hat, a
barrel organ, and one hundred thousand francs in gold.

This was Limbili, the great King of Yitingi.

The little kings of the Southern lands spoke of him with bated breath;
his name was uttered in a low voice, as of a god; he was the symbol of
majesty and of might--the Isisi people, themselves a nation of some
importance, and boastful likewise, referred to themselves disparagingly
when the kingdom of Yitingi was mentioned.

Following the French Mission, Sanders went up as envoy to the Limbilu,
carrying presents of a kind and messages of good will.

He was escorted into the territory by a great army and was lodged in the
city of the king. After two days' waiting he was informed that his
Majesty would see him, and was led to the Presence.

The Presence was an old man, a vicious old man, if Sanders was any judge
of character, who showed unmistakable signs of anger and contempt when
the Commissioner displayed his presents.

"And what are these, white man?" said the king. "Toys for my women, or
presents for my little chiefs?"

"These are for your Greatness," said Sanders quietly, "from a people who
do not gauge friendship by the costliness of presents."

The king gave a little sniff.

"Tell me, white man," he said; "in your travels have you ever seen so
great a king as I?"

"Lord king," said Sanders, frank to a fault. "I have seen greater."

The king frowned, and the crowd about his sacred person muttered
menacingly.

"There you lie," said the king calmly; "for there never was a greater
king than I."

"Let the white man say who is greater," croaked an aged councillor, and
a murmur of approval arose.

"Lord," said Sanders, looking into the eyes of the old man who sat on
the throne, "I have seen Lo Ben."[2]

The king frowned again, and nodded.

"Of him I have heard," he said; "he was a great king and an eater-up of
nations--who else?"

"King," lied Sanders, "also Ketcewayo"; and something like a hush fell
upon the court, for the name of Ketcewayo was one that travelled north.

"But of white kings," persisted the chief; "is there a white king in the
world whose word when it goes forth causes men to tremble?"

Sanders grinned internally, knowing such a king, but answered that in
all his life he had never met such a king.

"And of armies," said the king, "have you ever seen an army such as
mine?"

And so through the category of his possessions he ran; and Sanders,
finding that the lie was to save himself a great deal of trouble, lied
and acclaimed King Limbili as the greatest king in all the world,
commander of the most perfect army, ruler of a sublime kingdom.

It may be said that the kingdom of Yitingi owed its integrity to its
faults, for, satisfied with the perfection of all his possessions, the
great king confined his injustices, his cruelties, and his little wars
within the boundaries of his state. Also he sought relaxation therein.

One day, just after the rains, when the world was cool and the air
filled with the faint scent of African spring, Sanders made a tour
through the little provinces. These are those lands which lie away from
the big rivers. Countries curled up in odd corners, bisected sharply on
the map by this or that international boundary line, or scattered on the
fringe of the wild country vaguely inscribed by the chartographer as
"Under British Influence."

It was always an interesting journey--Sanders made it once a year--for
the way led up strange rivers and through unfamiliar scenes, past
villages where other white men than Sanders were never seen. After a
month's travel the Commissioner came to Icheli, which lies on the border
of the great king's domain, and with immense civility he was received by
the elders and the chiefs.

"Lord, you have come at a good moment," said the chief solemnly,
"to-night Daihili dances."

"And who is Daihili?" asked Sanders.

They told him; later they brought for his inspection a self-conscious
girl, a trifle pert, he thought, for a native.

A slim girl, taller than the average woman, with a figure perfectly
modelled, a face not unpleasant even from the European standpoint,
graceful in carriage, her every movement harmonious. Sanders, chewing
the end of his cigar, took her in at one glance.

"My girl, they tell me that you dance," he said.

"That is so, master," she said; "I am the greatest dancer in all the
world."

"So far I cannot go," said the cautious Commissioner; "but I do not
doubt that your dancing is very wonderful."

"Lord," she said, with a gesture, "when I dance men go mad, losing their
senses. To-night when the moon is high I will show you the dance of the
Three Lovers."

"To-night," said Sanders briefly, "I shall be in bed--and, I trust,
asleep."

The girl frowned a little, was possibly piqued, being a woman of
fifteen, and in no wise different to women elsewhere in the world. This
Sanders did not know, and I doubt whether the knowledge would have
helped him much if he did.

He heard the tom-tom beating, that night as he lay in bed, and the
rhythmical clapping of hands, and fell asleep wondering what would be
the end of a girl who danced so that men went mad.

The child was the chief's daughter, and at parting Sanders had a few
words to say concerning her.

"This daughter of yours is fifteen, and it would be better if she were
married," he said.

"Lord, she has many lovers, but none rich enough to buy her," said the
proud father, "because she is so great a dancer. Chiefs and headmen from
villages far distant come to see her." He looked round and lowered his
voice. "It is said," he whispered, "that the Great One himself has
spoken of her. Perhaps he will send for her, offering this and that. In
such a case," said the chief hopefully, "I will barter and bargain,
keeping him in suspense, and every day the price will rise----"

"If the Great One need her, let her go," said Sanders, "lest instead of
money presents he sends an army. I will have no war, or women palaver,
which is worse than war, in my country--mark that, chief."

"Lord, your word is my desire," said the chief conventionally.

Sanders went back to his own people by easy stages. At Isisi he was
detained for over a week over a question of witch-craft; at Belembi (in
the Isisi country) he stopped three days to settle a case of murder by
fetish. He was delivering judgment, and Abiboo, the Sergeant of Police,
was selecting and testing his stoutest cane for the whipping which was
to follow, when the chief of the Icheli came flying down the river with
three canoes, and Sanders, who, from where he sat, commanded an
uninterrupted view of the river, knew there was trouble--and guessed
what that trouble was.

"Justice!" demanded the chief, his voice trembling with the rage and
fear he had nursed, "justice against the Old One, the stealer of girls,
the destroyer of cities--may death go to him. Iwa!----"

The very day Sanders had left, the messenger of the great king had come,
and with him a hundred warriors, demanding the dancing girl. True to his
pre-arranged scheme, the chief began the inevitable bargaining over
terms. The presents offered were too small. The girl was worth a hundred
thousand rods--nay, a thousand bags of salt.

"You were mad," said Sanders calmly; "no woman is worth a thousand bags
of salt."

"Well, that might be," admitted the outraged father; "yet it would be
folly to begin by naming a price too low. The bargaining went on
through the night and all the next day, and in the end the envoy of the
great king grew impatient.

"Let the woman be sent for," he said, and obedient to the summons came
Daihili, demure enough, yet with covert glances of encouragement to the
unemotional ambassador, and with subtle exhibitions of her charms.

"Woman," said the messenger, "the greatest of kings desires you, will
you come?"

"Lord," said the girl, "I wish for nothing better."

With that, the hundred armed warriors in attendance at the palaver
closed round the girl.

"And so," said Sanders, "you got nothing?"

"Lord, it is as you say," moaned the old chief.

"It is evident," said Sanders, "that an injustice has been done; for no
man may take a woman unless he pay. I think," he added, with a flash of
that mordant humour which occasionally illuminated his judgments, "that
the man pays twice, once to the father, and all his life to his
wife--but that is as may be."

Six weeks later, after consultation, Sanders sent a messenger to the
great king, demanding the price of the woman.

What happened to the messenger I would rather not describe. That he was
killed, is saying the least. Just before he died, when the glaze of
death must have been on his eyes, and his poor wrecked body settling to
the rest of oblivion, he was carried to a place before the king's hut,
and Daihili danced the Dance of the Spirits. This much is now known.

Sanders did nothing; nor did the British Government, but hurried notes
were exchanged between ambassadors and ministers in Paris, and that was
the end of the incident.

Two Icheli spies went up into the great king's country. One came back
saying that the dancing girl was the favourite wife of the old king, and
that her whims swayed the destinies of the nation. Also he reported that
because of this slim girl who danced, many men, councillors, and
captains of war had died the death.

The other spy did not come back.

It may have been his discovery that induced the girl to send an army
against the Icheli, thinking perchance that her people were spying upon
her.

One day the city of Icheli was surrounded by the soldiers of the great
king, and neither man, woman nor child escaped.

The news of the massacre did not come to Sanders for a long time. The
reason was simple there was none to carry the message, for the Icheli
are isolated folk. One day, however, an Isisi hunting party, searching
for elephants, came upon a place where there was a smell of burning and
many skeletons--and thus Sanders knew----

"We cannot," wrote Monsieur Leon Marchassa, Minister for Colonial
Affairs, "accept responsibility for the misdoings of the king of the
Yitingi, and my Government would regard with sympathetic interest any
attempt that was made by His Majesty's Government to pacify this
country."

But the British Government did nothing, because war is an expensive
matter, and Sanders grinned and cursed his employers genially.

Taking his life in his hands, he went up to the border of Yitingi, with
twenty policemen, and sent a messenger--a Yitingi messenger--to the
king. With the audacity which was not the least of his assets, he
demanded that the king should come to him for a palaver.

This adventure nearly proved abortive at the beginning, for just as the
_Zaire_ was steaming to the borders Sanders unexpectedly came upon
traces of a raiding expedition. There were unmistakable signs as to the
author.

"I have a mind to turn back and punish that cursed Bosambo, Chief of the
Ochori," he said to Sergeant Abiboo, "for having sworn by a variety of
gods and devils that he would keep the peace; behold he has been raiding
in foreign territory."

"He will keep, master," said Abiboo, "besides which, he is in the
neighbourhood, for his fires are still warm."

So Sanders went on, and sent his message to the king.

He kept steam in his little boat--he had chosen the only place where the
river touches the Yitingi border--and waited, quite prepared to make an
ignominious, if judicious, bolt.

To his astonishment, his spies brought word that the king was coming. He
owed this condescension to the influence of the little dancing girl, for
she, woman-like, had a memory for rebuffs, and had a score to settle
with Mr. Commissioner Sanders.

The great king arrived, and across the meadow-like lands that fringe the
river on both sides Sanders watched the winding procession with mingled
feelings. The king halted a hundred yards from the river, and his big
scarlet umbrella was the centre of a black line of soldiers spreading
out on either hand for three hundred yards.

Then a party detached itself and came towards the dead tree by the water
side, whereon hung limply in the still air the ensign of England.

"This," said Sanders to himself, "is where I go dead one time."

It is evidence of the seriousness of the situation, as it appealed to
him, that he permitted himself to descend to Coast English.

"The king, the Great One, awaits you, white man, offering you safety in
his shadow," said the king's messenger; and Sanders nodded. He walked
leisurely toward the massed troops, and presently appeared before the
old man squatting on a heap of skins and blinking like an ape in the
sunlight.

"Lord king, live for ever," said Sanders glibly, and as he raised his
hand in salute he saw the girl regarding him from under knit brows.

"What is your wish, white man?" said the old king; "what rich presents
do you bring, that you call me many days' journey?"

"Lord, I bring no presents," said Sanders boldly; "but a message from a
king who is greater than you, whose soldiers outnumber the sands of the
river, and whose lands extend from the east to the west, from the north
to the south."

"There is no such king," snarled the old man. "You lie, white man, and I
will cut your tongue into little strips."

"Let him give his message, master," said the girl.

"This is the message," said Sanders. He stood easily, with his hands in
the pockets of his white uniform jacket, and the king was nearer death
than he knew. "My master says: 'Because the Great King of Yitingi has
eaten up the Icheli folk: because he has crossed the borderland and
brought suffering to my people, my heart is sore. Yet, if the Great King
will pay a fine of one thousand head of cattle and will allow free
access to his country for my soldiers and my commissioners, I will live
in peace with him.'"

The old man laughed, a wicked, cackling laugh.

"Oh, ko!" he chuckled; "a great king!"

Then the girl stepped forward.

"Sandi," she said, "once you put me to shame, for when I would have
danced for you, you slept."

"To you, Daihili," said Sanders steadily, "I say nothing; I make no
palaver with women, for that is not the custom or the law. Still less
do I talk with dancing girls. My business is with Limbili the king."

The king was talking rapidly behind his hand to a man who bent over him,
and Sanders, his hands still in his jacket pockets, snapped down the
safety catches of his automatic Colts.

All the time the girl spoke he was watching from the corners of his eyes
the man who talked with the king. He saw him disappear in the crowd of
soldiers who stood behind the squatting figures, and prepared for the
worst.

"Since I may not dance for you," the girl was saying, "my lord the king
would have you dance for me."

"That is folly," said Sanders: then he saw the line on either side wheel
forward, and out came his pistols.

"Crack! Crack!"

The shot intended for the king missed him, and broke the leg of a
soldier behind.

It had been hopeless from the first; this Sanders realised with some
philosophy, as he lay stretched on the baked earth, trussed like a fowl,
and exceedingly uncomfortable. At the first shot Abiboo, obeying his
instructions, would turn the bows of the steamer down stream; this was
the only poor satisfaction he could derive from the situation.

Throughout that long day, with a pitiless sun beating down upon him, he
lay in the midst of an armed guard, waiting for the death which must
come in some dreadful form or other.

He was undismayed, for this was the logical end of the business. Toward
the evening they gave him water, which was most acceptable. From the
gossip of his guards he gathered that the evening had been chosen for
his exit, but the manner of it he must guess.

From where he lay he could see, by turning his head a little, the king's
tent, and all the afternoon men were busily engaged in heaping flat
stones upon the earth before the pavilion. They were of singular
uniformity, and would appear to be specially hewn and dressed for some
purpose. He asked his guard a question.

"They are the dancing stones, white man," said the soldier, "they come
from the mountain near the city."

When darkness fell a huge fire was lit; it was whilst he was watching
this that he heard of the _Zaire's_ escape, and was thankful.

He must have been dozing, exhausted in body and mind, when he was
dragged to his feet, his bonds were slipped, and he was led before the
king. Then he saw what form his torture was to take.

The flat stones were being taken from the fire with wooden pincers and
laid to form a rough pavement before the tent.

"White man," said the king, as rude hands pulled off the Commissioner's
boots, "the woman Daihili would see you dance."

"Be assured, king," said Sanders, between his teeth, "that some day you
shall dance in hell in more pleasant company, having first danced at the
end of a rope."

"If you live through the dancing," said the king, "you will be sorry."

A ring of soldiers with their spears pointing inward surrounded the
pavement, those on the side of the tent crouching so that their bodies
might not interrupt the Great One's view.

"Dance," said the king; and Sanders was thrown forward. The first stone
he touched was only just warm, and on this he stood still till a
spear-thrust sent him to the next. It was smoking hot, and he leapt up
with a stifled cry. Down he came to another, hotter still, and leapt
again--

"Throw water over him," said the amused king, when they dragged the
fainting man off the stones, his clothes smouldering where he lay in an
inert heap.

"Now dance," said the king again--when out of the darkness about the
group leapt a quivering pencil of yellow light.

Ha-ha-ha-ha-a-a-a!

Abiboo's Maxim-gun was in action at a range of fifty yards, and with him
five hundred Ochori men under that chief of chiefs, Bosambo.

For a moment the Yitingi stood, and then, as with a wild yell which was
three-parts fear, the Ochori charged, the king's soldiers broke and
fled.

They carried Sanders to the steamer quickly, for the Yitingi would
re-form, being famous night fighters. Sanders, sitting on the deck of
the steamer nursing his burnt feet and swearing gently, heard the
scramble of the Ochori as they got into their canoes, heard the grunting
of his Houssas hoisting the Maxim on board, and fainted again.

"Master," said Bosambo in the morning, "many moons ago you made charge
against the Ochori, saying they would not fight. That was true, but in
those far-off days there was no chief Bosambo. Now, because of my
teaching, and because I have put fire into their stomachs, they have
defeated the soldiers of the Great King."

He posed magnificently, for on his shoulders was a mantle of gold thread
woven with blue, which was not his the night before.

"Bosambo," said Sanders, "though I have a score to settle with you for
breaking the law by raiding, I am grateful that the desire for the
properties of others brought you to this neighbourhood. Where did you
get that cloak?" he demanded.

"I stole it," said Bosambo frankly, "from the tent of the Great King;
also I brought with me one of the stones upon which my lord would not
stand. I brought this, thinking that it would be evidence."

Sanders nodded, and bit his cigar with a little grimace. "On which my
lord would not stand," was very prettily put.

"Let me see it," he said; and Bosambo himself carried it to him.

It had borne the heat well enough, but rough handling had chipped a
corner; and Sanders looked at this cracked corner long and earnestly.

"Here," he said, "is an argument that no properly constituted British
Government can overlook--I see Limbili's finish."

       *     *     *     *     *

The rainy season came round and the springtime, before Sanders again
stood in the presence of the Great King. All around him was desolation
and death. The plain was strewn with the bodies of men, and the big city
was a smoking ruin. To the left, three regiments of Houssas were
encamped; to the right, two battalions of African Rifles sat at "chop,"
and the snappy notes of their bugles came sharply through the still air.

"I am an old man," mumbled the king; but the girl who crouched at his
side said nothing. Only her eyes never left the brick-red face of
Sanders.

"Old you are," he said, "yet not too old to die."

"I am a great king," whined the other, "and it is not proper that a
great king should hang."

"Yet if you live," said Sanders, "many other great kings will say, 'We
may commit these abominations, and because of our greatness we shall
live.'"

"And what of me, lord?" said the girl in a low voice.

"You!" Sanders looked at her. "Ho, hi," he said, as though he had just
remembered her. "You are the dancing girl? Now we shall do nothing with
you, Daihili--because you are nothing."

He saw her shrink as one under a lash.

After the execution, the Colonel of the Houssas and Sanders were talking
together.

"What I can't understand," said the Colonel, "is why we suddenly decided
upon this expedition. It has been necessary for years--but why this
sudden activity?"

Sanders grinned mysteriously.

"A wonderful people, the English," he said airily. "Old Man Limbili
steals British subjects, and I report it. 'Very sad,' says England. He
wipes out a nation. 'Deplorable!' says England. He makes me dance on the
original good-intention stones of Hades. 'Treat it as a joke,' says
England; but when I point out that these stones assay one ounce ten
penny-weights of refined gold, and that we've happed upon the richest
reef in Central Africa, there's an army here in six months!"

I personally think that Sanders may have been a little unjust in his
point of view. After all, wars cost money, and wars of vengeance are
notoriously unprofitable.

[Footnote 2: Lo Bengola, the King of the Matabele.]



  CHAPTER VII.

  THE FOREST OF HAPPY DREAMS.


Sanders was tied up at a "wooding," being on his way to collect taxes
and administer justice to the folk who dwell on the lower Isisi River.

By the river-side the little steamer was moored. There was a tiny bay
here, and the swift currents of the river were broken to a gentle flow;
none the less, he inspected the shore-ends of the wire hawsers before he
crossed the narrow plank that led to the deck of the _Zaire_. The wood
was stacked on the deck, ready for to-morrow's run. The new water-gauge
had been put in by Yoka, the engineer, as he had ordered; the engines
had been cleaned; and Sanders nodded approvingly. He stepped lightly
over two or three sleeping forms curled up on the deck, and gained the
shore. "Now I think I'll turn in," he muttered, and looked at his watch.
It was nine o'clock. He stood for a moment on the crest of the steep
bank, and stared back across the river. The night was black, but he saw
the outlines of the forest on the other side. He saw the jewelled sky,
and the pale reflection of stars in the water. Then he went to his tent,
and leisurely got into his pyjamas. He jerked two tabloids from a tiny
bottle, swallowed them, drank a glass of water, and thrust his head
through the tent opening. "Ho, Sokani!" he called, speaking in the
vernacular, "let the _lo-koli_ sound!"

He went to bed.

He heard the rustle of men moving, the gurgles of laughter as his subtle
joke was repeated, for the Cambul people have a keen sense of humour,
and then the penetrating rattle of sticks on the native drum--a hollow
tree-trunk. Fiercely it beat--furiously, breathlessly, with now and then
a deeper note as the drummer, using all his art, sent the message of
sleep to the camp.

In one wild crescendo, the _lo-koli_ ceased, and Sanders turned with a
sigh of content and closed his eyes--he sat up suddenly. He must have
dozed; but he was wide awake now.

He listened, then slipped out of bed, pulling on his mosquito boots.
Into the darkness of the night he stepped, and found N'Kema, the
engineer, waiting.

"You heard, master?" said the native.

"I heard," said Sanders, with a puzzled face, "yet we are nowhere near a
village."

He listened.

From the night came a hundred whispering noises, but above all these,
unmistakable, the faint clatter of an answering drum. The white man
frowned in his perplexity. "No village is nearer than the Bongindanga,"
he muttered, "not even a fishing village; the woods are deserted----"

The native held up a warning finger, and bent his head, listening. He
was reading the message that the drum sent. Sanders waited; he knew the
wonderful fact of this native telegraph, how it sent news through the
trackless wilds. He could not understand it, no European could; but he
had respect for its mystery.

"A white man is here," read the native; "he has the sickness."

"A white man!"

In the darkness Sanders' eyebrows rose incredulously.

"He is a foolish one," N'Kema read; "he sits in the Forest of Happy
Thoughts, and will not move."

Sanders clicked his lips impatiently. "No white man would sit in the
Forest of Happy Thoughts," he said, half to himself, "unless he were
mad."

But the distant drum monotonously repeated the outrageous news. Here,
indeed, in the heart of the loveliest glade in all Africa, encamped in
the very centre of the Green Path of Death, was a white man, a sick
white man--in the Forest of Happy Thoughts--a sick white man.

So the drum went on and on, till Sanders, rousing his own _lo-koli_ man,
sent an answer crashing along the river, and began to dress hurriedly.

In the forest lay a very sick man. He had chosen the site for the camp
himself. It was in a clearing, near a little creek that wound between
high elephant-grass to the river. Mainward chose it, just before the
sickness came, because it was pretty. This was altogether an inadequate
reason; but Mainward was a sentimentalist, and his life was a long
record of choosing pretty camping places, irrespective of danger. "He
was," said a newspaper, commenting on the crowning disaster which sent
him a fugitive from justice to the wild lands of Africa, "over-burdened
with imagination." Mainward was cursed with ill-timed confidence; this
was one of the reasons he chose to linger in that deadly strip of land
of the Ituri, which is clumsily named by the natives "The
Lands-where-all-bad-thoughts-become-good-thoughts" and poetically
adapted by explorers and daring traders as "The Forest of Happy Dreams."
Over-confidence had generally been Mainward's undoing--over-confidence
in the ability of his horses to win races; over-confidence in his own
ability to secure money to hide his defalcations--he was a director in
the Welshire County Bank once--over-confidence in securing the love of a
woman, who, when the crash came, looked at him blankly and said she was
sorry, but she had no idea he felt towards her like that----

Now Mainward lifted his aching head from the pillow and cursed aloud at
the din. He was endowed with the smattering of pigeon-English which a
man may acquire from a three months' sojourn divided between Sierra
Leone and Grand Bassam.

"Why for they make 'em cursed noise, eh?" he fretted. "You plenty
fool-man, Abiboo."

"Si, senor," agreed the Kano boy, calmly.

"Stop it, d'ye hear? stop it!" raved the man on the tumbled bed; "this
noise is driving me mad--tell them to stop the drum."

The _lo-koli_ stopped of its own accord, for the listeners in the sick
man's camp had heard the faint answer from Sanders.

"Come here, Abiboo--I want some milk; open a fresh tin; and tell the
cook I want some soup, too."

The servant left him muttering and tossing from side to side on the
creaking camp bedstead. Mainward had many strange things to think about.
It was strange how they all clamoured for immediate attention; strange
how they elbowed and fought one another in their noisy claims to his
notice. Of course, there was the bankruptcy and the discovery at the
bank--it was very decent of that inspector fellow to clear out--and
Ethel, and the horses, and--and----

The Valley of Happy Dreams! That would make a good story if Mainward
could write; only, unfortunately, he could not write. He could sign
things, sign his name "three months after date pay to the order of----"
He could sign other people's names; he groaned, and winced at the
thought.

But here was a forest where bad thoughts became good, and, God knows,
his mind was ill-furnished. He wanted peace and sleep and happiness--he
greatly desired happiness. Now suppose "Fairy Lane" had won the
Wokingham Stakes? It had not, of course (he winced again at the bad
memory), but suppose it had? Suppose he could have found a friend who
would have lent him 16,000, or even if Ethel----

"Master," said Abiboo's voice, "dem puck-a-puck, him lib for come."

"Eh, what's that?"

Mainward turned almost savagely on the man.

"Puck-a-puck--you hear'um?"

But the sick man could not hear the smack of the _Zaire_'s stern wheel,
as the little boat breasted the downward rush of the river--he was
surprised to see that it was dawn, and grudgingly admitted to himself
that he had slept. He closed his eyes again and had a strange dream. The
principal figure was a small, tanned, clean-shaven man in a white
helmet, who wore a dingy yellow overcoat over his pyjamas.

"How are you feeling?" said the stranger.

"Rotten bad," growled Mainward, "especially about Ethel; don't you think
it was pretty low down of her to lead me on to believe she was awfully
fond of me, and then at the last minute to chuck me?"

"Shocking," said the strange, white man gravely, "but put her out of
your mind just now; she isn't worth troubling about. What do you say to
this?"

He held up a small, greenish pellet between his forefinger and thumb,
and Mainward laughed weakly.

"Oh, rot!" he chuckled faintly. "You're one of those Forest of Happy
Dreams Johnnies; what's that? A love philtre?" He was hysterically
amused at the witticism.

Sanders nodded.

"Love or life, it's all one," he said, but apparently unamused. "Swallow
it!"

Mainward giggled and obeyed.

"And now," said the stranger--this was six hours later--"the best thing
you can do is to let my boys put you on my steamer and take you down
river."

Mainward shook his head. He had awakened irritable and lamentably weak.

"My dear chap, it's awfully kind of you to have come--by the way, I
suppose you _are_ a doctor?"

Sanders shook his head.

"On the contrary, I am the Commissioner of this district," he said
flippantly--"but you were saying----"

"I want to stay here--it's devilish pretty."

"Devilish is the very adjective I should have used--my dear man, this is
the plague spot of the Congo; it's the home of every death-dealing fly
and bug in Africa."

He waved his hand to the hidden vistas of fresh green glades, of
gorgeous creepers shown in the light of the camp fires.

"Look at the grass," he said; "it's homeland grass--that's the seductive
part of it; I nearly camped here myself. Come, my friend, let me take
you to my camp."

Mainward shook his head obstinately.

"I'm obliged, but I'll stay here for a day or so. I want to try the
supernatural effects of this pleasant place," he said with a weary
smile. "I've got so many thoughts that need treatment."

"Look here," said Sanders roughly, "you know jolly well how this forest
got its name; it is called Happy Dreams because it's impregnated with
fever, and with every disease from beri-beri to sleeping sickness. You
don't wake from the dreams you dream here. Man, I know this country, and
you're a newcomer; you've trekked here because you wanted to get away
from life and start all over again."

"I beg your pardon." Mainward's face flushed; and he spoke a little
stiffly.

"Oh, I know all about you--didn't I tell you I was the Commissioner? I
was in England when things were going rocky with you, and I've read the
rest in the papers I get from time to time. But all that is nothing to
me. I'm here to help you start fair. If you had wanted to commit
suicide, why come to Africa to do it? Be sensible and shift your camp;
I'll send my steamer back for your men. Will you come?"

"No," said Mainward sulkily. "I don't want to, I'm not keen; besides,
I'm not fit to travel."

Here was an argument which Sanders could not answer. He was none too
sure upon that point himself, and he hesitated before he spoke again.

"Very well," he said at length, "suppose you stay another day to give
you a chance to pull yourself together. I'll come along to-morrow with a
tip-top invalid chair for you--is it a bet?"

Mainward held out his shaking hand, and the ghost of a smile puckered
the corners of his eyes. "It's a bet," he said.

He watched the Commissioner walk through the camp, speaking to one man
after another in a strange tongue. A singular, masterful man this,
thought Mainward. Would he have mastered Ethel? He watched the stranger
with curious eyes, and noted how his own lazy devils of carriers jumped
at his word.

"Good-night," said Sanders' voice; and Mainward looked up. "You must
take another of these pellets, and to-morrow you'll be as fit as a
donkey-engine. I've got to get back to my camp to-night, or I shall find
half my stores stolen in the morning; but if you'd rather I stopped----"

"No, no," replied the other hastily. He wanted to be alone. He had lots
of matters to settle with himself. There was the question of Ethel, for
instance.

"You won't forget to take the tabloid?"

"No. I say, I'm awfully obliged to you for coming. You've been a good
white citizen."

Sanders smiled. "Don't talk nonsense!" he said good-humouredly. "This is
all brotherly love. White to white, and kin to kin, don't you know?
We're all alone here, and there isn't a man of our colour within five
hundred miles. Good-night, and please take the tabloid----"

Mainward lay listening to the noise of departure. He thought he heard a
little bell tingle. That must be for the engines. Then he heard the
puck-a-puck of the wheel--so that was how the steamer got its name.

Abiboo came with some milk. "You take um medicine, master?" he inquired.

"I take um," murmured Mainward; but the green tabloid was underneath his
pillow.

Then there began to steal over him a curious sensation of content. He
did not analyse it down to its first cause. He had had sufficient
introspective exercise for one day. It came to him as a pleasant shock
to realise that he was happy.

He opened his eyes and looked round.

His bed was laid in the open, and he drew aside the curtains of his net
to get a better view.

A little man was walking briskly toward him along the velvet stretch of
grass that sloped down from the glade, and Mainward whistled.

"Atty," he gasped. "By all that's wonderful."

Atty, indeed, it was: the same wizened Atty as of yore; but no longer
pulling the long face to which Mainward had been accustomed. The little
man was in his white riding-breeches, his diminutive top-boots were
splashed with mud, and on the crimson of his silk jacket there was
evidence of a hard race. He touched his cap jerkily with his whip, and
shifted the burden of the racing saddle he carried to the other arm.

"Why, Atty," said Mainward, with a smile, "what on earth are you doing
here?"

"It's a short way to the jockey's room, sir," said the little man. "I've
just weighed in. I thought the Fairy would do it, sir, and she did."

Mainward nodded wisely. "I knew she would, too," he said.

"Did she give you a smooth ride?"

The jockey grinned again. "She never does that," he said. "But she ran
gamely enough. Coming up out of the Dip, she hung a little, but I showed
her the whip, and she came on as straight as a die. I thought once the
Stalk would beat us--I got shut in, but I pulled her round, and we were
never in difficulties. I could have won by ten lengths," said Atty.

"You could have won by ten lengths," repeated Mainward in wonder. "Well,
you've done me a good turn, Atty. This win will get me out of one of the
biggest holes that ever a reckless man tumbled into--I shall not forget
you, Atty."

"I'm sure you won't, sir," said the little jockey gratefully; "if you'll
excuse me now, sir----"

Mainward nodded and watched him, as he moved quickly through the trees.

There were several people in the glade now, and Mainward looked down
ruefully at his soiled duck suit. "What an ass I was to come like this,"
he muttered in his annoyance. "I might have known that I should have met
all these people."

There was one he did not wish to see; and as soon as he sighted Venn,
with his shy eyes and his big nose, Mainward endeavoured to slip back
out of observation. But Venn saw him, and came tumbling through the
trees, with his big, flabby hand extended and his dull eyes aglow.

"Hullo, hullo!" he grinned, "been looking for you."

Mainward muttered some inconsequent reply. "Rum place to find you, eh?"
Venn removed his shining silk hat and mopped his brow with an awesome
silk handkerchief.

"But look here, old feller--about that money?"

"Don't worry, my dear man," Mainward interposed easily. "I shall pay you
now."

"That ain't what I mean," said the other impetuously; "a few hundred
more or less does not count. But you wanted a big sum----"

"And you told me you'd see me----"

"I know, I know," Venn put in hastily; "but that was before Kaffirs
started jumpin'. Old feller, you can have it!"

He said this with grotesque emphasis, standing with his legs wide apart,
his hat perched on the back of his head, his plump hands dramatically
outstretched: and Mainward laughed outright.

"Sixteen thousand?" he asked.

"Or twenty," said the other impressively. "I want to show you----"
Somebody called him, and with a hurried apology he went blundering up
the green slope, stopping and turning back to indulge in a little dumb
show illustrative of his confidence in Mainward and his willingness to
oblige.

Mainward was laughing, a low, gurgling laugh of pure enjoyment. Venn, of
all people! Venn, with his accursed questions and talk of securities.
Well! Well!

Then his merriment ceases, and he winced again, and his heart beat
faster and faster, and a curious weakness came over him----

How splendidly cool she looked.

She walked in the clearing, a white, slim figure; he heard the swish of
her skirt as she came through the long grass--white, with a green belt
all encrusted with gold embroidery. He took in every detail
hungrily--the dangling gold ornaments that hung from her belt, the lace
collar at her throat, the----

She did not hurry to him, that was not her way.

But in her eyes dawned a gradual tenderness--those dear eyes that
dropped before his shyly.

"Ethel!" he whispered, and dared to take her hand.

"Aren't you wonderfully surprised?" she said.

"Ethel! Here!"

"I--I had to come."

She would not look at him, but he saw the pink in her cheek and heard
the faltering voice with a wild hope. "I behaved so badly, dear--so very
badly."

She hung her head.

"Dear! dear!" he muttered, and groped toward her like a blind man.

She was in his arms, crushed against his breast, the perfume of her
presence in his brain.

"I had to come to you." Her hot cheek was against his. "I love you so."

"Me--love me? Do you mean it?" He was tremulous with happiness, and his
voice broke--"Dearest."

Her face was upturned to his, her lips so near; he felt her heart
beating as furiously as his own. He kissed her--her lips, her eyes, her
dear hair----

"O, God, I'm happy!" she sobbed, "so--so happy----"

       *     *     *     *     *

Sanders sprang ashore just as the sun was rising, and came thoughtfully
through the undergrowth to the camp. Abiboo, squatting by the curtained
bed, did not rise. Sanders walked to the bed, pulled aside the mosquito
netting, and bent over the man who lay there.

Then he drew the curtains again, lit his pipe slowly, and looked down at
Abiboo.

"When did he die?" he asked.

"In the dark of the morning, master," said the man.

Sanders nodded slowly. "Why did you not send for me?"

For a moment the squatting figure made no reply, then he rose and
stretched himself.

"Master," he said, speaking in Arabic--which is a language which allows
of nice distinctions--"this man was happy; he walked in the Forest of
Happy Thoughts; why should I call him back to a land where there was
neither sunshine nor happiness, but only night and pain and sickness?"

"You're a philosopher," said Sanders irritably.

"I am a follower of the Prophet," said Abiboo, the Kano boy; "and all
things are according to God's wisdom."



  CHAPTER VIII.

  THE AKASAVAS.


You who do not understand how out of good evil may arise must take your
spade to some virgin grassland, untouched by the hand of man from the
beginning of time. Here is soft, sweet grass, and never a sign of
nettle, or rank, evil weed. It is as God made it. Turn the soil with
your spade, intent on improving His handiwork, and next season--weeds,
nettles, lank creeping things, and coarse-leafed vegetation cover the
ground.

Your spade has aroused to life the dormant seeds of evil, germinated the
ugly waste life that all these long years has been sleeping out of
sight--in twenty years, with careful cultivation, you may fight down the
weeds and restore the grassland, but it takes a lot of doing.

Your intentions may have been the best in disturbing the primal sod; you
may have had views of roses flourishing where grass was; the result is
very much the same.

I apply this parable to the story of a missionary and his work. The
missionary was a good man, though of the wrong colour. He had large
ideas on his duty to his fellows; he was inspired by the work of his
cloth in another country; but, as Sanders properly said, India is not
Africa.

Kenneth McDolan came to Mr. Commissioner Sanders with a letter of
introduction from the new Administration.

Sanders was at "chop" one blazing morning when his servant, who was also
his sergeant, Abiboo, brought a card to him. It was a nice card, rounded
at the corners, and gilt-edged, and in the centre, in old English type,
was the inscription--

  Rev. KENNETH McDOLAN.

Underneath was scribbled in pencil: "On a brief visit." Sanders sniffed
impatiently, for "reverend" meant "missionary," and "missionary" might
mean anything. He looked at the card again and frowned in his
perplexity. Somehow the old English and the reverendness of the visiting
card did not go well with the rounded corners and the gilt edge.

"Where is he?" he demanded.

"Master," said Abiboo, "he is on the verandah. Shall I kick him off?"
Abiboo said this very naturally and with simple directness, and Sanders
stared at him.

"Son of sin!" he said sternly, "is it thus you speak of God-men, and of
white men at that?"

"This man wears the clothes of a God-man," said Abiboo serenely; "but he
is a black man, therefore of no consequence."

Sanders pulled a pair of mosquito boots over his pyjamas and swore to
himself.

"White missionaries, yes," he said wrathfully, "but black missionaries I
will not endure."

The Reverend Kenneth was sitting in Sanders' basket-chair, one leg flung
negligently over one side of the chair to display a silk sock. His
finger-tips were touching, and he was gazing with good-natured tolerance
at the little green garden which was the Commissioner's special delight.

He was black, very black; but his manners were easy, and his bearing
self-possessed.

He nodded smilingly to Sanders and extended a lazy hand.

"Ah, Mr. Commissioner," he said in faultless English, "I have heard a
great deal about you."

"Get out of that chair," said Sanders, who had no small talk worth
mentioning, "and stand up when I come out to you! What do you want?"

The Reverend Kenneth rose quickly, and accepted the situation with a
rapidity which will be incomprehensible to any who do not know how
thumbnail deep is the cultivation of the cultured savage.

"I am on a brief visit," he said, a note of deference in his tone. "I am
taking the small towns and villages along the coast, holding services,
and I desire permission to speak to your people."

This was not the speech he had prepared. He had come straight from
England, where he had been something of a lion in Bayswater society, and
where, too, his theological attainments had won him regard and no small
amount of fame in even a wider circle.

"You may speak to my people," said Sanders; "but you may not address the
Kano folk nor the Houssas, because they are petrified in the faith of
the Prophet."

Regaining his self-possession, the missionary smiled.

"To bring light into dark places----" he began.

"Cut it out," said Sanders briefly; "the palaver is finished." He turned
on his heel and re-entered the bungalow.

Then a thought struck him.

"Hi!" he shouted, and the retiring missionary turned back.

"Where did you pick up the 'Kenneth McDolan'?" he asked.

The negro smiled again.

"It is the patronymic bestowed upon me at Sierra Leone by a good
Christian white man, who brought me up and educated me as though I were
his own son," he recited.

Sanders showed his teeth.

"I have heard of such cases," he said unpleasantly.

The next day the missionary announced his intention of proceeding up
country. He came in to see Sanders as though nothing had happened.
Perhaps he expected to find the Commissioner a little ashamed of
himself; but if this was so he was disappointed, for Sanders was
blatantly unrepentant.

"You've got a letter from the Administration," he said, "so I can't stop
you."

"There is work for me," said the missionary, "work of succour and
relief. In India some four hundred thousand----"

"This is not India," said Sanders shortly; and with no other word the
native preacher went his way.

Those who know the Akasava people best know them for their
laziness--save in matter of vendetta, or in the settlement of such blood
feuds as come their way, or in the lifting of each other's goats, in all
which matters they display an energy and an agility truly inexplicable.
"He is an Akasava man--he points with his foot," is a proverb of the
Upper River, and the origin of the saying goes back to a misty time when
(as the legend goes) a stranger happened upon a man of the tribe lying
in the forest.

"Friend," said the stranger, "I am lost. Show me the way to the river";
and the Akasava warrior, raising a leg from the ground, pointed with his
toe to the path.

Though this legend lacks something in point of humour, it is regarded as
the acme of mirth-provoking stories from Bama to the Lado country.

It was six months after the Reverend Kenneth McDolan had left for his
station that there came to Sanders at his headquarters a woeful
deputation, arriving in two canoes in the middle of the night, and
awaiting him when he came from his bath to the broad stoep of his house
in the morning--a semi-circle of chastened and gloomy men, who squatted
on the wooden stoep, regarding him with the utmost misery.

"Lord, we are of the Akasava people," said the spokesman, "and we have
come a long journey."

"So I am aware," said Sanders, with acrid dryness, "unless the Akasava
country has shifted its position in the night. What do you seek?"

"Master, we are starving," said the speaker, "for our crops have failed,
and there is no fish in the river; therefore we have come to you, who
are our father."

Now this was a most unusual request; for the Central African native does
not easily starve, and, moreover, there had come no news of crop failure
from the Upper River.

"All this sounds like a lie," said Sanders thoughtfully, "for how may a
crop fail in the Akasava country, yet be more than sufficient in Isisi?
Moreover, fish do not leave their playground without cause, and if they
do they may be followed."

The spokesman shifted uneasily.

"Master, we have had much sickness," he said, "and whilst we cared for
one another the planting season had passed; and, as for the fish, our
young men were too full of sorrow for their dead to go long journeys."
Sanders stared.

"Therefore we have come from our chief asking you to save us, for we are
starving."

The man spoke with some confidence, and this was the most surprising
thing of all. Sanders was nonplussed, frankly confounded. For all the
eccentric course his daily life took, there was a certain regularity
even in its irregularity. But here was a new and unfamiliar situation.
Such things mean trouble, and he was about to probe this matter to its
depth.

"I have nothing to give you," he said, "save this advice--that you
return swiftly to where you came from and carry my word to your chief.
Later I will come and make inquiries."

The men were not satisfied, and an elder, wrinkled with age, and
sooty-grey of head, spoke up.

"It is said, master," he mumbled, through his toothless jaws, "that in
other lands when men starve there come many white men bringing grain and
comfort."

"Eh?"

Sanders' eyes narrowed.

"Wait," he said, and walked quickly through the open door of his
bungalow.

When he came out he carried a pliant whip of rhinoceros-hide, and the
deputation, losing its serenity, fled precipitately.

Sanders watched the two canoes paddling frantically up stream, and the
smile was without any considerable sign of amusement. That same night
the _Zaire_ left for the Akasava country, carrying a letter to the
Reverend Kenneth McDolan, which was brief, but unmistakable in its
tenor.

    "Dear Sir,"--it ran--"You will accompany the bearer to
    headquarters, together with your belongings. In the event of
    your refusing to comply with this request, I have instructed my
    sergeant to arrest you. Yours faithfully,

      "H. Sanders, _Commissioner_."

"And the reason I am sending you out of this country," said Sanders, "is
because you have put funny ideas into the heads of my people."

"I assure you----" began the negro.

"I don't want your assurance," said Sanders, "you are not going to work
an Indian Famine Fund in Central Africa."

"The people were starving----"

Sanders smiled.

"I have sent word to them that I am coming to Akasava," he said grimly,
"and that I will take the first starved-looking man I see and beat him
till he is sore."

The next day the missionary went, to the intense relief, be it said, of
the many white missionaries scattered up and down the river; for,
strange as it may appear, a negro preacher who wears a black coat and
silk socks is regarded with a certain amount of suspicion.

True to his promise, Sanders made his visit, but found none to thrash,
for he came to a singularly well-fed community that had spent a whole
week in digging out of the secret hiding-places the foodstuffs which, at
the suggestion of a too zealous seeker after fame, it had concealed.

"Here," said Sanders, wickedly, "endeth the first lesson."

But he was far from happy. It is a remarkable fact that once you
interfere with the smooth current of native life all manner of things
happen. It cannot be truthfully said that the events that followed on
the retirement from active life of the Reverend Kenneth McDolan were
immediately traceable to his ingenious attempt to engineer a famine in
Akasava. But he had sown a seed, the seed of an idea that somebody was
responsible for their well-being--he had set up a beautiful idol of
Pauperism, a new and wonderful fetish. In the short time of his stay he
had instilled into the heathen mind the dim, vague, and elusive idea of
the Brotherhood of Man.

This Sanders discovered, when, returning from his visit of inspection,
he met, drifting with the stream, a canoe in which lay a prone man,
lazily setting his course with half-hearted paddle strokes.

Sanders, on the bridge of his tiny steamer, pulled the little string
that controlled the steam whistle, for the canoe lay in his track.
Despite the warning, the man in the canoe made no effort to get out of
his way, and since both were going with the current, it was only by
putting the wheel over and scraping a sandbank that the steamer missed
sinking the smaller craft.

"Bring that man on board!" fumed Sanders, and when the canoe had been
unceremoniously hauled to the _Zaire's_ side by a boat-hook, and the
occupant rudely pulled on board, Sanders let himself go.

"By your infernal laziness," he said, "I see that you are of the Akasava
people; yet that is no reason why you should take the middle of the
channel to yourself."

"Lord, it is written in the books of your gods," said the man, "that the
river is for us all, black and white, each being equal in the eyes of
the white gods."

Sanders checked his lips impatiently.

"When you and I are dead," he said, "we shall be equal, but since I am
quick and you are quick, I shall give you ten strokes with a whip to
correct the evil teaching that is within you."

He made a convert.

But the mischief was done.

Sanders knew the native mind much better than any man living, and he
spent a certain period every day for the next month cursing the Reverend
Kenneth McDolan. So far, however, no irreparable mischief had been done,
but Sanders was not the kind of man to be caught napping. Into the
farthermost corners of his little kingdom his secret-service men were
dispatched, and Sanders sat down to await developments.

At first the news was good; the spies sent back stories of peace, of
normal happiness; then the reports became less satisfactory. The Akasava
country is unfortunately placed, for it is the very centre territory,
the ideal position for the dissemination of foolish propaganda, as
Sanders had discovered before.

The stories the spies sent or brought were of secret meetings, of envoys
from tribe to tribe, envoys that stole out from villages by dead of
night, of curious rites performed in the depth of the forest and other
disturbing matters.

Then came a climax.

Tigili, the king of the N'Gombi folk, made preparations for a secret
journey. He sacrificed a goat and secured good omens; likewise three
witch-doctors in solemn conclave gave a favourable prophecy.

The chief slipped down the river one night with fourteen paddlers, a
drummer, his chief headsman, and two of his wives, and reached the
Akasava city at sunset the next evening. Here the chief of the Akasava
met him, and led him to his hut.

"Brother," said the Akasava chief, not without a touch of pompousness,
"I have covered my bow with the skin of a monkey."

Tigili nodded gravely.

"My arrows are winged with the little clouds," he said in reply.

In this cryptic fashion they spoke for the greater part of an hour, and
derived much profit therefrom.

In the shadow of the hut without lay a half-naked man, who seemed to
sleep, his head upon his arm, his legs doubled up comfortably.

One of the Akasava guard saw him, and sought to arouse him with the butt
of his spear, but he only stirred sleepily, and, thinking that he must
be a man of Tigili's retinue, they left him.

When the king and the chief had finished their palaver, Tigili rose from
the floor of the hut and went back to his canoe, and the chief of the
Akasava stood on the bank of the river watching the craft as it went
back the way it had come.

The sleeper rose noiselessly and took another path to the river. Just
outside the town he had to cross a path of moonlit clearing, and a man
challenged him.

This man was an Akasava warrior, and was armed, and the sleeper stood
obedient to the summons.

"Who are you?"

"I am a stranger," said the man.

The warrior came nearer and looked in his face.

"You are a spy of Sandi," he said, and then the other closed with him.

The warrior would have shouted, but a hand like steel was on his throat.
The sentinel made a little sound like the noise a small river makes when
it crosses a shallow bed of shingle, then his legs bent limply, and he
went down.

The sleeper bent down over him, wiped his knife on the bare shoulder of
the dead man, and went on his way to the river. Under the bush he found
a canoe, untied the native rope that fastened it, and stepping in, he
sent the tiny dug-out down the stream.

       *     *     *     *     *

"And what do you make of all this?" asked Sanders. He was standing on
his broad stoep, and before him was the spy, a lithe young man, in the
uniform of a sergeant of Houssa Police.

"Master, it is the secret society, and they go to make a great killing,"
said the sergeant.

The Commissioner paced the verandah with his head upon his breast, his
hands clasped behind his back.

These secret societies he knew well enough, though his territories had
been free of them. He knew their mushroom growth; how they rose from
nothingness with rituals and practices ready-made. He knew their
influence up and down the Liberian coast; he had some knowledge of the
"silent ones" of Nigeria, and had met the "white faces" in the Kassai.
And now the curse had come to his territory. It meant war, the upsetting
of twenty years' work--the work of men who died and died joyfully, in
the faith that they had brought peace to the land--it meant the
undermining of all his authority.

He turned to Abiboo.

"Take the steamer," he said, "and go quickly to the Ochori country,
telling Bosambo, the chief, that I will come to him--the palaver is
finished." He knew he could depend upon Bosambo if the worst came.

In the days of waiting he sent a long message to the Administration,
which lived in ease a hundred miles down the coast. He had a land wire
running along the seashore, and when it worked it was a great blessing.
Fortunately it was in good order now, but there had been times when
wandering droves of elephants had pulled up the poles and twisted a mile
or so of wire into a hopeless tangle.

The reply to his message came quickly.

    "Take extreme steps to wipe out society. If necessary arrest
    Tigili. I will support you with four hundred men and a gunboat;
    prefer you should arrange the matter without fuss.

      "Administration."

Sanders took a long walk by the sea to think out the situation and the
solution. If the people were preparing for war, there would be
simultaneous action, a general rising. He shook his head. Four hundred
men and a gunboat more or less would make no difference. There was a
hope that one tribe would rise before the other; he could deal with the
Akasava; he could deal with the Isisi plus the Akasava; he was sure of
the Ochori--that was a comfort--but the others? He shook his head again.
Perhaps the inherent idleness of the Akasava would keep them back. Such
a possibility was against their traditions.

He must have come upon a solution suddenly, for he stopped dead in his
walk, and stood still, thinking profoundly, with his head upon his
breast. Then he turned and walked quickly back to his bungalow.

What date had been chosen for the rising we may never know for certain.
What is known is that the Akasava, the N'Gombi, the Isisi, and the
Boleki folk were preparing in secret for a time of killing, when there
came the great news.

Sandi was dead.

A canoe had overturned on the Isisi River, and the swift current had
swept the Commissioner away, and though men ran up and down the bank no
other sign of him was visible but a great white helmet that floated,
turning slowly, out of sight.

So a man of the Akasava reported, having learnt it from a sergeant of
Houssas, and instantly the _lo-koli_ beat sharply, and the headmen of
the villages came panting to the palaver house to meet the paramount
chief of the Akasava.

"Sandi is dead," said the chief solemnly. "He was our father and our
mother and carried us in his arms; we loved him and did many
disagreeable things for him because of our love. But now that he is
dead, and there is none to say 'Yea' or 'Nay' to us, the time of which I
have spoken to you secretly has come; therefore let us take up our arms
and go out, first against the God-men who pray and bewitch us with the
sprinkling of water, then against the chief of the Ochori, who for many
years have put shame upon us."

"Master," said a little chief from the fishing village which is near to
the Ochori border, "is it wise--our Lord Sandi having said there shall
be no war?"

"Our Lord Sandi is dead," said the paramount chief wisely; "and being
dead, it does not greatly concern us what he said; besides which," he
said, as a thought struck him, "last night I had a dream and saw Sandi;
he was standing amidst great fires, and he said, 'Go forth and bring me
the head of the chief of the Ochori.'"

No further time was wasted.

That night the men of twenty villages danced the dance of killing, and
the great fire of the Akasava burnt redly on the sandy beach to the
embarrassment of a hippo family that lived in the high grasses near by.

In the grey of the morning the Akasava chief mustered six hundred spears
and three score of canoes, and he delivered his oration:

"First, we will destroy the mission men, for they are white, and it is
not right that they should live and Sandi be dead; then we will go
against Bosambo, the chief of the Ochori. When rains came in the time of
kidding, he who is a foreigner and of no human origin brought many evil
persons with him and destroyed our fishing villages, and Sandi said
there should be no killing. Now Sandi is dead, and, I do not doubt, in
hell, and there is none to hold our pride."

Round the bend of the river, ever so slowly, for she was breasting a
strong and treacherous current, came the nose of the _Zaire_. It is
worthy of note that the little blue flag at her stern was not at
half-mast. The exact significance of this was lost on the Akasava.
Gingerly the little craft felt its way to the sandy strip of beach, a
plank was thrust forth, and along it came, very dapper and white, his
little ebony stick with the silver knob swinging between his fingers,
Mr. Commissioner Sanders, very much alive, and there were two bright
Maxim-guns on either side of the gangway that covered the beach.

A nation, paralysed by fear and apprehension, watched the
_debarquement_, the chief of the Akasava being a little in advance of
his painted warriors.

On Sanders' face was a look of innocent surprise. "Chief," said he, "you
do me great honour that you gather your young men to welcome me;
nevertheless, I would rather see them working in their gardens."

He walked along one row of fighting men, plentifully besmeared with
cam-wood, and his was the leisurely step of some great personage
inspecting a guard of honour.

"I perceive," he went on, talking over his shoulder to the chief who,
fascinated by the unexpected vision, followed him, "I perceive that each
man has a killing spear, also a fighting shield of wicker work, and many
have N'Gombi swords."

"Lord, it is true," said the chief, recovering his wits, "for we go
hunting elephant in the Great Forest."

"Also that some have the little bones of men fastened about their
necks--that is not for the elephant."

He said this meditatively, musingly, as he continued his inspection, and
the chief was frankly embarrassed.

"There is a rumour," he stammered, "it is said--there came a spy who
told us--that the Ochori were gathering for war, and we were afraid----"

"Strange," said Sanders, half to himself, but speaking in the
vernacular, "strange indeed is this story, for I have come straight from
the Ochori city, and there I saw nothing but men who ground corn and
hunted peacefully; also their chief is ill, suffering from a fever."

He shook his head in well-simulated bewilderment.

"Lord," said the poor chief of the Akasava, "perhaps men have told us
lies--such things have happened----"

"That is true," said Sanders gravely. "This is a country of lies; some
say that I am dead; and, lo! the news has gone around that there is no
law in the land, and men may kill and war at their good pleasure."

"Though I die at this minute," said the chief virtuously, "though the
river turn to fire and consume my inmost stomach, though every tree
become a tiger to devour me, I have not dreamt of war."

Sanders grinned internally.

"Spare your breath," he said gently. "You who go hunting elephants, for
it is a long journey to the Great Forest, and there are many swamps to
be crossed, many rivers to be swum. My heart is glad that I have come in
time to bid you farewell."

There was a most impressive silence, for this killing of elephants was a
stray excuse of the chief's. The Great Forest is a journey of two
months, one to get there and one to return, and is moreover through the
most cursed country, and the Akasava are not a people that love long
journeys save with the current of the river.

The silence was broken by the chief.

"Lord, we desire to put off our journey in your honour, for if we go,
how shall we gather in palaver?"

Sanders shook his head.

"Let no man stop the hunter," quoth he. "Go in peace, chief, and you
shall secure many teeth."[3] He saw a sudden light come to the chief's
eyes, but continued, "I will send with you a sergeant of Houssas, that
he may carry back to me the story of your prowess"--the light died away
again--"for there will be many liars who will say that you never reached
the Great Forest, and I shall have evidence to confound them."

Still the chief hesitated, and the waiting ranks listened, eagerly
shuffling forward, till they ceased to bear any semblance to an ordered
army, and were as a mob.

"Lord," said the chief, "we will go to-morrow----"

The smile was still on Sanders' lips, but his face was set, and his eyes
held a steely glitter that the chief of the Akasava knew.

"You go to-day, my man," said Sanders, lowering his voice till he spoke
in little more than a whisper, "else your warriors march under a new
chief, and you swing on a tree."

"Lord, we go," said the man huskily, "though we are bad marchers and our
feet are very tender."

Sanders, remembering the weariness of the Akasava, found his face
twitching.

"With sore feet you may rest," he said significantly; "with sore backs
you can neither march nor rest--go!"

At dawn the next morning the N'Gombi people came in twenty-five war
canoes to join their Akasava friends, and found the village tenanted by
women and old men, and Tigili, the king, in the shock of the discovery,
surrendered quietly to the little party of Houssas on the beach.

"What comes to me, lord?" asked Tigili, the king.

Sanders whistled thoughtfully.

"I have some instructions about you somewhere," he said.

[Footnote 3: Tusks.]



  CHAPTER IX.

  THE WOOD OF DEVILS.


Four days out of M'Sakidanga, if native report be true, there is a
trickling stream that meanders down from N'Gombi country. Native report
says that this is navigable even in the dry season.

The missionaries at Bonginda ridicule this report; and Arburt, the young
chief of the station, with a gentle laugh in his blue eyes, listened one
day to the report of Elebi about a fabulous land at the end of this
river, and was kindly incredulous.

"If it be that ivory is stored in this place," he said in the
vernacular, "or great wealth lies for the lifting, go to Sandi, for this
ivory belongs to the Government. But do you, Elebi, fix your heart more
upon God's treasures in heaven, and your thoughts upon your unworthiness
to merit a place in His kingdom, and let the ivory go."

Elebi was known to Sanders as a native evangelist of the tornado type, a
thunderous, voluble sub-minister of the service; he had, in his ecstatic
moments, made many converts. But there were days of reaction, when Elebi
sulked in his mud hut, and reviewed Christianity calmly.

It was a service, this new religion. You could not work yourself to a
frenzy in it, and then have done with the thing for a week. You must
needs go on, on, never tiring, never departing from the straight path,
exercising irksome self-restraint, leaving undone that which you would
rather do.

"Religion is prison," grumbled Elebi, after his interview, and shrugged
his broad, black shoulders.

In his hut he was in the habit of discarding his European coat for the
loin cloth and the blanket, for Elebi was a savage--an imitative
savage--but still barbarian. Once, preaching on the River of Devils, he
had worked himself up to such a pitch of enthusiastic fervour that he
had smitten a scoffer, breaking his arm, and an outraged Sanders had him
arrested, whipped, and fined a thousand rods. Hereafter Elebi had
figured in certain English missionary circles as a Christian martyr, for
he had lied magnificently, and his punishment had been represented as a
form of savage persecution.

But the ivory lay buried three days' march beyond the Secret River; thus
Elebi brooded over the log that smouldered in his hut day and night.
Three days beyond the river, branching off at a place where there were
two graves, the country was reputably full of devils, and Elebi
shuddered at the thought; but, being a missionary and a lay evangelist,
and, moreover, the proud possessor of a copy of the Epistle to the
Romans (laboriously rendered into the native tongue), he had little to
fear. He had more to fear from a certain White Devil at a far-away
headquarters, who might be expected to range the lands of the Secret
River, when the rains had come and gone.

It was supposed that Elebi had one wife, conforming to the custom of the
white man, but the girl who came into the hut with a steaming bowl of
fish in her hands was not the wife that the missionaries recognised as
such.

"Sikini," he said, "I am going a journey by canoe."

"In the blessed service?" asked Sikini, who had come under the influence
of the man in his more elated periods.

"The crackling of a fire is like a woman's tongue," quoted Elebi; "and
it is easier to keep the lid on a boiling pot than a secret in a woman's
heart."

Elebi had the river proverbs at his finger-tips, and the girl laughed,
for she was his favourite wife, and knew that in course of time the
information would come to her.

"Sikini," said the man suddenly, "you know that I have kept you when the
Blood Taker would have me put you away."

(Arburt had a microscope and spent his evenings searching the blood of
his flock for signs of trynosomiasis.)

"You know that for your sake I lied to him who is my father and my
protector, saying: 'There shall be but one wife in my house, and that
Tombolo, the coast woman.'"

The girl nodded, eyeing him stolidly.

"Therefore I tell you that I am going beyond the Secret River, three
days' march, leaving the canoe at a place where there are two graves."

"What do you seek?" she asked.

"There are many teeth in that country," he said; "dead ivory that the
people brought with them from a distant country, and have hidden,
fearing one who is a Breaker of Stones.[4] I shall come back rich, and
buy many wives who shall wait upon you and serve you, and then I will no
longer be Christian, but will worship the red fetish as my father did,
and his father."

"Go," she said, nodding thoughtfully.

He told her many things that he had not revealed to Arburt--of how the
ivory came, of the people who guarded it, of the means by which he
intended to secure it.

Next morning before the mission _lo-koli_ sounded, he had slipped away
in his canoe; and Arburt, when the news came to him, sighed and called
him a disappointing beggar--for Arburt was human. Sanders, who was also
human, sent swift messengers to arrest Elebi, for it is not a good thing
that treasure-hunting natives should go wandering through a strange
country, such excursions meaning war, and war meaning, to Sanders at any
rate, solemn official correspondence, which his soul loathed.

Who would follow the fortunes of Elebi must paddle in his wake as far as
Okau, where the Barina meets the Lapoi, must take the left river path,
past the silent pool of the White Devil, must follow the winding stream
till the elephants' playing ground be reached. Here the forest has been
destroyed for the sport of the Great Ones; the shore is strewn with tree
trunks, carelessly uprooted and as carelessly tossed aside by the
gambolling mammoth. The ground is innocent of herbage or bush; it is a
flat wallow of mud, with the marks of pads where the elephant has
passed.

Elebi drew his canoe up the bank, carefully lifted his cooking-pot, full
of living fire, and emptied its contents, heaping thereon fresh twigs
and scraps of dead wood. Then he made himself a feast, and went to
sleep.

A wandering panther came snuffling and howling in the night, and Elebi
rose and replenished the fire. In the morning he sought for the creek
that led to the Secret River, and found it hidden by the hippo grass.

Elebi had many friends in the N'Gombi country. They were gathered in the
village of Tambango--to the infinite embarrassment of the chief of that
village--for Elebi's friends laid hands upon whatsoever they desired,
being strangers and well armed, and, moreover, outnumbering the men of
the village three to one. One, O'Sako, did the chief hold in greatest
dread, for he said little, but stalked tragically through the untidy
street of Tambango, a bright, curved execution knife in the crook of his
left arm. O'Sako was tall and handsome. One broad shoulder gleamed in
its nakedness, and his muscular arms were devoid of ornamentation. His
thick hair was plastered with clay till it was like a European woman's,
and his body was smeared with ingola dust.

Once only he condescended to address his host.

"You shall find me three young men against the Lord Elebi's arrival, and
they shall lead us to the land of the Secret River."

"But, master," pleaded the chief, "no man may go to the Secret River,
because of the devils."

"Three men," said O'Sako softly; "three young men swift of foot, with
eyes like the N'Gombi, and mouths silent as the dead."

"---- the devils," repeated the chief weakly, but O'Sako stared straight
ahead and strode on.

When the sun blazed furiously on the rim of the world in a last expiring
effort, and the broad river was a flood of fire, and long shadows ran
through the clearings, Elebi came to the village. He came unattended
from the south, and he brought with him no evidence of his temporary
sojourn in the camps of civilisation. Save for his loin cloth, and his
robe of panther skin thrown about his shoulders, he was naked.

There was a palaver house at the end of the village, a thatched little
wattle hut perched on a tiny hill, and the Lord Elebi gathered there his
captains and the chief of the village. He made a speech.

"_Cala, cala_," he began--and it means "long ago," and is a famous
opening to speeches--"before the white man came, and when the Arabi came
down from the northern countries to steal women and ivory, the people of
the Secret River buried their 'points' in a Place of Devils. Their women
they could not bury, so they lost them. Now all the people of the Secret
River are dead. The Arabi killed some, Bula Matadi killed others, but
the sickness killed most of all. Where their villages were the high
grass has grown, and in their gardens only the weaver bird speaks. Yet I
know of this place, for there came to me a vision and a voice that
said----"

The rest of the speech from the European standpoint was pure blasphemy,
because Elebi had had the training of a lay preacher, and had an easy
delivery.

When he had finished, the chief of the village of Tambangu spoke. It was
a serious discourse on devils. There was no doubt at all that in the
forest where the _cach_ was there was a veritable stronghold of
devildom. Some had bad faces and were as tall as the gum-trees--taller,
for they used whole trees for clubs; some were small, so small that they
travelled on the wings of bees, but all were very potent, very terrible,
and most effective guardians of buried treasure. Their greatest
accomplishment lay in leading astray the traveller: men went into the
forest in search of game or copal or rubber, and never came back,
because there were a thousand ways in and no way out.

Elebi listened gravely.

"Devils of course there are," he said, "including the Devil, the Old
One, who is the enemy of God. I have had much to do with the casting out
of devils--in my holy capacity as a servant of the Word. Of the lesser
devils I know nothing, though I do not doubt they live. Therefore I
think it would be better for all if we offered prayer."

On his instruction the party knelt in full view of the village, and
Elebi prayed conventionally but with great earnestness that the Powers
of Darkness should not prevail, but that the Great Work should go on
triumphantly.

After which, to make doubly sure, the party sacrificed two fowls before
a squat _bete_ that stood before the chief's door, and a crazy
witch-doctor anointed Elebi with human fat.

"We will go by way of Ochori," said Elebi, who was something of a
strategist. "These Ochori folk will give us food and guides, being a
cowardly folk and very fearful."

He took farewell of the old chief and continued his journey, with O'Sako
and his warriors behind him. So two days passed. An hour's distance from
the city of the Ochori he called a conference.

"Knowing the world," he said, "I am acquainted with the Ochori, who are
slaves: you shall behold their chief embrace my feet. Since it is
fitting that one, such as I, who know the ways of white men and their
magic, should be received with honour; let us send forward a messenger
to say that the Lord Elebi comes, and bid them kill so many goats
against our coming."

"That is good talk," said O'Sako, his lieutenant, and a messenger was
despatched.

Elebi with his caravan followed slowly.

It is said that Elebi's message came to Bosambo of Monrovia, chief of
the Ochori, when he was in the despondent mood peculiar to men of action
who find life running too smoothly.

It was Bosambo's practice--and one of which his people stood in some
awe--to reflect aloud in English in all moments of crisis, or on any
occasion when it was undesirable that his thoughts should be conveyed
abroad.

He listened in silence, sitting before the door of his hut and smoking a
short wooden pipe, whilst the messenger described the quality of the
coming visitor, and the unparalleled honour which was to fall upon the
Ochori.

Said Bosambo at the conclusion of the recital, "Damn nigger."

The messenger was puzzled by the strange tongue.

"Lord Chief," he said, "my master is a great one, knowing the ways of
white men."

"I also know something of white men," said Bosambo calmly, in the River
dialect, "having many friends, including Sandi, who married my brother's
wife's sister, and is related to me. Also," said Bosambo daringly, "I
have shaken hands with the Great White King who dwells beyond the big
water, and he has given me many presents."

With this story the messenger went back to the slowly advancing caravan,
and Elebi was impressed and a little bewildered.

"It is strange," he said, "no man has ever known an Ochori chief who was
aught but a dog and the son of a dog--let us see this Bosambo. Did you
tell him to come out and meet me?"

"No," replied the messenger frankly, "he was such a great one, and was
so haughty because of Sandi, who married his brother's wife's sister;
and so proud that I did not dare tell him."

There is a spot on the edge of the Ochori city where at one time Sanders
had caused to be erected a warning sign, and here Elebi found the chief
waiting and was flattered. There was a long and earnest conference in
the little palaver house of the city, and here Elebi told as much of his
story as was necessary, and Bosambo believed as much as he could.

"And what do you need of me and my people?" asked Bosambo at length.

"Lord chief," said Elebi, "I go a long journey, being fortified with the
blessed spirit of which you know nothing, that being an especial mystery
of the white men."

"There is no mystery which I did not know," said Bosambo loftily, "and
if you speak of spirits, I will speak of certain saints, also of a
Virgin who is held in high respect by white men."

"If you speak of the blessed Paul----" began Elebi, a little at sea.

"Not only of Paul but Peter, John, Luke, Matthew, Antonio, and Thomas,"
recited Bosambo rapidly. He had not been a scholar at the Catholic
mission for nothing. Elebi was nonplussed.

"We will let these magic matters rest," said Elebi wisely; "it is
evident to me that you are a learned man. Now I go to seek some
wonderful treasures. All that I told you before was a lie. Let us speak
as brothers. I go to the wood of devils, where no man has been for many
years. I beg you, therefore, to give me food and ten men for carriers."

"Food you can have but no men," said Bosambo, "for I have pledged my
word to Sandi, who is, as you know, the husband of my brother's wife's
sister, that no man of mine should leave this country."

With this Elebi had to be content, for a new spirit had come to the
Ochori since he had seen them last, and there was a defiance in the
timid eyes of these slaves of other days which was disturbing. Besides,
they seemed well armed.

In the morning the party set forth and Bosambo, who took no risks, saw
them started on their journey. He observed that part of the equipment of
the little caravan were two big baskets filled to the brim with narrow
strips of red cloth.

"This is my magic," said Elebi mysteriously, when he was questioned, "it
is fitting that you should know its power."

Bosambo yawned in his face with great insolence.

Clear of Ochori by one day's march, the party reached the first
straggling advance guard of the Big Forest. A cloud of gum-trees formed
the approach to the wood, and here the magic of Elebi's basket of cloth
strips became revealed.

Every few hundred yards the party stopped, and Elebi tied one of the
strips to a branch of a tree.

"In this way," he communicated to his lieutenant, "we may be independent
of gods, and fearless of devils, for if we cannot find the ivory we can
at least find our way back again."

(There had been such an experiment made by the missionaries in
traversing the country between Bonguidga and the Big River, but there
were no devils in that country.)

In two days' marches they came upon a place of graves. There had been a
village there, for Isisi palms grew luxuriously, and pushing aside the
grass they came upon a rotting roof. Also there were millions of weaver
birds in the nut-palms, and a choked banana grove.

The graves, covered with broken cooking pots, Elebi found, and was
satisfied.

In the forest, a league beyond the dead village, they came upon an old
man, so old that you might have lifted him with a finger and thumb.

"Where do the young men go in their strength?" he mumbled childishly;
"into the land of small devils? Who shall guide them back to their
women? None, for the devils will confuse them, opening new roads and
closing the old. Oh, Ko Ko!"

He snivelled miserably.

"Father," said Elebi, dangling strips of red flannel from his hand,
"this is white man's magic, we come back by the way we go."

Then the old man fell into an insane fit of cursing, and threw at them a
thousand deaths, and Elebi's followers huddled back in frowning fear.

"You have lived too long," said Elebi gently, and passed his spear
through the old man's neck.

       *     *     *     *     *

They found the ivory two days' journey beyond the place of killing. It
was buried under a mound, which was overgrown with rank vegetation, and
there was by European calculation some 50,000 worth.

"We will go back and find carriers," said Elebi, "taking with us as many
of the teeth as we can carry."

Two hours later the party began its return journey, following the path
where at intervals of every half-mile a strip of scarlet flannelette
hung from a twig.

There were many paths they might have taken, paths that looked as though
they had been made by the hand of man, and Elebi was glad that he had
blazed the way to safety.

For eight hours the caravan moved swiftly, finding its direction with no
difficulty; then the party halted for the night.

Elebi was awakened in the night by a man who was screaming, and he leapt
up, stirring the fire to a blaze.

"It is the brother of Olambo of Kinshassa, he has the sickness _mongo_,"
said an awe-stricken voice, and Elebi called a council.

"There are many ways by which white men deal with this sickness," he
said wisely, "by giving certain powders and by sticking needles into
arms, but to give medicine for the sickness when madness comes is
useless--so I have heard the fathers at the station say, because madness
only comes when the man is near death."

"He was well last night," said a hushed voice. "There are many devils in
the forest, let us ask him what he has seen."

So a deputation went to the screaming, writhing figure that lay trussed
and tied on the ground, and spoke with him. They found some difficulty
in gaining an opening, for he jabbered and mouthed and laughed and
yelled incessantly.

"On the question of devils," at last Elebi said.

"Devils," screeched the madman. "Yi! I saw six devils with fire in their
mouths--death to you, Elebi! Dog----"

He said other things which were not clean.

"If there were water here," mused Elebi, "we might drown him; since
there is only the forest and the earth, carry him away from the camp,
and I will make him silent."

So they carried the lunatic away, eight strong men swaying through the
forest, and they came back, leaving Elebi alone with his patient. The
cries ceased suddenly and Elebi returned, wiping his hands on his
leopard skin.

"Let us sleep," said Elebi, and lay down.

Before the dawn came up the party were on the move.

They marched less than a mile from their camping ground and then
faltered and stopped.

"There is no sign, lord," the leader reported, and Elebi called him a
fool and went to investigate.

But there was no red flannel, not a sign of it. They went on another
mile without success.

"We have taken the wrong path, let us return," said Elebi, and the party
retraced its steps to the camp they had abandoned. That day was spent in
exploring the country for three miles on either side, but there was no
welcome blaze to show the trail.

"We are all N'Gombi men," said Elebi, "let us to-morrow go forward,
keeping the sun at our back; the forest has no terrors for the N'Gombi
folk--yet I cannot understand why the white man's magic failed."

"Devils!" muttered his lieutenant sullenly.

Elebi eyed him thoughtfully.

"Devils sometimes desire sacrifices," he said with significance, "the
wise goat does not bleat when the priest approaches the herd."

In the morning a great discovery was made. A crumpled piece of flannel
was found on the outskirts of the camp. It lay in the very centre of a
path, and Elebi shouted in his joy.

Again the caravan started on the path. A mile farther along another
little red patch caught his eye, half a mile beyond, another.

Yet none of these were where he had placed them, and they all bore
evidence of rude handling, which puzzled the lay brother sorely.
Sometimes the little rags would be missing altogether, but a search
party would come upon one some distance off the track, and the march
would go on.

Near sunset Elebi halted suddenly and pondered. Before him ran his long
shadow; the sun was behind him when it ought to have been in front.

"We are going in the wrong direction," he said, and the men dropped
their loads and stared at him.

"Beyond any doubt," said Elebi after a pause, "this is the work of
devils--let us pray."

He prayed aloud earnestly for twenty minutes, and darkness had fallen
before he had finished.

They camped that night on the spot where the last red guide was, and in
the morning they returned the way they had come. There was plenty of
provision, but water was hard to come by, and therein lay the danger.
Less than a mile they had gone before the red rags had vanished
completely, and they wandered helplessly in a circle.

"This is evidently a matter not for prayer, but for sacrifice,"
concluded Elebi, so they slew one of the guides.

Three nights later, O'Sako, the friend of Elebi, crawled stealthily to
the place where Elebi was sleeping, and settled the dispute which had
arisen during the day as to who was in command of the expedition.

       *     *     *     *     *

"Master," said Bosambo of Monrovia, "all that you ordered me to do, that
I did."

Sanders sat before the chief's hut in his camp chair and nodded.

"When your word came that I should find Elebi--he being an enemy of the
Government and disobeying your word--I took fifty of my young men and
followed on his tracks. At first the way was easy, because he had tied
strips of cloth to the trees to guide him on the backward journey, but
afterwards it was hard, for the _N'Kema_ that live in the wood----"

"Monkeys?" Sanders raised his eyebrows.

"Monkeys, master," Bosambo nodded his head, "the little black monkeys of
the forest who love bright colours--they had come down from their trees
and torn away the cloths and taken them to their houses after the
fashion of the monkey people. Thus Elebi lost himself and with him his
men, for I found their bones, knowing the way of the forest."

"What else did you find?" asked Sanders.

"Nothing, master," said Bosambo, looking him straight in the eye.

"That is probably a lie!" said Sanders.

Bosambo thought of the ivory buried beneath the floor of his hut and did
not contradict him.

[Footnote 4: Bula Matidi, _i.e._, "Stone Breaker," is the native name
for the Congo Government.]



  CHAPTER X.

  THE LOVES OF M'LINO.


When a man loves one woman, whether she be alive or dead, a deep and
fragrant memory or a very pleasant reality, he is apt to earn the
appellation of "woman-hater," a hasty judgment which the loose-minded
pass upon any man whose loves lack promiscuosity, and who does not
diffuse his passions. Sanders was described as a woman-hater by such men
who knew him sufficiently little to analyse his character, but Sanders
was not a woman-hater in any sense of the word, for he bore no illwill
toward woman kind, and certainly was innocent of any secret love.

There was a young man named Ludley who had been assistant to Sanders for
three months, at the end of which time Sanders sent for him--he was
stationed at Isisi City.

"I think you can go home," said Sanders.

The young man opened his eyes in astonishment.

"Why?" he said.

Sanders made no reply, but stared through the open doorway at the
distant village.

"Why?" demanded the young man again.

"I've heard things," said Sanders shortly--he was rather uncomfortable,
but did not show it.

"Things--like what?"

Sanders shifted uneasily in his chair.

"Oh--things," he said vaguely, and added: "You go home and marry that
nice girl you used to rave about when you first came out."

Young Ludley went red under his tan.

"Look here, chief!" he said, half angrily, half apologetically, "you're
surely not going to take any notice--you know it's the sort of thing
that's done in black countries--oh, damn it all, you're not going to act
as censor over my morals, are you?"

Sanders looked at the youth coldly.

"Your morals aren't worth worrying about," he said truthfully. "You
could be the most depraved devil in the world--which I'll admit you
aren't--and I should not trouble to reform you. No. It's the morals of
my cannibals that worry me. Home you go, my son; get married, _crescit
sub pondere virtus_--you'll find the translation in the foreign phrase
department of any respectable dictionary. As to the sort of things that
are done in black countries, they don't do them in our black
countries--monkey tricks of that sort are good enough for the Belgian
Congo, or for Togoland, but they aren't good enough for this little
strip of wilderness."

Ludley went home.

He did not tell anybody the real reason why he had come home, because it
would not have sounded nice. He was a fairly decent boy, as boys of his
type go, and he said nothing worse about Sanders than that he was a
woman-hater.

The scene that followed his departure shows how little the white mind
differs from the black in its process of working. For, after seeing his
assistant safely embarked on a homeward-bound boat, Sanders went up the
river to Isisi, and there saw a woman who was called M'Lino.

The average black woman is ugly of face, but beautiful of figure, but
M'Lino was no ordinary woman, as you shall learn. The Isisi people, who
keep extraordinary records in their heads, the information being handed
from father to son, say that M'Lino came from an Arabi family, and
certainly if a delicately-chiselled nose, a refinement of lip, prove
anything, they prove M'Lino came from no pure Bantu stock.

She came to Sanders when he sent for her, alert, suspicious, very much
on her guard.

Before he could speak, she asked him a question.

"Lord, where is Lijingii?" This was the nearest the native ever got to
the pronunciation of Ludley's name.

"Lijingii has gone across the black water," said Sanders gently, "to his
own people."

"You sent him, lord," she said quickly, and Sanders made no reply.

"Lord," she went on, and Sanders wondered at the bitterness in her tone,
"it is said that you hate women."

"Then a lie is told," said Sanders. "I do not hate women; rather I
greatly honour them, for they go down to the caves of hell when they
bear children; also I regard them highly because they are otherwise
brave and very loyal."

She said nothing. Her head was sunk till her chin rested on her bare,
brown breast, but she looked at him from under her brows, and her eyes
were filled with a strange luminosity. Something like a panic awoke in
Sanders' heart--had the mischief been done? He cursed Ludley, and
breathed a fervent, if malevolent, prayer that his ship would go down
with him. But her words reassured him.

"I made Lijingii love me," she said, "though he was a great lord, and I
was a slave; I also would have gone down to hell, for some day I hoped I
should bear him children, but now that can never be."

"And thank the Lord for it!" said Sanders, under his breath.

He would have given her some words of cheer, but she turned abruptly
from him and walked away. Sanders watched the graceful figure as it
receded down the straggling street, and went back to his steamer.

He was ten miles down the river before he remembered that the reproof he
had framed for the girl had been undelivered.

"That is very extraordinary," said Sanders, with some annoyance, "I must
be losing my memory."

Three months later young Penson came out from England to take the place
of the returned Ludley. He was a fresh-faced youth, bubbling over with
enthusiasm, and, what is more important, he had served a two-years'
apprenticeship at Sierra Leone.

"You are to go up to Isisi," said Sanders, "and I want to tell you that
you've got to be jolly careful."

"What's the racket?" demanded the youth eagerly. "Are the beggars
rising?"

"So far as I know," said Sanders, putting his feet up on the rail of the
verandah, "they are not--it is not bloodshed, but love that you've got
to guard against."

And he told the story of M'Lino, even though it was no creditable story
to British administration.

"You can trust me," said young Penson, when he had finished.

"I trust you all right," said Sanders, "but I don't trust the woman--let
me hear from you from time to time; if you don't write about her I shall
get suspicious, and I'll come along in a very unpleasant mood."

"You can trust me," said young Penson again; for he was at the age when
a man is very sure of himself.

Remarkable as it may read, from the moment he left to take up his new
post until he returned to headquarters, in disgrace, a few months later,
he wrote no word of the straight, slim girl, with her wonderful eyes.
Other communications came to hand, official reports, terse and to the
point, but no mention of M'Lino, and Sanders began to worry.

The stories came filtering through, extraordinary stories of people who
had been punished unjustly, of savage floggings administered by order of
the sub-commissioner, and Sanders took boat and travelled up the river
_hec dum_.

He landed short of the town, and walked along the river bank. It was not
an easy walk, because the country hereabouts is a riot of vegetation.
Then he came upon an African idyll--a young man, who sat playing on a
squeaky violin, for the pleasure of M'Lino, lying face downwards on the
grass, her chin in her hands.

"In the name of a thousand devils!" said Sanders wrathfully; and the boy
got up from the fallen tree on which he sat, and looked at him calmly,
and with no apparent embarrassment. Sanders looked down at the girl and
pointed.

"Go back to the village, my woman," he said softly, for he was in a
rage.

"Now, you magnificent specimen of a white man," he said, when the girl
had gone--slowly and reluctantly--"what is this story I hear about your
flogging O'Sako?"

The youth took his pipe from his pocket and lit it coolly.

"He beat M'Lino," he said, in the tone of one who offered full
justification.

"From which fact I gather that he is the unfortunate husband of that
attractive nigger lady you were charming just now when I arrived?"

"Don't be beastly," said the other, scowling. "I know she's a native and
all that sort of thing, but my people at home will get used to her
colour----"

"Go on board my boat," said Sanders quietly. "Regard yourself as my
prisoner."

Sanders brought him down to headquarters without troubling to
investigate the flogging of O'Sako, and no word passed concerning M'Lino
till they were back again at headquarters.

"Of course I shall send you home," said Sanders.

"I supposed you would," said the other listlessly. He had lost all his
self-assurance on the journey down river, and was a very depressed young
man indeed.

"I must have been mad," he admitted, the day before the mail boat called
_en route_ for England; "from the very first I loved her--good heavens,
what an ass I am!"

"You are," agreed Sanders, and saw him off to the ship with a cheerful
heart.

"I will have no more sub-commissioners at Isisi," he wrote acidly to the
Administration. "I find my work sufficiently entertaining without the
additional amusement of having to act as chaperon to British officials."

He made a special journey to Isisi to straighten matters out, and M'Lino
came unbidden to see him.

"Lord, is he gone, too?" she asked.

"When I want you, M'Lino," said Sanders, "I will send for you."

"I loved him," she said, with more feeling than Sanders thought was
possible for a native to show.

"You are an easy lover," said Sanders.

She nodded.

"That is the way with some women," she said. "When I love, I love with
terrible strength; when I hate, I hate for ever and ever--I hate you,
master!"

She said it very simply.

"If you were a man," said the exasperated Commissioner, "I would tie you
up and whip you."

"F--f--b!" said the girl contemptuously, and left him staring.

To appreciate the position, you have to realise that Sanders was lord of
all this district; that he had the power of life and death, and no man
dared question or disobey his word. Had M'Lino been a man, as he said,
she would have suffered for her treason--there is no better word for her
offence--but she was a woman, and a seriously gifted woman, and,
moreover, sure of whatever powers she had.

He did not see her again during the three days he was in the city, nor
(this is the extraordinary circumstance) did he discuss her with the
chief. He learned that she had become the favourite wife of O'Sako; that
she had many lovers and scorned her husband, but he sought no news of
her. Once he saw her walking towards him, and went out of his way to
avoid her. It was horribly weak and he knew it, but he had no power to
resist the impulse that came over him to give her a wide berth.

Following this visit, Sanders was coming down stream at a leisurely
pace, he himself at the steering wheel, and his eyes searching the
treacherous river for sand banks. His mind was filled with the problem
of M'Lino, when suddenly in the bush that fringes the Isisi river,
something went "woof," and the air was filled with flying potlegs. One
struck his cabin, and splintered a panel to shreds, many fell upon the
water, one missed Sergeant Abiboo's head and sent his _tarbosh_ flying.

Sanders rang his engines astern, being curious to discover what induced
the would-be assassin to fire a blunderbuss in his direction, and
Abiboo, bare-headed, went pattering forward and slipped the canvas cover
from the gleaming little Maxim.

Then four Houssa soldiers jumped into the water and waded ashore,
holding their rifles above their heads with the one hand and their
ammunition in the other, and Sanders stood by the rail of the boat,
balancing a sporting Lee-Enfield in the crook of his arm.

Whoever fired the shot had chosen the place of killing very well. The
bush was very thick, the approach to land lay through coarse grass that
sprang from the swamp, vegetation ran rank, and a tangle of creeper
formed a screen that would have been impenetrable to a white man.

But the Houssas had a way--they found the man with his smoking gun,
waiting calmly.

He was of the Isisi people--a nation of philosophers--and he surrendered
his weapon without embarrassment.

"I think," he said to Sergeant Abiboo, as they hurried down the bank to
the river-side, "this means death."

"Death and the torments of hell to follow," said Abiboo, who was
embittered by the loss of his _tarbosh_, which had cost him five francs
in the French territory.

Sanders put up his rifle when he saw the prisoner. He held an informal
court in the shattered deck cabin.

"Did you shoot at me?" he asked.

"I did, master," said the man.

"Why?"

"Because," the prisoner replied, "you are a devil and exercise
witchcraft."

Sanders was puzzled a little.

"In what particular section of the devil department have I been busy?"
he asked in the vernacular.

The prisoner was gazing at him steadily.

"Master," he replied, "it is not my business to understand these things.
It is said to me, 'kill'--and I kill."

Sanders wasted no more time in vain questions. The man was put in irons,
the nose of the steamer turned again down stream, and the Commissioner
resumed his vigil.

Midway between B'Fani and Lakaloli he came to a tying-up place. Here
there were dead trees for the chopping, and he put his men to replenish
his stock of fuel.

He was annoyed, not because a man had attempted to take his life, nor
even because his neat little cabin forward was a litter of splinters and
broken glass where the potleg had struck, but because he nosed trouble
where he thought all was peace and harmony.

He had control of some sixteen distinct and separate nations, each
isolated and separated from the other by custom and language. They were
distinct, not as the French are from the Italian, but as the Slav is
from the Turk.

In the good old times before the English came there were many wars,
tribe against tribe, people against people. There were battles, murders,
raidings, and wholesale crucifixions, but the British changed all that.
There was peace in the land.

Sanders selected with care a long, thin cigar from his case, nibbled at
the end and lit it.

The prisoner sat on the steel deck of the _Zaire_ near the men's
quarters. He was chained by the leg-iron to a staple, and did not seem
depressed to any extent. When Sanders made his appearance, a camp stool
in his hand, the Commissioner seated himself, and began his inquisition.

"How do they call you, my man?"

"Bofabi of Isisi."

"Who told you to kill me?"

"Lord, I forget."

"A man or a woman?"

"Lord, it may have been either."

More than that Sanders could not learn, and the subsequent examination
at Isisi taught Sanders nothing, for, when confronted with M'Lino, the
man said that he did not know her.

Sanders went back to his base in a puzzled frame of mind, and Bofabi of
Isisi was sent to the convict establishment at the river's mouth. There
matters stood for three months, and all that Sanders learnt of the girl
was that she had a new lover whose name was Tebeki, and who was chief of
the Akasava.

There were three months of peace and calm, and then Tebeki, coveting his
neighbour's wife, took three hundred spears down into the Isisi country,
burnt the village that sheltered her, crucified her husband, and carried
her back with him.

In honour of this achievement Tebeki gave a feast and a beer dance.
There were great and shameless orgies that lasted five days, and the
strip of forest that fringes the river between the Isisi and the lower
river became a little inferno.

At the end of the five days Tebeki sat down to consider his position. He
was in the act of inventing justification for his crime, when Sanders
came on the scene. More ominous were the ten Houssas and the Maxim which
accompanied the brown-faced little man.

Sanders walked to Tebeki's hut and called him out, and Tebeki,
blear-eyed and shaky, stepped forth into the hot sunshine, blinking.

"Tebeki," said Sanders, "what of O'Sako and his village?"

"Master," said Tebeki, slowly, "he put shame upon me----"

"Spare me your lies," said Sanders coldly, and signed to the Houssas.

Then he looked round for a suitable tree. There was one behind the
hut--a great copal-gum.

"In half an hour I shall hang you," said Sanders, looking at his watch.

Tebeki said nothing; only his bare feet fidgeted in the dust.

There came out of the hut a tall girl, who stood eyeing the group with
curiosity; then she came forward, and laid her hand on Tebeki's bare
shoulder.

"What will you do with my man?" she asked. "I am M'Lino, the wife of
O'Sako."

Sanders was not horrified, he showed his teeth in a mirthless grin and
looked at her.

"You will find another man, M'Lino," he said, "as readily as you found
this one." Then he turned away to give directions for the hanging. But
the woman followed him, and boldly laid her hand on his arm.

"Master," she said, "if any was wronged by O'Sako's death, was it not I,
his wife? Yet I say let Tebeki go free, for I love him."

"You may go to the devil," said Sanders politely; "I am getting tired of
you and your lovers."

He hanged Tebeki, expeditiously and with science, and the man died
immediately, because Sanders was very thorough in this sort of business.
Then he and the Houssa corps marched away, and the death song of the
woman sounded fainter and fainter as the forest enveloped him. He
camped that night on the Hill of Trees, overlooking the sweeping bend of
the river, and in the morning his orderly came to tell him that the wife
of O'Sako desired to see him.

Sanders cursed the wife of O'Sako, but saw her.

She opened her mission without preliminary.

"Because of the death I brought to O'Sako, my husband, and Tebeki, my
lover, the people have cast me forth," she said. "Every hand is against
me, and if I stay in this country I shall die."

"Well?" said Sanders.

"So I will go with you, until you reach the Sangar River, which leads to
the Congo. I have brothers there."

"All this may be true," said Sanders dispassionately; "on the other
hand, I know that your heart is filled with hate because I have taken
two men from you, and hanged a third. Nevertheless, you shall come with
us as far as the Sangar River, but you shall not touch the 'chop' of my
men, nor shall you speak with them."

She nodded and left him, and Sanders issued orders for her treatment.

In the middle of the night Abiboo, who, in addition to being Sanders'
servant, was a sergeant of the Houssas, came to Sanders' tent, and the
Commissioner jumped out of bed and mechanically reached for his Express.

"Leopards?" he asked briefly.

"Master," said Sergeant Abiboo, "it is the woman M'Lino--she is a
witch."

"Sergeant," said the exasperated Sanders, "if you wake me up in the
middle of the night with that sort of talk, I will break your infernal
head."

"Be that as it may, master," said the sergeant stolidly, "she is a
witch, for she has talked with my men and done many wonderful
things--such as causing them to behold their children and far-away
scenes."

"Have I an escort of babies?" asked Sanders despairingly. "I wish," he
went on, with quiet savageness, "I had chosen Kroomen or Bushmen"--the
sergeant winced--"or the mad people of the Isisi River, before I took a
half-company of the King's Houssas."

The sergeant gulped down the insult, saying nothing.

"Bring the woman to me," said Sanders. He scrambled into his clothing,
and lit his tent lantern.

After a while he heard the pattering of bare feet, and the girl came
into his tent, and regarded him quietly.

"M'Lino," said Sanders, "I told you that you were not to speak with my
men."

"Lord," she said, "they spoke with me first."

"Is this true?"

The sergeant at the tent door nodded. "Tembeli, the son of Sekambano,
spoke with her, thus disobeying orders, and the other men followed," he
said.

"Bushmen by gad!" fumed Sanders. "You will take Tembeli, the son of
Sekambano, tie him to a tree, and give him twenty lashes."

The sergeant saluted, produced a tawdry little notebook, all brass
binding and gold edges, and made a laborious note.

"As for you," said Sanders to the woman, "you drop your damned
bush-mesmerism, or I'll treat you in the same way--_alaki_?"

"Yes, lord," she said meekly, and departed.

Two Houssas tied Tembeli to a tree, and the sergeant gave him twenty-one
with a pliable hippo-hide--the extra one being the sergeant's
perquisite.

In the morning the sergeant reported that Tembeli had died in the night,
and Sanders worried horribly.

"It isn't the flogging," he said; "he has had the _chicotte_ before."

"It is the woman," said the sergeant wisely. "She is a witch; I foresaw
this when she joined the column."

They buried Tembeli, the son of Sekambano, and Sanders wrote three
reports of the circumstances of the death, each of which he tore up.

Then he marched on.

That night the column halted near a village, and Sanders sent the woman,
under escort, to the chief, with orders to see her safely to the Sangar
River. In half an hour she returned, with the escort, and Sergeant
Abiboo explained the circumstances.

"The chief will not take her in, being afraid."

"Afraid?" Sanders spluttered in his wrath; "Afraid? What is he afraid
of?"

"Her devilry," said the sergeant; "the _lo-koli_ has told him the story
of Tebeki, and he will not have her."

Sanders swore volubly for five minutes; then he went off to interview
the chief of the village.

The interview was short and to the point. Sanders knew this native very
well, and made no mistakes.

"Chief," he said at the end of the palaver, "two things I may do; one is
to punish you for your disobedience, and the other is to go on my way."

"Master," said the other earnestly, "if you give my village to the fire,
yet I would not take the woman M'Lino."

"So much I realise," said Sanders; "therefore I will go on my way."

He marched at dawn on the following day, the woman a little ahead of the
column, and under his eye. Halting for a "chop" and rest at mid-day, a
man of the Houssas came to him and said there was a dead man hanging
from a tree in the wood. Sanders went immediately with the man to the
place of the hanging, for he was responsible for the peace of the
district.

"Where?" he asked, and the man pointed to a straight gum-tree that stood
by itself in a clearing.

"Where?" asked Sanders again, for there was no evidence of tragedy. The
man still pointed at the tree, and Sanders frowned.

"Go forward and touch his foot," said the Commissioner, and, after a
little hesitation, the soldier walked slowly to the tree and put out his
hand. But he touched nothing but air, as far as Sanders could see.

"You are mad," he said, and whistled for the sergeant.

"What do you see there?" asked Sanders, and the sergeant replied
instantly:

"Beyond the hanging man----"

"There is no hanging man," said Sanders coolly--for he began to
appreciate the need for calm reasoning--"nothing but a tree and some
shadows."

The Houssa looked puzzled, and turned a grave face to his.

"Master, there is a man hanging," he said.

"That is so," said Sanders quietly; "we must investigate this matter."
And he signed for the party to return to the camp.

On the way he asked carelessly if the sergeant had spoken with the woman
M'Lino.

"I saw her, but she did not speak, except with her eyes."

Sanders nodded. "Tell me," he said, "where did you bury Tembeli, the son
of Sekambano?"

"Master, we left him, in accordance with our custom, on the ground at
the foot of a tree."

Sanders nodded again, for this is not the custom of the Houssas.

"We will go back on our tracks to the camping place where the woman came
to us," he said.

They marched until sundown, and whilst two men pitched his tent Sanders
strolled round the little camp. The men were sitting about their
cooking-pots, but the woman M'Lino sat apart, her elbows on her knees,
her face between her hands.

"M'Lino," he said to her, halting suddenly before her, "how many men
have you killed in your life?"

She looked at him long and fixedly, and he returned the stare; then she
dropped her eyes. "Many men," she said.

"So I think," said Sanders.

He was eating his dinner when Abiboo came slowly toward him.

"Master, the man has died," he said.

Sanders looked at him narrowly.

"Which man?"

"The man you chicotted with your own hand," said Abiboo.

Now, the Commissioner had neither chicotted a man, nor had he ordered
punishment, but he replied in a matter-of-fact tone, "I will see him."

On the edge of the camp there was a little group about a prostrate
figure. The Houssas fell apart with black looks as Sanders came near,
and there was some muttering. Though Sanders did not see it, M'Lino
looked strangely at Ahmid, a Houssa, who took up his rifle and went
stealthily into the bush.

The Commissioner bent over the man who lay there, felt his breast, and
detected no beat of heart.

"Get me my medicine chest," he said, but none obeyed him.

"Sergeant," he repeated, "bring my medicine chest!"

Abiboo saluted slowly, and, with every appearance of reluctance, went.

He came back with the case of undressed skin, and Sanders opened it,
took out the ammonia bottle, and applied it to the man's nose. He made
no sign.

"We shall see," was all that Sanders said when the experiment failed. He
took a hypodermic syringe and filled the little tube with a solution of
strychnine. This he jabbed unceremoniously into the patient's back. In a
minute the corpse sat up, jerkily.

"Ha!" said Sanders, cheerfully; "I am evidently a great magician!"

He rose to his feet, dusted his knees, and beckoned the sergeant.

"Take four men and return to the place where you left Tembeli. If the
leopards have not taken him, you will meet him on the road, because by
this time he will have waked up."

He saw the party march off, then turned his attention to M'Lino.

"My woman," he said, "it is evident to me that you are a witch, although
I have met your like before"--it was observed that the face of Sanders
was very white. "I cannot flog you, because you are a woman, but I can
kill you."

She laughed.

Their eyes met in a struggle for mastery, and so they stared at one
another for a space of time which seemed to Sanders a thousand years,
but which was in all probability less than a minute.

"It would be better if you killed yourself," she said.

"I think so," said Sanders dully, and fumbled for his revolver.

It was half drawn, his thumb on the hammer, when a rifle banged in the
bushes and the woman fell forward without a word.

Ahmid, the Houssa, was ever a bad shot.

       *     *     *     *     *

"I believe," said Sanders, later, "that you took your rifle to kill me,
being under the influence of M'Lino, so I will make no bad report
against you."

"Master," said the Houssa simply, "I know nothing of the matter."

"That I can well believe," said Sanders, and gave the order to march.



  CHAPTER XI.

  THE WITCH-DOCTOR.


Nothing surprised Sanders except the ignorance of the average
stay-at-home Briton on all matters pertaining to the savage peoples of
Africa. Queer things happened in the "black patch"--so the coast
officials called Sanders' territory--miraculous, mysterious things, but
Sanders was never surprised. He had dealings with folks who believed in
ghosts and personal devils, and he sympathised with them, realising that
it is very difficult to ascribe all the evils of life to human agencies.

Sanders was an unquiet man, or so his constituents thought him, and a
little mad; this also was the native view. Worst of all, there was no
method in his madness.

Other commissioners might be depended upon to arrive after the rains,
sending word ahead of their coming. This was a good way--the Isisi, the
Ochori, and the N'Gombi people, everlastingly at issue, were agreed upon
this--because, with timely warning of the Commissioner's approach, it
was possible to thrust out of sight the ugly evidence of fault, to clean
up and make tidy the muddle of folly.

It was bad to step sheepishly forth from your hut into the clear light
of the rising sun, with all the dbris of an overnight feast mutely
testifying to your discredit, and face the cold, unwavering eyes of a
little brown-faced man in immaculate white. The switch he carried in his
hand would be smacking his leg suggestively, and there were always four
Houssa soldiers in blue and scarlet in the background, immobile, but
alert, quick to obey.

Once Sanders came to a N'Gombi village at dawn, when by every known
convention he should have been resting in his comfortable bungalow some
three hundred miles down river.

Sanders came strolling through the village street just as the sun topped
the trees and long shadows ran along the ground before the flood of
lemon-coloured light.

The village was silent and deserted, which was a bad sign, and spoke of
overnight orgies. Sanders walked on until he came to the big square near
the palaver house, and there the black ruin of a dead fire smoked
sullenly.

Sanders saw something that made him go raking amongst the embers.

"Pah!" said Sanders, with a wry face.

He sent back to the steamer for the full force of his Houssa guard, then
he walked into the chief's hut and kicked him till he woke.

He came out blinking and shivering, though the morning was warm.

"Telemi, son of O'ari," said Sanders, "tell me why I should not hang
you--man-eater and beast."

"Lord," said the chief, "we chopped this man because he was an enemy,
stealing into the village at night, and carrying away our goats and our
dogs. Besides which, we did not know that you were near by."

"I can believe that," said Sanders.

A _lo-koli_ beat the villages to wakefulness, and before a silent
assembly the headman of the N'Gombi village was scientifically flogged.

Then Sanders called the elders together and said a few words of cheer
and comfort.

"Only hyenas and crocodiles eat their kind," he said, "also certain
fishes." (There was a general shudder, for amongst the N'Gombi to be
likened to a fish is a deadly insult.) "Cannibals I do not like, and
they are hated by the King's Government. Therefore when it comes to my
ears--and I have many spies--that you chop man, whether he be enemy or
friend, I will come quickly and I will flog sorely; and if it should
again happen I will bring with me a rope, and I will find me a tree, and
there will be broken huts in this land."

Again they shuddered at the threat of the broken hut, for it is the
custom of the N'Gombi to break down the walls of a dead man's house to
give his spirit free egress.

Sanders carried away with him the chief of the village, with leg-irons
at his ankles, and in course of time the prisoner arrived at a little
labour colony on the coast, where he worked for five years in company
with other indiscreet headmen who were suffering servitude for divers
offences.

They called Sanders in the Upper River districts by a long and sonorous
name, which may be euphemistically translated as "The man who has a
faithless wife," the little joke of Bosambo, chief of the Ochori, and
mightily subtle because Sanders was wedded to his people.

North and south, east and west, he prowled. He travelled by night and by
day. Sometimes his steamer would go threshing away up river, and be
watched out of sight by the evil-doing little fishing-villages.

"Go you," said Sarala, who was a little headman of the Akasava, "go you
three hours' journey in your canoe and watch the river for Sandi's
return. And at first sign of his steamer--which you may see if you climb
the hill at the river's bend--come back and warn me, for I desire to
follow certain customs of my father in which Sandi has no pleasure."

He spoke to two of his young men and they departed. That night by the
light of a fire, to the accompaniment of dancing and drum-beating, the
son of the headman brought his firstborn, ten hours old, squealing
noisily, as if with knowledge of the doom ahead, and laid it at his
father's feet.

"People," said the little chief, "it is a wise saying of all, and has
been a wise saying since time began, that the firstborn has a special
virtue; so that if we sacrifice him to sundry gods and devils, good luck
will follow us in all our doings."

He said a word to the son, who took a broad-bladed spear and began
turning the earth until he had dug a little grave. Into this, alive, the
child was laid, his little feet kicking feebly against the loose mould.

"Oh, gods and devils," invoked the old man, "we shed no blood, that this
child may come to you unblemished."

The son stirred a heap of loose earth with his foot, so that it fell
over the baby's legs; then into the light of the fire stepped Sanders,
and the chief's son fell back.

Sanders was smoking a thin cigar, and he smoked for fully a minute
without saying a word, and a minute was a very long time. Then he
stepped to the grave, stooped, and lifted the baby up awkwardly, for he
was more used to handling men than babes, gave it a little shake to
clear it of earth, and handed it to a woman.

"Take the child to its mother," he said, "and tell her to send it to me
alive in the morning, otherwise she had best find a new husband."

Then he turned to the old chief and his son.

"Old man," he said, "how many years have you to live?"

"Master," said the old man, "that is for you to say."

Sanders scratched his chin reflectively, and the old man watched him
with fear in his eyes.

"You will go to Bosambo, chief of the Ochori, telling him I have sent
you, and you shall till his garden, and carry his water until you die,"
said Sanders.

"I am so old that that will be soon," said the old man.

"If you were younger it would be sooner," said Sanders. "As for your
son, we will wait until the morning."

The Houssas in the background marched the younger man to the camp
Sanders had formed down river--the boat that had passed had been
intended to deceive a chief under suspicion--and in the morning, when
the news came that the child was dead--whether from shock, or injury, or
exposure, Sanders did not trouble to inquire--the son of the chief was
hanged.

I tell these stories of Sanders of the River, that you may grasp the
type of man he was and learn something of the work he had to do. If he
was quick to punish, he acted in accordance with the spirit of the
people he governed, for they had no memory; and yesterday, with its
faults, its errors and its teachings, was a very long time ago, and a
man resents an unjust punishment for a crime he has forgotten.

It is possible to make a bad mistake, but Sanders never made one, though
he was near to doing so once.

Sanders was explaining his point of view in regard to natives to
Professor Sir George Carsley, when that eminent scientist arrived
unexpectedly at headquarters, having been sent out by the British
Government to study tropical disease at first hand.

Sir George was a man of some age, with a face of exceptional pallor and
a beard that was snowy white.

"There was a newspaper man who said I treated my people like dogs," said
Sanders slowly, for he was speaking in English, a language that was
seldom called for. "I believe I do. That is to say, I treat them as if
they were real good dogs, not to be petted one minute and kicked the
next; not to be encouraged to lie on the drawing-room mat one day, and
the next cuffed away from the dining-room hearthrug."

Sir George made no answer. He was a silent man, who had had some
experience on the coast, and had lived for years in the solitude of a
Central African province, studying the habits of the malarial mosquito.

Sanders was never a great conversationalist, and the three days the
professor spent at headquarters were deadly dull ones for the
Commissioner.

On one subject alone did the professor grow talkative.

"I want to study the witch-doctor," he said. "I think there is no
appointment in the world that would give me a greater sense of power
than my appointment by a native people to that post."

Sanders thought the scientist was joking, but the other returned to the
subject again and again, gravely, earnestly, and persistently, and for
his entertainment Sanders recited all the stories he had ever heard of
witch-doctors and their tribe.

"But you don't expect to learn anything from these people?" said
Sanders, half in joke.

"On the contrary," said the professor, seriously; "I anticipate making
valuable scientific discoveries through my intercourse with them."

"Then you're a silly old ass," said Sanders; but he said it to himself.

The pale professor left him at the end of the fourth day, and beyond an
official notification that he had established himself on the border, no
further news came of the scientist for six months, until one evening
came the news that the pale-faced old man had been drowned by the
upsetting of a canoe. He had gone out on a solitary excursion, taking
with him some scientific apparatus, and nothing more was heard of him
until his birch-bark canoe was discovered, bottom up, floating on the
river.

No trace of Sir George was found, and in the course of time Sanders
collected the dead man's belongings and forwarded them to England.

There were two remarkable facts about this tragedy, the first being that
Sanders found no evidence either in papers or diaries, of the results of
any scientific research work performed by the professor other than a
small note-book. The second was, that in his little book the scientist
had carefully recorded the stories Sanders had told him of witch
doctors.

(Sanders recognised at least one story which he had himself invented on
the spur of the moment for the professor's entertainment.)

Six more or less peaceful months passed, and then began the series of
events which make up the story of the Devil Man.

It began on the Little River.

There was a woman of the Isisi people who hated her husband, though he
was very good to her, building her a hut and placing an older wife to
wait upon her. He gave her many presents, including a great neck-ring of
brass, weighing pounds, that made her the most envied woman on the Isisi
River. But her hatred for her husband was unquenched; and one morning
she came out from her hut, looking dazed and frightened, and began in a
quavering voice to sing the Song of the Dead, mechanically pouring
little handfuls of dust on her head, and the villagers went in, to find
the man stark and staring, with a twisted grin on his dead face and the
pains of hell in his eyes.

In the course of two days they burned the husband in the Middle River;
and as the canoe bearing the body swept out of sight round a bend of the
river, the woman stepped into the water and laved the dust from her
grimy body and stripped the green leaves of mourning from her waist.

Then she walked back to the village with a light step, for the man she
hated best was dead and there was an end to it.

Four days later came Sanders, a grim little man, with a thin, brown face
and hair inclined to redness.

"M'Fasa," he said, standing at the door of her hut and looking down at
her, as with a dogged simulation of indifference she pounded her grain,
"they tell me your man has died."

"Lord, that is true," she said. "He died of a sudden sickness."

"Too sudden for my liking," said Sanders, and disappeared into the dark
interior of the hut. By and by Sanders came back into the light and
looked down on her. In his hand was a tiny glass phial, such as
Europeans know very well, but which was a remarkable find in a heathen
village.

"I have a fetish," he said, "and my fetish has told me that you poisoned
your husband, M'Fasa."

"Your fetish lies," she said, not looking up.

"I will not argue that matter," said Sanders wisely, for he had no
proofs beyond his suspicions; and straightway he summoned to him the
chief man of the village.

There was a little wait, the woman pounding her corn slowly, with
downcast eyes, pausing now and then to wipe the sweat from her forehead
with the back of her hand, and Sanders, his helmet on the back of his
head, a half-smoked cheroot in his mouth, hands thrust deep into his
duck-pockets and an annoyed frown on his face, looking at her.

By and by came the chief tardily, having been delayed by the search for
a soldier's scarlet coat, such as he wore on great occasions.

"Master, you sent for me," he said.

Sanders shifted his gaze.

"On second thoughts," he said, "I do not need you."

The chief went away with a whole thanksgiving service in his heart, for
there had been certain secret doings on the river for which he expected
reprimand.

"M'Fasa, you will go to my boat," said Sanders, and the woman, putting
down her mortar, rose and went obediently to the steamer. Sanders
followed slowly, having a great many matters to consider. If he
denounced this woman to the elders of the village, she would be stoned
to death; if he carried her to headquarters and tried her, there was no
evidence on which a conviction might be secured. There was no place to
which he could deport her, yet to leave her would be to open the way for
further mischief.

She awaited him on the deck of the _Zaire_, a straight, shapely girl of
eighteen, fearless, defiant.

"M'Fasa," said Sanders, "why did you kill your husband?"

"Lord, I did not kill him; he died of the sickness," she said, as
doggedly as before.

Sanders paced the narrow deck, his head on his breast, for this was a
profound problem. Then he looked up.

"You may go," he said; and the woman, a little puzzled, walked along the
plank that connected the boat with the shore, and disappeared into the
bush.

Three weeks later his spies brought word that men were dying
unaccountably on the Upper River. None knew why they died, for a man
would sit down strong and full of cheer to his evening meal, and lo! in
the morning, when his people went to wake him, he would be beyond
waking, being most unpleasantly dead.

This happened in many villages on the Little River.

"It's getting monotonous," said Sanders to the captain of the Houssas.
"There is some wholesale poisoning going on, and I am going up to find
the gentleman who dispenses the dope."

It so happened that the first case claiming investigation was at Isisi
City. It was a woman who had died, and this time Sanders suspected the
husband, a notorious evil-doer.

"Okali," he said, coming to the point, "why did you poison your wife?"

"Lord," said the man, "she died of the sickness. In the evening she was
well, but at the dark hour before sun came she turned in her sleep
saying 'Ah! oh!' and straightway she died."

Sanders drew a long breath.

"Get a rope," he said to one of his men, and when the rope arrived
Abiboo scrambled up to the lower branch of a copal-gum and
scientifically lashed a block and tackle.

"Okali," said Sanders, "I am going to hang you for the murder of your
wife, for I am a busy man and have no time to make inquiries; and if you
are not guilty of her murder, yet there are many other abominable deeds
you have been guilty of, therefore I am justified in hanging you."

The man was grey with terror when they slipped the noose over his neck
and strapped his hands behind him.

"Lord, she was a bad wife to me and had many lovers," he stammered. "I
did not mean to kill her, but the Devil Man said that such medicine
would make her forget her lovers----"

"Devil Man! What Devil Man?" asked Sanders quickly.

"Lord, there is a devil greatly respected in these parts, who wanders in
the forest all the time and gives many curious medicines."

"Where is he to be found?"

"Lord, none know. He comes and goes, like a grey ghost, and he has a
fetish more powerful than a thousand ordinary devils. Master, I gave the
woman, my wife, that which he gave to me, and she died. How might I know
that she would die?"

"_Cheg'li_," said Sanders shortly to the men at the rope-end, and
_cheg'li_ in the dialect of the River means "pull."

       *     *     *     *     *

"Stop!"

Sanders was in a changeable mood, and a little irritable by reason of
the fact that he knew himself to be fickle.

"How came this drug to you? In powder, in liquid, or----"

The man's lips were dry. He could do no more than shake his head
helplessly.

"Release him," said Sanders; and Abiboo loosened the noose and
unstrapped the man's hands.

"If you have lied to me," said Sanders, "you die at sunset. First let me
hear more of this Devil Man, for I am anxious to make his acquaintance."

He gave the man ten minutes to recover from the effects of his fear,
then sent for him.

"Lord," said he, "I know nothing of the Devil Man save that he is the
greatest witch-doctor in the world, and on nights when the moon is up
and certain stars are in their places he comes like a ghost, and we are
all afraid. Then those of us who need him go forth into the forest, and
he gives to us according to our desires."

"How carried he the drug?"

"Lord, it was in a crystal rod, such as white men carry their medicines
in. I will bring it to you."

He went back to his hut and returned a few minutes later with a phial,
the fellow to that which was already in Sanders' possession. The
Commissioner took it and smelt at the opening. There was the faintest
odour of almonds, and Sanders whistled, for he recognised the
after-scent of cyanide of potassium, which is not such a drug as
untutored witch-doctors know, much less employ.

       *     *     *     *     *

"I can only suggest," wrote Sanders to headquarters, "that by some
mischance the medicine chest of the late Sir George Carsley has come
into the possession of a native 'doctor.' You will remember that the
chest was with the professor when he was drowned. It has possibly been
washed up and discovered.... In the meantime, I am making diligent
inquiries as to the identity of the Devil Man, who seems to have leapt
into fame so suddenly."

There were sleepless nights ahead for Sanders, nights of swift marchings
and doublings, of quick runs up the river, of unexpected arrivals in
villages, of lonely vigils in the forest and by strange pools. But he
had no word of the Devil Man, though he learnt many things of interest.
Most potent of his magical possessions was a box, "so small," said one
who had seen it, and indicated a six-inch square. In this box dwelt a
small and malicious god who pinched and scratched (yet without leaving a
mark), who could stick needles into the human body and never draw blood.

"I give it up," said Sanders in despair, and went back to his base to
think matters out.

He was sitting at dinner one night, when far away on the river the drum
beat. It was not the regular _lo-koli_ roll, but a series of staccato
tappings, and, stepping softly to the door, the Commissioner listened.

He had borrowed the Houssa signalling staff from headquarters, and
stationed them at intervals along the river. On a still night the
tapping of a drum carries far, but the rattle of iron-wood sticks on a
hollowed tree-trunk carries farthest of all.

"Clok-clok, clockitty-clock."

It sounded like the far-away croaking of a bull-frog; but Sanders
picked out the letters:

"Devil Man sacrifices to-morrow night in the Forest of Dreams."

As he jotted down the message on the white sleeve of his jacket, Abiboo
came running up the path.

"I have heard," said Sanders briefly. "There is steam in the _pucapuc_?"

"We are ready, master," said the man.

Sanders waited only to take a hanging revolver from the wall and throw
his overcoat over his arm, for his travelling kit was already deposited
on the _Zaire_, and had been for three days.

In the darkness the sharp nose of his little boat swung out to the
stream, and ten minutes after the message came the boat was threshing a
way against the swift river.

All night long the steamer went on, tacking from bank to bank to avoid
the shoals.

Dawn found her at a wooding, where her men, working at fever speed,
piled logs on her deck until she had the appearance of a timber-boat.

Then off again, stopping only to secure news of the coming sacrifice
from the spies who were scattered up and down the river.

Sanders reached the edge of the Dream Forest at midnight and tied up. He
had ten Houssa policemen with him, and at the head of these he stepped
ashore into the blackness of the forest. One of the soldiers went ahead
to find the path and keep it, and in single file the little force began
its two-hour march. Once they came upon two leopards fighting; once they
stumbled over a buffalo sleeping in their path. Twice they disturbed
strange beasts that slunk into the shadows as they passed, and came
snuffling after them, till Sanders flashed a white beam from his
electric lamp in their direction. Eventually they came stealthily to the
place of sacrifice.

There were at least six hundred people squatting in a semi-circle before
a rough altar built of logs. Two huge fires blazed and crackled on
either side of the altar; but Sanders' eyes were for the Devil Man, who
leant over the body of a young girl, apparently asleep, stretched upon
the logs.

Once the Devil Man had worn the garb of civilisation; now he was clothed
in rags. He stood in his grimy shirt-sleeves, his white beard wild and
uncombed, his pale face tense, and a curious light in his eyes. In his
hand was a bright scalpel, and he was speaking--and, curiously enough,
in English.

"This, gentlemen," said he, leaning easily against the rude altar, and
speaking with the assurance of one who had delivered many such lectures,
"is a bad case of trynosomiasis. You will observe the discoloration of
skin, the opalescent pupils, and now that I have placed the patient
under anaesthetics you will remark the misplacement of the cervical
glands, which is an invariable symptom."

He paused and looked benignly around.

"I may say that I have lived for a great time amongst native people. I
occupied the honourable position of witch-doctor in Central Africa----"

He stopped and passed his hand across his brow, striving to recall
something; then he picked up the thread of his discourse.

All the time he spoke the half-naked assembly sat silent and
awe-stricken, comprehending nothing save that the witch-doctor with the
white face, who had come from nowhere and had done many wonderful
things--his magic box proved to be a galvanic battery--was about to
perform strange rites.

"Gentlemen," the old man went on, tapping the breast of his victim with
the handle of his scalpel, "I shall make an incision----"

Sanders came from his place of concealment, and walked steadily towards
the extemporised operating-table.

"Professor," he said gently, and the madman looked at him with a puzzled
frown.

"You are interrupting the clinic," he said testily; "I am
demonstrating----"

"I know, sir."

Sanders took his arm, and Sir George Carsley, a great scientist,
consulting surgeon to St. Mark's Hospital, London, and the author of
many books on tropical diseases, went with him like a child.

       *     *     *     *     *



  CHAPTER XII.

  THE LONELY ONE.


Mr. Commissioner Sanders had lived so long with native people that he
had absorbed not a little of their simplicity. More than this, he had
acquired the uncanny power of knowing things which he would not and
could not have known unless he were gifted with the prescience which is
every aboriginal's birthright.

He had sent three spies into the Isisi country--which lies a long way
from headquarters and is difficult of access--and after two months of
waiting they came to him in a body, bearing good news.

This irritated Sanders to an unjustifiable degree.

"Master, I say to you that the Isisi are quiet," protested one of the
spies; "and there is no talk of war."

"H'm!" said Sanders, ungraciously. "And you?"

He addressed the second spy.

"Lord," said the man, "I went into the forest, to the border of the
land, and there is no talk of war. Chiefs and headmen told me this."

"Truly you are a great spy," scoffed Sanders; "and how came you to the
chiefs and headmen? And how did they greet you? 'Hail! secret spy of
Sandi'? Huh!"

He dismissed the men with a wave of his hand, and putting on his helmet
went down to the Houssa lines, where the blue-coated soldiers gambled in
the shade of their neat white barracks.

The Houssa captain was making palatable medicine with the aid of a book
of cigarette papers and a six-ounce bottle of quinine sulphide.

Sanders observed his shaking hand, and talked irritably.

"There's trouble in the Isisi," he said, "I can smell it. I don't know
what it is--but there's devilry of sorts."

"Secret societies?" suggested the Houssa.

"Secret grandmothers," snarled Sanders. "How many men have you got?"

"Sixty, including the lame 'uns," said the Houssa officer, and swallowed
a paperful of quinine with a grimace.

Sanders tapped the toe of his boot with his thin ebony stick, and was
thoughtful.

"I may want 'em," he said. "I'm going to find out what's wrong with
these Isisi people."

       *     *     *     *     *

By the little river that turns abruptly from the River of Spirits,
Imgani, the Lonely One, built a house. He built it in proper fashion,
stealing the wood from a village five miles away. In this village there
had been many deaths, owing to The Sickness; and it is the custom on the
Upper River that whenever a person dies, the house wherein he died shall
die also.

No man takes shelter under the accursed roof whereunder the Spirit sits
brooding; the arms of the dead man are broken and scattered on his
shallow grave, and the cooking-pots of his wives are there likewise.

By and by, under the combined influences of wind and rain, the reed roof
sags and sinks, the doorposts rot; elephant-grass, coarse and strong,
shoots up between crevices in wall and roof; then come a heavier rain
and a heavier wind, and the forest has wiped the foul spot clean.

Imgani, who said he was of the N'Gombi people, and was afraid of no
devils--at any rate, no Isisi devil--stole doorposts and native rope
fearlessly. He stole them by night, when the moon was behind the trees,
and mocked the dead spirits, calling them by evil and tantalising names.

Yet he went cautiously to work; for whilst he did not hold spirits in
account, he was wholesomely respectful of the live Isisi, who would have
put him to death had his sacrilege been detected, though, strangely
enough, death was the thing he feared least.

So he stole the accursed supports and accursed roof-props, and would
have stolen the roofs as well, but for the fact that they were very old
and full of spiders.

All these things he came and took, carrying them five miles to the turn
of the river, and there, at his leisure, he built a little house. In the
daytime he slept, in the night he trapped beasts and caught fish, but he
made no attempt to catch the big bats that come over from the middle
island of the river, though these are very edible, and regarded as a
delicacy.

One day, just before the sun went down, he went into the forest on the
track of zebra. He carried two big hunting-spears, such as the N'Gombi
make best; a wickerwork shield, and on his back, slung by a strip of
hide, a bunch of dried fish he had caught in the river.

A man of middle height was Imgani, spare of build, but broad of
shoulder. His skin shone healthily, and his step was light. As he
walked, you saw the muscles of his back ripple and weave like the
muscles of a well-trained thoroughbred.

He was half an hour's journey within the forest, when he came upon a
girl. She was carrying a bundle of manioc root on her head, and walked
gracefully.

When she saw Imgani she stopped dead, and the fear of death and worse
came in her eyes, for she knew him to be an outcast man, with no tribe
and no people. Such men are more dreadful than the ingali, who rears up
from the grass and plunges his poison-fangs in your leg.

They stood watching one another, the man leaning with both hands on the
spears, his cheek against them; the girl trembled.

"Woman, where do you go?" said Imgani.

"Master, I go to the village which is by the river, this being the
path," she flurried.

"What have you there?"

"Manioc, for bread," she whispered thickly.

"You are a root-eater," said Imgani, nodding his head.

"Master, let me go," she said, staring at him.

Imgani jerked his head.

"I see you are afraid of me--yet I want nothing from you," he said. "I
am Imgani, which means the Lonely One; and I have no desire for wives or
women, being too high a man for such folly. You are safe, root-eater,
for if I wished I would fill this forest with the daughters of chiefs,
all very beautiful, all moaning for me."

The girl's fear had disappeared, and she looked at him curiously.
Moreover, she recognised that there was truth in his claim of austerity.
Possibly she was a little piqued, for she said tartly enough, employing
an Isisi proverb:

"Only the goat bleats at the mouth of the leopard's cave--the Isisi grow
fat on strangers."

He looked at her, his head cocked on one side.

"They say in the lower country that the Isisi sell men to the Arabi," he
said musingly. "That is bad talk; you may go."

With another jerk of his head he dismissed her.

She had gone some little distance when he called her back.

"Root-eater," he said, "if men ask you who I be, you shall say that I am
Imgani the Lonely One, who is a prince amongst the princes; also that I
have killed many men in my day--so many that I cannot count them. Also
say that from my house, which I have built by the river, to as far as a
man can see in every way, is my kingdom, and let none stray therein,
except to bring gifts in their hands, for I am very terrible and very
jealous."

"Lord," said the girl, "I will say all this."

And she went, half running, in the direction of the village, leaving
Imgani to continue on his way.

Now this village had many young men eager to please the girl, who
carried manioc, for she was a chief's daughter, and she was, moreover,
fourteen, a marriageable age. So when she came flying along the village
street, half hysterical in her fear, crying, babbling, incoherent, there
was not wanting sympathy nor knight valiant to wipe out the insult.

Six young men, with spears and short swords, danced before the chief and
the chief's daughter (how important she felt, any woman of any race will
tell you), and one of them, E'kebi, a man gifted with language,
described from sunset to moonrise, which is roughly four hours, exactly
what would happen to Imgani when the men of the Isisi fell upon him; how
his eyes would shrivel as before a great and terrible fire, and his
limbs wither up, and divers other physiological changes which need not
be particularised.

"That is good talk," said the chief; "yet, since Sandi is our master and
has spies everywhere, do not shed blood, for the smell of blood is
carried farther than a man can see. And Sandi is very devilish on this
question of killing. Moreover, this Lonely One is a stranger, and if we
catch him we may sell him to the Arabi, who will give us cloth and gin
for him."

Having heard all this, they sacrificed a young goat and marched. They
came upon the house of Imgani, but the Lonely One was not there, for he
was trapping beasts in the forest; so they burnt his house, uprooted his
poor garden, and, being joined by many other Isisi people, who had
followed at a respectful distance, lest Imgani's estimate of his own
prowess were justified by results, they held high revel, until of a
sudden the sun came up over the middle island, and all the little stars
in the sky went out.

Imgani saw all this, leaning on his spears in the shadow of the forest,
but was content to be a spectator.

For, he reasoned, if he went out against them they would attempt to kill
him or beat him with rods, and that his high spirit could not endure.

He saw the flames lick away the house he had built with such labour.

"They are foolish people," he mused, "for they burn their own, and
perhaps the spirits of the dead will be displeased and give them boils."

When all that was left of his habitation was a white heap of ash, a
dark-red glow, and a hazy wisp of smoke, Imgani turned his face to the
forest.

All day long he walked, halting only to eat the fish he carried, and at
night time he came upon another Isisi village, which was called O'Fasi.

He came through the village street with his shoulders squared, his head
erect, swinging his spears famously. He looked neither to the left nor
to the right; and the villagers, crowding to the doors of their huts,
put their clenched knuckles to their mouths, and said: "O ho!" which
means that they were impressed.

So he stalked through the entire length of the village, and was making
for the forest-path beyond, when a messenger came pattering after him.

"Lord," said the messenger, "the _capita_ of this village, who is
responsible to the Government for all people who pass, and especially
for thieves who may have escaped from the Village of Irons, desires your
presence, being sure that you are no thief, but a great one, and wishing
to do honour to you."

Thus he recited, and being a peaceable man, who had been chosen for the
part because he was related by marriage to the principal wife of the
chief, he kept a cautious eye on the broad-headed spear, and determined
the line of his flight.

"Go back to your master, slave," said Imgani, "and say to him that I go
to find a spot of sufficient loneliness, where I may sleep this night
and occupy myself with high thoughts. When I have found such a place I
will return. Say, also, that I am a prince of my own people, and that my
father has legions of such quantity that, if every fighting man of the
legions were to take a handful of sand from the bottom of the river, the
river would be bottomless; also say that I am named Imgani, and that I
love myself better than any man has loved himself since the moon went
white that it might not look like the sun."

He went on, leaving the messenger filled with thought.

True to his promise, Imgani returned.

He came back to find that there was a palaver in progress, the subject
of the palaver being the unfortunate relative by marriage to the chief's
principal wife.

"Who," the chief was saying, "has put shame upon me, being as great a
fool as his cousin, my wife."

"Master," said the poor relation humbly, "I entreated him to return; but
he was a man of great pride, and, moreover, impatient to go."

"Your mother was a fool," said the chief; "her mother also was a fool,
and your father, whoever he was, and no man knows, was a great fool."

This interesting beginning to a crude address on hereditary folly was
interrupted by the return of Imgani, and as he came slowly up the little
hillock the assembly took stock of him, from the square, steel razor
stuck in the tight-fitting leopard-skin cap to the thin bangles of brass
about his ankles.

The chief, a portly man of no great courage, observed the spears, noting
that the hafts were polished smooth by much handling.

"Lord," said he mildly, "I am chief of this village, appointed by the
Government, who gave me a medal to wear about my neck, bearing on one
side the picture of a great man with a beard, and on the other side
certain devil marks and writings of vast power. This was given to me
that all people might know I was chief, but I have lost the medal. None
the less, I am chief of this village, as this will show."

He fumbled in the bosom of his cloth and brought out a bag of snake
skin, and from this he extracted a very soiled paper.

With tender care he unfolded it, and disclosed a sheet of official
notepaper with a few scrawled words in the handwriting of Mr.
Commissioner Sanders. They ran:

"To all Sub-Commissioners, Police Officers, and Commanders of Houssa
Ports:

"Arrest and detain the bearer if found in any other territory than the
Isisi."

There was a history attached to this singular document. It had to do
with an unauthorised raid upon certain Ochori villages and a subsequent
trial at headquarters, where a chief, all aquiver with apprehension,
listened to a terse but knowledgable prophecy as to what fate awaited
him if he put foot out of his restricted dominion.

Imgani took the paper in his hand and was interested. He turned it
about, rubbed the writing lightly with his fingers to see whether it was
permanent, and returned it to the chief.

"That is very wonderful, though I do not fear magic, except an especial
kind such as is practised by a certain witch-doctor of my father's," he
said; "nor do I know any government which can govern me."

After which he proceeded to tell them of his father, and of his legions
and wives, and various other matters of equal interest.

"I do not doubt that you will understand me," he said. "I am a Lonely
One, hating the company of men, who are as changeable as the snow upon
the mountains. Therefore, I have left my house with my wives, who were
faithful as women go, and I have taken with me no legion, since they are
my father's."

The chief was puzzled.

"Why you are lonely, I cannot tell," he said; "but certainly you did
right to leave your father's legions. This is a great matter, which
needs a palaver of older men."

And he ordered the _lo-koli_ to be sounded and the elders of the village
to be assembled.

They came, bringing their own carved stools, and sat about the thatched
shelter, where the chief sat in his presidency.

Again Imgani told his story; it was about fifty wives, and legions of
warriors as countless as the sand of the river's beach; and the trustful
Isisi listened and believed.

"And I need this," said Imgani, in his peroration; "a little house built
on the edge of the river, in such a place that no path passes me and no
human being comes within sight of me, for I am very lonely by
nature--and a great hater of men."

Imgani went to live in the clearing Nature had made for him, and in a
hut erected by his new-found friends. Other hospitalities he refused.

"I have no wish for wives," he stated, "being full of mighty plans to
recover my kingdom from evil men who are my father's councillors."

Lonely he was in very truth, for none saw him except on very special
occasions. It was his practice to go hunting by night and to sleep away
the hot days. Sometimes, when the red ball of the sun dropped down
behind the trees on the western bank of the river, the villagers saw the
straight, blue film of his smoke as he cooked his evening meal;
sometimes a homeward-bound boatman saw him slipping silently through the
thin edge of the forest on his way to a kill.

They called him the Silent One, and he enjoyed a little fame.

More than this, he enjoyed the confidence of his hosts. The Isisi
country is within reach of the Foreign River, down which
strangely-shaped boats come by night empty, and return by night full of
people who are chained neck to neck, and the officials of French West
Africa--which adjoins the Isisi country--receive stories of raids and of
burnings which they have not the facilities for investigating, for the
Isisi border is nearly six hundred miles from the French headquarters,
and lies through a wilderness.

Imgani, in his hunting trips, saw things which might have filled him
with amazement, but for the fact that he was a man who was not given to
emotion.

He saw little caravans that came stealing from the direction of the
territory of France, with whimpering women and groaning men in bondage.

He saw curious midnight shippings of human souls, and grew to know the
white-robed Arabs who handled the whip so deftly.

One night as he stood watching all these things, El Mahmud, that famous
trader, espied him in the moonlight and saw that he was of a strange
people.

"What man are you?" he asked.

"Lord," said Imgani, "I am of a strange people--the N'Gombi."

"That is a lie," said the slaver, "for you have not the face marks of
the N'Gombi; you are a half-bred Arab," and he addressed him in Arabic.

Imgani shook his head.

"He does not understand," said the slaver to his lieutenant; "find out
where this man's hut is; one night we will take him, for he is worth
money."

He spoke in Arabic, and his subordinate nodded.

When the slaver came again three men visited Imgani's house, but he was
hunting, and he was hunting every time the long boats came by night to
O'Fasi.

       *     *     *     *     *

Sanders did not go to O'Fasi for six months, during which time, it
should be emphasised, nothing happened which by any stretch of
imagination could be held to justify any loss of prestige.

He was due to make his half-yearly visit to the Isisi. The crops had
been good, the fish plentiful, the rains gentle, and there had been no
sickness. All these facts you may bear in mind.

One morning, when swirls of grey mist looped from tree to tree and the
east was growing grey, Imgani came back from the forest bearing on his
shoulders all that was material of a small buck which he had snared in
the night.

When he saw a little fire before his hut and a man squatting chin on
knee, he twirled those spears of his cheerfully and went on, for he was
afraid of no man.

"Is the world so full of people that you come to disturb my loneliness?"
he asked. "I have a thought that I shall kill you and fry your heart,
for I do not like to see you sitting by a fire before my hut."

He said all this with a ferocious mien, and the man before the fire
shifted uneasily.

"Master, I expected this," he said, "for I see you are a proud man; but
I come because of your pride, knowing your wisdom."

Imgani tossed the buck to one side and sat down, staring threateningly
and laying the haft of his spears across his bare knee.

Then the other man craned his neck forward and spoke eagerly.

The sun came up and flushed the world rosy; but still he sat talking
with great force, Imgani listening.

"So, master," he concluded, "we will kill Sandi when he comes to
palaver. Ifiba, M'bwka, and a cousin of my mother's, will put spears
into him very quickly, and we shall be a great people."

Imgani nodded his head wisely.

"That is true," he said, "people who kill white men must be greatly
honoured, because all the other nations will say: 'Behold, these are the
people who kill white men!'"

"And when he is dead," the messenger went on, "many young men will go to
the boat that smokes and slay all who are with him."

"That is wise also," said Imgani; "when I kill white men I also kill
their friends."

He discussed his deeds to some length and with great detail. After the
man had gone, Imgani made a meal of fish and manioc, polished the steel
blades of his spears with wet sand, dried them carefully with grass, and
laid himself down in the shade of the hut to sleep.

He was awake in the early part of the afternoon, and went plunging into
the river, swimming far towards the middle stream with great, strong
strokes.

Then he swam back to shore, let the sun dry him, and dressed himself in
his leopard skin.

He came to the village slowly, and found it agitated. More especially so
was the chief, that wise _capita_, for news had arrived that Sandi was
coming in the night, and that even now his steamer was rounding the bend
of the river.

A plan had miscarried; Sanders was two days ahead of time, and Ifiba and
M'bwka, his trusty men, were away on an expedition, and there was no
time to substitute unseasoned assassins.

The steamer drifted broadside to the shore, one stern wheel revolving
lazily, and then they saw, Imgani amongst the rest, that the decks were
crowded with soldiers, impassive brown men in blue uniforms and fezes.

A plank bumped down, and holding their rifles high the soldiers came
pattering to the shore, and with them a white officer but not Sandi.

It was a brusque, white man.

"Who is the chief here?" he said crossly.

"Lord, I am that man," said the stout chief, all a-flutter.

"Take that man."

A sergeant of Houssas grasped the chief and deftly swung him round; a
corporal of Houssas snapped a pair of handcuffs on his wrists.

"Lord," he whined, "why this shame?"

"Because you are a great thief," said the Houssa officer, "a provoker of
war and a dealer in slaves."

"If any man says that, it is a lie," said the chief, "for no Government
man has witnessed such abominations."

Imgani stepped forward.

"Chief," he said, "I have seen it."

"You are a great liar," fumed the portly _capita_, trembling with rage,
"and Sandi, who is my friend, will not believe you."

"I am Sandi," said Imgani, and smiled crookedly.



  CHAPTER XIII.

  THE SEER.


There are many things that happen in the very heart of Africa that no
man can explain; that is why those who know Africa best hesitate to
write stories about it.

Because a story about Africa must be a mystery story, and your reader of
fiction requires that his mystery shall be, in the end, X-rayed so that
the bones of it are visible.

You can no more explain many happenings which are the merest
commonplaces in latitude 2 N., longitude (say) 46 W., than you can
explain the miracle of faith, or the wonder of telepathy, as this story
goes to show.

In the dead of a night Mr. Commissioner Sanders woke.

His little steamer was tied up by a wooding--a wooding he had prepared
for himself years before by lopping down trees and leaving them to rot.


He was one day's steam either up or down the river from the nearest
village, but he was only six hours' march from the Amatombo folk, who
live in the very heart of the forest, and employ arrows poisoned by
tetanus.

Sanders sat up in bed and listened.

A night bird chirped monotonously; he heard the "clug-clug" of water
under the steamer's bows and the soft rustling of leaves as a gentle
breeze swayed the young boughs of the trees that overhung the boat. Very
intently he listened, then reached down for his mosquito boots and his
socks.

He drew them on, found his flannel coat hanging behind the door of his
tiny cabin, and opened the door softly. Then he waited, standing, his
head bent.

In the darkness he grinned unpleasantly, and, thumbing back the leather
strap that secured the flap of the holster which hung by his bunk he
slipped out the Colt-automatic, and noiselessly pulled back the steel
envelope.

He was a careful man, not easily flurried, and his every movement was
methodical. He was cautious enough to push up the little safety-catch
which prevents premature explosion, tidy enough to polish the black
barrel on the soft sleeve of his coat, and he waited a long time before
he stepped out into the hot darkness of the night.

By and by he heard again the sound which had aroused him. It was the
faint twitter of a weaver bird.

Now weaver birds go to sleep at nights like sensible people, and they
live near villages, liking the society of human beings. Certainly they
do not advertise their presence so brazenly as did this bird, who
twittered and twittered at intervals.

Sanders watched patiently.

Then suddenly, from close at hand, from the very deck on which he stood,
came an answering call.

Sanders had his little cabin on the bridge of the steamer; he walked
farther away from it. In the corner of the bridge he crouched down, his
thumb on the safety-catch.

He felt, rather than saw, a man come from the forest; he knew that there
was one on board the steamer who met him.

Then creeping round the deck-house came two men. He could just discern
the bulk of them as they moved forward till they found the door of the
cabin and crept in. He heard a little noise, and grinned again, though
he knew that their spear-heads were making sad havoc of his bedclothes.

Then there was a little pause, and he saw one come out by himself and
look around.

He turned to speak softly to the man inside.

Sanders rose noiselessly.

The man in the doorway said "Kah!" in a gurgling voice and went down
limply, because Sanders had kicked him scientifically in the stomach,
which is a native's weak spot. The second man ran out, but fell with a
crash over the Commissioner's extended leg, and, falling, received the
full weight of a heavy pistol barrel in the neighbourhood of his right
ear.

"Yoka!" called Sanders sharply, and there was a patter of feet aft, for
your native is a light sleeper, "tie these men up. Get steam, for we
will go away from here; it is not a nice place."

Sanders, as I have tried to explain, was a man who knew the native; he
thought like a native, and there were moments when he acted not unlike a
barbarian.

Clear of the danger, he tied up to a little island in mid-stream just as
the dawn spread greyly, and hustled his two prisoners ashore.

"My men," said he, "you came to kill me in the dark hours."

"Lord, that is true," said one, "I came to kill, and this other man, who
is my brother, told me when to come--yet it might have been another whom
he called, for I am but one of many."

Sanders accepted the fact that a chain of cheerful assassins awaited his
advent without any visible demonstration of annoyance.

"Now you will tell me," he said, "who gave the word for the killing, and
why I must die."

The man he addressed, a tall, straight youth of the Amatombo people,
wiped the sweat from his forehead with his manacled hands.

"Lord, though you chop me," he said, "I will not tell you, for I have a
great ju-ju, and there are certain fetishes which would be displeased."

Sanders tried the other man with no greater success. This other was a
labourer he had taken on at a village four days' journey down stream.

"Lord, if I die for my silence I will say nothing," he said.

"Very good," said Sanders, and nodded his head to Abiboo. "I shall stake
you out," he added, "flat on the ground, your legs and arms
outstretched, and I will light a little fire on your chests, and by and
by you will tell me all I want to know."

Staked out they were, with fluffy little balls of dried creeper on each
breast, and Sanders took a lighted stick from the fire his servants had
built.

The men on the ground watched his every movement. They saw him blow the
red stick to a flame and advance toward them, then one said--

"Lord, I will speak."

"So I thought," said Sanders; "and speak truth, or I will make you
uncomfortable."

If you ask me whether Sanders would have employed his lighted stick, I
answer truthfully that I think it possible; perhaps Sanders knew his men
better than I know Sanders.

The two men, released from their unhappy position, talked frankly, and
Sanders was a busy man taking notes in English of the conversation which
was mainly in Bomongo.

When his interrogation was completed, Sanders gathered up his notes and
had the men taken on board the steamer. Two hours later the _Zaire_ was
moving at its fullest speed in the direction of a village of the
Akasava, which is called in the native tongue Tukalala.

There was a missionary to Tukalala, a devoted young American Methodist,
who had elected to live in the fever belt amongst heathen men that he
might bring their hearts to the knowledge of God.

Sanders had no special regard for missionaries; indeed, he had views on
the brotherhood which did him no particular credit, but he had an
affection for the young man who laboured so cheerfully with such
unpromising material, and now he paced the little bridge of his steamer
impatiently, for it was very necessary that he should reach Tukalala
before certain things happened.

He came round a bend of the little river just as the sun was going down
behind the trees on the western bank, and the white beach before the
mission station showed clearly.

He motioned with two fingers to the man at the wheel, and the little
steamer swung almost broadside to the swift stream and headed for the
bank, and the black water of the river humped up against his port bow as
though it were a sluice gate.

Into the beach he steamed; "pucka-pucka-pucka-puck," sang the stern
wheel noisily.

Where the missionary's house had stood was a chaos of blackened debris,
and out of it rose lazy little wisps of smoke.

He found the missionary dressed in white duck, greatly soiled, lying
face downwards, and he found some difficulty in raising him, because he
was pinned to the ground with a broad-bladed elephant spear which had
been broken off flush with his shoulders.

Sanders turned him on his back, closed the patient's eyes, staring, it
seemed, hungrily at the darkening sky as though at the last questioning
God's wisdom.

The Commissioner took a gaudy bandana handkerchief from his pocket, and
laid it on the dead man's face.

"Abiboo," he said softly to his sergeant, "dig me a great hole by that
copal gum, for this man was a great chief amongst his people, and had
communion with gods."

"He was a Christ man," said Abiboo sagely, who was a devout follower of
the Prophet, "and in the Sura of Mary it is written:

    "'The sects have fallen to variance about Jesus, but woe,
    because of the assembly of a great day to those who believe
    not!'"

Abiboo bore the title of Haj because he had been to Mecca and knew the
Koran better than most Christians know the Bible.

Sanders said nothing. He took a cigar from his pocket and lit it,
casting his eyes around.

No building stood. Where the mission station with its trim garden had
been, was desolation. He saw scraps of cloth in the fading light. These
were other victims, he knew.

In the mellow light of the moon he buried the missionary, saying the
Lord's Prayer over him, and reciting as much of the Burial Service as he
could remember.

Then he went back to the _Zaire_ and set a guard. In the morning Sanders
turned the nose of the _Zaire_ down stream, and at sunset came to the
big river--he had been sailing a tributary--and where the two rivers
meet is the city of the Akasava.

They brought the paramount chief of all the people to him, and there was
a palaver on the little bridge with a lantern placed on the deck and one
limp candle therein to give light to the assembly.

"Chief," said Sanders, "there is a dead white man in your territory, and
I will have the hearts of the men who killed him, or by The Death I will
have your head."

He said this evenly, without passion, yet he swore by _Ewa_, which means
death and is a most tremendous oath. The chief, squatting on the deck,
fidgeting with his hands, shivered.

"Lord," he said, in a cracked voice, "this is a business of which I know
nothing; this thing has happened in my territory, but so far from my
hand that I can neither punish nor reward."

Sanders was silent save for an unsympathetic sniff.

"Also, master," said the chief, "if the truth be told, this palaver is
not of the Akasava alone, for all along the big river men are
rebellious, obeying a new ju-ju more mighty than any other."

"I know little of ju-jus," said Sanders shortly, "only I know that a
white man has died and his spirit walks abroad and will not rest until I
have slain men. Whether it be you or another I do not care--the palaver
is finished."

The chief rose awkwardly, brought up his hand in salute, and went
shuffling down the sloping plank to land.

As for Sanders, he sat thinking, smoking one cigar after another. He sat
long into the night. Once he called his servant to replace the candle in
the lantern and bring him a cushion for his head. He sat there until the
buzzing little village hushed to sleep, until there was no sound but the
whispering of bat wings as they came and went from the middle
island--for bats love islands, especially the big vampire bats.

At two o'clock in the morning he looked at his watch, picked up the
lantern, and walked aft.

He picked a way over sleeping men until he came to that part of the deck
where a Houssa squatted with loaded carbine watching the two prisoners.


He stirred them gently with his foot, and they sat up blinking at his
light.

"You must tell me some more," he said. "How came this bad ju-ju to your
land?"

The man he addressed looked up at him.

"Lord, how comes rain or wind?" he said. "It was a sudden thought
amongst the people. There were certain rites and certain dances, and we
chopped a man; then we all painted our faces with camwood, and the
maidens said 'Kill!'"

Sanders could be very patient.

"I am as your father and your mother," he said. "I carry you in my arms;
when the waters came up and destroyed your gardens I came with manioc
and salt and saved you; when the sickness came I brought white men who
scraped your arms and put magic in your blood; I have made peace, and
your wives are safe from M'Gombi and Isisi folk, yet you are for killing
me."

The other nodded.

"That is true talk, master--but such is the way of ju-jus. They are very
High Things, and do not remember."

Sanders was worried; this matter was out of his reach. "What said the
ju-ju?"

"Lord, it said very clearly, speaking through the mouth of an old man,
M'fabaka of Begeli----"

"M'fabaka of Begeli?" repeated Sanders softly, and noted the name for a
speedy hanging.

"This old man saw a vision, and in this vision, which he saw with great
pain and foaming at the mouth and hot eyeballs, he saw white men slain
by black men and their houses burnt."

"When was this?"

"When the moon was full"--six days ago, thought Sanders--"and he saw a
great king with many legions marching through the land making all white
men fear him."

He went on to give, as only a native memory can recall, the minutest
detail of the king's march; how he slew white men and women and put
their house to flames; how his legions went dancing before him.

"And all this happened at the full of the moon," he finished; "therefore
we, too, went out to slay, and, knowing that your Highness would be
coming as is your custom to give judgment at this season of the year, it
was thought wise to kill you, also the Christ-man."

He told all this in a matter-of-fact tone, and Sanders knew that he
spoke the truth.

Another man would have been more affected by that portion of the
narrative which touched him most nearly, but it was the king ("a great
man, very large about the middle"), and his devastating legions who
occupied the Commissioner's thoughts.

There was truth behind this, he did not doubt that. There was a rising
somewhere that he had not heard of; very quickly he passed in mental
review the kings of the adjoining territories and of his own lands.

Bosambo of Monrovia, that usurper of the Ochori chieftainship, sent him
from time to time news of the outlying peoples. There was no war, north
or south or east.

"I will see this old man M'fabaka of Begeli," he said.

Begeli is a village that lies on an in-running arm of the river, so
narrow that it seems like a little river, so still that it is apparently
a lake. Forests of huge trees slope down on either bank, and the trees
are laced one to the other with great snake-like tendrils, and skirted
at foot with rank undergrowth. The _Zaire_ came cautiously down this
stretch of calm water, two Maxim guns significantly displayed at the
bridge.

A tiny little steamer this _Zaire_. She had the big blue of England
drooping from the flagstaff high above the stern wheel--an ominous sign,
for when Sanders flew the Commissioner's flag it meant trouble for
somebody.

He stood on the deck coatless, signalling with his raised fingers to the
man at the wheel.

"Phew!" An arrow was shivering in the wooden deck-house. He pulled it
out and examined its hammered steel point carefully, then he threw it
overboard.

"Bang!"

A puff of smoke from the veiling foliage--a bullet splintered the back
of his deck-chair.

He reached down and took up a rifle, noticed the drift of the smoke and
took careful aim.

"Bang!"

There was no sign to show where the bullet struck, and the only sound
that came back was the echo and the shrill swish of it as it lashed its
way through the green bushes.

There was no more shooting.

"Puck-apuck-puck-apuck-puck," went the stern wheel slowly, and the bows
of the _Zaire_ clove the calm waters and left a fan of foam behind.
Before the village was in view six war canoes, paddling abreast, came
out to meet the Commissioner. He rang the engines to "Stop," and as the
noise of them died away he could hear in the still air the beating of
drums; through his glasses he saw fantastically-painted bodies, also a
head stuck upon a spear.

There had been a trader named Ogilvie in this part of the world, a mild,
uncleanly man who sold cloth and bought wild rubber.

"Five hundred yards," said Sanders, and Sergeant Abiboo, fiddling with
the grip of the port Maxim, gave the cartridge belt a little pull, swung
the muzzle forward, and looked earnestly along the sights. At the same
time the Houssa corporal, who stood by the tripod of the starboard gun,
sat down on the little saddle seat of it with his thumb on the control.

There came a spurt of smoke from the middle canoe; the bullet fell
short.

"Ogilvie, my man," soliloquised Sanders, "if you are alive--which I am
sure you are not--you will explain to me the presence of these
Schneiders."

Nearer came the canoes, the paddle plunging rhythmically, a low, fierce
drone of song accompanying the movement.

"Four hundred yards," said Sanders, and the men at the Maxims readjusted
the sights.

"The two middle canoes," said Sanders. "Fire!"

A second pause.

"Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!" laughed the guns sardonically.

Sanders watched the havoc through his glasses.

"The other canoes," he said briefly.

"Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!"

This gunner was a careful man, and fired spasmodically, desiring to see
the effects of his shots.

Sanders saw men fall, saw one canoe sway and overturn, and the black
heads of men in the water; he rang the steamer ahead full speed.

Somebody fired a shot from one of the uninjured canoes. The wind of the
bullet fanned his face, he heard the smack of it as it struck the
woodwork behind.

There came another shot, and the boy at the wheel turned his head with a
little grin to Sanders.

"Lord," he mumbled in Arabic, "this was ordained from the beginning."

Sanders slipped his arm about his shoulder and lowered him gently to the
deck.

"All things are with God," he said softly.

"Blessed be His name," whispered the dying boy.

Sanders caught the wheel as it spun and beckoned another steersman
forward.

The nose of the steamer had turned to the offending canoe. This was an
unhappy circumstance for the men therein, for both guns now covered it,
and they rattled together, and through the blue haze you saw the canoe
emptied.

That was the end of the fight. A warrior in the fifth boat held his
spear horizontally above his head in token of surrender, and ten minutes
later the chief of the rebels was on board.

"Master," he said calmly, as they led him to Sanders' presence, "this is
a bad palaver. How will you deal with me?"

Sanders looked at him steadily.

"I will be merciful with you," he said, "for as soon as we come to the
village I shall hang you."

"So I thought," said the chief without moving a muscle; "and I have
heard it said that you hang men very quickly so that they feel little
pain."

"That is my practice," said Sanders of the River, and the chief nodded
his head approvingly.

"I would rather it were so," he said.

It was to a sorrowful village that he came, for there were many women to
wail their dead.

Sanders landed with his Houssas and held a high palaver under the trees.

"Bring me the old man M'fabaka who sees visions," he said, and they
brought him a man so old that he had nothing but bones to shape him.

They carried him to the place of justice and set him down before the
Commissioner.

"You are an evil man," said Sanders, "and because your tongue has lied
many men have died; to-day I hang your chief upon a tree, and with him
certain others. If you stand before your people and say, 'Such a story,
and such a story was a lie and no other thing,' you may live your days;
but, if you persist in your lying, by my God, and your god, you shall
die!"

It was a long time before the old man spoke, for he was very old and
very frightened, and the fear of death, which is the ghost of some old
men, was on him.

"I spoke the truth," he quavered at last. "I spoke of what I saw and of
what I knew--only that." Sanders waited.

"I saw the great king slay and burn; yesterday I saw him march his
regiments to war, and there was a great shouting, and I saw smoke."

He shook his head helplessly.

"I saw these things. How can I say I saw nothing?"

"What manner of king?" asked Sanders.

Again there was a long interval of silence whilst the old man collected
himself.

"A great king," he said shakily, "as big as a bull about the middle, and
he wore great, white feathers and the skin of a leopard."

"You are mad," said Sanders, and ended the palaver.

       *     *     *     *     *

Six days later Sanders went back to headquarters, leaving behind him a
chastened people.

Ill-news travels faster than steam can push a boat, and the little
_Zaire_, keeping to mid-stream with the blue flag flying, was an object
of interest to many small villages, the people of which crowded down to
their beaches and stood with folded arms, or with clenched knuckles at
their lips to signify their perturbation, and shouted in monotonous
chorus after the boat.

"Oh, Sandi--father! How many evil ones have you slain to-day? Oh, killer
of devils--oh, hanger of trees!--we are full of virtues and do not
fear."

"Ei-fo, Kalaba? Ei ko Sandi! Eiva fo elegi," etc.

Sanders went with the stream swiftly, for he wished to establish
communication with his chief. Somewhere in the country there was a
revolt--that he knew.

There was truth in all the old man had said before he died--for die he
did of sheer panic and age.

Who was this king in revolt? Not the king of the Isisi, or of the
M'Gombi, nor of the people in the forelands beyond the Ochori.

The _Zaire_ went swinging in to the Government beach, and there was a
captain of Houssas to meet him.

"Land wire working?" said Sanders as he stepped ashore.

The Houssa captain nodded.

"What's the palaver?" he asked.

"War of a kind," said Sanders; "some king or other is on the rampage."

And he told the story briefly.

The Houssa officer whistled.

"By Lord High Keeper of the Privy Purse!" he swore mildly, "that's
funny!"

"You've a poisonous sense of humour!" Sanders snapped.

"Hold hard," said the Houssa, and caught his arm. "Don't you know that
Lo Benguela is in rebellion? The description fits him."

Sanders stopped.

"Of course," he said, and breathed a sigh of relief.

"But," said the perplexed Houssa officer, "Matabeleland is three
thousand miles away. Rebellion started a week ago. How did these beggars
know?"

For answer Sanders beckoned a naked man of the Akasava people who was of
his boat's crew, being a good chopper of wood.

"I'fasi," he said, "tell me, what do they do in your country to-day?"
The man grinned sheepishly, and stood on one leg in his embarrassment,
for it was an honour to common men that Sanders should address them by
name.

"Lord, they go to hunt elephant," he said.

"How many?" said Sanders.

"Two villages," said the man, "for one village has sickness and cannot
go."

"How do you know this?" said Sanders. "Is not your country four days by
river and three days by land?"

The man looked uncomfortable.

"It is as you say, master--yet I know," he said.

Sanders turned to the Houssa with a smile.

"There is quite a lot to be learnt in this country," he said.

       *     *     *     *     *

A month later Sanders received a cutting from the _Cape Times_. The part
which interested him ran:

" . . . the rumour generally credited by the Matabele rebels that their
adherents in the north had suffered a repulse lacks confirmation. The
Commissioner of Barotseland denies the native story of a rebellious
tribe, and states that as far as he knows the whole of his people have
remained quiet. Other northern Commissioners state the same. There has
been no sympathetic rising, though the natives are emphatic that in a
'far-away land,' which they cannot define, such a rebellion has
occurred. The idea is, of course, absurd." Sanders smiled again.



  CHAPTER THE LAST.

  DOGS OF WAR.


Chiefest of the restrictions placed upon the black man by his white
protector is that which prevents him, when his angry passions rise, from
taking his enemy by the throat and carving him with a broad, curved
blade of native make. Naturally, even the best behaved of the tribes
chafe under this prohibition the British have made.

You may be sure that the Akasava memory is very short, and the
punishment which attended their last misdoing is speedily forgotten in
the opportunity and the temptation which must inevitably come as the
years progress. Thus, the Akasava, learning of certain misdoings on the
part of the Ochori, found themselves in the novel possession of a
genuine grievance, and prepared for war, first sending a message to
"Sandi," setting forth at some length the nature of the insult the
Ochori had offered them. Fortunately, Sanders was in the district, and
came on the spot very quickly, holding palaver, and soothing an outraged
nation as best he could. Sanders was a tactful man, and tact does not
necessarily imply soft-handedness. For there was a truculent soul who
sat in the council and interpolated brusque questions.

Growing bolder as the Commissioner answered suavely, he went, as a child
or native will, across the border line which divides a good manner from
a bad. Sanders turned on him.

"What base-born slave dog are you?" he asked; and whilst the man was
carefully considering his answer, Sanders kicked him down the slope of
the hill on which the palaver house stood, and harmony was once more
restored.

Very soon on the heels of this palaver came a bitter complaint from the
Isisi. It concerned fishing nets that had been ruthlessly destroyed by
the Lulungo folk, and this was a more difficult matter for Sanders to
settle. For one thing, all self-respecting people hate the Lulungo, a
dour, wicked, mischievous people, without shame or salt. But the Isisi
were pacified, and a messy war was averted. There were other and minor
alarums--all these were in the days' work--but Sanders worried about the
Lulungo, because of their general badness, and because of all his
people, Isisi, Ikeli, Akasava, and Ochori, who hated the Lulungo folk
with a deep-rooted hatred. In his own heart, Sanders knew that war could
only be postponed, and so advised London, receiving in reply, from an
agitated Under-Secretary in Whitehall, the urgent request that the
postponement should cover and extend beyond the conclusion of "the
present financial year--for heaven's sake!"

They had a proverb up in the Lulungo district--three days' march beyond
the Akasava--and it is to this effect: "When a man hath a secret enemy
and cannot find him, pull down his own hut and search among the dbris."
This is a cumbersome translation. There is another proverb which says,
"Because of the enemy who lives in the shadow of your hut"; also another
which says, "If you cannot find your enemy, kill your dearest friend."
The tendency of all these proverbs is to show that the Lulungo people
took a gloomy view of life, and were naturally suspicious.

Sanders had a cook of the Lulungo tribe, down at M'piti--which model
city served as Mr. Commissioner's headquarters. He was a wanderer, and
by way of being a cosmopolitan, having travelled as far north as Dacca,
and as far south as Banana--and presumably up the Congo to Matadi. When
he came to M'piti, applying for work, he was asked his name and replied
in the "English" of the Coast:

"Master, dey one call me Sixpence all'time. I make 'um cook fine; you
look 'um for better cook, you no find 'um--savvy."

"And what," said Sanders, in the Lulungo dialect, "what mongrel talk do
you call this?"

"Master, it is English," said the abashed native.

"It is monkey talk," said Sanders, cruelly; "the talk of krooboys and
half-bred sailors who have no language. What are you called by your
people?"

"Lataki, master," said the cook.

"So shall you be called," said Sanders. "Further, you shall speak no
language but your own, and your pay will be ten shillings a month."

Lataki made a good cook, and was a model citizen for exactly three
months, at the end of which time Sanders, returning unexpectedly from a
hunting trip, found Lataki asleep in his master's bed--Lataki being very
drunk, and two empty gin bottles by the bedside testifying mutely to his
discredit. Sanders called his police, and Lataki was thrown into the
lock-up to sober down, which he did in twenty-four hours.

"I would have you understand," said Sanders to the culprit the next day,
"that I cannot allow my servants to get drunk; more especially I cannot
allow my drunken servants to sleep off their potations on my bed."

"Lord, I am ashamed," said Lataki cheerfully; "such things happen to a
man who has seen much of the world."

"You may say the same about the whipping you are about to receive," said
Sanders, and gave an order to the sergeant of police.

Lataki was no stoic and when, tied to a tree, ten strokes were laid upon
his stout back by a bored Houssa, he cried out very loudly against
Sanders, and against that civilisation of which Sanders was the chosen
instrument.

After it was all over, and he had discovered that he was still alive,
albeit sore, he confessed he had received little more than he deserved,
and promised tearfully that the lesson should not be without result.
Sanders, who had nothing more to say in the matter, dismissed him to his
duties.

It was a week after this that the Commissioner was dining in solitude on
palm-oil chop--which is a delicious kind of coast curry--and chicken. He
had begun his meal when he stopped suddenly, went to his office, and
brought in a microscope. Then he took a little of the "chop"--just as
much as might go on the end of a pin--smeared it on a specimen glass,
and focussed the instrument. What he saw interested him. He put away the
microscope and sent for Lataki; and Lataki, in spotless white, came.

"Lataki," said Sanders carelessly, "knowing the ways of white men, tell
me how a master might do his servant honour?"

The cook in the doorway hesitated.

"There are many ways," he said, after a pause. "He might----"

He stopped, not quite sure of his ground.

"Because you are a good servant, though possessed of faults," said
Sanders, "I wish to honour you; therefore I have chosen this way; you,
who have slept in my bed unbidden, shall sit at my table with me at my
command."

The man hesitated, a little bewildered, then he shuffled forward and sat
clumsily in the chair opposite his master.

"I will wait upon you," said Sanders, "according to the custom of your
own people."

He heaped two large spoonfuls of palm-oil chop upon the plate before the
man.

"Eat," he said.

But the man made no movement, sitting with his eyes upon the tablecloth.

"Eat," said Sanders again, but still Lataki sat motionless.

Then Sanders rose, and went to the open doorway of his bungalow and blew
a whistle.

There was a patter of feet, and Sergeant Abiboo came with four Houssas.

"Take this man," said Sanders, "and put him in irons. To-morrow I will
send him down country for judgment."

He walked back to the table, when the men had gone with their prisoner,
carefully removed the poisoned dish, and made a meal of eggs and
bananas, into neither of which is it possible to introduce ground glass
without running the risk of instant detection.

Ground glass--glass powdered so fine that it is like precipitated chalk
to the touch--is a bad poison, because when it comes in contact with
delicate membranes right down inside a man, it lacerates them and he
dies, as the bad men of the coast know, and have known for hundreds of
years. In the course of time Lataki came before a judge who sat in a big
thatched barn of a courthouse, and Lataki brought three cousins, a
brother, and a disinterested friend, to swear that Sanders had put the
glass in his own "chop" with malice aforethought. In spite of the
unanimity of the evidence--the witnesses had no less than four
rehearsals in a little hut the night before the trial--the prisoner was
sentenced to fifteen years' penal servitude.

Here the matter would have ended, but for the Lulungo people, who live
far away in the north, and who chose to regard the imprisonment of their
man as a _casus belli_.

They were a suspicious people, a sullen, loveless, cruel people, and
they were geographically favoured, for they lived on the edge of a
territory which is indisputably French, and, moreover, unreachable.

Sanders sent flying messages to all the white people who lived within
striking distance of the Lulungo. There were six in all, made up of two
missions, Jesuit and Baptist. They were most unsatisfactory people, as
the following letters show:

The first from the Protestant:

      "Losebi Mission.

    "Dear Mr. Commissioner,--My wife and I are very grateful to you
    for your warning, but God has called us to this place, and here
    we must stay, going about our Master's business, until He, in
    His wisdom, ordains that we shall leave the scene of our
    labours."

Father Holling wrote:
      "Ebendo River.

    "Dear Sanders,--I think you are wrong about the Lulungo people,
    several of whom I have seen recently. They are mighty civil,
    which is the only bad sign I have detected. I shall stay because
    I think I can fight off any attack they make. I have four
    Martini-Metford rifles, and three thousand rounds of ammunition,
    and this house, as you know, is built of stone. I hope you are
    wrong, but----"

Sanders took his steamboat, his Maxim gun, and his Houssa police, and
went up the river, as far as the little stern-wheeler would carry him.
At the end of every day's journey he would come to a place where the
forest had been cleared, and where, stacked on the beach, was an orderly
pile of wood. Somewhere in the forest was a village whose contribution
to the State this ever-replenished wood-pile was. Night and day two
sounding men with long rods, sitting at the steamer's bow, "stubbed" the
water monotonously. Shoal, sandbank, channel, shoal. Sometimes, with a
shuddering jar, the boat would slide along the flat surface of a hidden
bank, and go flop into the deep water on the other side; sometimes, in
the night, the boat would jump a bank to find itself in a little "lake"
from which impassable ridges of hidden sand barred all egress. Then the
men would slip over the sides of the vessel and walk the sandy floor of
the river, pushing the steamer into deep water. When sixty miles from
the Baptist Mission, Sanders got news from a friendly native:

"Lord, the Lulungo came at early morning, taking away the missionary,
his wife, and his daughter, to their city."

Sanders, yellow with fever, heavy-eyed from want of sleep, unshaven and
grimy, wiped the perspiration from his head with the back of his hand.

"Take the steamer up the river," he said to Abiboo. "I must sleep."

He was awakened at four o'clock in the afternoon by the smashing of a
water-bottle, which stood on a shelf by his bunk. It smashed for no
apparent reason, and he was sprinkled with bits of glass and gouts of
water.

Then he heard a rifle go "pang!" close at hand, and as he sprang up and
opened the wire-woven door of his cabin, Abiboo came to report.

"There were two men firing from the bank," he said. "One I have shot."

They were nearing the village now, and turning a sharp bend of the river
they came in sight of it, and the little _Zaire's_ siren yelled and
squealed defiantly.

Sanders saw a crowd of men come down to the beach, saw the glitter of
spears, and through his glasses the paint on the bodies of the men. Then
six canoes came racing out to meet the steamer.

A corporal of Houssas sat down nonchalantly on a little saddle-seat
behind the brass Maxim, and gripped its handles.

"Five hundred yards," said Sanders, and the corporal adjusted the sight
without perceptible hurry.

The canoes came on at a hurricane speed, for the current was with them.
The man behind the gun polished a dull place on the brass water-jacket
with the blue sleeves of his coat, and looked up.

Sanders nodded.

The canoes came nearer, one leading the rest in that race where hate
nerved effort, and death was the prize.

Suddenly--

"Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!" laughed the little gun sardonically, and the
leading canoe swung round broadside to the stream, because the men who
steered it were dead, and half of the oarsmen also.

"Ha-ha-ha-h-a-a!"

There was a wild scramble on the second canoe; it swayed, capsized, and
the river was full of black heads, and the air resounded with shrill
cries.

As for the remainder of the flotilla it swung round and made for safety;
the machine-gun corporal slipped in another belt of cartridges, and made
good practice up to nine hundred yards, from which two canoes,
frantically paddled, were comparatively safe.

Sanders put his tiny telegraph over to full speed ahead and followed.

On the shore the Lulungo made a stand, and missiles of many kinds struck
the little steamer. But the Maxim sprayed the village noisily, and soon
there came a nervous man waving a palm leaf, and Sanders ceased firing,
and shouted through his megaphone that the messenger must swim aboard.

"Lord, we feel great shame," said the man. He stood in a wet place on
the deck, and little rills of water dripped from him. "We did not know
we fought Sandi the lion, Sandi the buffalo, before the stamp of whose
mighty feet----"

Sanders cut him short.

"There is a white man, a white woman, and a young girl in your city," he
said. "Bring them to the ship, and then I will sit in the palaver-house,
and talk this matter over."

The man shuffled uneasily.

"Master," he said, "the white man died of the sickness; the woman is ill
also; as for the girl, I know nothing."

Sanders looked at him, his head on one side like an inquisitive bird.

"Bring me the white man, alive or dead," he said softly; "also the white
woman, well or ill, and the girl."

In an hour they brought the unfortunate missionary, having taken some
time to make him look presentable. The wife of the missionary came in
another canoe, four women holding her, because she was mad.

"Where is the girl?" asked Sanders. He spoke very little above a
whisper.

The messenger made no answer.

"The girl?" said Sanders, and lashed him across the face with his thin
stick.

"Master," muttered the man, with his head on his chest, "the chief has
her."

Sanders took a turn up and down the deck, then he went to his cabin and
came out with two revolvers belted to his hips.

"I will go and see this chief," he said. "Abiboo, do you run the boat's
nose into the soft sand of the bank, covering the street with the Maxim
whilst I go ashore."

He landed without opposition; neither gun banged nor spear flew as he
walked swiftly up the broad street. The girl lay before the chiefs hut
quite dead, very calm, very still. The hand to cut short her young life
had been more merciful than Sanders dared hope. He lifted the child in
his arms, and carried her back to the ship. Once he heard a slight noise
behind him, but three rifles crashed from the ship, and he heard a thud
and a whimper of pain.

He brought the body on board, and laid it reverently on the little
after-deck. Then they told him that the woman had died, and he nodded
his head slowly, saying it was better so.

The _Zaire_ backed out into mid-stream, and Sanders stood watching the
city wistfully. He wanted the chief of the Lulungo badly; he wanted, in
his cold rage, to stake him out in spread-eagle fashion, and kill him
with slow fires. But the chief and his people were in the woods, and
there were the French territories to fly to.

In the evening he buried the missionary and his family on a little
island, then drove downstream, black rage in his soul, and a sense of
his impotence, for you cannot fight a nation with twenty Houssa
policemen.

He came to a little "wooding" at dusk, and tied up for the night. In the
morning he resumed his journey, and at noon he came, without a moment's
warning, into the thick of a war fleet.

There was no mistaking the character of the hundred canoes that came
slowly up-stream four abreast, paddling with machine-like regularity.
That line on the right were Akasava men; you could tell that by the
blunt noses of the dug-outs. On the left were the Ochori; their canoes
were streaked with red cornwood. In the centre, in lighter canoes of
better make, he saw the white-barred faces of the Isisi people.

"In the name of heaven!" said Sanders, with raised eyebrows.

There was consternation enough in the fleet, and its irregular lines
wavered and broke, but the _Zaire_ went steaming into the midst of them.
Then Sanders stopped his engines, and summoned the chiefs on board.

"What shame is this?" said Sanders.

Otako, of the Isisi, king and elder chief, looked uncomfortably to Ebeni
of Akasava, but it was Bosambo, self-appointed ruler of the Ochori, who
spoke.

"Lord," he said, "who shall escape the never-sleeping eye of Sandi? Lo!
we thought you many miles away, but like the owl----"

"Where do you go?" asked Sanders.

"Lord, we will not deceive you," said Bosambo. "These great chiefs are
my brothers, because certain Lulungo have come down upon our villages
and done much harm, stealing and killing. Therefore, because we have
suffered equally, and are one in misfortune, we go up against the
Lulungo people, for we are human, and our hearts are sore."

A grin, a wicked, mirthless grin, parted Sanders' lips.

"And you would burn and slay?" he asked.

"Master, such was the pleasure we had before us."

"Burning the city and slaying the chief, and scattering the people who
hide in the forest?"

"Lord, though they hide in hell we will find them," said Bosambo; "yet,
if you, who are as a father to us all, say 'nay,' we will assemble our
warriors and tell them it is forbidden."

Sanders thought of the three new graves on a little island.

"Go!" he said, pointing up the river.

He stood on the deck of the _Zaire_ and watched the last canoe as it
rounded the bend, and listened to the drone of many voices, growing
fainter and fainter, singing the Song of the Slayer, such as the Isisi
sing before action.


  THE END.


  =Transcriber's Notes:=
  original hyphenation, spelling and grammar have been preserved as in
    the original
  Page   9, '"Chief, said Sanders' changed to '"Chief," said Sanders'
  Page  14, "Cailbraith" changed to "Calbraith"
  Page 107, "was simple there" changed to "was simple--there"
  Page 110, "peace with him" changed to "peace with him."
  Page 140, "his lips impatiently" changed to "his lips impatiently."
  Page 145, "before the other?" changed to "before the other;"
  Page 163, "for it we cannot" changed to "for if we cannot"
  Page 163, "the way we go" changed to "the way we go."
  Page 240, "midstream" changed to "mid-stream" [Ed. for consistency]
  Page 242, "the Matebele rebels" changed to "the Matabele rebels"





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